Chester Gray McWhorter, Ph. D. (1927 - 2003)

Chester Gray McWhorter, Ph. D. (1927 - 2003)We are saddened to report that Dr. Chester McWhorter, distinguished USDA-ARS research scientist, passed away June 17, 2003 following a stroke.

Dr. McWhorter will be remembered as a leader in weed science research and a great mentor and example to scientists throughout the world. He is also known as the man who has successfully spanned the gap between basic and applied research in this area. The improved weed control technology that he generated is now used on millions of acres of agronomic crops annually in the United States and internationally.

His pioneering research led to the discovery that surfactants and other adjuvants increase herbicide activity and improve selectivity and safety. He discovered that a group of herbicides known as dinitroanilines selectively control the weed johnsongrass from both rhizomes and seed in soybeans when used in a specific regimen. He also discovered that the post emergence activity of another widely used class of herbicides, the s-triazines, was greatly increased when applied in emulsions of paraffinic oil in water. This practice, which reduces herbicide use rates, is widely used on millions of acres annually.

He invented several innovative herbicide application devices and techniques, including the recirculating sprayer, application of herbicides in foam and wax bars, subsurface application of herbicides in soil with a subsurface blade, and soil injection of herbicides.

Dr. McWhorter was recognized internationally as the foremost authority on johnsongrass biology, ecology, taxonomy, physiology, and control. The technology issuing from his research is widely used as a model by extension agents, industry, other scientists, and producers to reduce losses caused by weeds, to control costs of weed control, and to aid in conducting national market surveys. He has shared his research results through more than 200 publications.

During his career, Dr. McWhorter served on the board of directors of the Weed Science Society of America (WSSA) and Council for Agricultural Science and Technology. He was president of WSSA and the Southern Weed Science Society. A lengthy list of awards is capped by Dr. McWhorter’s inclusion in the USDA-ARS Hall of Fame in 1994, USDA’s Distinguished Research Scientist of the Year in 1989, a 1990 Research Award from the Southern Weed Science Society, and Research Scientist of the year 1991 for Outstanding Contributions to Delta Agriculture, as presented by the Delta Council.

Dr. McWhorter was chosen Man of the Year in Southern Agriculture by Progressive Farmer Magazine.

A native of Decatur, Mississippi, Dr. McWhorter was born May 3, 1927. After serving in the U. S. Navy from 1945 to 1946, he attended East Central Junior College, later earning his B. S. (1951) and M. S. (1952) degrees in Agronomy at Mississippi State University. He began his career in weed science research at the Delta Branch Experiment Station, Stoneville, Mississippi, in 1952, but left in 1956 to obtain his Ph. D. in plant physiology from Louisiana State University. Dr. McWhorter returned to Stoneville to work with ARS in 1958. He directed the Southern Weed Laboratory from 1975 to 1987 when he requested that he be allowed to return to full-time bench research. In 1990, Dr. McWhorter was asked to lead the newly formed Application Technology Research Unit at Stoneville, Mississippi, and he remained in that leadership position until his retirement in 1992. Upon his retirement, Dr. McWhorter returned to Decatur with his wife Ann Graham McWhorter.

Dr. McWhorter, age 76, died Tuesday, June 17, 2003, at Jeff Anderson Regional Medical Center in Meridian, Mississippi. Services were held on Friday, June 19, 2003, at Clarke-Venable Baptist Church, Decatur, Mississippi, with Rev. Stan Buckley officiating. Burial was in Newton County Memorial Gardens with Barham Funeral Home of Newton handling arrangements. Pallbearers were David McWhorter, Lynn McWhorter, Robert H. Graham, Chan Graham, Dan Fairly, and Ken Fairly.

His prominence was so great in the field of agriculture that, on the day of his funeral, flags were flown at half-mast at each United States Agricultural Research Station.

Dr. McWhorter was survived by his wife, Ann Graham McWhorter of Decatur; two sons, E. Patrick McWhorter of Chicago, Illinois and Walter R. McWhorter; by one brother, John L. McWhorter of Conehatta; by a granddaughter Anna Kate McWhorter; and by a number of nieces and nephews.


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