“We are honored that NASA continues to celebrate the legacy of our mother and grandmother Mary W. Jackson,” said Jackson’s daughter, Carolyn Lewis. “She was a scientist, humanitarian, wife, mother, and trailblazer who paved the way for thousands of others to succeed, not only at NASA, but throughout this nation.”
“Mary W. Jackson was part of a group of very important women who helped NASA succeed in getting American astronauts into space. Mary never accepted the status quo, she helped break barriers and open opportunities for African Americans and women in the field of engineering and technology,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “Today, we proudly announce the Mary W. Jackson NASA Headquarters building. It appropriately sits on ‘Way,’ a reminder that Mary is one of many incredible and talented professionals in NASA’s history who contributed to this agency’s success. Hidden no more, we will continue to recognize the contributions of women, African Americans, and people of all backgrounds who have made NASA’s successful history of exploration possible.”
Multiple NASA facilities around the country are named after, “people who dedicated their lives to push the frontiers of the aerospace industry,” noted Bridenstine.
Jackson was born and raised in Hampton, Va., in 1921. She went on to earn a degree in math and physical science from Hampton Institute (now Hampton University) in 1942. She worked as a math teacher, bookkeeper, and U.S Army secretary prior to being recruited by NASA in the early 1950s.
Jackson initially worked under Vaughn as a NASA mathematician in a segregated computing unit. After two years in the West Area Computing Unit, Jackson moved to a 4-foot-by-4-foot Supersonic Pressure Tunnel where her supervisor suggested she join a training program to become a NASA engineer.
Jackson completed the course at the segregated Hampton High School and had to receive special permission to study with her white colleagues. In 1958, Jackson earned a promotion, and simultaneously made history as the first Black woman to become a NASA engineer. In 1979, she joined Langley’s Federal Women’s Program, where she worked to address the hiring and promotion of a new generation of female mathematicians, engineers and scientists. Jackson retired from Langley in 1985.
She passed away in 2005.