Walter Crawford Holmes, B.S., Ph.D.
Published 10:15 am Friday, September 8, 2023
Walter Crawford Holmes, B.S., Ph.D., Professor Emeritus of Biology at Baylor University, died peacefully and in the comfort of his family. A visitation will be 5:00pm to 7:00pm, Sunday, September 10, 2023, from at Central United Methodist Church. A memorial service will be 10:00am, Monday, September 11, 2023, at the Lake Waco Wetlands.
He is survived by his devoted wife of 57 years, Nan (Rogers) Holmes and their daughters Charlotte Ortegon (Mario) and Sarah Gallimore (Jason), and grandchildren Jeran, Jacob, Sophia (Ashanti), and Santana. He is also survived by his sister Suzanne Holmes Mastainich and brother Thomas Holmes (Cathy), as well as all the family he loved so much, including many cousins, nieces, and nephews.
Born in Orleans Parish, LA, to Walter C. Holmes, Sr. and Anita Keating Holmes, Walter grew up in Harahan and LaPlace, graduating from Leon Godchaux High School in Reserve, LA, where he excelled in academics and sports (he still holds the school record in Javelin). After graduating from Louisiana Technical University in 1967 with a Bachelor of Science in Botany, he joined the United States Navy Aviation Officer Candidate School. He earned the designation of Naval Aviator (pilot) and rank of Lieutenant JG, serving as a pilot in Fleet Squadron Eight. Afterwards, he served in U.S. Naval Air Force Ready Reserve as a Pilot in Patrol (Antisubmarine), stationed out of New Orleans, Louisiana.
In 1972, he returned to his first love of science and plants, enrolling in Mississippi State University, earning his Ph.D. with his dissertation “A Revision of Mikania scandens Wild and Near Relatives (Compositae).” He taught Biology and Botany at Northwestern State University of Louisiana (Natchitoches, LA) from 1975 until 1989, when he joined the Department of Biology at Baylor University (Waco, TX), teaching Biology and Botany. He taught, performed research, and held the position of Curator of the Herbarium until his retirement in 2018, after which Baylor appointed him Professor Emeritus of Biology.
In his academic career, he wrote or contributed to over 200 scholarly articles; published several books, including two cataloging the Cajun French names of Louisiana native species; travelled the Western Hemisphere to collect plant specimens; surveyed areas of Texas and Louisiana in search of native species; and taught generations of students in Life Sciences. He served on the Board of Directors for Mother Neff State Park Association from 1992 to 2014, as well as provided consultation services to a wide variety of organizations. He presented at dozens of conferences and associations across the Americas during his career, as well as research at Kew Gardens (United Kingdom) and the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C. He received the Donovan Steward Correll Memorial Award for Scientific Writing (Native Texas Flora) in 2015.
Walter worked tirelessly to preserve the flora/fauna, unique culture, and distinctive lifestyles of the Cajun people of Louisiana, something he considered his truest accomplishment. Whether cooking gumbo, overseeing a crawfish boil, or holding court on the hidden wonders of the bayous and forests he saw as essential to the survival of nature, his passion touched every single part of his life. In his element outdoors, whether it was fishing with the grandchildren at Port Aransas every summer or looking for that one plant he intuitively knew was at that one spot, he felt at home in the wild areas of the world. For all his travels, discoveries, and achievements, he genuinely enjoyed nothing more than a good time with family and friends, so laissez les bon temps rouler, Papa…we love you.
Walter was preceded in death by his father Walter C Holmes, Sr., Mother Anita Keating Holmes, his brother Walter C. Hernandez, Jr, brother-in-law George Mastainich, brother Ronald Hernandez, sister Sylvia Hernandez Brady, nephew James L. Rogers, father-in-law James “Cotton” Rogers, mother-in-law Kathleen Cox Roger, sister-in-law Carolyn L. Hernandez, and his brother-in-law Milton Brady.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks for donations to either the Robinson Texas Volunteer Fire Department; Shepherd’s Heart Food Pantry at 106 W. Lyndale Dr. Robinson, TX 76706; or Big Thicket National Preserve, 6044 FM 420, Kountze TX, 77625.