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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida
Interviewer: Stuart Landers
Interviewee: Austin B. Creel
August 27, 1992
L: This is an oral history interview with Dr. Austin B. Creel. We are talking in Dr.
Creel's office in Dauer Hall on the University campus in Gainesville. Today is
August 27, 1992, and my name is Stuart Landers.
Dr. Creel, what does the B stand for?
C: Bowman. [That is my] grandmother's maiden name.
L: When and where were you born?
C: Alexandria, Virginia, November 8, 1929.
L: Can you tell my a little bit about your parents?
C: My mother's mother, Bertha Naff Creel, was the Bowman, [and she] was from the
district of Roanoke, Virginia, [in] southwest Virginia, Franklin County, across the
mountain from Roanoke, and grew up in a community [called] the Monte Vista
Church of the Brethren. She was only an infant, a month or so [old], I guess, when
my grandfather, Josephus Abraham Naff, died, and in one of the big family
arrangements my grandmother and my mother moved back to her mother's and
father's home, and my mother grew up as kind of the darling of the family, with a
number of aunts and uncles, several of whom were only five or six years older than
she. So there was an interesting relationship there.
At some point, my grandmother remarried--I think it was eight or ten years later. My
mother, I think, was never very much a part of that household, although [she was]
very close to her step-brother and sisters. But [she] stayed on with her
grandparents and aunts and uncles, went on to school in another area fifteen miles
away, and eventually married a man who was active in the Disciples of Christ
Church. So she left the Brethren Dunkard community, [which was] interpreted to me
in later years mainly as a disagreement with restrictions. In those days the
Mennonite women all wore one cut of clothes, and the men and women sat on
different sides of the church.
L: Was this a closed community like the Amish or the Mennonites?
C: No, not as much as that, and if you go there now--I was just there recently for the
funeral of a first cousin--you would not guess this heritage, even if you go to the
Brethren church. So much has happened in the last fifty years. But it was more
closed [back then]. That was a community which did not have much to do with the
Civil War. The Brethren did not believe in owning slaves, and they were also
pacifists. I spent a good bit of time, up until I was about twelve or thirteen years old,
there durnig the summers and I loved it on the farm.
L: At your maternal grandmother's farm?
C: Yes, run by my uncle, or step-uncle. The end of this came in 1942. During the war
travel was just too difficult. It was restricted and difficult, so I did not get there again
until I was out of college for a brief stay. So it was very different in 1950 from those
childhood experiences which were very important. My father, Benjamin Kemper
Creel, grew up in the Charlottesville area.
L: Charlottesville, Virginia?
C: Yes. This was a different heritage. His father, Benjamin Franklin Creel, was a
soldier in the Civil War. He was much older than my grandmother [Arabella
McMullan Creel]--nineteen years, I think. She [NAME ?] was born just before the
Civil War, [in] 1854, [and] he was born in 1839. So my father [was] born in 1890, in
that period after the Civil War when a lot of the economic changes that were going
on the country were not benefiting the South. For some reasons, my grandfather
lost the 200-acre farm that had been his parents', a noted Parson [Benjamin
Franklin] Creel, a Baptist who was kind of thrown out of the Baptist [church] because
of religious freedom issues [and] became a Disciples [of Christ] minister.
L: Were they slave owners?
C: Yes. I think this came not from Parson Creel but from his wife. Somehow that was
lost, and we have never gotten that fully figured out. I guess the people that know
have been long dead, and some of the records were burned in a courthouse fire.
But when my father was about fifteen they moved to a different place, and that is
where I will be going next week. I have inherited that little place. He was never
there much. That was his younger sister's [Zaidee Elizabeth Creel Williams] home.
My wife and I were very close to her, and she passed it along to us.
My father went to a boys' school very briefly in western Albemarle County called
Miller's School. It is now, I think, increasingly an upscale boy's prep school, but it
was originally funded by Mr. Miller for children from poor families. This was an era
in which there was very meager public education throughout the South. There were
schools here and there. There was one right up the road from where he lived. My
aunt referred to different places where she went to school before she eventually
went to the prep school at Lynchburg College. My father did not like school, while
his older sister [Mary Lee Creel], a kind of matriarch for these four, had graduated
from Miller's school. In those days it was still coed. That did not change until the
last few decades. She went on to different things in Baltimore.
L: Your father's religious background was ..
C: Disciples of Christ. It never really took with him in a significant way.
Let me finish the school thing. I do not know whether he finished much at all. I
mean, [he would begin] a year and he would run away and so on. As an older
teenager he was on the farm. He had a lot of conflicts with his father, some of which
I heard from him, particularly late in life, as his mind would wander a little bit, and
more from his younger sister, Zaidee, in more recent days. So he went off and did a
number of things in Richmond. In World War I he was working in Chester,
Pennsylvania. He eventually became a fireman and engineer in the Southern
He met my mother through the Lynchburg College connection. She had gone there
for two years for a teaching certificate in home economics, and [she] was a home
economics teacher in a Baltimore school. She had known the younger sister in
Lynchburg College who put her in touch with the older sister, and they had an
apartment together in Baltimore, and thus met my father, who had been widowed. I
have to think about the dates of this. I am not even sure if this was the Great Flu of
1917 or 1918 or somewhere in there, [but] he had an infant that lived only a couple
of weeks, and his wife died about a month after the birth. I do not know how many
years later my mother came in on the scene. For many years we lived next door to
the sister of his first wife, and that was always a very close relationship in the family.
One of the things I remember very clearly--there are two things that are linked--was
my father's enormous push (advocate is too strong a word) for education. It was
often encased in statements like: "I have had to work hard all of my life. I do not
want you to do that." [He held] an enormous belief in education. And this created
some problems, because my older sister was not as interested in school, and he
would get on her about it. He felt it so strongly, [but] he was somewhat inept in
transmitting it to a teenager.
L: You have an older sister.
C: A sister four years older than I and one seven years younger than I.
L: You said your father's first child died.
C: Yes. [He was another Benjamin Creel, a name now held by my younger grandson.]
All three of us are children of the same parents. My older sister faced enormous
invidious comparisons with my grades, and it was unfortunate. [laughter] I mean, if
I got a B he would go through these tirades: "I'm not sure I'm going to sign your
report." I remember the frustrated response: "It doesn't have anything to do with
whether you approve of it. You just have to sign that you've seen it." We would
have these scenes. Now, looking back, I understand a lot of this in a way which I
did not [then].
The other thing that has clung to my memory is once he saw me reading something.
(I have no idea what age [I was]. I could pick the parameters because of the house
where we lived. We had moved a number of times because of the real estate
schemes my father had.) He looked at the book for a minute, and then he handed it
back and said that he did not think he had read a whole book in his whole life. He
said it with kind of a wistful feeling. He once said that he would have been very
happy if I had been a civil engineer. I mean, that was the kind of interest he had.
But he was also very clear that you have to make your own bed and lie in it, so he
never tried to channel exactly what I would do. I was given a great deal of freedom
L: So you are growing up on a farm in a small town.
C: No, no. The farm was purely a summer thing. Actually Alexandria was growing at
its phenomenal growth[rate] during World War II. High school--George Washington
High School, [had] a [graduating] class that numbered 200 or more, so it was not a
little place. It was suburban Washington, DC.
L: You were in the public school system?
L: You graduated [from] high school [when]?
C: 1946. My high school years were exactly the World War II years.
There was another influence in this period which is significant. My paternal
grandmother left that little property in Virginia when my grandfather died around
1917. I grew up in a very maternal environment--I never knew either grandfather.
Even my step-grandfather died a year before I was born. I had a couple of distant
uncles, but I did not see much of them, except for the one on the farm that I would
see in the summer. One aunt--one that I was very close to--was widowed very early
in marriage because of her husband's automobile accident. The other two never
married. My grandmother lived for many years in Baltimore. Then when my sister
was a baby, my mother had a number of health problems, and my grandmother
came to help out and lived with us for the rest of her life, which was until I was a
senior in high school. That was a very close relationship. She was noticeably older
than the other grandmother; she lived to be eighty-nine.
While I would hear some things about the Old South, and words like "nigger" were
used occasionally. You have to remember that this was an era in which race
relations were very calm. There was not very much going on.
C: Before 1946. Whites did not have to be too aggressive in expressing their attitudes,
because blacks--"Negroes" then--were not very aggressive. But the attitudes were
there. Everybody knew their place, and they pretty much stayed in it. So I would
hear a number of stories about the close relationships my father had playing with
black children. Well, I never played with a black child in my life. Alexandria was
much too segregated for that. And then there was the reputed "black mammy" who
had been a Creel slave. When my grandmother married it was twenty years after
the Civil War. She [the black mammy] was still living in the area and came often to
visit my grandmother. And there are a lot of stories--stories like my aunt and father
being out gathering something to make dye from. I have forgotten.
L: Indigo, perhaps?
C: Whatever it is, it grows. I think it has the same word as something that is poisonous,
alongside poison oak and poison ivy.
C: Sumac! My aunt would dress up in my father's old overalls, and they would take the
back roads. They would come back, and black mammy, whose name was Althea
Anderson--they did at least know that--would say, "My goodness, you sure do look
like a nigger." That kind of use of that word was in my family.
L: You are describing what sounds like a family close to the top of southern society, at
least in the nineteenth century.
C: In the nineteenth century. Not the First Family of Virginia by a long shot, although
one of my aunts claims that we are distantly related to George Washington, that
there was a Mary Ball Creel who was a distant, distant cousin to Mary Ball
Washington [George's mother]. But [our family included] a prominent pastor and
landowner in a small community and so on. That changed drastically after the Civil
L: So there is a downward ..
C: Yes. My older aunt and my grandmother, who was a paradigm of the Victorian
woman, had this attitude of standards and right ways, and they were not going to let
us be identified with these other people. On the other hand, they knew they had real
limits in terms of money. But there were other cultural standards.
There were some other features to this. One [was things that] this grandmother that
I revered so much [used to say]. I can remember phrases like, "Lincoln was trying to
help the South," that "Lincoln was a good man." I never grew up with the kind of
anti-Lincoln virus and against all of that. We never talked about the Civil War a
great deal. I can remember playmates moving in from Montana, and they would talk
about it constantly. They would bait us, and then they would say, "All you people
want to do is talk about the Civil War." And even as a twelve year old I could see
that pattern. I knew among my friends and all the kids I was going to school with, or
in my neighborhood, [who the "outsiders" were]. Most of us going to school until the
war were not from other parts of the country.
