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.