|Personal History from the files of Sullivan-Rutland Genealogy Project of Joyce M. Tice|
James A. McConnell, former general manager of Cooperative GLF Exchange and an Assistant Secretary of Agriculture in the Eisenhower administration, died March 3, 1974, after a lengthy illness. He was 82 years old.
Mr. McConnell served as general manager of GLF, one of Agway's
founding organizations, from 1937 to l953, when he was given a leave of
Absence to become a consultant to Secretary of Agriculture Ezra Taft Benson.
Mr. McConnell was appointed administrator of the Commodity Stabilization Service in 1954 and named Assistant Secretary of Agriculture the following year. He returned to GLF in 1956 before retiring in August of that year.
Mr. McConnell was born and lived on the family farm near Mansfield, Pa. He graduated from Cornell University in 1921 and joined GLF in 1922.
During Mr. McConnell's years general manager, GLF built up its fertilizer service, retail system, self-insurance program, and marketing operations. He was instrumental in GLF's acquisition of an interest in Texas City Refining, Inc. A trustee of Cornell University, he taught there after graduating and again after retiring from business life.
His body was interred MAR 1974 in Oakwood Cemetery, Mansfield, Tioga County, Pennsylvania.
He married twice. He married Lois Annette Zimmerman 23 JUN 1920 in Ithaca, Tompkins County, New York. (Lois Annette Zimmerman is #2237.) Lois was born 7 JUL 1898 in Racine, Racine County, Wisconsin. Lois was the daughter of George John Zimmerman and Daisy Maude Goldthorpe*. Lois died 8 JAN 1963 in Wellsboro, Tioga County, Pennsylvania, at age 64. Her body was interred JAN 1963 in Oakwood Cemetery, Mansfield, Tioga County, Pennsylvania. I worked for Lois her when I was in high school, as so many others in the neighborhood did. She was known for the flowers with which she always surrounded herself - and I helped her weed them once in a while. She graduated from Cornell University at a time when, I suppose, few women did. She majored in Home Economics. I still have the china teacups she gave me for Christmas and birthdays just as she did her grand daughters. I visited her when she was ill for the last time, just a few weeks before she died. I told her I had learned to make cream of tomato soup and she said repeatedly that she loved cream of tomato soup and would love to have some. I did not respond to the request probably because I wasn't sure I could do it right. And then she died very shortly after that and I always wish when I think of her that I had made that soup for her. I was a freshman in college at the time and this was a very long time ago, but I remember that I did not do that simple thing for her. Her funeral was held at the Elk Run Methodist Church. Senator Jacob Javits of New York attended because of Jim's Republican prominence. They received White House Christmas cards during the Eisenhower administration. Carroll has written to remind us of Lois's strong singing voice which filled the church when she attended. She also reminds us that Lois was always at least half a measure ahead of Anna Wood who played the organ. Carroll remembers her embarrassment at the ongoing conflict. Lois said Anna dragged the songs and she was apparently trying to bring her along a little faster. When she was in her final illness, as she gradually had diminished ability to take care of herself, Jim had to help her. One time when she wanted a particular dress, I found it in the closet with the hanger through the side zipper instead of the neck of the dress. She was a little annoyed with Jim, but we both thought it was pretty amusing and teased him about it.
Obituary: Mrs. Lois McConnell, 64, of Mansfield RD 3, died Tuesday, Jan. 8, 1963. She was a member of the Elk Run Methodist Church, east Sullivan Grange,pas president of the Alumni Assn. of Cornell Home Economics, member of Orato Society of New York, active member of the Home for Elderly Ladies and Children's Home Board for Mary Hibbard Aid. She was active in many community activities in Mansfield and Ithaca, NY. Survived by her husband, James McConnell; daughters, Mrs. Francis Carroll of Glen Rock, NJ; Mrs. Robert Manning of Elmira; son, Joseph of Ithaca NY; brothers, Donald Zimmerman of Rockville Centre, L.I., George Zimmerman of Tulsa, Okla.; sister, Mrs. Quincy Daudna of Charleston, Ill., 11 grandchildren.
He married Elizabeth Youngkin 1963. (Elizabeth Youngkin is #5371.) Betty was born 6 APR 1903 in Easton, Northampton County, Pennsylvania. Betty was the daughter of Herbert E. Youngkin* and Lillimae Garr*. She married Stephen H. Beach. Betty died 21 JAN 1988 in Wellsboro, Tioga County, Pennsylvania, at age 84. Her body was interred JAN 1988 in Oakwood Cemetery, Mansfield, Tioga County, Pennsylvania.
