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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida
P: I am about to interview Marshall Criser, a former president of the University of
Florida and we are here in his office in Jacksonville, Florida and this is May
10, 1994. I will ask you, first of all, for your full name.
C: My full name is Marshall McAllister Criser Jr. My father was "senior" and I
have a son who is Marshall McAllister Criser the third.
P: When were you born?
C: September 4, 1928.
P: And where were you born?
C: I was born in Rumson, a small town in New Jersey. It is a bedroom
community, about fifty miles south of New York City.
P: I want to go back, Marshall, and ask you to identify this building we are in
now, so we have it on tape.
C: Well, we are in the Barnett Center, which is a forty-two story high-rise building
in downtown Jacksonville, the newest office building in the city. It is owned by
Barnett Bank. There are several law firms and stock brokers and the like in
P: And we are on the thirty-fourth floor of the building. And what is the name of
the law office we are in?
C: The law firm is Mahoney, Adams and Criser. It is the oldest law firm in
continuous operation in Florida. It was founded in 1854 by a former governor,
[Francis P.] Fleming [governor of Florida 1889-1893] and it has had many
name changes over the years and many personnel changes.
P: This was Frances P. Fleming?
C: That is right.
P: and he was governor of Florida from 1888 to 1892 [dates of elections;
inaugurations follow several months later], a very old family in this area. He
started the firm here in Jacksonville?
C: He did. And he was the original attorney when Barnett Bank was organized.
P: All right. Let us talk a little bit about your family. First of all, tell me
something about your father, Marshall Criser Sr.
C: My father was born in Roanoke, Virginia, and was raised in West Virginia. I
never knew his parents. He had a falling out with his father after his mother
died, and his father remarried and my father was not happy with the situation.
He left home at a relatively early age, had a high school diploma and never
had any further formal education. He was with the United States Army,
stationed at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey when he met my mother.
P: Was that during World War I or later?
C: It was after World War I. My father was born in 1900, and he would have
been in his twenties when he was at Fort Monmouth. As I said, I never knew
my paternal grandparents. My paternal grandfather was Scotch descent. In
fact the name was always pronounced "Cris-ser," but for some reason, I
never pronounced it that way. That was the way my father pronounced it. My
maternal grandmother was Irish, and Mary McAllister was her family name.
That is how I got my middle name.
P: And the middle name is spelled with double "I." So that was the family name
on your grandmother's side of the family. But you have had no contact with
the grandparents on your father's side, or with that part of your family?
C: None, whatsoever. In fact, just in recent years, I obtained one of those books
that trace the genealogy of families. I found there were some Crisers
throughout the country, principally located in Virginia and in Kansas. There
was one in Fort Myers, Florida that I saw on the list, but I have never
contacted any of them.
P: What business was your father in?
C: My father was a meat cutter. When I was a young boy, he worked as a meat
cutter in a grocery store, in a resort town named Sea Bright. It was right next
to Rumson, a little resort town on the Atlantic Ocean.
P: You said your mother and father met when he was in the military. Who was
C: My mother was Louise Johnson. Her actual name was Hildur Louise
Johnson. Her father was a Swedish immigrant, who came to this country as a
very young boy in an interesting way. He also had a situation where his
father had remarried after his mother died. [He] then married a woman who
was not much older than my grandfather and he was embarrassed by that.
He went to sea when he was eleven years old. He was a cabin boy on a
sailing vessel out of Stockholm, Sweden. He was born in G6teborg.
P: Gbteborg, on the west coast of Sweden?
C: Yes, G6teborg. So he went to sea when he was eleven, [and] was a cabin
boy. When he was fourteen, he was shipwrecked in the Gulf of Mexico and
he floated on flotsam or jetsam, or whatever you float on, was picked up by
the Coast Guard and taken to New Orleans. There was an organization
known as Travelers Aid. They were called in by some social group and since
[my grandfather] spoke no English, obviously, all he could tell them was that
he had some relatives in Brooklyn, New York. They pinned a message on the
front of his jacket and put him on the train in New Orleans and sent him to
He arrived in New York, somehow got to Brooklyn, and when he arrived
there, he found out the relatives had moved. They had moved down to this
little resort town, or fishing town, on the coast of New Jersey, called Sea
Bright. He was able to get down there, and to locate his relatives, and he
literally spent the rest of his eighty-seven years in that little town as a
commercial fisherman. It was a community of Danish and Swedish and a
few Norwegian immigrants, really, who were the fishermen. His schedule
was such that he fished there, off the coast of New Jersey, in the
summertime. In the fall, he went to the Hudson River and fished for shad
which were netted, and lived with other fishermen on houseboats. And in the
wintertime, first he came to Fernandina, Florida, for many years. Then,
probably over the last thirty years of his life, he and my grandmother went to
Salerno, a little town just south of Stuart, Florida [now called Port Salerno].
And he was an active commercial fisherman until he was eighty-three years
P: What brought him to Florida in the first place? The weather?
C: The weather. That was where the fish were in the wintertime.
P: So he fished in Fernandina, and then later on, in [Port] Salerno?
C: Yes, in [Port] Salerno.
P: So he lived a long, long life?
C: Yes. He worked for many years and was always healthy. Commercial
fishermen have a feast and a famine existence. You either have a good
catch, and you [have] a little money in your jeans, or there are no fish.
P: How did your parents meet?
C: They met at a meeting at the First Methodist Church in Sea Bright. My father
was in the army, my mother was a telephone operator in Sea Bright, and they
were at a church meeting at the First Methodist Church in Sea Bright. And
they courted after that. Quickly as he could, [my father] got out of the service.
I think in those days, you actually had to buy your way out. It did not take
much, but if you had not finished your service period, you could buy your way
out. He got a job as a meat cutter in a little grocery store there in Sea Bright.
P: What brought him into the army in the first place? This is after World War I.
C: It was a peacetime army, it was a poor army. There were really no
inducements to do it. He was a young man without a good education, he had
cut himself away from his father. He probably did it to have a roof over his
head and regular meals.
P: Now what brought the family to Florida? Was the grandfather who came to
Fernandina the first member of the family [to come to Florida]?
C: The first one to come to Florida was the grandfather, then by that time my
parents came to Florida. My grandparents went to [Port] Salerno every
winter. In 1941, Thanksgiving of 1941, and I can I remember it well, my father
had this little independent grocery store. These were the times when the
depression was almost over, but the war had not started. He used to have to
take his little truck and go down to Delaware the Monday before
Thanksgiving, and load up the truck with turkeys. They had their heads cut
off, and that was all. They had not been de-feathered and they had not been
gutted. He would bring this little pickup truck full of turkeys back to his store
and he would work all Monday night, all Tuesday and Tuesday night into
Wednesday cleaning those turkeys for Thanksgiving. Then, of course, the
orders were there and the people would pick up their turkeys on Wednesday
for Thanksgiving. He would be absolutely exhausted by Thanksgiving. When
he came home that Thanksgiving, he said, "We will never spend another
winter in the Northeast." It was cold and drizzly on the coast, and he never
I would like to say that he sold his business, although I do not imagine he got
much for it. He might have had somebody take it to offset the receivables
against the payables. We put everything into a car, and we were driving
through south Georgia on December 7, 1941, when the car radio reported
Pearl Harbor. That was the night that we arrived in Florida. [We] went to
[Port] Salerno, stayed there a couple of days, and then [my father] went on
down to West Palm Beach and found a job as a meat cutter. My mother and I
joined him in West Palm Beach a few days later, and rented a little apartment
there on the railroad tracks in West Palm Beach.
P: And he went to work then, for somebody else, as a meat cutter?
C: He went to work for somebody else as a meat cutter, continued working for
somebody else for seven or eight years, and then was able to buy a little
business called The Village Market, a small, independent grocery store. It
was [located] right where the bridge came over from Palm Beach. Wealthy
Palm Beach people bought from these little independent markets. They
usually ordered by telephone and you delivered the groceries to the cook or
the butler. He eked out a living there for a number of years. My mother
worked as a telephone operator, he ran that little market. This continued
through the time I went to college. Then finally, his health was not good, he
had sold the market and during his last few years he went to work for a paper
company there in West Palm Beach. He stayed there until he died.
P: So your father worked hard all of his life?
C: All of his life he eked out a living.
P: You are an only child?
C: I am an only child.
P: Let us talk about your growing up years, then. First, in New Jersey. What are
your memories of that? Did you go to elementary school there?
C: Yes. I went to a little public elementary school. [It] was a nice school. It was
a good school. I was in the drum and bugle corps. I played the drum, and we
had the opportunity in 1936 to go to the World's Fair at Flushing Meadow,
Long Island. We gave a little concert there, which was the highlight of my
early years. Both my parents worked, my mother as a telephone operator,
and they worked different shifts at different times. I spent a lot of time alone,
but we had relatives in the area. I was never lonely. But one thing I have
always wanted, one thing I had a fixation on, was to have a large family. I
did not want my children to be only children. So we ended up with six
P: Did the times, the depression times, have a major impact on your family, on
C: We were poor. We lived in rented houses and rented apartments and I can
remember a vivid experience I have always been ashamed of. Sometimes
Dad worked six and a half days a week. He worked Monday through
Saturday, full days. Sunday, the market was open until noon. So the only
time he was ever really home was Sunday afternoon and Sunday evening.
We often took a car ride, in a little car, and that was the highlight of the week.
Gas was probably fifteen, eighteen cents a gallon; it was not much in those
days. But I remember one Sunday whining and being upset because we did
not go to a movie that I wanted to go to. And that night, my mother explained
to me that my dad did not have enough money to go to the movie, and I
should not have embarrassed him that way.
While we were poor, we did not realize we were poor. I never thought of
myself as being poor, because we had a grocery store. And we always ate
well. Six lamb chops off the rack, and the next two came home for supper.
So we ate well. I always had clothes and shoes and went to church every
Sunday, both for morning service and evening service. I went with my mother
in the morning, and then my mother and dad would go to the evening service.
But everybody else around there was poor, so one did not think about it.
When one lived in resort towns, for instance in Sea Bright, one realized that
across the river was Rumson, and there were some very wealthy people in
Rumson living in big houses. In later years, when we were in West Palm
Beach, across the lake was Palm Beach, and we knew those were very
wealthy people. But I really did not ever think of myself as poor.
P: And you did not know those wealthy people, or did you see those people very
C: I had no interaction with those people, that was just something that was out
there, like if I were reading a book.
P: All right. You came to Florida and the war years were on. Of course, they did
not impact you because you were too young for that.
C: [I] missed [the war] by one year.
P: And your father was too old, and he was married and had a child, so he was
not available. What was life like, as you remember it, in Palm Beach during
those war years?
C: Well, obviously, there was rationing, but then again, we had a grocery store. I
can remember Palm Beach ladies riding by in their cars blowing their horns to
beckon the shopkeeper to come out to the sidewalk. Any butter today? Any
sugar today? Any meat today? Then they would race off, unless you said
yes. You tried to take care of your regular customers. There was blackout,
since we were near the coast. You had to have your headlights dimmed.
Actually, [the headlights] had black tape over it, with just a small aperture at
the bottom of the headlight. The road which is now A-1-A, that goes up north
through West Palm Beach through Jupiter and that area, which was the
principal north/south highway in those days, was closed at night; you could
not drive up there. There was a large military base in Hope Sound, called
Camp Murphy. There was a large air force operation in West Palm Beach
called Morrison Field. The British Air Force trained cadets at Clewiston. The
coast guard took over one of the large Palm Beach hotels, The Biltmore, and
the navy took over The Breakers Hotel, and those were hospitals. There
were many training camps. South Florida, because of the weather, was just
taken over by military operations. Obviously, it was not bad for the economy.
P: So the military presence was really obvious in West Palm Beach during those
C: Very obvious. One of my recollections was when my mother and I were in the
car, and we regularly picked up hitchhikers if they were in uniform. I am sure
my mother, even if I was not in the car, would have done the same thing in
those days. Of course, today you would not even think of doing something
P: Did you go to Palm Beach High School?
C: [I] went to Central Junior High, which was on the same campus as Palm
Beach High School. [I] went four years to Palm Beach High School, and
graduated in June of 1946.
P: Did you work during those years at all?
C: I did. For my first job, interestingly, I wanted to work for my dad. He said, I
am not going to break you in. So I went to work as a bag boy in the Table
Supply store in downtown West Palm Beach, putting groceries in a bag.
Table Supply was later acquired by Winn Dixie, so I was first an employee of
Winn Dixie, as I have told J. E. Davis, A. D. Davis, and the rest of the
P: [Laughter] Get any bone to stop.
C: I worked afternoons, and I worked in the summer. I think for two years I
worked after school in the summer, that must have been between my
freshman and sophomore years. This was during the war, and there were not
many men around. The only butcher was a kind of a sickly fellow who, I think,
did a little drinking, and he was not around much. There were many times
that I actually cleaned chickens and ground hamburger and did things like
that, because there just was no one else around to do it, although I was a
The one exception to that was that I had a burning desire to be a big-league
baseball player. That was my young career goal. My father made it possible
that during baseball season, I did not have to work in the afternoons. I played
junior high school ball, I played high school ball, I played American Legion
ball. He always saw to it that I could play baseball during that season at that
age. Other than that, I always worked.
Finally, after I worked there [at the Table Supply store] for a couple of years, I
went to work for him in his market. And we had a wonderful relationship. We
would get up, maybe at six o'clock in the morning in this little house with two
bedrooms and one bath. We would quickly get dressed, and neither one of
us ate any breakfast in those days.
We would get in the truck and we would drive to the market, and we would
open the market. And maybe around ten o'clock, he would walk past where I
was and say, good morning! And I would say, good morning! And those
were the first words that we had exchanged. Neither one of us was a
morning person, neither one of us liked to chat in the morning.
P: [Laughter] No breakfast and all silence.
P: So baseball was your sports activity?
C: I played some tennis, but principally baseball. Unfortunately, they came in
the same season.
P: Were you a good student?
C: I was on the honor roll. I was in the honor society in high school. My first
couple of years at West Palm Beach were not happy years. I was a quiet,
introverted person who assumed other people were going to befriend me.
Finally, a character in my class, who called me "Yankee" because I came
from the North and to this day he still calls me "Yankee," said to me one day,
you know, you have to remember, we do not need you as a friend, but you
may need some of us as a friend.
It took a couple of days for this to sink in, but they did not need me. I was a
new kid. But I soon found that I needed friends, so as I reached out for them,
I then found some very good friends. And as I progressed in high school,
each year I was a little more socially successful and had more very good
friends. I became involved in and became a member of an illegal high school
P: An illegal fraternity?
C: An illegal one. In 1936, a statute was passed in Florida, making high school
P: What was the name of the fraternity?
C: The name of the fraternity was ASP, Alpha Sigma Pi. The bad part of the
fraternity was that you were beaten with paddles as part of the initiation. The
initiation lasted for seven to nine weeks. Every Sunday night, you went to a
pledge meeting and got your tail beaten with a paddle. I came home on a
number of occasions with blood on my underpants, or bruises, or scars, which
my mother was absolutely distraught over.
But it was a way to find acceptance. That was the negative [thing] about the
fraternity. On the positive side, it was an extremely important experience for
me, because I was accepted as one of the guys, and in those days, [being]
one of the guys in that group was a positive experience. They were the
athletes and the leaders of the school. We did not drink, we did not smoke.
We dated girls. We would go out on a Friday night or a Saturday night with a
date and maybe go to a movie. We would go to a place that was then on the
lakefront in West Palm Beach, called The Hut. We would have a hamburger
and a shake, and we would go and park. One could not park on the beach
because of the war, but we would go park somewhere.
But it was a positive [experience]. The leaders were pretty good students,
[and] many of them were getting ready to go into the service. They knew that
in one more year, they would perhaps be drafted. In those days, everybody
was being drafted or enlisted. It was a very positive experience because the
peer pressure was a positive pressure, as opposed to today, where so much
of the peer pressure is very negative on young people.
P: Do you remember those years then as happy years for you?
C: Those were very happy years. I had a girlfriend, I was a reasonably
successful high school athlete, I had a lot of friends, my parents were working
hard, but in those days had good health. Those were happy years.
P: And from your work you had money in your pocket.
C: I had a little bit of money in my pocket. I could always go to the movie and
take a date. I resolved the anxiety of calling a girl and being turned down,
which all young men have. I solved that, as most people did in those days, by
going steady; [then] you did not have to worry about [being turned down].
P: Did you have a car?
C: I used my parents' car.
P: They were not easy to come by in those early years.
C: But I could use my parents' car on the weekend nights. I was a good kid,
because my peers were good kids, and there was really no trouble. An
exception to that may be a couple of kids getting drunk on a prom night or
something like that.
P: You said your parents went to church regularly. Did you grow up in a very
religious household? Was that a pressure on you?
C: We routinely went to church on Sundays. I mean, that was not an option, that
was not something I did when I felt like it. We went to church on Sunday. As
I said, my father worked Sundays, but my mother and I would go to Sunday
school and Sunday church. And then on Sunday night, my mother and father
and I would go to church. I can remember sitting in the pew together. We did
not have Bible reading in the house. My grandmother was very religious. [I]
often saw her reading her Bible. Mother read her Bible sometimes. We
prayed before every meal.
P: But this was not a fundamentalist type of thing at all?
C: No. Not fundamentalist at all.
P: You graduated in 1946. The war was over now, just over in 1945.
C: Let me give you one other incident, because it will always be on my mind. In
April of 1945, I was coming up the hill to the locker room after baseball
practice. My history teacher, Miss Vaughan, lived on that street. She came
out on the front porch to tell us that President [Franklin Delano] Roosevelt had
just died. My parents had gone out of town. My father had gone to Arcadia,
Florida to get some beef for his grocery store. They did not get back until
eleven o'clock that night.
And I remember going home, and of course, all the music on the radio was
funeral dirge and interrupted only by news bulletins about Roosevelt's death.
The war was still going on, the leader had died, it was a very, very traumatic
and upsetting time for me. I dealt with it a lot less appropriately, than for
instance, when [president John Fitzgerald] Kennedy died, which also was
traumatic, but I was older and more mature. The Roosevelt death had a
major impact on me, as it did most people that time.
P: What about the end of the war itself?
C: Well, the end of the war was, of course, a time of major exultation.
P: Well, Roosevelt died in 1944; the war was over the following year?
C: The following year, 1945. [It was] a very exciting time, so many servicemen
[were] still being trained in south Florida. [It was a] very happy and exulting
time, but if you ask me which was my most vivid memory, what was I doing
and how did I act twelve hours after Roosevelt died, as opposed to what was I
doing and how did I act twelve hours after the war was over, the Roosevelt
experience was still the most vivid.
P: Now you get out the following year. The war is over in September 1945, you
were a senior in high school, it was your last year of high school, and you
were beginning to think about college. Let us talk about that, how you
decided to come to Gainesville rather than [go] somewhere else.
C: It was not a decision, it was the only alternative. It was the men's public
university in Florida. There was no other place I could have afforded to go.
Kids in my class went to MIT [Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in
Cambridge, Mass.], Princeton [University in New Jersey], University of
Pennsylvania [in Philadelphia], Emory [University in Atlanta, Georgia],
Washington [University in St. Louis, Missouri], and Lee [College in Cleveland,
Ohio], but for me there was no alternative. I never had any reluctance about
that. I just assumed I would go to the University of Florida.
And again, this little illegal high school fraternity which had by then changed
its name to Bobby Treadgold Scholarship Club, awarded me their Graduate of
the Year Scholarship. So I got $150 a semester, for two years, from the
Bobby Treadgold Scholarship Club. And that was really how I paid my tuition
and attended the University of Florida.
Tuition was virtually nothing at the time. My mother was working as a
telephone operator, and my parents would send me a little bit of spending
money. Once I got there, people like dean [Robert Colder] Beaty [dean of
students since 1938] and the guy that ran the University cafeteria, Palmer
Long, kept me going for the next five and one half years.
P: When you came to Gainesville, had you any idea of what you were going to
go into? Was law already your destination?
C: Yes. I was only going to Gainesville to be a lawyer. My closest friend in
those days was a young man who was a year ahead of me in high school, but
we played baseball together. His name was Emory Newell, who has just
retired as a circuit judge in West Palm Beach. His father was Edward G.
Newell, who was a lawyer in West Palm Beach, and who became a criminal
court judge in West Palm Beach. My second son Edward is named for
Edward Newell. Because I had been around Judge Newell, I knew I wanted
to be a lawyer.
P: Your earlier dream was to be a professional baseball player.
C: [It] was. I may not be smart, but I am realistic and I did go out for baseball as
a freshman at Florida. But I figured, I was a reasonably good hitter, I was a
reasonably good fielder, I was not very fast, and if I played baseball I probably
would play in some class D league, and bang around the country on a bus.
[So I decided] to go to law school.
P: So [you chose] law, from the point of view of being pragmatic; obviously you
liked baseball, but you turned it into a spectator sport rather than a participant
C: I really decided to go to law school when I was a junior in high school.
P: Had you ever been to Gainesville, to the campus, before you arrived [to
C: I had been there once. I visited the spring before I came the following fall. So
it would have been the spring of 1946.
