Remembering B. T. Sims

By Sam Hendrix

Months before he died, Jack Simms ’48, an Auburn treasure himself, remembered his incredible father, Dr. B.T. Simms ’11

Bennett Thomas Simms was born Jan. 26, 1888, in the Ramsey community of rural Sumter County in west Alabama’s Black Belt, 20 miles northwest of Livingston, the county seat. According to B.T.’s son, Jack Simms, the Ramsey community was later renamed Emelle after the local train agent’s daughters, Emma and Ellen. B.T.’s father was John Thomas Simms, 31 at the time of B.T.’s birth. B.T.’s mother, Ninnie Epes, was 21. B.T. was the oldest son, the second of eight children.

John Thomas Simms served as the community’s postmaster and owned and ran a small general store in the middle of the community, at the point where the railroad came through. The post office was located within the store. Jack Simms, retired in Auburn after a career with the Associated Press and as the first chair of the Department of Journalism at Auburn University, remembered visiting Emelle as a boy and seeing two or three stores along a street on one side of the railroad tracks, with the town’s other two or three stores on the other side of the street and tracks.

“Those stores were never painted,” Jack Simms remembered, in an interview several months before he died in Auburn on Nov. 8, 2016. “The exterior was all weathered old boards.”

In front of almost every store, he recalled, were benches. “The people of that area were nearly all farmers, and they lived outside of town. When people would go to town, it was a significant event. They would do their shopping, but they would take time to socialize, too. They’d sit on the benches and hang out.”

Life was demanding and difficult at turn-of-the-century Emelle, and there were tragic times for the family, as well. B.T. lost one of his younger brothers early on when the six-year-old was killed in a gun accident.

“I think my father was in on that tragedy to some degree,” Jack Simms said. “Several of the children were playing with a gun from a neighbor’s house. A boy from that other family had put a marble down in the gun, and somebody fired it. It was a weird thing. It killed the little boy.”

The youngest of John Thomas and Ninnie Simms’ children was Leroy Simms, 18 years younger than B.T., who worked for the Associated Press in Birmingham, as editor of The Birmingham News and later as publisher of The Huntsville Times. Career-wise, Jack followed more closely in his Uncle Leroy’s footsteps than in his father’s, but not without giving Auburn’s pre-vet program a brief, futile try. 

Jack Simms was not sure his father ever graduated from high school, but the college admissions process was less restrictive in those days, and B.T., in probably either 1905 or 1906, followed a small number of area friends and cousins to Auburn—about 200 miles from home—to further his education at Alabama Polytechnic Institute.

“People in Sumter County were familiar with Auburn because it was an agricultural community, and Auburn had the ag programs,” Jack Simms said. “Dad followed some cousins or friends to Auburn. They would ride the train to get there. That was the only way they could have traveled. There was no family car at the time.”

Whether B.T. Simms had ever heard of “veterinary medicine” before he arrived at Auburn, in his agricultural science curriculum he enrolled in one or more veterinary science classes under the demanding Dr. Charles Allen Cary, who had begun the program in 1892. Dr. Cary apparently saw promise in the raw young man from west Alabama and persuaded B.T. to stick around Auburn after his baccalaureate degree and work with Dr. Cary in the veterinary program.

Simms assisted Dr. Cary in fighting Texas tick fever, which had been devastating the cattle industry far and wide in the latter years of the 19th and into the 20th centuries.

“My dad was one of ‘Dr.Cary’s boys,’ as they were called,” Jack Simms said. “He and later Dr. McAdory, later Dr. Sugg, probably some others. Dr. Cary, in the beginning, was pretty much the only faculty member in veterinary science, and he had a lot of things he was trying to do, so he arranged help as he could get it, from among his better students. He had a significant influence on my dad.”

The Auburn which welcomed young master Simms was one of dirt streets, horses and buggies, draymen, a handful of churches and businesses, plenty of home gardens and little prosperity anywhere. The veterinary building in which Simms listened to lectures by the great Dr. Cary had been constructed along Magnolia Avenue: a wooden, two-story, nine-room building with a lecture room, Dr. Cary’s office, four laboratories, and an operating room. Dr. Cary also had a “museum,” the equivalent of today’s anatomy lab. There, the good doctor stored skeletons of the horse, ox, sheep, hog and a human, plus a number of organ models, all of which added an element of dramatic realism to Dr. Cary’s lectures. When class was in session, Simms and company heard Dr. Cary explain the anatomy of the horse, diseases of the horse and other farm animals, minor surgical techniques, actions and uses of common medicines, fine points of meat inspection, the art of the post-mortem exam and the dissection of domestic animals.

Of course, some of Simms’ class time would have been under direction of another lecturer, Dr. Isaac Sadler McAdory, a former Alabama Polytechnic Institute undergraduate and football player who had gone off to Chicago to earn his DVM at McKillip Veterinary School before returning to Auburn to assist Dr. Cary with all aspects of the veterinary program. Simms and associates would also unquestionably have gotten to know another character of the day, one “Dr. Luke,” the hired hand of the program, who performed all manner of odd jobs around Vet Hill.

A decade before Simms came to town, the veterinary program opened its hospital building, with five large box stalls and four open, single stalls, plus an upstairs feed storage area. Untold hours in these spaces would have brought understanding of the practical aspects of Dr. Cary’s lectures.

Simms the veterinary student would have been compelled to show up on Saturday mornings to assist Dr. Cary in his weekly free clinics for area farmers, who brought their ailing animals in for examination or treatment. A major part of the students’ education at that time, some of these outdoor laboratories were held on the college’s “experiment station farm,” where barns and a dairy served both the agriculture program and Dr. Cary’s purposes, located near the site of today’s President’s Home at the Samford Avenue/Mell Street intersection. There, Dr. Cary kept Angus, Hereford, Shorthorn and Jersey cattle as well as Berkshire, Poland Chivas and Duroc-Jersey hogs and his Dorset and Southdown sheep. When laboratory sessions were over, Simms and his classmates likely had reading assigned in their copies of Hough and Sedgwick’s physiology text, or perhaps in the American Microscopial Journal available at the school library.

As a veterinary student, Simms may have rented a room in “Cary Castle,” next door to the Cary family home along North College Street. The dean built this three-story house in 1908 as Auburn’s first dormitory, for exclusive use as student housing after he—or, more likely, Mrs. Cary—found having veterinary students lodging in their attic was too noisy for a home with young children.

B.T. completed his veterinary degree in 1911 in the third class of graduates in the South’s first veterinary school and, after spending another year or so in Auburn working with Dr. Cary, left for Raleigh, N.C., and a position at North Carolina State University. Like Alabama Polytechnic before 1907, N.C. State supported a veterinary science department within its School of Agriculture, but no veterinary school. The institution also operated some version of an Experiment Station, which would have played a part of Dr. Simms’ new job. While in Raleigh, Dr. Simms had as a student in his veterinary science classes a young North Carolinian named Redding Stancil Sugg, who, like his professor a few years earlier, showed a great deal of promise in the agriculture curriculum, especially in animal science courses. According to Jack Simms, then-professor B.T. Simms returned the favor Dr. Cary had provided to him and encouraged Redding Sugg to consider pursuing the new doctor of veterinary medicine degree under the increasingly well-known Dr. Cary.

Sugg took his professor’s advice and became the first of many young veterinarians B.T. Simms would influence toward careers serving the public through the broad world of veterinary medicine. Dr. Sugg opened a practice in North Carolina after his Auburn graduation, but shortly afterwards was pressed into service in the U.S. Army’s World War I veterinary corps. After the war, Dr. Sugg returned to Auburn in 1919, at Dr. Cary’s invitation, to teach bacteriology. Dr. Sugg played a key role in another of Dr. Cary’s significant causes: public health through meat and milk inspection programs. Beginning in 1940, Dr. Sugg would serve as the third dean of Auburn’s School of Veterinary Medicine, where his successes warrant their own feature article. In time, he also would be reunited at Auburn with his old friend, Dr. B.T. Simms.

