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Samuel Proctor Oral History Program
University of Florida
MANATEE COUNTY BUSING CRISIS
Interviewee: Robert Dooley Hoffman
Interviewer: Ben Houston
Date of Interview: April 3, 2000
Robert Dooley Hoffman
On page 1, Robert Dooley Hoffman, a chief aide to Governor Claude Kirk, explains how he came
to work for the governor, and gives a job description. He follows this with a lead-in to the Manatee
County busing crisis with reference to similar controversies in Daytona Beach and from various court
rulings (1-2). He also speaks regarding the prior conversations that Kirk had in consultation with
Page 3-4 treats Governor Kirk's evasion of the preliminary hearing in Tampa before Judge Ben
Krentzmen, followed by Mr,. Hoffman's assessment of the Judge on page 5. This discussion is
interspersed with Mr,. Hoffman's recollections of being in possession of the Manatee County school
offices and his dialogues with Tallahassee and Tallahassee's communication, in turn, with
Washington D.C. (see also page 16-17).
Mr. Hoffman recalls details about the so-called "standoff' between the governor's representatives
and the U.S. marshals, as well as a deal which allowed the governor to remain out of court (page 6,
8-11); he also talks about the various unattributed statements regarding the use of force which fanned
the flames of the crisis (page 11-12). He shares Kirk's orders regarding behavior while in Manatee
County, and comments on Kirk's strategy throughout the ordeal (page 7). Page 11 contains Mr.
Hoffman's belief in Kirk's firm principles on busing,
The long hearing in Tampa before Judge Krentzmen is covered on pages 13-14, as well as the same
day confrontation between Kirk and Oscar Blasingame (assistant U.S. attorney). Page 15 treats the
post-trial period and Mr. Hoffman's relief at being able to move on from the Manatee situation, and
page 16, his thought on Kirk's handling of the affair. He gives considerable attention to the political
context to the crisis on page 17-18, both state-wide and concerning President Nixon. He concludes
with thoughts on reconciling conservatism with civil rights, the effect of Manatee County on race
relations in Florida and comparisons made of Kirk to other segregationist demagogues (page 19),
as well as his feelings on the ultimate political effects of Manatee on Kirk's gubernatorial career
Interviewer is Benjamin Houston (B)
Interviewee is Robert Dooley Hoffman (H)
B: It is April 3, 2000, and I am here with Mr. Robert Dooley Hoffman. I was
wondering, are you a native Floridian?
H: No, I have been in Florida since 1952. I came down from New Hampshire right
after getting out of school but have down here ever since. I met the governor
[Claude Kirk, Jr., Florida governor, 1967-1971] in 1964 when he was preparing to
run for a U.S. Senate seat against the then Senator Spessard Holland [D-
Bartow, 1946-1971]. The governor lost that race. I maintained contact with the
governor through 1964, 1965, and then helped him when he prepared for the
primary in 1965. When he ran in the general [election], he ran against the then
non-incumbent Robert King High, who was mayor of Miami. Haydon Burns was
the then-governor who sat on a two-year term [1965-1967]. Haydon Burns left
office just prior to endorsing the governor, and the governor was elected as the
first Republican governor in ninety-five years, I think, in the state of Florida. I
became his executive assistant in 1967, I guess, and stayed with him through
the tenure of office, for three years.
B: What did being his executive assistant imply, in terms of your duties?
H: I, more or less, would answer to the governor, being somewhat representative of
the governor in the southern part of the state. We were the first ones to open up
an office in Palm Beach County as a governor's office. The governor did
maintain a residence down therer, along with living in the mansion in
Tallahassee. Mrs. Kirk was in residence down here along with her children. The
governor would be down to Palm Beach County almost every weekend, and his
travels would get him to Palm Beach County some. We thought it would be a
wise idea that there was an office. I was very familiar with the area because this
is where I moved to when I first came down from the North. So I represented him
in an executive position, appointments, representing him in meeting with
industrialists, in meeting with the people who necessarily wanted to meet with the
governor in anticipation of the possibility of legislation.
B: Did you have a counterpart?
H: My counterpart was actually Lloyd Hagaman, who was the [senior] executive
assistant, also, to the governor, [and he] would handle everything, more or less,
in the northern part of the state in an executive capacity [to] the governor. Lloyd
lived in Tallahassee. When the edict came down from the governor, who was
then in Tallahassee, I happened to be in Tallahassee that week. I was up there
on a conference and was staying at the mansion. The governor asked Lloyd
Hagaman, Bill Maloy [Kirk's educational aide], and myself to go to Manatee
County as his representative. From what I could ascertain at the time, Judge
MCBC 2 page 2
[Ben] Krentzmen had issued an order that would affect Manatee County as far
as the configuration of the relation of minorities in the schools in Manatee
County. My thoughts were, the governor was not comfortable with that. He felt
that it was undue process that was being taken upon the children of Manatee
County, and he so informed the school board of Manatee County. The
[superintendent] of the school board was a chap by the name of [Dr. Jack]
Davidson. I wasn't that familiar with him. The governor instructed Davidson that
there would be no bussing in Manatee County, and as governor, he felt he had
the executive [power] to do it. The governor was fully aware of Judge
Krentzmen's issue of the order. There was a response at the time strictly on a
local level that the governor had to adhere to the edict of Judge Krentzmen. I get
a little bit hazy on whether or not the governor was with us when we flew to
Manatee County. There was Lloyd Hagaman, Bill Maloy, myself, Dick Warner,
and we flew down with an executive order which, in fact, removed the school
board of Manatee County by executive order of the governor. The governor then
became superintendent of schools.
B: There had been a situation, as I am sure you are well aware, about a month
before this in Daytona Beach where Governor Kirk had wanted to intervene but
did not. Can you explain how that situation was different?
