Robert Henry Lawrence was born in Chicago, Oct 2, 1935. He graduated in the top 10% of his class. In 1956 he graduated from Bradley University with a BA in Chemistry. While in college he enlisted in the ROTC and distinguished himself, receiving the commission of 2nd Lieutenant in the Air Force Reserve Program. In 1956 Lawrence completed flight training at Malden Air Force Base and was designated a US Air Force pilot. Over the next decade he accrued over 2,500 hours of flight time with 2,000 of those hours in jets. By age 25, Lawrence had completed an Air Force assignment as an instructor pilot for German Air Force trainees. The Air Force assigned him to flight test the Lockheed F-104 Starfighter. Lawrence investigated glide flight characteristics necessary for the design of unpowered spacecraft returning to Earth from orbit. NASA cited Lawrence for his accomplishments including the crucial flight maneuver data that in the agency's words, "contributed greatly to the development of the Space Shuttle." While still in the Air Force, Lawrence earned a Ph.D. in Chemistry from Ohio State University. In June of 1967 Lawrence was selected as an astronaut in the Manned Orbital Laboratory, making him the first Black astronaut selected for space travel. The Manned Orbital Laboratory Program was a precursor to the Shuttle Program. Just 6months later he was the backseat passenger flying as in instructor to a student pilot. The student made an approach to land but flared too late, causing the jet to crash. The pilot of the plane ejected successfully, however, Lawrence was killed instantly, leaving his wife Barbara and son Tracey. The Purple Heart was posthumously awarded to Lawrence. During his brief career, Lawrence earned the Air Force Commendation Medal, the Outstanding Unit Citation. On Dec 8,1997 his name was inscribed on the Space Mirror Memorial at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The Memorial was dedicated in 1991 to honor of all astronauts who have lost their lives on space missions or training for missions.