Interviewee: Leon "Rabbit" Robbins
Interviewer: Sid Johnston
Date: August 29, 1984
R: My name is Rabbit, and it has been that for fifty some-odd years.
J: Where did you acquire that nickname?
R: Oh, Lord. I am a musician, a jazz musician, and I played in dance bands. I had
a dance band when I was in college for ten years, and even after I got out of
college. A trumpet player, I think his name was Ed Morris from Jacksonville,
hung that on me and it stuck for a long time.
J: Why do you think he hung that name on you?
R: Well, at one time my name was Rabinowitz. That was a Russian name. My
ancestors came from Russia. Jokingly he used to call me rabbit wits, and he
just cut off the wits and it became Rabbit. It has been that about fifty-five years.
J: Do you still turn your head when someone hollers out Rabbit?
R: Oh, sure. In fact, that is the only name my wife ever calls me, and all my friends
do the same thing. No one ever calls me Leon.
J: That is funny. Well, may I call you Rabbit?
R: Why not. I would feel more comfortable.
J: Mr. Rabbit, where are you from?
R: I was born in Black Shear, Georgia, on February 26, 1911. I did not live there,
but I was the first child, and my grandmother lived there, so my mother went
home to her mother. I actually lived in a little town that was called Milltown,
Georgia, then. It is now called Lakeland, Georgia. It is the former home of
Governor Ed Rivers. [Eurith D. Rivers, Governor of Georgia, (1937-1941)] I
remember when I was about two years old, they had a flu epidemic or something,
and my parents decided to get out. So my father came down to Florida and he
was looking around over in Palatka and had about decided that was where he
was going to move. Somebody suggested to come over to Gainesville, which
was about forty-five miles away because it was a college town to see what he
thought. So he came over here and he liked this area better, so we moved here
in April of 1913. I have been here ever since.
J: Where did your mother and father come from?
R: My father was born in Kiev, Russia, and my mother, I do not know the name of
the town, but I understand it was about forty miles from there. My mother was
twelve when she came over. My father was five years old.
J: So they came over on the same boat?
R: No, no, no. They did not know each other. They met in south Georgia.
J: Boy, that is a long-distance connection.
R: That is right. I even have something that my father gave my mother for an
engagement present. It is sitting there in the living room.
J: How did they happen to meet in Georgia?
R: Well, my father was working for his brother. I think it was in Alma, Georgia. I
have relatives all over south Georgia or did have, but so many of them have died
off. I imagine somebody said, "Well, you ought to meet Rose Gilmore." My
mother's maiden name was Gilmore. You know, these things come about that
J: When did your father decide to change his last name?
R: He didn't, but all of his brothers did. I did not have my name changed until I was
nineteen years old.
J: To Robbins?
R: When I got in the music business, and especially when I got in the band, it was
more feasible to have an easily pronounced, shorter name, an English name. If
you ever keep up with it, you know, so many of the movie stars have names that
you would not dream of.
J: I do not.
R: Well, the latest one that I found out that sort of floored me is a new actor named
Steve Bond. He is from Israel. His name in Schlomo Goldberg. That will give
you an idea.
J: That is pretty amusing.
R: When you are in a type of business where you meet the public, you would have
to have a shorter name and anglicize it. All my father's brothers had changed
their names to Robbins and that is where he got the idea. I chose that one
myself. Then my other brothers, I have three more brothers, they changed their
names too. A little down the line, but they did.
J: That is a very interesting story.
R: In fact, nobody on my side of the family is using the name Rabinowitz anymore.
J: My maternal grandparents are from the Ukraine and I do not know what city but
they have retained their name. Their last name is Kukura.
R: Kukura. Well, that is an example. Is that what their name was and they kept it?
J: I have not heard anything to the contrary. I had not heard a story like you just
shared with me about their name, so I think it is the original name.
R: Well, it could be.
J: Have you heard of a Kukura before being a Russian name?
R: I have heard of Sekura, but possibly if they had been in the entertainment
business, they would have changed theirs too.
J: When did you say your father moved to Georgia?
R: When he first came to this country. My uncle had a store in Alma, Georgia, so
he took him in as a trainee or whatever you want to call it.
J: I see. What immigration office was he processed through?
R: Ellis Island.
J: He came through Ellis Island and down to Georgia?
R: Well, I think he stayed in New York for a while. He was in the Lower East Side,
where so many of the immigrants lived. I think he was either ten or maybe
eleven or twelve years old when he came down to work with his brother. You
see, there is another thing that might be of interest to you. In those days, I know
this to be a fact on my mother's side, they did not have enough money to bring
everybody at one time, so the father would come and he would work and save up
enough money to send for somebody. When he saved up more money, he
would send for somebody else until he got them all over here.
J: What was your father's occupation in Georgia?
R: He was a merchant.
J: Did he retain that occupation all of his life?
R: Yes, but we had other things too. At one time, we owned the theatre here called
the Rose Theatre, which was a segregated black theatre. It was very good
there for quite a while, and then of course T.V. came in and then desegregation
in theatres, and that hurt, so we kind of were forced to close.
J: Now what theatre was that?
R: The Rose Theatre. It is not there anymore. It was on Northwest Fifth Avenue.
It has been turned into a park.
J: The building was demolished.
R: Well, we had arson if you want to know the truth about it. When they had all
these uprisings, about eight or nine years ago, it burned down. Actually, it was
not burned down, but it was burned. The structure was sound, and then the city
came along and bought it from us and tore the rest of it down and made a park.
J: Was that part of a bigger fire in Gainesville or was that local?
R: No, no. That was just a local, but we were not the only ones that had that
happen. I was in New York at the time, and I was really surprised when my wife
called me and told me about it.
J: I bet you were. Did you have a sense of who did it? Were there any
R: No, none. Oh, I am sure it was some of the dissidents of the black variety trying
to get even with all, not us personally I do not think, but as a symbol.
J: Who were your brothers and sisters?
R: Alex, Robert, and Irvin. My brother, Alex, lives here and my brother Irvin, lives
here. My brother Alex, is retired. He was my partner in business for a long
time, and then I bought him out. He is retired, and he still lives here. My
brother Robert, left here. He is the only one that left. He got a Ph.D. in
chemistry, and he went to work for Tennessee Eastman in Kingsport,
Tennessee. He worked for them until he was involuntarily retired because of
J: So all four of you lived in Gainesville at one time?
R: Oh, sure. Everybody went to school here and graduated from high school here.
My brother, Irvin, owned the Gator Shop, and he just sold that last March to the
same people who incidentally bought mine.
J: Do you think there is a connection there?
R: No. This guy is an entrepreneur. He knows how to manipulate, and he travels
on the road and sells gator-type merchandise. He bought that outright, and the
one that we had, he bought in conjunction with two very close friends of his from
Orlando, who are now running the store. So he has his fingers in both stores
and they are doing okay.
J: Do you mind sharing his name?
R: No, Joe Fincher. He is quite some guy. Not only that, he is a big, big Amway
distributor. And the young couple that is running the store we had, they worked
for him, and that is how they met each other, through Amway. They worked for
him, and you know how it works. In turn, they have lots of people working for
J: Where do you lie within the family hierarchy of brothers?
R: In what way?
J: Who was born first, second, third, fourth?
R: I am the oldest. I am seventy-three. Alex is seventy. Robby, I think, is
sixty-eight, and Irvin will be sixty-six in November.
J: Did any of them pursue law?
R: No. Myself and my brother, Robert, are the only two who graduated. I have a
law degree from 1935. Now it is converted from a LL.B. to a Doctor of Law for
five bucks. I got a letter once from the school that they were converting the
LL.B. to a Doctor of Jurisprudence. If I would send them five dollars, they would
send me a new diploma. It is up on the wall over there.
J: You took advantage of that?
R: I am the only doctor that I know of that paid five dollars to get a doctor's degree.
J: That is funny. What high school did you attend?
R: Gainesville High School.
J: What kind of jobs did you have during your high school years?
R: Not much of anything. Once in a while I would help my father in the store. At
one time, my father had stores in the first block of University Avenue across from
where old Woolworth's used to be. I would help him once in a while, but I really
did not like the retail business. I would rather be out playing. I started playing
saxophone when I was in high school, and we had a little band around town.
We got together and played, and when I got to college then I started playing in a
lot of bands.
J: So what kind of career were you considering when you were in high school?
R: I thought I might want to be a lawyer, or at least my parents thought that was
what they wanted me to be.
J: Were there any other outside influences on you being a lawyer?
R: No. Not that I remember.
J: Your parents just had that in mind.
R: Well, they always think that their children, if they have a professional degree, it
would be very good. And it is not bad, you know.
J: Right. So what was your decision-making process to attend the law school?
R: Well, I always liked to __ I was on University Avenue. We lived there.
There is a filling station there now, or there was one. I always used to jokingly
say when I was in high school when I left the house to go to school, I would turn
left to walk two blocks, but when I went to college, I would turn right and walk two
blocks. That is where we lived in relation to the high school and the college. I
just thought I would like to be a lawyer. Of course, I was not an 'A' student. I
was more interested in having a good time, I guess. I did not study that much,
so it took my a little longer. Plus, going out and playing for dances, sometimes
we would get home at seven o'clock in the morning and have eight o'clock
classes. That was not very conducive. If I had been a real brain, I guess I
could have done it without any problem, but I was more interested in having a
J: Where were some of the places that you played, that you performed?
R: You mean in college?
J: Yes, when you were in college.
R: Well, the first band I ever played with in college was led by an SAE named J.J.
McCranie. We played for all the college dances, and for the fraternities who
used to have dances. They had spring frolics and fall frolics and the military ball
and things. We used to play for them. During the Christmas holidays, we
would play ten days out of the fourteen most likely in various parts of the state.
Bauzie Currie was the leader, and he graduated with a law degree. He just died
a couple of years ago down in West Palm Beach. He was a small claims court
judge there for a long time. He graduated in February of 1932, and that is when
I took over the band. I actually had that band for the rest of my college career.
I got my law degree in 1935, and some of the old members of the band came up
and prevailed upon me to go back to playing. So I did. I was not making much
money as a lawyer, as a young kid out of law school with no experience. The
first thing you know I am back there in the music business.
J: So when did you first enter college?
J: As an undergraduate?
R: In the fall of 1928, the same year that Dr. Tigert became president. [John James
Tigert, President, University of Florida (1928-1947)]
J: Were there any visible effects of Dr. Tigert coming into the administration?
Different classes, more money, less money?
