Julian Davidson

Legend in Missile Defense Engineering

Inducted in 2007

Julian Davidson’s boyhood sphere of influence included his family’s vegetable garden and his rural schoolhouse. There, hard work sowed values that would see him far beyond tiny Oakman, Alabama. His influence now extends globally into the highest offices; his induction into the Alabama Engineering Hall of Fame is endorsed by Alabama’s governor and several members of the U.S. Congress from Alabama.

The research and responsible roles Davidson has carried out made him a chief architect of America’s ballistic missile defense system. Along the way he guided development of missiles that launched both the first American satellite and first American astronaut.

His self-financed education underway at Howard College, Davidson deferred study amid World War II to join the Navy. Afterward he attended Auburn University and graduated in 1950 with a bachelor’s in electrical engineering. In 1981, he received an honorary doctor of science from Southeastern Institute of Technology that recognized a 15-year (1961–76) federal government career, which culminated with his appointment as the first director of the Advanced Ballistic Missile Defense Agency. As director, he led thousands of personnel working with billions of dollars to create breakthrough technologies, for example, “Safeguard,” the first system to protect against nuclear attack.

Davidson was the first to tailor systems engineering to fit missile defense requirements. His “shoot-evaluate-shoot” doctrine is still used today. Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama, a member of the U.S. Senate’s Armed Services Committee, describes Davidson’s work as among “the most significant technological achievements in our nation’s history.” The Army has awarded Davidson numerous commendations. He is among 22 recipients of a Medaris Award, which is presented by the Tennessee Valley chapter of the National Defense Industrial Association for significant accomplishments.

Davidson currently heads Davidson Technologies, which he founded in Huntsville, Alabama, in 1996 following leading roles with Burroughs Corporation and Booz Allen Hamilton. The firm employs 200 engineers and is a prominent force in missile defense engineering. Furthermore, in 2001, Dynetics, CAS & Davidson LLC was launched to provide technology-based services to the space and missile defense community. The corporation has generated millions in sales, which provides a glimpse of what Davidson’s work means to Alabama.

Throughout his career, Davidson has remained among the few kept abreast of all developments affecting missile defense. In 1984 he was named to the panel that evaluated President Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative and determined its feasibility. Twenty years later, he worked with the Department of Defense to ascertain the Patriot missile’s effectiveness during Operation Iraqi Freedom. His engineering acuity and political wisdom made national missile defense a reality—already able to locate and destroy missiles speeding through space and expected to reach full capability in a few years.

Davidson and Dorothy, his wife of 25 years, have a long civic record that includes charter sponsorship of the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C. In Huntsville, they are major supporters of the city symphony and art museum and of the National Children’s Advocacy Center. Both are active in the Republican Party locally and nationally, and both generously provide scholarships and other gifts at Auburn University and The University of Alabama in Huntsville. Davidson serves on Auburn’s Alumni Engineering Council and on departmental advisory boards, shaping curriculum development and research.

Davidson returned to Alabama in 1992 after 20 years of working in the District of Columbia for the U.S. government and private industry. He and his wife reside in Huntsville. Their four children, two grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren also reside in the Huntsville area.

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