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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida
INTERVIEWEE: Rae O. Weimer
INTERVIEWER: Samuel Proctor
April 4, 1969
P: We are going to tape an interview this afternoon, April 4, 1969, with Dean Rae O.
Weimer [College of Journalism and Communications]. Rae, please just say
something, and we will play it.
W: The girls in my office are always interested in the spelling of my first name, Rae.
Half of my mail, or a lot of my mail, used to come in addressed to Miss. If I do not
get it spelled Ray, people who do not know how that I spelled my name differently
did not know who to send it to. [laughter]
P: OK. We can proceed with this. I think the voices sound very good. We are going to
start, Rae, by asking you for a little bit of your biographical background. Where
were you born?
W: I was born in Mason City, Nebraska, which is a small town in the center of the state
with about 500 people.
P: That is west of Lincoln?
W: That is a couple hundred miles west, right smack in the middle of the state. And that
was November 2, 1903.
P: What about our folks? Is your family from the Middle West?
W: My mother was born in Nebraska, and my dad originally came from Ohio. The
Weimers had the first federal land grant in Ohio. My mother came up to Mason City
[from eastern Nebraska] on the first railroad that ran west from Lincoln to Grand
Island and on west as far as Mason City. She was on the first train [to reach Mason
City]. She graduated from the first high school [class] in this little town--[there were]
three people in the class. [She was] the only girl, with two boys. It was really a kind
of a frontier town. No paving. We had kerosene lamps. I can remember when they
put in electricity. We had sidewalks; as a matter of fact, I think we had more
sidewalks per capital than Gainesville did when I come here. But it was a nice little
P: How did your father make his living?
W: He was a, kind of a jack-of-all-trades. He was a painter by trade; he did painting,
paper hanging, and interior decorating.
P: Was there much call for that in a frontier town?
W: Well, I guess as much as he wanted to do. He never made much money, and my
family really did not have any money. There were two boys in the family, and when
one boy got a pair of shoes that meant the other one had to wait till we got enough
money from butter and eggs and selling chickens or something so we could buy the
next new pair of shoes.
P: So you lived on a farm?
W: No, we lived on the edge of this small town. I say it was small because from our
house on the edge of the town we were only about six blocks from the post office.
That is how small it was. But we had a 480-acre farm three miles south of town.
For a long time we rented it, but then my brother and I grew older we farmed it,
driving back and forth.
P: This was an older brother or a younger brother?
W: Older brother. [He was] about a year and a half older than me.
P: What is his name?
W: Claud. He has been dead now a number of years. He died in a heart operation. He
was in newspapering [and] public relations for a great many years. As a matter of
fact, when I left college he and I bought a paper in North Platte, Nebraska. It went
broke. So then we started out together. The first job we got was by Claud in Des
Moines, Iowa, where he became known as Doc. He worked on the copy desk of the
Des Moines Register. We stayed in the YMCA until I found a job in Moline [Illinois].
Doc then came and lived with me. We kept working our way east until we got back
into Ohio and New York and Indiana. We barnstormed around together this way for
P: Any sisters?
W: No. Just the two of us.
P: So you are the only survivor, then.
W: My mother and father died down here in St. Petersburg here about two or three
P: So you grew up, then, on the edge of a little farm community and had a typical
middle western child's background. Where did you go to school?
W: I went to high school, of course, there, and then I went to Kearney State College,
Kearney, Nebraska. I could not go to the University [of Nebraska] in Lincoln for lack
of money. I was able to save forty dollars and had a new suit of clothes when I went
to Kearney. I got myself a job on the janitor's force and lived in the basement of a
real estate man's house. I tended his furnace. It gets [mighty] cold in Nebraska in
the winter, so I had to get up about 4:00 or 5:00 in the morning to start that furnace.
It heated the water for family [for baths as well as heated the home]. I hauled out
his garbage, mowed his lawn, and shoveled snow off the sidewalks. That was just
for my room. One year I also cooked in a restaurant for my board. I worked on the
janitor's force for thirty cents an hour to get what money I needed.
P: Obviously, no money was coming from home.
W: No, I got no money from home. So this put me through school until... I quit before
I graduated. My brother had been out two years ahead of me at Kearney, and he
had not graduated either. He got the idea of buying this paper in North Platte, which
is up the Platte River from Kearney. So we went in together and borrowed the
money and bought it. We soon found out we had more debts than we could pay off.
Result: we went broke. Then we had to take off to pay the bank loan.
P: Let me ask you this. Did anything happen as you were growing up that sort of
encouraged you to go into journalism? Or perhaps I might ask you, what
encouraged you to decide to go off to college?
W: My brother and I were the first students from Mason City who went to Kearney. I
think there were two older boys who went to the university from Mason City, but no
one else [from Mason City] had ever gone away to college. I wanted to study law,
but I had been involved in the high school paper. At Kearney I got a chance to be
editor of the college paper, and this paid me twenty dollars a month. This little extra
money was handy; it was a lot of money in those days. I really took the journalism
job for the money, but as I got more into it for a couple years I began to like it.
Having left and gone into the North Platte project [and failing], it seemed like the
quickest way to cash in what education we each had. So we just gravitated into it,
and law went by the boards.
P: Was there family encouragement for you and your brother to go off and get an
W: Sam, yes, I think my mother was anxious for us to go to college, but she knew she
did not have the money. She had graduated from high school--my father had not--
and I believe she very much appreciated education and the value it might be to us.
She encouraged us; both of us had a lot of encouragement from our mother. I
remember we had a mailer, and we would mail our laundry home each week for her
to do. [Generally, she would mail the clean clothes back along with some cookies.]
P: So you would really hold her responsible for your making the decision, perhaps, to
leave, without any funds, and go off to college.
W: This is very true. She wanted it more than anybody else, although not entirely. The
high school principal--we called him superintendent of the high school, a man
named Hetrick--lived right across the street from us. He graduated from Kearney,
which once called Kearney Teacher's College. [Later it was renamed Kearney State
College.] He was very anxious for my brother and me to go to college. He told us
who to go see in Kearney. I remember going to see a man named Arnold who ran
the janitor force. I got a job for 30 cents an hour.
P: Did you involve yourself in any activities in college other than going to class?
W: Yes. In high school my brother and I had both been on a state-champion debating
team. When Doc was in college he was on the debating team, so when I got there
someone invited me to go out for the debating team, and I did. I was on the college
debating team for a couple of years. In those days this was pretty important. I think
football and athletics have kind of overshadowed this in modern times, but in those
days we had a full schedule of intercollegiate debates. On account of my arm, I
could not make the first team in football, but I played on the second team. Then, of
course, as editor of the college paper, called The Antelope, I used to travel with the
football team and write up their games. Sometimes I went out to scout for the
About a year ago a former Kearney coach, a man named Fred Fulmer, out in
Seattle, Washington, saw my name in the alumni notes, and he wrote me [here in
Gainesville]. He had long since retired, but it was very surprising.
P: A voice out of the past.
W: It really was. Fred was a great guy.
P: So you did not get your degree?
P: You have not yet?
W: No. I went through my junior year at Kearney, and then I went one summer at Ohio
State. I have about six hours of graduate credit at Syracuse. I intended to go back
and get my degree after I came here. That is the reason I went back to Ohio [State]
in [the summer of] 1950. But I got so busy with school--back then it was called the
School of Journalism--and ...
P: I suspect you just will not bother with it now. [laughter]
W: No, I do not think I will, Sam.
P: Even if you are supposedly in a state of semi-retirement, you are probably busier
W: The president has not demanded that I have a degree. I think some people, when I
came here, sort of sat back and looked askance at a director of a school without a
degree. As I went on in this business, I went to all the national meetings of
journalism [deans and] directors, and I found I was the only dean, I guess, in the
United States in journalism without a degree.
P: I think that is a marvelous thing for the University. [laughter]
W: Well, Walter Williams, who founded probably the first journalism school in the United
States at Missouri, had do degree. I did not pattern myself after Walter Williams.
He later became president of the university, so it can be done.
P: I think that is marvelous. Anyway, you went into journalism because of this
background and because you and your brother bought the paper. And then that
paper went broke, as you said.
W: It sure did go broke.
P: What was next step?
W: We left North Platte and went to Des Moines. He worked there. Funny thing about
working in Des Moines. On the copy desk there was a man named Phil Stong who
wrote State Fair--a movies was made of it. Phil was reading copy on the desk along
with us. [I say "us" because I went in also to get some experience in editing.] I went
to Paragould, Arkansas.
P: You went where?
W: I went first to Paragould, Arkansas. I worked there for a few months. Then I went
up to Moline, Illinois.
P: You worked on the Moline Dispatch then?
W: Yes, the Moline Dispatch. I worked there and also over in Rock Island. The
Dispatch kept a reporter over in Rock Island, which is the county seat, and I worked
in both places. Then Doc joined me in Moline. After a while he went back to the
Marion (Ohio) Star, which was once [Warren G.] Harding's newspaper. Doc had
worked there before we bought the North Platte paper. In Moline I was getting
twenty-five dollars a week. Doc called me one day from Marion and said: "I can get
you a raise. Come back to Marion," so I said okay. I quit and went to Marion.
P: Now, let us get a date on this so we can keep our chronology.
W: Well, let me see. This must have been about 1925. When I got to Marion and got
my first paycheck, it was for $22.50 for the week. I said to Doc, "Gee, I got a pay
cut." He said, "No, you got a $2.50 raise." I said: "No. I was getting $25 in Moline."
He thought I was getting $20. So I got a pay cut. [laughter]
P: Now, who was running the paper in a Marion?
W: Harding had sold it to Roy Moore and Louis Brush. Roy was in Marion, and Louis
was in Ohio where they owned a couple of papers. Mrs. Harding was still living in
Marion following the president's death.
P: She was still alive.
W: She was still alive, and Harding's father was still alive, the old doctor who drove a
horse and buggy around town. As a matter of fact, he drove that horse and buggy
until he got married again. His new wife could drive a car, so she had him buy a car,
which she drove.
P: Was the town completely permeated with Harding?
W: Pretty much. Harding was a very popular person in Marion. He was the kind of a
guy who would stop on the street corners and talk with everybody. [He was] very
much loved if not admired in Marion, I think. He make his bad reputation, I think,
mostly in Washington, not in Marion.
P: And it had not yet really exploded in 1925 to that degree.
W: No. That is true, although he was dead. But the Teapot Dome and [the Harry M.]
Daugherty [scandal] had been kicking around. Harding's body was placed in a
temporary tomb in Marion, and then when she died, she was put in temporary tomb
alongside hi. Then they built a beautiful mausoleum or whatever you call it for them.
Then they had trouble getting anybody of national stature to come and give the
dedication address. Finally, I believe, they got [Herbert] Hoover to do it. No one
wanted to speak for Harding in those days.
P: Mrs. Harding was not particularly loved and admired in Marion?
W: No, Mrs. Harding was not at all admired. She was rather ruthless and domineering.
P: Did you know her?
W: No. I had seen her a few times, but she did not pay much attention to us at the
paper. Roy Moore and Louis Brush had signed a contract with Harding when they
bought the paper when he became president that they would pay him $1 million for
ten years for his writings, but he never wrote an article. His heirs went to court and
made the contract stand up, so she got this money and never had no worry about
funds. Harding's father used to come into the paper every week or two, just to visit.
One of the interesting things at [the] Marion [Star] was we set up a room as sort of a
memorial to Warren G. Harding. We had his desk and a big high-back chair. One
of the things that really made it human was a set of books the some book agent had
sold him that I do not think he ever looked at. I do not even remember what the
books were about. [They were] probably of no earthly use to him, but he had bought
them, and they stayed around the newspaper as long as he had it. So we put the
set of books in there. [laughter]
P: It is part of the memorial.
W: It seemed to give a touch. [laughter]
P: A real Harding touch.
W: That is right. Harding was not very deep.
W: As my brother used to say about such people, he was about a deep as a pie pan.
Maybe he was a little deeper, but he never made a great contribution.
P: Mrs. Harding's mother and father had a winter home, I recently discovered, in
W: I did not know that.
P: I did not either until very recently. The Hardings came to Florida very often, long
before he was president, and paid periodic visits to this home in Daytona Beach.
W: Is that right?
P: Of course, Harding himself loved St. Augustine and came down very often as a
senator and as a president to winter in St. Augustine.
W: I never saw the man. I was in Kearney when he died. I was reminded of it this
week when the train took [Dwight D.] Eisenhower's body back to Kansas. Harding,
you know, died in San Francisco, very mysteriously. But as that train went through
the country, from the [west] coast clear to Ohio, people stood on the platform and
held out a handkerchief and rub some of the soot off the train and preserve it--the
morbid souvenir hunters that Americans are. I can remember yet that train going
through Kearney with people standing there ...
P: Brushing the side of it.
W: My brother was in Marion at that time, and the funeral procession of people lined up
to go through the body [was extremely long]. [It was] hot as could be. You could
not buy a glass of water for a dollar. You did not dare get out of line. If you fainted
they carried you off, I understand. But such a mob descended on that little town. I
thought of this in Abilene. The paper said there were 100,000 people were in
Abilene [for his funeral].
P: And it is a little 8,000-population town.
W: They just were not fixed to take care of that many people.
P: Sort of like Gainesville on a football weekend. [laughter]
P: What did you do on the paper, the Marion Star?
W: I went to Marion first as--we tried something new there--a bureau man. [I covered
the counties] all way around Marion. I started in Mount Gilead, the county seat of
Morrow County. Then I went to Crawford County with Galion and Bucyrus, which is
the county seat, and then to Upper Sandusky, which is the county seat [of Wyandot
County] and Marysville, the county seat [of Union County].
P: You were not married?
W: No, no. I just wrote everything. I covered everything. We filled the paper full of
P: Everything from society to obituaries?
W: Everything. I even managed a semi-pro football team while I was in Mt. Gilead. The
circulation people would come in then to sign up subscribers. Then I would move to
the next county seat. [I made the whole circuit and eventually wound up] in
Marysville. This took about one year. Then somebody left (I believe they fired a
drunken state editor), and they brought me into Marion as state editor. I stayed
there for about a year.
P: I hope your salary increased somewhat as state editor.
