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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
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Fla. Personality 27ABC
P: Tell me how you're feeling before I even get started.
V: I've been a little encouraged. My tests were getting better but they are
falling back now and I don't feel badly but I'm afraid .
P: I didn't even know whether it was true. I had heard you were sick.
Vt Well, I'm afraid I'm in the last stages of it.
P: Where is it?
V; That's the trouble. You can't localize it anywhere. They had discovered it
in the prostate, but I thought it was funny when they wouldn't operate.
They said, well, we'll give you hormones and you'll never die from it. Well
then when I went to Mayo's; they I told them, now I said, I got to
know and they said well, I got a year or two years. This fellow I had up
there, you know, he said, well, I'll say, months, weeks, days and says you
got the fastest moving thing there is, but you know, for a man that only has a
few months to live, I feel good. Right now, there's nothing the matter with
me. I could have gone to work yesterday or today either. I'm just tired
and I thought it was a good time to rest up a bit after picking up and shooting
and you go swinging around and I haven't been in good shape either. Why
if I've been taking a walk or something all the time .
P: Let me tell you what we're trying to do." We've got an oral history program
going at the university, which I am in charge of along with my main business
of teaching, which is what the university pays me to do, but this business
of oral history started about 20-25 years ago, after the tape recorders
\'J Ih ( J-
became developed during World War II. It started at Columbia. Actually
Allen Nevins is the father of oral history and he decided when he was writing
that great biography of Grover Cleveland and he began interviewing people in
the 20's and 30's, therewere still some Cleveland people around -- a
couple mxmberSof the cabinet, and he said. my God, if I just could record
their voices, how wonderful it would be for posterity. Then, telling the
thing which they haven't put down in their diaries anyway, he developed
this concept and it's just spread like wildfire. The kind of world we're
A0|o kt"-' T 5 0 -' 3 C efF, P 'C fe j2
living in today, people don't write anymore. Jefferson wrote so much down
in his great letters and people used to keep diaries and journals people
don't do that now. fThey have all this magnificent history in their heads
and they die because they have forgotten to write it down or they just
haven'tPlhad time to do it?^PSo what we are trying to do is develop during
the course of recorded conversations some history about people and about
events. We will transcribe these things and then let you check it to
make sure that it's saying it the way you~want to say it before we release
it and then we add that to the documents that we have. And I'm gonna get
around to talking to you about turning your papers over to the university.
You know we already have Mrs. Pope's stuff in Gainesville.
V: 'Well, I don't know how many I have that would be of value to you.
P: Well, what we want you to do is let us m ake the judgment. f.'We want you to
say, okay, here's all this crap. p'You know, my letters and my bills and my
receipts and I know you're not going to be saving stuff that' not going to
be worth anything, but I want you to let me cart it down to Gainesville and
put the catalogers on it and get it in the kind of shape that it needs to.
That's what Spessard Holland did.
V: I don't have a great deal because I'm a great telephone man.
P: Well, that's alright. Whatever you got is going to be more than what we've
got. I mean this is what Speasard Holland did and he just said, look, if I
wait to go through this stuff, I'll never go through it. .'He said you got
the kind of trained people in Gainesville that know what in the hell they're
doing. Take the stuff .and do it which is what we've done. Bob Graham just
sent us all of his father's stuff, you know Senator Graham from .
V! Oh, I s Ir 'I' eCs /!-y'
He was my student, so but we really have a great collection of material.
: Bob is going to make a great senator.
: He is. I feel partly responsible. He was in my class. Anyway, what I
want to do is to sit down here and I want to go back into your memory and
build up from the time that you were a kid on into your, you know, where you
are right now. Just let me ask you some questions, some brief questions
and let you start talking, and see how far we get. P'Okay, I'll turn this thing .
Yesterday, I was in Jacksonville and I interviewed a lady, Miss Miltmore.
You will remember her I believe. She was the librarian at the University of
Floridaffrom 1918 to 1937,P.Cora Miltmore, that old maid. She's 94 years
old..-She lives in Cathedral Towers in Jacksonville. I am interviewing
Senator Verle Allen Pope and we are here in his home, today is February
the 20th, isn't it'senator^f1973. We are in Senator Pope's kitchen and
he and I are going to talk a little bit about his early life and his
education and senator, the first thing I'm going to ask you this morning
is for you to tell me when and where you were born.
: Well, I was born in Jacksonville. I have no early recollection of Jacksonville.
I suppose my first .
: What was your date.&of birth?
: December 1, 1903. My parents were deaf mutes. They were the first two
graduates from the Florida State School for the Deaf.
: What about the Pope family. When did it first settle in Florida?
: Well my grandfather and my father and his brother came down and his
mother in a covered wagon from Tennessee. Shortly after the Civil War, the
my grandfather was a contractor. He had, I think, managed to salvage a
few dollars. He had several trunkloads of confederate money that we used
to use as store money. He put in a couple of orange groves around the
Bronson area. They froze out as fast as they put them in. It was a period
of the big freezes and later moved down to Palm Beach and Miami and had some
subcontracts on those hotels that were Flagler was building
in that area.
P: You're still talking about your grandfather?
V: Yes. Now, hotels here, of course, were already, I think, constructed around
the period of 1888, somewhere along in there. My father left there, Miami,
during the school season and attended the deaf school here .
P: He was born a deaf mute?
V: He was^born deaf or went deaf at extreme infancy from scarlet fever. There
were many deaf children at that time and the difficulty of telling whether
it was scarlet fever or whether they were born deaf, I don't know, but I
am of the opinion that he probably was born deaf. His father was deaf, his
brother was deaf. Although his father was only one deaf child out of about
P: Your grandfather was deaf, too, and your father?
V: Yes, however, he could talk and could hear some, and had attended Galladet
College, which is the only deaf college in the world for deaf people.
P: Where is that?
V: That's in Washington and operating by the federal government. As for
myself, my first memories, visual memories that I can recall, were around
Live Oak, Florida. My father had worked for A Company and after the
big fire, I think it was, they had gone out on strike. He was a union
member and the shop had closed.
P: WhatAwas he doing for Drew?
V: He was a lynotype operator, a machinist and .
P: He had learned that at the same school?
V: He had learned that at the school, and he went to work for Bob Gray in
Live Oak and I didn't know it was Bob Gray at that time and .
P: This was later, Senator Gray. Secretary of State Gray.
V: Secretary of State, and my memories there are very limited except that we ,
P: fLived- on a farm?
V: No, we went into a yellow house, we turned the water on, and it was running
water. The water was white from the lime that was in it. The house, I don't
recall whether it had a bathroom or not. It was very rare for houses to have
bathrooms in those days. I do recall that my sister had typhoid pneumonia and
she was about to die. They let me stay in the room and it was an oilcloth
table on the dining table and a couple of lamps, oil lamps, kerosene lamps,
and the doctor finally got there. My grandmother was there and it was Dr.
Bryon, and he came in with a little satchel and took one look at her and
grabbed a douche bag or something and cut the tubes of it off and threw it
in some hot water and also threw in some safety pins. He then took out this
scapel and jabbed a hole in her throat and stuck one of these tubes in her
and tied it in with a safety pin. He rolled her on her side and cut a
piece out of two ribs and threw a piece of this tubing in there, and
puss poured out and it was a miracle, but she did live and of course, I've
often wondered since that time how many doctors today would even attempt
to from an operation of that type on an oilcloth dining room table with
an oil lamp and a little old black satchel with one scapel in it.
P: Tell me about your grandmother senator,
V: Well, my grandmother came from and lived in Island Grove, Florida and that
was the residence of my mother at that time. They were a group of Carltons
that lived around the Ocala, Hawthorne, Island Grove citra area and my
mother was a Carlton.
P: Are you related to Doyle then?
V: Oh, yes, we're cousins and Vassar Carlton is v first cousin. Vassar
Carlton, his father had a great deal to do with sort of trying to supervise
my growth and education and steered me in the right footsteps as long as I
would stay still enough, but this area was a rather large truck farming area
at that time, a farily prosperous area, but the development of South Florida
had totally destroyed it and practically all of the Carltons left there. Some
of them went to Plant Gity and many of them in the Arcadia, Wachula area, some
some of them in the Ft. Pierce area but they spread pretty much over
Florida. They had originally come from Virginia, Carolina, North Carolina,
and most of them to Florida. Some of them stopped in Georgia a short time,
but came on into Florida. They're some of them in Madison, some of course,
quite a few of them in the Harvey County and Arcadia County area and the
Ft. Pierce area.
Your grandmother was a Carlton?
My grandmother was a Carlton, yes. Now, she had married a preacher, baptist
preacher Carlton. Her maiden name was a Cassles and they were some of the
antecedents was Governor Broom, whom had been Governor of the State of
Florida. They were old English settlers. As a matter of fact, all of my
forebearers were in this country prior to the Revolutionary War. Both-on-
my father's side and my mother's side. The Kings came in with my father
and my father's mother was named Molly King. There was a King in the
Orlandoarea, Zellwood, who was an old maid and died not too long ago. Since
then, McCarty was governor and Wesley over in Orlando, that's one of
What about your mother?
Well, my mother was deaf also.
No, she and her sister and her brother went deaf at about the same time and
they were relatively old, that is to say they were 7,8,9,10, somewhere in
there and they had gone deaf from taking too much quinine. The quinine
cure had come in for malaria and they said that you were supposed to take
as much quinine as you could prolong dying and apparently someone must have
used a ga. ar or something, but at any rate, they did go deaf. It shattered
the eardrums. Many people, now, their ears will ring if they take too much
quinine. But, they had just started the school in St. Augistine for the deaf
and the blind and St. Augustine ha made the best financial offer and the school
started here. Mrs. Parks Frank Palmer, I believe, from Winter Park, was one
of the originators of the school. We, after I left from Live Oak, we came
back here where my father worked for the record company that was at Flagler
Publications and, of course, my connections with the school became fairly
close because we had the ability to speak the sign language in common and I
played with the children a great deal and became pretty close to quite a few
of them and this held out pretty much throughout my life. It was one of my
-centers of my interest in public life was that school for the deaf and for
the blind. I had many blind friends. My relationship was not confined to
,deaf people. The blind had, of course, I think, a much worse handicap, but
in many ways, it isn't, particularly in the field of learning. They can learn
much faster than deaf people because communication is already established.
P: Do you feel you were helped or hurt by growing up with deaf parents?
V: I feel that I ws. very definitely^helped. I certainly was far more independent
I certainly made more judgments on my own. Probably too much so. i left home
when I was 13 for a few years and worked around the state in different places --
jerking sodas and commercial fishing and a whole lot of things. I quit
school, but I had started to school a year early. I was not very communicative..
I could talk, of course, but I seemed reluctant to do it. Talking with a sign
language was a more natural thing with me somehow and I told the story to Hank
Bannard? one time that I had been trying to catch up ever since and he said you
can stop, you caught up years ago. But, I think that once you're raised in that
atmosphere, it's always a natural language and when all of a sudden we knew the
sign language before we did the oral language the baby beats with a cup on
the table because it wants something attention or wants some more coffee put
in the cup or milk in it. They do a pretty effective job with the sign language
in that they know what they want. So I think the sign language is really a
natural language. The field of deaf education is undergoing a rather substantial
changes and studies, some of which are good and some of which I think are bad,
but I am hopeful they will level out to a more intelligent approach as things
P: You say you interrupted your schooling when you were 13?
V: :Yes, I quit school when I was thirteen. I simply didn't want to go to school.
I don't know why. I, of course, wanted to make a little money. I di ~hake
money. I raised a garden and I used to write a letter to Congressman Sears.
He was my congressman and I was telling his son about it not too long ago.
I would write a letter: Dear Congressman Sears: I'm a little boy. Please
send me some lettuce seed and some English peas and some tomato seeds and
so on and I would plant a little garden and sell tomato plants and things and
as I look back on it, really it was simply astounding that I could make the
money out of that little garden that I did.
P: Now that was here in St. Augustine?
V: Yes, right here in St. Augustine.
P: Where did you live? Where was your house?
V: I lived originally on a street called Ocean Street. It didn't have a garden
there. I was probably a little too small. Had me starting school when I was
five then. Then I moved over on Grove and then Cincinnati and I delivered
milk, got a nickel a week for that, delivering it in a big school bag. I think
there was more milk than there was me at the time. I wasn't very large, but I
also got a little cow manure, horse manure and chicken manure and would string
that along my garden and I would pick up a dollar and a half, sometimes three
dollars a week out of my little garden. Then sometimes I would, I got in the big
business I would buy and sell. I'd buy a few guavas from my neighbors and a
few plums and things and they would charge me a little something for them. I think
more or less tongue in cheek. They'd keep me in balance and I did right well,
but we have to remember that in those days, there were certain traditions, Now
my father, I think, did an excellent job of raising his family. He had a
family of six. We had a great deal of sickness, but he really believe in an
education and it hurt him very much when I would leave home, but I was pretty
stubborn as I told you. I made my own decisions.
P: You must have gotten enough of an education to get into the University of
V: The, well, I came back, you see, and the. I'd gotten quite a bit of
experience. Now a kid in those days was expected to buy his shoes and his
books when he went to school. He was expected-to save up enough money to
buy at least his shoes and his books and went barefooted most of the other
time.. In the time that I was out and it's hard to span this space of
time because I think as a kid so much can take place insuch a short length
of time. It was during the war and I had worked, I suppose it was really
a matter of months although it seemed like a long time, in Jones Pharmacy
in Jacksonville. Of course, I was large for my size and I did exaggerate
my age a great deal, but when I completed that, I went commercial fishing
with a couple of people here and I found out that they could sell the fish
WP re-_ ie-H"
for a great deal more in New York than they could here and get 12 and 14 cents
there and they'd be getting 3 cents here and I talked them into doing that
and we did and did very well. They never did give me a full share but they'd
give me a $100 now and then and just being a kid, that was a lot of money. I
later went to Stuart, carrying some boats down there and I was commercial
fishing, 2 commerical fish there. At that time, as far as you could see,
the main crop in Florida and the great areas agricultural were pineapple, not
oranges, but pineapple. I went to Stuart and I was staying in a tin barn and
rats were running all over me and I was-of course cooking for myself .
