William Fredrick “Fred” Woods, resident of Opelika, died Aug. 25, 2021. He was 84 years old. Woods was born Aug. 16, 1937, to Eva Wright Vaughan and William Herman Woods. He is survived by his wife, Brenda; four daughters: Lisa (Gary) Greenway of Greer, South Carolina; Candice Randall (Steve) of Roswell, Georgia; Jennifer Woods of Oakton, Virginia and Kea (Russell) Harry of Harpersville, Alabama; three sons: Dan Woods of Fairfax, Virginia; Jeff Woods of Mebane, North Carolina and Matt (Joanne) Henry of Pinson Valley, Alabama; and 11 grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his parents and his only sister, Ellen (John) Strozier, of Opelika.
Fred had a diverse career of public service, mostly in the fields of agriculture and rural policy. During his career he worked as a farmer, a legislative analyst, congressional speech writer, Alabama extension specialist, teacher, agricultural tax and public policy researcher, administrator and public policy advisor for both U.S. and foreign governments. Most of his career was spent at the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Congressional Research Service in Washington, DC, with multi-year stints in Alabama, Armenia and Trinidad.
On the occasion of his retirement from USDA in 1998, the editor of a leading national farm policy newsletter wrote “… Woods, who may have a better grasp of the politics of farm policy than anyone else still at USDA, to retire at year’s end … An Alabama native who started at Auburn, Woods was deputy administrator of USDA’s former Extension Service in 1979-82, did a tour in Armenia in 1992-93 helping the new government set up an agriculture ministry.”
After his return to Opelika in the early 2000s, he helped found the Opelika Observer, Opelika’s only locally-owned paper, a weekly newspaper serving Opelika and Lee County. He served as the Observer’s editor from 2010 through 2017.
Woods received many awards recognizing the excellence of his work both in the U.S. and internationally; but the one in which he took the most pride is the W. Fred Woods Award for Excellence in Public Policy Research and Education, established in his honor and awarded annually, since 1999, to the U. S. Department of Agriculture employee judged to have made the greatest contribution in these areas. This award, and a list of its recipients, is commemorated on a plaque on the first floor of the Jamie C. Whitten Agriculture Building in Washington, DC.
Woods was born in Opelika and was a 1955 graduate of Clift High School (now OHS). He did most of his growing up on a cotton farm north of Opelika in the Oak Bowery community. Fred received both B.S. and Master’s degrees in Agricultural Economics from Auburn University. He did additional graduate work at the American University in Washington, DC.
Woods was a long-time volunteer at the Community Market of the Food Bank of East Alabama and an active member of the First United Methodist Church of Opelika. He was a Kiwanian and served as a board member of Young Leaders of Lee County, a program of the Opelika Chamber of Commerce. He also served on the boards of the Genealogical Society of East Alabama and the Lee County Cemetery Preservation Commission.
Woods’ funeral was held on Aug. 28, 2021 at 2 p.m. at First United Methodist Church in Opelika. Visitation was held in the fellowship hall at the church from 1 to 1:45 p.m. Graveside burial at Garden Hills Cemetery followed the service.
In lieu of flowers, the family suggests contributions to the Food Bank of East Alabama or the First United Methodist Church of Opelika Building Fund or the charity of your choice in his memory.