Ag. HOF inducts 7

Melvin Arnett was born on the family farm in Athens in 1925. He received his B.S. degree from Tennessee Tech University and his M.S. degree from the University of Tennessee. In 1948, he began his agricultural career with Carnation Milk in Tupelo, Miss. In 1950, he was transferred to the Carnation Milk Plant in Watertown. In 1954, he accepted the position of Assistant County Agent for the UT Agricultural Extension Service in Wilson County. In 1973, he was promoted to the position of County Agent. He served as Middle Tennessee District Supervisor of the UT Agricultural Extension Service from 1979 until his retirement in 1989. During his career with UT, he received the Distinguished Service Award. Locally, he was involved with the Kiwanis Club, Little League Baseball, Farm Bureau and was a 32nd Degree Mason. Arnett served as the Community Coordinator and helped to organize the Solid Gold Club at Wilson Bank & Trust. He was a member of the First Baptist Church in Lebanon.

Mr. and Mrs. E.J. Bilbro. Mr. Bilbro was the Wilson County Farm Bureau President from December 1962 until September 1982. Prior to his election as president, he was an elected Director for the Farm Bureau board of directors, where he continued until 1987. He held many offices for the Farm Bureau: President, Vice President and Secretary-Treasurer. While a director and officer, he served on the Executive Committee as well as several State and Regional committees. He was a Wilson County Voting delegate for the majority of the years he served on the board. He also represented Tennessee at the National Farm Bureau Convention on three different occasions. He was a member of the National Egg Council and appeared before a Congressional Committee in Washington, D.C. on its behalf. Mrs. Bilbro was a fierce supporter of her husband and his endeavors and a faithful advocate of agricultural issues in Wilson County and nationwide. She taught at Gladeville Elementary School for 42 years. They were huge supporters of Liberty University. They were a generous couple with their time, energy, and financial contributions.

Hugh "Buck" Evans was raised on the family farm in the Gladeville Community. His brothers were the following: Turner S. Evans, W. Kelly Evans and Haskell Evans. He was educated at the Concord School, graduated from Gladeville High School, received his B.S. degree from Tennessee Tech University and Master’s degree from Peabody College. His first teaching experience was in Mississippi and began teaching Agriculture at Lebanon High School in 1937. He retired in 1970. During his time at Lebanon High School, his students participated in Future Farmer of America Camps, Contests & Conventions. Eighteen of his former students received the prestigious "FFA American Farmer Degree." Evans "loved his boys" and when he would speak of a former student, he would say their name with a smile. In addition, he worked through the G.I. Bill to supervise the teaching of farming skills to World War II Veterans. He was active in the Lebanon First United Methodist Church, Lebanon Lions Club and the Munsey Grange.

Edward F. "Pop" Geers was born on Jan. 25, 1851, three miles west of Lebanon. One of his first harness horse racing victories was at the Wilson County Fair in 1872. He drove several Tennessee horses to world records. He blazed a trail of victories unsurpassed by any harness racer. Later in life, Geers moved to Maury County. The New York Times once called his "the greatest driver of pacers in the world. He was to the world of harness racing, what Shakespeare was to English Literature." Geers died at the age of 73 in 1924 as a result of injuries suffered while racing in Wheeling, W.Va. He was thrown from his rig and dragged behind the horse. He died doing what he loved. A 45-foot marker was erected in Columbia in 1926 by his fellow horsemen and friends from around the world in his memory.

Ben T. Powell graduated from Watertown High School in 1955. He received his B.S. and M.S. degrees from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville and worked his entire career for the Tennessee Agricultural Extension Service, focusing on youth development and education through the 4-H program. He started in 1959 as an extension agent in Rutherford County before moving to Knoxville in 1969 where he would spend the next 30 years on the staff of the State 4-H Office. In 1981, he was promoted to State 4-H Leader and guided Tennessee 4-H as it became one of the top programs in the United States. Tennessee’s sheep industry would not exist as it does today without the leadership of Powell. As a leader of the Tennessee Sheep Producers Association, the American Hampshire Sheep Association and through untold hours of volunteer work on fair boards and committees, he has been directly responsible for numerous programs that bring more people in touch with the sheep industry. He retired in 1997 and moved in 2002 to join his son, Mark, at the family farm in Watertown.

Dan Smith has lived and farmed in Wilson County all his life. In 1942, after the bottomland of the farm where he was born was taken by the construction of Old Hickory Dam on the Cumberland River, the Smith family moved to a farm in the Greenwood Community, just southeast of Lebanon. Smith continues to farm there, raising beef cattle — primarily Angus — along with hay and permanent pasture on 360 acres. He was once among Wilson County’s leading burley tobacco producers and at one time raised Tennessee walking horses. Smith bought stock in Wilson Farmers Cooperative, which was chartered on Nov. 22, 1949, when it was organized and was among its first customers when it opened for business in January 1950. In 1953, at age 22, Smith was elected to Wilson Farmers Co-op’s board of directors. In 1972, Smith was elected to Tennessee Farmers Cooperative’s (TFC) board, launching his productive and eventful nine-year tenure as a TFC director. He is one of the few directors to serve two terms as chairman of TFC’s board, holding the top position in both 1977 and ’81. In 2007, "Mr. Dan" received the Cooperative Spirit Award from TFC. Member-owners of rural electric cooperatives have also been well served by Smith, a valued member of the board of Murfreesboro-based Middle Tennessee Electric Membership Corporation — one of the nation’s largest electric co-ops — since 1971. Smith is the current president of the Wilson County Farm Bureau and has been on its board for more than 40 years.

"The purpose of the Wilson County Agricultural Hall of Fame is to recognize citizens of Wilson County who have made a significant impact on agriculture in Wilson County, Tennessee, nationally or worldwide," said State Rep. Stratton Bone, the chairman of the Wilson County Agricultural Hall of Fame. "We feel the time is right to pay tribute to these very deserving individuals. As you can tell, each has made significant contributions to Wilson County Agriculture, as well as Wilson County in general."

Other members of the Board of Directors of the Hall of Fame are Hale Moss, vice chairman; Keith Harrison, secretary; Diane Major, treasurer; and Ruth Correll.

The organizers are establishing a non-profit status for the organization to enable them to raise money to be used to the establishment of a building on the Ward Agricultural Center to be dedicated to the individuals inducted into the Wilson County Agricultural Hall of Fame.

"Any funds raised over and above the costs of putting on the annual banquet will be set aside for the building," Major said.

Tickets for the April 7 banquet can be purchased from Major by calling 444-1890 ext 3. The cost is $15 each. Jordan’s Catering will be preparing the meal that evening.

"We want folks to come together to recognize these deserving individuals on April 7," Bone said. "We owe these folks a great deal of gratitude for everything they have done for agriculture as well as Wilson County."