In Memoriam: The Most Excellent Life of Charles “Charlie” Glover

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What better place to start than with a quote from the man himself:
"I am Charles Covey Glover. Dr. James S. Covey delivered me as a baby on April 10, 1936 in Columbia, Tennessee. My mother was Lena Mae (Rose) Glover. My father was James Paul Glover. My mother gave me my middle name in honor of Dr. Covey."

Charlie was raised in Randolph, Tennessee a small mostly poor community on a bend of the Mississippi River in Northwest Tennessee. He had been working in the cotton fields when in November, 1957 a U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey (USC&GS) an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce (DoC) Triangulation Field Party 607 had camped in nearby Tipton County Tennessee and Charlie saw an opportunity to get away from cotton picking. He applied for and was subsequently hired as a temporary geodetic aide. His first assignment was as a Bilby Tower Builder.

It was during this assignment that he was drafted into the U.S. Army where he spent two years. After returning from his tour with the Army, Charlie again applied for a job with the USC&GS. For some reason, there was opposition to rehiring him. But many of his former peers came forward and attested to his excellent record, his work ethic, and service to the agency on his previous tour and luckily for the agency he was rehired in Neosho, MO in the winter of 1961.

Charlie was always appreciative of the opportunities provided him with his employment. He often related the story of his low pay and hard work before being hired. One anecdote he often related concerned his father and him picking cotton. His father kept a small lock box in the field with him to store his food and forbade anyone including Charlie from getting in it. This is ironic since Charlie was one of the most giving and cooperative person you would care to meet.

After he was rehired he studied among other things Historical Geology, Advanced Mathematics at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. In 1960, he received a certification as an Electronic Technician and his career was off and running.

National Geodetic Survey Career
In 1965 the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey and the Weather Bureau were combined into one organization called Environmental Science Services Administration (ESSA). And in a very short period ESSA was reorganized as part of the Department of Commerce’s Reorganization Plan No. 4 of 1970, becoming the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The USC&GS was included in the National Ocean Survey and became known as the National Geodetic Survey (NGS). Throughout all these changes, Charlie remained true to the USC&GS but also appreciated being a part of the NGS.

For the field employee, the move from field to office employee was considered a great accomplishment. Charlie made the move into the Rockville office in 1968. It was here he met George B. Lesley. George took Charlie under his wing and focused his abilities on, at the time, the up and coming field of electronic distance measuring instruments (EDMI). He remained in the Rockville office only a short period because when NGS established the NGS Instrument and Equipment Branch in Corbin, VA Charlie moved there. It was here in Corbin that Charlie’s career really began to grow. Although he lacked in formal education, his on the job training was extensive. He soaked up information like the proverbial sponge. And this knowledge he used to great advantage in performing his job. He shortly became involved in instrument testing, special projects, and peer teaching.

Federal Geodetic Control Subcommittee Instrument Testing
As more surveying equipment became electronic and automated, the Federal community of surveyors became concerned about the efficacy of these instruments and established a subcommittee to perform evaluations of the various instruments such as: EDMI, Tacheometer (aka Total Station), and GPS Leveling Instruments.

Charlie was a natural to become involved with these tests. With his peers at Corbin, he enthusiastically joined in developing test networks and procedures for these instruments.

The EDMI calibration baseline at the Corbin site was one of the first test facilities for EDMI and exists till this day. Charlie helped develop the observing procedures and with the help of a fellow employee developed and tested computerized recording of the observations. Some of you will remember that early observations were hand recorded and that this was a great step forward.

This baseline served as the model for the NGS Calibration Baseline program. And is also where Charlie trained the EDMI Calibration Field Party.

The next electronic instrument to be developed was the tacheometer, a combination theodolite and distance measuring device. Charlie, again with the help of his peers, planned and established a network which was to become known as the Corbin Quad. This network is used to exercise the full complement of the instruments capabilities. Charlie even worked through the tedious procedures to insure that all instruments would be compared on an even plane.

And of course, the next iteration of instrumentation was the global positioning system GPS. Building on the calibration baseline and the Corbin Quad the Corbin facility helped test the short range capabilities of the GPS systems. Charlie was involved in developing accessory equipment so that the instruments could be mounted to the existing stands.

Special Projects
VLBI Co-location surveys

In the early 1980’s NGS began a program to incorporate Very Long Baseline Interferometry (VLBI) data in the adjustment of the U. S. Horizontal Datum. In order to accomplish this it was necessary to locate the VLBI reference point relative to the geodetic coordinate system. A series of surveys at various locations around the U.S. was performed. VLBI is a measurement technique capable of determining geometric vectors between widely separated points, based on the observation of quasars by radio astrometry antennas. Two of the telescopes are of interest to show the complexity of the problem.

As an illustration of the difficulties, the Haystack Radio Telescope is a 37 m (120 ft) dish fully contained in a radome–Westford Radio Telescope is an 18.2 m (60 ft) in an inflatable radome. The object of this survey was to determine the vector between the VLBI reference points of both and tie them to the local geodetic network. Without Charlie’s ingenuity this survey would not have been possible. He was instrumental in developing specialized equipment and was able to converse with the astronomers working the radio telescopes.

A second radio telescope Maryland Point 25 m (85 ft) was the cause for developing a safer mode of operation. In the prior surveys, the technicians would climb all over the antenna performing measurements. On this particular survey, the weather was very hot and humid and one of the technicians developed heat stroke while on an open ended catwalk. This prompted NGS to rethink their procedures. It was decided to change procedures and mount a single target visible from many ground stations and then rotate the telescope through its full range of motions. This effectively defined a sphere for which the center was easily solved. A special target was necessary. It had to be used for angle and distance measurements. Charlie along with fellow employees designed and fabricated a remote controlled reflecting prism.

