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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida
University of Florida
Oral History Project
Interviewee: D. R. "Billy" Matthews
Interviewer: Kevin Mulholland
March 30, 1988
K: My name is Kevin Mulholland and I am about to interview Mr. "Billy" Matthews,
one-time director of the Florida Union from 1936 to 1942 and again from 1946 to 1948.
This interview is being conducted at Mr. Matthews' home in Gainesville, Florida. It is
4:00 PM on the afternoon of March 30, 1988. The subject of this interview is Mr.
Matthews' role in the beginning of co-education at the University Florida, insofar as he
was the director of the Florida Union. I would like to get your full name, please, for the
M: My full name is Donald Ray Matthews, but my friends through the years have called
me "Billy" Matthews.
K: Could you tell us a little bit about where you were born, when you were born,
M: I was born fifteen miles from here to the south in the community of Micanopy, and I
was reared in a community about fifteen miles to the east of Gainesville at Hawthorne.
I attended the public schools in Hawthorne, and then from Hawthorne, I moved to
Gainesville. My home has been within twenty miles of where we are sitting now for all
of my life.
K: When were you born?
M: I was born in October 3, 1907.
K: You, I assume, went to the University of Florida after finishing public school in
M: I graduated from the University of Florida with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1929. I
later received a Master of Arts degree in education, and I received a Doctoral of Public
Service degree, which is an honorary degree, in 1981.
K: Could you tell us something about your majors as an undergraduate?
M: As an undergraduate, I had planned to be a Presbyterian minister, so I took the
liberal arts courses. I took Greek, and I was particularly fond of history in my
undergraduate period. But I took many general liberal arts course--history, English,
mathematics, science--and I received what I thought was a pretty good education at
the University of Florida.
K: I am sure. Your master's was in education, but what career did you have in mind
when you took your master's?
M: In some aspect of education, but I took my degree in history. For my master's
degree, I studied the Age of Jackson. The depression caused me to change my plans
about being a minister, so from the time when I graduated from the University of Florida
in 1929, 1 became interested in education; I considered that my profession. I became a
high school teacher and later a high school principal, and then I came to the University
of Florida as an administrator.
K: Could we go back to your professional jobs a little bit? When did you get your first
full-time professional job after graduation?
M: I was given a job teaching school in Leesburg, Florida. I was very fortunate then
because that was during the height of the depression. I taught eleventh and twelfth
grade history, and I taught a Spanish course in Leesburg, Florida.
K: Where did you go from there?
M: From there I went to Orlando, Florida to the Orlando Senior High School where I
stayed for a period of about five years. I was chairman of the English department there
and taught senior English. I taught some classes, I think that they were junior English,
but later I taught entirely the senior classes.
K: Was that the job you had before you came to the University of Florida?
M: That was my last professional job. I ran for the state legislature in 1935 while I was
teaching school in Orlando, Florida. The people from my hometown of Hawthorne and
here in Gainesville wanted me to go to try and help with the problems we were having
in education; we were being paid in script. So I resigned from my job in Orlando
temporarily; I hoped they would take me back after the legislature. I was elected to the
legislature from Alachua county; it was still my home county. But I found out I was fired
from my job in Orlando because they had a rule that only native sons and daughters
could teach during the depression. I was fortunate when the legislature ended, and I
was able to get a job as principal of the Newberry school.
K: And that brought you back into the Gainesville area?
M: That brought me back into education.
K: How long were you in Newberry?
M: Just one year. I was there for the year after I served in the legislature, and then
President Tigert of the University of Florida [1928-1947] called me at Newberry and
asked me to come over to see him. He wanted to offer me a job. He offered me a job
of being the director of the student union; they later called it the Florida Union.
K: I would like to find out something about what the Florida Union was like in the 1930s
and 1940s before the women came, and, also, what your professional duties were.
What was the function of the Union when you arrived there?
