Title: Claude Brooks
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Title: Claude Brooks
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FB 56A

SUB: Claude Brooks

INT: Button Project

PLACE: Crystal River

NOV. 20, 1980

jf




I: This is July 30, Wednesday. This interview will be conducted in Crystal River.

I am with Claude Brooks, councilman of Crystal River. Thank you.


I: Good morning Mr. Brooks. The following questions are asked, to find out how

well the Voting Rights Act of,1965 has helped blacks take part in Florida

politics. My first question: What year did you first register to vote?

B: Oh now that would be way back. I wasAthe first ones, well I, as far as I ea+

remember, wherl came home I reregistered to vote in 1945.

I: About 1945. Was that the first year that you were eligible to vote also?

B: Oh no, no. I was old enough cLPd eai 1ble- o otf- but I don't

remember voting, YerI 5er to .\lo +t'
__ Jere XOA)
I: Right, okay. How were you registered,Adid you just go into register, or was

it through local registration board?

B: No, I just went in and registered Democrat.

I: Right. YoI -- right. 7We didn't need any federal examiners at that time. Did

the local registrations ever turn you down when you applied to register?

B: No.

I: Have you, have voter registration drives been held in the district in which you

hold office? Did they ever use the drive to get the black people to get out

there and vote?

B: Yes. Sometime ago, about .
\10^SAM SKi+ies
I:A/ateA'&Es possibly?

B: Somehow like that. We had a drive and was trying to get people down to the polls





FB 56A


B: to Ato re.stcr o VoeIC
I: Yeah, we're talking now primarily black people.

B: That's who I'm talking about. It wasn't a problem that they couldn't vote or

register, it was a matter of just getting them interested enough to go to the

polls and register to vote.
I: Right.A Now how successful were these voter drives?

B: I think they were very successful, successful, because we, we got a lot of people

to go to the polls to register.

I: Now this was before '60 or let's say '60 to '64?

B: This would have been in the 0&)s. I can't pirnp in quite what.

I: All right, around the sixties then, okay. Are there any things which prevent
blacks from registering in your district?

B: "No.

I: No, I don't think so. How would you rate the importance of the following items
in preventing blacks from registering. But I don't think there's anything that
really prevents them, except possibly indifference. VhaO o you +4hivk'
prevev"
B: It doesn't blacks and chicanos as far as registering that I know and can think

about it.

I: Well right, but if they have no interest.
B: Well, this, this is own personal feelings.

I: Right, right. How about poor registration hours, how do you .
B: You can register anytime, because they keep the books open eVe\ ai Y at

the county seat all the time. Now there are certain days right4in the city that
you have the books open. I don't remember just offhand what days it is.

I: All right section B. I'm going to turn it off for a second to make sure I have
everything on here.

(Pause in tape)
I: ContinuingAour interview, section B. The following questions are asked to gather





FB 56A


I: information on the election campaigns of black elected officials in Florida. Were

you able to campaign freely, that iswere you threatened in any way in your

campaign?

B: No I wasn't threatened in any way.
l( noW,
I: You ,ava.some of these questions you know, they all, all of them are going to be

answered throughout the whole state. So where we may not have any problems in

Citrus, some of the parts of the state are going to have problems. Were you

handicapped by a lack of campaign money or not?

B: No.

I: No, you had enough money?

B: I furnished my campaign money myself.

I; Why did you decide to run for office?

B: First of all it was the challenge, and I was interested because I believe a black

man on the city council, and any other voter as far as that is concerned in Citrus

County, is helpful to black as well as white and whatever. I just think a black

person in office is good for the community.

I: Then it was your own decision?

B: Right.

I: Were you selected by a political party at all?

B: No. No.

I: No. And was it . .

B: I was on my own all the way.

I: On your own all the way. To which political organization do you belong?

B: Democrat.

I: What were the two or three most important issueswell I think you just answered
-nhere sare
that question very well. Do you thinkvtiejp issues, these issues were main problems

facing blacks in your community? WellI think you answered that more or less too.

Okay, well section C. These questions are asked to determine some of the conditions





FB 56A


I: which have enabled blacks to win office in Florida. How were you elected, were
you elected at large or by district?
V46L5 ru"iqi/i^
B: When I firstA/arr for city council there were three seats available, and they ran
on the highest, the first three *~yg4AVVos with the highest votes will be elected.
And I come in second with the highest amount of votes. Now since that time we've
changed and VtPfPj^ir ranniiq For -5eoc.

