Tuesday, November 21, 2023

Remembering John McGowan

 John McGowan passed away Thursday.   His obituary is posted below. Rest in peace.

Father, Brother, Husband, Oilman, Snow Skier, Sailor, Builder, Musician, Painter, Inventor, True Renaissance Man died peacefully November 16, 2023, just a few weeks shy of his 90th birthday.

John was born December 29, 1933 in Jackson, Mississippi. He was the son of Mary Helen Howie McGowan and Judge Milton Mabry McGowan.

John’s love for adventure began at an early age from raising chickens in his parents’ backyard to often hunting in the Pearl River swamps with his many cousins and friends, often returning late into the night much to his parents’ concern.

Being born only 18 months apart, John’s oldest sister Helen, remembers many stories of growing up with John. As children during WWII, she said almost every facet of their lives was colored by the fact that they were living in a world at war. John was captivated with news about the war, so most childhood games were war-themed. A neighbor’s son, who was overseas, sent home a German helmet and gave it to John. He wore that helmet while playing with friends in games of “Germans and Americans” and would not share. Their mother also knitted for the Red Cross during that time and taught the children to knit, John included. John was small but feisty and would sit outside knitting waiting for a derogatory comment, so he could pick a fight. During that time, baby chicks were often dyed for Easter, and John was given three baby chicks. He promptly named them Douglas MacArthur, Ike Eisenhower, and George Patton. This began the nucleus of John’s chicken enterprise. It turned out that Douglas MacArthur was a hen and was rechristened “Bessie MacArthur”. From the three generals, the flock grew. John bought more and more chickens, fenced in a vacant lot next to our house, and raised his ever-growing flock. He was able to supply eggs to family, neighbors, and friends…all they could eat. But not fried chicken, because you cannot eat anything that has a name, and all of John’s chickens were pets and had names. Ike Eisenhower, who ran free, grew to be a huge rooster and terrorized anyone who came into their yard. Some families had guard dogs, but the McGowans had a guard rooster!

In the late 1940’s, John’s father bought a lot on Crane Boulevard with the intent to build a family home. John somehow devised a system to acquire the brick from the Mississippi State Insane Asylum, which was being torn down (the present day UMMC). He spent an entire summer chipping away old mortar off the bricks so they could be used for the family home that was to be built.

He was educated in the Jackson Public Schools and graduated from Central High School. John attended Southern College (now University of Southern Mississippi) for two years and transferred to Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, earning a degree in Geology. While at LSU he was a member of Kappa Alpha Fraternity and the Army ROTC.

One summer between college semesters, John continued his sense of adventure by going with friends to Mexico to earn money by hunting panthers and mining for gold.

Upon graduation, John was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in the United States Army and was stationed at Fort Barnwell in North Carolina. After completing his required two years active military duty, he left the army as a Commissioned Captain in the Army Reserves. Shortly after, he married Helen Parker and needing a civilian job, he left for Midland, Texas. There he was hired as a geophysicist and worked on a seismograph crew traveling throughout the Southwest.

With the encouragement of his father, he returned home to Jackson with his small family. His father helped him purchase an oil lease in Pickens, Mississippi. From this humble beginning, his illustrious oil business career began as John McGowan Oil Company.

After having successfully drilled some wells, John quickly learned that reworking old wells increased his odds of success. While John developed techniques to efficiently produce low oil cut/high water cut mature oil wells, his unique and somewhat unconventional approach to life was a theme throughout his professional and personal life. He became a master at reinjecting saltwater, which is produced along with the oil, back into the ground. This allowed him to produce several times as much fluid out of a well, often increasing the oil production by multiples. When he was denied a permit for a type of oilfield completion that he knew was grounded in provable science, he used the legal system to have his permits approved both from a federal and state standpoint. For his use of the courts to attempt to reign in regulatory excess, The Lincoln Heritage Institute honored him in 1997 with their Individual Medal of Freedom Award in Washington, D.C.

