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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida.
Kenneth Cleary details how he moved from Michigan to Florida and started practicing law on page
1. Early in this career, he came to work for the Manatee County school board and supported Claude
Kirk's early election campaigns (page 2) while busily being in charge of the County's involvement
in desegregation litigation (5-6). Manatee County had a very politicized atmosphere at this time (late
1960s) and Mr. Cleary comments on how that might have influenced Kirk's later decision to
intervene in school matters (page 3). He also shares his thoughts on Jack Davidson, superintendent
of Manatee County schools (page 4), Davidson's and the schoolboard' s attitude toward the litigation
(page 7), and Judge Ben Krentzmen, the judge in charge of overseeing Manatee's compliance with
the law (page 6-7).
Mr. Cleary talks about the racial climate and the NAACP on page 7-8, with a specific anecdote about
a school racial incident on page 9. He also discusses his connection to the Freedom of Choice anti-
busing groups on page 9-10, with specific reference to Jerome Pratt on page 9 (see also page 35).
He recalls his memories of the initial meeting where Kirk suspended the school board (page 11),
followed by his reaction and attempts to counter Kirk's actions (page 12; see also the amusing
anecdote on page 13). This produced a round of Senate meetings in Tallahassee, which he also
comments on (page 14-15).
Following Kirk's suspension, Mr. Cleary talks about the myriad details that required his attention
(page 17), despite being laid up after a heart attack (18). He talks about Millard Caldwell's
involvement with the case (page 16), Congressmen William Cramer's behind the scenes influence
(page 19) as well as Kirk aide Dr. Bill Maloy (page 18) and other Kirk aides who Cleary felt were
giving Kirk flawed advice (19; see also 28 and 35). Mr. Cleary also addresses his trip to
Washington D.C. in following through on his legal duties (page 19-20; see also 26-28), as well as
his entreaties to the Court of Appeals in New Orleans (21).
Pages 22-23 cover Mr. Cleary's observations on the trial in Tampa before Krentzmen, followed by
his take on Oscar Blasingame (assistant U.S. attorney) (23-25). Mr. Cleary also offers some
conjectures on Kirk's connection with the Justice Department during the crisis (page 26),as well as
Kirk's ultimate withdrawal from Manatee (29-30). Mr. Cleary feels that the Manatee situation had
little effect on race relations (page 31), but disagrees with the theory that the whole situation was
merely a clash of egos between Kirk and Krentzmen. He also reflects on the relationship of the
press's frenzy over the situation (page 32) as well as the frequent comparisons of Kirk to other
segregationist demagogue governors of the South (32; see also 29).
Mr, Cleary concludes his interview with his feelings on Manatee' significance to history (32), the
possibilities in reconciling conservatism with pro-civil rights attitudes in the 1960s (33), and the
bitterness of many people involved in the Manatee situation (34). He also comments briefly on an
aborted follow-up plan after busing was instituted (34), Kirk's retaliation for Cleary's actions (34)
Manatee County Sheriff Richard Weitzenfeld (35) and Jerome Pratt (35).
Interviewer is Benjamin Houston
Interviewee is Kenneth Cleary
H: It is April 18, 2000, and I am in the offices of Attorney at Law Kenneth Cleary.
Mr. Cleary, thank you very much for meeting with me today.
C: You're welcome.
H: We are here to talk about the Manatee County school situation of 1970. Mr.
Cleary, you were telling me that you are not, in fact, a native Floridian. You are
from Michigan. What brought you down to Florida?
C: My first wife had died just a few months before. I was living in a small community
in Bridgeport, Michigan, which is a suburb of Saginaw. As an attorney in a small
area like that, you become personal property of the community, and I got tired of
people talking about when I had a date or when I did this or that. I happened to
be ill over the Christmas holidays, and I had a nine-year-old son at that time. I
came down to Florida after I got out of the hospital, and, within days, I was doing
much better down here. I brought my mother with me at that time, and so I told
her that I had decided I was going to move to Florida. She said, well, you better
get on with this; you are not getting any younger. So I did. I moved the next July,
H: Did you start an independent law practice when you came down here?
C: No. I went to the east coast first, and we sort of piddled around the rest of the
summer, my son and I. We lived in motels over there in Hollywood and that area.
I did not really care for the east coast. They were not my type of people. The
east coast people went to the east coast of Florida. Mid-continent people go to
the west coast of Florida, or did in that day, and I think they still do. Anyway, I
had difficulty getting a job. I guess I expected too much, and wages were much
less and whatnot. I was sort of discouraged. I had a cousin who was an officer
with the Hertz Corporation. He tried to get me to work with him, and I did not
want to do that. I wanted to go back to my business. So he asked some friends
of his, who handled Hertz' business in Florida, if they could use me, so I started
out with them until I passed the bar. I passed the bar in 1958, and then I started
practicing law in Miami, but every shoe clerk in Miami had a law degree and it
was tough to earn a living down there. I got an opportunity to come to Bradenton,
and I came up here and I liked the area.
H: Did you have a particular specialty, when you moved to Bradenton, in law?
C: No, I have never. I have just had general practice.
H: How did you come to work for the school board?
MCBC 3 page 2
C: I guess in those days, it was sort of political. Manatee County was a Democratic
county. In fact, all of Florida was in those days. But, in that prior year, they had
won several offices. One office that they had a plurality in was in the school
board, and so they hired me as a school board attorney.
H: The Democrats?
C: No, the Republicans won.
H: The Republicans had won the majority?
C: Yes, so they hired me. They did not fire the other fellow. I think he quit at that
time or something, and it was open. But the Republicans hired me, I remember.
That is the way I got in the office.
H: So, at that point, did you consider yourself a Republican?
C: Oh sure.
H: Did you consider yourself a Claude Kirk [Florida governor, 1967-1971]
C: I was one of his county chairmen.
H: So what exactly was your position and duty as lawyer for the school board?
C: I attended their meetings and gave them usual advice. We did not have any
bond issues or anything at that time, but we had a very progressive board. I felt
they were all very good people who were interested in the schools. I just came
when they called me. I charged them an hourly rate; in those days, I believe it
was $25 an hour. I am sure it is much more than that now.
H: But you were not a voting member of the school board?
C: Oh no.
H: You strictly gave advice when they asked you.
C: Right. I have been accused of giving more than advice.
H: By whom?
C: Well, many people. Democrats and others have said that I was telling them what
to do. I was not. They were all people who had their own opinions, and some of
them very opinionated. But we worked well together.
MCBC 3 page 3
H: It sounds like Manatee County was fairly politicized at this time.
C: It was, and it was in a process of changing. When I came here, everybody was a
registered Democrat. There were very few registered Republicans, because if
you were a registered Republican, you never got anything to vote on. But, in the
next few years, it began to slowly change. The people who came in were
Republicans, by and large, from the Midwest, so it began to change. As it
changed, as that increased, some of the people who were registered Democratic
but really were basically Republicans came back to the party. It was a rather
interesting mix in those days.
H: Do you think that the fact that Manatee County had this burgeoning Republican
population was a factor in Kirk making his stance here in Manatee County?
C: No. Kirk would have done that wherever there was an opportunity.
H: The reason why I ask is because there was a similar episode in Daytona Beach,
but when the judge threatened Kirk with contempt-of-court, he backed off. This
was slightly before Manatee County, and so I was wondering why there was that
C: I did not know that. I am almost ashamed to say, but after Kirk was here, I was
convinced that he cared nothing about the schools. He cared about Claude Kirk,
and I think he would have gone anywhere if there was an opportunity to make a
stand that would receive a lot of publicity and whatnot. He did here. Of course,
the federal court cited him up in Tampa, and he sent down a former [Florida]
Supreme Court justice [Millard Caldwell] to defend him, if you have that
information. But, no, he was just making print for Claude Kirk, I think. I had the
idea he would do it anywhere.
H: Was your support for him and his campaign affected by his involvement in
C: No, I do not think so. A local doctor and I shared that responsibility of county
chairman here. I think [Kirk] did well here. I think he won the county. We were
into this [school crisis] before we really knew it, before we were ready for it. You
see, we had just recently changed county superintendents. There was a man
here by the name of [J. Hartley] Blackburn who was here for many years, very
popular and very able. By the way, I really admired him. He was a very able
administrator. This county, at that time, had a local elected superintendent, and
they went to a board-appointed superintendent. Blackburn resigned, and they
appointed a superintendent, Jack Davidson, who came with a great reputation
but was a disappointment to me. I am sure he was a disappointment to a lot of
MCBC 3 page 4
H: Why is that?
C: Well, I do not know. He did not get along with the board very well, for one thing.
He sort of felt that he worked for the governor, and I know of one instance when
the governor told him to come to Tallahassee and to bring his attorney. He said,
yes, Governor, I will be there. I was there when he made the phone call, and I
said, you can tell him you are going but I am not. I said, I do not work for him, I
do not have to go, and I am not going. But, he sort of kowtowed with the
governor. He was here a short time, maybe two or three years.
H: Where did he come from, do you remember?
C: It seems like he was from up around Tennessee, that area around Oak Ridge.
H: Clinton, that sort of area?
