Gen. J.R. “Jack” Dailey, a retired U.S. Marine Corps four star general and pilot, assumed the duties of director of the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum in January 2000.
Since assuming his position, Dailey has led efforts 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 a second building, the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Va. More than 300 aircraft and space artifacts are housed in its two hangars: the Boeing Aviation Hangar and James S. McDonnell Space Hangar. In 2011, construction was completed on the center’s second and final component, a section devoted to preservation and restoration of the museum’s collection.
Eight major exhibitions have opened in the museum’s original building with Dailey at the helm. In support of the Smithsonian’s strategic planning efforts, the museum has expanded its public-program, Web and distance-learning activities.
Dailey came to the museum from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, where he had been the associate deputy administrator (1992–1999) since retiring from the U.S. Marine Corps. At NASA, he led the agency’s internal operations.
His career in the Marine Corps spanned 36 years and included extensive command and staff experience. He has flown more than 7,000 hours in a wide variety of aircraft and helicopters. During two tours in Vietnam, he flew 450 missions. He was promoted to the rank of general and named Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps in 1990. He has numerous personal decorations for his service in the Marine Corps and NASA.
While at NASA, Dailey served on the President’s Management Council, co-chaired the Aeronautics and Astronautics Coordinating Board and was a national delegate to the Research and Technology Organization supporting NATO.
He served as national commander of the Marine Corps Aviation Association, the Board of the Medal of Honor Foundation and is a member of the Early and Pioneer Naval Aviators Association (“Golden Eagles”).
While at the Smithsonian, he has received the 2011 Lifetime Achievement Award from the University of California at Los Angeles, the Statesman of Aviation Award from the National Aeronautic Association and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Wings Club.
The National Air and Space Museum’s original building, which opened in 1976, is home to many of the “firsts” in aviation and space history, including the Wright brothers’ Flyer, Charles Lindbergh’s Spirit of St. Louis and the Apollo 11 command module Columbia. Icons at the Udvar-Hazy Center include a Concorde, the Boeing B-29 Superfortress “Enola Gay” and the space shuttle Discovery. With a combined attendance of approximately 8 million visitors a year to both its buildings, the museum is one of the most popular in the world.
Dailey was born in Quantico, Va., and earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of California, Los Angeles in 1956. He and his wife, the former Mimi Rodian of Copenhagen, Denmark, live in Fairfax, Va. They have two children and four grandchildren.