YEARS OF DIVERSIFICATION (1960-1965)
A survey of church activity in 1961 showed more than 1,200 congregations, with more than 1,800 rabbis, priests and preachers. Metropolitan Houston had $12,400,000 in church construction in 1960, up from $9,200,000 in 1959, and a total of $87,840,188 for the decade of the 1950’s. Enrollment in the public schools of Harris County for the 1959-1960 school year was 247,217, compared to 134,620 in 1950-1951, and 95,855 in 1940-1941. Dr. Philip C. Hoffman succeeded General A. D. Bruce as President of the University of Houston. Dr. Kenneth S. Pitzer became Rice University’s third president. Houston’s Rapid Transit Company, in new hands, received the first 100 air-conditioned "Dreamliner" buses, placing them in service on September 10, 1961.
At the annual meeting of the Chamber of Commerce in December, Dr. Robert R. Gilruth, Director of the NASA Manned Spacecraft Center, made the first announcement of the Gemini phase of the space program. "To get on with Project Apollo," he said, "we need more experience with orbital flights around the earth and with space rendezvous." He made the announcement while paying tribute to the Chamber of Commerce for its outstanding cooperation with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration in helping the Manned Spacecraft Center to get established here. On May 25, 1961, President Kennedy had outlined a new national objective-a manned landing on the moon and return to the earth before the end of the decade.
With the United States committed to a program of space exploration, with the economy of the country increasingly influenced by automation and science-oriented activities, and with confrontation with the Communists over Cuba and the situation in Viet Nam deteriorating, the United States faced 1962 confident only in the growing strength of its economy. The Russians removed their missiles from Cuba after a firm American stand under the leadership of President John F. Kennedy. Despite rioting, James H. Meredith enrolled at the University of Mississippi under the protection of United States marshals. The highlight of the year, however, for the nation and for Houston came early in the year when Astronaut John H. Glenn, Jr., became the first American to orbit the earth. The country needed a hero, and Colonel Glenn met the need.
Under the leadership of George T. Morse, Jr., the Houston Chamber of Commerce continued its emphasis on the diversification of the area’s economic base throughout 1962. The expanded industrial-development program marked the beginning of a series of contact trips by delegations of Houstonians to a number of industrial centers. Increased activity in the fields of conventions and tourists led to the development of preliminary plans for an independent agency to promote these growth industries. Activities through the new World Trade Center and increased international air service contributed to the further development of Houston’s potential in international trade.
Having long recognized that Houston could not build a wall around itself insofar as the surrounding area was concerned, the Chamber of Commerce further developed the area concept of economic development. Efforts at the Washington level were increased to get a redefinition of the Houston Standard Metropolitan Statistical Area to include contiguous counties. Conferences were held with area groups, and Chambers of Commerce in nearby cities and towns were urged to name representatives to attend the regular meetings of the Gulf Area Development Committee of the Chamber of Commerce. "Houston Magazine" developed a series of articles on the Houston eight-county complex.
The move of the NASA personnel to the new Manned Spacecraft Center operations in Houston, however, dominated interest in local development. Houston was caught up in the explosive pace of technology both in the United States and elsewhere in the world, as demonstrated most dramatically by the Vanguards, Explorers, Pioneers and other space vehicles in this country and by the Sputniks, Luniks and Vostoks of the Soviet Union. More than a dozen buildings in the southeastern quadrant of Houston were cleared for use by MSC personnel, while the cattle were driven off the 1,600-acre site near Clear Lake and construction started on this tract of virgin land. When the workday ended on Friday, June 29, 1962, NASA closed the doors on its Manned Spacecraft Center operation at Langley Field, Virginia; and on Monday morning, July 2nd, MSC went to work, full force, in Houston.
The Chamber of Commerce organized an area-wide welcome for the NASA personnel for Wednesday, July 4th. It was a family-affair throughout, with top executives of MSC and the astronauts and their families riding in open automobiles through the downtown streets. No local people rode in the parade, but on the reviewing stand were city officials and Chamber of Commerce representatives from Houston and the adjacent area. The parade concluded at the Coliseum, where a barbecue luncheon was served, with 30 serving lines, to 7,500 NASA personnel and members of their families. This was followed by a short formal ceremony and a star-studded entertainment program.
In welcoming the group, President George T. Morse said: "It is my real pleasure to welcome all of you to the Houston area and to our ceremonies here today. We are delighted that you will make your homes in our community, that you will be our friends and our neighbors. We are honored that our nation s manned explorations into space will be directed from your headquarters here. Needless to say, we are glad you came. We are tremendously proud of all of you for the contributions you have already made in the field of manned space flight, for the successes which you have achieved to bring honor and glory to our nation and to the Free World. Yours is perhaps the most challenging assignment that any people anywhere have ever had—the conquest of outer space. It is an assignment to which all of you bring complete dedication of purpose and unsurpassed talents to more than meet the goals which have been set for you. We in the Houston area join with the people of our nation in prayer for your continued success.
By September 19, 1962, on the occasion of the first anniversary of the announcement of the location of MSC in Houston, NASA reported 1,300 people working in Houston. A total of 29 space-related companies had already established representation in the area. Speaking in Houston in September, President Kennedy said: "During the next five years, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration expects to double the number of scientists and engineers in this area—to increase its outlays for salaries and expenses to $60,000,000 a year, to invest some $200,000,000 here in plant and laboratory facilities, and to direct or contract for new space efforts at a rate of one billion dollars a year from this space center alone."
