Interviewee: Chesterfield Smith
Interviewer: Denise Stobbie
December 14, 1985
Chesterfield Smith is a graduate of the University of Florida College of Law, class
of 1948. He practiced law in Bartow for many years and is now affiliated with the firm
Holland & Knight in Miami. This interview is part of a series on the history of the UF
College of Law.
Chesterfield Smith first enrolled at UF in 1935. As it was during the Depression,
he alternated semesters attending classes and working as a soda jerk, claims adjuster,
etc. He describes the University in those early years. He eventually received an
associate of arts degree.
In World War II Smith served in the National Guard. He was sent to Officer
Candidate School in 1942 and was subsequently assigned to the Ninety-fourth Infantry.
After training in a number of locations in the United States, in 1944 he was sent to
England and then to France, where he participated in the Battle of the Bulge. He was
also involved in the occupation of Czechoslovakia.
He returned home in 1945 and enrolled at the UF College of Law in 1946. He
describes UF during these booming post-war years, noting particularly that the student
body in general was older and more mature and that class sizes were quite large. He
discusses a number of law faculty, especially Dean Harry Trusler and Clarence TeSelle.
He was a student assistant to Clifford Crandall and Vernon Clark, and he discusses his
activities related to that experience. The topic of women at law school is addressed
briefly. Fellow students are also discussed, especially Paul Rogers.
Smith made it a point to work nine-hour days while at law school, between class
and study. He graduated in 1948, and he is very proud of his graduating class. It
boasts judges and public officials at many levels. He has been married to his childhood
sweetheart from Arcadia, Vivian Parks, since 1944, and they have one daughter,
Elizabeth Smith Kibbler, a health care lawyer with Kibbler & Renara.
DS: This is Denise Stobbie interviewing Chesterfield Smith as part of the College of
Law Oral History Project. The date is December 14, 1985. Would you please
state your full name?
CS: Chesterfield Barnaby Smith.
DS: And your hometown?
CS: I now live in Coral Gables, Florida. I was originally from Arcadia when I came to
the law school. I practiced law for many years in Bartow.
DS: In what year did you enter the University of Florida for the first time?
CS: In 1935.
DS: And that was as a freshman?
CS: As a freshman in the General College. It was the first year I had in the General
DS: What did you study?
CS: Well, they had a prescribed course. They used to call them the C courses or
comprehensive courses. There was one on the social sciences, one on the
humanities, and one on history. I do not recall all of them. There were six or
eight of them that were comprehensive, and they covered the general area.
DS: Did you receive a degree?
CS: No, I did not. I received an associate in arts.
DS: Then you entered the law school right after that?
CS: No, I did not enter law school until after WW II. I entered law school in June of
1946. I had been in the military service for sixty-one months.
DS: A long time.
DS: What did you do after getting your A.A. degree? Did you go into the military?
CS: Yes, I went in and out of college and worked. I had numerous jobs. It was in
the Depression. I never worked while I was in school, but I would go to a school
a semester or so and drop out to work for a year and then come back. I worked
in two sessions of the Florida Legislature in 1955 and 1957 to make money. I
worked in a drug store as a soda jerk in Boca Grande, Florida, and Miami,
Florida. And I was a claims adjuster, a collector for the Marshall Credit
Company. I collected installment payments that were delinquent, usually on
automobiles. I also had a route truck, selling candies, cigars, cigarettes, and
novelties to small merchants.
DS: You have had a variety of experiences. Going back to 1935 for a minute, when
you first came to the University, does anything stand out in your mind about the
university at that time? Did it seem crowded? Was it big?
CS: Well, it seemed big to me. There were about, to my recollection, twenty-seven
to twenty-eight hundred students. Everybody was poor at that time. I
remember I did not work, but my family gave me thirty-five dollars a month to live
on, and I was able to live decently well. My rent was something like seven or
eight dollars a month. I could buy a meal ticket for a week for five dollars, for
three meals a day. So I had five to eight dollars left for laundry and
entertainment and movies. Movies were cheap, like fifteen cents. But people
were poor in those days, and everybody was in the same boat. I do not have
exact information, but I do not believe that there were ten students at the
University of Florida that had automobiles.
DS: Were the classes full? Were there a lot of seats available?
CS: Yes, there were very big classes in the General College at first.
DS: I heard that during the Depression people stayed in school because they could
not find jobs.
CS: Well, these were beginning courses. Some of them were very big. In the
second year you would begin to have some electives, so they [the classes] were
smaller, very small. But some of them [the General College classes] were huge,
way up into the hundreds, 300-400.
DS: Where did they have those?
CS: Well, I remember having some classes in the University [Memorial] Auditorium.
DS: Did you think about going onto law school at that time?
