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Dr. Ronald McNair Park

Dr. Ronald E. McNair Park

This text is part of Parks’ Historical Signs Project and can be found posted within the park.

Dr. Ronald E. McNair (1950-1986), a distinguished physicist and astronaut, was born and raised in Lake City, South Carolina. He received a doctorate in physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1976. After working as a physicist for Hughes Research Laboratories, he was chosen as a candidate for astronaut in 1978 by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Apart from his life as an astronaut, McNair possessed a black belt in karate and was an accomplished saxophonist.

In 1984, McNair became the second African-American to make a flight into space. He was a mission specialist on the space shuttle Challenger. His life was cut short on his next mission, when the Challenger exploded shortly after take-off from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on January 28, 1986. A public park first opened on this site in 1905, but the park did not take its current shape until 1911. McKim, Mead and White, the designers of the Brooklyn Museum, had urged that this property be claimed as parkland in order to preserve the open space east of the museum. In 1926, the park was named for Joseph A. Guider (1870-1926), who died while serving as Brooklyn Borough President. This park was renamed for McNair in 1986. Another park, on Coney Island Avenue, is named for Guider.

In 1994 the park underwent a $924,000 capital renovation project that added bluestone paving, fencing, game tables and World’s Fair benches. A bronze portrait sculpture of the astronaut by Ogundipe Fayomi, commissioned by Parks & Recreation and the Department of Cultural Affairs’ Percent for Art Program, was installed at that time.

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