Earl “Duke” Crittenden (1930-2009)
Crittenden Fruit Company, Inc.
Silver Springs Cooperative
Florida Citrus Mutual
Earl Crittenden was born on August 30, 1930 in Orlando, Florida. Crittenden graduated from the University of Florida in 1953 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Agriculture. After leaving school, Crittenden started his lifelong career in citrus by working with Shine Hardman. In 1959, at the age of 29, he started Crittenden Fruit Company, Inc., which would eventually expand into one of the biggest fresh citrus companies in Florida.
Crittenden sold his company in 1983 but maintained his ownership of his family’s citrus groves. He also helped lead the Silver Springs Citrus co-operative until the operation was sold in 1984. Crittenden’s contemporaries credited him with making the Silver Springs Citrus Co-op technologically advanced and praised his efforts to get more Northeastern processors to look to Florida for their concentrate. Crittenden was known in the citrus industry for the quote “What can I and Florida do to increase sales.” He often visited citrus-growing regions around the world, from Europe to Brazil to the Caribbean, to study and compare the methods of other growers. Crittenden believed whole-heartedly in the enduring quality of Florida Citrus, and often said that the state’s groves and processing plants were the best in the world.
Over the course of his career, Crittenden would hold many important committee positions in an effort to further Florida citrus. He served as a member of the Florida Citrus Commission, the Florida Citrus Sports Association, Florida Citrus Mutual, Seald-Sweet Growers, Citrus Central Inc., and chaired the Growers Administrative Committee. Crittenden devoted much of his time to a number of diverse organizations, including Boards of the Central Florida Fair, the Elks Club, the Orange County Regional History Center, and the Lake Highland Preparatory School Foundation. Crittenden also made a significant impact on state politics, serving as the Chairman of the Republican Party of Florida from 1969 to 1970. Finally, Crittenden was famous as a passionate fan of the Florida Gators. He devoted much of his time and resources to his alma mater and served as a member of the board of the University of Florida Foundation, a charter member of the University of Florida Bull Gators, and the president of the University of Florida Gator Boosters.
Crittenden passed away in August 31 of 2009. The Florida Citrus Hall of Fame is proud to induct Earl M. “Duke” Crittenden, who left behind a well-earned legacy as an ambassador and student of the citrus industry.