CS: Well, I thought about it a little bit. I was not at all sure how I was going to make
it. I lacked some purpose and drive. As I said, I never worked when I came to
school. I obviously could. Most students did, but I did not. I did not think my
family would be able to send me to law school. It was not that I did not think
about it, but I did not really have a deep feeling that it was going to work out.
DS: What was your impression of law students at that time?
CS: I did not have any impressions of the law students. I only knew a few of them in
a most casual way.
DS: I wonder if they were regarded as the leaders on campus.
CS: Well, yes, many of them were considered the leaders of the campus, but I was
not very well acquainted with the leaders on campus at that particular time. And
some of the people that were freshmen and sophomores with me in time became
leaders on the campus, and I knew them. I knew the leaders on the campus in
the most casual way, and later, as my own life, evolved I became friends with
some of them. It is hard to draw the line. Sometimes you tend to think that you
knew them more and were closer to them in those days than perhaps you really
were. It is not absolutely clear. But, in general, I was a freshman from a small
town, and I was interested in my own activities. I used to play poker a lot and
gamble a lot. I did not study as much as I should have or as hard as I should
DS: Afterwards you went to what branch of the military?
CS: Well, I went into the military with the National Guard as a
twenty-one-dollar-a-month private. After I joined we were notified that we were
going to be mobilized in the federal service. We joined the unit from Arcadia, my
hometown. I left with them and came to Camp Blanding and stayed over five
years. I went through the ranks: I became a corporal and then a sergeant and
then a private again I was busted. Eventually I became a staff sergeant.
Then I was made this sounds funny now, but there was a great shortage of
personnel in the service at that time [because] it was expanding rapidly--an
acting officer, a lieutenant, because we did not have any officers. I was picked
to be one, and I did that for a while.
Then I went to Officer Candidate School [OCS] in March or April of 1942. I
graduated from OCS about July or August and went to the Ninety-Fourth Infantry
division, at that time being formed in Fort Custard, Michigan. We stayed there a
few months without any enlisted personnel, just officers. Eventually we were
transferred to Camp Phillips, Kansas, near Salina, and we received all of our
enlisted personnel. We stayed there for must have been close to a year while
we trained all of the enlisted personnel. We went on maneuvers, back and forth
from various places. We then went to Camp McKane, Mississippi, and stayed
about six or seven months. I got married while I was at Camp McKane,
Mississippi, to Vivian Parker. She had been my sweetheart at home in Arcadia.
In approximately June of 1944, as I recall it, we went overseas. We got to
England and stayed just a little period of time. Then we were shipped on to
DS: This was in 1944?
CS: Yes. We stayed in France, over in Brittany, where [General George] Patton had
broken through and headed into Paris. There were some isolated pockets of
Germans abreast in St. Laurent. We were holding them in those compartments.
We stayed there a pretty good period I would say ninety days until we finally
were moved to the front near Saar River. We engaged in operations there
including the Battle of the Bulge and the breakout eventually into the Rhine River.
We occupied some area for a month or two after peace was declared in the
Ruhr Valley near Dusseldorf. We then went to Czechoslovakia and occupied
some [area] there for about three months. Because I had been there a long time
I got to come home pretty early: I came home in the fall of 1945 and prepared to
go into law school.
DS: Where did you go to Officer Candidate School?
CS: Fort Sill, Oklahoma.
DS: Then you entered law school in 1946. How did you go about doing that?
Where did you sign up for enrollment?
CS: The registrar's office. I do not know.
DS: Do you remember where that was at the time?
CS: No. I guess it was in Language Hall. It was before those many buildings. As I
remember the campus, there was not any expansion going on at the time.
Without any new buildings to speak of, or without any additional facilities, all of
the sudden the school that had 3,000 students or so (maybe it had gotten up to
3,300; I do not know)) in 1939 or 1940 had 10,000, 11,000, or 12,000 students,
many of whom were quite mature and many married. There were a great many
returning veterans that accumulated that had to drop out of school, that had not
completed school over the year periods.
DS: Do you remember waiting in lines?
CS: Yes, I remember waiting in lines, but that is not a distinct memory. As a matter
of fact, I do not remember it being particularly irritating. We had been waiting in
lines for the military, it was not any worse.
DS: So you were used to that.
CS: I got an apartment on University Avenue right across from the law school, and it
was very easy for me to walk over to the law school. I spent a lot of time at the
DS: Did you have roommates?
CS: I had my wife, and I had my daughter born here. She is now a lawyer in
DS: What is her name?
CS: Elizabeth Smith Kibbler. She practices in health care law in the law firm of
Kibbler & Renara, which she would like me to say.
DS: So you were married the whole time you were in law school?
