Glendy, John (1755–1832), United Irishman and chaplain to the US congress, was born 24 June 1755 at Maghera, Co. Londonderry, son of Samuel Glendy; his mother's name is unknown. Educated at the University of Glasgow, he was licensed to preach (1777) and was ordained presbyterian minister of Maghera on 25 December 1778. Immediately he set to work raising funds for a new meeting-house, which was eventually erected in 1785. Also around this time he married Elizabeth Cresswell. A forceful and charismatic speaker, Glendy took part in the Volunteer movement and was a member of the Dungannon convention (1782). In the 1790s he became embroiled in radical agitation and spoke regularly in favour of French revolutionary principles; after one particularly impassioned sermon (December 1792) a Volunteer corps was formed on the spot from his congregation. Joining the United Irishmen, he fought with them during the 1798 rebellion, although details of this are scarce. After the rebellion's collapse, he was forced to go into hiding. His house was burned by the local yeomanry, and his remaining property destroyed or confiscated.
Emigrating to the USA, Glendy landed at Norfolk, Virginia (1799). According to popular tradition, he fled the country disguised as a woman, wearing a petticoat, bonnet, and female stockings. Invited to preach on his arrival by the ship's captain, who was grateful for a safe landing, Glendy delivered an oration that impressed the town's dignitaries. Moving to Augusta county, also in Virginia, he was soon given pastoral responsibility for the towns of Staunton and Bethal. At Staunton he delivered his famous ‘Oration in commemoration of Washington’, which was published in 1800 and reprinted in 1835. He also came to the attention of the US president, Thomas Jefferson, who was deeply impressed with his preaching style and invited him to speak in the national capital. When the presybterian church of Baltimore chose Dr James Inglis, a supporter of Alexander Hamilton, to be its pastor in 1803, it provoked much opposition, and the supporters of Jefferson decided to found a second presbyterian church in the city. Glendy was approached to be its pastor, but he only accepted on the condition that its members build a new church for him to preach in. Thus on 9 August 1803 the second church of Baltimore formally came into existence and Glendy worked tirelessly to organise male and female Sabbath schools and acquire a cemetery, while also serving as minister to the Maryland state penitentiary. As a result of his friendship with Jefferson he was chosen as chaplain to the house of representatives, for one year, in 1806. Immensely popular, Glendy was a short man, and chose to preach standing on a pulpit bible. He had a pale complexion, and his hair was artificially curled and powdered white. In 1815 he was appointed chaplain to the US senate. In recognition of his services he was awarded the degree of doctor of divinity from the University of Maryland in 1822. He retired from his ministry in 1826.
He died 4 October 1832 at Philadelphia and was buried beside his wife (d. 13 June 1804) in the cemetery he had founded at Baltimore; it later became known as the Glendy burying ground. He had two sons and two daughters. Thomas Jefferson remarked in 1805 that Glendy was ‘without exception the best preacher I ever heard’ (Durey, 191).