Benjamin Wesley Kilgore was sort of an agricultural everyman during NC State’s early years. Kilgore was educated as a chemist, but he served in a variety of roles in and out of the School of Agriculture, pursuing research and education while advocating for farms and farm workers.
Kilgore worked in research, serving as director of the Agricultural Experiment Station from 1901-07. He worked in extension, serving as the first head of the Agriculture Extension Service, from 1914-25. And he worked in administration, serving as dean of the School of Agriculture from 1923-25.
He even established the Pine State Creamery in Raleigh in 1919, when troops stationed at nearby Camp Polk during World War I needed pasteurized milk.
So it was fitting that on this day in 1953, the newest building on campus was dedicated in Kilgore’s honor. Kilgore Hall housed the School of Forestry and the Department of Horticulture.
Kilgore, the man, was also active outside of campus. He was president of both the National Association of Agricultural College Chemists and the Cotton Growers Cooperative Association. He was editor of The Progressive Farmer from 1923-33, and was active in founding the Southern Agricultural Workers Association. He was the first legislative representative of the N.C. State Grange. He was even persuaded, when he was past the age of 70, to serve as the State Chemist.
Kilgore was described, in his 1967 induction into the N.C. Agricultural Hall of Fame, as “quiet, modest, competent — a man of vision with the consistent ability to achieve worthwhile goals.”
“Never a man of great physical stamina,” read his induction, “nonetheless Dr. Kilgore used skill and brain power to spark significant rural progress.”