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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida
B: This is Florie Bugarin interviewing Edward L. Jennings Jr. on April 11, 1995. We
are at my house at 3214 N.W. 21st Avenue in Gainesville, Florida. I would first
like to start off with you stating your name.
J: Edward Lee Jennings Jr.
B: When were you born?
J: July 25, 1968.
B: Where were you born?
J: Here in Gainesville.
B: Have you lived here in Gainesville?
J: All my life.
B: Are your parents from Gainesville?
J: My mother is from Hawthorne; it is about fifteen minutes east of here. My father
is from Tampa.
B: When did they move here?
J: About 1963 or 1964. My mom has always been in and out of Gainesville
because of her living so close living in Hawthorne. It is only fifteen minutes east
of here. They met in college. They decided to settle on Gainesville as a home.
B: Have they ever talked about Gainesville and what it was like when they first
came here to live, or what the atmosphere was like for African Americans?
J: To some extent. I know that both of them went to [segregated schools]. My
mother went to Shell High School in Hawthorne, which was a segregated school
at the time. They talk about the times when the fruit basket turn over, which was
when schools were integrated in Alachua County. My mother is a retired
schoolteacher. She was a schoolteacher at the time. She taught for a while in
segregated schools, and has taught from segregated schools to integrated
schools. They have discussed some of that history with me, not as in depth as
they know, but we have discussed it to some extent.
B: Since you grew up here in Gainesville, you decided to go to the University of
Florida for college?
J: I decided to go to the University of Florida for college because I wanted to get
into politics. I still do want to get into politics. I see that as my career aspirations.
I would like to be governor of the state of Florida. I know that the powers that be
have all come to the University of Florida. [Its] history is very vast and strong in
political and business leadership in the state of Florida. I knew that my best
chances were to come by the way of past leaders and past history in being in the
vast network that the University of Florida has to offer. That is why I stayed here.
I had the opportunity to go to Emory or the University of North Carolina at
Chapel Hill. About a month or so before school started, I got a personal invitation
from then President Criser [Marshall M. Criser, president, University of Florida,
1974-1984] to stay. I thought it was best that I stay. It worked out very well.
B: Why did he send you a personal letter?
J: It was a personal phone call. He called me. I cannot tell you why Criser called
me. I knew him before that time. His son and I were in high school at the same
time. We went to different high schools. We knew each other. I knew some
people in the administration previous to my graduation from high school. I am
assuming that someone mentioned my name. He had seen me before, and
knew that I was deliberating on schools. [He] wanted to do what he could to
keep me here. I really cannot answer that question. That is my best recollection
B: You were thinking about leaving when he sent you the letter?
J: I was considering going to Carolina. Carolina was my dream school. Chapel Hill
is a great school. [It] was a top ten school at the time. This was kind of my safe
school. I knew I could get in. I was home grown. I was thinking about leaving,
and then coming back to go to law school here. The opportunities were too good
not to leave.
B: Because Criser sent you an invitation?
J: Not only because of Criser's invitation, but because of the network that I knew I
could build here instead of having to start off in law school and not knowing
anyone, and starting off from scratch and going off to Carolina where I knew no
one. I could start as a freshman and have an in with people in student
government. I knew the president of the student body at the time. When I was in
high school, I came in as a freshman. I had a lot of natural ins. I knew a lot of
the deans because a lot of their kids went to school with me in high school. I had
a lot of access that I knew I would not have if I went some place else. I think for
the best of it was better if I stayed here.
B: What were your first inclinations that you wanted to become a politician? Why
did you decide that you liked politics?
J: I guess it probably started when I was very young, being very involved in
extracurricular activities, and student politics at a very young level. I was a patrol
at the age of ten. Ever since I was fourteen years old, I have held some kind of
position in student politics, from middle school and being a senator, to being a
representative in high school. I was president of the student body. I have always
liked it. I think I really knew when I was a junior in high school and I was elected
president of the student body. Then I was elected president of district two, which
is the northern region, about 140,000 students I believe at the time, in that
region. It was in my blood. I was president of the Spanish Honor Society. I was
president of Gamma Club. I just love politics. It was in my blood. I just enjoyed
it a lot, and I still do.
B: So you came to the University of Florida in what year?
B: Did you come here as a political science major?
J: I started out as a business major, as a matter of fact. I ended up changing my
major from business. I thought about Spanish for a while because I have a pretty
strong history in Spanish. I ended up in political science. I should have started
there because that was my love. Some friends of mine said that they were not
sure whether I should get a political science degree. Knowing that I was going
into law school, I should have done that in the first place. I started out as a
B: What made you change?
J: Two things--the course were not to my liking or were extraordinarily difficult, and
the political science classes I just loved a lot more. I have always been told and
after going through orientation they tell you it is best to take the major that you
like and the one you enjoy. Initially, it is the thing that you think is going to be
more lucrative. I loved those classes a lot more than I liked the other ones.
B: When you first came to Florida, did you get a scholarship?
J: Yes I did. I got a Presidential Minority Scholarship. I think that is what it is still
called. I am not sure if it is still called that or not. They still have them now I
B: How much was that for? Do you remember?
J: I think it was $5,000 a year, I believe. That sounds right.
B: $5,000 a year plus a tuition waiver?
J: No, it was just $5,000 a year. I paid for whatever incidentals needed. It could be
put toward housing, tuition, or any incidentals I had. It pretty much covered
everything I needed to cover.
B: Is that an academic scholarship or is it for leadership?
J: It is an academic scholarship.
B: Did you have to apply or was that a recruitment?
J: It was more of a recruitment tool. The minority admissions person at the time
was a guy named John Boatwright, who just left this last summer. He has been
all over the state and all over the country recruiting minorities. That was a
recruitment tool to keep me here, as well as other students who got the
scholarship as well.
B: So he came to your school?
J: He knew my father. He had mentioned this to my father. When I made an
application, he and I had an interview. He offered me the scholarship. I
deliberated a while deciding which school I was going to go to. I ended up
deciding to stay here, and the scholarship was there for me.
B: Your father's name is also Edward L. Jennings?
J: Yes, Edward L. Jennings Sr.
B: Did he go to the University of Florida?
J: No, he went to Bethune Cookman. When my parents went to school, the
University of Florida was still segregated. My mother and father started college
in the 1950s, and ended in the early 1960s. I do not think that UF was integrated
until the late 1960s. Judge Mikel was the first African American to graduate. I
want to say that was probably 1965 or so by the time he graduated from the
University of Florida. So when they went to school and when they applied, there
were no African Americans at the University of Florida.
B: What did he graduate as?
J: What degree did he have?
J: He has his bachelors in biology with a minor in chemistry. My mother got her
bachelors in music (a B.A. in music) and came to Florida and got her masters
later in the early 1970s when I was little. She went through the program and has
her masters in early childhood education from the University of Florida.
B: Are they active in politics also?
J: Yes, my father is city commissioner here in town now.
B: In Gainesville.
J: Right. My mother is active in a lot of social organizations, sororities, a couple of
civic clubs, and things like that.
B: Have they always been active in politics?
J: Yes. My father has always worked in county and/or city government for about
ten or fifteen years. He did that through most of the 1970s and early 1980s. He
got out of that for about eight or nine years, and then he ran for city commission
in 1993. He has been in that position for the last year and one-half.
B: Do you have any other brothers or sisters?
J: I have an older brother. He is nine and one-half or ten years older than I am.
B: Is he also political?
J: No, he is not. He is a little more athletically inclined. He went to Gainesville High
School, and he was a football player, and weight lifter. I think he also wrestled a
little bit too, if I can remember. [He] was more athletically inclined than I was.
B: When you first came to the University of Florida, what was it like as a freshman?
J: My experience is probably non-traditional, not only as an African American, but
also non-traditional to everyone because of my access to people and people that
I knew from the president to the vice presidents and deans. I had a lot of access.
It was a great year. I loved it. It was good being at home. It is almost like being
in college and being home at the same time. My house was about ten minutes
away from school. I lived on campus. I was president of my hall my freshman
B: Which hall was that?
J: Simpson Hall. I just had a great time. I was getting acclimated. Socialization
was different--being a little independent, but not too independent and still having
freedom of will. It was good.
B: What year was this?
J: This was 1986.
B: How did you do in academics?
J: The first year I did pretty well. It is hard to say what my first year GPA was. I
think my first semester was probably something like a 2.5 or something like that.
I cannot tell you what my first year ended up being. I know the following summer
I was on Preview staff, the following summer of my freshman year. I cannot tell
you what I ended up with now. I cannot even remember.
B: Do you remember if the University did anything special to guide you through your
first year? Did they counsel you?
J: [There was] no counseling. The presidential scholars had a group, an
organization where they had meetings once a month to talk to the fellow scholars
about what they were doing, and keep mentioning what was going on campus. A
lot of the things they said were not entrancing or inviting for me because I knew a
lot of the things that they were telling me already, or at least I thought I did
B: What kind of things?
J: I guess as far as being acclimated to Gainesville, where you should shop, where
you should bank, knowing the town, places you should and should not go, or
advice from different professors. A lot of things I was getting from students that
were older than I was. Most of those things I did not necessarily need because I
am a native of Gainesville.
B: You said you lived in the dorms your first year. Did a lot of African Americans
live in the dorms?
J: In my particular dorm, or dorms in general?
J: I think that most African Americans and most freshman in general live in the
dorms. On my floor there was probably six or seven [African Americans] out of a
floor of fifty or sixty. It is hard to tell you exactly how many. I want to say it is
about four or five. I know at least four or five black guys were on the floor i 1986.
B: How has the University changed since that first year in terms of the type of
students that came to the University of Florida, the type of African American
J: I think the University of Florida across the board has become a more elite
institution since its acceptance in the AAU. Its standards have gotten higher.
Coming out of high school, I was in the top ten percent of my class. When I got
here, I realized that top ten percent was average because everyone had a 3.5 or
a 1200 SAT [score]. That was just standard at the time. Like I said, I graduated
3.47 I believe, and 1160 in SAT. That was standard here. I think the average
was 3.4 and 1130, or something like that. That is probably somewhat
intimidating to a lot of students, though I think there is a much higher caliber of
students academically than when I first got here. The numbers, I think, have not
necessarily have not increased any higher. When I first got here, Criser started a
cutback on students in general, not just African American students, but students
in general. There has been a resurgence of going into African American
colleges, historically black colleges, since about 1988 or 1989. That kind of
started. A lot of students that would normally have gone here or may have been
attracted have gone to FAMU, Bethune Cookman, or other historical black
institutions. The type of student, I think, has not necessarily changed except
other than a higher caliber academically.
B: Did you ever think about going to a black school?
J: Yes, because my parents went to black schools. I thought about their alma
maters, Bethune Cookman College, as a choice because of their history. I
thought about Howard University in D.C. I knew that obviously would be putting
me in a great place politically in the country, as well as FAMU in Tallahassee. I
knew for what I wanted to do, this was my best choice. I knew that I could get
the best of both worlds. I knew that there was at least somewhat of a sizable
black culture here, larger than what I experienced in high school. I knew for what
I wanted to do, this was my best choice. I could get a little bit of both.
B: Did you want to do politics in Florida or just politics in general?
J: I always wanted to do politics in Florida, knowing that in politics you start from
your home base and then expand. [[Phone rings]].
B: We were talking about that you wanted to stay in Florida. What were the reasons
for wanting to stay in Florida?
J: I like this state. It is one of the largest states in the country. We are progressive.
Gainesville is probably one of the more progressive areas in the south. We
have had a very strong history of African American leadership from the judicial
level, executive branch, and to the legislative branch. We have had African
Americans being successful at all levels. That was always very attractive. Plus it
is home. It is always good to build on the base that has been built for you.
Because of my parents activity, I knew that I had a very strong base here, and
that I would not have to start from scratch. I had a nice foundation to build on,
and I could continue from there. I like Florida a lot. I like the beach. I like being
in the south in warmer weather. I do not like the north--it is too cold. It seemed
like a natural choice.
B: After your freshman year at the University of Florida, did you stay in the dorms
the second year?
J: Yes, I did.
B: How long were you in the dorms? How many years?
J: I was in dorms for about two and one-half years because after that I served as an
RA for a semester. I guess about two and one-half years.
B: This whole time were you on a scholarship?
B: So your whole four years was paid?
B: Do you know how many African American students got scholarships?
J: I want to say that there about fifty of those scholarships given every fall. I know
there are other scholarships given. Of the type that I received, there are fifty.
You would probably have to call the Minority Admissions Office. They could give
you a better figure on how many minorities get scholarships per year, for fall and
B: When you were a student, did anything particularly exciting happen in terms of
the political atmosphere at the University?
J: The most exciting thing that has happened since I have been at the University of
Florida politically was last spring when Clead Mohammed was here. That was
my first semester of law school. At the time, I was president of Florida Blue Key.
That was probably the most racially, involved, and charged atmosphere that I
have been involved in ever as far as the African American community. As far as
the campus in general, winning the SEC championship, and going to the Final
Four was great. Last spring, I went to Charlotte to see that. It depends on
exactly what you mean as far as great things. We won the SEC championship
several times in that time period. We have done some great things athletically.
