Gordon Garrett grew up in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, where his father, Merrill Garrett, worked on the Manhattan Project.
Garrett was born on March 13, 1937 in Johnson City, Tennessee. He and his family moved to Oak Ridge when Garrett was seven years old. As Garrett remembered, “I will never forget coming to Oak Ridge. Riding on a bus, like everybody else did in those days, and the first thing you noticed is that everything looked very, very temporary. Everything was brand new. It was just very strange.”
Garrett’s family stayed in Oak Ridge after the war, and he graduated from Oak Ridge High School in 1955. He served in the Air Force for three years and in the Reserves for five years, and was stationed at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida. The Strategic Air Command (SAC), which included Garrett’s squadron, was placed on DEFCON 2 (Defense Condition 2, one step short of nuclear war) during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962.
Garrett later worked in marketing and advertising for Proctor & Gamble and for Warner-Lambert. He also worked as a manager for Lions Club International.