MATHESON HISTORICAL CENTER
ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM
Earl Patrick Powers
Mary Ann Cofrin
February 1, 1995
C: My name is Mary Ann Cofrin. I am interviewing Earl Patrick Powers for the Oral
History Program of the Matheson Historical Center on January 23, 1995, at 2566
Interview with Earl Patrick Powers 2
January 23, 1995
S.W. 14th Drive, Gainesville, Florida. Would you please state your full name and birth date
for the tape, please.
P: Earl Patrick Powers. December 10, 1914.
C: Is Earl spelled with an E, or is it just Earl?
C: And your middle name is Patrick?
C: Where did you get that middle name? Do you know?
P: No, I don't, Mary Ann.
C: Do you know if it was a family name?
P: I'm assuming it was.
C: Assuming it was. And where were you born?
P: In Thomas County in a little village, farming village, of Metcalf
C: Georgia. And how long did you live there?
P: Six years.
C: Then where did you move to?
P: Moved to Brooks County. My parents were farming people so we moved to a farm in
Brooks County, Georgia, which is near Quitman.
C: And were your parents from that area, and your grandparents?
P: We were from Early County, Georgia, which is in western Georgia near the Alabama line.
Both parents were from farming families in that area.
Interview with Earl Patrick Powers 3
January 23, 1995
C: And your grandparents?
P: Grandparents were also. My grandfather was a professional man, as I recall. He was a
dentist in the city of Blakely, Georgia.
C: So you went to some early grades up there before you came to Florida?
P: I really had all of my schooling in Florida. We moved to Lake County, Umatilla, in 1923,
and that's where I started my schooling and was graduated from high school there. I entered
the University of Florida in 1934 as a freshman and was enrolled in the largest class they had
ever had. There were 1,000 students. The entire student body was something like 3,000.
Dr. Tigert was president.
C: What were some of your early impressions of the University?
P: Well, I was very much, very impressed. I came here from a poor family financially, and I
had to work my way through college, which a lot of the other students were doing at that
time because it was the Depression. There were only a few students who had automobiles
here. Most of us were actually working in the cafeterias for our meals and sweeping the
lawns. We had a great business man here, a native of Gainesville, by the name of Klein
Graham. Most of us knew him, and he knew us personally, and Dr. Graham actually let me
have some money from time to time on loans. I am happy to say that I was able to pay him
and the University back.
C: Well, I think it's all very interesting. I want to know, where did you live when you first came
to live here? Did you live in the dormitory?
P: I lived in the new dorm; no, first I lived in Thomas Hall. We only had two dormitories,
Buckman Hall and Thomas Hall. And I was in Thomas Hall. Then we had what they called
the new dormitories, and I lived there for three years, and my entire life on campus was in
dormitories. One of my roommates was Bobbie Collins from Umatilla. He was elected
Chancellor of the Honor Court in the same year that I was elected Business Manager for the
Alligator. As Business Manager of the Alligator, I was able to earn enough money to make
it a little more comfortable for me in going to college. I graduated in 1938. The University
was very helpful to me, and I was honored to be a very close friend of Steve O'Connell and
in my Junior year, he and I ran for President of the Student Body. Steve edged me out by a
few votes, but I was probably happy that he did.
C: Were you in the same class as Steve?
Interview with Earl Patrick Powers 4
January 23, 1995
C: What about the City of Gainesville itself when you first came here. Tell me a little bit about
Gainesville as a small town.
P: As I recall, the citizen population was approximately 10,000. I was very active in my little
Methodist Church in Umatilla and when I came here I joined up with the First Methodist
Church and taught a young Sunday School class there my Freshman year. So I got to know a
number of the citizens in Gainesville through the First Methodist Church here. That was a
real privilege for me and I was associated with some of the fine people of Gainesville, which
C: Do you remember much about how it looked around the square in Gainesville?
P: Well, at that time the train ran through the middle of Gainesville on a brick street. It was
Main Street West, and to the north and south streets were East and West Main Street and one
of the hotels here, the White House Hotel, was on the train line. The depot was right in the
middle of town and only a block from the White House Hotel. And sometimes the train
would stop to let some passengers off at the hotel and then go on a block up to the depot.
C: I remember a lot of that. That's true. Well, at the University you were very active in other
activities besides the Alligator. You were a member of Blue Key, correct?
P: Yes. I was member of Blue Key and also, one year, my Freshman or Sophomore year, was
elected to the Executive Council, which was the legislative body of the student body. And I
was on the Executive Council from the College of Business Administration. Each college
had representatives on this legislative body.
C: And you were also elected to the University Hall of Fame. Is that something
that happens as a Senior or...
P: Yes. It was designated that some of the leaders, most of the leaders, were elected to the Hall
of Fame, they called it. Both my roommate and I -- he was Chancellor of the Honor Court
and, as I mentioned, I was the Business Manager of the Alligator -- we were both elected to
the Hall of Fame.
C: What other classmates of yours do you remember, particularly?
P: Well, I remember Gainesville had only two banks when I first came here as a student, The
First National Bank and the Phifer Bank. One of the fine citizens here was Mr. Gus Phifer,
for whom the bank was named and who founded it. I needed some money while I was a
student and I went down and introduced myself to Mr. Phifer. And he said, "Young man, I'll
be glad to make you a little loan while you are here." So that was one of the ways that I went
to the school here. One of the fine men here was one that later became the Clerk of the
Interview with Earl Patrick Powers 5
January 23, 1995
Court, by the name ofJ.B. Carmichael. He was very helpful to me here. Of course, Miss
Laura Carmichael, his wife and now his widow, was such a fine person. It was ajoy to know
C: Well, you were also speaking of other classmates from Gainesville that you knew.
