James Richard Graves, Jr. (1938)
Started out running the harvesting operations and proceeding to secretary and treasurer from 1969 to 1985 for Graves Brothers Company. Served as president from 1985 to 1993 and then CEO of Graves Bros. Co. from 1993 to 1998. Worked with CHoF member Dr. Mohammed Ismail to put Fly-free zones in place and establish Fruit Fly protocol to ensure continued shipment of Florida citrus to Japan after a fruit fly infestation occurred in Florida in the early 1980’s.
Graves Brothers Company
Florida Citrus Commission
Florida Citrus Packers
United Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Association
Florida Chamber of Commerce
James Richard Graves, Jr. was born on October 7, 1938 in Vero Beach to J.R. “Rip” Graves and his wife, Addie Graves. His sister, Elizabeth Graves Bass was born three years earlier and both were lifelong residents of Vero Beach. Graves Brothers Company is the oldest company of continuous existence that grows and ships Indian River citrus. Richard’s father, “Rip” Graves, is also a member of the Citrus Hall of Fame.
Graves attended Vero Beach Sr. High, where he graduated as salutatorian in 1956. While there, he was a member of the 4-H, National Honor Society, a Boy Scout, and lettered in football before going on to the University of Florida. While a student in Gainesville, he was a member of the Sigma Nu Fraternity and the Accounting Honorary Society. He received his BS in Public Accounting in 1960. Because he believed that children in a family business should work outside the family first, Graves practiced as a CPA in Vero Beach as a partner of Allen and Graves for 9 years, before joining the family business in 1969.
From 1963 to 1976, Graves was married to Barbara Ross. They had two children together: Debbie Graves Feigel and James R. Graves, III, who has followed in his father’s footsteps as produce sales manager for FreshQuest. In 1979, he married Mary Pfleger, whom he met through his roommate – her brother – while attending a fundraiser for their fraternity brother, Bob Graham.
When Graves joined the family business, he continued a long family tradition in agriculture. Graves Brothers Company was originally founded in 1895 as a logging company in Geneva, AL, with several sawmills located in the Florida panhandle. The company expanded its logging operations to Wabasso in 1919, eventually moving into farming vegetables and then citrus, which it still handles today. In 2004, the Graves family was a recipient of the “Legends of the River” Lifetime Achievement Award recognizing the pioneers in the development of the Indian River Citrus Industry. His family also is responsible for endowing an Eminent Scholar Chair at the University of Florida for IFAS. Graves worked his way up in the company, beginning with running the harvesting operations and proceeding to secretary and treasurer from 1969 to 1985. Eventually he served as president from 1985 to 1993 and then CEO of Graves Bros. Co. from 1993 to 1998. Under his leadership, the company grew from 2,200 acres to over 9,500 acres.
An avid proponent of the grower and shipper, Graves served on numerous industry organizations, including the Florida Citrus Commission, Florida Citrus Mutual, the Indian River Citrus League, the Florida Land Council and the IFAS Share Council. He was President of the Florida Citrus Packers, Chair of United Fresh Fruit & Vegetable Association and Chairman of the Florida Chamber of Commerce. Graves was extremely instrumental in working with another Hall of Fame member, Dr. Mohammed Ismail, to put Fly-free zones in place and establish Fruit Fly protocol to ensure continued shipment of Florida citrus to Japan after a fruit fly infestation occurred in Florida in the early 1980’s. This outbreak would have strangled shipments of fresh Florida fruit to Japan without the decisive actions of men like Graves and Dr. Ismail. In addition, he visited with members of Congress every year to discuss the intricacies of Florida agriculture and how both state and national policies might affect the industry. He also testified at numerous congressional hearings on agricultural policy.
In 2005, the Florida Chamber of Commerce elected Richard Graves as Director Emeritus for the dedication and service he provided to the Chamber for over 20 years. Graves joins only 11 other members that have been honored with this title. Graves first became involved with the Chamber in 1984 as a member of the Board of Directors. He served as treasurer from 1988 to 1990, chair from 1995 to 1996, and trustee of the Chamber Foundation from 1997 to 2000.
Graves was a noted philanthropist. He established the Children’s House for the Redlands Christian Migrant Association in his great uncle’s home, making time to personally go to the school and read books to the children on a regular basis. In addition, he was active in the United Way, St. Edward’s School, Big Brothers/Big Sisters and the East Coast Migrant Head Start Project. In passing, he left a legacy to children of migrant farm workers in Indian River County. He cared deeply for the workers who picked the fruit and their families. Upon his passing, the Redlands Christian Migrant Association received nearly $25,000 in tributes, all of which benefited renovations a new Children’s House building.