IRVINGTON—Thomas Henry Birdsong III, 94, died August 20, 2021.
He was an only child and predeceased by his parents, T.H. Birdsong Jr., and Virginia Wishart Birdsong; and by both his first wife, Annette Jones Birdsong, and his second wife, Constance Bradshaw Birdsong.
He had a loving blended family. He is survived by his wife, Jane M. Birdsong; and his children, Thomas H. Birdsong IV, Virginia Corinne Birdsong Winburn and Warren L. Birdsong (Penny); grandchildren, Thomas Mills Winburn, Christianna Mills Johnson and Japheth Saecker Jr.; and great-grandchildren; Henry, Emaline and George Johnson. Also surviving are a stepdaughter, Susan F. Smither and her children, Gretchen M. Smither and Benjamin H. Smither (Melanie); great-grandson, Maxwell H. Smither; and stepson, Richard H. Bradshaw.
Mr. Birdsong attended Suffolk High School and was a graduate of Randolph-Macon College Class of 1949, Ashland, with a degree in history and government. He served two years in the U.S. Navy, active duty, during World War II. He entered the peanut business in 1949 with Birdsong Peanuts, Suffolk, and spent his entire career spanning 72 years with the company and was the chairman at his death.
In 2000, he was inducted into the Peanut Hall of Fame by the American Peanut Council for his “Outstanding Contributions” to the peanut industry.
A native of Suffolk, Mr. Birdsong served the Suffolk community in many ways. He served on the board of the Old Dominion Boy Scouts, on the Suffolk School Board, as president of the Junior Chamber of Commerce, as president of the local chapter of Randolph-Macon Alumni, president of the Lions Club, on the board of Main Street United Methodist Church and was chairman of the Community Fund.
In 1965, Mr. Birdsong became executive vice president and general manager of the southwest operations of Birdsong Peanuts, headquartered in Gorman, Texas.
While in Texas, he served on many associations and community activities such as helping establish and finance the Birdsong Women’s Center at the Harris Methodist Hospital in Stephenville. He was a charter member of the Cross Timbers Fine Arts Council. He was active in First United Methodist Church, the NCNB Bank and Tarleton State University (A&M System) all in Stephenville, Texas.
While active at Tarleton, he was a member of the President’s Club, trustee emeritus of the Tarleton State Foundation, established the Endowed Scholarship in Hydrology and endowed the arts program. He was presented the Conservation Businessman Award by the Upper Leon Soil and Water Conservation District in 2000.
He served four terms as president of the Southwestern Shellers Association, chairman of the National Peanut Council, on the Ex-Officio Advisory Board Long-Range Planning for the National Peanut Council, on the Advisory Council for the Secretary of Agriculture at the Federal level; chairman, Southwest Peanut Research and Education Advisory Committee and director of the West Texas Chamber of Commerce.
Upon retirement from his peanut company responsibilities in Texas, he moved to White Stone and later he and his wife moved to Rappahannock Westminster-Canterbury where he was involved with organizations such as the Foundation for Historic Christ Church, Chesapeake Academy, RAL Art Center and Virginia Quality Life.
A trustee emeritus of Randolph-Macon College, Mr. Birdsong served on the board for two terms from 1981-1994 and 1995-2001 including a term as vice chairman of the board. He served on the executive committee of the Boydton Society and board of directors of the Society Alumni. He and Birdsong Peanuts were significant donors to the Birdsong Field House, Birdsong Hall (dormitory), Birdsong Café, Birdsong Peaks of Excellence Center, Birdsong Townhomes, improvements to the athletic facilities and other projects.
He financially supported several students in order for them to attend Randolph-Macon College. He helped ensure the college’s future by establishing a charitable unitrust that has become part of the college’s endowment. In honor of his business, civic and philanthropic contributions, in 2003 he was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Law Degree from the college. He was bestowed one of the college’s highest honors—The Algernon Sydney Sullivan and Mary Mildred Sullivan Award for humble service to others.
He had a full and meaningful life in all that he did. He was generous with his time and resources to many individuals and charitable endeavors. To all of his family and friends and the communities where he lived, he was a kind, thoughtful and loving man who will be dearly missed.
Due to the Coronavirus, a church service is inadvisable at this time. The celebration of life and burial was held at 1 p.m. Wednesday, August 25, at Cedar Hill Cemetery, 102 Mahan Street, Suffolk, VA 23434.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Randolph-Macon College, P.O. Box 5005, Ashland, VA 23005 or Animal Welfare League of the Northern Neck, 75 South Main Street, Kilmarnock, VA 22482.
The family expresses much gratitude to those who knew and cared for him at his home and at Rappahannock Westminster-Canterbury and Bon Secours Rappahannock General Hospital.
R.W. Baker & Co. Funeral Home and Crematory in Suffolk, VA is serving the family. Condolences may be registered online at RWBakerFH.com.