Home Breaking News Poultry leader, former senator dies at age 91

Poultry leader, former senator dies at age 91

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By John R. Schirmer

News-Leader staff

Neely Cassady of Nashville, a former state senator and pioneer in the Southwest Arkansas poultry industry, died Saturday, Jan. 18, in Texarkana. He was 91.

Funeral services were held Monday, Jan. 20, at Immanuel Baptist Church of Nashville, where Cassady served as a deacon, trustee, Sunday School superintendent and teacher. (See obituary, page 2A.)

Cassady was elected to the Arkansas Senate in 1982. He ran unopposed for re-election three terms and served for 14 years. He was an advocate for agriculture issues throughout his tenure in the Senate.

Cassady’s role in the state’s poultry industry began when he was a teenager. At age 18, Cassady became the head of the family’s chicken hatchery, feed store and frozen food locker plant when his father died. Several years later that business, Cassady’s Hatchery, was merged with two other businesses to form Mountaire Poultry Co., which is now part of Pilgrim’s. 

After selling his share of Mountaire, he formed Cassady Broiler Co. 

In 1971, Cassady and Don Tyson formed a joint venture between Tyson Foods and Cassady Broiler Co. to build a processing plant in Nashville, forming Tyson of Nashville. 

In 1974, Cassady Broiler Co., Tyson of Nashville, and Tyson Foods merged, and Cassady served on the Tyson board of directors for 27 years. 

With the establishing and growing of those businesses, he was responsible for the creation of more than 2,000 jobs in the Nashville area. He was also involved in several other business ventures.

Cassady was inducted into the Arkansas Agriculture Hall of Fame in 2017. Master of ceremonies John Philpot told the audience about the time “18-year-old Neely Cassady took over his father’s hatchery and started to expand it into an enormous integrated poultry enterprise. He is a true pioneer in the poultry industry.”

From 1973-74, Cassady was president of the Arkansas Poultry Federation. He served 27 years on the Tyson Foods board of directors from 1974-2001.

The University of Arkansas presented the Poultry Pioneer Award to Cassady. He received a lifetime achievement award from the Nashville Chamber of Commerce and was named a Paul Harris Fellow by Rotary International. He was a member of the Nashville Rotary Club. He served on the Board of Trustees at Central Baptist College in Conway.

He was presented the Parker Westbrook Award by the Howard County Democratic Party. He was a member of Gideons International.