FBR 54A Beginning of Side 1
This is a study conducted through the University of Florida to investigate
the impact of the black vote in Fl(rida since 1965. As part of the study,
we are interviewing all black elected officials in the state. We would
like to stress that the results of this interview will be reported
anonymously; that is no names of officials or name of cities will be
mentioned in the final report. Thds we hope you can feel free- fe1
C _r q S
opieseIions in an open candid manner. In order to accurately gather
your views, we would like to tape record this interview if that's acceptable
G: Fine vidtim-.
I: The following questions are asked to find out how well the voting rights
act of 1965 has helped blacks take part in Florida politics. What year
did you first register to vote?
G: Oh, that has been a good fifty-five years ago or there about.
I: What year were you first eligible to vote?
G: t948. Ever since I was of voting age.
G: And that--I'm sixty-ew. y.Iou can deduct from that.
I: How were you registered? By a local registration/or by federal ?
G: By local registrationboard,
I: Did the local registrars ever turn you down when you applied to register?
G: No. No.
I: Okay. Have voter registration drives been held in the district in which
you hold office?
G: Yes. Understand that we don't have districts here .,a
I: You do not.
G: We have citywide voting and regist&MIlC
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I: Could you name some of the organizations, local and national, that
help the registration drives?
G: Well, NAACP has helped here quite a bit. The local Democratic
party as well as some democratic organizations.
I: When were these federal registration drives held--before 1960, 1960-64,
G: These were before 1960 and since. As a matter of fact, voter registra-
tion around here goes on intermittently, being sometimes this year,
maybe next year. At no time did we stop voter registration BoaC LI -JAt..
I:: How successful were those voter registration drives?
G: Relatively successful. Rlelat _y.
IT Okay. Are there any things that prevent blacks from registering to vote?
G: Nonfat all. Not in my--eny at this time anyway.
I: Please rate how important you think each of the following items are in
preventing blacks from registering to vote. Economic dependence upon
whites. Is it very important, fairly important, or not important?
G: Not important really. Not at all.
I: Fear of physical violence from whites?
G: No. No.
I: Complicated registration forms?
I: Poor registration hours?
G: Well, that may be questionable, but I would think that any man iAthis
country now where voting is not a problem--certainly not in myiL bghze d.
The hours shouldn't be difficult because their times refeeleven have
registration say in the evening so that if a man works 4I canOregister
to vote during the normal course of a day, And the evenings, 'yo gets
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G: that opportunity. Now that happens eatt every year -d some years
they,4et that happen. of the whole--they kept
saying, 9 n krr e and commercialism, recession
has been- *K i... .,r rr/
I:: Is registration here held often enough?
G: I: think so.
I: Is there an indifference?
G: As a matter of fact, you can go register any day around here if you
really, want to go down to the courthouse. No problem.
I; Is there an indifference here of blacks to voting?
G: II'; sure there is a good proportion of indifference, and there is no
inhibition in registering to vote. At least I have not heard of any.
I: The following questions are asked to gather information on the election
campaigns of black elected officials in Florida. Were you able to
a; Yes indeed.
1: Were you threatened in any way?
G: None at all.
I: It's: amazing the difference between this city and Jacksonville.
G: Is that right?
QO r f tnuer,
I: AYour answer was no Were you handicapped by a lack of campaign
money or not?
G: Well, no. I--atp first yompay have some difficulty, but if you get
well organized then people in the community think you are a fairly
good candidate, there are whites and blacks alike who will contribute.
They did for me anyway. I did not have money as a problem, and I didn't
get a lot of money, you know. I got as much, I think, as I needed to
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G: operate my campaign.
I: Why did you decide to run for office? Was it your own decision or
were you selected by a party or were you asked to run by a group of
concerned people or what were your reasons?
