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Interview with Alfred A. McKethan July 9 1987

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Title:
Interview with Alfred A. McKethan July 9 1987
Creator:
McKethan, Alfred A. ( Interviewee )
Publication Date:
Language:
English

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords:
Florida Business Leaders Oral History Collection ( local )
Businesswomen -- Florida
Business enterprises -- Florida
Business -- Florida

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Funding:
This text has been transcribed from an audio or video oral history. Digitization was funded by a gift from Caleb J. and Michele B. Grimes.

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Source Institution:
Samuel Proctor Oral History Program, Department of History, University of Florida
Holding Location:
This interview is part of the 'Florida Business Leaders' collection of interviews held by the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program of the Department of History at the University of Florida
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Made available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial 4.0 International license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/.
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FBL 001 ( SPOHP IDENTIFIER )

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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
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UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA

ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM


Interviewee: Alfred A. McKethan

Interviewer: Samuel Proctor

Date: July 9, 1987









UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA

ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM

Interviewee: Alfred A. McKethan

Interviewer: Samuel Proctor

Date: July 9, 1987


Alfred Augustus McKethan was born on October 14, 1908 in
Brooksville, Florida. A fifth-generation Floridian, he graduated
from high school in 1926. After two years at Virginia Military
Institute, he returned to Florida to attend the University of
Florida. McKethan pledged Sigma Nu and received his degree in
1931 from the College of Business.

Upon graduation, he took a position with the Hernando State
Bank. By 1940, he was president of the bank and later served as
chairman of the board. McKethan talks about prominent political
figures and his dealings with them. His first political
involvement came in 1940 when he supported Fuller Warren in the
gubernatorial race. Later, Governor Warren appointed him to the
Florida State Road Board. During his tenure on the board, one of
its projects was the designing of the Florida Turnpike.

In the interview, McKethan discusses economic factors in
Florida from 1927 through the Depression. He also voices his
concern for proper water management and discusses his
participation in Southwest Water Management District. The
interview ends with a note that a combination of idealism and
determination can bring about a solution to the present problems.







P: Give me your full name, and your place and date of birth, please.

M: Alfred Augustus McKethan of Brooksville, Florida. I was born
October 14, 1908.

P: You are from one of this county's pioneer families, aren't you,
Mr. McKethan?

M: Yes. My father was born and raised in Fayetteville, North
Carolina. He came to this county in 1901. He first became
acquainted with this area as a result of the Spanish-American War.
After the war he went to Savannah, and there became acquainted
with one of the leaders in the turpentine-naval store industry,
who asked him to go to Florida in connection with a turpentine
business at Lawtey, Florida. He later asked him to come to
Brooksville, Florida, where L. B. Varn of Valdosta, Georgia, owned
a large turpentine operation in this section of the state. As a
result of my father coming to Brooksville with Mr. Varn, he met my
mother, Alice Hale. Later, my father went into the turpentine
business on his own, operating in this county and in Lake County.
My father and mother were married, and they then settled in Lake
County. They moved back to Brooksville after my father sold out
his operation there. He planned to remain only temporarily. He
was getting ready to go into the turpentine business in another
location, when he was asked if he would be of some assistance to
the people at the Hernando State Bank. His brother-in-law,
Clarence Hale, was director of the bank, and they needed someone
to help make a complete audit of the bank. My father took over
that temporary operation and liked it, and he maintained his
association with the Hernando State Bank until his death in 1936.

P: Mr. McKethan, I want to ask you about your mother's family, the
Hales. Where did they come from?

M: The Hales came to this county in 1842 from Vermont. They came
south, Joseph and his brother, and they parted. One went west
and homesteaded land in the vicinity of Hot Springs, Arkansas.
Joseph Hale, my great-grandfather, came south through Georgia
where he met and married a Miss Townsend. They moved to Homosassa
first, and then moved over to Hernando County around 1842.

P: What brought them to Florida in the first place?

M: I think in those days they may have been traveling around, just
exploring. I have often referred to them as the touristss" of
that era, only they were traveling in wagons pulled by mules and
oxen. The information that I have about my great-grandfather was
that he had been a builder, and he was associated with Senator
Yulee [David Levy Yulee, United States Senator from Florida,
1845-1861] in building the old sugar mill at Homosassa. Later,
my great-grandfather moved to Hernando County, where he lived
until his death.

