SOUTHEASTERN INDIAN ORAL HISTORY PROJECT
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
In Cooperation With the Seminole Tribe of Florida
INTERVIEWEE: Judge Roger Waybright
INTERVIEWER: Dr. R. T. King
September 25, 1978
K: Judge, I would like to start by having you give me a little
biographical information. Could you tell me please when you were
born and where?
W: I was born in Fernandina, Florida [now Fernandina Beach], January
20, 1914. That makes me sixty-four years old now.
K: Can you tell me something about your early life? Where you went to
W: Perhaps five months after I was born we moved to Jacksonville where
our home has been ever since. My father had been admitted to the
bar while he was a Baptist pastor in Crescent City. He did a little
practice of law in Fernandina Beach while he was a Baptist pastor
there. When he came to Jacksonville, he engaged full time in the
practice of law. I attended the public schools in Jacksonville,
went to high school at Riverside Military Academy in Gainesville,
Georgia, and attended college at Denison University in Granville,
Ohio,for three years. After the third year of undergraduate work,
as was at that time permissible, I entered law school at the College
of Law, University of Florida. Later, it became necessary to have
a bachelor's degree before you entered law school, but at that time
it was not.
K: What year did you enter the University of Florida's law school?
W: In the summer of 1933.
K: Right in the middle of the Depression?
W: Very much. I did not go just the winter terms, and as a consequence
I graduated from the three-year course in February 1936. At that
time I had just passed the twenty-second anniversary of my birth and
came to Jacksonville and began practicing law with my father, Edgar
W. Waybright. I then practiced law for twenty-four years in a private
practice. Then was asked by Governor LeRoy Collins to accept a
position as judge of the court that then existed, which has since
been merged with the circuit court called the Civil Court of Record
of Duval County. I served there for a year and a quarter as judge
of that court, and in the meantime, ran in a contested election for
judge of the circuit court to succeed a judge who was retiring. I
went on the bench of the circuit court, called the fourth judicial circuit of
Florida--January 2 or 3, 1961, served sixteen years, and retired
effective the last day of February 1977.
K: You are now general counsel for the city of Jacksonville?
W: No, I stayed retired for eight months, and then the general counsel
of the city of Jacksonville got in touch with me and asked me if I
would come up here in a capacity that they call "of counsel." So
far it has proved to be largely an advisory capacity. They have a
number-of younger lawyers up here and felt the need of some
experience. So I came here early in November 1977, after eight
months of retirement. I have been here since.
K: As a young man, did you have any contact with the Florida Seminoles?
K: Can you tell me when you first came in touch with them?
W: When I went with Mr. John 0. Jackson to sign the contract to
represent them in connection with the claim in which you are interested.
K: What could you tell me about John 0. Jackson?
W: He was older than I, perhaps ten, fifteen years older, practicing
law in Jacksonville. I understood he was also a civil engineer and
had something to do with the construction of the viaduct that still
stands, under which the railroad trains operated here. But he was
practicing law at that time. He had engaged in general practice. I
think at one time he was attorney for the state Game and Freshwater
Fish Commission and had rather extensive contacts around the state.
Other than that, I do not know a lot about him.
K: Do you know how he became interested in the Florida Seminoles?
W: Perhaps from him and perhaps from my father to whom he related it, I
received and retain the impression that it was probably through his
activities as attorney for the state Game and Freshwater Fish
Commission and his personal interest in hunting and fishing. He had
been down in that area and had met some of the Seminole Indians.
That is all I know.
K: I am under the impression that his wife had known some Seminole
families as a young girl. Do you know anything about that?
W: Not a thing. I do not think I ever met his wife, although I was
aware he was married.
K: Do you know if he ever arranged to buy, sell, or trade skins, furs,
and things of that nature for the Seminoles?
W: I have no knowledge about it.
K: Do you know if he ever represented them in any sort of legal
action prior to his taking on the Seminole claim?
