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TRANSCIPT OF STATEWIDE
TV-RAt)IO TAL 'TO
THE PEOPLE OF iFLIPA ON RACE tkEATItS_
GOVERNMCi EERO COLLINS
DELIVERED OE-ROtTEW D -R$D O
NuiWCht %30o- 6o P. C1 i M.
SUmtIAY, MARCH 20,1960
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TRANSCRIPT OF STATEWIDE TV-RADIO TALK TO
THE PEOPLE OF FLORIDA ON RACE RELATIONS
BY GOVERNOR LEROY COLLINS
DELIVERED OVER STATEWIDE TV-RADIO NETWORK 5:30 6:00 P. M.
SUNDAY; MARCH 20, 1960
Hello, everybody. I first want to thank station WFGA
and all the other broadcasting stations throughout the state
for giving me this opportunity of coming into your living room
this afternoon and talking to you about some problems about
which I am very gravely concerned and that affect every man,
woman and child in our state.
First, let me say though to all the people of Florida how
deeply we feel regret about the losses and damages that high
waters have occasioned so many of our citizens. We hope that
damages can be minimized as best as possible, and, of course, all
of us stand by as neighbors to render whatever help we can to
these citizens and friends,
Well, I want to talk to you about race relations. Frankly,
I had a group of my friends come over to see me yesterday and
they said very frankly, "Governor, we don-t think you should make
this broadcast you are talking about tomorrow afternoon." I ask-
ed why and they said, "Well, you have less than a year now to
serve in this office and certainly you know that whatever you say
is going to make some people mad, and we just donrt see the reason
why you should stick your neck out or become involved in a discus-
sion of that very explosive issue."
Well, frankly, I don't follow that sort of logic. I believe
this is a very grave and serious matter facing the people of this
state, affecting all of us, and I think the people of this state
when their governor has convictions about a matter expect him to
express those convictions directly to them.
Now that's the policy I've been following as your gov-
ernor. I know many times that I have taken stands that many
people have not approved of. But I still believe that I have
the respect of the people of Florida because I believe those.
people have felt I was sincere in my position and I think by and
large where they have differed with me, they have come later to
feel that there was considerable logic in the stand that I took
in respect to them.
Now let me say this, I believe very deeply that I represent
every man, woman and child in this state as their governor, whether
that person is black or white, whether that person is rich or poor,
or whether that person is influential or not influential.
A governor, if he is worth his salt, has a deep responsi-
bility for all of the people add I feel that responsibility. I
want to say this to you, too, that I am not a candidate for any-
thing. It seemsalmost every time I speak out about anything
these days and for some time past now, I am projected as being a
candidate for vice-president or having some personal motives of
some sort. Now that is absolutely -- there is nothing to that.
I believe that the face of Florida -- the image of Florida
-- is not in its pine trees or in its palm trees or even in its
orange trees, but in the people of this state. I believe that
large star on our map of the United States that represents
Florida stands for the people of Florida.
Now let me review briefly something of the history of this
racial strife that we are contending with. It was on last February
1, that four Negro college students from a North Carolina college
went into a Woolworth store in Greensboro, N. C. They bought
some tooth paste and other minor items at one of the counters,
then turned over to the lunch counter and ordered a cup of coffee.
The waitress there said, "I'm sorry, we do not serve colored
people here'J One of the students said, "Why I have just been
served here. I bought a tube of tooth paste over there." She said,
"Well, we serve you over there, but we do not serve you here."
That was the first of these demonstrations. Many followed
there in Greensboro involving hundreds of people. They spread
throughout North Carolina on to Virginia, to South Carolina, to all
of the other states of the South, including Florida.
And we have had many throughout our state aid, unlike some
people assume, not all of these demonstrations were sponsored by
students; in fact, only a minority have been sponsored by students.
But the worst of all, of course, has occurred, I think, as some of
you know, in Tallahassee, And there it was largely sponsored by
students from the Florida A & M University, our Negro institution,
and Florida State University.
