John David Goodlette was born in Hazard, KY on November 14, 1925, the middle child of Dudley and Lillian Goodlette. At a young age he had a passion for flight and dreamed of designing planes. He would often assemble model aircraft and his hobbies would later expand to include piloting gliders and small aircraft. This sparked an interest in engineering at an early age. Later in life he would go on to become a highly successful engineer who worked extensively in aerodynamics and rocketry, specifically with the Titan rocket and Viking Mars landers.
He graduated from Hazard High School in 1943. After graduating from high school he enrolled at the University of Kentucky where he would study mechanical engineering. His studies were put on hold at the onset of World War 2 when he joined the United States Army. He completed Officer's Training School and went on to serve as a lieutenant until the end of the war, operating as a tugboat captain in the South Pacific. After returning he resumed his studies and graduated from the University of Kentucky as a mechanical engineer in 1949. After graduation he continued to work at the University's Aeronautical Research Laboratory with a focus on internal combustion engines.
A Storied Career
He was initially employed by H.A. Spaulding, Engineers of Hazard but was hired by the Martin Marietta Corp., (now Lockheed Martin) in 1952 where he would spend the majority of his professional career. His research focused on jet propulsion, heat transfer and liquid metals technology.
In 1955 he was assigned to the Ballistic Rocket Development Group and would later participate in the development of the Titan I rocket. To supplement his education he continued to take courses as his career progressed, including courses in nuclear physics, high speed gas dynamics and electrical engineering.
His next major career step came in 1958 when he was named Technical Director for the United States Army Pershing Weapon System. He would later become the Project Manager for the Pershing Research and Development Program.
In 1962 he was reassigned to Martin Marietta's Denver Division where he held a variety of titles including Manager of several divisions including Propulsion and Mechanical Engineering, Systems Engineering and Planetary Systems Engineering. He would later go on to serve as Vice President of the company, retiring after 39 years with the company.
The high point of his career came in 1976 when two Viking spacecrafts landed on the surface of Mars. John served as Chief Engineer on this 10 year project.
A Life Well Lived
John married his wife Jeannette in 1952 and later had three children, Sarah, David and Alice. After retiring John focused on his favored hobby of flying gliders and he served on the board of directors for both the Colorado Soaring Association and the Black Forest Soaring Society and was a long-time member of both organizations. He also served on the Board of Trustees for the Black Forest Community Church and sang in the choir for many years.
"Mother Nature doesn't cheat. It's always exactly the way it is. You may not understand the way it is, but that's your fault, not Mother Nature's." - John Goodlette