Twenty-one years ago today Gene Roddenberry died. Some of you might say, “Rest in peace,” and some of you might say, “Whoa, it’s been that long?” But the majority of you will say, “Who is that?”
Well, in simple terms, he’s the guy who created “Star Trek,” which, if you read one of my previous columns, has had a great impact on my life. But in detail, he’s much more than that.
Born Aug. 19, 1921, Roddenberry was raised in Los Angeles for most of his young life.
During World War II, he flew during 89 combat missions in what was called the United States Army Air Forces and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross in 1945. After that, he decided to give commercial flying a shot as well and worked for Pan American for a while.
He even received a commendation for his rescue efforts during a crash in the Syrian Desert in June 1947. He did all this before he was 30 years old, and all before a starship in space ever entered his imagination.
After the war, he echoed his father and joined the Los Angeles Police Department to help provide for his parents.
He became a sergeant in 1953, and eventually became the speech writer for the chief at the time, William H. Parker, who he apparently based Spock on.
Eventually, Roddenberry, who had a natural writing talent, added another job to his resume: screenwriter, under the name Robert Wesley. He began to produce and create television shows, including “The Lieutenant,” which featured Nichelle Nichols, who eventually played Lt. Uhura in “Star Trek.”
In 1964, as previously mentioned, Roddenberry began preparing to bring his most famous work to television screens: “Star Trek.”
Roddenberry intended for the show to inspire people, and show a utopian future, where money, poverty and war no longer existed; a world where the worlds of the galaxy came together under one federation.
Roddenberry once said of humanity, “If man is to survive, he will have learned to take a delight in the essential differences between men and between cultures.
He will learn that differences in ideas and attitudes are a delight, part of life’s exciting variety, not something to fear.”
After Roddenberry died, he earned the privilege of having part of his ashes taken into space in 1992 with the shuttle Columbia and being returned. But even though his ashes have returned to Earth, the Great Bird of the Galaxy, as they called him, is most likely still playing among the stars.