The John Googin Memorial Lecture
Remembering John . . .
John's laugh was a fanfare, bouncing off the walls as he came down the hall. And his office -- well, he'd discovered a new theorem: Any horizontal surface -- desk, table, chair, computer top -- must be cluttered with papers. It probably had something to do with chaos theory. . . .
Not that John stayed in his office; he was everywhere a problem had to be solved, or a discussion needed a devil's advocate, or someone needed a friendly pat on the back.
Armed with a B.S. degree and a Phi Beta Kappa key from Bates College in his native Maine (he kept his down-east accent), he came to Oak Ridge in 1944 as a junior chemist on the Manhattan project at the Y-12 plant. But John was never a junior anything. He went on to get his Ph.D. from the University of Tennessee. His outstanding research and his unique ability to solve seemingly insurmountable technical problems led to his rise to the rank of the Head of the Chemistry Department at the plant, and then to a position as senior staff consultant.
John married Janet Horn in 1949 and they had four daughters. He was very involved in his home and church. In fact, one day, he arrived at church twisted in pain, having injured himself playing with his daughters' hula hoop. He and Janet were active in a dance club, play-reading groups and a dinner party group. They were sailors and belonged to the power squadron. He was interested in civil affairs, and once, he ran for city council. He lost, but you can be sure his voice was heard.
No challenge was too great for his inventive mind. He held many important patents and contributed mightily to the nation's defense technology, the weapons and special reactor programs, the Gas Centrifuge program, plasma separation, and on and on. He was an advisor to the DOE on the nonproliferation effort. But did you know he was also somewhat of an authority on early U.S. Indian treaties? John was interested in everything.
Besides solving the impossible or the merely difficult, John helped with numerous smaller, practical problems. He solved a pencil problem for a Tennessee firm in two intensive days using his extensive knowledge of graphite. The manufacturer said he'd been in the pencil business for 30 years, but had learned more about pencil lead (graphite) in those two days than in all his past career.
John received countless commendations and awards, including the prestigious Ernest Orlando Lawrence Award for his contributions to uranium processing, separation of zirconium and hafnium and the separation of lithium isotopes. However, John wasn't one to parade his medals. No matter what the occasion, you could expect to see him dressed comfortably in a sport shirt. He said that if you had to dress up to impress somebody, what you had to say couldn't be all that impressive. Dressed any way at all, John Googin was all that impressive -- and more!
Defender of Civil Liberties
"John was a wonderful and caring human being." His friends know it; his associates at work know it. Whether you were top brass or lower on the totem pole, he respected you because you were a person. And he had a strong sense of right and wrong -- of justice.
Although he was not formally trained in the law, John's Maine upbringing must have instilled in him an innate ability to be sensitive to the rights and freedoms of individuals. Whether the facts being discussed concerned an individual's employment or speech rights, or amounted to a jumble very difficult to analyze, John could always perceive very quickly where and how that individual had been deprived of the rights afforded under the Constitution.
In John's service on both the state and local ACLU boards, he provided the spark of humor and clear thinking necessary to enable a group of people to come together and pursue an objective that was not always initially clear.
John was never daunted by a task. With characteristic zest he served in every position on the local board, and many of those on the state board (including that of president). He was comfortable debating civil liberties issues in small groups or in public forums, or in soliciting donations of funds from members of the community. No task was considered too mundane by John and he served as our faithful treasurer form many years.
"As president of the state Board of Directors, and as a Board member for many years, John demonstrated an extensive commitment to the cause of civil liberties in this state and in the nation. John's wisdom and enthusiasm can never be replaced, but his qualities can be remembered and celebrated," said David Wiley, former ACLU of Tennessee Board Member.
About the Lecture
" But what if . . . ?" That's the way John's mind worked. Always provocative, always stimulating, John relished a good discussion. It is in that spirit that the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Tennessee has established the John Googin Memorial Lecture which takes place at the ACLU-TN Annual Membership Meeting each fall. More than a memorial, the lectureship will be a celebration of John's life, of his inquiring mind, and of his devotion to protecting the civil liberties guaranteed by the Bill of Rights.
Every year, a nationally recognized speaker will deliver a lecture on some aspect of civil liberties. The program, which will be widely publicized, is open to the public and free of charge. And, true to John's spirit, discussion will be encouraged.
We know that not everyone shares John's enthusiasm for the ACLU, but we are sure that you, as a friend of John Googin, wish to join in the celebration of his life by promoting open discussion of issues about which he felt so strongly and acted so effectively.