John Roberson “Bob” Paul

/John Roberson “Bob” Paul

John Roberson “Bob” Paul (1915-1992)

Inducted 1993

Highlights

In the late 1930s, Paul began his career as a “bird dog,” or someone who acted as an intermediary between the harvester and handler. He developed the idea of purchasing the grower’s fruit crop in bulk ahead of the actual harvest, thereby giving the grower a guaranteed income. The terrible December freeze of 1962, in which he worked side by side with his firing crews to minimize the damage, reinforced Paul’s convictions of starting groves in areas south of the traditional citrus belt.

“Bird Dog”

Gulf Production

Bob Paul Inc.

Hendry County

Bio

John Roberson “Bob” Paul was born June 11, 1915, in Jacksonville, Florida. His family moved to Winter Haven in 1924, where Paul spent an event-filled career in the citrus industry. In the late 1930s, Paul began his career as a “bird dog,” or someone who acted as an intermediary between the harvester and handler. He developed the idea of purchasing the grower’s fruit crop in bulk ahead of the actual harvest, thereby giving the grower a guaranteed income.

At the outbreak of World War II Paul served in the National Guard, and for a decade after the war he continued working in Winter Haven. He developed his reputation as a “grassroots” and “hands-on” grower of citrus and established the highly lucrative enterprise Bob Paul Inc.

Paul is perhaps best known for his farsighted, innovative vision for the Gulf Production area. After the freeze of 1957, Paul planted citrus groves near the unpopulated pine woods north of Big Cyprus Swamp in Hendry County. Most citrus growers originally saw no promise whatsoever in the salt-infested, scrub-filled soil of southwest Florida. The terrible December freeze of 1962, in which he worked side by side with his firing crews to minimize the damage, reinforced Paul’s convictions of starting groves in areas south of the traditional citrus belt. Bob Paul Inc. expanded into several counties, and, as of 1992, held 10,000 acres of property.

While his company grew, Paul maintained his ties to Polk County. Paul was a member of the Winter Haven Masonic Lodge, Hope Presbyterian Church, the Elks Lodge No. 1672, the Polk County Community College Foundation, the Lake Region Yacht and Country Club and the Winter Haven Hospital Board. He also sat on the advisory board of the local Winter Haven Salvation Army chapter, established firm offices on Dundee Road, and was on the Winter Haven City Commission in the late 1950s. Perhaps Paul’s most gratifying honor came in 1969, when he received the Banker’s Cup from the local Chamber of Commerce, Winter Haven’s highest honor.

When doctors diagnosed Paul with Alzheimer’s disease in 1990, his wife Margaret took over the day to day operations of the business. She became president of the company after Paul’s death on February 23, 1992. Margaret, a notable person herself, was then appointed by Governor Lawton Chiles to the 12-member Florida Citrus Commission. Paul was survived by four children, Gene, Jack, Bryan, and Carolyn, his sisters Mary Louise Dilg and Charlotte Robson, as well as 14 grandchildren. The Citrus Hall of Fame inducted Paul in 1993. In blazing a trail from Dade City to Immokalee, Paul pioneered a great legacy of citrus industry development.