Thomas Birdsong Obituary (2021) – Norfolk, Virginia

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Thomas Henry Birdsong, III, 94, died on August 20, 2021. He was an only child and already dead from his parents, TH 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 left behind his wife Jane M. Birdsong and children Thomas H. Birdsong IV, Virginia Corinne Birdsong Winburn and Warren L. Birdsong (Penny); Grandsons, Thomas Mills Winburn, Christianna Mills Johnson, and Japheth Saecker, Jr .; and great-grandchildren; Henry, Emaline and George Johnson. Also a stepdaughter, Susan F. Smither and her children, Gretchen M. Smither, Benjamin H. Smither (Melanie); Great-grandson Maxwell H. Smither and stepson Richard H. Bradshaw.

He attended Suffolk High School and graduated from Randolph-Macon College (Class ’49), Ashland, VA, with a degree in history and government. During the Second World War, he served two years in the US Navy on active duty. He entered the peanut business at Birdsong Peanuts, Suffolk, VA in 1949 and spent his entire career with the company for over 72 years, serving as chairman on his death. In 2000 he was inducted into the Peanut Hall of Fame by the American Peanut Council for “outstanding contributions” to the peanut industry.

Mr. Birdsong is from Suffolk and has served the Suffolk community in many ways. He served on the board of directors of the Old Dominion Boy Scouts, on the Suffolk School Board, as president of the Junior Chamber of Commerce, as president of the local branch of Randolph-Macon Alumni, president of the Lions club, on the board of directors of Main Street United Methodist Church, and chaired the Community Fund.

In 1965, Mr. Birdsong became Executive Vice-President and General Manager of the Southwest Operations for Birdsong Peanuts, headquartered in Gorman, TX. While in TX, he served in many community and community activities, including building and funding the Birdsong Women’s Center at Harris Methodist Hospital in Stephenville. He was a founding member of the Cross Timbers Fine Arts Council. He has served with First United Methodist Church, NCNB Bank, and Tarleton State University (A&M System) in Stephenville, TX. While at Tarleton, he was a member of the President’s Club, retired trustee of the Tarleton State Foundation, established the Endowed Scholarship in Hydrology, and sponsored the Arts program. In 2000 he received the Conservation Businessman Award from the Upper Leon Soil and Water Conservation District. He served four terms as president of the Southwestern Shellers Association; Chairman of the National Peanut Council; he was a member of the Ex-Officio Advisory Board Long-Range Planning for the National Peanut Council; he was a member of the advisory board of the Minister of Agriculture at the federal level; Chairman of the Advisory Committee on Southwest Peanut Research and Education and Director of the West Texas Chamber of Commerce.

After retiring from his responsibilities as a peanut business in TX, he moved to White Stone, VA, and later he and his wife moved to Rappahannock Westminster Canterbury, where he worked at organizations like the Historic Christ Church, the Chesapeake Academy, the Rappahannock Art Center, and the Virginia Quality was involved in the life program.

As a retired trustee emeritus of Randolph-Macon College, Mr. Birdsong served the Board for two terms, 1981-1994 and 1995-2001, including a term as vice chairman of the board. He was a member of the Boydton Society’s Executive Committee and the Board of Directors of Society Alumni. He and Birdsong Peanuts have been major donors to Birdsong Field House, Birdsong Hall (dormitory), Birdsong Café, Birdsong Peaks of Excellence Center, Birdsong Townhomes, sports facility improvements, and other projects. He supported several students financially so that they could attend Randolph-Macon College. He helped secure the future of the college by creating a nonprofit Unitrust that has become part of the college’s foundation. In honor of his business, civic and philanthropic achievements, he was awarded an honorary doctorate from the college in 2003. He received 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 everything he did. He has been generous with his time and resources to many individuals and charitable endeavors. To all of his family and friends and the communities he lived in, he was a kind, thoughtful, and loving man who will be greatly missed.

Due to the coronavirus, a church service is currently not advisable. The celebration of life and funeral will take place on Wednesday, August 25, 2021 at 1:00 p.m. at Cedar Hill Cemetery, 102 Mahan Street (off N. Main St.) Suffolk, VA 23434. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to Randolph-Macon College, PO Box 5005, Ashland, VA 23005 or the Animal Welfare League of the Northern Neck, 75 South Main Street, Kilmarnock, VA 22482, who knew and cared for him at home and in Kilmarnock Westminster Canterbury and Rappahannock General Hospital. RW Baker & Co. Funeral Home and Crematorium in Suffolk, VA, serves the family. Expressions of condolences can be registered online at RWBakerFH.com.

Published by The Virginian Pilot on August 22, 2021.


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