The cotton industry has lost another paragon of leadership with the death of Bill Lovelady, of El Paso, Texas, after a long battle with cancer. He would have turned 71 Feb. 26.
For many years, Bill served in leadership roles with cotton industry organizations, including as chairman of Supima and president of the National Cotton Council. He helped shape U.S. agricultural policy and represented the cotton industry around the world, promoting American cotton and U.S. cotton farmers. For many years, until his health began to decline, he was a fixture at the annual Beltwide Cotton Conferences. He was known and respected throughout the industry.
I visited Bill’s El Paso and Hudspeth County farm in the fall of 2015, when he was selected as the Southwest Farm Press High Cotton winner, an honor he accepted with humility, but one that those who knew him realized was well-deserved.
“I’ve received far more honors than I deserve,” he told me. “But I’ve had the great opportunity to get to know people — not just from across the cotton belt, but from around the world.” He said his service on cotton industry boards and organizations allowed him to give back to an industry that had given a lot to him, but he also cherished the many friendships he made through those associations.
Bill gave me a tour of his farm and explained the challenges a farmer faces in an area as arid as far west Texas. He was working on improving water use efficiency, adding wells to his farms so he would be self-reliant, not dependent on the vagaries of weather or the politics of reservoir water management.
He was proud of his fields — laser leveled to conserve water — and was committed to improving them.
Bill was not feeling well the day I visited, but he was a generous, pleasant host who took time to answer my questions, and reluctantly pose for photos. It was a beautiful west Texas autumn day, and I enjoyed seeing a well-managed farm in the company of a true conservationist, an accomplished farmer, and a genuinely good person.
I had a chance that day to sit and chat for a few minutes with Suzie Lovelady, Bill’s wife of 47 years. He is also survived by a son, Ty, and daughter, LeAnn.
Bill was not able to attend the annual High Cotton Awards breakfast last year — doctor’s orders. But he sent me a video and this short note that says a lot about Bill Lovelady.
“I remember all of the many years when I was associated with the Beltwide Cotton Conferences, and would attend this nice High Cotton Award Breakfast. I thought the winners were such great operators and worthy of the honor — never imagining that I would be here. I am deeply humbled to be included in that group. I am sorry that I am not with you physically, but know I am with you in spirit. Thank all of you.”
I’d like to think that continues to hold true for the cotton industry. Bill Lovelady may not be here physically, but his contributions to cotton, to agriculture, to his community, and to his family persist. We will miss him. Godspeed.
A memorial service was held Feb. 2. Bill’s family has asked that memorials be sent to either the Food Pantry at First United Methodist Church at Fabens, Texas, the MD Anderson Cancer Center, or a charity of your choice.