The Litton Agri-Science Learning Center of Chillicothe, Missouri

Our first group (21293 bytes)During the summer of 1988, the Chillicothe Future Farmers of America (FFA) rented a barn on the former Litton Charolais Ranch to give FFA members a place to care for and exhibit livestock. In 1990, the Chillicothe FFA Alumni and Ag Advisory Board began discussing the need for a permanent facility. In May, 1991, the Chillicothe FFA Alumni received $1,000 from the Bruce Zullig Memorial to officially start the project.

That same year, the Green Hills RC&D wrote a grant proposal that was accepted and fully funded by the Jerry Litton Memorial Family Foundation. With this funding and private donations in excess of $150,000, the Litton Agri-Science Learning Center has become more than just a dream. A dream becomes reality (24730 bytes)

J.B. Thistlethwaite drew a vision for the layout of the lake, test plots, wetland, and trails in October of 1992. The land for the center was purchased in February of 1993, and the building was constructed that fall. Students began using the center in the spring of 1994.

Improvements and new projects are on-going, as more and more people in the Green Hills' area become involved with this innovative learning center.

We now have some of the old FFA Banquet Programs on this site. The programs date from May 4, 1957, to the present. Click here to view. (Note: These are large pdf files, so please wait for them to download to your computer.)

For current news, photos, and events, visit our NEWS' page on this website!


Litton Ag Center Facilities Aerial View Spring, 2011 
Click on photo to see a closer view


ABOVE: Some members of the Jerry Litton Family Memorial Foundation along with community
members and organizations involved in the development of the M.W. Jenkins Expo Center, including school
personnel, fair board members, and the Jenkins Foundation (CT Photo 01 18 06)

Named for Jerry Litton...

Jerry Lon Litton was born on May 12, 1937, in a three-room farmhouse in Lock Springs, Missouri. He was the first and only child born to Charley Oscar Litton and Mildred Kathryn Tomlinson Litton. The school at Lock Springs had classes for grades one through eight, and when Jerry began school, there were only two other students in the first grade with him - one boy and one girl. It was typical of Jerry to make top grades in school, and his lowest grades usually came in penmanship and music. The boys in Lock Springs did whatever most rural boys do after school when they aren't big enough to help with the farming. They rode their bicycles, played on the big pile of corn cobs by the grain elevator, and they attempted to play football. Since the school didn't have a team, there was no one to teach them how to play. By talking to and watching some of the older boys, they managed to pick up some of the basics and had a great time playing their own unofficial version of football.

Jerry is in back row, top left, in the 4th grade...

The grade school years passed quickly, and by 8th grade, he loved football, baseball, and people. He was friendly and outgoing to everyone he knew, and he made new friends easily. He spoke to everyone no matter how many times he had already seen them that day. Along with baseball, he liked to sit and read his books. He also liked comic books and story books of all kinds. He liked to come home and find a fresh homemade pie in the kitchen, especially chocolate. When he was old enough to assume some of the chores, he did so willingly and was eager to do a good job. Jerry also loved animals and always preferred taking care of the livestock to working with machinery. It took an organization he had barely heard of to bring about a change that set his feet on a path they would always follow. An organization of farm boys, like himself, that he wasn't even sure he wanted to join. The Future Farmers of America took a young, naive farm boy and helped turn him into a suave, polished speaker. It found in him values of honesty, integrity, and dedication that were already a part of his young character and developed and molded them into a set of codes that he would live by.

When he finished 8th grade, he took his finals and ranked first with an average of 93.4%. After graduation from Lock Springs School, he continued his education at Chillicothe High School. After meeting with the ag instructor at Chillicothe, Pat Crabtree, Jerry decided to enroll in the ag program and join FFA. His father helped him get started the first year by financing his project of two Duroc gilts, one steer, two registered Hereford heifers, and 60 acres of corn on rented ground. After his first year, he began exhibiting his cattle and hogs at the Missouri State Fair. After his sophomore year, his Hereford bull was judged grand champion in the junior class in the FFA competition at the state fair. When he turned 16, Charley bought Jerry his first vehicle, a pickup truck (at his request) which he used to haul feed and farm supplies from town.