P: Just to check it out?
C: Emory [Newell] was up there. He had preceded me by a semester. His
father and I and another young man went up to visit Emory for a weekend and
[I] saw the campus.
P: What kind of an impact did it have on you; [what were] the first impressions?
C: Well, let us remember what the time was. You correct me on numbers, but
from the spring of 1946, the war was just over, to the fall of 1946, the
enrollment at Gainesville went from about 2600 to around 10,000.
P: Not quite 10,000, but a lot of people came in, yes.
C: Where the regional airport is now, [there] was a military installation with
barracks. A lot of students were out there. The Flavets [Florida Veterans
Housing] were opened because married students were coming in, guys who
had been in the army. Everything was [in] temporary buildings. I think
virtually every class I ever went to was in a temporary building. I was
assigned, however, to Sledd Hall, to a suite housing four students. [A]
bathroom [was] out in the hall [that was] shared by another four students.
I was a freshman. My roommate was a freshman. The two fellows in the
other room we were sharing a suite with, were senior electrical engineering
students, who had been in the service and had some education while they
were in the service. They had to come to Gainesville for about a year before
they graduated. They probably were close to [age] thirty. Here I was an
eighteen-year-old wet-necked kid sharing space with these older guys. Of
course, they just got up in the morning, studied, ate their meals, studied some
more, and went to bed. That was their existence.
P: And they looked at you with some degree of contempt, probably.
C: Absolutely, absolutely, and on my frivolous life.
P: Who brought you to Gainesville?
C: Mother and Dad.
P: Do you remember what the enrollment charges were, what the dorm charges
C: I do not remember. They were not much. I always had a little spending
money. I guess after the first semester, I always had a job. The one thing I
do remember, I had a brown leather [case], it was some kind of treated
material, probably cardboard treated, that was a laundry box. And every ten
days [to] two weeks I would send my laundry home through the mail. It only
cost about thirty-five cents or so, in those days, to send a box that size
through the mail. I would send my laundry home and my mother would wash
my laundry, iron my shirts and usually my underwear, if you can believe it,
boxer shorts and such, and send it back. There always would be three
dollars, four dollars, whatever she had, in that laundry box.
P: You do not get that same service today. [Laughter]
C: You do not get that same service today, no. [Laughter] And I am sure there
were times when they sent me money, that they probably did without it
themselves. But they did send it to me. I was the business manager of the F
Book, sold the ads for it. The F Book was the fact book that the University
published in those days.
P: It gave the students all the information they needed about who was who and
what was what.
C: I still have a copy of that 1947 fact book at the house. But that gave me a
P: Did you work all the way through school?
C: Yes. [I] worked in the cafeteria as a cashier, I was dining room manager at
the Sigma Nu house, I worked at the student union. And as I say, whenever
things got bad, dean Beaty always had a little kitty that could tide me over
until we got another job going, but I never took advantage of it. For instance,
when I was homecoming chairman, Palmer Long kept me on at the cafeteria
so I had my three meals, plus a little stipend. Being homecoming chairman
and going to school was just about a full-time job.
P: Let us talk about your academic career, and then we will get back to some of
the business activities. You were able to get by without taking many of the
freshman courses, as I understand it. How did that work?
C: In those days, there was something called USOFY tests; they call them the
CLEP [College Level Examination Program] tests now. Here we had this
huge onslaught of veterans coming back from the service. The University
could not absorb all of them as first-semester freshmen, so they used these
tests. They were general knowledge tests. You took tests for two days. My
first classroom experience at the University of Florida was in the University
Auditorium taking these USOFY tests. I got twenty-two hours of college
credits in two days of tests. So according to the credits, I was a sophomore
when I attended my first class.
That seemed wonderful at the time, and it seemed wonderful to me, because
I had one purpose and that was to get out of there, as fast as I could, with a
law degree. But, I never took a college course in English. I never took a
college course in history. I took a speech course as an elective. I took one
humanities course as an elective. I do not have a liberal arts education. I
have a trade school education. I was immediately taking accounting and
economics and I was a finance major undergraduate.
In addition to taking USOFY tests the problem of taking only the most
necessary courses was compounded by the fact that in those days the
University had a program whereby you could transfer to law school as soon
as you took your first three years of undergraduate work. In those days, all
you had to do was say you wanted to go to law school and you had the
money to pay the tuition. The first year of law school counted as your fourth
year in undergraduate school.
So I was able to go to law school by going to summer schools and virtually
just staying there, at Gainesville, most of the time. I got my B.S.B.A.,
Bachelor of Science in Business Administration degree, and then the LI.B.
[legum baccalaureus--law degree] in five and one half years. I never actually
graduated [as an] undergraduate; I was awarded the Bachelor of Science in
Business Administration degree after my first year in law school. So in five
and one half years I had those two degrees. But I did not have a formal
P: Do you feel that has hurt you over the years?
C: Yes, and I am not being facetious about that. I regret that. If I had it to do
over again, I would never do it that way. And I can best illustrate that by how
pleased I was a week ago last Saturday when my youngest son, Mark, got his
master's degree in English and has now applied to go to law school in
January. I wish that was the kind of education I had. My children have had
the liberal arts degree; I feel very pleased and fulfilled about that, because I
think that people should have a liberal arts degree, and then should go further
to school to find out how to make a living.
P: You know this is jumping way ahead of where I want to be in this interview,
but I want to ask you something at this point. The University College program
was in operation at the time, as you well know. When they came in under
their regular freshmen program, students had to take UC courses. I myself
came in June 1946 to teach the freshman social science course under
[William Graves] Bill Carleton [chairman and professor of Social Sciences
since 1940]. You did not take those courses.
C: I took a few. I took a C-2 course.
P: Physical education, yes, "Man and the Physical World."
C: I had to have a science, and I ended up taking geography. There was that
general science course I had to take.
P: The question I wanted to raise is, once that program was finally eliminated in
the 1970s, and they did away with the University College and merged it into
the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, I wondered how you reacted? You
were on the Board of Regents at that time. How [did] you react about closing
University College, based upon your own experience?
C: I very strongly opposed it at the time, and would oppose it today. I think that
was basic, it was for only two years as opposed to four years, but at least
these were a very sound two years. And it ought to be a threshold for any
P: The administration was pretty much opposed to the University College.
[Robert Armistead] Bob Bryan [interim vice president for Academic Affairs
since 1974] led the force against it. Of course, there were a lot of problems
with it. People were unhappy with the kind of testing they did. I just
wondered what your own philosophy was about that.
C: Well, my perspective was that the faculty did not like it because those that
taught in it were deemed to be second rate. It was the faculty that saw to the
doing away with the University College. That was the view I have. And I
opposed that, as far as the students were concerned. I have encouraged my
children to take as many liberal arts courses as they could take. My daughter
graduated from Chapel Hill with a liberal arts degree. She had one goal in
life, and that was to marry, and to marry well, and to be happy. And she did.
And she is. But she has a liberal arts degree from the University of North
P: In what ways have you tried to fill that gap over the years, Marshall?
C: Well, I am very conscious of it. I do not say that I have ever been held back
by reason of it, except in my own mind. I have continued to read, I have
continued to improve my communication skills. Having practiced law now for
forty-six years, I believe and my observation is that lawyers [who] can
communicate, do pretty well. And there are a lot of bright lawyers who can
not communicate, and I do not see them doing very well.
P: You said you continued to read?
C: I think if I could redo my life today, I would do what my youngest son has
done. I would get at least a bachelor's and maybe a master's in English, then
I would go to law school. And I will get to this later, but I would recommend to
my children who wanted to, who have a desire to do so, to go to law school.
Not necessarily to be a lawyer, [but] to learn how to solve problems and how
to approach problems. I think law is the best education a person can get. I
realize that is a self-fulfilling statement, but you can go into the profession,
you can go into business, you can go into government, you can go into
education, you just have so many alternatives to pursue.
P: You elected to go to the College of Business. Why?
C: Because I was convinced at that time--wrong--but convinced at that time that
in the time I had, I needed to have some accounting and some economics. I
wanted to be a business lawyer, and therefore I had to have some business
background. I got just a smattering that I could get in that year and one half I
was there. I do not regret that. One of my sons, who is a lawyer, has also a
business degree. One of my other sons has a business degree. But again, I
would prefer to go to liberal arts, but I went to the College of Business. I was
exposed to some very good faculty at the University of Florida, and it was a
way to get to law school quickly.
P: What kind of a student were you, academically speaking?
C: The first year I had about a 3.5 [GPA]. My grade point average dropped off
after that because I was heavily involved in extracurricular activities, which I
carried on through law school. Again, if I had it to do it all over again, I
probably would have terminated that at the end of my undergraduate career,
because I think once people go to graduate or professional school, they ought
to get most of these extracurricular [activities] behind them. But by that point,
I had just been elected to Florida Blue Key and I went on to accept the job of
homecoming chairman and to become president of Florida Blue Key.
P: You were a "big man" on campus, as one would say in those days.
P: Were you in any of the honor societies as an undergraduate?
C: No. No, I was never in any honor societies. I was in the Scabbard and
Blade, which was the military honor society.
P: Did you elect to take advanced ROTC? That also gave you some income, did
C: It did.
P: Did you go to summer encampment?
C: I did.
P: Where? To Fort Benning?
C: No, I was with the transportation corps, which was at Fort Eustis, Virginia. [It
was] a hot, miserable place.
P: You went in the summer between your junior and senior year?
C: Well, see, my junior and senior year were not [standard], but what would have
been comparable to my junior and senior year; I did my ROTC in summer,
which was a good experience. I had a wonderful time. I was the second-
ranking military ROTC officer, and therefore, I was the regimental lieutenant
commander. The top student was the commander, and then there was
lieutenant commander, and then there was adjutant, and then there was a
fourth officer. The only reason I am telling you this story [is that] of the four of
us who were on the regimental staff, all four went into service in Korea, and
two of the four of us were killed, including the regimental commander, who
was a young man by the name of Wayne Sargeant. He was in the infantry, I
was in the transportation corps, another fellow was in artillery, and another
one was in the air force.
P: Marshall, one of the things that seems to me is emerging right off here [is]
that with friends you made early in life you have maintained a relationship
over the years.
C: No question about that. I have extremely close friends today around the
state, around the country in some cases, who were my college
P: But even earlier, in high school, you were talking about one or two people.
C: [There are] one or two, maybe half a dozen, with whom I still retain a very
P: That does not always happen, because one develops a new life after one
leaves college and moves in different circles and acquires different friends.
But yours seem to be friends who go back over fifty plus years.
C: The Palm Beach Post once did an article about the high school graduates of
a certain group which attended Palm Beach High School, and what we did
after high school and after college. We all ended up back in West Palm
Beach, we all ended up being married once, which was kind of unique. We all
had different careers: one [was] an architect, one an insurance man, another
one a congressman, but we have stayed close over all those years. We see
each other from time to time, maybe only at funerals and weddings, but we
see each other. And we all had a very positive experience because we grew
up in an area where business was good and things were on the upbeat. And
we all stayed married to the same woman, which they said was unique.
P: Well, not as much then as now. [Laughter] As a student with limited funds,
why did you elect to join a fraternity?
C: Well, it was the thing to do. When I came out of West Palm Beach, many of
the judges and the lawyers were ATOs at UF. And I just assumed that I was
going to be an ATO [Alpha Tau Omega]. My friend Emory, who had
preceded me by a semester, pledged Sigma Nu. I had never heard of Sigma
Nu, but I pledged ATO.
And I was in that big fall class of 1946. Again, another mistake that my
youngest son did not make when he went to the University of Florida. He did
not pledge anything for a year, [and] kind of checked it out. It was assumed
that I would be an ATO by the alumni in West Palm Beach, I guess because I
had gotten the scholarship from this scholarship club. I joined ATO, I was an
ATO pledge for, I think, eight weeks. And I was just lost, miserable. I knew a
lot of people, but I did not have a feel for it. So I resigned. I guess two
months later, I pledged Sigma Nu.
P: They rushed you?
C: Yes, they did. And I had some friends there who I had been in high school
with. And I had a different feeling about it, and it was a good decision. But,
[as] you say, with limited funds, that was one of the things I wanted. You
know, I had come out of a high school fraternity with a positive experience; I
was probably looking for a similar college experience. And I had a wonderful
college fraternity experience.
P: And you ended up as president of Sigma Nu.
C: I did. I was dining room manager, that gave me my meals. I was treasurer,
that gave me my meals and my room. And I was president, and that [again]
gave me my meals and my room. And the president had his own little suite
with a bathroom on the first floor, where the UF foundation building is now.
P: That bathroom was the major thing; a private bathroom. [Laughter]
C: Right next to the pool room. That helped me greatly to stay in school, having
P: I am going to go down your career here, your extracurricular things as I have
them down. I would like you to comment on each one of these, some of them
you have already touched on. The next one is the Army ROTC. I have you
down here as cadet colonel.
C: I think that should be lieutenant colonel. I was fumbling the terms a little while
C: The correct term was "cadet lieutenant colonel."
P: Why did you elect to do the two advanced years, which took more time out of
C: We just came out of a world war, [and] military service had its economic
benefits as viewed by me. I felt strongly then, and I feel strongly today, that
young men ought to have a military service during their career, even though it
interrupts [the] education. I was fortunate, it did not interrupt mine. But I
believe that; and last April 30, as I sat on the stage and watched my youngest
son get his master's degree, they recognized, as they do every time, those
who had been commissioned [that] week in the ROTC. And about eight
young men and women stood up, and I can remember times when half the
male audience would have stood up. And I think, that is a damn shame. I
think that my military experience, like my other experiences, was certainly
part of the better times I have had in my life. It was a maturing and a growing
P: Did you stay in the reserves?
C: I did not. I was on active duty for twenty-two months, and I came back, and I
had an opportunity to not have to fulfill a reserve commitment and still be
honorably discharged. And I took that opportunity.
P: Let us go back to your college career, and then we will jump ahead to the
military in a minute. I have you down here working as the business manager
for the Seminole. Is that correct?
C: In addition to the F Book, I later worked as business manager of the
P: Once again, tell me what you did on the F Book so I get it in the right
C: Well, I was the business manager, and my responsibility was to recruit
solicitors for ads, and to see that the income from the F Book was sufficient to
meet the budget. I think the University supplemented it in some way. There
was, in those days, something called the Board of Student Publications, if you
recall. I reported to that board, and my job was to raise the commercial
advertising to have the F Book published.
P: So you sold advertising?
C: I did, I did. And I had to run for election to these jobs, these were elected
jobs, the editor and the business manager were elected. Then the
opportunity came to run for business manager of the Seminole, which was
again a campus-wide election. And I ran for that and was elected. And I said
before that Bill Henry was the editor of the F Book, that is wrong. Alvin Burt,
who was later a columnist for the Miami Herald, was the editor of the F Book.
Bill Henry, a lawyer [with] Holland and Knight in Orlando, was the editor of
the Seminole. I was the business manager. For those who are not
historians, the Seminole, unbelievably, was the name of the yearbook at the
University of Florida in those days.
P: Before FSU discovered it and acquired it. And then the University of Florida
had to change the name of the yearbook, whereupon the yearbook died.
C: Right. [Laughter]
P: I guess that magic word Seminole was the thing that had carried it.
[Laughter] Were the F Book positions and Seminole positions paid positions?
C: Yes, they were.
P: So you made money?
C: [I] made money.
P: You did alright then, if you got all your meals free, and you got your room
free, and you received an income from the military, and you received an
income from the F Book, and later from the Seminole, you had to be a big
man on campus.
C: I think I was also on the Board of Student Publications for a brief time.
P: By this time had you acquired a car?
C: No, I did not have a car until after I was in the army. I think in our fraternity
house there were four cars. The Hunt brothers, Deely Hunt's two boys from
Lakeland, where he was a wealthy citrus grower, they had new cars.
C: Deely Hunt. He and his family ended up giving the University a good bit of
C: And there was a boy from Miami who had a car, an old car. And I think one of
the Jenks brothers from Panama City had a car, but there were not a lot of
cars around. We had a hell of a time when we wanted to go home.
P: How did you get home?
C: We had to hitchhike.
P: Tell me about that hitchhiking. You wore your rat cap?
C: You wore your rat cap, and stood out there on [U.S. Route] 441, and people
would pick up students. I did not go home many times, but if we decided that
we needed to go home, we would go out there Friday at noon, and hitchhike,
and get home Friday night. And then Sunday, we would turn around and
hitchhike back. Now sometimes, there would be somebody, a graduate
student or somebody who had a car, and would take us.
And I remember one experience [when] the 1947 hurricane hit West Palm
Beach. We could not get any communications through. Friday evening [on]
the Sigma Nu patio, [we] probably had a drink or two. Five of us decided that
we were going to go home in the car of a fellow from Miami, a two-passenger
car with a trunk. Three of them, because they decided first, rode in the front
of the car, and two of us rode in the trunk, all the way from Gainesville to
West Palm Beach. [It was the] worst damn experience. [Laughter]
P: You believed in comfort, did you not? [Laughter]
C: It was awful. The carbon monoxide was terrible. But there were not many
cars, [and] it was not a problem. Now, what you tried to do was buddy up to
somebody that had a car because some weekends you wanted to go to
Tallahassee and some weekends you wanted to go to Daytona. Not having a
car certainly was not a problem in those days.
P: And Gainesville had a downtown in those years; you had to go downtown to
C: We never went downtown. There was a bar or two, the Kit Kat Club and
P: But they were out on Thirteenth Street.
C: They were out on Thirteenth. But I do not ever remember going downtown.
P: [You did not] go to a movie? To the Florida Theater?
C: Maybe to a movie, but not to a bar. I mean, [if] we partied, we partied at the
P: Well, you did not have bars in those years because Gainesville was still dry.
C: Gainesville was dry, but we would go to Ruby's.
C: And we would get booze.
P: Talk about the ride to Ruby's. It was in Marion County.
C: Well, it was at the Marion County line. If there was a weekend coming up,
about Wednesday or Thursday, somebody in the house always made a
Ruby's run. And you would put in your order, usually for a bottle. I would get
whatever was cheapest, which was usually a cheap bourbon. And you would
have the bottle for the weekend.
P: How about Schenley's Red Label?
C: That was probably an upgrade for me.
P: [Laughter] You needed something cheap.
C: But you know, [there were] no girls on campus, [there were] long weekends,
[and there was] a lot of drinking because some of the returning veterans,
some of them, were pretty heavy drinkers. Alcohol got some immature
youngsters, who flunked out over it. Too much drinking on the weekends,
[and] too many hearts and bridge games during the week. Some of the
veterans could handle that and some of the younger kids could not. But for
most people, it was just there, and it did not cause many problems.
P: You ate in the fraternity house, so I guess the Varsity and the College Inn did
not see you?
C: No, except when I worked for Palmer Long as a cashier in the cafeteria, and
then I ate at the main cafeteria there at Johnson Hall, that later burned down.
P: But you were not an "off campus" [student]?
P: And by the time you got there, the eleven o'clock business of going across
University Avenue from the dormitories had disappeared. Students used to
do that in the 1930s.
C: We still went over to the place right across the street from Sledd, during my
first two years.
P: Was that not the College Inn?
C: College Inn. You could get two pieces of chicken and french fries for ninety-
nine cents. And we would go over there.
P: At night?
C: At night. [When we were] studying late, we would go over there and take a
P: Obviously you did not worry about cholesterol in those early years.
C: I did not know what the word meant.
P: They had not invented the word then.
C: And I did a lot of the late-nighters, because I was involved in extracurricular
activities and by the time I got back to the fraternity house, most of the boys
had gone to bed. And I would have to stay up and study because I had not
studied earlier in the night.
P: This homecoming experience that you had, how did that come about?
C: I had been tapped into Florida Blue Key.
P: Before you became the homecoming chairman?
C: Yes, oh yes. The night I went to my first business meeting, not the tapping
ceremony, the first business meeting, there had been a scandal in Florida
Blue Key. The treasurer had absconded with some funds. And there was a
big investigation. And the night of the first business meeting I attended, I was
elected treasurer. Al Cone, [member of] a Gainesville family, who taught at
the law school, and then was a practicing lawyer in West Palm Beach, was
P: Fred Cone was his uncle, I believe?
C: Fred Cone was his uncle, and there was a Cone, I think, that had a laundry
P: That was Fred Cone who owned the laundry.
C: Okay. Well, Al was a part-time teacher, delivered dry cleaning for the
laundry, had one or two other jobs, was president of Florida Blue Key, and
had a wife and at least one child at the time. So anyway, I got involved in the
leadership of Florida Blue Key and then the following year, which would have
been the fall and in the summer of 1950, I guess, I was asked to be
homecoming chairman, that would have been the fall semester , and
then I was elected president for the spring semester .
P: What did homecoming mean in those years?
C: Well, homecoming was always a big deal at the University of Florida, and still
is. It is the world's largest student-organized pep rally.
P: Cocktail party, now they say.
C: Now maybe.
P: Not then.
