Interviewee: Neil Butler
Interviewer: Dr. James Button
June 25, 1975
JB: The first part of the question we want to ask deals with how
well the voting right act of 1965 has helped blacks take
part in Florida politics. And the first question I wanted
to ask is what year did you first register to vote?
NB: Oh, I was, I was in Atlanta for awhile, and I returned to
Florida in 1959, and as soon as I got back I registered at
that time. I had been registered prior to my leaving the
JB: Oh, so you registered in Atlanta?
NB: No, I was registered in Gainesville.
JB: Oh, I see.
NB: Gainesville is my home. I went to Atlanta actually to go to
school at Morris Brown College. I went a couple of years,
and ran out of money and dropped out. I stayed in Atlanta
awhile longer. So it was in the late 1940's, when I
JB: I see. What year were you first eligible to vote?
That would be, I guess...
JB: 1948. And you were registered in that year?
NB: Yes. Right.
JB: How were you registered? Was it through a local
NB: Yes, I went to the regular supervisor of election office. I
had no problems.
JB: OK. Were you ever turned down when you applied to register?
NB: No, no.
JB: Had voter registration drives been held in Gainesville, in
the area in which you have held office over the last few
years or so?
NB: Oh, yes, yes. In fact there was an intensive voter
registration drive. Of course, see, this took on two
aspects. One was the official drive where the supervisor of
registration and supervisor of elections just made the
facilities available. That is, they publicized the
registration drives and placed deputies in shopping centers
and this kind of thing. That is one side. The other side
is the citizen-oriented, citizen-initiated voter
registration drive thinking particularly of several years
when the NAACP took the leadership in the black community in
voter registration drives.
JB: When was that, approximately, here in Gainesville?
NB: Well, there have been several. The first I can recall was
in early, 1969, I believe. That is the year I was elected,
and I do know if at that time there was some concentrated
effort on the part of the black community.
JB: Were there any organizations other than NAACP, that
sponsored voter registration drives here in Gainesville?
NB: The League of Women Voters has sponsored such drives. Those
are the only two that I can think of right now.
JB: How successful, do you think, these drives were, especially
the NAACP-sponsored drives?
NB: Oh, I think they were successful in terms of placing people
on the books. I am probably one of the persons who have
mixed feelings about certain registration drives, and this
is not to detract from, from the validity or the honest
effort that people are making, but I have always felt that
voting was such a precious privilege, as far as I am
concerned, that I would put forth an effort to do it, and to
get ready to do it. And so consequently, I suppose, I ca
not remember ever missing a vote. Even if there only one
thing on the ballot, I vote. I vote absentee if I'm away.
I always vote. When I [inaudible] the issues, and I know
who is running, and I always vote.
But sometimes my experiences has been that registration have
been made so easy that persons who really do not care about
voting will register, and they swell the rolls. But then it
comes time to vote, and the percentage of voter turnout
looks even worse, because it appears that there's an even
smaller percentage of turnout, whereas if we just forgot and
did not even register this person who wasn't interested in
the first place, the percentage turnout would be greater.
There is a financial aspect to that, too. As you probably
know, the state requires one voting machine for a certain
number of persons registered in that precinct. And if
there is a large precinct, by law we must have a certain
number of machines. And sometimes we could get by with half
that number of machines. An example is the last election in
late June. A couple of thousand people registered, and
only about three hundred voted. But we had to conform to
the law on the basis of couple thousand people.
JB: Who pays for those machines? Is that locally?
NB: Yes, the citizens pay for it. It comes out of taxpayers'
JB: I see. Are there any things that you know of which prevent
blacks from registering to vote in the city of Gainesville?
NB: I know of nothing, except in some cases there is a lack of
transportation or a lack of motivation. These are the only
things I know of. There are no legal or other impediments
or threats. Now, this is from my perspective. A maid who
works for white Mr. John Williams or somebody may have some
veiled threats to her to discourage her, but I do not know
of any, organized opposition to anyone registering.
JB: I see, OK. I have a few items here that I would like to
have you just look at briefly, which in some cases have been
items which have prevented blacks from registering to vote
in certain areas. I wonder if you might just look at them
and tell me whether you would rank them as important, very
important, or very unimportant in terms of their effect on
blacks registering to vote in Gainesville.
NB: For example, economics dependence on whites is probably
fairly important in that, wherever there is a, whether it's
an overt or covert threat of reprisal, and sometimes I
hasten to say, many times, this is not present, but if one
perceives it, it's still as real as if it did exist. But if
a person on the job thinks, believes he, if he believes that
he will suffer economic reprisal, then he probably would
not. So I believe that '50's period where fear of physical
violence from whites: in Gainesville I don't believe that
existed at all. I don't think it's important at all.
Complicated registration forms well, we know now, they're
not complicated. They've been simplified one time. I don't
know about here, I don't recall here, I don't think it's
ever been the situation here. There have been, you know,
complicated preregistration examinations, and even if it's
no more than reading a passage of the constitution, but none
of those exist in Gainesville. So I don't believe
complicated registration form is important. Poor
registration hours, I can't very well agree with that as
being important, because, because this thing about Alma
Patheti, she's kept the place open evenings, Saturdays, and
even taken the things into neighborhoods, so....registration
not held often enough, I, I believe locally, registration
not held at all times except when prohibited by law, which
is close to an election, and the books must be closed, so I
don't believe that's important. In difference of blacks to
voting is very important, because, and there's some
legitimate reasons for this indifference and this apathy.
Historically, of course, the blacks have been on the short
end of the stick, so to speak. And many blacks still don't
realize the potential they have, the potential political
strength they have if they would register. They still feel
that it won't help even after, in this day and age. In '72,
when I was running for re-election, I was amazed at the
number of blacks who would tell me, and they really believed
it, "It won't do me any good, cause I'll go down there and
vote, and they'll erase my vote and they won't count it."
And they were sincere and my telling them didn't correct
that, didn't alleviate that. But the indifferent also, I
think stems from the fact that so many times, People who
come in the black community and promise them things and
didn't deliver, and they finally say, "Well, what the hell,
why should I use my time? All politicians are alike, they
are going to do what they want any-way."
JB: Did blacks run in Gainesville previous to your running for
NB: Yes, yes. In fact, in very in higher, for higher positions
than that. We had, reverend Wright who ran twice for city
JB: What year, what years were those, do you remember?
NB: Let's see, now, I was, in 1969, Robeson ran in '68, it must
have been about '66 and '67, something like that. Groine
Robeson ran in '68 unsuccessfully. At one time, some people
I remember, Reverend Tillman ran for the school board, one
time unsuccessfully. Charles Coward ran for state
legislature quite some time ago, and incidentally had the
endorsement of the Gainesville Sun, I remember that.
Probably, I believe he probably was the first black they
ever endorsed. That was some years ago. But his, His
effort was unsuccessful, too.
JB: There's just one of those I'd like to come back to. You
said, economic dependance, if perceived by blacks as being
important, sometimes is important, do you feel there have
been instances where blacks in Gainesville have perceived
that there might be economic reprisals if they voted a
certain way, or voted at all?
