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 @AETCommand: #ICYMI: @HQAirUniversity was reaffirmed for its regional accreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools…
RT @HQUSAFEPA: Rain, ice, or snow, #USAFE troops get the mission done with our @NATO allies like Norway. Members of the @435AEW Contingenc…
As we advance into the new decade, #AirForce will work hand in hand with #SpaceForce, securing U.S. interests in ai… https://t.co/nRg33Bg6TT
RT @SpecialTactics_: OPERATION TWITTER has commenced! #SpecialTactics is jumping into the action! #firsttweet #AirForceSpecialTactics https…
RT @GenDaveGoldfein: What better way to start the new year than by spending time with #Airmen standing watch around the clock, protecting o…
RT @HQUSAFEPA: Amazing work bringing bright smiles--literally--to local Nigerien kids through a dental hygiene course! #AFAFRICA @usairfo
RT @37thTRW: 365 days a year we’ve got #BMT trainees hard at work preparing to earn the title #Airman 🇺🇸 That means our #MTIs never stop tr…
RT @AFGlobalStrike: As they hunt as a pack, they attack as one, they bring the force of many. That’s exactly how you need to approach the n…
RT @AFResearchLab: The past year's advances in energy optimization for the @usairforce were huge. Check out what our teams and more did to…
RT @USAF_ACC: “This is a prime example of how the 53d Wing is using resources readily available to establish innovative ways that enhance c…
RT @AirNatlGuard: As we reflect on what we accomplished throughout this past year, the ANG is ready and looking forward to 2020. #AlwaysRe
RT @AFWERX: #Intrapreneurship and creativity are in, and a culture of “this is the way it’s always been done” is out. 2020 is yet another o…
RT @AFCareers: File freeze for 20E8 will take effect Jan. 17, 2020. Speak with your enlisted leadership about how the process works and the…
RT @82ndABNDiv: Today, hundreds of All American Paratroopers boarded @usairforce C17 Globemaster aircraft and headed to the @CENTCOM area…
RT @USAFHealth: #TBT: U.S. Air Force medical technicians carry one of two wounded Soldiers from a helicopter to a Mobile Army Surgical Hosp…
RT @SpaceForceDoD: What is the Mission of the U.S. Space Force? https://t.co/RB53Ismj02
We would like to wish everyone a Happy New Year! https://t.co/rgTDLUwdcc
RT @USAFCENT: AIR POWER | A USAF KC-10 Extender with the 908th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron at Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emir…
Listen to @cmsaf18 as he sits down with his wingman @GenDaveGoldfein during Blueprint Leadership Podcast episode tw… https://t.co/rpNJTHtlxe
RT @USAfricaCommand: #AFRICOM_2019 #BurkinaFaso and #Rwanda become the 14th & 15th African countries in the #StatePartnershipProgram, now p…