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Posted on Wednesday, April 24, 2024 at 7:31 pm

Lt. Colonel Joe Harold Roberts went peacefully to be with the Lord on April 20.  He was born in Whitwell, Tennessee, as the third child to Buell and Hattie Roberts.  He is preceded in death by his beautiful wife Thada, his parents, brother Bill Roberts, and sister Jean Goins.  He is survived by his children, Scarlett Dawn Roberts and Joe Roberts, Jr. and his wife Kristi.  He is also survived by his grandchildren, Daniel Moore, Jarrod and Sarah Moore, and Grayson Roberts.  His surviving brothers are Jim Tom and the late Shirley Roberts, Kay and Mary Roberts, and Randy and Kim Roberts.  Sisters include Judy and the late Larry McDowell, Linda and Tom Long, Martha and Tom Austin, and Joy and Donnie Downum, along with a multitude of nieces and nephews.  He was laid to rest on Wednesday, April 24, at Red Hill Cemetery with full military honors.

These are his words regarding his life, recorded over 10 years ago.

“In His Own Words”

After finishing high school in Whitwell High School, Class of 1952, I went to Tennessee Tech for 1 year then transferred to Georgia Tech, graduating in March, 1957 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering.

I then entered the Air Force as a 2nd Lt., going immediately to Pilot Training and finishing with my pilot wings in 1958. From 1958 until 1962 I was assigned to Little Rock AFB to fly B-47’s on a Strategic Air Command Combat Crew.  While assigned to LRAFB, I met and married my lovely wife Thada on 16 April, 1959 and our daughter Scarlett Dawn was born on 6 July, 1960.

I was then assigned to Malmstrom AFB in Great Falls, Montana from August 1962 through August 1966, serving on a Strategic Air Command Minuteman Missile Combat Crew. While at Malmstrom AFB, I participated in an onsite Air Force Institute of Technology (AFIT) program, where I obtained a Master’s Degree in Aerospace Engineering.

In Aug 1957, I retrained to fly the Air Force C-7A aircraft and served in Vietnam at the Phu Cat AFB from January through December 1968, flying air support for Army 1st Air Calvary Division.

I was then assigned to the NASA Manned Spacecraft Center in Houston Texas from January 1968 to August 1971.  While assigned to NASA, I supported the Apollo program by developing the operational procedures and timeline for the Apollo 12 and Apollo 15 missions, then training those crew members in these Procedures and Timeline.  I developed the Lunar Surface Procedures Cuff Checklist and oversaw the development and printing of the 12 and 15 versions.  Our son Joe Roberts, Jr. (Joel) was born on 17 Jan. 1969 while I was assigned to NASA.

Following the NASA assignment, I was assigned to the Aerospace Defense Command (ADC) as a Space Surveillance Officer at the FPS-85 Radar at Eglin AFB in Florida from August 1971 through August 1973.

I then served a remote tour at Thule AFB in Greenland at the Ballistic Missile Early Warning (BMEW) site from August 1973 through August 1974.  While at Thule, I was the Squadron Training Officer.  The BMEWS mission was to detect the launch and provide a warning to NATO of ICBM launches out of the Soviet Union.

Following the tour at Thule AFB, I was assigned, from August 1974 through August 1977, to NORAD Headquarters as a Space Defense Staff Officer with duty during the last year as the commander of a Space Surveillance Crew in the NORAD Cheyenne Mountain Combat Operations Center.

Following the tour of duty at NORAD Headquarters, I was assigned in August 1977 to Hanscom AFB in Massachusetts as a Systems Engineering Staff Officer developing the process and procedures for integrating the intelligence data collected by NATO.

I retired from the USAF in August 1978 with 21 years of service as a Command Pilot with over 4,000 hours of flight time and with the rank of Lt. Colonel.

After retiring from the USAF, I was employed at Teledyne Brown Engineering in Huntsville Alabama from 1978 to 1 Jan. 2000.  I worked primarily as a systems test engineer in supporting the development and testing the US Army Missile Defense Systems.  I traveled extensively during that period to Vandenberg AFB in California to process and launch the test targets and to the Kwajalein Island Missile Range in the Marshall Islands in the Pacific Ocean to process and launch the Missile Defense interceptors.

The Marion Tribune – May 2, 2024