Interviewee: Jacob C. Belin
Interviewer: Samuel Proctor
Date: August 13, 1992
P: [This is Sam Proctor, and I am in Jacob C.] Belin's office here in Port St. Joe,
[Florida]. I am doing an interview with Mr. Belin this morning [August 13, 1992]. I
am going to ask him questions about himself, about his personal life and his
professional life. We are recording this interview for the University of Florida's
Oral History Program. Mr. Belin, I want you to tell me, first of all, where we are.
Identify this building here in Port St. Joe.
B: We are at the offices of the Apalachicola Northern Railroad Company and the St.
Joe Paper Company at the head of Main Street here in Port St. Joe. The
Apalachicola Northern Railroad Company is a subsidiary of the St. Joe Paper
Company, and we share common offices here in this building.
P: I notice you have a middle name, Jacob C. Belin. What is that middle name?
B: The C is for Chapman. I was named after the doctor who delivered me on
October 28, 1914. That was nearly seventy-eight years ago. I laughed about that.
Of course, I do not remember the incident, but the doctor was from Alabama. He
came across the P. [Perdido] River, came across the Alabama-Florida line and
delivered me over in Walton County, DeFuniak Springs, in 1914. I could just as
well have been an Alabamian as I am a Floridian.
P: How did it happen that your family was living in DeFuniak Springs?
B: My father was in the naval stores business.
P: Who was he? Give me his name.
B: My father was William Jacob Belin. I have done a great deal of genealogical
research on the Belins. We are French Huguenots. The Belins came to the
United States shortly after King Louis [XIV] revoked the Edict of Nantes [in 1685].
We were French Protestants. We were given refuge in England, where we were
their denizens. Denization is equivalent of citizenship. I think my people were
given all privileges except they could not carry on commerce with Spain or
France. They left England and came to this country in the late 1600s and settled
in South Carolina in a parish called St. Denis Parish. St. Denis was the patron
saint of France. My people came up there. They spoke French when they came
here, although they spoke fluent English, too, having spent years in England.
My father was born in Georgetown, and he came to Florida about the turn of the
century. He was associated, as I said, with the naval stores industry. South
Carolina and North Carolina were the seat of naval stores. North Carolinians
were called tar heels after turpentine naval stores. My father was seeking
longleaf pine for the naval stores venture, and because of the rich forest in
Georgia, Alabama, and western Florida, he settled in Holmes and Walton
counties, where he was there engaged in the naval stores business until 1917.
P: And he met and married your mother in Florida?
B: My mother was from Andalusia, Alabama. Andalusia is not far from DeFuniak
P: What was her name?
B: Addie Leonard.
P: And they met where?
B: In Andalusia. He traveled through Andalusia. He had places over in Alabama,
and some in Mississippi, too, and he would come down to Andalusia, where he
met my mother. She was a great deal younger than my father. My father was
thirty-eight years old when he married my mother; she was eighteen. That was
not unusual in those days. He married only once. My father died in 1953 at the
age of eighty-two, and my mother died in 1968; she was eighty-four, I believe. [If
Addie Leonard Belin was twenty years younger than her husband, she cannot
have been older than seventy-seven when she died.] My father was born right at
the close of the Civil War. His father and his Uncle Jacob, my Great-uncle Jacob,
fought through the Tennessee campaign Nashville, Murphreesboro, Franklin,
Atlanta, all the way in and stacked arms before General Sherman in Durham in
1865. Yes, my mother was an Alabamian.
P: So that is how you happened to be born in DeFuniak Springs.
B: Yes, sir.
P: Did you live a long time in DeFuniak?
B: No, not long. I was born in 1914, and we left there in 1917.
P: And you went [where]?
B: To Avon Park, Florida.
P: What brought you to Avon Park?
B: Naval stores. My father acquired timbers there in what was then De Soto County.
It was between Avon Park, Wauchula, and Zolfo Springs. You know the area.
P: Oh, yes.
B: De Soto County was subsequently divided into [De Soto,] Hardee, and Highlands
counties. Wauchula [is] the county seat of Hardee, [and] Sebring [is] the county
seat of Highlands. But the family resided where we children went to school in
Avon Park, where my father had the place out near Wauchula and Zolfo Springs.
P: Now, when you say he had "a place," was it a turpentine camp?
B: Yes, a big turpentine camp, one of the biggest, I guess, in the history of naval
P: Where did they ship out of? Tampa?
B: No, they shipped out of Wauchula, Lakeland, and Avon Park.
P: Of course, the shipments that went by boat mainly went out of Jacksonville.
B: I believe it went out of Savannah. Waycross seemed to be the marketing center,
but shipments principally went out of Savannah, and, believe it or not, a great
deal of it was exported from Pensacola.
P: Is this [shipping] out of Savannah because the [Atlantic] Coast Line railroad was
running out of that Avon Park area?
B: That is right. The Coast Line, and I believe the Seaboard [Air Line Railroad] was
running out of there, too.
P: The Coast Line was Mr. [Henry B.] Plant's old operation.
P: So how long did you live in Avon Park?
B: Seven years. I went to grade school in Avon Park. I came here in 1924.
P: When you say "here," you are talking about Port St. Joe?
B: Indeed, yes, Port St. Joe.
P: What brought you all back here?
B: Naval stores. Turpentine.
P: Boy, you followed that turpentine route!
B: Did we ever! My father had three big places here. This area was rich in pine. We
moved here from Avon Park in 1924 when my father was engaged, again, in the
naval stores operation here in Calhoun County. Subsequently the county was
divided, in 1925, and we are now in Gulf County.
P: What about your brothers and sisters?
B: I had four sisters, one yet living, and one brother. He is here. He retired from St.
Joe Paper Company. He was with the container division of St. Joe Paper
Company for well over forty years. He and I together have a tenure of just about
a hundred years.
P: Your father did well in the turpentine business?
B: Yes, as did all naval stores operators back in those days. It was a lucrative
business. Those turpentine operators were barons. They lived well. My mother
and we children would go out to the places where my father had his office and
had his businesses in the summertime for the three months we were out of
school to be close to my father, and we had all the servants we wanted. I had
boys to rake the yard for me. My mother had maids and cooks by the dozens. All
she had to do was send somebody down to the place where my father had all of
these employees we called them hands back in those days and the daughter
or the wife of one of the hands would come up and work and cut wood for the
fireplaces, cut wood for the stove, do all the yard work, all the housekeeping, all
of the cooking, laundry and everything. All of the menial chores were done by just
[these servants]. We lived well. [We] never felt any hardship. Not even during the
Great Depression did it affect us.
Naval stores operators fared extremely well up until, I suppose, the wages and
hours law came in and until the pulp paper operation came in. [The Fair Labor
Standards Act, which set the standards for wages and hours, was passed in
1938.] Here the pulp mill at St. Joe Paper Company produces daily from its
sulfate cook operation more spirits of turpentine in one hour than the old naval
stores operator through the distillation process could manufacture in a day. We
call it sulfate turpentine here. It is made from extracting spirits of turpentine from
the resins and the rich pine that we used for pulp wood instead of being made
through the distillation process that the old naval stores operators did.
Too, quite frankly, employees were given commissary checks. We had our own
currency chips, and all of the people who worked in the naval stores operations
[were paid in this script], as were the sawmill [employees]. The tender was good
only at the company commissary. There was no wages and hours law. All of the
pay was based on piecework, [by] how many barrels of naval stores turpentine
gum [were produced]. We paid by the barrel to dip it. They were paid by the
number of trees they would chip. Everything was done on piecework.
P: So the harder they worked, the more they made.
B: Yes, but when the wages and hours law came in with all of the reporting and
bookkeeping and all of this, I think that probably a number of the naval stores
operators had been guilty of peonage. Franklin Roosevelt straightened that out.
P: So it changed the whole world, as far as those operators were concerned.
B: Right. There was a person in Savannah who later was associated with Georgia
Southern, Dr. Charles Hertey, who did a great deal of research in naval stores
and in pulp and paper-making. He knew the pine tree. He knew how to extract
the resins from it, how to distill and cook the resins from the trees, and how to get
the maximum yield from the distillation process. Dr. Hertey had a laboratory there
in Savannah and I believe over at Georgia Southern [College in Statesboro], a
beautiful little Georgia town not far from Savannah. He designed and patented
cups that went on the trees to catch the gum that flowed from them from the
chipping process [and] the tins that are the gutters that allowed the gum to flow
into the cups. He patented and designed the hack for the chipping and all of the
instruments and implements that were used in the naval stores operations.
Let me digress to say this to you here. Mr. [Alfred I.] duPont worked with Dr.
Hertey a great deal. It was Mr. duPont's idea when he came to Florida and when
he and Mr. [Ed] Ball acquired the properties here in northwest Florida. He
acquired timberlands with the thought in mind of manufacturing or making
newsprint from Southern pine. He and Dr. Hertey worked on that. You know, of
course, Mr. duPont's background: He was a scientist.
B: You know his experience in [gun]powder. I think in Dr. Hertey's laboratory they
did make some newsprint from Southern pine, and I am told that one of the
Atlanta publishers, one of the Atlanta papers, ran an edition for the experiment.
They used the newsprint made in Dr. Hertey's laboratory on an experimental
basis, and it was later, as I just related, run over one of the presses there in one
of the Atlanta papers. It consumed too much ink. We found, too, that it was
extremely expensive to extract the resins from pulp. Too, newsprint from Canada
and from Scandinavian countries was coming into the United States very cheap.
Newsprint and pulp for the manufactured newsprint from hemlock and the soft
woods of those countries was excellent grade.
After further experimenting and studying the economy of the manufacture of
newsprint from Southern pine, Mr. duPont and Dr. Hertey determined it was not
economically feasible at the time because they could not compete with the
imports coming in from Scandinavia and from Canada, so they gave up the idea,
and we went into the manufacture of Kraft paperboard instead, which we are now
manufacturing here at Port St. Joe. But you know now the history of newsprint.
In the past three decades, newsprint from Southern pine [has been] made
throughout the southeastern part of the United States. [It is an] excellent grade,
excellent quality of newsprint. We are no longer dependent upon imports from
the Scandinavian countries or from Canada. By the way, in Scandinavia, the
growing cycle of softwood is 90 to 100 years, whereas here in Florida and in the
Southeast, it is more nearly 20 to 22 years. Of course, we are improving on that
through forest genetics and that sort of thing. But I have digressed here. My
background is, as I have just related, [that] I did come to Port St. Joe in 1924.
P: What were you interested in, growing up? I know you studied history and
journalism when you went to college, but what about in your growing-up years,
before you got there?
B: I grew up during one of the most exciting periods in American history. As a youth
coming along during the Roaring 1920s, [I had a] mind that was searching,
thinking, reading. Just think what happened during the 1920s, going back to the
era of Calvin Coolidge. He was an exciting person, although historians say he
was dull. But he was a great president in my time. There was Charles Lindbergh.
Look what happened. He flew the Atlantic. Radio. Motion pictures. All that came
in during the formative stages of my life. Babe Ruth. Gertrude Ederle. Bobby
Jones. Al Capone. Of course, later you had [John] Dillinger and all that. Look at
the records. Look what happened. [Look at] the great development that took
place in this country [in] the mid-1920s even through the Great Depression.
P: But you are a young man. Are you conscious of all these changes, this big
revolution that was going on?
B: Oh, yes. In that era, Doctor, a small-town boy would go to the train to get the
newspaper, to get Collier's magazine, to get the Saturday Evening Post, and he
would hold his ear to the radio in the evening to listen ...
P: The little crystal set.
B: The old crystal set, to listen to the entertainment and the news. We had, I think,
KDK [in] Pittsburgh, WWL [in] Cincinnati, a station way out on the West coast,
the Pacific coast, New York, and I believe there was a power station in
P: There was.
B: That was good, clean entertainment, and you got information.
P: You are projecting yourself, as you look back on it, as a young man with a very
inquiring mind, with a great appetite for knowledge.
B: Right. And for travel. As a youngster, not only I, but my high school classmates
[as well] were interested in politics. We kept up with everything the political
conventions, the elections. We wondered. And let me tell you, going back,
Sidney Catts [Florida governor, 1917-1921] was from DeFuniak Springs.
B: He was an interesting character. I knew Governor Catts, [though] not while he
was governor. He ran for the United States Senate, I believe, in 1928, the same
[year] when John Martin, I believe, was elected governor.
P: He ran [for governor] in 1924 [against John Martin]. He ran for governor again in
B: I guess [he ran again against] John Martin, did he not?
P: Against [Doyle E.] Carlton in 1928.
B: That is right. [He ran] against Carlton in 1928. You know we had first and second
B: We did not go back [for a second primary. There was no] first and second
P: You did not have a run-off, then, not until 1932. [Actually, first and second
primaries began in 1928.]
B: I guess Dave Sholtz was the first one elected under that system.
P: Right. [Actually, Doyle E. Carlton was the first governor elected under the primary
system, in 1928.]
B: But Catts was the first one elected, I believe, with the second-choice vote.
P: You say you knew Catts?
B: Yes. Oh, he came here in election year.
P: Catts was elected governor in 1916 on that second-choice ballot, also, against
Mr. [William V.] Knott.
B: That is right. I read quite a bit of history [about Mr. Catts]. There is an interesting
one out on him that was written by the professor of history at ...
P: He is now at Auburn [University in Auburn, Alabama], Wayne Flynt.
B: Is that it? He was at Samford University [in Birmingham, Alabama].
P: He was at Samford when he wrote it, but he is now a professor of history at
B: The Cracker Messiah[: Governor Sydney J. Catts of Florida].
P: Right. Wayne is a good friend of mine.
B: Is he? Well, it was a great volume.
P: Oh, yes. He did an earlier volume, by the way, on Senator Duncan Fletcher.
B: I think I read about that in the Florida Historical Quarterly. Anyway, [Catts was]
an interesting character. I did not know him when he was governor, but when he
would come around during election year, he was a flamboyant guy and colorful. It
was the day before you had the speaking aids; you did not have the microphones
and the public address system. You did it with pure lung power. You were taught
back then, and I was taught in school, [what] we called elocution. It was public
speaking, to get up and [speak before a crowd]. We were taught, as was Fuller
Warren [Florida governor, 1949-1953], to put those gestures in there, to get up.
As a matter of fact, we were taught to be showmen more than public speakers.
But that was what you had to do in those days, and when these guys came
around, they would put on a show.
And during that era, too, while we youngsters were trying to seek knowledge,
there was a great thing, [with] headquarters in DeFuniak Springs. Do you
remember the old Chautauqua, the lecturers and entertainers who would come
around? Of course, there would be a Scotsman with kilts, and he would do a jig
and play the bagpipe. There was always somebody who played the old handsaw,
the musical saw. Have you ever seen that done?
P: Yes, sir.
B: And, of course, there was that lecturer. My mother would buy tickets for us
children for the entire week. We had to sit through that lecture. If one had been to
old Persia then and had come over, he was going to lecture about being in
Persia. He thought he had been to the end of the world, and he would come over
and talk about the social and political aspects of Persia, and how he would eat
lamb and goat. He did not eat lamb or goat. But those things there [were simply
wonderful]. There were people that had traveled abroad, and they would come
home with great knowledge. And it was very interesting. We took advantage of
that. I have been to Chautauqua many, many times, and would like to do it again.
P: Were you a reader?
B: Oh, yes. I borrowed books [and] read books. I read magazines. I read the old
Grit; I guess it is still being published.
P: What about your family? Was it a close-knit family?
B: Yes, very close-knit.
P: Was it a religious family?
B: Yes. Having a French Protestant background, or Calvinist background, we were
and still are Baptist. We went to church [and] went to Sunday school. Back in
those days there were these evangelists who traveled. They would have three
sermons a day in the morning before breakfast, at 3:00 in the afternoon, and
one at night. The little merchants in the town closed the store in the afternoon or
closed early in the evening so everybody could go to revival. Dr. Bob Jones used
to come around. I have heard him preach a number of times. He was dynamic.
He was quite a promoter, too. Bob Jones College was in Panama City at first. It
went under, and he went to Cleveland, Tennessee. Now it is in Greenville, South
Carolina, if I recall. But you had those people. Sidney Catts was one, you know.
B: They would come around, and they were dynamic people. They were referred to
as "exhortists" back in those days by some people. Yes, we were a closely-knit
family [that was] brought up in the church. There was never any doubt about it.
P: What did you do for fun growing up? Were you a sports person?
B: Well, you see, I was here before Mr. duPont and Mr. Ball ever came here. I
fished and hunted ....
P: You really did not even know who they were as you were growing up.
B: No, they were not even around. I fished and hunted on about every acre of land
they got. We had high school baseball and basketball. We played games against
Mary DeFuniak Springs. Back in those days we did not have class 1A,
class 2A, and 3A. We would get in a tournament. I played in the basketball
tournament against Pensacola High. We were eliminated by the big schools. We
did not have [the talent to compete against them]. We hired coaches. Of course,
the coaches taught. Sometimes the coach would be the principal. But there was
talent in the young boy athletes. Track meets. We had boys who could run. They
were extremely fast. Decathlon. Shotput. Javelin. Discus. We had all of that, and
[we] participated. Quite a number of Major League baseball players came out of
this area. They would come down, and we looked upon them with a great deal of
awe and respect.
During summers we would have baseball leagues, and we would employ the
baseball players from the University of Florida. They would come over, four or
five of them, in Blountstown. We used to do that in Avon Park. They would come
down and play baseball for Port St. Joe, Avon Park, and Blountstown maybe for
twenty dollars a week or something like that. It was not against any athletic code
or anything then, and we would do that. And it was exciting competition between
towns. People would turn out. Later we had teams in the mills, like St. Joe Paper
Company would play International Paper Company. It was fascinating.
P: What made you decide to go to George Washington University [in Washington,
DC] to school, rather than to a Florida college or one in Alabama?
B: Well, I knew [Florida] Governor [Millard] Caldwell [1945-1949]. I have always
admired Millard Caldwell. He was a Tennessean, and there was something about
Millard Caldwell that reminded me a great deal of [Andrew] Jackson and of
Lincoln. Millard Caldwell was a two-fisted, straight, tall, slender man. He was
tough. He had his way. He was an excellent congressman [Florida, 1929-1931,
U.S., 1933-1941] and a good governor and a good [Florida] Supreme Court
justice [1962-1969]. He was the congressman from my district. He beat Tom
Yon. I knew [James E.] Hodges, who was head of the state Democratic
P: That is Joe Hodges from Lake City.
B: Yes. [Florida Senator] Sam Teague, do you remember him? He was from
Apalachicola. Nathan Mayo [secretary of agriculture]. Elgin Bayless. He is dead
now. He was in consolidating naval stores and moved to Sebring. He worked
here. He was in Port St. Joe when I came in 1924. I knew all of those people. I
was interested in politics. We kids in the summer would go to Tallahassee and
watch the legislature in session every other year. Attaches got six dollars a day.
The Speaker of the House and President of the Senate [each] got six dollars. We
would go over and observe those things. We had that interest. Well, I was
interested in politics and was later mayor of the city. I was on the state
Democratic executive committee for a number of years.
But I got Sam Teague [and] Nathan Mayo, and I had an uncle in Milton who was
a state senator. You know, that is where Millard Caldwell came from.
P: Who was your uncle?
B: His name was Elijah Lundy. He was an oil and gas distributor. We called him Elij
[with a long /]. I said, I am going to Washington for school. I got on the bus, and I
went up to Chipley first to see Olin Shivers, who was my state senator. Do you
remember Colonel Shivers?
B: I think his son is on the appellate court here. I said, get a hold of Mr. Caldwell
and tell him I want to come up there. Well, Mayo went up from the state
Democratic executive committee Sam Teague, Nathan Mayo, and all of them.
I went up to see Caldwell. He said, I am expecting the boy. He said, come on in
when [I got there]. [And he said,] you have to help yourself. Find out what you
want, and I am going to push you. I said, two things: I want to go to school, and I
want employment. He said, I understand.
P: But why the decision to go way far away from home?
B: I could get employment there in the government and go to evening school, night
school, [or] take classes Saturday afternoon.
P: But you did not really need that kind of support. Your father could have afforded
B: I did not need it, but it was exciting. I had a lot of friends in Washington there at
Georgetown [University], George Washington University, and some at Catholic
[University of America].
P: So the allure of the big city and [the fact that] it was the center of politics is what
drew you there rather than to Gainesville.
B: That is exactly right.
P: You never considered going to the University of Florida?
B: Not seriously.
P: And your family had no objection to your going way off?
B: Not at all.
P: So you go up there what year as a freshman?
P: And you moved right into the program at George Washington?
B: Yes. I took like nine semester hours. I did not graduate.
P: I know. What did you major in?
B: I aspired to be a journalist. I wanted to write. I still would like it, [but] I got
despondent. There was a chap who came out of school just ahead of me at
George Washington. [His name was] Bob Constadune, and I knew him. I used
to go to the National Press Club and see Haywood Brun.
P: All of those people did right well by themselves.
B: But do you know how much they made, the [writers for] NEA Service, Associated
Press, United Press? There was a chap from Gainesville on that up there who
was with the Gainesville Sun. I do not recall whether his name was Dillon
Graham or Graham Dillon. He was making $35 a week. Ernie Pyle was there
working. I think he made $35 or $40 a week. They did not make any money.
They were great writers, but not the journalists that you have today.
