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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida
Interviewer: Joel Buchanan
Interviewee: Judge Stephan Mickle
UF 282 AB
B: I am Joel Buchanan in the office of Judge Stephan P. Mickle
on the First District Court of Appeals for the state of
Florida in Tallahassee, Florida, on October 3, 1995 at 1:45
p.m. Good afternoon Judge Mickle.
M: Good afternoon Joel, how are you today?
B: Fine, thank you. How are you sir?
M: Just fine.
B: Your complete name sir.
M: Stephan P. Mickle.
B: And your title.
M: Judge on the First District Court of Appeals in Tallahassee,
B: When were you appointed sir?
M: The appointment came in November, 1992. I took office
B: I am here to do an interview with you because of your
involvement at the University of Florida as being one of its
first Afro-American students. Before we get to that point,
let us talk something about your family life. Where were
you born sir?
M: I was actually born in New York City. That was a strange
happening because my parents lived in Columbia, South
Carolina. My father was drafted into World War II. My
mother was expecting at the time. When he left to go to the
army, she went to New York to stay with her aunt and her
husband. My father was overseas for three years. I was
actually born in New York City even though we were basically
residents of South Carolina.
B: How long did you live in New York?
M: I do not have a specific recollection. My father says when
he was discharged from the army, he and my mother moved back
to South Carolina. After several months, he investigated
colleges and decided he would take advantage of the G.I.
Bill. They ended up moving to Daytona, Florida where he
enrolled in Bethune Cookman College, and pursued his college
degree using G.I. benefits from the G.I. Bill. I remember
being on Bethune Cookman's campus. I guess you could call
it a campus kid living in the married student housing, which
in those days they used the old huts. I guess
at the University of Florida they had Flavet Village. At
Bethune Cookman College they had huts, which were
an aluminum prefab building that was sort of shaped like a
half moon. I remember living in those huts and
running around the campus as a little boy. That is
basically my first recollection of it. That would have been
the late 1940s or early 1950s.
B: What year were you born sir?
M: June 18. Father's Day. It fell on a Sunday in 1944.
B: Are you the only child of your parents?
M: No, I have three other brothers. The brother next oldest to
me is named Andrew. He resides in Gainesville. He is
employed by the St. Johns River Management District. I am
not sure of the exact title but it deals with the testing of
waters and making sure they are not polluted. He has a
masters degree from the University of Florida in whatever
the field is that deals with water purity. The next oldest
brother is named Darrell. He is a veterinarian in Atlanta,
and owns and operates several veterinary hospitals there.
The youngest brother is Jeffrey. He is a schoolteacher in
B: No sisters?
M: No sisters.
B: What can you remember about your childhood that stands out
in your mind as being significant?
M: On a personal note, probably the first significant event I
can remember is when my parents separated and eventually got
divorced. It was just my brother Andrew and I at the time.
We were sent to South Carolina to live with my
grandparents. My father had remained in Daytona, and was
working at Bethune Cookman College. He also was a co-owner
of a tailor shop there in Daytona. We stayed in South
Carolina for maybe four years. My father remarried. He met
a lady at Bethune Cookman College who was there working on
her degree. They moved to Gainesville, Florida in about
1955. My brother Drew and I then rejoined them in
Gainesville, Florida. After that, of course, the two
younger brothers were born from the new mother. We lived
there in Gainesville. Of course the divorce and separation
was a very traumatic event in my life. I remember it well.
Moving back to Florida and coming home again with dad and a
new mom was a very significant and pleasant event. My
matriculation at Lincoln High School from 1957 until 1961
when I graduated were very memorable years in my life.
B: You mentioned your parents got divorced. Your parents
M: My father is Andrew Richardson Mickle. My birth mother was
Grace Ellis Mickle.
B: The new mother?
M: Katherine Berry Mickle.
B: Where did you go to school during your elementary [years]?
M: I remember going to kindergarten in the basement of a church
in Daytona. I cannot tell you the name of that church. I
remember going to Campbell Street Elementary School in
Daytona. Of course, when we left Daytona to go to South
Carolina when my parents were getting their divorce, I was
in the fifth grade. I cannot remember the name of the
school in South Carolina that I entered for the fifth grade,
but I went there for the fifth and sixth [grade]. Then I
transferred to the middle school for the seventh and eighth
grade. I have forgotten the name of that middle school.
B: What was the name of the city that you were in in South
M: Camden. That was my father's birthplace. Of course my
grandparents continued to reside there when we went to live
B: Your grandparents names were?
M: Grace Belton Mickle and Willis Mickle.
B: You went to the Campbell Street Elementary School. Was that
an all black elementary school?
M: Yes, absolutely.
B: Did you walk to school?
M: Yes. We walked to school. It was six blocks from where we
lived. I also walked to school up in Camden, South Carolina
at least in the fifth and the sixth grade. I started
catching the school bus to go to a different school in the
seventh and eighth grade. That was it for South Carolina.
B: So you actually were in four different schools--the
kindergarten in the church, Campbell Street School for first
through fifth grade, then you had fifth and sixth grade, and
finally the middle school.
M: That is correct.
B: Then you came back to Florida.
M: We came back to Gainesville.
B: You move to Gainesville.
M: I started Lincoln in the ninth grade.
B: That was Lincoln High School in Gainesville.
M: That is correct. It had been open for one year. I think
the new Lincoln opened in 1956. I came in 1957. Where the
Lincoln Middle School now sits is the same building.
B: Were you involved in school activities?
M: You mean at Lincoln?
M: When I first got to Lincoln, I showed up in very country
style clothing for the little country boy from the little
hick town up in Camden, South Carolina. I remember the
first day wearing a pair of white buck skin shoes with a red
crate sole on them. I do not know if you remember, but
those were popular. Apparently, they had become unpopular
by the time I got to Gainesville. The students laughed at
me. I took them home and never wore them again.
M: So I was very shy and introverted when I first got to
Lincoln. I was an outsider. Most of the students there had
come from the old Lincoln where you go from the first
through the eighth grade. So a lot of them knew each other.
The only outsiders, if you will, were the children who were
bused in from Hawthorne and Micanopy where they only went to
the eighth grade. They came in to Lincoln from Newberry in
the high school days. So I sort of came in as an outsider.
Most of the students who were all ready the in group were
from the Lincoln Middle School and Lincoln Elementary
School. I guess it really probably was until somewhere in
the tenth grade that I started to fit in and develop a
circle of friends. I then became involved in the band. I
played in the band for two years. I was in the drama club
and the Spanish club. Eventually when they opened Lincoln
pool, I was on the swim team. I was on the tennis team. Of
course my daddy was the coach of the swimming teach and the
coach of the tennis team. I never played football,
baseball, or basketball.
B: What did you play in the band sir?
M: Clarinet. I wanted to play the trumpet because I saw all
the boys around playing the trumpet, and I thought that was
the thing to play. The band director, Gerald C. Miller,
talked me into playing the clarinet. That was his favorite
instrument. He had played it while he was in the army. I
remember him telling me, "If you ever get drafted, if you
can play an instrument, you will not have to run in the
battle fields. You will be used to entertain troops." So I
learned somewhat to play the clarinet. I never became very
good at it, but I could play the band marches, songs, and
these kinds of things.
B: Excellent. Why did your parents move to Gainesville? Do
M: I think this was one of the few job offers my father got
when he graduated from college. He came to Lincoln to
teach. I think he was here a year before my mother
graduated. She joined him here in Gainesville. She was the
secretary to the then principal Nealey. When an
opening opened up in the business department, which was her
major, she got a job teaching business education, typing,
and these kinds of courses. She is doing that even until
today at Eastside High School. She was at Lincoln until it
was closed as a high school. She then went to the county
office in administration for a couple of years. She decided
she would rather be back in the classroom. She has been at
Eastside ever since.
