Bennett, Hugh H. (Hugh Hammond), 1881-1960

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Hugh Hammond Bennett (1881-1960) was born on April 15, 1881, near Wadesboro, North Carolina. He graduated from the University of North Carolina in 1903, with a degree in chemistry. He began his career as a soil surveyor for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). As he conducted soil surveys and investigated declining crop yields, he became convinced that soil erosion was a problem not just for farmers but also for rural economies. By 1909, he was supervising soil surveys in the southern United States and studying soils abroad and in U.S. territories. He worked in Costa Rica and Panama (1909), Alaska (1914), and Cuba (1925-1926) and served on the Guatemala-Honduras Boundary Commission (1919). Among his writings of the 1920s, none was more influential than Soil Erosion: A National Menace, a USDA bulletin which he co-authored in 1928. He wrote steadily about soil erosion, with articles appearing in popular and scientific journals, including Country Gentleman and Scientific Monthly. He knew the storm was coming and used it to dramatically demonstrate the need for soil conservation. He led the soil conservation movement in the United States in the 1920s and 1930s and urged the nation to address the "national menace" of soil erosion. He created a new federal agency and served as its first chief - the Soil Conservation Service, now the Natural Resources Conservation Service in the USDA. He is considered to be the father of soil conservation. As noted by a contemporary, he "combined science with showmanship" to convince the country that soil erosion was a serious problem that merited national attention. His efforts led to demonstration projects and ultimately to a conservation partnership that the nation enjoys today of science-based technical assistance and support from USDA, leadership from local conservation districts, and support from state conservation agencies for natural resource conservation on private land. Largely in response to his campaign for soil conservation, Representative James P. Buchanan of Texas attached an amendment to the 1930 appropriations bill authorizing USDA to establish a series of soil erosion experiment stations. The first large-scale demonstration project for erosion control was in Coon Creek, Wisconsin. He helped establish the Soil Erosion Service in the Department of the Interior and became its director in September 1933. The agency worked with farmers to demonstrate soil conservation methods in watershed-based demonstrations. His speeches inspired action for soil conservation around the country, whether at farm-field demonstrations, scholarly gatherings, or in the Congress. When a dust storm from the Great Plains moved over Washington, D.C., in the spring of 1935 during the height of the Dust Bowl, he was testifying before a Congressional committee on the bill that would create the Soil Conservation Service. The resulting Soil Conservation Act of April 27, 1935, created the Soil Conservation Service at USDA. Bennett served as its chief until he retired in 1951. He died July 7, 1960, in Burlington, North Carolina. In 2000, he was named a charter inductee into the USDA Hall of Heroes. During his lifetime, Bennett received many honors, including serving as president of the Association of American Geographers in 1943; receiving the Frances K. Hutchinson Award from the Garden Club of American in 1944, the Cullum Geographical Medal by the American Geographical Society in 1948, and the Distinguished Service Medal by the USDA and the Audubon Medal by the National Audubon Society, both in 1947. He was a fellow of the American Society of Agronomy, the American Geographical Society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the Soil Conservation Society of America.

From the description of Bennett, Hugh H. (Hugh Hammond), 1881-1960 (U.S. National Archives and Records Administration). naId: 10679375

Bennett was born in North Carolina, spent his youth on the family farm that was adversely affected by soil erosion, and graduated from Univ. of North Carolina. He worked for the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture conducting soil surveys, was promoted to Supervisor of Soil Surveys, was transferred to the Bureau of Chemistry, and became Chief of the Soil Erosion Service (later Soil Conservation Service). He wrote and spoke on soil conservation in Honduras, Guatemala, Cuba, Venezuela and South Africa and was instrumental in the passage of Public Law 46 in 1935,the first soil conservation act in the world.

From the description of Hugh Bennett papers 1921-1959 [manuscript]. (Denver Public Library). WorldCat record id: 48617222

Bennett, a native of Wadesboro, N.C., was a soil scientist and conservationist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 1903-1951.

From the description of Hugh H. Bennett papers, 1923-1956 [manuscript]. WorldCat record id: 24864169

Hugh Hammond Bennett (1881-1960) was born in Wadesboro, North Carolina on April 15, 1881. He received a B.S. (1903) from the University of North Carolina with an emphasis in chemistry and geology. Often considered the father of soil conservation, Bennett dedicated his career and life to preventing the loss of the nation's soil, educating the country about the serious consequences of soil erosion, and convincing the federal government to give the problem national attention.