I used to read Rice and Ring Lardner, the short story author. [Ring] was a
sportswriter for the Chicago Tribune, I believe. He was from Niles, Michigan. He
wrote a lot of short stories, [such as] "Haircut", "Golden Honeymoon", "Alibi Ike."
His son wrote later and was practically an avowed Communist. He had a way
with words, like [James] Thurber. In three or four pages, he could [use his words
to describe something] just like [he was] painting a portrait [or] painting a
landscape. He could just depict things.
P: What kind of work did you do in Washington?
B: I worked in Mr. Caldwell's office.
P: So you went up and got a job first of all as one of the aides in Caldwell's office.
B: [I was a] part-time aide. Let me tell you about that. There were two and a half full-
time employees, the secretary and I guess his administrative assistant and me. I
mailed out farm bulletins, infant care pamphlets, and I would help with the mail.
The mail would come in, and a lot of it would be written on yellow pad in pencil,
[which is] very difficult to read and make out. [We] did not know who signed it. I
would have to go in and try to work at that. It may have come from a county
commissioner, [and] we could not read the name. I had to do that research.
Two full-time employees and I worked for Mr. Caldwell. I was up there last year
to see a Congressman, [and] he assigned five aides to me, and we got nothing
done. Mr. Caldwell and [Congressman] Bob Sikes [from Florida] could get on the
phone and turn mountains. They were not afraid of a bureaucrat. They would get
on there and say, you do this and do that.
[Let me tell you] a little story. Mr. Caldwell called me in and said, I am going to
help you. I want you to get out of here now and find some openings for me to put
you into. Do you want to go to school? I said yes. He said, now, you tell me you
are about broke. Well, I was not. He said, do not come out of my office and step
into a taxicab. Get a weekly streetcar pass. An express bus was $1.25 to go all
over the District of Columbia. He said, watch your money, and come back and
report to me. I said, I will. I was working part-time there, too.
I had to go over to Jim Farley's office. He was Postmaster General [1932-1940].
It had cabinet rank then. [There] I met the first statistician I ever met in my life. As
a matter of fact, there were not any such persons as statisticians. He had a
fellow in his office in his department named Emil Hurja who was a statistician.
Hurja had a record of Franklin Roosevelt's votes in every ward and every precinct
in the United States. You went there to get a certification. If your area, your ward,
your precinct went heavy for Frank, you got a buff card. If it was fairly heavy you
got a blue card. If it was weak, you got a white card. I had a buff card. I did not
need it because Mr. Caldwell was behind me.
I went back and said, Chief (that is what I called him), I am certified now. He said,
did you find any spots you want to get into? I said, you are going to work me to
death, Mr. Caldwell. I said, I have to work in your office to help you here with
farm buildings and infant care pamphlets and all this stuff. But, I said, there is a
position over at the U.S. copyright office I would like to have. Can you push me?
He looked and said, why, yes. He pressed a buzzer, and Miss Kate McDye, his
secretary, came in. He said, Miss Kate, who is in charge of employment over in
U.S. copyright? She said, Mr. Caldwell, I do not know right now, but I will find out
and report to you in a few minutes. Fifteen minutes [later] she came back and
said, William Voorhis. He said, I am on a committee with [Horace J.] Voorhis of
California. We are on several committees together. He is the ranking
Congressman from California. Find out if that is his brother. It was his brother. He
said, get me Mr. Voorhis over at the Congressional Library on the phone. He
called, and Voorhis came to the phone. He said, Mr. Voorhis, I am Millard
Caldwell, the Congressman from the Third Congressional District of Florida. (I
believe it was the third back in those days. I do not recall.) I have a boy in my
office. His name is Jacob Belin, [and] he wants employment over there, and you
have a position open. My patrons list is not filled in your department. I am
sending Belin over to you right now. I hope you will see him. Will you, Mr.
Voorhis? I went over, and Voorhis met me on the step and took me back for a
Then I went back and reported to Mr. Caldwell. He said, how did you make out,
Belin? I said, I think I am in. He said, you are in. If you do not hear definite by the
morning, come to my office. I went home that night and stayed at the fraternity
house. I had a telegram from Voorhis of the Congressional Library to start work
over there the next week. I went over to the U.S. copyright office, which was then
housed in the Congressional Library. I did work for Mr. Caldwell, too.
P: So you had two jobs.
P: How much did the copyright job pay you?
B: That was one department that paid in cash. We worked Saturday mornings then
in government, believe it or not. Under the civil service rating, it was like $1,660,
$1,800, $2,100. I got up to $1,840 or $1,860, something like that. That was as
high as I got.
P: And how much did Caldwell pay you?
B: Oh, it was a pittance. I did a lot of things for Mr. Caldwell. He was a great
P: Were you there when his son was killed?
B: No, after that. That was a tragedy. That is the reason he did not come back. It
P: Where did you live?
B: I lived on Connecticut Avenue, right out at Rock Creek, at Calvert and
Connecticut, near the zoological garden.
P: Were you in a fraternity?
P: What was it?
B: Kappa Alpha. Your associate is a Kappa Alpha.
P: What made you join that? Southern?
B: Yes. Robert E. Lee was our spiritual founder, you know.
P: I know.
B: I had a lot of friends that were Kappa Alphas. We had a great bunch, and all of
the fellows did well. I enjoyed myself.
P: And you could celebrate Robert E. Lee's birthday every year.
B: I do.
P: Now, did you have much of a social life in Washington as a KA?
P: They are hell-raisers, the KAs.
B: Well, the younger ones, yes. Washington is a phony city. It is made up of people
who are seeking recognition. All you had to have, if you could afford it [and] I
could not, was a tuxedo, which you could have tailored for $37.50 and patent
leather shoes for $3 and a black tie.
P: And you were a single guy. You were in.
B: I think the women far outnumbered men then, and it was easy to get an invitation
to the White House. Everybody at one time or another got over there. If you
worked for a congressman or a senator, you had invitations going, and I
belonged to this thing called the Florida State Society. That was most interesting.
I did a lot of things for Mr. Caldwell. His constituents would come up there, [and]
he would have them for dinner [and] have them visit his office. He would
entertain them at night for dinner. A lot of his constituents from his congressional
district had daughters in finishing schools, [like] Goucher, Martha Webster, and
those schools across the Potomac over in Virginia and over in Maryland. I was a
gigolo. Mr. Caldwell would say, all right, so-and-so has a daughter here, and you
have a tuxedo. We are going out for dinner. I would do that, and it was a pleasant
way to meet a lot of people.
[I especially remember] one of our social meetings out at the old Kennedy
Warren Hotel, past the zoological gardens, toward Chevy Chase on Connecticut
[Avenue]. [It is] beautiful out that way, in northwest Washington. We gave a
reception for Mr. and Mrs. Caldwell jointly with [our] new Senator [Claude]
Pepper. I had told Mr. Caldwell, as I related earlier to you, that I was watching my
money and I was not going to do anything foolish, that I was saving my pennies
because I wanted to go to school, and I needed that job. Well, I went out, and I
was on the kind of committee to receive the Congressman and Mrs. Caldwell and
the Senator and Mrs. Pepper. I was standing there in line to receive them. It was
snowing. I had on tie and tail. Here comes the Congressman and Mrs. Caldwell.
He looked at me, and I said, Mrs. Caldwell, may I take your coat? Chief, let me
have yours. He said, I can handle my own coat. I do not want to impose on you,
Mr. Belin. I said, what is the matter, Chief? He said, look over here. He said, I
thought you told me you were kind of broke. I said, wait a minute, Chief. This
thing is in your honor. I am not coming up here from your district to pay you this
great honor wearing overalls. I put it on just for you and Mrs. Caldwell. He said,
do not give me that stuff. I want to know, who is the congressman from our
district? Is it me or you? I think it is going to be hard to tell, Jake. We laughed
He had a great sense of humor. I would get in the car with him, [and] we would
go to the War Department. That was long before we had a Defense Department.
He would go over to get some of his constituents' sons into West Point. He would
go over to the Navy to get [them] into the naval academy.
He was a great congressman. He worked and did things and was a pusher [and]
a hard worker. He would tell you no. He was loyal to his friends, but he believed
in the spoil system: to the victor goes the spoils. If you did not vote for him, you
did not get anything, but if you supported him, he would look out for you.
P: The world was yours.
B: The world was yours.
P: Was that also true of Claude Pepper in the 1930s?
B: Yes, it was true with Claude, even when he was in the House of Representatives
here in Florida, before he went to the United States Senate.
P: You did not know him as well as you knew Millard Caldwell.
B: No, I did not, but I knew Pepper real well. I knew him when he was practicing law
in Perry. He was always interested in politics. I admired Pepper, although he was
extremely liberal. Incidentally, he was a KA [Kappa Alpha]. He was a great
orator. He was fast on his feet, Doctor. He could make one of the finest, best
extemporaneous talks you have ever heard. Claude had a great mind. [He was]
Harvard-trained, I believe. He taught school at the University of Arkansas. He
pretty much brought himself up by his bootstraps. He had a good mind. [He was]
a great disciple of [Franklin D.] Roosevelt. Roosevelt had a great influence on
him. Claude was ambitious and tied onto Roosevelt's ....
P: He tied himself to Roosevelt's star.
B: He did. Paul Robeson hurt him. You know he made a trip to Russia. Stalin hurt
P: He hurt himself a lot. Now, you left George Washington [University] before you
P: When did you leave?
B: Well, my father was aging. He was almost fifty years old when I was born. His
health was failing, and I was concerned. I had heard about St. Joe Paper
Company coming in, and I came down to check with my father and mother. It
was concern. I came down and saw what was taking place here and became
interested. I interviewed and went back to Washington and resigned and came
back down here and took a position with St. Joe Paper Company.
P: So you were not unhappy with what you were doing in Washington. This seemed
a more exciting thing for you to do.
P: Your father was not dying or anything.
B: No. The naval stores industry had played out, [and] he was retired. His vision
was poor, [and he was] failing in health a little bit, but he was not dying.
P: So you came back, and you joined the St. Joe paper mill.
P: In what job?
B: I went into the laboratory as an assistant chemist. That is a little bit misleading
and something of a misnomer. I was in charge of all physical tests in the quality
program of all the paperboard that was manufactured.
P: What did that mean? What did you do?
B: I hired several chaps who worked for me who were chemists or who had studied
physics to test the strength of the paperboard the tension strength, the tear
strength, the puncture strength, and all of the physical tests that had to do with
stack ability, because you could stack a paper box.
P: So your job came after the paper was manufactured, not during the process of
P: Because there were people, I guess, within the laboratories where the paper was
being manufactured to test the chemical components.
B: Oh, yes, they did that in the cook and that sort of thing.
P: But that was not your job.
P: How much did you get paid?
B: I believe the minimum wage then was $0.40 an hour.
P: And you worked forty hours a week.
B: Yes. [There was] overtime, of course. I do not recall now whether you got
premium pay for over forty hours or not then, but forty hours a week was the
P: You are still a single man?
B: I did not marry until 1940. I was a single man.
P: So when you came back in 1938, you came back as a single man. You get a job
with the St. Joe paper mill, and you are working in this testing program.
P: Why did you not go into [military] service, or did you?
B: No, I did not. Working with the physical tests and with war breaking out, I was
placed in charge of coordinating production and shipments with the Lend-Lease
P: Oh, I see.
B: I worked with Donald Neps' office in Washington on production scheduling [and]
coordinating shipments to meet convoys. We were exporting to England before
the outbreak of the war under the Lend-Lease program.
P: So you really begin to hold an important position in St. Joe because of the labor
shortage, even though you came in as somewhat of a novice in 1938.
B: Right. Things were quite different then, Doctor. There was not much
regimentation in 1938 and 1940. Industry was not regimented as it is today. You
did not come in as a specialist, a chemical engineer. You did not come in as an
P: You did everything?
B: You did everything, and what you wanted to take on you were recognized for and
compensated for, and you went up the ladder, just so long as you did not step on
somebody else's toes.
P: Were the duPonts already [involved with] the St. Joe paper mill?
B: The St. Joe Paper Company was then jointly owned: 50 percent duPont and 50
percent Mead Corporation.
P: Because Mr. duPont dies in 1935, but I guess he had already begun investing in
B: Oh, yes. Mr. Ball came over and bought up vast timberland under a purchase
P: Was Ball duPont's representative, his agent, even before duPont died?
B: Oh, yes.
P: Long before that?
B: It goes back to the 1920s.
P: I see.
B: Of course, you know they were brothers-in-law.
P: Oh, yes, I know. Mrs. duPont was [Ed Ball's] sister.
B: Mr. duPont had implicit faith and trust in Mr. Ball. Mr. Ball was a tiger. [He was a]
tenacious person. [He was] honorable. [He] worked [and] went after things. I was
closely associated with him for forty years.
P: I want to get back and talk to you in a minute about Mr. Ball because he plays
such an important role in your life and also in the St. Joe paper mill, but I want to
get a couple of personal things out of the way on you. First of all, I want to ask
you about your marriage. That comes in 1940, you said. Whom did you marry?
B: I married Myrle Fillingim.
P: Where was she from?
B: She was from Liberty County, a place called Hosford.
P: And she, then, was a Floridian?
B: She was born in Liberty County, graduated from Florida State College for
Women [in Tallahassee, now Florida State University] and the School of
Commerce, and she was here working for a subsidiary of St. Joe Paper
Company. I think it was St. Joseph Land and Development Company. She was a
secretary doing shorthand and bookkeeping and accounting work and that sort of
P: Was she also a teacher?
B: Yes. She taught school in Walton County, DeFuniak Springs. Let me tell you this
as an aside. She tutored Sidney Catts' daughters. I think one of the daughters
that she tutored after the old governor died may be yet living in Jacksonville. I do
not know that the Catts were destitute, but they were in a hard way. The
daughters were not trained for anything, and my wife taught at least one of them
shorthand, typing, and that sort of thing so she could get employment.
P: Their brother was a lawyer down in West Palm Beach, Sidney J. Catts, Jr.
P: Now, your wife taught in DeFuniak Springs, and she taught commercial subjects.
How did you and she meet?
B: We were both employees of the company here at Port St. Joe. She came to Port
St. Joe on the insistence of [G.] Pierce Wood. Did you ever know Pierce Wood?
B: He was Speaker of the [Florida] House [1939-1940]. He was from Gadsden
County, and he, too, was in the naval stores business. My father knew Pierce
Wood. He came here and managed the St. Joseph Land and Development
Company. He was over the woodlands, over the railroad, and over some of the
other subsidiaries. He brought her down to work in his office. She was not his
secretary, but she was secretary to the auditor. That is the reason she came
P: So you two were married when in 1940?
B: On Thanksgiving Day, 1940.
P: How many children do you have?
B: Two sons.
P: Give me their names.
B: Jacob C., Jr., and Stephen A. Belin.
P: Where does Jacob live?
B: Jacob lives in Palos Verdes, California. It is a suburb of Los Angeles. He is there
engaged in the petroleum business. He owns a refinery in Bakersfield, about a
70,000- or 80,000-barrel-a-day refinery.
P: So he is doing well there?
B: His office is in Long Beach, and he is doing well there in his refinery.
P: He is married?
B: He is married and has a son, Phillip.
P: So that is one grandchild.
B: My younger son, Stephen, is in Valrico. That is a suburb of Tampa. He is there
employed by Circle K, a convenience store group. He is involved in choosing
sites for outlets for stores. He is involved in the environmental problems and
works with the different state departments in putting in [gas] tanks and going
through all of the permitting, and he spends some time in Boston where Circle K
has some relationship with petroleum distribution. He is doing quite well.
P: He is married?
B: He is married and has two sons.
P: So you have three grandsons to carry on the Belin name.
B: Yes. I am fortunate. My boys are well-trained and well-educated. My older son
got a degree in applied mathematics from North Carolina State University, and
he went to Georgia Tech to do his graduate work in business. My younger son
went to prep school, Woodruff Academy, in Atlanta and finished at the University
of West Florida, Pensacola, on business.
P: I am glad to find you have at least one Florida graduate. But not a Gator yet.
B: Not yet.
P: Well, we are holding out hope for those three grandchildren.
B: Right. Well, my oldest grandson, Phillip in Los Angeles, goes to private school
out there. He is just dead-set on going to Duke. He was up in North Carolina just
recently and had an appointment to meet Coach K [Mike Krzyzewski]. He is
interested in basketball, and he wants to go to Duke. I am trying to encourage
him to go to Stanford. He has been on the Stanford campus lots of times. I do not
know whether he is interested in getting into the school of business at Stanford,
but they have a great school of business there, as you well know.
My other grandson is quite young. I will [guess that] they will probably not wind
up being Gators. Mrs. Belin has gotten to be such a Seminole now.
P: That you are afraid to say "Gator" in her presence.
B: Yes [laughter].
P: She is a great, strong supporter?
B: Oh, yes, she is a strong Seminole supporter and, let me tell you, an extremely
strong Bobby Bowden supporter.
P: Well, that is all right. We are not going to hold it against her. I am sure otherwise
she is a very respectable lady. I mean, every weak point cannot be held against
B: Right. Well, you have an outstanding coach at Florida [Steve Spurrier].
P: And we have a good academic program at Florida, too.
B: Florida is a great school.
P: Right. You have been on our campus?
B: Yes. I have not been there recently.
P: We will change that situation for you. Now, let us get back to your business
career. During the war years, you are very active in the St. Joe paper mill, and,
as I understand it, it is part of this export business that you were working with?
B: The Lend-Lease program, which was Roosevelt's grandbaby.
P: That was in 1940.
B: We gave England fifty old destroyers, as you recall, and he put in the Lend-
Lease program. We were virtually in the war, even though it was undeclared. I
was coordinating production manufacturing schedules and shipments with Lend-
Lease. We were shipping under the Lend-Lease program thousands and
thousands of tons of our output, which was pulp, which was shipped to England.
P: And then to Russia. Were you involved in the shipments, also, to the east, to
B: Just to England. I was coordinating shipments [from] Savannah, Galveston, New
Orleans, Mobile, wherever I was told to get it there in a hurry. I worked with the
railroads to get it there.
P: They needed it.
B: Right. We convoyed it.
P: And tried to elude those German U-boats in the Atlantic.
B: Right. As a result of that, I volunteered, and my company would go before draft
boards for deferments. I was not called because of the position I was filling with
P: All right. The war comes to an end, now, and you are still obviously with St. Joe
Paper, but you are beginning to move up the ladder a little bit. Then what
B: Well, in 1940 let me keep some continuity in this thing the duPont interests
bought out the Mead interests. We were 50/50 owners. Mead is a big paper
maker. They owned the Brunswick Pulp and Paper Company in Brunswick,
Georgia, and Chillicothe, Ohio. They have long been in the paper business. We
bought out the Mead interests. We did not have any experience in the
manufacture of Kraft paperboard, and Mead did, so we went in a 50/50 venture.
In May of 1940 we took over Mead 40 percent.
Then after the war we started moving, integrating. Instead of selling our product,
we started consuming it in our wholly integrated plants, the corrugated box
plants. We started building and buying corrugated box plants. Kraft paperboard
came along in the early 1930s. It replaced wooden boxes in the form of
corrugated shipping containers. Cookridge business went out. Paper boxes took
over barrels. After the war I went into sales and into sales promotion. I started
marketing our output, corrugated boxes and Kraft paperboard.
P: This took you all over the U.S.?
B: It took me all over the universe. What we were doing is finding new uses for
corrugated boxes to replace wooden. The entire citrus industry used wire-bound
boxes to package its fruit, the old standard nail boxes to package its grapefruit,
oranges, and that sort of thing. You recall that. California, M.O.D., Sunkist there
were only about five or six big producers out there were shipping all of their
citrus in wooden boxes. What we wanted to do was convert them to corrugated
P: And you were able to.
B: [We were] able to: One, working with the railroads to put in refrigerated cars, [and
two,] working with the Institute of Paper Chemistry in Appleton, Wisconsin, on
Inhibitors that would keep down blue mold, rot, any kind of decay in
citrus. [We] made boxes with holes in them so you would get ventilation. The
thing that helped us was refrigerated cars. We had to go into Falls Church,
Virginia, and work with the laboratory over there to get the Bureau of
Pharmacology of Pure Food and Drug to approve these chemicals we would put
in the boxes to keep down mold and shrinkage.
We converted first the California citrus crop because there were not as many
varieties of citrus in California as we had in Florida. The acid content of the
orange was not as great. It did not pose the problem of packaging that Florida
citrus did. There were nearly 600 different citrus growers with nearly 600 different
box plants that made their own boxes or purchased their own wooden boxes here
in Florida. They had their own production lines. We had to go in and show them
the advantage of going to paperboard boxes. [We showed them] the economics
of putting in production lines to package quicker [and], with less labor, the
advantages of marketing, displaying it at Kroger's, A & P, that sort of stuff, the
advantages of handling the boxes with equipment. We had the half box [and] the
four-fifths bushel box. The old wire-bound was one-half bushel. We cut down on
the size of the box. [We showed them] the eye appeal, the ease in handling, the
economics in packaging. We converted them.
