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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida.
ORAL HISTORY PROJECT
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
INTERVIEWEE: Mr. Edward Ball
INTERVIEWER: Henry Rogers
DATE: April 3, 1980
R: This is an interview with Mr. Edward Ball the afternoon of Thursday,
April 3, 1980. The interviewer is Henry Rogers, President of the
Jacksonville Historical Society at this time. Some background con-
versation is from Mrs. Irene Walsh, Mr. Ball's secretary.
Mr. Ball, it's a rare privilege to have the opportunity
to interview you for the Jacksonville Historical Society and for
the University of Florida Oral History Program. Florida has been
very privileged in having you working here. What was your earliest
business experience in Florida?
B: At St. James Island.
R: Where is St. James Island?
B: That's in Franklin County. It is right off the mainland.
R: The island is in....
B: Franklin County.
R: What were you doing there on the island?
B: I went down to look at it.
R: Did you buy part of it?
B: Yes, I bought most of it.
R: Does St. Joe Paper still own that?
B: Oh, yes.
R: Are you growing trees on it today?
B: Yes, we are.
R: The formation of St. Joe has been one of the critical business de-
cisions in Florida this century, I believe. Could you tell me a little
bit about how it happened to be formed up?
B: Sure. Mr. DuPont came down and looked around to see what he might
get interested in and he turned me loose to buy some real estate. Had
a lot of real estate, so then he looked around to see what use he
could make of it. That was how we got started toward the paper mills.
R: That was in the mid-twenties?
B: Yes. I bought St. James Island in 1923.
R: About how many acres were involved in that first purchase?
B: Some thirty-odd thousand.
R: From one owner?
R: How did values in 1923 compare with today's values?
B: They were substantially lower than today's values. This part of
Florida had not participated in the boom, as south Florida had several
R: I see. And it didn't go bust, then, in 1926 like south Florida either,
B: No, it didn't.
R: When did you start actually working toward a paper mill at Port St.
B: I expect that was along about '26 or '27.
R: Probably didn't have any trouble getting permits to build such that
you would today?
B: No. They hadn't thought of all the stumbling blocks to put in your
R: In the Great Depression, did St. Joe continue buying land?
B: Oh, yes.
R: Found some for tax deeds probably?
B: No. We could have gotten in--I've forgotten the name of the Act--but
Mr. DuPont thought you had to pay taxes. So I never recommended a
single purchase under a law at that time that put your land up and
sold it if you didn't pay taxes.
R: The decision to go into the panhandle part of Florida rather than
closer to Mr. DuPont's home here was because of St. James Island?
B: No. He hadn't built his home here. He didn't build that until 1926.
R: Just liked the land over there for growing trees better than here?
B: That's right.
R: The second big enterprise that I'm knowledgeable about are the Florida
B: Yes. Mr. DuPont was not interested. Told me to look around and see
which bank he could buy control of. So I checked around and came to
the conclusion that the Florida was the easiest one.
R: Were the owners here in Jacksonville at that time?
B: Oh, yes.
R: Was it controlled by one family or were there a number of different
R: The bank was owned here in Jacksonville by a variety of different
B: That's right.
R: But you were able to buy control of it.
B: Not right away. Mr. DuPont acquired about 20 or 25 per cent over a
period of some months. Later on he acquired control.
R: All of this time you were working with him?
B: That's right.
R: I know some people around town that have from time to time had a
business mentor, an older man who was accomplished and successful,
that they worked under. Many people have modeled after Mr. Lovett
and others after J. E. Davis. From what you're telling me you were
working with Mr. DuPont in this type of situation?
B: That's right.
R: He was an excellent teacher, I believe.
B: Yes. He'd had a lot of experience in business and also in litigation.
R: One of my favorite memories of you is one day I came in here and I
was crying about somebody suing me for $3000. You put your hand on
a stack of papers and said, "Mr. Rogers, the way I keep my blood
circulating is by keeping 80 or 100 lawsuits going all the time." I
was wondering about your philosophy of confusion to the enemy and liti-
B: Well, in litigation we've been somewhat lucky. Most of the litigation
we've been in we've won.
