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William B. Poland Jr., aerospace engineer

William B. Poland Jr. was a retired aerospace engineer who enjoyed participating in Civil War re-enactments.
William B. Poland Jr. was a retired aerospace engineer who enjoyed participating in Civil War re-enactments.(Baltimore Sun)

William B. Poland Jr., a retired aerospace engineer who enjoyed participating in Civil War re-enactments, died Jan. 25 at the Blakehurst retirement community in Towson of complications from diabetes. He was 88.

The son of William B. Poland, a civil engineer and railroad builder, and Dorothy Byrd Hofflin Poland, who worked for the CIA, William Babcock Poland Jr. was born in Paris, and spent his early childhood in Tehran and China.

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After graduating in 1944 from St. Albans School in Washington, he enrolled in the V-12 Navy College Training Program and studied at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge.

He then served in the Navy as an electronics technician and earned a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering in 1948 from Lehigh University.

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From 1948 to 1965, Mr. Poland worked at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington developing aerospace communications equipment. He then joined NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt where he was head of the Aerospace Data Standards Office for satellite telemetry.

Mr. Poland's work on communications standards supported the Vanguard, Gemini and several Apollo missions.

When he retired in 1991, then-NASA administrator Richard H. Truly said Mr. Poland's "professionalism and tireless dedication to this important activity have benefited virtually all GSFC projects."

Mr. Poland, who lived on Copper Hill Road in Bare Hills before moving to Blakehurst in 2012, was a Civil War re-enactor and a member of the Washington Blue Rifles. He even cast his own Minie balls, family members said.

Mr. Poland enjoyed fishing on Tuckernuck Island near Nantucket, Mass., and flyfishing in quiet streams. He was also a member of the Chevy Chase Club, where he enjoyed winter bowling.

Mr. Poland was an "inveterate tinkerer who repaired broken machines and built electronics," said a son, William B. Poland III of Portola Valley, Calif.

He also enjoyed judging the annual St. Albans science fairs and was a member of the Philosophical Society of Washington where he attended lectures.

His wife of 36 years, the former Lanier Dunn, died in 1991.

A memorial service will be held at 3 p.m. March 7 at the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer, 5603 N. Charles St.

In addition to his son, Mr. Poland is survived by his wife of 17 years, the former Anne Badger Gray, a childhood sweetheart; another son, McKee D. Poland of Andover, Mass.; a daughter, Elizabeth Lanier Poland Rowan of Reston, Va.; three stepsons, John W. Gray of New York City, Edward A. Gray of Boston and Philip L. Gray of Brookline, Mass.; a stepdaughter, Theodora R. Gray of Baltimore; and four grandchildren.

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