CS: Yes. I got married in 1944.
DS: Do you remember if they were accepting anyone who wanted to go into law
school at that time?
CS: Well, anybody that had at least an associate of arts.
DS: Did they have a problem accommodating the number of students that wanted to
go to law school?
CS: Well, there were more than they had ever had in law school. The classes were
very big. My recollection is that at the height of the veteran enrollment, the law
school, which had around 100 students in it, went up to about 500. Of course, it
is more than twice that now. So the enrollment was not huge, but it was a much
smaller building and a very small faculty, and it taxed it to the limit. The classes
were outrageously large, and individual attention was difficult. In fact, in
retrospect the law school was not a very good law school at that particular time,
even though they had some fine faculty members who gave good service and
tried very hard. Their resources were just not up to the task. I do think that the
student body was exceptional, perhaps because they were mature, but they were
more than that, I think. Looking back in retrospect, the people that were in
school with me have done remarkably well.
DS: I wanted to ask you about that. A lot of very successful lawyers have come out?
DS: The first half year?
DS: Do you think that it was because they were more mature?
CS: Well, I never have tried to analyze it, but I do know this, that most of them have
turned out to be about what I evaluated them when I was a student. Since they
have been uniformly successful, and some of them exceptionally so, my
evaluation of them at that time must have been pretty high, because I hardly ever
have been surprised at how they turned out. A few turned out to be no good,
and generally I thought that at the time about those few.
DS: [Are there] any that stand out in your mind while you were in law school, that
were top of the class?
CS: Well, in those days people went to school all of the time; I mean, they did not
have breaks. We had wives and children, so we did not go anywhere because
our families were here. Many times on Thanksgiving or Christmas or spring
breaks I would stay here in Gainesville instead of going to my home in Arcadia.
We had people that were graduating in February and in June and in August in
about equal amounts. We had classes with all of those and usually a semester
or two on both sides because they were generally electives. The law school was
crowded and burdensome with people coming back from the wars. It was
difficult. I remember in my freshman classes having people that were juniors
because they had the problem during the war of not being able to take certain
courses, and they were trying to catch up. The administration had a very difficult
One of my first classes that I had was taught by a wonderful dean, Harry Trusler,
who had been here for many, many, years. [He came here in] I think about
1912 or 1914, and he had been dean for something like twenty-five or thirty
years. [Trusler served as dean from 1915-1947. Ed.] He was really too old.
He was a wonderful man. He was not quite that old, but his mind had failed
some. But you also could tell that he had been a magnificent person. I
remember a class the old dean was teaching. I went into the course primarily
because I had heard about him and admired him and knew that he was near his
last teaching stint, and I wanted to get the benefit of him. I enjoyed him, even
though I could see that he was not the greatest teacher that had ever been.
DS: How was he when you had him?
CS: Well, he was kind of funny and maybe very forgetful, far more than usual the
prototype of the absent-minded professor. He was becoming at least partially
senile, I think, but there was enough left that you could see that he had been a
hell of a man, and must have been a hell of a professor.
DS: What did you mean when you said that you could tell that he had failed some?
CS: Well, he could get diverted so easily by the students. He cared very much about
pretty young women in the law school. I do not think he had been used to
women in the law school. And while there were not many, for the first time there
more than one or two. I would say right after the war there probably were twenty
or thirty women nothing like now, but more than one or two. I think it dropped
off some after that in the 1950s and perhaps early 1960s, and then it started
really increasing in substantial numbers towards the 1970s. At that time there
were a few, and he paid undue attention to them. We always noticed.
DS: What did he teach? What classes?
CS: He taught Florida Constitutional Law here, I had it.
DS: What other professors stand out in your mind?
CS: Well, the class character. The person everyone remembers and talks about was
a regular old professor named Clarence J. TeSelle. He had been there for a
substantial period of time [1929-1959]. He was frail and crippled, but mentally
he was a giant and as busy as he ever had been. He believed in the Socratic
method of teaching in that he pummeled and humiliated and interrogated and
devastated and destroyed all of the students one by one. He would pick a
person each day and go into a friendly dialogue with him, and before long he
would have the student torn apart, admitting that he had made two or three
misstatements. He was just an old, old trial lawyer, and he used the Socratic
method somewhat like the professor in [the movie and then TV series] "The
Paper Chase." Everybody usually loved or hated him. Nowadays, thirty or forty
years later, they all love the man, but at that time they all loved or hated him. I
always made good grades from him.
DS: Did you ever hate him?
CS: No. I tended at least to excuse him when he destroyed me more than some
people he gave horrible grades to. Some of the people that cared about grades
a great deal and had uniformly high grades he would not give high grades to.