P: Clifford Beasley was in my class. He was here from Sanford, Florida. He was very
instrumental in helping students while he was working for the Dean of Students office, Dean
Tolbert. He was Dean of Students and a fine, fine man and a great one to know. And
Clifford stayed in Gainesville and worked here until he passed away, which was about a year
ago now; he passed away in 1994. He lived a wonderful life.
C: Any of the other local people in your class?
P: Well, M.M. Parrish and his brother, H.H. Parrish, were students along with me and M.M.
lives here now. H.H. is deceased.
C: Milton Brownlee was?
P: Milton Brownlee was a class ahead of me. Milton was here from Starke, Florida. Milton was
an SAE which we called the "sleep and eat fraternity". Milton has been a mayor of
Gainesville and still lives here and is a very fine citizen. He had a wonderful war record and
we're all proud of Milton.
C: Now, you had some professors, I'm sure, that stand out in your memory. Can you tell me
something about them?
P: Yes. I studied accounting here in the College of Business Administration, and of course we
had to take courses other than just our Economics or Accounting. We had to take Business
English and English generally. J. Hooper Wise was one of our fine English teachers as well
as J. Ed Price. The one who taught me Business English was Washy Clark, and everybody
around Gainesville at that time knew Washy Clark. He was a great comedian and a good
teacher and it was a pleasure to get to know him. Then, of course, one of my history
professors was a man by the name of Dr. Miller Leake. One thing that I remember about
him was that he was a devout Democrat. He was from Virginia and he told the boys, "One
place you will never catch me is in a Republican primary." He drove a Model T automobile
and he lived, as I recall, in the east side of town. So you'd see Miller Leake riding down
through Gainesville in his Model T car and everybody, all the students and all of the
business people, knew Dr. Leake. He was a fine man. Dr. Kokomoor was my math
professor and was also one of my Sunday School teachers at the First Methodist Church. Dr.
Kokomoor was a fine teacher. One thing that I remember about him in particular is that he
could write with either hand. He was ambidextrous, so he'd be writing along with his right
Interview with Earl Patrick Powers 6
January 23, 1995
hand and then need to bring out an explanation, and he would turn, put the chalk in his left
hand and continue. Dr. Kokomoor was just a beautiful character and we all liked to see him
ride around the campus on his bicycle. He lived near the campus and so he would go from
home to his class to his office on campus on his bicycle.
C: Well, I expect when you went to town you thumbed a ride?
P: Oh, yes. And also, Mary Ann, we had then what we called a rat cap and every freshman was
issued a rat cap upon matriculating at the University. When going back to Umatilla on the
weekends and during the holidays we would get out on the corer, and call with our thumb
for a ride with our rat caps. Well, of course, Umatilla was only about 80 miles from here,
some 30 miles south of Ocala, so we would get a ride to Ocala and then over to Umatilla. As
we were mentioning earlier about students that had an automobile, one of the students from
Umatilla who was in school here, was Archie Carr. Archie's father was a Presbyterian
minister in Umatilla. So Archie was fortunate enough to have a car and so sometimes we
could get a ride with Archie back to school inasmuch as he was a year or two older than we
were. His brother Tom, who I think is still a professor here at the University, would come
along with us occasionally. So that was a great privilege to be able to be associated with the
Carr family. Dr. Carr, Archie's father, preached the commencement address at my
graduation from high school in the First Baptist Church in Umatilla. Some of the Carr
family are still residents here in Gainesville. Archie passed away some few years back, but
his wife, Marjorie Carr, is a fine citizen here and has made many contributions to this section
of Florida and all of Florida because of her being such an environmentalist. Many people
here think a lot of Marjorie Carr. We hope she'll still be here for many, many years.
C: Now, you belonged to a fraternity, I believe?
P: In later years, I was a member of the Sigma Nu fraternity. That was only in my late Junior
year. Then as a young professor I lived one year in the fraternity house as the advisor so I
had a little fraternity life.
C: So, after you graduated you became a professor?
C: How did that come about?
P: I graduated in June, 1938, from the Business Administration School with a Bachelor's
Degree, and Dean Matherly, of the College of Business, asked me to come over and visit
with him a little bit and he said, "Earl, you seem to be very popular around here with the
students, and I'd like for you, if you would, to teach a class in accounting starting in
September." Well, not having a job, I was certainly happy in having an opportunity. But
there was one condition which I don't think is required now. Dean Matherly said, "Earl, you
Interview with Earl Patrick Powers 7
January 23, 1995
know Dr. Tigert." Everybody knows Dr. Tigert. Dr. Tigert knows most the students, too.
He said, "Well, I have to have his OK on this, so how about you going down and visiting
with Dr. Tigert and see if he'll OK your employment." So it was a pleasure to go down to
Dr. Tigert's office and be interviewed by him. He said, "Surely, if Walter Matherly wants
you, why, that's certainly all right with me."
C: How long did you teach?
P: I taught until the War came along. I got my telegram from Uncle Sam to enter the service in
December, 1941, to report to Fort Bragg, North Carolina. I was in four years and came back
and taught until 1947. I taught six or seven years.
