Title: Neil Butler
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Title: Neil Butler
Series Title: Neil Butler
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Full Text

1FB 41AB

Interviewee: Neil Butler

Interviewer: Dr. James Button

Gainesville, Florida

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...

NB: 1948.

JB: 1948. And you were registered in that year?

NB: Yes. Right.

JB: How were you registered? Was it through a local

registration board?

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

city commission?

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?

NB: Yes.

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

or not?

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

first place?

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?

NB: Democrat.

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

your opponents?

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

on that?

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.

NB: Right.

JB: Do you, do you feel you got significant numbers of voters

from whites?

NB: Oh, very definitely.

JB: In these elections.

NB: Right, I couldn't, with 18% black population-

JB: Right.

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

if you

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


NB: Yes.

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?

You mentioned.

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

very strong.

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

depressed areas.

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

into Gainesville?

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?

NB: Ultimately.

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.

JB: Okay.

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.

JB: Okay.

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?

NB: 47.

JB: Okay. Occupation, before election?

NB: Before the election, I was vice-presedent of Inner

Development Corporation.

JB: I see. And you're completing your doctorate, as i understand


NB: Yes.

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

the mayor.

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

protest march.

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

American Legion.

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

this criticism?

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.

JB: Okay.

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