G: Well, I was appointed to fill out an unexpired term. And after I had
filled out the unexpired term or was just about to complete the term,
I asked among the blacks if any young black was interested. At the
time I did not get the kind of response I thought I should have gotten,
in that, T wanted a commitment of-how you're going to make sure this
community belongs to all of the people-not whites or not blacks, not
latins. And. the black who even ran against me did not give me the
kind of positive plan'__ I want. I was committed to that -fer
Tle~tH, and so I then decided I would run because that's what I
wanted to see. IE'd gone for the period of integrating this community,
and I was determined that nobody-white nor black-would turn the
clock back. It is just as bad to be a black racist as it is to be a
white racist so I felt that/community belonged to all of us. And that
this community could best be served by any man, whether he be latin,
whether he he white, whether he be black, who felt that way. And
Because he did not give me the kind of answer I wanted, I then decided
to run. And I was successful.
I: To which political organization do you belong?
G: Well, I'm a democrat.
I: What were the two or three most important issues on which you campaigned?
G: I ran on the issue that this community should be an open community, thatA
it should not be all black or all white or all latin. See we have a
latin problem here, and I was concerned that the latins be treated like
would want to e treated. And that whites, even i tes were in the
I would want to be treated. And that whites, even if whites were in the
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G: minority, that they would be treated equally. You see, anyv rad that
works for you will work against you. Andlyou cannot have a community
where people enjoy and- ha+ kaeif there are all these inhibitions.
And I--that was the key for me. I was not interested in many of the
other things. The race relations to me is number one because I know
that if people. don't get al'ng, you i-- forget it. All the money
you have, all the institutions you create, you can forget it.
1: Do you think. these issues were the main problems facing blacks in
G: I thought that that issue was the greatest threat to this community-
for all of us-all parties. And I still think it's important in this
community. I think that we who hold public office need to unequivocally
make that known. And anybody who thinks and feels otherwise--we need
to deal with them positively--either get them out of office, don't vote
for them next time or make- sure to not put anybody in there who does
feel that way.
I.; These questions are asked to determine some of the conditions which
have enabled Black to win office in Florida. How were you elected--
at large or by district?
G: At large.
I: How many people are in your district in this case at large population?
G: The entire population. And I'm happy to say tha blacks didn't elect
me, Cubans didn't elect me, whites didn't elect me. If you look at
the.precincts, youtd see that across the board I was elected. I'm
happy about that. I feel much better and I'm much freer being elected
by all of the people rather than black people whom I must answer, say,
to black folk. or either Cubans--to Cubans or / whites to whites. I
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G: think ha&wheni a man hold i public office, certainly in a city like
Miami or any other city for that matter, isLe-very-ef-ten he is
answerable to all the people then he must always be on the lookout
and mind his p's and q's.
I: What percentage of the population in Miami is black?
G: Those who give out the figures say about twenty--between twenty and
I: About what percent of the blacks of voting age in Miami are registered
G: I don't know for certain, but I would assume that about thirty percent,
which is way low-much lower. She Salvation of people, whether it be
black or white, is in politics--not, you know, some of these other
things because we the politicians rule what happens to their lives.
And you ought to be concerned.
I: About what percentage of-blacks who are registered to vote do y( v opStlZ
actually voted when you were elected?
G: .JI'd venture to say at least 50 percent. I wish it were higher,
like in some foreign countries where people just go to the polls.
I: wish we would develop among all of the people--not black people-
all of the people where voting gets to be a way of lifeywith a
passion, you know. So that we who sit in public- a~i public office
realize that we are accountable. And either we keep that trust or
we have to go. I really believe that.
I; Do you thinkvotes from whites, then?
G: Oh yes.
I: About what percentage of your total vote do you think came from whites?
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G: I think-I'd venture to say that I got an equal percentage. I think I
got--well, the returns show that I got more white votes than anybody
else. It's the fact that I got elected. And my-the votes I got, if
you look at the precincts, I got an even, by at large, balanced
percentage of votes in white and black and latin precincts. I was
happy about that.
