The Georgia Farm Bureau Federation recently awarded Hugh M. Gillis of Soperton with the 2010 Georgia Farm Bureau Commodity Award in recognition of the many contributions he made to Georgia's forestry and agriculture industries during the 56 years he served in the Georgia General Assembly.
Georgia Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall presented the award to Gillis during the annual GFB Commodity Conference held July 29 in Tifton.
Gillis served 12 years in the Georgia House of Representatives, from 1941 through 1944 and from 1949 to 1956. He served a term in the Georgia Senate in 1957 and 1958. He was then re-elected to the senate in 1962, a seat he held for 42 years before retiring in 2004. During his time in the senate, Gillis served for six years as Senate president pro tempore and chaired numerous senate committees including the Senate Natural Resources Committee. A lifelong conservative Democrat, Gillis was respected by his legislative peers from both parties. In 2002 when the Republican Party won control of the state senate, the leadership allowed Gillis to retain his chairmanship of the Natural Resources Committee in deference to his tenure.
During his years in office, Gillis helped oversee the passage of numerous bills that helped Georgia's forestry and agriculture industries remain profitable, benefiting the economies of many rural Georgia communities that depend on these industries. Gillis says he is especially proud of the General Assembly passing House Resolution 836 in 1990, which gave Georgia voters the chance to approve a referendum that enacted the conservation use value assessment. This assessment taxes farmland and land being used for other conservation purposes based on the use of the land rather than the land's fair market value. This assessment has allowed farmers to continue to farm and grow timber in areas facing strong development pressure.
"This year we're very proud to give this award to a great Georgian, one who has dedicated his life to the people of Georgia and agriculture," Duvall said. "The men and women in this room are the ones who won because of Mr. Gillis and his service to Georgia agriculture."
Gillis co-chaired the Joint Comprehensive Water Plan Study Committee, which met from May 2001-August 2002 to draft recommendations for state water policy. He also worked to establish the Medical College of Georgia School of Dentistry in Augusta and the Mercer University School of Medicine in Macon and served on the advisory board of both for many years.
Gillis was a charter member of the Treutlen County Farm Bureau where he served on the board of directors in some capacity for nearly 70 years and continues to support the organization as a director emeritus.
Gillis was born Sept. 6, 1918, in Soperton to Jim L. Gillis and Annie Walker Gillis. After graduating from Soperton High School, he attended Georgia Military College and earned a bachelor degree in agriculture from the University of Georgia.
Gillis is a member of the Soperton Baptist Church where he served as a deacon and is now a deacon emeritus. He and his late wife, Jean Gillis, raised three children: Hugh Jr., Donnie and Jean Marie Gillis Harris. He has seven grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren. Gillis has been married to Montez Champion Gillis since 1999.
This article was provided by Georgia Farm Bureau.