Marcelite J. Harris

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Maj. Gen Marcelite J. Harris
Harris mj.jpg
U.S. Air Force Photo
Birth nameMarcelite Jordan
Born(1943-01-16)16 January 1943
Houston, Texas
Died7 September 2018(2018-09-07) (aged 75)
Place of burial
AllegianceUnited States of America
Service/branch United States Air Force
Years of service1965–97
RankUS-O8 insignia.svg Major General
UnitUnited States Air Force Academy
Battles/warsVietnam War
Spouse(s)Lt. Col. Maurice Harris[1]
ChildrenLt. Col. Steven Harris
Tenecia Harris[1]

Marcelite J. Harris (January 16, 1943 – September 7, 2018) was an American who became the first African-American female general officer of the United States Air Force.

Education and early career[edit]

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.[2] 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.

Later career[edit]

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.[3] 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.[4] She was buried with full military honors on February 7, 2019, alongside her husband in Arlington National Cemetery.[1]

Awards and decorations[edit]

USAF - Master Maintenance Badge.png Master Maintenance Badge
Personal decorations
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Width-44 crimson ribbon with a pair of width-2 white stripes on the edges
Legion of Merit with bronze oak leaf cluster[2]
Width-44 scarlet ribbon with width-4 ultramarine blue stripe at center, surrounded by width-1 white stripes. Width-1 white stripes are at the edges. Bronze Star Medal[2]
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Width-44 crimson ribbon with two width-8 white stripes at distance 4 from the edges.
Meritorious Service Medal with three bronze oak leaf clusters
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Air Force Commendation Medal with bronze oak leaf cluster
Unit awards
Presidential Unit Citation
Silver oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
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
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Air Force Organizational Excellence Award with bronze oak leaf cluster
Campaign and service medals
Bronze star
Width=44 scarlet ribbon with a central width-4 golden yellow stripe, flanked by pairs of width-1 scarlet, white, Old Glory blue, and white stripes
National Defense Service Medal with bronze Service star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Vietnam Service Medal with three bronze campaign stars
Service, training, and marksmanship awards
Air Force Overseas Short Tour Service Ribbon
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Air Force Overseas Long Tour Service Ribbon with bronze oak leaf cluster
Silver oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Air Force Longevity Service Award with silver and two bronze oak leaf clusters
Air Force Training Ribbon
Foreign awards
Vietnam Gallantry Cross Unit Award
Vietnam Campaign Medal

Other achievements[edit]

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[edit]

Insignia Rank Date
US-O8 insignia.svg Major General May 25, 1995
US-O7 insignia.svg Brigadier General May 1, 1991
US-O6 insignia.svg Colonel September 1, 1986
US-O5 insignia.svg Lieutenant Colonel October 1, 1981
US-O4 insignia.svg Major April 1, 1975
US-O3 insignia.svg Captain December 21, 1969
US-OF1A.svg First Lieutenant January 21, 1967
US-OF1B.svg Second Lieutenant December 21, 1965


  1. ^ a b c 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.
  2. ^ a b c "MAJOR GENERAL MARCELITE J. HARRIS". U.S. Air Force. Retrieved May 29, 2016.
  3. ^ "President Obama Announces More Key Administration Posts", The White House, September 15, 2010; accessed February 5, 2011.
  4. ^ "Marcelite Harris Obituary - Springfield, VA". Dignity Memorial. Retrieved 2021-07-31.

External links[edit]