Bobby Thomas Birdwell passed gently away from this world on Thursday, October 19th, 2023, at his home in Stillwater, Oklahoma. He was surrounded by his wife, Billie and their children. Funeral services will begin at 2:00 p.m. Monday, October 23, 2023 at the Stillwater Church of Christ, with burial following in Sunset Memorial Gardens.
Bobby was born on June 11th, 1933, on Flynns Creek in Gainsboro, Tennessee to Doxie and Lillie Birdwell. He grew up on the family farm that was acquired after the Civil War and worked the land and tobacco fields with his father and younger brother, Hugh. He loved and cherished the deep woods that surrounded their home and played in the numerous hollers that enclosed the family house. The love of his family, homestead and woods never was far removed from Bobby even though his life and career would take him far away. His career would take him to live and work in Tennessee, North Carolina, Texas, Oklahoma, Virginia and the District of Columbia.
Bobby graduated from Tennessee Tech University with a degree in Agriculture. He would continue his education throughout his career and earned his Phd from Oklahoma State University in 1982. Bobby voluntarily enlisted in the United States Army in 1952 and served his country as a Master Drill Sergeant at Fort Jackson, South Carolina. He was honorably discharged in 1954.
Bobby met his wife and life long partner, Billie, at Oddie's Drive Inn in Cookeville, Tennessee in 1951 and they married on November 5,1952. They had 2 daughters, Susie and Beth and one son, Richard.
After leaving military duty, Bobby began work with the United States Department of Agriculture in the Soil Survey Division. He began as an Assistant Soil Surveyor and rose to be the National Leader and Director of the USDA Soil Survey Division. At that time, Bobby was the only person to have advanced through all the Civil Service levels in that Division. Bobby served as the State Soil Scientist in Oklahoma from 1976 to 1982. He then moved back to Tennessee and then to Washington DC .where he stayed until his retirement in 1988. During his career with the USDA, Bobby was involved in the transitions of USDA policies and procedures brought about by the Civil Rights Movement. He traveled to several countries as a representative for the USDA and was in Tehran, Iran just days before the US Embassy was taken and held hostage by the Iranian government. He was selected to head and lead the development and implementation of using remote sensing and satellite imagery for the USDA. Bobby retired in 1988 after a long and successful career. Bobby and Billie returned to Stllwater that same year to live closer to their children.
Bobby is survived by his wife, Billie, of 71 years, his daughter, Susie McCord and her husband Larry, of Plano, Texas. His son, Richard and his wife, Suzanne, of Stillwater, Oklahoma and his youngest daughter, Beth Borland and her husband, Jeff, of Plano, Texas. He had 5 granddaughters, Tracy, Cassie, Sara, Rebecca and Macey and one grandson, Garrett. He also had 6 great grandchildren, Colby, Ryder, Owen, Nevaeh, Caden and River. He will be missed by many other family relatives and many friends, near and far.