John Glenn is a former United States Marine Corps pilot, astronaut and United States senator who was the first American and third person to orbit the Earth. He was born as John Herschel Glenn, Jr. on July 18, 1921 in Cambridge, Ohio. Glenn met a girl named Anna Margaret Castor during his public schooling, and together they played in the school band. Glenn finished high school and studied chemistry at Muskingum College. He then went on to earn his private pilot’s license in 1941. On April 6, 1943, he married his childhood sweetheart, Anna, who also attended Muskingum. When the United States entered World War II, Glenn dropped out of college and enlisted as a United States Navy aviation cadet. He made his first solo flight in a military aircraft. In 1943, he was reassigned to the United States Marine Corps to Marine squadron VMJ-353. He eventually transferred to VMF-155 as an F4U Corsair pilot and flew 59 combat missions in the South Pacific. After the war, Glenn flew missions in North China with VMF-218, until his squadron was transferred. He then became a flight instructor at Naval Air Station Corpus Christi, Texas, in 1948, then attended the school and received a staff assignment. He was next assigned to VMF-311, flying the new F9F Panther jet interceptor. On July 16, 1957, Glenn completed the first supersonic transcontinental flight in a Vought F8U-1 Crusader. The mission included the first transcontinental flight to average supersonic speed as well as the first continuous transcontinental panoramic photograph of the United States. Glenn received his fifth Distinguished Flying Cross for the mission.
In April 1959, Glenn was assigned to NASA as one of the original group of seven astronauts chosen for Project Mercury. During this time, he kept his position as an officer in the United States Marine Corps. On February 20, 1962, he became the fifth person in space and the first American to orbit the Earth while aboard Friendship 7. Glenn was noted as a national hero and was recognized by John Kennedy, who he later became close friends with. However, Glenn resigned from NASA six weeks after the assassination of President Kennedy to run for office in his home state of Ohio. Glenn retired as a Colonel from the USMC in 1965 and entered the business world as an executive for Royal Crown Cola. Glenn soon returned to politics, and in the 1974 general election, he was elected and began a 24 year Senate career. Three decades later, Glenn was launched on a second space flight on October 29, 1998. He flew on Space Shuttle Discovery’s STS-95 to study the effects of space flight on the elderly. At age 77, Glenn became the oldest person ever to go into space. In 1990, Glenn was inducted into the Astronaut Hall of Fame. In 2004, John Glenn was awarded the Woodrow Wilson Award for Public Service at a presentation in Columbus. On August 4, 2006, Glenn and his wife were injured in an automobile accident near Columbus, Ohio. Tow days later, they were released from the hospital. On May 23, 2010, Glenn was awarded an honorary Doctoral degree in Public Service during the 2010 Commencement ceremony at Ohio Northern University. Glenn is currently an ordained elder in the Presbyterian Church.