Title: Governor LeRoy Collins
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Title: Governor LeRoy Collins
Physical Description: Book
Language: English
Creator: Collins, Leroy ( Interviewee )
Bass, Jack ( Interviewer )
De Vries, Walter ( Interviewer )
Jaros, Joe ( Transcriber )
Publisher: Samuel Proctor Oral History Program
Place of Publication: Gainesville, Fla.
Publication Date: May 19, 1974
Copyright Date: 1974
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Bibliographic ID: UF00005580
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
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LeRoy Collins

This is an interview with LeRoy Collins, former governor of Florida. The interview was
conducted in Tallahassee, Florida, by Jack Bass and Walter De Vries on May 19, 1974.
The interview is from the Southern Oral History Program in the Southern Historical
Collection, University of North Carolina Library, Chapel Hill.

pp. 1-3: Collins opens the interview by discussing the senatorial race in 1968 in which he ran
against Ed Gurney. He says the choice was simple: vote for a liberal--himself--or vote for a
conservative--Ed Gurney. He adds that during the political campaign the liberal-conservative
difference was based "almost wholly" on race. And it was the race issue that defeated him, he
says. In the previous election, Collins recalls that the subject of race was not mentioned in the
gubernatorial race, and blacks were not demanding political stances on this issue. Collins then
describes George Wallace's popularity in Florida in 1968. He focuses on Wallace's well-
financed and coordinated campaign, and the fact that a vote for Wallace was a vote against
LeRoy Collins who stood as a liberal on the race issue.

pp. 4-8: Collins refers to a speech he gave the previous evening to an audience filled with blacks
and whites. The speech reviewed race relations since Brown versus The Board of Education of
Topeka, Kansas (1954), and he paid tribute to blacks' progress. He also said in this speech that
the gates opened to desegregation, civil rights, and opportunities as a result of people dying
together, going to jail together, marching to Washington, and other such pressures to change.
Collins refers in his speech as going to these gates of opportunities and getting through them He
talked about the low level of education among blacks today (1974) and also the poor quality of
some teachers who instruct these black students. His speech also targeted the less than 1 percent
of black lawyers in Florida and adds that more blacks should be admitted to Florida law schools.
The last part of his speech, he says, focused on the "general malaise in the country," especially
Watergate and campaign financing beholden to special interests. Since he ran for senator in
1968, Collins sees Florida politics changing in that politicians are now actively seeking the black
vote.

pp. 8-11: Collins then discusses serving as director of Community Relations Services, which
was created as part of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. He says he had no reluctance in accepting
this position. He felt he could have done much more for race relations as governor, but knew he
was limited at the time by how far he could go. He was aware of the strain of the times in the
South, and recalls going on statewide TV to say he "wanted to find proper solutions for these
[racial] problems and solve them by communicating back and forth and not out in the streets with
blood and thunder." He used the phrase "morally wrong," two words that produced "tremendous
reaction." But Collins says this racial tension was a sign of the times, that is, the intensity of
those racial feelings.









pp. 12-13: Collins says that during this turbulent period in the 1950s of racial problems, he
wished he could have done more. The thinking at that time, he describes, was that smart lawyers
could get around Brown versus The Board of Education on school integration. He recalls the
Florida Legislature passing a bill to circumvent this Supreme Court ruling, and as governor he
had no legal way to prevent it. So when the bill came across his desk, he remembers writing on
it, "This is wrong. This issue was settled in the Civil War and we have gotten beyond that. . ."
Collins called all the county school superintendents to get them to institute desegregation; they
said they were powerless.

pp. 13-15: Collins says that the attitude toward race relations and reapportionment in the
legislature have been the two major changes in Florida politics in the past twenty-five years. He
also mentions educational expansion during his six years as governor, and Florida instituting the
community college program and building the University of South Florida in Tampa. He also
cites the construction of expressways in major Florida cities and attracting more economic
development to the state.

pp. 15-18: Regarding reapportionment, Collins believes that Florida had quite a struggle because
it tried to do it before the Supreme Court mandated it. He says Florida was not apportioned well.
The problem, he recalls, is that the change had to come through the legislature, so he called
special sessions. He speaks about the referendum but was renounced by city newspaper
editorials saying this was a bad strategy, and thus the people voted it down. Then the U.S.
Supreme Court ordered the process of reapportionment. Collins believes that during this phase,
the "level of intelligence and the level of competence of the legislators has substantially
increased."

pp. 18-19: Collins recalls his twenty years in the Florida Legislature, working alongside "some
crooked people and a lot of honest people," many of the latter "motivated by the opportunity to
render public service." He talks about many of the "wasted public expenditures" and, at the same
time, these legislators were guilty of the same kind of waste in handling their own expenses.
Collins feels strongly that legislators should be committed to public service and the public should
come first rather than how these lawmakers can effect change for some special purpose not
consistent to the public interest. Collins cites the defense argument that legislators who have the
higher salaries and big staffs have become more independent from lobbyists, but he adds that the
number of lobbyists has mushroomed as have their efforts to influence.

pp. 20-22: Collins then speaks about taking a position as the president of the National
Association of Broadcasters in 1961, serving for three years, and then being part of Johnson's
Administration in 1964 as director of Community Relations Services, created under Title X of
the Civil Rights Act. He remembers President Johnson being very persuasive in asking him to
take on this job as director.

pp. 22-26: Collins discusses the three marches in Selma, Alabama--the first one on March 7,
1965, which resulted in bloodshed. He says President Johnson asked him to go to the second









advertised march two days later. He says he tried to talk Martin Luther King, Jr., into a
compromise whereby he and his followers would cross the bridge to a certain point and then turn
around in order to avoid more blood. King said he wasn't sure if his followers would abide by
this compromise, but it worked. Collins stood with the troops at the barricades, and the
marchers--about 10,000 to 12,000--stopped, prayed, and then sang. He adds, "If I hadn't done
anything else in my lifetime but get involved in that, I would have felt that I had something to
feel good about." Then two weeks later on March 21, 25,000 marchers finally crossed the bridge
to go on toward Montgomery. Collins was on this third march. He remembers talking to some
blacks at Brown's Chapel before the march and seeing a young black girl being treated for a
gunshot wound. He remembers seeing soldiers gathered around these marchers, the soldiers
saying they were there to protect the crowds, but Collins was skeptical. He says he spent part of
the march just dealing with the troops and marchers regarding places of encampment and what
they would do after reaching Montgomery. He recalls ironing out some details with King as they
were marching.

pp. 26-28: Collins tells about the camera crews in trucks who focused on the marchers, and at
one point, one cameraman took a photo of him, which made him look as if he were leading the
entire march. This photo was widely distributed in his 1968 campaign for the U.S. Senate. He
talks about having to work with Governor Wallace's point man, Colonel Lingo, during the
march, Colonel Lingo.

p. 28: Collins believes that the Voting Rights Act, which was passed in August 1965, came as a
direct result of the Sehna March. He recalls that when he was governor in the 1950s, very few
blacks voted, perhaps out of intimidation. The Voting Rights Act broke all the barriers, he says,
and now there is a large black constituency voting.