I: All right. So now the seats that you're referring toAyo'we refer to as districts.
In other words, you could have somebody come in, but as long as they live in your
districtrun against you.
B: WellACrystal River is not set up on districts. Yet the council is set up on seats,
seats one through five.
I: Right.
B: But you don't have a certain district to represent, you're still representing the
entire Crystal River.
I: Oh I see, then actually anybody from let's say, from the plantation area could
run for your seat.
B: Right, right.
VoUi
I: Okay. Do you know how many people are in your district /r/ seat?
B: Well as I just said we don't have any.

I: Yeah right. What percentage of the population, well it's hard to say this, what
percentage of the population in your district is black, but I don't think that we'rc-
refei-r'iiv vio q a+VAt e,' Ve)
mm>-WhtydgAG ',e z about what percentage, about what percentage of blacks
of voting age in this area are registered to vote?

B: Oh, it would be very, very low. I 'd say five per cent of blacks4ctM reaidc4red Vo ce.
I: About what percentage of the blacks who are registered to vote, do you estimate
actually vote when you are elected?
B: Well, I'd say approximately two thirds of the people Vof&J .

I: Two thirds. Do you think you got any votes from the whites?





FB 56A


B: I had to or I wouldn't have been elected anything vhli+~ot Ae white votes.
VA on
I: That's exactly the same way with the whites. In the election in which you wee~

ii'office)how many opponents did you have?

B: Well) the first time when I was elected about ten years ago) as I said) the first
three high voters was elected. Now since then)I've only

had opposition once, and I've been in office now coming into ten years this

December, only had opposition once.

I: Was that a black or white man?

B: White man.

I: What percentage of the total vote do you think you get? You have to get over

fifty- per cent)right?

B: I have to get over fifty per cent I.V order e o

I: Now you could you make a guess, like possibly seventy-five per cent, eighty

per cent?

B: Well this one time that I had an opponent.I got better than ninety per cent

of the votes.

I: Section D; these questions are asked to determine how well black officials in

Florida have been able to benefit those they represent. In what ways do you

think you have helped blacks in your district by holding office?

B: Now I think I've helped black as well as white. My, my policy, I don't

represent one people in particular. I represent all the people in Crystal
A-e4V're
River. And it doesn't matter to me whether 4011yi white, black or what.

I: Whatif anything has prevented you from doing a better job, especially in

regarding benefits, benefiting blacks in this area?

B: I don't think any, I don't know of anything that has hindered me from doing

a better job. I've did just about as good a job as could be done I believe,

because in the black section we have good paved streets, we have street lights,

and everybody's treated fairly, black and white. I'm chairman now, chairman

of the city council. I've been vice-chairman for three years. I'm chairman






FB 56A


B: of the police department, I'm chairman of the cemetery department, and if people

have problem they usually call me, it doesn't matter whether they're white or

black. I usually work, I always try to work with all of 'em.

I: The next question)twenty-twohas several parts to it. Please rate how important
+-ev ave)
you think the following items are in preventing you, which I don't fig,
from doing a better job benefiting blacks. In other words does the office have,

does the office have no real authority?

B: That's not important I don't think.

I: Outvoted by white officials, are you, is that important, fairly important or

not important?

B: I don't think it's important.

I: Not enough, not enough revenue available? Is there enough revenue available?

B: To operate the city?

I: Well let's say for preventing you from doing a better job benefiting .

B: The people ?

I: Well the blacks.

B: I don't think there's ever enough money, no there's never enough money for

ohyboJy
I: I think that question is self-explanatory. You are familiar with administrative
duties?

B: Um hum.

I: Lack of coop, you have, you have the cooperation from the whites?

B: Yes, I believe so.

I: How about the lack of cooperation from state officials?

B: I do have the cooperation.

I: Do have it. How about lack of cooperation from federal officials?

B: i do have that also.

I: kg have that also. Has criticism or lack of support from the black community






FB 56A


I: hindered you in holding office, that, is do some blacks not cooperate with you

because they believe you're only a token in government and have no real authority?

B: I don't have any problem.

I: Do you feel that white officials treat you differently from other officials or

not, that isdo they consider you the spokesman for the blacks, and are you

able to raise only certain issues?

B: I raise any issue that comes before me. There's no limitation on me because I

am black.

I: What services have you provided blacks in your district, in your area I keep,

the, the questions they have district but I'll just cross them out and put

area there because we're not concerned with the districts as much as the whole

area right now. So what services have you provided blacks in your area that they

did not have before you took office? Could you please give some examples.

B: The one person that has been _we do have a black patrolman,

and we have had one, just come about since I've been on the city council.

I: Right.

B: We have a black man heading up the maintenance department, but this was going

on before 1 +oo.k 0-Ilc C We do have a black man that

heads up the sanitary department, but he was working before I becomeAcity

councilman.