Of course that was very exciting, being a part of that. Being a UF student was
wonderful. Everybody loved that. As far as things that were probably more
personal, only when Clead Mohammed was here last spring.
B: Let me take a step back.
J: Go ahead.
B: You were an undergraduate for four years?
J: I was an undergraduate for six years because I changed majors. I think I took off
a semester. I ended up doing some post-bacc work before I went to grad school
and law school. So I finished in 1992.
B: In 1992, you decided to go to law school?
J: In 1992, I decided I was going to do some post-bacc work so I could take the
GRE and the LSAT so I could go to law school and to grad school, and do a JD-
Masters program at Florida. [I wanted] to get a masters in political campaigning
and then do my law degree as well. I started in fall of 1993.
B: As an undergraduate, did you partake in any extracurricular activities?
J: Lots. I pledged a fraternity.
B: Was that an all black fraternity?
J: Yes. Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Incorporated, the Zeta Phi Chapter here at the
University of Florida. After being initiated into the fraternity, I served as treasurer,
vice president, and president of the fraternity. I served as president of the Black
Student Union. I served as a student senator. I served as an election
commissioner. I served on Preview. I served on at Large, which is a
committee at that time that dispersed the activity and service fee, about four or
five million dollars at the time. I served as vice president of Blue Key. I served
as president of Florida Blue Key. I think I told you already I was president in my
hall. I think that is about it. That is all that comes to mind right now. I am sure
there are various other boards.
B: You said you served in office at your fraternity. What did you serve as?
J: I served as treasurer, president, and vice president of my fraternity.
B: What was that like?
J: It was great. It was a great network, and a very strong fraternal order. There
was a lot of brotherhood there. It probably holds my best memories of
undergraduate life on the Florida campus because of the networking and
potential not only outside of the University of Florida around the country, but also
the brotherhood and socialization that enabled me at the University of Florida as
well. It was kind of a network, a niche, which made the University a lot smaller
and even closer knit than it probably would have been otherwise.
B: Did you ever think about pledging a non-all black fraternity?
J: Yes, I did. My first week of campus, all freshman usually go through the
fraternity rush. I do not know if I thought about it or if it was something that I
[[please finish thought]]. I guess I did think about it because I endeavored
down the path to go through rush. We all went to about twenty or thirty fraternity
houses, and I received one or two bids. I cannot remember right now. My
parents are Greek as well. My parents are both members of African American
fraternities and sororities. I pretty much knew that was what I would do when I
decided to pledge. I ventured down the path to get an understanding of what the
life was like and to see what it had to offer.
B: We were talking about the African American fraternities versus the other
fraternities. What would you see as the difference? Why would you prefer to be
a member of an African American fraternity versus a different fraternity?
J: For me, other than just the sheer natural cultural tie and closeness that it brings
was the history of my own family. I said both my mother and father of members
of traditionally black fraternities and sororities, so having that bond with them as
well and growing up in a Greek family that I guess if you are bred that and are
taught about that, it is something you want to be a part of when you go to college
as well. That natural tie was there. The fraternity system and the Greek system
as a whole was a very strong component if not the leading component of the
social network at the University of Florida for whites and blacks. Knowing that
part of the culture is one that I grew up in and want to be a part of enabled me to
learn some things about my culture that I did not know, about history and the
struggling of our people. It has very well been tied to the Greek system. The
majority of the historical leaders in the black culture have been Greek men and
women from Dr. King, Justice Thurgood Marshall, and to Governor Wilder, who
was governor of Virginia--various people in our history. The majority of them
have been great people. There is a very strong network of black men especially
who have done very well.
B: Out of all of those people that you mentioned, do you know of any of them who
have been actual members in your fraternity?
J: The most famous person in our fraternity right now is Johnny Cochran, who is the
lawyer for O.J. Simpson. I would say the most influential person right now is
Johnny Cochran. He is a part of a list of judges and other people that are very
influential. Reginald Lewis, who was the chair of Beatrice Corporation, died
about a year ago, and was a member of our fraternity. Beatrice Corporation is
considered one of the largest international companies in world. We have
historically had some pretty strong men.
B: I am not familiar with that company.
J: Beatrice Foods owned Nestle. It was a major food conglomerate. I think it is a
four or five billion dollar company. He did that at a very early age. I think he was
about fifty-two when he died. He owned the company for about six or seven
years. To be at age forty and have that kind of power economically was very
attractive as well.
B: Were there any problems that you ran across as a student leader in your
J: We had some socialization problems. We had some infighting among other
Greeks. I think a lot of it came from competition. [It could be with a] group from
Florida State to a group at the University of Florida, or Sigma Ki versus Delta
Delta on the white Greek side. There was just a lot of competition there. As a
matter of fact, when I was president, there was a huge incident involving my
fraternity and another fraternity where there was some violence involved. We
were able to mend our ways, and then come back together as black Greek men
B: When were you president?
J: I was president from 1991 to 1992.
B: What sort of struggles did you have?
J: There was a huge altercation that occurred in the spring of 1991 between a
couple of their fraternity members and a couple of our fraternity members. It
expanded into a larger [problem].
B: We were talking about your problems in 1991 with the fraternities.
J: Right. Several members of another fraternity and my fraternity got into an
altercation which escalated into a large altercation. As a matter of fact, it made
local news here. The powers that be came involved in we all had to try to settle
our differences. I believe we were both suspended for about five or six months.
As a result of that altercation, both fraternities seem to have a much better
relationship now as a matter of fact. We both did some resolution training and
workshops. The next semester we came back on campus, we had a party
together. Ever since then we have not had any problems, not that I can recall
B: What kind of training is that?
J: You have some kind of counselor come in and talk about what are some of your
problems, why those problems are there, what we can do to bridge the gap
between each fraternity, what common goals you have, how we can live together
in a more peaceful environment, and things like that.
B: Is this something that all fraternities go through if they have a problem?
J: Usually they do.
B: The University sets this up?
J: Right. The Student Services Office and the assistant dean of Greek affairs will
set this set that up.
B: So you think that is a useful way of going about solving problems?
J: I would agree if you can get someone who can relate to the problems that are
there, understand both sides, bring in some older members of fraternities and/or
sororities, whichever the case may be, then I think it can be very helpful as long
as people can be open and honest about the problems that they have.
B: And this happened when you were president right?
B: Was it any reflection on your skills as a leader or did you feel any personal
J: I felt personal responsibility because I think a president for good or bad always
takes responsibility for whatever happens. I felt very responsible in that it
happened during my tenure, as well as the next year was the twentieth
anniversary of our chapter on this campus. Until that time, we had never been
suspended. So I felt a lot of pressure to handle the situation and handle it as
best [I could]. I think sometimes that it was good that I was president at the time.
