The old African proverb “It takes a village to raise a child” has been used for many years to describe the collective actions of like-minded citizens to accomplish a goal. This saying is certainly true of the citizens and businesses of Dawson and Terrell County, Ga., whose actions years ago ultimately decided the location of the USDA, ARS National Peanut Research Laboratory.

The idea originated in 1957 when the National Peanut Council established the Peanut Improvement Working Group, which developed a formal resolution recommending the establishment of a peanut laboratory to conduct research on peanuts and peanut processing. This group then formed a Lab Planning Committee with representatives from growers, shellers, manufacturers and brokers.

In 1960, the committee met in Washington, D.C., with U.S. Department of Agriculture officials to outline the peanut industry’s idea and to seek guidance on what information should be included when approaching Congress with the idea. The outline was developed into a formal plan that was unanimously approved by the Board of Directors of the National Peanut Council in 1960.

Three key Members of Congress were involved: Steve Pace, Elia “Tic” Forrester, and Richard B. Russell.  In June 1961, U.S. Sen. Richard B. Russell submitted the proposal for a peanut laboratory to the U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations. In July 1961, Congress passed the bill authorizing funds for the laboratory. Russell announced Dawson, Ga., as the location for the facility.

Criticism soon emerged from other peanut production areas about the location of the laboratory.  As a result, in October 1962, the U.S. House of Representatives eliminated the money appropriated for the facility in Georgia. The Senate also agreed to remove the money, and expressed hope that the Department would include the laboratory in the next year’s budget request.

 This is where it actually “Took a Community,” as the citizens and businesses of Dawson and Terrell County stepped up and made a difference by providing donations to purchase the 16-acre tract of land where the National Peanut Research Laboratory is currently located. They then deeded the land to the government to establish the laboratory. This action made the difference, as acknowledged in a letter by Dr. George W. Irving, Jr. (Administrator for the USDA, Agricultural Research Service) addressed to the “Public-Spirited Citizens Who Donated The Building Site for Peanut Research Laboratory” where he stated, “You have had a special role in the development of the Laboratory through your civic-minded action in helping make a highly acceptable building site available to the Department at no cost. The fact that a building site would be deeded to the Department at no cost was of specific interest to the Congress.”

In 1968, ground was broken for the laboratory, and the dedication ceremony took place on Nov. 21, 1969. The entire staff of the National Peanut Research Laboratory is proud to be part of Dawson and Terrell County. Thanks to all of those listed above whose actions were responsible for locating the laboratory in Dawson. We look forward to many more years of being part of the community and serving the U.S. peanut industry.

Those who donated, and the amounts donated, included:

C.H. Dale and A.M. King ($100), J.B. McPherson ($150), R.P. Whatley ($50), Dr. G. Fain Martin ($100), Dr. Billy Martin ($100), Dawson Builders Service ($200), J.P. Cannon ($50), Dr. Richard Stapleton ($100), Dawson Machine Shop ($100), Dawson Broadcasting ($250), James G. Wright ($100), E.J. Pace ($100), J.C. Daniels ($100), Ms. Sarah Markette ($50), Dawson Motor ($250), W.L. Ferguson ($100), H.H. Reid ($50), Dr. Robert Cross ($30), H.S. Jennings ($100), King and Hill Agents ($100), Smith and Edwards ($100), Dawson Compress and Storage ($500), the Estate of T.B. Raines ($300), Bills Drive-In ($25), Tri-County Ready Mix ($50).

Ferguson Company ($200), Dozier Drug Company ($200), R.D. Smith Insurance ($100), Perry Feed and Seed ($100), Mr. and Mrs. Julian Lay ($100), Belk-Hagins ($100), Lewis Hardware ($100), Dawson Music ($50), Dr. W.H. Bridges ($100), Raines and Locke ($100), J.L. Nicholson ($100), DuPree Funeral Home ($100), Western Auto ($50), Larks ($50), Maloof’s ($500), Dawson Pharmacy ($200), Dawson Supermarket ($100), J.W. Duskin ($100), Oaklawn Motel ($150), Collier and Cox Tire ($100), Colonial Florist ($100), Dawson Electric and Plumbing ($100), V.L. Singletary ($50), Woolf Hardware ($50), Terrell Implement and Supply ($100), Terrell County Tractor ($250), Dr. Walter D. Martin ($100), Dr. Charles M. Ward ($100), Kuzzins Department Store ($100), Don R. Jones ($200), Oxford Distribution Company ($200), Dawson Lions Club ($200), Sumter Electric Membership ($250), Stevens Industries ($1500), Bank of Terrell ($1600), and Bank of Dawson ($1600). The total amount was $12,155.