Ed Dwight Jr. was the first African American astronaut candidate for what is now NASA. Dwight joined the air force in 1953 as a test pilot. After earning his aeronautical engineering degree, Dwight was referred to President John F. Kennedy as a space candidate by Whitney Young Jr. In 1962, Dwight was entered into the U.S. astronaut training program as an experimental test pilot in preparation to become the first African American astronaut candidate.
Dwight’s training as a space candidate was full of racism. His then Supervisor, Col. Chuck Yeager, urged him to quit. Days after President Kennedy’s assassination, Dwight was dropped from the program and sent to Germany to work as a liaison for a non-existent German test pilot school. He was later court marshaled after refusing to fly his plane when he had heard that it was made unsafe – purposely.
Dwight was born in Kansas City, Kan. in 1933. He received his bachelor of science in aeronautical engineering from Arizona State University in 1957 and a Master of Fine Arts from the University of Denver, 1977.
After leaving with an honorable discharge from the military, Dwight took a job at the IBM Corporation as a Marketing Representative & Systems Engineer. After leaving IBM, Dwight became an aviation consultant in Dallas, TX. After starting a restaurant chain, he focused his attention on Dwight Development Associates, Inc., a real estate land development and construction company. Even prior to his educaiton at the University of Denver, Dwight was commissioned to create a sculpture of Colorado’s first black lieutenant governor, George Brown in 1974. Even though he didn’t have any formal training, the governor insisted that he build the sculpture. This experience led to Dwight’s collection entitled “Black Frontier in the American West.” The collection was such a success, Dwight was urged to make “Jazz: An American Art Form,” depicting over 70 bronzed sculptures including Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, Charlie Parker, Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald and Benny Goodman.