One of agriculture’s “Greatest Generation” is gone

By Gene Hall

Slowly at first, now much more quickly, the Greatest Generation of Americans is passing from the scene. Children in the want of the Great Depression, tempered in the fires of a world war, they had the smarts to go to the moon and the guts to stop the march of tyranny dead in its tracks.

Agriculture was fortunate to have its own portion of the Greatest Generation.  Though he was 88 years old, it came as a bit of a shock to learn this week that S.M. True Jr. had perished in a farming accident. He was still so vibrant and well, sharp, that it is still a bit hard to believe he’s gone. He had the courage of the World War II fighter pilot he was and the determination born of knowing he’d already seen and lived through tougher times.

S.M. was on the Texas Farm Bureau board of directors when I, as a fresh faced kid of a writer and former reporter, arrived at TFB headquarters in Waco in late 1977. One TV station this week called me a “close friend” of the great man. I think I was, but S.M. had a way of letting everyone know they were his friend.

Five years later, he became president of the state’s largest farm organization. The 11 years he served as president were quite a ride. Among his accomplishments was the creation of the AGFUND political action arm of Texas Farm Bureau. It’s now one of the most influential agricultural PACs in the nation.

Late in his presidency, I began working with him in one of his most important jobs as a Farm Bureau leader—speaking out for agriculture. He was truly gifted in that respect. I’ve been asked many times this week what was remarkable about the man elected 11 times in years of controversy. 

I think the thing that stands out was S.M. True’s ability to bring people together and get consensus from controversy. I’ve witnessed many times how he could gather people in a room that had no idea they were about to agree. Before you knew it, a news release announcing that agreement was on the way.

Texas agriculture in the 21st Century is partially the work of leaders like S.M. True. Today’s leaders have built upon the work he started. When he first became president in 1982, he met with all of the staff in a series of meetings. I was one of several who asked him what the letters of his name “S.M.” stood for, not realizing the letters were, in fact, his name. He smiled and said “Superman.” It was a good joke. He could always laugh at himself.  The thing is—sometimes—I would think of him just that way.

Gene Hall

Public Relations Director
Texas Farm Bureau
I believe that the only hope for a food secure world is capitalism and reasonable profits for America’s farm and ranch families–that the first element of sustainability is economic survival.
Follow Gene on Twitter and Facebook.

12 Responses to “One of agriculture’s “Greatest Generation” is gone”

  1. George Caldwell says:

    Mr. True was the ultimate “true gentleman”. He always had a positive comment and a smile on his face. I am thankful for his leadership and committment to our country and to the agriculture industry. Through his examples, you knew he truly loved God, his country, and agriculture.

  2. Marcia Bales says:

    Thank you, Gene, for your tribute to Mr. True. There is not enough space nor enough words to convey the good of this man. Like so many others, I am thankful my path got to cross his. I adored him. And he was the Superman of agriculture, for sure.

  3. Rick Hamby says:

    Wonderful tribute. I have known S M since !964. His son David was my best man and I honor his well established loyalty and love for his father.

    But the most striking and reassuring thing I pull from this tragedy is that this great farmer, who lived his lfe for the profession, died still practicing what he preached…farming. At 88.

  4. Thank you Gene for the blog entry on Mr.True. I grew up on a farm just west of Plainview and S.M. was one of my Farm Heros. Mr.True was watched by many of the young farmers and wether he knew it or not was a role model. He helped my Father during a rough spot in the road gain more lease land.He will be missed , but due to his efforts and example, there are young farmers in the wings learning how to take his place. Those young farmers are just one of the legacys left by Mr. S.M.True.

  5. Billie Ray Huddleston says:

    S. M. True was a true friend of everyone, especially farmers and ranchers. He was a true peoples person. He got his point across in a kind and friendy manaor. S. M. was one of my closest friends. We tried to stay in contacy at least every two weeks. It was my honor to serve with him on the Texas Farm Bureau Board. He went to his farm every day to stay active. He will be MISSED!

  6. Gary Joiner says:

    Texas is a better place because of Mr. True. His kind words and easy smile made everyone around him feel a little better and thankful for the visit and time together. A great man who had a great impact on his state, his industry, and those privileged to know him.

  7. Larissa True says:

    Mr. Hall, thank you for taking the time to write this. What a wonderful tribute to a wonderful man. We are so grateful for his years with Farm Bureau, and especially for the way the TFB continued to stay a part of his life right until the very end. He truly was the greatest man I’ve ever known, and his work in agriculture helped make him the man that he was. On behalf of his family, thank you, Texas Farm Bureau for your continued care and support.
    Larissa True (S.M.’s granddaughter)

  8. Larissa True says:

    Thank you, Mr. Hall, for taking the time to write this. What wonderful words for a wonderful man. He was the greatest man I’ve ever known, and Texas agriculture helped shape the man that he was. On behalf of his family, we are so grateful for everything that TFB did during his tenure as president, and especially for TFB’s continued support in years thereafter. We are humbled by the number of people who loved and respected him. He will never be replaced!

    Larissa True (S.M.’s granddaughter)

    • Gene Hall says:

      Larissa – I heard you say that at the funeral. I was deeply moved. I have a two year old granddaughter. I hope that when I depart this world that she will have similar feelings about me. In this past week, as we’ve said goodbye to S.M., your words may well be the most powerful of all.

    • Gene Hall says:

      Larissa – you are welcome. I heard what you said at the funeral and was very moved by it. I have a two year old granddaughter. I hope that someday, when it’s my turn to leave this world, that she feels like that about me. I know S.M. and Anna Jean were (and are) very proud of you.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>