Then I went down to the banana tropics [and] worked with United Fruit [and]
Standard Fruit. The spoilage on their bananas coming out of the tropics, the
banana republics, was as high as 60 percent. They had their own refrigerated
vessels. They would bring the bananas to this country, ship them to Detroit,
Cleveland, [to] the ripening rooms. Spoilage increased. We went down there to
work with them to show them how to package in corrugated boxes [and] cut
down on the spoilage, and we did. We had problems, of course. The railroads
down there are not all standard gauge. That gave us a problem. And the
plantations are way out in the tropics. We put in pre-cooling houses to pre-cool
the bananas before they went to the vessel, before they were put on rail cars to
go to the port.
We started shipping in hands. Instead of shipping from the stalk we cut off like
five bananas you know how they are and brought them to market. [That] cut
down on the spoilage tremendously [and] saved them a lot of money. Now all of
the bananas are packaged in corrugated boxes.
Another big outlet was the distillers. Bourbon, scotch, and all that was shipped in
wooden boxes. That is virtually 100 percent now in corrugated [containers].
Some scotch, I think, is shipped in wood. But chemical companies were using
wooden barrels to ship some of their products. There were liners we could put in
there in plastics. We did that.
Additionally, in the form of another box, we started making bleached paperboard
and converted the dairy industry to put milk in paper containers. They are still
doing it at the expense of glass and, to some extent, at the expense of plastic.
We have virtually converted the whole industries now to corrugated, and the
[cardboard] industry has boomed. It has grown tremendously. We are still doing
P: At this point in the interview, Mr. Belin, I want you to go back and give me some
of the history of the St. Joe paper mill, which has played such a fundamental part
in your life and in the history of this community and, in fact, the state.
B: Well, earlier I stated to you that as a youth I spent a great number of my years
here before the duPont interest came over. My father was in the naval stores,
and he owned and had naval stores operations on a lot of the land that the paper
company presently owns.
P: The naval stores industry and lumbering and fishing were the three mainstays of
this community before the paper mill?
B: Right, and the surrounding community. They [also] made grade A Tupelo honey.
P: Those were the mainstays of the economy.
B: That is right.
P: Okay. Your father, then, you are saying, owned a lot or controlled a lot of the
B: Right. And he of course subsequently wound up in the ownership of St. Joe
Paper Company. Mr. [Ed] Ball, Mr. duPont's agent, had been coming through this
country since maybe the late 1920s or early 1930s acquiring properties with the
thought in mind of putting in a paper mill. Back then they had newsprint in mind.
P: Have you any idea what brought the paper mill interest to Ball? Of course, they
were earlier involved just in banking.
B: Yes. Mr. duPont came to Florida with a lot of cash. He had liquid assets to invest.
He had great faith in the development of Florida, as did his brother-in-law,
Edward Ball. Ball was a trader; he was a real horse trader. He liked to go out and
negotiate, particularly for real estate, and with cash. During the period of the
Great Depression, if you went out and offered cash, you could buy an awful lot
P: And cheap.
B: And cheap. Cash spoke. And that is what he did. He came through and
negotiated. He was given irrevocable power of attorney from Mr. duPont.
P: And, of course, this state went into a depression after the collapse of the boom
even before the rest of the country.
P: So real estate prices, I guess, began to be depressed in 1928-1929.
B: The first thing we did was open it up over here. Ball came over and promoted the
Gulfcoast Highway (that is U.S. 98). He got the county commissioners of all the
coastal counties together and promoted the highway. Mr. duPont bought the
bonds for the bridges so he could put in the bridges. The state was broke. One of
the great governors we had here, the governor who put Florida on the go, was
John Martin [1925-1929]. He had vision.
P: Certainly as far as highway construction was concerned.
B: Ball promoted the highway system and got it put in stage by stage. Bridges, as I
said, were a problem. Mr. duPont said, well, I will buy the bonds to fund them.
And he did. He put a toll on them, a $0.10 toll. So he opened it up for
Then he came along later and bought these assets that I just alluded to -
timberlands, telephone company, railroad company all cheap, to promote the
area. They came in, Mr. Ball and Mr. duPont, and encouraged International
Paper Company to put a paper mill in Panama City. It was the first Kraft mill in
Florida. It came in 1931.
P: You think, then, [that] he bought the land because he was a real estate acquirer,
and then said what were going to do with all of this? That is where he conceived
the idea of converting the timber into paper. And paper was just beginning to
move in the United States?
B: [The] Kraft and type paper we were making then, and making now, [was] just in
its infancy. We came along in the early stages of the Kraft paperboard industry.
P: So he hit it at the right moment in history.
B: He sure did.
P: Up until that time where [were] we getting our paper from? Canada?
B: Papers were made from waste. We were getting all the newsprint from Canada
and the newsprint pulp from Scandinavian countries. We were making paper in
small mills in the Carolinas and in the Midwest. The corrugating member that is
the fluting material you see in a corrugated box was made from wheat straw,
P: I remember they talked about rags being a basis for conversion into paper.
B: Right. Office waste. In the Carolinas they used the chestnut tree.
P: Was it Dr. Hertey, then, that saw the potential of using pine timber?
P: So he was the great pioneer there.
B: He was a great pioneer.
P: And duPont and Hertey worked together, and that is what brought duPont into
this operation. You say there was a paper mill in Panama City?
B: It came in 1931. We encouraged it to come in. We went to Washington to the Pie
Counter and helped the International Paper Company bring it in. We had a lot of
land. See, we sold the paper mill in Panama City a lot of timber.
P: Now, this is before you even know what is going on. You are not a party to all of
B: Right. I was not a party to it. I was aware of some goings-on.
P: Well, you are a young man, really. You are almost just out of your teens, in a
P: You are not even in college yet when the Panama City [mill opened].
B: I graduated from high school in 1932.
P: Yes. And you say this started in Panama City in 1931. Then how did it get over
into this territory?
B: The timberlands. See, we owned the timberlands long before we put the pulp
paper mill in.
P: By the middle or the end of the 1930s, how much land do you think the duPont
interests had in this area?
B: We did several things here to promote that. First, we bought this railroad.
P: Tell me about that.
B: This railroad runs straight through the Apalachicola National Forest. To get
anything in and out of the national forest he has it all on railroad Mr. Ball sold
151,000 acres of timberland to start the Apalachicola National Forest.
P: He sold that to the feds?
B: My recollection is, in talking to Ball, he negotiated with the late Harold Litches. I
believe the Department of Interior had jurisdiction over the national forests
instead of the Department of Agriculture. We sold him 151,000 acres of
timberland to put with what they had. Now it is 600,000 acres of timberland, and
our railroad runs through the center of it. [We shipped our] pulpwood through the
national forest right on our railroad siding right into the mill. [It was] cheap
P: Now, what is the history of the railroad?
B: We bought the railroad from some St. Louis investors, from Colonel Perkins
[whom] I alluded to.
P: What was Perkins' first name?
B: I do not recall.
P: But this is a St. Louis operation that comes to Florida and builds a railroad.
B: And the telephone company and acquired timberlands.
P: Where was the telephone company?
P: So it was the Port St. Joe Telephone Company?
B: St. Joe Telephone and Telegraph Company.
P: What was the name of the railroad?
B: Apalachicola Northern Railroad.
P: Do you have a beginning date on the railroad?
B: 1905. I do not know the [beginning date of the] telephone company.
P: This was a group of St. Louis investors?
P: And they were the ones who sold out to Mr. Ball?
B: That is right.
P: And Ball needed the railroad in order to move the pulpwood?
B: Into the operation.
P: And the telephone company just kind of came along with it?
P: He did not need a telephone company.
B: We have built the telephone company now. We have acquired three other
companies, and we are now big in the cellular phone business. That is coming
P: As soon as they reduce the cost of operation I am getting one. The telephone
does not cost very much anymore.
B: We are encouraged about the long-term outlook for our communication
P: Now, let me go back to the railroad. It never carried anything but freight?
B: It had passengers.
P: It did?
B: Yes. It ran three to five passenger trains a day.
P: And it ran from where to where?
B: They called it then Old River Junction, which is now the Chattahoochee. It
connected there with the L & N, which was the Chipley Railroad I am talking
about, and then the Seaboard Coast Line coming up from Jacksonville. That was
a connecting point.
P: So it starts in Port St. Joe and goes to Apalachicola?
B: Yes, and then Chattahoochee. There were a number of saw mills up and down
the line, a number of naval stores operations up and down the line, farms, and
honey operations. [There were] a lot of employees in those mills, and they would
come to the coast for swimming. There was a beautiful park here and beautiful
swimming facilities [with] bathhouses, piers for diving, beautiful water, and people
would come for recreation. As I said earlier, there was quite a bit of interest in
sports, [especially] baseball. They would come down for Saturday and Sunday
baseball games. They would come right in, step off the train, go to the ballpark,
and get back on the train and go home. It was the way to get about.b When I
stated to you that Mr. duPont put in the bridges, it still was not easy to get in and
out of here. To go east perhaps you may have come that way from Gainesville
you had to take a ferry across the Apalachicola Bay to get to Carrabelle and
then on to Perry. That was very difficult.
P: We came that way. Obviously we did not need a ferry.
B: No. Now you have the John Gorrie Bridge, the second one. But [there was] deep
water here for shipping for export and for shipping coastwise. A lot of our product
went up and down the coast to Newark, Philadelphia, and ports up there where it
P: So as I gather, then, you had the beginning of a highway system, the gulf
B: The Gulfcoast Highway.
P: Then you have the railroad, and you also have the ports for shipping. So it was
really made-to-order for an operation like a paper company.
B: [It was] made-to-order. There was one other thing that is very important in the
manufacture of pulp and paper, and that is the supply of fresh water. We are
using forty to fifty million gallons a day, and we have a good source of good,
potable water. It comes from the Chipola River. We dug an eighteen-mile canal
from the Chipola River to the mill which supplies us with our fresh water
requirements. Additionally, we have wells if we need more. Water coming from
the ground has a lot of minerals in it, and it is very difficult to treat. It is very hard
on valves and pipes and tubes. So the soft water coming from the springs from
the caverns up at Marianna and around and the big springs that feed the Chipola
[is good water for our operation].
P: All right. So you have the natural resources and the transportation, and you have
Mr. duPont's money. Now, where did the labor come from? Did this call for a lot
of skilled labor?
B: Yes, and we did not have it. The labor came from the paperboard industry, not
Kraft, [but] principally from Bogalusa [Louisiana]; Pascagoula, Mississippi; and
Tuscaloosa, Alabama. There was a great deal of paper manufactured there from
forests. [It was] not necessarily all pine. [Some were] hardwoods in the Pearl
River valley and along the streams of the Coosa River, up around Tuscaloosa. It
was made there, blended with waste. Those employees there had experience in
manufacturing paper, although not from the Kraft process. They came down
looking for new fields and were trained and were put in. They came along to be
P: Now, you had plenty of common labor in this area, did you not?
B: We did. Fisherfolk.
P: And you could hire them? They did not need any special training?
B: No. They did the work on the yards and in the warehouse, loading cars, loading
vessels, and that sort of thing.
P: From the beginning did you use both white and black laborers?
B: Yes, from the outset.
P: And they were all covered under the minimum wage law?
B: That is right.
P: Was that a problem, working with the government right from the beginning on
P: You never had a problem with the unions that early, did you?
B: No. We had only one problem with the unions. We had a very prolonged strike.
But our relationship with all of our employees is excellent. We still employ unions
in the Florida East Coast.
P: Well, during the war years did you have a major labor shortage?
B: Yes. Everybody did. We employed a lot of women.
P: Oh, you did bring women into the operation?
B: We sure did. We did it during the war.
P: That is interesting. Where did you get these women?
B: Some locally. We had to train them. [They also came] from the areas [of] Liberty
County, Calhoun County, [and] Washington County.
P: Where did you house them?
B: We put in a housing project, the Florida Housing Company. We sold to them with
low interest rate mortgages.
P: Of course, women coming in from Liberty County could not commute.
B: Not easily. Of course, there were a lot of wives and daughters of fishermen]
whom we employed.
P: Of course, there was not a large population in this area then.
B: No. Our population then, well, we are 6,000 now.
[break in tape]
B: started building and construction.
P: Did you have a good political climate here for this?
B: We still do.
P: City and county?
B: We still do.
P: Of course, they were receptive. This was a big payroll.
B: Sure, it was a big payroll, and what did we do? We came in and put in a fine
water sewage system for them, [and we] helped them with their schools.
P: You were a positive force in the community.
B: We built up the police department [and] built up the fire department.
P: There were a lot of benefits for the community, obviously, and the main thing was
employment. I was going to say that other than that, there is not much to offer
young people here.
B: That is the main thing.
P: Mr. Belin, we were talking earlier about the history of the St. Joe paper mill, and I
would like you to develop that story. I think that is an important one for us.
B: The St. Joe Paper Company was founded in 1936. That was a year after Mr.
duPont's death. We began operating and manufacturing paper on St. Patrick's
Day, 1938. I came to St. Joe in 1938, right after it started operation.
At the outset of our operation we manufactured about 300 tons a day of Kraft
paperboard. We continued at that capacity until right after the close of World War
II, when we increased the output from 300 tons a day to about 1,200 tons a day.
P: What were your markets from 1938 until the end of World War II? Plus the Lend-
Lease, of course.
B: Our markets were all east of the Mississippi River. [We shipped up] the eastern
seaboard of the United States, from Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York, and on to
Boston. We [also] exported to the United Kingdom and the Low Countries of
Europe, and we had a great portion of the market in Cuba before Castro, during
P: Was that true up until, let us say, the middle of the 1940s?
B: Yes, that is correct.
P: Did you have a sales office up north?
B: No, it was all handled from Jacksonville and Port St. Joe. We could ship
coastwise to those areas for less than five dollars a ton.
P: Were you shipping, though, during the war by railroad?
B: By railroad and coastline. Mostly by rail, because of the shortage of vessels for
the war effort and because of the danger offshore. It was very difficult then to
ship by rail because there was a shortage of freight cars. Those were all taken
for the war effort. But we continued to market into that area until, I guess, the
P: But you greatly expanded your production after 1945.
B: We started doing that in the late 1940s.
P: That is because of an expanding market and an increasing demand?
B: Exactly. And because of tax laws that I alluded to at lunch, a lot of my market
was family groups [and] independent converters. The head of the family would be
getting old, and because of tax problems and declaring the value of the stock
they started merging. We took over some, purchased them outright, and started
building. We had to build in our own market. So it was then we got heavy in
manufacturing corrugated boxes using our own product. Today we are 100
percent integrated. We had twenty-one box plants, [and] now we have about
eighteen box plants that use the entire output of our mills.
P: I gather from what you were saying earlier that you really had to go out, though,
and educate the producers to convert over from barrels and wooden containers
to this new product.
B: [That is] true. Up until the early 1930s, until the Kraft process came in, the
materials made in the construction of corrugated boxes were made from waste
papers. It was heavy paper. A corrugated box was extremely heavy, and of
course you paid freight on that when you were shipping a commodity in it. Going
back to Dr. Hertey, we were working with him and the industry and the Institute of
Paper Chemistry and others to put in the Kraft process. We started making high-
speed production machinery and making a better product that went into the
manufacture of corrugated boxes. It had greater credibility, greater stacking
strength, [and] greater puncture resistance. The freight carriers all accepted it,
and we were packaging and delivering the commodity without any spoilage or
damage, so to speak.
P: It sounds like it was not a terribly hard package to sell to the producers because
you had so many positives going for you.
B: It was not the hardest selling job in the world. The hardest job we had in selling
corrugated boxes was to get some of them to convert their packaging lines to
where they could efficiently fit in. Industry and people are very difficult to change.
They become set, and there are precedents and customs they do not like to get
away from. But you have to come over and educate them and lead them and
show them, and they did come.
Today the market has expanded tremendously. I will have to check the statistics,
but I believe here in the United States we are consuming about 600 pounds per
person per year. Second is Canada, with less than 400, I believe, and [third is]
England, with about 350. Some of the areas like South Africa use one-half pound
per person per year. Now they are being taught how to use Kleenex, paper
napkins, paper drinking cups, paper plates, [and] they are learning how to read a
newspaper and are getting that, so the usage per capital is increasing
P: Does this mean that after the end of the 1940s, into the 1950s, you are
expanding your market beyond just the U.S. and Western Europe?
P: Where were you going? To Africa? Asia?
B: Oh, we went to both Ireland and England. We stayed in the English-speaking
world principally, and we stayed where we would have no problems with
currency, where you could get your money out and [where there were] no
P: Of course, you did Western Europe, the Low Countries.
B: Yes, but that was not too bad. We were into the [European] continent, Ireland
and England particularly, up until about ten years ago. We had some advantage
there then because we could get our stuff in and were operating there without
paying a duty on it, but if a competitor wanted to come in, he had to pay the duty.
P: What about the Latin [American] countries?
B: We stayed away from the Latin [American] countries for this reason: Their
governments are not stable. I had looked at Costa Rica I was impressed with
Costa Rica Ecuador, Colombia, down in there, and I went to the State
Department and talked to the group there about going in down there, if they
would guarantee our loans and guarantee us against confiscation. Nothing doing.
We got to looking at governments and thinking about what could happen, and we
stayed away. I think that was a wise choice.
P: It sounds like it was a very wise choice.
B: Witness what the Charter Company got into down in Venezuela. Their oil wells in
Lake Maracaibo were taken over. I was impressed.
B: So conservatism, obviously, worked well for the company.
B: It did. Costa Rica had a unicameral system of government; it still does. You recall
[that after the bombing of] Pearl Harbor, the first country in this hemisphere to
declare war on the Axis [powers] was Costa Rica. Of course, Costa Rica had no
army, no navy, no police force. [It] had nothing, but it did declare war on Japan.
Anyway, it was a good, sound, stable government, as Latin American
governments go, until [Robert] Bob Vesco [American "fugitive financier" and drug
trafficker] got down there. No, we would not make a nickel's worth of investment
P: So you are not into the Latin [American] countries today.
P: And you have not gone into eastern and central Europe.
P: And you are not planning to, obviously.
B: No. I lost my whole market in Cuba.
P: How about West Germany?
B: I think West Germany would be stable, but we are not going abroad anymore.
We have too much to do here.
P: I was just going to say that with the expanding American market, you probably
have all you can take care of right [here] in the U.S.
P: Are consumers increasing their demand for paper products?
B: Indeed. This year to date, for example, shipments of corrugated boxes is up 5.5
percent against the same period in 1991, which set a record. Kraft paperboard,
which is used in the manufacture of corrugated boxes, is up 6 percent over the
same period last year. Inventories are low, demand is great, [and] the mills are
operating, believe it or not, in excess of 100 percent of capacity. That is a little bit
wrong because the capacity is not reported correctly, but new capacity is coming
in. It will be taken up shortly.
There is one thing that does give me concern about the change in the paper
industry. When I came into it, in order to promote Kraft paperboard [and] Kraft
corrugated boxes, I went out with members of the industry to promote new
usages. I taught them how to package commodities in paperboard corrugated
boxes that never had been packaged before. We did that by giving them a good
product, by giving them a box that would carry the goods [and] would protect the
commodity from damage and from spoilage.
We are coming back now to where we were a little over fifty years ago when I
came into the industry. It is a social movement. The world is changing fast. We
are coming here now to right back where we were, making it from waste. Of
course, we have advanced greatly. Technological advancements have increased.
We have new machinery, new processes [and] ways of doing things. We can
make a better commodity from waste, but we are being forced to make it from
waste by governments. Municipalities and counties can no longer take care of
waste. We have to do something about it. Landfills here in the state of Florida are
illegal; they have closed them all now. We cannot burn all of it for energy
purposes. We are recycling a lot of solid waste back into the mills. It is an
environmental problem that government has the paperboard industry out to
What does that mean to us here? It means that the value of my pine trees for
pulpwood purposes, this 1,100,000 acres of timberland that we have, has
decreased because now we are permitted to use so much waste, where years
back we could not use any waste in our product and call it Kraft. It had to be 100
percent virgin cellulose fiber. So now we are permitted and forced to. We are
going to be taxed if we do not use a great deal of waste, or we are going to get a
tax break for using it, one or the other. We are coming back now to where we are
permitted to use, say, 30, 40, [or] 50 percent of our total fiber in the form of
waste, blended with 40 to 60 percent virgin cellulose fiber. As time goes on, we
will be able to make it and it will be an acceptable product with 70, 80 [or] 100
So we have come right back to where [we] were over fifty years ago. Maybe [we
have] lowered the standards a little bit, but it is acceptable. We know more about
it. We have better equipment to manufacture it with, greater technology, and [we]
know better how to use the waste. So we are doing that.
The market is there for it, and there are fewer paper companies now than twenty
years ago. I think there will be fewer, but it is a tremendous industry. It employs a
lot of people here in the southeastern states, you know. I guess Georgia leads
the nation in the supply of pulpwood from Southern pine. I guess there is more
paper made in Georgia than [in] any other state. Here in Florida there are eight
paper companies with about ten big paper machines that make a lot of paper,
and we are using a lot of pulpwood, and we will be using more and more waste,
There are 13 million people here in Florida now, rounded, and the forecast for the
year 2000 for the population, with the number of people moving into [Florida]
daily some say 800 persons per day, and others say 900 is that we are going
to have around 16 million. That means we are going to have more solid waste,
and we have to use it. I think paper mills will be using a great deal more. I was
trying to see here about some pulpwood. We are doing right now 4 million cords
a year. That is a lot of stuff.
P: Mr. Belin, at this time, after World War II, when you move into sales, who is
running the St. Joe Paper Company?