H: The governor was well aware of the rulings that had come down from the
appeals court and from the Supreme Court as far as the bussing of children,
nationally. He did not do it because he felt that it was unpopular. He just felt that
it was wrong, in my estimation, but he was hampered. Number one, the federal
government was not helping the situation. They certainly had to go along with the
continuation of the normalization of bussing. I know what you are talking about
as far as the Daytona Beach area, the Daytona situation, I think that was St.
Lucie County, and I remember the context of that was somebody had to put his
foot down. When we were talking to the governor down here and talking to the
governor up there in Tallahassee along these lines, I thought his thinking was
that, these children are getting up at five o'clock in the morning to go to school.
He said, it is not right. We talked about it and reiterated, it is not going to look
good, they are going to look at you as a [Orval] Faubus, as a [George] Wallace,
as a [Ross] Barnett [Southern segregationist governors], and we had a few
expletives along those lines. He certainly is not that, was not that, but he was
being perceived as that if he were to stand in the doorway. I think when Manatee
came along, it was probably the [last] straw. He was upset with what was going
on. The calls were coming in like crazy to my office and to Tallahassee, I
understand, telling him to take a stand so that there would not be any forced
B: Before he handed down the edict, he met with the Manatee County officials. Do
you have any idea of what went on in that conversation, whether they discussed
other possible considerations or plans for action?
MCBC 2 page 3
H: I knew there were conversations, but I had no knowledge of any firsthand
information. I think everybody was really nervous. Everybody was running scared
down in Manatee. They were worried about what might happen if Krentzmen
issued the order and it was not adhered to. They were scared. I guess they were
B: There was a time early on after Krentzmen made his ruling that there were
reports in the newspapers that the governor was not going to do anything, and
then a day or two later, that is when everything happened. Was there any sort of
backpedaling or other possible considerations going on, or was that a false
H: I was at the mansion over the weekend. The activity was that the phone calls, I
think, went back and forth between the governor and Davidson. The governor
spoke to Gerry Mager who was general counsel at the time. There was a
conversation that we do not want to jump in and have anybody handcuffed and
brought out of there. But by the same token, he was firmly convinced that he was
in the right. There was no wavering as far I was concerned [regarding] the
governor, I think.
B: When you say that there were meetings about this situation, who were the
people that were consulted about Kirk's decision?
H: I think there was some conversation with a couple of state senators, one being
Don Reid, the other being L.A. ["Skip"] Bafalis. I do not know who else.
B: Were they for it or against it? Did they support Governor Kirk?
H: They both supported the governor, and we also thought that we were...at the
time, there was some conversation as to what Washington would say, and I
might add that the governor was adding to the litany of Washington. I thought the
consensus was, even though it was possibly going to be the law of land, the
White House, at the time, did not like the order issued by Krentzmen. In several
situations, in papers I read at the time, the president was so inclined as to....you
know, you got to realize this. You were talking a somewhat Southern state. What
people talked about was being politically correct, or amorally correct. The
governor was not making political hay at the time, in my estimation. In my
estimation, he felt that he was doing the right thing for the children of Manatee
and the state of Florida. He took a lot of heat. The press, by-and-large, always
took him on [and], with the exception of maybe one or two papers in the state,
hammered him for standing in the doorway. But, as far as conversation goes, I
do not recall any that he might have had with any others.
B: There was a preliminary hearing in Tampa in front of Krentzmen, and Governor
Kirk sent in his stead Millard Caldwell [Florida governor, 1945-1949], as his
MCBC 2 page 4
representative. I was wondering if you could elaborate on why he was not able to
go to that.
H: I think the legislature was in session at the time. I think that was the reason the
governor told the court that he was unable to be there. Justice Caldwell
represented myself and Lloyd Hagaman at that hearing.
B: This is the Tuesday hearing, not the Thursday hearing, that you, in fact,
H: I think I was there. Was I there once or twice? I do not remember if I was there
twice, but Justice Caldwell was there. He appeared on our behalf. The reason
the governor did not appear, I think, was that the legislature was in session and
he had to be there to address them.
B: Was he worried about a face-off with Krentzmen so early in the situation?
H: I do not think he was concerned about that. In answer to your question, I think
that Krentzmen knew that the federal people were coming in. Krentzmen
politicized the issue, I thought at the time. I think Krentzmen had three press
conferences in a matter of a day, relative to this. I think our learned judge was
trying to make some political hay at the time. He knew that he had the ear of the
press and that we were somewhat the interlopers coming down from
Tallahassee. Knowing the governor I know today and knew in those days, he
was not afraid of taking anybody on.
B: Why do you think that Judge Krentzmen was trying to politicize it?
H: I do not think that the judge cared for the governor or the administration. I
thought that he was somewhat disingenuous in the approach that he took in
talking to the press. I use the word reservedly, but I think he called us interlopers
at the time. I do not remember that exactly. That may not be an exact quote. I
remember hearing one reporter talking to, I forget who it was, Bill Maloy or
somebody, saying, who do they think they are, throwing themselves in front of
the federal government? Certainly there was no particular motive in mind for the
governor not showing, and I thought that Krentzmen was being somewhat, again,
I use the word politicized. I do not think he had any love for the governor.
B: I was wondering what exactly you did while you were in Manatee County, having
taken possession of the school system.
H: We had changed the keys for the doors because we thought we were going to
have some problems. We did not want anybody coming in. Ours was one of just
holding the fort, I guess. I think [Oscar] Blasingame [deputy U.S. attorney] was
outside. [Mickey] Newberger [U.S. marshal] was outside. We are talking about
MCBC 2 page 5
guys I have not seen in thirty years, I guess. We were in direct communication
with Tallahassee all the time.
B: Was there actual business to take care of in terms of the school system?
H: No, the schools were closed, so we had nothing. Our position there was to make
sure that the schools were not disrupted by any case, by the federal marshals. In
other words, we were just trying to prevent a bussing situation.
