on Friday, March 23, 2018
Jack T. Clift
Jack T. Clift of Madison, Alabama was born in Decatur, Georgia on December 19, 1918. Though he grew up in Atlanta, he spent his summers and vacations in Madison with his uncle, C. Frank Clift, who farmed the Clift farm (established in 1850 and expanded to approx. 550 acres) on U.S. Hwy. 72 and numerous other holdings. Back then it was unheard of to be from ‘the city’ and want to go to ‘the farm’. Jack graduated from Georgia Tech in 1941, and was drafted into the army, saw action in the Philippines with the 11th Airborne as an engineer and a paratrooper, awarded the Silver and Bronze Stars and an Air Medal, and returned November 1945, to his wife, Lillian (deceased June 23, 2015, and two days shy of their 72nd wedding anniversary), and 18 month old daughter. Jack says the three things he learned from his WWII experience, “1. I came back—not dead; 2. I met and married Lillian; and 3. I found out who Jack Clift is.”
Uncle Frank was getting older and offered Jack the opportunity to move to Madison and work for him on the farm for $150 a month. Jack also sharecropped 15 acres of cotton the first year and 50 acres the second which paid him an additional 50% of the crop yield. He realized that if he could buy a tractor, then he could rent and make 75%. So, in 1949, Jack bought a “G” John Deere tricycle-type, and he was on his way.
Soon after Jack arrived in Madison to begin farming with Uncle Frank, Jack saw a need to learn about soil conservation. With the help of the soil conservation agency, a plan was drawn up, and Uncle Frank readily agreed to let Jack proceed to make the farm better. Uncle Frank did not always agree with the farming practices Jack proposed.
In 1953, Jack hired a man who owned a cotton picker to pick part of a field on the Clift-owned Moore’s Mill farm of approximately 500 acres “good red land” (near Huntsville). Being the engineer Jack was, he had one of the farm hands pick the same row as the cotton picker but a little behind it and another farm handpick the adjacent row strictly by hand in order to have a more accurate comparison. Jack told Uncle Frank if for any reason Uncle Frank did not want that picker in the field, Jack would get rid of the cotton picker. Uncle Frank agreed with Jack’s plan, but the day of this experiment, Uncle Frank without saying anything to Jack went to Lillian, and told her that “if you can get Jack to get that damn picker out of the field, I will give you $500”. When Jack got home that evening Lillian told him what Uncle Frank said. End of the cotton picker. Even though by this time Jack either owned and/or rented most of the Clift land holdings, he respected his uncle and waited until Uncle Frank died (1958), to purchase his first picker in 1959.
In 1950 making one bale of cotton to an acre was acceptable. In 1965, Jack made his first two-bales to an acre.
Jack’s son, Jack Jr., began farming with him in 1970, and though Jack Jr. gradually took over, Jack Sr. continued working in the field and doing projects on the farm. In 2017, Jack Sr. (age 96) on his John Deere with the bucket attachment, cleared small trees and improved a large ‘low’ area on the Clift farm. Jack said, “I knew I could do it if I just n ibbled away at it.”
Jack Sr.’s grandson, John Clift and wife Susan, presently grow vegetables using a Model 6330 (and a bush and bog disk) and operate a st
In fall 2017, Jack Sr. at age 98 bought a Model 6130D which has a lower step, he can more easily climb into the cab and work. One of his daughters said, “The reason he bought this one, is, if the state was to not renew Daddy’s driver’s license which comes up for renewal on his 100th birthday, December 19, 2018, he will still be able to drive his John Deere.”
See more about this story on WAATV.com.