Clarice was one of the most amazing ladies who ever lived in Dallas. Even when she was quite “up in years” she still taught and sponsored a large number of bible classes across the area. It is hard to calculate all the good that she did.
She was so much of an influence that she formed a large ladies’ group. I don’t remember what it was called, but that group built a large and very expensive building for meetings just across the street from the back of North Park Shop Shopping Center. That Shopping Center is on the list as one of America’s primary stops for State Department foreign visitors.
I went into that Ladies’ Building one time with Clarice, and even though she was a very modest woman, there were quite a few women there, and it was like Clarice was “holding court”, she was so influential.
When I was down in Houston on that first trip to be with Joanne, I went with her to pick up some of her European Royalty friends who were shopping. We had to wait for quite awhile for them to finish their shopping. While we were waiting I had what I thought was a very noble thought and expressed it to Joanne.
I knew that all across America, in most towns, there were what could be called “Society Ladies”. They were usually formed into some kind of a group or at least centered around one leader type lady. I also knew that those ladies did not let just anyone into their group. They want only particular types of ladies in their group. I also knew for sure that many ladies, outside the group would do most anything to get into the group. I knew that this was true all over the country in large and small communities. Since Joanne’s “group” was one of the most prominent in the whole country, I knew how influential that she could be……how many ladies would “just kill” to be on her mailing list.
The thought that I had was not real clear, but I felt that this desire of so many women across the county to be part of the “Group” could be used for great good. Like………what if the group had a function to lead people to know the Real God? Like………what if all of that influence could be used to lead ladies to a real Conversion Experience.
At that time, I thought that Joanne was probably a Christian and that such would appeal to her. I don’t know what was in her head when she heard it, but the appearance was that it just went right over her head.
Then years later, as Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Dallas Baptist University, Clarice asked me to come and speak at one of her breakfasts. She was very interested in that school and its Christian influence.
When I was thinking what to talk to Clarice’s ladies about, that same idea that I had iterated to Joanne came to me. I don’t think I had considered it since, but I spent much of my whole breakfast speech expressing that idea. I even mentioned Joanne, and that I had expressed it first to her.
Several ladies at the breakfast rushed up to me after I spoke and were gushing that they had once met Joanne and telling me all about how they had gotten to meet her. My message had not registered with them. They just wanted to tell me that they had once gotten to meet Joanne. However, what I did not have a clue about was that Clarice and some of her closest friends had already totally adopted this same idea but mentioned it to no one. They were already doing what I had tried to iterate and were leading women to know the real God……To have Jesus be Lord of their life.
Clarice was friends before, but from that moment on, she more or less adopted me.
She started praying for every visit that I made to the kid’s prison to present the Gospel to each new youth that entered the prison facility. Clarice was like a very few ladies that I have met in my whole life; that when she prayed, something was going to happen. There were going to be results. She even wanted me to call her on my cell phone on my way back down I-35 from the prison to give her a report on all the details of what had happened on each particular trip to the prison.
But I have not left the theme of this book. Listen to this…….Clarice was obligated to take her sister back and forth from Dallas to Shreveport, Louisiana several times each month, even after Clarice was way up in years She would leave early in the evening after her last bible class, travel to Shreveport and back in that same night. It took all night. Then she would start her bible class early the next morning, all bright and perky.
So, one day I confronted her about this. I said: “Clarice, be honest with me. You are sleeping through those whole nights, aren’t you?” She just grinned and admitted it. Folks, I swear to you; angels were driving that white Cadillac all the way to Shreveport and back!!!
This actually happened one time to me; only one time.
Be patient with me as I try to relate it to you. I was asked to speak to the Chapel Service at the Criswell College in Dallas. Its primary mission is to train young men for the ministry. It is considered by many as one of the finest bible teaching entities in America.
I found out that it was to be broadcast on radio and that only top evangelists and Christian Professors are invited to speak at that Chapel Service.
So, I asked the President of the College why he wanted me to speak there. What he said was interesting. He said: “Ronald, I don’t want everyone of the pastors that we are training to wind-up at a comfortable church in the bible belt; I want a few of them to be ‘Tigers for Jesus’! You know and have experienced, and can iterate those Christian “war stories.” I want you to come and tell some of those Christian “war stories” to my students and inspire a few of them to be “Tigers for Jesus”.
So, I went and told some of those stories. I am not sure some of those highly educated professors who were sitting on the front row all appreciated them, for as I am speaking, I watch people in the audience. Some of them were frowning. And I also noticed that one of the future pastors was a really tough looking dude.
When I finished, a bunch of the students just mobbed me. That guy was part of the bunch, so I asked him about himself, what was he doing to pay for his schooling. He told me that he shoed horses to put himself through school, and I said to myself: “Now that is my kind of preacher man”.
