Donald Charles Hurst


Donald “Doc” Hurst was born on April 24, 1928 in Cross City. The family moved to a farm in Hatch Bend in 1931. During the Depression years his family lived on food raised on the farm and wild game hunted in the nearby forest. Donald attended Lafayette County High School in Mayo, 43 miles away from his home, and became secretary and then president of his FFA chapter. He graduated in 1946 and hitchhiked to the University of Florida, where he earned his degree in agriculture in 1949. Donald immediately accepted a job at Reddick High School teaching agriculture night classes to ex-GIs enrolled in an adult farmer program.

 While teaching in Reddick and working on his master's degree at the University of Florida, Donald heard of an opening in Pago Pago in American Samoa. He got the job in 1950, and he and his wife Margaret moved to the South Pacific to operate the government farm and promote improved agriculture for the Samoans. After two years he returned to the States and moved to Arcadia to teach adult farmer classes. From there Doc went to Bell High School in 1953, where he was to teach in the vocational agriculture program for over 18 years. During his career there he developed many winning FFA parliamentary procedure and judging teams, and his members went on to become leaders in their communities. Teachers from other schools came to Bell to observe Donald and get ideas for improvement.  In 1971 Doc took on a new challenge as he became Director of Vocational, Technical and Adult Education for Gilchrist and Levy counties. Separate positions were established in the two counties in 1979, and Donald continued as Director in Gilchrist County until his retirement in 1985. Vocational opportunities grew in the counties under his leadership, and he was asked to come out of retirement for a year in 1990 to serve as temporary Vocational Director of Lafayette County.

In addition to his contributions in agricultural education and FFA, Donald also was an active leader in the Suwannee River Authority, the Governing Board of Health and Human Services in the North Florida region, the Northwest Florida Regional Housing Authority, Farm Service Agency, Lafayette County Soil and Water Conservation District, and the Southern Association of Schools and Colleges.  After his retirement, Doc remained active in the community and with the FFA. He was one of the originators of the Seasoned Owls, which has now grown into an active group of retired agricultural educators and supporters of Florida agricultural education and FFA. He also started the discussion about capturing the history of agricultural education and the FFA and raised nearly $25,000 for this special project. 

Donald was recognized over the years with a number of honors, including the Honorary State FFA Degree and the Distinguished Education Award for outstanding contributions to vocational education in the State of Florida. He was also recognized by the Florida House of representatives for his leadership and service to the citizens of north Florida. He passed away in June 2012.