P: To kind of pinpoint this, do you remember a date?
V: I would say that this must have been somewhere around 1918 and 19, but at any
rate, they had passed a law that you had to be in school until you had completed
the eighth grade or were 18 years old. I quit school in the 8th grade so I
hadn't.cqmpleted it SQ^p 4theX came down and got me and I had to go back to
school. I had not been a bad student, contrary to what you would think and I
had an awfully good teacher. She taught me in the 6th and she taught me in
the 7th and when I went to the 8th, she was there. She told me it was going
to be hard to get adjusted back, but she would certainly help me and she did.
She stayed in the afternoons; she did everything in the world to help me. But
somehow I got tremendously interested in, I suppose you would say an education.
Really it wasn't that I was interested in education. I got tremendously
interested in learning things and there was so many fields that I hadn't
explored. I was working for the Federal Bakery Company at night as a pastry
cook. I didn't go to work until about 2:00 o'clock in the morning, maybe
3:00 o'clock and I made pastries, doughnuts, and left there about 7:00 o'clock
and had a shower there and I cleaned my clothes and changed my clothes and
go to school. I'd go to school about 7:00 o'clock in the morning and that
gave me time to study until school opened at 8:45. When I got into high
school, why I took as many subjects as I had periods. I had no study period.
I took subjects ever period. This gave me 24 credits and I graduated. In
addition to that, I had taken some afternoon courses in commercial law and
dramatics and business arithmetic and a few other things. In those days, some
of your teachers had things they were interested in and they didn't pay them
to teach them, but they would run a class on their own after school and if you
wanted to go, you could go you didn't have to go, but I did go. I took
advantage of all those courses and I graduated. I got tremendously ill during
my senior year and I had been playing football and I had dropped from 198
pounds to nothing and finally got up to around 155. I then went to the
University of Florida .
P: What year was that?
V: I'm not sure, but I think it was '25.
P: Murphree was still president then?
y; That's right. Yes, Johnny Murphree was playing quarterback for the University of
P: Where did you get the money to come to the university?
V: I borrowed it from the bank. When I was about 9 or 10 years old, I went into
the bank here and I told them I wanted to borrow some money. The man asked me
what I wanted and I told him. I was in a blue shirt and khaki pants and
barefooted and pretty dirty legged, I'm afraid and I suppose it was rather
intriguing, but he asked me what I wanted it for and I told him I wanted to
buy some school books and some shoes. So he asked me to come in and sit down
and he, I think it was $2 I wanted to borrow. Anyway, he asked me how
I was going to pay it back and I told him out of my garden and, of course, I
was getting a little huff? then because I thought somebody told me that's what
banks were for was to loan you money. So when I he said yes, but how
much are you going to pay a month or a week back. I want to pay 25e a week. cL o,
I suppose I'll never forget the story and I never can quite tell it about
pushing a few tears back, but he said, he turned to his secretary and said
will you fix out a note for Mr. Pope for $2 or whatever it was and pay 25C
a week. He never cracked a smile. I think he was kind of swallowing one, buL
it was the beginning, perhaps, of one of the most beautiful financial relation-
ship I have ever had because it grew and I stuck with him. He pulled out and
started a bank of his own. Cn( .K..-
P: Who was this?
V: This was Mr. J. B. Ramare, who at that time was vice president of the old.First
National Bank and later went over to the St. Augustine National Bank. It was
a credit relationship that lasted, well, it still lasts. I never knew when I
could borrow. I would fill out a note and leave the interest blank and sign
it and send it over and deposit it and I had never ever been turned down. But
that one loan there in my life and that was when I wanted to borrow $70,000
during the real estate boom and he said no, Verle, I'm not gonna encourage you.
It won't last and I'm not gonna be a party to it. The bank did end up with a
note. They took it as collateral of whatever they could get from the other
oath? took it?
bank for my to them and they It was awfully hard to pay, but
I ultimately paid it.
P: Let's get to that little episode at the university just to get it out of the
way. How did you go from here over to Gainesville\ >4 t ( ,
V: I had intended to go over on a I was slated to go to Rollins on a
scholarship and I intended to go over there on a scholarship. I got hurt
playing football and tore the cartillages in my leg. The doctor that they
called "doc" was not a doctor at all then. Actually I was hurt a little more
seriously than I realized. At any rate, it held me back in my football
career substantially, but I continued to study, but my ambition was to get
in the Air h and at that time, you either had to have a career or you
could tak an examination of equivalency, they called it, and get into the
Air Corps. Well, I got everybody had told me that if I passed the
physical, I didn't have anything to worry about they'd take me. Well .
P: You were going into the regular military then?
V: This would be flying cadet. At that time, bear in mind, we had no separate
air corps. 14.It was just one deal.
P: We're still talking about the 1920's now?
V: This is right. So, well, I had to get in before I was 21 as I recall. This
was the great problem. So I had a teacher who was the wife of Herbert
Palko who was editor of the Record Newspaper. She was a Warren Marie
Warren and she had offered to lay out a course for me and teach me and
as many subjects as she could and she had a couple of other friends who had
taught at college, Florida State College for Women. They did instruct me and
I did work awfully-hard day and night. I went up and took the examination and
flunked it badly, but I did this, I expected to flunk it. I did it more to
get exposed to it and had some kind of idea of what to study for. I went up
and took it again a year later and I did pass it and I went in the Air Corps
and completed primary training and then my cartillages in my leg went bad
again and they wanted to operate on them but they wanted me to sign a waiver
and I was reluctant to do that. So I came on out of the Air Corps and went
back pursuing the real estate and insurance business.
P:Now when you were in the Air Corps, where did you train?
V: Where what?
P: Where did you do your training in the Air Corps?
V:- In Brooksfield,4\San Antonio, Texas.
P: Now you only stayed one year in Gainesville?
V: A little better than that probably a year and a half. f01-'i gct
P: That was before you went into the Air Corps?
V: That's right.
P: You left school to go into the Air Corps?
V: That's right.
P: You were able to take the examination?
V: That's right.
P: When you came to Gainesville, were you planning to stay on and get a degree?
V: I was, but they had changed the deal in the Air Corps while I was there, 4nm
see, which made me change my plans.
P: You were there just a little over a year .then you finished .
V: About a year and three quarters?
P: Where did you live on campus?
V: I lived at Crane Hall, part of the time and then I stayed at home
for a while.
P: Why did you stay at Crane Hall if that was a Catholic place?
V: Just happened to have some friends here. This was a big Catholic community
and the relationship was good and I had some people from here who were staying
D; Do you remember anything about your da ys on the campus?
V: Yes, -eari Warren was there, of course,. .
PF He was the big shot on campus, wasn't he?
V: He was making his big worded speeches, running for governor at that time.
I've often thought one of the great tragedies of.Ear-1 Warren was that he had
spent all of his time on how to get elected governor and not enough on how
to be governor, although if we judge the products of Earl Warren rather than
try to describe, ascribe credit for him, we would have to say that the results
of his administration were good. They may or may not have been good because
of him, but if you took the overall picture we would have to I'm afraid -
P: Were you much of a politically-motivated fellow back in those early days?
V: I had always been politically motivated long before I was of voting age.
I don't know why. My mother had told me that I could be president of the
United States if I wanted to and, of course, I never took anything like that
seriously. I had run for county commissioner by accident. One of my friends
had suggested I run for the legislature. This was in the bottom of the
Depression and I told him I couldn't do it -- didn't pay any money. I really
ran for county commissioner originally because it paid $50 a month and I
thought that that was a lot of money, but I didn't realize it was going to
cost me two or three times that to hold the job. I ran against a very good
man and really if I had known of his^qualifications, I would never have done it.
He was a good, good commissioner, but there were things that were going on that
were very bad and the group that had wanted me to run were interested in stopping
it. They were buying county bonds and buying the earliest maturing bonds and
they had run the price of these bonds up to 80 and 85. Now bear this in mind
that this was the time when municipal and county bonds selling for 6 and 7
P: Baek-tb the collapse of the .
\ of the boom and the depression had hit and collapse and so here were our bonds
had not gone in default in interest it was almost unbelievable they weee
selling at the prices they were, but the clerk of our court, Hiram Favor who
has never been given the credit that he should have was in favor of buying
the lowest price bond that we could buy and that way, we would be retiring
say a $100 obligation for $20. When I came on the board I made that difference
and that switch, 3 to 2 enabled us to do that and we were able to save millions
of dollars for the county. It's a rather interesting thing that this clerk
went to work when he was 14 years old. His father left his family and his
mother was sick and- the judge who was the clerk then said he did a man's job
and I paid him a man's salary. Having started that early, he retired many
years ago, but he has never missed a day's work since he's retired. He works
for nothing. I-t-is almost a tremendous story there.
P: When you got out of the Air Corps now, you came back to Gainesville, I mean to
St, Augustine and you went into the real estate and insurance .
Chm ktL -t 5 1 i A L e i ) t
V:^.I went first I went into the industrial insurance business selling
nickel and dime insurance and I wouldn't take anything in the world for that
experience. It brought me into homes of poor people and it put me in contact
with large numbers of people and it also taught me the insurance business from A
to Z. V.'Tid's e5^
P: That's like Sidney J. Katz. He made his start by selling insurance and meeting
V: The ----rT1gh. I'll never forget since you've mentioned Katz when he made a
speech at the Baptist Church of Live Oak, Florida, he was going to keep the
Pope from coming over and taking charge and I was telling my grandmother what
a good man he was and she didn't seem to be as enthusiastic about t-his-as I
thought she ought to be and she said, well, son, T: hope he is and I
kept pushing it and finally she said, well, son, did he have one eye? And I
said, yes, and she said, well, he sounds like the man that beat me out of that
insurance policy. And of course, some day, someone is going to do a novel on
Sidney J. Katz.
P: Someone has just written a biography on him right now. A very good one, too.
V: Oh, have they? Well, I never wanted to do-it because I would be afraid that I
might offend some members of the family. His son, Sidney J. Katz, Jr., later
years in the summertime I worked in West Palm Beach jerking soda and when I
was in high school and I would in my off time, I would read a little^in
Sidney Katz Jr.'s office and he was always very nice to me and fully able
person if he would have been able to leave liquor alone and gambling, but I
of course it's a miracle that my steps went the way they did. They could have
gone many different ways, really, when you're out in the world and up against
some rough spots.
P: When did you get started in the real estate business?
V: Well, it was exciting. I had done some of it in the boom, of course, and I
had bought and sold and I was a salesman by nature -- I had always been and I
had thought at one time I was pretty well fixed. Sidney Katz and I suppose it
will come out in his biography had just run for governor of Alabama. He stepped
over and qualified for governor of Florida in a very few months and he said+-ht,
to&S "I1M4NIP5 f-Pr-
he wasn't qualified to run for governor of Alabama anyway he just weated
he practice. As a matter of face, he had made a very credible race. He
never ran for anything that he didn't make a very credible race. When you're
real young, time has a way of stretching, I suppose, -but I remember hearing
him speak in the Baptist Church in Island Grove and I also heard him speak
in St. Augustine which really was probably only/between May and November and
yet that period of time seemed to be a tremendous period of time. They had
the first and second choice votes at that time. (Changed sides of tape)
P: I'm just backing up here a minute, senator. We're talking about the 1928
campaign. Go ahead. You were telling me about the Catholics in the
community ______ .
V: Yes, this was the great thing that Smith had to overcome and the feeling
against Catholics, particularly in West Florida and all of Florida except
in what I would term Spanish Florida, possibly Tampa, New Smryna, St. Augustine,
the feeling was very strong, so much so that many democrats left the party
and became Hoover Democrats. Fuller Warren was one of them, Governor Carlton
was certainly caught in the stream I don't know what position he took or
whether he took a firm position but as far as I know he had always supported
democrats Here in St. Augustine, the feeling between the two religions was
excellent. The Masonic hall burned down and the Kaycees loaned them the
Kaycee hall and you were always reading fifty years ago things of that type
taking place. So we never had that strength of feeling. There was a time
when the teachers in school, in the public school system, many of them were
Catholic teachers, sisters, nuns, and there was some resentment about that and
they did pass what was known as the Garr Bill so that they could not bar
them from teaching and there was some feeling about that, but many of the
leaders of both religions got together and decided it had to stop and it just
didn't pay a candidate to talk religion when he sought office in this county
because what he did was to lose the vote of both sides so this was an
That Hathaway, Fons Hathaway was a factor in that 1928 campaign.
Fons Hathaway was, yes and he was used by Governor Carlton. He ^came
in for a great deal of suspicion and his .
Because of his connection with Martin and the road birilding.
That's correct and Chrlton, I'll never forget, he, of course, was my hero,
Governor Carlton was a childhood hero of mine and I watched him in public
light. Had he gone differently and several things that would have had a
very material effect on my moral thinking. I was always an idealist and I
had promised myself when I was first elected to public office that I would
vote my convictions, never expected to get re-elected, but I aNIays did vote
and I remember Carlton talking about some of the great supply of parts that,
had been bought. Enough to ast the state probably fifteen or twenty years
and Governor Carlton in his very tactful way would say, now I'm not saying
that there's anything wrong with this, but I'd say it lends itself to
suspicion and he was quite amusing character in many ways. He never seemed
to get excited. He had tremendous ability and great affection. When the
bill was passed to authorize racing in the State of Florida, as I recall it,
I may have been at the university again, I don't know. I went back and took
some special subjects or something, but I recall that I was watching very
closely everybody speculating as to whether he would veto this bill or not
and I knew what his thinking was. Had he failed to veto that bill, it
probably would have, -ffectedmy whole career. I would have been so dis-
illusioned, but he didn't fail to veto. He vetoed it almost immediately.