L: Was there what I call a southern nationalism, [with] Confederate battle flags and
"Dixie" being played?
C: No. Well, [there was] some of that with school, but no. We still had Confederate
Memorial Day, but it was pretty tame. Alexandria has one of the famous statues of
a Confederate soldier in the middle of the street.
L: Do you remember there being a concept of "them"--Yankees, Northerners, sort of an
"us versus them"?
C: Oh, yes, there was a little bit of that. For example, Pearl, the niece of my father's
first wife, married a man from Boston. This would have been about 1942. My father
always called Chris "Yank," but he had a great affection for him. So there was an
identity, but not a hostility. I guess that is what am saying.
L: Upon your graduation from high school in 1946, [what did you do]?
C: I went to Northwestern [University, Evanston, IL]. I was interested in journalism, and
I considered the University of Missouri at Columbia, Columbia University, and
Northwestern, which I was told were the best three. Missouri looked too rural,
Columbia looked too urban, and Northwestern looked great. I had been editor of the
high school paper, and for several years in high school I had done a mixture of
things, [including] part-time work at RKO theaters in Washington, and [I] had
developed a very close relationship with the assistant manager. I am still in touch
with him after many years. In many ways he was a substitute father figure. Our
scout troop began taking up collections for USO and the Red Cross and the March
of Dimes. We used to pass these jars around after a trailer full of movie stars, and I
was the leader of that and would organize it. Pretty soon I was hanging around [the
theater]. All through high school that was a close relationship. I thought I wanted to
go into public relations in the movie industry, and a lot of people went into that
L: This Boy Scout troop that you were a member of--were you a leader?
C: Well, I think I was Senior Patrol Leader. Of course the older boys were gone pretty
soon, although I guess they were not going into the Army quite then. But some of
them who were a little bit older than I was, at fifteen, were already in the Army, so I
have a little bit of a sense of some of those older guys. I never got the Eagle. I had
five merit badges to go. I remember that. I got to the rank of Life. I did a good bit of
weekend camping in a place that was not far. It was within walking distance,
although sometimes we would take a bus. It was three or four miles south of
Alexandria. Once, at least--maybe twice--I went to a scout camp on Chesapeake
Bay. It met in the church, so we had that kind of sponsorship.
L: So you end up at Northwestern studying journalism.
C: Right, but I never took a journalism course. First of all, it became clear to me that
while this relationship with Sol Sorkin had been a very meaningful one, it was not
what you build your life on. He was the system manager with dreams, and he would
go up in the hierarchy. Not that he twisted my arm, but these were dreams that he
would talk about, and I just thought I had a nice place. Also, a lot of the journalism
curriculum was writing headlines and stuff like that. It was not writing news releases
to lure people into seeing movies. So I got out of the journalism program the second
quarter. I think you took your first journalism courses third quarter.
Because I did that I was not eligible for the general education program at
Northwestern that had a lot of correlation courses, [such as] humanities and general
sciences. You had to take what was called a departmental major. In fact, that was
the only way in that day that you could get a B.A. degree. You had to get a B.S.
degree; you got a B.S. in literature [laughter] if you were not in the B.A. program. At
first I was interested in civics, political science, social studies, [and] high school
teaching. I was a little bit interested in law, but [I was] afraid of all that was involved.
I did not have any role models or any clear sense of how you would carry that off.
That is interesting, because I have gotten back in recent years to this in public
education and working with history and social science teachers.
More by accident than anything else, I went to church the first Sunday I was there.
This was the first year after the war, 1946, and they had a lot of Quonset huts [with]
sixteen people in four rooms.
L: What denomination?
C: Baptist. I had shifted from the Disciples church when we moved to the house next
to my step-aunt. Actually, it was a house that my father had built [on] property he
had bought when Annie Travis was alive, next to his in-laws. And then, at some
point, he built a house on it which he rented for many years, because we really could
not afford to live there. [laughter] This was the third house we lived in. I was just
about in the first grade. We moved there when I was six.
That was very near the Baptist church, and my "aunt" and family were Baptists and
my playmates were Baptists, and I started going to that Sunday school. My mother
did not object, and my father, whatever his total orientation, [did not object]. Much
later in life, I found out that it [his attitude toward the church] had been one of these
incidents where a well-meaning Disciples minister had, during an invitation, come
down the aisle and said, "Come on, Brother Creel, and join." My father had gotten
angry, and he said, "If I want to go forward, I'll go forward." So for many years if my
parents ever went to church, they compromised [and went] to the Methodist Church.
[laughter] But he did not go very much, ever. I have no sense of this man as an
atheist. I do not know his theological beliefs, how much is tied up with the intense
religion of his grandfather and his father. I have seen some of my grandfather's
possessions, [including] fundamentalist tracts equivalent to those [that were] very
conservative in the nineteenth century. It may have been tied up with parental
rebellion. I do not know. At any rate, that is how I became Baptist.
[While at Northwestern] I had three roommates--there were four of us. The other
three were all going to church, and we were going to meet after church at an
Evanston restaurant. Two were Methodists, and one [was] a Christian Scientist.
Well, I went. It was so different from the church that I had not gone to very much for
several years. I increasingly dropped out of it. I was working at the theater a lot,
and I got used to listening to Jack Benny on Sunday evenings, which was much
more fun than the training union program at the church. [laughter] My mother was
very gentle and, in some ways, overly trusting. I could talk rings around her. It was
not her style to coerce anyone. So I had really drifted away. And it was not a great
theological rebellion. It was, again, a kind of boredom and some sense of
But this was different. First of all, [there was] a minister in robes and tremendous
music--Bach chorales. (This is at Northwestern in Evanston.) This church was what
we later came to refer to as "Anglo-Baptist," the high church wing of the Baptists.
L: You had mentioned Quonset huts.
L: Was this for the church?
C: No. Northwestern built them on the campus to house the veteran population.
L: Were you living in the temporary housing?
C: Yes, my first year there. They were divided into four rooms. Two rooms had a little
vestibule, [and there were] four guys in each room. [They] had a common toilet.
They were there for a good many years. Eventually, Northwestern built enough
dormitories to accommodate a certain jump in enrollment between pre-war and post-
L: So you are back in the [church].
C: So I am very much impressed with that. It was fascinating. And the sermon--the
intellectual content and so on--[was utterly marvelous]. Then there was a friendly
group of students in what they called the Hot Coffee Club. They met at 9:30 for
coffee, doughnuts, and juice and faculty talk. It was very interesting, so I just kept
going. Over a period of time I became increasingly involved in that.
At some point--I am not quite sure of the sequence of these things--I focused on
sociology as a major and decided to go to theological seminary, looking to be a
college chaplin, or maybe teach. I never thought of myself as being a parish
minister; I would not inflict myself on a congregation. I have done a little bit of that in
seminaries, field work, and other things, and I think that was a wise decision. So
when I graduated I went to Colgate Rochester Divinity School in Rochester, New
York. I also applied to Yale [Divinity School] at that point, and I got in, but Colgate
Rochester had all kinds of financial aid and so on that Yale did not have, and I guess
I was a little frightened of Yale at that point. So I think it was a good experience. It
was a warmer, personal experience--not that these liberal Baptists were running
around like Pentecostals, but it was a school of 120 people, and [there was]
interaction with faculty and students. I got my Yale bit: When I finished Colgate
Rochester I went to Yale for my Ph.D. So I managed to do both before I was
L: What year did you complete your Ph.D.?
C: I left Yale in 1957 and came here, but I had not done my dissertation. I got the
Ph.D. in 1959.
L: Did you get married at some point?
C: 1954, the year I graduated from Colgate Rochester.
L: Since your wife [Patricia] was a fairly active member of the Gainesville Women for
Equal Rights [GWER], can you give me some background on her?
C: [We met on] a blind date. I had friends that I had known before [I went to] Colgate
Rochester in some Baptist student organizations--I was very active in the National
Baptist Student organization. I had met this young couple, Paul and Nancy
Harrison, at the Northern Baptist Assembly, as it was then called. Now it is
American Baptist Assembly in Green Lake, Wisconsin. They were at Colgate
Rochester ahead of me. Easter of 1952 their sister was coming up from the
Philadelphia area for a vacation. She was an elementary school teacher. So I was
a blind date [for her].
L: This is Patricia Harrison?
L: Do you know where she was born?
C: Glenside, or one of those suburbs--I forget which one the hospital is in: Jenkintown,
Glenside, Wyncote, Pennsylvania, in suburban Philadelphia.
L: So you finished your Ph.D., and you ended up in Gainesville at some point in the
C: Right. 1957.
L: What was Gainesville like then? What was your reaction? What did you and your
wife think of it?
C: Well, I always tell people that I did not choose to come here. I just chose not to
starve. It was the only job offer I had. [chuckle] I thought I was getting one at
Tennessee, but something went wrong. Some weeks before we came, the national
press carried pictures of the [Ku Klux] Klan marching through Gainesville. Neither
one of us had ever been to Florida. Someone had already explained to my wife that
her idea of going out in the backyard and picking an orange off the tree every
morning would not work in Gainesville. [laughter] But we really did not know what
to expect. We also thought that it would be for a very short period [of time]. Delton
Scudder [Professor of Religion and Head of Department], who was then chair and
[was] founding chair, said that the dean had called him in and said he had $4,000
that he could divide among forty or twenty faculty [members]. It would not do much
good. They had been promised a third person (in those days we said third man very
comfortably), and if he could get somebody for that, he could have somebody. So
we talked to him when he was in Connecticut, interviewing at Yale, and we had
some ideas [of the conditions]. When we got here, we thought very much of it as a
temporary home, because we thought it was fill-in appointment. Delton Scudder
thought it was.
L: They hired you to teach [what]?
C: Comparative religion, and I also taught a course in the New Testament. I should tell
you that in my last year at Yale I worked as a clerk--that is how I supported my wife
and baby son, because she was no longer teaching that year--in the graduate
placement office that sends out the credentials, the dossiers of people, to potential
employers. You fill out a form for the office [on] what you would like to teach [and if
you have] any geographic restrictions. A fairly common one was [that they would]
go anywhere except south. This was not long after 1954. The dinner the night
before my seminary graduation was the day of Brown vs. Board of Education.
L: So that would have been May 17?
