Group Title: Transcript of statewide TV-radio talk to the people of Florida on race relations
Title: Transcript of statewide TV-radio talk to the people of Florida on race relations by Governor LeRoy Collins
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 Material Information
Title: Transcript of statewide TV-radio talk to the people of Florida on race relations by Governor LeRoy Collins
Series Title: Transcript of statewide TV-radio talk to the people of Florida on race relations
Physical Description: Book
Language: English
Creator: Collins, LeRoy.
Publication Date: March 20, 1960
General Note: Speech delivered over statewide TV-radio network, 5:30-6:00 p.m., Sunday, March 20, 1960
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: NF00000161
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of North Florida
Holding Location: University of North Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: ltqf - AAA5658

Full Text

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SUNDAY; MARCH 20, 1960

Hello, everybody. I first want to thank station WFGA

and all the other broadcasting stations throughout the state

for giving me this opportunity of coming into your living room

this afternoon and talking to you about some problems about

which I am very gravely concerned and that affect every man,

woman and child in our state.

First, let me say though to all the people of Florida how

deeply we feel regret about the losses and damages that high

waters have occasioned so many of our citizens. We hope that

damages can be minimized as best as possible, and, of course, all

of us stand by as neighbors to render whatever help we can to

these citizens and friends,

Well, I want to talk to you about race relations. Frankly,

I had a group of my friends come over to see me yesterday and

they said very frankly, "Governor, we don-t think you should make

this broadcast you are talking about tomorrow afternoon." I ask-

ed why and they said, "Well, you have less than a year now to

serve in this office and certainly you know that whatever you say

is going to make some people mad, and we just donrt see the reason

why you should stick your neck out or become involved in a discus-

sion of that very explosive issue."

Well, frankly, I don't follow that sort of logic. I believe

this is a very grave and serious matter facing the people of this

state, affecting all of us, and I think the people of this state

when their governor has convictions about a matter expect him to

express those convictions directly to them.

Now that's the policy I've been following as your gov-

ernor. I know many times that I have taken stands that many

people have not approved of. But I still believe that I have

the respect of the people of Florida because I believe those.

people have felt I was sincere in my position and I think by and

large where they have differed with me, they have come later to

feel that there was considerable logic in the stand that I took

in respect to them.

Now let me say this, I believe very deeply that I represent

every man, woman and child in this state as their governor, whether

that person is black or white, whether that person is rich or poor,

or whether that person is influential or not influential.

A governor, if he is worth his salt, has a deep responsi-

bility for all of the people add I feel that responsibility. I

want to say this to you, too, that I am not a candidate for any-

thing. It seemsalmost every time I speak out about anything

these days and for some time past now, I am projected as being a

candidate for vice-president or having some personal motives of

some sort. Now that is absolutely -- there is nothing to that.

I believe that the face of Florida -- the image of Florida

-- is not in its pine trees or in its palm trees or even in its

orange trees, but in the people of this state. I believe that

large star on our map of the United States that represents

Florida stands for the people of Florida.

Now let me review briefly something of the history of this

racial strife that we are contending with. It was on last February

1, that four Negro college students from a North Carolina college

went into a Woolworth store in Greensboro, N. C. They bought

some tooth paste and other minor items at one of the counters,

then turned over to the lunch counter and ordered a cup of coffee.

The waitress there said, "I'm sorry, we do not serve colored

people here'J One of the students said, "Why I have just been

served here. I bought a tube of tooth paste over there." She said,

"Well, we serve you over there, but we do not serve you here."

That was the first of these demonstrations. Many followed

there in Greensboro involving hundreds of people. They spread

throughout North Carolina on to Virginia, to South Carolina, to all

of the other states of the South, including Florida.

And we have had many throughout our state aid, unlike some

people assume, not all of these demonstrations were sponsored by

students; in fact, only a minority have been sponsored by students.

But the worst of all, of course, has occurred, I think, as some of

you know, in Tallahassee, And there it was largely sponsored by

students from the Florida A & M University, our Negro institution,

and Florida State University.

There the city of Tallahassee took a rather rigid and puni-

tive position in respect to tlese demonstrations. And, of course,

this gave the appearance of partiality or of non-objectivity and

this caused the conditions to become aggravated and we finally de-

veloped conditions there in Tallahassee of which I am frankly i h

Yesterday and the day before there was a tenseness about

the atmosphere in Tallahassee that was disgraceful. We had armed

patrolmen, state, county and city, patrolling every street because

we have had the wildest rumors imaginable going on there about what

was going to happen.

First a hundred Negro citizens were going to be brought in

to augment local forces, then that grew as high as 6,000. First

we had large numbers of White Citizens Council members who were

coming in to augment the white forces and that grew up into the

thousands. Of course, all that proved to be completely unsound,

but our people got worried. They were calling me at night --

widows asking me if I thought they would be safe in their homes

at night time.

An element of fear which is certainly an insidious and a

dangerous thing to behold. When I was going back to my office

just yesterday noon the highway patrolman who was driving me said,

"Governor, I just got word that a bus load of students -- Negro

students from Alabama -- has just pulled into the A & M University

campus and they've got a lot of baseball bats and they're out to

augment the local forces, to put on some sort of a demonstration."

I called the president of the university when I got to the

office and he said, "It is true, Governor, we've got a bus load.

For a year now we have had a ball game, a baseball game,

scheduled with the institution up there in Alabama aid the boys

are here with their bats to play the ball game." And they played

the ball game.

But there were wild rumors about runs on hardware stores

for ammunition, about runs for baseball bats, about runs on stores

for hammers, knives, screwdrivers and everything else. A perfect-

ly absurd situation to develop here in our free America, in our free

Florida and in our free Tallahassee.

But what is the legal situation about these so-called


First, I want to say this to everyone of you: that we are

going to have law and order in this state.

I don't care who the citizen is, he is going to be protect-

ed in pursuing his legal rights in Florida.

And that goes for every place in Florida.

Now under our free enterprise system and under our laws a

merchant has the legal right to select the patrons he serves, And

certainly he is going to be protected in that legal right.

The customer, of course, has the legal right to trade or not

to trade with any man he wants to and, of course, there is the

right to demonstrate and the people should be protected in that

right, too.%

But I want to call your attention that the right to demons

state in all cases is limited by the fact that if there is any

clear and present danger that that demonstration will incite pub-

lic disorder, it is ~pawhul. And, of course, a situation of this

kind could bring about that kind of condition in one community and

not in another.

Now we have applied that rule. I called on our sheriffs

two years ago to apply it against the Ku Klux Klan. While they

were planning a perfectly lawful demonstration under normal cir-

cumstances, the information we had about the way they were going

to conduct that, I felt would clearly incite disorder and danger

and so we called upon the sheriffs to .prevent demonstrations of

that sort and they did.

But actually, friends, we are foolish if we just think a-

bout resolving this thing on a legal basis. In the first place,

our merchants have mach involved so far as their business pros-

perity not to have racial tensions of thm,' order,

Boycotts can be extremely damaging and will be extremely

damaging to their businesses. And, of course, any racial tension

brings about depression in business and depresses generally the

business spirit of any community,

But aside from that we've got some moral rights and we've

got some principlAs of brotherhood that are involved in these is-

sues that I want to talk with you just a little about.

I'm amazed at how different people react differently in this

particular area. My own mother and father, I found the other day,

don't fully agree on how they feel about race relations. I know my

own wife and I have disagreements from time to time about race re-


And so far as I am personally concerned, I don't mind say-

ing that I think that if a man has a department store and he in-

vites the public generally to come into his department store and

trade, I think then it is unfair and morally wrong for him to

single out one department though and say he does not want or will

not allow Negroes to patronize that one department.

Now he has a legal right to do that, but I still don't

think that he can square that right with moral, simple justice.

