Editor’s Note: This is the second part of a two-part series on the Apollo 11 mission.
Fifty years ago, millions of people around the world watched on television as astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin became the first human beings to set foot on the moon.
For a week, the world had been riveted to radio and television reports on the progress of the historic mission. The event captured the imaginations of the young and old — an not just Americans, but people across the globe.
While Armstrong and Aldrin still had to blast off from the moon in the Eagle and link back up with astronaut Michael Collins, orbiting the moon in the Apollo 11 command ship, the nation was celebrating this “great leap for mankind.”
Below are some of the local reactions to the landing from the Monday, July 21, 1969, paper.
Military and industrial officials
Brig. Gen. George Wilson of Dobbins Air Force Base called it a magnificent accomplishment.
“It’s made me proud to be an American,” Wilson said. “I think it’s one of the greatest days in the history of the world.”
Lt. Cmdr. Jim Youngblood of Naval Air Station Atlanta said it was “a very tremendous feat.”
“It’s a perfect example of the competence of the government-industry team and its effectiveness,” said Tom May, Lockheed-Georgia Company president. “It is interesting to note that this achievement was made by the same team currently being abused by certain groups.”
“I sat in front of my television and could hardly believe what I was seeing,” said Marietta Mayor Howard Atherton, who was also a member of the state House of Representatives. “The fact that men were actually walking on the moon was fantastic enough. But the fact that we could sit here on earth and watch it taking place on television and hear the reactions of the men as they first set foot on the surface of the moon was exciting beyond words.”
“I don’t think anything could have thrilled me more than watching this last night,” said Austell Mayor Stewart Reid, an Air Force pilot in World War II. “I have been looking forward to seeing it for some eight or 10 years. I know these men will never have anything to thrill them as much as this did. They behaved magnificently.”
Reid also said that the astronauts were “not emotional” and that “the space personnel could not have picked anyone who would have done a better job.”
“I think it’s amazing,” said Acworth Mayor Luther Gravitt. “It’s a real step in progress.”
Powder Springs Mayor T.N. Compton and Smyrna Mayor George Kreeger both were quoted as saying that it was the greatest thing that they had ever seen. Kreeger also said that he thought the feat would be “extremely beneficial to the world as well as to America.”
Kennesaw Mayor Louis E. Watts thought “it is just wonderful that we have men as smart as we have” and those who criticized the effort should “just stop and think how much work this has provided for people.”
“We are now hearing talk of travel to Mars, and this is not beyond the realm of possibility,” said State Rep. A.L. Burruss. “But because of public reaction to the cost of these programs. I genuinely believe we will see a general slackening of attention toward further explorations and a shift of priorities as far as money is concerned.”
Burruss said the pressure to end the Vietnam War, hunger, poverty and solve other problems would “outstrip the enthusiasm the American people feel over the success of Apollo 11.”
He also said the communication between the astronauts and Earth was “fantastic” compared to the two-way radio in his car, which was barely audible more than 35 miles away.
“Perhaps the history of man can now be divided into two parts — what went before yesterday and what now lies in the future,” said Cobb Superior Court Judge Conley Ingram.
“We have been anticipating this great event for a very long time, yet sitting here looking at it actually happening you realize what a fantastic, unbelievable thing it really is,” said Cobb County Commission Chairman Ernest Barrett. “Last Sunday night the scientists were talking about going to Mars. I wouldn’t doubt that either. Surely, we saw one of the great moments in history. It’s something that all of us will remember as long as we live.”
“I find it fantastically interesting and certainly a milestone of man’s creative capacity,” said the Rev. Nelson Price, longtime Journal columnist and then-pastor of Roswell Street Baptist Church in Marietta. “I’m impressed that man has gone into outer space. I just hope it will be a reminder of the impact of the man who came to Earth from outer space — Jesus Christ himself.”
“I think it’s the greatest achievement in the last 2,000 years possibly,” said the Rev. Bill Ruff, pastor of First Methodist Church in Marietta. “I think this will give our people something to work toward. Maybe we’ll quit fighting men in the jungles and cast our eyes on the moon and scientific achievement that will help men everywhere.”
“I think it was very interesting and certainly a marvelous feat of man, but they did use God’s natural laws,” said the Rev. Pat Satery, overseer of Jehovah’s Witnesses central congregation on Wylie Road in Marietta. “I feel the place for man to be, according to Psalm 115:16, is right here on earth. That’s where it says the heavens belong to Jehovah, but the earth has been given to the children of men. Yet it is a marvelous feat, no doubt.”
The landing was “a reflection of what’s been taking place in education over the years,” according to Dr. Horace Sturgis, president of Kennesaw Junior College — now Kennesaw State University. “A lot of people criticized the American educational system and I think this is pretty good evidence that we’ve done a fairly respectable job.”
Sturgis also said the Apollo 11 mission would “stand as a stimulus to those who are looking to the future.”
Hoyt McClure, director of Southern Technical Institute — which is now the Marietta campus of KSU, said the mission put America “on the threshold of great things.”
“In just 11 years we have come from rockets that could only put a small payload into space to what we have all witnessed in the past 48 hours,” McClure said. “Progress has been greater in this period than it was from the Wright Brothers to that time. It just staggers the imagination.”
McClure also said that while “Apollo 11 seems sophisticated it is technically a crude method of transportation with crude equipment” and that “in a few years, man’s advances will make this seem like the Model T.”
Dr. Alton Crews, superintendent of the Cobb County School District, called the feat “a great tribute to American technology and the education which produced the technologists.”
The average man
Willie Adams, 60, of Marietta, watched television until 3 a.m. that morning.
“I think they are doing a nice job up there. If they could just do us some good,” Adams said. “I heard the government is going to give all of us 40 acres. I didn’t know it was going to be on the moon. In the course of time maybe they can take me with them. I’d like to go.”
Naomi Owens, 60, of Marietta, thought it was “fantastic” and that she was “speechless” while watching the moon walk. She also said that she thought it was “significant that the world knows about this achievement of the United States, whereas if the Russians had done it, the rest of the world would not have known it to the same extent — at least not via television.”
“I figured they would make it. They wanted to bet me they wouldn’t make it,” said Bruce Chapman, 48, of Marietta. “I wish I had taken that bet. I didn’t bet because I didn’t have any money. If I’d had some money I would have made some money. I knew they were going to get there. They’re going to get off, too.”
Not everyone was celebrating the feat.
Carie Bates, 71, of Acworth, was interviewed on Marietta Square by Journal staff writer Gainer Bryan.
“I haven’t been following it,” Bates said. “I don’t think there’s anything to it. I don’t think we have any business up there anyhow.”
When asked if she owned a television, Bates answered yes. But she stated that she didn’t watch it and hadn’t “looked at it in three years.”
“I think God fixed the moon up there to give light by night and the sun to give light by day. I think that if we had had any business up there, there would have been somebody up there before now.”
Damon Poirier is the Newsroom Administrator and Historian for the Marietta Daily Journal.