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Dickson, Ray Esther (1889–1950)

Irvin M. May, Jr. Biography Entry

Ray Esther Dickson, water and soil conservationist and agricultural scientist, son of Henry J. and Esther (Halliburton) Dickson, was born in Claude, Texas, on June 1, 1889. After high school in Greenville he graduated from the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas (now Texas A&M University) with a B.S. in agriculture, taught vocational agriculture in Cooper High School for a year, and in 1914 became superintendent of the Texas Agricultural Experiment Station at Spur (see AGRICULTURAL EXPERIMENT STATION SYSTEM), a position he filled until his death.

Dickson, a protégé of Arthur B. Conner, sought to discover and adapt agricultural principles to increase crop production in the semiarid area surrounding Spur. He pioneered in early feeding trials of grain sorghum with John McKinley Jones and cotton and sorghum variety experiments with Robert E. Karper and John Roy Quinby (see COTTON AND COTTON CULTURE, SORGHUM AND SORGHUM CULTURE). Dickson's work on pasture improvement led to a mesquite and brush control research program with principles that applied throughout Texas. His most significant contribution was in soil and water conservation. As a result of a Texas Agricultural Experiment Station project carried out with A. B. Conner and Daniel Scoates, Dickson developed the concept of "syrup-pan terraces," terraces that capture water during rains. Representative James Paul Buchanan learned of Dickson's experiments, visited Spur, and, assisted by Dickson and Conner, wrote an amendment appropriating funds for soil-erosion investigation and regional soil-erosion experiment stations. With help from John Marvin Jones the amendment passed and started a major federal program of soil and water conservation research and the Soil Conservation Service. In 1915 Dickson married Lillian Grace of Spur; they had two children. Dickson was a member of the First Christian Church. He died in Lubbock on June 26, 1950, and was buried in Spur Memorial Cemetery.

Gladys L. Baker et al., Century of Service: The First 100 Years of the U. S. Department of Agriculture (Washington: GPO, 1963). Dallas Morning News, June 29, 1950. Irvin M. May, Jr., "Southwestern Agricultural Experiment Stations during the New Deal," in Agriculture in the West, ed. Edward L. and Frederick H. Schapsmeier (Manhattan, Kansas, 1980).


  • Agriculture
  • Science
  • Scientists and Researchers

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Irvin M. May, Jr., “Dickson, Ray Esther,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed March 08, 2021,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.