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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida
ORAL HISTORY PROJECT
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
INTERVIEWEE: Dr. U. S. Gordon
INTERVIEWER: Dr. Samuel Proctor
DATE: July 10, 1973
P: We're recording an oral history interview with Dr. U. S. Gordon,
Pastor Emeritus of the Presbyterian Church of Gainesville. The
interview is being conducted at the Florida State Museum, Room
126. This is Tuesday afternoon, July 10, 1973. Let me first
ask you what does U. S. stand for?
G: I was named for a Confederate soldier, Ulysses Short, who was
a cavalryman with Forrest. I have to usually explain that I
wasn't named for Ulysses S. Grant, though I think he was a
very worthy man and a very magnanimous man in his treatment of
Lee at the surrender at Appomattox. I was named for this young
cavalryman of Forrest, whose exploits are familiar to older
people in West Tennessee, North Alabama, and North Mississippi.
P: Preacher, where were you born?
G: I was born in Sardis, Mississippi. Penola County. That's about
fifty miles south of Memphis, Tennessee, on Interstate 51.
P: When were you born, preacher?
G: I was born December 3, 1893. I'll be eighty years old this
P: You grew up in Mississippi?
G: I grew up there. I graduated from Penola High School, which took
in practically all of the northern end of the county. I went to
Southwestern College, which was then in Clarksville, Tennessee--
now in Memphis--a liberal arts college. From there I went to the
theological seminary for three years in Louisville, Kentucky.
P: Preacher, can you give me some dates as to your high school and
G: Yes, I graduated from high school in 1910; I stayed out of school
a year because my parents thought I was too young to go off to
college. I graduated from college in 1915. I had two years there
in the seminary before finishing at Louisville Seminary, Louisville,
P: Let's talk a little bit about your family.
G: I had two brothers, Charles and Will. My mother and father
were mature people when we were born. My father was a planter.
He was not a rich man, but he always paid his debts. He was
an elder in the Presbyterian Church, and they were church-going
people. We were very devoted to our parents, and looked up to
them with great affection and respect.
My father's name was Charles Law Gordon. He was a native
of Maury County, Tennessee, near Columbia where his father who
was a Confederate officer was located in the 1840s. His father
was a Revolutionary soldier--Chaplain Gordon. He fought at the
Battle of King's Mountain and is my great-grandfather buried
under the Presbyterian Church at North Wilksboro,North Carolina.
My mother's name was Alice Short. They too came from Tennessee
in the 1840s, bringing their slaves with them and settling in
Penola County, west of this little town of Sardis. That land
is still in the family.
P: And your father was a farmer?
G: A farmer, right. He had started out as an engineer, having
graduated from the old University of Nashville. He built some
of the levees along the Mississippi River. But it was the wish
and desire of my mother's father that they all cluster around
and live in the same community off the land. So that was the
was the way it was done.
P: Preacher, what is your earliest childhood memory?
G: My earliest childhood memory is of two that we
had, Minnie and Ida, our very warm and loving atmosphere in the
home, and sports that we indulged in. My father was a great
hunter. Fishing, playing' baseball--we had lots of horses to
P: What determined you to go to the particular school that you
G: It was a Presbyterian school, and we were rather staunch Pres-
byterians. It was a denominational college and a small college
and that was the principal motive I suppose. They thought that
they'd have good influences--first time I had left home.
P: How did you get to college?
G: On a train. That seemed a great distance. It was about 250 miles
from home, but it seemed like a great distance because it was a
a six-hour run from Memphis--it stopped everywhere. Then
you got a train that went to Crossville on the L + N. [It]
got there about seven-thirty at night [and] stopped along
every crossroads along the way.
P: A milk train?
G: Yes, that's right.
P: How long were you at that college?
G: I was there four years when I got my bachelor's degree, and one
year in the theological seminary which then existed alongside
of that college, but which was discontinued about 1920. I got
my degree in 1915.
P: What did you do then?
G: I went to the seminary on the same campus for nine months. Then,
because the number of the faculty had decreased and for financial
reasons,they had to discontinue that seminary, which was a very
good one. Most of the students went to Louisville, a more pro-
sperous and well-staffed seminary than the one that I speak of.
P: What was the name of the seminary?
G: It was the Southwestern Presbyterian Seminary.
P: Louisville, Kentucky?
G: No. Louisville, Kentucky was the Presbyterian Seminary of
Kentucky in Louisville. The seminary that I had one year
was in Clarksville alongside the college on the same campus.
They used some of the same faculty in the seminary.
P: When you got your seminary degree, what did you do?
G: I went for a year. When all of the other young men my age were
in the army, I had conscientious scruples against using my calling
as a dugout to protect me from service in the army. I waived
exemption in Penola County, Mississippi and went into the army,
and I was there something over a year.
P: You got your degree before the war didn't you?
G: Yes. I got my degree in 1917.
P: You enlisted and what did you do in the army?
G: We were placed in an infantry outfit, and those who had had
college training were given an option of going to officer's
training school or taking a course looking forward to being
a surgical assistant in field hospitals where we would have
all been made sergeants. I thought it would be interesting
to be in that particular branch. I was one of twenty selected
to go to Mayo's Hospital in Rochester, Minnesota, where we
spent several months in training to assist in field surgery
and field hospitals.
P: How long were you in the army?
G: Oh, something over a year. I've forgotten the exact date.
P: Did you go overseas?
G: No, we did not. We were scheduled to go overseas and the
Armistice was signed. The flu was raging at that time, and
we were told that a great many of them died from the flu.
In fact,,I was at Fort Snelling, Minnesota when the Armistice
came, getting ready to go across. We had a great list of
deaths there from influenza, and nearly everybody was sick
with it--lots of them died.
P: You did not use your ministerial frame in the military?
G: No, I did not. I was then ready to go into the ministry. I
had been ordained because my father wanted me to be ordained
before I went into the army, and so I was.
P: Where were you ordained?
G: In Sardis, Mississippi, in the church in which I was reared
and baptized as a child.
P: Do you remember that date?
G: It was June 3, 1917, I believe.
P: Do you remember the date you went into the service?
G: It was the following autumn.
P: Just a couple of months after you had gone through Fort Snelling?
G: Yes, that's right.
P: So you had not yet occupied a pulpit when you came out?
G: No. I had been called to the church at Charleston, Mississippi,
in Tallahassee County. I had gone down there and preached a
few Sundays for them, and they understood my position. All of
the young men there were in the army. [I] felt that I was in
the wrong spot if I were not doing the same thing. I was able-
bodied, healthy, and had no incumbrances, and so I felt with
my conscience to go on into the service.
P: What took you into the ministry,Preacher?
G: I never had any beatific vision with a hand rising on the sky
saying,"go preach." I was [from] a Christian home where the
Bible was read, where we had family prayers, where we went to
church--the influence of the ministers that we had. Then,when
I went to college, I belonged to Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity.
