J.R. “Rip” Graves came from a family who owned a North Florida sawmill and lumber company, the beginning of a lifelong career that would involve him in all aspects of growing, packing, processing and marketing citrus and place him in leadership positions for Florida Citrus Mutual, Florida Citrus Packers, the Florida Citrus Commission and what was then called Florida Citrus Canners.
Born March 22, 1907, in DeFuniak Springs, Graves quickly became familiar with the three sawmills owned by his father and uncle in North Florida. When the family bought 32,000 acres in 1919 in what was then Brevard County, but is now Indian River County, Graves watched as they branched into vegetable and eventually citrus farming.
After graduating from the University of Florida with a degree in accounting and economics in 1929, he went to work for Graves Brothers Co. as a bookkeeper. The Great Depression hit shortly thereafter, forcing him to add distributor for Sinclair Oil Co. to his responsibilities to help make ends meet. When World War II curbed the oil business, Graves worked at the U.S. Naval Air Base in Vero Beach and volunteered for the Coast Guard Auxiliary. He returned full time to Graves Brothers Co. in 1946 after buying out the interests of the Walter Graves family.
Graves’ involvement in the citrus industry stemmed from one overriding belief: Growers should have control of their destinies. His industry involvement began with a stint as president of the Plymouth Citrus Products Cooperative in 1950, and vice president of the citrus section of the Florida State Horticultural Society in 1953. Graves moved on to the Florida Citrus Commission from there, eventually serving as chairman for two years during his tenure from 1955 to 1959. He then went to Florida Citrus Mutual, serving as a director during the 1960s and taking over as president in 1976. In addition, he served as director and eventually chairman of Farm Credit Banks of Columbia during the 1960s and early 1970s. He also served on the boards of directors of Florida Citrus Packers, and Florida Citrus Canners, now called Florida Citrus Processors. In his spare time, Graves helped organize Citrus Central in 1963, and served as its president and chairman from 1964 to 1985.
Graves also had a strong interest in research as a way to better the citrus industry, and supported endowments and scholarships at the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences and Florida Southern College. His interest in all aspects of the citrus industry made him an authoritative source for state and federal lawmakers. Several Florida agriculture commissioners and U.S. agriculture secretaries recognized Graves for his contributions over the years.
He received the Florida citrus industry’s highest honor in 1972 when he was inducted into the Florida Citrus Hall of Fame.
Graves and his wife, Addie, lived in Vero Beach and enjoyed their two children and five grandchildren until she passed away Jan. 8, 1993, and he passed away May 15, 1999.