M: I would say, to serve the students as a place that would be like home away from
home; a place where they could come for a game of billiards, a game of ping-pong, or
a friendly debate. The student clubs met in the Union. We had, on a minor scale,
many of the same kinds of programs that they have now in the magnificent Reitz
Our first union was called the Florida Union. We developed student activity and, you
might say, extra-curricular leadership which I think played a very important part of the
history of Florida in those days. The student activities on campus--since we did not
have the wonderful, pleasant distraction of the women--made it a more profitable
environment for political activity. From the University of Florida in the days between
about 1925 and 1940, there came more governors and more members of the
legislature, more justices of the Supreme Court, I think, proportionally, than any other
college in the United States.
K: You were talking about the political activities, what were the political activities that
the Union has hosted?
M: Well, it was not particularly a precise kind of contribution, but it was the Union and
the student government in particular, that seemed to whet the appetite for public
service. The practice debates, and different kinds of things that were part of the
classroom activities, later spilled over in student government. The Florida Union was
basically a part of student government then. We depended almost entirely on our
student fees. Now it has broadened out to be more of a campus and state service
building program. I started there as director of the Union in 1936, and before that time
the University of Florida activities for students centered largely around student
government and programs that were later in the Florida Union.
K: I know in England it was the heyday of big debates, like the Oxford Union and King
vs Country debate, did you have those?
M: Yes, we developed the whole idea from England. I wrote my master's thesis, by
the way, on the history of the Union movement in the United States. It started at
Oxford with a debate, a place to eat while you waited, and a place to smoke. One
might say it provided a better education of the gentleman. But we got the basic idea
from the Oxford Union.
K: Although the American Unions, ultimately, were a lot broader, even in the 1930s, I
M: In our country, you might be interested to note, the first tremendously large and
effective Unions seemed to be in the Midwest in schools like Ohio, Wisconsin, and
Minnesota. Cornell had a wonderful Union for years. In the midwestern areas, they
had the huge buildings and the big programs before they did in other parts of the
country. We were almost the first in the Deep South to have a characteristic student
union building and activity.
K: What were your professional duties overseeing all this, and what were you
M: I was the personnel director; I had charge of the program. The staff, when I was
there at the Florida Union first in 1936, was small with seventeen or eighteen people. I
had to appoint them. It was not the professional type of position that we have now. It
leaned more toward the idea of informal counseling and some business services. Dr.
Harold Riker was my assistant director. He was the business manager, you might say,
of the Florida Union. We had a lunch room connected with it and a soda fountain.
Harry Truman was one of our visitors in the soda fountain in the late 1930s. He had a
luncheon in a very modest little spot down on the ground floor. Do you remember
where the old Florida Union was?
K: Could you tell us for the tape?
M: Well, it was a handsome building but not nearly as large as the present Union. We
had several floors. On the ground floor, we had the game rooms; we had rooms for the
Alligator, the student newspaper; we had rooms for the YMCA on another floor; we had
rooms for religious activities and seminars; we had a beautiful room for the student
Honor Court and other student offices; and we had lounges for the men and women.
The beautiful Bryan Memorial Lounge, was dedicated to the Great Commer, William
Jennings Bryan because he went over the state to get money for this union building,
and gave personally a thousand dollars. We had inscribed in the walls of the old
William Jennings Bryan Memorial Lounge one of his famous quotations: "I fear the
plutocracy of wealth, I revere the aristocracy of learning, but I thank God for the
democracy of the human heart."
K: That is marvelous. So you would say that the Union was, at that time, the center of
all campus life?
M: Yes, very much so. I think, probably like the present Union is now, but even maybe
a little more so because we were actually the central part of campus. And the campus
was not near as big as it is now.
K: The campus was not as near to town either.
M: That is true.
K: Obviiously, another major event indisposed itself between you and co-education.
What effect did the years of World War II have on the Union?