pp. 28-30: Collins then discusses the waves of "New South" governors emerging from 1944 to
1974. He thinks the term "New South" has been misused and overused because most of the
changes were national in scope, rather than regional. He talks, however, about the industrial
development in the South that came after the war, and especially during his early term as
governor. But Collins also feels that the "greatest single fact that has changed has been the
emergence of the black man as a participant in the whole society." It is that participation, he
says, that has "influenced enormous changes." Collins does not think in terms of "New South,"
but rather that the country has awakened to its "national responsibility," which has influenced the
South and affected the region more dramatically than any other part of the country because of the
number of poorer blacks here. The blacks, he states, had been denied more opportunities in the
South so they had much more to gain. Also, he believes that the South was moving away from a
rural society, which greatly impacted the blacks. This movement also created a single class to
some extent, he feels, rather than two black and white classes. Collins believes that there are still
"strong feelings of resentment and unhappiness as the black man emerges more on the basis of
equality."

pp. 30-32: Collins thinks that the South is losing its distinctive characteristics. Urbanization is









contributing to this change, he says, because farm life and small community life with close-knit
families held some values that are lost in that process.

pp. 32-34: When asked if the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 had a
liberating political influence, Collins answers that that effect applies to other southern states, not
so much for Florida. He states that political leadership in Florida has not "come into being
because of the impetus racial feeling." He adds, however, that during his 1968 senatorial race,
that issue became part of the opposition's tactic against him. Collins also recalls running for a
full-termn governorship after he completed filling out the expired term, 1954-1956. In 1956, he
ran against Sumter Lowry of Tampa who ran on the race issue.

p. 34: Collins does not consider Florida a southern state, except by geography and climate. He
thinks the nation is getting "more homogenized" and that Florida is not going to be
"distinguishable so far as black and white people are concerned," as compared to the rest of the
country. He says race relations in Florida are "better than they are in other parts of the nation."

pp. 34-36: Concerning the Florida press corps's uniqueness in the South, its aggressiveness and
size, Collins calls attention to the "extraordinarily strong papers" in St. Petersburg, Tampa,
Miami, Orlando, and Jacksonville, all of which are "editorially strong." All these newspapers
have maintained a powerful press corps in Tallahassee, he states. He goes on to say how much
he loves the South and its lifestyles that cannot be found in other parts of the country.

pp. 36-37: Collins compares Lyndon Johnson's tackling the race issue with Richard Nixon's
tactics on that issue. Collins knows that Johnson wanted to effect change and he had the strong
personality to do it--not to mention his close ties with Congress in which he could legislate
change. Nixon, Collins says, was more "covert rather than overt." He believes that Nixon--the
current president--would rather let others under him work for better race relations although he
"recognizes that the trend of history calls for positive action."

pp. 37-38: Collins then discusses the current governor of Florida, Reubin Askew, and his strong
stance on busing. He describes the governor as a "very clean man, a man of very solid integrity,"
and talks about Askew limiting campaign contributions to no more than $100 from individuals.
He feels that with the present Watergate issue, Florida residents "have a sense of real release and
satisfaction" in Governor Askew. Collins does not feel that Askew's opponent in the fall
elections of 1974, his lieutenant governor, Tom Adams, will have much of a chance. But if it is a
close race, then he says it will be an advantage for the Republican candidate, Jerry Thomas, who
is running as a reform candidate.





FROM THE s.o.H .i. 400-o7.
SOUTHERN T 'L COLLECTION, THE LIBRARY OF
THE UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA AT CHAPEL HILL


Interview with


LEROY COLLINS


May 19, 1974

Tallahassee, Florida

By Jack Bass and Walter De Vrfes

Transcribed by Joe Jaros

For the Southern Oral History Program


R9-lv


From the Southern Oral History Program, #4007, Interview R-94 in the Southern Historical Collection,
University of North Carolina Library, Chapel Hill. FOR REFERENCE ONLY: PERMISSION TO
PUBLISH MUST BE REQUESTED. WARNING: MOST MANUSCRIPTS ARE PROTECTED BY COPYRIGHT.














LeRoy Collins: . that and I was a liberal. All that

Gurney said was, "This choice is simple. He is a liberal and I'm

a conservative. Make your choice."

Jack Bass: Governor, would that work today?

Collins: Not as well, I don't think, but it still has its

strength.

Walter De Vries: And the liberal-conservative difference is

based on race?

Collins: Yes, sir. Almost wholly.

W.D.V.: Is that as strong today?

Collins: My record actually is quite conservative in fiscal

matters and quite liberal in the area of human relations, but I get

quite upset really, now, with the view of

and all in government. I think that the federal government and the

is going hog wild. It would seem that way. I'm not

in touch with it and I don't want to be like some people that I've

known who after they went off the scene, didn't feel like things ever

went quite as well since. I made a great deal of

but this, I don't know whether he is really deeply concerned about

this. Of course, it has been fantastic, I think far beyond anything

normal, any normal need of population growth or these other factors.

One of the big reasons for it is the legislature, because it has led

the way. It is totally different from the way it used to be and in

some respects, it is argued that it is much better, but I don't know.

W.D.V.: Everybody that we've talked to says that it is better.




From the Southern Oral History Program, #4007, Interview 9-4'1 in the Southern Historical Collection,
University of North Carolina Library, Chapel Hill. FOR REFERENCE ONLY: PERMISSION TO
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page 2 Collins


Collins: I think that it is better but at the same time, I

think that it has lost something, because they have lost the position

of being a check against the other phases of government, the executive

and particularly the administrative. They create their own staffs to

the extent that they have, I hope that you can go down there and see

the offices and they are just crawling over with staff people for the

legislators. I didn't see this in the paper, but somebody told me that

it came out in the paper the other day that they want to pay $2,000 for

individual desks in the house, that they are going to do that over and

they are going to have closed television, closed circuit television sets

for each desk and just all kinds of things that to me, are not in line

with the conservative approach to expenditures that we certainly should

have in a time when we've got inflation and a time when paying taxes

are very difficult for the people, because its too much in many ways for

what their income is. I mention that in starting because I am pointing

out that I am actually quite conservative, I think, in many aspects of

my thinking. But in the area of human relations, in the area of getting

something done about the disadvantaged, the blacks and getting them to

a level where they can participate with even a sembalance of equal

opportunity, I'm really strong in that area. I think that has been the

really great failure of this country since its beginning, that it is

not rectifying that.

W.D.V.: You think that it was the race issue that defeated you?

Collins: Yes. No doubt about it.

W.D.V.: You think that can happen again today, in Florida, an

open attempt to defeat somebody on the basis of race?





From the Southern Oral History Program, #4007, Interview A-t9 in the Southern Historical Collection,
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page 3 Collins


Collins: Well, it remains to be seen, because last year

everybody decided that they didn't want race talked at all. There

was no issue made. The blacks didn't make any issue. This is the

last time we elected a governor, when Askew ran. He didn't have to

get involved at all in this area and there was no criticism back

and forth and the blacks themselves were rather submerged. They

weren't demanding positions from candidates on this kind of thing.

So, it was . people were just fed up with it in my campaign and

the other campaigns that went at that time. Wallace was running at

the same time that I was and Nixon was running at the same time that

I was. Subsequently, they changed the times of the election of

governors to the off years, they will not have it during federal

elections. It would have helped me if it had been so, if we hadn't

had them all at the same time. Wallace was tremendously popular in

Florida. He drew many more crowds and a great deal more vocal

support and obvious support than any candidate for president.

J.B.: Did the fact that Wallace was actively campaigning for

president in '68 when you were making your Senate race,did that hurt

you in the sense of bringing fully to the surface all the submerged

racial feEing?

Collins: Yes, it sure did. And it hurt me in the sense that the

Wallace people were organized and they were getting their people out

to vote. They had a real strong campaign, well financed and everytime

they got someone to the polls to vote, they weren't voting for me.