S. Taylor Dowell was Jerry's first speech teacher. When two boys from the Republican party challenged Jerry to a debate, he agreed. This was a turning point in the shy, self-conscious boy's career as a speaker. Jerry was so interested in defending his party, he forgot about his shyness and improved every day after that confrontation. He later began to enter FFA speech contests. As a senior, he won the district contest and went on to the state contest where he took second place. When the first place winner was unable to compete in the regional event, Jerry took his place and won. In the national event in Kansas City in October, 1955, he placed 4th. His speech was titled, "Farming... a Challenge and an Opportunity." As a junior, he won the State Farmer degree, the highest awarded by the state association. As a senior, he served as chapter president and was also elected president of the National Honor Society, while also serving as editor of the school newspaper, The Gabbler. He lettered in football and was on the school track team and student council. In April, 1955, he attended the state FFA convention in Columbia and was elected president of the Missouri FFA. This was the first time a Chillicothe member attained a state office. In the fall if 1956, while still serving as state FFA president, he enrolled at the University of Missouri College of Agriculture. That October, he received the American Farmer degree. He was also then elected national FFA secretary. While visiting Washington, DC in January of 1957, he immediately fell in love with Washington and the atmosphere he found there.

The other love of his life was a girl back home by the name of Sharon Ann Summerville. While out of school, farming with his dad, traveling for the FFA, and working as a farm director and sportscaster for the local radio station, KCHI, he was too busy for girls. But, his father pointed her out to him and told Jerry he should ask her for a date. By the following summer, they were a steady twosome. They hosted a radio show called "Jerry and Sherri's Platter Party." In August, 1956, he attended the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. His political interests were so strong, he was elected president of the Livingston County Young Democrat Club. He was voted the most outstanding freshman of his fraternity, Alpha Gamma Rho. In 1958, he won first place in a speech contest in which 400 student body contestants participated. His speech was titled "Young America." He continued to travel, make speeches, attend classes, and pick up campus honors. In the meantime, Sharon was named Miss Chillicothe on April 26, 1958. She won the Miss Missouri swimsuit portion and was named runner up to Miss Missouri. In October, they became engaged. The following June, Sharon graduated from Christian with an Associate of Arts in commerce and came home to Chillicothe to prepare for the wedding. The wedding was held in the Methodist Church in Chillicothe, the last wedding to be held in that building (a new church was being built). After the wedding, they were flown to Columbia by E.L. Reed, and they drove to Miami, Florida for their honeymoon, with a side trip to Havana, Cuba. After receiving his degree, Jerry and Sharon attended the Kennedy-Johnson inauguration. It was an exciting finish to another phase in the life of Jerry Litton.

The story of the Litton Charolais Ranch has been told many times. The Littons themselves told the story in the Charolais Bull-O-Gram, the magazine Jerry originated, wrote, and published at the ranch. The story spans 22 years and really began in 1952 when Jerry came home from school with a story about a veterinarian who went to Texas and saw the results of using Charolais bulls on commercial cows. The calves were outgaining the straight bred cows. They contacted Dr. Jack Miller at Texas A&M University where research was being conducted in the crossbred field. Although Charley didn't feel they could afford to buy a Charolais bull, Jerry signed a note and took out a loan and purchased a three-quarters Charolais bull which he turned out with 80 Hereford cows. The crossbred calves averaged $58 more per head than the Hereford calves. Two banks loaned him $10,000 each, and he mortgaged all he owned. With this money, he purchased 19 cows and 13 calves. When they were delivered to the Lock Springs farm on March 25, 1957, people from seven counties came to see them. There was a great demand for his new white breed, and he could resell females almost as fast as he bought them. By 1960, they realized the Lock Springs farm could not accommodate the new operation. The Ralph L. Smith Angus Farm became the Litton Charolais Ranch. Right after graduation, Jerry and Sharon moved into a house not far from the new Chillicothe ranch. An office was set up in the basement of Charley and Mildred's home with Jerry's manual typewriter.

One way to become well-known in the cattle world is through the show ring, but at this time, there were no classes open to Charolais. The first time they were permitted to take their cattle to the American Royal in Kansas City, they were put in a corner in the basement. After each show, Jerry would write to the people who had visited their booth. One year, to attract attention to their cattle in Kansas City, Jerry hired Playboy bunnies to come to the barn and groom the Litton cattle. Jerry was a promotional genius and Charley was a natural born salesman. They were honest and had a sincere desire to see their customers also succeed. Add to this picture a young bull named Sam, and you have the necessary ingredients for success.