Ak It wasn't you might make an argument for the merits of the bill
but I knew in my heart that he considered it wrong and it would have made a
very big difference in I may not have ever entered politics or
entering it, I may have conducted myself differently.
P: Florida was pretty poverty stricken at that time ..
V: Oh, yes, it was tremendously poverty stricken and people needed the money
and the slot machine bill passed later on that turned out to be on the most
horrible things that the state ever had. It was repealed immediately that's
how bad it was, but I just always went on the philosophy that a state couldn't
build itself on a solid foundation that was going to resort to gambling and
that sort of stuff for an income. Now I'm no prude I've played a little
gin rummy and I like to play a few cards with my friends in a social game,
but I don't want to win any great sums of money from my friends. I don't
think I'd be real friends if this was why I wanted them. I don't want to
lose any great sums of money for amusement, yes, but beyond that, that's
P: Senator, did you know Dave Schultz?
V: Yes, Dave Schultz was very active in the Elks. He was from Daytona.
He was a horrible glutton. He was from Brooklyn and he, of course, I think,
was (Tape came off reel will insert section at end of transcript)
~pnd I simply could not bring myself to exempt approaches by utility companies
and purchases by mining companies and .
P; Banks .
V: Banks.and I couldn't bring myself to do that. Now it was m first session
and it was rather phenomenal that I had any influence at all.A I suppose
it was theperiod which senators should be seen and not heard but no one had
told me that, but one of the things that contributed greatly, I think, to
giving me some strength within the senate was that they had the so-called
bookie bill up, and hat was a bill which would have made it impossible or
practically impossible for the bookies to operate,and they beat the bill
to nothing in committee. In those days, they had a lot of secret meetings
in committees so they rpn the damn press out.
, P: Mhe Sunshine Law hadn't come in?
V: No, ey hadn't passed that yet, s-the---r-they had no record of well,
-Roy Collins came out .
P: You're saying that the bookies were able to beat this bill in committee?
V: Yes, thirteen to nothing. So Roy Collins came out and I even stayed over
that weekend. Usually everybody went home, but I stayed over that weekend.
Roy Collins came out and told me about it ..
P: C/ilins was in the senate at the timewasn't he?
V: Yes, and I said, well, Roy, I think that's a great reflection on the character
of the senate. He said, yes, it certainly is. Well, the more I thought about
it, the madder I got, and I went back to my office. idn' .
S-E 2 fit bp-
started for the hotel and went back to my office and I got a list of the
committee and Ilegan to examine it pretty closely. Well, there was one man
on that committee that I knew couldn't vote the way on the floor of the
senate the way he had voted in committee. There were several of us that
found it pretty difficult. So, Hank Bannart and I had ended up usually
always on tne same side and .
Py Was Bannard from St. Petersburg?
V: Bannart was from St. Petersburg and probably one of the greatest senators
this state's ever had. Hank and I Hank would fight hard on bills, but
he had a chance of passing, wouldn't get beat more than a few votes. He
counted votes before he started. Now I fought for mine, if it didn't
but one vote and that was mine. I went on the theory that I was right that
:if I put up a good fight it would be easier next time and the press would
-. r- 4A, re- '-&
shine on it and it got exposed-because^so much legislation that was good ,,
or bad, that the public just wasn't informed on. If they were informed on
it, they'd raise a little cain about it. This was the philosophy and then
I beat more bill'in the House than I beat in the Senate because I would
make the arguments, the newspapers would expose them and would come
in these boys in the House would take care of them and I sort of had a
one-man collalition. I had a lot of support from the House and very frequently
I was all by myself in the Senate, but it looked like^every piece of legislation
that came up, we would be on the same sides. Never spoke to him before 4r--
came on the floor -- never spoke to him afterwards. People would say, well
Bannard and Pope, Bannard and Pope and that's just the way .
P: Like Amos and Andy .
V: Yeah, so for the first time I left a note on Hank's desk after he stopped
by see me when he came .
P: Now this is still on the bookie bill?
V: Yes. He had gone home, so it was Monday morning and I had made a few 1, e
expressions, but I had mocked the committee and I stayed away from that
committee never went to one of them. So I went to Hank and told him
about it and he said, yes, we heard about it. I said, well, I think we ought N
too make -0^- f rk 4::r -
to make a e committee. This was another thing that helped
me. I knew I studied them before I got over there and of course
I had been in the galleries and I knew the rules and so when they found out
they coulnd't shove me around on the rules .
P: This was one of your -
P This was one of your rules wasn't it, all the years you were in?
Vi Yes, so he said well, Verle, he said c' r'c
SSo I said, well, it waChfrteen
to nothing and he said yes, but they stick together so you're one vote short
right there. Hank was a vote counter and I said now there's one man on that
committee that Iknow can't vote that way. I said his father's a preacher
and there's no way he can vote that way.
P: Not on an open tally.
V: That's right and I said there's some others that I don't think will
vote that way. I was hoping that he would make the motion. Well, he said, no
I don't want to do that. He said, of course, if you want to do it, I'll
vote with you. I said, well, if you won't do it, I'm gonna do it, so we
got in the chamber and I kept moving around, moving around, counting votes.
Qin a l y C u h et oa m e b a c Ik
Finally got up to 20 of course it wasn't enough. So : he came back to
me and said do you think you got a chance in the world to pass this bill?
I said, well I don't know, but I think there's a chance. I said I got 20
votes and I said I haven't been to a man on that committee and I'm scared
to go to anymore. I said I'm scared to move any further, but I'll tip
them the hand off, because I told every one of them to keep their mouths shut.
So he said, well, you want to make the motion or do you want me to make it?
I said, well Hank, I'd still .. have you make it. You have more floor
experience than I have and I'd rather have you make it, but if you don't
want to make it, well, of course, I'm gonna have to vake it.
He said, alright, I'll make it and he said you come in behind me and I said
okay. Well, we just raised a little hell, talked about the reflection of
the senate, then we went into and I had all the statistics. I stayed
there that whole weekend and worked like a dog. How much it meant
to the old age assistance fund because half of it went to old age assistance
of the race track money and how much it could increase that fund and boy,
before we got through we had a vote against the other people. We had
four votes against it, that's all we had against it. Well, if I had had the
experience and I was always surprised that Hank didn't do it but we should
have picked it up and passed it then. But we did not do it. We waited
until it came to the calendar and then Hank came back to me and said o weir--
TuW we got a fillibuster. If this bill comes up today, it will be defeated.
See our motion was to get it out of committee and out on the calendar.
I said well I can't believe that. He said, well, Verle, you'll just have
to trust us. If it comes up today .' I said, alright Hank, if that's
what you say, that's hat we'll do. Well Hank and I never fillibustered on
the bill. We always fillibustered on several bills up above. He'd take one
side of the bill and I'd take the other. We may both vote for it, but
: That's the way that was your strategy?
: That\ right and so we fillibustered until the clock ran out. So, then
we went out and Hank told me. He said, Verle, came to me who was
a member of the senate I think from Jackson County. He was a farmer of
very little money. He used to writea little poetry and some of it wasn't
bad. Rather quiet, reserved fellow and apparently they wanted a vote to
nail it down. They wanted to be sure they had it and they offered him
$20,000. He didn't quite know what to do about it so he agreed to take it.
They didn't 1 ;e it then with them, so they agreed to give it to him at a
certain time. He then went right straight to Hank and Hank told the FBI and
so then we caught them in the payment and that wasn't known because
the next day on the floor of the senate .
P: They were real gangsters that were buying this offer.
V: That's right. So we felt that God knows that should have had the
credit for it and so we arranged that when the bill came up, he would get up
and 6seak on the point of personal which he did. He told the whole
story and of course there wasn't but four of them who had guts enough to vote
tlvct cO lVO i s1, ---.
against thi-man-a-it t. They were the four who were notorious they _
The great tragedy of that thing was that that man went home and he was defeated
for re-election and while he was not a senator of great ability, he was
certainly one of integrity. I always felt so badly about it and never knew
what came, what became of the man. I don't know whether he's living today or
whether he isn't. But it was a great tragedy. You hear about all these things
that are bad in government. Twenty thousand dollars to that man was like
two million to a lot of people and I felt it was a tragedy that the man
showed that much character.
P: Tell me about Dan McCarty. We knew him better than a lot of people did.
V: Yes, well Dan was a fellow that always had within him a great deal of reserve.
I suppose the man who was cultured -_ Dan McCarty than probably anyone else was
Roy Collins and yet there was a distance between Dan and Roy. There was a
distance between Dan and most anyone. Now when people asked Dan who was going
to help him with his program in the senate, he would say, well, of course, Roy
will help me and I'm expecting a lot of help out of Verle Pope. And yet, Dan
had never ever talked to me about it .
P: He just took it for granted .-W '-. '\
V: He just took it for granted, you see.
P: Of course, you had supported him in '48 and again in '52?
V: I don't even think that he knew that I supported him the first time. I think he
took that for granted probably, but heAwas a fellow that had, of course, very
high ideals. It was astounding th.d ama-. lo at he did on the kind of
personality that he had.
P: Do you think he would have made a really outstanding governor?
V: Oh, yes, I don't think there's any question about it. Now when the session
was over, the first session, you see, I announced Dan's death over the radio. (es Ih
I was there when he died and I made the first announcement of his death but he
died in the hospital, I was in the hospital. When the first session was over. .
of course we had had some hard fights. Dan had a part of his program an
increase in the dog tax^ which they certainly could afford to pay and
should have paid. We got beat on that. John was fooling around there with
Bill Shands and Shands went the other way and we were beat on it. So then
Dan was sick, you see, and so we had a meeting and John wanted to know what
we were going to do. I said we're going to call the newspaper people in and
we're going to tell them how much these people boost the old folks and their
pensions that we can give them a $6 increase this time federal government
has authorized it if we can match the money and that they've been voting against
the old people in the State of Florida in favor of the gamblers and I said we're
going to ask the press to help us. That's what we're gonna do and I had already
called them in and they were standing outside. I went up there and opened
the door I didn't give a damn what John did. He hadn't handled it the way I
wanted it handled anyway and I was mad
P: He was a flip-flop man always?,
V: Yeah. Roy would .. didn't like it either and I said we're gonna pass this
damn bill so boy they turned the heat on you know and everybody come pouring
in there and said, for God's sake, give us something, man, your hats on.
Everybody that was against the bill got a letter saying that the reason they
were against it. The governor understood why they were against it and he was
glad that they were able to get the bill changed so they could support it.
First people whb had supported it didn't get along.
P: He was kind of a strange governor to have elected Dan McCarty coming after
Fuller Warren in this state. They were complete opposites.
V: Well, except that they realized, you see, what the Wolfsons thought, what the
Griffins thought and _. Then Truston Drake was a great was on
the board. He was a friend of Fuller's and Truston was a respectable man.
People respected Truston and when he threatened to resign from that board .
You see, Wolfson was selling him some stuff that Army surplus stuff and they
were gonna use it on the side of the road to keep people from driving off the
road and Truston said I've gone along with you with a whole lot of this stuff
and it's tore? upon my conscience that you're dealing with lives. And he
says, I ain't gonna be a party to anything like .
P: This is the state road board?
V: Yes, he said I'm not gonna be a party to anything that's costing somebody
their lives. I can't go with that. But Fuller plead with him to stay and he
finally stayed on. No, I think, Dan was almost a sure bet to go in. People
had realized the mistake. It may have been .known the way Dan could have gone
in. It was the first time that a man had ever been defeated and run again
P 1hT rinAR
and elected .and since that time, that pattern was established many ways. But I
remember when I went to leave, John came by and he said, now, be sure and go
by the mansion and see Dan. He would .he wants to see you, so I thanked him
and went on packing and was just leaving when he said, now Verle, are you gonna
go on out and see Dan? I said, John, I didn't think I'd bother him. The man's
sick. He's got __ and he no sir, he's waiting on you and he expects to see
you and you're gonna see him. So I said well, of course, if that's the case, I'll
only beAglad to go. So I went out to see him and he said, now Verle, I'll know
you'll never ask me for anything that isn't right, but I want you to know that
if there's anything that I can ever do for you that will in some way let me show
you my gratitude, Irwant to do it. So I said, well, Dan, there's nothing that
I want personally. you did run on the toll road. My people have been
Vol(l, opptC It ~_n and I said, of course, I know you must go on
through with that. But if there was just someway we could four -*i-aT U.S. #1,
I said even if we had to pay for it out of our own money, why I think it would take
some of the sting out of it, _it from a tourist standpoint. He just
picked up the receiver right then and there and called the road department and
he said, I want you to get to work on four laning U. S. #1, and I want you to
get to work on it the first thing tomorrow morning. They went to work on it
and that's how we got it four laned. Fortunately, for this county, back in
the county commissioner days, I had gotten under a beautification project. I
ri`5k of- -) $-
had already got the ko__ It was already donated and saved millions and
millions of dollars. But, of course, that covered, I guess, my first and second
sessions under Charlie Johns .
Do yao 44- 1i,
P: ^ Do you think that Wilson and Johnson really ran the state when Fuller was the
V: My understanding and this is rumor and that is that Fuller signed a shares of
notes and asked things to be done and notes I can't prove
that. I probably have no right to say it, but let's say that .hat:'s been
P: As long as we just call it a rumor, we don't have to try and prove it.
V: Well, let's say that was the rumor. Now don't forget that there were very
important things going on in Florida and we're talking about little personal
things. I had gotten .. was interested, of course, in education. I was
extremely conservative, but I felt that education was a must. We had one
mental institution in the state and we had over 7,500 people just walking
around. Many of them never saw the sun, never got out to see the sunshine.
We honestly needed four mental institutions in the four corners of the state.
