Saturday, June 11, 2011

The Inspiring Story of Annie Glenn’s Stutter

John Glenn has to rate as one of the most famous and accomplished Ohioans of the 21st century. After a great career as a Marine fighter pilot in both WWII and Korea, he was one of the original 7 astronauts on the Mercury program and was the first American to orbit the Earth. Did I mention he had 139 combat missions?

After retiring from the Marine Corps, he served 4 terms as a US Senator from Ohio. Then, at the age of 76, he became the world’s oldest astronaut when he returned to space onboard the space shuttle Discovery. Among the ironies of his life is that his closest brush with death came not as a fighter pilot or an astronaut, but in 1964, when he slipped in his own bathroom, hit his head, and almost died.

While every Ohioan knows his name, if not for the fact that Annie, his wife of (check) close to 60 years, had a stutter, he may have been known as one of America’s greatest presidents.

In 1976, Jimmy Carter had Glenn on his list of choices for a running mate. I’ve heard that the story is when Jimmy’s wife Rosalynd learned that Annie Glenn had a severe stutter, she prevailed on her husband to pick Senator Walter Mondale of Minnesota instead. This gave Mondale the leg up to win the Democratic nomination for the 1984 Presidential Election. Election night 1984 was not a happy one for Democrats. Mondale managed to take one state and the District of Columbia, Regan took the other 49.

In January of 1984, the political writer Richard Reeves wrote a fictional account og Ronald Regan flying back to California at the end of his one term in office and mentions that he’d lost in a landslide to John Glenn. It’s not certain that Glenn could have defeated Regan. However, it’s hard to imagine he could have done worse than Mondale did. I can imagine that quite a few undecided voters would have preferred voting for a real-life fighter pilot over one who played one in the movies. Had that actually happened and Glenn had served two terms, he would have left office shortly after the disillusion of the Soviet Union. We would have one more Ohioan president in our history books, only he would have been remembered as one of the great ones.

Believe it or not,I have a personal link to John Glenn. Glenn’s fourth grade teacher was a woman named Ms. Quillen who later became Mrs. Hannahs, and who was still teaching at Barrington Road Elementary school more than 30 years later, in 1963. My third-grade teacher was Mrs. Hannis. My classmates and I heard a lot about John Glenn as a youngster. Apparently he was an extraordinarily funny student whom everybody liked. Even then he seemed destined for greatness.

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