I: This interview is a bit more specialized than what would be really
necessary for -F-awn because of the latin population.
I:: You don't find that in some of the other areas of the state.
G: Right. And with our voting here, it tmrns a special tone because it's
easy to hide somethingthat unless you are aware and furrough%. them
out. They would not be seen.
I: In the election in which you won office, how many opponents did you have?
G: I think I had eight.
I: How many were white and how many of thPm cn there?
G: Let's see. One was black. He was the major candidate, that is major
opponent. The next--I'm talking now in terms of how the votes show--
was a Cuban. And t~ next was a white.
1: What percentage of the total vote did you get?
G: I gotmore than fifty percent.
I; These questions are asked to determine how well black officials in Florida
have Been able to Benefit hose they) present. If what ways do you
think you've helped blacks in your district by holding office? Please
G: Well, frankly at first I poIitics was not my cup of tea. I'm happy,
however, that I did get!ito politics because I was--I needto make
L~,\-s f ~mk
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G: the system 9pSaware of some things that I don't think the system was
aware of. And I'm happy because I think I take a point of view to
the commission which is not necessarily a black point of view or a
white point of view or a latin point of view. I take a point of
view and I' maintain this all the time. My first concern is what's
best for this community, and not what is best for black folknecessarily.
And I think that what's best for this community gets to be best for
black folk as well as e white folk. Andpsome things that people were
not aware of in the black community, I get an opportunity to make them
aware of it..-.At least they listen. And some things we have had--we
have. got done here..'~~ t happy, that we got them done. I question if
we would have got them done otherwise because you know~ the average
ilahk community is the last to be considered. And it's like in
anything else, the squeaking wheel gets the grease and the crying
baby gets the attention. And the fact that we are not here.-that is
we blacks are not usually at the commission hearing and all that
because of- a~ e. I'-m not so sure it's always worked. Sometimes
there's indifference, but the fact that they're not here but I'm here
I can voice some of the concerns. So even if I don't get a lot done,
the fact that I get a relationship developed is important.
I:: Is there anything that has prevented you from doing a better job,
especially in regard to benefitting blacks? Is there anything?
G: No, politics being what it is, certainly in our case, you have to
have three people to vote for whatis to be. And I must say this
about the present commission. The present commission in my book is
the best balanced racially, ethnically, culturally. And anything I
have taken before the commission that affects particularly black
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G: people, they have responded right off and positively. Now we have some
problems. That is not to have you believe that, you know, we don't
have problems. Oh, we have problems, but we would have them anyway.
And so what we have to do is to realistically face them, and we can't
-ndo- the past. We. have to start from where we are and move on.
I: Please rate how important you think the following items are in
preventing yoi~from doing a better job in benefiting blacks. That
the office has no real authority--very important, fairly important,
or not important.
G: I don't really 4ee-1 that there is any reason or anything that inhibits
me from doing a good job for blacks, providing what I want for blacks
in reasonable and sensible. Now you know--it's very nice for me to
want to undo. the past, you know, but I'm a realist. I take the
position--I cannot live in the past and I can't undo the past so I
must deal with the present. And hopefully what I do today will help41F'-)
help tomorrow--the future.
I: Do you experience any lack. of cooperation from blacks?
G: No, I have not.
I: Do you experience any lack of cooperation from state officials or
G: No, no. The reason for that is, there is a oneness of mind on the
commission. I think if there were not--if it were not that way, we
I: Do you feel that white officials treat you differently than the
other officials or not or that is, do they consider you a spokesman
for the blacks? Are you able to only raise certain questions?
G: Oh no. That's a free commission up there. You can raise any issue, and
the interesting thing is somethings theyj
know. And they-and sometimes they raise issues that you would 4fee--6-
-tHey have P, o, A-
reluctant to raise, but they have,nqesitancy about raising them., It
really surprises you.
