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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida.
Interviewee: James Clendinnen
Interviewer: Gary Mormino
Place: Tampa, Florida
Date: August 21, 1980
M: Today is August 21, and I amiinterviewing Mr. James Clendinnen editor of the Tampa
Tribune in his office on Parker Street in Tampa. Mr. Clendinnen I recently was looking(
in an old Pioneer Florida editorial by D.B. McCay, he was quoting one of your prede-
crssors Edwin Lambrite. Lambrite had come to Tampa in 1899. He had said when I came
to Tampa from Georgia, Tampa was a city composed of derelict houses, sand, sand, sand.
When did you come to Tampa and could you paint a description of what Tampa was like
when you first discovered her?
C: I came to Tampa in February of 1935 to take a job as a courthouse reporter for the
TribuneqAWI think a description which one magazine article used at that time might
-r-S a Fr~U rr-- eI
describe Tampa in the 1935 V---Ia eSr-iF-t to it as the hell hole of the Gulf Coast.
Which was not.too far off the mark because we had open houses of prostitution, open
gambling houses, almost every election was stolen, by one side ofthe other. The
underworld, which centered on the gambling racquet, the numbers racquet; -a-rfm =hF-\t
large political influence to the extent that they controlled some elections and law
enforcement officers. So, it really was probably one of the rottenest cities in the
United States/for its size.
M: That year of 1935 ofcourse was the scene of a famous election right? Was this the
hurricane or was this when the National Guard was called?
C: Both. There had been an election to control/the city hall, the mayors election, which
the incumbent R.E.O. Chancy was opposed by the former Mayor D.B. McCay. The courthouse
crowd was with McCay and the city hall gang was backing Chancy ofcourse and it came
down to a contest which side could control the poles, policing the poles. Because
if they controlled policing the poles they could get away with almost anything. And
it went on to the point that each side began hiring and swearing in special police-
and special deputies Jhugs of all kinds from the whole area were recruited. So you
had several hundred of these people running around with shotguns and pistols and base-
ball bats and whatever. And the prospect of violence was so real that the sheriff
Ybor 36 A
C: asked the government to call out the National Guard to police the election.
M: Is this when Dave Schultz was governor?
C: Yes, Schultz was governor then. And the National Guard did police the polls and
contest, nevertheless about stolen ballot boxes, stuffed ballot boxes, and that was
the same day we had the hurricane.
M: Auguered ill will.
C: It was quite an eventful day.
M: Now was it 1936 or 1934 the Claude Pepper election? O
C: That was 1934. When he ran against -__U- mm r e said was decided by Peppe,
5,000 vote margin in the hot precints of Ybor City.
M: How do you explain how Tampa had come to such an infamous reputation nationally?
C: Well, a few families and a few established political organizations pretty much control
lied the city, there was some evidence bhaSas ties between the underworld and some
business I (A)F-FTS And it really sunk to the point where each special interest was
industry did not protect its own profits and investments and not taking any real in-
terest in the development of the community except in so far as it benefited that par-
ticular interest. The 1935 was really the turning point because a terrible accident
of publicity that Tampa received from this city election, coming after the 7w ele-
ction in which z-rps of the stolen votes that re-elected re And so some
civic spirited people in the communtiy were aroused and the newspapers hammered on the
need to clean up the city, clean up the government. And theVturning point in the clean
up really was when enough pressure was put on the county commission to buy voting mach-
ines which at least assured the honest voter that his vote would be counted, it would
not be thrown out. And that eliminated most of the fraud, there was still some re-
peaters, but the'" problem of the past was pretty much ended when the voting mach-
ines were.installed. And from then on _:" -f-f.-., made a electing P^N officials
and people with a civic view point. Gradually the old gang gave way toR Tlf
-) --E.---,-t -_______7 r public official.
Ybor 36 A
M: In a rather sensitive area, particularly since I am of Latin desent, would you say
that politics in Tampa became cleaner as Ybor City and West Tampa diminished in influ-
ence? This was the period when cigar industries were _, when more and more
native americans were rising in Tampa, no new immigrants were coming, is that a coin-
cidence? How would you answer that?
