FLORENCE — North Alabama farmer and businessman, Billy Bridgeforth, has been elected to the board of directors for First Southern Bank according to Dennis Morgan, President and CEO.

Bridgeforth graduated from Alabama A&M with a degree in soil science and is Chairman Emeritus of the National Black Growers Council, where he advocates on behalf of black farmers in the United States and abroad. He was recognized as a “Champion of Change” by President Barack Obama, an award given to advocates for the agricultural profession who encourage the next generation of farmers and ranchers.

Bridgeforth and his brother, Greg, represent senior management of Darden Bridgeforth & Sons, which grows cotton, corn, wheat, soybeans and canola using a variety of cutting-edge agronomic techniques and land conservation practices on a 3,000+-acre family owned farm and 10,000+ additional leased acres. The farm was started in 1870 by his great-grandfather, who was born into slavery.

With his son, Kyle, a graduate of Morehouse College and a former New York banker, and Greg’s sons, Lamont, an Auburn graduate, and Nicholas, currently attending college in Huntsville, the family business is now firmly in its fifth generation.

Carlton, another of Billy’s sons, is currently a staff member working on policy at the House Committee on Agriculture in Washington, D.C., and Troy, Billy’s oldest son, has retired from the Navy and now works for the Department of Defense. Other members of the family are also involved in the business.

The Bridgeforth family is credited for refining and reintroducing canola to north Alabama, a crop previously grown in North Dakota and Minnesota. Their research showed that it would grow well in a northern Alabama winter climate, and that there are profitable markets for the crop.

“When I think about Billy’s experience and influence and what our bank is trying to do for farmers and small-and-medium-sized business owners in our region, I can’t imagine a better fit,” said Dennis Morgan, President and CEO of First Southern Bank. “Billy’s guiding philosophy has always been one of service, and he has helped many people thrive and grow. We are humbled by his interest in working with us to continue our mission of service to the people of north Alabama. We are excited about the things we will learn from each other.”