Gen. William Thomas 'Tom' Meredith

Feb 23, 2013

USAF (Ret.)

CANTON — Brigadier General William Thomas “Tom” Meredith, USAF (Ret.), of Canton, died Wednesday, Feb. 20, at the age of 93 following a brief illness.

Gen. Meredith was born Oct. 15, 1919 in Halifax, Virginia, to Hal and Kathryn Meredith, the second of seven children — six boys and one girl. He attended William & Mary College and eventually enlisted in the Army, beginning a military career that spanned more than three decades. During WWII he joined the Haynes Mission, spent two years in the jungles of Burma and Northern India, and was awarded a battlefield commission to second lieutenant. In 1950, he began a long association with the Pentagon as Officer in Charge of Master Planning at Andrews AFB. For three years he worked on projects resulting in major expansion of Air Transport Bases all over the world. He also spent three years in Great Britain as Director of Engineering and Construction, overseeing the planning and construction facilities for the Army, Navy, and Air Force in the United Kingdom and Scandinavia. While serving in Vietnam he commanded the 554th Civil Engineering Squadron.

Moving up through the ranks, he ultimately was instrumental in establishing programs for the USAF that were so important and fundamentally valuable that, even though he retired from active service in 1973, they still provide combat engineering support worldwide today. Known as PRIME BEEF and RED HORSE (Rapid Engineer Deployable Heavy Operational Repair Squadron, Engineering), these concepts provided comprehensive engineering and heavy construction equipment support to the Air Force in combat theaters, and were a vital part in America’s operations in Vietnam, during Desert Storm, and in Afghanistan and Iraq. In 1986 to honor the father of USAF combat and contingency engineering, the Air Force created The Meredith Trophy, awarded annually to the winning PRIME BEEF team at a competition called Readiness Challenge. His military decorations and awards include the Legion of Merit with oak leaf cluster, the Air Force Commendation Medal with oak leaf cluster, and the Army Commendation Medal.

In 1973, following his military retirement, Gen. Meredith joined the Tumpane Construction Company working in Saudi Arabia for two years. From there, he joined the firm of Parsons Brinckerhoff, where he managed a major project establishing a commuter rail system under the city of Philadelphia. Later, as President of Parsons Brinckerhoff Construction Services, he oversaw the building of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge in St. Petersburg, Florida. He retired from Parsons Brinckerhoff in 1990.

Gen. Meredith was an active leader of the Society of American Military Engineers throughout his career and was a Fellow of the Society. He was awarded both the Newman Award in 1965 and the prestigious Gold Award in 1986. In 2007, he was named to the Air Command and Staff College’s 26th Gathering of Eagles class, and was the first civil engineer to receive this distinction.

Gen. Meredith is survived by his wife of 27 years, Patricia Queen Meredith;  his daughter Marjorie “Midge” Meredith Poyck, of Tucson, Arizona; four step- children Trisha Carson Alvord and husband Randy, of Ocala, Florida, Paul Carson and wife Cathy, of Canton, Frances Kennedy Thatcher, of Caroline, Virginia, and Mary Kennedy Reed and husband Chris, of Reston, Virginia; eight grandchildren Elizabeth Zelinka of Tucson, Kevin Poyck and wife Stefanie of Inman, South Carolina, Skyler Gutierrez of Lynchburg, Virginia, Tristan and Cayden Carson of Canton, Hayley and Kaitlin Alvord of Ocala, and Tabitha King; four great grandchildren Griffin and Lauren Poyck of Inman, and Joseph and Audrey Zelinka of Tucson; his brother Hal Meredith of Front Royal, Virginia; his sister Jeanne Meredith Busse of Charlottesville, Virginia; and numerous nieces and nephews. He is preceded in death by his daughter, Robyn Meredith, his brother John B. Meredith, his brother Edward Andy Meredith, and his brother Amos Meredith.

Funeral services will be held at 2 p.m. on Friday, March 1, at the Canton Chapel of Wells Funeral Home with Colonel Lamar Hunt, USA (Ret) and the Rev. Martha Buff Welch officiating. Burial will follow with full military honors at Beaverdam Community Cemetery. The family will receive friends from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday at Wells Funeral Home of Canton.

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to a charity of choice.

For those who desire, an online memorial register is available at