R: It was a long time ago. I was a pretty good friend of his, incidentally. He
prevailed on me one Christmas. One year they had a chance to go on the
National Farming Home Hour, which was a nationally broadcast radio program
out of Chicago. They were going to do it on our campus in the same auditorium
that is there now, on the same stage. He asked me if I could get my band back
together to come to school a week early so we could play for the program. We
did, and he never did forget that.
J: I bet he didn't.
R: He always would remind me of that when I would see him. I do not know if there
were any changes. I know it was inexpensive to go to school then. As far as
present dollars are concerned, I think it cost seventy-five dollars or something
like that. Seventy-five dollars for tuition. What is tuition now?
J: Well, I just paid four hundred and sixty-eight dollars for nine hours.
R: Well, they did not base it on hours then. It was just for coming to school.
J: As I recall, the law college cost twenty dollars a semester for tuition, and if you
went to undergraduate school and you were a resident, there was no fee for
tuition. That was free.
R: You may be right.
J: But there were other costs, for example, room and board.
R: Yes. I am not talking about that, but you might be right about that. I do not
know about that seventy-five dollars. I better retract that. When I was in
school, I was there during the Depression. I was flat... I hate to remind myself of
those days. It was tough.
J: Where did you live during your undergraduate schooling?
R: I lived at home. We did not have cars then. We did not have apartments like
the kids do now. We were damn glad to live at home.
J: Now I hear the bicycle was the Mercedes Benz of campus.
R: Yes, well, at one time, because of having a band, I think I had two cars. One of
them I paid two hundred dollars for. You have to have transportation of some
sort. For food there was Ma Ramsey's where the old Hardees used to be. I
mean Hardees that they just closed up about a year ago. That used to be Ma
Ramsey's. It was one of the popular spots in Gainesville for eating. There was
another one, but Ma Ramsey's was the best-known of the places, and I do not
think they had the same cafeteria they had when I was there. It might be part of
it but we used to play broadcasts from there so the kids got food for three. Of
course, I could eat at home, but I would go out there and play anyway just to fill
out the sax section.
J: Would you play for law school dances too?
R: I do not remember any law school dances, but we played for all the fraternity
affairs. You know, it was not coed then either. We played, for instance, say for
spring frolics. They would have some big band as a main attraction, but they
would have other dances during the weeks. Starting on Friday, from ten to
twelve, from twelve to two, and from two to four. We would play a lot of those.
We would grab up our instruments and run from one fraternity house to the other
and set up to play.
J: Where were the fraternity houses at that time?
R: Well, the Pike house was on the corner where Holiday Inn is, and just east of that
was the SPE house. And the KA house was west of those about a block or so.
Wait a minute. Was it the other way? Yes, that it right. There is a parking lot
there now. We used to live on the avenue and across the street on the corner
was the Chi Phi house. I do not remember where the SAE house was.
J: Was it in that same vicinity or further to the west?
R: I do not think so, no.
J: Were there any on campus?
R: No. There were no fraternity houses on campus. They did not have a fraternity
J: You say that emphatically. Was there a reason for not having fraternity houses
on campus at that time?
R: Well, I do not think the school was big enough then in those days.
J: Did it not own enough property?
R: Oh, in my fraternity house, I am a TEP, Tau Epsilon Phi. It is the Security
Building now. There is the Great American Bank across the street. Do you
know which one that is? You know where Bill Donnegan's is?
J: You will have to tell me a street.
R: It is between Tenth and Eleventh streets. The Security Building. Well, that was
my old fraternity house. Before that, it was on Ninth Street which is now
Thirteenth Street. From there we went to the one on, University Avenue in the
Security Building. It stayed there until fraternity row was built.
J: What kind of buildings were those?
R: Well, the Security Building was built primarily from a rooming house. The layout
was as you walked in, there was the court, and then there was a dining room, but
on the left and right side of each was a room.
J: So they were wood buildings?
R: The Security Building was brick. Some of them were wood and some of them
were just rented homes for fraternity houses. They did not have the money to
build. The first big fraternity house that was built here was the Sigma Nu house.
What is that called now? It is right across as you go to the football game, if you
are on University Avenue and you turn left, it is right over there on the other side
of the street.
J: Sounds like that is next to the Foundation, or maybe that is the Foundation
R: It could be, yes. Well, that was the first big fraternity house that was built on the
campus. Man, everybody thought that was out of sight. Brick, you know.
J: And that was built in the 1930s?
R: It was. I do not remember what year, but it was the first big fraternity house and
the one that is now the D.U. house?
J: No, I do not know that.
R: Well, that is east of what I am telling you. Right beyond Haagen Dazs, that was
the Sigma Chi house. It is the D.U. house now. Delta Upsilon.
J: They do not keep their own homes, do they? They are always moving around.
R: That is right.
J: So you began your college career in 1928. What was your concentration in
classes at that time?
R: You want me to be truthful?
R: None. I was just going to school to have a good time. I was a young kid. I
was seventeen years old and flighty. I was interested in gals and all that kind of
J: So what was social life on campus like?
R: It was great. From what I am telling you about these weekends, the spring
frolics, fall frolics, military balls and all that kind of stuff. It was great, a great
social life. Of course, there was a steady stream of cars on weekends going to
Tallahassee, which Florida State College for Women in those days.
J: Did you fly up there much yourself?
R: Fly? Who could afford to fly? First of all they did not have plane service
between Gainesville. They had no commercial service between Gainesville and
anyplace. We had a railroad train that went down the middle of Main Street.
J: Was there any other transportation, public transportation besides that?
R: I guess there must have been buses. But there were not any commercial
airplanes at all.
J: So how often would you drive up there to see the gals?
R: Oh, maybe once a month. Remember now, I was busy playing dances, and if it
happened to be some time like a weekend and we did not have anything to do, a
bunch of us would just get up and go and spend a weekend.
J: Is that how you put yourself through school?
J: And law school, too?
J: Did you have any other jobs in addition to that?
R: No, that was enough.
J: How many hours a week would you say you spent working, on an average?
R: You mean, at what? At the music?
J: The music.
R: Eight or nine. Well, also, my orchestra was the studio band at WRUF, and we
played there three afternoons a week, thirty minutes apiece and got the
magnificent sum of twelve dollars and fifty cents a month.
J: And that was to split between you all?
R: No, twelve-fifty a person, for three times a week, twelve performances. How
much is that? A dollar a time. A little over a dollar.
J: That is a thirty minute a -
R: But remember what twelve-fifty would buy then. You could rent a room for ten
dollars a month.
J: How much could you live on food for?
R: I was just getting ready to tell you. Ma Ramsey most likely charged twenty-five
or thirty cents a meal.
J: And what kind of meal are we talking about?
R: Well, it was home style, you know. You did not get steaks all the time or
anything, but you could sure live on it, and twelve-fifty was a lot of money then.
If you could get your room rent out of that and have a couple bucks for laundry or
whatever, that was a lot of money.
J: Were there laundries, businesses, that would take care of your clothing, or did
you have machines available to wash your own.
R: I do not believe there were the machines in those days. I do not even think they
had invented them yet.
J: I do not think so either. So how did you have your laundry done?
R: Well, they would have some black woman do it most likely, but my mother took
care of mine at home.
J: So you would rush it back to the house once a week and...
R: No, I lived at home.
J: Oh, that is right.
R: Yes, I lived at home. I did not have to rush back at all. I was already there, and
even with all the hard times, we managed somehow.
J: Did you see a large attrition rate of college students and law students because of
R: No. Well, first of all, they did not come to begin with. I mean, it was a
comparatively low enrollment because many could not afford it even with the low
tuition and all.
J: When did you graduate with your undergraduate degree?
R: I did not get an undergraduate degree. It was not required then. Then I went
on to law school and graduated in the summer of 1935.
J: You had a three-year program in law school?
R: We only had to go two years of undergraduate work.
J: It was not an academic program?
R: You did not have to have a four-year degree then.
J: The four-year academic degree requirement came in 1933, so you got in just
under the gun.
R: You are telling me something I do not remember. Is that when it came in?
J: Yes, were you aware of that in the legislation?
R: No. Also in those days, you did not have to take the bar exam either.
Graduates from the University of Florida were automatically admitted to the bar.
J: Did you know many people in the law school that began and then after a year
and a half or two years, went ahead, took the bar exam up in Tallahassee,
passed it, and did not go back.
R: I know one but I cannot think of his name. He was one of two brothers who lived
in Dade City. One of them went up there, took the exam and passed it, and he
did not come back.
J: Parks Carmichael was one of those. [P. M. Carmichael, University of Florida,
College of Law, J.D. 1931]
R: Did Parks do that too?
J: Yes, but he came back, too.
R: Oh, did he?
R: Parks was ahead of me by a year or so.
J: That is right. And Sam Getzen was another one of those. [Samuel W. Getzen,
Florida House of Representatives, 1923-1931, speaker pro-tempore 1927,
speaker 1929; 1935-1937; Florida Senate, 1931-1935] Of course he was about
five years before you.
R: He was quite a bit before me. I remember the name. I have heard the name.
I wish I could remember the name of this lawyer from Dade City. I think his
brother became a judge.
J: Both of them were in law school at this time?
R: Yes. Both of them. The younger one is the one that took the bar and passed it.
He dropped out.
J: And he practiced in Dade City?
R: If he is still living, I guess he still is. I do not know. I cannot think of his name.
J: You graduated in 1935 then, and what type of degree was it?
R: LL.B. Oh, no. I did not graduate in 1932. I told you I graduated in 1932, but I
did not because we did not have to have an undergraduate degree to get into law
J: So you began in 1928 and you actually went straight through?
R: No, I dropped out a couple of times. Hell, I got so far behind. I remember once
in my school work, it was either drop out or bust out. It is tough when you are
playing dances every weekend. Even in the middle of the week we would play,
and come home, go upstairs, wash your face and brush your teeth, and go to
class, I was not an 'A' scholar to start with. I could have been better if I had
applied myself but...
J: So would you say you dropped out for a period of a year at one time?
R: I think I dropped out twice. Each time I dropped out, I went right back next time.
J: So you want be out for a semester and then return?
R: No. I remember one time I dropped out right before exams. I said, "This is
hopeless." So then when exams were over and the next sememster--it was
semesters then--started, then I went back. And I rationalized. I said, "Well, I
am putting myself through college and it is going to take me a little longer to do it.
That is all." But I was determined to get my degree.
J: So what we are looking at, if you started in 1928 and went for about two years
and then began in your law work...
