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Hickenlooper, Bennet, Neguse Introduce Bill to Honor Edward J. Dwight, Jr. with Congressional Gold Medal

May 20, 2024

On Sunday, America’s First African American Astronaut Candidate Became the Oldest Person to Travel to Space

WASHINGTON – Recently, U.S. Senators John Hickenlooper and Michael Bennet 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.

“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!”

“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.”

“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.

In 1961, President John F. Kennedy invited Dwight 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.

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.

The text of the bill is available HERE.  


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