Title: Mrs. Vernita Cox
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Title: Mrs. Vernita Cox
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FB 61A

Sub: Mrs. Vernita Cox

Int: "Button Project"

South Bay

12-18-75

A.M.

Page -1-



I: ......... findlout how well the Voting Rights Act of 1965 has helped blacks

take part in Florida politics. What year did you first register to vote?

V: Oh, I registered back in um, '56.
t
I: What year were you first eligible to vote?

V: Oh........ I was eligible to vote I would say in '50.

I: Uh, did the local registrars ever turn you down when you applied to register?

V: No, it was just that I was moved from one place to the next -em~es migratory

and never really settle in no particular place. So this is the reason that

I didn't register or anything at the particular time.

I: O Have voter registration drives been held in South Bay or the district of

South Bay you WLrC- from?

V: Yes, we uh, I know we held a voter registration drive the first year, second year,

not the first year from about seven to oh....... about seven to one and it was,

um, fairly successful I would say.

I: Did uh, ...... Were there any organizations,local or national, that conducted

these?

V: We had uh, one organization but later it was conducted through one of thel/uh,

ca idates, one of the young ladies that was running for a political office.

I: Mmm hmm.









FB 61A


I: When were these voter registration drives held? You said in 1971?

V: Nt-eR.n sav nty one and up until now we uh, have not had another one but

we're in the process right now of uh handling some way to deputize so that

they can uh, go out into the field and bring in people to uh, go ahead and

vote for this coming up national election as well as the next local elec.....

uh, election.

I : Mmm hmm.

V: We have about uh, six ladies that we're gonna have,w\rkpwTrg-it:. West

Palm Beach, I've contacted Mrs. Winchester and uh, she that we could either

come as a group or we could come singular andluhwe're gonna start this drive

right after the Christmas holidays.

I: You said they were successful, that's my next question, how successful?

V: They were rather in the/um, election that year, we did come out the winners.

The two blacks that run, we come out the winners in that election. Now, the

succeeding years, the years after that, we didn't do the election, we didn't

do the voter registration uh, and uh, well I did win but the other young lady

chose to go back to school. So I couldn't say whether yd know it would've

been uh, ya know/ t-e.' smAi it was the prior year or not because we didn't

use it. Now, this last election we had, we really lost. We didn't have a vo-t0

registration drive. So, we encourage now beginning to feel that each year

we are going to have to get out and remind the votery/know/that you should

use your vote. Not as a payoff, but use your vote for the people that you

think are gonna do the best for the city, not because somebody promised to give

you a few dollars ....... because then you..... say like in the long te~sa; maybe

you did get a few dollars at election time but in the long run it seems that AK-, (-

y people are gonna do for your city P'W will be much more advantageous to









FB 61A


V: you than the few dollars that you would be getting during election time.

I: Uh huh. OjK Are there anything in South Bay which prevent blacks from

registering to vote?

V: Well we um, and this isn't really downinguh, anybody in this area. Um, we....

fe don't have a ..... say a lot of people who are interested in politics. We're not.....

You don't see in any interest in what is doing or.... until it hits the family.

When it hits home then the uh, the one who the first to start yy know criticize.

Uh, education-wise, you didn't have people know who felt that they were

qualified enough. Um, unless a black feels that he is qualified I don't think
o%
he would yA know step up and say "I'm gonna run" unless he had been paid to

do that and this is to block the other black that y know wants to run. But uh,

education-wise and then a lack of interest is to what's going on in the/uh,

community.

I: Well uh, to this next uh, question I have a list I'd like you to go over and uh, um,

rate how important you think each of these ite..... items are for preventing

blacks from registering to vote and uh, if you could comment on each one as

you go down the list but uh, be sure to comment.

V: Now when you say.economic-uh, economic dependency on whites......

I: Uh huh.

V: You mean like I'm afraid they ecl _, y know......

I: You might lose your job or uh......

V: I might lose my job. Uh, this is for voting or for registering?

I: For registration. For......

V: For umr......

I: For just even registering.

V: For the person who they choose when they get at the poll. This plays a very

important part here with uh, economic dependence. Now in this last election and
I


-3-








FB 61A


V: uh, this is merely hearsay. In this last election quite a few people were

paid off to make sure that the person uh, the other people ffd want to have

in the office get into the office. It has been rumored that the coming up

election, that a lot of money will be paid out to keep me from coming back

in the office. I don't have the money. y know to pay people to um, to vote,

and then it's against the law. Yi know you shout pay people to vote. They

should want to do this on their own.

I: Uh huh.

V: So, this economic dependence, because we have people here who uh, saywell they

are the power people in this town.

I: Mmm hmm.

V: And a lot of these people are dependent on these people for their uh/bread and butter.

I: Uh huh.

V: So, they don't realize the fact that when I get behind the screen yl'know regardless

of who I pull, nobody will never know yd know what name I pulled. But they have

been say a lot of coerced and say ,y know you know where you work or you

know who you work for. So you know who ..... who to pull the lever for and

these people follow the same pattern. And uh, this has a lot to do with the

outcome of a lot.... a lot of our elections in this town.

I: That's interesting. What uh..... What kind of industry/uh, did most people

of South Bay work in?

V: To say that, I will actually say/y know just go ahead and answer the question.

Um, the biggest company in this area now and the biggest um, employer is the

uh, South __uh Corporation. These people handle uh, sugar cane,

they handle uh, all the green leaf vegetables like lettuce and celery, most\I

l4./ne1. 4 celery. I think they have something to do with cucumbers and peppers.









FB 61A


o V: They plant this area and then they have farms in the other area y know where

they can go. The people are kept migrant and I feel strongly that they are

kept migrant for a particular reason. Uh, like three or four months out of

the year they don't have any work to do. Now at least uh, say like two months

out of the year they might have to wait until they get ready to say sell

..... sell their C4e- bed! Like three months they have to wait'until

they get ready to replant cane. Now, everybody knows.... I don't care how good

your salary is, there is just so much money that you can lay aside out of their

salary because the more money a man makes,the more he spends, the more he sees

and wants, and the more he's gonna spend. After these people have been off

from their jobs for three or four months they don't have anything else that they

can fall back onso quite naturally this man pulled his bus out in September and

sa' I'm ready y know to have my celery uh, for um, harvest. these people are

so broke ya know I th~lfeC or anything that they would get this bus in order

to get themselves\yifknow economically wise again and when they start working

they work like I think you don't start until about October or November and

then there's Christmas right around there. And I've always prayed say well

I hope/y/ know that we never get a frost like we did'I think that around in

the 60s that we got an awful frost here and it kills everything. All the celery,

it killed all of the celery and all of the green stuff. Then they uh, started,

yo\A eOi corn. That was just another big farming thing out here, corn. Then,

uh they started back work again and right in the spring of the year when they

went and had worked for about three or four weeks and then it started raining1

and then you have the rain doing something to theiuh, corn and the celery.
0 tA
Yb know I think they say it causes the celery to turn black in the center where

the heart is, and then the corn, it does something to the corn. So, really it

..... if we ever get a ... a nice cold snap here these people will be out of









FB 61A


V: work say like six or seven months out of the whole year. So when -time come

to work if they put in a month or two they don't have enough to j. them over

and they will never..... You will.... You would find a few that is able to uh

budget and save but the majority will never say have a decent bank account

or hospitalization yd know like if I take my child to the hospital, I could

say well I have hospitalization with uh Mutual of Omaha, International Life and
( fi
I would have to pay a 250 uh, yd knownpission fee or something like this because

they can't do it. They just don't have the fODnr' and the people know

that out in this area.

I: But does that make them afraid to manipulation by the.... by the growers or

by the-',-4,- / .


V: It is. There are manipulation and it will ever be as long as uh, yd know

we can't get or we don't get some type of industry or some other type ofluh,

working in this area just to let these people know that/ know you're not

the only man that these people depend on. Now they make...... I'm not gonna

uh, down the pw\rs\ns. When they're working they uh make.... they make a

fairly good salary. But, at the same time, in order to keep anything you have
I/
to work year round. You just cannot s, off your job even with a good

salary. You can't still get off four months and expect to get ahead. You

can't do it.

I: That's interesting.

V: And another thing um,....... uh, I'm..... I don't know how I can go about it

but this is in an alcoholic program that I'm in and many times I'm sure like

if you go on your job if you're working..... if you're working with a person,

if you go on your job and if you appear to be intoxicated or have had had anything

to drink they would ask you to leave and come back maybe when you're better or

when you think that you can do your work without drinking. But on most of these jb









FB 61A


V:/ people are kept in a depressed state. They are kept depressed so that they would

not know really what's going on. Now they can drink on most of these jobs.

They uh, carry..... In fact, people who are supposed to be like OCCT-rCr ,

they carry out the beer and the wine. So that means that these people are

drunk from one day to the next day. They really don't know what's going on.