W.D.V.: Do you think that race issue would work again in a

statewide campaign? Do you think that it is submerged forever, or was





From the Southern Oral History Program, #4007, Interview 09-41 in the Southern Historical Collection,
University of North Carolina Library, Chapel Hill. FOR REFERENCE ONLY: PERMISSION TO
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page 4 Collins


that just an abberation?

Collins: Well, I think if I ran, it probably would surface

again pretty strongly. I made a speech last night right there in

that hotel where you are staying, to a group of the Florida Voters

League, their closing banquet, what I said there would probably project

that issue again, because they regard me as a kind of an extremist.

I don't think I'm extreme in that area. I think that I'm in line

with the constitution and in line with the right, but still, Askew

is not a man to get involved or say the things that I will say.

Lawton Chiles, when he was running for the United States Senate, he

didn't say the things that I would say.

J.B.: What was the thrust of your message last night?

Collins: Well, there were three parts. One, I made a review

of what had already happened in race relations,since the twentieth

anniversary of the Brown decision was recently, and I rationalized

what that had done with other Supreme Court decisions of the past

and I mentioned the involvement of the blacks and paid tribute to

them insofar as the progress that was made following that. This was

not something that people, because of what they thought in Sunday

School or what they thought about the Constitution, were willing to

support, that it took the pressures and the march on Washington and

out of that came the Civil Rights Act of 1964, out of Selma came the

Voting Rights Act that Johnson advocated, and that actually, the black

people working together and praying together, singing together, going

to jail together, dying together, was the real cause of the country's

moving to open the gates of opportunities. Then, the middle part of





From the Southern Oral History Program, #4007, Interview 9-`"? in the Southern Historical Collection,
University of North Carolina Library, Chapel Hill. FOR REFERENCE ONLY: PERMISSION TO
PUBLISH MUST BE REQUESTED. WARNING: MOST MANUSCRIPTS ARE PROTECTED BY COPYRIGHT.







page 5 Collins


my speech had to do with going to the gates and the ability to get

through the gates. This was emphasized by Johnson at Howard University,

I don't know whether you remember that or not, but he made a very, very

strong speech. It wasn't regarded at the time as being very strong.

I told him at the White House that I thought that was a very strong

speech and he seemed a little surprised himself. But this was what

he was taking about, the next phase of this had to be assisting people

to have the ability to get through these gates. So, I talked in terms

of what should be done now in regard to that, I mentioned the schools,

this educational situation and I dealt rather candidly with them about

a number of things. For example, that report fairly recently about

how over a million children between twelve -and seventeen years of age,

black children in the United States, had only theequivalent of fourth

grade ability to read and write. So, I stressed the point that they

had had twelve years of schooling, but only four years of education.

I mentioned what I think is the vicious circle in education, you know,

of where a child goes to school from a home environment that is almost

totally bereft of any cultural advantages or development and he gets

the teacher that comes from the other end of the cycle that he gets

involved in. He is pushed right on through grade after grade and passed

although he hasn't really learned the equivalent of what he should have

learned at that time in his life and then he-:goes to a college where

the standards are inferior and so they push people right on through

and then they get qualified as teachers and come back down and start

teaching as inferior teachers teaching the inferior children. So,

what has happened is that our best teachers are being given the




From the Southern Oral History Program, #4007, Interview '-9? in the Southern Historical Collection,
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page 6 Collins


easiest jobs and the least qualified are given the hardest assignments,

assignments that they are just not competent to deliver. I said to

them last night that the job that must be done for these children is

to get the best qualified teachers that they can get regardless of what

the color may be. Then I mentioned the legal situation, this kind of

distresses me, I'm a lawyer. We've got 15% of our people in Florida that

are black and less than 1% of the lawyers in Florida are black. We

don't know exactly just how many because somebody for some motivation

that I don't understand, hides these statistics of whether a lawyer

is black or white. As a consequence, if you go to the Florida Bar,

they won't tell you, they can't tell you how many black lawyers we

have. When they make an application to pass the law examining bar,

they don't disclose it there and for the last two or threesessions, they

tell me that they try to look out over the audience of these people

taking the examination and write down the number and they have come

up with different figures. It is ridiculous. Anyhow, it is certainly

less than one percent and this is wrong. I think that we should take

more in the Florida law schools that are black, but still at the rate

that we take them, we have made a minuscule effort, really, to bridge

any gap in the quality of opportunity. I said very frankly that I

thought these law schools ought to take more blacks and that they

ought to insist upon these schools making the adjustments that would

allow for blacks, whether it meant changing the budgets or changing

some of their rules, I still thought they ought to let more in.

There is a case pending before the United States Supreme Court in

Washington now that is quite a subject of interest, of whether a white





From the Southern Oral History Program, #4007, Interview A-'V? in the Southern Historical Collection,
University of North Carolina Library, Chapel Hill. FOR REFERENCE ONLY: PERMISSION TO
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page 7 Collins


a white man who had a LSAT score that was higher than a black was

denied entry and he was claiming that this was denying his equal

opportunities by not allowing him to go when they have allowed these

blacks to go with lesser scores: The Supreme Court hasn't passed

on that.

W.D.V.: I thought they did, I thought they said . .

Collins: Well, they said that it was moot, because actually

he had come in and graduated, they had let him on in. That's the

way they decided. That was the middle part of my talk and the third

part of my talk had nothing with race really, it had to do with the

general malaise in the country, Watergate and I was trying really,

to bring them into it, to talk to them as I would to any group, not

because they were black, but because they were American citizens.

So, that was the third part of my talk and I mentioned some of the

evils that I currently see on the national scene that called for

some specific improvements and changes. These would be publicly

financed campaigns above minimal support and not contributive. This

is something that I think the federal government should start at

the presidential and Congressional level. I don't think that there

is any question but that you can see that our democratic process

is hobbled and crippled by virtue of influence that comes from

campaign contributors. This comes right to the center of whether or

not the system can work. I think that you need to get that freed in

order to see if free enterprise can work, because free enterprise can't

work under the present system when Congressmen and president and the

people that are going to run things are beholden to special interests for





From the Southern Oral History Program, #4007, Interview q-'V in the Southern Historical Collection,
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page 8 Collins


for their right to be there to rule and to govern. I think this is

quite important and I mentioned several things of this kind in the

third part of it.

W.D.V.: How did they react?

Collins: Oh, they were very friendly. We had quite a few

candidates down there. . .

W.D.V.: What kinds of questions did they ask?

Collins: We had two supreme court judges, we had one cabinet

member, the secretary of agriculture. We had Mallory Home down there,

who is president of the senate and who is a candidate for the United

States Senate and quite a few candidates for the legislature to speak

to a pretty good group of people. They were from all over the state.

But Home and these others are even now dropping the idea that

is the liberal in the campaign, so they seek some advantage from that.

W.D.V.: But does that mean the same thing that it did six

years ago?

Collins: I don't think that it means the same thing that it

did six years ago, but I think that it is still kind of a code word

as far as race relations are concerned and yet, Home and all these

others are actively seeking black help, openly, like his presence there

last night.

W.D.V.: Is that different from six years ago?

Collins: Yes it is, I believe so.

W.D.V.: So, there is that change?

Collins: Yes.

W.D.V.: Still using code words but seeking black support.

Collins: Yes, I think so. They are more open about that, but I



From the Southern Oral History Program, #4007, Interview A-q7 in the Southern Historical Collection,
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page 9 Collins


think that this has been an adjustment that has also been contributed

to by the fact that the blacks are everywhere, in public accommodations,

and there is an easing of the tension that we had a few years back.

J.B.: Would you have had a meeting of something like the

Vaers League six years ago and had it in something like the downtown

Holiday Inn in Tallahassee?

