Sub: Leon Collins
Int: Dr. James Button
Tape begins on side 2. Perhaps side one was erased.
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J: -'i l.-.us:--once a year.
L: Right, right.
J: Do you go to the....?
L: Uh I havy't been yet but I am going. You know I was a little reluctant at first
to go because ..... wonderiprhow the tax payers would feel about me spending
tax money. Ya know.... the tax payers money to attend Z-he Black Caucus. I
I I think I might get a little bit of)uh)back lash for that.
J: Mmm hmm.
L: But I do want to attend it and I'm gonna attend it if I have to spend my own
money to go.
J: Do you have to.... Do you to pay to go to Washington or will that.... will that
be paid for by the....?
L: It's paid for by the city.
L: But now if I feel like I'm gonna get some harassment by it, then I'll spend my
own money to go. But now I'm going to bring information back.... here that tewi'e5
uh uh uh usually when you attend these caucuses, from what I understand, uh they
have a lot of information about federal monies that we can get for the
L: low income areas that maybe... ya know the city manager's not aware of.
J: Mm hmm.
1: And uh we4out to Houston and I was talking with/.... I was talking to Mayor
Bradl)y out there, and I was talking to Hatchett from and black
mayors, and commission, and councilmens from all over the country.
J: When was that?
L: Uh that was lasEyear. We went to Houston after the National uh National League
of Cities Convention.
J: Mm hmm.
L: And just in talking with them. and getting information and jottin little notes
down ya know and I'd get back home and I talk to City Manager about it and I
make a few co.... uh ya know.... I uh... I make a few phone calls up to
Washington and find out that we got I six hundred thousand dollars sitting
up there we can get. Ya know federal monies.
J: Mm hmm.
L: And uh we got that money. I got that money see? So the trip cost the city,
it cost the city bout what about three hundred dollars.
J: Mm hmm.
L: For one point six million that we got in federal monies to pave the streets and
drain streets and and uh... ya know do a lot of things here that we need. So
I don't know, maybe maybe that trip to Washington might mean some more money
that we are not aware of. So I'm goin.
L: I'm going. So I don't care where the money's spent. I don't care if it's spent
in/)black community orAwhite community where it's spent. AWe gotta drain - --'
f/lswam-and spend the money. We got the money let's lets do some,;'i -L: r l,
J: How about welfare? Now that.... I know that may not apply uh that
may be handled by the county....
L: That is handled by the county. We don't uh.... We in the city don't have anything
to do with welfare. That's all county.
J: O.K. So I guess.... say not affective in the sense that it doesn't apply?
L: Employment? We have one of the highest rates of employment in the state. We have
about Id&ty- point five or six per cent unemployment in County right
now it's ridiclus.
J: Then the highestunemployment rate?
L: Unemployment. Yes, yes.
L: Uh I don't know what we gonna do. And I dnn't know what we can do about
it because uh we've tried to get additional federal monies through the ep)
program the CETA program to hire people but uh we haven't been successful in doin
it. Even the county's trying to do it and all the municipalities. We've got
fifteen municipalities in the county, and they have all been trying to do it we
just haven't been able to do it. Now maybe if we could get some federal monies
we could hire people temporarily for aAmonths ya know what I mean to offset this
high unemployment rate that we have in the county. It's it's it's really bad.
It's really bad.
J: So..... I guess you're saying you've been not effective.
J: O.K. Let me answer that phone. O.K. the next area is uh parks and recreation.
L: Parks and recreation uh ya know that's handled by the county too although we
ow t ...'6s. j, o, lcC
own the properties. Uh we own the ,.. Park, the Smith Park,
L: we owned the Taylor Park, the Travis Park. All the lands are owned by the
city but we lease the land to the county. Uh....
J: And they fund uh recreation?
L: And uh they fund the recreation things through uh.... through a tax milage or
L: O.K. so I guess you're saying not affected because it doesn't apply?
J: Right, right.
L: O.K. Water sewage and garbage?
J: We have a problem right now. We have ajwe have a good collection system as far
as our garbage is concerned but right now we have a ,^- outside the
municipality because our plants are not not large enough now to handle it. We
need about a million dollar expansion. So believe it or not, I was talking to
some people when I was up in Washington to the Coke conference, I was up there
on union business but I also got a chance to talk to Congressman Fry and I
got a chance to talk to uh.... let's see Senator Claude Pepper and I got a
chance to talk to Dick Stone while he was up on And uh I was askin about
this money taht was froze under the Nixon administration for ya know sewage. So
I said,well look can ya check on it since I'm here to Washington#ya gan ya check on
it and find out where that money is and when that money's gonna be released. So
they did. So while I was there in office and I got back home and he gave me
a call. He had one his agents call me and said that the money had been released
but they had put it under another program. They had changed the name of the
program. So I called the city manager. I said Bud, I said that money has
been released now, look now we got a moratorium on our An, and we got
the money's been turned loose now... we .... let's... let's submit application
for that money so we can expand our sewer plant here. I said, cause we can't
grow unless that thing is ..... uh ya know enlarged. I said, look the money.
L: So he checked on it found out ithe money had been released and now we submit
application for the money we're gonna get it. They're gonna get about
two million dollars tha~-manthn t ti movey,
J: O.K. good. Do how how effective do you feel then that you've been in....?
L: Very effective.
J: O.K. Health and hospitals?
L: That's a problem. That's a problem. Here in T~. ... ..County we have uh we
we are really having a problem with PH hospitals. Although we don't deal too
much with health, that's county too ya know and the the rehabilitation centers
and all that. We are having a problem with hospitals,.now-ea- let me tell a y
die in this county if you don't have some insurance and some money. You won't
see a doctor. We have a shortage of doctors. Uh you might uh you might put
in an appointment to see a doctor and it might take ya two weeks to see a
doctor in this county. If you go to a hospital uh... ya know for an emergency,
if ya don't have some money or some insurance, you're in trouble. You're in
trouble. Uh I would like to see the day come that we would maybe have a city
operated hospital oy a county operated hospital to deal with these problems when
people don't have the money because we don't always have the money. Uh ya know
the ones of us that are fortunately working ya know for the government and and
ya know good group ya know plans, hospital plans, and life insurance, and accident
insurance and all that. Uh wewe do have a problem in that area, that's hospitals.
Uh ya know there's too many times that I read that people die waiting to see
a doctor in the emergency room down here at Hospital and that's bad.
J: Mm hmm.
L: Uh.... here for years we didn't have a neurosurgeon. Uh all the...... all of the
head injuries and things like that, brain damage and things like that ya know
L; patients had to be transported to Orlando. So now we do have a neurosurgeon \See
in the county.
J: O.K. How effective4you've been.... in that area?
L: III haven't been effective at all in that area. I've been talking about it but
that's about as much as I've been doin.
J: Yeah. O.K.
L: Havh't been able to get any support.
J: O.K. (pause) How about education? And that again may not apply to....?
L: No that doesn't apply to me so much. That's taken care of by the county. We
have a county school board and things like that.
L: But I do think we have a good system here in the county.
J: O.K. oo I guess not effective,but it doesn't apply.
J: And finally, fire uh... protection.
L: We have very good fire protection in the city of Cocoa. In fact, uh uh this
is one of the things that I believe in too, is good fire protection. We have
a good department, we have the manpower we need, we have the best equipment
we need. We don't really have a lot of high rise buildings uh here in the
city of Cocoa but we do have the equipment to even take care of that. We
have one out ,-A_ where the senior citizens live and we got one of these
trucks with that boom about a hundred and some feet up in the air
in caseiuhsomebody getting stranded on the fifth or sixth floor or something
like that. And uh... one of the other things that I had been working on is
a -amxutre service. .. ___ amulance service for the..... need it for
the citizenSof Cocoa. We have a 'ambulance service now that runs
off of Merritt Isle. They have to come from Merritt Iv4e to Cocoa to get some-
L: body to the hospital and uh involved in accident or something of that nature.
We do have a rescue vehicle..... wit+r all of the equipment I think -i* costs
around thirty thousand dollars with the equipment on it and I have a list
of the runs they they make for heart attacks, burns, epileptic seizures, uh
child birth,Awhatever the case mam be and these guys are doin a splendid job.
And they will only transport someone to the hospital if it's an extreme
emergency. And uh they have they've had the training out at BCC to deal
with just about anything that they would have to deal with due to an accident
or anything. And they have the equipment to do it on the truck. So now if
we can get an ambulance or get a couple ambulance to follow the rescue truck
then we'll be in business. So we're gonna get that next year.
J: You said you had. tried to get more uh fire hydrants and things. in the in the
L: Yes because of the lack of line that we have. The water lines are too small.
J: Mm hmm.
L: In certain areas. Not in all sections of the black community because now uh...
here in this section where I live now, was at one time predominate white.
J: Mm hmm.
L: And uh ya know the blacks are spreading out now and uh ya really can't ya won't
go into any areas where ya won't find a few blacks.
J: Mm hmm.
L: Ilmean even your uppa ..... your upper class neighborhoods you gonna find a
few blacks there. And just about every community you go in now so when you
talking about black community really,you're just about talking about every
community in the city. Ya know. But uh this is the bulk of the black community
say from uh.... from here back to ya know back to US uh the old US 1 over there.
J: O.K. So how how effective do you think you were in that area?
L: Very effective.
J: Very effective?
J: O.K. (pause) Have you as an elected official, or even part of a committee,
been able to bring in industry or retail stores uh into this area?
L: No uh I haven't. Uh really I've been concerned about it because uh it really
disturbs me when I can see all the big businesses on Merritt Island and I
know why they're doin it to get away from paying city taxes. Uh maybe we're
doin something wrong here in the city. Uh... maybe they're offering the people
something on Merritt Island that we are not offering them here. '' I
would like to seeAwe have a little _. park but that's about the extent
of it. I am concerned about it and I think if we hadmaybe we wouldn't
have so many people unemployed. And I think the city owns enough land if
we can we can make a,oep4+imize and bring some of these people in. And the
city in the past, and is now, letting the City Chamber of Commerce handle this
and I don't think they're doin a good job so I'm gonna ask to serve as A.ain to
that board. Now we uh ya know we appropvpte thousands of dollars a year for
these people to advertise and invite people down to look at our area and uh and
uh try to entice industrial uh something like this to come in. But I don't think
they're doin the job and that's why I wanna serve as lason for that board to
find out what they're doin. And uh if if that is a problem then I don't think
we should fund it.
J: Mm hmm. O.K. There's a need but so far you haven't been able to to bring
in any industry?
L: Right, right.
J: How about federal revenue sharing? Has this being able to help uh... some here
in Cocoa and if so, in what areas?
L: Well, like I said the CETA Program. Uh that was federal revenue sharing monies
and we couldn't survive without it. For drainage, uh for paving those streets,
for lights, uh for fire protection, police protection, there are many, many
things that we use federal revenue sharing monies for and we couldn't survive
J: What what's CETA? That's an employment program?
L: Uh it's uh.... yes. Yes it's funded by the government to hire employ... or
ya know really to hire people temporarily to subsidize unemployment, cross-
training, and upgrading, and this type thing.
J: Hm hmm. Have there been uh in Cocoa or in this area, have there been any
black protests or sit ins, boycotts in the last ten years or even a riot?
J: That you know of?
L: No. Not not.... No we've never had a riot. We did have some protests back in
the early days of integration and uh it was very minor compared to uh other
J: When when was that?
L: Oh I guess that was fifteen years ago.
J: Not in the last ten years?
L: No no no.
J: O.K. I'd like to ask you a couple of questions if I could, last questions here,
about uh black politics in Florida in general. And first of all, I'd like
to ask you what's your opinion of Governor Ruben Askew? Do you feel he's
J: been favorable uh..',. uh in policy and attitude uh toward blacks?
L: Yes I think he's I think uh I think the Governor's doin a fine job and uh '
I had the opportunity of meeting him and talking to him on a couple of occasions
and uh uh Jack at that time was in Tallahassee and uh the Democrats
had a big uh rally out here at the Houston stadium and I got a chance to meet
the governor. I got a chance to meet him again in Tallahassee on another
occasion. Yes, I think he's doin a fine job. Uh....
J: Any things in particular that) that have impressed you?
L: Well I'll tell ya before I appointed a judge uh ya know the black judge
is the Supreme Court Justice and that uh and he has done so many other things
as far as-manar-it-ie-s-are concerned, not only blacks, but women too. And uh ya
know I mean givin em key positions in his administration and this like this and
I really I ... Hats off to the man. I think he's doing a fantastic job and
I would even like to see him ya know go higher. I'd like to see him at the
national level and I think he is headed in that direction.
J: Mm hmm.
L: He's a fine man.
J: O.K. Are there any other state officials that that you feel have done a a.....
an impressive job in terms of helping blacks do you think or...?
L: Well I think most of)uh most of our elected officials here are from the county.
I don't know.... I know of the other state officialsbut I don't know em like
I know the ones here in the county. I think the ones here in the county is is
doing a fantastic job.
J: State representatives?
L: Yeah state representatives. Bill Nelson and )uh Jane Robertson, Laurie Wilson, and
L: uh ... and uh Dave Barrett. And,)h)Dave and I are very good friends, and uh
John Voke, and yes I think they're doing a good job.
J: O.K. Just one last general question. uh I'd like to ask you, and that is,
do you think winning and holding office uh in Florida has been worth the
L: Uh.... I don't quite understand the question you said....
J: Well in terms of, now you've been in office a couple years, do you feel, looking
back, that running for and holding office has)has been worth the effort?
L: Yes, I think so. I.... maybe if I hadn't been on board there were a lot of
things wouldn't have come about..... uh here in the city. And I think now
that the city administrators realize that uh.... uh I'm for all of the people
and I'm working for all of the people and uh I'm gonna do what's right with
them and I'm gonna want them to do ya know)for it's people.
J: Mmm hmm.