C: Before we go into your war experience, you did get a Master's Degree while you were still
P: That's right, while I was teaching.
C: I didn't ask you about your social life in Gainesville in those days when you were a college
P: Well, Mary Ann, I didn't have much. My social life was studying and working. As I said
earlier, I had to make all of my way through the University working. My parents did not
have sufficient funds to help me through college, but at that time it only cost us $40 as a
Freshman so I was able to scratch up $40 and between Dr. Klein Graham and others, I was
able to make my own way through the college.
C: As many students did.
P: As many students did.
C: Then you were not one of these that went back and forth to Tallahassee?
P: No, I didn't. I used to see the girls ride on what they called Main Street. They would call it
'Driving the Main'. That was Helen Davis and Margaret Storm and Judy Whiddon and those
girls. I knew them, saw them at the Military Balls, dances, and things of that nature, but I
couldn't afford to have a girlfriend. But I knew those beautiful girls in Gainesville, mainly. I
never went to Tallahassee to visit.
C: Now, I did not ask you earlier about your family. Do you have brothers and sisters?
P: Yes, there were eight in my family. Two girls and six boys, and so we had a wonderful
family life. My father and mother gave me their greatest gift, to be honest.
Interview with Earl Patrick Powers 8
January 23, 1995
C: How did you fit in the line-up of eight?
P: Curtis, my brother, of course, is here in Gainesville. He worked his way through. I gave
him some help, made enough while I was Business Manager at the Alligator to help put us
both through. And then he was able to become the Clerk of the Court here in Gainesville.
He was the baby boy. And then I was next in line. I had a baby sister and Curtis. We are
now 1995, and my oldest brother is now ninety-one, so that's kind of the scale we ran.
C: So you had a lot of older brothers. Did any of them come to the University or were you and
Curtis the only two?
P: Curtis and I were the only ones fortunate enough to get here. They were out working in life -
businessmen in Lake County, with the Powers Brothers Dairy there, and supplied for years
all the milk for Lake County.
C: My brother, Bill, who lived in Tallahassee, was also a CPA. At that time, the governing
board of the University system was called the Board of Control and was headquartered in
Tallahassee. The Board had five members and Bill was the Executive Secretary. He
served in that capacity until the Legislature changed the name to Board of Regents and
named the executive officer Chancellor. My brother was very helpful to the University as
we could call on him at any time.
C: Tell me about your war years. You went into the service, you say, in 1942?
P: I went in the service in 1942. Through the University of Florida, I had acquired the ROTC.
I was in artillery and was ordered to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and there were a number of
University of Florida men that had been in school with me there. There was John McCarty
and Wallace Joplin, and I could go on and on about the number of University of Florida men
who were inducted there at Fort Bragg at the same time I was. I went in as a First Lieutenant
and then spent two years in training. Our division was the 75th Infantry Division, of which I
was in the field artillery, and we were ordered to the ETO in 1944. When we arrived, we
were ordered immediately to the Battle of the Bulge. So I was inducted into that. I saw
more snow there than I had ever seen in my life but fortunately we were able to run the
Germans out of that area in about a month. One of the Gainesville men that were there just
below where I was was Whitey McMullen, who married a Gainesville girl (really she was
from Macintosh), Louise Brown. I fought there through the war. Then we went into
Germany and then were ordered into France where we served as occupation troops and
sending the boys home. While there I had a telegram from General Eisenhower. He was
ordering me down to Biarritz, France. They were starting a university there. I assumed they
picked up my record from personnel file. A university was formed there for the men that
were soldiers waiting to be sent home. So I helped form the war college and taught there,
Interview with Earl Patrick Powers 9
January 23, 1995
while we were getting the fellows sent home. So I had some experience in teaching in what
we called a temporary college. They sent over a number of professors from the United
States who came and taught with us. I remember one very fine professor there, Dean Mott,
who was the Dean of Journalism from the University of Missouri, which as people know, is
one of the finest journalism schools in the country. It was a real pleasure for me to get to
visit with him while teaching there at the university. And then, of course, I returned here to
C: You received the Bronze Star. Tell me about that.
P: Well, you got those with a Cracker Jack box then. I never was too much. I did what I was
ordered to do. I saw some action. Mine was so minuscule compared to men like Milton
Brownlee. I could hardly say that I fought in the war compared to some of my good buddies
here from the University of Florida. Some of them that I worked with in the cafeteria to
earn my way through school were killed, such as Schultz. I knew him very well. He was
killed. And Bill Corry, from Quincy, in Gadsen County, who was Student Body President
here, and whom I knew very well -- he was also killed. So those men gave the supreme
C: They certainly did. So you returned to Gainesville. What year would that have been?
P: 1945. I started teaching immediately at the University. You were asking me about some of
the professors and I mentioned some that had taught me but I'd like to recall some of the
ones I was associated with, such as Dr. McFerrin, who was very prominent in finance and
teaching. He had his education at the University of North Carolina. Dr. McFerrin taught for
many years and passed away here in Gainesville, where he raised a family. Then Dr. John
Eldridge who was also a fine professor of economics and was a very popular man here in
Gainesville. One was Wild Bill Carlton who was a...
C: Was that Carlton?
P: Yes. He was probably one of the more famous ones here and he was a great a friend of Sam
Proctor. The head of our Accounting Department while I was teaching there was Dr.
