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Virginia cotton leader Cecil Byrum dies

Cecil Byrum, along with Carlton Butler, co-founded the Virginia Cotton Growers Association in 1996.

Cecil Ray Byrum, a Virginia cotton, grain and peanut farmer and ag industry leader, died Feb. 13 after a battle with cancer. He was 61 years old.

Byrum farmed with his son Steele Byrum near Windsor. Byrum, along with Carlton Butler, co-founded the Virginia Cotton Growers Association in 1996. Byrum was an active member of Southern Cotton Growers and National Cotton Council. He was the first Virginia  farmer to serve on the American Cotton Producers board of directors.

“He has been a long-time friend to so many of you and a great supporter to our industry. He will be missed dearly,” wrote Dave Ruppenicker, CEO of Southern Cotton Growers, in a note to members.

Byrum  was born in Suffolk, Va.,  the son of the Mary Jones Byrum and the late Thomas Roland Byrum. He was predeceased by his son, Chad Nelson Byrum. He was a graduate of Isle of Wight Academy and life-long farmer. He attended Smithfield Baptist Church.

In addition to his mother, Byrum is survived by his wife of 41 years, Deborah Holland Byrum; son and daughter-in-law, Thomas Steele Byrum and Nancy Aiello Byrum; grandchildren, Josephine "Josie" Elizabeth Byrum, and Mason Fisher Byrum; sisters and brothers-in-law, Brenda Byrum Edwards (Glenn) and Diane Byrum Quesinberry (Charlie); sister-in-law and brother-in-law, Julie Major (Gene); and numerous nieces and nephews.

Funeral services for Byrum were held Tuesday, Feb. 18 at Smithfield Baptist Church.


Cecil Byrum received the “Cecil Byrum Distinguished Service to Virginia Cotton Award” in August 2019. The award was named in his honor.

TAGS: Farm Life
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