Richard Benfer Collection


Benfer Estate, 2002


6 cu ft


Photos, slides, papers, artifacts relating to White Sands Missile Range and family


Richard W. Benfer was born on April 21, 1907, in Wolf Lake IN. He was educated at the Tilden Technical High School, Chicago IL, and in electrical engineering at the University of Illinois, 1929. Dick's story is the story of the Age of Missiles at White Sands. In 1946, Dick Benfer, along with a few engineers with Bell Laboratories and Douglas Aircraft Company, launched the first Nike missile at the White Sands Missile Range, a 4,000 square mile desert wasteland in the vast Tularosa Basin in southern New Mexico. At first, Benfer lived in New Jersey and traveled back and forth to White Sands for the testing. In 1953, Bell established a permanent laboratory at White Sands and he moved to New Mexico as its director. He spent most of his career on the Nike program which was at White Sands until 1970, when the work was moved to Kwajalein Island in the Pacific. Mr. Benefer retired in 1969 and lived in Las Cruces until his death in 2002 at the age of 95. He left an endowment for scholarships at New Mexico State University.


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