I guess in a way I do think there were only a few other people in the fraternity at
the time that could have handled that situation, brought it to a close, and moved
past it. I think it was somewhat a blessing at the time that I was fraternity
[president]. It showed me a lot. I had to endure a lot of pressure, a lot of press,
and probably a lot of practice for the future in things that I will have to deal with in
crisis situations, how to manage them, and how to go beyond that and get on
B: How did you deal with the press?
J: Mostly the questions were very fair, asking what happened, what were the origins
of the conflict, what were the facts, what exactly happened, and why it happened.
That was about the end of it. There were a lot of articles about it, but most of
those were done from an editorial perspective and not done from asking me
questions about what happened. That was about it.
B: Did the press report the story in an accurate way?
J: I think they did. I have always been a person that wants to deal with the press. I
think you need to deal with the reporting vehicle because if you do not, they are
going to get the story somehow. I would rather be able to give them my
perspective than not. I have always had a good relationship with the paper. The
publisher [of The Gainesville Sun] is a friend of mine. He has always treated me
very well. I was pleased with the report and how it was brought out.
B: What exactly was the fight over? Would you like to talk about that?
J: I honestly could not tell you. I want to say that two guys had an altercation. I
cannot remember what they were fighting about. I want to say it involved
something to do with pledges or something like that. I really could not tell you. It
escalated from there into other fights because of the closeness of different
B: So if two people from different fraternities get into an altercation, are the
fraternities responsible or the individual members in that fraternity?
J: It depends if the University of Florida considers it a fraternity sanctioned conflict.
Depending on who was involved, if the officers are involved, it tends to be
considered a fraternity incident. [This is] opposed to where two people are at a
party or an apartment. If there is a conflict there, that is considered a fraternity
incident. Also by virtue of the number of people that are involved, then it may be
considered a fraternity sanctioned event.
B: You also said that you had a leadership position in the Black Student Union.
B: What position was that?
J: I was president of the Black Student Union.
B: What year was that?
J: That was the spring of 1988.
B: And you were president for a year or longer?
J: I was president for about five or six months.
B: Is that how long the term is?
J: The term is a year term. I resigned because of some other things I wanted to get
involved in later on that year. So I resigned. I wanted to do some other things,
and I was involved in some student government activities that I thought conflicted
with that activity. I thought I could be more influential doing other things and
letting someone else serve as president.
B: What other things were you involved with that conflicted?
J: I served in student government positions. BSU is a student government
organization. At the time, I was on the Activities and Services Advisory
Committee which is called ASFAC. We were largely responsible for the budgets
of the single organizations.
B: Did you say you were president of ASFAC?
J: No. I was ASFAC at large. There were nine of us at the time that were members
of this board.
B: What were the goals of this board?
J: The goals of the board were to adequately and equitably fund the student
government organizations that came to us for funding.
B: How would you raise money?
J: We did not raise money. A certain percentage of your fees of every hour that
you pay for is an ANS fee. It is called an activity and service fee. For each hour
of student fees that are paid, that money adds up to several million dollars
depending on the amount of students at the University at the time, and the
amount of hours they take. That money goes strictly for student government
activities. There was a board of people at the time that allocated those funds.
B: So this board is responsible for allocating those funds.
B: Did you feel that this would look better for your future goals in politics rather than
your position at the Black Student Union?
J: I guess it was not a decision of which one would look better. It gave me a
different experience dealing with budgeting from the executive positions that I
usually had. It gave me some finance prospective on a very large scale dealing
with allocating money at a multi-million dollar level that I had never had before,
which I think gave me some very good experience for my future endeavors.
B: What were your responsibilities as president of the Black Student Union?
J: Developing a budget, picking the cabinet members, permanently serving as chief
executive officer of the organization, setting goals--that was pretty much the
breadth of the responsibility.
B: So did you resign from that because you could not manage both?
J: I was doing that. I was also involved in my fraternity at the time. I had just
pledged the semester before. I think I probably had too many things on my plate
at the time.
B: You said you were also senator.
B: Senator of what?
J: I was a student senator for Graham Hall, which involved being representative of
the Graham area, which were three different halls. That makes you a part of the
B: What were your responsibilities for that position?
J: The student senate is the final approval process, the final arbiter for any
problems or conflicts in budgeting from the ASFAC that I was also part of. I
guess the ASFAC was somewhat a subsidiary board of the senate. The senate
itself sets all student government policy as far as all the laws, constitution, and
changes. It can amend the constitution at all levels, and is the final arbiter for all
student funds and policy from the honor code on down.
B: Just to get the time line straight, when you were a freshman, what positions did
J: As a freshman, I was president of my hall. I think that spring semester I was also
election commissioner, and I think that I also ended up in the senate. That
summer I was on Preview, which is our orientation.
B: Your orientation for fraternities?
J: No, orientation for all freshman students. It is called Preview. There are twenty
of us that serve on the orientation staff.
B: They just plan the orientation for the new students in the fall?
B: What sort of things did you have to plan when you were on Preview? What sort
J: There is pretty much a set schedule, but we had to learn as much as we could
about the entire University. We were obviously ambassadors to the new
students talking about registration, classes (as far as which classes to take),
having some knowledge about all the majors, knowledge of the history of the
University of Florida, knowledge about the different programs that we have to
offer, different amenities in Gainesville dealing with banking, extracurricular
activities, dealing with the 600 organizations on campus, knowing those, not
knowing all the names of the organizations, but knowing the different categories
of those organizations, knowing the extracurricular activities (like intramurals),
knowing the residence halls, and the best place to live.
B: Do they do anything special for African American students?
J: Preview did not. I think there are some other special programs. There are some
other offices that have special orientations for minority students. We were just
the orientation for all freshman students, and anyone who wanted to attend
Preview could attend Preview. It was a two day process. It went on from mid-
May to late July.
B: Did your fraternity do anything special for new African American students?
J: No, we did not.
B: We talked about Preview and ASFAC. What about your position at Blue Key?
J: Which time?
B: What offices did you hold?
J: I was vice president of Blue Key. I was also president of Florida Blue Key.
B: Which years?
J: I was vice president of Florida Blue Key in the spring of 1992. I was president in
the spring of 1994.
B: So this was after...
J: This was subsequent to [[please finish]]. Spring 1992 was the semester that I
graduated. So I started out my last semester as an undergraduate student when
I was vice president. I served as president of Florida Blue Key while I have been
in law school.