Beights, who went on to take the same job down at Stetson. They asked me if I would take
that job temporarily until they could hire someone else that wanted it permanently. At that
time Mr. Purvis and Mr. Gray and I decided we were going into practice for ourselves, but
they were looking for someone to take my place as head of the Accounting Department
because I had announced my resignation.
Interview with Earl Patrick Powers 10
January 23, 1995
C: So McFerrin, was that M-C-F-E-R-R-I-N? Do you know his first name?
C: John McFerrin.
P: John B. McFerrin.
C: And Beights was?
C: It's not B-A-T-E-S?
P: No. B-E-I-G-H-T-S.
C: Well, we don't have to know his first name.
P: No, but then we want to mention for these folks that might be interested, that H.K. Wallace
was a great citizen here in Gainesville.
C: Now you're talking about him as a student?
P: As a professor.
C: As a professor, you mean.
P: Archie Carr had a distinguished career. I mentioned him earlier. He was on the faculty. As
a matter of fact, we had our offices adjoining in what we now know as Business
Administration but what was called Science Hall at that time, and they had all kinds of
offices of many people. The museum was on the top fourth floor of that building. And then
they moved it to the Seagle Building.
C: I remember when it was in the Seagle Building. I don't remember it in the Science Building.
P: Well it was.
C: I'm no help to you there.
P: No, well, that's where it was at that time. The museum is now named for your father but...
C: That's a different museum. You're talking about the Natural History Museum.
Interview with Earl Patrick Powers 11
January 23, 1995
P: Yes, Natural History Museum, the one that Archie Carr was so active in.
C: Tell me about how the University had really changed.
P: When I came back, it hadn't changed too much because during the war they had some of the
activities here. The Navy had a program here where they had students that were...but there
wasn't much changed from that time. The big change did come the year I resigned from the
University, and that was the coeds. 1947 was when the legislature decided to take boys in at
Tallahassee and girls in Gainesville. So, before my last year of teaching I had a number of
girls in my class. But that's when the big change came to the University. I can't recall the
exact number, but from the 3,000 that were here when I was a student, it went up into the
several thousands overnight almost, because the boys came home and studied on the GI Bill.
The government financed their education and a number of them returned that were students
but had been called away. My brother Curtis was one came back and got his degree after the
war. We had an influx of students. We had no permanent residence buildings built on
campus during these years so after the war they brought in what they called the Fla-Vets.
And we had those temporary buildings put up all over the campus adjoining the permanent
buildings and they actually, I believe, removed the last of those within the last few years. I
don't believe we have any more of those temporary buildings on campus.
C: Well, were they mostly for married student housing or were they for both?
P: They were for both. Although most of them were for the veterans that were married, because
they would take as many as they could in the dormitories. And out in the community they
were building apartments -- the local builders -- to accommodate the increase of students.
C: But the City of Gainesville itself had not changed a great deal.
P: The City of Gainesville had changed very little from the time that we left to go to war. Very
little change in Gainesville as far as building. During the years after that, we saw
Gainesville build. It exploded. They didn't have football and athletics at the Florida State
University. Before they changed that name under the administration of Governor Collins, it
was called Florida State College for Women. Dr. Proctor and others have talked about the
Buckman Act of 1904, but I will just say hastily that the Buckman Act said there shall be
two universities in the State of Florida. One will be east of the Suwannee River and one
west of the Suwannee River. The one east of the Suwannee River shall be decided by the
peoples of that area, and it was decided that one shall be in Gainesville (after a big political
fight between Gainesville and Lake City) and it shall be for men. But the one west of the
Suwannee River shall be in Tallahassee and it shall be for women. That was all in the
legislative act. I'm sure Dr. Proctor has covered this.
Interview with Earl Patrick Powers 12
January 23, 1995
C: I'm sure he has. Then you started your accounting firm.
P: Yes. Three professors. Howard Gray who had been head of the Accounting Department,
Roy Purvis who had taught in accounting in business there, and myself. There was no CPA
firm in Gainesville. So we started the first Certified Public Accounting firm in Gainesville.
That's the way my business life started in Gainesville. I very much would have liked to
continue teaching because I loved it and the students and they seemed to like me. The
finances were much better out in the business life. Some of my old professors that I
mentioned never earned a great deal of money, but they earned, deservedly so, respect and
admiration and standing in the community.
C: When did you get married?
C: So that was before you went to war.
P: Yes. I was married the first year I started teaching. As a matter of fact, I married Bunch
Cantrell. She had a brother here in school who has been associated with the University
some, and that's Fred Cantrell. He had a good war record also. We had one daughter, Pat.
Pat now is head of the English Department at Gainesville High School. We are very proud
of Pat. Whether she got her teaching from her daddy, I don't know. But I don't think she
did, because she's so much better than I ever was.
C: What year was she born?
C: 1940. Did Bunch stay in Gainesville while you were in the War?
P: She stayed in Gainesville while I was in the War.
C: So you had many activities in Gainesville besides your time spent in your accounting firm.
P: Yes, I have, Mary Ann. Gainesville's been good to me so I have tried to pay back some of
what I owe them by way of service to the community and I have tried to do things for the
community. It's been a real pleasure.
George Smathers was in school at the same time I was. He and I were active in state politics.
