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Roy D. Bridges Jr. papers



Scope and Contents

Biographical Note

Administrative Information

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Roy D. Bridges Jr. papers | Purdue University Libraries, Archives and Special Collections

By Mary A. Sego

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Collection Overview

Title: Roy D. Bridges Jr. papersAdd to your cart.

Primary Creator: Bridges, Roy D. (1943-)

Extent: 68.9 Cubic feet. More info below.


1.  Education, 1960-2009 (1.6 cubic feet).  Contained in this series are brochures, class photographs, correspondence, grade reports, research papers, scrapbook, textbooks, and transcripts among other items from throughout Bridges’ education. The series is arranged in chronological order and divided into four subseries, due to the extensive nature of his education. The subseries include; Gainesville High School, Gainesville, Georgia; United States Air Force Academy; Purdue University; and Student Pilot Training at Williams Air Force Base, Arizona (March 1966-March 1967).

Of special note is a service  project scrapbook; “Single Service Project ‘333’, Key Club of Gainesville High School,” from Bridges’ senior year in high school.  The project won first place at the Key Club International Convention, Philadelphia, PA, 1961, the year Bridges was president of the club. Also included is correspondence from his high school principal and ninth grade Science teacher.

Upon Bridges’ graduation from Gainesville High School, Gainesville, Georgia in 1961, Bridges attended the United States Air Force Academy. He would become a distinguished graduate of the Academy, earning a Bachelor’s degree of engineering science in 1965. This subseries contains various brochures, a Class of 1965 photograph, research papers, Astronautics textbooks used by Bridges, correspondence, and a folder; “United States Air Force Academy visit to Purdue University – School of Aeronautics, Astronautics and Engineering Sciences, February 12-13, 1965.”

Upon his graduation from the USAFA in 1965, the Air Force sent Bridges to Purdue to earn a Master's degree. It took him only a year at Purdue to earn a Master of Science degree in astronautics. Items of special note in this subseries are a research report, “Space Radiation Hazards,” written by Bridges and John Blaha (fellow Purdue alum and astronaut) while students at Purdue University for Mechanical Engineering 654 for which they received an A.  A group research paper, “Mars Reentry Vehicle, Heat Shield Design,” written for Purdue Professor Hoglund. Other items include Bridges’ Purdue ID, parking pass, grade reports and transcripts.

After Bridges’ graduation from Purdue University in 1966, he went on to student pilot training; Williams Air Force Base, Arizona (March 1966-March 1967), F-100 pilot, 524th Tactical Fighter Squadron, Cannon Air Force Base, New Mexico (March 1967-November 1968), United States Air Force Test Pilot School, Edwards Air Force Base, California (1971), and he was a distinguished graduate, Air Command and Staff College, Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama in 1976. He furthered his education throughout his career, including attending the University of New Hampshire Executive Development Management Program, Durham in 1988. The last subseries, Student Pilot Training, 1966-1976, include items from this segment of Bridges’ education. Among the items, but not limited to are exams and some assignments, manuals, research reports and textbooks.

2.  Air Force Career, 1964-1996 (16.75 cubic feet).  Major General Bridges’ Air Force Career spanned 31 years.  The 9 subseries follow his career path; F-100 pilot, 416th Tactical Fighter Squadron and Commando Sabre Operation (Misty), Phu Cat Air Base, Republic of Vietnam; Test Pilot, Air Force Flight Test Center, Edwards Air Force Base, California; Astronaut Application Process and Selection; Commander, 6510th Test Wing, Edwards Air Force Base, California; Commander, Eastern Space and Missile Center, Patrick Air Force Base, Florida; Deputy Chief of Staff, Test and Resources, Headquarters Air Force Systems Command, Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland; Commander, Air Force Flight Test Center, Edwards Air Force Base, California; Director of Requirements, Headquarters Air Force Materiel Command, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio; and Air Force Retirement, and Span of Career Records.

