Three Chosen for 2022 Citrus Hall of Fame
by HEATHER MACHOVINA
The Florida Citrus Hall of Fame honors prominent leaders in the Florida citrus industry who have made significant contributions to its resilience and sustainability. The Selection Committee recently announced three individuals —one living, two deceased — to be inducted later this year.
George F. Hamner, Jr.
Hamner will be the 200th inductee to the Florida Citrus Hall of Fame. Hailing from Vero Beach, Hamner has been known as a major force in the fresh segment industry of Florida citrus for more than 40 years. He has been an active leader bridging the gaps between state and federal agencies, allowing governmental, regulatory, grower, and shipper communities to successfully come together to benefit the industry overall. Hamner has volunteered his time in many organizations and held positions including president of Florida Citrus Packers, president of Florida Citrus Mutual, president and board member of Indian River Citrus League, and chairman of Citrus Administrative Committee. His commitment to the citrus industry is steadfast. He has arranged meetings and hosted trade missions, international regulatory review teams, and emergency response investigators to be sure the industry maintains viability. After NAFTA went into effect in the ’90s, Hamner was president of Florida Citrus Mutual and assisted in changing the organization’s stated purpose toward becoming the lead lobbying team for Florida citrus in state and federal arenas. His knowledge of the rules and regulations surrounding the fresh segment of the citrus industry gave him an integral role in updating those regulations and modernizing the industry. He was the energy pushing for the development of the PIQ program, which expanded sales, saved millions of dollars in inspection fees for growers, and still maintained high-quality standards.
Tillis Edwards, Jr.
Edwards spent his life as a Florida citrus man with deep roots in Lakeland. Working for his father’s citrus business, Edwards-Pritchett-Tillis, Inc., he began going door-to-door at the age of 18, buying backyard citrus varieties. This single business expanded over the years into a vertically integrated conglomerate allowing them to have direct ownership of various stages of the production process instead of relying on other companies. By the 1960s, Edwards was a well-known name across the citrus industry for their work in harvesting, handling, packing, processing, and growing citrus. During his career, Edwards was known as the president of Edwards Packing Co., vice president of Florida Sip, Inc., a citrus processing plant in Plant City, and managed over 1,000 acres of citrus groves as the vice president of Edwards Groves, Inc. His dedication to the industry continued through his positions as either president or vice president in important industry organizations like Florida Orange Marketers, Quality Orange Marketers, H.P. Hood & Sons, and Intermediate Harvesters, and Handlers Association. His work as a member of the Florida Fresh Citrus Shippers Association and the Cotton Exchange Board led to the establishment of orange juice as a trade commodity on the exchange. Edwards was appointed to the Florida Citrus Commission (FCC) in 1967 and became a member of the FCC’s Disney World Committee in 1969, where he played a large part in securing the Disney promotional agreement. This was a huge event for the citrus industry, leading to the creation of The Orange Bird, who went on to be a prominent figure for the Walt Disney Company and FCC.
Edward A. Taylor
Taylor was a huge builder of citrus marketing. He was responsible for well-known marketing campaigns like the “breakfast without orange juice is like a day without sunshine” slogan and the Florida Sunshine Tree symbol, which was home to the Florida Orange Bird. He paired recording star Anita Bryant with the famous, orange-feathered mascot creating one of the most-watched and entertaining advertising campaigns of the 1970s.
As the first executive director of the Florida Department of Citrus (FDOC) who had professional marketing experience, Taylor enacted programs based on market research and analysis that more than doubled citrus sales in 15 years; from 108 million boxes of citrus in 1963 to 235 million boxes in 1978. His knack for marketing led to FDOC sponsoring the Sunshine Pavilion at Disney World, costing $3 million, and the creation of the Orange Bird mascot, representing the newly formed Florida Citrus Commission. Taylor also established large marketing programs that included serving Florida orange juice in schools and McDonald’s offering orange juice on their breakfast menu for the first time. He began marketing Florida grapefruit and frozen concentrated orange juice internationally through a third-party cooperation plan that still exists today. When Taylor left his FDOC position in 1978, Florida citrus had one of the highest recognition factors in the food industry making it a staple in diets around the world.