Most of the fraternity were boys studying for the ministry.
That had a great influence.
P: Do you feel that you were fulfilling your ambition by going
into the ministry?
G: Yes. I do. That's what I wanted to do.
P: You had no desire to be an accountant, doctor, or a lawyer?
G: No, sir. I thought if you're in the ministry you've got the
best pay for the least work!
P: Where were you discharged?
G: At Fort Snelling, Minnesota.
P: And you came home to Mississippi?
G: I came home. There was a big election going on at the time,
and I went up to see the votes counted. There were two factions,
and one of my uncles was shot down. I was standing right next
to him when this happened, and another was sorely wounded.
Oneof those red hot elections they used to have between factions.
He was shot down by a man in the opposing faction from the dark--
had taken a very active part in the election. I just happened
to be there as a spectator. I hadn't been home--still had on
my uniform--hadn't been home more than two or three days. It
was a sad thing. They were both fine men. Uncle Bob was killed;
Uncle George was wounded, but he recovered and lived a good many
years. They were both elderly men. Uncle George must have
been in his sixties; Bob was in his fifties.
P: Mississippi's politics were pretty violent in those days?
G: Yes they were, and I suppose to some extent still are. People
got very much heated up about politics.
P: What did you do after that?
G: I went back to Charleston, Mississippi where I had gone before
the service. I stayed there until 1922 and had a very happy
pastorate in small country churches that were lined up with
a church in Charleston. New Hope, Sardinia, Phillips--small
churches in a rural area. I used to ride a horse--sometimes
a mule. [I] bought a Model-T, tried to run it, and couldn't
pay for it. I got $600 a year for what I did. That's where
it didn't work out that you got the most pay for the least
work, because you had to work hard and you didn't get much
P: What were your responsibilities as a country preacher?
G: You visited the people and you tried to get them into active
work and worship of the church. You did just what any pastor
does: you get to know people and are with them in their troubles,
in their happiness, in their vicissitudes, and ups and downs.
You find some wonderful friends--the best that anybody could ever
P: But it was a seven-day-a week job?
G: Yes, of course. There was always interludes when you would go
hunting and fishing. I always loved to do both. That was an
identifying experience with lots of people who liked to do the
P: What brought your pastorate to an end in Charleston?
G: I was called to a church at the state university in Starkville,
Mississippi. That was in 1922, and it was like tearing some
heartstrings to leave where I was. I was just thirty miles
from my old home--my parents. But it wasn't too far to Starkville--
probably a hundred miles--where Mississippi State University is
presently located. I went there in July, 1922.
P: Was this a step upwards for you?
G: I wouldn't say that. It was a more prominent church in a way but
in the ministry you don't speak about,or shouldn't speak about,
steps. It was larger to some extent. They didn't have too
much money in either place. There were a lot of college pro-
fessors; you ought to know that.
P: I know exactly what you're talking about.
G: As a college professor you're one of the best paid people!
P: Let's not get into that, preacher.
G: It was quite an opportunity there. They had a very large student
body--probably 1800 students. Mississippi being a rural state,
they were mostly from small towns--good-hearted and friendly. So
I got to know lots of the students when I was there.
P: How long were you at Starkville?
G: I was there until 1926.
P: You left Starkville and went where?
G: I went to Memphis as associate pastor with Dr. A.B. Curry, who
incidentally,was pastor in Gainesville from 1883 to 1895--one
of the grandest people I ever knew. He was pastor of a very
influential church in Memphis, the Second Presbyterian Church,
and I had some very happy years there. Dr. Curry was rather
venerable at the time. Man of wonderful presence, gifts, and
graces--he had all of them. I owe as much to Dr. Curry, or more,
probably,than any other individual,even in the theological semi-
nary. He was a magnificent Christian man.
P: And he had roots here in Gainesville?
G: He was here in Gainesville from 1883 to 1895, and he went from
here to Birmingham. Incidentally, I was called to that same
church after I had been here six years. He went, but I stayed.
P: And your paths crossed when you went to Memphis in 1926.
G: That's right.
P: What were your responsibilities?
G: Well, the responsibilities there were to try to corral, and to
interest in the work of the church,some of the younger people.
I was a member of two athletic clubs where a lot of them were
members also. I alternated the services preaching with Dr.
Curry. That was a generous provision on his part, because
I was young and didn't have the knowledge, experience, and
the wisdom that he had. But he would insist that I preach
on alternate services with him. I looked up to Dr. Curry
with great respect, reverence, and affection.
P: How long were you at Memphis?
G: I was there two years.
P: So, this brings us up to 1928 then.
G: To 1928. One day in August, 1928 Dr. Curry was on vacation. In
the middle of August I had a call as we have it in the Presbyterian
Church. It was signed by a large committee from the First
Presbyterian Church in Gainesville to come here as their minister.
I had never dreamed of being anywhere else but in the Mississippi
Valley; but I felt that if there were people who called me sight
unseen,without a visitation or a trial sermon,that was the
leading of the spirit if I was ever going to change. I had had
some calls elsewhere while I was there. When Dr. Curry came
back, he viewed this with a considerable degree of sadness and
regret,as I did. But he spoke many kind and loving words about
people in Gainesville where he had preached. I came down here
September 11, 1928, the same day that Dr. John J. Tigert arrived.
We met at the White House Hotel, where I was put up. I came
back as the permanent minister November 11, 1928.
P: What brought these people from Gainesville to you?
G: I do not know. We have a rather awkward way of filling vacant
pulpits in the Presbyterian Church. I suppose that somebody
had recommended me to this group down here. I thought my pre-
decessor, Dr. John R. Cunningham, who was a fellow seminary
student with me, had. We were warm friends, and that friendship
has continued until the present, but he said that he was not
inclined to recommend anybody to succeed him. I suppose I never
knew who recommended me--possibly Dr. James R. Vance, whom I
knew very well in Tennessee. He was an outstanding minister of
the church at that time.
P: You arrived in Gainesville in September and I presume you came
G: I came down on the 'Frisco from Memphis. You left Memphis at
eight o'clock in the morning, and you got to Jacksonville at
eight o'clock the next morning. John Scott, Bryan Walker, Milton
Baxley, O.B. Ogletree, I believe, and some others met me there,
and we drove over to Gainesville in a car.
P: Try to remember this first meeting with Dr. Tigert.
G: Dr. Tigert was a man of impressive physique. He was tall, well-
proportioned every way, and I would say a man at that time of
great dignity and considerable bearing; I felt a little awed.
There was a dinner being given to which I went in the White
House Hotel. My admiration for Dr. Tigert approaches an ex-
travagant attitude of respect. I came to know him well. I
think in many ways he was one of the greatest men we've ever
had in this community.
P: Preacher, try to remember back to that September day in 1928
when you first came to Gainesville, and tell me what Gainesville
looked like to you.
G: Gainesville I thought was a lovely town. There was a midway
all the way from East University and trees were all festooned
with moss on West University; a lot of the pavement was brick.