C: No. I had a wonderful experience as homecoming chairman. There is a story
that I will share, since the person about whom the story is not so
complimentary has gone to his reward. I was homecoming chairman. A
fellow by the name of Bill Byrd was the president. Bill was an SAE. J. Hillis
Miller had been in Washington for a number of weeks, he was president of
the University [since 1947]. And we had come upon a dilemma. Fuller
Warren was governor of Florida [1949 to 1953]. Fuller Warren had been
hiding out in a motel in Ormond Beach so that the Kefauver Committee could
not serve a subpoena on him. [Estes Kefauver, U. S. Senator headed a
committee investigating organized crime] The press was all over Fuller
Warren in those days in a negative way. In those days, the Florida Blue Key
banquet was at the old gym, not the ladies gym, but the old gym [Alligator
Alley]. And after the banquet was over, the all-male banquet as you will
recall, the men left the banquet, walked through the stadium, to the west side
of the stadium, and then went up to where they met their spouses and guests.
And the presidential party walked across the field and up into what was then
the president's box. There was an elevator. The dilemma was, how do you
get Fuller Warren across that field as part of the official party without getting
public booing of the governor of Florida?
P: He was at the banquet?
C: He was at the banquet. And he had come out of his hiding but it was a recent
happening and it was very much on everybody's mind. So Byrd and I and
some others sat down and figured out that we had the answer. The
homecoming speaker was General James [Alward] Van Fleet. Senator
Spessard Holland [governor of Florida 1941-1945] had arranged for us to
have General Van Fleet invited. When we asked Senator Holland who we
should have from Washington, he said James Van Fleet. I did not know who
James Van Fleet was at that time. Bill Byrd did not know who General Van
Fleet was. Obviously, Spessard Holland knew because they both grew up in
Polk County. But I believe at that time he was the commanding general of the
Second Army, headquartered in Virginia. And Holland knew what we did not
know, that Van Fleet was an emerging leader in the military and could be
chief of staff or commanding general very soon. And he was probably trying
to promote the public knowledge of his friend Van Fleet. So we had Van
Fleet [as the speaker]. We were really convinced that was a good decision
because of his connection with the University of Florida. Among other things,
[Van Fleet was] a former football coach and head of ROTC.
Part of the story I left out was when this entourage came across the football
field they would stop at the speaker's platform, the president and the guests
of the University would stop [at the platform], and they would make welcoming
remarks to the crowd. So that is where Van Fleet was to be after he had
made his banquet speech. [He was] going to be introduced to the crowd.
We did not want the governor in that party, because we did not want the
booing to go on. So we said, well, this is great. We will get [George Robert]
Bob Woodruff, the football coach to introduce General Van Fleet. Present
football coach introduces old football coach. A natural nexus. Bob Woodruff
was inarticulate, but what difference did that make?
P: Somebody could write something for him. [Laughter]
C: That is right. [Laughter] So we thought that was a great idea. So about
Thursday before homecoming was to start on Friday, the president of Florida
Blue Key and I go in to report to President Miller, who really did not interact
with students very closely. He was an aloof man, and I had not had any
interaction with him, and I do not think Byrd had either. So anyway, we are
giving him a summary of events starting that night, Thursday night, and over
When we get to this Gator Growl event, and we start to tell the story, he
turned in his chair and he was looking out the window, I remember he kind of
had his back to us, and I am going through these events and I get to this point
about Woodruff introducing Van Fleet and he said, stop right there. He turned
and looked at us and he said, a University's official guest is not introduced by
a football coach. [I explained,] well, Mr. President, we are trying to avoid
[problems], and you know the governor, and it is going to be embarrassing.
[He decided,] I will introduce General Van Fleet. We will get the governor to
the president's box. They had a highway patrol car take him around Stadium
Drive and brought him up the elevator. The crowd did not know he was
there. As the students would, his name was mentioned in the skits. And just
what we had indicated would happen, did happen [there] was all kinds of
booing. But I will never forget that exchange with Hillis Miller in his office.
P: I wonder if Tigert Hall was already constructed?
C: He was in Tigert Hall, because that was the first time I was in that office.
P: Because when you first came, of course, they had not yet completed Tigert
C: Tigert was brand new.
P: So he occupied the offices that Tigert had over in Anderson [Hall].
C: Right. This was in Tigert Hall. I can remember it like I was sitting there this
minute. [Laughter] First time I was ever knocked down by the president of
the University of Florida. But you know, I kept that in mind in times when I
was there and sat in that same chair where he sat.
P: And looked out that same window.
C: And looked out that same window, and I would start to get indignant about
something, and I would remember how badly Hillis Miller had handled that
P: Of course, in those years you could see farther into the campus than you can
now because there are so many buildings that have now been constructed
and they have turned that area into a parking lot outside of Tigert Hall. But it
was not there when you were sitting there in Miller's office looking out.
C: [In] the presence of the great man.
P: So anyway, you were able, then, to go through that historic time with Miller.
C: Well, I did not have a lot of other experiences or encounters with Miller. He
had nothing to do with students as far as I knew. Our interaction was with
P: And dean Beaty is moving now toward his twilight years.
P: But Lester [Leonard] Hale had come aboard.
C: Lester had come aboard.
P: And Mama [Venable] Brady had come aboard for the women. [dean of
C: Yes, for the women. She had probably arrived at the time we are talking
P: Well, coeducation came to the campus in the fall of 1947.
C: Yes. I remember Marna with her red hair and she had been a Marine Corps
officer, as I recall.
P: That is right.
C: She was a pretty tough lady.
P: She had been spotted by J. Hillis Miller at Columbia after she got out of the
service. She went to Columbia to do her graduate work. And of course, he
was in New York before he came to Florida. And he hired her at that time.
Hiring, of course, was a much simpler procedure in those early years
throughout the University on every level from administration down through
faculty. You did not have to go through all the red tape you have to now.
What kind of career did you have in Florida Blue Key. You said you were
elected at your first business meeting?
C: [I was elected] as treasurer. I was treasurer one semester, then I was
homecoming chairman, then I was president. I had moved out of the
fraternity house then because I had earlier been president of Sigma Nu. I did
not think a past president should stay in the house. And I was a counselor at
Tolbert Hall. I lived on the first floor of Tolbert Hall. My roommate was a
freshman. I was a second or third-year law student. I got my room for being
a dormitory counselor.
P: You certainly were an entrepreneur. You probably came out richer than you
went into the University.
C: In every respect.
P: Were you also a successful poker player?
C: No. I never played poker. I do not [play poker] to this day. I played some
bridge in those days and I played some hearts, which was a waste of time.
P: But you did not earn much money in those activities?
C: No, I did not gamble, and I still do not gamble.
P: And you did not drink?
C: Oh yes, I drank.
P: [Laughter] That is right, you said you ordered a bottle from Ruby's.
C: I drank too much.
P: Did you have a steady girlfriend?
C: I was still promised to a young lady in West Palm Beach who did not go to
college. She would come up on big weekends. One of those weekends I will
tell you about, then we will talk no more about drinking.
P: All right, that is a good promise.
C: She and I both dated, so to speak, when I was in college, and I did date some
on the campus. I had some dates with Rhea Grafton Chiles. We went
together for awhile, and [there were] some other people. The next story is
about the L'Apache [society]; I told my mother and father it was a dancing
society. [Really] it was a drinking society.
P: But it was labelled a dance club, a dance society.
C: It was. We wore black silk shirts with a red dagger across our chests and
tux[edo] pants [and] black shoes. We were really an elegant-looking group
when we got dressed up. But there again, it keeps repeating itself. High
school fraternity, college fraternity, L'Apache--why would you spend time in
something like L'Apache? The fact was that nine fraternities at the University
of Florida each could have nine members of L'Apache. And you were
selected by your fellow fraternity members to be one of the nine. And it was
considered to be a senior thing, it was considered to be an accolade.
P: Very elitist.
C: [It was] very elitist to be one of the nine who were asked to be in L'Apache.
Again, there was this peer pressure to do certain things. The initiation into
L'Apache again was drinking and being beat by a paddle. You went out to
Devil's Millhopper, you drank ten ounces of bourbon in a paper cup, chug-a-
lug. And then you went around a big campfire and each of the fraternities,
[and] there were eight others, theoretically [each] had nine members, [and]
each was entitled to hit you once with a paddle. And your own fraternity
brothers were entitled to hit you twice.
Now, with the drinking and what went on, probably only 25 percent of those
around the circle participated in that, some just passed you on. But you got
hit pretty well. Of course there is always a danger with a paddle swung by a
drunk, but the greatest danger was the possibility of heart failure from all the
booze. In the initiation following mine, there was a Sigma Chi, who
happened to be from West Palm Beach, who actually suffered heart arrest
and had to be taken to the hospital. He survived.
P: You think Singapore learned all that from the University of Florida?
C: Well, I do not know where they learned it, but there is a positive result of
discipline. Discipline tends to keep people from doing things they should not
do. [About] the Singapore caning, I had no particular support for that young
man. He knew what the laws were when he went there. He went there
voluntarily, and he broke the law. He did not spit on the street, he vandalized
some cars, and he ended up getting four whacks. I have had a hell of a lot
more whacks than that.
P: [Laughter] And you only wanted to go into L'Apache.
C: [Only] into L'Apache. As you know, the dancing societies were later banned
from the campus, but that was because of the activity of the Pirates, not the
activity of L'Apache.
P: Was there not another dance society besides Pirates and L'Apache?
C: There was one other, and I cannot think of the name.
P: Might it have been the Cavaliers.
C: Yes, that sounds right.
P: The Cavaliers was the other one, I could not remember it for a moment there.
Well, it sounds to me like you had a very active life. What were some of the
social things on the campus in those years? There were Fall Frolics, as I
C: Fall Frolics and Spring Frolics. That was the continuation from pre-war days,
because on Fall Frolics and Spring Frolics, [in the days before] coeducation,
the girls came from Tallahassee or they came from Rollins or they came from
a girls' school that was in Daytona Beach, the Casements. And those were
big weekends. And they had big bands. After the war, it was still part of the
big-band era, although most of those bands broke up during World War II.
You had your main functions during those spring and fall weekends. The
fraternities always built big socials around those events. Once co-education
came, obviously, there were more socials than there had been.
We would regularly invite a sorority to have dinner with us in our fraternity
house once a week or once every two weeks or something like that. So there
were a lot of inter-mingling socials. One thing I wanted to note about the
fraternity house was that we thought we were big jocks in those days in
Sigma Nu, and we usually had intramurals of one kind or another every
afternoon. Even those of us who should have been studying participated in
those intramurals. But you went to dinner at the house with a coat and a tie.
You assembled in the living room. You did not go into the dining room until
the house mother came and was escorted by the president or some other
officer. She was seated first. We went in, you sat, you ate.
If you left dinner before the commander, as we called the president, and the
house mother, you came to the commander's table, you asked the house
mother if you could be excused because you had a test, you had to go do
something. She left the dining room before everyone else left. [It was] a
small little act of civility, but I think [it was an] important one.
And one of the things I liked about my son being in Sigma Chi is that they still
maintain most of that little ritual that they have. They have a live-in
housemother. My mother always said, after my dad died, she would love to
be a housemother. And I always prayed that she never had that experience
because, you know, they literally had to hide in their little rooms and shut their
ears. We had a wonderful housemother, her name was Mother Mason. And
she was a lady. If you have to clean yourself up a little bit, and put a shirt and
tie on, [and] use some manners, that was a good experience.
P: Sounds to me like you did not have any time for food fights in your dining
C: I never saw a food fight in our dining room.
P: Well, it has become a common occurrence on the contemporary scene. Did
you actually get a bachelor's of science degree in business administration at a
specific time? I raised the question here because I saw a 1949 date and a
C: I received the degree in 1951.
P: Is that the date on your diploma?
C: I cannot tell you because I do not know where that diploma is. I was eligible
for it in 1949, theoretically, when I completed my first year of law school, but
there was no recognition of that. But I knew there was a bachelor of science
in business administration degree [waiting for me] in the registrar's office. I
actually received the diploma by mail because I had already gone into the
army after I got out of law school.
P: Now when you went to law school, of course, it was in Bryan Hall. The new
facility was a long way away from being constructed. Did not the law students
also dress to go to class?
P: Did you wear a tie?
C: I do not think so. You could not go in jeans or cutoffs.
P: But of course, you could not do that really anywhere on campus. But I
thought the law school students were more formal than students elsewhere
on the campus.
C: I cannot remember that, to be honest.
P: Do you remember any women in your classes? Co-education had already
C: Yes, there were a few. Once co-education started, there were a few. First of
all, there were a few graduate students, mostly, and then there would be a
P: Of course, they were very common on campus then.
C: They were common in undergraduate school, there were not many in law
school. There would be a few by the time I was finished.
P: Of course, the women started coming to the campus as early as 1924,
mainly, however, to the graduate schools. But as early as 1931, Clara [Floyd]
Gehan [class of 1933] was in law school. She was the first woman to
graduate from the law school. And you remember she continued to practice
law in Gainesville until her death just four, five, six years ago. You get out of
school in 1951 and I would like to find out what you did then. You went right
into the military?
C: Yes. I graduated the first semester [of] summer school in 1951. We had the
bar exam waiver in those days, so I did not have to take the bar exam. There
were eleven of us in the first semester class. We had a Saturday morning
ceremony [in] which we were awarded our degrees. Judge John A. H.
Murphree was there, [and] swore us in as members of the Florida Bar all in
one ceremony. That was Saturday morning, my mother and father came to
the ceremony. They left and went back to West Palm Beach. I had caught a
ride with an oriental graduate student to go to New York because I had to
report in to the New York port of embarkation in Brooklyn on the following
Monday morning at eight o'clock.
P: So you already had your orders?
C: I had my orders. I had been called up for the Korean War about February
before I was to graduate in July. I wrote a letter and explained I was a last-
semester law student and I would graduate in July. And they deferred my
orders, they actually called me up, but they postponed my reporting date to
allow me to finish law school, which was a great help. And I reported the
Monday morning following the graduation and swearing in of the Florida Bar
on that Saturday morning. I laugh about the trip to New York. This graduate
student had an old, old car and the damn thing did not run very well. He kept
pushing the accelerator down and saying, "This car has no power, this car
has no power." [Laughter]
P: And that was obvious to you, too. [Laughter]
C: Yes. We did get to New York finally. I got there Sunday afternoon and
reported in Monday morning. So that was the end of law school. But I had
my law degree, which was a big help in the military because I was given easy
P: What did you do in the military? You did not go overseas, did you?
C: I went overseas, but I went over the right way. I was assigned to the port
transportation officer, who was the chief transportation officer in New York
where the embarkation headquarters [were] in Brooklyn. And my first
assignment was as a transport officer supervising the loading of ships on the
docks and things like that. And I knew absolutely nothing about it, but that
Then, because I had a law degree, they assigned me part-time to do Section
368 and 369 hearings. These were trials on the status of whether one was
unfit and unsuitable for the service, held at Governor's Island, which was in
New York harbor. So I would take a ferry boat over to Governor's Island,
where the military people were who had been incarcerated. And we would
have these trials over various matters; in those days people were thrown out
of the service if they were homosexuals or they wet the bed or if they were
pick-pockets or they stole, or whatever. So I had that kind of an experience.
Then this port transportation officer took a liking to me. He was an interesting
man. He had a sixth grade education. He had a GED high school diploma
and he had gone to work for the Baltimore and Ohio railroad. He ended up
[as] general supervisor. He then went into the military in World War II. He
came out a full colonel. He would have been a general, except he did not
have the formal education. He ended up reorganizing the Greek railroad after
World War II as a representative of the United States government.
P: And your old friend Van Fleet ends up over there also.
C: Absolutely. That is right. Van Fleet was the NATO [North Atlantic Treaty
Organization] commanding general there. His [the port transportation
officer's] name was Bill Preisch. And I say he took a liking to me. Most of his
contemporaries were one and two-star generals. Because of the educational
factor, he was still a colonel. He used me as an aide, the way general officers
were entitled to use junior officers as an aide. I would entertain his friends.
And I would do things that he wanted to have done. And I would use his car,
with a driver, to run his errands and it was just ideal. Anyway, he called me in
one day and said, "Did you know I have no education past the sixth grade and
that bothers me very much." He said, "What would you think, when I get out
of the service, if I enrolled in Rollins College as a freshman?" And I said,
"Colonel, I think that would be wonderful." He said, "Well, you know I am
going to be sixty years old."
C: He kept asking me questions about college life, and were there any senior
students, and all these things. And it turned out that when he retired he went
to Rollins and enrolled as a student. He pledged a fraternity. He became the
dining room manager of the fraternity.
P: Wait a minute! [Laughter] He sounds like he is following in your footsteps!
C: [Laughter] We kept up a correspondence for many years. He lived in Winter
Garden. He made my military career very comfortable. He took me off of
overseas orders because he said I was needed at this installation.
P: [Laughter] You were vital.
C: But you asked if I went overseas. He made it possible for me to go to Europe
during the Korean War and to do a survey for him as the port transportation
officer. I could go anywhere in Europe, on government transportation or civil
transportation, I decided to go [to] where[ever] there was a transportation
depot. And in Europe, immediately following the war, they were everywhere.
And I was not told how long I was to stay.
It turned out that I stayed seven weeks. And when I came back I wrote a
report to him. But I got seven weeks in Europe as a first lieutenant in the
United States Army with all my expenses paid and all my transportation
provided. And I went to Paris. I went to Brussels. I went to Bremerhaven. I
went to Dusseldorf. I went to Salzburg, Austria, where I found myself waking
up one morning after drinking too much wine with a terrible headache thinking
I better get back to New York because I am probably going to get court-
P: [Laughter] What was Europe like? What did Europe look like then? Still
C: Still devastated. In Germany, in Bremerhaven, which was a port city, and
D0sseldorf, and in Frankfurt there were just blocks of rubble. And you could
barely see the sidewalks. And in the center they had just knocked everything
down and very little had been restored, or in some places they had restored
the outside of the block and in the center would still be the rubble. It was still
pretty stark. When I was in Salzburg, the Eagle's Nest, Hitler's retreat,
Berchtesgaden was just thirty-five miles from Salzburg; we went up there and
visited. It was still pretty grim.
P: Of course, the Marshall Plan was in operation by then, just beginning to make
a real impact on feeding the people.
C: Right, but there was no industrial redevelopment at that time to speak of and
transportation had been kept moving by our military government. But things
were pretty grim.
P: But that did not interfere with the activities of a young lieutenant with an open
credit card. [Laughter]
P: And a car, did you say?
C: I had a car by then because when I was in the army in Brooklyn, I bought a
P: But unfortunately, you could not take that with you.
C: I did not really need it. I had this pass that said I could get on any
transportation, civilian train or military train.
P: How long did you stay in the service?
C: Twenty-two months.
P: You got out in 1953?
C: I got out in February 1953.
P: And what were your plans then?
C: I had come home for Thanksgiving 1952. I had gone around and seen some
law firms. There was a fellow in West Palm Beach then who was the State
Attorney and he had a private practice and his name was Phil O'Connell,
Steve's older brother. [Philip D. O'Connell, State Attorney for the Fifteenth
Judicial Circuit, Breward and Palm Beach Counties, brother of Stephen C.
O'Connell, Justice of the Supreme Court of Florida 1955-1967, chief justice
1967; president of the University of Florida 1967-1973.] [Phil] was the hot-
shot lawyer of the town and he offered me a job [for] $500 a month.
P: Why did he offer you a job? There were probably a lot of applicants who
were coming into a hot-shot lawyer's office.
C: Yes. I do not know. I did not know Phil O'Connell other than by name, and
he was kind of an idol with a lot of people. The interesting part of that story is
that number one, I did not take the job, but number two, when he was
showing me around the office space, and he said, "Now you will be in this
little office over here, and there is another lawyer over here, and you two will
share a secretary." And he, Phil O'Connell, was across the hall. The little
lawyer over here, to whom he introduced me that day, was Joe Peal.
P: [Laughter] Famous Judge Peal.
C: Well, he was not ever an associate of Phil's, but he was sharing office space
in Phil's suite.
P: What was Peal's first name?
C: Joseph. Joseph Peal. [About] job offers; I had thought that getting the Phil
O'Connell job with $500 a month was the greatest thing.
P: Well, I would think that would be a very plum job, and I am curious as to why
you did not accept it.
C: I was drinking coffee in the Harvey Building one morning with a friend who
was a couple of years older than I was, but a fellow whom I had known at the
University of Florida, whose name was John Farrell [class of 1950]. I was
telling him about my plans to go to work for Phil and he said, have you got
any other offers? And I said, yes, I do have two, I said, Judge Newell has
offered Emory and me to come into his practice, but I am afraid that there is
not going to be enough practice there for [both] Emory and me, and I think he
is just being kind and I want to be sure that I am not a burden, so I do not
think I am gong to do that.
He said, any others? And I said, well, I went over to a Palm Beach firm by the
name of Williamson, Gunster and Baugher. And I said, they are kind of a silk-
stocking probate/real estate firm over on the island. At that time they were
the only law firm in Palm Beach, physically in Palm Beach. He said, oh yes, I
know the firm. And I said, but they do not really want me. They only offered
me $250 a month. So he said, well, you ought to think about that. I said,
Why do you say that? He said, well, Phil O'Connell has got kids. Phil is
probably going to save his practice for his kids.
