The National Watermelon Association has a long history of remarkable leaders from the watermelon industry that have contributed their time, energy, and expertise to the Association and its members. The National Watermelon Association’s Hall of Fame has been created to honor the lives and contributions of these members, both past and present.
We inaugurated the Hall of fame and recognized the first class of inductees during the National Convention in New Orleans on February 27th, 2016. The following is the inaugural class of 2016!
B. G. Anderson (1929-2015)
The B. G Anderson Company of Eustis, Florida was established in 1968. Mr. Anderson developed his own watermelon brand called ‘Old Dobbin Watermelons’, from a special select variety (51-27) that was expressly grown and packaged for B G Anderson by the Simpson Nursery Company of Monticello, Florida, the world’s largest growers of watermelons for seed at that time.
Tom Ayoob Jr (1933-2003)
Tom was known for his integrity and willingness to help others. He was known as the Watermelon King of Pittsburgh, and coined the phrase, ‘eats like sugar.’
Bob Bloebaum (1946 – 2001)
Bob Bloebaum was the co-owner of Dal-Don Produce Inc (brokerage and shipping) in Clermont, Florida which was founded in 1966 by Bob’s father (Don Bloebaum) and Dallas Jones, and operated for over 40 years. The company shipped more than 3,000 truckloads of watermelon during its peak years. Dal-Don handled products from about 2,500 acres in several states in the South and the Midwest. Bob served on the Executive Committee of the National Watermelon Association.
Percy served as President, started and led the North Carolina Watermelon Association, and presided over the National Watermelon Promotion Board. He also started the North Carolina Watermelon Festival.
John Campbell (1893-1965)
John Campbell opened the Growers Marketing Service, originally based in Leesburg, Florida. In 1945, three counties of watermelon growers (Lake, Marion, and Sumter counties) organized and formed the Watermelon Growers Association. Mr. Campbell was the first President of the association.John was one of the ten (10) original committee members that established the original Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association in 1943.
Nancy Childers served as the executive secretary-treasurer of the National Watermelon Association from 1976-1991, when it was based in Morven, Georgia.
Oren Childers (1943-2001)
Oren Childers owned and operated Cedar Creek Melons in Crisp County, just outside of Cordele, Georgia. He served as the President of the National Watermelon Association from 1986-87, as well as a respected member of the Executive Council.
John Cooper (1923-2001)
John Cooper Produce, Inc. was founded in the early 1950’s in Vincennes, Indiana. In 1971, John moved his operation to Centre, Alabama where he formed Hi C Transportation and Hi C Produce & Truck Brokers. “John was the person responsible for the transition from transporting melons in boxcars to trucks” – Buddy Leger.
F. Hamilton Dicks, Jr. (1901-1988)
The F.H. Dicks Company of Barnwell, South Carolina began growing and selling watermelon in 1935. During the same period, Mr. Dicks operated as the merchant of the General Store of Dunbarton, South Carolina, and was elected to serve as Mayor of the town in 1951.
Bob Dietz (1927-2000)
The company known as R. H. Dietz and Sons, Inc. was established in 1967 in Chicago, Illinois. Bob Dietz was known as the “Watermelon King of Chicago”, largely for his promotions, exhuberance and passion for watermelon.
J. B. Easterlin (1890-1970)
J.B. Easterlin of Montezuma, Georgia was a watermelon broker and pecan grower. Founder of the Easterlin Pecan Co., Inc. (which still operates today), he was known as a trustworthy man that did what he said – – an honest man of his word.
Lifetime Council member, Gordon Etheridge, has been a member of the National Watermelon Association for over 40 years. He has served on many committees in that time as well as President. He also served as the President of the North Carolina Watermelon Association at its onset. .
Gerald Funderburk (1929-2014)
Mr. Funderburk took the reins of his father’s cotton gin company, called F.A. Funderburk Company, upon his father’s death. He then expanded the company’s product offerings to include lawn and garden supplies, sprinklers, and a new division – – wholesale watermelon sales.
Woodrow ‘Coon Bottom’ Glenn (1918-2007)
Coon Bottom Glenn of Marianna, Florida was a co-founder of the Florida Watermelon Association, and also served as its secretary and treasurer for many years. He was an active member of the National Watermelon Association for over 31 years.
Al Harrison (1910 – 1985)
The Harrison Brothers Company was established in Los Angeles, California in the early 1930s as a wholesale produce company by brothers Al and Robert Harrison. Al Harrison bought out his brother, moved the company to Nogales, Arizona and renamed the operation – Al Harrison Produce Co. Distributor, Inc.
Vernon Highley (1933-2006)
Vern Highley began his career in agriculture marketing and later joined the USDA where he became the Special Assistant to the Secretary of Agriculture, and later served as the Deputy Chief of Staff. Vern was persuaded to serve as Administrator of the Agricultural Marketing Service. He went on to become Executive Director of the Farmers and Ranchers organization.Vern went on to represent various organizations including the National Watermelon Association.
Josephine Hughes (1926-2012)
Josephine Hughes was instrumental in starting the Canino Produce Company in 1958 Houston, Texas. She was chairwoman of Vegetable Day Celebrations that the Farmers Market held for many years.She was the first female leader in the history of the National Watermelon Association.
Dallas Jones (1924-2010)
In 1960 Dallas Jones moved his family to Clermont, Florida and eventually launched DAL-DON Produce with long-time partner and friend, Don Bloebaum. For more than 40 years, Dallas provided direction and leadership for the company which steadily grew into a substantial fruit-distribution venture nationwide.
Bill Knowles (1907-1988)
Bill Knowles was one of the original eighteen (18) members that met in Atlanta, Georgia in March 1914 and created what we now call the ‘National Watermelon Association.’ He operated Knowles and Co., for many years in Leesburg, Florida. Bill also owned the Foremost Fertilizer Company, which was established in 1947.
