Thursday, December 8, 2016

John Glenn 1921-2016

John Glenn, who became the first American to orbit the Earth, and who later served as a Senator from Ohio for four terms, has died at the age of 95, at the James Cancer Hospital at Ohio State University in Columbus.  His illness, which was not necessarily cancer, has not been disclosed.

John Herschel Glenn Jr. was born in Cambridge, Ohio to John H. Glenn Sr. and the former Teresa Sproat.  He studied engineering at Muskingum College and earned a pilot's licence, but left school to the enter the military.  He enlisted as a Navy aviation cadet, but later was given a chance to transfer to the Marine Corps.  During World War II, he flew 59 combat missions in the South Pacific and patrol missions over China.  He was a flight instructor at NAS Corpus Christi, Texas.  During the Korean War, Glenn flew 63 combat missions in a F9F Panther jet and 27 more in an F-86F Sabre, attracting so much flak that he acquired the nickname "magnet ass".  For a time, his wingman was baseball player Ted Williams.  After the war, he served as a test pilot, including as an armaments officer, where he tested airplanes' guns.

In 1959, Glenn was chosen by NASA to become one of the seven Mercury astronauts.  In 1962, he flew the Friendship 7 mission, on which he became the first American in Earth orbit.  He stayed with NASA until 1964.  He retired from the Marine Corps in 1965 and became an executive for Royal Crown Cola.

In 1974, Glenn was elected Senator, defeating Cleveland Mayor Ralph Perk (R).  He would serve four terms, ending in January 1999, but was caught up in the Keating Five scandal.  While still in the Senate, he returned to space at age 77, on the STS-95 mission aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery, which made him the oldest person to go into space.  (To recognize this, among his other accomplishments, this post gets the "badass" label.)

Glenn is survived by his wife Annie, whom he met when they were just toddlers, and who likewise attended Muskingum College.  They had two children.

Read more at The Columbus Dispatch, CNN, ABC News, Cincinnati(dot)com and Reuters.

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