He said, that is a silk-stocking firm, but they have great clients and in the long
run you ought to think about that. End of conversation. Well, I thought about
it all that weekend. And at that point my mother was a telephone operator
and receptionist in a little apartment building that Mr. Williamson lived in.
She was the little lady sitting in the lobby as he would come back and forth.
But he was always very kind to her, and always very considerate and
thoughtful. And she thought he walked on water. So I told her that story that
night and she said, oh my goodness, if you could go to work for Mr.
Williamson, you really ought to do that. That is just wonderful. So, I decided
to go to work for Williamson, Gunster and Baugher.
P: At half the salary.
C: At half the salary, $250 a month.
P: It seems like you have taken several jobs in your career in which you have a
C: Yes. [Laughter] I do not know why I chose it. I do not have very good
judgement. I will tell you one other Williamson story because it was a great
story. Williamson turned out to be my mentor, my surrogate father. He
taught me to practice law. He made my career in Palm Beach possible. He
was a dear, dear friend. I was interviewed by a young lawyer in the firm by
the name of David Yoakley. I had never met Mr. Williamson. [Yoakley] just
died six weeks ago in West Palm Beach. At that time there were only four
lawyers in the office. I was to be number five. I got out of the army again on
Saturday at noon [in] Brooklyn, New York, drove my car to West Palm Beach
and went to work Monday morning. I drove most of the night Saturday.
P: You had made these arrangements when you were home for the
C: For Thanksgiving. And I had gotten a letter from Yoakley about the first week
of December and I said I would be there just as soon as I got out in February.
So I got out of the army February 1, Saturday, drove to West Palm Beach,
drove most of the night Saturday, did not sleep much Sunday because I was
excited. I went to work Monday morning at Williamson, Gunster and
Baugher, still having only met Yoakley and one other person. There were two
I had not met, Mr. Williamson and Mr. Gunster.
They did not have an office for me, so they took me to their library, handed
me an abstract and told me to examine it. They never talked to me about an
abstract in law school. I did not know which end to start with, and what the
hell to do with it. But anyway, I am in this library with no windows, very little
air conditioning, as this is still 1953, and it is stuffy as hell. About twelve
o'clock Yoakley and the other lawyer whom I had met very kindly came by
and said, Come on, go to lunch with us. So I went to lunch across the street.
We went to Benny's and had lunch and came back about 1:15 or 1:30. [I
went] back to the library. The next thing I know, I bolt awake. I had fallen
asleep reading this damn abstract and there stood Mr. Williamson. That was
his introduction to his new lawyer--asleep in the library on the first day of
work. And he told that story a hundred time over the years.
P: [Laughter] Was he a graduate of the University?
C: No, [he finished at] Ohio State.
P: Where were the offices?
C: Over at the First National Bank Building.
P: In downtown West Palm?
C: Palm Beach.
P: Oh, in Palm Beach? You had gone across the river?
C: Big time. Ken Williamson was the first lawyer ever to have an office in the
town of Palm Beach. Everybody else was in West Palm Beach. He
represented the First National Bank in Palm Beach and he would go over a
half a day on Monday and half a day on Friday to this one little office. Then in
about 1951 he moved the firm.
P: Did they finally give you an office?
C: They finally gave me an office. I joined that firm in 1953. I was the fifth
lawyer of five. When I left, on April 1,1984, we had eighty-five lawyers. We
just grew as the area grew.
P: You became more than just a real estate firm then?
C: Very much so.
P: All kinds of practice?
C: All kinds of practice. Corporate law, tax law, and so on.
P: You quickly became one of the partners?
C: Yes. I joined there in 1953. In 1955, two years later, they made me a
partner, which means that year they probably just said, we will not give you a
raise, but we will call you a partner from now on.
P: [Laughter] It is like giving you titles at the University of Florida in lieu of giving
you a raise. I have sixty-three different titles. You lived at home?
C: I lived at home those first years. Making $250 a month, I really could not
afford to live anywhere else. And having been out and in the army, it was not
good to live at home, [even if] I had wonderful parents, who loved me dearly.
P: Your father was still living?
C: Father was still living then. But my nocturnal travels did not coincide with the
time they went to bed and got up. This never caused any unpleasantries,
because I never had any unpleasantries with my parents, but I was
uncomfortable with it and they were uncomfortable with it. I will tell you
another Williamson story. Maybe by the next year I was making $300 a
month, so I took a job at the jai alai fronton on 45th Street, which had just
opened in West Palm Beach, as a para-mutual ticket salesman. It was the
first year that the jai alai fronton was open.
P: The entrepreneur is coming out.
C: Yes. I worked till 6:30, I would drive out to the fronton, get there at 7:00, eat a
hot dog and then the fronton opened at 7:30 and I would be there till 11:00 -
11:30. Except Saturday nights, when they had an extra game and I would be
there until 12:00 or 1:00 o'clock, and go to work the next morning. Well, it is a
Saturday night, they had a pretty good crowd, they did not have very good
crowds the first year, but it was a pretty good crowd because it was a
I am punching those tickets, and that is important because when somebody
orders a ticket, and you punch it, either they pay for it or you own it. You
could not make a mistake; you paid for it. And sometimes those people
would change their mind or be confused and they would say, I did not order
that ticket and they would not pay for it. And I ended up owning that damn
ticket. So I was very careful. So I am punching these damn tickets, and I
think I was making maybe $25.00 a night.
P: That was good money.
C: So for some reason, I glanced up, and here about the fourth person in line in
front of my stall was Williamson reading the program. And I think, my God.
P: Did he know you had this job?
C: He did not know I had this job. So he comes up. He did not go to the fronton
very often, he just happened to be out there that night. And he has his head
down because he is reading his program. I have my head down so he will not
see who I am. And he called for his tickets, and I punched them and I took
his money and I had given him his change and he was just ready to turn and
he kind of looked up and he said, oh. Oh! What are you doing here? And I
said, I am selling jai alai tickets. He said, oh, well, that is interesting. He
turned and walked away, as sweat was pouring off my face. Monday
morning, nine o'clock, his secretary came and said, Mr. Williamson would like
to see you.
P: Uh-oh. [Laughter]
C: So I went into Mr. Williamson's office. He said, how long have you been
doing that? And I said, since the fronton opened. And he said, why do you
do that? I said, to be honest with you, I am making $300 a month. I need an
income. [He said,] oh, is that what we pay you? Well, I do not think that is a
good idea for you to do, and we will adjust your salary.
P: That was a lucky visit.
C: That was the end of my career as a fronton operator. He was that kind of a
friend. And I will tell you, he saved my bacon many times over the years.
P: Before we proceed with your legal career now, and I want to get into that, I
want to get some personal stuff now and I think this is the point to do that.
First of all, finish up with your parents and tell me when they died. They are
buried, I guess, in Palm Beach?
C: Both buried in West Palm Beach.
P: West Palm Beach?
C: My father died in 1962. He had bad health for the last years of his life.
P: So that means he was sixty-two years old?
C: He was sixty-two. My mother died when I was in Gainesville. We had
brought her up to Gainesville.
P: I remember that.
C: My mother was widowed.
P: I remember your mother dying in Gainesville, and I remember now meeting
C: And she was eighty-four when she died. So she was a widow for a long time,
and she was not a happy widow. She was a lonely person. I was an only
child. She never really was a happy person after my father died.
P: Tell me now, you married when and to whom?
C: I started practising law in 1953. I was a young man about town with a car and
a salary paycheck from 1953 to 1957.
P: You were a sport?
C: I was a sport. I thought I was a sport. And there was a very young girl who
was attending the University of Florida at that the time, but who was home for
the summer. It was embarrassing to say, I knew her father, and she was very
pretty, but she was very young. She was eight years younger than I am. And
in those days that seemed like a vast difference.
P: Are we talking about Paula now?
C: We are talking about Paula.
P: I just thought maybe you were talking about your sporting.
C: A mutual friend of yours and mine, J. Rex Farrior Jr. from Tampa, was coming
to town and wanted me to fix him up with a date. I had been to Tampa
several times. He always had good-looking women for me. I thought I had a
pretty good line on good-looking women in West Palm Beach. For some
reason, the weekend he was coming I had called four or five girls and I could
not find anybody. I was getting a little bit frantic. I thought about Paula and
said, she is too young. I cannot expose Farrior to her.
P: Or expose her to Farrior? You would need to think about it from that point of
C: Well, it got to be Tuesday night. He was going to come in Thursday night,
and I had to do something. So I called her. And I had met her. I had had a
date with somebody else, she had a date with somebody else, and I had met
her. Really attractive, really cute, but I thought, awfully young. She said,
well, I do not go out on blind dates, and I do not really think I want to do that.
And I said, well, I am going to be with you, we are going to be a foursome.
And he is a great guy, you will really like him. All this bull. I had lied to her
She finally said, well, if we are going to double date, that is all right. She tells
the story now, that within the hour after I talked to her, somebody else called,
whom she had dated before, and asked her to go out and she almost called
me back to cancel. But she said, well, I [said I] will do it, so I will do it. We
went out, the four of us. We had a great time. And the funny thing happened,
it was very impressive. I ended up with two dates that night because the girl I
was dating had a roommate. And they both were very attractive. The
roommate's date cancelled out, he could not come to town, so I ended up
taking my date and her roommate and then Paula and Rex.
P: So it was the five of you?
C: It was a fivesome. We all had a lot of fun. I put Rex on the plane about four
o'clock Sunday afternoon to send him back to Tampa. I called Paula at six
o'clock Sunday night and asked her to go out the following weekend with me.
And that is how we started our courtship.
P: And you dropped the other two.
C: [I] dropped the other two, [and] dropped everyone else.
P: Who was Paula?
C: She was Paula Porcher. Her parents had lived in West Palm Beach, and
then when her father went to the service in World War II, her mother, her
brother and sister moved up to Melbourne, Florida, where they were for about
two and one half years while he was in the service. And then he came back
and they moved the family back to West Palm Beach.
She had gone to Palm Beach High School. She was in the same class as
Buddy Reynolds, as he was known in West Palm Beach in those days, now
Burt Reynolds. Mary Alice Firestone, who became a very well-known person,
[was a classmate]. And Dick Howser, the big-league baseball manager, was
also in that class. It was a pretty well-known class.
Then she went to the University of Florida for two years. She came home,
she was going to take a break for a semester because she had a job doing
photographic modeling. She did Winston cigarettes ads, she did another
cigarette company, she was on the back-cover of the Saturday Evening Post
and two or three other magazines at the time. So she had a good income
from her photographic modeling.
And she also worked at Southern Bell as a customer relations person. So I
thought I was acquiring a nice income with my bride-to-be as well as a very
pretty young lady. And soon after I asked her if she would marry me and she
agreed to do that. Also, she announced that she was retiring from her
business career because she wanted to be the perfect wife.
P: You thought you would marry beauty and money and ended up with just
C: Just beauty.
P: What was her birthday and place of birth?
C: June 13, 1936, West Palm Beach.
P: Where did her family come from?
C: [Her] father's family had come from Georgia, where they were in the timber
business. His mother and father had a sawmill operation. [Her] mother's
family came out of Melbourne. Her uncle was the postmaster in Melbourne,
and there were a lot of Callahans [there]. She was Grace Callahan.
P: List the names and date of birth of your children and tell me what their status
is, where they are, just for the record.
C: We have six children. Our oldest son is in Tallahassee.
P: Give me his name.
C: Marshall M. Criser III, married to Kimberly Robbins Criser. Kimberly was from
Jacksonville. They have three children: Christina, Sarah and Callie.
P: He does what now in Tallahassee?
P: He works in the regulatory department of Southern Bell Telephone Company
dealing with the Public Service Commission. He has been with Southern Bell
for eleven years; it was his first job out of college. He went to the University
of Florida [as an] undergraduate, [and] has his bachelor's degree in business.
And we call him Casey.
P: And they have three children. And then Edward?
C: Edward is in the insurance business, works for Hyatt Brown's agency, Poe
P: What is Edward's full name?
C: Edward Harry (which was his grandfather's name) Criser. Married to Julie
Warren, daughter of Dr. Don Warren and his wife. Edward was a Florida
State University graduate, went into their School of Foreign Relations, did an
internship with Congressman Dan Mica [Florida's 11th District, West Palm
Beach, Democrat] in Washington, worked in Mica's office for a couple of
years in Washington, and then came home to West Palm Beach and ran his
district office in West Palm Beach. Mica then made the unfortunate decision
and ran for the United States Senate, and has not been heard from since.
Edward wanted to do that kind of a job to meet people, which he is very good
at. [He] has ended up in the insurance business, which he is very good at
because he is a good people-person. And as I say, he is with Hyatt Brown,
now Poe and Brown Agency, which is the largest independent insurance
agency in Florida.
P: Where is he living?
C: He lives in Jupiter, and works in West Palm Beach.
P: Does he have children?
C: He has two daughters, Megan and Ashley.
P: Now we go on then, to Mary.
C: Mary Criser Loveland graduated from the University of North Carolina. [She
is] married to Joe Loveland who is a litigator with the King and Spalding law
firm in Atlanta. Joe was a Moorehead Scholar at the University of North
Carolina, then went to Harvard law school on a scholarship. [He] was hired
by King and Spalding out of law school, and has been a litigator with King and
Spalding ever since. Mary got a liberal arts degree, we talked about that,
from the University of North Carolina.
[She] called her daddy six months before she got her degree and said, daddy,
I cannot really get a job with this degree, can I? And I said, no, you probably
cannot, maybe you can, but you probably cannot. Why? She said, well, I
would like to go to paralegal school and learn to be a paralegal. I said, why
do you want to do that? She said, maybe I would like to go to law school and
if I were a paralegal, I could see whether or not I wanted to go to law school.
That was the reason she gave her daddy. So I said, that is a trade school,
Mary. She said, I understand that, but I need a trade. So I said, all right.
She went to the National Center for Paralegal Training in Atlanta for ninety
days, and got a certificate when she graduated, had five job offers, three in
Atlanta, one in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and one in West Palm Beach. I
thought she would go back to North Carolina because she just loved North
Carolina when she was there. She took the job in Atlanta, which happened to
be with King and Spalding. While [she was] there, she met Joe. They
married, and she retired, as did her mother. And they have two children,
Grace and Mark, and live in Atlanta.
[My] fourth child is Glenn Lawrence Criser. He is thirty years old. He went to
Florida State University as an undergraduate, then went to the University of
Florida law school, graduated about four years ago, [and] is a third-year
associate with Steele, Hector and Davis, in [the] West Palm Beach office.
They have a Miami office and a West Palm Beach office. He married
Michelle Mileur from Jacksonville; at that time her parents were in
Jacksonville; who also was a Florida State University graduate. They were
married in law school and live in a place called Ibis, which is in North Palm
Beach. His office is in downtown West Palm Beach.
P: They had children?
C: They have one daughter, Lauren, and we just found out in the last month that
she is pregnant with a second child. After we had Glenn, who is now thirty,
we waited six years because we had four children and two miscarriages. We
then had twins, Mark and Kimberly.
P: You were making good on your vow to have a large family.
C: I was, I did. Thank God I did. Mark has just graduated from graduate school
at the University of Florida [with] a master's in English. [He] applied for law
school in January. [He] has just been elected vice president of Florida Blue
Key, [and] was asked to be the homecoming chairman. [He] has been a good
student, and is a good kid. He is twenty-four years old. He is looking forward
to going to law school. Kimberly, his sister, is getting a degree [as] a
specialist in education at Georgia State University. Her area of interest is
early child development. She has one more year to go and she will graduate
and go into education.
P: These are your two unmarried children.
C: Two unmarried children, right.
P: Okay. I have here the firm Gunster, Yoakley, Criser and Stewart. Where
does Stewart come in?
C: Well, in 1984, when I left, it was Gunster, Yoakley, Criser and Stewart. It had
been Williamson, Gunster and Baugher. Then it had been Williamson,
Gunster, Yoakley and Criser. Then it was Gunster, Yoakley, Criser and
P: They still keep your name even though you are not in the firm?
C: No, no. Before I left, it was Gunster, Yoakley, Criser and Stewart. It is now
Gunster, Yoakley and Stewart.
P: I see.
C: Stewart had been a clerk for Judge [Glenn] Terrell [Florida Supreme Court
Justice 1923-1964] in Tallahassee, and we hired him as an estate tax
P: Well, we do not really need Stewart in our story. I have just wondered since
that name appeared as a partner in there. Did the firm continue to occupy
offices in Palm Beach from the time that they made the first move?
C: [Yes] and to the month I left. About three months later, they moved across
the river to a new office complex called Phillips Point, which is really the high-
rent district. And I had the privilege of never having to pay the rent that they
pay at Phillips Point. Previously we stayed in Palm Beach. We stayed in the
First National Bank Building.
We went from five lawyers to seventy-five; in addition we had a branch office
in Delray [Beach] and a branch office in Stuart [Martin County]. But the firm
just grew. We took a part of that block that was an apartment building and we
converted that to offices. There were floors that were not the same level and
we had to put ramps on it, and it just grew like topsi seed. But it was a great
place to be, very close to our principal client, the First National Bank.
It was a great town to grow up in and begin a law practice because there is a
lot of wealth in Palm Beach and the area was growing and while our principal
practice early on was the Blue Stocking Carriage Trade, soon [we widened
our practice]. New businesses moved in, [and since] we had been there first,
we kind of had a leg up on other firms, most of whom came later.
P: This is considered the elite firm in Palm Beach?
C: I would say still. There is much more competition now.
P: Describe your own activities in the firm.
C: [I was] a twenty-four year old lawyer. I did anything that walked in the door in
the early days: real estate, probate, I tried cases, [and] filed estate tax
returns. [One] did not have malpractice problems in those days, or I would
have had them because I did everything a lawyer "was supposed to do."
P: On behalf of his client?
C: On behalf of his client. [I] did not do anything very well, but I did it all. But
then, as the area started to grow and the practice became more
sophisticated, we had to develop a trial department, develop a tax
department, and we kept growing in these various departments. My area,
then, just really continued as a business practice representing banks, savings
and loans, insurance companies, good corporate clients of different kinds.
I did a lot of zoning work. [There was] a very notorious zoning case with the
Breakers Hotel. The property was zoned for a planned unit development. It
took me three years to get that approval. [The firm had] pretty high visibility in
[the] Palm Beach area. [It was] a good practice, but a difficult practice
because I made it difficult in that I took on things that I thought were
important, some of which may not have been.
I became the county school board attorney [in 1958]. I was first the assistant
school board attorney to a man who was over eighty years old at that time, a
man by the name of Judge Blackwell. And they knew he was about to pass
on, so they made me the assistant. I think they paid me six thousand dollars
the first year. About two years later, he did retire, and I became the school
board attorney. I think the most I ever made as school board attorney was
eleven thousand five hundred dollars. But that is when integration was just
starting and it was a difficult time in the school system.
It was a high-visibility job and I apparently thought at that time [that] I wanted
to go into politics. And I in fact made up my mind and told some people I was
going to run for the state senate. And some people very much encouraged
me to do that. I had a little organization that was formed and we had
announced that I made up my mind [and] I was going to run for the state
senate. And my partner, Mr. Gunster came in one day. He was a very senior
man, a very highly-respected person, kind of a pillar of the community. And
[he was] a friend, not as close to me as Williamson, who was my surrogate
father, but Gunster and I were close. He was always supportive.
And he said, I hear you may run for the senate. And I said, well, Joe, I am
thinking very seriously about it. He said, well, that is good. We need good
young people. He said, I want you to know the firm will support you if that is
what you decide to do. We will be behind you and we will support you, but I
think you need to think about something which is only my view, but it is my
view. He said, you have the ability to be a good politician, or you have the
ability to be a good lawyer. But you cannot do both. That was the end of the
P: Was that the end of your political career?
C: That was the end of my political career.
P: Why did the political bug bite you suddenly? Or was this something that was
always part of your psyche?
C: Yes. [It was] the visibility, leadership.
P: You liked it?
C: I liked it. I had, when I was in Florida Blue Key, I had involved myself in
lobbying in the legislature like Florida Blue Key people do.
P: You know you had changed greatly from that young man [who was] a shy
introvert. Now you were going into politics. Obviously you were going to
move onto a very visible stage. That did not bother you?
C: Well, when I stopped to think about what my partner had told me, [something]
told me that was not really what I wanted to do. I have never had the desire
since that day to run for an elected office.
P: Even though when you left Gainesville that was [the focus of] a lot of
discussion. I noticed in reading the clippings, I do not know whether it was
tongue-in-cheek or not, [but] you did not necessarily deny that that would not
C: You never deny. I thank Joe Gunster a thousand times for what he did for
me. Here we are, it is 1960 or 1961. [I] am still very young. There was a
very senior lawyer in town at another firm, but one whom I had come to know,
who was at that time on the road to be president of The Florida Bar. And
when he moved up to be president-elect of The Florida Bar, he kind of laid his
hand on me as you were able to do in those days, and I took his place on the
Board of Governors of The Florida Bar. So I went on the Board of Governors
of The Florida Bar in 1960. [I was] thirty-two years old. I was the youngest
member of the Board of Governors of The Florida Bar. But this gave me a
P: So it would satisfy your ego a little bit.
