Interviewee: Judge James R. Knott
Interviewer: Sid Johnston
Date: February 23, 1985
James R. Knott is a 1934 graduate of the College of Law of the University of
Florida. He served as a circuit judge from 1956 to 1977. He is a member of the
Florida Bar and the American Bar Association and is listed in Who's Who in America.
Knott is also a historian. He has served as president of the Florida Historical Society
and has published numerous historical writings.
James Knott was born January 8, 1910. His father was in the phosphate mining
business in north-central Florida and then went into the abstract business. His father
was engaged by Governor H. L. Mitchell to audit the accounts of the county
commissioners of Hillsborough County. The governor then asked him to become
essentially the first state auditor; he became state treasurer in 1903. Knott claims his
father devised Florida's C.P.A. exam.
Knott's mother was a teacher, and he did not attend public school until the fourth
grade. He claims his sister became the first native Floridian to earn a medical degree.
Knott spent a year at Oak Ridge Military Institute in North Carolina, where he played
bass horn in the band so he would not have to drill. Knott graduated from Leon High
School in Tallahassee in 1928.
After one year at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Knott came to
the University of Florida in 1929 and enrolled in the College of Business. He mentions
some of his professors, including Charles "Archie" Robertson, Hasse Enwall, James
Leake, and William Carlton. Knott had pledged Phi Delta Theta at UNC and transferred
his membership to the UF campus. He later took advantage of the combined course of
study offered for the College of Law, which he entered in 1931. Knott discusses some
of the law professors, including William McCrae, Dean Slagle, Clifford Crandall,
Clarence TeSelle, and Robert Cockrell, as well as moot court. Women law students,
including Rebecca Bowles Hawkins, Clara Gehan, and Ellen Knight, are also
mentioned. In his senior year Knott was editor-in-chief of the Seminole, for which he
borrowed the "Man of the Year" feature from Time magazine. U.S. Congressman
Charles Bennett of Jacksonville was the Man of the Year.
Knott graduated in 1934 and became associated with P. L. Gaskins in
Jacksonville in civil law. Knott served as a circuit judge from 1956 to 1977.
J: Today is February 23, 1985, and I am sitting in the law office of Judge James
Robert Knott. [This is Sid Johnston, and] the interview is for the College of Law
in Gainesville, Florida, in preparation of a history of the College of Law. I would
like to start the interview by asking when you were born and where you were
K: I was born in Tallahassee, Florida, on January 8, 1910.
J: So you have recently had a birthday, and you are now seventy-five?
K: I am now seventy-five.
J: How does it feel to be seventy-five years old?
K: It feels all right. It feels good.
J: You look good and healthy. Are you still doing those sit-ups?
K: Most of them, yes.
J: Who were your parents?
K: My mother was a North Carolina girl. Her name was Louella Pugh. She was
born in Graham, North Carolina, and went to what is now Greensboro College in
Greensboro, North Carolina. She became a school teacher in Florida. She
taught in Anthony, Florida, in Marion County, beginning in 1891. She married
my father in Anthony in 1895. His name was William Valentine Knott, a native of
Terrell County, Georgia. He came to Florida at an early age to join his parents
who had retired.
His father had retired after working as a lumber operator, saw mill
operator, and farmer in Georgia. He retired to live near Leesburg with his
mother. They had several children, some of whom had died--mostly of
tuberculosis, which was rampant at that time. He had an orange grove there,
and he died there in 1882. His wife died the following year, in 1883. They are
buried at Leesburg in the old cemetery.
J: How did your father and mother meet?
K: My father was then in the phosphate business. He was born in 1863 and was
living in Leesburg, which was then in Sumter County, before Lake County was
created, which I think was 1888. He lived in Sumter County with his older
brother, Charles Matthew Knott, who was clerk of the court of Sumter County in
1885. William first worked as a deputy clerk of the court under his older brother,
and then he was employed in Putnam County as a deputy clerk beginning in
1887. He was there for a year or two, and then he went into the phosphate
business, which was just opening up in the area--mostly around Leesburg,
Dunnellon, and down through the Ocala area. I do not know just how he met my
mother, but she was in that area, so it is understandable that they would meet.
J: Have you visited that area and tried to determine where the phosphate pits and
mills and yards that your father created and developed were located?
K: Not for that purpose. He owned some land, possibly with others. I think it was
in the Dunnellon area that the land was located, but I have never tried to run
down the exact land.
J: When did your parents marry?
K: They married on March 18, 1895.
J: Who are your brothers and sisters?
K: My older sister was born in 1897 in Ocala. Her name is Mary Franklin Knott,
and she was often called Mary Frank by her friends in her early life. She is still
called by that name, by those who survived from those earlier days. She was
tutored at home in Tallahassee, which is where the family moved the year she
was born, when she became old enough, and eventually went to what is now
Florida State University. She went to high school for a year or two and later
went to Florida State [College for Women]. In the ninth grade at Leon High
School, my sister was a classmate of Muriel Rose, who is the daughter of the
state chemist; Alena Barber, whose father was a professor at the Florida State
College for Women; Tom Palmer of the well-known Tallahassee Palmer family,
who became a Rhodes scholar and then a doctor with a practice in Jacksonville;
the girl who became Tom Palmer's wife, whose name was Theresa Yaeger; and
John Nash Whitfield, who was the son of Judge Whitfield of the Florida Supreme
Court. She roomed her last semester with Alberta Murphree, who was the
oldest daughter of President [Albert A.] Murphree of the University of Florida
J: Where does your sister live today?
K: She lives in suburban Philadelphia. She went to Florida State College for
Women for one year (1916 and 1917), and then to the University of Tennessee
(1917 and 1918). She then went to summer school at the University of Florida
in Gainesville in 1917. In 1918 she started at the University of Pennsylvania
medical school. She had done what was at that time the necessary pre-medical
scholastic training. In the flu epidemic of 1918, the same year she began
medical school, she was out of school due to influenza for such a long period -
she nearly died that she had to skip the rest of the year because she felt she
could not make it up. She graduated from the University of Pennsylvania
medical school in 1923 instead of 1922. She became the first woman native of
Florida to obtain her medical degree.
She was married in 1925 to Earl L. Bazemore, who was from West Palm
Beach. He had been in World War I as a soldier and then went to the University
of Pennsylvania for his college education. That is where she met him. They
had two children--a son who now lives in Atlanta in the advertising business who
has two children, and a daughter who married a surgeon in Philadelphia and who
now lives in suburban Philadelphia on the main line. Her name is Mrs. Jack
Hopkins; her maiden name is Mary Knott Bazemore. She went to Baldwin
School, and then she went to college up there.
J: How long did your sister practice medicine after she graduated?
K: She practiced until she was seventy-five, from 1923 to 1975. Fifty-two years.
J: Where were her different practices?
K: She became a pediatrician. She interned in Boston at the New England Hospital
for women and children. Then she took a further internship in Denver, Colorado,
after she was married. She became certified as a pediatrician, and she
specialized in that area of medicine for the rest of her professional life. She was
an instructor at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and the
Women's Medical College of Philadelphia, which now has another name and is
J: What is its name now?
K: I do not recall it at the moment. I have only heard it once, and that was since
her affiliation with it. I remember many years ago seeing an article about the
women's college in The Saturday Evening Post when it was a flourishing
publication. There was a big picture of her and some other people affiliated with
J: Has she shared with you about her experiences in medical school? That was
very early for women to be in medical school.
K: I would say not a great deal. I was quite young. I was barely thirteen when she
completed medical school, so I was not intimately acquainted with her
J: Do you know if anyone has recorded her history and what she has to say about
women in medicine?
K: I know something about her views on women, which I did not learn while she was
in medical school. I think that her view of women in medicine is that they are
quite well qualified when they are educationally qualified. I do not know of any
view that she has that would conflict with the competency of women in medicine.
J: Did she experience any real hardships that stand out in your mind?
K: She was always a serious student. She worked hard, studied hard, made good
grades. When she took the state [medical] examination in 1923, I recall that she
tied, I believe, for the highest grade that year on the medical examinations, which
I believe were held in Jacksonville. Dr. Ralph Green was the chairman of the
medical board of medicine during the qualification examination.
J: That is quite an honor.
K: And I remember she got a telegram from him.
J: Let me ask you a little bit more about your family. What compelled your father
and mother to move to Tallahassee from the Leesburg/Ocala area?
K: My father, before he went to Tallahassee, engaged with his older brother who
had lived in Sumter County and who had gone to Tampa in the middle 1890s.
My father joined him there in the abstract business. They had what was then
the largest abstract concern in Tampa, which employed about five people. That
was the largest there was at that time in Tampa. He was engaged that year by
Governor [Henry L.] Mitchell of Florida [1893-1897] to make an audit of the
accounts of the county commissioners of Hillsborough County. Governor
Mitchell seemed to be pleased with the audit methods and procedures, and he
asked him to make audits of other county commissions. He finally moved to
Tallahassee in 1897.
J: Your father moved there in 1897 because the governor offered him a position as
K: Yes. He became, in effect, the first state auditor. He devised the first
examination for certified public accountants in Florida.
J: Now, had your father gone through formal training?
J: Did he have a college education?
K: No, he did not. He grew up on a farm near Dawson, Georgia, which was a large
farm that his father operated and owned with his family. His father went to
school there for a brief period. Then his father, having ruthlessly (probably) cut
down the timber in that area and just spoiled everything in the environment,
moved to Yellow Springs, north of Atlanta, to begin the same operation there. It
was there that he was taught by the mother of General Mark Clark for a year or
two as a child in the 1870s. I think that completed his schooling. He never had
any more formal school. But he was always a reader and had a good mind that
retained a lot, and he was a serious-minded young man, I am sure. He made
the most of his time. He did not drink, he never smoked or engaged in what we
would call frivolous pastimes.
J: Once he moved to Tallahassee, what other children did he have?
K: My sister was born in 1897. The next child was my brother John Charles Knott,
who was born in Tallahassee in 1900. I was the third and last child, born in
1910 in Tallahassee.
J: There is quite a spread between your older brother and yourself?
J: Did you discuss that with your mother and father?
K: My mother used to tell me that she wanted to have me and that they looked
forward to my birth and so forth. That may have been true, but I expect that my
conception was probably strictly accidental. We lived in Tallahassee until 1916
on a ten-acre place on the edge of Tallahassee on Thomasville Road.
J: Thomasville Road? I do not know where that is.
K: It was opposite what later became the Yeats's house. Steve Yeats and his wife
Lucille built there about 1920-1921. I believe the house is still there. But the
house I was born in is not there. To the south side of the house was the site of
the Winthrop house Frank Winthrop which was later owned by B. K. Roberts
[Justice Roberts]. It is now a business house. It is a brick house, the Winthrop
house is. That was all located on this place that my family had, which was
surrounded by pecan trees and peach trees that he planted. The house was a
regulation, largish, frame house with a hall down the middle, upper and lower
storage, and rooms on each side of the hall. The kitchen was located outside
the house, which was more or less usual in those days. They had a yard man
who lived in the barn and a cook who lived in the kitchen wing, and they had
horses, a milk cow, and a goat. They had a tennis court, a ball diamond, and a
swimming pool. They had the first swimming pool in Tallahassee.
J: That was a civic center that you all lived at, just about!
