Interviewee: James C. Adkins, Jr.
Interviewer: Sid Johnston
Date: November 4, 1984
James C. Adkins, Jr., is a graduate of the University of Florida College of Law
(LL.B., 1938). He has served as an assistant attorney general, assistant state attorney,
Alachua County judge, circuit court judge, and justice on the Florida Supreme Court,
where he is presently the chief justice. He is the author of Florida Real Estate Law and
Procedure, Florida Civil and Criminal Discovery, Florida Criminal Law and Procedure,
and Florida Motor Vehicle Liability Law. In 1966 Adkins was presented the James W.
Day award by the John Marshall Bar Association of the University of Florida College of
Law for contributions to legal education.
Adkins was born in Gainesville, Florida, January 18, 1915. He has lived in
Gainesville most of his life. He comes from a distinguished family. His grandfather
operated a turpentine business throughout Bradford and Clay counties. His
grandfather's brother was A. Z. Adkins, Sr., who served in the Florida Senate and as a
circuit court judge. Adkins's father was a teacher, mayor of Gainesville, representative
to the Florida house, state's attorney, and practicing lawyer in Gainesville. Adkins
attended the Tebeau School, Kirby Smith Elementary School, and the old Gainesville
High School. He recounts how he went to court as a youth and enjoyed hearing cases
being tried, noting that it was a good education. He details many of the things that kids
did for fun in Gainesville. Although he was quite young, he vividly recalls the paving of
Florida's roads in the 1920s, and Fons Hathaway, the head of the road department.
Adkins enrolled at the University of Florida in 1932. In 1934 he was accepted to
West Point Military Academy, but he was released on a physical discharge shortly after.
Adkins returned to UF and enrolled in the law school. He discusses the law
professors: H. R. Trusler, C. W. Crandall, C. J. TeSelle, J. W. Day, and the librarian, I.
Pridgen. He notes that the education was mostly theoretical, with no practical
applications. Adkins took class notes in shorthand and then typed them out in the
afternoons, and he earned some money selling carbon copies. He also earned good
money preparing transcripts for lawyers to use in case appeals. Adkins also did some
court reporting and worked in his father's law office. He was active in BACCHUS,
L'Apache, Pi Kappa Alpha, and Phi Delta Phi.
Shortly after Adkins finished law school in 1938, he became a research assistant
for the Florida Supreme Court. After a few years, he went into private practice. In
1940 he was elected assistant attorney general. He served briefly in World War II.
Adkins subsequently served as a county judge, circuit judge, and Florida Supreme
In the interview, Adkins discusses life in Gainesville during the 1930s and a
special friend of his, Jimmy "Gator" Williams, a black man. He recounts University
athletics, notably football, track, wrestling, swimming, and basketball, as well as Gator
Growl. Adkins also discusses law school feet shuffling, classroom attire, women in the
law school, and classmates. Merit retention is another matter he discusses.
J: Let me get started on this interview by asking you where you were born and what
day that was?
A: I was born in Gainesville, Florida on January 18, 1915, in the old house that was
recently torn down when the Dell, Graham, and Willcox law firm took over the
place and constructed a parking lot in back of the law firm. It was a shingle
house. I lived in Gainesville all my life, with the exception of a short time here.
J: Now, that house that they tore down was on Northeast Second Avenue. Is that
A: It would have been about Northeast Third Avenue. My cousin, Andrew, was
born on Second Avenue, and I was born a block from him.
J: Who were your parents?
A: James C. Adkins and Elizabeth Edwards Adkins. My father was born in a little
community then known as New River, which is right out of the metropolitan area
of Lake Butler in Union County, Florida. The river that divides Union and
Bradford counties is called New River. Dad was born on the banks of that
river. My mother was born in South Carolina,and moved to Lawtey,Florida, in
about 1895. Her father was intheturpentine business. He moved down
from South Carolina and opened a turpentine still and had turpentine leases
on all the land from Lawtey, Florida east to the St.Johns River. It was quite
an extensive operation. Hewasvery wealthy, and was a successful turpentine
man with nine children.
J: He had a big family to support.
A: Yes. My father's father was a farmer in Union County in the Lake Butler area.
My grandfather's brother was A.Z. Adkins, who eventually became a circuit
judge. Judge A.Z. Adkins married one of the Edwards girls, Lois Edwards. At
that time, my father, who was A.Z. Adkins' nephew, met my mother, who was
Lois Edwards' sister, and they were eventually married in Lawtey. So, A.Z.
Adkins became my father's, not only uncle, but brother-in-law, also. [Laughter]
Andy Adkins, the son of A.Z. Adkins, who was practicing law in
Gainesville, was my father's first cousin on one side of the family. But he is also
my first cousin on the other side of the family, and my father and I both having
the same first cousins, were either cousins or brothers, instead of father and son.
J: When do you trace your family coming to Florida?
A: The Adkins family came to Florida about during the Civil War, or right after that.
I believe that some of the Adkins were in the Civil War, and they came to Florida
right after that. The Edwards side, my grandfather Edwards met my
grandmother in Bamburg, South Carolina, and he came down and they were
married. Unfortunately, he had been divorced, which was a scandalous thing in
South Carolina. My grandmother played the organ in the Methodist Church, so
he gathered up his little bride and they moved to Lawtey and he built the
turpentine still there. He also built a school there for his children. The business
block of Lawtey today was originally part of my grandfather's commissary for the
J: Now, your grandfather began the mill in Lawtey?
J: Did he homestead the property or did he buy it?
A: I am sure he bought it.
J: Do you have a sense of how many acres he owned?
A: Well, he had turpentine leases from Lawtey to Penney Farms, and all the
wayacross Bradford and Clay counties. He was the biggest turpentine man at
the time in that area. I examined all of the titles for Camp Blanding and Clay
County and other titles, and I would run across any number of turpentine leases
that were held by my grandfather, as well as assault and battery judgments, and
things of that nature. [Laughter]
J: It must have been a very neat experience to see those old records that connect
A: Yes, it was. I enjoyed it. I represented a Clay County Abstract Company, and
they told me one time that I had examined the titles of ninety-five per cent of the
total area of Clay County, so I was quite familiar with my grandfather's doings.
They told me a story that he was quite wealthy, but that he liked the bottle very
much and liked to party, and that when he went to Jacksonville, grandmother
would have the kids on the train.
They had left him one time when he did not get out of the bar in time.
That disturbed him a great deal, and after that he made arrangements with the
Seaboard Railroad that when he and his wife and their nine children wanted to go
to Jacksonville, he had his own engine and his own car. [Laughter] They went to
the Jacksonville terminal and they stayed there until Grandpa came, and then
they went back to Lawtey.
J: What a family.
A: [Laughter] Yes. He was quite a character.
J: So your paternal and maternal side of the family were both from South Carolina?
A: Well, the Adkins side was from North Carolina.
J: What part of North Carolina?
A: I am not too sure about that. I think Cousin Andy was figuring that out for me,
but I am not too sure what part of North Carolina.
J: I remember talking with him about that. I think he even told me the town and I
just do not recall it at this point. So, your daddy ran a turpentine still...
A: My grandfather.
J: Your grandfather did. Did your daddy also continue that?
A: No. That was on the Edwards' side. My father was from the Adkins side. He
had one brother and three sisters, and they lived in the Union County area. My
dad went to Georgia State Normal School in Abbeville, Georgia, and learned how
to be a teacher. He taught school to try to get his family off the farm. He taught
at a little place called Maxwell, which is out in the woods, not far from Lake City
and High Springs. I went to a reunion of people who had gone to school with my
father in that area.
He was so young that he had to grow a mustache so he could teach
school. I think he was seventeen years old when he got his teacher's certificate.
He earned enough money, and then he went to law school at Valparaiso,
Indiana. He worked while he was going to school, and completed law school in
one year and then came to Gainesville. Dad started practicing law for what is
now the Dell firm. In those days, they called it the Hampton firm, which was an
old law firm in Gainesville.
J: William Wade Hampton?
A: Yes, that is right. Incidentally, I have a picture of Dad. He and my mother were
married before they moved to Gainesville. Dad also worked for an insurance
business that eventually became Cannon Insurance of Gainesville, then Dad
struck out for himself and became mayor of Gainesville. Then he ran for the
legislature, and was in the Florida House of Representatives (1913-1915) for
Alachua County, and my uncle A.Z. Adkins was in the Florida Senate
(1909-1915). He was from Bradford County. Then my uncle A.Z. became one
of the circuit judges, and then my dad ran for state's attorney of the circuit about
J: You would have been about seven or eight years old then.
A: That is right.
J: Do you remember much of the politics surrounding his election?
A: I do not remember 1922, but I remember the politics during the time after he was
elected state's attorney because I grew up helping him get re-elected and going
to court. The first time I went to court, I think I was either ten or eleven years old
then, and Judge A.V. Long was the judge. My father had told me that I could sit
in the rail, which was near the lawyers. Of course, sitting in the rail was quite an
honor. So, I went to court and got inside the rail and Judge Long came in and
stopped court and made me come up to the bench. It scared me to death. He
told me to go home, and put my coat on. So, I went home, but I was not going
to come back.
My mother caught me and found out what was bothering me, and then she
made me put on a coat and took me back to court. That time I slipped in the
back door and I did not think anybody could see me. But the old judge spotted
me and made me approach the bench again. I had to walk all the way down the
courtroom, and I never will forget standing up in front of that bench. I thought I
was going to go to jail. I have never been as frightened in my life. So, he
welcomed me back and was glad that I had a coat on and asked me to sit up
there by him. There were some steps leading up to the judge's bench which
were elevated just a couple of feet above the witness stand. I sat on those
steps between the judge and the witnesses, and the court reporter was on the
other side. I was eleven years old, and from then on, that became my seat in
I would sit there sometimes, all day long and listen to cases and listen to
the judge rule. It did me a lot of good because when I started trying law suits,
everytime something was wrong I could always make an objection.I never knew
why, but common sense told me that it was wrong. I used to have a hard time
giving reasons, but I could always figure out what was wrong.
J: That is interesting. You got a real introduction to law early in your life.
A: I was very fortunate. The best education that a trial lawyer could ever get was
sitting there by old Judge A.V. Long, who eventually became quite a prominent
federal district judge in the northern district of Florida. He was a disciplinarian
from way back and a hard-nosed judge. I learned a lot from him.
J: How could you go to school in Gainesville if you were sitting at the courthouse
listening to the judge?
A: Oh, I would go up there after school. They had terms of court in Gainesville, as
long as I could remember, in January and July. Of course, the only time it ever
interfered with school was in January, and then I would go after school. But,
anytime a court would recess for a few minutes, I would go to my seat as long as
I could get there without upsetting the court. All the court officials and
everybody knew that when the kid comes in, he sits up there by the judge.
J: A moment ago you said that was the best training you could have received. Why
do you think that is the best training you could have had?
A: Because you hear cases being tried, and you hear the way questions are asked,
and you hear objections, you hear the judge rule, and you hear the legal
arguments. If you listen to that through the years, you pick up an awful lot. It
was a good education, and you get so you recognize things. As a little kid I
recognized what a proper predicate or foundation should be. Of course,
anybody could recognize a leading quesiton, and when one lawyer stands up and
objects, and what they say when they do object.
