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Interview with Travis Lofton

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Interview with Travis Lofton

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Interview with: W. Travis Lofton
September 1, 1995



L: Somewhere near Bolivar Springs.

P: So it's a couple miles you'd say, or more than that?

L: Not over that. Not over two miles.
P: Well, that would make a very nice trail to go from the middle of town down to the Prairie
to to Bolivar Springs. That would be very nice. If you don't mind, tell us a little bit
more about Matheson Center's expansion that they have in plans for the future.

L: About a year ago, I was contacted about our properties here between 2nd Ave. and 1st
Place. including two houses. The city is interested in maintaining this property because
it adjoins the Matheson Historical Society property. Dr. Barrow, being head of the
Historical Society, is very much interested in it, also. So, we've discussed it with our
three girls and their families and we'd rather see the city maintain it with the Historical
Society as a park instead of something else being placed here. Since our three daughters
and their families have their own property, they feel the same way, that this would be
nice if it could be maintained as part of this Historical Society park. The Historical
Society would be interested in these two houses and the city in the lots on the west side
of the houses between here and the Sweetwater Branch to maintain it as a beautification
area, and all this joins up with the Sweetwater Branch Beautification plans.

P: I think that will be wonderful if things work out that way because it would certainly make
a nice park near downtown and would extend probably from the Duck Pond down into
this area. That should be something that the children and the adults both should
appreciate. You say, Travis, that on September 20th you'll be 92 years young?

L: That's right. Born in 1903.

P: I know in the DOW class you always seem very active and one of the younger ones in
there.
L: Well, so far my health is still good and I get around okay. I hope it stays that way.

P: If you don't mind, tell us a little bit more about the vocational education that you've been
associated with at the University and actually before you were with the University.

L: Well, while in high school I took some vocational programs, especially the agricultural
program, and because of my farming background and so forth, I was interested in
agriculture, and when I came to the University, I entered the College of Agriculture and









Interview with: W. Travis Lofton
September 1, 1995


L: In 1947 it became coeducational. I remained as assistant to the department head until
1962 when I was made head of the Department of Agriculture and Extension Education,
where I remained until I retired in 1975.

P: And you said that you moved from Alabama to Florida. Was your daddy in agriculture,
too?

L: My daddy was a farmer. The reason we moved to Florida was because my daddy felt
there was more opportunity in Florida. He bought a farm near Belleview. Another
reason why we moved to Florida was my mother was bor in Dade City, Florida, and her
daddy moved back to Alabama. After my mother and my daddy were married, she
wanted to come back to Florida and so this was an opportunity to come back. That's
when we located near Belleview and Summerfield.

P: Was your daddy in the citrus business?

L: No, general farming. He remained there until he retired. It is a subdivision now.

P: And that's where you got your interest in agriculture?

L: Yes, I was raised in it. When we were in Alabama, my father was a cotton grower and a
timber harvester. Economic reasons was one of the factors that caused him to come to
Florida.

P: And you said after you finished at the University, you were employed with the
Vocational Education programs?

L: Statewide. I was Assistant State Supervisor, but I was stationed here in Gainesville
because it was the central part of the state.

P: And I notice that there's a school named W. Travis Lofton Education Center on East
University Avenue.

L: Yes, it's a vocational high school and most of the vocational programs are offered there
as well as all the high school required subjects. About 150 to 175 students graduate each
year with a high school diploma. I was instrumental in helping to get it started.

P: I can think of no one more deserving than you to have a vocational school named after
you.
L: It's a wonderful school. I have to admit that.









Interview with: W. Travis Lofton
September 1, 1995


and to give you this nice banquet, and we hope you enjoy it." Everybody laughed and
after that they called me Mr. Sears.

P: At least you were named after a good organization.

L: They were great days back then.

P: In 1925 you did what?

L: In 1925 when I was finishing school, we planted forty acres of tomatoes, and we did real
good. The next year, in 1926, we thought we'd do the same thing and we lost all we
made the year before because the depression was coming on and prices dropped out. I
never will forget when my dad said, "Travis, if you're still thinking about going to
college and if you plan to go, you'd better go now. In my opinion, our economic
problems are going to get worse." And they did. I took his advice and I came to the
University in 1927 as a first year student. The bottom dropped out of everything, as you
know, and a lot of the neighbors lost their farms because they could not keep going and
they had debts they couldn't pay. Fortunately, my dad kept our farm. I had always
thought about coming to the University, but I had farming in my system and things were
looking good then. Back in those days, it was mules and horses and we bought another
pair of mules and we'd lease some additional land and so forth. That was a great day
when I decided to come to the University. A lot of farms were lost.

P: Sounds like your daddy was very wise, that farming was too big a gamble and that
education was better than gambling on agriculture and farming.

L: He was. He had bought some of this land for $5.00 an acre, some of it from Mr. Mayo,
who was state Commissioner of Agriculture. As I said a while ago, there is a
subdivision where our farm was. When my dad passed out of the picture, my mother
kept the farm and I was working with her. One day a real estate person in Belleview
called me and said, "Travis, I've got a person who wants to buy your property." I said,
"Mr. French, we don't want to sell it." He said, "Well, this man wants it bad and we
want you to put a price on it." I said, "Well, I'd have to talk to my mother, but we don't
want to sell it." He said, "Okay." About two days later, he called me again and he said,
"This man's back on my neck and he wants your property." I said, "Well, Mr. French,
we still don't want to sell it." He said, "Talk to your mother and tell her the price."
Dad paid $5.00 an acre for it, and I talked with her and said, "Let's ask a price that he
won't go for." We asked for $100.00 an acre, and I called Mr. French and told him we
came up with $100.00 an acre, and he said, "Well, Travis, you sure don't want to sell it."
That was back when things were low. So, he said the man wouldn't do that. And it









Interview with: W. Travis Lofton
September 1, 1995


L: No, when he came back, he had more or less retired from most everything? And he
didn't live too long after that. He and Mildred's father were very close friends and the
families were very close-knit.

P: You're probably very interested in the Matheson Center then, having been associated
with the Mathesons for so long.
L: Yes. I've talked to Dr. Barrow and I'm not sure whether you're familiar with the
progress that's being made towards including our property with the Historical Society.

P: I'm not familiar with everything. No.

