Physicist and federal government administrator Julian Manly Earls was born on November 22, 1942 in Portsmouth, Virginia to James and Ida Deberry Earls. He graduated from Crestwood High School in Chesapeake, Virginia in 1960 and went on to earn his B.S. degree in physics from Norfolk State University in 1964. Upon the advice of his mentor, Dr. Roy A. Woods, Earls attended the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry to obtain his M.S. degree in radiation biology in 1965. Earls then moved to Cleveland to work at NASA for six years at the Lewis Research Center. NASA sponsored Earls to obtain his Ph.D. degree in radiation physics at the University of Michigan in 1973. Also, while working at NASA, he graduated from the Harvard Business School Program for Management Development in 1978.
Working at NASA for over forty years, Earls became NASA's first black section head, first black office chief, first black division chief, first black deputy director, and NASA's second black center director. Earls was hired as the director of the Glenn Research Center at Lewis Field in Cleveland, Ohio in 2003. As center director, Earls has been responsible for research, technology and systems development programs in aeronautical propulsion, space propulsion, space power, space communications, and microgravity sciences. He manages an annual budget and oversees all employees and contractors. Earls has written several publications for technical and educational journals. He also wrote NASA’s first health physics guides. On two occasions, he has been awarded NASA medals for exceptional achievement and outstanding leadership and has received the Presidential Rank Award of Meritorious Executive for career Senior Executive Service (SES) members.
Earls has been awarded honorary degrees by Vaughn College of Aeronautics and Technology in Queens, New York, Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University in Greensboro, North Carolina. He has been a member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the National Technical Association, the National Society of Black Engineers, the National Society of Black Physicists, the Development Fund for Black Students in Science and Technology, the Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, and the Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity. An avid runner, he has run at least twenty-five marathons and was given the honor of being a torchbearer for the 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City, Utah. Earls and his wife, Zenobia, reside in Beachwood, Ohio. They have two sons, Gregory and Julian, Jr., and one granddaughter, Madisyn Chandler.
Julian Earls was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on January 10, 2005.