A measure of the accuracy of President Kennedy’s forecast is found in the fact that employment at the Manned Spacecraft Center reached 4,900 by the close of 1965, with salaries totaling $48,000,000 for the year, and with 4,800 related contractor personnel earning $34,000,000 for the year. It has been estimated that 65 additional jobs have been created in Houston commerce and industry for each 100 jobs connected with NASA activity, or a total of 6,300 additional "first impact" jobs. Since each employee is estimated to represent 3.59 people, NASA had added an estimated 57,500 to the population of the Houston area by the close of 1965.
While the impact of the Manned Spacecraft Center has been felt throughout the Houston area, it has been especially noteworthy in the Clear Lake area, where a whole new economic complex has been created from an almost treeless coastal plain, The population of the area jumped from 6,520 in 1960 to more than 30,000 in 1965. Clear Lake City, already projected on a 15,000-acre tract by the Humble Oil and Refining Company when NASA selected its site, is expected to be a community of from 75,000 to 80,000 within 15 to 20 years, while the Bayport industrial area is projected for an investment of $900,000,000 and the creation of 15,000 jobs within the same period. The 670 acre Nassau Bay development, across NASA No.1 from the Manned Spacecraft Center, is being built as a balanced community of residences, apartments, shopping centers and office buildings.
The formal beginning of Humble’s Clear Lake City project came in February, 1962, when plans were released calling for an ultimate investment of up to $500,000,000 to produce a completely balanced community, with a master plan providing for residences, regional and neighborhood shopping facilities, cultural developments, apartments, schools, churches, medical facilities, parks, playgrounds and a golf course. This is a prime example of the "new city" concept.
Houston’s stature as an aviation center was enhanced by a number of developments during 1962. Air France inaugurated direct service to Europe, with a stop in New York. A group of 15 French executives arrived from Paris as Air France guests on April 24th, and a Houston group left for Paris the following day to mark the opening of this three-flights-a-week service. Later in the year, Braniff and Pan American began a daily jet-interchange service to London and Frankfurt by way of Dallas and Chicago, thus raising to 14, including KLM’s four weekly flights, the number of weekly round trip flights from Houston to Europe. With Delta Airlines providing service to Caracas, and Pan American to Mexico and Latin America, Houston in 1962 had five international carriers. Progress continued on the Houston Intercontinental Airport, and the Chamber of Commerce was pressing for provision of access roads as well as urgently needed roads in the NASA area. In May, the Federal Aviation Agency announced that one of its major air-traffic control centers would be located on the new airport. It would be designed to consolidate the control stations at San Antonio, El Paso and New Orleans, with an estimated 305 to be employed in the $4,000,000 facility that was scheduled to be operational in September, 1964.
To meet Houston’s growing office space needs, within a five-day period there was opened more space than had been opened in any full year in the city’s history with the exception of 1953 and 1956. This record was set with the formal opening of the Sheraton Lincoln Building, the Federal Office Building, and the new Post Office Facility. Also opening during the year were the 3801 Kirby Building, Columbia Gas Building, Houston Office Center, Office City, and Fannin Bank Building.
During the year, the Chamber of Commerce supported a $40,700,000 city bond issue, a $39,000,000 school bond issue, and a $9,600,000 bond issue to complete the financing for the Harris County Domed Stadium. The latter had been characterized, unflatteringly, by a national finance journal as "turkey under glass". To meet one of the needs of the growing scientific community, the Chamber of Commerce initiated plans for the development of a technical-information center in Houston.
In efforts to meet such expanding needs in this rapid-growth area, the budget for the City of Houston increased 340 percent from 1940 to 1960, with the Harris County budget increasing 196 percent for the same period, and the Houston Independent School District budget increasing 141 percent. Announcement was made during the year that Houston Endowment, Inc., would underwrite the complete cost of $6,000,000 for a new performing arts center, on the site of the old City Auditorium, and present it to the city.
By the close of 1962, Houston had increased its stature as an apartment city, with more than 30,000 apartments having been built in 10 years, and with the current trend going toward high-rise apartments. During the 10-year period from 1952 to 1962, Houston increased total office space by 149 percent.
"On the 22nd of November, 1963, three shots rang out under a Texas sky—and the brightest light of our time was snuffed out by senseless evil. The voice which had always been calm even in the face of adversity was silenced. The heart which had always been kind even in the midst of emergency was stopped. And the laugh which had always been gay even in reply to abuse was heard no more in the land." In these words, Theodore C. Soreness described the tragedy that dominated developments during 1963. The night before this tragedy, 4,000 Houstonians had attended a dinner at the Coliseum to pay tribute to their national leader who was in Houston to join them in paying tribute to Harris County’s veteran Congressman, Albert Thomas. The man who was to take up the awesome responsibilities of the presidency the next afternoon, Lyndon B. Johnson, was here for the Thomas dinner.
While this was the climax, there were other significant developments during 1963. The French, under President De Gaulle, vetoed the British application to join the Common Market. The Ngo Dinh Diem regime was ousted in South Viet Nam, as the United States commitment there began to take on larger proportions. The United States signed a nuclear test ban treaty with Great Britain and Russia. Gordon Cooper, Jr., orbited the earth 22 times in 34 hours and 20 minutes. The United States Supreme Court generated a decade of controversy by outlawing school prayer in New York and later ruling that no state or locality might require recitation of the Lord’s Prayer or Bible verses in public schools.