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John Joseph Compton

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John Joseph Compton Obituary
John Joseph Compton

Nashville, TN

John Joseph Compton (b. May 17, 1928) died Saturday, January 18, 2014 after 85 full and joyous years of life.

Son of Nobel Prize winning physicist, Arthur Holly Compton, John grew up surrounded by a passion for learning. After completing his doctoral work at Yale University in 1952, Dr. Compton was asked to be part of the newly formed Philosophy Department at Vanderbilt University, where he taught for 46 years. Known for his infectious exuberance and ability to connect with students, John won numerous teaching awards and was Department Chair for many years. He never met someone without learning something new about them and about the world. During Nashville's tumultuous early 1960s, he was a determined civil rights activist, and he continued to champion social justice and environmental causes throughout his life.

He married his college sweetheart, Marjorie Ann Yaple Compton, with whom he shared a remarkable 63 years of marriage. Their three children, Elizabeth Holly Compton Interlandi (Nashville, TN), Catherine Marchus Compton Swanson (Lexington, MA), and John Arthur Compton (Eagle, ID), remember his love of science and ideas, art, literature, and music, food, nature, and his family - and above all, his beautiful wife, Marjorie. He was the beloved grandfather of Nina Marie Interlandi Bell, Holly Catherine Interlandi, Mary Lindsay Interlandi, and Lisa Rachelle Christensen and great-grandfather of Samuel Lindsey Bell. Holly Interlandi summed up his influence by saying, "He was my intellectual hero."

In lieu of flowers and in memory of John's generous spirit, please consider making a contribution to his dear granddaughter, Mary's Interlandi Interlochen Memorial Fund (c/o Anne Westfall, University School of Nashville of Nashville, 2000 Edgehill Ave., Nashville, TN 37212).

John would have you go out into the world with open eyes and an open heart, do meaningful work, love your family and friends, and always ask good questions. His death has left a monumental hole in the hearts of many, but he will be remembered with great joy.

There are not yet any memorial service plans, but we may consider a time to share John Compton stories in the future. The extended family will undoubtedly gather on the shores of his family's summer cottage in Michigan to sing bonfire songs in his honor.


Published in The Tennessean on Jan. 21, 2014
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