R: Yes. I graduated law school in August of 1935. Then I went to Atlanta,
Georgia, but I did not pass the bar up there. There was a lawyer in town named
Zack Douglas that wanted me to come to work for him, so I came back to
Gainesville. He was a big criminal lawyer then. He and Sigsby Scruggs were
the two leading criminal lawyers in Gainesville. [S. L. Scruggs, University of
Florida, College of Law, J.D., 1922] He just died last year. And incidentally
was Carmichael's partner. So I went to work for him, and the next thing I knew I
was out. So I went down to Miami and practiced there for a while, and then I got
into World War II. I left Miami and came back home waiting. I did not wait to be
drafted. I just went on in, and I got out in 1945. I wanted to get married, so I
did not go back to practicing law. That was the time we owned the theatre and
my mother offered me a good proposition, so I took that and got married in 1946.
J: How much dating did you do in law school?
R: Not too much. I did not have much time really.
J: How far south and north in the state would you travel on these music excursions?
R: We played Miami, Jacksonville, Daytona, and one time we played Pensacola. It
had something to do with the naval station.
J: And how many law students did you say were involved in this band?
R: Oh, I did not say. I was playing for Banzai Currie. He was a law student, and
when he graduated remember I told you February 1932 I took over the band.
The trombone player was an ATO, one of the trumpet players was a Pike, one
of the saxophone players was a Pike, I was a TEP, Banzai was a Sigma Chi, and
the drummer was a Chi Phi.
J: Sounds like your recruits for the band came from the college, not from the town.
R: Oh, it was a college band. It was not a town band at all. Everybody went to the
university. In fact, that is how most of them got through college.
J: Were there any times when you had to quit school to go earn some money and
work full time?
R: No. I can tell you how tough it was though. I remember, my father had gone
bankrupt back when the Depression was at its height. I had saved up four
hundred dollars from playing. I had a lot of money. Do you know where, there
is a Greek restaurant or something on the avenue? It is right on the corner. Do
you know where that is?
J: I do.
R: Well, my family lived right next door to that. That is where our house was. I
loaned my father $400 so we could buy it, and my mother ran it. She would get
up at four o'clock in the morning and fix breakfast for kids going to school and
everything. The Theta Chi house, incidentally, was directly across the street, so
a lot of them would eat breakfast there. She would make sandwiches and wrap
them in wax paper. At night I would run out to the dormitory, knocking on doors
about eleven o'clock at night selling sandwiches, pickle and sandwiches. Just
anything you could do to try to make a dollar to survive.
J: Did your family run a boarding house there, too?
R: My mother did that later. She fed the TEP fraternity. It was funny. Some of
them could not afford to eat there because it cost fifty cents a meal, and then
could not afford the fifty cents. But that helped us too because my mother did
that, and my father was out selling shoes or doing whatever he could do to make
J: Was that a rooming house where other people went?
R: We had a couple of extra rooms upstairs at our house on the avenue that we
would rent out to roomers.
J: Three or four people would stay there at one time?
R: We had two rooms that we rented out. Yes, about three. One of them had two
beds, for two people, and the other one was a single.
J: How long did you own that home?
R: Twenty-five or twenty-six years.
J: That is a long time.
R: Then, the theatre people bought it with the idea of putting up a theatre, but things
happened and it never came to pass. I think that the monopoly came up that
was trying to squeeze everybody out. They had no competition, so they did not
J: What other investments did your family make during the 1930s?
R: Well, we owned that home there and we owned some property out towards
Hawthorne on Newnan's Lake Road. In the real estate boom back in 1925 like
everybody else, it got stuck on them. And we owned those, we inherited those,
and we did not sell them until about four or five years ago.
J: You inherited them?
R: Yes. They had been ours since 1925. We just paid taxes on them. In fact,
one or two of them, I did not even know where they were.
J: So for the most part, the investment your family made...
R: That was home.
J: But you were unable to take advantage of any of the foreclosures in the area?
R: We did not have any money.
J: Let's talk a little bit about the tuition that you paid in law school. Do you
remember paying that? Did you pay it in a check or cash, or who did you pay it
R: No. I sure do not remember.
J: Do you remember paying it?
R: Well, I would have to say that I am sure I did not go free.
J: There were some people that...
R: The amount of twenty dollars rings a bell with me somewhere along the way.
J: There were some work study programs available to a few law students. They
actually never paid tuition. They worked off that amount. I was wondering if
you had that arrangement.
R: No, I did not. I was making some money. If I could save up four hundred
dollars, I felt like a millionaire.
J: People were making fifty bucks a month at that time.
R: That is true.
J: Who were some of your law student friends, the people that you attended class
with and that you knew intimately?
R: Well, I knew most everybody on a first name basis. But as far as being real, real
close to somebody, Vaden McCall was as close a friend as I had. His father
was the Baptist minister at a church on University Avenue, the Baptist Church.
He and I were very close.
J: How do you spell his first name?
J: What were some of the things that you did together?
R: Well, he was a saxophone player, and he was in my high school band. We had
played in that together and that is how we got to be so close. He died of cancer
about ten years ago. He had moved to Miami and had lived there after his
mother died. He had come up from Miami every once in a while to see his
father. I think his father was ninety years old when he died, Dr. McCall.
J: Did he continue as a musician or did he take up the practice of law?
R: No, no. He went into the stock market. He was something like a broker of
stock. Not estates. What are these plans that they have for buying stocks?
J: Mutual funds?
R: Mutual. That is it. You hit it. Mutual funds. That is what he was doing in
J: And that was in the 1930s, after he graduated?
R: No. Well, it was sometime after we graduated, but I cannot remember how long
it was since he moved down there. He was down there in Miami quite a while.
The rest of the people I knew because I had a band. Everybody knew me. We
did not have a big enrollment, and everybody on campus knew me because of
the band, and I knew all the politicians back in those days.
J: Were those politicians that would come through town and campaign on campus?
R: I am talking about school politicians.
J: Who were some of those school politicians?
R: Will Fairbanks was one of them. One guy is still living but he is in extremely bad
health. He lives in Irvine, Florida.
J: I know where that is.
R: He was a big politician on campus. I cannot think of his name.
J: Did either one of those fellows go on to state politics?
R: No. Will Fairbanks died not too long after he got out of school. [Will Fairbanks,
3L, University of Florida, 1934] The one in Irvine is in very bad health. Those
two never ran for office, but they were the ones that manipulated behind the
J: They were the operators?
R: That is what they were. That is right. They were the type, the operating type.
And I knew, what is his name, the legislator, Bennett from Jacksonville?
[Charles E. Bennett, Florida House of Representatives, 1941] I was not very
close to him. He was president of the student body, but I did know him and he
knew me. I knew a lot of the football players.
J: What kind of political club did the law school have on campus at that time?
R: I think they still had the two. What are the two honorary clubs? Alpha Delta
something, and what is the other one? The one that is more prestigious? Not
political clubs. They were honorary.
J: Those were academic honor clubs. They had two of those. But I am wondering
about any political...
R: Political? I cannot remember any. We had something in those days they do
not have anymore. Some of the guys would put out scandal sheets.
J: Scandal sheets? Tell me about a scandal sheet.
R: Well, they were bringing out a lot of things. This is political. They had put them
in all the doorways of the fraternities and in the dormitories. You would wake up
one morning, and it really was humorous because they were so damn dirty.
Dirty politics is what it was.
J: Well, what kind of politics? Tell me about it.
R: They were knocking some of the other candidates and revealing things about
them, and so on and so forth, that you would not do in a newspaper because of
J: So they were operating their own little night press putting out this...
R: That is what it was, yes, exactly right. In fact, the rumor was that Will Fairbanks
had a lot to do with some of it but you never could prove it.
J: Yes. That is always the problem. Was there any campus housing for the law
students that was specifically targeted for them?
J: Where did most of those law students and your friends live? On campus, off
R: I think most of them lived off campus. I recall we did not have many dormitories
in those days either, only Thomas Hall and Buckman Hall. Do you know where
the law school used to be?
J: Bryan Hall?
R: That is not the one I am talking about. Do you know when you are coming
toward the university on the corner of Thirteenth Street and University Avenue?
R: This brick thing says University of Florida on there? Well, that used to be a
J: Yes. A little curved road.
R: You went straight, and it was the first building over on the left. That was the law
J: Well, that is Bryan Hall.
R: Is that what they call it?
R: It is Bryan Hall now?
J: What was it called then?
R: The Law School as far as I know.
J: They initiated that building as Bryan Hall when they put the addition on in 1948.
R: Well, this was before the addition.
J: And it was just called the law building?
R: As far as I can remember.
J: What was the condition of the building?
R: It was old.
R: No. I would not say it was crumbling, but it was an old building.
J: How crowded were the classrooms?
R: Not very crowded.
J: How many people would you have in your classes?
R: Twenty-five or thirty maybe.
J: How long were those classes?
R: One hour.
J: Would you have a bell that would indicate the beginning of the class and the end
of the class?
R: I do not think so. There could have been, but that escapes me. I think they
would just look at their watch or something.
J: What was the condition of the library in terms of the number of books and the
facilities for studying there?
R: Well, it was small really. The library was small. In fact, a lot of times you had to
use the libraries of the lawyers downtown if you needed some other information
you could not get from our library. They just did not have much.
J: Would any of the instructors suggest that you go down to these town lawyers?
R: I do not recall that, no.
J: How do you remember getting that information? Is that what different law
students would do?
R: It was common practice but I cannot recall somebody specifically saying, "I am
going downtown to a certain law library to look up something." Incidentally, that
worked the other way around too. Some of the local lawyers used to come out
there to brief cases you know.
J: Who was the librarian when you were there?
R: Mrs. Ila Pridgen. [lla Rountree Pridgen, University of Florida, College of Law,
Librarian and Executive Secretary, 1930-1954]
J: What did you think of Ila?
R: Oh, she was a wonderful person. Everybody liked her. She was the secretary
of the dean. And for all intents and purposes, she ran the law school.
Everybody liked her. She died not too long ago. She had been there for many
years, she decided there was not any reason why she should not get a law
degree, so she went ahead and took one course a semester. Incidentally, I
think she made straight 'A's. She lived over in Melrose after she retired, and she
died a few years ago. I do not remember exactly how many, but she was a
J: Do you remember any of her assistants?
R: No. I do not even know if she had any.
J: As you walked up to check our your books, do you remember any law students
standing behind the counter to check out your book or shelving books back
J: How would you check out a book from Ila?
R: Well, she was not a librarian.
J: She was not the librarian?
R: She was a secretary to the dean, but she did all the work. I would like to say,
we always considered her as running the law school.
J: I was under the impression that she has always been named as a librarian in the
R: Maybe so, bit if so, it was after my time and I do not recall that.
