U.S. Air Force Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Ruth Segres speaks during military funeral honors for U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. (ret.) Marcelite Harris in Section 30 of Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia, Feb. 7, 2019.
In 1965, Harris was commission through Officer Training School at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. She held a variety of assignments afterwards, which resulted in many “firsts” for females and women of color in the Air Force. Harris was the first female aircraft maintenance officer, the second female in history to serve as a commanding officer for an Air Force cadet squadron, and the first female wing commander.
Harris made history in 1991 by becoming the first African American female general in the U.S. Air Force, eventually being promoted to the rank of major general, making her the first woman to hold this rank in the service. After 32 years of service, Harris retired in 1997 as the highest ranking female in the U.S. Air Force and the highest ranking African-American female in the Department of Defense.
Harris was laid to rest alongside her husband, U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Maurice Harris, who was buried in Section 30 of Arlington National Cemetery on Jan. 16, 1996. Harris’ daughter, Tenecia Harris, received the United States flag from her casket.