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Williams, Walter C. (1919–1995)

Prominent engineer and administrator with the United States manned space program. Having earned a degree in aerospace engineering, Williams joined NACA (National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics) in 1940 and worked on improving the handling, maneuverability, and flight characteristics of World War II fighter planes. Following the war, he went to what became Edwards Air Force Base to set up flight tests for the X-1, including the first human supersonic flight by Charles Yeager in October 1947. Subsequently, he became the founding director of the organization that became Dryden Flight Research Facility and, in September 1959, assumed associate directorship of the new NASA space task group at Langley, created to carry out Project Mercury. He later became director of operations for this project, then associate director of the NASA Manned Spacecraft Center, renamed the Johnson Space Center. In 1963 Williams moved to NASA Headquarters as deputy associate administrator of the office of manned space flight. From 1964 to 1975, he was a vice president for Aerospace Corporation. Then from 1975 to 1982 he served as chief engineer of NASA, retiring in the latter year.

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