J: Well, who did run the library?
R: I do not remember. I honestly do not. It might have been Miss Pridgen, but I
just do not remember that.
J: Do you remember checking out books there?
J: Do you remember studying there?
R: Once in a while.
J: Where would you generally study?
R: They studying I did was home. I had my own room, and of course, I had a
phone there in my room, and it rang so darned much. People called me from
various parts to book the band. So I had to have a private phone.
J: Where would you practice in the band?
R: Where did we practice? Well, after we were the studio band, we used to
rehearse out at WRUF.
J: When did you begin at WRUF?
R: I started with J.J. McCranie in the fall of 1928. I cannot remember the guy's
name, but he had one leg. He was the head of it. The next year Garland
Powell became the head, and he stayed until he died. [Garland Wheeler Powell,
director, WRUF] There were some very well known announcers that came out
of there too.
J: So it sounds like you were practicing over at their studio about the time you
R: Yes. Well, when I was with J.J., we practiced at SAE. I imagine we rehearsed
sometimes in the SAE house, and when I was with Bauzie, we most likely
rehearsed at the Sigma Chi house. But when I took over the band, we
rehearsed at the studio at WRUF.
J: Let me ask you a little bit about the instructors on campus. What do you
remember about Dean Trusler. [Harry R. Trusler, dean, University of Florida
College of Law, (1915-1947), professor, (1909-1947)]
R: I think I told you that on the phone. You reminded me about that shuffling of the
feet. I had forgotten about that, and he loved it. He loved it.
J: He did not have a problem with it?
R: Oh, he just would grin from ear to ear. He loved the shuffling of the feet. He
loved it. And I told you about when we came in late sometimes and were hungry
and wanted breakfast. He would lecture with his eyes closed so we sat in the
back and would open the swinging doors and sneak out and go across the street
to the Black Cat. It was owned by PeeWee Keezel and Bud Mizell. PeeWee
Keezel was a cheerleader at the University of Florida, and we would run over
there and have breakfast and come back. He was the kind of person who would
not know you were gone.
J: He would not know you were gone. What did he do when you started shuffling?
What would he actually do?
R: He just smiled. He would smile like this is great.
J: How long would you keep it up?
R: This was when he first walked into class. When he walked in those two
swinging doors, we would shuffle our feet for fifteen or twenty seconds, and he
J: Now I have heard stories that if he went over the hour and some of the fellows
out there had watches, they would start shuffling then too.
R: That is right. They let him know time was up.
J: And would they keep shuffling until he quit?
R: No. I hear he would quit because he got the message. That was the reason
they were shuffling the feet because he did not look at his watch either. He was
up there lecturing with his eyes closed, and they just reminded him that time was
J: Now are you going to try to convince me that he had his eyes closed the entire
R: Oh, I would not say the entire time but you could tell. You could look up there.
It was in the moot courtroom. The courtroom was where we had most of our
classes. We had some in other places, but the ones Trusler had were in there
and you could tell when his eyes were closed. When he had closed his eyes,
out you went.
J: That is the best. I have heard that there were no screens on the windows at that
R: I do not remember that.
J: Do you remember flies coming in or having to deal with bugs in the classroom?
R: No, not really.
J: What about the heat in there? Did you notice it?
R: We did not have air conditioning. I do not think that air conditioning, they did not
have it then. I do not know how. You do not know what you are missing if you
have never had the experience of it. You could not say, "Boy, I wish we had air
conditioning in here," because there was not any such animal. So, I guess you
did the best you could.
J: Were most of the classes in the morning?
R: They were in the mornings, yes.
J: Were there any in the afternoon that you remember?
R: There could have been. Yes, at one o'clock or two o'clock, possibly. Yes, there
were. Oh, I remember an interesting thing I never told you about. During my
freshman year in college, in those days, they had what they called a compulsory
chapel. At eight o'clock in the morning all freshmen were required to be at
chapel in the auditorium. They also had a school rat court. You had these little
beanies that you had to wear the first semester, and there were certain paths on
the campus where you were not allowed to walk. If you got caught for either that
or not wearing your cap, then you were reported, and you came before the rat
court and they beat the hell out of you.
R: Yes, with paddles.
J: I heard at the end of the freshman year all those fellows had to take a green flag
or climb up a pole to take something away from the sophomores?
R: It could have been. That sounds logical. You are reminding me of some things
that I had long forgotten.
J: And if they did not get it from the sophomores, they have to wear those beanies
R: That is right. That is exactly right. I remember that.
J: I bet you were wild in some of those. Do you remember participating in any of
R: I was a lover-type. I did not go in for that.
J: You look like it.
R: No, I did not go in for that kind of stuff.
J: Tell me a little bit about Judge Cockrell. [Robert Spratt Cockrell, professor,
University of Florida College of Law, (1919-1941)]
R: Oh, Judge, he is the only member of the Supreme Court of Florida who, when he
ran for re-election, was defeated.
J: Why was he defeated?
R: I do not know. I do not remember.
J: Is that why he came to the University of Florida?
R: I have got a feeling that was it. He and I were friends because he lived across
the street from me. He always used to tell us, that he put up with my practicing
saxophone all during my youthful days. Do you know where Balloonacy is now?
Well, there was a home there at that time, and that is where Judge Cockrell
lived. He always used to kid me about putting up with my practicing saxophone
when I was growing up. He and I were friends. I recall one incident. A lot of
times in those days we used canned briefs. Do you know what a canned brief
J: Tell me.
R: That is a synopsis of the case which gave you the gist of the ruling so you did not
have to read pages and pages. I remember one time, I got up, and I was
reading from a canned brief and he said to me, "Rabbit, you have to do better
than that." I said, "Judge, that is the only thing I have. I will try to get a better
canned brief next time." He was idiosyncratic. If he ever got down on you, Lord
J: He was a bad fellow to have on the wrong side of you.
R: Joe Pinkoson was in law school. [Joe Pinkoson, 3L, University of Florida
College of Law (1934-1935)] He was a very smart young man from St.
Augustine. Judge Cockrell caught him reading a newspaper in the back of the
room, and Joe could never pass his course again.
J: Is that right?
R: He always failed him, and Joe was smart. He was not just an average student.
He was way above average. And if you wanted to look at his test papers after,
he could never find it. I guess he destroyed them. But if he got down you, it
was just too bad.
J: How did Joe get by him finally?
R: I do not remember exactly, but I do know that it would be possible to graduate
without having any of his subjects. There were a few subjects that were
compulsory, like common law, and Florida civil practice, and a Icouple others that
I remember. The most dreaded course of all was the old English course,
common law. Common law procedure, I think that was the name of it. It was
tough. And if you made a 'C' in that, man, that was like an 'A' in something else.
It was a tough course. In fact, it was so darn hard that later on they did away
with that course.
J: Well, that was the toughest course. That was the one people beefed about the
R: That is right. Everybody.
J: What was the most popular?
R: I got a 'C' in the darn thing and I was happy as a lark.
J: Well, what was a 'C' grade at that time? In numbers.
R: Numerically, I do not remember that. I imagine it was roughly the same as it is
now. Had somebody else told you about this course?
R: Well, it was a toughie. I think it was.
J: Who taught this?
R: Common law something.
J: There was common law pleading and common law.
R: Common law pleadings I think was the name of the course. It was awful. It
was based on old English law, very dry. It was a tough course. I would listen, I
cannot think of his name now, but there was a student from Fernandina. He
took the course four times and busted it every time, but they let him graduate
anyway because he was sincere. It was not that he was goofing off.
J: Was there anybody that took the course only once and passed it?
R: Oh, sure. There was some others, sure. But the one I am telling you about in
Fernandina, later went on to become a circuit judge, over in Fernandina Beach.
But that is how tough the doggone course was, and they let him graduate
anyway because of the fact that they knew he was not goofing off. He really
studied for it.
J: What was his name?
R: I cannot think of it. He was a circuit judge over there.
J: He was from Fernandina and went back and became a circuit judge there?
R: Yes, eventually. Yes. What the heck is his name? I do not remember. See,
at my age you do not remember as well as you used to twenty years ago.
J: Lots of things I do not remember. I am not even thirty. How approachable was
the judge in class about answering your questions and the like?
R: Judge Cockrell? He was all right. He did not teach you a hell of a lot though.
J: Was he more theoretical or practical?
R: No, he was practical. One of his favorite questions was listen to this now, this
was in criminal law. One of his favorite questions when he would assess the
court, the class, was "Can you get gonorrhea from a toilet seat?" And the
answer was, "Yes, but that is a hell of a place to take a girl." That was Judge
Cockrell for you.
J: Was he really nasty?
R: Not really. He was just old.
J: Did he intimidate people?
R: No, but the one of them did. TeSelle, Clarence TeSelle. [Clarence John
TeSelle, professor, University of Florida College of Law (1928-1930, 1932-1958)]
J: How did he intimidate folks?
R: Well, he had get you up there, and no matter what you said, he would ask you
questions. The first thing you know, he has you so confused that he is making
you change your answer. He taught bankruptcy and courses like that. He had
come down from Wisconsin. I think he had been a state's attorney up there at
one time and he intimidated the hell out of us. And I made up my mind I was not
ever going to let him make me change my mind. I remember one time he was
asking me questions and I said, "Mr. TeSelle, you might be right, but I am
sticking by my answer regardless of what you say," and he just laughed like hell.
I just was not going to let him get me in that rat race of making me change my
mind. But I would say he was a good professor.
J: Was he approachable outside of class?
R: Oh sure.
J: Were all of them? Was Mr. Cockrell?
R: Oh, you could talk to Judge Cockrell. Some of them were introverts and some
of them were extroverts. You know, TeSelle was an extrovert...and some of
them were introverted. We had others. Jimmy Day, [James Westbay Day,
professor, University of Florida College of Law (1930-1961)] who was an
introvert, and Crandall [Clifford W. Crandall, professor, University of Florida
College of Law (1914-1938)] and Thompson [George Washington Thompson,
professor, University of Florida College of Law (1928-1932)]. Thompson taught
J: Was that George Washington Thompson?
R: He was the author of the book, Thompson on Contracts at that time.
J: Did he also write the Trial of Jesus?
R: I do not know that. But he was a nice man, and all you had to do to pass his
course was study the old exam questions. That is all. He was an old man
himself. Slagle taught constitutional law and a few other courses like that.
[Dean Slagle, professor, University of Florida College of Law (1923-1928,
1929-1958)] I am trying to decide if I have left out anybody.TeSelle, Slagle,
Crandall. Sloane was not there when I was there.
