Thomas W. Shinn

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.  “Tom” was born in Laurel to Thomas Jesse Shinn and Nell Watson Shinn in 1935.

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 and then attended Mississippi State University.  In 1955, he and Virginia Graham of Ellisville, MS met and were married in June of 1956.  They finished at Mississippi State University together in 1957 where Tom earned a commission in the USAF through ROTC.

Tom, designated a command pilot accumulating more than 3500 hours of flight time, went on to complete 30 years in the Air Force which included tours in Okinawa, Korea and Vietnam, two Pentagon assignments and numerous stateside assignments while finishing out his career as Chief of Staff, Tactical Air Command at Langley AFB in 1988.  Of note is that he flew over 660 combat missions in South Vietnam as a Forward Air Controller in the O-1 Birddog based out of Cheo Reo Air Base in 1965 and 1966.

His personal decorations included 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.  Tom will be interred in Arlington National Cemetery joining his wife Virginia Graham Shinn.

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Cheryl J Skinner Tri-State Military Museum
9 months ago

May the love of God surround you and your family during this difficult time,

 May you come to know that the love of God is with you always,

May your memories of Col. Thomas Watson Shinn, give you peace, comfort and strength…

Rest now in the arms of our Lord your mission on earth is complete.

I thank you for your service to our Country and my Freedom. You will not be forgotten.

My thoughts

and prayers to the family of ….

US Air Force Veteran, Col. Thomas Watson Shinn, is “A True American Hero” God Bless†

† Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. John 15:13 †