On Masonic Street which is now SW Second Avenue there was a
midway with palms, grass, and plantings. I thought it was a
lovely town. Since then they have destroyed the midways in
the interests of traffic, but I thought it was a beautiful town.
The Presbyterian Church, an old brick structure built in 1887,
was a very fine building. There were great live oak trees
along the side and in front of it. Some of them were taken
down later on because they were afraid they'd crash on the
P: Where did you live?
G: I lived right where I do today, 1225 West Masonic Street.
There had been an old manse right behind the church where Dr.
John B. Anderson had livedand where Dr. Cunningham lived
for a while,which they later used for Sunday School purposes
and for church offices. I live in the same place today--
P: Did the church provide this facility?
G: Yes, and they still provide that for my use as long as I live.
P: Is this considered a manse?
G: They have a rather lovely manse at the present time.
P: They do have another building.
G: Oh, yes, a two-story brick structure. It's over in Northwest
Gainesville--very beautiful, and deservedly so, for the minister
who has a family of three children and a wife.
P: Preacher, locate the Presbyterian Church that you arrived to
when you came to Gainesville.
G: The Presbyterian Church was located at what was then West
University and Pleasant Street, which is now Second Street,
where the Florida National Bank is now located. It was a
handsome, well-built structure. There were clerestory windows
all the way around. It was an octagonal building. It had
commodious sittings in it, and those windows were above.
They'd be lowered by long cords to let out the hot air from
the heat and other kinds of hot air. It was a very nice
church indeed. We had a Sunday School Department which had
been built under the ministry of Dr. Anderson--probably about
1914. They had a pipe organ they used to say was the greatest
pipe organ in Florida. That may have been an exaggeration.
The bell in the steeple which is in the present structure on
Southwest Second Avenue, I was told by the older people, rang
out the alarm when the Union troops came into Gainesville.
There was a battle fought up on North Main Street or thereabouts.
P: So the bell dates to the first church.
G: That's right. It dates back to the first church which stood
right in front of where the Gainesville Sun now is. It, too,
was a good strong building. It was the first church in
Gainesville, and was used by all religious bodies who wanted
to use it. No one had the inclination to be selfish; it was
at the disposal of Episcopalian, Methodists, or whatnot.
P: When was the Presbyterian Church founded here in Gainesville?
G: The Presbyterian Church in Gainesville as an organization was
founded in 1867, but the building was here long before that--
seven or eight years. The group of Presbyterians in Gainesville
were a part of the organization called Canopy Hall, which was
located six miles southwest of Gainesville. People out there
were the Stringfellows, Chestnuts, Hales, Yonges, and Major
Bailey who was buried in the Evergreen Cemetary. He gave the
land for the Presbyterian Church, and I think maybe for the
courthouse. I think his tomb shows the fact that he died about
1863, possibly from hardships, exposure, or wounds in the
Confederate Army. The church as a separate entity was not
organized in Gainesville until 1867; it was a part of Canopy
Hall--two buildings, one preacher. As a matter of fact when
I came here, I went out to Canopy Hall in the afternoon
three times a month. We never were able to muster over about
a dozen people. There just wasn't anybody living out there;
they'd all moved away. Mrs. Bevil and her family, the Hodges,
and a few others, had all scattered and moved away.
P: Preacher, who was the first minister?
G: The first minister was the Reverend W. J. McCormick, who is
buried in Evergreen Cemetery. The inscription is rather dim,
with [figures] and facts about him. He came here due to
pressure from Dr. Stringfellow in 1857 or 1858 and lived here
in Gainesville. He and Mrs. McCormick came from Camden, South
Carolina. He preached in Gainesville in the church of which
I have just spoken. He preached here in Canopy Hall, down in
Wacahoota, and Micanopy. He preached over the whole country.
P: Almost like a circuit rider.
G: He was. Bethlehem was the church at Wacahoota, which is in
Archer at the present time. Wacahoota was in the area down
here of wild land.
P: You say they moved the church?
G: Yes, moved it to Archer. It was called Bethlehem, but it's
now just called Archer Presbyterian Church. The church there
was constructed about 1872. The pews had the date 1872 on
them and have recently been refurbished. They are very
beautiful. A ring of pine has been scoured of all that varnish
and the natural finish has been restored.
P: Is this the oldest Presbyterian church building in the county?
G: Probably is. Micanopy is extinct. Micanopy's building is still
there, but the organization is defunct.
P: What did the oldtimers tell you about Mr. McCormick?
G: They were very devoted to him. He was a scholar, and he taught
in the East Florida Seminary. He was much loved by everybody
here. They recognized his work and thought a great deal of
him. That is recorded on his monument. Now it's rather
difficult to read that inscription. I had it reduced to
writing one time, and it probably is in the records of the
First Presbyterian Church here where I served for forty years.
P: Did you know any of Mr. McCormick's family?
G: I certainly did. I knew Lucius--knew his grandson. I believe
his son ran what is called the Magnolia House. It's a hotel.
I don't believe they served meals. Magnolia House was located
on South Main Street between Third and Fourth Avenue just south
of Miss Tebeau's school, which was a landmark here and which
did an extraordinarily fine work. [It] was in existence when
I came here although they only had a few pupils--was surrounded
with beautiful plants and shrubbery. It was a tragedy that it
was made a parking lot out of.
P: Preacher, who were some of your other predecessors in the
G: Prior to Mr. McCormick was Dr. Curry in 1895. Following him
was Dr. E. W. Wade, who served until 1902. Then Dr. Allan C.
Hay was until 1912. Dr. John G. Anderson took over and served
until 1922. And then Dr. John R. Cunningham came here from
Granada, Mississippi, and served until 1927.
P: We have some very distinguished scholars.
G: They were. Two of these men, Dr. Curry and Dr. Cunningham,
were both moderators of the General Assembly of the Presbyter-
ian Church. They were all fine men--highly respected by every-
P: How large a community was Gainesville when you arrived in 1928?
G: Gainesville was between nine and ten thousand.
P: Preacher, to begin with what was your relationship with the
other Protestant ministers in the community?
G: A very cordial and friendly relationship with all religious
bodies. The Jewish people used our facility when they wanted
to have any high holiday, and incidentally they gave me the
wine that was left over after some of those occasions. They
were warm friends. They usually used the Sunday School
building for Rosh Hashana or Passover. The Primitive Baptists
or Footwash Baptists would always have their service here.
Any other religious group was welcome to use our facilities.
There was a most cordial and friendly relationship with Metho-
dists, Baptists, Episcopalians--never anything but a feeling
of neighborliness, goodwill.
P: What was your relationship with the university?
G: We had for a time a student who was an assistant pastor here.
He was particularly geared into the work of the campus. But
after the Depression came, we were unable to pay a student
pastor. We had a man when I came here, Reverend A. R. Bachlor,
who did fine work. When the Depression struck full force, he
accepted a call to Whitmont, South Carolina, and I had to take
on the duties of trying to contact the students in addition
to the pastoral and the preaching work in the church.
