Charles Clements Commander (1886-1952)
Florence Citrus Growers Association
Polk County Citrus Sub-Exchange
Florida Citrus Exchange
Florida Citrus Mutual
Charles Clements Commander was born on January 23, 1886, in Dawson, Georgia. He was the third child of John Wesley Commander Jr. The three Commander children, Leola, Ann and Charles Commander were educated in Enigma, Georgia. Charles began his working career at the age of 13. His first jobs included working as a water boy and as a hand in a sawmill.
In 1903, the Commander family relocated to the city of Terra Ceia in Manatee County, Florida. Charles Commander’s became involved with the Florida citrus industry when he began with his work with the Florence Citrus Growers Association. He started working in a packinghouse as a grader and packer; eventually he was able to become a foreman and manager of the packinghouse.
On June 11, 1917, he married Rose Bailey of Tampa. Together they would have one daughter, Betty Rose Commander.
Much of Commander’s career focused on his work with the Polk County Citrus Sub-Exchange and the Florida Citrus Exchange. He first began work with the Sub-Exchange in 1923 when he was named the manager. In this position he honed his administrative skills and became very knowledgeable in the fields of citrus marketing and merchandising. Only two years later he was selected as the General Manager of the Florida Citrus Exchange, a position he held for 26 years. During his time with the Exchange, he focused a great deal of energy into the marketing of Florida citrus and supported federal marketing agreements that led to the development of the citrus export program.
Commander also oversaw several innovations to the citrus industry, including the first canning facility, the first automatic juicing machine, the pre-cooling of citrus before processing and the concept of cold storage holding.
The late 1940’s proved to be uncertain times for the citrus industry. Severe market fluctuations in the price of citrus buffeted the industry. The Citrus Exchange decided that the industry needed an organization dedicated to the stabilization of citrus market prices. This idea eventually became Florida Citrus Mutual (FCM). Charles Commander is recognized as one of Florida Citrus Mutual’s Founding Fathers. He, among others, is credited with recruiting new members and helping to get Florida Citrus Mutual up and running. Florida Citrus Mutual began work in 1948 and was officially activated on March 25, 1949.
During his time with the Florida Citrus Exchange, he became an outstanding member of the American Fruit and Vegetable Association, where he served its Vice President and served on the Executive Committee and Trade Relations Committee. In 1952 he was recognized by the Florida State Horticultural Society and was awarded honorary membership.
Charles Commander died in Tampa on June 20, 1953. He is remembered as a steadfast leader who successfully guided the Florida Citrus Exchange through the difficult years of the Great Depression and World War II.