NB: Certainly, certainly.
JB: Is that still true, do you feel?
NB: I think it's still true to some extent, but to a very, very
minor extent. The fact that blacks are active participants
in the political process, now, with, dispel some of this.
And I'm sure it would do away with some of the comments
from the employer that might imply economic reprisals. I
don't think, I think if the white employer wanted to
influence that black, he wouldn't tell him not to go.
Instead, he'd tell him to register and vote for the person
that white employer would use that vote in his benefit,
rather than snuffing it out completely.
JB: O.K. We have some questions to gather information on
election campaigns of black elected officials, and I wanted
to ask you, first of all, when you ran for office first in
'69, and again in 1972, where you able to campaign freely?
Do you, that is, were you threatened in any way during the
NB: Oh, threats, yes, even when I ran for re-election, there
were threats, anonymous letters, unsigned letters, phone
calls, and this kind of thing, yes.
JB: From whites, blacks?
JB: Whites, both.
NB: Whites, primarily. I had some arguments and disagreements
with blacks, but they didn't threaten. All they did was
threaten to vote against me, because I wouldn't do something
they wanted, but they didn't threaten, they didn't threaten
me. When I ran for re-election in '72, as recently as '72,
I received a letter which I turned over to the postal
authorities, because it was a threat, but it was not a
threat against my life, my person, and so the FBI, so that
they didn't have anything to do with it, because it was not
a threat on my life or my person. It was a threat that some
mysteries expose would happen if I didn't withdraw from the
race, and I turned it over to the postal authorities.
Course they couldn't do much about it, it was unsigned, and
no return address, and just a general postmark.
JB: Do you feel that these phone calls, and letters in some
cases, interfered with your campaign to any extent?
NB: No, and I, in some ways, I think, it made me more determined
and intensified my support, because there were persons who
told me personally that they had not voted before, that they
were going to vote then. So I think, and I think the
results of my second election showed that I, as you probably
know, received the most votes that's ever been, even until
today, that's ever been cast for city commissioner, and I
think those are the kind of things that made people get up
and vote who wouldn't have voted ordinarily. They would
have been apathetic. But they knew that I was being
threatened and that every devious method was being used to
defeat me, so they rallied to help me.
JB: Do you feel you were handicapped by a lack of campaign money
NB: The first, my first election and second election were almost
total opposites. In my first election, '69, we had
practically no money, but we had manpower falling all over
itself. In the second election, I had no financial
problems. In fact, I had to pay some money to the city,
because I, inadvertently collected more than the limit, and
it had to be turned over to the city, some two hundred, two
hundred and some dollars. The first time, I had very much
difficulty. I had, I think in the whole election, I had, in
fact I had two one hundred dollar contributions. Everything
else was like a few fifty dollar contributions. Everything
else was five dollars and pass the hat, and this kind of
thing, so it was tough financially the first time, but I had
a whole lot of help. I had a professional journalist
assisting me in writing my ads, and he even taped in his own
voice some radio spots and things like this at no cost to
me. But money, we went from, we went from.day to day,
seeing how much could we, what size and could we afford,
because we could not, as you know, place an ad without
paying for it at the time it was placed.
JB: Where, where did your financial support come from,
ultimately? Did you get a lot of it from-
NB: In the first election, it came primarily from white
university oriented people. In terms of numbers, many
blacks contributed, but in terms of amounts, it came from
white university oriented people: faculty members, and
their families, and support people from the university. In
the second election, I got surprisingly strong support from
downtown Gainesville business people, and even bankers and
some, some other businessmen, so it was different in two
JB: Looking back, why did you decide to run for office in the
NB: Initially because I knew of many things that needed to be
done, and I didn't see anybody doing them. And I had been
involved in an advisory way, in fact going before the city
commission, and addressing the city commission with
problems, and I knew some of the processes, and I felt that
I, if I could get myself elected, I could do some of those
things, and that's why I decided to run.
JB: To which political organization do you belong?
JB: And you always have been a Democrat?
NB: I registered as an independent one time, I believe the first
time I registered, I registered as an Independent. Never
did anything, I just simply was, didn't know enough about
either party at the time. At that time, there was still,
there still existed, not in Gainesville, not in Florida, but
there still existed throughout much of the south, the white
primates. And of course, that was totally Democratic party,
you know, because Republicans had no, Republicans were a bad
as blacks as far as getting a foot in the door at the time.
And, I didn't know anything about the Republicans, and the
Democrats had white primaries, which turned me off, so I
registered as an independent.
JB: Well, you changed, I guess, shortly thereafter.
NB: Oh yes, yes.
JB: In terms of your campaigns, again, in '69, and 1972, what
were the two or three most important issues, do you feel,
that were raised during that campaign, either by yourself or
NB: Well, one of the prime, primary issues during my '69
campaign was the unpaved streets, we had 91 miles of unpaved
streets. And the utility department, public relations
budget, those I think were the two hottest issues at that
time. Of course, now, both of these have been taken care
of. The utilities now has a very minimal public relations
budget, and of course, as of now, all of the streets in the
city have been paved or are in the process of being paved.
JB: What was the, did the issues change by '72?
NB: Yes, '72, a major issue, and particularly cause I was one of
the initiators of it, was the Regional Utility Board, the
change of the whole structure of utilities. And because I
initiated this, my opposition chose to use this as a, you
know, look what he's done to you kind of issue. And it was
a major issue. Several of my ads dealt specifically with
utilities. I think this was the biggest issue. Of course,
the other issue in my re-election campaign was the, what had
happened, the revelation of a previous conviction which
necessitated my resigning, and although, you know, I owed
society nothing, and I had done what I thought was the
honorable thing to do, when I found out that there wasn't
restoration, well, I had civil rights restored at the time,
that I resigned, but after finding out that it had not been
restored at the time I was elected and rather than have a
cloud hanging over, I resigned. Nobody asked me to resign,
nobody told me I had to resign. So I did what I thought was
the honorable thing to do, and leave it up to the people.
They had me out, then if they wanted me back on there,
knowing my record, and knowing what I'd done, and
everything, then they could make that decision. And so,
naturally my opposition, in the ways they could, made this
an issue. And it's easy to make something an issue in a
campaign without ever saying, without the candidate himself
ever saying it. All he does is have some of his henchmen
put forth these issues, questions whether that should be-
JB: Do you think these issues, you talked about utilities have
unpaved streets, do you think these issues were the main
problems facing blacks in the city of Gainesville?
NB: No, but the main issues that were facing lacks, could not be
addressed in the city commission race. One of the main,
well, two of the main issues at the time, was inferior
schools and deprivation, just the same as it still
is. But these are things that could not be very well
addressed in a city commission campaign, because, in the
first place, they have nothing to do with school systems,
and they have very little to do with economic situation
couldn't be made much of an issue in the city commission
JB: O.K. The next part that we want to ask you questions about
are questions dealing with conditions which have enabled
blacks to win office in Florida? First of all, how were you
elected, at large, or by a district?