Collins: Six years ago, I think so. I don't know if the

Holiday Inn was there six years ago, I doubt if you would have had

the . .

J.B.: You would not have had the outpouring of public officials

six years ago?

Collins: No, I don't think that we would have and I don't think

that we would have . .well, they were accepting them in hotels

six years ago, but now . that was the beginning point of this and

increasing acceleration and now just wide open. You can have it at

any hotel or motel, any restaurant. I think that you will find

public places totally accepting. The old statutes: are out.

J.B.: Did you have any reluctance to take the Community

Relations Director job, you went into that when, '64?

Collins: Not any real reluctance. I knew that it was going

to have its problems, but really felt that this was, to use the

term that Oliver Wendell Holmes used, this was "the issue and passion

of my time." I didn't feel like I would ever be right in not becoming

involved in it and in trying to circumvent it, get around it in some

way or deal with it in the least possible way. All during the time

that I was governor, I was dealing with it to the extent that I felt






From the Southern Oral History Program, #4007, Interview A-'7 in the Southern Historical Collection,
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page 10 Collins


I could and still hold a position of leadership to accomplish so

much that I was anxious to accomplish for the state. What I did as

governor would seem very puny now, but in those times, the little

puny steps were very difficult to take. And public leaders were in

positions in the South where they could just go so far and I always

used the parallel that they had to stay within the horizon of the

people. If you got over the horizon, you got so far out that the

people couldn't see them and then they lost their effectiveness and

their ability to lead. While I think that public officials should be

out front, I think that they have got to stay in the range of what

people can see and understand what they are standing for. I tried to

do that as governor and when I was governor, there were a lot of

things that I didn't do that I should have done. We didn't make any

enormous strides in desegregation then, but still we made some and

it was difficult. I remember that when the sit-ins, right after they

got started up there in your country, and there started being quite a

demonstration here and people were just raving about this situation.

They were terribly resentful that these blacks would want to eat at

the lunch counter in the ten cent store. It seems ridiculous now, but

nevertheless at that time, they were ready to get axehandles and really

go to fighting on the streets. I made a speech on television that was

carried all over the-state, and on radio, on a Sunday afternoon. I

didn't have any text, I was just talking to the people to try to get

them to see that we did not want disorder and we wanted to find proper

solutions for these problems and solve them by communicating back and







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page 11 Collins


forth and not out in the streets with blood and thunder. I said to

them at that time that while under the law at that time, the owner

of a store had the legal right to say that he would not allow black

people to trade at one counter of his store although he would permit

them to trade and welcomed them to trade at other places in his store,

that while the owner had that legal right, to me it was morally wrong

for a store owner to take that position. This is kind of the way I

talked. I said that the members of my family wouldn't agree with this

and a lot of my closest friends didn't agree with it and yet, that was

the way that I as one individual felt about it. I didn't want us to

fight this thing out in the streets, I wanted to fight it out in the

courts and with the due process of the law and struggle to a right

conclusion. Good gracious, you would have thought that the world was

coming to an end, almost. There was a tremendous reaction because I

said that it was morally wrong. It was that simple. The man that

introduced me down there last night reminded them to remember that

speech. He said, "Here is a man who said that it was morally wrong

if a man wouldn't let us eat a sandwich at a ten cent store." They

applauded at that point in his introduction.

W.D.V.: Do you find that hard to believe, the intensity of

those feelings now when you look back?

Collins: Yes.

W.D.V.: Do you find it hard to believe all the changes that

have occurred?

Collins: Yes.

W.D.V.: Could you have anticipated it?





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page 12 Collins


Collins: I could not have anticipated it, but I certainly

can see it as it actually occurred.

W.D.V.: Do you think that was one of the high points of the

six years that you were in public office, getting over that transition

period?

Collins: Yes. I count that as one of the things I did that

measured up to my responsibility. I wish that in that respect I had

done more. Whether I could have gotten by doing more and stayed

within the horizon, I don't know. The law suits were just coming, you

know and there were so many areas where that particular thing was not

settled until these four big Congressional acts came along. Before

they came and before the decisions were clarified, people were thinking

in terms that this was going to be a bad nightmare dream that was just

going to pass away. They didn't even take that Brown decision seriously

at first. It made no great impact on the emotions of people and I

think that most of the thinking was, "Well, this is just a screwball

opinion up in the Supreme Court and smart lawyers will figure ways to

get around it." And smart lawyers did try to find ways to get around

it. We were battling it, we had people here who were trying that

interposition route. You remember something about that and I openly

declared at the time antagonism and resentment about that. The

legislature just insisted on passing it and I had no legal way to

prevent it. It was concurrently moved in the two houses and there

wasn't anything that the governor had a chance to do but see that it

got filed in the secretary of state's office when they finally passed

it. We defeated it in one session, but they were

and I took the thing when it came across my desk and wrote on it


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page 13 Collins


on the face of it, "This is wrong. This issue was settled in the

Civil War and we have gotten beyond that. I want the record to show

that this resolution passed with my active opposition and I resent it

as not being a sound concept of government in this day and time." So,

I was every now and then out there on the firing line, but I called my

county superintendents up to try to get them to start a program of

desegregation and their feeling at the time was . I explained to them

that this was the law and we did have to make a beginning and do something

about this and move from a small beginning on to something more and that

they were the ones who should bear the brunt of getting something started.

There wasn't but one superintendent who felt that he could do anything

right at that time, the rest of them said, "We can a little later, Governor,

we need a little time." But the one in Dade County did and the school

board in Dade County did. They took a school that was in a changing

neighborhood but was still all white and it was a very logical place to

start. They took a few black children in there, but they couldn't hold

out because the white children all deserted the school and so it became

an all black school. In the meantime, there had been starts made in

the state.

W.D.V.: In the last twenty-five years, is that the major change

in Florida politics, the attitude toward race relations?

Collins: Is that the only major?

W.D.V.: Is it the major change that has occurred in the last

twenty-five years?

Collins: That, and the reapportionment of the legislature.

J.B.: Can you talk about the impact of . .

Collins: Well, we had an awfully lot of things going about that



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page 14 Collins


time. We developed from the beginnings, back before many of the states

had it, a junior college program that was really very intensive. In my

term as six years of governor, we put in the community colleges and they

were soundly developed, community colleges that would give two years of

schooling above the high schools and also vocational training related to

indigenous employment opportunities and this sort of thing. I don't know

what we would have done had we not had these schools that have been taking

a great part of the mushrooming college and university student enrollment

increases, which in our state has been tremendous. We built a new

university down there in Tampa, the University of South Florida. You may

be familiar with it and it is a pretty first rate institution, I think,

now. We built that in our six years from sand burrs to graduating

students. I was down to turn the first spade of earth to get it started.

We had a big battle to get it located and then we built it and I welcomed

the first convocation of the first class of students that graduated and

also participated in the first graduation service. This is just one

thing, but we made a real solid basis of educational expansion at that

time. All through this time, we were getting the strength of our inter-

state highway program and we took a strong position that we ought to

concentrate in the cities where the needs were the greatest and not try

to see how many miles we could build but get some expressways. So, we

built some expressways in Miami, Orlando and Jacksonville and those have

just had an enormous impact, really, and have accomodated the rapid growth

of transportation. Now, we still haven't gotten that whole program, but

we laid the foundations and the directions for the way that we are going

in our time. In the area of attracting business to the state, it was a

need that we had which is no longer an important need, because the momentum



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page 15 Collins


that we established at that time has carried forward and because we had

a fast mushrooming population but we didn't have the growth in the employment

opportunities we needed to make it stable and not get trapped into a

situation like California got into where they were trying to keep people

out of the state because of the welfare problems they were getting. So,

we had a development commission program, organized a development commission,

and I went to various places all over the Midwest telling the story of

Florida opportunity and we attracted and got a number of very fine clean

businesses in the state. I thought that this was an important part of my

progress. Race relations and economic development. I served the same

six years that Luther Hodges served up there in North Caniina and he

was interested in many of the same things. I know that we compared notes

every now and then.

