For day 13 of our Women’s History Month celebration, we recognize:
Major General Marcelite Harris!
Major General Marcelite J. Harris was the first African-American female general, the first female aircraft maintenance officer, the first female deputy commander for maintenance, and one of the first female air officers at the Air Force Academy. Born on January 16, 1943, in Houston, Texas, Harris attended Kashmere Gardens High School before enrolling at Spelman College in 1960. After earning her bachelor’s in speech and drama in 1964, Harris registered for military training at Lackland Air Force Base and joined the Women in the Air Force program. In 1970, Harris completed an Aircraft Maintenance Officer course and later, became a job control officer and field maintenance supervisor at the 916th Air Refueling Squadron at Travis Air Force Base in California. Years later, under the Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter presidential administrations, Harris was appointed as personnel staff officer and White House social aide. In 1981, Harris became the first woman to become commander of the 384th Avionics Maintenance Squadron at the McConnell Air Force Base. Four years later, she held the position of deputy commander for maintenance at Keesler Air Force Base in Mississippi, making her the first woman to do so. Thirty years after Harris’s enlistment in the military she held the ranking of Major General, becoming the first ever African-American female general. Upon her retirement in 1997, Harris was the highest-ranking African-American woman in the United States military. Throughout her military career and even after her retirement, Harris was recognized for her historical achievements and accomplishments. In 2010, President Barack Obama appointed Harris to the board of visitors of the Air Force Academy.
On Sept. 7, 2018, Maj. Gen. Marcelite Harris passed away. She was buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery. Her legacy and impact has paved the way for countless women and people of color who serve in the military.