Elected in 1978
“For pioneering work in combining technologies of space and information processing to strengthen the nation.”
BY JOHN R. CASANI
LEW ALLEN, JR.—a towering figure in all respects—died on January 4, 2010, at his home in Potomac Falls, Virginia. He devoted 36 years of service to the nation in the U.S. Air Force, becoming a four-star general and the tenth U.S. Air Force chief of staff. When he retired from the Air Force in 1982, he agreed to become director of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). In 1990 he left JPL and served as chairman of the board of the Charles Stark Draper Laboratory in Boston. Throughout his long and productive life, Lew Allen, Jr., was recognized and honored not only for his technical knowledge but also for his wide-ranging intelligence, great integrity, and profound vision. He possessed strong, engaging leadership qualities—a “steady steel hand in a velvet glove,” as one colleague put it.
Lew Allen was born in Miami, Florida, on September 30, 1925, and grew up in Gainesville, Texas. He entered the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1943, graduating in 1946 with a bachelor of science degree, a commission as a second lieutenant, and pilot wings. After completing multiengine flight training, he was assigned to Strategic Air Command’s 7th Bombardment Group at Fort Worth Army Airfield (later renamed Carswell Air Force Base), where he flew B-29s and B-36s and served in positions related to nuclear weaponry. In