We were the campus campaign managers for Claude Pepper when he was running for the
U.S. Senate. George was on the debate team and was away a lot, so I more or less ran the
campaign and Claude was elected. In later years, Smathers ran for the Senate against Pepper
Interview with Earl Patrick Powers 13
January 23, 1995
and he was elected. (This area of the state was strong for Smathers.) As Senator, he was
very helpful to the University and to Gainesville. He was instrumental in getting the VA
Hospital located in Gainesville.
Senator Holland was a graduate of the University of Florida. I was his local contact person
when Al Combs gave up the job. The University, Gainesville, and Alachua County had a
great team in Senators Holland and Smathers. They were always available when they were
While speaking of the political scene, I must mention Billy Mathews. Initially, Billy was the
Alumni Director and ran the Student Union at the University. He was a very popular man on
campus and in town. At one time, Billy was a state representative from Alachua County.
Some local men and women talked him into running for Congress from our District. He
asked me to help with his finances. As a matter of fact, I helped raise enough money to
provide his wife, Sarah, with living expenses while he ran for Congress. He was elected and
served with honor and effectiveness for fourteen years. He did all he was asked to do for the
University and for his district.
About Citizens Field. We had only one high school, Gainesville High. Our only place for
football games was Citizens Field, which had a limited number of wooden seats for the
spectators. Calvert Pepper, Sid Grossman, Charlie Denny and I got together and decided to
build permanent seats of concrete. We collected some money from local people and gave the
concrete and steel for the seats. As I recall, we built 5000 seating capacity as the start of
permanent bleachers. The city and the county later expanded the capacity.
I would like to name a few more men in Gainesville, who were helpful on any project that
was I involved in that benefitted our community. O.H. Thomas, Grier Kirkpatrick, Finley
Cannon, Sr. & Jr., John Pierson, John Jennings, Charlie Outen, Pat Keeter, Sam Harn,
Addison Pound, Sr. & Jr., Clarence Thomas, Fred Cone, Latham Davis, Jesse Davis, Sid
Grossman, Sam Mixson, Leo Thomas, Charlie Brooking, R.L. Henderson, Charlie Denny,
Calvert Pepper, Henry Gray, Selden Waldo, Bill Chandler, M.M. Parrish, Roy Purvis, Bill
Graham, Jim Richardson, Red Adkins, Ike Rudderman, Sid Martin, and all presidents of the
University of Florida John Tigert, J.Hillis Miller, Wayne Reitz, Steve O'Connell, Robert
Marston, Marshall Criser, and John Lombardi.
C: Well, you've been very active in so many things I don't know where to start. Perhaps I
should first ask you about your times with Dan McCarty, running his campaign?
P: Well, yes, that was about the time I started in politics, you might say, on the state level. I
was active, though, in Gainesville in the Junior Chamber of Commerce and those things to
which I could make a contribution. I was President of the Senior Chamber I think in 1950.
Interview with Earl Patrick Powers 14
January 23, 1995
C: I thought it was 1958. It's not on this. The reason I thought it was is because I think it was
right after my father died and he died in 1957. Oh, no. I think maybe it was 1949. Is that
right? It was 1949 you were President of Chamber of Commerce. My father resigned in
1949 and it was right around the same time.
P: When I was in the Junior Chamber of Commerce, that was the year that somewhere or other
they had nominated me as one of the five outstanding young men of Florida and that was for
service in the Junior Chamber, I think.
C: Right. You were also President of the United Fund of Greater Gainesville in 1958.
P: That was the United Fund?
P: Yes, we didn't have the United Way of Gainesville, so Bill Shands and Red Adkins and a
number of us that were in business here and were having to give to different charities got
together and decided we should have a United Way and only give to one fund in the main.
We were able to organize what they call the United Way and I believe I may have been the
second president of that organization. It's been a very successful community charity.
Everybody knows about the United Way now.
C: But you helped with the Red Cross. I believe you were on one of their boards and the
Alachua County Safety Council.
P: Yes, I was the first president, I think of the Safety Council. I don't believe we have that
anymore in Alachua County, but for a while it was a group that promoted safety in driving
and other things of that nature, and they asked me to do that.
C: Then you were on the Alachua County School Board.
P: Yes. I was appointed by Governor Millard Caldwell when they expanded. In the early days,
we only had three members on the school board and the legislature increased that to five.
The Governor appointed me as one of the five. Howard Bishop was superintendent then. He
was a great native of Gainesville. His daddy was a prominent doctor here, Howard Bishop.
Everybody loved Howard and he was a great fisherman and a good athlete when he was
coming along. Our office was in the Courthouse. I enjoyed that service very much. I was
fortunate I didn't have to run but one time, and I didn't have any opposition. I only served
six years; then I resigned when I got involved in state politics, to manage Dan McCarty's
campaign. He was ahead of me in school. Dan graduated here, I believe, in 1933. And
then, of course, his brother John and I went to school together. They asked me to come.
Dan had run once before. He had run in 1948 and one of the fellows he was in college with
Interview with Earl Patrick Powers 15
January 23, 1995
beat him. That was Fuller Warren, who served four years, and Dan decided he would try it
again. They asked me to come down to Ft. Pierce and run his campaign, which I did, and we
were fortunate to be elected at that time so I served with Dan. I enjoyed that service. I was
first on the State Road Board and then the legislature created what they called the Turnpike
Authority, which was to build a turnpike starting in Miami going north to Ft. Pierce. Dan
asked me if I would step off the Road Board and become Chairman of the Turnpike
Authority, which I did and served as the first Chairman of the Turnpike Authority and, as
you know, we lost Dan in death. Records show he died his first year in office or second
year. He was the youngest man ever elected Governor and he was also an ex-Speaker of the
Florida House of Representatives and he was the youngest man ever to have served there.
