Through the invention of his patented bulk fertilizer hauler in 1952, Sam Killebrew helped to revolutionize agriculture. The hauler provided an easier, more efficient and cost-effective way to deliver nutrients to many crops – most notably citrus, Florida’s signature crop. The machinery – known as “The Killebrew” – eliminated the manual handling of fertilizer, including bagging, opening and dumping it into spreaders. The mechanized process remains standard practice today.
A native of Tennessee, Killebrew was born to farmer parents in 1914. After moving to Auburndale, he worked as a trucker driver and mechanic. He married his wife, Barbara, and eventually went to work for Adams Packing Company, where he learned to weld. It was there that he devised the bulk hauler, which proved to be so popular that he opened his own company to accommodate orders.
The Killebrew wasn’t his only invention, however. He used his ingenuity to design other systems that saved money and labor throughout the industry, including dry and liquid fertilizer spreaders, logging trailers, city refuse units and bulk citrus high-lifts. He also adapted and improved on a number of other agricultural mechanical systems.
Killebrew was a member of the National Truck Trailer Manufacturers’ Association, the Florida Fertilizer Association, Florida Sheriff’s Boys Ranch and numerous civic organizations. He was inducted into the Florida Citrus Hall of Fame and the Southwestern Fertilizer Conference Hall of Fame. Known for his generosity, he was named Outstanding Young Man of the Year by the city of Auburndale in the late 1960s. His motto in business and in life was, “Keep it simple.”
Killebrew died in 1978 and is survived by his two sons, Burt and Sam Jr., and three grandchildren.