W: I have no knowledge of it if he did. They were a tribe that had no
tribal legal actions. If there was anything like that, it must have
been on an individual basis representing individual Seminoles with
references to their personal affairs; and I have no knowledge of that.
K: When did he approach you to become a part of this claim?
W: First he approached my father. I think that had to be in the course
of about a year or so before the original attorney's contract was
K: Would that be about 19487
W: I am trying to find a note. The first attorney's contract was
executed on February 5, 1949, so I would say it was sometime in the
year or two before then that he got in touch with my father first.
Most, if not all, of the preliminary conversations about bringing
our firm into the representation of the tribe were discussed between
Mr. Jackson and my father. I really have no recollection of having
participated in a discussion; but either from having participated in
a discussion or from having talked to my father about it, I was aware
that it was being discussed and aware without any real enthusiasm, I
might say in all candor.
K: Did you ever find out who had contacted Jackson? Who had asked him
to represent the tribe?
W: No, I have the general understanding that some of the Seminoles did,
but if I ever knew which Seminoles it has long departed from my
memory. Their names would not have meant anything to me, since I
knew none of them. But that was the impression I got--that there
had been various Seminoles, perhaps representing themselves as
leaders of the tribe, who had been in touch with him and talking
with him about it. The problem was stimulated by communication from
the government about the Indian Claims Commission Act which went to
the tribe and, I suppose, caused them to discuss it among themselves.
At least that was the general understanding that I had. They
probably did not know any other lawyers on any basis, or if they did,
I was not aware of it. I suppose they talked to Mr. Jackson about
it; and I got the rather general impression that while he was not
averse to representing them, he did not feel he could handle it by
K: So he contacted your father?
K: Had he and your father done business before?
W: I do not know about that. My father had been active all over the
state both as a lawyer and in politics and was fairly well know. At
that time I was a young lawyer and by no means as well known as he
was, so it would not have been an unnatural thing. In those days we
represented people as lawyers over a much wider geographic area than
we did later. There were not as many lawyers in Florida then. I
remember the first few years that I practiced, beginning in 1936, I
spent about half my time ranging as far south as Daytona Beach and
as far west as Tampa and Monticello. That was not so in later years
when more lawyers came to practice in the outlying areas there. But
my father was well known, and I suppose Mr. Jackson thought that he
was well-equipped to handle the part of it that Mr. Jackson did not
feel that he could.
K: What were the steps to drawing up the contract?
W: The steps were, as I understand it, more or less prescribed by the
Department of Interior or the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Mr. Jackson
handled the whole thing. I have a vague impression that after these
various Seminoles began talking to him about it, he got in touch with
whichever it was--the Department of the Interior or the Bureau of
Indian Affairs--and said what are your regulations about attorney's
contracts; I am being asked to represent the tribe and that they
probably had some standard form of attorney's contract that they were
interested in. I know he handled the whole business--we did not
draft the contract in our office, and I saw it only shortly before we
went to Okeechobee to execute the attorney's contract.
K: When you went to Okeechobee to execute the contract, would that have
been the first time that you had any personal contact with the
Seminole Indians of Florida?
W: Yes. Oh, it is possible I may have gone along the Tamiami Trail and
stopped in one of those little shops they have there and gotten a
soft drink or something, but I mean any contact that involved any
conversation with them.
K: What role did the Bureau of Indian Affairs play in setting up the
conference in Okeechobee--one in which the contract was finally
drawn up and signed?
W: I rather imagine that they played the principal role in the sense
that they went through their agent, Mr. Marmon. If I recall
correctly, they had rather rigid specifications about how these
contracts were supposed to be executed, how the people who repre-
sented the tribe were supposed to be chosen, all that sort of thing.
I had nothing to do with the arrangements and simply went there at
the appointed time and met with the delegates who were going to sign
the contract for the tribe, with the county judge of Okeechobee
County, and of course with Mr. John 0. Jackson and the Indian agent.
Somebody else made all the arrangements, but they were all there
together, and someone had to arrange it.
K: This is Okeechobee City you are talking about?
