On January 5, 2005, the American Agriculture Movement lost a great friend and supporter. His name was Vernon Lewis. He was my friend and I will miss him for a long time. I have known Vernon since I was about 8 or 10 years old. His brother Wiley was in school with my sister Jessie.
Vernon owned a good 320 acre farm at Fallis, OK. It became difficult for him
to make a living on this farm. In the middle 70’s he rented his farm out to a
neighbor and he worked for other farmers. In 1976, I found out he needed work. I
went to him and asked him if he could come and help us plant some spring oats.
He came to help us and stayed 10 years full time.
When he retired, he found his childhood sweetheart and they were married. Her husband had died four years earlier.
In January 1978, I made my first trip to Washington, D.C. with the American Agriculture Movement. Vernon stayed home to see that our cattle were taken care of. March 1, 1978, I went to McAllen, TX, where some 200 farmers had been put in jail. After that trip, Vernon was by my side. He had to go with me every place that I went. He carried a bag with a change of clothes in his pickup when he came to work. Many times we were called to go to Oklahoma City to the Capital to help somebody in the Legislature. He would grab his bag and run to the bathroom in the shop and I would run to the house to clean up and we would leave and be in the city in an hour.
In Washington D.C., Vernon would not talk to a Congressman or a Senator, but he would be in front of me watching every word I would say. Once in a while your mind will stop and you cannot say the word that you need. I would look at Vernon and he would say the word I needed. Our friends noticed this and they would come and ask if they could borrow Vernon when they talked to their Legislators.
Vernon was a crew chief on the big bombers during WWII. He would not talk much about the War, just bits and pieces. The last five years he told me the rest of the stories. Things that happened that he had never told anyone. I asked him why. He said he didn’t think anyone would believe him. He crashed three times and the only one that walked away from one. He never told his folks because they would worry.
In august 2001, Vernon, Leo Hopper and I went to a National Family Farm Coalition meeting in Madison, WI. On the way back home we stopped at Springfield, IL to spend the night with my sister Jessie. That evening at the table he suffered a stroke. We got him to the hospital in 5 to 10 minutes where he stayed a week. He recovered except for his short term memory. After the stroke, his step daughter and husband (Ernie & Patsy Wilson) insisted that he live with them. They took such good care of him because they loved him.
I think the reason he stayed and worked for us so long was that he was treated like family. Gerry took good care of him and fed him like she did me.
We will miss him forever and so will the American Agriculture Movement that he loved so much. Vernon was a very dedicated person.
Wayne and Gerry Allen
I would like to take a few minutes to share some of the things that were important to Vernon.
Last year Ryan had a class assignment to write about someone. He was to give a brief history of a person’s life. He chose Vernon, and asked some questions about his life. Here is what Vernon had to tell:
My name is Vernon Lewis, and I was born February 10, 1920, in Foil, MO. My parents were Elbert Lewis and Icie (McCallister) Lewis. I had two brothers Wiley and Leon and twin sisters Bernice and Burl. Burl’s granddaughter, who would be my grand niece), Lexy Randall plays in the Sarah Plain and Tall series and several other movies.
I was 65 years old when I married for the first time. I married Ryan’s great Grandmother Margaret (Gray Haynie) Lewis.
I lived in Foil, MO until I was about 8 years old. I went to school there until we moved to Fallis, OK. I went to school at Fallis and another small country school called Eagle College. I later went to school in Wellston, Ok where I graduated in 1938.
The grade schools we attended we attended were one room with eight grades and one teacher. The games we played were simple games such as marbles, I spy, drop the handkerchief. Sometimes we would play games with balls—if we had a ball to play with.
After high school I went to work on the family farm. On October 14, 1941, I was drafted into the army and a few weeks later was reassigned to the U. S. Air Force where I served until December 7, 1945.
I was in the back-up plane of the Enola Gay (which was the plane that dropped the first Atomic Bomb on Hiroshima, Japan on August 16, 1945). This era of my life was probably one the the saddest times of my life.
While serving in the Air Force, James (Jimmy) Stewart (the actor) was my captain and pilot of my unit. He influenced my life because he was a good Christian, who treated everyone the same and always started our day with prayer.
After being discharged from the Air Force, I returned to the family farm where as a child growing up there was some of the happiest times of my life. I helped by parents on the farm until their death. I took over farming on 320 acres. I also worked for other farmers. I retired when I was 65 years old.
During the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s, farmers all over America were finding it hard to make a living on farms and many were losing their farms and homes. The American Ag Movement made several trips to Washington, D.C. to try to get Congress to pass bills to help the American Farmers. I went on several of these trips. One such trip was a 17-day trip that started out on January 17 (I can’t remember the year). We had a line of tractors, cars vans, and trailers 14 miles long.
A plaque with our names engraved on it now hangs in the Smithsonian Institute along with several pictures of different tractors.
My advice that I would give to you as young people would be the STAY IN CHURCH-AND GET AN EDUCATION.
THESE WERE THE WORDS VERNON HAD TO SAY TO RYAN AND THE YOUNG PEOPLE OF TODAY.
The love of Vernon’s life was my mother. No natural father could have been more proud of his family than he was of his. My sister and I were truly his daughters in his eyes. He said what takes most men a lifetime to accomplish—he did in a matter of minutes. The American Ag Movement was another thing that brought him great pleasure. For they truly were one big family loving and caring for one another.
He loved his God, Family, Church, and Fiends and He was loved by them.
The CARNEY BASEBALL TEAM, who Jared my grandson was a member of was another thing he loved and was proud of. He went to every game he could. And to him here wasn’t a Major League team that could play any better than his beloved Carney team. He bragged about his Carney team to everyone.
Pa, you are loved and will be greatly missed.
Earnest & Patsy Wilson.