M.K. “Curly” Cook, who served 31 years at the University of Georgia, was awarded the prestigious Georgia 4-H Lifetime Achievement Award at the Georgia 4-H Gala in Atlanta in August.
“Curly is truly one of the most special people that the college, the university, our department and our clientele have had the opportunity to have. And he’s made so much of an impact to so many people in a very, very positive way,” said Robert Stewart, a retired UGA Cooperative Extension animal scientist who nominated Cook for the award.
4-H'er, cattle farmer, livestock specialist
As a 4-H’er, Cook participated in the junior livestock program. He earned a degree in animal science from Panhandle State University in Oklahoma. He moved to Georgia in 1959 to manage a cattle farm in Barnesville. He continued his education at UGA, where he earned a master’s degree and then a doctorate.
He joined UGA Extension as an assistant county agent in Mitchell County in southwest Georgia. After only a few years, he was tapped to be an area livestock specialist. He was then promoted to state livestock specialist and relocated to Athens, where he was considered the most versatile livestock specialist in the state.
He supervised the newly formed Georgia Beef Cattle Improvement Association. Under his leadership the program grew to be one of the largest and most effective in the country. He was also a pioneer in the National Beef Improvement Federation.
In 1981, he was named head of the Extension animal science department. In this position, he developed several signature programs and made UGA a leader in Extension animal science education.
Rallied for Perry fairgrounds
Cook’s crowning achievement was helping to organize and rally for the creation of the Georgia National Agricenter and Fairground in Perry, Ga. He wanted a place where Georgia 4-H and FFA could honor, support and host junior livestock shows. In 1991, it was built. Every year, more than 1,000 youths are able to exhibit livestock there.
“Due to Curly’s innovation and hard work, we’ve been able to build what is recognized as the best junior livestock program in the eastern United States,” Stewart said.
In 1989, Cook became the associate director for agricultural programs at the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. He also served as director, vice president and then president of the Georgia County Agricultural Agents Association.
After retirement in 1992, Cook continued to serve and support the agricultural community as president of the Georgia Cattleman’s Association and the UGA Ag Alumni Association. In 2005, Gov. Sonny Perdue appointed Cook to the Georgia Agrirama Development Authority.
Cook is a member of the Panhandle State Alumni Hall of Fame, the Georgia Cattleman’s Hall of Fame, and the Georgia Agricultural Hall of Fame. He has received the National Ag Alumni Volunteer Award and Southern Ag Workers Award, Georgia Honorary Farmers Award, National BIF Award, AG Alumni Extension Award, and BIF Pioneer Award.