W: I got that $2.50 back. [laughter] In the meantime, Doc had gone on to Olean, New
york. After a while I did not think I was progressing enough--I was rather ambitious--
so I went to Olean as sports editor and city editor. He was managing editor. [We
were living in the YMCA.]
P: Now, tell us where Olean is.
W: Olean is straight west of Salamanca, near the Pennsylvania border, north of
Bradford. [It is] quite a distance south of Buffalo. A man named Velie had owned a
sewing machine factory and sold it and bought this paper. He did not know the first
thing about a newspaper. I cannot remember, Sam, what happened, but he and
Doc got in some kind of a quarrel, and he fired Doc. Doc did not leave right away,
and a rumor got around that Doc and I were going to try to start another paper. So
Velie came in one morning and told me that I could go pick up my check, too.
P: How much were they paying you then?
W: I think I was getting about twenty-five or thirty dollars a week, something like that. It
was not much, but I did not need much. I did not worry with money in those days.
P: Not living at the YMCA. [laughter]
W: No, but you know a funny thing. Several years after we had gone from there, I was
married and came back through Olean, and I needed some money. I went back to
the YMCA and asked them if they would identify me so I could go to the bank and
cash a check. I thought surely they would cash one for twenty-five dollars. No, he
said, they had a policy of never cashing checks. So I drove on to Aurora, New York.
I had never been in the town before in my life. I walked into the bank, told the man
my problem, and he said, "Write out a check, and I will cash it." Strangers
sometimes are better than "friends." [laughter]
P: So you were the sports editor, and were you also the telegraph editor, too, of the
W: I guess I was telegraph and city [and sports] editors, Sam. We had no other city
editor. I believe we [Doc and I] shared the work.
P: This obviously was a catch-all kind of a desk that you were operating. You were
writhing everything, again, pretty much?
W: Sam, those were the days before radio.
P: This was the 1920s.
W: This was late 1925 and 1926. We used to have a scoreboard outside the window
for the World Series. Can you remember those?
P: I remember that.
W: We had a magnet, and you moved the magnet to move the ball on the board.
Someone would announce who was up to bat and what was happening with a
megaphone. [These boards drew huge] crowds--200 to 300 people would stand
down below the window and listen and watch. Inside we would slow it up enough so
that the game would end while we were still announcing the ninth inning. That way
we could get to press and get our papers out on the street to sell before the crowd
left. [laughter] Great business of selling papers!
P: Some of those tricks ought to be re-employed. I think it might help the field of
journalism a bit today. So you stayed there and then got canned because of the
publisher's fear that you were going to set up a rival newspaper. You left and went
W: We went to Logansport, Indiana.
P: You turned west, then?
W: We turned west. We looked in Publishers'Auxiliary, I believe, or something, and
found they needed a man. He [Doc] either called them or wired them, and they said,
"Come on," so we went to Logansport. It was quite a thrill for me. I got up in the
morning and looked out the hotel window at this muddy river flowing by the hotel [the
Wabash River]. Doc worked there, and I did not have a job. Then he got an
abscessed tooth and had to lay off, so I went in and took his job at the Logansport
Press. Do you ever remember the Oliver typewriters that the keys came down from
the sides? Well, they had the whole office equipped with Oliver typewriters. They
must have taken them on an advertising account. [They were] terrible things to
wrote on. I stayed there until Doc got well, and then I went up to Fort Wayne as
state editor [for the Journal Gazette]. I stayed there for a couple years. Then I went
to Indianapolis and worked on the Indianapolis Times for Scripps-Howard. That is
the first time I joined Scripps-Howard chain.
P: This was about 1927 or 1928?
W: I went down there in the fall of 1927.
P: This was a time of prosperity in the country as a whole, was it?
W: Yes, it sure was.
P: In the 1920s, before the crash.
W: Fort Wayne was prosperous [and was] doing real well. It was a morning paper I
worked on. I enjoyed that part of Indiana; it is a beautiful part of the state. You can
go north from Fort Wayne to South Bend and northeast to Angola, which had so
many lakes it seemed to have more water than land. It was great for fishing and
swimming. Southwest along the Wabash River was just beautiful. It was a great
place to live. I was single at the time and enjoyed traveling throughout the territory
as state editor.
About six months after transferring to Indianapolis I sent a birthday card to my
former managing editor in Marion. He was then working as a managing editor on
the Akron (Ohio) Beacon Journal, owned by the Knights who now own the Miami
Herald. I had no motive or ulterior motive. Within a few days of his receiving that
birthday card, he wired me and offered me the position of state editor [laughter], so I
went to Akron.
P: You were certainly moving around a little bit right there in the early 1920s. You had
been on four or five or six papers in four or five or six towns.
W: Yes. That is the way I really learned the business, both my brother and I. Well, you
are always more ambitious than you should be, probably, or you do not progress as
fast as you think you ought to. One way to do this was to move. Every time I
moved, except once, I got more money. Once I did not; my brother helped me take
a pay cut. But when "Doc" Kerr in Akron asked me to come, this was a big paper, a
prosperous paper, and I was interested in going somewhere else. I went over to
Akron, and I stayed in Akron for ten years.
P: What did you go as?
W: I went as state editor and then moved up to assistant city editor. I was there when
the crash of 1929 came, followed by the Great Depression. We got a 10 percent cut
and then another 10 percent cut and then a 5 percent cut [in pay]. The rubber
factories [and the banks] had all closed, so finally the Beacon Journal had to print its
own scrip because we had no money. We got paid in scrip, and I would take piece
of it down to a restaurant and deposit it. Then I would go there and eat until it was
gone. He would say, "You are out of scrip," and I would give him another piece of it.
He would take this to a commission house, and eventually it would get back to the
newspaper to buy advertising. We would go down to the department store and take
a five-dollar piece of scrip and buy something that cost about two or three dollars.
There was enough money floating around town that they give us that in change. We
used that to pay our life insurance. For all other purchases like gasoline or clothes
or food we used scrip. You could not go out of town.
P: Because it was not any good.
W: [No one out of town wanted the scrip.] You had to stay in Akron or in close proximity
P: That extends "buy American" to "buy Akron."
W: That is right. But after we got off of the scrip I did not seem to think I was getting
back to where I was fast enough, so when the Times-Press offered me a job, I
returned to Scripps-Howard.
P: Was this an afternoon paper?
W: They were both afternoon papers. I went over there and was restored to my sixty
dollars a week that I had been getting before the crash. I stayed with them about
five years. Then they sent me to the Buffalo Scripps-Howard paper. They knew
they were folding up the Times-Press in Akron two months later.
P: Were you giving the kiss of death? [laughter]
W: I do not know, Sam. Scripps-Howard was becoming pretty hard-headed. They
always were, but they got to the point where they just were not running papers that
did not make money, which is quite proper. In Buffalo they had a tough time
competing with the Buffalo News, a powerful newspaper. In Akron they could not
beat the Beacon Journal. The Beacon Journal bought them, and in Buffalo nobody
would buy them, so they just closed it. Scripps-Howard then sent me from there to
Cleveland, on the Scripps-Howard paper, the Cleveland Press. I stayed there until
Ralph Ingersoll founded the experimental newspaper PM in 1940.
P: In New York?
W: In New York. I went down there as assistant managing editor and then later
became managing editor of PM.
P: Before we get into the PM situation, which I think is a whole chapter in itself, what
about your personal life? Had you gotten married by this time, and, if so, were there
children? This brings us up to 1940.
W: Yes and no. The former woman's editor or society editor of the Oklahoman in
Oklahoma City [came to the Times-Press in Akron as society editor]. Her mother
had died, and she wanted to get out of Oklahoma. The former editor there had
become editor of the Scripps-Howard paper in Akron. She contacted him, and he
hired her as society editor, and then she became woman's editor.
This is a roundabout way of telling how I happened to get interested in her. I must
have been the only man on the staff, apparently, that had a tuxedo, because I was
home on my day off when the managing editor called me and wanted to know if I
would take this girl to Cleveland to cover the opera. [Harvey] Firestone had
sponsored a young singer who was appearing with the Metropolitan Opera in
Cleveland. I cannot remember her name. I took the Oklahoma girl, Ruth Meister, to
the opera. We dated on and off, and after I had moved to NEw York we were
married in Riverside Church.
P: So your first date was a trip to the opera.
W: That is right. We have a son and daughter [Bill and Ann], both born in New York
City at the Doctors Hospital where you looked right down on the mayor's Gracie
Mansion. As school age approached we decided we did not want to stay in New
York City. This is when I was working on PM. That is, of course, part of the PM
story. After eight years we were in the red. Marshall Field had lost considerable
money--millions--and we [Ruth and I] were trying to decide what we were going to
do. We left New York largely because we wanted to get started in school in some
place [other than New York City]. In 1948 Bill was 4 years old and Ann was 2 years
old. But that is personal family life.
P: Now, let us talk about PM, because that is a real chapter in American journalism
W: Yes, it really is, Sam.
P: What was the concept of PM? Who developed what amounted to, I guess, a
W: Ralph Ingersoll was the founder of the paper.
P: Tell me about Ralph Ingersoll. Was there a relationship with the famous Ralph
Ingersoll, the agnostic, an orator and Chautauqua speaker?
W: [Ralph Ingersoll is a genius, a magazine literacy genius. In the 1920s and 1930s
Ralph was a sensation. The New Yorker magazine was a struggling publication
when Ralph joined it as a reporter. In a few months, at the age of twenty-five, he
became its managing editor and helped make it a success. At age thirty, in 1930,
he became managing editor of Fortune, a five-month-old failure published by Time,
Inc. His outstanding success at Fortune led to his appointment as general manager
of Time. It was during his managership of time that he planned, designed, and
created Life. He fully expected to be named publisher of Life when it was launched
in 1936. Henry Luce kept that position for himself and named Ralph publisher of
Unhappy with this turn of events, Ralph began to dream of having a publication of
his very own. During his phenomenal rise in the highly competitive publishing field,
he never had worked on a newspaper. But by 1939 he had his plans ready to
announce the forthcoming birth of a new kind of newspaper.
That is a long answer to your question, Sam, but let me add two other things about
Ralph Ingersoll. At the beginning of World War II, he fought the drafting of
newspaper editors---he being the object of such a move. When he won that battle,
he enlisted in 1942.
His rise in the military was no less phenomenal than it had been in magazines.
From private first class he soon became a captain. With his college training in mine
engineering, he eventually convinced the higher-ups not to attempt a secret invasion
of Europe but to use a plan of deception. He planned and showcased his plans of
diversion to make the enemy think the landing was to be at Calais, while in fact it
went to Omaha Beach. Success in that strategy brought him a promotion to
lieutenant colonel. Ralph got himself included in the invasion forces. Later he wrote
three best-selling books on his experiences.
P: Rae, let us talk about Ingersoll's concept of this new kink of newspaper he was
W: Ingersoll was not only creative but innovative, and extremely good at it. His first
outline was some thirty-six typed pages. With the help of his first managing editor
that was boiled down to some twenty pages, and it became a "confidential
memorandum to the staff."
Foremost in Ralph's thinking, I guess, was the handicap and privation suffered by
minorities in that tremendous metropolitan area. A sentence in his prospectus that
stood out and more or less became a slogan for the paper was: "We are against
people who push other people around." Really there was much more to his thinking
and concept of what his paper would be.
He began with a hypothetical question: Suppose there were no other newspapers in
existence, yet there was a great desire by the populace to know what was going on.
That premise, I think, was illogical thinking.
Another lapse in practical thinking was the title he used in his mock-up. It was
"Newspaper." I never heard him admit it, but those involved in the early planning
said he envisioned that buyers would come to the newsstand and ask for a
newspaper, and this one would be handed to them. As you know, all newspapers
were sold from newsstands; there was no home delivery in New York City at that
time. Of course, his timing was to enter the New York market where there were ten
daily papers. If this was to be a period of no other newspapers, any title would do.
But there was some basis for the belief that he titled it to meet competition.
But overall his concept and ideas made a lot of sense. Here are the highlights.
Physical appearance: The paper would be the same number of pages every day--
32. It would be a tabloid, but shorter and more square than the current papers. The
pages would be four columns wide, each column fifteen picas wide instead of the
standard five-column papers with columns eleven and a fraction or twelve picas
wide. The type would be larger. All of this made for greater ease in reading. The
pages would be stapled on the press, and a really unique feature would be that ink
did not rub off on your hands.
Editorial content: It was to be a complete newspaper, on the premise that the buyers
had read no other paper from one day to the next. News would be told in writing,
pictures, and drawn art. The content would be completely departmentalized. That,
of course, reflected his magazine experience. There were to be only five
departments: New York News, News of the Nation, Foreign News, Sports, and
Financial News. Actually we ended up adding others.
The front page: This page was to give the reader a thirty second answer to "What's
news?" It was to have informal headlines, written by the writers of the stories. The
pictures were to be dramatic. Each department would lead off with a brief summary
of the day's news. Stories and pictures would carry the initials of the writer and the
photographer as credit. Sports pages were much like any sports department, and
Financial News was never given much attention or space.
P: What about the financing of this paper?
W: With well-defined objectives and great confidence, Ingersoll turned down Henry
Luce's offer of a $1 million-a-year salary for Ralph to remain as publisher of Time.
That was an unheard-of salary in the 1930s. In early 1939 he drew up the
"Newspaper" dummy and went out to raise the money for its start. He went to
wealthy friends and many in the millionaire class and sold them on the concept of a
minority-voice paper. They contributed a total of $1.5 million.
P: One would have to be pretty persuasive to do that.
W: He would have been a great salesman. Not only did he get those kinds of
donations, but with no strings attached. He reserved complete authority to do with
the paper as he wished. And you know the very liberal format for the paper was not
the normal position of these contributors.]
P: They must have had a real social consciousness about them to be able to put up
cold cash to support this kind of a concept and philosophy.
W: Yes, and Ralph knew these people. How he happened to be in their social strata I
do not know. [Maybe he knew them from his Fortune magazine days.] He was on a
first-name basis with many of these people, or he would know one that would take
him to another one. As a matter of fact, I think he reached Marshall Field through
Marshall Field's psychiatrist, who was a friend of Ralph's. [laughter]
P: Marshall Field really became the major angel.
[W: We started June 18, 1940.] In September we ran out of money, and Marshall Field
was willing to take on the paper and buy out the rest at ten cents on the dollar. A
few years later Marshall inherited a cold $75 million in cash and had no taxes to pay.
