North Carolina Agricultural
Hall of Fame Inductees
FRED P. LATHAM
January 10, 1872 - October 5, 1955
Fred Latham was a son of the soil, growing up on his family's farm in Beaufort County. He spent his entire life on his beloved farm, yet became a strong and influential voice for agriculture in eastern North Carolina and throughout the state for his vision of what the farm could become.
His father, a doctor and farmer, bought land for the farm in 1853. When Fred was seventeen, his father died and he inherited part of the farm, eventually buying out the other heirs. As was the custom in those days, he assumed responsibility for his mother, brother and sister. He seemed to know instinctively that success in life depended on being able to influence others, according to his early writings. He never went beyond the seventh grade, but let experience be his teacher.
He married Eva Johnson in 1893, and declared his personal and real property to be about $700. Even without formal education, he wrote to governors, newspaper editors, state and federal government officials, offering insight into creative farming ideas that proved to be correct and advantageous for the growing farming industry in eastern North Carolina.
Farming flat land was a challenge, and he knew that proper drainage was the answer to renewing the land for continuous cultivation. Elected to the state Senate in 1909, Latham led the initiative to have legislation passed so that low land could be reclaimed and made more productive.
He continued to be a visionary farmer, encouraging crop diversification. He proved that the boll weevil's toll on the cotton crop did not mean an end to farming. He began experimenting with soybeans and added hogs to his holdings. Beginning with one train car load of hogs to packers in 1907, twenty-five cars went out in 1924.
Latham developed a new corn called "Latham's Double" in 1927 after twenty-four years of work. He also developed "Latham's Yellow Cross," both varieties well-known and popular until the advent of hybrid seed corn in the 1950s.
The characteristics of persistence and accomplishment were evident throughout his life. He served the farming community on the Board of Agriculture between 1915 and 1929, as president of the American Soybean Association in 1927, was instrumental in starting the NC Crop Improvement Association, and was awarded the Certificate of Meritorious Service to Agriculture by NC State College in 1927. In the late 1940s and early 1950s he served on the Board of Conservation and Development.
He served many years on the Belhaven Chamber of Commerce in Beaufort County, taking pride in his county, and creating many opportunities to tell of the benefits of living there. He also wrote letters to the Raleigh Times and News and Observer bragging about agricultural benefits throughout the entire state, from the Western apples to Sandhill peaches to peanuts and tobacco of his native eastern home.
Latham donated the first "seed" money to start the Pungo District Hospital in 1947, and was benefactor to other efforts in Belhaven and Beaufort County. The original farm, now larger and known as Circle Grove Farm, has been continually farmed and is still in the family. It holds the distinction of being a North Carolina Century Farm.
Fred Latham was a man in the forefront of his chosen life's work and avocation - agriculture. He worked tirelessly to be an outstanding farmer, citizen, and agricultural statesman.
Inducted to the North Carolina
Agricultural Hall of Fame
February 27, 2003