By Frank Shanly, Shelbyville Sentinel News
It may have only just started, but already 2013 has been a huge year for retired Shelbyville veterinarian and former Cynthiana resident Dr. Jack Kimbrough.
Following a lifetime of service to the farming community, he has been inducted into both the Shelby County Agricultural Hall of Fame and the Kentucky Cattlemen’s Association Hall of Fame.
The KCA induction took place in Lexington during January, at the association’s annual convention, where Kimbrough was one of five people honored.
“Both of them caught me off guard,” Kimbrough said. “It’s a good feeling. You kind of wonder if you did enough to deserve the honor. I never did do anything special. The way I operated was that every day I got up, I did what needed to be done that day. Whether it was working with cows or going to a meeting, or something.”
Shelby County Cattlemen’s Association President Irvin Kupper said in nominating Kimbrough for the honor: “His vast knowledge and practical experience allow him to present issues and topics in a manner that those unfamiliar with agriculture can easily understand.”
In winning the award, Kimbrough said he has to pay tribute to the support of his wife of 53 years, Liz, who served for more than 30 years in the Shelby County Public Schools. The Kimbroughs have two children and two grandchildren.
And it was as a child that his involvement in agriculture began in his hometown of Cynthiana in Harrison County. He was active in 4-H as a youth, and Extension Agent Bob Wiggington, who was from Shelby County, often told stories about agriculture in Shelby County.
After leaving school, Kimbrough studied to be a veterinarian, and shortly after marrying his wife, Liz, he moved to Shelby County to work in partnership with Dr. A.L. Birch, who took care of horses, while Kimbrough mostly looked after cattle.
Kimbrough recalls that when he first moved to Shelby County there were many more small dairy farms all over the county than there are today.
He said he feels that migration from Louisville and children not returning to the family farm have been the main reasons why the number of farms has decreased.
“Farming is hard work and you have to like it to do it,” he said. “If they [the younger generation] can get a job working in town for five days a week, that’s why many of them didn’t return to the farm. We’ve got a lot of industry in Shelby County for the size – a lot of jobs.”
In time, Kimbrough became involved in establishing a local branch of the Kentucky Cattlemen’s Association, and in 1996, he founded the Shelby County Cattlemen’s Association. He was instrumental in growing the county association’s membership to one of the largest in the state.
“I was very involved in getting Shelby County organized, and I was president for the first five years,” he said. “And then, in 2002, I was called and asked if I would consider being president of the Kentucky Cattlemen’s Association. I had never thought of anything like that. So I said, ‘I’ll have to have a little time to talk to some people and see. Call me back in three weeks.’
“And I talked to a few people and decided to do it. It’s kind of a four-year deal. Some of us go back on the board [after that], but when I had the opportunity to go back on the board, I was having these strokes, and I just didn’t think I had any business doing that.”
Starting in 2009, Kimbrough began having a series of strokes, and he said he has had to scale down his involvement in recent years. However, he said he still maintains his interest in local agriculture and the county’s youth.
“I give younger fellows a lot of advice,” Kimbrough said. “I tell them, ‘Anything that you want to do real bad, do it, because when you get here [to this age], you don’t feel like doing it.’”
Kimbrough is the son of the late Billy and Betsy Kimbrough. A brother, Jerry and his wife Darlene, still live in Harrison County.
He also has two sisters, Judy and Jill Kimbrough, who live in Lexington.