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Man who set record as oldest person to go to space graduated from high school in KCK

Ed Dwight
Posted at 9:15 PM, May 22, 2024

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Ed Dwight, America's first Black astronaut candidate, went to space on Sunday at 90 years old.

A former Air Force pilot, Dwight was selected by President John F. Kennedy in 1961 as the first Black astronaut candidate.

Even with the president's support, he faced discrimination in training and never advanced to the space program.

After waiting 60 years, this week he finally got his turn, making him the oldest person to reach space.

Ed Dwight

"It’s so important for the students and all the youth in the community to see someone achieving so highly at that age," said Brandon Duff, a coach at Bishop Ward High School. "Someone looks at them and allows them to have a standard and goal to reach as they get older."

Dwight's foundation actually began in Kansas City, Kansas. He was a student at Bishop Ward High School before schools were integrated.

"Makes you think that wasn't that long ago," said Micah Neely, a freshman at Bishop Ward.

Dwight was in the class of 1951. He was one of the first Black students admitted and to graduate from the catholic school.

"The Space Race," a National Geographic documentary, shares the stories of Black astronauts and their first pioneer — Ed Dwight.

"It just proves he's a fighter," Duff said. "He spent most of his youth, most of his young adulthood being told 'no.'"

Ed Dwight
Ed Dwight visiting Bishop Ward High School for a speaking engagement.

Dwight spoke at the school years ago and his class photo is still in the hallways along with every graduating class from the high school.

"I think it matters a great deal, especially for a lot of kids who grow up with nothing," Duff said. "A lot grow up with parents who never went to college; for a lot of these kids, the goal is to get out."

The 90-year-old is a living example of what can happen when you never give up chasing your dreams.

"I think it's really cool how somebody that came from around here, that looks like me, can go out there and do something so big," said Tyler Holmes, a junior at Bishop Ward.

KSHB 41 confirmed Dwight will receive a special honor. KCK Mayor Tyrone Garner will present Dwight with a proclamation and key to the city soon.