Dr. Simms, meanwhile, left North Carolina for a season in the Midwest, studying at the University of Chicago. Jack Simms suggested Dr. Simms likely pursued advanced training in parasitology, which had not been available to him during his student years at Auburn.

After working and studying in Chicago during 1913 and perhaps into 1914, Dr. Simms received an offer to join the staff of the School of Agriculture at Oregon State Agricultural College, today’s Oregon State University. Veterinary science courses had been taught at the Corvallis campus as early as 1892, and, in 1910, the School of Agriculture there officially recognized its new Department of Veterinary Science. But it was not until 1914 and the arrival of Dr. B.T. Simms that an actual degree-holding veterinarian was on staff. Dr. Simms was brought in as head of the program, and the name was changed to Department of Veterinary Medicine. 

“This was the largest veterinary department in any U.S. school that did not already offer a doctorate in veterinary medicine,” Jack Simms said. “Dad was pretty much its founder and only member. He was the department. He didn’t even have a secretary.”

B.T. Simms headed that department until 1938, focused on teaching undergraduates and conducting research related to important food animal health issues of the day: Bang’s disease, Texas tick fever, and the potentially fatal Salmon Poisoning Disease in dogs. The issue of Salmon Poisoning Disease in dogs was unique to the American Northwest, Jack Simms explained, “a big thing at the time, and my dad developed a cure for it.”

According to Jack Simms, many ranchers in the Pacific Northwest—in Oregon, Washington, Northern California, perhaps Idaho and Montana—operated huge farms with thousands of sheep and dozens, perhaps hundreds, of sheep dogs. In the same region, salmon are wired to return to the place of their birth to lay eggs, after which they die. When the salmon would find that location, or got close enough that their instincts told them to lay those eggs, the salmon often would wash up on the shore of a river or creek, die and rot. Sheep dogs would feast on these carcasses, often ingesting a parasite called Nanophyetus salmincola. By itself, this parasite is, for the most part, harmless. The illness arises when the parasite is infected with another organism called Neorickettsia helminthoeca. This microorganism poisons not only salmon, but any fish that swim upstream to breed.

This disease remains a potential problem for dog owners in that part of the country. Various websites hosted by veterinary medical organizations in the Pacific Northwest, including veterinary colleges and state veterinary associations, offer information about the disease. If there is a silver lining, it may be that the disease can be treated if discovered in time. As well, dogs are apparently the only species susceptible to salmon poisoning. Cats, raccoons and bears consume raw fish as often as they can without these dire consequences. 

Dr. Simms’ treatment plan back in the early years of the 20th century called for introducing a low level of salmon poisoning into a dog—and Dr. Simms’ lab received stray dogs by the hundreds from the streets of Portland and Salem, Jack Simms remembered—to help the dog build immunity.

“Gradually, he’d get those dogs to where they were immune to the salmon poisoning,” Jack said. “I got one of the first dogs he cured as a sixth birthday present, a small dog named Spotty.”

Dr. Simms didn’t have time to make a name for himself with this cure: sulfa drugs were soon in development, rendering his cure unnecessary.

Another of B.T. Simms’ achievements while at Oregon State was to prepare and send a large number of his students to veterinary school, to the earliest established programs at Cornell, Iowa State, Kansas State and others.

“Dad sent an amazing number of his students to veterinary school from Oregon,” Jack Simms remembered. “He was a member of the national association early on. He got to know a lot of veterinarians around the country. Dr. Cary was always at the national meetings, and he and Dad would catch up on those occasions. Dr. Cary probably introduced my dad to a lot of important and influential people, so he had many contacts when it came to finding places for his students to go to vet school.”

Dr. Simms’ visibility and his growing reputation as a first-class veterinarian and administrator were not lost on his colleagues around the country. He was elected to a vice president’s post with the American Veterinary Medical Association in 1927 for a one-year term.

B.T. Simms’ time at Oregon was also marked by a significant turn in his personal life, and it started with a girl four years younger than him, with an alliterative name that sounded straight out of Hollywood: Lillian Elizabeth Lalonde.