One young man came up and just attached himself to me. He left school and followed me back the several blocks to my office. I found out later that he had one of the highest IQ’s ever found. He could just glance at a desk littered with papers and tell you later (reading upside down) word for word what was on every paper. He had been recruited as a prospective student by all the prestigious universities, Ivy League ones and those on the West Coast. He had enrolled in Baylor instead. He was quite conservative politically and especially as respects Christianity and the Bible. When he took religion courses at Baylor, he encountered some of those ultraliberal professors. So to counter their “liberal teachings” he started “rump sessions” in the late afternoons for groups of students. He wanted to counter and correct what he considered their liberal ideas and teachings.
This got him in a heap of trouble. In fact, they had him up before what could only be called an inquisition by a collection of most of the faculty of Baylor’s Religion Department. I am sure he did well, but he was not satisfied with his performance there. He needed more instruction in the bible. So, he left Baylor and enrolled in Criswell since it was considered much more conservative. His plan was to go back to Baylor and really “set them straight”, but after he more or less adopted me, he never went back to Baylor.
He wound up moving into a tenant house on my ranch and coming to work with me most days.
He was so gifted and tenacious that he started quietly meeting my business contacts and having luncheons in places like the prestigious Petroleum Club in downtown Dallas financed with their money without my knowledge at all. He raised money for wild projects that he found, like audacious mining ventures.
He was so gifted at analysis that he eventually found a very lucrative niche that no one else had found and filled it. Curing pollution and highly polluted sites had become very much the rage. It is still important, but at that moment, it was doubly important. Jeff met and got to know the engineering firms that specialized in cleaning-up those sites. Then he would find a highly polluted site and meet with the top executives of the companies who had caused the pollution. Most times those executives did not think anyone really knew about those sites or cared.
Jeff would not attack them about the polluted sites, he would just let them know that he was cognizant of their polluted site, and also knew the engineering firm that could do the best job of remediation for the site. Jeff would quietly make sure that the executives panicked and then he would get the big fee from the engineering firm for bringing them that piece of business.
In doing this work, he found one area of pollution that was very dangerous, but that no one had yet been able to cure. It was mercury pollution. Up until quite recent times no one ever knew that mercury puts off dangerous fumes at just room temperature. Let me tell you how this was discovered.
At Oakridge, Tennessee where so much of our nuclear work has been done, they have used a huge amount of mercury. When I asked why, I was told that they needed to do much of their work in rooms with a total vacuum. They used the mercury to acquire the vacuum. There are rooms there where most all of the ceiling tiles have fallen down to the floor from the weight of the mercury in them. Its fumes kept impregnating the tiles until the weight of the mercury just dropped them to the floor. Those rooms and whole areas are all tightly sealed-up now.
One of the engineers who worked there had a son who was a classic hippie in the hippie age. His parents never even went up to his room, mostly because of the strange music emanating from it. However, one night his engineer father went up there because it was so loud. What he discovered just amazed him.
This boy was playing music with a big white sheet attached to the wall back behind him. The strangest psychedelic colored patterns were playing all over the sheet. When the father went over to see how this was happening, he discovered that this boy had acquired a bunch of mercury from his dad’s job and had it in a long, wide pan on the floor. The boy had black-light shining through the area above the pan.
The father could instantly see that the mercury was giving off fumes only at room temperature. And believe it or not, that is how this dangerous phenomenon was discovered……mercury giving off fumes at only room temperature.
With all the dangerous sites across America highly contaminated by mercury and no way to really clean it up, Jeff set out on the task of how to do it. He is not a chemist or physicist, but he did have that super I.Q. He found this highly skilled aircraft mechanic and hired him to work on the task. No one had ever taken a retort or large vessel and heated it up to a very high temperature and kept it at a vacuum the whole time and then opened a drain at the end of the vessel and let out the gasses collected inside on to the outside of the vessel without ever losing the vacuum.
This innovative aircraft mechanic figured out how to do that and built a test unit with just a moderate sized vessel and the burners to heat it to a very high temperature. At those temperatures, whatever was put into the vessel containing mercury, like just dirt, had all the mercury reduced to gas and completely eliminated from it and then forced outside still in a vacuum state. It was deposited into a container on the outside and became liquid mercury upon cooling. Tests were performed on different materials, and the results were astounding to those who had never seen mercury safely eliminated from such materials before.
Jeff formed a company around this technology and proceeded to patent the process. He needed a place to perform these tests to show people how the process worked. I had a friend in Denton, Texas who repaired and sold outboard motors and boats. He had a facility with warehouses and extra land that he was not using. I arranged for Jeff to lease this fellow’s extra space and facilities.
