During the Space Race between Cold War rivals the United States and the former Soviet Union, there was stiff competition between the nations to build spacecraft to explore the skies beyond the stratosphere. In 1960, David Jones, a Black man from Ohio, was the lone Black mechanic to work on NASA’s first spacecraft.
Jones, a native of Crawford County, which rests north of the City of Columbus, was recently profiled by a local Columbus newspaper. He was born in the 1920s and grew up dreaming of building airplanes as a child. After serving in the U.S. Coast Guard during World War II, Jones and a friend set up shop as mechanics in St. Louis.
In 1956, the first of Jones’ major accomplishments took place after he was hired by the McDonnell Aircraft Corporation to work as an airplane mechanic. But four years later, a supervisor instructed Jones to report to the company’s Space Program room and his fortunes were changed forever. In this room were the parts for the first space shuttle craft. In all, Jones worked on eight Mercury spacecraft, and 12 Gemini spacecraft.