By Brenda Eubanks Burnette
In the 1940 Annual Citrus Edition of Orlando’s The Sunday Sentinel-Star, the “No. 1 Citrus Man of the Year” was Spessard L. Holland. The citrus industry article reads as follows:
“SMALL GROWER ELECTED GOVERNOR — Pledged to keep partisan politics out of the Florida Citrus Commission and the administration of the state’s citrus laws, Spessard L. Holland of Bartow, when he takes the oath of office next January, will truly be Florida’s first real citrus governor. A grower in his own right, owning some 40 acres of the better varieties, he has specialized in citrus laws, both state and federal, for many years and during his eight years in the State Senate, representing his native Polk County. He has either sponsored or aided in the passage of practically all the beneficial citrus legislation — including the nine basic acts which set up the Florida Citrus Commission. He has many excellent contacts in all the citrus producing states of the nation and understands their problems. Born and raised in the citrus belt, a grower himself, he is expected by the rank and file of the growers and shippers to help them solve their problems.”
A year later, the same publication lauded Gov. Holland’s accomplishments, noting that “not because he is the owner of vast tracks of citrus studded land and because he owns batteries of packinghouses, but because he talks and thinks in terms of citrus, because he took the growers’ vital problems under his wing and developed a set of citrus laws that will mean millions to the producers in the years to come.”
The article went on to say, “He owns no packing plants, no canning houses but he does have a deep interest in things citrus and in the prosperity and welfare of thousands of his grower and shipper friends and in the future development of the Florida agricultural destiny.”
Holland’s father was a pioneer citrus grower, setting out one of the earliest groves in Polk County in 1882. The article referenced that fact: “As a boy he, who was destined to become governor of the state, worked on his father’s farm and grove near Bartow and from then on always had an active interest and stake in citrus and general agriculture.”
The article closed with the following: “The governor wasted no time after he assumed office. In the Legislature of 1939, he sponsored the entire program of grove legislation at the request of the Florida Citrus Growers, Incorporated, which was comprised of more than 7,000 producers from the citrus belt of Florida.
“Governor Holland also named the Citrus Commission composed of men well qualified to assume such highly responsible jobs, men whose keen insight into the citrus game guarantees the most and best for the industry.
“It is the intention of the governor to continue to give citrus his close attention as well as agriculture in general, feeling that it constitutes a major portion of the state’s economic backbone and will in the future assume even greater dimensions in the state’s march to larger fields of endeavor.”
For his foresight and “dynamic approach to the problems of the growers,” Holland was inducted into the Florida Citrus Hall of Fame in 1971.
Brenda Eubanks Burnette is executive director of the Florida Citrus Hall of Fame. Pieces of the Past is presented in partnership with Florida Southern College’s McKay Archives Center in Lakeland.
Play a Part in Preserving Citrus History
Do you have any photos, memorabilia or stories you’d like to share or donate to the Citrus Archives? Contact Brenda@BurnetteandAssociates.com. Visit the Florida Citrus Hall of Fame website to view citrus industry videos, photos, postcards and citrus labels.
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