1. High school chemistry
Bill: "The fellow who was teaching [high school] chemistry did the
right thing for me. He said that he’d been talking to me off and
on, and he said “I know that you know more Chemistry than I am going to
be able to teach the class. What I want you to do first is to
help me with the analytical part of chemistry, but you don’t have to
come to class. All you have to do is show up for the final
And so I sat in the back [of the] room doing experiments, and I even
found a “new” reaction, although I found that it wasn’t quite so
new. It had been discovered, but for me it was a new chemical
reaction. And then I went to the University of Kentucky.
But he was very generous in allowing me to just do what I wanted. It was the right thing.
When I left the high school, I gave my whole [home chemistry] set to the school, and
that actually more than doubled what they had already for the students."
Bill: "But there is a musical side. I went through [the University of Kentucky] on a music scholarship, not a
science scholarship, and played in the band and the orchestra, and the
little orchestra and chamber music. I did quite a bit of playing.
But all that started when my mother first wanted to know if I wanted to
play the piano, and she gave up on me, but she had my sister
Helen. But they [my parents] bought me a clarinet, because I went
to the band director in the high school, and I said, “I want to play
the oboe.” and the director there said, “Nonsense. This is a
band. We need clarinets. You want to play the
clarinet.” So I [my parents] bought a clarinet.
And so that is
the instrument that I played most of my life until about three years
ago, playing concerts. So I’ve really played quite a lot."
3. Tennis court
Ginny: "Remember when you-all built the tennis court? There was a
vacant lot next door, and they decided that they would like to play
tennis, and so they just got together and dad got the sod. We
didn’t know who owned the lot. So they dug up the sod.
And they were repairing the street at that time with one of those
great, big old-fashioned steamrollers, and you [Bill] went out and
asked the man, “Would you be willing to roll our tennis court?”
And he brought that great big steamroller over and rolled it, and we
had the nicest tennis court going there. It was really
How long did we have it? Do you remember Bill? … But finally the owner of the lot came back."
Bill: “There was a problem there.”
Ginny: "There was a bit of a problem."
4. Tree house
Ginny: "But the other thing he did that was so enjoyable too … beside
our house were three great big trees, and Bill and his friends really
were behind [it], stringing up these ropes so that there was a rope
ladder from one tree to another. There was a long rope that you
could swing on. There was a platform that you could sit and read
a book on up in one of those trees.
The whole neighborhood was enjoying it. In fact in a college
reunion I found out from a friend who lived down the street and she
said “I kept seeing you-all playing on those ropes, and I wanted so
much to come and join you.” I just wish she had."
5. Ph.D. instead of an M.D.
Bill: "My father pointed out that if I were to become a physician, a
medical person, I would be the fourth straight generation of
physicians, but he didn’t ride that and he recognized what I was to him
and said, “Go ahead. Don’t worry about it.” My mother also
greatly encouraged whatever the kinds of things I was doing."
Editor's note: However, Bill may have had lingering doubts
. - James S. Lipscomb