Title: J. A. Webster [CRSTA 11]
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Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00005752/00001
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Title: J. A. Webster CRSTA 11
Series Title: J. A. Webster CRSTA 11
Physical Description: Book
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Bibliographic ID: UF00005752
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
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Subject: J. A. Webster

Interviewer: David Colburn



C: .This is David Colburn, I'm in St. Augustine, Florida, on August

15, 1970, interviewing Mr. J. A. Webster. Okay, Mr. Webster,

when did you first become involved in the racial crisiS, I know

it started in 19632 /t what point did it begin to affect you?

W: I've been here since 1936, and I haven't been directly involved

in racial picture except in my school work.

C: Now, you were principal, weren't you, of Murray High School?

W: No, I was principal of Webster Sixth Grade CV1_i_ .

C: Webster Sixth Grade. And how long had you taught, how long did

you teach in the school system, and how long were you principal?

W: Well, I was principal up until the time I _g_ re____ And,

my first job wasn't at the Webster Sixth Grade Center. I began

working with Florida Memorial Collegej Under collier, President

Collier, and then, later, S4idw, and then Dr. ^ J _

C: Now at what year did you become principal of Webster?

W: Oh, -1-R-0 ., .1 4 .

C: What were, how would you describe race relations in St. Augustine

as you were a young man, and while you were principal?

W: Well, schools were totally not integrated at that time. It was

all black s-rt derrts a? VL ( VAI, And so4wa-s-ti work at

Florida Memorial College at that time.

C: Um hmm. What was the relationship betweenn say you and the white

people in this community, was it.....?


W: Well, fortunately, I have always enjoyed a very fine relationship

between the whites, educationally) /nd in other ways you might

take it.

C:A Did, were there any problems before 1963?

W: Well, in segregated schools there always is problems.

C: Good point.

W: First, the books we used were old, we didn't get first, new books,

and th-i-s-h-d been quite a problem. And oca~bl' we ihlit Lhave

C: What about the teacher's salaries, were black teachers paid less

than white teachers?

W: Yes, from the beginning they were.

C: When did they change that, do you know?

W: No, I don't remember the exact year. But when I first started,

I was getting $420,0a year from the students.

C: -4-2-a-2rewra- Four kalr,(:.ji-u:A dEllcrks Uc-hklUe3

W: Yes.

C: Was it after World War II when they changed it?

W: Oh, yes.

C: It was after World War II.
W: *ef s__ -r- Ofe leot

C: Now, what caused the racial problems in the '-6? Before Dr.

King came?

W: Like, the 3-i--ke of having the right to eat where you want to eat

and stay in public facilities. As you know, Holiday Inn and, let

me see, what is the other place, two places, were the first

place to....

page 2

CRSTA 11A page 3

C: Howard Johnson.

W: Howard Johnson, and Holiday Inn, yes, were the first places...

And that's what caused it all, they wouldn't let them swim in

public facilities or anything, hat way -oe-- _-

C: Was Dr. Hailing the man who was J2i ....

W: Yes, I was here at that time, and Dr. Ha'lling was here, and wblh

w ei e -f,-Io\)a Th emancipator, you might say. He was involved

in a lot of things for freedom of the black race.

C: How would you describe Dr. Ha /ling?

W: A very energetic personality. Someone who participated in.

C: Was he easy to get along with?

W: Very, very easy. And understanding He was also my dentist.

C: Yes, I understand he also had most of his patients were white,

b a -ecause he was about the only dentist in town. Now he

took over Dr. Gordon's...

W:A\ hat is right.
C: In 1963, I think, was the year in which much of the...

W: ...-trife started.

C: Started, right. That young white fellow was killed in that year,

and some young black students from Florida Memorial, and high.

school students participated with Dr. Ha ling in the demonstrations.
W '* Th t i-': C :r-i'\. -T~t )<, cor c,+ qC "
c: Was Dr. Hailing, did he have, in that year, did he haveAcooperation

from most of the black community at that time?

W: Not oa-eudr-e-d percent, but I should say, well, I'd say a


C:~\ ,majority. Okay, who were the black people in town who were

reluctant to be involved, and why were they reluctant, would you


say? Were they older black people, or were they younger?

W: Well, the young had no reluctance.AW-No, but the older were

Fo(r p er-qs safety, reasons why I !-c. .Ckl reluctant.

C: How about Dr. r in '63, was he a supporter of...?

W: Yes, he allowed to have interracial conferences, and so forth

on the campus, he was outstanding person in bringing about.

you see because his school was a private school, it was not

connected with the public.

C: Who would you say were the black leaders in those years, besides

Dr. Hailing and Dr. C!i e

W: Let me see.

C: Was Reverend Wright, I guess he was before he left.

W: Reverend Wright, and a Mr. Twine.

C: Mr. Henry Twine, yes, I've talked to him, I've interviewed him.

Henry and his wife Cath rine. ,lr{U1e h

W: Yeah. And, let's see Akc. Jr :.i,*:t : 0l-i a i The names

don't come to me,,(!NV ~ re.

C: Right. Were there any other ministers that were prominent besides

Reverend Wright, especially after he moved?

W: Reverend WrightAwas a minister, let's see, there was a Reverend

Bass here at the First Baptist Church. And there also was a

preacher at the First Baptist Church that they burned up his car,

but his name doesn't come through.

C: Yeah, I, $?giht know who you're talking about, -the name doesn't

come to me either. I know who you're talking about. Why did,

what relationship did you have with Dr. Hailing, did you

work with him? You were in a sort of a precarious position

page 4


because you were principal and of course you could be fired if

the superintendent got irked at your behavior or anything/ How

did you respond in these sorts of things?

W: Now, as far as providing food for the out-of-town, and

association with them, I w-as Yep onde,( wIas ut I was

never in a public demonstration, walking up and down the streets

and picketing and that sort of thing.

C: Well, '64 was the big year, because that's the year that Dr.

King came, and Ay\dar' \i/Ca .

W:ThF, ,ib-'., '- ;1i and also this governor's mother from Massachusetts...

C: Governor Peabody's mother, ;yes.C,What impact did the demonstrations

have on relations between whites and blacks in St. Augustine?
\-m beccc W: Well, it had a terrible impact on teso, that negroes here

were not afraid to demonstrate, and to march in the streetsacid So

dk" so it did have an t on them.

C: Did whites react angrily to this, did they put pressure on you

and other blacks to...?

W: No pressure was put on me, and most of the pressure was put on

during the demonstration period.

C: Could you describe some of the pressure that was put on you?

W: In fact, no direct pressure was put on me as a p'rc c o( t>, scoo .

we did not have, I mean most of the teachers were apReidc Troni he
.... r^ .., YC^ r.*. \ < ,i ca.[(o oa r- ,.
iV CiA5A15A and he did mita-ke our)precommendations 'fa teachers.

C: Did Mrs. Gordon work at your school, or did she work...?

W: No, she didn't, she worked at Excelsior High School, and later

at Murray High School. She was a very good friend of mine.

C: Yes, IF/interviewed her as well. Now, who were the principals at

page 5


those schools, Murray, who was the principal of Murray High


W: When, now or then?

C: Then.

W.: Richard J. Murray.'.. And later, A. Malcolm Jones, a very

dynamic, dynamic personality. And, then Solomon Calhoun was

at Excelsior, the elementary school _

C: Was, is Jones still in town?

W: Jones died. he'. JeceCced.

C: Oh, he did? I see.4 What, after the demonstrations ended, Dr.

King left town. Why did Dr. Ha lingyr Eo,

W: Well, it made it very uncomfortable for Dr. Hayling here, atd-

4-i ~6e shot in his house a couple of times...A~ Hdis family, Y-i

his family was very much at stake-b-y the situation so that's

why he left.

C: Well, he was a great loss, wasn't he?

W: Yes, he was.

C: What, what were relations like after the demonstrations ended in

the fall of 1964? Was it really difficult for)-e black people

in St. Augustine, were the white people very unfriendly? How

did they respond after demonstrations, and..?

W: Well, I don't think y-trr white people, well the type of white

people I came in contact with was always outoji' w4ri '

C: 7
-- ----- __ .?---- - -^\ J r\
W: Vps .1I don't know any of them that did any under-

cover work in the education system here.

page 6


C: '-s- Did you have the Ku Klux Klan types, and those kind

coming out here and harassing black people out here at all?

W: No, they didn't come out here, but they did march up in the

city, Lincolnville/ in Central Avenue, but never Ku Klux Klan


C: So you didn't have to worry about them shooting at you or any-

thing like that?

