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Folk able to remember the 1930s and 1940s are part of what former NBC news anchor, Tom Brokaw, called the "greatest generation." This statement is especially true for those who fought in World War II. October’s article discussed Alabama FFA activities that occurred in the 1930s. This month’s article will discuss FFA events from 1940-1945. Did you ever wonder what contests were won by FFA members from your chapter in these years? Or, what was going on in FFA chapters throughout the state? For those who were members in these years you already know. But for those like me, who have no idea, much less an imagination to envision events transpiring in the war years, we are bound by the written record to maintain the Alabama FFA happenings of the 1940s.

In the 1940-41 school year, the Alabama FFA Association had 5,837 members, an increase of 540 members from 1939-40 and 24 new Chapters totaling 202 Chapters. Among the active membership there were 3,652 Green Hands, 2,098 Future Farmers, 84 State Farmers and three American Farmers. L. C. Fitzpatrick, Gaylesville High School, was elected State President. More than 1,000 members attended the State Convention at Auburn. Sixty-four of Alabama’s 67 counties had at least one FFA Chapter.

Mr. J.W. Locke, advisor of the Pell City FFA, wrote an article for the March 1941 Alabama Future Farmer, in which he shared "a few of the things I have found that make a successful, smooth-working FFA Chapter." (Mr. Locke expounded upon each of the following concepts, but because of space limitations they have been shortened.)

1) Chapter meetings year round. 2) Frequent meetings of officers to plan chapter operations. 3) Officers should thoroughly understand their duties and hold practice sessions until they are at ease and in command of the situations in their chapters. 4) The advisor should keep his seat during meetings, unless specifically asked to say something. 5) Always have programs planned and ready to go when the time comes to start. 6) See that a calendar of programs is planned for the entire year. 7) Every member should own a manual. 8) Separate FFA programs from regular classwork. 9) Engage in lots of activities and have it known by the members and community. 10) Balance recreation with other activities. 11) Officers should learn the mechanics of opening and closing meetings without referring to a manual. 12) Every member should be given something to do and everyone should be on a committee. 13) Make use of publicity. 14) Always see due recognition is given a member for doing a job for the Chapter, regardless of what it is. 15) Insist all members do something to promote the Chapter. 16) The advisor should find ways to insist members study FFA work by question sheets, talks, contests and quiz programs. 17) It always gives a member self-respect to pay his own dues.

These concepts, it appears, are as applicable today as when Mr. Locke wrote them 67 years ago.

Mrs. W.C. McCrary, English teacher at Riverton High School, located in Madison County, also wrote an article for the March 1941 Alabama Future Farmer.

"As an extra-curricula activity, I think the Future Farmers of America has more influence to its credit for the fine things of life, than any other school activity.

"Some of the best leaders of the county are products of this Chapter, receiving inspiration to make the most of every opportunity offered by the high school curriculum.

"FFA training is training for life situations, giving the boys high ideals of farm life and its fullness from the view point of real enjoyment. They learn to work and to play together harmoniously. They learn from their trips across country the appreciation of cultural values in life.

"Many a boy has received such inspiration from his FFA Conventions that his career has been fundamentally influenced, to the extent that his outlook on a profession has become an obsession, for which nothing is too difficult for its preparation.

"There is much that can be said in praise of the FFA, and its future has an even brighter outlook; its influence must be fleet in proportion to its growth with the years, which judging from the past will be phenomenal."

Amen, Mrs. McCrary.

A sidebar about Mrs. McCrary’s article from her first paragraph, where she mentions FFA is an extracurricular activity, is no more. In 1950, Congress passed Public Law 740 which made FFA an "intracurricular" part of the educational program. In other words, this law allows the FFA to operate effectively within the agriscience classroom and allows a staff member from the U.S. Department of Education to serve as the national FFA advisor. Today, the organization’s federal charter is part of Public Law 105-225, and two of the three top FFA administrative positions are in Washington, D.C. Another piece of information about Mrs. McCrary’s article is her reference to boys. Girls were not admitted into the FFA until 1969. Thus, for the first 40 years, FFA was a "boys" only organization.

R. L. "Red" Jones of Carrollton won the national Prepared Public Speaking Contest at the 14th National Convention in October 1941. His speech was titled, "The Soil: A National Heritage." In his speech, Jones appealed to the individual farmer to accept his responsibility in conserving the soil. Emphasizing the place of soil conservation in the national defense program, he asserts, "While it is necessary to defend the American way of life, it is also necessary to defend the American means of making a living."

The March 1942 Alabama Future Farmer had a message from the State Advisor, Mr. R.E. Cammack. He reminded FFA members about the war and that every citizen must do his/her part to help in any way. To the 6,000 members in the 206 Chapters in Alabama, Mr. Cammack asked each member to give careful considerations to the following: increase food production; assist in producing feed for present livestock and those to be added under the Food for Freedom Program; assist farmers in repairing, using and caring for farm equipment now on the farm so as to get the maximum use from it, thereby reducing the strain on industry producing our equipment; and cooperate in all war efforts.

Because of the war, the 14th State Convention was a one-day event the June 1943 Alabama Future Farmer stated. The State FFA Executive Committee decided a one-day business session was necessary for FFA members to better serve in the wartime year of 1943. The Committee decided the attendance should be limited to one delegate per Chapter, nominees for state office, candidates for State Farmer Degree, finalists in the public speaking contest and local advisors. If possible, the Committee urged the Chapter delegate be the new president and for local Chapters to cooperate in traveling to keep mileage as low as possible.

1944 saw Alabama’s 15th State Convention expanded to two days, actually a night and the following day, said the May 1944 Alabama Future Farmer. The State FFA Executive Committee set the same attendance requirements for 1944 as it did in 1943.

A statewide goal reported for 1944 was for more than 20,000 pieces of farm equipment to be repaired; surpassing 1943’s goal of repairing 10,000 pieces of farm equipment. Also, to aid in the war effort "every Future Farmer in Alabama is expected to include vegetable production in his supervised farming program," stated the February 1944 Alabama Future Farmer.

The first State FFA Sentinel was elected in 1944. Clarice Beech of the Chatom Chapter (Washington County) was privileged to hold the honor of being Alabama’s first State Sentinel.

The Hanceville FFA Chapter won the first FFA Quartet contest at the 1945 State Convention. In addition to a new quartet contest, the 1945 issues of the Alabama Future Farmer saw the inclusion of the "FFA Trading Post." Each edition had "for sale" or "want to buy" anything from pigs, ducks, chickens, calves, equipment, dewberry vines to Zoysia grass.

U.S. Representative John Sparkman, a Morgan County native, was awarded the Honorary State Farmer Degree at 1945’s State Convention. Sparkman served 12 years as a U.S. Representative, 30 years as a U.S. Senator and was "a believer and a booster in vocational agriculture and the FFA," said the June 1945 issue of the Alabama Future Farmer.

FFA members of the "greatest generation" have much in which to be proud: their ability to be outstanding role models, conservers of materials needed for the war, and examples of what can be accomplished in all types and kinds of adversity. To those of you who bravely blazed the trail, regardless if you were a state officer, state star farmer or a local FFA member, thanks.

Jacob Davis is the Executive Secretary for the Alabama FFA Association.



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Date Last Updated January, 2006