Skip to main content


Portal to open new Bill Brown Ag Building Sept.19, 6:30 p.m.
Posted 9/16/19

Portal to open new Bill Brown Ag Building Sept. 19, 6:30 p.m.
Funded by E-SPLOST; Annual FFA Livestock Show begins at 7 p.m.


Bill Brown Agriculture BuildingPortal Middle High School will dedicate its new Bill Brown Agricultural Building on Thursday, September 19, at 6:30 p.m., on the school's campus, prior to its inaugural event, the annual Portal FFA Livestock Show. At a cost of nearly $650,000, the new building replaces two former ag facilities: the original Portal agricultural building and the Bill Brown Livestock Barn. The new building will continue the school’s tradition of providing agricultural education programs.


The facility was made possible through Bulloch County Schools' current education special local option sales tax (E-SPLOST). The project was proposed by school administrators and was identified as one of the first-tier focus projects by members of both the Facilities and E-SPLOST IV committees appointed by the Bulloch County Board of Education. Both community committees listed the project as a top-20 priority when they made recommendations to the Board for how to best invest local E-SPLOST funds. 


The school broke ground on the new 10,151 sq. ft. facility on March 8. James W. Buckley & Associates of Swainsboro, designed the project, and they consulted for several months with Portal administrators, faculty, and members of the community to develop final plans which would best meet the needs of students and their livestock.  Dr. Tom Marshall, PMHS’s agriculture teacher and FFA advisor, also helped guide the project's design. Pope Construction of Statesboro was approved by the Board of Education to build the facility at a cost of $647,777.  


"Agriculture is a vital and integral part of the Portal community," Dr. Tom Marshall said at the facility's groundbreaking on March 8. "Moving forward, we are excited about the opportunities this new facility will afford.  While livestock showing will be its primary function, there are unlimited and creative possibilities for the engagement of student learning and community involvement. The students I taught in the early 90s who showed livestock in this barn are now bringing their children to do the same thing.  The young people involved in livestock today will be bringing their children and grandchildren here to this new facility for many years to come."


Previous Portal Ag Building History
The Bill Brown Agricultural Building sits on the former site of Portal's first agricultural building, which was removed to build the new facility.  The original building was built in 1947.  It served as an agriculture classroom and shop from 1947 to 2010, when the new Portal Middle High School was built.  


Initially, young men of the Portal community welded, repaired machinery, did woodworking, studied forestry and animal science and participated in FFA activities. In those early years, the students also operated a canning plant out of the shop in the summer.  The National FFA Organization did not admit female members until 1969, and since that time their involvement and success in agriculture and FFA leadership has grown tremendously.


Bill Brown Livestock Barn History
The new Bill Brown Agricultural Building is not the first structure at Portal Middle High to be named for Bill Brown. Just down the hill from the new Bill Brown Agricultural Building once sat the Bill Brown Livestock Barn. It was constructed in 1986 by Portal’s former Ag Teacher, Dr. Sam Bowen, his agricultural students, and members of the community, with additional improvements made in the early 1990s. It served the school for 33 years. Several generations of students exhibited their cattle, hogs, sheep and goats in the barn. Many of their children are now carrying on that tradition and keeping agricultural education as a strong, viable program at Portal Middle High.


The former Bill Brown Livestock Barn was removed from the Portal Middle High School campus during construction of the Bill Brown Agricultural Building.  Roy Thompson, of TMT Farm Christmas Lights, removed the barn, and he is has reconstructed it on the farm as one of the featured Bulloch County landmarks along his attraction's Christmas light driving tour. 

Who was Bill Brown?
Bill Brown was a leader in Bulloch County agriculture for 37 years. His accomplishments as an ag educator, led him to be inducted into the Georgia Agricultural Educators Hall of Fame, which is sponsored by alumni of the Georgia Chapter of the National FFA Organization. Bill Brown passed away in 1992.


He was an agricultural education teacher at Portal Middle High School 19 years and in Appling County for two years. He became the first advisor for the Bulloch County Young Farmer Chapter, a chapter that grew into Georgia's largest chapter. He would continue as its advisor for 18 years. This chapter went on to produce three state presidents. 


In the classroom he provided students with the necessary knowledge and skills to overhaul engines, paint tractors and trucks, weld, and woodworking. He was also known as a "semi-pro"
veterinarian. A spin-off of his diversified ag program was the creation of a school maintenance crew.

Brown also coached basketball for 18 years and started a Boy Scout chapter in Portal.

During his life, he positively impacted many students’ lives by providing them needed clothing, spending money, or even a home when necessary. One of his former students once said, "My knowledge of life, living and, hopefully, becoming someone who was known by the good they have done for others came from seeing a man on a teacher's salary give so much to so many."