Congress honors Runion

Published 9:18 pm Monday, October 8, 2012

Chuck Runion (center) is flanked by his wife, Emma (left) and Congressman Walter B. Jones, who presented Runion with a certificate recognizing his for his 24 years of service in the Navy, which included flying presidents and first ladies. (Submitted photo/Lori Pearce)


Washington resident Charles Clinton “Chuck” Runion was honored with a congressional certificate recognizing his military service to the nation, with that certificate presented to him by U.S. Rep. Walter B. Jones.

“I guess I’m proud,” Runion said about receiving the honor.

The presentation, made at Wanoca Presbyterian Church in Washington was followed by a reception honoring Runion, a retired Navy chief petty officer. Runion enlisted in the Navy on Oct. 23, 1940. He served 24 years. Runion was an enlisted man who became a pilot. The Marine Corps had an equivalent pilot status for enlisted personnel, usually known as “flying sergeants.”

About 60 people attended the events.

Runion, in a brief interview Monday, said his first flight school was at the University of Georgia in Athens, Ga. For additional flight training, he went to Dallas, Texas.

Before the certificate was presented last week, Jones spoke about Runion on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives on Aug. 2.

“As a successful Navy pilot during World War II and the Korean War, he has flown over 80 different aviation vessels throughout his military and civilian life,” Jones said then.

“Mr. Runion has had the honor and privilege to fly many important people of the time. He has flown President Gerald Ford and first lady Mamie Eisenhower. He flew first lady Jackie Kennedy from Washington, D.C., to Groton, Conn., to launch the USS Lafayette nuclear submarine,” Jones continued. “Mr. Runion continued his streak of flying the country’s most important into the 1960s with Hubert Humphrey, Lady Bird Johnson and Tennessee Congressman Jimmy Quillen.

“Throughout his career, Chuck Runion has been honored with many accolades. He has been awarded an air medal with gold star, Navy unit commendation, an American defense letter A, an American/European Pacific theater medal, a World War II victory medal, a Korean unit commendation and a good-conduct medal with four stars. He also earned a humanitarian ribbon and a Berlin airlift ribbon. Mr. Runion’s last flight was on Aug. 7, 2011 — his 88th birthday.”

Jones concluded his remarks: “I am honored to represent such a fine man who has been such an asset to our country and pleased to have him recognized by the United States Congress.”

In his remarks on the House floor, Jones noted he has visited the Runions and viewed scrapbooks chronicling the retired chief petty officer’s career.

He retired from the Navy with more than 12,000 hours flown, having flown almost every type of Navy aircraft during that career.

After leaving the Navy, Runion was a pilot for the N.C. Forestry Service, serving as chief pilot 1965-1969. From 1969 to 1985, he was Hackney International’s executive corporate pilot.