C: May 17, 1954. I can still see my black classmates running to tell the news to each
other, coming into that occasion. The turmoil got underway. By 1957, thoughkwe
had not gotten to Little Rock [Arkansas] yet, it was not a place a lot of people
wanted to go [to]. My wife had not spent a significant amount of time in the South,
and I had been away for a good while. I would have been very happy in the
northeast. I was not averse to the South; I was not seriously negative about either
Tennessee or Florida. I had already turned down a job in January at a little liberal
arts college in Ohio where I think they wanted me to teach about thirty hours a
week. [laughter] I decided to hold out for something else, and I thought for awhile
that I would regret it. So we got here. I was, of course, very busy in those years
establishing my teaching and finishing my dissertation.
In 1959 Charles McCoy, who was the third person [that the Department of Religion
had hired here], left to go to the Pacific School of Religion [Berkeley, California]. At
that point, by default, I inherited working with the religious association. I explained
to Delton Scudder that I had done a lot of that. I had been president of the
American Baptist Student Movement, and I went to an ecumenical conference in
India during one of the four years I was at Colgate Rochester (which was a three-
year program). I was a delegate. I had done that, and I had a lot of regard for it, but
I also knew myself enough to know that I could not combine these things well. I
really wanted to be a teacher. But McCoy left, and I inherited [his position]. For
about a decade that was a large part of my responsibility.
L: Describe this for me.
C: Well, a number of institutions around the country used to have what they called
Religion in Life weeks or religious emphasis weeks. The one here lasted longer
than [the ones in] a lot of other places where the culture changed. Ecumenical
groups would send teams of very good spokespersons, and they would go onto
campus and give lectures and go into classes where it was germane. Sometimes
[they would] hold firesides in dormitories. That was Religion in Life week, and that
was a big thing here. Very big. We could have a whole session on that.
The other [responsibility] was coordinating University religious activities. There was
a breakfast meeting every week of the campus chaplains who were cooperative,
which were essentially Protestants and Jews at that time. The [Church of Jesus
Christ of] Latter Day Saints was not here, evangelical groups were not organized in
the same way, and the Catholic community then was very standoffish. That, too,
changed in later times. There were a lot of meetings of that group, and [I was
involved in] planning other things on campus. I argued that it should be a full-time
job. For one thing, it potentially involved a good bit of counseling that I was not
trained for and did not have much time for, with all the rest that I was doing.
Eventually, we moved in that direction. The first stage was a person [responsible
for] limited teaching and [being a campus] chaplain. He [Thaxton Springfield] had
been the University Methodist pastor for many years and was much-beloved by
students of many generations. Unfortunately, before the first year was out, he
developed a malignancy and spent the next year of his life fighting cancer. So I was
back into it. Of course, for all of the deep antipathy that I had developed toward
doing that [organizing University religious activities], I had a lot of respect for it. It
ought to be done. If I was going to do it, I wanted to do it right and invest a lot of
time in it. Sometimes colleagues who came would take some part, but they really
did not think it was that important and would soon neglect it. Well, I tried not to
neglect it. But, of course, when Thaxton Springfield's health problems arose, I got
back into it quite willingly.
We continued working through a number of things. We tried to get a Danforth
[Foundation] grant and eventually changes in the administration in the college. We
had another appointment, which was to be increasingly academic with a very limited
role of religious activities. That person was appointed, and he [R. Taylor Scott]
came in about 1971. It was pretty clear that the religious bodies did not want to be
coordinated. The funding that we had put together for Religion in Life Week
crumbled. A lot of it was Student Government, and Student Government put the
money into Accent. They said, "We'll take this money, and we'll have speakers
[dealing with] religion occasionally." The president's office was not very happy one
year when students got Bishop Pike, who was a very controversial figure. They
packed the gym! Students had posters all over campus saying, "Who's afraid of
Bishop Pike?" The University Lectureship Committee automatically put up the
honorarium of the speaker. There were a lot of pieces of funding which came apart.
L: So once it left your hands it just sort of [fell apart].
C: If you put it that way, it is as if other people were not prepared to do it. I would not
want to put it that way. Situations were changing, and I was increasingly having
difficulty holding any of this together. In just a few years it disappeared almost
without remainder. At some point, at the request of the department, that faculty
person's line was described as "fully academic," and nobody ever really picked this
up. Student Affairs designated the international student director to have this
"religious affairs" portfolio, and then different other people. I am out of touch with it.
I do not even know some of the college chaplains anymore.
L: Back in the late 1950s when you first arrived in Gainesville and established yourself,
were you a member of a congregation in town? Did you go to church?
C: No. We went to First Baptist Church for some weeks. Actually, that was one of the
things I was told would be pleasantly surprising, because a Colgate Rochester
graduate was the minister [Jack Noffsinger]. But sometime before we got here
Noffsinger went to a church in North Carolina. There were interim, and it was a
bad experience with the church. It was very difficult for my wife. I had grown up
with this intense personalism. I remember a youth minister [whose] preaching [was]
full of phrases like "pretty little cheerleader" and "football hero" and all this kind of
stuff, and the whole mechanism turned my wife off. [Additionally,] the nursery let our
little boy cry a lot. I do not know what they could have done. In some ways I was
not against the church, but she was. She felt very strongly about that. So we left.
L: What was her religion?
C: She was Baptist. We probably would have gone to the University Methodist where
Thaxton Springfield was. That was a kind of community church. In those days there
was no United Church of Gainesville, which in some ways became the community
church. But we [thought we] were going to be here for only a year, and we figured
the Methodist Church was like what we were used to in the North. [It was] very
much like the churches we knew, in terms of congregational life, the concerns of
people, [and] the type of preaching.
But there was a very excellent preacherwho had come back to Gainesville the same
time we did. He had graduated from here and had gone off to seminary and had
been an assistant rector in West Palm [Beach] at the Chapel of the Incarnation of
the Episcopal. My wife and I decided, "Well, we are only going to be here this year.
Let's have an ecumenical experience. You experience these things from time to
time in conferences. Let's see what it is like to experience that for many weeks and
see how we feel." Well, we did not leave at the end of the year. I described myself
as a Baptist clergyman and an Episcopal layman. [I was] very active for many years
in the Episcopal chapel, up until 1981 or 1982, the year we were on sabbatical. We
decided that we needed to be more Gainesville-oriented. This association with
students and a few faculty had been a lot of fun, and we and others had contributed
something. [We were] kind of mainstays for students to have there. We went to
Holy Trinity [Episcopal Church] then.
L: [There is] one important thing that I need to ask you about. You just said that in the
early 1980s you felt you needed to become more Gainesville-oriented.
C: Well, in a sense. Most of our friends were [affiliated with] the University.
L: Were you having any contacts with non-University of Florida people in the late
1950s and early to mid 1960s? Was your community extending out into
C: In that time we were at the Episcopal chapel [Episcopal University Center]. There
were faculty and a few non-faculty, but it was very University-oriented. As I think of
most of my neighbors, more than 50 percent were at the University. Those are the
people that we saw the most, anyway. The chaplain at the Episcopal church was
William W. Lillycrop and his family and ours became very close. We played bridge
every Friday night for many years and took vacations [together]. We had children
the same age, and they had a third, which we did not have. That was another
University association. Relatively few [were not associated with UF]. Much later we
began to have some [associations outside of the University]. I would run into people
in the old Human Relations Council.
L: Tell me about your involvement with the Human Relations Council.
C: [It was] very nominal. I went to a few meetings and a few special events, but it was
L: Why was it depressing?
C: It was a part of this whole timidity--not that I was that much of a militant. I remember
one of the sessions where there was an announcement that there was going to be a
black law student. The way the person presented it--mind you, this was Thelma
Ivey Stallward, a woman who had worked for racial change for years--[was in]
phrases like: "In order to make the case, we don't have to have many black
students. We just have to integrate and do all this." It was a whole way of
understanding a minimal kind of accommodation and hope that down the road
bigger things would happen. I guess that was not where I was.
It did a lot of interesting things. It brought people together who could talk when
crises came on. I do not like to disparage it. It is just that I had better things to do
with my Sunday afternoons once a month, so I did not get there very much.
L: You mentioned the law student coming. That was 1958, when the law school
C: [Willie K.] Allen. [The first black to graduate from the College of Law, 1963.]
L: It was the Hawkins case.
C: Virgil never got here. [Virgil Hawkins's petitions to the U.S. Supreme Court for his
admission to the University of Florida College of Law were rejected. He eventually
received his law degree from the New England School of Law.]
L: Anyway, the University integrated in 1958. In 1959 or 1960, a black woman
[Daphne Duval] started taking night classes as an undergraduate, and then in the
early 1960s regular black undergraduates entered. What do you remember about
this time? How did the University deal with this? How did whites react in Gainesville
C: Well, the University had done some feasibility-type studies--which used to be around
here--in the mid 1950s, I guess. They agreed that, when integration came, it would
be complete, not partial or token.
There was a bit of controversy, nationally, in some incidents. I do not recall exactly
which ones. You would drive through the South [and hear things like] "Impeach Earl
Warren." I can remember walking on the sidewalk through the old campus club
cafeteria, behind two secretaries. One of them was talking about the school prayer
thing that was heating up then, because [there were several] court cases in the
same period. [I overheard her say,] "Niggers can go to schools, but God can't." You
were constantly touching that [racism]. I went to a campus barbershop. If I had
gone to a community one, there would have been a different level of discourse.
[laughter] I remember one or two conversations [I had] the first week I was here
with people servicing my car or in the barbershop listening to one.
It was clear [that] this was a southern area. We used to call it south Georgia.
Around the University, it was a rather quiet subject. We did not hear much one way
or the other. There might, occasionally, be speakers. Certainly, some of the people
we brought in for Religion in Life [Week activities] would talk about where religious
communities stood on these issues. We taught a course, Religion in America, that I
had inherited from Charles McCoy when he left. He had a mimeographed handout
of excerpts from the major denominations that all had committed themselves to a
non-segregated church in a non-segregated society. But, of course, they were a
long way from fulfilling that at the local parish level. [laughter]
So that is the level it was. Integration was accepted by the faculty, but a lot of the
students were not persuaded. Very few of them came from integrated high schools.
In time that changed. When you would make comparisons, as I did, between the
Hindu caste system and the southern way of life, you could see some resentment on
the faces of some students. You could see others thinking, and others were excited.
They agreed long before they came to that class that they were glad to have more
ammunition. So there was a mixture of attitudes. But the main thing was a glacial
pace of change.
