Dr. James Griffiths had a long and varied career in the Florida citrus industry. He was a researcher, grower, industry representative, and strong supporter of agricultural causes. For 60 years he could be found at almost every citrus meeting in the state, advocating for his fellow growers. He was never afraid to question the decisions made by regulators or to fight restrictions he felt had little scientific merit.
Griffiths was born in Alta Loma, Texas, in 1914. He earned a doctorate in entomology in 1941 from Iowa State University. After serving in the Army during World War II, he began his career in the Florida citrus industry, and over the years he held a wide variety of positions.
He was one of the original post-World War II staff scientists at the Lake Alfred Citrus Experiment Station. In his five years there he authored or co-authored 75 articles published in citrus and scientific publications. He wrote on such topics as purple mite and grasshopper in citrus groves; new insecticides and their application; and copper, zinc, and manganese application to soil as a substitute for spray programs. He created a standard fertilizer recommendation for young and maturing groves. Following the 1957-58 freezes, he conducted research concerning the use of wind machines for cold protection. He helped phase out the use of wood and open oil pots when cold weather threatened the groves.
After leaving Lake Alfred, he became a district manager at Lyons Fertilizer Company and general manager at Eloise Groves and Cypress Gardens Citrus Products. From 1968 to 1981 he directed special projects at Florida Citrus Mutual.
But despite the many hats he wore, Griffiths was first and foremost a farmer. He began buying citrus groves in the 1950s and was always directly involved in their care and management. Just days before he died he was in the grove changing sprinkler heads and directing the removal of sick trees.
In 1981 at the age of 67, he founded Citrus Grower Associates, Inc., a small cooperative of growers whose purpose is to promote and protect its members. As managing director of the organization, he wrote a weekly newsletter providing members with the latest news and information affecting Florida citrus.
Griffiths earned a reputation as an industry watchdog. He made it his business to be informed on every facet of the citrus business, from growing to processing to marketing. He was an expert on everything from citrus pests to international trade. He waded into the political arena and became a vocal advocate for Florida citrus in both Tallahassee and Washington. He fought for water rights for growers and the continued use of key pesticides. He served as a consultant and expert witness in lawsuits involving contamination of citrus groves by pollution from the phosphate industry. He testified before the FDA regarding standards of identity for processed orange juice products.
Griffiths lobbied for the establishment of the Polk County Water Policy Committee and served on it from 2001 to 2006. He worked on ad valorem greenbelt taxation with the Department of Revenue in an effort to standardize greenbelt assessments.
A wide array of industry groups and professional associations benefited from his leadership skills. Griffiths was a member of the International Society of Citriculture, the Soil Science Society of Florida, the Florida Entomological Society, the Entomological Society of America, Florida Citrus Production Managers Association, the Florida State Horticultural Society, the Institute of Food Technologists, and the Florida Farm Bureau.
Griffiths’ contributions to the citrus industry brought him a great deal of recognition, including the Citrus Achievement Award from Florida Growers magazine. He was inducted into the Florida Citrus Hall of Fame in 1998.
James Griffiths died on June 13, 2006, at the age of 91. He is survived by his two grown sons, Ken and Roger, six grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren.