|The FFA Sentinel|
|The FFA Sentinel|
Richard Lester Jones, Jr., of Carrollton won the National Prepared Public Speaking Contest at the 14th National FFA Convention in October 1941 at Kansas City, Missouri. According to the November 1941 issue of The Alabama Future Farmer magazine, "...when Jones started in the public speaking contest four years ago, he was not able to express himself at all. Realizing his handicap, he strived hard to overcome it, and he kept entering the contest each year with his eye on the state prize. By hard work, persistence and true determination, he surpassed his dream by winning the State, Tri-State, Southern Regional and National Contests." This was the first time an Alabama FFA member won the title of National FFA Public Speaker.
Jones was the oldest of six children. His mother had a nick name for each of her children and his was Red. He graduated from Carrolton High School (Pickens County) the year he won and was the valedictorian of his class. Upon graduating from high school, he enrolled in the University of Alabama (UA), where he remained until he joined the Army in January 1943. He served three years in the infantry during World War II.
Upon completion of his military duty, he continued his studies at UA where he obtained a law degree in 1949. He practiced law at Aliceville with his uncle, State Senator Albert Davis, until December 1950 when he was recalled into the Army. He served as an infantry officer till October 1952. He also served in the Active Army Reserve and was the Staff Judge Advocate of the 121st U.S. Army Reserve Command.
Jones later moved to Birmingham where he continued to practice law. He was elected to the Alabama Supreme Court in 1972 and was re-elected in 1978 and 1984, where he served as an Alabama Supreme Court Justice. He and his wife, Jean, had three children. He died on April 22, 1996.
Ed Morgan, wrote an article about Jones, which appeared in the Sunday, August 4, 1996, Tuscaloosa News. Morgan wrote, "‘Just call me Red,’ is what he would say on being introduced to someone. Red came to enter the University in 1941. When the dean of students wanted to know how he expected to make it financially, as he only had $50, Red replied he was hoping that the dean could get him on with the work crew at the University. Further, he said he would soon have $300. The dean wanted to know how he expected to come with a sum like that. Red explained that he belonged to an organization called Future Farmers of America, and they were awarding that sum to the winner for the best speech at the National Convention. Red said, ‘I’m going to win that money.’ And he did." Below is a copy of Jones’ winning speech.
The Soil: A National Heritage
The good earth is our greatest heritage and resource. How have we taken care of it?
Today we are being forced to defend both our natural resources and our American way of life. Martial airs are being played and we are singing "God Bless America." Congress is appropriating unnumbered billions of dollars for this emergency. Let us meet this world crisis like men and may it soon be over. While it is necessary to defend our American way of life, it is also necessary to defend our American means of making a living.
God has blessed America. No nation of the world can boast of a larger or richer possession of natural resources than our own. And, of all these gifts of nature, the soil is the most indispensable. From it we get our living and most of our wealth. It is the foundation of most of our welfare and prosperity. The supply of soil may seem inexhaustible; but it is not.
A proud horse owner, thoughtlessly leaving his stable doors unlocked, awoke in the early morning to discover his most highly prized horse had been stolen. He laid awake many nights, thinking about how careless he had been. America has been like this by its soil. After a comparatively short time, America has awakened to find a great part of her soil lost. These losses are the direct result of the process of soil erosion which in turn is the result of the improper management and misuse of our land. This problem of land use has been and is today one of the most important problems that could possibly face this nation.
The history of different nations shows us that when the people use the land wisely, the nation grows and prospers; but, on the other hand, where the land is misused and wasted, the nation begins to decay. China, through the misuse of its soil, has produced the most spectacular land damage in the world. The failure to recognize the value of its soil resources resulted in poverty and poor economical conditions for the Roman Empire and played a large part in its collapse. On the other hand, France, Germany and other countries of Western Europe which have been following a positive program of land improvement have the world’s most stable agriculture and the least soil erosion.
A new nation on virgin soil seldom troubles itself with this problem of land use. Our own American attitude shows no exception of this rule. When the pilgrims landed on the shores of New England, they found a continent covered with virgin forests and grass. Under this protective covering, the rate of soil removal was exceedingly slow. This was Mother Nature’s plan of conservation.