M: A tremendous change. The program in the Union before the War and the program
immediately after the War was so different. For example, the students after the War
were almost one hundred percent in dead earnest to get an education. Before the
War, we did not feel its approach like perhaps we should have. We were not to
conscious of a war so the campus was a more lighthearted area and institution than it
was after the War. So, students were more serious.
There were the women and the children and the problem of daycare for children.
We needed some kind of insurance so that the wives could have their babies and to
keep their babies on campus. The beautiful Bryan Memorial Lounge reverberated with
the cries of babies after the War. I was sort of a strict librarian type of caretaker in the
old days. I would go right over there and tell the boys, "Now do not sit on that piece of
furniture. John, now you watch that oriental rug." Then we saw that beautiful lounge
made even more beautiful, in a way, by those little babies.
There was a great difference. The programs were also different in that we had an
annex of the Union out in an abandoned air base near where the Gainesville Air
Terminal is now. We would go out there and organize bridge clubs for the ladies. We
had a separate soda fountain out there to serve students.
K: Was that because there was a lot of temporary housing?
M: A lot of temporary housing. And the program was really not so meaningful right
after the War because we were getting ready for the ladies, and things were changing.
K: I suppose after the War, campus concerns were not the center of the student lives
M: Not nearly as much as they were before the war. The goal was getting an
education and making up for time lost in the War.
K: The student body must have been very different then.
M: The student body was very different. I must say that I served as the director of the
Union only a couple of years more when I came back from the War. And Mr. William
Rion succeeded me as director of the Union [1945-1948]. He would be an excellent
man to talk with because I became interested in more of the alumni work. I wanted to
stay on at the Union; I could have done both jobs. President Miller [J. Hills Miller,
president University of Florida, 1948-1954] said I could work it out so I could still be the
director of the Union and the director of alumni affairs, but I felt that it would not be fair
to either activity. So only for two years after the War did I stay there, and then I
became director of alumni affairs, and from that job I resigned to run for Congress.
K: You say, then, between 1945 and 1948, when the ladies arrived, there was already
an increased feminine constituence in Gainesville.
M: I was in the War for four years. Mr. Rion actually ran the Union. Dr. Lester Hale
[Associate Professor of Speach, 1935-1945], I think, was the director, but Mr. William
E. Rion, as his assistant, spent all his time there. Dr. Hale was a speech professor and
had other activities. Mr. Rion made an excellent acting director during those years. He
knows more about the Union than anybody else that you could talk with on campus. I
left in 1942, and came back in 1946. I was director from 1936 to about 1941, and then
from 1946 to about 1948. But the War years were very interesting.
K: You must have witnessed a big change after being away and coming back.
M: Oh yes. For example, the student body had just about doubled. And from that time
on, the increase was very dramatic, but particularly the unbelievable presence of
women--beautiful women, and sweet little babies. I remember that was different from
1924 when we had a male campus.
K: There were a few women around.
M: Yes there were. They could take such things as pharmacy--courses that they could
not get at the Florida State College for Women. Over the years we probably had one
or two would-be lawyers that came in, and some special subjects had some, but their
visibility was not very prevalent.
K: The ladies that were here, I imagine, were mainly the wives of returning GIs?
M: Yes, I think the tremendous migration of the co-eds did not come until three or four
years after the War.
K: I think, about 1948.
M: Well, that probably would be about the time. About 1948 they really began coming
in large numbers. I have some pictures of the group when the ladies came in. I will tell
you, it improved the looks of the campus. (laugh)
K: I know that Marshall Criser said that everybody started taking showers when they
M: That is an interesting point for you to bring up because when I started as a student
in 1924, we were poor. Most of us on campus did not have many clothes. We were so
happy to take ROTC because you had a good, warm uniform to wear. And I remember
how I used to envy the boys in the College of Law. It seemed like they always had a
clean shirt on and a coat. And from 1924 to 1928, as I recall, they were sort of dressed
up. But the remainder of us, if we could have that uniform and one change of clothes
for every day, were in pretty good shape.
