The Gene Ragan 'story'
A short time after televisions spread across the Tri-State area in the 1950s, two names became household words - Lawrence Welk and Gene Ragan. Welk entertained at least three generations across the nation with champagne bubbles, beautiful voices and symphony orchestra music that still rings in the ears of anyone who tuned in.
Ragan entertained and informed those same generations across the Tri-State area by coming into their homes each Saturday evening with farm animals, crops, farmers and various ag experts - black and white initially, eventually in living color.
He was born in the Centerville Community south of Blakely and lived between Centerville and Hentown the first eight years of his life. "That makes me an Early County native, doesn't it?" he asked.
Ragan was recently inducted into the National Association of Farm Broadcasters Hall of Fame at the organization's annual convention in Kansas City, Mo. NAFB Historian Dix Harper noted that Ragan's 40-plus years are believed to be the longest running farm television show on a single station in the nation. Ragan's plaque will hang in the National Ag Hall of Fame in Bonner Springs, Kan.
Ragan had already been entered into other halls of fame and honored for his lifetime career in agriculture journalism. They include: Auburn University's Agricultural Alumni Hall of Honor, University of Florida North Florida Research and Education Center's Hall of Fame, Alabama Cattlemen's Association's Livestock Hall of Fame, and the Opp, Ala., Jaycee Rattlesnake Rodeo Hall of Fame.
Gene is the recipient of over 40 awards, including a tribute read into the Congressional Record by Alabama Congressman Terry Everett in 1997, following Ragan's selection by Progressive Farmer magazine as it's Man of the Year in Alabama Agriculture.
Gene Ragan started his farm broadcasting career in radio in 1953. His "Gene Ragan Show" was a staple of the wiregrass on WTVY-TV from 1958 until his final show December 24, 1998. In the early years, Gene also broadcast farm TV shows on Albany and Tallahassee stations.
Each Saturday his show would feature area farmers, ag experts, 4- Hers and other young folks, many from Early County over the years.
When asked about his favorite episodes he remembered always
enjoying the annual chittlin' suppers. "I always got the chittlin's at
the Blakely Freezer Locker," he said.
He also recalled that another popular show everyone looked forward to was Sheriff A.B. Clark's annual o'possum suppers.
Two of the shows during the latter years were filmed in
Early County and brought Gene back to the area he lived his
first eight years. "We did a show near Hentown about John Harper's rodeo," he recalled. He also filmed a feature about cotton
on Billy Joe Chapman's farm.
He recalled that the Bryant and Hobbs families were their
neighbors. "I was a mean little thing growing up," he said.
He remembered throwing a cat down their open well
and enjoying watching his mother trying to get the cat
out with the bucket. "I remember the limbs from the
peach tree that was near the well, too," he said. "I
never threw another cat in a well!"
The Ragan family moved from Early County to Albany in 1932 when his father took a job managing the Yancey Tractor Company which was located where the post office now sits on Slappey Drive. "We also farmed that area several years with mules," he recalled.
Ragan graduated from Albany High School and from the University of Georgia College of Agriculture with a major in animal husbandry. He
worked with the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Service and sold farm equipment before starting his broadcasting career in late 1953. Ragan wrote the farm page and farm columns in the
Dothan Eagle a number of years.
As a 4-H'er, he exhibited a number of champion steers, was named the Georgia Meat Animal Champion, and won a trip to the National 4-H Congress in Chicago. As a young adult, Ragan was elected president of the Georgia Master 4-H Club.
Becoming a Charolais breeder, he was elected president of the Alabama Charolais Association, and at a later date received the President's Award. He was an active member of the Beef Cattle Improvement Association and received the Richard Deese BCIA Award. He is also a past president and director of his county cattlemen's association.
Gene participated in the Auburn University Bull Test Station program. In 1975, he purchased a Charolais bull that set a new average daily gain record and produced and consigned some high performing young bulls.
Gene was a long time member of the National Association of Farm Broadcasters and was a past NAFB Southeast Regional vice president.
Ragan was retained by SouthTrust Bank as a farm consultant for a number of years. The bank was also a sponsor of his farm programs. He is presently a director at Bank of Early.
Gene is married to the former Marilyn Middleton of Blakely, a leader in her own right. In high school, she was elected vice president of the Georgia Future Homemakers Association. Later, Marilyn was named National President of the College Home Economics Clubs.
Gene and Marilyn, who live just east of Dothan, have two sons, Russ and Middleton. Russ continues the farm radio program started by his father in 1953. The "Ragan Farm Report" is broadcast weekdays 5:30 to 6:00 a.m. Central time on 95.5 WTVY-FM in Dothan.