W: No, no,_no.

C: What was the impact on the schools? Now, you had desegregation,h'cools

t4< beginning of schools desegregation, you had a few black

children who went to the white schools, and then gradually it

started to improve. Did it have any bad effect on the school

system, the demonstrations?

W: No.

C: It didn't have any at all?

W: No.

C: What about after desegregation began, I guess, school desegregation

began, what, in 1968? In St. Augustine?

W: Yes, yes.

C: What was, how did that go, did you remain the principal, I guess

you did, you remained the principal at Webster.A,:And did you

have many, did you have integrated student body there at the

beginning of 1968?

W: Yes.

C: I guess you didn't have much trouble at the elementary school

level, did you?

W: No, no. When they integrated the school system, they did it

page 7


according to having census. My school was made a sixth grade

school. And then, it didn't matter whether you were white,

black, red, or green, if you were in the sixth grade, you came
Cerstt'r Ceitncr
to \WC44ie- Sixth Grade S-SGk-l. Same with the seventh grade setp-
C&i-itr +-ld-
and the fifth grade ssp, which is jiteoa or 4oay=to old

-ia-~eg! S{irMi school.

C: Right, right. Did, were you involved in that fight at all in

1969, where some of the John Birch people, white citizens,

councilpeople tried to change the textbooks in the high school?

W: No, I wasn't involved.

C: You weren't involved in that at all. How would you characterize

desegregation, school desegregation, has it been a success in

St. Augustine?

W: It s5hQ-U I hiS Lr< i success. -t s-hould.

C: What about economic opportunity for black people in St. Augustine,

is there much opportunity for black people in this community?

W: Very little. Very, very little. The majority of the, very little

industry here that employs negroes. -Y-e- got boat building place

down there, and, let's see what else do they have. They have the,wiell
,7Yf'sc all the places2 the black women work in motels,Acleaning, and so
I J;
forth,,\very little industry that hires colored ae-op-e) r black


C: What about Fairchild, now, did they, when they were here, did they

employ many black people?

W: Yes, they did.

C: Now, why, when did they move?

W: Let's see, how.-M-. Fairchild-was- qone nbere? I'd say around eight

page 8


years. k

C: Eight years, huh? That sounds about right, 1972. Did/\why

did they leave, was it just bad business, things really slump

for them?

W: Things slumped for them, and I don't think there was any pressure

put on them by organizations or anything to leave, it was just

a poor situation here.

C: Yeah. Now, who were the leaders in the white community in those

years? I guess,...

W: When you say the leaders, what kind, you mean the, yes, the Wolf.

C: Wolf, I guess, was one of the most prominent. How about Shelley,

Dr. Shelley, was he, would you characterize him as a leader, e-r


W: No.

C: Of course, he was very set in his ways, and very opposed to


W: ae-\it-cy^T-\ni .

C: Did you ever have any workings with him in particular?

W: No deals.

C:A Now, Dr. Hartley, of course, was the superintendent of schools


W: That is correct.

C: What was he like to work with, and again, I can go off the record

on this, if you'd like.

W: No, you can put this on the record. He was very fine to work

with. Very fine and understanding. He did what he could to

hold things together between the black and the white. I can't

page 9

page 10

remember him doing anything de-f-Tl rtlyagainst the black race.

He was very fine to work with.
-i~ k
C: Now, he was, of course,r cousin of Sheriff Davis.

W: Yes. _1,0 0 Davis.

C: Davis, Davis was on...

W: I think it was his nephew. I'manot sure.

C: Oh, his nephew. I see. Okay, Davis was not particularly

friendly in those years, '63 and '64, though, to blacks.A SAB-

I ~5 Ed '.did you ever have any dealings with Davis at all?
W: Not any at all.

C: I heard that he became a little more open after the crisis, a

little more...

W: Well, naturally, he would become more, more, what shall I say,

he should become more open, he was running for office again.

Naturally, you can't run for office without at least being on

both sides of the fence.

C: That's a good point. How about Police Chief Stuart? He's still

there, what sort of man was he?

W: I found him to be a very interesting person. I never had any

trouble with him, he always cooperated with me.fdlk Stuart.

C: What about, how would you say that the situation is now in

St. AugustineAtoday for black people? Is there much political

opportunity, we, you've already said that economic opportunity

is very smallbu.,,.

W: That's true.