P: How much were you paid when you first arrived?
G: It was supposed to have been a fine salary and was--$5,000 a
year. But the Depression came along, and I knew they had to
reduce it so I beat them to it. I said, "Brethren, you are
not able to pay this much." [There was] never a more generous
and loyal group of people, and after about ten years they
restored the former amount.
P: Preacher, what was the governing organization of the Gainesville
G: The organization in the Gainesville church, like all others, is
made up of a group of elders elected by the congregation. They
sit as a sort of cabinet with the minister, and all matters
affecting the welfare of the church are decided in their meeting.
When I came here, I believe there were twelve elders. There
are also deacons, who report on the temporalities: the finances
and the upkeep of the church proper. They report to the elders.
They count the monies that are contributed and disburse them, but
the elders are the governing and deciding voice in the church.
P: How much control did they exert over you?
G: It was a joint control. Nobody lorded over God's heritage
to quote something from the Bible. You would support their
advice certainly, and their counsel. They were the finest
group of people in the world to pass the buck to if you didn't
want to make a decision about something. Always it's a joint
thing. We do not have an authoritarian organization in which
the minister is an autocrat. It's a joint authority, and it's
the most blessed system in the world. The highest type of men
I have ever known have been the elders in the Presbyterian
church. We get that out of the Old Testament. Moses had Jethro,
he had the elders who assisted him, and it's modeled somewhat
on that idea. A man needs counselors, he needs helpers, and he's
not an autocrat. He is not the infallible mouthpiece of the
Most High either.
P: He could be an autocrat though, couldn't he?
G: Well, he wouldn't last long. I don't think he would. The
Presbyterian church is somewhat like the system of republican
government. You have your elected officials. You have the
presbytery, which is made up of an elder from each church and
all the ministers in a given area. Then the supreme court
is the general assembly, where all matters having to do with
doctrine and practice ultimately are decided.
P: Preacher, how do you figure you stayed so long here?
G: I guess they just couldn't do any better! I had many opportuni-
ties to go. I like the people--I love the people--and I like
the community. I think it's a wonderful community--there are
too many people here now. Too many students, too many folks--
but that's inevitable; changes are inevitable if there is progress.
But I loved it here--still do.
P: You were the public head of one of the most important Protestant
churches in Gainesville. Did you feel that you had any influence
G: We always hoped so. We all have influence.
P: Were you involved in politics?
G: No, sir. I was not indeed, and I don't believe in that. We
only influence politics as we influence individuals. I think
the church and state should be kept entirely separate. When
I'm in church, I'm neither a Democrat nor Republican nor an
Independent nor anything else. I come to declare the Gospel
as we find it in the Holy Scriptures, not to influence -
P: Have you been able to keep politics out of the church?
G: Yes, sir. So far as I'm concerned. I vote my convictions.
On the great moral issue of the poor people I think you should
express yourself,but not on ordinary politics. No sir.
P: You did not allow yourself or your personality to be injected.
G: No siree, I never did. I think it's a whale of a mistake
for anybody who's a minister to be a politician on Sunday
when he speaks the word of God. I think he's got enough to
preach when he motivates people to do the right thing. You
enforce what you are supposed to do with the background of the
P: Preacher, I've heard it said that during the 1950 senatorial
campaign between Smathers and Pepper, which involved a lot of
emotion, that you were involved.
G: Only as a friend. George Smathers I had known as a student.
George spent the night in my home when he was making up his
mind to run for office. I told him Ihoped he would run; I
felt like he was needed for such a time as that. But that
was an individual, not a minister in the church. I never ad-
vocated Smathers or anybody else in the church. Personally I
was very warm and enthusiastic for his candidacy. They spent
the night and ate breakfast the next morning, and he was then
undecided about whether he was going to run or not. But he
later on did. Yes, I'm a citizen as well as a minister, and
as a private citizen I supported most enthusiastically and
most heartily George Smathers.
P: Has he disappointed you since?
G: No, I wouldn't say that he had.
P: I'm not thinking 6f anything particularly, but he became so
involved in controversy about the Baker case. I was wondering
[as] a general moral thing.
G: No, no.
P: You have kept up your contacts with Mr. Smathers.
G: In a casual way. Rarely do we ever meet. Lawton Chiles,
Don Fuqua, and Governor Askew all attended that church when
they were students, and I have a high regard for all of them.
P: Preacher, another issue that came up and involved all of the
ministers in Gainesville was whether Gainesville would stay
wet or dry in the 1930s after Prohibition was eliminated.
G: You know, I had forgotten. I think we all voted our con-
victions about that.
P: This was about 1934.
G: Was it? I'd forgotten, Sam. Was it local option?
P: It was local option, and Dr. Tigert took a strong stand.
G: Well, I'm sure I did too. I had forgotten that--on account
of the student body.
P: On account of the students?
G: Yes. I'm sure I did. I don't remember. I don't have a
convenient forgetter, but I do dimly remember that since you
mentioned it. I certainly would have been on the side that
Dr. Tigert advocated because he had a reason for that.
P: Tell me about the Sunday movies.
G: My good, dear friend Claude Lee I had to differ with on that.
I don't think I would feel that way today. But it was a small
community at that time and Marvin Parrish was the spearhead
of those of us who wanted to have a quiet Sunday. But later
on they voted to have Sunday movies.
P: Do you remember the date this controversy developed about
keeping the theaters closed?
G: No, I don't. It was decided once, and then it just became a
P: It didn't arouse tremendous controversy, did it?
G: No, it didn't. At first they voted to keep them closed on
Sunday. Later on there never was any bitterness that I
recall. We just solemnly expressed the way we felt at that
P: When you arrived in Gainesville in 1928 it was a typical
G: It was a typical rural community, that's right. Some of
these things were innovations, and today it would not be
possible to lay down a rule about what to do or not to do on
Sunday. I always said "Whatever helps mentally, physically,
and spiritually above all,is legitimate for you to do on
Sunday." Our Presbyterian church never has been much in
laying down rules about your personal conduct; that is about
things that don't make any difference. Just to say, "Don't
do this," "Don't do that or other"--there's a very large
latitude. For instance smoking--I smoked. One old lady
here I got down to pray with one time. When I arose from
my knees, she said, "Mr. Gordon, it's bad for you to smoke.
It sets a bad example to the young people." I said, "That's
right, Mrs. So-and-so. I wouldn't do it, but," I said, "the
fleas are so bad in Florida, if I didn't smoke, they'd eat
me up." I said, "I don't mind the young people stumbling
over my smoking if they just won't fall down." She said,
"That's nonsense!" But the fleas were bad. That wasn't
entirely made up. There are more fleas in Florida--it was
a light soil, I had dogs, and we had lots of fleas. I don't
think the smoking had anything to do with preventing the
P: Who were your hunting friends?