K: You were doing well. We should start talking about co-education and the influence
it had on campus and on your job. As director of the Union, what were your main
concerns as women began to come to the campus as students?
M: My job was to be sure that we took care of their needs. At first, the campus
seemed to think more in terms of giving them the housing. That was the time when
they began to expand the sorority and fraternity housing programs. And when they
came over to us, we would sponsor any kind of programs that they themselves would
generate. But basically, I did not have too much time to plan very much. They became
part of the glee club and student activities. And naturally, they used the building as
other people did. For the mothers, as I say, we tried to find babysitters and tried to
help them get insurance. We tried to help promote programs for the families, like going
out to Lake Wauberg, and having fish fries, and things like that. But, sadly, I do not
remember too many specific things we did over the two-year period when I came back
and they were present. Except again let me emphasize, it was great to see them.
K: Do you remember anything that they initiated?
M: While I was there, no, but I am sure that they began to promote their own
programs. This was before the great drive to combine everything. Now they have
women in Blue Key. At that time they began to develop their own separate leadership
programs, and we did not have the combined effort that we have now. Getting together
and coming together was a part of this process that had not really taken hold from 1946
to 1948. It was still each a part of the student body, but like a mosaic pattern, in their
separate ways they were building their parts of a beautiful rug.
K: Apart from yourjob as Union director, I would like to talk about some of the general
campus influences that women had. What do you remember as being problems
campus-wide for facilities for women?
M: That was a problem. When I went there as a student the University stood in Loci
Parentie. Like your mother and your father, the University checked on you behavior.
When I enhered on 1924, we had one policeman, whom we affectionally called
"Hawkshaw" and about eighteen hundred male students. "Hawkshaw's" main job was
to keep the women off of campus after dark.
It would drive me crazy to work out the appropriate relationship between men and
women on campus. It would just frighten me to death to try to work out dormitory
visitation because in my days, there were no women on campus to visit in the
dormitories. Now when we went to Tallahassee to see the girls at Florida State
College for Women, we could go visit them in the dormitories, but it was in a big open
room in the main lounge with a light on at all times. I would absolutely be frantic; I
would not accept a job at the University of Florida now if it had anything to do with that
kind of service, with working out relationships like that.
Our dress was very modest before the women came. After they came I noticed
much better dress. I am quite sure that there were much better manners. The men
were on their p's and q's. The changes were gradual, but after I came back here, after
being away for sixteen years, the University of Florida was as different as night is from
K: Do you remember any male rituals that died due to the women being on campus?
M: Oh, yes, the flag rush.
K: Can you explain that to us?
M: Well, in 1924, as a freshman, I participated in a flag rush against the sophomores.
The idea was that the sophomores would tie a flag about twenty feet up a tree. On a
certain day, say, on a Saturday morning at ten o'clock, there would be a flag rush. The
freshmen would try to rush in and take down that flag. On the day of the rush there
would be hundreds of men. I wonder why half of us were not killed fighting and making
circles around the tree. The sophomores would try to keep the freshmen from coming
in, and the freshmen performed a flying wedge with the little men running over the tops
of the big men's shoulders. More conservative people, like Matthews, were talking and
trying to make it look like they were part of the fight, but sort of hiding in the back,
always behind a big man.
Athletic contest were important. All of us, just about, went out for football, that was
what you were supposed to do. We had great debating teams. We had kinds of
things, again, that enabled us to be rather superior in debate and political activities
because we did not have the wonderful distractions of the women.
K: So you think women arriving, in a sense, diluted the quality of campus life?
M: It did. Well, let me say this, they enhanced campus life, but some of the activities
the men were superior in before, they did not take much interest in. I do not know
whether that is good or bad. For example, the average student at the University of
Florida does not even think about going out for football now. If I were going to school, I
would not dare go out and get my head knocked off trying to play football because I am
not good enough. So, I think the women enhanced the campus, but it was just a
It was a time that will never come again. This was, as you know, a pioneer state. In
1924, we were a small state, and to go to a university was a tremendous opportunity
for me. My people were ambitious for me. But we were pioneers, and we did not have
much money. We did not have a lot of people in Florida, and we had to strive for our
place in the sun. So many of our men, as I have indicated, went into politics. But the
University has been so enhanced with the women.