There is a description of each subseries before each section in the finding aid. Some of the items consist of: Bridges’ “Vietnam End of Tour Report,” application for Aerospace Research Pilot, working files, various flight test documents, Bridges’ astronaut applications, various briefings, memos and articles on the subject of conducting Air Force test operations efficiently and safely, along with documents from Bridges’ many other numerous initiatives. One can also find newsletters, newspapers, flight logs, performance appraisals, Air Force span of career records, ending with retirement letters and cards of congratulations. Due to the extensive nature of this series, please refer to the detailed listing.

3.  NASA Career, 1980-2010 (8.25 cubic feet).  The NASA Career series is comprised of four subseries: Astronaut Career; Director, John F. Kennedy Space Center; Director, Langley Research Center; and NASA Publications.

The Astronaut Career subseries features Bridges’ STS-51-F and STS 61-F “Files of Notes and Working Papers Related to Preparation,” 1980-1986, and audio visual material directly related to the two missions. Also located in the series are STS 51-F flight logs, flight checklists and data files, along with Bridges’ pilot kneeboard notes and cards. A few items that can be seen from the STS 61-F, Centaur mission are Bridges’ “Deficiencies and Notebook” which he was preparing to take to orbit, and a small black notebook, which contains, per Bridges, “notes on meetings and issues from the time of the Challenger mishap until I left the astronaut program to become Wing Commander at Edwards AFB (Jan-May 1986). Most of the meetings had to do with issues with the Centaur upper stage that was to launch Ulysses into polar orbit around the sun. Rounding out the Astronaut Career subseries are issues of the newsletter, Space News Round-up,” NASA Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center, August 9, 1985 – June 13, 1986.

The second subseries, Director, John F. Kennedy Space Center, covers many annual reports, briefing charts, implementation plans, strategic plans, reorganization documents and other papers from Bridges’ tenure as Director, 1996-2002. Please refer to the listing in the finding aid for material in this subseries.

The third series, Director, Langley Research Center, includes Backup Discs (6) for Email and Files from Duties at Langley Research Center (Mac/Eudora Email), “Speeches,” Briefings, NASA Engineering and Safety Center (NESC) papers, and Miscellaneous Documents.

The last subseries within Series 3. NASA Career is Subseries 4. NASA Publications. Found here are various NASA Publications that Bridges had collected over the years, 1978-2008. The publications are arranged in chronological order in archival boxes.

4.  Career Scrapbooks, 1965-2009 (11 cubic feet).  The career scrapbooks consist of an extensive collection of three-ring binders that Bridges put together throughout his Air Force and NASA careers. For the sake of archival integrity, the binders have been left in the order in which Bridges had arranged them. There are 31 binders that have been arranged in 2 subseries; Air Force and NASA and are further broken down into 11 sub-subseries which follow his career path. The contents of each page within the binders is listed in the finding aid. If Bridges provided a comment about the contents, this is noted in the finding aid too.

There is a wealth of material that is contained in the binders. Some of the items are: applications, appraisals, certificates, correspondence and letters of congratulations, notification of appointments, speaking notes, and various notes, emails, cards and miscellaneous items from his retirement. The binders also include photographs from throughout his career, some signed and inscribed to Bridges. There are also photographs from the very first Space Shuttle flight.

One binder contains mission patches and astronaut autographs given as a departure gift from Kennedy Space Center by the Astronaut office in 2003. Four binders are devoted to Bridges’ work on the Columbia Accident Investigation Board and Material Related to Public testimony to Columbia Accident Investigation Board, 2003. Please see the finding aid for further information and a detailed listing of items found within the 31 binders contained in this series.  Since several binders reside in each box, look for a binder level description of contents versus box level.