John loved teaching and sharing his knowledge with others. As his oil business expanded, he realized that making his employees his business partners would yield positive results. As a result, all of John’s employees owned an interest in the oil fields he operated. This concept led to the formation of McGowan Working Partners (MWP) which is the operating company that oversees oil production today.

In 1976, John married Diane West Herrington from Monroe, Louisiana. Combining their families, they raised 5 children together. She introduced John to many new and exciting adventures, showing him that there were other things in life besides the oilfield. They enjoyed many wonderful trips together, including Christmas vacations and Spring Breaks skiing in Colorado, to numerous sailing regattas across the Southeast. Together they enjoyed countless Supper Clubs and dinners with numerous friends.

Being a longstanding member of the Jackson Yacht Club, John was an avid sailor and competed in numerous Sunday races at the Ross Barnett Reservoir, as well as across the Southeast in many different sailboat classes. He often won, as evidenced by a bookcase filled with many winning trophies. In 2019, in his honor, the John McGowan School of Sailing was established and endowed in his name at the Jackson Yacht Club. It enables young people to become involved with sailing and enjoy the sport that John loved so much.

John had such a great love of music. He loved playing his guitar in homes with other musicians at what he called “pickin’ sessions”. John had taught himself how to play the guitar while recuperating from an oilfield accident. He had been injured when a piece of equipment damaged his knee and surgery was required. This rendered him incapable of walking for several weeks, so he used that time to teach himself to play.

One of his numerous accomplishments was the building of the freestanding staircase in his home. The spiral staircase was constructed without a center support, with engineering created by John using specially designed tools to cut the supportive pieces of wood and steel encircling the staircase. It was a truly amazing accomplishment. He enjoyed showing any new visitors his album of photographs of the step-by-step process associated with its construction.

Along with being a geologist, John had a knack for physics which allowed him to create the machinery and tools that he used in his business. It also gave him an understanding of how things worked in the physical world around him. One of these things was flood control. He used his understanding of the flow of fluid to design pipe systems in the oil field. John also applied it to the many drainage systems constructed on the facilities and roads associated with the oilfields. He later used the same logic in designing and building several lakes with subdivisions surrounding them in North Jackson and Rankin County. He realized that lakes provide the ability to maintain very efficient flow characteristics, causing stable water levels both around the lake and slightly upstream. John always thought big and outside of the box, so he took this idea and applied it to Jackson’s flooding caused by the Pearl River. The initial proposal was the Two Lake Flood Control Plan, which would have lowered the 1979 flood levels in Jackson by around 10 feet. The plan would solve the flooding problem and add value in a way that would pay for the plan. The project has since evolved into a smaller One Lake Plan which still lowers flood levels and significantly reduces flooding in the Jackson area. The One Lake Plan is currently in the last stages of getting the necessary permits approved. John’s goal and desire was for the City of Jackson and its citizens to benefit from this plan.

While John would give credit to those employees working with him for the success of his ideas, it was his vision that created the opportunities. His other great strength was allowing those around him to use their skills to improve his ideas.

John had an inability to say NO to anyone. He was extremely generous, but never wanted to be recognized. He contributed to many groups and organizations such as 100 Black Men, Boys and Girls Club, Mississippi Crime Commission, Jackson Prep, Jackson Academy, Natchez Children’s Society, Water Wells in Africa, Jackson Yacht Club, and quietly many more.

Late in life, John embarked on another new passion as a portrait artist. What began as simple charcoal sketches evolved into finding another hidden talent. He taught himself to paint with oils and created gorgeous oil portraits for family and friends. He was very excited that he could share his creations with others and make them happy. He kept an album of photographs of all the portraits he had painted, and he so enjoyed showing them to everyone.

