Biography of Commissioner Gus R. Douglass
The West Virginia Senate surprised Agriculture Commissioner Gus R. Douglass (pictured with wife Anna Lee, Senate members and WVDA staff members) with a senate resolution honoring his 44 years of service March 2, 2012. Click here to view the resolution.
Gus R. Douglass was elected to his eleventh four-year term as West Virginia’s Commissioner of Agriculture in November 2008. Commissioner Douglass was elected to previous terms in 1964, 1968, 1972, 1976, 1980, 1984, 1992, 1996, 2000 and 2004, and was a gubernatorial candidate in 1988. He is the senior Commissioner of Agriculture in the United States. In addition to his position as Commissioner of Agriculture, he and his son Tom operate their 540-acre family farm in Mason County, specializing in beef cattle and grain production.
Commissioner Douglass started with the West Virginia Department of Agriculture in 1957 as Assistant Commissioner. Prior to working in the Department, he operated a farm equipment and motor truck dealership.
Raised amidst agriculture in Grimms Landing, West Virginia, Commissioner Douglass served as state and national president of the Future Farmers of America (FFA), was chosen as a West Virginia Star Farmer and later helped to organize and served as first president of the National FFA Alumni Association. He is also a 4-H All-Star. He holds a bachelor's degree from West Virginia University, an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from West Virginia State University and an honorary Doctor of Sciences degree from West Virginia University.
In 2006, West Virginia State University renamed its land-grant programs as the Gus R. Douglass Institute for Commissioner Douglass’ dedication to education, research and extension outreach throughout the state.
He has served as president of the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) and the Southern Association of State Departments of Agriculture (SASDA), and was chairman of the Southern Regional Committee for Food and Agriculture under President Jimmy Carter. Additionally, Commissioner Douglass has served twice as president of the Southern United States Trade Association (SUSTA). He also participated as a member of several national agriculture committees and task forces, and has been frequently called upon to give testimony before Congressional committees regarding national agricultural policy. He chaired the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture’s Advisory Committee on Foreign Animal and Poultry Diseases an unprecedented four times, representing all state departments of agriculture. He has served extensively on three NASDA committees, including International Marketing and Trade, Food Regulation and Nutrition, and Animal and Plant Industries.
Commissioner Douglass has received a number of awards and honors, including the Gamma Sigma Delta award for Distinguished Service to West Virginia Agriculture and Progressive Farmer magazine's "Man of the Year" in West Virginia Agriculture. In 1990, he was enshrined into the West Virginia Agriculture and Forestry Hall of Fame. In 2007, he was inducted into the Auctioneers Hall of Fame.
In 2002, Commissioner Douglass was presented the prestigious Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) Administrator’s Award. He was also honored by the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) for his work safeguarding America’s animal and plant industries.
Commissioner Douglass chairs the State Conservation Committee, and is a member of the West Virginia Housing Development Fund and the Air Quality Board, a director for Peoples Bank of Point Pleasant, and a former trustee for Pleasant Valley Hospital. He is a member of the board of the State Farm Museum, and is on the board of directors for the State Fair of West Virginia. Throughout his career, he has served on more than 25 boards, commissions and committees, including chairman of the West Virginia Air Pollution Control Commission and the State Forestry Commission.
He and his wife Anna Lee, also a 4-H All-Star, have four children, six grandchildren, three great-grandsons and four great-granddaughters. They belong to the Leon Baptist Church. Commissioner Douglass is a Mason and a Shriner.
Updated March 21, 2012
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