P: Did he build the sugar mill for Yulee?


1








M: He was engaged by Senator Yulee in connection with the building of
the mill.

P: So he stayed in the Homosassa area for a while?

M: Yes, for several years, and then he moved to Brooksville around
1843.

P: That would have been after the Seminole War. Were the problems
with the Indians in this area settled a bit?

M: Some of the problems had been settled, but some Indian trouble
occurred later on because there was an Indian raid just south of
Brooksville near Darby around 1850. I remember my grandfather
saying that Indians were in this area when they first came here,
and that they were friendly. He said that Osceola [Osceola, c.
1800-1838, leader of Seminoles during Seminole Indian Wars, taken
prisoner in 1837] had been to their home.

P: Did your great-grandfather, Joseph Hale, continue in the building
business here in Brooksville?

M: Yes, I understand that he did.

P: And also farm?

M: Yes, he involved himself in agricultural pursuits--cattle and the
like.

P: So on your mother's side, you are about the fifth generation in
Florida.

M: Right. Now the interesting part of my mother's family was that my
grandmother, my mother's mother, was Dorothy Ederington. Dorothy
Ederington's father purchased the land on the hill in Brooksville
that is today known as Chinsegut from Colonel Pierson, who had
secured it under the Armed Occupation Act of 1842. Francis
Ederington, who was Dorothy Ederington's father--that would be my
great-grandfather on my mother's side--purchased the hill in 1851
or 1852. He settled there, moving from Fairfield County, South
Carolina. We have a record kept of his trip from South Carolina
in a diary which shows that he moved south with his equipment--
farming supplies, livestock, his family, and twenty-three slaves.
He settled on what is now known as Chinsegut Hill. There were
seven girls in the family and two boys.

P: Did they remain here through the Civil War?

M: Yes.

P: Were any of your family involved in the war?

M: Colonel Ederington was actively engaged in the cattle business and
general farming, and he was particularly involved in driving
cattle out to the Confederate Army because meat and other


2









agriculture products grown here were in short supply at that time.

P: What about salt-making?

M: Over at Bayport, there was a salt refinery where they made the
salt out of the water of the Gulf of Mexico.

P: After the war, your family obviously stayed on here. They no
longer had slaves, but they continued in business.

M: That is right, in agriculture.

P: What about this house? Was it that grandfather who built the
house we are in right now?

M: No. Dorothy Ederington married John Hale, and they built this
house about 1870. This is where they raised their family.

P: How large was their family?

M: Three boys and one girl. That girl, Alice Hale, was my mother.

P: So your parents met and married here. What about your own family-
-brothers and sisters?

M: We were all born and raised in Brooksville. I had one brother and
one sister. One brother--my mother's first child--died when he
was twenty-three months old. Those of us who survived lived here,
went to the local high school, and then went to college.

P: What was your brother's name?

M: John Walden.

P: And your sister?

M: Dorothy Celia McKethan.

P: Are both living?

M: My brother, John, is deceased. He died about five years ago. My
sister lives in Brooksville. She married Joseph M. Mason from
Tampa. They lived here in Brooksville.

P: When did you graduate from high school?

M: 1926.

P: Did you enroll at the University of Florida?

M: No, I first went to college in 1926 at the Virginia Military
Institute in Lexington, Virginia, and stayed there two years. I
wanted to be an engineer. But I came home my sophomore year--my
father told me he wanted to talk to me about my choice of career.
This was during the bottom of the depression in Florida. He said


3








to me, "Alfred, every engineer I know is out of work and about to
starve to death. I don't know whether you are smart in wanting to
be an engineer." Those words worried me. After all, I was just a
nineteen-year-old boy. I talked to my mother's brother, Hugh
Hale, who was a graduate of the University of Florida Law School,
about it, and he advised me to go up to the University of Florida
and have an interview. I had my interview with the late Walter
Matherly, who was dean of the College of Business [dean, 1926-
1954]. Dean Matherly helped change my decisions concerning what I
wanted to do and be, and because of him I went to the University
of Florida. One of the factors that definitely made me to go to
the University of Florida was the depression, and its affect on
making a living. It was considerably cheaper for me to go to a
state school than to go to a school in Virginia.

