Three named Southern University Agricultural Legends
Three individuals were recognized as Louisiana Living Legends during the fifth annual Louisiana Small Farmer Conference at the Southern University Agricultural Research and Extension Center on March 20.
They are Bobby R. Phills,Ph.D., program director for the Science Center and professor in the College of Engineering Sciences, Technology and Agriculture at Florida A&M University in Tallahassee; Freddie Johnson, a retired Southern University food and nutrition professor, of Baton Rouge; and Elvadus Fields, former county agent and farm management specialist at Southern, now retired, of St. Joseph.
These three join 15 others who have been honored with this distinction since 2005.
“The Louisiana Living Legends Award is an opportunity to honor heroes with ties to the Southern University Agricultural Research and Extension Center for their years of selfless service,” said Dawn Mellion-Patin, Ph.D., agricultural specialist and organizer of the small farmer conference.
Phills is the former dean and research director of the College of Agricultural, Family and Consumer Sciences at Southern. In this role he created the Beginning Agricultural Youth Opportunities Unlimited (BAYOU) Summer Enrichment Program, which exposed hundreds of high school students across Louisiana to the broad array of careers in the agricultural sciences.
“This program was responsible for placing hundreds of student interns at major research universities, in private industry and with the USDA,” Mellion-Patin said.
Johnson served for 36 years in the Department of Human Nutrition and Food at Southern. Before that she was supervisor of food service for the state Department of Education. Her activities included sensory evaluation and establishing a staff sensory panel, design of a food research sensory evaluation area and a home economics space utilization study. Her research included the palatability of “rabbit nuggets” and other alternative food products for limited resource families.
Fields was a county agent for the Louisiana Cooperative Extension Service for 32 years and then became a farm management specialist for Southern. He has been a supporter of the SU Livestock Show and was responsibility for bringing more than 150 youth to show animals for more than 50 years. He was a founding member of the Delta Livestock Enterprise and Northeast Louisiana Black Farmers and Landowners Association.
During this year’s small farmer conference, the 125th anniversary of the establishment of the 1890 land-grant universities was also celebrated, said Gina E. Eubanks,Ph.D., vice chancellor for extension at the Southern Ag Center and program leader for nutrition and food sciences at the LSU AgCenter.
Southern University is one of 19 universities across the country with 1890 land-grant status. In 1890, Congress passed the Second Morrill Act with the stipulation that Blacks were to be included in the land-grant university system. The first Morrill Act was signed into law by Pres. Abraham Lincoln in 1862. There is an 1862 land-grant university in every state including LSU in Louisiana.
The other 15 Living Legends include Bernestine McGee, Floyd Jenkins, Elsie Cyrus, Samuel Donald, Alonzo Chappell, Sara Sims, Pecola Scott, Willie T. Sensley, Owusu Bandele, Leodrey Williams, James McNitt, James Archie, Solon Marshall, Kirkland Mellad and Wesley Crawford.
By Linda Foster Benedict