William T. Dumas Jr. was born and raised in Chatom, Alabama, where agriculture was a way of life for him. After graduating as valedictorian of his high school class in 1940, he entered the Alabama Polytechnic Institute, where he graduated in 1943 with a bachelor’s degree in agricultural engineering. He later returned to earn his master’s in agricultural engineering in 1948. He was a member of Gamma Sigma Delta, the Honor Society of Agriculture. As a student at Auburn, Dumas was greatly influenced by his mentor and friend J.H. Neal, head of the agricultural engineering program.
Following college, Dumas served his country in both the European and South Pacific theatres, where he was a unit commander for the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers. He was appointed a first lieutenant in 1946 and was decorated with the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, the EAME Campaign Medal, the Philippine Liberation Medal and the Victory Medal. Dumas transferred to Retired Reserve as a lieutenant colonel in 1967 and retired from the U.S. armed forces as a lieutenant colonel in 1982.
Dumas returned to Auburn as a graduate teaching assistant in 1946 and was appointed to the full-time faculty in 1948, beginning his 35-year teaching and research career. During this time, Dumas was responsible for the overall operation of the 370-acre Agricultural Engineering Research Unit in Marvyn, Alabama, where he coordinated, supervised and assisted in the installation of all experiments conducted at the unit.
As a researcher, Dumas impacted Alabama agriculture through his initiation of cotton mechanization research at Auburn University. He was also known for his work in a broad variety of research fields, including tillage, weed control and ultra low-volume insecticide application. But many say his greatest contribution to the state’s agricultural industry was through his teaching and mentorship of generations of students.
Dumas’ career at Auburn also included his service as a member of the Regional Cotton Mechanization Research Committee and chairman of the Alabama Section of the American Society of Agricultural Engineers (1968-69). He retired from Auburn University as associate professor emeritus of agricultural engineering on October 1, 1983.
Dumas was an active member of the Auburn United Methodist Church. He died in 1998 and is survived by his wife, Louise; sons, Trip and Bob; two daughters-in-law; a brother; four grandchildren; and seven great-grandchildren.