William M. Bland, Jr passed away peacefully on the 18th of September 2013. Bill was born on July 23, 1922 in Portsmouth, VA, to his parents W. Marshall Bland, M.D. and Ethyl Lutz Bland.
Bill grew up in Philadelphia, PA and Tuscaloosa, AL. He graduated with a BS in Mechanical Engineering with an Aeronautical option from North Carolina State University in 1947. His undergraduate degree was interrupted in 1943 when he was called to active duty. After OCS he graduated as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Army Air Corps. During the early 1950s, he completed the coursework and thesis for his MS in Aeronautical Engineering at the University of Virginia.
In 1947 Bill began his career in aeronautical engineering at the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, NACA, at Langley Field, VA and was assigned to the Pilotless Aircraft Research Division. For the next ten years, he was involved in aeronautical research using free-flying, rocket-propelled, instrumented flight vehicles launched from Wallops Island, VA Test Range. Then, in November 1958, Bill was appointed to become one of the initial members of the NASA Space Task Group located at Langley Research Center in Hampton, VA. Bill's career at NASA progressed through appointments that included: Space Task Group Project Manager for the Little Joe Rocket; Deputy Manager and head of the technical staff for all of the Mercury Project manned orbital space flights; and Division Chiefs of many of the important Apollo Program Research and Development functions. After the success of the Apollo Program, Bill passed his technical experience on to those who were leading the main effort to develop the Space Shuttle as Deputy Director of the Johnson Space Center's Safety, Reliability and Quality Assurance Office. In May 1979 he was appointed as a member of the Technical Staff assigned to investigate the causes of the nuclear power accident at Three Mile Island in PA. He retired from NASA on December 17, 1979. During the 1980s, Bill worked through his family's company, Technical Management and Consulting and provided consulting services to many American Nuclear and Aerospace companies, and a number of American governmental agencies including the NRC.
The very best thing that happened to Bill at NACA was the surprise meeting of another NACA employee, the very beautiful and very talented Betty Ann Johnson. They were married in Hampton, VA on August 6, 1949. They enjoyed good times on the Chesapeake Bay, traveling along the east coast, activities with family and outings with friends. Bill and Betty relocated to Houston, TX in 1962 with the opening of the Manned Spacecraft Center. Their primary residence was in Nassau Bay, TX.
Throughout his career, Bill published over 70 technical reports and received a number of professional awards. He still found time to participate in his family's business efforts in restaurants. He enjoyed boating and waterskiing, flew ultralight airplanes and traveling to Europe and the Middle East.
Bill is survived by his beautiful and loving wife of 64 years, Betty Ann Johnson Bland, originally of Hampton, VA, children Ginny B. and husband David Thomason and William M. Bland, III, grandchildren David Marshall Thomason and wife Amanda, Sara Louise Thomason and Leah Ann Thomason, and family pet Belle Basset Bland all of Houston.
Bill was a Christian all of his life and attended Presbyterian and Methodist churches. A private memorial service was held at the Crowder Funeral Home with The Reverend Tony Vinson officiating. In lieu of usual remembrances, the family requests donations to be made to the
James Crowder Funeral Home
111 East Medical Center Boulevard Webster, TX 77598
Published in Houston Chronicle on Sept. 29, 2013