B: The duPont interest was 100 percent.
P: This means Mr. Ball was the overseer?
B: Yes, Mr. Ball ran the company. Mrs. duPont was the chairperson.
P: But she was not on a day-to-day basis interested in this.
B: No. Mr. Ball was not involved in day-to-day operations, but he was over all of the
P: Who was in charge of the day-to-day operations?
B: Over here it was [William T.] Bill Edwards. He came to Florida with Mr. duPont.
P: He came to Florida with duPont?
P: From Delaware?
B: He came down from Virginia.
P: They were friends and business associates there?
B: Mrs. duPont and Mrs. Edwards were childhood friends. They went to school
together. Bill Edwards married his wife, who was a classmate of Mrs. duPont,
and [they] came to Florida.
P: So it was a friendship relationship.
P: Then Alfred I. duPont gets to know Bill Edwards as a result of his wife.
B: That is right.
P: And they obviously liked each other.
B: Yes, it was a great association.
P: And Edwards comes here, then, to Port St. Joe about when?
B: He spent a great deal of his time over here. He did not spend it all here. He was
involved in other things. We had a mill manager, superintendents of the pulp mill,
[and] superintendents of the paper mill. It was a good organization. It did not
require Ball, Edwards, Henry Dew, or anybody like that over here full time. [Henry
Dew was Jessie Ball duPont's cousin.] They got daily reports and were in touch
daily with the operation, but Ball had the banks [and] the railroads. He had a lot
of other things.
P: He had other things, but did he come over relatively frequently?
B: Not frequently. He would come over every couple months.
P: He did not really need to, though. Did Edwards live in Jacksonville? His main
office was there?
P: So he could confer whenever he wanted to with Mr. Ball.
B: Right. He could walk into his office any day. Henry Dew was there. He, too, was
a Virginian [like Edwards]. He came to Florida at Mr. duPont's insistence. He
worked with Mr. duPont for the St. Joe Paper Company.
P: But I suspect that if there was a change in policy that the real power was at Mr.
B: That is right.
P: He made the final decisions.
P: Did the St. Joe paper mill pay its management well? I know Mr. Ball was not an
overly generous man, but he was a wise man.
B: Here is the way the thing worked, Doctor. The people in the mill all earned the
same rate that the hourly employees made. Supervisors, foremen, and the
officers people like me were not paid a salary commensurate with others of
our rank and rating in other companies, but that did not bother any of us. To have
been associated with Mr. duPont and with Mr. Ball [was enough. We appreciated]
what they could do for us through their generosity [and] worked for nothing.
P: What do you mean, generosity?
B: They made things easy for you, investments [and such]. I would come in off the
road from being out for a month to Mr. duPont's and Mr. Ball's office. We had a
very formal relationship.
P: He was "Mr. Ball" to you?
B: I was "Mr. Belin" to him. He was not one you went up to and got too familiar with.
He always stood off a little bit. He was very formal. He would go into his office [at]
like 6:00 in the afternoon. His secretary would be there, and he would say, by the
way, bring me in that file. I bought something for Mr. Belin while I was away. The
secretary would bring the file in, and he would say, I found something that was
good for me, and I bought it. I thought it was good for you, so I bought you some.
I said thank you.
P: Site unseen, I will take it [laughter].
B: Good stock. I said, okay, I will pick it up. He said, no hurry. I said, I will jump
down to the bank while I am here. He said, there is no use to go to the bank. I
said, well, you expect to get paid one of these days, don't you? And he said, well,
sure, but I might stake you Why don't I just carry it for you? Could you
stand 1 or 1.5 percent interest, or something like that?
P: Ridiculously low.
B: Yes. He would not push. He bought real estate site unseen. He said, Florida has
only one way to go, one place to go, and that is up. He was always a great
booster of this state and was bullish on Florida from the outset.
P: He really took care of his friends, did he not?
B: Yes, he did.
P: Mr. Al Ellis told me exactly the same thing. [See FBL4, University of Florida Oral
History Program.] He was a great admirer of Mr. Ball, and it was based upon this
kind of generosity.
B: Right. He bought investment properties for peanuts. He bought it himself. He
said, do you want to participate, Mr. Belin? I said, yes, I will take participation.
[And he said] all right. I said, Mr. Ball, there is one thing about going into
business with you. You do not have to sell. You do not need the money. My
money is going to be tied up whenever I do pay you. You are going to run the
business, and I am not going to be able to sell until you want to sell. He said,
well, there is no use for us to sell right now. Let us get the appreciation. He made
so many people rich that way.
P: Of course, he realized you had a mortgage to pay and two sons to raise, and you
were not up in his category.
B: Right. Of course, he out-and-out gave me stuff like bank stocks and other stocks
during his lifetime. I was his executive.
P: But Mrs. duPont was not as generous to individuals as Ball was, was she? She
did not know you, did she?
B: Oh, yes she did. Mrs. duPont was very liberal and was good to me. She gave
quite a lot of things to me.
P: You do not get that picture of her [from] reading her biography [Jessie Ball
duPont, by Richard G. Hewlett].
B: She put people through school.
P: Oh, I knew she was very liberal to colleges [through] scholarships.
B: And she made loans to people to buy homes with and bought homes for people
in the company. Ball was extremely liberal, but modest. You would never think it.
I think that he did not want to leave the impression there was anything soft or
charitable about him.
P: I was going to say, why do you think he comes out with such a mean, penurious
B: These are my words, my thinking: To keep panhandlers away, to keep people
from coming around always wanting something.
P: So he generates a lot of this himself.
B: He generates a lot himself.
P: Do you think he has gotten a bad deal in history?
B: Yes, I do. It did not worry him. People carried old wives' tales. They did not know
him. They just assumed this, and it did not bother him.
P: Everybody I have talked to who knew him like you knew him speaks in a very
admiring way of him. [That includes] you, Mr. Ellis, and others who knew him on
a day-to-day basis, but the general public considers him a mean son of a bitch.
B: Right. He was not, but the general public did not know him. Mr. Ball was a loner.
He was not close to his sister. He liked his freedom. He liked hotel suites; he did
not like to be a house guest. He liked to move about any time he wanted to. He
did not like to make appointments far in advance. He wanted to be able to move,
move, move, and see things firsthand.
One day many years ago I was riding to a farm with him. We were going
down to Wakulla subsequently. We left Jacksonville we drove that time after
lunch. The sun was shining through the window of the automobile, and he got a
little drowsy. He awakened over about Lake City or some place and said, Mr.
P: You had a driver?
B: Yes. He said, Mr. Belin, I want you to do a favor for me. I said, out with it. What
can I do? Well, he said, we are here together. Let us talk about a few things. I
said, what do you have in mind? He said, first, I want you to bury me. I said, no
problem. He said, we are down here. I want a place in Wakulla Springs, and I
want to be buried there. We talked. We went over. I did not say anything. He
could not stand to go around his secretary. (He did not like her.) He could not
stand to see a crippled child. He could not stand to see suffering. He would cry
like a baby. He would walk away from it. He could not stand to go to a funeral.
When he said, how about this pretty spot here, I said it looks pretty nice to me. I
had test borings made. You know, it is limestone formation, and there are
underwater sinks and springs. I wanted to get beautiful shrubbery planted there. I
went back over months later, and he said, I changed my mind. I found a spot I
like better. Well, I had to go through the same thing, and I planted shrubbery. He
never knew it.
One day we were talking, one night we were together traveling (it may have been
in Europe), and I said, you know, your remains will be the only ones there. I do
not like to see things desecrated. Something may happen. It may change hands,
and nobody is going to look after that stone out there in the country. I am a
trustee over your Ball burial ground. There are six generations of Balls buried at
Cressfield [the family farm in Virginia], and you have a spot there. I am a trustee.
I have jurisdiction over it. Mrs. duPont asked me to serve. He said, I am not going
to be buried in Virginia. I gave up Virginia a long time ago. Virginia has no pull for
me. I am Florida. He loved Jacksonville better than any other place in the world.
He did not like to stay away long from Jacksonville. I digress to tell you if we were
in China he kept his watch on Jacksonville time he never changed it so he
could look at that watch and think, they are getting to the office. I can call them
now. It would be 9:00 in Jacksonville. Anyway, he said, well, you have
something there. You may be right. Let me give it some thought. I said sure.
He came back to me one time and said, I have some new ideas. I said, tell them
to me. He said, I believe I would like to be buried he always wanted to go
across the creek there by Mr. duPont and his sister. I said, you want to go the
moors at Karen Tower? And he said yes. He said, do they have some extra
crypts in there? I said, oh, sure. He asked, who has jurisdiction over the tower
where the crypts are? I said, well, you and me, Nels Coldaway. He said, would
you have me? I said, I would like to talk to them first and then draw up a
resolution [and] get them to adopt a resolution. It should go through easy. He
said, will you handle that? So I did draw up a resolution. I buried him and have
him up there now.
P: That is where he is buried now?
B: He is buried now up there. He cannot stand suffering. You are from Jacksonville.
There was an old boy there who had a newsstand. Do you remember Jake's old
P: Jake, of course. I remember.
B: He was a spastic of some kind.
P: Right. Absolutely.
B: Do you remember how crippled old Jake was?
P: Oh, yes. [He had his stand] right off Adams Street on Julia.
B: It was on Julia Street.
P: Julia Street, right down from the George Washington Hotel.
B: It was our habit after we would leave the office and before we went to the
apartment to meet guests [to go to Jake's newsstand]. He took a lot of reading
material with him home every day. He read it late at night. He wanted to go get
Barron's [National Business and Financial Weekly], [and] he wanted to get out-of-
town newspapers. He would say, let us walk over to Jake's. He never would go
into Jake's. He could not stand to see Jake.
P: Shaking and all that he did.
B: He would say, would you pick us up this? He would not even go in the place. He
could not stand to see him.
There was one crippled boy who used to come up the elevator up there and bring
the Jacksonville Journal to the office. Mr. Ball could not stand suffering; he could
not stand it at all. Ball was generous to the people, but did not want it known.
[He] just could not stand it.
I was in Ireland with him one afternoon. The ambassador called me over at my
hotel, and he said, Mr. Belin, can you get your chairman to join us for dinner at
Phoenix Park about three or four nights from now? We would like to have you
out there. We want to talk to you about some things and get your ideas. I said,
yes, let me see the chairman to see if his calendar is clear. He is not in now. Mr.
Ball came in that night, and we were having drinks. I said, the ambassador wants
us out for dinner about three or four nights from now. He said, what does the
ambassador got up? I said, I do not know. He wants to talk to us. He is a very
likable person. We like him. Ball said, he has the best wine cellar in Europe and
has the best food. Certainly we will go out there. He said, you know they do not
allow but two people to live in Phoenix Park, that is, the American ambassador
and the president of Ireland, [Eamon] De Valera.
So we did go out. It was an arm-twisting. We talked. The ambassador said, I
want you boys to help me. Russia is gaining an influence here in Ireland, and I
want to offset it. We have not done the right kind of job here in Ireland of selling
us. People like us. They admire John Kennedy [very] much and all that. We want
to do some things here and toot our horns a little. I will help fund it personally. [I
can] give a lot of books. I have a tremendous library. I want to put a chair in
American history here at either Trinity College or the University College [in]
Dublin. I want to get your idea about it, and I want you to help me fund it. I want
some money from you.
Then he said, I want to have another meeting with you and Mr. Belin, and I am
going to have the chairman of Pfizer, the chairman of Gulf [Oil Corporation], and
a lot of the pharmaceutical companies that have gone into the Shannon area.
And we did have it, and we funded that chair. Ball got carried away.
P: So Ball did not freeze up at the idea of giving money.
B: No. The ambassador talked to me, and he said, what do I call it? [I suggested]
the Mary Ball Washington Chair in American History. Ball is a great admirer of
Washington. He came from the same group that Mary Ball came from. Ball came
to me that night. Always before he went to bed [he invited me to his room for a
nightcap and brief discussion]. Our rooms always adjoined, and we had a big
parlor. He was a very private man. He never took off his coat. He did not want
anybody to come to the office without a coat. He dressed formally. The only time
I ever saw him without a coat was [when,] before we would retire, he would
knock on my door or telephone [me], and he would say, do you think we can
strike a blow for liberty before we retire? I would say yes, and he would say,
come over and we will start pouring. I would go over and have a little brandy, and
on that occasion he would take off his coat. He wore detachable collars and
always French cuffs. [He was] immaculate.
He said, you heard the ambassador's plea. I said yes. He said, what would you
do? And I said, help him. We have to give it to him. He said, well, how can we
work it out? I said, you just give him some money. That is the way to work it out.
He did it. You would never know. He never said anything about it. He kept it
P: It is probably not even known today. On the other hand, was he generous to
educational institutions or anything like that in the U.S. or in Florida?
B: No. Quite frankly, he was not a religious man. His grandfather was a Baptist
minister. But I have been with him. I have seen clergymen do some things in
churches during my lifetime, and he has seen them. He would not make any
contributions to religious things. He had a strong feeling against most clergymen.
P: But [he did] not [make contributions] to educational institutions, either?
B: He did contribute, I believe, to Cumberland College.
P: Mrs. duPont gave the money for the library at Stetson [University in DeLand,
Florida], and she gave a lot of money to [the University of the South in] Sewanee
B: She gave money to Davidson College [in North Carolina].
P: Yes. But he did not. Except for the enormous fortune that he left for incurable
children, there is nothing that bears his name in Florida.
B: No. He was not generous toward educational institutions. The only contribution
he gave, I think, was perhaps to Tennessee Cumberland. It has moved now. It is
in Birmingham. I think it was taken over. No, he was not particularly generous to
P: Or to anything, really. Was he generous to people below you, to workers?
P: I mean, it is obvious that he liked you. He considered you to be a good personal
B: Let me cite you a case. One night my buzzer rang. He was always very nice. He
said, are you engaged, Mr. Belin? When you are free, I want to see you. That
meant, get the hell in here now. So I went in, and he said, the bank has a
problem. I asked, bad loans? What? He said, no, there is a lady here that has
been a good employee. She is a junior officer. She has resigned. I said, what is
the trouble? He said, her mother fell and broke her hip, and she does not have
anybody to stay with her mother to care for her. She is having to give up her job.
He would always turn to me and say, what are you going to do about it? I said,
that is unfortunate. Can the bank pick it up someplace? That was before all this
hospitalization and stuff. I said, you will set a precedent. He said, not necessarily.
I said, well, there are ways to do it from somebody's generosity. He said, Mr.
Belin, will you pick up the tab for the nursing care and everything for this young
lady's mother? I said, yes, send the tab up to me at the bank. I got the tab, and
he paid all of her nursing care. Nothing was ever said. He sent people to
hospitals and paid for their care.
P: None of that will ever be known because there is no way to document any of that.
B: Right. It is not documented. That is the thing about attempting to write a
biography. He did not want to preserve any correspondence. His letters were
usually short. His idea was: Do not say too much; you will get your foot in your
mouth, and you are just making a living for lawyers if you do. You go through his
files and go through all of his correspondence and everything, and it does not
disclose a lot of stuff that you would like. It does not disclose that side of him.
P: No. And he would never subject himself to this kind of an interview.
B: He would turn it off.
P: Yes. Now, let me go back and ask you a couple questions about your own
career. You move into sales. I would like you to tell me what motivated you to do
B: The senior officer in charge of sales retired. I was in St. Louis. Ball liked to
promote from within. I had been moving about, selling. I was number-two man in
charge of selling. Ball called me on the phone and said, look, I am putting you in
charge of sales. I said, well, I will get back down there, and we will sit down and
talk about it. He said, no, I have talked about it. You are in charge of sales. I said,
okay, I will take it over, but I do not know what all has happened. I want to keep
everything kind of clean here. He said, nothing has happened. Take over. Report
to me. When I say report to me, I want to know something before it is history. If
you sit down and write me, when I get it, it may be too late. I would like to know
what is going to happen before it happens.
He was a man who got out to see things first. We communicated. He would call
me at 2:00 in the morning if I were in Chicago [and say], can you give me a
report on today's activities? He kept an itinerary on all his responsible people.
And we discussed things. I would confirm things, [like] what inventories were and
what this company's credit was. We kept up with things.
And he moved in a hurry. He did not want a lot of staff. He could make decisions
like Harry Truman. He did not have to have a lot of committee meetings. Nothing
was ever too big that he could not handle it.
He did not worry; he never went to bed worried. He always had a solution to
things. He was never afraid. He never took a worry home with him. He would
take his Wall Street Journal, his Barron's, and his magazines and go home. He
liked to talk to people in the evening for three or four hours over drinks. He would
go out and have a good dinner. He loved to discuss politics, business,
particularly banking, the events of the day. He liked good amusement. He liked
jokes as long as they were clean. He could not stand vulgarisms.
He had no hobbies. He did not care for baseball. He did not care for theater. He
liked hunting, and he liked to protect wildlife, particularly migratory game. He set
up the Edward Ball Wildlife Foundation [and] funded it out of his pocket. He liked
that. He would go to bed and get up in the morning, and everything seemed to
I was in his office one afternoon when we had the strike on the FEC [Florida East
Coast Line Railroad]. Willard Wirtz was secretary of labor [1962-1969]. The
secretary called him and said, Mr. Ball, I would like for you to come up to my
office and sit down and negotiate this thing with us. He said, Mr. Secretary, I am
not coming. My quarrel is here in Florida. I am not coming to your office to be
subjected to the pressures of your office. I will extend every courtesy to you, Mr.
Secretary, if you were to come down here and talk to me in my office, [but] I am
not going. He did not.
P: Did Wirtz accept the invitation?
B: No, he did not. I had bought for the company a number of container plants, box
plants we had to expand and I acquired three or four from Continental Can
Company. [U. S.] General Lucius Clay was chairman. In acquiring these box
plants and under the negotiations and under the agreement, I agreed to take for
a certain number of years some of the Kraft paperboard from Continental Can to
run through that plant so they could reschedule their production. [The agreement
was] under certain terms. Well, Continental broke those terms, and I sued them.
[Ball actually sued them].
General Clay came down to Savannah to talk to Ball. He said, Mr. Ball, I am in
Savannah, and I would like to fly down to see you. [Ball] said, General, we are in
the courts. I would like to settle things with you in the courts. I am not going to
have any out-of-court settlement. My view is that you are generally guilty of
breach of contract. You do not get down here and get with those lawyers and get
some hearsay. Let us meet in the courts and see what decision comes out of
that. He said, General, I will not see you. Well, Lucius Clay thought everybody
should jump over him when he called.
P: He was the commander-in-general.
B: That is right. Ball said, I will not see you, and [he] did not. We did go to court.
General Clay said, let me get out of this thing. I want to settle. I was in New York,
and Ball was in Spain. He called me and said, I am coming in. Wait for me. I did
wait for him. He came in and said, how are things going? Have you been
testifying? I said, Mr. Ball, the general wants to settle. We can get good terms
and good conditions for him. Here is our counsel, Mr. Justice Peck. He was with
the Sullivan Cromwell firm. He had been a judge. [I said,] the judge says we can
do this, Mr. Ball. [Peck] said, Belin and I have been up here for days [doing] this
and that. I will not make any recommendation to you. I will just tell you what it is,
and you can tell me what you want to do. So we talked and talked.
Ball looked at me, and I said, I think we ought to go ahead. We are coming out
way in front. We are out of the agreement. They violated it. So we settled. [Ball]
said, Judge, you know the other side pays you. He said yes. [Ball] said, have you
stipulated your fee? He said no. [Ball] said, they are going to settle, and your fee
is a part of the settlement. Let me suggest to you that you give it some thought.
We sat around talking about the fee. The judge said, well, I was thinking about
this. Ball said, wait a minute, Judge. I thought you had done a lot of hard work
here, and I think you ought to be compensated. Since the other crowd is paying,
you are too lenient [laughter]. He said, why not stipulate something more
reasonable? Come on up, he told the judge. [The judge said], the court will not
approve that. Ball said, Judge, have you asked the court yet? He said, no. Ball
said, ask the court. The court paid it! The judge came up and said, Mr. Ball, I am
flabbergasted. I never thought they would approve it. [Ball] said, ask and you
P: Of course, Mr. Ball was also trying to get back at that other side.
B: That is right. But he was kind and generous and liberal. He did a lot of things he
would never mention [or] never say anything about.
P: Were you his closest confidante in the business?
B: I think in the paper company, yes.
P: Not in banking and not in the railroad.
B: The Apalachicola Northern, yes. I guess as officer and, I guess, in all of the
activities, I was his greatest confidante. I did not get in day-to-day operations in
the Florida East Coast Railroad. He would talk to me about things.
P: Did he ever talk to you about his personal problems, or did he separate his
personal life from his professional life?
B: He separated them.
P: So you knew nothing at all [of his personal problems]. He never discussed them.
B: Well, he talked to me about his youth, his childhood. He held his father and
mother in such great awe and respect. He talked about his father, Captain Ball,
quite a bit.
P: I bet he did not talk very much about his wife.
B: No, he never said anything against Ruth. He talked about Ruth and when he was
married. Well, knowing Mr. Ball and being closely associated with him, he could
not have been an ideal husband.
P: She said it was pure hell in the divorce settlement.
B: Well, you saw the marriage contract, did you not?
P: No, I have not seen that.
B: Have you [read] Raymond Mason's book?
P: I have it. Raymond sent it to me.
