Dr. Jim Hansen, Department of History at Auburn University will be available for a book signing on Thursday, October 27, at Barnes and Noble Booksellers, 4140 West Jefferson Boulevard, Fort Wayne, Indiana.
Jim grew up in Waynedale in the sixties. He lived at 2501 Lower Huntington Road in the house that is now The Hair Company.
Jim went to school at Waynedale Elementary, Kekionga and Elmhurst and as a youngster was involved in local sports programs. He was a bowler at the old Smitty’s Bowling Alley on Bluffton Road, played little league baseball for Evans Products and played basketball for Kekionga Junior High School.
I first talked to Jim back in July 2003 when he was doing his initial research for his new book, First Man. I thought it was interesting that he still remembered the kids he played sports with. He said, “I remember playing baseball with Steve Tobias, Roger Bellis, Brett Able, Ron Caldwell, Rick Seitz, Steve Spitler, Steve Stiffler, Dan Ransbottom, Glen Hunt and Jim Cox.” I recognized many of the local names, as some still live around the Waynedale area.
After graduating from Elmhurst, Jim attended college at Indiana University here in Fort Wayne. He did his graduate work at Ohio State where he received his doctorate in History and Science.
One of the job offers he accepted after graduation was from NASA. They offered him a chance to write a book, something he felt he couldn’t turn down. The book, Engineer in Charge: A History of the Langley Aeronautical Laboratory, 1917-1958 was the first of several commissioned by NASA. Jim continued to do historical research, writing eight books, including: Spaceflight Revolution, The Wind and Beyond, and The Ascent of the Airplane. At the same time he began his teaching career, first at the University of Maine and then at Auburn University.
Jim first contacted Neil Armstrong in 2001 about writing his life story. Because of Jim’s extensive knowledge of the space industry and his accomplishments in writing history, Armstrong OK’d the first authorized biography of his own life. Jim conducted more than 125 interviews with Armstrong’s associates and logged more than 50 hours of interviews with Armstrong himself. The book covers Neil’s early days, growing up in Wapakoneta, Ohio, his days as a Navy Pilot, during the Korean conflict, his 900 flights as a test pilot and his beginnings as the second group of American Astronauts back in 1962.
Following is an excerpt from the prologue in Jim Hansen’s new book, First Man:
“No tailgate party at any Southeastern Conference football game could match the summer festival preceding the first launch for a moon landing. Sun-glassed spectators dressed in bermuda shorts or undressed in bikinis, even at this early hour, firing up barbecue grills, opening coolers of beer and soda pop, peering through binoculars and telescopes, testing camera angles and lenses…people filled every strand of sand, every oil-streaked pier, every fish-smelling jetty.”
During his research for the Armstrong book, First Man, Clint Eastwood contacted Jim about the film rights. Eastwood invited Jim, Neil and their wives to Carmel, California to play golf and talk about doing the movie.
Who would have thought it? Jim Hansen, a Waynedale kid growing up in the sixties developing into a man of extraordinary talent, coming home for a book signing, right here on the southwest side of Fort Wayne.
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