K: Could any other factors be due to the relative lack of interest in sports and politics
after the War?
M: There were more things to do in your spare time. And then, maybe, more
opportunities. You see, when I was a boy, you would think about being a doctor, a
lawyer, a preacher, or an engineer maybe. But you did not have great programs for the
arts. And you did not have the medical school. It was impossible for a student of
ordinary means to get a medical education in Florida. There are more opportunities, I
would like to say, but less interest in some of the former things.
But when I was on campus, for example, it seemed like the best and the most
wonderful people, with one exception, ran for student politics. Now I say that one
exception because I lay claim to having been the only man at the University of Florida
that ever, as a student, was acting president of the student body, vice-president of the
student body, president of Blue Key, and chancellor of the Honor Court. I stayed on
campus for five years, and the man who had been elected president of the student
body was elected to the state legislature from his hometown county of Jackson County.
He resigned from the University of Florida to go up and be in the legislature. Another
man, along about that time, was Fuller Warren [Fuller Warren, Governor of Florida,
1949-1953]. He came to the University of Florida from a little county called Calhoun
County in the 1920s. When I was a student, he became the governor of Florida. We
had another graduate named Spessard Holland; he was also Governor of Florida,
[1941-1945]. After that, he was our United States Senator. George [Armistead]
Smathers was a United States Senator. He was elected in 1946 and was also a
product of the time when I was at the University of Florida. When I went to Congress in
1953, we had eight congressmen and two senators. Seven of those ten were
University of Florida graduates. Now that is the reason I said that during a certain
period in the history of our institution, we had more people in political service--in
proportion to our population--than any other school in the whole country.
Florida, remember, only had one men's school supported by the state. Many of the
state's men came to the University of Florida. The women went to Tallahassee. And I
will tell you, Tallahassee produced some great women during that period at the Florida
State College for Women; my wife was one of them.
K: A tactful and true comment I am sure. (laughter)
M: I hope she heard that.
K: If the politics and sports went down after the women came, did any programs like
M: Theater is so much greater at Florida now. We had good theater. The Florida
Players were in existence then, but we should mention that as far as the Union was
concerned, we did not participate in their programs. They had their own professors
and places to practice. We had programs like the foreign film series. That was
something we started in the Florida Union. And we also would have recreational
opportunities like fishing trips. We would go deep-sea fishing over at Cedar Key.
K: So the women certainly did not dilute that kind of program?
M: No they did not. As I recall, we also had more things like bridge tournaments and
dances. We had one room that we dedicated to dances, and I am sure that that
program was enhanced because a little bit later the crowds became so big that they
had to do away with the dances in the Union. But for years, before the War and before
we had the women, one of our main activities was sponsoring dances. We would have
the beautiful young ladies here in Gainesville to help us, and Gainesville had more than
its share of beautiful young women.
K: I know this was not your area of expertise, but what kind of restrictions were women
and men under in the late 1950s?
M: Marna Brady, a former marine officer, became our first dean of women
[1948-1948], as I recall. Marna and I were associated in meetings concerning student
activities, and I remember that they were planning more development of the fraternities
and sororities. They were having house mothers in the fraternities, but these activities
did not concern me directly.
K: I believe there were pretty extensive dress codes which they had to follow.
M: Now I remember that. And it seems to me when I was in Washington, I heard more
comments about the kinds of clothes the ladies could wear. It caused Marna quite a bit
of embarrassment. She wanted them to go around without the short shorts and other
casual wear. But I think that they did not enforce strict dress codes for very long.
W: For a couple of years perhaps?
