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Jimmye S. Hillman

Jimmye S. Hillman, long-time professor at the University of Arizona, one of the most influential international economists of his generation, and late in life a literary memoirist, passed away from complications of a stroke on June 4, 2015.

Hillman was born in 1923 and grew up on a subsistence farm in Greene County, Mississippi. His parents were schoolteachers who worked the family farm in the depths of the depression and sent their precocious son off to the university at the age of sixteen. After graduating from Mississippi State University in 1942, Hillman served in the United States Army from 1942–1945, after which he obtained his master’s degree from Texas A & M University, and received his PhD in agricultural economics from the University of California, Berkeley, where he was a Rockefeller Scholar from 1948–1950.

Hillman arrived at the University of Arizona in 1950, became department chair in agricultural economics in 1961, and served in that role until his retirement in 1990. He trained generations of agricultural economists and made the University of Arizona an important center for study in the field. His special themes were the convergence of the green revolution and the globalization of trade. In two books, technical and prescient, “Nontariff Agricultural Trade Barriers” (1978) and “Technical Barriers to Agricultural Trade” (1991) and in numerous articles, he examined the globalization of food production and consumption, the proliferation of new food technologies (anticipating the emergence of GMOs), and the ways agribusiness and technology were outstripping the capacity of institutions, locally and globally, to develop a consensus on standards to protect the environment and human health and to promote social justice.

In his role as an activist economist, he served as economist for the U.S. Agency for International Development in Brazil from 1957–1959, developed USAID Green Revolution projects in the Cape Verde Islands, and served as an advisor on agricultural policy to the government of Portugal when that country was preparing to enter the European Union. In 1966–1967, he was executive director of the President’s National Advisory Commission on Food and Fiber, appointed by President Lyndon Johnson, and in 1983–1984, chaired the agricultural study group assisting the President’s Commission on United States–Japanese Relations, under President Ronald Reagan.

Hillman served as president of the American Agricultural Economics Association in 1970–1971 having been president of the Western Farm Economics Association, 1966–1967. He was a member of the Western States Manpower Advisory Committee established by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.

In 1972–1973, Professor Hillman was a visiting research fellow at Jesus College, University of Oxford, and was a visiting distinguished professor of economics at Lincoln University in Christchurch, New Zealand in 1995–1996. He received an honorary doctorate from the University of Ceará, Brazil, in 1999.

In his retirement, Hillman turned to creative non-fiction and the memoir. His account of his childhood, good times and hard times in the Depression years, when his family bartered with the town store for groceries by raising semi-feral hogs in the pine woods of rural Mississippi, is called Hogs, Mules, and Yellow Dogs. It was published by the University of Arizona Press in 2012. One reviewer described it as “destined to become a classic of the local literature of Mississippi, alongside Eudora Welty and William Faulkner.”

Hillman established a graduate fellowship program for foreign students in the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics at the University of Arizona, established in his wife’s name a collection and research fellowship in the Texas Collection at Baylor University, and was a member of the board and a benefactor of the University of Arizona Poetry Center. He also established the Agnes Butler Endowment at Saint Mary’s College in California.

He is survived by his wife Helen, sister Lora Jean Allgood, children Brent, Brenda, and Bradley Hillman and their partners Susan McNabb, Robert Hass, and Valerie Werstler. The couple have three grandchildren, Elizabeth Camber, Thomas Hillman, and Louisa Michaels as well as two great-grandchildren Leon Legere and Simon Camber.

Funeral service at St. Michael and All Angels, 602 N. Wilmot Rd, Tucson AZ 85711, at 11 AM on Monday, June 8.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made in his name either to Saint Michael and All Angels Church or to the University of Arizona Poetry Center.

Funeral arrangements by Hudgel’s Swan Funeral Home.