Thursday, January 27, 2011

Remembering Tom Hargrove

There were four guys from Fisher County who came to Aggieland (and Spider-D) in two-year staggered classes—Jim Lanning ’64, Tom Hargrove ’66, Lee Lanning ’68, and Raford Hargrove ’70. Their friendship embodied the best of the Aggie bonding. When Tom and Lee were both serving in Vietnam in 1969, their wives, Susan Hargrove and Linda Lanning, shared an apartment in San Francisco. TAMU Press published Linda’s moving account of their experience as waiting wives, Waiting: One Wife’s Year of the Vietnam War, in 2009. When Tom was kidnapped in Colombia, the Lannings were at the head of the list of friends who supported Susan in seeking his release, through ransom money, negotiating privately with the guerillas, and surviving the emotional rollercoaster.

It did not take knowing Tom long to understand how he generated that kind of loyalty and commitment. He was a leader in the Green Revolution of finding rice strains that would support Third World agriculture, a man of principle and courage, an agricultural journalist and international development worker. His mind was sharp, and his heart was as big as the West Texas that never left his accent or his perspective.

If you didn’t know Tom in person, you can know him through his books, which offer a unique account of and reflection on two dramatic episodes in America’s twentieth-century history: our involvement in Vietnam and our vulnerability to international drug runners. Even now, after his too-early death this week, Tom is worth getting to know; he will enlarge your heart and your experience.

Tom’s books: Long March to Freedom: The True Story of a Colombian Kidnapping
American History
(TAMU Press edition 2007); A Dragon Lives Forever: War and Rice in Vietnam's Mekong Delta (TAMU Press edition 2008).