Ronald E. McNair, the second African American to fly in space, was born in Lake City, South Carolina, where he graduated valedictorian from Carver High School in 1967. He went on to receive a Bachelor’s degree in Physics, magna cum laude, from North Carolina A & T University in 1971 and in 1976, a Ph.D. in Physics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Ronald E. McNair was nationally recognized for his work in the field of laser physics; selected as one of thirty-five applicants from a pool of ten thousand, for the astronaut program in 1978. He was also the recipient of three honorary doctorates; a score of fellowships and commendations; a sixth degree back belt in karate; and an accomplished saxophonist. He married the former Cheryl Moore and was the father of two children (Reginald Ervin and Joy Cheray).
Ronald E. McNair died on January 29, 1986, in a fiery explosion nine miles above the Atlantic along with six other crew members aboard the Space Shuttle Challenger. In honor of his memory and excellence, the Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program was created and implemented nationally at several institutions.
Historians who write about McNair, will discover that there was much more to him than his scholastic achievements. Friends who knew him say he walked humbly and never boasted about his achievements. They say his commitments were to God, his family and to the youths he encouraged to succeed (Ebony Magazine, May 1986).