B: You mentioned that you were at Lincoln High School in
Gainesville when the pool opened. Was that a unique
situation for you?
M: Unique in the sense in that up until that time there was no
pool where blacks could swim in the city of Gainesville.
The Westside pool was not integrated, which is located next
to Westwood Middle School still to this day. My father, of
course, being trained as a water safety instructor and
having had experience with swimming, he went to the city to
get them to build an open pool in the southeast section of
Gainesville. They built it next to Lincoln High School back
on Waldo Road, and opened it up. I cannot tell you the
exact date. I want to say it was 1958, 1959, or 1960--
somewhere in there. They opened that pool, and it was the
black pool. The white pool was Westside. You did not have
desegregation in those days.
B: You mentioned that when you came from South Carolina to
Lincoln High School you were like a country boy. Is there
anything about the livelihood that you had in South Carolina
that sticks out in your mind? Activities or the
M: Not really. My grandparents lived in a poor, black, colored
section of Camden, South Carolina. It was sort of on the
outskirts of town in a little area called Dusty Bend. It
was right on the edge of the main city. It was a
predominantly black area, Dusty Bend, because it was dusty.
There was a one lane, dusty road that went up to it. They
called it Dusty Bend. We had a little two bedroom house
with a livingroom down in the kitchen at the back porch. I
remember when we had the indoor toilet added to the house.
Before that, it was an outdoor toilet. Behind the house,
there was perhaps a half-acre of land where my grandparents
grew vegetables and corn. They had chickens and a couple of
hogs that they raised. My grandmother was a domestic
worker. During her working years, [she worked] with a
white, wealthy family that had a winter home in Camden, and
a summer home in Maine. They spent about three or four
months during the summer in Maine, and during the winter,
they would come back to Camden. She was one of the seven
domestic workers for this family. She was a chambermaid.
Her job was to make sure the grand lady of the household
clothes were laid out every morning. She brushed her hair
for her. She was tending primarily to her. When they went
north during the summer month to get to cooler climates, she
would travel with them. That was her job. My grandfather
worked on the railroad. He sort of worked around the depot
as sort of a handyman. He did that, and he was also a
Baptist preacher. So we had a very strong, religious
environment that permeated the home. I can remember that
very well. We spent many Sundays, all day Sunday in church.
B: [Laughter]. In church.
M: We had dinner on the grounds, you stayed there, and then you
went to night service until that was over. That was not up
B: That is the way it was.
M: That is the way it was going to be, and that is the way it
B: You were in Daytona, Carolina, and then Gainesville. Which
of the three did you prefer or was there a distinct
M: Probably Gainesville. I say that with some hesitation.
From 1957 to 1961 was my very formative years where I was
attending high school. I was very devoted to Lincoln High
School, and to this day I regret that they did not maintain
it as a high school. I think most of the graduates of
Lincoln remember it very fondly because it was something
special not only as a school, but as a community center. A
lot of the community activities evolved around the school in
those days. In 1961, I left and went to Daytona for a year
to Bethune Cookman College. After one year, I came back to
Gainesville and entered the University of Florida on
September 7, 1962. We can come back to those years. To put
it in focus as to why I think Gainesville stands out--I was
there until 1966 when I got my masters degree. I then went
down to Cocoa Mono High School to teach for a year. I went
back to Gainesville in 1967 to start law school. [I had]
three years of law school. [I then went to] Washington D.C.
for a almost year. [I was in] Ft. Lauderdale for eight
months. [I came] back to Gainesville, and I have been here
ever since. That is 1971 to 1993 when I left to come up
here to take this job, having been a county judge for five
and a circuit judge for eight in Gainesville. Gainesville
certainly was home, has been home, and probably always will
be home in that sense.
B: It is known that both your father and mother were teachers
at Lincoln High School. Do you think that had an influence
in your behavior as a student there?
M: There is no question about it. Number one, you are always
known as a teacher's child. So special eyes were upon you,
and students watched you and would not hesitate to remind
you, flatteringly and sometimes no so flatteringly, that you
were a teacher's child. You knew that the other teachers
there were watching you and would report back to mom and dad
if you did not act right. So in that sense, I think it did
have an effect on my behavior. I think it also had a
positive effect upon my desire and quest for higher
education. My family stressed that. High school was
somewhere you tarried on your way to college. It was never
the end. I can remember going back to South Carolina where
my grandmother preached go to college and get a good
education. She never finished high school. One of the
crowning moments I can remember is when she went back at age
seventy-five and got her GED. When she got that
certificate, she walked across to get that GED. She had it
posted right above the entrance to her house. When you got
to the front porch, you saw her GED hanging there. That is
one of the proudest things she said you ever accomplish.
B: And she got it at seventy-five years of age.
M: Yes. She got her GED from high school. She was very proud
of that. That is the way it was. I grew up in that era
when African American parents would preach to their
children, "You go higher in school than I went." Have your
child go higher than you was sort of the norm.
B: This is a selfish question, but I am going to ask it. Was
there any teacher at Lincoln High School that was
significant in your life and left an impression on you?
M: I think there were several. I really cannot rank them.
Near the top would be Dr. John Rawles. He made a
significant impression upon me. I took world history in
tenth grade and got Rawles. I can remember to this date he
made history come alive to me. I was a late bloomer when it
came to high school. Education did not really catch on with
me until I got in the eleventh grade. I was just there and
going through the motions. I really was not interested in
it. I can remember Dr. Rawles teaching world history. I
can remember John Dukes Jr. teaching geometry, very
significantly. I can remember Fredericka Jones, who taught
me English and world literature. I was just enamored by
their teaching style and their enthusiasm on the subject.
Those three really stand out in my mind as showing me how
great teachers are going to teach. Having my parents as
teachers, I was certainly headed into the teacher direction
throughout high school and even into college.
B: Lincoln High School was an all black school. It was said
that black schools in the south were inferior to white
schools and that you did not have adequate material. Of
course you had no comparison because you had not gone to a
white school. Do you feel that Lincoln gave you a solid
M: I think Lincoln gave me a solid foundation, yes. I think
Lincoln, as with most of the black high school throughout
the south in those days, were substandard in the sense that
they were not given equal resources, not only in terms of
science labs, books, and those kinds of materials, but they
were also suffering from the fact that their teachers had
gone through colleges that had been treated unfairly
throughout the years. So they could not have been overall,
on average, as qualified as teachers coming out of a
superior white system. There were many of those teachers
that went above and beyond teaching, and added an extra
enrichment that you did not get in a lot of the white
schools, in terms of personal caring, having come from a
similar black experience, and really preaching to the
youngsters you have to excel, you have to learn twice as
hard, you have got to be twice as good, and you have got to
outwork the white man to succeed in this world. They were
able to instill those values. That is true even to this
day, I suspect. Many of the students, when I got to the
high schools, as long as they are quiet and sit in the back
of the room, there is no personal effort being expended by
white teachers toward black children.
B: That is very true.
M: I am not saying that is in every case, but in many cases I
see that. As long as they put those ear phones on and sit
back there and be quiet, they are not really interested in
making sure that they learn. We had teachers at Lincoln
that made sure that you learned. I can remember Mrs.
Lucille Williams. If you walked by her class and your
shirttail was hanging out of your britches, she would bring
you in that room and make you put it in. You were lectured
on the way young gentlemen are supposed to act and the way
you are supposed to dress.
B: That is important.
M: You just did not get it from home. With Mrs. Daphne Duval
Williams it was that way as well. The lessons those people
instilled in me I remember to this day.
B: Excellent. So they definitely made impressions upon you.
B: What was graduation from Lincoln High School like?
