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MEMBER SPOTLIGHT: Now 80 and retired from farming, James T. Powell delights in knowing that his grandson "Joe" Powell is still working the same fields he once worked.

-- Photo by Darryal Ray

James T. Powell


Prattville, Alabama

Alfa Member Since:

Current Office or Board:
Mr. Powell has served more than 25 years as secretary/treasurer of the Autauga County Farmers Federation. He also serves as vice-chairman of the Alabama Rural Rehabilitation Corp.

Previous Office(s) or Board:
Mr. Powell was a state board member of the Alabama Farmers Federation for 12 years, was state secretary/treasurer for three years when the position was filled by appointment rather than election. He is one of only two (Phillip Martin of the Coffee County Farmers Federation is the other) surviving state board member who authorized the formation of Federated Guaranty Life Insurance, the forerunner of Alfa Corp. In 1959, at "the ripe old age 29," Powell was elected president of the Autauga County Farmers Federation, and served two years. Powell was also board member of Prattville/Autauga County Character Coalition, served 32 years on the Autauga County Schools Board of Education (26 of those as chairman) and is a 30-year member of the board of directors of the Bank of Prattville.

Other Farming Activities:
Powell is also a board member of the Federal Land Bank of South Alabama, and a founding member of the Autauga Quality Cotton Association.

My Farm:
Powell began farming in partnership with his grandfather, J.T. Gresham, in 1947, but he says farm life actually began sooner than that. "I can't remember when I wasn't farming," Powell said. "I had my first cotton crop -- well one that he called 'mine' -- in 1941. It was an acre of cotton, and it made a bale of cotton. I was 11 years old at the time. ... He made a farmer out of me, and I didn't even know he was doing it at the time, but I fell in love with it."

He rented the farm for three years before buying it in 1954 after his grandfather passed away. He raised cotton, hogs, grain and operated a dairy and managed his timber. After his eldest son Joel graduated from Auburn University, he returned to the farm and entered a partnership with him for 28 years. "I guess one of the nicest memories of farming was when my oldest son came back from college and went into partnership with me for 28 years. I guess most fathers enjoy having their sons come back into the business and carry it on."

The father-and-son duo retired together in 2003. "I had actually quit the physical part of farming in 1994, but I kept doing book work and being the "go-for" kind of guy for the next 15 or 16 years," said the elder Powell. "Joel had started a towing service and it was going well, so he decided to do that." Today, the farm is operated by his grandson, "Joe" Powell, who grows wheat, soybeans, peas and hay in addition to raising cattle. Seeing his grandson farming that land "gives you a swelled head," says Powell. "It makes you very proud. He was the one who always had dirt in his shoes. He always loved it."

What I Like About Agriculture:
"Life has been really good to us," says Powell. "We've had a really good life."

He lists his "likes" as: (1.) Love of seeing things grow (2.) Great environment to raise a family (3.) Self-employment and (4.) the challenge to succeed.

The Biggest Challenge Facing Agriculture:
"Production and marketing," says Powell, who says you can't have one without the other.

My Family:
Powell has been married to Madeira, his high school sweetheart, for 60 years. "She moved to Prattville in 1937 and I was a year older," Powell recalls. "We all grew up together and I guess when I was in the 10th or 11th grade we just fell in love, and we've been that way ever since."

They have three children: Joel, Susan and Jim; six grandchildren; and three great grandchildren with one more on the way.

My Faith:
Powell is a member of the First United Methodist Church of Prattville where he has previously served on the Staff-Parrish Relations Committee, taught an adult Sunday school class for 35 years and chaired the administrative board.

Educational Background:
Powell graduated from Auburn University in 1951 with a bachelor's of science degree in agriculture. He was a member of Gamma Sigma Delta, Alpha Zeta, Phi Kappa Phi and Alpha Gamma Rho.

You May Not Know:
The Powells were the Alabama Farm Bureau Federation's Outstanding Young Farm Family in 1964. "If we weren't the first to win it, we were the second," says Powell. A year later, Powell was named the Jaycee Outstanding Young Farmer. Soon after that the Powells were named the Master Farm Family by the Alabama Cooperative Extension System and Progressive Farmer. In 1986, the Powells' operation was named Alabama's Farm of Distinction winner -- the first farm in the state to win that honor.

-- Compiled by Darryal Ray

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