C: Yes. That is my memory.
H: And you felt that there was some tension between him and the school board?
C: After he was here a short time, there was tension.
H: Do you think this was connected to the bussing situation, or was it personalities,
or was it a combination?
C: I think it was personalities more than anything else.
H: What was Davidson's personality like?
C: He actually was a pretty nice guy. You know, I sort of liked him. Funny thing, one
of the things that I read in his resume was that he had written a book entitled
[Effective School Board Meetings]. I always thought that was funny because he
did not get along with us.
H: You mentioned earlier you had a son. Was he still in school when the bussing
crisis arose? Was he going to be affected by the bussing situation?
C: No, he had graduated from high school and was in college at the time.
H: And you did not have any other kids who would have been in school?
C: Yes. I remarried when I was in Miami, and I had one other boy. The gal I married
had two boys, I had one, and one of the two was still in school, I think. I never
thought about it. No, Dell must have been out of school, too. He was about
MCBC 3 page 5
H: I was wondering if you could set the scene for me, in terms of the school system
at the beginning of 1970 before all this happened. How involved were you in all
of the legal maneuvering that the school board was engaging in with the
C: I was very deeply involved in it. I sat in on all the meetings. We had an assistant
superintendent [Colonel Philip] Doyle, who was very competent and. I think, an
outstanding man, one of the men I greatly admired. Very logical, good sense,
and good judgement. He was in charge of that, and he just did his very best to
comply and yet fit it into our system. Really, I felt that we were making good
progress in that direction when all this broke loose. The plan that we came up
with was a most reasonable plan. I felt the plan that we were saddled with was
absolutely unreasonable. To take the children from one side of town and bus
them to the other side of town, and those over here, to bus them back the other
way, it just did not make sense, either for the kids or the system or the
philosophical reasons behind it. It just did not make any sense at all. However,
that is what we were ordered to do, and Colonel Doyle was trying to make that all
work and, I thought, was doing a great job. Now, you asked me a question and I
did not answer it.
H: I was just wondering what various legislation was involved. My understanding
was that Manatee County was, technically speaking, desegregated at the time.
C: Yes, and we were working very hard at trying to carry out the details of
desegregation. There were little things that we did not think of that would pop up.
H: Like what?
C: I remember that sports got involved. It used to be in this county, if they had a
great football player over at Palmetto High School, somebody from Manatee
would go over and recruit him to come across here. Then, you could no longer
do that, because of these rules that they set up. It was a tighter system, and you
had to go where you were directed to go. Things like that kept getting in the way
of total compliance, I guess is the word that they use to use, although I thought
we were doing very well and making good progress. The other thing is that I was
quite surprised, and, of course, this would affect me more than it would of
someone who was born and raised in Florida, because I came from an area
where I went to school with blacks all my life. I had black friends, many of whom I
admired greatly. I had gone to school with these fellows, and it just was not quite
as important to me as some of the people who had lived here all their lives. They
were used to two [segregated] drinking fountains. We never had that in schools I
was in up there, and it was different for me. However, a lawyer does not
generally let his personal desires and wishes and thoughts spill over into his
business, and I do not think I did to a great degree. I tried to represent the school
board and their problems, whatever they were.
MCBC 3 page 6
H: When all this ongoing litigation was going on before Judge Ben Krentzmen
[Federal District Judge in Tampa], what were your arguments for resisting what
he was trying to implement?
C: At first, we were fighting for the plan that we felt was the best plan. We had
Plans A, B, and C, and we felt that Plan C fitted our situation better.
H: Why was that?
C: No, because I cannot remember what the plans were. I probably should have
brought in Dave Dietrich, who was in my firm at that time. As a matter of fact,
right in the middle of all this big hullabaloo in December of 1969, I had a massive
heart attack and was out of it for about three weeks. I eased back into it in
January, but in the meantime, Dave Dietrich was helping me with the case and
was more deeply involved in the plans than I was.
H: Is he still in Bradenton?
C: Yes, he is still here. In fact, I thought about earlier in the week calling him and
asking him if he could not come down.
H: I might like to meet with him sometime and get him on tape.
C: By the way, he is one of the brightest guys I have ever known. The only problem
I ever had with Dave was that he never stops talking.
H: Well, then he is perfect for an oral history.
C: When he explains something to you, he starts from the beginning and he goes to
the end, and it takes a long time.
H: In terms of this litigation, you had already complied with desegregation, so you
were only fighting over the details.
C: The details, right.
C: How and when and where they were going to school and this and that. Yes, that
was true. But, in those days, you had to comply to whatever the NAACP decided
was their plan, which, by and large, became the government plan. So, although I
think [Krentzmen] was a good judge and a fair judge, in our case, he took more
than I would have taken. He received abuse in the newspapers and letters and
threats and all kinds of stuff. I do not think people usually knew that, but I knew
that he was getting that in the background and, yet, I think he was very
MCBC 3 page 7
temperate in his decision even in view of that. You know, you might want to fight
back a little bit, but he was very temperate.
H: Even when he kept turning down these different plans?
C: Yes. I believe he was completely sincere, that he was trying to follow the laws
that had been outlined by the higher courts. He was a district judge, and there
had been some decisions from the circuit [court] and from the Supreme Court. I
think he was trying his best to follow that law. I think he did a good job.
H: What do you think the school board's and Davidson's attitude were towards this
C: I think Davidson was willing to do whatever he was told to do. I think the school
board...I am not sure that they were unified in everything that they believed about
certain parts of it. In our personal conversations, we had differences of opinion. I
mean, I talked to some of them, and we would dispute a point between us. So,
there was never any unified one push. Everybody was trying to do the best that
they believed in. You know, they felt this is best for the school system, so I think
we ought to do this. Now, obviously, they had to get together, and they did in
Plan C. and accepted that. Yet, I am sure if they would have had their way, there
would have been little parts of that, that they might have changed here. This one
wanted to change that, and this one wanted to change something else. But,
when you have a plan, you finally have to arrive at something.
H: You mentioned earlier that, for the most part, the NAACP had pretty much their
way in terms of the court.
C: Oh, I think so. I think that was obvious all across the country, not only here.
H: How would you characterize the African-American response to this litigation?
Were the African-Americans united behind the NAACP? Was there some
C: There was none that I know of. My only conversations with the NAACP, of
course, was with the lawyers who represented them.
H: Do you remember those lawyers' names? I have been trying to contact the
NAACP, to try and get in touch with some people, but I have not been able to.
C: One of them was from Jacksonville.
H: Earle Johnson?
C: I think that is right. I think it was Earle Johnson.
MCBC 3 page 8
H: Were there any local Manatee County lawyers?
C: No. I believe they had one in St. Pete who came down here on a couple of
occasions, but I think it was being handled mostly out of Jacksonville.
H: This is a side-note, but I was trying to find some of the local people who worked
in the NAACP in Manatee County. For example, one of the names I came across
was Reverend Cornelius Bryant. Does that mean anything to you?
C: No, that is not the name. The head of the NAACP in Manatee County, and I
cannot remember his name although I got along with him very well, was a rather
tempered individual, if you would accept the fact that integration of the races had
to be accomplished. If you accept that in him, knowing that this is what he is
working for and this is what he wants and this is what you are going to have if he
can get his program in, then you could accept him, because other than that, he
was very tempered in his judgements and whatnot. He did not go off the handle,
and he did not go off making crazy statements and things like that.
H: So, as far as you can tell, most of the African-Americans you knew were behind
the NAACP's actions?
C: Oh yes, I think so.
H: Because there were some newspaper reports that there were some African-
Americans who were against bussing.
C: Well, I think that was true, like a white parent who did not want a young child
delivered from this side of town over to the far side of town, to Palmetto. By the
way, it adds up to forty-five minutes in the morning and half an hour in the
afternoon to their day. Things like that. Those parents are no different than the
white parent over here who wished the same thing. So, everyone was not for the
plan, but they generally had a solid reason for it.
H: More broadly speaking, how would you have characterized race relations in
Manatee County at this time?
C: They were not turbulent.
H: There were not a lot of clashes?
C: No. Once in a while, there would be something, some incident between a black
kid and a white kid or something, and there would be somebody to try to make
something of it. But, generally, you know high school kids are and things like
that. It generally was not that serious. I did not think it was turbulent. I lived here,
and I did not. I felt there were strong feelings in some areas on both sides, but,
MCBC 3 page 9
by and large, it was not troublesome.
H: There was reference to one racial incident that had occurred in a high school in
February right before the bussing situation came to pass. Do you remember the
details about that?
C: I know of one, but I did not think it made the newspapers.
H: I do not know if it made the newspapers. It was a reference in passing during the
coverage of the bussing crisis. They just said, well, there was a racial incident in
a high school last February, and that was it. There were not any details.
C: There was one incident in a locker room between a black kid and a white kid, I
think it was, and somebody blew it out of proportion. As it got told, it got bigger. I
remember a couple of men in town, who should have known better, made
remarks about it, and they might have made the newspapers. But the incident
was not as it appeared and was not near that bad. The coach was present in the
locker room, and it ended up that they shook hands or something at the end. It
was not that big a deal. When people are looking for some reason to make a
fuss, why, they can generally find it. That is what it was.