C: At the same time, it was helping my law practice, it did not hurt it at all.
P: Why did you leave the school board in 1964?
C: It became a terrible burden. As I said, they were paying me $11,500. It was
a part-time job. I was spending half my time [working for them]. And my firm
said, please get out. And I got out.
P: And I guess this was just on the eve of integration [in] Palm Beach County?
C: Well, actually the first integration case, a civil rights case filed in Florida, was
Holland v. Board of Public Instruction in Palm Beach County. [It was] filed in
the 1950s, right after Brown v. Board of Education.
P: The Brown decision?
C: The Brown decision.
P: The Brown decision was [in] 1954.
C: Well, this had to be 1955 or 1956 then. Bill Holland was a young black lawyer
in West Palm Beach and he filed it on behalf of his then six year old son. And
we did not have the governor standing in the court house doors yet, but it was
still a very difficult situation in Palm Beach County, Florida.
P: You represented the school board against integration at that time.
C: Well, against integration, yes. The board unanimously opposed integration.
That case went on for about five years. We had a very wise judge, his name
was Emmett Choate, United States District Judge in the Southern District.
[He] had been a [Dwight D.] Eisenhower appointee. Judge Choate knew the
law had changed, knew that society had not changed, knew that that case
had to move along, but did not let things get out of control. He really
managed that case the way a judge should in those times. [He] did not drag
his feet, he kept pushing to get the results that needed to be gotten.
I always thought it was one of the best-handled cases that I had ever
experienced or read about. By then, other cases were getting filed and more
cases were going to the appellate courts. And it was moving along. And
Holland was admitted to the public schools of Palm Beach County. By that
time, it was not a problem. We never had any violence in Palm Beach
County. And of course, we did not have governors who were obstructionists.
P: No, LeRoy Collins [governor of Florida 1955-1961] was in by that time,
Charley E. Johns [governor of Florida 1953-1955] was out. And Collins was
in until Farris Bryant came along [governor of Florida 1961-1965]. And
although Farris was conservative, he was not a stand-in-the-door George
Wallace [governor of Alabama] type.
C: No, not at all.
P: So your job with the school board included handling these kinds of cases in
the late 1950s and early 1960s?
C: Yes, and everything else. I closed real estate deals for them; I got zoning
changed for them.
P: So you did everything that needed to be done then. And you left it because it
became too burdensome, it was taking too much of your time.
C: The firm asked me to leave because it was just too much of a burden.
P: What was this position that you had as a member of the House of Delegates
to the American Bar Association?
C: Well, that came later.
P: That was in 1968. Go back then, and let us talk about The Florida Bar
because I have that down here.
C: All right.
P: I have you coming along as a member of the Board of Governors in 1960.
C: In 1960, I became a member of the Board of Governors of the Florida Bar.
P: That [was when you were] thirty-two years old.
C: [I was] thirty-two years old. [We were] still maybe a fifteen-person law firm by
then. The Board of Governors had two representatives from each circuit.
P: This was more than just a ceremonial responsibility?
C: Oh, yes. The Florida Bar Board of Governors administers all the disciplinary
programs, the grievance programs, disposition of all grievance cases, the
unauthorized practice of law, lots of different programs.
P: You met regularly?
C: Yes, we met every two months, but we had a lot of committee work in
P: All right, we are talking about The Florida Bar.
C: It was time consuming. [I ran for office] in 1967.
P: [In] 1968 was The Florida Bar presidency.
C: Well, see, you have to go through the steps. You have to be president-elect
first, then you are president, so I ran one time. And I ran against an older
lawyer from Miami by the name of Bill Simmons with Shutts and Bowen. [It
was] a contested race run all over Florida. There were 10,500 lawyers in
Florida and I would practice law until three o'clock in the afternoon, get in my
car and drive to Bradenton, [Florida,] give a talk to the Bradenton Bar
Association. After, they had a cocktail party for one hour or a cocktail party
and a big dinner for one and one half hours and all they wanted to do was go
to sleep or go home. But I would have to drive back that night to practice law
the next day.
P: So you actually have to campaign for this?
C: I campaigned all over Florida. I probably went to 80 percent of the major bar
associations in Florida. And I was beaten the first time around. Simmons
beat me. The following year I ran unopposed. So in 1968 I became
president-elect. By the time I got to that job, I went to American Bar
Association conventions. I spoke at different forums. I was the guest
speaker at the Georgia State Bar Association annual meeting [and the]
Louisiana State Bar Association annual meeting. So I was spending a lot of
time now [on that work]
P: You were on the road a lot.
C: [I was] on the road a lot, but [I] still had the law practice going.
P: And it was growing.
C: I was too young and I was economically unprepared really, to do what I did. I
would have been better off if I had been ten years older and ten years further
along in my professional career and my firm had been larger to support this
enterprise. But they always were very supportive and it is the best business
builder that I have ever experienced. It was just wonderful. When I finished
being president of The Florida Bar, we had probably thirty lawyers, and we
were getting a lot of referral work, not only from Florida, but from other parts
of the country.
C: The only regrets I have from those intense Bar years was the time I was on
the road and away; [that] was the price that my family paid. We had young
children and I was gone an awful lot more than I would care to acknowledge
and remember. I felt I missed a great part of their growing up and I am sure
they missed me. I think the result has been that we are very close and my
children are among my closest and best friends along with my wife. Maybe
we are making up for some of that time that I missed then.
P: Well, let me ask you something here at this point because you always seem
to be reaching out to do these things that will take you on the road. This
seems to be something that has driven you all of your life. You come to the
University of Florida, you regret now not being more of a student, and yet at
that time, you were active in all of these things. And this has continued to be
a part of your public life ever since.
C: Well, it was what I enjoyed doing, number one. Number two, I have been
P: But was there an ego there that you feel you had to satisfy?
C: Yes, I am sure that there was an ego. It was a drive that I had to involve
myself in causes I believed in and jobs I thought I was qualified to do, or
maybe whether or not I was qualified to do. In a paper he wrote recently, my
son quoted me and I candidly did not remember making the comment, but I
like it very much, [since he] repeated it. And the comment was that if an
opportunity became available, maybe you better go ahead and take the
opportunity, because somebody else less qualified might take the job if you
do not. That obviously was an egotistical comment.
P: I was going to say, who makes that judgement of who is less qualified?
C: But things I have done, I have been encouraged to do. The things I have
done have been rewarding. I have kind of gone through ten-year cycles. I
have ten years getting a law practice started, and then ten years in The
Florida Bar, and then we have the ten years on the Board of Regents, a
period we have not yet covered. And then I did the five [years] at Florida.
P: I was going to say, only half of the ten at Florida? You got burned out quickly
C: It was double anything else. We have had these decades of doing different
things and they have all worked out reasonably well.
P: You said also in passing here that you probably got involved in The [Florida]
Bar situation too early both in your years and also your economics. What are
we talking about there?
C: Well, obviously my years speak for themselves. I was the youngest president
of The Florida Bar. I was elected president [to The Florida Bar] when I was
thirty-nine years old. I had four children and believe it or not, our twins were
born the week that I ended my presidency of the Florida Bar.
In fact, I occupied the presidential suite of the Doral Hotel in Hollywood by
myself because my wife had just given birth to twins the previous Saturday
and could only come down for my bar convention for the Saturday luncheon,
at the end of that week. So I had a lot of children, and I had a good income
from the practice of law, but I see lawyers since then who take the opportunity
or opportunities afforded to them and for the years they are president-elect
and president of The Florida Bar do little else. I also kept a law practice
going, and kept my family going.
P: Had that law practice by this time become very lucrative? It had obviously
increased from the $300.
C: Yes, it had come a long way from $300. And after that time it became even
P: Would you consider yourself by the end of the 1960s to be kind of in the top-
income echelons, as far as lawyers in your area were concerned.
C: Yes, [I was] definitely [in the top-income echelons] in the area and pretty well
in Florida. We knew that because several times other law firms approached
us to merge or to work out something jointly. We looked at their numbers and
looked at our numbers and we were doing much better than they were doing.
P: By this time, by the end of the 1960s, how large was the firm?
C: At the end of the 1960s, the firm had probably thirty to thirty-five lawyers.
P: This is the period that you preside over The Florida Bar?
C: It grew from fifteen [lawyers] to thirty-five [lawyers] in those ten years.
P: You were president [of The Florida Bar] from 1968 to 1969, and this activity
on the American Bar Association was from 1968 to 1972. Was that a
ceremonial [position] or was that also a time-consuming job?
C: It was reasonably time consuming, [but] nothing like The Florida Bar job,
although you could make a full-time career of it if you wanted to pursue a
political career in the American Bar Association, like Chesterfield Smith [Law,
1948], or Reece Smith, or Sandy [Talbot] D'Alemberte [Law, 1962] did. The
presidents of The Florida Bar had a pretty good opportunity to go into the
House of Delegates of the American Bar Association if they decided they
wanted to do that. I spent my four years, which was two terms, which I was
kind of entitled to, having been president of the Florida Bar Association. I
concluded that the American Bar Association was a very cumbersome
[institution], it operated like an iceberg moves, and I did not find a lot of
challenge in the American Bar Association, so after I did my four years, I was
happy to rotate off.
P: What did you have to do in the American Bar Association?
C: I attended the House of Delegate meetings twice a year, which is the
legislative body of the American Bar Association and I served on committees
in the interim.
P: Were you expected to do lobbying?
P: You did not lobby for legislation in Congress?
C: No, they have a professional staff.
P: So it is not your responsibility then to buttonhole a congressman here or a
C: The only lobby job I have ever had in my life, and I will never have another
one, was as a regent and as a university president.
P: Now when you were president of The Florida Bar, you told me about the
various legal activities that you got into, the cases you had to consider,
people complaining about their lawyers, or whatever it is that these lawyers
do. Do you do anything other than act as the presiding officer, was that all
you had to do as president of The Florida Bar?
C: No, there were local grievance committees who make reports. They were
reviewed by committees of The Florida Bar and then the full Board of
Governors of The Florida Bar would take action. That action is an advisory
action to the Florida Supreme Court, which takes the final action. The
president merely presides, but although the presidency is a ceremonial job,
one is expected to appear at all Florida Bar meetings, American Bar
Association meetings, trade meetings, to represent the lawyers of Florida.
P: [The president's job was] to talk, and to meet, and to do things, and promote
and do public relations.
C: And [the president's job is to] respond. You know, someone will file a petition
in the Florida Supreme Court and the president will be expected to oppose
that petition before the Florida Supreme Court, if the Bar was opposed to it.
P: I see.
C: As president of the Bar, one is kind of the liaison with the Florida Supreme
Court. The court has supervisory authority over the Florida Bar.
P: As a former president, do you have any responsibilities now?
C: No, not really. Some past presidents involve themselves continually, some
go on in the American Bar Association as I have indicated. But it has been so
long ago that I was president of The Florida Bar that now I go to an annual
convention only once in a while. I am not involved in it.
P: What is this Florida Installment Land Sales Board about?
C: Well, in the 1960s, Florida had a reputation for selling lots in subdivided real
estate developments to purchasers over time. Some national publications
described some of the developments as swamp land. You put up two
hundred dollars and you paid fifty dollars a month for eight years and you
finally got a deed to a piece of property. You got nothing but a contract when
you started. Finally, after you made payments forever, you got a deed. A lot
of this was sold through direct mail, a lot was sold through newspaper and
radio advertising. That was really before television. And some of the
developers were unscrupulous and the state was getting a bad history.
There was a lot of national publicity which was very critical of Florida, so the
governor set up a study commission to see what should be done about
solving the problem. And I was on that study commission.
P: Which governor was this?
C: It must have been Farris Bryant [Florida governor 1961-1965]. It was Farris
P: This was in the 1960s?
C: Yes, it was in the 1960s. Like a study commission always does, it
recommended legislation. The legislation recommended a body to supervise
these installment contracts on real estate. And the legislature set up the
commission and I was then appointed to the commission as the first
chairman. Elliot Mackle was on it. Broward Williams was on it. A lawyer
from Crystal River, by the name of Don Bradshaw [was on the board]. Also a
real estate developer from Lee High Acres, whose name was Jerry Gould.
P: Mackle was on it to represent the industry?
C: [Mackle was on it to represent] the industry.
P: This was the time, I think, when the [Gulf American] company was developing
the area along the lower Gulf Coast of Florida.
P: The Rosenthal family out of Baltimore.
C: Right. Jerry later worked for them. But anyway, that was a serious
undertaking because there was a mass of that business going on.
P: I did not realize that the bad publicity had started that early. I thought it was
during the latter part of the 1960s at the time Haydon Burns [governor of
Florida 1965-1967] was going out and [Claude] Kirk [Jr., governor of Florida
1967-1971] was coming in, but it happened earlier than that.
C: We were in business before then, long before then.
P: Well, Farris Bryant set it up, obviously you were in business before then and
the problem had begun before then. And out of this came the Florida
Installment Land Sales Board, so one led right into another. And you were on
it as chairman from 1961 to 1963. Is it a continuing operation?
C: No, it has been incorporated into the Board of Business Regulation.
P: During all of this early activity, were you in any way involved in University
affairs? We did not have a foundation back in those early years, were you
active in the Alumni Association or anything?
C: Well, I was a member. I do not think I had any official representation, but I
had belonged to what was then the Alumni Club in Palm Beach County.
P: You just came to an occasional football game, that kind of thing. [You]
probably were not even invited to sit in the president's box.
C: [I] do not think I was, until I got to be a regent, then I got a lot of attention.
P: I bet you did. [Laughter] You know, I would like to ask you about [the Board
of Regents] that was appointed by Farris Bryant. You [stayed] on it only four
and one half months. I guess that was the early board. I want you to tell me
C: All right, what are those dates?
P: Let us see if I have the dates here. I just picked this up. The first board
appointed by Governor Farris Bryant resigned en masse after four and a half
months. Was that not at the end of Bryant's administration, when Haydon
Burns was coming aboard?
C: It was at the very end.
P: And he refused to recognize [the board]. So if that was right, then the
appointment came in 1964, because that was when the new administration
C: [In] 1964, the Florida Legislature replaced the then Board of Control with the
Board of Regents.
P: Do you remember why that was necessary?
C: Well, other states had gone to a Board of Regents, but more importantly, the
legislature has always dealt with substantive problems by changing
procedural approaches. In higher education things were not going well, the
way people wanted them to go; also note the times. [It was] the middle [of
the] 1960s. Problems were starting to arise. So rather than deal with the
substantive problems, the legislature said, now we are going to have a Board
of Regents that is going to solve all our problems.
P: Although the educators of the state, led by [J. Wayne] Reitz [president of the
University of Florida 1955-1967] were opposed to that change. Reitz
campaigned against it.
C: He did. In any event, the Board of Regents was created and it was subject to
the governor's appointment, and subject to confirmation by the Florida
Senate. Burns and Bryant met after the election in November and tried to
negotiate a joint appointment to the Board of Regents. I have talked to both
Farris [Bryant] and Haydon [Burns] about it and got two different versions of
what happened. Suffice it to say, they did not agree on a board. So in the
last week of December, 1964, Farris appointed a nine-member Board of
Regents. One or two of them came from the old Board of Control. Baya M.
Harrison, Jr., [St. Petersburg] for one, came. John C. Pace, from Pensacola,
came. And there might have been one other. Wayne McCall, from Ocala,
[came]. But Farris went ahead and appointed nine of us. Sam T. Dell (from
Gainesville) was on that board. Gert H. W. Schmidt from Jacksonville [was
on the board]. Baya M. Harrison, Jr., from St. Petersburg, Fletcher G. Rush
from Orlando, a certified public accountant from Miami whose name was
Robert M. Morgan and, I am missing some, but it was a nine-member Board
of Regents. [Payne H. Midyette, Sr. from Tallahassee and Marshall M. Criser
from Palm Beach made up nine members]
P: Was [Chester H.] Ferguson [from Tampa] in on that?
C: No, no, we are going to come to Ferguson. Baya M. Harrison, Jr., was the
first chairman. I always liked Reitz because he said that was the best Board
of Regents we ever had in Florida. Obviously I like that comment. Burns was
furious that Bryant had gone ahead and appointed the Board of Regents; he
wanted his own Board of Regents.
P: Did that board ever meet?
C: Yes, it met. We were sworn in, we met for four and a half months. I think we
had two or three meetings. Burns went to his buddy B. K. Roberts [Florida
Supreme Court Justice 1949-1976] who could always handle all problems,
and got an advisory opinion from the Florida Supreme Court that said that
while the outgoing governor had the authority to appoint, until we were
confirmed by the senate, the incoming governor could withdraw the
nominations and appoint his own board. We were not official until we were
confirmed by the senate. So in April of 1965, the day after that Supreme
Court opinion came down, the nine of us resigned.
P: You did not wait for Burns to fire you?
C: We resigned. Burns went ahead and appointed his Board of Regents which
included Chester Ferguson. Wayne McCall and John Pace were reappointed
by Burns. The rest were different appointments. There was Henry Kramer
from Jacksonville, and I do not remember who else was on that new board.
But anyway, the new board was appointed. [the other appointments were
Woodrow J. Darden from Titusville, Clifton G. Dyson from West Palm Beach,
Clarence L. Menser from Vero Beach, Louis C. Murray from Orlando, and
Mrs. E. D. Pearce from Coral Gables.] Chester [H. Ferguson from Tampa]
became chairman; [Robert Barbeau] Mautz [vice-president for academic
affairs] then replaced J. Broward Culpepper as the first chancellor. Broward
was the first chancellor, then Bob Mautz [in 1968]. I retired from the Board of
Regents thinking that was my total Board of Regents service--four and a half
P: What was your connection with Farris Bryant? Why did he appoint you?
C: I do not know; perhaps because I have an interesting history. I did not
support Farris in the primary when he ran for governor.
P: [Whom did he run against]? Who was your candidate?
C: He must have been an outstanding citizen. I do not know. I did not support
Reubin Askew [governor of Florida 1971-1979] in the primary when he
became governor, and he appointed me to the regents. And I did not support
Bob Graham [governor of Florida 1979-1987] in the primary and he became
governor and he reappointed me to the Regents.
P: In your contacts with them, you must have learned something to hold over
C: I did well when I did not support them in the primaries, anyway. So that was
the end of that part of my Regents career.
P: Well, did you know Farris?
C: Yes, I had met Farris. I did not know him well. I had not been a part of his
campaign organization. I did vote for him in the general election.
P: That is because he was running against a republican.
P: But you had had no political contact or social contact with Farris Bryant? Do
you think it was almost like pulling a name out of a hat?
C: I do not know. I never figured out why any of those appointments were made.
Governors have different reasons for doing different things. If you think
about the time, the middle 1960s, I was moving on in The Florida Bar, I had
done the stint on the Florida Installment Land Sales Board.
P: Well, you obviously had some state visibility.
C: Yes, I had started to get some state visibility.
P: But you really had had no connection with higher education, not that that has
made a difference in terms of appointments to the Board of Regents. I do not
know if the governors have ever taken that into consideration.
C: Few have [taken that into consideration].
P: So you were appointed and you served a short time. Can you remember
getting anything accomplished on behalf of the University of Florida or higher
education during that short four and one half months?
C: No, I would say during that period of time not a lot was accomplished.
P: Now the plans were already underway to create a University in West Florida,
in Pensacola, which became one of the things that Haydon Burns particularly
was interested in. But it was already up for consideration by the Board of
Control and the Board of Regents.
C: It seems to me in that short four and a half months we did open a campus. I
have trouble remembering those events as opposed to my later Regent
career. Would South Florida have been opened in 1965?
P: South Florida was opened earlier, because you may remember that John
Allen became its first president. That was part of the arrangement that was
made when he became a candidate for the University of Florida position. He
was the vice president [of the University] and said, no, I am not interested.
Then he became interested [in the position] and when Reitz came in as the
compromise candidate, you remember that great hassle in that period, then
John Allen was promised the presidency of the next university. And the next
university was [the University of] South Florida. So, it sounds ugly to use the
word "payoff," but that was part of the arrangement.
C: It is not significant.
P: No. I think there was a lot of planning for [the University of] West Florida that
was being done during the time that served on that first Board of Regents.
C: There could have been. We may have even toured the land because I
P: Well let us talk about your long period of service on the Board of Regents,
which begins in March of 1971 and goes through December 1981. So you
were on there for ten years. And you served as chairman for four years, from
1974 to 1977. Now I want to start off by asking you, once again the question
I asked before, Why did Reubin Askew appoint you?
C: Well, that is a good question. Again, I was not close to Reubin. I did not
support him in the primary; I supported Jack Mathews. Reubin
became governor in January. His first appointment to the Board of
Regents was J. J. Daniels from Jacksonville. I was his second appointment,
in March. There was an incumbent regent and he became ill, and resigned,
and I served his unexpired term, [appointed] by Reubin. Reubin called me,
and some of his confidants called me, we talked about the Regents, he
knew I had been a regent previously. I knew Reubin.
P: You knew him well?
C: I did not know him well. Who knows Reubin well?
P: But I mean, were you on a first-name basis?
