Tag: Omega Psi Phi

Air Force Maj. Robert Lawrence Jr., America’s 1st Black Astronaut, Honored by Kennedy Space Center

First Black Astronaut Honored by the Kennedy Space Center
Air Force Maj. Robert Lawrence Jr. (Image: Wikipedia Commons)
by Selena Hill via blackenterprise.com

America’s first Black astronaut received a long overdue honor earlier this month, 50 years after his tragic death.

Air Force Maj. Robert Lawrence Jr., a trailblazer who opened a door for people of color in STEM, was honored on Dec. 8 for his contributions to space exploration at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the Los Angeles Times reported. Hundreds of people gathered at the center to commemorate him, including NASA dignitaries, astronauts, Omega Psi Phi fraternity members, and schoolchildren.

After graduating high school at the age of 16, Lawrence earned a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry from Bradley University at just 20 years old. Later, he obtained a doctoral degree in physical chemistry in 1965. In the ’60s, he was part of a classified military space program created to spy on the Soviet Union. Had he not died in a plane crash on Dec. 8, 1967, at the age of 32, he would have certainly gone on to fly NASA shuttles to space. However, his life was cut short when his F-104 Starfighter crashed at Edwards Air Force Base in California.

“He had a great future ahead of him if he had not been lost 50 years ago today,” said Robert Crippen, who participated in the military space program with Lawrence, according to ABC News.

Although his career was short-lived, Lawrence paved the way for other black astronauts like Guy Bluford, who became the first African American in space in 1983, and Dr. Mae Jemison, the first African American woman to travel to space in 1992.

According to the Los Angeles Times, Lawrence’s family members have been fighting to get Lawrence the recognition that he deserves for decades. The Air Force would not immediately acknowledge that he was an astronaut since he did not have the opportunity to fly as high as the 1960s-required altitude of 50 miles. It also took 30 years after his death before his name was added to the Astronauts Memorial Foundation’s Space Mirror.

Source: http://www.blackenterprise.com/first-black-astronaut-honored/

BHM: Meet Charles Bolden Jr., Former Astronaut and NASA’s 1st Black Administrator

article by Tonya Pendleton via blackamericaweb.com

Charles Bolden Jr., NASA’s first Black administrator, was nominated for the post in 2009 by President Barack Obama and confirmed by the Senate that same year. Bolden nearly saw his career take another course in the early ’60’s, but he used his connections and a bit of humility to aid his quest to enter the U.S. Naval Academy.

Born August 19, 1946 in Columbia, South Carolina, Bolden was a football player at C.A. Johnson High School. Bolden was determined to enter the Academy. When he found out that a vice president can nominate anyone to the Academy while the president can only nominate the children of military personnel, he wrote a letter to then V.P. Lyndon B. Johnson to request his nomination.

Bolden saw his dreams dashed in November of 1963 when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. With Johnson elevated to president, Bolden moved to request that his state representatives nominate him for the Academy. But the elected officials in South Carolina, including notoriously racist Sen. Strom Thurmond, didn’t endorse Bolden due to his race.

Bolden then contacted Johnson and reminded the sitting president of their earlier correspondence. Eventually, Bolden was nominated by Rep. William Dawson of Chicago and he entered the Academy in 1964. After earning his degree in Electrical Science in 1968, he became an aviator with the U.S. Marine Corps and flew over 100 missions.

The Omega Psi Phi fraternity member earned his master’s degree in systems management from the University of Southern California in 1977. Two years later, Bolden completed courses at the United States Naval Test Pilot School and was selected by NASA as an astronaut candidate in 1980. In 1981, Bolden’s astronaut appointment was official and he flew four space missions between 1986 and 1994.

To read more, go to: http://blackamericaweb.com/2016/02/17/little-known-black-history-fact-charles-bolden-jr/