Lockheed legend: Former chief Ormsby was 'tremendous asset' to Cobb
by Jon Gillooly
May 06, 2013 12:00 AM | 991 views | 0 0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Robert ‘Bob’ Ormsby was dubbed a ‘giant’ by many. (Staff/file)
Robert ‘Bob’ Ormsby was dubbed a ‘giant’ by many. (Staff/file)

Robert "Bob" Ormsby Jr., who headed one of the world's foremost aeronautical companies that was in his time the largest employer in Cobb County, who built one of the world's biggest airplanes and who was the roommate of a future U.S. president, died in April.

He was 88.

U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-east Cobb) said he will be missed.

"Robert Ormsby was a giant at Lockheed, a giant in the U.S. defense system and a giant from Cobb County," Isakson said. "His leadership at Lockheed, but more importantly his leadership throughout our community, will be missed by all."

Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens of east Cobb, the former chairman of the Cobb Board of Commissioners, echoed Isakson's sentiments.

"Bob was a tremendous asset to our community, with great love for Lockheed, the military and the city of Marietta," Olens said.

Inspiring a future president

When he sought an aeronautical engineering degree at Georgia Tech, he roomed with Jimmy Carter, describing the future president as a bookworm.

"I spent a lot of time outside the room learning about liquor and women and dancing, and he was always there. When I came back, he was always working hard," Ormsby said at the time.

The two differed in their musical tastes. Carter initially ridiculed Ormsby's love for classical music until the day he caught Carter red-handed.

"He kept running it down," Ormsby said. "He liked country music. And then one day, I had to leave the room and go to a lab which runs about three hours. I got down the hall and then I suddenly remembered I forgot my slide rule. So I came back in, and Jimmy is standing in the middle of the room with a pencil directing the music."

The former president praised Ormsby in an email.

"Bob Ormsby was my roommate at Georgia Tech, and superior to me in our studies there," Carter wrote. "He introduced me to classical music, and later became a great engineer at Lockheed while I served in the submarine force and later became governor of Georgia. I met him again during those days at the first demonstration flights of the enormous C-5 Galaxy airplane, and after that we enjoyed sharing ideas about our government's defense projects and also some political issues. I will miss his good humor and incisive analysis of current events."

Following his graduation from Georgia Tech, Ormsby worked for the Glenn Martin Company in Maryland, now the "Martin" in Lockheed Martin. He followed that job with a stint in the Navy Bureau of Aeronautics in Washington, D.C., working on a supersonic wind tunnel facility. In the process, he invented and patented the "strain gage balance" to measure the forces on missiles and aircraft being tested at supersonic speeds.

Designing the Galaxy

It was the C-130 Hercules cargolifter that brought Ormsby to Marietta in 1954. Lockheed reopened Marietta's Bell Bomber plant in 1951, invited by the government to refurbish B-29 bombers that were used during World War II to be used again in Korea.

When the government awarded Lockheed the contract to build the C-130, it generated a need for additional engineers, which is how Ormsby came to join Lockheed's Operations Research Department.

In an interview with the Marietta Daily Journal, Ormsby spoke of how the C-130 was the first modern-era tactical airlifter in the U.S. Prior to that, airlifters were all conversions of passenger airplanes. The C-130 was followed by the much larger and jet-powered C-141 StarLifter and then the even bigger C-5 Galaxy. Ormsby headed up the initial design team for the Galaxy.

Longevity with Lockheed

Ormsby's nine years as president of Lockheed Georgia from 1975 to 1984 are the longest anyone has held the position.

He was later promoted to Lockheed's corporate office in California to head all the Lockheed aircraft facilities in 1984, retiring in 1986.

Ormsby served as chairman of the NASA Aeronautics Advisory Committee, as a fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics and was the recipient of the NASA Distinguished Public Service Award.


Comments-icon Post a Comment
No Comments Yet
*We welcome your comments on the stories and issues of the day and seek to provide a forum for the community to voice opinions. All comments are subject to moderator approval before being made visible on the website but are not edited. The use of profanity, obscene and vulgar language, hate speech, and racial slurs is strictly prohibited. Advertisements, promotions, and spam will also be rejected. Please read our terms of service for full guides