(This story was first published November 18, 2015)
CLEMSON — Lifetimes of service from the Pee Dee to the Piedmont earned four South Carolinians induction into the Frank Lever County Extension Agent Hall of Fame at Clemson University.
The four — Bob Hubbard, Tommy Walker, Billy Witherspoon and Wallace Wood — served as Clemson Extension agents, delivering agricultural research and information to families who could put it to work in the South Carolina economy.
The hall of fame was created last year, the 100th anniversary of the Cooperative Extension Service, to honor the careers of “longtime, front-line county agents” whose work had an important economic impact on the communities they served.
It bears the name of U.S. Rep. A. Frank Lever of South Carolina, co-author of the Smith-Lever Act of 1914 that created the Extension Service nationally. Lever, a Lexington County native and Clemson trustee, envisioned a national program that would take research-based agricultural and food-science knowledge from colleges and universities and put it in the hands of working people.
“Frank Lever wanted to transform the United States through educational outreach called Extension. He knew the only way to effect that change was by educating the whole family,” said Clemson Extension Director Tom Dobbins. “The county agents we honor are examples of what Frank Lever’s vision meant not only to South Carolina, but also to the nation.”
“Our Extension agents are out there every day, finding out what the problems are and getting solutions from the research done here at the university,” said George Askew, vice president for Public Service and Agriculture at Clemson. “Extension is a legacy of Clemson. It’s the best model in the world for teaching technology.”
This year’s inductees are:
Robert Calvin “Bob” Hubbard Jr.
Through “the power of his personality and generosity of his spirit,” Hubbard became one of Clemson University’s most prolific and effective teachers. He began his career at Clemson when he joined Extension in 1942. From 1944 to 1961, he was a county agent in Bamberg. In 1961, he joined the agriculture communications department and was promoted to associate editor in 1964 and department head in 1965. In 1972, he became state director of training, where he served until his retirement in 1978.
Hubbard was cited as “prolific and energetic.” He won numerous awards, including the National County Agent Association Distinguished Service Award. His expertise spanned everything from crops and livestock to marketing and youth development. The award praises him as “a kind, patient and thoroughly dedicated professional.”
“I believe presenting the Frank Lever Extension Award to Bob Hubbard would not only recognize a well-deserving professional but would also enhance the award itself,” said Harry Durham, former associate vice president for university relations at Clemson in nominating Hubbard for the award.
John Thomas “Tommy” Walker
Widely known for his “endless energy and enthusiasm,” Walker became an Extension assistant county agent in Bamberg in 1979. From 1979 to 1981, he was an area entomologist at Edisto Research and Education Center (REC) in Blackville. For the next 30 years, he worked at the Jasper County office in a variety of capacities as the agronomic row crop agent for Jasper and Hampton counties. He also cheerfully filled in when needed in Allendale and other counties. He helped South Carolina cotton growers cope with a rapidly changing landscape of insect management.
The front seat of his truck was his office away from the office. He was one of the original Certified Crop Advisors in South Carolina, receiving his certificate in 1999. He was named a Distinguished County Agent and was a popular speaker at agricultural events across the Southeast. Over the course of his career, Walker also became one of the most respected growers in South Carolina.
“Without a doubt, Tommy Walker was the agent most respected by growers in the southern half of South Carolina,” said John Mueller, the director of Edisto REC. “In return, he treated them with respect and always gave them his full effort.”
William D. “Billy” Witherspoon
Witherspoon’s positive impacts on Horry County and the greater Pee Dee region are still being felt. He began his career at Clemson in 1956 as a York County Extension agent. From 1957 to 1964, he served as a Dillon County Extension agent and was the county’s director in 1964-69. He then served as Horry County Extension director from 1969 to 1990. Following his retirement, he represented the citizens of Horry County for 16 years as a member of the S.C. House of Representatives, District 105, where he became chairman of the Agriculture, Natural Resources and Environmental Affairs Committee, a position he held until his second retirement in 2008.
Witherspoon won numerous awards, including being named to Clemson University’s Commemorative Scroll of Honor and Extension’s Distinguished Service Award. During his lifetime of service, he is known as one of Clemson’s finest advocates.
“Billy faithfully served his alma mater in numerous capacities as Extension agent and county director,” said Blake Lanford, a regional lead agent for Extension. “The scope and influence of his lifetime of distinguished public service has rarely been matched.”
Wallace B. Wood
Wood began his career as an assistant county Extension agent in 1977. From 1979 to 1984, he was a McCormick County Extension associate leader. From 1984 to 1986, he was an Extension chairman associate in McCormick and then a chairman senior (1986-90) and director senior (1990-93). He became a senior agent for Abbeville, McCormick and Greenwood counties from 1993 to 2000. He finished his career as a distinguished county agent in Abbeville, Edgefield, Greenwood and McCormick counties from 2000 to 2009.
Wood was honored as a “dedicated professional who truly cared about his work. Among his many accomplishments, he built a successful forestry program from scratch, as well as a variety of program for farmers, youth and homeowners.” He won numerous awards, including Extension Superior Performance Award, the National Association of County Extension Agents Distinguished Service Award and the South Carolina Tree Farmer of the Year.
“I have seen firsthand Wallace’s dedication and passion in his work and service to his clientele and those in need,” said Greg Yarrow, professor of wildlife ecology and Extension wildlife specialist. “He has been a role model for many Extension professionals and has served as an invaluable mentor for many young Extension agents.”
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