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Posted on November 11, 2014 | 8:35 p.m.

Ernest ‘Ernie’ Bivans of Santa Barbara, 1921-2014

Source: Patricia Dixon

Ernest Walter “Ernie” Bivans passed away on Oct. 19, 2014.

Ernest "Ernie" Bivans

He was born in Ojus, Fla., on Oct. 9, 1921, and grew up in Albany, Ga., the son of George Walter Bivans and Annie Padgett Bivans, who both had careers with the Salvation Army.

He graduated from Georgia Tech with a degree in electrical engineering in 1943. He married Nan Triplett in 1943 and was then sent to the Army for basic training, then to OCS for the Signal Corps, where he graduated as a second lieutenant. The Army sent him to Harvard for an advanced training course in electronics, where he earned a Science Master (the equivalent of a Ph.D.).

In 1944, he was sent to MIT, instead of overseas, to work on the development of the highly secret radar systems. In early 1945, the Army sent him to Osterholz, Bremen Enclave, Germany, with the Signal Corps, where he became battalion commander. Later, promoted to captain (at age 24), he oversaw 1,000 servicemen, and as the war ended, he helped re-establish the German communications systems. He was one of the Greatest Generation! His scientific research and inventions helped move the world forward.

Upon his return home, he went to work for the Air Force Cambridge Research Center and received a Meritorious Service Award in 1950 for one of his inventions. Cambridge Research became the new MIT Lincoln Laboratory in Lexington, Mass., where Ernie was a group leader. They worked on developing air defenses against Soviet bomber attacks. Ernie had developed and patented a way to encode radar signals over telephone lines to computers. He was sent to NORAD and Air Force bases to teach this technology, which later became the basis of the civilian air traffic control system.

In 1952, he met with William Shockley to study the first silicon transistors. In 1956, he was sent to The Hague as a consultant to the NATO Air Defense Tech Center to help develop an air defense system for Europe.

For fun, he and six friends started a band for MIT event — he played valve trombone and drums. He especially loved Dixieland music.

Ernie in uniform.

He was a Master Mason in the Fraternity Lodge of Masons in Newtonville, Mass. (His father had been a 32nd degree Mason.)

In 1961, Ernie moved the family to Santa Barbara as a founding member of Infrared Industries in Carpinteria.

In Santa Barbara, he joined the La Cumbre Lodge 642 of Masons (now Santa Barbara Lodge 192) and was Master of the Lodge in 1969. The family joined La Cumbre Golf and Country Club, where they had an active social life.

In 1967, the Pentagon offered him the job of deputy assistant to the secretary of defense for research and engineering. He declined and started work for General Research in Goleta as a senior analyst. In 1967, the Department of Defense recruited him for a classified assignment in Vietnam to work directly under Westmoreland as deputy special assistant to the chief of staff, US MAC,V, with the civilian equivalent of a three-star general. He was there for two years. For his work there, he was awarded the Patriotic Civilian Service Award.

Ernie married Patricia Stump in 1970. When General Research closed its door, Ernie worked for a while at Dean Witter in Santa Barbara, then was recruited to Computer Sciences in Vandenberg. He ran a program for the tracking system of missiles at Vandenberg AFB and was in charge of installing computers at Vandenberg and Edwards AFB. In 1976, he was offered a position on the Hubble telescope project in Maryland but chose to retire at that point.

After retiring, Ernie and Pat moved to Vista in 1988 for 10 years, after which they returned to the Riviera in Santa Barbara, where they again enjoyed time at La Cumbre Country Club. They were part of a wine club, the Jag club and later the Santa Barbara Yacht Club.

Ernie was an accomplished carpenter who had built furniture and had remodeled several rooms in several houses. He enjoyed playing music and had joined a Dixieland band when he first moved to Santa Barbara. He was a Boy Scout leader for his sons Bruce’s and Van’s troop. He was a member of the Los Fiesteros Dance Club, an avid golfer (member of La Cumbre Country Club from 1961) and a talented bridge player — even once playing in a tournament with Charles Goren.

In 2011, after declining health, Ernie moved into assisted living at Alexander Gardens and then to Quail Lodge at Valle Verde in 2013.

Ernie was preceded in death by his brothers, George Jr. and Freddy. He leaves behind his wife, Patricia; sons Van Bivans (Pam) and Bruce Bivans; daughter Patricia Dixon; stepson Bill Cosdon; stepdaughter Susie George; six grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. The Bivans and Dixon families will all miss this incredible man.

A memorial service and celebration of life will be held at 3:30 p.m. Nov. 18 at La Cumbre Golf and Country Club.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be sent to either the Assisted Hospice Foundation, 302 N. Milpas St., Santa Barbara CA 93103, or The Masonic Homes of California, mailed to: Santa Barbara Masonic Lodge 192, 16 E. Carrillo St., Santa Barbara, CA 93101.


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