L: At some point in the early 1960s you became active in bringing about racial change
faster. What I am referring to is your appearance as the faculty advisor for Student
Group for Equal Rights. What prompted you to get involved?
C: I do not have very specific memories. It was just the embodiment of values that I
had most of my conscious life. I had begun questioning racial patterns even as a
high school student. Going to school in the North, we had a handful of black
students; one of them was on the football team. No black student would go to a
barber shop in Evanston. It was a long way from [being] an integrated mecca at
Northwestern. But at least the official ethos was different.
I have told you about the frustration I felt at the slow pace of the council. When
Marshall Jones [UF professor of psychology] and others began to do things that
involved action, I just felt like I belonged there. I think even before that I had been
involved in raising money to support Judy Benninger Brown, who with Dan
Harmeling, was arrested in Tallahassee. [They were] with a CORE [Congress of
Racial Equality] group outside a movie theater picketing.
L: The Florida Theater.
C: In Tallahassee?
L: Yes. I think it was the Florida Theater.
C: Judy had been a student in my class World Religions. A lot of these kids picketing
had heard all about [Mahatma] Gandhi [Indian religious leader, 1869-1948] and civil
rights and so on.
L: Were you teaching Gandhi?
C: Oh, yes. That was always prominent in the course. It would have been very
inappropriate of me to have nothing to do with this [civil rights]. Jim Harmeling
[Dan's brother] was in my class. Judy [subsequently] lost her fellowship here. This
was still a time when the University could not distinguish between a civil rights arrest
and an arrest for stealing in Publix.
L: Was she arrested in Tallahassee before the Ocala arrest?
C: Oh, yes. Way before. In that process, it became known that I was raising the
money. I used the chaplains as a kind of front because nobody in the state could
get a hold of them, and nobody in the University could do anything. I have forgotten
who actually received the money. We gave some help to Judy. I am not sure we
gave any to Dan. But Judy was known as a University of Florida student. I am not
sure Dan was at that moment.
I think maybe it was a reaction to that that some of the students here began to
coalesce. All of that happened before I got into it. Then we began to have
meetings. I remember one at Hillel. Again, meeting on campus was an issue of not
being a recognized student group. One of the ways the University had control over
what happened on campus was to require sponsorship. This meant the Klan could
not get on campus, but it also meant some other people had to find a way, unless
they could do things in the student union. That had a different status. Of course,
eventually, the Student Group For Equal Rights was approved, and I think it was
looking for an official advisor. It got Marshall and others to ask me to do that.
L: Why would they be asking you?
C: Well, I had gone up to Marshall, and I am sure I contributed; that was one of those
things they needed was money. I do not remember the exact steps.
L: Did you have tenure? When did you get it?
C: I had tenure in 1961.
L: Because Ed Richer [instructor in humanities and social sciences] and Dave
Sheehan [interim instructor in English] and Marshall Jones did not have tenure.
C: No, they did not.
L: So they needed a legitimizing figure?
C: I suspect it was Marshall who saw this. There were a lot of informal networks. For
example, there was a faculty seminar on American Civilization. It must have begun
around 1956 or 1957. It was modeled on one at Columbia by the late Arthur
Thompson. My colleague, Charles McCoy, taught also in ethics. When he left, I
was invited to join. Very quickly, there was something involved with a civil rights
identity that I had in that group. I guess it was some years later that David Chalmers
[professor of history] did a paper on radicals and different criteria. He classified me
in certain patterns, but I did not share all of these things.
This inter-departmental network of people met monthly for a dinner and a paper.
This was a group that you would turn to support all kinds of good causes. By the
time the Student Group for Equal Rights was coming into being, there were people
who knew the faculty to reach. [I was contacted perhaps] because I already had a
certain involvement in student affairs. I do not know. It is even possible that
someone in Tigert Hall told them that I had stature, that the Department of Religion
had stature. Religious groups were in the forefront nationally for enunciating racial
change, although local churches were not doing very much. [laughter] There were
a lot of natural things, but I do not know all of the things that conspired; it is too dim
in my memory.
What happened then was, once I became one of the advisors, I was the principal
spokesperson in Tigert. By the way, I do not think Ed Richer was an advisor in the
sense that David and Marshall and I were. We were the three. Ed was one of the
four that went to Ocala. I think I told you that. Glenn Hoffman, an associate in
history, was supposed to go to Ocala, and I was supposed to be sitting home with
the bail money. But Glenn got the flu or something, and we were meeting at my
house the night before to perfect the strategy of going.
We met every week in Dave Sheehan's apartment. "The leadership" it was called; it
was a fluid kind of group. I am sure Ed Richer was at some of those. There was a
group of student officers. Linda Devin, who later became Mrs. David Sheehan, was
one of them. It was not a highly formal meeting. I am not even sure if they had
elected officers. Periodically there would be membership meetings.
L: I understand that Marshall Jones was a very charismatic presence.
C: He is very articulate. He is also very shrewd. I think he is basically very level-
headed. When I listened to him at Hillel and was willing to sign up, I felt that the
values he was espousing and the approach he was taking, the strategy and so on,
was the kind of thing I agreed with.
L: Is it fair to say he is the leader of the Student Group for Equal Rights?
C: I think so.
L: And not an advisor, as such?
C: He was definitely the primary force. He worked very closely with students. They
respected him. I do not think he ran roughshod over their judgements. He was, I
think, the prime mover. Now whether he was the prime mover that got the ball
rolling, I do not know. But by the time I got involved, it was a team, and Marshall
was the coach.
L: Describe David Sheehan for me. I do not know that much about him.
C: I have not seen him for a good many years. [He is] a very serious, concerned, level-
L: Your age? Younger? Older?
C: Oh, I think [he is] a little younger. He was a graduate student, but I suspect he was
only twenty-five then. I must have been nearly ten years older. I think that is right. I
really do not know a lot about him. (I got to know his mother very well. She was
one of the head clerks in the registrar's office. We met in their apartment when she
was over there. [She was] a very nice person. She much later had cancer, and I
visited her in the hospital a lot.) We met the Sheehans in Paris when we came back
from India in 1966. David and Linda were in Paris when my family came back from
India in 1966, and we made contact and had dinner together. So we were that
close. But over the years we have lost touch. After she [David's mother] remarried
an architect professor, I used to see them a lot a Maas, where my wife and I used to
eat dinner a lot. I still do. But they moved down to south Florida, and I think he
died. I saw her there at Maass once last year. "David is fine," she said, but we
really did not get a chance to talk.
L: What about Ed Richer? He sounds like an interesting personality.
C: [He was] fiery. Ed came back from Ocala and had to go to the hospital to get some
kind of tranquilizer, he was so revved up from the whole experience. [He was]
deeply [and] emotionally involved, and deeply concerned. That anger and rage--it
was difficult to classify--came out in the intensity of this [involvement and concern].
[For example,] there would be a rally in Tallahassee, and some people would cancel
classes and go or something like that. We had to be very clear that you do not do
that. I think Richer did it for something, and he got away with it. It would be all kinds
I remember another one that I was kind of an intermediator. Some graduate student
[in] political science [or] zoology--it was old Building I over here--put some kind of
comment on a student lab paper like, "I saw you cross the picket line" or something
like that. That was taken to the vice-president.
L: Oh, you mean somebody grading the paper?
C: Yes. And he was being funny. He had no intention of penalizing the student. That
kind of came through mouths, and we had to deal with that. [UF President J.
Wayne] Reitz made it very clear in the session on Sunday, the day after the Ocala
incident, when we met with him, that we could not miss classes. He could not
defend that. We agreed. But I think Richer had done this, and some others had
once or twice. That was the hot-headedness of it. To me, that would be
irresponsible. If you can get one of the world's most famous scholars to cover class,
you might go. I do not think he even did that. And that is not something I think
Marshall or Dave would do. Of course, Dave was a graduate student, but also an
instructor in the old freshman English program, so he was low on the totem pole.
When [Wilse Bernard] Bernie Webb, the psychology professor [and chairman of the
department], got up and made some statement in the [Faculty] senate about the
gesture of support, he said, "Most of the arrested came from either the English or
psychology [faculty]." Some of the students were in those. The venerable, old
southern chairman [of the English department] C. Archibald Roberton stood up to
correct: "No member of the English faculty was involved." David was in the other. I
do not know whether Archie Robertson was pro or con civil rights, but that was the
kind of mentality. If I had been chairman of English I would have been proud to
claim Dave. Incidentally, some people thought that my chairman overreacted.
L: Overreacted to what?
C: To my arrest. Of course he had very good friends, including the president, to whom
he was very close. But he [Scudder] said to some faculty committee that if anything
happened to me, he would resign from the University.
L: If your position was threatened?
C: If my position in any way was threatened. I am not sure where he said it. I think it
was to a faculty committee or something. I did not initially hear this from him. I did
not hear it from anybody for a good many years.
L: He was not saying these things in public.
C: No, that was not his stand. I know that he was a young instructor at Wesleyan
[University, Middletown, Connecticut] and a YMCA advisor, and the students were
protesting some issue of capitalist mistreatment of workers. They went down to
New York, and there was a picture in The New York Times of Scudder's guys, and
he was with them, and some intercollegiate group. Some trustee called the
president and wanted to know why they all had Wesleyan sweaters. In his own way,
while he was very cautious, there was in his own background something that was at
least vaguely comparable. Nothing happened to him at Wesleyan as far as I know.
L: Once you got involved in the Student Group for Equal Rights, how much of your
time where you investing in it? Was this your major outside interest?
C: You have to remember that being official advisor meant that it was legitimate to
spend time working [with] the student group. That is the first thing. When we were
involved in the Cl [College Inn] fracas, the owner had a heart. There was a lady in
Gainesville, a study all of her own. I have come to recognize her handwriting. [She
wrote] anonymous, ugly letters. I am sure that she was the one calling around that
these students were ruining this man's health and all this.
L: Who is this woman?
C: Alice Clapp Brown. She was a fraternity house mother. I used to have the letters in
my files. I may still. I eventually got something from her, where she wrote to me
after there was a life speaker who was, incidentally, black. Nathan Scott from the
University of Virginia [was] speaking of very abstruse things about literature, and she
wrote a letter saying that "some of the graduate students had not even read all the
books." I knew that I had seen that writing, and I got it out.
