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- MY TURN -

Remembering A Friend


By Ned Darbonne
Madison, Miss.

 
This year’s long-awaited Delta Council Day meeting will reveal the absence of someone who was deeply committed to the organization and Mid-South agriculture. Emory McKeithen, our friend and my first manager when I entered the agriculture chemical business back in 1982, passed away last fall following a brief illness.

Emory served agriculture for more than four decades as district manager for Amchem Products, Union Carbide Agricultural Products Co. and Rhone Poulenc Ag Co., from where he retired in 1993. I was fortunate to work for Emory and was honored to serve as Mid-South manager following his retirement.

Emory spent time with me during that transition and introduced me to all of the key Mississippi contacts before going into retirement. Everywhere we went we were welcomed, and it didn’t take long for me to realize that the relationships that he had were built on years of trust. Text messages and e-mails can never replace face- to-face contacts when it comes to building rapport.

Emory worked closely with the Delta Council to make sure that Mid-South agricultural issues were made known to our Washington delegation and that agriculture was recognized as the major business in the state and vital to the economy of the Delta. His working relationship with the late B.F. Smith and current director, Chip Morgan, was exceptional.

Emory was an advocate for the cotton industry and helped bring to the market many new technologies for cotton, including Temik, Prep, Larvin and the BXN technology that was the first genetically-modified herbicide resistance cotton weed management program. He sought out the best research personnel at the time and conducted numerous cotton production seminars in the Mid-South that helped create better cotton management strategies, resulting in improved production and return on investment. As Frank Mitchener said at Emory’s funeral, “We lost a great friend of Mississippi agriculture today.”

Back in the 1980s, Emory was approached by a group of Mid-South cotton wives for support of their grassroots efforts to promote U.S.-grown cotton apparel.

Emory made resources available that helped get the program started and later was instrumental in getting the company to pledge its financial support for the program that later become known as the “Grown and Made in the USA – “It Matters” campaign.

Emory was recognized many times for his accomplishments but was always quick to pass the credit for his success to the people for whom he led. He fostered teamwork and was excellent at building a sales team that was in tune with Mid-South producers.

He gave me a small plaque that he had on his desk when he retired that reads, “There is no limit to what a man can do or where he can go if he doesn’t mind who gets the credit.” On the back he wrote, “Live by this motto!”

Emory always took time from his busy schedule to enjoy the outdoors – especially those Saturday dove hunts at Baconia Plantation with his son and grandchildren of whom he was extremely proud.

Our last dove hunt was in September and will be remembered for the quality time I had with Emory out in the field talking about the hunts of previous years, cotton farming and laughing about the fun times we spent at meetings and on tours.

Emory is survived by his wife of 57 years, Dorothy Ramsay McKeithen, son Ramsay McKeithen, daughter Dorothy McKeithen Ginn, six grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

We who knew or worked with Emory are sure that he is walking in “high cotton” today and enjoying his eternal reward.

Ned Darbonne, Madison, Miss.
ned.darbonne@bayercropscience.com


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