R: I don't recall seeing any litigation that you have lost until this
B: This past year there was only one case that ruled against us.
R: I think that's an excellent record. You have hired good lawyers?
B: Hope so.
R: You've had good cases going in.
R: The legal bit that you've had apparently has also been aided by your
astuteness in politics from time to time.
B: I knew a number of state and local officials scattered around the
state. They kind of educated me as to what was going on at the time.
R: I have heard tales, although I can't remember, of the Claude Pepper-
George Smathers battle, I think in about 1950. Were you involved in
B: Yes, somewhat.
R: Is it something you'd care to comment about or not?
B: Yes. Senator Pepper came to Jacksonville and made a speech at Hemming
Park. He told them that Smathers wasn't his opponent. Right up on
the eleventh floor of the Barnett Bank building was his opponent,
where I had my board. I supported George Smathers quite vigorously.
I even offered him an office. George wasn't running as tough a cam-
paign as I thought he should run, so I opened an office and put out
emmisaries and speakers who went around and spoke less friendly of
Pepper than George would speak of him.
R: And successfully again?
B: Yes. Smathers got elected and I guess made us a good senator.
R: I think he was probably a good senator for Florida. Were you primarily
out to get Pepper, or out to support Smathers, or a little bit of
B: Some of both. I had an amusing experience with Pepper some years ago.
I was elected into city government.
R: Which government?
B: The city of Jacksonville, with consolidation, and happened to be down
at Gainesville for a party shortly after the election, where a Jack-
sonville news reporter was. He came over and was wanting to ask me
some questions while I was talking to then Congressman Pepper. The
reporter asked me a half dozen different questions and then turned
to Mr. Pepper and says, "And who may I say was speaking to Mr. Rogers?"
Pepper stormed off. He declined to state who he was if the reporter
didn't know him.
R: One of the most common comments in the press about you has been over
your anti-union or at least antagonistic toward union views. Do
you have any philosophical comments about unions?
B: Ihadmy first experience with unions when I was thirteen years old.
R: Where was that?
B: That was in Virginia. I was assistant manager of a tomato canning
plant and the manager got sick, called it kidney colic, I think it
was kidney stones that he had, but he was in a lot of pain, so he
went to bed. The second day, I was running the plant and the engineer
and the fireman came over and told me unless I gave them a raise they
were going to organize the plant. I didn't know exactly what they
meant. So I asked them to explain what they meant by organizing the
plant. They were going on strike and the plant would close down. So
I raised my voice among the clatter of the machinery, called to cashier,
who was another youngster, and I said to him, "See these two guys?"
"Yes." I said, "Pay them off right now!" I said, "Damn you, go
ahead and organize." I fired them. That was my first experience
with anything like a union.
R: Did they cause you any trouble after that?
B: No. Once the manager got well, he put them back on the payroll, much
to my chagrin.
R: Well, at age thirteen that was quite a daring thing to do, wasn't it?
B: No, I didn't think so.
R: Were they bigger than you were?
B: Oh, sure. Much.
R: I would consider that very daring if they were bigger than me. But
that's why you're where you are and I'm where I am.
B: No. Since then I've had a lot of experience with unions.
R: The Florida East Coast strike is the most famous one, I guess. Are
there others that you remember vividly?
B: None of the others lasted as long as the East Coast, but we met with
them regularly. When we finally told them that we weren't concerned
about them having a union, they appeared to think that you couldn't
run a railroad without a union:
R: I was reading your statement a few minutes ago. It looks like you
have been very successful without a union.
B: Yes, I was just looking at the price of East Coast stock this morning.
It's 51, and DuPont, which is a big company, was 36.
R: The DuPont Company is the background, of course, of Mr. DuPont's money.
B: Yes. When the head of the company died, they held a family conference
and decided to sell it to Laflin & Rand, our principal competitor.
