Gen. J.R. “Jack” Dailey Honored with 2017 Wright Trophy

The National Aeronautic Association is pleased to announce that General J.R. “Jack” Dailey, USMC (Ret.), Director of the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum, has been selected as the recipient of the 2017 Wright Brothers Memorial Trophy for … “his courageous and dedicated service to the country and his commitment to sharing the history and technology of aviation and space flight with present and future generations.”

Established by NAA in 1948 to honor the memory of Orville and Wilbur Wright, the trophy is awarded annually to a living American for “…significant public service of enduring value to aviation in the United States.” One of the most important, historic, and visible aerospace awards in the world, the Wright Brothers Memorial Trophy reflects a timeline of the most innovative inventors, explorers, industrialists, and public servants in aeronautics and astronautics.

Dailey was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps in June 1956. He completed Basic School at Quantico followed by flight training at Pensacola, and was designated a Naval Aviator in 1958. After two tours of Vietnam, Dailey returned to the United States and entered the National War College in 1975. After graduating, Dailey ascended through the ranks and in 1990 was promoted to General and assigned as Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps. In 1992, Dailey retired after 36 years of service. His operational experience included over 7,000 flying hours in fighters; light attack, reconnaissance, and electronic warfare aircraft; transports; and helicopters. Dailey also received numerous awards from the Marine Corps including the Distinguished Flying Cross.

After retiring from the Marine Corps, Dailey was recruited by NASA to serve as Deputy Administrator and given the task of restructuring the agency. While at NASA, he served on the President’s Management Council, co-chaired the Aeronautics and Astronautics Coordinating Board, served as a national delegate to the Research and Technology Organization supporting NATO, and served on the National Air and Space Museum’s Advisory Board.

In January 2000, Dailey began his third career as the Director of the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum, where he led the effort to expand the size and scope of the museum and increase public outreach. In 2003, in conjunction with the Centennial of Flight, the museum opened its second building, the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia.

With Dailey at the helm, the museum has also opened eight new multi-million-dollar exhibitions in the original building, greatly expanded its public programming and outreach activities, focused its educational activities on STEM disciplines, and inspired countless visitors through sharing the history of aviation and space.

Jim Albaugh, Chairman of NAA and a member of the Selection Committee, praised the choice. “NAA congratulates General Dailey for his selection as the 2017 Wright Brothers Memorial Trophy recipient. General Dailey’s public service to aviation is well known and his contributions are numerous.”

Dailey will be presented the trophy at the Aero Club of Washington’s Wright Memorial Dinner on Friday, December 15, 2017. For more information about the award or to view a list of past recipients, please visit For information regarding the Wright Memorial Dinner, please visit