McMillan Foundation, Montgomery family, local leaders lured AgriLife center to Overton 50 years ago

Writer: Adam Russell, 903-834-6191, adam.russell@ag.tamu.edu

OVERTON – The Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center in Overton wouldn’t be where it is today if not for the McMillan Foundation, the Montgomery family and local leaders, the longtime center director said.

The Overton center staff will welcome the public, state and area officials and Texas A&M University System officials to the facility at 1:15 p.m. July 12 for presentations regarding its history and contributions to Texans.

For 50 years, Texas A&M AgriLife Research has conducted research and developed new technology to help Texas producers. The Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service has provided best recommended practices to optimize local, regional and statewide agriculture operations and help producers provide quality goods, including flowers, fruit and vegetables, and beef to consumers.

Presentations by staff will be followed by a keynote address from John Sharp, Texas A&M System chancellor, and comments by Dr. Craig Nessler, AgriLife Research director; Dr. Doug Steele, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service director; and Dr. Mark Hussey, vice chancellor and dean for the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Texas A&M University, all from College Station. A reception will follow.

“There would be no Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center in Overton without the McMillan Foundation, the Montgomery family and local leaders,” said AgriLife Research director at Overton Dr. Charles Long.

Mary Moore McMillan and Dr. Bruce McMillan created the Bruce McMillan Jr. Foundation in October 1951 to memorialize their only son who had died the previous year. The goal of the grieving parents was to establish a foundation that would benefit religious, charitable, literary, scientific and educational organizations in their son’s name.

Bruce McMillan appreciated agriculture, especially grasses. He expressed his hope that the foundation could aid in the advancement of agricultural science, improve soil and timber conservation, and maintain and operate experimental farms or stations for agricultural purposes to his friend and foundation president John Pope during afternoon rides around the McMillan Ranch.

In 1964, Texas A&M was searching for a location for consolidation of its East Texas experiment stations, and Pope took the opportunity to invite university officials to Overton to discuss their plans.

On Jan. 18, 1965, the McMillan Foundation Board and Texas A&M announced plans to develop the East Texas Research-Extension Center. The university would lease 1,221 acres on the ranch for 25 years, with options to renew for two additional 25-year periods. The university would also build offices and a laboratory, known as the Moore-McMillan Building, on 22 acres deeded to A&M along with 150 Hereford cattle and a $300,000 grant for construction.

Additional adjacent land was also needed and a McMillan family friend, J.T. Montgomery, offered to help. Montgomery’s oldest son had died suddenly while attending Texas A&M, and the family gave the university 4.5 acres to the project in his memory.

The facility was opened in 1967.

“Over the decades, the McMillan Foundation has provided funding for key projects and been very supportive of programs here at the center,” Long said.

In 2016, the foundation’s board of directors and the administration of AgriLife Research announced that a 446-acre farm on Texas Highway 135 east of Overton would be incorporated into research and outreach programs and there would be additional annual funding to support the expanded activities.

“We are pleased with the first 50 years of the operations at the Overton center, and we look forward to continuing research and Extension activities to improve success of agricultural operations and the quality of life for Texans,” Long said.

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