Walter B. Hawkins(1911 - 1982)
Inducted: November 28, 1990
Walter B. Hawkins brought what he had learned about agriculture in his native Iowa when he came to Canada and Kent County in 1946 to help develop the seed corn industry.
His farming knowledge was extensive because hard luck had forced him to work in a variety of jobs on the farm from an early age.
Mr. Hawkins was born in Adair County, Iowa; and the early death of his mother, and the prolonged illness of his father required him, as the eldest of six children, to be the man of the house. Before he officially joined Pioneer Hi-Bred in Johnston, Iowa, on a full-time basis in 1930, he had worked milking cows, and doing other chores on a company farm.
Three years after he started work, the company entrusted him with a plant management, and he gained helpful experience in hybrid corn production. World War II presented a major challenge, and Mr. Hawkins recruited Mexican and Jamaican workers, among others, to detassel corn.
Mr. Hawkins came to Canada as the General Manager of a Pioneer plant at Tilbury. In time, an office was built in Chatham on Grand Avenue West; and still later, a Hy-Line Hatchery to handle eggs, a Pioneer sideline.
Mr. Hawkins was instrumental in the acquisition of a Highway 2 site west of Chatham for the processing plant and later an office, opened in November, 1972. He did not think of himself as an expatriate; and his naturalization as a Canadian citizen in June, 1964 was, to him, "one of the proudest days of my life."
Mr. Hawkins was actively involved in community organizations. A Chatham swimming pool was named in his honour in July, 1963. This, with a plaque, recognized his many years of service as a member and the Chairman of the Chatham Memorial Community Centre Commission.
Mr. Hawkins received a Certificate of Merit in January, 1982, because of his long service with the Chatham Horticultural Society. He served on the Chatham Court of Revision, was a member of Chatham Rotary Club, and one of 12 men who organized the first Chatham Flying Club.
During his 50 years with Pioneer, he was plant manager, Vice-President, President and General Manager, and Chairman of the Board in Canada, in all roles playing a significant part in the development of the hybrid corn industry.
Mr. Hawkins married the former Dorothea Kinsey in 1936; and they have three children, Gary and Jane of Chatham and Judith (Mooney) of Mississauga.