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Thursday, May 5, 2016

Gaylon Lawrence dead at 78

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

A native of southeast Missouri with roots in New Madrid and Stoddard Counties, who made his fortune in the farming, banking, and most recently, the fruit growing industry in Florida, has died.

Gaylon Lawrence, 78, reportedly died late Tuesday in a Memphis, Tenn., hospital after a prolonged illness.

Lawrence owned more than 165,000 acres of farmland in Illinois, Missouri, Arkansas and Mississippi, growing cotton, soybeans, rice, wheat and corn.

The Lawrence Group is one of the largest family farming enterprises in the United States.

Along with farming, one of Gaylon Lawrence' early ventures was in the local banking industry. The family owns five community banks with 15 offices operating in northeast Arkansas, southeast Missouri and Tennessee.

"Gaylon as an entrepreneur's entrepreneur. He has a tremendous influence on the agriculture and banking industries in northeast Arkansas and southeast Missouri. He was a pleasure to work with," said Steve Bell, chairman and CEO of Farmer's Bank in Blytheville, Ark.

"This is a sad day for me. I felt very close to him. He was good to me and great to work for," said Larry Potter, president of First Missouri State Bank since 1990. "He always cared about this community. He was a people person."

Jeff Lack, president of First National Bank in Kennett, Dexter, Malden and Clarkton, more of Lawrence's banks, was unavailable for comment.

Lawrence and his son and namesake, Gaylon Lawrence, Jr., have been referred to in the Florida fruit growers industry as the "quiet giants." Among their recent acquisitions is 30,000 acres of citrus farms, primarily in St. Lucie and Indian River Counties in Florida. Corporations with the fruit growing industry include Premier Citrus Packers LLC, Premier Citrus Marketing LLC, Premier Citrus Management LL, Premier Land Acquisitions LLC. In less than 10 years, Premier became Florida's largest producer of fresh fruit.

Lawrence was also the owner of U.S. Airconditioning Distributors, City of Industry, Calif., the world's largest privately owned heating, ventilation and air conditioning distributor. It operates in California, Nevada, Utah, Idaho, Arizona and Florida.

Lawrence has resided for the past several years in Vero Beach, Fla. Gaylon Lawrence, Jr. lives in Nashville, Tenn.

Services for Gaylon Lawrence are under the direction of Nunlee Funeral Home at Sikeston and will be announced as they are received.

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