Ed Dwight

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Edward Joseph Dwight Jr.
Captain Edward J. Dwight Jr. in US Air Force.jpg
Dwight while serving as a Captain in the United States Air Force
Born (1933-09-09) September 9, 1933 (age 85)
NationalityAmerican
Alma materArizona State University & University of Denver
Known forSculpture
Military career
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branch United States Air Force
Years of service1953–1966
RankUS-O3 insignia.svg Captain
Websitewww.eddwight.com

Edward Joseph (Ed) Dwight Jr. (born September 9, 1933) is an African-American sculptor and former test pilot who was the first African American to be trained as an astronaut.

Early life[edit]

Dwight was born in the Kansas City, Kansas area on September 9, 1933 to Edward Dwight Sr. and Georgia Baker Dwight. His father played second baseman for the Kansas City Monarchs.[1]

As a child, he was an avid reader and talented artist who was mechanically gifted and enjoyed working with his hands.[1]

Education[edit]

Dwight attended grade school at Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Kansas City, Missouri. In 1951, he became the first African-American male to graduate from Bishop Ward High School, a private Roman Catholic high school in Kansas City, Kansas. He was a member of the National Honor Society and received a scholarship to attend the Kansas City Art Institute.[2][3][4]

Dwight enrolled in Kansas City Junior College (later renamed Metropolitan Community College) and graduated with an Associate of Arts degree in Engineering in 1953. He subsequently enlisted in the United States Air Force and completed his airman's and cadet pre-flight training at Lackland Air Force Base near San Antonio, Texas. He then traveled to Malden Air Base in Malden, Missouri to finish his primary flight training. He received a commission as an Air Force second lieutenant in 1955 before being assigned to Williams Air Force Base, southeast of Phoenix, Arizona.[2][3]

While training to become a test pilot, Dwight attended night classes at Arizona State University. In 1957, he graduated cum laude with a B.S. in aeronautical engineering.[2][3] Dwight later completed Air Force courses in experimental test piloting and aerospace research at Edwards Air Force Base in 1961 and 1962, respectively.[5]

Confronted with racial discrimination and a lack of career opportunities, Dwight resigned from the Air Force in 1966. He moved to Denver and earned an M.F.A. degree in sculpture from the University of Denver in 1977.[6]

Piloting[edit]

American-black-sculptor-and-former-test-pilot-Edward-Joseph-Ed-391768059582.jpg

Dwight joined the United States Air Force in 1953.[7] In 1957, while serving as an Air Force test pilot, he earned a degree in Aeronautical Engineering from Arizona State University.[1][7] He received the rank of captain while serving in the Air Force.[8]

Astronaut training[edit]

In 1961, the Kennedy administration selected Dwight as the first African American astronaut trainee,[7] at the suggestion of the National Urban League's Whitney Young. His selection garnered international media attention, and Dwight appeared on the covers of newsmagazines such as Ebony, Jet, and Sepia.[1][8]

Despite facing discrimination from other astronauts, Dwight persevered until the assassination of President Kennedy, after which he was assigned to be a liaison officer in Germany to a non-existent German test pilot school. As a result of "racial politics" (to use his own words), he resigned from the Air Force in 1966.[1][8]"[9]

Sculpting[edit]

After resigning from the Air Force, Dwight worked as an engineer, in real estate, and for IBM.[7] He learned how to operate the University of Denver's metal casting foundry in the mid 1970s, and received a Master of Fine Arts from the University in 1977.[1][8]

Each of Dwight's pieces involves blacks and civil rights activists. Most of the pieces depict only black people, but the Underground Railroad Sculpture in Battle Creek also honors Erastus and Sarah Hussey, who were conductors on the Underground Railroad. Dwight's first major works was a commission in 1974 to create a sculpture of Colorado Lieutenant Governor George L. Brown. Soon after, he was commissioned by the Colorado Centennial Commission to create a series of bronze sculptures entreated "Black Frontier in the American West."[7]

Soon after his completion of his "Black Frontier in the American West" exhibit, Dwight created a series of over 70 bronze sculptures at the St. Louis Arch Museum at the request of the National Park Service. The series, "Jazz: An American Art Form", depicts the evolution of jazz and features jazz performers such as Louis Armstrong, Miles Davis, Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Benny Goodman, and Charlie Parker.[7]

Dwight owns and operates Ed Dwight Studios, based in Denver, Colorado.[1]

He is recognized for innovative use of negative space in sculpting.[1]

Notable sculptures[edit]

Dwight has created over 100 public art sculptures, including:[10]

