Photos - Five Generations of the Sutton Family. Top photo from left: J.W. Sutton and T.O. Sutton, circa 1952. Bottom photo from left are Kenneth, Kurt and Clint Sutton.
Kenneth Sutton family named Ag Pioneer of the Year
By Angela Shannon and David Alders
Kenneth Sutton is a third generation sawmiller and timberland owner. His entrepreneurial spirit, industry leadership and stewardship of the land have earned him the 2015 Ag Pioneer award sponsored by Heritage Land Bank.
The legacy of the Sutton family in Nacogdoches County began in 1938 when Kenneth’s father, John Willard (J.W.) Sutton, and grandfather, T.O. Sutton, opened Sutton’s Mill, which was located about four miles south of Chireno. Previous to the establishment of the Chireno mill, T.O. was the proprietor of T.O. Sutton & Sons Lumber Co, which he operated with his four sons and two daughters. The family ran a sawmill in Colmesneil and a planer mill in Chester, both in Tyler County. During that time, J.W., the eldest son, operated a family-owned mill in Leon County.
In the early days in Chireno, much of the mill's output went to the war effort. In the post-war period, the lumber milled in Chireno was sold to wholesale lumber yards, and eventually, homes were constructed with it throughout Texas.
In 1951, Kenneth’s parents moved the family to Nacogdoches. His father opened General Oak Flooring in 1952 on the site presently occupied by Norbord. The idea for a flooring company came about when the government announced plans to acquire land for the Sam Rayburn reservoir. Prior to construction of the lake, the landowners whose property would be inundated were allowed to sell all the hardwood and pine timber. The hardwood timber was processed into flooring at J.W.'s flooring mill.
While his father was running General Oak Flooring, Kenneth went off to college at Texas A&M University. As his summer job in college, he went to work for a flooring company in Dallas as a lumber grader for a salary of fifty cents/hour. After two weeks of difficult and strenuous labor in Dallas, he decided that Nacogdoches was a better place to begin his career. In 1959, the same year in which he graduated from Texas A&M with a Business Administration degree, Kenneth married his high school sweetheart, Claudette. They have two children, Lauree and Kurt, each of whom have a son and a daughter.
Following his graduation, Kenneth returned to Nacogdoches County and began managing timberland. One of Kenneth’s primary responsibilities was procuring timber in areas that were infested with pine bark beetles to prevent their spread to other stands of healthy timber.
In the early 1970s Kenneth established G&S Lumber, located just beyond the city limits on South Street, with his partner Hoover Greer. Greer was responsible for operating the mill, while Sutton was tasked with procuring the timber that was to be milled. Kenneth bought Greer out in the mid-1980’s and has owned and operated the mill outright since then.
G&S Lumber runs one shift and employs 30 people who produce approximately 50,000 board feet of lumber per day from timberlands throughout East Texas. G&S provides lumber to railroad and industrial markets, as well as secondary remanufacture lumber markets. To continue the Sutton legacy, Kenneth’s son, Kurt, has worked for G&S since his graduation from A&M in 1987, and a grandson, Clint, now works at the mill part time while completing high school.
Kenneth served as President of the Texas Forestry Association in 1992, and continues to serve on the TFA Board of Directors, representing the industry before the state government. According to TFA Executive director, Ron Hufford, “Kenneth Sutton is a leader in the forestry community and a long-time member of the Texas Forestry Association. Kenneth gives back to his community and the forestry community through his leadership and personal contributions.” Kenneth states, “It was an honor and a privilege to serve the forest and forest products industry through the TFA."
Kenneth was appointed by Gov. Ann Richards to the Texas Parks & Wildlife Private Lands Advisory Board. The board accomplished two items of particular importance during Kenneth’s tenure, which dated from 1991 through 1999: Limiting liability for landowners who are served with frivolous lawsuits, and creating a State Land Stewardship Award. Kenneth is a past director of Commercial National Bank, now CBTX, a past member of the Nacogdoches Boosters Club and a current member of the Nacogdoches Rotary Club.
According to Sutton, “Stewardship of the land is a responsibility of the landowner. There is nothing like being in the woods or brush country at first light seeing and hearing the sights and sounds of nature." Sutton reaps the rewards of sound land stewardship as both a landowner and as a sawmiller. Without an abundant supply of quality lumber, the American way of life would be very different. Sutton encourages landowners to replant harvested land with both pine and hardwood. By doing so, this Ag Pioneer is helping to provide quality lumber to meet the needs of America’s future generations.
Ag Banquet and Ag Tour Info
The 15th annual Nacogdoches County Agriculture Appreciation and Awareness Banquet is Tuesday evening, Apr. 7 at the Nacogdoches County Exposition & Civic Center, 3805 NW Stallings Dr.
Keynote speaker is Sid Miller, Texas Commissioner of Agriculture.
The 2015 agriculture award recipients are:
· The Buck Lee Family will receive the Farm Family of the Year Award sponsored by Tipton Ford.
· The Kenneth Sutton Family will receive the Pete Smith Agricultural Pioneer Award sponsored by Heritage Land Bank.
· The Nacogdoches Farmers Market will receive the Agribusiness of the Year Award sponsored by First Bank & Trust East Texas.
· Jackie Risner will receive the Agriculture Educator of the Year award sponsored by Citizens 1st Bank.
Scholarship funds will be awarded to deserving youth who are attending the Arthur Temple College of Forestry and Agriculture at SFA, and this year’s award recipients will be honored.
The banquet begins with a meet and greet at 6 p.m. Dinner service will begin at 6:30 p.m. and the program begins at 7 p.m. Tickets are $28 each or $300 for a table of eight and are available now at the Nacogdoches County Chamber, 2516 North St. and from committee members. Businesses are welcome to sponsor tables to provide complimentary admission for youth ag groups.
Call the Nacogdoches County Chamber of Commerce, 560-5533 for ticket and table reservations, or download a registration form from nacogdoches.org.
Please join us Monday Apr. 6 at the Nacogdoches County Civic Center for the annual Nacogdoches County Agriculture Tour at 8:00 a.m. and tour agriculture production in Nacogdoches County. R.S.V.P. by calling (936) 560-7711. The tour is sponsored by Pilgrim's Pride, Star Pro Premium and Heritage Land Bank.
The Nacogdoches Agriculture Committee consists of representatives from Nacogdoches County Farm Bureau, Nacogdoches County Chamber of Commerce, Nacogdoches Convention and Visitors Bureau, Nacogdoches Economic Development Corp., Texas AgriLife Extension Service, Cooperative Extension Program, Pineywoods RC&D, Stephen F. Austin State University - Agriculture Department and the Texas Forest Service are proud to co-sponsor the Agriculture Banquet honoring the Agriculture Industry in Nacogdoches County.