Jim was listed on the Elk Run School, District No. 12 roll as a student in Sullivan Township, Tioga County, Pennsylvania 31 MAR 1905. Jim was listed on the Elk Run School, District No. 12 roll as a student in Sullivan Township, Tioga County, Pennsylvania 1905/1906. He resided in Sullivan Township, Tioga County, Pennsylvania 1908. Student, Son of J.B. He also was a teacher i teh one room schools in Sullivan Township.
Jim served in the military 1918. Jim was in the Navy during WW1. He was on board ship in the middle of the Atlantic when the war ended & the ship turned around & came back to America. He is not listed on Mansfield's World War One wall, possibly becuase his service was so brief. However, othes with brief service are listed. I can not account or his absence on that memorial.
|Jim McConnell's background in G.L.F. is that of an operator and organizer.
Starting in as a district man in June 1922- in those distant days a district
man was a feed salesman with an open formula feed tag in his pocket, an
order pad in his hand, and a prayer in his heart - Jim shortly moved to
Buffalo to establish control of quality on G.L.F. feeds. Presently he became
mill superintendent at the old Niagara Street Plant, and later went to
Peoria as the G.L.F. representative at the American Milling Company which
was then manufacturing G.L.F.feeds. He returned to Buffalo as the head
of the dairy department, and presently was placed in charge of G.L.F. Mills
which at that time handled all wholesale activities of G.L.F.
Behind this history of business operation, however, is another history - that of an educator. A normal school and a Cornell graduate, Jim taught school in his home district and subsequently was an instructor in Animal Husbandry at Cornell. The early experience has shown its value in recent years, when Jim's leadership and inspirational teaching have combined to shape the philosophy as well as the structure of the modern G.L.F.
G.L.F.'s chief executive today is a mellow and kindly man of 52, who enjoys working occasionally on the Mansfield farm which has been in the McConnell family for 125 years; likes to set out a few hundred or a few thousand trees and watch them grow; relishes a game of golf when he can find time for it; and gets supreme satisfaction out of a good Havana cigar. Underneath this exterior lurks the temperament of a tough and experienced battler who dearly loves a good, clean fight and has never been known to pull a punch.
Jim McConnell's Farms - Farm Price Chief is Mansfield Boy Who Made Good
When James A. McConnell of Ithaca and Mansfield was appointed head of the
Commodity Stabilization Service in mid-February, it was a case of national
recognition for a farm authority widely known for many years in the Elmira
Jim McConnell was appointed by Secretary of Agriculture Ezra Benson to take charge of the explosive farm price support policy. McConnell is a believer in "less government in agriculture." He has sought lower government support for feed prices, which he feels have hampered livestock and dairy expansion. It is expected that McConnell's tenure will be a short one, as Benson will groom some Midwesterners to take over.
McConnell was born on the family farm near Lawrence Corners, Pa. which is in Tioga County between Roseville and Route 6 on the Elmira Mansfield road. He went to Mansfield Normal School before entering Cornell where he graduated in 1921. He was an instructor at Cornell for a year, then Ithaca district manager for GLF - the Grange League Federation. He went to Buffalo to head up a GLF mill in 1923 and in 1925-27 was milling superintendent there. He has been executive vice president of GLF for the past year and for 16 years previously was general manager with headquarters at Ithaca.
McConnell's home is in Ithaca, where a son, Joseph, lives at 201 Stewart Ave., and a sister, (of Joe's) lives at 109 DeWitt Pl.
Down Mansfield way McConnell owns five farms totalling 700 acres. These Sunday Telegram photos by Jerry Kennedy show that dirt farming - done in a modern way- is close to McConnell's heart.
When Ed Babcock gave up the management of G. L. F. in 1937, at the age of 47, Jim McConnell was the ideal man to succeed him. Babcock was a great innovator and he had built the G. L. F. into an impressive cooperative organization. What was now required was a great administrator, one who could build on the foundation given him. Let us see how well trained McConnell was for this task.
Jim was born on a farm near Mansfield, Pennsylvania, in 1891. As a boy he was bashful, shy, retiring and given to dreaming. He had a sharp conscience when he felt that he had done something wrong.
He loved to read general adventure stories and his dream hero always carried a six-shooter. Like other boys of his time he was a fan of “Golden Days” and “The Youth’s Companion”, and an avid devotee of Horatio Alger stories. Later he turned to historical novels and never lost his taste for them. HE had no ambition to be President but for a time he aspired to be a teacher because this seemed to be attainable, for in those days teaching in a country school was open to farm kids who could learn to read, write and figure.
As a boy on the farm he did his share of the chores and work, and attended country school until he was 17. Then in the fall of 1909, with the encouragement of his mother, he went to Mansfield Normal School for two main reasons: (1) It was only six miles from home and; (2) it took very little cash, being a State school.
