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Arkansas agriculture legend Hal Lewis passes away

Hal Lewis was a widely respected scientist and cotton breeder, but his heart was in the soil.

Harold “Hal” Lewis, a widely respected agricultural scientist and cotton breeder whose veins coursed with the blood of a cotton farmer, died Jan. 30, 2015.

Hal’s lifelong quest to define the DNA that connected fiber, fabric and farmer profits led to the development of the cotton module builder, boll weevil eradication technology and a micronaire test that helped producers determine the best time to defoliate and harvest their cotton.

As a plant breeder, he introduced three cotton varieties, four commercial soybean varieties and two commercial grain sorghum hybrids.

Hal Lewis
Hal Lewis

Hal was born Sept. 10, 1934, in Manila, Ark., graduated from Dell High School in 1952 and served in the U.S. Army from 1956-62. He later earned a bachelor’s degree from Texas A&M, a master’s degree at the University of Houston and a Ph.D. from the University of Arkansas. He also did post-doctoral training at the University of California-Berkeley.He served as a professor at Texas Tech University, as manager of physiology and biochemistry research for the National Cotton Council and as director of research at Cotton Incorporated.

He additionally served as an instructor at North Carolina State University, the University of Tennessee and Arkansas State University. He served as president and general manager of Scientific Seed Co., H.L Lewis Farm and Hal Lewis Enterprises.

In 1961, he received the O.B. Williams Award from the American Society of Microbiology. In 1992, he was named Man of the Year in Service to Arkansas Agriculture by Progressive Farmer magazine. He earned the Arkansas Cotton Achievement Award and earned a Top 10 in Textile Industry Award in 1995 from Textile World.

Hal served as president of the Agricultural Council of Arkansas, and received many accolades for his contributions to the cotton industry.  He was inducted into the Arkansas Agricultural Hall of Fame in 2006. He served as chairman of the Arkansas unit of the National Cotton Council, as a member of the Arkansas Soybean Promotion Board, on the technical committee of the National Cotton Council and as a member of the Secretary of Agriculture’s Advisory Committee for Cotton Classing and Marketing.

He also served as a member of the board of the National Cotton Council, the Arkansas Alternative Fuels Commission and as a member of the Secretary of Agriculture’s Advisory Committee on Universal Cotton Standards.

He wrote more than 100 technical papers, several review articles, technical manuals and textbook chapters, as well as more than 100 articles and editorials on agricultural research.

Hal is preceded in death by his wife of 48 years, JoAnn Lewis, brother Frank Lewis Jr. and sister Frankie Gains.

Survivors include two sons: Frank Bric Lewis (Kerry) of Conway, and Thomas B. Lewis of Jonesboro. Hal is also survived by three grandchildren, Briah Lewis, Lisa Henry, and Jacob Henry and by two brothers, Jack Lewis of Dell and Bobby Lewis of Imboden.

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