L: Well, you see this is because of this area being in the Historical Society area, then the
Historical Society is interested in including this in their plans and I'm sure you're
familiar with the plans that Dr. Barrow has on exhibit, and what they want to do down at
Sweetwater Branch.

P: I know they want to make a park near the Matheson Center.

L: Yes. So, right now the city and Dr. Barrow and the Historical Society are negotiating to
purchase this piece of property to be included in the Historical Society and I think
eventually the Historical Society will have our building and the brick building next door.

P: Now this is where you're living that may become .. .?

L: Yes.

P: Someone had told me that Mrs. Matheson, when she passed away, was going to leave her
home. That should be very nice and make a nice park near the middle of town.

L: Well, it's adjoining, the plans. .. The city already owns the strip this side of the grants
down here and what they're interested in is two lots that we have back here which are
practically pretty well beautified now and they're interested in that becoming part of the
Historical Society plan for beautifying Sweetwater Branch.

P: Are they going to try and get a park all the way to the Prairie or just for a few blocks?

L: I think they plan to do some work between here and the Prairie but I don't think they plan
to go much further as far as the park is concerned.

P: How far would you estimate it is from where you live here by the Branch to the Prairie?









Interview with: W. Travis Lofton
September 1, 1995


P: Those were the good old days!

L: Yes. Then when teachers couldn't get any money, I couldn't pay for the car but the
lending agency let me wait until I was paid and then I paid for the car.

P: I hear you have two lovely daughters.

L: Three.

P: Three. I'll learn how to count pretty soon! Where do they live now?

L: The oldest one, Louise, lives in Orlando and she has a florist business. The next one,
Christine, lives in Jacksonville, and her husband is with New York Life Insurance, and
then Janice, the youngest one lives here and she's teaching in the Lake Forest Elementary
School. She has been for about twenty-five years in the same school.

P: That's good. Are your daughters married?

L: Yes. Louise in Orlando lost her husband. He was 48 years old and was a pharmacist.
As I said, Christine is in Jacksonville and her husband is insurance. Janice is married to
Emery Bishop, and they are both in the school system.

P: Do you have any grandchildren?

L: We have five grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

P: Boy, that's doing real well.

L: Yes.

P: Now I know you've done a lot to help the First Baptist Church and you've been in the
DOW class for a good many years. The DOW stands for Doers of the Word.

L: Yes, and Dr. John Tigert, who was president of the University at that time, started the
class in 1928.

P: He was the first DOW teacher?

L: He organized the class, and we met in what is now the foyer to the sanctuary.









Interview with: W. Travis Lofton
September 1, 1995


P: It started in what year?

L: 1928.

P: We've had some very good teachers over the years in the DOW class.

L: Oh yes, and we continue to have good teachers.

P: I hear that the average age of the members is 70 so you have a lot of young fellows in the
class.

L: Yes, a lot of young fellows like you and me!

P: Well, I think that you are helping in the building and grounds at the First Baptist Church.

L: Yes, I'm chairman of the Buildings and Grounds Committee and also on the committee
for the new building program.

P: And the new building is going to start this fall or this winter probably?

L: The schedule now is for late November or the first of December for construction.

P: Well, it's certainly going to be nice when it is completed.

L: Yes. We've seen a lot of changes in the First Baptist Church as well as a lot of changes
in Gainesville.

P: Do you help with the Travis Lofton Center very much or do you go out and visit with
them?

L: Well, I go out often. For a long time I was on the Advisory Committee, but I felt like
it's time now for others to assume that responsibility.

P: I notice in the paper that Gainesville was voted the #1 City in the country, which is quite
an honor.

L: Very much so.

P: I imagine you must have thought Gainesville was #1 a good ways back.









Interview with: W. Travis Lofton
September 1, 1995


L: Yes, because it has been a good city. We've had problems, of course, like all other
cities, but we've had a special interest because of Mildred's family ties here over this
long period of years, and it's been a great life here. It's a good town.
P: You'd do it all over again if you had the chance.

L: Yes, I sure would. Life here has been good to me.

P: I have the same feeling about Gainesville. I was born here and to me it's always been
#1. Was Mrs. Lofton born here too?

L: Yes, she was born across the street in the house that the first pastor built.

P: I assumed she was since her granddaddy was the First Baptist Church minister in
Gainesville. That's quite an honor to be the first Baptist minister's granddaughter.

L: Yes.

P: I imagine you've seen Gainesville change quite a bit since you've been here.

L: A lot of changes since I came here. Of course, the community probably had seen a lot of
changes before I came in 1927.

P: Where you're living now was probably about as close as you could get to the center of
town.

L: Well, her grandfather, the pastor, acquired this piece of land about the same time that
Chris Matheson acquired the Matheson property. Her grandfather was very close to
Chris Matheson and they both moved here about the same time. The property ran almost
to 7th Street and over almost to University Avenue. The Matheson house is on the other
side of 1st Avenue.

P: And Mr. Matheson was mayor for a while?

L: Yes, and he was a lawyer at that time. Later he became a Presbyterian minister, and was
called to a church in Oklahoma. He was there until he retired and came back to
Gainesville.

P: Was he active in the political life after he came back?














MATHESON HISTORICAL CENTER

ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM


Interviewee:

Interviewer:

Transcriber:


W. Travis Lofton

Charles Pinkoson

Ruth C. Marston


September 1, 1995









Interview with: W. Travis Lofton
September 1, 1995


L: Oh yes, Bill and I were in school together back in '27 to '31, and Bill and I started what
was known as the Agriculture Farm Magazine. It stayed in existence for a long time
until a lot of changes came about in publications, and they changed it into a different
publication. Oh yes, I worked with Bill very closely.

P: He always seemed like a very nice gentleman.

L: He was. He lived in our house next door to us.

P: You joined Kiwanis and he joined Rotary. He was in Rotary a long time, up until the
time that he passed away.

L: I got to know Bill's brother real well. Fuller Warren was in school at the same time, and
I got to know Fuller and Billy Matthews. Back in those days we knew most of the
students, practically all of them, 1700 to 1800. There were good, strong people back in
those days in the small enrollment.
P: You had a good football team in '27 and '28, too.

L: The player who threw the ball right-handed and left-handed was Clyde Crabtree.