P: What year did you come to the University?

M: 1928.

P: Florida was in a depression after the land boom collapsed, but not
the rest of the nation. The stock market crash came in October,
1929.

M: We were in the middle of the Florida depression, but the national
depression did not begin until after 1929.

P: Talk about the Florida depression and the collapse of the boom.

M: We just went wild down here in 1924, 1925, and 1926 over real
estate. It seemed to me as a young man that people just went
completely wild. There was what we called "doing business in
paper." Hard money was not paid on property. All of a sudden,
"Bam!," it busted, and when it did, it was not just a bust, it was
a collapse. Banks failed, businesses failed, everything just
closed down.

P: Had the boom touched Central Florida?

M: Yes, it had. There were real estate developments and the like
here that all of a sudden we had to shut down.

P: You think of the boom as being something that was concentrated in
South Florida around Palm Beach and Miami, but it was all over the
state.

M: It was all over this state. Prices of land went up
unrealistically and all of a sudden the bottom dropped out. The
buyers could not pay for what they bought. They bought on time.
We used to refer to it as "on binders." A lot of real estate
sales in those days were referred to as "binder boards."

P: What did that mean, Mr. McKethan?

M: Well, when buying on time, all down payments, it was promised,
would be paid over a period in the future. When the payments were


4








due, buyers could not pay.

P: Did the bank hold a lot of those mortgages?

M: Our bank, the Hernando State Bank, did not. And, incidentally, as
a high-school boy I started working in the summertime in the
Hernando State Bank. From my college years to the present time, I
have been associated with that bank. A year ago, we joined the
Sun Bank system. So we are now known as the Sun Bank and Trust
Company.

P: Did the Hale family found the bank?

M: No, the Hale family did not. My mother's brother, Clarence Hale,
was one of the early stockholders and directors in the bank.
Probably the guiding spirit behind the chartering of the bank was
a former governor of Florida who lived in Brooksville, W. S.
Jennings [William Sherman Jennings, Governor of Florida, 1901-
1905]. The first president of the bank was J. A. Jennings, but he
was not related to Governor Jennings. He served as president of
the bank for a number of years and then, when they talked my
father into getting into the banking business in 1907, they
operated it together for years. My father became the chief
executive officer of the bank and remained in that capacity until
his death in 1936.

P: So the family has had an association with the bank almost from the
very beginning.

M: Correct.

P: Do you remember your first visit to Gainesville?

M: I first went up to Gainesville with my mother and father when I
was a boy to see her brother graduate from the University of
Florida. I think it was in 1916.

P: What was his name?

M: Hugh Hale. He is recorded in the University of Florida records, I
believe, as Fitzhugh Lee Hale. He changed his name to just "Hugh"
after he graduated from college [Hugh L. Hale, member, Florida
Senate, 1925-1933]. He later graduated from the law school. Once
we drove up in our old car and there was not a foot of paved road
between Brooksville and Gainesville. We spent the night at the
old Whitehouse Hotel on Main Street. From what we called downtown
Gainesville going out to what is now University Avenue, there was
nothing but piney woods after you passed the old Jacksonville,
Gainesville, and Gulf, the "T and J Railroad," as we used to call
it. It was just open land--pine trees and scattered shacks
between there and the campus.

P: Do you remember what the campus looked like in those early days?

M: Well, there were a few buildings, most of which were made of red


5








brick capped by a tile roof--a style which continued for many
years. There were just a few buildings there, and the trees
around the buildings were pine.

P: The law building [Bryan Hall] was already there. Were the
commencement exercises for the law school held in that building?

M: I do not remember. There was no main auditorium on campus, so it
could have been held in any one of the buildings.

P: There was an auditorium--and it still remains--on the second floor
of Peabody Hall. A lot of University activities took place in
that assembly hall. Of course, the student body was very small.
Murphree was president at that time [Albert A. Murphree,
president, University of Florida, 1909-1927], so that would have
been your first contact with him. Do you remember how you
traveled to Gainesville when you came as a student in 1928?

M: I rode in an automobile.

P: That would have been the year after Murphree's death.

M: During my first year there, Dr. John Tigert became president [John
J. Tigert, president, University of Florida, 1928-1947].