This is the way it was left to him and, I believe, a cousin when they reached their
fiftieth birthday. Before Marshall turned fifty the other boy had died, so it all went to
He had a real sincere conviction for the underdog and for the minority person and
the people who did not have anything.
He had lived rather a worthless life in most ways of evaluating it, and I think he
wanted to do something worthwhile. His wife--I believe this was his second wife--
joined him in this and supported it. Both of them used to come to the paper
frequently. She would sit alongside me at the desk and try to find out what I was
doing, how we put out a newspaper. He became so interested in newspapers that
he started the Chicago Sun.
P: How did they get you into the PM operation?
W: Well, the editor at Buffalo was George Lyon, and the managing editor at Buffalo was
John Lewis. [I was the news editor.] When the Buffalo paper closed they sent John
Lewis and me to Cleveland. John went with NEA, Scripps-Howard's feature service,
and they sent me to the Cleveland Press. George Lyon went back to New York.
Ingersoll picked him up as managing editor for PM. Ingersoll had done some hiring,
but there were darn few newspaper people in the staff.
Ralph had an idea that you should hire an educator to write education news, a labor
man to write labor news, etc. It did not matter whether you could write or not. It was
your connections, he thought, that would make you good. Well, when Lyon got
there he decided that a few [professional] newspaper people [were needed to get
the paper out], so he sent out an SOS for Lewis and me to come down from
Cleveland. John went down on the first of April, and I went down on the first of May,
and we started [publication] in June.
P: So you were there to help launch the first issue.
W: Ingersoll's original idea, Sam, was that no copy reader would touch the reporters'
copy. He thought that these experts would write the story and that no copy editor
would spoil it. It was horrible! So I was brought in to hire a copy desk and get some
copy readers that could edit all of this copy. Ingersoll had another idea of improving
the writing, and that was to hire a man named Dashiell Hammett, who wrote The
Thin Man. Dash was to come in there and read the copy as a means of showing the
reporters how to write.
P: This was sort of like a journalism school, in a way.
W: It was wild! We were then back to putting up the paper in the early morning.
P: Oh, you moved from an afternoon paper to a morning paper?
W: We tried about every hour of the day.
P: From P.M. to A.M.
W: At this time we wound up in the A.M. field with PM.
To get back to editing, Ralph would pick up these carbons [of copy written during the
day] and take them home to his apartment to edit. At the same time we would start
to work on the desk. Dash would come in and sit right beside me--the copy desk
was behind me. Dash would do some editing, and the copy desk would do some
editing, and we would send this copy to the composing room. Ralph would come in
at 10:00 in the evening with his edited carbons for a staff meeting. The other copy
would have been set into type. Then I would get the proofs and try to reconcile
Ralph's editing with copy that already had been edited differently and proofed.
Sam, I almost went nuts! Finally we gave up. Dash left, and I believe we convinced
Ralph that if he wanted to edit any copy he would have to do it before the copy desk
handled it or we would never get to press. A daily newspaper was far faster-paced
than what Ralph was accustomed to in magazines.
[P: PM was an unusual name. How did that come about?
W: Nearly half of that $1.5 million was spent before we published the first edition. That
promotion and the many innovative plans for the paper caused no small amount of
attention in the city's daily press. Columnists began to write and speculate about the
Originally the paper was planned to be an afternoon paper. In New York the
morning papers were referred to as the A.M.s and the afternoon papers as the
P.M.s. With all of that free publicity about the new PM paper, we decided to name it
PM. Before publication we discovered there was a small house organ in New
Jersey titled PM, so we went over and bought the publication to avoid any possible
P: You mentioned other departments. What were they?
W: Largely these were innovations that reflected that PMwas at least twenty-five years
ahead of its time. One was the coverage of consumer news. Ralph's early concept
was that the paper would print no paid advertising. Incidentally, Nelson Poynter,
editor and publisher of the St. Petersburg Times, was an adviser and consultant to
Ralph in the early planning of the paper. He made the first suggestion, or at least
convinced Ralph, to make the bold departure of carrying no advertising. That
brought the creation of the News for Living department. A digest of the paid
advertising in other papers was printed in PM the same day. PM also shopped the
huge produce markets and each day printed two menus based on best buys in the
market. One was for a medium-priced dinner, $1.20 to $1.45, and the other for a
low-cost meal, 50 cents to 90 cents for the ingredients. PM printed news of store
sales that were not advertised, and this department also carried news on problems
of living, such as housing, health, education, medicine, etc.
PM was a pioneer in its health coverage, and today there are magazines devoted
entirely to health, and no daily paper is without a health column.]
At the end of four years we decided to satisfy those who wanted advertising, and we
certainly needed more revenue. So we started taking advertising. The first year we
made a profit of $100,000, [half of which was divided evenly among the staff,
including copy boys and girls].
I mentioned we needed the money. By that I mean that those of us at the
management level wanted us to at least break even. Marshall Field never
complained about picking up the tab.
P: He did not complain?
W: That is right. We started out charging a nickel per paper, and that next year the war
brought prices up. We could not get our fancy ink, and it was just impossible to
make it on a nickel anymore. PM's circulation fluctuated between 90,000 and
120,000 a day. If Walter Winchell ... Do you remember the days when Winchell
was on radio on Sunday nights? His lawyers would not let him say many of the
things he had prepared for fear of libel. Walter would call me every Sunday
afternoon after the lawyers had gone over his script and would tell me what they cut
out. We could carry a headline Monday morning: "Here's what Walter Winchell
couldn't say on radio last night." Our circulation went up 15,000.
P: Winchell was not on your payroll?
W: No. He was a [William Randolph] Hearst man. Hearst editors were not happy about
this, but his lawyers checked the contract, and there was nothing they could do
P: It was all right. It was open territory.
W: You know when Wendell Willkie ran for president [in 1940], Winchell was so
pro-Roosevelt (so were we) that he wrote a column for us free. Willkie and Winchell
had the same initials, so we called this column, "Willkie Buttons by W. W." It
appeared to be by Willkie until they read it. Then there was no doubt that Willkie
was not poking fun at himself. Only a few of us knew who wrote this column
needling the Republicans and Wendell Willkie from end to end.
P: And he never admitted it?
W: Winchell was such an egoist that I suspect he could not resist telling people be was
the author, but if they did not like it, he probably would not. I do not think I ever ran
into a man so egoistical as Winchell.
P: I guess this continues right down to the present.
W: Walter is out in California now. A girl who graduated in journalism here wrote me
once, and she was his secretary. Isn't that strange ...
P: How things come together.
W: It really is. That must have been four or five years ago.
P: Your wife was not working on PM?
W: No, Ruth did not work in New York at all. We were there a couple of years before
we had our first baby. I had gotten a pay raise by that time, Sam. We did not need
both of us working.
P: Who else worked on PM with you in the earliest years?
W: Well, Jimmy Wechsler, who is now editor of the editorial page of the New York Post.
He was the chief antagonist with McCarthy in the McCarthy days. Jimmy is real
smart. He was our labor editor.
P: What happened to the idea of the labor man writing labor news?
W: Ingersoll hired Leo Huberman as own first labor editor. I suspect Leo probably
carried a card.
P: I was going to say he was later accused of being a communist. We The People, I
think, is his book.
W: That is right. Whether Leo was a member of the party of not I do not know. He
probably would have denied it, but you get all indications that he probably was.
Anyway, we finally convinced Ralph we could not use him. Leo could not even type.
That is the kind of people Ralph hired. One night I wanted him to write a caption on
a labor picture. He said he could not do it until his secretary came back. Then I
found out he could not use a typewriter.
Then there was Ken Crawford, who now writes a column in Newsweek, and Harold
Levine was our national editor. Harold is now national editor of Newsweek. Albert
Deutsch, who is dead now, became ... Albert could not write very well, but he was
a real conscientious guy who probably did more than any other writer [in those days]
to alert the American people to the problems of mental illness and institutions. We
put a good writer to work with Albert and teach him how to write. PM lead the way in
establishing health as a news department. Today all publications run health articles.
Ken Stewart, who was teaching journalism in Michigan, now is at Stanford. He was
one of our Sunday editors. Bill McCleery was another Sunday editor for a while. I
do not know what he is doing now. He wrote a number of plays. I believe is back in
Others were Cecilia Ager, our movie critic; Louis Kronenberger, a Broadway critic
who was our theater critic; Max Lerner, whom I mentioned earlier; Nathan
Robertson, our foreign correspondent who was killed in World War II; Frank Sullivan,
who wrote the New Yorker's Christmas poems of famous people for many years;
Alex Uhl, a war correspondent; [I. F. Stone, a Washington correspondent; William
Ley, a German refugee and a rocket expert;] and others, Sam, who distinguished
themselves later in journalism. [I should also mention Ted Geisel (Dr. Seuss), who
drew editorial cartoons for us, and Margaret Bourke White, a famous photographer.]
P: A very auspicious group.
W: Lillian Hellman, [Mayor Fiorello La Guardia, and Ben Hecht] wrote for us for free,
and James Thurber contributed cartoons for us.
P: How about your association with Max Lerner? When did that begin on PM?
W: Max came to us on our second or third year. Would War II had started, and Ralph,
who had been writing our editorials, was off to England. He went to England when
Germany was bombing the daylights out of London. Later he wrote his first book,
The Battle Is The Pay-off. We needed somebody to write editorials, and we got
Max. Without prior newspaper experience, Max was great to work with. He
accepted readily and could come up on short notice with editorials on the day's
news. He had a difficult time adjusting to deadlines. Max was in great demand as a
public speaker. He would come in the office or call me on the phone about 1:00 or
2:00 in the afternoon and then take off by plane to fulfill a speaking engagement.
We would agree on the editorial content. When his plane touched down enroute to
his destination he would file the first page of his editorial. When it touched down
again, he would file another page. When he arrived at his destination he would file
the final pages. Sometimes these would reach me ahead of earlier filing. If these
pages did not come in in the proper order, it was a madhouse to try to put them
Max came to the campus several times at my invitation. I told this story one night
when I introduced him here. He was late with his editorial one night, and we were
getting ready to go to press, so I went down to the composing room and had the
editorial page laid out with a big blank space [for the editorial]. I did the same thing
that we did when an advertisement was late: I had printed in the center of the white
space, "This Space Reserved for Max Lerner," and told him we were going to press.
I thought Max would drop out of his chair. It helped to demonstrate deadlines. But
he was a great guy to work with. Max is a true friend, and I am a great admirer of
P: Knowing his political philosophies, certainly it fitted in with the philosophy of the PM.
W: Very definitely, we were ultra-liberal. We were the first newspaper in the United
States that said, "Let's go to war."
P: You never gave up this being the voice of the minorities?
W: No, we never did. It was difficult to find an editorial writer with the ability to write and
with convictions on social issues that blended so well with PM/s position.
P: These were troubled times.
W: Very much so. Roosevelt was a great friend of ours, and we were a great friend of
his. Ingersoll had entree to the White House, and when we went overseas, John
Lewis was often in touch. Those were difficult times. Later we found the
Communists agreeing with our policy, which resulted in accusations in some
quarters that we were Communists. Actually, I think one or two, maybe more, were
party members. I am sure there were not as many as our detractors thought.
P: I was going to say, you certainly were accused very frequently of being the voice of
the Communist party.
W: Because we stood for the same thing sometimes. We defended minorities and in
these days were strongly anti-Nazi.
P: By this time the Puerto Ricans were moving into New York.
W: And the Communists were doing the same thing. It was very difficult to draw a line
to explain the Communist line and our line. Max used to spend a lot of time trying to
write this. One of the ways we did it was to show how the Communist line vacillated
from one side to another, how they would flip-flop. At one time the Communists
were in support of Hitler, and then they suddenly flipped to the other side.
P: And you stood fast?
W: We stood fast. But we never completely convinced them. When I came to the
University of Florida, one newspaper raised this question about be coming from a
"pink" newspaper, I believe they said.
P: Yes. Well, this was common talk in the United States about the ultra-liberal policy of
W: With a newspaper that hit so hard, you were bound to be noticed.
P: I was wondering about Mrs. Roosevelt's connection with PM. Certainly she was a
supporter of its [political] philosophy and line, buy did she write for you?
W: No, she did not. she was a great friend of John Lewis, Ingersoll, and Lerner, but I
do not think she ever wrote for us. La Guardia wrote us a column and delivered it in
person [every Friday afternoon for the Sunday paper].
P: Now, what was your official position on the paper, and what did you do?
W: When I left I was managing editor.
P: What did you do as managing editor?
W: Far different from most managing editors today. I worked right out in the news
room, and everything that went into the news columns came through my hands.
Nothing went in there that I did not either see or confer with the editors in its
preparation or read the proofs before we went to press to be sure of what we were
printing, that it conformed to our basic principles and that it was not libelous. We
were sued once for $200,000 libel after the lawyer told us go ahead and print it.
Two brothers ran a radio station in New York, and we said they were Fascist. They
sued us. I think we could have won it, but Field's lawyer said he would rather settle
then defend it, so we paid them $100,00. But as managing editor there, I had
complete control of everything that went in the news columns. I had nothing much
to do with the Sunday paper.
P: Yours was more than just a newspaper. Did you not actually go out to expose evil?
W: Yes, our principal role was to expose wrongdoing, to speak for the minorities, and to
represent consumers. We hit pretty hard, which was all the more reason to guard
against libel. We decided, I think rightfully, that we could not beat ten other
newspapers in New York with a little tabloid our size, so we had to do something
different. We exposed what we thought was an insurance racket in America. We
had twenty-four pages, and we took twenty pages of those twenty-four one day for
just one story. We did this quite often--we would take twenty pages for one subject,
so we had many different stories on the one subject. We would keep the other
pages--one for sports, one for the national news or city news, and one for the News
P: How about entertainment?
W: At the beginning we could not buy comics, so we had to create them. Crocket
Johnson drew "Barnaby" for us. It was such a delightful comic with a little boy who
had a fairy godfather. "Peanuts" is kind of like it today.
P: Oh, I remember "Barnaby."
W: The fairy godfather could be seen by the boy but by nobody else. We went to South
America and got a comic called "Patarusa"; we had to translate it from Spanish into
English. We created another one with a smartly dressed girl and much sex appeal
P: A little sex angle?