C: Well, the Latin vote is a factor in the whole political picture, ofcourse, diminished
as the number of Latin voters who were in porportion to the total population, tmo)JY
S-s P O )immigrants/ came in. The PA J imm rgranAsLL t t
increased in number 0 then there was AiR a dispersion of the Latin population
i7 r" f'Y 2 h '1 out of Ybor City and west Tampa and other parts of the city and it
was no longer the cohesionL there were the education and economic standing,
Many of them were less susceptible to control from some of the politicians who were
not L4F' i-T .Tc SEL k5- but in controlA, exerted a lot of influence on the Latin
vote to the business underworld C',' c-r .
M: This is a natural time to bring up some politicians, how would you characterize
C: Well, Nuccio was one of the old time politicians who's strength was based on personal
communication, personal favors for people. "SSSSOCi^-as a county commissioner before
he ran for mayor, he would use some of his county funds to put benches with his name
on them in various parts of the city, and to build side walks outside of his immediate
SHe was S_4_ 'as mayor, it was said that nobody was hired, even in the
lowest job in the city, that did not personally get his approval, so that they would
feel obligated initially for the job. It was the old SBI ltpolitics, passing out
little favors, here and there, and He was not knocvas a dishon-
est mayor. I do not think he made any money out of the office, and he had good inten-
sions for the city as a whole but as I said he followed the old-AaVS-politics.
M: Was Tampa a better city when Nuccio left office?
Ybot 36 A
A Was it because of Nick Nuccio or irspite of Nick Nuccio?
C: Well, I think partly both. He was interested in public projects which would have
high visibility and which he could point to and say that Nick Nuccio did this and
Nick Nuccio did that. So, he accomplished some good and fiscal improvement for the
city and then the natural growth also helped in the changes for the best.
M: Curtis Hixon?
C: Hixon, I believe his major accomplishment was that he was responsible for building th(
first master sevwr system in Tampa. At that time he had a conglomeration of small
sewers which were built by developers in the old subdivisions and septic tanks and
no unified sewer system, no master system and he accomplished that. That was one of
his main achievements. He also, I think, had the most business-like administration
and Nuccio/was a business man at a drug store for years and was pretty tight fisted
with his own money and also with the city's. On the whole he had a sound administrat-
M: Julian ?i
C: Julian L'4 was from a business standpoint he was not as politically knowledgeable
as either Hixon or Nuccio in how to deal with some of the problems that confronted
him. He had good intensions but not too effective in the political showdowns.
M: Dick Greco?
C: Greco is one of the best political personalities that I think we have had from the
standpoint of public contact and communicating with the people and employees. He was
c-r^t-t- 4 F
ivpml public relations, not so good in administration, but very good in public rel-
ations. iSr'he gave the mayors office a good image and the city a good image. With
outside business interests and people.
M: I have always thought, see if you agree or disagree with this, that the transition
from Nuccio to Greco was symbolic in a number of ways. One in the way you just ment-
ioned that Greco knew the media. Obviously Nuccio was never a friend, certainly of
"Times and never really understood I think t.v. and things like that. Also the fact
M: that both are Italian and yet Greco really did not play)on his kind of his people,
we looked at Greco more as a business man or something, certainly he did not play
upon his ethinicity as did the old-timers. Would you agree with that?
C: Yes, that is right. While he would joke about it sometimes when he was wearing a
flashy suit, somebody would comment, you know we Italians are supposed to dess like
that. But he could communicate with all people regardless 'i' particular ethnic
M: Bill Pole?
C: Pole was much less personalble than Greco, he did not have his public personality,
a rather poor political personality. He was very business oriented and I think in-
troduced some efficiency in the operations at city hall which were needed. He was
rather an aloof personr- I think he came to like the political life better than
he thought he would, and he was efficient and 4awwell regarded. But he could not
compare with Greco in his ouCreach for the people of all classes.
M: In 1935 or 1945 would you have characterized Tampa as a Southern city?