He was a graduate of the University of Florida and a building here, the Dan McCarty
Agriculture Building, was named for him. Dan was an agriculturist. He had groves,
farming, in south Florida. A great man.
C: That must have been exciting, though, to do all that. You were able to live in Gainesville
except for the campaign time?
P: Except for the campaign time, I lived in Gainesville. As a matter of fact in those positions,
you did not have to live in Tallahassee because they were administrative boards, and so it
was not necessary to move to Tallahassee.
C: So after Dan died, they had an unexpired term. Did they have a special election?
P: No, at that time, we did not have a Lieutenant Governor that legislation was passed later -
but the President of the Senate became the Governor. That was Governor Charlie Johns
from Starke, which is nearby Gainesville. Mary Ann, the reason I'm mentioning this is for
those people who wouldn't know the locations. Then Charlie Johns had his own cronies in
the legislature and around the state and they prevailed upon him to fire all of the McCarty
appointees and appoint his friends. So in the process, those of us on the Turnpike Authority
and on the Road Board and other appointed jobs were dismissed by Charlie Johns, and he put
in his own people. Then we had a very fine President of the Florida Senate, Leroy Collins, a
man from Tallahassee, who became Governor. So those of us that were sort of dismissed
and a lot of other people who were not enamored of Charlie Johns (although I'm sure he
made a good Governor) thought somebody else might do a better job so this bright man from
Tallahassee, who had a very fine record of service to the State, was elected Governor.
C: Are you talking about Leroy Collins?
P: Leroy Collins. Then he appointed some of us back to the positions we had formerly,
although I went from being Chairman of the Turnpike Authority back on the State Road
Board. As a matter of fact, Roy asked me to represent him at a Conference of Southern
Governors. The primary topic was the building of turnpikes in the Southern States, which at
Interview with Earl Patrick Powers 16
January 23, 1995
that time there were none. As history shows, we are one of the first states to build a system
of turnpikes, which the network of roads was called at that time. I might say if you asked me
about local service, one thing I was particularly happy about having a part in was the Senior
Chamber of Commerce. At that time the Senior Chamber was more or less on a voluntary
basis. Gainesville was popping out and growing. I didn't envision it, but I helped a little bit
maybe when I was elected President of the Chamber of Commerce by getting the group of
businessmen together and saying, "Now we want a Chamber of Commerce that really
operates and in order to do that we must have money." And so I got Addison Pound, Sr., and
Fred Cone and a number of the businessmen together and I said, "Now do we really want to
run a Chamber of Commerce on a nickel-and-dime basis or do we want to get out and make
it into something?" They said, "Let's go," and so I went around personally to some of these
people and they gave us enough money to hire a full-time executive. Mary Ann, do you
remember your father when he was Secretary of the Chamber of Commerce? It was a
service of love more than of money.
C: Didn't have much money to work with, that's right.
P: Didn't have much money to work with. A little ol' office down there on the side of the
courthouse, big enough as an outhouse. Then we made it into something. As President of
the Chamber of Commerce, I knew we didn't have anybody to represent us in Tallahassee. I
was up there working on these appointed jobs, so I more or less did the lobbying in
Tallahassee as a lobbyist. I knew a great many of the legislators so I was helpful to the city
by going around and doing this business on a voluntary basis. Bill Shands was a very
effective Senator but he couldn't do it all so I helped by going to various ones where they
might want a road here or something so I was able to use a little of my influence by helping
them to help Gainesville. Lobbied some for the medical school that was put here. As a
matter of fact Roy Collins (Dan was Governor then, Roy was in the Senate) lived at what
they called the Grove, which was the adjoining mansion to the Governor's mansion, and Roy
used to go over there and visit with Dan and me. It was a real pleasure for me to work with
those two men and Roy helped us a great deal in Gainesville and helped us get the medical
school here. The first bill for the medical school was for $5 million for the basic science
C: I didn't realize that was that early. In the early 1950's.
P: Yes. We graduated our first class in 1956 or 1957, right in there, remember. There is a
picture of Dick Smith admitting that first patient, remember, that little girl from Williston.
C: I guess the hospital opened in 1958.
P: That's right. That's a contribution that I think I helped in, for the City of Gainesville, the
medical center. Dr. Miller and I were very good friends.
Interview with Earl Patrick Powers 17
January 23, 1995
C: This was J. Hillis Miller.
P: J. Hillis Miller. Dr. Miller and I were good friends. He used to say, "Earl, any time you
want to come over to my office, come on over." I want to tell who his secretary was...
C: Not Edith Pitts.
P: No, Edith was Dr. Tigert's. I was wanting to mention her name earlier and I started to ask
you about Edith Pitts -- oh, she was great. But this was Phyllis Durell. She worked over
there many, many years.
C: My name is Mary Ann Cofrin. I'm continuing an interview with Earl Patrick Powers for the
Matheson Historical Center on February 1, 1995, at 2566 S.W. 14th Drive, in Gainesville,
Florida. There are a few things that we'd like to comment about that we skipped over the
other day. First, I wanted to mention that Earl Powers was listed in the Florida History, by
J.E. Dovell, 1952 edition. He was also listed in the Who's Who in Religion in the United
States. Earl was mentioned in these books because he served on many boards and
committees and the Road Board. He also had quite a lot to do with his church and the board
of trustees. Would you have any comments on these two events?
