Biography John Glenn

John Glenn is an outstanding example of a man plentifully endowed with ‘the right stuff’. Born John Herschel Glenn Jnr on July 18th 1921, in Cambridge, Ohio, he was raised in New Concord and enjoyed a childhood he recalled as ‘idyllic’.

He attended the local High School but his mother augmented his education. Early on he developed an interest in science and aviation which he furthered with a degree in engineering at Muskingham College.

Pearl Harbor then intervened and he joined the Naval Aviation Cadet program, becoming a Marine Corps pilot and serving in the South Pacific, flying Corsairs. His duties were suppressing Japanese counter attacks and ground support. Flying 59 missions, he won the first two of six DFCs that he was to amass during his career.

He remained in the Service after hostilities ended and was back in action in Korea, flying 63 missions on his first tour. A second tour saw him flying Sabres and he downed three enemy Migs in the closing days of the War. Returning to the States, he joined the Navy’s Patuxent River Test Pilot School and became famous for making the first super sonic flight from New York to Los Angeles, taking just 3 hours and 23 minutes.

Thereafter he entered the Space Program and was selected for the third Mercury mission. In the face of a clear Russian lead in space flight, Glenn became a national hero when, on February 20th 1962 he became the first American to go into orbit. His fame and daring earned him a ticker tape parade in New York and he addressed Congress, but it also led President Kennedy to order that he should not be sent into space again. His iconic status made him too valuable to risk.

Leaving the military, he was encouraged by Robert Kennedy to consider a career in politics. He stood as a Democrat for his home state of Ohio in the Senate elections of 1964, but pulled out after injuring himself. Instead he joined the Board of Royal Crown Cola as a Director and went on to become President of the company. However, he had not abandoned his political ambitions and stood for the Senate again in 1970, losing. He did join Ohio’s environmental task force though.

In 1974 he was elected as Democratic senator for Ohio, and was re-elected until 1998, when he stood down. He served on the Senate Committees on Government Affairs, Foreign Relations, Armed Services and the Special Committee on Aging.

In October 1998 he went into space again, at the age of 77, aboard the Shuttle as a payload specialist. He was part of an experiment to study how age affected reaction to space flight and he spent 9 days in weightlessness, orbiting the earth 314 times and returning in good health.

He helped set up the John Glenn Institute for Public service (now the Glenn School of Public Affairs )and is Adjunct Professor both there and at Ohio State’s Department of Political Science.