Other Free Encyclopedias » Online Encyclopedia » Encyclopedia - Featured Articles » Contributed Topics from F-J

Gregory, Frederick D.(1941–) - Astronaut, Changes Direction and Makes History, Chronology

air force pilot african

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has had its share of influential African Americans involved in its program, but only a few have risen to high ranking administrative positions. Colonel Frederick D. Gregory is one of those few.

Gregory was born in Washington D.C. on January 7, 1941, at the Freedmen’s Hospital. His parents are Francis A. Gregory and Nora Drew Gregory. Gregory was born into a family of distinction and accomplishment. His great-grandfather was enrolled at prestigious Howard University and became a member of the university’s first graduating class. Added to that legacy, Dr. Charles Drew is Gregory’s uncle on his mother’s side. Charles Drew is known throughout the world as an innovative surgeon who assisted in the development and introduction of blood banks for use during World War II.

The accomplishments and fame of the Gregory family allowed Frederick to have a relatively privileged childhood, much like many American boys at that time. He was a member of the Boy Scouts and his family enjoyed summer vacations at their cabin located on Lake Erie. Gregory was not immune, however, to segregation and the Jim Crow laws of the day. The Boy Scouts were segregated, so he attended a scout camp for African American boys. The family vacations provided a way to involve the Gregorys in activities outside the city where there were little to no activities for African American families.

During the late 1950s the racial barriers slowly began to unravel. Gregory was in a good position to take advantage of opportunities that were once denied to African Americans. He attended integrated Anacostia High School, graduating in 1958. That same year, he entered the Air Force Academy. Gregory studied military engineering there and received a B.S. in 1964. After his graduation, he was admitted for pilot training at Stead Air Force Base in Nevada. While he attended Stead, Gregory also attended undergraduate helicopter training. His hard work and determination earned him his wings in 1965. His first assignment from October 1965 to May 1966 was to serve as an H-43 helicopter rescue pilot at Vance Air Force Base in Oklahoma.

Gregory’s military expertise was called upon in June 1966, when he was assigned to be an H-43 combat rescue pilot at Danang Air Base in Vietnam. This assignment involved flying search and rescue missions over the demilitarized zone in Vietnam. He returned to the United States in 1967, where he did more training as a fixed-wing pilot, traveling to Air Force bases in Texas and Arizona. He attended the United States Naval Test Pilot School in Maryland from September 1970 to June 1971. After he finished this training he traveled to Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio, where he served as an operational test pilot.

Changes Direction and Makes History

Gregory’s next stop was the NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia in June 1974. He pursued a master’s degree in information systems from George Washington University in 1977. His service at the Langley Research Center involved being a research test pilot until he ultimately was selected for the Astronaut Program in January 1978. Gregory went on to fly three shuttle missions after his training and actually made history with two of these missions. On April 29, 1985 he became the first African American to pilot a spacecraft. In 1989 Gregory made history again when he became the first African American to command a space mission.

Gregory continued his service with NASA, serving as associate administrator for space flights and associate administrator for the Office of Safety and Mission Assurance. He retired as a colonel in the U.S. Air Force in December 1993. In 2002, Gregory was nominated by President Bush to serves as deputy administrator of NASA. With the backing of the Senate, he accepted this nomination and served as the agency’s chief operating officer. His responsibilities included management and direction of many of NASA’s programs and daily operations and activities.

Gregory’s military honors are many, including two Distinguished Flying Crosses, sixteen air medals, three space flight medals, two Outstanding Leadership Medals, plus the Legion of Merit, Distinguished Service Medal, Defense Superior Service Medal, and Air Force Commendation Medal.

In 2003, Gregory received the Presidential Award for Distinguished Executives. He has received numerous awards such as the National Intelligence Medal, the U.S. Air Force Academy Distinguished Graduate Award, the National Society of Black Engineers Distinguished National Scientist Award, the President’s Award, the George Washington University Distinguished Alumni Award, and honorary doctorates from the College of Aeronautics, the University of the District of Columbia, and Southwestern University.

Gregory and his wife Barbara are the parents of two children and four grandchildren. Their son, Frederick Jr,. is a captain in the U.S. Air Force and graduate of Stanford University. Heather Lynn, their daughter, is a social worker and graduate of Sweet Briar College.

In 2004 and 2005, Gregory was designated as one of the 50 Most Important Blacks in Technology. In 2005, Gregory announced his retirement from his position as deputy administrator, ending a career that demonstrated excellence and great achievement.



Born in Washington, D.C. on January 7


Graduates from Anacostia High School in Washington D.C.; enters Air Force Academy


Graduates from Air Force Academy with a B.S. in military engineering


Receives his wings 1966 Works as an H-43 combat rescue pilot in Vietnam


Attends Naval Test Pilot School in Maryland


Becomes detailed to the NASA Langley Research Center in Virginia


Earns a master’s degree in information systems from George Washington University


Selected for the Astronaut Program


Becomes the first African American to pilot a spacecraft


Becomes the first African American to command a space mission


Accepts position as deputy administrator of NASA


Receives Presidential Award for Distinguished Executives


Resigns as deputy administrator

Gregory I the Great, Saint [next] [back] Greenfield, Susan (Adele), Baroness

User Comments

Your email address will be altered so spam harvesting bots can't read it easily.
Hide my email completely instead?

Cancel or