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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida.
Samuel Proctor Oral History Program
University of Florida
Manatee County Busing Crisis
Interviewee: William Bashaw
Interviewer: Benjamin Houston
Date of Interview: April 18, 2000
MANATEE COUNTY BUSSING CRISIS
William Bashaw, a native of Gainesville and holder of four degrees from the University of Florida,
shares his thoughts on his role as assistant superintendent of the Manatee County Schools during the
bussing crisis of 1970. On page 1, Mr. Bashaw describes his educational background and how he
ended up working in Manatee County and his immediate boss, Dr. Jack Davidson. On page 2, he
describes the prevailing political climate in Manatee County in 1970, regarding the recent
Republican victories and the dynamics of the Board of Education regarding then-Superintendent J.
Hartley Blackburn, the switch to a board appointed superintendent, and his role as assistant
superintendent. He then segues into (pages 3-4) the general context of the school system and
desegregation leading up to the 1970 events, points which are followed up on page 17-8. He also
shares his personal feelings about desegregation (page 5).
Pages 6-9 contain Mr. Bashaw's general take on race relations in Manatee County in general and his
thoughts on those figures who were influential moderates and demagogues, and see also page 20-22
in regards to this topic. He also talks about certain episodes in the schools which strained the racial
climate. Starting on page 9, he recalls the events of the bussing crisis starting with the Sunday order
where Governor Kirk suspended the school board. His resultant responsibilities (page 10), his
personal impressions of Kirk (11), Kirk's aide Bill Maloy (12), and the Board and Davidson's view
on Kirk are all treated. Mr. Bashaw also related anecdotes about troubles with paychecks during
Kirk's tenure and the standoff between the U.S. marshals and Kirk's aides on pages 13-15.
Mr. Bashaw talks about the school system after Kirk's withdrawal from pages 18-22, touching on
J. Hartley Blackburn, his own feelings about having his own children bussed, and tensions between
himself and the board after the crisis subsided. From page 24-27 he discusses his belief in the
significance of the Manatee crisis to the larger historical record, its effects on race relations, and
people's feelings on various personalities from the situation. He concludes with a discussion about
primary source materials available from the school system.
H: It is April 18, 2000, and I am in the home of Mr. William Bashaw. Mr. Bashaw,
thank you for agreeing to help me out with this project. I am looking forward to
having your perspective on things, and I just learned that you are in fact a Gator.
You have prior connections with the University of Florida. You got your education
B: Right. I taught at the P. K. Yonge school for nine years.
H: And you have four degrees from the University of Florida. Which degrees are
B: I have a bachelor's and a master's and a specialist degree, and a doctorate.
H: And you are a native Floridian. You said you are from Gainesville.
B: Born in Gainesville, yes.
H: How did you end up coming to Bradenton?
B: After I got my specialist degree, I was teaching at the [P.K. Yonge] Laboratory
school there at the university. My major professor was Dr. Johns. I decided at
that point that I wanted to go into administration. Dr. Johns and Mr. [J. Hartley]
Blackburn, who was the superintendent here, were very good friends, and so it
was through that connection that they found me a job down here in the finance
department of the school system.
H: When was that?
B: That was in 1962.
H: So, presumably, you worked your way up from finance?
B: Yes, I was assistant finance officer, and then I was finance officer, and then I
went back to school. I had taken a year off-I think it was 1966 or 1967-to get my
doctorate, and when I came back, I was appointed assistant superintendent.
Actually, I was appointed assistant superintendent when Jack Davidson came as
H: That was when the board had switched to board-elected...
B: Appointees. When Jack left, I was appointed superintendent. That was in
H: How did you feel about Dr. Davidson as the superintendent?
B: We got along fine. Of course, he appointed me as assistant superintendent.
MCBC 4 page 2
Most people had the feeling that Dr. Davidson was stopping off here on his way
somewhere else, so to speak, career-wise. Actually, toward the end of his
tenure, he got at odds with the school board. He received an offer from Austin,
Texas, which was a good job, so he took it.
H: What was the board like in those days?
B: Not long before that, the county had been Democratic, politically, and it went
Republican. These Republican people who got in wanted to get rid of Mr.
Blackburn. He was the superintendent for twenty-four years. The strategy that
they used was to promote a campaign for making the position appointed. It was
successful not only for selfish reasons, but because it was a good thing to do.
H: Why was that?
B: In my opinion, the appointed superintendent is better than having an elected
superintendent. So, that passed, and when it did, they did not want to appoint
Mr. Blackburn so he finished out his term. He was elected for almost twenty-four
years. They decided to appoint someone, so they did a search and appointed
Jack Davidson. He came here, I think, from Oak Ridge, Tennessee. He was only
here two years.
H: Which members of the board were staunchly Republican and, therefore, anti-
B: Betty Rushmore and Tom Sprenger and Bill Lacey and Ted Griffin. Those were
the big four. Ken Cleary was the school board attorney. The school board
attorney in the school system is one position which the board feels is their
position. They want the final say on who is going to be the school board attorney,
which is an important position. Of course, the normal procedure for appointing
personnel through the school system is that the superintendent recommends
personnel, and, unless the school board has some cause for not appointing
them, they have to accept the superintendent's recommendation. In the case of
the school board attorney, it is a different ballgame. They figure that is their man
and their advisor, though that is only partially true. That is the way they felt about
it. Ken, quite frankly, was very influential with the board. He, for all practical
purposes, called many of the shots.
H: As assistant superintendent, what exactly were your duties?
B: I was assistant superintendent for business, which included everything non-
instructional. It included the finance department, the building and grounds, the
maintenance, the custodial, the transportation, all of the business functions for
the school system in the building program.
MCBC 4 page 3
H: Give me an idea of the Manatee County school system in 1970.
B: We had, probably, 21,000 [students] or something like that. We had the four high
schools. While I was superintendent, we built several middle schools. We built
two middle schools and several elementary schools. We had close to thirty
schools during my tenure, so it was growing and it has been growing ever since.
H: Can you lead me through the situation with the desegregation and the bussing?
B: Yes. Of course, a suit was brought in federal court to desegregate the school
system. Judge Krentzmen was the judge in the case in Tampa. You have to
understand that the judge is in the position that he is torn between what he
thinks will work and what he thinks the law requires. There is no way that he
could do anything short of full desegregation because that was the law. There
were many approaches that could be used, some gradual approaches. Some
people, for example, believed in starting with the first grade and working your
way up and that kind of thing. Some believed in a lot of cross-bussing, and some
believed in as little cross-bussing as you can do. The University of Miami
Desegregation Center actually wrote the plan, and Judge Krentzmen enforced it.
April 6 was the time it was to start, and people objected to it for a number of
reasons. One was the timing. They did not see disrupting the school system so
near the end of the school year. In retrospect, I think that the judge's idea was
that it would be a good idea to get over the hump on it and then have the
summer off there to calm down. That may have been good judgement on his
part, but people really objected to it. They could not see why we should disrupt
the school system six weeks before the end of the school year. The other
objection, of course, was the cross-bussing. There was a lot of cross-bussing.
