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National honor goes to Tommy Irvin.

By Cheryl Varnadoe
University of Georgia

Georgia Commissioner of Agriculture Tommy Irvin is the newest member of the National 4-H Hall of Fame. Irvin received the honor during the National 4-H Conference in Chevy Chase, Md., Oct. 5.

Irvin and 19 other inductees were selected for their contributions to 4-H and its nearly 7 million members. 4-H is the youth development program of U.S. land-grant universities.

Commissioner, 4-H supporter for decades

Georgia's commission of agriculture since 1969, Irvin has served in many leadership roles that have benefited the Georgia 4-H program. For more than 20 years, he has actively served on the Georgia 4-H Foundation Board of Trustees and on other 4-H and University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences advisory committees.

"I've been involved in 4-H for more than 50 years," Irvin said. "I was a strong supporter when I was on the local school board, president of the Georgia School Boards Association, a state legislator and chief of staff for the governor and certainly have been the many years I have served as agriculture commissioner."

A 4-H donor, Irvin and his wife Bernice endow a scholarship for 4-H members and have leveraged and authorized hundreds of thousands of dollars to benefit 4-H.

"4-H scholarships allow young people to continue to build on the skills and knowledge they learned through the 4-H programs," he said. "We've seen the many varied opportunities for development that 4-H programs have afforded young people across the state, including our daughter, who was a national winner."

Eradicated hog cholera, boll weevil

As the state's agriculture commissioner, Irvin's efforts led to the eradication of hog cholera in the early 1970s. The U.S. Department of Agriculture adopted his plan nationally, which led to a hog-cholera-free nation in 1978.

Irvin also implemented eradication programs for brucellosis and tuberculosis in livestock, and Georgia has since become free of those diseases. He developed and successfully implemented the Boll Weevil Eradication Program, too. Irvin's other honors include serving as dean of Georgia's Constitutional Officers and chairman of the Georgia Development Authority and Georgia Seed Development Commission.

He's a member of the Georgia State Financing and Investment Commission, Georgia Agrirama Development Authority and Georgia State Employee Benefits Plan Council and an ex-officio member of 11 Georgia agricultural commodity commissions.

Irvin is the only Georgian ever to serve as president of the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture. He is also past president of the Southern Association of State Departments of Agriculture and the Southern U.S. Trade Association, an organization that promotes the export of Southern food and agricultural products.

The National 4-H Hall of Fame was unveiled in 2002 as a 4-H centennial project. For more information, visit the National 4-H Hall of Fame Web site at www.nae4ha.org/hof.

(Cheryl Varnadoe is a state 4-H specialist with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)

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