29 Apr King, William I
December 21st, 1921 – September 3rd, 2012
- Ag Center/Fair President from 1975-1977
- Vice President 1970, 1971
- Chairperson – Carnival
William I or WI King, Billy, Mr.Billy, Rabbit, Mr. Gaithersburg, Dad and/or Granddaddy.
Ninety year Montgomery County Maryland resident, Billy King, passed away on September 3rd. Friends and relatives celebrated his life in Gaithersburg both at the Epworth United Methodist Church and in the Heritage Room at the Montgomery County Agricultural Center on September 7th .
His life began in Gaithersburg on December 21st, 1921, when Elizabeth Cordellia gave birth to her and W. Lawson King’s first child. After living on his grandparents’ Fulks Farm, the family moved to what became the Irvington Farms’ home place in 1924.
His lifelong love of farming began.
A 4-H club member since he was 14, Billy was an avid student in judging cattle, and advanced to the Maryland 4-H Club’s Judging Teams from 1939 to 1941 which competed at the National Dairy Shows. The judging skills learned in 4-H served him throughout his long cattle career.
In his teen years, Billy was also a member of Future Farmers of America (FFA), and displayed his prowess in public speaking by placing first in the State and Eastern State FFA speaking contests. In October, 1941, at the National FFA Convention in Kansas City, MO, Billy was one of 50 public speaking competitors. He placed fourth. These skills in public speaking, including organizational skills, would serve him throughout his life whether publicly or in private.
After graduating from Gaithersburg High School in 1940, where he played soccer, baseball and ran track, and finishing Randolph-Macon Academy in 1941 as an honor student and track member, he came home to begin his distinguished farming and business career in earnest.
By the early 1950s, Billy, working with his father, Lawson, built a world-renowned purebred registered Holstein-Frisian herd. Farming on 1500 acres and have separate milking operations, they did what the sign on the home place barn still advertises; they produced “MILK FOR THOMPSON’S DAIRY”. At the time, their herd was the largest herd of registered Holsteins in United States and was the largest privately owned dairy operation in the world. Folks from all over the United States and the world came to visit Irvington Farms to see their cattle as well as many of their innovations in farming and cattle management. Many famous bulls and cows came from the farm, most notably: Silver Farm Silver King, and brothers and sister, Irvington Pride Admiral ((Billy’s Favorite Bull and a Gold Medal Sire), Irvington Pride Commander, and Irvington Proud Maybelle, all offspring of Billy’s favorite cow, Octorano Baroness May.
Not only did Billy have a reputation for breeding high milk producing cows, in 1951 he entered cattle show competitions. He not only showed his cattle at the Montgomery County and the Maryland State fairs with many Grand Champion awards, but also competed at the International Livestock Shows in Chicago and the National Holstein Show in Waterloo.
The highest testament to Billy’s awesome eye for outstanding Holsteins and his intensive study of pedigrees occurred in 1964. Visiting the Paclamar Farms, he spotted a bull calf to which he led a syndicate to purchase. Paclamar Astronaut went on to become one of the great Holstein bulls; Gold Medal Sire. For over 20 years he “sired the right kind of cows, dairy with great udders, tall and stylish” (Billy’s kind) and Astronaut is the third leading Holstein sire with offspring rated at 95 or higher. Moe and Billy’s famous entertainment room where countless family and friends shared enjoyable times bares Astronaut’s name.
In 1966, competing for labor in an expanding urban area around the farm became an economically impossible task. Sadly, Billy had to sell the remaining herd to a dairy operation under the Luden Corporation in Pennsylvania.
Despite this, Billy did not end his farming career. The next breed in which he excelled was registered purebred Black Angus. Purchasing 150 head from herds in Canada and 50 from a Maryland herd, Billy used the skills and talents he had honed in the dairy business to make improvements to his beef herd, focusing on the mothers’ milking abilities to produce high-weaning weight calves while also producing high quality beef products. He became the largest breeder of purebred Black Angus in Maryland and one of the largest breeders on the East coast.
In 1977, with the encroachment of developments around the Maryland farm, Billy moved his herd and the Irvington Farms name to a farm in Georgia near West Point. Remaining a resident in Gaithersburg, he continued grain farming 1500 acres in Maryland. His beef herd still improved under his direction and the help of various managers in Georgia. The one making him the proudest, his grandson, Chris Throne.
Georgia cattlemen came to learn about the outstanding Irvington Farm operations and named Billy, Georgia Cattlemen’s Association’s Purebred Cattleman of Year in 1996! While Billy’s share of the herd was sold in 2006, Chris continues the family’s ten generations of farmers with his operation in Georgia. Billy is proud!
Despite his busy farming career and family, Billy was also active in his community. He was one of the founding directors of the Montgomery County Agricultural Center in 1949 and President from 1975 to 1977. He continues to support the Montgomery County 4-H Club. Other notable achievements include: Director and President of the Maryland Holstein- Frisian Association, Director and President of the Holstein- Frisian Association of America, Director on the Maryland and Virginia Milk Producers Association, inducted into the Dairyman’s Hall Of Fame by the Maryland Artificial Breeding Cooperative (ABC), Director and President of the Maryland Angus Association, charter member of the Gaithersburg Lions Club and chief pancake maker, Gaithersburg Chamber of Commerce and Board of Director of Citizens Bank.
He was christened in and became a lifelong member of the Epworth United Methodist Church in Gaithersburg.
A dedicated family man with a countless number of friends and always a friend and/or supporter of those with needs, Billy lived his life in a manner that will be missed by all who knew him, especially those listed below, but we all have our fondest memories.
Beloved husband of the late Anna Mae Moessinger “Moe” King; loving father of Thomas “Tom” King and his wife Teresa, Pine Knoll Shores, NC, Ann “Garrie” Black and her husband Dan,Gaithersburg,MD, Katherine “Kaye” K. Berman and her husband Richard, Derwood, MD; adoring grand- father of Cassie, Luke, Chris, Brett, Kelly, Andrea and Amy; great-grandfather of Katherine, Haley, Garrett, Ethan, Hank, William and Emily; dear brother of Betty Jeanne Jacobs and her husband Jake, Gaithersburg, MD and Lois Aschenbach and her husband Connie, Potomac, MD. Many loving nieces and nephews also survive him. He will be missed by all who knew Billy.