Of course, the profession has changed a great deal. I can remember
lawyers telling the judge that they could not argue their case in less than three
hours, and they would set aside the whole day for any type of argument. That is
the exception now instead of the rule.
J: When I listen to you talk about being a young boy in the courtroom, it sounds like
you really enjoyed it.
A: Oh, yes. That was the greatest recreation in the world, and it was all the people
had to do. [Laughter] There were not any radios to speak of. We got our first
radio, I guess, when I was about eleven or twelve years old. It was a novelty,
but of course, it was not anything like television. It was kind of difficult to get to a
movie. All they had in those days were silent movies. To the ordinary farmer
and people living in the country a day at court was a holiday. Everybody came
to court in January and July. The courtroom was always crowded. They would
bring their lunch or their picnic, and people would have meals on the courthouse
grounds, and it was quite fun.
J: How good a lawyer was your daddy?
A: He was very good. He was a very successful trial lawyer. He was defeated for
the state's attorney position by Ted Duncan in 1938. Then he was in civil
practice and did real well. He had a stroke in 1942. I had just come from
Tallahassee then and was practicing with him. He lived about another twelve
years after that.
J: When was he at the house of representatives?
A: 1913, I believe it was.
J: Did he bring you all when he would come to the sessions?
A: That was just before I was born.
J: Oh, that is right.
A: I was born in 1915. But, I think he came here in the 1915 session, too, right
after I was born. I never have been able to find any records here of that session
of the legislature. I have been over the the old Capitol a couple of times. I
intend to run it down one of these days.
J: What did your momma do? Did she work in Gainesville for a living?
A: No, she was just a good housewife. She was very popular among all of my kin.
She used to go to every football game with us out of town or in town, and she
became interested in the golf course and helped organize the Gainesville Golf
and Country Club, and eventually became its secretary. Then, when Daddy died
she started working at various places, bless her heart. She worked for a
mortgage company for a while, and she worked for Ike Rudderman and his wife,
very good friends of mine. She worked in Ruddy's store for a while; they were
very nice to her. She just went out and found things to do. She lived long
enough to come here and watch me be sworn in as a Supreme Court Justice. I
could not get her to move to Tallahassee; she would not come here; she stayed
J: Why would she not move?
A: Well, all her friends were in Gainesville. At that time, she had broken her hip
and walked with a walker and was not in very good health. We had an
apartment for her. She was able to keep that for a while, and finally she had
another fall and selected a nursing home and went there and livedthere a
number of years, and then passed away. But, she was happy as long as she
had a television to watch the Yankees. [Laughter]
J: That is important.
A: Yes. She had a good time.
J: Where are your brothers and sisters?
A: I just have one sister, Margaret. She is married to Ralph Blodgett, who is a
retired economics professor in Gainesville.
J: When was she born?
A: She is two years younger than I. She was born June 18, 1917, the same day,
but a different month.
J: What else would you do for entertainment around Gainesville, besides sitting in
the courtroom and watching the people?
A: Well, when I was growing up, we moved into a home on University Avenue, right
across the street from old Gainesville High School. I believe that thing is a
parking lot now for the hospital.
J: That is exactly what it is.
A: There was an old two-story house in that block south of University Avenue that
faced University Avenue that I lived in. They moved it back when they put
buildings on University Avenue. When I lived there, there was kind of a swampy
area back there on Northwest Second Avenue. I think they called it Florida
Court. There was a street there and then a swampy area that was just
absolutely a great place to play. There were all kinds of woods down there.
Then they had a tourist camp there. They called it the Gainesville Tourist
Camp. We called it the tin-can tourists camp. We called them tin-can, I guess
because they lived out of tin-cans, and most of them had, what they used to refer
to as a tin-can lizzie, which was an old Model-T Ford. We would usually have
fights with the kids there because they were Yankees. [Laughter]
J: Was this during the boom of the early to mid 1920s?
A: Mid 1920s or something like that. I am amazed now at the regimentation of play
of children. I have often wondered if kids today know how to play scrub
baseball, where you just get up a group and go up to bat, and where you can
play with anywhere from three to ten people. We would organize our own
football teams and our own baseball teams. We would make our diamonds.
We would go out and measure the distances and put down first, second, and
third bases. It was quite an experience. I think kids miss that today. You can
build your own diamond. You get a bag of dirt for the bases, and then clear the
area for your base running and keep the grass cut.
We would also have fights with sling shots and with hollow reeds that we
put berries in and punched them out with another reed. We had all kinds of
games to play. I am amazed that one game we played became a quite popular
game that you can now buy. It was called steamship or battleship, or
something. We played it off of graph paper sixty years ago. [Laughter] Now they
are selling it all over the country. But we would figure out things to do.
You could not go to the dime store and buy little automobiles when I was
growing up. We used to use bottles for cars and we would make little roadways
in the dirt. A miniature bottle would be a nice little roadster; a big quart bottle
would be a truck, and some of the parents might buy a little bootleg whiskey, and
with all those pretty bottles they were the hoi polloi of all the vehicles. We had
all kinds of games to play, and I think the children of that era were more
innovative and had to use their intuition in trying to find something to do. Kids
can usually do that. We had swimming holes and stuff like that.
J: As you grew a little older, were there fishing holes as well as hunting areas that
you all would go to?
A: Gainesville was very fortunate. There were all kinds of places to go fishing.
There was Newnan's Lake, of course. But, there was not too much fishing going
on until later years when they cleaned the lake out and got all the gar out of it.
There were any number of places to go fishing: Lake Santa Fe and Pinkoson
Springs, which is out near Hague. It is dried up probably. We would go out to
Glen Springs frequently, which is now a health club run by someone in
Gainesville. Then there was Magnesia Springs, which was another delightful
place to go. It was out toward Hawthorne.
J: Did they also call these things artesian wells?
A: No, they were natural springs. There were not any artesian wells. Artesian
wells were over in Clay County. Then toward Palatka there were any number of
sand bottom lakes that were not inhabited. We would go out skinny dipping
there. There were all kinds of sand bottom lakes with no people on them.
There was Kingsley Lake. I spent a great deal of time there. My uncle A.Z.
Adkins had a place there. That is where Camp Blanding is now, and about
seven miles north of Starke. There was Big Santa Fe Lake, and Little Santa Fe
Lake. Then we would go to Daytona Beach quite frequently, and Cedar Key
J: How were you going to all of these places? Some of them you could go to on a
bike, but you are not going to go to Cedar Key on a bike.
A: My goodness, no. I had a car when I was a senior in high school in 1930. As
soon as I learned how to work, first thing I did was to save my money and I
bought a Model A Ford.
J: How much did it cost you?
A: Three hundred dollars.
J: Was it a new one?
A: No, I bought it from an insurance company. It had been wrecked. It lasted for
five years. It was a great car. I could take it apart and put it together again.
J: You cannot do that anymore.
A: No. But you know, I can remember when I was a small child going from
Gainesville to Jacksonville on roads in the early 1920s. We had to put canvas
covers on the side of the car instead of rolling up the windows. But by the late
1920s, when the Model T was going out and Ford started developing the Model
A, all cars got a little better. I learned how to drive when I was fourteen years
old, which would have been in 1929. At that time, my father owned a great big
J: What is that?
A: A Hupmobile was quite a deluxe car. It was very long and had front and back
seats. It sold pretty well. The company went out of business not too long after
that. Then he also had a Buick. We had two cars at the time, so transportation
was no problem.
In the late 1920s, they started paving roads in Florida. I think one of the
odd anecdotes of Panama City is that very few people know about the bridge that
goes from Panama City to Panama City Beach; it is called the Hathaway Bridge.
I was over there on a law suit talking to some news media. My wife is with the
news media. I asked them if they knew who the Hathaway was, for which the
bridge was named. No one knew it. It was named for a guy named Fons
Hathaway, who was the head of the road department in about 1926 or 1927. He
is the person who started the idea of paving all of the roads in Florida. He had
this great paving program, but he spent too much money on bridges for all of
these bays and rivers. That program was very expensive, and one of the
biggest ones he built was the bridge in Panama City. They named it the
Hathaway Bridge. When he decided to run for governor, he was defeated
because he spent too much money on the bridges and roads. Here was a guy
who sacrificed a chance for being governor. At least the bridge is named after
him. Not only did they rebuild the bridge, but they took the plaque off the bridge
and stuck it in the courthouse. I can remember Mr. Hathaway. My father knew
him in Gainesville. One of the first paved roads was from Jacksonville out
toward Starke, and it was paved to about the Waldo area.
J: Were the roads macademized, brick, or concrete?
A: No, it was not brick. It was an asphalt-type pavement. In high school, we
always traveled to our football games in private vehicles. The school could not
afford a bus or ordinary transportation.
J: Was that the team as well as the spectators?
A: Yes, everybody had to go by private vehicle because there was not any
transportation. We always played Miami because we made enough money.
We got $2,500 to play Miami, which was a big guarantee. That is how we
bought the uniforms for the next year. The coach never would schedule Miami
unless the players agreed to go because we were always outclassed.
J: That sounds like a lot of money for those days.
A: It was. We would get in the car, and I can remember traveling what is now US
1; we called it the Dixie Highway back in 1929, 1930, and 1931. So there were
plenty of paved roads.
J: Did you drive over to St. Augustine and then go to Miami?
A: No, we would usually go to Orlando, and then cut across to Indian River. Then
we got on US 1. US 41 was paved, and they had a terrible time building US 441
across Paynes Prairie because just before they reached the south side, they ran
across a sink hole. Each time they would build the road it would sink and
disappear, and they finally got it all filled and got it working. I remember very
well the problems there.
J: Was Gainesville a fun place to grow up?
A: Well, it was great, yes.
J: I think it was a pretty small community and you might not have had more than
100 kids to play with?
A: Well, there were sixteen boys that lived in my neighborhood. In those days,
Gainesville was not a village because there were other towns much smaller than
Gainesville, and we never considered it too much of a country town. The
attitudes of the people would have been just like they are now compared to other
people. Jacksonville was the biggest city I had ever seen. It had 125,000
people. I remember that because when I went to New York I found out that they
put 125,000 people in the Empire State Building. [Laughter] And I said, "My
goodness, we can put the whole town of Jacksonville in one building." So,
comparatively speaking, it was not a small country town. There was a lot of
country about it.
We had the Lyric Theater, which was near the old post office which is now
a state theater. I can remember when the Florida Theater on University Avenue
opened, and that is where I saw my first talking movie. Conrad Nagel on. I was
quite an experience to listen to that thing talk.
J: Did you ever go to the university and use their baseball diamonds or any of the
A: When I was in high school we did not have a track and we did not have a coach.
We could not afford one. All the kids who wanted to go out for track would go
out to the university and the members of the track team would coach us. If you
wanted to go on the swimming team, we would go out there and the boys on the
swimming team would teach us how to swim. They did not have a pool; they
had a place called Freeze's Pond where they worked out. We played on Florida
Field when it first opened. I think that was in 1931, and during my junior or
senior year in high school. In any case, we used it for our high school field for
several years until it got so that our playing was messing up the grass. We
played a number of our football games there.