We had one TB institution; we obviously needed four TB institutions. Now that
sounds remote now, because we've gotten rid of it but that's how bad it was at
that time. The progress that we were:making was so terrific that in spite of
the fact that we built some that we were able to use for other things, it still was
economically sound and the manpower that we saved and the health that we
saved. But the thing that hit me in the face was that we had so many people
going to our universities, joining a fraternity 'cause dear old dad went and
going toour universities. loitilgafaent
they'd gone through the first semester and get in a fraternity and then they'd
flunk from then on. This seemed like a tragic waste to me, particularly as badly
as a college education was needed. We had the horrible Dewey system which I'm
afraid we're gonna come back to of promoting according to age rather than ability.
Sd^a diploma, you didn't know whether you had a diploma of ability or you had a
diploma of effort. We have made under thi imum foundation plan which had been
P '41 \r.
passed just the session before, a tremendous improvement yet it also needed
Great amendment. I felt they'd gone too far in some fields in Litat plan the
idea of giving paying a person for a doctor's degree whether
they were teaching that degree to me seemed absurb, and of course many of the
teachers were already going in for higher degrees that were not in their field,
of work and neglecting their classes and riding to Gainesville to take special
courses just to get the money, which, of course, you couldn't blame them with
the '_ so I made up my mind that I would plug those loopholes and we
would get the tuberculosis and the mental institutions. Now the other thing was
less than 80%, more than 80% flunked in the freshman class. Less than 20%
in the sophomore class. I had heard some of the college professors talked
about what their great progress the GVI's had made because they were-older'
and more mature and^ideal students they were. So it just occurred to me if we
could establish a junior college system in the State of Florida that this
student coming out of high school would only have to make an academic adjustment.
The ___ adjustment he'd be two years older and momma would still pick
up his clothes and he would be a little more mature in handling his money. So
many boys get discouraged they run out of money and they don't know how to
handle it. So I had made up my mind that we had to have a junior college system
in the State of Florida. I went around the state making speeches in support
of it and so on. Now I didn't necessarily generate all those bills myself -
it was ideal for the pork choppers because that to them and a big
payroll and wen I could pick up their support, why of course I certainly
SBut we do have and I think the best junior college system in
the country. I had had experience with it both in California and in Texas. We
had a good vocational training school, which we probably should have had before
the junior college, but some of the junior colleges ran them together and those
were my main goals in government.
P: I want to ask you I want to get into the Kelly-Johns Administration and
I want to ask you one other thing because it hit me right now How much in-
fluence do you really think Ed Ball has had on Florida politics?
V: In certain areas of Florida, he has totally dominated. These are not so
much in Panama City and those areas, but in certain areas. He can't dominate
a man like Dempsey Barron, for example, or a fellow a man of really
great character, but he has dominated and unfortunately, he has stressed
economy so much that many of the people of that area don't realize that the
reason that they are poor is because Ed Ball's got everything in the area.
The tree economy in West Florida has meant a great deal in many ways but it
is suited for other economies, too. It could meet along the coastal areas
with certain recreational developments cattle raising, hog raising, and
things of that type could fit in, but I would say in counties such as Wakulla
and Jackson and some of those counties that he's played a very, very big part.
P: Would you consider yourself an anti-Ball man?
V: Yes, I'm afraid I would, I'm afraid I would.
P: Then you consider him somewhat of an evil influence in Florida since World War II?
F' T_ 1Lb, 6)
V: Yes, might bear in mind, I led the run from Jacksonville.fNOf course, Ed Ball
was and all of his influentials were opposed to it. Now, I'll say this
that you can't help but admire him. He's a man that just isn't gonna let things
change unless they meet his approval and looks like he isn't gonna die unless
he can carry his money with him. ~,But I like to think of myself as being a
middle of the roader. I think there's room in this country for everyone. I
think the capitalistic system is an asset to the accomplishment for things
within the nation, but I think it's an asset only so long as it's able to provide
a better product for less money to the citizens of that nation. When it has to
depend on fa orable legislation in order to compete or when it has to depend
6n government support, then it ceases to be an asset unless we're dealing with
some project which obviously is not economically sound but at the same time
is necessary in the interest of science, such as some of our space stuff for
an illustration or something of that kind. Now, the thing that has been
publicized so very little is that we have the millionaire welfare program long
-before we had the welfare program for the people and the poor people of the
areas. Of course .
P: The income taxes and this sort of .
V: Continental railroads were financed by the government. This was the millionaires
welfare program. They got every other section of land, the roads went bankrupt,
they re-established them and got them back and made millions of dollars off of
them. Now it was still good for the country but nevertheless it was a program
that benefited them greatly. In our history books, we read about George Washington
and Thomas Jefferson and we think of the great democracy when reality was an
oligarchy. No one ever thought in terms of the masses voting until Jackson he's
the first man that advocated the masses' vote. It there is a constant
struggle and always will be and always has been as you well know and as .
EXn co- 5.0 o ,- I
points out in that book. A redistribution of
their program in all civilizations. You reach a point where somebody gets all
the money. You got to try and redistribute it but just as long as the capitalistic
system functions on the bases they're supposed to function, then, it's never been
equaled because the element of reward is there. But when it becomes selfish
or when it attempts to enlist just a of >~" strength
to enable it to stay in power, then I don't think it's doing a service to the
nation. We know that the educational system, of course, is a socialistic program.
Religion itself no nation, no civilization has ever been able to go .on-
without it. Not necessarily because of the religion but because E: the religion has
always coincided with and supported government and we speak a great deal
about Christianity, but we just can't believe in Christianity like we say
we do because we wouldn't do the things we did. It would be impossible. We
say we believe in it 'Jbut a great deal of this is nothing but lip service.
How in the world could people kill themselves as they're doing in Ireland
and then claim to be Christians they would find some other solution. They
would simply have to find some other solution.
You consider then a man like Ed Ball a threat then it seems to me .
Well, I think that Ed Ball and he's not the only one .
But I think that trusts which were created and are made tax free, such as
any of the great trusts the Rockefeller Foundation and all of these people -
are very dangerous and very bad.
Even if they do good .
Even if they purport to do good. In the first place, they're forcing me to
to what they're doing
make a contributionAand I shouldn't be forced to do that. That should be a
matter of my choice, because the taxes they don't pay I have to pay. Conse-
quently, they are forcing me to make that contribution. I had this brought
home to me by a baptist preacher in Jacksonville when he wrote me a letter
about the parking lots and we were considering whether they should be taxed
or not taxed whether they should come under charity exemption or not.
He said -hat I didn't want to build that hospital. I'm a baptist preacher -
I was opposed to it. They asked me about it and now you're forcing me to make
a donation to that hospital and I don't want to do itaQd' I couldn't help but
admit that that was right. Now, government is strong enough and we are wealthy
enough to put on such coordinated programs that are necessary to take care
of the health of the people of this country. There would probably be far
less loss and certainly far fewer rackets that if we financed these things
rather than resort to the fund raising devices that we do in which in many
cases as much as eighty percent of it is overhead and does very little direct
beneficial work. We could direct the field of research so much better if
we did it that way and then the great power of an organization like the
Ball Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation with all of the great holdings -
the great political power stagnates your thinking along to their line 'cause
only those people who get elected with their support are representing you and
we try to cover all of this stuff under the guise of this being a good tract
charity and we're given the children' hospital and many other things that
have a great deal of heart appeal.
P: I'm afraid that Ball doesn't even do those things.
V: That's right. Now .
P: Go ahead, I was going to ask you about Charlie Johnson but I want you to finish
what you were going to say.
V: Now, they do, of course, all of these things do have heart appeal, but
they should be handled by taxes and government and people shouldn't be .
they shouldn't be dependent upon the charity of someone and when I pick up
a newspaper and see that someone is trying to get together and the neighbors
have raised ten thousand dollars so that this baby can have a certain operation,
I think that the medical profession ought to hide their damn faces in shame
when you're thinking about a child being denied an operation. Now I suppose I
could be termed an extreme radical in that I believe in total socialized
medicine. I think there's no middle ground. What we have done is to raise
the cost o4nedicine to stupendous proportions which is being paid for by
the taxpayers for the people on the welfare rolls and-retired people on social
security. Thank God that those people got some help because they certainly
needed it. But we've also raised it to the extent that this man from the middle
can't possibly pay it and I think it's ridiculous. Now I would be the first
to say that we ought to pay these people big salaries. We should train five
times as many doctors as we had. We ought to give them good hours. Now the
doctors of England raised cain when socialized medicine was passed and many
doctors here would like to have you believe that they still feel that way. They
don't. 'Actually they have found that it'works better. They have more time
to themselves. They've trained more doctors, but what has worked out to the
benefit of civilization is that you have seen more discoveries in the field
of medicine and in the field of health come out of England in the last four
or five years than ever before because these men that were busy trying to make
all the money in the world are now spending a great deal of time on research
and they have the time to do it that they didn't have before. I think that
this is going to carry on. We're in a generation of new values. Our teacher
said that she would have to grow up and do manual labor common labor has
gotten to be the most uncommon thing there is.
P: And the most expensive, too.
V: Yeah, a school teacher told me once that, well, you pay a trashman $8500 a
year. I said there isn't a thing in the world from stopping you from getting
on that trash truck. ^There may very well come a time in which it pays way
more. Let's face it it's harder physically to do isn't it? But, our
values are different. These kids don't think in terms of how much money
they're gonna have. They'd like to have a boat and they'd like to have
a car and they'd like to have a home. They like to live a little while they're
going along and I don't think it's bad. I just don't think it's bad. I
think that you ought to have responsibility to your government. I think you
ought to have great pa~etrsm and great love for your country. I think you
ought to try and get in on the "bltts-ee-and try to make it better not get
on the outside and try and break it up. I think this is a mistaketJi idea
because if you try these things, so many times in my career I've been so
afraid to take a position because I just knew it was terribly unpopular, only
to take that position and find out there was a thousand other people afraid
but the minute I said it, they joined right in with me.
P: Tell me about Charlie Johns now because he's another one of these strange
people in Florida history.
V: Well, Charlie was a man who generally speaking voted for all appropriations
(o<11iO lJ-) Crp,,
and no taxes. He came from a pure,^a poor community; Blanding had been there
and it had gone through a boom. His brother had been in the senate. I told
you I worked on an industrial debit and I collected insurance in many places
in Starke and I knew many of those people. He took his brother's place. He
would do anything that he could to help his friends .
P: He was a pork chopper in the best .
V; Pork chopper and pork barrel in every sense of the word.
P: And would admit it .
V: Yes. Now he would go home and said I told those people not to vote for
taxes and this and that I wouldn't vote for them,and then in the next breath,
he'd say, well I got you your old age pension increased and I got this and
that. Well, I don't know why it never occurred to one of those people to
think that he couldn't get them without some money but this was Charlie's
philosophy. He made his famous old folks speech every session. We called it
PA 5dil r I cIi r ccl s pec- ,-
the "silver earred" speechV nd he would prepare a long speech and get up and
deliver that speech on a point of personal privilege and then have it put in
the minutes and that was for the next campaign in case he got elected. But
Charlie Johns was elected president of the senate somewhat through an accident.
P: I've always wondered about that.
V: And it came about in this same session of the bookie bit.
P: That was '51, wasn't it? '49 .
V: I think it was '49. Now, there was also a bill there in which they were
fighting over racing dates. The law gave the track that did the biggest
business a choice of the forty days. The next track forty and the next track
forty. Now, Gulf Stream, George Laird,'and Bob Gautier wre of the
closest of friends but they were bitterly fighting on this piece of
legislation. George had a bill that said that the track that had the
biggest play would have their choice of any two forty-day periods,
and that- the next track, the next, and so on. NowAthere was a lot of
money passed and the 20-day seasons, Hialeah would have taken the two
middle, which was the same as they had. Gulf Stream would have taken
the two on each side which would have improved their situation, leaving
Tropical with .(Changed sides of tape.)
P: Tropical would have had to go .
V: They would have had the cooperation. Now, let me say this that in
all of my experiences in legislation, no one has ever approached me
with bribe or anything else, but George Laird did come to me and
solicit my .
V: Yes and so did Bob. I told them both the same thing they were both
friends of mine. I said I'm going to go to the committee hearings and
I'm going to listen to the arguments and I'm going to vote for merits of
the bill. I went to the committee hearings and Sam McCormack of
Widness, area of Hialeah, had introduced me one time and said this is
the only man who said he was going to vote for the merits of the bill and
ended up on our side. But, it was obvious, you see, that if Tropical
wouldn't run, the counties would get less money because half of this
money went to the counties. George Laird came to me and said, well, if
I can get your county commissioner to pass that resolution, asking you
to vote for this bill, would you vote for it? I said, no, George, I know
more about it than they do. They don't know anything about it. He went
to Ray Carroll and asked if he would do that and Ray thought that
was an easy out and he said yes. George jumped in the airplane and
went over and got the resolution and came back. Well, Ray welched on
it. He wouldn't stick by it and I think he was justified in doing so. He
P,1 0 hCl rTCfI(e(t l", 1uc- -^r& (^fc. ,
never did say anything about it personally.J'I refused in the first place.
Now George was a very I thought a very nice sort of a fellow. Gulf
Stream was in his area.
P; He was respecting his interests.
V: That's right. But it made George awful mad that he went to all that
trouble and that Carroll had lied to him. Carroll was destined to
and Bill Pearce
be president of the senate, so for some reason, George Laird\decided
that whatever they did, they would do it together. So, Charlie kept
working and got George Dayton.ad when he got got George Dayton, the
two votes would have put him over and Laird then. he with Dayton-got
Pearce and they voted for Charlie Johns and he became president of the
senate. Without that, he never would have become and as George told me
many times, he said i~eto think that I may have anticipated that he'd
make son of a so and so president of the senate.1 Well, for
some unknown reason when, oh, when Dan was elected, Charlie had supported
Dan but he was also supporting the people and at that time,
the lobbyists always determined who was going to be president of the
senate. If they had two friends in there, why, they'd say,^boys, we're
gonna leave you alone and you fight it out. But, I had thought about
running once and Roy Collins told me, he said,,'lwell I'll vote for you,
but you haven't got a chance for the same reason that I haven't any
other persons that votes an honest vote.11 He aaidl khe lobbyists control
the senate.' And they did and they were powerful oh they were powerful.