M: A couple of years, as I recall. But now once again, I would like to emphasize that
you should talk with William Rion. He could give you a lot of information.
W: I know that you are familiar in general with academics. How much did women
change the academic life of the University?
M: Once again, I cannot give you a rational answer because I, frankly, did not observe
them. I think probably that it helped in some cases, but probably in some others it
might have caused distractions. That is just a casual observation, and I think the
overall influence was probably good. But, again, I took no undergraduate classes after
I came back from the army service, and I just do not recall.
K: Did Florida State College for Women have an equal academic reputation or an
unequal academic reputation?
M: Florida State College forWomen had an excellent reputation as a school. Now my
wife, and I am sure she would not mind my quoting her, always likes to say that she
was from the Florida State College for Women. She thought it was a very outstanding
women's institution, and I do to. They had real scholars there. They had a Phi Beta
Kappa chapter before we did.
K: I would imagine with academics, there must have been many more programs
available for all students after the War.
M: Yes, I am sure of that. In fact, the change was just tremendous. After I retired as
director of alumni affairs, I had a part time job at the University working with other
faculty members on a program to try and determine how many course offerings we
should have. I was trying find places for the various classes to meet, but we just did
not have enough room for the different classes.
K: We still do not.
M: Yes, that is true.
K: What kind of areas were expanded along with demands from women students?
M: As I recall, we had courses in journalism. But when the women came, we had
women journalists, so they had to expand the sizes of the journalism classes. There
where special course offerings for women, I am sure, but I think mainly women just
went into the courses with the men and there were just more students with the
combined men and women student body. There were courses that were associated
more with women, like the nursing courses that came with the medical school, and
other programs in medical sciences were expanded to take care of the women.
K: When did the University start the nursing instruction?
M: I made a statement that I am not sure about because I am just assuming that they
had courses in connection with the medical school. I just do not know. I would like to
keep to the idea that the expansion came in just the normal course offerings that the
men had. Women started learning to be doctors, scientists, taking the same kinds of
courses that the men did, and doing much better in some instances. (laugh)
K: Was it Marna Brady?
M: Yes. She is deceased now by the way.
K: But she must have been a central figure of this. We have an oral history interview
with her, I know. What was her reputation on campus?
M: She was a stern disciplinarian and a wonderful woman, but she had a marine
background, you know. A good dress code, from what I understand, was what she
sought. I was only associated with Marna for two or three years. I was very fond of
her, and I thought she was a very fine person. But she had a hard time with trying to
keep up dress codes.
K: Would you say that she was tougher on the women than the dean of men was
tougher on the men?
M: I would say so.
K: Any kind of instances?
M: No, I do not remember, but I think that Dean Brady would probably have expected
more of the women than the dean of men might have expected of the men. But when I
was on the campus as an undergraduate and the women were not here, I never
remember the dean of students' office having any trouble particularly. I do not know
what the situation is now, but when I was at college it was a cooperative affair. We
were not fighting the dean of students; we were not fighting the University teachers; we
were not against anybody. We were just trying to get an education.
I was so sad to note that in the Vietnam War so much confrontation took place on
the campuses. That was something that we had never experienced. When World War
II came, we just all left the school, those who could physically qualify, and we went on
to war. Nearly all my colleagues on the faculty who were able went to war. Had we
faced Vietnam when I was on campus, we would have gone to war. I really believe I
would have, but we had an entirely different situation.
K: We have missed a very important detail of your military service. Could you tell us
what your military service was?
M: Well, I went in the ROTC, as I have said, because ROTC students had good
uniforms. The bill creating the land grant colleges was passed during the Civil War.
Abraham Lincoln sponsored that with all of the horrors of the War facing him. On the
land grant college campuses, we were supposed to have the military. That was to be
one of the land grant college main functions--to train for times when we needed the
service men. So everybody that was physically able had to take ROTC. All of us had
to take it.
I did not mind taking it, and I became executive captain of Company B in the infantry.