B: When you go out and stipulate a contract of that kind, you are starting off wrong.
That is a give-and-take situation.
P: And she hated him to the end.
B: Why the hell did she marry him?
P: And she brought those charges against the poisoning long after his death.
B: She worked for him in Mount Vernon. They were married in the Carlton Hotel.
P: In Washington?
B: Yes, sir. It was then the Carlton. Now it is the Sheraton-Carlton. They were
married there. Mr. duPont was there [and] Mrs. duPont. They kind of did a little
bit of matchmaking. They were Cupid there, that sort of thing. But if you read the
marriage agreement where you can have these guests on these afternoons at
this time, no mail, I can have these, and we are going to have certain evenings
together it will not work [laughter]. It is a give-and-take situation.
P: It was not a real marriage, then.
B: No. It cannot work that way. He wanted his freedom. He wanted to move about. I
always believed this and still do: he admired women very much. He thought that
feminine beauty was the greatest work of art there ever was. He told me, if you
see [a] lady dressed in a gown and gloves, immaculately coiffured, that is the
most beautiful thing in the world. On the other hand, if they come around in blue
jeans, that ruins it. But he admired them greatly. Mr. Ball, in my judgment, always
felt a little bit ill at ease around ladies. He was so polite.
P: He was a courtly man.
B: Courtly. He could not stand vulgarisms. If anybody told anything off-color around
a lady, he thought it was terrible. He stood a man of ninety-three years old-
when a young girl came into the office. He never wore a hat around a lady. If
one would come up, off came his hat. He never got on the elevator first [and]
never got off the elevator first. At dinner he wanted you to be served first; he
wanted you to get what you wanted first before he ordered his. He did not want
you to follow him, because there were a lot of things he would not eat or drink.
He had some peculiarities, but he was courtly and was extremely nice around
ladies and very attentive to them, where they were seated and that sort of thing.
P: Did he like children?
B: No, he felt ill at ease around children. He said he always wanted children, but I
do not know what would have happened with children. He did not know what to
do around children and really preferred not to have them around. They got in his
way when he wanted to talk with a judge or a banker or somebody, and he would
not know what to do.
P: Ruth was, from her pictures, a very good-looking woman.
B: Oh, he said that. He told me repeatedly she was a very beautiful woman. Look
what he did there. I think he asked for an annulment originally instead of a
divorce. Judge Roberts represented him. He has the whole story.
P: And they were married [for] nine [or] ten years.
B: About ten years. They did not live together ten years. [They were married,] I
believe, [from] 1934-1944, but they did not live together. I think he had a place in
Wauchula he wanted. He was not going to stay in Wauchula, but I think he
envisioned that he and Mrs. Ball would stay there part-time. But Mr. Ball was
going to travel. He was going to get back to that Jacksonville mess.
He was a strong individual. He had peculiarities galore. He never drank water; he
would not touch water. He would drink soda or club water, but if he had to take
medication, a pill, he would not go to a spigot. He would not touch the stuff. He
never drank coffee in his life.
B: Hot tea. [He] never drank a Coca-Cola in his life. He did not care for it.
P: Did you ever meet Ruth?
B: I met her one time. We were coming from Jacksonville to Tallahassee, and we
had gone down [on the train]. It was our habit to get a bedroom on the train.
P: You are talking about you and your wife?
B: Mr. Ball and I. We had the bedroom set up. We would have a table put in and
had set-ups there. Here came one of the attendants with a note. It was for Mr.
Ball. We had not left the station. [Ball said], my God, that is my wife over here.
She has seen me board. That is Ruth. He went to see her, and I went down and
met her. That is the only time I met her. She was going down to New Orleans or
someplace on the train, and we just got together. That was just a coincidence.
P: Is she now deceased?
B: I do not know.
P: She was still living in 1985 when the article came out. [Christine Donahue, "The
Death of Alfred I. duPont A Postmortem," Forbes 400, Oct. 28, 1985, 62-68.
The article alleges that Alfred I. DuPont was poisoned.]
B: I do not know.
P: She has to be a very old lady if she is living.
B: She called me after Mr. Ball's death. She was very gracious and very generous. I
am paraphrasing here now. She said, Mr. Belin, I have heard a great deal about
you. I have heard much. Frankly, I had trained myself not to like you. I just want
to make up my mind that I do not want any part of you and do not like you at all. I
do not recall ever meeting you. I may have, besides the little time on the train. I
said, well, I am sorry about the impression I have made. She said, well, I am
wrong, and I wanted to call you to tell you. I am now convinced after talking with
people that you are not the type of man I envisioned. You are not that kind of
person. She was a genuine sort of a person, and she mostly wanted to say, I
would like to ask your forgiveness for what you did not know that I thought about
P: Well, that was very gracious.
B: She was. She said, I think I am wrong. I think she said, I would like to meet you
sometime and talk to you. But yes, she did call me, and I think she was a very
P: Now, according to my figures, you were director of sales from 1949-1956.
B: I carried on. I was vice-president in charge of sales on up until 1968. That is
when I became president.
P: Did you start in 1949?
P: What were you doing? You were not still doing the testing bit.
B: No, I was out of that. I was strictly selling merchandise.
P: You were already selling, and in 1949 you became Director of Sales. That meant
that you were traveling a great deal.
P: You had family, though.
B: I did.
P: It must have been hard on your family, your being away.
B: It was. I had one son [Jacob, Jr.], and then another son came along in early 1953
[Stephen]. It was hard on my wife, but she was the type of person who could do
things. She was not totally dependent on my being around. I missed being with
them. It was not easy then to pop home like you can now.
P: Oh, yes. You did not have airplanes and all.
B: That is right.
P: Where were you all living then?
B: Here. Ball did not like that coming home over the weekend. He liked for you to
stay out and work. Do not come home Friday night and go back Monday
morning. He did not like that. It was difficult, but selling is easy. It is a pleasant
thing. It is not hard. If you have a product that is comparable to your competitors'
and your terms are the same (credit conditions) [and] your delivery schedules
[are similar, it is easy to sell]. When you are selling, [you must] be able to say, I
know I cannot do it. You have to be honest and honorable, and you have to admit
at times rather than go out and sign somebody up on a contract that you are
not able to do it. Just say, I am sorry, I would like to do it, but I cannot meet those
[terms] and I would be kidding you if I do it. There will always be a time when you
can come back and have a chance again at somebody else's expense,
somebody else's hardship, somebody else's misfortune. You just have to be a
little patient, and you will be sure to get your foot in the door. Then when you get
in there, do not mislead anybody. They may not like it at first, but they are going
to come back. Sometimes the customer will get in trouble, and you will want to
help them. You will lean over backwards to help them. [But] sometimes you have
to say, look, there is no way I can do it. If you tell them you are going to do it and
then cannot do it, he is in more trouble. But you can bide your time and be cordial
and honest with them.
We had a sales contract it was Ball's idea with every comma in there, every
period, same price, same conditions, same terms to all. When you start deviating
you will get in trouble with the Sherman Anti-Trust Act or something like that, so
we did not. I just said, look, fellows, we get along good. I want your business,
[but] I cannot do it.
I told you I had everything in Cuba. I had the most pleasant relationship over
there. I said, now, fellows, look. I can ship you from my docks at Port St. Joe to
Mariel, and you will have your stuff in forty hours. [I can] give you what you want
from your machines. I can give you the latest technical knowledge and can keep
you abreast of developments in the industry. [I can] come down and bring
technicians with me. I am not a great engineer, but I will do that. They said, we
want to know what is happening, so I would visit with them. I would spend one
day with a customer. You do not pop in for two hours; that is discourteous. You
give them the whole day. [We were] strict on credit. I said, now, look. You have to
put money up, and the bank on my side [will issue an] irrevocable letter of credit
[detailing] our terms and conditions in the Bank [of] the United States. They said,
those terms are a little hard. I said, I do not think so. They said, we do not mean
it is unreasonable to put money up for a bank, Mr. Belin, [but] our relationship
has been with the Bank of Newfoundland up in Canada. We have had a
relationship there for years. We can put it up there for you. I said, all right, that is
agreeable. We collect an on-board bill of ladings before you get the stuff. I went
over there one time. It was in 1951, Eisenhower was running against [Adlai]
Stevenson. They wanted to know some information about sugar quotas; they
were interested in that. I went over and talked with them. I attended meetings
One of my customers published the South American edition of Time, and he said,
I am being paid so many hundred dollars an hour. The whole press has stopped
to put a story in there. He said, I have two stories made up here, one Stevenson
and [Estes] Kefauver and one Eisenhower and Nixon, and it is just terrible to sit
here. I can press those buttons and get those stories out. Sit down and talk to me
about this thing and what button I should press. I said, which do you want to
press? You get so much an hour for holding. He said, I want to get this thing out.
I said, press that Eisenhower button, and he did. Of course, we were lucky.
But he stuck with me. He would not let anybody else come in. I used to go down
to his farm. He raised "peenapples," as they called them pineapples and
sugar and all that kind of thing. They were good people. I had every bit of their
business, and I could get it back today.
Castro is not there long. When Castro goes out it is going to help us in the paper
business. But we are in the sugar business [also], and it is going to hurt the sugar
business. I think we will give Cuba sugar quotas, and I think it will hurt the sugar
business. But that is another story.
P: Let me go back to this earlier story of you. How did it happen [that] you got into
local politics and became the mayor of Port St. Joe?
B: Well, I have always been interested in politics, [because of] my Washington
background. I was very active and instrumental in the Jaycees. That was a very
active organization some years ago. I was an officer in the state organization and
the head of it here. While in chambers of commerce and then the Jaycees, you
are not supposed to get politically motivated. You do, invariably. There the state
Jaycees was made up of politicians. Legislators came from there, governors
came out of there, and sheriffs and all got involved in it. I was interested in
politics when I was a kid in high school. We got one of our chaps here to run for
the legislature when he was not quite old enough to run, and [he] was elected. I
knew Fuller Warren.
P: He was not old enough to get elected, either.
B: I knew Fuller Warren when he was in Blountstown. I campaign-managed for Dan
McCarty [Florida governor, 1953]. I was close to Dan. I worked for George
Smathers [U.S. senator from Florida, 1950-1968]. I used to go here in the park. I
remember Claude Pepper [U.S. senator from Florida, 1937-1951] ran.
P: 1944. He ran against Ollie Edmunds.
B: No, [that is] not what I am thinking about. Charles Francis Soccer Coe ran [for
U.S. Senator in 1940]. Bernarr Macfadden [unsuccessful politician and editor of
Physical Culture magazine] ran [in the same primary], did he not?
P: That is right.
B: I saw old Claude walk out here. He got off of a pick-up truck. The crowd was
about 150. He made one of the best speeches you ever heard. Charles Francis
Soccer Coe came into the bay down here on an amphibian plane from Palm
Beach. He landed in the bay, taxied up on the beach, and got out and walked to
the park. He had a big gold ring on, a big diamond. [He was] spellbinding. It
interested me. I went to the University of Florida homecoming years ago. Back
then, freshman games were on Friday afternoon.
P: Right. I remember that.
B: And then the big games were on Saturday.
B: Well, at halftime of the game Fuller Warren was going to make a speech like a
student there. Now, is he not a hell of an entertainer? But Fuller did. It was not
bad. It was entertaining. When my father had this naval stores place down near
Wauchula, his friend was You know [him], do you not?
B: His brother Charlie was sheriff of the county. They were big friends. Old Jim Lee,
former Comptroller [1933-1945], was my neighbor in Avon Park.
P: So you had politics in your blood.
B: Oh, yes. I knew it all the time. I was trying to think of the governor's name before
B: Cary Hardee [1921-1925]. I knew Cary Hardee. He used to come fish with my
father a lot. He would come up here. I liked Cary Hardee. I believe he
represented Sidney Catts in one of his court scrapes or something. Cary Hardee
was a delightful person to be head of the government. My father knew all of
those people, and I knew them and was around them. I enjoyed it. Of course, I
was older when I got to Washington there in the early to mid- 1930s. But walking
around Capital Hill, where I was there [with] heads of state [was something I
enjoyed]. I would go up to the Supreme Court for lunch.
Let me tell you a little story. I was going over to lunch one day at noon, and a
fraternity brother of mine worked in old "Cotton" Ed Smith's office, Senator Ellison
D. Smith [from South Carolina, 1909-1944].
P: Roosevelt tried to get rid of him.
B: He hated Roosevelt with a passion. Cotton Ed was a son of a minister. He
wanted to be Secretary of Agriculture, and Roosevelt would not go [for it].
Roosevelt tried to purge him.
P: In 1938.
B: It did not work. Well, I was going to meet my friend from South Carolina in Cotton
Ed's office. He worked in there. I walked into the office, and the senator was back
in his room on a big leather couch stretched out. The bell rang. That meant the
Senate was going in session. We used to get on that trolley. The bell rang, and
Old Cotton got up [and said], what does that old crippled son of a bitch want with
us today [laughter]? His boy's name was Dave McCloud.
P: Now, he is talking about Franklin Roosevelt as the "crippled son of a bitch"?
B: Yes, Franklin Roosevelt. Dave McCloud's uncle [Thomas McCloud] was governor
of South Carolina. Senator Smith said, McCloud, is that your friend from Florida?
He said, yes, sir. [Smith] said, ask him to look in on me. So I looked in. He said, I
want you to do a favor for me. I said, what is it, Senator? He said, take this
goddamn book out of this office. I asked what it was. He said, it came from your
new junior senator. I want no part of that son of a bitch, Dr. Claude Pepper. Why
did you send that liberal son of a bitch up here? The book is John Perry's [and
Frank Stockbridge's] book So This is Florida. Claude put in there, "To my
honorable, esteemed colleague, Senior Senator from South Carolina, Ellison D.
Smith, from the junior senator from Florida." I have the book.
P: You have the book?
B: I have that book with that in there [laughter]. He said, get that damn book out of
One day a copywriter [and I] were going over, and he said, I have to go by the
vice-president's office. (They are in the same office building.) [He said, I need] to
drop off something there that the secretary wants. We went over, and he said,
here is the book that I was asked to bring over. I think it is for the Vice-President.
She said, put the book down. He said, yes, ma'am. Sign for it, will you please,
ma'am. She said, you sign for it. [He said,] you do not want me to do that. She
said, well, just leave it here then. He said, I have to get this thing negotiated right.
[She said,] it will be all right. He said, whose name do you want me to sign down
here? [She said,] just sign it Mrs. John Nance Garner [Roosevelt's vice-
president, 1932-1939] and get on out of here. That was Mrs. Garner sitting there,
see? We had lots of fun.
P: You were not drafted or anything to be mayor, then.
B: Right. Ball encouraged me.
P: He encouraged you?
B: Yes, Ball encouraged me.
P: I thought he would say you were taking time away from the business.
B: Well, Ball thought people could manage anything. He worked all the time.
P: And he figured everybody else worked.
B: Holidays meant [nothing] to him. He did not know when Thanksgiving came
around and did not care. They did not mean a thing to him.
P: So did you have any opposition?
B: Oh, yes, tough opposition. I won it in the first primary. I had three terms. I did not
run any more than that. I was getting a little bit tired.
P: You were getting politics out of your blood.
B: To tell you the truth of the story, for years I was president of St. Joe's Land
Development Company, which owns 100 percent of the stock [of St. Joe Paper
Company]. I am still chairman of the executive committee. Hyde put in the water
system here and borrowed money from the St. Joe Land Development Company.
I went in, was elected and took over, and the St. Joe Land Development
Company called the loan. That was a lot of money for the city. I did not have the
money to pay it. I called Ball and said, look, this is a little difficult. He said, well,
why not float some certificates of indebtedness? I said, you have to get those
approved by the courts. He said, well, get them approved. So I went to the
[Florida] Supreme Court, to Judge B. K. Roberts [Florida Supreme Court, 1949-
1976; three terms as Chief Justice], and got them approved. [I went back to Ed
Ball and] said, I got them validated now and everything. I have to sell them. He
said, do you have a market? I said, not yet. He said, take them over to the bank.
I bet they will buy them. He called the bank and said, Belin is coming over. Pick it
up. I had trouble at the hospital. Credit was bad, and I did not get that. I had to
have some money.
P: This is the Port St. Joe Hospital.
B: Yes. People were coming around, and I put out some bids on some things. I had
to have some money. I called him and said, I thought you were going to have
some bids in over here for me. It is a competitive situation; you have to bid. I
have some things here to sell. I have to pay off some of this debt. He asked,
what was that? I said, oh, it sure did slip my mind. He said, have you got kidney
trouble? I said no. He said, why not develop a cough or some kidney trouble? I
will give you about fifteen minutes.
I stalled and filibustered, and after a while he came [back with the] president of
the bank. I acknowledged the president and asked him if he had any remarks to
make to the city council. He said he wanted to place a formal bid. He did not
know what he was bidding on. The bonds gave me a premium, good interest
rate. [We] paid it off, and he called me back and asked, who got the bid? I said,
you are the lucky guy. He said, how many people rushed over there to bid? I
said, you know, you are the first one in line. He laughed and said, I thought so.
But he had a good sense of humor.
I was barging in one night to Columbus, Ohio. [It was] late. I was off the itinerary
schedule. I had flight problems. Back in those days a DC3 was the big [carrier]. I
came into the [motel] about 2:30 in the morning. The phone was ringing. The
night clerk said, maybe this is Mr. Belin coming in now. Are you Belin? I said,
yes, I am a little late. He said, okay, there is a phone call for you. I said, can I
take it over [at] your desk here? He said sure.
[It was] Ball. He said, how about pitching in with me? I said, what is going [on]?
He said, I have a little business over in Tangiers, over in Morocco. We have a
syndicate going over there, three or four people and you and me and some good
friends of ours. We are going in. I said, what are we in? He said, this little matter.
I said, you mean we are doing business with the Arabs? He said, exactly. I said,
you are pretty shrewd, but you have to learn something to do business with the
Arabs. He said, do not worry. I said, I thought when we were over in Italy we
talked to the American ambassador, and they advised us not to go into an
international settlement. It is going to be short-lived. He said, he did, but he may
be a bureaucrat and not know what he is talking about. I said, well, let me look at
that thing. I have been out on the road. I have a family. I have to get back home. I
will have to go to the bank to make arrangements to pick up this stuff. He said,
you have to make up your mind in a hurry. We do not want to wait around.
I came back in. The bank called me, we have something down here for you to
pick up. I asked what it was. They said, what do we know? We cannot read it. It
is in Arabic" [laughter]. I said, well, will you lend me any money on it? They said,
we do not lend money on anything we cannot read. We will give you some of
their currency if you will take that. I said, all right, I will pick it up. I did, and we
were in business.
P: Just like that.
B: We bought bonds, [and] we bought real property. It was a holding company. The
bourbon sessions were over there. Of course, the Arabs are not supposed to
drink, but they do. He was buying gifts though. You see, there were a number of
gift shops. He had Mount Vernon, Wakulla Springs, Edgewater Gulf Hotel in
Mississippi, the La Conchia in Key West, and one in Miami. [He was] buying up
gifts and things like that, and we were in business, doing well.
Things did change, and our Arabs ran us out of business. We liquidated. I made
more quick money on the liquidation. Most of our assets were liquid, except for
the real property. That was in the United States.
P: It sounds like Ball made a lot of money for you over the years.
P: That was the kind of thing he was doing.
B: [He would say], look here, we have a good bunch of guys. Why not come in with
P: I want to clear these dates with you, Mr. Belin. First of all, I have you from 1949-
1956 director of sales, from 1956-1968 vice-president ...
B: I was still over sales when I was vice-president.
P: Okay. And then 1968 as president.
P: Now, what do you mean, vice-president? Vice-president of what?
B: I was vice-president in charge of marketing.
P: Of the St. Joe Paper Company.
B: And the St. Joe Container Company.
P: Okay. By the way, each of these things are upping your income? You are
making more and more money?
B: Sure. I never asked for a raise in my life.
P: It just came?
B: It just came.
P: What was an income for a man in your executive position in the 1950s?
B: Well, in the 1950s it was $70,000 a year.
P: That was a lot of money.
B: Damn right, it was.
B: That was a lot of money by comparison with 1992 dollars.
B: Ball did not take a salary.
P: What did he do?
B: He had his own personal businesses [and] put all the money back in that. He had
a terrific income. He did not take any money out of St. Joe. Finally one of our tax
boys said, you have to take a little something for this. I think he took like $18,000
P: So he paid for his own expenses, which sound like they were not exorbitant at all,
out of his own personal income. I notice he left an estate of about $75,000,000.
B: It is worth more than that. Mr. Ball never inflated a statement. His assets were
always shown at cost, not at market.
P: I see. So it would be way up.
B: You see, I was executor of his estate. He gave me a lot of stuff before he died.
[He said in his will,] leave Belin nothing. He has been pretty well taken care of.
He did take care of me, and he left a lot of real property that he bought and never
did see. Somebody would call him on the phone, and he would say, how much
water does it have on top of it? They would say, it does not have any. He would
say, how high is it above sea level? If it does not have any water on top of it, I will
buy it. And he did.
All of those now have gone into the Nemours Foundation under the provisions of
his will. We have not yet sold off all of those properties. What they were valued
at, at the time of his death, and what I have subsequently sold stuff for and can
sell other stuff for, has greatly appreciated.
P: Was his tax bill, then, giant?
P: If he had been a little more generous in giving, it might have been less.
