Earl Cheek of Perry, Tommy Irvin of Mt. Airy and Josiah Phelps of Fort Valley have been inducted into the Georgia Agricultural Hall of Fame at the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.
Named by the UGA CAES Agricultural Alumni Association, Hall of Fame members are chosen based on their contributions to Georgia agriculture.
For 37 years, Cheek taught vocational agriculture to the students of Perry High School. Over his career, he established two vocational agriculture departments, advised 19 National Golden Emblem Future Farmers of America Chapters and seven state chapter winners. He taught 25 American Farmers Degree and 250 Planters Degree recipients.
Cheek was dedicated to making farmers' voices heard in Washington. From 1974 until 1983, he worked as an administrative aid to Senator Sam Nunn and then to the late Congressman Richard Ray.
For the past 31 years, Irvin has been elected to serve as Georgia's Commissioner of Agriculture. He has worked to make the Department of Agriculture one of Georgia's most efficiently and economically run agencies and one of the most progressive in the nation.
In the early '70s, hog cholera was declared eradicated through procedures implemented by Irvin's efforts. The U.S. Department of Agriculture adopted his plan nationally, which led to a hog cholera-free nation in 1978.
Irvin has implemented eradication programs for brucellosis and tuberculosis in livestock, and Georgia has since become free of these diseases. He also helped develop and successfully implement the Boll Weevil Eradication Program.
Irvin established the departments first international trade section. As a result of this section's efforts, exports of Georgia farm products rose from $204 million in 1972 to an estimated $1.1 billion in 1998.
Phelps has touched the lives of countless vocational agriculture students since accepting his first teaching job in 1946. His teaching career began at Waynesboro High and Industrial School and expanded to include the entire state.
In 1953, he was named executive secretary of the New Farmers of America, an organization for black students, and director of Camp John Hope, a facility for young agricultural students.
When the New Farmers of America and Future Farmers of America merged during integration, Phelps became assistant FFA executive secretary. Phelps was named FFA executive secretary in 1980 and held the position until he retired in 1982.
(Sharon Omahen is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)