And if it's someway that y knowuh,'we're talking about uh, trying to

cut down on the uh, rate of alcoholism and if we're gonna have this wfe
I~\k~R~ I ,s I?\ 4-0 Fbel C(-S/ TX--L
-r- i- it's not goql besg&sy t6 cut down on it. It has to be someway

that you can manage to say make a law, pass some kind of a law that you know.....

Don't even...... Like even the busdriver. Like if he knows someone has beer and

wine that's taking out to these places) know, there should be a law against

that so we could cut down on the ...... on the amount of depression and maybe

y/ know let the people think clearly at least for six months and maybe they
/ ok
can see where they can help themselves. Y/ know.

I: Dr. Button is uh, is also the faculty advisor to/uh, the United Farm Workers

Union at the University of Florida and uh.......

V: You say Dr. Button?

I: Dr. James Button, yeah.

V: How ..... How you spell it?

I: B-u-t-t-o-n. And uh, have .... have you..... Has the community here had any

contact uh, as far as a unioA organizer?

V: Well, you know um, this ,w-.befre that organized uh, the grapes of Shivari,

Caesar.......

I: Caesar Shivari?

V: Caesar Shivari. He came here at one time and uh, that was about in uh, '71

or '72 but I haven't seen him h -" ---' been back out yp know and

I think he was gonna organize the sugar cane uh, business.
/









FB 61A


I: Yeah.

V: But he hasn't been back out here.

I: Well the.....the....... They're........ They're winding up their fight in

California. It looks like i~d <'~ ...Florida sometime in

the near future and uh, the United Farm Workers is uh, I think gearing up

for a ...... a fight against (?,nvAC htC .o some of the b_ _

large growers in Florida.

V: Yeah. Uh t ts-t1he Minute Maid...... That's the orange...... in the orange

uh, oC k industry. Well, it..... it seems that they are going to yi know

have a pretty tough fight with uh the sugar cantgrowers. Uh, we elect..... That

is another thing too. Um, I don't know how some ....... Uh, I was speaking to

judge, a judge from West Palm Beach, how to go about changing the election time

because our election time we have a lot of migrants in this area and uh, election

time is held during the time that a lot of these people are out of the area.

They are away working and this is when the election time is held.

I: When.... When they're away is when the election is held?

V: When they're away, mmm hmm. Because these people leave like in June and they

don't get back here until in October, some don't get back until November and

our elections are in September. Elections are held..... Y$ know you start

campaigning in June, July and then you actually do the registr..... registered

uh, voting in September and uh, a lot of people are away at this particular time.

I: And you would rather have them...... in.....

V: Well, like in March. They're here in March.

I: Yeah. Well, getting back to this list, how about uh, fear of physical violence

from Pj\ \CS ? Is there any?

V: I don't really think it's a fear of physical violence but there uh, they're









FB 61A


V: afraid that like they will not have any work to do or ..... they'll lose1*. c ,

just like you say, lose the jobs or things of this nature. But physical

violence, I don't think uh, no one has ever uh y_ know ,_ ft ITo physical

violence.

I: Yeah. Complicated registration forms?

V: No, the registration forms were not/uh, complicated but the hours uh...... They

have/uh, geared the hours to meet uh, in some instances, to meet registration

time. Now uh, I tried to explain to Mrs. Winchester that...... the people

w%-i usually working from morning, early morning, until night. Um, Saturday

December 13th, they sent out a mobile unit for registration but it was 11:00

in the morning and a lot of these people, when they start working, work a

seven-day pattern. They work from..... from Sunday to Sunday and work seven

days straight and a lot of these people cannot get around to registration and

they do not get home until like um, 6:30 or 7:00 in the evening and uh, she

was at the plaza I think until maybe two or three and then she went on ship

over to Belgdatde. But this wouldn't fit a great deal of the people out in

this area. So that is one reason e're asking to have our own people deputized.

So it is necessary for us to say uh, close up like say 2:00 and then come

back and open like 8:00 at night and work until 8:00 until 11:00 at night

in order to catch the people who cannot come in the daytime. And we would

do things like this. Hello. (she is answering the phone) Hello?

I: A eight. How about registration not held often enough?

V: Um, I believe it can be held a little more often maybe uh, even with the

hours that she..... they had..... they have y know chosen, they might get


-9-









FB 61A


V: more people in and um, with us doing some of the registration it might help

out some. But, another thing I think another disadvantage, not to just registration,

a lot of our people don't know how to use the voting machines. I don't

think that they know.... Uh, yX know just how to pull the levers and uh, in

many instances they might ask for help and it has been said thatc1ic.'gl .-

6 >id't67show them and it might be a person that's working on the polls who has

a person that he wants to get in. So invariably showing ht&'how to do this,
SA t" Qtv
he just might show Jtly know what levers to pull and what have you. So we

had thought maybe if were to get a machine or to get a machine from the county,

from Jack Winchester, and bring it out and then teach the people actually how

to pull the levers and use the machine this might be a big advantage in uh,

helping people to uh put the person in office that he wants in office. Not

necessarily me. Anybody that he would like to put in office, that he can

get this person in office. Now, at one time they had a black and a white

voter uh/registration uh, book.

I: Separate?

V: Separate book. But that has no longer been...... I'll tell you who was responsible

for that.

7: (child's voice) Can I have some water?

V: I'm busy right now. Um, K,1T workers. When the Vj STA workers

started, I think ........ .he I think they were responsible for.....

They were responsible...... i-havet ---7 thi afternoon..., .
..... _ __ _ ___ _.. ......
._-__._ _____* They were responsible for y know,

changing over and then bringing it into warn.

I: Uh huh.

V: But in this last election we had here, we have hold watches, people can see


-10-









FB 61A


V: what's going on. Uh, I understand they never ask for identification cards.

I: Federal? Were they federal?

V: No, this is local people.

I: Local?

V: Uh huh. Like uh, in every......--I'm.sure those ladies can't remember everybody,

you see and they never ask for um cards for identification so maybe, yd know,

anybody can come up and say well I'm this person and that person can go ahead

and register. And uh, this is one of the complaints that the po\\ -V

said that she was very uh surprised y know. Like you have your card, your

registration card,and she thought maybe *Vc',. wkcll let me see your

registration card something like that, but they never asked for registration

cards and identification.

I: Mmm hmm. Well one.... one last thing then. The difference of blacks, you've

already mentioned that. Uh, you feel that it's.......

V: And a lot of people uh, would turn..... Some people would try...... I wouldn't

say a lot. Some people would turn ....... Some blacks are turned away. Now,
ov
this is the thing that makes it uh, difficult. I've never/ know worked
oA
with the polls and I can't say it is between ..... yd know/both races that
OLA
are being turned away. Let's say you..... you're not qualifiedlyd know to uh,

reg...... to vote. Because um....... some people have said to me I voted last

year and I was already registered with;:the county and the city but I couldn't
0t O)"
do it this year. Andly know why is it that I couldn't do it yA know this year?

I: Mmm hmm.

V: And this is one of the things that we would like to do a study on. Like
S7
when we go through the community to find out) y know..... did you vote last year.


-11-








FB 61A


V: To do a study on this to find out how many people ,y know were turned down

uh, and to find out what was the reason for them not being able to vote in

the last election if they were registered with the county and the city and

if they had registered in theuum, past election, what was the reason why

they didn't uh, do this? They have all kind of little things. Yd know.....

I: Do you think there may have been violation of the law in that?

V: This is what I'm (y know beginning to think. Y1 know when you talk with

different ones and say well I...... y know I registered in the last election

but they said I couldn't register this time. Now why..... /hat was the reason

for this? Why you couldn't register this time? Had you moved out of the area/

yf know? Were you in another area which means that..... you could not vote

in two areas. You can't vote age~riover in Belggae too. But I'm still living

here in South De and I couldn't uh..... couldn't y know vote.

I: Yeah.

V: There are a lot of little things really that you would uh, have to get down

il ___ because all..... there are little things. ~LC4&I l &t things

that cause you to lose an election. These little things.

I: Right. Would you just go quickly down that list and check the.... these

different categories very important, fairly important, not important?

V: Mmm hmm. I don't think this ,uh....... would be because when you register you

go up to city hall. Either you go out to the um...... office

stores and then you tell em/y know for what reason you're there and then they

ask you themselves the necessary questions like if you're a citizen of the

United States or if you're an alien or how long you've been here and then

you're administered an oath right there too. You don't have anything to read

or anything so they can't M ,/oA. This couldn't be um...... And

I'm gonna put questionable here because uh before I make an accusation I
1 /


-12-









FB 61A


V: would like to know um......

I: Right. What actually -) c,\ ,C

V: Yeah. I make that questionable because ....... I have a feeling that it

could have some bearing on the outcome of theAum, but if I make that statement

I would rather be sure of it.

I: Could you elaborate on these rumors that uh, they may be out to stop you as

far as uh, being elected again?

