FB 69 A CTM
Subject: Charles Coleman
Int: "Button Project"
Place: Lakeland 8-14-75
I: O~, you're ready for your questionnaire, right?
I: We it, it's divided into six sections. And the first section deals with
how well the Voting Rights Act of 1965 -W~: 'c. \ t part in
Florida politics. When did you first register to vote?
I: Was that when you were first eligible?
S: Yes, twenty years late.
I: That was here in Florida?
S: In Lakeland. Right here in Lakeland.
I: Have you been here all of your life?
S: 54 years.
I: Were you ever turned down alot?
I: Have there been any voter registration drives in this area?
S: Oh yeah, sure.
I: Who sponsored them?
S: Oh, minister's group, human relations council, voters' league.
I: Were they to get out the flack vote or were they.....
S: Well, some of the flack votes, some for voters period. The N.A.A.C.P.
had the most recent one.
I: When was at-?
I: Was that the first one -.. c____ ?
S: Yes. That I know of.
I: Do you think these drives were very successful?
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S: What you mean successful? We got some folks to register, that's pretty
I: What percentage?
S: I don't know. We had alot of folks register that had never registered
before. So, I think that's a success.
I: Do you think it made any difference in the outcome of the election?
S: I:don't:hnow. I do know that more people p vote depending on who is
running and what the issues are.
I: Are there anthings in your district that would prevent lacks from
S: No. Not in Lakeland.
I: Ah, there are some things that in other areas have interrupted local
registering. Economic dependence on whites?
I: Has that had any effect....
S: No question. On blacks in Lakeland or in Polk county for that matter.
There is an apathy rather than anything else.
I: Is that the only thing then?
S: That's the only thing I know of, in Polk county.
I: There is no fear....
S: None, what so ever.
I: Or registration being closed down?
I: What about reregistration? Do you have to reregister here?
S: No, it's done through the mail. The supervisor of the registration
will purge the voter list and send cards to everybody on the list. And
its Purged on the basis of what cards are not returned.
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I: How often does that happen?
S: I think Mrs. Wjrk does that every two oC(dc'ct, I'm not sure.
I: Are there any officers in this city that are determined by districts?
S: No, it's city-wide vote but our city charter provides for representation
\^' 5 S~L-VC-
from each of the four quadrants. We take our city and, we take our city
and divide it into four quadrants. This is Florida Avenue here in one
line and the railroad tracks being the other. All right. A, B, C, D
comes out, A, B, C, D. Now the charter provided for representation from
each one of the quadrants. I'm from District A. I must live in District
A. That's the only requirement. But it's a city-wide vote. Then we
S: Then we have three membersAfrom at large. You can live anywhere and run
for at-large seats, which means we have seven-man commission. One from
each quadrant, four, and three at-large.
I: Is there an area of the city that is predominately black?
I: And you are from A?
S: Ah hah.
I: The next set of questions are just for election campaigns. When did
you run for office?
S: November of 1970, I need to think back, what is this five, four, seventy-
I: Is that the only time you have run?
S: That is the only time I have run.
I: And how long was tr term?
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S: Three years.
I: So, you're still in office?
I: Were you able to campaign freely?
S: Oh, sure.
I: No threats at all?
I: What about campaign money?
S: Oh, I received contributions from individuals and put my own money in.
It wasn't too expensive.
I: Did you get any money from a party-a.-?
S: I received money from one group of city workers, electrical workers.
I: Were they predominately black workers?
S: White. Totally white.
I: Why did you run for office?
S: Because I wanted to be a commissioner.
I: Why did you want to be a commissioner?
S: I've always been interested in city politics since 1939, when I graduated
from high school. Plus the fact that I have always worked in political
campaigns for my friends, local and state and national. Lawton ,vJ
ChileSwas a personal friend of mine. I worked for him, the late Roy
Serrill, I worked for him, the sheriff. Any number of representatives
we have, I worked for them because I knew them personally and wanted
tote in office. So I wanted to run for city commission.
I: What political organizations do you belong to?
I: Are you a democrat or.....
S: Yeah, democrat.
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I: What issues did you campaign for?
S: Housing, recreation, ah improvement of the lot of senior citizens and
the main point of my platform was service for citizens in Lakeland, not
particularly in my quadrant. Primarily, yes but for the total\Lakeland,
services. When I say services, garbage, street, sidewalks.
I: Were these issues the main problems facing blacks?
S: Yes./. And good wfE~aRs, whict=mBang administration and citizens in our
-i.vy. This is off the record. Cut that off. Don't quote me on
that. I don't want to play dirty politics.
I: How many people are in your district?
S: Oh, at last count, three years ago, we pictured about V thousand in the
city limits; in my district, eight to ten thousand, I'd say.
I: What percentage of that population is black?
S: Less than twenty percent.
I: What percentage of the lacks in your district are
S: I don't know. At last count/say about thirty, thirty-five percent.
I: What percentage of these, who are registered actually voted in the
S: Let's see. We have two precincts in this district and it's better t
Ji uit this way. And those two precincts, we had six hundred votes
cast. The opposition got 19 and I got the rest.
I: So, you got quite a few votes from whites. Is that correct?
S: Oh, yes, and all of the other precincts. I ran about, I campaign
on this premise, if I can get 10 percent, there are 19 precincts in
Lakeland, that vote in city elections, if I can get 10 percent of the
votes cast, in the other 17, 10 percent in each precinct and take my
two precincts out here I and this is what happened, I was trailing the
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opposition by four hundred-ninty, maybe five hundred votes when 17
of the precincts had been counted. Then they counted the two predomin-
ately black precincts and I beat the opposition by 13 votes.
I: How many opponents did you have?
S: One. Dan
I: And ^
S: No, 1 At the first canvas, that
night, I beat him by six votes. But when we recanvassed the votes,
the next morning, city commission sitting as a canvassing board,
I beat him by 13 votes. Now, let me explain something to you. There
were other seats on the ticket. District:Ci:,there was a fellow
running in that district by the name of Goldman, he's dead now,
Dwight Goldman. And I'm Charles Coleman. So, alot of people voted
for, and he was running against a lady named Peggy Brown, she was
very popular, so on the ballot, they had one single paper ballot,
similar to this, and of course there were three seats. In one,
Marvin Hinnison, had no opposition. So, they would mark an X for
Charles Coleman, mark an X for Peggy Brown, and to make sure they
got the right Coleman, they would mark an X there. And the night of
the election, the city attorney threw the total ballot out because
he declared an improperly marked ballot. So, I called my lawyer
and he got with the city attorney that next morning, Wednesday morning,
they researched the law. And the law specifically states that when
there are more than one seat on a ballot, when you've got a paper
ballot, you only throw out the ballot that is improperly marked. So
by that way, I picked up seven more votes. (laughter) So, I beat him
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I: O. This next set of questions talks about how well black officials
from the state represent the blacks of south Florida. How do you
think you have helped blacks by your participation, by being in
S: Well, one thing, the blacks, before I ran, the mayor of this town was
a black, my next door neighbor.
S: Yes. And he established a feeling of easiness for blacks to come
into city hall and sit down and list specifically what they need.
And of course, I have followed in his footsteps. And now we have
better communication between city hall, let's say and this district.