P: James Farr had been the acting president in the interval year
[James Farr, chairman of English Department, University of
Florida, interim president, 1927-1928].

M: That is right.

P: So you and Dr. Tigert arrived on campus at about the same time.
Where did you live, Mr. McKethan?

M: Well, I first lived with a friend of mine in a home where they had
an apartment. And later I pledged the Sigma Nu Fraternity, and I
lived in the fraternity house on University Avenue. The house
where I lived was later burned.

P: Were you active on campus? Did you play any sports?

M: The only sports I took part in were intramurals, no other. I
guess I was a normal student.

P: What did you get your degree in?

M: B.S.B.A.--Business Administration, Dean Matherly's college.

P: Do you remember the names of any of your early instructors?

M: Oh, yes. Some of them were very colorful, but most colorful of
all was the one we called "Moby Dick" Anderson. He was quite a
card [Montgomery Drummond Anderson, professor of Business
Statistics, University of Florida, 1927-1971].



6








P: How did he get that name?

M: I do not know, but that was his nickname. Hubert Harry was a very
fine instructor. Dr. Eldridge taught economics [John Eldridge,
professor of Economics, University of Florida, 1925-1955]. Also,
I knew Professor Chace [James E. Chace, Jr., professor of
Economics and Reality Management, University of Florida, 1930-
1961]. They had a good faculty. Dean Matherly taught one class,
and he had another very good instructor named Dr. Dykman (Howard
Dykman, assistant dean, College of Business and Administration,
University of Florida, 19?-1935].

P: You said that you had an interview with Dean Matherly, and as a
'result you made the decision to come to the University of Florida.
Did your family know Matherly?

M: My uncle, Hugh Hale, who was then state senator, knew Dean
Matherly. As I recall, he made an appointment with Dean Matherly
for me.

P: So that was your first contact with him, and obviously you
remained a close friend to Dean Matherly as a student and after
you left the University.

M: Dean Matherly was a friend, an advisor, and a helper. I had not
had the experience of being a good student when I arrived at the
University of Florida, but with Dean Matherly's encouragement I
ended up as an honors graduate. I give Dean Matherly credit for
teaching me how to be a good student.

P: What kind of social life did you have on campus?

M: The normal social life that any other young man has had.

P: Where did the girls whom the boys dated come from?

M: Well, there were not many girls in Gainesville. We were entirely
a male institution. I do not think there was more than twenty-
five ladies in school back then. If we wanted to see girls, we
would have to go to Tallahassee or they would have to come to
Gainesville, and this was done quite often.

P: Were you a football enthusiast?

M: Oh, I enjoyed football and baseball. Baseball was always my
favorite sport, and it still is.

P: Did you play any baseball?

M: I did not play at the University, but I played after I got out of
school.

P: Did you take the straight courses that were offered in the College
of Business Administration?



7








M: Whatever they recommended, I would take.

P: When did you graduate?

M: 1931.

P: That was a bad time not only for Florida, but for the entire
nation.

M: It was the bottom of the Depression.

P: So when you came back to Brooksville, where did you find work?

M: I began working when I came back to Brooksville, July 1, 1931, at
the Hernando State Bank.

S: What did you do between 1931 and 1933?

M: We had interviews for jobs before graduating, and I was offered a
job by a bank in Jacksonville, but I decided not to go. Also, I
was offered a job that would have taken me to Cuba, but I turned
it down, too.

P: What did you do in the bank?

M: I did a little bit of everything in those days. There were few
employees. I had already been working in the bank during the
summers since I had been a sophomore in high school, so I had
learned a good deal about the operation. In a small institution
you knew all your customers by name and the like.

P: How much did they pay you?

M: I took my first job for $75 a month--that was a good job, too, in
those days.

P: You lived at home?

M: Yes, sir. I got by all right, and made a little bit of money. I
lived in this house.

P: Where was the bank located?

M: The bank was located on the same corner where it is today, the
corner of Main Street and Jefferson Street. The bank was
organized in 1905. The minutes of the directors' meeting show
that they authorized the purchase of that site and paid $600 for
it. The building was constructed on that site.

P: How old is the present building?

M: Part of it was built in 1905. Of course, it has been enlarged and
added to since.