I remember one of the first fellows who came down to Texas to check this out. He had the title of Chief Scientist at E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company. He watched that vessel heat up to a very high temperature and every bit of mercury be extracted and made an interesting statement. He said that he had worked to try to solve this mercury problem through his whole career without success. His statement was: “I can’t believe that I am standing here on this Texas prairie and seeing this actually happen!”
This was happening right at the time of the steep recession, including across Texas, when so many of the banks were going broke. Business had come to a virtual “stand-still”. Since nothing was happening in the finance and real estate world, I agreed to join Jeff and help him.
He had raised money from investors and also formed a partnership with the very sophisticated company, British Nuclear Fuels. They were the company who cleaned up most all of the nuclear pollution in Great Britain, and were over here helping in the US, since we had barely started to clean up our nuclear pollution which was and is way worse.
One if the first tasks for Jeff was to acquire and build a really large vessel and all the piping to go with it. Also, that vessel needed to be heated to over 2,000 F. Not just any metals could safely function at those temperatures. Way more abundant electricity needed to be brought to the site, also.
I did have a full degree in Industrial Engineering but had never really worked as an engineer. I wondered if I could “hold my own” with the sophisticated engineers from British Nuclear Fuels who came to help, for we were pushing the limits of basic physics, clear out to the edge of what had ever been done before. Fortunately, all those advanced physics courses that I had labored through under the famous Dr. Packard at Baylor preparing for my engineering degree after graduating from Baylor pulled me through.
I also was made the purchasing agent for this project, to source and acquire all the materials and very high temperature items that were needed.
The investors in this project were mostly not just passive. They came and wanted to physically help…..people like some of the highest placed officials in our government and even the just retired Chairman of the Board of Brown & Root. That is the company that dominates the building and servicing of the massive chemical and refining industry up and down the Texas and Louisiana coast.
Chlorine is needed in great abundance across our whole economy. One of the largest plants that produces huge quantities of it is located on the Houston Ship Channel near the Texas coast. Making chlorine is not that complicated. You just pass huge amounts of electricity through salt water and out comes chlorine, hydrogen, and caustic soda. All very useful materials. There are other ways to get the electricity through the salt water, but this plant still uses the cheapest and easiest way. They use a bed of mercury as the conductor through which to pass the electricity through regular sea water as it passes over the mercury. Eventually the mercury becomes contaminated and must be replaced. At one time they just dumped the old mercury into pits in the ground. Since they can’t get by with that any more, this plant was just storing the old mercury in big metal storage tanks. They didn’t know what else to do with it.
We took our big vessel down there and did a test to show them that we could safely and efficiently get the mercury out of the material in their tanks. Those plants are very secure and have elaborate safety rules and procedures that you have to go through. When an alarm goes off, everyone must go immediately to a safe room and stay until the “all clear” is sounded. This happens fairly often each day.
My favorite thing that happened there concerned the retired Chairman of Brown & Root. One of their work crews came there to fix some problem. This big, black worker looked, and looked and recognized his ex-high-up boss. He just went into a fit: “Lawd man, what is you doin’ here? Boss, what is you doin’ in that worker’s uniform?” His ex-Chairman was way out of place as far as the black fellow was concerned.
That vessel was later taken to Arizona to one of the world’s largest copper mines. Their smelter was right there by the mine. The smelter had scrubbers inside its huge smoke-stacks to take out any pollution. Those scrubbers had to be cleaned periodically and the residue was just piled up there because it was full of mercury. That residue also had big quantities of gold and other valuable minerals in it, but they could not be smelted out because the smelting process would have vented all the mercury gasses to the atmosphere.
Our vessel and our technology process got all the mercury out and they were able to recover the gold and other minerals.
So, I am sure I have bored you to death with all this pollution story. And I went through all of it as background just to tell you one short, significant tale. We took our smaller test unit up to Tennessee where there is so much massive mercury pollution. We wanted to show those folks that there was a safe way to remediate all that mercury pollution that they have.
We did the test. It was quite successful and they were greatly impressed. Everyone else came back to Texas different ways, but I was elected to drive the test unit back with the big, diesel pickup that we were using. I hadn’t eaten much is several days, so I had a big meal at the Cracker Barrel close to where we were staying. Tennessee is the home of Cracker Barrel and this was a really well run and fine one.
I had also not slept much for several days. When I got on that freeway, I went sound asleep. I must have slept all the way across Tennessee, because I woke up going down a hill and turning into a gas station right on the Arkansas border. This was standard procedure for Clarice, but it is the only time in my life that it ever happened to me.
My whole point is that this is totally consistent with the theme of this book, because I for sure was not the one driving that diesel truck!!!
2 thoughts on “Clarice Nichols”
What became of Jeff?
I finally got him married and they had two nice children. Then I am reluctant to tell you the rest.