We helped the blacks in t1A district by securing alot of things
that we had not done before. One specifically, we have just received
our first entitlement under the Community Development Act. That
two hundred and some thousand dollars will be spent in this district
for sidewalks, for sewer, for recreation, you see, another thing,
blacks have someone they can call when a street light goes out, this
sort of thing.
I: What was the effect on Dr. Jackson running for office?
S: Dr. Jackson ran for the at-large seat, not from this district. He ran
for an at-large seat. Three people in the race. He ran against the
former mayor of the town. He got into a run-off and won in the run-
off. He ran for re-election against two others and beat both of them
in the primary.
I: Is the mayor a member of council?
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S: The mayor is a city commissioner who is elected mayor by the commission.
It's not elected by the voters.
I: Why did he run for the at-large seat?
S: It was the only one, contested at that time. Plus the fact that Dr.
Jackson did not want to be classified as a black commissioner representing
the blacks. He wanted to be in the city commission representing the
total city. My philosophy was different. I wanted to represent the
I: Did you think they were getting a bad deal in the city?
S: Oh, blacks all over the world cgA- %cF i S in t cities and it's
a lack of communication, one thing. And there were, let's face it,
.some ..e. -y. rA .v iyu, there were some prejudices. I remember
when I was in high school in 1939, I went to city commission meeting,
I had to sit on the back seat of city hall. Only one little seat
reserved for blacks. You couldn't sit no where in city hall. Sure,
we have had our pre_ o8:-1.
I: And when did that change?
S: Ah, in 1954 with the Civil Rights Act, the PeFiar Rights Act was
I: Is there anything that prevents you from doing a better job for blacks?
S: Yes. Two jobs. The principal pre--:~g the school and city _
-W we~to- ~ principal and sPeontmore time -ts-wth city commission
I: There are some things that we would like you to rate as to how important
they are in preventing you from doing a better job. What about the
authority of the office?
S: City charter prevents me from doing certain things that I want to do.
Ah, for instance, I cannot talk directly to any city employee about
any problem. I must talk to the city manager; for instance, if a
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garbage man doesn't pick up ycttr garbage, I can call him and say/
\hey, come get this gbaga. I have to call the city manager and
he in turn, you know, this sd of thing. Our city charter is in
the process of being revised. And I don't know aibts~l good or
bad, but it's that way. When this part of the charter,- this
ordinance was passed, it prohibit$ politicians from throwing their
weight around. That's the good part of it. The job, the office
itself, does not prevent me from doing what I want to do as far as
e_______ b__ you know.
I: What about being outvoted by politicians?
S: Oh, I haven't experienced thq too much these two years that I've
been on there. We have I seven members on the commission, if you
propose something that is logical and sound, you have their support.
It's not a black and white thing at all. You know, there have, I have
been outvoted on some issues that di4nbt involve blacks, you see.
I was outvoted the other night, when I made a motion to fire the
Public Relations Officer. He's white. (laughter) You know. The
folk that we have on the commission now, in all honesty/ are good
sound-thinking people andAissues come that way, 4 4Qo- tir..,- *,. I- .
I: You said before that that there is still prejudice and that blacks
have been getting a bad deal. In what specific areas?
S: We have,(sound fades out then another voice, male, comes in and says
the following) ,e said earlier that he ran against a white
emcumbant who was not responsive to blacks needs. He never extended
the bIck _._ .and/generally ignored the blacks in this
district.' 'own district. -(smeone had come
into, ask Mr. Coleman something). I Mr. 'Colema is speaking again
now). Tradition is one thing and of course, prestige in the
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community. Now there are alot of, alot of white people that want
to be more, you know. There is a prestige thing involved there,
that you can't, you know.......
I: What do you mean,"prestige thingl
S: If I'm a member of the Kiwanis Club and the feeling in the Kiwanis
Club is that they don't want to go to fast7 Aen I'm a little
reluctant to go too fast, you know what I mean? When we got our
community development project proposal approved, some people came
in and wanted to know why you are going to spend two hundred and
some thousand dollars out there. V~A sc wrt1 1 So, you, it's
a matter of educating people. Alot of the folk that still find this
a war, don't want to give up. Yeah. \Right-her in this school
here, there are people who have withdrawn their children from this
school and put them in private schools and it's a tremendous
financial obligation, just because there is a black principal. Sure.
I: Are there many of those?
S: Not many, but there are some. And I'm quite concerned about them.
I was principal in Mulberry, Florida for two years, would you believe
that, Mulberry. Do you know where that is? You ever heard of it?
I: I believe so.
S: Aight. It's named after the mulberry tree where they used to hang
Negroes. I remember the time n ~ i 0o black could J1 in a school
in Mulberry at a white school Wvs c~QJS oV, r &: So, I was
principal of Mulberry Elementary School and I want you to know
those were the most two enjoyable years I have ever enjoyed out of
thirty years in education.
I: Why was that?
S: The people in Mulberry were the first section in Polk county to in-
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tegrate.schools. And you know how they did it? They only have
four schools in Mulberry. They took one elementary school and made ,
it K2s4 They took another elementary school and made it AZE They
took what was predominately h black junior high school and made it
sixth ae. And they made the high school 9n. Everybody in
Mulberry goes to every school in Mulberry. How's that for integra-
tion. I tell you those red necks, Ku Klux Klan, as far as I could
see, accepted me wholly. Now, I know there are some that still use
the word "nigger" because the children used it at school until I heard
it. And when I called parents in, it was quickly corrected. Now on
+-0 rr-'Acs vV v o-yo/ Ai
the surface, the impression .a O-u, we'll have to live
with you. So they cooperated. And I got good cooperation. PTA
meets at 7:30, if you aren't there by 7:00, you w~ii;t get a seat.
We had to take the PTA meetings out of the lunch room and put it in
the gymnasium, so that people could get seats. So, you see, we
still have, we still have i' ;.' Let's face it.
I: Have the people of Lakeland been neglective to recognize the needs
of your district?
S: Oh, listen by the way. This kind of set-up for representation on the
city commission, was conceived in 1959. There was a time when we had
a three-man city commission and of course, you lived anywhere and
the total city voted for ,y.r. Then they moved into a five-man city
commission, same thing. Finally in 1959, we rewrote that part of the
charter that spelled out that there must be representation from each
part. See? We also put we, they did, that on every municipal board
in Lakeland, there must be representation from each quadrant. Now
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there are some board, there were some boards before Dr. Jackson went
on, that, well, we didn't have any representation on any board until
1955 when the Housing Authority Board, former Jack Dade, tess-
the mayor, the former mayor, Jack Dade, appointed me to the Housing
Board. He was the one Dr. Jackson a bete for office, by the
way, \ _-_ ____ S _I From that day on, every
time, some of the board&were totally white, when ever one term
expired, we stocked the machinery and looked over in the black quadrant
to see who ai available or eligible or desirable for serving on this
particular board. So we went to a card system, where we passed out
cards to people. If you are interested, give your name, address, etc.,
etc.. And on the bottom of that card, we listed all of the municipal
boards. And they indicated by preference, 1, 2, 3, which of these
boards they were desirous of serving on. And when ever a vacancy
came up, where there was no black on that board, we looked in these
cards. Picked out a name. Recommended him for appointment to the
I: Were they easy to get appointed?
S: Oh, yes. Never turned down. Our only problem is that we don't have
many cards from my district. (laughter) I'm in the process now, I
have sent out some seventy-five, eighty cards to friends, I know.