5.  Audio Visual, 1968-2007 (5.6 cubic feet).  The audio visual material consists of a wide range of media and topics. It has been arranged by type of media (VHS, DVDs, CDs, audio tapes, and films) and placed in chronological order within each type. Some of the highlights are military Change of Command ceremonies, Space Shuttle related events, Bridges’ “Last Flight at Edwards Air Force Base,” a presentation by Bridges on the future of Kennedy Space Center, various Purdue astronaut alumni events, along with the Purdue University 2001 commencement ceremony when he received an honorary doctorate.

Also included are a PBS Frontline, “The Real Stuff,” segment (reproduction is prohibited), “Cool Digs,” a segment for “Newsstand” based on a tour of Bridges’ office while he was Center Director of the NASA Kennedy Space Center, May 15, 2000, and “CAIB (Columbia Accident Investigation Board) Report Media Briefing,” August 26, 2003. Due to the variety of topics, please refer to the listing within the finding aid.

6.  Books and Journals, 1976-2010 (1 cubic foot).  This series contains selected books and journals from Roy D. Bridges’, Jr. personal library.  Many of the books are of a historical nature relating to Air Force and NASA facilities, and aerospace and aeronautics in general. The book, Colorado’s astronauts: In their own words, features Bridges on pages 18-20, along with his original submission for the book.

Many of the journals contain articles on the Space Shuttle, including the first launch, STS-1 of Space Shuttle Columbia on April 20, 1981.

Materials in the series are arranged in chronological order, with the books and journals in separate manuscript boxes.

7.  Photographs, 1965-2010 (5.70 cubic feet).  This series is comprised of three subseries: Air Force; NASA; and Oversized (16” x 20” matted). There are eight sub-subseries with each described before their respective listings.

The earliest Air Force photographs feature Bridges in Cadet Wing Staff uniform, training class group photographs, and photographs from Vietnam and Commando Sabre Operation (Misty), Phu Cat Air Base, Republic of Vietnam, 1968. Also found in this series is a photo album which was presented to Bridges in July 1975 by Test Operations on his departure from Edwards Air Force Base, California. It contains photographs of colleagues with inscriptions to Bridges. Other photographs from Bridges’ Air Force career include a 419 Test Wing activation ceremony, Edwards Air Force Base, at which Bridges gave all new squadrons their flags at the ceremony, and photos from a Change of Command ceremony, Eastern Space and Missile Center, Patrick Air Force Base, Florida (1989-1990). Going Away and Legion of Merit ceremonies, while Bridges served as Deputy Chief of Staff, Test and Resources, Headquarters Air Force Systems Command. The Air Force subseries ends with numerous photographs from Bridges’ visit to the French Air Force Test Facilities in 1992 and Major General Grouvalle’s follow-up visit to the USAF Test Facilities, Edwards AFB, CA.

The highlights of the NASA subseries are of Bridges’ career as an astronaut, and include his official astronaut photograph, including one in civilian clothes. There are various STS-51 crew and mission photographs, STS-61F crew photos and one of the launch of the Atlas/Centaur-66. There are 2 photo albums with the NASA seal and “Langley Research Center, Roy D. Bridges, Jr.,” on the cover with various photos of Bridges’ tour at Langley, and his going away at Kennedy Space Center, 2003-2005. The pages from the albums were placed in archival folders for preservation purposes but left in original order.

The nine photographs in the Oversized (OS) Box were separated out from the other series for preservation purposes.  Most of these 16” x 20” photographs are matted and are from various moments in Bridges’ career.

Please see Series 4. Career Scrapbooks and Series 9. Oversized Materials for other photographs.

8.  Artifacts, 1957-2007 (13.85 cubic feet).  Three subseries make up the Artifacts Series; Subseries 1. Awards, Diplomas, and Decorations; Subseries 2. Textiles, and Subseries 3. Medals and Miscellaneous Memorabilia. This is an extensive collection, so please see the finding aid for the detailed listing.

