THE JOHN H. LAND STORY
John Land was born on November 5th, 1920 in Plant City in Polk County. While he was very young, Mayor Land’s family moved to Apopka, the place that would become the core of his heart.
A 1938 graduate of Apopka High School, Land was a student at the University of Florida when he left college before graduating to join the Army during World War II. He served under U.S. Army Gen. George S. Patton in Europe.
After the war, he helped run the family business of Consumers Lumber and Veneer, which made wire-bound crates for various agricultural products grown in the immediate Apopka area. He also had a bulk oil business.
A friend of his told him about a young lady named Betty Hall and insisted that they meet. It was a match made in heaven, as John and Betty Land celebrated their 65th anniversary on June 10.
About six months after they were married, Land, at the urging of friends, ran for mayor and was elected in December 1949. He often said his motto then was, “Old enough to know. Young enough to go.”
Apopka was an agricultural community, especially indoor foliage, and had only about 2,200 people in those days and the first annual budget for the city was about $30,000. His salary was $1 a month, but in those days, it was a part-time job.
Today, Apopka has about 45,000 people and still has some agriculture, but has a much more diverse economy as rooftops now sit where rows and rows of citrus trees used to sit along two-lane roads.
An elder, deacon, and trustee at the First Presbyterian Church of Apopka, Land always opened City Council meetings with a prayer, but he also included an historical tidbit and led those in attendance in the Pledge of Allegiance, never pausing at “one nation under God.”
In 2005, what is now known as the Central Florida Expressway named a portion of State Road 414, from U.S. Highway 441 southeast of Apopka to its terminus at State Road 429, the John Land Apopka Expressway.
He was a long-time member of the Rotary Club of Apopka, serving as president of the group, and was a Paul Harris Fellow. He was also a member of the Foliage Sertoma Club of Apopka.
Land was active in many community organizations, including the Apopka Historical Society. He also served on many boards and agencies as a result of being mayor of Apopka. He was instrumental in helping get the Wekiva Parkway legislation passed.
When the Apopka Little League team played its way into the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, Land and other city officials attended some of the games. Back then, there was quite a buzz nationally about the New York City Little League team nicknamed the Baby Bronx Bombers. When the Apopka team and the New York City squad met in the United States championship finals, Land and then-New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani stood shoulder to shoulder as they spoke to national media prior to the game that was attended by then-President George W. Bush in August 2001.
When Giuliani was asked if he knew any of the Baby Bronx Bombers, he said he didn’t. Land was asked if he knew any of the Apopka players. “Not only do I know them, but I know their parents and grandparents as well,” he said.
The Apopka team defeated the New York team and was welcomed home by thousands of citizens with Land being among those who honored the team members and coaches.
Land loved to hunt and fish, and was one of the members of the former Apopka Sportsmen’s Club that sold a tract of land to the state where Wekiwa Springs State Park is now. He also enjoyed history, especially Apopka history, gardening, family, and ice cream socials.