I: I think I'd like to sit in on one sometime. What services have you
provided blacks. in your area that they did not have before you took
G: Well, I can't really say we now provide a service that they did not
have. I' would rather think that we have gone to the position where
we get better service and more efficient service than we once had.
I: please rate how effective you think you've been in each of the following
service areas: police protection--very effective, somewhat effective,
or not effective.
G: Considering the population of this city:with the bilingual problem and
thienot having as many police officers as we think we ought to have, I
would venture to say that we've had reasonably good police protection.
I: Streets and roads.
G: Oh, certainly, in certain parts of Miami we have the best looking streets
with sidewalks if you go -- certainly in Coconut Grove. That's
one of my prides and joys since I've been commission.
G: Housing? Unfortunately housing doesn't come under the city. Housing
comes under metro. However, I need to say to you that the housing
authority that they now have formally was the Miami Housing Authority.
And legislate welfare. We do not control welfare either. That is
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G: I think the city is looking better proportionately in the field of
employment than it has ever looked.
I: Parks and recreation?
G: We have a reasonably good amount of parks, and then our recent park,u1,
bond issue. We've'seen to it that parks are spread out, and we have
a fairly good park service.
I: Water, sewage, and garbage.
G: No problem at all about water or sewers. Wot even garbage. Garbage is
like anything else, we ought to have more men. But there again, you
know,oy6o1re talking about how many dollars do you have. But compara-
tively speaking, we do not suffer from any of these services. The
commission has tried and I feel-not that I'm satisfied--but I'm think
has done theThbet job of trying to equalize what's here based on the
population density and the actual needs.
I: Health. ad hospitals?
G: There again, we had--we turned over our hospitals. For instance, Jackson
ILemorial Hospital was ours, but we turned it over to the Metropolitan
G: There again, that goes to the county, uh, Metropolitan Government.
I: Fire protection?
G: Oh, we have -the best fireutfit in this counthe best--oneof
the best. We are rated double A, which means of course you get much
better insurance rates and-fife insurance rates-and everything. eie.
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G: Oh yes, we're numberfwe're real proud. We have a first class--much
better than-I'd venture to say we are the only city in southeastern
America that has that kind of a rating. So that's not a problem.
I: Okay. Have you gotten federal funds for your area?
G: We have.
I: Would you please list some of the more important federal grants you
and other leaders have obtained for your area?
G: Well, I do not want to convey the idea that certain leaders have
obtained these grants. The whole commission has gone and got whatever
grants we have, and the entire commission has shared in apportioning
the monies through our administrative staff. And money being what it
is, I think that they have done a fairly good job in distributing the
money. Now f have one good thing in the distribution of that money
and that is we have a team of people who go check and doublecheck as
to how effective that money is being used and how effective the
programs are. Now at the end of this year ,.I.f-.. F ec Ic reports and
it is our plan that if they have not cut the mustard, meaning that t'p
they have not carried out the intent and it is not to the best
interest of this community, we plan to cut off that money and redirect
< that money elsewhere.
I: Have you been as an elected official been able to bring industry or
retail stores into your area?
G: Well, fortunately for us, we do not operate as one man or two men or
three men. The commission, as I indicated earlier, this commission
tries to do what it does as a team and not as-that I did or what you
did. Now there are some of us who have special expertise, like the
mayor. Business is his living, And that means naturally he would be
G: speaking to business people when some of us are nowhere around. But
when the time comes to make that decision, he brings that matter
before the entire commission and the entire commission has to vote.
Jus t the other daYAwent to Atlanta looking around to see what they're
doing that we're not doing, -Ind to try to do some creative and imagi-
native things in Miami because we have a special problem here. One is
to get rid of Latin America and whether we like it or not, we've got to
live with that. And we're now considering--talkirg about--how important
S it is to put a fashion wart kind of a thing here so that people out of
Latin and Central America could come, shop, and we want to deal with
v\o one rnpM
this free trade zone business. So we--I venture to say no one man can
talk. aout what he did really. Ke may initiate, but it ends up what
we did, you know, on this. And I think thatI keeps down a lop of
friction and you know, fighting among us.