K: In a way it was, because they welcomed the neighborhood kids. My brother
used to say that all the kids in Tallahassee learned to swim there.
J: Did your mother continue teaching school after your sister was born?
K: No, she did not.
J: She taught right up to the time that you all moved to Tallahassee?
K: No, she taught until she was married.
J: I see.
K: I do not think she taught after she was married.
J: What did your father do after his being hired as an auditor?
K: He did auditing work.
J: Up until 1916?
K: When he went to Tallahassee, Governor [William S.] Jennings [1901-1905] in
1901 offered to appoint him state treasurer when the office became vacant that
year. He was then engaged in some auditing work that he did not want to
forego, and so he did not accept it. In 1903 the governor offered it to him again,
and he accepted. He became state treasurer, and he continued in that office
until 1912 when he was appointed state comptroller. He served there until 1917.
In 1916, while he was state comptroller, he became a candidate for governor
and was considered, I suppose, the leading candidate. Another leading
candidate appeared, Sidney J. Catts, who had been a Baptist preacher in
Alabama and had moved to De Funiak Springs several years before then. I
remember Mr. Catts. I heard him speak at least once later when he ran for
governor again after having been elected once, and he was a good,
old-fashioned orator. My father was not an orator.
The campaign in 1916 resulted in the Bryan Primary Law which gave the
voters first- and second-choice spaces to vote. Their choice of candidates and
the persons who added the votes evidently became mixed up. I do not know
what kind of chicanery might have gone on in addition to that, but the vote was
extremely close. I think there were 264 votes between them, and a recount was
ordered at my father's request. Catts was, I believe, declared the victor at first,
but my father filed a suit with the [Florida] Supreme Court, and a recount was
held which became quite complicated. At the end of that, my father was
declared the Democratic nominee and was expected to win because he was the
Democratic nominee. But Catts, during the recount, which lasted a long time,
was out busy campaigning. My father was not out doing that, as he should have
been. He was pictured as being the leader of a nest of professional politicians in
Tallahassee who favored the Catholics, which the rural population was quite
sensitive to Catholics and Jews and "niggers," as they called them. So, Catts
was elected in the general election. My father did not start campaigning again
until after he was declared the Democratic nominee. Whether that was the
reason he was defeated is open to speculation.
Anyway, Catts was elected, and we moved from Tallahassee after that to
an orange grove on Terra Ceia Island in Tampa Bay that my father had owned
for a number of years. We lived there and, for a brief time, in St. Petersburg.
My father eventually became an auditor with the federal government. For the
first year or two of my sister's tenure as a student at the University of
Pennsylvania medical school, we lived in Philadelphia. Then he gave up that
work, and we moved to Jacksonville, Florida, and lived there for a year. Then
he accepted an appointment as superintendent at the Florida State Hospital at
Chattahoochee, and we lived there from 1921 to 1927. In 1927, Governor John
W. Martin [1925-1929] appointed him state auditor with a number of assistant
state auditors under him, and the following year appointed him state treasurer
again. He served in that office from 1928 until 1941, when he retired. He was
succeeded by Ed Larson.
J: You all moved back to Tallahassee?
K: In 1927.
J: What are some of the schools you attended while growing up? It sounds like
you moved from Tallahassee to Tampa and then up to Philadelphia. I expect
you went to a number of different public schools.
K: I did not go to public school until we moved to Philadelphia. I had one day of
public school in Tallahassee.
J: One day?
K: Yes. I did not dislike it much, but I did not like it much either, so my mother said
I did not have to go. She taught me at home. I did not go to school after that
until we were in Philadelphia.
J: When was that?
K: 1918. I went to the fourth grade.
J: You had no school until 1918?
K: I did not have any [public] school until we went to Philadelphia, practically. I
entered the fourth grade in Philadelphia.
J: In 1918?
J: And you should have been in the third grade, actually, so she taught you pretty
K: Perhaps so. I do not know. I entered public school in Philadelphia in 1918, I
believe it was.
J: You were in Philadelphia for how long?
K: We lived in Philadelphia two years. I suppose it was the second year we were
there that I started school. We lived near the University of Pennsylvania.
J: How did you feel about that, not going to school in Tallahassee?
K: I was happy not going to school.
J: What would you do in your daytime?
K: I had plenty to do! Children always have plenty to do! In Tallahassee I enjoyed
life tremendously. I had animals of my own. We had a lot of livestock pigs,
chickens. We had a large curtilage, I suppose you would say, around the
house, a fenced-in area, and I had a great time. There were other children
J: Did you fish?
K: I did not fish much, but there were other children around.
J: When did you go to school when you were in Terra Ceia, Tampa?
K: I did not go to school there. There was a school in Terra Ceia, but I did not go
J: Did you even get an education then, is the question I need to ask!
K: No, I had very little formal schooling until I was in the fourth grade. After that I
went to the fifth grade in Jacksonville when we returned to Florida from
Philadelphia. Then I went to the sixth grade when we moved to Chattahoochee.
I continued in the public school in Chattahoochee. I was on a football team,
believe it or not. We had fourteen on our squad. I was on the first eleven. We
played the other little towns around there. Marianna was a big town, but we
played Marianna, I remember. We had a pleasant life in Chattahoochee and a
nice home there. The superintendent's home was, and probably still is, the
headquarters of the fort for which the buildings had recently been erected in
1834. It is a large brick house, and we were very comfortable.
J: You lived there?
J: How long did you all live there?
K: Six years.
J: The entire time that you were in Chattahoochee?
K: Six years. I went to Tallahassee often and to other towns around there -
Quincy. We knew people all around.
J: Did your parents own an automobile?
K: Yes, beginning in 1911. We had a Maxwell. In 1916 we had a Hudson Super
Six, they called it. We always had a car.
J: When did you first learn to drive?
K: I learned to drive when I was about eleven or twelve. I think, probably, I was
really driving by myself no one else in the car when I was maybe twelve.
J: When and where did you graduate from high school?
K: In 1926, I was sent to the Oak Ridge Military Institute in North Carolina, which is
near Greensboro and High Point, eighteen miles from Greensboro. I went there
for one year. In 1927, after I had returned from my year there, we moved to
Tallahassee in the summer. We were gone from Tallahassee about ten years.
I went to Leon High School in Tallahassee and graduated in 1928.
J: Why did you go to Oak Ridge, North Carolina?
K: Because my mother had been visiting friends and relatives there, and she
thought it was a nice school, so she decided that it would be nice for me to go
J: How was that school different from Leon High School and some of the other
public schools you had been to?
K: Oak Ridge was probably like most other prep schools in the South. It was a
boarding school everybody was away from home. They had good athletic
teams which had quite a name in the state at that time.
J: Did you play football up there?
K: No. I did play in the band.
J: What instrument?
K: Bass horn.
J: Were you pretty good?
K: No, I was not much good. The reason I volunteered to be in the band is that I
would not have to drill, because they practiced. Yes, I was smart.
J: Smart, practical move.
K: So I volunteered for the band. They practiced during the hour of the drill.
J: And you said you did play football. What position?
J: What on earth would make you want to play the tackle position?
K: I do not know, just to be playing something. That is where they put me. I did
not want to play tackle especially. We had a teacher there who was from a
place in Tennessee called Jellico, I believe, and he was a very young man only
about nineteen or twenty years old. He was our principal and football coach,
and he was admirably equipped for all that. He was quite a mature individual for
his age, athletic himself. He was a nice fellow. Christopher Purdom [was his
name]. He decided where everybody would play. He was the coach.
J: He does have the power, does he not?
K: Yes, sir.
J: When did you first think about attending college?
K: I suppose in high school. I had originally intended to go to one of the eastern
schools, but the idea of a college entrance examination was an obstruction for
me, mentally, because I just did not fancy the idea of studying for it. I went to
the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill the first year, 1928.
J: What compelled you to go there?
K: My sister, who was rather hip to colleges then, had told me that the University of
North Carolina and the University of Texas were the best liberal arts institutions
in the South at that time, in her opinion, and North Carolina was closer. I went
there arbitrarily. I went to the easiest place to go to. I had planned to enter the
University of Pennsylvania the next year, but I had some sort of examination that
I had to take in order to transfer. I did not want to bother with it, so I went to the
University of Florida.
I found the University of North Carolina not extremely cosmopolitan, as I
had rather hoped it would be. It was made up of the rural population, which
North Carolina is, particularly then. It never had many large cities. It had some
beautiful towns and small cities--Greensboro, Charlotte, Winston-Salem, High
Point, Raleigh, and Wilmington. The boys at the University of North Carolina,
with the exception of a very few, like Gordon Gray, who had been there before I
went, were mostly of small town extraction. They could not teach me much.
The University of Florida offered just as much from that standpoint. I was not
particularly concerned with the scholastic prestige of any particular university.
J: Did you have to pay more to attend the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
than at Florida? Did they have out-of-state tuition waivers?
K: I do not think they did at that time. Tuition was very small. Florida did not have
tuition; it had a fee system, which was very modest.
J: What difficulties did you encounter transferring your records from Chapel Hill to
K: None. I did not have any.
J: Was there an application process for Chapel Hill?
K: Oh, I am sure there was, yes. Chapel Hill is a good school. It was good then.
It and the University of Georgia, both in a way, used to claim to be the oldest
state university. North Carolina had the first buildings at Chapel Hill. The
University of Georgia was chartered before Chapel Hill was, so it is a question of
which view you take.
J: Had you considered the University of Virginia?
J: Why not?
K: It is more a question of "why," not "why not." I would just assume to have gone
there practically, but I did not know anything more about it than I did Chapel Hill.
I did not know as much about it. My sister had gone to a summer school
session for credits at Chapel Hill, I think, before she went to medical school.
J: She was pretty well acquainted with it, then.
K: Well, she was somewhat acquainted with it. She was there briefly.
J: How much tougher was the course work at Chapel Hill than what you
experienced at Leon High School in Tallahassee?
K: I would say typically that college work is more difficult than high school work.
High school work was just nothing to me. And to most others, I guess.
J: Even in those days, then, high school was considerably easier than college?
K: Oh, yes.
J: How about between Chapel Hill and Florida? In terms of tests and the number
of books you had to read and the amount of work you had to put in, was there a
K: I do not know that it was especially discernable. I think that it depends on the
experience of each student with his particular professors and the department that
he is in. If I had to make a guess, I would say that Chapel Hill was more
stringent in its study requirements, possibly in its general approach to its courses
and credits and so forth. It had been there for a long time and had considerable
prestige. It was a well-known school then, and had been. Professor Chase
later became, just after I left there, became president of New York University.
Harry Woodburn Chase. Nobody ever saw him at Chapel Hill, but he had a
considerable name. I found both universities, particularly Chapel Hill, to be run
in a business-like way. Florida was still, I think, sort of feeling its way in the
general college, in undergraduate. But there were some good professors at the
University of Florida.
J: What was your career plan or objective in a long-range?
K: I regret to say that I did not have much of a career plan. I always had it too
easy, really. College work did not give me much trouble. I did not study hard.
My grades were not excellent, but they were not bad, and that suited me all right.
J: You previously mentioned [that there were] some fine professors at Florida.
Who is the first one that comes to your mind?