B: Were they closed, or were they simply the same schools before the bussing?
H: We were trying to gather some sort of program-and this was Maloy, who was the
educational director at the time-a program that would somewhat-and this is
something that he could give you a better answer that I can-that would ease the
situation in Manatee County. I remember we talked about different newspapers
and different papers that would come out with some blueprint of us trying to
make it a little bit softer in Manatee County and go from there. Bill was in more
communication than I was. We were always in communication with Tallahassee,
and we stayed in the office. Actually, a couple of us slept in the office because
we were told that we would be arrested if we came out. That is when I met the
sheriff [of Manatee County]. His name was [Richard] Wietzenfeld.
B: What was he like?
H: I thought he was an interesting individual. I spent maybe four or five hours total
with him. His deputies were all in civilian clothes. I think the governor wanted it
that way. The governor wanted everybody in civilian clothes. Wietzenfeld showed
up at the airport when we got there, when we flew into Manatee County. Lloyd
and I spent several hours with him going over what we thought we wanted to do,
as far as going into the office of the superintendent that evening, and we asked
for his help. Well, the governor asked for his help. I do not know whether
Wietzenfeld knew the governor or not. I do not know if had ever met the
governor before that, prior to that meeting. The governor came in the next
morning, showed up at the office, talked to Washington twice. I am a little bit
vague about who he talked to, but I think one of the times, he talked to [John]
Mitchell [attorney general under President Nixon]. I do not know the tenor of the
conversation, how it went, but I know he talked to Mitchell one time. There was a
chap by the name of [Robert H.] Finch [secretary of Health, Education and
Welfare and counselor to Nixon] who the governor knew extremely well. Finch
got on the phone from Washington to talk to him. It was starting to escalate at
the time because we were told that the federal marshals were ordered to come in
and take possession of the school and obviously the school board and the
offices. Again, sequentially, the time then, I do not know whether or not I could
give you the exact dates or the exact day it was, but, all of a sudden, the
governor is back in Tallahassee now, we are inside the office. I say we, it was
MCBC 2 page 6
Warner, myself, Hagaman, Maloy, and I do not remember who else was there, to
be honest with you. We are getting calls inside the office from Blasingame and
his people telling us that we have to come out. The sheriff was with us at that
time, and I think the sheriff went out and met with Blasingame if I'm not
mistaken, and came back in and said, they want us out there, they want us out of
the building, and if not, they are going to come in and get us. There was a lot of
screaming outside. The crowds were started to gather outside the school.
Wietzenfeld talked to Blasingame. I think Blasingame was heading up the
federal at the time, and Blasingame wanted us out of there, wanted us to come
out, and the governor did not want us to come out. [Kirk] said, stay there, you are
in charge. I remember [saying], what if they break the door down? Kirk, in his
own [way], throw yourself in front of the door. At any rate, he said, that under no
circumstances were we to give up our offices. We then enlisted the help of
Wietzenfeld and his deputies. But there was nothing brandished. No guns came
out or anything like that. It was, you know, a yelling match as to what we were
going to do, and if we do not do it, they are going to this to us and we are going
to do that to them. I think Mickey [Newberger] was a little bit upset because he
wanted to go in and grab us. I saw him five years later, and we sort of laughed
about it when we remembered the situation. But they left, and they were going to
come back with strength, I was told. It was at that time Caldwell and the governor
actually struck some sort of a deal with the courts whereby we would appear,
Lloyd and I would appear, because we were being held in contempt. The
governor was being held in contempt for $10,000. Ours was $1,000, and we had
to make an appearance. They did want to arrest us, though, and we, Lloyd and
myself and, I guess, Warner, cut out the back way somehow within a crowd, and
they holed us up in a hotel on the beach for a day before our appearance in
court that next day in front of Judge Krentzmen.
B: Who holed you up?
H: I think the sheriff's department helped us. It was either the sheriff or the
beverage department [that] helped us get out of the building because the
marshals, I was told, wanted us to spend the night in jail, because we were in
contempt of Judge Krentzmen's order.
B: Presumably withdrawing you from the office was done with Governor Kirk's
knowledge. Did he consider that giving up the office?
H: No. I think the time that we did it, it was complete. We knew we were going to
appear [before the judge] the next morning. This was towards the end of the
week. Tempers had calmed down a little bit. We knew we were going to take the
hit, that the governor was going to take the hit. The governor was not going to
show up anymore. He showed up twice, I think, and that was it. As much as we
thought that Washington would back us more than they had, even though it was
the law, we thought the [Nixon] administration rather would be more supportive
MCBC 2 page 7
of the governor, this was not the case. I do not think at that time the president
had any great love for the governor. [Kirk's] friends in the administration were
powerless. Mitchell was a friend of his, Finch was a friend of his, but he could not
get any support as far as the president goes.
B: You mentioned at one point that Governor Kirk had requested everyone to be in
plainclothes as they were occupying the office. I wonder why specifically he
wanted that and did he have any other stipulations or requests of how you were
to handle yourself or present yourself?
H: As far as deportment goes, you know, we were representing him, he said. He
said, you are representing me, I do not want you to get into a hollering match or
a screaming match, I am trying to get a point across to the people of Manatee
County of how we feel. There was never any thought of bulldozing our way into
the schoolhouse or the school board or any force being taken. The governor just
did not want the tenor to be that way. We were concerned, we in the office at the
time. You know, we are sitting there in Manatee County, four or five of us. We
have the help of some of the state troopers that are there in civilian clothes, and
Sheriff Wietzenfeld, who was in civilian clothes, I think, at the time. But when we
heard about the resources of the federal government to put in there, we got
concerned. The governor was very calm, and as far as the handling of the
situation, there was never any bubble about to burst then. We thought that we
possibly-and this is something that Lloyd would be able to shed more light
on-had a blueprint of how to handle the issue of bussing in Manatee County, as
we had in the state of Florida. That is what we were there for. The governor felt
that it was not a good law. He felt that it was uncompromising. His thoughts were
that there has got to be a better way, and this was something that he had
thought of long before Manatee County. I think that Manatee County was
probably one of the last bastions of what we were trying to accomplish in the
administration. But I remember saying, you know, do not get into a hassle with
anybody, and he said, I want to do it this way. He had hoped that he would get
more help out of D.C., out of the administration.
