From Brewton to outer space

Published 9:38 pm Wednesday, October 15, 2003

By BY LYDIA GRIMES Feature Reporter
Recently one of Brewton's own came back to town to visit. Philip Wayne Garrison, better known in this area as Wayne, has made a name for himself in the field of jet propulsion, and he spoke to Rob Atkinson's physics class at T.R. Miller High School recently. Garrison is a 1962 graduate of the school, and he told the class about the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and what it does.
Garrison is the division manager for the Mechanical Systems Engineering and Research Division of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory at California Institute of Technology at Pasadena, California.
He was always interested in school and science and credits his father with getting him interested when he was very young.
It was clear, even when he was a youngster, that Garrison would have a career in some sort of science, if not the space program. At that time, he and other neighborhood boys got together and formed their own club which they called the Rocket Club. It was during the time that the space program was in full swing and many boys were dreaming of someday going into space. The Rocket Club members took it one step farther by building their own rockets.
His mother, Betty Garrison, who still lives in Brewton, along with his sister, Meg, said that she didn't know what all the boys were up to in the neighborhood.
Garrison said that his father was very interested in model airplanes and flying them and that is what got him interested in air and space.
After graduating from high school, he went to Auburn and studied aeronautical engineering. He graduated from there in 1965 during the Apollo Program. He got a job with Douglas Aircraft in Huntington Beach, Calif. and went to work with the Apollo Program on the Saturn 5 Booster, which was a rocket propulsion engine.
After about a year, Garrison wanted to do some graduate work at Cal Tech so he took a leave of absence from Douglas. He enrolled at Cal Tech and studied aeronautics, receiving his master's degree. He returned to Douglas Aircraft and continued to work on the Apollo Program, spending a year in Huntsville at Redstone Arsenal and then four years at Kennedy Space Center in Launch Operations. For those who remember the television shots of the operation center during the launch of spacecraft, that is where he was.
When the Apollo Program ended, Garrison moved back to Huntington Beach as there was a downturn in space operations. He took a job at Oak Ridge for four years, but he still wanted to live in California. In 1980 he moved back there and that is when he went to work at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, where he has advanced from a technical staff member to be the Division Manager.
The Jet Propulsion Laboratory is in the business of building robotic space craft, such as Voyager, Galileo, Mars Pathfinder and the Mars Explorer rover. Their latest were launched in June and July of this year. They are to land on different parts of Mars just in case something happens to one of them. They are scheduled to land in January and the next phase of the project will take place.
Garrison went on to explain that Galileo was recently deliberately crashed into Jupiter because of the danger of it hitting one of the planet's moons, Europa, that is thought to have water which could harbor life.
The Jet Propulsion Laboratory has around 5,000 employees and Garrison's division has 600 of those. He is responsible for the development of advanced planetary spacecraft and instrument systems and supporting technology for about 30 projects. It is his responsibility to provide leadership and direction to the program to make sure that projects are kept on schedule.
He was born in York in eastern Alabama and moved to Brewton in 1951. He went to school at the old elementary school and was one of Onnie Mae Dawson's students.
He was first married to Sandra Henderson, a local girl, while he was at school at Auburn. They were the parents of a daughter, Shelley, who is now married to a Lieutenant Colonel in the Marine Corps and there are now two grandchildren. He re-married while he was at Kennedy Space Center and inherited two more children. There are now three more grandchildren. Sharon Garrison, his wife, was a school teacher until her retirement recently. They have a home at Laguna Beach where she spends most of her time, while he is still working in Pasadena.
Garrison loves to read, study astronomy and fly remote control airplanes. He and his wife like to backpack, camp and, when they have the time, travel to Germany, Greece, England and other foreign countries.
It is clear that Wayne Garrison has found his niche and in doing so has made a name for himself in the space industry.

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