February 28, 2020

Senate Unanimously Passes Resolution in Honor of Katherine Johnson

~ Celebrates the life and achievements of pioneering physicist and mathematician ~      

WASHINGTON – The United States Senate unanimously passed a resolution sponsored by U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Tim Kaine (D-VA) along with U.S. Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) to honor Katherine Coleman Goble Johnson, a NASA pioneer who passed away Monday at the age of 101.

“Katherine Johnson was essential to NASA’s success in the Space Race. But as an African-American woman working at Langley Research Center in the era of Jim Crow, she went unrecognized for decades. Thankfully this trailblazer lived to see the recognition she deserved – including a blockbuster movie, a Congressional Gold Medal, and a building named in her honor on the campus where she was once forced to use separate facilities because of the color of her skin,” said Sen. Warner. “Katherine Johnson’s life is evidence that we as a nation must continue to strive towards equality of opportunity for all our citizens. While she is no longer with us, Katherine Johnson will continue to inspire generations of Americans, especially young women thinking of careers in math and science.”  

“Katherine Johnson’s pioneering contributions to orbital mechanics helped our nation reach the stars. As one of the first African American women to work as a NASA scientist, she paved the way for generations to come. This resolution is a small reminder of her amazing contributions,” Sen. Kaine said.

“A White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia native, Katherine Johnson not only completed groundbreaking work at NASA during the space race, but also broke the barriers of race and gender during a critical time in our nation. Katherine graduated summa cum laude from West Virginia State College in 1937 with degrees in mathematics and French and became the first African-American woman to attend graduate school at West Virginia University. She began her work as a mathematician for NASA, eventually running the equations that sent the first American astronaut to orbit Earth. Because of the accomplishments of intellectual leaders like Katherine Johnson, more young women have, and will, blaze their own trails in science, technology, engineering, and math fields, and will continue to make our state and entire nation proud. We cannot thank Katherine enough for her contributions to our state and our nation and she will be missed greatly by us all,” said Sen. Manchin.

“Katherine Johnson proved to us that no obstacle is too high if you work hard and believe in your goals,” said Sen. Capito. “As a West Virginian, Katherine used her toughness and grit to surpass societal barriers and turn her dreams into a reality. The legacy of Katherine Johnson will be remembered every time we look up at the moon and remember how her work took us there for the first time. As the first female U.S. Senator from West Virginia, I am not only continuously inspired by Katherine’s story, but I am also inspired by her kindness and humility. Generations of little girls who also aspire to reach the stars will draw strength and encouragement from Katherine’s legacy. Her work is no longer hidden by the shadows of the men she put on the moon. Katherine Johnson will forever be a star in the Mountain State and will be significantly missed by all.”

“NASA is deeply saddened by the loss of a leader from our pioneering days, and we send our deepest condolences to the family of Katherine Johnson. Ms. Johnson helped our nation enlarge the frontiers of space even as she made huge strides that also opened doors for women and people of color in the universal human quest to explore space. Her dedication and skill as a mathematician helped put humans on the moon and before that made it possible for our astronauts to take the first steps in space that we now follow on a journey to Mars. Her Presidential Medal of Freedom was a well-deserved recognition. At NASA we will never forget her courage and leadership and the milestones we could not have reached without her. We will continue building on her legacy and work tirelessly to increase opportunities for everyone who has something to contribute toward the ongoing work of raising the bar of human potential,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine.

On November 8, 2019, the President signed into law bipartisan legislation to award Katherine Johnson with the Congressional Gold Medal, along with her fellow “Hidden Figures” Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, and Dr. Christine Darden. The Congressional Gold Medal is the highest civilian award in the U.S., awarded to those who have performed an achievement that has had an impact on American history and culture that is likely to be recognized in the recipient’s field for years to come.