W: Yes. It was titled "Claire Voyant."
P: How about your political cartoons? Were you something of a forerunner with that,
W: Our first cartoons were done by Ted Geisel who you know as Dr. Seuss.
Sometimes James Thurber would do one. One night he drew one of our several
staff artists. The only editorial cartoonist we ever had on a full-time basis was Ted.
Some of the animals were just out of this world.
P: Where were P/Ms offices?
W: Ingersoll believed in putting all of his limited cash in the product, not a printing plant,
so we leased a press in the Brooklyn, the Eagle plant. To get this new kind of ink
that would not rub off on your hands--velox, it was called--we had to pipe in steam
[that was] hot enough to heat the rollers. As the rollers touched these chunks of
velox it was liquified, and as the paper came off the press this ink would solidify and
not rub off. It felt like it was gloss. Beautiful printing--until the war came along and
stopped it. Then we bought a shoe factory over in New York, at Dwayne and
Hudson streets, almost next door to where the "Sick Chicken Case" was made
famous in breaking the NRA.
P: Oh, yes.
W: We bought this shoe factory building and moved to New York about 1942. It was far
downtown in New York.
P: Where did you live?
W: Ruth and I lived in Jackson Heights, not too far from La Guardia Airport, New York's
first big airport. Airplanes that took off sounded as if they would come in one of our
bedroom windows and out the other side. But one did get accustomed to the noise.
I took a subway from there [to work each day]. It took me about fifty minutes each
way. [The cost was only five cents each way!]
P: Did you and Ruth enjoy living in New York in those days?
W: We enjoyed New York thoroughly. We had a lot of fun in New York. We did a lot of
things. One of our favorite things to do was to ride the ferry across the bay to Staten
Island and go around and put in another nickel and come back. In fact, I think that
was our honeymoon trip.
P: We still do that in New York.
W: It is great fun, Sam.
P: We did it in August.
W: Did you really? If you were coming back when it was getting dark, the cleaning
people would have the lights on in the buildings in Manhattan, and they stood out in
the sky like a fairy city. It is very exciting.
P: We saw it about 10:00 on a hot August this last year. Magnificent!
W: Well, we did enjoy it. The only reason we wanted leave New York was on account
of our youngsters. Lever Brothers offered me $15,000 to write four speeches a year
for [their president's] national radio talks and then to supervise company
publications. At that time they were up in Boston. Later they moved to New York.
But I did not think I was a speech writer, and we wanted to find a smaller
community. I knew I was going to have to get out of New York somewhere.
P: What was happening to PM? It was going downhill, financially?
W: It was not going downhill. It just was not getting out of red ink. We were losing
P: When the paper had picked up, you said you added advertising. You said you made
W: That was only for one year. We soon leveled off at about 90,000 to 115,000
circulation. That was the most we could do, with costs kept going up all the time
during the war years. So John Lewis and I went to Marshall and said that we were
not getting anywhere this way. We had a proposal. Either we wanted to leave, or
we wanted to make PM into a national daily or a national weekly. But Marshall was
then more interested in the Chicago Sun. He took an awful beating in New York
where he had belonged to the Athletic Club and all the exclusive clubs, and the
people needled poor Marshall about PM.
P: How much did he lose on the PM?
W: I suspect he lost in those eight years about $10 million or more. No one ever
reported the amount, and he never cried about it.
P: He did not gripe. Was he a generous boss?
W: Yes. We never asked him for anything we did not get. He was generous to the
point that when I left I can just see Marshall saying to his secretary, "Go buy Rae a
going away present." He turns up and gives me a green-gold, yellow-gold, or
white-gold cigarette case with his handwritten inscription engraved inside. I forget
what it said. I saw these advertised in the New Yorker, and I think they cost
$295-$300 each! How much can a man get? The money would have done me
much more good. But he wanted to do something really nice for me, and I still have
it. My kids or grandchildren will look at that some day and wonder "bourgeois?"
[laughter] But he was, yes, very generous. I do not think Marshall ever wasted
money, and he never showed off with it. He would come done to the PM on the
subway and ride back uptown and the subway.
P: What about censorship? Was there any of this exerted by him or Ingersoll on
anything that you were doing?
W: Marshall Field never tried to dictate to us not to do something or to do something for
him. Never once. He would once in awhile call and ask what our position was on
this or that or why we took the position we did. I think we may have embarrassed
him sometimes by position we took, but he left it completely up to us. With Ingersoll
it was different. The various editors would meet every evening and make decisions
for the next day's paper. Ingersoll would participate in those conferences. Maybe
once in three months Marshall would sit in. He sat in mostly to listen and would
respond if we asked him, but he never dictated.
P: What were some of the writers who really got started on PM and who later made a
name for themselves?
W: Ken Crawford, Harold Levine, Jimmy Wechsler, Arnold Beichman, Penn Kimball,
Ken Stewart, Volta Torrey, Heywood Hale Broun I. F. Stone, Hodding Carter, Max
Lerner, Willie Ley, Cecilia Ager.
P: These were not necessarily fledgling reporters. These were men and women of
experience already who came into the PM program and then moved onto other
W: Some of them may not have been widely known, but you are right. They all were
experienced newspaper men and women. They were picked from hundreds of
P: Well, in many ways PM made Max Lerner.
W: That is right.
P: Certainly it gave him a national audience.
W: It gave him a national exposure that he might not have received from his books or
his teaching. It was his first job on a newspaper.
P: It must have been a pretty exciting era in your life, this relationship with PM.
W: You hear people saying they want to go to New York but they do not want to live
there. For me, living there and working there was really the highlight of my career
before coming to the University of Florida. One had to be young and free from many
responsibilities to tackle such a venture.
P: Too frenetic? Too frustrating?
W: It was pretty frustrating in the face that we beat our brains out with great ideas,
experimenting in many ways to publish a different kind of newspaper. Newspapers
today have adopted many things which we pioneered. But we could not make them
pay off. We had ten other competitors at that time. Today there are only three daily
papers in New York. We printed pictures and maps better than anybody else. If PM
were there today it just might make it.
P: As you look back on it, Rae, from the position in life that you hold now, what was
PMs value to America? What did it accomplish?
[W: We revolutionized the press, made many American leaders aware of the plight of
minorities, helped establish certain projects of integration, and pushed through
social legislation. PM was a revolutionary paper. Since the development of the
modern newspaper in the nineteenth century, the editors of PM were the first
journalists in the twentieth century to make a serious effort to revolutionize the form
and content of the press. Its innovations make a profound impact on the press as
we know it today.
Our attempt to create a new kink of newspaper failed for the moment. But viewed
20 years later, we did open up a whole new concept of newspapering in America.
PM established, labor, the press, health, business, entertainment--including radio
and television--and especially consumer news as regular "beats" calling for daily
attention. Today they all are handled routinely by newspapers and magazines. In
the second quarter of the twentieth century it can be said to their credit that some
magazines were beginning to try new techniques in publishing. Ingersoll sought to
improve on these and established them in the format for PM.
P: What about the consumer? You were fighting the fight for consumers in many ways.
W: We called that department News For Living. This included news often found then
only in paid advertising, news of prices and values of food, clothing and other
household items, news of sale items never advertised, and news bearing on living--
housing, health, education, medicine, and others. Ingersoll believed a concentration
in this kind of coverage unencumbered by the conflicting influence of advertising
might be more helpful to readers. This concept reflected our basic position that the
buyers of goods, not the sellers, were the ones for whom we worked. A column by
Albert Deutsch on health was a rare feature at the time. Today every newspaper
has a similar column, and there are magazines devoted entirely to health. Very
early in our publishing career we got into the problem of housing. As you know,
New York City is made up of apartments, not houses. The hundreds of classified
advertisements in the other New York papers would include the words "white" or
"Christian." We campaigned for legislation to forbid such discrimination. This bears
out our slogan I mentioned earlier: "We are against people who push other people
around." Instead of covering labor only at times of conflict, we established it as it as
an important segment of human endeavor and worthy of news of its problems,
successes, and failures.
P: All of this certainly places you some twenty-five years ahead of your time. In
addition to rental ads, how else were you interested and active in integration?
W: We opposed segregation in the military, and that was nearly twenty years ahead of
federal integration. In our coverage of food costs, we pointed out how much more
residents of Harlem had to pay than did white residents of other areas.
P: Do you think you made an impact there?
W: Yes, but not as dramatic as what came more than a decade later. It was the first
time that minorities had a voice in the nation's largest city. Although our circulation
was not great, it was a voice that was heard in the metropolitan area and in the
P: Of course, the plight of the Negro was not necessarily the major thrust of PM.
W: No. Their plight was great--and still is. But because of the war and Hitler's
massacre of Jewish people, I suspect we may have given more attention to that
minority problem. We had many Jewish staff members. We make special efforts to
recruit blacks for our staff as reporters and secretaries. We did not put our first
black secretary in the secretary pool; she was assigned as my private secretary.
Let me tell you an interest aside about her. Her name was Beryl Pogue, and she
was a stenotypist for court reporting. Because our staff was young, we lost many to
the draft. Because we had no Saturday morning paper, I tried to take Fridays off.
Beryl would come out to our apartment where I dictated letters to all of our men and
women in the service. She typed these on a prescribed size sheet, they were
photographed, reduced in size, and mailed throughout the world.
Our first black reporter was Frank Harriot, whom I had hired earlier as a copy boy.
He was a fine young man. Frank had been to college and probably had a degree,
but he no newspaper experience. His early training in that regard was the weekly
session I had with all of the copy boys and girls to orient them into the newspaper
All of this staff had college training. I arranged a contract with Antioch College in
Yellow Springs, Ohio, to take one of their students every semester. There was great
demand at the college to come to New York. One of our Antioch boys was drafted
and sent to Europe. Later be became harbor master in one of our overseas ports.
P: You stayed with PM until the end?
W: Yes. A year earlier John Lewis, editor, and I discussed our future with Marshall
Field. We explained that we were not making any headway and that we did not
want to make a career on a subsidized newspaper. The only alternative we could
offer him was that he consider changing PMto a national daily or possibly a weekly.
Because he was much involved with the Chicago Sun, he decided against such an
option and asked us to stay until he could dispose of PM.
In the spring of 1948 Bartly Crumb, a California lawyer, and Joe Barnes, former
managing editor of the New York Herald Tribune, bought PM. No purchase price
was ever given, and I doubt if much or any cash changed hands. They took over on
June 18, 1948, on PMs eighth anniversary, and renamed the paper the New York
Star. John bought a weekly newspaper in New Hampshire, and I returned to Ohio to
join my brother in Columbus in the Weimer Agency, an advertising and public
P: Your brother had in the meantime moved out of the newspaper field?
W: Yes. Doc had been to Cleveland as news editor, and then he went to Columbus as
managing editor of the Columbus Citizen. After several years he gave in when they
wanted to make him editor. Once you get to be an editor of a Scripps-Howard
paper, the ax is hanging over your head. Finally it fell on him when he endorsed
some local candidates the New York office did not like. So that ended his
newspaper career. He went into public relations and advertising, and I went out to
We started something new out there, Sam, and it is going on now around the
country. We found the private Ohio colleges in financial trouble as taxes began to
go up after World War II. They were having a tough time getting money. so we
organized all the private colleges in Ohio, kind of like a community fund, and we put
on a drive for all of them at one time. The president of every college made up our
board of directors. We went to industry and business and collected money.
P: And put it into a general fund?
W: Yes, a general fund, and then we distributed it back. I understand such an effort
was made in Florida recently. We got more money for them than they had gotten
P: This was something of an innovation, then?
W: I think it was.
P: Where was the headquarters of your public relations firm?
W: In Columbus, Ohio.
P: And it was from this operation that you moved here to the University of Florida.
W: Yes. Herb Davidson, who now runs the paper in Daytona Beach, was my national
editor on PM. He returned to Florida and was chairman of the committee urging
University of Florida president [J. Hillis] Miller to do something about journalism
education. Dr. Miller brought in several English professors to be interviewed for the
job, and newspapers would not approve of them. Finally Miller, I understand, in
desperation said to them, "Well, you guys go and find somebody then." So Herb
called me in Columbus to see if I would come down and talk to them. I came down
in 1949, in the spring, when the press association was meeting here at the Thomas
Hotel. I was interviewed by Dr. Miller, Harley Chandler, Dean Ralph Page, Registrar
Dick Johnson, and the press committee.
P: None of these academicians knew anything about a college of journalism or a
newspaper or anything like that.
W: It was the funniest interview you can ever imagine. Anyway, the day before I left
they offered me a job.
P: So Davidson is actually responsible for bringing you here?
W: That is right.
P: What was Mr. Davidson's relationship to the University of Florida?
W: He was running the Daytona Beach paper and writing editorials calling for something
to be done about journalism at the University of Florida.
P: Of course, there was a school of journalism or a department of journalism at the
University of Florida.
W: Just a department.
P: That department dates back to the 1920s.
W: But the press was pretty unhappy with it.
P: Was O. K. Armstrong the founder of it?
W: O. K. was an early teacher of journalism, but I believe [John] Francis Cooper [editor,
Experiment Station and Agricultural Extension Division] taught the first journalism
class here in College of Agriculture.
P: I presume the press thought UF was not serving the industry in the way they wanted
it to be served or expected it to.
W: Well, remember, they were not getting any reporters from here. Do you remember
Elmer Emig [head professor of journalism]?
W: Well, he did not speak their language, and they did not feel an rapport with the
P: When you came to be interviewed, was the department still part of business
W: No. It had become a department in the College of Arts and Sciences. When it was
part of the College of Commerce and Journalism, Dean Walter Matherly and Emig
could not got along. I understand Matherly did not want any part of journalism in
business, and Emig did not want business in journalism, so it was moved into arts
P: Did you know O. K. Armstrong?
W: Yes. O. K. came through here one night when we were having one of our awards
dinners. That is the first time I met him. He came to the dinner and gave a little talk.
I corresponded with him for awhile. I have not talked to him or corresponded now
for some time. He is an editor for Reader's Digest.
P: Well, he has been for years and years, ever since he lost the race for re-election to
the House of Representatives from Kansan in 1952.
W: I do not know when he lost.
P: He was in Congress.
W: I know he was.
P: I knew him when he was in Congress--I had lunch with him once up in Washington.
He took me into the House restaurant, and we had bean soup. His son, I think, was
city manager over here at St. Augustine.
W: I believe you are right.
P: He was just kicked out last year, I believe. 0. K. comes into Florida very frequently.
W: He is one of the senior editors of Reader's Digest.
P: Yes, but he actually got the program started here.
Before we leave PM completely I was going to ask you whether anyone has ever
done a history of PM.
W: No. Marshall invited me to Chicago about two years after I came here. While there
I suggested he might endow the J-School here. He said he had set up all of his
money into a foundation for underprivileged and crippled children. But he offered
me a job: "Rae, why not write the history of PM?" I told him I had no time to write
while starting the new j-school. He said, "I will pay your year's salary, and you take
off a year and write it." Well, Sam, I had been here such a short time and had just
begun to see my way clear where this school could grow and amount to something,
and I thought it would not be fair to the University. I was really much more
interested in building a school here than I was in putting PM in the record. So I told
him I did not want to take the time.
P: So nobody has done this.
W: So nobody has done it. There have been a great many articles written about PM
since its demise, but not really a good impartial history.
P: Where are the PM files? In the archives?
W: I do not know. They were sold or given to the [New York] Star, and then Ted
Thackery took over after one year and called it The Compass. He was financed by
Mrs. McCormick in Chicago who supported [George] Wallace for president. Ted ran
it as a real pro-Communist paper. Then the heirs had her declared incompetent to
protect the money, and that shut off the revenue for The Compass, so it had to give
up. But about the files, I gave UF a set of microfilm of all copes of PM.
P: I was just thinking with you here and Davidson over in Daytona and Max Lerner
coming through occasionally, somebody ought to interview all of you and write a
history of PM.
W: Great idea. Hodding Carter, who was on our staff at PM, could write the history. He
is not editor of a newspaper in Greenville, Mississippi. I got him to come down and
give a lecture here a couple times.
P: Maybe someday we will get one of our graduate students to do it as a dissertation.
W: Somebody ought to do it who went through it.
P: Or at least while the people are still alive and can remember things. At least they
can be interviewed.
W: Sam, no staff ever worked so hard as that one did. Our first night we published, a
fire broke out in the place. I do not know what caused the fire, but we had television
cameras in there and cables, and in come the firemen. You know, that staff could
have cared less whether there was a fire or not, and the firemen wondered what
kind of people we were. Here was everybody battling away on typewriters and
getting out that first edition, and smoke was pouring out somewhere. The firemen
could not understand it. But that staff was the hardest-working, dedicated staff I
have ever known in my life.
P: Let us get to the University now. You saw Gainesville for the first time and the
University for the first time when you came down for this interview.
W: Spring, about April or March, 1949.
P: So you saw it at a good time of the year, I hope.
W: Yes, I did.
P: What did Dr. Miller tell you that he wanted you to do in terms of setting up a program
W: We had an interview in Dean [Ralph E.] Page's office in Tigert Hall.
P: Who attended?
W: Dr. Miller, of course. Then there was Dean Chandler. Do you remember him?
P: Harley Chandler.
W: Harley always had a down look, but when I came to know Harley I found he was a
real nice guy. And there was Ralgh Page.
P: His personal problems were bearing down on him.
W: I guess I did not know that. And Dick Johnson, the registrar, and I cannot remember
who else except the newspaper committee. None of the academicians seemed to
know what to ask, and if they asked any specific questions about a school of
journalism, I did not have any specific answers because I never went to one. I
learned mine the hard way. I did talk about the classes I held for the copy boys in
New York, and I thought it was important for those going into journalism to have
college training along with professional newspaper training. I assured them I did not
plan a trade school. Otherwise, conversation really did not amount to much. I can
remember Harley sitting over on the side, never saying a word. I thought, Well,
there is one vote against me. But after that they turned me over to Dean Page, and
they talked. Then Page talked to the newspaper committee made up of Bill Pepper,
editor of The Gainesville Sun; Herb Davidson, editor of the Daytona Beach papers;
and Henry Wrenn, editor of the Tallahassee Democrat. Then finally Page said to the
committee out on the steps of Anderson Hall, "Is this the man you want?" and I
remember yet they said, "This is the man we recommend to you." Page replied, "All
right. I will recommend him." And he did.
Shortly after I arrived and was on the job, Miller called me over to see him and said
one of the things that was bothering him was Red Newton and the Tampa Tribune.
Apparently this was bugging the administration, that Red Newton was continually
raising hell with the University. He wondered what I could do about that. A few
inquiries of this kind were made of me, and I had to have a conversation with
President Miller that I was not really going to be the public relations man for the
University. He agreed and said he was going to hire one. So he hired Ed Whittlesy.
P: Oh, yes, Ed Whittlesy. I have not thought of him in years.
W: [He came] about six months after I was here. About that time I asked the president
how much be wanted me to report to him, and he said: "Rae, I am giving you
enough rope to hang yourself. You go to it." I think, Sam, the reason the school
grew, as I look back on it and see how universities are run so much by committees
and some proposals being talked to death, is because those ideas that survived
committees on the campus have been awful good. I quickly found the way to do it
was to do what I thought best, and then if somebody did not like it I would hear
about it. Nobody gave me much guidance because I did not ask for it, and nobody
really threw any barriers in my way except lack of money, of course, and getting
[I want to amplify that a little. I did get some valuable guidance and advice in those
early months from Paul Jones. He had graduated in the [Elmer J.] Emig-[William L.]
Lowry regime in the late 1930s. He earned his master's at the University of
Wisconsin and taught in the School of Journalism at the University of Illinois before
and after World War II.]
P: Where were your facilities to begin with?
W: For the few months we were in Building E. We had one classroom and no library
books, but we did have a dictionary. [There were] no typewriters for students. That
was one of the things I remember the newspapers were screaming about, trying to
train newsmen with no typewriters.
P: All of this after they had had journalism here for almost thirty years.
W: That is right.
P: And Professor Emig was the sole staff until you arrived?
W: No. A year before I came Elmer Emig and William Lowry had been here for some
twenty years. Remember Bill Lowry?
P: I remember.
W: Paul Jones came down from Illinois in 1948. I came in 1949. That fall, after moving
into Building E, I began seeking larger facilities. My campaign for adequate quarters
for a school brought us a move to facilities where we had room--Building K. There,
also, we had only one classroom, but there were offices for the staff and secretary.
P: Now, let me see. Where is Building K?
W: Right across from the gym, to the south, right next to the physics building.
P: Oh, yes, I know.
W: Our quarters were all upstairs. The classroom was in the center of the building.
Emig had an office there. We partitioned the west end of the building for offices for
the secretary, Jones, Lowry, and me. That is all we had to start with. A year or two
later we got two downstairs rooms for Lowry's typography laboratory and a reporting
laboratory. [Bill Pepper gave me an old case of type from The Gainesville Sun for
the typography lab.
About that time, the army or air force was closing a base near Orlando. I rented a
station wagon, and Jones and I went down there and picked out twenty secondhand
typewriters. We paid an average of thirteen dollars each for the lot of those
Underwoods and Remingtons, so you know they were pretty battered up. It cost me
fifteen dollars each to have them overhauled here in Gainesville. From somewhere
we scraped up enough desks from army surplus for the typewriters. They were the
first that any University of Florida journalism students had in more than twenty
years. With the weight of these desks and typewriters and a class of twenty
students, we had to prop up the floor to prevent it from collapsing.]
P: Did you have a library to begin with?
W: No, we had no library. Lowry's office was just off from the secretary. When he
moved to the type lab, we made his office into a small library. The secretary
became the librarian also.
[Two things are interesting about the school's first library. I had to have shelving
and figured it would save money to have them built rather than buy office shelves.
The University carpentry shop gave me a price which I thought too high. I contacted
a Gainesville carpenter who offered the build them for half the University price.
When I put through the purchase order, it was rejected with the notation that such
work had to be done by campus carpenters. A poverty appeal to the campus shop
brought an agreement to build them at the reduced price.
The second item of interest came when our school publications and promotion
began to boast that we had a library. I was quickly informed by University library
officials that there was only one University library and that all other collections of
reference material for students had to be labeled as a branch library. In addition,
every time I purchased reference books from the school's funds, I had to purchase
duplicates for the main library.
Let me say a word about Building K. It was an old army barracks with no insulation.
It was almost suffocatingly hot in the summer.]
P: No air-conditioning.
W: No. I finally put a fan in the window, but it would be ninety degrees up there at 9:00
or 10:00 at night. I do not know how I ever lived up there. Jones and I used to go
back to work at nights, and it was horrible.
P: You already had a student base here, did you not?
W: Yes. We had twelve or fifteen students the first year.
P: And, of course, the veterans were moving onto the scene in 1947-1948.
W: I guess, but there were not very many of them in journalism.
P: And you were in the College of Arts and Sciences?
W: Yes, we were in arts and sciences. We stayed several years, but, as I said earlier,
soon after I came here I began reporting to the president on most matters.
P: So journalism's history on this campus began first in business administration, and
then moved to arts and sciences, and then became an independent college.
W: The j-school grew rapidly. Actually it became the fastest growing unit on the
campus. I began clamoring for ore space. First the University offered me a white
frame building at the west end of the engineering building.
P: Was that a photographic building?
W: I believe it became a photographic laboratory when I rejected it for journalism. It
would have relieved our crowed conditions, but I disliked splitting the school into two
building. So we stayed in Building K. That was about 1952.
Some time later I believe Miller suggested I talk to George Baughman, University
business manager. He knew of our need for additional space. Others also were
pressing him to expand. Together we surveyed possibilities. One suggestion was
that we move to the law school quarters when it moved to its new location, but that
By this time the school had expanded its program from journalism (printed media)
into advertising and radio/television. George and acting president John Allen (Dr.
Allen became acting president when Dr. Miller died) agreed with me that we should
push ahead for a television station, knowing it would require much more space.
George was an innovator and an aggressive executive who believed in cutting
through bureaucratic red tape and getting things done that needed doing. He
decided to develop underneath the football stadium for the j-school, radio station
WRUF, the University Press, athletic offices, and a football dormitory. The j-school
would have the bulk, with nearly 40,000 square feet of space. The fact that we had
jumped into the broadcast field is interesting, and the prospect of having a university
television station impressed the administration and helped me get much more space
than I had in Building K.
First, Sam, let me say I was not well versed in broadcasting, but I did know more
about it than I did about schools of journalism when I came here. I had been
engaged in news gathering and publishing for twenty-five years before I came to the
University. While my work was entirely on newspapers, I was well aware of the
impact radio had had in this country. Much of that impact involved news reporting.
Television's debut had been delayed by the war, but it burst on the scene rapidly
after 1945. I did not leave New York until the middle of 1948.
As our professional curriculum was well in place, it became apparent to me that all
aspects of news gathering and publishing included broadcasting as well as the
printed media. The person who was the catalyst for that development was Norm
Davis, a student from Jacksonville. When he came to the University he became
interested in radio and found part-time employment at the University's station
WRUF. He had been registered in University College and found he had to transfer
into the College of Arts and Sciences in order to specialize in radio an television.
Those courses were then offered in the speech department. Norm knew he should
have some news reporting training, and he came to see me. I immediately drew up
requirements for a radio newswriting class. With television on the horizon, Norm
transferred to journalism, and I started the wheels in motion to offer a complete
sequence in radio and television. Dr. Allen supported my proposal to the University
curriculum committee, and radio and television was transferred from the speech
department to journalism.
P: That is when it became the School of Journalism and Communications.
W: Correct. That was in 1953. Two faculty members came along from speech: Clark
Weaver in radio and Tom Batten in television.
Developing a major in advertising for both printed media and broadcasting also ran
into some difficulty. The College of Business Administration was then offering two
courses in advertising, so Dean Matherly and I reached a compromise that Bus. Ad.
would limit its courses to those who would purchase advertising, and I would design
courses for those going into advertising as a career.
P: How did you go about getting a television station?
W: First thing I needed was to educate myself in this new medium. Michigan State and
Syracuse universities were offering courses in television that summer of 1953. For
part of my vacation I registered for a two-week course at Syracuse where I earned
nine graduate credits in the project. They had no station, but we did some
programing on the city commercial station. Next I went to Michigan State for a
weeklong workshop. They had no station and did no live telecasting. My last out-of-
state visit was to Iowa State. There they had a commercial station--the first
university to have such an operation. It was quite a lucrative station at that time, but
within a year Des Moines began to get commercial stations which cut heavily into
the university station.
The Federal Communications Commission had reserved 254 channels for
educational television--today that is known as public broadcasting. I found getting
one of these licenses was a gigantic undertaking, far greater than I anticipated. The
amount of paperwork was unbelievable. Glen Marshall, manager of WJXT in
Jacksonville, and Joe Brechner, operator of stations in Orlando, gave me technical
help. Bill Kessler, a UF College of Engineering faculty member, was of tremendous
help. John allen provided me with a small allocation of funds with which to hire a
George Baughman had renovations underway beneath the stadium. I spent long
hours with the University architect on plans for our quarters. The other new tenants
for the stadium space contributed funds for the renovations. Journalism had no
such funds. After the walls an floors were in place for our space the project ran out
P: Was the allocation of funds too small?
W: No state allocation had ever been made for doing the journalism space. Baughman
scraped it up by bits and pieces from many sources. When money ran out, work on
our space ceased. Then we began making plans for next year's budget and went to
the legislature asking for sufficient funds to complete the project. I believe we
needed some $100,000. All of this had gone on from 1953 to the fall of 1955, when
we moved in. Even then there was no door in place--not even for the washrooms.
There was no air-conditioning or heat all of that fall either. No blinds on the
P: It sounds like they were barebones facilities.
W: You are so right. But all of us were so thrilled and happy to be out of the cramped
quarters of Building K that we did not complain.
We started closed-circuit telecasting in the fall of 1956, and a couple of years later
WUFT went on the air. I believe it was the first university ETV station on the air.]
P: You never had any responsibility for WRUF, did you?
W: No, but you better check this. I think the decision was made this week. Bob Mautz
and President Wayne Reitz have talked about it. I think the decision was made this
week to put the radio station in the College of Journalism. Dean John Paul Jones
can tell you.
P: By the time we transcribe all of this it will probably be publicly announced.
W: Probably, but I know it has not been announced. And I know it is going to happen.
P: When you were dean you had no responsibility for any of the announcers or any of
the news programs or anything that went on over the air?
W: No, none whatever. There is one exception. We had our own radio studio, tape
library, and full broadcast equipment. For several years we broadcast each evening
over WRUF-FM under the direction of Mickie Newbill (now Mickie Edwardson), who
was on my faculty.
P: Now, will the two stations share part of the journalism facility?
W: Physically there will be little change. The change will be administrative.
P: WRUF does share some space in the stadium building, does it not?
W: Yes, they do. We have been there since 1954 on the fourth floor. Their quarters
were completely done with their money.
P: It is just that they all have been under the same big roof, that kind of thing.
W: Yes, and now they will be more closely integrated.
P: Tell me about the growth of your journalism staff, Rae.
W: Well, there were four of us: Elmer Emig, Bill Lowry, Paul Jones, and me.
P: How did this break up? Who taught what?
W: Emig continued to teach public opinion and some other courses that were in old
curriculum the first year. Lowry taught typography and, I believe, public relations.
Jones taught reporting and magazine writing and I do not know what else. I taught a
course in applied journalism. I did not know what had been done with it previously,
but it was a senior course, so I took it. As I told you, I had worked on newspapers
large and small for twenty-five years before I came here. I started to teach that
class in September, and by November I had told them all I knew. I went to Jones
and said, "What do I do now?" He said: "You have to learn to string it out. Give
them smaller driblets each day."
P: You have learned.
W: I had an awful panicky feeling. I had never taught school, and I did not know much
about it, but we struggled along. I worked on a new curriculum all the time.
P: At that point is where you give book research to be done.
W: That is right. Paul was a great help to me. He had come from a seven years
teaching in a first-class school in Illinois, and together we worked out a program.
Most of this work was done at the office every night. By the following year we had a
whole new curriculum, including seminars for the seniors and labs for the writing
My second summer here, 1950, I went to Ohio State, planning to complete my
bachelor's degree. After twenty-five years of working on newspapers, I found little to
do back in a journalism classroom, and it seemed futile to shift to another discipline,
so I abandoned the project.
P: Were there any promises made by Miller or the University that were not kept? Was
there enough money to get this program going?
W: Sam, I did not know enough about what it would cost to ask. Miller and his advisor
gave me the impression they were ready to support the new school. I did not know
what equipment I was going to need, except I did tell them one of the first things we
needed was typewriters. I believe I mentioned the need for a library. I found that a
frustrating fight for years with the University library. In those days I came to the
conclusion that librarians like to brag more about the number of books in the library,
but they never brag about how many people can use them. They used the Library
of Congress system for buying books. It works against journalism, because all
broadcasting comes under engineering. Unless the title has newspaper in it or
probably editor, the Library of Congress does not classify it as a journalism book.
For instance, Mass Communications of Society is strictly a journalism book, but it
will probably be listed under sociology. The library budget for journalism was eighty
dollars a year, and they had spent only fifty of it the year before I came. Fantastic! I
struggled for years to get more money to buy books. Finally I got a library
established in the stadium. The University would not call it a library--they called it a
reading room. I understand Dean Jones finally implemented the last step of what I
wanted by opening up more space for the reference books--a reading room. This is
on the fourth floor, formerly a football dormitory. Before I left the college I was able
to get the football players thrown out of there. And, Sam, when you start throwing
athletes out, it is tough. [laughter]
P: Oh, yes.
W: In any university. Finally we got the dormitories eliminated and the space given to
us. Dean Jones has been developing it this year. So he was able to have another
room for the library. Strange thing, Sam. I never could convince the main library
that we needed books in our own quarters for students to use. We walk a long way
from the main library. I finally made a deal that I would always buy two books--one
for us and one for the main library. That cut in half the books for our "reading room."
P: What kind of a relationship did you have with Dr. Miller?
W: I had a fine relationship with him. Whenever I wanted to see him, he was always
available, and I felt very welcome. That is how I began to answer to him rather than
going through ...
W: Yes. Dean Page treated me royally. I never asked Ralph for anything that he could
give me that he did not give me. But if I had to go through the University channels,
that meant through committees. Rather than sending my request through an arts
and science committee, I could walk across campus to Miller and probably get what
I needed. Miller was very public relations minded, and be knew I came out of a
public relations field as well as news work. He was very interested in what I could
do public relations for the University. Early in my tenure here I started to reorganize
the high school press association. Eventually its headquarters were moved to the
school. Paul and I traveled over the state to visit all of the state newspapers. I then
arranged Paul's schedule to half time and eventually to full time to work in
reorganizing the weekly and daily press associations. He did this and became
executive director of the combined association with its headquarters in the school.
Miller responded to this kind of activity. He appreciated this kind of a thing. So my
relationship with Miller was excellent.
P: Did you have any personal relationship with him?
W: Only as I have described and receptions at his home. I have no complaint in my
relationship with him.
P: I want of got back and ask you a little bit about some of the personalities, Rae. You
indicated that you and Dean Page had always gotten along very well on a personal
relationship. I guess he was something of a controversial figure on the campus. But
you did not run into any kind of a difficulty?
W: No. Ralph and I had had the most pleasant relationship. I attended his department
head meetings until a couple of years before I left. I was always invited to them. A
lot of times I did not go, but I know I was welcome. The things they talked about
generally did pertain to my school. Many times he was reporting to them what came
from the council of deans, and I had already been to that. Sometimes he would ask
me if this had been the correct interpretation of what went on there. Ralph and I
have had real good relationships. We have been personal friends. But since we
have both retired to other jobs we see each other infrequently. Once or twice a year
we and our wives will go to dinner together.
P: About Stan Wimberly?
W: Stan was much--oh, what do you say--dogmatic or insistent on his way. I do not
know quite how to put it. Stan was a good friend of mine. I never had any difficulty with
him. We may have disagreed sometimes, but Stan and I were good friends. I went my
way and he went his. He made no effort to veto what I was doing. It was his leadership
which lead to the separation of the school from arts and sciences. We conferred often by
phone about students and requirements. If I wanted to take his advice I could, or if I did not
I did not have to.
P: The fact that he did not have veto power over your decisions, of course, helped to
keep the relationship smooth.
W: I am sure it did. I am sure it was an advisory capacity. If he thought of something
we ought to be doing, or if some student wanted to come from arts and sciences to
journalism, and this sort of thing, he could advise. Of course, we had to have a very
close relationship with arts and sciences because one of the things I insisted on
when I set up the program here was to require a great many courses in arts and
sciences. Ours was the only college on the campus, I think, that required a year of
American history, a year of political science, and a semester of many others. I
thought this was essential to a journalism student.
P: For any student, but particularly a journalism student.
W: That is right. Then we required economics; we recommended a couple of courses in
sociology and psychology. I was not very happy with the English that was taught. I
thought the freshmen English course left much to be desired--actually [I thought they
needed] more writing. As a result, I put in my own course for beginning writing.
What I wanted for our students was hard-headed instructors that made them write
and write and write and write and a thorough critique of their writing. It loaded down
the faculty with paper grading. Hugh Cunningham developed a writing course that
began to draw students from engineering and agriculture. Finally we had to restrict
it to journalism students because we did not have enough faculty to take care of
everybody who wanted it.
P: From the point of view of your own college, Rae, how do you size up the University
College [UC] as being helpful or a hindrance?
[W: I had never encountered anything like University College previously. I arrived at the
University on July 1. I spent most of July and August calling on department heads in
other colleges trying to get a grasp on areas which I thought would be valuable for
the journalism program. It took me much longer to get a grasp on what University
College was all about. I think the idea of such a program for giving students a broad
picture of information and learning is great, especially here in a large university in
which all of the professional disciplines are represented. It could help students
explore all areas of information and help them decide on a major and prepare them
better for the junior and senior years. If left to their own devices, some professional
colleges would never expose their students to the broad picture if they took in
students as freshmen.
But my concept of a college education is different. That concept, of the University
College, coupled with problems I saw some students were having. They were failing
some of the University College courses, but later doing well in subject matter
courses. I do not think University College ever did a good job selling the students on
the value of that kind of curriculum.
As I told you, my first revisions in the journalism program here was to require more
social sciences, economics, and other electives in place of all journalism in the junior
and senior years. Eventually we required a full minor in a field outside of the
j-school, and the journalism courses totaled about 25 percent of the total bachelor's
P: Yes. The majority of courses were outside of journalism.
W: I wanted a minimum of the how-to-do-it [courses] and [more] exposing students to
the world and nation, when we came from and how we got to our project state of
society. I wanted to give them cultural material to broaden their appreciation of life.
Today we are in a world of specialization, and UC, I think, could have given students
better preparation and help for later professional training.
My college education was something like that. Kearney College was primarily a
teachers college. I was required to take a year of chemistry, a subject I had no
intention of ever using, but its benefits have lived with me all these years. I believe
all students need better tools of communication no matter which description they
choose for a degree.
W: I think that a journalism student needs to know something about elements in his
reporting, and that is the reason I think he needs to know a little chemistry. I doubt if
he gets that out of the general education. Students need exposure to the
humanities. I think humanities might better be taught in the upper division rather
than to sophomores. I proposed that once to the deans, and they laughed. They
said it was a hair-brain idea. But it seems to me the students would get more out of
the subject after two or three years in a university. Maybe that is true for many
subjects--too many to postpone to the last two years.
P: You think the more emotionally mature student will appreciate it more?
W: Yes, I do. Maybe I am influenced by observations as I take students and adults to
Europe every other year. I see their appreciation and hunger for more art, and how
students come home steamed up and hungry to study more about it.
P: How would you size up George Baughman as a personality on this campus?
W: George is the kind of a man who could sell you one end of Brooklyn Bridge, and you
would buy it with a down payment. George was not only a great salesman but a
mover and doer. He was sharp, and, as I said earlier, he was an innovator and
implementer. The fact be went ahead and did what had to be done was not always
popular with some people. All that he did benefited the University. I believe
President Miller liked that kind of person. George might have done some things
differently [if he were more interested in] enhancing his own ...
W: Yes, reputation. Bureaucracy always liked to have subordinates follow set rules and
regulations. George knew how to get things done with less red tape. That annoyed
some higher-ups. States and national governments seem to go out of their way to
place restrictions on their constituents. The paperwork we go through to get
anything done is almost a crime.
P: George was a very excellent complement for Dr. Miller, you say.
W: Excellent. Yes. They fit very well together. George was an interesting guy. You do
not find people like him. He was ambitious. After leaving here became the
vice-president of a New York university, and then ...
P: He became president of New College.
W: New College in Sarasota [FL]. He sure did. George's mind never quit working. One
thing you could say for George: he stood out on this campus like a sore finger and
seemed at times to accomplish the impossible. But a university does not operate
like industry or business in that respect. We operate under many more restrictions
and political red tape.
In many ways George was like a friend of mine, Nelson Poynter, publisher of the St.
Pete Times. Nels can throw out ideas faster than any man I have ever known, and
he needs somebody around him who will knock down most and grab those that are
good and run with them. My brother was an associate editor for Nels down at the
St. Pete Times, and he was his managing editor on the Citizen in Columbus, Ohio,
for a number of years. I think he is one of our great publishers.
P: Rae, with people like Dr. John Allen around (I guess he was still here, or maybe it
was during the Reitz period), how did we ever let the Johns investigation take place?
How did the University ever let [Florida Governor] Charley Johns get away with
what he got away with, as you see it?
W: The University, at the administrative level, has to bow and scrap and beg and cajole
legislators for money. You do all kinds of things to get money for this University.
The University does not have the clout to defy the governor. Also, do not forget that
what Charley Johns was doing was not unpopular in the public's mind, very much
like Joe McCarthy in Washington in the post-war days. It was one of those things
you cannot defend. It was a nasty situation.
P: Oh, yes.
W: I doubt if Charley Johns really foresaw the viciousness and extent to which the
committee went. Its chairman who run that investigation probably was the one
responsible. I think it was a man named Strickland.
P: Yes, it was. He was the chief investigator.
W: He was smart enough to know that the accused could not deny, could not resist,
could not stand up and defend themselves.
P: It just seemed to me that this is one moment in the University's history where it really
needed somebody or a group of somebodies to explain the real role of the University
with regard to public opinion.
W: Yes, but Sam, the climate of the times was different then than now. Steve O'Connell
might have handled it differently with his legal background and experience. But
conditions were different when O'Connell was president more than a decade ago.
This has been a very distasteful thing in the public's mink anywhere.
W: And in America.
P: It was much more so in the 1950s than perhaps it would be in 1969.
W: i do not thing there is any question about that. I think we have now come to believe
that this is, to a degree, a mental, medical problem, but we did not do that some
fifteen years ago. Nor is it condoned today.
P: Of course, my real interest there was, once again, tying it up with public relations of
where the University might have acted differently to have saved its own face,
W: Actually, Sam, as you look back, that did not hurt the University.
P: No, I do not think so.
W: It is amazing. We thought it was wrecking us and hurting this University.
P: Of course, it really hurt Charley Johns and the people that he was associated with to
a much greater degree than it hurt the University.
W: That is right. It boomeranged. There is no question about it. By the same token, I
P: There were some personal tragedies that came out of this.
W: Oh, sure. There always is.
W: I think sometimes these really do bounce back. I think the Haydon Burns thing ... I
forget what the incident was that he criticized us for now, but it bounced back and hit
him in the back of the head.
P: Yes. He actually created in many ways Dr. Reitz as a great, forthright liberal and a
W: I forgot what it was, but anyway ...
P: He spoke at a barbecue in Hawthorne.
W: That is right.
P: At which he accused us of lodging some pinkos in the staff here.
W: And this bounced back and hit him in the back of the head.
P: How about Dr. Allen? We have talked about him a little bit. I would like you to size
him up for me, if you will.
W: John had been a personal friend of mine before he was president. I talked to him
many times in the interim, when he was acting president after Dr. Miller died. John
did not tell me this, but I think that John, in his sorrow and his shock of Dr. Miller's
death, said that night that he did not want to be president. I think John changed his
mind after filling in for several months and several of us had said to him that we
thought he ought to consider it. He did reconsider, but the wheels were then in
motion seeking a new president. Had he not spoken so hurriedly, he might have
been named president. But he had pleased the regents, and shortly thereafter they
named him the first president of the University of South Florida.
