Dr. Ronald McNair remembered as inspiration for Lake City students on 34th anniversary of Challenger disaster

Pee Dee

LAKE CITY, SC (WBTW) – A city in the Pee Dee honors one of its most well-known heroes with a special tribute on the anniversary of that man’s tragic death.

Dr. Ronald McNair’s legacy in Lake City is used to inspire students to follow what they’re passionate about through their education.

That’s what his family says he did to become a respected scientist and astronaut.

“Had it not been for a teacher like Mr. Fleming, who taught chemistry, Ron would have never gone up to Virginia Union University for that summer program that gave him the idea that, one day, he could get a Ph.D,” said Carl McNair, who’s Dr. McNair’s older brother.

Every Jan. 28, Lake City remembers the life of the explorer it shared with the nation with a candlelight vigil. Dr. McNair was one of the seven astronauts killed in the Challenger space shuttle explosion in 1986 on his second trip to space. He was 35 years old.

His wife Cheryl says she remembers how inspired her husband was the first time he was high above Earth.

“He looked back at the world from space and said that it looked like an oasis, like a beautiful, bright oasis,” she said.

He loved playing the saxophone and had a sixth-degree karate black belt, but it was Dr. McNair’s passion for science he wanted to show kids the most.

“He went to many cities across the nation and spoke to many youth to encourage them,” said Cheryl McNair.

That’s what Dr. McNair’s family hopes his legacy does for the next generation in his hometown.

“We have some brilliant minds, you’d be amazed,” said Mayor Lovith Anderson Jr. “Invite our children to follow the path that Dr. McNair did.”

“I hope that they know that coming out of this area, it’s a small city, but they can achieve,” said Cheryl McNair.

Tuesday night’s vigil also included 73 seconds of silence, which symbolizes the amount of time the Challenger was in the sky before the explosion.

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