B: I forgot to go through this chronology with you. As a sophomore, what positions
did you hold?
J: I was on the board of managers to the Reitz Union.
B: The board of what?
J: Managers for the Reitz Union.
B: What did you do as a member of the board of managers?
J: We set policy for the Reitz Union, and set goals as far as different prospective
billing projects. It is not new to you, but it was an addition in the time that you
have been here as a student from the Constans Theater to the Reitz Union
Building is a second floor that extends out. We set that as a prospective building
project. We help set the salaries for the Reitz Union employee. We help allocate
room assignments to different organizations who have rooms listed there. I
guess [it is] the chief advisory board in running the union. There is also a person
who is director of the union who is an administrative officer. We were the board
that set the policy for him.
B: Was that the only position that you held?
J: I pledged a fraternity. I pledged the fall of my sophomore year. That spring was
when I was elected president of BSU and also elected to the ASFAC position.
B: Are these positions that you are elected to or do you run for them? Does
someone elect you?
J: It varies in choice. The board of managers is a president appointment by the
president of the student body. BSU president is elected by the members of BSU.
ASFAC was elected by the entire student body. It depends on the decision.
Some are appointed and some are elected. My sophomore year, I was also
elected minority student leader for the Reitz Union. I was also sophomore of the
year for Omicron Delta Kappa.
B: You were what?
J: Sophomore of the year.
B: What sort of benefits did you get for being sophomore of the year?
J: None. Just recognition to the student body. There was a ceremony for the Reitz
Union when they gave out their leadership awards. Omicron Delta Kappa both
gave me plaques and certificates, and recognition in the Alligator as well as
having banquets to recognize those people who were honored.
B: As minority student leader, what were your responsibilities?
J: That was a recognition, an honor that was bestowed upon me. Both of those
B: What did you have to do exactly to earn those recognition.
J: I did not apply for those positions. Those positions were bestowed upon me I am
assuming because of my leadership and things I had done on campus as a
B: What did you do that summer?
J: The summer of 1988. I am not sure. I probably took a class, and that is it. I may
have taken the summer off.
B: In your junior year?
J: Junior year was when I was treasurer of the fraternity.
B: That was in 1989?
J: That was 1989. My freshman year I was also in Cicerones, which is the Student
B: And what was that?
J: The Student Alumni Association.
B: What did you do?
J: We were the UF ambassadors to different projects that the University would
sponsor us for dealing with different arts and cultural events. We would give
different tours around the campus depending on which events were happening at
B: What sort of events took place?
J: Cultural events mostly. There were different operas and other performances that
were happening at the University auditorium as well as different events at the
president's home that we would host. There were different football games in the
president's box. Things like that.
B: So that year you were treasurer of your fraternity and a member of the
Cicerones. Anything else? [[End of this side]].
B: So your senior year, what did you do politically?
J: I was the vice president of my fraternity.
B: Was this an elected position?
J: Yes. I served on the United Negro College Fund Board of Directors for Alachua
County. I believe that was it. As far as Cicerones, I continued being active in
Cicerones. It was a continued involvement, past that year.
B: What did you do on the United Negro College Fund?
J: We had a large fund raiser. We were the board that solicits funds for the United
Negro College Fund in this area. We had a fund raiser. We put that together in
the north end zone in the new facility there, Touch Down Terrace, to raise
several thousand dollars for the United Negro College Fund.
B: Do you remember how much you raised?
J: I could not tell you.
B: Did you raise the money just by selling tickets?
J: We just had a large banquet, and has a speaker to come in. We did it that way.
B: Do you remember who the speaker was?
J: I cannot remember who the speaker was that year.
B: Who were the people who were invited to this fund raiser?
J: Anyone who wanted to come, I believe with a fifty dollar ticket to the banquet.
Anyone who wanted to come was welcome, in the Alachua County community.
B: How many people ended up coming?
J: About 350 to 400.
B: How did you go about enticing these people to come?
J: It is a good cause. Most people are very familiar with the organization. It has
been around for a lot of years. Most of the philanthropic interests were there as
well as the attractive speaker. I cannot remember who that is right now. I am
sure that helped entice people to come as well.
B: After you raised this money, how was it allocated?
J: We wrote a check from the organization to the national chapter. You just turn
over that money to the national organization. It then gives out scholarships to
student who attend historical black universities.
B: This was your senior year, right?
B: You graduate in 1991?
J: I graduated in 1992, so it was the following year.
B: So you had one more year?
B: What did you do in 1991?
J: That year I was president of my fraternity. I selected into Florida Blue Key. That
was in spring of 1991. I just thought about that. In spring of 1991, I was selected
as a member for Florida Blue Key.
B: You were elected?
B: Can you tell me a little bit about Blue Key?
J: Florida Blue Key is the oldest leadership honorary in the state of Florida. It was
started in 1923. It has in its ranks the overwhelming majority of the state of
Florida's leaders in politics and business. Its base is at the University of Florida.
It has expanded to other schools. There was somewhat of a rift in the late
1920s. We have coined our name as Florida Blue Key rather than just Blue Key.
We are the only Florida Blue Key chapter in the nation. To be a member of our
organization, you have to have a tenure at the University of Florida as a student,
or be tapped honorarily by the organization, the chapter here. We tap members
twice a year. We do a lot of community service in the local area as well as being
heavily involved with politics on the student level and state level. Presently,
Governor Chiles [Lawton Chiles, governor, 1991-present], Lieutenant Governor
Buddy McKay [lieutenant governor, 1991-present], Senator Mack [Connie Mack,
US Senator, 1989-present], Senator Graham [Robert (Bob) Graham, US
Senator, 1987-present], as well as eight of the nine members of the State
Supreme Court are members of Florida Blue Key.
B: At the time that you were selected to the Florida Blue Key, do you know how
many members were African American? What percentage?
J: The chapter at that time, or the people who had through forever? Do you know
what I mean? They select members every semester. Do you mean in the
seventy year history of the organization or the members presently at the time I
J: There were about five.
B: Overall, looking at the history was this a big percentage considering the past?
J: Considering the past, yes. There is about sixty to seventy black members of
Florida Blue Key in the history of the organization.
B: After being selected into Florida Blue Key, what kinds of things were you required
to do? Was it just an honor?
J: It is an application process where they pick those students who have historically
been leaders on the University of Florida campus, the leadership honoraries.
Those people merit leadership. Because of all of the things that I have done, the
people in the chapter at that time saw fit to grant me membership in the
B: So they recruited you?
J: It is not a recruitment process. Usually you had to put an application in. They
are usually anywhere from ninety to 100 some odd people who apply every
semester. I am not sure exactly how many people were let in my semester.
