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Gregory, Frederick D.

Frederick D. Gregory

1941

Astronaut, NASA administrator

Colonel Frederick D. Gregory became the first black to pilot a space shuttle when he led the Challenger on a seven-day mission in 1985. As an astronaut he has spent more than 455 hours in outer space, and he commanded three major space missions from 1985 to 1991. Colonel Gregory was a decorated helicopter pilot during the Vietnam War and a jet test pilot prior to working with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). From 2002 to 2005, Gregory held the second highest administration position, deputy administrator, with NASA. In 2005 he briefly rose to the top spot as acting administrator, becoming the first African American to lead NASA.

Possessing a relentless work ethic and exceptional versatility, Gregory has piloted a wide range of aircraft. Most unusual about his ascent to astronaut status was that he began his career as a helicopter pilot and only later made the switch to fixed-wing piloting, whereas most astronauts have begun their careers as jet pilots. "He does everything to the max," claimed Curtis M. Graves, the Deputy Director for Civil Affairs at NASA, in Ebony. "He flies aggressively [and] even hunts and fishes with unusual dedication."

An only child of two teachers, Fred Gregory grew up in an integrated neighborhood in Washington, D.C., and early learned the importance of education and hard work. He also received a healthy dose of religion from his paternal grandfather, who was a minister at a local Congregational church. Although Gregory's parents tried to protect him against demonstrations of racism, his father was a prime example of its effects. Francis A. Gregory was an electrical engineer who was limited to teaching professions due to the prejudices of the day. Gregory's uncle, Charles Richard Drew, was a famous surgeon and pioneer in blood plasma production and preservation. Dr. Drew helped prove that there was no difference between white blood and black blood, but couldn't overcome resistance against putting the blood of one race into another.

Pursued Education and Adventure

"Oh, he was adventuresome," Nora Drew Gregory described her son to Ebony. The young Gregory developed an obsession with speed, an interest he apparently developed from his father. By age ten he was racing small boats off Columbia Beach in Maryland, near his home. He was also very active in his Boy Scout troop as a youth, an experience that helped stimulate his desire to pursue a military career.

Gregory was bussed across town to attend an all-black school until eighth grade, when schools in his town were integrated. The sacred status of education in the Gregory family was vividly demonstrated one day when students staged a boycott to protest the integration and townspeople said that they would remove black children from the school. The young Gregory attended anyway and was the only student to show up for his class. Despite facing taunts from white students while in high school, Gregory did well and during that time further developed his interest in entering the military service. After becoming a member of the Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC), he was introduced to military aircraft during visits to nearby Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland and was soon hooked on flying.

In the 1950s Gregory met a member of the Thunderbirds, an Air Force acrobatic flying team, who told him about the new United States Air Force Academy about to open its doors in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Gregory was interested, but decided to stay with family tradition and apply to Amherst College, where his grandfather had attended. Luckily, his father intervened to help the young man do what he loved. Against the odds, the elder Gregory persuaded U.S. Representative Adam Clayton Powell of Harlem to sponsor his son's application. When Fred Gregory enrolled in the U.S. Air Force Academy in the early 1960s, he was the only black in his class. Occasional resistance against his presence on campus did not affect his performance, however, and he excelled as a cadet, student, and athlete. Gregory graduated from the academy in 1964, in a class that produced 25 generals.

Upon graduation, Gregory hoped to become a teacher of military history at the academy or an engineer, but he opted for helicopter flight training at Stead Air Force Base in Nevada because he thought his subsequent assignments would be more pleasing to his wife. He was given his wings in 1965, and after serving as helicopter rescue pilot at Vance Air Force Base in Oklahoma, was shipped to Vietnam to serve as a combat rescue pilot. His primary duties as pilot of an H-43 helicopter in Vietnam were search and rescue and fire suppression. Gregory was awarded a Distinguished Flying Cross in 1967 for rescuing four Marines from a downed helicopter during intense enemy fire.

