Henry Hoyt Harris
Dedicated to National Defense
Inducted in 2011
Alabama native Henry Hoyt Harris has certainly done his state and country proud with his contributions to national defense. Harris’ foresight, leadership, dedication and expertise were essential to the development and deployment of some of the nation’s key air defense weapon systems. He advanced to the top civilian position in the U.S. Army Missile Command as deputy to the commanding general. In this position he was responsible for all Army missile systems development, engineering and acquisitions involving billions of dollars and multiple contractors.
A 1950 University of Alabama electrical engineering graduate, Harris spent 28 years of his career with the U.S. Army Missile Command. He was a member of the NATO Mutual Weapons Development Program. He has represented the United States in international meetings in 12 foreign countries. Harris served on the Patriot Source Selection Evaluation Board and was later appointed to the role of director of product assurance and testing for the system during the most fragile stage of its development. The Patriot Missile System has been successfully deployed for more than 30 years and is still the backbone of the nation’s air defense.
Establishing the need for a man-portable air defense system, Harris orchestrated the campaign for a weapon that became known as the Stinger Weapon System. He presented plans for concept development, system development and a comprehensive test program to the Department of Defense and Congress and gained approval for the program. He became the first project manager and stayed with the program through the first four years of research, development and production. Stinger, a shoulder-fired missile, is an integral part of the country’s air defense plan. It was the first missile to use hit-to-kill technology. This system was featured in the movie “Charlie Wilson’s War.”
Harris was also instrumental in the development of the Roland Air Defense Weapon System, an international cooperative program with France and Germany. Roland was the first major weapon system to be successfully developed under the national objective of transferring technology to the United States from Europe.
Harris attained the highest rank of a career government employee, the Senior Executive Service. A recipient of the Alfred P. Sloan Fellowship in 1968, he received a Master of Science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In 1981, he received the Presidential Distinguished Executive Award, the highest honor given to a career government employee, from President Ronald Reagan in a special ceremony at the White House. The Southeastern Institute of Technology recognized his achievements in 1986 with an Honorary Doctor of Science. Harris has received 22 Outstanding Performance Awards, as well as the Department of the Army Meritorious Civilian Service Award in 1971 and 1985. In 1988, he was named Distinguished Engineering Fellow by UA’s College of Engineering.
After retiring from the government, Harris spent two years with the Boeing Co. as director of the High Technology Diversified Products organization. He later joined The University of Alabama at Huntsville as a senior research engineer, continuing his research in missile technology until he retired in 1999.
Harris lives in Huntsville with Marlyn, his wife of 59 years. They are the proud parents of three daughters, who are all graduates of The University of Alabama.