C: Oh yes, I was probably on a first-name basis.
P: And the same thing with Farris?
C: Yes. I came to know Farris much better over the years than I have ever
known Reubin. But I do not think many people know Reubin well.
P: But the phone rings one day in your office and it is Reubin Askew saying, this
is the governor, I would like to appoint you to the Board of Regents.
C: I first got a call from Jon Moyle, who was working in Reubin's office. And he
kind of inquired to be sure that if the governor called, I would be interested.
Then I got a call from Reubin.
P: And when you were first approached by Moyle, what was your response?
Was it enthusiastic?
C: It was. I had had a touch of it, and I wanted more.
P: When you were first appointed by Farris, was it the same sort of thing? The
phone rang and somebody asked you, we are setting up this board, [will you
be on it]?
C: I was home. It was a Sunday. Farris himself ran me down and we had that
conversation. He told me what he was considering doing and asked me if I
would serve, all in one conversation. And I said I would, and it was not a day
or two later that he announced his appointments.
P: And in the same way Reubin calls you and said, I understand you have had
this conversation with Jon Moyle and I would like to talk with you about it." Is
that kind of the way things went?
C: Yes. It was all on the telephone.
P: And you understood that it would have to be confirmed by the senate, of
C: I knew that well.
P: When somebody approached you for a job like this, what did they tell you
your responsibilities were? Once you get into it, I know it is pretty
overwhelming. What was the work description?
C: Well, when Reubin called me, I obviously knew what it was. I had been there
for four months.
P: I just wondered what the job description of something like that was when you
were approached. Once you were in it, you know what it is.
C: [I have had] four, maybe five gubernatorial appointments. I do not ever
remember a governor outlining a mission statement, outlining his goals,
asking any questions. There might have been some controversial issues at
the time, [such as] how would you stand on this or that. There was a big fight
over the semester system as opposed to the quarter system during the
[Haydon] Burns era. I never was asked to serve a governor [who] asked [for]
my views, asked [for] my opinions, asked [for] my support. I know of some
regents, for instance, who were appointed by Claude Kirk Jr. [governor of
Florida 1967-1971] who made some commitments prior to their appointment.
I never had that experience and I do not believe I would accept an
appointment that was conditioned upon [a] particular viewpoint or position.
P: When they make an appointment like this, whatever it might be, does the
governor's office do a security check on you? Do they look into your
background and see whether you have a mistress in Lake City or you are
secretly gay or you have had some bankruptcy problems or anything like
C: In those days, I am sure they did not.
P: It is just face value, based upon what your reputation was?
C: Yes. Florida was, after all, a lot smaller then.
P: And the lines of communication were much more open then. And it is very
likely that a governor would have called people in your community whom he
knew well and said, what can you tell me about Marshall Criser, I am
considering him for an appointment.
C: He probably did. Reubin used the telephone a lot. Farris probably used it
P: Who was on this first board when you came on in 1971? Who was chairman
and who were the other members?
C: D. Burke Kibler, III, [from Lakeland] was the chairman. J. J. Daniel was on
the board. [He] had been there just a couple of months.
P: J. J. was then, I guess, the president of Stockton, Whatley, Davin, or had he
gone over to the Florida Times Union?
C: No, I think he was still at Stockton. [He] went over shortly thereafter. A lady
from Miami, very gracious, was on the Board. [Mrs. E. D. Pearce]
P: I know her. She and I served on the Florida Bicentennial Commission, and I
cannot remember her name either.
C: Elizabeth Kovachevich, LL.B., [from St. Petersburg] now a United States
District judge, [was on the board]. And made her "taxpayer whorehouses"
P: About the South Florida dormitories.
C: About two weeks before I attended my first Board of Regents meeting.
P: She was an interesting member of the board.
C: There were fifty or sixty reporters which was unusual at the meeting. I believe
my first meeting was in Tampa. Elizabeth had just made that statement, and
the world was in a furor. She and [D.] Burke [Kibler III, chairman] did not
communicate well. And you had the usual transition problems of appointees
of a former governor, to wit [Claude] Kirk, and a new governor, [Reubin]
Askew, coming in.
P: Was she a carry over from the Kirk period?
C: She was a Republican appointed by Kirk.
P: How about Burke Kibler?
C: [He was] a Republican appointed by Kirk. I do not remember who else was
P: Some of these [appointments] had to date back to the [Haydon] Burns period,
C: Chester [Ferguson] was still there. Chester was still there because my
principal role in life as a regent was to be a communicator between Chester
and J. J. Daniel. [They] both were very strong-willed independent individuals,
to put it mildly.
P: And politically at opposite ends of the pole?
C: [They were] politically at opposite ends of the pole. [They were] impatient
with each other and I was kind of the in-between.
P: [You were] the great bridge builder? [Laughter]
C: [I was] reasonably successful, they never publicly disagreed. I want to say
some more things about Chester when I get to be the chairman. In any
event, there was a lot of that at the time because there was a lot of friction.
But one thing I will say, which has not been honored in more recent years.
Jack went on in January, I went on in March and there was one more
appointment made by Askew that first year. So we had three of the nine.
P: Who was the other appointment?
C: James J. Gardener from Broward County, who was the assistant
superintendent of public instruction. When the board reorganized in October,
J. J. was named chairman and I was named vice chairman.
P: This is your first year.
C: [It was my] first year. The Kirk appointees acknowledged we had a new
governor, a new initiative, and gracefully stepped aside.
P: Now it is a nine-member board.
C: It was then, but not now; now it has thirteen [members].
P: So let us see if we can reconstruct the board. Kibler, you, Jack Daniel, the
lady from Miami whose name we cannot recall now [Mrs. Pearce],
Kovachevich, Gardener [were on the board]. That gives us six.
C: Well, Jack McGriff [from Gainesville] came later, a year or two later. It has
got to be somebody on [the board] from west Florida.
P: Pace is gone by now?
C: Pace is gone.
P: We probably can fill that in from the records, so we do not have to stretch our
memory for that kind of a thing. [The other members were Louis C. Murray
from Orlando, Chester H. Ferguson from Tampa, Julius F. Parker Jr. from
Tallahassee, and E. W. Hopkins from Pensacola.] So you end up your first
year as the vice chairman? What were the activities, the kinds of things you
wanted to do for the state university system?
C: Well, we were preoccupied with growth at that point in time. Florida was
growing. As we established, [the University of] South Florida was underway.
P: South Florida was already in operation. The school in Pensacola had come
aboard during the Haydon Burns administration. I guess the move was on to
try to do something for Jacksonville, [because of Jack] Mathews, and for
C: Mathews and Schultz had insisted on the University of North Florida.
P: I think probably the [University of] Central Florida was either on the board
already or maybe it had come into an existence. Remember, it was known as
Florida Technological University to begin with, then had its name changed.
C: And Florida Atlantic University was already in being, in fact, it may have been
after the University of South Florida.
P: It did come after the University of South Florida, it certainly did.
C: Ken Williams was down there as president.
P: Yes. So growth was one of the things that you are concerned with. Florida
was exploding. But also during this period of the early 1970s, the state was
racked by a recession, and dollars become very scarce after 1973. So almost
as soon as you got on the board, things began to tighten up considerably. So
what was the solution between the great need because of growth and the
ability to pay for these things?
C: Whatever the view and the vision was, the dilution has always continued.
That is, creating new universities, creating new programs, not funding the old
programs, and watering down the quality. If I have made a major error in my
educational career, certainly I made a number, but one that I clearly made
was early on in the 1970s. There was an opportunity to designate the
University of Florida as the legal flagship university and the major research
university in the state of Florida. We would have had to tag along Florida
State University at that point, because of the governor, and because they had
some very strong programs. And to a great extent you could justify [making
the University of Florida the flagship university] but there was tremendous
opposition from the emerging universities against that politically] and
P: You could have done it in the early 1970s though, could you not?
C: We could have done it. Daniel and I could have done it. And I let him talk me
into waiting. He did not favor the [flagship idea for U. F.].
P: He did not want Gainesville to become the Chapel Hill of Florida?
C: He did not.
C: Jack was a Princeton elitist.
C: [He] went to Florida law school, had no real roots in the University of Florida.
P: But he did in Jacksonville, and of course, he was a Floridian.
C: Yes, he was a great Floridian and I do not question his motives. Jack was as
good a person as I have ever known and worked with, and we worked very
closely together for about six years, and remained very close friends to his
death. But there was a time, and Mautz was trying to put it in focus, when I
could have pushed ahead. He would not have opposed it if I had pushed to
get the University of Florida designated as the graduate research university of
the state. I agreed to wait and the hour was lost.
P: And then when you became president of the University, you were fighting a
C: I was then a cheerleader, and I was not in the same position. It would have
caused a lot of retaliation had we done it, but in retrospect, it should have
P: What would have been the good that would have come out of this, the
C: Well, [as] you said, to be the Chapel Hill of Florida. A state should have a
Chapel Hill, a University of Virginia at Charlottesville, a University of Michigan
at Ann Arbor. [A state] ought to have a "flagship" graduate research
university and should have strong regional universities.
P: Well, the regional universities are there and needless to say, I think they are
strong, not as strong as the big universities.
C: But they all aspire to be the graduate research university, and you can only
have so many programs. The worst example ever in the history of higher
education in the world is what we have done with engineering in Florida. We
had six colleges of engineering. We hired an eminent consultant, we being
the Board of Regents, hired a consultant from Wisconsin, who came down
here and said, you do not need a seventh college of engineering. You are not
financially supporting the six that you have. You have one, the University of
Florida, that has a College of Engineering that is right on the border of
becoming a first-rate, quality College of Engineering. And do not create any
We end up creating not seven, but seven and eight because Florida State
University, knowing that they could never get a College of Medicine and never
having the College of Engineering, could never get in the AAU [Association of
American Universities], unless they got more graduate funding and more
graduate programs. Knowing they could never be a University of Florida
unless they got more engineering programs, they insisted that they were
going to get a College of Engineering. Florida Agricultural and Mechanical
University then tagged on and said, "Well, they cannot have one without us."
So we create the seventh and eighth, and bifurcate [the program]. [It]
probably has not worked since.
And then the Dade delegation said, wait a minute, wait a minute. You are not
going to put another College of Engineering in Tallahassee without us getting
one in Miami. And the regents said, well, you have a University of Miami
down there, you do not need another College of Engineering down there.
[They said,] but we are not going to vote for one in Tallahassee unless we
have one in Miami. So we end up creating eight.
P: They way you are describing it now, Marshall, was that the regents were
totally the instrument of the legislature.
C: In some matters, clearly, [the regents were an instrument].
P: I realize the legislature was the one that appropriated the money.
C: Exactly, and those things have to be kept in mind. But they made those kinds
of decisions. The best example of a decision that the legislature made that
we lived to regret was when they created the College of Veterinary Medicine.
It was against the recommendation of the president of the University of
Florida, the Board of Regents, the governor of Florida. They went ahead and
created it and never funded it. [The legislature] has not properly funded it to
this day. And that was why we almost lost accreditation, had [Alec and
Louise] Courtelis not raised that money for it.
P: Well, there was no other vet school in Florida.
C: We, by contract, were sending students to Auburn and to South Carolina and
to the school up in Maryland. The agricultural interests said, we will have a
College of Veterinary Medicine. And the only reason for the opposition was
there was no funding for it, and there never has been sufficient funding for it.
P: So it sounds to me now like what we are saying is something that you and I
are aware of: a pressure group starts and exerts its pressure on the
legislature, which in turn exerts its pressure on the regents. And whether it is
good from an academic point of view, a scholastic point of view, is not
necessarily of major interest. And that is the reason why a new law school is
now being considered for Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University, even
though the state has one just six blocks away.
C: Right, and that is why Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University sits as it
does today, because the black caucus in the legislature would not allow it to
be merged into Florida State University.
P: It is kind of ironic to think of all these schools which were supporting
integration in the 1960s, and now are opposing it in the 1980s and 1990s.
C: And that is not just true of Florida, it is true everywhere.
P: Yes, it is everywhere, yes. The big issue now in Mississippi, I notice, was
over this kind of a thing. One of the things that I think you have taken credit
for, and can legitimately take credit for, is the evolvement of the eminent
scholar's program, the Florida Academic Scholar's Program and the quality-
improvement programs. All of these came into existence during the time you
were on the Regents and while you were serving as chair. I would like you to
speak [about] those programs.
C: Well, after the downturn in the early 1970s, the economy started to get better.
Steve [Steven C. O'Connell, president of the University of Florida 1968-1974]
resigned at the University of Florida.
P: Now you are going back into the early 1970s with Steve.
C: Yes, and I will try to come up to your period.
C: When Steve retired at the University of Florida, E. Travis York [interim
president, University of Florida 1974] became the interim president, and was
a candidate to be the president. I think at first, he indicated he was not a
candidate to be the president, then he became the candidate to be the
president. That obviously was a key appointment for the regents. Mautz had
been the chancellor, and Mautz retired. J. J. and I decided that E. T. York
would be a better chancellor as far as the state university system was
The agricultural interest was highly respected throughout the state and the
legislature. I am not sure we did a service to E. T., but we think we made the
right decision as to who should be the chancellor. E. T. came to the job with
some new and exciting ideas. He worked with us, and we found some new
sources of funding and it was under that funding, for instance, [that] the
Stephen C. O'Connell Center was built and the Sun Dome, whatever the
comparable building is at the University of South Florida.
We started looking at some of these matching programs which had been
successful in other states and quality improvement kinds of programs. E. T.
was a good salesman and we were able to get to the legislature then because
money was starting to improve. We could deal with something other than just
cope with growth. And I will say this for Reubin: Reubin had the positive
attitude toward higher education. The only two governors I have seen who
really had any positive thoughts about higher education were [Reubin] Askew
and [Robert] Graham [governor of Florida 1979-1987]. He [Askew] did not
know what to do, but he knew he wanted to do something better.
And Ruebin Askew never once interfered with J. J. Daniel or me. J. J. was
chairman for two years and I was chairman four years. Somebody went to
Reubin and said, the regents ought to do this, or we want to do that. Reubin
would say, you go talk to J. J. and Marshall and if they are for it, I am for it, or
you can tell them I think thus and so, but you have got to understand that
whatever they decide is what it is going to be. He was very, very supportive.
With E. T.'s new energy and vision, and a governor who was supportive, we
could go to him and say, governor, here is something we can do, if we can
get some help. We had pretty good luck with the legislature in those years.
Those were probably Dempsey [J.] Barron [Florida Senator for District 3, from
Panama City, Democrat] years. Dempsey never was particularly pro-
education, but he certainly was never anti-education. Dempsey's agenda was
usually a pretty small list of things that he was interested in. And as long as
other people did not interfere with that agenda, why he was supportive. So
we got some things started that worked out pretty well, because we had some
new money coming in and we had some enthusiastic support. It was during
that period of time that we were able to see some of those things.
P: Do I gather from what you are saying that you push Mautz out of the
chancellorship? Did I get the wrong impression there?
C: I do not say that we pushed him out.
P: You did not discourage him?
C: We did not. There is a time to come and a time to go, Bob had had a good
run at it. His energy was down a little bit. He had a difficult time for awhile
when Chester was chairman because Chester was such a dominant
personality. But the time had come for Bob to step aside.
P: Now when you come on the board, is Chester still on the board?
C: Chester was still there.
P: And was not Chester a supporter of E. T. York?
C: Chester was a supporter of E. T. York.
P: A strong supporter of E. T. York?
P: It is my understanding that E. T. could have selected either the presidency of
the University of Florida or the chancellorship.
C: That is correct.
P: And that it was Chester who gave him the opportunity of making the choice,
one way or the other.
C: Chester, by that time, was not the chairman. Some people said he was de
facto, but he was not the chairman.
P: Could he have done that if he had wanted to? If E. T. wanted to be president
of the University, did Chester have enough influence on the board to have
made [E. T. president]?
C: Not without the support of J. J. and me. We had a common interest there.
J. J. And I decided the state was best served with E. T. as chancellor. We
remain very close.
P: You have remained good friends too? Does "close" mean friends?
C: I have remained very close, personal, social, warm friends with every
chancellor that I have served with, except Barbara W. Newell.
P: I have got a question to ask you about her when I get to it.
C: [Robert Barbeau] Mautz and I are close today. York and I are close today.
P: Mautz has had no resentment or bitterness?
C: Never. [There] never [was] the first indication of any resentment or bitterness.
I would not find that to be a characteristic that I have ever experienced with
Bob Mautz, certainly not toward me.
P: You know, you said that the two governors you felt were most pro education
were [Reuben] Askew and [Robert] Graham. Now, is that kind of relative, by
comparison with the other governors, or were they really supporters of higher
C: That was relative and it was [also] an actual situation.
P: Because one person I interviewed recently [who is] higher up in education,
described Bob Graham as his biggest disappointment.
C: That was not my experience.
P: That was not your experience.
C: Bob Graham is a thoughtful person, in that he tried to understand what it was
he was doing. The first couple of years of his governorship, his first term, was
a disaster because his office was so badly organized. And he did not know
what the hell he was doing. But when Dick Burroughs of Jacksonville and
Charley Reed went to his office as chiefs of staff, he started to get organized
and he started to get an agenda. Graham understands what a good
education is. Graham would have thoughts about higher education, which he
would discuss with the regents. He would not blind side you. He would not
first make a public statement and then let you read about it later in the
newspaper. But in his own pragmatic way, Graham was committed to seeing
Florida's higher education improved, and he worked with us in the legislature
to see that happen.
And you know, in the Graham years, we were close to the top quartile in
faculty salaries. We have fallen a hell of a long way from there since then.
But that was a goal of Graham's, it was a goal of the regents and he was
committed to higher education. [He] understood it more, he wanted to
become involved in it more than probably Reubin. Reubin had other things
that were more prominent on his mind, but he was for the good thing,
whatever the good thing was. And he was convinced that if J. J. and I said
something was the good thing, then it was the good thing. Graham was more
personally involved, intimately involved. But they both generally supported
P: Graham himself, as far as a politician can be, is also a scholar.
C: Yes, he is.
P: He is very bright. [He] had a very fine academic record at the University, at
Harvard law school and has continued to be interested in things [such as]
reading and understanding what is going on.
C: You see, he was a better governor than he is a senator because Bob Graham
has always been a loner. When he was the democratic Senator from Dade
County, he never was one of the boys. He never was in the leadership group.
Because he was from Dade County, he would get some things done. But he
was never one who could move the Florida Senate in any way. Now he went
to the United States Senate [and] until recently he could not get a decent
committee assignment. [He] tried to get on the appropriations [committee and
he] could not do that. [He] tried to get on finance [committee and he] could
not do that. [He] ended up on the armed services [committee], where Sam
Nunn is going to run everything anyway. And he is involved in base closings
while the action is in finance and appropriations. Now, he is finally on the
finance committee. Despite his seniority, Graham is not one of the boys.
Now he has tried to pay his dues this year to get to be one of the boys in the
Senate. He is serving as chairman of the Democratic Senate Election
Committee. That means he is out raising money to elect Democratic
senators, liberal or conservative, to the United States Senate. As a
governor, he did not have to play that game. All he had to do was get along
with the Florida cabinet which was a chore in itself.
P: He did not get along well with Dempsey Barron. [Laughter]
C: No, he did not. Graham has his faults like we all do. I think he accomplished
about as much as governor as any governor I have worked with.
P: You, personally, as a member of the Regents and the other regents have to
get along with problem people like Dempsey Barron. What did you do to
massage them the right way?
C: One thing you have to learn about the Florida Legislature. You do not have to
deal with the legislature, you need to deal with a half dozen people, in each
house, at any given time. There are only a handful of people who make
anything happen in the Florida Legislature. Now, how do you deal with the
Florida Senate when you have a Dempsey Barron? You recognize him for
what he is. You recognize that he has an agenda of five points that are going
to happen that session if they are on Dempsey's agenda. He is not going to
interfere with you if you do not interfere with him. And education was
something that he was not against. He was not for education. It just was not
high on his priority list.
P: It is just one of those things.
C: But if you work the people in the legislature who were interested in education,
and left Dempsey to do whatever it was Dempsey was going to do, you did
not have any trouble with Dempsey. And generally, he was very supportive.
He could get involved in whether something should be in Panama City or in
Pensacola or some other parochial logistics issue. But generally speaking,
Dempsey was supportive of education.
P: Have you given this wise advice to [John] Lombardi?
C: No, I do not give advice.
P: [Not] unless somebody comes and asks you? [Laughter]
C: [I do not give it] unless they ask for it, right.
P: Well, other than Dempsey, who were the movers and the shakers in the
legislature that the Board of Regents had to really deal with?
C: Well, [Philip D.] Phil Lewis was the president of the senate [1979-1980] who
was as good a person as ever served in public office in Florida and was very
helpful; while a conservative he was a very constructive person.
P: What about Sam Bell [Samuel P. Bell III, Florida House of Representatives
member for District 30, from Daytona Beach, Democrat]?
C: Well, I have not gotten to the house now.
P: Well, finish the senate.
C: Harry [A.] Johnston was a president of the senate [1985-1986] when I was at
the University and I found him very, very helpful.