H: Let me turn to the other side of the coin. Did the board have any relations or
interaction with the white parents who formed the various committees that were
trying to combat bussing? I am thinking, in particular, of the Freedom of Choice
C: Yes, I recall going to several meetings with members, sometimes with one
member or two members of the school board. We went to more than one public
meeting where a rather fiery group of people would appear and get up and
berate the justice system and Washington. We were always there. [A] school
board member was always there and I went with them to help, to try to explain
why we were doing certain things and why we did not do certain things, trying to
get their attention so that they would work with us instead of being angry all the
time. There were several, but they were not large meetings. I was quite
surprised. I think the largest meeting I was in was in Palmetto. [Tape interrupted.]
One tried to explain we were doing certain things and why we had to. You know,
people who do not understand the judicial system felt that we should go up and
tell that judge to do so and so, and you do not go up and tell a federal judge that.
He has a place to send you if you do that. So, we tried to explain to them why we
were doing it, that as long as we were going to have law in this land, why, we had
to be the law and that we were trying to do that and, at the same time, we were
trying to accomplish [bussing]. So, the meetings that we went to were that way.
As I recall, there were several meetings, maybe as many as four or five. None of
them were great huge throngs of people, and most of them were rather small
and would have two or three spokesmen who were fiery in their remarks. Other
MCBC 3 page 10
than that, I did not feel the meetings accomplished anything.
H: So you don't remember Fred Baity [chairman of the FOC group] in particular?
C: Yes, I remember the name and I'm trying to put a face to it. I do not remember
what he did.
H: Did these groups amount to much? They certainly were vocal pressure-groups.
C: They talked to newspaper reporters and made statements. The groups that we
met with, I felt that they were ineffective, and I felt that little or nothing was
accomplished by meeting with them, unless maybe some of the people there
who were quiet understood what we were trying to do. I hope so because we
spent a lot of time there, but, the meetings, I did not feel were very effective.
H: My understanding is during the litigation, Jerome Pratt was representing some
interveners in the case--were these the same people?
C: In all probability, yes. I never really quite understood why Jerome was [there].
Jerome knew what was going on. I sometimes wondered if maybe Jerome was
not running for higher office.
H: Did you have any opinion on him, in terms of his lawyering or his involvement
with the case, besides that?
C: I do not think that he had much effect in the case at all. I think that I knew
Jerome well. He was a good lawyer, but I do not think what he did had any effect
in this case much.
H: How involved were you when Governor Kirk tried to start inserting himself legally
into the case? Did you assist with that? This is in terms of his filing of briefs and
so on, before the actual takeover.
C: In the beginning, I believed in his sincerity and was happy to get his help, if he
was helping. Later on, I decided he was not helping and that he was merely
seeking publicity and wished I could have gotten rid of him, get him out of my
H: How did he come to be involved in the case?
C: I do not recall how he got into it in the very beginning. I just do not recall.
H: You did not appeal to him to come down.
C: No. In fact, I do not think anyone in the school organization of any kind ever
MCBC 3 page 11
appealed to him.
H: Let's try and move a little more specifically through the events of that week or so,
to the best of your memory. I know this was thirty years ago. My understanding is
that the actual first suspension of the school board happened on a Sunday
evening. Previous to that, the school board had gone to Tallahassee to meet with
Governor Kirk, and I was wondering if you had attended that meeting?
C: I do not recall that meeting.
H: I am not sure it was the entire school board. It might have just been Mrs. [Betty]
Rushmore and maybe Mr. [William] Lacey.
C: I do not recall that meeting at all.
H: Davidson, perhaps, might have gone.
C: I just do not recall that, and I guess both of them are dead. Maybe Dave Dietrich
H: My understanding is that they went to Tallahassee to talk about the situation with
Governor Kirk, and then the next day-this might have been the Friday or
Saturday before this all happened-there were some reports that Governor Kirk
was not planning to take any action, and then the day after that was when the
suspension became known.
C: I remember when he sent the lieutenant governor [Raymond C. Osborne]. It was
a Sunday. There was one period of time when-that must have been after Kirk
took over, though-there were a lot of state police and sheriff's deputies in the
basement of the [school] administration building, all armed, waiting for the
federal marshals to come down and they were going to have a war, and
somebody with good sense got it stopped.
H: It must have been a sight to see. I do understand that, that Sunday evening,
Lieutenant Governor [Raymond] Osborne came down and you helped summon
the board and Davidson to this meeting where, as I understand it, he read the
executive order that Governor Kirk had proclaimed. Do you remember that?
C: Yes. I thought it was humorous because the first part of the order told what a
great job the school board was doing and how they were really doing their job
and so and so forth, blew them up, very complimentary, and then the last part of
the order threw them out of office because they were not doing their job. I always
thought it was the funniest order I ever heard.
H: Were you expecting the suspension?
MCBC 3 page 12
H: Was the school board?
C: I do not believe so. We were totally surprised that we were thrown out of office.
H: Your reaction to Lieutenant Governor Osborne?
C: Nice guy. I thought he was just doing what he was told. Sort of uneventful, that
evening. After it all happened, everybody wanted to talk about it, but there was
not much to talk about. They wanted to talk mostly to Osborne and the group
that he brought with him, and not the school board. I guess they asked the
school board members several things.
H: Who is they? The aides or the press?
C: The press. Maybe I anticipated something because I knew what I was going to
do the next morning. I knew it that night, and I was preparing to get it done the
H: Which was what?
C: Take the school board members up to the [Florida] Senate and get the governor
thrown out as the superintendent, get him fired.
H: That was your prerogative?
C: Yes. The Senate could do it. The Florida Senate could remove the governor from
H: What sort of preparation did you have to make the night before?
C: I had to let somebody in Tallahassee know I needed some time to talk, that I was
H: Who did you call? Who do you call for that sort of thing? Did you have extensive
connections in Tallahassee?
C: Sure. The senator at that time was Wilbur Boyd, and Wilbur was cooperating
with us wherever he could. Tom Gallon, who is now a circuit judge here, was
helping. Jerome Pratt was also a representative at that time. So, I had some
people whom I could get to in Tallahassee who could get some things done for
me. I remember Wilbur got a meeting of the committee set up for that next day.
As a matter of fact, the next morning-and this is funny, but this is Kirk-the phone
rang in my office.
MCBC 3 page 13
H: This is Monday morning?
C: Monday morning, and the secretary said, Mr. Cleary, the governor wants to
speak to you. Okay. So, I took the phone and said good morning, and he said,
good morning, this is your superintendent. Can you imagine! And I said, yes, I
know. He said, I need a lawyer. I said, you sure as hell do. And he just said, well,
how about coming over here? I said, I am sorry, Governor, I cannot do that. I
said, I represent the school board, the school board you have thrown out of
office. I said, as a matter of fact, I am getting ready instantly to go to the airport
to fly to Tallahassee with a couple of members; we are going up and trying to get
their jobs back. He said, who are you meeting with? I said, we have been
meeting with the Senate committee, whatever it was, the committee on
education. He said, well, are we still friends? I said, oh yes, we are still friends.
He said, well, I will see you later, okay.
H: So, he did not try and get you to change your actions or anything?
H: Let me go back real quickly to the Sunday meeting. My understanding was, it
was you, the board, Davidson, Dr. William Maloy-was he there? He was Kirk's
C: I believe he came, yes.
H: And Lieutenant Governor Osborne.
H: Were there more aides?
C: Yes, there were more people. Three or four more people came with Osborne,
but I do not know who they were or for what reason they came.
H: And the press was there.
C: Oh yes.
H: And he read the order, and the press obviously was interested in talking to him.
After that, the board did not have any sort of meeting or discussion of what to
do? Did you corral them and tell them that you were immediately going to go for
C: I must have because that was the plan that we did. The next morning, I was at it
early. In fact, I think I made some phone calls that night. So, we must have had,
MCBC 3 page 14
maybe, not one meeting but maybe I talked to them individually or something.
H: So, Monday, you went to Tallahassee. Talk about what transpired there.
C: We met with the committee, and the committee was favorable to our position. I
remember that I anticipated that I was going to have to explain something to the
committee, but either Gallon or Boyd or somebody had already done that and
the chairman recited to the committee what had happened in Manatee County.
H: Do you remember which senators were on this board?
C: No, I do not. I will do something that might be helpful to you. I will try and find the
file on a case which, by the way, disappeared for years. We do not know where it
went. The firm I was in at that time was Dye, Cleary, Scott, and Dietrich. One
time, we looked for the file and we could not find it among our files or in our
storage. We could not find the file any place, just tore the place up and could not
find it. It had just disappeared. We do not know what happened to it. Then,
something like two or three years later one day, somebody from the bank-we
represented the bank downstairs at that time, the Manatee National Bank [which
was later] purchased by the big bank in Miami-because they were changing
something, they called me down; they said, we have a file down here that we do
not recognize. I went down there and here was that file in the vault of that bank.
They did not have any receipt for it, they do not know how it got there, I do not
know how it got there, no one knows how it got there. It has been a mystery, but
it was there. The whole file was there the whole time, I presume, because they
just discovered it had been laying on a shelf in a big huge vault.
