Photo of Lester Killebrew, Sr.

Lester Killebrew, Sr.

Abbeville native Lester Killebrew arrived at Auburn University in 1963 intent on becoming an engineer, and in June 1968, graduated with an industrial engineering degree.

The son of a Massey Ferguson dealer, Killebrew grew up in the farm equipment business, and in 1969, the young Auburn engineering alumnus took out a $5,000 loan, opened Henry Farm Center in a building in his hometown, and became a certified John Deere dealer. Within five years, the business had outgrown its location and was breaking ground on a new facility. Killebrew’s solid reputation as a sincere and highly trustworthy agribusinessman combined with the John Deere brand spelled success.

The 1980s brought a struggling farm economy. As producers faced 20 percent interest rates and sky-high inflation, Henry Farm Center’s equipment sales plummeted, and Killebrew knew he had to find other income sources. Computers were the answer.

The first personal computers had just appeared on the market, and Killebrew was convinced the home computer was going to catch on with farmers. Subsequently, he started ValCom, a computer and telecommunications company based inside Henry Farm Center, pulling him and his John Deere dealership through those worst of times. Today, ValCom Wireless and Killebrew’s CCS Technology Center provide service as well as products.

In 1994, Killebrew acquired two other John Deere dealerships in Alabama’s Wiregrass region, and took a lead in merger talks. Those discussions culminated in 2006 when Henry Farm Center and four other dealerships merged to form SunSouth LLC, with Killebrew as chairman of the Board.

Killebrew has served in leadership roles in a number of organizations, including president of the Alabama Agribusiness Council, a member of the Business Council of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta and the Alabama Board of Agriculture and Industries. As an active member in his church and community, Killebrew gave 22 years of service as a board member of the City of Abbeville.

Killebrew and his wife, Catherine, have three children: two sons and a daughter. Killebrew is a runner and, in his free time, enjoys restoring antique cars and tractors.