McCulloch County native, Carroll Potter, receives national aerial applicator award

Carroll Potter of Tangerine, Fla., and a native of western McCulloch and eastern Concho counties, was honored recently by the National Aerial Applicators at a ceremony in Reno, Nev. He was the recipient of the Agrinautics Award of the Year for past contributions to the Aerial Applicator Industry. Born in eastern Concho County in 1915, Potter attended schools in that area and graduated from Melvin High School in 1933. He lived for several years in the Melvin community and married Gladys Sherman of Melvin in 1937. McCulloch County relatives of Potter include Virgil Middleton, a nephew of Brady; the late John Rudder, Brady pharmacist and his brother, Earl Rudder, a former Brady mayor, commander of Rudder’s Rangers at Normandy and president and chancellor of Texas A&M University. Through 53 years in the agriculture aviation business, Potter helped pioneer many of the aerial application techniques currently in use, particularly in the sweet corn and fresh vegetable business. He flew Wacos and Stearmans when an operator had to use his own ingenuity to convert these planes to dusting machines; later converting to spray planes till the specially designed ag planes came on the market. In the early days of crop dusting, most of the chemicals were designed to be dusted by ground or air. In the late 1950s and early ’60s, formulations of the chemicals were beginning to change from dust to liquid, but the methods of application were slow to change. In the ’50s most fungicides were applied by ground sprayers, however, Potter thought if these chemicals worked by ground application, they would also be effective by airplanes, even though most ag experts did not think aerial application would control fungus diseases. Potter set the “crop dusting” standard by experimenting on his own farm by applying fungicides by air. Soon the trend spread not only in Florida, but throughout the United States. Potter was active in vegetable and field crop aerial applications as well as citrus groves in central and southern Florida. He was always interested in flying and learned to fly in the late 1930s. By 1938 he was an aviation cadet instructor in Ballinger. Soon after World War II started, he entered the Army Air Corps. Potter’s WW II service won him a membership in a unique organization known as the “Hump Pilots.” He was assigned to the China-Burma-India theatre in the early ’40s. Before the beginning of WW II on Dec. 7, 1941, the Japanese had invaded China’s eastern and southern coasts, effectively isolating central and western China. In an effort to help the Chinese, a volunteer group of American pilots was organized under the command of Gen. Claire Chenault to protect central and western China. They were called the Flying Tigers and operated from Kunming, China. As soon as the U. S. entered the war, this group became part of the Army Air Corps. Because of the isolation of Chenault’s group, it had to be supplied from bases in Burma and India by the Hump pilots. This supply route was considered to be the most dangerous air route in World War II swince it involved flying heavily-loaded C-46 twin-engined airplanes over the high mountain ranges. There were few emergency landing strips and the loss of one engine usually spelled disaster since the planes could not maintain altitude in the thin mountain air. In addition, the weather conditions were very unpredictable and finally, the pilots might face Japanese fighter attacks as they neared Kunming. The Flying Tigers were there to protect them, thus the name “hump” came from the route across the Himalayas between China, Burma and India. It became known as the “Aluminum Trail” as more than 500 aircraft were lost on this dangerous route. Potter and his group became charter members of The Hump Pilots Association, an exclusive organization that carried out their mission during World War II. Survivors of the group meet annually in Reno or Las Vegas, Nev. American personnel stationed in India during this period were not allowed to eat local food because of the fear of contamination. Potter was allowed to clear a tea plantation and planted vegetables for the personnel stationed there thus avoiding having to live on C rations. Following separation from the Air Force, Potter returned to McCulloch County and later moved to central Florida in 1946 in order to take advantage of the agricultural spraying opportunities. Potter and Gladys had three sons. The oldest, Gary, died at age 18. The other two, Del and Jan, live in central Florida with their families. Del is an attorney and Jan was in the aerial spray service with his father. Potter has three grandchildren and a great-grandson. He and Jan operated the aerial application business continuously from 1946 through 1999 when the business was sold to the State of Florida. Despite an accident that cost Potter an eye some years ago, he has remained an active pilot, still owns and flies his own airplane to local spots on the Florida coast to visit friends and relatives. (Jacobson is a 1945 graduate of Melvin High School, attending school at Doole until his senior year. After graduation from Texas A&M, and he served in the USAF during the Korean War. He then began his business career with The Prudential Group, mostly in the Lubbock area, retiring in 1986. After that, he joined Union Pacific Realty Co. in New York City and retired from that job in 1993. Arch and his wife, Juanita, are retired for good now and live on a small ranch at Comfort.)

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