JOHN GLENN, JR. Biography - Pioneers, Explorers & inventors


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John H. Glenn, Jr., was born in Cambridge, Ohio, on July 18, 1921, the son of         
John Herschel and Clara Sproat Glenn. At age two, young John moved with his           
parents to New Concord, where his father opened a plumbing business. After           
relocating to New Concord, the Glenns built a home that doubled as a rooming         
house for students from nearby Muskingum College.                                     
Glenn would write many years later of his childhood, "A boy could not have had a     
more idyllic early childhood than I did." Surrounded by older students,               
encouraged by a father who liked to travel, and tutored by a devoted mother,         
John developed an early interest in science, a fascination with flying, and a         
sense of patriotism that would define his adult life.                                 
He graduated from New Concord High School and attended Muskingum College.             
Shortly after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, Glenn enlisted in the Naval Aviation       
Cadet Program and became a Marine pilot. He flew 59 combat missions in the South     
Pacific during World War II. When the Korean conflict began, Glenn asked for         
combat duty and flew 63 missions. For his total of 149 missions during the two       
wars, he received many decorations, including the Distinguished Flying Cross six     
After the Korean conflict, Glenn attended test pilot school and then joined the       
Naval Air Test Center's staff of expert flyers. He served as a test pilot for         
Naval and Marine aircraft, including the FJ3, the F7U Cutlass, and the F8U           
Crusader. One of Glenn's most notable accomplishments during this period was the     
1957 speed record he set flying from Los Angeles to New York in three hours and       
23 minutes. "Project Bullet" secured Glenn's reputation as one of the country's       
top test pilots and provided a stepping stone for his participation in the           
emerging space exploration program.                                                   
Glenn's experience and skill made him a logical candidate for the astronaut           
corps being formed during 1958. He entered the space program as a participant in     
the National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics' "G" force tests. When NASA put       
out a call for pilots to participate in its suborbital and orbital program,           
Glenn volunteered without hesitation. In 1959, NASA selected him as one of the       
first seven astronauts in the U.S. space program. On February 20, 1962, atop an       
Atlas rocket, he rode into space and piloted the Friendship 7 spacecraft around       
the globe three times, becoming the first American to orbit the earth.               
Glenn's ride into space, a great technical accomplishment, held even greater         
significance for the country. Having lagged behind the Soviet Union in the "Space     
Race," Americans saw the event as a political as well as scientific milestone.       
Across the country, they welcomed Glenn as a hero who had conquered the bounds       
of earth and given new wings to America's spirit.                                     
John Glenn, the pilot and hero, soon found NASA's plans for him did not include       
another flight assignment. While he continued to serve as an advisor to NASA         
until 1964, his interests increasingly turned to public affairs. Encouraged by       
Bobby Kennedy to seek public office, Glenn retired from the Marine Corps as a         
colonel the following year to run for the United States Senate.                       
He entered the Ohio Democratic primary challenging the incumbent Democratic Sen.     
Stephen M. Young. An accident forced him to leave the race early in the campaign     
and to put his political career on hold. After recovery from the accident, Glenn     
joined Royal Crown Cola as vice president and then president. Still interested       
in public service, Glenn again ran for the senate. His opponent, Howard               
Metzenbaum, defeated him in the 1970 primaries. Four years later, Glenn made a       
third run for the senate. This time he was successful, easily winning over his       
Republican opponent, former Cleveland Mayor Ralph J. Perk.                           
Astronaut Glenn now became Senator Glenn. In this new career, he represented         
Ohio and took a leading role in weapons control and government affairs. He was       
chief author of the 1978 Nonproliferation Act, served as chairman of the Senate       
Government Affairs Committee from 1978 until 1995, and sat on the Foreign             
Relations and Armed Services committees and the Special Committee on Aging.           
Never far from the center of Democratic politics, he was a contender for the         
vice presidential nomination three times and ran in the Democratic primaries as       
a presidential candidate in 1984.                                                     
Glenn announced on February 20, 1997 that he would retire from the senate. A         
year later, NASA invited him to rejoin the space program he had helped to create     
as a member of the Space Shuttle Discovery Crew. Glenn accepted the invitation       
and on October 29, 1998, became the oldest human ever to venture into space.         
John Glenn, soldier, pilot, astronaut, corporate executive, and senator, has         
taken on a new role. Upon his retirement from the senate and return from space,       
John and Annie Glenn founded the John Glenn Institute for Public Service at the       
Ohio State University. Through its programs, they seek to improve the quality of     
public service and to encourage young people to pursue careers in government.         
The Glenns also serve as trustees of Muskingum College, their alma mater.