Dr. J. Leon Young

March 11, 1947December 2, 2016
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Dr. J. Leon Young, also known as “Dr. Red Dirt” by his students or “Chief” by his family and friends, passed away after an unexpected illness on Friday, December 2, 2016 at the age of 69. He grew up on a farm in Medina County near Devine, Texas where his mother Faye Lilly Young, taught school and his father, Jerry Leon Young, was a farmer-rancher. They both precede him in death. He spent his youth on the farm, herding cattle, planting, irrigating, harvesting mostly forage crops, and was actively involved in FFA in high school. He graduated from Devine High School and entered Texas A&I University (now known as Texas A&M Kingsville) in 1965 and graduated with a B.S. in Plant Science in 1970. In 1970 he moved to Ames, Iowa and began graduate work in Soil Fertility at Iowa State University where he earned M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in 1972 and 1976 respectively. More importantly, while living in Ames, Leon met and fell in love with Loraine Heddleston, who survives him. They married in 1973.

Leon and Loraine moved to Nacogdoches, Texas in 1975 and he began teaching Soil Science and Agronomy courses and running the Soil Testing Laboratory at Stephen F. Austin State University. Over the next 41 years, Dr. Young taught over 2,500 Agriculture students in his Soil Science course where his students learned “do not say ‘dirt’ in Dr. Young’s class.” Dr. Young also served as Director of the SFA Soil, Plant, and Water Analysis Laboratory and from 1984 to 1997, Dr. Young served as Chair of the Department of Agriculture. During this period new facilities were constructed at the Walter C. Todd Agricultural Research Center, the Agriculture Curriculum was revised, and he assisted in the development of what has become the SFA Gardens. As a professor, Dr. Young’s greatest joy and accomplishment was the direction of thesis research and writing for over 30 Masters Degree students. He was awarded the prestigious Regents Professor title by Stephen F. Austin State University in 2008 and the Nacogdoches County Agriculture Educator of the Year in 2012. Outside the classroom, he served as a part of the East Texas Regional Water Planning Group and he was also a contract broiler grower for Tyson Foods.

Another passion for Leon was supporting agricultural projects in Africa. He visited Tanzania several times to work with subsistence farmers and partnered with the Citizens Network for Foreign Affairs’ Farmer-to-Farmer program in 2013 to set up a Soils laboratory in Mozambique. The CNFA asked him to return the following year to Angola, where he trained farmers in techniques to improve soil fertility. Dr. Young was a long-time member of First Baptist Church of Nacogdoches where he served as a deacon and he spent many years as a Sunday School teacher for two and three year olds.

Leon will be missed immensely by his surviving wife, Loraine Young; children, Molly Miller, Drew Young, Matthew Young, and April L. Burns; their spouses, Brandon Miller, Emily Young, April D. Young and Christopher Burns; his six grandchildren, Sam, Ella, Jack, Paloma, Gabriel, and Autumn. A memorial service will be held at First Baptist Church on Tuesday, December 6, 2016 at 10:00 am. Dr. Allen Reed will be officiating. A scattering of cremains will take place privately at a later date.

Friends and family are invited to visitation on Monday, December 5, 2016 from 4:30 pm – 7:00 pm at Cason Monk-Metcalf Funeral Directors.

As a strong believer in Christ and supporter of International Missions, the family asks that in lieu of flowers, memorial contributions to be made to First Baptist Church “African Missions”, 411 North Street, Nacogdoches, Texas, 75965.

Online condolences may be offered at Arrangements are under the direction of Cason Monk-Metcalf Funeral Directors.


  • Memorial Service Tuesday, December 6, 2016
  • Visitation Monday, December 5, 2016

Dr. J. Leon Young

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Leon Carey

April 9, 2017

I didn't know of Dr. Young's passing until I saw it in the SFA Alumni magazine. I was one of Dr. Young's students in the late 1970s and he was on my thesis comittee in the early 80s. Incredibly smart, kind and understanding, he impacted my life greatly. See you on the other side Dr. Young.

Jeremy Ayars

December 16, 2016

Dr. Young was my boss from 2012-2014 at the soils lab. I don't remember much about my graduation, but I'll never forget how he jumped out of his chair as I walked off stage to shake my hand. What a great, caring, wise individual. I hope we are all so fortunate to live like Dr. Young.

Greg Williams

December 7, 2016

I will miss my friend. A man with many nicknames, but for me he was "Doc". "How are the chickens, 'Doc'? How is the ... soil..., 'Doc'?" Or maybe just "hey there 'Doc'.... whats new?" I enjoyed our time and wish that I had one more visit. Until we meet again, "Doc".

Jacqueline Parker-Abendroth

December 6, 2016

Dr. Young was one of the greatest and toughest professors during my Bachelor and Master program at SFA, and truly a wonderful man. I am honored to have been taught by him and can say that his lessons will never be forgotten. To his family, my prayers are with you during this time of sorrow and hope that you know how blessed we all have been to have known such a great man!!

Blaine Jernigan

December 6, 2016

I am very sorry to hear of Dr. Young's passing. He was a great Christian man and a mentor to me. Even after graduating 25+ years ago from SFA, I continued to maintain contact with him and consulted him from time to time about soil science issues. I will really miss him.

Mike Meeks

December 6, 2016

What a great guy! A Christian life well lived.

Angie Wetz Duke

December 6, 2016

Dear Young Family, I am forever grateful to Dr. Young for all he taught me in and out of the classroom. I vividly remember the first day I stepped on the SFA campus. My mother and I made our way to the Agriculture building where We met with Dr. Young. At that moment I made the decision to attend SFA. He also offered me a Houston Endowment Scholarship. My heart breaks for you as you mourn this loss on Earth. We can also rejoice knowing the celebration he is taking part in in Glory. I will lift you up in the coming days for peace and contentment. Angie Wetz Duke BS AgEd 1991

Dale Perritt

December 5, 2016

It is difficult to say goodby to a trusted friend and colleague who gave so much of himself to so many. Although he is gone from our presence and we will no longer be able to take advantage of the vast knowledge he possessed, his legacy will continue to live on in the hearts and lives of those he touched with a kind deed or a needed word of encouragement.

Scott Daugherty

December 5, 2016

Lorraine, I have so many fond memories of Leon from our younger days. I tell stories to this day of working with Leon and Jerry on the farm when I was in high school. Your photo album reminded me of traveling to Ames from your wedding. Our sons Conor and Evan remember visiting on our occasional trip through Nacogdoches. We would always send him as soil sample when we moved into a new house. Leon will be missed by us all.
Scott, JoAnn, Conor and Evan

Victoria Cason

December 5, 2016

Dr. Young helped mold my direction in life and I couldn't thank him enough for sharing his passion. He will never be forgotten. My deepest condolences to his family, I will never say dirt again, Dr. Young :)