HomeNewsArticle Display

Female AF pioneer laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery

Friends and family of retired U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Marcelite Harris attend her full honors military funeral at Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Va., Feb. 7, 2019. Harris’s accomplishments include being the first woman aircraft maintenance officer, one of the first two women air officers commanding at the U.S. Air Force Academy and the first woman deputy commander for maintenance. She also served as a White House social aide during the Carter administration. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Rusty Frank)

Friends and family of retired U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Marcelite Harris attend her full honors military funeral at Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Va., Feb. 7, 2019. Harris’s accomplishments include being the first woman aircraft maintenance officer, one of the first two women air officers commanding at the U.S. Air Force Academy and the first woman deputy commander for maintenance. She also served as a White House social aide during the Carter administration. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Rusty Frank)

The U.S. Air Force Honor Guard performs full military honors during the funeral of retired U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Marcelite Harris at Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Va., Feb. 7, 2019. In 1991, Harris became the first African-American women to earn the rank of brigadier general in the U.S. Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Rusty Frank)

The U.S. Air Force Honor Guard performs full military honors during the funeral of retired U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Marcelite Harris at Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Va., Feb. 7, 2019. In 1991, Harris became the first African-American women to earn the rank of brigadier general in the U.S. Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Rusty Frank)

U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Lenny Richoux, the commander of U.S. Transportation Command’s Joint Enabling Capabilities Command, presents the American Flag to retired U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Mareclite Harris’s daughter, Tenecia Harris, during a full honors funeral at Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Va., Feb. 7, 2019. Gen. Harris’s accomplishments include being the first woman aircraft maintenance officer, one of the first two women air officers commanding at the U.S. Air Force Academy and the first woman deputy commander for maintenance. She also served as a White House social aide during the Carter administration. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Rusty Frank)

U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Lenny Richoux, the commander of U.S. Transportation Command’s Joint Enabling Capabilities Command, presents the American Flag to retired U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Mareclite Harris’s daughter, Tenecia Harris, during a full honors funeral at Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Va., Feb. 7, 2019. Gen. Harris’s accomplishments include being the first woman aircraft maintenance officer, one of the first two women air officers commanding at the U.S. Air Force Academy and the first woman deputy commander for maintenance. She also served as a White House social aide during the Carter administration. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Rusty Frank)

Friends and family of retired U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Marcelite Harris attend her full honors military funeral at Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Va., Feb. 7, 2019. Harris’s accomplishments include being the first woman aircraft maintenance officer, one of the first two women air officers commanding at the U.S. Air Force Academy and the first woman deputy commander for maintenance. She also served as a White House social aide during the Carter administration. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Rusty Frank)

Friends and family of retired U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Marcelite Harris attend her full honors military funeral at Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Va., Feb. 7, 2019. Harris’s accomplishments include being the first woman aircraft maintenance officer, one of the first two women air officers commanding at the U.S. Air Force Academy and the first woman deputy commander for maintenance. She also served as a White House social aide during the Carter administration. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Rusty Frank)

Friends and family of retired U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Marcelite Harris attend her full honors military funeral at Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Va., Feb. 7, 2019. Harris’s accomplishments include being the first woman aircraft maintenance officer, one of the first two women air officers commanding at the U.S. Air Force Academy and the first woman deputy commander for maintenance. She also served as a White House social aide during the Carter administration. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Rusty Frank)

Friends and family of retired U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Marcelite Harris attend her full honors military funeral at Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Va., Feb. 7, 2019. Harris’s accomplishments include being the first woman aircraft maintenance officer, one of the first two women air officers commanding at the U.S. Air Force Academy and the first woman deputy commander for maintenance. She also served as a White House social aide during the Carter administration. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Rusty Frank)

The U.S. Air Force Honor Guard performs full military honors during the funeral of retired U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Marcelite Harris at Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Va., Feb. 7, 2019. In 1991, Harris became the first African-American women to earn the rank of brigadier general in the U.S. Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Rusty Frank)

The U.S. Air Force Honor Guard performs full military honors during the funeral of retired U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Marcelite Harris at Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Va., Feb. 7, 2019. In 1991, Harris became the first African-American women to earn the rank of brigadier general in the U.S. Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Rusty Frank)

A caisson delivers the remains of retired U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Marcelite Harris during her full honors funeral at Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Va., Feb. 7, 2019. In 1991, Harris became the first African-American women to earn the rank of brigadier general in the U.S. Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Rusty Frank)

A caisson delivers the remains of retired U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Marcelite Harris during her full honors funeral at Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Va., Feb. 7, 2019. In 1991, Harris became the first African-American women to earn the rank of brigadier general in the U.S. Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Rusty Frank)

WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- Retired U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Marcelite Jordan Harris was laid to rest Feb. 7, 2019, at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia, with full military funeral honors.

During Harris’s life and Air Force career, she accomplished multiple crowning achievements. After receiving her commission through Officer Training School at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, in 1965, she ventured into her first assignment as the assistant director for administration for the 60th Airlift Wing at Travis AFB, California. She then completed a tour in West Germany in 1971 before enrolling in the Aircraft Maintenance Officer Course at Chanute AFB, Illinois. After graduating, she was named aircraft maintenance officer — the first woman to ever hold the title.

