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Personality: Dr. Clinton V. Turner

1/6/2017, 8:57 p.m.
Dr. Clinton V. Turner, former Virginia secretary of agriculture and consumer services and former associate vice president for agriculture and ...

Dr. Clinton V. Turner, former Virginia secretary of agriculture and consumer services and former associate vice president for agriculture and extension at Virginia State University’s College of Agriculture, has been inducted into the George Washington Carver Public Service Hall of Fame. He is the first Virginian and the first VSU alumnus to be inducted.

The recognition came during the Professional Agricultural Workers Conference awards ceremony Dec. 6 in Tuskegee, Ala.

The honor, Dr. Turner says, highlights the importance of agriculture as a career.

With about one-third of professionals in the field approaching retirement age and the trend toward everyday Americans wanting to grow their own food, agriculture is a very important and relevant career field, Dr. Turner says.

“At a time when people are looking for jobs, agriculture is a career where they can find one,” he said. The native of Spout Spring in Appomattox County was nominated by two colleagues at VSU. “They had asked me before, but the Hall of Fame is made up of a lot of researchers and college presidents who are renowned.”

Initially, Dr. Turner felt his contributions to the field may not be on par with past inductees. But he finally agreed to be nominated, “and, well, the committee has spoken,” he said with a chuckle. “We are proud and grateful that Dr. Turner’s strong ties and dedication to VSU and the 1890 land grant mission over his lifetime have been recognized by an organization as revered as PAWC,” said Dr. M. Ray McKinnie, dean of VSU’s College of Agriculture.

Dr. Turner received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in agricultural education from VSU before earning his doctorate in education from Virginia Tech. He began his career as a extension specialist, and in 1980, became the first African-American to be named a district director of the Virginia Cooperative Extension Service.

He became VSU’s administrator of cooperative extension in 1984 and was promoted to associate vice president for agriculture and extension in 1988.

In 1991, Dr. Turner was appointed Virginia’s commissioner of agriculture and consumer services by then-Gov. L. Douglas Wilder. He became the first African-American in the nation to hold such a cabinet level position in agriculture.

Throughout his career, Dr. Turner worked with community groups and organizations in fulfilling the mission of the extension service. He has served as chairperson for many state and national policy-making committees and has received awards and recognition for his service to the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Although retired, Dr. Turner still believes in the future of agriculture and the need for young people to study in the field.

The recognition he received is a testament to his work and commitment. It is given only to individuals whose work mirrors the philosophy of renowned scholar and teacher George Washington Carver and who have made significant accomplishments in the areas of teaching, research and outreach improving the quality of life for those served by land grant universities such as VSU.

“To receive an award that carries the name of such a distinguished man as George Washington Carver, who dedicated his life to the welfare of the people, is more than humbling,” he says. Meet this week’s Personality and agriculture guru, Dr. Clinton V. Turner: