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
.@USAFReserve Chief recently approved changes to the Active Guard Reserve program & plans to grow the program by si… https://t.co/at2UBLEa7q
"Without our @DeptofDefense and the components of it, & @FEMA, these #islands would not have been able to recover i… https://t.co/Zu25GmCMQC
We’re using #augmentedreality tech to provide more realistic training for our #maintainers, cutting time & breaking… https://t.co/kzfErH8tmP
RT @SecAFOfficial: Strong words from @SenFischer: The face of 21st century warfare is changing. We must meet this challenge head on. The U.…
Thanks to the partnerships #Airmen built within their community, the @Dodgers hosted the first Los Angeles “Enlistm… https://t.co/B6dYDIfVvB
Election to the @theNAEng is among the highest professional distinctions afforded to an #engineer. For one #USAF en… https://t.co/iCL59ciOxD
.@HQ_AFMC modernizes aircrew safety with new technology. https://t.co/eBpCF3gk33
What would you do if you witnessed a severe car accident? This @MacDill_AFB #Airman's quick thinking ultimately sav… https://t.co/K1cacCZAab
An #F16 flies over the coast of #Florida during a training sortie during a deployment @45thSpaceWing, Feb. 4. (Air… https://t.co/XgQEIpNI4p
RT @SecAFOfficial: We make it real. Fielding solutions faster & smarter. @usairforce https://t.co/n4kCs4WvPi https://t.co/EyZgqgpd9M
RT @AirmanMagazine: This hands-on training exposes Flight Nurse and Aeromedical Technician Course students to various types of wartime inju…
RT @AFThunderbirds: #blackhistorymonth: In 1964, Lloyd “Fig” Newton’s interest peaked when he saw the #afthunderbirds demonstration perform…
Meet Eden. She's not just a therapy dog; she’s a liaison of information between the #USAF and the @USArmy.… https://t.co/hVXFubZws7
The #USAF's partnership w/ the #RoK continues to build through joint training. Find out how this #pilot's training… https://t.co/Qb12jUdTHr
Coaching is much more than something this #Airman does on the side. Helping #Airmen stay physically #resilient is a… https://t.co/Bh2euH1SRb
Haven't been keeping up with #USAF news lately? No worries! Check out our most recent #AroundtheAirForce for a quic… https://t.co/UaaicUPk33
#AirForce maintainers assigned to the 60th Air Mobility Wing work to lower the nose landing gear on a #C5M Super Ga… https://t.co/Fvk6cJSJS9
#Cybersecurity ALERT! A fake website for the @DeptofDefense Transition Assistance Program has been identified. Pro… https://t.co/PwMooTTUvp
The 6 finalists of @SecAFOfficial’s #SparkTank initiative will showcase their ideas to #USAF senior leaders at… https://t.co/wDvdAj99Hw