C: Are the young people all leaving St. Augustine because of the

lack of economic opportunity?


CRSTA 11A page 11

W: Yes, yes. Educationally, there's no difference, they can go

to any school they wish to, but they're stuck in a hole th-at

average blK you-.e~ e _____. Employment

situation is very),ra-re4yerr\, nor

C: How about political opportunities? Are there any, really?

W: ir Yn ) c*- rfi -r black people? Very little. Very

little. Have you talked with Reverend esue ?

C: I have talked to Reverend DeSwannF_ the prnne yes. Thomas


W: He is a very .is.-rt.rerir'"person in this Ga~rCX and he is

opening up many positions politically for negroes, and he's

been quite successful at it. He is also secretary i\ NJACP .

C: Right. How about Otis Mason? Now, he's, what, assistant

superintendent of schools?
r r'
W: No, he is the super--O the elementary schools guu.prvclSOC

C: Is that what he is?V;-He works over in the school board, also

doesn't he?

W: Yes, he's head of all the elementary schools in St. T h Count.,

C: Now, he strikes me as a very able person.

W: He is a very trustworthy and able person, And straightforward


C: Do you think he would have a chance ef-beaA-g superintendent once

Hartley retires?

W: If Hartley retires, he would be, he would have a marvelous chance.

C: Would, now, he'd have to, you have to run for election here to

be elected superintendent, don't you?

W: Yes.


C: Do you think enough white people would vote for Mr. Mason?

W: He's very well liked by whites and blacks.

C: He really impressed me when I interviewed him. What about, has

there been a big difference, or very little difference in the

relations between the races since 1960 to today? Do you see

much of a difference really, other than the desegregation of

the school system?

W: Well, it seems that the white person is understanding the negro

better since the integration, they never had opportunity to know

the negro, the gap was such a diffence between them. Now they

get into a meeting with the negroes, and now, in the educational

system, if you earn a certain degree, you are paid black or

white, according to your qualifications. So, I think, I think

teaching is about the only thing that, savior for the black

race, because its nothing efse for them to do.

C: T- i n "-^'-- that's what seemed to me, as well in St.
Augustine that teaching was the best outlet...
I I I 1 1 + WA ^e-e-Ssa-)
W: f, l ., i '.,. k I. ti- for the black people to

goAa and get as many advanced degrees as possible so that they

could increase thems-e.-es-

C: So the chan es in the government, governmental positions, whether

it be school teaching, or working for the city, have improved

would you say? Have the jobs in the city improved for black


W: _____

C:i low many blacks he--e on the fire department, do you have any


page 12


W: Nont -

C: That's what I thought. And how many on the police department?
0- kea-sr
W: Abou5Atwo.

C: Two. So really, now that's one of the areas that Reverend

De cua is trying to open up, the fire department, the police

department, so 4h-a-t more young blacks can be hired and go to

work in those occupations. But obviously, he's having a lot of,

meet-i-n-g-a lot of resistance getting them opened up.

W: Oh yes, yesdcecd b s.

C: So really, when you come right down, it's as you said, that

the school system is the key to ,,,.. .
A iT-
W:/ Yes, it is. But, I tell you something else might be interesting)

suppose they have thirty percent black participation in the

school system, and as principals, we have only three black

principals and there are fourteen schools in the county, And a

is including myself.

C: hl. How about the school teachers themselves, do the blacks

constitute about thirty percent of the staff, the school teaching


W: Oh, probably a little bit more.

C:A Maybe that's the way they justify it. Having only three principals.
W: Yeah.

C: Well, Mrs. ,ordon, now I guess Mrs. /ordon Ikil15 was certainly

one who they never looked at for The principal, acd h! all

the ability. Seems to me... o

W: Retired now. Oh, she has a tremendous ability---She-'- do anything

she wants A she's very well -fvu. o by whites and blacks, she's

page 13


done some pretty fine things, you know. She's over Echo House,
C,.i\n hrj vjorkr
an'd counselling a she wa- working very hard at that.

A~%d/he has done a lot for black and white, of aging.

C: The Echo House does what now? C: e K h1 ar oftn that

W: Feedsan-d gives Meals on Wheels.AW:Is my smoking bothering you?

C: No, not at all. Has the, is the city government easy to work

with, is the commission easier for people like Reverend D-ue

to work with? Are they at least concerned.....