John was predeceased by his parents; his sister, Tally McGowan Phyfer of Jackson; his son, John David McGowan of Jackson; his daughter, Charmaine McGowan of Vicksburg; his brother-in-law, Theodore (Ted) French of Atlanta, Georgia; his sister-in-law, Ann West LeDoux of Monroe, Louisiana.

He is survived by his loving and dedicated wife of 47 years, Diane West McGowan; his sisters, Helen McGowan French of Atlanta, Georgia and Adele McGowan Hudgins (Jim) of Dallas, Texas; his brother, David Kent McGowan (Ginna) of Brandon; his children, Joseph Parker McGowan (Amy) of Jackson; Suzannah McGowan Thames (John) of Jackson; Nannette McGowan of Destin, Florida; his daughter-in-law, Tara McGowan Pitts (Brian) of Jackson; his stepchildren, Michael Woods Herrington of Madison and Leslie Herrington Wells (Trip) of Jackson; his grandchildren, John McGowan (Jordan) of Jackson, William McGowan of Ponchatoula, Louisiana and Anna McGowan of New Orleans, Louisiana; Mollie McGowan Cole (Patrick) of Jackson and Parker McGowan of Jackson; Kathleen Johnson of Jackson, Graham Johnson (Lauren) of Eugene, Oregon, Ethan Johnson of Prague, Czech Republic, Nathaniel Johnson of Kanazawa, Japan and Tristen Baroni of Pritchett, Colorado; Sean McGowan (Mary) of Nashville, Tennessee and Keri McGowan Vandevender of Clinton; Melissa Johnson Conlee (Nathan) of Madison; his step-grandchildren, West Wells (Ann Morgan) of Nashville, Tennessee, Ellie Wells of Dallas, Texas and Nevin Wells of Dallas, Texas; Trey Herrington of Jackson; sixteen great-grandchildren and numerous nieces, nephews, and cousins. He is also survived by his sister-in-law, Jan West Brockman (Ralph) and his brother-in-law, C. Joseph LeDoux of Monroe, Louisiana; along with their children and grandchildren.

The family would like to express a special thank you for the care, concern, and compassion shown to John by Earnestine Willis, Dorothy Walker, Annie Walker, Ebony Cornelius, Ezella Lewis, Mardena Lewis and the kind staff at McGowan Working Partners during his illness.

John will be laid to rest at his Rankin County Lake near his son, John David, in a private graveside service for his immediate family only.

Wright and Ferguson Funeral Home of Flowood is handling the arrangements.

In lieu of flowers, memorials in John’s name may be made to: The Burn Center Baptist Health Foundation (1225 N. State Street, Jackson, MS 39202); Stewpot Community Services (1100 W Capitol Street, Jackson, MS 39203); The John McGowan School of Sailing at the Jackson Yacht Club (700 Yacht Road, Ridgeland, MS 39157).

John’s legacy will be his overwhelming generosity to family, friends and employees.

“I’ve sailed away and crossed the finish line.” JWM


Anonymous said...

Sadly, I’ve never heard of him. Thanks for sharing. As I drove through Madison just this morning, I couldn’t help but think about how much technology has pretty much eradicated possible renaissance men. Creature comforts have spoiled us.

Anonymous said...

As a sailor, John was a great competitor and teacher. He trained a generation of sailors who are passing his skills along to the next generation.

Anonymous said...

I have never heard of this guy, but it sounds like he had a full life and served for the greater good of his community.

Anonymous said...

Great man. He offered Jackson a lifeline, possibly the last one, and they attacked him and his motives.

Ben Allen Posted On Facebook said...

John McGowan, a truly great American, died a couple of days ago. He was my neighbor and my friend. His obituary is below, which among many, many, many things, speaks to his kindness and his generosity. I saw that kindness and generosity "up close and personal".

On March 8, 2016, a corrupt, hateful district attorney indicted me on 10 trumped up charges brought on by a lying, evil woman, angry at me for firing her after discovering she had stolen over a 3 year period over $40,000 in company funds, and through investigation, used almost all of it gambling in Vicksburg casinos.

