Information Possibly Outdated
The information presented on this page was originally released on April 22, 2002. It may not be outdated, but please search our site for more current information. If you plan to quote or reference this information in a publication, please check with the Extension specialist or author before proceeding.
4-H pioneer given national recognition
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- A Mississippi man considered by many to be one of the founders of 4-H was inducted in early April into the National 4-H Hall of Fame.
William Hall "Corn Club" Smith established the first boys and girls clubs in Holmes County, Mississippi in 1907. He was the first person to receive federal funds to work with youth and is considered a founder of 4-H.
"Corn Club Smith formed corn clubs to bring advanced agricultural practices to Mississippi by cultivating youthful enthusiasm. He saw this as a way for kids to learn new things to take to their fathers," said Rae Wilkinson, 4-H specialist and chair of the Mississippi committee for the National 4-H Hall of Fame. "He was a visionary of what youth organizations can be in tying together the technical subjects they learn in school with real life."
Smith, superintendent of the Holmes County schools, was concerned that boys were leaving school at age 14 to work on farms. Despite good soils capable of producing 100 bushels of corn an acre, farmers were producing just 20 bushels. He proposed a school contest with corn for boys and needlework, bread making and cake baking for girls.
Smith enrolled youth in these special clubs, and supplied information bulletins from the state's land-grant college, now called Mississippi State Univeristy. The clubs were a success, and Smith was paid $1 a year to be a U.S. Department of Agriculture collaborator. Today, 4-H clubs remain federally funded and are supported through the Extension Service in each state.
Smith later served as president of MSU from 1916-1920. A historical marker in Starkville near the intersection of Highways 12 and 25 tells his story.
The National 4-H Hall of Fame was established in 2002 as part of the 100th anniversary celebration of 4-H. Its purpose is to recognize and celebrate those people who have made a significant impact on 4-H and its millions of members nationwide in the past 100 years.
Smith was one of 100 inducted as the Centennial Class of 2002 and was the only Mississippian named to the Hall of Fame. The Hall of Fame can be viewed online at www.nae4ha.org/hof.