M: It was very memorable and very significant. I remember
quite well the class night that we had. I remember the
baccalaureate speaker that we had that Sunday afternoon.
B: Who was that speaker?
M: I cannot remember his name, but I remember he gave a
thundering sermon that afternoon. I remember that. On
graduation night, I remember marching across the stage and
getting my diploma.
B: And that was June of what year?
B: You left Lincoln High School and went where to college?
M: Bethune Cookman College. In course in those days, white
colleges throughout the south were not desegregated. So as
a young black, there is a thing about going to college. You
look around at black colleges that are available. In those
days, I would have to say that Morehouse in Atlanta, Howard
in Washington D.C., and Hampton in Virginia were sort of the
stars among black colleges that a lot of young black
students were eager to get into. My first choice was
Howard. My father and mother, being both Bethune Cookman
graduates, of course steered me toward Cookman. The final
compromise, if you will, was my father saying, "Why do you
not go to Bethune Cookman for two years. If you do not like
it, you can then transfer to Howard." Since he was paying
the bill, it was not equal bargaining power at this point.
I went to Bethune Cookman, and thoroughly enjoyed that year
at Bethune Cookman. In summer of 1962, I was back in
Gainesville working as a lifeguard and swimming instructor
at the pool. Thus, my first contact and discussions about
entering the University of Florida took place. That was the
summer of 1962. George Allen was a student in the law
school at the time, at the University of Florida. He was a
member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity. My father had met him
at the fraternity meetings, and found out that he was a
student at the law school at the University of Florida.
During the summer of 1962, my father told me he wanted me to
go over with him to George Allen's house and meet him one
B: So you met George Allen.
M: In the summer of 1962. I will never forget. George lived
over in northeast Gainesville in the Duval Heights area. I
remember going to his house. He was sitting at a little
table in a small, two bedroom house. He was sitting at a
table in a dinette area with all these books stacked up on
that table. These were the biggest books I had ever seen in
my life--big 'ol thick looking books all over the place. He
said he was studying for law school. We got to talking
about him being in law school at the University of Florida
and what it was like. We probably had a couple more
meetings and discussions. He suggested one evening that I
should apply and go to the University of Florida. I said,
"There are no black students there. Why should I want to go
there?" He said, "Well I am there." I said, "But you are
way over in the law school stuck over in the corner
somewhere. There are no undergraduate students there.
There has never been one who was fully enrolled as an
undergraduate student, to my understanding." There have
been a couple who have made stabs in the graduate program,
but undergraduate students have never been anywhere. We
talked for a while. I guess that is what planted the seed.
At some point during that summer, I got an application,
filled it out, and sent it in. To my surprise, dismay, and
trepidation it came back as an acceptance.
M: Yes. I was hoping it would not be an acceptance. I was
ready to go back to Bethune Cookman.
B: Let us go back to Bethune Cookman for one point. While you
were on campus there in 1961, did you happen to meet Mrs.
Bethune or was she living at that point?
M: No, she had passed.
B: She had passed.
M: I want to think Mrs. Bethune passed in 1956 or 1957.
B: I will check that point out. What was life like being at
Bethune Cookman that year?
M: Well, I guess I was typical. I graduated high school at
sixteen because I had skipped the first grade. I was such a
smart little fellow in kindergarten, they skipped me to the
second grade. I was a year younger than most of my
classmates. I graduated high school at sixteen, but then my
birthday being June 18, I turned seventeen a couple weeks
later. So I was a seventeen year old, off to college, and
away from home the first time. I met a lot of interesting,
strange, and some weird folks. I heard a whole lot of
different notions and concepts that I had never been exposed
to. I enjoyed the student life in the sense of [[End of
M: ...playing cards and cramming for exams. I was fortunate
enough to have a 3.2 or 3.3 at the end of the fall semester.
It probably would have been a lot better if I had been more
serious. I thoroughly enjoyed the year at Bethune Cookman.
B: Did you graduate with the intention of becoming a teacher?
M: The truth of the matter is when I went to college, I had no
earthly idea what I wanted to be. I knew two things. I
knew one, in the black community, there were two professions
that people held in the most esteem were teachers and
undertakers. I was not about to be an undertaker.
B: So you were going to be a teacher.
M: I was probably going to be a teacher. I also knew that I
had a very difficult time in high school with the math and
science courses. I had a relatively easy time with English
and social studies type courses. I figured I probably would
not be a brain surgeon. I would be off into the social
sciences in an English type area because it sort of came
natural to me. I had to work very hard in algebra to make a
C. I think that was a gift from the teachers when it was
all said and done. I knew I probably would not be going
into the sciences. When I got into college, I declared
history as a major, or government or something. When I got
through the required math and science courses, I took no
more. I concentrated on history, political science, and
government. I was in anthropology and lots of English
courses. I enjoyed literature, poetry, and writing. It was
until I was in my junior year at the University of Florida,
where I had declared political science as a major, that many
of the young men (it was mostly all male at that time) were
talking about law school. If you are a political science
major, you go to law school. I was sort of hearing this
stuff about law school, but I could not imagine me being a
black lawyer. I had never seen a black lawyer in my life.
I did not know they existed. There were no role models in
that sense. So I could not conceive it. Being around these
students who kept talking about it, I guess there was this
glass wall that I could not get through mentally. I
proceeded to get a masters degree because during the middle
1960s is when junior colleges really started flourishing in
Florida. I envisioned myself getting ahead. You have to
have a masters degree to teach in junior college. So I
started going to get the masters degree to eventually get a
job teaching in the junior college in Florida.
B: Now after talking to George Allen, you applied to the
University of Florida to be admitted. Was there any
problems with you doing that? I assume at this point it is
still an all white institution.
B: This is in the midst of the Civil Rights Movement.
B: Were you involved in the Civil Rights Movement in
Gainesville in an active way?
M: Let us back up a moment. My best recollection is in the
fall of 1962, to put things in perspective, there was no
Civil Rights Movement as such going on in Gainesville. What
you had was James Murray at the University of Mississippi
all over national television. They called the dogs out and
had the water hose. He was trying to integrate the
University of Mississippi. You had goings on at the
University of Alabama. I think it was Charlene Hunter who
was going on there.
M: That may have been 1963, but I think it was 1962. What you
had at the University of Florida though was a very quiet,
hush-hush situation. The word we got, we being the first
several black students who started there in the fall of
1962, was that Ferris Bryant, then governor [1961-1965], had
called J. Wayne Reitz, then president [University of
Florida, 1955-1967], and basically said, "We do not need the
kind of dogs, lying, and foolishness that is going on in
Mississippi. We have a tourist state and a citrus industry.
We do not want to do anything that is going to harm our
industry, so you let them little, southern, colored children
in there and keep them quiet."
B: Oh really?
M: There was nothing in the Gainesville newspaper. We found
one little blurb about an inch wide in the St. Pete paper.
There was no publicity in Gainesville about the University
of Florida being integrated. They did not want the rednecks
to come in and start trouble. So the University of Florida
was very quietly integrated. As a matter of fact, if you
will hold on a minute. Do you remember me showing you a
scrapbook when we talked one time when you came by the
M: I think that thing is still in Gainesville.
B: I will make a note of these things as we talk about them.
M: We will get that scrapbook. What I have here, and I will
give you a copy, is a copy of the spring/summer 1994 issue
of the University of Florida Lawyer, which is an official
publication of the University of Florida Law School. They
did an article on me last summer. It has a lot of the same
facts that I am talking to you about now. It also has a
copy of the front page article from the Florida Alligator,
that should bear the date September 7, 1962. It is a copy
of the article that I kept from 1962 in a scrapbook. You
will see the headline say, "Integration arrives without
incident." That is the biggest thing written about the
University of Florida being integrated. It was in the
student newspaper and that was it.
