Published on 09/22/05

Two Georgia ag pioneers inducted into Hall of Fame

By Faith Peppers
University of Georgia

Bill Roquemore and Alvin Newton, two pioneers in Georgia agriculture, were inducted into the Georgia Agricultural Hall of Fame during a ceremony in Athens Sept. 16.

The Hall of Fame is a program of the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

Known as the "Father of Center-Pivot Irrigation" in Georgia, Newton installed Georgia's first center-pivot system in 1967. And many people view Roquemore as the leading pioneer in commercializing Georgia forage and turf grasses.

During the banquet, the CAES also recognized Randy Nuckolls with the Alumni Association's Award of Excellence. The award is given to CAES alumni who have achieved excellence in their chosen field and in their community.

Newton led the way for the adoption of center-pivot irrigation throughout Georgia as part of his tractor and farm equipment business, Newton-Hamrick Company.

A native of Colquitt, Ga., he became interested in center-pivot irrigation in 1965. When he installed his first system, he photographed the effects of irrigated versus nonirrigated cropland. He used a slide presentation to show farmers the advantages of irrigation, which many had thought wasn't feasible.

He installed 12 systems in 1969 and doubled the number annually for many years. Georgia now has more than 11,000 center-pivot systems.

Roquemore's leadership and vision helped boost Georgia's turfgrass production to a $1.56 billion industry.

He began working at Patten Seed in 1947 and led the company until his death in '97. During his 50 years there, he advanced a small seed cleaning plant into an industry giant.

"The fact that Patten Seed grew under Mr. Roquemore's leadership into one of the leading warm-season grass seed, sod and sprig producers in the world is a strong statement to his business and personal leadership ability," said Ronnie Stapp, executive vice-president of seed operations for Pennington Seed, Inc.

Nuckolls, a 1974 summa cum laude graduate of CAES, has distinguished himself as a leader and a public servant through both his prominent professional career and his dedicated work with many Georgia organizations.

He is a partner in the law firm McKenna, Long & Aldridge in Washington, D.C. With his 28 years of experience in Washington, he developed a keen understanding of federal issues in public policy.

Faith Peppers is the director of public affairs with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.