W: But again, as I said a while ago, I think Wayne Reitz came in at the right time and
was great for the University. And I think also it was better for John, in fact, to go to a
new school than stay here. But John was a man who never said anything unkind
about anybody. I do not know whether this was because he was a Quaker or what,
but John was never one to get high blood pressure and say unkind things about
people. He was a patient man, always willing to listen. Because he was only an
acting president, that undoubtedly caused him to proceed carefully and more like a
P: Which might not have been so true of Dr. Miller.
W: Dr. Miller spoke his mind. He was aggressive and very candid. John was in more of
an untenable position. He never was president, and he was reluctant to make major
decisions when he knew that he really was not top man. I think he very consciously
felt this, that he sort of kept the store.
He handled the day-to-day things. He did not attempt changes, so we went through
a period then of really not initiating anything. He followed a very strong man, as you
know Miller was. One thing John deserves much credit for is the support he gave
me in bringing television to the University. He is a kindly man, thoughtful of people.
He has a very fine cultural appreciation. He recognizes good music and art; these
are things one is conscious of in being around him.
P: I think you sensed a great degree of intellectual depth in Dr. Allen.
W: Yes. It is not to detract form Dr. Miller, but Ruth and I had a closer relationship with
John and Grace. I should also mention that it was at this time that the j-school took
over WRUF-FM in the evenings. Mickie Edwardson was in charge of programing
good music. John called me frequently, calling my attention to the mispronunciation
of a composer's name by one of the student announcers. If he did not reach me by
phone, I would get a note the next day.
P: He would listen to it?
W: He would been listening, which is such a little thing that Dr. Miller would never have
done. He would not have cared.
P: Maybe he was playing poker. [laughter]
W: It may point up another difference between Miller and Allen. J. Hillis probably would
notice the error, but John would take time to call it to someone's attention for the
benefit of the student's learning process.
P: The fact that he did not become president did not shatter him at all, did it?
W: No, it did not. John went about his business. He went to Tampa and initiated a
different kind of a program for a new state university. There were some people in
Tampa who were slow to warm up to what he was doing, but he developed a
university down there that is growing and on its way to becoming one of Florida's
P: How would you size up Dr. Reitz?
W: Wayne is another man who has a real love and affection for people, more so than
maybe the other two. Wayne is a rather strong family man, and you sensed this
maybe because he had children and John did not. Of the two of them, Wayne was
not so quick to make decision as Miller or O'Connell.
P: Certainly he was not as decisive in his earlier years.
W: No. I found him to be deliberate. He did not always give an immediate answer. My
relationship with Wayne was excellent--on University business and outside. Ruth
and I were included in a family birthday party at the president's home that had
nothing to do with the University. We knew the Reitz family rather well, including
their two daughters. Wayne was always accessible when I needed advice and help.
If he could give me a quick approval, he did. For a more complex or questionable
problem, he sometimes referred me to Vice-President Harry Philpott to see if it could
be worked out.
I was real fond of Wayne in many many ways. I think his regime did a great deal in
raising the academic standards of the University. He was an excellent choice to
follow Miller. Dr. Miller implemented a very much needed building program on the
campus, while Dr. Reitz concentrated more on the academic program. Because of
his agriculture background, there were some skeptical of Reitz's appointment in fear
he would favor that area over the arts, the humanities, and sciences. But he
certainly never did show such partiality. I know, as a matter of act, that one year he
did not put in the requested budget an agricultural request. Actually the agriculture
interest in the legislature did put it in the final budget. But Wayne did not favor
agriculture at the expense of the rest of the University. I was not aware of it if he
P: I think that you have already said that you felt he was the right man for the
University at that moment in its history.
W: I think he was. I think he did a great deal. He went out and brought in money that
we badly needed. Of course, Miller worked at fund raising, also, but Wayne did it
not only for buildings but for salaries.
P: When Dr. Reitz started out he may have been a bit indecisive, but as time moved
along he became much more decisive, and really when he left here he epitomized
the liberal education. What brought these changes about, do you think?
W: He was bound to have been somewhat cautious when suddenly thrust into the
presidency of a big university. The University had a strong president for about
seven years, then a caretaker regime for two years. Dr. Reitz needed to feel his
way, to get to know his administrative council, and generally become acquainted
with a complete university.
P: It took him about five or six years, I think, for this transition, truthfully.
W: Maybe not that long, but that is the nature of the man, Sam. We go through cycles, I
believe, in the presidency, marked by every two years when the legislature meets,
and these age, educate, and mature a president a great deal. They are the bench
marks, I suppose, to the making of a president.
P: They give you presidential fatigue.
W: They sure do. The going is rough sometimes. Now that the legislature will meet
annually, it may double that stress. I believe the regents office is going to be
stronger now and more active in university governance. Miller and Reitz, in the
beginning, had the responsibility for coordinating University efforts in lobbying the
legislature. That was a tremendous burden. Now the regents are going to assume
that responsibility. We will have to wait and see how that works out. It has its
[Back to the strengthening of the academic program, Harold Hanson and Bob Mautz
as deans of academic affairs gave Wayne better support than Miller had in Harley
P: In many ways Mautz overshadowed the president.
W: Yes, verbally at least.
P: And I am sure Reitz was aware of this.
W: Yes, I am sure he was.
P: He was a discerning man.
W: Yes, very much so. He had a strong man also, as you know, in the graduate school.
Dean L. E. Grinter is a strong administrator. Very efficient, very sure of himself.
[Trained as an engineer, he was a perfectionist, and he implemented higher
standards and staunchly defended them, not only requirements in the graduate
program, but he upgraded graduate assistant pay, which had a definite bearing on
the undergraduate programs.] All of these people around Wayne strengthened him
and obviously gave him confidence.
P: Do you, as a result of your close association with the past presidents and now
working very closely with one, think a president really is aware of what is going on
on campus as far as faculty is concerned and as far as students are concerned, or is
he like the public--he sees the protest movement out on the plaza and hears abut
W: Sam, I do not really know about Reitz and Miller. [It is extremely difficult for the
president to know as many things as he should, or that would be helpful to him. The
president has a very busy schedule that keeps him tied to the office desk. He is
much like the president of the nation--he is the center of all activity. He listens to the
deans, all budgets come through his hands, he is responsible for fund raising, he
tries to keep the legislators and alumni happy, he hopes there is no scandal in
athletics, as publisher he is responsible for what the student newspaper prints (but
he has no right of preview), and he presides at University Senate meetings, has
statewide speaking engagements, close contact with the university business office,
student affairs office, and too many other things to itemize.
President O'Connell strengthened his office staff. He was conscious of the need for
better communications, for getting information to the public and receiving
information from sources outside and inside the University. He served as president
in a period when universities experienced the worst student rebellion ever
experienced in America. He made it a point to know what was going on on the
campus. He tried to see all students who asked for an appointment. When time did
not permit, Mel Sharpe or I met with them and relayed the information to the
president. For months it was a volatile campus, and he spent an unreasonable
amount of time dealing with those problems. Often Steve and I would go to the
Rathskeller for lunch where he would sit and visit with students. It probably was one
of the most enjoyable parts of his day.
Yes, I would say President O'Connell was aware of what was going on on the
campus. And to his credit the University of Florida suffered far less than many
universities. Sororities and fraternities invite him to dinner frequently.]
P: He sort of lives his job, then, all the time.
W: All the time. Whenever he has a spare noon, he likes to have lunch with somebody.
it may be he will invite somebody in, and they will eat sandwich is in his office.
When he was talking to me about transferring to his office, the first two meetings we
had I ate a hamburger with him in his office. When he went out he liked to talk to
P: So then the only area that he is not yet free to fill up in terms of communication is
W: Yes, he does not have the opportunity to properly relate to the faculty as much as he
P: And he does not have any leads on people there to relate to faculty except Fred
W: Dr. Conner as vice-president was valuable. When Dr. Grinter moved in there, he
too was valuable but was no addition, since he came from the Graduate School.
No, I think it is difficult, Sam, for him to really mingle with faculty. If a faculty club
were on campus where faculty met for lunch, it might help to fill that void.
P: Or play poker.
W: I do not think Steve is a poker player.
P: I do not know, either. I was just using that sort of as a suggestion, a way that you
W: This is difficult for a man in his role.
P: Do you feel, the little you have worked with him, that he is going to be a success as
W: I think he is going to be one of our great presidents.
W: I think we have outgrown the luxury of an academician for a president of a big
university. I think at one time we thought we needed academicians. I do not
anymore. I think we need administrators. I think Steve O'Connell is going to be a
fine administrator. He has a keen mind, an extremely good mind to evaulate.
P: Both people and things?
W: Both people and things. I suppose mostly I have measured this in his evaluation of
things that many people bring to him. But it effects people. I think he has a faculty
for being able to evaluate and weigh the pros and cons. I think the training he has
had in law and as a judge and a [Florida] Supreme Court justice [was invaluable].
You almost see that he has this ... He asks such penetrating questions before or
after you present something. If you write a letter, he has just the right word or the
right phrase to put in the middle of it.
P: That just does it.
W: That just does it. [He has] the sharpness, the astuteness, the ability to have strong
convictions that he will [call upon] evaluate and then make a decision. He does not
P: D you think he has much of the same sort of immediacy that President Miller had?
W: Well, I see O'Connell in a different role from my point. I am with him more, and I see
him closer. I can see him making his decisions and how he gets lots of material to
base his decisions on. He does not make snap judgments. I do not know whether
Miller did or not, but if he did not, I do not know how he got the research done
quickly enough to get the depth of research on which he might make it. O'Connell
has a tremendous memory. Some topic will come up, and he can tell you particular
phrase or a particular statement we enunciated or that was printed somewhere last
September. If you go look it up, you may find it may have been October instead of
September, but there it was.
P: But he remembered it.
W: He remembered it. You have read some of his letters that he has written--masterful
jobs. This was not done just off the cuff. He works hard at it. When he wrote the
Slade letter he worked hard at it and long at it. I do not know the difference between
him and Miller. Miller did not have the help around him to do some of the research
needed. I do not think Miller issued quite as profound or legal statements as
P: Do you think that O'Connell will suffer in the intellectual community of the whole
country as a result of his lack of educational background?
W: Do you mean will he suffer in his acceptance?
P: Yes, and will the University be hurt as a result?
W: No, I do not think so. I would not have said what I did a while ago, that I think we
have passed that luxury. I think there was a time when you wanted an academician.
It was expected. I do not think that is so now. I think the University community is
coming to realize that a president is far more than a professor. But I think they
realize that a president does not do so many academic things anymore. He has
many other important duties and responsibilities. From the letters we get, the public
expects him to have answers to everything.
P: To everything.
W: [Such as] question about Madeline Murray to a piece of land that a fraternity wants
or does not want. Just a multitude of everything. You find students who protest
about in loco parents, and yet the minute that something goes wrong, they run to
the president. They should go to the dean of students or to the registrar.
P: But they go to the top.
W: To the top. And O'Connell is the kind of a person who would like to here every
student who has a problem. He has not the time, but if he were to meet some
students out here who said they had a problem, he would say, "Come see me," not
knowing whether he had time or not. Students often come in his office without an
appointment. They will catch him going in or out, and he will invite them in.
P: And somebody else is left waiting.
W: And somebody has to wait. He is very anxious to hear student's problems.
P: Is he sensitive to the things that students are protesting about today?
W: Yes, he is very sensitive to that, and to the public.
P: He is walking a tightrope.
W: Very much.
P: Because these things contradict each other.
W: He is very sensitive, Sam, and you know he is upset by them. He knows the
statement he made on Slade was right when he made it or he would not have made
it. But he knew it was not going to be accepted by a number people in the state. If
we were to lose him, I think it would be because people misunderstand the role of
the University and misunderstand why he did something. Complaints would came
from outside the University, not from inside.
P: I guess presidential fatigue is really not created by campuses. It was created by
situations off campuses.
W: Yes. Although the McGill thing was created on the campus, the big impact came
from off the campus.
P: I guess the campus was ready to accept it without very much argument.
W: No question about it. In seventeen months here we have had only one incident that
came near having violence in it, and that was the Dow chemical thing.
W: And that was pretty quickly handled. He has a fine record on this campus in
seventeen months for many thing that threatened to ...
P: Cause trouble, real trouble.
W: He handled them very well.
P: What do you see as the future of the University, Rae?
W: I think this University can be a great University.
P: Of course, that is a word that is misused a good bit.
W: It takes more money. We must attract high-caliber students and faculty. They are
what make it a great University. It is not going to be buildings alone, although they
P: But with our financial philosophy ...
W: It is not very close.
P: The money is not going to be forthcoming.
W: If the legislature is not sold on this becoming a great university, then we are not
going to arrive at that stage. [One can always look back and speculate about what
should have been done. The legislature cannot bring all of this to pass alone. The
University of Florida was slower than many large universities in going out and
getting private money for its support. If this university had followed examples of
other states where the principal university established branches in other areas, we
would be much better off. We might have established branches in Orlando and
P: And other places.
W: Florida State University might have established a branch in Pensacola. Then if the
state had only one university in the southeast part of the state--probably at Boca
Raton--the state would have had four state universities. It would have been
economically more sound than dividing available tax moneys among nine
P: The public probably is not willing yet to support what it will take to make this a great
W: But I do believe, Sam, we are in the best position of all nine to become a great
university. We are one of only four in the U.S. with all disciplines offered on one
P: So when we look to the future, you think that we have the potential to become a
great university from practical, pargmatic point of View. That is not an immediate
possibility, is it?
W: I do not thknk so, no.
P: Do you think we will just sort of rock along for the next ten years as we have rocked
along for the last ten?
W: Not entirely. I believe we are gaining in stature every year. Every year we sent the
legislature a budget to meet our needs. It is not that the legislature disputes those
needs, but there is always pressure against more taxes, so we move slowly. I think
we need a whole new tax structure.
P: And philosophy.
W: That is right. I believe we need a state income tax. I think it is inevitable. We are
reaching a point where we must quit taxing just real estate. And you sure cannot go
on and increase sales taxes every year. This is bad.
P: Yes. They are too regressive.
