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John L. Pendergrass Papers

 Unprocessed Collection
Identifier: AM19-60

Form of Material

Manuscript materials from his books: Against the Odds: The Adventures of a Man in His Sixties Competing in Six of the World's Toughest Triathlons across Six Continents (2013) and Racing Back to Vietnam: A Journey in War and Peace (2017).


  • unknown


Conditions Governing Access

Noncirculating; available for research.

Conditions Governing Use

This collection may be protected from unauthorized copying by the Copyright Law of the United States (Title 17, United States Code).

Biographical / Historical

John L. Pendergrass, M.D. is a native of Clarksdale, Mississippi. He graduated from Delta State College and received his medical degree from the University of Mississippi Medical Center. He served in the U.S. Air Force as a Flight Surgeon at Da Nang Air Base in Vietnam and received the Air Medal. He completed his Ophthalmology residency at Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas, Texas.

Dr. Pendergrass practiced at the Green Eye Institute in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, from 1975-2019. As an eye surgeon, he helped thousands retain or improve their sight.

Additionally, Dr. Pendergrass is an avid Ironman Triathlete and author, publishing his first book, Against the Odds: The Adventures of a Man in His Sixties Competing in Six of the World's Toughest Triathlons across Six Continents in 2013.An excerpt from the book jacket reads:

Completing a triathlon at any age is a major achievement; finishing an IRONMAN® Triathlon in your sixties is nothing short of inspirational. A true account of John Pendergrass’ impossible goal of completing six IRONMAN Triathlons on six continents, all while in his sixties, Against the Odds will shatter your preconceptions of what a man in his golden years can accomplish.

His second book, Racing Back to Vietnam: A Journey in War and Peace was published in 2017. Pendergrass served a year in combat during the war in Vietnam. He worked in a medical unit with the U.S. Air Force and also flew 54 bombing missions in the backseat of an F-4 Phantom jet. An excerpt from the book jacket reads:

In 1971, United Air Force flight surgeon John Pendergrass spent much of his time in the backseat of an F-4 Phantom, racing across the skies of Vietnam. Forty-five years later, he boards an altogether different type of aircraft and heads back to Vietnam for an altogether different kind of race--an IRONMAN triathlon. A veteran of IRONMAN triathlons on six continents, Racing Back to Vietnam follows John's year in combat and his return to Vietnam, revisiting a country that, for him, is bound up in history, memory and emotion. A memoir of war as seen from the skies and a reflection on life's high adventure, John tries to reconcile the Vietnam he saw from the backseat of a fighter jet with today's modern Vietnam. Thought-provoking, heartfelt and gripping, Racing Back to Vietnam is one man's trip back through time on a journey of rediscovery.


6 Cubic Feet : 302A.B15.X1-X3

Language of Materials



John L. Pendergrass, M.D. on August 15, 2019.

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John L. Pendergrass Papers
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script

Repository Details

Part of the Historical Manuscripts and Photographs Repository

118 College Drive - 5148
Hattiesburg MS 39406-0001