It was a moment to remember those who, quite literally, grew our community.
Four outstanding men were inducted into the Wilson County Agricultural Hall of Fame on Tuesday night. Living legends Hale Moss and David M. Tomlinson were in the 2017 lineup, which also included posthumous honorees, AC Wharton, Sr. and Dr. Sam McFarland.
Master of Ceremonies Keith Harrison welcomed guests to the event, held at the beautiful Wilson County Exposition Center, and explained how the Ag Hall of Fame came to be. Twelve years ago, a group came together with the idea to honor agricultural pioneers and to-date, 50 Wilson Countians have been inducted into the Ag Hall of Fame. They include: William H. Neal; James E. Ward; Claude S. Harris; Alvin McKee; Homer Hancock; Wiley T. Bernard; Vicie Mae Edwards Brown; Thomas A. Edwards; Herschel C. Ligon; Edward 'Pop' Geers; Mr. & Mrs. E.J Bilbro; Melvin Arnett; Hugh 'Buck' Evans; Ben T. Powell; Dan Smith; W.C. & Eddie S. Clay; Harry R. Love; Henry Waters; Walter Goodall; John R. Trice; William H. Coley; Harold E. Stanford; Jim K. Lancaster; Charles B. Moss; Louis A. Moss; John M. Moss; Paul Agee; Betty Freeman; Newell 'Red' Jenkins; Charles Willoughby; Robert 'Bob' Burton; Fred G. Laine; Bobby Haley; Harold Patton; James C. 'Jim' Johnson; Raymond & Jo Ann Evans; Ed Rice Sr. & Ed Rice Jr.; Dr. Cliff Ricketts; Dave Smith, Sr.; Troy Vanatta; Mike Harris; James Wright; Kenneth Neal; William Lee 'Bill' Patton; Louis Fletcher; and William Dean & Neida Thompson.
It was an emotional night for honorees and their family members.
David M. Tomlinson
David Means Tomlinson was introduced by lifelong friend, former Wilson County Sheriff Terry Ashe.
Ashe said he became friends with Tomlinson in 1958. He recalled his grandfather talking about the Tomlinson family.
"He said he'd never heard anything bad said about the Tomlinson family. I'm here to tell you that stood true then, and that stands true today," Ashe said.
Tomlinson is a seventh-generation Wilson Countian. His father was a farmer - and farming was the "family business."
In December 1955, he moved from his grandparents' Beasley's Bend farm along with his parents to their newly purchased farm located off Hartsville Pike. Tomlinson has resided on the farm, now known as Tomlinson Place, for almost 60 years.
Ashe recited portions of a letter written by Tomlinson's only daughter, attorney Lisa A. Tomlinson.
"This is really about the love of a daughter. She really wants her daddy to be in the Ag Hall of Fame," Ashe said, noting that Tomlinson was quite the family man. "He is a man of faith, and he loves his family. Tonight is David's night, but it's also (wife) Anne and Lisa's night."
Tomlinson graduated from Lebanon High School in 1966. He married Anne Buehler of Carlyle, Ill. in 1968. The couple will soon celebrate 49 years of marriage. Ashe joked that he had to go all the way to Illinois to get her and "bring her back here."
However, their newlywed bliss was paused when Tomlinson reported for basic training at Fort Campbell, Ky. on June 3, 1968. He served as a door gunner and first echelon crew engineer of the Bell UH1H helicopter flight line at Vihn Long Airbase, Vietnam from November 1968 until November 1969. He flew approximately 700 combat flight hours.
Tomlinson was named Outstanding Young Farmer by the Wilson County Jaycees in 1973. He served eight years on the Wilson County Co-Op Board of Directors, being named vice president and president pro tem.
He also served as a director for the Wilson County Farm Bureau and was an active member of the Wilson County and Tennessee Cattleman's Association.
During his farming career, Tomlinson was an outstanding producer of beef cattle, hay, corn, soybeans and tobacco.
If you've been to the Wilson County Fair, then you've met Hale Moss.
Moss was introduced by longtime friend and fellow fair board member of over 20 years, Wanda McKee Bates.
"Our honoree is a dreamer. Many good things have happened in our county and state due to his involvement and leadership," she said. "If you want to know more about Hale - he never promotes himself. He always takes the backseat so that others can shine.
"Has Hale ever shared his personal accomplishments with any of you? We want to share about the Hale we know," she continued.
In the fall of 1970, Moss accepted the job as the VoAg teacher at Lebanon High School. After teaching for four years, he accepted an appointment with the TN Department of Agriculture as director of fairs & livestock shows. He served as the beef cattle superintendent of the TN State Fair Advisory Board from 1977-2005.
With his family, Moss opened Moss' Florist and Garden Center and worked there for 39 years until his retirement in 2016.
Dr. Sam B. McFarland
Col. Jerry McFarland, Ret., spoke about his father's contribution to Wilson County. Dr. Sam B. McFarland was a third-generation farmer and doctor. One could say that farming inspired his other career in medicine. Sam was a teenager working in hayfield when he saw a farmer seriously injured, falling off a haystack onto a pitchfork.
He was a graduate of Lebanon High School and attended David Lipscomb for his pre-med degree, where he met his future wife. He obtained his medical degree from the University of Tennessee at Memphis and came home to Lebanon to open his practice.
McFarland married Gwendolyn Moss in 1931 and had three children, nine grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
AC Wharton, Sr.
Next, Lebanon native and former Memphis Mayor AC Wharton, Jr. talked about his father, AC Wharton, Sr. He remembered farming early in the morning before school. Wharton raised sheep, calves, and even beagles for hunting.
Although Wharton didn't have a "formal education," he was a master of human relations and admired by all who knew him. Wharton is widely known for operating a general store which has now been donated to Fiddlers Grove Historic Village.
He married Mary Alice Seay in 1939 and had five children, nine grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.
According to the event program, "the success of his five children brought him so much joy in that they graduated from universities and had successful careers."