P: They were-. are?
V: They came to me once and-I had a bill in and they said,,Onow we're gonna
give you a 7-6 vote in the committee so you won't look too bad at home.
I said' don't pull any of that crap on me, you just g4ve that son of
a bitch 13-0 if that's what you want to do, but I don't play that way.
I said)l I'll beat you sooner or later if I stay here.11 So, of course,
you know the story of Dan's death. Well then, when Dan died, Charlie
Johns had been fighting him the hardest and I announced his death and
we were riding to bury Dan on the train. I went to Roy and I said,'9now
Roy, this is your opportunity to run for governor. You'll make the
state a good governor.1'
P: You talked about that on the funeral train, then?
V: On the train going to Dan's funeral -Ft. Pierce, and Roy had been staying
home there, taking care of the adjournment period, taking care of all of itF
I had been sitting at the Capitol, stayed up all night with his body and
sitting at the Capitol while his body was lying ii state and Charlie didn't
want to let it stay in state and I was sitting there to be damn sure
that nothing happened to it.
P: Why was he opposed to that?
V: I don't know he was scared to death. He rushed up and took the
oath of office. After all, he really wasn't governor he was acting
governor and had Charlie taken the position of modesty and having said,
now, I'm not the governor I'm acting governor had he not fired
anybody, I think he might have been re-elected. Well, I told Roy,
I said now, you stepped down for Dan to be Speaker of the House, you
stepped aside for him to run for governor once, you stepped aside twice,
and I think this is your chance to run and I know you'd make a good
governor. He said, well, Johns said if I wanted to run, he'd support
me, but, he said, this I just don't feel like talking about it now. We'll
talk about it later. JWell, he was genuinely broken up. He thought a great
deal of Dan.
They were very close friends, LernT- t Hey?
A very close, close friendship. He thought a lot of Dan. So, I hadn't
left Roy ____ before Charlie Ausley and John Ausley grabbed a holt of
me and this is the story that's never been told except among a very few
people and I'm gonna tell it anyway. So we went to the smoke and sitting
there was Charlie Smith, ;whAa-asa road contractor, Smokestack Johnson
from Pensacola, I think another newspaper man and Charlie Ausley and John
Ausley, both of whom were Roy's law partners. They said, now, we've
been thinking about this thing and we think it might be good to get John
to run and carry on the traditions of the McCarty Administration. Now
I had nothing personal against John at all we later became very close
friends and in some ways, I hate to say this, but I had not been impressed
with the way that John handled the situation.^ While, in many ways, I, too,
was pretty much of a freshman in the field of politics, but I just had
used the direct, hard-hitting straight approach rather than twisting it
around, trying to promise and this and that kind of thing. I never traded
votes or anything of that type, so they wanted John to run and I said, well,
I'm thinking in terms of Roy Collins. I said Roy is experienced he'd make
the state a great governor he's got great integrity, so Charlie asked for
a partner. He said, well, there isn't any question about that, but John
would be so much well known, better known and we'd have to get Roy known.
I said well, I'm a seller. If I've got a good product, I believe I can
sell it and I know I can sell Roy Collins. So, but I said, go ahead and
put up BlxTmffif you want to I said, you're gonna find the sympathy
a -pas.? And there'll be other people running, too. We got to consider that
and how, he-sa4d John gonna be able to handle himself against this
opposition? Should we all think about those things. Well, they said,
bJo o f)
alright,we think you're right, we'll go ahead and put up a trial B+oivm?
and we'll have a meeting and you'll be invited we'll invite you and
then we'll make the decision. And I said, well, that's the sensible way
to do it and that'll be fine. So, time went on I never heard anymore,
but I, of course, had invited Roy to come over any time his wife and my
wife were close friends Edith thought a whole lot of Mary Call and, of course,
Mary Call was just a perfect lady everybody loved her in every walk of
life. So, the phone rang one day and it was Roy and he said, Verle, if
that invitation still stands, why, I'll come over and we'll go to the
football game together. 1 said, fine, come on I'll have a cocktail party.
Of course, I was running for governor and of course, Charlie Johns was
already in the governor's seat and he was making life pretty miserable for
me anyway and trying to make some deals for me to come support him and so
on and so I said, well, Roy, if that's the way you want it .He told me
if it's the same to you, let's don't do that. We'll go fishing or whatever
you want to do. So, I said, alright, if that's the way you feel about it.
But I couldn't figure it out so I told Edith. I said, you damn women speak
a language of your own. There's something wrong. You call Mary Call up
and let's find out what's going on. Well, she called Mary Call and Mary
Call's fit to be tied. She said, I never wanted Roy in politics. I never
wanted him to run for anything, but they had a meeting and his own law
partners had voted against him and they voted for John McCarty to run for
governor and Roy is hurt and he's deeply hurt. Well, I was on the extension
and I said, that's fine that's all the hell I wanted to hear. I said
you all come over here we're having a cocktail party. Of course, I was
mad for two reasons One, I wasn't invited and they said that they would
but the minute they found out, you see where I stood, we11, then I wasn't
going to be party to this endeavor. 'Roy came in he and Mary Call -
P: They came here?
V: Stayed right here. And, I don't know how we ended up, but Roy and I were
in the bedroom there. So, he handed me this release that he was about to
give to the press about not running. I took the damn thing and just tore
it up in little"pieces. I threw it aside. I said now Roy, there are a
few things about you that I don't like and I might as well get them off my
damn chest right now. I said, number one is you don't fight hard enough to
suit me and I said we're gonna fight and we're gonna fight every damn inch of
the way and I said, you'll run for governor. He said, you mean whether
John runs or not? I said, I mean run I don't give a damn who runs. He
T5, c( ri54-u n* .., P 13r, ft6cl C'4
said, well, they tell me nobody can beat Brailey.avI said, well, right now,
it sure looks like it's true. I said, he's the strongest television man
I've ever seen. I said, I'm gonna be honest with you. I think a lot of
Brailey. He's got guts enough to say what he thinks and I think a lot of
him, but I said, I saw just enough of Brailey during his campaign with Dan
to see some weaknesses there and I said you're gonna have to challenge him
at every opportunity and it's gonna come out that he den-t- know government
and you do. I said, he's too honest to lie about it, so you don't have to
worry about that. I said, you're gonna have to challenge him at every chance
that you get. He said, well, where are we gonna get the money? I said, I
haven't got the slightest damn idea, but we're gonna get it. Well, he said,
now Verle, my big problem is Olie. I don't know what to do about Olie. But
he had been standing there taking care of Olie while Bob Johns was running
Around trying to get votes to get elected.
P! fil >t jk ; p- fstft s-v^4 c+' i
P: Wasn't she a problem?
V: No, it turned out she wasn't at all. Actually, I think she appreciated
very much what Roy had done. What he was worried about was the position she
would be in. ft-, i'.
P: Had to choose between a brother-in=law .
V: That's right. So I said, well, now, Roy, these things come up and
there's nothing in the world to do but to pick up that phone and call
her and tell her^a lot of things have happened. That you have made up
your mind that you're gonnT run that you're gonna run on a"platform
and you're gonna run regardless of who does run and that you hope that
she'll find it in her heart to try and understand it, and, of course, that
he would understand anything that she did. I don't know what she told
him, but I think she told him she was gonna support him.
P: He called her from here?
V: He called her from right here. I don't know what she told him, but at any
rate,^ she told him enough that that seemed to make him feel better. So we
had the cocktail party and, of course, Roy is so quite presentable .
P: Quite sophisticated .
V: And when he begins to put out, it's astounding how charming he can be and
Marh Call, of course, just swept everybody down that she met and I only had
two days' notice Imagine me getting 170-some people in this house, but
we got them in here and we had the cocktail party on Friday and Roy made
such a tremendously favorable impression that everybody began to warm up to
him and Roy began to warm up to the task.
P: Where did you get the money?
V: Well, as it turned out, of course, now Herbert Wolfe was invited to the
P! I h.c"vj
meeting He's the big road contractor~from here I was not. Frank Upchurch
who was Herbert's attorney was very favorably impressed with Roy. He said
now, Verle, there's just one thing I wan t to know. He said, now you know I
represent Herbert I'm his attorney, but I just want to know if I want to
speak to Roy whether I can speak to him or whether I got to go through
Herbert. I laughed like hell;at this You couldn't speak to Smathers
without going through Herbert," so I called Roy over. I says, Roy, Frank
here wants to know if he supports you if you'll speak to him directly or
whether he has to go through Herbert or not. He says, Frank, I'll assure
you that you can come to my office anytime that you want to come.
P: Now tell us who Herbert is for the tape.
P: Tell us who Herbert is for the tape.
V: Well, Herbert is, of course, a very large road contractor. Now Herbert
has done. he supported a lot of governors most of these contractors
P: A major political figure in this area .
V: They raise a lot of money. I had heard that they raised these stupendous
amounts. Actually, I think most of them kick it in and they give it to
one contractor and he presents it, then, another. goup911 give it to
another one. They all work through each other and so whoever runs, they
got a winner. So we went to Jacksonville the next day and .
P: You forgot all about that football game.
V: The We went to the football game the next day and Roy told John. He
said, I want to see you and I'm gonna tell you right now. I'm running for
governor. John said, well, that's all been decided. He said, oh, no, he
said, everybody decided it but me. Said I didn't vote for him. I'm
sorry that these things have to come about, but I'm running for governor.
ead another meeting up there some time that night, but I wasn't"there. I
had to go somewhere involve the situation, but that's the way
that Roy got in the race. Well, the next day, Herbert Wolfe, the big road
contractor, called me. He said, Senator Veriab who are you supporting
for governor? I said, well, I'm gonna support Roy Collins. Oh, he said,
he's the best man all right. There's no question about that, but he isn't
known and he can't get elected. I said, well, Herbert I never vote for
people according if-. (continued on next page)
they can get elected or not. I vote for the best man the man I think
is the best man. And if he gets beat, that's alright. I said, it
isn't anything I want I don't want anything from anyone except good
government. Well, he said, let's say that he that he dies. We
don't want that to happen it could happen. I said, yes, I guess it could.
He said, well, don't tell me you'll vote for Charlie Johns. I said, no, I
wouldn't vote for Charlie Johns. He said, well you wouldn't vote for
Brailey fI/@ I said, why not. He's got more experience than John
McCarty. I said yes, I'd vote for him. I certainly think I would, but
I said, don't worry about it. You're not gonna have to make that decision.
I said, you're gonna have the choice about voting for the best man. I said,
Roy will be running. Well, of course, it was the beginning of a,-very big
split: between Herbert and myself. I had never been a strong Wolfe man even
if I had been the other way. Herbert was a who had done a whole lot of
very fine charitable work. He'd done a whole lot of awfully good things.
One of the things that I admired about him was everybody that worked for
him swore by him, so he must have been very good to his employees.
P: As-it-turned out, he was also good for Claude Kirk.
V: Yes, he did, but there was never but one way and that was Herbert's way
and, of course, I suppose I'm pretty stubborn myself but he tried to get me
to vote for the chain store tax repeal of the chain store tax bill. I said
they've grown and prospered now if we take it off of them, we got to
put it on someone else. Now he didn't care about the bill, but it just
hurt him to have to tell his friends, A. D. Davis and that tribe that he
couldn't get me to vote for it and he tried .
V: Yeah, tried to get me to agree not to speak against it and I said I'm gonna
do everything I can be to kill it. I'm gonna speak against it- I'm gonna
vote against it. If it looks like it's gonna pass, I'm gonna switch my vote
and vote for it and make a motion to reconsider and slow it down. I'm gonna
do everything I can do to kill it, which I did. Then they had a contractors
.* .ii.. OM so .*5 .
bill Martin Anderson kidded him because I killed his own bill and later *
on, why they got chain stores, the small loan companies that I had
always raised hell and fought with, truck people, Ed Ball and his faction -
the liquor people, the milk people they all combined and got me some
opposition and I .
P: You were fighting for strong interests.
V: I certainly was and I thought they had me beat. I never thought I had
a chance. But I had really lasted two sessions and I never thought a
man could vote his convictions and last more than one, but I had lasted
P: The only thing you had going for you were the voters.
V: I had always worked direct with the voters. I had always saw the house-to-
house people and I never depended on the big leaders. Now this is hard
when you get in a large area. But even in Jacksonville, I didn't bother
with them. I went straight to the shipyards, the pulp mills, fertilizer
plants, the bottling companies and .
P: Talked to the people?
V: Just worked right around the clock, all the way around.
P: With Leroy Collins in then, in '54 and you played a role obviously in the
campaign, where did the money .you got the .
V: Well, it was rather surprising. Roy had some friends, more friends than I
think that he realized. Among some of those people who lived in Tallahassee
on these plantations and they contributed rather liberally. It was good
money there was nothing they wanted. They just liked bh and his wife.
Alec Collins, his cousin, who went to poor from Limes ____ but
Alec helped us a great deal and the money came in. We were, I'm afraid, in
debt at the end of the first primary, but of course there was no question
about Brailey's support. Brailey was the type of man that would support
a fellow like Charlie. I think in many ways that was a tragedy because
had Brailey had~ore experience in government before his exposure, he could
have gone a long ways..
P: He was a good man.
V: I've always been a great admirer of Brailey ~ 6-r e->..
P: Is he still living?
V: I haven't heard from Brailey in many years. The last time I heard from
him was in the Doyle Carlton campaign.
P: I want to go back just a minute because I've forgotten something and I
wanted to ask you how you reacted and to what degree you were involved in
the Pepper Smathers campaign of '50.
