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John Merrill Sr. '53 April 19, 2021 1:49 PM updated: April 26, 2021 1:48 PM

John Louis Merrill Sr.
October 14, 1932 - April 5, 2021

John Louis Merrill, 88, passed from this life, April 5, 2021.

John Louis "Chip" Merrill was born October 14, 1932, to the late Louis P. and Josie Belle Merrill. He graduated from Glen Rose High School, Tarleton State University, and Texas A&M University, before serving as a US Air Force pilot on both active duty and reserve.

After a three-year engagement, Chip married his high school sweetheart, Virginia Lee Knight, on September 6, 1952, and they lived happily ever after in a courtship that lasted 65 years. They were blessed with Suzanne, John Jr., and William Lee, and three wonderful grandchildren, Jason Allard, Catherine Avery, and Ginnie Merrill, all of whom survive him. He treasured the blessing of a close-knit, multigenerational family, including his beloved sister, Marilyn M. Kenyon, as well as cherished cousins, nieces, and nephews.

A fourth-generation Texas rancher, he grew up working on the family ranch near Glen Rose, later at Midlothian, and continued ranching for more than 40 years with his family near Crowley. He loved his family and friends, land, grass, cattle, horses, dogs, and music, and he enjoyed all of them to the fullest.

He was Director of the TCU Ranch Management Program for 33 years, before stepping back from administration to continue as Burnett Ranches Professor for two more years prior to retiring as Emeritus Director in 1996. He considered more than 1,000 former students as his family, loved them dearly, and continued to offer advice and support for all of his remaining years.

John devoted his professional life to science-based conservation and management of natural resources, with respect for private property rights and professional stewardship. He led by example and always strove to practice what he preached. He was active in educational, industry, and government affairs, and shared his knowledge, experience, and enthusiasm with all those who would listen – and some who would not. He worshiped the Creator, who provided all we could possibly need and gave us the knowledge to use it well. He grieved that humanity had not maintained the paradise His creation was meant to be.

He was a past President and Fellow of the Society for Range Management. The society honored him with the Frederick Renner Award, its highest recognition for contributions to the profession, as well as naming him the first recipient of the W. R. Chapline Land Stewardship Award. John served as a director of the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association and National Cattlemen's Association, the Southwestern Exposition and Livestock Show, Natural Resources Foundation of Texas, Texas Wildlife Association, and Renderbrook-Spade Ranch, Inc. He served as an advisory director of the Swenson Land and Cattle Company, a trustee of the Botanical Research Institute of Texas, a Non-Resident Fellow of the Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation, and was a founding member of the Grazing Lands Conservation Initiative.

John was named Man of the Year in Texas Agriculture by Progressive Farmer Magazine in 1995, inducted into the State Fair of Texas Heritage Hall of Honor, and named Distinguished Alumnus of Tarleton State University. He also received the National Golden Spur Award and an honorary Doctor of Science degree from TCU.

Memorials: Should friends desire, memorials may be given to the John L. Merrill Ranch Management Scholarship, TCU Box 297420, Fort Worth, TX 76129.

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