TIFTON — In a ceremony on the front lawn of the University of Georgia’s Tifton Campus, faculty, staff, students, alumni and local supporters kicked off the centennial celebration of the Tifton campus on Tuesday, Aug. 21.
UGA-Tifton Assistant Dean Joe West and UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Science Dean Sam Pardue spoke and shared the campus’ history.
Both West and Pardue spoke about the process of lobbying for the campus to be put in Tifton and about the impact of the research that has been done since its establishment on May 3, 1919.
“The Georgia Coastal Plain Experiment Station was authorized in August of 1918,” West said. “Tifton was chosen in May of 1919, so we’re using August as our kickoff and we’re going to go through several months of celebration until we have our big centennial in May of next year.”
West said that the Coastal Plain Experiment Station was started because research from the first experiment station in Griffin was geared towards conditions in the northern part of the state, which is very different from the southern part. The push to establish a station in south Georgia was the work of years.
West said that research done at the campus has been able to feed people around the world who have faced famine.
“Their research is going to be the way we feed this world with its growing population,” West said. “What our scientists do here is very important.”
Descendants of Captain H.H. Tift, who established the City of Tifton and was a key reason the city was awarded the campus, attended the ceremony.
While other cities in the southern part of the state petitioned to be the location of the campus, Tifton was awarded the campus in no small part due to Tift donating land and giving the station free power and telephone use for five years.
Tift descendants Mike Brumby and Catherine Tift Porter addressed the attendees.
Brumby, who is a great-great grandson of Tift, introduced Porter, who is the granddaughter of Tift through middle son Thomas Willingham Tift.
“It is an honor and a privilege to be here today on this wonderful occasion,” Porter said.
Porter and West both sounded the restored steam whistle that signaled the end of the ceremony.
West said that when the news broke that Tifton had been awarded the experiment station, the citizens were alerted by blowing the fire whistle. West said that the campus acquired a vintage steam whistle that will sound at the beginning and end of every function for the centennial.
Tifton Mayor Julie Smith and Tift County Board of Commissioners Chairperson Grady Thompson both read and presented proclamations celebrating the event to West.
Corley Holbrook, supervisory research geneticist at the USDA Agricultural Research Service, spoke about the collaboration between his department and the UGA-Tifton campus.
After the ceremony, attendees were invited to a reception in the newly-renovated Tift building and Agricultural Research building.
These buildings were the first buildings on campus and were recently restored.
According to the UGA-Tifton website, some of the noted impacts that have come from the campus include:
• Glenn Burton, research geneticist and plant breeder whose pearl milletresearch helped provide food for millions in India and Africa and who transformed Bermuda grass into a top forage grass.
• James Shepherd, who developed and tested the first peanut combine harvester.
• Peggy Ozias-Akins, who helped sequence the peanut genome in 2014.
• George Vellidis, who is on the forefront of precision agriculture.
• Turfgrass varieties developed at the campus have been planted on World Cup soccer fields and Super Bowl football fields.
• Researchers from different disciplines collaborated to help combat pest infestations, like the boll weevil in cotton and the kudzu bug in soybeans.