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Colorado U.S. Senators Introduce Bill to Honor Edward J. Dwight, Jr. as a Pioneer in Space and Civil Rights

On Sunday, America’s first African American astronaut candidate became the oldest person to travel to space.

ColoradoBiz Staff //May 20, 2024//

Former NASA astronaut Ed Dwight poses for a portrait to promote the National Geographic documentary film “The Space Race” during the Winter Television Critics Association Press Tour, Thursday, Feb. 8, 2024, at The Langham Huntington Hotel in Pasadena, Calif.

Photo Credit: AP Photo/Chris Pizzello

Former NASA astronaut Ed Dwight poses for a portrait to promote the National Geographic documentary film “The Space Race” during the Winter Television Critics Association Press Tour, Thursday, Feb. 8, 2024, at The Langham Huntington Hotel in Pasadena, Calif.

Photo Credit: AP Photo/Chris Pizzello

Colorado U.S. Senators Introduce Bill to Honor Edward J. Dwight, Jr. as a Pioneer in Space and Civil Rights

On Sunday, America’s first African American astronaut candidate became the oldest person to travel to space.

ColoradoBiz Staff //May 20, 2024//

Colorado U.S. Senators Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper, and U.S. Representative Joe Neguse introduced the Edward J. Dwight, Jr. Congressional Gold Medal Act of 2023 to honor the life and legacy of Ed Dwight Jr. days before he made history at 90-years-old as the oldest person on Earth to travel to space upon Blue Origin’s New Shepard spacecraft.

Dwight first made history in 1961 when President John F. Kennedy invited him to join the U.S. Air Force’s astronaut training program as the country’s first African American astronaut candidate.

However, he was never granted the opportunity to fly to space due to racism within the program.

After completing his military service, Dwight moved to Denver, where he became an IBM engineer. He later opened a restaurant and worked as a real estate developer before pursuing his passion for sculpting full-time. Today, Dwight’s sculptures are collected by museums, institutions and art enthusiasts around the world, including the Smithsonian.

The Congressional Gold Medal would recognize Dwight’s historic service, example of excellence despite adversity, and contributions to art and Black history.

“Ed Dwight is one of our country’s greatest living legends,” said Bennet. “Despite racism and prejudice, Ed never stopped reaching higher and became a trailblazer in the worlds of art, science, aviation, and now, space travel. His successes are Colorado’s successes. It is a privilege to one day recognize Ed’s place in American history with the highest honor bestowed by the United States Congress.”

READ: 4 Ways Colorado Continues to Lead America’s Aerospace Industry

“Colorado’s Ed Dwight made history in 1961 when he was the first African American considered to be an astronaut,” said Hickenlooper. “Yesterday he made history again as the oldest person to go to space!”

“While serving our country in the United States Air Force, Ed Dwight Jr. broke barriers by becoming the first African American to enter a training program from which NASA selected potential astronauts. In the years since his time in service, he’s continued to make his mark on our nation — producing notable sculptures of historic Black Americans that are now landmarks in communities across the country, including the city of Denver.  As he fulfills his life-long dream and rocket into space, I am honored to be leading an effort with Senator Bennet to award Ed with a Congressional Gold Medal,”said Neguse.

“Ed Dwight, the first Black astronaut candidate deserves to receive the Congressional Gold Metal,” said Patricia Duncan, Colorado activist and author. “Senator Bennet’s bill will honor a man who lived out [his] lifelong dream by going up in space as [Ed] continues to be a mentor to Astronaut Victor J. Glover who will be going to the moon in the future. [This bill] awards a humble man receiving all the recognition [he has] earned and deserves.”

“I would like to sincerely thank Senator Bennet for recognizing and acknowledging my father, Ed Dwight’s contributions to Colorado, our culture, and the country as a whole,” said Tamara Rhone, Dwight’s daughter. “It means so much to me and my family as I know he appreciates that he is not forgotten in this journey to be a positive example for others to follow.”

In 2020, U.S. Space Force Chief of Space Operations General Jay Raymond presented Dwight with the Commander’s Public Service Award and inducted him as an honorary member of the Space Force, for his contributions to the United States, space and history.

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