Some people thought he was mean and malicious and that he might have done
that on purpose. I doubt that, but I do know that his grades did not turn out like
grades in other courses. I had good grades all through law school, and I was a
rare one that had good grades in other courses and made good grades in his
course. Often the people that made high grades in other courses would not
make them in his course.
DS: How is it that you had good grades? Did you study a lot?
CS: I think it is because I write short and quick exams, frankly. I answered the
precise question without giving exceptions and qualifications. But it is hard to
know. I was basically a good student and was not surprised to make acceptable
grades. I studied regularly. As a mature person I put in a nine-hour day, just
like working. Now, that does not sound like much, but I did it every day. If I
went to class five hours, I would study four hours. If I went to class two hours, I
would study seven hours. [I did that] five days a week, just like working. I had
been through that enough. I did not participate in the bull sessions, as some
students did. There were exceptions, of course.
DS: Do you think that having worked and been in the military service before law
school helped you to discipline yourself?
CS: I was much more mature and purposeful. I was interested in making higher
grades after the war than I had been before. At that particular time there was
not the system you have now, where those with high grades have far better
employment opportunities than those without them, so that was not what
motivated me. But I think by then I very much wanted to be a good lawyer, and
that was what was motivating me. Most people in my class did not think that
they were going to get employed. They thought they were going to hang out
their own shingle and start a new practice. And a great number of them did
exactly that. Only a few got employed. So it was not anything like now. Those
few who got employed were not those that made the high grades. There were
no recruiters like there are now. If anything, it was usually a contact they had
back in their hometown [where] they could get employed. [Of course, there
were] a few exceptions.
DS: Was there anyone at the law school to help students?
CS: Yes. In my junior and senior year I worked for the law school. I was a student
assistant. My basic job was to do whatever the professor wanted me to do as a
student assistant, which sometimes included helping him grade papers,
especially when they were mechanical-type questions, with true/false or
something of that sort. But what I usually helped him on was two nights a week
for about an hour and a half we would have tutor-type course in which I would
review what the professor had been teaching in class, trying to help those that
were having difficulty assimilating it. I worked as a student assistant for
Professor [Clifford W.] Crandall, who was the oldest person on the faculty and
who had taught Common Law Pleading and Civil Practice and Procedure. He
got sick during part of the time that I was a student assistant, and they brought in
a well-known lawyer not much older than I was from Gainesville named Seldon
Waldo. "Doc" Waldo was very prominent for a young man. He taught Civil
Procedure and Common Law Pleading in lieu of Crandall one time, and I helped
I also was an assistant to Vernon Clark, who was a professor of Criminal
Law. I think that Professor Clark is still alive. He is not much older than I am.
He lives in Bradenton, I think. He was just beginning to teach law, and he had
not fully perfected his technique at that time. He believed very much in what I
will call the "black letter rules." He would discuss a case, and he would give you
the rule that you should remember from that case. I remember he would go
over the case. He would go over the black letter rules and explain some of them
that were not understood. Sometimes my [tutoring] classes were at night and
would be very large, like sixty or seventy people. [The regular] daytime classes
would have 100 [or] 120 [students], and half of them, maybe, wanted extra help.
I was paid, as I recall it, at a rate amount of $125 a month. Seeing that I was
also getting $115 on the GI Bill and drawing about $100 a month out of savings, I
perhaps lived as well as I ever have while I was in law school.
DS: So you put yourself through school?
CS: Law school, yes. I did not have help from anybody. I had saved money during
those five years during the war. Well, I had not had an opportunity to spend it is
a better way to put it.
DS: Where did you have those tutoring classes?
CS: In classrooms, as I recall. A lot of them were in the big, old courtroom that was
over there. They were so large. There were two other student assistants,
[although] I do not remember who they were. We were designed basically to
tutor freshman courses, both of those courses I had for freshman courses. This
was when I was a junior and senior.
DS: Do you remember if they extended the class periods during that time to ensure
that all of the students would get their classes?
CS: No, I think that they just made the classes bigger.
DS: Do you remember how other professors mentioned Trusler and how other
professors treated the women in the classes? Did they adjust to their presence?
CS: Well, there were not enough women to make their presence material. I think
that nobody else did. I think that Trusler, in all honesty, was getting beyond his
prime. I like him very much, and I hate to talk about him here. To some extent
students are cruel, and I am cruel when I say these things. We probably
exaggerated a great deal, but he was the kind of person that would just like the
girls so much that he would look at them all of the time and never notice if any of
us were in the class or not. It was not as bad as I say. It was kind of the way
students were. That is the way I remember it.
DS: Do you remember the professors calling on women in class?
