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Florida 4-H Scholarship Spotlight: Dr. Bobby Damron

A native of Gainesville, Florida, Dr. Bobby Leon Damron grew up participating in 4-H poultry projects and competing as a member of the state’s 4-H poultry judging team.

After graduating from Gainesville High School, he enrolled at the University of Florida in 1959. He received his bachelor’s in vocational agriculture in 1963. He went on to study poultry nutrition, earning his master’s and then doctorate in March of 1968. Dr. Damron joined the UF faculty in poultry science where he served until his retirement in 2003 as full professor, and being granted emeritus status.

Dr. Damron and his wife, Vera Toole Damron, hold a special connection with Florida 4-H – in May 1962 they met for the first time at 4-H Camp Cherry Lake during a Collegiate 4-H Weekend hosted by 4-H agent B.J. Allen. Vera and her twin sister were students at Brevard Junior College and accepted the invite for young 4-H alumni to attend the weekend in Madison.

Bobby and Vera would meet again when the Brevard County 4-H Girls camped at Camp Cloverleaf in 1962 and 1963. Bobby was working as a summer camp counselor and the Toole sisters were volunteering as junior leaders during their college summer break. The next summer Vera would visit UF as an FSU Collegiate 4-H Club member helping lead the first co-ed state 4-H events – Conference in 1964 and then Congress in 1965. In graduate school at UF, Bobby volunteered too and even catered a chicken bar-b-q for 4-H with the Poultry Science Club.

Bobby and Vera married in August 1968 once his doctoral studies were completed, and they welcomed their daughter Lena Susanne in 1971. They were married 47 years at his passing in 2016. Vera and Bobby were both passionate about providing their daughter with the 4-H experiences they had enjoyed, and supported her in many projects including horse, camping, 4-H Congress and national programs.

In the 4-H spirit of Hands to Larger Service, Bobby was most proud of his service through his professional and volunteer community involvement.

Locally, Bobby served as a reserve deputy sheriff for Alachua County for 40 years. Vera shared that his pride in being a reserve deputy rated slightly higher than his making full professor; serving his community meant so much to him. He was a member of the Alachua County Youth Fair and Livestock Board, judged youth poultry shows and helped with the state 4-H and FFA Poultry Judging Contests well into his retirement. Professionally he taught undergraduate and graduate courses, and advised graduate students. Additionally, he served as advisor to the UF Poultry Science Club, Southeastern Poultry Science Club and Alpha Zeta.  His research and extension activities resulted in 366 articles and abstracts to help producers and industry leaders.

For his lifetime of accomplishment and service, Dr. Damron was inducted into the Florida 4-H Hall of Fame in April 2015. That same year, a generous gift from Bobby and Vera allowed the Collegiate 4-H Club to host the Collegiate 4-H National Conference. The Damron family continues to be stalwart supporters and champions of 4-H. 

The scholarship in his memory recognizes 4-H’ers who demonstrate service to their community, and academic achievement. 4-H’ers can apply through the Florida 4-H scholarship program. 2020 portfolios are due June 1 with interviews and announcements during 4-H University. View more information about the scholarship and portfolio process here.

You can view full list of Florida 4-H scholarships here. If you are interested in supporting the Dr. Bobby Leon Damron 4-H Endowment or another 4-H program, please contact Caylin Hilton at grow4H@ifas.ufl.edu or 352.392.5432.

4-H is the youth development program of the land-grant university system and Cooperative Extension System. The program provides hands-on educational programs and experiences for youth ages 5-18 with the objective of developing youth as individuals and responsible citizens. In Florida, 4-H is administered by UF/IFAS Extension and Florida A&M University. Florida 4-H scholarships are managed by the UF and Florida 4-H Foundations, 501(c)3 organizations.