W.D.V.: What was the affect of reapportionment?

Collins: We had the worst struggle, I think, of any state in the

country, because we tried to do it before the Supreme Court made the

states do it. This was also one of the big things that I concentrated on

because we had the most malapportioned legislature in the United States.

We had a county right next to us up here with 11,000 people with a

senator and Dade County, with a population of a million, had one senator

also. So, this was a strong . I made a strong effort to get something

done in this area. It was almost impossible because of the fact that it

had to come through the legislature. We had no way to bypass the legislature,

no.way of initiating a referendum. So, I tried to get the legislature itself

to reapportion and I had special session after special session. I had the

strong support of the press in all the big cities, of course, and we would

make a little progress and then we finally got a package that made substantial



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page 16 Collins


progress, it didn't do the total thing, but it was the maximum that I

felt we could possibly do with that legislature. It was my feeling that

we ought to go ahead and take that and then that would be used as a step

and we would have a more valuable opportunity to move this to a higher

level. So, we got a referendum on this and this was one of the biggest

fusses that I've had in my life. All these same newspapers that had been

fighting this battle with me, they took the position that we were accepting

a half a loaf and if we would just hold on, we would get the whole leaf

and it would be better to leave it in a terrible state, an indefensible

sort of thing than to do a job that could possibly be defended in any way.

They thought that it was bad strategy. So, they opposed it in the referendum

and the people voted it down. They combined their strength with the

papers of all these little counties that were really upset about it and

so they defeated me. I thought then that they were mistaken and I think

so now. But, after me spending six years haggling over that issue and

trying to get some decency in that area, then the Supreme Court . and I

told the legislature that the Supreme Court was going to do this in

time in my opinion and here our state constitution banned it . now, we

talk about states' rights and state's responsibilities, why didn't we

go on and do this? If we didn't do it, I told them that we were going to

find that the United States Supreme Court was going to do it and I read

a little to them of that Hawaii decision. I don't know whether you

followed that, but a federal judge out there really made an enlightened

opinion in this area way ahead of his time. This was the wave of things

in the future, but I had to leave there without having done anymore than

making the people aware of that. Then the Supreme Court decision came






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page 17 Collins


along and then they started the process of reapportionment as required by

the Court.

J.B.: But the battle of reapportionment that you fought actually

proceeded Baker vs. Carr?

Collins: Right.

J.B.: You were acting under the state constitutional mandate and

thh fact that Florida had never really for decades followed its own state

constitution on that?

Collins: Right.

J.B.: Now, did that mandate apply to both houses of the legislature,

or was it a little federal system?

Collins: It applied to both houses of the legislature, it provided

that every ten years the state was mandated to reapportion its representation.

It doesn't say on the basis of population, but the reapportionment of

its legislature and the representation there. Of course, they claimed

that this could take into account pine trees and bulls and steers or

rutabagas or whatever and geographic limitations. They were all arguing

that this didn't need to be related to people. But we were mandated to

do this every ten years. And historically, the legislature just passed

the reapportionment bill like it was to meet that mandate and nobody had

been making fight. Now, Caldwell made a fight, but his was a very minimal

fight. I forgotten the exact details of what he did, but he raised the

issue when he was governor back during the war.

W.D.V.: When the complete reapportionment based on population came,

were the results what you expected in terms of the legislature's operation,

the people will go there and the product and so on?

Collins: Yes, we've had substantial representation from the largest



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page 18 Collins


cities and I do think that the level of intelligence and the level of

competence of the legislators has substantially increased. I think the

main handicap of it has been that they have kind of gotten the feeling

that they were kind of like little Congressmen and that the main theme

was and the main concern that they had was staying in office. So, all

this staff development, I think that much of it has been for political

purposes and this aspect of it, I have not admired.

W.D.V.: What about the legislation enacted?

Collins: They have gotten away from the rather pure concept of

the citizen-legislator. I stayed in the legislature for twenty years

and there were all kinds of people in there. We had some crooked people

and a lot of honest people, but there were a large number of people who

were motivated almost totally, if not totally, because of the opportunity

to render a public service. And so far as being compensated for it, it

was . they used to give us six dollars a day for every day the

legislature was in session. It helped to defray expenses and that was

all. I didn't have much expenses because I lived here. I think that

we have missed getting some people that would undertake this assignment

on the basis of a high level of commitment to public service. At the

same time, I think that in all fairness, that the old system could not

have worked at this time, I think the change helped, but I do think they

should recognize that they ought to handle their expenses carefully and

be scrutinized, not only because of the wrongs in overdoing for themselves,

but in the of government, I don't see how legislative

committees and legislators can be critical of wasted public expenditures,

when they are guilty of the same kind of waste. That is to say, having





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page 19 Coilins


more people on the payroll than are committed to a service that really

is in the public interest. That is my big passion now, that we need

government fitted to the public interest and not diverted or not

generated for self agradizement. This is what I think this country

needs desperately at this time. We've got to come around to the fact

that we are committed to public service and the public has to be the

dominant thing, public service has to be dominant in their thinking and

not what effort can be made to influence things for some special purpose

that is not consistent to the public interest.

W.D.V.: The defenders of the large staffs and the higher salaries

and the greater expenses has been that that has the effect of making the

legislators more independent, that their staffs put them in the position

of not having to depend on lobbyists and special interests for information

and that the greater salaries and expenses allow broader ranges and more

people to serve, people who couldn't have afforded to serve on their on.

Collins: My guess is that we have fifty lobbyists right here now

for every one that we had twenty years ago, or before this mushrooming

started. A large part of the income of Tallahassee lawyers comes from

lobbying activities. Much, much larger than it used to be. Now, of course,

the whole thing is going on in the state . you've got the homebuilders,

for example, development people. We didn't have much from them and they

have an enormous effort now. I guess it can be explained, but I don't

think that's a sound assumption, that there is any less lobbying effort

or any less subjects . .

J.B.: I don't think these people said there were less lobbyists,

I think they were contending that the individual lobbyists had less

influence. Getting back, Governor, to the time that you made that speech . .




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page 20 Collins


(interruption on tape. Tape turned off)

Collins: My last year as governor was '60. I went out the first

of '61. I think that it was in '59.

J.B.: You said that there was a tremendous reaction to that speech.

Was there any overt threats made?

Collins: Oh, yes.

(End of Side A of tape)



Collins: . I mean, I had a highway patrolman that spent a

full working day, but only a full working day and that was all the

assistance I had in that respect. My family and me were over there

all night without anybody to even answer the telephone. I walked to

town in the morning just by myself. Sometimes, I would get friends to

walk and talk about things, but it is a totally different thing there

and this kind of parallels the legislation that you are talking about.

Now, they have centers of security over there with about eighteen or

twenty people. Of course, all these assassinations came along and all

this concern and they patterned the security arrangement after the

White House recommendations of the people who have the security

responsibilities at the White House.

J.B.: Did the intensity of the reaction to that speech surprise

you, or had you anticipated it would be like that?

Collins: I expected it would be that way.

J.B.: I wanted to ask you this: When you were in Washington

under the Johnson Administration, were you called on to provide input to

the Civil Rights Act?

