William “Bill” Donald Mayfield, Sr., a devoted husband, father, “Pops” and friend drowned in a boating accident while fishing on the Tennessee River at the age of 79.
Born to John “Johnny” William and Mary Elizabeth Schultz Mayfield on February 19, 1944 on the beloved family farm in Silerton, Tennessee, Bill is survived by his devoted wife of 42 years, Gail Smith Mayfield, and his two children, Angela “Angie” Mayfield Keel (Barry) of Starkville, MS and William Donald “Donny” Mayfield, Jr. of Germantown, TN and six grandchildren, Brandon Keel (Caitlin), Brody Keel (Laurel), Bethany Hunt (Casey); Sarah Mayfield, Lauren Mayfield and John William Mayfield along with five great-grandchildren, Judah, Amos, and Nora Keel; Lucy and Eloise Keel; Hudson Hunt due in July; an “adopted son” Mike Young and his spunky Labrador retriever, Sweetie Pie.
Bill was the pride and joy of his parents as their only child and was the first family member to become a college graduate. Bill graduated from Bolivar Central High School in 1962, after serving as president of his junior and senior classes. In 1966, he graduated with honors from the University of Tennessee with a Bachelor of Science in Agricultural Engineering and though he received his Masters of Science in Agricultural Engineering from Mississippi State University in 1970, he remained an avid University of Tennessee Volunteer supporter and fan.
Bill began his career in 1966 as a United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) research engineer at the Cotton Ginning Laboratory in Stoneville, MS. In 1971, he joined the staff of the Alabama Cooperative Extension Service at Auburn University where he was a State Specialist in Farm Machinery including cotton and ginning. In 1975, he received the “Governor’s Award for Air Pollution Control” in recognition of his interest, involvement and active support for air pollution control programs relating to cotton gins. Shortly after in 1977, Bill was honored with the national Aerovent Young Extension Man Award from the American Society of Agricultural Engineers awarded annually to one outstanding extension service agricultural engineer serving under the age of 40 in the United States.
Bill rejoined the USDA in 1981, as the National Program Leader for Cotton with the USDA Extension Service in Memphis, TN until his retirement in 1999. During his distinguished career with the USDA, Bill was instrumental as one of the original organizers and establishment of the national cotton ginner schools in the US in 1985 and received the National Cotton Ginners’ Distinguished Service Award in 1990.
Bill’s passion was cotton, the land that produced it and especially the people that worked it. He authored numerous publications as an award-winning agricultural engineer—culminating in his co-authored book, Who Invented the Cotton Gin. Bill’s love for farming and his fellow farmers led him to channel proceeds from his trade publications back into the cotton industry through the establishment of the Mayfield Cotton Engineering Award given annually by the American Society of Agricultural Engineers in recognition of outstanding engineering contributions.
Throughout his distinguished career in agriculture, Bill was honored to humbly serve as a leader in his profession including Memphis Agricultural Club President, Hardeman County Farm Bureau President, member of the Board of Directors for Memphis Agricenter and Hardeman County Chamber of Commerce among others. The family farm eventually called him home in 2004. Bill, working alongside his wife Gail, quickly became pillars of the Silerton community in retirement years. While he was Mayor of Silerton for 10 years, the town relocated and enlarged the Town Hall, created a town park and organized town programs such as the Christmas parade, spring cleanup and the 4th of July celebration. He served as a fire department trustee, and most recently, Chairman of the Board of Silerton Baptist Church.
Bill’s kindness and generosity with time, service and support to his family, friends and community members were matched only by his love for farming, hunting, fishing and unique gifts as a prolific family storyteller and Silerton town historian. His other less publicized accomplishments include growing the best tomatoes this side of the Mississippi, playing softball and maintaining an undefeated record against his grandchildren in checkers.
A celebration of life service will be held on April 29, 2023, at Silerton Baptist Church at 2:00 pm. Memorial donations can be made to Silerton Baptist Church, Silerton Baptist Church Cemetery, or the Mayfield Cotton Engineering Award.
Shackelford Funeral Home is assisting the family with funeral arrangements. Friends may leave online condolences at shackelfordfuneraldirectors.com.