B: Governor Kirk had to resuspend the school board and the superintendent, and I
was wondering if you could recall any sort of re-evaluation of the situation that
happened. Did those events cause him to reconsider or change or adapt to the
H: His position, as far as I was concerned, maintained itself throughout the ordeal.
When we were originally sent down there, or went down there, his comments
were steadfast, this should not happen to the children of Manatee County, they
should not be forced to get up at four, five o'clock in the morning so they can
attend school thirty, forty, fifty miles away from their nearest home. He said, I feel
strongly about that. We asked him, where are we going with this thing, and he
was adamant. He said, I am not taking the position of a Barnett or a Wallace, I
MCBC 2 page 8
am taking the position that if my child was attending school and had to be
bussed to another school thirty, forty miles away, I do not think I would like it, and
it would not be fair to my child's educational program. That was his argument. In
the same sort of way, we were all young guys who had children, we had children
going to school, and we felt the same way. So, his position did not change. I
think that Washington got really worried because they felt the outpouring from
the people in the state of Florida was tremendous. I mean, the phone calls--I was
in contact with my office in Palm Beach and Lloyd was in contact with the office
in Tallahassee, and the phone calls were coming off-the-wall, in support of the
governor. Did his disposition change? Did he want to mitigate, did he want to sort
of soften it? I do not think so. I do not remember that anyway.
B: Talk about the showdown with the marshals and lead me through how that day
H: We were getting food passed to us through the transom into the superintendent's
office. The phone lines were open. We had open communication with the
governor's office in Tallahassee twenty-four hours, the line was open. We were
in direct communication with Tallahassee. A call came in and Warner picked up,
I think, although I am not sure, and it was Blasingame. He said that if we do not
come out, they are going to have to use some force to come in. I think I
remember Warner putting the phone down. We did not have a speakerphone.
We may have had a speakerphone. I was not sure, but Warner said they are
going to bust the door down if we do not come out. Wietzenfeld was free to go
back and forth. Wietzenfeld walked out with a couple of the deputies, I think,
talked to Blasingame and told Blasingame, I think, in so many words that these
people are not coming out and we are going to prevent you from taking them out
if you are so inclined. Another shouting match started between Blasingame,
Newberger, one or two other federal people, Hagaman. I got into it a little bit.
B: So, you were all there directly face to face with Blasingame?
H: Yes, in a sense we were. The door was open, and Blasingame was there,
Newberger was there, Wietzenfeld was there, and they had some other people
on their side. It got to be somewhat hairy, I guess. They said there was pushing
and shoving. I did not see any pushing and shoving. They said somebody
brushed up against Newberger. Nobody would brush up against Newberger. I did
not see that anyway. The shouting started, and Hagaman told Wietzenfeld, close
the door, we are not going. That is when things started to get really hot and
Newberger said, I will break the door down. That is when Blasingame had a
huddle with him, I understand, and they backed off.
B: Do you know why?
H: I think they thought better of breaking into the building [when] some sort of a
MCBC 2 page 9
confrontation might have taken place. We thought that as far as any escalation
would take place, it would all be verbal, it would not be physical. We knew that
there was some sort of conversation going on between Washington and
Tallahassee. We thought that Blasingame was taking his orders from the [Nixon]
administration or from D.C. We thought that because of the administration's
feeling about the issue, of which the governor had quoted the president on many
occasions as far as the issue of bussing, that we were sort of in synch with the
administration, even though the order was out there. When things fell apart, we
were told by Tallahassee that [Justice Millard] Caldwell, former governor, would
end up getting down there to represent us and the governor if he had to. The
three of us did not want to be taken out in cuffs. That was a personal choice. I
had never had it done before, and I felt uncomfortable about it. They wanted us
to show so that they could take us down to the federal building. I think they
wanted our fingerprints, but I am not sure. I really do not remember how that was
B: Do you remember how you found out about this? I mean, was it through
Tallahassee, or were they shouting this through the door?
H: I think it came in through Wietzenfeld. They wanted to grab Hagaman, Warner,
myself and Maloy. We were being identified. I do not know how they identified all
of us because we certainly did not give any interviews. We were told not to give
H: Any releases had to come out of Tallahassee. We were there at the order of the
governor, and he did want us to give any personal interviews at all, which, hey,
that is great. You know, I did not need that. I wanted to get back to Palm Beach.
It started to de-escalate late in the afternoon when, I think, Blasingame made a
call. At first, they thought we were going to come out. The sheriff came in along
with a state trooper. I cannot think of his name. He was a state trooper from up in
Tallahassee, and he made a funny remark, saying, you cannot beat these guys,
we are dead in the water. So, Tallahassee said, try and calm everybody down;
you will have to make an appearance. Then there was some further
conversation. The appearance was set for ten o'clock the next morning or
something like that-I am not sure-before Judge Krentzmen. I forget who it was
up in Tallahassee, she agreed with us that everybody was getting really excited
about not wanting to come out in cuffs. So they got us out the back way and got
us into a motel. We were told to meet Judge Caldwell the next morning at the
courthouse, the Hillsborough County Courthouse, the federal building.
B: Some newspaper accounts said that the Florida Highway Patrol had snuck in
through the back door to supplement your forces at the superintendent's office.
Is that accurate?