V: Well, I know/um, ....... I can give you the name...... name of a fellow's name,

the man that's gonna...... he's gonna run against me if I run this year. If

he runs against me then I can saywell apparently there must be something in

truth that uh....... Now he has been a commissioner before and he didn't run

in this past election because his brother was in the past election, his brother

lost. But this man's name is uh, Goodbread. How.....Howard or either Harroll

Goodbread. Now if he runs against me, then I can pretty well say to myself

well yeah, I believe these rumors are true. But I was in hopes that I have

established myself well enough with the citizens, not only black citizens, the

white citizens as well, that I would have enough supporters ya know to put me

back in regardless of how much money is uh, was being spent. And the same um,

people that uh, that supported in this past election will be the same people

I understand that will be supporting this guy. And we've had different meetings

about the past election since we've had the election and uh, people who have

said well yes,that well, I have.... I was right there when money exchanged hands.

Like uh, here's $150.00 for you for you to do this and that and the other. And

one fellow say) well, I could've had the $150.00 but I didn't think it was right

so I didn't bother with it. But yo know not just one person but from different

ones and uh, they say well Mrs. Cox, well we've heard the same thing that's

gonna happen to you. See, there gonna thing. And sitting
gonna happen to you. See, there gonna things. And sitting


-13-









FB 61A


V: our board right now, I can't say(y w know-wi all of the monies in the world

brought about the difference but the board is manipulated by p4> fvgot:A.

We have three guys on there right now that are employees for South Co__ _.__

and um, I don't..... I really wouldn't want this quoted because the young lady

that said it to me, she's a reporter andl y know it might get her in trouble,

>> >v-YL C she went and \VCOA A-T, one of the big men from _o_ _DuaS.

and she was saying to himly_ know how did you get three men on the uh, council?

So he said it was just according ya know a coincident. But uh, the people around

here, they don't feel like it's a coincidence. People that are on that board

suffered in particular. Um, now I know last year if it.... if they had been

on there last year uh, maybe they are on there because of the actions that we

took last year. Uh, these people have quite a bit of land around here and um,

I know sometime there is some question ..cA\ M some of the land. Well,

now some might be say uh, some ...... The commissioner said that maybe we

can elect that but there are others I'm sure that will not be able to be electeA

into the city and things like this) y see.

I: Mmm hmm.

V: So if you have the majority on a board when you have sides you don't have to

worry about y1 know what might be able to be done or what might not be able

to be done because see these people carried away.

I: Mmm hmm. Um, the next few questions are asked to gather information on your

election campaign. Uh, were you able to campaign freely?

V: Yes and um.... I went from..... In the first election um,..... Well I did sort

of like a sterotyped thing. I only campaigned in the black community and I

was really at a distance to prove this. And I lost the election by thirty-one


-14-









FB 61A


V: votes. And the next election I um.... ell you give.... you give this

thing some thought y know and you say now I've accomplished so many

white people. It has to be thirty-one people within that population that uh,

may not be biased and may not be prejudiced. There has to be at least

thirty-one people in there and uh, say well I'll try for thirty-one but maybe

I might come up..... if I have some good reason why I want to become a political

person, I might get more than the thirty-one so I just go ahead and give it

a try ya know to see just how receptive these people would bey know toward me.

And um, I did a door-to-door campaign. I went from one door to the next door

and surprisedly y know, the people are very nice. And um, couple of places

they were yes, y know said um, if you think you can do this or think you can

....... Well, it's not that I'm making a promise but I will be in there 0- l "

everything ican because I live in this town y/ know. And quite naturally

if I live in this town I want the town to be as smooth as possible. I would

like for it to be a model town too because I would like to say "Oh yeah, I'm

from that place. It's a very nice place". So I would be there to do everything

I can and do ever..... y know make this town a better town to live in and uh,

to my surprise, y7 know.... overwhelmingly I... I did the election next year.

So um, I plan to. If I run this year, I plan to do the same thing again and go

from door-to-door. And uh, I've been in now for three..... four..... this is

my fourth year, fourth year and um, ...... I plan to, y know point out some of
V'J 00v \ V-o.v k f C
the things that vti never fe \, %-~ A if we didn't have the

commissioners that we had last year. Uh, we had people on the commission that

we4business people and they didn't want competition so they never would've

vote in a mini-plaza......... so you could have a choice. I mean you could


-15-









FB 61A


V: still go to the man if you want to but at least you have that choice. Well,

ya know I don't think I wanna go to him because he's just a little too high.

But this way, if you'd never had the choice, you would never knowy know what

you.... what you would do. And the housing uh, most of the people yV know

they're renting out. These are people co A 's vtt> joA O( -- SC'eause

I'm not gonna get my place rented out. So we voted on housing here in this

area and as soon as we can break down some kind of a barrier to get more land,

we would see if we can get some more housing in for other people. But you

have to have people who are not say um, .... well who don't have that much to

lose if they bring in housing. And I don't have anything to do with 2

housing so I could .it there and vote all day on the issue because I don't have

anything to lose. But people on the board, see some ofIem have quite a bit
to oe ----------- '
to lose. individuals ie.ar

I: Yeah. Were you handicapped at all by lack of campaign money or ......?

V: Well, in the campaign um, as far as the money is concerned, I've bought

cards in what had been passed out and I think it cost fi like twenty dollars

or something like this. I didn't have any radio announcements and noum, people
\
to um, uh, to build me up,y know through the immediate news media or anything

like that and the news people right in this area, they will do it for y for

nothing if you'll just go to them and say well look I would like you to run me

in the paper for about a week or so. They will do it for you for nothing and

uh, so ..... and by me going from door to door, which I plan to do now and

I thought I didn't need anything else and like I say, I... I... I can't... and

I have told people this and I... I will constantly say it, "I am working for

you" y know. And I can't see me paying you to work for you and if I had to

pay you I just don't have the money to do it. But I can't see me out there


-16-









FB 61A


V: everyday I know um, a couple weeks ago I was out til about 12:00 at night

trying to get some cars back that the city had taken away uh, fromluh, a lady

here. And I was out /yknow until this hour of the night and I'm not looking

for anything in return. So all I'm looking for, if I do a good job, for you

to go back to the poll and vote me in again.

I: Uh huh.

V: But I don't expect you to I don't care what the..... what the

problem is, when you come to me and I try and solve it for you, I'm not expected

pay because I'm an elected official and I ...... I'm obligated to see about

your problems. And I cannot pay you to work for you and this is what a lot

the uh, officials are doing.

I: Do uh..... Do you get donations or uh.....?

V: No, I never ask for donations. Never ask for donations. Now, I told..... If

there's a person after election, if there's a person who would like tb uh,

do something for me or like to show people my appreciation like if you wanna

have a party at the park or something like that for me after elections, I mean1

it's all well and good. But if you don't feel like that you have the

financial support, then forget it and I'll try and make it up during the year.

Like if something comes up and ask.... ask you to work on like instead of working

sayhour or two hours on it, maybe I have to spend three or four hours just

trying to solve that one particular problem but I will do what I can just to

show you that I'm not in the business just to be in it but really and truly-

YO know, I have the people at heart. YA knowlI would like to see that these

people are treated fairly and squarely and this uh not only goes back to the

blacks but as well, the whites as well.

I: Why..... Why did you decide to run? Was the decision your own or was....?


-17-









FB 61 A


V: Well, I had been away from here for some time. I had uh.... After I graduated

from high school I went to uh, New York and up in Connecticut and I came back

and um, well if you've left home before, I don't know A you would appreciate

this or not but um, like I told you I was migratory. Worked from.... Worked

here in the season and then go up north in the summer and I can't see no

reason for it. And then after leaving here and going and working and )say getting

a little more experience and a little more knowledge of what's happening on

the other side of the track, hen you saywell, know, why can't have some

of these things in the city of South Bay. And the city of South Bay had been

in a stagnated state ever since I can remember because this is...... I wasn't

born here but I was brought up here. And the same people that had it from

the time that I got here, they were the same people that still had it and

nothing was happening. Uh, the streets...... .ell they're better and improvement

is needed but they're much better now than it was..... y4 know was even in '70

and '71. Especially streets on this side of town.

I: Mmm hmm.

V: So um..... uh, young man uh, came and ask me if he could.... y/ know if we

were to.... say wewould back$* you, would consider running. So I said well
I /
I'm always y9 know on the shy ` Sg-/ I don't like to go to you and say well,

yd know I wanna run because I don't want to seem..... want you to think thatwell....

she is a person that,! y.t/t know out there. But since you have asked

me, I'm very happy because I'm.......

I: Who was this young.... .. Who did he represent?

V: Uh, he's one of the citizens in this town and I was in a club that we called

Citizens Committee..... uh, South Bay Citizens Committee which we tried to


-18-









FB 61A


V: do things to help people in the area. And these were the people...... I was

president of the club and these were the people were in that club. They

say, if we were to back you would you try to uh run? And I was very happy

that they had asked me. I said I would be very happy to run. And just like

I said, I lost the first time.