P: I am really going back earlier into the 1970s, when you were on the Board of
C: Well, of course Dempsey was there. I guess [John E.] Jack Mathews [Jr.,
president of the senate 1969-1970] was gone by then.
P: Mathews was a personal friend, was he not?
C: Yes. And probably the best-qualified person who ever ran for public office in
Florida, but just did not come on as an electable candidate. People who
knew the players well, for the most part really supported Jack, but he just was
not electable state-wide. [He was a] good man.
P: Can you think of people in the house in the 1970s who you needed to work
with who carried strength?
C: Well, I cannot remember when Sam Bell came, certainly there was [J.] Hyatt
Brown in the 1970s. [He was] speaker of the house [and a] good leader.
Sam Bell was kind of his protege, so he came afterward. I just cannot
remember [anyone else].
P: In a way though you had to be something of a lobbyist as a member of the
C: [There is] no question, no question [about that]. That is something that has
probably changed too. [Charles B.] Charley Reed [Chancellor, state
university system, since 1987] has changed that. When I was a regent and
Chairman of the Regents, we used the University presidents where we knew
they could be helpful. If we needed somebody to talk to Dempsey, we had a
president at the University of West Florida talk to Dempsey. If somebody out
at Florida Atlantic University needed something, well the regent who knew the
delegation down there [would talk to them]. And that is the way the
community colleges have used their presidents over these many years, and
there are twenty-eight of them. And that is why they have eaten the lunch of
the university system on some years.
P: What do you mean "eaten the lunch?"
C: Well, I think over the years, community colleges have fared a lot better with
respect to funding than the university system.
P: Because of their relationship to individual members of the legislature?
C: Yes. The way Clark Maxwell [Jr., Executive Director, Division of Community
Colleges] and his people have worked the Florida Legislature [have helped
community colleges fare better in terms of funding].
P: Did you ever go hunting with Dempsey Barron?
C: No, no [I never went]. I am not one of Dempsey's cronies.
P: Did you ever go hunting or fishing or socializing with members of the
legislature for the purpose of massaging them?
C: No. I may have been present at a hunting trip or a fishing trip which a Scott
Linder hosted or a Burke Kibler hosted, when a member of the legislature was
there. But I did not have the resources to entertain. And [it has] never been
my interest [to] entertain a legislator as such.
P: Not for the purpose of trying to persuade him to "do the right thing."
C: I would call on them in their office, whether it was in Tallahassee or in the off
session in their hometown, but I was never a lobbyist in the sense that I
P: Let me go back to this program, these activities which still, of course, play a
major role in the life of the universities now. Let us start with the Eminent
Scholars, where the universities raised a certain amount of money. The
University of Florida has been eminently successful with that.
C: Yes, [the University has been] eminently successful. [It is] the best program
we ever had.
P: You have been given credit by other people I have talked with as being the
person most responsible for getting the Eminent Scholars Program moving.
C: I think E. T. and I share that, but yes, I was certainly involved and very
strongly supported it.
P: How about talking a little bit about where the idea came from and how you
were able to sell the program.
C: Well, nothing is unique, not really, nothing that I have ever come across has
not been done somewhere. We heard of a program, and I think it was in
Michigan, where there was matching dollars for chairs. And that just sounded
great. At that point, no Florida university had ever had a capital campaign of
any consequence. I think, when we first talked about it, what E. T. had in
mind was maybe a state university system of eminent scholars' chairs.
These would be people of such high visibility that the state could employ them
and then they would be available to the nine universities. A little ivory-tower
type thinking, but I think that was how we first started talking about it.
P: In other words, the money would be given and then the regents would decide
this was to go to University of West Florida or Gainesville or whatever.
C: It would actually be called Regent's Scholars, that was how the concept first
started. And in fact, we organized a foundation, a Board of Regents
Foundation, as the fund-raising vehicle. That never went anywhere, and
while we got the authority for the Eminent Scholars Program, we did not really
get much action. I think that maybe there were four at the University of
Florida, until we got the capital fund.
P: I do not know. Why do you think that did not work? It sounds like a very
good idea, a regents' program. Because not all of the money that has come
to the University of Florida has come from alumni.
C: No, but it would be pretty hard to raise money it; we found it very hard to raise
money for this Regents' foundation. People have a more partisan and more
parochial, if you will, a more personal identification, more loyalty to a
university than they do to a system. I would not want to undertake a fund-
raising campaign for a system.
P: You would have had to employ, of course, a whole foundation staff.
P: [That] would have been a pretty expensive undertaking, too.
C: Yes, if you did not quickly raise the money.
P: Anyway, the Eminent Scholars program has been very successful throughout
Florida, particularly for the University of Florida.
C: And it has been copied now in twenty other states, and it was a way of taking
a state line [of money] and supplementing it with a major gift. And the
legislature, for all its ups and downs, and all the good times and bad times we
have been through since that program started, has always come through
because they are convinced that if the state can come up with $400,000 and
the private donor comes up with $600,000, they have a good deal.
P: What is the difference between the Florida Academic Scholars and the
Eminent Scholars? Were the Florida Academic Scholars the original concept,
and that was the one that went by the board.
C: It must have been. Yes.
P: And I do not know anybody who was the recipient of that.
C: I do not either.
P: Is this what you received the E. T. York Higher Education Award for in 1982,
[because of] the role that you played here or was it a kind of an overall
C: Oh, I think it was just a going away present.
P: [It is] sort of like the golden umbrella. Instead of giving you a $100,000 or a
new Mercedes, they gave you a plaque. [Laughter] Okay, I want to ask you
now about the appointments that you made as chairman of the Regents. You
are on the board now and you are appointing chancellors of the state
university system. Before that, I want to talk about E. T. York. E. T. York
gets that not only because he is not president of the University of Florida, but
for what other reasons?
C: Well, E. T. York had a national and international reputation as a leader in
P: But he never revealed any administrative experience or skills or anything like
C: Well, he was the agricultural provost. That was a pretty big program to run.
As academics go, that was a pretty large administrative program. IFAS
[Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences], I do not need to tell you, has
always been a kind of a engine of its own. [It] condoned being a part of the
University of Florida but had its own state budget, and still has its own state
budget, not included with the general budget of the University of Florida. And
E. T. had leadership qualities and he was looked up to throughout the state.
He had a very strong support group.
P: Did you go seeking E. T. or [did] E. T. come seeking you?
C: No, we went seeking E. T. He had made up his mind by that time [that] he
wanted to be president of the University of Florida.
C: And E. T. does not change his mind easily. He is a stubborn fellow. J. J. and
I decided that we were going to convince him to be the chancellor. And it
took awhile, but we worked on it. We called for his greater need and pointed
out that in the position of chancellor he had ability to direct in a lot of different
P: Where did you come up with that other famous appointment now as
chancellor, after E. T. moves off the scene. I want you to talk about Barbara
Newell. First of all, where did she come from?
C: She had been the president of Wellesley [College, at Wellesley,
Massachusetts]. She had been a vice president at [the University of]
P: And Wellesley of course, was the first-ranking women's college [for] liberal
C: And she had been a delegate to the United Nations for education or
P: So she had a national reputation.
C: She had a national reputation. She was looking for a job and to be candid,
we got caught in one of those short-list deals where we thought we had some
good candidates. But under the Sunshine Law you could lose good
candidates if things get out of control. We got to a position that [seemed to
say] if we did not appoint Barbara, we would look like we had some desire not
to appoint a female, which we did not have. But I checked her out with some
people who I still think have some of the best judgement in higher education
in the United States.
P: But did they sell you down the river?
C: In retrospect, I am sorry that I participated in the decision I made. Some of
[these people] are still my close friends.
P: You have tried not to hold it against them?
C: One of them told me if any female in the United States could handle that job,
[there were] two that could. One was Hannah Gray [of the University] of
Chicago, and the other was Barbara Newell. And that was what my advisor
P: So Newell threw her hat into the ring or once again, did you go seeking her?
C: No, Barbara was looking for a job at the time. And you know anybody that
gets in that position will act as if they are not seeking the job, but Barbara was
looking for a position. It seemed like things were changing. It looked like it
would be a time to have the right female chancellor. There was no bias
against that. My hindsight is not that we did not pick a male, my hindsight is
that she was not the right person.
P: She was not the right female.
C: In my judgement, [she was not].
P: Do you think the other regents shared that feeling?
C: I think they do now. She was a very difficult person to work with. She did not
have good interpersonal skills. She never understood the Florida Legislature.
She may have done well in a small women's college that was private, but I do
not think she could handle the political side of the office of a chancellor, which
is basically a political job.
P: So she did not understand what the job was?
C: She was well grounded in educational philosophy and policy. She just could
not carry out the personal role.
P: Was that because of the peculiar nature of Florida?
C: It was peculiar to the life that she was accustomed to, I would guess, although
she came out of a pretty good public university in Wisconsin.
P: How long did she last? About three years?
C: I was going to say four. I think at least four years.
P: What happened to her?
C: Barbara Newell decided to take another position. We had housed Mautz and
York at the University of Florida after they had retired as chancellors. I
suggested to Bernie [Bernard F. Sliger, president of Florida State University,
Tallahassee] that it was his turn.
P: And she [Newell] went to Florida State University.
C: She went to Florida State University, where she stays today. She is on the
faculty there. She and Dale Lick [former president of Florida State University]
are both on the faculty there, as a matter of fact. She teaches something in
the graduate school of education, I am told.
P: You do not see very much or hear very much about her.
C: We do not communicate. She has had a very low profile, obviously of her
own choosing. She is a capable lady, but I do not have any contact with her.
P: She did not communicate well, you said, with people in the legislature. Did
she communicate well with other university presidents and people on that
level as a scholar, as an academic?
C: If she did, I was not aware of it.
P: It is one thing not to have legislative skills.
C: Yes, and I understand that. I do not think she particularly handled the
university presidents well. I do not think she handled the outside community
very well. I could not identify one group with which she was required to
interact that she did so with much proficiency.
P: Was she just lacking in grace or [did] she just [say] the wrong thing at the
C: [She was] not [lacking] in grace but in judgement. For instance, and this is
not a personal vendetta, the night before I was elected president of the
University of Florida by a unanimous vote by the Board of Regents, she was
on the telephone trying to get the first vote against me. [She was not trying to
get] the swing vote. [This was] not a realistic approach to the problem, or to
turn her back and say as chancellor she could have publicly opposed my
nomination. She did not do that. But she was trying to get the first vote
against me the night before.
P: Why? She perceived you as the enemy?
C: [She did not perceive me as the enemy], not the enemy at all. She perceived
me as a non-academic. She honestly believed that only an academic should
hold that position. She did not care who else supported me. She did not
believe that I was the right person to be the president of the University of
Florida. I had no argument with her opinion, but as a practical person
occupying the position that she did, she needed to use better judgement in
how she manifested her opposition.
During my oral interviews with the board, for instance, her first question to me
was, what scholarly publications have you contributed to in the last five
years? And she asked questions like that. She never did publicly oppose
[me]. She never did that. But she let it be known that I was not on her
agenda. She was entitled to her opinion. Understand now, I was the
University president, not a regent anymore, and I was chairman of the
selection committee that hired Barbara.
P: I know that. I have it here.
C: [It was] mea culpa. I sat down with Barbara and I said, look, I do not know
why you have come from where you have come, but you are the chancellor
now. I am the president of the University of Florida. [Let] bygones be
bygones, and I am not going to oppose you. If you want to oppose me, I think
you ought to tell me about it, but I think you want to work hard to make me
look good, and I will work hard to make you look good. And she agreed to
P: She bought that?
C: She did. As long as she stayed, although at that point it was pretty clear she
was not going to stay much longer, Barbara and I never had any public run-
ins. Now she had terrible public run-ins with Bernie.
P: And yet, he took her on? He had no choice?
C: He had no choice.
P: You know, I want to ask you about something. When Mautz retired as
chancellor and came back to Gainesville, what kind of a golden umbrella did
he get, which then continued with the other chancellors?
C: Yes, there was a program for retiring chancellors.
P: [It was] Regents' Professors. I think that is what it was called.
C: Harold [B.] Crosby was one. Mautz was one.
P: And they let them keep their same salaries?
C: I think it was eighty, seventy-five percent of their salaries. And [they received]
P: [They also received] a secretary.
C: [It was] a pretty good deal.
P: [It was] a very good deal, in view of what they had done once they left the
C: Was that a statement or a question?
P: That was a statement. [Laughter]
C: Then I do not have to respond to it! [Laughter] [They were not] really golden
parachutes. Crosby, for instance, served well as a Regents' Professor.
P: What did he do?
C: We had a terrible problem down there at Florida International University with
my friend, the Senator Jack Gordon [Florida senator, district 35, from Miami
P: Oh yes, of course, I thought the University of Florida had the problem with
C: Jack Gordon decided he was going to appoint the next president at Florida
P: I know.
C: E. T. York and I decided he was not. We solved that problem by sending
Harold down there and he did a good job. It was good for him.
P: [He was] holding Jack Gordon at bay.
C: He ended up getting a new wife and a new hairdo.
P: [Was that] Jack Gordon or Harold Crosby?
C: [It was] Harold Crosby.
P: I know. And then he leaves Florida International University and he went to
Pensacola [University of West Florida].
C: He went to Pensacola, right. I think he also taught for a while at the Florida
State University law school. Harold did what we conceived that a Regents'
Professor would do.
P: You know that he ended up being in the same law firm as my [son] Mark.
C: Is that right?
P: [That is] right. And Mautz came back to Gainesville with the idea he was
going to be a fundraiser for special programs.
C: Is that right?
P: It did not work.
P: That was not part of your agenda. And E. T. York?
C: Well, he teaches today at the University of Florida.
P: [What about] Barbara Newell?
C: Still talking about E. T., [he] continues as a consultant around the world in
agricultural matters and travels extensively. I am talking about E. T. now. He
headed up an international agricultural policy board. He has high visibility.
P: Well, all of those are doing well, not quite as well as Sam Proctor in his
retirement, but you cannot all achieve the ultimate, can you?
C: Truly [you cannot].
P: All right, now as a member of the Board of Regents, I noticed you were a
selector of a number of university presidents.
C: I participated in selecting four or five, I think.
P: I have got you down here as Florida Atlantic University, Florida International
University, University of North Florida and the University of Florida. That is
the Marston [Robert Q. Marston, President 1974-1984] appointment. What
were you all looking for with all of these appointments? All of them were
different in many ways.
C: Well, they are different and you have to look at the university at the time. You
have to think about what that particular university needed in your view, [and]
as a leader that varied from time to time. You would certainly not succeed me
with another non-academic.
P: As you were not going to succeed Steve O'Connell with another non-
C: You should not do that. Basically, academics ought to be university
presidents, but from time to time, there might be particular needs that you
perceive, [so] that you would want somebody different. You take Florida
International University today. I think it would be very difficult not to have a
Hispanic in that position. We were very fortunate in getting [Modesto]
Maidique to go down there when he did. There had been a lot of turmoil at
that university. [Charles E.] Chuck Perry [former president of FlU] kind of
started it and got it going, but he could not keep it running. Anyway, whoever
followed Chuck did not do very well. And then we got into this thing with
P: What was the thing with Gordon, his effort to select the president?
C: Well, Jack Gordon was always zinging the university system. It was his way
of getting kicks in his later life.
P: Of course, particularly, he had it in for the University of Florida.
C: He did. I will never forget the conversation that I had with Bob Marston when
I was on the Regents. Marston was telling me that he had had Jack Gordon
for the weekend at Gainesville, not a football weekend, but for a weekend.
And he really understood Jack Gordon now, and they were really going to
work together. I said, good luck!
P: Marston told me he thought that was what he had with Dempsey Barron.
They went hunting together.
C: Jack Gordon was the kind of guy who would try to create news on a quiet
day, one way or another.
P: He would not deny that. He had his excitement out of doing things like that.
C: Yes. There are some things Jack did that were very good.
P: He was a very bright man.
C: He was a very strong supporter of the Eminent Scholars program. He really
picked up on that when we told him what we were doing.
P: He himself is a very bright, very well-educated man.
C: He is.
P: But he likes being a curmudgeon.
C: Yes, he was kind of the William Proxmire [United States Senator from
Wisconsin] of the Florida Senate.
P: That is right. He liked to start problems, trouble. Part of it was tongue in
cheek, but it became a bigger thing as a result of him doing it.
C: Yes, and you know, after he had been associated with that savings and loan
that went belly up, he needed a job, and he was employed by Florida
International University while he was a state senator. And you know his zings
at the University of Florida were for a purpose. He was hustling for Florida
International University in that dual role.
P: How did you, as a member of the Board of Regents and the others, handle
this pressure to duplicate programs? You already talked about the College of
Engineering, but that is not the only one--a College of Medicine at the
University of South Florida, a College of Law at Florida State University,
programs at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University. And these are
things that were supported by legislators.
C: Many times initiated, or usually initiated by the campus involved who would
then go to their local delegation and all of a sudden, five people sign on.
P: I mean, did you in your Regents' meetings say, now, how are we going to
fight this? Are we going to resist this? We do not need it.
C: Well, we had a program committee whose job was to review any initiative that
had to do with adding colleges or major programs or professional schools.
And for some of them, when they were not worthy, you could contain them
and delay them and study them and appoint another committee. But some
would have a life of their own, and the first thing you knew, they would reach
out and grab you. The legislature would enact them into law [and] put them
into appropriations bills. Some of them would get in there at the eleventh
hour [and] the regents would not even have a chance to look at them. If you
had good people in the legislature they could protect you from those things.
At times we did, and [at] times we did not.
You mentioned Sam Bell earlier, and I do not ever want to leave him out. Of
all the people I have worked with in the legislature, he was probably the
brightest. He was an excellent supporter of higher education. He was
defeated at a very inopportune time because he would have gone on to be a
speaker. I am just a great friend and great admirer of Sam Bell. We talk from
time to time about different things. I guess now he has his hands full at the
University of South Florida.
P: What [is he] doing?
C: [He is] being the husband of the president.
P: Betty Castor? [Laughter] Yes, that is true.
C: But they are a good team.
P: When you came onto the regents, the Vietnam protests were engulfing the
campuses, particularly at Gainesville.
C: [They were] very much so. Well, you say primarily in Gainesville, [but
protests were going on] equally at the Florida State University at that time.
P: Although their protests, the bus strike and that sort of thing, came a little bit
earlier. They were more involved in the integration protests than the Vietnam
C: Yes, but there were a couple of activists at Florida State University who were
giving [Stanley] Stan Marshall [former president of Florida State University]
fits. The thing I remember about that era most, in addition to just general
campus unrest and what was going on in the rest of the country, really in
many respects anarchy, until Kent State, and I think people started to say,
wait just a minute, we better think this through a little bit better.
But you had the protests at Gainesville. You had the protests at Tallahassee.
You had a lot of activists. You had O'Connell, who was absolutely the right
person at the right time, as far as the University of Florida was concerned.
And even with people like Mike Gannon [Michael V. Gannon, Assistant
Professor of Religion, with U. F. since 1967] and [Steven J.] Steve Uhlfelder
and others that were running around at the time, we had some meetings,
Board of Regents meetings, where regents were threatened and [the
protesters] would try to break up the meetings.
[They] were pretty obnoxious people. [There were] a few very vocal, very
obnoxious individuals. Not that the expression of a different opinion is
obnoxious, but some of those people acted in an obnoxious way. The thing
that I remember most about those years however, rather than the protesting,
were the actions of the faculty. At the University of Florida some people
gave Steve a bad time, but, generally his faculty was not trying to run him off.
Stan Marshall had his problems, and his faculty was committed to running
him off. So with Steve we knew that somebody was there and he was going
to stay in control and he would deal with the day-to-day problems. Stan was
faced with a situation when people who probably should have known better
but were using that as an opportunity to get rid of Stan. And particularly, as
chairman, I had many more problems at Florida State University.
I would counsel with Stan and say, I am not talking about the protesters now,
I am talking about your faculty. You cannot win every battle. Once in a
while, they need to win a battle. You want to win the war, let them win some
battles. Stan Marshall was not capable of that kind of approach. If you
disagreed with him, it became a personal vendetta and either his neck was
going to be on the ground or your neck was going to be on the ground when it
was over. That was the way he approached problems. And that was the way
he approached the faculty.
And the culture of the faculty at Florida State University has been that the
faculty was heavily involved in the administration of that university. [They]
always have been. And unbelievably, some of those same people in the early
1970s who were causing those problems are still there today causing those
problems. And Sandy [D'Alemberte] and I have talked about this at great
length because the culture there is that the faculty are not going to let a
president run that university because one never has.
I do not know if it goes back to Doak Campbell or before, to Gordon
Blackwell. I do not know when it started, maybe it started before then, but
that has been the case. Now the University of Florida faculty does not act
that way. If the president does something they are not pleased with, they will
let him know, as they should. I do not believe I could have gone to Florida
State University and had a reasonably successful tenure. I think I would have
been preoccupied. As I say, I have talked to Sandy about this.
P: Do you think there is too much democracy at Florida State University?
