Interviewee: Bill Mansfield
Interviewer: Southern Oral History Program Chapel Hill
Date: May 16, 1974
[There were two unidentified interviewers which will be referred to as I and 12]
1: This is an interview with Bill Mansfield, Capitol Bureau Chief for the Miami
Herald, Tallahassee, Florida, May 16, 1974.
M: Well, I got here at the last throws of the Pork Chop Gang. I am sure you are
aware of that. I actually came up for two weeks. Supposedly I was the bureau
chief of the Palm Beach Bureau and came up for two weeks to cover Palm
Beach and Broward. Bob Sherra decided he would quit in the middle of the
session and I never got back except to clean out my desk down there. So I was
not as attuned as I might have been. The real leader in the Senate at that time
was the pork chop gang and the pork chop gang, I have since discovered, was
only a Senate organization. They talk about people as being pork choppers but
to be technically correct it was only a group in the Senate. It had to be only
twenty odd members. I think there were forty-eight in the Senate or forty but you
only had to have this much to control everything and there were lots of people
attuned with them in the House. But as long as you control the Senate that was
all you had to do and they worked as a very close-knit group.
I: Were they known in those days as the pork chop gang?
I: Who coined that name?
M: Jim Clendenin, a man you ought to talk to, who is the editor of the Tampa
Tribune now. He coined that phrase. He had worked here.
I: What is his name?
M: Jim Clendenin. He was here at the last one of these meetings but I do not
believe I saw his name on this one. I do not know what is wrong with this
particular gathering but it looks like most people are sending their second team.
Do not quote me on that. I will get in trouble. He coined the term.
I: Is that a locally owned paper, Tampa? Or does Richmond own it?
M: Yes, they are a part of the Richmond chain, whatever it is. But he could give
you background back past that time. In fact, one of the better things that I could
probably do for you is maybe tell you some people you ought to see. Alan
Marge, you ought to talk to, and a guy I just ran into in the hall might not be bad
on it and that is Harry Friedman. He is the first real government PR guy that ever
came here. He has been here almost as long as Alan and has always been with
the Education department and has gone through all of this and has also been
I: But you have really been here during the time of the real change, right?
M: Yes, I think that that is probably true and I guess to get back to where I was
going, the real leader in the Senate at that time, the guy everybody told me listen
to him and he will give good directions to everybody and you will know what is
going on, was Dewey Johnson [President of the State Senate, 1959]. Dewey is
here now, you might want to talk to him. He is a court of appeals judge now in
the court that sits here. Dewey, unfortunately, both of us obviously at that time,
had to learn objectively. He spoke with one of these regime type things and at
that time there were four dangled out in the ceiling lights in the Senate and I
never understood anything that Dewey was telling anybody to do. But the
President of the Senate and the example that I was getting to, I guess of how the
pork choppers really work was Nick Conner [James E. "Nick" Conner, State
Senator, 1952. Now Nick Conner was from Brooksville in Hernando County, a
rural county in central Florida. He decided that he would like to have the next
state mental institution there despite the fact that all the studies said you had to
have them in urban areas so that they could have visitors and whatnot and this
was way in the boondocks. I think the bill went in the Senate with everybody in
the Senate as co-sponsors, including those who had served on all those study
groups that said this was exactly the wrong thing to do and they went whipping
through and they went over to the House where E.C. [E.C. Rowell, Speaker of
the State House of Representatives, 1965,1966], you ought to talk to E.C., E.C.
is now lobbying for the truckers but was at that time Speaker and for a couple of
sessions after that was chairman of the Rules Committee which here is the
powerful committee because you do not get anything through the floor without
the rules committee. E.C. is of the old school. It must have been a great time
to be a reporter when there were really pork choppers here because, if you came
from Brooksville, or E.C. comes from Wildwood, you could tell the reporter
exactly what you were doing and how you were nailing all of the urban people.
He could report it there as a great investigative reporting job and everybody was
happy because nothing would be better, or Nick Conner, or E.C. Rowell on the
home council saying we are doing it on the big city boys.
I: E.C., what is his last name?