J: Was there anything special about the university? I did not grow up in a
university town, so I do not know what it would feel like.
A: Well, it was really great, because, as I say, as far as athletics were concerned,
there were always university students willing to help us out. They seemed to
take a great deal of interest in the community. There was a great tenor who
came from Florida, James Melton. I have heard him sing at my mother's house.
My mother, of course, played the piano quite well. She graduated from
Wesleyan College in music, and he would come by and practice a lot. I can
remember students who came to my house when I was just a little kid. There
was an old fellow named Billy Gray from Miami. He died recently. When I say
he was old, I mean he was older than I, and when he died he was older than
Methuselah. But he was always telling me about the many happy experiences
he had at our house on University Avenue. The community was interesting.
There were very few automobiles. If you did not want to walk to town, you would
stand on the corner and somebody would pick you up. Bumming rides was the
going thing from campus to downtown. Sometimes there would be twenty guys
standing at the corner of what is now Thirteenth and University catching a ride to
town. In a matter of minutes, they would all be picked up. Everybody picked up
J: That was a friendly town to live in.
A: Very, very nice. On Halloween, all the students would turn loose and take
everybody's furniture and put it in the street and play other pranks. Then during
sophomore/freshman rush, they would attack each other and tie them up in that
swamp in our neighborhood. Then they would ship them off in box cars of trains
so they would not be there for rush.
J: How was Gainesville affected by the boom and the bust of the mid 1920s?
A: Well, of course I was not too old then, but from all I have seen and read, I do not
think that the boom and the Depression really hit Gainesville as badly as it did
other places. As long as the university was there, and you owned property, the
rents in Gainesville never varied very much. There were some people who were
renting property and who still got some income, though not as much as they had
before. But it never was the destitute place that you would find in other
It was a serious problem on development. I can remember when the old
Kelly Hotel went down the drain. I see they are about to make condominiums or
something out of it now. The Seagle Building, the one they are restoring, was
the Kelly Hotel.
J: Oh, I did not know that.
A: The idea was to build a hotel, and they sold bonds for it. But, it stood as a
building and they never could complete it. There were a lot of developments
that failed, particularly toward east Gainesville. One area they used to call
Starvation Hill, which someone tried to develop, was not worth a hoot. The old
Black Jack Oak property was never worth a hoot. Then they tried to develop
Newnan's Lake during the boom. It was a lake side subdivision and that fell
through. Highlands was developed about that time. My father built a house in
Highlands on the Boulevard during that time and then right beyond that was
Highlands Heights. But, the development never was finished there because the
boom collapsed. They had all these paved roads. We primarily spent our play
time on those vacant blocks, and we would make our baseball diamond and
football fields and everything else there. Now, of course it is heavily populated.
J: Was the university impacted much by the boom, the bust, and by the
A: No, I do not think so. The university was stablized. It has been pretty stable,
and as a result, it stabilized the community pretty well, too. Of course, for a
while there was not much building going on, and even after the war they had to
do everything with temporary barracks and temporary buildings. I guess that
was in the 1940s. I guess they really started the big building programs in the
J: Between 1948 and 1950, they must have built seven or eight dorms that would
all hold hundreds of people.
A: Yes, they were popping up every place.
J: Still, they built several building during the 1930s. The Dairy Science Building,
and of course the infirmary and the Florida Union.
A: Yes, we had quite a number to go up in the 1930s.
J: Football field?
J: Now, when did you graduate from high school?
A: I graduated in May 1932, and entered the university the following September. I
started school when I was five years old in September. I was going to be six in
January, and I could not get in public school. So, my father sent me to a place
called Maggie Tebeau. I do not know whether you ever heard of that or not.
J: Tell me about Maggie Tebeau.
A: Well, that was written up in the paper not too long ago. Maggie Tebeau was
located immediately south of the commercial hotel. It is now a parking lot. But
there was a big old wooden building there, very beautifully landscaped. I can
remember all of the trees and bushes; they almost gave it a dark complexion,
you might say. It was run by two old maids; Maggie Tebeau was one of them.
They were devout Episcopalians, and they ran a private school. My dad could
not get me in public school, so he sent me to Maggie Tebeau.
At that time, we lived in back of where the Dell law firm is now. I would
walk to school. I would get to the corner of University and Main, and there was
a restaurant there called the Royal Restaurant. I do not know what is there now.
But they had a guy who would flip pancakes in the window, and railroad tracks
went by it and trains would come downtown. Being five, going on six, the
fascination was too much for me. For a long time, I never got to school. Then
they finally found out what I was doing, and dad got to me to school all right.
But, I began my education, primarily by playing hooky. I did not know it was
wrong, but I learned fast that it was. Maggie Tebeau's was quite a school, and I
can still remember the first word I had to learn how to spell was orange, and at
that age it was a very difficult thing for me to do. There was no rhyme or reason
for spelling the word orange.
I can remember there was a fellow named Byrd Fryer, who was raised in
Gainesville with me. He too, went to Maggie Tebeau's. I think he enjoyed a
career with the IRS, and just recently retired. Then there were two Martin boys
named Alex and Alquilla Martin. They both went to Maggie Tebeau's. We all
started there in the first grade, and I think a few years after that it was converted
into a girl's private school. I can remember those girls going around in their little
uniforms and going to church at the Episcopal Church. But that is where I
started. From there I went to elementary school on East University Avenue.
J: Did they call that Kirby Smith?
A: Yes. I went to school there. Then they began building this new school building
on University Avenue. Those of us who lived on the west side of town were
going there. We moved out of Kirby Smith into a big old wooden building that
was used by the American Legion, and we went to school there for a short while.
That was before the present American Legion Hall was built. As soon as we
could get into the building on the University Avenue, we moved there. I went to
school there the first day it opened. I became quite perturbed when they said
the building was getting so old that they had to tear it down. I am glad it lasted
as long as it did, though.
J: Who is the teacher that stands out most in your mind?
A: A lady named Posie Chafin. I have some of my old report cards that I was
looking at a while ago. Then, I got into high school, but that was on the other
side of the school. There were some great ones. I guess everybody had the
White sisters at one time. Marjorie and Ruth White were fabulous teachers.
They always said that when you finished Gainesville High School with the White
sisters, you had already had your first year of college English, and that was true.
There was a Mrs. Phipps, who was a delightful teacher in math and geometry.
Then there was Mrs. Waites. Originally, it was Wallace, and then she married
someone named Waites. She was a real character. She taught history and
she was a great teacher.
J: Any men?
A: Well, the football coach taught physics. That was Howard Bishop.
J: Football coach and physics teacher?
J: Not too much of that today.
A: I believe there might have been another man. I do not believe I had him,
J: Well, how many kids were in school?
A: I think we had a total of about 700 in the white high school.
J: One through twelve?
A: No, that would have been in the junior high and high school.
J: Any maybe another 700 on the other side?
A: I do not know how many. That would have been in junior high and high school; I
do not know how many in elementary school. But, I can recall going to
Gainesville High School a number of years after I graduated, and they had over
700 people in the graduating class. That was more people than we had in the
whole high school when I was in school. So, it has changed a great deal. I
think my graduating class was about fifty.
J: When did you first start thinking about going to college?
A: I guess I knew I was going to college by the time I was in high school. I knew
that I would go on because my dad was very interested in education. I used to
get discouraged because my mother was always interested in my athletics, and
my dad was always interested in my scholarship. All he was interested in was
whether I made good grades. I could do anything I wanted to do, but he kept
me on the books pretty well. I went to the University of Florida, and even after I
got into law school, I wanted to get in the army. I was not particularly interested
in being a lawyer. In fact, I did not want to be one. I guess you might call it a
rebellion from tradition. I was being a nonconformist. Of course, I was very
unhappy with the law.
J: Was there some shift in your perception of the law from the time you were a kid
to the time you were in high school and college?
A: No, it was not anything that greatly changed. I must have gotten tired of it or
something. About the time I was entering college, I was not too interested in the
law. I wanted to go into the army. I think it was primarily because those were
the days when Hitler was beginning to rumble and I figured maybe we would
have a war. Why be a lawyer and ruin all of that? If I am going to war, I should
train. I took four years of ROTC, and then took the entrance exam to West Point
and went up there.
J: How did you do?
A: I had a physical disability. I lied to get in. They asked me if I ever had a broken
bone. I said no. But, I had broken my arm pretty badly playing football, and I
got there and injured it and they found out about it and gave me a physical
discharge. I lost my commission because of it. So, I came back to Gainesville
and I did not know what to do. I thought that the only chance I had of making a
living was to finish academic school. I did not have a college degree, though I
did have a little bit of law background. So, I decided that the quickest way to get
a degree was to be in law school, and so I went to law school.
J: You first started at the university in September 1932?
J: How long were you there before you decided to go to West Point?
A: Well, I entered law school in the summer of 1934, and it was during the year of
1934 that I was thinking of going to West Point. I had taken three years of
ROTC work, and I enjoyed that very much and that is what I wanted.
J: Where did you live during that time before you went to law school?
A: Our home was in Highlands. My dad built a home there in 1928. Before that
we had lived on University Avenue near where the hospital is now.
J: So you were not living in the dorm? You were living at home?
A: No, I lived at home my freshman year because there was not any need to go out
to the fraternity house and get paddled all the time and go through all of that. So
I stayed home with my folks. In my sophomore year, and from then on, I lived at
the university. At one time I lived in an old wooden rooming house, run by some
people called Gordy. It was on Washington Street (Northwest Fifteenth Street).
J: Was that off of Thirteenth?
A: Off of University Avenue going north.
J: Right across from Language Hall?
A: Yes. I lived there for a semester, and then I rented a room at Bill Boltin's house.
The Boltin home was just off of University Avenue around Eleventh Street. It
was about one-half block off the street. There used to be a grocery store there,
and then a bank. They have torn it all down now and put a shopping center
there. University City Bank was located there years ago, and now I think
another bank is there. It was on the left where Tenth Street runs down toward
the hospital. It is between Tenth and Thirteenth Streets and the north side of
I also lived in the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity house at the corner of what
would have been Ninth Street and University Avenue and where the Holiday Inn
is now. I lived in the fraternity house quite a bit.
J: How much did it cost you to room in these various houses around town?
A: I lived on $65 per month. That is what it took for the whole works. That was to
eat and everything else.
J: Did most of these rooming houses also have boarding facilities?
A: Well, not too many of them. The old Anderson home on University Avenue did.
Most of the rooming houses were just rooming houses.
J: How about Ma Ramsey?
A: Yes, Ma Ramsey was one I was thinking of.
J: Did she have boarding facilities?
A: Yes, Ma Ramsey and Anderson had the rooms and meals.
J: Where would people eat around town?
A: At the Varsity Grill, and they had all kinds of little restaurants all over town.
There were not so many students. It was not too hard to feed them.
J: How about the College Inn?
A: Yes. When I was in school, the people who ran the College Inn also ran the
Varsity Grill. They had two restaurants. There were any number of restaurants
like that along University Avenue. We rarely went to town to eat at the Primrose
Grill or a place like that. We usually ate around campus.
J: What kind of courses did you first take when you went to the university?
