Washington and surrounding counties lost a lifelong agriculture advocate and innovator with the passing of Dr. Robert Bruce Christmas Sr. Friday, June 17.
Best known for his tireless work in the agriculture industry, Christmas was born a fifth-generation farmer in Jackson County on October 31, 1933 and lived his entire life working in the agricultural industry. He earned his Doctorate in Poultry Nutrition Management from the University of Florida in 1972 after serving with the U.S. Army from 1956-61 in the field of communications.
Christmas went on to become the Orange County UF/IFAS Extension Agent for six years and served as UF/IFAS Vice President while in grad school. In 1969, Christmas came to Chipley as the Faculty Facility Director of the UF/IFAS Poultry Science Department Extension Office, where he served until 1995 when he retired to farm full-time. Christmas also served on the Florida Farm Bureau for more than 50 years and was an active part of the Washington County Cattlemen’s Association for many years. During his career and retirement, Christmas earned many honors, including Honorary Chapter Farmer for Future Farmers of America in 1978, UF/IFAS Citation of Appreciation for 32 years of Excellent and Dedicated Service in 1998, Induction into the Florida 4-H Hall of Fame in 2010, Agriculture Business of the Year by Kiwanis International in 1985, as well as Kiwanian of the Year the same year and induction into the Florida Agricultural Hall of Fame in 2014.
Christmas was active in his church, as well having served as a Sunday school director at First Baptist Church in Chipley for 30 years. Granddaughter McKayla Cassell remembers her grandfather’s love for the Lord.
“The talks I used to have with him were some of the best conversations I have ever had,” she said. “He always made sure I knew how important a relationship with the Lord was. He has always been a role model for me and always reassured me to run to the Lord and lay it at his feet whenever times got hard. My Papa not only touched my life and our family’s lives, but he also touched so many others as well. He was an amazing man.”
Washington County UF/IFAS Director and Agent Julie Pigott Dillard says she learned much from Christmas in his unwavering dedication to agriculture and much more.
“Dr. Christmas has been a part of my life as long as I have been alive,” said Dillard. “He’s been a teacher, a mentor, and a friend to me. He inspired me to advocate for Florida agriculture and to work to develop the next generation of leaders in my Extension career. Most importantly, he modeled a God-centered life and marriage, and encouraged me in my growth as a Christian.”
Christmas and his wife, Ann, were married for 64 years. They have four sons, 16 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.