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E.H. Reid, 94, remembered for legacy of family, farming
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E.H. Reid stands next to the Allis Chalmers tractor that he’s owned and operated since his family bought it new in 1938. Before he had this tractor, Reid said he plowed the field behind a mule, starting at age 9, using a plow with the handles cut short because a full size one was too tall. - photo by Jim Dean

One of Forsyth County's most recognizable figures recently passed away at age 94.

Edmond Harold “E.H.” Reid, Sr., whose farm on Atlanta Highway and Shiloh and Majors roads remained working as the land around it was heavily developed, died on Wednesday, May 20 from injuries sustained while working on his farm, according to his obituary from his family.

Reid, a lifelong Forsyth County resident, is remembered as a hard-working, fourth-generation farmer and “a man of quiet faith” who “hand-delivered corn, turnip greens, tomatoes, and his favorite – yellow-meated watermelons – to hundreds of people.”

“He once said that he didn't know how to do much, but he knew how to work. And work is what he loved to do,” his family said in his obituary. “He could have written the prayer – 'God, give me work until my life shall end and life until my work is done.' That is how he lived.

“As an 8-year-old, he rode his bicycle several miles to pick cotton and was paid by the pound. He said that he hoped to earn more than $1 a day. When asked why, he responded with a twinkle in his eye that if he made more than a dollar he bought candy. As a 94-year old, he still loved to work. He worked his hay field until just days before his departure for Heaven.”

He is preceded in death by his wife of 52 years, Louise Bettis Reid; son and daughter-in-law, Tony and Kathy Reid; son-in-law, John Ralph Johnson; mother and father, J. Harold and Ola Reid; brothers, Glenn Reid, Sonny Reid; sister Judy Fields; and special friend, Estell Venable.

Reid is survived by sons, Harold (Pat) Reid of Cumming and Danny (Wanda) Reid of Cumming; and daughter, Brenda Johnson of Cumming. He is also survived by five grandchildren: Brian, Stacey, and Brad Reid, and Brett (Rachael) Johnson, all of Cumming, and Heather (George) Kandt of Overland Park, Kansas and by great-grandchildren Alexa Reid, Dylan Reid, Julien Reid of Cumming, Austin Reid (Ranger of 75th Regiment of U.S. Army), Dustin Sharp of Alpharetta, Tobie Johnson of Woodstock, and Mary Blakely, Emily, John, and Joshua Johnson of Cumming.

He is survived by two brothers, Doug Reid of Monroe and Dow (Joyce) Reid of Dawsonville, and six sisters, Jeannie (Jack) Hartman of Cumming, Joanne Cowart of Brookhaven, Ruth Pirkle of Marietta, Becky (Tom) Dunnagan of Angier, N.C., Diane Martin of Dawsonville, and Linda (James) Hughes of Cumming. He is also survived by sister-in-law, Evelyn Bagley of Cumming, friend and caregiver Mavis Chiyambiro, and a host of nieces and nephews.

Reid was a member of Bethlehem Baptist Church but also attended Longstreet Baptist, Brookwood Baptist, Pleasant View Baptist, Midway Methodist, Castleberry Baptist, Antioch Baptist, First Redeemer, and Coal Mountain Baptist Church. 

Just after his 90th birthday, which was attended by more than 400 guests at the Reid Barn, owned by his son, Danny, Reid spoke with Forsyth County News about his nine decades in the county and said at the time he was still working eight to 10 hours a day on the family farm.

“Well, I don’t feel like I did when I was younger, but I’m still getting around, still working,” he said. “I baled hay this morning. I got some more, I’m going to fix some bales [this afternoon.]

“I just enjoy doing something. I’m a lot more tired on Sunday if I don’t do something than if I work. I just like to do it.”

Since before the Civil War, the Reid family has farmed the land along what is now the intersection of Majors Road and Hwy. 9, which Reid said he remembered getting paved in 1953.

Reid lived in the same house he was born in on Sept. 22, 1925, which was built by his grandfather and where he and nine of his 11 siblings were born.