J: Was Simonds? [Stanley Simonds, professor, University of Florida College of
Law (1926-1928, 1930-1932)]
R: Simonds? I have never heard of him. Let me go down the list. Trusler.
Jimmy Day. Clarence TeSelle, Dean Slagle, Judge Crandall. That is five of
them. I do not know who... You write a list of them there.
R: Thompson, yes. That is six.
J: There was another fellow.
R: Huber Hurst? [Hubert Christian Hurst, professor of Business Law and
Economics, University of Florida College of Law (1935-1936)] We were both
members of the Steve Spurrier health club across town, and we got to know each
other fairly well then.
J: Do you remember him teaching at the law school?
R: No. See, if you said 1935, that was after I left.
J: Now you graduated in August.
R: August of 1935. Being retired, I do not have any place to go particularly except
go to the health club.
J: Well, describe those ceremonies for me when you graduated from law school.
R: It was not anything. It was right in that same practice courtroom. That was it.
It was simple.
J: It was not with the rest of the school?
R: No. No, it was not.
J: That is interesting. Did they hood you?
J: Did you have a robe?
R: I do not remember having robes. We would just go up there in a suit and,
incidentally, we thought we were the best on campus. We wore ties and coats
to classes because we figured we were so far ahead, above the rest of the
student body. It was a practice to wear ties and coats to class.
J: Is this everyday?
R: Yes, as I recall.
J: And was this more of a tradition or was it more of a...
R: No, tradition only. You did not have to, and some of them came without them,
but the tradition was to wear the tie and coat.
J: That is fascinating. And you had the tradition of shuffling.
J: Now did you do that to all the professors?
R: No. Some of them would not put up with it. TeSelle would not put up with it a
J: What would he do?
R: I do not know. But he was very outspoken.
J: He would call you down.
R: Oh, I am sure he would.
J: What about Crandall?
R: Crandall was the jolly type. He was a big man. I guess he weighed two-forty or
two-fifty, something like that. He had a goatee. That was a novelty in those
days, to have a goatee, and he was the jolliest green giant type of guy. He
always seemed happy-go-lucky. Nice, nice guy.
J: What courses did he teach?
R: He had that broad civil practice, that big book thing. That is the one I really
J: Now I have heard stories about his wife pulling up in an automobile outside the
law college, honking her horn, and the students would start shuffling their feet at
him in class. Have you heard anything like that?
R: No, but that could be so, because most families did not have two cars in those
J: Do you recall where he lived in town?
R: No. No, I do not. I can tell you another story about TeSelle.
J: Yes, go ahead.
R: I was going to say the only one that I knew was Judge Cockrell. I told you
where he used to live. TeSelle lived near where I used to live, near the old
University of Florida golf course, on Newberry Road. He built a home in
Golfview subdivision. As you are going to Golfview you go around to the right.
There is a little circle and my home was about thirty-five yards from the ninth
green. I would turn right, but for TeSelle you turn left, and go up the hill just a
little bit, and over on the left was a home that he had built. He never took
possession of it. It ran over building costs, and he could not pay for it. Now
would you like to know how much the home cost? $17,500.
J: And this was in 1932?
R: Somewhere back in the Depression days.
J: That sounds like a lot of money to me even in the Depression.
R: Well, it is, it was. And it ran over the anticipated costs, and he had to give it up.
I will tell you who bought it. A lady named Mrs. Brown, who was quite prominent
on campus, a tall woman. Gosh, I cannot remember what she used to do, but
she bought the home, or at least she lived there. I would not say that she got it
because TeSelle could not pay for it but she eventually owned it. And later on,
the guy whose wife's family bought the Gainesville Sun lived there. They are
divorced, and they live in Lakeland, Florida now.
J: So, Mrs. Brown lived there for fifteen years?
R: I do not know how long she lived there, but if you will ask, somebody will
remember her name and what her connection was with the school. But that was
her name, Brown. She was a tall lady as I recall it. That is sort of funny to hear
a person cannot afford $17,500 for a home.
J: Where did he live? Where did he continue to live instead of moving out to the
R: Well, when I lived there at the Golfview, I was already married.
J: I see. When this happened, he was building a home after you were married.
R: No. I am just putting it together. I think this was before I moved to Golfview,
but I remember the incident, and what made me remember it was the fact
$17,500 was so much money then that he could not afford it.
J: How would TeSelle deal with people in class? Would raise their hands to ask a
R: He was rough. He was all right but he was rough. I am telling you.
J: How about outside of class?
R: He was okay. Very pleasant. He chewed a cigar.
J: He would not be calling you down then, would he?
R: No, he would not call you down. He was trying to confuse you, to see if you
were going to stick by your answer. He made a lot of them change their minds,
but he chewed on a cigar.
J: Would he chew on that cigar in class?
R: I believe he did but I am not absolutely certain about it. Of course it was not lit.
That was a, I would say a nervous habit.
J: Now we talked about the shuffling and wearing the suits. Were there any other
traditions so to speak, like selling books back or eating together?
R: Well, that was not a tradition. No eating together, nothing like that. On campus
they used to have a tradition called Key Day. All of the college professors would
wear the keys they had earned during their college days. I had a history
teacher. I cannot think of his name, but we were real close. He is the only
person I ever knew who turned down an invitation to join Phi Beta Kappa. He
did not believe in it. So, ironically on Key Day he brought a house key and put it
on a chain and wore it. He taught me history, and I am not kidding you, he was
a bachelor. He lived at home with his mother. Do not ask me anything
because right now I cannot think of it again. We used to go out and drink beer
together. It was not beer then. It was home brew. They had some of these
speakeasy things around and we would go out and drink home brew. He would
spend the night at my house, get up the next morning and go to teach the class.
Oh, gosh, I cannot think of his name. Go ahead. Maybe I will later.
J: Talking about these speakeasies, how popular were they with the law students?
R: Well, they were popular with everybody, with all the students. One of the
owners was Yank Roberts. He had a place out on the Newman's Lake Road
that sold home brew for twenty-five cents a glass or a bottle, and pretzels and all
that kind of stuff.
J: Would you say a majority of the law students were wheeling and dealing with
these guys and going to the speakeasies?
R: No, I would not say that. No.
J: Were all your classes in Bryan Hall or in the law school?
J: No other buildings?
J: Which professor have we not talked about? What was Dean Slagle like?
R: He had no personality. He was quiet, and not really personable at all. I have
nothing against him as far as his character was concerned, but he was a quiet
type with no personality. Jimmy Day was about the same way, quiet. We used
to call him Footnote Day because he would always have you refer to the
footnotes at the bottom of the cases.
J: What other nicknames of professors do you recall?
R: Well, we called Dean Slagle, Dean was his name, "Sloogy." That is what we
used to call him.
J: Did Cockrell have the name of "Judge?"
R: Yes. Everybody called him "Judge" because of his having been on the Supreme
J: And TeSelle?
R: I remember just calling him professor.
J: I guess he was the dangerous type to give a nickname to.
R: Well, I do not know about that but he, I will always remember him, the way he
conducted his classes. Boy, he would rip you up and down, and make you
change your mind about the answer you had given. I recall what I told you while
ago that he laughed when I told him I was not going to change my mind no
matter what he said. He laughed right there.
J: I am here in your hand.
R: And I am sticking by my guns.
J: That is so funny. Did Crandall go by any kind of nickname that was a law school
R: I do not think he did. His first name was Clifford, Clifford Crandall. I do not
think so. He was well-liked because he was so jolly and such a nice person.
J: Did he carry the same personality into class as he carried around outside of
R: Yes, yes. He was not laughing in the classroom, but you could tell from his
demeanor. He was okay.
J: Now did any of these professors have law practices out of town or outside jobs?
R: I do not think you were allowed to.
J: No moonlighting?
R: No. You were not permitted to.
J: What about coaching any of the football teams or any of the law school athletic
clubs? Did any of the professors participate in that?
R: No, but I can tell you one student, if I recall, was the head coach.
J: Head coach of what?
R: The football team. He was before my time. Sebring. Judge Harold Sebring.
He was a circuit judge here for years, and then he went down to St. Petersburg
and taught at the Stetson Law School. If I recall, he was a head football coach,
but it was before my time.
J: And now you are saying he was a law student too.
R: Yes, while he was going to law school.
J: That is how he made his living.
R: After he was graduated from law school, he went out to practice. The first thing
you know, he was circuit judge. He still has relatives of his wife who live here.
The Bishops. Wilber Bishop. He married Wilber Bishop's sister. I am not
sure. Of course, he is dead and I think she is too. Wilber Bishop is still alive
J: What kind of athletics or social clubs were you involved in?
R: I had the F club in those days, which was one. We played for them when they
put on the school dances the night after the football game. It was called the F
club. I do not even think they have that anymore.
J: I never heard of it before.
R: The F club. Yes. That is right.
J: How about athletics. Did you play softball, baseball, football...?
R: No. The only thing I ever played was volleyball for the fraternity.
J: Were there any law school baseball teams or football teams that competed
R: I am not sure but I do not believe football was an intramural sport. If it was, it
was a tag team type of thing. I cannot recall, so I better not say. But they had
the volleyball and they used to have boxing in those days and things like that.
Even today they win the president's cup or whatever it is, between fraternity
teams. They had two leagues. One league was with fraternities with x number
of members and the other league had less members. Two competing leagues.
J: What about the John Marshall Debating Society? Were you a part of that?
R: No. That was for the better students, shall we say.
J: Is that right?
R: I would think so.
J: What other clubs in the law school or societies do you recall offhand?
R: Well, I tried to think of the name of two of them, but I cannot think of any.
J: How about any journals that were published by the law school that were quarterly
R: I do not remember that either. Were there any?
J: I have not come across any.
R: No. I do not think there were any. I was going to say the Law Review, but that
certainly was not in my time.
J: No, that was about twelve years later. How many cars were on campus?
R: Not many. We did not have a parking problem. None. There was not any
question about finding a place to park. None at all.
J: I had to park across Archer Road and take the bus two days ago.
R: You did. On Archer Road?
J: Across Archer Road. On the other side of Archer Road.
R: I went to Sonny's the other day, and I noticed that the way it is coming down
Archer Road from the VA hospital. As far as you could see there were cars on
both sides, lined up.
J: I am going through the center of campus. Was there problems with bicycle
R: Nothing like it is today. No. Of course, there was some.
J: Did you have a bicycle? Of course you could walk, but I mean -
R: I think I must have because that is the way I went out to campus when I was
selling those sandwiches. I sure did not walk out there. I would put the basket
on the handle bars and ride out to what-you-call-it.