Collins: No, I was with the broadcasters first. I went up there




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page 21 Collins


and was president of the National Association of Broadcasters for three

years. That's the only time that I really made a lot of money in my

work, but I left the governorship and went to Washington for the

broadcasters and was there for three years and when the act was just

about passed was the time when Johnson called me over to the White House

and asked me to take that community relation service which was under

Title X of that Civil Rights Act which was about to pass. Luther

Hodges figured into that too, you see. He was Secretary of Commerce

and this service was going to be under Commerce and he talked to me

about it and agreed that it should be operated independently and the

only thing that Commerce would do was to do the housekeeping and I

would be free to develop the program the way that I thought it should

be, which was a very attractive kind of a thing. Johnson was one of

these kinds that would just grab you and say, "Listen . ." as he did

to me, . ."I've just looked all over the country and you are the

logical man to do this. The country needs you and I'm not asking you

for political purposes, I'm asking you that if you love your country

to come on and take this job." So, you just don't turn down a president

of the United States when he talks like that. I didn't. So, I left

a job that was paying me about $85,000 or $90,000 a year and took this

on and handled it for a year. I told him at the time that I would only

do it for a year.

J.B.: And you took that job when?

Collins: It was about 1964, I think. After the act passed. The

law had passed in July.

W.D.V.: That's right, it was created by that act.





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page 22 Collins


Collins: That's right. But he had talked with me about it

first and I had actually gone to work a little bit before then, because

we had a group of people up there in Washington who were kind of

volunteering to do some spade work and get the personnel together, they

were a fine group of people. So, that was a big thing that I had, fine

group of people.

J.B.: In fact, I think that my friend, Max Seacrest was working

for you at that time..

Collins: Yes, he was one of my very strong helpers. He was

on there before I got there. These were the kind of people that were

up there and I'm glad to know that he's your friend. He went to

Selma and went through a lot of it.

J.B.: You went to Selma after the altercation on the bridge,

am I correct on that?

Collins: Yes. They started the march right along the bridge

and this was on Sunday, as I recall, Dr. King wasn't there, he was in

Atlanta, but our people were there I was not. But

they had that horrible mess there with the horses and clubs and all

and when these people came over the bridge, they just went right into

them, breaking heads. They had sevaty odd people in the hospital,

knocked them off the bridge and all. Then they announced that they were

going to go over that bridge come what may the following Tuesday. They

sent the word out all over the country, you know, for reinforcements

and they really poursed in there. That's when Johnson called me and asked

me to go down there personally and try anything I could because we couldn't

afford another repetition of that. It was a disgrace to the country.






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page 23


So, I went in on Monday and we had a frantic time trying to find a way to get

around that. There was a court order enjoining them from making the

march. John Doar was their representing attorney and he couldn't talk

with them about anything other than for that court order and

not marching. Well, there had to be some kind of a way to find middle

ground, as I saw it.

J.B.: That was a federal court order?

Collins: Yes. I think it was. So, we figured out that if we could

find a way that both of them could win. You can settle something if both

sides feel like they are winning. So, I asked Dr. King and a bunch of them

around the house if they could symbolically and actually go over the

bridge and if the troops were withdrawn to a point beyond the

bridge, but then when they got to that point where the troops were if

they would stop and were not determinedly assaulted like they were before,

you see, the didn't put up a barricade and say, "Don't come by this." When

those people came over the bridge, they just went right on into them.

He didn't think that we could work out anything like that and he didn't

think that his people would stop even if he asked them. Their emotions

were running awfully high. I told him that I was going to try to get

them to agree. We went back over the bridge. They had the state troops

and the county troops and the city were there. I talked to them

and told them that Dr. King would stop if they would let them go over

the bridge and if they held things and let them stop and pray and talk

for twenty or thirty minutes, then they will turn around and go back, "if

you promise that you won't move into them." They made some calls, one to

Wallace, I'm sure in Montgomery and they finally agreed. They didn't






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page 24 Collins


didn't think their people would stop, but I said, "Let's just see if

they will." They agreed that if they followed a certain route through

town and came on over the bridge and at that point, they would not move

into them and allow them to stop and pray and all that and then they

should go back. Then I had the job of getting back over there. They

were already marching. They were halfway from Brown's Chapel, where

they had headquarters, they were halfway to the bridge and coming along.

I had this little slip of paper that they had given mo about the route

to follow. So, I talked to Dr. King as they went along, we just got in

there and walked with them. He said, "I don't think my people will do

it. I don't think they'll stop, but I'll try and if they will hold

everything and give us our chance, I'll do my best to turn them back.

I won't promise you, but I'll do my best." Then, I went back and

stood right there with those troops at that point. They came over the

bridge and came up to that point and stopped. It looked like one of

them was going to jump and then all hell would have broken loose, but

they didn't and so we avoided a horrible mess there. They went back.

If I hadn't done anything else in my lifetime but get involved in that,

I would have felt that I had something to feel good about.

J.B.: What actually happened at that point of confrontation?

Collins: The troops were there barricaded, they were standing

there and some were kneeling down with guns and ammunition and those

people walked up with some of them looking right down those guns. They

stopped and nobody on either side said a word, I think, but Dr. King

made a little statement. He called on Abernathy, as I recall, to offer

a prayer and they prayed and I think they sang a song. I don't remember






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page 25 Collins


anything that was said because I was so concerned about somebody moving

with one of those guns that would break the spell of that thing. I

wasn't paying too much attention to what was really being said. He told

them then that they were going back. He said, "We've crossed the bridge."

They had the symbolic accomplishment of crossing that bridge where they

were not able to do it before. They still had a court order against them

making a march, so they were in technical compliance with the order . .

not really, because they had marched a little ways, but it certainly

wasn't grossly defiant of the court order. He told them to go back and

there must have been ten or twelve thousand of them and they went back.

Then the next day, the court order was rescinded, or the next two or

three days, within a week after that, they opened the road and went on

a made the march.

J.B.: How did you feel that morning of confrontation?

Collins: Well, I felt very sympathetic to the people, frankly.

I had been down there to Brown's Chapel and I saw what was going on

there, they were praying and singing out in front, a group of mostly

young people, black people, and they weren't harming a soul. They

weren't trying to be disorderly, just singing. The soldiers were

gathered around them, you know, where !they were, and I said, "What are

you doing here?" They said, "We are protecting these people from the

crowd." I said, "Well, they aren't bothering anybody, why aren't you

facing the crowd?" They were pointing the guns right at these people,

th1e children, really, who were doing the singing. I heard that wne of

them was shot and I went into the parsonage and this girl was sitting on








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page 26 Collins


the floor and this doctor, black doctor, was working with her. She

had been shot through the lip. Probably somebody from just

shot into the crowd and knocked a tooth out, but it was a wonder that

it hadn't knocked her head off, but the bullet was spent by the time it

got there. I had a great feeling of sympathy for them at the point we

were out there. Then I went with them on the march, I didn't stay with

them continually, but I had a problem then of trying to work out

agreements between these troops and enforcement people and the marchers

regarding where they could camp and what they would do after they got to

Montgomery. We had a citizen's committee in Montgomery that was working

directly with the police authority. That man Blount, you know, who was

Postmaster General fairly recently, he was a big man in that citizen's

committee and did a fine job for us. I had to get in with the marchers,

yo u know, to clarify certain requests that they were making about what

streets they would go on and all that. The only way that I could talk

to them was either in an encampment at night, which I didn't want to

do, or on the march, walk along with them. So, I walked along with Br.

