Colonel Frederick D. Gregory was the first African-American to pilot a spacecraft.
Born January 7, 1941, in Washington, D.C. to Francis A. Gregory and Nora Drew Gregory, he graduated from Anacostia High School, in Washington, in 1958 and entered the United States Air Force Academy where he studied military engineering and received a bachelor of science degree from in 1964.
Since childhood, he had a passion for speed, racing a small aluminum boat in waters off Columbia Beach near Washington, D.C. He says, “I always wanted to fly.”
After graduating from the United States Air Force Academy in 1964, Gregory entered pilot training and attended undergraduate helicopter training at Stead Air Force Base, Nevada. He received his wings in 1965 and was assigned as an H-43 helicopter rescue pilot at Vance AFB, Oklahoma, from October 1965 until May 1966. In June 1966, he was assigned as an H-43 combat rescue pilot at Danang AB, Vietnam. When he returned to the United States in July 1967, he was assigned as a missile support helicopter pilot flying the UH-1F at Whiteman AFB, Missouri. Continue reading
Major Robert H. Lawrence, Jr.
Major Lawrence was born on October 2, 1935, in Chicago, Illinois. At the age of 16, he was a graduate in the top 10% of Englewood High School. At the age of 20, he became a graduate of Bradley University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Chemistry. In addition, while a student at Bradley University, he distinguished himself as Cadet Commander of the Bradley Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps and, upon graduation, received the commission of Second Lieutenant in the Air Force Reserve Program.
At the age of 21 he had become an Air Force pilot after completing flight training at Malden Air Force Base.
At the age of 22, he married the former Ms. Barbara Cress, the daughter of Dr. and Mrs. Henry Cress of Chicago. As he approached the age of 26, he had completed an Air Force assignment as an instructor pilot in the T-33 training aircraft for members of the German Air Force.