“I’ve been here all of my life,” he said. “My daddy’s daddy built this house in 1907, and he moved over here ... when he was 2 years old, and he lived here all of his life.”

Reid said he got a vivid reminder in 2014 of just how long he had been there.

“When I was 89 years old, which was last year, I baled hay in the field,” he said. “I picked cotton for [his neighbor] on my birthday, I was 9 years old. [His neighbor’s wife] cooked me a big, four-layer chocolate cake for my birthday.

“Then 80 years later — to the same day — I baled hay in that same field.”

Reid said his neighbor paid him 50 cents for every hundred pounds of cotton he picked. On that day, he was trying to make a dollar.

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Valeree Bennett chats with E.H. Reid at the event, which was held at the Reid Barn. - photo by Jim Dean
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The Jan. 31, 1979, edition of the Forsyth County News featured a photo of E.H. Reid preparing to drive a tractor to Washington, D.C., for a farm protest. The 840-mile journey took eight days. - photo by FCN file photo
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E.H. Reid, left, talks with his son, Danny, as they discuss how much seed they need to put down in the pasture. The family, which has been farming some of the land for eight generations, has been named the Farm Family of the Year by the Upper Chattahoochee River Soil and Conservation District. - photo by Jim Dean

At the time, Reid also recalled when his father bought the first tractor with rubber tires in Forsyth County, signaling the end of doing fieldwork behind horses and mules.

“Daddy bought [it] on May 10, 1938, and I started driving it, and I’m still driving one,” he said. “It cost $960 and the freight from Milwaukee was $36 … He got it in 1938; I was 13 years old.”

Reid also made an impact outside of Forsyth County.

At one point, Reid owned land in four different counties, and at the peak of his farming career, he and his sons baled over 100,000 bales of hay per season, grew 500 acres of corn, maintained over 1,000 acres of fescue pasture, grew 500 head of cattle and 1,500 swine, and grew produce.

The family was winners of the Centennial Family Farm Award in 1994, and Reid helped his sons win over 50 agriculture awards. The Reids were only the second family in history to have all three brothers earn the American Farmer Degree--the nation's highest Future Farmers of America honor.

Reid also helped his daughter, Brenda, raise a calf to pay for a used piano and lessons to play it. 

He was also instrumental in the location of the Forsyth Campus of Lanier Technical College, which was built on his farmland.

For almost 45 years, he served as supervisor of the upper Chattahoochee Soil and Water Conservation District and as part of his work presented 75 Bibles to area ministers.

In 2007, he was inducted into the Georgia Association of Conservation Supervisors Hall of Fame.

In 1979, he took part in the National Tractorcade in Washington, D.C, a protest by farmers and the American Agriculture Movement over farm and food policy. He spent six winter weeks petitioning Congress for fair crop prices.

The Jan. 31, 1979, edition of the Forsyth County News features a photo of Reid preparing to make the 840-mile journey, which took eight days to cover.

“There was 5 miles long of our bunch and [we] had two more bunches before we went into Washington,” Reid said. “Nobody from Forsyth County was driving one, so I had some friends down in Butler ... I drove it from there to Washington.

“I wouldn’t do it again, but I’m proud I done it.”

Injuries and medical issues didn't stop Reid from his work on the farm. Not a pacemaker, brain surgery after a blood clot, open heart surgery and “more than a hundred bee stings,” the family said in his obituary. 

“His dogged determination inspired those around him to press on,” the obituary said. “Even as his body grew weaker in his 90s, he said that God had made his mind even sharper. He recited family events correctly by month and year and still remembered--to the penny--how much he spent on farm equipment. He read many newspapers and farm magazines and continued to stay current on the latest innovations and developments in farming and agriculture.”

In lieu of flowers, donations can be provided for the Tony and Kathy Reid Memorial Scholarship Fund, Forsyth Campus, at Lanier Technical College, 3410 Ronald Reagan Blvd, Cumming, GA 30041.