Published on 08/29/17

Former transportation commissioner and poultry pioneer selected for Georgia Ag Hall of Fame

By Merritt Melancon

From the north Georgia chicken houses that put food on the table to the booming highway system that keeps the state moving, this year’s Georgia Agricultural Hall of Fame inductees have impacted all Georgians.

On Sept. 22, the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CAES) will induct former Georgia Department of Transportation Commissioner Wayne Shackelford and pioneering poultryman Bill Baisley into the Georgia Agricultural Hall of Fame.

The inductions will be part of the college’s Alumni Association Awards Banquet at the Classic Center in downtown Athens, Georgia. The public is invited to attend; however, tickets are required and must be purchased by Thursday, Sept. 7.

“We are excited about the 2017 Georgia Agricultural Hall of Fame honorees. Both inductees are well-deserving of the honor,” said CAES Alumni Association President Joel McKie. “They are outstanding additions and have made noteworthy contributions to agriculture in Georgia and beyond.”

The Georgia Agricultural Hall of Fame was established in 1972 to recognize individuals who made extraordinary contributions to agriculture and agribusiness in Georgia.

Inductees are nominated by members of the public and selected by the CAES Alumni Association’s awards committee. Those nominated must possess the following characteristics: impeccable character, outstanding leadership, noteworthy contributions to Georgia’s agricultural landscape, and recognition for achievements in agriculture as well as other areas.

Former inductees include agricultural historymakers such as D.W. Brooks, founder of Gold Kist; J.W. Fanning, former UGA vice president for services; and J. Phil Campbell Sr., founding director of Cooperative Extension in Georgia.

This year’s recipients — Shackelford and Baisley — have their own long list of accolades.

Baisley started his career in the poultry industry in 1959 and retired in 2003. During his almost 50 years in the business, he helped to shepherd the rise of broilers as they became the state’s most valuable commodity.

He worked his way up the ranks at Peterson Farms over 36 years, eventually becoming vice president of the company’s Southeast District.

He was a dedicated advocate for the poultry industry, but his advocacy never stopped at the door of the chicken house. He worked tirelessly with the Georgia Agribusiness Council. He served on the council’s board for 35 years and acted as chairman in 2003. 

“People are passionate about their own success. Bill is passionate about everyone's success in agriculture. That sets him apart,” said Mike Lacy, former head of the UGA Department of Poultry Science and longtime colleague of Baisley.

While Baisley advocated for better business conditions for farmers, Shackelford helped to create a better business infrastructure for metro Atlanta.

Shackelford, a native of Carrollton, Georgia, served as commissioner of the Georgia Department of Transportation from 1991 to 2000. He oversaw the completion of Georgia Highway 316 and the preparation of transportation plans for the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, all while he managed the overall growth of metro Atlanta traffic through the 1990s.

Shackelford interchanges are on Georgia highways in every corner of the state in his honor, but his most lasting legacy may be his work for UGA Extension in Gwinnett County and his lifelong support of Georgia 4-H.

“This morning I drove to work on Highway 316. I cannot drive to Burton 4-H Center or Rock Eagle 4-H Center without seeing Wayne Shackelford's influence. When I attend a state livestock show, I see Mrs. Anna, his daughter, and his granddaughter,” said Arch Smith, state 4-H leader. “These are but a few of the ways I know the Wayne Shackelford legacy will continue for decades. Most importantly, he pledged his life to support agriculture, 4-H and the citizens of Georgia.”

Before beginning his career in transportation planning, Shackelford served as the UGA Extension agent in Gwinnett County for 12 years between 1960 and 1972.

Through Georgia 4-H, he impacted thousands of young people in the quickly suburbanizing county. Many of “Shack’s boys,” as the students on his award-winning judging teams were known, have gone on to become leaders in business and agriculture across the state.

After leaving UGA Extension, he was a dedicated booster for Georgia 4-H, reaching out to raise funds for the program and helping wherever he could.

In addition to recognizing Shackelford and Baisley, the ceremony will honor CAES alumni award winners.

This year, recipients of CAES Alumni Awards of Excellence include Jimmy Hill, retired Georgia Power engineer and agriculture advocate; Keith Kelly, agricultural entrepreneur; and D.J. Sheppard, recruitment and retention coordinator for Georgia FFA and the Georgia Agricultural Education program.

CAES Young Alumni awards will be awarded to Matt Coley, co-owner and manager of Coley Farms in Vienna, Georgia; Trey Cutts III, assistant professor and Cooperative Extension System specialist at Auburn University; Farrah Hegwood Newberry, executive director for Georgia Milk Producers; and Tracey Troutman, outreach and recruitment branch chief for the Office of Outreach, Diversity and Equal Opportunity within the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service.

Register to attend the banquet at or call Suzanne Griffeth, director of alumni engagement, at 706-542-3390.

Merritt Melancon is a public relations manager with UGA's Terry College of Business and previously served as a public relations coordinator for the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and UGA Extension.

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