Known for his participation in the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)-sponsored Manned Orbiting Laboratory (MOL) program of the 1960s, he also served as a mission specialist on the 1983 debut flight of the Space Shuttle Challenger.
After graduating from the United States Military Academy (West Point, New York) and joining the U.S. Air Force, he earned a degree in nuclear engineering from Ohio's Wright-Patterson Air Force Institute of Technology. He later trained at California's Aerospace Research Pilot School.
He was a member of the support crew for the 1972 Apollo 16 Moon mission.
He grew up in Winona, Mississippi. He and his wife raised three children together.
He and fellow astronaut Karol Bobko were both crew members on STS-6, NASA's first Space Shuttle Challenger mission.