Wilsie Clark named Agriculture Pioneer of the Year
Posted 03 - 18 - 2008
Pictured above are Willie Jo, left, and Wilsie Clark in their Nacogdoches home.
Nacogdoches, Texas – The Agriculture Committee of Nacogdoches County will honor Wilsie Minas Clark as the 2008 Pete Smith Agriculture Pioneer award recipient at the seventh annual Agriculture Appreciation and Awards Banquet, Monday, March 31 at The Fredonia.
Mr. Clark was born on September 19, 1918, on the family farm on Appleby Sand Road. He is the youngest of five children born to Elizabeth Williams and Minas Holland Clark. He attended the Faulkner School near his home until ninth grade. He then walked seven miles each day to attend Nacogdoches High School and graduated in 1935.
“My first exposure to butchering was on the family farm,” said Mr. Clark. “After the fall corn crop was in the crib and the last of the cotton crop was picked and at the gin and after the first frost, a couple of hand-fed hogs were killed. A large fire would be built under a barrel full of water, and the hog would be put in the barrel until the hair would slip. We’d scrape the hair from the hog while it hung at the end of the barn or from a tree. The hog was the butchered, and we were careful to use everything from the skin to the bones and even the stomach and intestines. All the fat was rendered for lard. All this work was performed by family and friends.”
Mr. Clark began working in grocery stores while in high school; first, for W.V. Whitbread’s, then for Novell Bright’s grocery. While working for Bright, Mr. Clark, at the age of 18, and his brother George purchased the Palace Seed Feed and Market on Main Street.
“In that store they had a meat market where locally purchased beef and pork carcasses were cut and sold to the public, and where Dad learned to cut meat,” Mr. Clark’s son Mark Clark, said. “In the early 1940s, he and business partner John Brantley purchased Mr. Bright’s grocery store on North Street in what is now Landmark Center.
“In 1947 they opened B&C Locker Plant, the first frozen food locker and meat market next door to the grocery. They had one thousand frozen food lockers for rent to the public before the time of home food freezers. Earlier, in 1942, Dad and Mr. Brantley built the first commercial slaughter plant in Nacogdoches on a 20-acre parcel of land. That is Lane Drive now, but then it was a private road that they built themselves for access. It was there in a self-built wood frame building that they slaughtered cattle and hogs for their market and for area farmers and ranchers.”
In 1957 Mr. Clark bought Brantley’s interest and continued the B&C Packing and Locker Plant businesses.
“Later that year on a Sunday night while at church, he received a phone call that the slaughter plant was on fire. It burned completely to the ground while he and others stood by,” Mark said. “When asked by an employee what they would do, Dad said, ‘Be here in the morning, and we’ll start cleaning this mess up, and Lord willing, we will build again.’ The Lord was willing, and in 1955 a 4,500 square foot modern facility was completed. The building was remodeled and expanded several times through the life span of the business.”
During the more than 60 years of service to the community, Mr. Clark purchased thousands of head of cattle and hogs from area producers, 4-H Club and FFA Club members. He has been responsible for handling the livestock of thousands of customers from farm to table, making such products as T-bone steak, pot roast, hamburger, sugar-cured hams and old-fashioned sausage. During his professional career, he has pioneered the safe and sanitary facilities and handling methods of modern-day meat processing. He has watched the industry move from “on farm, shade tree” operations, where meat could only be preserved by salt curing, smoking and canning, to providing government-inspected facilities with modern refrigeration and packing techniques.
Also involved in the businesses was Willie Jo Clark, wife of Mr. Clark for 64 years.
“She has been everything from secretary to bookkeeper to meat wrapper and floor sweeper and whatever else needed to be done,” Mr. Clark said. Also together, the Clark’s reared four children, the late Kathie Clark Howard, Judy Clark Rouner, Carol Clark Maclin and Mark.
Others that worked for Mr. Clark for more than 40 years each are Tom C. Penney, O’Neil Rousaw and Doyal Rousaw.
Not only was Mr. Clark the first in the county’s food locker and slaughter plant business, but he was the first member in Nacogdoches County of the Gideon’s International Bible Society in which he remains active for more than 50 years. He has preached God’s Word in the Nacogdoches County jail for more than 50 years. He has also served as a deacon in the Baptist church for more than 60 years. He was a member of the Optimist Club for more than 30 years.
“For all of his business life that spans more than 60 years, Dad has been a pioneer in the way food has been processed and preserved for Nacogdoches County families. But more importantly, he is a servant to the public, his family, his church and his Lord,” Mark said.
The banquet begins with social hour at 6 p.m. and dinner at 7 p.m. Dr. Archie P. McDonald will present “East Texas Gothic: History of Nacogdoches County Agriculture.”
Tickets for the Agriculture Appreciation and Awareness Banquet are $20 each and may be purchased by contacting the Chamber at 560-5533. Limited exhibit space is available at no cost. Contact Karen Tucker, Texas AgriLife Extension Service, at 560-7711 before March 25 for reserving exhibit space.
The agriculture banquet is a cooperative effort of local agencies that include Nacogdoches County Farm Bureau, Texas AgriLife Extension Service, Texas Forest Service, SFA Agriculture Department, NEDCO and Nacogdoches County Chamber.
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