Hall of fame, times 2

Published 9:00 pm Saturday, November 6, 2010

The city of Suffolk now has a double hall of famer in its midst.

Ritchie Jordan, a planning commissioner and former hog farmer, was inducted last month into the Virginia Livestock Hall of Fame as part of the 2010 class. He and his wife, Millie, also are honorees of the Pork Industry Hall of Fame, having been inducted there in 1994.

Ritchie and Millie Jordan display their Pork Industry Hall of Fame plaque in their King’s Fork-area home. Ritchie Jordan recently was named to the Virginia Livestock Hall of Fame.

The National Pork Council once called the Jordans the pork industry’s “first couple.” They are the only couple ever to have served as state pork council and pork council auxiliary presidents simultaneously.

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Ritchie Jordan and his brother began the hog farm near where King’s Fork High School now sits in 1949, after they graduated from Virginia Tech. They had both studied crops at the university, but they soon figured they needed to raise animals, as well.

“It became evident to us, I think, that livestock was part of making a living,” Ritchie Jordan said.

The farm started out with around 200 pigs, but grew in its later years to nearly 2,500. The Jordans grew to become more involved in the pork industry. Ritchie Jordan was an original member of the National Pork Board and also served as president of the National Pork Producers Council. Millie Jordan was president of the organization’s auxiliary, known as the “National Porkettes.”

“We took a lot of ribbing over that,” she said.

In the early years, the Jordans rose at 6 a.m. each morning to do the needed chores. Later, they hired workers to do them.

“I enjoyed hog production,” Ritchie Jordan said. “You couldn’t do it and not love it, I don’t think.”

Jordan was president of the national organization when the widely successful slogan “Pork: The Other White Meat” was born. Even so, Jordan doesn’t take credit for it, saying instead that he only “selected the people that brought that about.”

He does credit the saying, which is still in use today, for changing consumer perception of pork from a fattening product to one that can be lean.

“Our greatest effort was in trying to change the consumers’ perception of it,” Jordan said. “I feel that pork has made changes in the way it’s perceived.”

For her part, Millie Jordan raised the children, kept house, tended to the vegetable garden and still found time to testify at Senate hearings on the importance of the pork industry.

“It was a real challenge when I was president,” she said. “You had to stay on top of everything.”

For their 1994 honor by the Pork Industry Hall of Fame, the couple received a plaque with their facial images engraved, along with four paragraphs about their accomplishments.

They also traveled to the Virginia State Fair last month for Ritchie Jordan’s induction into the Virginia Livestock Hall of Fame, which also includes the beef, dairy and sheep industries. Nearly a third of the new inductees, including Jordan, are Tech graduates or former faculty.

The Jordans sold their farm in 2002.

“The community was moving in on us,” Ritchie Jordan said. “Our equipment was sort of old and deteriorating. We couldn’t see reinvesting in it.”

Despite all the honors, both Jordans say the best part of their time in the pork industry was the relationships they developed with like-minded people from all over.

“The relationships we developed with other people in Virginia and throughout the country have been very rewarding to us,” Ritchie Jordan said. “A lot of these relationships have continued.”

His wife agreed.

“You come in contact with so many people who would never, ever be a part of your life otherwise,” she said.