More on Hudson Wren

wren-0551-f-v00-HudsonWren-ProgressiveFarmerAfter I posted a bit about my grandfather, Hudson Wren, on the 111 anniversary of his birth, my aunt shared with me a brief autobiography and memory that he put together.  It’s interesting to hear about farming in northeast Arkansas in the Depression and during World War II, so I thought I would share it.

This was written out on 3 pages of the yellow legal tablets that Papaw always used.  I have a number of Sunday School lessons written the same way.  I think this may have been written as background when he was selected Man of the Year by Progressive Farmer magazine.

But, here’s a bit about Hudson Wren, in his own words, emphasizing the some of the things he thought were important.

Hudson Wren
Wilson, Arkansas

Born: July 18, 1906
Hill farm in Nevada County, Arkansas (Prescott, County Seat).
Graduated: Prescott High School
College: University of Arkansas – degree in Agriculture
Football – University of Arkansas Razorbacks 1927 & 1928

Upon graduation entered Vocational Agricultural field working with High School boys. First job was the establishment of a new Vocational Agricultural Department at the Portland High School (Ashley County) Southeast Arkansas Delta area. [1930]

Three years later (1932) came to Wilson, Arkansas as Vocational Agricultural Instructor.  Worked closely with the management of Lee Wilson & Company.

In the spring of 1933, the Roosevelt Administration came into into office and implemented a program to plow up each third row of cotton because of oversupply and low prices.  While still in Vocational Agriculture was pressed into temporary duty as inspector for Federal plow-up program.  Traveled Northeast Arkansas where got to view much fine farm land and meet many wonderful people.  This program known as Agricultural Adjustment Act was the forerunner of ASCS.

In 1934 succeeded Stanley D. Carpenter as County Agent of South Mississippi County. At that time the Federal Agricultural Adjustment Program was administered by the County Agricultural Extensions Service.

Shall never forget some of the headaches incident to this early program, especially in 1934 when there was a difficulty in securing the “Bankhead Certificates”, a type of permit necessary for a farmer to have before he could either gin or sell his cotton.  The crop was early (August) and the certificates were late (September).  Farmers were broke and disgruntled because of the unnecessary delays cause by Government red tape.  Such was indeed a critical time for the farmer.  All were greatly in dept, the creditors were pushing them for payment, there was a good cotton crop in the field opening fast, but the Government procedure was obstructing the normal operation procedure.

With the help of an excellent County Committee:  J.F. Thompkins: Burdette; Rufus Branch, Pecan Point; and Clay Ayers, Osceola; South Mississippi County did manage to be the second county in the State to receive their allotment of “Bankhead Certificates” and were able to gin the cotton slightly late, but much ahead of any other group of farmers except Pulaski County.

A little nostalgia:
At the time of the plow-up campaign of 1933 the idea was so novel that farmers could not imagine such action.  Cotton was celling for 4c-5c per pound.  “The bank holiday” of March 1933 was fresh on the minds of everyone.  Banks were going broke, Insurance Companies were being forced to foreclose on mortgages, entrepreneurs were jumping from tweleve story buildings, as this county was in the depths of the greatest depression it had known.

Henry A. Wallace was Secretary of Agriculture and reluctantly he decided to take some remedial action after the Plow-Up was announced and it became evident that it was going to be generally accepted the price of cotton increased from 4c-5c per pound to 5c-6c per pound.  Not much in dollars but that one cent represented a 20% advance.  By 1934, the time of the “Bankhead Certificates”, the price of cotton had increased to a whopping 7c per pound – $35.00 per bale.

In 1935 the USDA began a rather comprehensive action program in this County.  USDA leased 12,000 acres of farm land and moved “Rural Rehabilitation clients” onto this tract in an effort to help see them through the depression.  At about the same time the Federal Government bought 16,000 acres of cutover timber land and started a project of development.  This was the beginning of Dyess, Arkansas having taken its name from W.R. Dyess of Luxora, Arkansas who was the guiding spirit behind this undertaking.

[Little Rock] In the fall of 1935 I joined USDA as State Farm Management Specialist. Later became the Regional Farm Management Specialist.  In 1938 I became Arkansas State Director of Farm Security Administration within USDA.  During the ten years I was with USDA I held the positions of Assistant Regional Director FSA, at Raleigh, N.C., and later Regional (seven southeastern states) Director of War Food Administration at Atlanta, Georgia.

In 1945 I returned to Mississippi County as a practical farm operator.  My position was Unit Manager of 12,000 acres of land in the vicinity of Marie, Arkansas.  This involved taking over a tract of land which had been leased out and allowed to grow up by the former operator.  All equipment had to be purchased at a time of strictest rationing and controls.  This involved bartering, trading, and even dismantling a railroad, trading the steel to a farm implement company for farm tractors with which to farm the land.

In 1951 I became Vice President of Lee Wilson & Company, a diversified agricultural-industry operation in South Mississippi County, with operations in Crittenden County, Arkansas and Elko County, Nevada.  There are sixteen departments or divisions within Lee Wilson & Company, representing a wider diversity of interests.

Civic affairs:

  1. One of the original incorporators of Mississippi County Soil Conservation District and a member of the governinging board since its foundation.  Served as President of the Board two terms, a total of eleven years.
  2. Past Chairman of Rural Development Authority that authorized original survey of Mississippi County, its needs, and helped formulate plans that have served as a basis for water-sewer development in rural areas.
  3. Past member of State Board of Economic Education, State Department of Education
  4. Past President (1972-1973) of Arkansas Soybean Association.  Now serving as Chairman of Research and Extension Committee of Arkansas Soybean Association.
  5. Member of Board of Directors of Bank of Wilson
  6. Member of Board of Directors of Mississippi County E.O.C. Inc.
  7. Church affiliation: Methodist.  Member of the Official Board of the Wilson United Methodist Church.  Two terms as Chairman of the Board.
  8. District Representative of Methodist Children’s Home, Little Rock, Arkansas
  9. Mayor of the Town of Marie, Arkansas
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