Entries in Ronald E. McNair (1)


Challenger Astronaut Ronald E. McNair's Legacy Honored

Photo Courtesy - NASA/ABC News(LAKE CITY, S.C.) -- Twenty five years ago the nation watched in horror as the space shuttle Challenger exploded in the air, creating a massive fireball just 73 seconds after launch from Florida's Kennedy Space Center. The tragedy shook the entire world and prompted NASA to evaluate its shuttle program and review the future of space travel. All seven astronauts on board were killed.

Among the crew members was Ronald E. McNair. A physicist recognized nationally for his work in the field of laser physics who was also notable for being the second African American to fly in space, McNair broke barriers since his childhood in the small community of Lake City, South Carolina. He grew up in the farming town that's located about 90 miles north of Charleston.

In 1959, when McNair was just nine years old, he famously made a scene at the Lake City Public Library. Residents stared the African American boy down and watched as he walked to the main counter and attempted to check out books on advanced science and calculus. The librarian refused to release them and told him, "We don't circulate books to Negroes." The passionate young man wouldn't budge, and instead hoisted himself onto the counter and said he wasn't leaving without the books.

Today, more than 20 schools around the country, several monuments, and the main highway through the town of Lake City are named after Ronald McNair.

His legacy is now being honored in a weeklong celebration which includes a parade, candlelit vigil, and banquet. Perhaps the most important of the week's events was the opening of the building where over a half-century ago a brave nine-year-old boy refused to leave without checking out books.

The Lake City Public Library building has been restored and was introduced on Saturday as the Dr. Ronald E. McNair Life History Center. The former library is equipped for community gatherings and classroom visits, and the center's walls feature highlights from McNair's life in Lake City and career with NASA.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio