Sonny Carter was a physician, professional soccer player, naval officer, and NASA astronaut. He was born Manley Lanier Carter, Jr. on August 15, 1947 in Macon, Georgia. He graduated from Lanier High School in 1965 and then went to on study at Emory University, where he received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Chemistry in 1969. While at Emory, Carter played collegiate soccer and ran track. He was team captain and most valuable player of the soccer team during his senior season. In 1970, Carter signed with the Atlanta Chiefs of the North American Soccer League for three seasons. Carter furthered his education and earned a Doctor of Medicine degree from Emory in 1973. He finished his internship in internal medicine at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta, Georgia. In 1974, Carter entered the Navy and finished flight surgeon school. On April 28, 1978 he was designated a Naval Aviator after finishing his flight r training in Beeville, TX. Throughout his naval career, Carter served as a fighter pilot flying F-4 Phantoms with the Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 333 and completed a nine month Mediterranean cruise aboard USS Forrestal.
In May 1984, after graduating from the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School, Carter was chosen by NASA. One year later, Carter became an astronaut and qualified for assignment as a mission specialist on future flight crews. Carter was assigned EVA Representative for the Mission Development Branch of the Astronaut Office for a time before he was assigned to the crew of STS-33. They launched the evening of November 22, 1989 from Kennedy Space Center, Florida aboard Space Shuttle Discovery. After 79 orbits of the Earth, the mission ended with a safe landing at Edwards Air Force Base, California on November 27, 1989. Following that mission, Carter was assigned as a mission specialist on the crew of STS-42.
On April 5, 1991, Carter died in the crash of Atlantic Southeast Airlines Flight 2311 in Brunswick, Georgia while traveling for NASA on a commercial airplane. Following his death, his name was given to the Sonny Carter Training Facility Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory, NASA’s underwater astronaut training facility. Also, Sonny Carter Elementary School in Macon, Georgia, which opened in 1993, was named for Carter. In 1989, Emory University inducted him in its Athletic Hall of Fame.