George Webster Reynolds, a retired mechanical engineer who worked in radar and had been named National Black Engineer of the Year in 1991, died of a heart attack while traveling in Des Moines, Iowa. The Columbia resident was 73.
A pilot, he was on his way to an air show in Oshkosh, Wis.
Born in Washington and raised in the Petworth-Brightwood neighborhood, he was the son of George A. Reynolds, a postal worker, and his wife, Ruby Reid, a waitress. He was a 1962 graduate of Theodore Roosevelt High School.
As a boy he built model airplanes and sketched automobile body designs. He entered contests sponsored by the Fisher Body Works and won prizes three years in a row. Members of the committee judging the contest recommended he go into engineering.
He obtained a mechanical engineering degree from Howard University and master’s degrees from George Washington and Harvard universities. He also received diplomas from the Johns Hopkins University and the Westinghouse Graduate Student Program.
He initially worked for General Motors as an intern. Then, in 1968, he joined Westinghouse Electronics Systems in Linthicum and went on to manage the commercialization of F-16 radar systems. In 1996 he joined Northrop Grumman.
He retired in 2012.
Friends said he believed in mentoring young engineering students and professionals and establishing relationships with selected universities for research, business and recruitment partnerships.
“George was a quiet person with a great sense of humor,” said Andy Barth, a friend who is press secretary for Howard County Executive Allan H. Kittleman. “He was brilliant professionally and was a generous man.”
Mr. Reynolds was a past chair of the Engineering Management Committee of the Aerospace Industries Association.
He was was named as National Black Engineer of the Year for Professional Achievement in Industry in 1991; and Black Engineer of the Year for Corporate Support of Engineering Education in 2008. In 2001, he received the Distinguished Black Marylander Award.
Mr. Reynolds sat on advisory boards at the Georgia Institute of Technology, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, North Carolina A&T State University, Towson University and the University of Maryland College Park.
He was an adviser to the National Federation for the Blind, and a mentor for the minority students program associated with the Robert and Jane Meyerhoff Foundation Scholarship Fund.
Mr. Reynolds was among the first persons to settle in Columbia. He held a black belt in Six Sigma and was also an expert in Lean Thinking — related to analysis of process and business management.
Mr. Reynolds learned to fly many years ago. He co-owned a Piper Saratoga and enjoyed long trips. He held a commercial pilot’s license with multi-engine and jet ratings. He was a member of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association.
“He was an extremely good and gentle gentleman,” said Steve Wilcoxson, a friend and flying partner who lives in Baltimore County’s Phoenix area. “He was one of the most intelligent persons I've ever known. He was precise in his discussions on many subjects and looked askance at someone who had an opinion without benefit of facts.”
Mr. Wilcoxson added that Mr. Reynolds “was deeply involved in the business of aviation at Northrop. He played a key roll in the construction of parts of several fighter planes.”
Mr. Reynolds visited the Continental Training Center in Houston and flew a Boeing 737 simulator as part of his training. He also co-piloted Crazy Horse, a two-seat version of the vintage P-51 Mustang fighter.
“George, with his previous aerobatic experience, performed several loops and rolls with great aplomb,” Mr. Wilcoxson said.
A funeral Mass will be held at 11 a.m Tuesday at St. Gabriel’s Roman Catholic Church, 26 Grant Circle, Washington.
Mr. Reynolds is survived by Diane Williams, his companion of more than 20 years, a retired official of the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation.