Jim Pendergast was born in Hammond, Louisiana. When he was in the fourth grade his family moved to Texarkana. He attended Texas A&M University and received a bachelor’s in aerospace engineering. Today he works at NASA in Houston, Texas, where he builds spaceships for a living.
His current position is Deputy for Avionics for the Gateway Vehicle. The Gateway vehicle is a space station designed to circle the Moon. This is where astronauts will live and work, and take Lunar Landing Vehicles to the surface of the Moon, as NASA develops a permanent Lunar base. This is all designed to test long range systems and long lifetime systems to go to Mars.
He held several other interesting positions at NASA.
- Space Shuttle Instructor—Training Space Shuttle crews how to use different systems on the space ship including guidance, navigation and control.
- Space Shuttle Rendezvous Instructor—Training flight crews (the Commander, Pilot and Mission Specialist) to fly the Space Shuttle, to dock with the International Space Station, as well as, undocking and departure. Docking was a delicate maneuver in the last few feet as both vehicles are traveling at 17,500 mph 220 miles above the earth. The final sequence of the docking required the vehicles to be aligned within a three inch tolerance. The simulators to train the crews were highly sophisticated and detailed. He was basically operating a six million dollar video game every day, flying in space.
- Deputy for the Cockpit Working Group on the Orion Program—Designing the interior of the Orion vehicle for crew operations. The Orion vehicle is being designed to return humans to the moon and eventually to be modified to go to Mars.
Pendergast has been happily married to Betsy Pendergast for 36 years. They have two daughters and love spoiling their grandchildren. He also enjoys playing golf and chess.
Were you a Hawk, Leopard, Razorback, or Tiger?
TIGER ALL THE WAY! I played center for the Tigers. We beat the Razorbacks three years in a row.
What do you love about Texarkana?
The small town atmosphere. The way the entire town supported the high school and all the sports.
What is your nickname for Texarkana?
How do you describe Texarkana to your friends?
Just an average small town. It was the people that made it great.
What would you change about Texarkana?
Would have put more money into community services, especially for the challenged areas.
What do you miss about Texarkana?
All the friends and relationships.
Where was your favorite place to eat in Texarkana?
The best memories were at Pizza Hut. Five of us would eat at the buffet. The manager would ask us to stop eating for a few minutes so the other customers could get some pizza. We would also order the 50 inch pizza!
Where was your favorite place to shop in Texarkana?
The Mall was actually new, we used to hang out and just walk around.
What words do you live by?
Be kind. You never know what people are going though. One day you may have challenges in your life as well.
Anything we haven’t asked about that you would like to share?
High school and the relationships you have then will have more of an impact on your life than you realize. It is such a great time, and goes by so fast. Life is simpler and more rewarding than you realize! Pass that on to your kids and grandkids.
What was the teen hangout when you lived here?
The best hang out was actually the parking lot at the high school on Saturday night. I was too busy on Friday night to hang out since I played football. One night the police showed up. There was beer in one of the vehicles, when they looked at us and told us to stay there, we looked over and Randy Higgins was gone! No where to be found. LOLOL They let us off with a warning as they poured out the beer.
Who is someone from Texarkana who impacted your life?
So many people—Kim Watson, Will Hay, Jon Hlavinka, Malcolm Smith, Norman Roberts, Dolores Watson, Joe Christian, Jerry Rosiek—could go on and on with all the names—great friends. All the high school teachers cared for not only our success, but giving us the tools to be successful people.
TXK Roots is Texarkana Magazine’s forum to highlight and honor Texarkana natives who have accomplished big things in the world. These folks may have relocated, but they took the values, education, work ethic and creativity instilled in them by growing up in this unique border city and used these qualities to blaze extraordinary trails. We asked them to share their thoughts about growing up here. No matter how far from Texarkana they may find themselves, we will always consider them our neighbors and we are proud to claim them as forever members of our extended Texarkana community. After all, “everyone is famous in their hometown!”