W: Yes, I think we met at the county courthouse door or periphery
there. John 0. Jackson introduced me to whatever there were--six,
eight, or ten Seminoles, and we went into some sort of room. I
believe the Indian agent talked to the Seminoles in an attempt to
make sure that they were actually representing the various scattered
bits of the tribe. Although that may have happened at the time, the
second contract was executed instead of the first--it sort of runs
together in my mind. And then the county judge was asked to come
in, and through an interpreter I think he made some sort of inquiry
of them as to whether they represented the tribe and that sort of
thing--all this is from memory of a long time ago, but it was more
or less that way.
J: Was it necessary to translate English into two different Indian
languages or to translate two different Indian languages into English
or were you dealing with only a single language?
W: I cannot remember. I remember a later meeting very clearly because
everything I said had to be translated into two different languages.
Whether that was so at this particular first meeting, I cannot
K: Of course you have before you a list of the names of the people who
were there. Do you personally remember any of them?
W: No, nor do I have a list of their names.
K: Well, that was appended to the copy of the contract that I had with
the names of the Indians inside.
W: I do not have a copy of the contract.
K: I got it from Effie Knowles who had a copy of it, of course. If you
would like a copy for your files, then I will send you one.
W: Not particularly. I discarded it years ago and would have no
use for it.
W: The difficulty is I cannot remember whether on one occasion or
another I met a particular person. Before you turned on the recorder
you mentioned the name Frank Shore and I do remember that at some
time at some meeting I met Frank Shore. But whether it was at this
initial meeting, I do not know. I am sure you are aware there are a
limited number of family names in the tribe, and it is awful easy to
get confused about whether you are talking about one Osceola or
another and all that sort of thing. I have no record in my file
anymore of who was there. They would have signed the contract, yes.
K: And you do not have any personal recollection of any of the Indians?
K: Any of their characteristics?
K: Can you remember if one Indian stood out as being perhaps a leader of
W: No one gave me that impression. It was pretty much that one or two
were from each reservation and one or two representatives were "off-
reservation" Indians and that sort of thing. I never associated them
(because of not knowing them before) with the particular area from
which they came, and I could not possibly do it now. But no one man
stood out as a tribal leader. Apparently they were delegates from the
various areas and the whole group did not regard anybody as the bell
K: Do you remember from the interpretation whether or not the Indians
claimed to represent the interests of the entire Seminole Tribe of
W: It was so related to me in the English translation, yes. Inquiries
were conducted by the Indian agent primarily. He was satisfied with
it. It was related that they represented all the various segments of
the tribe and had been chosen by the various segments to come and do
this. Now that is the way it was expressed to me.
K: Were any minutes kept at that meeting?
W: Oh, I am sure there were not. I have no recollection that anybody
was writing anything down. That was before the days of tape
recorders, and I am quite sure there was no court reporter there. I
am sure no minutes were kept. Now what the Indian agent may have
written down in the way of notes that he made to report to Washington,
I have no idea.
K: At the time that the contract was drawn up, were you personally
satisfied that the Indians present were the qualified representatives
of the Seminole people?
W: I certainly was. Otherwise, I would have turned around and come back
home and never gone back again.
K: Well, I knew that, but I wanted to get that on the tape. Do you know
what basis was given for the authority of these people gathered there
in council, the Seminoles?
W: It was my understanding that whatever the requirements of the Bureau
of Indian Affairs of the Department of the Interior were to ensure
that they had been chosen by the various segments of the people to
represent the tribe. I had no idea what those requirements were--
whether it was an "everybody come to a village meeting" type of thing
and nominate and vote, or whether it was something more loose than
that. I have no idea.
K: To your knowledge was an anthropologist or an historian or any other
knowledgeable person ever consulted on the nature of authority among
W: Not in that sense. As we went along with the research, of course, we
became aware of the general history of how the Seminoles got to be
the Seminoles and of the various leaders that they have and so on.