P: Well one of the church activities of which I was very proud, was being for nine years a
trustee of the children's home at Enterprise, Florida. That home has a beautiful campus on
Lake Monroe and in residence are several hundred children from time to time. I enjoyed that
service very much.
C: I also wanted to ask you a little bit about the event when Governor Collins led the march on
the Selma Bridge during the Civil Rights Movement. Could you comment on that?
P: I'd be happy to, Mary Ann. Governor Collins was asked by President Johnson to chair the
Commission on Civil Rights for the United States. In that capacity he was making a speech
at the University of Florida and President Reitz asked several of us one night, the night he
was to speak here, to join him for dinner. During the course of the meal, Governor Collins
had a call to answer the telephone. The President of the United States was calling him. He
was excused. He was asked to go to Selma, Alabama, and lead this parade. He told the
president that he was here at an invitation of the University of Florida to make a speech that
night. The president's reply was, "Well, Governor there have been more important speeches
than you're making that have been canceled. There will be a plane at the airport in
Gainesville to pick you up in a few minutes and you will board it and go to Selma, Alabama,
and lead the parade across the bridge." Naturally, the Governor had no alternative, so he
excused himself and flew to Selma, Alabama, where he lead the parade with Martin Luther
Interview with Earl Patrick Powers 18
January 23, 1995
King across the bridge. As history will reveal, there were no incidents, and the Governor
was risking his life on this call but he was happy to do it and it made a fine contribution to
the Civil Rights Movement to have him do this.
C: That's very interesting.
P: Don't you think that would be of interest?
C: Oh, I certainly do, I certainly do.
P: And it is a fact.
C: You were also active on the state level raising money for the United Negro College Fund.
Do you have any comments about that?
P: Mary Ann, there again that was a task that I enjoyed very much and I am still active even in
retirement in making contributions where I can, and am involved in the fund raising for the
United Negro Colleges all over the United States.
C: That's very commendable. Well, when we left off we were beginning our discussion about
your involvement with getting the University of Florida Medical School in Gainesville. So
please tell us about that.
P: As history will reveal, Mary Ann, there was quite a controversy about where the medical
school should be located, whether at a college with many disciplines, such as the University
of Florida, or whether it should be located in a municipal urban area like Jacksonville. The
Jacksonville folks, through their Senator, John Matthews, and one of their leading citizens,
Dr. Cason, led a fight to have this medical school located in Jacksonville. Of course, we in
Gainesville were doing everything we could to have it located here as a part of the
University of Florida. And I am happy to say that the legislature decided after a good hard
fight that it would be located in Gainesville. The monies then were being appropriated by
the legislature and the first funds were for the basic science building, which was $5 million.
That was under the governorship of Dan McCarty. When he was signing this bill
appropriating $5 million for the basic science building, I was present, and he gave me the
pen with which he signed this bill. I was very proud to receive it, and it was a little
contribution for the part that I had played in the legislature in getting this appropriation and
also the act passed designating the University of Florida at Gainesville as the center for the
medical center and it was named for our then president of the University of Florida, J. Hillis
Miller. In later years, I gave the pen to the medical school, and I understand they have it
over there now.
C: What year was that, Earl? Do you remember?
Interview with Earl Patrick Powers 19
January 23, 1995
P: 1953. The legislature was in session then, I believe, in February 1953.
C: So it was many years before we actually got the first class in the medical school. Who else
was involved in that?
P: Well, of course our senator from this area was Senator Bill Shands. And Senator Bill Shands
was the important cog in all of this controversy. Because of his leadership and influence in
the state senate, and also in the House, their cooperation was largely responsible for our
having the medical school designated in Gainesville.
C: So then the medical school opened its doors in 19--, well the first class was 1958 was it?
P: That was the graduating class.
C: First graduating class; so it started in 1954.
P: In 1958 we admitted our first patient to the Shands Hospital, which was named for Senator
Shands. And, as I recall, one of the professors there and one of the doctors in pediatrics was
a Dr. Dick Smith, and he was there with the first patient from Williston that was admitted to
C: Well, that's very interesting. Following up after 1958, we get up into the 1960s and some of
your involvement with the Florida State Museum.
P: Yes. At that time we did not have a building that housed the museum as such, the Museum
of Natural History. It was housed in just a room in the top story of Science Hall. It was felt
by not only the people at the university but by people throughout Florida, that we needed a
home to house this very important institution. So the State appropriated, as I recall, about
$750,000 for a building that was to cost somewhere in the million plus dollars. The
community was charged with raising the additional funds to build a building to house the
museum. Sam Dell and I were designated as co-chairmen to raise these funds. I'm happy to
say that the drive for the money was successful and the building is now completed.
C: Yes. And you were involved with the Trinity Methodist Church in the 1960s.
P: Well, it was a mission of the First Methodist Church to put a second Methodist Church here
in Gainesville. So Dr. Francis Cooper and I were designated by the church to find and raise
the monies for a new mission which was to be named the Trinity and which is now housed
on 8th Avenue.
C: Yes, on 8th Avenue by Littlewood School.
