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Hunter, Walter David (1875–1925)

Horace R. Burke Biography Entry

Walter David Hunter, entomologist, was born on December 14, 1875, in Lincoln, Nebraska. He was a pioneering expert on the boll weevil and pink bollworm and an authority on medical and veterinary entomology, insect taxonomy, and biology and control of grasshoppers and other insects. He received B.A. (1895) and M.A. (1897) degrees from the University of Nebraska. After additional work at the University of Nebraska and Iowa State College he was employed in 1901 as a special field agent of the United States Department of Agriculture to conduct research on the boll weevil.

Hunter came to Texas in 1901 and set out to learn as much as possible about the boll weevil. In 1902 a Department of Agriculture laboratory was established at Victoria, and Hunter was placed in charge. He staffed the laboratory with competent researchers. Results of the first two years of work were published as a USDA bulletin. This publication, written by Hunter and W. E. Hinds, is still considered to be the most important basic work on the life history and habits of the boll weevil. The boll weevil laboratory was moved to Dallas in 1905, and Hunter's work was broadened to cover other pests. He and his associates were responsible for many useful recommendations on crop and animal pests. After the laboratory was again moved in 1909, following the boll weevil eastward into Louisiana, Hunter became more involved in administrative work. He and his family moved to Washington, D.C., where they lived for several years while he worked for the agriculture department. In 1917 he was transferred back to Texas, where he was put in charge of attempts to eradicate the pink bollworm. This demanding work may have contributed to Hunter's sudden death. According to Charles N. Gould, a friend of Hunter from the University of Nebraska days, Hunter was "a soldier of science who gave his life in the line of duty."

Hunter's scientific abilities were well recognized. During his relatively short life he authored or coauthored more than 100 publications on a broad array of insects and ticks. He was president of the American Association of Economic Entomologists in 1912 and of the Entomological Society of Washington in 1915. He was awarded an honorary doctorate by Tulane University for his contributions to agriculture. He married Mary P. Smith of Victoria in 1905, and they had one daughter. Hunter died while he was on a business trip in El Paso, on October 13, 1925.

Dallas Morning News, April 11, 1942. Charles N. Gould, Covered Wagon Geologist (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1959). L. O. Howard, "Walter David Hunter," Journal of Economic Entomology 18 (1925).

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

Horace R. Burke, “Hunter, Walter David,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed April 11, 2021,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

February 1, 1995