Apollo Guidance Computer Activities

AGC biography - James Webb

webb.jpg (4830 bytes)James (Jim) Webb

James Webb was educated at the University of North Carolina, earning a bachelor's in education in 1928, and studied law at George Washington University from 1934-1936.   In 1936 Mr. Webb became personnel director, secretary-treasurer and later vice president of the Sperry Gyroscope Company in Brooklyn, New York, before re-entering the U.S. Marine Corps in 1944 for World War II.  In 1949, Truman asked Webb to serve as Under Secretary of State, U.S. Department of State.   In February 14, 1961, Webb accepted the position of administrator of NASA.

Donald Mackenzie, in Inventing Accuracy, quotes an interview with Ralph Ragan, showing the confidence Webb had in Draper and MIT/IL, dating back from Webb's time at Sperry gyroscope.

"In September 1961, a crisp cold day, we were called out to have dinner in Jim Webb's mansion in Washington.  They had Jerry Wiesner, who was Jack Kennedy's Science Advisor and a lot of top brass.  After dinner was over, Jim Webb said, 'well, let's go into the living room and have some brandy.' So we walked in and there was a big fire going in the fireplace. ... after everyone was served brandy, Webb says to Doc, 'Can you design a guidance system that will take us to the Moon and back?' and Doc says 'Yes.'   Silence.  And Jim says, 'Well, when can you have it?'  Doc says, 'I'll have it when you need it.' Silence. And Jim said, 'Well, how will I know it will work?'   And Doc says, 'I'll go along with it and make sure it does.'"  .

For seven years after President Kennedy's lunar landing announcement in 1961, James Webb championed NASA in Washington. As a longtime Washington insider he was a master at bureaucratic politics. In the end, through a variety of methods Administrator Webb built a seamless web of political liaisons that brought continued support for and resources to accomplish the Apollo Moon landing on the schedule President Kennedy had announced. He left NASA in October 1968, just as Apollo was nearing a successful completion.

Read the letters from Draper to Bob Seamans voluntering his services [letter1, letter2]

Read Webb's account of the Apollo Program, from NASA's website


-- A.B., Jan 2002.