Learn about Huntsville man who carried Wernher von Braun on his shoulders

James Record Sr. was a state senator, Madison County Commission chairman and avid historian.

Posted: Jul 19, 2019 5:13 PM
Updated: Jul 19, 2019 10:15 PM

During our coverage of the Apollo 11 50th anniversary, you’ve probably seen the iconic photo taken in downtown Huntsville as people gathered to celebrate the Rocket City’s role in a successful moon landing. Wernher von Braun is seen hoisted on the shoulders of several men.

It’s a party folks are recreating in Huntsville Friday night!

One of the men carrying von Braun back in 1969 was former Madison County Commission Chairman James Record Sr. WAAY 31 recently spoke to his son, who was also there, about his dad and that day.

“A true historic event happening,” said James Record Jr.

We met up with James Record Jr. at the Huntsville-Madison County Public Library, one of the many buildings in and around Huntsville that his dad had a hand in funding and building during his many years of public service.

“From 1960 to 1980, all through the space program that was going on here in Huntsville and Madison County,” James Record Jr. said.

James Record Sr. was a state senator, Madison County Commission chairman and avid historian. He kept scrapbooks over the years and donated them to the library.

James Record Jr. showed us one of these books, which is packed with clippings and photos from when Huntsville was helping put men on the moon. When it finally happened, there was literally dancing in the streets of the Rocket City.

“It was very big for Huntsville, approximately 12,000 people,” said James Record Jr.

They converged on the courthouse square to celebrate with the man of the hour, Dr. Wernher von Braun. When von Braun arrived, he was picked up by several men and carried to steps of the courthouse for a speech.

“So, I don’t think he did know that they were going to lift him and carry him up to the courthouse stairs,” said James Record Jr.

It was a fitting hero’s welcome, lifting the man whose rocket lifted men to the moon.

Record was a teenager at the time. He remembers the crowds, the bands, the flags and the fireworks that shot from the roof of the courthouse. He also remembers von Braun's speech that day where he was already looking forward to mankind’s next achievement in space.

“He went ahead and was thinking, we’ve been to the moon. Now, let’s look beyond the moon, so our next step is Mars," said James Record Jr.

Mars was always the mission for von Braun, and Apollo 11 was a significant first step. He told a local newspaper reporter at the time of the moon landing “I think the ability for man to walk and actually live on other worlds has virtually assured mankind of immortality.”

Check out our Apollo 11 50th anniversary stories here. To watch our Apollo 11 specials, click here and here.

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