NB: At large, strictly at large.
JB: How many people in the city are we talking about, at the
time that you were elected?
NB: Oh, at the time that I was elected, the first time, I guess,
I guess 50 some thousand, about 55,000, this is a ball park
JB: By 1972, I guess it was up to-
NB: It was between 65 and 70,000.
JB: O.K. What percentage of the population was black?
NB: Between 18 and 20%.
JB: About what percentage of the blacks of voting age in
Gainesville are registered to vote? Do you have information
NB: I, I don't have, I would guess it's, this is just a guess, I
guess it's between 70 and 75 percent. It would change
because of the purging if not voting in two years, which is
another drawback to registering people who don't really
vote. You register them and after two years, many of those
people, not knowing about the purging process, are carrying
around what they feel is a valid registration card, saying
I'm registered, and really they're not, because they've been
purged, and many of them don't even know it.
JB: If you don't vote for two years, you're off the registration
rolls. O.K. Of the blacks who are registered to vote, what
percentage would you estimate actually voted in the
NB: Well, they, the percentage in the first election was
probably very small. I think that the whole voter turnout
was, well, I really can't even remember. But I would
estimate it was quite small, the percentage of blacks. The
percentage of blacks to vote in my re-election campaign was
very high. In fact, the percentage was much, much higher
than the overall percentage for the entire county. In other
words, blacks voted in a higher, in a disproportionate
higher than whites did.
JB: I see. By 1972.
JB: Do you, do you feel you got significant numbers of voters
NB: Oh, very definitely.
JB: In these elections.
NB: Right, I couldn't, with 18% black population-
NB: Incidentally, let me regress and say that in the first
election, I almost won without a run-off. In that I had, I
believe, five white opponents, in my first bid in '69, and I
came, I believe within two hundred votes of winning without
a run-off in that election, but I didn't make it, so I ran
against Wendy Wilerson, and won by over a thousand votes in
the run-off. And of course, as you probably know, in the
second election won over five opponents, with no run-off.
In fact, the absentee votes didn't count, and I think I was
something like a thousand votes over 50%.
JB: I see, I see. What, so what percentage of your vote do you
feel was probably white, came from white voters during this
election? Would you have an approximate idea?
NB: I would say, I would say at least, I would estimate about
70%. Because the numbers of blacks, although in proportion
to their numbers on the books, their percentage was higher.
The total number was smaller, so the higher percentage of
blacks was still a smaller percentage of the overall because
of the sheer numbers of whites. And incidentally, I
believe, I believe in the second race, I carried all
precincts outside of the northeast. The northeast area,
traditionally has never, there are certain precincts that
have never gone for a black candidates.
JB: Uh huh. Do you know if these would be, what, lower middle
class white or-
NB: Well, well, they're middle class white, it's just, I think
the most influential factor is that they're so-called old
guard families. They've been here. They're some of them,
third generation Gainesville, and difficult to change this
kind of family attitude.
JB: I see. O.K., fine. The next section, I think a very crucial
section, was, we want to talk about in some depth are
questions dealing with how well black officials have been
able to benefit those they represent. And first of all, I
just want to ask you, in what ways do you think you have
helped blacks in your district by holding office?
NB: Well, one of the ways, is that, and I think is a very
important reason, by providing a role model, in giving other
blacks confidence that, you know, they really can get into
the system, and you really can do some things, as opposed to
when I was a kid. When I was a kid, if anybody told me that
I would ever be mayor of my city, I would have told them
they were off their rocker. You know, even five or ten
years, even before I was elected, I would have said the same
thing. There was nobody, and I didn't think it was
possible. That's one thing. I think that a very important
way I have benefited blacks, for instance, is that I have
been on the inside and no matter what happened, the other
four city men knew that I was hearing, listening to
everything that was going on. They also could not deny me
access to the budget, to the personnel files, to everything
else, and I knew easily where disproportionate amounts of
money were being spent. I knew where priorities were
backwards as what they should be, and I could take this back
in to the black community, not door to door, but to key
black leaders who I knew had some influence into some
certain areas. For instance, Cosby, Dr. Cosby, who was of
the Housing Authority, at one time, at that time, Tom Cowart
was on the planning board, Al Daniel was on the trustees at
Alachua General, and you know, people like this, who could
at least get the ear of somebody else, or we could compare
notes as to who's doing what and where our money going. And
I think this is one of the advantages, and this is one of
the advantages that most rank and file blacks don't ever see
as a real advantage. Because only the person who's
politically astute and who knows what the process, and who
knows how really decisions are made and can appreciate the
fact that this is a great advantage. That's one advantage.
The other, there have been times when I was unique in that I
was the deciding vote. We had a split commission, a five
man commission, and I could bargain, you know, and of
course, political are funny animals. They know that, they
don't like doing, helping you do something, but they know
that, you know, I told them I was going to do this, and if I
don't do it, next time I need him, he's going to remember
that I didn't do it, and so this kind of compromised
position and it's ideal when you got a split commission, you
know,my first year commission, almost, almost consistently,
it was a 3-2 vote, and it was divided the same way, and I
was in the two. Collier and I ended up on the short end of
more votes when I first got on the commission my first year
than you've ever seen. But this kind of compromise and
bargaining positions a great benefit. That's why I'm
convinced that it always helps to have black representation.
Now there are a lot of people, even a lot of blacks and a
lot of so-called liberal whites, what I call pseudo-liberals
who don't like you to ever say, you know, we need black
representation. That's a no-no. But, you know, I don't
care what you say, and I don't care how empathetic or
sympathetic somebody white is, he has not lived the
experience, and he can't have the feelings that the blacks
can have. And so a black brings something to that board or
what-ever it is, that nobody else can bring. It's, it's a
sort of He is there, and he does his work as a
man and as a representative; but he also brings a little
extra, in that he has something that others haven't had.
That's on e of the other advantages, I think, provided for
blacks is that you're able to assist well-meaning whites.
There are a lot of times on the commission that the majority
of the commission, though white, was trying to do what they
honestly thought was the best thing for the black community,
but they were going in the wrong direction. And had there
not been a black sitting there who knew they were going in
the wrong direction and could in effect pull their coattails
in half, and say, "hey, wait a minute, that's not what they
want," they would have gone in the wrong direction. And I
think that white, my white colleagues appreciated the fact
that I could bring ideas, and give them some direction.
I've even had some to come to me and say, "Neil, what about
this issue? You know, you know, the people out there better
than I do, you know. What should we or should we not?" And
many times votes have fallen a certain way, because of my
JB: I see, I see. What, if anything, has prevented you from
doing a better job, do you feel, especially in regard to
helping blacks in Gainesville?