J: Do you remember buying that bicycle and how much you paid?
R: No. I will tell you another interesting thing that is history. You know where I
was telling you our store was? Next to that is a parking lot, and then there is
that building with Court Side Sports. Do you know where it is?
R: Well, all that parking lot used to be a house where Ray, Ray something, repaired
bicycles. It was a house. There was something wrong with him mentally. You
have never in your life seen the filth that was in that house. At one time he was
on the University of Florida tennis team. I reminded him of that one time and he
said, "You have got to be old or something." I said, "Well, look Ray, I remember
you were only" they finally put him in a mental institution. I think it was in
Tennessee. And if he is still living, I think that is where he is now. I went to
take my son's bicycle and have it repaired, and he charged fifty cents or some
ridiculously low thing.
J: Of course, that is the price of a meal too.
R: But, this is some years later now. There was not any Depression because I got
married in 1946. What the heck, Ray something. But that is interesting. The
condition of that house, if you ever walked in there, you just would not believe it.
J: I would not want to go in there.
R: It was awful. He was mentally disturbed.
J: Were you in ROTC?
R: Everybody was required the first two years.
J: Of undergraduate study?
R: Yes. I played in the band, incidentally.
J: How about that? How much would you practice?
R: In the band?
J: Yes, for the ROTC.
R: Well, what happened was when the ROTC was drilling, we were practicing.
That was our contribution.
J: About how many hours a week?
R: Maybe three hours, three times a week.
J: Did you receive any financial compensation for being in ROTC?
R: No, not that I recall. No. But the easy way out was being in the band. It was
not so disciplined.
J: Were there any law students in ROTC that would come to class in uniform?
R: I am sure there were, but I do not recall who it might be at the time. But for
advanced military, you got a title after you got out of the reserves.
J: Was it popular even though it was mandatory to be in ROTC?
R: It was not popular with me. I did it because I was forced to.
J: Were there any other people, a number of people, who felt the same way?
R: Oh, I am sure in any group of people, some are on one side and some are on the
J: There were not any petitions signed though or demonstrations against it?
R: No. See, this is a land grant college and that is why it was required. I do not
remember the year that they did away with that, but being a land grant college,
they were real quiet.
J: I did not realize that was part of the requirement for a land grant college.
R: At least I think it was, but there was something in the rules that required
compulsory military training, just like I was telling you about compulsory chapel.
J: Talking about the law college, were there times that you remember petitions
circulating because the students did not like a course, or they felt that too much
was expected of them?
J: Do you remember any demonstrations or controversies between professors or
between students and professors?
R: No. I was not in the upper hierarchy of the law school so if anything like that
went on, I did not know about it.
J: Did you have the occasion to see say, Trusler and Crandall or Cockrell and
Crandall communicate between each other, and know how they felt about each
R: Oh. I might have seen them talking in the halls or whatever but I had not idea.
I am not sure how popular Judge Cockrell was.
J: With the rest of the instructors?
R: Yes. I am not sure about that.
J: Do you remember his wife dying? She died about 1924.
R: No. I did not know about that. I think that was before he came to Gainesville.
He has a daughter who still lives here. Dee Cockrell West, whose husband at
one time was the librarian at the school library.
J: I did not know that.
R: Well, that might be of interest. Her name is West. And her daughter, now let
me make sure I am right now. Dee's daughter is married. Dee Cockrell West is
Judge Cockrell's daughter, and her daughter was married to Nath Doughtie, and I
think he is the county judge. [Nath C. Doughtie, Circuit Judge, Alachua County;
University of Florida, J.D. (1965)]
J: Did you have any such thing as drop-add?
J: You would sign up for a class, and if you did not want it, could you get rid of it?
R: No. I do not remember that at all.
J: Do you remember long lines anywhere on campus?
R: Not really.
J: To buy food?
R: Well, in law school, you could get your schedule out beforehand, so you did not
even have to go over there. Here is my schedule and that was it.
J: It was a one-time shot. After you picked up that schedule, what would you do
R: You knew you had to take fourteen hours or whatever it is, and you knew what
courses were compulsory, and so you just made out your schedule with a couple
of electives or whatever it was and that was it. There were not any drop-adds
that I recall, and there were not any long lines either. I do not remember what
the enrollment was in law school but it could not have been that big.
J: Three hundred people?
R: No. I do not think so. I do not think so at all.
J: Now this was the Depression. What were these people doing for jobs, the law
students? How many of them had jobs?
R: I am not sure about that, but I just do not think there were enough wealthy
students that they did not have some kind of extra things to do to help go to law
J: Who do you remember having the automobiles? There were only three or four
on campus, but do you remember catching rides with any of those people to go
R: No. I had my own car because I was in the music business.
J: That is right.
R: I cannot remember who had cars.
J: You had a car but you would not drive to campus, because it was just a walk
right across the road.
R: It was just a couple or three blocks to walk. I lived at 1034 West University
Avenue, and you know how far that is from campus.
J: Not enough to talk about.
J: Now you generally studied at home and a little bit over at the library.
R: Yes, not much at library. Mostly at home.
J: How many hours a week on an average?
R: I did not study too much, unfortunately. I used to cram for exams. I sat up all
night long studying and using old exams given before as a guide to what he
might ask you also. I recall they used to have sessions. Three or four of them
used to get together and study together and ask each other questions and so on
and so forth. I recall that.
J: Did you have time to get together with these folks and cram?
R: I went to some of them, yes.
J: Where would they meet?
R: In one of the guy's rooms, and they would go over the book on one thing.
J: Was it generally in a dorm then instead of in someone's house?
R: No, it was not in a dorm. I just do recall many of the law students living in
J: That is right.
R: We had some celebrities though in law school. Charlie Bennett is still a
Congressman, and there were two brothers from Jacksonville who were
members of very prestigious law firm. I am not sure, but I think one of them is
dead, maybe both by now. And Whitey Whiteside who was president of the
student body at one time and George Smathers. What year did George
Smathers graduate? [George C. Smathers, United States Senate, Florida
J: I would have to look that up. I cannot tell you.
R: Well, he was in law school but I am not sure whether he was in law school the
same time. I think he came a little bit after I did, but he was president of the
J: Was he active also in law school politics as well as being president of the student
R: Well, if he came after me, I do not recall it. See I do not remember if he was or
not. I think he was an SAE-er in school.
J: There is another fellow, Whitey?
R: Whitey Whiteside. He was a Delta Tau Delta.
J: Who was the other fellow that was president of the student body?
R: Charlie Bennett.
J: Was he involved in school politics as an undergraduate or during law school?
R: I do not remember. And I cannot tell you when he was president of the student
body, whether he was already in law school or not. But I think he was.
J: Was there an organization in the law school, a student political organization, that
once a year would rise up in unison and run for government?
R: The big politicians in law school ran the campus. They were very influential.
They were older than the seventeen and eighteen-year-old kinds that came to
school. Very influential in chafing politics. Oh, give you an example, the one
clique would be SAE, Pikes, and ATO, and they would see who went to Blue
Key. I think they still do that. But I am not saying it is the same fraternities or
whatever, but the idea is still the same. They were very influential, as far as
politics was concerned, in choosing who the candidates were.
J: To be a politician, you needed to be a frat member.
R: It was very important in those days. They put up the candidates, they would
say, to the ATO's, "You can put up president of the student body, but we want so
and so." Some things like that.
J: What about women on campus at that time?
R: We did not have any. Only in summer school. During summer school, then
women were allowed to attend.
J: Do you remember women in any of your law classes?
R: Yes, Ellen Knight who became Whitey Whiteside's wife later on. Ellen Knight, a
very nice girl. She was a Pi Phi from Tallahassee.
J: When do you recall her being there?
R: The years I was there. [Clara Floyd Gehan, University of Florida, College of
Law, J.D. (1933)]
J: Any other women?
R: Clara Floyd Gehan. You have her, I am sure. Do you have Ellen Knight?
J: I think I have run across the name once.
R: Well, she later became Whitey's wife. Whitey Whiteside.
J: Were they there only in summer school?
R: No, no. This was after women were allowed to come to law school.
J: Now women were first allowed in law school in 1925 according to our records.
We are looking for women that were there.
R: Well, I know that Clara Floyd Gehan was there, and Ellen Knight, because I used
to sit with her. I thought she was a very fine person and I liked her a lot. A lot
of times we used to sit in class together, her and me and Whitey and whoever...
J: Was that a general feeling amongst law students that you talked with, about
women in class or women at the law school? How would you guys feel about
R: I do not think there was any negative feelings involved.
J: And would the professors call on them any more or any less than the men?
R: No. They treated them just like anybody else.
J: Did they get pretty fair treatment?
R: Yes. I tried to think if there was anybody else who was in law school that I
knew. It was a little odd, incidentally, for girls to go to law school in those days.
J: It is today. I mean, they are still not in the majority.
R: Oh, is that right?
J: Well, they are not a majority in law school or even fifty per cent.
R: Well, it was a little odd then for a girl to want to go to law school.
J: Do you remember where they lived?
R: Well, Clara was from Hawthorne. That was her home base, and I have an idea
she just commuted from Hawthorne to come to school.
J: And Ellen Knight?
R: Gosh, I do not remember where her home town is. I think it was Miami. When
she graduated she went down there, and she and Whitey were married. Whitey
died a long time ago. I would say fifteen years ago anyway.
J: Well, what about the summer school sessions?
R: It was hot as blazes. There was not air conditioning. I went one summer
school that was so hot I dropped out. I could not stand it. I am a very warm
natured person anyway, and I could not stand it was so hot.
J: When were the classes held in those days?
R: In the mornings, but it was still awfully hot.
J: And how long were they?
R: The same. They were hour courses. Incidentally, I guess it is still the same. If
you have a three-hour course, you go three hours a week. Is it the same thing
J: Yes. How long would that run over a period of months?
R: Six weeks, I believe. Six or seven weeks.
J: And was that shorter? How much shorter was that than a regular semester?
R: Well, you started school in September and the first semester was out right after
Christmas, after New Year's. You would always go home for Christmas, and
then come back and study for exams. Three weeks later, you had exams.
J: That was a crazy arrangement.
R: Yes, that was one of the bad things.
J: Did you all feel it was crazy then?
R: Yes. It was not sensible. You went home and you had to come back, and then
three weeks later, you had your finals. Everybody wanted the finals to be before
Christmas, to be able to go home with a clear mind instead of having exams on
your mind when you come back.
J: You really did some cramming then.
R: Yes. That is right.
J: Were you able to register part-time if you wanted to at the law school?
