Each year the attendees of DeCONpression get to chose the Ghost of Honor for the following year.
Our Ghost of Honor this year, John Herschel Glenn Jr, born July 18th, 1921 Cambridge, Ohio, was a U.S. Marine Corps aviator, an engineer, an astronaut, a U.S. Senator, and then briefly an astronaut again at age 77! He married his high school sweetheart, Anna Margaret Castor on April 6th, 1943. They had two children, John David and Carolyn Ann, and they remained married for 73 years until his death.
Glenn studied engineering at Muskingum College and while there he earned a private pilot license to get credit in his physics course. When Pearl Harbor was bombed, he dropped out of school to join the U.S. Army Air Corps. After significant training, he transferred to the U.S. Marine Corps and by the end of the war had flown nearly 60 combat missions. After the war, he spent several years receiving further education and even teaching courses himself, until the start of the Korean War in which he also flew over 60 combat missions. Next on his insane career path, he became a test pilot and spent more time in school as well. His missions there ranged in the extreme from almost being killed by failed equipment to making the first ever supersonic transcontinental flight from California to New York in under 3 ½ hours.
His interest in space flight led him to involvement in some early capsule designing and simulator testing, which then furthered his path to his selection as a candidate for becoming an astronaut. After an intensive testing and screening process, he was chosen to join Project Mercury and become one of the Mercury Seven. His initial space flight made him the first American to orbit the Earth, the third American in Space, the fifth human in space, and naturally system malfunctions nearly cost him his life again!
His fame from this historic flight contributed to his becoming friends with The Kennedy family after JFK recognized and honored his achievements in science. He remained close friends of the family for many years to come and was with Robert Kennedy when he was assassinated. He was also a pallbearer at his funeral. After realizing he would be too old to join the lunar landing party, he made his first attempt to dive into politics with a senate race. An injury drove him out of that race and into a long recovery, and then into retiring from the military after so many decades. He did a stint as an executive for Royal Crown Cola, while staying active politically and then ran again to join the Ohio Senate in 1974. This time he was successful and that began a new career that lasted for nearly 25 years! He also attempted to become the vice president and then the president of the US. During his presidential campaigning the film The Right Stuff about the Mercury Seven astronauts was released, which helped his image, but he was untimately unsuccessful.
He was a man of faith, as well as a man of science and saw no reason that the two concepts couldn’t live peacefully together. He was an original co-owner of a Holiday Inn franchise with his close friend, Henri Landwirth, a Holocaust survivor. He was passionate about music and was a lover of chocolate. He has been honored time and again, all over the country, for his contributions to science and flight. He has been showered with honorary degrees, medals, and commendations his entire adult life – literally too many to list here. He dotted the “i” in the OSU Script Ohio marching band performance during a halftime show, helped turn over the Space Shuttle Discovery from NASA to the Smithsonian, and has had things named for him from roads to research centers and even the Port Columbus, Ohio airport. He led a long, busy, exciting, and extraordinary life until his passing at age 95 on December 8th, 2016 at the OSU Wexner Medical Center. His body lay in state at the Ohio Statehouse after his passing and he will be interred at Arlington National Cemetary. We are happy to honor him at DeCONpression this year for our theme of To the Stars!