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Former Secretary of the Air Force Seamans dies

Former Secretary of the Air Force Dr. Robert C. Seamans Jr. died June 28 at his home in Beverly, Mass. He was the ninth secretary of the Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Former Secretary of the Air Force Dr. Robert C. Seamans Jr. died June 28 at his home in Beverly, Mass. He was the ninth secretary of the Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)

WASHINGTON (AFPN) -- The ninth secretary of the Air Force died June 28 at his home in Beverly, Mass.

Dr. Robert C. Seamans Jr., 89, became the Air Force's top civilian official in 1969 at the height of the Vietnam War and served until 1973.

He oversaw a complex process of weapon systems modernization when the U.S. was beginning to turn control of the war against North Vietnam to the South Vietnamese government. He was credited for moving the process of modernization forward during a time when budgets were tightening as U.S. involvement in the conflict was scaling back.

Dr. Seamans earned a bachelor's degree in engineering from Harvard University, as well as a master's degree in aeronautics and a doctorate in instrumentation from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The native of Salem, Mass., held teaching positions at MIT from 1941 to 1955 and worked on various projects, including control and instrumentation aboard aircrafts and rockets.

In 1955 he joined the Radio Corporation of America as manager of its airborne systems laboratory. He moved to RCA's missile electronics and controls division as chief engineer and served on numerous technical committees on the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, which evolved into NASA.

He joined NASA full-time in 1960 as an associate administrator, eventually rising to deputy administrator in 1965. He left NASA to return to MIT in 1968.

After serving as secretary of the Air Force, he was president of the National Academy of Engineering and then administrator of the new Energy Research and Development Administration. He returned to MIT in 1977 to become dean of its school of engineering.

Dr. Seamans is survived by his wife of 66 years, Eugenia A. Merrill, five children, 12 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. 

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