George Rea Walker Jr., a cottonseed company executive who became one of the Mid-South’s leading proponents of growing corn and soybeans, died at his home in Leland, Miss., Dec. 24. He was 69.
Mr. Walker was an honor graduate of Leland High School and the University of Arkansas where he was an All-Southwest Conference running back and a member of the 1964 National Championship football team.
After graduation, he married his high school sweetheart, Margaret McGee Heard, and returned to Leland to work in the family business founded by his grandfather, G.B. Walker. He became president of Stoneville Pedigreed Seed Co., and built it into a leading cottonseed supplier.
After selling Stoneville Pedigreed Seed to California-based Calgene, he became its director of international marketing and traveled to more than 50 cotton-producing countries. (Selling the family business was a hard decision, he said later, but he came to realize that competing in the new world of biotechnology would be difficult for privately-owned businesses like Stoneville.)
In the 1990s, Mr. Walker gradually began phasing out cotton production on his family’s farm south of Leland in favor of corn and soybeans. He eventually pushed his farm yield averages to 75 bushels of soybeans and 200-plus bushels of corn, using a combination of university research and own-farm experimentation.
Besides his wife, Mr. Walker is survived by a daughter, Christine Walker Patterson of Memphis, Tenn.; two sons, George Rea Walker III of Jackson, Miss.; and Martin Heard Walker of Leland; 10 grandchildren; his mother, Dorothy Rea Walker of Leland; and two sisters, Dorothy Walker Meeks of Leland, and Francis Walker Thurmond of Lexington, Miss.
Memorials may be sent to First Baptist Church of Leland, 103 N. Broad Street, Leland, MS 38756 or The Endowment of Washington School, 1605 E. Reed Road, Greenville, Miss., 38703.