Probably about forty. I cannot remember.
B: What are the benefits for being a member of the Florida Blue Key?
J: You get access to an even tighter network. I mentioned before the University of
Florida having a vast network of people. The University of Florida degree means
a lot around the state of Florida. Florida Blue Key entitles you to an even closer
network of people that tend to be those that are the political and business elite of
our state. I mentioned before some of the people who are members of our
chapter. It gives you access to those people. Florida Blue Key's largest function
is to put on Homecoming at the University of Florida. Homecoming and Gator
Growl is its largest function. That was its purpose back in 1923.
B: That was your second to your last year, right?
B: In 1991, you were president of your fraternity?
J: I was president of my fraternity and I was also vice president of Blue Key in the
spring of 1992.
B: What were your responsibilities as vice president of the Blue Key?
J: I was the chairman of the executive board as vice president. I also served as a
person in charge of the tapping process, which is the membership process for
Florida Blue Key for that semester.
B: So would that mean that you would go around looking for leaders?
J: What you would do is send out letters to all of the organizations at the University
of Florida to tell them about the process we were going to be involved in that
semester, set up interviews for the prospective members, and also serve as
administrator of the process.
B: Who were the people that you sent out letters to?
J: Every student organization got a letter, or at least several hundred organizations
got letters that semester.
B: Who exactly came into the Florida Blue Key at the time that you were vice
president? Do you remember? Who did you tap?
J: There were sixty or some odd people that were tapped that semester.
B: Oh really?
J: So I could not tell you the names of the people because there were too many
people to tell you.
B: 1992 was your last year?
B: You graduate in 1992. What did you do after that?
J: The next year I did post-bac because I wanted to take some classes so that I
could prepare to take the GRE and the LSAT so I could apply to law school and
B: What did you study as a post-bac?
J: Mostly political science stuff. I also took a class in mass communications, mass
comm theory as a matter of fact. It was directed toward my potential masters as
a political campaigning student.
B: Then you entered law school?
J: That fall I entered graduate school, the fall of 1993. Then the spring of 1994 I
entered law school.
B: For graduate studies, what did you study?
J: Political campaigning.
B: That was just a one year program?
J: It is a two year program, but I am in the process of trying to combine those two
B: So you are still going to graduate school?
J: Right now I am on a loss out of my program. When you are attempting to do a
joint degree, you start out in one program. When you decide to do the law
program, you have to be over there for a year. Then you take classes
sporadically in the graduate program to compile those required classes as
electives. It is a total four year program to receive your JD and you masters.
B: At this time, you became president of Blue Key?
J: Spring of 1994.
B: How did you manage your time between all your activities and schoolwork?
J: It was really hard. I am a person who is very excited about and very passionate
about my politics and what I am involved in. It depends on what is going on at
the time. You attend class and study as much as possible when you can. To me
it is not a very set schedule. It is something that (at least the organizations that I
have been a part of) you cannot set aside two hours here for it. Especially being
president of Florida Blue Key. It was something that merited a lot of time
depending on the turmoil at the time or the organization and what you were
doing. I was only the second black president in the organizations history, the
seventy some odd year history.
B: Which organization?
J: This is Florida Blue Key. The first [president] happened to be my cousin as a
matter of fact.
B: What was his name?
J: His name was James Cunningham.
B: He was the first president in what year?
J: In 1978. He was the first black president of Florida Blue Key in the fall of 1978.
B: And you were the second.
J: In the spring of 1994.
B: And he was your cousin?
B: So do politics sort of run in the family?
J: I would not say I have a lot of the family involved in politics, but our family
members tend to be activist oriented regardless of whether they are elected to
positions. He has not served in an elective position since that point. We tend to
be very active and concerned about issues involving us and our surroundings.
B: Has he ever discussed with you what it was like to be the first president?
J: Yes, as a matter of fact, he spoke at my banquet when I was elected president.
There was a lot of turmoil at the time. He was one of the first black members of
Florida Blue Key as well. He was one of the first five or so black members of
Florida Blue Key. There was a lot of turmoil. Being a black person and being a
leader of probably the most powerful student organization on campus was
somewhat difficult. Most people were not used to African Americans having
power and having that much power. There were people that were pleased about
that and some people who were probably not too pleased. He came through it
pretty well. He did not have any horror stories about anything that had happened
negatively. He enjoyed it. He got a lot of lasting relationships as a result of it. It
taught him a lot as well as it did me.
B: What did it teach you?
J: It taught me how to deal with some of the most influential, powerful, and
passionate people that I have ever been involved with in my life. It taught me
how to deal with a very large budget and personally being administrator of a
budget of about three quarter of a million dollars, dealing with Homecoming. It
helped me deal with politics as far as appointment power, vying factions, and
people, to please different people and be true to the organization and how true to
the constitution of the people electing me. It was a good training gown politically.
As I said before, many of the present elites in Florida have come through those
doors and sat in that seat. So I enjoyed it a lot.
B: Who are some of the leaders that you had to deal with that were pretty influential
at the time?
J: At the time, I believe Chris Tompkins was being elected president. He is
president of the student body now. I cannot think of the student regent then or
now. The president of the Black Student Union at the time was a young lady
named Denise. The president of the Jewish Student Union. At that time, Clead
Mohammed was here and was a member of the nation of Islam, so there was a
very serious conflict going on at the time dealing with that. I was dealing with a
lot of administrators on campus because of our activist role in student
government politics. That is pretty much the gist of the majority of people I was
dealing with at the local level and at the large level. We were coordinating with a
lot of leaders of the state, like Governor Chiles appearance as well as then
Speaker of the House, I believe it was Bo Johnson and the time, the senate
president, was also a member of Florida Blue Key. Those people were also
calling our office and also dealing with the various asundry things that we were
trying to get involved in and accomplished.
B: Did you ever run across any problems dealing with these people?
J: The largest problem I had or the most frantic situation was when Clead
Mohammed was here. That brought national press to the University of Florida.
A lot of people did not want to hear him speak. A lot of people did not want him
to be here in the first place. He was coming under student government funds.
The majority of people that are involved with student government are members of
Florida Blue Key, so we had a very strong hand in his appearance. There were a
lot of people, as a result of what he said were his views, were not pleased with
his appearance. There was a lot of press involved in that. That was a very tense
B: Did you have any personal responsibility in him coming here to the University of
J: No, he was brought here by the Black Student Union at the time. I guess my
involvement was more as a very interested party as a influential leader dealing
with the organizations who did bring him here. Being president of Florida Blue
Key, as I said before, most of our members are very active in student
government politics. So there is a lot of friction between that time, those people,
and the members of the Black Student Union as far as this presidency and how
he is going to be treated and/or not treated. So I played liason and diplomat
between several parties trying to acquiesce the situation and make it at least as
less as possible.
