Thomas H. Magness III – Colonel, United States Army

Colonel Thomas Magness; Environmental Official

Wednesday, January 5, 2005


Thomas H. Magness III, 67, a retired Army Colonel who helped the military meet its environmental obligations, died December 28, 2004, of complications from open heart surgery at the Veterans Administration hospital in the District of Columbia.

Colonel Magness, an Oakton resident and the second of three generations who rose to the level of Colonel in the Army Corps of Engineers, was born in Baltimore, Maryland. He graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York, in 1961 and was commissioned as an artillery officer. His West Point yearbook entry remembered him as a “loyal and enthusiastic member of the [company] L-2 team” and as one who kept the class “smiling in difficult times.”

Thomas Magness III emphasized natural-resource conservation.

He served in field artillery units in Florida, Kentucky, North Carolina and Turkey. In Vietnam, he served as an artillery battalion operations officer and in 1970 was wounded in action. He received a Silver Star and Purple Heart.

Colonel Magness transferred to the Army Corps of Engineers in 1974 and spent the remainder of his military career in Army environmental management positions at West Point, Fort Monroe, in Europe and with the White House Council on Environmental Quality. After serving as chief of the Army's Environmental Office at the Pentagon, he retired in 1986.

In 1994, he became a vice president at Tetra Tech Inc. He was based in Fairfax County, Virginia, and worked on Army-related environmental issues and with the Joint Stewardship Working Group. He helped National Guard units across the country with environmental assessments and taught courses at Duke University and West Point on the National Environmental Policy Act, the law designed to ensure that all branches of government give appropriate consideration to the environment before undertaking construction or engineering projects.

He enjoyed protecting wildlife, from the endangered blue butterfly in New Hampshire to the red-cockaded woodpecker in South Carolina, and both mentoring and advancing his students' knowledge of natural resource conservation.

Colonel Magness was active with the Northern Virginia U.S. Military Academy Class of 1961 organization, Christians in Commerce and numerous environmental and engineering organizations, including the Society of American Military Engineers and the National Defense Industrial Association.

He was awarded the Bronze Order of the de Fleury Medal in 2004 for a lifetime of service to the Corps of Engineers.

Survivors include his wife of 33 years, Dhana Lee Magness of Oakton; four children, Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Magness IV of Fort Irwin, California, John M. Magness of Lake Arrowhead, California, Paul S. Magness of Alexandria and Jennifer E. Perrier of Nashville; a brother, David M. Magness of Arlington; and five grandchildren.

MAGNESS, THOMAS H., III, COL., USA (Ret.), 67Of Oakton, Virginig on Tuesday, December 28, 2004. Beloved husband of Dhana L. Magness; father of Lieutenant Colonel Thomas H. Magness, IV, John M. Magness, Jennifer E. Perrier and Paul Scott Magness; brother of David M. Magness and the late Charles F. Magness; grandfather of Jenna, Chelsea, Shelby, John Michael Jr. and Gary Thomas.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at Fort Myer Old Post Chapel on Wednesday, January 5, 2005, at 10:45 a.m. Interment Arlington National Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the Chaplain's Service Fund, V.A. Hospital, Attn: Hospice Unit, 50 Irving St., N.W., Washington, DC 20422.

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