I had my military maneuvers at Camp McClellan, Alabama. When the War came, I
started out as a second lieutenant. I believe if we had not had this large reservoir of
ROTC officers we would have lost literally hundred of thousands more men in World
War II. Hindsight is always better to make judgements.
Now they have a small program. But when I was on campus the biggest social
function of the year was the military ball. As I say, all the men who were physically
able took it, and your girlfriend would want to come down from Tallahassee to the
military ball more than for the junior prom or for the fraternity spring dances. It was
great; it was the heartbeat of the social season, you might say.
K: Where did you serve in the War?
M: I had only limited service. I could not pass the eye examinations for service
overseas and had service at Fort Barraycas, which was a coast artillery station in
Pensacola, Florida, and at Fort Benning in Columbus, Georgia, which is the great
infantry school. In the army, I became a captain in the infantry, and I was what they
called a personal affairs officer who had the kind of job like a chaplain or a counselor
who advised men with their problems. I had the authority to go over the commanding
officers' heads to make certain pleas in favor of the personnel. The personal affairs
officer was really in line with my experience.
K: A representative of the men?
M: That is right. In the navy, when navy personnel were lost, it was the sad duty of the
chaplain to inform the mother, the wife, and other relatives. That was my duty in the
army as the personal affairs officer. When I was stationed at Pensacola, for example, I
notified deceased soldiers' families within a seventy-five mile radius. I had the sad duty
of notifying the parents. I would go to them and explain the insurance benefits and give
personal attention to that sad detail.
K: That must have been a distressing part of the job.
M: It was, but it was rewarding. You felt like you were doing something really
worthwhile. And we lost some wonderful men in the army--some of my dearest friends.
K: I am sure it was very distressing. We have been looking at the annual for 1948 and
commenting on the number of women in the Florida Union Executive Board, was that
the right title?
M: The Florida Union Executive Council. That is the student government organization.
K: Do you remember any of the ladies in that executive council?
M: No not many. I stayed at the Union such a short time after the War, and I was
going through a process of getting back into civilian life with two children and one on
the way, and we had no home. I could not find a place to rent in Gainesville. I had
lived in this house beyond the trees, you cannot see it, but I sold it during the War.
There was not any building going on. People were just getting started again. But that
is the reason I do not remember too much about that period.
K: And you were very involved.
M: I was very involved. That is right. I was getting set in my professional career and
getting a home. I just do not remember many details of staff organization. I know we
had very attractive young women on the staff--the Florida Union staff--they were just
K: I noticed there were quite a few women--about one-quarter of the council.
M: Yes. Now Mr. Rion had the responsibility of hiring those people. He would
remember them because all four years of the War, when I was gone, he was the acting
director. And after the War, it was great to find him there. It was easy for me to come
back with someone like Mr. Rion around.
K: Could you explain a little about what your job was as director of alumni affairs and
then what you did after that?
M: The director of alumni affairs, at that time, was mainly responsible for building up
membership in the alumni association, but we did not have a part in this tremendous
program of fundraising. Now, the chief effort among alumni is to raise money. When I
started out, the University of Florida "Was better loved than known." These were the
words of our president, Dr. J. Hillis Miller who was the president of the University of
Florida during the years of 1948-1954. I could see that my first duty was to help sell
the University of Florida to the whole state of Florida. So we organized clubs in each of
our sixty-seven counties. Whenever the state legislature met, in two hours time, we
could get a message to nearly any member of the Florida State Legislature. I, frankly,
felt that it was my main duty to organize a strong alumni supportive group to work for
the financial needs of the University of Florida.
K: So you were really organizing lobbying groups?
M: That is right. But they were doing the lobbying rather than I. One time we had the
president of the alumni association sit in my office. In about three hours he had gotten
in touch with somebody in each county of the state to talk about a legislative matter
facing the University of Florida.
K: Would you regard that as very successful?