G: Oh, my goodness alive! Just name them. I used to hunt a
lot with Ben Franklin, and Mr. Charles J. Williams, the
noblest man I ever knew in Florida--a man of great wealth.
He had a farm down here at Reddick. A man of very generous
heart and I hunted with him for twenty-five years. Dr. J.
Miller Leake [was] a beloved friend--a wise man with great
endurance--professor of history here. I was devoted to Dr.
Leake. He was an elder in the church and a Virginian and
had a vast deal of information on many, many interesting
I was devoted to Dr. Leake and Mrs. Leake. When Dr.
Leake got sick, Mrs. Leake I think liked me about as well
as she did anybody--she didn't like anybody too much. Mrs.
Leake called me up, and she said, "Come over here."
And I went over there. She said, "Well, I'm afraid
Miller's going to die and maybe it's just as well."
She said, "They turn these old professors out like an
old horse to fend for themselves." I said, "Mrs. Leake,
I don't think you ought to feel that way." I said, "I
talked to the doctor, and they say he's going to be all
right." Indeed he lived seven years after this. She says,
"Well, you can pray." I said, "Shall we have prayer
together, Mrs. Leake?" She says, "Well, make it a short
P: Preacher, how did you get along with the black community
G: Very good indeed--always.
P: Tell us about some of their problems in relationship to
G: I made the move in the ministerial association. We had an
interracial committee about the 1940s. We asked to have some
nigger policemen, and that we do something about the outdoor
toilets. It was a little bit, as we look back on it, but it was
considerable then. There's always been goodwill. I've had
many personal, warm friends. I have the same old cook now
that I've had for forty years. I have a great regard and
affection for individuals in that race.
P: What was the basis of the economy of Gainesville when you came?
G: I suspect they lived on the university as much as they could.
Hogs were raised. There were a lot of hogs when I came here--
some cattle, and peanuts for the hogs, and timber. But as I
got it, the university community was the teat they had to suckle.
The university people meant a vast amount to me in the church.
Some of the finest people I've ever known in my church were
from the university,and still are,I'm sure. [I] always had
a very close tie with the faculty.
P: Was there a lot of poverty in Gainesville in those days?
G: We didn't think of it then as poverty. It didn't take as
much to live. I don't think so. We dispensed charity. I've
dispensed a lot of it--every minister does. Maybe it was
haphazard. We didn't have any United Fund at that time;but
sometime maybe you miss something by not doing something
personally for people. You miss the satisfaction of sharing
yourself along with what you have. The gift without the
giver is bare. Isn't that what he says--"Who gives himself
with his alms feeds three: himself, his hungry brother,and
P: Preacher, we were talking earlier about the shared responsibil-
ities and authority in the Presbyterian Church, and you said
that you didn't really get any dictation from your elders and
deacons. Did you ever deliver sermons that they were unhappy
G: I remember one time I used the word stink in a sermon, and
an old lady came up and says, "Don't use that word ever again
in public; that is an ugly word to use." No, I don't know
that I did. I just don't remember. I never was a reformer,
and I'm not a lambaster. My conception, maybe is a weak
conception. I feel that a shepherd,if he's a pastor, he
ought to lead and not drive. When I get up and face people
I look at people who had a hard time--who had sorrow and sad-
ness and trouble; financial difficulty; worried about the
children, are they turning out? I always felt I could offer
some leadership or guidance,,or some kindness and some love.
If you don't have love for people, which is another way of
saying goodwill, for my part you've missed the boat.
And I never had excoriated people. I'm sure it is a
great weakness, but we are all constituted differently. If
I couldn't get people to come and do something with goodwill
and to follow on and do it, I'm not [going to] drive them.
I don't want anybody to drive me; I don't want anybody to
lambast me. If I knew there was trouble in somebody's home
of a marital nature or a delicate nature I would go to that
home and sit down and visit. Then if they want to tell me
about it, I would listen and try to help. But I don't like
to stick my nose into something that wasn't any of my business.
P: Preacher, what was Gainesville like during the Depression?
G: People didn't have as much. A lot of people shared during
the Depression. I shared what I had with people. I had more
than quite a few people. Some of them, when they got on their
feet, never did remember it enough. I shared what I had. I
think I was right.
P: There was poverty--real dire need?
G: I don't think anybody ever went hungry. I did not come in
contact with it more than at other times.
P: In a community like this there were no "soup kitchen" ideas?
G: No, we didn't have that,because even in the Depression the
university pumped. It was a better community from that stand-
point than many others. You had a payroll here at the univer-
sity and there was some constant money. I don't believe we
had it nearly as bad here as it was in some other places.
P: Preacher, I want to get to the university now. Try to
picture what is now University Avenue. What did it look like?
G: I already have indicated the trees. Thirteenth Street ended
about where Seventh Street comes in. There was a little dim
trail that ran into the hollow, where that overpass is over
Eighth Avenue. There was nothing out there. If you wanted to
go out that way, you went up Alabama Street, which is Sixth
Street now, and you got up there to where Sixteenth is, and
that was called Michigan. You went out to the left and Joe
Sicora lived at about the last house out there. It didn't
have any continuity east at all. North Grove Street was the
next street over where the North Central Baptist church is
now. There wasn't very much--very few houses out there.
P: As you move down University Avenue towards the campus, from
the Baptist church onto Thirteenth Street, how built,up was
G: What's now the Santa Fe Junior College used to be Buchholz.
School. Then you went on down and the Theta Chi fraternity
was in there where the telephone building is.
P: That was the old Frank Clark house, wasn't it?
G: That's right. And then there were houses across the street.
The Shellys had a moss factory alongside the present railroad.
There wasn't any streets going up to Sixth Street at all.
There was a depot, and you didn't approach it from any way
but from the east side of the railroad. Where the Georgia
Seagle place is was called the Southern Conference Inn.
It was a boarding house. Then you went on down and Dr. Krogh
and Mrs. Sally Walker hada pine grove there that later had
an inn--Pine Grove Inn. [There's a] filling station there
now. There was no inn there for a year. Right in front
of that was where old Dr. J. D. L. Finch lived. And Mr. and
Mrs. Oglesby lived across Twelfth.
I'm moving up to the campus--Twelfth Street. There was
a fraternity next to the Oglesby's. The SAE fraternity was
on the corner, and then on the north side would be Dr. and
Mrs. Nora Norton and Dr. Bantam. That old man, B. G. Edwards,
had a yellow brick two-story house that was later, I think,
the SPE fraternity. The PiKA fraternity was on the corner.
Then if you went on south,on what is now Thirteenth,there
was the Kappa Sigs. The Phi Delta Theta fraternity was up
on University Avenuewhere that Gulf station is at the corner
of Tenth Street and West University. And then the ATOs faced
a large wooden house--faced Masonic Street or Second Avenue.