NB: Division, one thing and lack of understanding of political
process on the part of blacks has been a big hindrance. I
knew that if I were to survive, I had to maintain a positive
image in the black community. I also knew that I couldn't
capitulate to a lot of black demands that were un-, totally
unrealistic and yet I could have done it, and some of the
blacks would have loved me to death for it. But then I
would have cut my throat as far as getting any meaningful
progress. And so, these things prevented me from doing,
operating the way I really wanted to, because I had to tread
a careful thin line in trying to maintain my contact with
the black community which I must have. A black who cuts
himself off from the black community in a community like
this cannot be elected by You know, a so-called
total uncle Tom, so to speak, Oreo, or whatever you want to
call him somebody who just will do the bidding of the white
community, is not going to get elected, because there are
enough black folks here, that the whites votes can be split
and if the black votes are solidly against you, I don't care
how black you are, you couldn't get elected. So you've got
to have the support. And other whites will refuse to vote
for a black if the black community turns thumbs down on you,
because they were saying, many of them will say, "Well, you
know, if his own people say, 'No', you know, I'm not going
with him." So I've had to maintain my ties, and
incidentally, I might say, sort of parenthetically, that I
pride myself in having done that and not many politicians
have been able to do that, because you're called on to do a
lot of things that alienated a lot of blacks. The police,
supporting the police department Now there have been times,
I have felt that police act, I have within my heart that
they were totally wrong, in that I thought that the officer
involved should be banished from the force and everything
else. But the fact is, as a representative of the people, I
had to deal with the facts that were put before me and when
I get the facts, they say, "This is what happened." As an
elected official, I can't very well, I may do it privately,
I cant probably foresee, I think that really didn't
happen, you know, that officer was rotten and we ought to
get rid of him, because you don't get rid of somebody on
what you believe, by what you are convinced. You get rid of
somebody on facts. An example is the incident with
I don't know if you were aware of it, where he says that the
whites superior officer made a pass at her, and she refused
him, and he gave her a rough way to go. There's no question
in my mind, that he did it. My nephew worked with him on
___ and he told me, and he said, "I believe it, that he
is, he is lousy." And other firemen have said this. So in
my mind there's no question that she was treated that way.
But when the facts come out, I have her word against his.
And I told another person, "What you should have done is get
a tape recorder in your bosom or something and let him go on
and take you, Maybe you would have had something, and you
could have done something." But these kind of things make
it very difficult to operate, because it's hard to maintain
those ties, under those conditions.
JB: I see.
NB: One of the other things that made it difficult, not from
point blank, but is the attitude of some of the other fellow
commissioners who, who will sometimes consult you only on
black matters. You know, if it has to do with blackness.
they'll come to you and say things. But on other things,
they won't consult with you, and unless you project
yourself, inject something, they don't get their benefit.
Particularly, I'm thinking now, of budgetary things, when we
allocating money, and there's a disproportionate amount
being sent somewhere, and not enough somewhere else. And
unless you just push yourself, and they say, "Hey, wait a
minute, we can't do this." And sometimes I hate to do that.
And it's been very effective publicity, so that the public,
at a public open meeting, can see what they're doing.
JB: Do you feel in that sense that, that the white commissioners
treated you differently because you were black, that you
could only raise, for example, certain issues as opposed to
NB: Initially, very much so, initially. But after the first
year or two, I believe they, they were I think pleasantly
surprised to find that not only was I there to tell them
what the black community was thinking, I was also there to
argue with them about utility matters, about, you know, fire
fighting equipment, about utility matters and everything
else. I think I soon, there was no question in what I
initially went on, I was seen as being black city
commissioner, the black representative. But I believe that
partly due to the way I handled it, and partly due to a lot
of burning midnight oil, doing homework, I was soon, lost
that image, and became seen as just a commissioner.
JB: We have, again, a few that we'd like to have you comment in
terms of how important these might be, and might have been
in terms of preventing you from doing a better job for
blacks. I wish you'd just comment briefly. Some of those
you've already talked about, but others we would like some
of your ideas, and you can just go down the list.
NB: Well, the office has no real authority, that's, that's, I
don't know how you want this answer to do, it does, it does
have authority, so I don't know whether you-
JB: Some, some councilmen or commissioners have argued in some
cases that they didn't really feel that their office had
that much authority, and therefore they couldn't do very
much for the black community.
NB: Well, it has, it has authority in the sense of one-fifth of
the decision making. To me, that's authority, particularly
JB: As mayor did you feel you had more than say just one-fifth
of authority? Did that give you some special-
NB: Yes, it did. Legally, it doesn't. But in maneuvering, in
technicalities, it does. First place, you have the gavel,
you can be recognizer, you want to recognize, you can
enforce strictly the five minute limit with some people, or
you can kind of learn the other way, and let it go on, you
can, particularly in appointing committees, the mayor has
complete authority in appointing committee. This was
demonstrated when they were dragging their feet on the crime
for abatement committee, and I threatened to appoint my own
on the committee, if they didn't get in at all, it has, and
of course in another way, of course it dilutes your power,
in that you can't make second motion.. And you have to at
least give some of objectivity and when you're
conducting a meeting you can't get in on the debates and
slug it out like you would if you were not holding the
gravel. So in that sense, I think it is but on
the balance I think it enhances.
JB: So you thought the office really did have a fair amount of
JB: How about in terms of being out-voted by white officials?
Do you think-
NB: Well, anytime I was out-voted, I was out-voted by white
officials, there was a majority. So I would assume, you
know, really, that anytime, if I'm really sincere about my
vote and I'm great. So the other person's voting wrong. If
I didn't think I was right, I wouldn't vote the way I did.
And I think it's, but I don't think this has been a big
factor as far as I'm concerned. I think in more times than
not, I've been on prevailing sides, on issues other than
when I got through that first year.
JB: After that first year. How about not enough revenue
NB: That has always been a problem and it's very important. I
think it's increasingly, it's even more important when
you're trying to get it from blacks. Because you can't
equalize anything without putting a disproportionate amount
in the one that's been denied. Somebody's on the second
rung of the ladder, and somebody's on the tenth. If you're
going to give each one of them one rung at a time, that guy
on the second rung will always be eight rungs behind. The
only way you're going to get him up to equal is to give him
some extra, and this was demonstrated during the time we
were being criticized by sperate but equal schools and they
said, "well, in proportion to the number of students we were
now putting in the same amount of money." But the thing is,
we started out, the black schools way down at the bottom,
and the white schools way up the ladder, and, you know, you
can never catch up, So this-
This is the one area where I feel that I had very little
problem. State officials even from the first time I was elected,
from the governor on down, I had nothing but good cooperation. I
was really surprised that I have had so much. Even when Kirk was
governor, he cooperated. This has not been a problem.
JB: How about federal officials?
NB: Federal officials have been cooperative. Sometimes it's
been the sort of great white father image, a bit too
paternalistic, and a bit too big brotherish or whatever, you
know, "You, they pat you on the head and stick some money in
your pocket and now you, you do what I tell you." And
sometimes this does not sit well with me, that business,
"I'm sending the money now, so you do what I say." But
other than that, I've always had good cooperation. And one,
one of the things which has assisted me and thousands of
other black officials, is that the advent and emergence,
first the voter education project, VEP, in atlanta. And
then the Eddie Williams group in Washington, DC, the one
that you get the-
JB: Oh yeah, the Johnson Center for Political study.
NB: Johnson Political study. They have provided all kinds of
helpful information and assistance, technical assistance.
So they could kind of put you together with federal
officials. And as a result federal officials knew that
Johnson Political studies had a pipe-line into the black
elected officials, and I think this influenced their
JB: Were there any particular federal programs that you found
quite cooperative compared to others?
NB: Well, the OEO.
NB: Has usually been very cooperative, in fact so much so that
some of the higher-ups did not like them being so
cooperative, and doing so many nice things to help us.
JB: Uhhuh, okay. One further question along this line I wanted
to ask you. Whet services do you feel that you may have
provided to blacks in Gainesville that they have not had
before you took office? You had mentioned for example the
road paving. There's one possibility.
NB: Well, I think, one which is perhaps less visible, but
extremely important is personnel polices and hiring in the
city. When I came on the city, for instance, police
department, they had only three blacks on the total police
force, and because of a program that I co-authored, the
Public Safety Cadet program, we now have twenty some blacks
on the police force, one sergeant. In, there've been other
kind of person, Ed Jennings, who is community affairs
coordinator, and the highest paid black in city government,
was recommended by me, was hired as a direct result of my
recommendation and we have, I worked, I think perhaps, I
think about five, at least four, but I believe it was five
on the six years I was either chairman of the personnel
committee, or on the personnel committee and I did a lot of
work, I did a lot of work that never was publicized.
Personally, I caused the desegregation of the dressing
rooms, the utilities ban and nobody, there was no
publicizing, nobody ever talked about it, but I did it
personally. And I think these are services. I also helped
increase blacks' pay and I did it, I did it politically.
One year, I was on the on the personnel committee, and they
were proposing some big pay raises for the administrative
top people. Well, there were no blacks in the top of that
category and they were. And I delayed and denied and kept
requesting information and studies and everything. I kept
them going so long till they finally. What they did, they
came in with a plan, they never said it, but they knew that
I knew most of the people in the low categories, street, on
the street department, garbage collecting, water department,
digging ditches and everything, were disproportionately
black. So what they did, they came back, and all of these
lower men, they kicked them up about three pay grades, and
when they did that, I agreed, and I let the upper grade pay
raises go through. And see, you know what, this isn't
publicized and they would never have been picked up three
grades if I hadn't created some problems in getting the
others cleared through the committee. And this the kind of
things that happened.
JB: Okay. We have some other areas we just wanted to raise
briefly with you. You've mentioned, now, a couple of these
but we'd like to have you comment on how effective you feel
you have been in each of those areas in terms of benefiting
NB: Police protection, I would, if I had to put an "X" there, I
would put somewhere between very effective, and somewhat
effective. I would say very effective, except that there
are normal protocol, the normal procedures, the normal
guidelines that you know you just can't get by. An example
is the question of promoting within ranks. Now I've been
able to get blacks on the force but I have not been able to
get blacks in the top category, simply because you can't
expect to bring a guy in, Have him there one year, and jump
him over fifteen officers ahead of him. This is the kind of
thing which you cannot make it very effective. But I think
that I have been effective in getting our police to be more
courteous, and I was a strong opponent of having black
policemen are assigned irregardless of color or area. I
think many people don't realize, many blacks don't realize
that this enhances the protection in black communities. And
this is something that a lot of blacks who will not respect
a black officer, even though he has a badge and a uniform
and a pistol just like everybody else. They, for some
reason, do not respect him to the same degree that they
would a white officer. I think this is fast fading, but
there is till some of this, and sometime ago, it was a very
strong thing, and if you had only black policemen in there,
then this disrespect was shown by committing crimes right
under his nose, and almost daring him to arrest him, and
this kind of thing, which they would not do, if there was
non-discriminatory assignments. And it goes the other way
around too, that you know, that police would be less likely
to be abused or something if he was not racially assigned.
JB: Uh, huh, okay.. How about in the area of streets and roads?
NB: I believe then that's one of my strongest claims, and I
think that it's very effective, not only in terms of getting
it done, but in terms of being responsive to, you know, not
taking two years to do it. If a group of people say, "We
want our street paved, they didn't procrastinate, they
didn't mess around, they went ahead and got busy on it. So
I think in terms of punctuality of doing it, the immediacy
of it, as well as getting it done, I think both of those are
JB: Okay. Housing?
NB: Well, the city of course, has, has been trying for a long,
this is a very difficult area for an official agency
spending taxpayers' money to do, but because there are a lot
of hang ups about how you spend money to help somebody
improve their home. But in terms of minimum housing
standards and enforcement of codes and particularly in terms
of absentee landlords, I think that I would say it's to what
limit we are able to do it very effectively.
JB: Uh huh. How about welfare?
NB: Well, welfare, of course, you know, the city has very little
to do with that, other than some urging or some, you know,
trying to get somebody to do something voluntarily, because
we have no welfare programs at all. We have, we've done some
things to assist people who were economically depressed. An
example is low income school hook-up program. If people
could qualify on the basis of low income, we, the city used
our own crew and went out and hooked them up to the sewer
lines, and then permitted them to pay, I think that's a
system where welfare worked.
JB: Uh,huh. That instituted while you were in office?
NB: Right. You worked on that. How about employment?
JB: Well, employment, as I pointed ut earlier, I think, I think,
we've done a, we haven't gone far enough, but I think we've
ben very effective. We've gotten, we, in terms of numbers,
the number of black city employees is high, much higher than
the number of black city residents. So in terms of
percentage, it's higher, there is a higher percentage of
blacks then whites, if you look at it that way on population.
But in addition, I think what's important is we are
beginning to get some blacks in responsible positions, some
white collar positions in which we have not had, some
supervisory positions and some positions of authority.
JB: Another area was parks and recreation.
NB: We, I think we've been very effective there. But because of
dollar limitations, we have not done as much as we can. One
example of this is, friday I'm going to bo speaking for the
ground-breaking of the Northest Center, which is a 1.61
million dollar deal, and it's in, it's going to benefit
primarily blacks and low-income whites in that area. And
since I have been on the, we've done a lot in recreation.
We've, we've opened up Meadowbrook Park on 15th Street, and
we now have lighted courts out there, and lighted basketball
courts, and lighted tennis courts, and ball fields and all
of these things, and, in addition we have a strong, what we
call a top lot program where you would aply, you know in
strategic areas and develop them for little kids to lay,
you know, seesaws and swings and kind of thing. And we, we
have had a very strong recreation department summer program:
ball, you know, little league and football, and tennis, in
fact, last year my son won here as partners in the doubles
in their age group in Gainesville tennis tournament. And of
course tennis, is something that some years ago, blacks just
did not participate in, but it's growing now, and so we put
in tennis courts in the black community.
JB: How about the area of water, sewage and garbage? You had
mentioned of course, the hook-up, the sewage hook-up.
NB: Yeah, well, that, first the fact that, as I pointed out
earlier, I initiated the creation of the joint utility board
which permits us to serve county-wide or area-wide. But
anyway, it can do that because we can deliver some services
to ereas that normally wouldn't get seviced, such as
JB: Uh huh.