K: One is Archie Robertson, [Charles] Archibald Robertson [professor of English],
who happened to have been a native of Tallahassee. I think he had gone to the
University of Florida himself and then he took his graduate work at Harvard and
got his Ph.D. in English literature. He returned to the University of Florida to
become a professor in that field, ultimately. He was a good teacher.
J: Do you remember Hasse Enwall [head professor of philosophy]?
K: Yes. He was an excellent man.
J: Did you take any courses with him?
K: Yes, I took a course in philosophy with Professor Enwall, and I enjoyed him. He
was a fine man and knew a lot and was very likeable.
J: Who else did you learn much from in your undergraduate career?
K: I was in the College of Business Administration. I took some economics
courses, of course. I do not remember any particular one [professor] as being
more outstanding than the others. They all seemed to be competent. Who was
the professor who rode around in an old, rickety, old-fashioned Model T Ford
which, even then, was outmoded?
J: [James M.] Leake [professor of history]?
K: Leake, I believe. Yes, he was a character. I took a couple of courses under
him. [William G.] Bill Carlton [professor of humanities and social sciences] was
here, although I did not take any courses under him. He had been a here
teacher for a short time.
J: Did you begin in the College of Business Administration when you first started at
J: What directed you that way?
K: It just happened so.
J: Too much happens that way.
K: I think probably, in most cases for most people, liberal arts courses are the most
helpful for a person to take in college, in undergraduate school, straight liberal
arts. I think that economics and the other specialties should be made the
subject of graduate work. Most boys of college age are a little young to be in
professional studies nowadays. Perhaps things have changed, but when I was
in school, the period was such that you were not expected to be especially
mature at eighteen or nineteen years old.
J: Now, I see from the yearbook that you graduated with a combined course of
K: Yes. At that time you could take six years--three years undergraduate and three
years in law school and let your first year in law school substitute for your last
year, your senior year, as an undergraduate.
J: How did you make the provisions for that arrangement?
K: Through the dean.
J: Dean of business or dean of law?
K: Dean of business.
J: Who was he at that time?
K: Dean Walter Matherly.
J: Did you have to make arrangements with Dean [Harry R.] Trusler at the law
K: No. It was just a formality because the rules permitted it. It was not an
indulgence granted to special people.
J: When did you first consider graduating with a law degree?
K: While I was in school and after I got to college and was an undergraduate at
Florida, I decided that a law degree would be useful whether I practiced law or
not, so that is what I did.
J: I do not think I asked this question before, but when did you first begin at Florida?
K: September 1929.
J: So by 1930, or early 1931, you had determined to do the combined course of
K: About that time.
J: Where did you first live in Gainesville?
K: I lived in a private home with my friend William Dodd, whose father was the dean
of the College of Arts and Sciences at Florida State College for Women. Bill
Dodd and I had been childhood friends. He lived in Tallahassee. A large part
of that time I had lived in Chattahoochee, but we knew each other before. They
were neighbors of ours in Tallahassee before 1916 when my father was state
comptroller and was running for governor. Bill Dodd was born in Tallahassee
and was near my age, a little younger, and he and I were close childhood friends.
J: Was he attending the university?
K: He later went to Michigan and graduated from the University of Michigan.
J: He did not go to Florida, then.
K: Yes, he went to Florida. We roomed together there, but he transferred after his
freshman year, in 1929. He transferred to the University of Michigan and
graduated there. He later moved to South America with some big oil company
in Venezuela. He lived there for a long time. Then he moved back to
Tallahassee when he retired from that work and lived in Tallahassee until his
death, which was last year, 1984.
J: Then he just recently passed away?
K: Yes. His family at one time was quite well known in Tallahassee. His father
was dean at the college, and he was a very well-known figure there.
J: How long did you remain living at the Dodd home in Gainesville?
K: The Dodds lived in Tallahassee. Bill Dodd and I roomed together, but not in his
home. We lived in a private home other than the Dodd home. We rented a
room from some professor and his wife. I do not recall who it was. I did not
take any courses with him. We lived there for a short time, and then I moved
into my fraternity house, which was Phi Delta Theta, which I had joined at Chapel
J: You were already a fraternity brother then?
K: Yes, I was already a fraternity MAN!
K: Man, yes. I moved in the fraternity house and lived there a year or two, I think.
J: Did you have another initiation to go through?
K: No, I had been initiated.
J: How did the initiations compare between the Florida and Chapel Hill chapters?
K: They were probably a good deal alike. I remember more about administering
the initiations at the University of Florida than I do my own at Chapel Hill, but they
were pretty much alike. Of course, each fraternity has its own initiation system, I
suppose. They were probably a little rougher than they are today.
J: How much did it cost to live in a fraternity home at that time?
K: I would say roughly what it cost to live in a private home.
J: About the same. And how much did it cost to live in a private home with a
K: I do not remember. It probably cost about thirty or forty dollars a month, not
J: And of course you all split that cost?
K: I think thirty was fairly high. I think you could live cheaper than that, but I do not
know that I did.
J: My next question is where would you eat?
K: You ate at a boarding house. If your fraternity house served meals you could
eat there. I do not think mine did. You would eat at a boarding house. There
were a lot of them in Gainesville, and they were pretty good.
J: Do you remember Ma Ramsey's?
K: Yes, I had meals there, but I never ate there regularly. It was very popular.
J: How often did you eat on campus?
K: I think very seldom. I do not know that there was much of a place to eat. There
was a soda fountain and sandwich place in Language Hall on the first floor, or
basement. But there was no regular restaurant.
J: There was the campus cafeteria, over the Commons.
K: Oh, yes! I did eat there. I did eat at the Commons.
J: Were the meals comparable between the Commons and out at the boarding
K: Somewhat. Pretty much the same; they gave you a satisfactory meal. The
difference between the kind of meal you would have there and at a restaurant
was mostly in the service of it. The food was largely the same sort of food, and
food in those days did not cost very much.
J: Now, this was the Depression. Had prices dropped considerably for rent and
K: No, it was not the Depression yet.
J: Not yet? We are talking pre-Depression time still?
J: When did you first enter class at the law college?
K: It would have been 1931.
J: So when the Depression hit you were still an undergraduate.
K: Yes. Of course, Florida particularly was suffering from the after-effects of its
boom, which had left a very noticeable effect, particularly in south Florida. But it
did not affect North Carolina too much because the boom did not penetrate that
area heavily. It did have an effect, but it was nothing like south Florida,
particularly the low east coast.
J: What were some of the visible effects that you did experience in Gainesville from
the land bust?
K: The only effect on our [student's] lives was probably a more stringent economy.
There was not as much money. A lot of people had gone broke, and their
children found it hard to go to college. They had to economize. Very few
students had cars, but that had been true all the time. I had a car my last year in
law school; my family gave it to me.
J: What kind of car?
K: It was a four-door Ford which my family had used in Tallahassee. It was a
second-hand Ford, as far as I was concerned, but it ran perfectly well.
J: Did you become an overnight celebrity at the law school and on campus?
K: Oh, no. Cars were not that unusual. A lot of students had cars. A lot of girls
in Tallahassee had cars that is, just as many as the boys did at the University
of Florida. Mamie Tatum of Miami Beach had a beautiful car in Tallahassee.
She was a student in Pi [Beta] Phi. She lives in Stuart, Florida, now.
J: So you began taking law courses in September 1931?
K: Yes, September 1931.
J: How was the transition from undergraduate classes into law classes? Was it
K: Much more difficult.
J: Was there any more frequency of classes? More hours to take?
K: No. It was sort of a new world, a new subject and a sort of professional air
J: How was it more difficult?
K: You had to study more, but I was never a rapt student. I studied hard before
examinations, and I made fairly good grades.
J: Do you remember your final GPA, grade point average?
K: No, I never knew it. I do not know it to this day.
J: That was not a major concern for you, then.
K: No. I averaged probably a B-minus. I was probably in the upper third, I guess.
J: Did other people study harder than you?
K: Mostly, yes.
J: The material came fairly clearly to you?
K: I had the good fortune to be a friend of some people who did study hard. I did
not make friends out of them for that purpose, but my closest friend in law school
was Lawrence Walrath, who was from Keystone Heights. His father was with
the Internal Revenue Service, I believe, and he had been in Jacksonville. He
came from Pennsylvania. He had two sons, Lawrence and Frank, both of whom
are now deceased. My friend Lawrence Larry, we called him was second or
third in our class. He was a very good student in law school. He worked in
Language Hall and in some personnel department, admissions department or
whatever, and he became an interstate commerce commissioner in 1951. He
served there until he retired. He later died in Jacksonville. I had the advantage
of having him and a couple others as friends. Their notes, which they provided
me with before the final examinations, always helped me, along with my own
notes. I always took notes. I did not study much during regular weeks prior to
examination until just a couple of weeks before the final examination, because
that is all they based your grade on--the [final] examination.
J: One examination?
J: What did that exam consist of?
K: It consisted of the questions and things that you had covered.
J: Was it a multiple-choice list of questions?
K: Each professor had his own style of examination. Sometimes they were true
and false, partly, and other times they were essay types of examination. [Some
professors wanted] specific answers to questions. They would describe an
intricate set of circumstances, a complicated set of circumstances from a legal
standpoint, and ask, "What is the law on these? Who owns this land?" They
wanted to know who should own the land, who should prevail in this lawsuit.
J: They were interpretive questions, then, that you would have to answer?
K: I suppose you could call them that. They were good, pretty tough questions.
J: Were they tougher than questions over in liberal arts and the business colleges?
K: I would say, generally speaking, yes. I think in recognition of the fact that you
are in graduate school professional school it is a different ball game. It is
different from asking you about a situation in one of the [Honore de] Balzac
novels or The Tempest by Shakespeare, or whatever it might be.
J: Take me through a little tour of the law school from where you lived, beginning
from your home in the fraternity house and how you came to the law school.
K: I lived about three or four blocks from the law school. My fraternity house
changed its location while I was in law school, but it was always within three or
J: Where did it change from, to?
K: From University Avenue, about four blocks toward the center of Gainesville on
the south side of the street [University Avenue] to directly north of the campus,
on the street that came close to running into Language Hall if it did not stop at
University Avenue [NW 15th Street]. It was about two and a half or three blocks
on the west side of the street. It ended with some woods, that block did, and the
next block went into woods, which were undeveloped. I just always walked. I
do not think I drove my car over to campus. Even when I had one my last year, I
never did use it.
J: Did you have a bicycle?
J: As you walked in the west corridor of the law college building, what did you first
K: I did not walk in the west corridor, mostly the east corridor.
J: How would most people come in?
K: I think either one. They were both used.
J: One of them was not blocked off by an office or anything like that?
K: No, they both entered the same broad hallway with a stairway leading up to the
J: Now, at that time, I do not believe there was the small extension to the north
where they put the new library and the new courtroom.
K: As you enter the building from the west, let us say, the library was to your left. It
was a very large room. Behind the library was Miss [lla] Pridgen's office, who
was the librarian, and perhaps Dean Trusler's office. I am not sure. I think his
office was in back of the library.
J: Did that take the whole wing all the way to the end of the building?
K: The lower floor. Above that was the courtroom, the mock trial courtroom, which
was used as a classroom. Of course, it was used as a classroom much more
than it was used as a courtroom.
J: Do you remember being in the library when a class was in session upstairs and
how noisy it might become downstairs in the library?
