Charles Frank Bolden, Jr., NASA’s first permanent black administrator, was born to Charles Frank and Ethel Bolden, both teachers, on August 19th, 1946 in Columbia, South Carolina. He rose to the rank of Major General in the United States Marine Corps and was a National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) astronaut before being named to head the U.S. space agency.
Bolden graduated from C.A. Johnson High School in Columbia, S.C. in 1964. In 1968, he earned a Bachelor’s degree in Electrical Science from the United States Naval Academy. He completed a Master’s degree in Systems Management from the University of Southern California in 1977.
After completing his undergraduate studies at the United States Naval Academy, Bolden accepted a commission as a second lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps. After completing his flight training, he became a Naval Aviator in May of 1970. From 1972 to 1973, Bolden flew more than 100 flights into North and South Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia while assigned at the Royal Thai Air Base Nam Phong, Thailand.
Upon returning to the United States in 1973, Bolden held various Marine Corps assignments at the Marine Corps Air Stations in Los Angeles and El Toro, California. In 1979, Bolden graduated from the United States Naval Test Pilot School and was then assigned to the Naval Air Test Center’s System’s Engineering and Strike Aircraft Test Directorates.
In 1980, Bolden was selected as an astronaut candidate by NASA and became an astronaut in 1981. During his time at NASA, Bolden went into space four times between 1986 and 1994, commanding two of the missions.
Bolden returned to the Marine Corps in 1994 as Deputy Commandant of Midshipmen at the Naval Academy. Shortly afterward he was promoted to Deputy Commanding General of I Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF). From February to June of 1998, Bolden was the Commanding General of I MEF in Operation Desert Thunder, Kuwait. In July of 1998, Bolden was promoted to Major General and assumed the position of Deputy Commander of all United States Forces in Japan. From 2000 to 2002, he was the Commanding General of the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing. Bolden retired from the Marine Corps in August of 2004. On July 17, 2009, President Barack Obama appointed Bolden as the administrator of NASA.
Bolden has received numerous awards and distinctions including Honorary Doctor of Science Degree from the University of South Carolina (1984), Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from Winthrop College (1986), the University of Southern California’s Alumni Award of Merit (1989), the Navy Astronaut Badge, and the Defense Superior Service Medal. Bolden is a member of Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity.
Charles Bolden married Alexis (Jackie) Walker in 1968. The couple have two children, Anthony Che and Kelly Michelle. Bolden currently lives in Houston, Texas where he administers NASA .