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Gordon Harris

Public Affairs, NASA

Gordon L. Harris was the first director of public affairs for NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. He was selected for the post by its first director, Dr.Kurt Debus, who had known him and worked with him at the Army’s Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Ala., prior to the formation of NASA.

Harris supervised public affairs at NASA’s major launch base for both manned and unmanned space missions. This included directing media services, community relations, special guest tours and briefings, an educational program to get the latest scientific information into the school system, and beginning what was then called the Visitor Information Center to accommodate the public with exhibits, shows and tours.

Among his employees, he was perhaps best known for his management style. He was interested in every aspect of their operations and had a penchant for writing dozens of “Harris grams” a day, on his manual typewriter, providing assignments and direction.

He had a strong effect on public affairs policy throughout the agency. He also was an astute scholar of politics within the agency and shared his views with public affairs officials who were visiting from other centers.

A graduate of Columbia College and the Pulitzer School of Journalism, his career led through many twists and turns. During World War II, Harris served with the Army’s Counter Intelligence Corps, becoming special agent in charge in the Philippines Islands area. During the Korean conflict he was an assistant inspector general, Headquarters, Eighth U.S. Army in Korea. He held the rank of lieutenant colonel when transferred to the inactive reserve.

Between school and army duties he managed to spend 25 years as a newspaper publisher in Dover, N.J. In a quirk of coincidence, just as he was selling his newspaper, it hired one of his successors at Kennedy, Hugh Harris who was not a relative but was mistaken for one for many years.

Gordon Harris entered Federal service in 1956 and spent time at Picatinny Arsenal in New Jersey before transferring permanently to Redstone Arsenal where he conducted the Army’s information program related to military rockets and space projects. During this time he also represented Maj. Gen. J.B. Medaris, the Commanding General and Dr. Wehner von Braun, director of technical development operations, in their public contacts.

He joined the Army’s Ordnance Corps Headquarters at the Pentagon in 1960 as chief of technical liaison, and then became assistant chief of army information. He left this post in 1961 to organize a public affairs program for the Defense Supply Agency. He joined the Kennedy Space Center in December 1963 as director of public affairs and served in that capacity until he retired in 1974.

Harris was the author of several books including the first editions of “The Kennedy Space Center Story.”