C: No, I would not. It was only partly Southern because you had some of the old-time
crackers here, some people had settled here early and still held all the land and
the influence r 1yhn you had the large Latin colonies with the cigar trade, and you
had the port which gave you a diversity that a typical Southern city would not have
I think. So, I would not classify it as a Southern City in the sense that usually yo
think of Southern cities at that time.
M: What about in terms of race relations?
C: Theereal problems in that period, of race relations,saf that was before the
Board of Education's decision which brought on many changes. If there were
any real problems, and I can not recall that we were conscience of them.
M: Would you say that the blacks in Tampa were kink of an invisible element before the
C: Pretty much I think. Let me see, they were excluded from by the so called
Ybor 36 A
C: ',primary party, I forget what you call it. Anyway only whites could vote, if you did
not belong to the party, therefore only white's could vote, in the city election
which was called a primary for that purpose. So blacks were excluded almost all
together from political participation and they were not visible except at ordinary jobs
So/ou could say that they were almost an invisible element as far as the community
picture was concerned.
M: Did the 1960s race riots surprise you then? Or did it surpirs many in Tampa?
C: I think so. I think they were pretty much unexpected. Ofcourse we had the supreme
court decisions and when the that they started in the advance-
ment of blacks and the aspirations of the blacks. I guess we should have expected more
problems, but I think the riots caught most people by surprise.
M: Chronicle scientist sometimes talk about fA-power elite in a city, I think Robert De
or a p__ M popularly_ TT -rl- And in Tampa in 1945 or the 1950s
if someone were to talk about a-c si power elite /)here was the clout in
Tampa? ,Where was the real power? The movers and shakers? First I would like to ask
would the Tribune have been such a force?
C: The Tribune I think had considerable influence in the community._-AW in 195 Rexyl_ I'
was state attorney-and waser close to Governor Holland. He was one of the powers
I would say Cote at that time a little later in that period, became quite
an influence. He was responsible for establishing the crime commission which was dir-
ected toward eminating ard combating the organized crime, the underworld, the gambling
racquet created some of these problems in corruption and balance. oCCl' -- family
would always have to be considered one of the power factors for their holdings, bus-
iness interest and political connections. The Tampa L family was originally of
course was -__ Helguess the biggest single power in Tampa in the
early days. Those who succeeded him in the management ji the direction of the company
always LL considerable influence in the community. Carl was president of-t+he
initially the telephone company and acting in the community as also one of the movers.
Ybor 36 A
M: Did organized labor have any clout in 1945?
C: Not very muchdno .ou had one or two people who were active, the led the
union, but they really did not have much political clout.
M: University of Tampa have any clout?
M: How about today if you were asked the same question. Where does power lie in Tampa?,
Has it really changed any except some of the people, \Peter O'Nite,AWD T J'r74.HJ
C: Yes, power is.much more divided now, much more difused than it was in those days when
few men could sit down and they would decide what was going to be done in the city or.
the county. You still have some influence _'_ ______ banks, the electric comp-
any, and the newspaper still certainly I_\_1 some influence. You have more independ-i
ant groups acting in politics more. People who are active in the political scene now
that do not have the kind of basis that you would have had to have in those years in
order to get elected. So, it is a much more open community aps-far as influence and
power are concerned.
M: This whole question of power elite, does Hillsborough County or Tampa have any more
clout today than it did, in terms of state politics? In 1945 you ofcourse coined the
famous term the pork chop days. Has the state's clout really changed much over the
years as you have observed at the Tallahasse scene.