And here's another thing, the only people I send cards 61t to, and
I apologize for it, are school teachers. And I'm a little reluctant
i-- it but you go to old Joe Blow on the corner over there and he
wants to send, nah, I don't think I can, I don't use good English.
You know, that st of thing. A little reluctant because he can't
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communicate in the vernacular of his peers on the board. They want
to serve but they can't express themselves and cope with the
I: Are they afraid of the contact with.....
S: It's not the contact, it's just that he doesn't want to embarrass himself
by not being able to speak fluently.
I: Back to the section about things preventing you from doing a better
job for blacks.
S: Well, now, I'm not only doing a better job for blacks. I'm on there
to serve the district. We got whites living in this district too.
I: 80 whitesis=shw right?
S: No, 80% black residents, in this district. Actually 90\ now. There
were whites that stayed in. You see, this district has been the living
areas for blacks have been expanded and when we began to move north-
west as we say, this is the nortiR section of town, alot of the whites
moved out. Some stayed. So, I'm dedicated to representing this
district that happens to be black. But I also recommend folks leave
this district for jobs and what not. I'm not, you know, I'm not
geared in one direction.
I: Has your being unfamiliar with the administrative duties affect your
service in the district?
S: Oh, no. Although I don't know everything about everything, but being
in Lakeland as long as I have, I'm abreast of what's going on admin-
istratively, you know. I may not be able to write a budget, but I
sure understand it.
I: What about the lack of cooperation from whites.
S: Ah, I haven't experienced that yet.
I: Is the rest of your city responsive to the needs of your district?
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S: Oh, yes. I'm asked frequently by the city manager, I'm asked fre-
quently by the various department heads,' Charles be sure and let us
know some of the problems you have out there. We know your needs
for streets. We have done the survey. We will do the engineering.
But what are some of the complaints. For instance, we had a lady,
she was a senior citizen, we went over to, we have meals on wheels
program over there. I go and sit and eat with them, I enjoy old
people because I guess it's because I grew up here and they knew
me!aS a boy. And one lady says,\you know,"say"'there is a tree growing
in there in back of my house and limbs fall off it all in the yard,'
and this kind of thing. So I called the city manager, and he called
Public Works and the next day they got the tree cleared up and trimmed
down and this kind of thing, you know.
I: Bd you experience any lack of cooperation from the blacks?
S: My biggest problem is lack of cooperation and understanding from
blacks. More white problems call me about their problems. For
instance, I had a white man that lives out in this section of town,
come to my house, let's see on the 4th of July, last year was on a
Friday, I think it was; they had cut/f ahis lights for not paying
v.3y UvKY( --,
his light bill. He came whk4eig to my house and I live on the last
street out here and it was probably faster to come into
Tucker street. That man came to my house and asked me could I get
his lights cut on. And I did. And I've had one white man that lives,
there is one little street behind Lake Hancock, way over here, works
in Winter Haven. He came way over here to my house. Now, people in
this district, for lack of understanding in s -, you know we
have our prejudices too, you know, toward each other, we are worse
on each other than toward you'll, you didn't know thatlIdid you.
on each other than toward you'll, you didn't know that. did you.
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These folks don't understand. And our biggest problem with these
folk is standing on the street corner running their mouths rather
than getting involved. We have just had two weeks of budget study
and out of two weeks, well we didn't meet every night, we meet every
every Tuesday and Thursday nights but we met six nights we had -,*-t )
two blacks come to the budget study meeting. Two, just two.
Invariably, there is one person, one black sitting in, and he's
been in Lakeland since 1913 or something. He comes to city commis-
sion. Other than that, unless there is something that specifically
involves John Doe, black citizen, we don't see him there. Yet they
get in the community and criticize.
I: What do you think leads to having that attitude?
S: Ah, well this is one of the end-products of segregation. We were
taught "_ by our parents that you don't get involved
in white folks business.
I: Would you say that feeling, politics in Lakeland is white man's business?
S: For years, that's what it has been. And it's hard to get the older
Negroes/out of that shell. Now the younger ones are a little more
reversed. It's not white folks business particularly, but their
business and- thepessa the radio station came to the house
day before yesterday with a long list of, this is why I was a little
abrupt to yo\on the phone H-a L, he'd just tted me off,'\I got some
documented proof that you'll aren't doing your job. I said, ok, let's
see it!. First thing on there, the 10th street liquor store has pot
holes in the driveway. And I said to him,\\that's the most as nine
thing I've ever seen. Do you think the city commission is concerned
about pot holes in the liquor store driveway? If the people want to
drive through pot holes to go in there, so be it. If they object to
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potholes, quit trading in the man's store until the man gets the pot-
holes fixed. The city can't go over there and tell that man to fix
potholes in his driveway. It's none of our business." Next item on
there, recreation, that's all, recreation. We just spent, on tennis
courts alone in this district, twenty-five thousand dollars. Just
finished. Next one. There ain't enough Negro policemen in Dixieland,
now that's out here. There is a section in south east Lakeland, over
here that is called Dixieland. There's a shopping center. Cripe, the
people in Dixieland say they have enough policemen period out there.
And we only got four policemen on the police force in Lakeland. So, I
say to him,"hey, how many Negroes have applied for the position of
policeman. We've just advertised in the paper for ninety days that
we needed 19 additional policemen, how many blacks went down and
applied, you know, maybe failed the test. One went and passed the
test andJU employed today. Next one. No black fireman. The city
commission cannot go out and sa},'hey, I want you for a fireman, come
on!I We don't do it that way. Nobody has applied.
I: Why don't they apply?
S: I wish I knew. I wish I knew. You know, I'll tell you what I epet.
They are afraid that they will not pass the test. And those that are
complaining that there are not enough black firemen are not ones that
would apply to start with.
I: What kind of test is that?
S: Oh, it's, if you aren't a high school graduate, why then you can't read.
It's just a regular, similar to, not as difficult as the GED. It's a
regular aptitude test. That's all it is. But they can't read. That
is what I &~wpit, they can't read.
I: What percentage of the black population in this district can't read?
FB 69 A CTM Page 17
S: I don't know. It's ah, going byAny school records as a measuring tool,
I'd say 60 percent of them, including the high school graduates.
I: Have you experienced any lack of cooperation from state officials?
S: Not as an individual. We have as a city government. Not only from
the state but from the county. Not a lack of cooperation or lack of
communication but just we can't seem to get together on the same
paecs-. For instance, the county of Polk has been declared the lead
applicant for securing money under the 2014+k 4r i c -( .
All right. We passed a resolution submitting ourselves to the
proposition that Polk county commission is the lead applicant for
the monies. And that the city of Lakeland will be responsible for
selecting its consultants for a sewer. We haven't yet received from
the county commission their resolution about doing that. And this
was done in January.
I: And they are having a meeting today at heaity about that?
S: Right, right. Now, to get back to the state. When we got into the
fuel oil crisis, we own our own municipal plant here, just like
Gainesville, we were buying our fuel oil for eight dollars and forty
two cents a barrel. It went upjtwelve dollars and sixty cents a
barrel. O, since the city of Lakeland services people outsideIthe
city limits with its utilities, we could not increase the tax structure
because then the people in the other side of the city would be paying
the fuel adjustment for the people living outside. So, we put in the
fuel adjustment, which is the difference between, alight. We also
have a utility tax. Now this is a program where we have pledged a
ten percent tax on all utilities to pay off the bonds for building
our new light plant over here. And we have a sales tax on the utility
tax, a state sales tax. The legislature in it's infinite wisdom,
FB 69 A CTM Page 18
(laughter) said to us, you can't, because of, you can't charge a sales
tax, on a utility tax. But they make us pay a sales tax on fuel, on
our equipment and all that we purchase. It's not fair.