M: Rowell. You can, probably any day, go up to the rotunda in the House there and
ask somebody for E.C. and he will probably be around and he probably would
talk to you. I swear I really began to feel like I was old. He called me dad
earlier this week and I decided I am going to have to do something about the
gray beard. He is not particularly defensive about what the likelihood is. He
could give you the broad outlines of it if he does not want to go into some of the
messy details and give you some feel of the Florida people. Anyway a guy over
there, one brass freshman representative from Palm Beach got out to say that it
was terrible the way he was being railroaded by the Speaker and by the next day
he got up and formally apologized because you did this or you did not get
anything through. There had already been, by that time, a series of small
reapportionments which had made things a little tighter and it was probably really
in the next election where we got to the point where really the urban areas began
to take control. They did pass it in 1966, the reapportionment, which was not
bad. It was thrown out by the courts and they accepted the plan of Dauer
[Manning J. Dauer, Distinguished Service Professor of Political Science,
1933-1987] at the University of Florida which, it seemed to me, was not really as
good in a lot of respects because of the strange districts in Dauer's plan. As it
was it may not have passed but the courts were just tired of playing around with it
and they went out and accepted what was there but regardless of whether the
courts had done it at that time. But the tide had turned and they had managed
to tick off a couple of guys who were traditionally pork choppers and I think
regardless, at that point, what happened is we were going into reapportionment.
The change really has not been dramatic and it is difficult to say that things had
really improved at a time when we seem to be indicting everybody in the state,
but things really have improved. At that time we had just a multitude of news
and they met kind of scrabble-fashion and rarely had, because you might have a
guy on three committees who were meeting at the same time, we rarely could get
a quorum of people actually sitting. So they had this proxy system and the
chairman of the committee could get proxies. Ralph Turlington [Speaker of the
State House of Representatives, 1967,1968; Commissioner of Education,
1974-1986], another guy you ought to talk to who has just been appointed
Commissioner of Education, recounts the story of when he once had a bill when
he was very young and when he was appointed he beat out twenty-four years of
service. He came up and he went before a committee chaired by one of the old
Pork Choppers with this bill he thought was very good and there was nobody
there but the chairman and he got up and made this passionate plea for the bill
and he really thought he had done good and the chairman said that was just very
good and you have convinced me and he said, Secretary call the roll and the
Secretary called the roll, they got the proxy and he votes no and he votes no and
he votes no and it got down to the chairman and he voted yes because Ralph
had convinced him.
I: Do you recall what the bill was about?
M: No, but Ralph will and I am sure he would be glad to tell you and he would be full
of great stories.
I: What is his name?
M: Ralph Turlington.
I: That is a marvelous story.
M: He was one of the greats, you know. Ralph is kind of an obtuse former
economics professor from Gainesville who decided he wanted to get into politics
and when he got in back in that era he was involved in all of the fights on the
reapportionment and on interposition and on all of this and was kind of famous
for some of his stories. You should get him to tell you the story of Brer Rabbit
and the Briar Patch which he used to fight in one of the segregation bills. He
went and recounted the story and said exactly what the Feds want you to do is
to do this so they can bring troops and all of this and he said Brer Rabbit did not
want to be thrown in the Briar Patch, but extremely skillful guy at that time.
I: And he is now what?
M: He is now Commissioner of Education. Our [former] Commissioner of Education
[Floyd Christian] was indicted on 19 counts.
I: Was he removed on the basis of the indictment?
M: Well, he resigned the day they were to start hearings on that.
[Break in tape]
M: ... the first Speaker under a really reapportioned legislature that could begin to
cope with some of the real urban problems.
I: Was it the guys who ran for the legislature in the reapportionment [who] did it just
to attract a lot of this progressive kind of people?
M: I think a really great fortune is [that] there was one election in Dade County
where I think there were 300 candidates for the legislature.
I: For one seat?
M: No, for whatever seats they had then and that has changed and I do not
remember the exact number. It would be easy to research, but it was just such
a vast number that it is really unusual that Dade County came out of that with a
very good percentage of good legislators. They got some dogs but they got a
number of very good people.
I: Do they now have single-member districts in the legislature?
