One of 1st Black engineers hired by NASA during Space Race dies after sudden illness


(Photo courtesy: Samuel J. Scott)

PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — Samuel Scott, one of the first four Black engineers hired by NASA Langley during the Space Race, died Friday morning after a sudden battle with an illness.

Scott unexpectedly fell ill Tuesday, March 2, and was immediately rushed to the emergency room at Sentara CarePlex Hospital in Hampton, according to his family.

After receiving intensive care, Scott’s family and friends say he died at 2:17 a.m. on March 5.

In 1962, shortly after graduating from the University of Pittsburg’s aeronautical engineering program, Scott took applied for a position with NASA Langley.

At the time, the research center needed engineers as the Space Race was well underway.

He was hired sight unseen, becoming one of the first Black male engineers — along with  Jim Williams, Thomas Byrdsong, and Physicist Alphonso Smith.

Scott and his Black engineering colleagues worked on the west side of the installation. 

Shortly after being hired, he went on to work with the group of Black women known as the “computers” and played an integral role in the July of 1969 landing when Astronaut Neil Armstrong uttered his famous words “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

Read more on Samuel Scott’s journey in an exclusive WAVY interview here.

Scott is survived by his wife, Ann Carol Scott, his brother, Albert Scott, his three sons, daughter, and four grandchildren.

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