RG 30/260 - Raymond T. Moyer

PAPERS, 1921-1992, 1999-2000
 
BIOGRAPHY
 

Raymond Tyson Moyer, agricultural reformer, internationalist, and progressive citizen, devoted most of his life to advance the socio-economic status of Asians. Living almost exclusively in Asia for nearly fifty years, Moyer directly and indirectly helped millions of Asians through the aid the U.S. provided for economical, technological, and agricultural purposes. At Ming Hsien School in Taiku, Shansi Province, China, as an Oberlin Shansi representative (1921-1923) and as head of the agricultural department (1927-1941), Moyer learned how to assist the local peoples, seek cooperation with the foreign community, and develop methods to improve peoplesı lives. His experiences in China prompted American government officials to seek Moyerıs advice, especially during the critical post-World War II and Cold War periods. Government assignments (1943-1968) took Moyer to China, Taiwan (formerly Formosa), Korea, and Afghanistan, as well as other Far East nations.

Raymond Moyer was born on August 20, 1899, in Lansdale, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, to Samuel and Emma Jane Moyer. The eighth child of eleven, Moyer grew up in a nineteen room home his father, a country doctor, built on the family farm. It was on the farm that Moyer first became interested in agriculture. Even though he enjoyed agriculture, Moyer entered Oberlin College in 1917 as a pre-med major. Despite his desire to become a doctor like his father, Moyer said in his personnel account entitled Beyond Yesterday: America in a Changing World, "I felt drawn toward some sort of service work overseas." At the end of his senior year in 1921, the Oberlin Shansi Memorial Association (OSMA) named Moyer as a student representative to serve a two year term in Shansi Province, China, at the Ming Hsien school. Here, he taught English and headed the physical education and athletics programs. In April 1985 in a Oberlin Shansi Memorial Association newsletter, Moyer admitted, "Virtually everything I did after being a rep started with my Shansi experience."

Following his two years of service as an Oberlin Shansi representative, Moyer returned to the United States to pursue graduate education. Prior to his enrollment in graduate school, Moyer worked as Student Secretary with the YMCA in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (1923-25). His knowledge of Shansi Province, his concern for the plight of the farmers, and his budding interest in agriculture, led OSMA to name Moyer head of the new agricultural department at Ming Hsien in 1927; he held this post until 1941. In preparation for his new assignment, Moyer received a fellowship from the OSMA to study agriculture. He attended Colorado State Agricultural College (1925-1926), Fort Collins, Colorado, and Cornell University (1927), Ithaca, New York. After graduating in 1927 from Cornell with a master's degree in agriculture, Moyer and his new wife, Dorothy, set out for Taiku, China, to begin an agricultural program aimed at improving the farming methods of rural Shansi province.

Out of these combined experiences, Moyer established himself as a leading Asian agricultural reformer. At Ming Hsien, Moyer studied and built upon the techniques and long-standing agricultural traditions of Shansi farmers. Moyer tried many different plant breeding methods, introduced and tested fruit varieties, improved animal husbandry, and created more efficient and effective farm implements. Between 1928 and 1941, Moyer imported leghorn chickens and Rambouillet rams, tested 25,000 heads of wheat, millet, and sorghum, and helped develop industry to produce plows, cultivators, and corn shellers. In 1939, Moyer returned to the United States to finish his Ph.D. work at Cornell University. Upon receiving his doctorate in agronomy in 1941, Moyer returned to China. Trapped in Hong Kong en route to Shansi Province in December 1941, the Japanese army interned Moyer and other Westerners for six months. World War II effectively ended Moyerıs formal relationship with the Ming Hsien school, but his expertise in Chinese agriculture soon cast him in new roles in Asia and the U.S.

Upon returning to the U.S. in mid-1942, Moyer worked in a variety of capacities for the federal government over the next eight years. From 1945 to 1947, as a Head of the Office of the Far East division of Agricultural Relations, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Moyer studied agricultural and food conditions of the Far East for use by the U.S. military. In 1946-1947, Moyer investigated the economic aspects of agriculture policies in China and other Far East nations, seeking ways to improve them. These appointments led President Harry S. Truman to appoint Moyer to the Sino-American Joint Commission on Rural Reconstruction (JCRR) in 1948.

Joined by John Earl Baker and three Chinese on the JCRR, Moyer tackled many of Chinaıs post-World War II economic needs. The commission conducted a multi-faceted plan to improve agricultural production, marketing, and processing; farm tenancy; local government administration; rural health; and, social education. However, the commissionıs primary focus was to develop ways to improve the Chinese Nationalistsı weak political grasp on rural China, which suffered immensely from war with the Japanese and Communists during the 1930s and 1940s. By November 1949, the Communists conquered mainland China, and the JCRR followed the Nationalists to Taiwan to continue its reform program. In 1950 and 1951, Moyer, who worked concurrently with the JCRR and as director of the U.S. Economic Aid Mission in Taiwan, helped implement radical land reform. This program reduced rent paid to landowners from tenants and returned land to farmers. In 1951, Moyer left Taiwan for the United States proud of his accomplishments.

