COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — After completing three laps around the planet, John Glenn’s ride back to Earth on Feb. 20, 1962 was a bumpy ride. During re-entry, “There were flaming chunks of the retro-pack burning off and coming back by the window,” Glenn told NBC News. “I didn’t know for sure whether it was the retro-pack or the heat shield, but there wasn’t anything I could do about it either way.”
Two years later, Glenn started another bumpy ride when he entered the Democratic primary in Ohio for a seat in the U.S. Senate. Just weeks after announcing his candidacy, while at home, Glenn fell and hit his head on a bathtub. He sustained a concussion and damage to his inner ear, leaving him unable to continue the campaign.
Glenn took another run at politics in 1970, but lost to Cleveland businessman Howard Metzenbaum in the Ohio Democratic primary for the U.S. Senate. Metzenbaum eventually lost to Robert Taft in the general election.
Glenn and Metzenbaum would face off again four years later. Trying to capitalize on the antiwar sentiment at the time, Metzenbaum started referring to Glenn as “Colonel” and accused him of never holding a real job and never having to meet a payroll. But in a speech at the Cleveland City Club just four days before the 1974 election, Glenn fired back. He outlined his military and NASA careers, looked at Metzenbaum and said, “It wasn’t my checkbook, it was my life on the line. You go with me to any Gold Star mother and you look her in the eye and you tell her that her son did not hold a job.”
It was a defining moment in the campaign and Glenn went on to win the primary and the general elections, beginning what would become a 24-year career in the U.S. Senate.
During his time in the Senate, Glenn served on the Foreign Relations, Armed Services and Governmental Affairs committees. When asked about his accomplishments in the Senate, he pointed to his work on preventing the spread of nuclear weapons.