King and we talked about all these details as we went along. Well, right

in front of us was a truck, loaded with cameras. There must have been

a hundred there and they were just grinding away, taking pictures by

the thousands and out of that group came one picture, there were a number

of pictures, you know, of me walking along and it just looked like I was

leading the march. This is what they used against me, they had a picture

and circulated it all over the state with "Collins leading the march.'"

J.B.: This was in your '68 campaign?

Collins: Yes.





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page 27 Collins


W.D.V.: Is it hard for you to believe that that was nine years

ago?

Collins: It is, but yet when you think of the progress that has

been made since that time, why it . .

J.B.: Were you engaged at any time in any direct negotiations

with Governor Wallace during that crisis?

Collins: No. But this was his man . what was his name, the

colonel there? Lingo, Colonel Lingo was his man and he was the man that

we worked with him. has written a good report

on that whole thing. There is a girl who happens to be right !i town

now, she is one of those staff people for one of these senators and says

that she never had it so good, but she has just gotten a master's degree

from the University of South Florida and her thesis is on the community

relations service and she didafine job. I helped her get to people

and get to files that were secret, really. Her name is Chapman and if

you are interested in writing anything about that, I would get a copy

of her thesis, because it is very well done. It documents most everything

and it really seems more like a doctor's dissertation than a master's

thesis. She told me the other day that it was the finest thesis that

had been written there.

J.B.: Do you know her first name?

Collins: Julia Chapman. She is working under Jim Silver, you

remember him, the man from Mississippi. Jim is teaching down there on

that faculty. He was quite pleased with it. They've got all my papers

down there at South Florida. I gave them all my papers and didn't get

a tax deduction. (laughter) I thought about it, but I had passed that






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page 28 Collins


deadline.

J.B.: From you perspective at that time, is it your conclusion

then and now that the Voting Rights Act grew directly out of that

Selma situation?

Collins: Yes.

J.B.: What do you think has been the effect of that in the South?

Collins: Enormous. My only direct knowledge is what happened in

Florida. When I was governor, I encouraged the black people to register

and vote, but there were very few of them who did, not that they were

prevented from doing it, but they didn't, they just felt for their own

peace, I guess, maybe through intimidation, they didn't. Right over

here in Gadsen County, they have a population that I think is maybe a

little more than the white population and there weren't over thirty or

forty of them over there voting.

J.B.: Fear primarily?

Collins: I think so. I think that it was set up in such a way

that they were intimidated from voting. This act really just broke

that down and we have a large black constituency voting.

W.D.V.: During the period that we are studying, the years

from 1944 to 1974, there are two or three waves of New South governors

and you were in one of the first. Could you talk a little bit tout

that and how you see it, both in terms of your own administration and

the subsequent waves of New South governors, whatever that means to you?

Collins: Well, I don't know, that term has been misused and

overused. There have been significant things that have happened to

the South that have caused enormous changes. Most of these were national






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page 29 Collins


events, rather than internal things in their origin. I think that the

first term that you could think of in terms of the New South was the

industrial development that came along. I was there when Florida began,

and of course, this strengthened the economy of the region tremendously.

So much of all kinds of progress in this nation, really, relates to

economic progress, in social fields and all fields where people are

earning substantial wages and can afford things, why their individual

homes and in community life and everything is naturally strengthened

with strong economic support. Bright children can begin to wear nice

clothes and they buy those clothes from the merchants downtown and

they get an enormous economic advantage from having that expanded

trade and so it goes. We did have a great surge in economic strength

in the South and it came along and had its origin, or took its impetus

in the early part of my governorship and on through it. But the greatest

single fact that has changed has been the emergence of the black man as

a participant in the whole society. This has influenced enormous

changes. I don't think in terms of this being a New South, I think that

this has just been an awakening of national responsibility and it has

jsut influenced the South and affected the South perhaps more dramatically

than any other region because the black people in the South were poorer

than they were in the North, they had been denied more opportunities

in the South than they had in the North and so they had so much more to

qain in the South. At the same time, this came along with a movement in

the South away from a rural, agrarian nation and this influenced

substantially the black people, had great influencing contributions on

this overall social change, of having one class of society, one class





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page 30 Collins


of people rather than the black and white classes. Although we still

have, of course, and always will have, economic strata and there will

seemingly be different classes of people, but that in a free enterprise

system is a very flexible thing, too. A man can be poor and come from

poor origins but still he can get very rich very quickly in this

country. He has in the past and he can now. I guess that we always

will be able to do that. I think in many ways, the South can be very

proud of this progress in its acceptance and assimilation of the

implications and all of the desegregation and the end of discrimination

efforts of our federal government. On the other hand, there are many

ways that . there is still a long ways to go and if you think in

terms of attitudes of people, there is still a much longer way to go

than I think is apparent. I think that still, there is a pretty strong

feeling of resentment and feeling of unhappiness as the black man emerges

more on the basis of equality. I don't know how we are ever going to

get over this. Certainly, the free access to public accommodations

and the various ways that black and white associate today, working

together, playing together and living together in many ways, it would

seem that this would appear, but I don't know. I fear still that a

demagogue could come along and light the fires pretty easily and find

a lot of acceptance in a lot of places that shouldn't be the case, but

I think it would be the case. I don't know whether what I'm saying

makes any sense or not, but that's the way I feel.

W.D.V.: Do you think the South is loosing its distinctiveness?

You know, the premise of this book is that somehow Southern politics

is different from other regions of the country. Do you think that's true?






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page 31 Collins


Collins: Well, I think the South is losing its character,

charteristics rather, I should say, in the past years. I think that

one of the great forces that is contributing to that is the movement

away from the farm and the little villages and communities into the

more urban ways of life. On the farm, and of course the South had

a much higher percentage of farms than the rest of the nation, that's

changing drastically. But the farm life and small community life

is quite different and I think that we've got a lot of values that are

being lost in that process. The farm family was a close knit family

and their interests were with each other and the grandmother and

grandfather were there until they died and the children stayed there

until they were grown and you didn't have the fluid movement in life

that they have come to have since that time. Well, as they were held

together in a compact relationship, I think there were -mlues that

developed there. I think that the great writing that has come out of

the South has come about largely because of people who were influenced

by that kind of life. The writer writes about what he knows best and

as people lived close together,you knew people much better than you

get to know them now. The Faulkners and the Tom Wolfes and all the

people of that great tradition, that surge of brilliant southern

writing, I think that it is based upon the fact that people were

associated with that kind of environment and Aunt Maude was a

characteriture and Uncle Jim was this and its something that tAis

Walton family is trying to recapture and project on their television

program at the present time. To be realisitc, I don't believe some of

it, but at the same time, they are finding and rekindling a reception

of interest in that sort of thing. This is what the South had, though,



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page 32 Collins


that made it especially unique and as more of our people are working

in the factories and the little farm is gone and the farming now

itself is a big business operation, well, I think that we've got a

lot to lose and we've got a lot of different kinds of needs and

challenges that are more closely related to the nation totally. So, I

think that we are losing our character, but it seems to me that this

rise in urban living and urban lifestyles has just as much to do with

it as the changing pattern of relations between black and white people,

although that is a big characteristic of it.

J.B.: The impact of the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights

Act . some people have told us that they felt that the real impact

of that legislation has exerted a liberating influence among southerners

and particularly liberating political influence. Do you feel that or

not?

Collins: Well . .

J.B.: I'm talking about being able to deal with other problems

other than just race.

