James Eugene McBride, known by friends and family as Jim, passed away in Huntsville, Ala., on Saturday Dec. 8, 2018. His family, Heartlite Hospice nurses and Firstlight caregivers, provided support during his passing in his residence at Brookdale in Jones Valley.
Jim was born in Detroit, Mich., on March 15, 1939. His parents, Frank and Thelma McBride, returned to Madisonville early in Jim’s life, and that is where he went to school, graduating from Madisonville High School in 1957. He maintained connections to his high school by attending reunions regularly, as recent as 2017.
In 1962, Jim graduated from the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, with a degree in electrical engineering. His degree gave him an entrée into the new field of rocket science, at a time when President Kennedy set a national goal to send “a man to the Moon.” Jim was a member of the engineering teams that worked on this goal in Seattle, Wash., Lancaster Calif., and Huntsville Ala.
After marrying Mary Frances Peek in Seattle in 1963, and adopting her five children from a previous marriage, he moved his new family first to Lancaster, Calif., and then to Huntsville, to join the NASA team at the Marshall Space Flight Center. He worked for NASA from 1967-99. Structural and dynamics testing, plus data analysis, were his skills and he applied them to rocket engineering for the Moon missions and the Space Shuttle, to name two of many projects. He received a Snoopy Award for his contributions to the design of the Shuttle’s large orange external fuel tank.
Jim and Mary were volunteers in the local theater community, doing sets, lighting and costumes for the Huntsville Community Chorus and Fantasy Playhouse, for more than two decades. They enjoyed a large circle of friends, who enthusiastically supported the arts in Huntsville.
In the mid 1980s, Jim and Mary became interested in genealogy. This interest would lead them to become members of Clan Donald USA. They attended Scottish Festivals in southeast regions and national conventions every year. Jim, of Scots Irish descent, served as high commissioner (president) of the national organization from 2002-04. He traveled to Scotland twice, and Ireland once, to see the landscapes, the ancient sites, and to meet fellow members of his Scottish Clan.
Jim was preceded in death by: his parents, Frank in 1984 and Thelma in 1988; wife, Mary in 2012; son, Bradley in 2018.
Survivors include: his children, Suzanne Newton, Brit McBride, Kathryn Stephens, James Gregory McBride;
His family will remember his quiet strength, pragmatism and dry sense of humor.
Jim’s memorial service will be held at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, located at 8020 Whitesburg Drive in Huntsville, AL, on Thursday, March 14, 2019. Visitation will be from 1:30 p.m. to 2 p.m., and his service will be held from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. The Rev. Jeffrey Evans will officiate. Those who knew James McBride and the McBride family are invited to attend.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests you to give a donation to WLRH in his honor, the public radio station in Huntsville that he listened to nearly every day.