Robert W. Rutledge (1921-1975)
United Growers & Shippers Association
Florida Citrus Mutual
Frozen Concentrate Orange Juice
President Eisenhower’s Fruit & Vegetable Task Force
National Conference on Food & Nutrition
Citrus Advisory Committee
Regional Farmer Advisory Board
Robert W. Rutledge was born in Kansas in 1921. Rutledge was raised in Illinois and attended the University of Illinois. Shortly after his graduation, he became an executive of the Chicago Chamber of Commerce and was responsible for a $200 million redevelopment of the city.
Rutledge moved to Florida in 1950 and took his first citrus-related job with the United Growers and Shippers Association in Orlando. By 1952 Rutledge left Orlando and began working for Florida Citrus Mutual as an assistant manager. Only four months later he was named the general manager of FCM. Rutledge was known as an advocate for the growers, striving to keep them involved with their crops. He believed in the importance of the grower, stating: “The Florida Grower is no longer just a producer of agricultural products, but he is also a businessman and a knowledgeable marketer of the product he grows.” Rutledge made sure to always consider the needs of the growers, prompting him to create the FCM slogan: “If it’s good for the grower … Let’s do it!”
Early in his career with Mutual, Rutledge generated the concept of a joint-industry committee to present proposals to the state legislature. This idea was widely praised and considered an essential example of what all agricultural industries should do. Rutledge’s was also concerned about the influence of foreign citrus on the U.S. market. Throughout his career, Rutledge strived to maintained tariffs on foreign grown citrus. Rutledge contributed to the expansion of frozen concentrated orange juice through his development of an easy-open container for sale to the public.
While working for Florida Citrus Mutual, Rutledge was chosen as a member of President Eisenhower’s Fruit and Vegetable Task Force in 1956. In 1959 he was selected to serve in the National Conference on Food and Nutrition. He also served under Florida Governors Haydon Burns and Claude Kirk on their Citrus Advisory Committees. Rutledge was also appointed as a member of the Regional Farmer Advisory Board.
Rutledge was known for his eccentricities in manner and style: he was often described as dressing in an eccentric style. In order to grab attention when he needed it, Rutledge once gave a speech from a 20-foot high ladder. On particularly beautiful Florida days, Rutledge could often be seen dragging his desk and telephone outside to enjoy the sunshine while he worked. When Rutledge would find himself concerned by a particular issue, he was known to call friends at 3:00 a.m. to discuss his thoughts. He was also a life-long supporter of the Boy Scouts, March of Dimes, the Heart Fund and the United Fund.
Under Rutledge’s guidance, Florida Citrus Mutual grew from a group of 4,500 members to a powerful force of nearly 15,000 members. After health reasons forced his retirement from FCM in 1971, Rutledge continued to make himself available for consultation.
After several years of declining health, Rutledge took his own life in 1975. Rutledge’s leadership in Florida Citrus Mutual was considered to be some of the most progressive and far-sighted in the history of that organization. In recognition of his many years of service to the Florida Citrus Industry, Rutledge was inducted into the Florida Citrus Hall of Fame in 1986.