There is far more to Dolly Parton than meets the eye

Dolly Parton is a Paul Harris Fellow and an Honorary Rotarian

Dolly Parton is a Paul Harris Fellow and an Honorary Rotarian in the Cleethorpes Rotary Club

Dolly Parton, born 70 years ago today, is mostly thought of as a widely successful  American singer-songwriter, which is true,  but there is far more to her than just that.

She’s also an actress, businesswoman, entrepreneur, philanthropist, dedicated Wife, Doctor of Letters, Paul Harris Fellow and a Rotarian.

Dolly came from very humble beginnings in Tennessee where she was 1 of 12 children who’s family was so poor that it’s rumored her father had to pay for her birth with a bag of grain.

She is perhaps one of the most decorated musical talents in history with 25 certified Gold, Platinum or Multi-Platinum Records, 26 songs reaching No. 1 on the Billboard country charts, 42 career top-10 country albums and over 100 million recordings recording sold world-wide.

But don’t think for a moment that Dolly is a one-dimensional Gal… she’s never forgot her roots in poverty or the early struggles that her family endured as a result of her father being unable to read and write.

Dolly is a hands-on philanthropist who leverages her talents, her resources and her entrepreneurial skills to improve the lives of many others. A brief highlight of a seemingly endless list of Dolly’s good deeds include:

  • Being a longtime supporter of charities, especially those relating to literacy.
  • She established the Imagination Library in 1995, which sends one book per month to children from the time of their birth until they enter kindergarten. Many Rotary Clubs partner in this program.
  • Giving $500,000 to Fort Sanders Medical Center to help launch a new Cancer Hospital
  • Leading significant efforts to preserve the bald eagle through the American Eagle Foundation’s sanctuary at Dollywood.
  • Giving out countless scholarships through her foundation.

She’s very aware of her public persona and isn’t above poking a little fun at herself.

When asked in a recent interview if she’s had work done, she replied “It takes a lot of money to look this cheap”.

John Germ & Dolly Parton

John Germ & Dolly Parton

Dolly received an honorary doctorate of humane and musical letters from the University of Tennessee in Knoxville in 2009, so she’s really Dr. Dolly – or Double D as she referred to herself to RIPE John Germ on the stage of the Rotary International Convention in Montreal in 2011. Dolly was a keynote speaker at that conference and closed it with a performance of 9 to 5.

At 70 years old Dolly is still an energetic beauty with an amazing voice that shows no signs of slowing down as she’s still a significant presence in the music industry, works actively on her foundation to make the world place and generously gives of her time and talents to her family.

Dolly epitomizes Service Above Self by giving of herself day in and day out, she is the ultimate model of what a Rotarian is all about.

Dolly is also Paul Harris fellow – presented by RIPE John Germ in Montreal and she’s a Rotarian – a member of the Cleethorpes (Grimsby, UK) Rotary Club.

I wish that the North Haven Rotary Club thought of inviting her first.

Rick B


New RI Theme Announced: ROTARY SERVING HUMANITY (38 Years of Rotary International Themes)

Each January, as Rotary District governors-elect from all over the world gather at the International Assembly for training and fellowship, the then Rotary International President-elect announces his (hopefully soon to be her) RI Theme.

The RI Theme sets the tone for what Rotary Clubs around the world will work towards once the Rotary International President-elect (RIPE), the 534 District governors-elect (DGEs) and the 35,000 Rotary Club Presidents-elect begin their new year on July 1st.

The excitement, anticipation and fanfare around RI Theme announcements have been a Rotary staple for the since 1955  and this year was no exception as RI President-elect John F. Germ said, and that being a part of Rotary is a “great opportunity” to make that happen.

Germ unveiled the 2016-17 presidential theme, Rotary Serving Humanity, to incoming district governors on 18 January at the International Assembly in San Diego, California, USA.

“I believe everyone recognizes the opportunity to serve Rotary for what it truly is: not a small opportunity, but a great one; an opportunity of a lifetime to change the world for the better, forever through Rotary’s service to humanity,” said Germ.

Rotary members around the globe are serving humanity by providing clean water to underdeveloped communities, promoting peace in conflict areas, and strengthening communities through basic education and literacy. But none more important than our work to eradicate polio worldwide, he said.

The timing of releasing RI Themes is carefully choreographed to the training which incoming District Governors (known as District Governors-elect) and Club Presidents (known as Presidents-elect) receive as the added significance of the RI Theme is to keep Rotary fresh each year while provide unique inspiration to the incoming world-wide leadership.

Below are the RI Theme Pins for the past 37 years. Merchandising the RI Theme on pins, ties, scarfs, clothing, banners and other giftware has evolved steadily since 1979-80. Prior to that the RI Theme was communicated in booklet form.



Nellie Tayloe Ross – The First U.S. Female Governor

Nellie Tayloe Ross

Nellie Tayloe Ross (American Heritage Center)

On this date (Jan 5th) in 1925 Nellie Tayloe Ross became the first female governor in the United States when she was sworn in as the 14th governor of Wyoming. She handily won a special election to finish out the remaining term of her predecessor, who happened to be her husband, who passed away from complications with an appendectomy just 1.5 years into his elected term.

Her platform of tax cuts, government assistance for poor farmers, banking reform, and laws protecting children, women workers, and miners and the strengthening of prohibition laws were in lockstep with her late husbands.

Women had only had the vote nationwide for just over 4 years when Ross became governor.

Her strong support of the prohibition laws likely led to defeat in her bid for reelection in 1926. She served as governor from 1925 – 1927.

In 1928 she was a strong supporter and campaigner for Al Smith‘s presidential bid. Despite their diametrically opposed views on prohibition, Ross received 31 votes from ten states for vice president on the first ballot at the 1928 Democratic National Convention. She is believed to have been the first female given serious consideration for the position of Vice President of the United States, although Joseph Smith from Arkansas ultimately received the nomination.

When Smith lost to Herbert Hoover, Ross was offered the  job of director of the Women’s Division of the National Democratic Committee, which she accepted and moved to Washington D.C..

Nellie Tayloe Ross on her Mint medal designed by Chief Engraver John R. Sinnock

Nellie Tayloe Ross on her Mint medal designed by Chief Engraver John R. Sinnock

Ross was appointed director of the U.S. Mint by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1933 making her one of the first women to hold a federal post of that importance. During her 20-year term the mint introduced the Roosevelt dime, the Jefferson nickel, and the steel penny, the latter an emergency measure during World War II.

Roosevelt appointed her to (3) five-year terms in the job, and President Harry Truman appointed her to a fourth term, a role which she served in until her retirement 1953.

After  retirement,  she made a number of profitable real estate investments, contributed to a number of magazines, traveled extensively and spent time with her children and grandchildren.

Governor Nellie Tayloe Ross lived to the age of 101 (11/29/1876 – 12/19/1977), she passed away in Washington D.C.

Footnote: Ross had the distinction of becoming the first woman governor by a small margin; Miriam Ferguson was inaugurated governor of Texas just 16 days later.



Charles Goodyear – New Haven based Inventor that turned Naugatuck into the Rubber Capital of the World

Charles Goodyear

Charles Goodyear

Charles Goodyear was born in New Haven, Connecticut on this day (Dec 29th) in 1800 and is best known for patenting a process known as vulcanization.

Amasa Goodyear, Charles’s father, opened the first US manufacturer of pearl buttons in the town of Naugatuck, CT in 1807, which supplied the US government with its entire inventory of metal buttons during the war of 1812. Charles was raised in Naugatuck, CT. where he learned the button trade and worked on the family farm as a young man. His enterprising father encouraged Charles to move to Philadelphia and take up an apprenticeship in a company called Rogers and Brothers.

After his apprenticeship, Charles partnered with his father to open the first domestic hardware store in Philadelphia, which is believed to be the first of it’s kind in the United States. While they enjoyed some success in the early years of the venture, it came crashing down in 1830.

In the early 1830’s the bankrupt Charles Goodyear was introduced to rubber at the Roxbury India Rubber Company in New York City where the proprietor explained that while rubber was a fine product in climate friendly Brazil, it wasn’t well suited for the extreme climates of the Northeast US as it had several fatal flaws; it melted in the summer while emitting a terrible smell and cracked in the winter.

Philadelphia County Debtor's Prison (source:

Philadelphia County Debtor’s Prison

Charles was thrown into debtor’s prison soon after returning to Philadelphia, due to his failure to pay off his creditors. He kept himself occupied with solving the flaws of rubber during his time in prison.

Speculation in the Rubber Industry in the 1830’s caused many investors to lose great sums of money as the promise of the miracle material from Brazil had failed to live up to commercial expectations. By 1835 the US based rubber industry was bust and abandoned by most investors.

Charles Goodyear Patent 3633

Charles Goodyear Patent #3633

Undeterred by the failure of rubber, Charles has a vision for 100’s of commercial applications for rubber including soles for shoes, frogmen suits,, life preservers and many more. He had virtually no resources, no formal training as chemist and his education wasn’t very deep but after many attempts over nearly 15 years to turn rubber into a commercially viable material he would develop a patented process known as vulcanization, which he received his patent for in 1844. Goodyear’s vulcanization process solved the problem of the fatal flaws that most commercial rubber manufactures in 1830’s were unable to solve.

More than sixty additional patents were granted to Goodyear for the application of his original vulcanization process for various uses, including rubber condoms, intrauterine devices, douching syringes, and “womb veils” (diaphragms).

Goodyear Metallic Rubber Shoe Company, Naugatuck, ca. 1900 (Source:

Goodyear Metallic Rubber Shoe Company, Naugatuck, ca. 1900

In 1844 Goodyear built a rubber factory in Naugatuck, which turned it into the rubber capital of the United States and put Naugatuck, Connecticut, on the map as rubber manufacturing capital during the 19th and 20th centuries.

While earning limited fame for his process, Goodyear didn’t financially profit from it as he spent all of his resources during his later years defending his patents in an estimated 32 patent infringement cases. He was in and out of debtor’s prisons in the US, England and France at least 5 times during his lifetime for running up bills which he couldn’t satisfy.

His business acumen never matched his inventive prowess as he made bad deals, failed to patent his process aboard, extended credit to people who couldn’t pay and charged far too small of a royalty percentage on his prized patent, which was the opposite problem that Eli Whitney experienced with the Cotton Gin.

Charles is buried in New Haven at Grove Street Cemetery.

Charles is buried in New Haven at Grove Street Cemetery.

From about the age of 30 through the balance of his life, he was in poor health, him and his wife lost 6 of their 12 children and his family lived in extreme poverty. When he died in 1860 he was nearly $200,000 in debt.

The family did receive modest royalties on Charles’s patents until 1865, which helped them to offset the effects of extreme poverty that they had lived with from 1830 – 1860. They sold the rights to the patents in 1865 just as they were due to expire.

Charles Goodyear had nothing to do with the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company, which was founded in 1898 by Frank Seiberling 38 years after his death.


Tommy Flowers – Developed the Computer that beat Hitler

Tommy Flowers Screenshot 2015-12-21 07.50.21

Tommy Flowers

Thomas “Tommy” Flowers is perhaps one of the most important and least known people in modern computing history. Born on this date, Dec 22, in 1905,  Flowers developed the first electronic programmable computer, known as Colossus.

Colossus was designed specifically for decoding intercepted communication between the top leadership of the Nazi party including Hitler, Admiral Durnetz and Field Marshall Rommel as well as their generals on the battlefront. The Germans entrusted their most secret messages to a machine known as the Lorenz SZ40 cipher system, which they used from 1941 until the end of World War II in 1945. It was Flowers who developed the computer that was able to secretly decipher the messages of the Nazi high command.

Flowers was a British engineer that was hand picked by Max Newman to be part of a special team at Bletchley Park to improve the semi-automated decoding process of the Lorenzo Cipher. When Flowers arrived at  Bletchley Park in 1941 most of the decoding was being done by hand and on a rudimentary machine known as ‘Robinson’. The process was painstakingly slow and error prone.

