NASA official speaks about his career

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 5, 2003

James C. Barnes is a Suffolk native and has a top position at NASA in Hampton. He heads the Laser Systems Branch and is program executive for the Global Tropospheric Wind Programs.

Barnes recently remarked on the fact that blacks are rare in the NASA program.

&uot;I have been the only black to be in meetings where about 300 or more people are present,&uot; he said. &uot;You just do the job and do the best that you can and hope people will accept you for who you are and not for the color of your skin, religion or creed.&uot;

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Barnes attended the former Nansemond County and Suffolk public schools and graduated with honors in 1966 from the former John F. Kennedy High School. He also graduated from Howard University with B.S. and M.S. degrees in physics and completed Ph.D. coursework in physics at The College of William and Mary.

He joined NASA in 1983 as a laser physicist in the Flight Electronics division. He was lead laser engineer from the first Lidar Laser flown in space, and developed the first turnable laser to fly on NASA’s Earth Resource, ER-2 high-altitude aircraft. He serves on national and international panels including the Undersecretary of Defense’s Advisory Group on Electron Devices, Optical Society of America’s Advanced Solid-State Laser Committee Studies, the 19th and 20th International Laser Radar Conference, and the NATO School for Advanced Studies. He is also on steering panels for numerous HBCUs and is a reviewers for NSF HBCU programs.

Barnes was sent to Antonio, Texas after the Columbia Shuttle was destroyed Saturday for job-related duties pertaining to Columbia. He is scheduled to return to Virginia today.

&uot;Whenever we have a loss like the one with the seven astronauts, everyone feels the pain and everyone honestly wants to correct the problem,&uot; he said. &uot;Even if we have to point the finger to ourselves, in all honesty and sincerity, NASA is not the kind of place that will brush anything under the rug. It’s going to be the truth as we know it. I can guarantee that every measure possible within the strength that we have will be made to correct this type of accident to ever happening again.&uot;

As a young boy, he delivered newspapers and was a Boy Scout. In high school he played the trumpet in the band, was a scorekeeper for sports, and was a member of other clubs.

He attends St. Cyprian’s Episcopal Church in Hampton, and is a member of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church on Tynes Street in Suffolk.

He and his wife Renee T. Barnes reside in Newport News and are the parents of four daughters. They also have two grandchildren.

He belongs to the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity and has received numerous achievement awards, including the NASA Medal for Exceptional Engineering Achievement and the H.J. Reid Award for most Outstanding Technical Paper. He also serves on the center’s Library Board and the Executive Resource Development Panel.

Editor’s note: February is Black History Month and Evelyn Wall will be writing several articles during the month. Anyone who would like to have an article published on the subject or any person of color who has made an impact on history in some way should contact Wall at 934-9615.