For example, my own child went to school at Palma Sola Elementary. When the
plan was put into effect, one week late, he was bussed through Bradenton over
into Palmetto to a formerly all-black school. Well, you can imagine how that set
with a lot of people. Of course, I did it and I supported it because I needed to.
But that was the other big objection. There was so much cross-bussing. Of
course, there were white people who did not want to go into former all-black
schools. It caused, of course, a great disruption. I do not know Governor
[Claude] Kirk's motivations, but, of course, they were largely political. He said
that he thought the plan was unfair and the timing was wrong so he took it on
himself to try to stop it, which he did successfully for a week. This created a lot of
problems for me because, as assistant superintendent, it was my job to deal with
the transportation system and with the logistics of placing people in various
locations, students, and reworking the classrooms and so on to accommodate
H: That will be important. We will definitely have to treat that in some detail, as
much as you remember. I want to go back a little. It is my understanding that
Manatee County was desegregated, according to the original suit when this
MCBC 4 page 4
came about in 1970. For example, county-wide, there were desegrated schools,
and yet there were some schools that remained all-white, and that is why the suit
kept persisting. Am I correct in that assumption?
B: Let me think. Yes, because when I came here, we did have some desegregation,
but exactly how that was made up is a little foggy in my mind. It was very little.
So, I think the NAACP actually brought the suit on behalf of Caroline Harvest, the
black girl. Yes, Lincoln High School was a formerly all-black high school, and I
guess we did desegregate that a little bit. It is a rather interesting thing that many
of the black students did not want to do that. They still have reunions of the old
Lincoln High School of the black people. They were proud of their school and
they did not want to lose it, which, in effect, is what they did. But, the
desegregation order said that what little bit we were doing was just insufficient.
So, we did this cross-bussing, and I am sure you know that in the summer
following that we had an amendment to the plan. That amendment greatly
reduced the cross-bussing. What it ended up doing was bussing black students.
There was some logic in that because there were population centers that were
pockets of black students which needed to be broken up. For example, we could
not have desegregated Lincoln [High School] strictly on geographic lines,
because it would have been 75 to 80 percent black. At that time, a lot of people
were using the Coleman Report, which was a national study about desegregation
that indicated that desegregation plans where the percentage of black grew too
high-they used to figure 35 percent was the cut-off point. If it got beyond that,
then it would be unsuccessful. The people would not stand still for it. A lot of
people were reading that Coleman Report at the time, and it indicated that what
we really needed to do was to...well, but when you have 12 percent black
countywide, obviously, the thing to do is to divide those black children up. That is
exactly what we did.
H: Was that legal?
B: Yes, it was an amendment to the plan. It was approved by the federal court.
H: Did Krentzmen have to ratify that?
B: Yes. I believe the University of Miami Desegregation Center got back in on that.
It is a little hazy in my memory, but I think they did, to re-write that. It ended up
with bussing black students to various schools. I believe I am correct in that we
did not bus any white students out of their neighborhood.
H: This is just a minor point, but do you know if Davidson had any history in dealing
with desegregation coming from Oak Ridge, because Oak Ridge was actually the
first town in Tennessee that desegregated, but that was back in 1955, I think. Do
you know if he had any contact with that?
MCBC 4 page 5
B: I really do not remember whether he did or not. It seems like he had been
involved a little bit. But, this thing was pretty much out of his control, as far as
making a decision was concerned. It was all up to the federal court, which
decided our job was to make it work, you know, these are the logistics and try to
deal with it. It was tumultuous for awhile. In fact, the week that Governor Kirk
was here was a very, very tense kind of time. We had reporters here all the way
from the BBC [British Broadcasting Corporation], from all over the world, in here.
The Governor actually locked himself in the superintendent's office under the
protection of the local sheriff, who was a political ally of his, [Richard]
Wietzenfeld. As a matter of fact, Dick Wietzenfeld, in the office behind the locked
door actually had a gun, which scared me. Dick was a very strong law
enforcement person, kind of a hard-nosed law enforcement person. We worried,
frankly, about what he might do to protect the Governor. The halls were full of
people milling around. I was standing in the hall one day, and I heard some
young man say, I have a gun out in the car. That kind of thing. When the judge
asked Kirk to leave, or actually demanded that he leave and the Governor
refused, the judge sent two marshals down there to remove him from the office. I
happened to be standing here at the door when the two marshals approached
the door, and Sheriff Wietzenfeld would not open the door for them. One of them
said, I think we ought to break the door down, and the other one said, no, I think
we ought to go back and talk to the Judge. Of course, then, what the Judge did
was to fine Kirk $10,000 a day until he left, so then he left.
H: How did you personally feel about the desegregation and the bussing?
B: I was in favor of the desegregation. I felt that the particular plan was a little
extreme, and I felt that we could work out something that would be a little more
amenable, that people would come a little closer to trying to live with it. But, of
course, officially, it was my responsibility to try to help put the plan in. I guess I
had some mixed feelings. It was not easy for me to accept that my child would
be bussed all the way across the county. That did not seem to me to have a lot
of logic, but I understood what they were trying to do. Basically, I was for
desegregating the school system. I felt that was the right thing to do, but I was
not thoroughly convinced that was the best plan. As I said, subsequently in the
summer, we got it amended. What we did in the summer was not favored by
people, particularly, but under the circumstances, it turned out to be the best
thing to do. It was the kind of thing people could live with better, and the black
people realized that. By and large, we got a lot of good support from them. There
were some upheavals. There was a riot over at Manatee High, but we managed
to get it settled down.
H: Did you consider yourself a supporter of Claude Kirk before this whole situation?
B: No, I did not.
MCBC 4 page 6
H: And that probably did not change.
H: How would you characterize race relations in Manatee County before this
B: It is hard for me to know because, frankly, at that point, it was awfully hard for a
white person to know what the black people were thinking. There were some
mixed things. We had a person on the staff, Florine Abel, who, before
desegregation, she was known as a Negro supervisor. That was her title,
originally. She ended up being our race relations person on the staff who could
communicate with the black community.
H: Was she black or white?
B: She was black.
H: Is she still alive?
B: No. In fact, one of our elementary schools in named for her. She was a great
help in trying to bring the two groups together. Obviously, there were a lot of hard
feelings. The black attitude was that they got the short end of the stick on
everything and that they were not being treated fairly. I think there were a lot of
blacks, and some of them so-called community leaders in the black community,
who realized that this was something we needed to do and that this was
probably the best we could do with the circumstances and we needed to live with
it. There were a lot of people besides Florine who worked real hard to make it
work. Kary Green, who sells cars at the Ford place, a black man, and Eddie
Shannon, who was the coach at the old Lincoln and the assistant coach over at
Manatee. He did a great deal to help soothe race relations there at Manatee
High, because we had black football players who came over from Palmetto. That
turned out to be helpful in a way because there were a lot of people who were
not very happy about desegregation but they were real happy about a better
football team. When they found out those boys could play ball, well, that was a
different story. Eddie did a lot of work to keep things on an even keel there at
Manatee High and throughout the black community. He was highly respected in
the black community, and there were some others in the black community.
