Deadline March 15th
West Virginia 4-H'ers studying at the Davis College of Agriculture, Forestry and Design at West Virginia University will have an opportunity to attend WVU this fall through the establishment of the W. Kenneth Bragg 4-H Scholarship. Ken Bragg was a long-time 4-H'er, a WVU graduate of the Davis College and an Extension agent for many years.
His son, William, recently completed his father’s pledge to endow the scholarship fund after his father passed away in 2011. The scholarship has a preference for a Gilmer County 4-H’er studying at the Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design.
“He always talked fondly about his 4-H days,” said William. “He had a lot of close relationships he developed as a 4-H'er and Extension agent.”
Growing up in the 1930s and 1940s just outside of Glenville on a farm in Gilmer County, Kenneth had 11 siblings. He was the second of four boys in the family. His mother was involved with Extension CEOS which was called the Farm Women’s Club at the time. This connection to Extension led Ken to join 4-H. As a 4-H'er he took on livestock projects and judging, which sent him around West Virginia, including to the West Virginia State Fair in Lewisburg. Ken received many of the 4-H awards including getting a lucky penny and earning his charting pin. He and his brothers also took on leadership roles in his 4-H club, where he served as president.
Every summer, he and his brothers attended county camps and sometimes would go to state 4-H camp at WVU Jackson’s Mill. He was a Seneca while his brothers were in the rest of the tribes. Ken and his brothers took “ticks” (two sheets sewn together) with them to camp. There, they were furnished with straw to fill them. The ticks transformed springs in the high school gymnasium comfortable beds.
“The Bragg family was proud of their sheep shearing,” said Kens’ brother. The family owned about 30 to 35 head of sheep. They would shear their own sheep and earn money by shearing sheep all around Gilmer County.
“Our parents were very pleased and very proud,” said Ken’s brother. “They felt we had developed a skill that was very important. It was a way to buy our own clothes. We were poor dirt farmers and it ensured that we had something to eat.”
In 1947, Ken made his family even prouder by winning first place in a state 4-H sheep shearing competition at WVU Jackson’s Mill. The victory meant that soon after, Ken would hop aboard a train and traveled to national competition.
“Poor West Virginia boys like us couldn’t shear like the western boys who were there,” said Ken’s brother.
Although he did not fare as well as he did back home, he remembered that moment for the rest of his life. It even started a brief family tradition as two of his brothers, Edsil and Darrell, both won the same competition in successive years. They followed in Ken’s footsteps and traveled to Chicago to compete as well.
Soon after graduating high school, Ken went on to West Virginia University, earning a degree in agriculture that he used for the rest of his career. After returning from military service in Korea, he found a job with the WVU Extension Service as an agricultural agent, working in Grant and Mason counties.
From there he would join a feed company and travel all across West Virginia selling feeds to farmers. Eventually his work would also take him to Ohio and Pennsylvania.
“He was passionate about farming and agriculture," said William.
He often took William to WVU Jackson’s Mill and out on the road as he met with customers. He soon bought his own farm in York, Pennsylvania where he farmed for more than 30 years. He retired in 2004, moving to Florida.
After a successful career in agriculture, Ken wanted to give back and establish the scholarship for 4-H youths, said William. Coming from a family with modest means helped motivate him to set up a charitable annuity that would become an endowed scholarship for 4-H'ers once he passed away.
“My father was able to get support, but it was a real struggle for him to go,” said William. “So I think he wanted to make it real easy for a student who has aspirations to go to college.” 4-H was central to building a better life for Ken and his siblings. Growing up on a Depression-era farm meant it was not always easy. 4-H, however, would help the Bragg children achieve and succeed.
“4-H taught us value for living as well as the responsibility of having a project and carrying through with it,” said Edsil. “It helped us develop leadership skills by being officers in the local club and having responsibility at county camp. It taught us to do honest work because you had to really work to get your 4-H pin.”
William Bragg’s recent gift to the scholarship will ensure Ken’s vision for aiding Gilmer County 4-H'ers attending WVU.
“I wanted to preserve the legacy he wanted to create,” said William. “At least now, it will survive into perpetuity.”
The first WVU students eligible to receive the Ken Bragg scholarship will be applying for the upcoming 2013-2014 academic year. WVU students who are current members of a Gilmer County 4-H club will be given first preference to receive the scholarship. However, if a 4-H'er from Gilmer County cannot apply for the scholarship, the scholarship will be open to any Gilmer County student studying at the WVU Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design.