C: Yes, there is too much democracy and there is too much interference. They
feel it necessary to remind the president weekly what his role is. I think they
kind of overplay their hand. I think Stan Marshall played into their hand the
way that he dealt with it. I think the successor, Bernie [Bernard F. Sliger],
bless his soul, could get along with anybody, but he would just kind of roll with
the punches and do his thing. And Gus Turnbull [the provost] would deal with
the faculty situation and the faculty would just about run the university.
P: Which system do you think has been the most healthy, in terms of the
progress and growth of the university, the situation in Gainesville, or the
situation in Tallahassee?
C: I think the results speak for themselves. I think the one in Gainesville was
much more healthy. If you look around at good universities in the country,
faculty want to be allowed the opportunity to do their thing, whether it is
research [or] whether it is teaching. They want to be able to get their grants
[and] they want to able to run their programs. They [want the] university to
supply support and supply reasonable accommodations and working
arrangements. And they want the university to support their efforts. Ninety-
eight percent of them do not want to run the university.
P: Or [the faculty] does not want to get involved in administrative detail.
C: Exactly, [getting involved in administration] is a waste of their time as viewed
by them. And in many respects, it is. That is not true at Florida State
University. Twenty percent of them over there want to be involved in running
the university. I mean, I think it has been a big deterrent.
P: Thwarted administrators.
C: I guess. Again, I think it is a cultural thing. It is just something that grows up
over the years.
P: Maybe it happened because of the presence of state government there.
P: They have all those role models of legislators who think they are qualified to
run everything, including education.
C: That is a good point. It might be, it might be the proximity to the state
government. But I think it is not a healthy situation.
P: Marshall, do you not think it is ironic that [Steven J.] Steve Uhlfelder [from
Tallahassee] is one of the regents?
C: Yes, I really do. I really do. You know, Steve came from West Palm Beach
and I have known him for a long time. Again free speech is something
everybody is entitled to, but he was a real pest.
P: Is that the lightest way you want to discuss it? [Laughter] Steve O'Connell
[Stephen C. O'Connell, president of the University of Florida 1968-1974]
would have called him a pain in the ass.
C: Well, I would not disagree with that. And I think he will perform as a regent
much as he did as a student because I think that is his nature. And that is not
going to be healthy.
P: So far he is saying the right things. And I think it is even more ironic that he
has been the guest of the president, sitting in the president's box in
Gainesville. That is a real twist. If somebody told him that back in 1970, I do
not know if he would have agreed with that.
C: Few turn down that opportunity, doctor. [Laughter]
P: I would like to ask you about a battle that you had in 1977 about the threat to
resign from the Regents when the legislature that passed the bill that would
have required you and other elected and appointed officials to reveal your
assets. First of all, tell me about that. I know what it is, but let us get it on the
tape. What motivated the legislature? Was this out of Watergate?
C: I had not thought about that but there was just this incessant media desire to
get public disclosure of private information. And the media gins it up and then
some legislator, who wants to curry favor with an editorial writer, picks it up
and pushes it. And I do not believe that people ought to be able to hide
anything that has to do with the business of the public office they hold. On
the other hand, to give the newspapers an opportunity to spread the net worth
of a private person on a voluntary basis [is wrong].
Now when I went to the University of Florida, I made it very clear that I would
not do two things. Number one, I would not criticize the financial reporting I
had to do, which was not much by the way, because I knew what the rule was
when I took the job. And the other thing that I would not do would be to
publicly continue to oppose the Sunshine Law as it pertained to personnel
matters and discussing matters of litigation with the attorney, because I knew
that if I carried on that battle any further, it would discredit my credibility as a
university president. It did not change my views, I just felt that to carry that
bucket any longer was going to be harmful. Now Wayne [J. Wayne Reitz,
University of Florida president 1955-1967], God bless him, to his death bed,
kept harping on that subject.
P: He harped on the Sunshine Law. Let us go back to this situation in the 1970s
because you threatened to resign from the Regents.
C: I did not recall that, but I certainly do not deny it.
P: Well, the newspapers reported it as such.
P: So you felt that it was an unfair invasion of privacy?
P: And it was nobody's business how much money you had or where it came
C: As long as it did not come from any source that would have to do with the job
I was holding. Now if somebody had inherited $30,000,000, which I had not,
that is not anybody's business. Harry Johnston [president of the Florida
senate 1985-1986] was president of the senate and had to disclose how
much money he had, a lot of which he inherited, I did not think that was
P: Well, how was this thing finally resolved? You did not resign from the
Regents and yet the reporting kept on.
C: I abided by whatever the law was, both as a regent and as a university
P: Well, it seems to me the reports that public and elected officials have to fill out
are relatively innocuous reports.
C: They are. They are. And I think that whatever the proposal was, was
probably watered down.
P: All right, in other words, it was upon the threat of a much stricter reporting law
that you came up with [the threat to resign]..
C: I do not remember the incident, but I am quite sure that is probably what it
P: What other good things did you do while you were on the Regents?
C: Well, I made some good and some bad appointments.
P: You want to start off with the good ones?
C: Well, I am trying to remember some. I was obviously involved in the Marston
appointment. [Robert Q. Marston, President of the University of Florida, 1974]
P: It is easier to remember the bad ones than it is the good ones, is it not?
[Laughter] And you may not want to put that on the record anyway. I think
we can skip that because the record can speak for itself. If somebody turned
out to be bad and came aboard in the 1970s, then we will blame it on you. If
they were good, we will give you credit for it. Let us go beyond just the
appointments and talk about some of the positive things that came out of the
decade of the 1970s that either you were personally responsible for or the
regents were able to bring about.
The Academic Scholars program, obviously, was a real plus. I know you had
tough times in the 1970s because of the recession. The cutback was during
the period that the legislature instituted the rule that university students in
Florida would have to go at least one summer because the summer programs
were continuing anyway.
C: Number one, I do not have a recall of a number of issues like that. They were
controversial at the time, to a certain extent, but that was why the regents
were there. We did need to utilize the facilities and the capital investment of
the universities to a greater extent that we did. That was sometimes resisted
by the universities, but those things were necessary. In fact, just this past
week I attended a meeting where somebody was making a speech about the
fact that our schools are only used six hours a day. Those issues just kind of
come and go.
I think, all things considered, and the major factor being the growth we had to
cope with, that while I would do some things differently, vote differently on
certain issues today than I did then, we were trying to build a system. My role
changed eighty percent from a regent to a university president. I thought my
responsibility as a regent was to build the system and that as the water rose,
all the ships would rise with it. [That was] a little bit Pollyanna-like. But
considering Florida's lack of an adequate tax structure and lack of funding
and [the] political climate in which decisions are made, I think we made
reasonable progress in the 1970s.
P: Did you get into an argument or a discussion that became a media thing in
which you were critical of the tax structure in Florida and advocated a
personal income tax?
C: Yes, I did that rather regularly, particularly when I was [the] university
P: But I am talking about the 1970s.
C: Probably, because from the time I had had a basic understanding of higher
education funding, I was convinced that a sales tax was not going to meet the
needs of the state. The recession just proves that over and over again.
When revenues are down, we take too much damage. When the revenues
are up, we do not get enough progress because we do not have any stability
in our funding. John [Lombardi] and Andy [Andrew Sorensen, provost and
vice president for academic affairs] are faced with a thirty percent cut over
two years. That is just totally damaging to the universities.
P: What role did you play as a regent in trying to increase enrollment of blacks
on the university campuses and increase the number of faculty?
C: Well, since the middle 1970s, we tried to do two things. Let us talk about the
faculty first. One would be to recruit.
P: This was the period where you are not only on the Regents but you are also
chairman. Go ahead.
C: All right, [we] were trying to recruit qualified black persons to the state
university faculties at various universities while the responsibility actually lies
with each university because it is their administration. Their deans have to do
the actual recruiting. The state university system tries to support those
efforts. It is easier to recruit [African Americans] to an urban area than it is to
a non-urban area. It is easier to recruit somebody to go to Atlanta than it is to
go to Gainesville--not so much because of the institution involved, but
because of the social life, the culture, the area, the way the person lives when
not working and things of that kind.
On the other hand, it is easier to recruit to a prestigious university than it is to
a non-prestigious university because qualified African Americans, Hispanics,
women to a certain extent who are really good, can have their ticket punched
any place they want to--Stanford, Harvard, the University of South Florida.
They are in great demand. So you have this problem of [these people]
wanting to go to prestigious universities, and you have this problem of urban
as opposed to non-urban.
Therefore, the brightest people are probably going to go prestigious
universities in big city areas in Boston, in Atlanta, in Chicago, even in New
York. This puts Florida at a disadvantage because [the] best universities are
in non-urban areas and new and emerging universities cannot really be
competitive for these very attractive people. So it was a dilemma, but one
that had to be constantly worked at. You have to subsidize it. You have to
supplement it. You have to find ways of convincing them that there is an
opportunity there that is equal or better to the opportunity someplace else.
You do a lot of selling. Sometimes you are successful and sometimes you
Another problem that existed at a place like [the University of] Florida, not so
much in Tallahassee, was that most couples today [have] their own careers.
So when we tried to get the Stanford Ph.D. in anthropology at Florida, who
happened to be an African American woman, we had to find a job for her
husband. This was not always easy in Gainesville, Florida. If you cannot
place them at the Health Center, then there were no other employers.
Compare that to going to Atlanta or to Georgia State University, and there
were 150 large employers where you can place the spouse. So all those
things worked against our system in the recruitment of minorities which meant
again, you had to work hard. You had to try to find situations where they
were attracted. And there was no reason to bring them into a situation if they
were going to be miserable after they got there. I think we were constantly
walking uphill as far as that was concerned.
And then when the legislature left salaries flat, or did not give you some
encouragement to work with, some of the gains you made kept sliding back.
I do not think anybody can claim real success in this area, certainly in Florida.
But it is a problem that everybody deals with. Quotas and minimums and
statistical analyses do not help. But you have to be able to be credible when
you are making the effort to attract these good people, and to bring them in
when they are not good is not fair.
And that takes the skip of thought from the faculty to the students, which is a
little bit easier to solve because a university should be able to provide
scholarships and fellowships to attract minority students. They should only
attract those that are competent to do academic work which will be
competitive in that environment. To bring one in where they are either going
to fail or are going to be maintained without failing because they are a
minority is not beneficial to the individual or to the university. You probably
have all those highbrow rules and no doubt minorities can be reasonably
successful. Then when you start recruiting athletes, well, you talk about a
whole different set of rules and regulations and the problem is compounded.
P: Marshall, from the very beginning of the state university system back in 1905
with the passage of the Buckman Act, a Board of Control was created to
supervise all the universities. They changed it to the Board of Regents to still
have a state board [to] supervise the universities. Would we have been better
off having a board for each university?
C: Well, I have never thought of that. I think [J. Wayne] Reitz always advocated
that. I think the University of Florida would get ground up and spit out in that
system. I think you need a state-wide governing board.
P: [You think the universities need] a state-wide governing board?
C: I do.
P: [What] do you think [about] what we now have, with the governor appointing
[the board] and political people getting on it, people who have, in some
instances, no connection with Florida?
C: That has nothing to do with the system, it has to do with poor appointments
that this particular governor [Lawton Chiles, governor of Florida since 1991]
has made. [He has made] poor appointments in some instances.
P: Well, we have had some poor [board appointments] over the years.
C: Well, yes, but we always seemed to have a few redeeming leaders on the
Board. And I am not sure that we have [that] this time. This governor does
not seem to be interested. He appoints people [who] do not appear to have a
commitment to quality in the system. And I have been told, and I am not a
close regent watcher anymore obviously, but I have been told by some
knowledgeable people that in the last year or two the Board of Regents has
performed at lower standards than any time they can remember in their
P: They are certainly less visible. I go for the list and I recognize maybe a name
or two and that is it. People like Robin Gibson [member Board of Regents
mid-1980s] and people like him are not on the Board [of Regents] anymore.
C: They are not. And if you look at this governor's appointments across the
board, they are basically bureaucrats and staff people. They are people who
have been hearing officers and staff attorneys. It just seems he never has
had the ability to reach out and get the kind of people he needs to get, to lead
the executive branch of Florida's government.
P: [He does not have the ability to reach out and get] the distinguished citizens.
C: That is right. And I do not believe he even tries. I am talking about
somebody who has been my friend for thirty-five years. I have supported him
every time he ran [for public office]. I supported him the last time he ran.
P: Why do you think that is happening? And I am thinking particularly of the
Regents now because we are talking about higher education.
C: I do not think Lawton has a particular interest in higher education. It is not
anywhere on his priority list that I can determine. As I say, if his appointments
were only mediocre regents that would be one thing. But I find his
appointments [to be poor across the board]. Health and Rehabilitative
Services [are the best example and] other huge organizations, costing tax
payers hundreds of millions of dollars in poor management. He appointed a
guy [to run Health and Rehabilitative Services] who has never run anything.
P: But it seems to me the future does not look bright for higher education if you
have a governor who is not interested and a very weak Board of Regents,
which is what we have.
C: If you look across the country, the only time higher education advanced
strongly was when, number one, you had a governor who believed in that
P: And who was strong enough to sell it.
C: And who was strong enough to sell it, and supported himself with strong
people on whatever the governing board is. Take a guy like Lamar
Alexander, the governor in Tennessee who was secretary of education, he
got something done in Tennessee. Carol Campbell, who is in South Carolina
now, accomplished some things in Carolina. But those are people who are
committed. North Carolina got started and got a strong foundation in higher
education when Luther Hodges [Secretary of Commerce under president
Dwight Eisenhower] was the governor [in that state].
P: But we do not have a governor strongly committed. We have a weak Board
of Regents and we do not really have, as you look at all of the nine
universities, top-flight presidents. We have good presidents, and some better
C: Yes. We do have an excellent chancellor.
P: [John] Lombardi, I think, is an excellent president for the University of Florida.
C: He is.
P: But I do not know about all of the others.
C: But he does not get much help because he is the only one that speaks up.
P: And I like Betty Castor [president of the University of South Florida, since
1993], but I wondered about the wisdom of appointing a non-academic to that
C: I think we will find that Betty [Castor] and Sandy [D'Alemberte] will end up
being good presidents.
P: Everybody hopes that that is what is going to happen.
C: And then we will have at least three strong presidents at our three largest
universities. I think [Anthony] Tony Catanese [at Florida Atlantic University]
and Adam Herbert [at the University of North Florida] are doing a good job.
P: And Tony does not have a huge amount of faculty support or endorsement
C: That faculty is kind of like University of South Florida, they are immature and
they would not support anybody.
P: Yes. Okay, we were talking about some of the problems that the Regents
had and my question was whether you think [a] strong [Board of] Regents is
the best kind of program that we should have.
C: Yes, [I do]. I have heard all the suggestions of alternate systems.
Interestingly in the last four months the new governor of New Jersey has
abolished the Board of Regents, abolished the chancellor, created a council
of presidents, [formed] of the president of each of the state institutions and
allowed them to elect their own chairman. Now that is a drastic change. I
doubt that that will work.
When I went on the [Board of] Regents in 1971, Senate Bill Number One
introduced by the then president of the Florida Senate, Jerry Thomas [Senate
president 1971-1972], who was a high school classmate of mine, was to
abolish the Board of Regents. It came out of committee without a hearing
and went through the senate with one dissenting vote. And we killed it in the
house. There was always somebody in the legislature that is kind of mad
about something and wants to change the structure again without dealing with
the underlying problems.
I think you have to have a governing board and I think you need to have a
chancellor who is the executive officer of the regents. I am the only person in
Florida who has worked with all five chancellors, with Broward J. Culpepper
[chancellor since the 1950s] only for a short period of time. But I worked with
Mautz [Robert Barbeau Mautz, chancellor from 1968] and York [E. T. York Jr.,
chancellor from 1975] and Newell [Barbara W. Newell, chancellor from 1981]
and Reed [Charles B. Reed, chancellor from 1987]. I would say that York and
Reed were very strong actors who were hands-on managers. Mautz and
Newell were less hands-on and less effective.
I am an admirer of Charley Reed. Our tenures, mine as president, his as
chancellor, overlapped for at least four years. I have never had the first
heated exchange of words with Charley Reed. He did not interfere with my
administration at the University of Florida. I did not allow things to happen at
the University of Florida which embarrassed him or which blindsided him. We
were always able to discuss our views and resolve them, at least publicly,
even though we might have disagreed privately. Charley, I believe, is
capable. He is kind of like gas, if there is a vacuum he will flow into it. If there
is a weak president, as we have had some in the system, Charley will start
running the university. That is his personality. He sees that as his role. On
the other hand, if the president is doing what he is supposed to be doing,
Charley will not interfere.
P: It will be a hands-off [situation].
C: It will be a hands-off [situation]. I do not quarrel with that. I think we are very
fortunate to keep Charley Reed as long as we have him in Florida now.
There are those at the University of Florida [who say] that he does not do
enough for the University of Florida. When he does do something for the
University of Florida the regional universities say, well, there he is again doing
something for the University of Florida. It is a tough job.
I would not be the chancellor. That would be a job that I would not try to hold
because the chancellor has a constituency of the majority of the Board of
Regents and that is it. And the University of Florida president is capable of, if
he or she is doing right, of going out and getting a lot of public support, alumni
support, [and] business support for this cause or that. The chancellor really
cannot do that. So it is a tough job.
P: Can a regent do that? Could you do anything for the University of Florida?
Did you do anything for the University of Florida?
C: [Did I do anything] as a regent?
P: [Did you do anything] as a regent?
C: As a regent I could and I hope I did. I have already talked of my opportunity
in the very early 1970s to do what should have been done. I think we were
able to help the University of Florida in support and recognition of programs
and believe it or not, in reducing some of the redundancy of programs
throughout the system.
P: Were you the regent that Marston could go to and did go to?
C: No, because that again comes to how you see your role as a regent. Jack
Mcgriff viewed himself as the regent for the University of Florida. I came from
Palm Beach County at the time. I did not view myself as the regent for
Florida Atlantic University. Florida Atlantic University got upset with me about
that. I do not believe the university ought to be tied to a regent. Now I think
[Dubose] Dubie Ausley [of Tallahassee] was the regent for Florida State
University for the many years that he was there. But again, I do not believe in
that. And I used to argue with Dubie about that fact.
I think that there are only twelve or thirteen regents. We are about to have
ten universities. And if all the regent does is carry the water for the general
geographic direction that that person comes from, I do not think you have a
governing board, I think you have a bunch of cheerleaders. I could have
done things for the University of Florida probably at times that I did not do, but
I thought it was in the best interests of the system. I probably did not do
things at times that I could have done for Florida Atlantic University, although
I happened to be from that region. [Incidentally,] it looks like Broward County
is about to take over Florida Atlantic University.
P: I asked you about the 1960s, if you were involved in any activities at the
University and you said no, other than membership in the Palm Beach Gator
Club or whatever it was. How about the 1970s? Were you any more involved
in anything, specifically at University of Florida and then as a dues-paying
C: I might have been on the law center trustees or something like that during that
period, mostly with the law school focus rather than the University-wide focus.
P: Did you stay active in any way as an advisor to Florida Blue Key or to your
fraternity, Sigma Nu?
C: [I did] not [stay active in] my fraternity, Sigma Nu. After I left the University,
for several years I think I was actually the regional representative of Sigma
Nu in Florida and Alabama or something like that. I attended one national
convention in that capacity, but it did not last very long. [In] Florida Blue Key,
on occasions when asked, most recently this past spring, I served on their
honorary tapping committee. I served on that committee and I attended the
induction ceremony here a couple of weeks ago. Like a lot of people, if I am
asked to do something, I will probably do it.
P: Now, it sounds almost like the Regents becomes a full-time job, but you have
your law practice to continue.
C: It can be a full-time job. Some regents never took it seriously and never
prepared. The great danger of a regent is that [there are some], and there
are a couple now who are particularly identified as doing this, who do not do
their homework. [They] come to meetings unprepared and then ask off the
cuff questions which are designed to embarrass the staff in a public meeting
with the media present. I think that is absolutely unacceptable. I have seen
regents who performed in that way.
Again, as I repeated a few minutes ago, I have seen some regents who were
very parochial. I communicated with McGriff several times, because I was the
chairman at the time, about his parochialism as far as the University of Florida
was concerned. As a regent, [he was] losing his effectiveness with the other
regents. But I never convinced him that much. He was a local hero, I guess.
P: [He was] very much a local hero, particularly coming out of the McGriff family
which has been and continues to be very active in the Gainesville/Alachua
County community. You left the Regents in 1981, I believe. Could you have
been reappointed [if] you wanted or was it enough?
C: I still had several years left in my term. What happened was when I became
chairman in 1974, Chester Ferguson wanted to stay on the Regents. He had
been there [for nine years]. We had nine-year terms in those days.
P: You had nine-year terms to begin with, yes.
C: Chester wanted to stay on. Reubin [Askew] did not want to offend him. And
there was a short term from somebody who had to resign. Reubin had
Chester and me switch terms so that I got a new nine year term, and Chester
had about three more years on his unexpired term. He did not want to
reappoint Chester for the full nine years because of Chester's age. Chester
was perfectly agreeable to that. I was the incoming chairman so he
reappointed me to a new nine-year term.