During the 1950s, Moyer continued to develop his commitment to economic reform by working for the Ford Foundation and the International Cooperation Administration (ICA). After serving two years (1951-1953) at the Ford Foundation, Moyer became a regional director of the U.S. Foreign Operations Administration, under the ICA, to strengthen the economies of nations in the eastern and southeastern part of Asia. Using American aid, and private foreign and local capital, Moyer sought to rebuild infrastructure, develop new industries, and improve agriculture. This economic assistance, Moyer believed, would stimulate activity to fulfill a nationıs needs without further aid, encourage trade with neighboring countries, provide technology to mobilize resources, and contain the spread of communism. In 1959, when the ICA appointed Moyer to a two-year term as director of the U.S. Economic Aid Mission in South Korea, his work continued on a smaller scale. At this time, Moyer witnessed a divided nation struggling with sweeping change, including new-found democracy, modernization, and recovery from the Korean War (1950-1953). Moyer helped reinforce the economy of South Korea to promote internal political and social stability, enabling the nation to support its military. In 1962, Moyer retired and returned to the United States.

Wooed out of retirement in 1964, Moyer relocated to Afghanistan as a member of the J.G. White Engineering Corporation (New York City) to develop the economy of the Helmand Valley region. Specifically, the Moyer-led team assisted the Helmand Valley Authority (founded in 1959) in preparing plans for expanding agricultural production, developing agricultural processing industries, improving management and supply practices, and creating training programs. In 1966, he transferred to the U.S. Economic Agency in Afghanistan, under the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), to serve as assistant director. Continuing the programs begun by the J.G. White Corporation, Moyer worked to increase crop yields, improve irrigation, and foster cooperation between Americans and Afghans in the Helmand Valley. In 1968, at the age of 69, Moyer retired again and moved to Marylandıs Catoctin Mountains.

In 1927, Moyer married Dorothy Brown Tschiffely (1904-1989), whom he met while a student at Colorado State Agricultural College in 1925. Dorothy and the children often traveled and lived with Moyer while in Asia. The Moyers raised three daughters; Susan Moyer Breed (1930- ) and Ann Moyer Scharff (1931-, Oberlin College, A.B. 1953) were born at the mission hospital at Taiku, and Joan Moyer Root (1928-, Oberlin College, A.B. 1950 ) was born in Peking. The girls lived in China until 1941. Dorothy accompanied her husband on his later assignments in Taiwan, Korea, and Afghanistan.

During his career spanning five decades, Moyer received many honorary degrees and awards. In 1953, Oberlin College awarded Moyer a doctor of science degree, and in 1961, he received a doctor of laws degree from Seoul (Korea) National University. In 1968, Moyer accepted the Order of Propitious Clouds for his contribution to Taiwanıs social and economic development. In addition, Moyer was active in several professional and academic organizations. He belonged to the American Society for Agronomy, Soil Science Society of the United States, and Sigma Xi. Over the years, Moyer offered encouragement and financial support to the Oberlin Shansi Memorial Association.

In retirement, Moyer received a well-deserved rest and a chance to finish his personnel account covering his most of his professional career. Taking over twenty years to write, Beyond Yesterday: America in a Changing World was published posthumously by his family in 1995. Moyer described his purpose for writing the book in the Preface, "the whole book is personal history: a record of how one individual set about his quest for answers to the questions and concerns that trouble us all. Beyond Yesterday, therefore, is directed to all of those who, like myself, are concerned and searching for the means to a better tomorrow. " In 1993, at the age of 94, Moyer passed away at his home in Stonington, Connecticut.

Major Professional Positions:

1921-1923 Shansi Representative, Oberlin College
1927-1941 Head, Agricultural Dept., Ming Hsien School, Taiku, Shansi, China
1945-1947 Head, Far East Division, Office of Agricultural Relations, U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, Washington, D.C.
1948-1951 Member of Joint Commission on Rural Reconstruction (JCRR), China and Taiwan.
1950-1951 Concurrently, Director of U.S. Economic Aid Mission in Taiwan
1951-1953 Deputy Director Overseas Activities, Ford Foundation, Pasadena, California
1953-1959 Regional Director, Far East Operations, Foreign Operations Administration Washington, D.C.
1959-1961 Director, U.S. Economic Aid Mission, Korea
1964-1967 Head of advisory group under J.G. White Engineering Corp. in Afghanistan. In 1966, transferred to the U.S. Economic Agency to oversee operations in the Helmand Valley.

Sources Consulted:

Campfield, Mary. Oberlin-in-China, 1851-1951. Thesis (Ph.D.), University of Virginia, 1974.

Judd, Miriam B. "Hope for Rural China," Oberlin Alumni Magazine 44 (November 1948): 2, 15.

Moyer, Raymond T. "America and the Post-War World: Our Role in East Asia." Oberlin Alumni Magazine 39 (September-October 1942): 5-7.

Moyer, Raymond T. Beyond Yesterday: America In A Changing World. [United States]: The author, c. 1995.

Oberlin College Archives. Record Group 15. Oberlin Shansi Memorial Association.

Oberlin College Archives. Record Group 28. Alumni File, Raymond T. Moyer.