P: So you worked at the bank throughout the 1930s.


8









M: Yes.

P: You did everything that was needed, cashiering and all of the
other things.

M: We had only three employees. I remember when one of the employees
was on vacation and another one got sick, and I was the only
employee at the bank for about a week. It was real serious. Next
door to us there was a drug store--it was not ours--and I would
have to call the druggist on the phone and ask him if he could not
come over to the bank for a few minutes and stay around in the
lobby while I went to the restroom.

P: Tell me about Brooksville and the banking business during the
depression days of the 1930s.

M: Well, Brooksville was still a small place. We had been kept
pretty lively, though, by the real estate boom. We were in a
process of decline from that boom. Our deposits were off, and we
were competing against the First National Bank of Brooksville.
Their deposits were off also. We had a fine golf course known as
Hickory Hills Golf and Country Club, a real estate development,
and it went broke. Things were just tough. There is a country
saying: "root-hog, or die." But we all survived. The Hernando
State Bank survived; we never had any difficulties. Later the
First National Bank closed, but its deposits were paid off by the
Federal Fund Insurance Corporation.

P: Were you involved in local politics?

M: I have never been a candidate for public office. I was always
interested in trying to support good people and to help my friends
get elected. The only time I was ever really active in politics
was a little later in the first campaign for Fuller Warren for
governor [Fuller Warren, Governor of Florida, 1949-1953]. I had
met Fuller while we were students at the University of Florida,
and I supported him when he ran for governor in 1940.

P: How about during the 1930s, were you a Franklin Roosevelt man?

M: Oh yes, I was very much for F.D.R. He was a great man. I think
that Franklin D. Roosevelt came along at the right time. His New
Deal program probably saved our country.

P: What about four years earlier? You were too young to vote, but
what about your family and the election between Herbert Hoover and
Al Smith? Florida went Republican.

M: My family all supported Al Smith.

P: They did not care about the fact that he was a Catholic?

M: The fact that he was Catholic did not enter into the picture
whatsoever. My father thought he was an able man, and he


9









supported him.

P: Was the Ku Klux Klan active in this area in the 1920s?

M: Yes, there was an active Ku Klux Klan here.

P: How much support did it get from the community?

M: I cannot say how much support they received. They were reasonably
active, but not too active.

P: They were involved in the 1928 campaign throughout Florida, but
the situation had changed considerably by 1932, with the coming of
the Depression.

M: If I had been able to vote in the election of 1928, I would have
voted for Al Smith, just like my daddy did.

P: Did you vote in 1932?

M: Yes, I voted for F.D.R.

P: Have you continued to be a political participant since then?

M: When given the opportunity to vote, I will always do so.

P: What happened to you in the bank during the 1930s? You moved up
pretty quickly.

M: Well, I became assistant cashier, then head cashier, and several
years later vice president. Then I became president.

P: When did you become vice president and president?

M: I became president in about 1940.

P: How large was the bank in terms of the role that it played in the
community by 1940?

M: Well, we were still a small bank--about $1,000,000 in deposits.

P: This was still basically an agricultural area. Did you continue
to have competition? Did another bank open?

M: The other bank was closed in 1939. The Federal Fund Insurance
Corporation paid off their deposits by transferring them to our
bank. Every depositor got his money in full, but the stockholders
lost their investments.

P: Where were you in 1941 when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor?

M: I remember fishing that day. When I came back to town, I heard
about Pearl Harbor. It was on the radio--all you could hear about
that afternoon was Pearl Harbor. You can understand the
excitement prevailing in everybody. President Roosevelt made a


10








speech before the Congress the next day asking for a declaration
of war. We all thought it was a masterpiece, and all agreed with
what he was doing.

P: Were you a married man by then?

M: Yes, I was married in 1936.

P: What was your wife's name?

M: Ruth Arlene Crane.

P: How many children?

M: Two daughters. The oldest is Mary Celia, and she is married to a
dentist named Dr. Robert C. Buckner. My youngest daughter is
Martha Anne, and she is married to Jimmy Kimbrough, who is now the
president of our bank.

P: Do you have grandchildren.

M: The Buckmans have three sons and the Kimbroughs have a son and a
daughter.

P: Were you in the service during the war?

M: No, I was not in the service. I continued on here in Brooksville
at the bank during the war years.