The material in the first subseries are in the form of certificates, plaques and 3-dimensional awards. Some of the highlights of the awards (certificates) are Bridges’ Distinguished Flying Cross and Air Medals, Air Force Commendation medal, Defense Superior Service medal and Legion of Merit. Some of the oversized awards/certificates consist of Bridges’ Commission as a 2nd Lieutenant in the United States Air Force, June 9, 1965; Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center Certificate of Commendation presented to Lieutenant Colonel Roy D. Bridges, July 1983; National Aeronautics and Space Administration Certificate of Appreciation, Roy D. Bridges, Colonel, United States Air Force, In Support of Presidential Commission investigating the Space Shuttle Challenger accident, circa 1986; Honorary Doctorate, Purdue University, May 12, 2001, and Certificate, NASA Medal for Outstanding Leadership, in recognition of outstanding leadership in providing the vision and direction needed to establish the NASA Engineering and Safety Center, June 30, 2004, among many other awards, diplomas and decorations.

Some of the plaques of note are 416th Tactical Fighter Squadron and Commando Sabre Operation (Misty); Leithen-Tittle Distinguished Graduate award; United States Air Force Aerospace Research Pilot School, top graduate (1971); American Aeronautical Society Flight Achievement Award (1985) and B-1 Combined Test Force and United States Air Force Test Pilot School plaques (1989), and Air Force 35-year award – Kennedy Space Center (2000). There are various plaques presented by Purdue University, including the Purdue University Distinguished Astronaut Alumnus Award (1990).

The highlights of the Textiles Subseries are the Air Force Academy parade dress uniform and the Air Force Academy Class of ’65 blazer Bridges wore during the time he attended Purdue University (1965-1966). Also included are his NASA flight suit with patches, and the Air Force flight suit and helmet worn by Bridges while he was Commander of the Air Force Flight Test Center (1991-1993). Along with his Air Force general officer’s jacket worn throughout his Air Force career, and Air Force aviator jacket with Kennedy Space Center patch and Langley Research Center patch worn by Bridges while Director of both locations (1996-2005). A few other items of clothing round-out the textiles subseries.

The third subseries is Medals and Miscellaneous Memorabilia.  Residing in this series are Henschel drafting instruments Bridges used in high school and college engineering drawing courses, circa 1957-1966; a small blue box containing uniform medals worn by Colonel Bridges, (Per Bridges, “not the complete set for my full career,”) circa 1966-1996, and blue medium box with patches, medals and ribbons worn by Bridges during his military career and some NASA mission pins and commemorative items, (Per Bridges, “Top 4 medals worn on the General Officer’s Uniform at my retirement in 1996; Mess Dress miniature medals; patches worn on my military flight suit; general officers belt buckle; various wings, space and parachute badges; various mission pins and commemorative items.), circa 1966-2005, along with 3, NASA Outstanding Leadership Medals.

Some of the miscellaneous items include, a small box containing numerous NASA mission patches, circa 1980-2005; a box containing numerous permits, passes, nametags, IDs, circa 1980-2005, and a small box containing miscellaneous coins and pins, circa 1980-2005.

The items in each of the archival boxes in this series have been placed in chronological order. Since the series contains a wide variety of items from throughout Bridges’ career, please refer to the finding aid for a detailed listing.

9.  Oversized Materials, 1967-2006 (5.15 cubic feet).  The items in the Oversized (OS) Series were separated out from the other series for preservation purposes. This series includes numerous awards, drawings, mounted flown Space Shuttle patches, personalized photographs, caricatures and mementos given to Bridges in appreciation of his service and leadership. Due to the varied nature of the material and the cumbersome size of the material, it is placed in chronological order within each box, but not throughout the entire series. Please see the complete finding aid listing.

Date Acquired: 04/09/2009. More info below under Accruals.

Subjects: Aerial photographs, Aerospace engineering, Air Force (U.S.), Air pilots, Military, Astronauts, Blaha, John E., 1942-, Briefs and records, Centaur rocket, Challenger (Spacecraft), Edwards Air Force Base. USAF Test Pilot School, Flight Archives at Purdue University, John F. Kennedy Space Center, Langley Air Force Base (Va.). Langley Research Center, NASA, Purdue University, Purdue University--Alumni and alumnae, Ross, Jerry Lynn, 1948-, Space flights, Space shuttles--United States, Test pilots, United States. Air Force. Test Pilot School, United States. Air Force Management, United States Air Force Academy, Voss, Janice, 1956-2012

Forms of Material: Artifacts (object genre), Audiocassettes, Audiovisual materials, Awards, Black-and-white photographs, Books, Certificates, Clippings (Information artifacts), Clothing, Color photographs, Correspondence, Diaries, Logs (records), Magazines (periodicals), Memorabilia, Patches, Personal papers, Reports, Scrapbooks, Textbooks, Textiles, Transcripts, United States. Air Force--Medals, badges, decorations, etc., VHS (TM), Working papers

Languages: English


This collection includes documents, photographs, awards and certificates, textbooks, briefs and records, artifacts, audiovisual materials, and scrapbooks that document the life and career of astronaut and retired United States Air Force Major General Roy Bridges Jr. Included are numerous awards, drawings, and personalized photographs and mementos given to Bridges in appreciation of his service and leadership.

Scope and Contents of the Materials

The Roy D. Bridges Jr. papers (1957-2010; 68.90 cubic feet) document the extensive Air Force and NASA career of Roy D. Bridges Jr.

The papers include but are not limited to, artifacts, audio visual material, awards, books, briefs and records, certificates, clippings, clothing, correspondence, diaries, documents, flight logs, flight checklists and data files, along with Bridges’ pilot kneeboard notes, medals, mementos, papers, photographs, scrapbooks, textbooks, research papers, and working papers.

Donated in multiple accessions over several years, each accession arrived with a detailed inventory that, in many cases, included explanatory notes by Bridges. These notes, a kind of commentary by Bridges, have been incorporated into this finding aid.

The papers are divided into nine series, and further information on the scope and content of the collection is located at the series and subseries levels.

See complete finding aid:

Biographical Note

Roy Dunbard Bridges, Jr., was born on July 19, 1943 in Atlanta Georgia. The family later moved to Gainesville, Georgia where Bridges grew up and graduated from Gainesville High School in Gainesville, Georgia in 1961.  He won a Congressional appointment to the United States Air Force Academy Class of 1965 and was a distinguished graduate. He won a competitive engineering graduate school scholarship from the United States Air Force and entered Purdue University immediately following graduation from the Academy. He was awarded a Master’s of Science from Purdue in 1966. He graduated from the United States Air Force Undergraduate Pilot Training ay Williams AFB, Arizona, as a distinguished graduate in March 1967.

Assigned to Cannon AFB, New Mexico, for advanced pilot training in the F-100, he successfully completed the advanced course and was assigned to the 416th Tactical Fighter Squadron, Phu Cat Air Base, Republic of Vietnam, in January 1968. He completed 226 combat missions prior to the end of his tour in December 1968. Included in this total are 72 missions that he flew over North Vietnam and Laos in the F-100F during a four month “Misty,” fast forward air control assignment. This unit was focused on discovering and destroying surface to air missiles in Route Package 1, interdicting supply routes, and suppressing enemy anti-aircraft artillery fire to aircrew rescues.

After his Vietnam tour, he taught flying training in the T-37 and was selected to attend the USAF Test Pilot School (named the USAF Aerospace Research Pilot School at the time.) In 1971, he graduated from the school with the Top Graduate Award and was assigned to Edwards AFB to test the next generation of close air support aircraft. He was one of five Air Force test pilots that participated in the competitive fly-off between the YA-9 and YA-10 and stayed on after the fly-off to test the upgrades to YA-10 that would be integrated into the production aircraft. He was also selected to complete the YA-10 Post Stall and Spin Test Program.