I: Yeah.

V: And then I-regned the second time and uh then the next time I ran unopposed.

But this year from what I can understand, I'm gonna be opposed.

I: Do you belong to a party or a party-type organization?

V: Uh no. This is uh, a club in which anybody, any citizen......

I: No, but do you yourself...... De you yourself.... Do you..... Are you registered

democrat or......?

V: Oh yeah, Democratic party. Yes, mmm hmm.

I: Have you ever received any support,financial or otherwise, from the Democratic

party?

V: No I have had uh, in the past.... tet's see within the last six months they had

a meeting in Washington, I believe it was, for elected uh.... for the mayor.

I don't think it was elected official, black officials. I think it was just

the mayor and I received one of these letters saying that if you didn't have

finances to come, y know let us know and we would y know get you here and see

to it that you uh, be in on these meetings. But I'm not the mayor and I didn't

think it was uh, y know fair for me to take advantage of the situation. I

would like to have gone but they specified the mayor and I'm not the mayor.

I: You were the mayor at one time weren't you?

V: I was uh, last...last year. This election we reorganized and we have another

mayor.


-19-










FB 61A


I: What were the two or three most important issues that you campaigned for?

V: Ur, number one uh, housing and number two crime, and uh, well in general,

uh, just.... trying to make this area..... I did say and I haven't broken

a bit in that, year round employment for people in this area and I haven't

made into that. I have spoken to uh, South Bay Growers and um, the men

that I spoken with, well he asked me what did I have in mind. And at that

particular time, I told him what I had in mind that he could set up for

year round work for the people in this area. But, I ha n't .... I... I...I

I mean I hate to say it but I haven't made a dent into that area and also

uh, included medical services in this area. We don't have any medical

services and right now we are negotiating about bringing in a doctor into

this area.

I: Do you think those issues are the most important issues facing the black

community?

V: Uh, right now umr..... Year round work, employment is a big issue into this area.

Housing, I think, one of the biggest because if you had the time and if you

can' Ii' the city, housing, I think is one of the biggest things right now/

if we could something. But the point about it is, I know you see the houses and

you see the conditions the houses are in. Why not, y know, put pressure on

these people and make thempy/ know uh, tear these houses down. But like if

you go to put pressure on people, well where are these people gonna move? 4

1E63 they don't have anything..... .yeIagSs anywhere to move. So we have this

project which ya know .... it didn't ease the situation much but it did make

it comfortable for some people. And we still have more people ya knowithat

need houses and thisAone of the things that we will still be working on. Uh,


-20-









FB 61A


V: we have a population of about .... say 3,000 and __ or maybe

close/to 4,000. This is stationary mostly. But then you have to think

about the migrants that come into this area too. Although, they are not here

no more than six months, I feel that during the six months that they are here

they should have decent houses as well as people who are here for the year

round. So you see, it's uh, it's uh, a burden y) know as far as housing is

concerned. So I think housing right now is one of the biggest...... bigger

issues that we should be working on.

I: O.C Do you.... yave you looked into any federal help in that area?

V: Yeah, we.... he project here, it's done..... t's a federal housing uh, project

here but they have to# p e~-tncmc.hat we get for land space that they would

help us to set up a city type-thing, one that would be run entirely by the city.

Uh, what we have to do now is try and get the land Because it....

you also note that sugar cane surrounds everybody...... and these belong to the

sugar cane people. So uh, I don't know just how we'll have to go about getting

them to uh, lease land or to sell land y knowfor this type of a thing

because we really don't have uh, land..... Even if you were to expand y knowl

going to.... to the west. Y know all that is sugar cane and that belongs to

the sugar cane people. Now I know about two miles outside of South Bay I had

asked the sugar ane corporation in Clewiston would they donate that strip of

land to the city of South Bay. There's a strip right in between just.... just

outside the city of South Bay y know for a recreation area. But uh, because

of the widening of state road 80 the man brought it to my attention that by

the time they/um, put the um, took land from state road 80, it wouldn't

be large enough to put any type of a out there.


-21-









FB 61A


I: Uh huh.

V: But uh, I'm going back to himly know shortly and ask him would he let us

use that as a uh welcoming station for the city of South Bay. Y? know maybe

put a couple of tables and chairs and a little information booth or something

out there.

I: Uh huh.

V: Because I think it's a very pretty piece of uh, land and it ha scenery. It

has trees and flowers and everything. It wouldn't be too much that we would

have to really do. If he doesn't want to uh, donate it then would he lease

it to the city of South Bay. And then that would still leave us/y4 know looking

for land for houses.

I: Mmm hmm.

V: We'd still have to find land.

I: OY Um the next few questions then are asked to determine some of the conditions

which have enabled blacks to win office in Florida. How were you elected, at-

large or by district?

V: Uh, well at-large. Cause we.... we.... won the whole kitty. I mean I can

go anywhere into the city I want and ask for help or uh, during the time.

I: Right.

V: We don't have districts.

I: No districts at all?

V: No districts in South Bay.

I: How many.... low many people are in South Bay? What's the population?

V: Uh, stationary we have about ..... anywheree from 3,055 to 4,000.

I: What percentage of the population is black?

V: I would say we have about a 60 per cent population black and about a 40 per

centJand then 10 per cent whatever.


-22-








FB 61A


I: O Uh, about what percentage of blacks of voting age in your district are

registered to vote?

V: Uh, the larger part is registeredA, but the apathy comes in when theuh, why

don't they/ml, go ahead and vote. Because )uh, we have, I, like say...... out

of the-i ...... Ye don't have but about 800 registered voters and mrthe majority

of those being black but then when time to vote, we only get a small percentage

that/y/ know really g up to the polls and B vote for any election.

I: Allight. Do you.... Would.... If you hadif just guess at a percentage, what

would you say it is that's registered?

V: Uh, we have about i&..... we have about 800 registered voters and I would say

about..... the same thing about #, 60 or about 60 per cent would be orn

the blacks because we have the majority of voters in this town. (bell rings)

I'll be finished in just a minute. Hello.

I: Alight. Uh, about what percentage of blacks who are registered to vote, do

you estimate actually voted when you were elected.

V: Umf I would say pretty close to 50 per cent voted in that issue.

I: Do you think that you got any votes from whites? 7 -7,-77 .

V: ~2&. Yeah, I really did. I uh......

I: What percentage would you guess?

V: Um, during the. .ti. S; ,, about two-thirds the election that

the time that I won, I'd say I got about two-thirds blacks and about one-

third 4At white. Because I think I got a pretty good support from the whites.

I: And the election tie raa you won office, how many points did you have?

V: no or0 4^-L ,

I: What percentage of the total vote did you get?

V: I got about s..... I can't remember how.... I really don't remember how that

last _. I don't remember now how that last race ......


-23-








FB 61A


I: I'm sure it's f6pp r ko rrC Jt here in the jp, Metropolitan

Handbook or whatever, I found these figures here that said you term expired

in 19..... well September, 1976 as mayor. But is that.....

V: No. Uh, as commissioner. As commissioner but each year we reorganize

after elections and we choose a mayor and if I...... ow we had been

having commissioners over hi~s department. Like commissioner of police,

4 commissioner of streets and parks. For this election it was changed.

They don't feel that we should ; have a commissioner of the police

and a commissioner of the streets and parks. Anybody that comes to you

with a problem, you shouldAversed enough on all these departments in the

town that you'll be able to give helptyl know. If i [if someone came in

the police department, I should know enough about that police department

that I could help that person. And the only thing that we were afraid

of that maybe somebody may pass the buck/ya know. If this is your

department then you feel obligated to it. You'll say well this is my

department and I have to help this person out. But ,if the way it stands,

someone V r that the commissioned know that someone might

be trying to pass the buck. Like they call you in the middle of the

night and say well I'm having t,--h' trouble with the water department

and you might say well look I'm ....I'm not sure what to say about that......

(End side one)

(Begine side two)

V:.......... have say election night then I'm just a commissioner. 'Kv-stS3C~

down .cirlI-'t -nishg (talki ng fS- e 'iitheh oQ) I'm just a

commissioner until we reorganize and then when we reorganize then you become


-24-









FB 61A


V: the mayor and the next person the vice mayor and then the others are

just commissioners. E t --.. --7--- ..- -..--. alking-t*



I: So the.... the reorganization wasn't what-made .you mayorT I-mean.there

was no mayor before that or?

V: Uh, yeah. Uh,..... Erse-~t o-downsCai s a'id -wait -formne,.(QK.*?(atalking

to-'hild who.,ia.making .otsof.neise) Just like say election night is

on the seventh, then I am mayor up until the seventh. When we go into

t 0 ,., rOr.. 'e room on the seventh which is usually on a-Tuesday night

when we have our own election Wen we in the commissioners room

uh, I aws still the mayor until we reorganize/. Then when we reorganize/

if would like for me to4g,1 ..... /ell someone will make a motion. Say

well I make a motion that Mrs. Cox continue on as mayor. But if they decide

that they don't want me on as mayor then they'll make the motion that Mr/.