“My dad was in his mid-twenties and single when he arrived in Corvallis, and everybody figured him a confirmed bachelor,” Jack said. “He stayed that way for almost his first 10 years at Oregon State, until he was 35.

“My mother was born in Duluth, Minnesota,” Jack said. “Her mother was the wife of a French-Canadian wheat farmer, and she had problems with childbirth. In fact, her mother—my grandmother whom I never met, Maria Pomelia—died before she was 30 as a result of childbirth. My grandfather felt he could not care for all the children, so my mother and her sister were sent to Washington, where they lived with their Aunt Clara. They attended Catholic schools out there, and somewhere along the way my mother took classes in secretarial work. She worked for a lumber company in Washington and later saw an ad for a secretary job in Corvallis at Oregon State. She applied and got it and she worked there three years before she and Dad married.”

Remembering growing up in the Simms’ home in Corvallis, Jack said his father always was mentoring and instructing, not only in his classrooms and on the farms where he would take his students, but in the car and at home with his family, as well.

“My dad was at heart a teacher,” Jack said. “When we’d go on a trip somewhere as a family, he would always have us doing something in the car. He’d come up with some game to help us sharpen our math skills or our observation skills. He’d bring home movies that he’d borrow from the Oregon State library, documentaries, travelogues, films made by National Geographic, that type of thing. We’d get some of the neighborhood kids to come over, and he’d set up a movie projector in the basement. He loved doing that kind of thing.”

In the late ’20s and into the 1930s, the Great Depression was decimating American life at almost every level. At Oregon State Agricultural College, faculty salaries were cut in half, Jack Simms said, his father’s $4,000 annual income cut to $2,000. A few years later, heading toward the mid-1930s, conditions improved to the degree that the college’s leadership felt it could begin to restore the salary levels to an extent. But life comes with twists.

“Other department heads were told they were getting raises to move their salaries back toward their original levels, but the president told my dad, ‘You don’t have the same dependents our other department heads have,’” Jack said. “So while others had their salaries restored, Dad was left at $2,000 a year.”

Another personal event, of a sort, took place in the life of B.T. Simms one April evening in 1935, at the supper table, as Jack remembered.

“We got a phone call in the middle of supper,” Jack said. “Long distance for Dad, so Mother told us kids to be quiet. This happened a lot as Dad was constantly working and consulting with farmers all over the place about their cattle. We probably got more long distance calls than 90 percent of the people in Corvallis, maybe more. So it was not unusual at all for him to get a long distance call at home. One time the call was telling us that my grandfather had died. This time, the call was letting Dad know that Dr. Cary had died in Auburn. I was eight.”

A few years later, another twist occurred. “The USDA called,” Jack remembered. “They were looking for somebody who knew something about using a microscope to head up the USDA Large Animal Disease Laboratory in Auburn. Dad had worked with a number of the important diseases. He had written a lot of papers. He had Auburn connections. Somebody thought he would be a good choice. He agreed to take the job and move us to Auburn, and it meant $4,100 a year for him. This was only $100 more than he was making before the salaries were cut at Oregon State. I’m sure Auburn or the USDA didn’t pay any moving expenses, so he probably took a good beating. But that salary at Auburn in 1938 put him up there. He was maybe the second-highest paid person on campus. But he was paid by USDA, not by Auburn.”

B.T. came to Auburn in early spring of 1938, and Lillian and their four children followed that summer, after school terms ended. The children included Jack, who was 11; older brother B.T., Jr., then 14, who would earn a veterinary degree at API in the class of ’51, work with the USDA, teach at Oklahoma State University, and own a private practice in Pontotoc, Miss. (Both Jack’s and B.T. Jr.’s obituaries appeared in the Winter 2017 issue of Auburn Veterinarian); Elizabeth, then about 12; and Marjorie Epes, “Mimi,” the youngest, then nine, who would graduate from Auburn and, like older brother Jack, serve as editor of the Plainsman, the second female to hold that position.

“Mom drove our 1936 Ford to Auburn, 2,800 miles with us four screaming kids,” Jack remembered. “We stopped over to visit with my mom’s sister in Seattle before leaving the area. We arrived in Auburn on the fourth of July.”