M: Some but most are in the big counties [and] are multi-member but not
county-wide. I suppose one of the reasons that they probably, at that time,
came out with as good a caliber as they did with that many people running, and I
philosophically favor single member districts, was that they were running
county-wide. There were so many that the papers' endorsements and other
endorsements of that type were probably controlling in many cases because you
just could not know all those people and fortunately they chose pretty good.
I: Do most newspapers in Florida endorse candidates?
M: Yes, virtually all of the major papers do.
I: State and local level?
I: So the pork choppers, the organization, if there was such, was about twenty
members in the Senate?
M: Twenty odd. I will tell you again somebody you could speak to is Martin
Wahlburg. You have probably run into Martin, he did some pretty good research
on them at the time. Martin was still here when I first came here and left shortly
I: Are there any left?
M: No, not true pork choppers. The last of the true pork choppers was L.K.
Edwards [L.K. Edwards, Jr., State Senator, 1954], a guy that I hated to see leave
because when somebody said show me a Southern Senator, you wanted to
show them L.K. He is a banker from Irvine, a little-bitty town and wore white
suits and was very homey. He was a big banker but he was a big banker in little
banks and he would always say things like [if] you want branch banking you are
going to let the big fish eat up the little fish in this country. He ran against Puris.
I cannot think of his first initials. The guy went by initials. They were the last of
the really bonafide, certified Pork Choppers and they had to run against each
other in reapportionment and out came one and then subsequently did not run
again but he would be a guy that __
I: Did the Pork Choppers basically just represent special interests?
M: They basically represented rural interests and their own little interests and also
they had an inordinate interest in what went on in their own little counties and
they could be king of their little county. Now if you wanted a salary raise and
you were sheriff, then you had to get it through him. This all went through
I: All localized?
M: Yes. They went through because the guy from the county said, I want it passed,
and it passed. Then they would get up there and they would say okay, we are
going to do local bills today and they had seventy-five local bills and they were all
brought on at once. There was never any question about it unless there was a
question within a delegation that might be multi-member. If they had a problem,
they would fight it out and slowly this was changed after reapportionment
because some of the urban members began to question certain areas. Liquor
licenses for instance, Sandy D'Alemberte [Talbot D'Alemberte, State House of
Representatives, 1966-1972, President of Florida State University, 1994-present]
from Dade county began to automatically pull them out and say okay, we have
got to look at these and this began the breakdown of the whole system.
I: It was an informal set of relationships, nothing formal about it at all, that
respectively controlled the leadership positions?
M: Yes and I guess it was formal to the extent that if you did not do what you were
supposed to do, you were no longer in and you could not be issued what you
wanted either. There were also all kinds of interlocking and this I only know by
hearsay and wall room stories. There were interlocking financial arrangements
here. Doc Melton [G.T. Melton, State Senator, 1958-], who was for a long time
the leader of the pork chop unit, was from Monticello in Jefferson County and he
was a banker and loaned money to take care of people when they had problems
and also presumably the pay-offs came through. You took out a loan with Doc's
bank and somebody else paid it back. This was supposedly a tradition the way I
hear. I do not know if anybody could prove that.
I: When did the last one go? What election was that?
M: L.K. was the last one and he did not run. It must have been 1969 and he did not
run again and that probably was the last one. That is easy to verify.
12: In those nine years that whole thing turned around?
M: Yes, completely. It was on its last legs in 1965 but it was still there.
I: Was it reapportionment that turned it around or aggressive newspaper coverage
or the combination of the two?
M: I think it was probably a combination of the two. We would like to think that
I: My impression is that aggressive political reporting in this state sort of focused it
as a public issue and then reapportionment made it tire down?
M: Yes, I think so. We began to label them and everybody started beating them
over the head so that there were votes state-wide on reapportionment plans that
the people rejected because they did not go far enough. They said no, this is
the path, we want to go farther. So, I think it probably is true. I guess in 1966
they had a special reapportionment session. It was in the Senate when John
McDermott, who is not renowned for being aggressive on this type of thing, but
they had been continually, during this session in the Senate which was
Constitutionally empowered and still is, to hold secret sessions when they are
considering personnel type things like suspensions and this type of thing. They
decided right in the middle of the reapportionment debate that they needed to do
this. John said, by God, we ought not leave this. I know they are not going to
talk about that and three of us who were sitting in the same cubicle area said,
you are right. Don Pride [Donald F. Pride, Governor Askew's Press Secretary]
was now the Governor's Press Secretary and Rex Newman was going to be our
guy for the Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services. I said okay and
the rest of the people went out and Dewey and tried to get back in and could not
and we had this great flap where Senators offered to come up and physically
eject us. He was going to call in the highway patrol to throw us out and they
finally did physically eject us but they have not held that kind of a session since.
I: To what extent was the ejection physical?
M: We required that they grab us and drag us out. Which they did.
M: By the Sergeants [at Arms] there.
I: Was it literally by force? I do not mean that you resisted but were you...
M: Oh, yes we required that they do that and there is a great picture somewhere of
John. Do you know John?
I: I think I have met him.
M: Well, he kind of looks like a Senator and I think one of John's problems was he
always thought he was and was getting __ But anyway there is a great
picture somewhere in the files of John with this august look on his face being
dragged out of the chambers and we made them take us out physically and the
papers all supported us. At that point, we did not even know whether The
[Miami] Herald would support us.
I: Was that the origin of the Sunshine Law?
M: We think that passed the Sunshine Law, probably. A Senator named Red Cross
[J. Emory "Red" Cross,State Senator, 1958-] from Gainesville had been putting
this thing up here and it never got anywhere and of course, this was a special
session, the next regular session is when they passed it and we felt that the
voters would fare on that issue.
I: Did the four of you write stories about the whole thing? First-person type of
I: Third-person accounts?
M: Barbara Frye [United Press International Bureau Chief, Tallahassee, Florida]
from the United Press, we used her story and she quoted us. I sound so
sanctimonious; it is terrible, in her story [that] I looked at for something else not
long ago on the Sunshine Law, but we felt that we should not covert ourselves
because we had been involved. But Barbara got out and tried to get back in and
had a terrible time with that nice old Sergeant at the time, now dead, did not
know what to do about this lady trying to get back in and she would bust through
the door, [the guard] hissing at Barbara, "Go back!" That was kind of a fun time.
No, I think that did it, because of the focus of attention and because I
think you have to say that in the state the news media has had an effect simply
because it is competitive here. The Herald is among the least competitive on
the state-level unfortunately because they still live on a very resistance I
think. But all the papers, if they do not compete in their hometown, you know St.'
Pete[rsburg Times] and Tampa [Tribune] are sitting there competing and we are
competing with everybody and his brother and practically everybody is
somewhere throughout the state. It is much more aggressive than any other
state I know of, off-hand, because of that.
I: Why do you suppose that is true? Why do you have a bigger bureau than just
about any state capitol bureau I have seen anywhere?
M: You mean the overall?
I: How many people are in the bureau?
M: You mean just The Herald bureau?
I: No, I am talking about both.
M: We have two full-time and two part-time researchers who kind of split it in half
and do tele-typing and filing and what-not. Overall, in the capitol press corps
there are twenty-five or six permanent and they are augmented during the
session. We are second or third in total numbers I guess.
1: Why is that true? You do not have it in any other place in the South and I know
of lots of states in the North where ?
M: I think it is because of this competitive thing.
I: Also you have more medium sized cities in Florida?
M: That is right and they are dispersed. You have a great geographical
dispersement in size between, you know I am 500 miles from home, 300 from
Tampa/St. Pete, but these papers all compete in the fringe areas and you ought
to talk to the guy who I was talking to at the bar. I did not realize it until he
started talking because I saw he was on the program here, he is the former
Assistant Attorney General, turned out lobbying, but he opened the first Herald
bureau here in 1925, he told me. I had no idea.
I: So you explain it solely in terms of competition?
12: I think of North Carolina, you have a lot of medium-sized cities there and you do
not have any capitol press corps like that. Charlotte, Greensboro, Winston,
Salem and they are all good sized cities.
I: North Carolina likes to take pride in great newspapers.
12: Or Michigan. Somebody somewhere started a good capitol bureau, is my
guess and ...
