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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida
Interviewee: John Paul Jones
Interviewer: Ford Risley
20 February 1993
R: This is an interview with John Paul Jones, the former dean of the College of Journalism, 20
February 1993, at his office: 102 NE 10th Avenue.
Tell me a little bit about your background; where were you born?
J: I was born in Micanopy, just south of here.
R: OK. [What was] the date?
J: 3 March 1912.
R: Did you spend your growing-up years in Micanopy?
J: No. My mother was born there, and when she had her first child--I was the first child--she went
back home to have the baby. Then she came on back to Gainesville where she and her husband
R: I see. So her parents lived in Micanopy?
J: They lived in Micanopy, yes. So I was really only down there for a few days right after I was born.
R: Were you born in your grandparents' home?
J: Yes. The house is still standing; it is a wreck, but it is still standing. It is probably going to be
restored. There is somebody interested in it, and it looks like it may get back to the way it looked
in 1900 or earlier. It was actually built in 1871 by my grandfather and his sons.
R: Did you grow up in Gainesville?
R: You went to school?
J: I went to school here [for grades] one through twelve.
R: Where did you go to high school?
J: [I went to] Gainesville High School.
Was that the only high school at the time?
That is all there was here.
Tell me a little bit about your parents' family. Were you an only child?
No. I have a brother who is eleven months younger than I am, and I had two sisters. It is kind of
an interesting situation: my brother and I were born in 1912 and 1913, and then twelve years later
my parents had two girls.
How about that.
The older girl died at [the] age [of] fifty from cancer. The other one is still alive. But my
Grandfather Jones was born near Valdosta, Georgia. He was a farmer. And then the family
moved on down into Florida into what is now Gilchrist County. At that time it was the western part
of Alachua County. My grandfather then married Elizabeth Sayre Mason. The Mason family had
grown up in Florida and Missouri, and my Great-grandfather Mason, who later on was a judge on
this county for twenty-four years, grew up with Mark Twain. They were boyhood friends and
exchanged letters. I used to hear when I was growing up that somewhere in the family there were
a lot of letters from Mark Twain, and I was never able to find them.
That is too bad.
Anyhow, the Masons came down the Mississippi River on a raft with all their household goods,
and then moved by ox cart to the Trenton area, which at that time was called Joppa. That is where
my grandfather met Elizabeth Mason, and they were married. My father, John Paul Jones, was
born over near Trenton in a log cabin, and then they later moved down closer to Micanopy and
farmed in that area.
Why did they settle in Micanopy?
Well at that time Micanopy was heavy with a lot of acreage of citrus, and it was also quite a
garden-crop center. [They produced] beans, tomatoes, egg plant, squash, and all that sort of
thing that was shipped north. There were farm merchants or some such title who came down, and
they would look at a field of okra or egg plant or whatever and buy the whole field, and then they
would hire people to pack it in crates and stuff and load it on the old T & J Railroad, which ran
through Gainesville and on down into the lower Alachua County area. They would ship them out
and all of the stuff would then go north. I do not know for sure, but I suspect that they moved to
that area because they were farmers and it was a rich area for these truck vegetable crops that
had a good market in Philadelphia, New York, and places like that.
Now, the McCradys were my mother's side of the family--that is the story that is told in Cold
Before Morning [: A Heart-warming Novel about a Pioneer Florida Family, by John Paul Jones].
They came into the area in 1854 from Scotland; they were all Scottish people. My mother was
born as Lorna Doone McCrady. They took the name from the famous Scotch novel Lorna Doone
[by Richard E. Blackmore]. So that is how my father met my mother at a church event, and that is
all detailed in this book. They were married--they eloped to Ocala in 1911. I was born in 1912. At
that time, my father was at the University of Florida.
What was he studying?
He was studying business. Later on, after they were married, he went to Jacksonville and
enrolled in a business college up there and finished mainly his accounting. He became a
bookkeeper (as they called them in those days) for a plumbing company in Gainesville. That is
the way he started his career. Although he got out of the accounting business he ended up back
in it before he died, during the Depression. So I grew up here in Gainesville.
What was Gainesville like as a place to grow up for a young boy?
Well it was a great place because nobody worried about being mugged on the street, or walking
on the streets of Gainesville at midnight or at 2:00 in the morning or any time, day or night. No
one locked their doors or windows. It was just a completely safe place to be. Parents did not
have to worry about their children if they were out at night.
Before we were married, when I was courting my wife, I attended the University of Florida from
1932-33 school year until I graduated in 1937. I graduated from high school in 1930 and was out
[of school for] two years then. I went to the University one year--1933-34--and then I stayed out
1934-35 and was working for United Press. I covered this part of Florida on foot, without a car or
anything, hitching rides and all of this sort of thing. During that time I had met my wife (in 1931),
and we were going together. We would walk from up way on North Main (about where we are
here now except a little bit to the west), down to University Avenue and all the way to the
University, for a dance in the old gym or for a military ball. It was probably about a mile and a
quarter altogether. If you were in college [then] you had to take two years of military at the
beginning; every student did. Then if you wanted to take advanced ROTC the government would
help you a little bit to get through, with uniforms and all this sort of thing. [Anyway,] I never felt
strange walking her home at 3:00 in the morning after the military ball or something at the
University. Nobody had cars except a few wealthy students, so everybody walked or hitched a
ride from the few that had cars. We would walk down University Avenue and up Main Street to
her house, and then I would go on home at 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning, and nobody thought
anything about it.
How did you meet your wife? Did you all grow up together?
No, we did not. She was born in New Orleans, and she is of French background. She lived in
New York City for a while. Her father was a banker with the Chase Manhattan Bank in New York
City. Well sometime right after World War I he was transferred to the Chase Manhattan Bank
branch in Paris, so my wife and her sister and her brother went over there with her mother and
father. Then her father fell in love with his secretary, a French woman, and the wife, my wife's
mother, just picked up her kids and came back to the United States. She was a very talented
musician. She could play any instrument in the world I guess, and she made a living teaching
This is your wife's mother?
This is my wife's mother--my mother-in-law. So eventually they got down to Florida, and they lived
in Clearwater and she taught music. Then the Depression came on, and they had an awful time
trying to make a living because I guess people in a depression do not have the money to pay for
music lessons for their daughters or sons or whatever. So they eventually ended up in
Gainesville, thinking there would be more opportunity here.
My wife had to drop out of school, and I met her in 1931 during the time that I was not in college; I
was working (at first) at old Lovett's Groceteria, which was a predecessor of Winn-Dixie. I was the
third meat cutter in the meat department. She came in there to buy some meat of some kind. I
guess it was love at first sight, and we started going together. We went together for six years until
I graduated in 1937, and then six months later we got married. I had already moved to Palatka on
my first newspaper job, and she was working for Southern Bell as a telephone operator.
In the fall of 1937 the head of the Department of Journalism asked me to come in and teach
journalism. I had been working on a newspaper all summer. [I was paid] $1,500 for a nine-month
period--$166 a month. Well, this seemed like a gold mine compared to what I had been getting. I
had worked as a janitor at the Masonic temple during that time and toiled all the month. I had a
paper route, and I worked at a little fruit stand near the railroad station. So [I did] anything I could
think of to get money. At the same time I was working for The Gainesville Sun for nothing, for five
or six months. And then they started paying me $6 a week.
Let us come back to that. I want to ask you, how did you get interested in journalism as a career?
Well that goes back to when I was about twelve years old. We had an uncle living with us who
was studying pharmacy at the University, and when he left he left a typewriter--an old L. C. Smith
typewriter--and I had learned to hunt-and-peck type on it. So I put out a little newspaper for the
neighborhood. [It was] just an 8% x 11 sheet on one side with two or three columns on it (I do not
remember which). But the major story on it was a fight between a man and his wife who lived
right next door to us. I described it in great detail, and then I tacked a copy of it up on a telephone
pole in the neighborhood. That was my first and last issue. Of course, they got real unhappy
about it and raised Cain.
They did not like you publicizing their fight around the neighborhood.
No. So my father said, "Well, let's don't have any more of this." So I did not publish any more
newspapers. But I went on from there to become the editor of the high school newspaper, which
was called The G.H.S. Comet. I do not know where that name ever came from, but that is what
they called it. Later it became the Hurricane Herald, I think. That started me into journalism at the
high school level. At the same time, I started writing for the [Gainesville] Sun [about] high school
news, sports, and anything that [was newsworthy].
R: So while you were in high school you worked for the Sun, covering high school news?
J: I was not officially a staff member but unofficially, I was their Gainesville high school reporter. So
that is the way I got started in it. I guess it was in my blood; I do not know where these things
come from. But all I ever wanted to do was write. This is kind of strange, but I used to write
poetry for the newspaper. The newspaper used to take all kinds of free-lance poetry back in the
R: This is The Gainesville Sun?
J: Yes. I used to write under the name of "The Colonel." I do not know if at first they ever knew
where it came from. They did not pay for it, but they published it. So that is where I got started in
it: through the high school newspaper, I guess I became more interested in it.
R: Did you say you took off a couple of years between finishing high school and starting at the
University of Florida?
R: What did you do during that time?
J: Well, I did a little bit of everything. As I said, I was working for the Sun for nothing, and then I had
these three jobs: being a janitor of the Masonic temple, [delivering papers for] my paper route and
working at this fruit stand for this Greek fellow.
My dad got into the grocery business after he was a bookkeeper, and he always had the dream of
[having] his own store. He was, I guess, way ahead of his time. Back in the 1920s and 1930s
grocery business was done on a credit basis, and a lot of it was done over the telephone.
Housewives would call in and order groceries, and they would be delivered on a bicycle. Anyhow,
he wanted to establish a cash-and-carry grocery, the forerunner of the present-day supermarket.
And he did; he opened up in the late 1920s as Paul's Grocery, right up here on North Main Street.
We lived right nearby, on Lassiter Street.
R: Do you remember what year that was?
J: That would have been around 1926 or 1927. Let me see: in 1926 I would have been fourteen
years old. Well, it must have been earlier than that because we had a Model-T Ford truck, and I
used to deliver the groceries for people who would call up and order them. I would go out and
take them and collect the money for them. Fortunately, in those days you did not have to have a
driver's license; you just got in and drove. My dad had taught me how to drive that Ford, so I was
driving around town here delivering groceries when I was about twelve years old. That would
have been about 1926, so that is about when he started in the grocery business.
Then in 1930, when the Depression really hit and the banks were closed, he lost all of his money.
He had been doing a thriving business as a cash-and-carry, with specials in the newspaper on
the weekend to push groceries (just like the big supermarkets do today). But once the Depression
hit money just seemed to disappear. People were coming in who had been good customers, and
they did not have any money to pay for groceries, so he let them have it on credit. Well it was not
long before his shelves were empty, and he did not have any money because he was not getting
any money to restock. As a result, he just went out of business, owing some people that had let
him have groceries to sell.
I think this probably resulted in an early death, because he died at age forty-six in 1937, the day I
graduated from college. He had a brain hemorrhage. I think he just died of heartbreak because
all of his dreams were gone. The Depression had just wiped him out.
R: Jack, did you take off time between high school and college because you were not sure you
wanted to go to college or because you needed to earn money?
