The system of county extension offices that blanket the nation, serving much of the rural agricultural population, got its start in the Upper East Side of Texas.
On November 12, 1906, the Commercial Club of Tyler, with the cooperation of Seaman Knapp of the United States Department of Agriculture, appointed William Stallings agricultural agent of Smith County. He was the first county agricultural agent in Texas and the first in the nation to serve a single county.
Stallings was a Smith County farmer, corn breeder and Methodist minister before the appointment. After serving Smith County for a year, during which he earned $150 a month, Stallings was appointed district agent; the district comprised Smith, Cherokee, and Angelina counties.
Stallings was credited with turning around farmers’ fortunes. Through his efforts the cotton and corn yields of the district increased by over 50 percent. The state quickly began adding agricultural agents and began establishing agricultural experiment stations around Texas to determine best practices based on scientific trials for farmers in their respective regions.
That led to the adoption of the Smith-Lever Act of 1914, creating a system of cooperative extension to be operated by universities around the nation in order to inform people about current developments in agriculture, home economics, and related subjects.
In November 1971 the Texas Historical Commission placed a historical marker on the courthouse square in Tyler to commemorate Stallings's services.
Today, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension includes a network of 13 research and extension centers and offices in 250 counties staffed by some 900 professional educators who provide expertise in various fields, including soil and animal sciences, plant pathology, entomology, wildlife and fisheries, family and consumer health, economics and 4-H youth development programs.
Nationwide, there are approximately 2,900 extension offices serving their regions today.
[Includes information from Texas State Historical Association.]