Dr. Roy Mack Gray had more than 35 years of experience with the Soil Conservation Service (now Natural Resource Conservation Service), USDA in positions ranging from District Conservationist to Acting Chief. Mack single-handedly changed the way that the USDA-SCS handled their business with regard to conducting economic analysis of proposed conservation projects. Completing his PhD at Texas A&M University while working, he saw clearly the need for a valid benefit-cost analysis of proposed conservation projects across the nation.
Mack came to the Department of Agricultural Economics after rising from an SCS county position. He was employed by the USDA, SCS and had significant responsibilities to balance between working on his PhD, his family and serving the federal government. While at A&M he was the recipient of a National Defense Education Act (NDEA) fellowship and worked at the Texas Water Resources Institute. He received three degrees from the Department of Agricultural Economics: BS 1957, MS 1968, and PhD 1970.
As he rose to the top of the federal agency, he demanded that all projects be subject to a rigorous economic analysis to assure the public benefitted and that social capital was used wisely on any project undertaken. This was a tremendous feat in an agency dominated by engineers who had little to no respect for economic analysis. As Mack rose to successively more responsible positions, he became influential in important agricultural legislation such as the Food Security Act of 1985, the SCS annual budget, and the 1990 Farm Bill.
Mack’s first retirement in 1992 ended in 2000 when President George W. Bush asked him to serve as Deputy Under Secretary in USDA. In this position, he supported Texas A&M students as interns, giving them strong positions of significant responsibility. He held that position until 2005 when his second and final retirement began.
Mack’s community activities included political volunteering as well as being politically active in Maryland. During his tenure as an administrator at SCS, he recognized the importance of doing valid economic analysis of proposed projects and implemented a two-week short course for all of the agency’s economists. The short course was conducted at Texas A&M University through the Department of Agricultural Economics and ran for several years. This had a dramatic impact on how proposed projects were handled; it is still used today.
For Mack’s Ph.D, he researched the efficiency of the irrigation districts in South Texas with the purpose of making better use of the available water. Many of his suggestions have been implemented. With South Texas experiencing a significant population increase and related increases in water demand, his legacy continues to contribute to the region and to Texas.
Mack and his wife, Pat, lived in the Washington D.C. area for many years before movning to Belton, TX. Mack passed away on February 3, 2014 but is survived by his wife, two sons, and five grandchildren. Roy Keith (Keith) and his wife Barbara have two children – Bradley and Emily. Robert Mitchell (Mitch) and his wife Michelle are the parents of Lauren, Alison, and Eric.