B: What did he say? What did he have to say when he came here?
J: He talked about different views of the nation of Islam and what they believe as far
as the future of black America, how we need to achieve, and make our presence
felt in this country. He talked about the history of not only this county, but also of
the world and the University of Florida. Florida for many years has had a racist
history. As I said before, the University of Florida did not have its first African
American students until the mid-1960s. The first graduate was Judge Mikel. So
for a long time, there was a very racist history at the University of Florida and in
the state of Florida in general. It is part of the deep south. He made some very
strong allegations and accusations against the Jewish contingent here, as well as
the Jewish nation as a whole, as far as how they have treated African Americans
in the world and in the history of time. [He talked about] their responsibility in
trying to effectuate or hinder his progress and that of the nation of Islam presently
(or at that time anyway). He called for black students, especially black men, to
come together, be leaders, and make our presence felt on not only this campus
but around the country. He was insightful, not only in the knowledge category,
but also as far as inciting passion in the students that were around. I think that
many of the people who saw him were moved as I was definitely moved. I have
never seen anyone speak with such passion and fearlessness as I heard him
speak. He also was much less insightful of violence as people thought he would
be. I think that people thought as a result of that that there would be rioting in the
streets, sit ins, and problems around campus. That did not happen. He came.
He incited a lot of us to look inward, see where we were going, have vision for
our future as well as the future of our people, and he told us that we needed to
work together with the larger campus, not only with the few thousand students
that our culture was a part of, but also the larger 35,000 or 36,000 students that
are here and part of this campus. I was very moved by what he had to say.
B: Who was bothered by his presence?
J: The majority of the people that were bothered were the Jewish contingent
because he had talked about the Jewish nation being responsible for the slave
trade. [He talked about how] the business elite of this country are largely
controlled by members of the Jewish nation (or are at least of Jewish descent),
how they were controlling not only politics but also the business of the country,
and not allowing African Americans to be successful in a very concerted and
B: What did the Jewish contingent do that reflected that they were bothered by his
J: I believe they were outside with signs saying, "Boycott the speech." They
attempted to inhibit him coming all together by dealing with Accent with the
speakers bureau and the person responsible for signing his contract. They tried
everything they could to not allow him to come. Once he got here, they picketed,
and there was nothing violent that happened. They picketed outside and
boycotted his speech.
B: Were any of these people members of Florida Blue Key?
J: Yes, they were.
B: The members of Florida Blue Key, who were also Jewish, happened to be
bothered by his presence?
J: Not all of them, but some of them were. There was not any blanket statement
that you could say all of any group was bothered. Certain members of each
group was bothered.
B: At the time, you happened to be president.
B: What did you do to ease the tensions?
J: I met with the then president of the student body who asked me my opinion of
what he should do. I told him that he needed to bring him because he had a
signed contract, and he had a right to speak regardless of his views at the time.
There had been some comments about some of the things that he had said at a
previous speaking engagement. I said, "Before you can cast any aspersions on
his comments, you need to see his comment in full context. You need to get a
full context of what he said historically, so he can do that." I said he should
definitely come, and we should all listen to him. Those who do not want to come
can chose not to, and deal with it that way. As far as the members of the Black
Student Union, I told them that I was talking to the members of the Jewish
Student Union. I had a very long talk with the vice president or president of the
Jewish Student Union, and told him that I could not denigrate or chastise another
man of color without having hurt him myself. I did not know who he was. I had
never heard the name Clead Mohammed until he was coming to the University
of Florida. I did not know who he was. I could not say that he should not come,
or sign a petition saying he should not come without having heard him. That did
not make sense for me to do that. I said that members of his organization had
not heard him speak either. If someone else were to come that I did not agree
with [[please finish thought]]. I believe as a matter of fact earlier that year,
Chief Gates of the LA Police Department, who had been the chief of police
during the Rodney King trial, had come to Florida to speak. A lot of people did
not want him to come, but he was allowed to come. I felt that Dr. Mohammed
should be allowed to come, and he had the same rights as other people.
B: When he came, did you agree with most of the things that he had to say?
J: I agreed with a lot of the visions that he had for black people. A lot of the things
that he said about history or had happened, I could not comment on. It was
interesting to hear because I did not know it. I was not in a position to disagree
or agree with what he had to say because I do not know if it is true or not. I tend
to take things with a grain of salt. If someone has some authority on a subject,
as I think he does in dealing with black culture and black history, I agree with a
lot of what he had to say. I agreed especially with the message of the nation of
Islam in general and empowering black people. No one is going to take care of
us better than we will. We need to be much more self reliant and use our
resources. Those in our own communities and those outside our community
should be successful. That was what I took largely from his speech. Whatever
you believe, whether you are a Muslim or not, if you have that belief, you should
stand for that. If you have that kind of strength, you can speak without fear and
with passion at any level, and encounter and defeat any competitor.
B: Did he encourage people to become members of the nation of Islam?
J: He really did. That was somewhat surprising. It was not a recruitment seminar,
which was good. He just spoke on history largely, and how he saw it in the state
of Florida. As I said before, he spoke of the University of Florida and the state of
Florida having a very racist history in dealing with conflicts going on at student
campuses across the board. [He spoke] of the need of more African American
students at majority institutions and more programs to benefit their success.
B: You were telling me that you knew a little bit about the sit-ins that happened in
J: The sit-ins occurred because student government was not going to disperse the
amount of money that the Black Student Union wanted for Black History Month
events. As a result of that, a couple hundred students ending up sitting in on the
third floor of the Reitz Union Student Activity Center.
B: Did you participate in this?
J: I participated in the fact that I was there at the meeting, so I was not really aware
of the situation at the time. I guess I would have to say yes I would have
participated. I was there, but my role was as a mediator between the different
factions and the powers that be, who had the power to make the choices to
allocate the money, and the powers that be, who were complaining about the
money not being dispersed. In that regard, I was a participant in the sit-in in the
event that occurred. I believe that if some other powers had come together
earlier, the sit-in could have been avoided. In retrospect, I am glad that it did not
occur because I think it did a lot to bring the black community together. It caused
different people to respect the black community a little bit more. They could
come together and make a stand for an issue they believed very closely in. Also,
being a part of that community made me feel really good. We became respected
as a voice to be reckoned with. We could not be walked over. That was a very
good feeling. As a result of that, many more African American students have
been involved in campus activities across the board and their presence has been
felt in student government, Florida Blue Key, and organizations across the board.
B: Who were you talking about when you said they changed their attitudes toward
the African American students?