After a year at Mansfield Normal he was able to get a job teaching in a nearby country school at $40.00 per month under a “provisional” teacher’s certificate. HE held this job for three years and got his salary up to $50.00 a month. With the death of his dad during this period, Jim ran the home farm with his mother while also teaching in the country school.
In 1916 Jim got a job working on Professor G. W. Warren’s farm near Ithaca. Dr Warren was the leading Farm Management teacher in the United States, and this gave Jim his first experience with large-scale farming, and under an expert. In those days dairy cattle, large flocks of hens, and fruit all were part of the farming operation.
At the urging of his older brother, Carl, who later became a prominent Methodist minister in Elmira, New York, Jim decided to enter Cornell in the fall of 1917.
His college career was interrupted briefly by a short time in the Navy in 1918 after he had made two unsuccessful attempts to get into the Service. He first applied for admission to the first Officers Training Camp. Eventually he was notified that he “lacked executive ability”. Later he applied for pilot training in the Air Service but was rejected because of his eyes.
The year on Professor Warren’s farm was a great help when Jim got into Cornell University for his associates were largely college students and instructors. This gave him a “great seasoning” and taught him a lot of good farm practices being put to use. Jim has always held that he had a 5-year college course – one year at Warren’s farm and four years of formal education.
When Jim entered Cornell as a Freshman he was 25 years of age and had little money. He had to earn whatever he had for tuition, etc., and he had little time for outside activities. His recreation was centered around music and country dancing and playing his banjo. During his Freshman year he continued to work for Professor Warren as a hired man, and later Professor Warren would refer to him as “the best hired man I ever had who went through Cornell”. Jim says that he never knew how to take this remark – whether as a “compliment or an insult”.
One of his jobs for Professor Warren was running a milk route to Forest Home Inn near the Campus. In this way he became acquainted with Lois Zimmerman, who was working her way through college and living at Forest Home Inn. This friendship carried through from work days to college and eventually they became engaged. They were married in June 1920. Lois recognized in Jim potentials that he didn’t quite see in himself and from the time of their marriage until her death in 1963 they were a team that contributed to the growth and fulfillment of each other.
Attracted by the competence of his professors at Cornell – especially George F. Warren, Elmer Seth Savage, Frank Pearson, H. E Babcock, and Deal Albert Russell Mann, and stimulated by the hovering presence at Cornell of Liberty Hyde Bailey of whom Jim says: “I sat at his feet, a long way off”; -- and happily married to a wife who was ambitious for him, Jim decided to continue at Cornell for a Master’s Degree after his graduation in June 1921 with a B. Sc. Degree in Agriculture. His main source of support was an Instructorship in Animal Husbandry which paid $60.00 per month.
If fate had not intervened he might have continued until he had a Ph. D. and become a Professor of Animal Husbandry. But in the spring of 1922 Jim came under the challenging influence of H. E. (“Ed”) Babcock who was teaching an unorthodox course in Cooperative Marketing – a subject of great interest in New York State because of the efforts being made by the G. L. F. to establish itself. When Babcock took over the management of the G. L. F. on July 1, 1922, he drew several of his students, including Jim, to help him make a go of this floundering organization.
Jim admits that at this time he had not yet become a “real convert to the farmer cooperative way of life”. HE says, “I was really following a man”.
His decision to join with Babcock was influenced by two other factors – an allergy test showed that his bad attacks of asthma were caused by being around cattle and his doctor advised him to “get out of the cow barn”. Secondly, as a married man with a family on the way he found that he couldn’t live on the $60.00 a month received as a graduate student instructor.
So when Ed Babcock became General Manager of G. L. F. Jim informed him that he was available for a job. Ed put him to work, but Jim found that this didn’t cause him to give up his planned profession – for as he expresses it, “I have spent the remainder of my life ‘teaching’”.
Babcock’s immediate need was to get the G. L. F. rooted, and he needed fieldmen who could speak the farmer’s language and “get the business”. McConnell and the other fieldmen soon found that the best way to get the business was through the utilization of local dealers, and gradually on this pragmatic base the unique G. L. F. system of Agent-Buyer was developed.
One of the serious problems of the new organization was to produce a feed of good quality. In 1923 Babcock needed someone in whom he had complete confidence to take charge of quality control at the Buffalo Mill – someone who knew what farmers needed and wanted. Jim was the ideal man for this job and he did it so well that in 1924 he was made mill superintendent.