Tested Cutting-Edge Aircraft

After flying 550 combat missions during a year of distinguished service in Vietnam, Gregory spent the next part of his career learning to fly and test the most advanced aircraft operated by the U.S. armed forces. Gregory flew the UH-1F missile support helicopter in Missouri, and F-4 Phantom Combat jets in Texas, before becoming a U.S. Navy test pilot at the Patuxent River Naval Air Station in Maryland. After his test pilot training, he was assigned to the 4950th Test Wing at Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio as an operational test pilot flying both jet fighters and helicopters. In 1974 he took on a temporary duty assignment as a research test pilot at the NASA Langley Research Center in Virginia. Gregory returned to Vietnam in 1975 during the American evacuation to fly refugees from the American embassy in Saigon to carriers offshore.

At a Glance...

Born Frederick Drew Gregory on January 7, 1941, in Washington, D.C.; son of Francis A. (an educator) and Nora Drew Gregory; married Barbara Archer (a clinical social worker), 1964; children: Frederick, Jr., Heather Lynn. Education : United States Air Force Academy, BS, 1964; George Washington University, MS, 1977.

Career : National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), research test pilot, 1974-78, selected for astronaut training program, 1978, worked in Shuttle Avionics Integration Laboratory, 1979-83, piloted Challenger on Spacelab 3 mission, 1985, commanded crew of orbiter Discovery, 1989, commanded crew of orbiter Atlantis, 1991, appointed Associate Administrator, Office of Safety and Mission Quality, 1992; Deputy Administrator, NASA, 2002; Acting Administrator, NASA, 2005. Military Service : U.S. Air Force, helicopter rescue pilot, 1965-66, tour of duty in Vietnam, 1966-67, missile support helicopter pilot, 1967-68, member of F-4 Phantom combat crew training wing, 1968-71, operational test pilot, 1971-74.

Memberships : Society of Experimental Test Pilots; Order of Daedalians; American Helicopter Society; Air Force Academy Association of Graduates; Air Force Association; Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity; National Technical Association; Tuskegee Airmen; Young Astronaut Council, board member; Challenger Center for Space Science Education, board member; Virginia Air and Space Center-Hampton Roads History Center, board member.

Awards : Defense Superior Service Medal; Defense Meritorious Service Medal; Distinguished Flying Cross (2); Air Force Commendation Medal; NASA Space Flight Medals (3); NASA Outstanding Leadership Award; National Society of Black Engineers Distinguished National Scientist Award, 1979; Air Force Association, Ira Eaker Fellow; Presidential Rank Award for Distinguished Executives, 2003.

Addresses : Office NASA Headquarters, Washington, DC 20546.

By 1977 Gregory had grown tired of being a test pilot and was eager to move on to something else. At this time NASA announced that it was recruiting new astronauts, and he applied without delay. At first the Air Force was reluctant to submit Gregory's application to NASA, since most of his experience was in piloting helicopters rather than high-performance jets. Intent on fulfilling the dream of flying in outer space he had nurtured since he was a teenager, Gregory was prepared to resign his commission in order to be accepted by NASA. In 1978 he was one of 35 candidates accepted and, along with Guy Bluford and Ron McNair, became one of the first American black astronauts to enter the NASA program.

By August of 1979, Gregory had successfully undergone training and evaluation that qualified him to serve as a pilot on space shuttle crews. For the next four years he worked in a variety of capacities for NASA, including a stint in the Shuttle Avionics Integration Laboratory, until he was assigned to pilot the Challenger on the Spacelab 3 mission that took off in April of 1985. Gregory led a seven-man crew that performed medical and materials processing experiments during a week of round-the-clock scientific operations. Satellite deployments were also carried out during the flight.

First Black to Pilot American Spacecraft

Although he was the third black to fly into outer space, Gregory was the first to pilot an American spacecraft. He was tremendously moved by his first voyage beyond the earth's atmosphere, and for him it was a highly religious experience. According to They Had a Dream: The Story of African-American Astronauts, Gregory said, "when you're in space and you're looking down at earth and you see this perfect globe beneath you and you see the organization and non-chaos, you have to feel, as I did, that there was one great Beingone great force that made this happen." The astronaut was quoted in Ebony as saying: "From our vantage in space, we couldn't help but redefine the world, where we all are part of a whole global entity, based on the absence of political and arbitrary boundaries on planet Earth."

