Inductees named to agriculture's local Hall of Fame
By Steve Herring
Published in News on November 26, 2013 1:46 PM
Wilber Shirley, second from left, and the late Keith Waller were inducted Monday night into the Wayne County Agriculture Hall of Fame during the annual Farm-City Banquet at the Wayne Center. Left to right are Jessica Strickland, Cooperative Extension agent who presented the awards, Shirley, and Waller's widow, Gertrude, and son, Dennis, who accepted the award on behalf of the family.
Wilber Shirley and the late Stephen Keith Waller Sr. were inducted into the Wayne County Agricultural Hall of Fame during the annual Farm-City Banquet held at the Wayne Center on Monday night.
Charlotte Jenkins, Wayne County Soil and Water Conservation District director, was presented the Outstanding Woman in Agriculture Award.
Waller lived in the Smith Chapel community just west of Mount Olive. Shirley is the owner of Wilber's Barbecue restaurant. Mrs. Jenkins has worked with the district conservation office for 40 years.
The Wayne County Agricultural Hall of Fame began in 1984 as a means of honoring local residents who have made outstanding contributions to agriculture in the county.
The selection criteria are focused on outstanding contributions to agriculture in a managerial, leadership and voluntary capacity, plus the impact in the community of the individual's efforts on agriculture. An outside selection committee reviews the nominees.
Since 1984, 31 living and 29 deceased individuals have been inducted into the Hall of Fame. They are honored with a plaque, and their photographs also are hung on the wall in the Wayne Center.
Waller was born and reared on a family farm.
He joined the Army during World War II.
At the end of the war, he attended N.C. State University and then spent the rest of his life farming in southern Wayne County, where he operated a 700-acre farm consisting of row crops and livestock.
"He practiced good conservation practices on his land and was a forerunner in no-till and minimum-till practices," said Jessica Strickland, state Cooperative Extension Service agent, who presented the award. "His mind was always open to new and improved practices."
Waller was a charter member of the Smith Chapel Fire Department and a member of the board of the Wayne County Soil and Water supervisors for 35 years, serving as chairman and vice chairman.
His family was recognized as Farm Family of the Year by the FHA and received a length of Service Awards by the Area 6 Soil & Water Conservation Districts and the state Association of Soil & Water Conservation Districts.
Waller and his wife, Gertrude, were married for nearly 66 years. Mrs. Waller and her son, Dennis, accepted the award on behalf of the family.
Shirley, the owner of Wilber's Barbecue, was born and reared on a farm in the Nahunta community and graduated from Nahunta High School.
In 1949 he went to work at Griffin's Barbecue.
Shirley entered the Army in 1951, serving in Korea. He then returned to Griffin's, where he worked until 1962 when he and a friend purchased a small barbecue restaurant on U.S. 70 East. Six months later, Shirley purchased his friend's share and the name was changed to Wilber's Barbecue.
"Wilber's love for agriculture developed on the family farm and he is a strong supporter of agriculture," Mrs. Strickland said. "His business depends on the products produced in the agricultural industry. His restaurant has been and continues to be used for agricultural meetings and he caters many agricultural meetings away from his restaurant."
Shirley is a member of the Wayne County Livestock Development Association and is a strong supporter of the Wayne County Junior Livestock Show and Sale and the Junior Market Hog Show.
Shirley and his wife, Margie, were married in 1949.
The Outstanding Woman in Agriculture Award is presented by the Wayne County Extension and Community Association.
Martha Merritt, chairman of the award committee, praised Mrs. Jenkins for providing help to farmers to ensure that they are in compliance with federal regulations and that they get the highest level of productivity from their farmland.
"She is a friend and a confidant of Wayne County farmers," Mrs. Merritt said. "Even though she could have retired several years ago, she enjoys her work and gains much satisfaction in knowing that she helps our farmers to have productive farmland through the use of soil and water resources."
State Rep. Jimmy Dixon, a Duplin County farmer, was the guest speaker for the event.
Dixon used excerpts from an 1859 speech by President Abraham Lincoln to illustrate how farming has changed.
He noted that Lincoln questioned why so much attention was paid to farmers. It is because of their sheer number and how many of them vote, Dixon said quoting the speech.
There are not as many farmers today, and they no longer constitute the largest number of voters, Dixon said.
"We (farmers) have a great story," he said. "We have a proud story to tell in the agriculture community. Behind us ladies and gentlemen, are people who did great things."
People today are reaping a "bountiful harvest" from the hard work and dedication of past generations of farmers, Dixon said.
"Their example should be a compelling motivation that we now do that for those who will follow us," he said.