• By Carol Lea Spence

First African-American extension agent to be honored at M. L. King Day celebration in Harrodsburg

A century ago in Mercer County, University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension welcomed its first African-American agriculture agent, Ananias Lorenzo Garvin. During this year’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration, the county and UK Cooperative Extension will recognize his contributions throughout his long career as an educator.

Garvin was hired as an emergency assistant county agent in 1918. His primary duties were to encourage African-Americans to farm during and immediately after World War I. His $1,200 annual salary would be worth about $21,000 in today’s dollars. Though he initially had a one-year contract, he continued in the position for two years.

Born in 1874 in Munfordville in Hart County, he and his first wife, Effie Williams Garvin of Lexington, were school teachers at the City Colored Public School in Harrodsburg. Garvin served as principal from 1903 to 1920, overlapping with his position as an extension agent.

In 1920, the couple moved to Louisville where Garvin worked as director of agents for the Standard Life Insurance Company. According to the 1940 U.S. Census, he had returned to teaching, this time in the Jefferson County School District, and had married school teacher Ana Garvin after Effie died. He eventually served as principal of the Newburg and Orell schools in Jefferson County.

Garvin passed away on May 23, 1952, in Louisville and was buried at Cove Haven Cemetery in Lexington. Luci Hockersmith, family and consumer science extension agent in Mercer County, is excited to honor Garvin at this year’s celebration Jan. 15.

“Mr. Garvin was a prominent figure in this community even before he was hired in extension,” she said.

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