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Florida 4-H Scholarship Spotlight: Norman Cox

Norman Cox photo spotlightNorman Cox was one of the most successful gladiolus growers in the Fort Myers area. A leader in the industry, he founded and served as first president of the Florida Gladiolus Brokers Association. In his memory, M. Jack Burges of Ft. Myers led the creation of the Norman Cox Scholarship for Lee County 4-H’ers.

“I was blessed to work with Norman, and to call him a mentor and true friend.” Jack Burges

Norman got his start in the flower business in 1931 selling florist supplies in his native Evansville, Indiana. Then in 1941, he moved to Fort Myers, Florida with his wife and two children. He used all their savings for a down payment on a piece of land in North Fort Myers. Manually clearing the property, he created his gladiolus farm just south of Pine Island Road along Matlacha Pass. He harvested his first crop in 1945, and built Gulf Coast Farms with his family. Together with his brother Bob, they build Norman Cox & Co. The farm harvested 18 million bulbs annually to ship across the US and Europe. With the boom of gladiolus farms, Fort Myers became known as the gladiolus capital of the world. Upon his passing in 1975, Gulf Coast Farms was sold, and by 1980 most other farms had been sold for development.

Gladiolus field with children in 1970.

Fort Myers gladiolus field. (Photo: SWFL Historical Society, photo by Ernie Hall ca. 1970, image restoration by Randy Koger)

While the commercial gladiolus farms have disappeared from southwest Florida, this scholarship commemorates one of Lee County’s most successful agricultural leaders. The Norman Cox scholarship is available to Lee County 4-H members.

Applicants must be graduating high school or in their first two years of college. Recipient must attend an accredited two or four year college/university in Florida or the Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College in Georgia. Lee County members and young alumni can apply through the Florida 4-H scholarship program. Portfolios are due June 1 with interviews and announcements during July’s virtual 4-H University program. 4-H members can view more information about the scholarship and portfolio process here.

You can view the full list of Florida 4-H scholarships here. If you are interested in supporting the Norman Cox scholarship or another 4-H scholarship, please contact Caylin Hilton at grow4H@ifas.ufl.edu or 352.392.5432.

 4-H is the youth development program of the land-grant university system and Cooperative Extension System. The program provides hands-on educational programs and experiences for youth ages 5-18 with the objective of developing youth as individuals, and as responsible and productive citizens. In Florida, 4-H is administered by UF/IFAS Extension and Florida A&M University. Florida 4-H scholarships are managed by the UF and Florida 4-H Foundations, 501(c)3 organizations.