You may not recognize the name James J. Conner, but you might recognize the surname for which the headquarters for UGA’s College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences was named in 1906: Conner Hall.
Conner, a Montgomery County native, is largely responsible for the establishment of Athens’ Georgia State College of Agriculture, which later became the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CAES). Conner served as chairman of the board for the school until his death in 1930.
The lawyer, farmer and politician was a true Georgia leader. He was an attorney in Dublin and Cartersville from 1871 to 1886. He was a farmer on a 900-acre plantation near Cartersville where he used the most advanced principles of modern husbandry, with labor-saving machinery. He served as mayor of Dublin and solicitor general of the court circuit. As a representative to the Georgia General Assembly for Bartow County, Conner eventually used his position to help establish what became CAES.
Conner also served as president of the Georgia Agricultural Society and was appointed to Commissioner of Agriculture in 1912. He is a member of the Georgia Agricultural Hall of Fame and UGA conferred an honorary law degree upon him in 1926.
According to UGA historian F.N. Bone, “In 1932, the flourishing A&M college was renamed the College of Agriculture and brought under the administrative control of the university. Today, renamed the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, it reaches out from its headquarters in Conner Hall to serve the people of Georgia and the world. The college has established experimental stations in various parts of the state and it cooperates with U.S. Department of Agriculture in sponsoring the Cooperative Extension Service, which provides educational programs in agriculture, home economics, 4-H and youth development.”
Today, Conner Hall remains perched upon what was once called Cedar Hill, the plantation of former Georgia governor Wilson Lumpkin. In the 1970s, the building underwent extensive renovations, including the installment of elevators and a new central heating and cooling system. But despite those modern additions, Conner Hill remains a testament to the origins of this great institution.