In Memoriam — Frank McGill: ‘Mr. Peanut’

sam pardue, frank mcgill
University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Science Dean Sam Pardue, left, presented Frank McGill with the Medallion of Honor during a special event May 2, 2019, on the UGA Tifton campus.

Frank McGill’s love for the University of Georgia started long before his career with them began. In the early 1930s and in the middle of the Great Depression, the university gave his brother, James Millard McGill, an opportunity for a college education, even though the family didn’t have the means to pay his tuition.

Instead, the McGill’s 1927 Model T Ford was used to carry two butchered hogs and bushels of home-grown sweet potatoes to the university as payment. An 8-year-old Frank McGill said it changed his life forever.

“I decided then that I wanted to know more about a place that would reach out to my brother and make a way for him during those Depression years,” McGill said in his book, “From the Mule to the Moon.” “Such was the beginning of a relationship that would eventually evolve into my tenure of 31 years on the University of Georgia’s Extension faculty.”

A Profound Impact

McGill was instrumental in increasing peanut yields exponentially during his time with UGA Extension. The “package approach” to peanut production that McGill’s UGA peanut team developed was adopted and carried out by county agents. Georgia’s peanut yields increased from 955 pounds per acre in 1955 to 2,040 pounds per acre by 1967 and 3,220 pounds per acre in 1974.

During his career, McGill was the recipient of numerous local, state, national and international awards. His work took him to four continents and 20 countries, some of which credit McGill with starting their peanut industries.

In 2017, McGill was one of 12 scientists recognized for his impact on world agriculture as part of UGA’s centennial celebration.

During his tenure, McGill served as president of the American Peanut Research and Education Society. He was technical adviser to the Georgia Peanut Commission, U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee, National Peanut Council and National Peanut Growers Group. He was D.W. Brooks Distinguished Professor of Agronomy and received the Distinguished UGA Faculty Award.

A Man Of Service

McGill was born Dec. 16, 1925, on a small family row-crop farm in Tift County. He was the son of Mr. and Mrs. J.E. McGill, who migrated from Randolph County, Alabama, in 1911. He had two older brothers, Millard McGill and Harold McGill, and two older sisters, Mary Sue Polk and Doris Jones.

A veteran of World War II, McGill was a ground-to-air radio operator in the U.S. Army Air Force from September 1945 until January 1947, serving at Ladd Field in Fairbanks, Alaska. In 1950, after graduating Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College and the University of Georgia, he completed a master’s degree in agronomy in 1958 from the University of Arkansas.

McGill, a lifelong resident of Tift County, passed away March 3. He is survived by his beloved wife of 67 years, Janet Reed McGill from Blakely. He is also survived by their four children and spouses: Mark and Myra McGill of Tifton, Becky and Steve Barber of Marietta, Laurie and John Bolen of Tifton, and Kelly and Stanley Dean of Sandy Springs, as well as 15 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren.

McGill was an active member and lay leader of his church, Tifton First United Methodist. He was a man of great faith and was driven by a passion for missions and service. Hard work was his joy.

One behalf of The Peanut Grower, our sincere condolences to the family of Frank McGill, forever Mr. Peanut in our hearts.

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