In Memoriam – John Phillip Smith

By Rick Nichols, President at Nichols Engineering Services, LLC. April 25, 2024

John Phillip Smith died on February 17, 2024. He will be sorely missed by his many friends and family. Joining the American Petroleum Institute (API) in the late 1980s, Phil’s connection with the inspection world was through the API’s Individual Certification Program (ICP). After participating in the creation of API Std 653 Tank Inspection, Repair, Alteration, and Reconstruction, Phil was part of the group that created the system to provide the accreditation aspect of the new standard. A cornerstone of several inspector certification programs, Phil remained an important contributor to that effort, as well as being a part of the API CRE Subcommittee on Aboveground Storage Tanks for 35 years.

John Phillip Smith
John Phillip Smith.

He was born on July 10, 1935, in Kansas City, Missouri, the fifth of six children. His parents moved their family around a lot – living in Davenport, Iowa; Douglas, Arizona; Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico; Victorville, California; and Apple Valley, California. Unsurprisingly, Phil earned the honor of being named salutatorian at Victor Valley High School, Class of 1953.

Phil was a member of the engineering honor fraternity Tau Beta Pi. He received his B.S. in Civil Engineering from the University of Santa Clara in June 1957 and his M.S. degree from Stanford University in June 1958. Joining the US Army Corps of Engineers in July 1958, he was stationed in France with the 82nd Engineer Battalion, completing his active duty with the rank of 1st Lieutenant in July 1960.

Phil started with the Texas Company in June 1957 at the Los Angeles Works in Wilmington, California. During my visit with him this past February, he told me his boss was instrumental in transferring him to the Texaco refinery in Casper, Wyoming, which he said was “the best thing that ever happened to him” since he met his sweetheart, Georgia, at a church Halloween party in Casper in 1960. He married her in May of 1962, and they had three children.

He always had a keen handle on virtually everything he did; Phil had great satisfaction in his work with, and a special place in his heart for, the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Science (ABET), for whom he visited many colleges to examine their courses and certify their curricula. A brilliant but humble man, Phil always had time to listen, counsel, and encourage anyone who crossed his path.

I don’t really know how many places Phil provided engineering and project management, but his work with Texaco and Chevron took him to several U.S. refineries as well as projects in Trinidad, Wales, Honduras, and Canada (which included several trips to France). Phil was a Registered Professional Engineer in Texas and Wyoming; he retired from Texaco in June 1997 after 40 years of service, but kept working with API and ABET.

Active in his church, Phil was a ”Renaissance Man.” He loved Astros Baseball (he and Georgia shared tickets with a group of friends that went back to the days of the Astrodome!). He also ran more than 25 Marathons (including the 100th Boston Marathon in 1996) and held a record for many years for the most consecutive Houston Marathons.

The most notable and truly important aspect of this great man’s life, though, was the love he showed and shared with so many people of many different backgrounds and stations in life. In his sincere, self-effacing manner, Phil took time to listen, empathize, and (when appropriate) counsel those who spoke with him – that’s probably what he will be most remembered for.

Reading through testimonials sent in for his funeral, I learned even more astounding things about this wonderful guy. I will miss him, and so will many others.

Comments and Discussion

Posted by John Harville on April 26, 2024
What a beautiful memorial Rick.....thank you. Log in or register to read the rest of this comment.

Add a Comment

Please log in or register to participate in comments and discussions.

Inspectioneering Journal

Explore over 20 years of articles written by our team of subject matter experts.

Company Directory

Find relevant products, services, and technologies.

Training Solutions

Improve your skills in key mechanical integrity subjects.

Case Studies

Learn from the experience of others in the industry.


Inspectioneering's index of mechanical integrity topics – built by you.

Industry News

Stay up-to-date with the latest inspection and asset integrity management news.


Read short articles and insights authored by industry experts.

Expert Interviews

Inspectioneering's archive of interviews with industry subject matter experts.

Event Calendar

Find upcoming conferences, training sessions, online events, and more.


Downloadable eBooks, Asset Intelligence Reports, checklists, white papers, and more.

Videos & Webinars

Watch educational and informative videos directly related to your profession.


Commonly used asset integrity management and inspection acronyms.