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