V: I stuck with Pepper I supported Claude Pepper the first time he ran
and-he stole the election from him in Ybor City. That's when Claude would
run around and send a wire and try and raise ten dollars to deposit in
such and such a bank and he had no money. Claude was probably a little
ahead of his time, but I was a Claude Pepper supporter. I told Pepper the
great mistakehhe was making in his campaign was that the doctors were
going to beat him and that he was receding somewhat insulting his position
and that was a mistake that what he should do was tell the people that
these doctors are mad at me because they want you to keep going to their
office and sit there and wait for eight hours for them before they wait
on you and then the nurse comes and tells you they went out on emergency
and you've been sitting there for eight hours for nothing and then if
he's there, why they take your money. ^ they're the only group of people
in the world who decided what you ought to pay instead of a flat price
and I'm just trying to get medicine down where you people can afford to
pay these robbers. That's why they're fighting.
P: Didn't Pepper see the wisdom of this advice?
V: No, he didn't. They had hoarded him so strong that they had him
convinced and about all that he had left going for him was labor. Many
people were really ashamed to be seen supporting Pepper.
P: They had him so convinced that he was thinking he was a communist himself?
V: This is riZht. Now, of course, there was some bad things going for
Pepper. He had been to Russia, but he had said some good things in a way
about Russia. He had said that we could coexist, that we had to coexist -
there's no other alte native.
P:____ said this too.
V: Yeah. There was no alternative that we had to learn a way to get along
together and that he felt this could be done. Now, of course, people at
that time would eat you up about this just like we only recognized China
a couple of years ago. Well, this is ridiculous. The government of the
country is the government of the country whether we like it or whether we
don't like it. England recognized them immediately and the truth of the
matter is the government of Chiang Kai-shek that we sponsored was far more
dictatorial and far worse than what they got in a communistic government.
The government they got now is.as e to a democracy than what they had
under Chiang Kai-shek .
P: Ttis was a shrewd article, wasn't it?
V: That's right. Smathers had given up any hope of running and then he -
Herbert Wolfe had talked him back into it.
P: Herbert Wolfe was the key to that?
V: Oh,yes. Herbert Wolfe is the man who got Smathers to run, Yes, Herbert
got Smathers to run.
P: I thought it was Ball .
V: He was a little bitter'at me because I continued to support Pepper. It's
a miracle in way that I've been able to I don't know how I've gotten
elected really. Herbert opposed me they got the most popular man in
the county to run. There was never a more popular man in this county
than Gus Craig. Not as popular now as he was then, but at that time,
he was by far the most popular man in the county. Now the said part of
it is that if I had said, 1 e-at3he bs supporting Craig, the small
loan people were supporting Craig, I would have been annihilated. People
thought so much of him that I ZdTrLt dare say any of these things even
though they were true. I could only say that he was the most popular man
in the county. For a popularity contest, I'd vote for him myself, but it
wasn't, and the of things that I had accomplished, Herb Byer
of Jacksonville was writing their speeches. He hadk two opponents and
they were hitting me from both sides and then they had an agreement they
were gonna me they were gonna run it off.
Of course, they were trying to beat me on my position on reapportionment.
I had favored better reapportionment, of course. Actually, at the time,
we were talking about better reapportionment under the Constitution of
the State of Florida. I said that if any person could show me how you could
help the larger counties within the state under the present constitution,
I would withdraw from the race. The constitution said no county should have
more than one senator. I would withdraw from the race and then the next
thing they used was that I was the second senator from Miami and I wanted to
be governor. I said, what's wrong with wanting to be governor? Think
of the things I might accomplish if I was governor. What's wrong with
wanting to be governor? I said my mother told me when I was a little kid
that in this country, I could be anything that I wanted to be if I work
hard enough. I said, what's wrong with wanting to be governor? This began
to change things a little and then some of these big rallies out in the
woods some of these cars would come by from up north New York, Pennsylvania,
and ao forthand they'd.he attracted and4Atqp and listen. Then, they'd
hear me speak, you know. Some of them would say, my God, you all ought
to have him as United States senator. tu4 I f/ f g &. That
fellow's pretty good. It gradually changed but I fEt I was beat. -i
Herbert had tried- to talk me into getting out of the race. He said, nowV
us& is a friend of mine, George is a friend of mine, Seide 's a
friend of mine. Why don't you get out and let the "undA ALjv, UUpchurch.
I saidwell, it's not my job it belongs to the peoplesand if Upchurch
wants to run, w it's right. And he said, well, I think you're gna'
get beat. I said yes, it sure looks like it. And I've always known when
I went into politics that I could be beat, but I said if a man told me I was
Sdie five minutes after an election, if I didn't stop working so hard,
I said I'd never stop,aad I said I want to tell you something. I'm gonna
know where you are. I'm gonna get up in a damn plaza and call you a fat
cat just like Brailey Odum did. I'm gta get your god amn enemies. I
said you ain't g a vote your friends and your enemies against me. I'll
get your enemies. Well, he was gnn vote for Seide, but he wasn't "an
take any part. Of course, that\a.jot altogether true, but everybody in
town knew he was against me and it didn't hurt me to have him against me
to tell you frankly. So that's the way it was,apd then finally Gus got
to slinging a little bit of mudJand I never didf I never wavered. But
in the second primary, I didn't spe how I could win. I was only 600 votes
ahead. My opponent had 18, the third man had 1800, 2200 votes. and
certainly it looked like the incumbent g6othis votes the first time-
I didn't see how I could win. But I didn't stop, I just kept pouring it
on, giving it all I had.aad one of the strangest things happened 4 I suppose
has ever happened in politics. A lot of people liked Gus, he was loved.
I told him afterwards. I said Gus, if you saw the tears in peoples' eyes
that I saw when they said they felt they had to vote against you, i; Z 5E
47 A t iq < -IA
a lot of the stinging bitterness out of this. But, he didn't get as many
votes the second time as he did the first. A lot of people got scared
and changed, felt they were making a mistake to vote for him just because
they liked him and somehow they changed and he didn't do as well the second
time as the first time. So it worked out alright.
P: Do you figure that Roy Collins is the best governor we've had in your
V:- I think that Roy this is difficult to judge. Certainly no man ever faced
office with a bigger problem than the racial problem that Collins had.
With the legislature that simply didn't measure up to what you'd expect
anyway, you would have expected that it would be the House that would be
scared to death to make the segregation vote. The Senate had more time
to overcome it--at least half of them didn't have to run. The great
tragedy of it was^had everybody gone home and just told the people the
truth, there would have been nothing to it. It was the decision of the
Supreme Court. It was the law of the land. Farris Bryant knew that
but he was out on the other side. There was no attorney that honestly
didn't know that and to talk about closing the school system down, with
a last resort bill, when you look back on it now, it seems so ridiculous
and yet it got to where we only had 11 votes in supporting the governor's
veto and it was the House that saved us. I would say that between the
two plans of segregation and reapportionment that Collins had a tremendously
hard job. There were so many things that he might have done. Maybe these
things contributed to his greatness, but certainly I would place in my mind
the three great governors of Florida as Carlton, Collins, and Askew. I
think Reub Askew is gonna have some tough times in front of him. I think
that some of the criminal elements of the state are gonna do everything they
can do to discredit him and they're gonna be joined this is the great
tragedy of it they're gonna be joined by people who oppose the corporate
income tax and still oppose it, in hope that it will be repealed. In spite
of the fact that it's gonna provide instead of the 80 million that some of
them said, it will provide closer to 400 million. At least 125 million of
that, not more than 125 million of that, is paid by corporations that do
business solely within.,he State of Florida. Three hundred seventy-five,
three-hundred twenty-five million dollars of that money is money that
comes in from the outside and these corporations were paying to other states
and Florida needed so badly. It was tax reform, yes, and it completed
some of the worst special interests legislation and evasions that we
had but bear in mind that the problems of A education although
education is, in my opinion right now, below the problems of sewerage and
municipal health and land planning and those things. We needed that money
so badly to do these things. We couldn't solve the problems in this state
without at least a 5% sales tax and that wouldn't even produce that kind of
money. I think that Reub Askew, when he got the eourt to make that a plank
in his campaign, you see there was no question about it. Now I had passed
in the Senate, if you will recall, when I was president, which astounded
me I didn't think I could do it. But I had passed a corporate income tax.
I didn't believe I could do it. In my campaigns in Jacksonville, Jack
Matthews and many of them would jump on me because I said if the problems of
the state were solved that we had to have corporate income tax and of
course I was hated here in some circles for saying it,"advocating it, but
then I got astounded when I went on the street and people would come up to
me, particularly the young group and they'd say now don't you back off of that
thing that's right. It's the same old story that I said, you're so
scared to do something, but when .
Until you found some people who will support you .
When you get it out of your mouth, you find out there's a lot of people
that agree with you.
P: Of course, there's a lot of mediocrity surrounding Askew and they may,
in the long run .
V: I don't feel there's mediocrity. I think that there are some young people
with a great deal of high ideals. Some of them need to be modified, some
qf them are rather significant. I think that the Adams situation complicated
things very badly.V.I think it was something that I know that Governor
Askew disapproved very highly of these fund-raising situations, but why
someone hasn't pointed out that the salary that he receives, he can pay off
an obligation of a $100,00 $150,000 in the length of time that he's been
in office. With the kind of salary he's been making, it's not an impossible
amount, after all .
P: And he's not married .
V: ,Well, I never see him spend a dime. I don't know what he throws his money
away on. I think that people raising money that way without a very accurate
accounting of what's being done is a bad thing and, of course, you know -td- X
was no particular friend of Kirk's, but let's be honest about it. It's
exactly that same thing that we criticized Kirk for. Kirk would have been
impeached if we could have gotten enough evidence on him just for that sort
of thing. Haydon Burns would have already been in the penitentiary, yet
nothing's been done about it. I think that this is wrong. Now .
P: Where do you think the money's coming from?
V: I contributed a check to his problem. Many people, I-'m sure did, but
why there wasn't an accurate account and why he doesn't see to it that
it's publicized. Now I heard some, a year, a year and a half, two years
ago that he was only a few thousand dollars short, yet these things
continue to go on. I don't know whether it's against the law or not, but
I gave out a strict code of ethics to the Senate we adopted conflict of
interest laws. I couldn't justify it. I think the job should be abolished.
I think the Secretary of State should take over in the event of the death
of the governor. That he should not be urcLe for re-election for the job
and that elections should be held immediately if the time is more than six
months. I don't see where we need him and is developing now the Lieutenant
Governor lobbies for things to be placed in his department and it's gonna
become another one of these huge bureaucrats if we don't do something to
P: We've only had two governors in Florida history to die-in office.
V: This is correct.
P: John Milton and Dan McCarty.
V: I only remember one of them in my time.
P: I was going to say, Milton was right After the Civil War, so .'lf. (aOoCl ro-C
V: And to be frank about it, there hasn't been anybody in the world .
-(changed sides on tape)
Burns has always been- pite.distant. .In spite of ,the.fact that he's my
next door neighbor, I was never close to him. During the time he was
governor, I can't say that I was I certainly did not support him
except in the general election. I stuck by the ticket there. I supported
Bob High, I believe it was, the first time I supported Bob High the
second time. There was some people that felt that High was too liberal. I
felt that he was a very honorable man and I had no concern over the ability
of the legislature to handle things and, of course, what any governor can
do. That was the most exaggerated thing in the world. We had colored
people working all over Tallahassee and we should ead. We would have had
them whether High was in there or not. Certainly, I put some to work my
very first .
P: You must have resented Burns' break of work with the Democratic Party
|0, ClcyJc- *
and support- .
V: Yes, of course, I felt that Burns threw the race away with his resentment
People could not bring themselves to trust him after the bond issue or
although I felt the bond issue was good. I felt it was a good time to go
in debt. I supported it, but he had not said anything about this in his
race and the allegations about the money that he had in the Bahama Islands -
there was nothing wrong with him having that money there. If it was true,
he should have said so. The way the statement was issued, I don't think
anybody believed it and when it came-time for it to .
P: He never projected an image of honesty even though he was honest after .
V: They said that we had been authorized to say there is no money in the bank
here in the name of Haydon P. Burns. Somebody said if there any money here
in the name of Haydon P. Burns and his wife? They said, we have:told you
what we have been authorized to tell you and we have nothing more to say.
This is all that .
P: You drew any conclusion you wanted from this?
V: This is correct. Now, Burns was, I think, a typical big-town politician.
Jacksonville was an all-time insofar as its moral government was
concerned. He made some appointments from the wrong side. He couldn't
get it through his head they were no longer the majority. I had been
elected president protem for the sole purpose of showing that we had the
votes. We didn't have them but by one. The rules required two-thirds.
All we could do was to sit there and wait until the end of the:session
until we had to draw new rules at the beginning of each session and we
just voted "no" on anything and walked out and it was a shame to have to
waste that time, but when we got the new rules, we provided that you could
do anything by a majority vote including committing murder. Tom Whitaker
wrote those rules and he wrote them so that we could do anything as long as
we had the majority. This gave us control, yet he continued to try to deal
with the other group. When the election came up between he and I, people
could not bring themselves to trust Burns for four years. They trusted him
for two, because they had a chance to call him back. The situation in
Jacksonville had deteriorated badly. Now bear in mind that I had never
run from Jacksonville.
P: I know, this came later.
V: I was weaker probably in Duval County than any other place. No, I was
running from Jacksonville in that racehat the time of High. I got elected,
you see, I mean I got nominated. Now, the biggest thing that I had to fight
was I'd go someplace and they'd say are you in office? I'd say, yes.
They said, no, voteAstraight Republic. Now these were the laboring men the
working men and I knew then not only was I in trouble but the party was.
