James A. Nelson (2012)

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Jim Nelson was the editor and publisher of what we know today as Pest Management Professional (PMP) magazine from 1948 to1967. This makes Nelson one of the longest-serving staffers in the nearly 80-year history of the magazine.

However, longevity didn’t get Nelson elected to Pest Management Professional’s Hall of Fame. In fact, he was elected because of the professionalism and knowledge he brought to the pest control industry during a time — the 1950s and ’60s — when pest management professionals (PMPs) were searching for a stronger industry identity and information that would allow them to do their jobs better.

Taking the reins

Nelson bought a magazine that was called Pests and Their Control from founder and Hall of Famer Al Cossetta in 1948. It had made its debut as Exterminator’s Log 15 years earlier, then changed to Pests in August 1938. Pests and Their Control became the name in June 1939. In 1949 Nelson changed the magazine’s name to Pest Control. (In 2007, the name was changed to Pest Management Professional.)

In his first issue, Nelson clearly defined exactly what he intended to do with the magazine: “Under your new editor’s guidance, Pests plans to give you a broader coverage of the whole pest control field. You will find more extensive reports of the latest control measures, of research by prominent entomologists, of government rulings, of opinions of leaders in our field, and all other developments in the industry that might prove valuable.

“Pests and Their Control will extend and broaden its field as we develop our new plans and work together, it will become more valuable as your news and reference magazine.” And throughout the
next 19 years, it did exactly that.

Nelson brought a new series of informative features to the magazine. Pest Control reported on regional and national conventions. An industry standard for accounting procedures was provided by a graduate of the Harvard Business School and sponsored in the magazine.

Pest Control published illustrations for the identification of pests by the damage they do and took the lead with articles focusing on the business side of the industry. Safety, equipment maintenance and realistic pricing were given attention.

With a monthly section called “Termites and Other Enemies of Wood,” the magazine recognized termite control as a major industry segment. Pest Control also published a monthly infestation report to let professionals know what pest trouble spots were occurring throughout the country.

Pest Control was selected by the U.S. Public Health Service for its recommendations about pesticides of public health importance. The magazine continued to increase circulation. In 1938 Pests and Their Control had a circulation of 550. By 1957, the circulation was more than 5,000. The magazine’s circulation (as PMP) continued to thrive, reaching more than 20,000 recently.

Nelson’s influence does not end there.

In 1961, Nelson oversaw the publishing of the Purdue University Correspondence Course, designed to further technicians’ education about pest biology, behavior and control. During the 18 months that followed, course chapters were published in the magazine.

The chapters, written by Hall of Famer Dr. Lee Truman and William Butts, were combined into what’s now called Truman’s Scientific Guide to Pest Control Operations, which has become the go-to textbook of the industry.

Scientific Guide is in its seventh edition. Purdue entomologist Dr. Gary Bennett, another member of the magazine’s Hall of Fame, is the
driving force behind the book, which has has reached more than 150,000 during its 50-year history.

The Purdue University Correspondence Course and Truman’s Scientific Guide to Pest Control Operations enhance
industry knowledge.

Ink in his blood

Nelson ran his own printing business while attending high school and at Hiram College, where he earned his Bachelor of Art degree in 1942. He worked on the Hiram College and small-town newspapers.

One of Nelson’s biggest supporters was Purdue University entomologist Dr. John Osmun — another Hall of Famer. By the 25th anniversary of the magazine, Nelson owned the magazine for 10 years. Osmun showed his appreciation to Nelson in a letter:

“Editor Jim, you have done wonders for Pest Control. It is also significant that you have contributed much to pest control as a growing industry. Just as the industry has
called on technical men to guide its ascent towards a profession, the magazine has prospered under the direction of a trained journalist.”

In 1967, Nelson sold Pest Control magazine to the Harvest Publishing Co. (a Cleveland-based firm), but remained active in the industry through Pi Chi Omega, the industry’s international professional
fraternity. He became its first executive director in 1974.

Nelson died in 1997, followed by his wife, Marcella, in 2010. There’s no question he played a significant role moving the pest management industry toward professionalism. His influence gives PMPs many reasons to be appreciative.

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