NB: And of course, we have no difference as far, of course I've
had to, I've had to complain and raise hell about it
sometimes but generally the garbage and trash collection is
just as good in the black community as the white, is that
sometimes when they pass them by, If I raise a little hell,
then they do right a while, when they stop and get slack
again I raise hell again. But I think we've been effective.
JB: The next general question is very much your area, health and
hospitals. Do you feel that you'll be able to make a
NB: Well, of course hospitals, the city has, the city itself has
no, nothing whatsoever to do with any of the hospitals.
Health, we have as indicated by the fact that in this
northeast center would be somewhere about $115, 000 health
clinic, which is being built strictly for use by northeast
clinic. A northeast clinic just operating by the Temple
a black church. So to that extent, we've been very
effective there. The city itself does not have, doesn't take
care of health fees. Some years ago it was turned over to
the country, and it's a county function.
NB: It's a problem area, but the city has, as you know the
education in Alachua county, the board of Education is
elected and autonomous and they have their own budget and
everything themselves, so other than pushing for certain
things, and trying to see that schools were located in
correct areas, and they had proper traffic control and
protection for the children and recreation, we haven't, we
haven't had as much influence in that. It's not because we
haven't tried to or wanted to, but because it's, of the
structure of our government here. Now we have during my
time on there, we developed a system where we meet
periodically with the school board and the county
commission, joint meetings and so that we are assisting in
the planning of our educational system.
JB: I see. Just one last erea, and that's fire protection. Do
you feel that you were able to benefit blacks in that area?
NB: To a very limited degree. One way I have, is that we have
been able to place fire hydrants in black areas where there
might not have been and there haven't been in the past. And
of course, the presence of fire hydrants automatically is a
plus. For one thing, your fire insurance goes down, and if
you got a fire, you got one there to protect it. But there
has, no new fire stations been built while I was on. We
have, as you know, initiated the moving of fire station
number two, and that's progress. But as far as blacks are
concerned, that would be a negative thing. Beacuse they're
moving it from a black area to a non-black area.
JB: Were you pushing to make sure that didn't happen, in that
sense, or not?
NB: Well, not exactly, because it needs to be moved, it's an
antiquated building and you know, it's costing upkeep and
everything and it should, it's, it was built to take care
of, in the thirties, I think, and it just isn't serving it's
purpose now. But I also didn't want to get it too far away,
because, I felt those, people deserved continued adequate
protection, but we, we had the whole thing on computerized,
and it demonstrated the response time was sufficient where
we located it.
JB: Okay, I just have a few more questions I wanted to ask you,
if I could. Have you been able to get federal funds for
NB: Yes, and I had a very unique experience for black mayors,
in, just on a personal face to face conversation, I received
a grant of $15,000 to asist us in studying the revamping of
District black area. So in that, there's no question that,
in fact I don't know any mayor in the past who has been able
to do this on his own personal contact. Then nobody even
knew it, and I just came back and announced itin my meeting,
I got us a $15,000, and we now have the grant.
JB: What department, federal department was this?
NB: It was, it was the OEO.
JB: As an elected official, or even part of the commission, do
you feel you've been able to bring in industry or businesses
NB: Not nearly enough. That's, that's a real dificiency in
what's happening. But it's not, I don't know if that's due,
very little to my ability, it's due much more to the
pressures of citizens who seem to want to keep us totally
dependant on the University of Florida, and they don't, they
frown on any kind of industry, even though it might be
clean, light or whatever, they just, that's one of the more
depressing things I've had to encounter on the city
commission: The attitudes of some persons who are
professionals and have it made, it's very easy for a forty,
thirty or forty thousand dollar faculty member in his $60,
000 home, and driving his mercedes to, and this is an
exaggeration, but whT I'm saying is that these people,
tenured and everything, and they're fixed, and they couldn't
care less, whether the guy who has third grade education,
but can work well with his hands, whether he has anything to
do. They just as well he pick up his bags and go somewhere
else and leave this to quote us college professors.
JB: Seems as though you've tried, you felt that that was a
NB: I think our position has negated our efforts in that area.
JB: In terms of federal revenue sharing, do you feel that this
has helped the Gainesville area or not?
NB: Very, very definitely. I'm not at all sure that we have
used it as adequately as we should, I don't think we, I
think our priorities in it's use sometimes have been a
little skewed, but it's been a great help to this community.
JB: Do you feel that you've been able to, you and other
commissioners have been able to siphon some of this money
into areas which benefit blacks in particular?
NB: Very definitely. A major hunk of this northeast center is
revenue sharing money.
JB: Okay. Are there other specific projects that are due to
revenue sharing or a good portion of it due to revenue
NB: Yeah, well, the bikes ways, which are now running through
the black community, much of the recreation that we've been
able to, the tennis courts and this kind of thing, and some
street paving, some of the street paving was revenue
JB: In the last seven or eight years, well even before you got
into, have there been any black protest sit-ins, or even
riots in the city of gainesville? You mentioned of course
the student walked out. Was there any other types of sit-
ins or protests, or even riots black protests or riots in
the city of Gainesville?
NB: Not since I was on the commission. Just preceding my
election, there was, there was very strong racial problems.
Not too long before that is when we had the big hassle over
desegregating the restuarants, movie theaters and motels.
And following close behind that, of course, well, there was
one other on the commission, and that was high school racial
thing. And the University of Florida student walkout was
perhaps the biggest one since I was elected.
JB: What were the effects of these types of protests?
NB: Maybe, in many ways, it may be easier for me to get things
done. I'm not one who would deny that much of the success I
have had would not come if there hadn't been some extremists
out there demonstrating to the people that my way was a hell
of a lot better than theirs. And if their came a choice,
you know, they say, well, you know, "We better do it the way
Butler's saying, because it'd be better to do it that way,
than bring this place down, or for us to keep on having
these kind of problems." So I will admit that it has had an
effect on our progress and I, I get a little disgusted with
some of thr elected, black elected officials who, if
youdon't acknowledge this, you know, it's easy for us to
say, "look what I did for you." But I also know that the
extreme militants have had a hand in what we do. But when
that happened, there also had to be somebody level-headed
enough to keep the ruuder right and kepp it going through
muddy waters and come out with something worth something.
I've, I visit places, even Boston, Chicago, other places in
depressed areas where they had riots and some of them, it's
been as long as five, ten years ago, and the destruction is
still there. It hasn't changed any. They burned out
stores, and the stores, the same stores are still boarded
up. Nothing's happened to them. And of course, we extreme,
so you never lost valuable real estate, valuable businesses.
JB: There was never any out and out riots here in Gainesville.
Just one or two last questions. In terms of state politics,
what's been your opinion of Reuben Askew in terms of his
attitudes and politicies towards blacks in Florida?
