Herbert Mansfield Riley (1904-1995)
Gentil Citrus Packinghouse
Federal Inspector Supervisor for Florida & Georgia
Division of Fruit & Vegetable Inspection
Japanese Grapefruit- Mediterranean Fruit Fly
Herbert Mansfield Riley was born in Butler, Georgia in 1904. The Riley family were peanut farmers and knew the family of President Jimmy Carter. Riley attended Gordon College in Georgia before later moving to Haines City to work in the Gentile Citrus Packinghouse. Riley began work as a fruit and vegetable inspector and grader when the grading process was still relatively new to the industry. By 1925, Riley had been appointed as a Regional Inspector Supervisor working in Tampa, Florida. Riley worked in this capacity until 1939 when state and federal inspection services were combined. He was then appointed as the Federal Inspector Supervisor for Florida and Georgia and worked out Winter Haven.
In 1963 Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Doyle Conner appointed Riley the Director of the Division of Fruit and Vegetable Inspection, where he was in charge of both state and federal inspection services. He held the federal position for 10 years until 1973. Riley believed that the inspection service was meant to help the growers and the citrus industry. Riley believed that the Inspection Service was “Here to help the industry, not harass them.”
Riley worked on several issues for the betterment of the industry. He was known to attend meetings of the Florida Citrus Commission and address issues he believed important by stating, “gentlemen, we’ve got to do something about … ” Riley generally had great success using this approach. Riley was known for challenging unfair regulations and advocating for better pay for industry employees. He was also well-known for his unwavering demand for high citrus quality.
Finally, Riley is credited with saving the Japanese market for Florida Grapefruit in 1974. After a Mediterranean fruit fly was found in a shipment of fresh grapefruit, Japan immediately refused all further shipments. The Florida citrus industry could not afford to lose this valuable market, so Riley quickly built makeshift fumigation facilities to treat further grapefruit shipments so that they fell within Japan’s standards. Riley’s facility and methods proved successful and Japan began to accept the treated grapefruit.
In recognition of his many years of service to the Florida citrus industry, Riley was inducted into the Florida Citrus Hall of Fame in 1978. Herbert Mansfield Riley passed away on November 14, 1995.