H: Is he alive, the coach?
B: Eddie is still alive, yes. He is retired.
H: I might like to talk to him. How about the car salesman?
MCBC 4 page 7
B: Kary? Yes, he still works out at the Ford place.
H: Really? I might like to talk to him.
B: Kary was on the committee of people, the Economic Opportunity Council, which
really was a vehicle for helping the black people. He was on that committee and
was very active with the black community. A very good man. We had several like
that who really helped us out in times when we needed help. I guess the thing
that disappointed me most was some of the white community leaders who
deserted us, sent their kids to private schools. I guess there was some part of
that which was a blessings in that, had they stayed, they would have given us a
lot of trouble, but we could have also used their help in the community in trying to
make this thing work.
H: What about those white leaders who formed the Save Our Schools type
organizations and Freedom of Choice organizations? Did you have any contact
B: Not a whole lot. There was a black group, too, of mostly young men who were
very active. They visited me a couple of times and talked about this thing. There
were a couple of radicals on that committee. I call them radicals, people who
were really off the wall about the thing, but, by and large, they were good young
men. They eventually ended up being more help than hurt.
H: Does the name Reverend Cornelius Bryant mean anything to you?
H: Is he still alive?
B: I do not know. I have not heard from him in a long time. He and Lazier, the other
minister who was active with the NAACP.
H: Were they involved with this black community group that you were just talking
about, or were they separate?
B: They did not seem to be active with these young men too much, but they were
very active in the NAACP. As time went on, Ken Rogers was a black man who
lived here, and he did a lot to help. He was a lawyer who worked for the county.
He is dead now, but he was a brother of Louise Johnson who was on our school
board, a black woman who was chairman of the school board for awhile. There is
a school named for her. You can see that over a period of time, things got a lot
better. We named schools for the black people. When I retired in 1983, Ken
Rogers, who was sort of the spokesman for the NAACP at that time, came to a
board meeting and actually lauded me for what I had done to try to make things
MCBC 4 page 8
better. So, we made progress over the years.
H: There was a tangential reference to a race-relation incident that happened the
February before this at the high school. Do you have any memories of that?
B: I do not know whether you are talking about the riot at Manatee High. I think that
came after the desegregation. There was an incident at Southeast High School
where a black boy got on the intercom and made some inflammatory remarks,
and it caused a big stir down there in that community. The general socio-
economic level down at Southeast was lower. Not everybody, of course, was in
that category, but there were a lot of rednecks down there, and they just could
not stand still for this boy coming on there and doing that. We had appointed bi-
racial committees of students in the high schools. When this happened, we met
with the principal, who was Virgil Mills at the time. We decided that this would be
a good opportunity for the bi-racial committee to talk about it and decide what
ought to be done. The people down there did not want to wait. They wanted to
throw the kid out immediately. So, it really damaged Virgil's reputation down
there. The people just felt he was a wimp about it. He was doing what we had
decided to do. We were trying very hard to let these bi-racial committees have
some function and to be an influence in the schools, which they eventually were.
But the people would not stand still for that. Of course, the facts were there, and
we went ahead and suspended this boy, but it left a bitter feeling with a lot of
people down there.
H: But that episode in particular happened afterwards, you think? And there was a
B: There was a riot at Manatee High School
H: That was different from this situation you just described?
B: Yes, that was at Southeast High School, down in the southeastern corner of the
county. The riot at Manatee High, I do not remember now what set it off. It was
some fussing between the blacks and the whites, and they just started running
all over the place and going wild. It took quite awhile to settle it down, and a
couple of kids were hurt in the process. That became, to a lot of people, the
symbol of what happens when you desegregate. But, it was the only real bad
incident that we had like that. Well, I take that back. There was another time at
Manatee High School when some black girls and white boys got in a fight in a
hallway. The whole thing went to a school board hearing, and it became a big
media event. These girls were expelled. We had hours of hearings over it. A lot
of the black people at that time thought that those girls had been railroaded, that
it was as much the white boys' fault as it was the black girls. We will never know
because it all depends on whose story you believe, but that left a bitter taste in
the mouths of some black people who just felt the girls were not treated fairly.
MCBC 4 page 9
H: When about was this, do you remember?
B: This was probably sometime about the first year after desegregation, because I
was superintendent at the time. We had this in April, and I became
superintendent in October. It was after that that that incident happened. So, I
would say probably a year after the desegregation.
H: Just to establish some sort of sequence, as I understand it, it was a Sunday
evening when Claude Kirk announced that he was going to suspend the school
board. I do not know if you were present but, apparently, there was a meeting
convened with Dr. Davidson and the school board, and Lieutenant Governor Ray
Osborne came down and read the order. Were you present?
B: I was there, but I was not in the meeting itself.
H: Okay. Do you recall what your reaction was when that occurred?
B: Yes. When I learned that they were suspending the superintendent so that the
governor could come in, my reaction was, this is purely political. I did not really
think much of the governor doing that. I thought it was just a political move on his
part. He may have had some sincere feelings about it and felt that he was right,
but, to me, it was political.
H: Were you expecting it? Were you surprised when it occurred?
B: Yes, I was a little surprised. Of course, he had made all these overtures to try to
stop it before. You know, he had admonished us not to do anything. Of course,
we did not have any choice. We cannot buck the federal court. It did kind of
surprise me when he actually came down and took over. I really did not think he
would do that.
H: My understanding is that the school board met with him a couple of days before
that in Tallahassee. Does that ring any bells to you? It was interesting because it
might not have been the entire school board; it might have been Dr. Davidson
and, maybe, Mrs. Rushmore and one other [who] met with Kirk in Tallahassee.
As the newspaper accounts have it-which does not necessarily mean it is the
truth-they talked about the options, talked about the situation, and the next day
there was a newspaper report that Governor Kirk was not planning to take any
action. Then, ironically, the next day is when the suspension was given. So, does
that ring any bells for you?
B: No. I was not in on that too much. I do recall that there were these overtures to
try to work something out, but I was not privy to those meetings.
H: So you were there in the building on Sunday night when you heard about the
MCBC 4 page 10
suspension. What did you have to do?
B: Of course, we were in a quandary, those of us who had to deal with it in terms of
transportation and all of that, because here we were, when the Judge had said
on Monday we were going to start desegregating, and here is Kirk saying, no,
you are not. We had to decide, well, what do we do? What are we going to do
come Monday morning? Are we going to transport these people? Are we going
to put it into effect or not? Of course, we could not. Frankly, I did not know what
to do. I knew the governor was wrong. It did not seem possible to me that he had
authority over the federal court. So, it was hard for me to believe that he could
actually stop it. Yet, we had to make that decision that we could not go ahead
and start transporting with the governor coming down and taking over.