J: I needed to earn money for the family, to keep the family above water. No, I wanted to go to
college. This sounds strange, because there was no tuition at the University at that time, and it
was cheap to go to college right here in your own town. Yet I could not do it because I had to
work to [earn] whatever money I could get a hold of to help the family. So that delayed me two
years and I finally saved up enough to go.
I say there was no tuition. The University had an infirmary fee that you had to pay (I think the
infirmary fee was $9 a semester), and it had a laboratory breakage fee of $1.50 a semester. And
there was a student activity fee, which included the Alligator, the yearbook--the Seminole--and a
thing they called the F Book, which was a little handbook for freshmen. I guess that was all that
was under the student activity fee. Oh, the football games and sports events were under it. You
were paying for all that ahead of time, and you just picked up your book of tickets for the season.
So it did not cost much to go to college, and I could have gone if the family had been able to get
along without some help. My father was out of work; there was not anything he could get. My
mother was sewing for a dry cleaning place where people brought in clothes to be repaired or
whatever, and she made a little money that way.
R: So you went to college for a year and then dropped out for another year?
J: And then I finished up the other three years.
R: Did you work odd jobs during [the time you were in school]?
J: Yes, that was when I was working in the meat market. I had started earlier, and I got $2.50 for a
full Saturday that began at 6:00 in the morning and ended at about 2:00 or 3:00 Sunday morning.
The way people shopped in those days, the farmers all would come in and go to a movie, and
then they would start their shopping. The store did not close until midnight. At Lovett's Groceteria
we had to take all of the meat out of the meat counters and clean them, inventory it all, and put it
back in a display form for Monday morning. And that is what we did from about midnight until 2:00
or 3:00 in the morning. Then I would stop by MARIAN's house, and she would be sitting on the
porch in the swing waiting for me. I would stop by there at 2:00 or whenever I got off, before going
on home. So that was a tough way to court a gal.
R: She was mighty understanding.
J: Yes. We had already determined that we were going to get married as soon as we could. So it
was just a rough time to live, although I can say with all assurance that I did not feel deprived; it is
just the way it was. I mean, it was life that you accepted as it was. If you had to postpone your
ambitions and whatever, you did it. You helped the family if that is what was needed. So in 1937
my father had died, as I said.
R: You said he died the day you graduated?
J: Well he died on a Sunday, and Sunday was baccalaureate. Then Monday was graduation, and
we had the funeral on Monday. So I did not get to go.
R: I guess it was a bittersweet day.
J: Yes, it was. I'll tell you. I practically never got over it. It at least put me on my own. As I said, I
worked for the newspaper that one summer and then came back and taught for a year.
Then I got teaching in my blood I guess, because I got this assistantship at Wisconsin for $500--
$50 a month for ten months. In the meantime, I had gotten married, and my wife was working, as
I said, for the telephone company. So I went on to Wisconsin in the fall.
R: Let's back up a little bit, because I am getting a little confused. First of all, tell me about working
for United Press [UP]. When did you work for them?
J: Well, that was after that first year in college--that one year in between. In other words, I went [to
school for the year] 1932-1933, so it would have been the school year of 1933-34 [that I worked
for UP]. I went back to school in the fall of 1934. So that was the year. I was just a stringer; there
was no UP bureau in Florida at the time.
R: This was the United Press, not United Press International?
J: Yes, United Press. At that time I do not think it was UPI; I think it was just UP.
R: Right. What kinds of stories did you cover?
J: Well, during the elections I would cover the precincts and get counts of how the voting was going.
I covered the Ma Barker story down in Oklawaha where the Feds came down and shot up the
house they were hiding in and killed all of them. I covered a hurricane that hit Cedar Key; I went
with the AP [Associated Press] guy over there, and we were stranded there for a couple of days.
The bridges were all out, and the boats were all blown away, so there was no way to get off the
R: Were you able to file a story?
J: Well, the AP guy had a shortwave radio that he could broadcast with, so that is the way we got our
story out. As soon as we could get a boat [we got out of there]. They did not repair the bridge,
because the bridge was out for a long time. We got out of there any way that we could, to get
back to Gainesville.
They paid me by the inch, and I may have made about $10 or $12 a month out of it, so it was not
any big money.
I guess it was a good experience.
Yes, it was. They would send me a wire [to go cover] the hurricane thing, and I would write like an
eye-witness story of the hurricane. They did not know about the Ma Barker thing; I got word of
that [from the AP guy]. The AP guy was later on a good friend of mine at the University. He had
gone to the University and was working for The Gainesville Sun, but he was stringing for AP on
the side. He had a car, so he and I went together on a lot of stories, which we were not supposed
to do because we were competitors. But we did. So it was mostly special stories or feature
stories or requests that they would hear a rumor about, and they would wire me to look into this
and look into that, and I would do it. Then I filed the story by night wire into Atlanta, where the
only bureau was in this southeastern area. Now, during election time they would set up a special
bureau--usually in Miami--until we had a permanent bureau down there in later years.
Your first full-time job, you said, was with the Palatka newspaper?
Palatka Daily News, yes--in 1937.
Was that after you had finished at Florida?
What did you do for them?
I was city editor, which meant I was the only reporter. It was a five-day daily.
I had done a paper for high honors at the University on a magazine that I wanted to start. It was
to be a sixteen-page tabloid for the Sunday papers. I had it all worked out--the whole deal--of how
I would do it. So my parents had bought me a round-trip bus ticket from Gainesville, back to
Gainesville, by way of every newspaper town in Florida. So when I graduated I started out with
my little proposal in a briefcase to sell this idea to the newspapers. There were three of us--both
of the others were fine arts graduates, one of whom had a little money. They were both artists.
Together we had maybe $1,000, I guess, and we were going to found this famous magazine
based on that.
So I started out by bus and went to Tampa. I visited the Tampa Times first. They said, "This is a
great idea. We need this in Florida. We will print it for you here, and we will give you free office
space if you go ahead and do this." Well, that sounded pretty good. So I went from there to the
St. Pete Times and all around the dailies in the state, around through Miami and back up. When I
got back to Jacksonville, I had a promised circulation in every daily newspaper I had visited that
totaled somewhere around 600,000 circulation. That was the total for Sunday circulation in
Florida at that time.
Then we started in to do something about advertising. I went to the agencies and showed them
my proposal and everything and how much circulation I could give them, and [they said,] "This is
great! This is great! Florida needs something like this to show the developers of the state what
we have down here." I said, "Well, that sounds great. Now, how about advertising?" They said,
"Well, we cannot give you any advertising until you have been established [for] about a year.
Now, if you have enough money to run this for a year, to show that you are going to be in
business, we can probably get you all the advertising you need." Well, I went to three agencies,
and I got the same story.
So I came on back to Gainesville, and there was a telegram offering me this job in Palatka. I did
not even unpack my suitcase; I just got on the next bus and went to Palatka. That was the end of
that dream. This magazine now [What magazine is that?] is the result of it after all these years,
between 1937 and 1981. [Between 1937 and] 1980 really, because we founded a family
corporation in 1980 and then started publishing the magazine.
So that is how I got into the first newspaper job. The fact that I had taught over at the University
for a year [was a great benefit]. I was replacing a fellow by the name of Dowling Leatherwood,
who had gone to Madison, Wisconsin, to do his master's degree. He called me in the spring while
I was still on the paper in Palatka. No, he called me during the late summer. Before I left over
there he said, "Look. I can get you an assistantship up here; you can follow me if you want to
come. I have already told them all about you." He had taught me as a student, and he knew I had
had some newspaper experience along in between.
R: I am a bit confused. Did you teach at Florida before you worked at the Palatka paper or
R: How long did you spend at the Palatka Daily News?
J: Just that summer--from June until September. And then they called me back over to the
University. I taught for the full nine-month school year.
R: What year was that?
J: Let me see. I was teaching in the 1937-38 school year, so I started in the fall of 1937, and then I
started at Wisconsin in the fall of 1938.
R: OK. What did you teach that first year at Florida?
J: [I taught] news reporting, primarily. At that time the department was part of the College of Liberal
Arts and Sciences, so you got an arts and sciences degree. But it was actually called a B.J.--a
bachelor of journalism.
R: Where was your office?
J: [The University of] Florida at that time had two dormitories--[Buckman Hall and Thomas Hall]--and
I had an office in Thomas Hall. They had made an office out of a bathroom and all the toilet pipes
came through from all four floors of the building. I was right down on the first floor, and every time
anybody flushed the john anywhere up and down the line "whooosh, whooosh" [went] right
through your office. [laughter] It was quite an experience.
R: I bet. Where was the classroom?
J: The classroom was in what later became Language Hall, which was also the administration
building. That is the building that was on University Avenue, just north of the library.
R: Is that building still standing?
J: Yes, it is still standing. It is strictly an all arts and science building now.
R: Do you know what it is called today?
J: Leigh Hall. I think it was named for Townes R. Leigh; he had been vice-president of the
R: So it is Leigh Hall today?
J: Yes, it is Leigh Hall today. [Language Hall is now Anderson Hall. Ed.]
R: How many journalism faculty members were there?
J: When I was there there were three--I was the third one that came in to replace Dowling
R: Do you remember the other two faculty members?
J: Yes. [William L.] Bill Lowry and the head of the department, Elmer Emig. Emig had become head
of the department in 1926, I think, and he had been there for ten or twelve years when I came
along in 1937. He was my head professor during those four years I was in college. So they never
had but three people, and when I came back to teach in 1948 I still was the third one. In other
words, it had not changed a bit from 1937 to 1948.
R: OK, let's jump back again. You decided to go to Wisconsin to get your master's degree? How
long were you in Wisconsin?
J: One year--you could get the master's there in one full, twelve-month year. You had to go the
regular nine-months term and then the full summer term.
R: Let me ask yo something. Was this the first time you had ever lived outside of Florida?
J: Oh yes, it was the first winter, and I was the target of all the reporters on campus and the town.
They found out there was this Florida cracker boy up here who had never seen snow, and they
were always coming over after the first snow to get my comment on what the snow was like.
R: Did you have a heavy coat?
J: Yes, I did. I bought one up there. [I paid] $15 at some secondhand store or something. I
remember the statement that was quoted all over town: "It looks like somebody is plucking
chickens on the roof, with white feathers all falling down." They all quoted that. So that was my
first time out of the South, my first time out of Florida and my first time in the North during the
After that I got my master's degree and GRANT HYDE, who was head of the University of
Wisconsin School of Journalism, [helped me secure my next position]. Other people looking for
faculty would come there in the spring and interview. A fellow came over from the University of
Illinois, and Grant HYDE recommended me to him. And he hired me to go over there as an
instructor and work on a Ph.D. So I would be teaching as an instructor half of the time, and a
graduate student working on a Ph.D the other half of the time. I chose history and political
science as a degree. I think Missouri had a Ph.D. program [in journalism], but that was it.
Illinois did not have a Ph.D. program?
Illinois did not have one--not in journalism. There were very few. I know that Missouri had one,
and I think maybe Minnesota had one, and that was all there was in the country. So I went on
over to Illinois.
By that time, MARIAN had been able to get transferred to Wisconsin Bell for the second semester
at Madison, and she came up in January, and we moved in. She, of course, was making a little
money. Somebody had resigned as a graduate student or something, but anyhow, they divided
his money up between me and another student, so I got another $25 a month. That meant $75 a
month. My wife came up--she was working for Southern Bell--and I think she was getting $15 a
week. So we rented an apartment for $25, and we could live on $5 a week. Thanks to a fluke,
things were looking up.
