Lamarcus C. Edwards, Sr. (1870-1948)
Lee & Edwards Packing Company
Florida Citrus Exchange
Tampa Union Terminal (Gulf Florida Terminal)
Pasco Packing Association
Pasco Packing Company
Lamarcus C. Edwards Sr. spent more than forty years in the Florida citrus industry. He was born in Warrenton, Georgia, in 1870. He attended Emory College (now Emory University) where he was a Mason and a member of the Woodsmen of the World. In 1900 Edwards came to the Bartow area, married, and returned to Georgia two years later. Not long thereafter he entered the lumber business in Dothan, Alabama, with his brother-in-law D. C. Lee
Both men began purchasing grove land near Thonotosassa and he moved to Florida in 1910, where the Lee and Edwards packing company was established. Edwards also became a member of the Florida Citrus Exchange, for which he served a short term as president. During his term, the exchange made a landmark decision when they hired a Chicago-based advertising firm to manage a $400,000 advertising campaign. He also helped to found the Tampa Union Terminal, which later became the Gulf Florida Terminal.
Edward’s most significant achievement was his role in the Pasco Packing Association, which he began working for in 1919. He was credited with originating the idea of creating a fruit company which would produce, process, and sell citrus the same way Henry Ford sold automobiles. Before this, most fruit was wrapped in tissue and shipped in crates. In 1935, he joined with four others to turn the Pasco Packing Association into the Pasco Packing Company (Now known as Lykes-Pasco). The centerpiece of this operation was a packinghouse which was built on U.S. 301 and would later become the largest of its kind in the world. Edwards was named president of this operation.
The packinghouse opened its doors in 1937 and shipped 250,000 boxes in its first year of operation. Edwards helped the packinghouse to become a center of innovation. In the late thirties, the packinghouse used a milk bottling machine to can juice. This provided a use for fruit that was cosmetically unfit for packing but otherwise fit for consumption. A special facility was built to pack the juice, and 60,000 cases were shipped in the first year. Soon, juice became the company’s biggest product. In 1942, the company developed a form of concentrate, made from pasteurization, in order to ship more juice using less actual liquid. Edwards even helped to find a use for citrus byproducts by selling it for cattle feed. He was also lauded for his management of the packinghouse during World War II, where three shifts were used to keep the facility open 24 hours.
Edwards was also credited for being a pioneer of using water to transport citrus, enabling fair prices for both the consumer and the producer. He retired in 1945 and died in his sleep three years later at the age of 78. He was inducted into the Florida Citrus Hall of Fame in 1970.