John Smith be made the mayor. But this is when we take over our new seats,

on the ...... on the night of election after we have finished with old business.

Then we go into new business with a new mayor.

I: .._____.

V: Did I make it clear?

I: Well I was just.... I was just asking because I didn't.... I was wondering .......

V: We have a major all the time, the year...uh, the whole year up 44 even

election day, I'm still the mayor. But when we go in to like canvasA the

votes that night and ub, the five.... /he new people are in and the old

ones that are still there. So there are always..... .ow this election

that is coming up now it will be rCo o --r because every other year

three people will run and then the next year two people will run. So you
always have an old.....two old people sitting on the and up
always have an old..... two old people sitting on the |J3Ii OT and 4, up


-25-









FB 61A


V: until 0? they canvas/ the vote and they make it official that/A these

three people who C(-\ have legally been elected by the public then the

mayor has to turn over his seat to whoever we choose that night to be
ewtC, seo- CA
the mayor or wh .s /hey make the motion and they .eeeien and it's done

by the majority.

I: Well I.... I asked because I... I wondered whether ( you had ni) say been

elected mayor and because you happened to be black...... TC-organized.

V: We're not elected ...... ie're not elected...... we're not elected as mayor,

we're only elected as commissioners.

I: Yeah, '?. I understand.

V: And then the commissioners will- among themselves nominate a mayor.

I: Yeah. Alight. The next questions are asked to determine how well black

officials in Florida have been able to benefit those they represent. In

what ways to you think you've helped blacks in your district by holding

office or in South Bay?

V: Um........... I think in housing is one, one way. I have.... (hby have some

better housing here. Um, ......... I think X a lot of4 brutality,

police brutality, and some of the crime rate F I think I have been able

to ..... to y know try to prohibit some of this 4Erbrutality and

what have you. Uh, recreational-wise. Uh, we do have a small recreation

center that we have andh I was able to initiate this from the other

commissioners ....... show the importance ofyd know this type of a thing.

Um, I have helped out in some areas of the health field. We don't have

a hospital as such, but At2 I have helped y know with the @iW bringing

into the organization of this particular programand I think this would

be considered health services.

I: Mmm hmmm.


-26-









FB 61A


V: And so as far as the people are concerned....... /nto this whole area, not

just South Bay. This whole area because this concerns this whole area.

I: Mmm hmm.

V: And u, .....some education-wi e, I think I have done a little bit

in educational fielc as well.

I: 0,. Uh, has there been anything that's..... that you feel has prevented

you from doing a better job to the black community?

V: Um........ in .... salary-wise for the..... some of the employees in the

city of South Bay. Now ub let me see. Things that would......c.. Coo rC-

Wu\ ) have meant preventing 0 .......... Well, I could..... eightt

now the commission that I'm sitting on that u1t ..... that whole commission

right now is 4;- preventing me from being able I would think to ub, Z6

more ..... that I.... would thf ..... would be able to do or could do.

The hope 44,..... andtl ...... I can't say what was the difference between

the other commission than it is now because last year I was: the only black

on the commission but I had more cooperation than I'm having this year. I'.-

don't have any cooperation this year. So I don't care what it is that

I want to do ,1~ I'm pretty sure that I'm not going to be able to do it

this year. So this is the whole thing in a nutshell. Uh, it's really

the commissioner's step for not.... that's keeping me from doing what I

would like to do.

I: Mmm hmm. I have another one of these little check lists for you. If

you would run down these are possible uh,..... uh,.... deterrents to

you doing a better job as far as benefitting blacks and if you could

run down each one of them and make a comment and check whether you feel

it's very important or fairly important or not important. Whether the

office has real authority. You were.......


-27-









FB 61A


V: Now I... I don't want to be mislead/' It's ..... I feel that it's very

important for me to be in the office although to me the office doesn't

have that much authority behind it. But I feel that it's important.

Even like I'm saying now, the commissioners are not getting the type

of cooperation that y4 know I can get or I should get from the commissioners

or I feel I should get from the commissioners. But on the other hand, I

am there to let the people know what's going on and to let them know how
\\vr
I feel about it. As long as the commissioners know how I feel about it
oa
and let the people know what's going on, I think this is y# know one of

the big things toward getting our problems answered. Um, the.... the

office is just fairly important as far as I'm concerned.

I: Mmm hmm.

V: But I feel that it's important for me to be there.

I: Mmm hmm. Here I think uh, you.... what you just mentioned before was

probably apropos that you were outvoted by white officials?

V: Yeah, mmm hmm. And that's uh I I aeait even say very important

that you were outvoted,

I: Well, do you feel that was very important in preventing you from doing

a better job?

V: Oh yeah, uh huh. Next.

I: Lr \c- rCQC"-'C .

V: (long pause) 0,Y ......... Now here again, I really won't.... I really

um,......... WellI see if you have a group of people who would want to

support you but are afraid to support you......

I: Mmmm hmm.

V: Would you....

I: I wouldn't say that was lack of cooperation.


-28-









FB 61A


0A
V: They want to support you but they... they know)y4 know what's gonna

happen if they support you.

I: I think what 0 Dr. Button is getting at with that question is (, is

there an apathy or an overt uh.......

V: Uh huh, it -is. It is. We have apathy among a lot of the blacks in this

area. Black cooperation? state officials. (long pause)

I: How about Ai familiarity with 4r admistrative duties? Did you find that

a problem that you .jfi you were new to the.... to the office?

V: No, I sure didn't. I don't think that was ..... Because of the fact

that I was in this area all my life and I knew the problems of the people

and it's mainly 6a problematic here. Y( know what's to do for this thing

or what you do..... what can you do for that thing.

I: Mmm hmmm.

V: And uh, .... one of the hard.... One of the worst things in this area t

is the crime rate and police bru... 44 brutality.

I: Mmm hmmm.

V: And I was the commissioner of police so then)yd know to add to these

problems it was just a matter of getting in and digging in and finding

out where theuh, sore sport was.

I: Mmm hmm. Um, has criticism or lack of support in the black community

hindered youm4F, as far as in... in holding office A1^ that it has.......

V: They have really given me 100 per cent. I think this is one reason I'm

yX know/still in. The blacks have really given me 100 per cent uh....

help.

I: They don't believe you're just a token then?

V: No and I think what's gonna happen *fy in this election .....we are right

now we are having meetings I7? every Monday night iy and %4, gettingymty


-29-








FB 61A


V: more blacks and more blacks involved because of the \bi.ti if

this man is going to pay out like that much money to keep her out then

we're gonna have.... we don't have the money but we are going to have

to try to get these people toAi; use their votes,you see, wherever the

vote 4eee~dee y/ know.

I: Mmm hmm.

V: Trying to get these people to realize how important it is to4- come and

vote if they want me in there again. And uh, number two, regardless of

y/ know what they say to you y# know on the job, when you get behind that

screen/nobody's gonna know who's name you pull. You can pull everybody's

name and nobody's gonna know y/ know who's name you're gonna pull.

I: Mmm hmm.

V: Trying to get them to realize/ know that uh, although yAknow .... we"r-

sI to celebrate whAts the bicentenkal year. You knoiYyou don t have

to be afraid.

I: Mmm hmm.

V: Who... Whatever reason you wanna pull for, whatever person you want to

get in. And uh, we're gonna bring in these voting machines or try to

get these voting machines so we can teachem how to vote.

I: Mmmm.

V: And uh.... But I think these people have reallyoul..... And another thing,

if a...... Now that I know that < it's three to one..... I constantly

say to the blacks that anything. Like the lady that came

up and said they had taken her cars and they 4a had ~bl the new stickers

that say she had it inspected, they had new tires and they had one

car she had put a motor in, they had the up-to-date tags which meant

that the car was a car she was using.

I: Right.


-30-









FB 61A


V: And they just.... The city just took the car off and dumped it. And

uh, when she came in and.... she was talking about these things and
o0
I told her ,y know well, we'll do everything I can to get your car

back. And then they wanted her to pay for the car and I told her I
ow
didn't see where you should pay for the car because yA know, we took

the car off so we should bring the car back. If it was through an

error, that was our error and we should bring your car back. So, I

was saying now these are the things that I say to you people. Y/ know
0'
don't wait until you get into trouble to come see me, y/ here? Come

up to commissioner's meeting sometime.

I: Mmm hmm.

V: And -' many times I'm in a tight spot. YA know) you could stand up and

say something for me and let.... let the people know y/ know/how you

feel about the issue. Because my word only goes so far. Although I'm

a commissioner, it only goes so far.

I: Mmm hmm.

V: Like um, the other night I was.... I was very angry the other night and

I was angry the next day. Um, the mayor came to see me and I was off....

and he shouldn't have come to see me because he knew he was violating the

sunshine law. And that....Now that doubly made me angry but I was

... as far cas ya know, about the way I spoke to him.

