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Former astronaut donates archive to USC

Staff Report //May 14, 2018//

Former astronaut donates archive to USC

Staff Report //May 14, 2018//

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Retired NASA administrator and former astronaut Charles F. Bolden Jr., a Columbia native, has donated his personal archive to the University of South Carolina.

Bolden, a 1964 graduate of C.A. Johnson High School, made four trips into orbit on a space shuttle and later became the first African-American to lead NASA, serving as its administrator from 2009 to 2017.

Former astronaut and Columbia native Charles Bolden has donated his personal archive to the University of South Carolina. (Photo/University of South Carolina)Bolden, now a resident of Mount Vernon, Va., said he still considers Columbia his home.

“That played a big part in my decision to place my collection at the University of South Carolina,” Bolden said in a news release. “The university honored Ron McNair and me in 1984 when we spoke at commencement and received honorary degrees. When my mother passed in 2002, South Caroliniana Library asked my brother, Warren, and me about making her work as an educator part of a permanent collection. I was incredibly impressed with how it was handled and how it has contributed to the growth of students. I’d like to think that my collection adds to her story and continues her work.”

Bolden’s mother, Ethel Martin Bolden, was an educator and school librarian at Waverly Elementary School and Perry Junior High School before teaching librarianship at Allen University and South Carolina State College in the 1960s. In 1968, she became the first African-American professional at Dreher High School, where she worked until her retirement in 1982.

“It’s an honor to steward not just Charles Bolden’s collection, but to have it join his mother’s collection we’ve held at the South Caroliniana Library for years,” said Tom McNally, dean of university libraries. “They’re both pioneers in many aspects, and their collections together document many firsts for not just South Carolinians but also African Americans.”

Charles Bolden’s collection features papers including letters, speeches, schedules, notes and calendars documenting his time as a student in the U.S. Naval Academy, the 100 missions he flew in the Vietnam War and his time at NASA. It also includes personal items he took into space such as toothbrushes and razors, along with cassette tapes with music by Patti LaBelle, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Eric Clapton.

Items Bolden took into space include these cassette tapes. (Photo/University of South Carolina)“Once we inventory and catalog all the items, which will take about a year, a portion of the collection will become a traveling exhibit,” McNally said. “We’ll share some of the unique items in the collection with schools, libraries and museums statewide so that students will have access to the amazing items it contains. It will inspire learners for generations to come.”

Bolden said a conversation with S.C. astronaut McNair, the second African-American to fly in space, pushed him to apply for the space program. The two astronauts became good friends, with Bolden staying close to McNair’s family after his death in the 1986 Challenger explosion.

“I hope this collection inspires students and people of all races, creeds and colors to look at my mom’s work and mine and see that there is no limit to what they can do in their lives if they take time to study and prepare and to take risks,” Bolden said.

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