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Robert Church, Sr.

Robert Church was born in Athens, Georgia, on September 26, 1909. His father, Arthur Church, worked as a sharecropper and an overseer on a corporate lawyer’s farm. Church also worked in agriculture, improving the quality of life for poor African American farmers.

Church walked five miles each way to a segregated elementary school. In 1927, he enrolled at the Hampton Institute in Hampton, Virginia, for both high school and college. Working his way through school, he cleaned rooms at the Hampton guest house, Holly Tree Inn, cleaning some of the same rooms Booker T. Washington had before him. Church also worked at a summer camp in New Hampshire, and during the school year, he milked cows and fed hogs. He earned a B.S. degree in agricultural education in 1934.

Church returned to Georgia and began work as a high school vocational agriculture teacher in Wilkes County. He became the assistant principal, and in 1937, this work took him to Jenkins County to serve as a school principal. Through the school, he became associated with the University of Georgia Agriculture Extension. This led him to become Peach County’s first black county agriculture agent. In this capacity, he taught African American farmers and their families the latest agricultural techniques in order to increase production, improving their living standards. He also played a leading role with 4-H and conducted the Fort Valley Ham and Egg Show from 1949 to 1966. In 1958, Church earned an M.S. degree in agricultural education from the Tuskegee Institute.

After retiring from active professional work in 1969, Church spent the equivalent of another career in public service. He served two terms on the Fort Valley City Council, from 1974 to 1982. For twenty-five years, he served as a board member for the Department of Family and Children Services at both the local and state levels. He was also affiliated with Trinity Baptist Church, Peach County United Way and Omega Psi Phi Fraternity.

Church passed away on December 31, 2008 at the age of 99.

Accession Number

A2002.013

Sex

Male

Interview Date

3/17/2002

Last Name

Church

Maker Category
Marital Status

Widower

Middle Name

T.

Occupation
Schools

Teacher Training and Industrial Institute

Hampton University

Tuskegee University

First Name

Robert

Birth City, State, Country

Athens

HM ID

CHU01

Favorite Season

Spring

Sponsor

Knight Foundation

State

Georgia

Favorite Vacation Destination

Anywhere

Favorite Quote

One day at a time.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Georgia

Birth Date

9/26/1909

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Atlanta

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Vegetables

Death Date

12/31/2008

Short Description

Agriculturalist Robert Church, Sr. (1909 - 2008 ) served as Peach County, Georgia's first black county agriculture agent. In this capacity, he taught African American farmers and their families the latest agricultural techniques in order to increase production, improving their living standards.

Employment

Wilkes County Board of Education

Jenkins County High School

University of Georgia

Peach County, Georgia Ham and Egg Show

Main Sponsor
Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Robert Church interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Robert Church's favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Robert Church recalls his family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Robert Church remembers his childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Robert Church recounts his early educational experiences

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Robert Church recalls a student strike at Hampton Institute, Hampton, Virginia

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Robert Church explains how he worked his way through college

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Robert Church lists people who influenced him

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Robert Church recounts his experiences at Hampton

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Robert Church remembers his first teaching job

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Robert Church describes his involvement with the 4-H Club

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Robert Church discusses a painting of his wife

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Robert Church explains his work as a county agricultural education agent

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Robert Church recalls his work as a county agricultural education agent

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Robert Church details his involvement with the Ham and Egg Show

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Robert Church remembers returning to school to get his Masters

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Robert Church describes his relationships with both black and white farmers

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Robert Church recounts instances of racial discrimination in his career

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Robert Church relates how he brought HUD funding to his community

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Robert Church recalls his tenure as a city councilman

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Robert Church explains the purpose of the agricultural education extension program

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Robert Church recounts the role of children in the Ham and Egg Show

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Robert Church describes the farming community in Peach County, Georgia

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Robert Church remembers his involvement with Fort Valley State University

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Robert Church reflects on his accomplishments

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Robert Church discusses being a member of Sigma Pi Phi

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Robert Church ponders his legacy

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Robert Church shares his hopes for the black community

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$2

DAStory

2$6

DATitle
Robert Church explains how he worked his way through college
Robert Church describes his involvement with the 4-H Club
Transcript
So when you get to college [Hampton Institute, now Hampton University, Hampton, Virginia], what do you think you want to do when you get there? What do you want to be and become?$$Well I wanted to be a--take agriculture. At first I did not because of the, you know the drudgery of farm work, etcetera, etcetera. And of course I had a vocational lab teacher who inspired me to take agriculture, become a teacher and so I took agriculture. And then of course you had a chance to work you know as part of your training, to pay for your training. I mean you got credit for it in your, your work and that kept me in school. After, after the [Great] Depression in 1929 you know things were mighty bad finance--economically you know. My brother [William Church] went to Voorhees College [Denmark, South Carolina] and my sister [Ruby Church Howard] came here to Fort Valley [State University, Fort Valley, Georgia] to finish her high school work. And I being the oldest, I had to hustle for myself so I, in the summer I went to camp up in New Hampshire and I worked summer camp and I--back at school I did everything I could to stay in school, pay my bills and--such as the boys, you know, had shoes they would--I'd pick up shoes and carry them to the shop, have them fixed, carry them back. I got a commission for that. I cleaned up classrooms, I worked at a farm, milked cows, a dairy, school had a big dairy and I milked cows, had hogs, I fed hogs. And night watch you know we had big poultry plant night watch and I had so many hours there. And coming back to cleaning, cleaning rooms and etcetera. I cleaned some of the same rooms that Booker [T.] Washington cleaned and that was, you know, that was done well. He did his well and that's the way he got into school. So I went--traveled the same road.$Now extension, the concept of extension. Where does that come from? Where did that begin?$$My work in, in Jenkins County in, in 1938 I was given the county I had, I worked with the county agent there as Vocational-Ag [Agriculture] teacher and I worked with him. And the--Mr. Stone, P. A. Stone, whose pictures you saw while ago knew me. He was in fact, tell you the truth, he was my county agent when I was a boy growing up and he went to Hampton [Institute, now Hampton University, Hampton, Virginia] and he also influenced me about Hampton. And I just got out there and started working with the farmers and the 4-H Club members. We had, 4-H Club we had livestock project with the boys. We had the cash show was one thing and first year I didn't, I didn't do too well but later on I, I took prizes. My boys or the kids that I taught took first place, second place, had top prizes.$$Now I want you to describe what the 4-H Club is and what they do?$$Well the 4-H Club is, first thing is we have a motto, making the best better and taking what you have, taking what you have and making it better. Then we had a pledge we, we learned, we taught them, "I pledge my head to clearer thinking, my heart to greater loyalty, my hands to larger service and my health to better living." That's the four, four Hs. And that's a concept of the, you know, the agency. And I took them to camps, took them to various parts of the state you know for contests that we were in and we won. Won some, we lost some. But the most was we won.$$What type of contests were these?$$Contests in various things, we had soil judging, we had poultry judging, we had livestock judging and we had public speaking and all those kind of contests.