(This story was first published July 6, 2015)
CLEMSON — Retired Clemson University Extension agents Rowland Alston, Bill Craven and Bill Riser were inducted into the A. Frank Lever County Extension Agent Hall of Fame for their service to South Carolina residents and commitment to help improve the state’s economy.
The nationwide Cooperative Extension Service, which traces its roots to South Carolina, takes research-based agricultural and food-science knowledge from colleges and universities and, through the work of Extension agents, puts it in the hands of working people. It was created by the Smith-Lever Act of 1914, legislation that was co-authored by U.S. Rep. Frank Lever, a Lexington County native and Clemson trustee.
The hall of fame was created last year as Clemson University celebrated the 100th Anniversary of the Cooperative Extension Service to celebrate the careers of longtime county Extension agents.
“These are unsung heroes. They don’t receive recognition, but they work everyday to improve the lives of South Carolinians,” said Clemson Extension Director Thomas Dobbins.
About the inductees:
Rowland P. Alston is a recognizable face to many South Carolinians, having developed, planned and hosted the award-winning television show “Making It Grow” on South Carolina ETV from 1993 to 2012. His commitment to South Carolina agriculture and Clemson Extension goes much deeper, however. A recipient of the Order of the Palmetto, the highest civilian honor awarded by the governor of South Carolina, Alston began his career with Clemson Extension in 1970 as assistant county agent in Clarendon County. He also worked as an Extension cotton agronomist (1972-1997); an area field crops agent in Clarendon County (1977-1980); the county Extension chairman for Kershaw County (1980-1981); and the county Extension director for Sumter County (1981-1993).
“It’s important as you go through life to recognize that behind every award there’s a team,” Alston said, crediting his wife, Martha; family; friends; and Clemson colleagues for supporting him throughout his career.
William H. “Bill” Craven Jr. was a firm believer in farmer collaboration. While a county Extension agent in Saluda County from 1956 to 1971, he spearheaded the creation of farmer-owned and –operated cooperatives, such as Central Milk Producers, Saluda Artificial Breeding Cooperative, Ridge Mutual Ginnery and Ridge Farmers Mutual. Author of a weekly news column and host of a regular radio show, Craven long promoted agriculture in South Carolina and was a strong supporter of agriculture research at the Edisto Research and Education Center as well. Before his time in Saluda County, Craven was an assistant county agent in Edgefield County from 1953 to 1956. He continued his Extension career with the University of Georgia until 1989, hosting a regular television show that frequently featured agents and specialists from Clemson Extension.
“When I told daddy about this award and asked him what to talk about, he said, ‘talk about the farmer.’ He loved farmers,” said Craven’s daughter, Pamela Craven McKinsey, who accepted the award because Craven was unable to attend. “Agriculture was his passion, his life. It’s who he was.”
William “Bill” Riser worked for Clemson Extension for more than three decades, from 1957 to 1989, at appointments in Aiken, Saluda and Richland counties, but his service to the citizens of South Carolina did not end there. He served in the S.C. House of Representatives for 11 years following his retirement from Clemson. Riser was instrumental in ensuring a bright future for South Carolina agriculture through his support of 4-H and the development of the Central Milk Producers Show and Sale Arena, as well as the creation of the Saluda County Cattleman’s Association, the Annual Feeder Calf Sales and the Saluda Fatstock Shows at Saluda Livestock Market. A tireless promoter of Clemson Extension and South Carolina agriculture, Riser also was a regular contributor to WIS TV and The State newspaper in Columbia.
Riser said after the induction ceremony that he took particular pride in teaching youth about farming through 4-H, Extension’s youth-development program.
Alston, Craven and Riser became the second class inducted into the Hall of Fame and the hall’s first living members. The inaugural class included Lever and seven others. Read about those Hall of Fame members here.
Clemson Extension intends to induct another class in November.
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