FB 35A Side 1 Bridges
This is an interview with William A. Grear, commissioner in Belleg~ade, FL.
It took place on July, 14, 1975.
I: Mr. William A. Grear, Commissioner. Okay, Mr. Grear. What year did
you first register to vote?
G; Nineateen sixty--let's see, it was 1965, I believe it was.
I; Sixty-five? All right. Now what year were you first eligible to
G: Nineteen, sixty-six.
1: ORay. Now how are you registered?
I: All right, but they're looking more for whether it was a local
registration hoard or federal examiners?
G: No, it was a local registration board.
I: 'Did the local registrars ever turn you down when you applied to register?
I: Okay. Have voter registration drives been held in the district in
which you hold office?
G: Every year.
I: Okay. Now if your answer to the preceding question was yes, could you
name some of the organizations, local or national, that held the
G: Usually, candidates who are running for office are interesting in
registration drives. And each year around about election time, those
persons interested in Being elected to office-they will organize and
get the registration drive underway. There are the Men's Civic League,
the en Civic League, another's one other organization. The
the Women's Ciyvic League, andithere's one other organization. The
G: Elite Community Club--it's a group of fourteen women and this is one
of their projects each year.
I: Okay. When were these voter registration# held?
G: They're held each year.
I: Every year?
I: Now how successful were they?
G: Very successful. I remember in 1969 when I ran for office we had about
sixty people with one paid employee who was in charge of the voter
registration drive which brought our registration books up for blacks
rqt's1 Icr- M^,
to approximately even with the white voter registered people. So in
the city of Bell lade at this particular time we're running about
neck and neck as far as registered voters are concerned. It's about
i7ty-f if ty'.
I Are there any things which prevent blacks from registering to vote
in your district?
I: Okay. Now here's one that we have to rate. Do you have a pen handy?
G: Uh huh.
I: All right. If you'll just comment briefly on each one that you put
down. Please rate how important you think each of the following items
are. in preventing blacks from registeriiig to vote in your area-
economic dependence on whites?
G: Preventing blacks from registering to vote?
I: Uh huh.
G: That's not important in this area. Fear of physical violence from
whites-not important in this area. Complicated registration forms-
FB 35A Bridges
G:-1we conduct most of our registration and blacks are- -an4-e and as well
as whites. And those questions on those forms which are, perhaps,
complicated for some are explained thoroughly to the people. So I
would say it's fairly important. Poor registration hours--no. We
have no problem there. We go out on the streets and set up and
catch people coming from work, going to work or going to town or what
not so I would say that's not too important. Registration not held
often enough or registration effects.
I: Rea-registration effects.
G: Oh, re-registration.effects.
I: by not-
G: 'Well, I would say in our area, yearly is a pretty good way to keep up
with those that are purged from the books for violation of not voting
within two years. So we check these fairly and go back and send
those people letters or have a personal contact with them. So that's
not important here. Indifference of blacks to voting. Now -att is
a -ajor problem. For many years, as you are awarene, blacks thought
that it didn't make any difference whether they voted or not. So
there are some that still have that thinking. So I would say that's
Drawing of district 11 S, -bIlnd,. That's not important here.
So that covers those seven for you.
I: Okay. Thank you. Now the following questions are asked to gather
information the campaigns. Were you able to campaign freely or were
you threatened in your campaign in any way?
FB 35A Bridges
I: Were you ever handicapped by a lack of campaign funds?
G: Well, dsn 1969, that was the only time that I have asked for support
from the citizens. Since that time, and I've held office two terms
since then, I have financed my own campaign which I intend to do
again this year. I don't ask anyone for any money.
I: It's the best way. Why did you decide to run for office?
G: Well, I felt that there was a need for .more communication from
the--if you want to put it this way--the West Burrough section of our
town which is predominantly black. I felt that there just wasn't
enough communication--the needs of the people. And I felt that I
could be an instrument by which we could get that communication
started and get some of the needed things that we need in this area.
Now the west section is not only comprised by blacks, but the majority
of the persons living in the West Burrough are black. We had fights
in this burrough, too. So it has been my aim ever since I've been
commissioner to serve all of the people. And that I intend to do as
long as I'm commissioner. But)as I stated, the large percentage of
people living in the West Burroagh are black. And I felt like that they
need more communication with a governing body as to the needs of the
I: As you said before you're a registered republican?
I: Some of these questions you answered +y I'have to ask you again for
the second time.
G: you sure can.
I: Now what were the two or three most important issues that you campaigned
FB 35A Bridges
G:L)There was a need for more housing. There was a need for more drainage,
I: Do you think that these problems--these issues were the main problems
facing blacks at the time of your campaign?
G: It definitely was. Housing has improved but we still do not have the
amount of housing that we need for blacks in this area. We're working
on it now. I have been successful in getting two government programs
whereby we have established now what we call Sugar Subdivision East and
Sugar Subdivision West, which has provided in the neighborhood of around
400 homes for blacks. But that' sa far cry from the number of homes
that we still need for blacks. Many of them are living in one or two
rooms sharing a bathroom where all the occupants in the particular
building have to use this one bathroom which is not good at all
healthwise and otherwise. So there is still a great need for housing
in this area. And I'm still working on that.
I: Okay. /Now the next questions are asked to determine some of the
conditions which have enabled blacks to win office in Florida. How
were you elected--at large or by district?
G: District or burrough as they call it here which is the same thing.
I: I haven't usually heard that word.
G: Burroughs. Yeah.
I Ir mean I have, but not-Okay. How many people are in your hurrough?
G: here are about- let's see, we have-there's about six--seven thousand.
IUltWhat percentage of the population in the burrough is black?
G: About sixty-five percent.
I: About what percentage of blacks of voting age in your district are
registered to vote?
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G: About eighty percent.
I: Of this percentage who are registered to vote, do you estimate--how
many of them do you estimate actually voted when you were elected?
G: I would say about seventy percent of them.
I: Do you think you got any votes from whites?
G: Definitely. Yes.
I: Okay. And what percentage of your total vote came from whites?
G: Well, I would sayabout twenty percent.
I: Well, that figures. Okay. In the election in which you won office,
how many opponents did you have?
G: One. He was -ndependent.
I: Now was the incumbent white or black?
I: What percentage of the total vote did you get?
O$ Lo 1! -
G: Of- 4whdfe- j s1t ..+- ,rr4. or bhckics-|hC el4o(.c i(^'^ ooiz 'f H P
I: IgiA Lj _
G: I can't remember back that far now. I don't know what that figure was.
I: Do you have anyAidea of--i4etween two numbers as close as possible?
G: I'd say about thirty percent.
I: Okay. (4pi iNvv> f .
I: Okay. The next section-the questions are going to be asked to determine
how well black officials in Florida have been able to benefit those they
represent. In what ways do you think you have helped blacks in your
district by holding office?
G: Well, it has increased the communication that was lacking as I stated
earlier. It has given us an opportunity to show the white community
FB 35A Bridges
G: that blacks can serve you as well as whites can serve you. And as
faithful-and honest, and that is one of the main objectives of my
running for office in 1969. To really show the people that we will
serve you just as well and just as faithful as a white candidate.
I'm speaking of the total population.
I: Uh huh.
G: There are many blacks who shy away from whites even though there is
a need for many, many things. They will not go to them. Now by
being on the commission, it gives them the opportunity to feel at
ease to come and talk with me about any problem which I'in turn can
share with the commission. And I' think this is one of the big things
that was missing here when I decided to run. So really, it just opened
the door for just frankly putting on the table the needs, the desires
of the black community.
I1 Ged.- I~te-a Ld- o e-n er_ g- y. (Music in background--choral)
What, if anything, has prevented you from doing a better job, especially
in regard to benefiting blacks in your district?
G: Well, you always hope that you're fellow commissioners will all work
with you, But this has not always been the case with me. I have had
possibly two out of the other four who are white that will-have
worked faithfully with me. I would have liked to have had 100 percent
cooperation, but it just wasn't forthcoming. So I learned to be
patient and look for openings where maybe one of the other commissioners
were asking for something that I had been asking for in my district and
had been denied. I wait for them to ask for the same thing perhaps in
one of tKhei districts and then I slip in the door and I get what I'd
as/knd had originally been turned down on. So you have to be alert at
FB 35A Bridges
G: all times in trying to take advantage of your opportunity. This is it.
I: di .J. All right. We have another one of these questionnaires.
Okay. These are to see which prevents you from doing a better job .1-
G: Office has no real authority? That is not important. Out voted by
white officials-that's very important. Not enough revenue available--
that's very important. I'm familiar with the administrative duties.
Perhaps that was important my first two years but not now. I have
G: Lack of cooperation-that's fairly important. Lack of cooperation from
blacks. Now you wouldn't believe this, but that's very important.
Lack of cooperation from state officials-that's fairly important. Lack
of cooperation from federal officials--that's very important.
I, Okay. These last three, since we got a strong response on that, would
you care to comment on any of six, seven, or eight?
G: Outvoted by white officials, as I stated previously, many of the things
which I thought were important issues and should have received a positive
-vote/try colleagues on the commission)which I didn't get. This sort of
vexed me a little, but asA grew a little more knowledgable about how
to function with t:y fellow colleagues and as far as government is
considered,, grew to Be patient and, as I said, wait for the openings.
Not enough revenue available-this is the one area that really bothers
w-e because we do not have any general fund or neither do we have the
cooperation of local builders here who could, if they wanted to,/go out
FB 35A Bridges
G: here and build some more homes and sell them to the people. We- W
don't have that cooperation. And I think the revenue is a most
essential ingredient of really combatting this problem in housing.
I think the federal government needs to come out now with a housing
program which will benefit the little people. Now most of your
middle income people have bought homes or are in the process of
buying a home. Now we're talking about the little people who can't
even afford a.5500 down payment on a home. Now something needs to
be done in the way of providing homes for them. We no longer have
the 231 plan or--we don't have any building program at the present
time. And I was hopeful this year that President Ford was going to
come out with some bill to help these little people. ALack of
cooperation from blacks--being a black commissioner and having
served for three terms now, you would think that I would have the
support of all the blacks but I do not. Blacks are envious of each
other. And I think this is the greatest weapon that the white man
has used over a period of years and is still.using. And I wonder
when are blacks going to get wise to themselves and say, "Look, let's
support big ddd- a hundred percent." And maybe things will
get a little better for us. But it hasn't come yet, but it's getting
better. It's not as bad as it used to be. Lack of cooperation from
federal officials--I've rated that very important because at one time,
I'd say two or three years ago, we were classified on the top of
being able to get funds for building programs, streets, sidewalks,
sewertand so forth,and now we're having a devil of a time just getting
an application in and getting it approved. And why the switch all of a-
FB 35A Bridges
G: sudden I don't know because I can recall, say, about eight years ago
a company came in here--motion picture company--and they shot this
picture--a motion picture "Harvest oF Sh4 ae and we were rated
on the top for federal support at that time. And it never came
through. So5lI see the federal officials argbogging down on their
responsibility to the communities who really need the help and should
I: Okay. All right. Are these questions related to what you said about
lack of cooperation from blacks. Has criticism or lack of support
from the black community hindered you from holding office, that is,
do some blacks not cooperate with you because they believe you are
only a token in government and have no real authority?
G:A eell, that might apply to some people, yes, because I can recall just
a few months ago there was a matter of .4et4y-l. Instead of coming
to me and talking to me--now I'm speaking about a black person--
instead of them coming to me and talking to me about how you go about
getting a permit, whether a permit was necessary, and all the ramifi-
cations regarding the whole situation, they went ahead to a/white
person who gave them the wrong information. Then,finally, they had to
come back to me and say, "Look, would you help me out. I'm in a jam
now." Because they were threatened with having to move the trailer
from where it was. But had they come to me in the first place, I
could have solved that whole problem for them, and they wouldn't have
had-'--well, a matter of time there of indecision as to whether or
not they were going to have to move. Butas explained to me by the
person, they had heard rumor,$ .4 me that I was against trailers.
But I'm really not against trailers, but I'm against trailers going
FB 35A Bridges
G: into certain areas of my district. Say, for instance, here's a man
who's built a sixty, seventy or eighty thousand dollar home. And
there's a person who owns a lot right next to them who wants to put
a trailer in there. Well now, I won't agree to that. So the rumor
got out that I was against trailers which I was not, but rather
than come to me, he went to somebody else and he got the wrong
information. But after I met with his group and explained my
position and got their little problem straightened out for them, now
I have their total support. And this is one of the large churches
here. So I think I've picked up some support from that one little
incident, but there are many many more things that are rumorfdf,.
Such as, with our community development program which will get
underway tomorrow. There--I called a meeting/two weeks ago to
explain the purpose of the program, what benefits would be coming
in on the program, and I circulated notices and took my time and
hired some little fellows to pass out the notices for the people to
come to the meeting. We passed out something like 2,000 notices.
I had thirty-six people to show up--blacks. Well, I've learned
through the years take the people that show up and do the best you
can. Don't give up. Just go ahead and do the best you can. Well,
anyway, after circulated the notice to come to the meeting, one
young man came to the meeting and he says--because I was complaining
about small attendance at the meeting, he said, "Well, let me tell
you why you don't have more people here. A rumor was spread that
in order to get this money,Ayou would have to turn in your deed to
FB 35A Bridges
G: your house and all this." And I said, "Well, my heavens. Where
did that come from?" But this was circulated by some blacks.
Basically, theAyounger blacks. I don't seem to possess a real
good rapport with them because~seven years ago there was an
organization of blacks here known as Colby. Colby did not see
things like I sxT them. Colby did have some good suggestions, but
their method of implementation was not the way that I would go
about it. Now I stated earlier that it has been my aim to show
all of the people that blacks can serve you as well as anyone else.
Now the way they wanted me to implement the things that they were
suggesting was the wrong way and I would not go along with it. So
they kind of froze up on me and I haven't been able to re-establish
that rapport with the younger blacks that I need. It's getting
better but I need a lot more support from the younger blacks.
I: Do you feel that white officials treat you differently from the
G: Oh, definitely. Sure. I can recall when we go away on business
trips and + Js --one time in Tampa, I believe it was, all of
them had rooms on the thirteenth an I think they put me on something
like the ninth floor. So I questioned this. I'm not one that will
swallow everything and don't say anything. When I feel that I'm
being mistreated then I'm going to question it. So I questioned that.
et+ +ke it'i .
And' they told me that it was just a mistake. And after questioning
it then I was moved up to the thirteenth floor with them.
T ^JfcI Ldh4 wt"t CLLa h14Q
I: Wheo wKld wantt to be on the thirteenth floor. to they consider
you the spokesman for the blacks, and are you able to raise only
FB 35A Bridges
G: Well, in most casesAany question that comes up, it's brought to
me and to my attention. And they expect me to carry it out from
there. te have a couple of other people:W.C. Taylor, Jerry Roberts--
many times they will go to them. Now Jerry is a younger black. He
has a very good rapport with the young blacks. In fact, he was the
head of Colby. And he has maintained that rapport with them. So
I figure that maybe I better get close to Jerry because he has what
I need. So he and I, in the last three years, have been working
very close together with each other. If a problem is presented to
him, it is immediately brought to me. And then either I will work
on it or he and I will work on it together. So I would say that,
basically, yes, I'm the spokesman for the black community now.
Bi CI c- r o dt-n -/ ha oin4
I: -Make-ee -- ---o c-that-one What services have you
provided blacks in your district that they did not have before you
took office? Please give:examples.
G: Well, housing, for one. Drainage is another. Health services or Af-e
people were reluctant to try to reach out and get those services
that whites had been getting all along. As I said, there are
blacks that are little shy. Andwhen I find a person who needs
help, I'll reach out and get those services for them. Or I will
take them to get those services. So) Iwould say in the way of
housing, health standards, drainage. Drainage was very poor in
this area. We had a wide open ditch right over here on Eihh Street
which was very very dangerous. We've gotten that covered up, and
better drainage in it.
I: Okay. Would you please rate how effective you think you have been
in each of the following service areas in terms of benefiting blacks?
FB 35A Bridges
G: Police protection--very effective.
I: Please comment on these--feel free to comment on anything you'd like.
G: Well, before I became commissioner, several incidents were reported
to me--officers. And this doesn't only hold true for white officers.
It was black officers were guilty of the same thing. They were
harassing the young people, and they were calling them, "Boy." And
they weren't showing the proper respect for the people's rights.
And in turn, the people would not show the respect for the officer.
So they prompted a lot of things that happeri to them. So I called
for a meeting with the entire department. And the Chief of Police
granted me the request, an-dI' ust simply talked to them and told
them that we're living in an age now that you treat a man like a man.
Not like a child anymore. S6Aafter that one speech and the chief
backed me up. I'll have to give him credit. He really backed me up.
And he told them the same thing. And he suggested to them if there
were any in the meeting who felt like they couldn't do this, then
now's the time for you to speak up because I don't think we can use
you. So this really fostered better relations between the police
department and the blacks. Streets and roads--now there's one of our
major gripes. We have not gotten what I feel the amount of streets--nr--
well, I'll say street repair and street replacements that we need.
\~) I'm aware that we cannot under our present budget get everything that
we need in a few years, but I had hopes that we could possibly get
one a year replaced. And I haven't reached that point yet. However,
I feel more confident now that we have the community development
program going on that we will be able to get new streets or repair
those streets that need repairing. So I'd say I've been very effective
FB 35A Bridges
G: there./ Housing--I'll say somewhat effective. Welfare--this is not
one of my major areas of work. However, when I find a citizen--be he
or her black or white who I feel needs this service, I will go out of
my way to see that they get it. /This was saying in terms of benfi ang
blacks. I'd say very effective. Employment--now this is very important.
-TV. e-en very effective -When I became commissioner, we did not have
any black department heads. We did not, in many of our functions of
government, have blacks working in the departments. I can boast now
and say have integrated every department of the city. We also have
four black department heads now. So I say I've been very effective
in the area of employment. parks and recreation--I'm speaking of -VP
one of the department heads in employment. He is a black and he's
in charge of parks and recreation. So I've been very effective there.
Water, sewage, and garbage-I would say somewhat effective. We've
got problems in that area. Health and hospitals-very effective.
Education--now that's a sore spot. I guess I haven't been too
effective there. We try but that's a big problem.
Oxe yo&C 4-,d(< -,'7 o^.f
I: What were you trying forg-integration or--
G: Integration- that's-integration in my opinion has done nothing for
this area except hurt it. Definitely. It's not only hurt the schools.
It has hurt the teachers-black teachers who were good teachers and had-
were living here in Bell lade. They've had to move away because of
this teacher ratio business. AndI'd say not effective at all in that
area. 'Younger people-I try to talk to them and show them the value
of getting a good education, but here again, as I stated, I do not have
that real close rapport with the young blacks that I need. So this is
why I have to rely on someone else. Fire protection-oh, very effective
FB 35A Bridges
G: in that area. We've gotten a large number of wooden shacks torn
down that were nothing but potential fire hazards. And we have a
standard code now that it must be CBS construction. That's the only
thing that can. be--replace one of these demolished structures. So
I've Been very effective in that area.
I: Okay. Have you been able to get federal funds for your district?
"I o> eCtf drif'bv4-4e
G: Yesnot enough. And I-sontribute the lack of federal funds to our
engineer who I thought--and here again, we must rely on our engineers
for many services which we're not familiar with. And this is one of
them. He did not pursue or his company did not pursue getting federal
funds for us. And I don't know why yet, but anyway, I spearheaded the
drive to get rid of the firm and we have fired that firm. And we're
in the process right now of looking for another firm to take over our
I.F"ould you please list some of the more important federal grants that
you have received? And the amounts if possible?
G: We had one recently of $75,000.00--sewer. AWe are presently working
under the Community Development Program which we will get $447,000.00
each year for the next five years. Let me think. A couple of years
ago we had a federal grant. Oh, that was pertaining to sewage, too.
We hadADolph Rand Y Company. We had a contract with them which was
federally funded to check our sewage system for leaks and this sort
I +hk'nk +hxt ran S0tc-
of thing.and repair.-the leaks. efa5 c, Rarn __ --I think it was
in the $200,000.00 bracket a month. And that's basically the federal
programs that we have been able to/participate in. Hopefully, under
a new engineering fund we hope to get more sewage treatment plants
streets andthis sort of thing--homes and whatever else is
and streets and this sort of thing--homes and whatever else is
FB 35A Bridges
G: available to us.
I: Okay. Have you as an elected official or as part of a local committee
been able to bring industry or retail stores into your area?
G: No, we're in a very unique situation here in that we do not have a
railroad access out of here. /Frankly, our sewage system would not
be large enough to promote too much industry other than what we
already have in the way of farming. So we're sort of handicapped.
We had at one time a--the firm of Minute Maid wanted to come in here.
But theAsewage problem plus the shipping problem was the big reason
that we didn't get it. So I imagine we will remain *i sugar and
I: Okay. Have you been able to see that blacks are hired fairly in
G; D-efinitely. That's been my major concern. And promoted.
I:: Would you like to elaborate on that?