But it was a highly fractionated group of people of changing
composition as Creeks would come down into Florida. Only in times of
extreme emergency such as war did they ever get together on who would
be the equivalent of a war chief or political chief for a temporary
purpose or something like that. Other than that, no. We certainly
did not get any anthropologist to go in and tell us how the tribe was
organized, because we understood it was not organized at all.
K: Did you ever hear of an organization called the Tribal Business
Committee? It went by several names. It was called the business
committee at one point and another point it was called Trustees of
the Seminole Tribe in Florida. It finally evolved into what was known
as the constitution committee. Do you recollect ever running into
W: No. In later years, the Indians got some funds and got some cattle.
Through some process they had some people called the committee or
trustees who ran the cattle operation, but I do not think that is what
you are talking about.
K: Well, it is, actually. See, the people who signed that contract were
trustees of the cattle program.
W: Well, 1 was unaware of it.
K: Yes, there were a number of things as well. Later on the composition
of that committee, the one that gathered to sign the contract, became,
through several evolutions which I am not entirely familiar with, the
W: I see.
K: But I thought perhaps you might have been aware of these organizations
at that time.
W: No. I had no awareness of them.
K: Do you know whether or not the Baptist church had anything to do with
the bringing of the claim against the United States government?
W: They certainly had nothing to do with it during the time that I had any
connection with it.
K: Were there any representatives of the church present at the signing
of the contract?
W: Not unless some of the Seminoles were Baptist or the county judge
might have been a Baptist, but other than that I do not know.
K: When the contract was signed were you aware that there was signifi-
cant opposition to it?
W: None. It was represented to the contrary to me.
K: Who represented it to you that way? Was it the agent Marmon?
W: Probably so. Not of his own thinking so much as he was saying these
people say they represent these various segments, and apparently the
whole tribe wants this thing--that sort of thing. In that sense it
K: A few minutes ago you mentioned a second contract that was signed.
What was the reason for having two contracts?
W: I have to refer to my file and the letter that I sent to the tribal
council when I asked to be released from further representation of the
tribe because I do not really remember independently of that. But I
say in that letter that when that contract of February 5, 1949 was
submitted to the commissioner of [The Bureau of] Indian Affairs, he
wished some changes made; and on October 15, 1949, Mr. Jackson and I
executed a new attorney's contract for the tribe before the county
judge at the county courthouse of Okeechobee.
K: Can you remember what those changes were?
W: I do not, nor what they were or why or anything else.
K: Do you recollect whether they were changes of substance or form?
Sorry to keep pressing you on that....
W: I really do not know.
W: I think either Mr. Jackson sent the contract to Washington, or the
Indian agent did; and I assume that the commissioner promptly wrote a
letter down expressing whatever it was, and Mr. Jackson drafted a new
contract in accordance with it. According to what I understood from
him, he was just trying to comply with whatever their regulations
were; and I have no recollection about what the changes were or why
or whether they were of substance or just form.
K: Do you know if any of the Indians present at that meeting could either
read, write, or speak English?
W: I have the impression that they could neither read, write, nor speak
English because they did not do any reading of the contract at that
place. They did not speak any English, and the conversation was more
or less translated.
K: Was there a white man present who could translate the English
contract into the Indian language for them?
W: You say a white man; the Indian agent was an Indian. Mr. Marmon, I
think, was a member of the Digger Tribe out in the Southwest somewhere.
K: I was not aware of that.
W: Yes, well, he just mentioned it casually to me sometime while we were
riding along some road. He is the one who did the talking back and
forth. Now I do not know that he knew either of the Seminole dialects,
and I think he was doing his conversing with these Seminoles there
through others. I think he spoke English, and somebody else in the
group that signed the contract must have been translating back and
forth. So long ago I really have a difficulty remembering the exact
K: When did you first become aware that there was opposition in the tribe
to the claim?