I never went through graduation exercises; they mailed it to me. After I got that degree, I went
down to Illinois and started in on the Ph.D. program in history and political science, and I started
What kinds of classes did you teach?
I taught two courses. Again, I was teaching magazine writing, and I was teaching one section of
reporting. I stayed there until World War II.
How many years was that?
Well, it was from 1939 through 1943, because I left in 1943 to go into the navy. I was gone three
years. I got out of the navy in 1946 and went back to Illinois for the second semester. I got out in
spring and got back there in time for the second semester. Then I stayed there two years, until
1948, when I came down to Florida.
OK. Let me back up again for just a minute. Just briefly, what did you do in the navy?
They put out a call for 700 college instructors to come into the navy, and they were going to be
teaching physical education programs, physical conditioning, and they were also looking for
people to teach American history. This seems kind of strange, to have somebody come in and
teach American history in wartime. I figured out since then that this was all a ruse to get college
instructors and college-trained people into the navy, because I went to Chicago, and I weighed
about five pounds under the minimum to get into the service--even in wartime. Somebody told me
that if you eat a lot of bananas and drink a lot of water before the weighing in, you could raise your
weight four or five pounds. So all the way to Chicago on the train--for 150 miles--I ate bananas
and drank ice water.
I got up there and it was in January, with blizzards. You could not get a taxi, so I walked about
two miles into the Board of Trade Building where they had all these exams and stuff you had to go
through. I tell you, I nearly froze to death; I was the coldest I had ever been in my life. I got up
there, and I went on way upstairs to the top of the building. They had all these 700 people there,
all crowded into one room. I was flat up against the wall. Most of them were college coaches--
great big old guys. So I never will forget it. They called out, "John Paul Jones," and I raised my
hand--I was way back there in the back. Everybody looked back there, and I heard it whispered
all over, "John Paul Jones." They opened up a path for me, and through them all I went.
Then they had us go in this room and take off all our clothes to be examined. They had you all
lined up, and they came down examining us all as they went. Then they lined us up to go through
for shots. No, [it was] not at that time; we had to come back later for the shots. They had to
decide whether they were going to accept us or not. I went through all this, and they put me on a
scale. I weighed exactly what I weighed before I even started up there. I was still five pounds
under the minimum! I was a little old skinny guy who weighed about 125 pounds, and I think I was
supposed to weigh a minimum of 132.
Well, I finally got to the doctor who was going make up his mind. He was looking all over the
sheet and he said, "Well, you have good eyesight, and you are physically in perfect condition. I
see 133 pounds on here. You are going to have to eat a lot." Well, actually what was on there
was 125. So he signed me in. That is how I got in the navy.
Well, I went back later for official confirmation of all this, and I remember all these guys all back in
there. I had a friend from a small college by the name of Paul STREET, and he and I went to
have our eyes examined at the same time. This guy had glasses on about that thick, and they
made him take them off and read all this stuff. Well, he kept getting closer and closer, and finally
he was almost to the wall before he could read anything. [laughter] The guy shook his head and
said, "You cannot go." This was an aviation program that they wanted us to go into, not as pilots
but as [Tape ends. As What?]
... where they were recruiting armed guards for merchant ships. He said, "They'll take you; they'll
take anybody who is breathing." So [my friend] went down there, and they did! They took him in--
even with his bad eyesight. What they do is put an officer in charge of four or five enlisted men
who were using one five-inch gun to protect that merchant ship against submarines. [laughter]
Well, they were sinking them like crazy out in the Atlantic. So he died out there. I mean, it was a
suicide mission; that is really what it amounted to.
Anyhow, I got in, and I stayed three years. They gave me a commission as a lieutenant j.g., which
is equivalent to a first lieutenant in the army, and I got a promotion to full lieutenant, which would
be a captain in the army. I was ready for lieutenant commander when the war was over; if I had
stayed in two more months I would have come out as a lieutenant commander. Well, when I
came down here I joined the naval reserve unit and I got my lieutenant commander. But it took
ten years in peacetime to go that equivalent of two months in combat. [laughter]
What did you do while you were in the navy? You taught? You were a teacher?
No. That is the point I was getting to. I think they just wanted to get you in there, because they
figured that if you had gone through all this stuff to get through college and could teach and
everything, that you probably had a pretty good mind. First they sent us to indoctrination school at
Quonset Point, Rhode Island. That was nine weeks. They took away all of our rank and
everything during that period, and they would not let us wear any insignia--just a uniform without
any of the stuff on it.
We had been called in earlier to choose where we wanted to go, what branch to go into, and I
chose the intelligence branch because my I.Q. was high enough to do it, and I thought it would be
fun. Well, when we got ready to go they called us all in as a group and said, "Look, it does not
make any difference what you decided you wanted to go into. The navy has given this class a
choice of assignment, and it will be in radar control--controlling aircraft on carriers. You will be in
the bottom of the ship in the communications information center, and you will be watching radar
and sending patrols out and giving them intercepts on incoming Jap planes." We were destined
for the South Pacific. So that is what I got into.
After indoctrination school they sent me down to St. Simons Island in Georgia. The navy had
taken over the lease of the King and Prince Hotel, a great, magnificent resort hotel. And that is
where we were, learning how to conduct intercepts. We worked with aircraft out of some area
down there. They would come in and simulate an attack on our school, and we would have to
used radar to send out some fighter planes from another base nearby and intercept them and
shoot them down.
After that I was assigned to an aircraft carrier, the [USS] Hornet (the new Hornet). The first Hornet
[of World War II] had been sunk [in the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands, October 26, 1942]. This
was a big Essex class carrier [of] 45,000 tons. [It was] one of the biggest things ever built, I
guess. There were about ten or fifteen of them that were built and commissioned. When we were
on the Hornet, we were in Newport News, Virginia, and we were getting ready for shakedown; we
were going to take it out on a cruise down the coast into the Caribbean, to try it out and find out all
the things that were wrong with it before it went to the South Pacific.
Suddenly, I got orders to grab a commercial flight and be in California to go to the south Pacific
with a thing that had been called an ARGUS unit. ARGUS did not mean anything; it was just a
bunch of letters. [What did this acronym stand for?] There was an ensign and I; two of us
were detached from the Hornet and sent out there. There were some others that gathered, and
we were called ARGUS Unit #25. The navy at that time in the whole defense system was doing
this island hopping business toward Japan, taking one island at a time away from the Japs. Our
mission was to go in with the third wave of marines. They would go in first and get the
beachhead, and then we would come in with the third wave with our radar equipment, establish a
temporary base, and direct the aircraft in from the carriers to protect the troops that were in there.
Well, we were out there from the fall of 1943 until the spring of 1944. We already had orders to go
to the South Pacific, and all of a sudden they cancelled the whole thing, deciding that they would
let the marines do their own training business because it had not worked out. The first ARGUS
unit that went in got in ahead of the marines by mistake, and were just cleaned out--shot up--
because they had no fighting [equipment or training]. They had no guns or anything; they only
had radar equipment. The next one had some other kind of disaster. It was just one thing after
another, so they decided to turn it over to the marines. We were using army equipment, which
was borrowed. The U.S. government and U.S. defense forces had not perfected their own radar.
During the early part of the war the British had gotten very proficient at this; that is what really
saved England. We were using British equipment at the same time that the government was
doing work on its own equipment, which eventually became better than anybody else's.
So that program did not turn out, and our unit then was sent back across the country, to the east
coast, with about 100 enlisted men and 6 officers, to form a night fighter training unit. We were
stationed at Charleston, Rhode Island, at a naval air station. We were to set up a training
program there for night fighter directors because the Japs had changed their whole tactics and
were really giving us a fit out there by coming in waves on a carrier task force. [Our] only defense
[was] a major carrier circled with maybe one or two battleships and some destroyers and some
submarines. So the Japs were coming in. They knew exactly how we were operating because
you would bring in your night combat air patrol groups right at dawn, and then they would sleep
most of the day. Then you would be sending up the daytime stuff. And at that time your hatches
were all open. They were bringing the planes up from the hangar decks that were down below--all
armed, all full of gasoline--up to the flight deck, where they take off. Well, the hatches were open,
so the aim of the Japs was to come in and drop a 500-pound bomb right down one of those
hatches and let it explode, and it would set off the bombs of all those planes down below. The
Franklin was another Hornet-size carrier, and it was the first one they got. They killed 3,000 men
in that deal. But they did not sink the ship. It was still floating, and they were able to control it and
put out the fires. But they were out of commission; that ship was completely and totally destroyed,
except it did not sink. They did some other smaller carriers that way.
And they were coming in at either dusk or dawn, right across the water. You could not catch them
by radar until they were right on you, so it meant shooting them down with a machine gun and
five-inch guns as they came in on your carrier. They got to where they were suicide missions.
Their aim was to come in and hit the ship and let their bombs go off to destroy everything and try
to sink the ship.
Well, we got into that program training squadrons to do this night duty to try to protect the dawn
and the dusk patrols in that period when they really were wide open for attack. So I did that the
rest of the war. I had wanted to go out to sea. I hated to leave the Hornet, because I loved it.
So after the navy you went back to Illinois?
After the navy I went back to Illinois. I was supposed to be working on my Ph.D., but they could
not let me. The GIs were pouring in on the place, just like they did down here, and they put me on
full-time teaching. Whatever time I could spend on the Ph.D. I did. I had finished my dissertation
before I went into the navy, which was on the founding of the Republican party in Illinois, and I had
done all of the coursework. I had passed my French exam. (You had to take an exam in both
French and German.) I had not passed the German language exam. I had been sitting in on a
beginning German course, but I did not have time to get back to it. I got into full-time teaching, I
wrote three textbooks, all of which were pretty well bought or used by most journalism schools in
the country, and I got to be an assistant professor.
You wrote three textbooks while you were at Illinois?
R: What were the textbooks?
J: The first one was a workbook called The [Modern] Reporter's Handbook. This one [News Beat: A
Workbook in Reporting] I did with a fellow by the name of Laurence Campbell, who later on was
dean of the School of Journalism at Florida State University. I did one called Radio and Television
News [with Donald E. Brown] which was the first book ever written in that field, and I did a rewrite
and an update of that first handbook called The Modern Reporter's Handbook, and it was a full-
size, regular textbook about the size of that, I guess. It was accepted by most schools; practically
every school in journalism and reporting was using it. That helped.
R: How did you get the job at the University of Florida?
J: Well, Elmer Emig had the same problem. GIs were coming in down here, and the enrollment was
growing. The man that had gone to Wisconsin, Dowling Leatherwood, who I had succeeded,
ended up in Atlanta at Emory, which had a nice school of journalism. Then he got pneumonia and
died. They never had filled the job, and they needed a third person, so he [Elmer Emig] called me
one day and said, "I have a job open down here if you can come." I told him, "I just signed
another contract"--this was in 1945--"for 1945-46." He said, "Well, the salary will pay you $3,000
a year." Well, by then I was making about $5,000; I think I was making $4,800. I said, "Elmer, I
cannot come down there for $3,000 a year. I am making $4,800 here. But I will make a bargain
with you. Anytime you can reach the salary that I am making here, I will come, no matter what
happens here." He said, "All right. Maybe we can get it up in another year."
