Gaylon Booker, who played a pivotal role at the National Cotton Council during his 40-plus years of service, was honored as the recipient of the 2004 Harry S. Baker Distinguished Service Award for Cotton.
The award, named for the late California industry leader and National Cotton Council President Harry S. Baker, is presented annually to a “deserving individual who has provided extraordinary service, leadership and dedication to the U.S. cotton industry.
Booker, who began his NCC career in economic services and culminated it as president and chief executive officer, received the award at the close of the NCC's annual meeting in New Orleans.
In presenting the award, outgoing NCC Chairman Bobby Greene said Booker, like Harry S. Baker, has given freely of his time, “and through uncommon leadership, has provided invaluable assistance to the cotton industry.”
Booker joined the National Cotton Council in 1961 as a market analyst, eventually leading the NCC's Economic Services department, where he directed activities relating to world supply and demand for cotton and other fibers. Later, he served as vice president of operations and from 1988 until 2001 served as senior vice president.
In March 2001, he became the NCC's president and CEO. Since his retirement in February 2003, Booker has served as a consultant to the NCC.
“In his current role at the NCC, Gaylon serves as a trade and farm policy consultant and has worked tirelessly in that role to bring a unified textile voice to the CAFTA negotiations,” said Greene.
Booker is active in volunteer work in behalf of citizens with disabilities. As founder of Partners In Placement, Inc., a Memphis-based non-profit organization, he created a job placement service for citizens with disabilities. Additionally, he is a past member of the board of directors of Shelby Residential and Vocational Services (SRVS), a Memphis-based organization serving individuals with mental retardation. He currently serves as an advisory member of that board.
Booker also served on the Governor's Committee for People with Disabilities and on a special commission appointed by the governor of Tennessee to make recommendations for re-writing Tennessee legislation dealing with mental health and developmental disabilities.
For his voluntary service in behalf of people with disabilities, he has been recognized with special awards from both Tennessee and the city of Memphis. In 1999 he was named Community Leader of the Year by Community Rehabilitation Agencies of Tennessee.
A native Mississippian, Booker is a graduate of the University of Memphis. Married to the former Elsie White of Water Valley, Miss., they have three children.
Previous honorees of the Harry S. Baker Award include Duke Barr, Bob Coker, Earl Sears, Albert Russell, B.F. Smith, Charlie Cunningham, Charlie Youngker, Lon Mann, Lloyd Cline, William B. Dunavant Jr., Frank Mitchener, Duke Kimbrell, Jack Stone, Thad Cochran, Jimmy Sanford and last year's recipient, Larry Combest.