Three cattle and poultry trailblazers were inducted into the Alabama Agriculture Hall of Honor Feb. 3, while two influential leaders posthumously received Pioneer Awards.
Longtime Alabama Farmers Federation visionary and cattleman Billy Maples was honored for work in production agriculture, while poultry leaders Ray Hilburn and Davis Lee received the Hall of Honor’s education/government and agribusiness awards, respectively.
The annual awards program, hosted by the Auburn Agricultural Alumni Club, honors leaders for industry-changing work, said club President Brian Hardin.
“Our honorees made a real, tangible impact on agriculture in Alabama,” said Hardin, also the Federation’s External Affairs Department director. “These are humble, honest, hard-working men. Visiting with them and hearing their incredible stories of leadership and good, old-fashioned hard work is one of the highlights of my year. It’s an honor to know them and their families.”
Maples is a nationally renowned registered Angus cattle farmer whose family owns Maples Stock Farm in Limestone County. He is a longtime leader in the Federation and served as State Young Farmers Committee chair before joining the state board. Maples is also a past president of the Alabama Cattlemen’s Association and cattle grader for the Alabama Beef Cattle Improvement Association.
Hilburn’s childhood at Hilburn and Sons Farms in Crenshaw County paved the way for a career centered around poultry. Hilburn worked at ConAgra Foods and the Alabama Department of Agriculture & Industries, where he served as poultry programs director for 30 years. He’s been Alabama Poultry and Egg Association (AP&EA) associate director since 2010.
Fellow inductee Lee’s career spans a variety of leadership positions for some of the world’s largest poultry companies. In 2000, the North Carolina native started poultry processing company AlaTrade Foods, now one of Alabama’s largest employee stock ownership plans. Lee is a former APEA president and founded the Liberty Learning Foundation in 2008 to facilitate active citizenship and civil work programs for schoolchildren across the state.
Additionally, families of the late John Alex Floyd Jr. and U.S. Rep. Bill Nichols accepted Pioneer Awards during the program.
Floyd’s storied career with Birmingham-based Southern Progress Corp. began as senior horticulturist. He ultimately served as vice president and editor-in-chief of Southern Living magazine. Over 18 years, the Dallas County native advanced the magazine’s reputation as the authority on regional food, culture, home and garden design, and travel.
Mississippi native Nichols served as an Alabama Cooperative Extension System agent before leading a long political career with the Alabama House of Representatives, Alabama Senate and U.S. House of Representatives, serving from 1967 until his death in 1988.