[env-trinity] A Principal Westlands Landowner Dies

Byron Leydecker bwl3 at comcast.net
Wed Apr 8 10:09:21 PDT 2009

James G. Boswell II dies; farming tycoon

Jerry Hirsch, Los Angeles Times

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

(04-08) 04:00 PDT Los Angeles - -- 

James G. Boswell II, the intensely private businessman who transformed his
family's cotton holdings into California's first giant agribusiness and one
of the nation's great farming empires, has died. He was 86.

Mr. Boswell died of natural causes Friday at his desert home in Indian Wells
(Riverside County), according to a statement from the family.

As head of the family-owned J.G. Boswell Co., Mr. Boswell ran a company that
has dominated California cotton growing for generations and its clout to
influence land and water resource policy throughout much of the state.

Mr. Boswell was just 29 when he inherited 50,000 acres after the death of
his uncle and family patriarch, J.G. Boswell. Over the next half century, he
transformed the family farm in Corcoran (Kings County) in the San Joaquin
Valley. Mr. Boswell's labs created new, more productive seeds. 

Historians and agriculture economists credit Mr. Boswell for creating the
template for large agribusiness concerns.

The Boswell business remains one of the world's top sellers of "the extra
long staple cotton that goes into fabric blends and both soft and high-end
apparel," said Don Villarejo, director emeritus of California Institute for
Rural Studies in Davis.

"His legacy is quite impressive," said Villarejo. "He was a brilliant
business leader beloved by many of his employees. At the same time, his
company was able to be ahead of and often acquire his chief farming

Mr. Boswell also was famous for using a combination of political clout and
legal strategy "to outwit many of the environmental groups that have tried
to restrict water deliveries to California agriculture," Villarejo said.

He was an innovative water user, one of the first to employ lasers to level
fields so that water flowed evenly and efficiently, said Richard Howitt, an
agriculture economist at the UC Davis.

Mr. Boswell grew the business from about 50,000 acres to a peak of about
200,000. It's now about 150,000 acres.

The company used its political clout to encourage the building of the Pine
Flat Dam to shut the flow of water to Tulare Lake - which, at one point, was
the largest freshwater lake west of the Mississippi River - and into
farmland. The drained lake bed is the heart of Mr. Boswell's sprawling

Mr. Boswell was born March 10, 1923, in Greensboro, Ga., the son of William
Whittier Boswell Sr. and Kate Hall Boswell, and moved west with his parents
and his uncles. He was named after his uncle J.G. Boswell.

With no children of his own, J.G. Boswell chose his nephew to take control
of the company. The company was founded in 1921 by the older J.G. Boswell,
with help from William Boswell and J.G. Boswell II's father.

In the early 1980s, Mr. Boswell and the company would spend $1 million to
defeat the Peripheral Canal, a proposed system to move water to Southern
California. During the same period, Mr. Boswell helped farmers outflank
state and game regulators and pump water from excessive snowmelt into the
north fork of the Kings River. The move prevented farmland from flooding but
also threatened to introduce the nonnative predatory white bass into the
Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. The bass now lives in the delta.

He served as chairman, president and chief executive of his company from
1952 until his retirement in 1984. 



Byron Leydecker, JcT

Chair, Friends of Trinity River

PO Box 2327

Mill Valley, CA 94942-2327

415 383 4810 land

415 519 4810 cell

 <mailto:bwl3 at comcast.net> bwl3 at comcast.net

 <mailto:bleydecker at stanfordalumni.org> bleydecker at stanfordalumni.org

 <http://fotr.org/> http://www.fotr.org 




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