The annual Wilson County Agricultural Hall of Fame Banquet will be Tuesday, April 2, at the James E. Ward Agricultural Center in Lebanon and will honor four people who contributed much to agriculture in the community. The event will begin with a reception at 6 p.m., and the banquet will follow at 6:30.
The following individuals will be part of the seventh class of inductees into the Wilson County Agricultural Hall of Fame:
Robert S. Burton
Robert S. “Bob” Burton was born on Oct. 9, 1911 in the LaGuardo community of Wilson County. He received his elementary education in LaGuardo; graduated from Mt. Juliet High School in 1931; and was awarded his L.L.B. Degree from Cumberland School of Law at Cumberland University in 1933.
He volunteered to serve in the United States Marine Corps in 1943. He earned a Bronze Star, Silver Star, two Purple Hearts and a Gold Star in lieu of a 2nd Bronze Star for his military service in World War II, on the front lines of combat on Roi Namur, Saipan, Tinian, and Iwo Jima.
He bred Walker fox hounds, five-gaited trotters and horses from the great stallion, Nasr, at Travelers Rest Arabian Stud Farm in Nashville. In the late 1930s, the Burtons were one of the first to grow strawberries locally. He helped his dad and uncles raise one of the first “burley tobacco crops for sale” in Wilson County, a crop he continued to raise until 1977. In the late 1960s, his tobacco acreage was the largest single owner base in Wilson County. In 1936, he was first elected as a County Magistrate serving the 4th Civil District, Wilson County Court, then to the Tennessee 75th General Assembly as State Representative in 1946; then returned to elected office in Wilson County. He served on the first Wilson County Planning Commission and on the Road Commission and was one of the first directors of the Wilson County Library Board.
In 1975, Burton was chosen the official “Uncle Sam” for the 1976 Bicentennial Celebrations here in Wilson County. In March 1974 he made the motion to purchase 104 acres. While some said “that’s too much,” he had a vision for the future, and his leadership carried the day – it is that acquisition of property that led to the James E. Ward Agricultural and Community Center.
Burton passed away on Oct. 21, 1979.
Bobby Haley was born on Dec. 6, 1941, and raised on a farm in the Watertown/Alexandria area in Wilson County. In 1959, Haley graduated from Watertown High School after attending all 12 years. He continued his education at University of Tennessee, Knoxville. He delayed graduation by beginning active duty in the United States Navy and served in the reserves for two years. He served aboard aircraft carrier USS Independence in the Mediterranian, and in active duty until 1967.
Haley returned to college at Middle Tennessee State University where he was a charter member of the Block and Bridle Club, and graduated in 1968 with a degree in Agribusiness. He worked as a sales representative and poultry technician for Central Soya in Decatur, Ind. Then in 1969, he returned to the farm in Watertown and began raising tobacco and beef cattle. Also that same year he opened the Watertown Farm Supply and managed it until 1976, but continued to own it until 1993.
Haley served Wilson County in many capacities: District Commissioner (1982-2002), Chairman of the Finance Committee, Chairman of the Education Committee, Chairman of the Ag Center Committee, Board Member of Wilson Farmers Co-op, Wilson County Farm Bureau, Wilson County Livestock Association, and Wilson County Election Committee (2003-present) as Chairman and Secretary.
He has been a Wilson County Fair Board member since 1982 and Chairman of the Century Farm Luncheon beginning in 1993. Haley was the 1995 Soil Conservation Farmer of the Year. He is a Master Beef Producer and Gardener and Beef Quality Assurance Certified.
Fred G. Laine
Fred Laine was born May 18, 1928. He attended elementary and high school in Wilson County. He graduated from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville with a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture and Master of Science degree.
After college, he joined the United States Army and was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in 1953. Fred retired after more than 20 years of military service as a Lieutenant Colonel.
In 1975, Laine was asked to substitute at Lebanon High School teaching Agriculture. It turned into a full-time job lasting 15 years. During his teaching career, he touched the lives of many of his students and helped them prepare for life after high school. His students won many awards (local, state and national) because of his mentoring and teaching skills. Awards for the Lebanon FFA Chapter included Superior Chapter. He also had three students selected as State FFA President and two State FFA Vice-Presidents. Laine was the first FFA Advisor in Wilson County to be eligible to take a team to compete in the National Soil Judging Contest in Oklahoma.
In 1999 a number of Laine’s FFA students established the Fred G. Laine Memorial Scholarship administered by the Tennessee FFA Foundation. Laine served as a dedicated Wilson County Soil Conservation District Supervisor from 1976 until his death in 1997. The Wilson County Soil Conservation District has given the Fred G. Laine Memorial Land Judging Award to the High Individual since 1997 to honor his contributions to education and conservation in Wilson County.
Harold Patton was born on Oct. 3, 1935 in Crossville. During his early years the family moved several times whenever his Dad’s job led them. Patton began school in Franklin. The family moved to the family farm in Watertown when he was in the third grade and then he became a young farmer. He continued helping his Dad in the dairy and growing crops through his high school years.
Milking cows, football practice and games were time consuming, but Patton lettered four years and was team captain his senior year. He was active in FFA and music and was selected “Best All-Around Student.” After graduating from Watertown in 1953, he began working in Nashville with Ragland-Potter Company, a wholesale food distributer. In 1958, Patton joined Tennessee Farmers’ Cooperative, first working in inventory control, then moving to a buyer in the hardware department. After 11 years at Tennessee Farmers’ Cooperative, he came to Wilson Farmers’ Cooperative to work as assistant manager with Ira Partlow. When Mr. Partlow retired in 1969, Patton became manager. In 2002, Patton retired with 43 years of combined service to the farmers of Wilson County and Tennessee.
He has served on the board of directors for Wilson Bank & Trust for 25 years and is also a member of the Wilson County Fair Board as well as the Wilson County Livestock Association. He raises registered Angus and Chiangus cattle and owned the 1994 National Chiangus Champion Female and the 1995 National Chiangus Cow-Calf Champion. In addition, Patton received the Mike Baker Friend of the Fair Award from the Wilson County Fair.
A group of concerned Wilson Countians came together in 2007 to form the Wilson County Agricultural Hall of Fame. Agriculture has been a cornerstone of Wilson County from the day it was formed back in 1799. To recognize the contributions of the many folks involved in agriculture to the community, the Wilson County Agricultural Hall of Fame was organized. Each year, at least four Wilson Countians are recognized during a banquet designed to bring attention to Agriculture’s prominent place in our county.
“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 Hale Moss, 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 Wilson County Agriculture Hall of Fame are Ben Powell, vice chairman; Keith Harrison, secretary; Diane Major, treasurer; Ruth Correll and Stratton Bone. The organizers have established a non-profit status for the organization to enable them to raise money to be used for 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 2 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, which is another reason to join in on the festivities.
“We want folks to come together to recognize these deserving individuals on April 2,” Moss said. “We owe these folks a great deal of gratitude for everything they have done for agriculture as well as Wilson County.”