CS: Well, Professor TeSelle called on everybody, and he devastated women fairly
and equally with men. He got everybody and tore them apart; he stripped them
Let me tell you a little story. I do not know what is true and what has been
added over the years, because I have told it so many times, but it is worth telling.
It turned that one of Florida's greatest trial lawyers was in law school at that
time. His name was [William S.] "Bill" Frates [class of 1968]. As the story goes,
Mr. TeSelle worked Bill over and tore him apart. He began to like it very much,
and Bill could not stand it very much. Bill always insisted that TeSelle call him
Mr. "Fray-tees"; he explained that his name was [pronounced] Fray-tees. Finally
one day Professor TeSelle was calling the roll, and he said Frates. Bill jumped
out of his chair said: "Mr. TeSelle, you have continued to humiliate me and
embarrass me, and you do it deliberately. Being a lawyer is the most important
thing in my life, and you control it. But I will not be humiliated anymore. My
name is important to me], and unless you can call me by my name, I am not
going to stay here. If you ever call me Frates again I am going to walk out of the
class. I know I will be dismissed and will never be a lawyer, but I want you to
know it would be your fault." Well, the old man looked at him, and he said,
"F-r-a-t-e-s is [pronounced] Fray-tees?" and Bill said yes. The old man said,
Well, as luck would have it, there three other people on the class roster
who's names are significant to this story. When the old man was calling the roll
the next day the first person's name on the role was Anderson, but the second
was Bates, and then the name immediately before Frates's happened to be
Gates, and the last name on the roll was Yates. So for the rest of the year we
had a Bates [Bay-tees] and a Gates [Gay-tees], a Frates [Fray-tees], and a Yates
[Yay-tees], and that made Bill far madder than he had ever been before.
DS: I wonder how it made the other students feel?
CS: The old man did not care, I would say. He would call Frates "Frates" the rest of
the year if he would have wanted to.
DS: Let me touch back on Seldon Waldo. Did you say he was brought in to help
CS: He was a practicing lawyer downtown. It is my recollection this was 1946-47,
that he had gotten out of law school in 1942 or 1943 and was practicing
downtown. He was doing well, and he came out and taught the course.
DS: And he taught Crandall's courses?
CS: Crandall's courses. Crandall became ill.
DS: Okay. Do you remember them bringing in other professors to help out with this
CS: Well, they were hiring new professors. The year I started [Vernon] Wilmot Clark
and Frank Maloney were hired, both full time. [Maloney eventually became
dean, from 1958-1970]. And they eventually added some more. [William
Dickson] Macdonald started before I left. I have known Bill Macdonald for many
years. I did not have a course under him. He was a great professor that was
well known. [There was also] George John Miller who taught for a period of time
and brought in Mr. Magnese, who was a great old practicing lawyer from
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and was active in many things. They were adding to
the staff; the basic staff was about six.
There was a very wonderful professor named James [Westbay] Day. I
guess it is all right to call him wonderful, because I took more courses from him
than any other single professor, and I made an A every time, so obviously he
liked me. He was a real property expert and was recognized statewide at that
time as the most knowledgeable expert in Florida real property law. He,
however, was just a very dry, mundane, academic man. He was not exciting
and colorful and enjoyable like Professor TeSelle. Many people ducked his
classes because they had to work hard and because he was boring.
Another professor who was young at that time was Professor James R.
Wilson, who may still be alive as a practicing lawyer in Daytona, I think. He is
only a little older than I am. He has been a very successful practitioner over
there. He left the law school about 1948 and went over there to practice law, so
he has been a practitioner for thirty-five years at least. He taught primarily
Property and some other courses.
I had an older professor that was named [Dean] Slagle. Professor Slagle
was old and beyond his prime if he had a prime. He was known openly among
law students as the professor ready to give high grades for no work. He asked
questions on the exams that he had always asked before. We had [old copies
of his exams] to study in those days, if you studied them you almost certainly
would have the answers. Sometimes 30 or 40 percent of his total class would
get an A. And a lot of other people that did not make A's anywhere else in law
school made A's with him.
DS: What did he teach?
CS: I do not remember everything. He taught Admiralty and he taught Constitutional
Law. He did not teach anything, to tell you the truth, but he had classes in those
subjects. And that is awful close. Judge [Robert Spratt] Cockrell was still
around here, and I had seminar classes or two with him. But he had failed a
great deal; he was not the man he had been. He had been a great professor
here in the 1930s and perhaps the 1940s.
DS: Was he retired and just teaching seminars?
