Harry E. Wood
If anyone deserves the title of “Mr. Vocational Agriculture and FFA,” it’s Harry Wood. Serving as State Supervisor and State FFA Advisor longer than anyone before or since, Harry’s level of expectation for the FFA in Florida set the benchmark for years to come. Harry Evins Wood was born on February 28, 1896 at the family home in Alachua County, Florida. After graduating from McIntosh High School, Harry attended the University of Florida, where he played on the baseball team and reportedly hit a home run against the New York Giants in an exhibition game. He earned his degree in agriculture in 1917 and served in the Navy during World War I. After he returned from the war he grew watermelons in Fairfield for a while but didn’t find this business to be very profitable. In 1924 he switched to teaching for a year at Malone High School, followed by two years at Trenton High School. After serving as Critic Teacher at Alachua High School for trainees in the Teacher Training Department at UF from 1927 to 1929, Harry moved to Tallahassee to become Assistant State Supervisor of Vocational Agriculture. He then returned to UF in 1933 to be a teacher trainer in agricultural education, and he stayed in that position until he joined the Navy again during World War II, where he taught Pacific Islanders to grow crops.
When he returned from the service in 1946, he accepted the job where he was to have the greatest impact on agricultural education – State Supervisor of Vocational Agriculture and State FFA Advisor.Under Harry’s leadership, the number of agriculture departments increased by over 60 percent, and the number of FFA members rose to almost 13,000. He helped turn more than 60,000 acres of Florida land into 40 School Forests, and FFA members were planting more than a million seedlings a year. Vocational education experienced its greatest expansion with the development of Florida’s junior college and vocational school system, all under his watch. At the same time he was also a leader in various professional organizations, serving as president of the Southern Regional Conference of Supervisors and Teacher Educators, president of the Florida Vocational Association, president of the National Association of State Supervisors of Agricultural Education, and director of the Florida Forest and Park Association.
Harry received numerous awards for his work in agricultural education, including Master Teacher of Florida award in 1927, Honorary State Farmer Degree in 1920, and Honorary American Farmer Degree in 1956. The Kiwanis Club of Tallahassee honored him with the celebration of Harry Wood Day in 1950. He won the Educational Award presented by the American Forestry Association in 1950 for his work in the conservation of forestry, soil, and water resources and was named Man of the Year in Service to Agriculture by Progressive Farmer Magazine in 1951. Harry’s work in creating school forests was honored when the Chipley FFA Chapter named their plot the Harry E. Wood Forest in 1952. As a capstone to his career, in 1965 the Florida Legislature enacted a resolution honoring Harry’s contributions to Florida as a vocational agriculture teacher, FFA Advisor, and State Supervisor of Vocational Agriculture for his 41-year career. Harry retired in 1966 but continued to enjoy life with his wife, Lois, and hunting and fishing with his family and friends. He passed away in 1981 at the age of 94.
Harry E. Wood was inducted into the Florida FFA Hall of Fame September 13, 2008.