W: When Mr. 0. B. White became visible, and I remember so little about it
I will have to turn to my letter asking to be released from the
contract. Mr. 0. B. White, a Miami attorney, of whom I had previously
known nothing, wrote a letter dated August 1, 1950. I do not see in
here to whom it was written. I assume it was written to me, but it
might have been written to Mr. Jackson. In that letter Mr. White
asserted that he had been representing the Seminole Indians of south
Florida for some twenty years, that he represented a group of non-
reservation Indians who were not notified of the signing of the
contract with us, and that a meeting of the tribe should be held at
which Mr. Jackson and I could inform the non-reservation Seminiles of
the progress of the case presenting the tribe's claims. That was my
first indication that there was anything other than unanimity among
K: Did you ever meet Mr. White?
W: Yes! There was a meeting....
K: What sort of a fellow was he?
W: He was slightly shorter than average height, slightly stockier than
average, of mature years and that is about all I remember about him.
K: You cannot remember having perhaps passed any judgment on his motives
for becoming involved in this?
W: Well, I have no qualifications as a psychiatrist or psychologist. I
have my own personal opinion as to his motives, but would not care to
K: Okay, fine. Did you ever meet Mr. Morrell Cozier, who was the
information officer for the Bureau of Indian Affairs?
W: I do not think so. The name seems unfamiliar to me.
K: He came to Florida in 1954 when Commissioner Glen L. Emmons, who was
commissioner of Indian affairs at that time, met with various groups
of Seminoles both on and off the reservations. Were you aware of that
group of meetings?
W: I do not think so. I think I met with Mr. Emmons in Washington at one
K: Could you tell me about that then--about your meeting with Mr. Emmons
and of what passed?
W: At the meeting, I do not remember if he mentioned whether he had been
to Florida or not.
K: The date is not important; just tell me what happened.
W: I seem to have no record of the date; but several years after we had
actually filed a petition with the Indian Claims Commission, I got a
long distance call, I believe from a commissioner of Indian affairs,
asking if it would be convenient for me to come to Washington to
discuss the litigation with him. It was sometime very close to the
Christmas season, but I do not even remember the year. In any event
we made an appointment. I went to Washington and met with him and he
may have had someone else from his staff there with him. He was very
interested in the progress or lack of progress of the claim and in my
evaluation of its success. So I told him as best I could the
frustrations and aggravations of trying to move this thing along and
not being able to move it as fast as I'wanted to. Told him that I
thought when we finally got it to trial we had a reasonable chance of
success, although to what extent was still very much up in the air,
because in effect we were claiming compensation for all of Florida,
and it could have come out at that, or several stages less than that,
down to compensation for about 4,000,000 acres. It was a pleasant
conversation. I got the impression that he was an automobile dealer
from somewhere out in Colorado or somewhere like that and he was
just very much interested in the welfare of the various Indian tribes
and wanted to keep posted and thought I would be able to post him.
I guess I was in a position to post him as well as anyone could. At
that time I just could not seem to get that thing moving. They had
two attorneys for the government handling all the Indian tribes'
claims under this Indian Claims Commission Act--some 500-odd in
number. They had desks in the same office; and I got the impression,
if I may phrase it that way, more in a spirit of jest than otherwise,
that they really thought the litigation would be passed on to their
children to complete. They did not seem concerned about it. I went
over and talked to the chairman of the Indian Claims Commission. I
tried to get the thing moving....
K: Who would that have been?
W: I do not remember. I got in touch with both of the senators from
Florida by mail, told them what the problem was, and asked them if
they could exercise any influence to get the Department of Justice
attorneys to go ahead and file their answer so we could get it set for
trial. With notable lack of success--nobody seemed to think it was
important that these antiquated claims should move with any blinding
speed, but that was my meeting with the commissioner of Indian
K: How much of your own time were you putting in on this project at that
W: It varied from time to time. At the fee scales that were in vogue at
that time, as distinguished from today, I would say that I probably
put in $50,000-$100,000 worth of work through the years.
K: Did you ever receive any compensation for that?
W: None. Or any reimbursement of some thousands of dollars of out-of-
pocket expense either.