P: Dale VanSickle was on one of those teams.

L: Yes. When we went to Largo as a teacher, Crabtree was the coach there. He was in
school the same time I was. We were in classes together. Of course, back in those days
you could have classes with most all of the students. During the time I was there -- you
see, each college had a representative on the Honor Court -- and I was elected from the
College of Agriculture on the Honor Court, which I served for two years, I think.

P: Fuller Warren was quite a man of the campus politically even back in his early days
before he became governor. Is that not right?

L: Yes, Fuller was quite a leader on the campus and I'm not sure what all positions he held
but I know that he would call several meetings during the year of the student body and he
would always call a rally before we'd have a ball game and we'd meet in front of the
auditorium. He would stand up on a ledge in front and lead our cheering. Then
sometimes we'd have a bonfire. Warren was always a leader. And when I was
traveling through the state, the dean and I had the privilege of visiting his home out in
Blountstown where he was raised, and it gave us the opportunity to meet his mother.
Later she was Home Demonstration Agent for Alachua County and lived with her
daughter, Alma Warren. Now you know Alma, who lives here. She served as First









Interview with: W. Travis Lofton
September 1, 1995


P: This is Charles Pinkoson doing an interview of W. Travis Lofton for the Matheson
Center, of Gainesville, Florida. This is September 1, 1995. Travis Lofton lives at 210
S.E. 6th Street. Mr. Lofton, if you don't mind, would you please tell us where you were
born and when you were born, and a little bit about your early life.

L: I was born in Andalusia, Alabama, and we moved to Florida when I was about eight
years of age, to Marion County near Summerfield and Belleview, where I was raised.
The place where I was raised is now a subdivision outside of Belleview. I graduated
from Summerfield High School and attended the University of Florida from 1925 to
1931, when I received my degree. During this time I was out for a couple years. After
graduating, I taught school in Alachua and Pinellas Counties.

P: When you went to the University of Florida, about how many students did they have?

L: 1700 when I arrived, and they were all men -- no women.

P: And Gainesville was about what size?

L: I would say 25-35,000, something like that. The train tracks were down the main street.

P: When you finished at the University of Florida, what did you get your degree in?

L: In the Department of Agriculture and Extension Education.

P: And then you taught for a while, you said?

L: I taught over six years and then I was invited to become employed by the State
Department of Education, where I remained, traveling the state as Assistant State
Supervisor over vocational programs. In 1947, I was invited to come to the University
as a faculty Assistant in the Department of Agriculture and Extension Education.

P: And when you came back in 1947, that was right after the war, had the University gotten
fairly large then, or how big was the University?

L: Well, it was about 16,000 to 20,000.

P: Was it coeducational at that time?









Interview with: W. Travis Lofton
September 1, 1995


by Dr. McCall, the pastor at the First Baptist Church, as his secretary. She was his
secretary when we were married in 1932.

P: Now did she help with the cafeterias at schools or anything?

L: Her mother did.

P: It seems like I remember a Mrs. Tomkies that was in the cafeteria.

L: That was Mildred's mother.

P: As I remember, they had very good food at that time.

L: Yes, she did an excellent job.

P: Now, when you came to Gainesville and you started at the University of Florida, was
there much social life? When did you meet Mrs. Lofton?

L: I started attending the First Baptist Church because I was a member of the First Baptist
Church in Summerfield and when I came here, I moved my membership, and I met her
one night at what we called then the Baptist Student Union. Now, Baptist Young
People, BYPU, you remember that? Well, I can remember being there one night at this
BYPU meeting and we started going together after I graduated and started teaching at
Alachua. We were married one year later in 1932.

P: Yes, that was hard times in 1932.

L: That's a long story, too, because teachers were not getting paid much then. Finally, they
quit paying for a period of time.

P: I had a sister that taught in the local schools and she told me that she didn't make very
much money when she started.

L: Salaries were low. However, everything was in proportion.

P: Yes, you could buy a steak pretty reasonable.

L: I bought a Ford car for $625.00 when I started teaching. It would correspond today
with a higher priced car.









Interview with: W. Travis Lofton
September 1, 1995


Lady the first part of Warren's administration. You know it was Fuller's leadership that
helped Florida get livestock off the highways.

P: And a lot of people say that's the best thing he ever did, to get the cows off the road. It
probably saved a lot of lives.

L: Warren was quite a speaker. And a leader. He was quite active on campus during those
years. He could always get the student body together when we were going to have a
session. Of course, it wasn't too hard to get the message around then because most of
the students lived close by or on campus.

P: Well, we certainly are glad that you met Mildred and decided to stay in Gainesville.
You certainly have been an asset to the community. A big factor in it being #1.

L: Well, thank you, Charlie. And I was fortunate to become a member of the Tomkies
family, which again has a wonderful reputation and a family that's done a lot for the
community and for our church.
P: Well, I certainly do thank you for telling me some of the stories about Gainesville and to
help out with the Matheson Center.

L: Well, this area has been part of the historical development of Gainesville. When the
county seat was moved here from Alachua, this was the main residential area.

P: For a long time this was about all of Gainesville. Well, thanks again, and I sure
appreciate your talking to me.

L: It was just a pleasure for me to do this and to talk with you about it.









Interview with: W. Travis Lofton
September 1, 1995


L: Yes, I've been very fortunate along the way. Being in this program provided the
opportunity to be at the state level and the university level gave me the opportunity to
work with other organizations, and we have what is know as the American Vocational
Association and the Agricultural Education National Program, and it was my privilege
and responsibility to serve as program chairman for the American Vocational Association
for one year. Then I was president of this national agricultural education program for
one year, and during these years that I was working for the state, I had the privilege of
serving on a lot of state and national committees and one time I received the name as Mr.
Agriculture for the United States, which I appreciate but I don't know whether that is true
or not. Along the way, I was elected president of the Florida Vocational Association and
this has always been a privilege, and as you mention, I was elected to the Hall of Fame
for the vocational programs and also for the agriculture state Agriculture Hall of Fame.
Then recently I received this national Rotary award recognition. All of this I appreciate.


When I retired, I received a lot of nice letters from all over the United States and some
outside, and I have a book full of them, and I appreciate these and I enjoy reading them
along the way.