Dr. Berger's house was right adjoining where the present Phi
Delta Theta house is, and Mrs. Cora Woods had a house where
the Phi Delta Theta house is.
Going on down there was the tennis courts that belonged
longed to Dr. Krogh, and Professor Reed was on the corner
going towards campus. Then there was the Beta Theta Pi fraternity
behind the ATOs, and the Phi Kappa Taus was behind the ATOs.
Mrs. S. D. Fleming was next to the Beta Theta Pis and Joe
Howard next to that. Across Twelfth Street, going on towards
town was Joe Shannonand right next to him was where I lived.
I could go on and name them all.
P: What did the campus look like?
G: It was a nice looking campus--not near as many buildings.
Wasn't as crowded as it is today. It didn't have the big
Tigert Hall. Dr. Tigert's office was over in Language Hall.
P: Did you counsel Dr. Tigert?
G: No. In 1940 I was president of what was called the Presbyter-
ian Educational Association of the South. About sixteen liberal
arts colleges, some prep schools, and some orphanages would
meet for a conference at Montreat, [N.C.], and it devolved
upon me to get a speaker for the main event. Dr. Tigert con-
sented to go, and he made a very fine talk. We came back
(this is unforgettable to me] together on a night train that
left Nsievdile about eleven o'clock, and we got into Jackson-
ville the next morning. I left the drawing room--there was
an upper deck and a lower deck--and when I got back, here was
the great President of the University of Florida going up the
ladder to the upper bunk. I thought he was the longest man
I'd ever seen. I said, "Oh, no, Dr., oh, no, I, I'll take
the upper bunk." But he had already ensconced himself up there.
Dr. Tigert was a man of rare spirit. He was a sensitive
spirit, but there wasn't anything small about him. If he
appeared to be, as I thought, an awful cold man, he had one
of the kindest, warmest hearts when you knew him that anybody
could possibly want to find. He was a great scholar; he
was a great man. I admired him extravagantly and resented
exceedingly the attacks made on him by a banker who was peaked
because he was not listened to about something he didn't know
anything about. It was my great privilege to go and testify
in behalf of Dr. Tigert before the Florida legislature. I
thought he was one of the finest men I ever knew. A man of
stature, a man of integrity, a man of great scholarship--I've
run out of superlatives to speak about Dr. Tigert.
P: Preacher, do you feel this whole experience crushed Dr. Tigert,
and he died a dishonored man?
G: He was a man of sensitive spirit. I couldn't say, but it was
a most unjustifiable, malicious attack made upon a great man.
Certainly it may have had something to do with his disappoint-
ment, but he lived a good many years after that.
P: You feel he relished his life here in Gainesville?
G: As far as I knew he did, yes. I had unqualified admiration
for Dr. Tigert,though he was blunt and he was crude. I dined
many times in his home. I married his daughter, and Mrs. Tigert's
mother and sister were members of our church here. I remember one
time getting into an argument with him--it was about a church
matter. I said, "You know a thousand times more about every
subject than I do. That happens to be one very small area that
I know as much about as you do." It made him so mad he got up
and left the room. I was very, very proud of Dr. Tigert, and
Mrs. Tigert was one of the most gracious, winsome people I've
ever known. She was so regarded by everybody in the college
community. Anyway,she was perfect in social relationships and
every way else.
P: Do you hear from Mrs. Tigert now?
G: Yes, I do. She's in pretty good health. She's reached
quite an advanced age. She's older than I am, and I'm an
old dilapidated man. She could tell you a lot of things
I'm sure. She had a bright mind and still has I'm sure.
P: Preacher, when you arrived on the scene, Dr. Murphree was
G: He had died, yes.
P: And Dean Hume had been the acting president for one year.
G: Yes, I knew Dean Hume very well.
a great regard for Dr. Hume. He
He didn't go to church much, but
and he was a fine man.
He was a neighbor. I had
too was a member of my church.
we were fast and fine friends,
P: Did you know Farr?
G: Yes, he was a member too. He was an outstanding member.
P: He didn't get to church very often.
G: Not often. But I have seen him there.
P: He was a bridge player.
G: Yeah. I don't know about that. I tried to learn to play
bridge once. I never got into it too much. I play gin rummy
if you want to play gin rummy; I'll play casino or cribbage.
I tried to learn to play bridge one time, but I couldn't--it
was too much thinking.
P: I knew Dr. Farr, but it was in his later years. I've heard it
said that he was perhaps the most colorful man in Gainesville
during the time that he was here--he and Mrs. Farr.
G: I don't know about that. I never knew Dr. Farr very well. I
knew him pleasantly, but...
P: You were not an intimate...?
G: No. Never. I was an intimate of Dr. Inwall, whom I also
admired and enjoyed immensely. I took some seminars with him.
He had a course, and there were only,I think,Larry Walrath,
myself, and one or two ladies. He had a course he called the
Philosophical Conceptions of the English Poets. And we had
a merry, merry time,and not an unprofitable time,once a week
for about two and a half hours in his office. I visited him
many times, and then I took a course in philosophy--I don't
remember any of it--but with Dr. Inwall. I enjoyed Dr. Inwall
very much. I used to needle him a little bit occasionally.
He was a great old fellow. One of the funniest things I ever
saw; neither he nor old man Joe Howard could drive, and they
had a collision one day. Both of those old men were fussing
and lambasting--one of the most comical things I ever saw in
my life. It happened up here on Masonic Street.
P: Was he a great teacher?
G: I think he was. I think he was.
G: I couldn't say. I enjoyed being in his class if that's the
right word to use. He taught philosophy, and I only took
one semester and this course in the poets. I enjoyed that
and drew benefits from it.
P: Who else on campus were you intimate with?
G: Dr. Leake, old Dr. Krogh, I knew him real well. Dr. Krogh
was a bore--greatest one I have ever known. Dr. Krogh was
all right. He would come to see you on Saturday night when
you needed to be getting your [sermon] for Sunday. He'd
stay until about 10:30. I usually got out on Saturday after-
noons and tramped the woods. I was pretty tired, and he'd
stay so late. One night I went to sleep on him. I heard
him in my sleep, and I woke up gradually. I thought he knew
that I went to sleep, and I was afraid he was hurt. I got
up and walked half way home with him. Dr. Krogh was all
right. He was just that way. Dr. Krogh had sort of a
Ripley mind. You know what I mean? You remember Ripley
used to say the only one that ever did this or the only one
that ever did that--"Believe it or not." He was a believe
it or not; he'd tell me some big tales. One of them was
that he didn't know how to swim, and he had studied the
psychology of swimming, and he just went in a swimming
pool, jumped in, and swam right toward the end. That may
have happened, I wasn't there.
P: Preacher, did you ever find that you were leading a lonely
life here without a wife and a family?
G: No. I had dogs, and I had friends--lots of friends.
P: What was your relationship with the fraternity?
G: I was national chaplain of the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity
for about twenty years, and except during the war years
they had a biennial meeting. The alumni usually ran that
thing, but in the forties [I had] many opportunities of
meeting educators and others all across the United States.
