By Dr. Jim Sanders
Professor, Department of Animal Science
Dr. Thomas Campbell (Tom) Cartwright, a Texas A&M former student, faculty member in the Department of Animal Science and professor emeritus, died at his home in Moab, Utah, on Jan. 11, 2015.
Tom was raised on a small farm outside of York, S.C. He and his older brother, Perry, had the usual farm chores of raising chickens and milking cows. Tom raised and exhibited the grand champion steer at the South Carolina State Fair. There is an interesting story about that steer. Tom’s family had a Red Poll cow that they used as a milk cow. Tom and Perry led the cow down the railroad track to be bred by a neighbor’s Angus bull. The resulting champion calf was raised, fitted and shown by Tom.
After graduation from high school in 1941, Tom lived with his aunt and uncle in Texas for one year while attending Amarillo Junior College, with plans of studying veterinary medicine at Texas A&M. By this time, his brother, Perry, had joined the Canadian Air Force. On Dec. 7, 1941, Tom was watching a movie in Amarillo when the manager came on the stage and read the headline from a special edition of the Amarillo paper that said Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. He went home immediately and asked his uncle if this attack was serious. Of course, he was assured that it was very serious.
After completing a year at Amarillo Junior College, Tom hitchhiked back to South Carolina by way of Canada to see his brother, Perry. In the fall of 1942, he entered what was then Clemson College in the pre-medicine program, because a pre-vet program was not available. He wasn’t very inspired to study at the time, so driven by a combination of patriotism and wanderlust, Tom joined the U.S. Air Corps in February 1943 at the age of 18. He earned his wings and had the responsibility as a B-24 bomber pilot by August 1944.
On assignment in the Pacific, his plane, The Lonesome Lady, was shot down July 28, 1945, near Hiroshima. One of his crew members died when his parachute failed to open. Tom and six members of his crew were taken for interrogation in the city of Hiroshima. Tom was later taken by train to an interrogation center near Tokyo, where he was held as a prisoner of war in Japan when the first atomic bomb was dropped over Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945. The six members of his crew members that had remained at Hiroshima were ¼ of a mile from the epicenter of the blast and all died. One other crew member had managed to board a train and was not discovered until the train was on its way. He turned himself in to a Japanese military man while on the train and ended up in a different prison camp; he also survived the war. Tom wrote of his wartime experiences in the book, A Date with the Lonesome Lady: A Hiroshima POW Returns.
After the war, Tom completed his bachelor’s degree at Clemson. While at Clemson, he was high individual at the Eastern National Intercollegiate Livestock Judging Contest at Timonium, Md. After graduation from Clemson, he completed the master’s and doctorate (1954) degrees in Animal Breeding at the A&M College of Texas under the supervision of Dr. Bob Shrode.
He supervised beef cattle breeding research at the Texas Agricultural Experiment Station in McGregor while completing his doctorate degree and continued in that capacity until 1958 when he moved back to College Station. In College Station, he taught classes, led animal breeding research and directed programs for almost 100 graduate students until his retirement in 1987. He and his students were early users of generalized least squares analyses of beef cattle breeding data, which greatly increased knowledge of beef cattle genetics. The landmark TAES Technical Monograph 1: “Hybrid Vigor in Brahman-Hereford Crosses” was apparently the first to document heterosis for traits of Brahman crosses and the atypical inheritance evidenced by the reciprocal differences in birth weight in Bos indicus-Bos taurus crosses.
He supervised gain testing of bulls from cooperating breeders at the McGregor station. By this time, larger size and higher rates of gain were being promoted through much of the U.S. beef cattle industry. When Charolais bulls were entered in the gain tests, and had the highest rates of gain, he became concerned about the heavy emphasis being placed on weight and weight gain. He conducted research at McGregor utilizing small cows and emphasized the importance of considering beef cattle production from a total system approach. He and his students conducted extensive evaluations of cow size and analyses of beef production from an economic as well as biological systems perspective. Among the first to recognize double muscling as a serious problem for U.S. commercial beef production, he successfully pushed for the establishment of a new faculty position for genetic evaluation of this trait.
Throughout his career, he contributed internationally especially in Latin America and Africa, including the training of graduate students from Latin America, primarily Argentina, where he traveled on various research projects. During the 1970s, he led research projects on systems modeling of beef cattle production in Guyana and Botswana. From 1978 through the 1980s, he led the USAID funded Small Ruminant CRSP projects on dual purpose goat breeding in Kenya and multi-country systems modeling of small ruminant production.
In addition to the benefits received by the beef industry from his research, he advised the Santa Gertrudis and Brahman Breed Associations as well as individual purebred and commercial ranchers (such as the King Ranch and Nine Bar Ranch), on breeding standards and plans. He served on the founding Board of Directors of the Winrock International Livestock Center (1975-78).
Among his many honors and awards were the Texas A&M University Distinguished Achievement Award in Teaching (1962), the American Society of Animal Science (ASAS) J. R. Prentice Memorial Award in Animal Breeding and Genetics (1973), the ASAS Award in International Animal Agriculture (1983), and ASAS Fellow (1985). Throughout his long career, Tom had far-reaching and profound influence on the students he trained, the scientific community and the livestock industry.
Tom was always happy to talk about livestock breeding, and I talked to him by telephone several times a year, often asking him about something he had said or written years before. He will be missed greatly by his former students, colleagues and friends.
He was preceded in death by his wife of 66 years, Carolyn Hobson Cartwright, who died in February 2012. He is survived by his four children, eleven grandchildren and eight great grandchildren.
To view the complete obituary, visit http://www.theeagle.com/obituaries/cartwright-thomas/article_107804be-9e8f-11e4-b9da-d3f07d5e08f0.html.
For more information regarding news from the Department of Animal Science, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Texas A&M University, contact Courtney Coufal at firstname.lastname@example.org or (979) 845-1542.