Spotlight: David Horner, farmer and public servant

David Horner Impacts Farming and Community in Boone County

By Erin Martise

Posted April 20, 2022 — The patio of David Horner’s home in southern Columbia displays small decorative pieces of cows, tractors and insects.

At 100 years old, Horner has spent 76 in Boone County working in farming, education, weather service, city government and hospital reform.

On October 22, 2021, Horner was inducted into the Boone County Historical Society’s Hall of Fame at a Gala in Columbia.

David Horner Sr. chats with his youngest son David Horner Jr. at his table at the Gala Friday, Oct. 22 in Columbia, Mo. where he was inducted into the Boone County Historic Society’s Hall of Fame. Many of his family members came from out of town to attend the event and recognize his impact on the community.

Born in 1921, Horner was born and raised in St. Louis. After serving in the Air Force during World War II, he moved with his wife Win to Huntsdale, Missouri in 1946 with hopes of starting a better life for himself and for his growing family. 

Horner began a family farm that was around 600 acres. He said at the time, it was a standard operation for the area. 

“The crops would have been corn, soybeans, wheat, clover, hay, and then livestock or beef cattle, and just enough milk cows for our family.” Horner said. “It was a cow and calf project. I raised calves usually to about 600 pounds…”

As someone who grew up interested in farming and farm animals, Horner learned the practice of farming on his own once in Boone County to support his growing family. 

“The farming was central to my life,” Horner said. “I was active in farming in this county for about 75 years.”

His daughter, Win Grace, remembers it being a hard time on their farm on Sugar Grove Road in Columbia and what it was like growing up in the Boone County area.

“He was doing a lot of shift work,” Grace said. “He would work all night and then come home and work on the farm all day, and we were supposed to be quiet … while he slept during the day. With four young kids, it was not good.”

Horner worked with crops and cattle during his farming career until he was 98. In 2019, he sold his cows and leased his land.

“I have some pride in the fact that land is much better than it was when we took it over,” Horner said.

Like many other farmers in the area who needed extra income at the time, Horner worked away from the farm as well. In his case, he worked for the National Weather Service for 27 years from 1954 until 1981.

“I mean he was good at it, it was not his favorite thing.” His daughter explained. “He just wanted to farm full time, but you know, it was not making any money.”

Horner described his family that grown to generations, some still living in Boone County today. 

“So I got four [children], and my grandchildren, seven … youngest is about 31, and then three, about to be four, great grandchildren. That’s kind of the family. Raising a family is an experience like no other,” Horner said.

Keeping his family close to him has been one of Horner’s main focuses, now living alone, widowed, in a Columbia independent living facility. His wife Win died in 2014.

At the Gala on Friday, Oct. 22, Merril Horner takes a photo of Horner, his sons on either side of him, David and Richard, and his grandson, John Horner in Columbia, Mo. Horner takes pride in his big family consisting of four children, seven grandchildren and three, about to be four, great-grandchildren.

As Horner continues to make a name for himself by being recognized in today’s Boone County community, his past efforts will not be forgotten. 

“This is somebody that has given his life to this community, has raised some amazing kids and grandkids, and is the kind of person that anybody would want to know and to emulate,” Boone County Commissioner Janet Thompson said.

A portion of Horner’s time in Boone County was spent in the Boone County Commissioner’s office. During his years as a Boone County Commissioner, he was involved in the initiative to pass a bond issue to build the Boone County Jail and the management contract between the Boone County Center and BJC HealthCare, according to an April 1, 2021 Columbia Missourian article. The contract ended in 2021 after 32 years, the article reports.

Commissioner Thompson recalled as commissioners she and Horner brainstormed solutions to issues facing the Boone County community together. Thompson witnessed Horner’s impact on the community outside of his reform efforts as well.

“He’s a person of enormous integrity,” Thompson said. “He’s a person of enormous intellect, and he’s one of the kindest people on the face of the earth.”

Hear David Horner talk about his career in the National Weather Service:

This report was created by MU School of Journalism students Marta Mieze, Erin Martise, Ellie Lin and Amy Schaffer as a part of a MU School of Journalism Newsroom Content Creation class in partnership with The page was designed by Ellie Lin.

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