K: Did any of the Indians themselves make the pursuit of the claim dif-
ficult for you?
W: Not other than the fact that at least one Indian had to be promoting
0. B. White; and at a later time at least one Indian had to be
promoting another young lawyer called Morton Silver, which came up in
later years and went in litigation all the way to the United States
Supreme Court. It was a most unpleasant sort of thing. I assume that
each of them had at least one Indian who was encouraging him. The
Indians themselves never said anything to me to indicate they were
opposed to it. On one occasion we had a meeting on the trail. I
think the Indian agent arranged the meeting specifically in the heart
of what was said to be a relatively few number of dissidents--this was
some years after we had filed the claim before the Indian Claims
Commission. Hours of discussion had to be translated into both
Indian dialects. As I recall, various questions were asked by the
Indians and I would answer the questions. I came away from that
meeting with the impression and the assurance that there really was
not any dissidence to speak of; that it was more a lack of knowledge,
and that this meeting had dissipated the lack of knowledge; that
while they might not understand all the complexities involved, it was
not a matter of opposition. So reassured, I kept on the case.
K: Now you said that meeting was held on the Tamiami Trail. Of course
the Tamiami Trail is a pretty long stretch of highway. Can you
remember which camp it was held at?
W: That meeting was held at William McKinley Osceola's camp off the
Tamiami Trail on August 20, 1950, six days after we had filed with
the Indian claims Commission the printed petition presenting the
tribe's claims. 0. B. White was there....
K: Do you remember when Morton Silver became a part of the case?
W: On January 20, 1954, we received a letter from Mr. Morton H. Silver
representing himself to be attorney for an unspecified number of the
members of the tribe and asking if we were willing to amend the claim
so that it would not include those Indians whom he purported to
represent, since they desired not to participate in any money award
which might be received. We wrote him that we would not do that, that
the claim was for the tribe as a whole and could not be presented for
any fractional part of the tribe or exclusive of any part of the tribe.
It was a tribal claim or no claim at all.
K: Did you know at that time why the traditionalist Indians did not want
to receive any money? It must have come as quite a shock to you to
see people asking to be let out of a claim settlement!
W: Either then or later, it seeped into my consciousness that they were
afraid that if they pressed this claim some future benefits--medical
and otherwise--that they might be able to get from the United States
government might not be forthcoming if they had gotten a money award.
K: Did you know that the United States was trying to terminate federal
responsibilities to the Seminoles at that time?
W: Yes, it was a matter widely publicized in the press.
K: Did you know if that was ever discussed with the Indians who developed
W: Well, it was not discussed by me, but I suspect it was thoroughly
discussed among the Indians because there was certainly no secret....
K: There were a number of misapprehensions concerning this under which
the Indians suffered, and still do, that they did not fully understand
the implications of federal termination. There were other reasons as
well for them not wanting to receive any money which I will not go
into--that is not my job to talk into this thing. Can you tell me
anything about Morton Silver? You stated earlier that he was a young
man. I understand that he came from Maryland and was only in the Miami
area for a short time before he became the attorney for the so-called
Seminole-Miccosukee Tribe, I believe they called themselves at that
W: I do not think I ever laid eyes on him. I think all the contact I had
with him was either in correspondence with him or by seeing papers
he filed all the way up the United States Supreme Court. I think my
impression of him as a young man came from looking him up in some
lawyer's directory and finding out how recently he had been admitted
to the Florida Bar. I know nothing about him.
K: Well, there was a great deal of discussion then, in fact there is some
still going on now, about a rumor to the effect that Morton Silver was
a member of the Communist party or had Communist sympathies--something
of that nature. Do you remember anything like that ever coming up?
K: The Miccosukee Tribe, or what came to be known as the Miccosukee
Tribe, later attended a celebration in Havana celebrating the success-
ful 1959 revolution. They were personally invited by Fidel Castro and
Morton Silver seems to have something to do with this. Do you know
anything about that?
W: Never heard of it before.