Now you may not agree with that. Strange things develop

in respect to these relations. We have a department store there at

home, for example, that has a counter where ladies go and buy pat-

terns. Well, white and colored women have been seated, side by s

side, buying patterns at that counter for 20 years,

Our banks in Tallahassee -- and I think everywhere else --

have no discrimination whatever in respect to what windows their

customers will use. One of our banks has recently initiated a

program of serving coffee to all of its customers between 10 and

11 o'clock in the morning. And that service is provided without

discrimination and there's no special place to sit because that

institution feels an obligation to treat all of its customers a-


The whole thing reminds me a little of that old Hindu

story about the Blind Men and the Elephant. They didn't know

what an elephant was like and so they wanted to find out and

one blind man went up and felt the elephant's side and he said,

"The elephant is like a wall." Another one went up and he

touched the tusk and said, "The elephant's like a spear." The

other one went up and he felt a leg and said, "The elephant is

like a tree." The other one went up and he felt the ear and

said, "The elephant is like a fan." The other one went up and

he felt the tail and said, "The elephant is like a rope." And

so each interpreted it as he felt it, but at the same time none

of them had any real conception of what an elephant was actual-

ly like, Now none of us have all the answers to this situation,

friends. I think all of us are part right and part wrong.

We must have more tolerance, more understanding, more
cfristianity, less words and less demonstrations, I think, if we

are going to find the answer ultimately.

I went to church this morning and I was amazed that the

scripture the gospel -- for this third Sunday is Lent which

the minister read includes this

These words from th e Master. "But he, knowing their

thoughts, said unto them, every kingdom divided against itself
is brought to desolation; and a house divided against a house


How appropriate that, scripture was to me on this day be-

cause I firmly believe as I hope you will that every state divided

against itself, every city divided against itself, every nation

divided against itself is bound to come to desolation.

Now that is true for many reasons because when there is

division there is suspicion, there is fear, there is distrust and

ultimately there is hate and hate consumes aid destroys.

Friends, we must find answers. There is absolutely nothing

that can aid the Communists more at this time in establishing su-

premacy over the United States -- and that is their ambition --

than racial strife in this country.

I made that statement the other day and somebody said to me,

"Yes, I think you are right about that. We understand how that in-

jures our nation for the word to be passed along about our racial

strife, but all this could be eliminated if the colored people

would just stay in their place."

Now friends, that's not a Christian point of view.

That's not a democratic point of view.

That's not a realistic point of view.

We can never stop Americans from struggling to be free,

We can never stop Americans from hoping and praying that

some day in some way this ideal that is imbedded in our Declara-

tion of Independence is one of these truths that are inevitable

that all men are created equal, that, that somehow will be a

reality and not just an illusory distant goal.

How are we going to work and what are we going to do?

Next week I am going to announce the appointment of a bi-

racial committee for this state to succeed the so-called

Fabisinski committee which has been working with race relations,

but you will recall the unfortunate loss of Judge Fabisinski,

Mr. Cody Fowler of Tampa has agreed to serve as chairman

of that new committee. The other members will be announced next

week. Mr, Fowler, is an outstanding man and will bring to that

service great competence. He was the president of the American

Bar Association and he has longoworked with inter-racial programs

in the city of Tampa and was one of the early members of our old

Fabisinski committee.

And I want local committees formed in this state, I appeal;.

to those communities all communities -- here and now to estab-

lish among your citizens bi-racial committees that can take up and

consider grievances of a racial character and that can honestly

and sincerely and with a determined effort try to find solutions to

these difficulties.

Now the fact that your community has not had any difficulties

should not deter you in moving to form this committee because sooner

or later you will. We ar. confronted with a great need in our a

state to intelligently and reasonably act and to do that I must

have the cooperation of the people.

Florida needs you in this program.

We need more reason and less emotion. We need more love

and less hate. We need more work and effort and less talk and less


Citizens, please do not fail this great challenge. We are

here in the Easter Season.

