February 12, 2020
Faces of Fauquier: His book traces church’s 200 years
Photo/Don Del Rosso
Richard Gookin retired as the associate chief of protocol at the Department of State, which he joined in 1954 while attending Georgetown University at night.
What I tried to do was to bring some people from the past alive again, in a sense.
Beginning in 2015, he pumped out a weekly history essay about Saint James’ Episcopal Church in Warrenton.
Never missing a deadline, Richard Gookin produced 65 consecutive pieces on notable church people and events for the Sunday bulletin.
“As church historian, I anticipated we would be celebrating Saint James’ 200th birthday in 2016,” explained Mr. Gookin. “So I began to write them.”
Little did he know, but the essays proved a hit with church members.
“They seemed to be well-received,” said Mr. Gookin, who heads Saint James’ history committee. “So I was encouraged to put them in book form.”
In November, Outskirts Press published 125 copies of Mr. Gookin’s “Notes on the History of Saint James’ Church.” At $25 each, only two or three copies remained unsold as of this week, he said.
To create the book, he “reworked and expanded” the Sunday bulletin pieces, said Mr. Gookin, 88.
“I put them in a little better order and then added to them,” explained the retired U.S. State Department Associate Chief of Protocol. “It’s not meant to be comprehensive or complete. But at least it gives you a bit of a picture. What I tried to do was to bring some people from the past alive again, in a sense — the personalities. Who were they?”
One chapter includes biographical sketches of the church’s four ministers and 15 rectors. Rev. Paul D. Bowden held the post from 1920 to 1963 — longer than any other Saint James’ rector.
Rev. Ben Mass today serves as rector.
Other sections focus on “personalities,” the music program, school, the church’s role during the Civil War, the 1910 fire that destroyed the sanctuary and the construction of the Gothic-style structure that stands at 73 Culpeper St.
For research, Mr. Gookin relied on his own and other local history books, newspaper articles, church records and interviews.
“The raw material was all there,” he said.
Born and raised in Washington, D.C., Mr. Gookin took an early shine to most things global.
“When I was a boy, my mother wanted all of us to be exposed to every advantage,” recalled the middle child of three. “I remember in our living room we had a map of the world on the wall and she would ask me, ‘Well, where is Venezuela? Where is England? Where is China?’ That sort of thing.”
“And then I became interested in foreign people and foreign culture, just by nature, I guess.”
Mr. Gookin joined the State Department in 1954. Attending night school at Georgetown University, he earned a bachelor’s degree in foreign service two years later.
Climbing the career ladder at the State Department, Mr. Gookin eventually rose to associate chief of protocol — the office’s senior career position.
He answered to the chief of protocol — a presidential appointee, who changed with just about every new administration.
Among his many duties large and small, Mr. Gookin provided advice on ceremonial matters, diplomatic receptions and visits of heads-of-state, kings and queens visiting Washington as guests of the president.
“I looked upon my job as one to foster good will between the Department of State and U.S. government with foreign, diplomatic missions — foreign embassies in Washington,” he said.
In his nearly 40-year career, Mr. Gookin served under nine presidents — from Dwight D. Eisenhower to Bill Clinton.
Of all of them, he liked George H.W. Bush best.
“He was nice to me, and he was always friendly,” said Mr. Gookin, smiling.
He met and/or traveled with numerous world figures, including Queen Elizabeth II.
“She was a lovely person,” Mr. Gookin said of the queen. “But her comments certainly didn’t get into any substance of any kind — small talk and very pleasant.”
He retired from the State Department in 1994, when he and his wife Betty moved to Fauquier.
Associate chief of protocol/other positons, U.S. State Department, 1954-94
Wife, Betty; three children; four grandchildren; two great grandchildren
Bachelor’s degree, foreign service, Georgetown University, 1956; Western High School, Washington, D.C., 1949.
• Church involvement
Chairman, history committee, Saint James’ Episcopal Church, Warrenton, 1996 to present.
• How long have you lived in Fauquier?
• Why do you live here?
My wife’s roots are here, and she was left a beautiful place on Springs Road when her aunt died in 1994. And, I was ready to retire. We lived in Washington and Middleburg. We kept our house in Middleburg for a while and then sold it and have been here for the last 26 years.
• How do you describe this county?
Fauquier is a paradise. We’re fortunate to be in the Piedmont — in the beautiful topography of rolling hills and the beautiful fields. It’s a peaceful place. There’s a sensible limitation on development.
• What would you change about Fauquier?
For now, I wouldn’t change anything. To my limited point of view, I like it the way it is.
• What do you do for fun?
My wife and I love where we are. We love to entertain. We have sponsored any number of public programs here. We’ve had receptions for the Piedmont Symphony Orchestra, the Warrenton Antiquarian Society, the Old Jail Museum.
We’re active at Saint James’ Church. We enjoy our church community — wonderful people who are good friends.
I like to read.
• What’s your favorite place in Fauquier?
Right here. Our home.
• What will Fauquier be like in 10 years?
I’m optimistic that Fauquier County will have small or gradual growth and will be, in many ways, very much the same. There will be citizens who will care as much about Fauquier County as the citizens do today.
• Favorite TV show?
I don’t watch that much TV. But if I watch anything, it’s “Morning Joe” for news. In the evening it would be the Channel 26 NewsHour. For pleasure, it would be “Masterpiece Theatre.”
• Favorite movie?
• Favorite book?
“The Mayor of Casterbridge: The Life and Death of a Man of Character” by Thomas Hardy
• Favorite vacation spot?
Cape Cod, Mass.
• Favorite food?
Calf’s liver and onions.
• What is the best advice you have ever received? From whom?
I have never really had an advisor. I grew up on my own and found my own way. There was nobody in my family. My parents were dead. My grandparents were lovely people, but they were from a different age.
• Who’s your hero and why?
Dwight D. Eisenhower, for leading the invasion into Normandy, being a great World War II general and then serving eight years as president of the United States.
I admired his character, his love of country, his success, his leadership
• What would you do if you won $5 million in the lottery?
I’d give $1 million to Saint James’ (Episcopal Church), $1 million to the (Fauquier) SPCA, $1 million towards historic preservation, $1 million to the Friends of Weston.
I suppose I would keep the rest in reserve for whatever comes up.
Have a suggestion?
Do you know someone who lives in Fauquier County you would like to see in Faces of Fauquier? Email Don Del Rosso at Don@FauquierNow.com or Lou Emerson at LKE@fauquiernow.com
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Jaxon36328 · February 19, 2020 at 1:01 pm
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to find something which is based on the story. The Protocol comes from the state department of the society to protect the human rights.
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