B: You were told the reason it was so quiet was because of what
the governor said.
M: That is right. He did not want the kind of bad publicity
and federal troops. He was not so much afraid of what the
students would do, but that outside agitators, coming in on
the pickup trucks from the country, would stir up trouble
and cause riots and problems.
B: Did you happen to know any of the other students who applied
at the same time?
M: Only one I knew before. That was Oliver Gordon. He was
from Gainesville. He transferred from FAMU, so I knew him
from Gainesville days. I transferred from Bethune Cookman
of course. There were five freshman in that group. There
were seven total. I did not know those five freshmen. I
did not know they were coming. I was not a part of any
organized effort of the University of Florida. Later on, I
read and discovered that certain groups had contacted Jesse
Dean, I think, and a couple of other black students and
encouraged them to come. Nobody contacted me, and said,
"Come on and be a part of this integrated University of
Florida." I would have gone running back to Bethune Cookman
at that point. I did not set out to be a martyr. I had
seen what was going on with James Murray. I certainly did
not want to put myself in that kind of dangerous situation.
I met them after we got there because it was just us.
B: Did you end up having classes together?
M: No. I never had a class with another black student.
B: You did not?
B: But at this point, somehow you all end up getting together.
M: I cannot tell you specifically. I know someone or some of
us suggested let us get together, let us meet at somebody's
house, or something. I remember a couple of meetings
because Jesse Dean was staying off of 5th Avenue. I cannot
remember the lady's name who rented the house. I lived next
to old Lincoln in those days, off of 7th Avenue and 10th
Street. I would walk to the University of Florida and walk
back home. We had a couple meetings at my house. There
were only two meetings on campus. That was with Rose Green
and John Sinoui. They were roommates. I wonder how that
happened. They put them together in Mallory Hall. All the
rest of us lived off campus. I lived at home. I know that
is probably one of the reasons I was able to survive and
eventually graduate because I could withdraw from that
University setting and go back home every day. I could
revive my spirit, if you will, get some words of
consolation, get jeered up the next morning, and go back out
there and deal with that very hostile and frightening
B: Was there an incidents?
M: A few--nothing major. One I remember early on was somebody
painting on the sign in front of Mallory Hall, where John
Sinoui and Rose Green lived, niggers get out or something
like that. Of course they printed that in the Alligator.
That caused a little tension. I can remember walking across
what was then the Plaza of the Americas. They now have a
big library there. At that point, it was just an open
plaza. Some white male students were standing with a lady
and shouting, "What are the niggers doing here?" I remember
her telling him, "Hush. Hush. Do not start any trouble."
There was never any direct, verbal confrontations. There
were never any physical type confrontations. It was just
mainly a wall of silence. Nobody spoke to you all day long.
You did not talk to anybody. You went to class. You went
and sat on a park bench. You went to class. You went back
B: The instructors did not communicate with you?
M: Rarely. Rarely would an instructor call on you. I do not
remember any being discourteous, but I do not remember
feeling like I could go up to one after class and ask a
question about something. I got my books and I got out
because the environment was not friendly.
B: How do you think that you survived that?
M: Two things come to mind. One was a very supportive family.
As I said, at the end of the day, I could go back home, go
back into my home environment, and be among my family and
friends who always encouraged me to hang in there and hang
tough. I am sure my faith in God and reading the Bible for
inspiration was a large part of it. I also was fond of
poetry as I pointed out to you earlier from my high school
days. I had my mother typing out I taped
it up on the wall of my bedroom. I would read it every
morning and every night before I went to bed. I just kept
telling myself, "I can do it. I am the captain of my own
fate." I was sort of looking inward for strength. I think
even to this day that has carried me a long way. I refuse
to accept that notion that there is somebody else out there
that is inherently better than I am and that somebody else
can do a better job. They can be smarter, but I am going to
work a little harder. That is the way I come to believe.
B: Would you do it again?
M: No. I would not do it again. I would not encourage my
children to do it. Do I regret having done it? Only to the
extent that I missed not having a well rounded college life
experience. I talk to people my age now who went to
Cookman, A&M, Howard, or Tennessee State. They would be
able to be with their classmates. They are going back to
class reunions. They are going back for homecoming and
meeting old friends. They are talking about, "You remember
that fraternity step show?" I do not have any of that.
There is not one person on earth that I remember that I
graduated with at the University of Florida. I had no
B: I never thought about that.
M: I had not classmates.
B: At this point, you were never in class one of the other
M: Never. Through undergrad, masters, and law school, I have
never had another class with a black student.
B: During undergrad, graduate, and law school, did you have a
B: So your education was really an isolated situation for you.
M: Very much so. Not only was it isolated, there really was
not anybody else I could talk to about it, and them say, "I
understand you." They do not. They did not go through that
very unique, one of a kind, ice breaking, cutting edge
[situation] all the way through.
B: Do you feel that you were a chosen person for this?
M: No. I would like to think I was just blessed and fortunate
in the sense that I am certain it helped make me a stronger,
wiser person with experience. I would not take nothing for
the journey. I would not take nothing for the journey, but
I am not looking forward to going back through it again. I
am glad it is over. It is like Ma said, "The only
thing good about the good 'ol days is they gone."
B: That is it.
M: I think it was a big price to pay, but I think I am better
off for it. I think I got a good education, and I think it
made me a better person and a stronger person for having
gone through it.
B: Now during that time you are on campus from your sophomore
to your senior year, did you ever meet the president of the
University of Florida to discuss your presence there?
B: Did you have any interviews with the newspaper about you
B: It was just that you were there and it was quiet.
M: It was quiet. We were there and ignored. I remember going
up to a black janitor or maid just to have somebody to talk
to because after four or five hours on campus, you want to
have a conversation with somebody--some give and take. The
janitors could not even talk to me because they thought they
would be fired. They told me so. I do not know whether
they were fired or unfired. The bottom line is it did not
give me much release. I had to wait until I crossed 13th
Street and got back on 5th Avenue or 7th Avenue to have
interaction with people who were warm for it.
B: What did the black community think about you being at the
University of Florida?
M: I am not sure. My recollection is that those who were
really aware of it were proud of it. I am talking of people
who were friends of my parents, other school teachers,
barber shop folks, undertaker folks, and people in the
sororities and fraternities who were aware of it. I do not
know how many other people in the community were that aware
of it. As you can imagine, I spent a great deal of time
studying. I was not a member of a fraternity. There were
no social obligations that I could be a part of. So I would
go to school and go home. To try to stay up in my classes,
I would be up most of the night studying. I did not go to
football games, even the high school games here in
Gainesville that Lincoln was playing. When I just could not
take it anymore, I would get with one of the other students
and we would go up to FAMU for a football game, or we would
go down to Bethune Cookman to see some girls. We certainly
did not see any there at the University of Florida. Nobody
was talking to you. My social life and nonacademic life in
Gainesville was very limited during those three years.
B: I never thought about that. You graduated?
B: Were you the only one of the seven that graduated?
M: One of the other seven graduated--John Selouis. Rose Green
dropped out with stress problems. All the others did not
B: Did the two of you graduate at the same time?
M: No, I was first. She came as a freshman. I came as a
second year sophomore. I was only there for three. She was
there for four. She graduated the next year.
B: Was there anything published about you being the first
M: No. In fact, in those days they did not talk about it.
B: They did not talk about it?
M: No. They did not talk about it. I graduated in 1965.
[There was] no fanfare. I was the only black person in the
entire picture at graduation.
B: Was your family the only members of the audience that was
M: That is correct--that were black.
B: That were black?
M: Yes. I did not send out any invitations.
B: You did not?
M: No. Nobody wanted to come to the University of Florida and
be the only minorities among the thousands of people in the
gym, or wherever graduation was held. It was an old gym.
That is where it was.
B: Now did you start immediately into graduate school, or did
you stop and work for a while?
M: No that summer of 1965, I went to New York to work in a
youth camp program while staying with my aunt and uncle.
[It] was a church sponsored youth camp--Summervile. I
worked as a youth camp counselor. I came back to graduate
school and started in the fall of 1965.
B: Why would you come back to the University of Florida after
you had such an isolated, quiet period there for those three
years? Why did you come back?
M: To be truthful, I am trying to remember. I have never been
asked that question before. I think it was because I really
did not investigate going any place else for one thing.
Second, I remember Vietnam was really heating up. They were
granting student deferments. I think I had gotten one
notice to come for a physical. It was during that summer
that I decided I was going to go to grad school for one more
year, and put off going to the army or becoming a candidate
for Vietnam. I think the University of Florida just came to
mind. It was inexpensive. I could stay back at home again
and go to school for a year. I did that. During that year,
as fate would have it, I was summoned again to report for a
physical. I did report, and went to Camp Blanding. That is
when they discovered that I had corneoretinitis in my left
eye. I was in fact legally blind in that eye. They gave me
the status you get when you have a physical disability. So
I was not have been going to Vietnam anyway.
B: [Laughter]. You could have stayed out for a while.
M: As fate would have it, I went through grad school and three
years of law school legally blind in one eye.
B: During your stay at the University of Florida, did you have
much contact with the person who encouraged you to go to the
University of Florida, George Allen?
M: No, I did not. George graduated in 1963. So the end of my
first year there, he was out and gone. I really did not
have any contact with him. Somewhere during my freshman
year of law school, our paths crossed. At the end of my
first year of law school, I went to Ft. Lauderdale as clerk
with him during the summer with a law firm, for him. So we
sort of renewed an old friendship and of course that
continued throughout law school. I researched some cases
for him that he was working on because I had access to the
law library. So there were a few projects I did for him at
B: Was graduate school more friendly for you than undergrad?
M: Yes. I received a masters degree in education. In order to
teach in the junior college, they required that you take
eighteen hours of education courses in methods, and eighteen
hours of political science because that is what I wanted to
teach. I found the faculty and students at the College of
Education were much friendlier. I do not know why. Maybe
education types seem friendlier. Over on the political
science side, it was your general, typical, not so friendly
types. I did have the pleasure of working under the
chairman of the political science department. He died a few
years back. [He was] a white-headed fellow. He taught
B: Was it Dauer?
M: Yes, Manning Dauer [Manning J. Dauer, Jr., Distinguished
Service Professor, Department of Political Science, 1933-
1987]. I took several courses with him. He would always
engage me in conversation, and was very friendly toward me.
I think I probably three or four courses with him of the
eighteen hours. I probably took nine or twelve hours just
with him. I got my masters in one year.
B: What year was that sir?
M: I got my masters in 1966.
B: Did you go on to law school directly?
M: No. You remember my goal was to teach. I still could not
imagine myself being a black lawyer. My goal was to teach.
It was in the summer of 1966 in August. All the junior
colleges from around the state. Remember they were just
really getting going in the 1960s. The University of
Florida campus had Norman Hall, and they had a big job fair
there. That is what they called it. They all had little
tables set up with all their paraphernalia and propaganda
about their college, and were looking for teachers. I put
on the only boots that I had and went in for interviews. My
parents were now living out behind the new Lincoln High
School. They had moved in 1963.
B: That is in southeast Gainesville.
M: So I walked from there to Norman Hall.
B: Did you?
M: Yes I did. I remember going to one booth. I showed my
transcript and all. He said, "Oh, I see you have got a
masters. That is good. That is what we require." I said,
"Yes sir." Then he looked and looked. Finally he said,
"You just got it in June." He said, "Oh, we are looking for
somebody with experience."
B: Do you think that was said to you because you were black?
M: Absolutely. I got to the next two tables, and I got mad. I
stormed out of the building. Having gotten an undergraduate
degree with a 2.7 and whatever it was in grad school, and
could not get a job. I did not any for any particular
junior college. I was thinking about St. Pete or Miami.
Those were the more liberal ones I thought. I could not get
a job. So I went home. I was mad. I was upset. I was
sure I was crying. I talked with my father about it. He
has always been the kind of individual that is a calming
influence on a situation. I do not think I have ever seen
him stir up a situation. He is the one that calmed me down.
So he calmed me down. We had a long chat. From the result
of that experience, I decided I would apply for a job
teaching in high school. I was offered a job in Gainesville
by Tom Thomlinson to go teach at Westwood, which had no
black teachers at that point in time. I was not too crazy
about that idea, plus I was ready to get out of Gainesville.
I was offered a job in Brevard County, which is Cocoa.
What I did was I got the list of counties and what they
would pay a teacher with no experience, with a masters and a
regular bachelors degree. The three highest paying county
in 1966 was Naples [Collier County]. There are a lot of old
retirees down there, and they were paying the highest. The
next highest was Miami Dade, and the third highest was
Brevard. That was because Cape Kennedy was really booming.
So those were the three I applied for. I got job offers
from each of them. There was a black man here pursuing his
masters of Ph.D at the College of Education who my parents
had befriended. They had him to dinner a lot. He was in
the administration department in He encouraged
me to go to Brevard. I went down there for an interview,
and a principal offered me a job on the spot at the all
black, Monroe High School. As a result of that experience
in Norman Hall and being turned down for jobs, I said, "It
is about time I take some of this education I have learned
from the white folks and give it back to the black
community." So I was going to teach at a black high school,
and teach those children what I had learned at the
University of Florida about political science, civics, and
B: How many years did you teach?
M: One year.
B: What did you not teach at Lincoln in Gainesville?
M: I wanted to get out.
B: You wanted to get out of Gainesville. So you taught one
year. Was that a fulfilling experience for you?
M: Very much so. I learned a lot about the black community. I
was single. I had a new car. I did not have any clothes.
I had a very enjoyable time until the experience that
happened I am sure just as the job interviews for junior
college my course, this experience changed it. That was I
had four sections of civics. In those days, in ninth grade
you had 9-1, 9-2, 9-3, and 9-4. 9-1 was very bright. 9-4
was special ed or whatever you call it. I had a 9-1 section
first thing in the morning. It was all girls, the quietest
little group of girls you have ever seen in your life.
[They were] smart as can be. I enjoyed teaching that class.
So I decided, I think it was leading up to the Christmas
holidays, that I would introduce them to the Federalist
Papers written of course by John Lockes, which forms the
basis for our federal system, Constitution, states, and
local government. I talked to them a little bit about it.
That morning I got up real early--about 6 a.m. I went to
school, and I put an outline of a couple of the Federalist
Papers on the blackboard. I had given them a reading
assignment to read before [class], and they were ready to
go. I am just lecturing away and they are asking questions.
We were going strong, and out of the corner of my eye, I
pick up a figure in the doorway of the classroom. I looked
and it was the principal. It was Mr. Thompson, a black
principal, and he beckoned me over. I went over, and
thought what was going on was strange. He steps outside of
the classroom, and he said to me, "Do you not think that is
a little too advanced for their minds?"
B: That is what the principal said to you?
M: The principal said this. I was awestruck. I was
dumbfounded. I thought, "That is why these kids are so far
behind now--it is this type of mentality." I remember
coming home during the Christmas holidays and talking to my
father about that experience. I said, "Dad, I have now
decided I am going to law school." It was the very next
semester that I started making applications to the
University of Florida law school. Do not ask me why I chose
this school. I guess by that point, I was foolish. I do
not know. I came back. They accepted me.
B: That experience with the principal brought about your change
to go to law school.