P: I know you must enjoy running into your former pupils and I know you have one in Ed
Turlington that's in the DOW class.

L: Well, our department was fortunate in having a lot of state and national leaders. I
always feel proud of that because it makes you feel like you were a part of preparing
them for their life program and their accomplishments, and I still get a lot of calls and
letters expressing appreciation for what I did for them, which keeps me going and keeps
me encouraged.

P: Well, we certainly are fortunate that you've been around here to help so much with
agriculture and particularly with the vocational aspect, which as I say is something that is
certainly needed to have all phases of vocational training emphasized.

L: One time along the way, back in the 30's and 40's, Sears Roebuck & Co. sponsored a
program with Future Farmers of America and they would often work with our group and
meet with our group and sponsor in certain programs. One time we were having a
Southern Regional Meeting in Charleston, S.C., and Sears was going to give the group a
free banquet in appreciation for what we were doing for agriculture. They asked me if I
would be toastmaster of the program. When we started the banquet program, I was
toastmaster and I said, "We from Sears Roebuck are happy to be here with you tonight









Interview with: W. Travis Lofton
September 1, 1995


was only a week or so after that he called me and said the man had decided to take it. So
that's the way it went. Now it's a subdivision known as Belleview Heights.

P: When was that, what year was that that you sold your property?

L: Back in -- my dad died in '37 -- in the early 40's.

P: In the early part of the century you could get real bargains. I know my dad bought the
corner of 20th Avenue and 34th Street for a dollar an acre back there, so I'm sure that
Mrs. Lofton's daddy could have bought probably half of Gainesville for $5.00 or $10.00
an acre.

L: Yes, that's right. As Mr. French said, "You sure don't want to sell it." I remember that
statement.
P: But the man did want it.

L: Yes, he wanted it to start a subdivision. He had already bought some land around it,
which Mr. French didn't tell me, but it's a subdivision now. No sign of our farm left.
Right where our home was there's a big, nice house sitting there. But that's the way life
is. Of course, the same right now would sell for a thousand, a lot more. If we had just
known to keep it, it would have been much better.

When Dr. York came as provost at that time for all of the agriculture program, which
they later changed it to IFAS, which is the Institute of Food and Agriculture Sciences, I
was head of the Department of Agriculture and Extension Education, in the College of
Agriculture, another department that prepared agriculture agents for extension. Of
course, Alachua County has a big program located out near the airport, but anyway, he
called me over one day and he said, "What do you think about combining the two
departments?" Well, I had to give it a second thought because the head of that
department might be the head of both programs and where would I be? I said, "Dr.
York, I'll have to think about this." So I said I'd better let it drop, and he called me back
and asked, "Have you made a decision?" I said, "Well, Dr. York, I've analyzed all
these things and I am still wondering if this would work." Then when he said, "Well, I'd
like to combine the two and combine the faculties and make you Chairman of the
Department," then I said, "Well, I can talk with you now, Dr. York."

P: It sounded better when you knew who would be in charge! That's good. Another
person that was always very interesting out there was Bill Fifield. Did you work with
Bill a good bit?









Interview with: W. Travis Lofton
September 1, 1995


was majoring in Agriculture and Extension Education, which would be preparing me for
work with the vocational programs in the state, wherever I might be located.

On graduation in 1931, I was invited by the county school board to become one of their
teachers in Alachua High School. This was in the middle of the depression and
fortunately I was one of two who were employed in these programs in the class that I
graduated. I taught there for three years and because of the economic conditions, the
faculty was reduced and being one of the younger teachers, I was dropped from the
program.

But fortunately they wanted to put a program in the Largo High School near Clearwater,
and I was employed on the basis that I would not be paid until they got the money, and I
accepted. Fortunately, I received every dime that they owed me. I taught there until
1937 and I was one of the teachers in Florida to have a first national officer who
happened to be elected the first national president of the Future Farmers of America.
Then later I was fortunate in having the state and national winner in the Future Farmers
of America public speaking contest.

In June 1937 I was invited by the state Superintendent of Schools to become Assistant
State Supervisor in charge of vocational programs in Florida. I was assigned the duty to
visit schools where we had these programs and to work with the local school and the
county school board in developing and maintaining these schools and programs. I did
this and traveled from one end of the state to the other from 1937 to 1947, and there was
a vacancy at the University in the Department of Agriculture Education, and I was
invited to join the faculty, which I did. I was in that position as teacher and assistant to
the department head until 1960. In 1962 I was asked to become the head of the
department, and it was expanded to include several other vocational programs. It was
our responsibility to prepare teachers and vocational programs for county agriculture and
extension workers for the state. I was in this position as head of the department until
1975, when I retired.

After retirement, I continued to serve on the advisory board to the Lofton school, which
is located in East Gainesville, and there came a time when I felt it was best for others to
serve in my place, so I retired from there. Now most of my activities are Kiwanis Club,
working as chairman of the Building and Grounds Committee of the First Baptist
Church, and so forth.
P: And I believe, also, a few years ago that they had you elected to the Hall of Fame in the
Agriculture Hall of Fame, too.









Interview with: W. Travis Lofton
September 1, 1995



P: I really think that probably vocational education should be offered even more extensively
than it is.

L: Absolutely, because there are so many students graduating from high school who cannot
go to college and these vocational schools offer them an opportunity to prepare for some
occupation.

P: We don't do it too much in the United States. In a lot of countries, a student who is not
college material is placed in a vocational school earlier in life, and I really think that the
United States would be better off if they did more of this.

L: Well, Florida has about thirty vocational schools in cooperation with the community
colleges, but the Lofton School in Gainesville operates strictly under the county school
board.

P: Well, I certainly think it's great and I hope if anything it will be enlarged more in the
future.

L: It's growing, no question about that.

P: I notice that Mrs. Lofton has an early background here in Gainesville and maybe you
could tell a little bit about her granddaddy and her parents.

L: Her grandfather came to Gainesville as first pastor of the First Baptist Church. It was
located on South Main.

P: Do you remember about when that was?

L: 1870. He built his home here, which is located near where it is now. Mildred, my wife
was born in that house. We still have it in the family. Well, Mildred and I still own it.

P: What did Mrs. Lofton's daddy do?

L: He worked for Pepper Printing Company all of his productive life.

P: And how about Mrs. Lofton?

L: Well, she's been a homemaker. Prior to that, she finished in Home Economics at FSU.
Back in those days it was called Florida State College for Women. She was employed




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MATHESON HISTORICAL CENTER ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM Interviewee: W. Travis Lofton Interviewer: Charles Pinkoson Transcriber: Ruth C. Marston September 1, 1995

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Interview with: W. Travis Lofton September 1, 1995 2 P: This is Charles Pinkoson doing an interv iew of W. Travis Lofton for the Matheson Center, of Gainesville, Florida. This is September 1, 1995. Travis Lofton lives at 210 S.E. 6th Street. Mr. Lofton, if you don’t mind, would you please tell us where you were born and when you were born, and a little bit about your early life. L: I was born in Andalusia, Alabama, and we moved to Florida when I was about eight years of age, to Marion County near Summerfield and Belleview, where I was raised. The place where I was raised is now a subdi vision outside of Belleview. I graduated from Summerfield High School and attended the University of Florida from 1925 to 1931, when I received my degree. During this time I was out for a couple years. After graduating, I taught school in Alachua and Pinellas Counties. P: When you went to the University of Florida, about how many students did they have? L: 1700 when I arrived, and they were all men -no women. P: And Gainesville was about what size? L: I would say 25-35,000, something like that. The train tracks were down the main street. P: When you finished at the University of Florida, what did you get your degree in? L: In the Department of Agriculture and Extension Education. P: And then you taught for a while, you said? L: I taught over six years and then I was invited to become employed by the State Department of Education, where I remaine d, traveling the state as Assistant State Supervisor over vocational programs. In 1947, I was invited to come to the University as a faculty Assistant in the Department of Agriculture and Extension Education. P: And when you came back in 1947, that was right after the war, had the University gotten fairly large then, or how big was the University? L: Well, it was about 16,000 to 20,000. P: Was it coeducational at that time?

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Interview with: W. Travis Lofton September 1, 1995 3 L: In 1947 it became coeducational. I remained as assistant to the department head until 1962 when I was made head of the Department of Agriculture and Extension Education, where I remained until I retired in 1975. P: And you said that you moved from Alabama to Florida. Was your daddy in agriculture, too? L: My daddy was a farmer. The reason we moved to Florida was because my daddy felt there was more opportunity in Florida. He bought a farm near Belleview. Another reason why we moved to Florida was my mother was born in Dade City, Florida, and her daddy moved back to Alabama. After my mother and my daddy were married, she wanted to come back to Florida and so this was an opportunity to come back. That’s when we located near Belleview and Summerfield. P: Was your daddy in the citrus business? L: No, general farming. He remained there until he retired. It is a subdivision now. P: And that’s where you got your interest in agriculture? L: Yes, I was raised in it. When we were in Alabama, my father was a cotton grower and a timber harvester. Economic reasons was one of the factors that caused him to come to Florida. P: And you said after you finished at th e University, you were employed with the Vocational Education programs? L: Statewide. I was Assistant State Supervis or, but I was stationed here in Gainesville because it was the central part of the state. P: And I notice that there’s a school named W. Travis Lofton Education Center on East University Avenue. L: Yes, it’s a vocational high school and most of the vocational programs are offered there as well as all the high school required subject s. About 150 to 175 students graduate each year with a high school diploma. I was instrumental in helping to get it started. P: I can think of no one more deserving than you to have a vocational school named after you. L: It’s a wonderful school. I have to admit that.

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Interview with: W. Travis Lofton September 1, 1995 4 P: I really think that probably vocational education should be offered even more extensively than it is. L: Absolutely, because there are so many st udents graduating from high school who cannot go to college and these vocational schools offer them an opportunity to prepare for some occupation. P: We don’t do it too much in the United States. In a lot of countries, a student who is not college material is placed in a vocational school earlier in life, and I really think that the United States would be better off if they did more of this. L: Well, Florida has about thirty vocationa l schools in cooperation with the community colleges, but the Lofton School in Gainesville operates strictly under the county school board. P: Well, I certainly think it’s great and I hope if anything it will be enlarged more in the future. L: It’s growing, no question about that. P: I notice that Mrs. Lofton has an early background here in Gainesville and maybe you could tell a little bit about her granddaddy and her parents. L: Her grandfather came to Gainesville as first pastor of the First Baptist Church. It was located on South Main. P: Do you remember about when that was? L: 1870. He built his home here, which is located near where it is now. Mildred, my wife was born in that house. We still have it in the family. Well, Mildred and I still own it. P: What did Mrs. Lofton’s daddy do? L: He worked for Pepper Printing Company all of his productive life. P: And how about Mrs. Lofton? L: Well, she’s been a homemaker. Prior to that, she finished in Home Economics at FSU. Back in those days it was called Florida State College for Women. She was employed

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Interview with: W. Travis Lofton September 1, 1995 5 by Dr. McCall, the pastor at the First Bap tist Church, as his secretary. She was his secretary when we were married in 1932. P: Now did she help with the cafeterias at schools or anything? L: Her mother did. P: It seems like I remember a Mrs. Tomkies that was in the cafeteria. L: That was Mildred’s mother. P: As I remember, they had very good food at that time. L: Yes, she did an excellent job. P: Now, when you came to Gainesville and you st arted at the University of Florida, was there much social life? When did you meet Mrs. Lofton? L: I started attending the First Baptist Church because I was a member of the First Baptist Church in Summerfield and when I came he re, I moved my membership, and I met her one night at what we called then the Ba ptist Student Union. Now, Baptist Young People, BYPU, you remember that? Well, I can remember being there one night at this BYPU meeting and we started going together after I graduated and started teaching at Alachua. We were married one year later in 1932. P: Yes, that was hard times in 1932. L: That’s a long story, too, because teachers we re not getting paid much then. Finally, they quit paying for a period of time. P: I had a sister that taught in the local schools and she told me that she didn’t make very much money when she started. L: Salaries were low. However, everything was in proportion. P: Yes, you could buy a steak pretty reasonable. L: I bought a Ford car for $625.00 when I star ted teaching. It would correspond today with a higher priced car.

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Interview with: W. Travis Lofton September 1, 1995 6 P: Those were the good old days! L: Yes. Then when teachers couldn’t get any money, I couldn’t pay for the car but the lending agency let me wait until I was paid and then I paid for the car. P: I hear you have two lovely daughters. L: Three. P: Three. I’ll learn how to count pretty soon! Where do they live now? L: The oldest one, Louise, lives in Orlando a nd she has a florist business. The next one, Christine, lives in Jacksonville, and her husband is with New York Life Insurance, and then Janice, the youngest one lives here and sh e’s teaching in the Lake Forest Elementary School. She has been for about twenty-five years in the same school. P: That’s good. Are your daughters married? L: Yes. Louise in Orlando lost her husband. He was 48 years old and was a pharmacist. As I said, Christine is in Jacksonville and her husband is insurance. Janice is married to Emery Bishop, and they are both in the school system. P: Do you have any grandchildren? L: We have five grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. P: Boy, that’s doing real well. L: Yes. P: Now I know you’ve done a lot to help the Fi rst Baptist Church and you’ve been in the DOW class for a good many years. The DOW stands for Doers of the Word. L: Yes, and Dr. John Tigert, who was president of the University at that time, started the class in 1928. P: He was the first DOW teacher? L: He organized the class, and we met in what is now the foyer to the sanctuary.

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Interview with: W. Travis Lofton September 1, 1995 7 P: It started in what year? L: 1928. P: We’ve had some very good teachers over the years in the DOW class. L: Oh yes, and we continue to have good teachers. P: I hear that the average age of the member s is 70 so you have a lot of young fellows in the class. L: Yes, a lot of young fellows like you and me! P: Well, I think that you are helping in the building and grounds at the First Baptist Church. L: Yes, I’m chairman of the Buildings and Grounds Committee and also on the committee for the new building program. P: And the new building is going to start this fall or this winter probably? L: The schedule now is for late November or the first of December for construction. P: Well, it’s certainly going to be nice when it is completed. L: Yes. We’ve seen a lot of changes in the Fi rst Baptist Church as well as a lot of changes in Gainesville. P: Do you help with the Travis Lofton Center very much or do you go out and visit with them? L: Well, I go out often. For a long time I wa s on the Advisory Committee, but I felt like it’s time now for others to assume that responsibility. P: I notice in the paper that Gainesville was vot ed the #1 City in the country, which is quite an honor. L: Very much so. P: I imagine you must have thought Gainesville was #1 a good ways back.

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Interview with: W. Travis Lofton September 1, 1995 8 L: Yes, because it has been a good city. We ’ve had problems, of course, like all other cities, but we’ve had a special interest becau se of Mildred’s family ties here over this long period of years, and it’s been a great life here. It’s a good town. P: You’d do it all over again if you had the chance. L: Yes, I sure would. Life here has been good to me. P: I have the same feeling about Gainesville. I was born here and to me it’s always been #1. Was Mrs. Lofton born here too? L: Yes, she was born across the street in the house that the first pastor built. P: I assumed she was since her granddaddy wa s the First Baptist Church minister in Gainesville. That’s quite an honor to be the first Baptist minister’s granddaughter. L: Yes. P: I imagine you’ve seen Gainesville change quite a bit since you’ve been here. L: A lot of changes since I came here. Of c ourse, the community probably had seen a lot of changes before I came in 1927. P: Where you’re living now was probably about as close as you could get to the center of town. L: Well, her grandfather, the pastor, acquired this piece of land about the same time that Chris Matheson acquired the Matheson propert y. Her grandfather was very close to Chris Matheson and they both moved here about the same time. The property ran almost to 7th Street and over almost to University Avenue. The Matheson house is on the other side of 1st Avenue. P: And Mr. Matheson was mayor for a while? L: Yes, and he was a lawyer at that time. Later he became a Presbyterian minister, and was called to a church in Oklahoma. He wa s there until he retired and came back to Gainesville. P: Was he active in the political life after he came back?

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Interview with: W. Travis Lofton September 1, 1995 9 L: No, when he came back, he had more or less retired from most everything? And he didn’t live too long after that. He and Mildre d’s father were very close friends and the families were very close-knit. P: You’re probably very interested in the Matheson Center then, having been associated with the Mathesons for so long. L: Yes. I’ve talked to Dr. Barrow and I’m not sure whether you’re familiar with the progress that’s being made towards including our property with the Historical Society. P: I’m not familiar with everything. No. L: Well, you see this is because of this area be ing in the Historical Society area, then the Historical Society is interested in includi ng this in their plans and I’m sure you’re familiar with the plans that Dr. Barrow has on exhibit, and what they want to do down at Sweetwater Branch. P: I know they want to make a park near the Matheson Center. L: Yes. So, right now the city and Dr. Barro w and the Historical Society are negotiating to purchase this piece of property to be include d in the Historical Society and I think eventually the Historical Society will have our building and the brick building next door. P: Now this is where you’re living that may become . . .? L: Yes. P: Someone had told me that Mrs. Matheson, when she passed away, was going to leave her home. That should be very nice and make a nice park near the middle of town. L: Well, it’s adjoining, the plans. . . The city already owns the strip this side of the grants down here and what they’re interested in is two lots that we have back here which are practically pretty well beautified now and they’re interested in that becoming part of the Historical Society plan for beautifying Sweetwater Branch. P: Are they going to try and get a park all the way to the Prairie or just for a few blocks? L: I think they plan to do some work between here and the Prairie but I don’t think they plan to go much further as far as the park is concerned. P: How far would you estimate it is from where you live here by the Branch to the Prairie?

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Interview with: W. Travis Lofton September 1, 1995 10 L: Somewhere near Bolivar Springs. P: So it’s a couple miles you’d say, or more than that? L: Not over that. Not over two miles. P: Well, that would make a very nice trail to go from the middle of town down to the Prairie to to Bolivar Springs. That would be ve ry nice. If you don’t mind, tell us a little bit more about Matheson Center’s expansion that they have in plans for the future. L: About a year ago, I was contacted about our properties here between 2nd Ave. and 1st Place. including two houses. The city is interested in maintaining this property because it adjoins the Matheson Historical Society property. Dr. Barrow, being head of the Historical Society, is very much interested in it, also. So, we’ve discussed it with our three girls and their families and we’d rather see the city maintain it with the Historical Society as a park instead of something else being placed here. Since our three daughters and their families have their own property, they feel the same way, that this would be nice if it could be maintained as part of th is Historical Society park. The Historical Society would be interested in these two houses and the city in the lots on the west side of the houses between here and the Sweetwater Branch to maintain it as a beautification area, and all this joins up with the Sweetwater Branch Beautification plans. P: I think that will be wonderful if things work out that way because it would certainly make a nice park near downtown and would exte nd probably from the Duck Pond down into this area. That should be something that the children and the adults both should appreciate. You say, Travis, that on September 20th you’ll be 92 years young? L: That’s right. Born in 1903. P: I know in the DOW class you always seem very active and one of the younger ones in there. L: Well, so far my health is still good and I get around okay. I hope it stays that way. P: If you don’t mind, tell us a little bit more about the vocational education that you’ve been associated with at the University and actually before you were with the University. L: Well, while in high school I took some voca tional programs, especially the agricultural program, and because of my farming bac kground and so forth, I was interested in agriculture, and when I came to the Universit y, I entered the College of Agriculture and

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Interview with: W. Travis Lofton September 1, 1995 11 was majoring in Agriculture and Extension E ducation, which would be preparing me for work with the vocational programs in the state, wherever I might be located. On graduation in 1931, I was invited by the county school board to become one of their teachers in Alachua High School. This wa s in the middle of the depression and fortunately I was one of two who were employed in these programs in the class that I graduated. I taught there for three years and because of the economic conditions, the faculty was reduced and being one of th e younger teachers, I was dropped from the program. But fortunately they wanted to put a program in the Largo High School near Clearwater, and I was employed on the basis that I would not be paid until they got the money, and I accepted. Fortunately, I received every dime that they owed me. I taught there until 1937 and I was one of the teachers in Florid a to have a first national officer who happened to be elected the first national president of the Future Farmers of America. Then later I was fortunate in having the stat e and national winner in the Future Farmers of America public speaking contest. In June 1937 I was invited by the state Superi ntendent of Schools to become Assistant State Supervisor in charge of vocational programs in Florida. I was assigned the duty to visit schools where we had these programs and to work with the local school and the county school board in developing and mainta ining these schools and programs. I did this and traveled from one end of the stat e to the other from 1937 to 1947, and there was a vacancy at the University in the Depart ment of Agriculture Education, and I was invited to join the faculty, which I did. I wa s in that position as teacher and assistant to the department head until 1960. In 1962 I was asked to become the head of the department, and it was expanded to include se veral other vocational programs. It was our responsibility to prepare teachers and vo cational programs for county agriculture and extension workers for the state. I was in this position as head of the department until 1975, when I retired. After retirement, I continued to serve on th e advisory board to the Lofton school, which is located in East Gainesville, and there came a time when I felt it was best for others to serve in my place, so I retired from there. Now most of my activities are Kiwanis Club, working as chairman of the Building and Grounds Committee of the First Baptist Church, and so forth. P: And I believe, also, a few years ago that they had you elected to the Hall of Fame in the Agriculture Hall of Fame, too.

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Interview with: W. Travis Lofton September 1, 1995 12 L: Yes, I’ve been very fortunate along the way. Being in this program provided the opportunity to be at the state level and the university level gave me the opportunity to work with other organizations, and we have what is know as the American Vocational Association and the Agricultural Education National Program, and it was my privilege and responsibility to serve as program chairman for the American Vocational Association for one year. Then I was president of this national agricultural education program for one year, and during these years that I was wo rking for the state, I had the privilege of serving on a lot of state and national committees and one time I received the name as Mr. Agriculture for the United States, which I appr eciate but I don’t know whether that is true or not. Along the way, I was elected presiden t of the Florida Vocational Association and this has always been a privilege, and as you mention, I was elected to the Hall of Fame for the vocational programs and also for the ag riculture state Agriculture Hall of Fame. Then recently I received this national Rotary award recognition. All of this I appreciate. When I retired, I received a lot of nice letters from all over the United States and some outside, and I have a book full of them, and I appreciate these and I enjoy reading them along the way. P: I know you must enjoy running into your former pupils and I know you have one in Ed Turlington that’s in the DOW class. L: Well, our department was fortunate in ha ving a lot of state and national leaders. I always feel proud of that because it makes you feel like you were a part of preparing them for their life program and their accomp lishments, and I still get a lot of calls and letters expressing appreciation for what I did for them, which keeps me going and keeps me encouraged. P: Well, we certainly are fortunate that you’ve been around here to help so much with agriculture and particularly with the vocational aspect, which as I say is something that is certainly needed to have all phases of vocational training emphasized. L: One time along the way, back in the 30's and 40's, Sears Roebuck & Co. sponsored a program with Future Farmers of America a nd they would often work with our group and meet with our group and sponsor in certain programs. One time we were having a Southern Regional Meeting in Charleston, S.C., and Sears was going to give the group a free banquet in appreciation for what we were doing for agriculture. They asked me if I would be toastmaster of the program. When we started the banquet program, I was toastmaster and I said, “We from Sears Roe buck are happy to be here with you tonight

