Wendell Murphy: Timeline

1938: Wendell Holmes Murphy is born on tobacco farm near Rose Hill, North Carolina, to Norman Holmes Murphy and Lois King Murphy

1947: The Murphy’s seven-year-old daughter, Myra Ellen Murphy, dies in an accident.

1952: When Holmes Murphy leaves his home temporarily to take a second job, his 14-year-old son Wendell successfully manages the family farm’s tobacco harvest.

1956: Wendell Holmes graduates from Rose Hill High School.

1960: Wendell Holmes graduates from North Carolina State with a BS degree in agriculture (from College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at N.C. State University). He takes a $4,080-a-year job teaching agriculture at a high school near his hometown, Rose Hill, N.C.

1961: Murphy and his friend Billy Register drives past a small feed mill near Warsaw. Register remarks that a mill would do well in Rose Hill. "It was just like lightening," Murphy recalls. "It came to me all at once. That’s what I wanted to do."

Late 1961-Early 1962: Murphy manages to save $3,000, which he puts toward buying a mill that grounds corn for feed. His father, a debt-wary tobacco farmer, reluctantly guarantees a bank loan for the remaining $10,000 needed to acquire the mill, on condition he not give up his day job. "I had to nag Daddy for months for that money," Murphy says.

1962: Murphy opens his feed mill, which he calls Murphy Milling Company. On the side Murphy begins raising a few pigs.

1962-1965: Murphy holds two full-time jobs, teaching during the day and running the mill at night.

1964: Murphy’s son Wendell Holmes “Dell” Murphy is born.

1965: Murphy completes mortgage payments on his feeding mill, quits his teaching job, and devotes himself entirely to his business.

1960s: With new combine machines threatening to make traditional feed mills obsolete. Murphy moves further into the business of raising hogs. He buys feeder pigs on sale, raises them on dirt lots on his farm, and feeds them with corn from his mill. Before long he brings in more profit feeding his own animals than selling food to others.

1968: Murphy stops selling feed completely, becomes a full-time hog raiser.

1969: Murphy’s daughter, Wendy Murphy, is born.

1969: A cholera epidemic hits Murphy's farm. The U.S. Department of Agriculture destroys Murphy's 3,000 hogs and slaps quarantine on the farm. Determined to continue his business, Murphy contracts his tobacco-farming neighbors to raise his hogs. Murphy supplies the food, pigs, and fences; the neighbors supply the land and labor.

1973: North Carolina General Assembly passes the first “Hardison Amendment.” Named for State Senator Harold Hardison (D, Lenoir), the provision forbids state regulations on water pollution that are more restrictive than federal regulations.

1974: Murphy Family Farms splits the raising of his hogs into three stages, using three separate farms for breeding hogs; growing hogs; and preparing them for market. This strategy of “confinement growing” proves extremely successful.

1975: North Carolina General Assembly passes second Hardison Amendment. This provision forbids state regulations for air pollution from being more restrictive than federal regulations.

1979: Wendell Murphy marries Linda Godwin. The Murphy family now consists of Wendell and Linda; Wendell’s children, Dell and Wendy, and Linda’s children, Cindy and Wesley.

1982: Murphy wins a seat in the North Carolina House of Representatives. A Democrat, Murphy represents the state’s tenth district until 1988., At the time of his election, Duplin County, home of Murphy Family Farms, has 172,000 hogs.

1985: Murphy Family Farms becomes the number-one hog-producer in the nation, expands into Midwest.

1986: Murphy Farms gross revenues more than $72 million.

1986: Hardison sponsors, co-sponsors bills to eliminate sales tax on hog and poultry houses.

1987: Hardison sponsors, co-sponsors bills to eliminate sales tax on  hog, poultry equipments.

1987: Two bills sponsored by Senator Hardison sponsors become law. The new provisions, which eliminate sales taxes on hog and poultry houses and equipment, save the poultry and pork industries more than $1 million per year.

1987: Murphy wins NC Agribusiness Council’s annual Governor’s Award for Distinguished Service, for processing and marketing.

1987: Seeing the need for a new, men's basketball facility for his alma mater, North Carolina State University, Rep Martin speaks to Wolfpack basketball coach Jim Valvano, who enthusiastically supported Murphy's vision.

1987: Representative Murphy announces he plans to run for State Senate seat held by Harold Hardison, who plans to run for Lieutenant Governor.

