In memoriam: Hodge Black
Black earned his B.S. in general agriculture in 1957 and his M.S. in entomology in 1961 from the University of Arkansas. Within a week of completing his master's degree, Black moved to Bakersfield to begin his career with UC Cooperative Extension.
As an entomology farm advisor, Black worked with Tom Leigh, a UC Davis entomologist he had met at University of Arkansas, to develop integrated pest management guidelines for cotton.
Lygus to square ratio
“Hodge was a key participant in development of the lygus to square ratio,” said Walt Bentley, who succeeded Black as the UCCE entomology advisor in Kern County when Black became the county director. “Lygus was and still is one of the key cotton pests in California.”
Pete Goodell, who was a certified pest control advisor in Fresno and Merced counties in the 1970s before joining UCCE as an IPM advisor, noted, “Hodge was one of the advisors who collected data and provided proof of concept. This was one of the first pest monitoring and evaluation methods available to PCAs.”
Bentley said, “Hodge also worked closely with the USDA in helping to stop pink bollworm from establishing in California.” To prevent the pest from becoming established, Black and his UCCE colleagues worked with growers on managing cotton for early harvest, instituting a mandatory plowdown statewide to ensure a 90-day host-free period and releasing sterile pink bollworm moths.
In 1977, Black was appointed director of UC Cooperative Extension in Kern County.
“As county director, Hodge managed the staff of 12 to 14 advisors extremely well,” said Bentley, who was a UCCE advisor in Kern County for 17 years. “He was well admired by the people he served in Kern County and the county government officials. He ran a smooth ship.”
Take the complicated and make it simple
In addition to his duties as an administrator, Black mentored farm advisors.
“Hodge was a big supporter of UC IPM and of me as IPM advisor,” said Goodell, who retired in 2017. “He was a patient mentor and found a way to work me into the Kern CE office. I will always be grateful for his folksy approach to extension. He taught me that my job is to take the complicated and make it simple. He was an excellent listener and a nonjudgmental advocate, providing science-based information tailored to the individual situation.”
Blake Sanden, UCCE farm advisor emeritus, recalled Black's advice to newer farm advisors delivered in his disarming Arkansas accent.
“He'd make a point in a meeting, then stop, say nothing for maybe 10-15 seconds while looking around the room into people's eyes, and then say something like, ‘I saw a few glazed-over eyes out there, so in case that last point weren't clear – here it is agin!'” Sanden said.
“When I knew him as our county director, he had spent more years in California than in Arkansas, but he never lost his honey-suckle drawl and used it to good advantage. He was a force and knew how to leverage his important growers to strong-arm Oakland when he wanted a position approved.”
Frank Zalom, former director of the Statewide IPM Program and emeritus UC Davis professor, also worked with Black.
Honesty, integrity and intense loyalty
“Hodge had already been Kern County Cooperative Extension director for 3 years when I joined Cooperative Extension as part of the Statewide IPM Program,” Zalom said. “In hindsight, I was amazingly naïve, but he was always respectful and supportive. What I admired most about him was his honesty, integrity, and intense loyalty to Cooperative Extension and the Kern County agricultural community. He was not only a forward-looking administrator, but a solid entomologist as well. He had a natural scientific curiosity and was open to new technologies and really quite innovative.”
After Black retired in 1996, he and his wife, Mary Alice, moved back to Mt. Ida, Ark. A skilled wood carver, Black spent his retirement years carving and woodworking in his store “Splendid Splinters,” which was featured twice in Southern Living magazine, according to his obituary in the Bakersfield Californian.
He is survived by his wife of 63 years, Mary Alice Black; daughters Teresa J. Dodd (Dan) of Colorado Springs and Charlotte A. Johnson (Warren) of Monument, Colo.; sons J. Robert Black (Tammy) of Bakersfield and B. David Black (Beth) of Searcy, Ark.; brother Lowell L. Black (Jill) of Sun Prairie, Wisc.; eight grandchildren and eight great grandchildren.
A celebration of his life will be held at 10 a.m. Oct. 19 at Mt. Ida First United Methodist Church. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Mt. Ida FUMC/Hodge Black Fund for wheel chair accessibility, PO Box 607, Mt. Ida, AR 71957.