Interview with Earl Patrick Powers 20
January 23, 1995
P: So we raised the funds and bought five acres of land there for the Trinity church and it is
now the fastest growing Methodist church in the Florida annual conference. And we've had
some very outstanding ministers there at that church. We were also able to build Southwest
Methodist on Williston Road.
C: And then it wasn't too many years after that you and Margo Delaney became man and wife.
P: That's true. A happy union.
C: 1978 I believe. And then I wanted to ask you about you and Margo giving a gift to the
University of College of Nursing.
P: Yes. Margo has been very interested in the nursing profession and so we have designated,
made a bequest, for some funds to be given to the College of Nursing for scholarship
program along the way.
C: Now, we've about brought you up to date. You're retired now. Tell me about your activities
P: I serve on the Board of Overseers for the Health Science Center and am a permanent member
of the Board of the University of Florida Foundation.
Recently, Hope Lodge here at the Medical Center needed to be expanded. The Lodge is
temporary housing for cancer patients who need to be seen daily for a time for treatment.
Winn Dixie employees contributed $700,000.00. I was asked to form and head a committee
to raise the needed balance. Altogether, we raised $1,400,000.00. At the dedication, I
mentioned I had been awarded a P.B. degree from the University -- "Professional Beggar". I
help with other organizations when I'm called on from time to time. I stay busy enough.
C: I see a list where you've been past president of the following: the Junior Chamber of
Commerce, the Senior Chamber of Commerce, Kiwanis Club, United Way, Alachua County
Safety Council, YMCA (you were the founding president in Gainesville), Gainesville Golf
and Country Club, Founding Member of the Quarterback Club. Do you have any comments
about any of these organizations or people that influenced you in them?
P: Mary Ann, I am very happy to say that this list indicates that I have been very active in the
civic affairs of Gainesville. And reading that list you might say, 'Well, Earl, I can't
understand how you ever had time to practice your profession of accounting.'
C: That's right. I do wonder.
Interview with Earl Patrick Powers 21
January 23, 1995
P: But as you know Mary Ann, in your civic activities in which you've been very active, you
find that when you want to get something done in the community you usually go to those
people who have been active. So my friends undoubtedly felt that I was active and therefore,
I did not have the courage to ever say no.
C: When you see something needs to be done you willing to do it and that's certainly admirable.
Can you tell me any particular people in Gainesville or the University of Florida that most
influenced your life? Would you care to comment on some of them?
P: Mary Ann, there is one incident that's trivial but it comes to mind. When we were talking
about one of the professors at the University of Florida, Dr. Miller Leake. I was in a class
with Dr. Leake and he was not only a fine professor but he would also bring some comedy
occasionally and made it all very interesting. I remember in this particular class one of the
football players was named S.L. Yon. Dr. Leake in trying to remember the names of all the
students says to S.L. when he came to his name he was associating his name with different
things, he said, "S.L., I won't have any trouble remembering your name because that's the
first thing I do every morning." So S.L. said, "Well, Dr. Leake, I can remember yours, too."
You may want to erase this from the tape.
C: No, I think that's very humorous. How about any other of your associates in Gainesville?
P: Well, in covering the professors, I indicated a number of them early on that I thought very
highly of and made a contribution to my life. But one man here in Gainesville that I think
has influenced the life of more people than anybody else, was our Presbyterian minister here
whom we referred to as "Preacher", Preacher Gordon. Preacher Gordon was a bachelor so
he had time to mix and mingle with the students at the university and the young men around
town and also the men that he fished and hunted with. Preacher certainly influenced my life
to some degree. Although I'm not a Presbyterian, I would go to his services and enjoyed his
preaching. I remember one remark that he made at one of his services where he had a
number of the University of Florida men there. When he was passing the collection plates,
the stewards were, he would say, "Now boys, if you can't put any in why take a little out if
you need it." That was the sort of man that Preacher Gordon was. I know you can get many
people in Gainesville to attest to the fact that he influenced their lives.
C: Any other contemporaries that you worked with in the city that influenced you? I know you
mentioned Senator Shands as one.
P: Senator Shands was certainly a influence with a number of people such as I've talked about.
Preacher Gordon. There are a number of people who did influence me, men and women, in
the church. Grier Kirkpatrick was a good friend. We had some business together. Grier was
a fine influence in the community and always was good in making gifts. I would usually get
Grier's name on these drives we would have and going to Grier and asking him about making
Interview with Earl Patrick Powers 22
January 23, 1995
a contribution, he would often say, "Well, Earl, what's my share?," and he would come forth
C: Well, I think we've about covered everything unless you have something specific you want
P: Well, being in the firm here with a number of partners, but my senior partner certainly
influenced my life some and that was Roy Purvis. Roy not only was a mayor in Gainesville
but in the time that we were in business together he was involved with his church,
Presbyterian church, and many other good ventures in the community. Our firm, certified
public accounting firm, partners usually did their share in the community. If one was chosen
to do something, such as my time as president of the Senior Chamber of Commerce, that
took about 50% of my time, the partners said, "Earl, it's a job and you do it." So that's the
attitude that the partners in this firm took -- to do some good for the City of Gainesville and
C: Well, you certainly have and I want to thank you very much for this interview. We
appreciate it a lot and I'll be back in touch with you soon.
P: Mary Ann, I'm sure I'm not deserving of it, but I do appreciate this honor you have given me
by being placed in the historical records of the City of Gainesville and the County of
Alachua and the State of Florida.
C: Thank you.