Well, he called me in the spring before the next term, and he said, "I got the money if you can
come." I said, "All right. I will be there." $4,800. I went in and told Fred SIEVERT, who was my
boss, what I had decided to do and he said, "I am going to make it tough for you. You are now
making $5,500 a year." He raised me $500 right then. At the end of the year he raised it another
$500 and added summer school on to it. So I came down here for $4,800 a year, and I had
already gotten up to about $7,000. [laughter]
R: What year was that?
J: This was 1948. I had been back at Illinois for two years. Elmer gave me an associate
professorship, which was a jump up in rank, even though I still was at $4,800 when I started down
R: And there were three faculty members?
J: Yes. I came on as the third member then. It was still Elmer and Bill Lowry and me.
R: Were the offices still in Leigh Hall?
J: No, they had moved to old Building E. You would not know about that. It was right behind the
present administration building--Tigert Hall. There was a barracks building that they brought from
[Camp] Blanding [near Starke, Florida] up there when the war was over. They dismantled and
moved a lot of those barracks buildings. So we were in an old barracks building called Building E
when I came back in 1948. And all we had was three offices--Elmer's, mine and Lowry's--and one
classroom. We had about 200 or 300 majors.
R: Enrollment in the journalism program was about 200 or 300?
J: Yes. So toward the spring of the end of my first year back at Florida, I got a call from the dean of
the College of Arts and Sciences one day, and he said, "I need for you to come over. I need to
talk to you." So I went over; I had no idea what he wanted.
R: Who was the dean at the time?
J: [Ralph E.] Page. He was dean for quite a long time there. He had just come down--about the
time I did--as dean, and we got to be pretty good friends. He called me over and said, "I have
some news for you." I said, "What is that?" He said, "Well, during this past year there has been a
committee of the Florida Daily Newspaper Association working on getting your unit changed to a
school of journalism, and they have been looking for a head of that." Of course, Elmer had really
brought me down, and one of the promises he had made me--he was getting ready to retire--was
that he was going to recommend me as head of the department. So I came down with that
prospect. But now here all of a sudden this newspaper committee had been out working, and they
were going to get a school of journalism out of it, and they had picked a man to be the head of it.
Ralph Page said, "I have the man here who is going to be your new boss. It will be a school of
journalism, and we are going to do great things for you. I want you to meet him. His name is Rae
Weimer, and he has come down from a public relations agency in Columbus, Ohio. He was
managing editor of PM newspaper in New york City for eight years before it folded. I think you will
really like him."
He gave me the telephone number where I could reach him, and I called him and had him out for
dinner at our house. We talked and he said, "I sure hope you will stay. Dean Page wants you to
stay here because you come from a good school of journalism, and he thinks you can be very
helpful in reshaping this one and making it a credit to this University." Rae had never finished
R: Let me ask you something. Were you disappointed that you had been led to believe one thing
and that here was the dean doing something else?
J: Well, I was until I met Rae. After I met Rae [I changed my mind, because] he is such a nice guy,
and I could see he needed help because he had only had two years of college at a teacher's
R: He never got a degree?
J: He had no degree of any kind, and I knew he was going to need some help. He said very frankly,
"I do not know anything about any of this. You have such a good reputation and so on, I am going
to need you. I want you to stay. I will see that you get to be full professor right quick." Without a
Ph.D. and so on, I wondered how he was going to pull that off. Anyhow, we got to be real good
friends, and I told him, "Yes, I will stay."
R: So there were no hard feelings?
J: No, there were not any hard feelings. I told him, "I will stay. I feel like I owe Florida something,
and what I learned in the years at Illinois I think we can use down here." So I told him I would
Well, when the news got out in the edited publisher magazine that they were making a school out
of this and Rae O. Weimer had been hired from PM in New York City and so on and so on, I got a
call from Fred SIEVERT, my old boss at Illinois. He said, "Say. I see you got a new boss down
there. How are you going to like that?" I said, "Well, I met him, and I think he is a great guy. I
think I will enjoy working with him." He said, "Well, I have not filled your job up here. It is open. I
do not know what you are making down there, but whatever it is I will give you $1,000 to $1,500
more if you will come on back." I told him, "No. I have already given them my word. I have
decided to cast my lot with Florida, and I am staying." "Well," he said, "if you change your mind,
give me a call." I guess maybe he thought I would be real disappointed and I would be disgusted
with the whole thing and go on back up there. Well, he did not know that I wanted to get out of
that cold weather and get back to Florida where I could hunt and fish and enjoy the outdoors every
day of the year instead of a few months in the summer. Up there we had to drive 100 miles to the
Illinois River to catch a catfish about six inches long. So I did not think much of their outdoor life.
Anyhow, I stayed.
So what were the first couple years like as a new journalism school?
Well, as I said before, we were in this Building E with practically no facilities, no typewriters and
nothing to teach journalists.
You did not even have typewriters?
No. We had nothing. We had one office typewriter in the director's office, or the head of the
department. I did not even have a typewriter in my office. So Rae got busy and began to work on
Ralph Page about more space, because we were gaining students by the hundreds and having a
time to find places to teach them. The University at that time had really about the same building
facilities that it had when I left there, [when there were] about 2,700 to 3,000 students, and it was
up to around 8,000.
President [J. Hillis] Miller had come in by then, and I remember writing a lot of stories about him
and what he was trying to do. AP was picking up some of it, and the Sun was using all of them.
But one of them I remember writing was about his six-year plan in which he was going to have this
building and this building and this building and bring the infrastructure up to what was needed for
the vast increase in students. And he did it in six years! He had all the buildings, including Tigert
Hall and a lot of other classroom buildings. So it began to grow and develop.
R: How long were you all in Building E?
J: Well I came in 1948 and Rae came in 1949, actually. I think it was 1950 when we moved over to
Building K. That was another barracks building. We were given 3,000 square feet of space and
through the P. K. [Yonge] Laboratory High School we were able to pick up twenty old, used
typewriters that they were getting ready to discard. And we formed a newsroom.
R: Where was Building K?
J: Building K was on the site where [Weimer Hall] is now, except it was right in front of the gym. It
was just a wooden building across there. So we had a lot more space, and we were able to
develop a newsroom and a few other things that we needed, like professional classrooms.
So by the end of 1951 we had pretty good space and pretty good facilities. We had a type lab
even, and [we were] teaching typography, which was soon outmoded. We were still getting new
students by the load, so we began to lobby for more space. By 1955 we were able to move into
the stadium, underneath the west side of the stadium, into about 30,000 square feet, including
In 1954, I believe it was, we began to butt heads with the speech department in arts and sciences
because they were teaching radio--there was no television at that time--and they had studios and
everything. We had put in for a radio news course, and they had put in for a radio news course.
Well they had to make some kind of decision, because they were not going to duplicate things.
So we butted heads with them, and we convinced them that this should be in journalism. They
decided to move all of the stuff--the laboratories and newsroom and everything--from the speech
department over to us. So we got the whole works, including three of their faculty members which
we really did not want, because they were all speech professors.
R: You all moved into the stadium in 1955?
J: Yes. All that stuff then moved into the stadium in 1955, and we also got the first crack at an
education television station. That is when that went in. So all of that was in there--all those
studios. There was great big space for the studios.
R: Do you remember how many faculty you had at that time?
J: We had about ten.
R: And the enrollment, the number of students?
J: The enrollment was 564, I believe--of majors. We had established an advertising department,
unofficially. I mean, we had an advertising program, we had a journalism program and [we had] a
public relations program.
R: What kinds of classes were you teaching?
J: Well, it is hard to say. Rae and I, when we began to draw up the school, used to spend night after
night down there in Building K, developing courses and a whole new program. What I did was I
just laid out the University of Illinois program, and that is what we adopted. I wrote most of the
syllabuses for all those courses, and I taught all of them at one time or another.
R: For example, what were some of the classes?
J: Well I taught advertising [and] I taught public relations, [but] I taught mostly news. When I was still
teaching those were my favorite--the reporting courses. We had beginning reporting and we had
reporting of public affairs, which was a second course. And then we had a course that I
developed that really was a practice working course. We would take them to The Gainesville Sun
to work on the weekend, we would take them over to Palatka, we would take them down to Ocala,
and we were really trying to give them some experience on the job through that course. Later on
Hugh Cunningham taught it, and it was run entirely through The Gainesville Sun. They even put
in a newsroom down there for us when they built their new building. They were a New York Times
newspaper by then.
We had developed quite a program so they could get degrees in all those areas. I taught the first
radio and television course that had been offered because I had done the first book. I went to
New York City one whole summer and worked in the news department with the New York Daily
News station. I cannot remember [what its call letters were]. It has been a long time ago. I say I
worked, [but] I was just up there.
R: Mainly to observe?
J: Yes, to observe and go out with the reporters and watch them as they edited the stuff. I got all the
fundamentals that a student would have to know to go into that area. And I guess I had already
done the textbook; it was a workbook more than anything else. Well I completed it after I came to
R: Tell me about the Alligator? What was the school's relationship with the Alligator?
J: Well, one of the first things that they did to me when I came to Florida was, I had to take the job of
chairman of the Board of Student Publications. This was a job nobody wanted because you were
on the hot seat all the time with the president of the University. It had to be a journalism teacher.
Dowling Leatherwood had had it for a while, and Bill Lowry had had it for a while. Nobody kept it
for very long. So being the new kid on the block, I got it.
The relationship at that time, when I first came, was pretty bad. The Alligator was running its own
journalism school, is what it amounted to. While I was a student here I was on the Alligator. It
was the only place where we could get any practical experience because the Department of
Journalism at that time was strictly an academic thing. Through Sigma Delta Chi--I was president
of it one year and worked with it--we used to go to all these newspapers and work on the weekend
for free, just to get the experience. So out of that was that course that was developed later.
The Alligator and the school fought pretty much. They did not have much respect for it, because it
was not doing really practical training. I maintain that Elmer Emig was a real ivory-tower guy, but
he was probably one of the best teachers I ever had or ever ran into. The guy taught you how to
think. He made you think--forced you to think. He was a guy who apparently had a lot of logic in
his education, and he would get you into a corner and just watch you to see how you worked your
way out of it logically. He forced you to think. I always thought afterwards that was the best thing
I ever had, because it taught you how to think, and reason and so on. This was basic to a good
education--certainly in journalism. So I thought I got a lot out of it as a student, although we used
to laugh and joke about old Professor Emig. But he was a great guy, really.
He was an alcoholic in many respects. We could go into class on Monday morning and there
would be nobody there. We would go to classes all day--he taught about half of them--and there
would be nobody there. Finally the secretary would call Mrs. Emig and say, "Is Professor Emig ill?
Is he coming in today? We do not have anybody to teach his classes." She would say, "Well, Mr.
Emig is not feeling very well. I will call you back when he is going to be able to come in." Well,
come to find out, some fraternity members had picked him at a bar somewhere and taken him to
the fraternity house and put him to bed to sober him up. He and old Tigert, who was the head of
the college, were great buddies, and Emig used to drive him a good bit of the time around to some
of his meetings. They were drinking buddies.
But Elmer was a great guy; he really was. I think he was a fine professor, and I admired him for
his ability to force some of us old country boys how to think and get a little education into us.