NB: I think basically and philosophically, I'm a strong suppoter
of his, and I think he, what he has done, far outweighs the
few times when he, I feel that grain of blacks. One of
those times was with his appointments to the community
affairs office in Tallahassee. I think that that could have
been handled much better. There, some of it, you know, I
think, basically, and I don't agree often with the African
People Socialist Party, but this Pitts and Lee thing, I
think they had two, I believe they had two innocent people
incarcerated and I believe that Reuben Askew could have done
a great thing to have commuted their sentence or done
whatever powers the governor has to do. Isolated things
like this, I have disagreed totally with his actions, but-
JB: You mentioned the community affairs appointments. Didn't he
appoint a black to that post?
JB: Ultimateley. O.K., what happened prior to that time? I'm
not familiar with it.
NB: He, well, one thing which many of us disliked, and it's a
political thing and you have to bo novices at it, is that he
didn't consult with, to our knowledge, any of the black
elected officials through out the state to have a suggestion
as to who do you think would make a good person,
particularly because this department has so much to do with
what happens in the black community, we feel that if there
wasn't a black there, we should at least have a voice in
saying, you know, if he choose the, I've even forgotten the
name of the white who he appointed to succeedAnthony Range.
If he had just run it by us and said, you know, he could
have had his mind already made up, but it would have looked
better to us. It would have been an acknowledgement that we
do know more about what the black people want than he does.
JB: I see. Where did he-
NB: But now on other, on some other issues, for instance, I
don't know any governor yet I had more respect for their
stand on the bussing issue when he really laid his whole
future on the line, saying, you know, these anti-bussing
demonstrations was just for the birds when what we really
should do is bus until we get an alternative. And you got ,
you have to admire a person who would, you know, put his
future on the line for something.
JB: How about the recent Pensacola affair, in which I understand
Governor Askew was asked to intervene? Did you have any
particular feelings about his role there?
NB: Of course, I don't know the facts about this what the
officers were supposed to had done, I don't have the facts
on that. But I think there, too, I would, I was not proud
of what he did, because I think that he has the authority
and powr and should have sent some strong independent people
in there to look into it, Investigate it and bring back some
findings, and I don't think he did this. I think he just
let the home folks look into and give him a report, and he
acted on that report. And I think anytime you have racial
tension that had in Pensacola and places like Quincey and
all around there, you just don't, well, as you say, it's
like leaving the fox to mind the chickens.
JB: Are there any other state officials or state representatives
that yuo feel have benefited black to any great extent, or
worked against blacks in the state or locally.
NB: Well, in isolated incidents, and I told Dick Stone, when he
was campaigning for Senate, I questioned him about his, this
wildlife commission, whatever the name is, he was elevating,
I can't even think of his name now, but a person who
publicly said things derogatory well at least it's reported
publicly made fun of the fact, he jested and said, a little
jokingly that, somebody asked him why there were no blacks
wardens or something, you know, whatever person there is,
and he said, "well, maybe they think blacks don't, maybe
blacks don't like water," or something like is unbecoming
and for Governor Askew to have appointed him and for, well,
Governor Askew I don't think supported it, the cabinet did
it, but Dick Stone was the deciding vote, and that's why at
the time, we kind of raking him over the coals, but
generally Dick Stone's been a good man. I think Bob Shevin,
although I disagree a lot with Bob Shevin, I think Bob
Shevin Attorney General opinion any time was strickly
political. And I, I really lauged, some years from now, when
Bob Shevin is governor, and they're going to start, court's
going to start overturning all of his rulings, going to be
funny. But generally, Bob Shevin has been a real strong
supporter of Black causes, and he's been a real strong
supporter of mine, personally, he's done a lot for me, with
me, and I know him personally. Other than that, I think
basically, the other, for instance, cabinet officers have
been to me, kind of Laissez-faire, you know, not really
gung-ho, but they're not anti-black or anything.
NB: Now, Tom Adams has a great black following, even now. He
is, I guess, always been responsive. He has had blacks in
high positions in his office before most of the others did.
JB: Okay. Just one last major question, I'd like to ak, and that
is, do you think that winning and holding office in Florida
has been worth the effort?
NB: Very definitely. I stated when I left office, I left with,
a sense of accomplishment, I caught hell, you know, I had
some very depressing times, like some times when I wondered,
you know, "Was it worth it?" Why should I go through all of
this?" Particularly when I catch hell from the blacks and
the whites, you know, why should I fet catching hell? And
it seems that nobody gives a damn. But then, when I look on
it, and weigh the whole thing in terms of the good things
that I've seen happen, and if, you know, I'm no martyr, and
I don't want to sacrifice myself, but if by me catching hell
for some time I can have contributed as much as I feel that
I have, then I think it's worth it. The other thing is that
fortunately for this whole state, many of the blacks who were
strong people, and were able to operate within the system,
and were able to operate within the system, and were to be
level-headed, I could have gone in as the first black in
Gainesville, like a bull in a china shop, and made a lot of
headlines. All right, then I might have been the last black
for a long time. But now, I think the level-headedness and
the mature way I conducted myself, in effect, helped elect
Aaron Greene, because the people would say, you know, well
you know... there's no question when I ran initially, there
was a lot of fear and apprehension of what would happen if
you get a black city, and what would happen if he becomes
the mayor, you know, and I think in retrspect, now, there
are persons in this community who are proud to say that, you
know, "Neil was our man." In fact, I've gone places with
thr group, you know, the whole city commission and
everything, and they sort of proudly tell people, "This is,
this is our mayor," with a sense of pride, and it makes me
feel good that my service has been of a quality that would
let them be proud to say, this is our mayor.
JB: Are you thinking of running for another office, public
NB: Yes, I'm thinking very strongly of it. If I had the
political machine and the money, I'd run for Don Fuqua's
Sert. But Florida needs to be redisticted, because it's
just too much to challenge an incumbent who knows all these
people out in the boondocks when his district runs from mid-
Florida all the way up to the panhandle. I'm not going to
have any thousand dollar contributors for any campaign I
have. And that's the kind of money you need to weight your
county. You either have to have a lot of paid employees,
you have to have people in these different communities
working in a store-front headquarters churning out
materials, answering telephone calls.. People aren't going
to, you can't run that kind of a thing on volunteer basis,
it won't work. And, but I anticipate that '76, depending on
what happens, '76, I'll be out there doing something.
NB: '76 was a good year, because the Congress seats are up, you
know, even U.S. senators, both House seats are up. Bob
Saunders Senate seat is up, three county commissioner's
seats are up, or is it two? No, it'll be three, cause plans
to run again. Sid Martin's seat normally would have-
JB: Oh that's right, yeah. Just a couple lasi personal item
questions. Your age?
JB: Okay. Occupation, before election?
NB: Before the election, I was vice-presedent of Inner
JB: I see. And you're completing your doctorate, as i understand
JB: Salary received from your desired position?
NB: Right now, it's changed since I've been there, a couple of
times. Right now, for regular commissioners it's, I think
about $5,000, and the mayor gets about $7,000.
JB: What wa it when you began in 1969?