In 1960, the management of the Chicago International Show asked the Littons to bring some animals to exhibit. They took FWT Bar 951 (Sam) and a heifer named for Mildred, Mickey 04. Few people in the midwest had seen Charolais at that time, and the snow-white pair attracted a lot of attention. When classes were finally opened to Charolais, Sam began to distinguish himself in the show ring. He was many times named Grand Champion at prestigious shows (American Royal, Houston Stock Show, Pan-American Exposition, Arizona National, and San Antonio Stock Show). Probably no Charolais bull in America sired more show ring winners than did Sam. For an unprecedented five years straight, Sam 951 captured the coveted senior get-of-sire championship at both the American Royal and the International Exposition. Sam was the world's first 100% Golden Certified Meat Sire. In a one-week period in the spring of 1971, three major bull test stations were topped by bulls sired by Sam or by one of his sons. The Encyclopedia Britannica chose Sam to represent the Charolais breed, and they sent their own photographer to the Litton Ranch to take his picture. Because he was such a complete bull, the Litton Ranch was able to build its entire breeding program around Sam 951. They were able to concentrate his genes in a linebreeding program that still exists. On April 4, 1972, Sam died peacefully in his sleep. He was nearly 13 years old. He was buried in a grassy area in front of his own barn; the air-conditioned, red-carpeted, maple-paneled barn where thousands had come to visit the most famous bull in the world.

In his Bull-O-Gram article of February-March 1972, Jerry mentioned the belief that there comes a time in everyone's life when they must stand up and be counted. The legislative arena presented such an opportunity to him. His business was doing well, he had reached his goals in the business and livestock worlds. His sense of timing told him it was time to move on. On February 9, 1972, he announced his candidacy to run for representative of the 6th District in Washington (northwest Missouri from North Kansas City north to the Iowa line and from the Nebraska-Kansas border to as far east as Adair County). The main campaign headquarters was located in Chillicothe and staffed with one paid employee, Darla Macoubrie. Dave Goodwin of Cameron was appointed director of a special choral group, the "Young Citizens for Litton." This group consisted of 30 young people, 18-21 years of age, who volunteered their time to campaign for Jerry. The group toured the district in their own special bus and appeared at meetings, county fairs, rallies, and impromptu sidewalk performances. They were costumed in Jerry's campaign colors of green and white and wore white straw hats with green "JERRY" hatbands. The girls wore white dresses with green neck-scarves, and the boys appeared in green shirts with white slacks. Rehearsals were held at the Litton Ranch with scheduling handled by Maxine Lamb. Mrs. Lamb was the wife of the Litton Ranch general manager, Paul Lamb.

The August 8 primary produced a near-record turnout, and the young Republican, Christopher "Kit" Bond, captured 75% of his party's vote in the Republican's five-way governor's race. In the Sixth District race, Jerry's grassroots organization paid off, and the farm vote carried their cattleman candidate to victory. In the final count, Jerry carried 19 of the 23 counties, winning the election by 1,726 votes, capturing 36% of the total vote count. He was now facing Russell Sloan, the Republican candidate with a large campaign chest. Sloan had resigned as head coach at NE Missouri State University in Kirksville. Jerry often made the comment that he was an American first and a Democrat second. In early September, Jerry and his campaign manager, Ed Turner, embarked on an accelerated schedule of appearances with a 30-day blitz of the 23 counties, sometimes giving five or more speeches per day. In the election, Nixon carried every one of the 23 counties in Jerry's district, but Jerry still won by a substantial margin in the face of a Republican presidential and gubernatorial landslide. Jerry Litton had once again accomplished exactly what he set out to do. He was 35 years old. His dream of becoming a congressman by age 35 had become a reality. He was Jerry Litton - farm boy, FFA officer, college student, public speaker, husband, father, cattleman. And, now he had a new name - The Honorable Jerry Litton, United States Representative.

"Happy are those who dream dreams and are ready to pay the price to make them come true." L.J. Cardinal Suenens

Information for this web site was taken from "Jerry Litton 1937-1976, A Biography" by Bonnie Mitchell, assisted by Charley & Mildred Litton, Copyright 1978, Jerry Litton Family Memorial Foundation.

 

 

Litton Loyalists Try to Keep Legacy Alive
By DAVID A. LIEB Thursday, August 3, 2006 Associated Press Writer

Caption: Mildred Litton holds a photograph of her son, Jerry Litton, at her home Wednesday, July 26, 2006, in Chillicothe, Mo. On Aug. 3, 1976, Litton, a Missouri congressman that some have said had the potential to become president, was killed in a plane crash along with his wife, two children and two others on the night Litton won the Democratic senatorial primary on Aug 3, 1976. Thirty years later, Litton remains an inspiration for may of his generation. And the Senate seat he sought is again on Missouri's ballot, the first time that this has occurred on one of the round-numbered anniversaries of his death.