I Havye you been able to see that blacks are hired fairly in local government?
Gi, I 4* tef as
G: 1e are now in the midstAthrough federal government team .aumem last
week of really assessing this problem. You do not have as many blacks
hired as we should have and you know, that's probably a system that
has been created. But presently we are trying to make everybody
sensitive to the inequities)to the differentials, and some of them don't
Cjerc. 0A 4hese c4e-P<*rrtmeiS
want to change. Some of the people who =14 9rk 'h ~ -f don't
want to change, but we're trying to e-enjole them. You know the first
thing is to coanjol/them, and if you can't e yjole then, you know, the overnmev
s-- wjI +he federal government is not going to let us continue to go the way we've
been going. Either we're going to have to cut the mustard or they're
g6ing to cut off that money. And you know it's very simple. I learned
thatpeople whareaffected economically get religion in a hurry, you
thatipeople who are. affected economically get religion in a hurry, you
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G: know. And they discover that that money is going to be cut off, then
they start thinking, well, iat's see what we can do, you know, one of
I: Has federal revenue sharing helped your area?
G: Yes indeed. Yes, we ge ten percent of our budget comes from federal
sharing, and it's a very integral part of this budget system here. It
has enabled us to do some things that we wouldn't have been able to do
before. And it has enabled us to give some incentives so that people
would be inclined to want to change--very important. And revenue
sharing is a very good thing for cities like Miami that find themselves
economically in a bind.
I::1,Have there been any black protests, sit-ins, boycotts or riots?
G: Recently, no.'The interesting thing here is because you have this
mixture that we haveyou can have your differences addressed. And I
think, perhaps the most single thing that makes this community-that
makes me happy-I'm a native incidentally--born and iaised-her that
makes this community what it is for me is the fact that the broad
base of the commission for men and woman. Woman is wonderful. See ee-
we've got a woman, we've got some Roman Catholics, we got some Crotestants,
we got a Jew. You see we got a black, got aCuban, and a Puerto Rican,
white Anglo6axon. So we have all of these different people there, and
because they're there-at least there's openness to discuss and to try
to remedy. And I think those who there are sensitive. And we don't sit
around and talk so much about the past. We're concerned about where
pOrd-o- +hds our
we are right now and where we're going tomorrow. That's ouryfoncern .-
I: The following questions are asked to enable an assessment of black.
politics in Florida in general. Briefly, what's you're opinion of
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I: Governor RtZbe Askew?
G: I think he's one of the best governors we've had. /ky-d 4c- he and
Leroy Collins are my men.
I: What is your opinion of other state officials and state representatives?
G: Oh, Dade County has'produced.someigooy senators and some good representa-
tives. And I think within,the last five years, we've had a good crop
oflegislators--men who have seen to it that--4seed Dade County has
received a fair share-not an equal share--meaning sinceAwe're about
twenty-five-we give about twenty-five percent of the bulk of the
state income. We don't receive twenty-five percent. Maybe we getzay mra~e
eighteen percent, but there was a time we weren't getting that much.
And the men who areinow-because they have gone to school with several
of the others from other parts of the state--they at least have a
working relationship and a ,talking relationship. And because I knew
you in school and you knew me in school, you know, that kind of thing. *
Up until about ten years ago--fifteen years ago, we didn't have that.
And we always suffered, but we're getting a fair share. And I want
to say this, the governor\ has been, in my book, 'one of the most
outstanding men this state has produced in politics.
I: What do you think his chances are of Golding national office?
G: Sometimes I think he's too much of a gentlemanlV Only because, you know,
the governor wants to do the right thing. And I'm not so sure, you
know, that gets to be /problem. But I would say this, he would grace
any national office that he is appointed to or is elected for.
