Although Gene Roddenberry passed away October 24, 1991, his legacy remains as Star Trek continues to flourish and grow, as there has been 10 movies, and 7 television series, all of which maintained his vision of the future.
Gene Roddenberry, often affectionately referred to as the “Great Bird of the Galaxy,” led a life as colorful and exciting as almost any high-adventure fiction. He was born in El Paso, Texas, on August 19, 1921, and nearly escaped death as a toddler, when a house fire almost took Gene’s life, as well as his siblings, Bob, Doris, and their mother, but a milkman came along and woke them in time to avoid any injuries.
Gene spent his boyhood in Los Angeles, where he later studied three years of policemanship and then transferred his academic interest to aeronautical engineering and qualified for a pilot's license. He volunteered for the U.S. Army Air Corps in the fall of 1941 and was ordered into training as a flying cadet when the United States entered World War II. As a Second Lieutenant, Roddenberry was sent to the South Pacific where he entered combat at Guadalcanal, flying B-17 bombers out of the newly captured Japanese airstrip, which became Henderson Field. He flew missions against enemy strongholds at Bougainville and participated in the Munda invasion. He was decorated with the Distinguished flying Cross and the Air Medal.
It was while in the South Pacific, that Mr. Roddenberry began to write. He sold stories to flying magazines, and later poetry to publications, including The New York Times. He even wrote a song lyric "I Wanna Go Home", which became a popular song during the war.
At war's end, he joined Pan American World Airways. It was on a flight from Calcutta that his plane lost two engines and caught fire in flight, crashing at night in the Syrian desert. As the senior surviving officer, Roddenberry sent two Englishmen swimming across the Euphrates River in quest of the source of a light he had observed just prior to the crash impact. The Englishmen reached a Syrian military outpost, which sent a small plane to investigate. Roddenberry returned with the small plane to the outpost, where he broadcast a message that was relayed to Pan Am, which sent a stretcher plane to the rescue. Roddenberry later received a Civil Aeronautics commendation for his efforts during and after the crash.
Roddenberry continued flying until he saw television for the first time. Correctly estimating television's future, he realized that the new medium would need writers and decided that Hollywood's film studios would soon dominate the new industry. He acted immediately, left his flying career behind and went to Hollywood, only to find the television industry still in its infancy, with few openings for inexperienced writers. At a friend's suggestion, he joined the Los Angeles Police Department, following in his father's footsteps and gaining experiences which would be valuable to a writer.
It wasn't until 1966 when Roddenberry created and produced Star Trek, that he found his voice in Hollywood. The first of the two pilots were pronounced "too cerebral" by the network and rejected. Once on the air, however, Star Trek developed a loyal following as viewers grew to love the Starship Enterprise and its crew, which included the heroic Captain Kirk and the logical Vulcan, Mr. Spock.