Following his maiden flight in outer space, Gregory served as mission control lead spacecraft communicator (CAPCOM) for subsequent flights of the space shuttle. He was communicating with the crew of the shuttle Challenger during its tragic flight in January of 1986. In November of 1989, he was appointed spacecraft commander of the orbiter Discovery on its fiveday flight and both piloted and landed the spacecraft. Gregory directed deployment of the shuttle's classified Department of Defense cargo and other payloads during its 79 orbits of earth. Next, Gregory took the helm for the orbiter Atlantis in November of 1991. The Atlantis was used to deploy the Defense Support Program (DSP) missile-warning satellite, and it also conducted other military-related operations. Once this mission was completed, Gregory's total time in outer space surpassed 455 hours.

In April of 1992 Gregory became Associate Administrator in the Office of Safety and Mission Quality at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C. When he retired as Air Force colonel in 1993, he had logged approximately 7,000 hours of flying time in more than 50 types of aircraft. A highly decorated pilot who has flown everything from helicopters and gliders to jet fighters and spacecraft, Colonel Frederick Gregory has made his mark as a major figure in American space travel during the space shuttle era. In 2002, U.S. President George W. Bush nominated him to be the associate administrator of NASA; the Senate confirmed his posting and he served faithfully until stepping in as acting administrator in 2005. As hearings for the permanent administrator of NASA continued, Gregory managed NASA with characteristic diligence and vision. He returned to his post as deputy administrator on April 14, 2005, when Michael Griffin was confirmed for NASA's top position. Named one of the fifty most important blacks in technology, Gregory remained committed to promoting the U.S. space program.

Sources

Books

Phelps, J. Alfred, They Had a Dream: The Story of African-American Astronauts, Presidio Press, 1994.

Periodicals

Ebony, May 1990, pp. 78-82.

Jet, November 20, 1989, p. 23; July 30, 1990, p. 15; July 15, 1991, p. 26; November 29. 2004, p. 46; March 21, 2005, p. 6.

New York Times, November 25, 1991, p. A-7.

Popular Mechanics, April 2003, p. 16.

Washington Post, December 5, 1991, p. A-22; April 29, 1992, p. A-21.

On-line

NASA, www.nasa.gov (April 28, 2005).

Ed Decker and Sara Pendergast

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Gregory, Frederick D. 1941–

Frederick D. Gregory 1941

Astronaut

At a Glance

Sources

Colonel Frederick D. Gregory became the first black to pilot a space shuttle when he led the Challenger on a seven-day mission in 1985. As an astronaut he has spent more than 455 hours in outer space, and he commanded three major space missions from 1985 to 1991. Colonel Gregory was a decorated helicopter pilot during the Vietnam War and a jet test pilot prior to working with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

Possessing a relentless work ethic and exceptional versatility, Gregory has piloted a wide range of aircraft. Most unusual about his ascent to astronaut status was that he began his career as a helicopter pilot and only later made the switch to fixed-wing piloting, whereas most astronauts have begun their careers as jet pilots. He does everything to the max, claimed Curtis M. Graves, the Deputy Director for Civil Affairs at NASA, in Ebony. He flies aggressively [and] even hunts and fishes with unusual dedication.

An only child of two teachers, Fred Gregory grew up in an integrated neighborhood in Washington, D.C., and early learned the importance of education and hard work. He also received a healthy dose of religion from his paternal grandfather, who was a minister at a local Congregational church. Although Gregorys parents tried to protect him against demonstrations of racism, his father was a prime example of its effects. Francis A. Gregory was an electrical engineer who was limited to teaching professions due to the prejudices of the day. Gregorys uncle, Charles Richard Drew, was a famous surgeon and pioneer in blood plasma production and preservation. Dr. Drew helped prove that there was no difference between white blood and black blood, but couldnt overcome resistance against putting the blood of one race into another.