Bennett joined the Bureau of Soils of the United States Department of Agriculture as a soil scientist in 1904. From 1909-1928, Bennett supervised soil surveys in the eastern and southern areas of the United States, and portions of the central and southwestern regions. In addition to being in charge of the Chugath National Forest Commission (1915), Bennett also studied soils in the United States territories and abroad including the Guatemala-Honduras Boundary Commission (1919), the Rubber Commission sent to Central and South America (1923-1924), and an agricultural and soil survey of Cuba (winters, 1925-1932).

Having advocated soil conservation since 1905, by 1929 Bennett had convinced enough members of Congress of the critical need for increased work on soil conservation, and Federal funds were allotted to the research and implementation of erosion control. From 1928-1932 Bennett was placed in charge of soil erosion for the Bureau of Chemistry and Soils which, along with the Bureau of Agricultural Engineering, directed soil erosion experiment stations. In 1922, Bennett organized the Soil Erosion Service for the Department of the Interior. The Soil Erosion Service was renamed the Soil Conservation Service and transferred to the United States of Agriculture in 1934. Bennett served as its director until 1951 and retired in 1952.

From the description of Papers, 1808-1964, n.d. (Iowa State University). WorldCat record id: 18196361

Hugh H. (Hugh Hammond) Bennett (1881-1960), a native of Wadesboro, N.C., was a soil scientist and conservationist with the United States Department of Agriculture, 1903-1951.

Bennett graduated from the University of North Carolina in 1903, and from 1903 to 1909, he served as a soil scientist with the Soil Survey Division of the Bureau of Soils. In 1909 Bennett was an inspector in a special soil survey as well as a member of an agricultural expedition to what was probably the Panama Canal. He was in charge of an explorative expedition to Alaska in 1914; a member of the Chugach National Forest Commission in 1915; the Guatemala-Honduras Boundary Commission in 1919; the Rubber Commission sent to Central and South America and the West Indies, 1923-1924; in charge of an agricultural survey of Cuba during the winters of 1925-1932; in charge of a soil erosion and moisture conservation investigation for the Bureau of Chemistry and Soils, 1929-1933; assisted the Department of the Interior from September 1933-March 1935, where he organized and headed the Soil Erosion Service before its transfer to the Department of Agriculture as the re-named Soil Conservation Service; and he was chief of the Soil Conservation Service of the Department of Agriculture, 1935-1951. On 1 November 1951, he was appointed special assistant to the secretary of agriculture to advise on conservation and resource matters.

From the guide to the Hugh H. Bennett Papers, ., 1923-1956, (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Library. Southern Historical Collection.)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Sears, Paul B. (Paul Bigelow), 1891-1990. Paul Bigelow Sears papers, 1910-1969 (inclusive). Yale University Library
creatorOf Bennett, Hugh H. (Hugh Hammond), 1881-1960. Papers, 1808-1964, n.d. Iowa State University, Parks Library
referencedIn William B. Provine collection of evolutionary biology reprints, 20th century. Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, Cornell University Library.
referencedIn Helms, Douglas, 1945-. The importance of the Civilian Conservation Corps to the Soil Conservation Service / Douglas Helms. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
creatorOf Bennett, Hugh H. (Hugh Hammond), 1881-1960. Hugh Bennett papers 1921-1959 [manuscript]. Denver Public Library, Central Library
referencedIn Paul Bigelow Sears papers, 1910-1969 Yale University. Department of Manuscripts and Archives
referencedIn Records of the Natural Resources Conservation Service. 1875 - 2002. Photographs Relating to Soil Conservation Techniques
creatorOf Bennett, Hugh H. (Hugh Hammond), 1881-1960. Hugh H. Bennett papers, 1923-1956 [manuscript]. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
referencedIn United States. Soil Conservation Service. Photograph collection, 1917-1949. Iowa State University, Parks Library
creatorOf Hugh H. Bennett Papers, ., 1923-1956 University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Library. Southern Historical Collection
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Association of American Geographers corporateBody
associatedWith Helms, Douglas, 1945- person
correspondedWith Provine, William B. person
associatedWith Sears, Paul B. (Paul Bigelow), 1891-1990. person
associatedWith United States. Dept. of Agriculture corporateBody
associatedWith United States. Soil Conservation Service. corporateBody
Place Name Admin Code Country
Algeria
West Indies
Latin America
United States
South Africa
United States
Cuba
United States
France
Italy
Tunisia
Subject
Soil conservation
Environmentalists
Soil science--History--20th century
Soil conservation--History--20th century
Agriculturists
Soil surveys--History--20th century
Soil conservation projects--History--20th century
Soil conservation--Government policy
Occupation
Function

Person

Birth 1881-04-15

Death 1960-07-07

English

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