C: Hillsborough and the other populous counties have acquired much more power in the leg-
islature as a result of reapportionment, and when-rr T:;' "':' '" i.i:
Ahne senator and three representatives, I mean I have three senators and nine represent-
atives from Hillsborough County and we have had speaker.of the house, which was very
"53-N-TI-1 &At Vt--A
rare4when the small counties dominated the legislature. And so *S2t influence
had increased in the legislature and in the state government- rj es. the in-
fluence is probably demonstrated more in the govenetorial elections and in the legisla-
ture itself because you have got personalities in the legislature such as Bill Savana,
who, although he comes from a small town in the northern part of the state,
he, because of years of service to legislature and hTs- rsonairye e is a very domi-
Ybor 36 A
C: nant influence in the state senate. But in the election of the governor, the voters
count and Hillsborough, particularly in the democratic primaries, t H I --
democratic registration 4-compared to Pinellas for instance which is much larger publ-
ican registration therefore it has less clout in the primaries. Hillsborough does
command more influence than it did in those days. 7fcourse it command more respect
too, because in those days the votes in Hillsborough were regarded with great skeptici-
sm. k I< -* ^
M: Do you remember any stories that are illustrative of the futility of Tampa legislatures
trying to battle the pork chopers in the old days?
C: I do not recall specifically any stories, I know there was a great feeling of futility
infact that we had the same representation in the senate that Jefferson County with
a population of 10,000 had. fi we could only hope to get favorable legislation for
our county through personal relationships with the ones who control the legislature.
"MaM'iB it was a frustrating time. Particularly when we were trying to get the legis-
latures t.-'Vto abide by the old constitution and reapportion the legislature and
what the constitution said where the districts were to be as equal in population as
practicable, without dividing a county. And ofcourse that did ot give you too much but
it would have given us a little more than we had, but they wou d not do that. So that
is when I coined the term I said this small county senators and representatives were
more interested in protecting their pork than they were in principal, so I started to
call them the pork chop gang.
M: How did WWI effect Tampa? L '
C: Oh, it had a great impact, particularly in the \/ was established just beforCWWII,
M: Had the city lobbied for that for a long time? Or was this unexpected?
C: No they lobbied for itb the people who had some influence liNft Washington and with
Congressman AWt .abO it exerted all the influence we could and we had a logical
site at the end JgX of the rrV >bo peninsula which is completely undeveloped.
So that brought to Tampa not only a military pay roll but a number of officersaI.
Ybor 36 A
9 (,,,, 'A .
C: men and o '1 `3-particulartook part in the community it0-then becauseBii
S5Z5BBBs'was here,--hern the airforce was later responsible for closing up the houses
of prostituttion, as a health preventive measure.)in act they said they would declare
the city off limits if the city did not close up these houses, which they did. And
it has had, of course a long term impact on Tampa because a large number of _-_-__
came to tfor >I wto ii which was also established during the war. And
then they would retire when they got out of their service and come back to Tampa and
settle because they lik;the community. So, it had a beneficial effect all the way.
M: How about in terms of economic generation, with ship building and things like that?
Did the war promote economic activity as well?
C: Yes, it was responsible for a large increase in the ship building activity. We haC(
L\tL a small ship yard, and then another ship yard was started,, Ma ty ship yard to build
concrete boats which never were much success7ut it did provide a-lot of industry at
"5 o kr Qvf I V i ru (-j- 'l 10
the time. And it accelerated-2 tWai ,,. the expansion of the ship repair facilit-
ies we had there. After the war of course one of the ship yards was closed and the
others wound down to a more normal level but the war demand generated
consumer economic activity.
M: What was your feeling on V.J. day? Were you in Tampa during V.J. day?
C: Yes, I was assigned to the third airforce headquarters in intelligence and public re-
lations section, feeling great relief. It had gone on for so long that, -1'' '''
iis it really over? And then a very pleasant consideration of a return to civilian life
and a somewhat high income, since I was an enlisted man.
M: What were your feelings regarding Tampa's future?
C: I thought Tampa had a very promising future because of the ports, the climate, the lo-
cation here, provided that we can make progress in cleaning up the government and get-
ting a more effective administration in our city and county affairs. But the whole
area here as I thought then, and convinced more than ever now is almost unlimited pot-
ential because of the attractions, the same climate, the water, the industry, Pinellas
Ybor 36 A
C: beaches, the regional airport, and the two interstate highways which of course Florida
developed since that time, but they came because the potential was here.
M: Was much being done in terms of planning gi iiffor this growth? It is one of the
great criticisms of Tampa now, the growth is frenzied.