H: If you could find that file, that would be terrific. I could come back down here and
look at it in a spare office. You would not have to send it or anything.
C: I always looked on it as my file because it was my case. It is old enough now
where I do not think there is anything in there that anybody would object to.
H: It would be helpful for me because I do not know anything about the law.
C: Okay. I will get that file because there are a lot of things in it that will recall little
incidents. You know, I could pick up any of these files and [have memories
H: Yes. I think that would be terrific, if you could put your hands on that. So, in
Tallahassee, you are meeting with the committee, and they are actually fairly
warm to your position.
C: Yes. In fact, I recall that the representatives did not have to say a word. They
were there to help us, presumably. Jerome and Gallon were there, and Wilbur,
MCBC 3 page 15
all sat with us during this hearing, but I do not think any of them said a word, did
not have to. The committee just said we ought to move on this. They decided
they were going to do something, but I do not recall what it was. Of course,
before that happened, it seemed like to me that something intervened so that we
did not have to do that, whatever it was, that they were going to remove Kirk. I
think the federal court moved in with the order, telling him to appear, they were
going to find him in contempt, or something.
H: Yes, I think there was a hearing Monday night in Tampa for pronouncement.
C: Yes, and for that reason, whatever the committee was going to do, they did not
have to do. Again, that is my memory. Some of this is escaping me.
H: Did you stay in Tallahassee all day, or did you go to Tampa for that hearing? I
have the court transcript, but I do not recall whether you were represented or not.
C: I do not think I was there. I was at the hearing when the court had the hearing
about Kirk's contempt.
H: That was Thursday.
C: Yes, that was later in the week. No, we did not stay in town, actually, that night;
we came back that day.
H: Okay. The Senate was anxious to move against Kirk. Do you think that they
backpedaled just because the federal court had such clear mandates, or do you
think there were other reasons at play?
C: I do not know, but I presume that it was because of the federal action that was
H: Yes. So, you did not actually have to do any sort of personal lobbying to the
committee, or even much talking at all. I do not want to say it was a kangaroo
court, but you just showed up and they were pretty much doing the discussion
C: Right, and they had newspaper articles and they had all seen it on TV.
Everybody was talking about it. After all, the evidence that they presented
against Kirk absolutely astounded me in federal court. The prosecutor for this
district, who was citing Kirk for contempt before a federal district judge, when it
came time to prove his case, he said, Judge, I would like to offer these as
evidence, and he had a stack of newspaper articles, and that is all they gave.
And the judge said, based on common knowledge, I find him in contempt.
H: They did not need to dig too hard to prove anything. Are newspaper articles
MCBC 3 page 16
usually admissible in situations like that?
C: No, it would not be in a regular case. Well, they would be admissible but not the
whole case based on it. There is all the testimony. Newspaper articles are the
worst kind of hearsay.
H: Yes. My understanding-and, again, this is from newspaper accounts which, I
have found through other interviews, have their own problems-is that after the
meeting in Tallahassee, you conveyed to Mr. Lacey on the school board that the
board was still in office. That was his testimony in the subsequent hearing, that
you had called him and told him that they were in office. One thing that might
help is that at this time the Florida attorney general had mentioned that the
executive order was invalid because Governor Kirk did not provide the basis for
why he was suspending the board.
C: Again, those details have escaped me. I just do not remember them.
H: That is fine. One other thing I wanted to check with you and this is sort of a minor
tidbit, but what happened, from my understanding, was Governor Kirk had to
resuspend the board on Wednesday because people were saying that this first
order was invalid, and it was only after that, that the standoff happened with the
marshals and all the troops. Some newspaper accounts said, without any sort of
basis, that Judge Krentzmen would have sent in marshals earlier if Millard
Caldwell [Florida governor, 1945-1949] had not been the person representing
Kirk at the hearing. That, to me, seemed rather curious, and I wondered if you
had an opinion on that.
C: Millard Caldwell was a highly respected former Supreme Court justice on
Florida's Supreme Court. A lawyer, a governor, and a highly respected man. We
were quite surprised when he showed up at the hearing as representing Kirk.
[The] rumor [was that] when Krentzmen graduated from law school, he went to
work for Millard Caldwell's firm and they had a close relationship. They were very
good friends. That is why Kirk sent him down. I did not know it until afterwards,
but somebody said, oh yes, that is the reason Caldwell was there. I expressed
surprise that a man of Caldwell's standing would come into a situation like that,
which was just almost phony. Why would he take part in something like that?
And somebody said, well, Kirk got him to do it because he knew Krentzmen,
Krentzmen worked for him, so on and so forth.
H: When the governor suspended the board, what were the minor details that had
to be taken care of by the board? Were you privy to that sort of knowledge? This
is not in terms of the legal implications but the actual administration of the
schools themselves. Obviously, they had been preparing to comply with the
integration order, and then that was upset because Governor Kirk took over. Do
you remember any those details?
MCBC 3 page 17
C: I think that everything was sort of at a standstill. I do not think there was a lot that
went on because the situation was boiling-I do not know what words to
use-because one could not do this and one could not do this and you should not
do this, and everything was so mixed up that no one was accomplishing
H: There was so much going on that there was nothing to do.
C: That is right. It was just a mish-mash, and just getting the schools open and
getting the teachers there was the most important thing. I think that is all that
went on for two or three days or for a week.
H: Throughout this week as it went along, were you concentrating on the legal
issues at stake and trying to get Kirk to back off legally, or what was your mind-
set in dealing with the situation?
C: I do not remember. If we can have some kind of a later conference, I will bring
H: Yes, or I can go talk to him myself, whichever is easier.
C: I do remember, this was in April and people were urging me, Ken, do not go to
that hearing; you have just recovered from this heart attack. I really had a
massive heart attack. In fact, they said at Manatee Memorial that they just felt
that I would never get out. In fact, the doctor told my family that night, just make
your peace because he will not be here in the morning. I had a serious heart
attack. I said, no, I have to go to that hearing. I remember that [one of the school
board members] was Dr. Sprenger, who was an orthopedic surgeon, and he
said, I will take him in my car and I can watch him. So, they were looking out for
me. I remember that just before we went into the hearing, Springer gave me a
little pill. It was something to quiet me down. He said, here, this will not hurt you
and it will not make you sleepy, but it will quiet you down a little bit. Some of that
stuff at that time is not [clear to me]. They were all trying to protect me down at
the office. At the same time, I was wanting to do my job. So, some of it gets
away from me, some of it I did not do, and some of it they probably did not even
tell me about.
H: So Mr. Dietrich was assisting with this case throughout, not just when you were
out with the heart attack.
C: No, no, he was throughout. In the later part of it when we got into Washington,
Scott was there, too. In fact, all three of we lawyers went to Washington.
H: When was this?
MCBC 3 page 18
C: This was after everything was done here. We had filed a petition.
H: We can get to that. I will definitely want to hear about that. When you came back
from Tallahassee, what was there to do? Just to sort of ground you a little bit for
your memory, Thursday afternoon was the standoff with the U.S. marshals and
all that business, and then Thursday, later that afternoon, was the long hearing
in Tampa before Judge Krentzmen. So, in between when you came back from
Tallahassee Monday night, you might recall that Tuesday, and maybe even
Wednesday, Governor Kirk had to re-suspend the board for the second time. So,
it was one of those days, Tuesday I guess; Davidson had come back into work
and was setting up shop again, and then he had to leave again.
C: Maloy was taking his office. Again, Maloy was a rather bright guy and had a good
deal of competence. I never could understand why these people did not catch
onto what Kirk was and what he was after. Maybe I am too quick to judge, but it
was obvious to me before very long. I started out believing in him, but it was not
very long that I did not believe in him anymore. I thought he was a clown.
H: So you are kind of fuzzy on the details of what you did in the interim.
C: Yes, I just do not remember.
H: Would you have been working in your law offices? Were you ever down at the
school building? Were you staying at home convalescing?
C: Oh no, I went to the office. I would go home early or something and lie down. I
remember my doctor had made me promise that I would lie down and take it
easy. He knew I was involved in this thing, and he had been my doctor for thirty
years. They got a cot; in fact, the fellows in the office went out and bought one, I
guess it was, and put it in my office. My secretary would come in and say, it is
time for you to lay down. They made me lay down for a half-hour, and I would
stay there and fuss and things. It was useless.
H: That is quite amazing. I think I would have said, to hell with all of you all and
cleared out of there. Kirk and all of them. If you are fuzzy on these memories, we
do not have to keep rehashing over them, but I am just trying to throw these
questions at you, just for whatever they trigger is fine. You are certainly being
H: At one point, the newspapers recorded that after the second suspension, you
advised Dr. Davidson not to combat it anymore, not to fight it. Do you remember
the rationale behind that?
MCBC 3 page 19
C: When you say not to fight it, are you talking about the case itself or the situation
H: The situation with Kirk.
C: I think at some point after the hearing before Krentzmen, I decided that Kirk was
not going to be a problem because if he acted up much more, the judges were
going to slap him in jail.