I derived the greatest deal of pleasure from that. The
fraternities had a great pull at that time on the students.
I don't know much about it today. They don't enter the
fraternities with the enthusiasm and the loyalty in feeling.
They used to. When I joined a fraternity, we had no houses.
We were not permitted to have a house, but we had rather
a strong feeling of comraderie. We were loyal to the
fraternity. The one I belonged to never had more than eighteen
members. Here they were larger, and they had some fine ideals.
P: Preacher, did you organize the Mother's Day program on this
campus for Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity?
G: No, that was an old institution here when I came. I made
many a talk Mother's Day.
P: What was your special role in the chapter on this campus?
G: None. I never was involved in anything. By being a national
officer I used to go over there occasionally--eat a meal.
They had good housemothers--very worthy women who resided
over there. I used to tell the housemother, "Keep them from
going native." They needed a housemother in all of them;
they had some very superior women in those. Different churches
started student centers. We worked on that; I worked hard on
that. We got up the money for it and built one.
P: What did you do during World War II?
G: I volunteered to go, but I was tickled to death they didn't
accept me. I never have been so overjoyed. We ministers,
and all the churches and the fraternal organizations,drew
the soldiers [from] Camp Blanding. We went out of our way
to do everything we could for them on weekends, when they
got off. Anybody who had a spare room made it available to
the church. We'd put down cots and prepared place for them
where they could get away. I remember in Minneapolis it was
a godsend to get off on a weekend and go in and spend the
night somewhere. We served meals on Sunday, and it gave
them a touch of home. Moreover, there were quite a few
whose parents I had known who came in here from up the
country. We used to try to do all we could that way; that's
about all you could do.
P: Preacher, how did you feel about them setting up a department
of religion on campus?
G: I never did think much about it one way or the other.
P: You were not opposed to it?
P: You were not involved in the planning?
G: It was more or less indifference. I still have an indifferent
feeling about it.
P: You always had lots of students from the university come to
your church, haven't you?
G: Yes, I had a lot of them. I had to make a play for the students
when the Depression came on; we didn't have a student center.
I used to find it helpful. We didn't get that built till about
1940, but I found it helpful to drop in. They were always glad
to see you--the fraternitites at mealtime and eat a meal with
them. They were always glad to have you. You got to know a
lot of them. There were not so many'then. I knew a lot of
them and then I made a play for the athletes. We had what we
called the muscles deacons. They wouldn't go to anything, but
they'd go to church on Sunday morning. We had quite a lot of
those fine fellows. I received a good many into the church.
I could name quite a lot of them here in Florida today. One
of the warmest feelings you ever had is to see these successful
men in life--down to Sarasota, Clearwater, Miami, wherever it
is--coming back. They always had a kindly feeling for you aid
you certainly do for them. Old Lawton Chiles, for instance,said,
"Well, I slept in your church on Sunday." I said, "Well, you
didn't sleep all the time because I noticed a lot of your
political speeches. I recognized excerpts from old sermons
I used to preach."
P: Preacher, you've been so long associated with young people in
this community and watched them grow over the years. Are you
unhappy with the situation?
G: The ones that I know best I feel very good and happy about.
I could name you quite a few that I have known. I think
they are tip-top. Now a lot of the others I don't know.
P: In general, are you alarmed at what's going on?
G: To some extent, yes. The drug traffic, the promiscuity--the
home is the foundation of our country, of our church, of our
synagogue, or whatever it is. I don't think we can live pro-
miscuously and not reap the consequences of it in our society.
Now you asked about individuals. I know a lot of them who
are just as fine as can be. I sat opposite the table a while
ago from a man--a doctor. I baptized his child when he was
a baby. Now he is a stalwart--six-feet-six--and he's got
all it takes [to be] a leader, a successful man in the banking
business or any other business. I told his dad, "You ought
to be..." He said, "We are proud of him." I said, "I would
be exceedingly proud." I could name quite a few of them.
P: What do you think is responsible for this deterioration?
G: I can't anwer that question. We must remember that the young
people live in a different world from the one that you and
I grew up in. Whether they've become wiser, they have more
knowledge at twelve and fourteen than I had when I was eighteen.
You have the mass media, the news, physical communications
in air, and on the streets and highways. They're looking for
something new in a thrill, and life isn't simple like it was.
I've related to you a little bit about my early life. It
was an agrarian civilization. We got our pleasures in the
woods, in the fields, and on baseball and games. It was
simple,but a very joyous and happy life for us. But now
they have everything. They have it easy and soft.
P: You think maybe our educational systems, such as the University
of Floridashave failed?
G: I'm not competent to pass on that. I don't like to pass on
something I don't feel I'm an authority on. But I do think
that we are forgetting that our youth today are born into a
far more complex situation than we were born in. My great
[complaint] today is with parents. Some of them, not all
of them, are falling down on the job. They don't give any
discipline; they don't give any instruction. You can't live
a life without some discipline. My parents--this is probably
self-righteous to say this--gave us more love and freedom,
but,by George,we toed the line when it came to being disciplined.
We didn't have everything just our own way.
P: Preacher, are people too materialistically inclined today,
including your own parishoners?
G: I may be too much myself. I love comfort. I'm eighty years
old, and I don't like to be disturbed. I am not up to it
like I used to. But I never did have life offered up on a
velvet cushion. My parents never had much. They always paid
their debts. We always had enough to eat. We always had shelter.
We never had too much money--had very little--but we paid our
debts, by George.
P: Preacher, what's been your own personal philosophy of life?
G: I don't know whether I have any philosophy. I think you
ought to be generous, kind, loving, and fair in your dealing
with everybody. Whatsoever you would let men do unto you,
do ye even so unto them. This is the law and the prophecy.
I didn't always practice that maybe, but that's an ideal.
P: If you look back on it now,what kind of an impact do you
think you've had on this community?
G: I don't know. I hope it hasn't been bad. I don't think it
has been bad. I think people need to laugh and be happy.
I think joy is something that we ought to have. You can be
joyful but without being happy. You know what I mean? I
think everybody ought to have some joy in life, and that's
what my religion has meant. It's made me happy, joyful, and
I believe in God. I believe He has put us here in this
world for some wise and benevolent purpose, and that all
things will work together for good if we try to do His will--
try to serve Him. We are all imperfect, but I think there
are ideals and goals that we strive to approximate.
P: Preacher, do you call yourself an optimistic man?
G: No, I get terribly depressed sometimes. Yes, I'm fairly
P: What depresses you?
G: Depression sometimes arises from being shut up with yourself
too much--thinking too much about yourself. If you get de-
pressed, it's a good idea to go out and try to do something
for somebody--forget yourself. I think our physical make-up
sometimes casts a shadow on the spirit. I'm gonna talk about
this Sunday. If somebody is short, curt, or in a bad humor,
the background of that may be some physical trouble; it may
be some anxiety; it may be one thing or another. We never
know. It comes back to the words of the Master, who said,
"Judge not, that ye be not judged." We can't pass judgements
on people. You never know what somebody else is having to
face and experience.