R: I do not know because I never tried. I did not have any reason to. Wait a
minute, I think you were required to carry at least nine hours to be considered a
full-time student. I am not sure whether some of them were doing that or not.
J: Was that mandatory or did that involve you having a loan that you had to meet
that obligation of the loan by being registered for so many hours?
R: You mean the nine hours?
R: Well, that was the criterion of whether you were a full-time student or part-time.
If you took less than nine hours you were a part-time student. I am sure there
must have been some, Mrs. Pridgen for example, remember I told you she only
took one subject a semester, and she finally graduated.
J: Why did it make a difference if you were part-time or full-time though?
R: Well, I would think either they did not have the money or they had to go out and
work some to make the money to go part-time.
J: But it did not make any difference to the school whether you were part-time or
R: I do not think so. No, I do not think so.
J: Well, were there any loans available from the government after 1934 or 1935,
your last year there?
R: I do not know, so I cannot answer. I never borrowed any money to go to school.
The money I made during the summer playing and during the year playing for
dances. I always managed to pay my own tuition, buy my books, and things of
J: Where do you remember seeing law students working around town?
R: I do not know. I am just not sure whether they had interning. I know my son
interned when he went to law school, but I cannot remember that happening
back in my day. It could have been though. Incidentally, there were not that
many law firms in Gainesville at the time.
J: Well, that poses an interesting question. Do you sense that people would come
from Hawthorne or from Lake City to school in Gainesville, do their law degree,
and then stay here as opposed to going back?
J: Why do you think that was the case?
R: Well, either somebody offered him a job or they liked Gainesville or they liked the
university, the sports angle. They thought about things like that and thought,
this would be a good place to practice and raise a family.
J: Why did you stay?
R: It is my home.
J: That is important. What about books? We talked about that a little bit before.
Tell me a little bit about the cost of books at law school.
R: Well, I told you about the Florida Civil Practice book. That was $20.00. I think I
told you it was $40.00 before, but it was $20.00. That was a lot of money. That
was new. So if you could buy one for ten or eight dollars secondhand, you did.
I do not recall exactly what some of the others were, but they were about four or
five dollars a book, something like that.
J: So you remember any of the books being tracts that professors at the college
had published and then used in their own courses?
R: Yes. Thompson. Thompson on Contracts. That was used. He taught it too.
J: Did you distribute those books for free or did you have to buy them?
R: No, those were bought. I do not even recall where we used to buy law books. I
sure do not. I am sure that I bought some of them from other students but I do
not know whether there was a commissary or a place where you could go to buy
books. I do not recall that, but I do know that I bought some of mine from the
other law students when they were through with them.
J: Do you remember buying the book from Thompson?
R: Not from him personally, no.
J: I wondered if he administered the sale of his book.
J: In general, what would you say the thrust of the law school training was?
Theoretical or practical?
R: Theoretical. I always did say you learned more the first six months you were out
of law school than you did the whole three years you were in law school.
Theoretical versus practical.
J: Was it a problem?
R: It was a lot of theoretical stuff you really just did not use. You got out into
practice, and you found out it was not used, and this was the case against what
the book said.
J: Would these professors often suggest going down to the courtroom and sitting in
on a session and watching what was going on?
R: Well, we used to do that, and I will tell you another thing that we used to do. A
lot of the law students would always go to the Florida Theatre the first day of a
movie at one o'clock. That was sort of a custom. You could always find a lot of
them there to see the movie, and it would be the first show at one o'clock. Do
you know where the old Great Southern Music Hall is located?
R: That is where we used to do that. Go to the movies at one o'clock.
J: After you got done with the fun at the movies and examinations came around,
what kind of exam would you have?
R: What do you mean what kind exam? Was it easy? Was it hard or...
J: Was it multi-guess or did you have to write an essay?
R: No. It was essay-type of stuff. It was not yes or no, or fill-in-the-blank. No.
We would have four different ones, you picked the answer. It was essay-type of
J: Would they have one question and you would just write and write and write?
R: Right. That is correct.
J: Did they have four questions and you would write on each one?
R: No, you would have about four questions maybe, but you would write on each
one of them. The nice thing about it, you could have one answer and another
person could have an answer diametrically opposite that, but if your reasoning
was good, you would get full credit for the answer. It was like the Supreme
Court with a 5-4 decisions. As long as your logic and your reasoning was good,
they would give you credit for it.
J: Did you have any pop exams during the semester or get one big exam?
R: No. I do not think we did. I do not recall any.
J: And how long would they give you to take the final?
R: I think it was either two or three hours. We really had plenty of time. I am sure
whether it was two hours. We had the honor system too.
J: The professor was not in class?
J: Did that work out fairly?
R: As far as I am concerned it did. It worked out okay. I do not even remember
seeing anybody cheating. I was not looking.
J: There were about twenty-five to thirty people.
R: Twenty-five, let's say.
J: And it was not crowded in the class.
R: No, it was not crowded at all.
J: Had most of these students that were with you in law school done their
undergraduate or their two-years' college work at the University of Florida?
R: A lot of them did, yes. I do not think they had that many transfers in those days
from other universities.
J: I have a question I wanted to ask you earlier. I will address it now. Why did
you choose the University of Florida to do your undergraduate work and then for
law school too?
R: That is easy. Economics.
R: Remember, I told you how the conditions were when I got ready to go the law
school? You were lucky to be able to go to any place. There was not any
question of me going out of town where you had to pay for room and board and
J: That is right. So that was the only consideration.
R: That is it. You want to go to school? You are going here or else you are not
J: That brings it right down to the bone doesn't it?
R: That is right.
J: Were there any problems in coordinating examinations? For example, were
there any conflicts in examination times at finals at the law school?
R: I think they worked out what time each exam was to be held amongst the faculty.
I do not think there were any conflicts.
J: In any of your course work, did you have a class on how to make briefs and how
to prepare them and the like?
R: I am not sure about that, but they did have a moot court class. It was a
one-hour class where you got practical experience in trying a case. I remember
J: How did you do in that class?
R: Well, I do not recall. I think I did okay, because--you can tell--I can talk. I am
not exactly an introvert. I think I did okay on it.
J: That was important then?
R: Well, if you wanted to get some practical experience, it was important.
J: Was that required?
R: No, it was not required to my knowledge.
J: And who taught that?
R: Oh, Lord, I -
J: Well, was it taught jointly?
R: I do not know who taught it but they did like in the debates. You took one side of
the issue and the other side took the other side of it.
J: Yes, much like the John Marshall Debating Society.
R: I would think so, yes.
J: What was your favorite type of law while you were in school? A course you
would want to take again, or a course that looked appealing.
R: Well, my least favorite was bankruptcy. I can tell you that. That was an awfully
J: And then the common law pleading you did not like.
R: The common law pleading I did not like. I guess I liked contracts and criminal
law best. In fact, that is what my son is today. He is a criminal lawyer over in
Jacksonville, and a darn good one too.
J: As I understand it, you did not have what you would call law specialists at that
time. You got a general idea of law.
R: That is right.
J: Today you specialize in one area.
R: Then you were just a lawyer. Period. I told you I went to work with Zack
Douglas. He took divorces and things of that sort, but his specialty, like Sigsby
Scruggs, was criminal law. They were the two best criminal lawyers in this
whole area. [Barton T. Douglas, University of Florida College of Law, LL.B.
J: Zack Douglas. Does he have a son by the name of Barton Douglas?
R: That is his brother.
J: That is his brother.
R: He still practices a little bit. His office is on North Main Street in a house, but I
do not think he practices daily.
J: I will interview him later today.
R: I think he is about seventy-five years old, maybe seventy-six. And Zack, I
thought he was in a rest home in Crystal River, but I saw his picture in the paper.
There was a big article on one of these rest homes in Gainesville. He is in a
resthome in Gainesville. He is about eighty years old.
J: He is the older brother, Zack is.
R: Yes. Zack is the older brother.
J: Now Barton graduated in 1929, I believe.
R: From law school?
R: Are you sure? Six years before I did?
J: I am sorry. It was two or three years.
R: That is right.
J: Now we still have not gotten to the course that you liked the most?
R: I liked criminal law and, I guess, I liked contracts too.
J: Why did you like those?
R: Well, maybe my nature. I do not know. Why do you like something over
another? You tell me.
J: Was it the professor as opposed to the material?
R: Well, I liked Judge Cockrell because he was easy on me. I told you that time
about reading the canned brief. It was not anything. He said, "Rabbit, you
have to do better than that."
J: Was there a popular course at the law school? One that people talked about to
go to or one to stay away from if you had that choice?
R: Well, the old English law, which was Property I or II. I think it was Property IV.
I am not sure. That was as boring a course as heck, I did not take it. It was
too boring. It had nothing to do with you really becoming a good lawyer, and it
was based on the old English common law that Florida based its law on. I would
say that was the least popular among any course over there. But I am not sure
what. One of them is Property I, one is Property II, one is Personal Property,
and one of them is something. This was old English common law. Maybe
Barton will remember what the number is on that. But it was four courses,
Property I, II, III and IV. Now which one was the old English one, I cannot really
J: I will make a note of that. Were there great lecturers coming in once a year or
once a semester to speak with you?
R: I do not remember that either. There might have been.
J: Do you remember anybody in particular?
J: Let me ask you a few more questions then we will move into your career. How
much money could you really expect to make while you were in law school
thinking about going out to practice?
R: You have to write this down. This is unbelievable. You know how much Zack
Douglas paid me a week when I went to work for him? $7.50 per week.
J: A week?
R: Yes. But that was the only way I could do it. I was living at home.
J: That is for forty hours a week?
R: Well, you did not work forty hours. You did what you had to do.
J: You were on a salary of $7.50 a week?
R: Well, I was like an intern then, really. He said, "You do not know anything. You
are just out of law school. You really ought to pay me."
J: Is that what he told you?
R: I am not sure whether he did, but that was the general feeling because you were
going to learn more when you got into practice than you did in law school by far.
J: That is bleak. Now did you know that when you were in school? Could you see
that coming that seven dollars and fifty cents a week?
R: No. No, I did not.
J: Did you think it was going to be more lucrative than that?
R: I thought twenty-five bucks a week. Twenty-five bucks a week was a lot of
J: Hundred dollars a month. That is what most people were making.
R: You could support a family on that.
J: And you ended up making $28.50 a month.
R: But the only way I could do that was live at home where I did not have to pay
room and board. That was why I eased back into music. Because of that. I
just had to have more money.
J: You graduated in August. What day?
R: I do not know that. August of 1935.
J: The ceremony was in the moot court practice room.