P: Had you expanded your interests? Were you involved in any other
kind of business activity?

M: Well, as a kid growing up I spent time in the citrus groves that
our family owned. My Mother's brother, Clarence Hale, was
quite a citrus grower. So had been her father. My mother's
father was a large citrus grower who lost all of his citrus
holdings in the big freeze of 1894-1895. He, along with his son
Clarence, started replanting groves, and as a young fellow I would
go with him to the groves and learn to bud and prune orange trees.
Citrus became part of my blood. As I grew older, I was able to
acquire a little piece of real estate in some good locations, and,
with a limited amount of capital, I started planting citrus
groves. I grew some very satisfactory citrus groves, and I made
money off of them. All my groves were killed in the big freeze of
Florida that we had three years ago [1984].

P: This county was famous for its citrus.

M: Well, prior to the Florida big freeze, we were right in the middle
of the citrus area. The citrus area started from Tampa north.
After the big freeze of February 1894, we were on the northern end
of the citrus flow as it went south.

P: But where is citrus today in this county?



11








M: The freeze that we had three years ago wiped us out. There are a
few groves being replanted, but not very many. I have replanted
and today have about twenty-five acres of groves where I had
nearly 500 before.

P: But are you a large landowner in this area?

M: I own a fairly good number of acres, not too many.

P: Would you say that banking and real estate are your two major
interests today?

M: Yes.

P: After 1945 you continued on at the bank. What role do you play at
the bank today?

M: I am Chairman of the Board. I have gradually built an
organization where we have around 300 employees and eight offices
in this county and three in Citrus County. Our bank today is the
Sun Bank and Trust Company. We are part of the Sun Bank system
and I am a director in the state-wide Sun Bank system. Naturally,
at seventy-nine I do not play as active a role as I had when I was
younger. But I am still active in the bank and active in the Sun
Bank system.

P: What is the name of the state-wide banking association?

M: The Florida Bankers Association.

P: What role have you played in that?

M: I was president in 1947.

P: That includes all the banks in Florida?

M: Yes. We had only 156 banks in Florida then, when I was president.

P: What is it today?

M: I cannot tell you because we have had so many mergers and the
like. But we have many times more banks than we did then.

P: You became interested in politics after World War II. I would
like you tell me about that.

M: Well, Fuller Warren ran for governor for the first time in 1940.
He made a very fine race and finished third.

P: When did you first meet Fuller?

M: During my University of Florida days. We were both students at
the same time.

P: Were you both good friends on campus?


12









M: I knew him very well and knew him afterwards. Fuller had a
dynamic personality. If you ever met him once, you could not help
but remember him and like him.

P: Did you play an active role in his 1940 campaign?

M: I did what I could.

P: Were you involved in the Scholtz administration or the Fred Cone
administration?

M: I knew both Governor Scholtz [David Scholtz, Governor of Florida,
1933-1937] and Governor Cone [Fred P. Cone, Governor of Florida,
1937-1941], but I was not active in their behalf.

P: So you were really getting your feet wet in politics for the first
time with Fuller Warren in 1940?

M: I guess that is a good way to put it. I stumped for Fuller in
this county and the adjoining counties in 1940. Then, as you
know, he ran again in 1948. In 1948, I was very active for Fuller
and helped him by making speeches and by helping raise funds, and
I was on his advisory council and met with him often in
conferences. When he was elected, he invited me to serve as
chairman of the Florida State Road Board. I accepted his
appointment and served on it for four years.

P: So you were part of the "inner circle," as I think they were
described, his "little cabinet." Who were the other people on
there?

M: There was Lewis Schott [Lewis M. Schott, Beverage Director, 1949-
1953], Raymond Barnes [Raymond E. Barnes, chairman, Industrial
Commission, 1949-1953], Arch Livingston, who was in charge of
Motor Vehicle Tags [Arch Livingston, Motor Vehicle Commissioner,
1949-1953], and George Vathis was Conservation Supervisor [George
Vathis, Conservation Commissioner, 1949-1953]. All of what you
would consider the top five appointments of the governor in his
administration made up the "little cabinet." [Also included was
James T. Landon, Hotel Commissioner, 1949-1953] I served also as
chairman of the Roads Department on the Internal Improvement
Commission. One of my great personal friends was B. K. Roberts.
When there was a vacancy on the Florida Supreme Court, Governor
Warren appointed B. K. Roberts. I consider B. K. Roberts to be
one of the outstanding judges to ever have served on the Florida
courts [justice, 1949-1976].