L: And uh this is one of our main concerns. Uh we have working in many many areas
as to where we.... for instance, like out garbage system, we have on the the.
street pick ups now. Curbside pick up as they call em. And uh the city
passed law that even if ya don't get your cans off the street, and so we got
a man now that they can call and deal with uh.... they can relate to, they
can communicate with. And uh..... in this area.
J: Have there been any negative aspects of of running for and holding office?
L: No not really. It really is discouraging sometime but me, being the first
black and uh) the people got someone now in the community they can relate to
with all of their problems. And it's discouraging sometime I mean it's really
i C be-*, -7i1,
disgusting ya know. But then I doA... I do the bestAI can. I try to solve
all the problems. I can't solve them all but I do what I can. Uh if I
L: can't deal with a particular problem)then I'll call someone that can. Ya know
I have a list of all these people that)uh)low rental help or whatever the
case might be, welfare. And I have a book with the names and their positions
and uh this type thing so I can usually refer them to someone ya-4eew-that
can help them^ And I'll sometimes call.
J: Mum hmm. What effect has all this had on you personally and on your family?
Has it has it really changed things uh?
L: Except that you get invitations now that you wouldn't normal get, you attend
affairs that you wouldn't normally attend otherwise, and it's 1uh keeps ys on
the go. Ya get home in the evening ya gotta list :of phone calls to make
and then you got two or three engagements and ya can't make but two. And uh
this type thing. It keeps ya on the run all the time.
J: Mm, so you're a lot :.../ lot busier?
L: Alot busier, yes.
J: What effect has that had on your family? Any?
L: Nq much. Not much because my wife is very active too and she's she's headed
in one direction and I'm headed in another one....;i..'uh;and iuh)ya know in
a lot of cases
J: Mm hmm. Mmm hmm. O.K. Just a last couple quick personal questions here. Um....
L: I'm an electrician by -tai-t.
J: O.K. Um your age?
J: O.K. Level of education?
L: Two years uh of a junior college.
J: O.K. The salary you receive from youruh, elected position?
L: Four hundred a month.
J: O.K. Has it been that since uh .... since 1973?
J: O.K. Were you active in the Civil Rights Movement of 1960 to 1966?
L: Not really active, no. But I was concerned.
J: Were you, or have you been a member of the NAACP?
L: Yes. Yes, and I am now.
J; You still are?
J: Any other civil rightsuh.organizations? SCLC?
J; O.K. What church do you belong to?
L: I belong to the Ohurch of Christ.
J: O.K. Are you an official in that church?
J: O.K. You've mentioned some of the other community organizations uh that you're
uh involved in uh....... what are some of those?
L: Well I'm a member of the _Civic League. I'm a member uh .... I'm
on the Board of Directors of uh)United Way of Brevard County. I'm a member of
the Concerned Democrats. I'm a member of the Young Democrats. Uh I'm on my
Local Executive Board of the Electrical Executive Board in my local union,
i_:_ five twenty five. Uh...... I'm...... I'm administrative assistance
to .... to the President with the Executive -Board of Recreation Association. And,
uh I just can't think of all of them right now.
J: O.K. (laugh) You are busy.
J; Um.... what is, or was your father's occupation?
L: My father?
L: Uh he was more or less a custodian most of his life. He went to med school back
in his early days and uh.... found reason not to continue .. But he
did uh.... he worked uh.... as a ve&art-ia for years.
J: Mm hmm.
L: And,uh)after he got & that he just started doing custodial type work ya know.
I don't know why.he..... he didn'tya know, decide to continue his education and
I never really questioned him about it really. Ya know? But I know he was
smart man. I knew that.
J: Mum hmm. O.K. Are there any other black elected officials in this area that uh
that you know of uh that we should be talking to?
L: Yes. Uh... we have Jerry Taylor down in Palm Bay and)uh.-wegot uh we got
Julius Montgomery in Melbourne.
J: I'm gonna see him this afternoon.
L: Yeah, Julius and I. I know him quite well.
L: And I know Jerry too.
J: O.K. You met Pappy Kennedy?
L: Yeah Pappy, I know Pappy.
L: Carl there too. He's a character too. The mayor, over in Orlando?
J: Uh huh.
L: Oh he's a character.
J: Is he a black elected official?
L: No no.
J: Yeah. Are there any black....other bladk elected officials?
L: No I thinkI think uh... I think Julius and Jerry and myself are the only ones
in the county.
J: O.K. O.K. That's it and I wanna ,_ I don't know whether I got on tape. Are
you interested um.... eventually in having this become part of the Oral History
library at the University of Florida again after you've received a transcript, you've
gone over it, you.... you've changed it if you wanted to?
L: Fine, fine.
J: Is that O.K.?
L: Very good.
J: This is Leon Collins of Cocoa. I guess that's it.