Good afternoon and welcome back once more to the “Church of Christ Celebrities” blog! As always, I love to hear from readers via social media or over at the Contact page. Remember as well that my first book, Visions of Restoration: The History of Churches of Christ, is out now through Cypress Publications/Heritage Christian University Press. Check it out at http://www.hcu.edu/product/visions-of-restoration-the-history-of-churches-of-christ-by-john-young/.
Two weeks ago, we tried but failed to find a connection between the Churches of Christ and the 1960s pop band The Cowsills; two weeks before that, we had better luck with an exploration into the religious affiliations of the late actor Powers Boothe. Today, we’re shaking things up a bit by focusing on the highly decorated astronaut Gus Grissom (1926-1967), who flew missions with the Mercury and Gemini programs. Grissom was the second American (after Alan Shepard) to go to space, and the first to go to space a second time. Tragically, Grissom and the other members of his crew (Ed White and Roger B. Chaffee) were killed in a testing accident in the run-up to the launch of Apollo 1.
Grissom was suggested to me as a potential topic by a reader of the blog a few months ago, and in this case, I didn’t have to look long to find a connection. Strangely enough, one of the clearest links I found was in an article by Tom Wolfe titled “The Faith of John Glenn.” While the essay does indeed focus primarily on the religiously outspoken Glenn, Wolfe does explore how Glenn’s faith influenced his fellow astronauts to publicly mention their respective church affiliations:
“A power greater than any of us! From the lips of a flying jock! The others do their best to locate some piety and stay in the game. Gus Grissom says, ‘I consider myself religious. I am a Protestant and belong to the Church of Christ. I am not real active in church, as Mr. Glenn is’–Mister Glenn–‘but I consider myself a good Christian still.” (1)
Further evidence of the link comes from a pamphlet made available at the Virgil I. Grissom Memorial at the Spring Mill State Park in Mitchell, Indiana. The pamphlet states of Grissom that “He and his parents were members of the Church of Christ.” Likewise, the Find a Grave entry for Roy VanTassel (also of Mitchell, Indiana) states that “Mr. VanTassel, a minister of the church of Christ, preached the memorial service for astronaut Gus Grissom.” (2)
That does it for us today, as the above evidence quite clearly illustrates Grissom’s (and his family’s) connections to Churches of Christ. As always, check back a couple of weeks from now for our next entry here at the blog. Thanks for reading to the end!
(1) Tom Wolfe, “The Faith of John Glenn,” Wall Street Journal, December 9, 2016, accessed August 5, 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/tom-wolfe-the-faith-of-john-glenn-1481325139.
(2) “Royal Everett ‘Roy’ VanTassel,” Find a Grave, accessed August 5, 2019, https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/75488697/royal-e.-vantassel.