I: Yes, I noticed ., -4 ,, /

B: So honestly, I don't think we have any problem. We do haveAminor problems which

you always will have 'em because you're the minority, but nothing that sticks

out.

I: Right. Okay, question twenty-six comes in several parts. It's a general overall

type question. It says please rate how you feel each of the following, how you

have, please rate how effective you think you have been in each of the following

service areas. I have a TO_ (_\ here and we can rate that later.






FB 56A


I: Twenty-seven, have you gotten federal funds for your area?

B: Yes, we have gotten federal funds for water and sewage. Now when you say your

area, I want to point out this WVA54Y' or 4 41 ij4a the entire city

of Crystal River

I: Have you as an elected official or as part of a local committee/been able to

bring industry or retail stores into your area?

B: Retail stores and some industry have come in Crystal River since I've been in
oul or r*at
office. I wouldn't want to leave the Chamber of CommerceAbecause they have
been just as effective Orl 4V1 0 L as we have.

I: Right, well this is primarily a sportsman type area anyway. Have you been

able to see that blacks are hired fairly, fairly in local government?
B: This is something that I have been continually working on, and I think according

to percentage)I think it's been fair.

I: Has federal revenue sharing helped your district or area?

B: Oh definitely because the m~~nOOVnwer our hope was as far as helping out

with the city employment, maintenance, and police department.
I: Have there been any black protests, sit-ins, boycotts or riots in your city

in the last ten years?

B: No.

I: Okay, section E, I'm gonna turn it off again just to check and see that I've
been doing it right.

(Pause in tape)
tbL
I: Section E,nfollowing questions are asked, are asked to enable the assessment

of black politics in Florida in general. Briefly, briefly what is your opinion
ofGov Reubin Askew that-is)do you think he has been favorable in attitude

and policy toward/ blacks in Florida or not, and what is your opinion of other

state officials and state representatives?





FB 56A


B: I think (o)Askew, Reubin Askew is a fine governor.

I: And uh, what of, what of the other, black, what of the other state officials and

state representatives?

B: I think they're doing the best they can. We have some that perhaps did not come up

as well as they should, but I think they're doing a fair job.

I: Do you think that winning and holding office in Florida has been worth the effort?

Could you please explain your answer?

B: Now you're talking about me?

I: Yes sir.

B: Yes I think it has been beneficial. It has been beneficial in many ways. I've

been good for the city of Crystal River for black and white. One thing we have

proven to the people, that a black man can work and have the ability to take care

and work with problems. This is one thing that I take great pride in proving to

the people that black people do have the ability to work with people.

I: Thank you very much. The other questions in section A to E are questions which

relate to you, and are similar to all the questions that are being asked by the

other black officials in Florida. But section F now, will have no, no type of

relationship, in other words they're just general questions that nobody will have

a name to.. And these questions are asked to compile an overall group profile of

black elected officials in Florida. No individual answers will be reported. Type

of office held?

B: President of city council.

I: The date first elected?

B: Oh, our election is in December. I don't remember the exact date but it, it's in

December, along about the first of December we hold elections.

I: What was the date that you first were elected?

B: For the city council?

I: Yes.






FB 56A


B: Oh this was back in '65)in December.

I: And uh, that was in December '65, and the date that you took office?

B: We take office the first of the year, like January 1, whatever time that the first

council meeting comes due in the coming year.

I: I think this one's coming in better. The number of times that you've run for

office?

B: We run every two years, so I have ran already four times, this coming up will be

the fifth time. Now as I said I only had opposition once since I've been elected.

I: You are between thirty and forty-nine or fifty and above?

B: Fifty and above. (chuckle)

I: Your occupation before the election?

B: I was in the building business for myself, self-employed.

I: And your education, are you grade school, high school, or completed college?

B: High school.

I: Salaries received from your elected position?
B: Now it's three hundred dollars a month.
six/ties
I: Were you active in civil rights movements of the s-i*4ties to '66?

B: No, I've never been active in the civil rights movement.

I: Can I have the name of the church to which you belong?
B: Mount Olive Baptist Church.

I: Are you an official in your church, if so what is your position?

B: Yes I'm Chairman of the Board, and also Superintendant of Sunday school.

I: Are there other community organizations or activities that you are involved in?
If yes)please what are they?
B: Yes, I belong to the Masonics, Masons, and I am the \AJl'hi ll l eTr

d"ii and also State Deputy.
I: Aren't you also with the, associated with the retarded center?

B: I don't hold an office.





FB 56A 11


I:A Do you know of any black elected officials in this area who have been in office

since '74?

B: Eli White,in the countyhas been in office since '74.


(End of interview)




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