B.T. Simms was renting a room in a large boarding house owned by Miss Mary Cox on Cox Street in Auburn, two blocks north of campus at the intersection of Glenn Avenue. This was a convenient location for Simms to walk 15 minutes to his office each day at the western edge of campus, in a laboratory building that was located where Auburn’s new School of Kinesiology building now sits.

“Miss Cox took in boarders for many years,” Jack Simms remembered. “We moved into her big house. Dad rented three bedrooms in the house for our family. There were two or three other professors who lived there. We stayed there for a while, and then when our furniture arrived from Oregon, Dad rented a house at 388 North College Street, just a few doors up from Dr. Cary’s house. I remember our house on North College had the world’s biggest cockroaches. My mother had never seen cockroaches like that. She didn’t care for them.

“Mrs. Cary was still there on College Street at that time, and her grandson, Andy Pick, was there that summer. He and I did a lot of things together, even though he was a little older than me. We’d go swimming. His mother, Alice Cary Pick, would drive us either to the Opelika or Auburn swimming pools, and we’d go really early in the morning—around 7 o’clock—so he wouldn’t be out in the sun with his fair skin. I ended up having a lot of meals at the Cary home that summer, too. They had a garden out back and grew huge numbers of tomatoes. Mrs. Cary or her cook would fix beans and blanched tomatoes. That was really good.”

Jack also remembered his father securing meal tickets for the family from the Auburn Grille next to Toomer’s Drugs, within walking distance from their home. 

“I could go there and get anything I wanted,” Jack said. “You could get a cheese omelet, toast and grits and bacon or sausage for maybe 25 cents in 1940.”

Expanding her rental empire, Miss Cox had a brick cottage house constructed across the street from her boarding house, and after a while, the B.T. Simms family moved there. But before long, Dr. Simms and family wanted a home of their own, and not finding a suitable place for a growing family, they built a house on Wright’s Mill Road, two blocks from Samford Avenue.

Jack remembered his father enjoyed frequent interaction with Dr. Sugg. The two long-time friends “gee-hawed something fierce,” Jack said. “They were very good friends. Dad was so proud of Dr. Sugg. The vet school had been in some ways a rag-tag thing, getting by ‘hand-to-mouth’ in the early years. Dean Sugg helped to get the school more organized.”

The Simms family lived in their house on Wright’s Mill Road into the mid-1940s when B.T. Simms again had a chance to move up in the world. “I had graduated high school in 1944 and was in the Marine Corps overseas when I got a letter from Dad asking if I might like to come home to Washington, D.C., after the war,” Jack remembered. “His letter explained that he was about to interview for the director’s position with the Bureau of Animal Industry, a part of the USDA.”

The Bureau of Animal Industry had been established in 1884 as a veterinary medical bureau within the USDA, with some enforcement powers. Its purposes included conducting research, administering federal regulations to promote what today is described as “food safety,” protecting the public from spread of zoonotic diseases, working toward ending animal diseases and, in general, improving the quality of America’s livestock. This program was discontinued in 1953, succeeded in scope by the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service.

But in 1945, the Bureau of Animal Industry was looking for a new director, and it found him in Dr. B.T. Simms. The family sold its Wright’s Mill Road home and relocated to 942 26th Street, Arlington, Va. B.T. Simms would report each day, when he was not traveling, to the USDA’s headquarters along Independence Avenue across from the National Mall. This massive, multi-faceted job represented perhaps the most significant position held to date by an Auburn University veterinary graduate. The farm boy from Emelle, Ala., found himself in his early 50s serving as chief administrator for an organization that, by the late 1940s, employed some 1,750 veterinarians spread throughout divisions of Animal Foods, Inspection and Quarantine, Interstate Inspection, Meat Inspection, Pathological, Tuberculosis Eradication, Virus-Serum Control, and Zoological. Their work was not limited to the United States. Bureau of Animal Industry veterinarians during the late 1940s were assigned to conduct research, consult with other scientists, or monitor or assist in battling disease outbreaks in Mexico, England, Denmark, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and multiple countries in South America.