J: I would say the powers that be, which included anyone of any cultural descent
that had and still has power, whether that be white, Hispanic, or Jewish students.
Whichever group that had power at the time in dealing with African Americans in
their requests or demands for money or funding, or to be treated in a manner
which they expected and deserved.
B: What sort of positive changes have occurred for African American students since
you have been a student?
J: I think a lot of things have changed. I think a lot more African Americans are
involved in student government across the board and in different organizations
across the board. We are much more involved in the groups and organizations
that make the decisions. I think we are getting to have a seat at the table, which
I think is very important. It is nice to complain. I think you have to do that
sometimes to raise a fuss so that someone will hear you. You have to make a
noise sometimes. I think now we are sitting at the table more times than not
when the decisions are made. One thing I think is great is that there have been a
lot more appointments, as far as the faculty is concerned, of African Americans.
As far as dean positions, we have a new dean of education [Roderick J.
McDavis] as a black dean. To continue, the dean of student services [Thomas L.
Hill] is again a black dean after the last person left and resigned. We some
people in the athletic department now who is associate director. Doug Keridine
is there now. I think there have been a lot more strides made toward equity for
African American students and faculty which of course enhances the
environment across the board. I think there needs to be some improvement in
recruitment as far as numbers of African Americans who are admitted to the
University of Florida at all levels. I think that we are still less than 6 or 7 percent
of the population of the University of Florida, wherein our state population is
much larger than that. It is probably almost double that. I think something needs
to be done about that process.
B: What kinds of things do you think they could do to improve the numbers of
African American students?
J: I would have to really look at the core criteria that they use. I know they use
much more than GPA and SAT for admission. I think they could do much
stronger recruitment to the colleges. As far as dispersing funds, that is always
much more attractive when you can get the best in black students by giving
appropriate funding there. Having stronger programs dealing with African
American history and culture so that this school will be seen as one that is much
more friendly for African Americans. Appointing larger numbers of black faculty,
of which there are very minimal numbers now. I think in my college there are
now three law professors of African American descent. That has happened in
the last four or five years, which is good. I think it can get a lot better. In my
political science department, there are no full time African American professors in
the entire department. I think that is true of many departments on our campus
where that is the case. I think that is a problem. I think that can be changed and
needs to be changed. In that process, people tend to want to be around people
like themselves. I think that is a natural inclination for all cultures. If you hire
more people and are involved more in that recruiting process, you will have much
more success in recruitment and also retention at the University of Florida.
B: Do you think the University has the funds to allocate towards recruiting more
African American students?
J: Definitely. I know the University of Florida is probably one of the most liquid and
richest public universities in the country. We have very rarely lacked the funding
for things that we thought were important, whether it was building a building,
hiring a president, or adding on to the stadium. Anything we wanted to do when
we wanted to do it, and the right powers want to do it, the money is there. If it is
not there, it is found quickly. I think that if it is a priority, the money can be found.
B: So as yet, they have not allocated the money to do it?
J: Not to do it on as large a scale as it needs to be done. I think it has improved. I
said I think there have been some strides made in the right direction. I think
those efforts can be enhanced to a higher degree and a more efficient pace than
they have been historically.
B: Who is responsible for allocating those funds?
J: I would say President John Lombardi is the ultimate arbiter for what goes where.
He still has to get his budget from the Board of Regents who is in charge of the
State University System. [The Board] gets their budget from the legislature. The
legislature, I guess, is the ultimate arbiter of how much money someone gets. I
think at the university level, the president is much more responsible for how
money gets dispersed, he and Provost Sorensen. They have been very
passionate about and influential in allocating money to recruitment on the student
level and faculty level. I think they can ever do more than they are already doing.
I am happy with the course they have set. It has become a priority for them. I
think that priority can be enhanced though. I think it can be more involved than it
B: Do student leaders in government have any say as to where money is allocated.
J: Not other than the money they control, which is student government funds. It
does not mix with the money that is put in towards recruitment at the
administrative level. That is completely done by the president of the University
and the vice president who have set their goals in an annual way.
B: So student leaders cannot influence them in any way?
J: They can discuss it with them and have meetings with them. If it comes to
making a decision, the president of the University has the ultimate power of the
pen and the purse, and deciding what is spent where.
B: Do you think that there is anything student leaders can do at their own level for
J: I think the University could work with student leaders across the board in
recruiting. They could use African American students to recruit other students by
going back to their hometowns, high schools, and talk up the University for the
University as a good place to be and as one of the fine institutions to attend. I
think in doing that service, they could also pay their students to enable
themselves to have more recruits. That is one way they could do it.
B: Going back to law school, what made you decide to chose the University of
Florida for law school?
J: The same reasons I chose it for undergrad--the political influence. Not only had
the majority of Florida's historical leaders gone here for their undergraduate
[work], but they had also attended law school here. There is a very strong
network. It is a more elite network, and a much more closely tied network at the
law school of leaders. The large firms, lawyers in the country, and political elite
have come to the University of Florida Law School. I knew it had a lot to offer me
if I wanted to be a part of that network in the state of Florida.
B: Did you apply anywhere else?
J: No I did not.
B: How is the University of Florida's Law School ranked nationally?
J: I think we are ranked in the top fifty--probably around thirty-five or something like
that. We are probably in the top fifteen public universities.
B: Politically, what kind of things do you want to do on the political level in terms of
improving the conditions for African Americans? What do you see yourself doing
in the future?
J: I see myself, first of all, empowering myself as far as knowledge and
understanding the system. I think the best way to attack a system or improve it is
first of all learning where it is, where it stands at the present time, and where it
has come from. You can set some goals as far as where it can go. I have just
recently been appointed to the Enterprise Zone for Gainesville, which effects
mostly the minority community in affecting business change and employment in
the eastern part of Gainesville, which is where the minority community tends to
live. From there, I hope to serve on a few other boards and learn a few other
things about how the process works. I hope to have some elective office and
improve most of the economic conditions of minorities across the board, as far as
employment, having their own businesses, being a larger and more influential
voice in the elective and political process across the board. I think the only way
that we as African Americans can be successful is to be a part of the process. If
your voice is not heard, you tend not to receive what you deserve. You tend not
to get the funds or the priority that you would like to have. I think that is
something that is very important for African Americans. That is my role as having
an elective voice, as well as being able to coordinate with other voices in the
B: Do you see yourself becoming a politician or a lawyer?
J: Definitely. I want to serve in the state legislature or U.S. Congress, and
ultimately be governor of the state of Florida or an U.S. Senators. That is my
goal--to go down one of those two tracks.
B: Thank you. That was a great interview.