Mary Jackson

Senior NASA Engineer and Hidden Figure

The Story of an American Icon and a Legend in the Making

Jackson was born to Ella Scott and Frank Winston in 1921 in Hampton, Virginia, where she spent most of her early life. It was here that she attended George P. Phenix Traning School, an all black school and excelled in all of her classes. She graduated with honors. Following secondary school, she attained degrees in both mathematics and physical science from the Hampton Institute in 1942.

Outside of her professional life, she served as a leader in the Girl Scouts for over 30 years, and in the 1970's helped African American children in her community construct a miniature wind tunnel for testing airplanes. She married Lewis Jackson and had two children. Mary Jackson lived to be 83 and died on February 11th, 2015. She is survived by children Levi Jackson Jr. and Carolyn Marie Lewis.

Career Highlights

Jackson was an accomplished NASA scientist and an advocate for women in the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. A timeline of career can be seen to the right.

  • Recruited by the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), which later became the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).
  • Began working with engineer, Kazimierz Czarnecki, in the Supersonic Pressure Tunnel where he encouraged her to continue her education in order to become an engineer.
  • Promoted to an aerospace engineer and worked in several divisions at NASA for the remainder of her career.
  • Accepted a demotion in order to work in the Office of Equal Opportunity Programs where she strived to help women seeking careers in science-related fields.

Awards & Honors

  • Apollo Group Achievement Award, 1969
  • Daniels Alumni Award for Outstanding Service to Disadvantaged Youth
  • National Council of Negro Women, Inc. Certificate of Recognition for Outstanding Service to the Community
  • Distinguished Service Award for her work with the Combined Federal Campaign representing Humanitarian Agencies, 1972
  • Langley Research Center Outstanding Volunteer Award, 1975
  • Langley Research Center Volunteer of the Year, 1976
  • Iota Lambda Sorority Award for the Peninsula Outstanding Woman Scientist, 1976
  • King Street Community Center Outstanding Award
  • National Technical Association's Tribute Award, 1976
  • Hampton Roads Chapter "Book of Golden Deeds" for service
  • Langley Research Center Certificate of Appreciation, 1976–1977
Mary Jackson with a miniature model

A Lifelong Legacy

Jackson played a crucial role in helping to provide women and minorities with opportunities to succeed in different areas of science. In 2016, the movie Hidden Figures brought some of her story to light along with 2 black women, Katherine Johnson, and Dorothy Vaughan, as they work on Project Mercury during the Space Race. And finally, in 2018, a Salt Lake City school board proposed that Jackson Elementary School be officially named after Mary Jackson, rather than President Andrew Jackson. The vote passed.

Further Reading

To learn more about Mary Jackson and other Hidden Figures, you can visit the links provided below: