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Interviewee: A.C. Howell
Interviewer: Alan Bliss
B: It is June 6, 2003, and I am in Tampa, Florida at 2933 Coachman. I am speaking with Mr.
Howell. Mr. Howell, I would like it if you would tell us your full name, please.
H: My name is Alonzo Clewis Howell.
B: Where and when were you born, sir?
H: I was born January 7, 1924, in Ithaca, New York.
B: Who were your parents?
H: My parents were George Blaine Howell and Mary Trice Clewis.
B: You lived in New York for how long?
H: I think about fifteen or eighteen months. My father's family had a wholesale grocery
business in Ithaca and had it for years. Daddy had come back from WWI. He graduated
from Dartmouth and then graduated from Cornell Law School, which was the local
college because Corell is located in Ithaca. By this point, he was thirty-two years old. He
never practiced law. He was working for a wholesale grocery company. When he and my
mother got married in Tampa, they went back up to his home, so that's why I was born up
there. It was soon after that my grandfather, Mr. A.C. Clewis, whom I was named after,
my mother's father, he and some other businessmen in Tampa started a new bank in
Tampa in 1897. They called it Exchange Bank. National banks could not have trust
departments in those days. In fact, they couldn't have trust departments or savings
departments under the Federal Reserve Act of 1913, I think it was. In 1913, they amended
the law where national banks could have trust departments. These people at Exchange
Bank had been talking about starting a trust department. I'm sure [my grandfather] and
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my grandmother would loved to have seen my mother and her children back in Tampa,
but this had nothing to do with my daddy being offered this job because he was certainly
a most capable and desirous person to have. Anyway, not so much my grandfather
because he knew he better stay out of it because my daddy wouldn't have any part of it if
he thought he was coming down because Mr. Clewis wanted him down. But Mr. P. O.
Knight was also a big man in this Exchange Bank. P. O. Knight was the one who started
Tampa Electric Company and was probably the biggest and most important citizen at the
time in Tampa. He carried on all the communication with my father about coming down
to Tampa and starting a trust department in the Exchange Bank. So, that's how I got back
down here at such an early age.
B: It was in 1913, you believe, that a Federal law changed that made it possible for national
banks to have trust departments. Was there something in the Florida law that affected that
which took place, do you think, in the 1920s?
B: The Exchange was chartered as a national bank, not as a state charter.
H: Right. I don't know what the state law was in regard to trust departments, but I know
national banks couldn't have trust departments and they couldn't have savings, either. It
was checking accounts, period.
B: Ergo the savings and loan business.
H: If you're interested in the banking business, that's how things like the Morris Plan bank
and what they called industrial savings banks came about. These were state-chartered
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banks, and all they could have were savings accounts. They couldn't have checking
accounts. But they were capitalistic. They weren't mutual things like federal savings and
loan. In other words, they were a private business. You had to raise capital like you did if
you were starting a regular commercial bank. You had to have so much capital from the
stockholders to start one. That's how the industrial savings banks got started, because the
commercial banks couldn't offer savings accounts.
B: I am interested in a bit more information on that, but let's try to come back to that if we
can. I'm making a note about the Morris Plan bank, which operated here in Tampa, did it
H: Right, there was a Morris Plan in Tampa, and it was charted on the industrial savings
B: Getting back to your father, whose name was George Blaine Howell, he was trained as a
lawyer but never practiced law, you say.
B: What kind of law was he trained to do, anything in particular?
H: I've never heard of any specialization, and I'm not sure back in those days they had any
specializations. The law was probably pretty simple.
B: Was it a difficult decision, do you suppose, for your father to leave Ithaca and the Howell
family to relocate down to Tampa, Florida?
H: I don't think so. He had been in Tampa, and that's how he met my mother. He came to
Tampa right after he got out of the military. Since he was finished with college when he
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went in the service and the war ended he was in Europe as an officer in the field
artillery, I believe it was he stayed over there with the army of occupation for a couple
of years and traveled around Europe and enjoyed himself. When he came back home after
that and went to work for the wholesale grocery firm, he wanted to go to Cuba.
Everybody kept saying, if you want to go to Cuba, the best way to go to Cuba is get on
the train and go to Tampa, and they did. I used to ride on this boat every now and then.
We had two steam ships a week that went back and forth between Tampa and Havana.
Just boom, boom, boom; just like a street car. So, he got on a train and came to Tampa,
and he had a friend here who had come down here who he had known for a long time up
in New York State by the name of Roger Clap. Somehow Roger Clap had gotten down
here and was with this Exchange Bank. So, when daddy got here, he called Roger Clap
and renewed old acquaintances and Roger said, well, come on, let's go do some things
while you're here. It was then that he met my mother because my mother and Roger Clap
had become friends, and Roger's wife and my mother [were friends]. That is how my
father met my mother. He came here, and he did get on the boat and went to Cuba and
saw what he wanted to see and got on the boat to come back to Tampa [and] stayed
around a few more days and spent more time with my mother. Then he got on the train
and went back to Ithaca. How many times he came back and forth to see Mother, I really
don't know, but this went on for a couple of years and eventually they got married. That's
how I wound up half-southern and half-Yankee. His folks were really pioneers. The
Howells had come to Long Island around 1675. That is when his ancestors came to
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America. I think he was a duke. I'm not sure, but I think the records show that he had
probably got in bad with the king or something. Anyway, he came to America.
B: A lot of people did in those days.
H: Right. He came to America and settled on Long Island, New York. Several of my
[ancestral] parents were killed during the Revolutionary War. Two of my parents were
soldiers in the American Army during the Revolutionary War. Two of my relatives were
scalped by the Indians in New York state during the Revolutionary War. The Howell
family in New York State was an old [family]. How did he feel about coming? I think he
was taken to Florida. He must have wanted to come. Nobody was forcing him. I think he
came here with a good feeling.
B: Do you think he was attracted by the fact that Florida was kind of in an economic boom at
the time, that it looked like a place of some opportunity?
H: Well, certainly it was a better opportunity then than it would have been seven or eight
B: That's for sure.
H: No, I don't think he was looking so much at that. My father was not money-driven. Some
people, as you know, are money-driven; some aren't. Most of us are pretty fairly
balanced. We're money-driven, but we're not to the extent of being nuts about it. As we
all know, some people are, and some people are not money-driven enough. If he came
here, he came for the challenge of starting a trust department for the Exchange Bank.
B: Is that the kind of thing that motivated him in life, a challenge?
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H: Yeah I think all of us like challenges. I know I've always loved challenges. As I said, he
was more challenge-oriented than he was money-oriented. I think he was motivated to do
a job that he came down here to do.
B: He got to Tampa in, I believe it was, 1925 or so.
H: Right about then, 1925 or 1926, because Blaine was born here, and he was born in 1927.
He bought a home out in Golfview, [and] we lived there until 1932. In 1932, my
grandmother passed away, Mrs. A. C. Clewis. She and Granddaddy had probably one of
the biggest houses on the Bay Shore, a big home that he'd built in 1900. They all knew
that Granddaddy wasn't going to leave that house, and he couldn't stay there by himself.
It was such a big house, the five of us Howells my mother and my daddy and my twin
sister Blaine and I all moved over to the Bay Shore and lived with Granddaddy.
B: Your age then would have been, what, nine or ten years old?
H: It was 1932, and so I was eight years old when we moved to the Bay Shore.
B: So, you got to know Mr. Clewis quite well.
H: Oh, yeah, because Daddy was gone so much of the time. As I remember maybe Blaine
has a better of this than I do Daddy left the Exchange Bank Trust Department about
1938 and went to the shipyard to be president of Tampa Ship. Tampa Ship was an old
shipyard in Tampa. It built ships during WWI for the Navy. It had hung on during those
down years from the end of WWI. Everybody, I guess, on the know knew even back in
1938 and 1939 we were going to have to fight Hitler and that group over there. They
started trying to build us back up because we completely shot everything in America due
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to the League of Nations thing which said all nations are supposed to get rid of their war-
making capabilities. We didn't have anything. We got rid of the Navy, got rid of the
Army. We didn't have anything. In 1938 and 1939, they were going around the country
trying to build up the ship-building capabilities in America. Since the WWI days, they
were familiar with Tampa Ship. The trouble with Tampa Ship was it was owned by an
elderly gentleman who was of foreign extraction.
H: Mr. Kreher was a fine ship builder, but he'd lived here for years and still could not speak
very good English. But he was a fine gentleman [and] apparently a very competent
engineer and ship builder. They had a program back in those days called the RFC, the
Reconstruction Finance Corporation. I guess it was started during the 1930s.
B: It was started by Herbert Hoover, actually.
H: Way back there?
H: As you know, they helped financing. They really stepped in and started helping these
companies that the military people and defense people felt that we had to build up if we
were going to be in a position. ..
[interruption in recording]
B: Alright, we're back here recording now and talking about the Reconstruction Finance
Corporation and Tampa shipyards.
H: They were very sympathetic, but the trouble was they couldn't talk to Mr. Kreher. Mr.
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Kreher understood all things about ship building, but he did not understand about
business and he really wasn't real good at expressing himself. Anyway, he was a big
customer at the Exchange Bank, and he kept talking to my father about the shipyard and
everything. To make a long story short, the RFC finally came to my father and said, look,
we've got to build up Tampa Ship, and we've got to have it ready to be producing this
was probably 1938 in there we've got to get these shipyards in shape to really build
ships. Won't you leave the bank and go out there and be president of Tampa
Shipbuilding, and then we can talk to you and have some confidence that you understand
what we're saying and what we want and what you've got to do. They had talked to Mr.
Kreher, and this was very satisfactory with Mr. Kreher.
B: This is a story that I've tried to understand for some time exactly how it was that your
father made this transition from being, apparently, a very important part of a family bank
to going into a business that he really had no background in, although you've explained
very satisfactorily why he had particular gifts and skills that made him a big asset to the
shipyard. Do you know who it was from the Reconstruction Finance Corporation that
talked to him or what job they had?
H: Yeah, it was the president of the RFC. I knew his name for a long time, he was a well-
known figure, but I've lost it in the last ten or twelve years. But he was head of the RFC
for years, this gentleman in Washington.
B: He would have been the head of it in 1938 or so.
H: Oh, yeah. He was in there even after the war.
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B: Did he know your father through some other connection?
H: No. I think he just knew daddy through Mr. Kreher and being down here and doing things
with Tampa Ship, looking at the facilities and deciding what had to be done and what
their eventual capabilities were. I'll tell you a little story about it. They used Nordberg
[diesel] engines, and Nordberg diesels were made up in Wisconsin. Of course, Tampa
Ship was a big customer of Nordberg. Bob Flynn's family owned Nordberg Engine
Company in Wisconsin and had for generations. Something happened in Washington, and
he couldn't get what he needed. This was during the war, and he was telling Daddy about
it. He said, you mean they won't give you the money to go do this? And he said no.
Daddy said, that's a bunch of junk. He said, come on, let's get on the train and go to
Washington, and we'll talk to him So, Daddy takes Bob Flynn, they go up to
Washington, Daddy sets up these meetings with all these people up there and talks to
them. He gets Bob Flynn the money and comes on back to Tampa. Bob goes back to
Wisconsin. That's the kind of guy Daddy was. He was well-educated with his eastern
education. How can I put this, because I'm southern. He weren't no cracker. Can I say
that on the tape recorder?
B: Well, that's an interesting aspect about him and other people like him It's interesting,
too, Peter O. Knight was not born in the South. He was a native New Yorker, but, of
course, he turned into, as you say, a pillar of what became modern Tampa, the twentieth-
century growth phenomenon of this town. Backing up to the RFC and the shipyard, the
man from the RFC and Mr. Kreher both did business with your father at the Exchange.
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The RFC was interested in stimulating the shipyard's growth. I understand that the RFC
had made a big loan to Tampa Ship to build two cargo ships in 1938 and that the
construction started but apparently the schedule started to slip further and further behind.
H: I think I remember something of that, yes.
B: Next thing everybody knew, the loans were in trouble, and apparently there was some
cause for concern about the future of this contract and the shipyard. So, your father left
the family bank, and I wonder if you can tell me, did he become simply a paid executive
officer for the shipyard, or did he take an ownership position in the business?
H: Somehow, and I'm not real clear on this, he wound up in a part-ownership position. The
only place the stock could have come from, from the company, had to be from Mr.
Kreher, so apparently it was agreed by Mr. Kreher that Daddy got so much stock in
Tampa Shipbuilding. So, he was one of the stockholders.
B: Up until then, Tampa Ship had been a family- or closely-held corporation.
H: Family thing with the Krehers, yes.
B: And your father took over as chief executive, as well.
B: Did he sever all his ties then with the Exchange Bank?
B: So, he effectively left banking.
H: Yes, he was out of banking. I used to kid him about it all the time. I would tell him he
was trust officer Yes, he left banking in 1938 and did not come
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back until 1946.
B: Now, I understand also that there had been a savings and loan started by Mr. Clewis back
before your father came to Tampa, First Savings and Loan?
H: No, First Savings and Trust Company. Now you're getting back to the 1913 law.
B: Right. They did that, and so Mr. Clewis had a stake in the Exchange National Bank and in
a completely separate institution that was a savings and trust.
H: Now we're going to get back to the trust thing. The reason is that when they changed the
law in 1913, a lot of banks, including the Exchange Bank, went over and chartered these
trust companies as separate entities. They had their own charter and everything, and they
did the trust work for these national banks. In 1914, which was right after 1913,
Granddaddy established the First Savings and Trust Company to handle the savings and
trust work for the Exchange Bank. Trust Company of Georgia, that's the way it got
started. The First National Bank of Georgia couldn't have a savings and trust, so they
started this thing called the Trust Company of Georgia to start the trust and savings
operation for the First National Bank [of Georgia]. You can go all over the country and
see remnants of how all of this [happened].
B: There was no law that said they couldn't be connected with each other in terms of
ownership or management or directors or that sort of thing?
H: Not that I know of.
B: And they were, in fact.
H: Right. Granddaddy stayed on the board at the Exchange Bank and he was chairman of the
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First Savings and Trust Company, [which was] very small. Hell, when I went in there in
1949, I think it was up five or six million dollars.
B: Mr. Clewis had an involvement in both of those institutions. He died, I believe, in 1944.
Is that right?
H: I went to the Navy in 1943. Yeah, he died in 1944.
B: I understand that he had become sort of incapacitated a year or two before that.
H: Yes, he had been sick with cancer for a number of years and was pretty much house-
ridden and bedridden.
B: Who ran the bank and the savings and trust company after he became ill?
H: Oh, well, the bank had its own operation. My family didn't own the Exchange Bank.
They were one of the major stockholders. It had its own organization and ran itself. The
little old First Savings and Trust Company, it wasn't big enough to worry with. It was just
sitting there. They never took any checking accounts. Then the law was changed, so the
Exchange then had its own trust department and own savings department, so this thing
was just kind of sitting there.
B: It just became even more marginalized.
H: But my grandfather owned a substantial part of the First Savings and Trust Company, and
that's when Daddy decided... Daddy was a builder, not a tearer-downer. I worried about
him because everybody knows the only time to be in shipbuilding is during wars. You're
not in shipbuilding during peace time. I just could see my father spend his life out there
battling the hopeless. I was pretty damn smart when I think about it. I was twenty-one
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years old, and I worried about these things.
B: I think you might have gotten that from your father.
H: It did surprise me when he came up and said he was selling the shipyard because he
worked his ass off out there for years building. This was probably the largest [shipyard]
built, probably that has ever been in Florida still. It had 15,000 employees.
B: It was the largest employer in Tampa during the war, that's for sure.
H: Probably the largest employer in Florida.
B: Could be.
H: I was so happy when he told me that he'd sold it. I thought, hot damn. Anyway, that's
when he didn't have anything to do. Granddaddy had died in 1943, so Mother and her
brother owned all the stock in the little First [Savings and Trust Company]. So, hell, he
had to have some place to park himself, so he went down and became the chairman of the
board. He always hired some younger guy to really kind of run the bank, worry about the
employees and the loan situation.
B: Let me back up to a couple of these historical characters who played a part in the early
banking. Mr. Knight and Mr. Clewis. You obviously knew Mr. Clewis very, very well.
How would you describe him as a personality?
H: Mr. Clewis was a man who had come from a tough family in Dooly County, Georgia.
Everybody tells me that Dooly County is probably the poorest county in all of Georgia. I
don't know this; it's just what people tell me. He had left home at an early age. He was
the youngest of three or four brothers. They were all so mean to him that as soon as he
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was able to, seventeen or eighteen years old, he left home and came down to Florida and
settled. He was born right during the Civil War, so say he was born in 1865, and twenty
years would have been 1885. So, this was somewhere in the early 1880s [that] he drifted
down to Tallahassee, which was then the capital of Florida. In those days, also, you want
to remember everything in Florida was north of Ocala, and Tampa and Miami, hell, no
one had probably heard of them. Well, they heard of Tampa because it was so damn old
and had Fort Brook and all that stuff. He went to work for a fellow there who owned a
big general store by the name of Munro. Mr. Munro and his wife had come over from
Scotland and had started this business. They had one daughter, Amelia. Mr. Munro was
very successful in Tallahassee with his store. It was the biggest store, I understand, in
Tallahassee at the time. My granddaddy went to work there as a young boy. Mr. Munro
took to my granddaddy. Granddaddy was not as big as the Howells. Granddaddy, I would
say, was 5'9", 5'10" or something like that, and very much a southerner. [He was] a very
astute gentleman, very tightfisted. I used to ask him, Granddaddy, how about giving me a
quarter? He said, I haven't got a quarter. I said, come on, Granddaddy, you're living in
the biggest house on the Bay Shore and you haven't got a quarter? He'd say, I'll tell you
what you do. He said, you go out and earn and a quarter and then come tell me it's not a
lot of money. [Laughing] Anyway, that was Granddaddy. He was very astute. You're
really interested in my Granddaddy?
H: He was really a story. University of Florida at that time was in Lake City, not in
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Gainesville. Remember that?
H: I think Mr. Munro kind of convinced Granddaddy. He said, you're a young man, you
ought go. To make a long story short, Granddaddy went over to Lake City and went to the
University of Florida for a year or two. He never graduated. Anyway, he went back to
Tallahassee, and when he went back, he went to work for a title company, a land title
B: Still connected with Mr. Munro?
H: No, he didn't go back with Mr. Munro because he thought he ought to start a career, I
guess. He got a job as a young man at this land title company and went to work there and
progressed as a young man. Somewhere along in there, he met Amelia and they fell in
love and they got married.
B: Amelia was related to Mr. Munro? Mr. Munro's daughter, is that correct?
H: Right, Mr. Munro's daughter Amelia. She was one of the queens of Tallahassee.
Somebody told him, Clewis, you are really a native Floridian. There were a lot of native
Floridians, but, boy, if you were a native Floridian from Tallahassee, you were in the
upper elite. Anyway, I tell you that and I'm going to come back to it. So, he and Amelia
got married, and he was working. Well, there was a little title company in Tampa that
they were constantly having trouble with.
B: This was connected with the outfit that Mr. Clewis worked for in Tallahassee?
H: Right, and they had this operation in Tampa that just kept giving them trouble. In those
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days, nobody wanted to leave the refinements of Tallahassee and come to Tampa or
Miami or anywhere else down here because nothing was in South Florida. It was all up
there. That's why the capital and the University of Florida and Florida State, all of them,
as you know, are up there, because that's where the people were. So, they said, well, hell,
let's send A. C. down there so he can take a go at it. So, they talked to Granddaddy about
coming down here, and he talked to Amelia, his wife, and they agreed to come. All over
Tallahassee, oh, that A. C. Clewis! First of all, they raised hell about Amelia marrying my
Granddaddy. Oh, she's marrying that A.C. Clewis. He ain't got any money, he ain't got
nothing. Then less than a year later, now he's going to bring her to Tampa. Granddaddy
was telling me this. Now they were really in an uproar. That damn A.C. Clewis taking our
beautiful Amelia down to Tampa. Holy Christ! I get so excited talking about
Granddaddy. So, they come down here, and he gets into this title company and he makes
this decision. This was the 1890s. He decided that South Florida had a better future than
North Florida and that he wanted to stay in Tampa and he wanted to buy this little title
B: He saw an opportunity.
H: Right, and he thought South Florida had a hell of a future. So, he went back to
Tallahassee and talked to the people, and he talked to his father-in-law, Mr. Munro. I'm
sure this figure is right because I've heard it before. He borrowed $50,000 from Mr.
Munro, and that was a lot of money back in those days.
B: Yes, sir.
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H: He bought this title company and changed the name to Tampa Abstract Company, and
that was his business. He was very successful with it and paid Mr. Munro his money back
and made a lot money. Being in the title business, he knew all about real estate because
he was seeing it come through his office. Hell, by 1900, he was one of the wealthy young
men in Tampa. That is when he built this tremendous house on the Bay Shore and sent
my grandmother to Europe to furnish it. I mean, they had one room that had nothing but
gold furniture in it and paintings on the walls and ceilings like you see in Europe and
angels floating around. Damnedest thing you ever saw. I was in a play in high school, and
we used to have beach parties over at the beach at the end of the school year. We'd go
over there for a week or two, and the mothers would come over and chaperon the girls,
and the boys would sleep outdoors or have an old house that we'd stay in. Anyway, it was
a beach party. I took my little sailboat on the trailer over to Clearwater Beach, or Indian
Rocks Beach, which was the beach in our time. We used to sail down to Clearwater and
go to the movies. I sailed down there one day and sailed right into downtown Clearwater,
and we anchored the little boat there right off the shore and waded in to shore and then
just walked up to town. We climbed up this real steep cliff. I had never seen a cliff that
high in Florida. Anyway, when I got home from the beach party, I told Granddaddy, I saw
the most beautiful piece of property over there in Clearwater. I said, you can't believe it.
It's a damn cliff, and it goes right straight up from the bay, right straight up in the air, and
up on top there is where Clearwater is. He says, I know all about that property. I owned
that, and that's the piece of property I sold to build this house for your grandmother.
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B: How about that.
H: That's when he told me the story, he says, I was so sick of all those old bittys in
Tallahassee criticizing Amelia for marrying me. He says, I built this house and furnished
it. Now let them come down here and see where Amelia is living. She had a beautiful
home. Anyway, that's the story on Granddaddy. Then in those years, he and Mr. Knight,
the last few years that Granddaddy was alive, hardly a day went by that Mr. Knight's car
wasn't parked in the porte cachere when I got home from school. The old man would
come by and see granddaddy practically every afternoon. He and granddaddy arrived as
two young guys with not much.
B: Were they about the same age?
H: Yeah, they were just big buddies.
B: That was going to be my next question, did you ever get to know Mr. Knight?
H: No, I never really knew Mr. Knight.
B: Did you have any impression of him as far as wealth? For example, did he speak with a
southerner's inflection, any kind of accent, or did he sound like he had held onto the
infection he brought from up north where he was born?
H: I can't answer that. I have no recollection of him at all except I've seen so many pictures
of him and that type of thing. I don't think you could live that long down here and still
hang on to [a northern accent]. Just like if you left here and went back up there. You'd
soon pick up, if there is such a thing, the New York accent.
B: That's probably true. Well, did your dad get along well with Mr. Clewis?
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H: Yeah, very well. That was one of the advantages to me as a young man was sitting around
the dinner table not with just a father talking with the mother and children, but I would
listen to him and granddaddy talk about business and what was happening in town. At an
early age I realized the tremendous involvement that men like that had in just plain old,
what a lot of people refer to as, civil work. They were always doing things with Tampa,
and they didn't get any money out of it; they didn't get paid for it; they didn't make any
money out of it. They just did it because that's what they wanted to do to help the city of
Tampa become what we all have always thought that Tampa could become, and that's a
great city. It always had all the environmental and the technical; it had everything going
for it. I learned that from an early age. Yes, it was very informative, and he and
granddaddy got along beautifully.
B: They were both men with involvement in civic affairs, and by that you mean the chamber
B: City government?
H: Daddy really didn't do that much outgoing civic work. He was very interested in this
thing your talking about. I know, because I remember one time he gave a radio address
and it had something to do with this thing you're talking about, this economic
development. Of course, this was back in the days when everybody listened to the radio.
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There wasn't any TV, so when something was coming on, it was like something coming
on TV in these days. You'd sit down and everybody would say I'm going to [listen to
that]. Well, daddy gave this talk somewhere and it was on the radio. We must have been
thirteen or fourteen, because he mentioned a corset factory and my sister just went wild
[that] her daddy would mention a corset factory. I can still remember it, today. I couldn't
have been more than thirteen or fourteen. I can remember sister, and my mother wasn't all
that happy, either.
B: That was salty stuff.
H: Salty, right. That he would mention a corset factory, he talked about a corset factory on
the radio where everybody could here him, and all my friends heard him too. [laughing]
Anyway, he was very interested in the University of Tampa.
B: He was a founding trustee, was he not?
H: No, I don't think he was a founding trustee, but he got interested in it. University of
Tampa first started as a little school out in Hillsborough High School and it very rapidly
went from that to a junior college [and then] to a four-year college. He got very interested
in it and he's the one that built the athletic program. One thing I'll say for the ivy-league
schools, you can fault them all you want to and they're high brow educators, but they also
believe in sports. That's why you see all the oldest football games with Princeton playing
Harvard or somebody. They believed in sports. Daddy, being an ivy-league person,
[believed] that the University of Tampa ought to have sports.
B: What kinds of sports was he particularly keen on?
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B: He wanted them to have a football team?
H: Right, and he was also big on crew. That's why you see all these damn crews up and
down the river now, because way back in the 1930s, a friend of him from Ithaca came
down to Rollins College, which is really, as you know, a Yankee school. It is like Duke.
It is in North Carolina but, hell, it is a Yankee school. Brad somebody had come down
and he was a crew coach and he was hired to come down to Rollins College and start a
crew. Well, hell, it's right over there in Orlando. So, naturally, he and daddy renewed old
acquaintances. Eventually, to give Rollins a rival, Brad came over and helped daddy and
UT people start a crew program at the University of Tampa.
B: About when was that, would you suppose?
H: I think that was right after World War II.
B: Alright, in the late 1940s. Well, the river is certainly a beautiful location to a have crew
H: Yeah, now they're using the bypass canal and they're doing even better. Anyway, I don't
know how much you want to go into that aspect of my father, but he believed it so much
that these crackers that were on the board with him [needed a university]. So, what he did
was he couldn't get the board to go along supporting the football thing, so he set up a
separate corporation called the University of Tampa Athletics. This was a corporation, so
the University of Tampa Athletics went out and hired the coaches, built the football team,
and I can remember going to UT football games because after every game daddy and the
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guy that ran the thing, would meet up in the top of the stands.
[end of tape A: side 1]
H: So, what happened was they were playing over at Plant Field, which was not the best
because that was set up as part of the fair grounds and had the big race track around it and
everything. That's where everybody played baseball, all the spring trainers played there,
that's where Babe Ruth played, and they played their football games, there. There was a
piece of property down on the river just across Fortune Street, I guess that is. Anyway,
it's where Tampa Prep is now. I.W. Phillips owned it. The I.W. Phillips family was an old
family in Tampa and they had a very large wholesale hardware company, very successful.
Old man Phillips owned that property down there and daddy talked him into giving it to
the university. He told Mr. Phillips we're going to build a football field there and we'll
name it after you. So, he built Phillips Field there and called it Phillips Field. It sat
supposedly about ten to twelve thousand. They jammed a lot more in there in 1952 when
Florida played Kentucky, there. They had something like 20,000 jammed in there. And
University of Tampa Athletics owned Phillips Field.
B: I gather your father had some trouble, then, convincing the rest of the trustees to invest
the universities resources in athletics, is that right?
H: Finally, but it was later on-hell, I was on the scene by the time they agreed to take over
the University of Tampa Athletics and eventually, to carry it on through to the end. They
turned everything over to the university, including Phillips Field and about 1976 or 1975
UT sold that property that Phillips Field was on was on for a $1,300,000, which the
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university got. They were running the football program, which was very successful. That
was eventually why we built Tampa Stadium [so we could] accommodate an upgraded
University of Tampa football [program].
B: ... which, for a long time, was the only game in town when it came to football, right?
H: Right, that, and the high school games. So, we built Tampa Stadium for UT and it sat
42,000 when we built it. Pete Rozelle, [elected January 26, 1960, NFL Commissioner]
who was head of the NFL, was completely taken about Tampa from the very first time he
ever saw the place. People say, how did Tampa get that first NFL franchise and first
expansion while all these other cities around the country were vying for it. It was mostly
because Pete Rozelle just thought the world of Tampa.
B: That's a good thing.
H: He was the one. Tampa has been so lucky in all these things, and nobody around there
will ever believe what professional football and getting that franchise meant to Tampa.
B: Let's get back to that, but before we get too far away from UT, your grandfather and his
work. Before we move away from the University of Tampa, I do want to get clear on
something. He was a trustee and apparently had strong ideas that a lot of the other trustees
didn't necessarily go along with. Is that right?
H: Yes, he had strong ideas about the Athletic end of the school.
B: Did he think his fellow trustees were too conservative, financially, for stuff like this?
H: Yeah, they were very conservative. University of Tampa and University of Miami kind of
started off on the same plain and then after World War II, Miami just kept expanding.
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Well, UT stopped. Excuse me, I don't know how we've gotten away from the guy up at
"Monkey" Ward. You've heard this before, but the feeling was, with all the people that
were grown and knew something, that when World War II ended and the government quit
spending all this damn money on the military that we were going to have a serious
B: That was a conservative view.
H: It wasn't a conservative view; it was a fact. What changed the fact, was that nobody ever
pictured the country. .They spent more money the first few years after the war than they
spent during the war.
B: Who's the they?
H: The federal government.
B: On what?
H: On all kinds of programs they came up with, and that's why we never had the recession
and that's what made Montgomery Ward, who's out because the old guy up there he said,
yeah, this recession is coming and he kept holding "Monkey" Ward in. He had this cash
built up, whereas Sears and Roebuck took the opposite viewpoint and went out and
opened new stores. Everybody thought daddy was one of them. They just couldn't picture
the federal government spending the amount of money they spent in peace time. So, we
never had the serious recession that everybody thought we were going to have.
B: You believe that's due to federal spending on what kinds of programs, for example?
H: I can't name them all, but that's when they started social security, unemployment
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compensation, oh God, it was just a jillion things that they started. See, they had a lot of
these programs. Did you ever hear of WPA [Works Projects (progress) Administration,
one of the acronyms of the New Deal by Roosevelt]?
H: Well, I'm going to tell you something you might not know. Hillsborough County, that's
Tampa, got more WPA funds than any other county in the United States of America.
B: Why was that, do you suppose?
H: Well, the reason that it is true is, first of all, Tampa, being an industrial city, and down
here, was very hard hit by the depression, Where, mostly, in Florida [there] were
retirement communities and then, most of those people, they still got their retirement
income or had what they had. We had an old guy by the name of Pete Peterson. He was
our congressman and he lived in Lakeland.
B: When was this?
H: Oh, this was in the 1930s.
B: Okay, during the depression.
H: Right during the depression, and Mr. Peterson, if you've ever seen a great, old southern
politician with the thick, bushy, white hair and the voice; I mean he was a fixture up in
Washington. It was mostly through his efforts that Tampa was able to garner [WPA
money]. They rebuilt the bay shore from Howard Avenue to downtown. The bay shore
was already there, but they tore out all the old part and rebuilt Bay Shore Boulevard all
the way into Plat Street from Howard Avenue, which was the city limits, by that time.
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They also built the new administration building and the airport out there on Davis Island,
which is now, Peter O. Knight Airport. They've since torn it down, but that was Tampa's
principal airport until after WWII, was that airport out at Davis Island.
B: So, that sort of thing helped Tampa during the depression and your belief then, is that sort
of thing continued after the end of World War II.
H: Oh yeah, they continued all that. You can go back and check if you want. Just go back
and check what the expenditure of the federal government was for 1946, 1947, 1948,
1949, 1950; you'll find that the war was over and the damn government expenditures just
went way up. That's one of the main ways to stimulate the economy is government
B: Did your father feel positive about that or was he critical of that?
H: He was very critical of it, all of it. He couldn't stand Franklin Roosevelt. He was very
critical. They were free enterprise, laissez faire, you look after yourself, that's
the American way; very critical. No, they didn't go for that, at all.
B: Whois they?
H: My father and all his friends.
B: The people that he did business with?
B: Very resistant to the New Deal, FDR, and all of that, huh? Was he a Democrat, Mr.
H: No, he was a Republican.
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B: He was registered as a Republican?
B: That's a hard thing to do in Florida back in the 1930s and 1940s.
H: Well, back in those days, it was practically impossible because you couldn't vote in the
local elections because everybody was a Democrat.
B: Once the primary is over, the race is over.
H: So, what brought on all that feeling was the fact that no, we didn't have a recession, but
you also want to remember something of the opposite side of it. Say, you came out of
World War II?
B: As you did.
H: No, not me, because of what I'm saying. Say you came out of World War II and somehow
you dropped into a good situation, made some money, and let's say, you know, had $2
million. Do you know the easiest way for you to become worth even more money is to
have the country go into a recession.
B: I don't understand. How would that work?
H: Well, because if you have $2 million in purchasing power in 1946 and by 1949, due to the
slow economy, your $2 million, in purchasing power, was now worth $3.5 million.
B: ... because prices dropped. It doesn't necessarily mean there is inflation. In fact, you
don't want inflation but you do want price reduction; I got you.
H: See, so a lot of these guys that were preparing themselves for the depression, they
understood this and I'm sure this was the "Monkey" Ward guy's idea. Hell, I'm not going
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out and buying these damn stores and build these stores now, with the economy the way it
is. I'm saving my cash, boy, and when this damn big recession comes instead of spending
a $1/2 million for a store, I'm going to get to build it for $250,000.
B: So, there was a school of though that said, there's going to be a recession, we might as
well be smart and plan for it and be in a good position to navigate it.
H: After every war, there has been a recession, it only makes sense when the government
stops spending money on the military and the war.
B: Sure, well, did your father have an idea about how that should work? Was he of a mind
to think that it's natural to expect a recession and was he sort of bracing himself for it?
H: Oh God did he. Jesus, sometimes I'd walk out, when I was real young, in the bank to get
me in the director's.. .1 told you I was twenty-five when I graduated from college, so I
wasn't a twenty-one year old kid when I went down there. I would go in there and take
the minutes. Jesus, sometimes I'd come out of there, I can remember walking out of that
board room which had no windows, I was amazed the God damn sun was still shining. I
had sat in there for nothing but two and a half hours of gloom and doom. Frank
Plumber, who was one of the young men (well, he was fourteen or fifteen years older
than I was), but, anyway, to my daddy he was a young man who had come in to be
executive vice president and really, ran the bank for daddy. He'd see me and he'd come
over and put his arm around me and he'd say, Clewis, don't let it get to you. The sun is
shining and we're going to all be here, tomorrow. [laughing]
B: About what year would that have been?
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H: 1951, 1952, 1953.
B: Soon after you came to work at the bank. What year did you start at the Marine Bank?
H: I went to work in Februaryl949.
B: ... soon as you finished college. You went to the University of Florida?
H: Right, I went to University of Florida.
B: All along?
B: What was your major; what did you study?
H: Business administration.
B: What was your first job at the bank?
H: Printing thrifty checks. That was little special checking account we had, and they put your
name on it. That was the first time. That was really something back in those days, to have
your name on your check. There was a company that started up in New Jersey called
Thrifty Check Claim. You bought checks for ten cents a piece, sold a book of twenty
checks for $2. We printed the name on there with a little machine. I had to ink the son of
a bitch, put the people's name and address, the little type set, then, put it in there, and
crank it out.
B: You know I think I remember those things. It was like mimeograph, wasn't it?
H: Yeah, and it cranked down. I was up in the bookkeeping department, and I printed thrifty
checks. Then, I was a book keeper for a while. I wanted to learn the banking business
from the ground up. Then, I went into book keeping and ran a book keeping ledger for
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about a year. Than, I ran the general ledger which managed the book keeping department
and we balanced the bank. A bank balances every night. Businesses close out once a year,
in banking you close it out, every night. I remember, I was down there so damn late, I
remember one night I got out of there and the sun was still shining and I couldn't believe
it because I never got out of there until it was dark. In those days, we balanced to the
penny. Christ, now, I'd hate to think of what it is, by now. But anyway, in those days,
we'd spend an hour trying to find out,([when there are] millions and millions of dollars
we're talking about), why we're a penny out of balance.
B: Well let's see, who were some of the other men that your father was associated with, who
had these ideas similar to his?
H: Well there's a whole group of them. H.L. Crowder was one of his best friends.
B: Dusty Crowder?
H: Dusty Crowder. Have you heard of Carl Burine?
B: Sure, Peninsular Telephone.
H: Carl and daddy were very good friends. All of these guys were on the board of the Marine
Bank. J.L. Herron who was the big realtor; Troy Brown who had Electric.
And the greatest guy who was with us, who was our attorney, was Ralph C. Dell.
B: He was an attorney?
H: Yeah, he was the bank's attorney, for years.
B: Was he a sole practitioner in a law practice or was he with a law firm?
H: He had a small law firm that was called Reeves, Alan, and Dell. The old guys in there
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were Gibby Reeves and Alan. Dell was a young guy when he first went in there. Yeah,
that was a small law firm
B: Was that Chubby Alan?
H: An individual has to be in banking. If they say, who is your attorney, you can't say it's a
law firm. At a bank, you have to say who the individual is.
B: Some one person they can go to.
H: One person, right.
B: So, in the 1944 election for example, your father would have supported Tom Dewey?
H: Oh yeah.
B: In the 1948 election, same thing?
B: Your father would not have been a fan of Harry Truman?
H: He was a fucking hat salesman. What the hell does he know about running a country?
B: In the 1940 election he would have supported Wendell Wilkie, then.
H: Right, and a lot of people thought he looked like him Back when daddy was traveling,
some, while Wendell was running, a lot of people came up and thought he was Wendell
B: No kidding.
B: Which didn't offend your father?
H: No, it didn't offend him at all.
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B: I see. Was he unusual for businessmen in Tampa in being a vowed Republican in those
H: No, I think most of them thought that way but most of them were registered Democrats.
B: Just so they could participate in the local primaries.
B: What was it about the Republican Party that attracted them?
H: Because they didn't believe in the government spending all this damn money and having
all these deficits. How do you think we got all this God damned debt we've got.
B: In the 1952 election he like Taft better than Eisenhower?
H: In which election was that?
B: In the 1952 presidential election.
H: Oh yeah, he'd vote for Taft.
B: Certainly, not Stevenson. I was thinking during the Republican primary it was Taft versus
Eisenhower, and then, Eisenhower, of course, won the nomination and then went on to
beat Stevenson for the general election, as well.
H: Yeah, I don't know, because Eisenhower wasn't a political... In fact, I think Eisenhower
was probably more Republican than he was a Democrat, in thinking.
B: Oh yeah.
H: He could have run as a Republican just as easy as he ran for [Democrat].
B: I think that's true, yeah. Well, how about in local politics, were there people that you
remember him supporting that he thought well of? I guess I should mention some names
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here: the mayor of Tampa during the 1930s, during the depression, for three terms was a
guy named Robert E. Lee Chancey, Bob Chancey [Mayor of Tampa, Florida, November
1931 til November 1943].
H: Chancey was a very close friend of my daddy's. He and Bob Chancey were very good
B: Mr. Howell would have supported him, politically. Mr. Chancey, in some of his political
literature, and I'm thinking particularly in 1939, I've come across a campaign brochure of
his where Mayor Chancey takes a lot of credit for bringing WPA money to Tampa to
build the bay shore, to build the boulevard.
H: I'm sure he had a lot to do with it.
B: Apparently, they saw no conflict between thinking badly of the New Deal and FDR
[Franklin D. Roosevelt, elected four times, 1932, 1936, 1940, and 1944], but happy to
take the money to help keep the economy afloat locally, if it's available.
H: If it's there, we might as well use it.
B: Don't look a gift horse in the mouth.
H: Like we say, if somebody's going to win all that money on the golf course, why not me?
H: He taught me a great lesson.
B: This is your dad?
H: My daddy. This is a little personal, but he used to take us to school in the morning
because he went right by my twin sister's and my school going to work. We would go
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down to bay shore. These guys were building the bay shore and we'd go creeping around
and doing what you had to do, going around those things. As a young fellow, this was
when I was in junior high school, these guys were pushing wheel barrows, shovels, and
everything and they had suits on. Well, I was old enough to know, even at that age, that
you don't go out to dig ditches and do work like that, with suits on. They had a suit on,
coat, felt hat, and so, I said to my daddy one morning, daddy, why are those people
wearing suits and felt hats? They're looking like they belong downtown and they're out
here shoveling with shovels and pushing wheel barrows and moving all this stuff around.
He said, well, that's the clothes that they used when they had all the jobs downtown
working in office buildings. Now, they're unemployed and they get up and go to work
and that's the only clothes they got, so, they put their clothes on and go to work. For some
real reason, (I don't know), I can remember this so clear, I said, daddy, how can I make
sure I don't wind up with a suit on and felt hat and shovel in my hand, pushing a wheel
barrow. I never will forget what he told me, and I lived by it all my life. He said, no
matter what you decide to do, whether you want to be ditch digger or a doctor or a lawyer,
business man, engineer; whatever it is, you be the best. The best is never unemployed. I
lived by that my whole life. No matter what I did, I tried to be the absolute best. That was
my dedication, not making money, not doing anything because of the way the money
falls. That was such a great lesson for me. The other thing he told me (I've been thinking
about this), ( no great things did he tell me), but the other he told me was never, ever be
afraid to get your hands dirty. Today, I can say I've been through all this crap I've been
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through, all the society, all the banking association, all the high class people, and I have
never had a manicure. I will go right out there in my God damn blue suit and black shoes
and red tie and stick my God damn hands right down in the oil with any of them if that's
what they want to do.
B: That makes two of us.
H: I'll pick the dirt up and I'll do anything, because he said, never be ashamed of getting
your hands dirty.
B: When your dad looked at these fellows who were working, pushing wheel barrows on the
bay shore in their business suits who had jobs downtown until they got unemployed, do
you think that he would have believed that the fact that they were out there working on
the bay shore was their fault or their own doing and something that they should have
really been more capable of doing something about, or did he consider that they were just
unfortunate, unlucky and just didn't have much control over it?
H: No, I think they might have had a different feeling about the WPA. I think the things that
really upset most of them was ... Social security was going to bankrupt... It's a
wonderful thing to have, but social security is going to bankrupt America. Well, we're
beginning damn near to see a lot of people talking that way, now. It's just like everybody
knows national healthcare will bust a country. Every country that's tried it, it's busted
them. Yet, we still got people that think that we can have national healthcare and
prescription drugs and every other damn thing and not bust America, when it's busted
every damn country that's tried it. No, I don't remember them ever saying, ah, look at
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those lazy guys. No, I never heard any of that kind of talk. These people were honestly
unemployed due to the recession that they had nothing to do with. It's not like being
unemployed when you've got a rip roaring economy and people are out begging people to
go to work. You see what I'm talking about?
B: Oh, yeah. Did your father ever say anything to give you an idea of what it was that he
thought caused the Great Depression during the 1930s? Did he seem to have any
opinions about what brought that on? This is something people still argue about today,
but I just wondered if he had an idea.
H: Well, I know exactly what brought it on. What brought it on was the American people
had seen inflation in Germany, back then. I'm sure you've seen the pictures in books. The
terrible inflation that affected Germany after WWI. I mean you say the picture of the guy
that had a wheel barrow full of money. Well, you know where he was going? He going to
the grocery store to get a loaf of bread.
B: It's a very famous story, yes.
H: So, the idea of inflation in America--the fear was just so great... If they had just, (as
I've said for years) there was no reason we should have had the damn depression of the
1920s and 1930s. All they had to do was increase the money supply some and we
wouldn't have had that depression. But they were so afraid that [by] increasing the
money supply they would overdue it, (which is a possibility if you don't know what
you're doing) that we would get into this inflationary cycle that Germany was in. That's
why we had the depression. In fact, they found out by accident that increasing the money
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supply in America would increase the economic activity.
B: Was that your father's opinion during the depression and WWII?
H: No, I really don't know what his idea [was]. First of all, in a way it was accepted because
you always had a depression after a war was over. So, when it happened after WWI, they
thought, well, what's supposed to happen is happening.
B: Of course, we had the boom of the 1920s, first.
B: Well, let me ask you this, there was a serious economic recession in Florida starting four
years before the stock market crash of 1929. They call it the real estate crash, which really
started up in 1926, just a year or so, after your father got here having moved from Ithaca.
B: Did he ever talk about that period of time, that real estate crash in Florida?
H: The big bank, the Citizen's Bank in Tampa, which [was] big for those days. It was about
a fourteen story office building downtown; it's since been torn down. It was the biggest
bank in Florida. The runs on the bank in Tampa started in the small banks in Ybor City
and it spread to downtown. [Here is] One of daddy's favorite stories. Of course, the
Citizen's Bank was the biggest bank in Tampa. It was bigger than the Exchange Bank. It
was bigger than the First National Bank. Of course, daddy was with the Exchange Bank,
but he was a young man around town. He used to tell me that he was somewhere at some
meeting one night and he heard at this meeting that the board of directors of the Citizen's
Bank had met and decided not to open the bank the next morning. This is the biggest
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bank in Florida and they're talking about not opening the bank the next morning. So,
daddy feels that Mr. Clewis ought to know about this. We were living in Golfview, then.
We weren't living in the same house with he and grandmother; we were living in
Golfview. So, he goes by the house at 10:30 or 11 o'clock and wakes up Mr. And Mrs.
Clewis. Mrs. Clewis says come on up and he's up in bed. So, daddy goes up, (and this is
the way he used to tell the story), and granddaddy was about half asleep. He woke
granddaddy up and said, Mr. Clewis, this is George. He said, I think you ought to know I
was just at a meeting downtown and I heard that the directors of the Citizen's Bank are
not going to open their doors, tomorrow morning. You know what my granddaddy said?
Doesn't surprise me, and he rolled over and went back to sleep. [laughing] He said, it
doesn't surprise me. Daddy used to love to see that story.
B: He knew they were overextended.
H: Then that really started it, because up until that point a bunch of banks had closed but
they were small banks. I was a federal reserve director for a while and I was sitting up
there [this was in the early 1970s] after one of the director's meetings. I was sitting
around the bank up there waiting for a plane. After lunch, one of the officers said, Clewis,
come down. I want to show you something. We've been trying to write some histories.
They had the original, old, yellow paper, hand-written, notes that were written by these
examiners on Florida banks that they were recommending they close up.
B: From back in the 1920s?
H: Yeah, but do you know what you could get a bank charter for back in those days?
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B: In capital?
H: Yeah. Anyway, that was very interesting, looking at their remarks about the bank and the
condition of the bank and why they recommended the bank was to be closed.
B: Have you ever seen a book by Ramond Vicors called Florida's Banking Panic of 1926?
H: No, I haven't.
B: I've looked at it. I haven't read it in detail, but you might find it interesting. He's an
attorney in Tallahassee and used to work for the Florida State Comptroller, and he wrote
a pretty well-researched, it appears, scholarly researched work trying to figure out why it
was that the banking panic spread through Florida in the late 1920s. He talks about the
Citizen's Bank failure in Tampa. He seems to believe there was some sort of
inappropriate financial relationship between the state treasurer at the time and this group
of investors who owned Citizen's Bank and several other influential banks in Florida.
Apparently, there had been some loans made that were uncollectible and everybody was
pretending they could still stand a chance of collecting them someday when they needed
H: Now you're stimulating my thinking about it. I always understood that the main thing that
caused it [was that] you could go into a bank in the 1920s, let's take this house and let's
put a value of $200,000, and nobody questions that it's worth $200,000. You could go
into a bank if you had a good name and a good reputation and say Mr. Banker, I've got
my house up there or I've got this business property or I've got this piece of property and
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its worth $200,000. I want to borrow essentially 60 percent, $120,000. They would make
that loan with no due date, no monthly payments, and by the time I got in the banking
business, we couldn't make a real estate loan unless it had monthly payments. What really
got the banks [was that] all of a sudden, since there was not reduction of the loan and the
recession started, they could no longer sell this place for $200,000 and they had loaned
me $160,000 on it. See what the problem is?
B: The values went down but the loans didn't go down.
H: Right, and that's when they put in this (I never really understood whether it was a state
law or a federal law), but anyway, that we could not make real estate loans. That's what
kept the commercial banks, after the recession, we just weren't in the real estate business.
We didn't make real estate loans, anymore.
B: Well Mr. Howell, we are running close to the time that you said you needed to get out of
here. You said you have to leave at 11:30 and it's now 11:14. Let me stop the tape here.
B: I'm starting the tape recorder again, here, now. We're going to have to stop in ten
B: Let me just ask if you remember anything about these names and your father's opinions
of them. We talked about the fact that he was a close, personal friend of Bob Chancey and
supported him. How about Curtis Hickson? What did your father think of Curtis
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H: [He was] a very, very good friend of Curtis Hickson. I think he was a very good friend of
Elwood Sinnnons, county commissioner.
B: Now Hickson ran again Chancey for mayor in 1943. I understand you went into the
service at that time, so, you weren't necessarily in town. Do you know how your father
H: No, I don't.
B: That was a very bitter election.
H: Who won?
B: No, Curtis Hickson won.
H: That's when Curtis was elected? Okay.
B: That was his first victory and then he stayed in until he died in office in 1956. How about
the man who succeeded Curtis Hickson as mayor, Nick Nuccio? What did your father
think of him?
H: Well, he wasn't very close with Nick Nuccio. Nuccio, in those days, was just a
politician's politician that everybody kind of snickered about behind his back. He stuck
his name on every bench, but, I'll say this for him, he got elected mayor. I'm going to
make a flat-ass-out statement, the best mayors of Tampa have been the loudest: Nuccio,
Martinez, Greco. That's my opinion of what I've seen of it. By this point, daddy had one
or two heart attacks. No, he was close friends with Curtis Hickson and Chancey.
B: How about the man who came after Nick Nuccio, Julian Lane?
H: Well, Julian was a younger guy. They weren't close friends. He was too young for my
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father and too old, for me.
B: I see, okay. How did your father feel about the man, who was one of our US Senators in
this state during WWII, Claude Pepper.
H: Oh, Jesus. [laughing] Claude Pepper took me around. I was up in Washington. If you're
the President of the Florida Banking Association you've got to go to Washington every
year for about ten days. What we do is we go up there and we call on all the members of
the banking committee and talk to the federal reserve people and do all this stuff. So, we
went around. Of course, Claude Pepper was still representing Florida then, so he was
there. So, I walk in to Claude Pepper's office and shake hands with him. I've got a couple
of guys from the FBA [Florida Bankers Association] with me. He says, Clewis, God, I
remember your daddy. He sure hated me. He thought I was the worse thing. He says, [do]
you know what? He says, I've got the same principles today, that I had back then. I'm
now a conservative.
B: Isn't that the truth? What used to be liberal has turned around.
H: Claude was quite a guy. He was very nice to me. Oh my God, Claude Pepper was right
there along with the Commies [Communists] [as far as my daddy was concerned].
B: Yeah. When Claude Pepper had his reelection campaign in 1950, he was opposed by a
younger guy named George Smathers. How did your father feel about George Smathers?
Was he a supporter?
H: No, I was closer to Smathers. My best friend at [University of] Florida was Ben Smathers.
Ben was Senator Smathers' son from New Jersey, who decided to come down to Florida
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when he got out of the Air Force. He was the same age as I was, and so we wound up at
the SAE [Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity] house in Gainesville together.
B: You were SAE?
B: So, was my oldest brother.
H: Good. He wasn't crazy about any Democrats on a national [level].
B: How about LeRoy Collins, who was governor in the 1950s?
H: Well, I think everybody liked LeRoy Collins. It didn't make a difference who you were
or what you were. Everybody admired LeRoy Collins. He and daddy weren't great friends
or anything like that, but that was my opinion of LeRoy Collins. He was just a first class
gentleman and guy, and everybody like him
B: Okay, well, I'll tell you what, maybe this would be a good spot to put it on hold for a
moment and brace ourselves to come back and talk about a few other things if we can.
Thank you Mr. Howell.
[end side A 2]
B: Today is July 14, 2003. I'm at the home of A. Clewis Howell in Tampa, Florida, and we
are resuming the oral history interview that I started with him in June. We will resume the
discussion of his experience with his father George Blain Howell in Tampa during the
New Deal/Great Depression era. Mr. Howell, I'd like to know if you will tell us what else
you recall about the experience of people in Tampa during those years. Did it seem to
you, as a young man growing up, that times were hard for people in Tampa then?
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H: Well, yes, I knew things were hard for people in Tampa, mostly because my family was
very religious about taking clothes that we had either outgrown as kids or no longer were
wearing. They would take them to the Salvation Army or maybe some other similar type
organization that was operating, at that time. I didn't [experience this], but every now and
then, my twin sister would see one of the girls in the school in one of her old dresses.
There were a lot of things [that made me realize times were hard], plus the WPA site that
was right there in front of us, everyday. But as you know with kids, [they don't realize
things like that]. A fellow went back to his neighborhood after he'd grown up [and] said,
gee, I didn't realize I grew up in a poverty area. Kids just don't relate to [poverty because]
they're having fun [and] doing their thing. As the old saying [goes], all I need is three
squares and a cot to get along.
B: We call it the Great Depression today, did you understand at the time that there was a
depression going on?
H: Yes. Most of the reason I did is because I lived in a household with two business people,
my grandfather and my father. I listened to them talk at the dinner table, [the] lunch table
on Saturday and Sundays, and the breakfast table. I was very privileged to be sitting
there and listening to a lot of the problems. I think the biggest thing about the depression
was the hopelessness. I know there's been books written on this that the biggest crime
during the depression was not the fact that people were not employed, it was the fact that
they didn't have anything to do. The real fallout [was that] there was no hope. I can
remember my mother told me one time, maybe I'd been bad or something, I don't know,
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but I remember her saying, I don't know why we're trying so hard to raise you children
when you've really got no future. My generation had about as much future as anybody in
the world. But I can remember her saying that specifically, and this is a well-educated,
high class woman.
B: Did your father, Mr. Howell, have the same idea that there was maybe not a lot of hope
for the future?
H: Well, I never heard him say there's no hope for the future. He was a funny mix [because]
he was a positive person, [but] then he could turn right around and be negative. It was a
funny, funny mixture of a man.
B: What would he be negative about, for example?
H: Oh, he could be terribly negative. Now, you're making me answer the question and I
answered it wrong. He did not feel that there was much of a future. You say, what was he
negative on? He was negative on the direction of the country and all the socialistic things
that were taking place and [on] the government expenditures and debt. He was terribly
negative about those things, and yet, he'd turn around and be very positive about Tampa.
I remember at one time there was some question about getting the money to open the
school system. This was right after the war and the tax income wasn't jiving with when
they needed the money in the school system. Hell, we stepped in there and loaned the
county the money to pay the teachers when none of the other banks in Tampa would do it.
B: When was this?
H: [It was about] 1954 or 1955, somewhere in that area.
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B: When you were working for the bank?
H: Yes. Then he turned around, which to me was a very positive sign. You could get him on
another day and he'd get started on the direction of the country and all these things I
mentioned. I've been thinking [of ] the other great pieces of advice he gave me, if I can
stick this in here.
H: I thought this was pretty good advice for an Ivy Leaguer besides telling me to always be
the best. He also told me to never be afraid to get your hands dirty. I've done that all my
life. I was a banker walking around in blue suits and blue ties and black shoes and calling
on customers. Hell, if they had something there they stuck their hands in it, no matter
what it was, I'd walk over there and stick my hand right in there with them.
B: Good for you. Did your dad do that, too?
H: Yeah, he taught me. He said, never be afraid of getting your hands dirty. I go out there
now [when] I get out of that car coming in to lunch and I see a weed, I'll go and pull the
damn weed. I don't care whether I get my hands dirty or not.
B: When you listened to your dad and your grandfather, your grandfather being Alonzo
Clewis, talking to each other about conditions during the depression, were those two guys
pretty much in agreement with each other about what was the cause and what was the
outlook, or did they have disagreements about those things? Did they see pretty much eye
H: Well yeah. My granddaddy, Mr. Clewis, was very, very conservative.
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B: How do you mean conservative?
H: We won't talk about political conservatism, we're just talking about living conservatism.
He was very tight.
H: As they used to say, he could watch a nickel go down and around the corner. (Laughing) I
think I told you this story, but I asked him, one time, for a quarter, and he was quite well
[off]. He told me to go out and earn a quarter and [then] tell him it wasn't a lot of money.
I think they more or less [agreed]. See, looking back on it, now, to me, it's very simple,
but we didn't understand the economics of the thing. If they had just increased the money
supply like we've done ever since the end of World War II to control the economy in the
1920s, hell, I don't think we would have ever had that damn depression.
B: Is that Mr. Clewis and your dad, Mr. Howell, thought at the time?
H: No, this is what I'm saying now after being educated from 1949-1950 and seeing what
they do. Hell, we'd have had ajillion depressions like that since World War II if they
hadn't run the thing with the money supply. But the other thing I think the country was
suffering from, is this thing that they were scared to death of inflation. [They were]
absolutely panicky about inflation. I'm talking now, about right after World War I.
You've all seen the picture in the history books of the guy in Germany with a
wheelbarrow full of money and he's going down to buy a loaf of bread. Now, that's
B: That picture had a big impact in the minds of people in the United States.
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H: People in power up there, and of course, when you start monkeying around increasing the
money supply, that's the way you can start inflation.
B: Could be.
H: Practically for sure. So, they would not do that. They were so afraid of inflation, I guess
they'd just rather see what happened.
B: What did Mr. Clewis and Mr. Howell think was the cause of the situation in the 1930s?
H: I'm not sure.
B: Did they blame it on anybody?
H: I know nobody with any great sense ever blamed it on Herbert Hoover.
B: They did not blame it him?
H: No. I mean anybody that knew anything [did not blame it on him]. I'm not saying that the
man on the street [might not think that] because the press and pounded it and pounded it
and pounded it. They certainly knew that those forces were probably in effect before he
came into office.
B: Sure. Did they blame Calvin Coolidge?
H: No, I don't remember them talking much about Calvin Coolidge. Of course, they talked a
lot about Roosevelt because he was the new guy in office.
B: What did they have to say about Roosevelt?
H: Well, like anybody that's a political conservative, they didn't find much he did that they
wanted to support.
B: During the 1932 election, did your father and grandfather both support Herbert Hoover
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H: I'm sure they did.
B: So when Hoover lost the election and FDR started doing things that were pretty radical
departures from previous federal policy, were they apprehensive that he was going to do
damage to the country's future? Did they think that these were experiments that [they
should] give it a chance and see if it's going to make a difference? How did they seem to
look at what FDR was doing as president?
H: With FDR was when the government started getting bigger, and anybody that's a
conservative is not a big government person. They believe in small government and that
the government is the people's enemy, whether the people realize it or not. But, sooner or
later, it's always the government, that is the people's enemy. So, they were not in favor.
First of all, they didn't think all that money should be spent on those programs, and I
don't think they really thought that money spent, was going to do a lot of good. God
knows, we've sure seen that come true [with] all the money we've thrown at things in this
country and haven't improved anything. This doesn't mean that they were right, but they
were typical hard rock, small government, get government out of everything, government
isn't the answer to everything, quit going up there with your hand out because the
money's got to come from some place.
B: You told me in our initial interview that your father was a lifelong political conservative.
I think I understood you to say that he remained a republican throughout his life. And, as
far as you know, [he] maintained his registration as a member of the republican party. Am
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I remembering that, correctly? Do you think that's true?
H: I feel positive that's true.
B: Well how about your grandfather, Alonzo Clewis, who was born in Georgia.
H: Oh, I'm sure he was a democrat.
B: You almost had to be in the South in those days, if you're going to have a vote in
anything. How do you think he reconciled being a democrat with his support for people
like Herbert Hoover, and his resistance to people like Franklin Roosevelt?
H: Well you want to remember [that] my grandfather, Mr. Clewis, was a Georgia boy, as I
told you, that left home when he was seventeen or eighteen years old. I think he went to
one and a half years, or something like that, at the University of Florida when it was in
Lake City. He did not have the educational background that my father had, having gone to
Dartmouth and Cornell. He was not too much into the national political scene. Now in the
local scene he was interested [in politics].
B: He was a very smart man, though.
H: Yeah, he was a smart man. I don't remember him being all that interested or talking that
much about the national picture.
B: Okay, so, as near as you recall in your family's discussions, it was not a case of there
being any real obvious clues as to what was behind the current economic crisis at the time
during the 1930s. Nobody was particularly to blame for it, but there were apparently quite
a few controversial ideas going around about how to get the country out of the situation.
H: Well you remember, I told you the last time you were here, the usual sequence of events
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is [that] after a war the country goes into a recession because the country quits spending
all this money on tanks, rifles, and to some extent airplanes, even in World War I. All this
money is going into the economy and they are producing goods, so there's more money
chasing what consumer goods there are. So, it's not like all these people were building
refrigerators and bed spreads and everything else in the consumer goods, and their
salaries were going into the mix. A war, in itself, is inflationary because of that.
Everybody, I think, pretty much expected that we would go into some kind of recession
after World War I. Hell, they still thought after World War II, that, surely [we] surely
we're going into a recession. There's no way we can help it, after all those millions and
billions we've been spending on the war and all the people that were employed; we've
got to go into a recession. Either way, it was expected and accepted that we [would] have
some kind of major relocation after both of those wars.
B: And after the end of the Great War in 1919 and 1920, there was indeed a recession, a
pretty severe economic contraction.
H: And we had the same thing after World War II, except after World War II they stepped in,
like I told you last time we talked, and hell, you can go check, the government
expenditures in 1947, 1948, 1949, and on up to today, were greater than what their
expenditures were during World War II. Now, if they'd have cut out all those
expenditures and not made them and said the heck with it, the war is over, we don't have
to spend that much money on the military and fighting the war, and now we're going to
get squared away and try to pay off some of this debt we got that we built up during the
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war, well, we would have had another recession. This time, after World War II, they
didn't do that. They just spiked up that spending and started all kinds of programs and
sent everybody to college. I'm a recipient of that. I went through college on the GI Bill.
B: Now you had started during the war, but you finished after the war.
H: Right, I finished three years after the war. I think they weren't surprised [that we had a
recession]. I know that's the way they thought, that we're going to have a recession after
World War II.
B: So, you think that during the Great Depression, before World War II, that people like
your grandfather and your father thought, well, this is a natural consequence, if a delayed
one, of what happened during the war and after the war. Did they think this was
inevitable? What would you say? Part of the business segment?
H: Well, they didn't know anything else. They never thought of the government as being the
savior of the economy. [They thought], hell, if we're going to pull the economy out, damn
it, people have got to work harder; they've got to produce more. That's the way you pull
the country out of a recession. You don't pull it out by the government coming up with a
bunch of programs and going into debt. Do you see what I'm saying? They never thought
that way. They thought that the only way you got out of it was you worked your way out
B: Well, on that subject then, you've told me your recollections about seeing WPA workers
during the depression years out on Bayshore Boulevard working on the new highway
there. The construction of Peter O. Knight Airport out on Davis Island was part of the
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WPA, and the construction of Dale Mabry Highway, I understand, was another WPA
project during those years.
H: It might have been. It was really more military, I don't know, but it was built to connect
Drew Field to MacDill Field.
B: These were things that politicians in Tampa, men like the mayor of Tampa at the time,
Bob (Robert E. Lee) Chancey, these were projects that politicians worked hard to get
from the federal government.
H: Oh, they sure did.
B: And they claimed a lot of credit for doing it. Did your father and grandfather take the
attitude that it was a good thing for Tampa that those projects were being pursued?
H: They certainly were happy about the people being employed, yes. As I told you originally,
Congressman Pete Peterson was from Lakeland, but this was in his district. I'm sure this
is correct, [but] Tampa and Hillsborough County got more WPA forms than any other
county in the United States.
B: I don't know, but that's an interesting statistic to wonder about. That would be interesting
H: [But] yes, [my father and grandfather thought they were worthy projects]. Hell, in those
days anything that would produce employment and some kind of economic activity was
B: Let me name a few names of people who were politically active at the time and get your
father and grandfather's opinion of them. Let's start with that fellow I just mentioned,
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Bob Chancey, the mayor of Tampa. Did they have a good opinion [of him]?
H: Yeah, he was a good friend of my father's.
B: Okay. Would you say your father supported him, politically?
H: I would say he did.
B: How about Mr. Clewis?
H: I don't know [about] Granddaddy at that age. I feel that he did [support him], but I know
Bob Chancey and my daddy were friends.
B: Okay. Good friends?
H: Yes, they spent time together.
B: How about Curtis Hixson? Did your father have a good opinion of Curtis Hixson and
would he have been a supporter of him, politically?
B: Now, I'm curious, if you have any idea at all, of whose side your father would have come
down on in the 1943 election where Curtis Hixson ran against Bob Chancey, as mayor of
Tampa and won in what appears to have been, from the historical record, a very bitter
election campaign between those two guys. Which one of those two politicians do you
think your dad would have supported more?
H: It would be strictly a guess on my point, but I would assume that [he would support] Bob
H: Because of their friendship.
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B: .. .because they went back a long time?
H: [Yeah], because they went back a long time.
B: How about the U.S. Senator from Florida, one of them, during the 1930s was Park
Trammel. Do you remember that name?
B: How about Duncan Fletcher, who was the other U.S. Senator during those years?
B: How about Specert Holland?
H: I knew Specert very well; I grew up with some of his children.
B: Was your father a supporter of Senator Holland?
H: Yeah, I think he thought well of Specert.
B: How about David Scholtz, who was governor of Florida during the 1940s? Does that
name ring a bell?
H: Yeah, I can't remember who it was, but he was kin to some people who were very good
friends of my mother's and father's. I don't think my father was a big political person in
Florida. P. O. Knight, I know he's big on supporting politicians and doing that kind of
thing. My father didn't get into that kind of thing. He spoke well of them. If he thought
well of them, he spoke well of them, but trying to be the number one guy with one of
them wasn't his [thing].
B: I don't blame him.
H: Yeah, I don't either.
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B: I just wondered if there was anything that stood out in your memory about how he felt
about these people.
H: Well, the person he disliked the most, and as you can well imagine, was Claude Pepper.
B: He thought Claude Pepper was too politically liberal?
B: Would he have worked to support Claude Pepper's political opponent?
H: I'm sure. See, now you get under my age group. I was very good friends with the
Smathers [George Smathers, former United States Senator from Florida, who defeated
Claude Pepper in the 1950 election].
B: Now, Pepper ran for reelection in 1944, as well, and I can't remember who ran against
him, can you?
B: He won, and he won in the Tampa Bay area, according to the history accounts I've read,
because he got the tolls lifted off the Gandy Bridge and people liked him for that.
H: Well they released tolls on both bridges during World War II. That's because there were
so many workers working in Tampa in the shipyards and the air fields and everything that
the state bought both Courtney Campbell, which was then, Davis Causeway, and Gandy
Bridge. [The state] took the toll off of both of them so the workers could go back and
forth without paying the toll, everyday. You remember Tampa, being what it is, an
industrial city, was heavily unionized. Those were the people Claude Pepper and the
democrats and those people catered to.
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B: This would have been the cigar worker's union?
H: [It was the] cigar worker's union, boiler-maker's union, all the shipyard people or
stevedore's union. Not many people understand really what Tampa was and what Tampa
is. People are so damn busy they just want to throw everybody in the same category.
They've got retirees and they got some tourists, but that's not Tampa. That's most of
Florida, but that's not Tampa. I think that's why Claude Pepper probably always had won
in Hillsborough County. He might have won the year George Smathers beat him.
B: I don't know, that would be a good thing to check into. So, you think Tampa, as a
constituency of voters, was more liberal than a lot of Florida because it had a lot of union
B: Why do you suppose it was that Tampa had more union members here other than the
H: Because we had the industry. God, do you realize the can factories we had in Tampa?
When I was growing up in the 1930s, West Tampa out here, which is a little section, had
12,000 cigar workers in just West Tampa. Now, you can go with Ybor City, which was
really where the cigar thing was, [and] God [only] knows how many thousand they had
working over there in those factories. Then, you've got all the people in the big American
Can [and] Continental Can plants [that] all unionized. Then, you get down in the port,
and all those people, boiler-makers and everything working on ships, plus the stevedores.
The stevedore's union, as you know, has always been one of the most powerful unions in
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the country. We had unions all over the place. The rest of Florida cities had retirees
moving in and buying houses and some tourists coming down in the winter time, and that
was their economy.
B: Except, maybe, for a place like Jacksonville.
H: Jacksonville didn't. What saved Jacksonville was [that] we passed that insurance
B: When was that?
H: I think it was in the 1950s, [and it] basically said that the life insurance company paid a
state tax on life insurance premiums elected in Florida. So, the people in Jacksonville
came up with this bill that said, if you opened a regional life insurance in Florida, and it
serves Florida and two other Southeastern states, you're exempt from the Florida tax on
life insurance premiums you collect in Florida. Now, where do you think people are going
to locate? So, that's why you saw the spurt in Jacksonville and the building of those
things because nicely, if you had to serve Florida and two other Southeastern states, it's
pretty obvious you're better off there than you are in Miami and Tampa. Eventually, we
did get Med Life in Tampa, but that was thirty years later.
B: Talking about unions in Tampa and union workers, we had a lot of industrial employment
in Tampa in those years, more than most other places in Florida, and industrial workers
are attracted to unions.
H: Well it's just natural, particularly [because] the union movement all over the United
States during those years was very aggressive. It wasn't that things were wrong with
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Tampa [that] people joining the union, it was being done all over the country and the laws
were favoring the unions. It was just their day.
B: What effect did that have on business and industry in Tampa, do you suppose? Was it a
H: Yeah. What I'll get you to think about, which you haven't even mentioned, take
practically all the Spanish and Cuban restaurants in Ybor City, like The Columbia, Los
Novadadas. They weren't what you saw in all of Florida, [where] little old ladies with
aprons on serving the tables. They had males dressed in tuxedos who were professional
waiters and union members doing the waiting in The Columbia, Los Novadadas, and all
the rest of them. That's what I used to love about going to the Spanish restaurants as a
kid. [I loved] watching these men because they did such a wonderful job of serving the
food. They were all union members. Only once in all my traveling and representing
Tampa, [and] this was after World War II in the 1950s and 1960s, did I hear Tampa
referred to as a union town. I'm not saying a lot of other people didn't think it, I'm just
saying, I only heard it from an outsider, once. There was no denying it. A lot of cities in
the United States were union towns, if you had industry and had workers. The unions had
expanded into all these areas.
B: When your dad ran Tampa shipyards during World War II, there were union employees
that worked in the shipyard. How did he get along with the unions, there?
H: [He got along] fine because everybody during the war was patriotic. It's not like now,
where they want to picket everything and shove the country down the drain. Everybody
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was together and working. I'm not saying they didn't have some grievances sometimes
about something, and I wasn't here during a lot of that war time stuff, I was not in Tampa,
but he dealt with the unions, all the time.
B: Do you recall him saying anything about his experience with the union workers in his
H: No, he was always very complementary about the workers in the shipyard. No, I don't
remember him saying [very much]. You know, every now and then, you get a bad apple,
B: Let me ask you this, a family question might help me identify your father's ideas or
beliefs a little bit. Was church membership or going to church very important in your
upbringing and family life?
H: Well, I can answer that straight out. It was very important that my sister, my brother, and
me went to Sunday school.
H: At St. Andrews Episcopal Church. Mother and daddy never went. Isn't that funny?
B: Well that's an old story. You hear that a lot. People believe that responsible parenting
means church attendance. It's not an unusual thing.
H: I'm not saying they didn't support the church financially, but they just weren't people that
jumped up every Sunday morning, got dressed and went to church.
B: But they thought it was an important part of your upbringing.
H: Oh yeah, geez. If we didn't do anything else, we showed up at Sunday school.
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B: Okay, and they made sure.
B: Have you read a book by Ray Vickers, or heard of it, called Panic in Paradise? It's about
the Florida banking panic of the 1920s. Have you ever heard of it?
B: He came out with this book about ten years ago. He's a lawyer in Tallahassee, and he
used to work for the controller's office when Gerald Lewis was the state comptroller.
Vickers did a lot of research into the comptroller's records and some of the state records
on banking during the 1920s and 1930s. Following the real estate crash of 1926, there
were, as you no doubt are aware, a pretty fair number of bank failures in the state even
before the Stock Market Crash of 1929 and the Great Depression. Vickers' general
argument is that there have been a lot of insider lending going on involving some of
Florida's larger bank corporations and that is why there were so many failures. One of the
biggest, in fact I guess it was the biggest bank failure in Tampa, was that of Citizen's
Bank and Trust.
H: It was the biggest bank in the state.
B: Was it? I didn't know that. It closed for good in July 1929. I believe you told me in our
last interview an anecdote, and it was a pretty funny story, about your dad going to tell
Mr. Clewis, the night before, that he had heard that they weren't going to open the next
day. Mr. Clewis said, it doesn't surprise me, rolled over, and went back to sleep.
H: Yeah, Daddy had been down to town to some kind of get-together with a bunch of guys. I
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don't know, it was probably some civic something, I'm sure. He'd heard of the rumor, so
around midnight he drives out to granddaddy's house and tells him and that's what
granddaddy said. First of all, the big deal in Florida, in those days, was land and
They were loaded with land loans. What they would do was, you'd come in the bank and
say I want to borrow so much money on this house or this piece of property or something,
and how about putting it on a year's note. [The bank would say] okay, and they'd put it
on a year's note. Well, you went in there year after year and just renewed it. You never
paid anything on it. You never paid it off.
B: No installment payments.
H: Right. That was one thing, by the time I got in the banking business in the late 1940s,
they made a law that you didn't make real estate loans unless there were monthly and
quarterly reductions on it. That's what got them. Then when the crash came, like
everything else, they had $400,000 loaned on a piece of property out here and it's been on
the books for a number of years, and all of a sudden the depression comes and hell, you
can't get anything for it. Zilch. So, if you got $400,000 in it, you've got to charge off
$400,000. But you know this happens all the time. Hell, people in Florida [with] all their
real estate [control a lot]. [With] that bad thing they put us through in the 1960s and
1970s, hell, they closed up the Continental Bank in Chicago, which was one of the big,
well-thought-of banks in the country, at the time.
B: Yeah, I remember that.
H: No, I have not read that book, but I know that's what caused it in Tampa. The run on the
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banks started in the banks in Ybor City, and then spread downtown to the Exchange and
B: Did the Exchange suffer during that banking crisis? I know it survived, but was it a tough
H: Oh yeah. Yeah, they were standing around the block two or three times waiting to get
their money out. What finally broke up both the Exchange and the First National was it
started raining like hell. It rained for about three straight days.
B: That'll keep people off the street.
H: Yeah. Those are the things I've heard. I had a customer in the 1970s who was still mad
about being jerked out of the line at one of the banks that busted in the 1920s. He was
still mad about it. A damn director in the bank was a friend of his and said, what are you
doing standing in this line, get the hell out of the line. You know the bank's alright. Well
hell, two weeks later, there wasn't any bank left. He was still mad about it!
B: Well, you can't blame him for that. Well, Vickers, the author of this book, doesn't spend
a lot of time talking about Tampa's situation, but he does talk about the Citizen's Bank
and Trust in some detail, no doubt because it was such a large bank, as you say. The name
of the man who headed it was Lewis Beze.
H: Beze, he was a druggist.
B: Really? Okay, I guess he got into that. Apparently, he was also the publisher of the
Tampa Tribune for awhile in the 1920s.
H: He was?
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B: Yeah. According to Vickers' book, he sold the Tribune in 1927.
H: He did what?
B: He sold the Tribune out.
H: Dr. Beze did?
B: According to Vickers' book, he did.
H: Maybe, he did. That's something that I missed entirely, I didn't know that.
B: Well, your grandfather and Peter O. Knight had collaborated on the founding of the
Exchange Bank when your grandfather was relatively new to Tampa.
H: Well, Mr. Knight was relatively new to Tampa, too.
B: That's true, back in the late 19th Century. They remained active in the leadership of the
bank, and your grandfather, Mr. Clewis, and Mr. Knight were, I guess, president and vice-
president, respectively, in the 1920s. Is that correct?
H: I don't think Mr. Knight was ever an officer in the bank. He was busy with Tampa
Electric Company and his law practice and everything. He was certainly one of the major
investors, but it was my grandfather who came into the Exchange Bank as president, and
that was his job. He got a relative down there to run his company, Tampa Abstract and
Title, the insurance company, so, he could spend all his time in the Exchange Bank.
B: Well, after the Citizen's Bank collapsed, there were quite a few depositors who didn't get
their money and were hoping to get paid off. According to Vickers' book, the
Jacksonville-based Florida National Bank offered to buy the assets and liabilities of the
Citizen's Bank, including their office tower downtown in Tampa, then, and pay
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everybody off at face value for what they were owed on their deposits. According to
Vickers, that bank, which was headed, apparently, at that time, by Alfred Dupont and his
brother-in-law, Ed Ball, was unable to get a charter from the state of Florida to complete
that purchase. Vickers says the reason they couldn't get a charter was because Mr. Knight
persuaded Governor Carleton, [not on list of past governors, see Information File] the
governor of Florida at the time, to intervene with the comptroller against that purchase.
Peter O. Knight argued to Governor Carleton that this was an attempt on the part of
Dupont and Ed Ball to extend their political influence into Tampa and West Central
Florida. Ed Ball, having been a pretty conservative guy politically and financially, and
apparently, Dupont, as well. Peter O. Knight's argument was, you don't want an
extension of the political influence of Ball and the Florida National Bank into Tampa, so,
don't let them come in and buy this bank. If I'm not mistaken, (you correct me if I'm
wrong), but the Florida National Bank never really did establish a toe-hold in Tampa, did
B: Does this story sounds like it makes sense to you?
H: Yeah, I've heard that story. See, this was before anybody knew anything about holding
companies or anything. We had a no-branch state, and here was Florida National with
banks in Jacksonville, Miami, and Palm Beach. In other words, they had a string of
banks. It wasn't a very effective organization as a bank, but [as far as] total deposits [go],
it dwarfed any one, single bank.
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[end side B 1]
B: How was Florida National able to have so many banks when there is no branch banking
H: My understanding is that there was some kind of Dupont Trust. All these banks were
individual banks; they weren't branches. There was the Florida National Bank of
Jacksonville, period. It had its own capital, its own stock holders, its own board of
directors, [and] its own officers. Then the Florida National Bank of Miami was another
bank, and it had its own stock holders, directors, and officers. They all operated as
individual banks, but they were all controlled by this Dupont Trust, of which Ed Ball,
eventually, became head of. I've heard that for years--that they didn't want Florida
National in Tampa, and Florida National never got into Tampa.
B: Was that the only attempt that Florida National ever made to get into Tampa?
H: As far as I know [it is the only attempt they made]. I don't know of any other [attempt].
B: Although it would make sense that Florida National would have wanted to be in Tampa.
H: Oh, I think, definitely, they'd want to be in Tampa. I can't see why they wouldn't want to
be in Tampa. They weren't a particularly aggressive type of organization.
B: They were not?
B: I guess I've always had this image of Ed Ball as being a shrewd and aggressive
H: He was a shrewd guy, alright.
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B: I would have thought that he would have wanted to try to expand into a good market if he
saw an opportunity to do that, which, evidently, he just didn't see an opportunity.
H: Ed Ball was one of these people, I think, that thought everything was going to go to hell.
Like the Montgomery Ward guy we talked about, sat up there holding all the cash so
when the big crash came, he'd have all the money to go buy stores at half price and
everything else. His banks were just terribly unaggressive [and] conservative.
B: You were referring to our conversation last time about the Montgomery Ward
businessman who was convinced that after the end of the war, there would be a big
economic contraction and the best position to have, was cash. He felt it was best to be
liquid and be ready to take advantage of bargains, what businessmen call bottom-feeding
sometimes, right? So. you see Ed Ball as having been on the same level?
H: Just talking to you about it and thinking about it, he clicked because the banks were very
conservative and very nonaggressive banks. They were there and they were there for the
long haul. It would indicate that the person in charge [felt that way].
B: How did Mr. Howell get along with the people that he knew in Tampa's Latin American
community? This was a place with some unique demographics for a Southern city. We've
talked about how Tampa was a union town in many ways, rising out of its cigar industry,
which was dominated by Cuban Americans.
H: Well, I don't want you to get the idea that all the unions were the cigar makers. They were
the can companies, the shipyards, the waiters at the Columbia Restaurant.
B: I guess what I meant by that was that, was that unionization came to Tampa in the late
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nineteenth century with cigar workers. There were certainly other industrial unions in the
twentieth century as Tampa's industry grew and expanded, but, I guess, what I'm getting
at is [that] I'm wondering if Tampa's Latin American population was something that your
father saw as being complicated. Did it make it more difficult for him to do business in a
place like Tampa?
H: No, I don't think so. This is true of Tampa, and I think it's true of America, I don't think
the Latin community and the rest of the community was as integrated and together as it
has been in Tampa now, for the last thirty or forty years. But, I think that's happened all
over the United States. No, there wasn't any problem. The Latin people in Tampa in those
days pretty much stayed in Ybor City [and] they banked in Ybor City. They had their
thing and the rest of them had their thing.
B: Your grandfather's company actually had a bank in West Tampa for a time, which is
where your father started working when he came down here, is that right?
B: Oh, I thought I understood you to say he worked with a bank in West Tampa.
H: No, he came down to start the trust department in the Exchange Bank. How my
grandfather got into the bank in West Tampa was [that]they were going to close it up
during the depression and granddaddy went out there and put enough money into it to
where the bank stayed open. That was granddaddy's personal connection with that bank.
Now, it's hard to believe, but you know that pretty bank beyond Kennedy and Howard
that sits back over there right at the northwest corer?
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B: I'm having trouble.
H: It's kind of a gold building.
B: Okay, I'm having trouble picturing it. What is it?
H: That's the old bank of West Tampa.
B: Oh really?
H: We've called it the Central Bank for years, but that's the old bank of West Tampa that
was in that old building there, on the corer.
B: So, your dad never had anything to do with that bank of West Tampa?
B: Were there Cuban Americans or Latin Americans that were particular friends or business
associates of his? Were they people that he did business with in his career?
H: Oh, yeah.
B: Do any names stand out?
H: Well he was very good friends with Manuel Garcia, who owned Los Novadadas
restaurant, which was one of the big, Latin restaurants in Ybor City.
B: Do any other names stand out in your memory?
H: No, but we had a number of Latin customers in the bank.
B: Was he inclined to make loans involving business or real estate in Ybor City or West
Tampa, the Latin community?
H: Yeah, well we didn't make a lot of [real estate loans]. Commercial banks in a commercial
city like Tampa didn't make a lot of real estate loans. In fact, all of our loans were
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business loans. If the businesses warranted the loan, [then] it didn't make any difference
to us, whether it was in Ybor City or anywhere else.
B: After your dad started the Marine Bank, did he maintain any connection at all, in any
way, with the Exchange?
H: No, and he didn't start the Marine Bank. The Marine Bank was started by my
grandfather, back in 1914.
B: As a savings and loan.
H: Well, not as a savings and loan, as a bank. It was a savings and trust company, which was
a bank charter back in those days. Well, you can still get one, I guess. Don't you
remember, I was explaining to you, they started to do the trust work for the Exchange
Bank because, until they amended the national banking laws in 1913, the national banks
couldn't have a trust department. That's when the Marine Bank started, as First Savings
and Trust Company. Then, we just changed the name of it, in 1950, to Marine Bank and
B: Oh, it was 1950? From some publication somewhere I thought I got 1947, as the date.
H: Well, no, because I know it was after I came in the bank, and I came in the bank in 1949.
B: Up until then, what had it been called?
H: [It was called] First Savings and Trust Company, which meant it only took savings
accounts and trust accounts; we didn't take any checking accounts. We applied and got a
regular commercial bank charter which enabled us to then start taking checking accounts
and change the name to [Marine Bank]. Excuse me, maybe the date you saw [was right].
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In 1947, they got the commercial banking charter but left the name the same. Then, we
kept running into people saying, well, I didn't know ya'll had checking accounts down
there. I thought all I could open down there were the savings account, because it was still
called First Savings and Trust Company. So, about 1950, we'd had enough of this, so,
that's when we changed the name to Marine Bank and Trust Company.
B: Why Marine Bank?
H: I think Daddy had always been very close in the marine area, naturally, with the shipyard,
He loved boats and I'd grown up racing sailboats in Tampa all my life. We were just a
marine-oriented family. That's the only reason, I can think of.
B: That's a good enough reason.
H: And it was a good name in Tampa [because] certainly, there's enough marine industries
and marine operations.
B: Was your dad particularly inclined to make loans to maritime-related businesses or
B: The reason I ask is [that] I seem to recall reading or hearing somewhere, (maybe it was
from your nephew), that your dad was one of the first who was willing to make
commercial loans to shrimp boat operators. Does that sound right? He was willing to
make loans to commercial shrimpers, in other words.
H: In the marine bank, we certainly took to it when they came up here, because most of them
were very successful operations.
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B: When you say came up here, you mean relocated, up from Key West, where they had
H: They came from Ft. Meyers.
B: Ft. Meyers, okay.
H: Booty Singleton was a big operator. He was a big shrimp boat operator and he'd been in
Ft. Meyers, for years. They had one ice company [in Ft. Meyers]. Of course, all those
boats buy tons and tons and tons of ice because they have to ice those shrimp, as soon as
they come out of the water, and they go off and stay for a mofith or two. He got mad with
the ice company in Ft. Meyers [because he] said they were cheating the hell out of them.
He said, to hell with you. I'm going up to Tampa where they have five or six or ten ice
companies and I can get me some ice. So, he brought all his boats to Tampa and hell, just
about all the other boats followed him. So, all of a sudden, we went from having
practically zero [shrimp boats], except for local fish markets and little shrimp boats, to
two or three hundred [shrimp boats].
B: Roughly, what year was that, would you say?
H: I'd say it was in the 1950s. So, when Booty Singleton...
B: What's the name you're using? Louie Singleton?
H: Everybody called him Booty for so long, God, I'm not sure I can tell you what [his name
B: Okay, but his nickname was Booty?
H: His nickname was Booty, Booty Singleton.
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B: Okay. I've heard of the Singleton Seafood Company.
H: Yeah, well, he eventually built that big shrimp processing plant out there, and I'm sure all
those people were unionized.
B: What union would they have belonged to, do you think?
H: God, I don't know. But that's how the shrimp industry [came to Tampa], and we all made
loans on shrimp boats because they were fairly good loans. [They were] fairly good-sized
loans back in those days [because] a couple of those boats cost $200-250,000.
[pause in tape to get out something]
B: We had been talking about the shrimping industry and how Marine Bank had made loans
in that business, apparently, as other banks in Tampa did, as well, right?
B: Was there any particular business that your bank did that you thought was unique, that
was sort of your turf or specialty, as far as commercial lending or business lending goes?
Was there something that people would turn to you for when they didn't have such good
luck with other lenders?
H: Yeah. The Marine Bank, starting in the 1950s, became quite aggressive in, what we called
back in those days, accounts receivable financing, which was really the one way we saw
of helping small business and undercapitalized businesses. By that, we could take an
assignment of their receivables, which meant that the money from those receivables
belonged to the bank, and if they company did go under bankruptcy or something we
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were secured since we had the receivables. Do you understand what I'm saying? Most
banks were shying away from that because there is a certain risk there, that the person
would get the money on the receivable and not bring the money in and pay the bank. But
we worked out a number of procedures and proved our knowledge of the business and the
pitfalls and how to operate it. So yes, I'd say in the 1950s and 1960s, our niche, more so
than the rest of the banks, was in receivable financing.
B: What kind of businesses would have been most dependent on getting that kind of lending
support from a company like Marine Bank?
H: Any company that had receivables [would be dependent on us].
B: Undercapitalized businesses I guess, right?
H: Well, most of them are [undercapitalized] when they start and get going. That's a tough
B: What about car dealers?
H: Oh, anybody that had receivables. Now, if you were in the cash business and you didn't
have any receivables, well, then, we couldn't do anything with you. But it didn't make a
difference to us [who you were]. If you had the statements and you impressed us and we
thought you were going to eventually earn your way, [we would finance you]. That was
one specific rule we had, we'd take them on for a couple of years and see if they could
start working their way out of it. How do they work their way out of it? They work their
way out of it by making profits and leaving the profits in the business and getting their
own money to carry their receivables.
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B: Of course, then, they don't need you anymore.
H: Oh no, well, then, we could loan them, maybe, on an unsecured basis. The cheapest loan
for a bank to make, is an unsecured loan.
B: Why's that?
H: Because you don't have any paperwork. Do you realize the paperwork it takes to finance
a damn automobile or the paperwork it takes to make a mortgage loan?
B: Yep, I know about that.
H: There's a lot more to banking, that people don't stop to think about.
B: But an unsecured loan you just have them sign a promissory note and you're done?
H: One guy came in one day, and said, Mr. Howell, I want to borrow $200 and I need it for
ninety days, and I want to loan it to him I get out a little note, $200, put the date, ninety
days, he signs it, I give him a deposit ticket for $200, he takes it over there to the loan and
discount teller, [and] he runs it through the system. The next guy comes in. Clewis, I need
$250,000 for ninety days. I take out the note, $250,000, write the date, [etc.]. It's cost me
the same amount of money to make both loans. Now, how much interest am I going to
collect on one and how much [on the other]? Do you see what I'm saying?
B: Yeah, I hadn't thought of that. Who would you say was your dad's major business
competitor in Tampa over the years?
H: It was the Exchange National Bank of Tampa and the First National Bank of Tampa.
B: Who ran those banks?
H: Most of those years, Vick Northcut was president of the First National, Mr. Johnson,
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and then Pen Tolliver. Practically. All that time, young Dick Griffin, well, they called
him young Dick Griffin, he's older than I am, he was my daddy's age, [but] he was
president of the Exchange National Bank.
B: Okay. Who were the Tallifaro family? They were connected with banking in what way?
H: Well, way back, they were [a] Jacksonville family [that] controlled the interest in the First
National Bank of Tampa. I'm talking about they were the Lanes, and also, as I remember,
were up in the Atlantic Bank in Jacksonville. I, also, think they were in the lumber
business. They sent Mr. Tolliver down here in the 1920s to the First National Bank [and]
they just became a Tampa family. His son, the one I just mentioned, was also president of
the bank in the early 1970s. But that's how the Tolliver's got to Tampa, and they went
into banking every two generations. [They were connected with] First National Bank.
B: And connected that way with the Tallifaro's. The Tallifaro's were not actually the
operators of the bank, I guess.
H: Yes, they were [the operators of the bank].
B: Oh, okay. Of the First National Bank?
H: Yeah, of the First National Bank. They were officers, came up through the ranks, and
B: Would you say they were competitors or allies in business with your dad?
H: Oh, [they] very much competitors [with my dad]. Hell, they were right across the street
from each other.
B: How'd he get along with them?
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H: Fine. I grew up with young Ben, he and I were about the same age, and our families were
friends with each other, but we were very much competitors. The same with the
Exchange; they were only a block down the street.
B: Okay, so it was a friendly competition.
H: Yeah. We were all social friends and everything, but that doesn't mean we wouldn't cut
each other's heart out. (Laughing)
[break in tape/interview]
B: Who would you say your dad admired or respected the most in business in Tampa? It can
be one or more people. Does anybody stand out as people that he held in particularly high
esteem or regard?
H: Well I know he held Dusty Crowder in very high esteem, H.L. Crowder.
B: Who was that?
H: He was a big general insurance agent in Tampa. [He was a ] A Tampa boy that turned out
to be one of my father's best friends. Later on in life, now that you make me think about
it, most of his close friends, besides Dusty, were either doctors or lawyers.
B: Such as who?
H: That's who he played gin rummy [with]. They spent a lot of time playing gin rummy in
his older age, and those were his [friends]. He thought very highly of Bill Reynolds.
B: Who was that?
H: Bill Reynolds ran a little shipyard in Tampa that was owned by his father-in-law, but Bill
ran it. They built magnetic free minesweepers, and everything on those boats was non-
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ferrous. Every nail [on that ship was metal free]. There was not one single [piece of]
metal in those boats, so they couldn't set off the mine, because most of these mines they
were sweeping were magnetic mines.
B: This was during the war, then.
H: No. He built them during the war, but he was building those, well after the war. [I know
this] because they gave me his account when I first came downstairs to be a loan officer.
They gave me Mr. Reynolds' business because they knew he knew what he was doing,
and what I did really was just if he wanted something I gave it to him.
B: What was the name of the shipyard? Do you remember? Or how about his father-in-law's
name. What was that?
H: [His name was] Heirs.
B: Where was that shipyard?
H: Over there in the Ybor Channel.
B: Okay, not far from Tampa Ship, then.
H: Yeah, just up north from Tampa Ship. Maybe [the name of] it was Tampa Marine.
B: Okay, so, Bill Reynolds was somebody that he admired.
H: He thought well of [him] and I thought well of him I still see Bill. He's had a stroke. He
liked Bill Reynolds, and as I say, he liked Manuel Garcia.
B: Was your dad a regular at Los Novadadas?
B: Would you say that was his favorite restaurant?
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H: Yes, I would say so.
B: What kind of cigars did your dad smoke?
H: [He smoked] Bering's.
B: Are they made here in Tampa, or were they?
H: Sure, they were made in Tampa. (laughing) Do you think he's loading a Philadelphia
B: Are they still made? I've heard the name.
H: Oh yeah, they still make them. But there was jillion different cigars.
B: Was there anybody that stood out in your mind that he particularly contended, held in
particularly low esteem, or thought of as really offensive to his eye and mind?
H: A democratic president. (Laughing) No. I'll tell you. You said, who did he admire in
Tampa, but [I'll tell you] his big buddy if you want to know the truth. [Daddy] was also
on the board of directors of Eastern Airlines. Somehow, he got to know Eddie
Rickenbacker during World War I when they were in Europe. I think it was after the war
over there and they both stayed over there. [At least], I know my daddy did. Daddy was
on the board of Eastern Airlines from about 1933 or 1934 almost up till the time he died.
But anyway, [daddy] thought the world of Eddie Rickenbacker. [They were] very close.
Then Paul Rhinehold [was his really good friend]. If you remember, [he] started the old
Foremost Dairies, (you probably don't remember that), but Paul(he is from Jacksonville)
built Foremost Dairies into a national concern. Daddy was also on the board of
Foremost, and Paul was also on the board of Eastern Airlines.
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B: Did Paul know Eddie Rickenbacker, as well, or did your dad make the connection, there?
H: No, they were all friends. They'd been [friends] for a long time. He thought very well of
them. [He also thought a lot of] Bob Friend, who led the big diesel company in
Wisconsin that built big diesels for ships, Nordberg Diesel Company [currently, a
division of Metso Minerals] in Wisconsin. They supplied the ships that they built during
the war with a lot of Nordberg engines. Those were his [good friends]. If I had a lot of
time to think maybe I could come up [with some more]. He liked Bill Waring. Bill
Waring was over five big fertilizer plants in Tampa all those years. Bill Waring owned
Lines Fertilizer company. Those are just some of his buddies. See, he was getting on up
in age, by the time 1960 came along. Mother and daddy either traveled or he'd play gin
rummy from noontime until two or three o'clock, come back to the bank and sit around
about thirty minutes, and mother would come down and pick him up about 3:30 or 4:00
PM. He was pretty much out of it. He was still in it, but it wasn't like it was when he was
forty years old.
B: Did he miss the shipyard business?
B: He was glad enough to get out of it when the getting' was good, huh. I think I've asked you
this before, but I'll run the name by you, again, in case your memory has turned over
anything new. Do you remember the name Tom Standover? He used to work for Matt
McCloskey. Does the name Matt McCloskey ring a bell?
H: Oh, yeah.
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B: How did he fit into your father's business or relationship?
H: He didn't. McCloskey's Shipyard was a whole separate other thing. They built concrete
ships and they were just north of Tampa Ship, up where the repair place is, now. They
call it Tampa Ship Repair. [You know] where the graven docks are and everything, well
that was where McCloskey Shipyard was. But they had nothing to do with each other.
B: Were they competitors?
H: No, because they built concrete ships, and all Tampa Ship built was steel ships.
B: Okay, so they were not really in the same market. Of course, I guess they competed for
hiring workers during the war.
H: I'm sure they did, but I never heard any disagreements or problems with McCloskey.
They did their thing, Tampa Ship did their thing, and Tampa Marine (Bill Reynolds'
company), did their thing.
B: Okay. Was McCloskey somebody that your dad was friendly with and socialized with?
H: McCloskey [was] from Cleveland, I think.
B: New York, I think. Steinbrenner is from Cleveland, who came along, later.
H: Anyway, well, you know, they built this big condo down here [that's] called the
Diplomat. It was Nat McCloskey. They built it and that's why it's named [that]. You
know he was eventually named the diplomat, to some country, by some president.
B: I did not know that.
H: So, when they built that condo, [they named it that]. He was the first guy to get the Bucs.
B: Nat McCloskey?
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B: I didn't know that.
H: Yeah, he was number one off the list and Colberhouse was second. When the Bucs were
approved in Seattle in 1976, it was a very bad time at the real estate and it almost knocked
Colberhouse out of it too because he was heavy into real estate. McCloskey decided that
he just wasn't in a position to put up the [money]. I think it was $16 million, if you can
believe that. That sounded like so much money back in those days, I can remember that.
So, McCloskey backed out. That was why he [had] built that condo. He was coming to
Tampa and he wanted something with his name on it and let them know that he was local.
He'd been there all during the war off and on, [but] I don't think he ever lived [in
Tampa]. So, he backed out and that left Hugh on the top of the list, and then, Hugh
almost didn't do it. His family damn near killed him when he signed up to buy the Bucs
because they didn't think he could afford to do it with all of his real estate, not all of it but
a good part of it, in disarray. Anyway, that's McCloskey. He's a well known name in
TPA. [airline call letters for Tampa].
B: How about George Simons, planner?
H: George who?
B: George W. Simons. He's from Jacksonville and he worked for the Hixon administration.
He worked for the Bob Chancey administration, as well as the Hixon administration,
doing consulting for the city of Tampa. He consulted on municipal projects.
H: He's too early for me.
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B: Then, he's nobody your dad ever mentioned as somebody he that he knew?
B: Your dad, as you have said to me, was born in New York, educated [and] raised, up there.
He was well educated with a bachelors degree and a law degree and wound up becoming
a transplanted Yankee in Tampa. Was there anything about that experience that was hard
for him to adapt to? Did you ever hear him let on to you anything about, well, that's not
the way I grew up or that's not the way we did it up north, but that's the way it is, here?
H: The biggest thing was in the food. My mother used to complain that she had to cook
Yankee beans and Southern beans. She had to fix Southern biscuits and Yankee rolls.
You know Yankees cook string beans in milk?
H: Can you believe that? Granddaddy wanted his cooked in bacon; that's the way you're
supposed to cook string beans. Yeah, there were things that were difficult because back in
those days, it wasn't like it is, today. He was looked at in a lot of ways [as an outsider].
Even though he was married to my mother, who was certainly from one of Tampa's well
accepted families, he was still a Yankee outsider. Naturally, it took time for him to
convince these people that he was okay. But it all turned out fine and he was very much
respected in Tampa.
B: Oh, clearly. Did he feel like an outsider at different times, do you think, during his life?
H: No. He was a DEK [fraternity in college]. Well there's no DEK's with the University of
Florida, so before he died we turned him into an SAE. (Greek fraternity) (Laughing) We
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said, you've got to be an SAE dad, you can't be a DEK. He'd go to football games with
me. He and I, regularly, went up to the Georgia versus Florida game in Jacksonville. He'd
go to Florida football games with me. He became very much a Floridian and very much a
B: He worked hard to get football at the University of Tampa I guess, right?
H: Right. [He worked to get] football, as I told you, and also crew.
B: I have to ask because I'm curious. He grew up in the North in New York and came to
Tampa during the era of Jim Crow, racial segregation. Did he ever give voice to any
reaction to that? Did it seem to be something that he noticed was different about New
York and Florida, the North and the South?
H: Oh sure, he noticed a lot of difference.
B: I just wonder if he ever had a reaction to that or commented about the differences
between the two regions.
H: Well, it was all kind of differences. New York was sophisticated and well established and
well-oiled state. Even in the 1920s when he came down, hell, Florida was nothing.
[Florida] was just a little, old, poor, rundown state with a few people living in it. Hell, yes
there was a difference, a hell of a difference. But that didn't jar him. He just learned, like
so many of us, that's what made Tampa. That is, that so many of us, just love Tampa.
[We have the attitude of] we're going to do any Goddamn thing it takes to get handled
what has to be done, done. He was like that.
B: You mentioned before about Tampa Airport. Your father was on the board of Eastern
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Airlines for many years, and a believer in growth and progress. I believe, from what I
understand from my research, that he was a believer in trying to get a major airport for
Tampa. We had Peter O. Knight and that was the major municipal airport until the end of
the war, but then there was the surplus army airfield at what had been Drew Army Air
Force Base. The committee that your father was the president of worked pretty hard to lay
the groundwork to establish an aviation authority, what's now the Hillsborough Aviation
Authority, to try to get some more ...
H: What happened was the airport, on Davis Island, due to the water could not be expanded.
The runways couldn't be lengthened and the airplanes that were coming in to service
couldn't operate out of there. The army had closed up Drew Field, so it was just natural
that the city and county work it out to where the county could take over the airport and
turn it into Tampa's airport. That was then they formed the aviation authority. Tampa's
done everything with authorities. It all started years ago with a port authority, which runs
the port. Then, we had the aviation authority, and now we have the sports authority and
an expressway authority. In a way it's good because it takes the responsibility of running
a lot of these things off of city councilmen and county commissioners who have ten
jillion other things to worry about. Tampa's been very successful with authorities.
B: Were you involved with the Hillsborough Aviation Authority or the airport expansion?
B: Did you serve on the authority?
H: No. I never would go on those authorities because I just never wanted to. The Marine
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Bank was the principal financiers of the new terminal expansion, out there.
B: Really? Okay, I did not know that.
B: Do you think the connection between your dad and Eddie Rickenbacker was influential in
getting him enthusiastic about the airport and the aviation authority?
H: No, it was really the other way around. Eddie Rickenbacker had guys on the board of
Eastern Airlines in cities all over, Indianapolis, Atlanta, Miami, and the idea was that he
had damn good representation in the Metropolitan Tampa area in my father. It was the
same way for Wiley Reynolds, or whoever it was in Miami, and whoever it was in
Atlanta, and whoever it was in Indianapolis. So, these guys were really working for
Eastern Airlines as directors and representing them. When Eastern first came to Tampa,
God, it wasn't much business.
B: Do we need to stop? Okay.