M: That may be and for that you are going to have to go to somebody like
Clendenin, who was one of the early ones up here, or Ken Ballinger who is on
the program. If you talk to these guys in the Democratic party. You are
probably so confused I can never straighten you out.
I: How long has it been since you have been here, in 1960, that you had this size of
a bureau and this kind of competitiveness?
M: When I came here we were a one-man bureau. We have gone up one since
then. I have to tell you frankly, I think The Herald probably has less real interest
in state government than a number of other newspapers.
I: Typical Knight newspaper.
M: The thing that ticks me off considerably, and I think they are making a big
mistake on it but then, I would, because that is where I am. They have been
very parochial and they, unfortunately, have hung on to the pork chop idea too
long. If there is nothing in state government then it is because state government
has become a viable source with all the problems it has got. They have
attacked and made some run at, practically every major people problem you can
think of and are way ahead of almost everybody in a number of areas. This was
brought home to me this summer when I was at Northwestern [University] for a
seminar there that was held at the same time that one of the state legislative
organizations was meeting. The guy that they had to speak on how states have
coped with the problem was Dick Pettigrew [Richard A. Pettigrew, Speaker of the
State House of Representatives, 1971,1972], a former Speaker from the Dade
County area, and speaker after speaker said, if you go in the environmental field,
Florida is ahead. The whole equality of education financing, Florida is ahead.
I: How about ?
M: Well, that is going through now, of course you know, or supposedly.
I: What are they doing?
M: Well, we have got a conflict of interest bill and an ethics bill and a [financial]
disclosure bill and I think the disclosure bill is probably the most important in the
bunch. It finally has gotten to a disclosure by a percentage type thing which is
not a bad bill and may ...
I: What do you mean by that?
M: Well, you have to disclose that it is within a 5 percent bracket, I think they have it
now, and this is subject to change very quickly. Well, in fact, I do not know what
it is because the Senate committee worked on it last night and somebody else
covered it. But the idea is that if you have got a client, let us say you are an
attorney, who is 5 percent of your business or better then you must disclose and
then this goes on [for] other categories. The idea being to give you some idea
of, rather than filing an income tax statement, you have a number of people that
are filing income tax statements and it really does not tell you anything.
12: This is to get out of retainers?
M: Yes, or where your core percentage of money is coming from. Florida, I guess,
pioneered in the campaign contribution reporting field and we had what
everybody called the bottle laws.
I: That was really what triggered the national law, was it not?
M: I am not sure about that.
I: Would they not look at that when they were considering nationally to fit Congress
M: I think they might have. Last year, well we worked about six months on it before
the session. The law was there and it was nice and you did little stories here
and there and we had taken a look at the examiner officers and whatnot. So last
year we did all 449 candidates to the legislature. It was a horrendous job but
very instructive. We found [that] the special interest groups were financing the
bulk of the stuff. We also found on the records, foreign statements, because
they filed their contribution statements, there were violations of every section of
the law. So we passed a wholly new law last year which we have not really
seen operate yet because they have an election which hopefully will be better
and set some kind of an issue __ and whatnot. The ethics legislature, I think,
is so weak, is so without enforcement and that was the problem with the
Who-Gave-It-Who-Got-It law, [the campaign] contribution law, is that nobody
enforces it. We still have to see how this new law works. We have got a reprint
of that series which might be instructive for you.
I: I was going to ask you. I would love to have that.
M: We have got reprints in the office if you drop by.
I: Where is your office?
M: We are in the sub-basement of the capitol. When you get to the capitol just ask
somebody where the press area is and then you have to ask. We do not have
numbers on the doors down there.
12: Bill, it is my impression that the reporters in this bureau are very active, not only
in reporting things, but trying to get legislation through.
M: Yes, and I have real mixed emotions on that.
12: But is that impression true?
M: Yes, I think it probably is with some people. All of us get caught up but I have to
admit that I helped lobby that election bill but only in the sense that I put out the
word that it was obviously being hung up through devious means and we were
going to give all of our information on the local people to everybody else in the
corps. I thought it was probably worth it for them. But I am very reluctant to get
into that kind of thing. Some people do__
[End of the interview.]