I: O(. Is that state-wide 4-, i-. ?
S: Yep, oh yeah. All municipal-owned utilities are suffering from this
and I was just looking at the budget Tuesday night, six hundred
thousand dollars was paid last year, sales tax alone on utilities.
I: Have you gotten alot of complaints from blacks? About the utilities?
S: Oh, not only from blacks, but from everybody. I was at a principals
meeting this morning and I tell you, those white persons jumped all
over me. What are you going to do about this light bill? My 3ist[W-4 A ';-
se was a hundred and two dollars. (he was mimicking the white
person at the meeting) Right. And fuel adjustment alone, one
principal said his fuel adjustment was forty-six dollars. His light
bill waspforty-six, you know, we have a garbage tax, a sewer tax, and
water and I said to this principal,tcut off those air-conditioning
units, like I did. Unplug t-b1s dryer. Hang those clothes up on a
clothes line in .the back yard, you know, economize. There's nothing
you can do about it. And of course, blacks complain because they don't
CW-ja= i0ng A.u it. They think the city of Lakeland is collecting
more money and that's not true. That fuel adjustment money that we
collected is going to Belcher Oil Company in Charleston, South Carolina.
I: Have you had any lack of cooperation from federal officials?
S: Oh, we have had several applications turned down. They do this all
the time, they do it with the school system, turned down for any
number of reasons, money toot -d #( t .. ; You know how
federal programs are. They advertise, for instance, I read in Golf
Digest that the federal government has something like three hundred
FB 69 A CTM Page 19
million dollars for the construction of golf courses and I'm an
avid golfer but I go out to the city golf course and it's so crowded
that you can hardly get off. So I said to Jim our
planning director, =ay Jim, read this and let's see what we
can doi He did and he wrote HUD in Atlanta. They write him back
and said the article was incorrect and there ain't no three hundred
million dollars. Number two, we aErw-t accepting any new applications.
I: Do many blacks in your district think your representation of blacks
S: No, because it's a city-wide vote.
I: Have you received alot of criticism from the black community? You
mentioned, you alluded to that before.
S: Yeah, from alot of the young blacks. Now the old folk, they are just
tickled to death, you know, they know Charles, they see in church and
tell him what their problems are and get help. But it's usually the
young, less than one percent, militants who, I don't care who it is,
they criticize Adam Clayton Powell.
I: What kinds of things do they say?
S: Oh, for instance, getting back to recreation. We ain't got no recreation."
'I say,'all right, what is it that you want to do thatpwe aren't providing.
They don't give me an answer. They don't know. \Oh, the rec center
ain't doing nothing!( All right, you tell the director what programs
you want and he will put it in for you.
I: Does this contribute to lack, a general lack of-d ey in your district?
S: No, it's oaBkba element in every district. But I think, you are just
going to have those few people who are going to be complainers anyway.
And particularly among blacks, now that we have free access to newspapers,
FB 69 A CTM
and radio and this kind of thing, and)coverage forqg, you know, the
disciplines. Just a matter, and those that do ttfrtf3 that are checked
out for them, they a*UE even registered to vote.
I: Do you feel that white officials treat you jtsA *a=O 1 a y
do other wMte-i o fiLcaita Y -V .a----...
S: Ah, no. Let me tell you, and I will be very candid. When I went on
the commission, I was calling the white men, Mr. this and Mr. that
and the ladies, Mrs. and they would correct me even bes'i -4 worked
in city hall, first name. They are delighted to know that Lakeland, the
all-American city, is trying to be all-American. Aot of the elderly
people in Lakeland call me and tell me what a fine job I'm doing and
they hope I will run again. But there is that element alsolthat when
I was passing out my campaign cards one morning at six o'clock over
at the E & W, the Electrical and Water Department, there were one or
two that wouldn't acceptt one. But in the main, we are trying in
Lakeland. We are trying. I wish I could attend all of the functions
that I am invited to, both social and political.
I: Do they consider you a spokesman for black issues?
S: I don't accept that title.
I: Do they consider you that?
S: Nope. I encourage the blacks because I let them speak for themselves.
I'm not the Moses for blacks. I tell everybody that. Nobody even
cares to be the Moses for blacks in Lakeland.
I: Are there any new services that you have provided for your district?
S: No, I don't, we don't do it that way. There are services that are
provided for blacks in Lakeland that I have cooperated with others in
establishing. Neighborhood service centers, meals on wheels for
senior citizens, and improved recreation. I wish I had time and I
FB 69 A CTM
would take you over to the new building that was constructed, started
before I got on the north west community center which will havef30
or 31 offices in it for such organization as the Red Cross, Social
Security, Polk Mental Health Society, Polk County Health Department,
these kinds of things. I helped work with groups but I have not
initiated any programs per sa myself. I'm one who sht away from
that kind of publicity.
I: Why is that'p.b 6ig h(
S: Well, number one, I don't aspire to be anything but principal ef-tt~
city commission( If I was going to run for legislation or something
like that yeah, I would get all the glory I could. You know, and I'm
not on there to push the name Coleman, fmAEieTngeeatnime,
\'r o. 4_ _- ____ ) and this is what I say in campaigns.
I'm going to help you. I'll tell you this much, I'm in Dutch with
the local paper because I haven't succumbed to their wishes that I
do certain things. I don't do it, "' '& .
I: What did they ask you to do?
S: Well, one was a day care center, and I'm for day care. But merely
because the, the city didn't support, i c.-.-W the opposition
in the campaign, playing dirty politics. The mayor appointed me
chairman of the Housing Committee, whose job it would be not only
to consider the housing problems as far as the Housing Authority
was concerned but also to study the possibility of establishing
day care centers in Lakeland. And the legislature jumped on that
and wrote me a four-page letter suggesting that I do certain things.
So I pitched it. And I will be very frank with you, I didn't do
anything for day care that year, last year. We had two meetings
and that's poor politics on my part because I'm making kids suffer
FB 69 A CTM Page 22
because of my political prejudices. So this year, the new mayor
appointed someone else as chairman of that and put me a member
of it and we had several meetings. We have a day care centerI
at the Housing Authority now has a day care center. And right now,
tonight, I must meet with a churchtthat wants to sell its property
to the Housing Authority, the fity of Lakeland for another day
care center that will house approximately one hundred kids. I like
to work behind the scenes. You know, there are some senators and
representatives that like to work like that. They don't co- cEy
_w__t_<_ They would rather work behind closed doors. That's all.
I: Are there any specific services that have been provided for your
district since you have been elected?
S: Day care is one. Improved facilities at our recreation center,
neighborhood service center and this meals on wheels thing, which is
my pet project. Those old folks, right now, we are trying to get
the city to keep a building that has been demolition has been
proposed for, for the senior citizens. Not only get them meals on
wheels but build shuffleboard courts, checkers for the old men and
sewing centers for the ladies, someplace where they can just tottle
in and sit down without the youth disturbing them. And the Community
Development Act money were also appreciated since I was on.
