Dr. T.D. Tanksley Jr. passes away

March 7, 1925 – April 12, 2011

Dr. T.D. Tanksley Jr. was born in Bertram, Texas, in 1925, to T. D. and Olivia (Beal) Tanksley and was reared on the family general livestock farm in Burnet County.

T. D. graduated from Bertram High School at the age of 16 and enrolled in the Texas Agricultural & Mechanical College in the summer and completed the fall and spring semesters before being drafted into the Army at Ft. Sam Houston for officer and pilot training. Following 30 months active duty in the Army Air Force as a bomber pilot he returned and married Margaret McAndrew, his high school sweetheart, August 12, 1945. He received his B.S. in Agriculture Education, and graduated as valedictorian of his class in 1947.

He served Llano County influencing the lives of Llano County producers and students for the next ten years, first as vocational agricultural teacher, then in 1954 as county agricultural agent. His efforts in Llano County earned him recognition as one of the Five Outstanding Young Texans in 1956 by the Texas Junior Chamber of Commerce.

In December, 1956 he joined the staff of the Texas A & M College of Animal Science Department as extension swine specialist while working towards his doctorate. In 1968, he received a Ph.D. in biochemistry and nutrition. He then assumed leadership of the Department of Animal Science swine research and teaching program at Texas A & M University in addition to part-time Texas Agricultural Extension Service responsibilities. That same year he was promoted to associate professor, then to professor in 1973. “Tank” as he was affectionately known to producers and kids alike was an uncommon teacher and researcher. He was named Professor Emeritus, Animal Science, when retired in 1985.

Dr. Tanksley excelled in his teaching, research and extension activities. He served as major professor on 11 doctoratal, and 45 master’s degree agricultural graduates. His excellence in teaching twice brought him the Distinguished Achievement Award in Teaching and Outstanding Professor Award from Texas A & M University. He was a polished communicator who could explain complex ideas and concepts in terms that students, producers and scientists alike could easily understand. His intimate knowledge of swine production and nutrition, coupled with his ability to communicate, made him an affective and well-known speaker. He was an invited program participant in 15 foreign countries, and delivered lectures at 32 conferences outside of Texas since 1974.

His early research focused on the use of sorghum and cottonseed meal as swine feedstuffs. The feeding guidelines established from this research have impacted the Southwest, and countries worldwide, where these feedstuffs are available. He was one of the first U.S. researchers to determine the calcium and phosphorous requirements needed to maximize development and strength of bone in fast-growing boars. His research in amino acid nutrition has included work to determine the lysine, tryptophan, and threonine requirements of growing swine, and the use of low-protein sorghum diets fortified with crystalline amino acids. His work in determining the digestibility of amino acids in swine feedstuffs has gained international attention. He authored or coauthored over 100 publications and served on the research advisory committees of the NPPC, American Soybean Association, Farmland Industries and American Hoechst Corporation. He received the Animal Management 1985 Award and was named Honorary Fellow in 1986 by American Society of Animal Science and Outstanding Achievement in Sorghum Utilization in 1987.

Dr. Tanksley judged many county regional state and national swine shows. He pioneered development of the meat-type hog. He conducted more than 100 live animal appraisal evaluation programs throughout Texas. In the 1970s, Tanksley was of the first to recognize the hazards of continued selection with lean meat production without considering reproductive and feed lot productive traits. He applied his expertise while serving as a member of the National Pork Producers Council committee that developed the first Procedures to Evaluate Market Hog performance. The Texas Pork Producers inducted him into the Texas Pork Producers Association Hall of Honor in 1995. Additionally he received the industry’s Distinguished Service Award during the National Pork Industry Forum in 2000.

Although he has received numerous honors for his teaching, extension and research activities, his first love has always been livestock shows and youth programs. He brought energy and enthusiasm as he continued to work with the Ft. Worth, San Antonio and Houston swine shows and educational programs for 4-H and FFA youngsters. In 1997, he was recognized by the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo for 50 continuous years of support as an exhibitor, 4-H and FFA youth advisor and superintendent of the Market Swine and the 4-H and FFA Livestock Judging Contest. He always reminded the parents and leaders to always keep things in perspective, “We are just using pigs to teach youngsters – more important than any grand champion is how this experience has helped the young man or lady become a more confident, responsible person.”

Upon his retirement 26 years ago Doc returned to his beloved hill country ranch in Bertram and poured all his energy and enthusiasm to the reclamation of his fatherĀ¹s ranch that was homesteaded in the late 1800s. He used all his building and construction skills from his FFA teaching days and his knowledge gained from Texas A & M Extension and research technologies to turn a 200 acre ranch that ran 4 cows, 20 sheep, and few laying hens into several multi-crossed fenced coastal and Tifton 85 pastures that would run 40 high quality cows from special genetic lines to be bred for raising show steers for 4-H and FFA youth projects throughout the state. Along with his son Spencer and son-in-law Larry they built working pens and purchased cattle, bulls and semen for the B and 2T Cattle Company. Ultimately the 2 T Cattle Company started raising statewide renowned champion crossbred Brahman steers. For thirty years the Tanksleys raised Brahman steers that often topped the consigned cattle sale at S & S Show Steer and Cattle sale in Taylor. Many of the steers went on to win major show champions and Spence continues the tradition by breeding with the 2011 Brahman Show Steer Champion at the San Antonio Livestock Show. Doc will be long remembered and recognized by many for developing top notch highly competitive Brahman cross show steer for the 4-H and FFA youth of Texas resulting in Champion kids – his real goal!

T. D. and Margaret Tanksley are devout Christians. His faith was strong to the end and his love of Christ is unquestionable. One of his passions was to return to Bertram and remodel and renovate the First Christian Church of Bertram with funds that were set aside by his early family members of the church and he accomplished that goal. T. D. served the Lord and his church as member, deacon, elder, officer, trustee and lay leader of the First Christian Churches of Bryan/College Station and Bertram where he was named Elder Emeritus. The First Christian Church of Bertram was the love of his life.

And that philosophy for making Champion Kids definitely carried over to his children, grandchildren and great-grand children. His grandchildren called him “Gauke”, Gauke knew showing livestock, playing Little League Baseball, basketball, pee wee football and all the youth activities were important for individual development and training of youth. Nannie and Gauke attended all of the grandchildren and great-grandchildren livestock and athletic activities from 1978 – 2011 including showing cattle, hogs, football, basketball and baseball contests. He and Margaret were at every county, regional and state activity competition they could make during that 33 year period.

In addition to these activities, he loved spending time working in his garden and nothing provided him more satisfaction than sharing his fruits and vegetables with friends and family. His garden was magnificent and the envy of Bertram gardeners but many benefited from the gifts and fruits of love from the garden.

He is survived by his loving wife, Margaret A. Tanksley of 65 years. Son Spencer and wife Linda, daughters Pat and husband Larry and Janice Christian. Grandchildren: Scott L. Boleman and wife Shanna, Chris Boleman and wife Randi, Craig Boleman and wife Kass, Colin Tanksley and wife Susan, Courtney Tanksley, Josh Bishop and Jake Bishop. Great-grandsons: Seth and Sage Boleman, Cole and Cade Tanksley and Peyton and Kade Bishop.

In lieu of flowers donations may be made in his memory to: Texas 4-H Foundation for the Dr. T. D. Tanksley, Jr. Memorial Youth Livestock Project Enhancement; Texas Pork Producers: for T. D. Tanksley Scholarship Fund or 1st Christian Church Building Fund Bertram, Texas.

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