M: That is right. There was something about it. I said, "I do
not think I can continue to teach in this type of
environment with type of mentality." So I decided I could
do more with my life by coming back and going to law school.
B: Were the students grasping what you were teaching?
M: Yes, very much so. They loved it. [[end of this side]]
B: So now you are getting ready to go to law school. Was the
University of Florida law school the only place that you
M: Yes. The University of Florida law school at that time was
considered the premier law school in the state of Florida.
If you wanted to practice and advance up the ladder of
politics in Florida, you wanted to go to the University of
Florida. They had a better reputation, and I think
deservedly so. In 1967, you had FSU because they had closed
down the FAMU law school in the late 1950s. You had FSU,
University of Florida, and Miami, which is private. The
University of Florida had the best or better reputation of
all of them at that point.
B: So you had planned to stay in Florida?
B: Had you met, at this point, the wife?
M: No. I met her in the summer of 1967 right before I started
law school. I left Monroe High School in June when school
was out. I came back to Gainesville, working again at the
swimming pool with my father, and filled out applications to
apply to the University of Florida for law school. That was
the summer of 1967. There was a young man in the medical
school. I think he attended for one year. [He was] named
Rubin Brigdty. Rubin and I were in Campbell Street
Elementary School in Daytona together.
B: Were you?
M: Yes. As a matter of fact, we lived right across the street
from each other, and played together as little boys. I
really had not had any contact with him since I left Daytona
in the mid 1950s. Rubin was in medical school. He was not
on the campus. He was renting a room from a lady that lived
near where I lived. We met, and started talking about his
first year at the University of Florida Medical School
I talked about my years there, and of course the
subject of girls came up. He said the only one that he met
was a little nurse from the nursing school named Eleanor
Moore, and she was mean as a snake. He said, "You will not
get to first base with her." I said, "Let me try.
M: It was sometime during that summer that he took me by her
apartment and introduced me. The rest is history.
B: You met her, and she was in nursing school. You were in law
school at that time.
M: No, it was the summer before I started law school. She was
finishing her nursing school degree. In August 1967, she
B: Where was she from?
M: Live Oak, Florida.
B: How long did you all date?
M: Until August 1968.
B: Then you married?
M: We married in August 1968. I started law school in
September 1967. So we dated my entire first year of law
school. I think I proposed to her in spring of 1968, and we
married in August 1968.
B: While you were in law school, was she...
M: She was employed as a nurse, first at Shands teaching
hospital on the psych ward. After about three or four
months of that, and me listening to her tell those stories
of the evening shift, she decided she had had enough. She
transferred over to the VA hospital on a regular ward. She
continued there until I graduated law school in March 1970.
B: Of your three different periods at the University of
Florida, which was the most unpleasant and the most
M: The most unpleasant would have been the undergraduate years.
The most pleasant would have been the law school years.
B: Was that because there were more students there or because
you had matured? Was it a different period in history? Was
it all three combined?
M: Let me answer this way. I started undergraduate school in
1962. I started law school in 1967. We have a period of
five years having elapsed. As you recall in the mid 1960s,
1965, 1966, 1967, and 1968, the Vietnam War was raging. The
country was in turmoil in terms of people marching. [It
was] the hippie period if you will, with flowers in the hair
and people playing the violins. There was the assassination
of John F. Kennedy in 1963, his brother Robert in 1967, and
Martin Luther King in April 1968. We had a lot of changes
taking place in this country, both in terms of racial
changes. I think the climate had changed in those five
years. The other thing is that there were only about 300
law students at the law school at that point in time.
B: Only 300?
M: About 100 in each class. We were at the old building on the
corner of 13th and University, which I think is Bryan Hall.
That is where the law school was when I started. There
were about 300 [students]. You had about 100 freshman, 100
second year [students], and 100 third year [students]. So
you had a much smaller and a more congenial environment.
People in general were friendlier. There seemed to be a
general acceptance, at least by the freshman law students.
We did not have any minority admissions programs in those
days. There was no affirmative action. Students said,
"Well if he is smart enough to get in, he must be okay. He
is at least as smart as I am or he would not be here."
M: So you had that kind of general acceptance. I made friends
with a group of five or six students. Most of them were
Jewish and from the Miami area. I ended up being invited to
study with them. We formed a study club and a study group.
That sort of helped me through the law school transition
that first year. After that, it branched out, and I made
more friends and associated with other students. I was in a
smaller and friendlier environment.
B: Were there any other black students in law school when you
M: None in the class with me in 1967. I think one came in
1968. In 1969, there were three or four. I think Aaron
Green and Benny Harris come around 1969. That was about it.
I had no other black students in any of my classes. I was
the only one there. I think we had one in 1968, and five or
six in 1969. That is how it was. I graduated in March
1970. It was just a trickle. There was maybe less than a
dozen in the whole school by the time I got through.
B: You mentioned earlier that you had not seen a black lawyer.
Here you are in law school. Had you seen one by the time
you got in law school?
M: No. I had heard of some fellow named Rodriguez who was
running around trying the civil rights cases out of town. I
had not seen any. When did Lincoln close?
B: I think it was in 1968. Is that right?
M: It could have been. You know when they had the big
discussion when Earl Johnson from Jacksonville, who was a
civil rights lawyer. He came to Mt. Carmel one night. I
remember being in the basement. A lot of people there were
talking about what would happen to Lincoln. A lot of the
former grads were there saying, "We want to remain a high
school." I remember him giving the impression that the
judge was going to approve a plan that would make it a
junior high. It would turn into a vocational school or
something. That would have probably been the first black
lawyer I had ever seen in my life at that point. I had not
seen George Allen since he graduated in 1963. Maybe I had.
It was either between Earl Johnson or George Allen that
would have been the first.
B: Were you involved in the Civil Rights Movement? I assume it
is in the heat of it right now--in the mid 1960s.
M: I remember and I cannot tell you the year. I remember
getting in with a march. We were marching down University
Avenue. We were going to march to integrate the Florida
Theater. I think Charles Chesnut was in it. There was a
lot of people. First, he went to the State Theater.
Remember when the State was open?
B: Where was the State located?
M: It was between the Seagle Building and that linoleum going
west on University Avenue. You go past the Seagle Building,
but before you got to the gas company.
B: Okay, it was in there.
M: The State Theater was on that side.
B: I do not remember that.
M: They gave us no hassle. We were disappointed. We went in
and did not stay to watch the movie. We paid our money and
that was it.
M: I remember another group getting together. We were going
down to the Florida Theater. They would not let us in the
Florida Theater. I remember the police being called. They
said we had to move off the sidewalk. I remember the
meeting at Mt. Carmel with the NAACP. I remember we had a
big meeting at Mt. Pleasant. I cannot remember who all was
[there]. I know Reverend Ferguson was the minister. There
were people there from down in the state who had been
leading civil rights boycotts and stuff. The only incidence
I can remember actually going to was one, the State Theater,
and two, the Florida Theater. A group of us law students
and some other graduate students went to...it was right
there on University Avenue. It is no longer open. It was a
little restaurant type place. It made the news. It was one
of the few that refused to serve us.
M: No. Coming back up by the campus.
B: Not the College Inn?
M: No, not the College Inn. It was by the Florida Bookstore.
I want to think it was to the left of the Florida Bookstore.
I cannot think of the name.
B: Okay. I will check that out.
M: Those are the only ones I can remember actually, physically
participating in. I am sure there were other marches and
meetings or other Florida activity.
B: But you were not involved.
M: Only peripherally. I remember meeting with a lot of the
student groups. I remember meeting the Gainesville Women
For Equal Rights, going to their meetings, planning
strategy, and doing things. I remember Father Gannon. He
was priest at the time. We met several others in their
homes and did different things. That is my best
B: I hoped that you would have been very significant because
you had been on the University of Florida campus when it was
not actively going on and had survived. I would think that
they would have called on your input to be very helpful in
this situation. Did they? When I say they, I am talking
about the establishment that was in charge of the NAACP.