Well I wrote--right after Gandhi and this was something very much like Gandhi and
his actions when you think about it--a letter to the owner of the CI, saying that our
issues with him were totally service, [that] we had no desire to harm him individually,
and if we had we were very sorry, and wished him well. He called and thanked me
for the letter and said that he was all right, that she [Alice Brown] was exaggerating
his health. The other guy, Loomis [the Cl manager], with whom we periodically had
sessions, said, "That letter is already on the governor's desk because it was written
on University stationery!!" So I saw Frank Adams [dean of men] and said, "I hear
Loomis is trying to bring wrath upon me for writing on the stationary." He just
laughed and said, "That was totally appropriate." It was obvious the administration
was not looking for ways to hang anybody, even though they were not, as I think I
said in another context, leading the parade.
But I do not know how much time I spent. I went to these meetings. I think they
were weekly; maybe they were more often. They were always at night. I do not
think of it as that major [of] a time thing.
L: Let us talk a little bit about picketing the College Inn. Do you recall how it was
picked as a target?
C: When the Gainesville Human Rights Biracial Committee, I guess it was called,
asked public accommodations to integrate, there were two restaurants that did not.
The Cl and some place that I never could identify which, I am told, no self-
respecting black or white would ever want to go to, so we never tried to get them to
integrate. [It was] some dive somewhere. But the CI, with its history and clientele,
was the one restaurant that could have the easiest time, because of its relationship
to the University. And also, for the good of the University it had an obligation to the
University. [chuckle] It has bestowed a good bit of income to that firm for a good
long while. And I think it was just unconscionable to students. It may well be that
this is what brought the Student Group for Equal Rights into existence, in order to
picket the CI.
I do not remember being a part of the formulation of the policy. It may be that this
was how I got into contact with Marshall [Jones] and others and was asked to be
advisor. I just signed up to be one of the faculty spokespersons, probably. I did not
think of that when we talked originally. I was remembering a particular meeting at
Hillel where Marshall spoke. More likely, that was the way I got involved.
The pattern there, as I think you know, was there would be a group of students that
would be floating. They would run over after class with picket signs. I do not think
we even had a precise number. (At Ocala we had a precise number of University of
Florida students. We had a much more amorphous group of young people from
Ocala.) But we always had at least one faculty spokesperson, and the students
never spoke to anybody else. They just walked carrying their picket signs. If
somebody came to them, the faculty spokesperson would walk over and would be
glad to answer any questions.
L: Was there ever any sort of conflict? Did anyone ever come up and start spitting,
throwing, or cursing at these students?
C: There were some ugly words said. I do not recall anything beyond that, because
when somebody said something, if you did not respond it did not escalate to that
next step. The faculty member was there to interpret what the students were doing.
That, again, put the faculty person [in] not so much an advocacy position (although
it was obvious they were) but in a different light. A lot of people drove by. A lot of
people wanted to see this happen. Police cars came by constantly. If anything had
ever started, the police were nearby and could have--and I think would have--
intervened, unless I am wrong, because by then the forces in Gainesville were
determined to keep things as calm as possible. Law and order were pretty well
I remember there would be a lot of light-hearted things [discussed]. We would
discuss this dean and that person who crossed the picket line. That was a shock in
some cases. Students would think of cute little things for signs, like "Think before
you fink." We would never carry those. [laughter] So it was not all heavy. It was
understood that it was a kind of tactical campaign, to make a point.
L: Why do you think the owners of the CI held out so long to integrate?
C: Well, there are those who were close to an incident a few years before that claimed
that the owner [of the CI] had property on Archer Road and wanted to have an
interchange to 1-75 put there. He went to the vice-president then, Dr. [Harry M.]
Philpott, [to seek the University's support], and the University would not join in that
effort. In fact, [it] did not want an interchange because it would bring too much traffic
by the hospital and all this, that, and the other-- all the reasons which much later the
University jointed and wanted to have direct access to the hospital. And so the view
of some is that it was not really racial at all but [that] it was revenge, to hurt the
University. [They had] no desire to help the University. They came to him and
asked him. He had gone to them and asked them.
I do not know what the sequence is. He may have been influenced by his own
values, or maybe [he influenced] Loomis, the manager, to keep CI from being
segregated. But even when the University went to ask him, I am told that this was
the issue and that he in fact said that the University had not been willing to help him,
so why should he help the University? How much those are mixed, I do not know.
L: Did this end up over the 1-75 interchange? Did this end up in the papers?
C: No. See, I heard about that years later. In fact, the original incident was probably
before I came to Gainesville. This is something that went way back.
L: This is interesting. It is going to be very difficult, if not impossible, for me to try to
C: Talk to Robert Mautz [dean of Academic Affairs under President J. Wayne Reitz].
L: Is he still in town?
C: Oh, yes. Ask him if he has any way of clarifying the extent to which that was a
factor in the fracas with the CI.
L: Let us talk about the CI Day, the reverse picket.
C: I do not know who that originated with. That was a brilliant stroke. We did some
other things. The Gainesville Women for Equal Rights had a morning sit-in another
day: "Oh, yes, my children were in a civil rights protest when they could barely
stagger up to the table."
L: Tell me all about this [morning sit-in].
C: I do not know the date, but they all went in one morning [for] coffee.
L: The Gainesville Women?
C: A whole lot of them. [They were] all white, and many of them had their children with
them; they had to [bring their] preschoolers. Then a black friend came in and joined
them. [When] that person would not be served, they all got up and walked out.
Various things were tried besides picketing to dramatize [the need for integration].
They also wanted to be sure about the policy and how it applied.
Somebody originally had the idea that, since they claimed at the CI that they would
lose business, [we would give them more business than they could handle]. The
University was not that big, and they had all of these people that came from all over,
and they would stop coming, the CI management claimed. We were going to give
them a demonstration. So we had CI Day in which people who would support
integration [would] make sure that they would come. Of course, there was no
picketing. Well, I can remember the line being way around the corner, so long that
my mother [could not stand in line that long]. She was not very strong at the time,
and I could not have had her wait in line that long, so we went down and ate at the
Primrose [Inn] and gave a little business to Byron Winn, who had integrated. The Cl
managers said afterwards that this was like this every night. The owner also said at
one point that he did not mind the students coming, but all the black janitors who
worked in these dorms would be over there, and they were not allowed to eat in the
University cafeterias. So that set in motion a subsidiary effort. Eventually, that was
corrected too, but I do not know exactly how it all happened.
L: How did you end up getting arrested in Ocala on December 7, 1963?
C: Well, Marshall received from Frank Pinkston, the Baptist minister, what in biblical
terminology is a Macedonian call: "Come over and help us." Frank said there was
not one white in Ocala, in Marion County, that would join them [or] take any step.
So the words we were getting were that the two tightest, racially ugliest places in
Florida were Ocala and St. Augustine. They needed to have something. They had
been doing the boycott, trying to get blacks not to use downtown merchants and so
on. I believe the boycott had gone on; we were initiating that.
I do not know what Marshall's original views were. I think he was a little skeptical
[and] uncertain. After all, this was not like being located near campus. But he went
down, and he was persuaded. It was a difficult situation. We talked about it a good
bit in the leadership. He went down and talked with an FBI agent, and the chief of
police and/or a county attorney, somebody in there with a name like Krim, very close
to crime. I remember Bob Mautz flipping at the meeting a day after Ocala in the
president's office, "[That was] probably somebody who took my legal ethics course,"
[laughter] meaning that we do not always achieve good results with our alumni,
since what they did was obviously illegal. Anybody knew that.
The FBI agent was sure that we would not be harmed and that we would be
protected from harm from Klan elements and so on. The police chief was not about
to allow such violence. The FBI had Assured Marshall that the students' lives would
not be put in jeopardy. This was a very clear thing, and I am not sure that Dave,
Marshall, and I did not talk about this evening as faculty independent of the
leadership group, because we were very conscious [of potential problems].
There were other features. We planned very carefully. There was one student I can
still picture. He walked like he was catatonic, and he probably was. Marshall knew
he had psychological problems. So we picked students who were healthy and
nobody with beards or [who] looked Jewish who might engender anti-Semitism. I
think we probably had some Jewish students; I am not really sure. [There was]
nobody who looked Jewish. So there was a real effort to make a witness, but in a
way that was provocative in the sense which we intended and not give excuses for
other kinds of things. So we did.
L: Others have told me that an effort was made to keep the hotheads out.
C: Yes, that was another part of it. We picked seasoned, dependable pickets. We met
and talked with them. They knew what was involved. Marshall, in fact, went over all
of this again in my house that night before. All the people who were going were
there, and we could have backed out at that moment.
L: Were you planning to get arrested?
C: No. The only thing we were planning was [bail in case we were arrested]. Marshall
had this wad of money for bail, and we were told what to listen for [and] to ask the
officer when you were arrested what the charge was. We hoped we would not be
L: You prepared yourself?
C: Oh, yes. We knew that could happen. We knew enough of the legal situation. [We
knew] what we were doing was not illegal and that whatever happened would
eventually be overthrown.
We arrived, and were out at the church for a while. I remember calling a seminary
classmate of mine who was a radical. He had left the ministry and had maybe
become less radical. [He] was working for a mustard company [as a] salesperson
[and] doing some sports writing for the Ocala paper. I called him and said, "Bob,
how about coming down to the courthouse?" I made a comment--this was after
President Kennedy's assassination--"l thought President Johnson said to honor
President Kennedy's memory not to have demonstrations at this time." I later
thought that I could have put him in some jeopardy. They probably were tracing
phone calls. It was obvious that [he would have supported our stand] unless his
values had totally changed. I never had a chance to talk to him [because] he died a
few years later.
L: Do you remember the name and the denomination of Pinkston's church?
C: Baptist. National Baptist, I think. He was co-pastor for a while with his father,
Frank, Sr., called "Daddy Pinkston."
L: Was this the leading black church in Ocala? Was this the main one?
C: He was the president of the NAACP. That was the basis: We were helping the
L: So you get to Ocala. [Then what?]
C: We were out, and we divided up. We had our [street] corners. I was on the west. I
think we got there about 10:00; it took a while to get to Ocala and get organized.
We were there quite a while and were approaching lunchtime.
L: [You were demonstrating on] all four sides of the courthouse?
C: Yes, all four. There was one faculty and two students. Eight students total.
L: And about how many Ocala blacks [participated]?
