(Pictured left: Dr. Morton (right)working with SFA student Jason Word (left))
By David Alders
When it comes to modern Agricultural Mechanics, Dr. Craig H. Morton either wrote the book or contributed heavily to its content and development. The curriculum vitae of the 2018 Nacogdoches County Agriculture Educator of the Year is packed with the titles of agriculture technology textbooks of which he is either the author or a major contributor. He authored Welding for Modern Agriculture, the definitive text on that subject, and contributed numerous chapters to Agricultural Technical Systems and Mechanics, the primary text for high school agricultural mechanics programs nationwide.
That same resume also is filled with dozens of examples of his commitment and service to his students in SFA’s Agricultural Engineering Technology program, to FFA members across the state and nation who compete in career development contests, and to his country as an officer in the United States Army and the National Guard and Reserve in three decades of duty. During his deployments in the Army Reserve, Morton also served the people of Afghanistan through consulting projects aimed at developing that nation’s agricultural economy.
Dr. Morton grew up in Nacogdoches and came by his lifelong love of agricultural engineering and tinkering honestly. His father, Paul Morton, was a master electrician at NIBCO, and his mother, Erline, worked as a florist at The Flower Shop. Both were natives of Melrose. As an agriculture student at Nacogdoches High School in the late 1960s, Dr. Morton raised Yorkshire hogs, laying hens, hay and cattle on his family’s farm in Melrose. He credits his high school agriculture instructors, Nolan Alders and Clois Walker, for helping make the NHS agriculture department one of the nation’s top tier vocational agriculture programs and for inspiring him to embark on a career in agricultural education.
After graduating from NHS in 1969, he enrolled at SFA and earned a degree in Agricultural Education in 1974. Throughout those years as an undergraduate, Dr. Morton was a member of the ROTC and also worked as a projector operator at the SFA and Main theatres, recalling that during his senior year, he worked every night but five. During the following year, Dr. Morton enrolled at Texas A&M to pursue a master’s degree in Agriculture Education, which he earned the following year.
Commissioned as a Second Lieutenant upon his graduation from SFA, Dr. Morton joined the United States Army Infantry after earning his master’s degree and was deployed to Germany twice over the next three years. While back in the States in 1977, Dr. Morton was introduced to Diane Nance on a blind date in Fort Worth, and he has been on active duty as her husband since 1978. Today, Diane works as a speech therapist at NISD.
After leaving active duty in the Army, Craig worked as a County Extension Agent in Houston County until 1980, when he decided to pursue a doctorate in Agricultural Education, with an emphasis in Ag. Engineering, at the University of Missouri. From 1982 to 1988, Dr. Morton held the post of Assistant Professor in the Agriculture Department at Southwest Missouri State University in Springfield.
In 1988, Dr. Morton returned to Nacogdoches to serve the Military Science Department and the ROTC as Assistant Professor, a position he held through 1991. During that year, he declined an opportunity to move to Washington, D.C., for a job in the Pentagon and instead accepted a position as a Visiting Assistant Professor of Agriculture Mechanics at Southwest Texas State University in San Marcos. But after a year in Central Texas, he returned to the Piney Woods of East Texas, teaching geography and physical science (two of the five areas in which he is certified to teach) at Diboll High School. In 1993, he accepted an offer to teach Science and Physical Education at the Nacogdoches Boys Ranch, part of the Woden ISD, and Dr. Morton continued in that post through 1997. During 1997-98, he was deployed to Bosnia and served as Liaison Officer for all Army Reserve troops in that theater of operations. Upon returning to the States in 1998, he applied for teaching positions at Tarleton State and at SFA and was offered positions at both universities. He accepted the position at SFA and has continued to direct the Agricultural Engineering Technology program for the past two decades.
Craig and Diane’s marriage has produced two daughters, Mandy Morton and Amie Morton Ford, and two sons, Justin and Jacob. As of May, the six members of the Morton family will have earned 15 college degrees. Mandy works as Assistant District Attorney in Waller County, and Amie is the Scholarship Coordinator at the SFA Alumni Association. Each have earned two degrees from SFA. In May, Justin will earn his Ph.D. in Philosophy from the University of Texas, where his younger brother, Jacob, is a junior majoring in Government. Justin also works in the field of artificial intelligence for Cycorp Inc., an Austin high technology firm.
During his distinguished teaching career, Dr. Morton has earned the respect of both his peers and students. Dr. Joey Bray, Chair of SFA’s Agriculture Department, says, “The students taking his courses love his teaching style and the time he devotes to their learning.” The Nacogdoches County Agriculture Banquet Committee is pleased to recognize Dr. Craig H. Morton for his contributions to his students, the industry of agriculture, SFA, our nation and the community of Nacogdoches.
Dr. Morton will be honored as the 2018 Agriculture Educator of the Year at the 17th Annual Agriculture Appreciation and Awareness Banquet presented by TFP Nutrition on April 24 at the Nacogdoches County Exposition & Civic Center. The award is sponsored by Citizens 1st Bank. For ticket and event information, please contact the Nacogdoches County Chamber of Commerce at 936-560-55333.