Tillis Edwards (1919)
Tillis Edwards was a lifelong citrus man and a native of Lakeland. He started at age 18 in 1937 going door-to-door buying backyard citrus for his father’s citrus business, Edwards-Pritchett-Tillis, Inc. From that simple start, Edwards expanded the single business into a vertically integrated conglomerate of companies so that by the 1960’s he was well known across the citrus belt as a harvester-handler-packer-processor-grower. He was president of Edwards Packing Co., vice-president of Florida Sip, Inc., a citrus processing plant in Plant City, Fla., and handled over 1,000 acres of groves as vice-president of Edwards Groves, Inc. He was president or vice-president for multiple industry organizations, including Florida Orange Marketers, Quality Orange Marketers, H.P. Hood & Sons concentrate plant in Dunedin, and Intermediate Harvesters and Handlers Association. He was also a member of the Florida Fresh Citrus Shippers Association and the Cotton Exchange Board, where he worked to establish orange juice as a traded commodity on the exchange.
In 1967, he was appointed by Governor Claude Kirk to the Florida Citrus Commission (FCC), where he
served until 1971. In 1969, Edwards was a member of the FCC’s Disney World Committee where he was instrumental in securing the Disney promotional agreement, which FCC’s chairman lauded as “one of the most significant events in our citrus history.”
During WWII, he was a civilian flight instructor to British pilots at Lodwick School of Aeronautics in Lakeland. An avid hunter, fisherman and champion golfer, he won both the Cleveland Heights Golf Club
championship and the Polk County amateur championship.