Lead Dawg: Frank McGill
A Medal for ‘Mr. Peanut’
Frank McGill honored for life’s work on the world’s favorite legume
From working on methods that tripled crop yields for Georgia peanut farmers to harnessing the protein power of the peanut to help undernourished children in other countries, Frank McGill (BS – Agronomy, ’51; MS – Agronomy, ’62) has earned the affection and respect of the Georgia agricultural community.
For these contributions and numerous others, McGill, 92 — affectionally known throughout the Georgia agricultural community as “Mr. Peanut” — was awarded the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences’ Medallion of Honor in May.
The Medallion of Honor is presented to an outstanding individual or couple in recognition of dedication to the college’s mission and to express gratitude for the time, advice, support and influence they have provided.
“Once in a generation, someone comes along who forever changes a segment of agriculture. When it comes to peanuts, Frank McGill is that person. Scientists, farmers and even former U.S. President Jimmy Carter will tell you, without hesitation, that Frank McGill was extremely instrumental in developing the peanut industry in Georgia,” said CAES Dean Sam Pardue, who presented McGill with the award.
A native of Chula, Georgia, McGill began his career with UGA as a county agent in southwest Georgia and later became the state’s UGA Cooperative Extension peanut specialist at the Coastal Plain Experiment Station in Tifton, Georgia. He was a member of the UGA Extension peanut team that developed a “package approach” for peanut production in Georgia. From 1954 to 1982, McGill’s expertise helped Georgia’s peanut yields increase from 955 pounds per acre in 1955 to 3,220 pounds in 1974.
Over his career, McGill visited 21 countries as a peanut consultant. He traveled to Australia and India to review research and extension programs and to Honduras, Suriname and Barbados to “jump start” local peanut production and to help eliminate pellagra, a protein deficiency that was affecting children there.
McGill served as a technical advisor to the Georgia Peanut Commission, U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee, National Peanut Council and National Peanut Growers Group.
McGill was inducted into the Georgia Peanut Hall of Fame in 1982 and received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Peanut Council in 1999, the same year the council officially dubbed McGill “Mr. Peanut.” In 1996, he was inducted into the Georgia Agricultural Hall of Fame and, in 2000, received the American/World Agriculture Award from the National County Agents Association. In 2018, he received the Valor Award from the Southern Peanut Farmers Federation.
Of his numerous accolades, a humble McGill said, “I just did what I was hired to do.”
At his retirement in 1982, McGill used donations honoring him to create the J. Frank McGill “Up with Peanuts” Scholarship, which awards a scholarship each year to a rising junior or senior CAES crop and soil sciences major.
McGill remained an active voice in the peanut industry after his retirement, serving as president of the American Peanut Research and Education Society and chairman of the U.S. Task Force on Peanut Policy and the U.S. Peanut Improvement Working Group. He also worked as a peanut consultant with M&M Mars for 16 years and four years as a consultant with the National Peanut Laboratory.
“Frank is a phenomenal individual. I believe he is part of the reason the industry is as strong as it is, and production is as great as it is,” said Joe West, assistant dean of the UGA Tifton campus. “He is an excellent example of what a faculty member at the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences can aspire to for a career of service.”
By Clint Thompson