Major General (Retired) Thomas L. Merrill Sr.

October 27, 1925May 5, 2013


Major General (Retired) Thomas Lee Merrill, Sr., of Birmingham, AL, passed away on May 5, 2013 at the age of 87.

Graveside service will be held at Southern Heritage on Wednesday, May 8, 2013 at 10:00am. Memorial service will be held at 2:00pm on May 8, 2013 at Mountain Brook Baptist Church. Visitation to follow the memorial service at Mountain Brook Baptist Church in Hudson Hall.

Born in Cleburne County, Alabama on October 27, 1925, General Merrill was the oldest of six children. He was preceded in death by his parents, Emory Joseph Merrill and Grace Allen Merrill and his brothers, Carl Allen Merrill and Emory Harold Merrill.

He is survived by his wife Kay Harwell Merrill and children, Thomas Lee

Merrill Jr. (Susan), Jennifer Chandler Stevenson (John), Laurie Chandler Huddleston (Bill), Melinda Merrill Azar (Zack); his grandchildren, Thomas Lee Merrill, III (Madison), Ashley Elizabeth Merrill, Madelyn Woods Snow (Andrew), Emily Kay Woods, Margeaux Jean Woods, Michael Edward Woods Jr, Zack Michael Azar Jr and, Allen Merrill Azar; his great-granddaughter Fletcher Madison Merrill; his sister Sue Merrill Belcher (Dave) and brothers, Stanley Merrill (Sue) and Horace Merrill (Mary).

General Merrill’s military career began on December 22, 1943. He honorably served in the Asiatic Pacific Theater during World War II where he was stationed in the Philippines. He was discharged from active duty as a Staff Sergeant in April 1946. He began his commissioned service with the U.S. Army Reserve June 2, 1949 as a Second Lieutenant and was promoted to Brigadier General on July 29, 1975. He was appointed Assistant Deputy Chief of Staff, Operations and Plans, Department of the Army in November 1977 and was promoted to Major General in August 1978. He served on the Army Staff until June 1979 at which time he became the Commander of the 87TH Maneuver Area Command (MAC), until his retirement in 1983.

General Merrill’s military education, in addition to branch schools, included graduation from the Command and General Staff College in 1964; Armed Forces Staff College in 1966; Senior Reserve Component Office Course; Army War College in 1976; and the Executive Program in National and International Security, Kennedy School, Harvard University in 1978.

General Merrill’s decorations include the Distinguished Service Medal, Meritorious Service Medal with oak leaf cluster, American Theater of Operations, Asiatic Pacific Theater of Operations, Philippine Liberation Medal, World War II Victory Medal, Armed Forces Reserve Medal, and the Army Reserve Component Achievement Medal. Additionally, Governor George Wallace recognized General Merrill’s military contributions by presenting him Alabama’s Distinguished Service Medal.

After returning home from World War II, he attended the University of Alabama on the GI Bill and was a member of Lambda Chi social fraternity. After graduation, he joined the Apparatus Sales Division of General Electric until February 1960 when he joined The John Williamson Company, a general management-consulting firm. The company reorganized as Williamson, Merrill, Taylor & Darling, and he served as President. After a subsequent merger, the company’s name was changed to Vantage Consulting Group, and he served as Chairman. During his general management consulting career, General Merrill served top management clients with a broad range of management challenges. His special emphasis was strategic planning and organizational development. He worked with a large group of local, regional, national and global clients. Some of his corporate clients were: Alabama Gas Co., Alabama Power, Altec Industries Inc., BellSouth, BellSouth Services, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama, General Motors, Louisville Gas and Electric, South Central Bell, Southern Bell, and Vulcan Materials. He resigned from Vantage Consulting in December 1989.

He joined Altec Industries in January 1990 as President and Chief Operating Officer. He was promoted to President and Chief Executive Officer January 1991. He was elected Vice Chairman and Chief Executive Officer January 1994 and retired December 2000. He continued working with Altec as a consultant to management through 2012.

Through the years, General Merrill served on numerous corporate, civic, cultural, and religious boards including serving as 1999 Chairman, United Way Campaign of Central Alabama; 2004 Chairman, Salvation Army Advisory Board; Vice-Chairman Board of Trustees, Baptist Health Systems; and President – Foundation Board, Alabama Institute for Deaf and Blind.

He was a member of the Birmingham Rotary Club, Newcomen Society, The University of Alabama - We Never Should Have Made It Club, The Country Club of Birmingham, the Association of the U.S. Army Reserve Officers Association, and Mountain Brook Baptist Church, where he was a life Deacon and taught Sunday school for over 40 years.

General Merrill was an avid reader, golfer, and tennis player. He was a devoted husband and his wife Kay was his partner on the tennis court, on the golf course and in life - she was indeed the love of his life. He so enjoyed hunting with The Hunt Club (a.k.a “The Magnificent Seven”) and his weekly breakfast at Dimitri’s with tennis buddies and good friends over the years. He valued giving of his time, money and talent. His primary gift was teaching – so many people sought his advice both professionally and personally. His words of wisdom, genuine thought and direction were valued and will be missed by many. He enjoyed many years teaching his own grandchildren while on family vacation in “Papa’s School”. He was a wonderful husband, brother, father, grandfather and great-grandfather. Family meant the world to him, and he taught them the value of family, love and faith. His legacy will live on in the lives of all those he has touched, taught and loved.

In lieu of flowers, please send donations in his memory to one of the following: The Salvation Army (, The Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind (AIDB) ( or to Mountain Brook Baptist Church (3631 Montevallo Road S Birmingham, AL 35213) .


  • Memorial Service Wednesday, May 8, 2013
  • Graveside services Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Major General (Retired) Thomas L. Merrill Sr.

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George & Celeste Azar & Family

May 8, 2013

Kay and Family, we will be praying for Tom and your entire family during this period of grief. We will miss Tom and our chats at grandparents day for Michael and Allen and we thank you and Tom for a wonderful and sweet daughter-in-law Mindy. We'll keep Tom and your entire family in our prayers.