Ed Dwight Jr.
Ed Dwight, the first African American trained as an astronaut and the sculptor of major monuments, was born on the outskirts of Kansas City, Kansas, in 1933. His father, Ed Dwight, Sr., played second base for the Kansas City Monarchs in baseball's Negro League. Child rearing fell primarily on Dwight's Catholic mother, Georgia Baker Dwight, who convinced her son that he could accomplish almost anything. Dwight grew up an avid reader and talented artist who was mechanically gifted and enjoyed working with his hands.
Dwight joined the U.S. Air Force in 1953, pursuing his dream of flying jet aircraft. He became a test pilot, and in 1961 earned a degree in aeronautical engineering from Arizona State University. At the suggestion of the National Urban League's Whitney M. Young, Jr., the John F. Kennedy administration chose Dwight as the first black astronaut trainee in 1962. Catapulted to instant fame, he was featured on the covers of Ebony, Jet and Sepia, and in news magazines around the world.