Scott attended George Carver Senior High School until integration occurred in Dade County Schools, and he entered Coral Gables High School. He was member of the Gables High band, and is remembered as one of the school's best trumpet players. He received a bachelor of arts degree in music from Florida State University in 1972 and a master of science degree in aeronautical engineering from the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School in 1980.
Scott entered Naval Aviation Officer Candidate School after graduating from Florida State University in December 1972. He completed flight training in fixed-wing and rotary-wing aircraft and was designated a Naval Aviator in August 1974. He then served a four-year tour of duty with Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron Light 33 (HSL-33) at the Naval Air Station North Island, California, flying the SH-2F Light Airborne Multi-Purpose System (LAMPS) helicopter.
In 1978 Scott was selected to attend the Naval Postgraduate School at Monterey, California, where he earned his master of science degree in aeronautical engineering with avionics.
After completing jet training in the TA-4J Skyhawk, Scott served a tour of duty with Fighter Squadron 84 (VF-84) at NAS Oceana, Virginia, flying the F-14 Tomcat. In June 1986 he was designated an Aerospace Engineering Duty Officer (AEDO). He served as a production test pilot at the Naval Aviation Depot, NAS Jacksonville, Florida, flying the F/A-18 Hornet and the A-7 Corsair aircraft. He was also assigned as Director of the Product Support (engineering) Department. He was next assigned as the Deputy Director of the Tactical Aircraft Systems Department at the Naval Air Development Center at Warminster, Pennsylvania. As a research and development project pilot, he flew the F-14, F/A-18 and A-7 Corsair II aircraft.
Scott has accumulated more than 5,000 hours of flight time in 20 different military and civilian aircraft, and more than 200 shipboard landings.
Additionally, Scott was an associate instructor of electrical engineering at Florida A&M University and Florida Community College at Jacksonville.
Scott was selected by NASA in March 1992, and reported to the Johnson Space Center in August 1992. He served as a mission specialist on STS-72 in 1996 and STS-87 in 1997, and logged a total of 24 days, 14 hours and 34 minutes in space, including three spacewalks totaling 19 hours and 26 minutes.
Scott retired from NASA and the US Navy at the end of July 1999 to accept a position at his alma mater, Florida State University, as Vice President for Student Affairs. He then served as director of the Florida Space Authority, where he attempted to promote the development of a commercial spaceport in Florida, but ultimately did not succeed. His responsibilities included the development of space-related industry and economic initiatives. He represented the State's interests in the development of space policies and programs and advised the governor and lieutenant governor on all civil, commercial and military space matters.
Scott left the Authority prior to its dissolution at the insistence of then-Governor Jeb Bush.
Scott is now the Dean of the College of Aeronautics at the Florida Institute of Technology in Melbourne, Florida.
STS-72 Endeavour (January 11, 1996 – January 20, 1996) was a nine-day flight during which the crew retrieved the Space Flyer Unit satellite (launched from Japan 10-months earlier), deployed and retrieved the OAST-Flyer satellite, and conducted two spacewalks to demonstrate and evaluate techniques to be used in the assembly of the International Space Station. The mission was accomplished in 142 orbits of the Earth, traveling 3.7 million miles, and logged Scott a total of 214 hours and 41 seconds in space, including his first EVA of 6 hours and 53 minutes.
STS-87 Columbia (November 19, 1997 – December 5, 1997) was the fourth US microgravity payload flight, and focused on experiments designed to study how the weightless environment of space affects various physical processes, and on observations of the Sun's outer atmospheric layers. Scott performed two spacewalks; the first, a 7-hour 43 minute EVA, featured the manual capture of a Spartan satellite, in addition to testing EVA tools and procedures for future Space Station assembly. The second spacewalk lasted five hours and also featured space station assembly tests. Testing of the AERCam Sprint was conducted during his EVA. The mission was accomplished in 252 Earth orbits, traveling 6.5 million miles in 376 hours and 34 minutes.
Scott has written a book about his experiences in space, Reflections From Earth Orbit, published by Apogee Books.
Scott belongs to the American Institute of Aeronautics & Astronautics, National Naval Officers Association, Naval Helicopter Association, Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia fraternity, Shotokan Karate Association, Association of International Tohgi Karate-Do, and Bronze Eagles Association of Texas.
In 2007, he received an honorary degree from Michigan State University for his work in space, which is regarded as a case study in leadership and expert communications. He also spoke at the 2007 commencements at Michigan State, encouraging students to believe in themselves and follow their dreams.
Scott was born August 6, 1950, in Miami (Coconut Grove), Florida. He is married to the former Marilyn K. Robinson, and they have two children. He enjoys martial arts and holds a second-degree black belt in Shotokan karate. He also enjoys music, and plays trumpet with a Houston-based big band. In addition to flying general aviation aircraft, he is an electronics hobbyist.