From the Hangars

International Black Aviation Professionals Day: Delta Firsts

Feb 16, 2023

Today, International Black Aviation Professionals Day, celebrates diversity in the aviation industry. In the spirit of that celebration, we would like to recognize some of Delta's first Black aviation professionals that helped shape the airline.  

Patricia Grace Murphy 


Delta’s first Black flight attendant. Hired on June 27, 1966. Member of Delta’s inaugural Chairman’s Club class in 1997.

Hired in June 1966, Pat holds the important distinction of serving as Delta’s very first Black flight attendant. Throughout her long and stellar career of service, Pat was featured in national advertising in 1980 and ultimately honored in 1997 as part of the inaugural Chairman’s Club class. She was an early supporter of the Delta Flight Museum. Pat retired from Delta in 2001.

Eugene Harmond


Delta’s first Black male flight attendant in 1973. Eugene is still flying with Delta today! He's pictured here in the center next to Patricia Murphy (right) and Phenola Culbreath Smith (left), Delta’s first and second Black female flight attendants, both hired in 1966.

Sam Graddy


Samuel Louis Graddy, a former captain in the U.S. Army, became Delta’s first Black pilot on July 8, 1968, as a Second Officer. Graddy became Delta’s first Black Captain on January 1, 1979.

Dana Nelson


Dana was the first Black female pilot hired by Delta. She joined as a First Officer in January 2001. Here she's pictured with Captain John Bailey, First Officer Jon Graham, First Officer Doug Hill, Captain Brian Todd, and First Officer Marx Davis, ca. 2002.

Stephanie Johnson


Stephanie was Delta’s first Black female captain. She was hired as Northwest Airlines' first Black female pilot in 1997 and came to Delta from Northwest during the merger.

Joe Jackson


Joseph Jackson, hired in 1968, became Delta’s first Black flight dispatcher, sector manager and duty director.

After obtaining his dispatcher's license in 1982, Jackson was promoted to flight superintendent. He became the airline's first Black sector manager, now known as systems operations manager, in 1991. From there he received another promotion to become a duty director. Jackson served as a duty director for eight years, Delta's first and only African American (as of 2018) in that role. He eventually returned to what he enjoyed best, systems operation management, and retired in 2018 with 50 years of service.

Each Delta employee mentioned is worth celebrating both as Black aviation professionals and as people. They are vital to Black history and Delta's history. 

Thank you for your contributions and service!


Austin Vallejos-Coleman



Leave a comment
  1. O. Stapleton | Feb 18, 2024
    What an outstanding legacy! Delta continues to soar in inclusivity. I consider it an honor to have recruited Dana Nelson to join Delta in 2001.
  2. Shaye Dunn | Feb 17, 2024
    Great stories!

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