R: By the time you had come back to Florida the relationship between the University and the Alligator
J: Yes, it was pretty sour. As chairman of the board I took the part of the students, and I was in hot
water all the time. It was not a very pleasant job. I felt like the students ought to be able to be as
free as they possibly could be.
R: In putting out the newspaper?
J: In putting out the newspaper, and I defended them on that, and that did not sit very well
sometimes with the administration. But we managed to get along. I had great rapport with the
Alligator, and that helped with the school. I think as time went on they developed some respect
for it, as the courses became more practical and improved, and as we developed other
relationships with the newspapers.
Incidentally, one of the things that did this was the fact that I had worked with the Illinois Press
Association during my time up there. The Florida Press Association was made up primarily of
weekly papers. Although all of the dailies [also] belonged, because that was where they could get
their strength in dealing with the legislature. The weeklies had the power. They represented in
these towns all these single representatives and senators, and it was a lot of power. The dailies
did not have that, so they all belonged, but they never attended the meetings and never
participated in any legislative affairs. So I was appointed. This was another side job. They were
looking for somebody to set up a state office.
Is this for the Florida Press Association?
Yes, for the press association.
Can I get back to that? I want to come back to that, if you do not mind. You mentioned that while
you were in school here the program was more academically oriented.
Did you feel like it was more important to point it in more of a professional direction?
I assume Mr. Weimer thought the same thing.
Yes, that is the way he wanted to go. He had practically a dictation or had been told by the
newspapers that he had to do this. The newspapers had been wanting this for a long time
apparently, so that is the direction [in which] we went. But at the same time--and this was never
completely understood--we insisted [on a liberal arts education]. Historically, journalism had been
kind of a bastard on the campus. They were not considered academic. This was a trade school,
and they did not have academic standing. I always felt--and we did at Illinois--that the basis for a
good journalism education was a liberal education and that they ought to have American history,
they ought to have basic economics, they ought to have literature, they ought to have history, they
ought to have political science, they ought to have logic--they ought to have all those general
liberal arts and science courses. We insisted that all this would have to be a part of the four-year
degree and that journalism (as such) trade school courses, if you want to call them that, ought to
be not more than about 25 percent of the entire college program.
So you wanted there to be some balance?
Yes, we wanted there to be some balance, but at the same time we wanted them to go out with
some experience and knowledge of how things had to be done. So that is the kind of program we
developed. We very quickly earned the respect and cooperation of the newspaper profession,
and later on radio and television and advertising. This was all helped by the establishment of and
the appointment that they gave me to be the secretary-manager of the Florida Press Association
What did that job entail?
Well, it entailed running two conventions each year, it entailed helping them with a centralized
employment bureau, it had to do with short courses and seminars and practical things of that kind
during the year, and it had to do with all the lobbying in the legislature. So I was over there
practically the whole term trying to deal [with the Florida legislators]. It was every two years at that
time instead of annually, and I would go over there for the session. That was the toughest thing I
ever did: I had to teach full time, yet be in Tallahassee enough to keep up with the legislation that
was going on, to protect the newspapers. I would get on the bus here in Williston just to keep the
costs down. I had to drive to Williston, leave my car there, and get on the bus at about 8:00 (it
was coming through from Tampa). I would arrive in Tallahassee at about noon, rush over to the
capitol, check on all the bills that were pending ([those] having to do with newspapers), make the
contacts with the representatives that were friendly with the press (to get their help), and at about
4:00 in the afternoon I would have catch the bus back to Gainesville. I would arrive back here at
8:00 at night, go to my office, check up on whatever had happened during the day for the press
association, go home and go to bed, get up at 5:00 the next morning, go back [to Williston] and
get back on the bus back to Tallahassee. That went on for the sixty days of the legislature. I got
relieved of some of the teaching, but I had to work out my courses somehow. It was tough.
How long did you do that?
I did that for sixteen years. But that was eight times, because it was every other year. So that
was a major responsibility--the press association. Then I started a monthly magazine called The
Florida Press, and I got that out for ten years.
This was a publication of the [Florida] Press Association?
When did that begin?
J: Well it actually began in 1953 as an annual rate book, listing all the newspapers and their rates
and who their officers were. It was kind of a directory for each newspaper. Then I moved that so
that I was putting out twelve issues of The Florida Press, and one issue was that. That began in
1954, I believe, or 1955. I have all the bound copies at home. In addition to that, I was getting out
a weekly bulletin--a mimeographed bulletin. And particularly during the legislative session, I would
get one out every day practically, if there was something that was hot, and if we were fighting a
bill. There was always somebody wanting an advertising tax every session. That is the one I had
to fight the most. We would beat it every time on a constitutional basis.
It was not as hard a job as it sounds, because if there were a bill up there that the press
association opposed, most of the time I could pick up the telephone and call the speaker of the
house and then the speaker of the senate and say, "I am John Paul Jones, secretary-manager of
the Florida Press Association. The board of directors has met and is opposed to House Bill so-
and-so or Senate Bill so-and-so on such-and-such a ground." I would talk to them a little bit, and
they killed it. They would throw it out the next day because, as I said, these weekly papers really
had the power. They were meeting at the Kiwanis Club or the Rotary Club every week with these
senators and representatives, and if we got into a jam, all I had to do was call a few key ones to
come and sit on the front row in a committee hearing on a bill. Here they are up there discussing
this bill, and here these guys who had all the power in their whole town were sitting there watching
them. Shucks! You could not get a bill passed that they were opposed to, to save your life. So it
was easy from that standpoint.
Now, the [weeklies] hated the dailies guts. They would say, "Well, the Miami Herald said so-and-
so and so-and-so, and they are trying to wreck the state of Florida and do so-and-so." They would
argue back and forth. The weekly guys would get up and say, "Well, this bill is going to kill the
weekly newspapers in Florida, and if you pass it you are going to wreck the economy or you are
going to do this, that, and the other." That is all the weeklies had to do, and the [representatives
or senators] killed it off. They would vote it down pretty soon. They might argue on it for the next
couple hours, but it got voted down. So it really was not too hard.
Before you became executive director, was there any kind of press association?
Yes, there had been a press association. The Florida Press Association--I am writing that history
now--was formed in 1879. But it was mostly a social group--a place to come and drink and talk
shop twice a year. They had a spring meeting and a fall meeting.
After I had been secretary-manager of the Florida Press Association for about four years, the daily
newspapers came to me and wanted me to take on the Florida Daily Newspaper Association.
They talked to Rae and so on, and we agreed [that] I would do it. This meant I had to run four
conventions a year--two for them and two for the Florida Press Association--and I had to do the
lobbying for both of them, which was really no different from what I was doing. But I had to keep
up with their dues and collect the money and spend it for them and so on.
Incidentally, in addition to the Florida Press Association I also ran a press service, Florida Press
Service, Inc., which was a profit corporation. That involved a clipping bureau and it involved
advertising sales for the weekly newspapers. We had what was called a one-order, one-bill check
system. In other words, a weekly newspaper trying to get national advertising would have to
contact any agency in the north--particularly the automobile stuff--and sell them on their paper and
get the individual count. Well, this made it expensive. It was too expensive for the agencies to
deal individually with, let us say, 150 weekly newspapers in Florida, even if they wanted to
advertise with them.
So we developed this system, and it worked. I would get five copies of every single weekly in
Florida (we had them all in pigeon holes on the wall) into the office every week. We had an outfit
in New York City called WNR, Weekly Newspaper Representatives, and they would do the selling
with the agency. They would say, "Look. We can give you 150 weekly newspapers, or we can
give you 100--whatever you want--depending on the locations you want to cover. And all you
have to do is give us one order for all of these newspapers, instead of you having to contact each
one separately. We will send in the tear sheets once a month on everything that ran. We will give
you one bill for it, and you give us one check. We will deposit it, and then we will mail out checks
to each individual newspaper." Our Florida Press Service, Inc., had a special account for that,
and we would just deposit a check from J. Walter Thompson and a check from somebody else,
and then we kept all the books on it. We bundled up the tear sheets and sent them all in to get
We started out doing about $175,000 worth of business for the weeklies, and we got 4.3 percent
of it for our administrative expenses and hiring somebody to pull all the tear sheets and mailing all
this stuff out and everything. By the time I had been there sixteen years we had built that up to
where we were handling about $1 million worth of business for them. And we were getting most
of the political advertising through, but a politician would want to get all these papers, and he
could do it with one order. He had to specify the papers, and we would tell him, "This will cost you
this and this and this." We would lump all that together, and he would give us one check.
How many weekly newspapers did the press association represent?
At the time that I started with it and we set up the central office, I think we had about 100
newspapers. And by the time I left and became dean of the college it was close to 200--almost
double what it had been. This was mainly because Florida had developed so many suburban
newspapers around the big cities that were weeklies or biweeklies, and there had been more
weeklies started around in the state, even though the two weekly towns had dropped down to one,
which tended to offset some of that. And all the dailies belonged. Even though they had their own
association they also belonged to the Florida Press Association. When the redistricting took
place, it changed the whole picture; all the voting power was in the south, whereas it had been in
the north. So that meant that the dailies began to have more power politically with the legislature.
They ended up with more power than the weeklies had.
And when did that redistricting take place?
[It took place] in the late 1950s or early 1960s--somewhere along in there. It had already
happened before I left the association to become dean. So it just completely changed the whole
picture. Also the legislature had gone annually. I was given the option of leaving the University
entirely and staying with the press association on a full-time basis and running it for them, or of
taking the deanship. Well, I opted to take the deanship, simply because I had so many years in
the retirement program, and if I stayed with them they were going to have to set up a retirement
program for me. I decided to keep what I had because in the long run it was--financially--a better
Tell me about becoming dean. When did that take place?
1968. Rae Weimer had become sixty-five years of age, and the law was--and still is--that you
cannot hold an administrative job after sixty-five years of age. Now, you can continue to teach as
long as you are able to--as long as you are capable of doing it--but you cannot be an
administrator. So he was going to have to step down, and he recommended me for the job, and
the newspapers recommended me for it. Actually, I started before 1968. [Stephen C.] O'Connell
had become the president here, and O'Connell wanted Rae over there [in Tigert Hall] as his P.R.
guy. He was more than that; he was kind of an advisor to the president on public relations
matters. He did a lot of other jobs for him too.
I was to take over in the fall, but O'Connell called me in the spring and said, "I need Rae right now.
Are you prepared to take over the deanship immediately?" I said, "Yes, I can." He said, "OK. I
am going to take him away from you."
This was in the spring of 1968?
Yes. I was to take over in the fall.
How many faculty and students did you have when you became dean?
[We had] thirty-three faculty, and between 600 and 700 [students]. When I left as dean in 1976
we had 1,300 [students].
And how many faculty members [were there when you left]?
I guess we had close to forty-eight or fifty--somewhere in there. We had doubled, see, in
enrollment. We were building the building. When I started in 1968 my major goal was a building
for the College of Journalism. Now, we had become a college in 1967.
Just before you became dean?
Yes. In his last year, Rae was the first dean of the College of Journalism and Communications,
and I took over as the second one. But I never got to sit in the building because, as I said, I
started out with a goal to get a building. We were just crowded. It was terrible! Those halls in
that stadium were only four feet wide, and when you get a change of class, and you have got
1,200 students going to class in there, it was a danger. I mean, a cry of "Smoke!" or "Fire!" would
have caused a panic, and we would have lost some students. The fire marshall had already been
over there and condemned it two or three times, and nothing had been done about it.