R: It was upstairs in the practice room where Trusler used to have his class.
J: Was it informal? What were you wearing?
R: We dressed in a tie and coat. There were no robes, nothing of that sort at all.
J: Now was there a companion graduation ceremony over in the University
Auditorium at the time.
R: In the summer school? I do not recall that. I do not recall whether there was.
Even today, the regular graduation is not the same day as the law school
graduation. I think they are about a week apart.
J: I am not sure how far apart, but I know it was not the same ceremony. Was that
because it was a summer session or do you think that was just a general thing.
R: No, it was just a summer occurrence because it was a summer session. I would
say off the top of my head, that the graduations were the same day then because
there were not that many students involved. That is not gospel now, but it just
seems like to me it would be.
J: Was your graduation ceremony rather mundane, or how did you feel about
R: Like the rock is falling off you shoulders. I was floating lighter than air.
J: Did you sell all your books?
R: Yes. What I personally liked was that I was able with my mother's forcefulness
to get that degree, which I was determined to get. So I said, "Now, at least, I
have accomplished that."
J: And you began working for Zack Douglas.
R: No, first I tried to get a job in Miami, but nobody needed a lawyer. In fact, there
were a lot of them who were not doing very well themselves. So I went to
Atlanta and tried to pass the bar, and I did not pass it the first time. I tell you
what bothered me on that law exam up there. It really honestly affected me, and
I am surprised they let you do it. While you are taking the exam, the people
taking the exam were allowed to type their answers on typewriters. The
constant clang of that really got to me. It was not quiet like conditions ought to
be when you are taking the exam. So next thing I knew, my parents called me
to say that Zack Douglas wanted me to come to work for him. So I figured that
was a start, even at $7.50 a week.
J: Did they tell you that on the phone?
R: I do not remember, no. No. He just told me that when I got back, and I
remember when I walked up there the first day, he said, "Rabbit, come in here. I
want to sit down and talk to you. I am a criminal lawyer. The greatest criminal
lawyer that ever lived is Colonel Delay. The longer you can put off something,
the witnesses either move away, they forget. They have a change of heart." He
said that Colonel Delay was the greatest lawyer who ever lived. That is right.
Then I remember after he got through, he said, "I want you to go down to city hall
and defend this guy." I do not remember what it was. This is the first day I
went there on a Monday. They used to have city court on a Monday. That was
on Northeast First Street. I do not know if that building is still around. It was on
the corner. The judge was Judge Carter whom I had known for years. He
knew my growing up. First thing the judge said to me was, "Do you have a city
license to practice?" I said, "Judge, I just got back into Gainesville this weekend,
but I can promise you, as soon as this is over, I am going right down to city hall to
get my city license." It is funny to remember something like that.
J: Now was he calling your bluff on that?
R: No. That was a requirement. I think he knew the situation, and he wanted to
get me started off on the right foot. I do remember Judge Larkin Carter.
J: How many times did you argue cases in front of Judge Carter?
R: I do not remember that, but I went to circuit court with Zack a lot of times. Well I
eased back into music and I stayed there until World War II.
J: So you were working for Zack Douglas?
R: I worked for Zack. Then I left him and I went to Miami. I was trying to find
space in a law firm there. I was starving to death.
J: When was that?
R: It had to be in early 1942, or the last part of 1941. Then of course World War II
came along, and I quit and came back to Gainesville. I went in the army, and
went out to Blanding.
J: Well, what was the deal down in Miami?
R: Well, I had to try to get started somewhere, and I had been there about eight or
nine months when I folded up and came back home to wait. I was not going to
be drafted. I went right on in.
J: What rank did you go in as?
R: Private. I was a captain when I left the service.
J: What was your role as a captain? Were you in the legal branches?
R: No. I was a special service officer. When I graduated OCS in Miami Beach,
they sent me to Washington and Lee where they had special service school
training. Then I went to a cadre in Wendover Field, Utah, which is on the
Nevada-Utah line. That is where the cadre formed, and kept adding on until
they got a full complement of planes and pilots. Then I went to England. I was
at one base for twenty-five months. My special service background was that I
had experience in law. I knew how to run a theatre.I knew a lot about music. I
did that until I wore out. It was hard work.That was the kind of job you could
make of it what you wanted. On the level of organization it was not very high,
but I made something out of it. My CO was University of Georgia graduate
whom I knew very well. The area executive officer was Bob Satterwhite [Robert
Bennett Satterwhite, University of Florida, Certificate of Associate of Arts, (with
honors), 1937)] from Sebring, and the ground executive officer was Ben
McLauchlin, [Ben L. McLauchlin, University of Florida, Bachelor of Science in
Agriculture, June 1937] from Citra, Florida, which is a little town not far from
Ocala. All of us were from the University of Florida except Bill Davis, and I got in
J: And that is all over in England?
R: Yes. Well, we formed at Wendover Field, Utah, and I became a squadron
adjutant. It was a lot easier to run a squadron and the TO, table's organizations,
was higher. So that is how I got to be a captain. I came home in 1945. I did
not want to go back to practicing law because I wanted to get married. Hell, I
was thirty-four years old when I got back. My mother offered my this job running
our theatre, which I did.
J: And when did you marry?
R: The next year, 1946.
J: What was your job at the theatre?
R: I did the buying and the booking of the pictures. I had to go to Atlanta mostly to
book the pictures and buy them, although salesmen would come by to see me to
J: What kind of competition did you have?
J: You were it.
R: Yes, I was it.
J: Was it lucrative?
R: Yes, it was until T.V. came along and non-segregated theatres and the whites
stopped going to movies.
J: So that blew it away?
R: Remember I told you we closed it. Then that is when we had the arson, later on.
J: Whom did you marry?
R: My wife was from Charleston, South Carolina. Her name was Kate Prystowsky.
I met her through the efforts of a sister-in-law of mine, the one that married my
brother, and who lives in Kingsport, Tennessee. When I told her, "Look, I will go
over to Charleston. I am going to Atlanta on a buying and booking trip and I will
just fly over the Charleston." She said, "Well, you can stay with my sister
Rosalie." I said fine. So I got over there, and I was supposed to meet three
different people, starting off with Kate. I liked her and I never did get to see the
J: Her name sounds eastern European.
R: Well, it is from somewhere. Incidentally, her brother was head of obstetrics and
gynecology here at Shands for fifteen years. And for the last eleven years, he
has been the dean and the provost executive officer of the medical school
complex at Hershey, Pennsylvania. Penn State. That is where he is right now.
J: Now did her family move here to Gainesville?
R: No, no. They are from Charleston. Her father was born, raised, and died in
J: That is not even South Carolina. That is Charleston, right?
R: That is Charleston, South Carolina. Geechee town, you know. Have you ever
heard them talk? They have this geechee accent, what they call geechee.
Even today my wife still has a slight bit of it.
J: What is geechee?
R: I think it is a river or something there, but it is a certain way they talk like B-ee-r.
Beer. They call it Bear. A bottle of bear. And some of the blacks are very
difficult to understand if you can understand them at all. You really have to
listen, and then you are not sure if you heard right or not. They only two places
where the geechee talk is common are Charleston and Savannah.
J: Well, I have often heard that if you are from Charleston, you are not South
Carolinian, you are Charlestonian.
R: Charlestonian. Charleston and Savannah are the only two places where the
geechee talk geechee.
J: So you married.
R: Yes, I married in 1946, and I had my first child nine months and ten days later.
R: Thank you. He is a lawyer. Hell, I was thirty-five when I got married, and I did
not see any reason to wait to have a family.
J: You cannot wait too long.
R: No. I had four. All of them grown. And my wife is in Atlanta now because my
older daughter had a baby boy three weeks ago.
J: Well, congratulations again.
R: Thank you. I have two grandsons now and I am going to Atlanta tomorrow. I
am going to Atlanta tomorrow and we are both coming home. She will have
been gone five weeks and we are setting in for the winter, for the fall, with the
football season and everything.
J: So tell me, once the theatre was burned and folded, where did you go? What
did you do?
R: Well, by that time, I was in the retail business. I started off where the Great
Southern Music hall is now. As you are looking towards the lobby, on the right
was a store. That is where I started off in the retail business, in a little
haberdashery shop. And then three or four later, the man in the first block
across from Woolworth's had the L&L Men's Shop. He wanted to retire, and we
bought him out, and we stayed there twenty-six years. Then we came out to the
campus, where I was telling you about until this past June.
J: How would you say your law school training was a benefit during your career?
R: It helped me very much.
J: In what ways?
R: Well, it made me more aware of things, like in a contract. You read the fine print
and you use some of your law experiences in that. It was not wasted. Not in
my opinion it wasn't.
J: How different is law school in your eyes today than when you were there?
R: When I was in law school, it was easy, very easy, comparably speaking. Now it
is tough as it can be. And the reason is because so many people want to be
lawyers, so they are going to make sure you want to be a lawyer. If you can
survive this, then you are going to be a lawyer.
J: It is really going to weed them out.
R: That is right. It is very tough now.
J: How do you feel about the retroactive awarding of J.D. degrees?
R: I really do not have any feeling, although I thought it was funny. You heard me
joke about it. For five dollars, I became a doctor.
J: There are some people that had some hard feelings about that.
R: Did they? I do not have any understanding as to why they did it either. From
Bachelor of Laws to Doctor of Jurisprudence.
J: As I understand it, it was to make the degree prominent and recognizable
R: Is that what it was?
J: Yes, because an LL.B. is not looked upon as favorably as a J.D.
R: That could be.
J: So if you give everybody a J.D., everybody from the University of Florida Law
School looks good.
R: Yes, that sounds logical. Sure.
J: Well, I have certainly enjoyed talking with you and feel like I have gotten to know
you a little bit.
R: Well, I have given you a lot of information, but some things I do not know. I told
you I did not. But you reminded me of a couple of things I had forgotten about.
J: Well, if there are any other pieces of information you would like to share with me,
I will be glad to leave my phone number or my number at the office and...
R: Okay. Are you in Sam Proctor's office? Well, I could get through to Sam.
J: Now this will be transcribed and we will send you a copy of it and you will have
the opportunity -
R: Oh, just turn it about making corrections?
J: Corrections, additions, if you wanted to delete anything, what have you. That
will be in about, four or five months, I guess. And we would like to have this
information on file, once we have the final transcripts, for researchers to come in
and use the information, we need your authorization, your release to use the
R: It is okay with me. Far as I can tell, I have given it to you just like I remember it.
J: That is what is important, and you have given me a good story. I have enjoyed
listening to it.
R: A lot of things went on in those days.
[End of the interview]