Ronald Ervin McNair, the second African American to fly in space, was born on October 12, 1950, in Lake City, South Carolina, where he graduated valedictorian from Carter High School in 1967. In 1971, he received a bachelor's degree in physics, magna cum laude, from North Carolina A & T University (Greensboro). In 1976, he received the PhD in physics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Ronald 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; was the recipient of three honorary doctorates; a score of fellowships and commendations; a sixth-degree black 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 Ervin McNair died on January 28, 1986, in a fiery explosion nine miles above the Atlantic along with six other crew members aboard the space shuttle Challenger.
Historians who will write about McNair, the man, will quickly 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, May 1986].