A: In academic school, I took English and literature, some math and philosophy, and
things of that nature. I took a lot of math. I did not take much science or
chemistry. I did not enjoy them. But, I took sixty-five hours of things that I
enjoyed, and then went to law school.
J: Who was the teacher that stands out in your mind in your academic programs?
A: I lived a block from Dr. J. M. Farr, who was vice-president of the University of
Florida and head of the English department. He played a lot of bridge. I used
to play bridge with him. He was the person with whom I consulted when I was
trying to decide whether to enter law school in the summer of 1934, or wait until
later and get a combined degree. Dr. Farr recommended that I get the
academic degree because it would look good on my tombstone. He did not
know of any other help it would be. So, I went into law school without a degree.
I remember him very well.
Dr. J. Miller Leake was a fabulous history professor. He was a typical old
southern Virginian. When he taught American History, he spent his whole time
getting to the Battle of Gettysburg, and then he covered the rest of the history of
the United States in one week. The South would rise again.
Then Dr. Enwall taught philosophy. His son is Hayford Enwall, and his
grandson is Peter Enwall. Peter is now practicing law in Gainesville and his son,
Hayford Enwall, is a professor at the Law College. Dr. Enwall was an inventor
and a Methodist preacher. He had been a sailor and had sailed around the
Cape. He was a great character and tremendous individual. He taught
Philosophy of Religion. He would go right by the book until something hit him
the right way, and then he would give you one the best sermons you have ever
heard in your life. He was a great man.
J: Did you have a bicycle to get around town and to the university with?
A: Well, only in high school. By the time I went to the university in 1932, I had my
old Ford automobile. That was in 1930, I guess, when I was fifteen years old. I
had that from then on. There were not more than about four cars on campus
and I had one of them. It was quite helpful.
J: You must have worked pretty hard to earn the money to buy that automobile.
A: Yes. I took shorthand and typing when I was fourteen years old, and it was not
very difficult for me to learn how. In those days, if a lawyer was going to make
an appeal, somebody had to type the entire record, and I knew how to put it
together. I would get a dollar for the original page and fifty cents for each
carbon and I could make five carbons. That would be three dollars and a half
per page, which was pretty high pay. I could earn $150 in a week, maybe, if I
got a transcript. Most of the lawyers in Gainesville knew that I could do this
work for them, and they charged their clients. It was very lucrative work when I
got the opportunity and when there was enough business. But, I could not do it
for regular work and make a living, but it furnished me a lot of good money.
J: Did you also work at the courthouse doing that same work?
A: No, I would just check out the records and prepare the transcript. Then I also
did some court reporting on the side too, if they needed somebody. I would
work in my dad's law office and get paid. Then I started working as a waiter in a
restaurant. I worked as a waiter, and then they would have me typing up the
menus, and then I was figuring the price of meals, and then I went back to
secretarial work. I did all kinds of jobs; I never had any trouble making a few
J: Were you pretty popular on campus, having your automobile and being as
friendly as you are?
A: Well, I had a lot of friends there. I never was interested in being a big man on
campus. As I say, on weekends I was doing one of two things. I was either
working or I was having a good time. I was not too interested in campus politics
and things of that nature. I stayed out of that pretty well.
I knew everybody at school, and I would loan my car or rent it out. If I
ever wanted to take a trip, it was easy to get some others to go and they would
chip in so much a head. I could always go to Tallahassee and charge five
dollars for the round trip and take five guys with me. That would give me
twenty-five dollars, and I could take twenty-five dollars and have a big weekend.
Can you imagine that?
J: [Laughter] How much would a round-trip to Tallahassee cost you in gas?
A: Well, gas was selling for about fourteen cents a gallon, and then it went up to
nineteen for a while. So it would not take more than about three dollars for gas
and two dollars per night for a room.
J: Did you have any insurance on the automobile to pay?
A: I do not think so. I do not ever remember any insurance. I never worried about
having an accident. Nobody ever sued anybody. I am sure I had insurance on
it though. My dad probably had insurance on it. We just never thought too
much about that.
J: Well, there were not too many cars around town either.
A: Oh, no. You did not have a traffic problem as we have.
J: Did they have stop lights or just signs?
A: Oh yes, they had them. I guess the first stop lights in Gainesville were on
University Avenue and what is now Main Street, and Northeast First Street.
Those were the first two. Then they put them on the other two corners. They
started out with bells on them. Every time the light would change, the bell would
ring. I always said it was to wake up sleepy drivers.
J: When do you remember them putting in the light at the corner of University and
A: I guess that must have been in the 1940s. It might have been the 1930s, but I
do not think so. Now, wait a minute, it was the 1930s. I can remember when I
first went to school that one of the things that was a lot of fun was to stand on
that little marker in the middle of the street. They had one of those little guys
called Whiskey Will that used to stand out there and shine shoes and all of that in
the middle of the street. Then I can remember that they put the traffic light in
because the watermelon trucks would stop at the traffic light and everybody
would steal all the watermelon. I guess that went up during the 1930s.
J: You lived pretty close to campus so I guess you did not drive your car to the
A: Well, when I went to the university my family lived over in Highland, which was
on the other side of town. When I moved on campus I parked the car there and
walked to class and most other places I wanted to go. It was a lot of fun. We
were the last generation that could go to school without any real big worries.
Our only worry was whether we were going to find a job. We were not worried
about wars. We knew that we might have one, but we also knew we could whip
anybody in the world in a week. It was nice to be ignorant because you do not
worry. We did not worry about the draft. We did worry about the mortgage on
the fraternity house. We could only pay the interest. No one had any money.
We cut every poker pot and every other way, and would chip in to pay the
interest every month. That was about all we could do. But, it did not bother us
any. We never worried about anything.
J: How many fellows were in the fraternity house?
A: About eighty.
J: And what were the initiations like?
A: They were quite rowdy. Paddles were used extensively. Of course, the one
thing they did have that I think was great was the rat cap. Everybody had to
have a rat cap with their name on it. That way you got to know everybody and it
gave you a good school spirit. If you were on the highway and you wanted to
catch a ride, wear your rat cap and somebody would always pick you up. If you
did something wrong, somebody in the fraternity would hit you with a paddle.
You could pick out your own paddles. It was quite on art to go into the lumber
yard and get a piece of lumber with the right grain. Of course, some would pop
off at the end and others would split, and when you would get the right kind of
paddle you would tape the end of it to keep it from splitting.
At Christmas, the usual deal was to get every man in the fraternity to sign
your paddle. To get his signature he had the right to paddle you. He could hit
you one time or fifty times; it did not make any difference. It was quite a chore.
If your paddle broke, you had to start all over again. In athletics, you soak your
feet in some kind of acid brine to toughen the skin. So when we went to the
university and were getting ready to get paddled, we put brine in a bowl and sat
in it to toughen up our fannys. It was quite helpful because you never would
bleed. It was not too hard to break the skin unless you toughened up your
fanny. After you got your Christmas paddle and toward the end of the semester
they had the general intiation and everybody had a road trip. One of my road
trips was to get an autographed brassiere from the Dean of Students of Florida
State College for Women.
J: [Laughter] Oh no.
A: Yes, and another time I had to bring a bucket of soot to the fraternity house. It is
rather difficult to transport a full bucket of soot; it blows out.
J: Well, how did it work out? I am interested about the brassiere.
A: Oh, that was rather difficult. It was rather an embarrassing situation. I got to
Tallahassee and called on the lady, and she was a very large, buxom lady. I
cannot think of her name, but she was quite scary looking. She was a woman of
authority. To me she was twenty feet tall. I apologized profusely and explained
my problem and that I did not know how to go about anything like this because
my mother had taught me better. I asked if there was any possibility, and told
her that I could go back and take my licking, but I thought I would at least take a
crack at it. Well, she gave me her address and said she thought she had one
that she could furnish for me if I stopped by after she got off work. So that
afternoon I went by and she had one autographed for me and I thanked her and
went back to the fraternity house and told this great gruesome story about me
and the Dean of Women on our date. [Laughter]
J: [Laughter] Were you standing there at her house taking that brassiere from her
with a red face?
A: I sure was. I was very embarrassed about that thing. Then they had the
routine things about trying to find the inscription on tombs in the graveyards. On
road trips they would take you out and drop you off blindfolded and see if you
could find your way back to town. It was quite an experience. We never had
any casualties or anything like that. The worst of all was pouring Highlife on
you. It burns real bad, but never hurts you, or blisters or anything. Highlife on
some of the most private parts will certainly get your attention real quick. I am
glad I had the experience, but I would kill somebody if they ever tried it again.
J: Were you part of that fraternity before you left for West Point?
A: Yes. The hazing at West Point was quite different. It was mostly muscular and
very downgrading, and usually you were Mr. Ducro, which I understand is French
for son-of-a-bitch or something like that. They liked you to hold a rifle out at
arms length and try to get up on a mantle and stay in one spot frozen for a
certain period of time at attention. Of course, every time you walked out of your
room you had to go double time. No plebe could walk. It was physical and
mental, but it was not anything difficult.
J: Did you take the train there and back?
A: I traveled on the Clyde Line. In those days you could get a trip to New York on
the Clyde Line for fifty dollars. It was three days and two nights on the ocean. I
had a lot of fun and I stayed in New York for a few days, and enjoyed the sights
and then went on to West Point.
J: Is that when you visited the Empire State Building and discovered they had the
A: I had been there before that. That was when I was a senior in high school, or a
freshman in college. I took a trip every summer in my Ford. The first time I went
to New York, another fellow and I had about fifty dollars a piece and a tent. I
went with a boy named Gator, who eventually became quite a figure at the
University of Florida. So we camped out a little bit and went to New York. That
was the first time that I had been there and it was quite an experience.
J: Who was the fellow named Gator?
A: Gator was a black boy named Jimmy Williams. Gator and I grew up together. I
was a little older than he. His family knew my family, and he was named after
me. I can remember when we were kids that his momma told him he could not
call me Jimmy anymore, and we discussed it and he started calling me Captain
Jimmy. I can remember that it was a traumatic experience, as young as I was,
to be called something besides just Jimmy. It could not be Mr. Adkins or Mr.
Jimmy. Gator was very close to me, like a little brother. When I went to
college, he went to college too. Except that he was thought of as a shoe-shine
boy and general job guy. Everybody at the university loved him. We had to
watch him because he started drinking a little bit, and we used to beat the hell
out of him for drinking. We bought him a tuxedo, and the football team would
take him on a trip every now and then because he was called Gator.
Joe E. Brown came to the university, and Joe used to put on a
performance at half-time for football games. Florida was playing UCLA, and at
the half he was going to put on a little play, and Gator ran out right behind him.
Joe E. Brown had the biggest mouth in Hollywood, and he had a yell. It was very
funny because right behind Joe was old Gator, and his mouth was much bigger
than Joe E. Brown's. Brown wanted him to go to Hollywood so Gator came over
and said, "Captain Jimmy, can I go?" I told him to go ask his momma, and his
momma said he should do whatever I said. Shelton Baxter was a good friend of
mine. He is dead now, but he and I kind of raised Gator, and we told him to go.
But, he decided to stay in Gainesville and he became a campus celebrity.