Harmon Roy Lawson (1916-2011)
Mr. H.R. Lawson served in numerous leadership roles in the National Watermelon Association for over 40 years. He operated the H. R. Lawson Farm Supply Company in Morven, Georgia and his commitment to the Association grew.
C.M. Buddy Leger
Charles M. ‘Buddy’ Leger of Leger & Son, Inc. is a renowned member of the National Watermelon Association. In 1964, he set foot in the watermelon business for himself. In the late 1970s, Buddy recognized the need for watermelon producers and shippers to come together to support watermelon promotion and research. It was this forward-thinking that made Buddy the perfect person to lead the newly formed National Watermelon Promotion Board.
J. D. ‘Johnny’ Lowe, Jr. (1928-1998)
Johnny Lowe owned and operated the J.D. Lowe Jr. Co, Inc. of Henderson, Texas – a wholesale distributor of fresh fruit and vegetables. He trade-marked the HIGH – LOWE brand of watermelon. Mr. Lowe helped to found the Texas Watermelon Growers and Shippers Association (known today as the Texas Watermelon Association).
Wallace Luffman (1925-2010)
Wallace Luffman of Salisbury, Maryland was a lifelong farmer and innovator, adopting new farm practices influential in the agricultural industry in Delmarva. In 1972 he was awarded the Certificate of Merit by the Governor for agricultural achievements.
Ralph Meitin (1914-2004)
Ralph Meitin was the President of Zellwood Fruit Distributors in Zellwood, Florida, established December 1943. Mr. Meitin helped to found the Tangerine Bowl, an annual college football tradition in Orlando.
Howard Sorrells (1926-2014)
Born in Hiram, Georgia, Howard Sorrells moved to Atlanta, Georgia to open and operate Sorrells & Chapman (a wholesale business that sold citrus and watermelon in the off-season) for six (6) years. He returned to the family packing house in Arcadia, Florida in 1957.
Vincent ‘Jim’ Vitale (1926-2007)
Faro Vitale established his company, Faro Vitale and Sons, in the 1940s. Jim joined his father’s business after World War II. Jim Vitale soon became known as the ‘Watermelon Man’ of the Eastern Market by the 1980s for selling over 24 million pounds of watermelon each year.
C.C. Winkler (1871-1962)
C.C. Winkler, at the 7th annual meeting of the National Watermelon Association in 1921, was recognized among the Executive Committee members in attendance of the Melon Distributors Association in Vincennes, Indiana. In April of 1926 at the 12th annual meeting, CC Winkler was Chairman of the Executive Committee and was elected President of the Association.
Ernie Zaferis (1921-1990)
Ernie Zaferis got his start in the produce business with Zaferis Brothers Produce, He later established United Melon Distributors in Los Angeles, California.
Our Original Forefathers
Capt. E. Bell
Capt. E Bell was the co-owner of Wade and Bell, a 200-acre watermelon growing and distributing company from Trenton, Florida.
David Brown, of Shackelford & Brown of Albany, Georgia was the first president of the National Melon Distributors Association.
Brown of Johnson and Brown Company was just 20 years old when the National Melon Distributors Association was formed.
Christman was the general manager of the Georgia Fruit Exchange, with prior experience with the Atchison, Topeka and Sante Fe Railroad, and the Armour Company.
A Russian immigrant, was a well-known broker from Chicago that purchased car-loads of produce from growers all over the United States.
Gay of Trenton, Florida was a watermelon grower and distributor. He had over 100 acres in the north Florida area.
Gilbert was a seed grower from Monticello, Florida. He prided himself in being “the only man in America who devotes his whole time to the exclusive growing of watermelon”.
Groover of the Fuller Groover Company in Quitman, Georgia was said to be one of the pioneer melon growers in the country.
The owner operator of Gulledge Brothers of Verbena, Alabama, was a watermelon shipper.
Hansen was the representative of the Chicago watermelon distributing company, B.D. Anguish (a company owned by famed Dr. Anguish, the Watermelon Expert).
Higgs of Fitzgerald, Georgia was a watermelon distributor.
He owned O.K. Jelks and Son, and shipped over 400 cars of melons each year. Mr. Jelks was well known to the trade.
Frank H. Johnson
Johnson of Hilton, New York was a prominent buyer of watermelon. When the association was formed, he had been selling watermelon for 17 years.
Kalmon was the general manager of the Albany Produce Company in Albany, Georgia. He also served as an agent for Swift and Co.
James was a pivotal member in the Melon Distributors Association. He founded one of the largest watermelon distributing firms, Leonard, Crosset and Riley. “He has done more for the watermelon industry and this association than all of the rest of us put together.”
President L.E. Holloway – April 20, 1934
Mabbett was a partner in the fairly new partnership firm of Whipple and Mabbett in Quitman, Georgia.
J.A. Murrell Company was a produce distributor from McIntosh, Florida.
Pennington was one of the most devoted members of the National Melon Distributors Association. He owned the Pennington-Geissler Company of Evansville, Indiana.
Dietz from Texas, invented the watermelon carton and was a former member of the NWA Executive Committee.
From Oklahoma, was a former member of the NWA Executive Committee, former NWA president, & former State Senator of Oklahoma.
From Florida, was a former member of the NWA Executive Committee, former NWA president, & industry legend.
Working with American Sun Melon in the 1980's, Charlie was instrumental in the introduction of seedless watermelon to growers( and consumers) across the country.
After graduating from Cal Poly, he joined his father and family in the business, transitioning from dairy to produce and becoming known well in the watermelon and pumpkin industries.