Following tours at Air Command and Staff College and the Pentagon, he returned to flight testing as part of the unit developing the F-117 stealth fighter. That tour was interrupted when he was chosen by NASA to be a Space Shuttle astronaut. He piloted the Challenger on the 19th Shuttle mission (STS 51-F) in July and August of 1985 for 126 orbits. He was selected for another flight on the Challenger that was scheduled for launch in May 1986.

After the Challenger accident in January 1986, his mission was canceled, and he was reassigned by the Air Force to command the Air Force’s largest test wing at Edwards Air Force Base, California. Following his command of the test wing, he commanded the Eastern Space and Missile Center, Patrick AFB, Florida, and the Air Force Flight Test Center, Edwards AFB, California. He also served in several key staff positions for the Air Force Systems Command and the Air Force Materiel Command. He retired from the Air Force after 31 years of service in July 1996 as a Major General. He was a Command Astronaut Pilot with over 4,460 flying hours in a variety of aircraft and spacecraft.

Following his career with the Air Force, he was selected by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to be the Center Director for the Kennedy Space Center, Florida and later as the Center Director for the Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia. He retired from the Senior Executive Service in December 2005 after over 40 years of public service to the nation following his graduation from the Academy. In 2006 He went on to become Director of Operations for Northrop Grumman Technical Services in Herndon, Virginia.

Throughout his career, Bridges received numerous awards and honors. He is the recipient of the Distinguished Service Medal; Defense Superior Service Medal with oak leaf cluster; Legion of Merit with oak leaf cluster; Distinguished Flying Cross with 2 oak leaf clusters; Meritorious Service Medal; Air Medal with 14 oak leaf clusters; Air Force Commendation Medal; NASA Space Flight Medal; NASA Certificate of Commendation; and the Dr. Kurt H. Debus Award, among many other awards.

Subject/Index Terms

Aerial photographs
Aerospace engineering
Air Force (U.S.)
Air pilots, Military
Blaha, John E., 1942-
Briefs and records
Centaur rocket
Challenger (Spacecraft)
Edwards Air Force Base. USAF Test Pilot School
Flight Archives at Purdue University
John F. Kennedy Space Center
Langley Air Force Base (Va.). Langley Research Center
Purdue University
Purdue University--Alumni and alumnae
Ross, Jerry Lynn, 1948-
Space flights
Space shuttles--United States
Test pilots
United States. Air Force. Test Pilot School
United States. Air Force Management
United States Air Force Academy
Voss, Janice, 1956-2012

Administrative Information

Repository: Purdue University Libraries, Archives and Special Collections














Alternate Extent Statement: 24 cubic feet boxes, 2 legal mss boxes, 37 letter mss boxes, 12, ½ letter mss boxes, 6 small flat boxes, 3 medium flat and 8 large flat boxes, and 3 oversized, loose wrapped items

Access Restrictions: Collection is open for research. The collection is stored offsite; 24 hours notice is required to access the collection.

Use Restrictions: Purdue University per deed of gift.  Frontline episode copyright held by PBS.

Acquisition Source: Roy. D. Bridges Jr.

Acquisition Method: Donated by Roy D. Bridges Jr., 2009-2013.

Related Materials:

Janice Voss papers:


Jerry L. Ross papers:


Preferred Citation: MSA 6, Roy D. Bridges, Jr. papers, Archives and Special Collections, Purdue University Libraries

Processing Information: Whenever possible, original order of the materials has been retained.  All materials have been housed in polyester sleeves, acid-free folders, and acid-free boxes.  Oversized [OS] artifacts have been separated and grouped into an individual series for preservation purposes. Some oversized photographs have been placed in a separate box at the end of the Photographs series, and a few other photographs can be found in the Oversized series.

Other URL: http://collections.lib.purdue.edu/fa/pdf/msa6_bridges_r.pdf

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