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Portrait of James M. Beggs

James M. Beggs

NASA Administrator (July 10, 1981–Dec. 4, 1985)

James Montgomery Beggs was nominated by President Reagan on June 1, 1981, to become Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. He was the sixth individual to head the nation’s civilian space agency. Beggs took his oath of office as head of the agency and entered the new post on July 10, 1981. He served until December 4, 1985, when he took an indefinite leave of absence pending disposition of an indictment from the Justice Department for activities taking place prior to his tenure at NASA. This indictment was later dismissed and the U.S. Attorney General apologized to Mr. Beggs for any embarrassment. His resignation from NASA was effective on February 25, 1986.

Prior to his appointment as NASA administrator Beggs had been Executive Vice President and a director of General Dynamics Corp., St. Louis, Missouri. Previously he had served with NASA in 1968-1969 as Associate Administrator, Office of Advanced Research and Technology. From 1969 to 1973, he was Under Secretary of Transportation. He went to Summa Corp., Los Angeles, California, as Managing Director, Operations and joined General Dynamics in January 1974. Before joining NASA, he had been with Westinghouse Electric Corp., in Sharon, Pennsylvania, and Baltimore, Maryland, for thirteen years.

A 1947 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, he served with the Navy until 1954. In 1955, he received a master’s degree from the Harvard Graduate School of Business Administration. He was also a member of the Board of Governors of the National Space Club and the American Astronautical Society; his other professional affiliations include the National Academy of Public Administration, the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, the American Society of Naval Engineers, and Sigma Tau.

Former NASA Administrator James Beggs is seen during a dialogue with present NASA Administrator Charles Bolden on the future of the space program, Friday, March 4, 2011, at NASA Headquarters in Washington. Beggs was NASA’s sixth administrator serving from July 1981 to December 1985. The dialogue was part of the program “The State of the Agency: NASA Future Programs Presentation” sponsored by the NASA Alumni League with support from the AAS, AIAA, CSE and WIA.

Mr. Beggs was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on January 9, 1926. He married Mary Harrison, and they had five children. Since leaving NASA, Mr. Beggs worked as a consultant from his offices in Bethesda, Maryland. He passed away on April 23, 2020.