So I went over to O'Connell and I told him the whole situation. And I said, "When are we going to
get a building? It looks like the way we have grown that we ought to be in line." He said, "Twenty
years from now. The priority list that I have will put you in a new building twenty years from now."
And I told him, "Well, suppose I raise the money for the building?" He said, "If you can raise the
money for the building, you can build anything you want to."
So I called Jim JESSE, the publisher of the Gannett paper in Cocoa, which later became Florida
Today,but it was Cocoa Today then. He and I had been good friends. He was the president of
the Florida Press Association while I was running the thing, and then he became a president of
the Florida Daily Newspaper Association after I had that. Incidentally, it took me ten years, but I
put those two together.
When did that happen? I meant to ask you that.
Let me see. I went in there in 1952, and in 1954 I got the job as manager of the Florida Daily
Newspaper Association. About 1964, the early 1960s, we got them together as one association
called the Florida Press Association. That is what it had been originally, and the dailies had pulled
out in the late 1920s, when it was almost fifty years old, and formed their own association. But as
I said, they still belonged to both.
Anyhow, I called Jim JESSE and told him the situation, and he said, "Well, I am glad you called,
because the Gannett Foundation is in trouble with the government. They have accumulated so
much money that they have to get rid of some of it. Otherwise they are going to call them a profit
corporation, and they will have pay taxes on all that money. They have millions of dollars in that
fund. So I will work on it." Well things went along, and nothing happened.
In the meantime I got a call one day from a lawyer in Sarasota, and he said, "I have some good
news for you. The former head of United Press International"--[What was his name?] one of the
most prominent journalists in the United States--"died, and he has left an estate. He has left the
estate to the University of Florida College of Journalism, the University of Tennessee College of
Journalism, and another university as yet unnamed."
Had this man attended Florida?
No. During the time when the school was trying to get a reputation, we had honored this man and
the head of the AP one year. We gave them plaques and had a big dinner here for them, and just
really put on a very lavish affair. We gave them all kinds of recognition. Apparently this other guy
had gone back [home]. He had retired in Sarasota, he had made a lot of money in real estate,
and he had put us in his will. Nobody knew anything about any of this. It was just like bread cast
on the water that had come back to us as a result of a P.R. thing that we had done. We were
really sincerely honoring these men for their accomplishments and so on, but at the same time,
we wanted recognition out of it too.
So he said, "The will is being probated, and I do not know how much you are going to get." I said,
"How much is the estate worth?" He said, "Well, it is up in the millions." I thought, "A third of it?
Boy, oh boy!" He said, "The money must be used for scholarships," and I said, "Well, that is fine."
After he hung up I called Jim JESSE and said, "Jim, if you want the Gannett Foundation to be the
first one to give money to this College of Journalism, you better get it done quick." I told him the
name of the man who died and so on, and I said, "They have already put us in the will, and the
announcement is going to be made shortly about how much money the University of Florida
College of Journalism is going to get. You do not want to be second on this." He said, "Can you
come over here?" [laughter] I said, "Yes. What do you want me to do?" He said, "You draw up a
need program of why you need the money for a new building, and you document it with some
pictures. Bring it over here, and we will put this all together into a real fancy program and set it up
to the Gannett Foundation. I will endorse it as the publisher of this newspaper." Also he was
pretty much head of all the Gannett papers in Florida--there were about five of them. He said,
"We will really push it from there. I know Al NEWHART would be for it." Al was the CEO. So I
did, and I went over there and gave him all this stuff. We sat down and put it all together, and he
sent it in to Gannett Foundation. I did not hear anything from them.
Then one day I got a telephone call from the Gannett airplane, the executive jet. The pilot said,
"This is so-and-so aboard the Gannett executive jet. We have just taken off from La Guardia
airport in New York City, and we will be in Gainesville at such-and-such a time. Can you be at the
airport? I have the president of the Gannett Foundation aboard, and he wants to tour your school
of journalism." At that time it was [still a school]. Let me see. Was it a school or college by then?
It must have been a college. He said, "It is a quick trip. We are just going to come in there in a
whirlwind deal, go through the school, and then back to New York."
When was this? Do you remember what year this was?
This would have been about 1970. They were going to touch down at 4:00, so I was out there at
4:00. Then on the intercom there came the voice of the pilot again, and he said, "Gannett jet XYZ
204 (whatever the number was) preparing to land on runway so-and-so. Is there a John Paul
Jones there?" The manager of the airport said, "Yes, he is here waiting." The pilot said, "We will
be pulling right up to the door there in just a few minutes."
Well I went outside to look, and I saw this plane circling. Pretty soon it came in and rolled up. The
door drops down, and two guys come out rolling a red carpet. They rolled it off down here about
fifty feet, and out comes this man, walking on this red carpet. He came up and shook hands, and
he said, "I am so-and-so, president of Gannett Foundation."
In the meantime I had called Steve O'Connell and told him about it. He said, "Bring him by my
house for a drink." So I told him, "The president of the University, Steve O'Connell, wants you to
come by the presidential mansion for a drink before you go tour the College of Journalism
quarters." He said, "OK. We will go." So we got in my car.
Do you remember this man's name?
Oh, boy. I do not know. I can get it for you.
I think we would like to have it.
J: Yes. He was the CEO just ahead of Al NEWHART. I had been great friends with Al for a long
time. I can get it, because I have it in my files of news stories on it in the magazine that was
Anyhow, we went to Steve O'Connell's house. Steve greets him, and they talk and they talk and
they talk, and they have not one drink, but two or three. It was getting later and later, and this guy
had told the captain of the airplane that they would be back there not later then 5:30. Well, I could
see the time moving along, and we were not going to have much of a tour of the journalism
school. He finally tells President O'Connell, "I'd better go. I am not going to have time to see
much of the journalism quarters." So we dash over to the stadium, and I bet we spent ten minutes
in there: I mean, shooo, shooo, shooo, and we are out. He did not make any comment; he just
looked. We get back in the car, and drive to the airport. The door comes down, the carpet comes
out, and there was the guy standing at the door with a martini. This guy shakes hands, goes up
on there, takes his martini, and I can hear the other guy saying, "Mr. So-and-so-, steaks will be
ready in about fifteen minutes." So they are going to have dinner en route back to New York City.
The next thing that happened was, we get an announcement that they are going to give us $1
million in Gannett stock, worth so-and-so per share.
R: A million shares or $1 million worth of shares?
J: $1 million worth of shares. So we get ready and have a get-together, a big affair with the
president and a whole bunch of people, and they were invited down. They had asked for this. We
had a big dinner, and they presented the president of the University with the stock certificates.
Now the provision was, however, that they would give it to us only if we raised another $1 million
from the newspaper-radio-television industry in Florida. So we got out. O'Connell went with me
on some [of our fund-raising trips], Rae Weimer went with me on some, and we began to get
pledges. It was not very long till we had the other $1 million. That preceded their coming down
for the dinner and the announcement and everything, so we had all the other people here that had
We had figured, from talking to the University architect, that we could build this 100,000-square-
foot building that would be good for twenty years or more, for about $1.5 million and that we could
furnish it for another $.25 million, so we figured $2 million was plenty of money.
After that the University gave us the go-ahead to hire an architect and let him design the building
and come up with a total cost. So they hired Bob Brown, an architect out of Miami who had a
good reputation, and he and I began to meet. We got the faculty all in it, and we designed the
building. Then he came in with his price, his estimated cost: $8.3 million! I nearly died. I said,
"Good God! We have $2 million." The stock had gone up; we really had more than $2 million by
then. The Gannett stock was on the rise, and we had probably $2.5 million. Eventually it became
double what it had been worth originally. This was all in the hands of the University Foundation to
be put out for interest.
So I said, "You are going to have to go back to the drawing board and come up with a lesser
figure." He said, "Well, we would have to take the whole top floor out." It was a four-story
building. "We will have to take off the top floor." So he went back and worked at it, and he came
back, and it was $6.2 million.
So it was originally designed as a four-story building?
Yes. What they had done was squeeze the television and radio down; that is mostly what was on
the fourth floor. So I was pretty disconsolate about the whole thing. I figured we were not going to
be able to build this building [with the funds currently available]. We would have to raise another
$4 or $5 million.
About this time O'Connell had gone; he had resigned and left, and Dr. [Robert Q.] Marston had
come in as the new president. He was calling in all the deans, one at a time, to go over their
hopes and aspirations and whatever they were trying to do in their colleges. When I went over to
have my talk with him I told him this whole situation.
Do you remember what year this was?
O'Connell was in for five years, and he came in the same year I did, which would have been 1968.
This would have been about 1973 or 1974. So Dr. Marston told me, "You know, this does not
make any sense. You should not have to build your own building. Nobody else is building their
own. The state builds them for them. The state ought to build yours." He was a new president,
you see. He was in his honeymoon days. And he said, "I am going to the Board of Regents and
request that they let you keep your $2 million as an enrichment fund to be used to help the
reputation of the college, and that they build you a building at $6.2 million." I almost kissed his
feet. [laughter] But I did not think he could swing it. Well, he did! They agreed to do it. So we
went ahead with plans to build the building and get a contractor, and all this sort of thing. This
took time and time and time, and I did not think it ever would get done.
The big thing was keeping that $2 million, which today is something like $13 or $14 million,
because Ralph Lowenstein has come along, and he got one $6 million deal and a bunch of
money. Ralph had been primarily a dean money raiser, and he has done very well at it--
R: When did the construction begin on the new building?
J: Well, they finally got around to beginning construction. I stepped out as dean in 1976 and Ralph
came in that fall. So by then we had the building design, but Ralph came in and mades some
changes, and that took time. I do not think construction started on it before about 1977, and we
moved into the building in 1980.
After I was dean I headed the graduate program another year, and I taught full time for another
R: OK. Let us come back to that. I want to make sure I understand. The state money was used to
build the building itself, and you all were able to keep the other money for endowment?
J: Right. Of course it was in the University of Florida Foundation, and what we did was use the
interest on that. There were some times in there when that interest was real high, and we were
really getting a lot of money. The stock had gone up in value, too.
R: How was it decided to put the building in its present location? Do you know what the decision
J: Well, there were two considerations. One was by tearing down Building K; there was enough
room in there to do it. But the major consideration was that it was pretty well in the center of the
campus. We used so many other courses in business administration and in arts and sciences,
and we were within walking distance for students to be able to change classes in the fifteen-
minute period between classes. We could have been way out on the edge of the campus
somewhere where there was more room, but it would have been difficult. Students would have
had to have scheduled classes [to take into account travel time], enrollment got up, and there
were fewer classes, so it wold have been a real problem. So it was handed to the library, it was
handed to the arts and sciences courses that were taught in those buildings, and it was handed to
business administration (we had several required courses out of that area, particularly [for]
advertising students). Those were the major considerations. So that is where they decided to
R: What other kinds of things, looking back, are you proud of? [What have been] the
accomplishments while you were dean?
J: Well we were accredited, and we had never been accredited before. Rae put in for accreditation
in 1950, and we got it in the news editorial program. Of course everything was pretty much news
editorial then. Then we have been accredited ever since. We were first in the nation in the Hearst
[writing] contest. If you look at that sign over there, just year after year after year [we have won
R: Tell us about the Hearst competition; explain what that is.
