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January 29, 2024
Mayther Ray Young, or “Mr. Ray,” as he was known to literally thousands of farmers, crop consultants and other people in and out of agriculture, has died. He was 94.
Mr. Ray, who is generally credited with being the father of crop consulting in the United States if not the world, passed away peacefully at his home in Wisner, La., on Jan. 21, surrounded by members of his family.
He was born in Hico, La., in 1929 and grew up on a subsistence farm, plowing with a mule, milking cows and picking cotton. He graduated from Louisiana Tech University with a bachelor’s degree in agriculture and later received a master’s degree in entomology from LSU.
While he was at Louisiana Tech, he was hired to help “check” or scout cotton for boll weevils on a farm in the Red River Valley area in Louisiana.
“A farmer decided you should check these fields before you applied an insecticide,” he said in an interview at the National Alliance of Independent Crop Consultants annual meeting in 2019. “He hired a guy from Louisiana Tech, and he scouted cotton for two or three people that summer.
“Everybody was carried away with it so the next year he hired me to come and help him. We worked on one side of the river in 1949, and everybody heard what we were doing, and they wanted to get their crops scouted. So I moved across the river and scouted crops there in 1950.”
He was featured in a Delta Farm Press story from March 12, 2019.
When he graduated from Louisiana Tech that year, the Korean War had broken out. Mr. Ray joined the U.S. Navy and became a pilot, serving more than four years in Korea and in other assignments before returning to civilian life in 1955.
He moved his family to Wisner, which is located near the center of the northeast Louisiana’s Delta cotton growing region and built a thriving agriculture business which, at varying times, included a swine operation, cattle and row crops including cotton, corn, soybeans, potatoes and more. He also resumed his cotton consulting business, serving farmers throughout North Louisiana.
Mr. Ray was active as a member and officer in local, state and national agriculture organizations, including the Louisiana Agricultural Consultants Association, the NAICC, the Louisiana Federal Land Bank, the National Farm Credit Council and the Louisiana Farm Service Agency where he served as chairman.
He also helped organize the Crawfish Boil on The Hill or CBOH, an annual event that continues to serve crawfish and gumbo to hundreds of members of Congress and their staff in Washington, D.C., while educating them about agricultural issues.
His public service included a term as mayor of Wisner and several terms on the Franklin Parish Police Jury. He also served on the board of Louisiana College, now Louisiana Christian University.
“Ray would tell you the most important thing about him was his relationship with Jesus Christ,” the family said. “A man of deep faith, he was an active member of First Baptist Church of Wisner where he taught Sunday School and served as a deacon and member of the choir. His generosity and example of faithfulness were an inspiration to his church and community.”
Next to his faith, his family was the most important thing in his life. He and his wife, Dorothy, recently celebrated their 71st wedding anniversary. He was very proud of his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
He is survived by Miss Dorothy, Dorothy Burns Young of Wisner; four children and their spouses: Tony and Marlene Young of Ruston, June and Danny Jennings of West Monroe, Peggy and David Kallevig of Alexandria, Minnesota, and Jesse and Leslie Young of Wisner; grandchildren Daniel Young, Marny Wheeler, Jamie Young, Jessica Handy, Michael Young, Mark Kallevig, Candace Aaker and Nathaniel Jennings; great-grandchildren Mason and Eva Wheeler, Eleanor and Jubal Atwell, Evangeline, Abram and Shepherd Handy, Nicholas, Dorothy and Margaret Young, Asher and Auriella Aaker and Ada Kallevig; along with many nieces, nephews, cousins and friends. He was preceded in death by one grandson, Benjamin Young Jennings.
A celebration of life was held at First Baptist Church of Wisner on Saturday, January 27.
Memorial contributions may be made to First Baptist Church of Wisner, P.O, Bos 97, Wisner, LA 71378 or the charity of your choice.
Forrest Laws spent 10 years with The Memphis Press-Scimitar before joining Delta Farm Press in 1980. He has written extensively on farm production practices, crop marketing, farm legislation, environmental regulations and alternative energy. He resides in Memphis, Tenn. He served as a missile launch officer in the U.S. Air Force before resuming his career in journalism with The Press-Scimitar.
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