K: I do not think it was noisy. No, because the classes were not that loud. The
chief noise was when Dean Trusler would enter the room. It had been a custom
for everybody to make a loud noise shuffling with their feet on the floor, and I
think that was the only noise.
J: What was the origin or the tradition behind that shuffling?
K: I do not know.
J: Did you shuffle along with everybody else?
K: Everybody shuffled.
J: Did the professors ever shuffle back?
K: No. Dean Trusler was the only one they shuffled for.
J: You do not remember doing that to [Clifford W.] Crandall?
K: No, we did not do it for Crandall. Not only do I not remember it, we did not do it.
I can remember that very clearly. No question about that.
J: What did you think about Mrs. Pridgen?
K: Mrs. Pridgeon was a very nice lady. Always very helpful. She was kind and
nice and intelligent and helpful.
J: Did you use the library much?
K: Not a great deal. Not as much as I should have.
J: How many assistants did she have working in the library?
K: She probably had a couple of student assistants. I do not even remember for
sure. She did not have any paid assistants, unless they paid the students a little
something. Many of the students at the University of Florida who worked got
like ten or twenty cents an hour. Not over twenty. But money was different
then. Most of my time in law school was in the so-called Depression. You
could buy a lunch at an average restaurant I do not mean a pricey restaurant,
even for those days for twenty-five or thirty cents, in Jacksonville. The
business and professional people would eat in those restaurants. If you got
charged for coffee, it was a nickel always. Never more than a nickel.
J: Now, you just mentioned the "so-called" Depression. I am interested in why you
used that term.
K: Because we were not terribly conscious of the Depression. That is why I said
J: So it did not impact you.
K: We did not lose any farms. We were nineteen, twenty, and twenty-one years
old. We did not lose our farm; we had not gone into bankruptcy. We knew a lot
among our number were very hard up, probably, but it did not crimp them a lot.
Everybody else was of a modest liver, so to speak.
J: How did you pay for law school?
K: My parents paid for it.
J: Did you feel that you needed to work?
J: Did you want to work?
K: No. I would not have minded working if I had to. I was never called on to work.
J: It sounds like you had a good time at law school.
K: I did. I visited my fellow students and friends in college at their homes. I used
to visit West Palm Beach on weekends. I visited Jacksonville, Tampa, Orlando,
and frequently Tallahassee, and other towns Miami.
J: This is when you had your automobile, or before that?
K: Before then. It was mostly before then, because I did not have the car until my
last year. But it did not make any difference. You went in somebody else's car.
There were always people with cars, although there were not many of them.
But you always had transportation if you wanted to go somewhere. You helped
pay for the gas. You certainly always offered to and usually did.
J: How were the roads?
K: Practically all the roads were paved then. They were, I would say, pretty good
roads. It was not like living before the automobile was invented, although all of
that had to come in since World War I, I suppose.
J: Did you occasionally meet a horse and buggy or a horse and wagon on the
K: Occasionally. Not very often.
J: Let us continue with our tour in the law college building.
K: All right. As you enter, again, from the west side, the hallway, there was an
extension of the wide hallway to the right for a short distance, and there were, I
believe, two classrooms plus one or more professors' offices on that floor to your
right. There was a classroom in the southwest corner and one in the southeast
corner. I think there was an office to the north of the southeast classroom and
the hallway from east to west. The stairway, a broad stairway, ran adjacent to
that office. Upstairs over the library was a large courtroom area that was used
as a classroom, and two or three classrooms. They were adequate to take care
of the classes. They were about fifty-five in my graduating class, I believe.
J: Did you ever have a situation where the classroom was crowded and you had to
procure chairs from next door?
K: Not unless it was some special occasion, no. They were adequate. I do not
think they were that crowded.
J: There is a half-story on top of all this, on top of this building. What happened up
K: I do not know whether there were professors' offices or what was up there. I do
not remember being up there. We were not called upon to go up there.
J: Have you visited what is now known as Bryan Hall since graduating?
K: Is that the old law school building?
J: It has changed because it was renovated.
K: I was there after graduating, and it was more or less the same as it was when I
was here as a student.
J: It was renovated in 1941 and again in 1961, and I wondered how much had
changed since then from the original structure and format.
K: I do not think it had been changed noticeably from the time that I had last been
there. There was no great change. I think that a wing might have been there.
J: The staircase had not been shifted to another section?
K: I do not think so. I do not recall that. They had a reunion there sometime after I
had graduated, and Bill McRae [William Alan McRae, Jr.], who later became a
federal judge, was then teaching at the law school, so this was probably about
J: What did you know about him? Can you give some more?
K: Yes, I know a lot about Bill McRae. What do you want to know about him?
J: What is his full name?
K: William A. McRae, Junior. I do not know what the A stands for.
J: Where did he graduate from law school?
K: He graduated, I am quite sure, from the University of Florida and then he became
a Rhodes scholar.
J: When did he graduate from law school?
K: I think it was 1931. It might have been 1932.
J: He was a very recent graduate, then, in your eyes.
K: Yes. But I did not know him at the University of Florida. I had known him briefly
in Tallahassee, but I did not know him well. His family had lived in various parts
of Florida, including West Palm Beach. He went to high school here. His father
had lived in Tallahassee. He was in Tallahassee when he was fifteen years old.
J: And you knew him then?
K: I hardly knew him. Bill was a year or two younger than I was, and that made a
lot of difference. I was not yet living in Tallahassee. He was fifteen, and I was
about sixteen, going on seventeen. I was away at school, so I was not in school
with him. I knew him at the University of Florida slightly, and I knew him much
better in Jacksonville later. Then he left Jacksonville to go to the University of
Florida as a law professor. But that was after World War II.
J: Yes. I show him [on the faculty] at the University of Florida from 1942 until
1945, and actually he was on leave at that time.
K: I believe that I made a mistake when I said [the reunion was in] 1940. It may
have been right after World War II.
J: And he did not teach there very long, from what my records show.
K: No, he was only there a year or two. Anyway, old graduates who came back
then took part in an impromptu skit in which we were asked, some of us, to
imitate some of the professors. One of them imitated Bill McRae. He used to
be called Will McRae before that, when he was younger, and he had always
been a leader in everything. He was cadet colonel in the military in Gainesville,
he was president of different organizations, and during World War II he was an
aide to Colonel [Henry H.] "Hop" Arnold and air operations, I believe. Then he
got to know some famous people. It was after that that I went to Gainesville on
the occasion that I mentioned to you; it was after World War II. One of the
students who took part in this skit imitated Bill McRae, and he was very good at
it. I imitated Professor Crandall, but I probably did not do a very good job. The
former student who imitated Bill McRae constantly wiped the sweat from
underneath his arms and talked about the people he had known. That sounds
just like McRae. He was quite an unusual man and somewhat of a put-on,
somewhat of a show-off. In a sophisticated way, but to a sophisticated
on-looker, it was not quite sophisticated enough.
K: But he was pretty good at it. He did know a lot of famous people, and he was
very bright and a very good student. That is why he was a Rhodes scholar.
And he was a good athlete.
J: Is he still alive?
K: No, he died. He got to be a terrible drinker while he was a judge. He was in
Jacksonville, and before World War II he practiced law. Then after World War II
he became a law professor. Then he joined the [Spessard L.] Holland firm -
Holland & Knight and he had a good law practice. There is no doubt he was a
good lawyer. When I was a circuit judge, he appeared before me on two or
three different cases. Later, Holland was appointed to the United States Senate
in 1946. Bill McRae was appointed to a federal judgeship.
He did become a heavy drinker, and he got into trouble. He was in a bad
accident in Jacksonville because he was driving while intoxicated. He allegedly,
and I suppose actually, quit drinking, or just about, and as far as I know, he never
did again become a very heavy drinker. He eventually died.
He lived in Jacksonville, and his wife was Virginia Dearing. Their friend
Sam Proctor would know that family well. His father, Frank Dearing, was the
only lineal descendant of the man who is credited for being the founder of
Jacksonville. The Dearings were, of course, an old Jacksonville family and were
a very nice family. She was a moderately attractive girl, and she chased him
down and married him. Her family is well known in Jacksonville. They had
J: When did Professor McRae pass away?
K: I suppose he died about ten or eleven years ago. Let us say 1974 or 1975.
J: Let us talk a little bit about the professors you were under. Let us start with
K: Let me tell you one more thing about Bill. He liked to read, he said. He was a
J: Speed reader.
K: I suppose you could call him a speed reader. He said he enjoyed Gaelic poetry
and Middle English. Now, there is nobody who would say that much on many
occasions, and he did not say it a lot. I am not talking about his parading it
around, but he would say those things for effect. It had to be. I just thought I
would mention that. Just a little affectation. But he probably did do some of
that. He was smart.
J: What was Dean Slagle like in class?
K: He sometimes made an effort to be entertaining. He was, let us say, somewhat
entertaining. I do not know that his teaching methods were greatly different from
anyone else's. I do not think he was an especially good teacher. That was our
general consensus, that he was not any raving, good teacher. We did not
believe--and I still do not believe--that he graded his examinations. He graded
them by throwing them down the stairs!
J: You say that seriously.
K: I know it to be a fact, because he flunked some of our best students. He flunked
the valedictorian and the salutatorian and the others. They could not possibly
have flunked, really.
J: Did he have a nickname?
J: How did he get that?
K: I do not know. Just from his name--Slagle. He had been legal advisor to John
J. Tigert [president, University of Florida, 1928-1947] on the football team's
affiliations with the different conferences. In the 1930s they changed from the
Southern conference to the Southeastern. He had attended to all the legal
details and that sort of thing. His [Slagle's] first name was Dean.
J: I do not expect you to know the answer to this question, but I am curious. Did
he earn a supplemental stipend for being a legal advisor to Dr. Tigert?
K: I do not know. He probably did.
J: What was his approach in class? Did he want recitation from students, or did he
K: No, he would ask questions, but they were often of a kind of a jocular nature.
He would ask, for example, "Does a corporation breathe?" He taught
Corporations, among a couple of other subjects. That is an example of
something he might ask.
J: That is a peculiar question.
K: That is what he would do. That is the kind of question he would ask.
J: What would be the kind of answer delivered?
K: The kind of answer that should be given to that, I do not remember. I do not
remember whether that was the particular question, actually, but it was the sort of
question. The proper answer to that would be, "A corporation is only a legal
entity. It is not a living entity. Therefore, it does not breathe."
J: Do you remember his wife Alma Slagle?
K: No, I did not know her.
J: What about [Clifford W.] "Pop" Crandall?
K: Pop Crandall was very much a respected figure. I believe he had previously
taught law at Stetson University. He was a very nice man and knew a great
deal. He came well equipped, scholastically. He had already, when I was in
law school, written a book on, I believe, equity practice. He had a pleasant
personality without being too much so, and he was an interesting man, affable,
outgoing, and yet not too garrulous at all. He was a dignified man. He held
himself well and presented, I would say, a rather admirable figure.
J: Did he enjoy what he was doing?
K: I think so. We had six professors. We had Professor [Clarence J.] TeSelle.
He had been an active, practicing trial lawyer at one time and, I believe, a
prosecutor in the Midwest.
J: That is right. Wisconsin.
K: Yes. And he was a good teacher. He taught Trial Practice, mostly, and he was
a good teacher. He was very sharp witted. He was often a judge or critic in the
trial courtroom, in trial court sessions. He criticized your performance, which he
was qualified to do.
J: He made no pretenses that he would not do that either, right?
K: No. That is what he was assigned to do.
J: Were you a president in the fraternity?
K: No, I was not. I never was. I was also in a lot of other fraternity houses--like
Kappa Alpha, Sigma Nu, Alpha Tau Omega, and Sigma Alpha Epsilon houses.
J: You were friends with most of these people?
K: Yes, a lot of them. Not most of them, but a lot of them.
J: Did you organize car washes and things like that to raise money?
K: No, none. I did not do anything that useful.
J: What did you do with your time when you were in law school?
K: A lot of your time, of course, as a student is used in routine living. I studied
some, not much. As I said before, I took good notes. I did not have a flippant
or frivolous attitude, but I was not a very good student in the sense of studying a
J: Were there notes for sale from students who had taken professors in the past?
K: Not generally. Occasionally there would be some word or some notes that were
supposed to be good and might be available, but not very much. I know Harold
Crosby [class of 1948], who had been a shorthand reporter at one time, took
shorthand notes of every word uttered in class. His notes were available after I
was in law school. Harold came after me. I think that helped pay some of his
way through law school.
J: Where did you buy your textbooks?
K: I do not recall very clearly. I guess we bought them at Howard's Book Store--I
do not really recall. We bought them from each other or from older students or
ordered them through the library. They were not hard to obtain; they were small
J: Do you remember using Dean Trusler's book The Essentials of School Law, I
believe it was.
K: No, I do not. I do not think I took that.
J: Crandall wrote at least two books, one on civil practice and one on Florida
procedure [A Treatise on the Practice in Actions at Law in the Circuit Courts and
Supreme Court of Florida (1928)], I believe. Do you remember using those in
K: Yes, I do.
J: Did you sell yours subsequently to other students?
K: I suppose I did. I either sold it or gave it away. It was not a tremendously
important item in your life, what you did with your book.
J: Were books a significant portion of your expenses?
K: No. Most of your expenses were living expenses.
J: As opposed to college or university.
K: Yes. Books were a small item.
J: Did you take Moot Court or Practice Court?
K: Yes, I believe I did, with Professor TeSelle.
J: Where was that held?
K: In the courtroom. Mock Courtroom was used as a lecture room.
J: What would Professor TeSelle do?
K: He sat on the west side of the room and took notes. He would privately talk to
you afterwards and answer questions. He would make some comments to the
general aggregation of students in the room after the trial was concluded about
their mistakes and their good points and bad points. He was a good critic.
J: Who served as a judge?
K: I believe they had a young lawyer or a senior student. I believe they did. I do
not recall for certain.
J: Were you in that the year you graduated?
J: When you did study, did you study with friends usually or by yourself?
K: I mostly studied by myself.
J: Did you want to, or was it a necessity?
K: I had to because it was just before the examination. I rarely confess this, but I
hardly ever studied before two and a half weeks before the examination.
J: Boy, I bet you really did study then, though.
K: Well, I set about it, I would say.
J: Was there any studying to do for the Moot or Practice Court?
K: No. Hardly any.
J: How difficult was the class?
K: I would not say it was difficult. The display of what we might have learned was
nothing of particular difficulty. If you know a poem, you know it is not particularly
difficult to recite.
J: What was its purpose?
K: Its purpose was to school you in trial techniques.
J: Did it successfully do that?
K: I think so. But it was not emphasized when I was in law college. The mock trial
was not a focal point of the law your legal education.
J: When you graduated, did you feel confident and competent to go down to the
courthouse and fill out a brief and get the machine rolling for the beginning of the
K: No, I did not feel especially confident.
J: It is a brand new thing, once you graduate.
K: Yes, you are out in the world. You are not with friends and your law professors.
You are in the cruel world, and it is a different ball game.
J: Do you think a more practical [education would have been helpful]? I do not
want to give you a loaded question.
K: You can give me a loaded question.
J: What kind of practical techniques could have been better utilized in teaching you
how to practice law?
K: I do not know that I would recommend changes from what we have. They put
you through the routine of a trial, but not a great many of them--two at most--so it
was not any extended thing. You learn by observing others in their mock trial
and then in the trial that you are a part of, and the criticisms that were offered by
TeSelle or others afterwards. You went through the paces, and there was no
great to-do about any of it.
J: In your observation of lawyers and in your working with lawyers over the years,
do you think the level of technique and skills that have been taught to recent
graduates improved over what you were taught?
K: I am not any great expert on that subject. I have not attended a great many
classes since I graduated. But my conception of it is that it has probably
improved, which is a natural assumption. I think it probably improved. It all
depends a lot on the individual teachers and their ability to teach. Law school
teachers are almost guaranteed not quite, but almost to be scholastically well
qualified. From then on, it depends on their ability to expound and to teach
others. That is an individual characteristic that possibly should be emphasized
more in the selection of teachers and the retention of teachers than it is. There
are not many, besides students, who observe teachers in action. And rarely, I
am sure, does another teacher or superintending person or dean come in and
listen with attention to the methods of a professor. It would probably be a good
thing if more of it were done, but, then again, it would depend on the judgment of
the dean or the superintending person, the observer.
J: In the classroom in law college, and outside after class in the social contacts that
you established, what were some of the discussed issues of the day? I guess I
should make that two questions.
K: Do you mean like political issues?
J: In legal issues. One being Prohibition's ending in 1933.
K: That did not occasion very much discussion.
J: Is that right? Why was it not a "hot issue," in today's jargon?
K: It would not be an issue as strictly defined, because it was something that was
done. You can talk about the effect of its being done or the anticipation of its
effects, but as an issue it did not affect the students at all. They had nothing to
do with the decision of the issue, nor did anyone else outside of Washington, DC,
and of those who advised those in Washington, DC, we were not included. We
were not advising anyone, nor did we make the decision. It was not an issue
that called upon us to decide. I personally welcomed it as an end to Prohibition,
which, in my opinion, had been a failure. I think there was probably more
drinking among young people [during Prohibition] than there was later. I do not
know about now. You hear now of the very young drinking. There was no such
thing when I was growing up. There were always two or three people in high
school who took a drink or drank a whole lot, maybe, but I never did know them
well. They did not have a good reputation, and you hardly knew them. But
there was very little of that, really. There were very few of those. I only
remember one in my high school.
J: A very low frequency, then?
K: Yes. Now, there were a lot of boys in prep school who were taking drinks, and
no doubt quite a few in high school, but it was just a little bit of drinking--not much
J: How often would you law students get together at a local pub or at someone's
home -just as a social event?
K: I would say quite often. You were offered a drink, and if you wanted a drink you
took it. That was nice. On weekends and at parties.
J: You had mentioned coming down to south Florida.
K: You might spend many a weekend not having anything to drink at all. You did
not miss it; I never did. In fact, I hardly drank at all in school, not until my last
year in law school when I partied a little bit. One of my friends was John Parkhill
of Tampa, who is a lawyer there now. His father [Charles B. Parkhill] had been
a judge on the Florida Supreme Court until 1912, when he moved to Tampa and
became state attorney in Tampa. John Parkhill was quite a party man, and I
was quite a party person myself at times, but my life did not revolve around
hoping to have a drink the next night.
J: Were there any favorite places in town that you would all meet? Any particular
K: Not especially.
J: What were some of the places?
K: I think you had a drink in somebody's home, maybe, or in your room where you
lived, or if you would gather somewhere and it was an occasion of some kind.
Of course, there was drinking before or during a football house-party weekend.
Most everybody would have all they wanted to drink.
J: I guess I am not so concerned about drinking as the places that you all met and
did things, whether it be talk or get together and go down to a pool hall and eat
K: In my recollection there were hardly any places of that kind. You might find
yourself in a place like the Black Cat, which was an eating place near the corner
of what was then 9th Street, I believe, now 13th Street, on the corner there
opposite the campus on the north side. There was a former student named
PeeWee Keezel from Winter Park who was a short, young man, a
serious-minded sort of fellow. He established an eating joint there called the
Black Cat. A lot of us dropped in there and had coffee. Sometimes you would
just see three or four people in there you knew and just chat with them. But
there was not any concentration of people in any particular place.
J: When did PeeWee begin the Black Cat?
K: Probably around 1931.
J: What did you do for entertainment?
K: You mean when I was in law school?
K: I did a lot of visiting with friends of mine, among the different people there and
among students. Larry Walrath married a Gainesville girl and lived in
Gainesville in her mother's house a big old framed house. I visited there
during the weekend.
J: Were you still dating Judge [Robert S.] Cockrell's [UF professor of law] daughter?
K: Oh, no. I never did particularly make a big thing of dating. Just once in a while.
I usually did not take a date to his place, but I would just go visit him and his
wife and her family.
J: It sounds like you developed a personal friendship.
K: I did. The Kincaid girls Kitty Kincaid was the youngest, and there was Olive
and Louise had gone to school. I had known them before that in Tallahassee.
Olive Kincaid married a young man from Gainesville named McCraw, and they
moved to Tennessee later. Well, those three sisters were unmarried, all very
attractive and very nice. They lived near the Methodist church downtown. It
was a big old frame house with columns in front of it on the street. It backed up
to University Avenue and was on the next street on the south. They lived there
with three aunts. They had a very nice atmosphere there. They were always
glad to see you and asked you to stay for supper or lunch or whatever it was.
They were good company. There were the Baxter boys and their family. You
would go there to have supper. And there was Carrie McCollum, that I
mentioned before, whose nephews and nieces I knew.
J: Were there any other professors that you had the same kind of relationship with,
that you would go to their home and visit, besides Judge Cockrell?
K: No, and I did not visit Judge Cockrell's house very much.
J: I have not found very many people that were familiar with the professors on a
personal relationship, more than just school.
K: No, I did not see any of the professors outside school, except on special
occasions somewhere, with the exception of Judge Cockrell, and I did not see a
great deal of him. He had known my family my father and my mother -
although we never talked about that. He had married, as I said before, a
Tallahassee girl, and then he had lived in Jacksonville. He had a lot of mutual
associations outside of each other.
J: Let me ask you something about the transition that we talked about earlier I
believe before we started the interview with [University of Florida] President
[Albert A.] Murphree [1909-1927] to President [John J.] Tigert [1928-1947]. Do
you remember any of the practical changes that happened on the campus or
K: I was not there at the time that change took place. Dr. Tigert had been
president of the University of Florida for a year or two before I went there.
J: Do you remember any new buildings? I think there was an atmosphere that
made you think that something different was going on.
K: Do you mean about the University? There were always athletic events, and
there were dances at the gymnasium on various occasions at certain times of the
year, like football weekends. After a football game in Gainesville there was
always a dance in the gymnasium. Usually, wherever the game was held, like
Tampa, there would be a dance, and the students would all go to some big gym
or big place somewhere. That is another place I used to visit on weekends -
Tampa. And then I would have students from the University of Florida visit me
in Tallahassee on weekends. I would go up there, and they would all stay at my
family's house. As many of twelve of them were there at one time.
J: How many automobiles did you all have to take up there?
K: I do not know. They came as they wanted to, as they could. Some of them
might have hitchhiked up there. There was a fellow named Glenn Bale from
Pennsylvania who was a member of my fraternity, and he had a car. There
were three or four students in my fraternity who had cars, I guess. Oh, I had
J: Was there Gator Growl at that time for entertainment?