While heading the Bureau of Animal Industry, Dr. Simms led or took part in the federal government’s response to many animal health issues. B.T. Simms’ obituary in the Nov. 1, 1963, AVMA Journal noted his involvement with “studies on parasitic diseases and Johne’s disease.” But perhaps chief among the diseases in Dr. Simms’ crosshairs in those years was the outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in Mexico, which lasted for at least seven years and cost millions of dollars.

“Dad went several times to Mexico to see about this,” Jack Simms remembered. “It was a threat to the U.S. cattle industry, and the USDA got funding authorized to go fight it. They drew a line—metaphorically speaking—and decided not to allow the disease to spread north of that line. Cattle owners in Mexico were in many cases not cooperative…even though we were paying them handsomely for their cattle. Auburn had a drove of vets down there in those years working on that problem.”

Another key aspect of Dr. Simms’ time with the Bureau of Animal Industry was his role in the development of Plum Island Animal Disease Laboratory, a federal program/facility located on an island just off Long Island, New York. This facility served as the USDA’s private research site for studying dozens of the most threatening animal diseases. The facility was used by the USDA from 1954 until 2002, when its administration was transferred to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. For a time, Dr. Simms served as its director.

“I’ve thought for a long time that my dad deserves credit as one of the first people to come up with the concept of Plum Island,” Jack Simms said. 

While he was in Washington, Dr. Simms met, and had a chance to influence, a rising star in the profession: Dr. James H. Steele, a 1941 DVM graduate from Michigan State University and recipient of a Harvard master’s in public health degree the following year, the only veterinarian in a graduating class of physicians. Dr. Steele had been sent by another mentor—then-U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Mountin—to the National Institutes of Public Health to accumulate information on zoonotic diseases. In the federal arena, under Dr. Simms’ tutelage, Dr. Steele spent the next two years traveling to Brazil, Maryland, Indiana, and Michigan, investigating outbreaks and the human health implications of foot-and-mouth disease, brucellosis, salmonellosis and perhaps other diseases. Interviewed about his experiences and successes, Dr. Steele acknowledged Dr. Simms’ help. He described Dr. Simms as a “helluva man and a dedicated mentor who offered guidance and moral support” while Dr. Steele was coming to grips with the interrelationships of the various components of public health. Later, Dr. James H. Steele would earn recognition as “the father of veterinary public health,” his life and experiences recounted in an important 2009 biography, One Man, One Medicine, One Health: The James H. Steele Story, by Dr. Craig Carter.

Being in the thick of the political/animal health world also elevated the profile of B.T. Simms. He followed up on his 1927-28 vice presidency of the AVMA by accepting the nomination to serve as AVMA president during 1946-47. This service put him on equal footing in this sense with Dr. Cary, who served as AVMA president in 1919-20. Dr. Simms also served on the AVMA’s Committee on Legislation 1949-54 and spent a decade on the AVMA’s Committee on Intelligence and Education, today’s Council on Education. The AVMA showed its appreciation for Dr. Simms’ career-long involvement and leadership in 1966 when it awarded him the 12th International Veterinary Medical Congress Award for “many years of unselfish devotion to veterinary science.” Beyond AVMA, B.T. Simms was a fellow of the American Society for the Advancement of Science and a member of the American Society of Parasitologists and the Agricultural Board of the National Research Council.

B.T. Simms played a key role in another long-lasting effort to preserve a healthier animal world when he organized the first international Brucellosis Research Conference at the Morrison Hotel in Chicago in November 1948. The 69th edition of this conference was held this past November in New Delhi, India.

B.T. Simms retired from his work with BAI in 1953 when the Bureau was closed down, but he was not finished. He went to work as director of animal disease and parasite research in the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service in D.C. until 1955 when he was named director of the department’s livestock research program, the same year he was awarded the first Distinguished Service Award of the Animal Health Institute for career achievements in animal health research. He left that work in 1957 and accepted a position in teaching and research at the veterinary college in Ankara, Turkey, serving under the auspices of the U.S. Agency for International Development for five years. Those years enabled him to bring his expertise to the field as locals in Turkey battled diseases of cattle and sheep, including an outbreak of African foot-and-mouth disease in 1960. B.T. and Lillian remained at home in Arlington. 

