Bill May, former president of the Memphis-based American Cotton Shippers Association (ACSA), received the 2019 Harry S. Baker Distinguished Service Award. He was honored during the National Cotton Council’s (NCC) 2020 annual meeting held in New Orleans, La., on February 14-16.
The award, named for the late California industry leader and past NCC President Harry S. Baker, is presented annually to a deserving individual who has provided extraordinary service, leadership and dedication to the U.S. cotton industry.
In presenting the award, outgoing NCC Chairman Mike Tate said that May worked closely with the NCC to create policy that would improve cotton flow with the goal of ensuring that ACSA members could continue to ship their cotton in a timely manner.
“Bill’s initiative on cotton flow and recent partnership with Council President Gary Adams yielded an industrywide compromise that created significant improvement to the rules that govern cotton flow,” Tate said.
A native of Cleveland, Miss., May graduated from the University of Southern Mississippi with a degree in journalism. Immediately after graduation in 1979, he went to work for the NCC as a Member Services representative in the Cotton Belt’s Mid-South region and later worked for the Southern Cotton Ginners Association. He joined ACSA in 1984 where he served as vice president of Special Projects and as executive vice president of both the Atlantic and Southern Cotton associations. After being named ACSA president in 2009, May led an effort the next year that resulted in ACSA becoming a NCC member.
Tate noted that May’s leadership also was instrumental in leading ACSA -- in conjunction with the NCC -- during the 18-month long Turkish Anti-Dumping case that was filed in 2015. ACSA quickly evaluated that situation and agreed that outside legal counsel familiar with international trade policy was needed to alleviate a situation that threatened to undermine U.S. cotton exports to one of its best customers.
Throughout his career at ACSA, May also took great pride in ensuring the success of the ACSA International Cotton Institute. That six-week residential program educates young leaders from around the globe regarding the value, quality and integrity of U.S. cotton.
Previous Harry S. Baker award honorees include cotton producers -- Woody Anderson, Duke Barr, Bruce Brumfield, Lloyd Cline, Robert Coker, Jimmy Dodson, Bruce Heiden, Kenneth Hood, Bill Lovelady, Bob McLendon, Frank Mitchener, Jimmy Sanford, Jack Stone and Charlie Youngker; cotton ginners -- Lon Mann and Charlie Owen; merchants -- William B. Dunavant, Jr., and Bill Lawson; cooperative official -- Woods Eastland; textile manufacturer -- Duke Kimbrell; association executives -- Gaylon Booker, Phil Burnett, Neal Gillen, Mark Lange, Albert Russell, Earl Sears, B.F. Smith; and John Maguire; Congressional members -- Senators Thad Cochran (R-MS) and Saxby Chambliss (R-GA); Representatives Larry Combest and Charles Stenholm; and USDA official -- Charlie Cunningham.