Roy Vincent Harris, Jr.

Roy Vincent Harris, Jr., 85, of Williamsburg, Virginia, passed away on March 18, 2021, at Patriots Colony Williamsburg. He was born November 10, 1935, in Augusta, Georgia, to the late Roy Vincent Harris, Sr. and Mary Lewis Harris. On June 14, 1958, Roy married the love of his life, Mary Susan (“Mary Sue”) Hill, also of Augusta, who predeceased him.

In 1958, Roy graduated from Georgia Tech with a degree in aeronautical engineering and immediately joined the staff of the NASA (then, National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics) Langley Research Center as a research engineer. In 1959, he was called to active duty in the Air Force and assigned to NASA Langley. His first 15 years at NASA were spent conducting research in supersonic aerodynamics. He was an early pioneer in the use of digital computers to solve practical aerodynamics problems. In 1964, he published the first computer code for calculating the supersonic wave drag of complete aircraft configurations. This code enabled, for the first time, the development of practical civil and military supersonic cruise aircraft. Advanced versions of this code are still in use today by aircraft designers. He also produced the first computer-generated drawings of complex three-dimensional aircraft configurations. Roy retired from NASA in 1998, after nearly 40 years of service, as the Director of Aeronautics. After retirement, Roy worked as a consultant to industry and government and devoted much volunteer time as a technical advisor and Board member of the NASA Aeronautics Support Team.

In recognition of his contributions to the advancement of U.S. aeronautical technology, Roy received the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) Lawrence Sperry Award (1968), NASA Medal for Outstanding Leadership (1982), Presidential Rank Award of Distinguished Executive (1991), AIAA Reed Aeronautics Award (1998), NASA Distinguished Service Medal (1998), International Council of the Aeronautical Sciences (ICAS) Maurice Roy Medal for “outstanding contributions to international collaboration” (1998), and AIAA Distinguished Service Award (2015). He was inducted into the Georgia Tech Academy of Distinguished Engineering Alumni (1995), NASA Langley Hall of Honor (2017), and Academy of Richmond County Hall of Fame (2018).

Roy was a member of Chestnut Memorial United Methodist Church in Newport News since 1958. He taught Sunday School and led the youth group in the early 1960s, served as a member of the Building Committee for the move to its current Harpersville Road location in the late 1960s, sang in the choir for over 30 years, chaired the Council on Ministries in the 1970s, and served at various times on the Administrative Board and as a Trustee. Roy’s hobbies were sailing, opera, playing the guitar, writing simple ballads, and composing poetry and essays.

Roy is survived by his two daughters, Mary Catherine (“Cathy”) Harris Helms (husband, Jeff) of Homerville, Georgia, and Susan Harris Gill (husband, John) of Virginia Beach, Virginia, and four grandchildren, Ainsley Gill, Jack Helms, III, Halle Gill, and Greer Gill.

A graveside service was held on Friday, March 19, 2021, at Peninsula Memorial Park.   In lieu of flowers, please donate to the Chestnut Memorial United Methodist Church parsonage fund.

Arrangements are under the care of Peninsula Funeral Home, 11144 Warwick Blvd., Newport News, VA 23601.