Conversation with William Lipscomb and His Sister Virginia

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Bill Lipscomb..Ginny Conrad

William Lipscomb and Virginia Conrad

Conversation with William N. Lipscomb, Jr. (Bill) and his sister Virginia (Ginny) Lipscomb Conrad by at the Lipscomb family reunion in Boston, 2008, recorded in video.  Bill was 88 years old.

Selected paragaphs give information about Bill not as well covered in other parts of this website.

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 examination.” 

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."

2. Clarinet

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 lovely. 

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

Image credits

William Lipscomb and Virginia Conrad, from the video of the conversation.  See the Creative Commons Attribution below.

-- Sept. 2011,   James is here        Home page

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