Roanoke Valley Veterans Museum

JENNIFER HARRIS/Lake Gaston Gazette-Observer

Volunteers with the Roanoke Valley Veterans Museum in Littleton take a break from preparing for the Sept. 23 dedication of the mural behind them and the first in a series of “Veterans Talks.” Pictured from the left: retired Air Force Brig. General David L. Johnson, chairman of the museum’s board of directors, and volunteers Bill Hill and Mike Burba.

Members of the public are invited to a mural dedication at the Roanoke Valley Veterans Museum in Littleton, N.C., on Thursday, Sept. 23, at 6:30 p.m. The first in a series of “Veteran Talks” will follow.

The mural, created by Karen Harley of the Hollister community of Halifax and Warren counties, will be ceremonially unveiled and signed by the artist.

The “Veteran Talk” will take place after the dedication inside the briefing room of the museum’s administration building. Featured will be Francis Gary Powers, Jr., who will discuss a key event of the Cold War—the shooting down of his father, an American pilot, who was flying a CIA spy plane over Russia on May 1, 1960. 

Powers, Jr. consulted on the Steven Spielberg motion picture, “Bridge of Spies,” about James Donovan (played by Tom Hanks), who brokered the 1962 spy exchange between Francis Gary Powers, Sr., who was held as a Russian prisoner after being shot down, and KGB spy Rudolph Abel.

Powers, Jr. is the founder and chairman emeritus of The Cold War Museum, a 501(c)3 charity in Warrenton, Va. He founded the museum in 1996 to honor Cold War veterans, preserve Cold War history, and educate future generations about this time period. As chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee for the Cold War Theme Study he works with the National Park Service and leading Cold War experts to identify historic Cold War sites for commemorating, interpreting, and preservation. 

He is author of “Spy Pilot,” about his father’s 1960 shootdown, and “Letters from a Soviet Prison,” which both dispel misinformation surrounding his father’s U-2 incident. He is a board member of the Strategic Air Command and Aerospace Museum near Omaha, Neb., and an honorary board member of the International Spy Museum in Washington, D.C. Because of his efforts to honor Cold War veterans, the Junior Chamber of Commerce selected him as one of the “Ten Outstanding Young Americans” for 2002.

Powers, Jr. lectures internationally and appears regularly on C-SPAN, the History Channel, Discovery, and A&E. 

A native of Burbank, Calif., Powers, Jr. holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Philosophy from California State University, Los Angeles, a Master’s Degree in Public Administration/Certification in Nonprofit Management from George Mason University, Fairfax, Va., and a Master’s Degree in U.S. History from Adams State University, Alamosa, Colo.

He is married and has one son.

The Roanoke Valley Veterans Museum is at 102 E. North Main Street, Littleton. 

For those unable to make the Sept. 23 event, the museum is staffed by volunteers on Fridays and Saturdays, 10 a.m.-4 p.m., and on Sundays, 1-4 p.m.