Industry icon” and “pioneer” are repeated over and over again by colleagues of William E. Blasingame Sr., illustrating the importance of his 60-year-plus career in pest management.
It’s humbling, yet deserving praise for a man who happened to fall into a profession that still means as much to him as it does for the thousands who benefitted from his expertise for decades.
This mutual admiration is just one reason why Blasingame, 87, was selected for induction into the Pest Management Professional (PMP) Hall of Fame, Class of 2011 — after receiving a record number of nominations.
“I like pest control people,” he said from his home in Georgia. “I like the nature of what they do. They are good folks.”
Blasingame adds that he was surprised by, and is very appreciative of, the Hall of Fame honor.
“To do something for more than 50 years, and to have your work recognized at the end of your career, it makes you feel that maybe you have accomplished something,” he said.
What Blasingame helped accomplish has had a profound and lasting impact on pest management professionals (PMPs) not only in Georgia, but around the country.
Degrees of Entomology
When he left the U.S. Navy after World War II, having worked in the medical field during his service in the Pacific, Blasingame enrolled at Atlanta’s Emory University on the GI Bill.
“At that time, everybody in the world wanted to be a doctor,” he said. After deciding that medicine wasn’t his passion, he left Emory and enrolled at the University of Georgia.
“By chance, I took an elective course on entomology,” he recalled, noting that Georgia didn’t have a full-fledged entomology program at the time. “I think we only had two teachers.”
One of those teachers, Dr. Horace Lund, had a profound impact on the young career of the budding PMP.
“We got to be very close,” Blasingame said of Lund. “He was the most influential person of my career.”
That career took off with a shot when, in 1950, he graduated from Georgia with a bachelor’s of science degree in entomology and went to work for the Georgia Department of Entomology. It was a crucial time to be a part of the pest control industry in the state.
“Back when (Blasingame) was at the department, you didn’t mind when state government got involved. They were an ally and there to help you,” recalled Rufus “Bubba” Tindol, president of Allgood Pest Solutions. “Dad always talked very highly of him.”
Tindol’s father, the late Rufus “Red” Tindol, is a fellow PMP Hall of Famer and a close friend of Blasingame.
At that time in Georgia, Tindol said, there were several “fly-by-night” pest control operators with dubious practices — and no official need to get a license to perform pest management. Blasingame helped craft and enact the legislation to “get the crooks and bad guys out of the business,” Tindol said.
To reign in unlicensed operators and establish a trust between the public and certified PMPs, Blasingame drafted the Georgia Structural Pest Control Act — and created the Georgia Structural Pest Commission as part of it. He accomplished all of this while serving as director of the state’s entomology department, beginning in 1955. Lund, his former mentor, served on the commission with him for 10 years.
“I would consider (Blasingame) a pioneer,” Tindol said. “Bill was in the business when it started to become a ‘professional’ business. Some came in kicking and screaming, but we needed to become a professional business.”
Blasingame called that time in his career the most critical.
“The most important thing I did was spend 15 years as a regulator, writing the Georgia law and overseeing its implementation and enforcement,” Blasingame stated. “It was a trying period. Regulation was new to everybody back then.”
Valera Jessee, who has been executive director of the Georgia Pest Control Association for the past 26 years, said those experiences enhanced Blasingame’s standing in the industry.
“Bill has been so involved in moving the industry forward,” she said. “He is well-known nationally for setting up what we needed in Georgia.”
That act not only set up the laws needed to regulate the industry in the state, but also served as a platform for Blasingame’s professional future.
Blasingame’s unique perspective on the industry was enhanced when he left the state and was hired in 1964 by one of the South’s oldest pest control companies, Getz Exterminators and Getz Services, where he served as vice president and technical director.
During that time, he began working in national pest management circles. He became president of the National Pest Control Association (now the National Pest Management Association, or NPMA) in 1972.
When he went to work in the very industry he helped regulate, Blasingame was able to better get to know and influence those who worked in pest management. And when he became director of services in the training and consulting division of Stephenson Chemical Co., he went from industry pioneer to icon. Everyone wanted to learn from him — and he was more than willing and able to teach them what they needed to know.
“Bill was the go-to guy,” Jessee recalled, noting one episode early in her career where she was forced to replace a key speaker who was a no-show at a conference. Blasingame was up to the challenge.
“Bill taught a couple of classes on the spur of the moment, and taught them well,” she said. “He has always been willing to step up and help in any way to grow the industry.”
That’s precisely how Rick Bell, vice president of government affairs and industry stewardship at Arrow Exterminators, recalled Blasingame, from his earliest days of being mentored by him at Stephenson Chemical in the late-1970s.
“There’s nothing he didn’t know about insects, insecticides, sprayer equipment …,” Bell said, noting that the foundation he received under Blasingame’s tutelage has been instrumental in his own success today. “I credit Bill for giving me my start.”
Blasingame left Stephenson in 1989 to begin his own pest control training and consulting business.
“He has a great sense of humor,” Tindol said. “He has a tremendous knowledge of the business, and he’s always willing to share this knowledge. He was a good instructor. He always kept the class light and laughing a little bit.”
Bell agreed, noting that people were always lined up after training to talk to Blasingame, and he would stay until he talked to the last person in line.
“He absolutely understood the synergy of making learning fun,” he added. “And he could talk to any audience. If he had a room full of Ph.D.s, he’d talk about the science; if he had a room full of technicians, he’d talk to them about their jobs.”
Behind the legend
Blasingame and his wife, Sarah, live in McDonough, Ga., with their son, Bill Jr. and his family.
“He is the most laid-back, kindest person you’d ever want to meet,” said his son, Bill Blasingame Jr., who followed in his father’s footsteps and is general manager and technical director at Baccus Exterminators, his uncle’s company. “He has a great sense of humor, he’s even-keeled and he’s willing to do whatever is needed — a very steady personality. I have never heard him yell, except at Georgia football games.”
The younger Blasingame noted his father’s primary focus now is not on work, but on his wife of 65 years, who after a stroke a couple years ago is mostly confined to a wheelchair.
“Dad is at her beck and call,” he said, noting his father is truly humbled to be included with professionals the caliber of our PMP Hall of Famers.
“Dad’s not boastful, that’s for doggone sure,” he said. “This really ‘got him,’ to be part of this group.”
His bride, though, minces no words about his induction.
“He absolutely deserves it,” Sarah Blasingame said. “I went to enough meetings with him I feel I could be an entomologist. It was a great life.”
It was a life that, at the capper of a career, Blasingame said he “couldn’t have done without her.”
The Blasingames have two children, five grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.