There the city of Tallahassee took a rather rigid and puni-
tive position in respect to tlese demonstrations. And, of course,
this gave the appearance of partiality or of non-objectivity and
this caused the conditions to become aggravated and we finally de-
veloped conditions there in Tallahassee of which I am frankly i h
Yesterday and the day before there was a tenseness about
the atmosphere in Tallahassee that was disgraceful. We had armed
patrolmen, state, county and city, patrolling every street because
we have had the wildest rumors imaginable going on there about what
was going to happen.
First a hundred Negro citizens were going to be brought in
to augment local forces, then that grew as high as 6,000. First
we had large numbers of White Citizens Council members who were
coming in to augment the white forces and that grew up into the
thousands. Of course, all that proved to be completely unsound,
but our people got worried. They were calling me at night --
widows asking me if I thought they would be safe in their homes
at night time.
An element of fear which is certainly an insidious and a
dangerous thing to behold. When I was going back to my office
just yesterday noon the highway patrolman who was driving me said,
"Governor, I just got word that a bus load of students -- Negro
students from Alabama -- has just pulled into the A & M University
campus and they've got a lot of baseball bats and they're out to
augment the local forces, to put on some sort of a demonstration."
I called the president of the university when I got to the
office and he said, "It is true, Governor, we've got a bus load.
For a year now we have had a ball game, a baseball game,
scheduled with the institution up there in Alabama aid the boys
are here with their bats to play the ball game." And they played
the ball game.
But there were wild rumors about runs on hardware stores
for ammunition, about runs for baseball bats, about runs on stores
for hammers, knives, screwdrivers and everything else. A perfect-
ly absurd situation to develop here in our free America, in our free
Florida and in our free Tallahassee.
But what is the legal situation about these so-called
First, I want to say this to everyone of you: that we are
going to have law and order in this state.
I don't care who the citizen is, he is going to be protect-
ed in pursuing his legal rights in Florida.
And that goes for every place in Florida.
Now under our free enterprise system and under our laws a
merchant has the legal right to select the patrons he serves, And
certainly he is going to be protected in that legal right.
The customer, of course, has the legal right to trade or not
to trade with any man he wants to and, of course, there is the
right to demonstrate and the people should be protected in that
But I want to call your attention that the right to demons
state in all cases is limited by the fact that if there is any
clear and present danger that that demonstration will incite pub-
lic disorder, it is ~pawhul. And, of course, a situation of this
kind could bring about that kind of condition in one community and
not in another.
Now we have applied that rule. I called on our sheriffs
two years ago to apply it against the Ku Klux Klan. While they
were planning a perfectly lawful demonstration under normal cir-
cumstances, the information we had about the way they were going
to conduct that, I felt would clearly incite disorder and danger
and so we called upon the sheriffs to .prevent demonstrations of
that sort and they did.
But actually, friends, we are foolish if we just think a-
bout resolving this thing on a legal basis. In the first place,
our merchants have mach involved so far as their business pros-
perity not to have racial tensions of thm,' order,
Boycotts can be extremely damaging and will be extremely
damaging to their businesses. And, of course, any racial tension
brings about depression in business and depresses generally the
business spirit of any community,
But aside from that we've got some moral rights and we've
got some principlAs of brotherhood that are involved in these is-
sues that I want to talk with you just a little about.
I'm amazed at how different people react differently in this
particular area. My own mother and father, I found the other day,
don't fully agree on how they feel about race relations. I know my
own wife and I have disagreements from time to time about race re-
And so far as I am personally concerned, I don't mind say-
ing that I think that if a man has a department store and he in-
vites the public generally to come into his department store and
trade, I think then it is unfair and morally wrong for him to
single out one department though and say he does not want or will
not allow Negroes to patronize that one department.
Now he has a legal right to do that, but I still don't
think that he can square that right with moral, simple justice.
