Honors & Achievements

Belmar Post Office to Bear Name of Pioneering Physicist who Called ‘South Belmar’ Home

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BELMAR, NJ — The Belmar Post Office will soon be dedicated to a Lake Como resident who was decades ahead of his time — the late Walter S. McAfee, a world-renown physicist who helped forged the path to space exploration.

Legislation recently passed by Congress now awaits President Trump’s signature to officially name the Dr. Walter S. McAfee Post Office Building — a community landmark that has stood at the corner of 13th Avenue and Main Street for 82 years.

Now it will earn the distinction of being named for one of the nation’s most prominent African-American scientists, who also made history just a decade after the post office opened in 1936.

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McAfee spent most 42 years of his career at Fort Monmouth, where in 1946 he made the mathematical calculations that enabled a team of scientists to bounce the first radio signals off the moon’s surface from the Evans Signal Laboratory in Wall.

Called Project Diana, the effort was monumental in advancing space exploration, and development satellite communications and missile guidance systems.

In fact, the McAfee Center at Fort Monmouth was dedicated in his honor — the first research and development facility of its kind named after a civilian.

McAfee also was the first African-American to be promoted to GS-16, a “super-grade” civilian position in the U.S. Army Materiel Command (AMC), where he also was inducted into its Hall of Fame.

At the InfoAge Science History Learning Center and Museum in Wall, McAfee is among five individuals on its “Wall of Honor,” dedicated in 2017 to recognize their contributions to the defense of the United States. In fact, when U.S. Rep. Chris Smith  (R-4th District) turned to the InfoAge center for naming recommendations for the post office, its choice was McAfee.

For more than four decades Walter and his wife, Viola, called Lake Como home — when it was known as South Belmar. While he became a highly respected scientist, educator and adviser, Viola’s talents as a musician captivated the local church community. For 30 years, she was the organist at Mount Olive Baptist Church in Lake Como and for another 30 years at First Baptist Church in Belmar, according to her obituary. During this time she also gave private piano lessons.

Walter died at age 81 at his Lake Como home in 1995 — 10 years after his retirement. Viola died at age 97 in 2011 in San Jose, Calif., where she lived with her daughter.

The Belmar post offices is among four in the state being named for newsworthy New Jerseyans — the others being the Princeton Post Office for John Nash, a Princeton University mathematician; Raritan Post Office for John Basilone, a decorated World War II hero; and the Mullica Hill Post Office for James “Billy” Johnson, a World War II veteran who was killed in action.

The legislation, spearheaded in the House by Rep. Smith, whose district includes Belmar and Lake Como and who introduced the Belmar post office naming bill, received full support from the New Jersey legislation delegation, including Sens. Bob Menendez and Cory Booker.

 

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