B.T. took ill in the late summer of 1963, checking into the Arlington Hospital in early September. He died Sept. 26, 1963, at age 75. The AVMA Journal of Nov. 1, 1963, reported the cause of death as heart attack. Hospital records indicate he had been admitted with respiratory failure. Lillian lived another two decades, passing away on April 8, 1985, at age 92.

In many ways, the story of Dr. B.T. Simms mirrors the story of veterinary medicine at Auburn, from his early years with Dr. Cary and the growing program to emphases on all aspects of not only animal care, but teaching, mentoring, research, and hands-on application of knowledge to solving public health crises world-wide. These veterinarians—Drs. Cary, McAdory, Sugg, Simms and others—built the foundation on which today’s Auburn excels, and they should be remembered as such.

Jack Simms ’49 learned a great deal about veterinary medicine by growing up in the B.T. and Lillian Simms household. After graduating from Lee County High School in Auburn in 1944, he enrolled at Alabama Polytechnic Institute for one quarter, making a C in English, a D-minus-minus in American history, and an F in chemistry. He had enrolled as pre-vet before that quarter began. Jack then enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps and saw action in World War II in the Pacific, including at Iwo Jima, where he was part of a machine gun outfit. He was assigned to one of the divisions preparing for the invasion of Japan when the war ended. After his service, Jack returned to Auburn and pursued journalism, serving as editor of The Auburn Plainsman during 1949. At least he did until he was fired, the only Plainsman editor so dismissed. After his Auburn graduation, Simms studied at Louisiana State University, earning a master’s degree in journalism in 1951.

Simms’ professional career included a lengthy stint with the Associated Press, where he served as a reporter/editor, correspondent, bureau chief and as an administrator in the sports department. While with AP, he supervised its coverage of four separate Olympic Games.

Returning to Auburn in 1974, Jack served as professor and as first head of the Department of Journalism in the College of Liberal Arts, retiring in 1992. He helped develop the curriculum and courses for the program and was a key player when the Department of Journalism merged with the Communication Department. In addition, he played a major role in the preparation of the department’s first application for accreditation in 1995, which culminated in a unanimous, six-year accreditation from the Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communication. 

In 2005, Jack received the Outstanding AU Journalism Alumni Career Award, presented to an AU Journalism alumnus with a distinguished professional career in his field. That same year, the Department of Journalism and Communication announced creation of the Jack Simms Endowed Scholarship in Journalism, to be awarded to a top student in the program each year. 

In addition to his many collegiate accomplishments and activities, while at Auburn, Simms and former journalism department colleague Mickey Logue produced Auburn: A Pictorial History of the Loveliest Village in 1981, a revised edition of which was published in 1996, and a third edition which was published in 2013. 

As a tribute to his father, in 2010 Jack and his sister, Mimi—herself a former Plainsman editor—endowed the B.T. Simms Memorial Scholarship at the College of Veterinary Medicine. 

Jack died in Auburn on Nov. 8, 2016. He is buried in Auburn’s Memorial Park Cemetery. 

Sam Hendrix, who retired in 2013 as a development officer with the college, is working on a biography of Dr. and Mrs. C.A. Cary, which he hopes will be available this fall. 


D R . K R A H W I N K E L R E C E I V E S AWA R D 

Dr. Delbert J. (DJ) Krahwinkel ’66, a University of Tennessee professor in the College of Veterinary Medicine, was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Tennessee Veterinary Medical Association. During his more than 50-year career, Dr. Krahwinkel has published dozens of studies and papers and taught more than 2,000 students. Though retired from teaching, Dr. Krahwinkel still performs surgeries, is a past president of TVMA and has been an active member of the AVMA. He has been an active participant and mentor for Christian Veterinary Fellowship, participating in more than 34 mission trips with students. Dr. Allan Holladay, left, who nominated Dr. Krahwinkel for the award, said that he may be “the most loved veterinarian in the state of Tennessee.”