According to the September, 2002 issue of Farm Press, “after forty-five years, Tom W. Smith walked out of Calcot's office doors, leaving behind sales receipts for millions of bales of California and Arizona cotton produced by thousands of producers and sold to textile mills the world over. More important, however, he departed with the admiration of legions who have been associated with him over the past four and a half decades.”
Mr. Smith grew up on a Texas cotton farm in Taylor County and earned Texas FFA’s highest award, a State Farmer degree. He graduated from Texas A&M University in 1957 with a B.S. degree in agricultural economics and as a Distinguished Military Student.
With a strong recommendation by his department head, Dr. Tyrus Timm, he immediately went to work for Calcot, Ltd., a cotton marketing cooperative owned by select cotton producers in California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. He moved rapidly through every department of the organization and was elected President in 1977. He was also a vice-president of AMCOT, Inc., an international cotton marketing organization which markets nearly a third of the entire U.S. cotton crop each year. Throughout his career, he led numerous trade missions to China, Egypt, and other countries.
Tom Smith is regarded as a leading authority on cotton marketing and is well known throughout the cotton industry for his remarkable insight into cotton’s problems and solutions. Indicative of the high regard and respect of his industry, he was elected as the 45th president of the prestigious National Cotton Council. In this role, he was involved with the passage of the 1996 Farm Bill, a watershed change in American farm policy.
Mr. Smith was appointed by two different Secretaries of Agriculture to the USDA National Cotton Advisory Committee. He was one of the Board of Managers of the New York Cotton Exchange, the institution that facilitates the orderly marketing and risk management for various segments of the U.S. cotton industry, from producer to clothing manufacturer.
Gene Lundquist, Calcot's vice president of grower relations, worked alongside Smith for more than three decades and stated, “He is the hardest working man I know … besides his family, Calcot has been his life. He is first in the morning and the last to leave each day.”
In addition to hiring Texas A&M graduates, Mr. Smith met personally for many years with Texas A&M students on their biennial West Coast Agribusiness Field Study Course. Students always highly rated their Calcot visit, and they were especially surprised to hear the Aggie War Hymn played by the CEO of a firm 1,000 miles from Aggieland!
Tom Smith is married to Pat, a school teacher and the daughter and granddaughter of California cotton producers. He laughs that, “When we got married, there was no question where we were going to live.” They have two children, Janna and Mark, both attorneys; and enjoy two grandchildren.