Now you may not agree with that. Strange things develop
in respect to these relations. We have a department store there at
home, for example, that has a counter where ladies go and buy pat-
terns. Well, white and colored women have been seated, side by s
side, buying patterns at that counter for 20 years,
Our banks in Tallahassee -- and I think everywhere else --
have no discrimination whatever in respect to what windows their
customers will use. One of our banks has recently initiated a
program of serving coffee to all of its customers between 10 and
11 o'clock in the morning. And that service is provided without
discrimination and there's no special place to sit because that
institution feels an obligation to treat all of its customers a-
The whole thing reminds me a little of that old Hindu
story about the Blind Men and the Elephant. They didn't know
what an elephant was like and so they wanted to find out and
one blind man went up and felt the elephant's side and he said,
"The elephant is like a wall." Another one went up and he
touched the tusk and said, "The elephant's like a spear." The
other one went up and he felt a leg and said, "The elephant is
like a tree." The other one went up and he felt the ear and
said, "The elephant is like a fan." The other one went up and
he felt the tail and said, "The elephant is like a rope." And
so each interpreted it as he felt it, but at the same time none
of them had any real conception of what an elephant was actual-
ly like, Now none of us have all the answers to this situation,
friends. I think all of us are part right and part wrong.
We must have more tolerance, more understanding, more
cfristianity, less words and less demonstrations, I think, if we
are going to find the answer ultimately.
I went to church this morning and I was amazed that the
scripture the gospel -- for this third Sunday is Lent which
the minister read includes this
These words from th e Master. "But he, knowing their
thoughts, said unto them, every kingdom divided against itself
is brought to desolation; and a house divided against a house
How appropriate that, scripture was to me on this day be-
cause I firmly believe as I hope you will that every state divided
against itself, every city divided against itself, every nation
divided against itself is bound to come to desolation.
Now that is true for many reasons because when there is
division there is suspicion, there is fear, there is distrust and
ultimately there is hate and hate consumes aid destroys.
Friends, we must find answers. There is absolutely nothing
that can aid the Communists more at this time in establishing su-
premacy over the United States -- and that is their ambition --
than racial strife in this country.
I made that statement the other day and somebody said to me,
"Yes, I think you are right about that. We understand how that in-
jures our nation for the word to be passed along about our racial
strife, but all this could be eliminated if the colored people
would just stay in their place."
Now friends, that's not a Christian point of view.
That's not a democratic point of view.
That's not a realistic point of view.
We can never stop Americans from struggling to be free,
We can never stop Americans from hoping and praying that
some day in some way this ideal that is imbedded in our Declara-
tion of Independence is one of these truths that are inevitable
that all men are created equal, that, that somehow will be a
reality and not just an illusory distant goal.
How are we going to work and what are we going to do?
Next week I am going to announce the appointment of a bi-
racial committee for this state to succeed the so-called
Fabisinski committee which has been working with race relations,
but you will recall the unfortunate loss of Judge Fabisinski,
Mr. Cody Fowler of Tampa has agreed to serve as chairman
of that new committee. The other members will be announced next
week. Mr, Fowler, is an outstanding man and will bring to that
service great competence. He was the president of the American
Bar Association and he has longoworked with inter-racial programs
in the city of Tampa and was one of the early members of our old
And I want local committees formed in this state, I appeal;.
to those communities all communities -- here and now to estab-
lish among your citizens bi-racial committees that can take up and
consider grievances of a racial character and that can honestly
and sincerely and with a determined effort try to find solutions to
Now the fact that your community has not had any difficulties
should not deter you in moving to form this committee because sooner
or later you will. We ar. confronted with a great need in our a
state to intelligently and reasonably act and to do that I must
have the cooperation of the people.
Florida needs you in this program.
We need more reason and less emotion. We need more love
and less hate. We need more work and effort and less talk and less
Citizens, please do not fail this great challenge. We are
here in the Easter Season.