Then the war came along and I suggested to him that he get into cooks'
and bakers' school. He had a stutter and could not talk very well. I eventually
got into the service, and I had a time getting through the physical, and the only
way I could make it was as a private. After I had finished my basic, I came back
for a few days to check things in Gainesville, and I was in my office and I heard
this voice, "Is Captain Jimmy here?" I knew it was Gator. He came into borrow
five dollars. The only thing was that I was a private and he had sergeant's
stripes. [Laughter] Gator finally became a baker, and he baked bread for P.K.
School. He finally died of a heart attack. But you go through the annual
sometime in the 1930s and you will see this little colored boy probably dressed in
a tux with a big mouth and that will be Gator.
Baxter and I went on a trip with Gator, and he had never been out of
Alachua County. We were going to North Carolina. He had never seen a street
car and in those days, there were street cars in Jacksonville. When we got to
Jacksonville he yelled, "Thar's one." We stopped the car and rode the street car
all day with Gator.
When we got toward the mountains and Shelton Baxter and I were
explaining how bad it was in those mountains with landslides and that houses fell
on people and all that sort of stuff. We were just kidding Gator. He was in the
back seat. As we got closer to the mountains, they made a very big impression
on Gator, and he said, "Captain Jimmy, I just cannot understand why the Lord did
not have room enough to lay those things out flat." [Laughter] He made our trip.
It was great.
J: Sounds like a fine fellow.
J: So you came back from West Point and...
A: Went back to law school. I finished there in 1938. The semester before I went
to West Point, I busted out of law school. I was not interested in it anymore.
Then I went back to law school and I started making 'A's and I figured I better do
J: Do you remember Dean Trusler? [Harry Raymond Trusler, professor
(1909-1947); dean (1915-1947)]
A: Oh, yes.
J: What was he like?
A: Well, he was a nice affable guy. I always got along pretty well with the dean. I
cannot say that I got along with him too well. He never would give me a good
grade. I think he had something against my dad or something like that. But, I
had the privilege of writing his epitaph for the Florida Bar. Though I had a hard
time with him he was quite a character. When he used to give his lectures he
closed his eyes and held up his hands. He always used the practice courtroom
to give his lectures. He would use the other hand feeling for the little gate and
the rail in the courtroom, and one of the standard things would be to open that
gate and the old dean would start on down the aisle looking for the gate. We
used to play dirty tricks on him, but he was an affable, likable guy. Had a good
family. He lived like two blocks from me.
J: There is Professor Crandall [Clifford W. Crandall, professor (1914-1949)], who
taught Civil Procedure and Common Law Pleading. That was a required course
before they had the rules of civil procedure and it always met at eight o'clock on
Tuesday, Thursdays and Saturdays. Much of the time we had attended some
formal function the night before, and would come to class in tuxedos at eight
o'clock on Saturday morning. Everybody had been up all night. But it was
routine that you were supposed to bust Common Law Pleading. Nobody was
supposed to pass it the first time because Crandall said you could not learn it in
one trip. A few people passed it the first time, but not very many.
J: How did you do?
A: Oh, I took it twice. I am one of the crew. But he was a great teacher. He
wrote a book on it, and we got along fine. He did a lot for the law students. He
taught me a lot of good common down-to-earth pleading, I will say that for him.
Then there was Slagle [Dean Slagle, professor (1923-1958)]. I took
Corporations under him. I never used a canned brief on him. He was great
because he always gave repeat examinations and everybody could make an 'A'
under Slagle. He was a very affable, likable guy and taught you a lot of law.
TeSelle [Clarence John TeSelle, professor (1929-1959)] was a former prosecutor
and he would cross-examine you each time you stood up. He was a very fair
man and a good grader. Jimmy Day [James Westbay Day, class of 1929,
professor (1930-1961)] was a real scholar. He taught property. I enjoyed my
law professors very much. They meant a lot to me. When I went back to law
school and started bearing down and started making 'As', and they were the
ones who recommended me to the supreme court as a research aide. I was the
one graduate that was sent to the supreme court as a research aide; they were
very good to me. I appreciated it.
J: Did you have to give up some of your fraternity activities and other extracurricular
activities to buckle down?
A: No. I studied every afternoon and raised hell every night. It was not a big deal.
There were a lot of social activities. There were a lot of things going on, but it
was mostly an individual effort. There was not any organization-type thing.
They had the usual spring dances and the military ball, and they had about four
weekends per year where you really laid out and had a ball. The rest of the
time, we would kind of horse around and study. I did most of my studying in the
J: Did you generally study with people or on your own?
A: For exams, we would usually have study groups.
J: But the rest of the time was pretty much on your own?
A: Pretty much on my own. I took shorthand notes. That was the reason I started
making 'As'. I took all my lectures in shorthand and then I would go into the
library. They let me have a room, and I would type my notes in the afternoon. I
made carbon copies so I could sell subscriptions.
J: [Laughter] To help earn your way through law school?
A: Yes, I was making good money. I made more money in my last two years of law
school than in the first four years I practiced law.
J: For how much were you selling those copies of your notes?
A: You could subscribe for five dollars per week, which was pretty heavy.
J: Five dollars a week?
A: Yes. It was rough.
J: Did the people who bought them do considerably better than the people who did
A: Yes. They had every word the guy said. Word for word.
J: You were literally taking down everything that he said, including jokes?
A: Jokes and all. [Laughter]
J: Well, do you have any of those left?
A: No, I sold them all.
J: That is remarkable that you were able to take down all that information.
A: Yes. I learned a lot doing that. I never paid much attention to the book. I just
studied the notes at the end of class. I never missed a class. I would sit on the
front row. As the professors lectured, if theysaw I was working too hard, they
would slow down. They hardly ever called on me because they knew I was
taking shorthand notes, so I breezed through in good shape.
J: Did they also know you were selling their notes on the side?
A: I do not know. I imagine they figured. [Laughter]
J: So you were their guide as to whether they were talking too fast or too slow.
A: Yes, they were very cooperative. I guess that was because they could see me
working hard to get down the notes. But, it was quite an experience to get all
the stuff down.
J: Did they pretty much test by the notes?
A: Oh yes, by their lectures.
J: By their lectures rather than the books?
A: Yes, if you had the lectures, you had an 'A'.
J: I have a couple of exams from the 1930s and from the 1920s. Are these exams
pretty similar to what you saw?
A: Well, this must have been one of Trusler's 'yes' and 'no' tests. Now, this one in
1950 is somewhat similar, possibly a little more expanded than what I took.
J: So, neither one of them really jar your memory?
A: Well, this test jars it a little bit on 'yes' and 'no' tests that Trusler used to give,
except that this one is a little more extensive than what they used to be. Now
ordinarily they would give you a factual situation in part A, and then they would
ask you questions for discussion on part B. This is one of Trusler's true/false
tests, and there was only one course in which he used that method. Trusler was
the only one who used true/false questions. No one ever liked those. The rest
of them were all discussion questions and answers.
J: Why did you not like the true/false?
A: Well, I was trained to look at a factual situation, read it, have a gut reaction, and
then pick it apart to be sure you were right. The way they taught me to analyze
something according to the law was to see what the other side is, and what is
wrong with what you are talking about, and then try to reach a conclusion. On
the true and false I never could quite see how you could answer any legal
question with yes or no. [Laughter] So, I never never got along with true and
false. But, I made it, as with everything else.
J: None of the other instructors used that true/false method?
A: Trusler was the only one.
J: Did they ever use a multiple choice test?
J: It was all essay?
A: All essay.
J: How often would you have a test?
A: Just the finals. If you passed the finals, you passed the course. It was that
simple. Now, Trusler would have some true and false tests during the year, but
the rest of them just had one exam at the end.
J: On the back side of the back page of this test is an honor pledge where you
signed your name.
A: Oh, everybody signed those.
J: What did that mean?
A: The pledge meant that you did not cheat. That simple. You did not take
anything off anybody else's test, and you did not bring any answers in with you.
It was an honor thing.
J: Did you have to take the test in the classroom, or could you go wherever you
A: Usually they had one of the rooms in the law college for the test. It was not a
take home test, it was to be taken in the law school. That is how it was all
through the university. You took the exam in classroom. You would have to
take it in the building.
J: Did any of your instructors have a system by which they would give the test or
grade the test?
A: No. They might have had some student assistants to help grade them. They
did in academic school, but I do not think they did in law school. I do not know.
I do not think they did though. I think they did it all themselves.
J: I guess you remember Ila Pridgen [lla Roundtree Pridgen, librarian, College of
A: Oh, real well. In fact, I knew her when I was just a kid of five or six years old.
Her son and I were good friends. We were about the same age; he was a year
older than I. Her husband was a doctor in Waldo, Florida. They had a place on
Lake Alto. One of the first trips I ever took was to Lake Alto to Dr. and Mrs.
Pridgen's house with their son Leonard. So, I had known her many years before
I ever went to law school.
J: Did you use the library a lot?
A: Oh, yes.
J: Well, I guess you did your transcription of your notes on the typewriter there?
A: Yes. Jimmy Day offered a course in Legal Research that I enjoyed very much.
I used to work in the library quite frequently.
J: Now, in 1966 you were awarded the Jimmy Day scholarship award.
A: Yes, for contributions to legal education.
J: Was he one of your favorites?
A: Yes, he was a great property instructor. He did his research. He was not an
outstanding lecturer, but he was a deep thinker. He did not have too good of a
delivery, but I always enjoyed him. He was a great man and a very good friend
of mine. I liked him.
J: Now, there was a fellow named Huber Christian Hurst [professor, College of Law
(1935-1936), professor, Business Administration (1927-1952)]. Did he teach at
the law school?
A: No, he taught in academic school. He did not teach while I was there. My
father represented Huber Hurst's wife in a divorce matter, and he would not
speak to my father, and then he would not speak to me until he wanted to be
postmaster in Jacksonville. He came in my office one day, and my dad was
dead then, and said that he had been to Washington and was talking to Fred
Gilbert. He said Fred wanted to know how I was doing. Of course, Huber could
not have gotten the job until Fred, a Republican, okayed it. So Huber had to
come to me. So I sat with him that day and laughed. We became very good
friends after that. I helped him get a job as postmaster. But he taught in
J: Did he ever do any guest lecturing? I have seen him included in the faculty list
of the University Record.
A: Now, he might have. I am talking about in the 1930s and 1940s, and I guess he
finished up after that. I am not too sure, but he probably did after that.
J: Well, did you have guest lecturers from the Florida Supreme Court?
J: Where would they talk? At the auditorium or over at the law college?
A: At the law college, in the practice courtroom.
J: How often a semester could you expect to have a guest lecturer?
A: Well, we never had any when I was there. It was after that. I used to go out
there sometimes when I was practicing, and later when I became a judge.
J: Now, you had a practice court session once a semester.
J: Did you take part in that?
A: Well, are you talking about when I was a judge?
J: No, when you were in law school.
A: Oh, yes. You had two cases. A civil case and a criminal case.
J: Did you take both of those?
A: Oh, yes. Each student had two cases: a criminal case and a civil case.
J: Tell me about those.
A: Well, they would give you a factual situation and you would get with your partner.
There were two of you who did it together, and it was not very complicated.
