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Congressman Bobby Scott

Representing the 3rd District of Virginia

RECOGNIZING THE WOMEN PORTRAYED IN HIDDEN FIGURES--DR. KATHERINE GOBLE JOHNSON, DOROTHY VAUGHAN, AND MARY JACKSON

February 14, 2017
Floor Statements

Mr. SCOTT of Virginia. Mr. Speaker, I rise today on behalf of myself and Representatives Robert WittmanDonald McEachin, and Scott Taylor to honor Dr. Katherine Goble Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson, an extraordinary group of women from Hampton Roads, Virginia recently featured in the critically acclaimed and Oscar-nominated film Hidden Figures. Tomorrow evening, Senators WARNERKAINE, and BROWN are joining me in hosting a screening of Hidden Figures here at the United States Capitol. I would like to take a moment to recognize the accomplishments of the remarkable women depicted in this film

Breaking down barriers of both gender and race at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, these women, and many like them, laid the groundwork for John Glenn to become the first American to orbit the earth, and for Neil Armstrong to walk on the moon. I am proud that their stories are reaching a wider audience.

Though she began her career as an educator, in her 28 years working for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (the forerunner to NASA) Dorothy Vaughan helped pave the way for the diverse workforce and leadership NASA enjoys today. Beginning at NACA Langley in 1943, Mrs. Vaughan was assigned to an all-black computer pool. By 1949, she was the Section Head of her group, becoming NACA's first black supervisor and one of NACA's first female supervisors. Mrs. Vaughan was one of the first to master computer programming and said that she felt like her work at NASA Langley put her on ``the cutting edge of something very exciting.''

While she broke barriers at NACA, Mrs. Vaughan also took an active role in her community as a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. and a longtime member of St. Paul AME Church of Newport News.

Early on, Dr. Katherine Goble Johnson showed that she was an exceptionally bright young woman. Graduating high school at 14 and college at 18, Dr. Johnson worked as an educator before relocating to Newport News where, in 1953, she began her work at NASA Langley. She too was assigned to an all-black computer pool. Within weeks of her entry in the NASA ranks, Dr. Johnson was asked to temporarily assist in the Spacecraft Dynamics Branch in the Flight Dynamics and Control Division. She never left. There, she became known for her knowledge, accuracy and contributions in providing trajectories necessary to successful spaceflight.

Dr. Johnson has been the recipient of numerous awards throughout her 33 year career with NASA, and was recently awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama. A leader in her community, Dr. Johnson has served as President of the Lambda Omega Chapter of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. and as a Trustee and Elder at Carver Memorial Presbyterian Church in Newport News, Virginia, where she continues to be a dedicated member.

Mary Jackson was born and raised in Hampton, Virginia, and attended the Hampton Institute, now Hampton University. She too was an educator prior to joining NASA, and after a circuitous journey found her way to NASA Langley working as a mathematician in 1951, reporting to Dorothy Vaughan. Following additional math and physics work at previously segregated Hampton High School, Mrs. Jackson became NASA's first black female engineer in 1958.

An accomplished mathematician, she remained committed to ensuring that NASA's female professionals had the opportunity to succeed and finished her 34 year career as Langley's Federal Women's Program Manager working to hire and mentor NASA's next generation of leaders.

Mrs. Jackson kept active in her community, as a member of Bethel AME Church in Hampton, the Newport News-Hampton Chapter of the Continental Societies, Inc., and Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank Margot Lee Shetterly, author of Hidden Figures, for shining a spotlight on the remarkable story of these women. As the daughter of a NASA Langley scientist, Mrs. Shetterly was surely steeped in the accomplishments of these great women growing up. I would also like to thank Theodore Melfi, director of the film, actors Octavia Spencer, who played Dorothy Vaughan, Janelle Monae, who played Mary Jackson, and Taraji P. Henson, who played Katherine Johnson, and all others who played a part in telling these women's stories on the silver screen.

Mr. Speaker, I am proud that the stories of these exceptional women are no longer hidden. It is my hope that this film will help inspire the next generation of leaders to challenge themselves and to strive to break through any barriers they may face.