Ralph J. McCracken (1921-2004)
Dr. Ralph J. McCracken passed away March 11, 2004 in Greensboro North Carolina. Dr. McCracken was born July 3, 1921 in Guantanamo, Cuba. During his childhood years he lived with his parents on a corn-soybean-livestock farm in Indiana. He earned an AB degree from Earlham College in Indiana 1942 where advised by James Thorp. After service in the US Maritime Service and the US Coast Guard he worked as a soil scientist with the USDA Soil Conservation Service in California and two years on loan to the US Geological Survey of natural resources in several islands in the Western Pacific. He received an MS degree from Cornell University in 1951 under the direction M. G. Cline. While continuing part time service with the Soil Conservation Service and later with the University of Tennessee he completed a PhD under the direction of F. F. Riecken at Iowa State University in 1956.
In 1956 he accepted an Assistant Professorship at North Carolina State University and rose through the ranks becoming Head of the Soil Science Department in 1963. During the time he was in the Soil Science Department he served as major advisor to eight PhD candidates and three MS students. In 1970 he was appointed Assistant Director of the North Carolina Agricultural Experiment Station and promoted to Associate Director in 1973. Later in 1973 he left North Carolina to accept appointment as Associate Administrator of the USDA Agricultural Research Service in Washington DC. In 1978 he was named Associate Director of the USDA Science and Education Administration. In 1981 he was designated Deputy Chief of the USDA Soil Conservation Service responsible for soil survey and national resource inventories. Upon retirement in 1985 he accepted adjunct professorships at North Carolina State University and North Carolina A & T University where he taught classes and was a mentor to students, faculty and administrators.
Throughout his career Dr. McCracken received the recognition of many peer groups. While at North Carolina State University he was named an Outstanding Teacher and received the Achievement Award from the North Carolina Soil Science Society. He was elected Fellow in the American Society Agronomy and the Soil Science Society of America in 1966 and later a Fellow in the American Association for the Advancement of Science. In 1980 he received a Presidential Rank Award as a Meritorious Executive in the Civil Service. In 1987 he received the Distinguished Service Career Award from the Soil Science Society of America. His outstanding leadership and administrative abilities were recognized by several organizations. While at North Carolina State University he was elected President of the North Carolina Soil Science Society, and state chapters of Gamma Sigma Delta and Sigma Xi. In 1970 he was elected President of the Soil Science Society of America in 1970. He also was elected President of the Agricultural Research Institute and served as Secretary of the Agriculture and Food Division of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Dr. McCracken studied soils in Mexico, Peru, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Pakistan, India, Cameroon, Philippines Indonesia, Thailand, Brazil and the People's Republic of China. He authored several research publications both in Soil Science and in administrative journals including four editions of a textbook in his major field of Soil Genesis and Classification some of which were translated into Japanese, Russian, Chinese and Spanish.
As soil scientists mourn his passing with his wife Virginia and their son Douglas and daughter Jo Ellen we celebrate his career as a distinguished leader, respected colleague and friend.