Pioneering Conservation Visionary, Innovative Educator and Passionate Ambassador for Clemson

John W. Parris of Columbia graduated from Clemson in 1958 with a Bachelor of Science in Agricultural Education. The Campobello native began his professional career as an Agri-science and technology teacher for eight years in Chester and Anderson counties during which he engaged in graduate study at Clemson. During that time, he was a co-founder and longtime director of the SC Accredited Horse Show Association and chaired the first Tri-State Accredited Show in Anderson.

In 1966, John became associate director of the SC Soil and Water Conservation Commission and served in that capacity for five years. In 1972, he became executive director and the agency became the State Land Resources Commission. Retiring from that post in 1994, he became interim director of the Sandhill Research and Education Center for three years. He then accepted the position of executive secretary of the SC FFA Association for one year before being promoted to state director of public affairs  for agricultural education and the FFA, a position he held until he was 75 years of age. He now serves as director of the SC Agri-News Service.

John introduced drip irrigation and conservation tillage technology to SC agriculturalists. He successfully promoted major natural resource legislation. His leadership directly led to SC’s stormwater and sediment control legislation that was the most progressive legislation of any state and served as a precedent for how states can work to protect the environment, according to Dr. John Hayes, former Clemson professor of agricultural and biological engineering and a professor emeritus with Clemson Extension.

His many other accomplishments include arranging for the transfer of the Roper Mountain property to the Greenville County School District for an environmental science center and organizing the SC Conservation Districts Foundation.

As a Clemson freshman, John received the Alpha Gamma Rho Scholarship as the Outstanding 4-H Boy in the nation. His many other honors include National Professional Conservationist, Clemson’s Centennial Distinguished Agricultural Alumni Award, Man of the Year in Agriculture in SC and the Order of the Palmetto. He was the first South Carolinian named to the National Conservation Hall of Fame.

John chaired the advisory committee of the Sandhill Research and Education Center and secured approval from the SC Commission on Higher Education for Clemson’s Landscape Architecture major. He is a charter member and former chairman of the College of Agriculture, Forestry and Life Sciences Alumni Board. He provides scholarships to Clemson agriculture students through the John W. Parris Agricultural Leadership Endowment.

John is an active member of the Columbia Rotary Club, the Capital City Club, the First Baptist Church of Columbia and the SC Agricultural Educators Association.