Richard Franklin Bacon, beloved father, grandfather; loyal and devoted friend; successful business executive, admired civic leader; and avid golfer, passed away Friday, June 28, 2019.
Bacon was born January 13, 1927, on his family’s farm near LaHarpe, Kansas, the only child of Helen Alderman Bacon and Franklin E. Bacon. The Bacons moved to Dallas in 1939.
He graduated from Crozier Technical High School in June 1943, and in his senior year, he was named to the All-State Baseball Team.
Richard enlisted in the U.S. Navy, one day before his 18th birthday; only two weeks later, he was transferred to the U.S. Seabees, Y3C, and was stationed on the Island of Okinawa.
Following his honorable discharge from the Navy in 1946, Bacon enrolled at Southern Methodist University, where he earned his Bachelor of Business Administration degree in personnel administration, in 1950. While at SMU, he was a Second Lieutenant in the campus ROTC program and a Lt. Col. and Executive Officer at a summer camp at Tinker Field, Oklahoma, in 1949.
At SMU, Richard met his wife of 65 years, Dallas native and campus beauty Betty Buchanan. The couple married August 18, 1950, a union that boasted a productive partnership of community service and produced sons David, Dan and Randy.
Richard joined M&D Freight & Lines, in Dallas, in 1950, rising to the position of supervisor of operations, before he and Betty moved their growing family to Abilene, Texas, in 1957, when Richard joined Merchants Fast Motor Lines, where he worked until his retirement in 1989. Bacon was proud that MFML was the second largest employer in Abilene, second only to the Abilene Independent School District.
Richard’s long, storied career at Merchants Fast Motor Lines and Merchants, Inc., the parent company of one of the state’s largest freight lines, began when he was quickly promoted from Superintendent of Terminals to Vice President of Operations in 1957, before being named President of MFML in January 1972.
In 1975, he became Executive Vice President of Merchants, Inc., parent company by then of Merchants Fast Motor Lines, Oil Transport Company, Gypsum Transport, Inc., Merchants Truckload Company and Menard Freight Lines.
In May 1976, Bacon was elected to the post of president of Merchants, Inc., succeeding longtime trucking industry executive Roy Brandenberger. Richard added chief executive officer responsibilities to his title the following year.
When Bacon began climbing the ranks at Merchants Fast Motor Lines, the company was on the road to becoming the second largest trucking firm in Texas, with more than 450 terminals in the state, as well as terminals established later in Arizona, New Mexico and Oklahoma, with a combined total of more than 1,600 employees.
At Merchants, he inaugurated the President’s Club, honoring every Merchants driver with a 25-years, or more, of accident-free driving.
From 1958 until 1975, Bacon was director of the American Trucking Association Operation Council; from 1980 until 1989, he was director and ultimately President of Middlewest Motor Freight & Bureau.
Bacon was named director of the Texas Motor Transportation Association in 1967 and served through his term as president of TMTA, 1987-1988.
Popular with employees throughout the Merchants organization, Bacon was named Boss of the Year in 1981 by the Abilene Business Women’s Association.
In 1969, Bacon completed the Transportation Management Program of Stanford University Graduate School of Business.
He retired from Merchants in August 1989.
Active throughout his life in unselfish delivery of civic, professional and church responsibilities, Bacon was listed in Who’s Who in America, Who’s Who in the South and in Who’s Who in the Southwest.
In 1970, he received appointment from Senator John Tower to serve the Small Business Administration in West Texas.
He was a director of First Financial Bankshares, Inc., of Abilene, serving board terms from 1985 to 1992.
In addition, he served on the boards of West Texas Utilities Company, Abilene Country Club, West Texas Chamber of Commerce and the Abilene Chamber of Commerce.
From 1990 to 1996, he proudly served on the board of directors of Habitat for Humanity of Abilene and was named Volunteer of the Year in 1997.
A past president of the local SMU Alumni Association, Bacon also presided over Abilene Community Theatre’s First Nighters. He and his family were active members of St. Paul United Methodist Church, where he served as Chairman of the Board of Trustees and Chairman of the Building Committee, with specific oversight for funding and construction of the church’s Activities Building, completed in 1987. In later years, he and Betty were members of Wylie United Methodist Church.
Richard loved the game of golf and was proud of the feat of recording three Holes-in-One: Two in Abilene, October 14, 1992, and August 24, 1995, and again the same year in Wichita Falls, October 8, 1995.
After each of their three sons had graduated from SMU, Betty and Richard traveled all over the world, enjoying every exotic destination they discovered, as well as the tranquility of their cabin in Ruidoso, New Mexico.
Betty Bacon preceded her husband in death in 2015. In 2016, he moved to Wesley Court Senior Living in Abilene.
Richard is survived by sons David Bacon and wife Susan of Abilene; Dan Bacon and wife Terry of Arlington, and Randy Bacon of Abilene; his sister- and brother-in-law Carol and Bill Buchanan of Boerne; grandchildren Chad, Jennifer, Michael and Kate Bacon and their spouses; and great-grandchildren Emery, Liam and Finn.
The family wishes to thank Bera Sue Blassingame of Home Instead for taking the best care of both Betty and Richard for seven years. And to the professional and compassionate staffs of both Wesley Court and Hospice of the Big Country, a big thank you. There are saints among us.
A celebration of Richard Bacon’s life will be Wednesday, July 3, 2019 at 10 a.m. at Elmwood Funeral Home, with burial following at Elmwood Memorial Park in Abilene. The Reverend Bill Libby will officiate.
Pallbearers will be brother-in-law Bill Buchanan, grandsons Chad and Michael Bacon, long-time friend Chuck Erwin, and sons David, Dan and Randy Bacon.
Contributions in Richard’s memory may be made to the Abilene Preservation League or the New Acquisitions Fund at the Grace Museum.