SUB: Claude Brooks
INT: Button Project
PLACE: Crystal River
NOV. 20, 1980
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?
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 .
B: Somehow like that. We had a drive and was trying to get people down to the polls
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?
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'
B: It doesn't blacks and chicanos as far as registering that I know and can think
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
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
B: No I wasn't threatened in any way.
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?
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?
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?
I: What were the two or three most important issueswell I think you just answered
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
I: which have enabled blacks to win office in Florida. How were you elected, were
you elected at large or by district?
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.
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.
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?
B: I had to or I wouldn't have been elected anything vhli+~ot Ae white votes.
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
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
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
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
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
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
I: I think that question is self-explanatory. You are familiar with administrative
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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?
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)
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?
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
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?
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
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.
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
B: Eli White,in the countyhas been in office since '74.
(End of interview)