ALA-TOM RC&D COUNCIL HISTORY
The first meeting to develop an application for the ALA-TOM RC&D Area was held in April, 1975. John Richburg, Area Conservationist provided the leadership to initiate the process, under the guidance of Sherrell Parker, Assistant State Conservationist. Early Council leadership was provided by Trice Edgar-Choctaw County, George Findley-Wilcox County, Tom Turner-Washington County, Roland Cooper-Wilcox County, Dr. H.L. Allen-Marengo County, and Sonny Caley-Dallas County.
The ALA-TOM RC&D Council was approved by the Secretary of Agriculture in January, 1981, and formally organized in March, 1981. Norman Burton was named RC&D Coordinator in May, 1981. Trice Edgar was elected the first Chairman, Dr. Leighton Allen, Vice-Chairman, and Fred Huggins, Secretary-Treasurer. The Council’s first project (project number 001) was the Old Cahawba Recreation Park – Alabama’s First State Capital, which is today a reality.
The ALA-TOM RC&D Council, like all the others, has changed dramatically since its beginning. The Council relied heavily upon federal RC&D financial assistance in its early years. It also focused primarily on erosion control measures such as school grounds and roadbank stabilization. However, there were attempts by several U.S. Presidents in the 1980’s to eliminate the RC&D program, but each year the Congress would restore funding. The budget was compromised to the point that financial assistance was finally eliminated. The ALA-TOM RC&D Council had to adapt to survive. The ALA-TOM RC&D Council got its 501-c-3 non-profit status in September, 1986, and incorporated in September, 1988. Writing grants for projects became the method of finding funds to install projects. The Council, like the rest in Alabama, began receiving an appropriation from the State of Alabama in 1998 to provide “seed money” grants for projects in the area. The Council now focuses on goals such as alternative agricultural enterprises and economic development, and helping rural communities.
The ALA-TOM RC&D Council celebrated its 35th anniversary in 2016. The Council is recognized as a leader because of its innovative projects and its efforts to help those that have been left behind. But one thing that has not changed is that the local leadership is effective in guiding the program to meet the needs of local people – it is a true “grass roots” program.