MCBC 2 page 10
H: When you say supplement, two or three guys showed up. I am trying to
remember this lieutenant who was one of them. Yes, I forget what his name was,
but he showed up. We were pretty concerned about the conversation that was
taking place. There was talk of tanks showing up and things like that, not the
militia but some other government agency showing up to drag us out of there.
But it was just talk. I think they were concerned about people around there
because crowds were forming. We were looking out the window, and I would see
about 400, 500, 600 people there in a clip, but they were all milling around.
There were not any racist remarks or anything like that. The problems arose
because of Krentzmen, I think, not looking at this. I mean, just taking a strong
view as far as what he felt the issue was, I have set this down and this is what
has to take place and there are no ifs, ands, or buts. He made some (I do not
know but they seemed like) snide remarks at the time-somebody was telling me
about them-about the governor. The governor, at the time, was not an unpopular
governor but he was a strict constructionist, and I felt that he was that. That is
what I enjoyed about him. But as far as bringing people in to protect or to help
us, supplement us, there may have been eight or ten of us down there, including
the sheriff's people. That is not an army.
B: Newspaper reports also-and please correct me if I am wrong-said that you had
this preliminary meeting with the federal marshals and Blasingame in another
office and then you retreated back to the superintendent's office. Can you spell
that a little more?
H: The meeting with Blasingame took place in the corridor. It did not take place in
any other office. We came out and met with Blasingame. Blasingame told us that
we had to get out of there, we were there unlawfully, and that if we do not vacate
the office that we were in, they were going to forcibly eject us from the office and
take us in.
B: How was this delivered? Was he calm?
H: Yes, Blasingame was not excited. I did not think he was excited at the time. He
just said, the remark was that, you guys do not know what you are messing with
when you are messing with us. He said, I do not know where you are getting
your counseling from, but this is something that you better think twice about. So,
in conversation with the governor at that time, he was being very, very strong in
his attitudes as far as telling us, look, I sent you down there to represent me; if I
was down there, I would tell Blasingame that I am not leaving, and that is what I
want you to do. Blasingame was calm. I did not see any excitement in
Blasingame. I saw excitement in a few of the other guys who wanted to nail us to
the wall, the marshals. It was the no-nonsense side, this is our job and we are
going to do it. That is when the governor had to have a conversation with
Wietzenfeld to say, look, these people are there under my direction and under
your protection. That is when we retreated back into the office.
MCBC 2 page 11
B: And then the shouting match was afterwards through the door?
H: Yes, through the doorway, through the transom, in the intercoms. I think Kirk
showed twice, if I remember. Once, we all went down together. The second time,
he came in the morning, walked in the office and grabbed us and said, look, I am
going back to Tallahassee, but you are here for the duration. Blasingame was
calm. There was not any real confrontation as far as I am concerned.
B: This is by no means a flippant question, but reading about these events thirty
years after it happened, it is really kind of a surreal sort of situation. What was
the general atmosphere while all this was going on? Was it tense? Was it comic?
H: It was tense in the sense that we had seen what had taken place in Alabama
and Mississippi, although you were talking about a small county where there was
a minimal racial mix. He was a very progressive type of individual. He was not a
popular governor, but as I said before, he was way ahead of his time. He had a
lot to offer. He took things by the brunt, head-on, and did not waffle. He felt
strongly about this. At the time he did it, it certainly, nationally, was not a popular
stand. You could go anywhere in the country, and they knew who Kirk was.
B: Did you think it was a mistake for him to be so principled and unyielding?
H: At the time, no, and I still do not. I still feel quite strong about his thoughts about
those days. The reason I went to work for him was because I thought he was a
principled individual, and that is one of the reasons that I have stayed with him.
He may be many things, but he certainly was forceful in his principles. He did not
make a lot of friends, but if you ever get to talk to him, you will find him so
knowledgeable and so brilliant. I think he is brilliant, incidentally. If you get
through the buffoonery-type crap, that is not the case. As far as I am concerned,
that was not the case, and the way he sometimes is flip. That is how people
perceive Kirk to be. I perceive him to be a man of great political knowledge, great
political insight, great governmental insight, and one of individuals who will go
down as one of the most well-thought-out governorships in the state, when I look
back at who we have had and what he has done and what he tried to do thirty
B: It was about that time where it was widely quoted that the governor had
authorized his aides and the people acting in his stead to use force to defend
their position. I was wondering if you could clarify what happened with that
situation because a lot of people have different opinions on it.
H: I do not know. The governor did not demand or suggest that we use force to
defend ourselves, to me, and I do not believe he did it to Hagaman. I do not think
he did it to Maloy, nor to Warner. He may have told Wietzenfeld that, they are
there as my representatives and under your protection. Wietzenfeld said, yes,
MCBC 2 page 12
okay. That was it, but never did he say, use force, to me or to his aides. Again, I
am not waffling. I am saying that Wietzenfeld was told that he was there at the
direction and under the instruction of the governor and that he wanted us to be
protected by Wietzenfeld. Never did he tell me nor did he direct me, except that
one remark, throw yourself in front of the door, and that was being somewhat
flip. To answer your question, no, not to my knowledge.
B: From what I understand, what happened was the U. S. attorney was talking to a
representative of the governor, possibly in Tallahassee, and said that statement
had been relayed to him. Then, afterwards, Mr. Mieklejohn [Kirk aide], was going
to great lengths to counter that assertion, and he was saying that an intermediary
had made that statement...
H: There was also a conversation where somebody said something about a gun,
and that was not the case. I do not know of anybody ever saying...
B: What was that?
H: Something that was relayed to me, in the newspaper. Somebody said there was
a gun passed around. Under no circumstances, did I ever see a gun in there. I
did not see Wietzenfeld have any arms. I did not see any of the beverage law
enforcement have any arms. I did not see any of the alcohol people or anybody
else. Beverage people do not have any arms. Or state troopers, as a matter of
fact, who were there in civilian clothes. So, as far as some second- or third-hand
conversation that might have been had between one of the federal and
somebody who could think of it, but not to my knowledge.
