West Virginia Agriculture and Forestry Hall of Fame inductees


MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The West Virginia Agriculture and Forestry Hall of Fame Foundation has selected four individuals for induction in 2012.

Inductees for 2012 are: Ralph Beckwith, of Slaty Fork (forestry); Harry Stephen Conrad, of Brandywine (agriculture); Mannon E. Gallegly Jr., of Morgantown (agriculture); and John Cooper, of Point Pleasant (forestry).

These individuals will be honored at the annual hall of fame banquet at Jackson’s Mill Saturday, July 21. A reception will begin at 5 p.m., followed by dinner at the Jackson’s Mill dining hall at 6 p.m.


“Steve” Conrad graduated from West Virginia University in 1964 with a degree in animal husbandry. From 1964-1974, he was a fighter pilot in the U.S. Navy, and completed 129 combat missions.

He returned to the family farm, which was a cattle and hog operation at the time. Eventually, he converted the farm to a turkey operation, and also keeps about 200 cattle. He raises 76,000 turkeys each year and was instrumental in the creation of the Virginia Poultry Grower Cooperative.

His farm was chosen as the 2008 West Virginia Poultry Association Environmental Award Winner.


John Cooper was born in 1919 on a small hillside farm in Gilmer County, and received a degree in agriculture in 1940 from West Virginia University.

He volunteered for the U.S. Navy in 1942, and after WW II, worked for the Farmers Home Administration and the U.S. Soil Conservation Service.

In 1973, he started Santa’s Forest Christmas tree farm, which has provided trees to three West Virginia governors. He was elected president of the WV Christmas Tree Growers Association in 1979, and also represented that organization in the National Christmas Tree Growers Association in the early 1980s.


Ralph Beckwith was born in Taylor County in 1934. Soon afterward, the family moved to Webster County, where Ralph grew up.

In 1961, at age 26, Beckwith borrowed $1,000 on a handshake and opened a small sawmill in Slaty Fork. Five decades later, Beckwith Lumber Co. produces 50,000 board feet of lumber each day from the same location.

His family now personally owns 65,000 acres of forest land in 15 counties, which supplies 80 percent of the company’s raw materials.

The company was recognized with the “Governor’s Safety Award” in 1995 and the “West Virginia Outstanding Large Sawmill of the Year” award in 2011.


Mannon E. Gallegly Jr., was born in Arkansas in 1923, and joined the staff of West Virginia University in 1949. An expert in plant breeding and fungi that harm plants, Gallegly has made notable contributions to agriculture in West Virginia and around the world.

He developed blight-resistant versions of tomatoes and potatoes. The “West Virginia ‘63” tomato is renowned for its disease resistance and its excellent fruit quality.

He is also considered an authority on Phytophthora, a species of fungi that can attack tomatoes, potatoes, strawberries and oak trees.

4-H’ers honored

The WVAFHF Foundation will also honor the Barbour County 4-H team that again brought home a national championship in land judging and the reserve championship in the homesite evaluation contest.

Under the direction of Roger Nestor, the Barbour County 4-H Club has been a dominant force in recent years, winning multiple championships.

Tickets. The banquet is open to the public. Tickets are $30 and the deadline for reservations is June 24. Tickets can be purchased from: Hope Goff, W.Va. Forestry Association, 304-372-1955; or Robin Gothard, WVDA, 304-558-3200.

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