For almost half a century, George Washington Carver devoted his life to research projects that benefited southern agriculture. He discovered hundreds of uses for the peanut, sweet potato and soybean stimulating production for these crops. From local clays he extracted several useful dyes and suggested many uses for cotton waste. While dedicated primarily to finding ways to better the position of African Americans, he brought progress for all people. His discoveries helped to liberate the southern economy from excessive dependence on cotton. By 1938 peanuts had become a 200 million dollar industry and a chief product of Alabama.
Carver was born of slave parents in Missouri during the era of the Civil War. When he was an infant, he and his mother were abducted from their owner's plantation by slave raiders. His mother was sold, but young George was ransomed by his master in exchange for a race horse.
By age 13 Carver was already on his own. While working as a farm hand he obtained a high school education and continued his studies at Simpson College (now Simpson University) where he received his BS and MA degrees. In 1896, with some teaching experience at Iowa State, he was invited by Booker T. Washington to join the faculty at Tuskegee Institute as Director of the Department of Agricultural Research. He retained that post until his death occured during World War II.
Carver patented only five of his discoveries, saying, "God gave them to me; how can I sell them to someone else?" In the dpression year of 1938 he established the George Washington Carver Foundation with $30,000 of his savings. He willed his estate to this organization so that the work he began could be continued indefinitely.
Carver was buried in Tuskegee alongside Booker T. Washington. The epitaph on his tombstone reads: "He could have added fortune to fame, but caring for neither, he found happiness and honor in being helpful to the world."
He was portrayed on a US postage stamp in the Famous Americans Series in 1948. Five years later, his birthplace became a national monument.
George Washington Carver was inducted into the Alabama Men's Hall of Fame in 1993.