J: Well the Hearst competition was established somewhere in the early 1950s, I think, for the
schools of journalism all over the nation. What they had to do was send in stories every month.
There were categories--straight news, investigative reporting, editorials. I do not know what [they]
all [were], but there were a number of categories. This is strictly news editorial, print media.
These were then judged by newsmen from all over the country. They would come out and read all
of this stuff from all of the colleges, and every month you would get points for first, second, third,
fourth, and whatever. I think it went to fifth. Then the school that was leading that month would
be announced: "The University of Florida [leads the competition] with so many points" and so on.
We ended up the year with the top three [schools]. I believe it was three; it may have been four or
five. Anyhow, the top school with the most points would be called to some location. I went out to
California once, I went to Washington, DC once, and they had the president of the United States
there to make the presentation. They had an on-the-spot contest for those top ones. They would
be given a news problem, and they would have to do it within a certain period of time. That added
other points. Well, Florida won it I guess, probably eight or ten times. We are the top school in
R: What do you attribute your success to?
J: Well, a good many of these stories were Alligator stories, which indicates a great improvement in
the atmosphere or the relationship between the college and the Alligator. Jean Chance was
chairman of the committee, [Horance G.] Buddy Davis was on the committee, and Hugh
Cunningham was on the committee. [They were] some of our top teachers in the news field, and
they did a tremendous job of judging the stories that were sent in. The fact that we had practical
journalists doing that teaching, and the fact that the Alligator was interested in it--it was a feather
in their cap it we won because most of the time it was stories out of [their paper]. It was also
stories out of The Gainesville Sun. So I think that is the basic reason behind it.
R: You had good faculty?
J: We had good faculty, all of them with professional experience. Together, Rae and I established
that as a basic ingredient in the selection of faculty from the very beginning, that we wanted
people that had had some recognition and experience and knowledge in the actual field. We were
not doing it on the basis of degrees. We had some problems with that. I mean, the University
was pretty well pitched on hiring people on the basis of their research and their degrees, but this
was not a practical thing to do with this college.
R: Tell me about hiring Buddy Davis. He is one of the more famous or infamous faculty members.
How did you all get him?
J: I do not know. I cannot tell you what was really behind it. All I can tell you is that somebody
recommended him, and Rae brought him to the school. He and I got together. He usually
consulted me on most of the hirings. There were two considerations: one was that he was a
Florida graduate, and [the other was] that he had some top experience on good newspapers and
that he was articulate. He and I, I guess, probably disagreed on more things than anybody else.
R: What kinds of things did you all disagree about? The way he handled his classes?
J: Buddy was a very dramatic person. He was very articulate. Students either loved him or hated
him. There were no two ways about it--it was one or the other. There were not any in between.
He was thought provoking. He was a good instructor. I do not think there is any question about
I disagreed with him on one thing. He took over most of the reporting that I had done, and I gave
him all my files and everything. I had developed some practical experiences that I would throw at
the class, based on the ability to make decisions in a hurry. For example, I had a fire going on,
and I would get out and the class would be going away doing the story. I would give them some
facts about it. And then I would call in--I had a phone right to the newsroom--and change things
during the process of the story. Well, they had to make a decision on how to reshuffle the whole
[story] because there might be another idea for a lead, and they had to make some quick
judgments and do this as a breaking story, is really what it amounted to, to try to speed them up
on the typewriter and make some judgments. Well, Buddy took that and made it even more
dramatic, because he would come busting into the newsroom with smut all over his face and his
clothes all in disarray. He would shout some stuff at them, and he would go out. He dramatized it
and made it a little more real, probably.
There was only thing I disagreed with him about his teaching method. Buddy was a strict
disciplinarian, to the extent that if a student was late with his work or if he had more than three
misspellings on a paper, he would stamp it with an E. And he had another stamp that he put on
them: "Great Zot," or something like this. Once he had students earmarked in the class who were
continually doing these things, when they came into class in the morning he would have the class
all set up to sound trumpets, and he would take them over to the corner and set them on a stool
and put the crown of thorns on their head. Well, to me it seemed like this was very cruel--
particularly to a sensitive student. It is bad psychology in education, as all the education people
say, because you are humiliated and embarrassed. But he was driving home a lesson. So it was
good in that respect. But I just disagreed with this as a way of disciplining the students.
This is a disagreement about teaching philosophies?
Yes. This was one thing. By the time I became dean I think I would have told him he would have
to stop it if I [found out he was still doing this]. But he had already stopped it. The message had
finally gotten to him, because I know that students went to Rae in tears--particularly girls--and just
would be torn up with this sort of thing. So Buddy quit before I became dean.
I respected him as a teacher [and] I respected him as a journalist. He got a Pulitzer Prize for his
news work and the stories he had written after the Brown case, with the desegregation. He did a
lot on that and it was great writing; he is a great writer. So he and I are good friends. I just had a
luncheon with him the other day. We got a little group of the old-time people that met at lunch,
and there were about ten of us there.
But you feel like a big part of the college's success is due to the teachers you all have had?
Yes. I do not think there is any question about it. Hugh Cunningham was a tremendous teacher.
JoAnne Smith was the greatest thing in law that we ever had over there. She was not a lawyer,
but she had learned her lessons well, and she knew the law. She was consulted by people
around the state [at] newspapers. Mostly if you go to a lawyer with a problem of libel or slander or
right of privacy or copyright or whatever, they do not know. They have to look it up. They are not
experienced in it. She had become experienced in it. So we had a lot of good teachers who took
real delight in doing what they did, and that is really the roots of the whole thing.
When did the graduate program begin--the master's program?
Well, the master's program goes way back to Elmer Emig.
J: That was his specialty. I chaired a lot of thesis committees. But that was inherent in the early arts
and science days. It did not become known and well respected and accredited until probably in
the late 1950s or early 1960s--somewhere along in there--when we turned out quite a few.
Now, the doctoral program was one of the things I was trying to get established, even though I
had misgivings about it.
R: Why is that?
J: Well, in the earlier days the top ten schools of journalism in the country--or colleges--were places
like Minnesota, which had doctoral degree; Missouri, which had a doctoral degree; Indiana, which
had a doctoral degree; Wisconsin, which had by then put in a doctoral program; and some others
that I do not recall offhand. Even though they were turning out maybe only one or two doctoral
candidates a year, they got the recognition. Stanford was one. I figured that we probably were
not going to be accepted among the top ten until we got one. While I was dean I drafted the
whole program, and I got it approved through the University. Then wham!--the Board of Regents
put a five-year freeze on new doctoral programs.
R: When did this happen?
J: Gosh, I do not remember the date.
R: Before you retired?
J: Yes, it was before I retired, which knocked us out. We had to just sit there and hold our hands for
five years until the freeze went off.
R: What was the reason behind the freeze? Was it a financial thing?
J: I do not know. It was a financial money thing for one thing. And secondly, they got the idea that
there were too many doctoral programs being requested, and that they could save money by just
holding it up for a few years. There were a lot being requested.
Well, even at the end of the five-year freeze, we put in another request. This is still while I was
dean. We were told when ours went in that FSU already had one. Well FSU really had one in
communications, and we were asking for one in journalism. They had sneaked that one in
somehow, and the Board of Regents thought it was all communications, so [they told us,] "We
already have that kind of a degree program."
Well, after I was dean and [Kurt E.] Kent came in as the director of the graduate program, he
started pushing that. And he got it through. But it has been just very recent. I think the first
doctoral candidate came out only a couple of years ago.
My own person feeling is that I think I am opposed to a doctoral program. Now, whether this
comes out from the fact that I never did complete mine, even though I did all the coursework, had
straight As and everything, and should have gone ahead and pursued it and gotten my degree
before I went into the navy, [I do not know].
R: You retired in 1976?
J: Yes, I retired in 1976. I taught a couple years then.
R: What did you teach?
J: Well, I was head of the graduate program and taught graduate courses both years. Then in 1978-
79 I took a leave and taught at Cornell in Ithaca [New York] for a year.
R: How did you get that?
J: Well, a friend of mine up there who headed the communications department--that is what they
called it there--in the College of Agriculture had a man resign about two weeks before school
opened. He knew I had retired as dean, and he called me and said, "Hey! Can you come up here
for a year? I am in trouble." I went to Ralph and said, "I would just as soon go up there for a year
if you can get along without me. I am going to retire anyhow." He said, "Yes. OK." So I went up
for a year.
Then I got an offer to go to the University of Alaska for two years, and my wife said, "No way. This
is the first time we have been back in the north in thirty years, and that is going to be the last one
for another thirty years." So we came on back to Florida. Then I went back to teaching, but only
one course a quarter. Then I got completely out in 1980, when we got ready to do this magazine.
R: In looking back, you would say that raising the money was one of the biggest things
[accomplished] during your tenure as dean?
J: I think it kind of broke the ice, because I believe I am right [in saying that] that was the first million
dollars the University ever got from private money. Before that, anybody who tried to get any
private money [received lesser amounts]. This is not to say that the University of Florida
Foundation and the Alumni Association did not bring in some money, but not a million dollars at
one time, which turned out to be, when the stock went up, probably a couple million. I think it kind
of broke the ice, and I know that arts and sciences immediately hired a guy to be their money
raiser, and the College of Business Administration really put in somebody. Everybody started
working on this, and it has brought in millions of dollars. We set that [Capital Campaign] goal of
$350 million or something like that three years ago. I think it was $250 million to begin with and
ended up that we went over the top with it.
Now I think it is going to be a regular thing, because Ralph, once he retires, is going to stay on for
at least a year as a money raiser for the University and for the college. And he will be good at it;
he is really tops.
R: Did you hire Dean Lowenstein?
J: Well, yes and no. The current dean does not do the hiring. It has to be done with a faculty
committee and University approval, of course. So I set up the committee, and they went out and
started soliciting for candidates. All the committee really does is recommend them to the
University president and academic affairs and so on, and they actually do the hiring.
R: What was it about him that appealed to you all?
J: Well, he came down and we visited with him. His academic background and his teaching work
were quite outstanding. He had a go-getter type of personality as well as being--socially--an easy
person to get to know and so on. I would say he was primarily hired on the basis of his academic
background and his teaching, and his reputation at Missouri. Coming from a school of that stature
[was important, because it was] a longtime leader in journalism education.
I suspect that there might have been some growing strength among the faculty that we should
have a more-academic [dean]. I am not saying that Ralph did not have the experience
qualifications. He did; he had both. But I think there was a tendency to move away from the type
of dean that Rae and I had been. I hired quite a few faculty members, and because of the
pressure for a Ph.D. program, I hired a lot of guys who had Ph.D.s. So we had begun to be
probably more balanced on the faculty from the standpoint of experience and academic
credentials, and the faculty search committee had agreed to search for somebody who had both
sides pretty heavy--experience plus academic credibility.
As a result of that there has been some criticism of the faculty's thinking on what kind of person
they ought to have. There has been some disagreement with that. Once in a while, I hear one of
them say, "We have become too academic and not as practically oriented as we used to be." But
I do not feel that.
R: Do you feel there is a good balance?
J: I think there is a good balance, and I have told Ralph this many times: that he has done an
outstanding, exceptional job as dean. I know the administration has been very high on him as a
perfect type of dean because he is a man who speaks out, who says what he thinks, who is not
backward about gong against the grain or going against what people seem to be believing. He
will let them know, and I think that is good. You always know with a person like that, if you are
working for him, where he stands. So I think he was a good choice.