AP Photo/Ed Zurga

CHILLICOTHE, Mo. (AP) - To his followers, Jerry Lon Litton had Harry Truman's down-home sensibilities, Ronald Reagan's command of the public microphone and Bill Clinton's uncanny ability to connect through a simple handshake and smile.

Jimmy Carter, himself not quite yet a president, predicted that Litton could someday live in the White House. But what might have been was forever extinguished when Litton, his wife, their children and two others died in a plane crash Aug. 3, 1976 - the very night of the Missouri congressman's stunning victory in the Democratic senatorial primary.

Thirty years later, Litton remains an inspiration for many of his generation. And the Senate seat he sought is again on Missouri's ballot - the first time that has occurred on a round-numbered anniversary of his death. Yet Litton's legacy is fading. There is no commemorative event this year, no marker near the airport crash site, and no recollection of him for the scores of Chillicothe students who raise livestock, play football and attend college thanks in part to his estate.

To keep his memory alive, the Litton foundation distributes a biographical book along with its $1,500 scholarships. It funds an agricultural center bearing his name and has renovated the high school football stadium where he once played. The message of those who recall him is this: ‘‘Jerry, in his time and place, was spectacular,'' says John Ashford. ‘‘He was a star performer.''

Then Litton's 26-year-old campaign manager, Ashford went on to become a consultant for more than 100 politicians and now provides public affairs advice to corporations. Yet it is Litton's portrait that hangs above his Washington, D.C., desk.

Mildred Litton Dies
Friday, December 26, 2008, C-T

Mildred Litton, mother of the late Rep. Jerry Litton, a popular Democratic congressman from Chillicothe, died early Christmas morning. She was 98. Throughout her life, she was a donor to many community projects, including agricultural education, awarding thousands of dollars in scholarships each year to the local FFA Chapter members. Lindley Funeral Home in Chillicothe said Mrs. Litton died just after 2 a.m. on Thursday.

She was the mother of Jerry Litton, who was killed Aug. 3, 1976, in a plane crash along with his wife and their two children as they headed to a victory celebration after he won the Democratic senatorial primary. Paul Rupp Jr., and his son, Paul III, also died in that crash.

Mildred was born Feb. 22, 1910, in Daviess County, the fourth of six children. She attended school at Carlow and then Lock Springs, where she graduated with the class of 1928. In 1929, she and Charley Litton were married. Mildred’s roles included cooking meals for prospective buyers, helping in the ranch office, caring for the two grandchildren who made a welcome appearance in the family, and traveling with Charley on the show circuit, where the big white cattle made a national and international reputation for the Litton name. After Charley's death in 1980, Mrs. Litton continued generously donating to a number of projects. She was heavily involved in agricultural education, awarding thousands of dollars in scholarships each year to local FFA members. She also made contributions for the city-owned Green Hills Golf Course built on former Litton ranch land, the Livingston County 4-H Foundation, and the Chillicothe YMCA.

Mildred Litton’s funeral service will be held Tuesday at 10:30 a.m. at United Methodist Church in Chillicothe, with burial at Resthaven Memorial Gardens. Visitation at Lindley Funeral Home is scheduled Monday from noon to 9 p.m., with family visitation from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.

The Associated Press contributed information for this story.

Mildred Litton Obituary, C-T, 12/26/08

Litton Inducted into State Fair Hall of Fame
Published: Friday, August 21, 2009, C-T

CAPTION: Mildred Litton
C-T File Photo


SEDALIA, Mo. — Mildred Litton was inducted into the Missouri State Fair Hall of Fame on Sunday, August 16 in Sedalia. She was selected posthumously for induction into the Missouri State Fair 4-H Hall of Fame because she was instrumental to the success of many youth programs in Livingston County, according to state 4-H officials. They also noted that Litton’s legacy continues today through the work of the Jerry Litton Family Memorial Foundation.

Missouri 4-H recognizes outstanding individuals for their service and dedication to 4-H by honoring them with membership in the Missouri 4-H Hall of Fame. Each inductee is recognized and presented with a plaque at the Missouri State Fair. Fellow club members, families and friends of the inductees are invited to attend. Ron Wolf, co-director of the Grand River Technical School, accepted the award on Litton's behalf.

CAPTION: Mildred Litton was inducted posthumously into the Missouri State Fair 4-H Hall of Fame on Sunday in Sedalia. Ron Wolf, co-director of the Grand River Technical School, (right) accepted the award on her bahalf during the ceremony. He stands with Bud Herzog, chairman of hte 4-H foundation (left).

