Written by Glenn Browning, John Browning, and the Browning Family
J. Artie Browning passed away on November 3, 2013 in Lacey, WA at the age of 90, following a stroke. He was born in Kosse, Texas in 1923 to John A. and Etta Ware Browning. He was raised on a dairy farm in east Texas and graduated from Gladewater High School in 1941. While attending Texas A&M, he enlisted in the Navy and was assigned to the USS Saratoga as a communications officer in 1944.
After the war, Artie returned to college. He married Arra B. White in 1946. Arra was the love of his life, and they celebrated their 67th wedding anniversary on March 2. Artie completed a B.S. degree in biology at Baylor University in 1947 and began his graduate studies at Cornell University the next year. In 1953, he received a Ph.D. in plant pathology from Cornell and accepted a position on the faculty of Iowa State University in Ames. He spent 28 years at ISU teaching and conducting research that focused on managing diseases of cereal crops, primarily oat rust. His research at ISU involved breeding disease-resistant multiline cultivars of oats with his colleagues Dr. Ken Frey and Dr. Marr Simons. Using an approach that emphasized the importance of genetic diversity as a natural disease retardant, they created rust-resistant varieties that perform well agriculturally.
Artie left ISU in 1981 to accept a position as department head at Texas A&M University, where he reorganized the Plant Science Department and established a new Department of Plant Pathology and Microbiology in 1985. He retired from Texas A&M in 1990 but took his Professor Emeritus status seriously and continued to be professionally active. He was a prolific writer throughout his career and authored or co-authored numerous publications, including a book, 22 book chapters, over 40 papers in research journals, and more than 60 less technical papers. He gave frequent lectures and seminars on plant pathology and related topics. Although focused primarily on his research, he was also interested in the application of science to public policy and education. This led to his participation in a number of national and international panels and committees on Integrated Pest Management and other subjects. He also received a patent for an instrument he invented to collect data for his research at ISU.
Enjoying the travel opportunities that his career provided, Artie and Arra made many memorable trips around the U.S. and abroad. They took the family to Bogota, Colombia in 1963, where Artie spent 18 months working with the Rockefeller Foundation. While there, he continued his research on oat diseases. He later made several return visits to Colombia at the request of the Colombian Coffee Federation after they had successfully applied his methodology of multiline breeding to create a variety of coffee that was resistant to a disease that had wiped out coffee production in other parts of the world.
Artie carried on an extended collaboration with Prof. Isaak Wahl at Tel Aviv and made several trips to Israel. This included an 18-month stay as a Fulbright Scholar in 1990-91. Wild oats are indigenous to Israel and have natural disease resistance. His Israeli research involved incorporating some of the genetic diversity and natural resistance of wild oats into cultivated oats. This research led to the development of additional disease-resistant oat cultivars
Artie was active in a number of professional organizations, especially the American Phytopathology Society (APS). He became an APS Fellow in 1980 and served as president during 1981-82. He continued to be active in APS after retirement and advocated for the creation of Doctor of Plant Health educational programs. The first of these was established at the University of Florida in 1999 and the second at the University of Nebraska in 2009. In 2011, he and Arra donated funds to establish the APS Foundation Plant Medicine and Health Travel Fund to assist graduate students in attending professional meetings and conferences.
After returning from Israel in 1991, Artie and Arra moved to Olympia, WA to be closer to their children and grandchildren. They have lived at the Panorama retirement community in Lacey since 2002. They were significant fundraisers and contributors to the fund that enabled the Panorama Foundation to incorporate energy efficient features in its new auditorium.
In addition to his professional pursuits, Artie was an avid and expert photographer who rarely went anywhere without a camera. He had a lifelong love of gardening and was a Master Gardener. He also enjoyed camping, canoeing, kayaking, hiking, and bicycling. His favorite destinations included the Boundary Waters in Minnesota, Big Bend in Texas, and the San Juan Islands and Olympic Peninsula in Washington.
As a member of the United Churches of Olympia, Artie was fascinated by the relationship between science and religion. He organized a popular Sunday school class on science and religion at the church. His other intellectual interests included seeking solutions to the intractable problems of overpopulation and world hunger. He and Arra also shared a passion for evolution that resulted in taking the entire family on a trip to the Galapagos Islands in 2005.
Artie is survived by his wife Arra and their three children: Glenn (wife Carol) in Sequim, Gayle in Seattle, and John (wife Elizabeth) in Olympia. Artie and Arra have four grandchildren: Arra (partner Mathew), Paul (partner Bob), Jonathan, and Aviva. He is also survived by his beloved sister Gladys Evelyn Browning Best of Abilene, Texas.
At his request, his ashes will be buried next to his grandparents at a small, country cemetery in Bald Prairie, Texas next spring. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to the Nature Conservancy (www.nature.org) in his memory.