A late Newton County farmer, educator and founder of 4-H in Georgia will be inducted into the Georgia Agricultural Hall of Fame, and his descendants are elated that their family member will be remembered as part of agricultural history.
The University of Georgia announced Tuesday that George Claud Adams, known as Georgia’s father of 4-H, and Louis Boyd, a leading animal scientist, would be inducted Sept. 20. The hall of fame was established in 1972 to recognize people who made extraordinary contributions to agriculture and agribusiness in the state, according to information from the school.
Here in Newton County, Nancy Adams Tiede, the great-granddaughter of George Claud Adams, lives in the house her great-grandfather built in 1914. At the home, she holds tangible memories of the family’s trailblazer, who passed away when she was just a girl. Her cousin, Hulon Adams, was raised by Claud and worked on his farm.
The two relatives looked through old photos and talked about their great-grandfather’s legacy.
Tiede said Claud Adams, the 12th of 16 children, grew up working on a farm with his family.
"He was a humble man with very humble beginnings. He was raised on the farm and could not go to school because only one person in the family of 16 could go to school; everybody else had to work the farm," Tiede said.
She said as Claud Adams grew older, he worked the farm all day and continued to study at night. His younger brother Homer, who attended Peabody College in Nashville, Tenn., taught Claud all he knew while they plowed the fields. It was said that Claud attended college by proxy — given an honorary degree by Peabody College, Tiede said.
"He really was fascinated by education. He made the supreme effort to study at night after he worked all day in the fields," she said.
In 1886 Claud met Lillie Green, and married her in 1887. The couple had seven children, Henry Grady Adams; Frances Kate Adams Moore; Margaret Louise Adams; William Cleveland Adams; Charles Newton Adams; John Green Adams; and Sarah Elizabeth Adams Lovvorn.
According to Hulon Adams and Tiede, Claud Adams loved the newest technology and wanted to find more technological advances in agriculture as well as teach others about what he learned.
"He was a hard-worker. When I got off the school bus, he always had something for me to do," Hulon Adams said. "He was continuously asking questions or asking you how to spell a word or give you arithmetic problems. … He taught me more than I ever learned in school."
Claud Adams organized the Boy’s Corn Clubs in Newton County in 1904, said to be the predecessors of Georgia’s 4-H club; and later, in 1913, formed the Girl’s Tomato Canning Club. Tiede said both clubs were formed to help teach children about agricultural and their crops.
In October 1905, the first Corn Show in Georgia was held at the Newton County Courthouse, with 20 ears of corn produced by students in each exhibit. In 1906, the first club show at the Municipal Auditorium was held in Atlanta, Tiede said.
"The boys would get together their corn and they would bring examples of what they had grown and then they would display them," Tiede said.
"What happened was they started displaying them locally … well, nobody pays attention to anything locally," she said. "He had some contacts with the state … [and] they were looking for a bigger place to have their corn exhibit and the state said, ‘Hey, why don’t you come on up here?’ So they went to Atlanta, and, of course, all of a sudden they had a huge audience of people to see what they were doing."
"The other states that attended started saying, ‘Hey, this is a great idea,’ and they took it to the other states and eventually they said, ‘You know, we need a national organization,’ and from that came the 4-H Club."
Tiede explained that her great-grandfather’s method of "learning by doing" caught on quickly with educators, and they sought him out to explain his "new and effective" teaching method. As a result, agricultural clubs were mandated as the way to teach agriculture in Georgia.
As an educator, Adams taught at schools and was elected to the Newton County Board of Education in 1912. He also served as Newton County’s school superintendent, elected in 1902 and in 1914. He served until 1924 and continued his work with 4-H clubs, Tiede said. George Claud Adams died in 1949 at the age of 81.
"I think it’s something that should have been done a long time ago," Hulon Adams said.
"It’s a great honor, you know," his great-granddaughter Tiede said. "We are very appreciative of the fact that what he did has been recognized, which is not an easy thing to have people way down the road — 60, 80,100 years later, think that what you did was worthy enough to be in the hall of fame. So we consider it a great honor."