James Pinion is a 1966 graduate of Auburn University. The Phil Campbell, Alabama, native graduated with a Bachelor and Master of Science in Agricultural Education, both from Auburn. He served extension for 33 years with the majority of his work being in Tallapoosa and Lawrence counties.
Pinion chose a career in Extension because of the history of his family’s involvement with the organization.
The best piece of advice Pinion received was to be a team player with staff and clientele. He stresses the importance of getting involved with the community and admitting and committing to finding the answer when you don’t automatically know it.
He advises young agents to expect to not always know the answers but be willing to learn and pass along lessons. “Learn from the farmers who are doing well and pass those things along. Be a good listener. Relate to people’s needs and work with them until the issue is solved,” he says.
Pinion’s mentor was his first supervisor, Hoyt Webb, a Tallapoosa county agent. Webb encouraged a young Pinion in his first job out of college. Webb had previously suffered a stroke that left him partially disabled, but he didn’t let that slow him down. He established a camp through Extension for children and adults with disabilities. His tenacity and perseverance were something that continuously inspired Pinion.
Pinion’s greatest accomplishment was the planning and development of the Jesse Owens Memorial Park and Museum in Lawrence County. More than $2 million was raised to complete this project, and after its completion, the Olympic torch for the 1996 Atlanta Olympics was routed to run through the park.
The greatest challenge Pinion faced during his career was his diagnosis as an insulin-dependent diabetic. While that was very challenging, he was blessed supportive co-workers and supervisors.
Pinion claims that the most significant advances during his career were technological, including the invention of personal computers, cell phones, copy machines, emails and VCR’s. He also claims that the biggest challenge facing Extension today is “meeting the needs of Alabamians without agents in every county where they can form close relationships with clientele.”
Since his retirement, Pinion has continued to work with the Jesse Owens Memorial Park & Museum serving as volunteer director and treasur. He enjoys traveling, cheering on the Auburn Tigers, golfing and attending his church, Moulton United Methodist Church. He is also an avid hummingbird caretaker and feeds hundreds of them daily through 10 feeders.
He has been married to his wife Nancy for 55 years, and they have two daughters and four grandchildren.