William J. “Billy Joe” Terrell, a respected Navasota civic leader, Texas Aggie former student and “the nicest man in town”, died peacefully at the age of 87 on Wednesday, July 25, 2012, in Navasota, Texas, surrounded by his family, with a sprinkling of rain and a double rainbow to lead him home.
Born December 20, 1924, in Navasota, Bill was the son of J. Percy and Ruth Lewis Terrell and the brother of Mary Terrell Pederson. He spent his youth in Navasota where his family were cotton farmers, merchants and bank officials. He graduated from Navasota High School at the age of 16 in 1942 as valedictorian of Navasota High School where he had played half back on the Rattler team that won the 1941 regional finals.
He entered Texas A & M College (now University) in 1942 where he formed his personal qualities as a friend and leader that would characterize his life. Texas A & M was to be a major part of Bill Terrell’s life, rarely missing a football game. In college, Billy Joe was Secretary of his Freshman Class, and President of both his Sophomore and Junior Classes. He was named Cadet Major in the student corp, recognized for the highest grades in chemical engineering studies, and received the A. McLaurin White International Award from the American Society of Chemical Engineering. He was also Town Hall Manager, a founding member of the Tau Beta Pi Chapter, a member of the Astronomy Club and in 1944 a pall bearer at the formal military funeral of the first lady of Aggieland, Reveille I. Billy Joe’s most prized accomplishment at A & M was lettering on the A & M track team as a two-miler where he won first place in the Texas Relays. In 1946 after a time serving in the Navy Air Corp during World War II, Bill graduated from Texas A & M with a degree in Chemical Engineering.
After graduation, Bill Terrell moved to Port Arthur to be a chemical engineer for Gulf Oil Company. There he met and married Jane Stanley in 1948. At the height of his stellar career with Gulf Oil, in 1953, Bill and Jane returned to Navasota to help his father in the farming business in Allenfarm, Texas. He never regretted his decision. He single handily brought Terrell Farm into the 20th Century with his innovative agricultural and conservation techniques, actively farming cotton, grain, corn, and cattle until 2005.
Throughout his life Bill was an active member of the Navasota community serving as Navasota Independent School Board President, President of the Grimes County Chamber of Commerce, President of the Navasota Lions Club, and Treasurer of the Grimes County Fair Association. He was a member of the Grimes County Hospital Board, the Navasota Lions Club, the Grimes County Greys, and the Sons of the Republic of Texas. He was a proud member for 65 years of the Navasota Masonic Lodge #299, the Scottish Rite, the Arabia Shrine and the Houston Court 136 Royal Order of the Jesters. He was a dedicated member of the First Presbyterian Church of Navasota where he served as Trustee, Elder, Deacon and Sunday school teacher throughout his life. In 1974 Bill was named Citizen of the Year by the Grimes County Chamber of Commerce. In 1998 he was selected as Outstanding Conservation Farmer by the Brazos Soil & Water Conservation District. Bill and Jane were the hosts of many community and political events in their beautiful historical Greek Revival home in Navasota of which he was especially proud.
But the greatest love of Bill Terrell was his continued association with Texas A & M University. He was a founding member and later President of the Texas A & M Lettermen’s Association, a football and basketball season ticket holder since 1946, Class of ‘46 Agent in the Association of Former Student for over 20 years, and a member of the Research Foundation, Twelfth Man Foundation and the Association of Former Students. Bill and Jane received a Twelfth Man Foundation honor as one of their top 500 contributors of all time and traveled extensively with the Traveling Aggies to over seven countries. In 2000, Bill donated to the Texas A & M Sports museum, his Aggie blanket that had been draped over the Reveille I casket, his track shorts, and pillow from the 1939 National Championship Sugar Bowl
In 1988 he suffered a massive stroke that left him partially paralyzed but with the strength he always bore, he fought back against all predictions from doctors that he would never walk again. He continued to actively farm and support A & M. Through the 2011 football season Bill Terrell continued to attend all the Aggie home games in his Kyle Field Zone Club seat driving his maroon and white scooter across the campus, stopping to “Gig ‘Em” to all the students. Every time the Aggie War Hymn was played by the Fightin Texas Aggie Band, tears swelled in this Old Ag’s eyes.
On September 4, 2004, William J. Terrell was honored by his beloved alma mater with a standing ovation from 82,000 cheering (and crying) Aggies in Kyle Field as his life history was celebrated and displayed through a video clip on the Jumbo Tron score board in “Bugle Call” – a honor given to one Aggie at each football game for their contribution to Texas A & M athletics.
This brilliant, great, dedicated and sweet man was predeceased in death by his loving wife, Jane Stanley Terrell, his parents and his sister. Survivors are his daughters Janet Terrell Davis and her husband, Dexter Davis, and Kathleen Terrell, all of Navasota; his son, William J. Terrell, Jr., and his wife, Margie, of Navasota; his grandchildren, Celeste Blackburn and her husband, Kelly, Matt Carter and his wife, Melissa, Terrell Carter and her fiancee, Bryan James, Jane Davis, Mary Davis, Alex Terrell, Morgan Terrell and Allison Terrell; four great-grandchildren; as well as many nieces, nephews, cousins and friends. A special thanks to his caretakers Jackie Williams, Nelda Rodriguez, Jackie Creeks and Estella “Tuda” Prosper.
Services included a visitation with the family on Sunday, July 29, 2012, from 5 to 7 p.m. at Nobles Funeral Chapel in Navasota, a Masonic grave side interment at Oakland Cemetery in Navasota beginning at 10 a.m on Monday, July 30, 2012, followed by a memorial service at the First Presbyterian Church in Navasota at 11 a.m.
Pallbearers were his grandchildren and members of the Navasota Masonic Lodge #299. Honorary pallbearers were his great friends: John C. Webb, Benton Dedmon, Frank Cash, Ernest Perry, Bud Powell, Olive Delucia, Bill Lucas, Gerald Purcell, Dewey H. Hoke, Jr., and Bill Miller.
Donations may be made to The First Presbyterian Church of Navasota. You are invited to leave fond memories or kind words at www.noblesfuneral.com.