Sub: Mrs. Vernita Cox
Int: "Button Project"
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.
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
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.
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.....
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
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
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,
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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,
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.
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
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
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
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.
V: Separate book. But that has no longer been...... I'll tell you who was responsible
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
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.
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,
this is the thing that makes it uh, difficult. I've never/ know worked
with the polls and I can't say it is between ..... yd know/both races that
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
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
when we go through the community to find out) y know..... did you vote last year.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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....?
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'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
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.
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
V: Oh yeah, Democratic party. Yes, mmm hmm.
I: Have you ever received any support,financial or otherwise, from the Democratic
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
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
I: Do you think those issues are the most important issues facing the black
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,
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.
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
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.
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.
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 ......
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
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.
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
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.
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.......
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
I feel about it. As long as the commissioners know how I feel about it
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.
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....
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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,
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
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
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
V: that we would / do better because a, we made a real bad showing last
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
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.
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
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
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
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?
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
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
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,
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,
V: But what I would like to do, what I really want to do is to d work
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
V: sometime like that, '69. --&r6a-s ~rI-tod-you. talkingg t-oZ1i-Id) About
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: 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,
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
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...
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
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
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
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?
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
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.
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?
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
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
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
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)