Sunday, February 16, 2014

Tribute to Fallen Agricultural Leader: Benjamin Wesley Kilgore, 1944

From “Carolina Farm Notes” by F.H. Jeter, Extension Editor, N.C. State College, as published in the Southern Planter, February 1944

North Carolina’s great agricultural leader, Dr. Benjamin Wesley Kilgore, former Dean of Agriculture and director of the Agricultural Experiment Station and Extension Service at State College, died in Raleigh on Monday evening, December 27 at 7:15 o’clock. His end came without suffering, surrounded by member of his family, and it closed the career of one of the most useful men that agricultural education in the State has ever known. At the time of his death, Dr. Kilgore was serving as State Chemist, largely in an advisory capacity.

He was a native of Lafayette County, Mississippi, and a graduate of the A. & M. College of that State. He came first to North Carolina in 1889 as assistant chemist for the North Carolina Agricultural Experiment Station. He returned to his native state in 1897 to become professor of chemistry and State Chemist but after two years in his old home, was called back to North Carolina where he remained until his death.

He served as director of the North Carolina Experiment Station from 1901 until 1907 and again from 1912 to 1925 when the Station was operated by a joint committee for agricultural work representing the State College and the State Department of Agriculture. He conceived the idea for the establishment of branch station farms during his first directorship and selected the locations for these useful research units. In 1914, when the Smith-Lever Act was passed, he was appointed the first director of Extension and served until 1925. In 1921 he added to his duties by accepting appointment as Dean of Agriculture at State College, holding this position until he retired from college work in 1926.

Dr. Kilgore was honored by both Davidson and State College with honorary doctor’s degrees; he was awarded a certificate of meritorious service in agriculture by the N.C. State Grange; another certificate by the National Farm Bureau Federation, and, in many other ways, he became the recipient of the gratitude and understanding of rural people. Dr. Kilgore was father of the Association of Southern Agricultural workers, serving as secretary of the Association from 1899 to 1911. This Association presented him with a plaque for distinguished service to Southern agriculture because of his efforts to coordinate agricultural research throughout the South.

He was one of the pioneers in the cooperative movement in North Carolina, a promoter of the livestock industry and a successful business man.

Throughout his entire career as an educational leader, Dr. Kilgore’s remarkable facility to see ahead made him an outstanding person. Plans were made in research and extension from year to year to fit into a long-time program which would have for its ultimate purpose the building of a more permanent type of agriculture. Men who worked under him were allowed a remarkable degree of independence  to develop their own ideas. Largely because of his wise leadership, North Carolina has become the great agricultural state that it is today.

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