John Kent

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 Kent 2

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.

John Kent 3For 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 Kent 4John 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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  1. Sending our sincere sympathy and love to the family of our dear friend John Kent. You are all in our thoughts and prayers. John will be greatly missed by me and my family.
    May he rest in peace.

  2. Dear Family of Captain John-
    My mother Lois Cranford of Durham, NC moved to The Carillon Assisted Living in January, 2014. No one wants to move into assisted living and I don’t think she was expecting to
    like it very much. But knew it was time.

    Once she introduced herself to John, however, mealtime suddenly got much more interesting! She had traveled the world over her 90 years, and they enjoyed sharing stories, lingering over lunch and dinner with their other new friend and table-mate Anne (who has since recovered from a stroke and moved back to her home in Chapel Hill.)

    I think the staff had to kick them out of the dining room after most meals. . .nothing like “closing the place down” in your late 80’s / early 90’s.

    I learned so much I didn’t know about John from reading this obituary. For example, I didn’t know he had been to the White House! I’m going to Durham this weekend, so have printed this and will read it to my mom.

    Take care of each other, and please accept my family’s heartfelt condolences.
    Kathryn Cranford Raby
    Charlotte, NC

  3. John and I were friends since 1970 when we worked together at the MEC Level. John nominated me and was instrumental in my appointment to the Negotiating Committee. John would visit me in NJ and would usually bring Kenny Porter, A WW1 ace, and then we would enjoy Mexican food together. We worked together on the reunion of the Aces from WW1 and roomed together in Paris. I stayed in contact with John after retirement and we communicated via email. His passing is very sad as he was a good friend and fellow pilot. My condolences to all his family who will surely miss him.

    • Thank you so much for your kind and interesting words regarding our father. We know his friendship with you enriched his life greatly. He was forever grateful and deeply proud of the friends he had throughout his lifetime.

  4. I have enjoyed my association with john for the last 40 years. John never met a stranger, and really enjoyed people all over the World. I will miss him.

  5. What a legacy my Uncle leaves behind. He was such a smart and talented man!
    When I think of Uncle John I think of a man with a razor sharp mind and great ability to communicate! He always kept touch even when the rest of us lacked at doing so.
    I will miss you Uncle a John! Thank you for the love, laughter and all the rest you added to our life’s!
    Rest well Uncle! I know you had a HUGE welcome in heaven!
    You will be greatly missed!
    Love to my cousins who just lost their Dad.


  6. I had the privilege and joy of knowing and working with Captain John Kent after we both retired from the airlines and went to work for Control Data. I will always remember the trips that we made to many places and everywhere we went John knew someone. He had friends and was loved around the world.

    He was really a special person. We are all richer from having know John.

  7. Sincere condolences to the family of John Kent. My prayers are with y’all at this sad time—may God bless you all.

    John and I went thru USAF flying School together at Graham Air Base, Marianna, FL; Greenville AFB, Greenville, MS; and Nellis AFB, Las Vegas, NV. John and I stayed in touch over the years as we went our different ways after 1954, meeting at times in such places as London and Newport Beach, but always communication via telephone and email.

    John was one of a kind and a true friend for those many years. He is being missed. As the strong Christian that I know he was, he is now with our Lord in Heaven.

  8. John and I have been friends since the late 1940s in Longview, Texas and we have maintained that friendship since then. Given his early childhood, in the duration of our friendship, I was impressed by his great accomplishments, in many different fields, as described in his obituary, particularly becoming a Captain flying a 747 aircraft for the length of time that he did. I was also impressed by his ability to make lasting friends where ever he went in his world travels. I enjoyed his company when I visited him in North Carolina. Needless to say, I will miss him.
    I wish I could personally give my condolences to all his family who will surely miss him, but I do so with this written sincere condolence.

    • Thank you so much for your kind and interesting words regarding our father. We know his friendship with you enriched his life greatly. He was forever grateful and deeply proud of the friends he had throughout his lifetime.

  9. John and I have been friends since 1971 and I have many fond memories of him. What a character he was. About 15 or 20 years ago, he spent the weekend at our farm in NY and we spent the time telling stories about our past together and what a fun weekend it was. I have so many memories of him that I will forever cherish. I was honored to flag him off on his last fight out of JFK before his retirement, he came to my wedding and brought WW1 Ace, Ken Porter, I remember covering his flight with another Captain because John was in Hungary hunting wild boar, it goes on and on….

    John was a man who would never back down in what he believed in and I will miss him and our phone calls. Our condolences to his family from my wife Kathy and myself.

    • Tony, my father always spoke highly of his visit to your farm in NY and had many photos to show for it! Thank you so much for your kind and interesting words regarding him. We know his friendship with you enriched his life greatly. Thank you so much!