H: You always knew he did not have a legal leg to stand on.
C: Sure. I think Kirk was also getting some bad advice. I probably should not say it,
but the guy he was getting his advice from is now a judge on the east coast.
H: Mr. [Gerald] Mager?
H: You are not the first one who has made that judgement.
C: Okay. Later on, he proved me right.
H: What was his involvement?
C: Well, he was giving Kirk all this advice, I'm sure. I did not know him at that time. I
later got acquainted with him. When we went to Washington, I was absolutely
embarrassed to have him around.
H: Why was that?
C: I am sure he was instructed by Kirk to find out what we were doing in
Washington. This was a political thing between Kirk and [Congressmen William]
Cramer. Most people do not know that Cramer was involved to the extent he was
involved. Cramer was trying to help us. He was from St. Pete. He was not from
Manatee County. Cramer and I were friends. Anyway, Kirk knew that I was up in
Washington, and Cramer was trying to do something with the Supreme Court of
the United States for me. [Kirk] wanted to know what it was, he wanted to take
part in it, he wanted to get his oar in some place. Of course, Cramer had made
an office available for us. When I say us, I mean me and Scott and Dietrich. In
those days, we were filing motions in the Supreme Court of the United States. I
remember that Dietrich one day made three trips to New York from Washington
on the shuttle to file motions. Every time we would file a motion, we would have
to serve them. We would serve them in their New York office, and then he would
fly back again. The poor guy was getting married on Friday of that week. His wife
was calling, saying are we going to get married or not? [He said,] well, Ken will
MCBC 3 page 20
not let me go. Anyway, this fellow [Mager] was instructed to watch us, to see
what we were doing and find out what we were doing. Of course, we would go in
our little office, and he was not invited in. He would stand out in the hall and wait
for us, if you can imagine. Incidentally, in the Department of Education in those
days was a man by the name of [Commissioner] Floyd Christian, and he had a
representative there, too. The two of them were not talking to each other, and
they would stand out in the hall, one on one side of the door and one on the
H: [Floyd Christian] and Kirk did not get along, from what I understand.
C: No. One of them was on one side, one was on the other, and they were in the
hall. Then, in addition to the office, Cramer had provided us also with a
secretary, and somebody on the transportation committee staff or something
who was helping us, because he knew his way around the Supreme Court and
we did not. So, this was our headquarters, that office. We would go there every
morning, and these guys would be there waiting to see if we showed up.
H: What sort of advice did you feel Gerald Mager was giving Kirk? Do you think he
was anti-desegregation, anti-bussing, anti-federal government?
C: No, I think he was just doing whatever Kirk wanted. I am not sure that he really
gave him great advice. I think he was just sort of a frontman for Governor Kirk.
H: Okay. [End of Side 2, Tape A.] We are picking back up midweek through the
Manatee County school crisis. I remember that one issue that was a situation at
this point was the paycheck issue. Does that ring a bell? There was trouble in
terms of the bank honoring the paychecks for the payroll because they were not
willing to accept the superintendent's signed check, and there was some concern
about this that showed up in the hearing on Thursday in front of Judge
Krentzmen. Would you like to elaborate on that at all?
C: I really do not recall anything about it.
H: Okay. At one point, Dr. Sprenger resigned during the week, according to
newspaper reports. Do you remember any details of that? He submitted his
resignation as a board member. Does that ring any bells?
H: Is he still alive?
C: Oh sure.
H: Is he still in town?
MCBC 3 page 21
C: Yes. He just sold his office and retired, but he is here.
H: I should talk to him.
C: Sure, you should. He has a very good memory and was very knowledgeable. A
H: Okay. I tried to track down all the board members.
C: I think Sprenger is probably the only one alive, is he not?
H: Well, I was not able to find any of them, actually.
C: I think Sprenger is the only one alive. I know Lacey is dead, and Mrs. Rushmore
is dead. Those are three of them. Who were the other two?
H: Now my memory is failing. I have them written down.
C: Well, it is not important, but if you give me the names and I have some
knowledge of them...
H: Okay, that sounds good. You mentioned earlier that certainly when the bussing
situation was first coming to a head that everybody on the board had their own
opinions but they managed to come together in order to reach decisions about
what had to be done. Did that change at all as this was going on, with Kirk's
C: I think once they adopted [plan] C that everybody on the school board said, C is
it, and they all worked towards one objective, to get that one established. Very
shortly after the hearing before Krentzmen, my recollection is we filed with the
circuit court of appeals in New Orleans and got a very quick hearing, which
surprised us. It surprised us because there was a judge on the Circuit Court of
Appeals from Atlanta-I cannot remember his name-and I recall talking to him on
the telephone. He was on the Circuit Court of Appeals. I decided that for the
community that we probably had to go through all of the appellate procedures if
the community was going to accept that the school board had done everything
they could do, and this was if they had to. But I was really reluctant to file
because I sort of knew what the outcome was going to be and I knew we were
spinning our wheels and we were spending money, and I felt guilty about it. At
the same time, I felt that it was a necessity. I think the school board agreed with
me in that regard. I think one of the reasons I was quite disappointed in the
Circuit Court of Appeals was that I had talked to that judge on the telephone. I
had told him that if we could get a fair hearing, you know, they had this standard
that had to do with integration, that they did not comply with so and so. They had
one phrase that they used for all of that. I said, that means so little; if the court
MCBC 3 page 22
would say something, we could take [it] and show people; but, you use that
standard phrase, everybody is using it, and no one knows what it means. He was
such a nice man and, really, I sort of felt was encouraging me to file under the
circuit court. Yet, when it came down, he voted with the rest of them. I remember
I was quite disappointed in that, but we got a rather fast hearing there.
H: What exactly were you trying to get heard?
C: We were trying to overcome Krentzmen's judgement. I believe it was after
Krentzmen's judgement that we had decided that we were going to have to
accept it, but we wanted to delay it. The reason we were wanted to delay it [was]
we were now late in April and the schools ended in May, and to destroy the
school system and start over again with three or four weeks of school, I felt, was
just absolutely wrong.
H: What was Krentzmen's rationality in ordering that, with that timing?
C: I never could figure it out, except that he said, I ordered [compliance] months
ago and you have delayed all this time; now, you just go back and do it. I think it
was a penalty. I guess he thought we should have done it the first time, even
though we appealed, like, you can appeal but you are going to jail anyway; we
will hear your appeal while you are in jail. Anyway, I remember one of things was
we were going to have to buy twenty busses to accomplish it. We did not have
enough busses to transport all these kids. Then, you had to have all personnel
moving desks over here, and you do not have a chemistry lab in this school, you
have to have that over here. Things like that just wiped out our school system,
and to do it all with a lousy three of four weeks, twenty days of school or
whatever it was, was just wrong. I wanted to delay it at that point, and I could not
even get anybody to agree to that.
H: So that is what the appeal in New Orleans was trying to do.
C: And that is what we tried to do when we got to the Supreme Court.
H: When you filed these sort of appeals, did you argue in terms of continuing to
resist Judge Krentzmen['s order to integrate], or did the appeal itself say we
understand and we are willing to comply but it is just detrimental to do it right at
C: I have forgotten what was put in the appeals, but I think we probably joined him.
If he would go to see we are under [plan] C and have now made one move, so
let C be the judgement of the court instead of A or B, whatever one he took. It
was B, I guess. Put us under C for the rest of the year and start us in September.
I think that is the argument we made, because we would have had the summer
to rebuild things.
MCBC 3 page 23
H: Talk about the hearing Thursday, April 10, in Tampa in front of Judge
Krentzmen. I have the transcript of the court hearings back at home, but just talk
about your recollections of it. It was a very long hearing, from what I understand,
almost six hours.
C: I remember it was a long time. Number one, the district attorney...
H: John Briggs? Or Oscar Blasingame, his assistant?
C: I think it was Blasingame who contacted us and wanted to meet with me and my
attorneys. The thing was set for two o'clock in the afternoon, and he wanted to
meet with me at eleven-thirty in the morning. We went up there at eleven-thirty in
the morning, told the secretary we were there, and, to this day, I have never
spoken to him. He did not come out and talk to us. He had no conversation with
H: Was he there in the office?
C: Sure. I do not know what he was doing, but he was in the office the whole time.
We finally said, well, this hearing is at two o'clock, and we went to get something
to eat. We came back to the hearing, and that is the only time I ever saw him
during that year.
H: One thing that happened earlier is that-and I do not know if this is related or
not-he went with the U. S. marshals to serve the aides of Governor Kirk [with a
summons to appear before Krentzmen] at the Manatee building, and apparently
there was some sort of situation where they had it worked out ahead of time that
they were supposed to serve the aides there and, when they got there, the aides
were not there, and Blasingame was annoyed with that and felt that Kirk had
reneged on this deal or whatever. But that does not mean anything to you. I do
not know. Maybe that is connected.
C: I do not recall.
H: Okay. So, in this hearing itself, do you remember what exactly you were trying to
C: Well, it was not our hearing. Actually, the court set the hearing, and the federal
government had cited Kirk for contempt, or were going to find him in contempt.
