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Gaylon Lawrence - GIANT man and farmerPosted Tuesday, July 24, 2012, at 3:16 PM
First met this "farmer/businessman" as a young newspaperman in Poplar Bluff and Sikeston. Did one of the first stories about his "vision" of transforming his farm acreage from traditional crops to rice...a move that helped transform a lot of the Bootheel's farming economy.
Gaylon was a close friend to my sister, June Whittle Cox and her (late) CPA husband, Tom Cox, when we pulled a prank on Gaylon while he was away on vacation in the 1960s, by painting "for sale" on a giant sheet of black plastic, and draping it over his then modest farm house on the old highway between Fisk and P.B.
Our mischief generated numerous calls wanting to know the price on his home.
Later in life, Gaylon made "an offer" to purchase my parents'farm in New Madrid County. He voiced the opinion that the heavy "gumbo" soil there would lend itself to holding water needed for rice farming.
In researching Bootheel history a few years ago, I learned Gaylon had served for years on the Little River Drainage District board of directors, presently headed by Mr. Dowdy from Dexter.
This agency, formed back around 1910, engineered and dredged the drainage canals that transformed the large 6-county Bootheel swamp into some of the most fertile farmland in the world. It was a project so huge, more dirt was moved than at the more famous Panama Canal.
As the owner of thousands of farm acres, multiple banks and businesses throughout America, Gaylon Lawrence, who died in early July, 2012, is one of the biggest impact "giants" ever produced in his native Southeast Missouri.
Old friend, rest well in the soil that you loved so much...Amen!!
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Retired recently as world-traveled newspaperman, career made possible by late Superintendent of Schools Robert L. Rasche, about to have Bootheel life book published by SEMO State University. Loved farm life, but knew at five years old, didn't want to be a "cotton picker" when I grew up.
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