He graduated with honors in Aeronautical Engineering from the University of Oklahoma in 1959. He completed post graduate courses in the USAFAerospace Test Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base in 1964 and the Harvard Business School PMD Program in 1972.
His NASA career began as an Aeronautical Research Pilot at Lewis Research Center in 1959. Further assignments were held as a Research Pilot at the NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center in 1963 and as an astronaut at the Johnson Space Center in 1966. He served as back-up crew for the Apollo 8, Apollo 11, and Apollo 16 moon missions. He also flew as the Lunar Module Pilot on the aborted Apollo 13 lunar mission in 1970 which was dramatized in the Apollo 13 movie. He later flew five flights as the Commander of the Space Shuttle Enterprise in 1977 for the Approach and Landing Test Program at Edwards Air Force Base.