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Interview with: W. Travis Lofton September 1, 1995 13 and to give you this nice banquet, and we hope you enjoy it.” Everybody laughed and after that they called me Mr. Sears. P: At least you were named after a good organization. L: They were great days back then. P: In 1925 you did what? L: In 1925 when I was finishing school, we planted forty acres of tomatoes, and we did real good. The next year, in 1926, we thought we’d do the same thing and we lost all we made the year before because the depre ssion was coming on and prices dropped out. I never will forget when my dad said, “Tra vis, if you’re still thinking about going to college and if you plan to go, you’d better go now. In my opinion, our economic problems are going to get worse.” And they did. I took his advice and I came to the University in 1927 as a first year student. The bottom dropped out of everything, as you know, and a lot of the neighbors lost their fa rms because they could not keep going and they had debts they couldn’t pay. Fortunate ly, my dad kept our farm. I had always thought about coming to the University, but I had farming in my system and things were looking good then. Back in those days, it was mules and horses and we bought another pair of mules and we’d lease some additiona l land and so forth. That was a great day when I decided to come to the University. A lot of farms were lost. P: Sounds like your daddy was very wise, that farming was too big a gamble and that education was better than gambling on agriculture and farming. L: He was. He had bought some of this la nd for $5.00 an acre, some of it from Mr. Mayo, who was state Commissioner of Agriculture. As I said a while ago, there is a subdivision where our farm was. When my dad passed out of the picture, my mother kept the farm and I was working with her. One day a real estate person in Belleview called me and said, “Travis, I’ve got a pers on who wants to buy your property.” I said, “Mr. French, we don’t want to sell it.” He said, “Well, this man wants it bad and we want you to put a price on it.” I said, “Well, I’d have to talk to my mother, but we don’t want to sell it.” He said, “Okay.” About two days later, he called me again and he said, “This man’s back on my neck and he wants your property.” I said, “Well, Mr. French, we still don’t want to sell it.” He said, “Tal k to your mother and tell her the price.” Dad paid $5.00 an acre for it, and I talked with her and said, “Let’s ask a price that he won’t go for.” We asked for $100.00 an acre, and I called Mr. French and told him we came up with $100.00 an acre, and he said, “We ll, Travis, you sure don’t want to sell it.” That was back when things were low. So, he said the man wouldn’t do that. And it

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Interview with: W. Travis Lofton September 1, 1995 14 was only a week or so after that he called me and said the man had decided to take it. So that’s the way it went. Now it’s a subdivision known as Belleview Heights. P: When was that, what year was that that you sold your property? L: Back in -my dad died in -in the early 40's. P: In the early part of the century you coul d get real bargains. I know my dad bought the corner of 20th Avenue and 34th Street for a dollar an acre back there, so I’m sure that Mrs. Lofton’s daddy could have bought proba bly half of Gainesville for $5.00 or $10.00 an acre. L: Yes, that’s right. As Mr. French said, “You sure don’t want to sell it.” I remember that statement. P: But the man did want it. L: Yes, he wanted it to start a subdivisi on. He had already bought some land around it, which Mr. French didn’t tell me, but it’s a s ubdivision now. No sign of our farm left. Right where our home was there’s a big, nice house sitting there. But that’s the way life is. Of course, the same right now would sell for a thousand, a lot more. If we had just known to keep it, it would have been much better. When Dr. York came as provost at that time for all of the agriculture program, which they later changed it to IFAS, which is the Institute of Food and Agriculture Sciences, I was head of the Department of Agriculture and Extension Education, in the College of Agriculture, another department that prepar ed agriculture agents for extension. Of course, Alachua County has a big program locat ed out near the airport, but anyway, he called me over one day and he said, “W hat do you think about combining the two departments?” Well, I had to give it a second thought because the head of that department might be the head of both progr ams and where would I be? I said, “Dr. York, I’ll have to think about this.” So I sa id I’d better let it drop, and he called me back and asked, “Have you made a decision?” I said, “Well, Dr. York, I’ve analyzed all these things and I am still wondering if this w ould work.” Then when he said, “Well, I’d like to combine the two and combine the faculties and make you Chairman of the Department,” then I said, “Well, I can talk with you now, Dr. York.” P: It sounded better when you knew who woul d be in charge! That’s good. Another person that was always very interesting out there was Bill Fifield. Did you work with Bill a good bit?

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Interview with: W. Travis Lofton September 1, 1995 15 L: Oh yes, Bill and I were in school together back in to , and Bill and I started what was known as the Agriculture Farm Magazine. It stayed in existence for a long time until a lot of changes came about in publicati ons, and they changed it into a different publication. Oh yes, I worked with Bill very closely. P: He always seemed like a very nice gentleman. L: He was. He lived in our house next door to us. P: You joined Kiwanis and he joined Rotar y. He was in Rotary a long time, up until the time that he passed away. L: I got to know Bill’s brother real well. Fu ller Warren was in school at the same time, and I got to know Fuller and Billy Matthews. B ack in those days we knew most of the students, practically all of them, 1700 to 1800. There were good, strong people back in those days in the small enrollment. P: You had a good football team in and , too. L: The player who threw the ball right-handed and left-handed was Clyde Crabtree. P: Dale VanSickle was on one of those teams. L: Yes. When we went to Largo as a teach er, Crabtree was the coach there. He was in school the same time I was. We were in classes together. Of course, back in those days you could have classes with most all of th e students. During the time I was there -you see, each college had a representative on the Honor Court -and I was elected from the College of Agriculture on the Honor Court, which I served for two years, I think. P: Fuller Warren was quite a man of the campus politically even back in his early days before he became governor. Is that not right? L: Yes, Fuller was quite a leader on the campus and I’m not sure what all positions he held but I know that he would call several meetings during the year of the student body and he would always call a rally before we’d have a ball game and we’d meet in front of the auditorium. He would stand up on a ledge in front and lead our cheering. Then sometimes we’d have a bonfire. Warren was always a leader. And when I was traveling through the state, the dean and I ha d the privilege of visiting his home out in Blountstown where he was raised, and it gave us the opportunity to meet his mother. Later she was Home Demonstration Agent for Alachua County and lived with her daughter, Alma Warren. Now you know Alma, w ho lives here. She served as First

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Interview with: W. Travis Lofton September 1, 1995 16 Lady the first part of Warren’s administration. You know it was Fuller’s leadership that helped Florida get livestock off the highways. P: And a lot of people say that’s the best thing he ever did, to get the cows off the road. It probably saved a lot of lives. L: Warren was quite a speaker. And a leader. He was quite active on campus during those years. He could always get the student body together when we were going to have a session. Of course, it wasn’t too hard to get the message around then because most of the students lived close by or on campus. P: Well, we certainly are glad that you met M ildred and decided to stay in Gainesville. You certainly have been an asset to the community. A big factor in it being #1. L: Well, thank you, Charlie. And I was fortuna te to become a member of the Tomkies family, which again has a wonderful reputati on and a family that’s done a lot for the community and for our church. P: Well, I certainly do thank you for telling me so me of the stories about Gainesville and to help out with the Matheson Center. L: Well, this area has been part of the historical development of Gainesville. When the county seat was moved here from Alachua, this was the main residential area. P: For a long time this was about all of Ga inesville. Well, thanks again, and I sure appreciate your talking to me. L: It was just a pleasure for me to do this and to talk with you about it.


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