B: What was the media coverage while you were in the superintendent's office?
H: They were trying to get in to interview us.
B: When you had the interactions with the attorneys, with the federal, were they
H: I think they were. I think the press was there. I do not remember who exactly, but
I remember seeing some photographers. I do not know whether or not there was
anything else. I do not remember. I am sure there was press, but we were told
not to give any interviews.
B: So, at no time, no reporter was with you inside the superintendent's office?
H: No, not at all. I know that for a fact. No one was inside.
B: So, the next day, you are at the hotel and you have to get to the hearing in front
of Krentzmen. What are the events behind that, if you could lead me through that
MCBC 2 page 13
H: I went out and bought a new shirt. I had the same suit on for four days, I think. I
got a shirt. I think Lloyd and I had somebody drive us to the courthouse. We
were taken in. We were met by somebody from the beverage department and
somebody from the federal office, a justice, and we were ushered into an
anteroom outside of the judge's chambers. That is when I first met Justice
Caldwell. I guess he had just gotten down from Tallahassee the night before. He
said he would like to represent us. Well, anything you say. He said, it is not going
to be a long hearing. I remember asking him, do you think we will be out of here
today? He said, I cannot guarantee that, depending on the judge's attitude and
how he wants to handle it. I took it that he had not had a conversation with
Krentzmen prior to our getting there. I felt that he was just on the scene then and
there were no prior conversations with the judge. We were ushered into the
courtroom, Lloyd and I. Lloyd took the stand first, I think. The judge asked him
some questions, mostly who he worked for, why was he there, and did he know
he was violating the law and that he was in contempt of court? Lloyd broke
down. He dismissed Lloyd. I went on the stand, and he asked me the same
questions. He had some background data on both Lloyd and myself.
B: What sort of background data?
H: He knew where Lloyd was from, knew where I was from, knew where I went to
school, knew I had a family.
B: Did you consider that threatening?
H: No, I was just a little bit surprised. You have to realize, at the time, I would show
up at these different functions with the governor and act in the capacity as a
liaison, but I was not...you know, nobody knew who Hoffman was, nobody knew
who Hagaman was, and all of a sudden, we were before a federal judge who
knows who we are. I did not feel threatened. Then, he got into a rather long
diatribe, and I think the transcript might show, that he took off on the governor
through us. In his taking off on us, he was trying to get to the governor. I mean,
he was looking at the governor, so to speak. I thought we were going to spend
the night in jail. I remember at a recess, a friend of mine who was an attorney in
Tampa came over there, and I said, if I have to make bond, I want to get out of
here tonight. He said, well, you have representation, but we will see about the
bond if it comes to that. Caldwell did not lend that much, except from some past
prestige he might have brought to the table because he was pretty old at the
time. I could swear he fell asleep a couple of times. I really did look over, and I
thought he was sleeping. It lasted all day, well, most of the morning and part of
the afternoon. Krentzmen called us before the bench again and told us that we
were wrong, took off on us again, and then asked us to repeat that this would not
happen again, and if it did, we would suffer the consequences of the full force of
MCBC 2 page 14
his office. We both said we would certainly adhere to it, walked out of the
courtroom, and got on a plane and came home.
B: Did Hagaman really weep on the stand?
B: Why was Warner not served with you two, or Maloy?
H: I really do not know. I questioned that at the time. I do not know why. You would
have to ask Bill. I do not know if Bill was out of town when they finally grabbed us
or what. I do not remember where Bill was at the finalization.
B: Why did Governor Kirk not go to the hearing? That was before he was held in
H: Yes. Well, I think he was being held in contempt at the time, if I am not mistaken.
I think it was $10,000 a day.
B: He was sentenced to that after this hearing.
H: No, I think it was prior to the hearing. They were holding him on $10,000 a day.
When I was appearing, I think I was $3,000 in the crapper, as far as the judge
was concerned, and I think the governor was $30,000 in the crapper. I remember
making a comment to somebody on the way, maybe I could raise $500 but, hell,
I didn't know how we were going to raise $30,000 out here. If I am correct, we
were under the contempt cite at the time, and the appearance, they were going
to send out a bench warrant if we did not appear. Now, I do not know about
Maloy and Warner.
B: Early that morning while you were at the hotel, Governor Kirk was back in the
superintendent's office, and apparently he had some sort of exchange with
Blasingame. Blasingame was angry because you and Hagaman were not there.
He wanted to serve you two directly. Can you relate what the situation about that
H: Word came to us that they wanted us to be cuffed, and the governor did not
want us to be cuffed. At the direction of the governor, we had gotten out of there.
I certainly did not want to be cuffed, and neither did Hagaman. I think the
federal were just looking to exploit us a little bit more in that situation. That is
just something that I was told. I was not there at the Blasingame-Kirk
B: Blasingame was quoted as saying that the governor had reneged on a deal that
they had made, that you two would be served directly by the federal. Are you
MCBC 2 page 15
aware of anything about that?
H: No, I am not aware of that.
B: So, after the hearing, you flew home. Was that it?
H: That was it. I flew back to Palm Beach.
B: Did you have to pay?
H: No. The court forgave the contempt process as far as the dollars were
concerned. They held the order out, in the event if I was to do the same thing in
another county or in the state. Then I would be dealt with forthwith. Those were
the words, I think. That was not the last time I saw Krentzmen, by the way, but
on that particular [issue], that was the last time I saw Krentzmen. I saw him again
in another issue a couple of years subsequent to that, and he remembered me. I
think he died about five, six, seven years ago. But, no, and I have not been back
to Manatee since, as a matter of fact. Wietzenfeld came over to Palm Beach one
time, a year or so later, I guess. The governor and he and I had lunch together,
but it was just a social thing.