Fortunately, I had enough people scattered around in the shops and
in thp working places that knew me. Some of them from St. Augustine that
was able to get things straightened out. It took me too long for me to tell
them all about reapportionment and how I got that. Then finally little
--groups would come up and say, well, Verle, you democrats are gonna
get a vote out here. "As it turned uut, I was the only democrat with
opposition that got elected. Now we had some democrats that didn't have
any opposition and I didn't realize that until afterwards, but that's how
bad it was.
P: Senator, you haven't said anything about Farris Bryant.
V: Well, Farris, of course, Farris is not a bad person. He's a special interest
person. He had great potential, but he ran at the wrong time.
P: He feathered his own nest well.
P: He feathered his own nest, didn't he, very well?
V: I think he did. The sad part of it is I think had Farris not run
against Collins and got that annihilation, but you see, you could watch
Farris set himself out. The great tragedy of public office is that men
too often pay too dear a price for that honor and men frequently have to
be defeated in the interest of the cause to make it work, but when Farris
Bryant took the position that we would vote for and pass the in position
resolution for an illustration, we would interpose the authority of the
state against federal government. Now .
And as a lawyer, he knew differently.
This was so ridiculous and as a lawyer, he knew that this had absolutely
no force at all. Now, it would not have been so tragic if it hadn't been
for the fact that so many people hung hope on this thing. So many people
felt that this was -ut answer, this would do it and he was going along,
leading the way in order to get some votes on the basis of some emotionalism.
The bussing deal this thing has been up over and over. Duval County
voted on it three times. Everytime, they're always against bussing. Well,
the last time who was defeated? Alvarez, Pinelli the people who pushed
it the most through the papers and raised the most cain. They got defeated
because the people finally realized they weren't doing a damn thing in the
world but playing politics. There wasn't anything they could do about it
and all they were doing was wasting our money, holding elections, just to
play politics. That's how they got-tO_ .
Wodld you rate Farris as a good governor?
Well, I think that we would have to say that there'R been worse governors.
He, I dislike what I would call dishonesty, even though it may be a minor
type. He ran on a platform of no new taxes when he knew that this could not
be done. Then he took the position that he hadn't voted any new taxes, he
just expanded some present taxes and that he actually for the first
session. Well, now you know, and everybody knew he didn't say that. It
would have been much better to say to the people, now, this :f in my
platform and this is what I said and I'm sorry that I can't keep that
promise. I mean4to when I made it, and I felt it could be done but
conditions have arisen and I can't do it, and we have to take care of
the school children and this is what we're gonna do. Now people would
have thought a lot more of him if he would-have done that. People are very
forgiving if you level with them and the strongest thing in the world is
the truth. There's never been anything stronger.
P; Do you think that Bryant's reputation will suffer as a result of the switch
V: It went down, of course, from then on. You mean the switch over to the
republicans? I4Well, why could he switch over? The Republican Party hasn't
changed. It's stood for the same things. The Democratic Party, you might
say, has changed, but why does it take him so long to get on to this? He
never got onto it until after he got defeated, then he went to:the
Republican Party. Now I can understand the great changes that are in the
Democratic Party. I didn't like the Democratic Party one bit from last
time. I felt that they had taken every bad element that they could get and
stick them within the party. But they had an element in the group that
couldn't accomplish anything and didn't have the strength to accomplish
anything, but the thing to do is to try and improve that. Cut it any way
you want to cut it. It's the peoples' party it's always been the peoples'
party and there's never been another party since .
P: Certainly since the days of Jackson.
V: This is right. Now in the days of the Wigs, for example, the Democratic
Party got so big that, my God, they were for everything and you just couldn't
be for everything. So it flaked off, but it came back. .
P: Came back big.
P: Let me ask you something before I leave and I've taken much, much lengee-
of your time. It's been a great pleasure. I want to ask you for the
record -- why they call you the "lion"?
V: Well, Martin Walden with the New York Times, I think at that time, he
was with, I don't know. Miami Herald, maybe, something but I would .
P: He's with the St. Petersburg paper, I think.
V: Oh, yes, in my usual and sloppy manner. I probably need a haircut half
the time and my hair wasn't very controllable and something would come
I f ,,klt- C -4n
up and I woudA scream, raving and a loud holler and they-coua go back,
you see, and catch some man, something, sneaking, they were pulling, and
he gave me that name. The Lion of St. Johns and Eug Persey was the lion
of the Senate and then it got around that I had gotten the line of the
Lion of St. Johns .
P: It was compliment .
V: Yes, and then when I got into Jacksonville, why they made the St. Johns
River, so they got Jacksonville in on it, too, you know, but Martin had
P: You've relished that .
P: You've relished that, haven't you?
V: Yes, it's been amsuinag and I might say this that I don't know whether
you still got the recorder on'VIbut it's cost me a great deal to serve in
the Senate, particularly for the last four years. I had some opportunities
to make some pretty big sales, but I could not, I had intended not to run,
but when Fisher crossed over to run against me, I .
P: That was John Fisher .
V: I could not ignore that challenge. I felt that Kirk was trying the second
time to beat me, which he was he'd had his opportunity once and so I had
to run. But, and I'm not poverty stricken. I'm not wealthy by any means.
I have some property and it's gone up greatly in value. In fact, practically
everything I have is in property.
P: You have a daughter and you have grand children?
V: Yes, I do. I have, of course, one of the most charming wives. But you
asked me and touched on the point about my parents being deaf mutes and
whether that hurt or helped me. I think ithelped me tremendously. Like
so many children, I don't think they're any different, they never give
their parents credit for knowing nearly as much as they do. I think this
is a natural thing. I used to think it was because my parents were deaf,
but, of course, it wasn't that at all. You just reach a point where you
think that everybody else's parents know, but yours don't. But, I had a
very fine mother and one of the most charming fathers and a man of really
tremendous ability. He had great mechanical ability. He could do anything.
He could lay brick, he could wire a house, he could he was a tremendous
cabinet maker. He could do the most delicate type of work. He had a good
command of the English language and he blazed a trail for the :.employment of
deaf people. He went to Goodyear and talked them into employing some and
they are the largest employers of deaf people of any factory in the world.
IE'm very proud of him and after he had retired, the boy who he had taught
printing to, and was teaching printing at the school, his hearing came back.
When the war came along and he went in the service, he went in the navy he
was an officer and as far as I know, he's still in the navy. They asked
my father to come back out there and teach and he did after he retired and
he taught until his death and he worked until about two weeks before he died.
He was almost 90 his/death was fast, his mind was sharp, his memory.was
good he was a tremendous person and he was always very proud of me and
this always gave me a great feeling.
P: Senator, why did you resign?
V: Why did I what?
P: Why did you resign Froo'x e le V
V: Well, I thought you knew.
P: I think I do know, but I think we need to .
V: Well, I have a malignancy and while I did not think it was as serious as
it turned out that it was, it, if you will recall, the last two sessions,
I worked out of the hospital. I lived in the hospital and came to the
legislature and the sessions. Now, had it been one of those things that
they thought was benign, and originally they did, I would have run I would
have loved to have died in the Senate. I love the Senate.
P: I know that's been your life.
V: It's been my life. On the other hand, I think it would be terrible to
sit there and flounder through and then pose myself on my colleagues,
if I didn't have all of my energy and all of my faculties. You know, I have
always been a fighter. I don't know of any other way to do it, and I felt
it would be wrong. Had I run, I would have probably had to run from
Jacksonville. All of the polls had indicated I was the strongest man there
of all of the senators I would like to flatter myself in believe that I
could have gotten elected, but after getting some recent reports, particularly
from Mayo's, I knew that my days were numbered and I felt like it would be
wrong to try and-serve and it is a bone cancer. As you know, it is one of
the worse so far as pain and the ability to get around. So I decided I
would not run, but I'm gonna help the governor and stay on committees and
I'm gonna go as long as I can go.
P: Senator, whatever the future holds for you, you have lived a great life,
V: Well, I like to feel that I have. I've met some great people. Through my
wife, I've met some great writers. I've met some great people in the field
of government. I've enjoyed every minute of government. I've enjoyed
helping people, particularly ignorant, illiterate people. But just
having known where to turn a lot of people feel that you're wasting your
time, but I've enjoyed every minute of it.
P: You've lived as much already as a man who might have lived a thousand years.
V: Well, I love to hunt and fish and I've done some of that. I-ve-been through a
war and you can't, if you've been through it, you know you can't describe it.
P: You've been in really on everything that's gone on in the state for a long
V: Yes, and this has been my good fortune. I wouldn't change any of it. I,
of course, have made mistakes I wished I hadn't made. My feet are clay
feet they've done some things that are wrong like anyone else. If I .
If there's any spot that I think I've Eeally failed in, I hope that somebody
will take it up and do it right, but it plays out so fast. The press will
jump up on it and then in five minutes it's gone and it's our prison. system.
It's so horrible and the whole concept of it is so wrong. It's not just in
the prison. You can't correct it in the prison. It's in the district
attorneys, it's in the enforcement offices, it's in the courts, it's in all
of these places before it gets to the prison system. They talk about first
offenders and you get over andta.-t~- them closely and what they really mean
is it's the first time they got convicted in that prison. They got long
records they're hardened criminals before they ever get there. How are
you gonna help those kind of people?
F: To keep them from getting
V: Yes, I think our whole concept is wrong.- I think that we need to first
still e t- I- t- A k- (r-nA-t
a speedy trial, yes, then the-Senate should .get-~ and to do this,
I think you need one Senate sitting court with a lot of judges possibly in
it, but you need a certain standard. A man will go there committing one
offense and he gets three years; another man gets 20 years for committing
one that is far less serious. There's no consistency. It's very difficult
to rehabilitate that man. We1:re on the right track on some of our rehabilitation,
but no prison should have more than 300 in it.
P: Senator, do you think I could come back over sometime and talk a little
bit more about the Kirk Administration. There's so many things that we
really haven't talked about and I would really like todo that.
V: Yes, I'd be glad to talk to you .
P: This has been a magnificent day and I hope that you'll let us transcribe
this and use it because it's great history.
V: Go ahead and use it. Some people will probably resent what I've said, but
I won't be here very long so they better resent it and .
P: I was going to say, you told the truth, so that, you know.
V: That's right.
(Insertion of Side 2 Continued from Page 19)
V: thoroughly familiar with the slot machine bill, rather he was governor
when it was passed, I think he took everything he could get his hands on.
When he finished, he left the state. It was a horrible situation.
P: Do you think he ripped off the state for his own personal gain?
V: I think that he stole everything that he could steal that wasn't tied
down too tight and then left the state. He was succeeded by Governor
Cone and many people have called Governor Cone a do-nothing governor, but
the state has had so much done to it, it needed a rest when Cone came along
and he furnished it with a rest. I Cone himself, was a man of integrity.
I he was not outstanding but bear in mind that it was often hard to be
outstanding in that depression. It was a very difficult situation.
P: But Schultz was able to get some federal monies into Florida, which were
desperately needed because of the disconnection with Franklin Roosevelt,
V: Well, this might be true, but I think that money would have come in anyway.
It all came in on WPA and PWA and those things. It was a time when the
federal government was beginning, of course, with the brain trusts to start
the WPA and to try and start the share of the wealth situation, which we
continued really up to this point. This was the astounding thing about that
depression. It differed from most depressions in that most depressions are
caused by shortages of food. You have to have food and you can't find it and
you pay ridiculous prices for it and consequently, you don't have any money.
Well, the situation was the same. You didn't have any money but you had a
tremendous surplus of about every type of food that there was. The rural areas
as far as eating and sleeping was concerned, they could do this. The large
metropolitan areas these were the areas that were hurt because of an
inability to get food in. The food wouldn't bring enough money to pay the
freight and the transportation and this was terrible. And then, of course, the
people who suffered the worse, they were the people that 55-60, who had
been wealthy, very successful businessmen, but they just didn't have enough
left in them to come back. They were carrying waters, waterboys on the
WPA projects for six-seven dollars a week. Bear in mind they could only
work two weeks out of the month, too, because they didn't have that to go on.
I could give you an illustration of how things were. I gave my wife five
dollars a week to run the house on and she did a very good job with it and
we entertained, so this gives you some idea of how those prices were.
P: Senator, this was perhaps when you were still a young man, but what was the
influences of the Ku Klux Klan in this area ,during the 20's now?
V: The Ku Klux Klan had a flare up in the early 20's as I recall -- yes. Now,
this, I think they had added Catholics and Jews to their list of people they
hated. Some people have said there was a time when you couldn't get elected
to office in this state if you didn't belong to the Ku Klux. I think Jerry
Carver undoubtedly belonged to it and perhaps many of the others .
P: You did not belong?
V: No, sir, I never went into it. I had, oddly enough, I don't know why I
had many Jewish friends, I had Q holic friends, I had worked with some Jewish
people they had been good to me. And I, of course, accord the concept.
They appointed themselves in so many cases as people who determined also
the morals by which you should live by. They would take some man out and
horse whip him if they thought he mistreated his wife and I always said it
was full of people who wanted to get in on the inside because they were
afraid if they weren't on the inside, they'd get horse whipped because
they knew they deserved it. But, of course, to me, that was one mistake
that I never made. I was asked to join, of course, several times but I
P: Senator, let's move into the political situation of the 30's. You did not
like Schultz obviously and you felt that his administration was bad for Florida.
Yet, he was personally not a very moral man .
V: That is correct.
P: And that he stole a lot. Did he surround himself was the state
surrounded with .
V: He was surrounded by people who were largely supporters from the Elks.
Schultz was a big Elk. He had made this one of his main things traveling
around. As I recall, he was president of the state Elks' association. He
was a Daytona attorney. I had met him many times. I was quite active in
the Elks somewhere around that period. I was in his company many times. I
spoke maybe, I shouldn't .
P: Was he personally a man who was socially graceful?
V: Well, apparently he had some type of magnetic appeal because he had people
who worked for him and worked very hard for him. I fund him compulsive.
Perhaps because he was such a glutton. I found him personally compulsive.
P: Do you mean a glutton personally .