They gave you a factual situation and you drew up yourwitnesses and worked up
your case. Of course, in those days, they did not have discovery; they did not
have the complications you have today in trying a case. We would go in and
present our case and have the ordinary questions of evidence. It was not as
well done as it is now. It was almost impossible to get too much preparation.
You had to have a basic knowledge of the law, but you went in to most cases
fairly blind about what the other guy might do. You had to second guess him
and think on your feet. It was more of that than getting all of these witnesses
together and digging up which words to use and all of that stuff.
J: Did your instructors tell you how it was going to be out there?
A: Well, they did not profess to give you too much knowledge of how the real world
might be. You just did your job and they would let you know that you were going
to get your ears batted in pretty well.
J: And did you?
A: Oh, yes.
J: Did they ever, well, they would not have had to do this to you, but did they ever
send people to the courthouse to sit and listen to proceedings?
A: No. That was never required.
J: Do you think that would have helped?
A: Yes. I learned more law and learned all trial practice from sitting in the
courtroom. It was the only place you could get it. I do not think you can get it in
moot court or any other place. Just sitting in the courtroom. I never have
understood why they do not have more of that for required attendance.
J: So, the practical end of law school was lacking a little bit?
A: Yes. Well, it was lacking terribly; there was not any at all. The things about
how you go to a courthouse and look up a deed, or where do you go to file
something, or who you see about the filing, where you get a witness subpoena
issued, and do you want a levy on a piece of property were not discussed.
J: Well, there were some pretty smart people at the college. Were they just not
thinking of it, or did they just not want to do it?
A: The whole thing was for the theory of the law, and they were extremely intelligent
as far as the theory of the law is concerned. They made you think. There is no
question about it, but they did not have much practical experience is what it was.
Even today I think there is a lot of the practical end that is lacking in legal
education. I think the lawyers today are much better prepared than they were
back then. There are some real smart ones coming out today. There was an
article on the Bar Examination recommending that they change all the
curriculums and provide for one year of internship just like they do for doctors
before you turn a lawyer out on the public. I have been advocating some kind of
internship for years.
I was fortunate because I was raised in the law. I did not have any
problems with it. But, even with that, my practice extended over many counties
of Florida and in strange counties, and often I had to ask the question of how
they opened court. Some judges wanted jury challenges at a certain time, and
that would make me do things quite differently. It was different in every strange
county, and I would go by the clerk's office and talk to a clerk, and go by and talk
to somebody in the sheriff's office, and try to find out just what goes on out there,
and how the judge does things. They all do it a little bit differently. They are all
within the law, but they do it a little differently.
You are not as nervous if you walk into a courtroom and you know what is
going to happen next. There is a story that Dick Julin tells about the lawyer who
went in the courtroom and was later asked how he did. He said, "I was
completely inexperienced. I did not even know where to sit down. Fortunately,
I represented an experienced criminal." [Laughter]
J: When you applied, was there any application process to go to law school, or did
you have to take an exam?
A: Oh no, anybody that wanted to go could go. We all crowded in. It was a
question of who had the money and who could do it.
J: What about registering for classes? Where would you do that?
A: We did that in the law school. In academic school we did it in the new gym,
which was the old wooden building. But they took care of law school registration
at the law school.
J: What about your books? Was there a "buy-back" system where you could buy
old texts, or did you have to buy pretty much all new ones?
A: We had a bookstore, and usually you could buy some guy's books who took the
course the year before, or go to the bookstore, but there was not any central
trading place. If you saw some guy that took the course the year before and he
still had his book, you would buy it. If not, you went to the bookstore and got it.
J: We talked a little bit about your professors' philosophy of law being theoretical.
Did any of them have any practical experience that came through in class?
A: Yes, TeSelle had been a prosecuting attorney in Michigan, I believe, before he
came to the University of Florida, and he gave you a pretty good experience of
standing on your feet and thinking on your feet and of cross-examinations. Oh,
Judge Cockrell [Robert Spratt Cockrell, Florida Supreme Court Justice
(1902-1917), professor, College of Law (1919-1941)] was the only Justice who
had been defeated in an election to the Florida Supreme Court. He had some
experience and had been on the Supreme Court, but he still had not had a varied
practice. Dean Trusler had none, Jimmy Day had none, but I think Crandall had
some. He had worked in law offices on pleading and things of that nature. I do
not think any of them had any real practical experience. But they gave you a
good theory of the law and that was what it was basically. There was not very
much practical stuff taught. I remember one of the frustrating things was that I
had worked in a law office and wanted to know what the law was in Florida, and I
always got the majority view and the minority view, but I did not get enough of the
Florida view. [Laughter]
J: Tell me about the tradition of shuffling.
A: It was usually before the end of a class. If the professor was talking a few
minutes before class was supposed to be over, everybody would start shuffling
their feet, or if the professor said something they did not like, they would shuffle
their feet. We would always shuffle our feet. It was a pretty informal situation,
and we were pretty well outspoken with those kinds of things. The feet shuffling
was one of the big traditions.
J: How would you dress in class?
A: Well, you had asked me that once. We really did not have a particular code, but
the way things were then, no one wore shorts. I went through the era when I
was a little kid you even wore tops to bathing suits. When I was in high school
and when I entered the university, I would go around most of the time in a pair of
white duck trousers and a sweat shirt and tennis shoes. When I went to college,
I did the same thing. But when I was a freshman, my fraternity brothers got on
me and whipped me with a paddle and made me dress up a little bit. We did not
wear ties to school, but we wore a shirt and trousers. I do not remember
anybody ever wearing shorts to school. It was just not done. They did not even
wear them in town.
J: How about the instructors?
A: Oh, they usually wore coats and ties.
J: There was not air conditioning in those days. Were you a little hot?
A: Well, it is a strange thing. When I started practicing law there was not any air
conditioning, and you had terms of court in January and July. I have tried many
a case in the hot July weather in Gainesville with no air conditioner with my coat
on. Even today I wear my coat wherever go. You get used to it.
J: Now, I do not think there were screens on the windows at that time either.
J: So, it was just wide open to bugs and birds and the heat and everything else.
A: We never had many bugs, and I do not remember any problems that way at all.
I do not think the professors wore their coats all the time. They would take their
coats off and lecture in short sleeves. There was not a particular formality about
it. I do not remember them keeping their coats on. It was just no big deal one
way or the other, except that you did not wear shorts. We could wear sport
shirts with short sleeves and that kind of stuff.
J: Would you say Dean Trusler was a good dean? We have talked a little bit about
his teaching, but I am asking about the way he ran the college.
A: Well, I think for those days he did well. I do not think he could last today though.
J: Was he soft spoken or was he outspoken?
A: He was not outspoken. He was just moderate about things. I think Mrs.Pridgen
had a great deal of influence on him, and she kind of looked after him in his later
years. I do not know anything about his administration, though, and I do not
know how he got along with the professors or anything like that. I had problems
with the dean, but I was impersonal and did not give a hoot about professors. I
lived a block away from him. I liked his daughter. He taught stuff like School
Law. He wrote a book on school law and I did not particularly enjoy that course.
He also taught Torts, but in those days, torts was not the important subject that
it is today because there was not much tort litigation, believe it or not. So, I
would say that he was as good as any of them. It was not until the 1950s that
tort litigation came into its own. Before that, automobile accident cases had
been the exception, not the rule, and damages were not much.
J: You do not remember any talk around the college about one instructor just not
working with the rest of them?
A: No, I do not remember much about that.
J: I remember Judge Cockrell's...
A: Well, everybody knew that Judge Cockrell was going to do his own thing. He
never held class more than twenty minutes. He used to get tired and he would
chew tobacco and he would give you sixty pages of Greenleafon Evidence for
one assignment. My God, you can spend a month on sixty pages of Greenleaf
on Evidence, and he would go over it in a hurry. But he knew his law. There
was not any question about that. He was a Greek scholar. He believed in
things being concise and short. That was just the way he was. That was the
way his exam answers should be, and if you gave him four blue books on the
exam, he would bust you. He liked short answers.
J: Everybody knew this?
A: Oh, everybody knew it. He was a very likable guy. I always enjoyed him. I
enjoyed all of them.
J: Did you have all of them in class?
A: Yes, I had every one of them at one time or another. They did not have very
many in those days.
J: Now, there were a few women in your classes. Do you remember any of them?
Lucille Cairns (class of 1941)?
A: Yes, I remember Lucille Cairns. She was after me.
J: She graduated in 1940.
A: I think Mrs. Pridgen was the only woman who was taking any classes when I was
there. Rebecca Bowles Hawkins (class of 1935) finished just about the time I
was getting there. They had her picture in the last issue of the Bar Journal; I
guess I took it home. It was about women lawyers or something. She is still a
member of the bar here in Tallahassee, I think. She graduated a year after
Clara Floyd Gehan (class of 1933).
J: Another lady who graduated in 1936 was Katherine Walton Engelken from
A: Yes, Kate Walton. Her father was a lawyer in Palatka. She was a darn good
J: I had not heard of Rebecca Bowles before. Well, how did these ladies do in law
A: Well, they did all right, we had a ball.
J: How did you feel about them being there?
A: Fine. I found it embarrassing in criminal law when old Judge Cockrell asked me,
"What is sodomy?" Having to get up and define sodomy in the presence of Mrs.
Pridgen was not the most delightful thing because she was like another mother to
me. She was not that old, but I still visited her and her son.
But generally, we did not think it was too much of an exception to the rule,
and we accepted them pretty well. They were always very popular and all the
guys like to have girls around. We did not mind that at all.
J: Was not there some professor who refused to talk about rape when women were
in the class? Perhaps that was TeSelle.
A: I do not remember that. Now, TeSelle had a daughter, Jeanette, who eventually
went to law school. She was behind me, too. She probably went a couple of
years later. But by 1939, there had not been very many women to go to law
school. It was in the 1940s, I think, that they started having a trickle of women
through there. That is when the Cairns girl and Jeanette TeSelle went to law
school. I do not think she ever graduated, but she did attend. There were
several others. There was Virginia Baxley, from Gainesville, who went there a
short while but never graduated. Her married name is Virginia Baxley Whiddon.
J: When you walked into the law college from the west side, what would you first
A: Well, the little hall to your left led to the library, as I recall. To your right there
were two classrooms, and across the hall was Crandall's office. Upstairs were
two classrooms and the courtroom that Trusler always used. I have forgotten
just how many classrooms there were in that damn building. There were not
J: What was on the third floor?
A: That is right. There is still a third floor.
J: Now, Paul Shelley was saying that floor was reserved for the ROTC.
A: That is right. It was for a while. They had a class for that up there.
J: Well, the law school only needed about four classrooms anyway, I think.
J: And all the classes were scheduled in the morning from what I understand. They
never had any evening classes.
A: They did not have any afternoon classes. Always in the morning.
J: Were Saturday classes pretty well received?
A: There was not any choice, if you wanted to graduate.
J: Did you want to go Saturdays?
A: No, you did not want to.
J: Today there would be a rebellion.
A: No, you just had to do it. If you wanted to graduate you had to have Common
Law Pleading and you got that at eight o'clock, and you had to take some other
courses. Some courses were on Tuesdays, Thurdays, and Saturdays. But you
did not go in the afternoons, so it worked out pretty fairly.
