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Georgia Pecan Industry Loses One of its Champions

Based on the many contributions he made to not only the Georgia Pecan Industry, but also the U.S. Pecan Industry, it feels appropriate to report the passing of Mr. Hilton Segler on July 4, 2019. Hilton had a long career in the chemical industry working for Thompson-Heyward Chemcial, Griffiin Chemical, and UPI through the years. He also was co-owner of NIPAN, LLC, the company that makes foliar Nickel products, and sold crop insurance for Andrew Avery Insurance Agency. Hilton also grew pecans himself through the years and served as a consultant for many growers.

Even with all these accomplishments, Hilton’s greatest contributions to the pecan industry originated with his 2 terms as President of the Georgia Pecan Growers Association. He developed the GPGA into the progressive leader of the U.S. pecan industry and testified before Congress on behalf of the pecan growers. Where it not for Hilton’s determination and passion for the industry, we would likely not have pecan crop insurance, inclusion in the many USDA conservation and emergency programs, access to the USDA Market Access Program to aid in building the export market, and many other recent developments in the U.S. pecan industry which have helped to legitimize pecans in the eyes of many who used to ignore or dismiss pecans as too minor a crop to matter.

Hilton ruffled feathers along the way but he knew how to get things done and he always had the best interest of the grower at heart. It is a testament to his loyalty to pecan growers that many of his contributions to the pecan industry came at a time when he didn’t actively grow pecans himself and to use one of his own terms, when he “didn’t have a dog in the fight”.

I remember years ago when he attended every county production meeting we held across the state, as soon as Will, Jason, and I were done with our presentations, Hilton would get up to speak on behalf of the GPGA. He would speak, and speak, and speak , and speak, for quite a while. It is usually all most folks can do to listen to Jason, Will, and I, so eyes would roll and everyone was ready to go home by the end. But Hilton’s lengthy speeches had a purpose, which was to take this industry to where it is today. Thanks to Hilton, we now have a voice.

Hilton would always begin these speeches by saying “I know most of you out there, most of you know me, but if you don’t you’ve probably heard of me”. Since we have so many new people in the industry now, there may be some people out there who do not know of Hilton Segler. But, you should. Hilton, we thank you for your service to the pecan industry. You will be missed.

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Lenny Wells

About Lenny Wells

I am an Associate Professor and Extension Horticulture Specialist for pecans at the University of Georgia. My research and extension programs focus on practical cultural management strategies that help to enhance the economic and environmental sustainability of pecan production in Georgia.