Iron City farmer thrust in spotlight

Published 9:09 pm Tuesday, July 20, 2010

An Iron City farmer and his wife were thrust into the national spotlight Tuesday following the resignation of a U.S. Agriculture Department employee.

CNN reported Tuesday that Shirley Sherrod resigned Monday as the department’s director of rural development for Georgia. She told the news network that she was forced to resign after recounting the circumstances of working with Iron City farmer Roger Spooner and his wife, Eloise, in 1986 when she had worked for a non-profit organization.

Sherrod, who is black, was criticized for her remarks during a March 27 speech at an NAACP banquet in which a video of her speech was released to FOX News. In it, she said she was reluctant to help a white farmer facing foreclosure, but in the end did.

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Eloise and Roger Spooner, who was the first white farmer who had come to her for help, have been quoted as supporting Sherrod.

However, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack accepted Sherrod’s resignation.

“There is zero tolerance for discrimination at USDA, and I strongly condemn any act of discrimination against any person,” Vilsack said. “We have been working hard through the past 18 months to reverse the checkered civil rights history at the department and take the issue of fairness and equality very seriously.”

Sherrod, in the CNN story, said she assumes there is, in fact, zero tolerance.

“I know I didn’t discriminate, and I made it very clear to the staff there at USDA that it wouldn’t be tolerated during my tenure.”

Repeated attempts to try to call the Spooners Tuesday were unsuccessful.