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Honorary Member List Gains a Bridge-Playing Astronaut

The list of ACBL Honorary members is nothing short of a who’s who of bridge – Charles Goren, Edgar Kaplan, Oswald Jacoby and Bob Hamman are just a few of the luminaries to receive one of the ACBL’s highest honors.

As of the 2011 Fall NABC, the list includes an astronaut. It’s retired U.S. Air Force Col. Greg Johnson, best known in some circles as a NASA shuttle pilot. In the world of tournament bridge, he has built a reputation as an enthusiastic fan of the best game on the planet.

“I’m just honored,” Johnson said in a telephone interview on Tuesday. “The ACBL has been an important part of my life.”

The title of Honorary Member is awarded to an ACBL member for long and meritorious service to bridge. Johnson has been touting the virtues of the game at every opportunity since making Life Master in 1999. He played duplicate for the first time 10 years earlier.

At the 2011 Summer NABC in Toronto, Johnson made an appearance and spent a lot of time at the concurrent Youth NABC, thrilling the youngsters with stories of space flight and letting them know how much he enjoys bridge.

At the 2009 Spring NABC in Houston, Johnson arrived with a framed certificate of authenticity and an ace of spades he took with him on a mission of the Shuttle Endeavor. The ace had orbited the earth 250 times, logging 6.6 million miles on the trip.

NASA ended the shuttle program earlier this year, and lately Johnson has been on a year-long leadership sabbatical, traveling all over the world giving lectures – and playing bridge when he gets the chance, although he acknowledged those chances have been few an far between.

He was reached on Tuesday at a hotel in Detroit. He was working out at the hotel’s fitness center trying to shed some of the 10 pounds he picked up on a recent trip to Germany.

Johnson and his family still live in the Houston TX area, but he is spending a lot of time on the road, especially in Cleveland OH, where he runs the NASA Glenn Research Center, named for former astronaut John Glenn.

The former Shuttle Endeavor pilot said he was thrilled when received a text message and then a phone call about being named Honorary Member. “There are so many positives to the organization in so many ways,” he said.

When he is no longer following such a busy schedule, he plans to become more active in bridge. “I just love the people and the competition,” he said. “I want to get better so I deserve the honor. I want to get to the next level.”

Greg Johnson

Greg Johnson