The results speak for themselves. We are the wealthiest [journalism and communications] college
in the country, as well as showing that our students are qualified because they are still winning
awards in advertising and P.R. and in the journalism field and they are well sought after and well
thought of by the media.
R: Well, let us turn to retirement from the University. How did you decide to start the magazine that
is now known as Florida Living magazine?
J: Well, as you know the story I told you a while ago about going back and making the rounds with
my little scheme for a Florida magazine, that never left my mind. It was a dream that I had at the
time I retired. My youngest daughter, who lives in Albany, Georgia, sent me a magazine called
Brown's Guide to Georgia which seemed to be quite successful in Georgia. She said, "Why not
start Jones's Guide to Florida? YOu know the state like the back of your hand. You have traveled
all over it for the press association. Why not do that?" So we got to talking about it, and we
decided to try it as a family. I have never really retired; I have really had three or four careers. I
did not want to be retired.
In the traditional sense.
Yes, in the traditional sense. What I have done is retire to something that is not retirement, yet is
not a full-time working job either. I can run about any way I want to, and it is fun. I enjoy it
thoroughly, so it does not wear me out. I just have a ball with it; I have a lot of fun with it. I think I
will always be that way. I probably will just drop dead somewhere, instead of retiring.
But the magazine was originally called Guide to North Florida?
Yes. I kind of took the idea of Brown's Guide to Georgia. There was no competition at all in north
Florida; there was a lot in south Florida with all kinds of magazines. So we decided to make it a
north Florida magazine and kind of a guide, although I thought the title was too long and that we
could drop the "Guide to". It was too cumbersome answering over the telephone for one thing,
and I wanted to make it simpler. It was not really a guide in the sense of a calendar of events
only. We had that, but it was places to go, things to do, [the] history [and] tradition.
I really had two goals for the magazine. One was to educate Floridians on their own heritage and
to educate the new people arriving in Florida all the time about the heritage and history and where
to go and where to dine, what to see, where to go for vacations, the outdoor life, and all this sort of
thing. Particularly, my wife and I enjoy just getting out and discovering little hideaways and hidden
places and places that are unique and interesting. That was sort of the basis for it.
When did this original idea come about--I mean, specifically starting something?
1980, while I was still teaching. Once we got it all gelled, well, then I quit. I knew then that I was
going to spend the rest of my life doing this, probably, and full time.
Did you use your own money to start the magazine?
Yes. We put in $2,500 apiece.
Who is "we"?
My son and two daughters, and my wife and I. My wife and I put in $5,000.
Tell me your son's and daughters' names.
John Paul Jones III was our first advertising manager. He is an advertising graduate from the
University of Florida and was working for the Florida Horse [What is this publication?]. He was
born in 1940.
Judith Jones was born in 1943, just before I went into the navy. My oldest daughter practically
runs this company. She is the computer expert. She is a jack-of-all-trades. She is the personnel
officer, does the payroll, pays all the bills, and really runs the day-to-day operation more than I do.
[Our second daughter], Letty Kay Jones, was born in 1947, after the war. She is a schoolteacher.
She teaches gifted children in Albany, Georgia schools, and she loves it.
I am the only editor. Well, I have an assistant editor who is a journalism graduate too, and she
and I do a great deal of the writing. We also use a lot of free-lance writers. We use interns from
the college. We have one now that was an intern last semester, and this semester she is a hired
employee. She is graduating in June, I think, and is moving out to Oregon. So we have about
fourteen or fifteen full-time employees now. We started with just the four of us putting out the
It started out semimonthly. When did it become monthly?
In 1984. That is when we dropped the "north." No, we went two more years with North Florida
Living. We became just Florida Living in 1986.
You were asking me what I am proudest of. I think you are right about the building and the money
raising; at least beginning all of that and breaking the ice on that. That was a major
accomplishment. I have written eight books. This is the most recent one here.
That is Cold Before Morning?
Yes. It is going to be taken to Hollywood by a committee from Gainesville, hopefully to get a
movie out of it.
Tell me briefly about that. What is the book about?
The book begins in 1854 in Scotland, during the big famines. My great-grandfather, David
McCrady, was a shoemaker, a cobbler, a tanner of hides. He had a big family. And he had these
two boys--one of them became my grandfather, James McCrady. The other, John McCrady, was
his older brother. He was twenty-five years old, and James was seventeen. The family had
moved down to Whithorn on the bay [between Luce Bay and Wigtown Bay] in order to try to
improve the family fortunes and feed everybody. Well, they were not able to. These two boys
were not married and David and Janet, their father and mother, decided that they needed to come
to Florida where there was an uncle at Orange Springs, and learn to be carpenters. [They
decided it was time to] get them out of the nest. They would have two less to feed, which was a
So they did; they came [to Florida]. The book is about that decision, it is about the voyage over
and all the problems they had coming in a clipper ship. Everything in here is factually correct.
This is the story of your mother's family?
Right. The reason I did it is because this area of Florida was pretty well settled by Scotch people,
and they were a typical pioneer Florida family in a typical pioneer age. They came over at the tail
end of the Third Seminole Indian War, and they got involved in that. They were in the Civil War.
James became sick with yellow fever, which was a scourge that killed so many people in Florida.
So they went through the yellow fever period when they did not know what was causing it. It
turned out to be mosquitoes. Then they got in on the Reconstruction period after the Civil War
and then the epidemics in 1888 and 1889 and so forth, with the yellow fever. Then they got the
orange fever because the big orange fortunes were built right around this area of Florida. They
were raising citrus here, and it was commercially profitable. James, my grandfather, had this
dream of building the McCrady fortune on citrus, and they did. Then in 1894 and 1895, what is
now known as the Great Freeze came, and it wiped everybody out from the orange citrus
The title of the book, Cold Before Morning, comes when they were coming to Florida and arrived
in Orange Springs. They got aboard a pole barge in Palatka, poled by six slaves and a head
slave owned by a man in Palatka. They had to pole up the St. Johns [River] and then into the
Oklawaha River, which is narrow and very swift. It [the barge] was 30'x12' [and was] loaded with
passengers and goods for the citrus plantations up and down the river. Going up that river, one
end of the barge drifted in on a curve under some trees, and a big old cottonmouth moccasin fell
out of the tree and landed by one of the slaves's foot and bit him. Of course, the slave went into
great moaning and groaning and praying to God to save him and so on. They got him over to the
bank where some guys were shoeing horses, and they had the brands and the hot metal. The
head slave had cut into the wound and sucked on the blood to get the poison out, and they
cauterized it there and everything.
Well my grandfather, who was a seventeen-year-old boy, said to the head slave, "Will this man
live?" The black man said, "Ifn I get all de pison he live. If not he be cold 'fo' mo'nin'." He did
live, but that phrase, "cold before morning", runs through the book. When John fell in love with a
girl in Orange Springs and she was bitten by a rattlesnake, she died. They had to work all night
making a coffin for her because they had to bury people right away after they died in those days.
But it goes on through with that kind of phrase in your mind as you read the book, because of the
tragedies that happened in pioneer days. Young children died because of a lack of medical
knowledge to save them, and families were depleted that way. There were accidents that
happened. There was an accident that happened on Orange Lake down there that drowned six of
them, including my mother's sister. So it is an attempt to write a story about just ordinary people
in a pioneer age and the things that happened to them.
When did you begin writing the book?
I began on it in 1986, and we ran it in our magazine serially, chapter by chapter, for two and a half
years. There were thirty-two chapters in it. It took it [the story] up to 1913, when James, my
grandfather, died, and my grandmother sold this big old Victorian home down there in Micanopy
and sixty acres of orange groves for $1,000. She came to Gainesville to live with us. When she
came in 1913 I was only a year old, but when she died in 1920 I was seven or eight. I am doing
the sequel to it now, picking it up. The title of that book is going to be What Tomorrow Brings. It
will take the McCrady family up until the death of my mother, Lorna Doone McCrady, in 1983,
which will cover the history of this area of Florida through the First World War, the Great
Depression, the Second World War, and on into the prosperity period that followed that. So it will
cover another seventy years.
Have you found writing a book difficult?
these are all family stories, basically, what you are drawing from.
It is stuff that I used to hear around the fireplace in the wintertime. Everybody would tell stories
about the early days. She had heard a lot from her father. See, I never knew any of these
people. My grandfather died the year after I was born. So the fun of it, the fiction part of it, is
creating these people as people--their conversations, their courting, their marriages, their children,
their aspirations and hopes, all tied in with the events. That period from 1954-1913 was just
jammed with crises and wars and all kinds of problems--economic as well as medical. I think it
would make a terrific movie--I really do. There is so much drama to it that I can just see the film; I
can see the movie. If we can get somebody interested enough to try it, I think it can be almost
another type of The Yearling, like Marjorie Rawlings wrote.
Incidentally, when I was in college taking a short story writing course, she came and lectured our
class once a week. Classes were Monday, Wednesday and Friday, or Tuesday, Thursday and
Saturday (there were classes on Saturday morning) I was quite impressed with her. I have all of
her books, and she has been kind of my mentor for this kind of book.
You said you are also writing a book on the history of the Florida Press Association?
Yes. We are running that in the magazine as "Ink in the Sand" in our heritage section. I have
already done about nine pages. I have written this already; I have it all written. It is just a matter
of getting it [to press]. The University Press [of Florida] is interested in it, but I wanted to get it in
the magazine and then turn it over to them and see if they want to publish it as a book. If not, the
press association wants to publish it as a book.
Right. There has been no history done of the press association?
No. None. And there had been no history of journalism in Florida done, and that is virtually what
this is. It is all the major editors, and I have biographies on all of them. Nobody has ever had
those before. The interesting thing to me is that in a press association, you have presidents who
were ministers or doctors. [This is] mainly because these were the educated people in early
Florida, and they put out some kind of a publication. Eventually all of them did and got involved in
newspaper work and magazine work and so on. So it is an interesting thing.
And something that you feel is really needed?
Yes, I think so. I have the background to do it and I am trying to do it while I am still here
[laughter] and get it into print, whether it gets into book form or not. And I want to get the sequel
to this one done.
So you are staying busy in retirement, if you want to call it retirement?
I do not have enough hours in a day to do all the things I want to do. I have in my mind about four
or five other books I would like to do that I will probably never get to. But it is all a lot of fun.
I think the greatest honor I have had is the hall of fame for Florida that the press association
That is right. You were named to the Florida Newspaper Hall of Fame.
I was one of the first eight to get it. I am real proud of that, because it is an honor from the
industry that not everybody gets. Rae Weimer is in there now, Jim JESSE is in there, and a lot of
my friends who were early presidents that I worked under and worked with. That, plus the writing
of the books and teaching [were significant activities]. I always loved teaching. I enjoy the
classroom. I lecture now over at Florida just on history things, and I enjoy that. So it is a very
The only bitter disappointment has been the death of my wife back in November. I do not think
she needed to die; I really do not. We had an autopsy and have studied that, and it looks like a
real neglect on the part of the medical field that caused her death. They just let her die. I do not
know that I am going to do anything about it, but I know we have a lawyer in the family who says,
"You have one heck of a case if you want to pursue it."
But the magazine lives on in her memory.
R: OK. I think that will do it.