Sam H. Killebrew (1914-1978)
Killebrew was best known for inventing a fertilizer trailer in 1952 that completely eliminated the manual handling of fertilizer. His trailer eventually evolved into a four-compartment side-dump hauler that could accommodate up to 20 tons of bulk fertilizer. He also developed dry and liquid fertilizer spreaders, logging machines, city refuse units and bulk citrus high-lifts.
K&W Speciality Company
Dry & Liquid Fertilizer Spreaders
City Refuse Units
Bulk Citrus High Lifts
Sam H. Killebrew, Sr., of Auburndale, Florida was best known for inventing a fertilizer trailer in 1952 that completely eliminated the manual handling of fertilizer. This included bagging, opening, and dumping the fertilizer into spreaders. Prior to his invention, fertilizer was delivered to the groves in 100-200 spreaders by one or two men. He originally designed the trailer for Adams Packing Company of Auburndale, where he was employed as shop superintendent. The trailer was so successful that he had to open his own business to accommodate the orders. He and another Adams Packing Company mechanic, Bob Wistine, opened K&W Specialty Company in 1952 with $200 Killebrew borrowed from his father-in-law and a credit line at Sears on which he charged a welding machine. Within a year, he had bought out his partner and renamed the company Sam Killebrew, Inc.
His trailer eventually evolved into a four-compartment side-dump hauler that could accommodate up to 20 tons of bulk fertilizer. Each compartment dumped individually through a hydraulic operated system directly into a spreader vehicle and the entire operation could be operated by one person. This provided a huge savings in terms of labor, time and money.
As his manufacturing business grew, he used his ingenuity to design other innovative systems. These systems included dry and liquid fertilizer spreaders, logging machines, city refuse units and bulk citrus high-lifts. In addition, he adapted and improved upon a number of other mechanical systems, including wind machines for citrus grove cold protection.
His motto was “keep it simple” and when he saw a need he tried to provide the simplest solution possible. He renamed his business Killebrew Manufacturing and in the 1970s he sold out to a large holding company in Tampa – Crown Industries – for whom he and his son, Sam, Jr., continued to work as president and general manager. At that time their operation covered the entire southeastern United States, so the Killebrews’ added a plant in Texas to service their accounts. In 1984, the entire operation was sold to Gallyan Equipment Company. His bulk fertilizer trailer made a huge impact on the Florida citrus industry. It provided enormous cost savings. Bob Barben, an Avon Park citrus grower and Citrus Hall of Fame Selection Committee member commenting on Killebrew’s invention noted, “Anybody who ever rode on the back of a spreader and dumped it [fertilizer] in really thanks Mr. Killebrew!” Killebrew was a member of the National Truck Trailer Manufacturers’ Association, Florida Fertilizer Association, Florida Sheriffs’ Boys’ Ranch and numerous civic organizations. Killebrew was survived by his wife, Barbara Brown, two sons, Burt Killebrew and Sam Killebrew, Jr., and three grandchildren.