I was about as shattered and depressed as a living person can be that horrible day. Were it not for my wife, my kids, Leland Speed and John McGowan that very day, I don't want to imagine where this all may have gone.

It is 8:32 in the evening that day. All 4 local TV stations had reported this indictment, and the news had hit the AP and blasted all over the country. Having been the Jackson City Council President....a Republican in a 85% black, Democrat city, made this "juicy" news. I even got a call from a lawyer cousin in Seattle. 10 count indictment....juicy news.

My wife was in the back getting ready for bed, and I was lying on my couch in my pitch black living room, terrified at this out of body experience and what it all meant. I hear a knock on my front door. I stumble to it, peak outside and it was Mr. McGowan. He asked if he could come in and of course I said please do.

I will never forget the kindness in his eyes, as he put his arms around me, hugged me, told me he loved me like I was his own son. He told me these things get very expensive, that he knew the charges were bogus, that he had total faith and trust in me, and to put any financial worries out of my mind, no matter the costs involved. I was in humbled awe of this man and his kindness and generosity.

I cannot put into words the impact that had on me at that point in time. You cannot explain it until it happens to you. The next day I had a similar visit from Leland Speed. These 2 "giants of men" saved me, and by extension, my family.

I have many more stories and memories about Mr. McGowan that I will treasure and cherish forever. Anyone that knew him would say the same. God bless that sweet, tough, funny, disciplined, courageous, generous, brilliant, driven man. Jackson, Mississippi and our country have lost a true hero.

Anonymous said...

Society today is starving for truly great men. It’s apparent, we have now lost another. Did not have the honor of knowing this man but I still have a heavy sense of loss.

Anonymous said...

When I die I want Kingfish to eulogize my accomplishments as follows:

He completed Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas, Borderlands 1-3, every Legend of Zelda Game, and all of the Elder Scrolls. While he did not enjoy it, he completed the Dark Souls series. Anon was Top Ranked in Call of Duty Modern Warfare. He had achieved hundreds of thousands of hours in Minecraft, Factorio, and Kerbal Space Program. He could often be found devoting additional hours to Civilization IV as well as Starcraft II. He had 127 aircraft in his hangar in Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020. He was a Top Gun pilot in DCS World.

Sam Begley said...

Mr. John McGowan was one of the great men of Jackson. He was one of my heroes. He was the true embodiment of American individualism. I was honored to have worked under him on the Lake(s) Project. It would be a great tribute to his efforts, and a transformation for Jackson, if the Corps of Engineers would green light the project that began as his idea.
Very few times in my life have I met someone willing to go to court to stand up to the government for abridging their civil rights. In that regard, when I am doing legal research on an issue pertaining to administrative law, I often come across the seminal cases of State Oil & Gas Bd. v. McGowan, 542 So.2d 244, 245 (Miss. 1989) (McGowan I) and McGowan v. Miss. State Oil & Gas Bd. 604 So. 2d 312 (1992)(McGowan II) (“Today's appellant challenges the State Oil and Gas Board's denial of permission that he operate salt water disposal wells without a device known as a packer. En route he presents fundamental questions of law and policy in our regulatory state.") (“McGowan challenges the institutional processes of the State Oil and Gas Board. His complaint is that the Board was both his adversary and his judge. He struggles mightily to convince us we should strike this familiar feature of the administrative landscape, on grounds it offends due process, the right to which is secured to him by Art. 3, Sec. 14 of the Mississippi Constitution of 1890, and ultimately by the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. We do not take the point lightly, for it is premised upon that ancient first principle of justice, that no man shall serve as judge of his own cause.”)
I came to know Mr. McGowan in many ways over the years, and I saw, over and over again, that he met people where they were, making countless friends, without regard to race, education, wealth, or political ideology. May he rest in peace.

Kim Breese said...