J: Was it fun, in general, to be in law school? It sounds like it was a lot of work.
A: Yes, it was a lot of work, but it was fun. It was a little bit different in law school.
I thought it really was a great experience. It was different and hard work. You
were closely knit, and I think you got closer with your fellow students than you did
in any other college. Toward the end, we would get into groups and study
different courses. There was a comraderie that you did not have in other places.
J: With whom did you develop some close friendships?
A: Well, there is Judge McCrary, who is a circuit judge. He is still talking about
retiring. He is over in Marianna, in the Graceville area. He was in my
graduating class. Ben Krentzman just retired as a federal judge. He graduated
at the same time. Then there was a fellow namedStrachan Duncan, who is a
real estate man in Texas. He was a very close friend of mine. Archie Meatyard
and I see each other only when we have a class reunion, but after all these years
we still have a strange closeness. It is amazing that it could go through the years
that way. I have not seen Fred Gilbert in twenty-five or thirty years, but I am
sure that if I saw him I would feel real close to him because we had that
closeness. There was George Smathers (class of 1938), who graduated shortly
after I did. We will always have a special friendship. It was a little bit different
from other friendships. I guess it was because there were so few of us and
because it was just around that one building. You spent more time in close
confinement in a small building with a few professors and fewer classes. You
spent more time together than you would have in academic school. You were
more apt to study together than you were in academic school. It was a different
J: Would you all go out and do things together for entertainment? Would you see
football games together?
A: No, not too much of that. Those who were in the same fraternity might go
partying together. Manny Garcia is crazy as hell down in Tampa, but even
today, we are very close friends. He graduated with me. It was not so much
going out together as it was the closenesss of that law school and of being
together as friends. For those who were in the same fraternity, perhaps they got
to be a little closer. Eddie Boardman and I had a friendship, and we went
knocking through those courses and getting out of school. It made it a little
J: You could count on seeing the same people year after year and class after class
for the two or three year interval, and that created friendship bonds?
J: Do you think these same friendships develop with law students at the University
of Florida Law College today?
A: No, I do not think so. First, it is large. Well, I am not one to talk. I have not
been among them. I am just talking as an outsider. It may be they have
aocamraderie there that I do not know about. But, I do not see how a student
body that large could ever have the closeness of a closely knit group of students.
We knocked off the same problem at the same time, when one of us had a
problem, everybody knew about it. As it is now, you do not get to know the
students and have the benefit of that. I am sure that in the law school there are
groups of that same size that are probably closer than we were, but on the
overall picture, I do not think that they have the affinity to the law school that we
had. They might have it to each other, but not to the school.
You have to understand another thing. I was laughing because when I
was a research aide for the Florida Supreme Court in 1938, the Southern
Reporter increased during my year from volume 181 to 187, and that was all the
Florida law there was. There was not any second series. There were 187
volumes of the Southern Reporter when I finished my research aide course, and
twenty-two volumes of Florida Reports. Today when I hire an aide, we are on
volume 450, second series. [Laughter] You can understand that in those days it
was not too difficult to do your research and find the law. Today in law schools,
you have that great vast volume of the law to try to straighten out in somebody's
mind, and the way opinions are cranked out, there is a lot of trash in those books.
There are opinions that do not mean anything, and you have to weed all of that
out and try to get to the basic principles of the law. It is a hell of a hurdle in law
school today. That is one of the reasons that the students and the professors
cannot get together as closely as we did because the field is too wide. We just
learned the basic principles. That is why I am so dumb; I cannot keep up with
the pace today. [Laughter]
J: Would the professors invite you all over to their homes?
J: Was it a professional relationship between the student and instructor? In the
classroom it sounds pretty informal.
A: Yes, it was informal, but we never would go visiting with the professors or
anything like that. We did not have the relationships with professors that the
students have today, and that is something that we all missed. I think this is a
great asset to the students today to have a closer relationship to the individual
professors. I think professors today are more apt to communicate with the
students and be a part of them, but we never had that in law school.
J: Do you have a sense of why not?
A: I do not know. I guess things just were not that way. I do not know whether it
was a fear that perhaps we might find that they were not as smart as they were
supposed to be. I do not know what it was. I guess it goes back to the old
Victorian idea of discipline. If you are going to have discipline, you cannot have
too much of a close friendship. They were pretty hard disciplinarians.
J: Did any of them have any idiosyncracies or nicknames that stands out in your
mind? Slagle had a nickname.
A: They called him Sloogy most of the time, just because it was a name.
J: Where did that come from?
A: Because it sounded a little bit like Slagle. I liked him very much; he was a real
gentleman. There was not any question about that. He was not a hard
taskmaster. He did his job as best he could. I do not think Jimmy Day had a
nickname. I do not know what they called TeSelle; just TeSelle was a dirty
J: [Laughter]. Why was that?
A: Well, he was rough as a cog, though I liked him personally.
J: Now, someone told me a story about him administering an oral test in which he
would read ten questions of law twice, and on the first one you listened and
during second you were writing the answer. Do you remember taking a test like
A: No. He liked to cross-examine you when you were answering things. On my
first day in law school he asked me about the basic principle of a contract. In a
contract, you must have a meeting of the minds, and he questioned me until I
admitted that you did not have to have a meeting of the minds, and for my whole
tenure of three years in law school, I became "Meeting of the Minds" Adkins. He
made a fool out of me the first day.
J: Boy, he was rough on people.
A: Yes, he was plenty rough, but I got along with him great. I enjoyed him. We did
not have too many nicknames then.
A: How about practical jokes? Slipping out of class on the professors or slipping
into class late?
A: Oh, that was routine. They used to call the roll, and I can remember one time
when Trusler called the roll we had about seventy people in this big class. It
was the biggest class in law school, and he called the roll and everybody was
present--he looked up and there were only about twenty people there.
[Laughter] Nobody was very strict about it. We played most of the practical
jokes on Trusler, I guess. That was because he kept his eyes closed when he
gave his lectures. But, it was a lot of fun.
J: Was any one of them any more intellectual than the rest?
A: I think perhaps Jimmy Day was probably the best scholar they had; I think
TeSelle had the great practical experience; I think Cockrell had a deep
knowledge of the law. He was highly intelligent, but he was not inclined to work
too hard, and Crandall was the same way. He had done his work, so he was
kind of coasting along and taking it easy. But he was very brilliant. They were
all very brilliant people, I think.
J: What was your favorite law when you were in school?
A: My favorite law?
J: Did they have specialties in insurance or tax law?
A: Well, they did not have much in insurance and tax law. They had a course in it,
but that was about it. I guess criminal law was my favorite. Criminal law and
evidence and torts were my three favorites. And property. I liked property
problems better than any of them. I made 'A's in property all the time.
J: Did you pretty much stick with those three or four types of law through the years?
A: Well, I will tell you. I have done a little bit of everything. I have written books on
criminal law, on real estate, on automobile liability, and on discovery. Everytime
I have been in the practice and have decided to get out of a certain area,
somebody came in with a good fee, and I would be back in business again. So,
I cannot say that there is any one field of the law that I enjoy more than the other.
I have always said that if a person has a distaste for a certain area of the law, it
is because they have not studied it. I have never seen anything in the law that
could not become fascinating if you tried to learn something about it. That
includes public utilities, transportation, criminal law, torts, school law, and the
formation of a faculty and a school. All of it is just fascinating. I have not found
anything dull here yet.
J: In your time off from classes there were a couple of clubs that you could have
been involved in, like the Colonel's Club and the John Marshall Debating Society.
Did you take part in those?
A: Well, I did not take part in any debating society or anything like that. I was a
member of a freshman organization called the Bacchus. It is kind of amusing
because now Bacchus is an organization of which I really approve--to watch
alcoholism. But then Bacchus fostered alcoholism. It was known as a drinking
society. It was for freshman. Then the upper classmen had the Pirates and the
L'Apache, which were social clubs. I was a L'Apache and in the Pi Kappa Alpha
social fraternity. I was a Phi Delta Phi. But, I did not participate much in the
other activities. I just did my job, and earned some money, and did some work.
I just had a good time.
J: Do you think a lot of people had that same kind of approach to law school?
A: Oh, yes.
J: How about being married?
A: Well, in those days, you could not afford to get married. I got married secretly
my last year in law school, but I think those who were not married were usually
tied up with one girl that they were going with. Marriage was purely a question
of economics in those days. I made pretty good money, but I did not make
enough for us to live together at the time, and that was true with all of the
students. I do not remember any students who were married. I am sure there
were some, but I just do not remember any. None of my friends were.
J: Tell me about secretly becoming married your last year.
A: Well, that was in 1938. After I got a job in town I got married again in 1939. I
was just in love. She wanted to get married, so we did. We were divorced
about two years after that. We had a lot of fun. She is a very wealthy woman
now. She is a fine woman. We are still good friends. She is a good friend of
my wife's, and we all get along fine.
J: What were the big sports on campus?
A: Oh, football and track were big.
J: Steve O'Connell was boxing at that time.
A: Yes, that is right. There was a lot of intramural bosing. Gator Growl was the
final in the intramurals. That is when we held the finals. Wrestling and boxing
and all that sort of stuff went on at Gator Growl. It was pretty interesting. We
did not have the type of programs they have now. Then the fraternities started
putting on skits, and they were wild and wooly.
J: The boxing and the wrestling happened in the stadium?
J: Did they have fireworks like they do today?
A: Swimming was a big thing then, and so was basketball. We were always trying
to have a good basketball team. That is about the same that they are now. We
did not have to worry about NCAA violations then, though. They funny thing
about it was that in those days Alabama and all the other big schools had alumni
doing things for college students, and we did not have the alumni and all that at
the University of Florida. Dr. John J. Tigert, who was president of the University
of Florida was the one who started the scholarships for the southeastern schools,
and innovated the program of scholarships for schools instead of the give-away
J: Little if he knew.
A: Right. Tigert's grandfather was the founder of Vanderbilt University. His name
J: Was the law school large enough to support a political party to run people for
A: No, the parties were primarily divided by fraternities more than anything else.
The students did not have any political activity just as law students. Usually they
had the two party system and they were courting the dormitory guys and usually
one group of fraternities in each party. But, in the law school, students did not
take an active interest in school politics as law students. They might individually
in connection with other students.
J: Now the Law Review was established in 1947, the same year they allowed
women into the university.
A: Yes, but we did not have one.
J: Were there any kind of law school publications that you remember?
A: No. We had a course in legal writing. I think we called it legal research. You
had to write something, and I wrote something on the admissibility of scientific
evidence in criminal cases, or something like that, and you got one hour credit for
the document. None of them were ever published. It was written and left with
J: Were you a pretty good writer in law school? You have written about fifty
articles and books.
A: Oh yes. I had no problem. I started in high school.
J: Because of the White sisters?
A: The White sisters got me started.
J: Did you find that having to write so much and think on your feet was different
from the academic school?
A: Well, actually I prepared for that. I took every literature course and English
course and things of that nature that I could take in academic in arts and science.
