Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal
When John Glynn taps the Liberty Bell replica located on the grounds of Expo New Mexico during a “Let Freedom Ring” Independence Day ceremony, the sound will reverberate through time – back to his ancestor, Richard Stockton, one of the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence.
“Those original signers became the first citizens of our country when they declared they were no longer English subjects under King George III,” Glynn said, “which also made them traitors to England.”
Glynn, 77, a retired lieutenant-commander in the U.S. Navy and a former district director with the Department of Homeland Security, has been participating in annual Independence Day bell ringing ceremonies for about 10 years.
He didn’t know about his ancestral connection to Stockton until he was 58, when he and his wife, Kathryn, were living in Nashville and he received a book from his then 101-year-old grandmother that traced his family lineage.
He and Kathryn subsequently coauthored a book, “His Sacred Honor, Judge Richard Stockton, a Signer of the Declaration of Independence,” and became involved with the national organization, Descendents of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence. For a while, Glynn served as the group’s president general.
His ancestor, Stockton, was a prominent lawyer and judge in New Jersey. Stockton’s 1776 signature on the Declaration of Independence made him a target of British soldiers, who soon arrested and imprisoned him.
“The winter was brutal,” Glynn said. “When he was captured he was in his night clothes, and he was marched to Perth Amboy in New Jersey and then sent to New York.”
During his months in prison, his home was occupied by the British, his library burned, his furniture destroyed and his livestock removed. Stockton’s health, severely compromised while in prison, never returned. He died in 1781 at age 50.
Glynn fears that the Declaration of Independence is becoming a forgotten document and people have little understanding or appreciation for the personal sacrifices made by the original signers.
Glynn’s ties to New Mexico go back to 1952 when his family moved to Albuquerque from Arizona.
“My dad owned a couple of businesses and we moved down to Los Lunas in about 1959 and I graduated from Los Lunas High School in 1963,” he said.
He joined the Navy out of high school and later received a bachelor’s degree in business from George Washington University in D.C., and a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Seattle. After 24 years in the Navy and 25 years working for the federal government, Glynn and his wife moved back to New Mexico in 2019.
The Liberty Bell replica came to New Mexico in 1950, when the U.S. Department of the Treasury held a “Save For Your Independence” savings bond drive and commissioned the casting of full-size bell replicas – one for each U.S. state and territory.
The New Mexico bell originally traveled around the state in support of the bond drive before winding up in Santa Fe. Then, in 1976, as part of the U.S. Centennial celebrations, it was moved to the State Fairgrounds, where it has remained ever since, said Roger Beimer, the State Fair’s unofficial historian.
In 1963, President John F. Kennedy proposed a ceremony to remember the July 4th signing of the Declaration of Independence. As part of that ceremony, which Congress approved, the original Liberty Bell in Philadelphia is tapped 13 times at exactly 2 p.m., in honor of the 13 colonies.
Today, replica Liberty Bells around the country are tapped at the same time, and New Mexicans should feel good knowing that “this wasn’t just an East Coast war,” Glynn said. “People living here who came from Spain, and Native people, contributed money toward the American Revolutionary War effort – and ultimately the freedoms we now enjoy.”