H: What specific logistical arrangements did you have to make before you knew
that Kirk was going to try and take over?
B: We had to sit down and plan a whole new transportation system. We had a
bunch of kids in places we did not bus them before. So, that was the big job.
Then, we had to move teachers, and we had to reconstitute some of the classes
and make certain that if the [court] order was changing the population in school,
then we had to deal with lunchroom problems and classroom problems and that
kind of thing. So, we had those kinds of logistical problems. Transportation was
the big one.
H: As I understood it, you did not have enough busses for the situation. Is that
B: I do remember something about that, but it is a little vague. I do not remember
how we solved that, but somehow we did. I do not remember.
H: Perhaps you staggered the pickup arrangements.
B: Yes. Of course, we always did that to some extent. Of course, we had busses
that made more than one run. We even had busses that made as many as three
runs. That is probably the way we solved it.
H: Okay. So, seven-thirty in the morning on Monday, you have a new
superintendent, one whom you have never met before. Did you report to work as
B: Yes, we did. His word to us was, just carry on as usual. Carry on as usual? What
do you mean? What we really had to do was just carry on what we had been
doing and not implement anything new. He spent some time there. Bill Maloy
[Kirk's advisor on educational matters] was the guy who sort of orchestrated
everything around [Lt. Gov. Ray] there. Osborne came down in the beginning,
MCBC 4 page 11
but Bill Maloy was the one who really orchestrated the whole thing and kind of
gave us our instructions and so on. As I recall one time, we thought the governor
was out, and then Bill called and said, he is back in. So, he is the one who really
orchestrated, but when the governor was there, he visited around with us. He
visited my office and visited Phil Doyle's [assistant superintendent of Manatee
County Schools] office.
H: Did you talk to him?
H: How was he?
B: Surprisingly, he seemed very rational. You know, he always struck me as sort of
a flamboyant kind of fellow who just loved to do what people did not expect and
that kind of thing, but he was pretty sober about this whole thing. He talked with
Phil Doyle, and I sat and talked to him in Phil's office for awhile. We discussed
political campaigns and whether he could win again and who is going to beat
him. I remember him saying that. But, yes, he visited around, and he met with
the staff a couple of times. He put us all up in the big meeting room and talked to
the staff. Basically, what he told us was to just keep doing our normal work.
H: What was the attitude of the staff to all of this?
B: I think most of the staff was just puzzled by the whole thing and a little disrupted
by the fact that the building was full of people all of the time. You could not walk
down the hall, it was so crowded. People would come in, like BBC came into my
office one time and wanted to use the phone. I said, okay, call collect. So, it was
a little disruptive to the people working there, but for the most part, we went with
H: Was Governor Kirk able to charm them, or were they kind of resentful towards
him for putting them into this spot?
B: I guess that varied with the individual as to what they thought of him being there
in the first place. I think most people were impressed that he was not quite as
off-the-wall as his reputation. Still, they thought it was sort of a bizarre thing for
him to come down and do that. [End of Side 1, Tape A.]
H: Did you find this to be an achievable task, to carry on as usual?
B: Pretty much, I guess we all admitted we were fascinated, in a sense, by what
was going on there. We tended to kind of keep our ear to all of that, like the time
I was standing down there watching the federal marshals. By and large, we just
went ahead with our work. It was upsetting in the fact that we did not know from
MCBC 4 page 12
day to day what we were going to do next, in terms of the changes, so we had to
kind of play it by ear as we went along. We had to be prepared on a moment's
notice to do differently. We had this plan all set up, and we did not know but,
what, tomorrow morning, maybe we needed to do it and how we are going to
notify everybody? So, it kind of kept us on pins and needles for that week, not
knowing from one minute to the next what was going to happen.
H: Were you still in touch with Dr. Davidson?
B: Yes. In fact, after he was suspended, some of us went out to his house one night
and had a long talk about the whole thing. We did not accomplish anything, but
we just kind of gave our thoughts about it. We all thought it was rather bizarre.
H: Your impression of Dr. Maloy?
B: I liked Bill Maloy. I had known him a little bit. One time, Governor Kirk was
practically insulting him, and I did not like the way the governor treated him like a
lackey. Bill was very faithful to the governor. He kind of let us know in a subtle
way that he thought maybe there was some question about whether the
governor ought to be doing this or not, but he never let that on in so many words.
I have to say, he was very loyal to the governor in what the governor wanted him
to do, but then he was a governor employee.
H: In terms of him sort of being the superintendent, sort of in charge while Kirk was
away, did you have much interaction with him? Did he boss you around at all, or
did he stay out of your way?
B: Bill? No, Bill was very cooperative. He was trying to make the best of the
situation for us. He sympathized, I am sure, with our position, and that is with the
problems we had with it and trying to deal with it. He tried to make that as easy
as possible. He was very friendly with us. But, as I said, he had to do just what
the governor told him to do. I would be interested in talking to him now, to see
how he really felt about the whole thing.
H: It was Tuesday night when Davidson was actually reinstated as superintendent.
Do you know the events behind that?
B: It seems to me that the judge declared that Kirk being the superintendent was
illegal, and so he reinstated Davidson.
H: When that happened, did Davidson immediately get you back to work in order to
fulfill the implementation that you had already been trying to do before Governor
Kirk came in.
B: We never quit working. We were there every day and carrying on. Our only
MCBC 4 page 13
problem was, when do we do this?
H: So, even when Kirk was in charge, were you still working on the transportation
plans and stuff for desegregation, even though he was trying to...
B: We had that all set up and ready to go when the governor stopped it, so it largely
was a matter of having people stand by until we got some word as to what we
were supposed to do. It was a real problem in that we never knew, you know,
tomorrow morning, maybe we needed to do it.
H: Did you have any interaction with any of the other governor's aides? I am
thinking in terms of Lloyd Hagaman, Robert Dooley Hoffman, Robert Warner. Do
those names ring a bell?
B: No. Well, I remember Lloyd Hagaman. It seems to me he was sort of the guy
that was in charge of the governor's slush-fund.
H: The Governor's Club?
B: Yes, that he could draw money from. If you are interested, I can tell you an
interesting story about that.
H: The paychecks?
B: The paychecks.
H: Yes, please. That was my next question.
