Florida Senator Bill Nelson brought the sad news to the Senate floor mid afternoon Thursday, that one of Ohio’s favorite sons who stood out as one of the nation’s favorite modern day heroes, John Glenn, had died. Sen. Nelson reminded his colleagues that John Glenn was one of the original seven Mercury program astronauts, all of whom were selected and widely known for having “the right stuff.”

Nelson said about John Herschel Glenn Jr., who was born July 18, 1921, in Cambridge, Ohio, and grew up in New Concord, that he was a “first-class gentleman and devoted husband and father,” in addition to being a pioneer astronaut and senator. The beloved space pioneer died today at age 95 at the James Cancer Hospital in Columbus. In his latter years, he promoted the John Glenn School of Public Affairs at Ohio State University.

“He [Glenn] ventured into the unknown cosmos, and it was unknown then,” Sen. Nelson said, adding that Colonel Glenn, as many knew him more than as Senator, was the “first to go into orbit as an American. He paved the way for the rest of us, and now at his passing, America is in the planning and developing of the rocket that will take a human species all the way to Mars.”

Another close colleague, Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, said John Glenn was one of the best people he had ever served with. Leahy joked to a Senate dead still from the new that when he traveled with Sen. Glenn, his anonymity was assured since everyone would shout out to “Colonel Glenn, Colonel Glenn,” ignoring him because nobody knew who the bald man with Glenn was.

Ohio’s senior Senator, Sherrod Brown, issued a statement shortly after the news of death of John Glenn. Brown said he first met Glenn when Brown was 16 years old at a dinner for Boy Scouts in Mansfield, Ohio. When Brown was sworn in as a Senator in January 2007, Glenn escorted Brown onto the Senate floor.

“It has been one of the great blessings of my life to get to know John Glenn, and for Connie and me to count on him and Annie as mentors and friends. We loved him, we will miss him and we will continue to draw strength and wisdom from the lessons he shared with us over the years.

What made John Glenn a great Senator, Brown said today, was the “same quality that made him a great astronaut and an iconic American hero: he saw enormous untapped potential in the nation he loved and he had faith that America could overcome any challenge.”

Sen. Glenn’s kindness and intelligence and courage, along with commitment to service, set an example America needs more than ever today. “John’s legacy will live on in the pages of the history books and the hearts of everyone who knew and loved him.”

The Ohio Democratic Party offered special words on the news of the death of one of Ohio’s greatest contemporary leaders who inspired people in many ways. “No one in this country epitomized the nobility and patriotism of public service more than Ohio’s John Glenn,” said Ohio Democratic Party Chairman David Pepper. “Senator Glenn served his country in two wars, launched our nation into the space age and then returned home to represent the people of Ohio for four terms in the U.S. Senate. But even after retirement, his commitment to service continued, returning to space one last time, while inspiring thousands of students to follow him into public service by creating the John Glenn College of Public Affairs. Our thoughts and prayers are with his beloved wife Annie, who was by his side for every step of his historic journey, and his family.”

Democratic State Rep. David Leland said about John Glenn, that in addition to his exploits in space, he enjoyed a span of 25 years of success as a U.S. Senator. “John Glenn was the ultimate All-American, All-American military pilot, All-American space pioneer, All-American public servant. John Glenn embodied the best of America in every aspect of his life. My prayer for America is that we are able to produce many more public servants like John Glenn.”

House Democratic Leader Fred Strahorn issued a statement: “John Glenn represented what is best about America. He inspired generations with hope, teaching us to reach beyond ourselves for something greater. I was personally inspired to study aviation because of his extraordinary accomplishments in flight. Glenn’s legacy of public service endures in the hearts and minds of Americans who honor his heroism and dedication through their own commitment to our country, to each other, and to the peaceful advancement of humanity.”

Democratic State Rep. John Boccieri, a pilot like Glenn, mourned the pioneering astronaut’s death today. “He was such an inspiration to me not only as a fellow veteran, aviator and statesman, but for his integrity and genuineness in dealing with the people he aimed to help,” Rep. Boccieri said in prepared remarks. “I vividly remember him speaking to me after I won my first seat in the Ohio legislature, and his words about public service inspired me toward humility. My deepest sympathy goes out to Annie and the Glenn family.”

ProgressOhio Executive Director Sandy Theis said Ohio hearts broke on the news of his death. “Ohio’s heart breaks over the news of the death of Sen. John Glenn, a reluctant hero who valued America’s space program not for the acclaim it brought to him but for the technological advances it brought to the rest of us. He is the rare politician who acted the same, whether the cameras were on or off. His life is a lesson in patriotism, risk-taking and love of family.”

Personal Reflections On John Glenn

My own personal meetings with Sen. Glenn came first in 1986, when I was working for the Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce and honored as a member of the Columbus delegation that went to Washington to receive the city’s first All America Award, for “The Short North” project, that was delivered by then-president Ronald Reagan .

While in the nation’s capital, but before the award ceremonies started that featured President Reagan handing out awards to each of the ten city winners, the delegation met with Sen. Glenn in his Senate Office. We had a wonderful time and conversation about Columbus and Ohio. Later in Columbus, when I was working for the Ohio Public Works Commission, I crossed paths with John Glenn in the Riffe Center. He recalled our meeting years before in Washington. He may have just been being nice, being the first-class gentleman Sen. Nelson said he was, but he convinced me he genuinely recalled the meeting and who was in the room.