Fruit Breeding Industry Giant Passes Away

James N. Moore, who established the fruit breeding program at the University of Arkansas in 1964, released the ‘Cardinal’ strawberry. (Photo credit: University of Arkansas)

James N. Moore, University of Arkansas Distinguished Professor Emeritus who established the university’s fruit breeding program, died this week. He was 85.

Moore’s handiwork appears on every continent, save Antarctica, and he achieved some of the highest honors in his profession. Yet he remained firmly grounded — almost unassuming — but could not hide what his students and colleagues called greatness.

Moore was a giant. In 1964, he established the fruit breeding program within the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture that quickly became one of the most influential in the world.

“Jim had a passion for horticulture and was a gifted teacher,” said Mark Cochran, vice president-agriculture and head of the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture. “He leaves a tremendous legacy, not only on farms, orchards and vineyards around the world, but also in the students he taught, who will carry on his work for decades to come.”

“Dr. Moore was a giant in his profession, and he laid the foundation of the extremely successful fruit breeding program which is today one of our premier research programs,” said Clarence Watson, director of the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station.

Born in Vilonia, AR, and raised in Plumerville, Moore served in the Air Force following high school and met his wife, Janita “Jan” Fitzgerald of Morrilton, soon after discharge. Encouraged by his mother, Moore attained an associate degree from Arkansas Tech University in 1954, followed in 1956 by a bachelor’s degree in horticulture and in 1957, a master’s in horticulture, both from the University of Arkansas.

Moore’s next step was moving to the Garden State, earning his PhD from Rutgers University in 1961. His time in New Jersey was pivotal. There he worked with Fred Hough, leader of Rutgers’ fruit breeding program who had already achieved national renown within horticulture circles for his work on apples, peaches and strawberries. It was in working at Rutgers he met Jules Janick, now the James Troop distinguished professor of horticulture at Purdue. It was the beginning of a collaboration that would last a lifetime.

“Jim was a great horticulturist and a great man and will be sorely missed,” Janick said. “I will say that the work he started and is being continued by John Clark will continue to have a tremendous impact on American fruit production.”

Clark, a distinguished professor of horticulture for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, inherited the fruit breeding program from Moore.

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