P: Did you get to Tallahassee often?

M: Oh, yes. During my term on the State Road Department, I stayed up
there most of the time.

P: Who ran the bank?



13








M: My brother-in-law, Joe Mason, was the Executive Vice-President. I
would get down here almost every weekend, and we would get
together and work together.

P: What was your responsibility as Chairman of the State Road Board?

M: I was in charge of the state road systems. I had road board
members who were members of the several districts. From
Jacksonville we had Glover Taylor [J. Glover Taylor]; from the
east coast we had Merrill P. Barber from Vero Beach; in Central
Florida (Ocala) we had Trusten P. Drake; in West Florida from
Panama City, we had Banker Nelson [Marion G. Nelson].

P: You are sometimes referred to as the "father" of the Sunshine
Parkway--the Florida Turnpike.

M: Well, we did initiate the plan for the Florida Turnpike. We set
it in motion. We had all the surveys made, and had studies made
of its financial feasibility. While the actual work was begun in
the next administration [Dan McCarty], we started the turnpike.

P: What gave you the concept of a North-South superhighway?

M: The terrible traffic jams on the east coast of Florida and the
lack of money to do something about paving highways going into
South Florida. Visiting the Pennsylvania Turnpike and the New
York freeways and the like showed us what was possible. We
believed that the only way we could provide a proper highway to
Miami and the lower east coast was to build a turnpike--a toll
road. We made a study, starting at the courthouse in
Jacksonville, Duval County. We had the highway patrol and
representatives of major state newspapers along as we drove to
Miami to the Dade County courthouse. We observed every traffic
light, signal, speed zone and line, seeing how long, driving
according to traffic regulations, it would take to drive from
Jacksonville to Miami.

P: This was a cortege of cars?

M: Yes. We made the report, and I think that was something which the
people in the state had never heard before. It caused a
sensation.

P: How long did it take you to make that trip?

M: Oh goodness, I do not remember exactly, but well over a day.

P: From Jacksonville to Miami?

M: Observing every one of the signs; like "School Zone-10 m.p.h.,"
and stopping at red lights. We did not have a four-lane road then
going to Miami.

P: Where was the land going to come from to build this road?



14








M: We were going to have to acquire it.

P: The state did not own much of it?

M: No, it had to be acquired. We proposed building a road from
Jacksonville all the way to Miami with a branch of it coming into
Tampa. We saw most of this through. The parkway was finally
built from Wildwood to Miami. The interstate system was not
available then, but when President Eisenhower proposed the
interstate system and showed what it would be worth to the state,
the parkway idea was saved. With the tremendous growth in
Florida, we had to have roads. The system of interstate highways
is a great thing for Florida.

P: I understand that the turnpike cost considerably more to build
than anticipated.

M: Yes, it did. One of the greatest projects we initiated was the
building of a toll road bridge across Tampa Bay--the Sunshine
Skyway. St. Petersburg had been the end of the line, and this was
something that was badly needed. To go south to St. Petersburg,
you had to swing all the way around through Tampa to get to
Bradenton or take the ferry boat across Tampa Bay. We thought
that the bridge was the greater project. At that time, it was
considered to be the greatest project of its kind in the South.
It proved to be financially sound in every way.

P: How political was this proposed construction of the turnpike from
the Florida line all the way to Miami?

M: Well, some of the cities along the way did not like it because
they thought they were going to be bypassed.

P: Which indeed they were.

M: They were later bypassed. They felt that if the road did not pass
by the county courthouse or the city hall, the town would be
ruined. But with the increasing traffic that we had in Florida,
that was impossible. The turnpike did it. Instead of hurting the
towns, I think it helped them.

P: It must have been a very popular kind of a concept for the people
of Dade County, though.

M: In Dade County, in Miami, it was very, very popular.

P: That would be the end of the line, everybody would be going into
Miami.