That was the basis of the hearing. It had really nothing to do with the case,
except, for instance, Blasingame called Mr. Scott, who was from our office had
done less work on this case than anyone in the office, and said to him, I
remember the first questions were, what was your name, address, and so and
so. Then, he said, do have an official position in Manatee County, and Scott says
yes. He said, what is that? Scott was on the city council, on the Bradenton City
MCBC 3 page 24
Council. He said, I am a councilman for the city council. Blasingame looked
around for help and he said, do you know why you have been called up here
today? Scott said no, I do not have the least idea. He went back and whispered
at his table and said we will release this witness. I do not where they got his
name or how they got mixed up or something.
H: Did they think he was a school board member?
C: I think they thought he was a school board member.
H: Because I remember Mrs. Rushmore testified there at that hearing, and a couple
C: I think they thought Scott was a school board member, but he was a member of
the city council. It had nothing to do with this case. Anyway, it was very badly
handled, the situation. Of course, it was a combined-if there is such a
thing-judicial hearing, but it was also very political. So, for that reason, I thought
it was sort of valueless. Well, it was not valueless because at least Kirk was
made to understand that he was not going to get away with everything he was
getting away with.
H: How did Krentzmen handle that hearing?
C: Oh, Krentzmen was a good judge. I was amazed at his patience during that
hearing. I would have cut that thing in about half.
H: Do you recall Governor Kirk's aides being made to take the stand?
H: One was Lloyd Hagaman, and the other was Robert Dooley Hoffman.
C: Hagaman is the one I remember. He actually was just torn. I remember that he
just sobbed during his testimony. He said he thought it was wrong, but he had to
do it because he had to have the job and Kirk told him to do it, if he wanted his
job he had to do it, so he did it. I felt sorry for him.
H: Do you remember Sheriff [of Manatee County Richard] Weitzenfeld taking the
H: My understanding is that at the end of the hearing, Justice Caldwell presented
these motions that were trying to extend Kirk's life on the case. Do you
remember any impressions of those. There was a motion to quash and other
MCBC 3 page 25
C: I remember that there were some motions, but I thought they were all sort of
useless and window dressing. I did not think any of them had any basis in fact or
law. They were valueless. I thought they were just window-dressing for Kirk.
H: There was one episode, and I do not know if you recall it. Betty Rushmore was
on the stand, and Krentzmen ended up asking her some questions. One of them
was something to the effect of why are you resisting this desegregation? That
was not exactly it. Mrs. Rushmore replied, we were already desegregated, and
many in the galleries were cheering. Do you recall that?
H: What was behind that? That was an interesting part of the transcript.
C: She believed that. She was a very dominant woman. I liked Betty, but she knew
where she was going and how she was going to get there. She believed that we
were totally segregated and we should be left alone. She felt that the federal
government was into something they should not be into when they came to
Manatee County. I am sure she believed that. Absolutely.
H: But, specifically, the reason why this bussing was coming about was because
that although the system overall was desegregated, there were certain schools
that were completely white, and that is what the government was trying to
impose upon. So, as a matter of fact, she was accurate when she said that, but
she also was not accurate.
C: That is correct.
H: That is why it is so messy. According to the newspaper accounts, the school
board went back to Tallahassee after the hearing with Krentzmen, or at least
some representatives in the school board. Does that ring a bell?
C: We had some meetings after that, maybe one or two, that I recall with Christian's
office. I cannot recall why we had them, but I recall going to his office and having
these meetings with some representatives in his department. I remember him
coming into a couple of meetings.
H: Was there any more interaction with the Florida Senate after that Monday
meeting in Tallahassee?
C: No, I do not think so. I do not recall any.
H: Did you have to stay in contact with any of the representatives?
MCBC 3 page 26
C: No. Wilbur Boyd was...
H: The go-between.
C: Yes, and he was very helpful trying to help us, between him and the Senate.
H: You might not be in the best position to comment on this, but to what extent were
you aware of any sort of interaction going on between Governor Kirk and the
Nixon administration and the Justice Department and the U.S. Attorney General?
Were you aware of anything going on there?
C: I was aware that somebody in the attorney general's office, and he was one of
the three or four top echelon right under the attorney general, was having
frequent conversations with Kirk's office. I was aware of it because, by then, I
had developed a friendship with a lawyer from Fort Lauderdale, and I cannot
remember his name, who was up there working for Kirk in Tallahassee, and he
and I had become friendly and had lunch a couple of times. He used to tell me
things that were maybe a little bit off-the-record. I do not think he ever gave away
any secrets or anything, but he told me some things that he thought I ought to
know and I appreciated it. I cannot remember his name.
H: Was it about where Kirk was coming from? Was it about connections between
Kirk and the Justice Department?
C: No, it was sort of incidental. It was conversation about, you know, this fellow
called the other day from the Justice Department, that kind of information.
H: What impact did Congressman Cramer have on the situation?
C: I talked to him two or three times on the telephone, and he had offered to do
whatever he could to help. I think we filed a petition with the Supreme Court to
delay the order of the district court until September, and the Supreme Court of
the United States, without a hearing, said no. Later on in a conversation with, I
am sure it was, Cramer, we were told that if we filed it again and waited until the
court was out of town and there was only one judge there, that judge could grant
that motion until the Court came back in session, when the whole Court would
consider it. That would be after September, and we decided we would go that
H: Do you remember which justice it was?
C: I sure do. That bugger. It was Chief Justice [Earl] Warren [1953-1969].
Apparently, Cramer had been encouraged by Warren that he would do this, so
we filed a motion. There was more to it than that because we filed three or four
things. I remember that Scott and Dietrich left on a Friday and went, first, to New
MCBC 3 page 27
York to serve the [NAACP] with that petition. Then, they decided they might as
well stay in New York, a better town than Washington. We had rooms at the
Georgetown Inn at Washington. Davidson and I flew up Sunday night and met
them. Then I met with Cramer Monday morning early. Cramer had a big press
meeting in his office. I am trying to remember whether it was Monday or Tuesday
that week. Anyway, Cramer asked that I be there, and I was there with him
behind the desk. The room was filled with photographers, like Washington
always is, microphones hanging all over. I was impressed. Really, no one ever
asked me anything. Maybe I nodded my head once or twice. Cramer did most of
the talking. It was not very long. We made up some other motions, because we
had that office down in the basement. I remember, there was the transportation
committee office, and the secretary and one of the lawyers for the transportation
department. All those committees have one or two lawyers and three or four
secretaries, and they all have offices and all kinds of stuff. Just do not ever go
there and find out what your government is doing, and you are better off. It is like
making sausage; you just do not want to know.
H: So, he was having this press conference in regards to the hearings that you were
filing with the Supreme Court?
H: Okay. And he was expressing his support for them, presumably.
C: He said he had something to tell the press. Of course, he was on our side. He
felt that he wanted to say [that] to the court. I guess you would say it in the
newspapers if you cannot get there any other way. I thought he was a good
congressman, and he was certainly good to us.
H: Were you in contact with him while the events were transpiring in Manatee
during the week. Had he assisted directly?
C: I do not recall, but I may have talked to him. I did not talk to him a lot, but I talked
to him several times.
H: So, what was the result of the petition to Justice Warren?
C: I think the Court was going to leave Wednesday or something and they did, so
we went to the clerk's office and sat and waited. The petition was in the court's
hands, and I expected somebody to come up and say, granted. Mager came and
joined us in the clerk's office. He did not know what we had done, but he knew
we had done something and, of course, immediately found out that we had filed
this petition and wanted some way to get Kirk's name in. He was just grasping for
some way. We sat in the clerk's office for that afternoon, and the next morning,
we sat there all morning and waited. One thing is that I have always thought
MCBC 3 page 28
Mager was such a jerk, and he was. The clerk was not in the office. We were in
his private office, because he had some nice easy chairs there, and the
telephone rings. It rings three or four times, and this guy [Mager] gets up and
answers the phone. We all looked at him aghast. He said, this is the clerk's
office. Whoever it was said, who the hell is this? We could hear him. Anyway,
where is he? And he hung up, but to think that he had the guts to pick up the
clerk of the Supreme Court's telephone and answer it. Anyway, nothing came
that day. That would have been Thursday. Then, Friday morning, we intended to
go back to the court. We had breakfast, and we came out of the hotel. It was
about nine o'clock in the morning. We were standing at the curb in front of the
Georgetown Hotel. In those days, there was a large jewelry store there. All of a
sudden, this limousine drives up and who gets out of the limousine except
Warren, who we thought was over in the Court. I turned over and looked at these
guys and I said, what is he doing here? So we immediately ran to the phone and
called Cramer, who said, it is all over. What happened? He said, somebody in
the press got a hold of it last night, called Warren, and he denied it. That is it.
You are out of business, fellas. So, we went back upstairs and, by then,
somehow or another, Mager found out, too, because he had called Kirk and Kirk
had called our rooms. We had two large rooms together. All four of us were up
there in one place, packing our bags. Kirk said, well, okay, you come on to
Tallahassee. I remember I said, I am going home, and Dietrich says, I am going
home, too, in fact, I am getting married tonight. Anyway, Davidson kept saying,
yes, governor. Finally, he said, the governor wants to talk to you. I said, I am
busy, and I cannot talk to him now. He said, well, he wants you to come to
Tallahassee. I said, tell him I cannot come. He said, the governor has ordered us
to come to Tallahassee. I said, tell the governor I do not work for him and he
cannot order me. Davidson said, Mr. Cleary says he is not coming. So, Davidson
went, and I went my way. But Kirk never forgave me.
