Hamilton County Agriculture Hall Of Fame Honors Locals

Thursday, December 05, 2013
Stephen and Randal Wilhoit, sons of Hall of Fame inductee Betty Wilhoit; Jeanette Eigelsbach, Distinguished Service Award recipient, and Patricia King-Mims, Special Achievement recipient. Not pictured: Ray Burden, Jr., Hall of Fame inductee.
Stephen and Randal Wilhoit, sons of Hall of Fame inductee Betty Wilhoit; Jeanette Eigelsbach, Distinguished Service Award recipient, and Patricia King-Mims, Special Achievement recipient. Not pictured: Ray Burden, Jr., Hall of Fame inductee.

Betty Wilhoit and Ray Burden are the 2013 inductees into the Hamilton County Agriculture Hall of Fame. Along with the inductees, Patricia King-Mims and Jeanette Eigelsbach received special honors. The purpose of the Hamilton County Agriculture Hall of Fame is to honor, preserve, and perpetuate the names and accomplishments of outstanding Hamilton County Agricultural Leaders and other present or former citizens of Hamilton County who have made noteworthy contributions in farming, silviculture, agricultural inventions, or other rural development accomplishments.

Betty Wilhoit was devoted to agriculture her entire life. Her parents were sharecroppers and she assisted on the farm growing cotton from a very early age. She graduated from Cohutta High School and Berry College. She and her husband, Ralph Wilhoit, continued to work their farm as they raised their two sons Stephen and Randal. They cared for hogs, beef cattle, row crops and timber on the farm. She was an active member of her community through as a member of the school PTA board and member of Mount Vernon Baptist Church. The farm, established in the 1940’s, is now run by her sons.

Dr. Ray Burden, Jr., is Research associate professor of Homeland Security at The University of Tennessee. He is the former Hamilton County UT Extension director. During his time in Hamilton County, he worked with the City of Chattanooga to develop a program to utilize small ruminants to control invasive plant species. He was a member of a state team of agents who worked with the UT Beef Specialist to develop the Tennessee Master Beef program which is offered by Extension agents throughout Tennessee. He was also instrumental in the growth and success of the Hamilton County Disaster Animal Response Team (DART). He provides education and support in the areas of: agro security, radiological emergency training, DART, and food emergency response. Each day he works on disaster planning and response which is critical to the agriculture community.

Patricia King-Mims is the 2013 Special Achievement recipient. She is committed to preservation through her work with the Lula Lake Land Trust. She previously worked for The Land Trust for Tennessee. She works to protect and preserve lands identified as natural and historic assets. She has worked with numerous landowners to develop conservation easements for permanent protection. Her efforts along with the landowner will protect scenic, wildlife or agriculture resources for generations.

Jeanette Eigelsbach is the 2013 Distinguished Service Award winner. She is director of Scenic Cities Beautiful and local education coordinator for the Tennessee Department of Transportation Litter Grant. Her work focuses on efforts related to litter cleanups, recycling and beautification. With a focus on conservation and natural resources, she has brought accolades to the area including: Tennessee Local Government Stewardship Award, National Honda Road to a Cleaner America Award and President’s Circle Award. Her efforts support her dedication to the beautification of the local landscapes.

Honorees and inductees into the Hamilton County Agriculture Hall of Fame are chosen by inducted members and committee members.  The committee members are representatives from agricultural agencies of Hamilton County including: Farm Bureau, Farm Credit of Mid-America, Hamilton County Soil Conservation District, River Valley Ag Credit Association, Tennessee Department of Agriculture Forestry Division, USDA – Farm Service Agency, USDA – Natural Resources and Conservation Service, and University of Tennessee Extension.

The present and future generations of Hamilton County citizens should be encouraged, enlightened, and elevated through the knowledge of those who have accomplished a successful life and created a rich history of agriculture in Hamilton County.  Officials said, "It is with great pride that the Hamilton County Agriculture Hall of Fame honors those individuals that have had such an impact in this community." The names of all Hall of Fame members are located in the Bennett-Barger room of the Crawley Agriculture Service Center.

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