I: Is day care a big issue in your district?
S: Not an issue but a big need.
I: CO. We would like you to rate how effective you think you have been
in all of the service areas. Rate them either as not effective,
somewhat effective or very effective. Police protection?
S: Somewhat. Bear in mind^that the city charter does not allow me to
talk to any subordinates. I must talk to the city manager.
FB 69 A CTM Page 23
I: Have you initiated any proposals in C c ?- ?
S: Not any proposals. I've cooperated on an proposed apaawnt study
I cooperated in, not in the selection butAvoting to employ the
present police chief, we've had some very heated statements made a-
bout the police chief by certain citizens of this community that
just tended to discredit the man. I supported him. And also, we
had good communications when I say we, I am talking about myself,
with the police chief, you know on certain problems that come up,
"'Y, Charles, what do you think about this,' you know. And I tell the
chief,~you are the police chief, you run ae department. I'm not
an expert know-it-all.
I: Streets and roads?
S: Oh yes, very effective.
I: ___ __ .__ ?
S: Yes ma.
I: How so? What have you done.
S: Well, number one, when I went on the commission, we had, I forgot)
any number of streets down here ear-marked for either paving or
improving and of course now, this, I'wasn't the one that initiated
this, Dr. Jackson did. I merely followed it up. The city of Lakeland
did more paving in this district the past two years than they had done
in me of the other three. Sidewalks and sewers. Now, two reasons.
There were more unpaved streets in this district because we paved all
of these first. And the sewer system that's in this, some of those
lines are 30 years old. But I'm forever harping on the city manager,
street lights, sidewalks, street improvements, we need. They know we
need it. So, it's not really a big issue really. They know it. Just
like schools used to be. I remember when they built school,
FB 69 A CTM
everybody in the county, the whites, oh, what a beautiful school. They
spent so much money. I say, itLs about time. The first school built
in Lakeland for 50 years. Gymnasium, all the other white schools had
gyms, had two gyms, you know. The old one got too small, built another
one, etc., etc. So, the need is there.
I: Di they respond to that need?
S: Oh, yeah. As much as budget would let them.
I: How about housing?
S: Public housing, I guess you would say. Aight. It so happens that
I we to be a member of the Housing Authority before I was in city
commission. The first black. And we have under, when I was on the
Housing Authority, we did build additional housing, 236 I think, rent
supplemented.\,lc#'"|I AC iV,( o' And I cooperated with the Housing
Authority a great deal. Now the ? trtCeui'r y^L just
can't expand anymore.
I: So how would you rate yourself?
S: Fair. (tape side 1 ends, side 2 picks up)... before the commission.
One was, we have a quasi-welfare department in the city, when I say
quasi it's because we have United Fund, Salvation Army, countyy and
sociall services, you know services. But we do have a department where
we put x number of dollars in it a year for the indigents; sometimes
people get social security checks stolen out of their mail boxes and
that's their life, and this sort of thing; well, the money we put in/
the budget last year, gave out around October, well noabout February
this year. And a lady came in and asked for more money. It was voted
down of course, simply because the lady did not give us enough data.
I voted for extending the appropriations. I voted for subscribing
to the meals on wheels for the senior citizens. And of course, my
FB 69 A CTM Page 25 Side 2 of tape
stand on welfare is that I'm available / 15 5t. And any
time the opportunity presents itself for support, I do it.
I: So how would you rate your effectiveness?
I: What about the area of employment?
S: Yes, indeed. In fact yesterday, I just completed a contract with a
CETA II program. I had boys here working. We have in Lakeland an
ACE committee, A-C-E, Advisory Committee for Employment. (phone
ringing) I will be to a meeting this afternoon at four o'clock. I
have supported this program tremendously. And anytime I can get
someone a job or recommend someone, I do.
I: Your effectiveness?
I: What about parks and recreation?
I: How much money have you put into parks and recreation in your district?
S: Parks and rec...not in the district, this is city-wide budget, we don't
have district budgets, or what have you.., the parks and recreation
department is the second-highest department as far as money is concerned,
in Lakeland. Naturally your E 4 W will be first and your Public Works
will be second. Parks and recreation, I don't have my budget with me,
but I think it is something like half a million dollars.
I: Do you know what percentage of that money.....
S: We don't do it on percentages, we do it on needs. Right now I'm supporting
a swimming pool for the south side of town. We don't have one down there.
The only two swimming pools we have are this one you see right across the
street and one over here in the north west section. These folk over here
don't have one. These folks here have one over atthe t and
don't have one. These folks here have one over at the Y I Club and
FB 69 A CTM Page 26
of course this is the very rich, so they don't need one. They got one
in the back ard. So, these folk over here don't have one. And these
are the poor whites.
I: What about water, sewer and garbage?
S: I, ah, am on the utilities committee. And we just had a meeting
Tuesday morning where we are planning to extend the sewer services
out here. And build another pumping station up here. That's very,
very effective because I am on the committee kr -
I: Have you had any problems with the sewer hook-up charges?
S: No, but we will because we just increased the rates. But we haven't
had problems with the charges. It's better because whenever a person,
a contractor in Lakeland, builds a home over here, he includes in
the cost of the home, the charges.
I: There is sewer service in the north west section?
S: Oh, yes. Let me stop there just a minute. Do you have a minute?
S: When I was a boy, out here, at nights we couldn't hardly sleep for the
stench from _a__cS_ __c .. When I went to school out here,
in 1936,1 was on the NYA. I got paid six dollars every two weeks, salary.
Two of us with a shovel, dug the first septic tank for that school.
And that septic tank was as deep and as big as this office. And we
did it with two shovels, after school in the afternoons, and on
Saturday and I got six dollars every two weeks. Of course, that was
the going wage then, I guess. Fifty cents a day. But I was so proud
of that thing because when I went to school, we had now privies in
back of the campus. Now, just think, sitting back a classroom on
a hot day and the odor. So the way I see it, we don't have any outdoor
privies and sewf/ is extended to all of the districts. Some of the
FB 69 A CIM Page 27
lines are old and act- lepha-y, of course. And this is what we
are considering now. We are moving out our greater lines, putting
in new pumping stations and increasing the size of lines.
I: What about competent hospitals?
S: Our hospital is not city-owned .b city-run. The city owns the
building up there. But before I got on the commission, the city of
Lakeland created a Hospital Authority and we have a Hospital Board.
However, whenever I do get complaints from citizens whka about
mistreatment in the hospital or employment, I call Sherwoods.
We have good communication. 1, And those
that I did have were, I think were unfounded, after looking at the
I: So how would you rate your __ ?
I: What about education?
S: (laughter) What do you think. (laughter) Ah, now this is city
commission, it's nil/ because we are not involved in education.
I: What about fire protection?
S: Oh, yes. We haven't had, I haven't had much opportunity to work in
that area. It's because our fire improvement, fire protection
improvement, is a carry-over from previous commission5 We have
built a new fire station but there will be coming up before us
sometime after the beginning of the fiscal year, a request to build
a new fire station in this district. Now that was initiated before
I became a commissioner.
I: What is funds have you gotten for your district?
S: None. The city has gotten several. This Community Development Act
FB 69 A CIM Page 28
is the latest and of course it was designed, and you can only spend
it in your substandard neighborhoods.
I: How much was that?
