CHEROKEE MARY G. ROSS BORN—FIRST NATIVE AMERICAN ENGINEER
Born in Park Hill, Oklahoma, descendant of Chief John Ross, Mary’s Bachelor’s degree came from Northeastern State Teachers College. She taught math & science, clerked, and was girl’s advisor at Institute of American Indian Art, Santa Fe, before earning a Master’s degree in math at Univ. of Northern Colorado. In 1942, she worked with Lockheed engineers on the P-38 Lightning fighter. In 1952, after becoming an engineer, Lockheed assigned her to the “Skunk Works,” a secret engineering crew that later consulted with NASA. In the 1960s, as a senior engineer, she worked on Poseidon & Trident missiles. Retiring in 1973, Mary recruited Native American students to the field. A member of the Society of Women Engineers, she supported the American Indian Science & Engineering Society and Council of Energy Resource Tribes and the National Museum of the American Indian. Ross is depicted on the 2019 Native American $1 Coin. She died in Los Altos, California, April 29, 2008.
Source: Kara Briggs, “Cherokee Rocket Scientist Leaves Heavenly Gift,” Cherokee Phoenix, 12/18/2018. Retrieved 6/7/2020, https://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Article/Index/2470 Coin: U.S. Mint, 11/30/2018. Reverse of the 2019 Native American Dollar coin, designed by Emily Damstra and sculpted by Joseph Menna. Public Domain.