Flowers proposed building a different type of decoding machine that was based on 1,800 thermion valves (vacuum tubes) that would serve as of series high speed reliable electronic logic gates. The idea was so radically different that his superiors refused to provide a budget for the project thus forcing him to fund a great deal of the project with his own money to the tune of over £1000. £1000 was a considerable amount of money in 1941 and Tommy Flowers was not a wealthy man.

During the time that Flowers and his team were building the Colossus at his Dollis Hill laboratory, 1941 to late 1943, the German’s improved their level of encryption several times on the Lorenz thus significantly reducing the number of intercepted messages that could be decrypted by the codebreakers and the Robinson.



Flowers first generation Colossus was delivered and installed on February 5, 1944, it was immediately put to work. The Colossus quickly doubled the codebreakers output and silenced the critics at Bletchley Park. The new computer eliminated the synchronised tapes of the Robinson, boasted superior speeds by a factor over 5 times and was also much more reliable, due to Flowers’ redesigned counters and the use of valves in place of relays throughout.

The Bletchley Park authorities immediately ordered 4 more units from Flowers and insisted that the next one be delivered by June 1, 1944. After many sleepless nights and considerable stress, Flowers and his team had Colossus II operational on time. The new machine was faster and more reliable than it’s predecessor. 

Code Breakers at Bletchly Park

Code Breakers at Bletchly Park

On June 5, 1944 the codebreaking team was able to successfully decode a message from Adolf Hitler to Field Marshall Rommel and other his high command leaders on the strategy for defending the Western Front (the Atlantic Wall) against an Allied invasion. Hitler believed that the Allied forces would invade Normandy as a decoy to draw the German defenses away from what he felt was their true invasion spot of France’s Pas de Calais region. Hitler had the Pas de Calais region well fortified and did not want his military resources to be redeployed to Normandy for what he believed was a red herring.  He ordered all of his commanders to stand firm for 5 days if the Allied forces launched an assault of Normandy as he didn’t want to weaken his strong hold positions.

Bletchley Park immediately passed the intercept onto the Americans and General Eisenhower  issued the order to launch a full scale invasion, known as D-Day, at Normandy for the very next day, June 6, 1944. He knew from Hitler’s broken communication that he would have the element of surprise and ample time to overwhelm the defending German forces on Omaha Beach.

remembering-d-day-1The hard fought victory for the Allies at D-Day was the turning point in the war in that it allowed the Allied troops the ability to advance by land into Germany. World War II was over with a year from D-Day.

The German high command continued to use the Lorenz Ciper Machines after D-Day but they changed the frequency of the encryption key decoding on a more regular basis. Several Colossus (aka Colossi) computers were dedicated to just breaking the ever-changing key decoding while several others were used to decode the actual communication. By the time the war ended in 1945 there were 10 Colossus computers in active service.

The entire Colossus program was classified,  8 of the Colossus computers were disassembled immediately at the conclusion of the war and the remaining 2 were disassembled in 1958-60.

For Tommy and Colossus, the work that was done at Bletchley Park was to remain a secret for a very long time. Tommy Flowers kept his word and remained silent about his contribution to the war effort. No doubt others benefited from his work, but Tommy did not. He never revealed these secrets, only doing so when the restriction was lifted.

The American Government was given the details of Colossus by the British Government as part payment for all the food and armaments America had supplied throughout the war. It’s rumored that many of the technical specifications of Colossus were shared with the team that was developing ENIAC at the University of Pennsylvania.

The secret Colossus program was initially revealed by the USA’s Freedom of Information Bill in 1970 and the release of the information Britain had given the USA.

Recognition came after the release of the Colossus information but much too late to give Tommy any real benefit. He received an honorary doctorate from Newcastle University in 1977, and another from De Montfort University in Leicester. More was planned. It became known that he was being considered for a knighthood, possibly in the New Years Honors List.  Sadly, Tommy Flowers died from heart failure at home in London on October 28, 1998. He was 92.

Flowers significant contributions in computer science have been credited by Prime Minister Winston Churchill and General Dwight Eisenhower with shortening World War II by at least 2 years and saving at least hundreds of thousands of lives.