North Carolina Agricultural
Hall of Fame Inductees
LEONIDAS LAFAYETTE POLK
April 24, 1837 - June 11, 1892
North Carolina's first Commissioner of Agriculture, Leonidas L. Polk, was a successful farmer, politician and editor. Born of well-to-do parents in Anson County, orphaned at the age of 15, he attended Davidson College for one year where he excelled at public speaking and debate. In 1860 at the age of 23 he was elected to the House of Commons. Originally opposed to secession, he later became a Colonel commanding the 81st North Carolina Militia. He fought at Gettysburg.
Following the Civil War, he founded the town of Polkton, incorporated in 1875. Here he launched a weekly newspaper, the Ansonian, through which he urged farmers to join the Patrons of Husbandry or Grange. His incessant efforts to improve the farmers' lot led to his appointment in 1877 as Commissioner of the newly-created State Department of Agriculture. Leaving this post in 1880, he returned to journalism with the Raleigh News. Later, as founder of the Progressive Farmer, and president of the Baptist State Convention, he used his influence to establish both the Agricultural and Mechanical College and Baptist Female University, now known as North Carolina State University and Meredith College.
Still chiefly concerned with the farmers' well being, he urged formation of farmers' clubs. He became full-time president of the National Farmers' Alliance and Industrial Union. He traveled widely speaking to Alliance groups and soon became a national favorite among farmers by vigorously championing their cause. The People's Party would have nominated him as its choice for U.S. President except for his untimely and unexpected death on June 11, 1892. A center of controversy many times in his life, Leonidas L. Polk nonetheless exerted great influence on affairs of both state and nation.
AGRICULTURAL HALL OF FAME