I: Mmm hmm.

V: Um, then we have a fireman here. The first.... We have two but this

guy was the first fireman, trained fireman we've had in the history

of South Bay. Now this is something else I had to fight for. This is


-31-








FB 61A


V: the firs /an that we've had in South Bay. Andb the first thing

about it, no one had ever tried to get together a program to fight fire

until we got a fireman. Then they want to put him on the twelve to eight

shift and put this other fireman on the four to twelve and they'd say

um, streets and park people would take over. And this was unusual to me

because why didn't streets and parks do something about fires when we

didn't have a fireman. Then the salaries came up. Uh, he's through

manpoweri4. Manpower 5 Yi salary. Now when it first came out it

was understand that they were gonna get $9,000.00 and where this came

from, I don't know whether the i, old manager made it up or whether this

was actually from Manpower's office. Then it was found out that the man

wasn't gonna get but $7,000.00 so he asked the citylyI know to supplement

his salary with $100.00 a month. Now, that's not a week, that's a month.

That's $25.00 a week. The man is very important to the city of South Bay.

We had another fellow that came into town uh, which)y know was a utility

man ..... (tape cuts of for a moment) ... and s/ it has been a... y/ know,

it has passed that this guy gets $300.00 a week. Now here's this other

man, he's only asking the city to supplement hi '$25.00,and they hasseled

over that and they hasseled me. Well I/y/ know said what I thought about

it. Not because of the fact that the man was black, but because of the fact

that the man was something that we really needed in the city of South Bay.

And they hasseled over and they hasseled so they finally came up with a

$10.00 a week difference. And I wonder how in the world can you justify

yourself paying one man $300.00 a week and not wanting to pay another

man ...... $100.00..... say $25.00 which would bring his salary up to about

maybe $120.00, $150.00 a week? How can you justify yourself yd know
I-


-32-









FB 61A


V: doing anything like that?

I; Who are they giving $300.00 to?

V: Well this is eV he's the public director a-which we have a group of

people out at the water plant which is doing a very good job and he

just rides over the streets to see that the people keep the streets clean

and he goes out to the water department. I don't... Yd know what he does

at the water department but he.... he knows something about water. But

we had a group of people out there that was doing just as well yl seelwhich

to me is that yV know he wasn't that important. But they passed on... they....

pas..... we... We tried to keep him out. We did, we kept .e, out for about

a year until we lost the other commissioners. Now the people thoL are

in, apparently they know him and they want him in so they voted him in.

So there's nothing I can do about it. But uh, then they said that they

thought that he was y/ know, he deserved $300.00 a week. So on the other

hand, here's another man that we don't even feel he deserves $25.00 a week.

Now that's awful. To me that's awful.

I: Right.

V: That's terrible. And they hassled about it so they finally came up with

$10.00 and uh, they went around to find out did everybody agree with it.

And no, I didn't agree with it. I don't even know the man. The manlno

more than he was a fireman.

I: Did you make that point to the commission?

V: Yeah, I made the point to the commission. Wanted to know well didn't he

have another job. He's a reverend somewhere. But that's not my business.

Y/'know if... As long as he gives me forty hours or forty-eight hours

or something like this, y/ know this is what I'm looking for. His work,


-33-









FB 61A


V: his performance in the city, not what he does when he gets on the outside.

I: How did they try to counter your argument?

V: And well they say he might not answer but one uh, fight fires. To me

he might not answer not one fire. But the point is, he took the job

as uh, uh, fireman ,y know. And if he gets one of fifty, it's hours

that he has to get in. He may be called out at 2:00 in the morning, 3:00
-7
in the morning. And somebody said well he's an unknown. So what. The

man came to you with his .p~tdestal. Yr knowyou hired him so apparently

you must've thought enough of him to hire him and make him the fire chief.

I mean so that's prsdent eas enough right there to give the man y how/

what he's asked for.

I: Uh huh.

V: So, yd know these are the kind of things that y/ know kinda get me down

when I go up to commissioners meeting but uh, it appears right now that

nothing will be done this year and that we are really trying =~ r to

get this voter registration and get some young people together so that

they go out. We don't have any young people I don't think. If it

is it's just a few young. Like the eighteen years old since they moved

the uh, age limit. We don't have but a few of those people y know

registered.

I: Uh huh.

V: And we're trying very hard. We got some young people to work with those

people and to get more of those people registered and then we're

going to try to get these other people who are registered 0s a little

more interested in those people and then get the ones that are not

registered and um, to come out and so maybe in this coming up election


-34-









FB 61A


V: that we would / do better because a, we made a real bad showing last

time.

I: Uh huh.

V: And maybe we can change some of these things.

I: Uh, are... are a number of black candidates gonna run? Uh, do they....

V: Now, last year we only had one. Uh, Mr. Reiss, uh, he ran last year. Now

I don't know whether he's thinking about running this year or not. He

works also as counselor here. Now he might be thinking about running

next year which 614 I was in hopes. If not, we're gonna have to get out

new candidates for some YJ more blacks to see.... to run. Because

I know U I was Il going around here trying to find out. I tried to

work it by the street since we don't have that many streets in town, do

it by the streets and we had started on one street about a month ago and

we.... There's a young man (W4 who's an instructor at one of the schools

around here and he has a degree also in political science and I saidjyo0k-coA

pd"C- S mb-- I.. like if we don't get any candidates, do you think

you'll be interested enough in politics since you do have your degree in

uh, political science. So he said he would give it a thought so maybe we

might get him to run for mayor.

I: Rght- Are there.... Are there any white candidates that youtik, could

support as far as.... Is there ..... Isithere a white candidate that has

the trust of the black community?

V: Uh, we had some in the last election that uh, y< know the black people trusted

very well. Um, and I'm sure if they would /h, they would get the black

support as well.

I: Mmm hmm. Aright. Do you feel that white officials treat you differently

from other officials or not? That is, do they consider you the spokesman


-35-









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I: for the blacks and are you able to raise only certain issues?

V : Well uh, .... I... They uh, .... They haven't said anything about it

but uh, because of the fact that I am as aggressive as I am, any issue

that comes up, I will voice my opinion on it, I don't care what it is.

Whatever the issue is I will voice my opinion. But I can see their

reaction that they're not too well pleased /y know at the many things

that I say. Like uh, we have a lot of commissioners that follow the

lead and you say I vote yes, then the next man say I vote yes. But I'm

not that type of an individual. I .... I think I should vote the way

I feel I should vote.

I: Mmm hnm.

V: And it's what I think the people 7 Now I don't have all

of the answers but 4qs I do know that ^ I'm not gonna say yes just

because you said yes.

I: Have there been any services provided uh, to the blacks since you took

office that were not provided before?

V: Um, yes 4fp just like I say, that recreation center. We had uh.... We

never did have that and I don't know ..... Well, when it comes up again Aly

and it has to come up because the city pays the rent on the building. Now,

I don't know whether it's going to be passed again. I'm was in hopes

that it's passed again.

I: Right.

V: Um, have you heard of meals-on-wheels?

I: No, I've never heard of it.

V: It's a program, I think it was started by ta EOE, the ..... like the

equal opportunity offices, federal's thing. Well, at one time they didn't

have enough funds to a. to carry on so they were going to each city /A know


-36-









FB 61A


V: that fed people. This is a program where like old, the elderly people

that cannot get out and work or they don't have anybody to make a meal

for them. Well once a day, I think it is, these people will come around

with a prepared meal and if you can come out they have an area where you

can go and eat with everybody else. But if you cannot come out then they'll

see to it that you get your meal at home.

I: Uh huh.

V: And uh, they were asking, the lady that uh, 0' this program up was

asking for donations and I'm pretty sure that if I had not been sitting

on the commission that we would not have donated the money to that program

that we did donate to that program. Mainly because of the fact that 0%$

most of the meals that would be served would've been served to black

people in this area. And another thing is that we donated money to this

program and I had to show them where in.... It was $3,000.00. But I had

to show the commissioners where in we would over a period of time, we

would have saved the $3,000.00 because regardless of 64,...... what

person you put in jail, you have to have someone there around the clock to

watch them. Now, if they was takinlintoxicated people here, people who

show that they are alcoholics or what have you, they transfer them here so

you cut down on the food bill. You don't have to buy food for them the

days they're in jail. If they have to go to the doctor, you don't have

to pay that doctor bill and there are..... The people like many times like on

a Saturday night you might not have anybody but that intoxicated person

because we don't uh, carJfelfonies, we don't keep felonies. Only

just misdemeanors and if he hasn't done anything then you can't send

c~ c- \i he's just intoxicated. So really you don't need anybody


-37-









FB 61A


V: to watch him, to pay anybody around the clock that night to watch the

jail because nobody is there. So in the run you see, by you sending
*e,
these people here and bringing here and letting us foot th s bill> you

will save money in the long run if you were to donate to the program

and all the money that you donate to the program is not 4oambe spent

for anybody that comes into the program, it's spent for people who 4,

come into this area or people who are not able to go on welfare and need

to go to the hospital or people who need medication but are not able

to be certified. Y know they have to get their medicine sometime. You

can't wait/say a month before you can give em medicine.