CS: Yes. I remember so many talented people in law school that I hate to single
anyone in particular out, but one of the people that I particularly liked and was
close to and admired was [John B.] "Jack" Orr, who later became mayor of
metropolitan Dade County. He died in office. I remember when he was state
legislator [representing Dade County] he stood up in the state legislature and
opposed segregation in the public schools. He was wanted by everybody very
early after he graduated from law school in 1951--1953 at the latest. I
remember Paul Rogers [class of 1948], who was a very smooth campus
politician. He has been and is one of my close, close friends. It is my personal
judgment (with a lot of knowledge) that he made the greatest impact on the
nation of any person who ever served in the congress in Florida. He was the
draftsman and the advocate of much of the great social legislation that we have
had in this nation in the health field and in the environmental field. I do not think
that we have ever had anybody from Florida who so impacted the nation as he
did. He is now a very successful practicing lawyer in a large law firm [Hogan &
Harston] in Washington [DC].
DS: By the way, I will be interviewing him later on.
CS: Well, you should. He is a great man. Sometimes the people of Florida have
not known what an impact he had on the nation. There have been other
Floridians who have been a great service, such as my own partners for whom the
law center was named [former U.S. Senator Spessard L. Holland, 1946-1971]
and me. I think that Paul Rogers was one of those unique Americans who we
owe a debt that will never be repaid. Mark Carlson is part of a prominent
Jacksonville law firm who has accomplished many fine and wonderful things in
this state. He was in the law school and was one of the better people in it. He
has been a great credit to the state in the things that he was involved in. He
was then--and he is now--one of my closest friends. I recall, literally, twenty or
thirty people that I was very close to in law school who have impacted in a
monumental way the state, who have done great things for the state.
One of the unsung heroes is a circuit judge here in Gainesville, John
Crews, who stood up, representing Baker County, a small north Florida county, in
the Florida legislature, and demanded that legislative representation be equalized
so that the large counties, like Dade County and others in the south, could get
some votes. All of the other small county people were fighting it. They had the
votes, and they were not going to change it. Crews fought for it because it was
fair and right. He was castigated, of course, by his brethren and colleagues. It
was a courageous and right and proper thing. He has done many other things
like that. These days he is no longer recognized as a great champion like that,
but in his youth he was.
I think of many more. When I graduated from law school I was number
one in my class, as I recall it. I gave all my notes to Earl Faircloth [class of
1950], who later became attorney general of Florida [1965-1971] and ran for
governor [in 1970]. He says they [my notes] were quite helpful to him to getting
through the law school. Sam Gibbons is a dear friend of mine and was a
classmate of mine. He has great seniority in the [U.S.] Congress [Florida's 7th
District, 1962-present], and it is my personal opinion that his integrity and
intellectual independence [have given him a reputation] as one of the real leaders
of the House, in particular the House Ways and Means Committee. [I also
believe that] he has been the best single force in the Congress protecting free
trade and fighting protective tariffs in the nation. I mentioned that he was a
superior person in my class. It is typical of the fact that many in my class have
achieved all kinds of things, and I have been very proud of them. [Prior to his
election to the U.S. Congress in November 1962, Gibbons served in the Florida
House from 1953-1957 and the Florida Senate from 1959-1962. Ed.]
DS: Did you all study together?
CS: Well, some of us. I studied with [Joel A.] "Joe" Smith [class of 1948] and [W.]
Reece Smith [class of 1949], and I studied with Paul Rogers and Doug Shivers
[class of 1948]. Doug Shivers is a judge on the First District Court of Appeal in
Tallahassee. I studied with my cousin Harold, who is a retired circuit judge in
DS: Did you study at the library, or did you get together elsewhere?
CS: In homes; I do not remember whose, though. Most of the class turned out about
like I thought they were going to. Most of them have been pretty diligent.
DS: Were your classes intense? Was there competition among the students?
CS: I think they were too big for that. There was some competition among those
who were trying for grades and there were a few that were trying for grades.
The class that was one semester behind me but they were almost always in my
actual class had some very brilliant scholars, and they competed very hard to
see who was going to be number one there. There was less competition in my
actual graduating class, although I think our class felt more competition than
those that graduated a semester before us. The classes a semester ahead of
us and a semester after us both had some very brilliant scholars in them.
Evidently I think our class may have achieved as much or more than either of
those did. But in the law school we were all one [class]; when we come back
now we were all the class of 1948. Some of them graduated in February, some
in June, and some in August, but they were all the class of 1948.
Incidently, I think I will just mention, although he is dead and gone, that I
think that Frank Maloney was a colorless person. He was a brand new law
professor when I came here, and he tried so very hard. He worked very hard,
and I remember him now by remembering the things he taught me. He was
about my age. I remember he taught a new principle of law; well, I remember
hearing it first from him. Later he became dean of the law school here for many
years [1958-1970]. [He turned out] to be a plodding, diligent, first-rate fellow
whose honor was good and who was kind and hard working. That was the way
he was as a professor. I think I should mention, because I now recognize him,
that even though he was a beginning professor, [I remember him] as being a
superior professor. But most of all I remember Professor TeSelle. I have never
tried a case in which I did not remember him and something that he said or did.
