John Hancock Dabbs (8/12/1935 – 7/07/1976), his wife Ethel Maye Brown Dabbs
John graduated from the University of South Carolina in 1959 with a degree in electrical engineering. Several men in the Dabbs family have had a slight articulation disorder, and John struggled with his as a young man. This is possibly one of the reasons he was rather shy and quiet, although he was never afraid to take on his brother, Mac, in a good shouting or fighting match. In one incident, one of them grabbed the cigarette lighter out of the car socket and plugged it into the tip of the other’s nose.
After graduation, John went to work for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) at Langley Air Force Base in Hampton, Virginia. Here he was stationed as an officer in the Air Force. He married his childhood sweetheart, Ethel Maye Brown (9/08/1932), in 1960 and several of the original astronauts attended their wedding.
In 1963 he was transferred to NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, where he worked with the Gemini and Apollo space missions making him part of the team that put the first man on the moon. When Apollo 13 was unable to land on the moon and almost didn’t make it back to earth, John Dabbs was one of the men in the control room. This was an extremely exciting time in the history of our country and it is amazing that one of our own family members played such an intimate role in this adventure into space.
John died of pancreatic cancer in 1976 at the age of forty. He left behind his wife, Ethel, who has since remarried, and two children, John and Tina. Tina was 12 at the time of her father’s death and she remembers a daily
habit of waiting on the corner of the street every evening for her father to come into sight in his red convertible and then pick her up and drive her the rest of the way home. He was tall, dark, and handsome and always wore black gloves in the winter months. He was a quiet man, but on weekends he would take his children to the pool at Ellington Air Force base or to Galveston Beach. He loved to be out in the sun, and, like the rest of his family, enjoyed golf. He also loved pine trees, which reminded him of the Crossroads, and Tina says he planted pine trees everywhere they moved.
Every summer and Christmas, John and Ethel would drive the family back to the Crossroads where they enjoyed Martha Ann’s cooking and Aunts Sophie and Elizabeth’s cats. Tina remembers Aunt Sophie and Elizabeth’s lime sherbet and ginger ale floats as one of the best treats of all. I don’t remember getting any lime sherbet floats. Tina must have held a very special place in their hearts.