H: Even though you were still working on his campaign?
C: Well, that was over. Yes, that was the end of the case as far as I was concerned.
We had gone the last mile we had been turned down by the Supreme Court of
the United States. So, we came back and got some busses from some place and
started moving kids.
H: How much after the actual Manatee County Crisis was all this legal maneuvering
with the Supreme Court, because, as I understand, Governor Kirk went to the
appellate court in New Orleans and filed his own Friend of the Court brief.
C: Yes. I think Jerome Pratt might have [gone], too.
H: Probably, yes. So, this was a couple of months after?
C: It was not that long. Everything was on a daily basis. It was, we would get an
MCBC 3 page 29
order and we would do something about it right away.
H: Do you know if anything came with Davidson's meeting with Kirk after the
Supreme Court situation?
C: I do not know what they talked about. Davidson and I, for some reason after that,
did not have a very good relationship. I had felt up until then that we got along
very well. I developed little respect or no respect for him. I felt that he was just a
kiss-ass, for him to run up there because the governor says come up here. He
did not want anything. He just wanted to assert his authority, Kirk did, and
sometimes you have to tell those guys no. I just did not respect him much after
that. Colonel Doyle was the strong man in the [Manatee County] administration.
He held things together, I am sure.
H: Is he still alive?
C: I doubt it, because he was in his sixties.
H: I am planning to meet with Mr. [William] Bashaw [Manatee County school
administrator] later on. Are you familiar with him?
C: Yes, he was a financial officer at that time. I do not know how much he knew
about all of this, except he is very knowledgeable about administration affairs
and a very bright man. A good man, honest, he'll tell you the truth.
H: I believe it. Okay, just a couple wrap-up questions about the events themselves
and then, if you do not mind, I would like to talk about more contextual questions
about this whole situation. First of all, do you feel that in the final analysis
Krentzmen's authority was the final factor in Kirk finally giving up, or do you think
that it was something that the Justice Department engineered?
C: I think Kirk had wrung it dry as far as publicity, and he lost interest in it. I do not
think he ever cared about the schools. I am convinced that he was totally
insincere. I do not think he cared. I think it was just a way to get his name in the
H: Why do you think that he went for that publicity? All the people that I have talked
to about Kirk said that he was genuinely not a racist. Why did he choose to make
this decision, in terms of race relations in Florida?
C: I think that he was much impressed...I am not sure where I got this belief that I
have, but I am convinced that he was impressed by what George Wallace did in
Alabama and stood in the door and, I am going to fight them off, you know. He
wanted to be a strong man like that. I think he wanted that appearance. No, I do
not think he is a racist. I do not think he cared one way or the other, but I think he
MCBC 3 page 30
chose this situation to try and prove himself as to what he wanted to be or what
he forethought himself to be.
H: As he withdrew, Governor Kirk claimed victory in the press for his handling of the
situation. What was your reaction to that?
C: Well, I think that is the way all good politicians get out of a situation: get out quick
and claim, there, we have handled that, and now we will go onto something else;
we won that situation. You just claim it. I think that is a political move that is fairly
H: One thing that happened with the conclusion of this episode was that the Justice
Department filed some briefs, and they were somewhat contradictory. One of
them came down very hard on Kirk for his handling of the situation, but from
what I understand, the other brief was somewhat reflective of the Nixon
administration's tangled position on bussing. People argued that these briefs
helped inspire more anti-bussing action and activism. In your experience, would
you agree or disagree with that?
C: I remember the briefs, and I do not think people read the briefs and gave it that
much credence. I do not think it had that much effect, if any, on the general
population. I think when those people who had a deep-seated interest in this kind
of a problem. There was a case-still going on when ours was over-that
Mecklenburg [County]/Charlotte, North Carolina [busing crisis], which was still a
pretty hot topic even after we went by the wayside. I remember always thinking
that some day we would have to tie ourselves to that case and ride that because
that was a better case than ours. I thought, if we can get on their coattails and
ride that. No, I do not think those briefs had that much influence.
H: One of the briefs, from what I understand, suggested that maybe Judge
Krentzmen had abused his discretion somewhat, in setting this arbitrary date in
the middle of the school year. Did anything ever come of that?
C: No, nothing ever came of it, and I think we probably put that in the brief, that it
was an abuse of discretion for him to do that, but obviously it was not; he felt that
we should have done it when he ordered it. He was not going to play around with
us while we did it in our time.
H: Was bussing the only way to comply with the plan? Was that the only sticking
C: Every county is not the same, and to take an arbitrary stand like the federal
government did and apply this stand literally-Plan B is what they did every place
they went-to every county, I felt, was unfair. So, I certainly had different feelings
about it, and I am sure the school board did, too. I am sure that they agreed with
MCBC 3 page 31
me on that.
H: Did you feel that there was an effect on race relations in Manatee County after
this crisis passed?
C: I do not think there was any that was measurable, no. I think we have grown
better over the years, but I think this is just a natural growth of the situation.
Nationwide, it is less than it was a few years back. You know, it used to be in
Manatee County if a white girl and a black fellow were walking down the street
together, why, somebody would have a remark about it. I think you could do that
today, and they would not. But, I think that is just the natural progress of society
in relation to that. That is all.
H: Some people have suggested that they felt that this whole situation was, in large
part, a clash of egos between Judge Krentzmen and Governor Kirk.
C: Oh no, I would have to disagree with that. See, Kirk was not in it in the very
beginning. Krentzmen was doing his job, and I am sure he was doing what he
believed to be correct from his directives from the higher courts. I do not know
why Kirk ever got mixed up in it, except looking for publicity. That is all I have
ever charged him with. By the way, if you have never met him, he is a charming
guy. He is real sharp. I have not seen him in many years.
H: How do you feel about Governor Kirk's handling of this situation, in terms of he
felt in a lot of ways, from what I understand, that he had gotten a bad rap in the
press, in how he had handled that. Do you have an opinion on that?
C: I think the press felt the same as I did, that he was looking for publicity and had
some doubt about [his] sincerity. If that is a bad rap, [he got a] bad rap.
H: Do you think he could have done something differently?
C: I do not know why he had to get into it. That is ordinarily not the governor's
place. We had a commissioner of education and an Education Department at
that time. They were the logical people to intervene if intervention was
necessary. If we had gone to anyone for help, we would have gone to them. We
would not have gone to the governor. There might have been some point later in
the procedures where the governor would say, well, we could contribute some
money here because it is costing a lot of money.
H: Did you feel that the school board could have handled their publicity any better?
A lot of people were complaining that all the press that Bradenton was getting
nationally that this was a fight about desegregation and that Manatee County
was resisting desegregation, where, in fact, they were only resisting bussing. Do
you feel that the school board could have handled publicity better?
MCBC 3 page 32
C: I do not know. Handling publicity sort of troubles me. I think, maybe, had we had
one spokesman, but the press talked to everybody and everybody talked to the
press. When you have that situation, it is a mish-mash. You do not what is
coming out. You just never know what is being said or what is going to be
printed. I suppose, yes, we probably could have done a better job.
H: Do you remember having any feelings about how the press was treating the
C: No. I felt that they were reporting what was going on. I was quite surprised that
the whole country was interested in it. I do not know why. I was quite surprised
that the Los Angeles Times would call me and want a quote about what was
going on. You know, why would Los Angeles care? You know.
H: You mentioned earlier that you somehow formed the impression that he had,
sort of, aspirations of the role model of George Wallace. There actually were a
lot of comparisons in the press to him, comparing him to Orval Faubus, to Ross
Barnett, to George Wallace [governors in Arkansas, Mississippi and Alabama,
respectively, who made highly publicized stands against the federal government
in defense of segregation]. What do you think about those comparisons?
C: I think there is some truth in all of them. Maybe some of them went a little farther
than they should have. I do not know how strongly the feelings Kirk had for those
situations were, but I think that he was looking for that type of character to
become part of the Kirk legend, yes, and I think that he was glad to see it
develop, even though some of it might have been unfair. When a guy is writing
facts, he is writing facts.
H: What would you say is the significance of this whole episode that you were
involved with, in terms of Florida history, or maybe even American history?
C: I have been quite surprised. I think it has been forgotten. I am amazed, I have
mentioned to the school board the battles the school board had back in the
1970s, or something like that, to people whom I thought would be real
knowledgeable about it, and they act like they never heard of it. That surprises
me, so it could not have had much of any effect, history-wise, the state of
Florida. Entitled to one line.
H: This question is from a broader perspective that personally interests me. Do you
think that there is any way that a Republican could have been genuinely for civil
rights in this period of time while still remaining true to their anti-government
principals, or less government principles, that they held as Republicans? Was
there a way to reconcile those two?
