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U. Wright Kerns

Public Affairs, NASA

U. Wright Kerns joined NASA at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in 1962 after working for several years for the Florida Development Commission. Throughout his NASA career, he was involved in information, but he had a much broader constituency than the typical information officer.

He did indeed work with the news media, but he also spent much of his time fostering a two-way communication pipeline between NASA, the local communities, county, state and federal agencies.

During the Apollo program, more than 30,000 people were employed by NASA and Department of Defense organizations. Many of those people came from elsewhere in the country and greatly affected housing, roads, community services and facilities. The growth and glamour of the space program also generated requests for information from across the country and even overseas. Kerns’ job included keeping up-to-date on NASA’s plans and programs and conducting studies on their affect on land use, population growth, workforce changes, capital outlay and educational needs. A typical study in 1965 provided a population projection for Merritt Island south of S.R. 520 in 1980.

It is no surprise that Kerns was chosen for these types of tasks based on his education and background. Born in Pennsylvania, Kerns graduated from Temple University with a degree in economics. He spent four years as a naval officer during World War II and went into business for himself when he left the service. This, coupled with his years with the State of Florida, helped prepare him for his NASA job.

Kerns and his wife Tilly retired to Tallahassee in 1974. He passed away in 2002.