Paul Dembling, Co-Author of Space Act, Dies at 91
17 May 2011
Paul G. Dembling, co-author of the legislation that founded NASA, died on Monday, May 16, in Florida. He was 91 years old.
As general counsel to NASA's precursor, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), Dembling helped shape the agency's legislative charter, the National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958. In a 1992 interview, Dembling described the process of drafting the bill.
"A lot of the policy aspects of it were done quickly," Dembling said. "But the functions and the authorities that were embodied in that piece of legislation were well thought out and very well considered."
Dembling was born in Rahway, N.J., on Jan. 11, 1920. He earned a bachelor's degree in economics in 1940 and a master's degree in 1942 from Rutgers University. He earned a J.D. from George Washington University Law School, where he served as an editor of the law review.
After NASA became operational, Dembling joined the staff, eventually becoming the agency's general counsel. He also managed the agency's Legislative Affairs Office under Administrator James Webb, and served as a deputy associate administrator before retiring in December 1969.
"Of all the jobs I have had and things I have done, I am most pleased with the creation of the legislation for NASA," Dembling said in a 2002 interview.
Dembling Interview for 50th Anniversary Magazine
National Aeronautics and Space Act: Unamended | As Amended
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Legislative Origins of the National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958 (PDF)