Billings, Mont. - R-CALF USA Vice President and Region XII Director Joel Gill lost his life last weekend in a car accident on Mississippi Highway 17.
In addition to being a director and the organization's vice president, Gill was R-CALF USA's Beef Checkoff Committee Chair and Membership Committee Co-chair. Gill also was mayor of his home town, Pickens, Mississippi, and had held that position since 2009. Gill and his brother operated their family cattle business, MS Order Buyers, Inc., which they started with their father in 1979.
Gill shared with his wife, Ann, one daughter, one son and four grandsons.
"We have lost someone we love and respect. Joel, in his gentle way, never gave up and never weakened as we fought together to improve the U.S. cattle industry for independent farmers and ranchers," said R-CALF USA President George Chambers from Carrollton, Georgia.
R-CALF USA member and former director Margene Eiguren, Jordan Valley, Oregon, said we will always remember Joel for his positive attitude and gentleness.
"This writing of St. Francis De Sales speaks to me of Joel, 'Nothing is so strong as gentleness, nothing so gentle as real strength'," Eiguren stated.
Gill entertained and awed his fellow R-CALF USA members at their annual conventions with his remarkable guitar playing, singing and song writing talents. And as emcee of the group's past several conventions, Gill spread good will and laughter while insisting on timeliness, which he artfully accomplished with his endless supply of humorous stories.
Gill was a selfless and innovative leader for the U.S. cattle industry. He was instrumental in building support for country of origin labeling (COOL) among cattle producers in the Southeast and in helping to stop the ill-conceived National Animal Identification System (NAIS).
When independent cattle producers in North Dakota wanted to form their own state-wide producer-oriented cattle association, Gill volunteered to make several trips to North Dakota to help the founders establish the Independent Beef Association of North Dakota (IBAND).
As R-CALF USA's chair of the Beef Checkoff Committee, Gill advanced his members' interests with politeness, courage and dignity, even when faced with disrespectful adversaries. In a recent trip to Denver, Colorado, to discuss the future of the Beef Checkoff Program with such other industry organizations as the National Farmers Union (NFU), American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF), Meat Importers Council of America (MICA) and the National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA). Gill was met at the meeting place door by officials of these organizations who told Gill he was not welcome into their club and that he must leave.
Gill, who had volunteered to pay his own way to represent his fellow cattle producers, was perhaps the only cattle industry representative at the meeting who wasn't traveling on an organizational expense account.
"This unfortunate event, as well as any other, demonstrates that Joel had the heart and courage that made him a giant of a man. He knowingly and willingly volunteered to walk into the lion's den to represent thousands of his fellow cattle producers at his own expense and was met with unconscionable disrespect. Yet, he accepted the circumstance with honor and grace," said R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard.
Bullard said that when he visited with him by phone while Gill was trying to catch an early flight home from Denver, Joel simply said of the confrontation with NFU and others, "Well, they weren't a very friendly bunch."
"Joel's legacy will live on in the hearts and minds of R-CALF USA members and we will strive to attain the level of honor, dignity, compassion and commitment that Joel exemplified in every thing he did. His contributions to the betterment of the U.S. cattle industry will be forever remembered by our organization," Bullard concluded.
Cards and letters to Joel Gill's family can be sent to: Gill Family, P.O. Box 338, Pickens, MS 39146.