S: It's six hundred thousand dollars over three years. We just go our
\ N6-vA - k' s 4-K;- V -- -
first entitlement last week, two hundred and sixteen thousand. All of
it except for a small amount will be spent over here, we will spend
some of it in this part of town and some down in this part But most
of it is spent in this district. And I didn't do that. It was just1
you knowr done right after I got on. _. was complaining
about their needs out there. See, we get a, we have four meetings, one
in each district. We call it the Community Awake Program, where
people come meet thei city officials and get it off your chest, so
to speak. And a result of that we applied for the Community Development
money and got it.
I: Do you find a difference of attitudes between the members of the city
commission and -l, prL.- p~p-
S: Oh yeah. Christ yeah. We got a good chewing out, excuse the expression,
one night over in this district from whites about utility tax. We just
built a sixteen million dollar civic center here and Christydid they
chew us out about using the fuel adjustment money to pay for the
civic center. (laughter). In the main, those citizens that come
before the commission during the meeting, are there complaining about
things that affect them directly in their neighborhood, running dogs,
you know, thf 4oat of thing. All in all, people in Lakeland have the
attitude that that's city hall and they are there to collect our taxes
and provide us with lights and water, streets, and police and firemen
and what have you. fo. u-\cA \.-k'\ fud \, then they will go on over
here and chew them out.
FB 69 A CTM Page 29
I: Have you as an elected official C ;'-r -'e /- a ?
I: o' V G" ?
I: And why not?
S: Well, number one, I haven't been looking for any. And number two,
because of economic conditions right now, now industry has come since
I have been on, Piper Airplane for one, but that was started before
I wa-doing commission woiT, DDW Trust, that's company out of
Boston, will build a hotel here, but this came on after I, but I
wasn't responsible. I personally* have not made one step to bring
in industry because the Chamber of Commerce does that.
I: Do you consider that important?
S: Very, very important. For employment reasons. p I want to be con-
sistent in my thinking, I'm thinking we need employment and C
I: Have you been able to see that blacks are hired fairly l, .'-/ or .
S: No, that's not, we have six service boards, we have this ACE
Committee, we have the Florida State Employment Office, which will be
put in our new north west community building. I have good rapport with
the director of the employment office here and I have referred people
to him for employment on a personal basis, you know. But not as a
I: Do you know what percentage of the people working in city hall are
S: I don't know what percentage but I know we have more working in there
since Dr. Jackson and I have been on, than was in there before, in
FB 69 A CTM
positions other than janitorial.
I: Do you try and do anything a-
S: Oh yes. Every time there is an opening that I hear of, I send someone
I: Have there been any black protests, sit-ins or riots here in the last
S: Oh, yes. We had a very serious situation here in 1969 when schools
were integrated. Oh very. I almost \t'\ a ,~- f. 'L -. "-.. od-*,
I was principal of the third-largest elementary school in the county
and the superintendent who is a personal friend of mine, that I
campaigned with for election, under the pretense of a federal judge
saying move me from that school and I read the court order and it
wasn't in there, to move me from that school. So, I went up to
Orlando and got Morris 7 who is a N.A.A.C.P. lawyer
and threatened to take them to New Orleans to court. So they created
a position for me at the area office. You know our county is
divided into areas and I was area program coordinator of this area.
They also took three other former high school, black high school.
<\ 4 ,. $,-.. R, I' .. 5 ^ )^, C n ^ ,
principals in the three other areas, ti>he~ hd=oneteP"s=-id,
tf ., and I stole money for two years because I didn't do anything. No
job classification or nothing. So I got fed up with sitting behind
a desk all day, then smoking my cigar therr riding around visiting
schools and attending work shops and I asked to be assigned to a
school and they sent me to Mulberry. Last March, the principal of
this school, youAknowJohn Clark is a member of the House of
Representatives 4,i in our district, the county employed a
comprehensive plan director, this is just new, you know. So they
took down Clark and moved him into role of superintendent, this is
FB 69 A CTM
a new superintendent, not my old friend. He was defeated in the
ms-election, called me one day and asked me if I wanted to come
home. And I thought he meant August. But I told him, yes, I'll
think about it because of the gasoline crisis. I had to get up
some mornings at four o'clock to get in line to get gasoline. Plus
the fact of driving to Mulberry, on two occasions I was run off
the road; that's phosphate area, they have alot of tractors up
there. I ended up in a ditch a couple mornings, dodging traffic.
No lie. Guys, seven o'clock shift coming home. And they drag race on
a two-lane roads, and fog and you look up and here comes these head
lights. So I told himlyes, I think about it and I'll let you know
sometime before August. He says that I'm talking about tomorrow
morning. So, in the middle of the week, I was transferred from
Mulberry to here.
I: What ae the effects of the riots and protests here?
S: Well, it all started with conflicts between white and black students
in, see fall of the black high school students were sent to two
high schools here, one Kathleen and one Lakeland Senior High School.
Kathleen is out this way. Right in the middle of Ku Klux Klan
territory, right in the middle of red necks. The most harmonious
school campus in the county. So, let me tell you what happened.
In June of '69, the principal of Kathleen came over to this-Rochell
High School House/brought his student leaders to meet our student
leaders. And they went in the gym and just rapped for an hour. Got
to know each other by first name. Then he came back later with his
faculty leaders and met the faculty members that would be assigned to
his school. And they sat down and said hey what do we do that you
don't like, you know, this sort of thing. That September, when those
FB 69 A CTM
kids went to Kathleen, they knew each other by first name. 1 .1 k o
li:. ,;,'- and they were just terrific. Out in the Bonton area, the
very rich, they didn't do that. They f ught it to start with.
Really, the black girls that were on cheerleading squadron, were
not even invited to try out. The black football player was the only
person accepted and he was accepted during football season. So,
nigger, honky and this -at-of stuff went on over there. More
suspensions were from that school. They suspended more blacks from
that school the first year over there than we did in Rosedat e in a
five-year period. So, it boiled up to the boiling, bursting point
and then it spilled over into the community. And the kids and the
parents got fed up with it. Then we began to have masked beatings
and this kind of thing. And it eventually boiled down to the point
that they changed the administration at the school, got somebody else,
and that's pretty 50 o\, pretty Sjlo\ .
I: Was the administration the problem or did ?
S: I didn't setfe g. I don't want to be unprofessional, you know.
But the poor man had pressures over here, he had pressures from his
faculty members, from the neighborhood, it's right in the middle of
a, sort of, you know. Then, they did some asinine things, you can put
this in there, they picked the poorest school bus they had to bus the
kids instead of sending a good, decent bus. You know, little minor
things, little minor things. For instance, Kathleen High School, on
their garbage cans had"keep Kathleen clean)' And those kids say hey,
you got KKK and when they went back, those cans were painted. Sure,
those folks met us over half way.
I: Who was responsible for the decision about the bus?
FB 69 A CTM
S: Assistant superintendent in charge of transportation. And I don't think
he thought about it. I don't think it was done deliberately, knowing
him. It was just an oversight. When it was brought to his attention,
god, feal quick like.
I: The next section of questions deals with an assessment of black .
politics in Florida. What do you think of Rubin Askew?
S: Rubin Askew in my book is a terrific governor. I'll tell you why.
His appointments. He considered blacks when he made his appointments.
