Hunter Coleman Harris, the chief engineer at Raytheon's Missile Systems Division during the Cold War and Gulf War years died April 6 at his home in Wayland, Massachusetts. His death at 92 was confirmed by son, David of Washington, DC.
Mr. Harris survived a childhood surrounded by poverty in Bluefield, WV, and rose through his interest in radio and radar to become one of the early leaders in the field of ballistic missile detection and guidance systems. During the Kennedy Administration, Mr. Harris was assigned the task of designing high power radar equipment which sits at the heart of the Ballistic Missile Early Warning System"(BMEWS). This system was designed to give Americans a 15-minute warning of incoming Soviet missile attacks, enabling an effective retaliation, and deterrent, and was later renamed later "Mutually Assured Destruction."
In the 1990's, Mr. Harris led a team of engineers assigned to adapt the Patriot missile system, originally designed to destroy aircraft, to target and destroy Scud missiles used by the regime of Saddam Hussein.
Mr. Harris was born in McDowell County, West Virginia. He began his career at the age of 16 as a broadcast engineer for a radio station in Bluefield, WV. During World War II, Mr. Harris entered the US Army after several months at Virginia Polytechnic Institute, where, using his knowledge of radio, he worked on various classified technologies. After the War, while working as an engineer for Western Union in Manhattan, Mr. Harris completed advanced studies at Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute (now part of New York University) and, later, at MIT.
Mr. Harris is survived by his wife of 68 years, Shirley, and three sons, Jeffrey of Oak Ridge, TN; David of Washington, DC; and Matthew of Wayland, eight grandchildren and one great grandson.
Published on April 14, 2017