ABERDEEN – With the 50th anniversary of man’s first steps on the moon last week, history overlooked plenty of the hidden figures in the shadows of astronaut giants Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins.
One of them was a contractor named Charles Rembert Raley, who was responsible for building and paving Highway 8 East from Aberdeen to Greenwood Springs. Through his affiliation with a firm in later years that contracted with NASA, Raley was approved by the space organization to be general superintendent of construction for two launching pads in Cape Canaveral, Florida. Those launching pads were used for the Apollo moon missions and later space shuttle missions.
“To him it was more like another job. He had a reputation for building roads faster than anybody else could,” said Jim Buffington, whose wife, Martha, was Raley’s daughter.
Jim said Raley moved to Aberdeen in 1949 while working for Blount Bros. Construction in Montgomery, Alabama. He later started his own contracting company that built several roads in east Mississippi and west Alabama. Raley was also a partner with Aberdeen engineer Sam Jaynes in the Alabama/Mississippi Paving Company.
The Buffingtons visited him and his wife in May 1964 in Florida when the launch pads’ construction was underway. He said security was nearly non-existent, as his father-in-law drove him on a tour of the vehicle assembly building, launching pads and roads leading to the launch pads.
Martha, who was 32 at the time, recalled watching Armstrong’s walk on the moon July 20, 1969. Jim said they watched Walter Cronkite broadcast the iconic moment in history.
He said with Raley, however, they didn’t engage many times in space-related conversations.
“I am proud he was in this, and he was a good builder. My family is so proud of him,” Martha said.
In addition to Martha, Raley’s other children are the late Charles R. Raley, Jr. of Huntsville, Alabama and Michael Raley of Gray, Georgia. The elder Raley died in 1971 and is buried at Odd Fellows Cemetery.
He’s not the only NASA connection to Aberdeen as Marcia Stockton Lindstrom is currently part of NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) Program, the agency’s flagship mission in human exploration. The program will return humans to the moon and beyond. She is is strategic communications manager in that she educates and informs the public about the rocket and its mission.
Earlier in her NASA career, she worked as a grant writer for the Saturn V Restoration Project in Huntsville.
While working on that project, she saw the original employee organizational chart for the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville and discovered her uncle, Claude E. “Bud” Stockton, was its first chief financial officer.