MANATEE -- Travis Seawright of Parrish inspired generations of Manatee County youth to pursue careers in agriculture and assisted countless farmers and ranchers during a 30-year career as Manatee County livestock agent.
Mr. Seawright passed away Sunday at age 76, and is being remembered this week for the full life he lived, and for all those he helped.
"It's a huge loss for the agriculture community," said Dan West, one of Mr. Seawright's former students and manager of the Manatee County Fair. "During his tenure as agriculture teacher at Southeast High School and later as county livestock agent, he inspired so many people to go into the agriculture field, including myself."
When directors of the Manatee County decided they wanted to turn the livestock show into a showcase for youth to showcase their animals, they turned to Mr, Seawright.
Now, the youth livestock fair that Mr. Seawright founded is one of the largest in Florida, West said.
Betty Glassburn of Duette knew Mr. Seawright for many years through her work with the fair, the 4-H Club and the extension office, and remembers his dedication to youth.
"He would haul them all over the county and the state in that county van," Glassburn said.
His service won him serveral honors, including Distinguished Service Award for Excellence in Extension Education Programs by the National Association of County Agricultural Agents; the Manatee County Employee of the Year in 1985; and Agriculturalist of the Year in 2002 for Manatee Farm-City Week.
"He used to say there wasn't an inch of Manatee County he hadn't walked on, especially in the east where he worked with all the farmers and ranchers," his wife Dottie Seawright said this week.
Mr. Seawright was happiest when he was in a tractor seat, and looked forwarded to tending his citrus groves when he retired. Unfortunately, the greening epidemic killed the trees in his grove, sharing a pain felt by citrus growers all over Florida.
He was also a licensed glider pilot.
"He always said when he was flying in a glider with only the sound of the wind over the wings, he felt closest to God," family members said.
Born in McAdams, Miss., Nov. 23, 1939, Mr. Seawright grew up in rural Mississippi on the family cotton farm. He earned a B.S. degree from Mississippi State University, in physical education and agriculture. He received his masters in agriculture extension education from the University of Florida.
In 1975, he became county livestock agent with University of Florida Extension Service in Manatee Count and retired in 2005.
Survivors include his wife Dorothy, son Gene Seawright of Myakka City, daughters Doreen Lowe of Parrish, and Michelle Higdon of Clemson, S.C., seven grandchildren; two uncles, Harry Black and Wayne Black, and an aunt, Helen Smith.
Visitation will be at Groover Funeral Home, 1400 36th Ave. E., Ellenton, 4 - 7 p.m. Friday, and services will be held at First Baptist Church of Parrish, 12125 71st St. E, 10 a.m. Saturday.
In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to the Manatee River Fair Association for the Youth Livestock Program Seawright Scholarship, 1402 14th Ave. West, Palmetto 34221.
James A. Jones Jr., East Manatee reporter, can be contacted at 941-745-7053 or on Tweeter@jajones1.