COVINGTON — In the late 1880s, Claud Adams’ family couldn’t afford to send him to college, so he worked on the family farm while his younger brother Homer earned a degree.
That didn’t mean that Claud missed out on a college education. Homer imparted all that he learned to Claud.
“He wanted to learn so they would plow and when the mules would take a break, he and his brother Homer would sit together and share information,” said Nancy Adams Tiede, Claud Adams’ great-granddaughter.
Claud Adams became a teacher, worked his way up to principal of a school and by 1902 held the position of superintendent of schools in Newton County.
In 1904, Adams decided to take learning out of the classroom and into the field. Inspired by a movement that started in the Midwest and worked its way to the South, he established the Boys Corn Club as a way to teach agriculture and increase the corn yield.
The club experimented with growing different varieties of corn, some more tasty for people, and others more nutritious for animals.
He intended for the boys to teach their parents and by all accounts the effort paid off, said Tiede.
“By using some of the methods the boys discovered, they were able to produce more corn and it was better corn than they were producing before,” said Tiede.
A century later, the concept of the Corn Club — teaching youth new skills through hands-on projects — lives on through an organization that became an offshoot of the clubs of the 1920s — 4-H. Today, 4-H is a nationwide youth development organization that serves over 6 million children and is administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
With the four H’s being head, heart, hands and health, the organization gives students research-driven projects to accomplish in the areas of science, citizenship and healthy living.
For his contribution as the “father” of 4-H in Georgia, the University of Georgia will induct Adams posthumously into the Georgia Agricultural Hall of Fame during a ceremony on Sept. 20 at 6 p.m. in the UGA Hotel and Conference Center. This honor follows another he earned in 2002 when he was inducted into the National 4-H Hall of Fame.
“In this day of rapid progress and change, it is more important than ever to preserve Georgia’s rich agricultural history,” said Juli Fields, director of alumni relations for the college, in a release. “The 2013 inductees have contributed in extraordinary ways to agriculture in Georgia. They serve as excellent examples of how one individual can make a significant and profound impact on the lives of Georgia’s citizens.”
After organizing the first Corn Show in Georgia at the Newton County Courthouse in 1905, and subsequent state shows in the city of Atlanta, Adams purchased property and established his own farm in Newton County.
He went on to serve a second term as school superintendent and by 1926 won election to the state Legislature where he served on the education and agriculture committees. Six years later, he became commissioner of agriculture.
Adams retired from public office in 1935 at the age of 67; he died at 81 in 1949.
Tiede, who lives in the house her great-grandfather built in 1914, said the community respected Claud Adams and often looked to him to help them find jobs during the economic hardships of the Great Depression. They’d park on Ga. Highway 11 to go visit the man who had connections at the state level.
“My father remembered cars lined up as far as the eye could see,” said Tiede.
Claud Adams was also a man interested in cutting edge technology of the time, she said. He had a Delco battery system that powered electric light bulbs and a radio in his home. He had a telephone, a party line that led to his relatives on nearby property, and to the doctor. He had hot water and indoor plumbing.
And how would Claud Adams feel about the path his Boys Corn Club took?
“I think he would be extremely pleased,” said Tiede.
Claud Adams’ grandson Hulon Adams said his grandfather believed in hard work and education. Claud and his wife Lily, after rearing seven children, took Hulon in at age 2, after Hulon’s mother died giving birth, and raised him.
Because of his grandfather’s influence, Hulon built a career in the farming business. Claud taught Hulon how to tackle any project.
“‘Can’t’ was not in his vocabulary,” said Hulon. “He taught you to figure things out for yourself and not be afraid to work … and he taught me to be honest. He was 100 percent honest … and never looked down on anybody, regardless of their station in life. Everybody was equal in his life.”