Texas A&M AgriLife celebrates 50 years in Overton

  • Writer: Adam Russell, 903-834-6191, adam.russell@ag.tamu.edu
  • Contact: Dr. Charles Long, 903-834-6191, charles.long@ag.tamu.edu

OVERTON – The Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center in Overton celebrated its 50th year of research, innovation and education July 12.

More than 170 people attended, including area residents, AgriLife retirees, regional elected officials and AgriLife personnel.

(From left) State Rep. Travis Clardy, R-Nacogdoches, John Sharp Texas A&M System Chancellor and Dr. Charles Long, resident director of the Overton Center pause for photos at the 50th anniversary celebration. (Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service photo by Adam Russell)

The celebration included remarks from keynote speaker John Sharp, Texas A&M System Chancellor; Dr. Craig Nessler, Texas A&M AgriLife Research director; Dr. Doug Steele, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service director; and Dr. Mark Hussey, vice chancellor and dean for College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Texas A&M University, College Station.

Sharp, a former long-time state representative, state senator and Texas State Comptroller, said AgriLife Research and AgriLife Extension are the two best state agencies, and agency work done in Overton and around the state enriches the lives of every Texan.

“There is no organization that brings more goodwill to the Texas A&M name than AgriLife Research and AgriLife Extension. None,” said Sharp. “The rest of the A&M System benefits because of the lives you touch, the people you touch and your relationships with the Texas Legislature, and because of the good work you do here in Overton. So, congratulations on 50 years.”

The center north of Overton on Farm-to-Market 3053 houses AgriLife Research scientists and AgriLife Extension specialists who work to address the highest regional agricultural priorities.

AgriLife Research scientists at the Overton center conduct research in five disciplines – soil science, pasture utilization, forage plant breeding, animal physiology and horticulture. AgriLife Extension specialists cover a range of regional priorities, including forages, wildlife and fisheries, beef cattle, horticulture and timber.

In his remarks, Dr. Monte Rouquette, AgriLife Research forage physiologist, Overton, provided historical context for the center’s origin and the impact AgriLife Research scientists and AgriLife Extension specialists have made in East Texas, the state and beyond over the past five decades.

Rouquette said AgriLife Extension economists estimate ryegrass forage, ryegrass turf and legume/clover varieties developed at Overton have provided an $8.5 billion economic impact since 1992. The center is also an educational hub for national and international agricultural education, including providing hands-on work for almost 200 graduate students.

Dr. Charles Long, the center’s director for the past 35 years, and Shelia Lewis, AgriLife Extension District 5 administrator, Overton, followed Rouquette to recognize friends of the Overton center. These included past faculty, staff and residents, as well as organizations that contributed to its success over the past 50 years, including the Bruce McMillan Jr. Foundation and the J.T. Montgomery family which were instrumental in the center’s establishment in Overton.

“We’re here because of the McMillan Foundation and the Montgomery family,” he said.

The McMillan Foundation leased 1,220 acres to the state agencies in 25-year increments for $1 annually and provided more than 100 head of cattle and $300,000 for construction of the facility in 1967. The Montgomery family provided adjacent land where the center is located.

Long also praised past and present faculty and staffs for their dedication to the job of improving the  quality of life for all Texans.

“The most important thing to remember today is that this is about people,” he said. “The work done here is performed by people who want to make a difference in their field, and the people who benefit from their efforts are the people of Texas and beyond. Today we celebrate 50 years of accomplishments and we look forward to the next 50 years.”

More information about the center can be found at http://overton.tamu.edu/.

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