As a Senior U.S. District Court Judge, Roger Vinson has presided over numerous high-profile cases. Long before he took the bench in 1983, Vinson grew up on a farm in Cadiz, Ky., and was a member of the Trigg County FFA Chapter. He served as state FFA president from 1957 to 1958. From his courtroom in Pensacola, Fla., Vinson explains how the FFA membership has served him throughout his storied career.
Q: Can you tell us about the farm you grew up on?
A: My family farm, Vinson Farms, dates back to 1865. When I was growing up, we grew tobacco, corn, wheat, soybeans and hay, and we raised sheep and beef cattle. The farm is still in our family; my niece and nephew and their children operate it now, and I try to get back once or twice a year to visit.
Q: How did you transition from farming to a legal career?
A: I’m not sure it was a deliberate plan, but things have a way of working out. I always thought I would farm and do something else as well, perhaps join the military. I went to the Naval Academy after high school and spent six years, from 1962 to 1968, on active duty as a Navy pilot. I went to Vanderbilt University Law School after that.
When I graduated, I went to work for the oldest law firm in the state of Florida and practiced until President Ronald Reagan appointed me to the bench in 1993.
Q: How did FFA impact your life and your career?
A: FFA taught me speaking, parliamentary procedure, and how to plan and organize. Even though you learn these skills in an agricultural environment, they’re really transferable skills that stay with you forever.
The leadership training is, I think, the most important skill that you learn in FFA. I’ve gone through a lot of leadership programs at the Naval Academy, as a naval officer, lawyer, judge and an officer in other organizations, and I can sincerely say that the FFA training probably benefited me, personally, more than anything else.
Q: What would you most want to tell the current generation of FFA members?
A: If you are a student and participating in FFA, do it wholeheartedly, participate fully and take advantage of the opportunities. Go to conventions, go to the training centers, participate in everything. It will serve you well for the rest of your life.
Photography: Courtesy Roger Vinson