In the early days of the G. L. F. it operated on a partnership basis with the American Milling Company, and drew much of its mixed feed from the A. M. C. feed mill located at Peoria, Illinois. In 1925, Ed Babcock decided that the G. L. F. needed a representative on the spot so Jim was sent to Peoria. This position gave him a new perspective and an inside knowledge of the management of a big business. He came to have great respect for the management ability and broadmindedness of H. G. Atwood, President of the American Milling Company, and they developed a working relationship that proved helpful in working out problems that developed within the partnership.
In 1927 Jim returned to Buffalo as manager of the G. L. F.’s feed division and in 1928, when Babcock was forced by illness to take a few months of needed rest, Jim served for him as Acting Manager.
In 1929 Jim was placed in charge of all G. L. F. wholesale operations, and from 1933 to 1936 he served as Assistant General Manager. During this period he spent a year as Executive Vice President of the Commercial Molasses Company, an organization in which G. L. F. had a vital interest because of the large molasses purchases needed for its feed mixing operations. This experience in New York City further widened Jim’s knowledge of industrial management and marketing methods.
When Babcock gave up the post of General Manager in October 1936, Jim’s appointment was both logical and natural. Ed Babcock said at this time, “Jim has worked up from the ranks. You will find that he is idealistic but also practical and level-headed. He has courage and, above everything else, he is fair. I know the G. L. F. will go forward under his leadership”.
During the next sixteen years Jim built upon the solid foundations that Babcock had built with his close assistance. In fact, the two men had complemented each other for since 1922 Jim had been Babcock’s right arm in making programs work. Jim’s wife, Lois, once said to me, “Ed lays the eggs and Jim hatches them”.
Although great decisions were made by the G. L. F. while Jim was General Manager, the essential farmer-controlled character of the organization remained unchanged. During his administration the wholesale business volume of the G. L. F. grew from 35 to 184 million Dollars, and the total assets of the G. L. F. system grew from 9 to 55 million dollars.
During the years of Jim McConnell’s stewardship the G. L. F. accomplished
? It simplified its highly complex structure.
? It began a program of returning savings in the form of patronage refunds.
? It developed across-the-board marketing services.
? It greatly broadened its line of supplies and services.
? It inaugurated an integrated petroleum service program.
? It made great contributions to the war effort.
? It greatly amplified its research activities.
? It developed the member-ownership plan that eventually led G. L. F. to voluntarily give up its Federal income tax exemption.
? It carried forward employee and membership education so that the morale of G. L. F. was outstanding among cooperative organizations.
These accomplishments came from a continuous ferment for improvement which was encouraged and directed by Jim McConnell. He had the gift of being able to work with all associates on a personal, friendly basis, but he was not a complacent, easy-going manager. He expected and got the best possible performance. Probably no cooperative organization ever achieved and maintained for so long a time a higher morale than G. L. Fl under Jim McConnell.
This was not all due to Jim, but it was he who gave all employees and members of the organization the feeling that they were partners in a common enterprise. The name Jim McConnell became loved and respected by all related to the G. L. F.
Jim continuously strove to keep the G. L. F. essentially democratic.
In his annual report for 1043, he said:
“The only objective of the member ownership campaign is to have a large body of stock holders, with sufficient investment on the part of each one so that they feel a sense of ownership and responsibility”.
He was very much disturbed by the general public’s misunderstanding of cooperatives and he believed that the member ownership program would demonstrate that farmers were supporting G. L. F. not only with their purchasing but with their funds.
In his 1947 annual report he said:
“If I were to pick out one central theme which has run continuously through top policy, it would be: ‘Let’s not build a G. L. F. which is so strongly centralized that its effectiveness depends on the decisions and actions of a few men at the top’”.
I have many letters from Jim which indicate his continuous searching interest to improve the G. L. F. In one letter he dealt with a criticism that I had made of one phase of G. L. F. operations which had upset certain members of his staff. He remarked, “I take it from this that the talk was well worth while”.
In another letter to me in June 1945 he said, “A cooperative without a research program and an educational program among its employees is much like a ship without a compass or a rudder. The research is the compass”.
The executive leadership of Jim McConnell made the Cooperative Grange League Federation Exchange a living organism – a demonstration of what farmers could do cooperatively under effective administration. When he retired as General Manager in 1952, after 30 years of continuous service to the G. L. F., to become Administrator of the Agricultural Stabilization Administration and, later, Assistant Secretary of Agriculture, he left a strong organization which was in position to reach new heights.
Jim is now back where he started from, living on the farm near Mansfield, Pennsylvania, where he grew up as a boy. In 1963 he married Betty (Elizabeth YOUNGKIN "Beach",) a longtime friend of himself and Lois, and he continues his keen interests in agricultural and national affairs, and in his grandchildren.
