by Jennifer Silvers, Manuscript Archivist
Jerry Elliott was born in Oklahoma and grew up wondering about the colors in the sky and the way of things physical and spiritual. He followed this path through adulthood and now, after serving for over 20 years with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), Elliott has time to focus on his music and poetic writings. Also known as J.C. High Eagle, Elliott is of Osage and Cherokee heritage and plays traditional American Indian flute in addition to popular country music. Among his many achievements are over 190 songwriting and composition credits as well as multiple published works of literature and philosophical writing.
The Jerry Elliott Collection [80.11] was received by the Historical Society in 1980, and in subsequent years Elliott has continued to enhance his collection with new materials. The collection contains Elliott’s notebooks and documents from his work as a physicist and engineer at NASA from 1966-1986. This collection highlights the achievements of an Oklahoma native as well as the progression of the technology of space exploration.
The Elliott Collection contains material in multiple formats, including photographs, film, audio recordings and artifacts. The paper items include notebooks, publications, and promotional material, all housed in the manuscript archives. These documents are available for the public to view by request. One unique aspect of the Elliott Collection is the documentation provided by the donor on many of the notable items. This image shows a page of notes from Elliott’s time at the University of Oklahoma in Norman, as his note candidly points out, he did not know at the time he would have the opportunity to be so intimately involved with lunar exploration missions.
Box 1 folder 13
Elliott began working at NASA in 1966 as the Flight Mission Operations Engineer at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. The Elliott Collection contains two notebooks he kept during flight missions while working in the control center. This image shows his entry for the date of July 15, 1969. On the eve of the launch of the first lunar landing mission, Elliott describes the atmosphere at the Space Center. Other entries include technical drawings, observations, and calculations.
Box 3 folder 1
Also notable is Elliott’s role in the historic Apollo 13 mission. In 1970 he was serving as the Retrofire Officer at the NASA Mission Control Center in Houston when the now infamous radio transmission crackled through space and announced that the Apollo 13 crew was experiencing an emergency situation. Elliott was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian accolade, for his calculations of a return trajectory to allow the struggling capsule back into Earth’s atmosphere.
There is another notebook in the collection which Elliott used during missions. The front page includes a note from Elliott which reads, “This was my console notes at mission control center from Apollo up through Apollo 16. I always had it with me as a reference to the many things I needed to remember. It contains many of the procedures for planning the return to Earth from space.”
Jerry Elliott was involved in many groundbreaking events at NASA, including the Apollo – Soyuz Test Project which took place in July of 1975. This historic mission brought an end to tensions between the Soviet Union and the United States and set the groundwork for the Mir International Space Station as it exists today.
In addition to the NASA material, the Elliott Collection also contains personal writings, poetry, and documentation of spiritual endeavors such as the Circle of Unity project which brought native people from around the world together for a day of peace and hope in 1986. Jerry Elliott, or J.C. High Eagle, is a dynamic figure in the history of Oklahoma and for native peoples worldwide.
You can see more about Jerry Elliot, J.C. High Eagle, on his website:
and listen to his music on his MySpace page: