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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
ORAL HISTORY PROJECT
INTERVIEWEE: A. Quinn Jones
INTERVIEWER: Joyce Miller
DATE: October 27, 1976
M: This is Joyce Miller. I'm interviewing Mr. A. Quinn Jones at his home
on Northwest Seventh. We're going to discuss what it was like living
in Gainesville in the 1930s. It is October 27, 1976 at three o'clock
in the afternoon.
Mr. Jones, do you recall living in Gainesville during the Depres-
sion and any remembrances of what 1929 and '30 were like economically
for a family in Gainesville or your particular family?
J: Yes, I was here during the Depression. Those years, if I remember
rightly, well, back in 1927 I think it was, I remember it because
of the Seagle building. I would see it around here which is something
of a relic of the Depression. That building was started by Mrs. Seagle
during the Depression, and it never was completed altogether until several
years later when that building was given to the University of Florida.
When that was done, the University of Florida completed the structure
which appears now just about like it was when it was completed then.
That's one of the things. I remember also during that time your property
was inflated where you could hardly buy any property much because the
prices were exorbitant for low income persons to secure property at
that time. In this particular area where I lived, there wasn't any
chance for anyone to buy property lower income people at
M: Did you live in this house at that time?
J: Yes, I was in this house at that time. In fact, a little before that
time. I came to this house in 1925. I secured this property in 1925.
I would not have been able even to secure this property in '25 because
the owners of this property was bound to lose, so to speak. I had someone
take it over for me, and I secured it at that particular time. Other
than that, I wouldn't have been able then just to buy any property in
M: At that time what was across the street where the school, A. Quinn Jones,
is located now?
J: Lincoln High School began August 1923 when the building was completed
out here. Previously to that time, the county school board rented the
old Union Academy. It was an old wood building on Northwest Second
Street and Sixth Avenue. It wasn't Second and Sixth at that time. This
city has changed much later on.
We were there. In fact I was principal at that school for two years.
Then we moved out here in 1923 and the school became Lincoln High School.
I remained principal of Lincoln High School up until 1956 when the
school was moved, and the new Lincoln High School was built in southeast
M: You mentioned being principal of Lincoln. Maybe you can tell me some
of the teachers that were at Lincoln in the 1930s by name or some in-
teresting experiences with the teachers at Lincoln.
J: I don't know about a particular teacher. I remember so many of them.
M: Were there any students in the thirties that became community leaders
after that, that you recall?
J: I should have said 1925 was the first graduating class when Lincoln
became a high school. There were eight graduates in that class. There
were two girls and six boys.
M: What were the differences between the finances or the type of situation
that existed at Lincoln and the white schools? Were they supported the
same? Were the buildings as good or was there a comparable difference
between the black school, Lincoln, and the white school that was in town?
J: There were two, the black high school, Lincoln High School, here in
Gainesville, and then there was the Gainesville High School. The
Gainesville High School was located down on the avenue there where the
old Buchholz school used to be. As far as the building is concerned,
you'd find that the quality of building was just about the same. There
was no difference in the quality. There was a difference, I would say,
in the financing of the school. For instance, Lincoln High School was
built out here. It's a very nice building, but not any sidewalks or
anything at all. When I came out here we put on projects to beautify
the surroundings of the building. In '30 we assigned certain plots around
the school for the teachers and their classes to beautify them and such as
that along with the patrons of the community. There were not any walks
around Lincoln High School. I'll tell you just how we got our first
walks around Lincoln High School. When the old Seagle building was
turned over to the university, they modernized that building, and knocked
out a lot of the brick or cement in the building. Through the generosity
of the city, through Mr. Chestnut that is, the mortician at that parti-
cular time and leading citizen among the blacks, through his influence,
he asked the city to make use of the brick such as that was being knocked
out of the Seagle building, and asked the city to supply the labor and
materials along with the blocks. With the help of the city prisoners,
they laid the walks around the front of the school. Some of those walks
are still there now. For Gainesville High School, the county provided
a beautification plan. The sidewalks and such as that were provided,
but they didn't do anything along that line for the Lincoln school over
here. There was a difference in the teachers' salaries. The average
black teacher's salary was just about one-half of thatofawhite teacher's
salary. The principal's salary was just about one-half or less than the
principal of the Gainesville High School. I mean the salary of the prin-
cipal of Lincoln High School was much less than the salary of several of
the white high schools around the county, such as Micanopy and High
Springs, Alachua, Archer and all those schools. Even though the en-
rollment of Lincoln School was twice or three times that of some of
those little schools out there. The same as with respect to the size
of the school, with respect to the teachers that was in the schools
then. That's a noticeable difference.
M: Was it required of teachers at the black school to have a college degree
to be teachers at that time?
J: No, the principal of the school was required to have a college degree.
The teachers in the high school division were required to have at least
a bachelor's degree at an accredited college. In the elementary school,
teachers would be required to hold a certain certificate based on exami-
nations, such as a second-grade certificate. That's the least requirement
at that time. There were quite a number of our teachers back then. The
majority of them had at least two years or more of, they called it,
normal training. But so far as the high school division is concerned,
the teachers were required to have at least a bachelor's degree or
To retrack just a little bit, Lincoln became a high school in 1925.
In 1926 it was accredited by the State Department of Education, and
became one of the two black schools in the state of Florida which main-
tained that particular accreditation standards at that particular
time. For several years Lincoln High School and the other high school
in Palatka, Central Academy, were the two only accredited black schools
for the Negroes in the state of Florida. There were several other high
schools in the state of Florida, but they were not accredited by the
State Department of Education. Lincoln maintained accreditation all.
along throughout the years until 1956, I think it was. Then after that
it became, in '57, accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and
M: What kind of activities went on besides the regular academic classes?
Did Lincoln have a football team, plays, clubs? What types of extra-
curricular things existed?
J: It might be interesting to note that Mr. Charles S. Chestnut, Sr., mor-
tician, contributed his time and talent in coaching and building up a
football team for Lincoln High School. Not only football, even basket-
ball. So much so that in 1923 the Lincoln High School football team
under Mr. Chestnut as coach became the state champions as far as black
schools are concerned in the state of Florida. From that time on up
until 1933, I think it was, Mr. Chestnut gave of his time and talent to
coach the boys in football. Up until 1933, when a faculty member of
Lincoln High School, who was previously graduated from Lincoln High
School, graduated from Florida A & M College and came back as one of
the teachers in this school. This particular individual, Mr. Thomas B.
McPherson, graduated from Lincoln High School. He went to Florida A & M
College, served on the football team, and made an outstanding record.
We brought him back and he became one of the teachers of Lincoln High
School: teacher of history and coaching the high school football team.
That is the first coach that we had who was a member of the present Lincoln
High School staff. From then on under Mr. T. B. McPherson's administration,
the team became national champions as far as black schools are concerned.
I don't remember the year exactly, but somewhere in the thirties the Lincoln
High School team was the champions of the high school teams in the South
M: What about community places? Were blacks permitted at the theaters or
did they attend their own theater? Where was the theater or what would
a black man or woman do for entertainment in town? Was it very restrictive?
Were there separate places for blacks for entertainment or what?
J: There wasn't any provisions for blacks to attend theaters here in the thir-
ties. The one white theater that I'm thinking of was the Gainesville--I
don't know the name of it now, but it is the theater down on University
Avenue. Blacks couldn't attend this theater.
M: What would a black family do for entertainment? What would the black
family do for entertainment in Gainesville because there are so many
things that were here that were closed to them? What kind of activities
would they participate in?
J: To my thinking the most important activity as far as blacks were concerned
centered really around the schools. Take the football team and basket-
ball teams which plays teams during the weekends and have visiting
teams come in and things of that kind. I think those are the major
activities that I knew about. There's churches and activities in church-
going and things such as that, but other than that, I don't know of any-
M: Were there any active businesses in the black community: grocery stores,
restaurants, any of those kinds of establishments in this community?
J: Yes, there were. Among the doctors, Dr. Ayer, a prominent black doctor
back here during that time, and his drugstore, was on First Street,
Pleasant Street they called it. Then there were the grocery store down
on Union Street at a particular time owned by a black. I think there were
restaurants too. Coming down to Fifth Avenue, a few eating places I
believe on Fifth Avenue as well as on Pleasant Street at that time. Down
on Union Street down in Gainesville there were several restaurants or
something like that down on that end of town. I don't remember the
names of those businesses at the moment. In the area of other businesses,
the Afro-American Life Insurance Company was very active among the blacks
in the area of insurance during that time. The Central Life Insurance
Company had an agency here that was black.
M: I heard an interesting story about how you checked out books from the
University Library. Maybe you'd like to explain that. How did you
check out books through the University Library?
J: When I was working to fulfill the master's degree at Hampton, when
Hampton was a summer school, I attended Hampton Institute for a number
of summers doing work relating to a master's degree. When I began to
write the thesis for a master's degree, naturally I had to do research.
I had to have the materials from the library--from some service--to
write the thesis. I applied to the University of Florida. In fact I
went to the University of Florida Library looking for materials in writing
my master's thesis. I was told by the librarian at that time in these
words, something like this: she says, "Why don't you go to Tallahassee
to the Florida A & M College library for your materials?" As a conse-
quence, I couldn't even enter the library where you had to enter to get
materials to work on a master's degree. What I did do in order to get
materials from the University of Florida: I knew of Dr. AErthur] R.
Mead [Director, Department of Research, College of Education] and Dr.
[Alfred] Crago [Professor of Education]. Dr. Mead was in the education
department and Dr. Crago was also in the testing or psychological de-
partment at the University of Florida. All the materials that I wanted,
why, they went to the library for me, secured those materials and gave
them to me to use. Whenever I wanted any materials from the library, I
relied on them to get the material from the library for me to use. Even
though I was just four or five blocks from the University of Florida
Library, I couldn't withdraw any materials from the library. I couldn't
even go in the library and sit down, go through materials or anything of
that kind. I couldn't do that.
M: About when was this? Do you recall about what year this was?
J: That was 1934, because I finished my research and began writing my thesis
in the year of '34 or '35. An expert typist was not available to me,
that is, among blacks. I had another friend at the university, Dean [Benjamin A.]
Tolbert. He was the dean of students at the University of Florida, and
his wife was a secretary I think. She was acquainted with typing a
thesis for a master's and doctor degrees. When I finished my materials,
I turned them over to her and she did the typing for me.
M: So they didn't stop you. Was there any feeling of hope in reference to
blacks when Franklin Roosevelt was elected President of the United States?
Did that create any kind of good feeling among the community?
J: President Roosevelt is better known, I would say, for his responsibility
in setting up the Social Security Administration at that time. The NYA
program was devised and set up under his administration--National Youth
Administration Program. He is the pioneer or the instigator or the
originator of the present social program that we have today.
M: Do you recall the Tung Oil Festival that they had with the parade down-
town in the thirties?
J: Tung oil?
M: Do you recall the parade they had for that or anything?
J: Yes, Alachua County during that time was noted for the tung oil industry,
especially true out on the Newberry Road, some hundreds of acres of
nothing but tung oil groves. In the summertime and spring there'd be
blossoms on those tung oil trees just beautiful to behold. If you'd go
out to Newberry Road there you'd see all that beauty. Over in the LaCrosse
area there's hundreds of acres of tung oil. I know it was during the
thirties that they had the Tung Oil Festival. On a weekend, if I remember
rightly. They had a big parade with floats and such things and another
through the downtown area at the time. It seems to me that during the
celebration of the Tung Oil Festival, they had a football team to come
here and play. By the way, at Lincoln High School football team and
basketball team during that time also take parts in the tung oil industry.
I think they called it tung oil team or something like that. Anyway,
they took a part in the tung oil festivities.
M: So that wasn't just restricted to whites, but included blacks in the
J: That's right, exactly. Blacks cooperating and getting in the spirits,
so to speak, in the county fair.
M: I wanted to ask you about the road system. Were there any roads into
this part of town or was it all dirt?
J: On this end of Gainesville--they call it Fifth Avenue section of
Gainesville--there were not any streets or hard roads or anything of
that kind. First, there was hard streets in this particular area in
the year 1937 or '38. But Seventh Avenue, Columbia Street, at that
time was paved. Before that, all this area was dirt streets.
M: Did many people in this area own automobiles or was there public
transportation that they used?
J: They had no public transportation whatsoever in this area. The only
means of transportation was the taxis and the more or less black
taxis, too, because blacks seem to have had some kind of a monopoly
on the taxi business at that time.
M: As drivers you mean or as users? They had a monopoly as far as owning
J: The taxi business.
M: Do you recall the fire that took place on the square in the spring of
1938 when a few blocks of the city were burnt down in the middle of the
J: Yes, I remember that so well, when practically the west side of the square
was burnt out. The west side of the square was made up mostly of wood
structures, and the owner of the major wood structure is Dr. Thomas.
Dr. Thomas was the brother, if I remember right, of Major Thomas. Major
Thomas was responsible for the University of Florida coming to Gainesville
in that he contributed 800 acres--gave to the state 800 gift acres in
order to bring the University of Florida here. But Dr. Thomas was a
mortician. He owned a hardware store west of the square. He not only
owned that hardware store, but he operated the undertaking business in
town which is now Thomas Funeral. It is named for him. So the older
side, west side of the square there was burned down.
M: Was it a big event for everybody to come in town and see the burnt-out
sections, almost like a social gathering?
J: Yes, I should say so. I was anxious to see what had happened after
the next morning I heard that downtown had been burned down. Naturally
people were curious to know just what really had happened. I know I
was. I went down there the next morning just to see what had happened--
the curiosity in order to know what actually happened.
M: Do you recall any activities that took place in your church during the
thirties? I believe you've been very active in your church and maybe
you can recall some of the special events that they had at that time. I
know it's a long time ago.
J: I don't know.
M: Let me ask you about a couple other things then. There were a lot of
springs around Gainesville used for recreational swims. Were the blacks
allowed to go to the springs and swim also or was that restricted also
J: No. The blacks were not permitted to go to any of the springs. Thomas
Spring was the most important place for bathing and such as that, but
the blacks were not allowed to participate in it. In the early 1930s,
most important, as I remember, place for bathing and such as that was
done at the--I can't name the thing--between here and Alachua. That was
opened up for blacks. I can't think of the man who was responsible for
that particular spring set aside for the blacks. Blacks would have their
outings and go in bathing and such as that.
M: This was just for blacks? In other words, it wasn't a place for both
blacks and whites, but a place specifically for blacks.
J: Just for blacks, yes. There were no places for blacks and whites to get
M: In the thirties, did you ever have any feeling that seems to be present
today in Gainesville that your door must be locked all the time and that
you can't go out at night alone? Did you ever have any of those fears
during the thirties or did you feel that you could just walk around when
you wanted and not feel threatened?
J: You know back during those years one would not be frightened only to
go out at night or to downtown businesses here and there. There was
nothing to be frightened of at night. The fact about is there are more
people more frightened now than ever before going out at night. I per-
sonally don't go out at night. I don't go out at night alone. I'm
afraid to. That wasn't the truth I was telling you in the thirties. A
person'd go out anytime at night, here and there, anywhere and wouldn't
be afraid of being attacked or anything of the kind. But that's not
M: You mentioned Charles Chestnut, Sr. before, and you mentioned that he
was a mortician. Was he involved in the government of Gainesville at all?
Or was the government of the town fairly restricted also to whites only?
J: No, he wasn't involved in the governing of Gainesville anyway. I would
say he was an interested outstanding citizen among blacks, interested in
the welfare of blacks, as well as whites as far as that goes, in the
problems that arise among blacks and whites. He was there to speak up for
blacks. He had outstanding leadership ability among the blacks. And
the blacks, all they wanted was certain consideration from the powers
that be. He would take the lead and take their cause before the city
government or whatnot--those who were responsible for the city.
M: I think among prominent blacks then in the thirties we could name Mr.
Chestnut and certainly yourself. I was wondering if there would be
anybody beside the two of you, other black people in the community that
were well known and well respected throughout the town?
J: There were others but I really think of Mr. Chestnut because he's been
the foremost of the others that I know. Dr. Ayer was medical doctor
then. We had Mr. Benjamin F. Childs, who was the first mail carrier
in Gainesville. He's another outstanding leader. The fact about it
is there are several good advisory members of Lincoln High School. Mr.
Chestnut was one of the advisor trustees of Lincoln High School, Dr.
Ayer, and then there's several others. Dr. Parker, Mr. Duval, Mr. D. S.
Days. There were five of them who were trustees of Lincoln High School.
M: You mentioned Mr. Duval. Is he the Duval that owned the shoe store in
J: Yes, he's the son of the elder Duval or the owner, but that was his
son that owned that, yes.
M: I know in my research I found that the Duval Shoe Store was one of
the few, if not the only,black-run business that was in the white part
J: This is true. The Duval Shoe Shop was the only shoe shop downtown back
in the thirties located where the old Phifer Bank used to be, the south-
east corner of First Avenue and First Street, the corner where the bar
M: Oh, where the plaza....
J: It was on that corner. His shop was there for years and years and he
got most of his patronage from the business people and the people who....
He was practically the only good shoe shop in town at that time.
M: Getting back to Lincoln, what grade did Lincoln start at? Did it start
from first grade or was it strictly high school years?
J: Lincoln was combined elementary and high school beginning at the first
grade on through the twelfth year.
M: Do you recall any of the discussion in the thirties about the Cross
Florida Barge Canal? That seems to be a large controversy today, and I
understand that even during the thirties that sometimes there would be
news articles and discussions about the barge canal.
J: No, I don't know back during that time, just in recent years, I mean like
within the last three years, three or four years.
M: Was there any kind of confrontations, disagreements, any kind of dissent
between the black and white community in Gainesville in the thirties, or was
it more or less a separation where neither side even met together and
they just sort of went their own ways without really being concerned. Was
there any negative confrontations such as what you saw later on in the
J: To answer that question, I was impressed when I came to Gainesville. I
liked the spirit of the community here. I liked the cooperation, the
relationship, between whites and blacks in this community. More so than
probably any other city in the state when I came to Gainesville. I thought
it was really kind of unusual when I came to Gainesville about on the
county square there that was the main headquarters for the taxi business
and most all the taxi business was conducted by blacks. They had the
phone ring right on the corner of the square down in Gainesville. That
impressed me. Then another thing that impressed me is this, there were
settees around the county courthouse there where people who were downtown,
if they're tired, they'd go and sit down here and there. Now that's one
one of the things that impressed me too in Gainesville, because you
couldn't find that kind of spirit, I would say, so far as the community
concern and citizen concern in other towns that I had visited. That
really impressed me, that kind of spirit I would say existed between the
white government and the blacks of the community here. You could go
and sit down on settees and without being asked to move or anything of
that kind. You didn't find that in many other towns but in Gainesville.
M: Do you recall some of the people in town? Did you know Mr. Buchholz
who was principal of the white school or did you know or recall Mr.
Tigert who was at the university at that time?
J: When I came to Gainesville, Mr. Buchholz was the principal of the
Gainesville High School that was located in the old Kirby Smith School
today. He had been here several years before I came. I came in 1921.
He had been here several years before that. He remained the principal
of Gainesville High School from on up until he retired I believe. I
don't recall the year right now. But anyway, he was the principal of
Gainesville High School about thirty-seven years going back to I believe
1914 or '15. I already said that our principalship of Mr. Buchholz and
myself were somewhat parallel for the number of years until his death.
He was principal for thirty-seven years and retired a number of years
before I did. I was principal of Lincoln High School for thirty-six
years. While he was principal of the Gainesville High School, I was
over here, principal of the Lincoln High School. Mr. Buchholz was the
supervising principal of the schools in the city here. In other words,
he was not only principal of the Gainesville High School, but he super-
vised the Lincoln High School and the Kirby Smith School when he left.
So we worked together very cooperatively. He had a great interest in
the education of all the children in Gainesville.
M: So you did attend meetings with him and work on some things together?
J: Yes, he was something of an advisor to me by being the supervisor of the
city schools. We worked for him. There is another thing I might men-
tion as we come to the educational situation here in Gainesville in par-
ticular. Back during the twenties, when the county board decided to
build new schools, we put on a bond issue for several thousand dollars.
That's the year before I came here. If I remember now it was something
like $50,000 in order to erect the high schools for blacks and also the
new Gainesville High School. Mr. Buchholz played a very important part
using his administrative ability and planning for the Gainesville High
School but even for the new Lincoln High School. By the way, when these
two buildings were being erected, the contractors planned both the
buildings. All these buildings had classrooms and big gymnasiums. They
erected both of the buildings at this very same time. They used the
same plans for the same work. You notice that as far as the quality of
the building's concerned, the old Gainesville High School and Lincoln
High School are red brick. You notice that the design is just about the
same. By the way, when the Gainesville and when the Lincoln High School
was built here, there was probably not any other black school with maybe
one exception in the state that were housed in a modern brick building.
It seems to have been something of a policy back during those times not
to build brick for the schools for blacks. I thought that was an unusual
sort of thing. That impressed me that they did. It was after Lincoln
High School was built here in Gainesville that other communities in the
state began to build brick buildings.
M: Brick buildings.
J: Nice buildings for high schools. So Lincoln High School was one of the
first brick high schools in the state. It served something of a model
so far as black high schools were concerned. The buildings they built
in this town, in Gainesville, just depicted the spirit of the community.
It told something of the fine, cooperative relationship that existed
between blacks and whites. Were it not for that, we would not have got-
ten, at that time, the type of building that we have.
M: We've just about finished the tape, so I want to thank you very much for
taking your time in doing this.