C: Well, I remember some of them of different ages. On my block [there were] twenty
or twenty-five. There were quite a few there, which, of course, was a tremendously
courageous thing. Just before noon the police cars pulled up simultaneously. I
asked what we were being arrested for, and I was told breach of peace. I am not
even sure of my recollection at this point. Of course, they did not arrest any of the
people from Ocala. Part of their answer was that "We were outsiders." We later
had a student in the group who was from Ocala, and he said to me, "If you go back
again, I want to go." I am trying to think whether there was some talk of Jesse, a
black student in our group. (I have forgotten his last name.) We thought if we ever
went again we would have him. But we understood that the black students were
here mainly to study and get an education. We did not try to overly involve them.
We did not exclude them from everything. We did exclude them from going to
Ocala. Rightly or wrongly.
L: There were not very many.
C: There were not very many, and we understood that. I do not remember many
conversations that morning with people. A lot of people drove by who were aware
that we were professors at the University of Florida. I had a scary scene with some
huge farmer who was going to show me what was what.
L: Did you consider yourself an outside agitator?
C: Yes and no. It had been well established that a citizen's right to speak is good all
over the country, so I knew I had every right to be there doing what I was doing and
to express solidarity with the NAACP. I did always wonder how much you have to
weigh the positive contribution against the susceptibility of this charge that people
used over and over. Strategically, I was aware that outsiders have some pluses and
minuses in bringing about change. I did not feel that I was an outsider in any
L: So they put you in jail?
C: About six hours, as I recall.
L: How was the treatment?
C: They brought us some food at one point. I think we were in with a group of other
prisoners. I was worried about the women. I hugged them when I saw them; I was
so glad to see that they were [okay]. This was an era in which people did not hug
much, but I was just so relieved. I am sure that as faculty we had a special sense of
The main thing I remember is that at some point they brought us some coffee. I had
never in my life been able to drink coffee without sugar, but I did that time.
[laughter] They did not bring any sugar, and I drank it.
L: June Littler told me that in the women's cell there was a picnic table and a sugar
bowl full of white crystals, and either she or Marilyn ..
C: Marilyn Sokolof was with us! Linda Devin was not?
L: I will check. [One of them] took her coffee and started spooning [what they thought
was] sugar into it. It was a bowl of salt.
C: We were with a couple of other prisoners. All we know about the prison system was
that these could be some of our biggest enemies. They were not black, as I recall.
No, we were not mistreated in any way. In the arraignment at the courthouse they
pulled me aside and tried to talk to me. We had made a [pledge that] we were not
going to say a great deal. I said a little bit.
L: This was the arraignment the next month?
C: No, this is while we were being arrested, during the arrest procedure. They were
trying to [discern] what we were doing, who inspired it, and so on. I just said that it
was a matter of conscience, and, "You have to do what you think is right, Chief." I
remember those words. Then they left me alone.
L: Was anyone accusing you of being a Communist at this point?
C: I do not remember. It could have been in that conversation with those people [who
were trying to discern] who the influences were, but I do not remember. Anyway, we
heard so much of that for so long that it sort of rolled off my back. I do not recall
L: So who bailed you out? How was bail posted?
C: I think the NAACP in Daytona. It was certainly not Dick Hiers [assistant professor of
religion]. He was still trying to figure out what to do. He was the one that had
Marshall's $4,000. He took over my role.
L: He took over your role?
C: I was to be the one to bail them out when Glenn got sick. I do not remember the
level at which bail was set. Whether they ever got their money back, I do not know.
When we got out it was approaching dark. There was to be a big rally in Pinkston's
church. I said, or maybe Marshall said, "I think somebody needs to get back to
Gainesville," and I did get back and gave a statement to the press. Maybe you have
seen that. One student, Julian Brown, "Brownie" Brown, who later married Judy
Benninger, and I came together in my little Volkswagon. I remember wondering
whether these cars had been identified. Of course, once we got out of Ocala I
remember saying to Brownie, "For once in my life, I feel safer in the black district."
When I got home that night I called the [Gainesville] Sun, and I had my statement
outlined. They actually misquoted one part. An editorial was written a little bit later--
I am sure it was written by Roy Ivan Johnson--and it quoted the line that "until the
rights of all are assured, the rights of all are in jeopardy." They used the word
insured, and I am sure I used the word assured. But that meant that in the Sunday
paper there was something from us, that we went peaceably.
President Reitz called me that afternoon, and that night we had the Christmas on
Campus, which was a long-time thing. There was not a great deal of Christianity in
it. [It had] a few Christmas carols [and was] much more secular than a pure worship
[service], but it was something that went way back. It eventually went into the hands
of the sororities or something. It was always 11:00 to 12:00 when the President
made an address, the president's Christmas on Campus address. He asked me if I
could get the faculty to come, so I did. Marshall, Ed, Dave, and I were joined at
least by Reitz and, I am sure, Philpott and Mautz. They took notes, and we went
over our responsibility to the students' welfare, which they were particularly
concerned about. We told them things that I have just told you, how we did not take
people with beards, etc. I have seen some of these notes on the documents in the
archives. Reitz lectured us a little bit, saying that he was not sure that this did not
hurt our cause. He was from Kansas. I have never identified him with the Deep
South mentality. People worried about Mrs. Reitz, but they could have been
mistaken. I do not remember much more. As we left, he lectured us, and I lectured
to him. I said, "I know we are making a lot of trouble for you right now, and I am
sorry for that, but someday the University will be proud of these students." He did
L: Right after that, the school broke for Christmas. What happened to the student
group the next year?
C: Well, we had suspended picketing..
L: When Kennedy was assassinated.
C: Right. At some point, we decided that we had gone about as far as we could go.
The issue had been made clear. Most blacks in Gainesville did not go to the CI
anyway; the students had other options. It really was not that important of a target.
Morally, it was still obnoxious that this went on.
But on the horizon was the Public Accommodations Law. I seem to recall that that
came in about February or March, sometime in that spring of 1964.
L: I think it was passed in July.
C: July. Well, I knew that was our great hope, and that would take care of the problem
L: The battle for it began.
C: Yes. I think we sort of saw that coming. I do not recall exactly what we did. I
remember that Vietnam interests were beginning to emerge--for some in the group--
L: Do you remember a voter registration drive?
C: Oh, yes. I do not remember when it was, but I remember we had these posters. I
used to have one. We had them all over town. We had arranged drivers. We had
faculty and other drivers to get people to the polls. And we had pick up points, four
or five around the city. Marshall went around and got it near a store and talked to
the person [who owned the store] so people could wait there if it rained. Marshall
was a genius at all this. We stayed at his house with two phone lines. If [someone
asked a question that] one [of us] did not know about, we would call. People would
call in if they needed a ride. If the Old Guard tried to call in we would block a line;
we were prepared to deal with that.
L: Do you remember someone setting up an answering machine with a message on it?
C: About voting?
L: About voting, or a civil rights activities update, or something like that?
C: No, I do not remember that.
L: Do you recall a tutorial program?
C: Yes, but not very clearly. My wife did a lot of tutoring, and maybe she did in that
one, but what I recall are other places where she was involved in tutoring. Oh, yes.
[I remember now.] It may have been through that program that she tutored
Raymond Harris for so many years at [J. J.] Finley [Elementary School]. But that
would be more likely to have been a Gainesville Women for Equal Rights project.
L: Can we talk a few minutes about what your wife was up to with the Gainesville
Women [for Equal Rights (GWER)] while you were advising the student group?
C: Yes, to the extent that I can remember. My wife was basically a very retiring person,
and she viewed herself as in a totally different league than Jean Chalmers and
Shirley Conroy and all of them. She would like to think of herself as a "foot soldier"
following the leader. She was very well liked, and she was an officer in GWER--
secretary, as I recall. I can remember many meetings of the board in our house. So
she was involved in it, but the people who were writing the grants for the Best Day of
Week were others. She would take part in things like the sit-in over here and the
tutoring program, [which] would make a lot of sense since she had been an
elementary teacher. She was also a volunteer at Bell's Nursery for a good many
years. That was the one--in those days--real daycare facility for black families, and
still continues. In fact, when my daughter [Kathryn Creel Suarez] was a preschooler
she used to go with her to play there. My son [Stephen David Creel] did not go very
much. It must have been that he was already in school. My daughter was two
Much later she was involved with people like Esther Lane, who headed the
Community Action Agency in different programs. She and others went every week
to Waldo and had a program going in the black community. This was a time when
Waldo had this very repressive sheriff that even the county commissioners got down
on. Huckabee, I think, was his name. Then she did a lot of tutoring--this was
actually part of the time or maybe all the time for some compensation--for city
workers in the utility department who were illiterate. Not all of those were black.
They got a grant and did different kinds of things over the years. But how all this
started and whether or not it was GWER or the student group which started that
tutorial effort, I do not know.
L: I think it was the student group.
C: And the women got involved helping out. Well, she was involved in tutoring, and I
recall that she got into that very rapidly from the beginning, because that was very
much her thing.
L: Do you have any sense of the role that black women played in the Gainesville
Women for Equal Rights?
C: Well, there was Catherine Mickle, LaKay Banks, and Rosa Williams. Savannah
Williams was an activist, but I do not think she was involved in GWER that much. I
could be wrong.
L: Did it seem like it was a truly biracial organization, or was it a UF faculty wives'
C: Oh, I think you would have to say that this was a civil rights movement of which the
real burden was carried by whites. Not that they wanted it that way. First of all, they
had the numbers, because many blacks were shy and in employment they were
vulnerable. Even teachers in the school system had to be somewhat careful. And
there were some ministers who were overworked. Charles Chestnut [who later
became a city councilman] was involved in some of this, in and out. His family's
income [from their funeral home] was not dependent. I think we had Frank Pinkston
come up after they gave a speech at Bartley Temple, one of the black churches, and
he ranted and railed against black ministers and schoolteachers who were cowards
and not doing anything. [laughter] It really hit. I do not know whether somebody
coached him or if it was a lucky stab. We were not out of touch. Reverend [Thomas
A.] Wright [pastor, Mount Carmel Baptist Church], for some purposes was a link to
the local NAACP chapter.
There were not enough black faculty members in those days to be much of a force
on the campus. I used to say that the group faculty was the men's auxiliary of
GWER. [laughter] We were in touch with people. We had names: Titus Harper,
Tom Coward and Al Daniels. There was a rapport, but they did not have the
freedom and resources. They were committed to what they were already doing in
the community and were beyond this.