My wife and I are friends of John McGowan and his wife Diane. I will second the comments of Ben Allen and Sam Begley by saying John was one of the kindest, gentlest and smartest persons I've ever known. He did so much for Jackson and for mankind in general in a quiet, unassuming way without seeking or expecting accolades. We have lost so many of those who truly made a difference in our community - Leland Speed, Wirt Yerger, Billy Mounger and others, and now John McGowan. We were fortunate to have him for so long and need more like him.

Millennial Philosopher said...


These things happen in phases.

Hard Times create Great Men
Great Men create Good Times
Good Times create Weak Men
Weak Men create Hard Times.

Charlie Kemp said...

John was a good friend and a real visionary. Had dinner with him many times and always enjoyed his conversations. Too bad the he did not get to see the Two Lakes or the One lake flood control project finished. He was right and the foot dragging by everyone will cause another flood in Jackson one day.
He will be missed.

Anonymous said...

Re: Ben Allen comments : What most people don’t know or probably care is that if you are or have been an elected official there is no shield from vicious attacks from investigators, auditors,and sensational news outlets.Many of them only want to see your head mounted on their wall as a trophy. Seeing your picture on the front page of the newspaper or on the 6 o’clock news can dampen your belief in justice—when you did nothing wrong. Thankfully you had John and Leland as friends that knew of your integrity. The press is always hiding behind careful words while slandering a reputation . No wonder many good folks stay out of public elected office.

Anonymous said...

As a businessman I never had the privilege of working with someone as kindhearted as John McGowan. I always saw the greed at the other end of the spectrum that others had where they had abused their power and authority. I wish I had met Mr McGowan. This proves that there are good people in this world that can and choose to make a difference. I spoke to one of his family members today and I can truthfully say that I cannot think of anyone that I know in my lifetime that can measure up to Mr. McGowan and what he has done for society. As a young kid growing up I wanted to be a geologist. Things changed and I went a different direction and to my sadness I wish I had not because my choice led me to a profession of having to deal with scrupulous business people. As I said, there are good people left in this world and we need more. As my dad told me one time, you can be around them but don’t be one of them. Be different and that’s why Mr McGowan stood above many. May God comfort his family.

Wow said...

Mr. McGowan created his on J22 lift at JYC that is amazing. It uses water pressure from the reservoir to raise and lower the racing boat. It was always really neat to watch it work for the Sunday races.

A life well lived. Rest well, Mr. McGowan.

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Trollfest '07 was such a success that Jackson Jambalaya will once again host Trollfest '09. Catch this great event which will leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Othor Cain and his band, The Black Power Structure headline the night while Sonjay Poontang returns for an encore performance. Former Frank Melton bodyguard Marcus Wright makes his premier appearance at Trollfest singing "I'm a Sweet Transvestite" from "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." Kamikaze will sing his new hit, “How I sold out to da Man.” Robbie Bell again performs: “Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be Bells” and “Any friend of Ed Peters is a friend of mine”. After the show, Ms. Bell will autograph copies of her mug shot photos. In a salute to “Dancing with the Stars”, Ms. Bell and Hinds County District Attorney Robert Smith will dance the Wango Tango.

Wrestling returns, except this time it will be a Battle Royal with Othor Cain, Ben Allen, Kim Wade, Haley Fisackerly, Alan Lange, and “Big Cat” Donna Ladd all in the ring at the same time. The Battle Royal will be in a steel cage, no time limit, no referee, and the losers must leave town. Marshand Crisler will be the honorary referee (as it gives him a title without actually having to do anything).

Meet KIM Waaaaaade at the Entergy Tent. For five pesos, Kim will sell you a chance to win a deed to a crack house on Ridgeway Street stuffed in the Howard Industries pinata. Don't worry if the pinata is beaten to shreds, as Mr. Wade has Jose, Emmanuel, and Carlos, all illegal immigrants, available as replacements for the it. Upon leaving the Entergy tent, fig leaves will be available in case Entergy literally takes everything you have as part of its Trollfest ticket price adjustment charge.

