1955 Honorary Life Member Selections

Recipients of Honorary Life Memberships at The Potato Association of America's Annual Meeting at East Lansing, Michigan, September 6, 1955 with Arthur Hawkins, retiring president, center. Left to right: A. E. Mercker, W. C. Edmundson, Hawkins, J. W. Scannell and K. H. Fernow.

Recipients of Honorary Life Membership at The Potato Association of America’s Annual Meeting at East Lansing, Michigan, September 6, 1955 with Arthur Hawkins, retiring president, center. Left to right: A. E. Mercker, W. C. Edmundson, Hawkins, J. W. Scannell and K. H. Fernow.


W. C. (Cliff) Edmndson was born in Moscow, Idaho, January 31, 1888. His formal education was obtained in that city. After completing public school he attended the University of Idaho prep school and the University of Idaho, receiving the Bachelor of Science Degree in Horticulture in 1911. Upon his graduation from the University, Cliff was appointed Deputy State Horticulture Inspector for Latah County. In 1913 he resigned this position and returned to the University for graduate work in horticulture. He received the M.S. degree in that subject in I914, after which he was appointed Assistant Horticulturist in the University of Idaho, a position he held until January 14, 1918, when he was appointed Horticulturist in the United States Department of Agriculture. He advanced step by step in this position until he became Senior Horticulturist in 1948. He has been in charge of the Potato Station at Greeley, Colorado, for about 36 years, and the station under his direction is a model of orderliness and efficiency.

Cliff’s research work, in cooperation with other Federal and State scientists, has contributed much to the potato and onion industries of the Great Plains Region. He is among the best authorities if ‘not the best authority, in the United States on growing potatoes under irrigation. His recent research projects include breeding and culture of potatoes and onions.

Besides running a model experiment station, conducting a number of projects on potatoes and onions, and cooperating with the State scientists at Fort Collins, Cliff has initiated and maintained the finest cooperative relations with potato and onion growers. He confers with and advises farmers and growers and represents the United States Department of Agriculture at conferences and meetings on potato and onion production. He is the author of a bulletin entitled, “Potato Production in the Western States” and sole or joint author of at least 29 other scientific papers.

An excerpt from a letter received from Dr. J. E. Kraus, Dean and Director of the Agricultural Experiment Station of the University of Idaho is indicative of the respect and admiration that many people have for Mr. Edmundson. Dr. Kraus said: “I have known Cliff for many years and so far as I am concerned he is an outstanding person in both his personal and his professional life. I think that his research as applied to potato production in Colorado and surrounding areas has been of an outstanding nature. The potato station at Greeley, Colorado, has an excellent reputation, and most of this I think is due to Cliff’s outstanding operation of the station. At all meetings, scientific or otherwise, which I have attended and where Cliff was present, he was the life of the meeting.

People always liked to have him present because of his personality and his ability to get along with all types of people. It is also my understanding that Cliff is an outstanding leader in his community and is considered as one of the leaders in many of the community problems in Greeley.”

Cliff will retire from the Federal Service before very long and those who have worked with him for many years can say that as superintendent of the Greeley Station, as a cooperator in research, as a consultant to growers and others in the potato and onion industries, and as a friend of everyone, young or old, rich or poor, he is hard to beat. It will be difficult to find a successor who can fit into every situation with the ease and grace which Cliff possesses.


Dr. Fernow was born in Washington, D. C., on October 12, 1893. He came to Cornell University in 1912 where he obtained his Ph.D. degree in 1925. During the first orld War, he served in the U.S. Navy from 1917 to 1919. He married Lucy Kephart and they have been blessed with three children, David, Leonard, and Elizabeth.

Dr. Fernow has been interested in potato diseases ever since he started his graduate work. He served as a Special Field Assistant working with potatoes in Steuben County during the summer of 1919 and on the Steuben County Seed Improvement Fellowship from April 1, 1920 until March 31, 1922. From 1922 to 1923 he was an assistant in the Department of Plant Pathology and again from March 1 to June 30, 1924, when he was appointed an instructor. After obtaining his Ph.D. degree in 1925, he was appointed an assistant professor in the department and was made an associate professor in 1947. He taught plant diseases to winter course students from 1925 until the course was discontinued in 1942.

He early became interested in potato virus diseases and as co-author and alone published several abstracts of his work on these diseases. His thesis entitled, “The interspecific transmission of mosaic diseases,” was published as Cornell Memoir 96 in 1925. He was engaged as a potatoinspector in 1922 and, in 1924 became head of the potato inspection work in New York State. This position has taken much of his time for he not only inspected potatoes during the summer but also planned, planted, and inspected seed plots at Ithaca and in the South, and recommended changes from year to year in potato inspection standards to the directors of the New York State Seed Improvement Association, Inc. He conceived the idea of growing a sample plot in Florida where the potatoes to be grown for certification could be planted early enough to give a disease reading before planting in up-state New York.

Dr. Fernow gave instruction on virus diseases of potatoes to 4-H Club members and held contests in 1938 and afterwards for several years in June at the summer meeting of the Seed hnprovement Association and in August at the Empire State Potato Club Field Day. He has maintained a potato-virus plot at the farm where the Field Day is held, not only for contests 6f 4-H Clubs, but for the education of potato growers and others.

