Isaac Chandler, Jr. came to Hamilton County as the agriculture/4-H agent at a pivotal time in U.S. history. In 1952 racial tensions ran high and many changes were taking place within 4-H and throughout the United States. None of this bothered Chandler however, he was there to educate and help young people.
“I was there to teach young people,” said Chandler. “When I first came to the county I was only working with African-Americans and then we started integration but it didn’t bother me. I was there to help young people and I didn’t care about all this other stuff so long as they wanted to be a part of 4-H. I had lots of good experiences and some not so good, but I did my job.”
Chandler became familiar with Extension while attending Florida Agricultural and Mechanical College (now Florida A&M University) on the G.I. Bill. He had served as a Technician 5th Grade (equivalent to a Corporal) in the U.S. Army Air Force from 1942-1945 during the Second World War. He had earned two “Battle Stars” for his military service in the South Pacific. After his military enlistment ended, Chandler returned to his family farm before entering school. He grew field corn and sun tobacco, which was used for cigar binders. He earned a Bachelor’s degree in Agricultural Education in 1952.
In the beginning of his career, Chandler stayed busy organizing school clubs and community clubs. Initally these clubs focused on corn projects, and he worked primarily with boys until integration. Each boy was given enough corn seed to plant one acre of land. The corn seed was donated by seed companies who wanted to promote their products.
He derived a great deal of satisfaction from his work with 4-H. “It makes you feel real good when former 4-H’ers tell you that you gave them the motivation to do better, and to improve their lives by going on to college,” said Chandler. “It’s rewarding and gives you a lot of self-satisfaction because, many times, you didn’t realize the impact that you had on certain individuals’ lives.”
Soon swine and electrical projects were added to the mix. One of his 4-H members, E.W. Graham, was recognized as the grand champion at the area swine show in Monticello in the 1950s. His prize was a purebred boar. One of his clubs did a lamp project sponsored by the Florida Power and Light Company. The club made lamps that were shown at the fair. Many of the agricultural projects were shown at the fair to encourage farmers to adopt new agricultural practices and to provide recognition to 4-H members for their hard work.
During his tenure, many of Chandler’s 4-H club members attended State 4-H Congress, National 4-H Congress, National 4-H Conference, Florida 4-H Legislature and Citizenship Washington Focus. He finished out his career by seeing his son Isaac elected as the first African American State 4-H Council Vice-President. He retired from extension work in 1987.
“Mr. Chandler has made a tremendous impact on the citizens of Hamilton County, many of whom can attribute their success directly to being under his leadership,” said Gregory T. Hicks, 4-H agent with the Hamilton County Cooperative Extension Service.
One person he impacted was David Howell, who won the state 4-H tractor driving contest in 1966 under Chandler’s tutelage. Howell participated in the national contest in Richmond, Virginia. He is now an employee with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources and Soil Conservation Service, and owns a small farm.
“Many of his 4-H students, who came from very humble backgrounds, became significant contributing members to society, and very successful in their respective fields,” said Hicks. “Mr. Isaac is a community leader. He has gone beyond the call of duty in being concerned about Hamilton County, as evidenced by his volunteering and leading numerous civic and social organizations. Mr. Chandler should be commended and honored by his significant contributions to Hamilton County, Florida, and the nation’s 4-H programs.”
In 1981, 1982 and 1984, Hamilton County’s 4-H Senior Farm Judging Team achieved the highest scores at the North Florida Fair’s contests. The county’s teams placed second at the 1982 Suwannee County Fair and Livestock Show and first at the Team Swine Judging Contest at the Florida State Fair in 1983. They were also recognized as the best group attending the Youth Hog Show at the North Florida Fair in 1985.
“I feel like I did some good,” said Chandler. “I made an impression – I did some good and that counts. The comments and “thank yous” I still get are great pay. This experience was worth more than the financial end of things. I didn’t know I was making a difference in so many lives.”
In addition to 4-H, Chandler is a member of Kiwanis International, American Legion Post #215, the Hamilton County Democratic Executive Committee, the Hamilton County Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University Alumni Association, and a former Council member for the City of Jasper.