Captain John Kent passed away at the age of 87 on Monday, October 12, 2015 in College Station, Texas with his family at his side.John was born in Texas on April 25, 1928 and lived in Durham, North Carolina since 1977. He joined the United States Marine Corps as soon as he turned 18 and served as a crew chief in a Corsair squadron. Later, he received his Air Force pilot wings through the Air National Guard and graduated from Texas A&M University in 1950.
John had a successful 33-year career working as a commercial pilot for United Airlines, achieving the position of captain after only 13 years and flying the B-727, DC-8, DC-10 and the largest commercial aircraft at the time, the B-747 Jumbo Jet. He finished his career as a B-747 Captain flying Pacific routes to East Asia and Australia. When he retired from United, he worked as an executive consultant for Control Data Corporation. In that capacity, he traveled to China, Australia, Europe and Africa, contacting international airlines regarding computer based training for B-737 and B-747 airplanes.
John served as Chairman for the Aces of the First Air War, 1914-1918 that hosted the only meeting ever held of all WWI Aces whose ages were between 83-96 and came from 9 different countries. The reunion was held in Paris, France during Armistice Week in 1981. For his service he was named an Honorary World War I Ace.
For his activities in helping organize the Lafayette Flying Corps Final Reunion at the Air Force Academy in 1983 he was named Honorary Member of the Lafayette Flying Corps. The following year in 1984 John and the remaining WWI Combat Flyers were invited to the White House to meet President Ronald Reagan, and Mrs. Reagan.
In 1991, President George Bush appointed John to the U.S. Air Force Academy Board of Visitors for a three-year term. The Honorable Barry Goldwater was the Board Chairman at the time. In 1994, John nominated President Bush, who was the first military pilot to become president, for honors by the First Flight Society at Kitty Hawk. John also served on the First Flight Society Board of Directors. John worked for the election of President Bush during the 1998 presidential election and also for the reelection of U.S. Senator Jesse Helms during the 1990 and 1996 campaigns. Friendships with President Bush, Jesse Helms and with General James H. “Jimmy” Doolittle for many years honored him greatly.
John was a proud member of the Grey Stone Baptist Church of Durham, North Carolina and was grateful to John McDonald for inviting him to Gray Stone, an event that changed his life.
He was also a member of the American Legion Aviators Post 743, Marine Corps League of Eno River Detachment, Wings Club of New York with a rank of Golden Eagle, Army Navy Club, Air Force Association, Quiet Birdman Fraternity and Board of First Flight Society in Kitty Hawk, NC.
John returned to College Station, Texas recently to be close to his brother, retired Pan-Am 747 Captain Tom Kent and Tom’s lovely wife Carol.
John is survived by his brother and sister-in-law; former wife, Marilyn Carbine; his children, Laura Kent Shelton and husband Jim, John Thomas Kent and wife Yvette, and Georgia (Gigi) Kent; grandchildren Christopher Shelton, Sage Kent-Hensley, Sadie Kent, Seneca Kent-Hensley and Evan Kent; nieces, grandnieces, and other extended family and friends. His lovely sister Carol Kent Black predeceased him.
John was extremely proud of his family and was thankful for the many friends he had in Durham, and worldwide. Faith, family, friends, flag, a love of aviation and the desire to help others was his life. He will be greatly missed and always remembered.In honor of John’s life and wishes his ashes will be aerial spread early next year at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.
In lieu of flowers, your friendship and prayers throughout John’s life is enough and his family would like to thank you.
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