M: Again, I do not remember any active leadership roles in the
NAACP. I remember going to a lot of the meetings. A lot of
people voiced their concern. Again, we are talking...
B: 1963 to 1967.
M: 1963 to 1967. I clearly remember the Florida Theater
because I thought truly we were going to be arrested.
B: Just to get in.
M: They did not arrest anybody as a matter of fact.
M: No, not at the Florida Theater the time I went there. The
police just told us to leave, and we left. I went on back
home. Later on that night, there was a rock throwing
incident. White folks threw them at us as we were coming
through 5th Avenue. They had the guards, police, and what
have you. I was not involved in that part.
B: While you were in law school, did you happen to become a
part of any of the organizations?
M: Yes I did. I thought that I wanted to be a trial lawyer and
try cases. Back then, I thought I would be representing
people in civil rights cases, or black folks unfairly
accused of crimes. I thought I would be a big Johnny
Cochran. I had not even heard of Johnny Cochran at that
point. So I got on the Honor Court staff. I ended up on
the prosecution side. I am not sure how that happened. We
ended up prosecuting students who were accused of cheating
and other offenses on the University of Florida campus. I
incidentally ended up being appointed by a fellow, whose
name was Kennedy (he was president of the student body, to
be on the Board of Masters of the Honor Court. Those are
the people who act as judges. I remember being very active
in the honor court, both as a prosecutor and as a member of
the Board of Masters. I joined Phi Alpha Delta, the legal
fraternity, and went to several of their functions. Dean
Maloney [Frank T. Maloney, dean, College of Law, 1958-1970]
formed what he called the Council of Ten.
B: Now, Dean Maloney is whom now?
M: He is the dean of the law school. He was dean when I
started, and dean when I graduated. He was a significant
player in my life too that I think I give credit to in that
article that I gave you. [The Council of Ten] was student
advisors that he had faith and trust in (of course I was the
only black on that) to talk to him about law school
curriculum and rules, regulations, and policies. As it
turned out, I was selected to be vice president of my senior
class when I graduated. It was a popular vote by the
students. I felt like I enjoyed law school, as good as you
can expect, being the only person of color in the entire
group, which was my classmates. I met several people who I
became pretty good friends with. I met Dale Sanders who
ended up becoming a very good friend. Once I got married,
we moved into a legal studies housing complex where he and
his wife resided. We ended cooking out a lot together and
go to movies. He might never have befriended me. We worked
on our senior research and some other things together. We
have remained friends throughout the years. As well as
could be expected, it was a pretty fair law school
B: So you saw the experience from a very quiet, isolated, cold
one in you undergrad to becoming a very positive one in law
B: Excellent. Judge Mickle, did you ever think that you would
be a judge?
M: Absolutely not. You have got to remember, in 1967 the
courthouse in Gainesville was still segregated. There was a
water fountain for whites and a water fountain for coloreds.
There were three bathrooms. One said, "White men," the
other said, "White women," and the other said, "Coloreds."
There was no distinction--just colored. You did not go to
the courthouse. The courthouse struck fear in the hearts of
black people. It still strikes fear in a lot of people. I
remember going down there and seeing those water fountains.
If somebody had said, "One day you will be a judge sitting
in this courthouse," I would have said, "You have got to be
crazy. This just cannot happen." Even when I returned to
Gainesville in 1971, I could not imagine there ever being a
black judge, not in my lifetime, in Gainesville, Florida.
B: You finished law school. Where did you go then?
M: I went to Washington, D.C. to work for the federal
government. It was one of the few jobs I could find. I
could not find any law firms that would hire me. Most black
lawyers were not two man operations. They were running hand
to mouth. They could not afford to pay an associate. I did
not feel like just hanging out my shingle and hoping that I
would get business. So I went off to Washington for a year,
actually it really was not a year. It started snowing. I
told my wife, "I think it is time to go." [Laughter].
B: Oh my goodness. So the weather caused you to leave there.
M: Well, it was a combination of things. I maintained contact
with George Allen. It was about point that he said, "Why do
you not come work for me?"
B: You started working for George Allen or you got an offer
from him to come back?
M: I got an offer from George. I wanted to get back to
Florida. I always wanted to practice in Florida, so I
jumped at the offer. I was talking about it the other day
with my wife, and I think she told me he offered me $250 a
week and a percentage of whatever business I brought in. I
packed up in December. I was only in Washington from March
through December. I came back to Florida. I went down to
Ft. Lauderdale and started working for George the first of
January. I worked with George until May 1971. I got a call
from Fletcher Baldwin, a professor at the law school,
telling me that the University of Florida had been one of
three or four schools in the south (white law schools) that
had been awarded a grant from the CLEO Program, which stands
for Council on Legal Education Opportunities. [It] was a
big foundation that was pumping money into trying to get
more black students to try to go into law. It had been
housed at Howard University for many years. They were
planning on branching it out to five southern, white law
schools on an experimental basis. It would consist of a six
week summer program where they would admit very bright
[black students] with good grades to a sort of Head Start
Program. They did not have enough credentials to get a
straight admit into law school. They just missed it. So
they were going to take them and put them through a six week
program. The five schools agreed that they would accept
these students if they successfully completed the program.
It would give them a stipend. Fletcher Baldwin
called me and said they were looking for a black lawyer to
teach in the program, and would I consider coming back and
teaching for those six weeks. I told him that was crazy. I
had just started law practice in Ft. Lauderdale and things
are looking good. He said suppose he got back to me. He
would talk to the dean. He said, "Suppose we schedule you
just to teach on Thursday and Friday. You drive up
Wednesday night, teach Thursday and Friday, and then go
back. You would have Monday through Wednesday." I talked
it over with George. He was not too hot on the idea, but he
said, "Okay." So I came up the summer of 1970 and taught in
the first CLEO Program at the University of Florida Law
School. Of those fifteen students who were there, I think
twelve or thirteen were admitted into law school that fall.
Thus the impetus for increasing minority students at the
University of Florida and many white law schools throughout
the south with these summer, Head Start type programs.
Eventually, I think CLEO backed out and the schools started
doing them on their own. They realized most of these
students were doing just fine in law school. They just
needed that foot in the door because they were not making
high enough scores on the standardized tests that we know is
typical of many of our students. They had the wherewithal
to make it to law school. I taught for that six weeks. I
would drive up there, and go back on Saturday morning. At
the end of that six weeks, I looked up and we had a new dean
by then. His name was Dean Julin [Joseph R. Julin, dean,
College of Law, 1971-1980]. I looked up one day while I was
teaching away, just like the day I looked out of the corner
of my eye at the high school, and there he was sitting in
the back of the classroom. He asked if he could see me
after class was over. I told him yes and went up to his
office. He offered me a job teaching at the law school. I
said, "I have got to go back to my private practice." So I
talked to Jim Peters, who was in charge of legal aid in the
SIt is now the Virgil Hawkins Clinic. I talked
with him. I said, "I do not believe this." Then I talked
it over with my mother and father of course. I talked with
my wife. Probably after one week, based on the salary they
were going to pay me and the fact that I always one day
envisioned coming back to Gainesville and opening up a law
office, even Jim Peters said, "This may be the way to do
it." [He said], "Come back here and work for a couple of
years or however long you want to. You get to know the
lawyers and judges in the area. You will be coming in as a
professional at the law school, supervising law students,
who go to court to have cases for indigents. It would be a
way to get your foot in the door. It is very stale, stoic,
clear view of the community." So I decided to come back.