B: What was the reaction when you came back to West Palm?
H: My family was certainly happy for me. I went back to work. I did not give any
news out because I just felt it was not anything I should talk about. They always
dealt with the governor. I went back to work, and I was happy to be back at work.
It was an experience I did not enjoy, from the get-go. That was not what I was
hired to do when I went to work for the governor.
B: Did you feel as torn as Hagaman did in your situation, considering that you did
not want to really be involved?
H: I probably felt as bad about it, as far as in the sense that I felt strongly about
what the governor was trying to accomplish, but I dealt with it on a side-basis.
This was just something [where] I happened to be there at the time. I was in
Tallahassee just happenstance, and I was heading back to Palm Beach. If I had
gotten there the day before that, I would have never shown up at Manatee. The
governor asked me to go down with Lloyd and become part of the issue. When I
got back to Palm Beach, I went back to my work and enjoyed it, but I never gave
it a second thought after that.
B: Could you elaborate a little on the communication that Governor Kirk had with
the Justice Department?
H: I can only tell you that there was some communication with Mitchell. Now,
MCBC 2 page 16
whether Mitchell was in charge of Justice at the time, I am not sure. Whether he
was there or whether he was part of CREEP [Committee to Re-Elect the
President, Nixon's campaign organization] at that time, I do not remember, nor
do I remember with Finch. [tape interrupted].
B: How do you feel about how Kirk handled the situation? How would you critique
his handling of the situation?
H: I think at the time, he realized the pitfalls of what he was getting into. Being the
principled person that he is, and was, it was almost a mirrored effect as to what
had been going on for the past ten or fifteen years throughout the country. I think
that if it were to happen again tomorrow, I could not think of another way of
handling it any more forthright. I do not think he was looking to win a popularity
contest. I think he felt that this was something he had looked at for awhile prior to
Manatee County. He had seen it happen in Duval County, he had seen it happen
in Putnam County, he had seen it happen in several other counties, and it was
not working. It just was not going the way it should go. This was not the way he
thought a force of integration should take place. He felt strong about it. He was
most interested in quality education for everyone, be who it may. His platform
was that, when he ran for the Senate and when he ran for governor. Honestly, I
cannot think of any other way that he could have handled it and still maintained
B: You started on this earlier, but I am interested in hearing about what sort of
communication was going on between Governor Kirk and the Justice
Department. How ongoing was it?
H: I know that he and Mitchell used to talk frequently. He and Finch used to talk
frequently. I think Mitchell was the attorney general at the time that the
conversation took place. Where Mitchell was in the administration at the time this
was taking place, I do not remember. I know he had several conversations with
John Mitchell and several conversations with Finch. [John H.] Erlichman [Nixon
domestic advisor] also was involved, as far as the administration goes, and there
were a few U.S. senators who got him on the phone, I remember at the time that
I had heard it was taking place, and I do not know of any firsthand knowledge
about that. I know for a fact he talked to Mitchell on several occasions.
B: How did the interaction between the Justice Department and Governor Kirk
change over the course of the week?
H: It got more tenuous as the week went along. The conversations at the beginning,
I had heard through, I forget who it was, maybe [Gerald] Mager [Kirk aide] but I
am not sure, that Mitchell had talked to the governor, that there was a
conversation that, look, as much as we would like to see it done, we just cannot
let this escalate into a major problem. There was a conversation about the
MCBC 2 page 17
governor saying, I would like to go before the Supreme Court and have it heard.
Justice started to back off that one. There was a conversation with Finch, I
understand, and that the governor was quoted as telling him that there were
some decisions that came down and quoted the then-president as saying that
they were decisions that would be favorably towards the governor's feelings in
this matter. The escalation began, and that is as much as I know about it.
B: Do you feel that he could have done the press relations of it any differently to
have presented his position better, more accurately, more fairly?
H: Number one, I do not know if I am qualified to get into that venue, but when this
took place, the governor wanted to make a statement. I do not know if the press
could have been handled any better. Maybe it could have, but we were not
looking to make hay on anything like this. We were not looking at the expense of,
certainly, the children. I was not, and neither was anybody in the office, and I do
not think the governor was. He made the press no matter, you know, the
governor had no problem getting his name in the press, none whatsoever. This
was not part of a ploy to get some heavy-duty press. He did not need it. It was a
decision that he made, and he had made it a long time ago. It was not some sort
of a classic soap opera type deal. He felt strong about it.
B: I am just wondering how much politics influenced his decision. How much of this
had to do with the fact that he was up for re-election shortly thereafter, and how
do you think that this affected that election?
H: Hindsight is great. Our term, as a governor, was going to be one term. If you look
back on how we got there to begin with and see how it was done, and I do not
know if you have gotten into that, but when the governor ran, he was alone in the
primary. No problem. When Robert King High beat Hayden Burns in the primary,
we knew we had a winner. Nobody would tell us anything. We knew, especially
when Burns sat us down and said, I am going to endorse you. So, here, you are
talking about Burns, who is the incumbent governor going out of office, endorsing
a Republican governor against Robert King High, who was just labeled a left-
winger from the time we knew of him, we knew we had a winner. We also knew
that it was going to be a difficult road to get there again. We thought there was a
chance, but we were being realistic. I think he was too. The governor was also
being realistic. This was a one-time deal. As far as being politically motivated
through walking over the bodies of children, I do not think so, not the governor.
B: Richard Nixon [U.S. president, 1969-1974] is kind of a silent figure in this whole
situation, and I was wondering if you could comment and elaborate on that.
H: At one time, they were extremely close. Richard Nixon showed up at his
wedding. They were together a lot. I was with the governor on two occasions
when he was with the president. I mean, I was in the same area. They seemed
MCBC 2 page 18
to be close individuals, if anyone could ever get close to the president and get
close to the governor.