C-T Submitted Photo

Documentary Features 'Dialogue with Litton' Programs
Constitution-Tribune
October 18, 2010

A documentary about the political career of the late Jerry Litton, who connected with the American people through public town-hall meeting style dialogues, has been completed and will be unveiled this Wednesday evening at the Ellis Library Auditorium on the University of Missouri campus in Columbia.

The documentary was made possible by the Western Historical Manuscript Collection - Columbia, the State Historical Society of Missouri, and the Jerry Litton Family Memorial Foundation. The 28-minute documentary features some never-before-seen footage from the popular television program, "Dialogue with Litton."

Litton, of Chillicothe, was considered a rising star in the Democratic Party, and his television show was broadcast statewide. The dialogues were innovative programs that brought government to the people in a free, open-to-the-public, town meeting atmosphere during the tumultuous times of the mid-1970s.

Litton had operated a cattle ranch in Chillicothe. He was a U.S. Representative and had just won the primary election in August 1976 in his bid for U.S. Senate when he and his wife and two children were killed in a plane crash just after takeoff from the Chillicothe airport en route to their victory celebration in Kansas City. Also killed in the plane crash were the pilot, Paul Rupp and his son.

CAPTION: Guests on "Dialogue with Litton" included Congressman Shirley Chisholm, Agriculture Secretary Earl Butz, former Vice President Hubert Humphrey, President Ford's campaign manager Bo Callaway, FDR Jr., five democratic presidential candidates, Speaker of the House Cark Albert, and a host of other well know personalities.

Submitted Photo

CAPTION: In 1965, Jerry Litton had the honor of visiting with President Harry S. Truman to extend an invitation to the former president to speak at the FFA convention. Jerry remembered that instead of his original 15-minute appointment, Mr. Truman devoted nearly two hours to "selling" him on the importance of people participating in politics and running for public office.

Submitted Photo

Historic Jerry Litton Television Programs Now Online
Constitution-Tribune
Monday, March 22, 2010


Students, historians, and general audiences nostalgic for the 1970s can now view Jerry Litton’s Dialogue with Litton televised programs at the Western Historical Manuscript Collection on the University of Missouri campus in Columbia. Select program highlights are available at shs.umsystem.edu and whmc.umsystem.edu/aad/litton.html. The programs, hosted by Congressman Litton, were town hall style meetings broadcast each month from Kansas City to "Bring Government to the People."

With funding from the Jerry Litton Memorial Family Foundation and other generous contributors, the State Historical Society of Missouri and Western Historical Manuscript Collection arranged for cleaning, repair, and digitization of 33 videotapes to generate a new master file and viewing files on DVD. Hours of taped meetings with political guests such as Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm, Gov. Jimmy Carter, Sen. Thomas Eagleton, and Sen. Hubert Humphrey make for interesting television and will undoubtedly be used for research into the political and social history of the 1970s.

Jerry L. Litton, of Chillicothe, served as national secretary of Future Farmers of America while in high school and received a bachelor’s degree in agricultural journalism in 1961 from the University of Missouri. Litton's work with the family business, Litton Charolais Ranch, was very successful; and his education, experience, gifted speaking ability, and savvy use of media technology made him an unusually popular politician who held great promise for the future.

Litton was elected U.S. congressman from Missouri’s Sixth District in 1972, the same year the Watergate break-in occurred. He was campaigning to win the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate race in 1976 when he died, August 3, in a plane crash.

The Jerry L. Litton Papers, with documents covering the years 1960-1976, were donated to the Western Historical Manuscript Collection-Columbia in 1979 by Litton’s father, Charley. Later, his mother, Mildred, added over 300 audio-visual items to the collection.

Congressman Jerry Litton and his wife, Sherri, arrived via helicopter at the Chillicothe high school football field which was the site of a hometown Dialogue with Litton in July, 1976. Approximately 1,800 people heard the congressman who, at the time, was the Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate. The Dialogue with Litton programs, hosted by Congressman Litton, were town hall style meetings broadcast each month usually from Kansas City to "Bring Government to the People." C-T File Photo
Litton Honored With Gift
CT - 10 20 10
Click here for press release
Orion is First Litton Lecturer
10 09 12
Orion Samuelson Broadcaster, WGN

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Click here for an ORDER FORM to order the Litton Dialogues' documentary and/or related DVDs and/or the published biography of Jerry Litton.

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Litton Agri-Science Learning Center
10780 LIV 235, Chillicothe, Missouri 64601
Phone: 660-646-3131