I think you would have to say the time came when this changed, [like] the time Neal
Butler was running for city commission. This was a white group that was ever-ready
to relinquish control. In fact, [they were] eager to have the movement succeed so
they could go back to their suburban gardens. I guess at some point the struggle
became increasingly tied up with politics, such as the vote drive and successful
elections. I think blacks and whites began to meet in the Democratic Party and in
other things. We had a few other groups that worked from time to time. Have you
heard about "The Group"?
L: Is this the informal group without a name that would have a covered dish at various
places? I do not know. Describe this for me.
C: Well, way back when, probably in the late 1950s, there had been founded by liberals
a group called CAA or something.
L: Out of the political science department?
L: Civic Action Association.
C: This group had breaking the grip of the old families and the favoritism of developers
and so on on its agenda. And it began to get some momentum. Well, the Old
Guard, which was tremendously affected and had been operating as a block,
repeated their efforts with the charge: "Stop that block." So the success electorally
they had been having was all of a sudden lost. Many of the remnants of this--mostly
white, but some black--were determined ..
L: I am sorry [to interrupt], but the "block" in "stop that block" was the CAA?
L: Since CAA was successful for a period and then ..
C: .. was beginning to get someplace. Then this [Old Guard] block was successful in
saying "stop that block." OK?
C: So the shrewd people concluded that "if we are going to work and be effective, we
must not be visible as a block." I was a coordinator for a great bit of the period, and
we would get together and prepare statements on health care.
C: Jean Chalmers, Eleanor Brown, Norma Kimble--some of these people from the civil
rights group. It was a mailing list, and then for any individual thing, different people
came out. I am trying to think of who really ran that. Ruth McQuown [assistant
professor of political science] had something to do with it. John DeGrove [associate
professor of political science] had gone long before this.
L: He was the leading force in the CAA. If you think of others, you can pencil them in
later, I guess.
C: I can probably think of people's houses we met in, but that would not [help a whole
lot]. I remember bringing in new people, like when the schools were in crisis [and
the teachers were] on strike. We would try to achieve a consensus; we would
circulate lists recommended people for voting. This was one of the things--you often
did not know what was going on. It got to be very mysterious. I was sitting in a
group [comprised] of young adults [from] faculty [and the] medical school, and this
young couple--he was a physics professor--was saying how hard it was getting in
Gainesville, that there was this group, and it had the values and the social action.
You could not even find out who they were. [laughter] I said, "Sam, you're in!
You're in!" [laughter] I had to explain to him what happened.
I do not know how potent it was, but I guess we achieved some sense, and we just
called it "The Group." It was a mailing list, and I think people contributed something
periodically for the postage. But it did coalesce activities and provide a kind of
information network. When something happened, such as problems at the hospital,
we could come together, produce a statement, and do different things. I do not
know quite when it ceased to function, but it did.
L: One thing that I am also interested in is the transition between student activism vis-
a-vis civil rights and anti-war protests on campus. So in 1965, 1966, and 1967 there
is sort of a nebulous period there.
C: Right. We have to remember that in 1965 and 1966 I was in India.
L: Did that break your contact with the students?
C: Right. When I came back, I looked up people and found out that the case in Ocala
had been dismissed. By then the civil rights law was more than a year old. I just
think that one generation of students had pretty much graduated. Not all the juniors
and seniors, but there were not many people around.
Also, in that summer--I think of 1964--was that the time that the group [including
David] Chalmers and others went to St. Augustine?
C: Well, see, some of that group--I remember Rick Rivenbark was in the Ocala group,
and one other guy I cannot think of--came to me and said, "Doc, if you are not with
the moment, you are not with it." In other words, I had declined to go for a lot of
reasons. Maybe it was a wrong decision strategically, morally, or whatever, but [for]
whatever [reason it was, I decided not to participate in the St. Augustine
demonstration]. So I think there was a certain amount of that. The remnant which
was now viewing itself in a different way and not quite functioning--these were the
much older students, [including] graduate students, young faculty, and so on--[had a
different agenda than when I had been active earlier]. Whatever they were doing, I
was kind of out of it. There was not much going on on campus, is what I am saying.
We had gotten beyond that.
L: According to the way Marshall Jones describes this period, after the peak of the
student group thing--the CI and Ocala [demonstrations]--then that energy and those
people moved into this freedom party. Jim Harmeling was on the board. He was
student body president. Then it seems that Marshall Jones and Beverly Jones,
Judith Brown (Judith Benninger and Julian Brown), and the Harmelings formed what
Jones calls a "band," which seems to be the radical white clique that met in some
bike-repair junk place which is now the black student center.
C: Not Ray Brannon's.
L: I think so, yes. They called it "Freedom Forum."
C: See, I was away the year this happened, and this is the first time I have actually
heard of that nexus of having that identity. Somehow I know nothing about all that.
L: So you had moved apart from these ways?
C: Let me see. When would Hubert Humphrey have come here, not as a presidential
candidate, but when he spoke to [the Florida] Blue Key? I went to that, the Blue Key
banquet, with a friend. I think that is the only one I ever went to. But when I went,
Marshall and my friends were there picketing. So we had come to different points,
and I did not share their views. I was called by some planner trying to to set up a
session at the [University Memorial] Auditorium to debate [the war in] Vietnam with
John Spanier. I knew Spanier from way back when. I was not opposed. It was
clear that this group had recommended me, assuming that I would share that. Then
I do remember one other conversation when Bev [Jones] was over at our house.
L: Do you know who ended up debating John Spanier? Marshall Jones.
C: It was Marshall.
L: According to his account, John Spanier walked all over him. But anyway ..
C: Intellectually or nastily?
L: He out-debated him.
C: Well, John would. I have disagreed with John on a lot of things, going back to the
MacArthur policy in Korea. We were at Yale together. We did not know each other
then, but we had mutual friends, and ever since I came [we have been friends]. His
first wife, Stephanie, was my student, and [she] was involved in Religion in Life and
all this. But there is one key with Bev and Pat and I. We talked about it in a calm,
sober way. It was just very clear that she [was] adamantly questioning it, and I was
still at that point using the model of Korea, which I now see was an inept model.
Maybe inept for Korea. Who knows. But it certainly did not fit Vietnam. And I
cannot recall whether that was before we went to India or after we came back.
Afterwards, I think.
L: I can find out specifically [when this was]. That is right around the Humphrey
C: Well, the Humphrey speech I remember. It was when he came to campus here for
Blue Key. That is the last real conversation I remember with Bev. They were busy,
and I had plenty to do, and we did not move in the same social groups. The next
thing we knew, the furor was starting over Marshall's tenure.
L: What do you remember about that battle? Did you take an active involvement in
any of that?
C: I supported it. I am trying to think [what I did]. Did I write a letter? Was I asked to
write a letter? Did I volunteer one? It seems to me that I knew somebody who was
close to the process, and thus I wrote a letter trying to refute some of these things,
like pernicious influence on Jim Harmeling and so on. I am sorry, but I do not recall.
L: In your opinion, to what degree was Marshall Jones influencing the activities of
C: I cannot speak about the later part. [I can speak] only of the part I was dealing with.
He was the brains, the strategy planner, and so on. But he worked very closely
with the students. He worked as a teacher. He listened to them, and he presented
his thinking. In other words, I never saw anything improper in what Marshall did,
unless he could be faulted for having creative ideas. But [there is] no doubt that it
was his commitment, his passion, [and] probably his resources.
I remember we had one of these Saturday afternoon or Sunday afternoon big
picnics for the student group out on somebody's farm, and we had a lot of
refreshments. I knew this cost something. I did not have much money, but I slipped
Marshall twenty dollars on Monday and said, "Use this. How do you do this? Are
you independently wealthy?" He sort of laughed and said yes. I later heard that his
parents, his father, owned real estate in Manhattan, so maybe Marshall did have
significant resources, so that would not be an issue for me, and he could do things
like put on certain things. It was much more difficult for me, since I did not have the
same resource base at all.
But, no, I am not able to think of any time in which I thought Marshall was
dominating in an offensive or improper way to students. [He demonstrated] very
clear leadership, but very conscientious. [He had] a lot of insight into himself, into
his foibles [and] into his tensions.
L: Comment, if you would, on the University's successful attempt to get rid of him.
C: Well, he had a lot of support in his department in the medical school. It was
essentially the administration [that was opposed to him]. Whether we will ever know
how many alumni had been on Reitz's case [or] how much the Harmeling family had
been [involved is uncertain]. I think [that] if you know Wayne Reitz well--and I do not
know him that well--you would say that his own value system made it difficult to give
a proper evaluation of Marshall's activism. Reitz said to us the night after Ocala that
in all of his years on the campus, he had never said one word to anything about
what a faculty member had written, but he did not know about doing. [chuckle]
Well, I think a lot of this--in the [U.S.] Supreme Court even now--would be clearer in
seeing that doing can be a kind of speaking and [giving] expression to and so on.
But I think the vigor with which Marshall led, the way in which those who felt deeply
like the Harmelings could say that he exercised pernicious influence, [made the
administration uncomfortable]. The difficulty of refuting that--if you did not want to
have it refuted--[is very considerable]. Then there may have been things after my
involvement in the peace movement or whatever that I know nothing about. These
were not talked about publicly, so if there were, I know nothing about them. I do not
know this. I think that the University of Florida was not ready for Marshall. It is sad.
Eventually the University made some restitution [and] acknowledged the error of its
ways. It got AAUP [American Association of University Professors] censure, and
eventually as a settlement to Marshall--he did not ask [for] very much--they created
a fund for books in the law library, the Marshall Jones Fund. That was in
compensation for dismissing him. I am not sure of the AAUP nomenclature [or] how
much the University admits its guilt and the impropriety of its action, but in order to
get off the AAUP censured list and to convince people that conditions for academic
freedom were healthy at the University of Florida, it made this acknowledgement
and settlement. That is the last time I saw Bev and Marshall, now that I think about
it. I think they came for a lecture or something that had to do with that, or maybe
Marshall even taught here for a period. But they were over at the beach, and they
came back and forth. I saw them down at the end of the library, where the portico
is. I am shaky on this, and I am trying to figure out why, whether it was a period in
which I was away. No, because I was not away again until 1981. Somehow it was
the kind of thing I read about in the newspaper.
L: 1970, 1971, and 1972 [were] the real turbulent, antiwar protest years on this
campus, and in 1971 the black students took over Tigert hall. Were you involved in
this directly? I know you were here.