B: That was part of my responsibility with the issued checks, and it came time to
pay the bus drivers. So, we called the bank presidents in and said, we are not
sure who is the superintendent here; who is supposed to sign these checks? The
governor said, I am going to sign them, and the attorneys said, no, we do not
think that is legal, at least not a legal signature on these checks, Dr. Davidson
has to sign them. Governor Kirk had me bring the actual checks in a box and set
them on the superintendent's desk. We called in two bank presidents who were
involved in those checks and asked them what they thought, and they were the
ones who objected. They said that they did not think it would be a legal
signature. I will always remember that the governor said to these two bank
presidents, if you do not approve these, I am going to take money from the
governor's club and I am going to stand out on the front steps and I am going to
personally issue money to each of those bus drivers. So, the two bank
presidents excused themselves to the back of the room and huddled back there
and talked for a few minutes and decided it was all right, and they issued the
checks. He just finessed them.
MCBC 4 page 14
H: But did the Governor not actually have to put some money in escrow in order to
back up the checks?
B: I think so.
H: What were the details of that?
B: That is about all I remember. That was part of the agreement that made the bank
presidents agree to the things, that he would guarantee that the checks would be
good through his Governor's Club and that they would approve it. I think that is
what finally brought the agreement about.
H: What about any other peccadilloes that were difficult to deal with, in the back and
forth with the equipment changing to schools and the transportation and all that,
or were the paychecks the main snag?
B: That was the snag right at that point. Those were the only checks at that
particular time that needed to be paid, the bus drivers. Of course, that was
sensitive because they were intimately involved in this change of bus drivers.
But, no, I think we pretty much had the rest of it all set up. I do not remember. Of
course, it has been awhile.
H: It is amazing to see how you could possibly work under those conditions. It is just
hard to imagine doing that.
B: Yes, but as I said, the major problem was not that we did not know what to do
when the time came; we just did not know when the time was coming. It was very
difficult to go home at night and not know whether you have to get the bus
drivers ready the next morning to effect the change, so it was kind of frustrating
in that way. But, as far as having things ready to go, we had them ready to go.
H: So, the next day was Thursday, and that was the stand-off with the marshals.
Were you present during that whole situation with the marshals?
B: Well, I was there when they came to the door and said what they were there for,
and I understood that they were there to remove the governor or at least to bring
the judges' message that he was to leave. So, I actually heard them discussing
what they should do and then leave. I was standing right beside them. I have
often shuddered since then to think what would have happened had they broken
the door down. I think chaos would have developed, because the hall was full of
people, people who had no business there.
B: Press, citizens, interested curious people, people who felt strongly against
MCBC 4 page 15
desegregation. It would have caused a real problem, so the marshal was smart
in not doing that.
H: There is some discrepancy between the newspaper accounts and even some of
the other interviews that I have done. Were the marshals alone? Were they
talking with Wietzenfeld and the Manatee County deputies? Were they shouting
through a door?
B: As I recall, when I was standing there, there were just the two of them there and
they were trying to get Wietzenfeld to open the door. Wietzenfeld was on the
other side. He was inside and had the door locked, and he would not open it for
them. That was their problem, that he would not open the door and let them
serve whatever they were supposed to serve there. Harry Wilkinson was also
there. He was the chief of police of the city of Bradenton, and he was outside.
Harry did not want to get involved. He sort of moved back because he was not
going to get in the middle of anything. He was outside, and whether they talked
to him or not, I do not know.
H: Some newspaper accounts said that there was actually a scene where the
marshals came in, interacted with the aides and Wietzenfeld and the deputies for
a little while and then in the finance office or one of the areas nearby. Then, after
that little conversation, it was then that they retreated behind the door.
B: That could be. I was not in on that, if that happened. I happened to show up
when the marshals were at the door. That may well be. They may have tried to
negotiate with some of the other people before that.
H: Was that the only time you saw marshals?
B: That was the only time I saw them, yes.
H: During the entire week?
B: Yes. There were other people. There were Highway Patrol people stationed
around there, out in the parking lot. They were there primarily for security
reasons, in case anything broke out, and they were also transporting all these
people from the governor's office here and there. Other than that, there were
local police and deputies around because everybody realized that it could get
into a riot situation, and so they wanted to guard against that. By and large,
cooler heads prevailed.
H: Did you have much interaction with the board during this week?
B: No, not really. I am not sure that I saw the board members at all that week,
because they were out too. I was thinking, was Betty the chairman then?
MCBC 4 page 16
B: I was thinking Tom Sprenger was, but maybe that came afterward.
H: There was a certain point where newspaper accounts said that Sprenger had
handed in his resignation. Did you know any of the details behind that?
B: No, I am not aware of that. I know he did not resign, because he was on the
board when I was appointed. There is something vague in my memory about
something about that, but I do not really remember it.
H: Did you get any sense of where the board stood, in terms of Kirk?
B: Only that it was a Republican board and he was a Republican governor. Ken
Cleary was pretty much a Republican supporter. I guess I did not really talk to
them about it. My guess was that they had real mixed feelings about it, because
they were Republican and the governor was Republican, but they really knew
that he was wrong. But I did not really discuss that with them.
H: How about Davidson?
B: Yes, I discussed it a lot with Davidson, particularly afterwards. We talked a lot
about it. What we really talked about mostly in April after we started
implementing it was, what kind of problems are we coming up with? Is it working
all right, and how are we going to get this thing changed? Because we realized it
needed some amendments. I am not sure I ever got Jack's real deep-down
personal feelings about it, but of course he realized that it had to be done and
that he had to support Claude [Kirk] whether he thought it was a good idea or
not. Well, he did not like that plan, and he did not like the idea that we would do
it in April. We talked about that it might have been better if the governor had
waited until school was out and then gave us the summer to try to get
amendments to it without disrupting school right at the end of the year, but the
judge was adamant on that point. Really, he could have done that. He could
have said, starting with the fall term. He also had his reasons for wanting to do it
H: You mentioned earlier that you felt that Cleary had a disproportionate influence
on the school board. Do you think that there was any manifestation or hint of that
during this crisis in particular?
B: No, I do not really know what kind of communications he had with them during
that week, but all along, they always looked to him for advice. Now, I do not know
what his version of it is but he was very influential with them. They depended on
him, and he made a lot of decisions for them.
MCBC 4 page 17
H: Why do you think he had that power? What sort of decisions was he more
qualified to make than they were?
B: Well, I do not think he was. It was just a political kind of thing, I guess. Of course,
board members are laypeople, and they do not necessarily know education that
H: But neither did Cleary?
B: No, but if he is an assertive kind of person, then they need somebody to lean on.
It was partly a political alliance. You know, they were all Republicans and things.
Ken bothered me a little bit after I became superintendent because I did not like
the fact that he had so much influence with the board. Then, he is the guy who
hired me. Actually, one day he called me up and said, let's go over to Palma
Sola and play golf. While we were playing, he wanted to know if I wanted to be
superintendent. Now, maybe the board told him to do that, and I am sure they
did, but I would guess that he told them that at this particular time and with the
circumstances what they are, Bill Bashaw is a known quantity and he has his
qualifications and you would do well to stay with him right now. Actually, we
would be appointed. I mean, they had appointed me interim superintendent, and
then later, they made it permanent.
