As a crew member of Space Shuttle mission STS-8, he became the first African-American to venture into space.
He attended Penn State University, where he earned a PhD in aerospace engineering and was a member of the Omega Psi Phi fraternity.
He was selected as one of the 100 Greatest African Americans by scholar Molefi Kete Asante.
He married Linda Tull in 1964.
He flew aboard the Space Shuttle Challenger before its ill-fated mission that killed Christa McAuliffe.