DS: What condition was he in when you were here?
CS: Oh, he was crippled. He was often in a wheelchair. He walked with two canes.
It would take him fifteen minutes to get from his car to the law school building.
He labored under intense pain, I am sure. He was a rough little man, a mean
tyrant. He had fun, too. You could just see how much he enjoyed sparring with
DS: I understand the students at one time would go and pick him up at his house and
bring him to school?
CS: Yes. Oh, many adored him. He was fun if you were not the object [of his
abuse]. It was fun to watch him, especially if he got somebody that was a little
pompous. I remember we had another fellow [in our class], a prominent lawyer
in Tampa now and a good friend of mine. We used to play golf all the time when
I was in law school. His name was Julian Litzy. He was insulted [once], and
Julian told Mr. TeSelle something like: "Mr. TeSelle, you insult me and embarrass
me. I want you to know that I am not a ordinary student. I was colonel in the
army. I had troops under me, a significant number, and I had control of large
dollar amounts of equipment. I want to be a lawyer, and you just humiliate me."
I do not remember exactly what Mr. TeSelle said, but he said something like:
"Well, if that is your decision, all right. I will ignore you." From then on he never
called on him, only the rest of the class. But he would always do things like this
instead: he would say, "Now, let me give you a hypothetical, a pure hypothetical,"
he said. "There is this brilliant girl, and beautiful, walking down the street, and a
dirty, low-down scum who was the worst of all people his name was Litzy -
attacked her and raped her in some bushes over there," and he was went on with
the story. "Litzy was the scorn of every decent human being." But he would
never talk [to Litzy] in class or call on him. Of course, Litzy would get mad
enough. "No offense intended," TeSelle would say. "Purely hypothetical.
These names mean nothing." But he was that kind of fellow. As I said, [he
was] somewhat, in a very dramatic way, like "Paper Chase" professor.
DS: Even though he was frail?
CS: Frail. You wondered if he was going to die before he got to the next class. But
he was vigorous in that class with his voice. His voice and his brain were not
failing or feeble.
DS: So even though you did not have the best of instruction, a lot stayed with you
from this professor?
CS: Well, I especially remember Maloney and Day and TeSelle. I remember
principles of law that they inculcated in me in school. Others had impact on me,
but I remember them especially. I would say that everybody remembers
TeSelle. Many remember Day, but all of them would say that Day was the
dullest and driest professor they had here. But he worked so hard. He wanted
to do so well. He cared so much. He would stay for hours and talk to you after
class. He was a good man.
DS: Did you participate in a debate team?
CS: It seems to me I did. In undergraduate school, you mean?
DS: Well, the University had a debate team.
CS: I did not participate in that. I thought you meant at the law school.
DS: I am trying to find a little more about that.
CS: I think Rogers did. Did you talk to him?
DS: There was a John Marshall debating team.
CS: That is what I seem to have some recollection that I may have participated in. I
do not quite recall it.
DS: Okay. I do not know much about it. Well, let me see. I am about out of
questions. Can you think of anything you want to add?
CS: Well, I certainly want to say that without preparing I have not [mentioned
everyone whom I really should]. I included the names of a few of my
classmates, but that excludes some that I thought even more of or that I was
even closest to. I thought of those who for various reasons popped into my
mind. And I guess that I would say that the most outstanding single graduate in
my particular class was Paul Rogers, not because he was the best student or the
best man, but because he made such a magnificent impact on the nation and
helped the nation in so many ways later on. So his achievements are the
greatest, maybe, rather than saying that he was the greatest. Maybe there are
some other people that I might pick above him, but none of them have achieved
more than he did. As I say, I think no Floridian in the whole history of the nation
has ever served in the system so much as he.
But we have had a very good class. We have had judges on every level and
public officials on almost all levels. I suppose that never again in the history of
the law school [will there be a class] where there were so many people who
could be impressed with the Florida Bar. Never will there be two Smiths who
could be president of the American Bar Association.
DS: You graduated in what month of 1948?
CS: June of 1948. I think it was June 1. My recollection is that I was sworn in as a
lawyer on June 8, [so I must have graduated] sometime before that.
DS: Did you have to take the bar exam back then?
CS: No. We had the diploma privilege.
DS: Did you go through a commencement ceremony?
CS: I do not know. I have been honored by the University since then a few times, so
I have been to several commencement ceremonies. I have spoken at both
University ceremonies and at law school ceremonies--probably at the law school
three or four times. I do not believe that we had a ceremony at the law school,
but we perhaps did at the University.
