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James B. Odom Collection

Identifier: MC-50
Documents pertaining to the Hubble Space Telescope and the Soviet Space Program.


  • 1961 - 2009


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research in the Archives & Special Collections reading room. Handling guidelines and use restrictions will be communicated and enforced by archives staff members.

Conditions Governing Use

This material may be protected under U. S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S. Code) which governs the making of photocopies or reproductions of copyrighted materials. You may use the digitized material for private study, scholarship, or research. Though the University of Alabama in Huntsville Archives and Special Collections has physical ownership of the material in its collections, in some cases we may not own the copyright to the material. It is the patron's obligation to determine and satisfy copyright restrictions when publishing or otherwise distributing materials found in our collections.


2 Linear Feet (2 boxes.)

Biographical / Historical

James B. Odom was educated in Alabama schools. He graduated from McKenzie High School in McKenzie, AL in 1951, and attended Troy State College and Auburn University to earn his Bachelor of Science degree in mechanical engineering in 1955.

Odom began his engineering career with the Chemstrand Corporation in Decatur, AL. In 1956, he joined the U.S. Army’s rocket research and development team at Redstone Arsenal, AL, as a systems engineer and transferred to the Marshall Space Flight Center in 1959, prior to its formal establishment in July 1960.

At the Marshall Center, Odom held various engineering and technical management positions. He was actively involved in the development of earth satellites and unmanned space probes prior to his assignment as chief of the Engineering and Test Operations Branch for the second stage of the Saturn V launch vehicle.

During his time at the Marshall Center, Odom actively helped develop earth satellites and unmanned space probes, and he held various engineering and technical management positions. He became manager of the External Tank Project in the Shuttle Projects Office in 1972, deputy manager for production and logistics in the Shuttle Projects Office in 1982, and manager of the Space Telescope Office in 1983.

Odom served as manager of the Space Telescope Project for three years, after which he assumed the position of director of the Science and Engineering Directorate in November 1986. In 1988, Odom was relocated to NASA’s Washington, D.C. headquarters.

In 1989, Odom retired from directing the space station program and NASA itself, citing soon-to-be-implemented ethics regulations as the reason for his abrupt departure.

Over the course of his career, Odom earned many awards and honors for his achievements. In April 1973, Odom received the NASA Exceptional Service Medal for his outstanding technical and management leadership and effectiveness in the design, development, verification, and launch support of the S-2 stages. In September 1981, he received the NASA Distinguished Service Medal for his outstanding contributions to the development of the Space Shuttle and its successful first orbital flight test. In June 1985, he was awarded the Presidential Rank of Meritorious Executive in recognition of sustained accomplishments and exceptional technical and managerial performance marked by contributions to the External Tank; it was also in recognition of significant advances made under his leadership in the management of the Space Telescope Project.

Awards and honors Odom received outside of his career include the Decatur Morgan Hospital Foundation’s recognition of him as the John A. Caddell honoree (2011) and the Decatur-Morgan County Chamber of Commerce Miss Athelyne C. Banks Citizen of the Year DSC 6253 award (July 2019).

Adapted from a biographical/historical sketch found here. It has also been updated with more modern information.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of James B. Odom, 2009.

Processing Information

Collections are processed to a variety of levels, depending on the work necessary to make them usable, their perceived research value, the availability of staff, and competing priorities. The library attempts to provide a basic level of preservation and access for all collections as they are acquired and does more extensive processing of higher priority collections as time and resources permit.



Megan Sullivan, Eve Grandinetti
Description rules

Repository Details

Part of the The University of Alabama in Huntsville Archives & Special Collections Repository

M. Louis Salmon Library
301 Sparkman Drive
Huntsville, AL 35899 Alabama 35899 United States of America