Dr. Lawrence Lloyd Inman passed away in September of last year in Phoenix, Arizona at the age of 94.
Dr. Inman is well remembered amoung members and staff of the American Chestnut Foundation. In the early 1980’s, Dr. Charles Burnham, under whom Lawrence Inman had pursued his PhD in Genetics, sent Lawrence to Connecticut to work with Fred Hebard bagging and pollinating chestnuts. According to Fred, “Larry had been a Navy Fighter Pilot Trainer in the second World War, and then again during the Korean conflict. Larry fit what we think of today as the prototypical ‘Top Gun profile’ of pilots that enjoy landing on aircraft carriers at night and during bad weather. Larry had a certain swagger, and when entering a room, made his presence felt.” The weeks they spent together – day and night – left an indelible mark on Dr. Hebard, and prompted him to refer to Dr. Inman as “one of the intellectual fathers of the TACF Chapter Program.”
Larry had attended Iowa State University on a scholarship as a runner, earning his degree in Forestry before the war. He returned to graduate school under Dr. Burnham to study genetics earning his PhD at the University of Minnesota in 1957. At the time, there was little but a nascent understanding of population genetics as applied to breeding of forest trees. When the newly minted Dr. Inman began working for the Forest Service he was horrified at the service’s breeding program’s lack of understanding of the importance of a population and the willingness, even eagerness, to create genetic bottlenecks. As he much later repeatedly told Dr. Hebard, “we’re not breeding a tree, we’re breeding a population!”
Apparently this philosophy – especially when outspokenly communicated – didn’t go over too well at the Forest Service. As a result, to our great benefit, and due to Dr. Burnham’s invitation, Dr. Inman became available to advise TACF during the organization’s founding years. Inman (1987) proposed breeding populations of chestnut at multiple locations throughout the American chestnut range to preserve local adaptation and increase genetic diversity. He also proposed (1989) using multiple sources of blight resistance. Inman is also attributed with suggesting restricting local collections to within a radius of 16 kilometers – a recommendation that led to the regional adaptability program and ultimately – to the State Chapter system. According to Dr. Hebard, “Inman’s impact on the breeding program was enormous.”