DS: Do you remember who gave you your diploma? Was it mailed to you?
CS: I do not recall.
DS: I guess [John J.] Tigert was president of the University then. [Tigert was
president from 1928-1947. Ed.]
CS: I think it was J. Hillis Miller [1948-1954].
DS: Miller. Okay.
CS: Tigert was when we came back from the war, but Miller came somewhere like
1947 and was here like a year before I graduated.
DS: Can you suggest other people who you feel I should be sure to include in this
[series of interviews on the] history [of the College of Law]?
CS: Well, I think Harold Smith [class of 1948] would be very good. He loves to
reminisce and ramble more than most people. He is, as I said a retired circuit
judge in Naples. I think Harold Crosby [class of 1948] would be worth getting.
[See UFLC42, Oral History Project, University of Florida. Ed.] He was later a
professor here. He was president of Florida International University and
president of the University of West Florida, and I think he is head of something
like government research bureau or something at FSU [Florida State University]
right now. He is basically retired. He just does not do much. And I think I
would ask [Talbot] "Sandy" D'Alemberte [class of 1962], who is the dean at FSU
law school. [See UFLC55, Oral History Project, University of Florida. Ed.]
Joel Adams Smith [class of 1948] would be very good. He is professor of law at
the Mississippi [College] law school. It is not a part of the University of
Mississippi; it is a law school in Jackson, Mississippi. It is a separate law school.
He would be wonderful. He was one of the best students that did not ever
achieve that much. He became a professor, as we used to say. He
remembers everything. He knew everything about the law school and the
people, especially the people of my time, like Mrs. [lla Roundtree] Pridgen
[College of Law librarian, 1930-1954]. He would be wonderful. Have you ever
talked to Reece Smith? He would be worth doing. He taught here, too. Reece
graduated in 1949 and became a Rhodes scholar. He came back in 1952 and
stayed until 1953, 1954, or 1955 as a[n interim] professor. So he has a long
period of recollections. You are getting into the 1940s, now, are you not?
DS: Yes. I will have to see if I can get in touch with him. I will be interviewing Leo
Foster up in Tallahassee and Justice [Raymond] Ehrlich. [See UFLC31 and
UFLC34/UFLC53, respectively, Oral History Project, University of Florida. Ed.]
CS: Yes, they graduated in the early 1940s. [Both are from the class of 1942. Ed.]
A delightful fellow who has kind of a unique perspective on the law school in my
class was Lucien Proby. He was a total Gator football fan. He was the county
attorney in Key West. He was a circuit judge in Miami, and he retired to the
Keys. He is great. Another person that would be delightful is David Yoakley
[class of 1948], who was [Marshall] Criser's partner Gunster, Yoakley, Criser,
Stewart, etc. in West Palm and Palm Beach. [Criser was president of the
University of Florida from 1984-1989. Ed.] Yoakley was a mountaineer. He
knows everything. Those are a few good ones. Yoakley is one of the best I
DS: He was in your class?
CS: Yes. Robert Ervin would be a great one. He is a prominent lawyer in
Tallahassee in the early Varn, Jacobs, etc. law firm. He graduated in December
of 1947 right ahead of me, and he had done everything. He has been the
president of the Florida Bar, and he is extremely active. His brother [Richard W.
Ervin] was for many years [Florida's] attorney general [1949-1964] and then a
justice [of the Florida Supreme Court, 1964-1975]. He had been heavily
involved in government politics, but as a lawyer, not as an office holder.
DS: Well, alright. I will be going to Tallahassee.
CS: Well, he is a great one to use. Stephen O'Connell.
DS: I need to interview him. [See UF186, Oral History Project, University of Florida.
CS: He lives in Tallahassee. He was in undergraduate school when I was, but he
graduated from the law school in 1940, I think.
DS: I think I need to spend a couple of days in Tallahassee.
CS: He would be a good one. Did you interview George Smathers?
CS: George Smathers graduated from the law school about 1939 or 1940 would be
my judgment. [Smathers was from the class of 1938. Ed.] He was a United
States Senator for eighteen years [1951-1969]. He was [President John F.]
"Jack" Kennedy's best man when he married Jackie. But he is a practicing
lawyer in Miami now at Smathers & Thompson, a large law firm.
DS: I need to go back to my hometown.
CS: Where is that?
DS: Miami. I was born and raised there. My sister is still down in that area, so I can
stay with them. My dad lived in Miami from the time that he was six years old.
CS: John Crews would be a good one to talk to.
DS: I need to interview him, too. He is on the list.
CS: Osee Fagan was another circuit judge who was in my class and who has made a
DS: Okay. Well, I will not keep you.
[End of the interview]