JACKSON COUNTY, Mich. (WLNS) — A Jackson County woman is being honored for her service during World War II.
Mary Elizabeth Clark is being posthumously awarded with a United States Congressional Gold Medal at the Civil Air Patrol Ceremony at Jackson County Airport on July 8.
Clark, who died in 1981, is the first resident of Jackson County to receive a Congressional Gold Medal, which is the highest expression of national appreciation by Congress for distinguished achievements and contributions made by individuals. Her niece, Jennifer Clark, will accept the medal on behalf of the family.
The Civil Air Patrol was founded in 1941 in order to mobilize civilian aviation resources for national defense service and was transferred to the U.S. Air Force in 1943.
When the Air Force became a separate branch of armed services in 1948, the Civil Air Patrol became the Air Force’s civilian auxiliary.
Clark joined the Jackson Civil Air Patrol Squadron 635-1 in 1941, later joining the American Red Cross in 1943. During World War II, Clark served overseas in three countries and returned home to Jackson to work in her family’s business. Clark was a lifetime member of the 99s, an organization of women pilots.
She earned her pilot’s license and commercial rating, owned racing airplanes and was the first pilot from Jackson to fly in the Powder Puff Derby, a famed transcontinental air race for women pilots that debuted in 1947.
Clark is recognized as a trailblazer in the field of women’s aviation and helped create and manage regional and national air races, setting a speed record in 1966.