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Longtime Georgia Ag Commissioner Tommy Irvin Dies


By: Georgia Farm Bureau
9/20/2017 1:38:13 PM



Tommy Irvin

Tommy Irvin, who served as Georgia Commissioner of Agriculture from 1969 to 2011, died on Sept. 15. He was 88.

"Georgia Farmers and Georgia Farm Bureau lost a longtime advocate and friend with the passing of Tommy Irvin," said Georgia Farm Bureau President Gerald Long. "Commissioner Irvin was a fine gentleman and public servant, and he was steadfast in his support of Georgia farmers. We offer our sincere condolences to his family at this difficult time."

A member of Habersham County Farm Bureau for more than 50 years, Irvin received the American Farm Bureau Federation Distinguished Service to Agriculture Award in 2010.

Irvin served in the Georgia House of Representatives for 10 years, including work on the House Agriculture, Education and Appropriations committees. His 41-year stint as agriculture commissioner was the longest term of consecutive service by any state agriculture commissioner in the U.S.

Irvin was particularly active in developing international trade, meeting with representatives of the Soviet Union, China and Cuba to procure trade agreements. Under his leadership, Georgia developed approaches to eradicate animal diseases, control plant pests and promote food safety. The USDA and leaders in other countries used many of the procedures developed during Irvin's leadership as models for their own programs.

In addition to his work as commissioner, Irvin was a champion for agriculture education. He is known for his efforts to meet with youth who are involved in or interested in agriculture or related fields of study.

"Commissioner Irvin loved serving Georgia's farmers and consumers for over three generations. He touched us all with his unsurpassed spirit of stewardship, commitment and work ethic," said Gary Black, Irvin's successor as agriculture commissioner. "Beyond agriculture, his commitment to education put a strong and admirable exclamation point on his life's work. We pray for and offer our condolences to the Irvin family during this difficult period."

During a tour of agricultural damage in South Georgia, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue remembered Irvin as a trendsetter for the advancement of agriculture.

"Obviously he was an icon among his colleagues and well-known and well-respected among the national association of ag officials," said Perdue, who was Georgia's governor during Irvin's last term in office. "He served for so many years, I feel like everybody knew him."

In addition to his parents, Irvin was preceded in death by his wife, Bernice Frady Irvin; brother, Curtis Irvin; sisters, Brenda Smith, Shirley Worley, and Karen Gilstrap. Irvin was a member of Antioch Baptist Church and was Deacon Emeritus.

Survivors include his daughters and sons-in-law Londa and Buddy Sprinkle, of Mount Airy; Lisa and Bill Collier, of Mount Airy; sons and daughters-in-law, James and Susan Irvin, of Toccoa; Johnny and Ann Irvin, of Tallulah Falls and David and Elaine Irvin, of Clarkesville, as well as eight brothers and sisters, 14 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren.

Memorials may be made to the charity of one's choice or the Georgia Masonic Home for Children, 811 Mulberry Street, Macon, GA 31201-6779.


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