I: Do you think that he presidency or the vice-presidency isl,.t ir 4 pc;dvi
G: Well, if he were going to be the president, I'd say fine. As a vice-
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G: president, he'd getsrelegated to--you know. I'd rather keep.him in
I: Where he can : do something.
G: Where he can do something. You know, he's spread himself broad -chi1,
I don't want him to be no vice-president where he's got to be the
second.Se' want him to be number one. A man like-R ien Askew. We
need to be where the tc SC C o s \ r', a.
I: Everyone that we've interviewed thinks so highly of him.
G: -Well he's a great guy.
I: Do you think that winning and holding office in Florida has been
worth the effort?
G: Yes. Let me say, whether you and I like it or not, we have to come
to the realization that politics 'is here. It's a way of life, and
the thing that saddens me about politics is good people decide they
don't need to get,.their hands dirty. Well, okay. Who's going to
it who ,1CI)
etCem irty. Aou know, all you have to do is to be so good and
let the other guy do it. Then you end up getting nothing. You know,
that is you get no kind of government that's worth talking about. u! t---
In the state of Florida, I think we're getting a new crop of men.
They're young. They've made some mistakes 4ad so have I. Who doesn't
make mistakes? And the thing for all of us to do is don't turn our
hacks on politics because of the mistakes that have been made, but
to come forward and say don't lets-ymn make these mistakes anymore.
I'; These questions are asked to compile an overall group profile of
black elected officials in Florida. No individual names will be
reported. Type of office held? Have you held any previous offices?
G: No, no, no. This is the first public office I've held.
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I: The date you were first elected?
G: April, 1970-no, I was appointed April, 1972, and two years ago I ran
for the office.
I: The date that you took office?
G: No, April the 20th, 1972, and then of course, when you're elected, you
take office in November.
I: The number of times that you've run on ) once.?
I: Your age?
I: Occupation before-
G: I'm a clergyman and I love that. i i-
1: Itve been wondering, are you Father Gibson 0Y ?
G: Right. I'm Father Gibson. Either one. Don't worry about me. "Le h]
I: Okay. Because I didn't now which, I didn't want to say the wrong one.
G: Don't worry about i-. LeQk,-the-eeme--I'll be the same R__'__/_
I: Okay. Your education, grade school, high school, and college.
G: I finished grade school in Miami, finished high school in Miami, and
went to St. Augustine's College, a church related college in Raleigh.
finishedd three years in the seminary, did some graduate work.
I: I had u derstood it was Reverend Gibson, but mother said, you know I
think everyone calls him Father Gibson.
G: Don't worry about it.
I: Well, I didn't want to say the wrong one.
;3r Vacv.' _e
G: I have a surprise for you. I've been made a canon in the church and
they're all wanting to call me Canon Gibson, you know. And I said,
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G: look, you know, I still love Father Gibson.
And my mother was right.
I: / She said, you know, Marcia, I think everyone says Father Gibson. My
G: I love Father Gibson. You know what, because there's something, you
know, there's a romance about that.
Ir. Yeah, there is:.
G: And all of those things are
I: Salary received from your elected position?
G: Five thousand dollars a year. You can't believe it. lo- sJ
I: That's really quite a bit less than any of--
I: Were you active in the civil rights movement?
G: Yes, I was.
The church to which you belong.
G: I' director of Christ Episcopal Church.
I: Are you an official in your church?
I: Are there other community organizations or activities that you're
involved in, if so, could you name some.
G: Well, I'm active in the NAACP, and many of the local civic organizations.
I'm active. I try not to join a lot of them because in politics I think
it's the advantage not to. And before I got into politics I was active
in a lot of things, but I-think that you can't have two masters.
I: Do you know of any other black elected officials in this area who have
been in office since 1974? We have, I think, a pretty complete list.
End of FB 54A