December 8, 1967 | Maj. Robert Henry Lawrence, Jr.
Robert Henry Lawrence, Jr. – USAF Astronaut First African-American selected as an astronaut.
The first African American selected for the United States Air Force Astronaut program, Robert Henry Lawrence, Jr., died on December 8, 1967 in a crash of a F-104 Starfighter at Edwards Air Force Base in California. Lawrence was in the backseat as the instructor pilot with a flight test trainee in the front seat. Lawrence’s early death prevented him from later becoming an astronaut on a space mission. Lawrence’s accomplishments were significant at an early age. He graduated from High School at age 16, Bradley University with a Bachelors Degree in Chemistry at age 20 and received his commission of 2nd Lieutenant in the Air Force. He received his doctorate in Physical Chemistry from the Ohio State University in 1965. Lawrence became a Senior USAF pilot and had over 2,500 flight hours. He was selected in June, 1967 as an astronaut in the Manned Orbital Laboratory (MOL) after finishing the Air Force Flight Test Pilot Training School at Edwards Air Force Base in California. Lawrence was born on October 2, 1935 in Chicago, Illinois.