C: [I was] just one face in the crowd. Michael Gannon [associate professor of religion
and history] had become one of the advisors [to] [UF President] Stephen O'Connell
on matters racial and peace and so on. He was somebody the students looked up
to a lot. Not in an organizational sense, but [he] was in a very critical role. I did not
have a role different from very many faculty. [We were] supportive, we went to
meetings and we passed resolutions and this kind of thing. But we would orate in
favor of Lavon Gentry. He had been a student in my class in Hinduism and was
arrested and all this. He was not very successful on some things--a little bit better
on others. I was actually away at a meeting at the University of South Florida when
one of the riots occurred. I remember the big peace candlelight march, [when the
students were] singing, "Peace. Give peace a chance." I heard about it. I was
gone for about three days, but it was a critical three-day period.
L: Did your wife remain active and involved in the Gainesville Women in the 1970s?
C: No, I think it split up. For one thing, a lot of people who were in that moved into
professional areas, into full-time jobs. [People like] Shirley Conroy and Jean
Chalmers went back to school.
L: Beverly Jones went to Pennsylvania.
C: Yes. Secondly, Gainesville Women for Equal Rights sounds like feminism. For
some, that was increasingly the issue, the feminist movement, whether in
Gainesville or elsewhere. I think a lot of that group remained active in the League of
Women Voters or were in touch with "The Group" and so on. But I do not remember
that GWER continued. I just do not remember her being involved in it after we came
back from India in 1966. If it had been really functioning, I think she would have
L: Do you remember her getting involved in any sort of feminist women's movement
C: No. Her activities were very much focused on tutoring and all of these various
programs that I had mentioned and others. She was not in sympathy with some of
the more strident expressions of the feminist movement. After all, this was a woman
who had chosen to stay home and take care of her children.
L: She did not take a job?
C: No. Only when the children were grown. [She spent time out of the home for] these
tutoring things, and when our daughter was in college she was a teacher for a
couple of years at Gainesville Academy. Then we were away again, and
circumstances changed. So she never really did anything, except for casual kinds of
income things. The one [position] at the Gainesville Academy was not casual, but
most of these tutoring things with the utility workers and so on were volunteer.
She felt that some people in the women's movement disparaged her, and she had
some of them even classified, who looked down on her in the way they related to
her. On the other hand, Ruth McQuown, who was quite a figure in all of these
movements, was a person that she honored very much, but she was in the women's
movement. I have heard this from other women who were secretaries and others
around the University. She did not just relate (A) to professional women and (B) to
people in the women's movement. She related to women. My wife certainly had
experienced the conflicts in giving up teaching to stay at home and all of the trade-
offs. Not that she was unsympathetic to the right or the desire of women to move
out in the world for equal pay and all that. That she was with.
The disparagement of homemaking was not a message that she appreciated and
she felt strongly about this. When we were a young couple that was really the
decision most people made. I am not even sure if we thought of it as a decision.
Childcare options were different and all of the rest. At any rate, looking back on all
that, I do not ever remember her going to a meeting of NOW [National Organization
for Women]. And then she reacted to certain things like Planned Parenthood or
something that had a certain interest. She was all involved in that, not as a worker
but as a contributor. Within a week we got in the mail eight or nine duplicates. She
refused to give to Planned Parenthood. Again, it was the whole wastefulness of
sending out duplicate mailings and the need and so on. She reacted to issues often
in that way, a very personal way, something she could relate to quite positively.
For a long time she was involved in housing. She served on a city board that had to
do with housing. I had forgotten that there was a Gainesville neighborhood
development that was a sort of precursor to Habitat for Humanity. She would go to
those meetings, I remember, always contributing. It probably has virtually passed
out of existence, but [it] did some good, fixing up homes and helping people meet
code and lending them money at low interest and all this. So those were the things
that claimed her, and I do not think the women's movement ever got a very positive
L: Did either of you ever get interested in environmental issues early on?
C: Yes. [We are] ardent recyclers and contributors. We never belonged to the Sierra
Club, for example. She was very active in the Florida Trail, which is recreational but
bordered on that. And she was very active in the Gainesville Audubon [Society].
She liked to be outdoors with the birds.
L: [Have you had] any contact with the Florida Defenders of the Environment or
[participated in] the battle against the cross-Florida barge canal?
C: [We are] original contributors, and have been from the beginning. I do not think we
ever did any organizational work, but we have been close to it in that sense. Yes,
like a lot of people, we ended up on a lot of lists and make modest contributions to a
number of these. Our own activities have been more limited, I think.
L: Is there anything else you would like to add?
C: I guess the main thing is, as I reflect back on this era, (1) it seems a long way back,
and (2) in so many ways we have come a great distance. Conversely, some of the
basic cleavages in our society [still are in evidence]. We really have not moved that
far in terms of housing and income disparity. We may be better poised to deal with
those. Who knows? Certainly there is more mobility possible. Young blacks have
opportunities. All of that is true and heartening, but there is a drag. There is so
much we have not done.
As I look back on some of the things we have touched on, the mixture of things that
emerged, issues were sometimes met head on. Sometimes rather tangential things
were really operating that historians need to uncover and help us see these things
more clearly. But Gainesville has been able--in the period that I have been here--to
move much more constructively than many other southern communities. It is not
exactly clear why this is so.
L: Are you willing to take a stab at it?
C: Well, I think it was the enormous weight of the University; it was such a dominant
fact. If it is true--and I believe it is--the administration had already told the
Merchant's Chamber of Commerce, the power structure of Gainesville, that if we
had a real incident like Alabama Autherine Lucy admission [Lucy was the first black
student at the Univ. of Alabama, 1956], it would set the University back for years, as
it had Alabama. And the University is just too big a thing for that not to carry weight.
The other thing was that it was rather hard to picture the University as a den of
radicalism. I mean, Marshall Jones was about as radical as we ever encountered.
[laughter] This is democratic, responsible, within-the-law kind of activity.
L: But is it a bastion of the Old South, like say, Ole Miss?
C: No, I think it is not. It is more cosmopolitan. The culture shock that many kids felt at
Florida was not coming here and getting a black roommate but coming from
Miami-Dade and having somebody from Chipola, rural Florida [as a roommate].
[laughter] There were such differences. So the University had sort of moved into a
more-pluralistic mind-set. It started before I got here, but it accelerated as the
The other thing that I think helped us is that we were rather good at exploiting
difficulties elsewhere. If someplace had violence, in order to avoid a repetition of
that here it became possible to mobilize certain energies. I think among our heroes
there have to be some people who suffered elsewhere. That would allow people in
Gainesville a little more momentum than they would have [had] without that.
I feel rather out of touch with the students because I have not taught much in recent
years. I have been involved in grant activities. I think we moved to a time, as we
needed to, when interracial was not it--it was black power. I touched on that earlier.
I think in my mind I withdrew from a lot of civil rights activism of a certain kind
deliberately because I internalized the black power message, that blacks have to be
their own advocates and in some sense determine how whites are to help them and
so on. So while I continued to support certain things like the Urban League, which
has a certain kind of urban policy, a lot of other things made less sense to me. I
shifted more to concern for educational and economic things than sheer race.
I think once we got beyond the Civil Rights Act there were less and less ways that
you could do very much directly based on race. It does not mean that the problems
are gone or that there are none, but it is more reacting to crises, I think, than
anything else. I think that the situation has changed. There may be a lot more
interaction at a personal level among students--black and white. I do not know. I do
not think there is so much organizationally. This is probably good in the long run.
There are structural problems in our society that have to be tackled. We cannot
pretend that they are not there and that they have no racial dimensions.
So I think it probably remains important to find vehicles where blacks and whites
come together and roll up their sleeves. I do not know where they are in
Gainesville, except in politics. Some churches are better integrated. The school
system, I think, has come a long way. Some unfortunate decisions have slighted
the black population, [like] taking away Lincoln High School.
L: That was a mistake.
C: But I think we will even get over that someday. It will remain Eastside Lincoln or
something like that in another generation. Whites will want to do it, to correct that.
But an awful lot now depends on the political process, because some of these things
that impinge on housing, economic development, and so on may have other actors.
But that is the primary one. That is, I think, an area where blacks and whites are
much more engaged with one another--in both parties. I think we see fewer black
faces [that are] Republican than Democrat, but at least if some other institutions lag
I guess there are more and more blacks in corporate America, in board rooms, and
L: Have blacks been successfully and equitably brought into the faculty at UF?
C: I think it is mixed. I think in some areas [there has been some success]. We have a
long way to go in my department.
[Tape ends. Some conversation is missing.]
L: Was that an allegation of denial of tenure?
C: A psychologist. Scott, I think his name was. I was not that close to it, but as you
look at the whole record, if racism were the issue, at least the University could make
a good case to make it appear as though it was not the issue.
We have a ways to go. We still have, in so many areas of modern America, a kind
of mentality of what is realAmerica. In the South it is white Protestant. In the North
it is people who are white who came from Europe and came a hundred years ago.
And then new groups, new things, are viewed as intruders. We use an awful lot of
the language of invasion, as if blacks are trying to "invade" our world. And that, of
course, misrepresents. It is their world and always has been their world.
One can only hope that it does not produce a policy that will significantly change the
outlook, the framework, from which we operate over the next generation. I hope that
is happening through the schools, primarily, [in our] images in sports [and]
entertainment, and whatever other forces go. But there is still an awful lot of what I
call the "Ralph Bunche mentality," [American statesman, the first African-American
to be a division head in the Department of State (1945), awarded the 1950 Nobel
Peace Prize] that a lot of schools would have been willing to integrate at an early
stage and have Ralph Bunche in their club or whatever. But it is the token or limited
delegation that [is] moving away from the idea that we are letting him, or that small
group, in or we are sharing ours with them. [That idea] is still very strong.
It seems to me that the real revolution comes when intellectually, I suppose, and
spiritually, we do not think that way. America is for everybody, and everybody is an
"invader," and nobody has the claim to be the true and authentic American, to which
others will be admitted. I am afraid that as I look at the racial divide, in addition to
powerful economic factors and the urban problems that feed so much of our tension,
there is a sense of a lot of whites making a room in their tent for these other people.
The idea that it is "our tent" is still weak, I think.
L: I would agree with that. I would like to thank you very much for talking to me.
C: You are very welcome. I wish I had a better memory of some of these things.
L: Well, you have a lot [more] of [the] pieces of the puzzle in the right places than a lot
of people I have talked to. Thank you.
C: If I can help you any further, let me know.