C: That was the curse of the city that was never any early planning or zoningyou would
get a factory built in a residential section if somebody had the land and wanted to
put a factory there, and that is why you have such many parts of Tampa including some
of the better areas you will have a....... (tape ends) for a long term basis and the
consideration then, I guess partly because of the economic situation of the times.
Of course what can we do for today? To meet the problems today, as to accommodate
this particular-ai m- -wants to put up a business and there was no real vision of
a future. I guess partly because Tampa had been struggling along so long in the old
ways. It was some time before the concept of planning and zoning for the future dev-
M: Do you see Tampa today as less distinctive as the Tampa you discovered in 1935.' The
idea being that Tampa is becoming just like any post- WW city, that you have the
same hamburger stands, the sky scrapers look just like the sky scrapers in Atlanta or
Chicago. That we have torn down so many of the architectural artifacts such as the
old Tampa terrace hotel. Are we losing a distinctive rememberence of the past?
C: Well, the distinctions of Tampa in the period of the LA' ) 'in the early 1940s,M istinc-
tions that-I would not particularly want to keep. tUGEiS ME- there was a certain color
to the city then, but you had so many liabilities as xgMSMa;essvte assestof the color-
ful atmosphere that I think that they outweighted the advantages of keeping the old
ways. It is rather a shame I think that we have not been able to perserve more of
the Latin quarter in Ybor city, the old atmosphere, as it was when the cigar workers
lived there and we had the restaurants and the cafe's that had their individual charac-
teristics. That is a big regret I think of the progress that Tampa is made, that we
have lost that more than anything else.
Ybor 36 A
M: Well, what went wrong in Ybor City? Great society promises? Urban renewal? All these
great things are going to happen, it is a bomb site today really.
C: Yes, it is very discouraging to .... INTERRUPTED BY MORIMINO!!!
M: Who do you blame, do you blame federal beauracrats, or do you blame local people? Who
made the decisions? Was it a flaw in planning or in practice?
C: I think the blame is distributed -Jone of the reasons of courses the decline of the
cigar industry and the workers moved out and the factories closed up and moved else-
where. So you did not have the population to sustain the old way of life there, but
then in the urban andlural programs, certainly I think some mistakes were made there.
The buildings were torn down before there was any plan as to what would be put in their
places, if anything. As a result you have large vacant areas and no plans for anyone
to utilize what should be valuable area, I think. So I think there has been a failure
in planning and I guess you would have to ascribe that to both local planners and the
federal beauracrats, _
M: How are things dawm at the Hillsborough Community College down there? Wh was Hillsbor-
ough Community College located in Ybor City? It seems in retrospect for 11 the wrong
reasons, Brandon or '-'in -w'. it would seem far betteICnow. Now was this a
case of old -__ reapearing again?
C: It was a political commitment to satisfy people who thought it would help the Ybor City
area economically. And~would raise the prestige of the area, and it was an appeasment
of certain politicians who felt that this money was going to spent,Vthey were going to
have a community college a-Ybor City-should have one of the campuses. And there was
not a logical place to put it. And perhaps if it had been so designed and planned as
to serve different needs and to blend into the air, by that it could have possibly been
justified, but the way it worked out, it seem to have been a bad decision.
M: In terms of another academic choice, why was U.S.F. located at what seems now to me an..
ill-advisa Be place, north eastern Tampa, very badly located for people to get to. Why
was it not located more sensibly?
Ybor 36 A
C: Well, for one thing the state required a very large land area and a large land area
of that size, I think they wound up with something like 1100 acres, of course you can
not find this in a central developed area. And they were offered a good deal on the
purchase of this track, and I think the feeling was that since it wouldscer this
whole area that it would be in a location that people from Pinellas can-pvass rough
and Polk County could come to it more easily perhaps they could if it were in a central
location in Tampa. Eventually they may need all that land.
SM: One of the great future problems I see in Tampa is in terms of transportation and in
energy. i system now, particularly downtown, Ashley Street exit, and in all
these things, how do you access the future of transportation direction of Tampa?
