97-year-old pioneer honored by Jacksonville City Council

Yvette Ridley recognized for incredible legacy of breaking boundaries

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Jacksonville City Council on Tuesday night honored a 97-year-old woman who joined NASA before the space program even began. 

Yvette B. Ridley was a groundbreaking engineer and chemist who waited years to get her first job. 

Now, the pioneer in both women's and civil rights continues to educate and inspire everyone around her.

"Age is nothing but a number," Ridley said. "It's what you do with it that's important."

City council members recognized her life of accomplishments and incredible legacy of breaking barriers.

READ: Yvette B. Ridley's autobiography

Even in the 1940s, race and gender did not stand in her way.

"When I finished college, it took me two years to find a job," Ridley said. "I'm from Norfolk, Virginia, and they did not expect a black woman to finish college.”

She took her two college degrees to Langley Air Force Base, where she worked for the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics -- the first "NASA."

"NASA had not been invented then," she explained.

Hired as what she called a "colored computer," she eventually worked in the X tunnel and, in 1955, began working on what would become the F-15 jet.

But Ridley doesn't focus on her incredible past. She's more interested in continuing to contribute to the future.

"I've enjoyed a number of things," she said. "The main thing is helping other people become all that they can become. That is the important thing."

Ridley is a breast cancer survivor. She spends time at the Singleton Senior Center every day and has worked as a volunteer at City Hall in Jacksonville.

When News4Jax mentioned that her daughters must enjoy having her nearby, Ridley said, "I guess so, but they try to be the boss, and I have a mind of my own. I like to think for myself."


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