So, in that respect, law school was not too much of a change. It was the
nomenclature and the way of doing business that was different. I remember my
first day in law school. It was a cold shock when they started lecturing and I
expected them to tell me what the assignment was for the next day. My mind
was not working. I was sitting there and I did not even kow what they were
talking about. The first course I took was "Trusts," of all things. It was hard
work. It was a summer session, too. I worked real hard that summer. So in
that relation, it was a strange area. I had to learn the nomenclatures of words
and the expressions. Even though I had worked in law offices it was still strange
for me to get the fundamental theories of the law. It was quite a change, I think.
The writing was helpful insofar as examinations were concerned and briefing
cases. It made it easier. Most of the time you bought canned briefs, but a lot of
the time I briefed my own cases.
J: Was the third year any easier than the first?
A: Oh yes. Third year was my easiest year. I did not have any problems with that.
J: Did you go straight through law school once you got in?
A: After I returned from West Point, I stayed there until I graduated. I had two more
years to go, and I stayed there.
J: Did you take any summer breaks?
A: Well, yes. I do not believe I went to summer school. I might have, I do not
think I did. I stayed pretty well with it then. I worked like hell. I made 'A's. I
think I made all 'A's, except one 'C'. The old dean would never give my anything
but a 'C'.
J: There was something wrong there.
A: I suppose. I studied with Eddie Boardman in one of his classes and I taught it to
Ed. He did not know a damn thing about it. We spent about a week together
and I taught him that damn course. Ed made an 'A' and I made a 'C'. I never
will forget that thing.
J: What was your final GPA? Did they have such a thing then?
A: Well, they did not. They just had it generally. In those days, three points was
an 'A'. They just had three, two, and one. I had better than a two, better than a
'B' average. If you knocked out the one semester I busted out, my average
would run about 2.5. They do not have a record of that busting out. I did
anyway. I cannot blame them. They said my attitude was wrong, and they
were right. Bad attitude.
J: About what?
A: Well, I was on my way to West Point. I did not care about taking that law exam.
J: In your final year of law school, did you know that you were not going to make
much money the first couple of years?
A: Oh, yes. I knew very well that there was not any way to make that money. I
would make less than I had been making. When I graduated I had two offers.
One was $150 per month as a legal secretary and the other was for $75 per
month as a lawyer. So I took the $75 deal in May, and then in August, the
Florida Supreme Court notified me that I could go to work for them September 1,
1938, at $150, so the Lord looked after me. That was the going rate for the best
job in the state.
J: Were most of your friends in law school aware of the bleak job prospects?
A: Oh, yes. They were bleak everywhere. I do not care what kind of business you
were in, you could not get a job. Strachan Duncan is now in real estate in
Texas. He got a job with the Department of Agriculture in Washington. Another
fellow, Jim Wallace, went with the FBI. Clive Hedrick and Fred Gilbert both went
to Washington to get jobs in the government and are still there. It was tough
sledding. But jobs were just beginning to become available a little bit in 1938.
J: I thought the job prospects for lawyers would have been much better than it
would have been for a college professor, or an accountant, or a businessman,
but from what I understand it was a little bit tougher than I imagined.
A: Much tougher. Of course, the negligence field and all those big verdicts has got
lawyers going pretty good. But, unless you had an in with a bank or a big
corporation or something of that nature, your future in the law was just about nil
as far as money was concerned. The going expression then was that if you
wanted to get rich practicing law, marry a rich woman. That was about the only
way you could do it. But we accepted that because the law was a profession
that we loved, and we really did not think about getting rich; the idea was just to
make a living. You could always make a living in the law if you just hung up your
shingle at five dollars here and ten dollars here. It did not take much to get
along. It was not until the law developed that we had started making money,
and with more money came more responsibility.
J: Did you ever dream you would make it here?
A: No, I did not want to come here. After I was research aide I swore I would never
be a judge and never be involved in politics. I went back to practice law. I was
going to reform the world and look after all the forlorn people and I did. I was
the original public defender for aboutsixteen years. It was rather a strange thing.
I never expected to be a judge. I swore I never would be a judge, but now I
enjoy it. I enjoy it very much. I have had one basic philosophy of life which is
that God gave me the strength to use my talents always for the benefits of
others, and as long as I walk along and do not try to make too many decisions,
God looks after me, but once I start trying to do things for myself, I screw up
every time. I kind of relax and sit back and take it as it comes. It was just
through faith that I recognized the opportunity that I had better get back out in the
practice for a while. Then I became circuit judge, and then when I ran for this
office I ran statewide. I do not think there was any other time in my life that I
could have been elected to the Florida Supreme Court except in that one
instance. I picked the right time and ran. It was fun. I enjoyed every minute of
J: Why was that the right time?
A: Well, I had had a controversial case and made a decision to protect the grand
jury in the face of a lot of criticism and opposition. I had to put somebody in jail
and I hung in there and they fire bombed my house. All that publicity busted
loose, and my friends said, "Hell, run for the Court." So I did.
J: The people who wanted to do away with you are the ones who helped you out
A: Right. That is funny. I had had a good foundation. I think every lawyer in town
and in the state had a book of mine, and I think most of the police officers and
sheriff's officers had copies of my criminal law book. They knew who I was. I
had a background I did not realize I had. When I went politicking, they all knew
who I was. That kind of surprised an old country boy who could go into some
big city police office and see his book sitting there, and then they wanted me to
autograph it and all that kind of stuff. So, I got off pretty good. I never would
have known it if I had not run for office.
J: Did you do most of your writing before you ran for office?
A: I wrote the criminal law book in 1952.
J: Where did you campaign in the state when you were running in 1968?
A: When I got the results of the previous general election I found that eighty-five per
cent of the vote in Florida was cast in twenty counties. So, I lived in those
twenty counties. I got a WATTS line and covered the other forty-seven with
telephone calls, and asked people to help me with an itinerary of where to go and
set up appointments and go to meetings and do mailings. I had a form letter
that I put out. I shook hands and got names and addresses, and would call on
the WATTS line, and say, "Send a letter to so and so; give them form letter
number four, and add a paragraph that I enjoyed chatting with you on Biscayne
Boulevard that day in Miami." That gave it the personal touch. I got thousands
of those letters off, and I raised a little bit of money.
J: Who was your opponent?
A: Woody Likes in the priamry, and I took every county but two. In the general
election was David McCain. He probably got up here by and appointment from
Kirk and was knocked off the court and ended up with bad egg. He ran on the
Republican ticket. That was when it was partisan, and that was the year that
Nixon and Gurney were elected too. So I was fighting a Republican landslide. I
was running on the Democratic ticket. I had a lot of friends, and a lot of people
did a lot of work. I never will forget it. I like partisan elections. I am glad to
work for me.
J: What do you think about this recent merit retention?
A: I have been opposed to merit retention. First, I think it is ridiculous to say that
the people have sense enough to know when to keep a judge, but they do not
have sense enough to select one. It puts the judiciary in a situation where a
controversial decision just before elections could give any Tom, Dick, and Harry
the right to raise a little money and possibly knock a judge off the bench over one
decision. That is certainly not voting on a man's record. The next thing is that
the people do not know judges' records. I went through merit retention and
nobody know what kind of record I had. I would rather see a judge sit until some
warm body qualifies and runs against him. I think that it would be better if we
regulated the contributions, and I would just as soon have everybody who wants
to run for judge start off even and have one big pool of money for everybody to
run on. We need to limit the ads and have joint appearances. Give people a
chance to select them as well as retain them. Let two guys get up there and
compare records and backgrounds and make a selection instead of letting others
judge them. The last two judges had to run on a decision, and that is only one
decision out of thousands that they have made. It is just not right. I am
opposed to it. When I retire, I will make speeches and get rid of it.
J: Will you have merit retention to run for in 1987?
A: I have to retire in January 1987, because I will be seventy this January. I can fill
out this term, which is another two years. At the end of this term I cannot run
any more. I am too old.
J: The state is going to retire you?
J: How do you feel about that?
A: I think it is ridiculous. I have had my share of illnesses, but I am the only judge
that walks four miles to work.
J: That is a statement.
A: I was kidding some of them the other day. They were talking about the "old"
judge, and I said, "Yes, not a one of you could start from my house in the
morning and walk four miles and sit all day on the bench and still enjoy it." They
agreed with me. I think as long as we have the Judicial Qualifications
Commission that judges the qualifications of a judge and his ability and his
competence, you have a method to tell him, (if not quietly then openly) to get off
the bench. I do not think there is any need to put the seventy year on there.
They like it because it gives them a chance to retire judges and then use retired
judges to sit on the bench again. I do not tolerate that. I have almost written
my novel now and I am about to sign a contract on it and I am going to start
another career. The hell with this judging stuff.
J: What is your novel?
A: It is called The Key. I got the contract in the mail the other day for it, and I am
waiting. Another company said they were going to send me one. It is rather
violent, and there is a lot of sex. It is a good story.
J: Who are the publishers?
A: One publisher is the Pineapple Press. It is a new publishing company about four
years old around Sarasota. They sent me a contract. The other is Denlinger
Publishing Company from Fairfax, Virginia. You might remember them. They
are the ones that published that novel Mandango about the Old South.
J: Are they also called the Fairfax Press?
A: Yes. I think they are interested because my novel involves a lot of racial
problems. It was an interesting experience for me because it starts in the 1920s
and goes to the present. I can remember the way of life that we had as I was
growing up. For example, there is the experience with my colored friend, Jimmy,
and when we discussing what to call me. That is one of the incidents of this era.
It shows a relationship between a white and a colored where there was no
hatred. But in that way of life we never recognized racial prejudice. As I was
writing that thing, I would think, "My God, I think you are the most racial..." But
you do not look at it that way at the time. At the time, it looked like that was the
way things were supposed to be. I wrote about one boy who got himself
involved in the army. He becomes a black hero, but when he returns he has to
go to the grim realization that integration is not here even though you are a hero.
There are a few points to it.
J: Well, I am looking forward to reading that.
A: I had a lot of fun with it. It is a good story. I do not think it is well written, but
anyway if I can sell it, I will send it to you.
J: I have enjoyed talking with you today and reminiscing about the past. So many
people just do not have that sense of past, that feel for what things were.
A: I like people and everything impresses me. It was a great experience. I have
enjoyed talking with you. I have never done this before, so it is nice to get to the
age where you can look back. I was telling my wife that you were going to
interview me and I said, "You know, when a man gets old like this, he can just sit
back and lie like hell." But I have not exaggerated. I have tried to lay it on the
line pretty well. That is the way things were. But I have enjoyed every minute
of it. I am just looking forward to some more. I do not want to do it over again,
though. I do not think I could come out as well as I have.
J: It is good therapy to talk about the past, and you learn more about yourself. I
enjoy talking to people older than I. It seems that you learn so much more about
life and people and how things operate.
A: Yes, I agree with you. It is hard for me to find anybody like that anymore.
When I was a kid, one of my Christmas projects with another fellow in Gainesville
was to visit little old ladies that we knew. On Christmas day, we would sit down
and get into a discussion, and it was the most refreshing and enlightening thing
in the world. I know what you are talking about.
J: Well, how active are you with the university today?
A: I am not active at all. I have never made a lot of money. I have been a poor
man, and I try to do what I can for the school.
J: Well, I have enjoyed talking with you today. This ends the interview with Justice
James C. Adkins. Thank you, Justice Adkins.
[End of interview]