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Morgan, M.A.

M.A. "Happy" Morgan
Date of Birth: July 14, 1909
Date of Marriage: July 7, 1935
Date of Death: November 21, 1984
Children: Melzer Adron Morgan, Jr.; Anne Morgan Grimes; Ralph Sylvester Morgan; Joseph Norman Morgan.

M.A. "Happy" Morgan lived with tobacco for seventy-five years, promoting its strengths and accepting its limitations. When he was born in Wake County on July 14, 1909, his family had been growing tobacco in North Carolina for over a century. His forbear, Matthew Morgan, left Southampton County, Virginia, in 1791 for more fertile fields. Matthew's descendants farmed Harnett County, North Carolina, soils throughout the 19th century. In 1905, one of these descendants, Sylvester Morgan, married Sudie Minerva Sorrell of the Reedy Creek community near Cary in Wake County. After tending Wake County farms for others, Vester and Sudie purchased fifty acres on Reedy Creek Road near the Sorrell family homestead. Along with tobacco, they grew produce, raised poultry, and kept livestock to supply their weekly marketing and deliver to city families in the nearby state capitol.

As a boy, Morgan was surrounded by the small tobacco farming culture of the day. As he went to milk morning and evening, he passed the log frame grading shed with its deep underground pit where each tobacco crop was "put in order." The family's tobacco barns stood across Reedy Creek Road. Tending the wood fired flues was both a chore and a social event for the men folk. Barning tobacco was a ritual for the whole community. The families of the tenants and uncles whose farms adjoined the Morgan's worked together. Raising tobacco was probably more inclusive than the fellowship at Reedy Creek Baptist Church where the family worshipped.

From his grandfather, Pascal Asa Sorrell, Morgan heard tales of adventure about taking tobacco to market by wagon after the Civil War .The Reedy Creek farmers would band together to move the tobacco crop to market in Durham. The fifteen-mile trip was a journey of several days. Traveling together, the group could arm themselves and discourage bandits eager to take the annual cash crop profits from the farmers.

That same grandpa represented Wake County in the North Carolina legislature in 1886-1887, when N. C. State College was established. Education was important to the family. Morgan and his sister Fay were sent into Cary for grade and high school. Graduating from Cary High School in 1926, Morgan entered N.C. State and was the second Cary graduate to receive an N. C. State degree. His good humor earned him the nickname "Happy" by which he was known for the rest of his life. He graduated in 1931 with a degree in vocation agriculture. He began his service to farmers by teaching agriculture for Craven County from 1931-- 1935.

While boarding at the teacherage in Dover, Happy met Elizabeth Rogers, fellow teacher and native of Person County. They were married in 1935, and moved to New Bern where Happy was named Assistant County Agent. He became the Craven County Agent in 1937. Shortly thereafter, he was picked to travel throughout northeastern North Carolina as field director of President Roosevelt's AAA (Agricultural Adjustment Administration) program to help farmers recover from the depression.

On a cold day in January 1939, Happy was presented to Johnston County Commissioners by John Goodman, Assistant Director of the Agricultural Extension Service, as the new County Agent. He began work February 1, 1939 as a "trouble shooter". "It means a lot to rural citizens to know that upon arriving there, they will always find a man on the job, ever ready to listen to them and help them with their problems" stated the Smithfield Herald about Morgan's approach to the job. When Happy left as county agent in 1947, County Commissioners Chairman R.P. Holding said, "Few counties have been as fortunate as Johnston in having as county agent a man with the capabilities of Mr. .Morgan." In 1947, Morgan's career began to focus on tobacco.

For five years he was Director of Field Services of Tobacco Associates, an association promoting the sale of flue-cured tobacco countries in foreign countries. He traveled the entire flue-cured belt in the southeastern United States. He spent much time in Washington representing tobacco before the Congress. Through his work, tobacco was included as an approved export in the Marshall Plan for the rebuilding of Europe.

In 1952, he returned to work in Johnston County as the first full-time sales superintendent of the Smithfield Tobacco Market. No longer traveling, he had more time with his children. Pat, Anne Rogers, Ralph, and Joe frequently tagged along to watch the hubbub of the sales. He assisted the Smithfield Market in maintaining its prominence as "the world's largest two sale market" with emphasis on the medium grades. With the assistance of Carl Lamb and WMPM Radio, Smithfield became known as the "World's Most Progressive Market". Happy Morgan was a highly visible figure helping the market work for growers, warehousemen, and buyers.

Through his long association with Farm Bureau, Morgan helped bring low cost mutual insurance to farm families. That protection ranged from hail coverage on the tobacco plants themselves, to protection of the health, lives, and property of farmers and their neighbors. During his term as Vice-President of the N. C. Farm Bureau, the Southern Farm Bureau Life Insurance Company was formed. His leadership with the Farm Bureau also included posts as Johnston County Farm Bureau Secretary and President. He retired in 1975 after serving twenty-two years as Johnston County Agency manager, leaving Johnston County with the state's largest county membership.

After retirement, Happy led the organization of the Carolina Farmers Cooperative Tobacco Warehouse. The new warehouse south of Smithfield offered a grower owned alternative to the traditional warehouse markets. It captured twenty-five percent of the market during its first year. He served as the cooperative's first president.

After World War II, Morgan and warehouseman Jack B. Wooten purchased the former Weil farm in Johnston County's Boon Hill Township. The 300 acres of open land and over 1,000 acres of swamp and woodland was the place Happy tried out the latest fanning practices. As with his neighbors, the Morgan and Wooten farm saw the transition from labor intensive to modernize tobacco fanning.

Among Morgan's other honors are:
1946 and 1947 President of the North Carolina Association of County Agricultural Agents President Smithfield Lions Club
President Smithfield Kiwanis Cub
Deacon and Sunday School Superintendent, Smithfield First Baptist Church 1962-1963 President Johnston County Agricultural Workers Council
1975-1983 Johnston County Planning Board
Johnston County American Bicentennial Chairman-1976
1976 Johnston County Farm Bureau Outstanding Service Award
1978 Kiwanis Club Legion of Honor
1979 Johnston County Agribusiness Council Distinguished Service Award
1986 Johnston County Agricultural Hall of Fame (posthumous)
Vice-President N.C. State Alumni Association

From his childhood on the early twentieth century farm on Wake County's Reedy Creek, to his death in 1984, Happy Morgan's life was interwoven with the progress of tobacco. Whether as a grower, educator, extension agent, promoter, marketer, insurer, or warehouseman he always sought to help make tobacco's wise use a benefit to his community. In a 1947 article in the Smithfield Herald, he wrote, "What are Johnston County's farmers to do when the prices of tobacco drop from their present level? You can really see that Johnston County farmers have dropped their diversified system of farming and turned to a one-crop system." His grandchildren are the first generation of Morgans in three centuries that have not farmed tobacco.

These pages were donated by Johnston County Farm Bureau

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