K: It was starting, I think.
J: You were in [Florida] Blue Key, and that club would have been responsible for
establishing that annual festivity.
K: I say my memory of that is not very definite, because I was not ever active in the
Gator Growl. I am not sure of the exact time it started. My impression is that it
was starting at about that time.
J: What did you do in Blue Key?
K: I was not ever active in Blue Key, as such. I was a member of Blue Key
because I was associate editor one year of the annual, the Seminole, and then
the next year I was editor-in-chief. That was an elected office, by the way.
J: An elected office? So you had to run for that office?
J: Who did you run against?
K: I ran against a boy from Live Oak whose picture is in this book. He was a nice
sort of fellow.
J: How close was the election?
K: It was not terribly close. I think I won by a satisfactory margin.
J: You were in law school and in your final year. I would think you would have
been exceptionally busy.
K: I was.
J: And yet you were running for editor of the yearbook.
K: I think I was elected the preceding year.
J: How much time did you have to put into being the editor?
K: A good deal.
J: What were some of the responsibilities?
K: I was responsible for the whole thing. I had to choose an associate editor, plan
the book, choose the publisher, choose the engraver, choose the publisher (the
printer was usually the same). I think we had the Record Company in St.
Augustine. I know they were the printers, so I suppose they would be termed
There was a boy named Pete Turner whose father was a county
commissioner in Dade County who was a business manager. He was not in law
school. Then there was John Lavin, who was a member of my law class, whose
mother was Belgian and lived in Gainesville. She was a widow and lived there
with her younger daughter and younger son and John. John was in my class.
Pete, John, and I went to Jacksonville in the spring of 1934 and to St. Augustine
on the same trip. We were on our way back late at night, and Pete Turner was
driving my Ford. John and I were asleep in the back seat, where we could
sleep, we thought. Pete Turner had an accident with another car. I think he
had crossed the middle line of the highway, and he ran into a car with some
colored people in it. I know there was a collision, and Pete Turner was killed on
the spot. The left-front roof support came back and, I think, hit him in the head.
The county coroner, who was the county judge of Putnam County, near Palatka,
came out to investigate it. I was in the hospital, in the University infirmary, about
three or four days.
J: It sounds nightmarish.
K: It was a very tragic thing. Pete Turner was a pretty nice fellow. I think he
probably fell asleep. It was late at night.
J: Where was your office when you were working on the Seminole?
K: My office was largely my room, but I had an office in the student union, or
whatever it was called. We had offices.
J: The student union was just being built at that time.
K: Well, whatever it was. They had space for us somewhere. I have forgotten just
where it was. It has been a long time.
J: Was it near the infirmary?
K: Yes. I did not spend a lot of time there, but I was very much occupied with the
annual. This was a good annual. There is a feature section of Time magazine
that nobody had ever used before: Man of the Year. Charlie Bennett, who is
now in [the U.S.] Congress and has been since World War II, I made "Man of the
Year." You see, the editor was responsible for all of this. You decide who is
going to be in charge of it.
J: Did you know what you were getting yourself into when you took the nomination?
K: Yes. I had the man paint these paintings, like this. I have this painting at
J: Is that right?
K: Yes. I mean in Tallahassee, where I lived at the time. A St. Augustine man
who worked for the publisher ...
J: Sent that off to have it engraved.
K: He did it all in St. Augustine. It was engraved in Jacksonville, I guess. Here is
Charlie Bennett, president of the student body. Charlie was in my law class.
Have you looked at this Time magazine feature section?
J: No, sir.
K: Look at it for just a minute. Skim over it. You see, I got that from Time
magazine. I asked them for it, and they sent it to me. They did not send it to
any associates. Just flip through it a minute. Do not take time to read all of it
right now. Incidentally, do you know young Mr. Apthorp?
J: No, I do not.
K: He has been connected with the state of Florida and with, I believe, the Historical
Association of Southern Florida. He is a Tallahassee boy.
J: Did he have a connection with Professor TeSelle?
K: No. The reason I thought of his name is because we knew the Apthorp family
well in Tallahassee. Not him, because he was too young, and probably not
living. But the Apthorps have been in Tallahassee quite a while, and they were
well known at one time. I do not know who in the family is still there by that
name. There may not be anyone by that name there anymore.
J: Tell me some more about Professor TeSelle.
K: TeSelle's outstanding quality that he presented to his students was his sharp
knowledge, his wit. He had a rather arbitrary but not unpleasant manner. He
was quick-spoken and decisive and sharp-witted. He was an interesting man. I
think he was a fair person and a good, well-qualified teacher.
Judge Cockrell had been a judge on the Florida Supreme Court [1902-1917].
He was probably the more senior member of the faculty. He had practiced law
in Jacksonville in the very early 1900s, like 1903, and was appointed to the
Supreme Court. He was opposed in the election of 1916 by a lawyer from Key
West named Jefferson Browne. Now, Judge Browne beat him. Judge Cockrell
did not campaign.
J: Was he not a Catholic?
K: No, he was an Episcopalian. He was not Catholic.
J: Would an Episcopalian be looked upon by the Florida populace as a Catholic at
K: No, I do not think so. Not to my knowledge.
J: I wonder why he was beat. He was the incumbent.
K: I do not think religion had anything to do with it. Cockrell just did not campaign.
He did not put any advertisements in the paper or anything. He did not want to
campaign. Browne did. He made speeches all over the state. He said to the
audiences that they got a man named Cockrell running against me. Judge
Cockrell had been a judge in the Supreme Court for a good many years, and
Judge Browne was doubtless a good speaker and a man with considerable
personality. The voters just voted for him. There were probably a good many
of them that hardly knew that Judge Cockrell was the incumbent. He was the
first judge ever to be defeated for the Supreme Court, the first incumbent.
J: What was his reputation at the college?
K: He was somewhat of an eccentric. He was, I would say, a good teacher, I
suppose. I dedicated an annual to him. Judge Cockrell was a very bright man.
He had a good mind, and he was very opinionated. His grades were not
always based on just scholastic merits. He pretty much based his grades what
he thought you ought to get from different standpoints, not just your scholastic
merit. Judge Cockrell was socially a gentleman. He was in the upper-class sort
of people. He was not especially socially inclined. He liked to have a drink, but
the students never saw him drink. I do not think he drank except in his home or
somebody else's home, but he liked to have a drink, it was said. After I was
through law school, of course, I knew he would take a drink, because I saw him.
But he never did it with students. I was often in his home as a student.
J: Why were you at his home?
K: Because I went with his daughter some, Caroline. Judge Cockrell's
father-in-law, Governor [David S.] Walker, had been governor of Florida
[1866-1868]. Judge Cockrell married Governor Walker's daughter. Judge
Cockrell had three children, and one of them was about my age. We called her
"Dee," Dee Cockrell. She married Stanley West, who was the librarian at the
University of Florida [College of Law]. They lived in Hawaii a number of years
and then came back to Gainesville. They are probably there now. They had a
son there who practiced law, but he left Gainesville. I think he had a drinking
problem. I have forgotten his first name.
J: What was Dee's full name?
K: Probably Caroline Walker Cockrell, I guess. I am not sure. Her first name was
J: Where did "Dee" come from?
K: I do not know. Dee was his youngest child. He had a son named Robert S.
Cockrell, Jr., who was about three years older than I. He went through law
school but was never a man that accomplished very much. He was killed in
World War II. He had an older son, several years older than Robert, named
Will, whom I never met. He was with the General Electric Company and was
connected with New York. I never met him.
J: How different was Judge Cockrell's demeanor at home when you would go over
to pick up Caroline on a date than he was at class, in school?
K: Not greatly different. He was possibly more gracious. He was a good, gracious
J: Did he approve of your dating his daughter?
K: Yes, I think he probably did.
J: How long did you date her?
K: I had a date with Dee every once in a while, and that went on for a couple of
years, I guess. Not terribly often. She was more of a friend than a sweetheart.
We were great, good friends.
J: Where did he live?
K: He lived about two and a half blocks east of the campus on University Avenue,
on the south side in a one-story, green-shuttered, white-painted house or
cottage, I guess you would say. It was a nice comfortable cottage. It was a
nice little home. It was not large, but it was all they needed. It was adequately
and nicely furnished. Judge Cockrell came from a nice family, and his wife had
no doubt come from a nice family. He was, I guess you would call him, as I said
before, a gentleman and so forth. Dee was a nice sort of girl. She was married
to a business man down there.
J: What was her name?
K: I will tell you in a minute. Let me think about it. I have not seen her in fifteen
years. But she is a well-known woman in Miami, among the older residents.
She has been living there a long time. She went to what is now the Florida State
University; it was Florida State College for Women.
J: Someone has told me that Professor TeSelle would lecture with a cigar in his
mouth. Do you remember that?
K: I do not think so. I think he smoked cigars a lot, but I do not think he ever held a
cigar in his mouth. Somebody just made that up.
J: Did he have a cane that he would rap on the desk?
K: He had a sort of semi-crippled condition. He did not walk well. He was not
distinctly crippled, but he was slightly crippled. I believe he did have a cane. I
am quite sure he did.
J: Were there any practical jokes that you students pulled on the professors?
K: Not that I recall at the moment. We took them too seriously for that.
J: You were pretty serious.
K: Yes. We did not stand around and think, oh, how serious can we be. We just
took them seriously. We were not little kids anymore. We had been through
college practically. Although, you did not have to get two degrees there. You
could enter law school after two years of college when I was there. You did not
have to have any more than that. My point is that you were not there for jokery.
J: Did anyone else there have a nickname besides Pop Crandall or Sloogy?
K: We referred to Judge Cockrell in that way, and we spoke of Dean Trusler as the
Dean. There was James Day, another professor. I do not recall any nickname
for him. They called him Jimmy and referred to him as Jimmy Day. He was, I
believe, the youngest member of the faculty. He was a very nice man. A
slow-spoken type of man.
J: Do you remember Barton Douglas who now has a practice in Gainesville? He
graduated from there in 1932.
K: Yes, but he was already out of law school when I was there.
J: He refers to one of the professors as having the nickname "Uscawilla," but he did
not know which professor it was.
K: No, not when I was there.
J: You do not remember an "Uscawilla"?
K: No, there was not any nickname. It was not used when I was there. I would
remember it. There is no question about it.
J: Tell me about Jimmy Day.
K: I knew Barton when I was there because I knew a lot of people in Gainesville.
The name of Judge Cockrell's daughter in Miami is Elizabeth. They called her
Liz. I will think of her last name in a minute. I am getting there.
J: Slow but sure.
K: I knew her as a friend. I knew a lot of people in Gainesville, and I knew them
well. Among the people I did not know well was Barton. Barton was
considered to be in the top 10 percent. He was practically all there, but he was
J: How so?
K: I am just talking about his reputation now. I did not know him that well. I think
he was impulsive. My impression and memory of him, which is not very definite
because I never knew him well, is that he may not have been entirely always
reliable in keeping his appointments or whatever. I just have that sort of vague
impression about him. He was impulsive, temperamental. He was bright
enough and energetic. I remember him as a short fellow and energetic. Is he
K: That is all I know about him. He was not, I would say, considered in the top rank
of earnest, hard-working professionals in Gainesville. He was sort of a fringe
type. In fact, he practiced law when he had time, when he wanted to. That is
J: As an avocation rather than a career.
