At an early age, 4-H was a part of Sue Young Bledsoe’s life. She was born in Warren County, Kentucky, where her father was a progressive farmer who often worked with the county’s cooperative extension agent, a man she remembers as “Mr. Brown.”
Mr. Brown recognized Bledsoe’s leadership abilities and together they organized Warren County’s first 4-H club. Bledsoe recruited ten girls as the club’s first members and was elected president of the club.
While in 4-H, Bledsoe excelled in clothing, citizenship and leadership. She had a special talent for sewing and won many awards for her projects - some of which were made from feed sacks. She even helped her mother with her sewing.
Bledsoe represented Kentucky at the National 4-H Congress in Chicago where she placed second in Fashion Revue. She modeled a wool jumper and jacket that was accessorized with a handmade purse and hat.
In addition to winning a gold Elgin wristwatch as a prize, Sue was hired by Farmers Home Journal to write the directions on how to make the purse and hat. She was paid $15 for the article, which was quite a sum at that time.
Bledsoe was one of four 4-H members selected to represent Kentucky at the National 4-H Camp in 1930, which was the early forerunner of today’s National 4-H Conference. She and the other state delegates slept in tents that were set up by the Washington monument and were within view of the White House.
Because the girls’ 4-H program in Warren County had expanded, a home demonstration agent was hired to provide support. She admired Bledsoe’s sewing skills so much, that she hired her to make a black linen suit for her and paid her $2.
Bledsoe selected a portable Featherweight Singer Sewing Machine as one of her prizes for a 4-H project that won an award, so she would have a machine to take with her to college.
Bledsoe attended Western Kentucky State University. She wanted to pursue a career in home economics. She hoped to be hired as an assistant extension agent, and was pleasantly surprised to be hired as the extension agent.
She married and stopped working outside the home. She became the mother of three boys. During these years Bledsoe and her family moved to Brevard County, Florida. When her boys had grown a bit older she accepted a position in 1952 as the home economics agent for the county - a position she held for more than 22 years.
“Sue was a wonderful motivator and leader, promoter of 4-H and people,” said Joy Satcher, friend and fellow extension staff member. “I’ve never heard anyone say anything bad about Sue and I never heard her say a bad thing about another person.”
One person Bledsoe said nice things about was Florida Senator Bill Nelson. One day while at the county fair in Titusville, ten-year-old Bill Nelson walked up to Bledsoe, stuck out his hand and said, “Hi, I’m Billy Nelson. I understand that you are our new Home Economics agent.”
After Nelson departed, Bledsoe turned to another agent and said, “He is going to be governor some day.” Nelson went on to become president of the State 4-H Council, a representative at the legislature in Tallahassee, an astronaut on the space shuttle, and a U.S. Senator representing the Sunshine State.
US Senator Bill Nelson remembers his days in 4-H and her support fondly. “The foundation for my public speaking and leadership skills were built during my years as a youth in 4-H. I am grateful for the role Mrs. Bledsoe played in making the 4-H experiences available to me and to thousands of other youth during her 22-year career in the Cooperative Extension Service.”
Upon retirement Bledsoe set up a scholarship fund bearing her name that provides $500 for recent high school graduates to apply toward their college education. Two to four 4-H members or other youth each year receive scholarships.
Bledsoe passed away in late fall of 2008.