Marcelite J. Harris
Maj. Gen Marcelite J. Harris
|Birth name||Marcelite Jordan|
|Born||16 January 1943|
|Died||7 September 2018(aged 75)|
|Place of burial|
|Allegiance||United States of America|
|Service/||United States Air Force|
|Years of service||1965–97|
|Unit||United States Air Force Academy|
|Spouse(s)||Lt. Col. Maurice Harris|
|Children||Lt. Col. Steven Harris|
Education and early career
Born Marcelite Jordan to Cecil O'Neal Jordan and Marcelite Terrill Jordan, in Houston, Texas, she graduated from Spelman College, earning her B.A. in speech and drama and completed Officer Training School, Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, in 1965 and held a variety of assignments in the Air Force.
Harris’s career included many "firsts", including being the first female aircraft maintenance officer, one of the first two female air officers commanding at the United States Air Force Academy, and the Air Force’s first female Director of Maintenance. She served as a White House social aide during the Carter administration. Her service medals and decorations include the Bronze Star, the Presidential Unit Citation, and the Vietnam Service Medal. Harris retired as a major general in 1997, the highest ranking female officer in the Air Force and the Nation’s highest ranking African-American woman in the Department of Defense. Upon retirement from the Air Force, she served NASA as the Florida Site Director and Logistics Process Owner for United Space Alliance, the company managing the nation’s shuttle program. Besides her Spelman B.A., she holds a B.S. in Business Management from the University of Maryland University College. In 1999, Harris was awarded an Honorary Doctorate Degree from Spelman College. She was a member of Delta Sigma Theta sorority.
Harris was a Treasurer of the Atlanta Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and served as a Director on the Board of Peachtree Hope Charter School. On September 15th, 2010, she was appointed by President Barack Obama to serve as a member of the Board of Visitors for the United States Air Force Academy. The Board inquires into the morale, discipline, curriculum, instruction, physical equipment, fiscal affairs, academic methods and other matters relating to the Academy which the Board decides to consider.
Harris was married to Lt. Col. Maurice Harris. They had two children named Steven and Tenecia. She was buried with full military honors on February 7, 2019, alongside her husband in Arlington National Cemetery.
Awards and decorations
|Master Maintenance Badge|
|Legion of Merit with bronze oak leaf cluster|
|Bronze Star Medal|
|Meritorious Service Medal with three bronze oak leaf clusters|
|Air Force Commendation Medal with bronze oak leaf cluster|
|Presidential Unit Citation|
|Air Force Outstanding Unit Award with Valor device; silver, and two bronze oak leaf clusters|
|Air Force Outstanding Unit Award Second ribbon required for proper spacing of accoutrements|
|Air Force Organizational Excellence Award with bronze oak leaf cluster|
|Campaign and service medals|
|National Defense Service Medal with bronze Service star|
|Vietnam Service Medal with three bronze campaign stars|
|Service, training, and marksmanship awards|
|Air Force Overseas Short Tour Service Ribbon|
|Air Force Overseas Long Tour Service Ribbon with bronze oak leaf cluster|
|Air Force Longevity Service Award with silver and two bronze oak leaf clusters|
|Air Force Training Ribbon|
|Vietnam Gallantry Cross Unit Award|
|Vietnam Campaign Medal|
- 1990 - Woman of the Year, National Organization of Tuskegee Airmen, also listed in "Who's Who Among Black Americans", "Who's Who in America and "Who's Who Among American Business Women"
- 1990 - Outstanding Young Woman of America
- 1991 - Most Prestigious Individual, Dollars and Sense Magazine
- 1992 - Woman of Enterprise, Journal Recording Publishing Co., Oklahoma City
- 1995 - "Women of Distinction" Award, Thomas W. Anthony Chapter, Air Force Association
- 1995 - "Military African American Woman" for contributions to the Department of Defense, National Political Congress of Black Women, Inc.
- 1995 - "Black Woman of Courage," National Federation of Black Women Business Owners
- 1996 - Ellis Island Medal of Honor
- 2010 - "Trailblazer Award," Black Girls Rock Foundation
Effective dates of promotion
|Major General||May 25, 1995|
|Brigadier General||May 1, 1991|
|Colonel||September 1, 1986|
|Lieutenant Colonel||October 1, 1981|
|Major||April 1, 1975|
|Captain||December 21, 1969|
|First Lieutenant||January 21, 1967|
|Second Lieutenant||December 21, 1965|
- Najarro, Ileana (2018-11-22). "Harris, first African-American woman to serve as Major General, to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved 2018-11-30.
- "MAJOR GENERAL MARCELITE J. HARRIS". U.S. Air Force. Retrieved May 29, 2016.
- "President Obama Announces More Key Administration Posts", The White House, September 15, 2010; accessed February 5, 2011.
- "Marcelite Harris Obituary - Springfield, VA". Dignity Memorial. Retrieved 2021-07-31.