H: You are not the only one who has mentioned how politicized the atmosphere
was since the Republicans had taken over the school board. Can you sort of
bring that a little more down to earth? How exactly did the politics influence the
decisions of running a school board, which, at least nominally, you would think
would be nonpartisan.
B: When I first came here, the Republicans were just taking over. Their main thing
seemed to be to get rid of Mr. Blackburn. That seemed to be the thing that
motivated them more than anything else.
H: Why were they so against them?
B: For one thing, he was a Democrat and they were Republicans. Frankly, the
Republicans were very political. I am a Democrat, and I always call the
Republicans clannish because they stick together. If a person is elected to office
and serves twenty-four years, over a period of time, he makes a lot of enemies
and makes a lot of people mad. It is the nature of the position. It would have
happened to me, too. Over the years, you come up with decisions that are going
to make someone unhappy. No matter which way you go, you are going to make
some people unhappy. There are a lot of decisions like that in a
superintendency, and over twenty-four years, those things really mount up. So,
they looked on him as a politician. I think they looked on him also as having
undue influence on the school system, that he wanted to run it, and most of the
MCBC 4 page 18
time while he was in, the board did what he wanted. It was a political thing in
those days. That is when it all came to a head, when he got a board that did not
want to do anything he wanted to do, and they just got at odds. To me, that
seemed to be the biggest thing, other than the fact that at that time Republicans
were getting themselves established in this town and they wanted to take control
of everything, the school board being one of those things. That seemed to me to
be the political climate.
H: What influence did Superintendent Blackburn have over all the desegregation
B: We had done some token desegregation, but this all came after he was gone.
He left in 1968.
H: But the suit had been filed by 1965.
B: The suit had been filed, yes. This, of course, happened in 1970, so Jack had
been here almost two years when this came about. The ironic thing about it in a
way is that Mr. Blackburn, after he left the school system, was employed by the
University of Miami Desegregation Center. That was sort of an interesting
coincidence, I guess. He became a real advocate for desegregation, which
certainly did not show in his politics when he was in office. Mr. Blackburn was an
interesting person. He was a consummate politician, but he was also a good
educator and a very intelligent man, very articulate and very concerned about
education. He built a new school system.
H: Do you remember the events when Governor Kirk ended up pulling out?
B: No, I do not remember much about that. I just remember that at that point when
we realized that we were going to implement the plan-I guess it would have
been the next Monday morning-we just needed to alert everybody and be sure
everybody was on goal and ready to do it.
H: But you do not remember, for example, on Friday there being less of a crowd or
Davidson coming back and taking over his office or anything like that?
B: That is all pretty vague. I can remember a big sense of relief.
H: Tell me a little bit about what happened after Kirk finished all of this interference.
How did things go once it was able to be put into practice the next week?
B: It was sort of tense. Of course, there were people who went along with it and
were not happy, and we fielded a lot of complaints. We had the incident at
Manatee High. That was the main thing that we had that was really disruptive.
Other than that, it was just tension and putting out little fires and making the
MCBC 4 page 19
adjustments we needed to make. Of course, six weeks later, we had to turn
around and change it all again because in the fall we had a different plan, so we
had to re-plan those things. It was a tense time. I always remember Florine Abel
telling me, she said, you know, the white people look on the black people as
being hostile about this whole thing, and the white people are afraid and they are
fearful because they do not know what the blacks are going to do. She said,
what you need to remember is that the blacks are afraid, too. I always
remembered that. A lot of times, their hostility was their way of covering up their
fear in the whole thing. They were thrown in a new situation, too. Yet, black kids
were coming into a school where they were no longer the kingpins. They were
the minority. So that is when we formed these bi-racial committees and we did a
lot of counseling and tried to make people understand that we had to get along.
It was just a real gradual process. We made tremendous strides. Within two or
three years, we had made a lot of strides. People tell me that, probably, my
greatest contribution to the thing was the type of personality that I had, sort of
laid-back and unflappable and calming and working together with people and
that kind of thing. It was what we needed at that time. We did not need some
confrontational person. Some people give me some credit for that, really for just
being the kind of person I was which fit the situation at the moment, kept things
calmed down so that we could learn to live together.
H: How about Colonel Doyle? What was he like in helping you?
B: Colonel Doyle was a very bright man. He was a lot like me. He tried to keep
things running as smoothly as possible and tried to work toward making people
see the necessity for making it work. So, he was a big help in that way. He was
an older person and a mature person and had the respect of a lot of people, and
H: What exactly was his title?
B: He was assistant superintendent for instruction. We had two assistant
H: You and him.
H: Do you remember any of the particular little quirks or kinks that had to be worked
out that Monday with the transportation system?
B: I do not exactly remember. Of course, there were a lot of parents who took their
children to school and who never rode the bus. For awhile, my own wife did that.
But I do not remember that we had any real logistical problems with it. We had it
pretty well worked out. There may have been some that I just do not remember.
MCBC 4 page 20
But, as far as that part of it was concerned, it worked, in terms of logistics and
getting the job done.
H: Why did your wife choose to drive your son to school?
B: I think more to settle him down. He was concerned. He had never ridden a bus
before, and he had never gone into a black neighborhood. I think she was just
trying to calm him.
H: But, eventually, he started to bus home.
H: Did you feel any particular pressure because you had to implement this plan for
all these children and, yet, your own child was involved? Or did that insulate you
from more criticism?
B: I do not know. As I said, I personally did not like the idea that my child had to go
across the county, when I realized that was part of the plan and we had to
implement it. It did not affect my daughter particularly because she was at
Manatee High School and there was no change for her other than the influx of
black students which they had never had before, but she was the kind of girl who
pretty much tended [to] her own business. Those kids who tended to their own
business did pretty well. It was only those who were a little confrontational who
got into trouble with their neighbor, who had some chips on their shoulder or
strong feelings. But, as I said before, I knew we needed to desegregate. I knew it
was the moral thing to do and the right thing. Although I did not like the plan too
much, I wanted to get it done and I wanted to get it done right. I think as far as
my children are concerned, they probably helped me. As people look to them,
[thinking Bashaw] is not taking his kids out of school, or going over to another
school. If he can do it, we can do it. So, it probably helped in that regard.
H: How many kids, do you think, ended up going to private schools?
B: I do not know. I do not remember statistics on that, although we probably had
some. I know there were several private schools that were formed at that time.
For example, St. Stephens, Bradenton Community or something down in Oneco,
and there was one out here on 43rd. They were all formed about that time. Now,
the Episcopal church did St. Stephens, and it is a good school. It was not their
sole reason for forming. They wanted a school, and they wanted it to be a top-
level kind of school, which it is, but they cannot escape the fact that they formed
it right at the time of desegregation.
H: Does the name Maurice Fleming mean anything to you?
MCBC 4 page 21
B: Oh yes. He was a very conservative fellow. He used to write to the paper a lot, all
these letters to the editor about this. I did not know him personally, but it seems
like maybe he even appeared before the school board a couple of times.
