Tom Forkner was a US Army lieutenant and logistics officer who worked at Oak Ridge, TN and New York, NY during the Manhattan Project.
Forkner was born on June 14, 1918 in Hawkinsville, Georgia and spent most of his childhood outside Atlanta. After receiving his law degree from the Woodrow Wilson College of Law, Forkner was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1941. He worked as a counter-intelligence agent, frequently going undercover to investigate questionable elements within the military.
Forkner was sent to Camp Ritchie, Maryland to receive his commission, but was only told to report to Knoxville, Tennessee. He recalled being brought from the Knoxville train station to the “secret city” of Oak Ridge. It was only then that he was informed of his assignment.
His primary responsibility while stationed at Oak Ridge was to transport valuable products from the Tennessee facility to Los Alamos, a drive that took over 53 hours. It was a non-stop trip with two drivers per truck. Forkner recalled that they drove a special route which avoided every city. While working at Oak Ridge, he met his wife Martha Bishop.
Later, Forkner was transferred to New York as a security officer for the Manhattan District. In New York, Forkner’s work led him to meet the head of the Manhattan Project, General Leslie Groves. He also recalled being shown an early prototype of the computer. He was in Manhattan when Japan’s surrender was announced.
After the war, Forkner returned to Georgia, where he worked for his family’s real estate company. In 1955, he opened the first Waffle House with his partner Joseph Rogers. The restaurant chain has become iconic, with over 1,500 locations across the country.
Forkner was a serious golfer, listed as a top 10 senior golfer by Golf Digest four times. He was inducted into the Georgia Hall of Fame in 2007.
He died in Suwanee, Georgia on April 26, 2017 at the age of 98.