Seeing the need for a strong program
in scientific agriculture that would benefit the public in the Kilgore and East Texas area, Kilgore College president Dr.
Cruce Stark approached the Bruce
McMillan, Jr. Foundation of Overton about a partnership between the two parties in a letter dated December 14, 1962.
A meeting was held at the First State
Bank of Overton on February 14, 1963, to explore the proposed agriculture project for Kilgore College. Participating
were members of the Foundation (Ralph Ward, Sr., John L. Pope, Donald B. Leverett), KC Board of Trustees (Dr. George Kutch,
A.G. Morton, Sr., Herb Knauth), and KC Administration (Dr. Cruce Stark, Dean Randolph Watson, Business Manager Austin Kay).
A delegation from Kilgore College (Dr.
Stark, Dean Watson, Trustee Board President Donald Leverett—also a McMillan Foundation trustee) and the Foundation (Managing
Trustee Ralph Ward, Sr.) met with A&M officials in College Station to discuss the proposed project with Gen. Earl Rudder,
President of Texas A&M College; Dr. R.E. Patterson, Dean of the Agriculture School; Dr. G.M. Watkins, Director of Agricultural
Instruction; Dr. R.D. Lewis, Director of the Texas Agricultural Experiment Station; and Dr. John Hutchinson, Director of the
Texas Agricultural Extension Service.
It was decided at the A&M meeting
that the KC project would serve three main purposes. It would afford direct information to farmers and
ranchers in the area; it would provide a laboratory for KC students studying or majoring in agriculture; and would allow the
College to offer terminal courses in agriculture.
The Board of Trustees of the Bruce McMillan, Jr. Foundation voted unanimously
on July 27, 1963, to proceed with the Kilgore College Agricultural Project with a grant package to (1) lease 448 acres at
no cost for 25 years with a 25-year option; (2) transfer 15 cows from the existing herd, plus various farm equipment; and
(3) financially commit a grant of $75,000 (which later grew to $90,000) for teaching facilities and instructor’s residence
and miscellaneous farm buildings on the premises. The project was to be located on the Foundation’s
East Farm (north of State Highway 135, west of Rusk County Road 133, and east of Little Rabbit Creek) about two miles from downtown Overton, or about
nine miles from the Kilgore College campus.
Scientific agriculture officially became
a part of the Kilgore College curriculum with a historic agreement signed by the College and Foundation on November 6, 1963.
The pact provided for “a demonstration farm or farms to be located in Rusk County for the purposes of teaching and demonstrating modern
and scientific methods of farming to farmers and others without charge, and to maintain and operate such demonstration farm
without a view of profit but for the purpose of applying its income over and above amounts sufficient to maintain and operate
such demonstration farms for use of other institutions of public charity.”
Wayne Lacy, a native of Wellington
in the Texas Panhandle, moved to Overton in August 1963, in preparation to become Kilgore College’s
first agriculture instructor and farm manager that fall. Lacy earned his bachelor’s and master’s
degrees in agricultural education from A&M and had taught vocational agriculture at A&M Consolidated High School in
College Station for two years.
Lacy encountered the difficult task of
beginning an agricultural program from ground zero, then transforming it over a 17-year period into one of the nation’s
most revered community college agricultural programs.
In 1965, two years after Lacy began,
the direction of the KC Agricultural Program took a slightly different twist upon creation of the Texas A&M University
Agricultural Research & Extension Center north of Overton, also on Foundation property.
With its establishment, the KC Farm no longer had as its primary mission to be a research or demonstration farm.
However, various scientific educational projects were continued for the benefit of students.
Lacy is credited with beginning every
program currently maintained on the farm with the exception of the sheep, which was initiated by this successor, Jeff Grote.
Included in the innovations Lacy originated are the famed Bull Evaluation Center, the only such test center between
Dallas and Shreveport,
Paris and College Station.
Jeff Grote, a Mason,
Texas, native, replaced Lacy in 1980. Grote, too, was a two-time A&M graduate who brought sheep
to KC and worked, as did Lacy, to promote KC Agriculture Club activities at the state level. Grote resigned
in 1992 to become a high school counselor at Mason High School, his hometown. The amiable Grote had served
as Chairman of the Rusk County
Youth Project Show and was well known in the area for his support of different types of youth activities, one of the more
prominent of those being youth baseball.
Robert G. Young, an Axtell, Texas, native (near Waco)
who held bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Sam Houston State University, replaced
Grote in 1992. A former fertilizer business owner and vocational agriculture teacher, Young brought an
impressive marketing/agribusiness background to the position. During his tenure, Young has added alfalfa,
millet, and hybrid Sudan research plots to the agronomic repertoire of the College Farm.
He made the important decision to bring Angus cattle to the Farm and upgrade the herd for educational study and promote
quality animals for the KC
Cattle Show Team, which he also initiated. His daughters, Christie and Kara, brought the first goats to
the farm through their donation of 4-H and FFA projects.
Through his strong support of the Texas
Junior College Agriculture Association (TJCAA), the KC Agriculture Club continues to be the club to beat to become to capture
the state’s top award, the “Outstanding Chapter in Texas.” KC annually places two students (the most allowed per chapter) on the TJCAA state
officer team and normally places one or two students among the top three places for “Outstanding Student.”
KC President Dr. William Holda, in 1997,
upon the suggestion by the KC
Agricultural Advisory Committee, requested a team of department heads and professors from the Texas A&M University College
of Agriculture to make a detailed evaluation of the College’s agriculture program. Since nearly four
decades had elapsed since creation of the KC agriculture program, Holda and the Advisory Committee wanted an objective evaluation
of its progress and direction. The visiting
advisory team from A&M made several pertinent suggestions. Among the proposals was changing the department’s
name to “Kilgore College Agricultural and Environmental Science Department,” which reflects a more current use
of modern-day agriculture and technology. The team encouraged KC to develop “2+2 Partnerships”
with senior colleges to help ease or eliminate course transfer problems. KC is in the process of completing
this lengthy procedure of transfer partnerships.
The Kilgore College Agriculture Program
has had a well-established history of preparing students for transfer to the senior colleges of their choice.
These four-year institutions have shown a particular desire to recruit Kilgore College agriculture students because
of their extraordinary prowess in academic and leadership endeavors.