B: Oh, he could have done lots of things. He just hated to pay taxes.
P: And yet he did. Every year he paid taxes.
B: I encouraged him, why not go into tax-exempt bonds? You love Florida. You can
buy state, municipal, county bonds, good-rated bonds, full faith and securities.
You do not have to pay taxes on them. I do not know why he would not do it. In
the company and in the banks, he bought bonds. He bought bonds for the
McArthur Causeway. He bought bonds for the Orange Bowl. He could do those
things. I went abroad with him. He had a little bit of disillusion about these United
States. He wanted to change his citizenship.
P: That is strange.
B: After being from a family who had been a vital part of America ..
P: From the beginning.
B: From the beginning. He got disillusioned [about] taxes, bureaucracy, and a lot of
immigration and race things.
P: About when was this? The 1950s? The 1960s?
B: The late 1950s 1956, 1957, 1958.
P: He was unhappy, and she was too, about integration.
B: Yes, he did not like it at all.
P: She did not like it at all.
B: He did not, either.
P: She cut off her support of any educational institution that integrated, even though
they were forced to by the courts.
B: Well, Ball saw it coming, and even if he had been inclined to give, he would not
have given them a nickel because of integration.
P: Where did he want to transfer his citizenship to?
B: Well, we went to Ireland. He bought the castle and lived there. Then we went to
England. We talked to people there [such as] the American ambassador to
England. We went to Gibraltar, and he was impressed. I said, Mr. Ball, let us talk
about it. I know how you feel about the United States. I know how you are
thinking, [but] I am not agreeing with you. He tried to get me to move with him. Of
course, I did not want to. I said, you are going to think this, but that is the best
one yet, Mr. Ball, the best place yet and it is deteriorating. (It was.) That is best,
[and] you are going to come over here. We do not know everything here yet
about these tax laws. Wait till we get through over here. He said, Mr. Belin, I think
we can do it. I said, yes, but wait, wait, wait. I think we went out to Downing
Street, Number 10. We were told when we talked to the heads of Her Majesty's
government [that] you had to live ten years after you had established residency,
and Ball was afraid of that.
P: Was Ball anxious to do this because of a tax situation?
B: Tax and, principally, integration.
P: Because integration was coming everywhere.
B: Well, not in Ireland. When we first went to Ireland there were 240-something
blacks in the whole Republic of Ireland.
P: It was not like Jacksonville.
B: [The blacks] were principally in the ligations; [they were in] embassies of South
African countries and some others. That is where they were. But they were not
[everywhere]. You did not see blacks over there.
P: You know, another thing that comes across always with Mr. Ball is the fact that
he was supposedly a super-patriot, strongly in favor of all the traditional
B: He was not in favor of mixing the races and integration. He did not associate with
them, did not say anything about them, did not recognize them.
P: Was this true of other ethnic groups?
B: No. More particularly blacks, although I think he would feel that way [about]
Puerto Ricans or Jamaicans.
P: Was he anti-Semitic?
P: You never get that kind of a feeling from anything you read about him at all.
B: No, he was not anti-Semitic.
P: Just blacks.
B: Just blacks. He had good friends who were Jewish people.
P: Maybe this came out of his strong Virginia background.
B: There is no question about it.
P: How did it happen that you became president in 1968?
B: Ball had some heart attacks, and he had been looking for somebody to take over.
We had been together for years. We had traveled together. I was down in the
Keys bonefishing, and he went down to Miami [and] over to Flamingo for one of
his wildlife meetings. He called me and said, I am going back to Jacksonville
tomorrow afternoon. He gave me his flight number. Can you join me? We will
ride up together in the plane. I said, yes, I will come on in. And I went on in.
[There were] five or six or seven people with the wildlife foundation on there, and
I got on there. I noticed this musical chairs. Somebody would come sit by me and
move, and somebody else would come plop in there. I did not say anything, but I
thought, this is kind of funny.
P: This is on the flight?
B: On the flight. [I thought], something is going on here. We got to Jacksonville and
went on up to our hotel suite. Mr. Ball said, are you engaged for dinner? Let us
have dinner. I want to meet with you. We did not talk about anything in particular.
He never ate breakfast. He said, are you having breakfast in the morning? I said
yes, and he said, I believe I will join you for some grits. He came down, and we
talked. He still did not say anything [except] who are you having lunch with? I
said so-and-so, and he said, I will join you. I want to talk to you about something.
Nothing particular came up.
We went back over to the office and were having a meeting of the directors at
2:00 p.m. I called my wife and said, something is going on over here. It is very
funny. It is odd. No matter what you hear or what happens, do not let it upset
you. You do not have to worry. Neither do I. [I am] being looked at strangely, kind
of hands-offish, and people are coming around a little bit afraid to say anything. I
do not know what is coming on, but do not worry.
I was talking to Ball, and here came one of the directors. He said congratulations.
I said thank you. I did not know what he was talking about. Ball called the
P: This is in Jacksonville, now, at the bank building?
B: Yes. [Ball] came in and said, because of old age [and] numerous infirmities -
losing memory, general incompetency I believe it is time for you fellows to
name my successor. We want somebody who is young, somebody who is
aggressive, somebody who knows the real world, somebody who has been on
the firing line. I would like for him to come in and take over.
P: There must have been great silence in the room.
B: It was already set up.
P: I know.
B: Somebody got up and nominated me. [Ball] pushed back the chair and said, Mr.
Belin, here is the chair. You take over. It is your company.
P: Just like that?
B: I think he fully intended to say something to me [when he asked], would you join
me for dinner? Let me have breakfast with you. He never did. Of course, I was
not prepared. I did not have an agenda. I was not prepared to meet the press.
But you could always improvise, and I did.
Sometime during the afternoon after the meeting I walked into his office, and he
said: I am glad you came in. I would like to see for a few minutes. Furthermore, I
would like to ask a favor of you.
P: You are the president now.
B: Yes. We had a good rapport. I said, I am not very inclined to hand out a lot of
favors right now [laughter]. Well, he said, I want to get my request in. I asked,
what is it? He said, I want you to give me a job. I want to hold on. Would you let
me handle real estate transactions? I said, now, wait a minute. Do you know a
great deal about real estate? Can you learn? He said, no, but I am learning fast.
I said, I don't know where you got your training from, but I am willing to give you a
chance providing you will do this. If you will make the same mistakes you have
been making for the last thirty-five years, it is your job. He said, thank you, I will
accept it. I said, now, let us talk about pay. There will be not much compensation
P: It is the honor of it.
B: He said, I understand. Thank you. I said, let us talk further. I have roots in St.
Joe, family over there. I can jump on a plane and be over here. Where do you
think I ought to live? He said, wherever you want to put your hat is all right. You
can live in New York, St. Louis, Detroit, St. Joe, Jacksonville. Anywhere you want
to be. I said, I am going to stay in Port St. Joe. He said, we own the telephone
company. We can be communicating. We had a great rapport, and it worked for
P: And your wife was satisfied to stay in Port St. Joe?
B: Yes. I tell you these little stories. He did not make loans to churches.
P: He did not make loans?
B: To churches. He told me repeatedly, now, there are only two denominations that
pay off bank loans. The Mormons are one of them, and the Catholics. Father has
ways of twisting arms. Father can say, "I will not consecrate that six feet," or,
"You cannot take communion," and they will come around and pay the loan. But
the Mormons are just good stewards. We lend to the Mormons.
Well, I went down to make a church loan. One church called me and said, do you
have a relationship with the bank? We want to make a loan. Will you represent
us? I said, give me your balance sheet [and] statement. I went down to
Jacksonville. I had a lot of fun with it. I went to the loan committee and said, look,
guys I knew every one of them I want to make a church a loan. They said, get
out, Belin. Get out. I said, wait a minute. This is a good loan, I think. At least they
tell me it is. They have given me a statement, and they are going to make some
pledges and promises. That is all you need, isn't it? They said, Mr. Belin, you
know our policy about lending to Baptist churches. I said, okay, I think you guys
fish on Sunday, all of you. I do not believe any of you belong to a church, and I
strongly suspect none of you is going to heaven [laughter. I said, I know you
guys. Would it offend you if I went over your head? They said, offend us, Mr.
Belin. Please do. Please do. I said, okay, be up on the eighth floor in twenty
minutes, right outside Mr. Ball's office.
I went on up to Mr. Ball and said, you know, Mr. Ball, you have a group down
there in that bank coordinating loans. They are never going to get to heaven.
They just do not know how to make good loans. He asked, what is the matter
with them? I said, I talked to them about a Baptist church loan, and they do not
think favorably of it, so I thought I would appeal to you. He said, they are showing
good judgment. I said, now, look. Those people over there at those churches all
work for us. They pray for management religiously. They are on our team. My
goodness, let us go ahead and help these people. He said, well, go talk to the
loan committee. I said, they are a bunch of heathens, Mr. Ball. They will never
get to heaven the way they look at a church loan. I thought I would get you to talk
to them on my behalf. He said, I will. I said okay. I opened the door, [and] they
came in. I said, here they are, Mr. Ball. He laughed and said, you stacked the
deck on me. Belin has been talking to you about poor loans? Yes. Did you make
him a loan? No. Did he give you any security? Yes, he told us he would leave us
some Bibles and tell us about the Gospel [or] something like that. Ball said,
fellows, I have never asked you to show poor judgment. I never asked you to
deviate from any set rules. But if I close my eyes and swallow, would you guys
get in the corner and pray and see if you could help Mr. Belin? I got my loan
P: Mrs. duPont, on the other hand, was very supportive of religion. [In 1949] she
donated a church at Bolles. [Constructed in 1925 in Jacksonville and acquired
later by Alfred I. duPont, it was used as a chapel for the Bolles Military Academy.
Originally named Grace Chapel Parish, the name was changed in 1971 to San
Jose Episcopal Church.]
B: Sure. She contributed liberally.
P: Very much so.
B: She contributed to churches. I got $250,000 from her estate to put in a family
center for my church.
P: From her?
B: Yes, [from] her estate. Mrs. duPont used to give liberally to matching funds.
The next morning I went in to see Ball. I saw the headlines there on the Florida
Times-Union. A Baptist minister out on Beaver Street got shot. The husband of
the music director, the organist, caught him, and he shot the minister. Mr. Ball
said, do you see now why I do not like to [give] Baptist [churches] loans? I said,
my timing was just right, wasn't it? He said, it could not been better.
P: I was going to say, if you had come in a day later they would have held up the
headlines for you.
B: Yes. I have an old friend out in Meridian, Mississippi, who is chairman of a big
bank out there. It is the biggest bank in Meridian. I had him over to the farm one
night. Ball and we were sitting around talking. I said, B.J., do you make any
church loans? Yes, certainly. We make a lot of church loans in Meridian, he
said. I said, do you make loans to Baptists? Oh, yes, he said. They are good
public relations loans. Some of the front people in my town are Methodist,
Presbyterian, Catholic. We make a lot of those loans. I said, how many Baptist
loans do you have out? He said, fifty-three Baptist churches. I asked, do they pay
you? He said, punctually.
Ball was over there. I said, tell Mr. Ball about it. Mr. Ball said, now, wait a minute.
B.J., you have different kinds of Baptists out there than we have here in Florida
[laughter]. He said, they are not Jacksonville Baptists or Port St. Joe Baptists. He
had a good sense of humor.
P: When you arranged his funeral, and I presume you arranged the funeral, did you
have a religious ceremony?
B: Yes, I did that. I took it in. He did not want to talk about it. Before I get into that,
let me tell you [that] when his brother died, he was buried at the old Cressfield
[cemetery, at the] old Ball burying ground. [Cressfield is the family farm in
Virginia.] I was with Ball in New York. He did not want to go. He could not stand
these funerals. Mrs. duPont called and said, Ed, you have to go. We took him
I talked to him, and after I had gotten the resolution through Nemours where he
could be buried in a crypt, I said, leave it to me. Much, much before his death I
had planned it. I went to a minister. Some of Mr. Ball's kinsmen were Greshams
on his mother's side, whose great-grandfather was a Baptist minister. Did you
know Mr. Ball was brought up in a Baptist church? His mother was Baptist. [The
minister] said, Jake, if I can help you anyplace ... I said, okay, thank you.
I did engage Dr. COOPER from Jacksonville, the learned minister of Riverside
Baptist Church. I engaged a mortician. Ball had long ago purchased a solid
copper casket he had put away and taken care of. He had it stashed away in
Tallahassee. I had arranged for everything. I had gotten with Raymond Mason
and had four big airplanes to take everybody to Wilmington [Delaware], to take
the undertaker, the mortician staff, the minister, the pall bearers, the trustees. We
flew everything up there. I had everything up there set up in the moors for the
burial. There were tents put up outside. There was not a hitch in the whole thing.
It worked out. I had flowers purchased his kind. He loved beautiful flowers. I
had gotten with the minister to help him prepare what he was going to say. The
minister said to me, I want to see his books, his library. I would like to rummage
through those. Frequently I get some ideas from reading notes in the margin of
books, or maybe in the fly leaf cover. Let me see what he reads, and let me look
through it. He spent time on that.
Ball read [the Rubaiyat of] Omar Khayyam. He could quote the whole thing. He
loved beautiful poetry [and] prose, beautiful works of art. He did read the Bible;
he was a biblical scholar. [He was] a historian like you have never seen in your
life. He was interesting to talk to. He could talk about English history, about
American history. [He was] a great conversationalist. [He enjoyed] getting
together [with] four or five people. He did not like big crowds.
I planned it [for] months and months and months. I knew it was gong to happen,
and I had everything worked out where everybody could see. I am not really a
meticulous planner, but in this case I went ahead and did it. He asked me to bury
him. I told him, now, look. You have some grandnieces and a grandnephew or
two, and that may give me trouble. Let us go to them and get this thing
straightened out. Stipulate this thing. Put a codicil to your will. He said, you will
not have any trouble.
I called them in. I had them down to Jacksonville, and I took them to dinner. We
went to the River Club. I said, your granduncle has asked me to do this. I am
taking the ball and running with it. I want you to know about it. I have made plans
and am making plans. I will disclose these plans to you and will carry them out.
But I wanted you to know about it and to inform you in any way I can. I want you
to know that I am not trying to just take over. One of the grandnieces said, I wish,
Mr. Belin, you would bury him at Cressfield, up on the northern neck. I said, he
asked me not to. Quite frankly, he has severed all ties with that part of the
country. Here is where he loved: Jacksonville. He does not want to go back to
Virginia and does not want to be buried there, although he held his mother and
father in great awe and respect. They are buried there, the Ball forebears. The
two younger ones spoke up and said, Mr. Belin is right. You know Uncle Eddie
would not go back. He told us that. She said, I know it.
They said, Mr. Belin, we endorse all of your plans. We are with you, and we will
help you. We are grateful to you and thank you for taking this over and [for]
sharing it with us. I said, it would be a heartless thing for me just to go in here
and not let you know.
But I did work it out meticulously. I worked it out well. Raymond Mason helped
me out with a lot of transportation, and it worked well. There was a good
representative crowd. [There were] bankers from all over the country there. It
was not Ball's church. Ball did not have a church.
P: Was there a representation from the governor's office?
P: Were you involved in the growth of the duPont operations, the increase in the
number of banks, the acquisitions of the Florida East Coast Railroad?
B: No. I was engaged in building up the paper company assets.
P: As president in 1968, then, you were the president of the paper company.
B: Right. I was president of the St. Joe Paper Company. Where your power comes
in is as trustee of the estate. Trustees have jurisdiction over all those things, and
I am a trustee.
P: Was Ball, then, the man who increased the number of banks, who bought the
additional land, the forest land, who acquired the Florida East Coast Railroad?
Was this his decision? Did he operate alone in making these decisions?
B: Pretty much so except in the paper company. He had me travel to acquire
assets, to acquire box plants, to acquire sites for box plants, to acquire
woodlands. I helped acquire a lot of the woodlands properties and put him onto it.
We did that. If I found out anything that was good, whether it was in their line or
not, I let him know, and we would sit down and buy it. I bought all of these box
plants from Fort 14.9 Corrugated Case Company. I bought box plants from
Baltimore Paper Box. All of these box plants I negotiated for him. I bought sites
for putting in new ones. I increased the output. I was instrumental in tripling the
production. I was an instrument in saying, we have to go in this business, we
have to be more fully integrated, and those sort of things.
He would ask me to go out and study markets. To get in, I rode buses with
employees of large companies to find out if they were satisfied, how strong they
were in supporting unions, what their wages were, what they were thinking and
talking about. [I would] get on company buses like in Greensboro, North Carolina,
and ride up to these textile mills and back. [I would talk to] shift workers to see
what their beefs were. I would engage them off the company conveyance or off a
public bus and quiz them and talk to them about salary rates, overtime, unionism
and all that. We would sit down. That is the way we selected sites, selected
companies, selected places to go. He was meticulous that way. [We] negotiated
over in the Channel Islands with him; I spent weeks over in the Channel Islands
[California]. He wanted to put up a residence there. Jersey, Guernsey. Buying
motels; he bought motels and stayed in them.
P: But he buys these on his own. Obviously you are advising him, giving him leads
and all. But for instance, when he acquires twenty-three more banks for the
Florida National Bank chain and increases it to thirty, this is something he
presumably works out with his sister.
B: That, and he comes into the trustees with a recommendation and says, here it is.
I think it is good for you to endorse. The trust controlled the bank.
P: Did you have anything to do with the Florida East Coast acquisition?
B: No. He started out on that in, I guess, 1944. He purchased the bonds.
P: When they went into bankruptcy, then he was ready to move in.
B: Yes. He purchased those bonds. He was in the courts eighteen years in hearings
before the Interstate Commerce Commission. There was not much to do there,
Doctor. After you had bought those bonds you could not do anything except go in
to the courts. It was run by the trustees: Scott Loftin [Jacksonville attorney], John
Martin [Florida governor, 1925-1929], and the other guy down there [J. Turner
Butler]. The road running off 1-95 to the beach, out to Ponte Vedra, is named
after him. We are trustees. They operated it. I came out of trusteeship in 1961.
Then we started operating and then fought unions.
There was not that much to do. Declare the bonds; the courts did this as the
equity holder. They were the owner. [We had to] go through a lot of hearings
before the Interstate Commerce Commission. There was not anything else to
acquire. [We could] modernize. That was simple. We just had to wait it out and
spend a lot of time in court.
P: Was it the paper company or was it the duPont trust that owned the million-plus
acres of forest land?
B: St. Joe Paper Company. We owned 1.1 million acres of Florida timberland.
P: That is about 3 percent of the state, I understand.
B: Right. There are, I think, 58,000 square miles of Florida, 54,000 land and around
4,000 water. [That is] somewhere around 38 million acres. Anyway, we owned
about 3 percent of it, [all in] timberlands. Now, we owned 50,000 acres of [sugar]
P: Where is that located?
B: Just south of Okeechobee, in Palm Beach County.
P: Obviously, where they grow sugar cane is where you own it.
B: And we own around 50,000 acres in Georgia around Thomasville and Albany.
P: No cattle land? No ranch?
B: We have 11,000 acres set off for raising cattle. It is not a profitable venture. We
raise cattle over in Leon County, Tallahassee, at Southwood Farm. We raise
registered Herefords, and we bought from Judge Alto Adams, who is a great
P: Oh, I knew Alto. [Adams was chief justice of the Florida Supreme Court from
1940-1951 and 1967-1968.]
B: We bought his place. He had registered Aberdeen Angus. We raised breeders -
bulls. Now, I got out of that and went into the McDonald brand. I am raising
hamburger cattle now. But the land is getting so valuable, it is too valuable to
raise cows on.
P: Alto used to send me tomatoes from his place over there near Fort Pierce.
B: Did he? I liked Alto Adams.
P: Oh, I did too.
B: He was from right up here around DeFuniak Springs.
P: He did a couple of books on Florida history [A Cattleman's Backcountry Florida
and The Fourth Quarter].
B: I know. He came to me and said there were seven great Floridians he wanted to
write about: [Frederick and Howell] Lykes, [Henry B.] Plant, [Henry M.] Flagler,
[Alfred I.] duPont, Hamilton Disston, and maybe John Ringling. We talked about
it. He wanted to get me engaged in that.
P: I have saved all my correspondence with him.
B: Did you? Let me digress to talk to you about that. Ball liked Alto Adams. He and
Millard Caldwell did not get along, I am told.
P: Ball and Millard, even though you liked Millard Caldwell very much.
B: Millard was just like Ball: Tough. He was a fighter. And they fought. They got
together on Judge Adams when Adams ran for the governorship [in 1952].
Caldwell liked Adams, and so did Ball, and they got together on him. They kind of
made up after that. Adams and Dan McCarty were close friends. I had to choose
sides there one time. I knew Dan. I worked with Dan in the chamber of
P: Dan ran first, in 1948, against Fuller [Warren] and lost and then won in 1952.
B: Ball liked Fuller.
P: I am surprised that he was supporting Fuller. I thought he would have gone for
Senator [William A.] Shands.
B: No. Fuller. Ball wanted one thing, and Fuller promised it to him, and reneged. I
knew Fuller. [He was] honest [and] honorable, [but he had] no depth. [He was] no
great statesman. Egotist.
P: But [he had] a great sense of humor.
B: He did not hurt anything.
P: His sister Alma lives in Gainesville.
B: Yes, she does.
P: She is a good friend.
