Oscar L. Farris

Oscar L. Farris spent almost forty years with the University of Tennessee Agricultural Extension Service. While serving in Maury County, he was responsible for the first “test and slaughter” attempt to control cattle brucellosis in Tennessee four years before the United States Department of Agriculture instituted a similar program nationwide.

An agricultural reformer trained at the University of Missouri, Farris served his country in World War I from May 1917 to April 1919 and in World War II from March 1941 to April 1945. He rose from the rank of second lieutenant to lieutenant colonel and received the Distinguished Service Cross and the British Military Cross.

From 1920 to 1941 Farris was Davidson County's agricultural extension agent. During this period he also worked toward the electrification of rural Davidson County and organized committees to improve living conditions for rural Tennesseans. Farris lobbied for a state agricultural hall of fame, and in 1937 the legislature created the Tennessee Agricultural Hall of Fame, the first such institution in the United States. Two of the early plaques were cast from the dilapidated statue of Mercury which had previously topped the Union Station in Nashville before a storm toppled it in the early 1950s. In appreciation for his many contributions and dedicated service to agriculture and farm families, a new farmers' market administration building was dedicated to Farris in 1959.

During his long tenure in agricultural service, Farris saw the importance of preserving Tennessee's rural heritage. He collected and stored farm tools and household furnishings which were quickly becoming obsolete in the wake of rapidly changing technology. When the state acquired Rogers Caldwell's Brentwood Hall, renamed Ellington Agricultural Center for former Commissioner of Agriculture and later Governor Buford Ellington, Farris moved his collection to an unused horse barn on the grounds. In 1957, by an act of the legislature, a state agricultural museum was officially created.

After retirement Farris continued to add to the museum collection until his death in June 1961. In 1972 state agricultural officials dedicated the museum in Farris's honor, naming it the Oscar L. Farris Agricultural Museum. In 1998 the state renamed the institution the Tennessee Agricultural Museum.

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  • Article Title Oscar L. Farris
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  • Website Name Tennessee Encyclopedia
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  • Access Date June 20, 2024
  • Publisher Tennessee Historical Society
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update March 1, 2018