V: I mean a glutton personally. You check his weight. It was nothing for
him to eat 6-8 eggs for breakfast, two or three stacks of hotcakes, it was
unbelievable. He ate himself in the grave and he must have had some mis-
givings or he wouldn't have left here so soon.
P: What about Fred Cone? Were you personally friendly with the governor?
V: Oh, yes. Cone had been to some extent active in the Elks and I was too.
Cone was a man that you heard for many, many years that he ought to be
governor someday he'll be governor.
P: He was a quiet country banker.
V: He never ran, you see, but he was always gonna run but didn't and then he
was quite old when he made the promise, you see.
P: Had a young wife as I remember.
V: Yes, yes. I'm not sure whether he married her before he became governor or
afterwards somewhere in the campaign. I believe her name's Mildred. Now
she was not a bad person. She tried to help him everywhere that she could and
I think she was a big help to him. He had great big ears and I'll never
forget one time. There was a group of people in there you know how
you go into the governor's office about 15 people want to see him and
he would / those ears, you know, and he would say, here you are bothering
me with those rabbits when the woods is full of elephants and the expression
that I never forgot and had a lot of color to it. But Cone was colorful he
P: Was he able?
V: He was reasonably able.
P: His brother handled so many things
V: Hss brother was horrible, this is true. What graft went on and so forth,
I think probably followed that channel, but it's been said if you offered
him more than 50-100, he thought you were kidding him.
P: He lived in Lake City so long .
V: He, ,/ Iyp/ offered him fifty dollarsyou might get something _
but if you offered him more than that, he thought you were kidding him.
I think there might have been some truth in it, I believe.
P: His brother was obviously a more practical man.
V: Yes sir, apparently so. He was quite a I think and
P: The brother or Fred?
V: The brother, not Fred, no as far as I know, Governor Cone's habits were
always good. He' /A-c 2~ar4. He used a lot of practical sense
and I would say this that under one set of conditions you would consider
him extremely mediocre and totally inadequate, but in the position that
Florida was in at that time, we certainly needed a period of recovery and
he furnished us that period of recovery.
P: How did you react to Spessard Holland?
V: Well, I always had a very high regard for Spessard Holland. You asked me
how I got into politics and I guess I always subconsciously, why I didn't
realize I had some ambitions. I had worked in local election a great deal
even before I was old enough to vote. I had campaigned for Earl Smith and
made speeches for Earl Smith. I was scared to death. I started using an
outline. I never wrote my speeches but I started off using some small out-
lines and so I would at every opportunity look in on the legislature. I was
subsequently elected to the board of county commissioners by some 19 votes
and this threw me in contact and Spessard Holland was a member of the Florida
State Senate at that time. He was a young man with grey hair a man of
dignity. He conducted himself as I thought a senator should conduct himself.
He apparently made a good state senator and made a good governor. Now, in
national politics, sometimes he followed lines that were probably more con-
servative than I would have followed, but I thought that all in all, he
furnished us with a good stablizing force that we needed then. You must bear
in mind that if everybody was extremely liberal or extremely conservative,
the product would be extreme and this wouldn't be good and I think that what
we get by having a mixture is that we get something in between which usually
is better but not always.
P: Let's see, in '40, he outran both Fuller Warren and Francis **
V: Francis Whitehair was a man who was a product of the Fish faction. The fish
faction was the most powerful faction in the State of Florida; I would say almost
up to that time. Everyone in the state apparently and this is information that
I gained after my days because I was always a pretty gullible sort.:of-person in
the field of politics and idealistic and thank God I never lost my idealism.
But apparently everybody went with Fish to find out what the ropes were and all
the attorneys did and they more or less decided what was what.
P: Tell us who Bert Fish was.
P;Tell us who Bert Fish .
V: Bert Fish was an attorney.- He had a rather large firm of lawyers.
V: In Deland and he dished out, more or less, the patronage of the state. He
was somewhat unselfish about it among the attorneys and this is why he retained
his great power. Now, Francis Whitehair, the Fish faction in politics and the
Dayton and Volusia county area particularly, you were either in the faction
or you were out and if you were out, they wouldn't allow anybody to trade with
you -- they'd run you out of the area. There was no limit that they would go
to. As Daytona grew, it became bigger than Deland the the first man to oppose
the Fish faction was Armstrong. Armstrong had been a member of the Fish faction.
P; What's Armstrong's first name?
V: Mayor I've forgotten his first name. But he was mayor of Daytona. Now
he was a product of the Fish faction originally, but he rebelled and he was
able to get elected and this was the beginning of the downfall of the power
of the Fish faction in the state. The. They controlled the huge bond
issues and they had great cumber1of bond stuff that went on during the depression.
P: These are the cumbers from Jacksonville .
V: No, no, this was a different group not that group at all. Now, they passed
legislation that was always beneficial to the bond hope that the homestead
exemption was passed as giving something to the little man. The real purpose
of it was that if you didn't have to pay operational taxes, they knew that you
had to pay your bond and tac indebtedness and consequently, the bond holder
would get his money and that was the real underlying purpose. It was really
one of the biggest hoaxes ever pulled on the public of the State of Florida.
But, he had done that. Now, Whitehair went up campaigning with a very iron hand.
He would walk in and tell you he's gonna be the next governor. If you wanted
to get on the bandwagon, all right, he'd put your name down, and if you didn't
that was all right, too. He came into my office and we had a candidate from
here, Walter Frazier, running for governor. I told him that we had a candidate.
I thought that I should support the local man first, but I would consider
him in the second primary. I knew my man wasn't gonna win and he said, well,
when he got to be governor, the first thing he was gonna do was remove me from
public office. So I told him immediately I said you might be governor, but
you'll never be governor with my vote.
P:You were on the county commission then?
V: I was he was on the county commission of welfare board. He was. .
the welfare board didn't amount to anything, so the he went from that
to please elect himas governor and I'll make you a good governor. Now, Spessard
Holland, of course, moved up. Fuller Warren, who practically had no financing
and had he been elected that time he might have made a better governor than he
did later, but he was the boy wonder. I remember Fuller immediately .
P: He was young and inexperienced then. .
V: No, but he had some ideas and many times this is worth more than experience.
He met me outside and said, Verle, if I could get my hands on $500, I know
that I'd be the next governor of the State of Florida and I think it was
true. Whitehair ran second instead of first, Holland ran first and khm if
the race had another week to go, Fuller Warren would have been second. He was
very, very close behind Whitehair and, of course, Holland was elected. Now
I married one of the finest people in the world. Her name was Edith Taylor.
She was a novelist and a writer.
P: Yes, I know Mrs. Taylor. .
V, And so you know what that situation was. Her father had served in the State
Senate and whether that had anything to do with me wanting to serve I don't
know. I had run for the House .
P: She was an Abrams, wasn't she?
V: No, she was a Taylor -- Taylor. Now, her father was A.M. Taylor and
he was Abraham M. Taylor he was not Jewish, but he
P; I know that was a biblical name.
V: This may have subconsciously had something to do with me running for it, but
I had always .
P: May I just break in a moment and ask you how you happened to get married in
V: Well, we ran off and got married. He was opposed to the marriage. Her mother
had been she was dead. Actually, I don't think he wanted her to marry any-
body, but he was all involved in some bank stuff the banks going broke, he
was a trustee and he was worried and to tell you the truth, he was broke, too.
My wife didn't know it, but he was. So we went we ran off and got
married in Gainesville and I don't know but/we announced if for 5 or 6 months.
I remember telling her one time, now, you either tell him or hell, let's get
a divorce and start over. Well, she told him. But at any rate, I had always
promised myself that I would never run for a job that paid me any money; where
I had to be dependent on that job for a living. I had seen men that had gotten
into such circumstances that they had to sacrifice their principles at an age
in life in which they were too old to make a start somewhere else and it was
such a pathetic thing to watch some of the men. I saw it happen to E. N.
Calhoun the great grandson of Calhoun of the Civil War and it destroyed him
and I promised myself that I wouldn't allow that to happen. So I would never
run for a job that paid any money and the Senate, of course, didn't. I had
run for the House before the war, I mean during the war, We had gotten into
the war and I got into the race and I couldn't get 4, because the man who
was running against me was just not what he ought to be. So, I went into the
army on election day. in the Air Force, I went back into the Air Force.
P: That was back to your old love anyway.
V; Yes, and I went overseas and served over there as a combat intelligence officer
and navigator and flew a few missions. When I came out, I went back in the
real estate insurance business .
P; In St, Augustine .
V: And then I, instead of running for the House I had two very good friends
who were in the House and I didn't want to run against then, so I waited and
ran for the Senate .
P: This was in '50?
V: This was in '48, same year .
P: End of Miller Caldwell's .
V: Miller Caldwell was just going out.
P: Yeah, he was just going out.
V: And Fuller Warren and Dan McCarty were running and Fuller won.
P: What about Miller?
P: What about Caldwell?
V; Well, Caldwell, I never knew too well. He was from West Florida. He had
been in the House and as far as I know, he never served in the Senate I
think he served in the House. He ran for Congress, then he ran for governor
for the State of Florida when Lex Green ran. This was during the war and
Lex Green had a record, of course, of a pork barrel politician he came from
Starke. I knew Lex well. You have to have some sympathy from these people
when you know what area they came from and how desperate some of their con-
stituents were. I never approved of what Charlie Johns did His enemies
could do no right and his friends could do no wrong. Charlie was pork barrel
all the way. But Charlie was from a poor area. They needed assistance from
somebody and Charlie gave it to them and that was why you couldn't defeat him
within his own area.
P: This Lex did the same thing.
V: Lex did exactly the same thing, yes, exactly the same thing and .
P: Camp Blanding is an example.
V: That is an illustration and this is the only way they could stay in office,
and, of course, Bob Sykes does the same thing. Now when I did go to the
Senate, I as I told you, I was an idealistic. I've always been.
Barbara Fry laughs at me a lot of times about it she did then, but I went
to the Senate and it was a bad session. They were trying to pass the race
riot bill that was bad and obviously was against the best interests of the
counties and obviously there was a lot of money being passed out and I
thought this was very bad.
P: Of course, a lot of money had gone into support Fuller in his campaign.
V: This is right.
P: Wilson's $150,000 Johnson's .
V: This is true. And while' I probably shouldn't say this, I'm gonna say it,
the gangsters were about ready to take over the State of Florida. They had
they tried to take over Tampa, the numbers racket, and some of them there
wasn't gonna let it be taken over without a fight and there was some killing.
P: Schumaker nearly got killed on that.
V: That's right. Now had it not been for Kefauver and had Kefauver not come in
the State of Florida at that time, I don't know what would have happened in
the State of Florida. We were so close to being taken over in the high levels
of government by gangsters that it just wasn't funny.
P: You're talking about from the very top down?
V: I'm talking from the top down. Now, Florida will always have to watch that.
I have strongly opposed a state-managed constabulary, so to speak. And fre-
quently many of them ask why? Well, we need better law enforcement. Of course
we need better law enforcement, but the assumption that if it's run from the
state that it'll be good, but if it's run locally, it'll be bad, this assumption
is not correct. Now the great tragedy of having it run from the state is
that when it goes bad, there's almost no recovery. Any motion that you make to
improve it. Somebody runs a bullet through you and nobody bothers to find out
about who did it. I think what happened in Chicago with Al Capone is an
excellent illustration. He could do anything in the state that he wanted to
do. He controlled it from the very high positions of office and the only
thing in the world that he was ever convicted of was an income tax law viola-
tion. That's the only conviction they ever got.
P: Senator, who did you support in '48? Did you support Fuller or did you support
V: No, I supported McCarty. I was tempted to support Fuller and I knew I
didn't have a very high regard for Fuller's ability. I knew he had a great
command of his oratory, but .
P: But that was it?
V: That was it, and to tell you the truth Well, I knew Fuller much
better than I did Dan, but .
P: I would have thought maybe you supported Bill Shands.
V: No, no, no, I didn't support Shands. I came from this territory but I felt
that Shands was more special interest and my daughter started crying when I
said that I thought I'd vote for Fuller and to tell you the truth, it probably
shouldn't influence him? but she had more sense than I did and I supported
Dan. I just went ahead and supported him and she wasn't but about nine years
old, but I told Dan once. I said, well, Dan, you owe my support to my nine-
year old daughter.
P: Personally, what was wrong with Fuller? He wasn't a liquor head? He didn't run
after the women?
V: No. I don't know. I think in many ways, Fuller is a pathetic case. He lives
in a of a that needs adoration he grows on it, he feeds on it.
He will spend a great deal of time on his personal appearance, before a mirror
and things of that type. Actually, the program which Fuller offered to the State
of Florida in lieu of the sales tax was not a bad program.
P; Sure getting the cows off the highway.
V: Well, but from a tax standpoint, he proposed a severance tax that was a good
tax. He proposed a severance tax on timber and had the poor people accepted
it and frozen the ad valorem taxes, it would have been much better off.
P: Why do you feel that way about the sales tax?
V: Why do I feel that it would have what?
P: You sounded like you opposed the sales tax. .
V: I didn't oppose the sales tax. I did oppose the 3 percent so-called luxury
sales tax, because the luxuries turned out to be exempting heavy equipment and
drag lines and special interests .
P: In addition to food and medicine?
V: Senator Shivers and I had a one percent sales tax bill. It would have provided
more money and had absolutely no exemptions.
P: Of course, you were a freshman senator that session, so you didn't have very
much power did you?
V: Well, I didn't have much, but I was doing a lot of talking. Now Shivers
and I had agreed to that. Sturgeous had agreed to go with us .
P: This is Sturgeous from Ocala?
V: Yes. He had agreed to go with us and several other leaders had agreed to go
P: This was an across-the-board, one percent sale?
V: One percent sales tax. Now Hank Bannard said Verle, I can't support it.
I'm pledged against the sales tax but you got a good bill and I will ... I
certainly won't oppose it. I won't do a thing in the world to oppose it.