John Glenn dies: Former U.S. senator and astronaut dead at age 95

Posted at 8:20 AM, Dec 12, 2016
and last updated 2016-12-12 08:20:26-05

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Former U.S. senator and astronaut John Glenn died surrounded by family at a medical center in Columbus Ohio, Ohio State University President Michael V. Drake confirmed Thursday.

He was 95 years old.

Glenn was hospitalized at Ohio State's James Cancer Hospital for more than a week before his passing. A spokesman for the John Glenn College of Public Affairs at Ohio State University told WJW that didn’t necessarily mean Glenn had cancer.

“The Ohio State University community deeply mourns the loss of John Glenn, Ohio’s consummate public servant and a true American hero. He leaves an undiminished legacy as one of the great people of our time," Drake said in a statement on Thursday. "He was a loving husband, father and grandfather. He and his wife, Annie, have been the definition of model citizens. Meeting them was among life’s greatest privileges. Spending time with them was a blessing."

Glenn was born in Cambridge, Ohio in 1921. He leaves behind his high school sweetheart and wife of more than 70 years, Annie.

“If there is one thing I’ve learned in my years on this planet, it’s that the happiest and most fulfilled people I’ve known are those who devoted themselves to something bigger and more profound than merely their own self interest,” Glenn said in 1997.

The American hero became a Marine pilot after the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. He flew 59 combat missions in the South Pacific during World War II and another 63 missions during the Korean conflict.

Glenn established a reputation as a top test pilot. In 1959, NASA selected him as one of the first seven astronauts for the country’s space program, a group called the “Mercury Seven.” He became the first American to orbit the Earth in 1962. Glenn was the last of the "Mercury Seven" to die, following Scott Carpenter in 2013.

Glenn acted as a NASA adviser and retired from the Marine Corps before running as a Democrat for U.S. Senate. He served the state of Ohio for 25 years.

In 1998, he made history for a second time when NASA invited him to be a member of the Space Shuttle Discovery Crew. He was the oldest person to go into space at the age of 77.

Glenn’s focus shifted to education. In 1997, he announced a donation to Ohio State and the John Glenn Institute for Public Service and Policy was created the following year.