About Gary

Background and Overview

Born June 5, 1965, in Burbank, California, Gary is the son of Francis Gary and Claudia E. “Sue” Powers. During his career Powers has held a variety of positions including Assistant Registrar for the City of Fairfax, Executive Director of a nonprofit dedicated to the historical revitalization of Old Town Fairfax, Marketing Manager for home inspection company US Inspect, and President/CEO for the Vienna Tysons Regional Chamber of Commerce.

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. In 2015, he consulted for the Steven Spielberg Cold War thriller, “Bridge of Spies” about James Donovan who brokered the 1962 spy exchange between Soviet spy Rudolph Abel and Gary’s father, U-2 pilot Francis Gary Powers, Sr.

In 1996, Gary founded The Cold War Museum (www.coldwar.org) to honor Cold War veterans, preserve Cold War history, and educate students about this time period. Over the past twenty years he led that museum forward as Founding Chairman, which in 2011 opened at Vint Hill Farms, a former Army communication base in Northern Virginia. As a result of his efforts to honor Cold War veterans, the United States Junior Chamber of Commerce selected him as one of the “Ten Outstanding Young Americans” for 2002.

Gary lectures internationally and appears regularly on the History, Discovery, and C-SPAN Channels. He holds a Bachelors’ of Arts Degree in Philosophy from California State University, Los Angeles and a Master’s Degree in Public Administration / Certification in Non-profit Management from George Mason University (GMU), Fairfax, Virginia. Gary is married and has one son.

The Vienna Tysons Regional Chamber of Commerce

From 2001 to 2005 he had the privilege of working for the Vienna Tysons Regional Chamber of Commerce as its President/CEO. While President, Gary oversaw the day-to-day financial, business, and community outreach operations of the chamber and worked with Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) to strengthen educational and business partnerships. In order to grow chamber membership, he successfully implemented the 2003 campaign to incorporate Tysons Corner into the name of the organization. As a result of the name change he oversaw the development of the Chamber’s new website, increased sponsorship revenue, and expanded circulation of its monthly newsletter, The Enterprise, into the Tysons Corner market. Under his leadership chamber membership grew by eighty percent (80%).

As spokesperson for the VTRCC, Gary worked with members of the press, elected officials, school officials, educators, business owners, and community leaders to promote the vibrant business environment of the Vienna Tysons area. He worked with the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority and numerous town, city, and county personnel to build consensus on key issues that affected Northern Virginia. His leadership style combined with guidance from the VTRCC board of directors and support from community leaders allowed him and his staff to successfully implement the goals and objectives of the organization. It was a team effort.

The Cold War Museum

In 1996, he founded The Cold War Museum, to honor Cold War veterans, preserve Cold War history, and educate students on this period of world history because students often equated the U-2 Incident with something to do with the U-2 rock band. For nine years Gary volunteered for The Cold War Museum prior to assuming the Museum Director position in October 2005. During his time with the museum, he guided The Cold War Museum forward fundraising over $3,000,000 in financial, artifact, and in-kind donations. He actively negotiated with the Smithsonian Institution for affiliate museum status, developed mobile exhibits, coordinated teacher workshops, organized spy tours of Washington, DC, created a quarterly email newsletter distributed to over 10,000 subscribers, and implemented an assortment of educational programs. In December 2009 he negotiated a lease with Vint Hill Economic Development Authority to secure a permanent home for the museum in Fauquier County, Virginia.

“I am pleased that what started out as a grassroots effort has turned into an international museum with chapters located in Germany, Illinois, Puerto Rico, and Wisconsin. However, in December 2010 after nearly 15 years with the museum, I decided that it was time to step down as Museum Director so that new ideas could be added to the organization and I could pursue other interests. I was honored when the museum board of directors offered me a position as Founder and Chairman Emeritus on the Advisory Board. In this capacity, I no longer oversee the day to day operations of the museum, but do provide feedback and institutional history on occasion when asked by the board or new museum director. In October 2010, before stepping down as Museum Director, I was presented with a proclamation by Delegate Scott Lingamfelter and Clerk of the House of Delegates, Bruce Jamerson, on behalf of the Virginia General Assembly for my work to establish The Cold War Museum in Virginia.”

Lectures, Exhibits, & Spy Tours

As the founder of The Cold War Museum, Gary has had the opportunity to lecture internationally, nationally, and throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia on the U-2 Incident, the need to preserve Cold War history, honor Cold War veterans, and educate future generations about this period of world history. As a result, numerous relationships have been established with educators, merchants, business owners, public officials, and community leaders in all parts of Virginia, and beyond. Gary appears regularly on the History, Discovery, and A&E Channels and he is called upon by news media outlets for commentary.

In order to promote the creation of The Cold War Museum, Gary created a mobile exhibit on the U-2 Incident and has displayed it internationally for the past 20 years. The mobile exhibit promotes interest in the artifacts and memorabilia on display at The Cold War Museum.

In addition, he has arranged for loans or donation of artifacts and exhibit material to American Government agencies (CIA, DIA, FBI, NSA, NRO), a variety of internationally recognized museums including the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, the USAF Museum, the KGB Museum in Moscow, the Diefenbunker Museum, and the Virginia Historical Society.

While with the museum, he co-hosted annual receptions commemorating historical Cold War events and anniversaries with a variety of organizations including but not limited to the Bulgarian, Czech, German, Hungarian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Polish, Romanian, and Slovakian Embassies in Washington, D.C. Gary briefed dignitaries, military personnel, intelligence representatives, and various organizations on the Cold War and the mission of The Cold War Museum.

In 1997 he helped to establish the Spy Tour of Washington for groups of 30 or more. Since its earliest days, Washington, D.C. has been the scene of international intrigue, espionage, and intelligence activity, as the U.S. government has tried to learn the plans of other countries while keeping its own plans secret. Key players in this non-ending drama include personalities as diverse as Rose Greenhow, Herbert Yardley, Major General “Wild Bill” Donovan, Aldrich Ames, and Robert Hanssen. This one half day bus tour introduces guests to many of the locations in and around Washington, D.C. that have been associated with intelligence and counter intelligence activities for the past two hundred years. Past clients have included the Life Long Learning Institute, Google Earth volunteer corps, The Association of Old Crows, and The National Association of Realtors.

Published Works

  • Book, Spy Pilot, Francis Gary Powers, the U-2 Incident, and a Controversial Cold War Legacy, Prometheus Publishing, January 2019.
  • Letter to the Editor, The Wall Street Journal, July 13, 2018.
  • Book, Letters from a Soviet Prison: The Personal Journal and Correspondence of CIA U-2 Pilot Francis Gary Powers, Self Published May 1, 2017.
  • Article, The Moscow Times, Moscow, Russia, February 7, 2012.
  • Article, The Moscow Times, Moscow, Russia, May 17, 2010.
  • Feature, Quest: The History of Spaceflight Quarterly, Bethesda, MD, 2010.
  • Chapter, The Most Dangerous Years: The Cold War 1953-1975, VMI, Lexington, VA,  2005.
  • Epilogue, Operation Overflight: Memoir of the U-2 Incident, Brassey, Washington, DC, 2004.
  • Congressional Testimony, HR107-Preservation of Cold War Sites, USGPO, W. DC 2001.
  • Sidebar, American Heritage Magazine, Forbes, New York, NY, September 2000.
  • Preface, Corona: The First NRO Reconnaissance Eye in Space, National War College, Washington, DC, 1997.
  • Chapter, U-2 Flights and the Cold War in the High North, Bodø Aviation Center, Bodø, Norway, 1995.