Oh, he was adventuresome, Nora Drew Gregory described her son to Ebony. The young Gregory developed an obsession with speed, an interest he apparently developed from his father. By age ten he was racing small boats off Columbia Beach in Maryland, near his home. He was also very active in his Boy Scout troop as a youth, an experience that helped stimulate his desire to pursue a military career.

Gregory was bussed across town to attend an all-black school until eighth grade, when schools in his town were integrated. The sacred status of education in the Gregory family was vividly demonstrated one day when students staged a boycott to protest the integration and townspeople said that they

At a Glance

Born Frederick Drew Gregory, January 7, 1941, in Washington, D.C.; son of Francis A. (an educator) and Nora Drew Gregory; married Barbara Archer (a clinical social worker), 1964; children: Frederick, Jr., Heather Lynn. Education: United States Air Force Academy, B.S., 1964; George Washington University, M.S., 1977.

National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), research test pilot, 1974-78, selected for astronaut training program, 1978, worked in Shuttle Avionics Integration Laboratory, 1979-83, piloted Challenger on Spacelab 3 mission, 1985, commanded crew of orbiter Discovery, 1989, commanded crew of orbiter Atlantis, 1991, appointed Associate Administrator, Office of Safety and Mission Quality, 1992. Has written or cowritten several published papers on aircraft handling qualities and cockpit design; serves on the board of the Young Astronaut Council, Challenger Center for Space Science Education, and Virginia Air and Space Center-Hampton Roads History Center. Military Service: U.S. Air Force, helicopter rescue pilot, 1965-66, tour of duty in Vietnam, 1966-67, missile support helicopter pilot, 1967-68, member of F-4 Phantom combat crew training wing, 1968-71, operational test pilot, 1971-74;

Member; Society of Experimental Test Pilots; Order of Daedalians; American Helicopter Society; Air Force Academy Association of Graduates; Air Force Association; Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity; National Technical Association; Tuskegee Airmen.

Selected awards: Defense Superior Service Medal; Defense Meritorious Service Medal; Distinguished Flying Cross (2); Air Force Commendation Medal; NASA Space Flight Medals (3); NASA Outstanding Leadership Award; National Society of Black Engineers Distinguished National Scientist Award, 1979; Ira Eaker Fellow, Air Force Association.

Addresses: Office Office of Safety and Mission Quality, NASA Headquarters, Washington, DC.

would remove black children from the school. The young Gregory attended anyway and was the only student to show up for his class. Despite facing taunts from white students while in high school, Gregory did well and during that time further developed his interest in entering the military service. After becoming a member of the Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC), he was introduced to military aircraft during visits to nearby Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland and was soon hooked on flying.

In the 1950s Gregory met a member of the Thunderbirds, an Air Force acrobatic flying team, who told him about the new United States Air Force Academy about to open its doors in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Gregory was interested, but decided to stay with family tradition and apply to Amherst College, where his grandfather had attended. Luckily, his father intervened to help the young man do what he loved. Against the odds, the elder Gregory persuaded U.S. Representative Adam Clayton Powell of Harlem to sponsor his sons application. When Fred Gregory enrolled in the U.S. Air Force Academy in the early 1960s, he was the only black in his class. Occasional resistance against his presence on campus did not affect his performance, however, and he excelled as a cadet, student, and athlete. Gregory graduated from the academy in 1964, in a class that produced 25 generals.

Upon graduation, Gregory hoped to become a teacher of military history at the academy or an engineer, but he opted for helicopter flight training at Stead Air Force Base in Nevada because he thought his subsequent assignments would be more pleasing to his wife. He was given his wings in 1965, and after serving as helicopter rescue pilot at Vance Air Force Base in Oklahoma, was shipped to Vietnam to serve as a combat rescue pilot. His primary duties as pilot of an H-43 helicopter in Vietnam were search and rescue and fire suppression. Gregory was awarded a Distinguished Flying Cross in 1967 for rescuing four Marines from a downed helicopter during intense enemy fire.

