Grady H. Banister, Jr.

NO. 17539  •  23 Jan 1927 – 1 Nov 1999

Died 1 November 1999 in Sierra Vista, AZ
Interment: Mother Theresa Columbarium, Our Lady Of The Mountains, Sierra Vista, AZ


Grady Huger Banister, Jr. was a man for his time.  It was his destiny to be born at the dawn of the "Computer Age," and he was in that vanguard of computer engineers who helped shape and advance that technology. Grady, a native of Anniston, AL, took the path to West Point via Marion Military Institute, located in the western reaches of his home state. While at Marion, Grady set his goal to enter West Point. His father, Grady H. Banister, a captain in the Army at the time, played a major role in helping him achieve that goal.       

While at West Point, Grady's major extracurricular activity was photography, where he excelled and was selected to work as a photographer on the Howitzer. During the summer following his second year at the Academy, Grady and another cadet conducted a pho­tographic assignment documenting the weekend life of a cadet. The model Grady and his friend posed with during the photo documentary  was Ms. Bess Fritz, a civilian employee at West Point. It wasn’t long after their meeting that Grady fell in love with Bess and, upon graduation, they married.

Grady received his commission and was assigned to the 97th Signal Battalion, Seventh Army, in Boeblingen, Germany, In 1953, he returned to the States to attend the Signal School at Ft. Monmouth and became the aide-de-camp to BG Wesley Guest, Commandant, U.S. Army Signal School. In 1954, CPT Banister was selected to attend graduate school at Stanford University, where he earned two master's degrees in industrial and electrical engineering with a specialty in digital computers. After Stanford, Grady was Chief of the Au­tomatic Data Processing Division at the Army Signal Supply Agency in Philadelphia, PA, where he was first able to apply his knowledge in the emerging computer technology.

In 1959, Grady was assigned to Ft. Huachuca as Operations Officer in the Automatic Data Department, Electronic Proving Ground, with the mission to apply computers to the Army Tactical Systems. Regret­tably, the Army chose not to continue his preferred career path in computer-related fields. He felt strongly that his computer systems knowledge and education were a rare commodity at that time. Therefore, Grady resigned his commission in 1960 and Beckman Instru­ments employed him in Fullerton, CA.

Grady was a member of one of the teams that devel­oped COBOL, an early computer compiler. Using com­puters to automate test equipment, he was instrumen­tal in testing the Apollo and Saturn projects for NASA. Among his vast accomplishments, he also developed a digital computer for Beckman Instruments; however, the company elected not to compete with IBM in the emerging computer industry.

Realizing the vast potential of that new technology, Grady left Beckman and formed his own software company. He later sold that company and moved on to become Pharos Systems and Planning Research Corporation Vice President of Operations. In l972, his former classmate, MG Al Crawford, contacted him to work as Chief Engineer for the Army Tactical Data Systems project at Fort Monmouth, NJ.

In 1978, the Banister family relocated to the place they had always longed to return, Sierra Vista, AZ. Grady was promoted to Electronic Proving Ground Technical Director at Fort Huachuca. During his 16-year tenure at EPG, he was instrumental in the design and development of new data collection techniques that greatly enhanced the Army’s movement into the Computer Age. For his leadership and high accomplishments, Grady was twice presented the Superior Civilian Ser­vice Award and the Meritorious Service Medal.

Grady served several years as the Army’s senior rep­resentative in the DOD Reliance Panel, responsible for streamlining test capabilities by eliminating dupli­cation. He was the primary author on a number of studies, including a review and recommendation for the future of electronic warfare testing. As a result of his efforts,  several sub-panels were formed and still are active today in conformance with the original guid­ance he set forth.

In retirement, Grady continued to serve his com­munity with the same zeal and passion he demonstrated throughout his military and civilian career. He devoted his time and energy to many groups and or­ganizations including: Our Lady of the Mountain Catholic Parish, the Huachuca Museum Society, the Friends of San Pedro River, the Fry Fire Department, and the Ramsey Canyon Nature Conservancy. Grady personified service by serving others. He assisted other seniors with their income tax preparations; he was a Boy Scout and 4-H leader and a volunteer fireman.

On 9 Feb 2001, a most fitting tribute was made to Grady when the headquarters building of the Elec­tronic Proving Ground was dedicated in his name. Grady's family and many friends attended the dedica­tion ceremonies to honor his exemplary service and leadership in the development of information tech­nology.  As keynote speaker COL Keyner said, "We owe Grady Banister our gratitude for who he was and what he stood for. Dedicating our headquarters build­ing is a small token of recognition for all he did for the Army and this nation."

Those who knew and worked with Grady will re­call with pride his truly significant accomplishments. Grady  leaves a rich legacy of love and devotion to his wife, Bess, and their seven children. He also left a legacy of service to others.

Grady truly was a pioneer in the evolution and  development of computer technology. We salute this honored member of the Long Gray Line. "Be thou at peace.”

- Norm Smedes and friends of Grady