In his years as a USDA poultry inspector, Asa Autry was a circuit rider.
“I worked in plants in Gainesville, Ellijay, Cornelia, Toccoa and Athens,” said Autry, 90. His travels as an inspector took him to an assignment in the Southeast Georgia town of Claxton, a place best know for producing fruitcakes.
“It was a nice place,” Autry said.
He told of having to leave home at 4 a.m. and drive winding mountain roads to reach a poultry plant in Ellijay before the day shift began.
On Friday, the leadership of the American Federation of Government Employees, local 2252 honored Autry for 46 years of involvement with the union.
David Barrett, a union vice-president and Linda Simmons, a retired union representative, presented the award at Autry’s home in Gainesville.
“Asa is one of our pioneers,” said Simmons, who once worked with Autry as an inspector.
Autry’s career in the inspection service, from the early 1960s until his retirement in 1984, was during the heyday of the poultry industry when more companies operated smaller processing plants throughout North Georgia.
Autry, a World War II veteran, and his wife, Grace, are widely known for serving as hosts to reunions of the 214th Regimental Unit, comprised of 12 National Guard companies from Georgia that were called to duty during the war.
The tradition ended five years ago as many of the aging veterans were in failing health or had died.
In the past year, Autry has been engage in a different battle, this one with cancer. His health has greatly improved following several rounds of chemotherapy.
“I’m feeling pretty good,” said Autry.
Others being honored by the union for 42 years or more include Argel B. Forester, Donald S. Smith Sr., Larry J. Taffar, A.J. Manders, Warren Bowen and Harry D. Scroggs.