“Being a leader, being a mentor is not about how much you can fill your own cup, it’s about how much you pour into others and with Major General Harris, our cups run over,” said Lt. Gen. Stayce Harris, Inspector General of the Air Force. “She poured so much of herself, personally and professional, into all of us and influenced so many — those she knew and those who knew her from afar.”

Through hard work and dedication, Harris continued to pave the way for females and women of color in the military. While she served at assignments in Thailand, California, Washington, D.C., Colorado, Kansas, Japan, Mississippi and Oklahoma, she continued to rise through the ranks. During those assignments, she was appointed as a White House aide during the presidential administrations of Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter in 1975, and she was the second female in history to serve as a commanding officer for an Air Force cadet squadron in 1978. In 1988, she became the first female wing commander.

Harris continued to break barriers – on May 1, 1991, she was promoted to brigadier general – making her the first African-American female general in the U.S. Air Force. A mere four years later, on May 25, 1995, she was promoted to major general, and was the first woman to hold this rank in the service.

“Harris was the personification of enduring power…she had the ability to withstand challenges and changes that came with being the first…the first woman, the first forerunner, the pioneer for females in male dominated career fields,” said Lt. Col. Ruth Segres, chaplain. “In the midst of opposition and obstacles she exhibited a power, a mental steadfast strength and a fierce fortitude to keep her composure — a credit to her character.”

After 32 years of service, Harris retired in 1997 as the highest ranking female in the U.S. Air Force and highest ranking African-American female in the Department of Defense. She continued her legacy of service by aiding as the treasurer of the Atlanta branch of the NAACP and a director on the board of Peachtree Hope Charter School. In 2010, she was given the chance to once again serve with her Air Force family when President Barack Obama appointed her to work as a member of the Board of Visitors for the U.S. Air Force Academy.

“My sister was a fighter,” said Elizabeth Johnson, Harris’s younger sister during the memorial service. “She was forever striving to serve others, and even in retirement she never missed an opportunity to contribute.”

Harris passed away Sept. 7, 2018, at Jackson Memorial Hospital, Miami, on a Caribbean vacation with her companion, retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. David Branch. Though her death was sudden and unexpected, she was surrounded by loved ones.

Engage

Facebook Twitter
RT @AFEnergy: If you don't measure progress, you can't affect change. #FuelMoreFight #MondayMotivation https://t.co/80sg3un0ov
The latest roundup of the best #AirForce photos is out. See them here: https://t.co/wU5rxsXJRq https://t.co/JUE9Yd0cKS
RT @WarriorCare: Have you missed some of the action? Check out our photo gallery on Flickr and get caught up on your favorite athlete makin…
#USAF Critical Care Air Transport team members, transport mother & 7-month-old son on a #C130 flight from… https://t.co/o1aNSelM1t
RT @DOD_Outreach: Pedaling on! @usairforce Capt. Heather Wright races an upright bicycle during the #DOD #WarriorGames2019 today. This is t…
#DYK, @WrightPattAFB became a Bee City in 2017, solidifying #AirForce's commitment to bee protection and revitaliza… https://t.co/jnoUyjQTiY
RT @ActingSecAF: Today the ⁦@usairforce⁩ has a historic opportunity to continue our leadership in #space & secure the final frontier for ou…
RT @DOD_Outreach: Feel the calm. 😌 @AFW2 Tech Sgt. Ricardo Rivera practices his freestyle swim techniques for today’s competition at the @…
#WarriorGames2019 Track competition is happening NOW! 🏃‍♂️💨 Head over https://t.co/jiYSkUGhmB to see it LIVE. GO… https://t.co/E2pYScoZSC
RT @WarriorCare: This isn’t your average morning run! Day 2 has started with Track competitions. We’re here at Yuengling Center at the Univ…
Our hearts go out to #TuskegeeAirman Lt. Col. (Ret.) Robert J. Friend and his family. Thank you for decades of serv… https://t.co/CUHadFr0sC
“So far, as a wing, we’ve made all this look easy. But it hasn’t been." - Maj. Michael Slotten, 421st Fighter Squad… https://t.co/7YQnJV9yel
RT @WarriorCare: The weather is hot in Tampa. Perfect for a new 2019 Warrior Games competition: Golf 🏌️‍♀️ First on the greens is Staff Sgt…
.@AF_SMC's summer is booked with four back to back launch missions. Use #SummerOfLaunch19 to track their progress… https://t.co/9LsEMIvsaf
.@TeamEglin shows how "hot pitting" helps fuel the fight in real time. https://t.co/zIQUT2v9vj
RT @ActingSecAF: Being a good leader means caring for Airmen. Hearing how @GenDaveGoldfein has continued to take care of those who answered…
RT @DeptofDefense: “You inspire me!” Captain Marvel herself, @BrieLarson shares words of encouragement to the athletes of the upcoming @Wa
RT @ActingSecAF: Merci beaucoup to our gracious host & close ally France for bringing together countries from around the world to showcase…