K: Well, not quite that much, let us say, but Barton liked to have a good time. I
think he partied a lot. I never did party any with him, but I think he probably
partied around a good deal, enjoyed himself, and had a good time. He practiced
law satisfactorily, reasonably. But he was not known as one who kept his nose
to the grindstone always in his office, always ready to see a client who might
come in. That is the way a lot of lawyers are proverbially and are supposed to
be in a small town.
Dann is Elizabeth Cockrell's name in Miami.
J: Her last name? Dann?
K: Yes. Dann. She lives in Coconut Grove.
J: She lives in Coconut Grove.
K: Yes, she and her husband. I think her husband is still living.
J: Did you do any clerking for local lawyers or know any students who did?
J: Baxter & Clayton, I think, had a firm there at the time.
K: I knew them quite well, because I was a friend of the Baxter family, particularly of
Shelton and his older brother, John, who was my age. I knew them in
Gainesville, and I knew them after I was in school there. I was very friendly with
them and was often in their house. They lived in the square north and slightly
east of the business section of Gainesville, which is a square, the park.
J: The Duck Pond area?
K: No, not out where Dr. Tigert used to live. It did not have a pond. No, that is
further out, further northeast.
J: I am talking about too far northeast.
K: Yes, this is about three and a half to four blocks from the center of
town--University Avenue, downtown, the courthouse.
K: The Baxters lived on the north side of the square. The Bishop family, one of
whom married Judge [Dean] Sebring, lived further down the block to the west of
the Baxters on the north side of the park, and the Murphrees's house was on the
east side of the park on the corner.
J: Did you kind of make it your business to meet these people?
K: No, I just naturally met them. I liked them, a lot of them. I always have liked
people, and I liked a lot of Gainesville people. As I said before, I knew a lot of
them. I knew the members of the LaFontisse family, who were not known
generally by that name in Gainesville. That was a grandparent's name. But
there were twelve members in that family. Twelve children of Mrs. LaFontisse.
[Aunt Carrie, Olive, Louise, and Kitty Kincaid were referred to earlier. They were
the children and grandchildren, respectively, of the LaFontisses. Ed.]
J: I do not know if we have time to talk about twelve of them!
K: Mr. and Mrs. LaFontisse had settled in Newberry when Gainesville was hardly
there. They were relatively young and came from Canada, and they had twelve
children, including Mrs. Fielding, who was the wife of a prominent Gainesville
lawyer. I think his name was Tom Fielding. I will not go into all of them, but all
of them were well known. Mrs. [Caroline "Aunt Carrie"] McCollum was one, who
was quite a leader in Gainesville. I could tell you a lot about the Kincaid girls,
but we are not on that subject.
J: Brush that off a little bit.
K: Jimmy Feiber, who was on the football team about fifteen years ago or more,
was his [great-]grandson.
J: A tradition of that family in Gainesville, then.
J: Speak to me a little bit about Dean Trusler.
K: What about him?
J: What was his approach in class? Would he call on you?
K: Yes, he would call on you. Dean Trusler was always affable, a very nice man to
know. He was also a gentleman, I guess you would say, socially. I do not like
to use that term. But he was bright. He was conscientious. I think he was a
good teacher. I did not personally consider him outstanding as a teacher, but he
was very intelligent. I think he would be classified as a good teacher.
J: Who would you say was the most outstanding teacher at the college?
K: I think it would be between TeSelle and Crandall. Judge Cockrell was sort of
eccentric and a little bit too much so, too far over than the ordinary conception of
a teacher. He was eccentric as a teacher, as well as an individual.
J: What about Dean Slagle?
K: I do not believe Dean Slagle was a very good teacher. I think he was the
J: There is another fellow that appears on the roster of teachers during the time you
were in law school by the name of Howard Dykman [1934-1935].
K: Dykman was not a professor of law when I was there. There was a Professor
Dykman, but he was not a lawyer. I do not think his first name was Howard.
He might have gone to law school, but he did not teach law. He taught political
economy, I believe, at the University. I knew him. I think his name was Bill.
He died about twelve to fifteen years ago. He had a reputation as a good
teacher, and he was exceptionally bright. I think he was a good writer, as I
J: Did you have any visiting professors from the local area, or federal judges or
supreme court justices come down to lecture?
K: Very seldom did we have a visiting teacher or outstanding lawyer. On one
occasion we had E. J. L'Engle. Are you familiar with that name, L'Engle, from
Jacksonville? They used to say that if lawyers in Florida had been asked to
make a list of the ten outstanding lawyers in Florida, he would have been on
more lists than any other. He was probably the most outstanding lawyer of
Jacksonville in reputation. He was a bachelor. He was a native of Jacksonville
and descended from his great-great-grandfather, Francis Philip [Francisco
Philippe] Fatio. It was pronounced Fatio (long A) in Jacksonville and was
pronounced Fatio (short A) down here [West Palm Beach]. There was a
Maurice Fatio who was an architect here beginning in the 1920s. He made a big
reputation here, and they pronounced his name Fatio (short A). That is said to
be a more correct pronunciation of the original Sicilian, Italian name. They came
from Switzerland. They were related to each other.
Anyway, Francis Philip Fatio came to St. Augustine in 1771, during the British
occupation of Florida. He brought five children with him. He came from
England, where he had been living in London. He was a native of Switzerland,
and he was a man of considerable substance. He acquired several thousand
acres of land on the St. John's River near St. Augustine. He had a home there,
near Mandarin [New Switzerland], and a home in St. Augustine. His
granddaughter, Susan Fatio, married a man named Langdall in 1830. Langdall
was born in the West Indies and was adopted by a United States Supreme Court
judge in Charleston, South Carolina.
J: This is the Langdall [the speaker to the senior class of the University of Florida
College of Law] from Jacksonville?
K: Yes. He was the grandson of Susan and her husband,
J: Now, you had mentioned that Judge Langdall was one of the visiting professors.
K: No, he was a lawyer.
J: Do you remember why he came?
K: He was invited to come by, I think, the Phi Delta Phi legal fraternity. He
addressed the senior class. Among the things that I remember he said was that
he thought two things should be mentioned, should be stressed, by a young man
who intended to be a lawyer: one was to increase your knowledge and use of the
English language, and the other was to have a knowledge of accounting
procedures. He said that he had found that a knowledge of accounting
procedures was a great help in understanding the issues in certain complicated
types of cases that they might be expected to handle, and that it would prove
very valuable. But he stressed above all the facility of the use of the English
J: Did that seem important to you as law students?
K: It seemed important to me. I do not know how it seemed to the others.
J: Do you recall other visiting lawyers from the area?
K: There were not many. No, I do not recall having heard any other single person.
J: You were in Phi Delta Phi, the legal fraternity. That was the "Cockrell Inn," I
believe, the local chapter.
J: What was the initiation for that?
K: I do not think they had any ceremony. If you were invited, you joined. You
became a member by paying your nominal dues or whatever was required. But
I do not think there was any initiation ceremony. There might have been some.
If there was, it was negligible. We had a social organization called the Colonels
Club, which was just a party now and then in law school.
J: It was exclusive to the law students?
K: Yes it was limited to law students, is a better way of saying it.
J: In your junior year, you were secretary/treasurer of the class.
K: I suppose so.
J: What did that entail?
K: I do not think it entailed anything.
J: How active did you remain with the Delta Sigma Phi fraternity?
K: That was a so-called business fraternity. It was really rather inactive. They had
a chapter there, and I joined it, I think.
J: But once you were in law school, though, it applied very little.
K: Very little, yes. It did not apply much. It did not involve much before I was in
law school, either.
J: Did you remain active in your fraternity while you were in law school?
K: You mean in Phi Delta Theta fraternity?
J: Not the legal fraternity, but the social fraternity.
K: Phi Delta Theta?
J: Phi Delta Theta.
K: Do you have a Phi Delta Theta chapter?
J: I cannot tell you. I do not know.
K: You do not know?
J: I would suspect so. When did you graduate from the law school?
J: Do you remember the day? Was it in the spring or in the fall?
K: It was in the spring, probably late in May.
J: What do you remember about the ceremony? Was it at the football field?
K: I do not think I was even there.
J: Why would you not have been there?
K: A lot of people did not go when we graduated. Then and now. I do not think I
J: When did you get your diploma?
K: I got my diploma before I left, I guess.
J: Where were you living at the time of graduation?
K: I was living on the second floor of a house that belonged to Mrs. Ethel Rabb. It
was located a block west of what was 9th Street, now 13th, a block and a half
north of campus.
J: When you graduated, what was the first thing on your mind?
K: I suppose you would say it was getting located in Jacksonville, where I planned
J: Why were you drawn to Jacksonville?
K: Jacksonville was the largest city in north Florida. I was familiar with Jacksonville
and had a lot of friends there. It was a place where a boy from Tallahassee
might, if he were leaving Tallahassee to go to another Florida community, think of
going. It was a flourishing business and professional community.
J: While you had been in law school, what were some of the more interesting laws?
What were some of the more interesting facets in law that you were interested in
K: I was interested in general practice of law. I thought I might be naturally fitted to
trial work. I never engaged in a lot of trial work. The lawyer that I became
associated with was named P. L. Gaskins. He was a native of Starke, Florida,
who had gone to Lawrenceville, Princeton, and then Harvard Law School. His
father had been sheriff at one time of Bradford County, of which Starke is the
county seat. When he got out of Harvard Law School, Mr. Gaskins became
associated for many years with Mr. Langdall, whom I mentioned earlier who was
one of the foremost lawyers there. Gaskins himself became a well-known
lawyer. He practiced by himself for a year. I joined him in the early fall of 1934.
Judge George Cooper Gibbs had been a circuit judge in Jacksonville for
twenty-three years. He was a native of St. Augustine. His brother was George
W. Gibbs of the Gibbs Gas Engine Company. They owned the ferry between
Jacksonville and south Jacksonville. Judge Gibbs retired as a circuit judge in his
late fifties and started practicing law and sharing offices with Mr. Gaskins. I
worked for both of them. Gaskins had a good law library. He was a first-class
J: What kind of law did he practice?
K: He had been state's attorney at one time, but his practice led into civil law. He
did not practice any criminal law, in common with most lawyers of that day, and
in this day, too. I took some criminal cases for trial experience on my own. You
would be appointed by the court to represent people charged with crimes and
received very little, if any, money. Except in capital cases, you were allowed up
to fifty dollars as a fee, I believe. I handled several different criminal cases for
the trial experience. He dealt mostly in equity work, mortgage foreclosures,
represented the Maryland Casualty Company of Florida. He foreclosed, I
believe, nine hundred mortgages during the early Depression all over the state
for the Maryland Casualty Company. Other lawyers asked him to become
associated with them on different cases.
J: How much money were you making, on an average?
K: About half of the law students getting out of school then worked for nothing for
the first few months or a year. Or, if they were paid anything, it would be most
likely fifty dollars a month. I was paid, I believe, sixty dollars a month at first,
which was not quite enough to support myself. But my family helped me, so I
did not suffer from lack of funds. I never have.
J: How close has your relationship remained with the College of Law to this day?
K: It has not been close, but I have a friendly relation, an interest in the law school.
It has not been one of my principal interests, but I have always been interested in
the law school.