In September 1971, after being in Ft. Lauderdale from
January to September, I parted company with George, came
back to Gainesville, and started as a full time assistant
law professor at the University of Florida law school.
B: Did you ever think that would happen to you?
M: No. At the beginning of this interview you asked me if it
was planned. I said, "No, it was a series of watersheds
along the way, and things that happened that steered me in a
certain direction." I do not take any credit for being
brilliant to lay out my life.
B: We are going to leave with you being assistant professor at
the law school. Did you happen to meet Virgil Hawkins who
is pretty much known for being the person who applied and
was denied admission to the law school?
M: I met Virgil Hawkins at least on a couple of occasions. It
is tough to say where and when. As I remember, we used to
(and still have) an association of black lawyers and judges
for the state of Florida. It is called the Florida Chapter
of the National Bar Association. Many years ago, he was at
one of those meetings, and I met him. It was in a social
type setting. Then it was at a banquet function that they
were having for him. I remember being at a dinner and he
was there. He stood up and talked about his efforts to get
into the University of Florida, and how he ended up not
prevailing, but eventually going to the northeast.
B: But you all never had a personal conversation about his
trying and your efforts?
B: Not at all?
B: What about your being at the University of Florida as an
undergrad, masters [student], going away and coming back--
were ever looked upon in a very esteemed way by the
residents in Gainesville as a leader?
M: That is hard to say Joel. I remember opening up the law
B: Where was that located?
M: The first one was on 6th Street in Gainesville--at the
corner of 6th and 14th. It is called Executive Park. It
has now been taken over by North Florida Central Baptist
Church. There are a bunch of offices there. That is where
we first opened the law office. That was summer of 1972. I
sent out a lot of invitations. A lot of people came. A lot
of people were very proud that we now had a black lawyer in
Gainesville. I was in the office. Michael Bryant was a
white lawyer. We used to share office space. I think it
was just the two of us at first. Aaron Green came in later.
He graduated the next year, and we shared office space with
him. I just remember that being a very happy and festive
occasion. For the first time, I felt like I was getting
recognition, not so much. I was the first at the University
of Florida this being black lawyers in Gainesville. Of
course I did a lot of speaking at various churches an other
functions. Part of the residents would say I was the first.
I am not sure how well known that was outside of Mt. Carmel
Baptist Church and my parent's circle of teacher friends.
B: How did they keep this a secret?
M: I do not think they were attempting to keep a secret.
Nobody was walking around bragging about it. It was not
even announced when I showed up. I certainly did not have
any Florida t-shirts that I walked around in. I would have
been nothing more than a moving target at this point. It
was not something to brag about. I remember discussing with
my father whether I should put a Florida sticker on our car
for fear that some redneck or racist would throw a brick
through the window. So I was not out trying to broadcast by
any stretch of the imagination. Gainesville was still a
very segregated, small, cold-minded town back in the 1960s.
It was not like it is now where blacks are playing sports,
all over the t.v., and wearing paraphernalia. It was not
until 1968 when Lou Jackson became the first black athlete
to be signed.
B: That is true.
M: He was the only one there until the next year when they got
a few more. Now, you can go out there on any given Saturday
afternoon [[please finish thought]]. To quote a good friend
of mine, Winston Thompson, a judge down in Orlando, who was
up at one of our black alumni things one year. [When] asked
if he was he going to the football game, he said he was
going up to A&M where he could watch black teams play. We
said, "If you go out to Florida Field, you will see a lot of
B: [Laughter]. That is very, very true.
M: There were no black men in the early 1960s.
B: You mentioned your church. Where was your church while you
lived in Gainesville?
M: Mt. Carmel Baptist Church. Reverend T.E. Wright was pastor.
B: Were they very supportive of your efforts?
M: Very much so. Of course Reverend Mike was head of the NAACP
for twenty years or so. I could always depend upon my
church family for moral support on Sunday. You know--the
keep at it, we are right behind you, go get 'em thing. I
really felt a sense of moral support from the people in that
church, not only on Sunday but when I was at the grocery
store. They were aware of it, supporting it, and pushing
it. The way it worked at Bethune Cookman was you had to
make your grades the first semester. To pledge a
fraternity, you had to have at least a 3.0. You start that
in your second semester. In your fall semester of your
sophomore year, you would complete the pledge period and be
made into a fraternity. Well, my father being a big Alpha
Phi Alpha member--as a matter of fact, he was one of the
founding members at Bethune Cookman. I did not know that
until I got there. I studied the history, and one of the
brothers said, "Is this your father? You better know this
history cold." [[end of this side]].
To make a long story short, since I was not interested in
pursuing the graduate chapter of the fraternity in
Gainesville, I wrote to the national office, explained the
situation to them, and asked for special permission to make
me into a grad chapter even though I was an undergrad
student. They loved that. I got a letter back from the
national president of the Equity Board approving of that
saying black students are just starting to integrate white
schools in the south have no where to go. There are no
black fraternities or sororities. What are we going to do
with these people if they want to be a member of a
fraternity. So they started letting them into the graduate
chapter. Since 1964, there has been a graduate chapter in
Gainesville of the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity. We have
eleven meetings. They would meet once a month on Saturday,
and have an annual Christmas dance. They were all a lot
older than I was. I was just a young kid. You asked about
being supported, I remember John Wilkes Jr. and J.C. Rawles
writing me an individual check on occasion saying, "We know
you are in school trying to make it. We hope this will help
you out." I remember fraternities gave me a check for
fifteen dollars or so every so often. So there were people
who were aware who were very supportive. Again, I was not
running around broadcasting. It was still a hostile
B: You have moved several times and were married. Your wife
was with you. At this point, was she at any time hesitant
in making the move from D.C. to work with Attorney Allen,
and then to leave there and come back to Gainesville?
M: I would have to say yes, but the hesitation was just one of
uncertainty. I remember talking to her about moving to Ft.
Lauderdale. She was saying, "Well are you sure?" When I
came home talking about taking a job teaching at the law
school, she was dumbfounded.
B: You had only been there for several months.
M: I had been there January through August. I had been in D.C.
March through December. She said, "Well, I do not know."
Whenever I said, "Well, this is my best judgement," she
would be packing. She was ready to go. On that final note,
when I was practicing law in 1979, I started contemplating
going into law teaching full time. That is when they
created the four-county judgeship for Alachua County based
on population and the number of cases. Several of my lawyer
friends said, "Why do you not apply for it?" This is the
time that I am thinking about closing down my law practice
and going into law teaching. When I went home and told her
that, she just went bonkers. She said, "I do not believe
you. You have this great job." I never will forget when
Governor Graham [Bob Graham, governor of Florida, 1979-1987]
called me in October 1979, she was at home. I guess my son
was born in 1976. He was three years old. My next oldest
daughter would have been five, and my oldest was seven. She
did not return to work until my son started kindergarten.
She was home from when he was born to about three or four
years. I called her at home. I asked, "Are you sitting
down?" She said, "What is it?" I said, "I just got a call
from the governor offering me the county judgeship." She
just started screaming. It was incredible once the word got
out. It was an incredible time in town when the word got
out. It has never been a thing of talking negative or
dissuading, it has always been if that is your best
judgement, let us go for it.
B: Judge Mickle, I have enjoyed this two hours with you in your
office in Tallahassee. What is this building called?
M: First District Court of Appeals.
B: On MLK?
M: Martin Luther King Boulevard.
B: May I come and finish the second part of your life. We are
at the point now when you are coming back at the University
of Florida to teach. We are going to talk about your
practice in Gainesville. I think you were very much
involved in the demonstration in the early 1970s when some
law students made a presentation to then President Stephen
M: That is correct.
B: Thank you for this interview and I look forward to the
M: You are very welcome.