K: Well, it was quite an event. They were feted and had a big parade and
had a good time while they were down there. That was an effort to get
some sort of foreign recognition for their claims to be legal
representative for the Seminole people of the state of Florida, to
have the Indian nation a separate part from the rest of the country.
Exactly what led to your 1957 resignation of your position as claims
attorney for the tribe?
W: There were several reasons for it, some of which I did not express in
my letter to the tribe and do not wish to discuss here. But the
primary reason expressed in my letter to the tribe was that finally
they achieved a formal tribal organization at an election held on
August 21, 1957, at which the Seminole Indians of Florida adopted a
constitution and bylaws and organized with a tribal council. I learned
from newspaper reports, because I was not there, that of the slightly
more than 1,000 Seminole Indians in Florida, 448 were adults of
twenty-one and greater ages and thus entitled to vote. Of those 448
adults, 278, that is about sixty-two percent, lived on the-reservations;
and 170,-or about thirty-eight percent, lived off the reservations.
Of the 278 adults living on the reservations, 217 voted for and five
against the proposed constitution, fifty-six not voting at all. Of the
170 adults living off the reservations, only twenty-four voted for the
constitution, and 146 did not vote at all but boycotted the election....
Mr. Morton H. Silver had announced to the Miami newspapers before that
election that his adherents would boycott the election inasmuch as
they already had what he called a constitution approved by the Florida
cabinet. So I regarded that election result as a rather queer
demonstration that about one-third of the adult Seminoles in Florida
were opposed to the presenting of the claims of the tribe to the
Indian Claims Commission and thus if effect opposed to our repre-
senting the tribe in connection with those claims. I did not care
to continue as an attorney attempting to present the claims of a
group of people, one-third of whom did not want me to do it. That,
in essence, is the reason I stated for wanting to withdraw.
K: Did you receive any return communication from the tribe or from the
Bureau of Indian Affairs concerning this?
W: From the tribe, yes, because my letter was addressed to the tribe, and
I received a communication from Laura May Osceola, the secretary of
the tribal council, a letter dated November 13, 1957 stating that the
council had directed her to write to me with regard to my letter, that
they would like to have me meet with them because it was long and
technical in some parts. I responded that I saw no useful purpose in
meeting with the tribal council. That, boiled down, the reason why I
wished to be released from the contract was that I did not believe
that I could reasonably be expected to spend additional years of work
and additional thousands of dollars in an effort to obtain compensation
for a tribe one-third of the members of which had rather clearly
indicated that they were opposed to my efforts. Following that, I did
receive a letter from Mr. Marmon. I received -from Laura May Osceola
as secretary of the tribal council, with the signature of Betty May
Jumper as vice-chairman of the tribal council approving it, a copy of
a resolution that the tribal council had adopted in effect approving
my request that I be permitted to withdraw from representation of the
tribe. That was dated December 2, 1957.
K: Then what did Marmon say?
W: Oh, Mr. Marmon's letter was dated November 14, 1957. I see now that
I look at it that it was not addressed to me, it was addressed to
Miss Effie Knowles. But he recited in it that I had requested the
tribe to let me withdraw, that on November 4 he had read my letter to
the tribal council at the regular monthly meeting, that they had
expressed deep regret that I chose to withdraw from acting as their
attorney and prosecuting the case, and that he had suggested to the
council that they review the letter and take some action at their next
meeting on December 2.
K: Did you have anything to do with their finding a new attorney after
you gave up?
W: I said in my letter to the tribal council that I was withdrawing,
and in a subsequent letter I informed them my father had died after
I had written them the first letter. My letter asking to withdraw
asked for myself and for my father to withdraw. The second letter
said there was no need to act on the request that my father withdraw;
he was dead. I said this has nothing to do with the relationship of
the tribe with Mr. John 0. Jackson, Miss Effie Knowles, or Mr. Guy
Martin. That was up to the tribe and them. So I took no part in it
by way of recommendation at all.
K: It has been my understanding that you were carrying the major load
here of the litigation. Is that true?