I: Mmm hmm.

V: So where is the mon... money gonhAAcome from if they can't be certified?
yA
So this money is spent to help these people out y see uh, until they're

certified or until they're able to get things for themselves. And these

things had to uh, be brought out and to be explained as to why you should
4- Y-et 0- C-
donate to this ,pieetewi program.

I: Mmm hmmm.

V: And a number of things kiy the county last summer, it couldn't affor d

the 6y summer school, the enrichment program because they didn't have the

funds. But if the city could see where they could pay an instructor that

they would take care of everything else. So that's $1,500.00

o 4~-c coo\cg registerdS and they had to explain to m that y know

well, children have been going to school for the whole.... I mean ever

since I can remember they've been going to school every summer yA know.

I: Uh huh.

V: So what is it for the commissioners? Is.... In the revenue sharing e3&aim

monies from revenue sharing should be spent for educational purposes. So


-38-









FB 61A


V: why not donate the money to the lady and let herI y know for the ..... the
I 0 oA
instructor and let the county take care of everything else. Y/ know

things like this, you.... you sit on that commission, think that you know

that you wanna have to really say I'm gonna have to stand up and talk

about this because I'm sure it's not gonna pass. So after you have talked

about it, it still say/just pass you by. Then you can say well,\at least

they know how I feel about it.'

I: Right. So.... Well um, I have..... This is the last check list here uh,

last one of these.... this type thing but lt' i1p that and it asks Aft,

you to rate how effective you think you've been in each of those areas

and comment on each. And u5hY you can add a category not applicable if

there is L nothing on the commission as i..... mandated to do in that

area.

V: Now housing, we still ..... oh we have dt1 we got sixty-six units since

I've been here. We still nee some more housing so I'm gonna have to put

b somewhat effective. On welfare, I don't know.... I've never helped

anybody get on welfare.

I: Yeah. Is that not aplicable as far as the commission o A-cV t

V: I... I didn't uh,....... I've.... I've never been approached ,y know uh,

about welfare.

I: Mmm hmm.

V: Employment is somewhat effective now t- Jtk -fCo .

I: Very effective in ?

V: Yeah, mmm hmm. We are working on that and 6E0 ....... I can tf,..... I

am still working on uh, recreation and I have spoken tD um,...... Mr. Dantz

in West Palm Beach,


-39-









FB 61A


V: But what I would like to do, what I really want to do is to d work
OlA
with the juveniles pl the potential juveniles and (6 juveniles l y know/

to see if we could..... because most of the crime that is committed in

South Bay is committed by juveniles., Every now and then you may find

uh, an adult fighting or shooting a pistol or something but like all of

the breaking in and stealing and things, it's done by the juveniles.

I: Mmm hmm.

V: And I wanj/ work with the.... with the juveniles to see if we could .

y/ know cut the rate down and if we could cut the rate down in the juvenile

department then you 0ja cut the rate down in the adult things.

But I told1em that we need recreation. We really do because if I can

get the type of recreation program that I want here, then we could put

these children to work vyfknow. If it's necessary for them to come out

of their homeethh just like if you were instructing to a school and you

had given me a ring and say y 'know "I see um, John Brown and y, know

he has a tendency that he may be sliding into the juvenile bracket) ya

know. Why don't you talk with him and see what you think about him?"

And then if I talk with John Brown and I feel the same thing, then

maybe I'll send somebody around to John Brown's home to see what's going

on into his/y know home life.

I: Mmm hmm.

V: And then maybe it might be.... he just might need to come out of his home

for a little while. And if we had recreation that we could offer him

something to do and y' know and give him a little salary and see if we

could cut down some of this y know juvenile crimes and this is what


-40-









FB 61A


V: I really want to work on y/ know.

I: Uh huh.

V: This is what I really wany~ do right now, work with the juveniles and ttl

I just don't know.......... (cch4id-4nt-errnptrs--TIe-there--n--a-few

mint n -P. ( king-to-t-hrfid-) And if I can do this, I.... I actually feel

that I would have helped a great deal in South Bay. But I promised the um....

Et-that-doet-Y-canitbother-tatTtalW t ild) I promised

the children..... the young people here and this is one promise that I

made and I don't know if I can really fulfill it, a swimming pool because

we don't have a swimming pool here.

I: Mmm hmm.

V: And these children have to thumbto Bel:gxe and you see all sizes and all....

the little girls as well. And I keep telling the children, say one day

you're gonna leave home thumbing to iaii de and you might not get back

because you don't who's gonna give you a ride and where they're gonna take

yA. And it's awfully dangerous I feel yl know for these children to have

to thumb.

I: Right.

V: So we have been trying to raise money yd know c vw'r but what

can...... How much money can you raise H'"selling barbeques and showing

pictures and things. When someone told me, said the swimming pool will

cost about at least $80,000.00. Ya know/cause I would say like $30,000.00.

But they said like if you have a pool you have to have a houseI y know,

for.... to take showers and change clothes and everything. So, I don't

think.... y/ know I don't think I'll ever raise enough money enough to

get the pool in there.

I: Yeah.


-41-









FB 61A


V: I don't know.

I: major effort or somehow outside funds.

V: Yeah. Uh, water and sewage, we did very well on .... in the water and

sewage department but with the uh population expanding, we will have to

expand uh, our water and sewage department. But we do have sewage which

we didn't have..... It was done the year after I came in um, we had septic

tanks but now we have underground sewage and everything and uh, we brought

in a new water department and everything so I think we're very r.ep .n

_C-___ We don't have an hospitals in here so now-otld-sayt it..

I think we have helped in the education department and I think this is

very effective. Although people are not getting the salaries, we do

have them on and we have a twenty-four hour coverage.

I: Right. O,',; Um, ...... have you gotten federal funds for South Bay? Uh,

I know you mentioned uh, revenue sharing.

V: Yeah we uh, we get federal rev.... very ..... uh revenue shares but we had

so many outstanding uh, problems. Just like y know the water and the

sewage, 67, streets, we did a lot on the streets since I've been here and

then we'd give and by the time we get finished giving the monies that

we get it doesn'ty know it doesn't go too far.

I: Mmm hmm.

s?-C--6XSemnalk -Trt:t) t uuirr;akI~TCa.K;raZ~j&rT+

V: OQKA I sure will. But we have a group seven and um, out of Ft. Lauderale

uh, these people work on grants for us. So uh, by now in July we should

be getting some grant money and this is gonna help take came of some

of the streets in the city of South Bay. There gonna build.... I know

you.... you noticed we don't have any sidewalks.

I: Uh huh.


-42-









FB 61A


V: Well as soon as we get the grant money they're gonna build a sidewalk

........... The o 4oSC- JcJ( Elementary School that's right down

Palm Beach Road.......

I: Uh huh.

V: They're gonna build a sidewalk all the way from JO(Jll Elementary

School all the way up...... Did you come from West Palm Beach? Where

did you......

I: I came from West Palm Beach, yes.

V: Boca Raton. Oh right up to the front of..... T-hat'3 -- l.(tking- LU

who- e--t -bherpi er Right up to the front of city hall and then they're-

gonna..... It's a bridge for the children to cross there and they're gonna

fix that bridge in there and then they're gonna be um some of these homes

where the people don't have the work yA know/that they say they do their

own home, they're gonna go in and renovate some of these homes for the

people and I think that would be a nice thing yy know to help them out

a little bit.

I: Mmm hmm. Um, in any.... in any other areas have you gotten grants, I

mean outright grants for special purposes?

V: Uh no. No, we have never gotten any grants. We missed out on the LEA

Grant because uh, that's the police grant, because the fellow uh, did

not get out papers in, y know back into the office and um, whatever

monies we got, they have loans and outstanding loans like the water and

sewage department we have paid off yd know. But uh, if we should get

this grant, uh it will! be the first grant that we have gotten for the

city of South Bay. Now manpower helped us out a lot. Yv know this

is the program...... R sa np ~-1L-'wtn a b lk-~Zo hiz ) This

is the program that uh they send in people and the government pays the


-43-









FB 61A


V: uh, salaries.

I: Uh huh.

V: And uh they work in the area that you need them to work in and I think

that's a good program. You don't get any.... We don't get any funds

directly but they pay the salaries for us.

I: Right. Have you or uh, or the commission been effective in bringing any

uh new businesses or retail stores in the area?

V: Yeah, this is uh, the past commission, not this commission, the past

commission has been effective in bringing in uh, that mini plaza that

you see. Y/know have the handy grocery store, we have the drug store,

and uh, five and ten store and they have the washer and the drying business.