In a recent letter to me he said:
“When it is all over – I’d like to be remembered for the job of putting a great business organization, which is successfully operating, into a democratic framework, using all the devices available to the business world, and still keeping the essential controls in the hands of farmers”.
Joseph G. Knapp
(Note: G.L.F. was the forerunner to Agway Corporation stgill opearating as a major company today.
(This eulogy was delivered by Agway General Manager Ronald N. Coddard at the funeral of James A. McConnell in 1974.)
The true measure of a man is not just in what he accomplishes,
but in what he helps and inspires others to accomplish.
Certainly, James McConnell was a man of superior accomplishments. Most men are content to do one job in life and do it well. But Jim McConnell was not satisfied with a one-dimensional career. In his lifetime, he was successful in several major endeavors, any one of which would have made a satisfactory career for an ordinary men. Jim McConnell was not an ordinary man.
He made significant and lasting contributions to American agriculture, both as the chief executive of a sizable farmer-owned business and as an innovator of sound and valuable farm practices.
As an educator, before and after his formal business career, he worked with young people, sharing his knowledge and experience with them. He was a teacher in the truest sense, in that he not only instructed his students, but developed curricula which are still being followed in great universities to this day.
As a public official, he served his nation and its people with the highest distinction. He demonstrated his many abilities in number of key positions, including that of Assistant Secretary of Agriculture, one of the most important administrative posts in Federal government.
Jim McConnell was all these things: businessman, educator, public servant. Those of us who were privileged to work with him over the years knew and respected him as a man of integrity and sensitivity. He exhibited unusual patience and understanding in dealings with his co-workers and business associates. But he also displayed the kind of forcefulness and determination that are the marks of real leadership. Jim McConnell had the ability to inspire people to follow him with confidence that he was leading them in the right direction and toward the highest purpose.
His accomplishments will live after him, in the accomplishments of those who knew him and learned from him. If this is the true measure of the man, Jim Mc Connell was a giant.
In his passing, his family and the people of this nation have experienced a grievous loss. Farmers, particularly, will sense this loss because he was a true friend of the men and women who work the land. He was deeply concerned about their well-being, and worked long and diligently to improve their living and their livelihood.
I know I speak for all my associates who worked with James McConnell, in saying that we will miss him . . . his kindness . . . his inspiration . . . and, mostly his friendship. For he was a friend to everyone who knew and worked with him.
James Asher McConnell and Lois Annette Zimmerman had the following children:
2 i. Jean2 McConnell (#2281)
was born in Ithaca, Tompkins County, New York 07 NOV 1921. Individual
flags: Interview; Form; Photograph. She married twice. She
married Francis Emery Carroll 19 MAR 1944 in Ithaca, Tompkins County, New
York. (Francis Emery Carroll is #2282.) Francis was born 20
JUL 1915 in Danvers, Essex County, Massachusetts. Francis was the
son of Francis Carroll* and Margaret Pitman*. Francis died 24 NOV
1992 in Wyckoff,,New Jersey, at age 77. Francis was divorced from
Jean McConnell 1970 in New Jersey. She married Arthur Katims* 1970
in Red Bank, Monmouth County, New Jersey. (Arthur Katims* is #2283.)
Arthur was born 07 Jan 1907. Arthur died Jan 1993 in North Miami,
Dade County, Florida, at age 86.
Jean was divorced from Francis Emery Carroll 1970 in New Jersey. Jean attended elementary school in Peoria, Illinois; Snyder, NY; and Eggertsville, NY. She attended High School at Scarsdale, NY and graduated from Ithaca High School in 1939. She graduated from Cornell University in 1943 and worked as a chemist at Lever Brothers until 1945. She was the Bergen County Extension Agent from 1961 to 1964 and was employed by Rutgers University as a specialist in Home Management until 1970. She enjoys painting and gardening and has travelled to the Caribbean Islands, Europe and Israel. In 1993 she toured the United Kingdom including Ireland and Scotland. Jean died 1998 in Florida.
3 ii. Joseph Asher McConnell (#2288) was born in Buffalo, Erie County, New York He married Susan Jacquilyn McKinney 29 MAR 1944 in Arizona, (U.S.Air Force). (Susan Jacquilyn McKinney is #2289.). Susan is the daughter of James Ferris McKinney* and Louise Cluett Bontecou*.
4 iii. Carroll McConnell (#2296) was born in Buffalo, Erie County, New York She married Robert Victor Manning 23 JUN 1951 in Ithaca, Tompkins County, New York. (Robert Victor Manning is #2297.) . Robert is the son of Donald M. Manning * and Helen Simpson*.