Donna Ladd of The Jackson Free Press will give several classes on learning how to write. Smearing, writing without factchecking, and reporting only one side of a story will be covered. A donation to pay their taxes will be accepted and she will be signing copies of their former federal tax liens. Ms. Ladd will give a dramatic reading of her two award-winning essays (They received The Jackson Free Press "Best Of" awards.) "Why everything is always about me" and "Why I cover murders better than anyone else in Jackson".

In the spirit of helping those who are less fortunate, Trollfest '09 adopts a cause for which a portion of the proceeds and donations will be donated: Keeping Frank Melton in his home. The “Keep Frank Melton From Being Homeless” booth will sell chances for five dollars to pin the tail on the jackass. John Reeves has graciously volunteered to be the jackass for this honorable excursion into saving Frank's ass. What's an ass between two friends after all? If Mr. Reeves is unable to um, perform, Speaker Billy McCoy has also volunteered as when the word “jackass” was mentioned he immediately ran as fast as he could to sign up.

In order to help clean up the legal profession, Adam Kilgore of the Mississippi Bar will be giving away free, round-trip plane tickets to the North Pole where they keep their bar complaint forms (which are NOT available online). If you don't want to go to the North Pole, you can enjoy Brant Brantley's (of the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance) free guided tours of the quicksand field over by High Street where all complaints against judges disappear. If for some reason you are unable to control yourself, never fear; Judge Houston Patton will operate his jail where no lawyers are needed or allowed as you just sit there for minutes... hours.... months...years until he decides he is tired of you sitting in his jail. Do not think Judge Patton is a bad judge however as he plans to serve free Mad Dog 20/20 to all inmates.

Trollfest '09 is a pet-friendly event as well. Feel free to bring your dog with you and do not worry if your pet gets hungry, as employees of the Jackson Zoo will be on hand to provide some of their animals as food when it gets to be feeding time for your little loved one.

Relax at the Fox News Tent. Since there are only three blonde reporters in Jackson (being blonde is a requirement for working at Fox News), Megan and Kathryn from WAPT and Wendy from WLBT will be on loan to Fox. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both and a torn-up Obama yard sign will entitle you to free drinks served by Megan, Wendy, and Kathryn. Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required. Just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '09 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

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Jackson Jambalaya is the home of Trollfest '07. Catch this great event which promises to leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Sonjay Poontang and his band headline the night with a special steel cage, no time limit "loser must leave town" bout between Alan Lange and "Big Cat"Donna Ladd following afterwards. Kamikaze will perform his new song F*** Bush, he's still a _____. Did I mention there was no referee? Dr. Heddy Matthias and Lori Gregory will face off in the undercard dueling with dangling participles and other um, devices. Robbie Bell will perform Her two latest songs: My Best Friends are in the Media and Mama's, Don't Let Your Babies Grow up to be George Bell. Sid Salter of The Clarion-Ledger will host "Pin the Tail on the Trial Lawyer", sponsored by State Farm.

There will be a hugging booth where in exchange for your young son, Frank Melton will give you a loooong hug. Trollfest will have a dunking booth where Muhammed the terrorist will curse you to Allah as you try to hit a target that will drop him into a vat of pig grease. However, in the true spirit of Separate But Equal, Don Imus and someone from NE Jackson will also sit in the dunking booth for an equal amount of time. Tom Head will give a reading for two hours on why he can't figure out who the hell he is. Cliff Cargill will give lessons with his .80 caliber desert eagle, using Frank Melton photos as targets. Tackleberry will be on hand for an autograph session. KIM Waaaaaade will be passing out free titles and deeds to crackhouses formerly owned by The Wood Street Players.

If you get tired come relax at the Fox News Tent. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both will entitle you to free drinks.Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required, just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '07 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

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