Honoring the Government Heroes We Lost in 2010

Last week, the public service lost two great advocates for diplomacy and digital engagement.

The first was Richard Holbrooke. I didn’t know much about him or his career. But I was struck by the fact that he was so committed to carrying out his public service role that his final words included an appeal to “end the war” in Afghanistan. George Packer offered the following remarks in his remembrance in a New Yorker blog post:

There are too many things to say—others have said them, and will say much more—about his career as a diplomat, his ideas about American power and leadership, his writings, his last mission with the Obama Administration. He did many things besides work in government, but that work was so core to his being and happiness that, once he started his new (and nearly impossible) job, it was as if a pilot light inside him had suddenly burst into flame: his eyes had a new gleam. He harbored a dose of skepticism about the Afghanistan war, but he worked tirelessly for success, to the obvious detriment of his health. In a sense he gave his life for his country.

There are thousands of people just like Holbrooke in government – folks who are not famous, but who are dedicated to their work on behalf of the American people.

Another person we lost this last week was someone that not many of us know outside of Texas. His name was Gary Chapman. I didn’t know him either, but I happened to be privvy to an email string of people who are mourning his untimely passing. Apparently, he worked as tirelessly as Holbrooke to make America better. Rather than try to recount his story or extract from his bio, I received the message below from, Carolyn Purcell, a colleague who knew him well:

Gary Chapman, friend, mentor and object of great admiration by all who knew him, was a man of many gifts. He was brilliant, kind, caring, generous and hard-working. He directed the LBJ School’s 21st Century project as lecturer and revolutionary thinker since 1994. He anticipated many of the twists and turns the Internet has taken, and he took us along with it. He was sought out for commentary on many technology issues, especially about the Internet, and he was a syndicated columnist for newspapers around the country on the subject of technology. . He was an early proponent of Open Source code. He believed that the Internet should bring value to its users, and he pushed for Internet access in every nook and cranny in Texas.

He was a Green Beret in Vietnam. He and Carol, the wife he adored, went to NYC soon after 9/11 to help where they could. He was proud to tell us about all the other Texans who were there helping out, too. During the Year 2000 Code Remediation effort, he was a credible voice whose mild-mannered cajoling got many folks on track to do the work that had to be done.

He was always interested in other opinions, and he always told the truth. I remember my first time to meet him. We were both addressing a new crop of legislators on technology. He and I presented opposing views on the productivity opportunity that technology offered for state operations. After my pie-in-the-sky, rousing speech of technology nirvana, he correctly advised them that the discipline was actually in its infancy and that they should temper any decisions with caution. At that time, technology projects had an abysmal success rate, especially in government, so—of course—he was right. After our presentations we had a brief chat that was the beginning of a long friendship.

In 2000, he was named one of Texas “Wired Guns” by Texas Monthly Magazine, a power player “who put the Tech in Texas.”

Gary Chapman died earlier this week on a rafting trip in Guatemala. He was 58. Texas lost a brilliant star among its technology luminaries. Those who knew him are heartbroken and mourn his passing. Our hearts go out to his beautiful wife, Carol, and to the rest of his family.

I’m sure there were many more people like Richard and Gary whose names I do not know, but whose service to America was no less sacrificial, sincere and significant.

Did you know somebody who served in government that ended their life’s journey this year?

Let’s honor and acknowledge them by telling their stories or just simply naming them below.

Leave a Comment


Leave a Reply

Tim Evans

Please remember Joe Pagano, who worked at the Library of Congress. Joe was the towering pioneer of Web Analytics in the Federal Government. Joe recognized Analytics was the key to making Government web sites better through understanding what our visitors did on our site.

Bernie Lubran

I had the pleasure of knowing Joe Pagano as a fellow fed and later as a client when I became a contractor and I wanted to add that Joe was a real gentleman as well as an expert in web analytics. He embodied openness and transparency in the way he dealt with people and engendered tremendous trust from his colleagues and those that knew him.

Martha Garvey

Rosia Smith, a lovely woman who I had the pleasure of working with in the Enterprise Web Management office at the General Services Administration (enterprise-side web services), left us this year. She was a wonderful singer, a woman of faith, and a fighter.

Gina Robson

Carol McClary. She was an extraordinary woman who never stopped until she was taken from us too soon and too quickly. I knew her as a neighbor and fellow Fed, and as someone who was dedicated to her job and her agency. Her dedication was such that she postponed retirement plans to help with staff transition.