Honoring the county’s agricultural legacy

Farm Bureau’s Lynn Foster presented Leo Simmons at the Anderson County 4-H and Agriculture Hall of Fam luncheon Sunday. Foster is seen hugging a family member of Mr. Simmons after his induction.
They represented the backbone of Anderson County’s agricultural development during a period of time when farming was being pushed aside by Manhattan Projects and Interstate roadways.

They were “old school.”

Fueled by a work ethic and a sense of duty, the inaugural inductees in the Anderson County 4-H and Agriculture Hall of Fame, were mentors and friends who guided farm owners and 4-Hers in the county following World War II.

This newly established Hall of Fame recognition “seeks to honor and preserve the legacy of the men and women who have provided outstanding leadership and service to Anderson County in the areas of agriculture and 4-H youth development.”

Sunday at The Hollingsworth Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership, E.F. “Red” Ivens – Agriculture Extension Agent; L.M. McIlwain – Vocational Agriculture Teacher; Leo Simmons – Farm Bureau Agent and Manager; and the Meredith Family (Lynn, Joel, Joe, J.B., and Grace) – Local farming enterprises and ag business leaders, were honored for their legacy.

Stories told by the presenters were funny, sad, emotional … A telling sign of the impact these ag leaders had on the lives of those who knew them.

“He liked to tell a story,” Lynn Foster said of Leo Simmons when he presented his Hall of Fame honor.

Foster related how during one of his “talks,” a young associate had to leave in the middle.

“I get a call saying Leo’s down at Brewer’s Hardware getting new locks for the doors of the office,” Foster laughed.

Later, he recalled, Simmons called him and asked if he was going to the Farm Bureau office early the next morning. Simmons needed someone to let the associate in the building. “He doesn’t have a key,” Simmons told Foster.

Foster also pointed out that Simmons was a known player of practical jokes.

While talking about E.F. “Red” Ivens, former Anderson County Extension Agent Hoe Hall said Ivens spent a lot of time in the field, talking with farmers, “Anything to be out of the office.”

Ivens graduated from the University of Tennessee in 1942 and like almost every young man during that time, served his country in the military. Ivens began his tenure as the county’s Agricultural Extension Agent on Feb. 1, 1949, retiring in 1951.

Anderson County Commissioner and Anderson County High School FFA leader Phil Warfield presented the Hall of Fame honor for L.M. McIlwain, “Mr. Mac,” a longtime ag teacher at Clinton High School.

In an emotional speech Warfield talked about how McIlwain would spend his own money to buy medical supplies for farm animals.

“There weren’t any veterinarians at the time so Mr. Mac took upon himself to go to the drug store and purchase the medical supplies — with his own money,” Warfield said.

Warfield presented “Mr. Mac’s” award to a group of former students who attended Sunday’s induction ceremony.

Bear Stephenson presented the Meredith Family with its induction honor — getting County Commissioner and President of the Anderson County Chamber of Commerce Rick Meredith to come forward and help out.

Stephenson said all the Meredith Family were leaders in the agricultural community until Joel “got elected as Register of Deeds in Anderson County.

“Then he found out he liked being in the courthouse more than being on the farm.”