About two years ago the distinguished playwright, Robert

Sherwood, wrote a play for Robert Montgomery and it was present-

ed on television. The title of it was "The Trial of Pontius Pilatet'

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The title intrigued me because I had always thought of the events

of those fatal times as working around the trial of Jesus and I

never had thought in terms of Pontius Pilate being on trial.

But Sherwood is a very logical and in a very reasonable way

pointed out in truth and in fact Pontius Pilate was the man who

was on trial. Pontius was a great, big, strong, wonderful man at

the court of the Caesars in Rome. He was a comer. Everybody ex-

pected him to do great things and to be given great assignments.

His wife was one of his greatest boosters. She thought that he

would be assigned as the procurator of Egypt which was the really

choice post available at that time. But when the day came for

Pontius Pilate to get his assignment, it was to the little in-

significant country of Judea and Pontius was furious because he

felt that his assignment was not measuring up to his capacity,

But he went on, of course, and undertook it just the same.

You remember how the events developed towards the time of the

crucifixion and when the Pharisees got Jesus and they were trying

their best to pin something on him that the Romans, of course,

would authorize his execution for and they were having a tough

time of it and they were pounding on Pilate's door and trying to

convince him that he should get this man and have him executed

and you remember those early days how Pilate said, "But what's

wrong with the man? I don't see, I don't hear anything trea.

sonable about his conduct. Why should we be so disturbed?"

And they said, "Oh, Pontius Pilate, he's inciting people

to riot and disorder. He's creating insurrection. He's a dan-

gerous and he's an evil man." And Pontius said to them, "I was

talking to a man who was with him down in the temple yesterday

and I asked him about what this man had said and he said that

somebody showed him a coin and tried to trap him and said, rWhat

do you say about Ceasar?* And he said in response to that,

*Render unto Caesar the the things that are Caesar's and unto God

the things that are Godts, Now what's wrong with that?" Pontius

asked these advisers.

They said, "Oh, you oan't understand this man's attracting

a lot of people to follow him. He's creating distrust in your

government and in your supervision. You've got to do something

about it."

Pontius* wife, Claudia, came into the picture about that

time and she said, "Pontius, think carefully about this thing.

I was down on the street the other day and I saw this man teach-

ing and I went up because I wanted to hear what he had to say and

he said very distinctly that, "I came not to establish a kingdom

on earth, but a kingdom in Heaven."

And Pontius said, "How could that be treasonable?" But

they insisted and about that time they started hearing the cry

of the mob outdoors. First it was a soft, "Crucify Him," and then

it got stronger, "Crucify Him," and then it got stronger, "Crucify

Hi," and then something happened to that big, strong man.

He heard the cry of the mob. And he went out on the balcony

and there they were just screaming and crying for blood. And that

great big man started getting nsaller and smaller.and smaller.

And he grew to be a little, insignificant dwarf, And he said,

"Bring ae a bowl of water," And when he got the water, he washed

his hands in it.

And he said to that arowd, "Iwill not let the blood of

this righteous man be on w hands. I wash ny hands of it. See to

it yourself."

And they did see to it themselves. They crucified him.

Friends, we've got mobs beginning to form now, in this

nation, in this Southland and in this state. The time requires

intelligent, careful, thorough study of big problems, and the

reaching of solutions that are going to be reasonable and sound

and make good sense.

We cannot let this matter and these issues be decided by

the mobs, whether they are made up of white people or whether

they are made up of colored people.

And we in this state have this sort of situation; we have

got extremists on one side and we've got extremists on the other.

We've got this mob shouting here; we've got that mob shouting


But where are the people in the middle? Why aren't

they talking? Why aren't they working? They must start work-

ing. They must start efforts that are going to bring about

solutions if we are going to get over these problems and these

troubles and keep our state growing as our state should grow.

You remember the little story about the song of the

brook? It said, "Bring me men to match my mountains, bring me

men to match my plains, men with empires in their vision and

new eras in their brains."

We've got to have men with new eras in their brains.

We've got a state to build. We've got a nation to save. And

we've a God to serve. Thank you.


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