Dr. James Richard “Dick” Fisher, age 85, of Madison, Ala., went to be with his Lord on Jan. 9, 2021.
He is survived by his daughter, Jill Lancaster, of Madison; seven grandchildren; six great-grandchildren; a niece; nephew; and a great-niece. He was predeceased by his wife, Rebecca Horner Fisher; son, Brent Fisher; grandson, Jacob Fisher; and his only brother, Fred Fisher.
Dr. Fisher was born in Jonesboro, where he met and married Rebecca. Dick and Rebecca were childhood sweethearts and were married 52 years, until Rebecca’s death in 2007. Dick was the son of Mildred McCall and Paul Fisher of Osceola.
Dr. Fisher completed his Bachelor’s in Electrical Engineering with highest honors at Georgia Institute of Technology. He completed his Master’s and PhD in Electrical Engineering at UCLA. Dick was a member of Eta Kappa Nu honor society, Sigma Xi, Tau Beta Pi, Phi Kappa Phi. He was awarded a Howard Hughes Fellowship to attend UCLA.
Dr. Fisher worked for Hughes Aircraft in Los Angeles. He was a senior staff engineer in airborne radar-controlled weapon systems. He and family later moved to Dallas to work for Texas Instruments, where he was a senior project engineer working in advanced avionics systems and anti-submarine warfare techniques. In 1968, Dr. Fisher moved to Huntsville to manage the radar department at Teledyne Brown Engineering.
After 14 years in industry, he began working for the U.S. Army. His first position was as manager of the Site Defense Radar Program. He held several positions of increasing responsibility, including: Director of the Innovative Technology and Advanced Concepts for the Advanced Technology Center; Command Technical Director from the Washington, D.C. headquarters, where he was the senior scientific and technical advisor to the commanding general; Director of the Sensors Directorate; and Executive Director of all Huntsville operations. His last position was as Director of the Missile Defense and Space Technology Center, which was the research and development element of the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command.
He managed day-to-day research, development, test and evaluation activities of the command’s five technical directorates. Dr. Fisher ensured that the command’s efforts were balanced and integrated to support the Army, Ballistic Missile Defense Organization, and Program Executive Office for Air and Missile Defense. He was the highest-ranking civilian until his retirement in 1999. Dr. Fisher was a charter member of the Senior Executive Service and held the equivalent rank of a major general. He was a major player in laying the foundation for development of non-nuclear strategic defense programs, such as the Homing Overlay Experiment, Vehicle Interceptor Subsystem, Ground Based Radar, Ground Based Surveillance and Tracking System, and the Airborne Surveillance Testbed. He also served on a Presidential Commission to develop the Strategic Defense Initiative Plan.
Dr. Fisher made major contributions to President Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI). His scientific acumen, coupled with his executive skills, helped advance the nation’s antiballistic missile defenses. The Army’s SDI Sensors Program, which he directed, carried the President’s personal highest priority and was the highest priority program in the Department of Defense. Dr. Fisher personally designed much of the nation’s comprehensive long-range strategic defense plans against ballistic missiles. Dr. Fisher was instrumental in the initial formulation and implementation of the Army’s Allied Defense Program for the SDI Organization. When President Reagan initiated the SDI Program in 1983, Dr. Fisher served on the Presidential Commission that developed the original SDI plan and led the Army’s activities in developing the national response to the President’s directive. Dr. Fisher was both nationally and internationally recognized for his sound technical judgement, creative conceptual perception and insightful executive leadership. After retiring, Dr. Fisher served on Advisory Boards for the Missile Defense Agency for several years.
In 1985 and 1986, Dr. Fisher served as Technical Director for the U.S. Army Strategic Defense Command (USASDC). He directed a multi-national study of the most effective, politically acceptable and affordable approaches to defending NATO Europe against the Warsaw Pact tactical missile threat. He was selected for this assignment by the NATO Military Committee and the Advisory Group on Aerospace Research and Development. He was highly respected in the NATO Alliance.
Dr. Fisher was honored in 1988 and 1993 with the prestigious Presidential Rank Award of Meritorious Executive. As Director of the Missile Defense Technology Center, he received a Commendation from the Department of the Army Decoration for exceptional civilian service. He was a recipient of the National Space Club Astronautics Engineer Award. This award is given annually to a scientist or engineer who has made an outstanding contribution to United States leadership in the field of rocketry and astronautics. His photo is on display at the Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Ala.
Dr. Fisher was also an honored recipient of the Medaris Award, the highest recognition bestowed by the Tennessee Valley Chapter of the National Defense Industrial Association (NDIA), for his significant contributions to the technical progress of the defense preparedness of the United States.
A man of strong faith in God, he was an active member of Huntsville First Baptist Church, where he was a deacon, Sunday School teacher, Brotherhood director, Training Union director, and involved in several other activities. He was an active member of the Greater Huntsville Rotary Club, the Master Gardeners of North Alabama, Meals on Wheels, and the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at UAH, where he served on the Board of Directors as Treasurer. His passions were the Lord, his family and Christian and humanitarian missions.
In addition to his many career accomplishments, Dick was a beloved Papa to his grandchildren, a loving father, and a kind and loyal friend. He was admired by those that knew him and will be dearly missed.
Services are private.
The family requests that in lieu of flowers, memorials be made to the First Baptist Church Memorial Fund, the Rotary International Foundation, or the OLLI at UAH. (www.laughlinservice.com).