Limestone County was well represented Saturday at the 75th annual Alabama Cattleman's Association Awards Banquet.
Limestone native Jack Batts formally assumed the role as president of the association, a title he will keep for the next year. Another Limestone native and former ACA president, Donna Jo Curtis, was elected into the ACA Hall of Fame.
This year's two-day ACA event, which also included a trade show and an appearance by Gov. Kay Ivey, was held at the Von Braun Center in Huntsville. This year's trade show was regarded as the largest ever, with more than 90 vendors in attendance and at least 900 attendees.
Batts is the sixth person from Limestone County to lead the ACA. Curtis, who served as ACA president from 2012-2013, thought Batts would do just fine.
“You have to be outgoing and a people person and just have a genuine love for the industry,” she said when asked what it takes to be a successful leader.
Batts explained the organization was founded in Demopolis in 1943. The intent, he said, was to promote the beef cattle industry in Alabama and protect this way of life
“Maybe when the history of our time is written, people will look back and say, 'Those folks stood in the gap and they made this possible for us,'” he said.
Batts gave credit to all those cattle industry leaders who have helped him along the way, especially those who work at the county level. He singled out Daveen Stanford, the secretary of the Limestone County Cattleman's Association, for her “constant support and encouragement.”
Batts said he had just two missions during his tenure as president — to have a seat at the table with those elected leaders who will decide the future of the beef cattle industry and to strengthen the ACA for future generations.
“Our future is bright and we must leave this association stronger than it was when we received it, and I have no doubt we will,” he said.
Joining Batts was his wife of 40 years, Beth, and son, John Christopher Batts. Other members of his family present were his parents, Norman and Thula Batts, who have been married 72 years. Jack's brother, former Limestone County District Judge Jerry Batts, was also in attendance with his wife, Marilyn.
Curtis' induction into the Hall of Fame was presented by Dr. Billy Powell, who served as executive vice president of the ACA for 34 years. Also inducted was Jerry Etheredge of Selma.
He described Curtis as “the real deal” when it comes to raising cattle and a “real leader” in the industry.
Curtis served as state president from 2012-2013 and also served on the executive committee of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association.
Curtis grew up on a farm in Limestone County. She said she has been around beef cattle “her whole life.” Curtis earned a bachelor's degree in animal science from Middle Tennessee State University and operates a cattle farm in the Thatch community.
Members of her family are also involved in the agriculture industry. Her husband, John, manages cooperatives in Limestone County and Giles County, Tennessee. Their daughter, Lauren, graduated from Middle Tennessee State University and is an ag-science teacher. Twins Landon and Landria graduated from Auburn University with degrees in agriculture.
Curtis said she was “blown away” by her induction into the Hall of Fame.
“You don't ever think you've done enough or have been an influence. … I don't feel like I've accomplished enough,” she said after receiving the honor. “It's a prestigious thing.”
When asked how her role as a hall of famer would shape her efforts in the future, Curtis said she would continue to be a source of advice and support for the next generation.
“I like helping those who are young and are just starting out,” she said. “As long as I'm able to walk, I'll be involved (in the cattle industry). I'm not a sit-down person.”
The ACA's Hall of Fame, established in 1981, honors those who have made significant contributions to the state's livestock industry. Inductees are chosen by living members.
Previous Limestone County inductees include Mack Maples and his son, Billy Maples, of Elkmont.
Several local students were also awarded scholarships by the ACA at the event.
A Tagged for Greatness scholarship was presented to Jasey Black, who will graduate from Clements High School and attend Auburn University. She is the daughter of Jason and Velvet Black of Athens.
Limestone student John Palmer, who could not attend, was also awarded a Tagged for Greatness scholarship.
Ashlyn Ruf was awarded a High School Attending 2-Year College scholarship. Ruf, the daughter of David and Allison Ruf, will graduate from Ardmore High School and attend Calhoun Community College.
Limestone student Christopher Nave was also awarded a High School Attending 2-Year College scholarship. Nave will graduate from Athens Bible School and attend Calhoun Community College. He is the son of Mark and Heather Nave of Athens.
More than $75,000 in scholarship awards were presented to 72 recipients at Saturday's banquet. Scholarships are largely funded through the sale of the “Cowboy Tag” vanity license plates.