Name Picture Location Unveiled Notes
African American History Monument South Carolina African American History Monument (7917141422).jpg South Carolina State House grounds – Columbia, South Carolina March 29, 2001 [1][10]
Alex Haley / Kunta Kinte Memorial Alex Haley-Kunta Kinte Memorial (1398338293).jpg The City Dock – Annapolis, Maryland December 1999 [1][10]
Black Revolutionary War Patriots Memorial Constitution Gardens – Washington, D.C. 1991 [1]
Captain Walter Dyett Statue Chicago, Illinois [10]
Concerto Folly TheaterKansas City, Missouri [10]
Dr. Benjamin Mays Morehouse College Commons – Atlanta, Georgia [10]
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Anne Arundel Community CollegeAnnapolis, Maryland 2006 [10]
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Houston, Texas 2007 [10]
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial City Park – Denver, Colorado 2002 [1][10]
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. & Coretta Scott King Allentown, Pennsylvania 2011 [10]
Gateway to Freedom International Memorial to the Underground Railroad Gateway to Freedom International Memorial to the Underground Railroad - Detroit - front.jpg Philip A. Hart Plaza – Detroit, Michigan 2001 [1][10][11]
George Washington Williams bust Ohio StatehouseColumbus, Ohio [1]
Hank Aaron Atlanta–Fulton County StadiumAtlanta, Georgia 1982 [10]
Inauguration of History and Hope – Inaugural Sculpture Scene of President Barack Obama Touring exhibit 2010 [10]
Jack Trice Memorial Iowa State UniversityAmes, Iowa [10]
Jazz: An American Art Form St. Louis Arch Museum – St. Louis, Missouri [7]
John Hope Franklin Tower of Reconciliation Tulsa, Oklahoma [10]
Mayor Harold Washington Harold Washington Cultural Center – Chicago, Illinois 2004 [10]
Memorial to Rosa Parks, Mother of the Civil Rights Movement Grand Rapids, Michigan 2010 [10]
Mother of Africa Chapel Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception – Washington, D.C. 1997 [10]
Mr. Frederick Douglass Frederick Douglass National Historic Site – Washington, D.C. 1980 Dwight's first commission[10]
Quincy Jones Sculpture Park Chicago, Illinois [1]
Soldiers Memorial Lincoln UniversityJefferson City, Missouri 2007 [10]
Texas African American History Memorial Texas State CapitolAustin, Texas 2016 [12] Erected by the Texas African American History Memorial Foundation.
Tower of Freedom International Memorial to the Underground Railroad Underground Railroad Monument - Windsor, Ontario.JPG Civic Esplanade – Windsor, Ontario 2001 [1][10][11]
Underground Railroad Memorial The Underground Railroad Sculpture in Battle Creek, Michigan (2981829830).jpg Kellogg Foundation headquarters – Battle Creek, Michigan 1994 [10]
United House of Prayer for All People Lincoln Cemetery – Suitland, Maryland 2008 [10]
William E. Smith, Director of Airports Denver, Colorado [10]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p "Ed Dwight". thehistorymakers.com. The HistoryMakers. June 19, 2002. Retrieved July 25, 2015.
  2. ^ a b c Robinson, Louie (July 1963). "First Negro Astronaut Candidate". Ebony. XVIII (9): 71–81.
  3. ^ a b c Gubert, Betty Kaplan; Sawyer, Miriam; Fannin, Caroline (2001). Distinguished African Americans in Aviation and Space Science. Westport, CT: Oryx Press. pp. 113–117. ISBN 1573562467.
  4. ^ "About Ed Dwight". Official website.
  5. ^ Sanders, Charles L. (June 1965). "The Troubles of 'Astronaut' Edward Dwight". Ebony. XX (8): 29–36.
  6. ^ White III, Frank (February 1984). "The Sculptor Who Would Have Gone to Space". Ebony. XXXIX (4): 54–58.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g "Behind the Scenes". eddwight.com. Ed Dwight Studios, Inc. Retrieved July 25, 2015.
  8. ^ a b c d White, Frank III. (February 1984). "The Sculptor Who Would Have Gone into Space". Ebony. Google Books. Retrieved July 25, 2015.
  9. ^ Brune, AM (May 28, 2015). "Ed Dwight shows 'the angst, all the emotions' of black heroes in sculpture". The Guardian. Retrieved February 23, 2019. Originally from Kansas City, he joined the US air force in 1953, where he served as a fighter pilot and was appointed by President John F Kennedy to train as the country’s first black astronaut. He left in 1966, he said, after racial politics forced him out of NASA and back into the regular officer corps.
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x "Memorials & Public Art". eddwight.com. Ed Dwight Studios, Inc. Retrieved July 25, 2015.
  11. ^ a b "Underground Railroad Statuary and Memorial". detroit1701.org. Retrieved July 25, 2015.
  12. ^ Texas State Preservation Board

External links[edit]

  • Official website
  • DiMeo, Nate, The Ballad of Captain Dwight, Episode 75, The Memory Palace, August 28, 2015. An episode of The Memory Palace podcast about Edward Dwight, centered on his astronaut training. Includes parts of an interview.