H: My understanding is that he was affiliated with the Citizens' Councils. Did you
have much interaction with them, or did they have much of a presence during all
B: Yes, and Jimmy Harrison was the head of that. He was one of these people who
is interested in the Confederacy and that kind of thing. He did come to the board
several times and make speeches against desegregation. Jimmy was sort of an
enigma. He was a segregationist, without a doubt, but he was from an old- line
Palmetto family. A lot of people knew his family, and they were a little more
patient with him, I guess.
H: What was his profession?
B: I do not remember what he did, but he would write these long articles. They got
some media attention and they would appear before the board and talk and that
kind of thing, but they did not really influence what happened. They did not stop
or anything or cause much of a problem as far as I was concerned.
H: Had they always been around as an organized Citizens' Council?
B: Yes, this one had existed for years. As I said, they centered a lot around
Confederate kinds of things. There was no question they were out-and-out
segregationists, but it all went back--they did a lot of things that were connected
to the Civil War, and they liked the Gamble mansion out there and all that kind of
thing. They had been around for a long time.
H: The big catchword was neighborhood schools, the whole neighborhood school
concept. Obviously, that changed quite a bit after bussing. Talk a little bit about
that. Does that neighborhood school concept now have to be a thing of the past
because of bussing?
B: Well, at the time, that was a big debate. If we are going to desegregate, do we
simply draw boundaries where everybody in that boundary goes to that school,
which is a neighborhood concept? The problem of that was that if you did that,
there were certain schools that were going to be 75, 80, 85 percent black.
People realized that. The white people realized that, and, particularly, those who
were in those areas or near those areas did not want that. So, they did not want
bussing, but they did not want the neighborhood schools either. But, then, when
the bussing came along and people began to think that, you know, this is silly to
put a kid on a bus and send him away from his own school to some other school,
then they were talking of neighborhood schools again. That has always been the
MCBC 4 page 22
dilemma in that thing. How do you have neighborhood schools without having a
predominately black school somewhere. Of course, these people out here where
there are no black students are fine with neighborhood schools. Now, you find
other kinds of things. People are trying to have magnet schools, have a school
for the arts and those kinds of things. Some systems have even experimented
with sixth grade centers and all kinds of things. I guess the magnet school
concept is the thing that people are trying to get around now who have some
concept of not being bussed and yet not having the traditional neighborhood
school. It is a big thing right now.
H: How do you feel the school administration handled the public relations of this
whole crisis? There was a lot of talk in the newspapers that Bradenton was
getting a bad rap because Kirk had come down, and they were doing stories on
the history of the county's fight against desegregation and people were
complaining that was not really the case because they had actually been fighting
against bussing and not desegregation. Do you think that the administration
should have handled it differently?
B: I do not know. One of the things that happened when we desegregated was that
a few months later, Jack Davidson was gone. So, what happened was that we
had a period of acrimony there between Davidson and the board. That sort of
preoccupied them in that sense. Instead of concentrating on what they needed to
do to foster good relations in the community, they were all tangled up in their
politics and we are going to get rid of Jack Davidson and he is going to leave and
that kind of thing. So, I think it affected the way Jack would have handled public
relations if he had not been preoccupied with this.
H: What was the acrimony about?
B: Basically, it was power. Jack felt that they should listen to him more, that they
wanted to call the shots, particularly because Jack felt that Ken was calling shots
and he did not like that. There is a problem with the superintendency, and it is
true with other kinds of agencies too, between the chief executive officer and the
board, in who does what. By Florida law, the superintendent largely makes
recommendations, and the school board has to act on it. Of course, after you are
there two years like I was, I am afraid I did some things on my own that perhaps I
should have gone to the board with, but if you have a good relationship with the
board, you can do some of those things without bothering them with every little
thing. But this was essentially an argument about who called the shots. I know
when I became superintendent, and we still had some of those board members, I
made two appointments. I appointed Gene Witt to assistant superintendent when
Colonel Doyle left, and I appointed Wheeer Leeth, the principal from Manatee
High, to director of secondary education. Both of them were approved by the
board on three-to-two votes. That was one time I almost lost my cool. I said, if
you do not vote for these people, you are going to have to show cause. That is
MCBC 4 page 23
what the law said. They quickly reminded me that as long as the vote is for
approval, they do not have to do that. It was a three-to-two vote in both cases,
and that was when I still had those people on the board. What happened after I
became superintendent was a couple of those board members got into odds with
me, and they were the ones going against what I wanted to do. Fortunately, right
after that, they did not get re-elected.
H: Do you think that this acrimony was highlighted because you had switched over
to a board-appointed superintendent? Do you think that was a factor?
B: I think so, in the sense that one of their problems with Mr. Blackburn was that he
felt he was too powerful. In an appointed superintendent, their vision of that was
that he will do what we want him to do. That becomes a problem because, from
my standpoint as a superintendent, if the board is not going to listen to me, they
need to find somebody else. That does not mean they always have to agree with
me on everything, but I am the so-called educational expert that they hired to
give them advice. If they are not going to listen to me, then I cannot be effective.
Their version there was that if they got an appointed superintendent in, they
could pretty well tell him what to do. That throws the balance out.
H: Given all of that, why do you favor a court-appointed superintendent, like you
B: Because I think that an appointed superintendent can operate a little freer from
political pressures. A politically-elected superintendent spends a great deal of his
time making sure he is going to get re-elected, so he is politicking instead.
Instead of doing his job, he is out politicking, and sometimes his decisions are
based on not is what is best in his professional opinion but what is best
politically. As an appointed person, I do not have that kind of baggage. I can tell
them what I really think and what I really stand for. I know it is not perfect. The
secret to a good school system as far as the superintendent and the board are
concerned is a good working relationship between the board and the
superintendent. If you have that, then this other is not that important. After those
first two I had trouble with and they left, I had good boards after that. I had very
H: Which two were they?
B: Bill Lacey and Ted Griffin. They got to where they voted against anything. I think
Bill and Ted were the last two of that bunch.
H: Were you aware of any sort of interaction between Governor Kirk and the Justice
Department and the Nixon administration?
B: I do not remember anything like that.
MCBC 4 page 24
H: After all of this died down, Ken Cleary went on the record as stating that he was
in the midst of trying to work up another plan to submit to Judge Krentzmen. Do
you know what the details of that were and if anything came of this?
B: My memory was that the amendment that we made in the summer was done
through the University of Miami, they wrote the original plan for it. At least, my
memory is that they did. I guess you have to think in terms of, if you were the
judge, you would say to yourself, I am no expert on how to do this; I only know
that the law says to desegregate and that segregation is wrong. So, it would
seem a logical thing for him to do to turn to the so-called experts in this field to
give him advice on what to do. That was their job. That was their specific function
at the Desegregation Center, to work with school systems on desegregation
H: Do you know how the Center came to be set up, exactly?