After flying 550 combat missions during a year of distinguished service in Vietnam, Gregory spent the next part of his career learning to fly and then testing the most advanced aircraft operated by the U.S. armed forces. Gregory flew the UH-IF missile support helicopter in Missouri, and F-4 Phantom Combat jets in Texas, before becoming a U.S. Navy test pilot at the Patuxent River Naval Air Station in Maryland. After his test pilot training, he was assigned to the 4950th Test Wing at Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio as an operational test pilot flying both jet fighters and helicopters. In 1974 he took on a temporary duty assignment as a research test pilot at the NASA Langley Research Center in Virginia. Gregory returned to Vietnam in 1975 during the American evacuation to fly refugees from the American embassy in Saigon to carriers offshore.

By 1977 Gregory had grown tired of being a test pilot and was eager to move on to something else. At this time NASA announced that it was recruiting new astronauts, and he applied without delay. At first the Air Force was reluctant to submit Gregorys application to NASA, since most of his experience was in piloting helicopters rather than high-performance jets. Intent on fulfilling the dream of flying in outer space he had nurtured since he was a teenager, Gregory was prepared to resign his commission in order to be accepted by NASA. In 1978 he was one of 35 candidates accepted and, along with Guy Bluford and Ron McNair, became one of the first American black astronauts to enter the NASA program.

By August of 1979, Gregory had successfully undergone training and evaluation that qualified him to serve as a pilot on space shuttle crews. For the next four years he worked in a variety of capacities for NASA, including a stint in the Shuttle Avionics Integration Laboratory, until he was assigned to pilot the Challenger on the Spacelab 3 mission that took off in April of 1985. Gregory led a seven-man crew that performed medical and materials processing experiments during a week of round-the-clock scientific operations. Satellite deployments were also carried out during the flight.

Although he was the third black to fly into outer space, Gregory was the first to pilot an American spacecraft. He was tremendously moved by his first voyage beyond the earths atmosphere, and for him it was a highly religious experience. According to They Had a Dream: The Story of African-American Astronauts, Gregory said, when youre in space and youre looking down at earth and you see this perfect globe beneath you and you see the organization and non-chaos, you have to feel, as I did, that there was one great Beingone great force that made this happen. The astronaut was quoted in Ebony as saying: From our vantage in space, we couldnt help but redefine the world, where we all are part of a whole global entity, based on the absence of political and arbitrary boundaries on planet Earth.

Following his maiden flight in outer space, Gregory served as mission control lead spacecraft communicator (CAPCOM) for subsequent flights of the space shuttle. He was communicating with the crew of the shuttle Challenger during its tragic flight in January of 1986. In November of 1989, he was appointed spacecraft commander of the orbiter Discovery on its five-day flight and both piloted and landed the spacecraft. Gregory directed deployment of the shuttles classified Department of Defense cargo and other payloads during its 79 orbits of earth. Next, Gregory took the helm for the orbiter Atlantis in November of 1991. The Atlantis was used to deploy the Defense Support Program (DSP) missile-warning satellite, and it also conducted other military-related operations. Once this mission was completed, Gregorys total time in outer space surpassed 455 hours.

In April of 1992 Gregory became Associate Administrator in the Office of Safety and Mission Quality at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C. By July of 1993 he had logged up over 6,976 hours of flying time in more than 50 types of aircraft. A highly decorated pilot who has flown everything from helicopters and gliders to jet fighters and spacecraft, Colonel Frederick Gregory has made his mark as a major figure in American space travel during the space shuttle era.

Sources

Books

Phelps, J. Alfred, They Had a Dream: The Story of African-American Astronauts, Presidio Press, 1994.

Periodicals

Ebony, May 1990, pp. 78-82.

Jet, November 20, 1989, p. 23; July 30, 1990, p. 15; July 15, 1991, p. 26.

New York Times, November 25, 1991, p. A-7.

Washington Post, December 5, 1991, p. A-22; April 29, 1992, p. A-21.

Ed Decker

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Gregory, Frederick D. 1941–." Contemporary Black Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. 24 Oct. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Gregory, Frederick D. 1941–." Contemporary Black Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 24, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/gregory-frederick-d-1941

"Gregory, Frederick D. 1941–." Contemporary Black Biography. . Retrieved October 24, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/gregory-frederick-d-1941