And also, we have been successful in getting in the 8 Days Ipn Motel here.

And this past brought..... These areas have brought brand new industries.

I: Um, have you been able to see that blacks are hired fairly by local....

in local government?

V: I have been able to get them hired but..... they uh, have been fired. They

don't stay.... They don't.... They don't work very long. Now I think it's

more or less of the atmosphere when they start working. They can get

the job. I'll see to them getting a job but then maybe the atmosphere

isn't what it should be so maybe you just drop out and don't even bother

to go back.

I; Right. Have there been any black protests, sit-ins, boycotts, or riots

in South Bay in the last ten years?

V: Um, you'll have to look back in some newspapers. They had a demonstration,

not a riot. They had a demonstration at the city hall and I believe that

was in uh, in '70 or I think.... no, it was in the '60s, like '68 or


-44-









FB 61A


V: sometime like that, '69. --&r6a-s ~rI-tod-you. talkingg t-oZ1i-Id) About

'69.

I: O/. Um, the following questions are asked to enable an assessment of

black politics in Florida in general. Briefly, what is your opinion

of Governor Reuben Askew? That is, do you think he's been a favorable

in attitude and policy towards blacks in Florida or not?

V: Yes, I think Vi I have only been in one of the &f meetings with Governor

Askew and 4ih I think the governor apparently or whatever A/, offices he

could have put blacks in, I think he has put blacks into those offices.

Because off hfnd, I know he has put in u, some of our judges. We have

quite a few judges that are here. Uh, the first lady to ur.... ($, to hold

the urban um,..... What Mrs. Range, yd know she was the first black to hold

the....this office. Then we have one of the.... his right-hand guys

in education r, Dr. Anderson. And 0h., y know, from the overall picture,

I think Governor Askew has done for blacks...... has done quite a _CV

for blacks in uh, ..... especially in the a-ademnes in... in uh, Tallahassee.

And uh, I must say, I like the man and I... I .. I don't know and I'm not...

I'm not gonna say can't do any wrong but he impresses me as being so

religious that I don't think y/ know/that his cocious would let him

do anything wrong.

I: Right.

I: Do you have any other opinions on i& other state officials or representatives?

V: Um,........ do you have anybody in .......

I; No, I mean uh, just let's say in general ,- ----

V: Because uh.... uh, now and this is purely heresay because the same time

I met uh, the day that I _. uh, was in uh, Mr. uh, Governor Askew's

um, audience uh S_2-c-f( _ _rC, was there also and Vh, he was.... Then,


-45-









FB 61A


V: he wasn't uh, he wasn't the senator then. What was..... /e was the senator

for Florida. He is now in Washington isn't he?

I: Mmm hmm.

V: Yeah. But, I was at a meeting not too long ago and they said that dtf
0'-"
Mr. uh, Senator Stone hasn't yy know done some of the things that he said

that he would do/yA know1before taking this office in Washington. Now

that....... .eT- -you-toueh-te-41-presume-she-tal--ai-g-c h-chil-d) That .S...
o\
I can't say it's a fact because 0 4 I don't know yd know what he has done

or what he hasn't done but this is'/ what I've heard hashed at that

meeting, that he hasn't done what he has promised.

I: Uh huh. Do you feel like O< winning and holding office has been worth

your effort?

V: Do I feel that it's uh.....

I: Been worth your effort? I mean do you feel.....

V: Yes, I really feel that it has worth every um,...... moment that I have

put into it, I actually feel that uh,..... And I would say that ....... at

least I know y know what is happening because know people on the outside

really can't say what is going on in the inside.

I: Mmm hmm.

V: But if you're in the inside and you know what is going on, then maybe you

can.... hen if you can't..... If it don.... never comes that it is

straightened out, at least you can ly know try to straighten it out.

I: Mmm hmm.

V: And uh, I think I have worked with these areas and with the people in this....

in this area to try to see to it that they are or they get y, everything

on a fair and equal status I&, from one bill, from the water bill on


-46-









FB 61A


V: down through it. I think I have tried very hard to see to it that they

get these things. And f4y I think it's a necessity that someone t-,-

be in there. I can't say ,4 for the areasbut to tell the truth, in

this area in particularbecause the blacks are .... I've done quite

a few things.

I: Hmmm. What effects have running for office had on you and your family?

V: Well, this is made my husband more political-minded. Uh, he has taken

a great deal of interest in 7 to the gly activities of the city and

what is going on and/aq, right now he is in the jif, citizens Af, action

council. He is a member of that p1h particular thing which also airs out

the problems that we are having in this area. So I think it has made Ah,

my family more political-minded and also more problematic because they
ok.-
sit down now and they wanna know, know well what are the problems

we are having now ya know and what are you trying to do, is there

anything that you can do about it? And ( many times I'll 0y, say

to the children' Isa--H "Y3 know you can't do this because if you do this

I can't go out there and tell other children not to do it because they're

gonna say well, yg know your boy did it'~ And then what are the people

gonna say when you.... they find out you're doing something, they're gona

say well she can't y"A know do her own children, how can she do all these

other children? know I kinda constantly remind them that y know you

can't do this like you see a sign here so you're

not permitted here to play1 ,9on't go and play where the sign says not

to play because if you go out there and play, the other children are gonna

play and if I try to say anything, they gonna say "Well, yX know your little

boy s out there playing and so what can you do about that'

I: So it's been mostly good you say?
(


-47-









FB 61A


o0\
V: It's been very good and uV, I'm happy yq know that uh, it's turning out

like this because I feel like...... yI see, my husband and myself show
O\A
that we are problematic, y/ know find out what's going on in the city.

Then I think this will make the people feel that at least well, that's

one family know has the heart at mind.
/ /
-- _-E uehme 1-h, _Ld nt .t--leves-i r-k ---- s-o-~----- (someone- interro pt)"

V: Ys you did.

?: Sur did.

V: Is the's yours too?

?: Than-yo No, sure isn't. Yeah thanks a lot.

Ersa, st that noise.

I: Ot, we...... uh, I just have a few final questions. Uh, these are asked

to compile an overall group profile of black elected officials and Dr.

Button would like to stress again that no individual answers will be

recorded on these things specifically. Some of them are slightly personal,

I mean, not very personal but that there .... there will be no names

mentioned. The type of office you hold.

V: Um, right here?

I: Yeah. It's commissioner, right?

V: Oh, uh, I was commissioner of police and then uh, the mayor and now with

these commissioners, we don't have no bra.... no offices.

I: Mmm hmm. Date first elected?

V: It was uh, September in f4 '70.

I: September, '70. Date took office?

V: Um, September, '70.

I: Number of times you've run for office?

V: One........... Three times, I believe.


-48-









FB 61A -49-



I: Three times?

V: Yeah, three times cause this year is a two-year period. I lost the first

time and I'm serving it four.

I: Uh huh.

V: So three times.

I: Now, is your age between eighteen or twenty-nine or thirty and forty-nine

or fifty and above? I think you said..... twenty.

V: Thirty. Thirty and twenty-nine.

I: Thirty and twenty-nine? OQ.. And your occupation before elected?

V: Um, I'm director of nurses nurses training.

I: Alcohol rehabilitation or something?

V: .

I: Uh, what was your father's occupation?

V: What was the following?

I: Your father's occupation?

V: Oh, he's a janitor.

I: Your education?

V: Uh, B.S. degree in medicine from 4l4 Florida A&M University.

I: Salary received from your elected position?

V: We get a S of $150.00, we don't get a salary. It's purely

volunteer.

I: Church to which you belong?

V: Uh, African Methodist Episcopal Church.

I: Are you an official at your church?

V: Just a board member.

I: Mmm hmm. Are there other community organizations or activities that you're










FB 61A -50-



I: involved with?

V: Uh, in with the uh, Citizens of Southwest Citizens Committee Club, and

I'm a 7 _, and I'm also 4SiJh in the 4tW sorority, Zeta

Phi Beta Sorority.

I: 0 Were you active in the Civil Rights Movement of 1960 to 1966?

V: No. Would you like to know why?

I: Sure, I'd love to.

V: I'm not a essive. I'm not ag essive but on the other hand, I'm not

passive.

I: Mmm hmmm.

V: And uh, if I had uh, I think I would have..... I probably would've spoiled

the whole thing for Mr. King because a lot of things that they .... they

uh, did to people during the 48, Civil Rights demonstration and things

like that, d? I know truthfully that I... I couldn't at, turn the

other cheek.

I: Right.

V: So it would've been better for me just to go.... just to give all the

support I can from the sideline rather than to get up and mess up the

thing that uh, Mr. King was so... uh, had so much at heart and something

that he always promoted, not to be aggressive and I .... I just can't....

I can't uh..... I can't turn the other cheek.

I: Right. Um, you never belonged to the NAACP then or uh...?

V: No, I'm not.......

I: O0if well that's......... (End of tape and end of interview)
!




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Last updated October 10, 2010 - - mvs