NB: When I began in 1969, it was $400 a month and $4,800 for no,
wait a minute $300 a month for commission, $400 a month for
JB: Were you active in the Civil rights movements from 1960 to
NB: Not active in the sense an I, this is something that shocks
a lot people, knowing me and all the things I've had done,
that I have never been on a picket line, and never been in a
protest march, and for some fifteen years, I have not been a
card carrying member of the NAACP. I have supported the
NAACP, I have contributed, I have spoken at rallies, I have
been a speaker for fund-raising, but i have not been a card
carrying member, never picketed, and I've never been in a
JB: You said, for fifteen years, you were once a member of the
NB: Oh, yes, some time ago. I found that sometimes, that can be
a deterrent ratherthan an adjunct to get things done. I
think that's one of the things helped to beat reverned
Wrigt. When he ran for city commission, he was president of
the NAACP, and not only was he president,I believe that if
he hadresigned and run, resigned from the NAACP presidency
and run, he said, that if elected h would resign, but while
he was running he was the president of the NAACP. And I
think severely hurt his chances to become elected. And as a
result, conceivably, he did more harm, he, well, he
definitely did not permit himself to do the good that he
could have done on the commission, and he might have hurt
himself, by his defeat.
JB: Do you belong to a church?
NB: Yes, I'm a Methodist. And incidently, it may be
interesting, it's the same church that I was rearing in as a
child. I have never moved my member ship while in the city.
Now when I lived in Atlanta, naturally, moved it, and it's
kind of ironic that many of the churches I could never go in
a few years ago, once I became elected, particularly after I
became mayor, were quite receptive, and some of them even
made some overatures for mt membership in the predominantly
white church. But I never came to. I belonged to a very
small church of probably, at most, a hundred and fifty
JB: Have you been an official in the methodist the church?
NB: I've been a steward, which is comparable to deacon and I've
been a trustee. ___ neither of the offices, now, but I have
JB: Are there any other committee organizations or activities
that you have been involved in outside of commissioner,
NB: Well, I'm very active in my fraternity. In fact, I'm a
district officer, the district composed of Florida, Georgia,
Mississippi and Alabama. And I am District KRS, which is
the same thing as district Secretary over the whole state.
I have been in my fraternity, twenty or thirty years, in
fact I've just finished twenty three years with my
fraternity. I wrote the charter, it is the same thing as
president of local graduate chapter. I was the one did the
paper work to get a chapter in Gainesville. I've also, I
was also the moving power behind getting an undergraduate
chapter at the university of Florida where we have an
undergraduate chapter, too, and so, and I held state
offices in the fraternity to. I've also been involved in,
but to a lesser degree, the Elks and the BFW, and the
JB: Okay. I was going to ask you, and I forgot, I'm sorry, you
had told me priously that..
NB: Yeah. In the first place, Families suffer with politicians,
period, whether they be black or white, or whatever. Quite
often, the black wife, or the black children suffer more,
because there is a lack of understanding by their
constituents a to really what that parent is doing sitting
down there, you know. Are they selling us out, you know,
you, you know, I heard my young daughter over here
somewhere, say, "Oh, Neil Butler isn't doing a damn thing,"
or something like this. And she's offended by that, and
she's hurt by that because she knows deep down that I'm
doing the best I can. And the wives feel the same way, they
get the same thing, I've gotten dirty calls, people who've
called my daughter and say bad things to her, and so the
family is involved. But I think it has an even greater
impact socially, because of necessity, if you are going to
play the political game, you have to make the social
contacts, you have to make the rounds. When Dr. such and
such a name invites you to a cocktail party at his house,
social gathering, if you ignore that invitation, that person
or some people there, are going to ignore you later on, when
you need them politically. If you go, you enhance your
position, because you're going to rub shoulders with some
people who can help you financially, who can help you a lot
of ways, and so you go. and you become so involved, and you
get so many of these, you appear to have left the black
social circle, and move into the white social circle. And
because of the sheer limitation of time, you have to miss
some black affairs. And then someone says, "Ah ha! He
didn't miss, he didn't miss Bob Marston's cocktail party. He
was there. I seen him out at Claude Butler's house. Jim
Stringfield invited him, and we went there, the Chamber of
Commerce president, but you know, we're having this, and we
can't even get him to come." And it's a strain to try and
Strectch yourself to all of these, and sometimes you just
have to miss one. And this is when, you know, you can go to
fiften. That's fine. But that one you miss, is the one
they jump on you about.
JB: Do you feel the criticism that you mentioned that your
children were receiving and so on efected you to any great
extent in terms of your performing your functions as
NB: No, because I feel I was fortunate, I, all along I leveled
with my family, even my children. And they know exactly
whyl was doing it, what I was doing, and let them know, they
realize,a lot of people didn't like what I was doing. And a
lot of black people didn't like what I wa doing. And so I,
I think I softened the impact on them, in consequence of the
impact on me.
NB: Were there occasions wheer your wife an children wanted you
to get out of office, this type of thing, as a result of
JB: Not really. I really don't think so. They had wanted me to
do some things that I wouldn't do. For instance, my wife,
in the last re-electon campaign, she wanted me to really
blast some people who'd been jumping down on me. And I could
have. But I told her, you know, that's not the way you do
it. She said, you know, for instance, my leading opponent
in the last election,had gone to the radio stations and fed
them some information about my having to support twins in
Atlanta that are not mine, but I went to court and the judge
adjucated them on me, he said, you know, "The decision is
that you are father of these children, so you got to support
them." And my leading opponent found out this and fed this
information on the radio station. The radio station had it
on and said that he knew, that's where the information came
from, his camp. And they called me, cause my wife was
listening when I told the radio station, "I'm sure that Mr.
McDaniel's didn't do a thing like that because I feel he's
an honorable man." When I got off the phone, my wife was
furious. She said, "What the hell you mean? You know he
did it." I said, "Yes, I know he did it. But I'm not going
on the air, and say, "Yes, that son of a bitch did it, and I
know he did it." I say, instead I say, "I don't believe he
would do a thing like that, you know, I believe him to be an
honorable man." And I end up being the good guy, And he's
the loss. But if I get down in the ditch with him you know,
you can't win in a squirting match with a skunk, cause he's
going to come out, you're going to come out, with that
stuff anyway." But these were, there were times like this,
that she disagreed and she, she totally, at one time during
my re-election campaign, we all knew how active Jim
Richardson was, and that he in effect, gave the information
about my previous convictions to the Gainesville Sun, the
Gainesville Sun has since admitted that he gave it ti them.
And he was doing everything he could to get me defeated. And
my wife really got uptight about that and she told me,
because we had been to his house. We had sat around his
swimming pool sipping sodas and mixed drinks and all of
this. And my wife was really uptight about that and said
that I was a hypocrite and that, she said,"If you're elected
an dI'm sure you will be, I can tell you one thing. Don't
ever accept an invitation to go to Jim Richardson's house if
you expect me to go, cause I'll never go." It's these kind
of things, but she's never asked me to get out of it, I
think because she knew that Iwas strong and that I could
take a lot of stuff, beacuse if it were she, she never would
have ran in that. She would have told him to go to hell
right off. Because she wouldn't have put up with it.