11/04/05 — Duplin County adds two to Hall of Fame

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Duplin County adds two to Hall of Fame

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on November 4, 2005 1:50 PM

WARSAW -- Duplin County has chosen a man and a woman whose influence had a profound impact on agriculture in the region as the county's 2005 Hall of Fame inductees.

Wendell Holmes Murphy and the late Lois Grady Britt were named to the Duplin County Hall of Fame during a ceremony Thursday night at the Country Squire Restaurant near Warsaw.

Duplin Hall of Fame

News-Argus/Bonnie Edwards

Ralph Britt, left, and 2005 Hall of Fame inductee Wendell Murphy pose with a portrait of Britt's mother, the late Lois Britt, who also was inducted into the Duplin County Hall of Fame.

Ms. Britt's son, Ralph Britt, received the medallion and portrait on her behalf from Anne Taylor, a member of the Hall of Fame board of directors. Ms. Britt died in July.

Ms. Taylor read Ms. Britt's nomination for the honor. It described her as "an inspiring leader, a tireless worker and a champion for agriculture.

"But actually if you knew this individual personally, the truly wonderful thing was that this individual was consistently and genuinely true to who (she) was and from whence (she) came, which of course is Duplin County."

Ms. Britt organized 35 4-H clubs and founded the Duplin County Agribusiness Council during her 34-year career with the county's Extension Service.

Under her leadership, the council established the county fair, which ran for more than 20 years until facilities were no longer adequate.

"Her vision led to the creation of the county's new events center, which will host the county fair in 2006," Ms. Taylor continued. "Once our honoree completed his or her extension career, other careers followed; all of which were linked to agriculture, education and Duplin County."

Ms. Britt worked with Murphy Family Farms and Murphy-Brown and was on the board of governors for the University of North Carolina. She was selected "Who's Who in America" and received many other awards and honors. She was recognized on the floor of the U.S. Congress as a favorite daughter of Duplin County and one of the nation's most influential people in politics, agriculture and education.

Her fellow Hall of Fame nominee also acknowledged Ms. Britt's contribution.

"I came tonight because this is her night. It's certainly not mine," Wendell Murphy said after Hall of Fame board member Anna Mae Murray inducted him into the Hall of Fame. "I'd much rather talk about Lois."

Murphy said he was surprised, overwhelmed and appreciative of the honor. "I am so blessed in so many ways."

Many people have benefited from Murphy's kindness and generosity, the nomination said, describing him as "an exceptionally talented and gifted man."

"He has not sought wealth or fame, but that has come to him," the nomination said. "His spirit of entrepreneurship has forever changed the face of agriculture as is evidenced by the recognition he has received by several publications as person of the century."

It started as just an idea.

Not long after Murphy graduated from North Carolina State University and started teaching vocational agriculture, he and a friend were riding through the countryside one day. They saw a "grinding and mix" feed mill.

"You know, one of those would work back home," the friend said.

The statement struck Murphy, echoing some thoughts he had already been having.

Spurred by the thought, he acquired a bank note to get a mill started in Duplin County.

Three years later, the note was paid.

"His younger brother wanted to work at the mill," the nomination continued. "They couldn't afford to pay him, so they helped set him up in growing hogs that ate corn that was ground at their mill."

The brothers started contracting with farmers to grow hogs a few years later, and in 1969, the brothers named their company Murphy Farms.

He was a state representative and then a state senator during the 1980s and early 1990s. And in 1997, Forbes Magazine recognized him as one of the 400 richest people in America.

His picture was on the cover.

The Progressive Farmer publication in 2000 named him Business Tycoon of the Century, and in 2001, the N.C. Pork Council inducted him into its Hall of Fame.

Murphy said he has lived the American dream.

"It all happened because of my dad. He was the hardest working man I've ever known. He not only taught me to work, but to enjoy working."