B: I really do not, but I know that Mr. Blackburn and some other ex-superintendents
came to be active in that organization. Crocket Farnell, for example, from
Hillsborough County, and Joe Hall, I think, from Dade County was active in it,
H: Did you ever meet Judge Krentzmen?
B: No, I never met him.
H: Is it safe to say that he was an unpopular figure around here when all of this was
B: Yes, I heard him cussed a lot. Of course, everybody was against the
desegregation plan and hated him because he was the one who did it, and not
just the specific plan itself, but there were people who just did not feel that
federal courts ought to be telling school systems how to run their business,
government interference and that kind of thing. So, yes, he was pretty unpopular
H: Was there resentment against the administration in the school board itself, or did
they say, well, you all tried to do everything that you could?
B: I do not think there was any real resentment against the school system because
people knew that we did not have any choice. They would get mad at us when
there was something they did not like and take it out on us, maybe, sometimes,
but I think basically they understood that this was not our choice and we had to
do our jobs. You know, they did not agree that this was the way we ought to do it,
but they realized we had to.
MCBC 4 page 25
H: People have suggested that this whole story of the Manatee County crisis was in
large part due to just a clash of egos between Governor Kirk and Judge
Krentzmen. Would you agree with that characterization?
B: I do not know. The only thing I can say about that is it certainly came to the point
where it was a war of wills between them. Krentzmen told Kirk that he could not
do that, and Kirk said I am going to do it anyway. Of course, the judge finally
ended up getting rid of him by fining him. So, it was certainly a test of wills. I
suppose to some extent that was egos, but I think the ego thing was more on
Kirk's side than on Krentzmen. I really think Judge Krentzmen was trying to do
his job. A lot of people did not see it that way. They thought he was some kind of
H: Yes. There are a lot of comparisons of Governor Kirk to Orval Faubus of
Arkansas, Ross Barnett of Mississippi, and George Wallace of Alabama. What
do you make of those comparisons?
B: I personally do not think Kirk was as much of a bigot as they were. I do not think
his motivation really was based on race-hatred or anything like that. I think with
him it was just a political thing of trying to please people and show them that he
did not think it was right to have to do this. I never knew really whether it was the
specific plan he objected to as much as it was just that he did not think we ought
to desegregate. He never struck me as really being a bigot, and I thought
Faubus was. Wallace was, and Wallace changed.
H: Did you feel that black people of Manatee County were largely behind the
NAACP in enforcing the situation and advocating for the bussing?
B: Well, the black people got caught in a bind here because they wanted the
desegregation--of course, the NAACP brought that through--but then when it
happened, they are the ones who had to cope [with] getting bussed. That was a
mixed battle for them. Some of them felt, well, maybe that is what we ought to
do, and some of them felt it was not fair because we were not bussing the white
children. This is after we got the thing amended. So, they got caught in their own
trap, in one matter of speaking, because they wanted desegregation but they did
not want it all on their shoulders.
H: In the county as a whole, how do you feel that this situation influenced race
relations in Manatee County?
B: It sort of forced an issue. You know, when I was growing up, there was not a big
racial problem in [Gainesville] and the reason was that the black people, as the
white people loved to say, knew their place. So, you did not have big racial
problems because it was just understood that the whites were the haves and the
blacks were the have-nots, socially and economically and every other way. Well,
MCBC 4 page 26
this reached the point where that was not the situation anymore. Now, it was sort
of a confrontation. Are the blacks going to get their equal rights or not? Of
course, all that did not start in Manatee County. It started with Rosa Parks and
Martin Luther King and all these people. So, it turned into that kind of thing, and
what happened in Manatee County was, in a sense, whether we liked it or not,
we faced the issue and we worked our way through it. That is not saying that
race relations are perfect now, but they are a millennium ahead of where they
were. So, it went from this everybody-in-his-own-place kind of thing to we want
our rights to working the way through it. Pretty much now, you know, I can
remember in this county even after I moved here when you did not see blacks on
the golf courses and you did not see blacks in the restaurants. All of that has
H: So do you think the situation was good or bad for race relations?
B: It was a tough thing to go through, but in the long run, it was good, and I think
most people would agree with that.
H: What sort of significance does it have for Florida history or for American history?
B: I think it is part of the bigger picture of race relations. It is another story, like the
Martin Luther King story of how he tried to change things. In our own little way,
we changed things. It is the same kind of thing that has gone on all over the
country. So, it is historical in the sense that it did change things here. In other
places, the same things happened and things have been changed in other
places, too. There are still places where it is not good but a heck of a lot better
than it used to be. I think we just have our little place in history. One of the things
that somebody pointed out to me from the state department at the time was, in
the historical list of superintendents in the state of Florida, he listed Claude Kirk
in there as one superintendent. I had a pair of cufflinks a long time ago that Kirk
gave me. He came around and gave all the staff members--they were pretty
cheap--cufflinks, for tie clasps. Yes, he could be charming when he wanted to.
H: Let me ask you now: did I miss anything? Are there any particular memories
from this whole situation, angles that I have not asked about that you think is
B: No. The only thing I would say is that when you look back over the whole thing, if
it was not for the fact that there were some really well-meaning people among
the whites and the blacks, we could not have achieved it, particularly some of the
black people; although they might not have been real happy with what was going
on, they realized the need to move forward. Without those kinds of people who
helped us at that time, we never would have made it. I mentioned some of them.
People like Eddie Shannon, Kary Green, Roosevelt Jackson and Seymoure
Sailes and some of those black people really were a help.
MCBC 4 page 27
H: Are there any files that would perhaps be of use in dealing with all these plans
and all the logistical arrangements that had to be done that are available at the
administration that I could access?
B: Of course, the minutes of all the school board meetings are public record. Those
are the official public records of what goes on there in the school board, the
minutes. I do not know. You could ask them down there if they have anything
else that might be of use.
H: Do you know which department I would check with for that?
B: I think you would need to go to the superintendent's office and check in there
first and tell them what it is that you are interested in. Usually, when people
would come to my office and want to go back into the minutes, I would just get
my secretary to find out where they wanted to go and get the books out for them
and give them a place to sit down to look at them.
H: You mentioned some names, particularly in the black community. I have tried to
contact the Manatee County NAACP, and I have not been able to get in touch
with them. Certainly, I would like to talk with some people in the black
community, but are there any other names that perhaps I should know about to
possibly talk to who were involved with this situation?
B: I do not think of anybody else offhand. That is interesting, I was going to think
whether there were any of the white ministers and I cannot think of any of them
who really got themselves involved. Of course, the black ministers did, Bryant
and Lazier and those people who were connected with the NAACP.
H: And you do not know that they are still alive?
B: No, I do not know about either one of them. I have not heard from either one of
them in a long time.
H: Okay. I think this is as good a place as any to sign off with the interview, and I
thank you for your time, sir.
B: My pleasure.
H: This concludes the interview.