“MTSU On the Record” celebrated National Aviation History Month on the radio program by spotlighting an important aviation pioneer in MTSU history.
Host Gina Logue’s interview with Melinda Knott, daughter of the late state lawmaker and MTSU alumna Mary Anderson, first aired Nov. 17 on WMOT-FM Roots Radio 89.5 and www.wmot.org.
You can listen to their conversation via the Soundcloud link above.
Knott recalls her mother’s high-flying life, which included conducting summer aviation workshops for teachers at MTSU and meeting aerospace engineering and rocketry legend Wernher von Braun on a field trip to Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama.
A 1943 graduate of Middle Tennessee State Teachers College, as it was then known, Anderson took her first solo flight in 1942 at age 21.
She was one of the driving forces in convincing the Tennessee Board of Regents to create an aerospace science major at MTSU.
After earning her teaching credentials, Anderson became Tennessee’s first public school aerospace teacher, instructing students in aerospace science and mechanical and architectural drafting for the Metropolitan Nashville Public School System from 1958 to 1967.
Anderson also performed engineering work for several private firms, worked for the Tennessee Aeronautics Commission and was appointed associate administrator for policy and international aviation affairs for the Federal Aviation Administration in Washington, D.C., in 1978.
“One of the things that she wanted to get done that they (the FAA) finally did after she left was to put on planes a guidance system that prevented midair collisions,” Knott said. “She worked very hard while she was there with the FAA … to get that device put on every plane that went into the air.”
In addition to her aviation accomplishments, Anderson promoted the creation of a metropolitan government for Nashville and Davidson County.
This political activism brought her to the attention of local Democrats, who encouraged her to run for the Tennessee General Assembly.
Anderson served in the Tennessee House of Representatives from 1963 to 1967 and from 1973 to 1975, then in the Tennessee Senate from 1967 to 1969.
She also launched unsuccessful runs for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in 1970 and for mayor of Nashville in 1983.
To hear previous “MTSU On the Record” programs, visit the searchable “Audio Clips” archives at www.mtsunews.com.
For more information about the radio program, contact Logue at 615-898-5081 or WMOT-FM at 615-898-2800.