Mississippi's Robert McCarty

In a moving show of admiration and respect, the Mississippi Bureau of Plant Industry building at Mississippi State University in Starkville, Miss., was dedicated to the late Robert McCarty.

McCarty, whose 33 years of service to the Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce included decades spent as director of the state Bureau of Plant Industry before his death Oct. 26, 2000, was honored by several of his colleagues and friends at the dedication ceremony, Sept. 11.

Representing the thousands of farmers who relied on McCarty's wisdom, Kenneth Hood of Perthshire, Miss., said, “Robert will not walk through our fields anymore, but his footprints will never fade away and will always be there.

“He was a presence in our lives. Few are willing to brave the disapproval of their fellow man, but Robert's gift of blending reason with personal commitment and principle seemed to always work even under the most stressful circumstances. It would not occur to him that he was so popular, or that he would be missed so much, because it wasn't in Robert's nature.”

Hood says, “Robert did his good deeds by stealth. He would not take chances or make quick decisions because he liked to weigh everything carefully. Yet, when he gave his commitment, he gave it wholeheartedly, and you always knew exactly where you stood with Robert. I speak for all farmers and say we will miss him most as a friend. Good friends like Robert don't happen very often in a lifetime.”

David Waide, president of the Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation, says that of all the people he's worked with in his career, Robert McCarty is the only man he has never heard criticized.

“I've had the opportunity to work with many people, and I cannot think of a person that I have not heard some criticism about, save Robert McCarty,” he says. “That rarely happens, but, Robert had the respect of the individuals that he worked with and that he worked for. He knew first hand the impact the decisions of a regulator would have on producers that have to depend on the purchase of that seed and the impact that it would have if it didn't live up to the standard expected.

“I don't guess that there has ever been an individual who you could be more assured knew what was going on within agriculture any better than Robert McCarty. Not only did he look after agriculture's interests, he also looked after the consumer's interests,” said Waide.

Carlton Layne, who currently serves as pesticide chief with the Environmental Protection Agency in Atlanta, says McCarty taught him that expertise comes not from a book or an appointment, but from experience.

Layne says, “When I made my first trip to the Mississippi Bureau of Plant Industry in 1974, Robert sat me down and set about giving me an education about agriculture in Mississippi. He also taught me the importance of making a decision. He told me that if you make a decision and it's the wrong one, you can always fix it and go back and do the right thing. But not to make a decision could mess up everything.”

Chip Morgan, executive director of Delta Council, agrees that Mississippi is a better place because of the contributions made by McCarty.

“Honesty, hard work and complete integrity describe the life of Robert McCarty. He guided us to so many smooth landings through some really turbulent skies, quietly crafting solutions and rarely stepping forward to take the credit,” Morgan says. “The thing that so many of us learned from Robert McCarty is that many of us could do the right thing, but we couldn't always do it for the right reasons. Robert McCarty always did the right thing and he always did it for the right reason.”

Layne adds, “When I first came to Mississippi in 1974, Robert already had a national reputation and over 30 years all it did was grow in respect and esteem. His presence isn't in the name that is going on the building. His presence is in all of the people that he influenced for all of those years and all of the impact and decisions that he made in the program. The name on the building only reflects the name and the spirit that is in the building.”

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