B: Ball wanted a sales tax. Fuller came in and posted a sales tax, but instead he put
in a gross receipts tax. Same damn thing.
P: Why did Ball want the sales tax?
B: To take tax off of real property.
P: I see. To relieve himself.
B: And lower them. It is the most equitable tax you can levy. You pay on your ability
to purchase. Fuller put it in, and I think he exempted so much [in] groceries and
some other things.
P: Yes. There were a lot of exemptions to begin with.
B: It went on in. Anyway, it is an equitable, fair tax. Dan [McCarty] was opposed to
it. When Dan was Speaker of the House, he kept sales tax out. But Dan was
honorable. I traveled with him. He would kid himself. [He would deliver] sixteen
[to] eighteen speeches a day. [He was] making these canned speeches, [and] he
would be so tired and punch-drunk.
P: But he was greedy for political office.
B: Right. I said, Dan, you cannot stand up. He left after about two or three months.
P: Right. That is all. Well, he lasted [as governor] until August, about seven months.
[McCarty died September 28, 1953.] Then Charley Johns came in.
B: I knew old Charley.
P: What a successor he was!
B: I used to see Charley coming out of the garage. On a day like this morning,
raining, we were coming out of a garage there in Jacksonville. It was raining, and
we sat down in that garage four and five hours and talked. It was entertaining.
P: How much of a political animal were you in the 1950s and the 1960s? To what
degree did you influence state government?
B: I guess I went out and campaigned.
P: OK. So you made friends.
B: And campaigned for them. A lot of my friends were in the House and the Senate.
P: Now, it is said that Ball was the most politically powerful man in Florida in the
1940s and 1950s and 1960s. Is that justifiable?
B: Yes, it is. I want to say this: He did not make political contributions. He had power
over people. He had influence over votes; he delivered votes. Employees, other
politicians who were seeking favor everybody was always hoping and seeking
something. If you are in control of one of the largest banking institutions in the
state, you are going to have muscles.
P: Were people like Farris Bryant [Florida governor, 1961-1965] and Haydon Burns
[Florida governor, 1965-1967] beholden to him, then?
B: Yes, and he loved them both and supported them both. He did not like LeRoy
[Collins, Florida governor, 1955-1961].
P: He certainly did not like Robert King High when he was running [for governor in
B: No. After Ball's death Claude Pepper called me and lauded Ball. He wrote a nice
letter. He had no animosity. Mr. Ball had animosity toward Claude.
P: He did not like Claude Pepper.
B: Not worth a ... Claude could get mad at nobody. Claude wrote me the nicest
letter, and then he came back to me and said, I want you to help me. I said, what
do you want? He said, I want you to serve on the committee. I think he said [he
wanted me to be] vice-chairman with Marshall McDonald [CEO, Florida Power
and Light] to put in his chair over here at Florida State University in honor of his
P: Yes, the Mildred Pepper chair [in] gerontology.
B: He said, help me with that. We raised the money like that. I did that, and he was
everlastingly grateful. He sent me books and other things free all the time. I got a
little bit tired of getting things. But they did not get along.
P: Did Ball play the role that history says he played in the Smathers-Pepper
campaign in 1950 [for U.S. senator]?
P: He put money into Smathers's [campaign]?
B: Well, [he] put money into it, [but] not directly to that. Ball had press, he had
people, he had newspapers, he had people going out and doing things, for
instance, getting and running the photographs at dinner with Stalin and with Paul
P: He was responsible for the huge number of photographs that was distributed.
B: Yes. He had secret press, people who put out stuff and published things for him,
running Robert King High's home and all like that. They did not call it dirty politics
back then. Everybody did it. But he believed in fighting in the trenches in politics.
P: He let nothing stand in his way?
B: Nothing. He elected Claude Kirk [Jr., Florida governor, 1967-1971].
P: Would you call him a ruthless man, loving him as you did?
B: No, I would not say he was ruthless. [I would call him] extremely hard and a very,
very difficult opponent who would do inside fighting. He got that way with the
P: Strom Thurmond.
B: Strom Thurmond and Dick Russell supported him. Ball was a strong infighter,
and he would not get in and say nasty things about [others], like it being said
today about somebody being caught in a house of prostitution. He would not do
that. He would say, he is liberal, and if he wants to go around with Paul Robeson
or Joe Stalin, I think I will let that be known. Some people may say that is pretty
strong politics, but I do not think so.
P: What do you mean he elected Claude Kirk?
B: Who was Claude's opponent? Haydon Burns?
P: Robert King High. Do you remember the bitter campaign between Burns and
B: Sure. He went after Robert King High. His press and his influence beat Robert
King High and elected Claude.
P: Do you think he ever regretted it?
B: Well, I think he did.
P: He elected a clown.
B: He did. You know, Fuller wanted to run again after he was out, and Ball said,
Governor, do not get into that. I am not with you this time.
P: The state would have been better off with High as governor than with Claude
B: Claude was a clown. He did not hurt anything, and the old guy has run time and
time again. He has changed party affiliations every month.
P: And now his son-in-law is Ander Crenshaw [Florida senate minority leader from
B: I know him, and I know Ander's father, Mack Crenshaw. I like old Claude
personally. I saw him down in Palm Beach at the Florida Council of 100. He has
slendered down [and was] fairly presentable, and I enjoyed chatting with him.
P: He probably is not drinking like he used to.
B: [Claude] came out to the farm one day. He always wanted to be late, like two or
three hours late. He had a highway patrolman trooper bring him in. He had a
champagne bar in the back. Ball and I were waiting. We were going to have
drinks. The governor got there, and he came in. Rush, rush. [He was] always
busy. He told the trooper, bring the champagne. He did not offer any of us a drink
of the champagne. We did not want it. He sat there before us and drank the
champagne, took it back out to the car, and left. Ball and I had what we wanted.
But he was a clown and pretty much of a nut. I felt sorry for some people who
supported him. Ash Verlander [Jacksonville insurance man]. Do you know Ash?
P: Oh, of course, I know Ash.
B: Ash is a nice guy.
P: Very nice guy.
B: There are some good people. I think J. E. Davis is a nice guy.
P: I do not know him, but I do know Ash.
B: Ash is kind of a guardian. I like Ash. Ball supported Sumter Lowry [general,
Florida National Guard].
P: Oh, I know.
B: I never knew Sumter very well. I knew him. Sumter was not a colorful candidate.
P: He knew how to stir up controversies. He raised hell about the University,
because when they built Tigert Hall they found that they had three flag poles -
they never figured out why so they decided to put the American flag on one, the
state of Florida [flag] on one, and then they ran up the United Nations flag, and
oh, he raised hell about that.
B: Ball did not like to lose.
P: This is Sumter, now, that was doing that. Ball would not have done anything like
B: Ball did not like to lose battles. He would fight hard and long but would not do
anything that was downright dirty. He was a tough one.
P: Did he not hold grievances, though?
B: He did. I do not know that he ever forgave anybody.
P: Once you got on the bad list, you were there forever.
B: You were there forever. You never came off the bad list. Angels could not bring
P: When you traveled with him, both within the United States and abroad, [it was]
just the two of you? Your wife was not going along?
B: No. She did not want to.
P: Did she not like Ball?
B: She liked Mr. Ball, but did not particularly care for his company or anything like
P: She did not dislike him, but he was not her type of person.
B: That is right. My wife is a family woman. She likes her husband and children and
grandchildren. Ball, as I said, did not feel comfortable around children and with
ladies. He was always a little bit too much in his p's and q's. She liked him and
admired him greatly, but ...
P: What role do you play in the various duPont operations? I have the estate, the
institute, the foundation. I am not quite sure I understand what all of these are.
B: Well, let me see if I can run through those with you. I gave you Mr. duPont's will.
Mr. duPont stipulated in his will that his trustees shall cause to be incorporated, a
corporation called the Nemours Foundation, and on his death, his assets would
become the beneficiary of the income from all of his assets. All of his assets went
to the Alfred I. duPont Testamentary Trust, and from there the income flows into
Nemours, which is the chief beneficiary. He stipulated that no crippled child
should be denied care if he could be rehabilitated and returned to society and
take his place among his fellows.
P: So that a terminally ill child [with] cancer or whatever would not be allowed.
B: [No. The disease must be] curable. Let me digress to tell you what Mr. duPont
then thought was incurable now can be cured.
P: I understand that.
B: So all of the income from the trust, the Alfred I. duPont Testamentary Trust, flows
into the chief beneficiary, the Nemours, for the care of crippled children but not
incurables, and the care of elderly if we wish to do that.
P: And if they were, preferably, citizens of Delaware.
B: Preference goes to those in Delaware. [Our instructions were,] after you take
care of them, go everywhere else.
P: Were there any distinctions among either the children or the elderly as to color?
Does the will stipulate that?
B: No. Just not incurable.
P: I understand.
B: They have to be citizens of the United States. He stipulated in his will that first
there should be a memorial established for his father and his great-great-
grandfather, Samuel Pierre. We have done that. I was on that committee, and we
put that up. He wants his mansion opened for the pleasure of the public.
P: And that has finally been done.
B: [We] had the library opened and the works of art displayed. The grounds are
P: So that means that a visitor going to Delaware now can go into the house?
B: That is right.
P: That took a long time before that happened.
B: Well, to open it and plan it and get the landscaping up and parking
[arrangements made] took a little while. That was not to be done, really, until
after Mrs. duPont's death.
P: I see.
B: She died in 1970, and it was done shortly after her death. You see, all of the
income from the estate went to Mrs. duPont until her death, and then it came to
P: Okay. So that was part of it, you said, opening the house and all. What else?
B: Building the hospital for the care of crippled children but not incurable.
P: And that was done in Delaware? Was it done on property near Nemours?
B: It was done on property at Nemours.
P: As I understand it, Alfred I. duPont's son was the architect for that.
B: Originally. For the first hospital he was there. I believe he may have been the
architect for the carillon tower.
P: According to the biography he was. That is how I heard of it.
B: He had a friend in France, young duPont.
P: So they built the hospital, and the hospital is functioning today?
B: Yes. We went in and put in another hospital, a terrific hospital.
P: In Delaware.
B: [It is] next to the first one. [It is called] the Alfred I. duPont Institute. It is on the
grounds of Nemours [and is] a tremendous hospital. We increased the staff, [and]
we increased our services. We are doing research.
P: With inflation, is there money enough to maintain it? A hospital is a very
B: It is. I do not know of anything where the cost is increasing commensurate with
P: Hospital care is [so expensive these days].
B: We opened up the Nemours Health Clinic for the care of the elderly.
P: And that is a going operation?
B: Yes. We perform services there that are not taken on by Medicare or Medicaid.
We have an eye clinic. We test their eyes [and] fit them [with] glasses for free.
We have a hearing clinic where we test their sense of hearing [and] give them
hearing aids and all kinds of aids. We do anything we can.
P: But a Georgian or a Floridian would have to go to Delaware to avail him/herself
of those services.
B: Right. We have a denture clinic. We give them free dentures [and] take care of
the gums and other treatments there. And we give them free prescriptions.
P: That is a tremendous service.
B: The elderly can get free prescriptions. We deduct seventy-five dollars a year from
all of their prescriptions. That is little. We have put in satellite clinics downstate
and around where the elderly can come.
P: When you say downstate, [do you mean] in Delaware?
B: Yes, downstate Delaware, over on the Maryland line.
P: So they do not have to travel quite as far.
B: No. And we have prescriptions. We have pharmacies down there where they can
pick up their prescriptions. We have dentists down there so they can take care of
their teeth. We do that.
P: What have you done in Florida?
B: Well, you can use Mr. duPont's money in Florida, too. There is enough there.
What Mr. Edward Ball stipulated [was that] "the income from my estate, my
assets, can be utilized in Florida only." He told me, Mr. Belin, Florida has done
much for St. Joe Paper Company and the Alfred I. duPont estate. We owe
something for Florida. Mr. duPont has made provisions for Delaware, but mine
are going to be limited to Florida.
P: Once again, curable children?
B: Once again, curable children. He said, Mr. duPont was my great benefactor, and
I want to do exactly in Florida what he is doing in Delaware and elsewhere.
P: Did he concern himself with the elderly?
B: No, he did not. We cannot use his money for the elderly. Mr. Ball had a feeling
about the elderly. He thought they were mistreated. He did not like homes for
elderly nursing homes. He thought that elderly people should be taken care of
in their own homes and [that] they ought to provide for their own stuff. Of course,
that is easier said than done. No, [it is] just for crippled children.
P: And yet he was not particularly partial to children.
B: No. Mr. duPont's influence caused him [to do that]. And we have taken his assets
and increased the income. We have built a big hospital there.
P: In Jacksonville.
P: They had Hope Haven [Children's Hospital], did they not?
B: Mrs. duPont funded Hope Haven. We bought the old Hope Haven for seventy
and used it for the hospital.
P: Is that where the hospital is located?
B: No. We are just across from Baptist Hospital, across 1-95 as you come off the
Fuller Warren Bridge.
P: I did not know where it was.
B: We have a working agreement with the Baptist Hospital, Wolfson Children's
Clinic. We put in our own people there, and we are doing a great deal of work
there in the clinic. Now we are putting satellite clinics in LaBelle, Belle Glade, Fort
P: Areas where low-income families live.
P: Now, the Wolfson Children's Hospital is part of Baptist, is it not?
P: Do you know the Wolfsons?
B: Yes. Mrs. duPont gave Baptist Hospital a lot of money.
P: And yours is on the other side [of 1-95 from Baptist Hospital], south of the Fuller
B: Yes. I believe it is on San Marco [Boulevard].
P: OK. The next time I go there I am going to look and see.
B: Of course, there is going to be a new Fuller Warren Bridge. We are doing great
work there, and we are expanding our clinics.
P: So the estate, the institute, [handles these children's hospitals]. What does the
B: The Nemours Foundation?
P: You are on the Alfred I. duPont Foundation.
B: That is separate. That was a foundation that Mrs. duPont set up in honor of Mr.
duPont. It has nothing to do with his estate; it has nothing to do with Mr. Ball's
estate and Nemours.
P: So it is her money.
B: She started it. She put the first money in there in the corpus. It has grown. She
left Epping Forest to it; she left some of her assets to it on her death. She wanted
first to look after [the elderly], to supplement the income of elderly people who
had experienced some misfortune in late life, and that is what we are doing. I
spent a lot of my time in it, as well as [with] Nemours and the Alfred I. duPont
Testamentary Trust. It is very difficult for us to do what she envisioned and
wanted us to do. In the first place, we help these elderly supplement their
income, like retired ministers and ministers' wives. We do that. But when we
supplement their income, the welfare and the other benefits [offices] say we are
going to take it off.
P: So it really does not help them very much.
B: We do it sometimes, frankly, in devious ways. We are doing that, and I am
helping scholarships. We help through the Alfred I. duPont Foundation an
Alzheimer clinic near Mayo, a place called Cyprus Village.
P: I know where it is.
B: I got it from J. E. Davis. [He said,] we will fund you a place there when you come
over and join me. We do that. I have done [some contributing] to the University of
Florida through the years. It is not a lot of money. I have [donated funds that
enabled them to] carry out a program there of research on Alzheimer's.
P: Through the medical center.
B: Yes. They are still doing that. The Nemours funded a chair over there in
P: I know that.
B: We are assisting in the [purchase of medical equipment and supplies for crippled
children]. Kids cannot buy motorized wheelchairs. We purchase a lot of that kind
P: Mrs. duPont was not interested in supporting the arts: Music, art.
B: Yes, I have done that at the Cummer Gallery and the other one there in
Jacksonville [the Jacksonville Art Museum]. We have done that, and I have done
something up at Lee's home and [with] somebody up in Virginia. But I like to see
things more tangible.
P: Are you the man in charge of that so that if somebody makes the proposal it
comes to you? Is it your decision?
B: I am helping buy this hospital now. They are expensive. I went through that.
P: What hospital?
B: Baptist Hospital.
P: Oh, the Baptist Hospital.
B: I am putting in a new hospital. I help with shelters for the people who come
through and do not have a place to stay at night.
P: You must be a very busy man, Mr. Belin.
P: It is not hard to do.
P: You obviously are enjoying doing it.
B: Well, yes. It is not hard.
P: Do you have an advisory board that helps you with all of this?
P: Is this what George Bedell is on, for instance?
B: No, not that. I have Braden Ball, Gilbert Smith, and others. We have directors in
there who sit down and advise me. I use paper company staff to help me on
investment decisions. I use staff and investment counsel we have in the Alfred I.
duPont Testamentary Trust to help me. I get by with it all right.
P: In other words, you write and say, here is a proposal. I think you know more
about this than I do. Read it over and tell me what you think.
B: Right. It is not difficult.
P: It is obviously something you enjoy doing.
B: Right. We do not send out people to check on some of these people who apply.
We can smell phonies. I see things coming in from a section in Georgia [where]
somebody is filming the same old house, the same old run-down front porch. You
would get requests for help from these people because their house is blown
down. [It is the] same photograph, same old home.
P: Sort of like my students telling me their grandmother died on the day they were
supposed to take an exam.
B: [laughter] You know that. We try to look out. I do not like to call on welfare to
check because they will cut them off. I have called on ministers, people like
Episcopal ministers, and they kind of want to help their flock only, not the others.
So we just go out and call somebody and say, look, Joe, get over there and look
on this one and tell me what is absolutely going. Call me or write me a report. We
do that. We are leaning a little bit heavy yet toward people in that section of
Virginia where Mr. Ball and Mrs. duPont came from. We get our legs pulled a
little. There are so many there yet who went to school with her. It cannot be so,
you know that.
P: Thousands. Sort of like all those descendants from the Mayflower.
B: Sure, and we laugh about that. Yes, we like to do the things principally here in
Florida. I do go up to Virginia and Delaware. I help kids with summer
encampments and [give] pretty heavily on scholarships around junior colleges.
P: Now, Ball began to run into some legal problems in the 1960s with federal
government saying banks and philanthropic organizations [could not engage in
both banking and non-banking enterprises].
B: [That was strictly] punitive legislation [referring to the Federal Bank Holding Act of
1966]. It started because Ball beat the labor unions. He fought them and whipped
them, and they went after him. Senator Morse from Oregon, who is favorably
looked up by the labor unions.
P: And the senator from Wisconsin, [William] Proxmire.
B: The one who had the herring plant. He is not there now.
B: Proxmire and Senator Willis Robertson from Virginia.
P: And of course, Claude Pepper.
B: Claude, and the one who was opposed to very much was Wright Patman, who
was chairman of the House banking committee.
B: That was punitive. They wanted to break Ball's hold on union labor, so they
passed legislation whereby a charitable trust or charitable foundation could either
be in banking or in manufacturing but not in both. [They had to] get out of one or
the other. So we waited with all of our assets in manufacturing. [There was] a
good future in manufacturing, and we chose manufacturing. We fought it. We
hated to give up the [Florida National] Banks. It was a good chain of banks. [Ours
was a] good banking policy. We knew that Florida was going to grow and
expand. But it was punitive, and we did fight it. They allowed us to come down,
and we could hold 24.9 percent.
P: Which gave you 25 percent control.
B: Well, 24.9 percent damn near ran it. They said, we made a mistake there. That is
too much. So they came down and said, you can have 4.99 percent.
P: With the 24.9, as I understand it, with Mr. Ball's investments and Mrs. duPont's
investments, you really had over 35 percent.
B: Right. Management controls proxies.
B: So we had control. They knew that, so we had to go down to a little under 5
percent. We said, heck with that. Let's get out. And we did get out, and we are
out. That was a bitter pill.
P: But you sold the banks well?
B: Yes, we sold the banks well. It is now merged, of course, with First Union, a
strong bank. [Alpheus] Ellis [prominent Florida banker, past chairman, NCNB]
should have come in and taken the banks. [See FBL4, University of Florida Oral
History Archives for an interview with Al Ellis.] I have talked to him about that a
P: He certainly had the assets to do it.
B: Right. We could not have operated it without Al. But that was a bitter pill for Ball.
That was a bitter defeat for Mrs. duPont, too. But he never cried over spilled milk.
He fought it hard. He just started spending his time toward St. Joe. Ball was one
who liked to acquire. He had the liquid assets. He had funds available to make
acquisitions. [He would] go out and buy for cash. [He would] buy at a low price,
hold it for appreciation, and then sell it.
P: But he did not want to distribute very much of the income, did he? Was that
another big battle?
B: [He would] keep putting it back in.
P: Was that not another big battle, that they were not distributing enough of the
income from the estate?
B: No. We had some battles inside with some of the trustees who wanted to oust
me and Ball, and they alleged that we were not distributing it enough. Florida
changed the law on that. It originally [said] you must earn 3 percent of the
inventory value, which was book value. Then they changed it to 3 percent of the
P: That is a big difference.
B: Yes. Well, we were closely held. We were not a public company, so it was very
difficult to say what the market value was. We would get appraised every year by
experts, and we got a pretty high appraisal. Now we are a public company, and
we do not have any trouble. But we have to earn 3 percent of the fair market
value of all the assets in the estate, which we are doing. We are funding a lot of
things, and [we are] not short on money.
P: I thought in the early 1970s they brought a court suit saying that more had to be
distributed from the estate.
B: No. We made a settlement where we would distribute more. It was not a must.
P: There was no compulsion, then?