C: I do not know why the two should be different. My political leanings never
MCBC 3 page 33
affected my personal beliefs. Well, that is not true. I think I am a Republican
because I was raised in an area where the Democratic party was, and probably
still is, controlled by unions and the Michigan automobile industry. They did not
believe the way I believed, so I became a Republican. I think my dad was a
Democrat, although I do not really know. There is no reason they cannot co-
exist. No reason. People are people, and there are good Republicans and also
good Democrats. There is no reason that one should have more influence than
the other on black-and-white relations, or any relationship.
H: Certainly on a personal level, that makes a lot of sense, but in terms of
government, how is it possible to prod along social change while you are still
feeling that maybe the government should not be as involved in doing that sort of
thing? I guess that is the tension that I was wondering about.
C: I prefer that government not be involved in all of our social development in this
country. I do not think government should be. I think there are other activities,
cultural activities and spiritual things, that should be more involved with race
relations than government. To a degree, government has to be involved in race
relations, but I think they need to keep a hands-off policy to the extent they can,
unless it is a crying need. If there is a crying need for it, then they have to, and, if
that should happen, I would suspect on both sides of the aisle, they would come
together. I hope so. Maybe that is idealistic. Maybe that is just the way I want it.
H: Is there anything that you think that I have missed, any particular memories of
the situation, personalities that you came in contact with, that you want to share?
C: I cannot remember his name, this one fellow over in Palmetto. In fact, he wrote
Judge Krentzmen a letter. I am not sure whether he threatened his life, but when
Krentzmen told me about this letter, and when I read the letter, it was just the
most bitter letter that a man could write about the government and the Justice
Department and Krentzmen, personally. I think of that letter at times when I read
some of these articles in the paper where people are protesting. I had met this
fellow. He was a protester, and he quite strongly protested this situation. But,
when he wrote this letter, I do not know if somebody helped him write it or what.
Much more than he expressed personally was expressed in the letter, just
hatred, that's all it was, sheer hatred. Every once in a while when I read about
protesters, I wonder, do they all have this hatred? Or why do they protest?
Because there are things that I protest. I get mad at the Bradenton Herald, I call
them up and say, do not bring me the paper anymore; I do not want it. Months
later, I call back, say, deliver to my house. John Hamner used to be the editor of
the Bradenton Herald, and I got mad at him one time and quit the paper. He said
something to me, he said, I understand you stopped taking our paper again, and
I said, yes. I said, that is the only way I can protest against the newspaper. I said,
when you sell ads, you have to represent that your paper is read by or it has so
many thousand subscribers. I said, that is the way you can sell advertising. I
MCBC 3 page 34
said, if you do not have that many, if you have fewer subscribers, you cannot
charge as much as you could otherwise. A few weeks later, he saw me buying a
paper at one of those boxes and he said, boy, I got you now.
H: From what I understand of the accounts of the situation after the whole crisis had
blown over, you were on the record in one of the newspapers stating that you
were planning to formulate another plan for the next year, the 1970-1971 school
year. I was wondering if you could talk about what happened with that. I assume
that is different from all the filing you were doing in the Supreme Court.
C: Oh yes. I have forgotten the details of it, but I think Dietrich and Scott and I and
Colonel Doyle had decided that there was a way to solve this problem that was
easier on everyone, to cut out some of the bussing. I cannot remember any of
the details on all of that. I thought we were going to do something in that regard,
but I do not think we ever did.
H: It did not come to anything?
C: No. I do not think anything ever happened. Doyle, of course, retired. We never
did follow it up.
H: Did you support Governor Kirk for re-election after this situation?
C: I doubt it. See, he tried to get me fired after that.
C: Oh yes, they were really after me.
H: How could he do that?
C: Yes. Well, I know of one thing that he did. Bill Lacey was a very good friend of
mine. Bill called me one day and said, Ken, I just had a phone call from Sheriff
Weitzenfeld. He said, Weitzenfeld told me that Kirk wants us to fire you. I said,
so? He said, well, I told him we were not going to do it. He said, I don't know if he
called the rest of them or not. He said, I do not think you need to worry. I said, I
am not worried; in fact, I might be better off without the job. Anyway, just for
kicks, I called up Weitzenfeld, who was the second Republican sheriff but he had
been a sheriff for quite a while. I said to him, who gave you the word to call and
get me fired? I said, was it one of these little flunkies or was it the governor
himself? I said, because whoever it was, I want to call them. He said, I cannot tell
you. I said, why not? I said, I thought you were a friend of mine. He said, I am a
friend of yours, but I cannot tell you because, if I tell you, they will come after me.
I said, are you afraid of somebody? Is your job that important? You know, I said,
you are a retired colonel, and you are making more money than anybody. He
MCBC 3 page 35
said, I am sorry, Ken, I cannot tell you. I said, now listen, Dick, you either tell me
who it was or I am going to call the newspaper and tell them that you did this but
you will not tell me who it is; I will let the newspaper talk to you. I said, they would
jump all over something like this, you know that. He said, do not do that, Ken, but
I cannot tell you. I said, okay. So, I hung up and I called the Bradenton Herald,
called one of the reporters.
H: Do you remember which reporter, off-hand?
H: Was it Jane Evers? I am going to meet with her later. That is the only reason I
C: No, I do not think she wrote for the Bradenton Herald. I think she worked for the
Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Anyway, I have forgotten who it was, but I called
somebody and told them the story. Of course, they just drove themselves nuts
for the next two weeks trying to find out who, but never did find out who. I do not
know whether Kirk called. Weitzenfeld and I made up. He was mad at me for a
long time, but we finally shook hands one day and decided we would not dislike
each other anymore.
H: What was your opinion of Weitzenfeld during this crisis? I mean, he was sort of
drafted by Kirk in the actual standoff. I know that you were not here during all of
C: He was a Kirk man, dyed in the wool. I mean, Kirk could have just said squat,
and he would squat. I was loyal to an extent. I would have stayed with Kirk if he
would have used his head. Even Jerome [Pratt] was a good friend of mine, and I
told Jerome, get out of this case; you are in here just to make points for your
next election. I said, I am trying to get these school busses so they can operate. I
said, I do not appreciate you coming in and doing that. I said, there are other
things you can do and get publicity. I felt that way, very strongly, but those guys
who were with Kirk, boy, they were with him all the way.
H: Did you ever say anything like that to Gerald Mager?
C: No, I never wasted any time with him. He was a real nincompoop. I am not
surprised that he became a judge. I think he got the way greased out in
Tallahassee. In all probability, he is probably rather bright, but he has a
personality that just does not fit my personality. I like people who are sincere,
and I hate insincerity and self-centeredness and he is that.
H: Anything else, or have I wrung you pretty dry here?
MCBC 3 page 36
C: No, I will probably think of things. I am going to go talk to Dave. I think you need
to talk with Dave.
H: I would like to do that.
C: You know, when two of us get together, he thinks of things I do not think of.
H: You balance each other out.
C: Yes, and he will think of some little thing, and then I will think, oh, that reminds
me of something. None of them will ever forget what I did to the cabby, and they
keep reminding me of that.
H: What is that?
C: We were in Washington. [Spiro] Agnew was the vice president, and he was
under attack in the newspapers. We get in this taxi-cab. There were four of us;
three of them are in the back, and I was sitting in the front with the cabdriver.
The cabdriver had been reading the newspaper, and he said something about,
that damned crook, Agnew. Of course, I was a Republican and I said, hey, you
are talking about one of my heroes. By the way, [Agnew] was a tremendous
speaker. Oh man, he was a great speaker. I just loved to hear him make a
speech. He was great. Anyway, the cabdriver said, he is a damn crook. He said,
I am from Baltimore and I drove a cab up there and I know this and I know this
about him. So, I argued with the cabdriver a little bit. We got to our destination,
and I paid him the cab-fare and gave him a nickel, I think. He said, this is a nickel
too much. I said, that is your tip. I said, it will teach you not to talk to patrons'
friends. And I walked away. Well, a little while later, [Agnew] was indicted, of
course, and all kinds of things. These guys keep telling me, you have to go back
and give that cabby his tip; you cheated the guy out of his tip; you have to go
back up there and find him and give him his tip.
H: Is Robert Scott still alive?
C: Yes. He is retired, and I understand he is having great difficulty. He is near blind.
H: I see. You said he was not as involved with this situation.
C: No, he was not. He was not involved but, again, Scott has an exceptionally good
memory and all. Maybe we ought to get the three of us together. He has an
exceptional memory and he is very bright, too.
H: Judge Krentzmen, of course, is dead, but do you remember any of his law clerks.
The one name that I have come across is Steve Pfeiffer. Does that mean
anything to you?
MCBC 3 page 37
H: Anybody else in town you think would be valuable to talk to?
C: I think you ought to talk to Tom Sprenger.
H: I would like to very much, yes.
C: I will call Sprenger and alert him. Tom is a general in the National Guard. He
moved right up the ranks. I am sure he is still here, and I think he will talk to you.
H: Yes, I will try to get in touch with him. Well, if you cannot think of anything else...
C: I cannot at the moment. In fact, I am beginning to fuss a little because I need to
H: Okay, I thank you for your time. [End of Interview.]