A decades-long connection through 4-H and agriculture was honored recently after one Gladeville man gifted a quilt to a longtime mentor.
Dr. Mike Harris said he was “lucky” to win a sheep-themed quilt at this year’s Century Farm luncheon at the Wilson County Fair Tennessee State Fair. He said he immediately knew he wanted to give the quilt to a man that greatly influenced his life and career.
“If you look at me, I don’t look like a very lucky guy, but I am the luckiest guy in the world,” said Harris, who said he became interested in 4-H at Gladeville Elementary School in the early 1960s, which led him to meet Ben Powell.
Harris said he was raised on a cattle farm and when his parents would drop him off at cattle shows, Powell would become a parent figure.
Powell, who was a 4-H agent in Rutherford County for 10 years, eventually became the Tennessee 4-H director during a 30-year career at the state office.
“He was in charge of the entire Tennessee 4-H program and built it into what I believe it is today. It’s the best 4-H program in the country,” Wilson County Family and Consumer Sciences extension agent Shelly Barnes said.
“I couldn’t think of anybody more deserving of a quilt with sheep than Mr. Ben. When he goes to the sheep shows with his granddaughters, he’s got something to cover up with,” Harris said. “I can’t think of a better place for it to be than Mr. Ben Powell’s care.”
The quilt is compiled of dozens of square quilts that were entered into the fair’s yearly quilt competition and sewn together to be given away at the Century Farm luncheon.
Barnes and Harris credited Powell with mentoring thousands of children that chose agricultural careers because of his influence, including themselves.
Harris graduated Cumberland College, the University of Tennessee and the University of Auburn’s veterinarian school before opening his own veterinarian practice in Mt. Juliet.
“I never worked a day in my life after I graduated from vet school because I loved every minute of veterinary medicine,” said Harris.