NHRA Safety pioneer Jim Deist dies Jim Deist, who created some of the first commercially available parachutes for use in drag racing and founded Deist Safety in 1958 to continue that work in other lines of driver safety, died March 9. He was 80.
Deist learned the parachute-manufacturing business while working at Irving Air Chute in the late 1940s, and his passion for drag racing led him to combine the two. With the encouragement of early parachute customer Mickey Thompson, he founded Deist Safety and soon added custom seat belts and, in 1961, his first firesuit. Deist also expanded beyond the dragstrip to include land-speed-record cars.
Deist was a founding member of SEMA and helped initiate the Meets SFI Specs program and was inducted into the SEMA Hall of Fame.
Deist received numerous honors because of his contributions to racing safety, including being named Most Valuable Man of the Year at Bonneville in 1981 and the 200-MPH Club's Man of the Year in 1982. He was inducted into the Dry Lakes Racing Hall of Fame in 1995 and was an honoree at the 1997 NHRA California Hot Rod Reunion presented by Automobile Club of Southern California.
Deist is survived by his wife, Marian; son, Donald; and daughter, Dee.
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