Acknowledging the fact that Mother Nature has, beyond all doubt, played her part by the soil, then upon whom do we lay the blame for our soil’s destruction? By rights we can blame only man – man and his selfish motives in handling the soil.
Most of our trouble with land use today is due to the lack of land policy during the early settlement of our country. The land policy consisted merely of disposing of the public domain as speedily as possible. This was natural, for the primary need then was to subdue a forest. This is where erosion began in America. Man tried to change the plan of Mother Nature. Forests were slashed down and vegetation destroyed by overplowing and overgrazing. The removal of the forests made flood more acute and added to farm distress. On overplowed slopes, the fertile soil soon slipped away; and, when the grass covering was gone, the range land was soon ruined. On dry areas where the land was left unprotected, the dust storms took their toll.
Soil depletion can be regarded as the first and biggest factor in our national farm problem. In a country of about two billion acres of land, erosion has already seriously damaged 280 million acres. About 50 million acres are unfit for cultivation. Wind and water remove about three billion tons of soil from our land each year. About 730 million tons of fertile soil are carried into the Gulf of Mexico annually by the Mississippi River alone. All told, more than half of all the land we have has been affected in some degree. With the country as a whole under cultivation less than a hundred years, we have lost 14 percent of our land and put another 35 percent on the move. The United States has wasted its soil resources faster than any nation or race that ever attempted to practice agriculture on an extensive scale.
Soil destruction lead to abandoned farms and run-down communities. When the soil goes, near-by towns feel harmful effects too. Thousands of families have become agricultural wanderers. Other thousands remain on cropped-out land in extreme poverty. Almost without exception, farm people on severely eroded land are ill-clad, ill-fed and ill-housed. As long as this destruction of the soil continues, we cannot hope to achieve a truly sound and lasting national prosperity in this nation. In one way or another – through increased taxes, higher cost of living or impoverishment of basic resources – erosion is hitting us all; and the total damage is not less than $840 million every year.
The solution of this problem calls for national effort. The solution will be difficult. This is not a problem of only today; it is a problem of the future. "It is the first principle of political science that the state has immortal life. All wise plans must be based upon the hypothesis of national existence. Obligations of the present generation to those generations of the future cannot be precisely defined, but every step forward in civilization means an increased regard for the interest of the future."
Only in the last decade has this problem been brought to the attention of the people. Research and educational projects carried out by the United States Department of Agriculture, Soil Conservation Service and State Colleges of Agriculture have provided the scientific facts to be used in soil erosion control and efficient land use.
However, education, research and planning alone are not enough. Because the farmer has such a large share of the conservation job, it is only fair the rest of the nation help him. The government is helping him through legislation. The Agricultural Adjustment Administration (AAA) has become a vital part of the erosion control program. To conserve our soil and provide greater comfort and security for the millions living on American farms is part of a definite plan. By helping those on the land, the AAA program helps those in the towns.
The AAA program protects the farmer’s soil and income through acreage allotment. It pays for building terraces, planting winter legumes, contour furrowing of pasture and range land, and strip cropping as soil building practices. It contributes to better living by encouraging farmers to grow more food for home use. It provides parity payments and crop loans. We hear much today about regimentation in totalitarian nations. This form of regimentation has not and should not come to America. I am not a "Red," but I believe we should mobilize the American farmers and resources of the government in combating the misuse of our land.
Although the government can and is playing a great part in the solution of this problem, I still believe small farm organizations and individuals can play the greatest part in solving the soil problem. The soil conservation districts are organizations set up for the purpose of the soil defense.
This organization is set up by small groups of farmers and it embodies the spirit of community enterprise, 435 districts covering some 271 million acres having already been organized. But the greatest responsibility of soil conservation still lies upon the shoulder of the individual farmer.
Fellow Future Farmers, we are the pioneers of the new frontier of soil conservation. We have learned how to defend our land; we have the skill and the labor to do the job. All we need is the will to put the work on the land.
Then are we, as American citizens, going to sit idly by and see our land misused and wasted due to the lack of proper planning and utilization? Certainly the answer will be "No." Now is the time to act, act to bring the question of proper use to the consciousness of every true-blooded American citizen. Then we shall preserve our soil, the greatest of our national heritage and a vital part of national defense.