Williams, Donald E. (1942-2016) | Purdue University Libraries, Archives and Special Collections
Donald E. Williams was born February 13, 1942 in Lafayette, Indiana. Williams graduated from Otterbein High School in 1960 and went on to earn a B.S. degree in Mechanical Engineering from Purdue University in 1964.
Williams received his commission through the NROTC program at Purdue University. He completed flight training at Pensacola, Florida; Meridian, Mississippi; and Kingsville, Texas, receiving his wings in May 1966. After A-4 training, he made two Vietnam deployments aboard the USS ENTERPRISE with Attack Squadron 113. He served as a flight instructor in Attack Squadron 125 at Naval Air Station Lemoore, California for 2 years and transitioned to A-7 aircraft. He made two additional Vietnam deployments aboard the USS ENTERPRISE with CVW-14 staff and Attack Squadron 97. Williams completed a total of 330 combat missions.
In 1973, Williams attended the Armed Forces Staff College. He graduated from the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School at Patuxent River, Maryland, in June 1974, and was assigned to the Naval Air Test Center's Carrier Suitability Branch of Flight Test Division. From August 1976 to June 1977 he was head of the Carrier Systems Branch, Strike Aircraft Test Directorate. He reported next for A-7 refresher training and was assigned to Attack Squadron 94 when selected by NASA. Williams was selected by NASA in January 1978 as an astronaut candidate. He became an astronaut in August 1979, and qualified for assignment as a pilot on future Space Shuttle flight crews. Since then he has had various support assignments, including working at the Shuttle Avionics Integration Laboratory as a test pilot, and at the Kennedy Space Center participating in Orbiter test, checkout, launch and landing operations. From September 1982 through July 1983, he was assigned as the Deputy Manager, Operations Integration, National Space Transportation System Program Office at the Johnson Space Center. From July 1985 through August 1986, Williams was the Deputy Chief of the Aircraft Operations Division at the Johnson Space Center, and from September 1986 through December 1988, he served as Chief of the Mission Support Branch within the Astronaut Office.
Twice flown, Williams served as pilot on STS-51D in 1985, and was the spacecraft commander on STS-34 in 1989. He has logged a total of 287 hours and 35 minutes in space. In March 1990, Williams retired from the U.S. Navy and left NASA. He went on to become a Division Manager with Science Applications International Corporation, working on several projects in the Houston area, nationally, and internationally.
Williams was honored many times and his awards include: the Legion of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross, Defense Superior Service Medal, 2 Navy Commendation Medals with Combat V, 2 Navy Unit Commendations, a Meritorious Unit Commendation, the National Defense Medal, an Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, the NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal, the NASA Space Flight Medal, the NASA Exceptional Service Medal, the Vietnam Service Medal (with 4 stars), a Vietnamese Gallantry Cross (with gold star), and the Vietnam Campaign Medal.
Donald Williams died February 23, 2016. He was 74.
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