W: I would say I was principal attorney. Now, we divided the tasks.
Miss Effie Knowles did all the research, and I am happy to say that
she has advised me that eventually she was paid some money for it.
She earned every penny of it and more. Mr. Guy Martin in Washington
was supposed to handle the contact with the Indian Claims Commission
and be the man on the spot in Washington to handle the detail work
that came up. Mr. Jackson was really the one in touch with the
tribe. Except for the several occasions on which I met with either
delegates of the tribe or a tribal meeting, I personally had no
contact with the tribe. That was Mr. Jackson and he was the one they
sought out in the first place; he was the one who got us involved in
it. So I would not want to give the impression that I did all the
work. I did my fair share of it, but others did work on it.
K: And others had to spend as much money as you did in the pursuit of
the claim without receiving any compensation?
W: I think Mr. Martin spent some money, and I understand from Miss
Knowles that he was eventually compensated something like $50,000.
K: What about Mr. Jackson?
W: Well, I do not know. He, of course, would be traveling around back
and forth down there and, I suppose, had some travel expenses. Far
as I recall, he did not participate in the expensive printing of the
petition and that sort of thing, the out-of-pocket expenses in
connection with the litigation. I do not think he did.
K: How much longer did he continue to represent the tribe after you
W: 'Til he died.
K: And that was when?
W: I do not remember. It was a number of years later, but it has also
been a number of years before now. I really do not remember.
K: Of course, you were succeeded by Roy Strubel of Miami. Who was
responsible for hiring him?
W: I do not know. I suspect that Miss Knowles had something to do with
it. I understand that she perhaps had an office and was doing some
kind of law practice with Mr. Strubel down there, and maybe it was
after John 0. Jackson died that she felt someone ought to get in on
it and got him interested. I assume she took it up with the tribe
and had his position regularized in some fashion. I had nothing to
do with it.
K: Why have you never received any money for your work?
W: I have never asked for any. I was so glad to get out of the thing,
so disgusted with myself for having ever gotten into it and then
being faced with this situation where one-third of the tribe
apparently did not want me in there, or at least did not want to
pursue the claims--I do not think they had anything against me
personally--that I was just delighted to get out.
K: Did you feel that you had been deceived as to the authority of the
people who had contracted to have you represent the tribe?
W: I would hesitate to say that it was a deliberate deception on the
part of anybody because then I would have to say who it was who
deceived me. Perhaps it was just that those who in good faith said
they represented the tribe were not aware of the dissent.
K: Is it that or some other source of disgust that led you to resign?
Is it only the fact that you felt that those people did not represent
the entire tribe that led to your resignation or was there some other
W: There were some other factors which I do not care to discuss, frankly.
W: They were discussed between me and the other lawyers who were involved
in it; but I saw no reason to take them up with the tribe because, as
between the tribe and myself, the fact was I did not have the support
of more than two-thirds of the tribe for the litigation.
K: Do you know anything about the 1935 referendum held on whether or not
to accept the conditions of the Indian Reorganization Act? There was
a referendum held in West Palm Beach. It was supposed to have been a
tribal-wide thing held in 1935?
W: I know nothing about it.
K: The court tried to organize only under the provisions of the Indian
Reorganization Act and that would be the source of any authority
that the tribal organization had--the IRA. Can you tell me anything
about the 1957 election? Actually the constitutional referendum
first and then the election?
W: I cannot tell you anything of personal knowledge about it. I do not
know the source of my information. In my letter to the tribe of
October 11, 1957, I just started the letter by saying, "It is my
understanding that at the election called for that purpose by the
secretary of the interior and held on August 21, 1957," and so forth.
K: Okay, we have already gone through that. Is there anything else
that you can tell me that you think I ought to know or that you think
anybody doing research on the Seminole Indians ought to know? Either
about the Seminoles or about the claims suit or about the people who
were intimately involved with the Seminoles during that period?
W: Not that I can think of.
K: Well, 1 have no further questions. Thank you very much.