After they had reached that decision, they decided that the members of
the family had nobody to run the company. That's when Mr. Alfred I.
spoke up. He said, "Well, I'll buy the company," to
everybody's surprise. Then he invited his two cousins to meet him,
invited them in and later they fell out. But they had the majority
of the stock and so they prevailed.
R: That was when Mr. DuPont moved out of Wilmington?
B: Several years later, I'd say probably, four or five years later....
R: Before what, sir?
B: Four or five years later.
R: Oh, that was what caused his moving, at least.
B: That's right.
R: It's unfortunate when families have difficulty working together.
B: It's not unusual.
R: No, not unusual. I think you have told me previously that you had
several brothers and sisters beside Mrs. DuPont.
B: Oh, sure.
R: Have you kept track with your relatives in Virginia?
B: To a limited extent, yes.
R: One thing that has always been interesting to me is your formality
in talking with people and talking about people. The only person I
can remember you speaking of in the first name is Robert Kloppel, I
B: Yes. I guess that's probably right.
R: Did you and Mr. Kloppel used to hunt together or fish together or
B: No. I never went hunting or fishing with him. After he built the
George Washington, I used to stay there.
R: You used that as your residence for a while? Was it where you stayed?
R: Judge Roberts, I think, is one of your close friends now, isn't he?
B: Yes. I got acquainted with Judge Roberts when he was going to school
and we've kept up the acquaintance ever since.
R: I've known him very pleasantly, although slightly, and have enjoyed
the relationship with him also. Did you personally ever run for any
B: Not yet.
R: One of the other names, politically, that's been associated with you
is Doyle Carlton [Governor, State of Florida].
B: Yes, we hadn't worked together. He was governor. In the building
they had a small elevator. Doyle and I could ride up in the elevator
and not see each other.
R: This is in the old capitol?
R: I don't remember him. When was he governor?
B: I'm not sure, but I think he followed [John Wellborn] Martin.
R: How about David Sholtz?
B: The first Republican governor we've had since the Civil War and probably
the least efficient. But I think he did pretty well in looking out
for his person interests.
R: Like some other governors, he entered poor and left rich?
B: I'm sure he left the governor's office with considerably more than
he had when he went in.
R: Did you work with him?
B: No. Some way he and Inever hit it off very well.
R: I have no recollection of him either. I've never even read about
him in history books that I can recall.
B: I saw him about a year or two ago and he has gotten about this size.
So he waddled up and extended his paw at me and I said, "Governor,
you haven't lost an ounce in the last ten years."
R: What is he doing now?
B: I don't know.
R: Another thing that you ae famous, or infamous, for, as the case may be,
is your taste for good bourbon.
B: Yes. It helps the spirits and I believe it's good for you.
R: I heard once that you might not have lived after a possible heart
attack but for the bourbon. Is that an accurate tale?
B: I expect that's probably true. I've had four serious heart attacks
and I had -a bottle of bourbon handy all the time I was having those
R: It relaxed you so that....
B: So that I stayed on this side of the creek.
R: I am glad you have. What are your earliest memories in your boyhood
B: I grew up on a farm and my parents were probably too lenient with all
of the kids. I may add I enjoyed my growing up period.
R: Was the farm recovered from the Civil War at the time of your early
R: Was the farm that you grew up on recovered from the war?
B: Oh, yes.
R: Your father was in the Confederate Army, wasn't he?
B: Yes, he was with Jeb Stuart's ninth Virginia Cavalry. That's where
he was at the end of the war. Early in the war he was not in the ca-
valry. I don't know what various units he served.
R: Did he used to tell you tales about it?
B: Yes, he'd talk about it. One thing I remember he said it was real
fortunate that the Yankees won the war. Otherwise, we would be
split up like Europe with a lot of little small nations.
R: That's an interesting philosophy for somebody who rode with Jeb Stuart.
R: Robert E. Lee had the same philosophy as I recall from the history
R: Mr. Ball, I thank you very much for this opportunity. Hopefully CI can]
come back for another interview at some other time when you can grant
me a little while.
B: Be glad to.
R: Thank you very much, sir.