Lakeland got a shoutout of sorts when a Florida history author explained why Walt Disney was chosen the second-most-influential person in the state’s history. “Without his influence, we believe that Orlando would look a lot more like Lakeland does — which is a perfectly nice place; we like Lakeland,” freelance journalist Laura Mize said. “But it doesn’t have, you know, world influences; it’s not a place that people come to from all over the world.”

Hey, we’ll take Lakeland’s cool factor over Orlando’s traffic and sprawl.

Mize’s comments came in an interview for the Florida Frontiers radio show about the book she co-authored with former U.S. Sen. George LeMieux: “Florida Made: The 25 Most Important Figures Who Shaped The State.”

The list of prominent Floridians includes one man who had an outsize influence on Lakeland: George Jenkins, founder of Publix Supermarkets, came in at No. 23 on the list of 25.

The chapter on Jenkins includes this passage: “The man known to many simply as ‘Mr. George’ exhibited a passion for philanthropy and rich interpersonal relationships that continues to infuse his business empire decades after his death…”

BTW, Lakeland failed to make the book’s index, through we’re mentioned as the headquarter of Publix and the site of one of its distribution centers.

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Barry Friedman founded in 2015 as the culmination of a career in print and digital journalism. Since 1982, he has used the tools of reporting, editing and content curation to help people in Lakeland understand their community better.

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