  10. John was a unique individual, strong minded in his particular views but always with a bit of Texas humor tossed in. We were good friends throughout our pilot careers even though I disagreed with many of those views. We also shared several adventures together.
    When John was chairman of the NY pilots council #52 he brought General Jimmy Doolittle to our monthly meeting. That was quite a meeting, but only an example of his ability to connect with the older but former leaders in American aviation.
    After we both retired and he moved to North Carolina we drifted apart but it was always a welcome phone call that brought that loud Texan voice to my ear. John–wherever you are–enjoy flying in those blue skies. Deepest condolences to the family. Rip Munger UAL-JFKFO

    • Rip, thank you so much for your condolences. It’s nice to put a name to the UAL-JFKFO email address I have seen so often in my Dad’s emails over the years 🙂 All the best, Gigi Kent

  11. Mr Kent was a very kind and generous friend. I first met him almost exactly 23 years ago this month while in my doolie year at the US Air Force Academy. He was on the Board of Visitors and heard there was a kid from Durham NC in the freshman class. I received an invitation to bring a friend and meet him in the Superintendent’s suite during one of the football games. Thus began our friendship. Whenever he was at the Academy, or when I was back home in Durham, he would take me and any friends out to eat. We were introduced to some amazing people. It was such a treat to know him. I think of him often when walking through my home and looking at a number of aviation art pieces that he presented me at special moments in my life. I am saddened that he is gone, but relieved he’s free of all ailments and enjoying a new body in heaven. My condolences to his family and all who will miss his special friendship.

  12. Lt Col Morris, Thank you so much for your condolences and the story behind your friendship with our father, John Kent, we really appreciated hearing from you! And thank you for your loyal friendship to him over the years.

  13. I met John at New York City when he was a new hire in 1955. We became friends and were in contact for the next many years. We were both active with our different unions. John had never flown non-stop from JFK to Tokyo. We were both with UAL at the time that he flew his last flight. He asked me that if he could arrange to get a NRT nonstop would I fly with him. Our friend, Tom the KFK Cjhief Pilot made it happen. The picture above was taken at JFK while we were getting ready to depart. The entire flight was ex-Pan Am. He made his first 15 flap take off and Boeing 747-200 aircraft that day. John was a excellant friend for all these past years. I will miss the Texan.

    • George, Thank you so much for your thoughts and for your friendship to Dad over the years. It was great talking to you last week! Take care and all the best, Gigi

  14. Dear Gigi and family,
    This is John’s cousin Kent and wife Mary Lou. Kent’s mother was John’s Aunt Mary in Denver. We were shocked to find his obituary. John often called Kent’s mother when he was in Denver, and we would all go to dinner together. What fun we had visiting and sharing stories! (Mary always called him “John Marvin”) We have been looking for information to help us locate John for the past decade, as we have not heard from him. Since he always called Kent’s mother, we wondered if he called after we had to move her to a care center, and found the phone disconnected. We had been searching on the internet for him at the last location we had before he retired. We had also received a phone message from Tommy several years ago, but were not able to connect with a return call. So, we are most interested in reconnecting with him as well. I (Mary Lou) have been working on our families genealogy through Ancestry, and this week was focused on the Kent family again. Today, I decided to google search John by birth year and “pilot”, we were stunned and saddened to have his obituary show up.
    We would love to connect and learn more about these past years, as well as learn how we might contact Tommy. We can be reached at We can give you a phone number from there.
    Bless you all, what a special life you have shared.
    We look forward to hearing more.
    Kent and Mary Lou Chapman

  15. Dear Gigi and family,
    This is John’s cousin Kent and wife Mary Lou. Kent’s mother was John’s Aunt Mary in Denver. We were shocked and saddened to find his obituary. John often called Kent’s mother when he was in Denver, and we would all go to dinner together. What fun we had visiting and sharing stories! We have lost touch and been searching for his contact information, as well as that of his brother Tommy, since we had to move their Aunt Mary to a care facility. Today, we were thinking of them and did another internet search for John, and this obituary appeared. We are so sorry for your loss, but know that you are grateful for the very special life you have shared.
    We would love to connect and learn more about these past years, as well as how we might contact Tommy. We can be reached at We can give you a phone number from there.
    Bless you all,
    Kent and Mary Lou Chapman

  16. Sorry to learn about Johns passing away. We were friends for the past 30 years and had kept in contact via e-mail, but as I had no answers for several months, I finally learned the sad news from
    I have never met you Gigi, but I remember John told us about you, when you were in Italy, and he talked warmly about you.
    I met John through a colleague of mine in Scandinavian Airlines. He had been with John through air force training.
    I shall miss Johns good spirits, his warm friendliness and his laughter.

    • Thank you so much for your kind words Carl!
      My email is
      Thank you for being my father’s friend all those years! His friendships meant the world to him.
      All the best, Gigi

  17. Wow, just Googled and found the obit. I met John when I moved to Durham for my first job after graduating from Texas A & M in 1987. He was a true friend and mentor. He got me involved in the election campaign for Bush and attended many functions together, along with his good friend Cecil. Sundays were great as we often went to brunch. After I returned to Texas, he would contact me and include me in dinners with friends. I knew when I didn’t receive John’s Christmas Update letter that something was wrong. My condolences to the family.


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