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Thomas "Tom" Shinn '68 November 13, 2023 10:25 AM updated: November 13, 2023 10:42 AM

Thomas Watson "Tom" Shinn, Col. USAF (Ret.) 

1935 - May 14, 2023

Col. Thomas Watson Shinn, USAF (Ret.) passed away quietly on the morning of May 14 at his home in Chesapeake, VA among family. Col. Shinn was born in Laurel, MS in 1935 to Thomas Jesse Shinn and Nell Watson Shinn. 

He grew up in Laurel and was active in the First Baptist Church and Boy Scouts of America (Eagle Scout). He graduated from Laurel High School in 1953. Col. Shinn then attended Mississippi State University being accepted into the AFROTC program. While at Mississippi State he played lead trumpet in the band.

In 1955, he and Virginia Graham of Ellisville, MS met and were married in June of 1956. He graduated from Mississippi State in 1957 where he earned his commission in the USAF and then earned his pilot's wings in Fighter-Intercepters. During his military career he was designated a command pilot, accumulating more than 3500 hours of flight time. He completed 30 years of active duty which included tours in Okinawa, Korea, Vietnam, the Pentagon and numerous stateside assignments while finishing out his career as Chief of Staff, Tactical Air Command, Langley AFB in 1988.

In Vietnam Col. Shinn flew over 660 combat missions as a Forward Air Controller in the O-1 Bird Dog based out of Cheo Reo Air Base in 1965 and 1966. Upon his return to stateside he attended Texas A & M University earning a Masters in Industrial Engineering in 1968 while instructing in the Corps of Cadet's curriculum.

His personal decorations include the Legion of Merit (2), Distinguished Flying Cross, Bronze Star (2), Meritorious Service Medal (3), Air Medal (27), Joint Commendation Medal, Air Force Commendation Medal, Presidential Unit Citation, Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal (2), Vietnam Service Medal with 4 Bronze Campaign Stars, Vietnam Gallantry Cross and the Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal.

He was preceded in death by his wife, Virginia Graham Shinn, Mother, Nell Watson Shinn, Father, Thomas Jesse Shinn and Grandson, Zachary Nathaniel Davenport.

He is survived by his son Lt. Col. Thomas Graham Shinn, USMC (Ret.) and wife Michon Breisacher Shinn of Slidell, LA; daughter and granddaughter Cynthia Nell Davenport and Ginger Lillian Davenport, both of Chesapeake, VA.

Col. Shinn will be interred in Arlington National Cemetery joining his wife Virginia Graham Shinn on November 16.


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