W: Of course they are. I think we have to come to an income tax.
P: We are continuing, it seems to me, here at the University the role for which this
University was created, that is, to service the state. I do not think that there is any
question but that the University will continue to render that kind of really excellent
service for Florida and the nation.
W: Oh, I think that is true. We do now.
P: Yes, we do now.
W: I suppose agriculture and engineering are the two top exponents of this.
P: And medicine.
W: And medicine now, yes. Medicine can so easily get big federal money. That is
going to be a tremendous complex. You know something funny--when that was
proposed, President Miller came to the academic council to tell us about it, and one
of the first questions asked was, What does this do to the University?
W: Yes, budget. And he assured us that this would have no bearing on the University's
overall budget. But it has.
P: Oh, yes, it had to have.
W: It was inevitable.
P: Everybody was aware of that right from the beginning.
You are not looking to the future, Rae, with too much pessimism, are you?
W: I am an optimistic person. I do not know that we have to be a great university. I
think we are going to serve a great role to this state. I think we have in the past. I
think this University will continue to play a very important role in this state, more so
than any other institution for way beyond my career here.
P: That is right, for our generation. Is President O'Connell optimistic?
W: Very much so. I do not think he would be here if he were not. I do not think a man
could stay in that job and think otherwise.
P: He talks about a great university, but he does not fool himself into believing that the
money is going to be available for this, does he?
W: Sam, I do not know. I think he works optimistically, believing we will get money from
new sources. He is practical, too, but I believe that with his energy and dynamic
drive and foresight be will work hard for higher goals for this University.
P: We are re-recording again on oral history interview with Dean Rae Weimer. This in
Friday morning, February 27, 1970. The site of this interview is on the fourth floor of
the graduate research library in the oral history taping office. Rae, I would like to
continue this interview where we left off last time--filling up the gap. I had asked you
how would you describe Dr. Miller as a person. I wonder if you would respond to
W: Are you thinking here not of his ability as being president but just as ...
P: Just as a individual, as a human being.
W: [J. Hillis Miller was an understanding person, a humanitarian, a personable and
warm individual. He was a hospitable host in his home, and in any kind of group he
was an interesting conversationalist, a fascinating man to listen to. One did not
have to spend much time with him without appreciating his intelect, his dedication in
his work, and his confidence of accomplishment.
As I told you before, I carried most of my problems to him. I had attended a small
Midwestern college some twenty-five years before coming here. I certainly was not
oriented to a large university. Dr. Miller seemed anxious to understand my problems
and made every effort to help me. He took time to identify areas of the University
that might be helpful to our young j-school. He sent me to confer with many persons
in different fields of the University.
Dr. Miller was public relations minded. In one of our earliest visits, he said the
University had a public relations problem in that some of the state newspapers were
critical of the University and did not seem to want to understand what a university
was and why certain things were done here. It may be these circumstances that
had something to so with his decision to upgrade journalism education as requested
by the Florida Daily Newspaper Association. In my more than twenty years here,
Sam, I have come to believe that often reporters do not understand universities and,
by the same token, universities sometimes have difficulty understanding
The newspapers, by and large, welcomed his establishment of a new school of
journalism, and it was their committee who recommended he hire me. I came here
after eight years as managing editor of the most liberal and outspoken daily
newspaper in America. One paper made a mild criticism about hiring such a liberal
editor to head up the new school. Likewise, some faculty members in the higher
echelon showed a "wait-and-see" attitude about hiring a former liberal New York
editor without a degree for the position here. Dr. Miller obviously was aware of this,
but he never mentioned it to me. I think the political attitude in the South has
changed in the last twenty years.]
P: It was much less sophisticated in the 1940s than it is in the 1970s.
W: That is right. So when he really decided to bring me here after our interview, he was
going out somewhere on a limb. Well, I think this reflects the kind of a man he was.
He made the decision. He had heard all his advisors and decided he was going to
take a gamble on this. As a matter of fact, a couple of the papers when I retired
wrote editorials reviewing this: as the looked back on it they, of course, were
complimenting him for sticking his neck out. In the estimation, at that time, he
proved to be right. Well, only history can tell whether they were right or not. But
they were complimenting him, although he was dead.
I know Miller was a great fisherman, although I never went fishing with him. I know
he needed that kind of relaxation from the pressure in the office. He fished with
Dean Page, Registrar Dick Johnsom, Assitant Dean Stan Wimberly, and I think
E. O. Pierce went on some of these trips. But I never went on any of them. My
contacts with him were in his home or in his office.
P: Business, pretty much.
W: Business, by and large. Most of the times I went to his home were more University
entertainment. Ruth and I had more of a personal social relationship with Allen and
P: You were talking about newspapers that were critical of Dr. Miller and critical of the
University of Florida in the early years, the late 1940s. Would you name those?
W: Well, one he mentioned most was the Tampa Tribune. Some of this, of course, was
the Tribune's most vigorous, crusading managing editor, Red Newton.
P: Red Newton is still in charge there.
W: That is right. I must say Red Newton was a great supporter of the j-school. I think a
state needs newspapers to be continually looking into what its institutions are doing.
It is doubtful if all segments of universities will ever understand or approve of it, but
this is the kind of society we live in. As I look back at some of the criticisms that
were made at that time, I am not sure they were all justified. While the press is not
immune to mistakes, newspaper, radio, television, and other publications are
essential to our way of life. It was in the [Florida] Times-Union that comment was
made about my being hired.
P: I was wondering to what degree Sumter Lowery was a thorn in Dr. Miller's side.
Perhaps this came out in conversations with you.
W: No, I am not familiar with that.
P: Some of his opinions were reported in the Tampa Tribune.
W: No, I do not recall any conversations on that subject.
P: He was critical of the flying of the United Nations flag and the celebrating of U.N.
Day here on the campus and that kind of thing.
W: It did not involve me, I guess. I do not remember ever meeting Lowery.
P: Dr. Miller was sometimes criticized for being all of the / kind of a person, for taking
total responsibility for the progress and growth and advancement of the University,
of being too much of an egotist. Would you agree with that?
W: No, I was not the one who so labeled him. I think Miller came here at a time when
the University badly needed some of the things he accomplished. I have been told
that no buildings were erected during the tenure of President Tigert. I understand
the University's growth demanded expansion of physical plant. I believe Miller's
place in the history of this University was the expansive building program. Records
will show, I think, that he did not overlook the academic program of the University.
He brought many people of considerable stature during his regime here. I am not
putting myself in that category.
P: Some who did not emerge.
W: But I really believe his place in history is in providing the physical plant for the
University's continued growth.
P: Rae, talking about physical plant, tell us how you came to move your operations into
W: When I came here they gave me a little office over in Building E, a temporary
building. I am thankful assignment was temporary. The School of Journalism was
then a department; when I came it became a school. The former chairman of the
department had an office, and the other two faculty members had a little office. So
they gave me what must have been the broom closet or cloak room. I do not know
what it was. It was so narrow that. ..
P: You had to walk in sideways?
W: I could hardly get around my desk to sit behind it. I was there in the summer of
1949. Apparently they were waiting to see if I would approve of moving to Building
K. I knew nothing about any buildings, so when they offered it to me we moved to
Building K. It was another temporary post-war building.
P: Now, where was Building K?
W: Across the street, south the gymnasium. I arranged a reporting lab downstairs. We
had one classroom and the washrooms upstairs. To reach the washrooms from our
offices we went downstairs then outside to the other end of the building and upstairs
again. A year later I was given another room downstairs for Professor Lowry to
develop a typography lab. Until I came, the Department of Journalism had no
typewriters or lab of any kind. It had no library except for one big dictionary. And
Lowry had half a dozen pieces of type in which he taught a course in typography.
The professor had to hold up this type and say, "This is type," and the students said,
"Well, that is type," and that was that. I bought some second-hand discarded type
cases for the new lab, and I think Lowry built the stands for the cases. Each student
could then stand at a type case and work with a stick and set a little hand-set type.
You would think we were going backwards using hand-set type, but I felt it was
important for students to get a feel of type. I grew up this way in newspapering, and
I thought it helped me to know why you could not get an extra letter in the line--
because the type is metal and the line is locked in two inches wide, and it would not
take anymore. The coming of computers will change that.
We continued in Building K until the fall of 1955. Long about 1953 we had begun to
grow, making it necessary to reinforce the floor to keep it from falling through. About
that time a printer downstate told me about a press on which the state's first paper
was printed; it was in St. Petersburg. It was an old G. Washington hand press. It
came down the Mississippi River From Cincinnati and across the gulf to St.
Petersburg. The printer who called wanted to know if I knew of a museum that
would like to have one of the first presses in the state of Florida. I said, "Yes. We
are that kind of museum." [laughter] I got a University truck to go to Clearwater and
get it. The press weighed 2,500, so the floor of Building K had to be shored up to
In searching for more space, the University offered me another temporary building at
the west end of the engineering building. It was vacant at the time. I believe it was
Building L. To use it, we would have had to split the school between Buildings K
and L. I turned down the offer in hope we would find space for all our activities
under our roof. About this time, Dr. Miller died.
P: He died in November on 1953.
W: Well, it was in 1953 that I decided we ought to be getting into television along with
radio. The speech department was not doing much with radio and television,
although they had Tom Battin assigned to television and [Jennings] Clark Weaver
assigned to radio. Acting President John Allen became very much interested in
thes. Norm Davis, who you know (he has now moved to Washington), was the first
student to switch to journalism from speech because he wanted some news training
connected with radio. I put in some coursed in radio news for Norm Davis. Dr. Allen
and I spent hours and hours planning for what should be done in television. He
made the decision to move radio and television from the speech department into
journalism. Then he gave me the responsibility to see what the University ought to
be doing in television.
P: This is when it became the School of Journalism and Communications.
W: That is right. I think the Board of Regents must have taken this action about 1953.
P: I remember.
W: The Univerdity had radio station WRUF. My concern in radio at the time was largely
in connection with news. In thinking of moving, I had to add television, which would
require considerable space. That need, I think, helped us get nore space for the
school. George Baughman was business manager. I know George was criticized
on the campus for doing things without authority, but they were things that needed
P: He was the short cut man.
W: That is right. This caused problems. We suffered from it later. I believe the
legislature cut off some powers under which George operated. In my opinion,
George Baughman did a great deal for this university because he did not wait to
wade through red tape.
George and I got together and cheched the vast empty space under the stadium.
Football Coach Bob Woodruff had built offices for his coaches in the south end of
the stadium. His move probably was prompted by reluctance of the physical
education department to share space with him in the gymnasium.
P: Away from Dutch.
W: Yes, away from Dutch Stanley. Under the west stands of the stadium George and I
found broken-down hurdles and lime sacks and lawn mowers and broken-down
equipment--all this under five or six stories high of space. George decided it could
be converted for many uses. George had University architects give me blueprints of
the space to be allocated for the school. I had never built anything, Sam, not even a
dog house, in my life. With much help from the architect and my faculty, I laid out
how I would use it. The architect did the rest in drafting the work drawings. I cannot
think of the man's name. He was a tall, sandy-haired chap.
W: Yes, Jeff Hamilton. Baughman gave the go-ahead. I had no idea when the money
would come from. George always could find a way. After the floors were in and the
were walls up, George ran out of money. This had not been appropriated funds. He
found the money somewhere.
So he had to let all his crew go, and I guess it stood there for five or six months. I
do not know how long it was, but for quite a while there was not a wheel moving.
When the legislature met, we went and requested that they appropriate about
$100,000 to finish the stadium project. The request was approved. With television
we had to have a transmitter, a tower, and all kinds of equipment. I surveyed all
around the campus and chose back of the stadium.
One of the strange things, Sam, I discovered was that Federal Aviation
[Administration] laws said that area was reserved for emergency landings at
Gainesville's airport. At that time the University owned the Millhopper area. Sixteen
acres of that tract was allocated for the television tower and transmitter. The
University acquried that land, I think, when private development of an outdoor
museum attraction there failed. We fenced it off, and we took borings in the winter
in preparation to erect the tower--we had to be sure of solid land for the anchors. In
the summer when we poured concrete for the anchors we were in water. Now there
is enough concrete down there to go to China because we poured in yards and
yards of cement, and it floated out. Finally, University workmen built cofferdams for
each anchor and filled them with concrete.
P: With a lot of cement and a lot of cussing. [laughter]
W: Sam, I bet I wore that road, now NW43rd Street, driving out their from the campus at
least twice a day, all during that summer. And I did not know anything about
television. My background had been in newspapers. Television was relatively new.
Although I had no degree I went to the University of Syracuse and enrolled in the
graduate program. I earned six hours of graduate credit there working in television.
[laughter] I was up there three weeks. Then I went to Iowa State where the first
university television station in the country was operating, WOI. It was a commercial
station. I stayed out there about a week and then went to Michigan State. Neither
Syracuse nor Michigan State had a station, but I did leave a great deal. Glen
Marshall was a great friend of mine at WNBR then, now WJXT [in Jacksonville]. He
retired this fall. He came down, and he sent his engineers down to help me design
[Let me tell you] a sidelight to that studio. Every twenty-six feet in one direction and
every thirteen feet in another direction in the stadium are pillars which hold up the
seats. We had to plan around them for all classrooms, laboratories, offices,
everything in this framework. Right in the middle of the big TV studio on the ground
floor is a pillar. For years when commercial television people visited our station they
wanted to know who the "knucklehead was that planned a studio and put a pillar in
th middle of it." [laughter]
P: They did not know that the sutdio had to be built around the pillar.
W: And it had a sewer pipe from some of the "johns" upstairs that came right down by it.
We had to pad and soundproof it so that the noise of flushing a john upstairs was
not picked up by TV micophones. [laughter] We moved school there in 1955.
P: So that is how you got moved in the stadium?
W: That is how we went to the stadium. It is long story.
P: You were still in the stadium, probably ...
W: They are still over there. We moved in that fall. Doors had not yet arrived for any
room or even for the washrooms. There were no blinds on the windows and no air-
conditioning. The west sun beat in there, [and it got] mighty hot. Plants and
grounds crews put up some plywood doors on the washrooms. Then we got some
blinds on the windows, and we had electric fans in the office for a few weeks. The
faculty then numbered six, and we had two secretaries. We were fast going into
television, but we had no money.
P: That is the story of the University of Florida.