About two years ago the distinguished playwright, Robert
Sherwood, wrote a play for Robert Montgomery and it was present-
ed on television. The title of it was "The Trial of Pontius Pilatet'
The title intrigued me because I had always thought of the events
of those fatal times as working around the trial of Jesus and I
never had thought in terms of Pontius Pilate being on trial.
But Sherwood is a very logical and in a very reasonable way
pointed out in truth and in fact Pontius Pilate was the man who
was on trial. Pontius was a great, big, strong, wonderful man at
the court of the Caesars in Rome. He was a comer. Everybody ex-
pected him to do great things and to be given great assignments.
His wife was one of his greatest boosters. She thought that he
would be assigned as the procurator of Egypt which was the really
choice post available at that time. But when the day came for
Pontius Pilate to get his assignment, it was to the little in-
significant country of Judea and Pontius was furious because he
felt that his assignment was not measuring up to his capacity,
But he went on, of course, and undertook it just the same.
You remember how the events developed towards the time of the
crucifixion and when the Pharisees got Jesus and they were trying
their best to pin something on him that the Romans, of course,
would authorize his execution for and they were having a tough
time of it and they were pounding on Pilate's door and trying to
convince him that he should get this man and have him executed
and you remember those early days how Pilate said, "But what's
wrong with the man? I don't see, I don't hear anything trea.
sonable about his conduct. Why should we be so disturbed?"
And they said, "Oh, Pontius Pilate, he's inciting people
to riot and disorder. He's creating insurrection. He's a dan-
gerous and he's an evil man." And Pontius said to them, "I was
talking to a man who was with him down in the temple yesterday
and I asked him about what this man had said and he said that
somebody showed him a coin and tried to trap him and said, rWhat
do you say about Ceasar?* And he said in response to that,
*Render unto Caesar the the things that are Caesar's and unto God
the things that are Godts, Now what's wrong with that?" Pontius
asked these advisers.
They said, "Oh, you oan't understand this man's attracting
a lot of people to follow him. He's creating distrust in your
government and in your supervision. You've got to do something
Pontius* wife, Claudia, came into the picture about that
time and she said, "Pontius, think carefully about this thing.
I was down on the street the other day and I saw this man teach-
ing and I went up because I wanted to hear what he had to say and
he said very distinctly that, "I came not to establish a kingdom
on earth, but a kingdom in Heaven."
And Pontius said, "How could that be treasonable?" But
they insisted and about that time they started hearing the cry
of the mob outdoors. First it was a soft, "Crucify Him," and then
it got stronger, "Crucify Him," and then it got stronger, "Crucify
Hi," and then something happened to that big, strong man.
He heard the cry of the mob. And he went out on the balcony
and there they were just screaming and crying for blood. And that
great big man started getting nsaller and smaller.and smaller.
And he grew to be a little, insignificant dwarf, And he said,
"Bring ae a bowl of water," And when he got the water, he washed
his hands in it.
And he said to that arowd, "Iwill not let the blood of
this righteous man be on w hands. I wash ny hands of it. See to
And they did see to it themselves. They crucified him.
Friends, we've got mobs beginning to form now, in this
nation, in this Southland and in this state. The time requires
intelligent, careful, thorough study of big problems, and the
reaching of solutions that are going to be reasonable and sound
and make good sense.
We cannot let this matter and these issues be decided by
the mobs, whether they are made up of white people or whether
they are made up of colored people.
And we in this state have this sort of situation; we have
got extremists on one side and we've got extremists on the other.
We've got this mob shouting here; we've got that mob shouting
But where are the people in the middle? Why aren't
they talking? Why aren't they working? They must start work-
ing. They must start efforts that are going to bring about
solutions if we are going to get over these problems and these
troubles and keep our state growing as our state should grow.
You remember the little story about the song of the
brook? It said, "Bring me men to match my mountains, bring me
men to match my plains, men with empires in their vision and
new eras in their brains."
We've got to have men with new eras in their brains.
We've got a state to build. We've got a nation to save. And
we've a God to serve. Thank you.
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