[vii] This history, like most other projects I have worked on during my NASA years, was a true team effort. I have never been able to refer to this manuscript as "my book" as most other authors can. Way Station to Space is our book! There were literally hundreds of people who contributed to these pages. Like myself, most lived the story.
Of those people, I now acknowledge some who I had the opportunity of working with on a day-today basis, or who gave large chunks of their time to this book. I must tell the readers how much Virginia A. Butler, a University of Southern Mississippi (USM) graduate student, had to do with researching, editing, and, more importantly, helping me with the tricky turns one encounters when putting a book together. Sometimes this process involved long and tedious discussions with the author who hated to see his chopped-up prose hit the cutting room floor. I believe Virginia understood the team concept better than most anyone involved. In fact, she came to fiercely defend our work and exercised her ownership at every turn. Toward the end, you could hardly tell who the author was. She took her editorship very seriously. Virginia's stubbornness and refusal to give in to me when she felt she was right added a fourth dimension to "our" book.
Very special tanks go to Myron Webb, NASA Stennis Space Center's (SSC) public affairs officer, friend, and long-time colleague. Myron was one of our first-line readers. She also deserves recognition for cheering me on during the lonely hours of research and writing when the "poor me's" would sink in. Her words of encouragement provided an antidote from the harsh, but sometimes necessary, derision from the scholarly critics. In addition to moral support, Myron's help in suggesting and arranging interviews was critical in order for us to obtain the appropriate information and meet publishing deadlines. She often accompanied me on the interviews and asked just the right question to keep the sessions moving in a productive manner.
I also want to thank Lanee Cobb, SSC's media chief and in-house grammarian. Lanee's expertise added confidence with our knowledge that her [viii] friendly but objective safety net would catch any inappropriate usage or misusage in the occasionally rambling text. She certainly upheld her reputation during the course of writing this book.
Although we sometimes had fierce disagreements regarding style, Dr. Charles "Chuck" Bolton of the University of Southern Mississippi's History Department, rendered a great deal of help in providing me with insight into the elements of historical prose. I studied journalism and creative writing at the University of Alabama and spent my entire professional career writing in some manner for newspapers, magazines, and for NASA. I must admit, however, that this book offered a special challenge. Chuck helped me bridge that gap in my literary career.
On behalf of the "SSC history team" it is an honor to express our appreciation to Dr. Roger D. Launius, NASA's Chief Historian, and his staff for their assistance in research and their efforts in helping keep this book historically correct. We especially want to thank Roger for his faith in our team and his support in adding our story to the prestigious NASA collection.
We extend our appreciation to Dr. John Ray Skates, noted military historian and retired USM professor, who served on our peer review team. Dr. Skates offered a number of helpful recommendations that we know increased the readability and acceptability of our book.
I want to thank Christine "Chris" Harvey, Stennis Space Center Information Services Specialist/Historian, for providing research and logistical support. In addition, her high-tech expertise in keeping my old computer on the road was greatly appreciated. Along this line, I want to thank the USM graduate students working in the Stennis History Office who assisted with our project by pulling specific titles from our newly-developed database.
Toward the end of the project, we solicited the professional help of SSC's expert and veteran editor, Ruth Carlson. Although Ruth and I have been friends for years, she set aside that relationship and gave the book a thorough review to make sure we submitted a tight and readable product to the final editor in Washington, D.C. On behalf of our Stennis team, I also want to we express our appreciation to Louise Alstork, NASA Headquarters, who put the final editing touches to our manuscript, giving all who participated in the project a special confidence that we had a good product.
[ix] We had a number of expert technical readers, including current and retired employees, who volunteered their time to read the manuscript to assure its accuracy. Roy Estess, Stennis Space Center director, read the entire book and spent several hours during at least five interviews providing guidance and material. In fact, Roy labored through one interview when he was ill and barely audible as he answered our questions. Roy's extreme modesty, however, sometimes prevented us from giving "credit where credit was due."
Jerry Hlass, former director, and Arthur J. "Jack" Rogers, Jr., former director of SSC Center Operations, read most of the manuscript and provided numerous comments and recommendations. In addition, Jerry spent several sessions with me providing informative and interesting interviews that proved to be invaluable in developing the Stennis Space Center story. In addition, he carefully explained several technical issues so that I could digest them and translate them into the book.
E.W. "Van" King, a former assistant director of the SSC and personal friend of Jackson Balch, also gave hours of his precious time filling in the blank spots of Mr. Balch's tenure as director. Van also graciously read the "Balch" chapters for accuracy. Janet Balch was most helpful with personal notes associated with her late husband's life and work on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
During the course of researching this text, we conducted scores of interviews with SSC people and others who were knowledgeable of the center's history. It would be unwieldy to mention each and everyone, but I will cite several who gave us great assistance with reading the manuscript and spent hours in interviews. They were Gordon Artley; Tom Baggette; Roy Baxter; Marv Carpenter; Aaron Cohen; Jim Coward; Mark Craig; Steve Dick; Ken Human; Lon Miller; Boyce Mix; Pat Mooney; Wayne Mooneyhan; Renay Nelson; Roscoe Nicholson; Wayne Roberts; Pat Scheuermann; George Schloegel; Leo Seal, Jr.; Gerald Smith; Bill Tate; and Jim Taylor. There were, however, many others who unselfishly shared their stories, thoughts, and materials with us.
In addition to these past and present employees and community leaders, I would be greatly remiss if I did not give proper credit to my family who [x] obviously made my participation in writing this book possible. As anyone who has ever been involved in the lonely business of writing knows, the support of one's family is absolutely essential in the success of any work. My brother Robert Earl Herring was one of my life-long role models, providing me with inspiration as a youngster to read good books, to express myself with the written word, and to strive to achieve something worthwhile on Earth. Robert was my brother, my mentor, my friend. After encouraging me to write this book, Robert was unfortunately killed in a traffic accident. I wish he were here to share this history that he did so much to inspire.
I could not leave these acknowledgments without also honoring my parents, the late Robert Lee and Lillie Ray Herring, for providing a home and family filled with the love and values necessary for the development of any worthwhile contribution to the world. I hope and pray that this book will be a useful and lasting legacy.
My brother Paul Jackson Herring and my sister Mildred Herring Maddox were also great influences in my life and especially during the time I was writing this book. They both called regularly and asked, "How's the book coming?" or even more to the point, "What chapter are you on now?" Needless to say, their persistent coaxing kept me at the computer many times when I would have rather been somewhere else playing hooky!
To those wonderful people who supported every endeavor I ever undertook, I am most grateful. Other family members who contributed time, talents, and inspiration were my two sons, Steven Lee and Kyle Jackson. Both of these young men are terrific and expressive writers who have earned their own recognitions. I hope someday to read their books. For now, I thank them for sticking with their "old dad" through this project. I must also thank Joan Herring, my first wife, who has continued to offer praise and encouragement when many others held their tongues.
Along with my family, I must mention another person, Faye Bufkin, who gave her total and unswerving support during the writing process of this manuscript. Faye was at my side through the 21 months I spent writing this book. She is now my fiancee and has been a close friend for 35 years who shared much of the Stennis Space Center history with me adding a special inspiration during my low times.
[xi] Now, to all of you who fed me those juicy stories and humorous bits of our history that I wasn't able to include in this particular type of book, I say thank you. Keep up the good work and keep us in your memories. Maybe someday, the good lord willing, we'll try it again!
26 February 1997