During the second term of 1932-1933, he spent his sabbatic leave studying in Germany and during leave in 1948-1949 he worked for the Colombian government on potato diseases and inspection and other similar problems. Dr. Fernow is a very modest person and of a retiring nature, not known for his verbosity. But years of observation have shown that when any of his colleagues or potato farmers of his state want to know something about potato diseases, they beat a path to Dr. Fernow’s door. Experience has convinced us that there we get an unbiased answer no matter how much it might hurt. Dr. Fernow has established a potato inspection service of unimpeachable reputation and his sincerity and integrity is never questioned by growers of his state. To them and to lne he stands at the top as an authority on potato diseases and as director of the potato certification service.

It is with a great deal of pleasure and a feeling of pride that I have the privilege of presenting my friend of long standing, Dr. K. H. Fernow, as an Honorary Life Member of this association.


Albert Eric (Al) Mercker was born in New York City March 7, 1893. He attended public schools in Jersey City and received his Bachelor of Science Degree in Horticulture from Rutgers University in 1915.

After working for a few years in the oroduce markets of New York City he joined the U. S. Bureau of Markets in 1918 working for the Market News Service in Boston. In May he joined the armed services and served in the World War I through December and was discharged as a Second Lieutenant of Infantry.

He rejoined the Bureau of Markets in 1919 and served as Acting Supervisor of Inspection in New York City markets during 1920 and 1921. After brief service with the North American Fruit Exchange he rejoined the U.S.D.A. as a Federal-State produce inspector serving in many areas. He worked with the Federated Fruit and Vegetable Growers Cooperative Association in 1928 and again returned to the U.S.D.A. in March of 1929 to head up the potato program of the Interstate Early Potato Committee working with five states and the Bureau of Agricultural Economics. Under the Warren Potato Act “Al” worked with the potato program in the Agricultural Adjustment Administration and also helped direct the Potato Price Support Program during World War II.

In 1948, the U.S.D.A. loaned “Al” to the Foreign Agricultural Services from January through March to study the market outlook for certified seed potatoes in the United Kingdom, Western Germany, Austria, France, Belgium, Italy, Spain, Portugal and the Netherlands. Among the problems associated with potato seed exports to Europe he found that there was a great preference for yellow fleshed potatoes, difficulty in securing dollars for purchase of American seed and an antagonism among certain potato breeders in some European countries, where a breeder gets a patent on new potato varieties and receives royalties on their sale.

In June of 1948 “Al” was granted the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws by the University of Maine in recognition of his many services to the white potato industry.

Since 1951 he has served the U.S.D.A. as Research Specialist and Marketing Specialist in the Fruit and Vegetable Division. It is a distinct pleasure and honor to present “Al” Mercker as a candidate for Honorary Life Membership in the Potato Association of America.


James Wesley Scannell was born March 19, 1897 at Kirks Ferry, Quebec. He received his B.S.A. degree in Horticulture, MacDonald College (McGill University) in 1921. During World War I he was in active service from April 1918 to August 1919. After graduation he taught school for a short time in Saskatchewan. On May 22, 1922 he was appointed an inspector for seed potato work with t;le Botany and Plant Pathology Division of the Canada Department of Agriculture in Saskatchewan. This was the starting point in a career which carried him to the post which he now holds. He was transferred to Winnipeg as Officer-in-Charge of Seed Potato Certification in Saskatchewan and Manitoba Provinces until June 1943 when he was transferred to Guelph, Ontario in a similar capacity and on July 1, 1946 he came to Ottawa to act as first assistant to the Chief of the Division in the supervision of Seed Potato Certification throughout Canada.

His ability to make friends, his genial personality, wit and humor, his interest and participation in field discussions are characteristics which I believe have contributed to his sincere efforts in becoming a first rate Seed Potato Certification Specialist. His training and experience in the provinces before being appointed to his present position at Ottawa was of great advantage in the administration of the work in the Dominion. Being responsible for the Administration of Seed Potato Certification work throughout a country the size of Canada naturally is quite a job. Such a position involves close contact with twelve district and supervising inspectors and their staffs amounting to approximately seventy inspectors in various classifications. From 60,000 to 70,000 acres of potatoes comprising some thirty or more varieties, entered by about 9,000 growers are inspected in the ten provinces of Canada.

With twelve district and seventy field inspectors under his jurisdiction, questions of interpretation of rules and regulations rulings on matters not covered by the regulations, arguments on classification of fields, grades, inspection procedures checking reports from the various district offices on tuber indexing, plant disease surveys and to keep abreast of all the intricate problems involved in potato disease control are a few of his responsibilities.

A position, such as Mr. Scannell’s, requires an immense amount of correspondence with growers, dealers, trade commissioners and other members of foreign governments in promoting the sale of Canadian Certified Seed Potatoes. He must act as a trouble shooter when anything goes wrong, either in his own country or in foreign lands and when complaints arise resulting in difficulties associated with growing, marketing and shipping perishable produce.

In all of his endeavors, which I have outlined in such a sketchy way, it is quite evident, by, the widespread reputation of Canadian Certified Seed Potatoes, that through his initiative, patience, ability to do a thorough job, and to make many friends along the way, he has made an outstanding contribution to the Canadian certified seed potato industry. He served as President of the Potato Association of America in 1953-1954.

tt has been a privilege, an honor and a pleasure to have had the opportunity to make these remarks concerning Mr. Scannell’s work and accomplishments during his long service in the interests of the potato industry and to present him as an Honorary Life Member in the Potato Association of America.