By Jim Eckles
Hands Across History
Teddy Barber, a scientist and community volunteer, will be the next Hall of Fame inductee at White Sands Missile Range. Barber’s nomination package singles out his outstanding work as a physicist with the Atmospheric Sciences Laboratory, his work to assist handicapped employees at White Sands, and his volunteer efforts with the Boy Scouts and his church in Las Cruces. He was a well-rounded individual who made a lasting impact at work and in the community.
What made it more remarkable is that Barber accomplished it with the proverbial “one hand tied behind his back.” Barber was almost blinded at the age of 16 and spent the rest of his life with less than five percent of his vision in one eye and less than three percent in the other. He didn’t drive a car and many simple things we take for granted were out of his reach, but that didn’t stop him.
Barber was born in Redmond, Oregon on May 14, 1932. After his vision was damaged at 16, the state of Oregon paid the costs for a reader. With that aid, Barber got his life together and graduated from Madras Union High School in 1952.
Barber then enrolled at Oregon State University where he earned a bachelor of science degree in general physics. Half of Barber’s tuition was paid by the Oregon State Commission for the Blind. He had to work a plethora of odd jobs to pay the other 50 percent – everything from warehouseman, dishwasher and lab assistant to farm laborer where he threw hay bales onto trucks. Ironically, Barber was given one concession in college – he was exempt from the physical fitness requirement.
Graduating in 1957, Barber soon accepted a job in June 1958 as a physicist, GS-5, at the missile range’s Atmospheric Sciences Laboratory. At the lab, Barber was responsible for “formulating and performing research studies in atmospheric remote sensing.” His nomination package goes on to state, “Through laboratory and field experiments, as reported in presentations, journal papers and technical reports, he helped advance radiometric and lidar (light detection and ranging) techniques to determine the vertical distribution, concentration, and diurnal variability of atmospheric aerosol, and investigated the effects of boundary layer aerosol on propagation of radiation.” He also helped develop and improve a technology to remotely measure the wind.
For the Army, this research had real-world implications in determining atmospheric impacts on artillery and high-energy laser propagation.
In 1979 Barber earned a master of science degree in physical chemistry from New Mexico State University.
With his impressive resume of work developing, Barber was recognized by WSMR as the Outstanding Handicapped Employee for the year 1980. The next year, the Department of Army awarded him the same recognition for the whole Army.
Most of Barber’s work was done with only a few adaptations to his work place. In 1979, that changed when several devices with the latest technology were turned over to Barber. Not only did they assist him in his work but he became a bit of an expert and was able to criticize and offer suggestions on their design. He participated in panel discussions on the devices and completed case studies on equipment to aid those with poor vision.
In 1981, he presented an information paper concerning technical advancements at the national meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He also served on the association’s Handicapped Scientific Advisory Group.
Locally, Barber dedicated time to visually handicapped projects, to the Federation for the Blind and to the New Mexico School for the Visually Handicapped. Twice, in 1982 and 1986, Barber received the President’s Trophy nomination for the state of New Mexico. The nominations were forwarded by the New Mexico governor’s committee on the Concerns of the Handicap and were made “for outstanding performance in surmounting his handicap and facilitating employment of other handicapped individuals.”
In 1985, Barber was named Handicapped Worker of the Year by the Las Cruces Committee on the Concerns of the Handicapped.
As an outdoor enthusiast and a mentor to young men, Barber found an outlet in Las Cruces with Troop 69 of the Boy Scouts of America. He served as an adult leader beginning in 1964 and as scoutmaster from 1967 to 1987. As part of the troop, Barber participated with the boys on numerous camping and hiking trips as well as some huge, multi-day backpacking trips in the Southwest.
During his tenure as scoutmaster, 16 boys earned their Eagle Scout awards. These young men went on to become professionals and leaders in their communities. Of the many awards associated with Boy Scouts he received, Barber’s most personal one might be from the Eagle Scouts of Troop 69 in 1986 designating him the “Eagle Maker.”
Barber met Alice Maria Hermann at White Sands when she was working in the range’s typing pool. They were married in 1960 and had four children. Alice died in 1988 and Ted died in 2004.
The Hall of Fame induction ceremony will take place during a luncheon 11 a.m. Aug. 16 in the missile range’s Frontier Club. If you have questions or would like to make a reservation, contact the missile range Protocol Office at (575) 678-1038 no later than Aug. 8. There will not be any sales at the door.