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Remembering a True Son

Gift to MU’s CAFNR memorializes alumnus

October 20th, 2010

Story Contact: Nathan Hurst, 573-882-6217,

COLUMBIA, Mo. ­— The Jerry Litton Fund for Agricultural Leadership will honor University of Missouri alumnus Jerry Lon Litton, who died in an aircraft accident in 1976 after winning a Democratic primary bid for United States Senator.

The $250,000 endowed fund will benefit MU’s College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources (CAFNR).  Each year a committee will decide how the fund will be used. There are four possible uses:  the Litton Lectureship to bring interesting speakers to campus; the Litton Fellowship to support faculty entrepreneurial activities; the Litton Scholarship to encourage top students to develop their leadership potential; and the Litton Agricultural Leadership Fellowship to enable students to gain farm policymaking experience.

CAFNR officials believe this endowment will enrich students with important perspectives and provide an opportunity for them to interact with agricultural leaders directly.  They say that in these days of tight education budgets, these scholarships will help worthy students gain the education that will be so critical in their careers.

Litton, a native of Chillicothe, Mo., graduated from the MU College of Agriculture in 1961 with a bachelor’s degree in agricultural journalism and an economics minor.

After graduation, Litton returned to Chillicothe to work with his parents in a highly successful cattle-breeding business before beginning his political career.

In 1972, Litton was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, where he advocated the rights of farmers and hardworking citizens. House Majority Leader Thomas “Tip” O’Neal claimed that in his 22 years in Congress he had never been more impressed by a freshman congressman than by Jerry Litton.

Litton won the seat of retiring U.S. Senator Stuart Symington in the Democratic primary on Aug. 3, 1976. That evening, Litton, his wife, Sharon, and their two children, Linda and Scott, along with their pilot and the pilot’s son, died in a plane crash just after takeoff from Chillicothe Airport en route to a victory celebration in Kansas City.

“Jerry Litton embodied what CAFNR would like to see in all of its graduates – a commitment to personal integrity, a strong work ethic and a passion to serve the community,” said Thomas Payne, vice chancellor and dean of the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources. “In his all-too-short life, he inspired those he met to follow him in living these values.” 

MU and CAFNR played a very important role in shaping Congressman Litton’s career,” said Edwin Turner, Litton’s college fraternity brother and vice president of the Jerry Litton Family Memorial Foundation. “It is only fitting that The Jerry Litton Fund for Agricultural Leadership be established at CAFNR.”