This became the mode of operation for the other radio telescopes in the VLBI network. This included Green bank Observatory, Goldstone Deep Space Facility and the Ojai Observatory.

Particle Physics Accelerator Surveys
The Stanford PEP–Electron Positron Storage Ring and the Brookhaven National Lab ISABELLE Storage ring were two projects at which Charlie excelled. Both of these facilities were under construction as the surveys were being conducted. It was imperative that there was good communication and a fast response between the physicists, the construction personnel and the team performing the surveys. In addition to performing the observations, Charlie was instrumental in making on the spot decisions on how to proceed.

U.S. Capitol Survey
In 1992 the Office of the Architect requested NGS to try and locate the buildings original cornerstone. During the Survey of the U.S. Capitol Charlie was instrumental in ensuring the integrity of a high accuracy traverse of the Capitol building. Due to a variety of restrictions all work was performed after the normal work day and often until early morning hours. No big deal for Charlie. Without his dedication and professionalism this survey could never have been completed. Regrettably, the effort did not reveal the cornerstones location.

Other surveys
He led and performed a Relative Trilateration Project at Fort Hood Texas. This project involved the measurement of some of the longest lines in NGS’s history.

With NGS Corbin personnel Charlie developed a method of leveling using a total station theodolite. It was innovative and quick to perform.

ACSM/NGS Workshops
In 1972 the NGS in conjunction with the American Congress on Surveying and Mapping began a series of workshops on surveying instrumentation and coordinate computation. Charlie joined the group in 1974 as an instructor on all things EDMI. He spoke of the practical, such as how to clean a reflecting prism, correct procedures for setting up an instrument and explained the theory behind EDMI using everyday items. One of the more memorable explanations used three ordinary yardsticks to explain how the electronic distance was determined.

He was a great teacher because of the way he connected with the people who attended the workshops. Recent photo at home in Fredericksburg, Virginia. Charlie could meet a group of strangers and by the first coffee break they would all be his good friends, The Thrasher Group– somebody they wouldn’t hesitate to talk to, GeoMetric GPS Inc or a question, or ask for advice. He had that Charlie retired from the NGS but not special knack of easily relating to people from surveying. He worked many years with that southern charm I’m sure you for a private surveying firm in Falmouth, know so well.

The End of Federal Service
He retired from the NGS with over 42 years of government service in March 1998. However, he would never completely abandon the NGS for years afterwards he would share his expertise and stories of his experiences with new personnel.

Jefferson Lab
Shortly after retiring from the NGS, he went to work for Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility (TJNAF), commonly called Jefferson Lab, a U.S. national laboratory located in Newport News, Virginia. He only worked there a short time. He related that after all those years working for the NGS above ground and even in towers he couldn’t get used to working in a tunnel.

The Thrasher Group—GeoMetric GPS Inc
Charlie retired from the NGS but not from surveying. He worked many years for a private surveying firm in Falmouth, VA—Thrasher GeoMetrics. Doug Richmond and Kurt Ogris of Thrasher carry the story to its completion.

We didn’t pick Charlie; Charlie picked us to end his surveying career. At a meeting in Corbin in 1998, Charlie came up to us and stated “You are GeoMetrics, you do what I want to do, and I want to work with you!” We were taken back that a famous well known person would be so adamant about us, and we were sure that our little company couldn’t afford him. He
made it clear that money wasn’t an issue; he was doing it because he loved the work and the challenges.

What a ride! We were unprepared for what he brought to us. Although we knew about the wealth of survey experience that he had accumulated over the years with NGS, we did not know of the stories and friendship that he would bring. He had to be the original Forest Gump. During his 19 years with GeoMetrics and Thrasher, Charlie was always considered a valued member on any project. His work ethic was such that no aspect of any job was ever beneath him; if it needed to be done, he did it and moved on, no fuss. Charlie’s work experience at GeoMetrics ran the gambit from mundane surveys for locating a property line for a fence, to being in a dark hole at an undisclosed location with undisclosed people taking undisclosed observations to undisclosed objects.

We remember Charlie surveying radiation in West Chicago, aerial targets in Kansas, hydrographic surveys in Norfolk, subsidence in Louisiana, points in Texas, setting monuments along the cliffs in North Carolina, azimuths in London, and proudly astride the painted zero line designating Greenwich.

Charlie was always a friend to every person in the office and the man in the street needing a few dollars. Sometimes the term "a good person" is overused but, but in Charlie’s case it doesn’t go far enough. He was a great person, unique in every way, and we are very lucky that he chose us as people to accompany him at the last stages of his long surveying career and that we are far better for having known him.

What better way to end this tribute which started with a quote from Charlie than to end it with a quote from him.

"I am a better person for having known you. If I go to the Great Surveyor’s Convention in The Sky before you, I will do a complete recon and have a front row seat for you with me to hear the big Party Chief, assign us our jobs on that great traverse." [From a private email to Jerry Price]

Contributing authors: From NGS–Chuck Fronczek, Gilbert Mitchell, Dave Zilkoski, Jerry Price, Dave Doyle, Leo Gittings, Ed Mckay, and Kendal Fancher. From Thrasher Group– GeoMetric GPS Inc–Doug Richmond and Kurt Ogris.

A 1.069Mb PDF of this article as it appeared in the magazine—complete with images—is available by clicking HERE