W: They'reAcooperative, at least when he asks for a hearing, or

conference, they give it to him, because they realize he's a

very powerful person in this community, and when it comes time

for voting for various positions, they're going to need the

black vote.

C: Right. And, he, Reverend Dc~ui is extraordinarily influential

in the black community?

W: Extraordinarilly so, and at first we hear frnm ___and

also Twine, and and, if you need any help, in connection

with the NJAALc- that's where e-r-pwe'r-lcoms -frem

C: Twine is the president, isn't he?
--W: Yes ( P is te secretary. 6L eCSj is the most powerful.
W: Yes _________ is secretary. Q_ _

He has a great following in there church.

C: a he church, yes. So the church is still a very important

institution in the black community, obviously.

W: Oh, definitely.f ot his church, the church, the-heeh __
C: Are the young people that involved in the church,Aare they

as involved as the older people? Or are they turning away from

page 14


a~re.;:.h.ey.ht.urni-a-H-away-f- m the church, how would you describe


W: I would think that the young person is not as interested in

church as a whole as the older ones. The background, or the
y OLuLtI Bu)t
backbone would be -the older people in the church. 4-An I'll tell
Shcs c
you something, the young blacks are very fearless. They don't
mind going out and mlHin-w-bh- their lives or something.

Something that the older people should, much more reserved than


C: Good point. Well, I can't think of much more. Are there any

things that I haven't asked you that you'd like to comment on,
Co0.e 1
either that we could put off the record, or4put on the tape, any

way you think appropriate.

W: When is your book coming out, do you have any idea?

C: Oh, it won't be published for another couple of years. I won't

finish it, writing it Otill this Christmas.
r-ftrcfced -10
W: And it's Suo :w- i? > ^ race relationships in St. Augustine?

C: YeahAj I'm gonna look at the racial crisis, I'm gonna, I'm going

to trace what race relations were like prior to the racial

crisis and the Brown;Adecision in the racial crisis, discuss the

racial crisis and what happened, and how the white community

resDonded to the black after this. And then I'm going to talk

about what race relations are like now, since 1964.

W: Are you going to remember the people you interviewed when your

book comes out, and get a copy "Pd-ey-tr& L._ t eet kold(ci

C: Well, I'll put a copy, I'll see that a copy gets over to the

library. Of course they don't give me as they only give me

page 15


about, the publisher gives me about eight copies.

-W::. Ne-p :sOhI see.

C: So there are not enough really to distribute to all the people
0i c
whoAI ve interviewed, I guess about fifty people.

W: But it will be on sale?

C: Yes sir.

W:X H6w many pages do you anticipate yoet 1 __

C: Probably 250 pages.

W: I should like very much to get a copy of it. If it's on sale,

I'll buy.it.

C: Well, I'll notify the people over here that, you.know, that

Sinterviewed'-ie, I will write letters to you all, telling you

that it, when it's going to be published.

W: How interesting was your interview with Dr.R.':.-., ?
C: Very good, very good. He was very open about the conditions

here, andAtold me about some of the problems he had, but also

some of the things that, like people helped him with.....

(End of side one)

page 16

CRSTA 11A page 17
side 2

C: .....that would be August 1, interview.

W: August the first,/AI left op the 30th, so it wasArcall- a-

difference adhe has a lovely home.

C: Oh, beautiful.

W: You met Mrs. iA_?

C: Yes, yes. I've had lunch with them, in fact.

W: A They're beautiful people.

C: Oh, they're very m=ch nice pec Z.

W: Once a year now, I'll come V' .-^: .f '., with my boys, and

C: Now how did you happenAto St. Augustine? Did your family move


W: No, I came to St. Augustine by the way of Ejdwrd ~n<-ers; College.

C: In Jacksonville?

W: Yes, I taught over there one year, .nd President Collier came
over to interview me and ask me to come over and work for the

college. The college, the most, having received it's accreditation

then, and he thought that my help, as principal of a demonstration

school would bring it up and in the next two years,

two years apart

C: And he put a lot of 4-i .-Ge.s C our(SCi' teacher. training.

W: A Definitely. AC\ 'in e .'f- ,

C: As I said, -was there/ anything you'll k V I + reco,0
W: I don't haVe a thing that I can think of, i o6,Athe older

thishs is off record/ "H, oidcl .....

(-Srrti~f~apo~fea^-L 0^' \1J `^^

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