Now he may be the world's worst politician, he may be the world's worst
financial, you know, this kind of thing. But when he appoints blacks
to key position, when be appoints black judges, he's all right in
my book. And the man was smart enough to appoint competent people
too, not just somebody that won the press.
I: Do you have any special opinion of any other official' state officials
S: Yes but I don't want to put it in print. I can't, not as a city
commissioner. Come back after t a e and I'll tell you what
I think about some of them. But I'll tell you this much, Polk countyO
and it's because I worked in their campaigns I guess, but the Curtis
Petersons, the Fred Jones, the John Parks are terrific guys, of course,
I don't care too much about Ray Maddox,'course I communicate with him
often, we have a different philosophy, we are not at odds so to speak,
but he gets my opinion and I let him know wh(j he is wrong. I write
him a letter and tell him wkm"d(Gi44rlme-er-- e~a-%'-n c ) hai
I: Do you think working in public office has_ ?
S: Oh yes, Christyes, oh yes.
I: Why is that?
S: It gives, you know, I think back when I was a boy, my mother took in
FB 69 A CTM Page 34
washing and ironing. She washed for the fire chief, the present senior
vice-president of Peoples Bank, you know. As long as she did their
washing and ironing and she told them what she wanted and she got it.
But Miss Jones over there, who did not take in washing and ironing,
didn't get it. But now that the Dr. Jacksons, the Charles Colemans,
the Galls from Bartow, the Gavins from y& Ac( V4Cgt, the Holmes from
Haines City, the Kings from Lake Alfred, when these guys get on the
commission, MjpF Jones, Miss Smith and all the others got some voice,
they have got someone they can go to and not have to go through the
laundry, through the back door.
I: Have there been any negative aspects of holding this office?
S: Yes, political public abuse, for those who don't understand and aren't
willing to become involved, to project themselves to seek an office.
That's my biggest complaint I have about city commission.
I: Do you see your major role as an elected official to articulate the
needs of your district?
S: Yes sir, yes sir.
I: Do you feel that these needs were not being articulated before?
S: By the ncumb nt that I defeated, no. See when you have seven men on the
commission and four of them come from these districts, those four are
concerned about what, their districts. The three who were elected
at-large, ee concerned about the folk that supported them and what
they wanted. Let's face it. Let's face it. The guy from this district cou\
care less about Mrs. Jones's little problem over here. He could care
less about streets. Oh, whenever there is a street to be paved, he
wants to know, to make sure that there isn't one being neglected over
here. So this guy from up here's got to say what about 10th Street.
FB 69 A CIM
I: You were also elected at-large.
S: Yes. Right. But I told the folk on the radio and in my platform that
I'm for serving all of Lakeland, yes. But district Y/ primarily.
I: This next section of questions we are attempting to get a group
profile of the black politicians f Florida. You ran for office
S: One time.
I: Do you intend to run again?
S: Too early to say yet. Let me explain why. And I'm not trying to be
like the average politician, talking awct ot=sf-his mouth.
I have neglected this office quite a bit. For instance, Monday we
have city commission meeting at nine o'clock. Monday, my teachers
report for work at eight o'clock, get me. So I just called Bob
Uker to tell the mayor that I will not be there. (tape fades out
and comes back on some time later) (It sounds as if it may be other
S: I have not been very impressed with the state officials.
I: Do you think that winning and holding office in Florida has been worth
S: Oh yes, very definitely.
I: Could you expand on that a little?
S: Well, it's been worthwhile to me from the point of view that I have
been able to address alot of problems that I felt were not being
addressed in the community. And not only that, many of the major
problems that I, that I address were eventually solved or are being
solved. So, I think alot of that was a result of my leadership and
initiative. Although I didn't have the authority to do it all byse4
so to speak, I think iniLicJyI it plays a big part. In other words,
FB 69 A CTM Page 36
a person who perceives a problem and works at 4 selling the other
officials who have to help approve it, on the problem /t's very
essential. And you can't really do that very effectively unless you
are in the position to do it. OA. People aren't going to listen to
you very much longer in solving a problem unless they feel you have
the authority to do what you are saying ^E-k yoC '4'' -'*
I: What effects have running and holding office had on your family, or
yourself and your family?
S: Well, me personally, I have learned alot about people. It's a course
in psychology. You learn alot about all people. And you learn an
awful lot about government in general, state, I mean local, state,
national, how it works. You learn an awful lot about politics, local
politics; you, it's an educational experience for me and in this case
an experience for my family. They learn alot about politics and alot
about how things work and who does what. TheVAearn how to recognize
officials and what authority they have, relative authority they have.
And they understand, along with me, to some degree, the sincerity of
politicians. You learn to read things. And in terms of pressures,
4 ,t kc -Cs 6 r -',S br.; ^ ,, 9 t+10
the election times bring on alot of pressures-iez-fam'daww. It's a e"
very difficult time. A very trying time.
I: Is it?
S: In every election I have run, they are rough, rugged.
I: In that you are away from home?
S: No, the pressures of the election.
I: They want you to win?
S: Not only that, the conflicts in elections. The problem of formulating
strategies, you know, campaign platforms, strategy and selling it.
FB 69 A CTM Page 37
And dealing with the reactions because you get all kinds of reactions,
you know, pressure groups and all this kind of stuff. And you know,
people saying all kinds of things about you, lies, smut and everything
else. And naturally, family members are very sensitive about that kind
of thing. So, it really bothers them a great deal. You know, the amount
of time involved, it's very frustrating because it's sort of like yosi1~ E
t around-the-clock deal. You are thinking election right around-the-
clock. And Asp=M a couple months of that, you are pretty exhausted,
I: I can imagine. OIC We will wrap it up with just a few questions to try
to create an overall group profile of black elected officials. He wants
me to stress again that your individual answers won't be reeosed, your
name or anything. Type of office held?
S: City councilman.
I: Date first elected?
S: I guess it would be April1l971.
I: And you took office the day after that? Or shortly there after?
S: I'd say 10 April.
I: Number of times you have run for office?
S: Ok. I've actually I guess, four.
I: You said you were 39 years old?
I: Occupation beforeAelection, before election?
S: Computer Engineer.
I: And father's occupation?
S: My father's occupation?
I: Yeah, your father's?
S: He is deceased now. Before deceased, he was a janitor. And before then,
FB 69 A CTM Page 38
I: This is in Georgia?
S: Right, in Georgia.
I: What brought you to Riviera Beach? your job?
S: Ah, yeah, right. My wife's family lived here before we got married. And
after I got out of the service, well while I was in the service, I got
married. We moved to Washington D. C. for a couple years. We decided
we liked Florida. So we moved down here. So I guess the weather, pro-
I: Your education consists of what?
S: BS degree in Mathematics.
I: Salary you receive# }2LIl-C c. oI-*a --v
S: It's two hundred dollars a month, well, twenty four hundred dollars a
I: Were you active in the Civil Rights Movement of 1960 to 1966?
S: Yes, I can't imagine many blacks during that time tih wer nit involved.
We were involved in, you know, various ways. I was in school that
I: Were you a member of the N.A.A.C.P.?
S: \lfC, (mumbled)
I: Any other organizations, as a student?
S: As, YMCA, N.A.A.C.P..
I: Dealing with Civil Rights, I mean C.0.R.E.4 of c- IC-7 )
S: No, we didn't have C.O.R.E.. We just had N.A.A.C.P..