G: Well, we had several blacks who had been working for the city -f-
any number of years in our water department, our street department,
our let's see--water department, I would say in our building and
grounds department who had the capability of being leaders, but
they were being passed over. They would hire a new person and bring
them in over the old employees who had experience and know how. And
I put a stop to that. It was a long process of trying to get my
point across and arguing with them, but eventually I got them to
see my point. And I've been effective in getting this problem
I: Okay. Has federal revenue sharing helped your district or not?
G: Yes, indeed.A;l've been concerned with recreation which my colleagues--
FB 35A Bridges
G: I'll say some of my colleagues)were not in favor of. And at certain,vA
meetings they would state as much--that they felt that it wasn't the
city's responsibility to provide recreation. And that's where I
differed with them because I feel that it's every city's responsibility
to provide recreation for its citizens. Revenue sharing--we have
been able to somewhat clear up this point,"to maiy--for many of the
projects which we were not federally funded for, revenue sharing has
helped.us in our new sewage treatment plan-in streets. We are spending
now on the average of $50 to $75,000.00 a year on streets now. So I
can see in hopefully a period of time here, we will be able to get
some of those needed streets that we've--that I complained about
earlier that we were not getting. So-and in the area of alcoholism--
federal revenue sharing monies have gone to help those programs which
I feel a great need for, because alcoholism is a sickness/ And it
needs to be treated. Revenue sharing has helped:the school system.
Since private schools came into the city of Bell 4ade, our public
school has been hurting. It's e lacking for a lot, 4wt we were
able to get some contributions from the doctors, the farmers. We no
longer get those contributions anymore in our public school system.
b fc cs
It all goes to private school! now. So the programs by whichwere
Benefiting from when we had thiswwhat you would say integration of
the school, we no longer have. So Blacks are getting less out of
these programs. Federal revenue sharing has replaced that--those
monies that the doctors and the farmers no longer give to us. So it's
I: Was there an upsurge of private schools all around town?
G: Yes, definitely. Definitely. When integration came along, private
FB 35A Bridges
G: schools-they boomed in this area. And they're still booming.
I: Okay. Have there been any black protests, sit-ins, boycotts, or
riots in your city in the last ten years?
G: No riots. We've had sit-ins, yes. Very effective sit-ins--integrated
all the restaurants. WWe have had no major problem of violence in the
city of BelleLade. We have had threats. Chief Goodlit and I have
worked very cooperatively together. And many attempts to start
something, he and I had met with five or six hundred citizens-angry
citizens. And predominantly, most of them are the younger citizens.
In the.middle of Fifth Street up there at 3:00 in the morning and we
would stand there and talk with them. We found that we weren't getting
anywhere talking to a group. We would invite the leader of this
particular protest or demonstration to join us with seven of his
colleagues whom he would pick. And we would sit down in somebody's
restaurant or something--wherever it was available at that time in
the morning, And try to talk the situation out. So we have averted
any major disaster in our city.
I: Okay. isjus e --.; I think we've covered that question.
End of Side 1--FB 35A
FB 35A Bridges
I: ...the assessment of black politics in Florida in general. Briefly,
what is your opinion of Governor Askew?
G: Governor Askew, in my opinion, has done a little, I'll say, towardS--
in his past administrations, to help blacks in the state of Florida.
I see an uptrend in perhaps his thinking in this latest administration
of his to employ blacks and give them theArepresentation that has
been needed in the state of Florida for far too many years. I hope
that he will continue on this plan of his to surround himself with
those blacks who are capable of doing the job. And hopefully, this
will pass on to the next administration-whoever the governor will be.
And I think this will do a lot towards solving many of black's problems
in the state of Florida. You need that governmental support. You
need it. And whrel-e should it start but at the top and work down.
So if you don't have it at the top, how can you expect it at local
levels. And I think this will do a lot for localmunicipalities in
the way of looking at black candidates for commissioner and whatever
else that they're qualified to be in in getting them elected or
appointed. So I hope he'll continue this.
I: G4ay. What is your opinion of other state officials and state
G:A I have found that if there is a problem dealing with our municipality,
we have been able to go to our representatives from this area and we
have received favorable response from them.
I: Do you think that winning and holding office in Florida has been
worth the effort? Could you please explain your answer?
G: Oh, definitely. I have, for one, been a person all my life that liked
to help people. And I really enjoy doing what I'm doing because it
FB 35A Bridges
G: still gives me the opportunity to help someone each day. And being
in this position, you can help more people. It's just surprising when
you get the title of commissioner the things that you can do that,c(c,
before being commissioner you just didn't get to first base indoing
a lot of the things. So it hashelped tremendously.
I: Okay. These questions now are asked to compile an overall group
profile of black elected officials in Florida. No individual answers
will be reported. UI, heres rr eS C,'question type of office
held- --m i&oiuo r. Cvrl; ci r- cS. 5.'s3s ', r ,
G: 4L -a Commissioner.
I: Now the date you were first elected?
G: In 1969, September 16, which was my birthday.
I: And.the date you took office?
G: November 1. (Telephone rings
I: The number of times you've run for office?
G: Three times. This will--I'm presently in my fourth campaign.
I: Now your age. I can give you categories here/~ i you'd like.
I:t Yout occupation.
G: At the present time or--
1: Before elections.
G: Before elections? I wasgowner of my own barbershop.
I: All right. How long have you had job as a commissioner?
G: I've been here three years.
I: Now, your father's occupation?
FB 35A Bridges
G: Uh huh.
I: Where is that?
G: Columbus, Ohio.
I: And was he--
G: He's retired now. He plays all instruments. He plays anything, but
inAthe orchestra his major instrument was clarinet and saxophone.
But he plays all of them.
I: Was he in.; a symphony or--
G: No, he had his own group. He had a twelve piece band.
G: Yeah. He's retired now4i He gave it up three years ago. Daddy's
eighty-two years old now.
I: And he retired three years--
I: That's very good. Okay. Education-tgrade school, high school,
G: No, I haven't completed college yet. I have two more years to go.
I: Oh, aL in the process?
G: Yep, I'm still going to school.
G: I went back to college at the age of forty-twobecause I saw the need
for more education.
I: Where around here Is there a branch of something?
G: Yes, Palm Beach Junior College.
G: And Florida Atlantic University.
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G: They still give courses out here, too.
1: Oh, I didn't know that.
G: Yes. Uh huh.
I: Salary received from your elected position?
G: We get $500.00 a month.
I: Were you active in the civil rights movement of 1960-66?
G: No, I wasn't)surprisingly.
I: Church to which you belong?
I: Okay. Are you an official in your church? And if so, what is your
G: No, we do not have officials in our church.TChuck(lS
I: I don't know. Are there other community organizations or activities
that you are involved in?
G: Yes, I-m a Mason, an Elk, a men's civic group, a member of the athletic
council of Glade Central High School. 'What more can I say--there's
so many--formerly on the mental-not mental health but Health Advisory
Council. I was president of that one year.
I': Okay. N-reks ed questions What effects have running
for and holding office had on you personally and on your family?
G: Tremendous. WellA in several instances, my children)as perhaps well--
as well as my wife--in my opinion, when the vacancy at the junior
high school was created, I felt that she should have been named
principal of that school and I still believe because of my political
affiliation this was responsible for her not getting that. My children
CA/h, I iI'
have been subjected to criticism fort of--well, shunned from the--we-l
-the peer groups. That's basically what has happened.
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I: Your children are young or-
G: Yes, I have a daughter, fifteen and a son, twelve.
I: And they're that aware- theirApeers are that aware of -/ e issue
G: Sure. Definitely. Yes.
I: LEFA.cIC C 0f-J
G: Uh huh. My daughter has been able to overcome this somewhat, but my
son is going through the process right now and it affects him
uj, ti o laCfc "ni-n -
tremendously. -And he's talked to me/no longer than a couple of
weeks ago about a problem. He and another young fellow in the
neighborhood were playing together and you know, as children do.
They fall out. And this particular young man's parents became
involved and stated to him, "I'll hit you and your old commissioner
father, too,if he says anything." So when I went down there to talk
with him, he denied saying that. But I don't think my child would
have told me that had it not been said to him. ButltheseAare things
I:. I would think that he/wouldn't have any problems with your being
commissioner. I guess I was thinking wrong.
G: Yes, he has major problems-both of them.
I: Last question--this is for our benefit. Do you know of any other
black elected officials in this area that have been in office since
G: In this immediate area?
I: Right. Because we have a list and we might have missed somebody.
G: No, not in this immediate area.
End of Side 2--End of Tape FB 35A