Robert William McGowan Jr., born June 5, 1922, died peacefully on May 17, 2017, at the age of 94 at the VA Nursing Home in Oxford, Miss.
Mr. McGowan was born in Paris, Tenn., and received his B.A. at Lambuth College, where he was honored as a member of “Who’s Who Among College Students” and later presented with the “Distinguished Alumni Award.” He earned his M.A. from George Peabody College of Vanderbilt University. Mr. McGowan also completed additional coursework at the University of Missouri, the University of Idaho and the University of North Carolina.
A great lover and interpreter of nature, McGowan was the first naturalist in the Tennessee Department of Conservation State Parks, going on to win the “Distinguished Life-time Service Award” given by the Tennessee Environmental Education Association in 1994.
A beloved professor of general ecology, field botany and ornithology at Memphis State College (now University of Memphis) and a winner of the “Distinguished Teaching Award,” McGowan taught his students to appreciate the wonders of our environment, with many going into the field of science and teaching themselves.
Mr. McGowan wrote regular newspaper columns for the The Shelby Sun Times, Buffalo River Review in Perry County, Tenn., The Fayette County Review, Oakland News, Collierville Independent and The Bartlett Express newspapers. He also wrote a book about nature in Middle Tennessee, “Sounds of Carter Creek.”
Mr. McGowan was a proud member of the U.S. Army during World War II, serving in the European Theater with the Third U.S. Army under General George Patton. He participated in the liberation of Auschwitz and other concentration camps.
Mr. McGowan leaves his wife of 72 years, Ellen Fossey McGowan; his daughter, Beth McGowan; two granddaughters, Laura Moodie (Dan), Rachel Dobbs (Justin); and his great-granddaughter, Jordan Elizabeth Moodie. He was preceded in death by his son, Robert W. McGowan III, a victim of Agent Orange poisoning from his Army service in Vietnam.
A Memorial Service will be held at 2 p.m. Saturday, May 27, 2017 at the Peebles West Funeral Chapel at Oakland. A private burial service will be held in Rose Hill Cemetery in Humboldt.
In lieu of flowers, it is requested that donations be made to the Nature Conservancy, Tennessee Chapter Headquarters, 210 25th Ave. North, Suite 810, Nashville, TN 37203.