Thursday, May 7, 2009

John A. Shuford Honored with Good Ol’ Ag Award

John A. Shuford of Rio Grande City ’44 was presented with the first-ever “Good Ol’Ag” Award presented by the Hidalgo-Starr County A&M Club at its annual Aggie Muster held April 21 at Cielo Banquet Hall in San Juan.

Chairman Zinnia Garcia Elizondo ’96 gave the Howdy, and Father Roy Snipes ’67 led the Invocation. The Hidalgo-Starr A&M Club report was given by President Gauge Gonzalez ’02, and Chris Cowan gave the Aggie Moms’ Club report.

Recipients of the 2009 Aggie Achievement Award scholarships were introduced by Mark Browning ’88. Honored were Victoria Heflin of Sharyland High School, Alyssa Martinez of San Isidro High School, Amanda Pena of Veterans Memorial High School, and Jennifer Salinas of Pharr San Juan Alamo High School, prospective members of the Class of ’13.

Guest speakers for the event were Dr. Benigno “Ben” Villalon ’64 and daughters Dr. Deborah Villalon ’94 and Belda R. Villalon-Hill ’89.

Roxanne De La Garza ’04 spoke on the Muster Tradition, and Shawn Swanberg ’04 led the Roll Call for the Absent, including Calvin C. Boykin, Jr., ’46, Bob Cator ’66, Louis C. Draper ’42, Gary Elzen ’83, G.G. Garcia ’50, Paul Leeper ’46, Robert Lowrey ’30, Joe Marshall ’59, United States Marine Corps 1st Lt. Matthew R. Vandegrift ’03, United States Army 1st Lt. Timothy W. Cunningham ’04, and United States Army 2nd Lt. Zachary R. Cook ’08. Silver Taps followed, and all present joined in singing “The Spirit of Aggieland.”

A reading of “The Last Corps Trip” was given by Heather Broughton Marks ’02 and remarks were heard from 2010 Chairman April Renee Chapa ’02.

Lori Peterson Perez ’93 and Aisha Cruz-Reyes ’02 presented the Good Ol’Ag Award to Johnny Shuford, following the reading of this tribute:

“It is my pleasure to introduce John Albert Shuford – fighting Texas Aggie class of 1944! Johnny Shuford served in M Company while attending Texas A&M College, and he was a member of the Kream & Cow Club. He played baseball at A&M and was famously known as “Lefty” Shuford. In 1943, Johnny earned his place in the sports history books as he pitched the game that shutout the Longhorns at the old Clark’s Field in Austin, with a score of 12 to 0. This has only been done twice in the sixty-six years since then with less impressive scores of 2-0 and 1-0. According to the newspaper articles of those days, “Shuford southpawed opposing teams into submission”, and “[a]t 5 feet 7 and weighing 154 pounds dripping wet, Shuford is poison to left-handed batters”. The media praised him as a “hero… a little and fiery Aggie chunker who forces them to eat from his hands.”

Johnny was instrumental in winning two South West Conference Championships for the Aggies, capturing the respect and admiration of Aggie fans everywhere. The Aggies won the 1942 SWC Championship title outright. In 1943, the Aggies and Longhorns met for the final 2 games of the season, which were going to decide the championship. The Aggies won their game on Friday, but were outscored on Saturday. Texas requested that the Aggies not play a final game to decide the championship because the Longhorn’s best players were leaving for the war. In a great act of sportsmanship, A&M accepted the Longhorns’ request. Coach Norton stated “I don’t want to take advantage of the Steers by playing one more game when they will be weaker and without the services of their best players. I better leave the championship as a tie than to play Texas under those conditions”. The Aggies ended the 1943 season as Co-champions for the SWC.

Johnny was taken out of A&M along with the entire junior and senior classes in May of 1943. He was sent to OCS Infantry School in Georgia and graduated six months later as a Second Lieutenant. He was then assigned to the 318th Infantry, 80th Division at Yuma, Arizona for desert maneuvers. He sailed to Europe on the Queen Mary on July 1, 1944 and was overseas for 18 months. He fought in World War II under General Patton, where he served in four European campaigns, including the Battle of the Bulge. Johnny sailed home from France on the Liberty Ship, and the trip across the ocean took nineteen days. For his service he received the Presidential Unit Citation for combat at Bastone, Belgium, the combat infantry badge, the Purple Heart, the Bronze Star and the Silver Star.

Johnny returned to A&M College pretty soon after his discharge to complete his education. He graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree after the 1946 summer semester. Johnny tells people that he worked his way through A&M as a pilot. You see he worked at the dairy on campus, and according to Johnny, “the cows piled it in one place and I’d pile it in the other.”

Johnny married Helen Valentine on August 30, 1946, and she went back to Houston to complete her cadet nurse’s training, and graduated as a registered nurse that next year. They raised three boys together: Delbert Daniel, Albert Wesley and Bill Valentine Shuford.

Johnny taught farming at Veteran’s School from 1947-1950. During that time he also played semi-pro baseball (1947-49) for the McAllen Palms, and then professional ball with the McAllen Palms from 1950-51, which was a Class D League Pro team. He began farming in 1951 and bought his own farm in 1962. VFW Post 8526 in Rio Grande City recognized him as the Outstanding G.I. Farmer for 1959. He is still farming until this day, and he is always “out-standing” in his field!

Johnny served as a 4-H leader and Boy Scout Leader for many years and was tapped for the Order of the Arrow. He is a charter member of the Starr County Fair and a charter member of St. John United Methodist Church.

He was inducted into the Rio Grande Valley Sports Hall of Fame in June 2002 and was honored by the Leo Najo Baseball Oldtimers that same year. Johnny served on the board of the Starr County Farm Bureau for 30 years, and in 2005 he received the Farm Bureau Pioneer Award. In 2004, he was inducted into the Texas Produce Association’s Hall of Fame.

Johnny wrote on the list that he gave me: “My life has been an Aggie life”, and it certainly has. Ladies and gentlemen, please join me in honoring a man who truly exemplifies the Aggie Spirit - Mr. Johnny Shuford.”

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