John and Annie Glenn taken at the
Democratic National Convention in New
York City, July 1976.
Today, April 12th is the International Day of Human Space Flight! On April 7th of 2011, the United Nations declared that each year there should be a celebration of “the beginning of the space era for mankind” and acknowledgement of how science and technology plays an integral role in the development of peace and human society. In observation of this day, we remember the legacy of John Glenn and highlight the rich archives that document his life and legacy.
John Glenn was the first American to orbit the Earth, a twenty-four year United States Senator from Ohio, and a generous patron to Ohio State. He generously donated his papers and memorabilia to the university in 1999 as part of the formation of what is now the John Glenn College of Public Affairs. With that action, he created the John Glenn Archives, which forms the foundation of the Ohio Congressional Archives. While the Ohio Congressional Archives contains the personal papers of various members of the Ohio delegation to Congress, the John Glenn Archives specifically contains Senator Glenn’s papers and memorabilia from not only his time in the United States Senate, but also his previous careers as a United States Marine Corps combat and test pilot and NASA astronaut.
Astronaut John Glenn adjusts the
helmet on his spacesuit prior to his
MA-6 orbital flight on February 20,
Senator Glenn was deeply involved in the development of the John Glenn Archives. Jeff Thomas, who has been with the John Glenn Archives and the Ohio Congressional Archives since the former’s inception in 1999, often met with the Senator to handle matters of the archives. Jeff describes Senator Glenn as “a very genuine individual. There was no pretense about him. He was very gracious to everyone he’d met, be that a president of the United States or someone who would come up to him in a restaurant. He treated everyone fairly equal.” Jeff recalls how, the first time he traveled to Glenn’s home in Washington D.C., he was quite nervous to meet the Senator. “I didn’t know him that well at that point.” When he arrived at the Senator’s home early in the morning, John Glenn answered the door in his slippers. Senator Glenn then said “Jeff! How are you doing? Come on in! We are having breakfast. How would you like your eggs?”
The John Glenn Archives contains many fascinating items from Glenn’s long careers. One such item is the hand-controller from the Friendship 7, John Glenn’s spacecraft in which he orbited the Earth. Another also comes from his career with NASA. During the selection process for becoming an astronaut, John Glenn was taken into a soundproof, pitch-black, isolation room in the middle of the night as part of a psychological test. He was not told what was going on or what he was expected to do. He was not even told for how long he would be alone in the room. To pass the time during what would end up being a three hour test, John Glenn felt around the room, eventually finding a notepad and a pencil. He then proceeded to write a poem on that notepad as a mental exercise to preserve himself. That poem is currently in the John Glenn Archives.
John Glenn dressed in spacesuit and
helmet, taken during the pre-launch
preparations for the Project Mercury
MA-6 mission, February 20, 1962.
Senator Glenn passed away in December of 2016 at the age of ninety-five. Although the exhibit in Thompson Library celebrating his life and contributions is no longer on view, the Archives are always accessible to the public and a gallery containing many photos in the John Glenn Archives is available here!
Written by John Hooton
 “International Day of Human Space Flight 12 April,” the United Nations, accessed April 9, 2017. http://www.un.org/en/events/humanspaceflightday/.
 “John H. Glenn Archives,” the Ohio Congressional Archives, May 10, 2016, accessed April 9, 2017, https://library.osu.edu/find/collections/ohio-congressional-archives/john-h-glenn-archives/.
 Jeff Thomas, interview with author, April, 2017.
 Jeff Thomas, April 2017.
 Jeff Thomas, April 2017.