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Remembering "Mr. Peanut" Frank McGill and his wonderful letters

Bob Kemerait Frank-McGill_peanut_tour-1.jpg
Frank McGill speaking at the 2016 Georgia Peanut Tour in Tifton, Ga., Sept. 13., 2016.
Emails, text, voicemails, tweets, and social posts are all great to get, look at and read, but there is something special about a letter, especially a handwritten one.

I'm looking at a letter Mr. Frank McGill sent to me dated Sept. 28, 2016.

In total, I have seven letters Mr. Frank sent to me over the years. They are kept in a special place in my office. No awards match the honor, pride and, yes, great entertainment the letters still provide.

Mr. Frank died March 3 at the age of 95.

If you don't know, he was called Mr. Peanut because he was Georgia’s peanut agronomist from 1954-1982 and spearheaded and championed the "package approach" for peanut production, a multi-discipline way of solving peanut problems for farmers. The method still works today through county Extension agents, specialists and industry across the Peanut Belt. He was there and usually up front when good things for the first time got worked out for the U.S. peanut industry. He traveled the world learning about and teaching the peanut.

He told great stories. So well, you often forgot to remember you were being taught something. I wrote a small piece about him many years ago and tried to capture that trick in action. I didn't know if he'd ever read what I wrote, but he did. And he sent me a wonderful letter soon after, the one mentioned above.

In the piece, he is speaking at the 2016 Georgia Peanut Tour in Tifton, Ga., Sept. 13., 2016. He told several stories that evening. One recounted the crusade of his childhood friend Sherman who set out to baptize various animals that were willingly and unwillingly caught up in his fervent ministry one summer eight decades ago in Chula, Ga. I won't go into the story here, but you can read it here. Just know the story was a respectful nod to a man’s religion with a tongue-in-check quip on the denominational quirks and comical exploits that run through us all, and the story was entertaining from start to finish.

His animated delivery that evening in Tifton had everyone’s attention. Not because the audience felt it owed a seasoned man a courtesy. The gravity of his natural skill as a storyteller pulled them momentarily into the world he wanted to share, which is one of the hardest tricks in communications to pull off.

Emails, text, voicemails, tweets, and social posts are all great to get, look at and read, but there is something special about a letter, especially a handwritten one that provides a touch no other communications form can match, not even a face-to-face conversation. It's frozen neatly in time.

Mr. Frank told good stories and wrote like no one else. If you received a letter from him, and I bet more than a few of you reading this did, congratulations. You have a real keepsake, and I'd argue a notable historic document.

Mr. Frank, thanks for all you did for peanuts, the ag industry, your local community, and for the great letters.  

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