The family of Yoakum, to which the President of the St. Louis & San Francisco Railroad Company belongs, was formerly settled in Tennessee, and later in the State of Texas, Three brothers, M. Yoakum, F. L. Yoakum, a physician, and Henderson Yoakum, the historian, were among the early settlers of the Lone Star State, whither they went from East Tennessee in the first half of the last century. They made their home in Limestone County, in the rich region between the Brazos and Trinity rivers, and there F. L. Yoakum engaged in the practice of his profession.
B. F. Yoakum, the subject of the present sketch, was born in Limestone County, Texas, in August, 1857, his parents being Dr. F. L., and Mrs. E. N. Yoakum. After finishing his education (at Trinity University) he decided to enter the railroad business, which at that time and in the western part of the United States was rapidly expanding and was offering promising opportunities to ambitious and energetic young men.
His first railroad experience was on the International & Great Northern Railway, then under the management of H. M. Hoxie. After serving an apprenticeship in operation, he entered the office of the General Passenger Agent of the same company, and there made himself master of that branch of the business. His next move was to Atlanta, Georgia, where he was put in charge of the southeastern passenger business of the road. Later he was transferred to San Antonio, Texas, where he served for some time as Division Freight Agent of the International & Great Northern.
While Mr. Yoakum was thus engaged at San Antonio, the construction of the San Antonio & Aransas Pass Railroad was begun. As soon as it was sufficiently advanced to begin business, Mr. Yoakum was invited to take charge of its general traffic operations, and did so with much success. After a time he was appointed Assistant General Manager, and finally General Manager of the San Antonio & Aransas Pass Railroad, in charge of all its affairs.
From this work Mr. Yoakum was called, in April, 1893, to be Vice-President and General Manager of the Gulf, Colorado & Santa Fe Railroad. These places he filled with much acceptability for more than three years. He was, on July 18, 1896, elected Vice-President and General Manager of the St. Louis & San Francisco Railroad, with offices at St. Louis, Missouri, and filled those places until June, 1900. At the latter date the President of the road, D. B. Robinson, was compelled by ill health to resign his office, and Mr. Yoakum was thereupon elected to succeed him. Mr. Yoakum remains at the present time President of that railroad, which under his administration is enjoying marked prosperity, and has, through its many absorptions of other lines and newly constructed lines, grown from a small, practically unknown system of 1000 miles, to 4000 miles with 1200 miles additional under contract, which will make the system of road which Mr. Yoakum has built up within about three years over 5000 miles.