1988: A bill inspired by Murphy, to appropriate $2 million toward sports arena at NC State, is approved in House but killed in Senate.  The General Assembly ends up giving the school $1.5 million, which must be matched by school before it can be used.

1988: Murphy is elected to the NC State Senate. He will serve until he leaves politics in January 1993.

1989: North Carolina produces 5.4 percent of nation’s pork.

1990: Murphy’s father, Holmes Murphy, dies.

1990: Murphy is ranked first in effectiveness among Senate freshmen by the North Carolina Center of Public Policy Research.

1990s: Murphy investigates building or buying packing-processing facility, but permits prove almost impossible to get.

1991: A 10-acre lagoon ruptures on Murphy Farm's Magnolia No. 1 facility in western Duplin County. A limestone layer beneath the lagoon collapsed May 8, sending tons of water cascading into the nearby Miller's Creek.

1991: NC House passes a bill that repeals the Hardison Amendments. Before the bill reaches the Senate floor, Sen. Murphy attaches an amendment that exempts animal and poultry feeding operations from any new regulations.

1991: Repeal of Hardison Amendment, with Murphy Amendment attached, passes Senate, 37-0.

1991: Senator Murphy co-sponsors, with Sen. James Speed, a bill that prevents individual Murphy co-sponsors bill that prevents individual counties from placing zoning restrictions on hog farms. The bill successfully passes and becomes law.

1993: Murphy leaves NC Senate. By the time he leaves office, he has voted for seven laws that release the hog industry from various taxes and regulations.

1993: Division of Environmental Management tells lawmakers in a briefing that lagoons effectively self-seal within months with "little or no groundwater contamination" -- even in sandy, highly permeable soils.

1993: The North Carolina General Assembly passes a law that prohibits livestock farms from intentionally contaminating the public water supply.

1994: Hog farming passes tobacco as state’s top-grossing farm commodity.

1995: According to The Sierra Club, NC hog production has tripled since 1990, from 5 million in 1990 to 15 million in 1995. In addition, Duplin County now has more than one million hogs.  Most of those hogs belong to Murphy.

1995: Since 1983, about the time corporate hog production was just starting to ignite, more than 16,000 North Carolina hog farmers have left the industry -- roughly two-thirds of the 23,400 growers who were in business at the time.

1995: The Raleigh News and Observer publishes a series of reports investigating hog farms in North Carolina. Wendell Murphy is a primary focus of the reports, which go on to win a Pulitzer Prize.

1995-2000: Fallout from “Boss Hog” series painful for Murphy, says later that “When the News & Observer wrote the series, at first it was really painful. It was directed at the hog industry in general, but more specifically, it was directed at me. According to the series, I was the one who had served in the legislature and had gotten all of the laws passed that made it easier for farmers to raise hogs. And, I was responsible for all of the lagoons. Every hog that ever pooped in North Carolina was my responsibility!"

1995: 25 million gallons of watery waste from 10,000 hogs spilled out of a holding lagoon at the Oceanview Hog Farm and pours over soybean plants, tobacco fields and into creeks and rivers. More than 3,000 fish in the New River is killed. The Oceanview facility is not affiliated with Murphy Family Farms. The following week, The General Assembly passes two measures to increase the state’s farm regulations.

1995: North Carolina officials fines the owner of the Oceanview facility farm owner a record $92,000 after the 25-million gallon hog waste spill.

1995: North Carolina General Assembly creates the Centennial Authority, an organization working to secure funding for a new arena to house the North Carolina State University men’s basketball team. Wendell Murphy is one of the Centennial Authority’s 21 volunteer board members.

1995: Cindy Watson elected to the NC House of Representatives. A Republican, Ms. Watson represents Duplin County.

1996: An organization called 'Farmers for Fairness' formally incorporated. Among its 2,000 members are Wendell Murphy, of Murphy Family Farms, Sonny Faison of Carroll Foods and W.H. Prestage of Prestage Farms

1997: Cindy Watson co-sponsors legislation to phase out hog lagoons, which hold the waste of 9.3 million hogs, and to place a temporary moratorium on new pork production operations.

1997: Murphy Family Farms owns 275,000 sows, twice as many as its closest rival, Carroll's Foods, and six million hogs. The company has expanded into Oklahoma, Missouri, Iowa, Kansas, and Illinois.

1997: The Murphy family builds a new complex in Wallace, NC called River  Landing. The exclusive golf course community is overseen by Wendell’s brother, Pete.

1997: Circle Farms, an enormous hog operation in southwest Utah, begins construction. Murphy Family Farms, Smithfield Foods, Carroll's Foods and Prestage Farms begin building a brand new hog operation in southwest Utah. Called Circle Four, it will be the biggest operation in the nation. The participating farmers have agreed to a variety of regulations that were vigorously opposed in North Carolina.

1997: Governor Jim Hunt comes out in favor of two-year moratorium on new and expanded hog farms.

1997: Reports suggest that Murphy has offered to contribute $5 to $10 million toward construction of a new arena for the North Carolina State Wolfpack basketball team, in exchange for naming rights.

1997: Raleigh City Council refuses to approve a financing contract with the Centennial Authority, complaining that naming rights for the arena are being sold too cheaply.

1997: The North Carolina General Assembly passes, and Governor Hunt signs, Clean Water Responsibility Act. Center of plan is two-year moratorium on new and expanded hog farms.

1997: Farmers for Fairness begin running television, radio and newspaper ads accusing Duplin County Representative Cindy Watson of being overly tough on hog farmers while letting municipal sewage plants pollute rivers. The ads urge the public to call Watson but do not say anything about voting against her.

1998: House Select Investigative Committee on Election Law Compliance subpoenas members of Farmers for Fairness for every bit of information "pertaining to any election and/or political candidate."

1998: The Election Board issues formal order declaring Farmers for Fairness to be a political committee subject to election laws, not an issue advocacy group exempt from reporting its finances.

1998: Cindy Watson loses the Republican primary in her bid for reelection.  Johnny Manning, who grows hogs for Murphy Farms, is the victor.

1998: A major recession hits the hog-production business. Prices fall to historic lows. Murphy Farms loses more than $1 million a week.

Al Tank, National Pork Producers spokesman: "Murphy was hit particularly hard in 1998 when the bottom dropped out of the U.S. hog market. In contrast, vertically integrated companies such as Smithfield were able to cover big losses from their hog-raising operations with higher profits from their pork-processing facilities."

1999: Murphy awarded the prestigious Watauga Medal, the NC State’s highest award, given for outstanding and distinguished service.

1999: A spill at Vestal Farms, owned by Murphy Farms, dumps 1.5 million gallons of water into Duplin County creek and wetlands. Murphy Family Farms is issued a fine of $40,650.

1999: Hurricane Floyd hits North Carolina. The storm causes major flooding and contamination in Eastern North Carolina. According to the North Carolina Pork Council the hog lagoon system held up well in the storm; only 3 of some 4,000 waste lagoons were ruptured. The Council contends that the bacteria in wells might have come not from hogs but from people, factories, flooded water treatment plants or migrating geese.

1999: Murphy merges with Smithfield Farms. "In 1999, my craw was full, so I decided to go ahead with the merger. It was a conservative thing to do, but I had been beaten so hard by the News & Observer, and politically, that I just couldn't take it any longer. When we did the merger, it all went away," Murphy says.

When the family business sold to Smithfield Foods in 2000, many thought the Murphy family's chapter on pork production had closed. Not so. The Murphy's retained some of the family-owned farms with the understanding that they would raise hogs under contract for Smithfield Foods.

1999: In wake of merger, the Raleigh News and Observer publishes an editorial that credits Murphy with taking some environmental responsibility.

1999: The Raleigh Entertainment and Sports Arena, the new home for the North Carolina State Wolfpack men’s basketball team and the Carolina Hurricanes NHL franchise, opens.

2003: North Carolina State University honors Wendell Murphy, his wife, Linda, and the Murphy family for a lifetime achievement. NC State, the new football operations center in the south end of Carter-Finley Stadium is named the Wendell H. Murphy Football Center. A bust of Murphy is placed in the Hall of Champions area of the Center, along with a plaque honoring the entire Murphy family.

2004: Circle Four farms wins “Best of State ” award for its achievements in agriculture, including its environmental stewardship efforts.

2004: Murphy Family Ventures opens for business as a management company providing an array of support services to all businesses owned by the Murphy Family and others. Wendell Murphy’s son, Dell Murphy, is named company president.

2005: Murphy is inducted into the Duplin County Hall of Fame.

2007: Murphy receives the Centennial Distinguished Citizen Award from Boy Scouts of America.

2010: Murphy “gladly loans his plane” to fly a group of Wilmington-based doctors to Port au Prince, Haiti, to help victims of January earthquake. Murphy’s son, Dell, accompanies the doctors on trip.