Donald M. Lins (1917-1998)
Lins was born in Miami and attended college at Cornell University, where he graduated with a major in agricultural economics. He took a leading role in the establishment of an export market for Florida citrus in both Europe and the Far East, including Japan. Lins also promoted citrus at home, working with Florida Governor Bob Graham to establish April 1979 as Valencia Month in order to promote consumption of the home-grown product.
Governor Bob Graham
Chilled Juice Practice
Citrus Sales Managers Club
Shippers Advisory Committee
Florida Tangerine Cooperative
HESCO Supply Cooperative
Donald Lins experienced a storied life as the premier citrus salesman of his generation. He was born in Miami and attended college at Cornell University, where he graduated with a major in agricultural economics.
Lins moved to Tampa in 1954, putting his agricultural economics degree to good use by joining the Tampa-based Seald Sweet Growers as a sales manager. This began a relationship that lasted for nearly forty years and saw Lins climb to the top of the company and the citrus world as a whole. In 1959, at the age of 33, Lins became general sales manager, where he was responsible for selling over 20,000 cans of citrus a year. He later became executive vice president, where he adopted administrative responsibilities in addition to sales, and eventually became the C.E.O. of Seald Sweet in 1975.
His leadership helped to take Seald Sweet to its peak. Perhaps his most crowning achievement was his role in the establishment of an export market for Florida citrus in both Europe and the Far East, including Japan. Japan became the leading market for Florida grapefruit, and consumes more of the citrus product than the United States. In Europe, red grapefruit was practically unknown before the efforts of Lins. For his role in this market expansion, Lins became the first agricultural figure to earn the Governor’s International Businessman of the Year Award, which he won in 1978. He later won the John T. Lesley Award in 1979 from the Florida Citrus Packers Association.
Lins also promoted citrus at home, working with Florida Governor Bob Graham to establish April 1979 as Valencia Month in order to promote consumption of the home-grown product. He represented Florida’s fresh shippers and growers at a ceremony held by the governor to commemorate the occasion. He helped to re-open markets in California, Louisiana, and Texas which had been closed to Florida citrus in order to prevent the spread of citrus canker.
Although he was primarily a salesman, Lins was widely respected for his leadership and knowledge of all facets of the citrus business, including production, packing, and distribution. He helped his sales staff by having them sell other types of produce in the off-season. However, this practice was rendered somewhat irrelevant when Lins played a large role in revolutionizing cold storage and chilled juice practices, allowing for fresh juice to be provided year round. He was known for working with chain managers to provide shelf space for all of Florida’s citrus products.
Lins became president of Seald Sweet Sales and Seald Sweet International in 1986. He held the office until the company moved from the Tampa area to Vero Beach, upon which he retired from the company and began acting as a consultant for a variety of citrus-based companies.
Aside from Seald Sweet, Lins maintained associations with many organizations. He was President of Citrus Sales Managers Club, Chairmen of the Shippers Advisory Committee, a Director of the Florida Tangerine Cooperative, and participated in numerous Florida Citrus Mutual committees. He also served as a director of the United Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Association and the Produce Marketing Association, and was a Chairman of Hesco Supply Cooperative. He served on the board of many organizations, including Sun Bank of Tampa.
Donald Lins was said to know everyone in the citrus industry. His uncommon leadership and tough but fair business practices distinguished him. His efforts lead him to be regarded through the country as one of the greatest sales managers in the fruit industry. His accomplishments were recognized when he was inducted into the Florida Citrus Hall of Fame in 2004. Unfortunately, Lins had passed away six years earlier in August, 1998, at the age of 71.