By Brenda Eubanks Burnette
This month marks a milestone for the Florida Citrus Hall of Fame in several areas. First, it will mark 60 years of honoring the contributions of industry leaders. Second, the 200th member, George Hamner Jr. of Vero Beach, was inducted. In honor of these milestones, a book titled “Florida’s Citrus Pioneers: Shaping a State”has been prepared on all 201 members who will be in the Hall of Fame as of this 60th year.
In researching all of the inductees over the last several years, I’ve been down numerous “rabbit holes” that have led to some interesting stories and facts. Most recently, I came across an ad that featured a letter from L.C. Edwards Jr. and Sr. of Pasco Packing Association, regarding their experience with the International Harvesting Company.
The letter states in part that “We would like to tell you about the record we made with Internationals last season, which we don’t believe has ever been equaled by any fleet of motor trucks. As you know, we purchased from you last year six model CS-40 Internationals of 3-ton capacity, to be used with semi-trailers … With these six Internationals and semi-trailers, we transported from our packinghouse in Dade City to the steamship lines in Jacksonville over 400,000 boxes of packed citrus fruit. At the end of the season, the total mileage on these six trucks was 555,247 miles, ranging from 80,000 to 102,000 miles on each truck. The total cost for repairs due to natural wear was only $93.77 for the six trucks. The trucks operated under continuous strain. Every truck has carried the maximum load on every trip as allowed by our state law, which is 34,000 pounds gross.”
Wow! I’m not sure they make them like that anymore. I found it even more interesting, though, that both men are in the Hall of Fame, as well as L.C. Edwards Sr.’s other son, Bill. Talk about talent!
Lamarcus C. Edwards Sr. was born in Warrenton, Georgia, in 1870 and entered the lumber business in Dothan, Alabama, with his brother-in-law D.C. Lee. They eventually moved to Florida and established the Lee and Edwards packing company in Dade City in 1936. Edwards was a member of the Florida Citrus Exchange, serving a short term as president and helped found the Tampa Union Terminal, which later became the Gulf Florida Terminal.
He and son Mark (Lamarcus, Jr.), joined with three others, including his nephew L.C. Hawes, to build a new packinghouse in 1937. The Pasco Packing Company shipped 250,000 boxes in its first year of operation and eventually became the largest packinghouse of its kind in the world. They converted a milk bottling machine to can juice and went from shipping 60,000 cases in its first year to juice becoming the company’s primary product.
At the age of three, William Ferguson “Bill” Edwards was introduced to the Florida citrus industry when his father decided to use his photograph for the “Billy Boy” label on the company’s fresh packed fruit. Bill started in the company as a fruit buyer and steadily rose to the position of executive vice president. He was an industry giant in marketing and product development and was appointed by four different governors to serve on the Florida Citrus Commission. He served for six terms — a total of 18 years, including a stint as vice chairman. He also served as president of the Florida Canners’ Association, vice president of the National Juice Products Association and was a member of the Joint Citrus Industry Legislative Committee.
Three lifetimes of accomplishments were sparked by a simple ad, but so much more history to their stories has been lost. We are indeed grateful for the foresight of the first Florida Citrus Hall of Fame committee that decided to honor our industry leaders by telling the world about their accomplishments! So, as we celebrate our 60th anniversary, please help us preserve our industry history before your story, too, is lost over the years.
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.
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