B: No. You earn 3 percent, and that was it. We would try our best effort to increase
the income. My God, what did we do? We went out and bought Hope Haven
[Children's Hospital in Jacksonville and] we went around and put in all these
clinics. Look what we are doing we are just spending, spending, spending, and
keeping up with the cost of health care.
P: Which, of course, I know is really something.
B: It is really something.
P: Speak to the hassle that developed in 1970 when you had [William B.] Mills on
the board, the four members, replacing I guess it was [Elbert] Dent who had died
in 1964. Then when Mrs. duPont dies, Alfred Dent [a grandson] comes aboard,
and two of these people begin to buck Ball. Then he adds the other three,
B: Was it 1970?
P: Well, she dies in September 1970, so it has to be 1971, I guess.
B: Well, on her death, Mills ...
P: Mills was on in 1964 after the first Dent, the Senior, died.
B: Elbert died. [William B. Mills] took Elbert's place.
P: And he was the Florida National Bank president then, or something.
P: Mrs. duPont dies in 1970, and Alfred Dent then comes aboard, and he and Mills
begin to buck Ball.
B: Well, Mills was removed as president of the bank, or was limited.
P: But it was my understanding from reading the [Jessie Ball] duPont biography that
Ball then added three people; he increased the board from four to seven, and
you are one of the people that he added, plus ...
B: [Winfred L.] Thornton and [Thomas S.] Coldewey, was it?
P: Yes. [A. L. GRAVES is listed in Hewlett's biography on p. 330, note 53.]
B: I went on in 1967.
P: No. This shows you going on after Mrs. duPont's death, in 1970 or 1971. That is
what I have. As I say, the author obviously could have gotten it wrong.
B: No. I was a trustee before I was president of St. Joe. I was made a trustee along
with Thornton in December 1967. Mrs. duPont died in 1970. There have been no
trustees added since Mrs. duPont's death.
P: Wait a minute, now. If both of you were added and Ball is on there, that is three.
Mrs. duPont is on there in 1967, because she does not die until 1970. Plus Mills
is on there.
P: So that means there were five people on there.
B: Mills, Coldewey, [Alfred duPont] Dent, Belin, Thornton, Ball, and Mrs. duPont.
P: That is seven.
B: We petitioned the courts to increase the number of trustees.
P: Four to seven.
B: Because Mrs. duPont was informed, she could not attend. She could not get out
P: I see. OK.
B: Mr. Ball had four heart attacks. He was aged. We were growing; the trust assets
had increased. We needed management, so we petitioned the courts to increase
P: And the courts agreed?
B: The courts ruled this: under Mr. duPont's will there was no provision for it. It had
to remain at three. The corporate trustees were four. But under the Doctrine of
Deviation, where there is clearly need, and [because] Mr. duPont stipulated in his
will that his trustees are empowered to do all things necessary for the protection
and perpetuity of this trust, they are given free will to go ahead and do whatever
is necessary for the benefit of it. The court said, you truly need them; on the
basis of the Doctrine of Deviation on need that you have shown, we approve it.
P: Mr. Belin, I want to shift to another [topic] because we are moving toward the end
of this [interview]. I want to ask you what your own philosophy is in terms of the
long life and active life you have led. What moves you?
B: There are lots of things yet I want to do. I love this country, [and] I am concerned
about a lot of things in this country. I am a conservative Democrat. I am really
concerned about growing bureaucracy. It is terrible, the thing we are getting to in
this country. Government employees, bureaucracy we cannot do anything.
Business is stifled. The [Florida] Growth Management Act has caused a
recession here in Florida. Real estate values have deteriorated. Contractors are
going broke because bureaucracy has everything in its hand. You cannot get a
permit to do anything. It takes you three to five years.
P: I understand you said that on your own land you have to get a permit to cut your
B: In certain counties we do. In Leon County you do have to get a permit to cut your
P: So you are saying bureaucracy is drowning us.
B: We are drowning in bureaucracy. I cited you about working in Millard Caldwell's
office with two and a half full-time equivalent. Millard Caldwell did not have any
district offices. Now my Congressman has an office in Marianna [and] one in
Tallahassee. I bet he has seventy-five people working in his office, and [it] does
not accomplish anything. Bureaucracy is strangling us, and we have to do
something about it.
P: So you are a free-enterprise man.
B: Absolutely. I was given the free-enterprise award by Jacksonville University two
years ago. I was given an honorary degree from there, a doctor of law, and I
made a talk on the free-enterprise system. I am a champion of the free-enterprise
system and fight for it.
I am working for privatization in government. Get government out of some of it
and let industry get in there and do it. Sure, you have to have checks and
balances. There has to be more accountability. Private industries can run
prisons, like Bay County over here. They can run the jails. They can do a lot of
running of welfare programs. Private industry on a bid basis can go in and
P: Do you think we need things like Social Security, as a for instance?
B: Yes, but not like it is being enacted. I paid into Social Security in 1935 when
Franklin Roosevelt was championing it. Now, because of my age, I get Social
Security. At seventy years old you get it anyway. I do not believe the Social
Security Act was meant for me and Mrs. Belin.
P: You do not need it.
B: Do you know what we get in Social Security? I am getting $32,000 a year. It is
not meant for me. They tell me when you paid into it you are entitled to it. Well, it
was not meant for me. Do you know my three little grandboys are on Social
Security, and they get $32,000 a year. I never see a Social Security check. My
wife takes that, and those grandbabies get it. Do you think it was meant that
P: No. It was meant for poor people who needed it.
B: Now Mrs. Belin and I get $32,000 a year.
P: You get the maximum.
B: I sure do. The thing about it is they recapitulate me every year. When I get an
increase, for whatever purpose, Mrs. Belin automatically gets an increase, so my
grandboys get an increase.
P: In other words, you just sign the check over to them.
B: I never see it. My wife gets the money and gives it to these grandbabies.
P: So you think that the bureaucracy on every level of government local, state,
and national is encompassing [and] drowning all of us?
B: There is no question about it.
P: Can we reverse this situation, do you think?
B: It is difficult to do, but we can do it. People are going to rise up and do it. I think
one form now is by limiting terms. I do not know that I am in favor of that. [I am
speaking of] the terms of the congressmen and cabinet members and things like
that. There is the move that way. We can reverse it, but it is going to be difficult. I
want to see things come down [to] local fiscal home rule. Cut out big, strong,
I am not sure about the statement I am about to make to you, but I believe when I
went to Washington in the early to mid-1930s, around 1935, there were less
government employees in the District of Columbia than they now have in one
building across the river. I will bet you the Pentagon has more people in it than
we had in the whole District of Columbia.
P: You probably are absolutely right, Mr. Belin.
B: We cannot continue this.
P: Do you think in your lifetime or my lifetime that we are going to see a reversion to
B: I am seventy-eight.
P: And I am just behind you.
B: I will be seventy-eight in October. No. We may see a trend, but we will not see it
P: Well, have we become politically on the national level more conservative in the
last fifteen [to] eighteen years [with] the Reagan administration [and] the Bush
B: I will say this to you. The greatest man in my lifetime was Winston Churchill. The
greatest president we had during my lifetime in my judgment was Ronald
Reagan. We can have some more of him. Bush is not a Reagan, not by any
stretch of the imagination. He is going to cave in on a lot of things. I am afraid he
is going to cave in on this legislation with respect to giving families all the leave
they want if they have a sick member or if somebody has a baby and the
husband can stay home. I am opposed to that. Business does not have to pay for
it. They are off without pay. But then you have to get somebody in.
P: To take their place.
B: And then you have that welfare to take home for them, and you just have
continuities. I do not believe in it. It is going to be hard to reverse, but we will
show a reversing as did Russia change things. They did it much more hurriedly
than we will ever do ours, but we have to do that, and we have to cut out some of
the social programs. We have people today who will not work because of it.
You know, Florida is principally made up of service businesses. It is a great area
for services. Florida does not encourage heavy industry. They do not want it.
They discourage it. They do not want smokestacks, rails, and whistles. They
want people to come in.
P: They want Disney Worlds.
B: They want Disney Worlds, Sea Worlds, they want entertainment, recreation, and
that sort of thing.
P: Hotels, restaurants.
B: Right. So I think there, when you are looking at that, a lot of those pay pretty low.
I think we are going to have trouble here in our own state. When the Haitians
start coming in, and they are coming, we are headed for trouble, I think, and I
would like to see it turned around. We have to do it. We cannot tax people to
I have served on the state taxation and budget reform commission. Governor
"Martini" [Robert Martinez, 1987-1991] called me and asked me to serve. I said,
Governor, I do not want to serve. First and foremost, I do not believe in making a
financial disclosure. You are not going to pay me anything; I am not going to get
any money from that. I am not asking for any. I do not want to make a financial
disclosure. I do not mind it, but I am against the principle of it. Second, I do not
want government in the sunshine. I cannot do things that way. If I want to talk to
one of my committee members or commissioners on the phone, I cannot call the
press. But they have to know everything. Governor, I do not want to serve for
that. He said, well, I want you to serve. I said, I do not want to, Governor. First
and foremost, let me get you straight: I am not a Republican.
P: He knew that ahead of time.
B: He said, I knew that, but sometimes you act like one. I said, well, there are some
nutty Republicans, Governor. I did not mention Claude Kirk. Now they have the
governor of Connecticut.
P: I know. [Lowell] Weicker.
B: So I am serving. I am amazed! People there [whom] I thought were strong
members were weak. Because of our rules we are keeping things out. I would
not be surprised, Doctor, [to see a personal income tax in Florida]. I take some
credit for keeping the personal income tax off the ballot.
P: That is never going to happen.
B: They wanted to put it on that ballot, after coming on there. They are all opposed
to it, and then they keep breaking down.
P: Mr. Belin, that is never going to happen. We are not going to get a personal
B: Well, I am opposed to it, and I fought it. I was told that I was wrong, to put it on
the ballot and then let them have a chance to vote to see if we are going to have
it or not. I said, I may not be fair, but I am practical. Chances are, they will not
vote for it, but I am going to be practical. I am not going to give them a chance to.
You can read into that anything you want to.
P: I understand what you are saying here. You are conservative. You want to go
back to what we once had, perhaps: less regulation, less control.
B: Less control, better accountability [in] industry and in government. I think they
ought to account for what they do with the monies they appropriate that are
P: All right. Let me go beyond the economic thing, though. What about the world in
which we live? To what degree are you concerned about rising crime, drugs,
[and] what is happening to young people?
B: We are having that because of the social welfare program. We have taken the
duty and responsibility of raising families out from under the family [and put it]
into government. We turn children over to others to raise. The mother is working,
[and there is] nobody at home. We turn the kids out into a world of crime. If we
can have somebody to stay home to show affection for children, to set examples
for children, to bring them along, encourage them to read about Lincoln,
Washington, Daniel Boone, encourage them to get on the playground and make
their own rules and play, run and whoop and holler and be healthy, bring them in
and let them eat and do their homework. Those are basic things, but we do not
do that. We would not have this crime if we would do that. But here we are
paying people to go out and look after our children. I mean, government pays
them to go out there and have somebody look after your children for you, and it is
wrong. We are not going to cut out this crap [unless we get back to basics].
P: Well, are you optimistic about those kinds of changes?
B: No, I am not.
P: Because as we read the papers and listen to the news and look around us, it just
looks like everything is collapsing.
B: It is going to get worse in our country. You are talking worldwide, I know.
P: I am really talking about our country.
B: We are soft-headed, Doctor. The liberals come in and say, we were all
immigrants. Our country is made up of a mix of races. True. But our founding
fathers, we sure got on the ball after they got here, and we had a great country.
We are opening the doors. There are 187 different nationalities represented in
the Dade County public schools. We are going to open to Haitians yet.
P: They will be open to the Cubans.
B: After Castro, more are coming in. They are going to bring in AIDS. They are
going to come in and get involved in narcotics traffic. Nicaraguans, Mexicans. I
think we are in for it. I think we are in for it. I do not want one world, I do not want
one tongue, I do not want one currency.
We here are in trouble for another reason, Doctor. We have lost our sovereignty.
You remember what old T.R. said, old Teddy Roosevelt: "Tread softly and wield
a big stick." We cannot do anything now without getting a resolution -
permission from the United Nations. We have lost our sovereignty.
Did you know when we went into Desert Storm it was the first time in the history
of this country we had to call on allies to help us pay for that battle? We used to
make a token [request]: Would you pay us the war debt? I think Finland one time
made a payment against one. Has anybody ever paid us?
B: We funded [them ourselves]. I talked to you about Lend-Lease. Was that [not] a
misnomer? It was a giveaway program.
P: Of course. We knew that was going to be a giveaway from the beginning.
B: Sure. That was a giveaway program.
P: But that was a war.
B: Right. We have to get a resolution through the United Nations. By God, we
cannot do anything on our own. We did not go in against the head of Iraq
[Saddam Hussein] because the United Nations resolution prohibited us from
doing it. We could not go in there.
P: That was a mistake.
B: If we had been on our own, we may not have gotten their support. Anyway, we
could have done it on our own, and it would have been corrected. We are losing
our sovereignty. Another thing here that does concern me I was taught this
way, and I got a lesson from Mr. Ball on this it is too easy to borrow money.
Debt does not worry people. Debt will strangle you, Doctor.
P: Young people are not worried about debt.
B: Debt will bring you to your knees. I have seen giant, giant companies fail
because of debt. I was with interest, but I got out. I got out of Charter Company
and did not lose a nickel. I could see it coming. Debt will kill you. It is easy to
borrow money, too easy.
It is easy to get into trouble here in the city. Matching funds will strangle you. You
say, well, we ought to do something. The state will give us 50 percent, and we
can go in debt for the other 50 percent. We get half of it for free. They go in over
their heads for the other 50 percent. They probably did not need it in the first
place. There you are. You used bad judgment. You are strangled because
somebody gave you something that is choking you. Debt will get you.
There was no use for banks experiencing the difficulty they did. It would not have
happened in the Florida National [Bank if Ed Ball had still been in charge]. There
is competition, ego, wanting to get big. I know Florida real estate. I read what Mr.
duPont said about it. Banks wanted to make a loan. Federal savings wanted to
make a loan. Do not let your competitor outdo you. Get in this race. The
appraisal on real property (so they could lend against it) was jacked up. It would
be a lot worth maybe $100,000 that was appraised at $175,000 so they could
lend 80 percent on it and give the guy more than $100,000. When they defaulted,
the real value was disclosed. It was not worth $175,000 [or] $180,000. That is
where they went in.
P: It was not worth $100,000.
B: It was not worth $100,000. That is where they go. I am concerned about that.
I came along years ago and studied economics. General Motors, U.S. Steel, the
duPont company were held up as big models. Fine. Look what has happened to
U.S. Steel. [And] would you ever have thought that General Motors would
B: Bethlehem Steel [is] gone. [The] duPont company has now been taken over by
Seagram's, a Canadian distillery company. Bureaucracy [is at the root of the
problem]. Government is getting bigger and bigger. We are finding out about
things now. For instance, the banking scandal in the [U.S.] House [of
Representatives], that is nothing new. The bank in the first place was not put
there as a bank.
B: It was put there for a privileged few to do just what they did.
P: Yes. It was a service.
B: And they did it. Those guys there [are] making their own rules in the House and
the Senate free haircuts, free medicine, all this stuff. They get freebies,
freebies, freebies. They have been getting it [for] a hundred years. It is nothing
new, [but] we are just now finding out about it. They are not as discreet now
about what they do.
P: Maybe the media is good, then. It is bringing all of that to our attention.
B: It is good in that sense. That is the thing that is bringing on limited terms, and it
may work here. It may pass here in this state. If you do that and you start seeing
this thing turned around, you may see some changes. It is very possible that
changes in bureaucracy [can come about, such as] limiting the size of
government and putting spending caps on government where they cannot have
deficit spending. That would help us. But we are not going to work out our
problems it is a very serious problem with respect to narcotics, even rape -
until we get back to the basic values of keeping the kids at home and teaching
P: Mr. Belin, tell me about yourself now. What do you do for recreation, for fun? I
know you are close to your family, but your family lives away from here except
B: Right. I read when I can.
P: You read a lot, I understand.
B: I like history, as I told you, and I like art. I visit art galleries. I like to visit with
people. I like to sit down and have a conversation, discuss history and discuss
P: Well, you are obviously a very warm and great conversationalist.
B: I like to have guests in the evening at my home in my apartment or at the
chateau, have good drinks out, sit down, and engage in a good conversation.
P: I will be coming back. I am inviting myself [laughter].
B: Well, you have an invitation. We will sit down and strike a blow for liberty. Mr. Ball
used to call it "confusion to the enemy."
B: And I love to go out and eat. I would invite you to Jacksonville to do it. I used to
have George Smathers up there and all these fellows.
P: It is more convenient for me to come to Jacksonville than it is to Port St. Joe.
B: It is just as good food. [We can] go out and eat a lobster. Ball and I and our
guests used to go out.
P: And when you come to Gainesville we will see each other.
B: Right. I love to sit down and discuss things with some humor in it. [I like] good,
clean jokes. I have had a lot of fun. That is one of my great pastimes.
P: Do you still travel a lot?
B: No, but I would like to start. I would like to go back and start doing it. I have been
to so many places where I was involved and engaged in business and I did not
get to do a lot of things I wanted to do. But I want to go back now on a different
row. I want to go to France. I do not speak French. I had two years of French, but
I have never practiced it. I want to go to France and do some study. I want to go
to London and do some study. I want to go back to both Irelands just for
P: Does your wife like to travel?
P: So you will go together.
B: Yes. We are going out to Los Angeles before long to see my little grandsons. I
have a lot of fun writing them. I write them letters and things. I try to encourage
them to read.
P: How old are your grandsons?
B: Philip is about to turn fifteen, Stephen is ten, [and] Patrick is a little past five.
P: So they are great joys to you.
B: Oh, yes. Here is an old boy seventy-eight years old who works a lot in the trust
and the foundation in Nemours, [and then I] go down to Tampa. I went out to a
karate match for my grandchildren. They are interested in karate. I enjoyed it. I
got up at 7:30 the other morning in Tampa (7:30 in the morning!), [and] I went out
to a Little League baseball game to see one of my grandboys.
P: When do you get to Jacksonville?
B: I go down every other week. The man who does my cooking and takes care of
my apartment except my bed he puts out the ice and set-ups and things I let
him on vacation. So, I have not been down there in a couple or three weeks, [but]
I am going Sunday.
P: We are going to transcribe all of this soon, and we will get it back to you.
B: All right. Be a little patient with me when it gets to me because I may need to
move it [around]. Our continuity here [has been disrupted]. I have digressed and
all this, [so I do not know] whether it will be a continuous flow.
P: Well, this is not jumping around as much as you think it is, and it is flowing nicely.
Now, it is true that we have moved some things out of the chronological order,
but in your case I have listened to you now all day and I consider myself to be
somewhat of a specialist in oral history [and] it has been a wonderful interview.
Unlike many others, I am not going to move much of you around.
B: There are lots of things we could talk about.
P: Well, we are going to do that at our next session over the lobster.
B: All right. I have had great experiences with people. I have met with heads of
Let me tell you one or two more things about Edward Ball. Here again, my
continuity [is going to be disrupted]. We were at an exclusive party. Mrs. Belin
was not with me. We were entertained there by a count.
P: This is you and Mr. Ball?
B: Yes, and we had two or three other guys with us. One of the guests was advisor
to the Pope. His name was Michel Sindoni. Does that ring a bell with you?
B: He clipped the Pope for $60 million.
P: Oh, the banker.
B: Yes. I think there is a book written about him called The Pope's Banker or
something like that. He came over here and got involved in the Lincoln Savings.
He left me a note that [read]: I have gone off and committed suicide. I am dead
now. Do you know that?
P: I know that.
B: Michel Sindoni was there. The reception before dinner, the cocktail party, was in
a tremendous hall with works of art [by Frangois Auguste] Rodin and all that stuff.
The countess was there. She was, I think, a German girl. She was rather
attractive. Right over the bar was a portrait of a nude, of our hostess. She did not
even have on a hairpin. [She was] just as nude as hell. There I was talking to her
right there, [and] right up there she was.
P: And you could not even make a comparison [laughter].
B: No. The funny thing is, I was talking to someone I do not know who it was; I
was having a drink and Mr. Ball came up to me and said, Mr. Belin, get out
from under that thing! I said, what is the matter? He said, get out from under
there! I said, geez, Mr. Ball, I am making an acquaintance with her. He said,
move out from under there! I said, well, their noses are a little bit too pointed.
They could improve on this. I am going to do it when I am here myself. [He said,]
get out from under that thing [laughter]! He was that way. He did not like that sort
of thing. Of course, that is Italian art, just as nude as hell. My hostess and her
husband and son walking around. I said, Mr. Ball, this is another one over here.
He said, it is kind of a vulgar painting.
P: It is not done in Wauchula.
B: No. Anyway, [let me tell you about] another thing [that happened] one time in
Washington. Do you remember old [William] Joe Sears [U.S. representative from
Florida, 1915-1929, 1933-1937]?
P: Oh, yes. Congressman Sears. We have his papers at the University.
B: Oh, do you? I knew the old congressman. Then reapportionment was different.
We had a congressman at-large, and old Joe Sears was it. Joe served in the
House, I think.
P: You know he lived in Jacksonville, right down the street from us.
B: Oh? His son was over there in Kent's law firm. Anyway, it was in the winter -