- Associated Press - Monday, July 7, 2014

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - Former Alabama Agriculture Commissioner Albert McDonald, who helped start Alabama’s successful boll weevil eradication program, died Sunday at his farm in Limestone County. He was 83.

McDonald’s daughter, Caroline Aderholt, said he developed a urinary tract infection about a month ago and his health declined. His family was with him when he died Sunday afternoon at the farm in the Greenbrier community near Huntsville, she said Monday.

McDonald was a successful cotton farmer when he was elected to the state Senate in 1974. He served eight years before being elected state agriculture commissioner in 1982. He also served eight years in that office and made an unsuccessful run for Congress in 1990.

One of his biggest accomplishments was helping to start Alabama’s successful boll weevil eradication program in 1987. It began in south Alabama and slowly spread to the Tennessee Valley. By 1995, cotton farmers statewide were reporting no signs of the pesky bug.

Aderholt, the wife of U.S. Rep. Robert Aderholt, said her father used to fight boll weevils on his father’s farm and then his own. “He had a lifetime battle with the boll weevil,” she said.

Aderholt said one of her favorite experiences as a child was riding with her father in his truck when he pulled trailers of cotton to the gin on Saturdays in the fall. “We would listen to Auburn football games on the radio,” she said.

She said her father’s interest in agriculture prompted him to get into politics. In his second term in the Senate, he was the chairman of the powerful Rules Committee. Aderholt said some people encouraged her father to run for lieutenant governor or some other high-profile office, but he was only interested in agriculture commissioner.

“He got into it to promote agriculture policies and make things better for farmers,” she said.

Alabama’s current agriculture commissioner, John McMillan, served with McDonald in the Legislature. He said McDonald used his legislative experience to get things done to help Alabama agriculture. “Even today, people here at the department talk about what an outstanding commissioner he was,” McMillan said.

Aderholt said the family is tentatively planning the funeral Thursday in Huntsville, but arrangements are not complete.

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