Local man who helped honor Katherine Johnson with statue remembers NASA mathematician

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- A local man is remembering Katherine Johnson, the NASA pioneer who broke barriers for African Americans and women.

Johnson passed away Monday at 101 years old.

The West Virginia native was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2015, the highest award that can be bestowed upon a civilian.

In 2016, she was portrayed by Taraji Henson in the motion picture Hidden Figures about three African American women who played crucial roles at NASA.

RELATED: Katherine Johnson, mathematician and real-life subject of 'Hidden Figures,' dies at 101

Johnson was a mathematician at NASA who calculated the numbers responsible for the first American's orbit around Earth.

Gregory Wilson who heads the Delaware Valley chapter of West Virginia State University's alumni association and was part of a push that brought a bronze statue in her honor to the campus.

The alumni group also established a scholarship in her name for students interested in Science Technology Electronics and Math.

Wilson spoke to Action News on Monday about being at the ceremony and how important is was for the group to bestow the honor to Johnson a day before her 100th birthday

"This woman's accomplishments push humanity forward, not just black humanity all of humanity," said Wilson. "When we think about people like Katherine Johnson, it's important to know where they came from, the importance of those institutions and to support them to keep them funded."
Copyright © 2020 WPVI-TV. All Rights Reserved.