In the Old Testament there's a story of Jehoram in the
fifth chapter, Second Kings. Jehoram said he was shut up
in the city, and Ben Hada was the king of Syria. They were
about to starve. Jehoram gets on the wall and walks around,
I suppose to infuse morale into his subjects who were starving.
And he was beset by omens. He said, "I made a compact with
this woman to eat her child, and we ate her child yesterday,
and now I have hidden my child." The woman says she's hidden
her child. And the king reared his garments, and the people
saw sack cloth on his flesh--the hidden sackcloth. A lot of
people have a hidden sackcloth--far more than we realize.
P: If you look into the future,are you optimistic about where
things are going to go?
G: Fairly optimistic. Yes, because I believe in the eternal
God, who is working out His purposes in the world. I believe
it'll be good ultimately. But also He's the God of judgment,
and the judgments of God you see all through the Old Testament.
The chosen people, most wonderful race of people--why do I
believe in God? I believe in God because I believe in the
Jews. They have suffered.
P: Preacher, you've been travelling a little bit in the last
several years, haven't you?
G: I went to over to Scotland and stayed a summer back in the
fifties. [It was] grand time. [I] went with old Dr. Holt,
who was a minister. He's dead now. We had a grand time
together. We were always great friends. He left his family
and we went to Scotland, England, and Wales. Dr. Holt has
a great love of the city; I love the country. He was always
one to get back to London to see the plays and the British
Museum. He spent a lot of time in the British Museum.
P: And that's been your one trip abroad?
G: I went to Mexico, that's enough. I never had a desire to go
to the Holy Land--never had a chance to go. I think it's
great--the change. I'm glad for the Jews to be back in. I
hope to God they stay, and I believe they will. I'll give
them a little money to help them do it.
P: Have you been upset about the integration situation?
G: Yes. It's a great period of readjustment.
P: But your church has come through it fine.
G: Oh, yes, it has.
P: Don't you think that it's strengthened the church rather than
G: I hope so. Four or five hundred years there won't be any
problem. You'll have racial intermixing. I don't know about
that. But I won't be here; you won't be here--not going to
be our problem.
P: Preacher, you've still got a lot of long years ahead of
P: You do all this teaching, praying, counseling and influencing
G: No. You should read the Ninetieth Psalm: "The days of
our years are three score years and ten. By reason of
strength they be four score years; yet, as that strength
labor and tire, they soon cut off and fly away." Now
you ought to know that.
P: I do, but I'm thinking' about Methuselah.
G: You needn't think too much about him. I've had a very,
very happy life, and everything that I could wish for.
The main thing is the good will and the loving kindness
P: You're a member of Blue Key, aren't you?
G: I joined Blue Key--got an honorary. The thing that I
appreciated more than anything else was an honorary degree
from the University of Florida. I have an honorary "F"
membership. Many of .those things you deeply appreciate--
if you don't let them make you think of yourself more highly.
In the New Testament there is the great saying: "I say
through the grace that is given unto me, that every one
that is among you not think of themselves more highly than
they ought to think, but to think soberly according that
God has given to every man a measure of faith." As Dr.
Daska, an old Dutchman who taught me church history, used
to say, "Young man, don't try to climb too high. If you
climb high, they'll see your naked little highness." So
you better be humble.
P: You were very closely associated with Dr. Tigert, but how
about the other leaders?
G: I liked all of them. Wayne Reitz was an elder in our church.
I remember Dr. Miller. I said to him one day, "Dr. Miller,
if you will not take me too bold, you are working too hard."
I said, "Come and go fishing' with me." We went down here at
Wauberg and had a delightful morning. [We] had some sand-
wiches, and we went over and sat in the shade. [It] must have
been in the month of May, and that fall Dr. Miller died. He
was a fine man. All the men whdve been here I thought were
fine men. They were men of stature. Steve O'Connell--I
rejoiced when he came. I played handball many times with him
when he was a student. I always liked him. He was a fine
boy--had a lot of merriment and humor about him. I thought
a lot of his brother, Phil, though I didn't know him as well.
I was happy when Steve came and glad for the university.
Wayne Reitz was a warm friend, and we were associated in
more ways than one--his family, his children.
P: Dr. Reitz play an active role in the church?
G: Yes. When Dr. Reitz came here he was a single man. I
remember [him] saying one Sunday, "Now [nobody] sings solos
like Miss Godwin." I remember that. She was, and is,a lovely
person, and had a lovely voice. They were married, and then
he was in Orlando, and I believe in Washington. He came back
here as president, and the little girls were born. I married
P: Dr. Miller wasn't much of a church man was he?
G: I think so. I think he was in the Baptist church. I believe
he was. I never knew that side of him so well. Dr. Miller
was a fine man.
P: And Mrs. Miller, of course.
G: Lovely person. All of the people who have been here--Rita,
Steve's wife; Mrs. Miller; and Ann, Lady Tigert. I used to
call her Lady Tigert. All lovely people.
P: I want to ask you about Senator Shands.
G: We were good friends. Senator Shands ran for Governor in 1949. I
introduced him down on the square in 1949. We were always friends,
but we got close in the last several years of his life. He used
to call me "old man", and I'd call him "old man." I used to tease
him; I used to tease DeWitt Jones, the undertaker. I said, "Why
do you go and sit down by all these old men?" I said, "Now I
notice you've been sitting next to Beaty Williams. And you know
the reason you sit next to him." And I said, "Bill, I notice that
he's been sitting down next to you lately." He says, "You go to
I believe it was [a] Friday night, Bill Shands called me
up. We used to play gin rummy. He called me up and said, "Come
out here early and let's play some gin rummy. Elizabeth's gone
and S.C. will be home." He used to love to have something that I
liked very much--beef stew with a lot of onions in it. That was
all we'd have, which is a big meal. I went out there, but we did
not play gin rummy. We sat and talked for an hour and a half about
reminiscences that were deep and personal, and he was dead on
Saturday. I've always been glad that we had those moments together.
Of course, I and many others have missed him greatly. He was a
great, generous person. He gave lots of his means to worthy causes.
He especially liked the Boy Scouts. He did a lot for them.
P: Was he generous to the church?
G: Yes, I know he was generous. In his latter years he went back to
the church of his rearing. He was a Methodist. While Mrs. Shands
was living they were Episcopalian.
P: Preacher, what else shall we talk about?
G: When anybody asks me what I'm gonna preach about, I say, "About
twenty minutes." It's been a delightful experience for me to be
here. I'll just say that if I had a magnifying glass, I wouldn't
find fault in anybody here in Gainesville in their treatment of
me as a friend. Friendship runs across religious background and
racial bounds; doesn't make any difference--both are incidental.