American President A Reference Resource ↑ Ronald Wilson Reagan Front PageJohn Block (1981–1986): Secretary of AgricultureJohn Rusling Block was born in 1935 in Galesburg, Illinois. He grew up on his father’s Galesburg farm but attended school at West Point, graduating in 1957. For the next three years, Block served as a platoon leader in the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Benning, Georgia. Following his service, Block returned home to the family farm, greatly expanding the operation. He became the Illinois state secretary of agriculture in 1977, at the governor’s request, before becoming President Ronald Reagan’s secretary of agriculture in 1981. Block served until he resigned in 1986. Most recently, John Rusling Block has served as president of Food Distributors International.