James Hollins: One of Los Alamos National Laboratory’s first Black project engineers

Listen to his stories in this audio conversation with our National Security Research Center

February 23, 2023

James Hollins began working at the Nevada Test Site (now called Nevada National Security Site) in 1981 as a project engineer for the Los Alamos nuclear testing program. That's where he started his 40-year career in national security.

"I always felt like this is what I wanted to do — serve my country and keep America strong," recalled Hollins, who is now retired.

Hollins discussed his experiences as one of very few Black staff in Conversations, a 13-minute audio story from the National Security Research Center, the Lab’s classified library.

“I always felt like the deck was stacked against me … But you get that in life, and you just have to make sure you prove yourself every day,” Hollins said.

Hollins also shared with NSRC Librarian Laura McGuiness his memories of leading some of the country’s last nuclear tests prior to the U.S. test moratorium. As a project leader on the nuclear test Junction in 1992, he interfaced with scientists from the Soviet Union as they performed yield measurements for treaty verification purposes.

Hollins again made history with his important work on Divider, the last full-scale nuclear weapons test before the current testing moratorium. The Laboratory commemorated the 30th anniversary of Divider last September with an exhibit and series of talks. Hollins’ name is listed on the Divider participant roster that was featured in the exhibit.

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You also can listen to past episodes of Conversations in commemoration of Hispanic Heritage Month and Black History Month 2021.