B: But in terms of the Manatee situation in general?
H: I think that Nixon would have loved to have gone out and said, you are damn
right, you are doing the right thing. I think that Nixon was wooing the southern
Democrats, and he felt that this was going to be a difficult thing if he was trying to
move some of the Florida votes. As far as doing that, I think that Nixon knew the
problems that he was going to have, prior to Watergate and all that other
nonsense, and did not want any disruption and was worried about it. So, he took
a hands-off attitude as far as helping the governor. Now, the governor and he
had a couple of run-ins, no question about it. As far as I am concerned, the
governor dealt with four years in office as strong and as upright as any governor I
have ever seen. I felt that he was a good governor for the state. The nay-sayers,
as far as I am concerned and as far as I was thinking about it, I always thought it
was going to be four years. I did not think it was going to be anymore than that, if
you look at the dynamics of how we got there, I guess.
B: It is just interesting the way he was using Nixon in support of his position.
H: Because Nixon did support his position but could not come out and nationally
support his position because the Republicans always needed Democratic votes
to get there.
B: Do you think that Nixon resented being put in this position by the governor?
H: I think he did.
B: And, if so, why would that not worry Governor Kirk?
H: It did not. Kirk came out and endorsed Rockefeller. In many ways, people say he
shot from the hip, talking about the governor. He may have, but he could get a
heads-on look at you while he was doing it. As far as the presidency goes, that
was him. You are talking about a governor who did not give a crap. What he
thought was right, that is what he did.
B: But one might argue that such a situation, in trying to garner the popular support
as was done in Manatee County, could go a long way towards making one
attractive for a vice presidential nod.
H: I would grant you that, that certainly could cross someone's mind, but I do not
think the governor did that for that particular reason, if that is what you are
arguing. I would argue that case. It certainly helped him in certain areas. It did
not help him with Nixon. He was at odds with Nixon then. He was certainly not
MCBC 2 page 19
doing it to ingratiate himself to Nixon at the time. He knew he was on an island,
but he took the heat.
B: One thing I am curious about is, everybody I have talked to and everything I have
read uniformly stresses that Governor Kirk was not a racist. Is there any way that
a Republican could have been pro-civil rights and yet anti-government. Is there
any way that you could have been genuinely for improvement in civil rights and
yet been against government intervention for that, in a practical manner?
H: I grant you, not in a practical sense, but you are talking about an issue that has
been imbedded long before you and I came along here, and it is still going to be
a problem fifty years from now. I think that there is a way that you could probably
be somewhat cohesive in one's attitudes. I leave that for brighter minds than
mine, but I tell you this. The problem that you had thirty years ago with taking a
child from one school to another school for the sake of that individual being
fostered with a better education, it is still a problem today, and it is not a good
[solution]. If I knew the answer to the question, I would be writing books galore
and you would be reading them. I do not know the answer to that. I can tell you
that I am convinced that the answer was not in bussing, and I am still convinced
today that the answer is not in bussing.
B: What relevance does the Manatee County situation have for us today?
H: The relevancy is minor in the sense that we were there, we tried to make a
statement, we tried to say to the Supreme Court, look gentlemen, you are doing
it the wrong way, there has got to be a better way. What way? I do not know.
Upgrade the type of schools that were in place at the time, get better teachers,
have a better educational program, spend more for a person's education. If you
want to have a simplified program of magnet schools, I do not know. That may
have been the answer. I know the answer was not bussing, and the governor felt
B: What do you think about the comparisons that the press made of Kirk,
comparing him to Faubus and Barnett and Wallace?
H: Unfair. Not right.
B: That is a comparison that you might be interested to know that historians are still
making to him nowadays.
H: They are going to say what they want about him. They are going to make that
comparison. Frankly, I think that Barnett was a racist and I think that Wallace
was a racist. I think that Faubus was a boob and a racist. I do not think Kirk is a
racist. I am firmly convinced he is not a racist. A traditionalist and a [strict-]
constructionist, not a racist.
MCBC 2 page 20
B: What have I missed that I should have asked?
H: It has been so long, you know, when you called me, very rarely did I talk about it
after it happened. It was five days out of my life when it did happen. I try to think
back of the lighter sides, not the harsher sides of those days.
B: Were there any anecdotes or memories that you particularly associate, even the
lighter moments that you harken back to?
H: I remember trying to get the hell out of there and get home. My job was to be an
assistant to the governor, not to stand in a room for three days and have people
screaming and hollering at me. Mine was one of negotiation, mitigation, and
doing none of that. We took a lot of ribbing after that, but I am happy it ended as
rapidly as it did. I did not want to prolong myself over there, be over there for any
length of time. I was happy to get back. Nothing anecdotal about it. Somebody
ought to look into not only what the Manatee County episode took from the
governor but what the governor gave to it. Somebody ought to write a book about
him and his confrontations, and not only with the federal government. His
confrontation just recently with H. Rap Brown. I was with him up in Jacksonville
when he flew up there and confronted him. His confrontation with the motorcycle
[group], Hell's Angels. The man was a fighter. He still is. You ought to meet with
him. You really ought to meet with him.
B: So, in the last analysis, did Manatee have an effect on Governor Kirk politically?
H: It probably did but not as profound as some people might think it had. I feel that
the governor, when he started to run for re-election, was fighting an uphill battle.
He was going up against a tough opponent, in a state where Democrats
outnumbered the Republicans three-to-one, I guess, in those days.
B: Would that have been different, had the Manatee situation resolved itself
H: No. I do not think Manatee [did]. I do not think it had anything to do with it
whatsoever, as far as whether we would win or lose the race.
B: Okay, unless you have anything else to add...
H: I do not think so. I hope I have given you some insight..
B: More than you might even know. I thank you for your time.
H: It was my pleasure.
B: This concludes the interview. [End of Interview.]