Robert Richardson Coker Papers, ca. 1890-1988

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Robert Richardson Coker (1905-1987) was a renowned plant breeder, agriculturist, cotton expert, and entrepreneur, of Hartsville, S.C.

Extent: ca. 58.75 linear ft. (47 cartons) [Annex]
Extent: 22 oversize folders
[on site]
Location: Annex and Pob
[below YY]
Most materials stored off site; advanced notice required.



1905 Born to David Robert Coker and Jessie Ruth (Richardson) Coker on September 6th in Hartsville, South Carolina. Mother died suddenly on 20 June 1913. Second wife is May Roper, who was 24 when she married on 25 August 1915 and became mother to the six children D.R.C. had with Jessie (Miriam, Katherine, Hannah, Eleanor, Robert, and Samuel) They had 3 more of their own (Martha, Mary, and Carolyn).
1913 June 20 Jessie Coker died.
1915 August 25 David R. Coker married May Roper.
1924 Graduated from the Webb School in Bell Buckle, Tennessee.
1928 Graduated with a B.A. from the University of South Carolina. Went to work at Coker's Pedigreed Seed Company in February.
1933-1961 Director, Bank of Hartsville
1935 Elected to board of directors, Coker's Pedigreed Seed Company
1936 Married Lois Walters, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Theodore A. Walters of Caldwell, Idaho. Wedding took place in Washington, DC, on October 24th. (Had three children: Ione Walters (Lee), William Chambers, Cecilia Richardson (Bell).
1938 Appointed vice president (in charge of sales), Coker's Pedigree Seed Company when D.R. Coker died. (George Wilds appointed president)
1940 Elected president of J. L. Coker & Company
1940-1945 Vice President, National Cotton Council
1944 Founder, South Carolina Farm Bureau. Served as its first president for one year. Continued to serve on its board of directors. Served in order to get the organization started.
1945-1963 Adviser to the NCC board of directors.
1946-1952 Member of the Agricultural Research Policy Committee of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
1947 Appointed vice president and secretary, Coker's Pedigreed Seed Company.
1949-1951 President, Darlington County Agricultural Society.
1951 Named president of Coker's Pedigreed Seed Company. Also continued to head up the sales department. Served until 1978 when the company was sold to KWS, a West German agricultural research and distribution firm. For several years following the sale, he served as an adviser to the board of directors.
1951-1952 Member, Agricultural Mobilization Policy Board
1953 Appointed by President Eisenhower as member of the National Agricultural Advisory Commission. Served for 1953.
1954 Member, U.S. Agricultural Trade Mission to Latin America
1955 Recipient of an honorary Doctor of Science degree from Clemson College. Advisory committee of the Federal Crop insurance Corporation, U.S. Department of Agriculture.
1959 Certificate of Distinguished Service, South Carolina Farm Bureau. Named honorary member of the South Carolina Entomological Society.
1959-1960 Founder of National Council of Plant Breeders. Served as president.
1960 Elected life member, Clemson College Board of Trustees. Member of board of directors, American Seed Trade Association.
1962 Appointed member of the Shaw Airforce Base Civilian Advisory Council.
1962-1968 Director, Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond
1963 Served as president, National Cotton Council.
1964 South Carolina Man of the Year in Service to Agriculture, Progressive Farmer. (OR IS IT 1965?) Named chairman of the board, National Cotton Council. Re-elected a Class B director, Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond (3-year term)
1967 Appointed ex-officio member of the State Commission on Higher Education.
ca. 1968 President, Coker de Mexico (Mexico City)
1970 Honorary Doctor of Laws, University of South Carolina
1971 Georgia Crop Improvement Association, Superior Service Award
1974 South Carolina Cooperative Council Distinguished Agriculturist Award
1976 May Roper Coker died in March after a long illness.
1977 South Carolina Association of County Agricultural Agents, Distinguished Service Award, 1977
1978 CPSC sold to KWS, a West German agricultural research and distribution firm. Stepped down as president of CPSC, continued to serve as an adviser to the newly formed board of directors.
1980 Started educational scholarship in honor of South Carolina Farm Bureau's second president, Edwin Hugh Agnew.
1982 South Carolina Farm Bureau established scholarship in honor of RRC
1985 Received the Clemson Medallion, the university's highest public service honor.
1987 He and wife Lois gave Clemson University a $500,000 gift that led to the creation of a prestigious Trustees Chair in molecular genetics in the Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources.
1987 Died September 28


Chiefly business and personal correspondence relating to Coker and the management of Coker's Pedigreed Seed Company and other family businesses including Coker's Experimental Farms, J. L. Coker & Company, Sonoco Products Company, and Hartsville Oil Mill.

Coker was actively involved in the National Cotton Council; through this organization he worked tirelessly to find a way to eradicate the destructive boll weevil. His knowledge and expertise also led him to assume important duties for the United States Department of Agriculture (he participated in the United States Agricultural Trade Mission of 1954), as well as the United States and South Carolina Farm Bureaus.

Coker was also active in several organizations within the financial world including the Bank of Hartsville, the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, and the Gulf Life Insurance Company.

Series List

Series I, Agricultural Trade Mission (1954, 1957, undated)

Series II, Bank of Hartsville (1961-86)

Series III, Brookgreen Gardens (1943, 1960, 1974-87, undated)

Series IV, Chamber of Commerce (1952-67)

Series V, Coker's Pedigreed Seed Company (CPSC) (1918-86)

Series VI, Coker's Experimental Farms (1900, 1918-65)

Series VII, Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond (1961-1988)

Series VIII, Gulf Life Insurance Company (1961-1988)

Series IX, J. L. Coker & Company (1846-1984, undated)

Series X, National Cotton Council (1912-88)

Series XI, Sonoco Products Company, 1949-86, undated

Series XII, South Carolina Farm Bureau, 1941-87, undated

Series XIII, United States Department of Agriculture (1944-78, undated)

Series XIV, Personal (1911-1988, undated)

Series XV, Speeches, RRC (1944-75, undated)

Series XVI, Topical/Alphabetical (1943-88, undated)

Series XVII, Audio Visual

Container List

The container list for the Robert Richardson Coker Papers consists of a 31-page file available in

Adobe Acrobat PDF formatPDF Version (To update software visit Adobe Acrobat homepage.)

Microsoft Word formatMS Word

Administrative Notes

Location: Annex
Materials stored off site; advanced notice required.
Processed: Meg Moughan, Processing Archivist (November 1999)
Notes: Information concerning copyright must be secured in writing from the Director of the South Caroliniana Library.

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