Jan. 16, 1964 - John Glenn, the first American to orbit the Earth, resigned today as an astronaut to seek election as a Senator from Ohio. The formal announcement that the 42-year-old Marine lieutenant colonel would run for the Democratic nomination in Ohio was expected to be made tomorrow in Columbus, the state capital. As a first step toward entering the political arena, Col. Glenn requested today that he be “relieved of his assignment” with NASA. The request was granted by Dr. Robert Gilruth, director of the Manned Spacecraft Center in Houston. Col. Glenn’s entry in the Democratic primary campaign would pit him against Senator Stephen M. Young, 74 years old, who announced recently that he would seek reelection. If victorious in the primary, scheduled for May 5, Col. Glenn would probably have to run against Robert Taft Jr., who is expected to be the Republican Senatorial candidate.
After orbiting the Earth, Col. Glenn won a national acclaim unmatched by anyone since Charles Lindbergh. In the intervening months, the astronaut has been wooed by both major parties to become their standard bearer in the Senatorial race. Behind their efforts was the thought that Col. Glenn, as a Senatorial candidate, could help swing Ohio’s 26 electoral votes in the Presidential race. Ohio, a famous swing state, went Republican in the 1960 Presidential election. Col. Glenn repeatedly declared that he was an independent in politics. But his apparent choice of the Democratic side is not a surprise. The Marine flyer was a friend of President Kennedy and members of Mr. Kennedy’s family. He visited the White House and the Kennedy summer home on Cape Cod several times. Col. Glenn’s parents, who live in Ohio, are Democrats.
Before becoming an active political candidate, it will be necessary under military regulations for Col. Glenn to resign from the Marine Corps. The corps said it had not yet received an application for retirement.