Sen. Capito: Katherine Johnson’s legacy lives on in WV NASA facility

West Virginia

(WDVM) — U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito has responded to the death of Katherine Johnson, who died at age 101 on Monday. Johnson was born in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, according to the Associated Press.

Capito (R-W.Va.) said Johnson is a female role model, an African American woman who broke barriers as a leader in STEM.

Katherine Johnson

The only NASA facility in West Virginia is named after Johnson, called the Katherine Johnson Independent and Verification & Validation Facility. It is located in Fairmont. According to NASA, the facility was established in 1993 and “has been contributing to the safety and success of NASA’s highest-profile missions by assuring the software on those missions performs correctly.”

Capito and Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) introduced a bill to rename the facility after Johnson, and President Donald Trump signed it in 2018. The facility keeps Johnson’s legacy alive, and inspiring future generations, Capito said.

Her full statement reads:

“When I talk about female role models in my West Virginia Girls Rise Up program, Katherine Johnson immediately comes to mind. Katherine’s life was dedicated in service to others. As an African American woman, Katherine broke barriers not only within NASA but also as a leader in STEM fields. For far too long, her work was hidden behind the accomplishments of the men she put on the moon. But Katherine’s work is hidden no more. Today, her legacy lives on at West Virginia’s only NASA facility, the Katherine Johnson IV & V Facility. Katherine’s story of perseverance and dedication will continue to inspire future generations of students, scientists, engineers, and women. Charlie and I send love to her daughters Joylette, Katherine, and Constance, and her entire family today.”

U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) on Katherine Johnson’s death

Manchin said Johnson was the first African American woman graduate student at West Virginia University and said because of her accomplishments, more young women are and will be trailblazers in the STEM fields. Johnson “broke the barriers of race and gender during a critical time in our nation,” Manchin said.

His full statement on her passing reads:

“Gayle and I are terribly saddened to hear of the passing of Katherine Johnson, a stellar mathematician and proud West Virginian and we join all Americans and West Virginians in mourning the loss of an incredible American. A White Sulphur Springs native, Katherine 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. Gayle and I send our deepest condolences to Katherine’s friends and loved ones, especially her daughters Joylette, Katherine, and Constance. We will keep them in our thoughts and prayers during this difficult time.”

U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Gayle Manchin on Katherine Johnson’s death

PHOTOS: See photos from the renaming ceremony of the Katherine Johnson IV&V facility in Fairmont, West Virginia in July 2019. All photos courtesy of NASA.

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