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Doug Helms (1945-2018)(2018-10-01)

John Douglas Helms, PhD, expert on the history of United States agriculture and resource conservation, died on September 5, 2018. After earning a Doctorate in American history from Florida State University in 1977, he became the Historian of the Natural Resources Conservation Service (then called the Soil Conservation Service), part of the Department of Agriculture. His work for the government built upon his dissertation, which examined efforts to eradicate the boll weevil in the South. More than an historian of government policy, he wrote about how the personalities of scientists or bureaucrats shaped their missions—whether to help poor farmers in the South or to protect the environment. He introduced readers to the leaders in environmental protection: Hugh Hammond Bennett and Walter Lowdermilk. Like Helms, both came from North Carolina. Bennett led federal efforts to help farmers fight soil erosion; Lowdermilk inspired conservation efforts by writing about the plight of farmers around the world. Helms tacked a wide variety of other topics, including how women and African-Americans struggled to obtain services from the federal government.

Helms served as AHS president in 1999-2000 and was named Fellow of the Agricultural History in 2010.

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