Johnny Morgan | 5/28/2008 12:16:10 AM
You can find interesting stories almost anywhere you look, but Louisiana 4-H has produced some gems since its inception in 1908.
To celebrate 100 years of 4-H in Louisiana, the LSU AgCenter’s 4-H Youth Development department identified 100 people who contributed to the growth and success of the organization in Louisiana.
Two of the 100, who were inducted into the Louisiana 4-H Hall of Fame, recently shared stories of how things have changed since their days with what has become the LSU AgCenter’s youth development and outreach program.
Delos Jones of Amite and George Simoneaux of Baton Rouge, both 4-H agents as young men, were part of the 100-year history of Louisiana 4-H.
Simoneaux, now 80 years old, said he began as a 4-H agent in St. James Parish after graduating from LSU in 1955.
While a 4-H agent in St. James Parish, Simoneaux became known as the man of new ideas. In 1956, he and his coworkers developed a safety program involving volunteer leaders, business leaders and 4-H Clubs.
The program, which received state and national honors, still thrives in St. James Parish more than 50 years later.
For Simoneaux, this was just the beginning of an interesting 4-H career.
“I stayed in that position about five years,” he said of his work in St. James Parish. Then he was asked to move to East Baton Rouge Parish to do 4-H work.
After moving to Baton Rouge, Simoneaux helped form the East Baton Rouge 4-H Foundation and started a bingo game to support 4-H activities in the parish. What he didn’t know then was that he was building a program that grew to a $1.5 million endowment by 1980.
In the early 1970s, Floyd Pendergrass, one of the foundation’s board members, offered the East Baton Rouge foundation the opportunity to buy 75 acres near Baker, Simoneaux said. A year or two later, Pendergrass offered an adjoining 78 acres for sale.
“So we now have around 150 acres, and this is where 4-H conducts a lot of their activities, like shooting sports,” Simoneaux said.
Simoneaux said he has seen significant changes in 4-H since his early days.
“I guess the biggest change has been in the livestock program,” he said. What had been large numbers of sheep and calves raised by 4-H’ers have transformed into large numbers of goats.
Just two parishes away in Tangipahoa Parish, Delos Jones, who lives alone and is a little hard of hearing, is 90 years old.
Jones said when he started with the Louisiana Cooperative Extension Service in 1946, all county agents started out doing 4-H Club work.
“I’m not so good on dates now, but when I came back from World War II, I was doing a little special work with the poultry specialist for about six or eight months before getting hired as a 4-H agent,” he said.
Jones said he is one of a few agents who actually worked for a long time in the same parish.
“Normally, 4-H agents would stay in that position for about five years. Then they would become a county agent and start doing adult work,” he said.
Jones said after about five years of 4-H work, he was asked to work on a special project called farm and home development. From then on, his responsibilities were directed at adults.
One focus of his work was with what was known as truck farming.
“Back then, we would ship railroad cars full of strawberries to Chicago, and they would branch out from there across the country to the various markets,” he said.
Jones said he remembers 1935 to be the year that he entered LSU, because that was the year Louisiana’s outspoken governor, Huey Long, was assassinated, and Jones attended the funeral at the Capitol.
Some of Jones’ accomplishments include working as a 4-H agent from 1946 to1955 and training agents like Edgar Boone, who went on to become the director of extension in North Carolina.
Writer: Johnny Morgan at (225) 578-8484 or firstname.lastname@example.org