Peanut Growers, Hudsons make substantial gifts to 4-H Museum and History Center

The North Carolina 4-H Museum and History Center moved a step closer this spring to becoming reality, thanks to two very special gifts.

The North Carolina Peanut Growers Association Inc. gave $100,000 to name the front hall of the museum, housed in the famous “House that Peanuts Built,” which was constructed in 1939 by Rudolph Carl Ellis.

Ellis parlayed his 4-H peanut project into a major entrepreneurial venture, Ellis Fancy Peanuts, and used the proceeds to buy his tenant farm family 29 acres of their own and to build a new house on the land. Later donated to 4-H by Ellis’ daughter, Dr. Sharon Elis Joyner, the “House that Peanuts Built” now serves as the centerpiece of the N.C. 4-H Museum and History Center, located at Millstone 4-H Camp in Ellerbe.

The Peanut Growers Front Hall – the largest room in the house – will feature exhibits on Ellis’ life and work, including his and other historic peanut farmers’ methods of cultivation, processing and marketing. It also will spotlight modern methods of peanut production and nutritional information.

“With this gift, we are ensuring that the story of 4-H and peanuts is told to countless visitors,” said Bob Sutter, executive director of the North Carolina Peanut Growers Association. “We’ve always supported 4-H and are proud of that relationship. Supporting the museum in this way enhances the educational mission of both 4-H and the peanut growers.”

CALS Dean Johnny Wynne (left) and Dr. Marshall Stewart, state 4-H leader, thank Juanita Hudson, whose family contributed the center’s courtyard and gardens.

The “House that Peanuts Built” is one of four key elements of the planned museum and history center complex. There also will be a 4-H History Center, the Farm Bureau Old-Fashioned Farm Shop and beautiful new outdoor space, made possible by a recent gift from the family of Juanita and Mack Hudson.

The Juanita Ogburn Hudson and Mack Hudson 4-H Courtyard and Gardens are named for a family whose loyalty to 4-H and its ideals is unwavering after nearly seven decades. The courtyard and four surrounding gardens will be designed to represent head, heart, hands and health. Nearby agricultural plots will display heritage farm techniques.

At the endowment signing ceremony, Kent Hudson, son of Juanita and Mack Hudson, said, “By making this gift in our parents’ name, we hope to continue a tradition of generosity that they instilled in us very early on.”

Dr. Marshall Stewart, state 4-H program leader, describes the courtyard and gardens as the “heart” of the museum and history center complex.

“New generations of 4-H’ers will walk among the gardens and take renewed inspiration from the life of the remarkable people honored here,” Stewart said. “Each day, the flags of 4-H, the state, and nation will be raised and lowered with reverence as a reminder of the duty each of us owes to our club, community and country, a responsibility ever close to the hearts of Juanita and Mack Hudson.”

Inspired by a visit from legendary home demonstrator Jane McKimmon in the 1930s, Juanita Hudson took 4-H by storm, eventually leading her club to win North Carolina’s “Feed a Fighter” contest during World War II. This feat caught the attention of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who invited Hudson to christen a warship built by 4-H’ers in North Carolina, the USS Tyrrell, on July 10, 1944.

Hudson’s experience in 4-H laid the foundation for a successful career in interior design. She remains an active leader and supporter of 4-H and Extension and Community Association clubs. She and Mack, her husband of 60 years, live in Coats on their family home place.

“We are so grateful for the generosity of the North Carolina Peanut Growers Association and the Hudson family,” Stewart said. “These gifts are critical to our effort to complete the North Carolina 4-H Museum and History Center, which will bring to life the stories of outstanding 4-H’ers, like Rudolph Carl Ellis and Juanita Hudson, who helped change the course of history.”

These gifts are part of a $4.5 million fund-raising effort to construct the North Carolina 4-H Museum and History Center complex.

— Suzanne Stanard and Brad Dixon

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