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AUSTIN WINGATE CURTIS


The old rule of thumb farming, which was marked by drudgery and waste, is giving way to the new agriculture in which intelligence and efficiency count just as they do in other lines of business. In other words, farming is gradually becoming scientific. The chemistry of the soil, seed selection, crop rotation, fertilization, the crossing and breeding up of farm animals and the conservation of what was formerly waste all open up new and interesting fields of endeavor. The schools were slow to incorporate this line of work in their curricula, but now nearly every state has either its college of agriculture or an agricultural department in one or more of its state schools. At the West Virginia Collegiate Institute the Agricultural department is under the direction of Prof. Austin Wingate Curtis. Already we have had occasion to note in these pages the large number of successful professional and business men of the race who claim the Old North State as the land of their nativity--Tar Heels, they are sometimes called. Prof. Curtis was born at Wilmington, N. C., on May 17, 1872, son of Austin Curtis, a gardener, who was the son of Alexander Curtis. The mother of Prof. Curtis was, before her marriage, Margaret Ann Wingate, daughter of Susie Wingate.

Young Curtis laid the foundation of his education in the Raleigh schools from which he passed to the St. Augustine Normal School also at Raleigh. He spent four years at the North Carolina Experiment Station at Raleigh, N. C. Later he matriculated at the N. C. A. & T. College at Greensboro, from which he was graduated in 1899. He has the B. S. Agri. and M. of Agriculture degrees from that institution. He also did summer work at Cornell University. He was under the necessity of making his own way in school but with characteristic North Carolina patience and perseverance he refused to be discouraged till he was equipped to do first class work in his chosen profession.

In the fall of 1899, following his graduation in the spring of the same year, he came to Institute as Professor of Agriculture at the Collegiate Institute and has been at the head of the department for 23 years. In fact, it may be said that he created the department.

Some of the outstanding accomplishments of Mr. Curtis are the introduction of new crops, tile drainage, use of lime and the marked improvement in the fertility of the soil.

Land that would not yield 15 bushels of corn per acre is now producing 70 to 80 bushels per acre.

Soil that would not grow clover is now yielding three tons per acre.

On December 20, 1905, Prof. Curtis married Miss Dora Thorne Brown, daughter of W. S. and Alice C. Brown., Mrs. Curtis was before her marriage an accomplished teacher. They have two children, a girl and a boy. The girl's name is Alice Cabell Curtis, while the son is named for his father, Austin Wingate, Jr.

Among the secret and benevolent orders, he belongs to the A. F. and A. M. of which he is a P. G. M. of W. Va. In politics he is a Republican, in religion a Methodist. He is a trustee in his local church and was formerly Superintendent of the Sunday School. Prof. Curtis is a life member of the Association of Teachers in Colored Schools, also life member of the association for the Study of Negro life and history and was President of the West Virginia Teachers Association 1917-18. His favorite reading is along scientific lines.


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