I: 0. Did you march at allf of I ^) xL-- -
S: No, I never, let's see, I never, you know, been involved in a major
I: The church to which y6u belong?
FB 69 A CTM
S: The particular church or the affiliation, Baptist.
I: Affiliation is fine, I'm sure. Are you an official in the church?
I: Are there other community organizations or activities that you are
S: Yes. I'm a member of the Palm Beach County/Planning Board. And a
member of the Riviera Beach Sports League, the Democratic Executive
I: Do you know of any other black elected officials in'this area who
have been in office since 1974?
S: Since 1974, who has been elected since 1974. I don't think any
black official in this county, any other black official has been
elected since 1974.
S: The ones who have been elected, let's see, in this city, Brooks and
Taylor, and in Del Ray Beach, that's all, Dan Hinder is on the
school board. That's all I know in this county.
I: That's it. (Now tape goes back to Charles Coleman speaking)
S:,..and that's just protecting these black teachers and principles. It
& -., o +
I: Were you active in the Civil Rights Movement__ ?
S: I was a card-carrying, dues-paying member of the N.A.A.C.P. I attended
meeting, you know what I mean. I participated in discussions and when
they went in the wrong direction, I backed off.
I: What church do you belong to?
S: First Baptist Institutional Church. Deacon, trustee, Sunday school teacher.
I: Everything. Do you know any other black elected officials in the area,
that have been elected since 1974?
FB 69 A CTM Page 40
S: One, Emuel Gathers in Winter Haven. He was elected last year.
I: How do you spell his name?
S: E-M-U-E-L G-A-T-H-E-R-S.
I: What effects have running and serving for office had on you and your
S: It took me away from home a whole lot, especially at nights, attending
meetings, committee meetings and so forth, functions. I wish I could
say more. The past year I quit going because it took me away from
home too much. I can't carry this home. There's no need. I can't
work on it. And my pastor is looking at me with a funny eye because
I don't attend church as much as I used to during the week. And I'm
not a religious fanatic but I do believe that working in the church,
Tuesday nights, Thursday nights, __\ _____. I haven't been
in quite some time. :: -
I: Are there any other community organizations that you are active in?
I: This is it. ?
S: What are you going to do with this? Publish a book and sell it?
I: It's going to be compiled...probably(there are two interviewers now)..
this will probably be, this will be anonymous as far as you are concerned.
But it gives us a good idea of what kinds of things black officials
who are presently active officials.....
S: The reason I asked you that, I received any number of questionnaires from
Howard University in Washington* Rolland, a very good friend of mine, and
they all publish books, seven. This is all right. But there are too
many blacks, I know, that it's gettingatbinethis aswt of thing 4s a
,bo the,-f- I would rather see them write history or text books for
FB 69 A CTM Page 41
adoption in the schools as an encouragement to blacks and as information
to whites. When I was working out of the area office, we had Bob Harris,
he now works in Senator Chiled office in Washington, teaching social
studies over at Kathleen Junior High School and he went in one day
during the we have National NegrooWeek, af-'cu' s in February, we
were all black, you know in our all-segregated schools. We had a week
celebration where we talked about Negroes who have made contributions
to history of America. So Bob Harris was talking about some of these
famous Negroes, Benjamin **' C who laid out the city of
Washington and _who founded the city of Chicago, and
Charles who developed the blood plasma and this kind of
thing, so one little white fellow went home to tell his daddy. And his
daddy came over to the school and, he went to the school board even,
"nigger over there teaching nigger lie~ ? You know no nigger laid out
Washington D.C. and all this kind of stuff. So our human relations
department in the county office was headed by a former black principle.
We put together, oh I guess a 130-page mimeographed, 8 1/2 by 11, paper,
of prominent black Americans and distributed it to all the libraries in
the county. We purchased any number of paperbacks,AI guess you have
seen alot of them now. And Bob Harris was just astute enough to give
this boy one of these brochures. "You take this home and study with your
father and take this book and borrow it? And that man came back to the
school and thanked the teacher. "I didn't know Viggers did anything
in America except serve as slave.i This is true. This is true.
So this is what I think, this is why I keep asking what you are going to
do with it. I think that, when I was in college, I studied out of
FB 69 A CTM Page 42
a history text book and the only time the word Negro was written
in it was that they were used as slaves and they, who was it that
discovered the way West. You know. The history books are prejudiced.
And now we do have some mentioned in Willie Mays and
Jackie Robinson. But they say nothing about the Charles Brews and
47- &.l-,r -7
the Salves and the Bannissea s and this kind of stuff.
and William Douglas and Booker T. Washington, and all this stuff,
Frederick Douglas, rather. That's why I keep asking, somebody, I
wish I knew how to write a history book. You see that the whites need
to know that Negroes weren't slaves all their lives. My father, when
he was well and I was a very young boy, he used to take us to South
Carolina, Orangeburg, Salla, what not, and point out the court
houses and the post offices and the buildings that he and his father
built. See, my father was brought over from Africa. My grandfather
was a slave in South Carolina. When he was freed, he went back to
Africa and got his family. ___ 4W brought my father back and
they were very proud men, I'll tell you that. They were carpenters,
stone masons, that old granite rock, I'm looking right high at the
court house in ColumbA$, South Carolina that my father and grandfather
and several -e~ built, they cut and used that old granite rock and
built it. He died with his tribal mark still on him. I just wondered
if I would ever be able to make the contributions that he 4=7. So this
is some of the stuff that we need to put in our history books. That
we have made a contribution. Mention a Negro to most people, most
whites, in this group, for instance, and the first thing they think of
is the welfare rolls. It's not true. Not much so. They don't stop and
think that in Franklin Roosevelt's time, when he was president, the
Welfare rolls were predominantly white. Negroes were too proud to get
FB 69 A CTM Page 43
on them then. We worked for three dollars a week and we were sat-
isfied with it. And we weren't on them because the whites wouldn't
let us get on them. That's another thing. I remember my Dad,
he was pastor of the St. Pauls Church over there, went down to see
Mrs. Bishop, She was the director of welfare then, about an elderly
black lady who lived out in our section, that was living in filth
and starving to death. The church was very poor but the ladies would
go in and clean up the house for her and would sometimes carry in a
meal for her, She had been denied welfare. That old African went
down there, he was vicious. I went along with him and I used to follow
him around. And he used to take us around, really. \\I want you to
learn about living, boy(fyou know, this kind of thing. Well, he
walked in Mrs. Bishop's front door, and during those days Negroes
didn't walk in a front office. They always had a little side door
that we went in. He walked in that front door and she asked, "What
you want, boy". And he preached her a sermon like that he was no
boy, you know, this kind of thing. And I was so afraid, I was so
afraid. And when he got through, that lady got her welfare. And others
besides. He used to stick all of us in that old car and take us, o^s6
he was trying to convince us that we should not take the back seat.
Now one thing that he would not let us do, accept charity, he would
make us work. He would not let us submit ourselves to prejudices of
people. And when he took sick my mother had to take in washing
to support the family. Many a day, I've seen that grown manicrying
because my mother had to work to support us. He used to say to us,
he was uj y although he had a stroke and paralysis,
that don't sell your morals and principles. Seven of us, boys and
girls, seven of us finished college. Well, a&rrk- I've held you up
enough. Send me a copy when it's published. 0O