Texas beef industry mourns loss of Frank Litterst

Mr. Frank” known by his A&M students was class favorite

Writer: Blair Fannin, 979-845-2259, b-fannin@tamu.edu

COLLEGE STATION – Frank Litterst Jr., whose colorful teaching style of beef cattle production hit home with more than 7,000 Aggie students and hundreds of Texas beef cattle producers spanning two decades, died Dec. 26. He was 94.
Known by his students as “Mr. Frank,” Litterst was described by colleagues as a living legend for the Texas beef industry.

Frank Litterst, a longtime adult education specialist at Texas A&M and instructor in beef production for the department of animal science, passed away Dec. 26.(Texas A&M AgriLife photo)

Frank Litterst Jr., a longtime adult education specialist at Texas A&M and instructor in beef production for the department of animal science, passed away Dec. 26. (Texas A&M AgriLife photo)

Visitation will be 5:30-8 p.m., Jan. 2 at Memorial Funeral Chapel, 2901 Texas Ave. South, College Station. The funeral service will be at 1 p.m., Jan. 3 at A&M Methodist Church, 417 University Drive, College Station.

He operated numerous ranches during a 20-year period. In July 1965, he became a beef cattle specialist for a cooperative program between Texas A&M University and the Texas Education Agency, traveling more than 350,000 miles to provide agriculturally-oriented short courses across the state for a 10-year span.

“Mr. Litterst was loved and revered by all he touched and mentored – faculty, producers, stakeholders and students alike,” said Dr. Larry Boleman, associate vice chancellor for Texas A&M AgriLife. “He was an icon in both the Texas beef industry and as a lecturer in the department of animal science at Texas A&M. He combined the unique ability to translate science-based information into common language to teach beef producers and students to better their ranches and further their knowledge of cattle. He used his wit, humor, ranching experiences and unquestionable love for his students and ranchers to teach them both the art and science of beef production as only he could.”

Boleman said “Mr. Frank” loved Texas A&M “and was the epitome of the ultimate Aggie” and “he will be missed by those of us he mentored, young and old alike.”

Dr. Joe Paschal, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service livestock specialist, Corpus Christi, said, “with Mr. Litterst, we celebrated his life and successes many times with him. Not many folks can say that.

“Too often our friends and colleagues pass before we can honor them,” Paschal said. “While I worked for him, he once told me that familiarity breeds contempt, and I have always remembered that around him as well as my elders. He made us pay attention to detail. ‘Write things down’ he said. When you went to work for him, he made sure you had a notepad for your pocket and something to write with – a pencil preferably since ink might run if it got wet. He was an excellent teacher and spoke from experience.”

“Litterst  had “some skin in the game” of beef cattle production, and the students in his classes knew it.

“When I first met him I knew that. After his first semester, his classes swelled to capacity. Other professors knew their subject, Mr. Litterst had lived it. I was privileged to have known him for over 40 years. I was a student, a graduate student, an employee and a friend of his throughout. Any student could approach him. He had a lot of international students that maintained contact with him over the years and often visited him or arranged for him to come see them. He bridged the generations, older ranchers as well as young students could relate to him and respected him.”

During those travels, he visited more than 2,400 ranches helping cattlemen improve herds and increase profits. He also served as both junior market steer superintendent with the Houston Fat Stock Show, now the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. He was also superintendent of the Junior Beef Heifer Show at the State Fair of Texas from 1968-1975. During his time with the Houston Fat Stock Show, he helped design a scoring system which is still used today by major livestock shows and contributed to the development of U.S. Department of Agriculture Feeder Cattle Grades now used throughout the nation. In 1975, he joined the animal science faculty at Texas A&M to manage the beef cattle center.
After retiring from the Texas A&M department of animal science in 1989 as senior lecturer, he remained active in AgriLife Extension cow-calf clinics and as a popular speaker at beef cattle demonstrations.
The 2003 Texas A&M Beef Cattle Short Course was dedicated in honor of Litterst. At the time, Lee Pritchard of Crowley said Litterst was “more of a father figure than a professor.”
Litterst’s lecture style was “down-to-earth,” Pritchard said. “He was one of you, really.”
Jim Banner, publisher of the Southern Livestock Standard in San Antonio, who also studied under Litterst at Texas A&M, said in 2003 “He taught with a common-sense approach. He didn’t like his students; he loved his students.”
Litterst was raised on a small farm between Katy and Houston. He was the son of former Aggie quarterback Frank Litterst Sr. He followed in his father’s footsteps and came to Texas A&M where he became a Corps of Cadets captain and a Ross Volunteer. He joined the U.S. Army in 1943 during World War II, along with most of his classmates.
His first job was in feed sales, but one of his father’s former classmates, Herman Heep, helped him get started in raising cattle. For nearly 20 years, he operated ranches in Texas and other states. In 1965, Litterst became a beef cattle specialist with the Texas Agricultural Education Adult Specialist Program.
In 1975, Dr. O. D. Butler, head of animal science at Texas A&M, recruited Litterst to teach and manage the Beef Cattle Center in College Station. Litterst’s unique combination of classroom lecture, personal experiences, ranch stories and jokes made him a favorite among beef cattle production students.
Litterst was a longtime supporter of animal science students through generous scholarships and served as Class Agent for the Class of 1943. In 2009 the Association of Former Students recognized him with its highest honor, the Distinguished Alumnus Award and he was named an Outstanding Alumnus of the department of animal science in 2013. In 2014 he was awarded the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Outstanding Alumni Award.
Visitation will be Jan. 2 from 5:30-8 p.m. at Memorial Funeral Chapel, 2901 Texas Ave. South, College Station.
Services will be at 1 p.m. Jan. 3 at A&M United Methodist Church, 417 University Dr., College Station.
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