C: Well, the first thing we need of course is the 1-75 bypass which would take some of
the traffic of off the interstate coming into Tampa and with that a connection with
t.MM16iM. &- an eastern extension of crosstownn expressway, which would take traffic
off of road sixty. I think eventually we are certainly going to have to have more
-\T ,LYi1 "',
mass transit to theS- areas, such as the university area, and other developments
they are building north of town and the new areas in the east because it is
going to become an increasing problem.
M: The city seems very reluctant, I mean right now they are really cutting back -4'195;
C: The bus system? 'Well, that is because of money. The people voted down aRBS .-
"? |'J\ a special tax for the transit system and they will have that
proposal on the ballot again November 4. I do not know whether it will pass or not
but it is certainly needed, because no mass transit system eqtWi;or i the country .for-
i-r k yf( i--c-- can exist on the revenue from the ':'' alone. It has to receive subsidy from
some other sources. And this would seem to be, certainly a fair and minimal tax to
'^jixpt /decent transit system.
M: What would happen to Tampa if the Arabs cut us off? This has to be a very fragile
economic place here givenVwe need the tourists so bap a city without mass transit in
my own place, in educationksystem/where everyone drives to work, are we that vulner-
Ybor 36 A
M: able as it appears on paper?
C: We are very vulnerable since about forty percent of our oil is imported from those areas-
i'<' I saw today indicated that the consumption has been reduced about ten percent in July
SVS .C last year, over all. But Tampa I think is probably in no different of a situation
then any of the other Florida cities and cities elsewhere which do not havehmetro sys-
tem h We are so heavily dependant onVautomobile|, it would cause a mir crisis, no
question about i lw we would be back to rationing, and forced car pooling, re-
striction jTuse of automobiles in except necessities.
M: In conclusion, would you access what you have ,amliaS A the future of Tampa in terms of
potential and also future problem areas? If you would have twenty-five years,t1r
what do you think Tampa i going to be?
C: In twenty-five years\Vit is going to be a very much larger metropolitan area that might,.
some people say, become another Houston. I think potential is here for tremendous
growth,. people moving in here because of the rga a _______ and the climate
and all the recreational facilities. I think even more so because of industries and
corporations which are going to h moving in to this area, partly because of the grow-
ing market, and partly because of the transportation facil-Jties, the air service to
everywhere and the state hihwVays.an t .-l-$ pT-c- L--\t' in this area, and of
the west coast of Florida is more attractive to people who run businesses and the ex-
ecutives who'working in so many parts of the county where they are located now. I do
not know how well we can plan for it because this great growth of course is going to
bring tremendous needs for roads and recreational facilities, services of all kinds.
But we certainly have o make every plan that we can to anticipate these problems before
they hit us in the face. There has been too much in the past. You
plan for dealing with a crisis when it arises. I think the University of South Florida
in the not too distant future, will probably be the largest university in the state,
unless it is forced to limit the seating. The unlimited factor that I think will
Ybor 36 A
C: affect the growth of Tampa is that Miami is currently becoming a real problem city with
the refugees and the narcotics...........INTERRUPTED
M: Great crime rate.
C: and all of -*t that some people are moving out of Miami because of the way the city
has changed and the circumstances in Tampa so far has not had problems of that kind.
And the general environment here 'ISBUESa appeals to many people more than Miami's
environment does. 5F=E it has many factors that are going to contribute to growth in
the future whether we think it is good or bad.
M: If you were to label period E-1945 i0n 1980 the age of blank, what would you label
C: I think I might label it the age of awarness. I think the community and the community
leaders are people who are ( '' leaders, and during that period became more aware
of Tampa's problems and the things that Tampa needed to do to improve itself. And they
were more aware I think of Tampa's potential as a city of the future. So I think aware-
ness might be a good term for that. There was not too much awareness in the 1930s.
M: Mr. Clendinnen, I would like to thank you very much.
C: Well, thank you. I do not that I recall a great many things that will be pertinent,
but in the course f-" forty-five years you forget a few things in e c L4 C' .
M: Thank you.