Collins: I think that is probably true, but I think that it is

truer in other southern states more than Florida. We've never had,

really, a leadership in our government that has been solely based

on race and has come into being because of the impetus of racial

feeling, antagonistic racial feelings. In the campaign that was made

against me, you may think that that statement is inconsistent with

that, because I told you that was the reason I lost. But that was

not because the man who took advantage of this was projecting himself

as a demogague and he was going to carry on and hold out to the


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page 33


people the battle so far as race was concerned. But it was true

because it developed an opposition vote to me and it was a subtle

thing, it was subtle to show it itself without saying what I was

doing there. You know, Selma in the public_-mind was something that

the people didn't think favorably about. The man that beat me, Gurney

for example, he hasn't been on any binge of racial antagonism, he

would benefit from that in a far more subtle way than just being like,

say, a typical Mississippi politician you've had in years gone by,

or Alabama or Georgia. Now, a man ran against me who was that kind

exactly, when I ran for the full term as governor. Now you see, I

ran first for an unexpired term. We had a governor who died and he

was succeeded by the president of the senate, who was a rural man

and was more typical of the old fashioned political leader. I ran

against him and defeated him and then I had the option to run for a

full term. Our constitution prohibited a governor from succeeding

himself at the time, but nevertheless the court held right at the

last minute that since I had not served a full term, that clause

would not apply. So, I qualified and ran. This time, I had

Lowry, who was a former retired military general from down in

Tampa and he really ran a hardnosed, mean campaign dealing with

race. I was in office and had to cope with that. I had to deal with

it and fortunately, I was in office so that most of the attention that

I was getting in the press was from constructive things that I was

doing and I never did feel like I had to come to grips with any

debate of this kind. I did in my campaign make reference to the

fact that this kind of talk would lead the state into turmoil and

disorder. But he was making all kinds of demagogical efforts and




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page 34 Collins


he ran second to me, but there were five of us in the race and I got

more than all the rest of the field. If he had come into a second

primary with me, we really would have had something pretty bad. That's

the kind of man, a man who talks like that, who has been elected other

places in the South, but it did not go here. I think that it has not

because of the infusion of people from the outside more than anything

else. We have been a notch or two above that, I think, in Florida.

J.B.: That brings up another question. Is Florida now, in 1974,

looking to the future, do you consider Florida a southern state?

Collins: Well, geographically, we certainly are, but I think the

regional elements are decreasing rapidly and I think that the country is

getting more homogirized and I think we are going to find that the difference

between the South and the others are largely insofar as the climate we

have and the advantages that we have in a lot of open lands and beautiful

country and the advantages we have in not having the scope of environmental

problems that a lot of the rest of the nation has. There are some

advantages this way, but I don't think that we are going to be distinguish-

able so far as black and white people are concerned in comparison with

the rest of the nation. Maybe we will be in better shape, even, because

we are really handling that. Our race relations are better than they are

in other parts of the nation. I think that we are better now than they

are in many places.

W.D.V.: Can I ask you one final question? It appears that the

Florida press corps is unique in the South, the state capital press corps,

second in the nation, second in size to California. It appears to be

very aggressive and so on. Do you have any comments about that? It seems

to have played a very significant part in the state's politics. More so than





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page 35 Collins


any other state we have looked at.

Collins: I think so. I think that we've got a fine press. We've

got extraordinarily strong papers, St. Petersburg, Tampa, Miami, Jacksonville.

Jacksonville is a little more conservative and less likely to become

involved editorially in the stands about a number of things. The Orlando

paper also is a strong one. The Tallahassee paper here is not inclined to

be editorially strong, I don't think. It is owned by the Knight people

who have the Miami papers and the Charlotte Observer and it is probably

tending in that same direction that those papers have followed, but I think

that they have played an enormous part and these papers have all kept

people stationed here. If a man wants to make an announcement now that he

wants press coverage for anywhere in the state for politics, will come

right here first because we've got a strong press corps and strong papers

that keep a strong press corps. I think that this is unique in the South,

so far as I have been able to observe outside in other states. Ours is

much stronger. I don't want to leave you with any impression that I don't

like the South or that I don't want to stay in the South. This is my

home and this is where I would rather live, I'd rather work and I'd rather

be in public life or private life, in the South. Much more than any other

place. We have opportunities in the South, a little time to live broadly

and we've got a coastline down here that has enormous advantages. It's

not overpopulated. I've got a house down there on an island off the

Gulf coast where I can go down there and walk miles on that beach and never

see a soul and watch the different flowers that bloom at the different

times of the year. We've got streams ofhfy ung people that are particularly

interested in going on canoeing and it's tremendous. We've got lakes.





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page 36 Collins


I went out yesterday morning early with a doctor here, not more than

four miles from Tallahassee to a lake, we caught a nice string of bass.

This to me is just a great place to live and I think that we have advantages

like that that make this region unique. These people in Tennessee, in

Georgia, in South Carolina and Mississippi, all have this opportunity far

more than you do in New Jersey or New York and some of those other places

like that.

J.B.: Governor Collins, I think that you are in a unique position

to comment on this, I don't know how to frame it properly, but the impact

on political attitudes of people in the South of the type of leadership

that Lyndon Johnson gave on the race issue compared to the type of leadership

that Richard Nixon has given on the race issue. Particularly insofar as

adjusting to racial changes?

Collins: Well, Johnson was more open and aboveboard about what

he wanted to do and what he would do. President Johnson saw, really, that

his opportunity to establish a position in history and be a great man by

what he could do to affect race relations and he was glad to assume a role

of strong leadership. In addressing himself to Congressional Actions

and other areas, he was continually open in urging Congress in race

relations. I think that President Nixon's interest in this has been

covert rather than overt. When it's covert, you don't know just exactly

what is going on. He made a statement earlier as president, "You watch

what we do and not what we say." He has not wanted to be forthright in

what he said because I think that he has realized that this would be

offensive to a lot of people who helped get him elected president. But at

the same time, apparently the HEW, for example, as a national agency has

proceeded just as strongly in its insistence upon agencies and departments




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page 37 Collins


being . .Nixon recognizes that the trend of history calls for positive

action. I don't think that he has been resentful of people that work

underneath him in moving along, just keeping out of it as best he can and

I think that whatever he has done hasn't surfaced very much.

. (interruption. Tape turned off) . .I think that so many people

in this state just don't want that to be involved. I think that the

business industry of the state doesn't want it to become involved and they

see that as not good for business and not good for progress. I think that

most Florida people kind of want the state to move forward.

J.B.: We hear a great deal of speculation that Governor Askew's

position on busing, the aggressive role that he played, is going to be

used as an issue to. . an attempt to make it an issue. Do you think that

it will be effective?

Collins: Well, that's hard for me to assess. As I see it, from

where I sit, people are generally very satisfied with Askew. He is, number

one, a very clean man, a man of very solid integrity. He has shown this

a great deal. He has announced that he is going to accept campaign

contributions up to a hundred dollars from individuals and I think this

has been a very popular thing for him to have lead on. I believe that

particularly at this time and with all this national furor is going on

over Watergate, that people have a sense of real release and satisfaction

that they have a governor of the type that he is. Now, as I see it now,

this great feeling of confidence in the man is going to make his election

a very easy one. It may not work out that way, but I just can't see that

this lieutenant governor that we have who is running against him making

this a real strong race or anything like a close race. Now, if he does,

if he does make it a close race, then this will be an advantage to the




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page 38 Colins


Republican candidate, because he is running as a reform candidate.

He is a man of good background and I think that he is generally

accepted as a nice fellow. He is wealthy, made his money recently,

quickly, but he's got money and comes from that populous coast of

the state in Palm Beach County. I guess . . .

(end of interview)

















































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