M: Very successful. However, I must say that the University is so big now that the
alumni work, what I did, is just a part of the overall effort. When I left the University, I
was beginning to move into the fundraising aspect of the program. Had I stayed on at
the University of Florida, I probably would have been in charge of the development
program. That is the main effort now, to raise money. I would not have liked it very
much, by the way.
K: Do you think that at that time, with the alumni pressure and everything else, the
legislature dealt with the University of Florida generously or ungenerously?
M: I would say that we came out fairly well. But this might be of interest to you. I
found out that sometimes our best support did not come from the representatives of the
big metropolitan areas of Florida but from little counties. They used to call them the
"pork chop gang." The representatives from North Florida, these little counties,
seemed to have more interest in education than some of the representatives from the
bigger cities. Now I cannot make a general statement criticizing everybody, but I do
think that there was a good interest on the part of the representatives in the smaller
counties throughout Florida. And we had fair support for the times, but nothing like we
needed. You see, education was not supported very much anywhere. I would say that
we got our share, but the share was not very big.
K: Did you cultivate personal contacts from people you had known at the University?
M: Yes, and I could boast about getting a free place to spend the night in any county in
the state of Florida.
K: All from your classmates?
M: From my days at the University of Florida, and new people. I had one term in the
legislature, you see, a few years before. But now the University has, I suppose, $450
million a year to spend. When I was in the legislature, we had a million and a half
dollars from the state allocated the University of Florida. Can you imagine that?
K: For the whole state?
M: For the University of Florida, as I recall, about a million and a half dollars for the
main activities on the campus.
K: That is pretty small.
M: Those were the state funds that went to the University of Florida. It is just
unbelievable the way the money has come in the last few years. But everything has
gotten so much bigger.
K: What years were you the director of the alumni?
M: From 1948 to 1952. I had only four years. I was approached by people about
running for congress, and I had always had the idea of public service in my mind. At
the University of Florida, I was in public service work, you might say, serving students.
And that appealed to me. But in those days you had to retire from the University of
Florida if you announced for politics. When I told President Miller that I was going to
run for congress, he said, "I am glad you told me because if you had not, I would have
fired you on the first day that you announced." I said, "I know." But you see, now you
can hold some political offices and still stay at the University of Florida. You could not
do that then. I retired with very few material goods, with a wonderful wife, and three
children. I tried politics and we won. Thank goodness.
K: You won in 1952?
M: Yes, in 1952. That was the year Mr. Eisenhower was elected to the presidency.
K: And how many terms were you re-elected for?
M: I was there for fourteen years.
K: So from 1953 to 1967?
M: That is right.
K: Did you keep your relationship with the University of Florida during those years?
M: Only close personal relationships. Dr. Proctor, for example, has always been a
dear friend of mine, but I had no formal activity with the University--no kind of a position
or anything like that.
K: But you kept a close eye on their affairs?
M: Oh yes, and I considered myself very much of a supporter. One of my main
interests was to support programs, financial needs, federal grants, and things like that
for the University of Florida. Education was a top priority with me.
K: Did you return to the University?
M: I came back to teach at Santa Fe Community College; I wanted to teach. I had
positions offered to me in other parts of the country as well. My idea of being in politics
wasto be a citizen politician. You have a profession, you serve your term or your time,
and when you are defeated or when it is time to quit, you come back home and do
what you feel you best know what to do. So I taught for nine years at Santa Fe
Community College. Added with my other years in education, I had thirty years as an
educator as a principal, teacher, and administrator.
K: So are you retired?
M: I have retired from Santa Fe Community College.
K: What are you connections with the University of Florida today?
M: I have close associations with Dr. Proctor. I write a book review for him every now
and then. I am a loyal supporter of the University. I give modestly to their various
programs, but I have no official connection, just a personal connection with many
wonderful people there.
K: Well I think that is all we need, thank you very much indeed.
M: It is a pleasure and I hope you will come back here and visit me.
K: I will try to.