Here’s my Alabama Living feature on Greenville, Alabama, mainstay Bates Turkey Farm:
After flying countless bombing missions in Europe during World War II, Bill Bates returned home and declared, “I never plan to stand in another line or ask anyone for a job.” Instead, he had one purpose in mind: To produce the finest turkeys ever to grace a table.
Many Alabamians are familiar with how the turkey farm business was started by Bill’s parents. In 1923, W.C. and Helen Hudson Bates, Bill’s mom and dad, received nine turkey eggs from his Aunt Mamie Bates as a wedding present. In 1935, with the Great Depression taking its toll on small farmers, this small gift became the source that saved the farm as the bank allowed the turkeys to be used as collateral. When Bill returned from the war, his parents needed help with the growing industry. He stayed, and the turkey business has grown significantly from those original eggs.
Known as “Mr. Bill,” the legendary Alabamian from Fort Deposit died Aug. 23, 2013, at the age of 89. “Throughout his life, this Southern gentleman was known as one of the best poultry ambassadors for Alabama,” says Huck Carroll, communications director of the Alabama Poultry and Egg Association.
Part of this legend started in 1949 when he presented Gov. James “Big Jim” Folsom a turkey named Clyde to pardon for the traditional Thanksgiving table. Each year this custom continues, and Clyde 67 will receive his pardon later this month. Today a member of the Bates family carries on this special presentation of the “biggest” and “best” bird.
Carolyn Tomlin is a Jackson, Tennessee-based author that has been writing and publishing since 1988. She has authored 19 books and more than 4,000 articles in magazines such as Entrepreneur, Kansas City Star, American Profile, Tennessee Home & Farm, Home Life, Mature Living, ParentLife and many others. You can purchase her full-length works here.