Biography of Prof. Luther Noble Duncan

Teacher in the Agricultural World

Professor Luther Noble Duncan is not an educator in the more popular sense of the term, but he is a great teacher in the agricultural world, and as Alexander the Great said, “Civilization begins and ends with the plow.”

Mr. Duncan was born October 14, 1875, near Belgreen. He is a son of Thomas A. and Margaret (Hargett) Duncan, the former Confederate soldier, now deceased, the latter a member of one of Franklin’s largest and oldest families.

He was reared on the farm and spent his childhood days very much as other ordinary country boys. His father, so we have been informed, was considered one of the best farmers in Franklin County in his time. So we do not wonder at “L. N.” as he is popularly known, having a love for the farm and things pertaining to the farm. He attended the common schools of Franklin County while growing up.

On the morning of October 8, 1896, at the age of twenty-one years, he left his father’s farm (Mr. Duncan was living near Rockwood at the time) and embarked for the Polytechnic Institute at Auburn to study agriculture.

Upon arriving at Auburn, he hastened to the college where he matriculated as being “in charge” along with many others who were to be classified later in case they proved themselves worthy of classification.

Mr. Duncan proved himself worthy and continued in college work. He soon become a leader among the students. The second year he was assigned to the sophomore class and met with few difficulties from then on. He graduated in the spring of 1900. While in college he took an active part in athletics and other student activities.

His vacations, while attending school at Auburn, were spent at home. The first vacation was spent in work and on his father’s farm, and the second and third were spent in teaching school at $25.00 per month.

After completing his course at Auburn, he spent the next two months at home teaching a rural school, but gave up the place there to accept a teaching position in the agricultural school at Wetumpka, Ala. He remained there three years, “teaching everything in general and agriculture in particular.

While teaching at Wetumpka Mr. Duncan become* involved in a romance which led him and Miss Ann Smith of Livingston to the altar on February 26, 1902. He went from Wetumpka to Jackson and the next year to Athens returning from Athens to Auburn in the summer of 1905, as instructor and research worker in agriculture where he worked four years.

While teaching at Auburn, he did graduate work as a student and received his M. S. Degree in 1907. He has also done summer work at the University of Tennessee and the University of Illinois.

In the summer of 1909 he attended a meeting of agricultural workers in Atlanta, GA. The extension work was just germinating at that time and Dr. Seaman A. Knapp was there discussing it. Prof. Duncan had spent most of each summer while at Auburn in institute work among farmers, going into nearly every county in Alabama during the four summers.

He discussed the possibilities of extension work with Dr. Knapp who became interested in him. He agreed to finance and start the work in Alabama. Soon thereafter Dr. Knapp went to Auburn and made all arrangements with the exception of appointing the man in charge. He inquired who it should be and Dr. C. C. Thach named Prof. Duncan.

From that day until now he has been engaged in extension work in Alabama. In 1911 he assisted in putting through the legislature two bills, one creating the State Board of Agriculture and carrying an appropriation of $25,000 for county agency work; the other carrying an appropriation of $27,000 annually with an item of $5,000 for extension work.

Prof. J. B. Hobdy, who had been principal of the Agricultural School at Albertville, joined Mr. Duncan, to help develop the boys and girls’ club work and work among farm women.

The latter, started in 1911, was sponsored by Miss Sarah Luther of the Troy Normal and Miss Annie Sartain of Walker County.

The Smith-Lever Act, providing Federal funds on condition that they were met on a fifty-fifty basis by the state was passed in 1914. Alabama took advantage of this act.

In 1920 Prof. Duncan was promoted to his present position, Director of the Alabama Extension Service “in which he stands without a peer in the United States.” If an active method for scoring the extension directors were worked out, he would certainly receive highest score. He has been a leading figures in every constructive movement of agriculture in Alabama since he became connected with Auburn.


Source: Source: James, R. L. Distinguished Men, Women and Families of Franklin County, Alabama. Russellville, Ala., Private Publication, 1928. 111 p.

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