J: Are there some things that you think should be changed at the law school?
K: I am not sufficiently familiar with the law school. I expect there are some things
that I would probably change if I knew about them, but I do not know enough
about their operations.
J: Now, in 1965, the law school gave past lawyers an option of a J.D. degree if
they would turn in ...
K: I did not take the J.D. Oh, I believe I did.
J: I think you had to pay them five dollars, and they would send you ...
K: I think I did finally do it, but I do not usually do it. I just use LL.B.
J: Why is that?
K: I suppose to escape the necessity of explaining the whole process. They had a
J.D. when I graduated, if you were in the upper 5 percent, or some such
J: Did you feel that slighted the people that were not on the J.D. in your day?
K: No. To me, it did not make any difference. I do not think it made a difference to
most people. It was a slight honor.
J: What are your impressions of moving from the old law school into the new law
school? How involved were you with that, financially?
K: I was not involved very much. I have given some money--modest amounts--to
the law school, but nothing outstanding, like one hundred dollars now and then.
J: While you sat on the bench for twenty-one years?
K: Twenty-one and a half years, from June 1956, officially, until September 1977.
After that I was called back to help until November. So it was approximately
twenty-one and a half years.
J: During your tenure, what did you think about lawyers that had graduated from
law school in Florida, their education, the ones that appeared before you?
K: You see, the lawyers who appear before the courts are litigation lawyers. They
are not office lawyers, for the most part. A man who devotes himself to office
work hesitates to handle a trial, for example, without associating it with a trial
lawyer. It is kind of like solicitors and barristers in England. In England, the
distinction is much more strictly drawn. You are either one or the other. But an
office lawyer who does what is sometimes called "clean" work probate, estates,
and real estate, trusts, guardianships, curatorships, and so forth, usually does
not do much trial work. When he does, he often calls in for a trial lawyer,
because he is not familiar with it. Some of them do it.
As to the distinction between graduates from the University of Florid Law
School and other law schools, I do not think I noticed any perceptible difference.
The reason for that might lie partly in the fact that they were long out of law
school, for the most part.
J: When you graduated, did any of the professors have contacts with lawyers
outside which they used to help you or other law students get a job?
K: They would have if called upon. I did not call upon any of them. I do not think
many other students did. Most of the professors at law school were not
extensively acquainted, except in Gainesville or where they lived, with the legal
profession in Florida, except with one of their former students.
J: Was it difficult to find that first job?
K: It frequently was with a great many people, as it was with graduates of other
professional schools, like architecture. Many architectural graduates and other
professions as well work in filling stations and perhaps never practice their
J: Did you treat the law as a business or more as another kind of profession?
K: No, to me it was always a profession, not a business.
J: Were there any business law classes that you could take on how to run a
business if you are a lawyer, how to run your law office?
K: There are always ways of training and education of office management. There
were then, but I never took any, and most lawyers did not. The law firms then
were usually not as large. The largest law firm in Jacksonville [when it was at its
largest] employed seventeen lawyers. When I was there at the firm of Knight,
Adair, Cooper & Osborne, it was the largest law firm in Jacksonville. It had
thirteen lawyers. There were several law firms slightly smaller, six to ten
lawyers. But thirteen was the largest.
J: What was the name of that firm again?
K: Knight, Adair, Cooper & Osborne.
J: Did you consider working for them?
K: No, because I did not know any of them that well. After I was in Jacksonville I
got to know them. I knew them well [later], but when I moved to Jacksonville
and before I moved there I hardly knew any of them. The lawyers that I knew in
Jacksonville I knew only socially or knew their children. I was just out of school.
J: When you were in school, was it ever suggested by any of the professors to go
down to the courthouse and watch lawyers in action?
J: Do you remember doing that?
K: No, I never did. I did [watch other lawyers] by chance, but I did not deliberately
do it. I did not have time. I had homework to do.
J: Were most of the classes held in the mornings, as opposed to the afternoons?
J: Did you have a sense as to why that was the case?
K: I think by the afternoon you were through. I mean, you can only attend so many
classes a day, according to the number of hours you take during a particular
semester, and by the time you had three hours of classes in the morning, and
possibly one in the afternoon, depending on your schedule, you had all you could
take. That was all you could normally enroll in and all you needed to enroll in.
That was the normal load.
J: Did you have Saturday classes?
K: No, only weekdays.
J: Were the tests split from the regular session, over the Christmas break?
K: I think we took our examinations, as I recall, all after the Christmas break, at the
completion of the semester. I think that took place after the Christmas break, in
late January or early February.
J: What do you think you enjoyed most about being in law school?
K: I suppose I enjoyed my associations with different students and sometimes the
professors in their classes. I found it pleasant and rewarding in an educational
sense. Do you want to ask me about any other subjects?
J: Were there many people that were married?
K: No, very few. Ralph Cullen [class of 1934], who became a circuit judge in
Miami, was married then to an Ocala girl whose last name was Jess. Larry
Walrath was married and had a little baby.
J: Do you remember how he supported himself?
K: He supported himself by working at the University, I think in the admissions
J: How about people in the ROTC program in law school?
K: They were through with the ROTC. There was no ROTC for law school
students. It was necessary to take ROTC your first two years at the University
of Florida. You were a member of ROTC whether you wanted to be or not,
unless you were physically disqualified.
J: Once you got to law school, you had completed your requirement?
K: You were not in the ROTC. Let me put it that way. You might not have
completed your requirement. You might have gone to another school. They did
not have it at Chapel Hill my first year, but they did my second year at the
University of Florida. I was in it that year, and then I was not in it after that. In
any event, there was the necessity of going through ROTC for the first two years.
You had to have that before you entered law school. You would not have been
affiliated with the ROTC while you were in law school.
J: What were some of the other clubs and fraternities in law school besides Phi
Delta Phi and the Colonels Club?
K: Phi Alpha Delta was another legal fraternity. A lot of people got into that. They
were the only two.
J: John Marshall Debating Society?
K: Yes, John Marshall.
J: Were you involved in John Marshall?
K: To a very limited extent. It was not very active.
J: What did they do when they did meet? Did they actually have debates?
K: I think they did at one time or another. I do not know that they were attended by
anybody much. I am not sure they had any. I think it was already inactive
pretty much when I entered law school They may have become active later.
J: Did you feel it was a tightly run ship, that Dean Trusler did a very good job?
K: I am not sure it has to be tightly run in order to be well run, but I would not say it
was tightly run. I think it was reasonably well run. I have no reason to doubt
that. I do think that the grading methods of some of the teachers should have
been examined by the dean or other authorities. Judge Cockrell would not go by
your scholastic merits on the examination. He did not depart too far from that,
but he departed somewhat substantially at times. And Dean Slagle did not pay
attention much to what you might have done. I am not sure he ever read any
J: What about Dean Trusler? What was his method?
K: He was strict and straight. He gave you what you made.
J: Were there any assistants that graded the papers like there are today in many
K: I believe there was somebody now and then to help, a student assistant. But
the professors did most of the work themselves.
J: There is a couple women who come to mind. Katie Walton [class of 1936]?
K: I remember her name.
J: Rebecca Bowles Hawkins [class of 1935]?
K: Rebecca was in school the same time I was in law school. I knew her. I knew
a good deal about her. She actually became assistant attorney general, did she
not? Then she was legal assistant to [Florida Supreme Court] Justice B. K.
Roberts. She was quite pretty--very pretty, very attractive--and she was smart.
I knew a young man who was not in law school, Will Fairbanks. She went with
him a considerable part of the time, and I knew him very well. I knew her not
only individually but through him.
J: How was she in class?
K: Just like anybody else, pretty much.
J: No real distinction?
J: She was the only woman in class?
K: No, there were about three or four girls in law school when I was there. One of
them lives in Gainesville now and has practiced law since then. She married a
J: Clara Gehan [class of 1933]?
K: Yes, Clara. Clara was a very good student. She is a very nice woman. I think
I saw her last year. Then there was Eleanor Knight from Miami.
J: Ellen Knight?
K: Her family owned at least one of the dog tracks--I think two of the dog tracks--in
the Miami area.
J: Did she graduate from there?
K: I am not sure that Ellen did. She married a man later who had been in law
school and graduated. He who committed suicide many years later. He was
involved in a scandal that was nationally known at the time. There was a
student I believe in the class following mine--whose first name was [Edward]
Richard [Mack, Sr., class of 1935]. He was a member of Sigma Nu fraternity.
Very nice chap. He married Susan Stolball of Tampa. Susan and Ellen were
very close friends, and Dick [Mack] became very close to Ellen Knight's husband
who committed suicide. If he was a lawyer, he was not practicing law then.
J: Was Susan a lawyer?
K: No, but her husband was, I believe. I believe both of them committed suicide.
It has been more than twenty-five years ago, and I have given little if any thought
to it since then. She married "Whitey" Whiteside. We called him "Whitey." He
had been a law student at Florida. I am not sure Whitey graduated.
Richard Mack became a member of a federal commission like the Federal
Communications Commission or some important commission of that type.
Richard Mack was the commissioner, and he borrowed some money from Whitey
Whiteside. Whitey Whiteside had a matter pending before his commission, and
that was the scandal. I doubt if there was any connection. He might have
tended to favor Whitey Whiteside because of their friendship, but not because he
borrowed money. But it looked bad. It think it was $50,000.
Then there were two girls, one from Miami and one from St. Augustine,
who were in law school. Both Jewish girls.
J: Both Jewish girls?
K: Yes, and very good students.
J: Do you remember their names?
K: I would have to look in the annual to tell you, but I would know their names. I
could think of their names in a minute, but offhand I am not sure.
J: What was the dress like?
K: You mean of the men?
K: Pretty much the same.
J: Wear a suit and tie?
K: Not usually during the week, I do not think.
J: Were those girls seniors when you were in school?
K: Not all of them. I am not sure Ellen graduated. Ellen Knight, you know, is a
leading citizen of Miami.
J: I did not know that.
K: Very much. Ellen Whiteside. She is an elder citizen now. Ellen has always
been prominent in city work and a natural leader of people. She is not only a
good-looking woman but a very energetic and intelligent woman of a very high
caliber. Let me have a look at that book a minute. Do you want me to tell you
the names of those girls?
J: Were the girls dressed in pants suits or dresses?
K: Not as much as they would be now. Oh, they just have the senior class in here.
J: Did you have a sense that Professor TeSelle had a problem with women in his
K: No. Did he?
J: I have heard some stories to that effect.
K: I never heard of it.
J: I have also heard stories to the effect that professors would purposely not
discuss cases of rape and incest or other cases dealing with sexual matters if
women were in their classes.
K: That is not entirely correct.
J: You do not remember it that way?
K: Yes, I know how it was. I remember it as the way it was. That is not entirely
true. It was true to this extent. Judge Cockrell taught criminal law, which dealt
with rape, for example, and he tempered what he said. But outside of that, there
was no declining to discuss it, and they would have answered any questions that
the women might have asked. The women showed that they did not mind
talking about it. It was not as strict and narrow as what you said might indicate.
They just did not try to talk about it. For example, if the penis of the man enters
the outer lips of the vagina, is that rape? It is, but they would be reluctant to say
it in so many words. They might put it another way. I do not know what way,
but that is about the way it was. Anything else?
J: I think that will do.
[End of the interview]