Jennings Bryant “Babe” Prevatt (1895-1992)
Lake Region Packing Association
Florida Citrus Commission
Florida Citrus Mutual
James Prevatt was born in 1895 and had a career in the citrus industry spanning fifty-one years. He began in the 1920s working for the Lake Region Packing Association, and within 5 years he had become president and manager of the association. He served in that position for forty-six, during which time he successfully developed the “Orlando” tangelo market.
The “Orlando” tangelo cross was made by Dr. Jack Bellows in 1942, and was first fruited in 1950. Prevatt’s fascination with the tangelo began in 1951 when the Lake Region Packing Association set out to market the Thornton Tangelo in Los Angeles, Portland and Seattle. The Orlando Tangelo came on the scene almost immediately after the project had begun and Prevatt seized on the opportunity to move into the Midwest to market in the nation’s supermarket chains. His first major conquest was the giant Kroger group. A&P and most of the other major chains soon followed.
Prevatt also led in research and tangelo growing techniques. In 1959 he participated in an experiment testing the effects of girdling on “Orlando tangelos” with Dr. A.D. Krezdorn of the University of Florida. The experiment showed some positive results, with the girdled trees showing slightly more fruitation.
As a marketer and salesman, Prevatt was described as a “strong merchandiser” and “very promotional minded.” Prevatt took it upon himself to personally make the rounds of chain store headquarters selling fresh tangelos. Another industry observer characterized Prevatt as the “guiding light behind Orlando Tangelo sales development.” Prevatt’s work opened up the national market to Florida tangelos.
During Prevatt’s long career at the Lake Region Packing Association, he served in many agricultural organizations, including Florida State Horticultural Society. He served on the Citrus Commission for many years and was a strong voice in the organization of Florida Citrus Mutual, working on many committees. Prevatt retired in 1970 after fifty-one years in the industry. Prevatt died in 1982 and was inducted into the Florida Citrus Hall of Fame that same year, as a testament to his contributions to the local citrus industry and his development of the national tangelo market.