NASA Space Shuttle Pilot and How Sports Influenced Him

You never know what your athletes will turn out to be ... and how much you impacted them ...

God bless, Lou Judd

Preflight Interview: Barry E. "Butch" Wilmore, Pilot

Tell me about the place that you consider your hometown and what it was like growing up there.

... My parents had us in church from the very beginning when I was a small child and sports. I played baseball. Eventually when I got into junior high and high school played football and one year I wrestled, so a lot of sports and I think that was a driving force, if you will, when I was growing up in those years.

Who were some of your sports heroes back then?

I don’t know that I ever looked at sports heroes. I think some of my coaches I looked at as heroes. There was Mr. Ed Rice who was one of my early baseball coaches that I looked up to. He rode me hard but looking back now, I mean, that’s a good thing. He wanted me to, or actually pulled the best out of me and by doing that, if you messed up, you ran some laps and looking back that was a good thing. Other coaches in junior high, football coaches, actually several, all of these coaches I’ll name right here or I’ve actually invited to the launch and that’s Coach Gwaltney, Coach Martin, Coach Hemontolor, or Coach Simms, Coach Kirby. Those are guys that, they didn’t realize it I thought they were old guys but I think when I was in junior high I think the Head Coach Gwaltney, my eighth grade team, I think he was like twenty-six or twenty-five at the time. But those were guys that I respected and appreciate now. I don’t know that I so much appreciated it then. “Ivy time,” we’d have to run all the way across the field and grab ivy from the far fence and bring it back. I didn’t appreciate it then but I do now. I certainly do now because they instilled a work ethic I think in those early years in you. You have to work for what’s worth having, work hard for and I appreciate those guys, those gentlemen now for what they did then.

How would you say, it sounds like sports was a big influence…

It was.

…in making you what you are. Would you say that was a microcosm of what your hometown was like and how it influenced you to become what you’ve become?

Well, I think when you play sports, you wind up hanging out with those young men, those kids that are doing the same thing and you have like interests if you will. If you’re playing baseball, it’s all about baseball. If you’re playing football, it’s all about football. And that’s what you talk about, that’s what you think about and that’s what eat and sleep during that time frame, so it’s like-thought, it’s like-mindedness. I felt like at the time that the whole town, the entire town, was one of those towns that would come to the games and back us. We actually when I got to high school had some pretty decent teams and it seemed like the whole town was there and it was great to run out on the field and have those thousands of fans cheering. It was fascinating. It was great.