M: I remember there was some discussion, as is often the case with
people holding office in Florida, about me running for governor.
Naturally, I was flattered and thought about it, but one of my
advisors in Miami told me that if I decided to run I should put on
my big signs and posters in the Dade County area, "Alfred", and in
big letters, "'Turnpike' McKethan." He said, "That will get you


15








votes." I came very close to running. But the Lord intervened
and I had a very serious illness and nearly died, forcing me to
give up at the last minute my ambition to run for governor.

P: What was that illness?

M: Pneumonia, and then I had a re-occurrence of it.

P: Was there also a rumor that circulated about that time that you
had cancer?

M: I have never heard that rumor before, and I never have had cancer.

P: It is my understanding that a political writer for the Florida
Times Union had circulated that rumor about you in a newspaper
story.

M: I think that was a speculation of one of the reasons that I did
not run, but it was not true.

P: Tell me about Fuller Warren as you remember him.

M: To begin with, he was a brilliant man. He had a greater knowledge
of the interworkings of state government than most any man that we
ever had in Florida. He was a great orator. He had a knack of
remembering names the likes of which I have never seen since. If
you were his friend, he was yours, he was really loyal to his
friends. He ran on the basis of that friendship and he told the
people when he campaigned that, if elected, they would not have to
see anybody in order to see the governor. His friends came to
Tallahassee to see him. They would line up at the Capitol, and
sometimes he was not able to get away from the Capitol until 8:00
or 9:00 at night. But he took time to see them all. He
appointed, whenever possible, his friends to office. He got along
with the legislature in the matter of appointments. In regards to
the legislature, he took the position of, "I will not appoint
anybody obnoxious to you, but I do not want you to recommend me to
appoint anybody obnoxious to me." We all got along fine--we had a
good relationship with the Florida legislature. Fuller Warren was
very popular.

P: He has been described as a showman.

M: When making a speech, he displayed a brilliant use of adjectives.
He could put on a show for you. He always listened to sound
proposals like the one for the Florida Turnpike. He thought that
was great, he was all for it. When we were financing the building
of the bridge across Tampa Bay, we had to go to New York in
connection with selling bonds. We were invited by the then
chairman of the board of the Chase Bank for a big luncheon. He
had New York's leading financiers present. The chairman told me
afterwards that Fuller's talk was the greatest that had ever been
made in the financial district of New York. Fuller had a desire
to sell Florida, he went around the country making talks about
Florida. He was really the one that began advertising Florida as


16








a summer vacationland. He believed in the construction of
highways. One of the great things he advocated, and I think one
of the finest things he has ever done, was taking the cattle off
the highways. We had no fence law in Florida, so people could let
their cows run wild. But automobiles would run into them on the
highways and people got killed. We got passed through the Florida
legislature laws taking these cattle off the highways.

P: Did that make the farmers mad?

M: Yes in someplaces, but in some of the counties where there was the
greatest number of cattle, those legislators voted for the bill.
People wanted state highways, it was a popular thing to do.
Fuller went into office at a terrible time financially--we just
did not have any money in Florida. One of the things that was
hard on Fuller was the fact that he had opposed a sales tax in the
campaign. Then in 1949 a limited sales tax was passed, and he let
it become law by signing. We kept the sales tax off of the
necessities of life. That put Fuller on a sound basis
financially.

P: I understand that at the time you were a proponent for changing or
re-organizing the tax structure of this state.

M: I favored some of it, and Fuller made strong suggestions about it.
We never got it accomplished, however. Our major accomplishment
was the limited sales tax.

P: You were talking about the need for more money for government
services-- roads, schools.

M: We needed more money; the schools needed more money; to build the
highways we needed more money. We did not have a sufficient tax
base to support the needs of the people of a growing state.
Florida began its big growth during the Warren administration.
Fuller was a man whom I admired personally tremendously. He was a
man of limited finances when he went into the governor's office,
and when he came out, he was no wealthier. He was poor when he
went in and poor when he came out. He deserves a tremendous
amount of credit.

P: But he associated with rich men like Louis Wolfson and Mr. Johnson
of the dogtrack in Jacksonville.

M: They supported him when he ran for governor, but he was not
associated with them in business.

P: When you were talking about restructuring the tax base in Florida
in the 1950s, were you thinking of an income tax?

M: No, sir. I did not advocate anything of that nature. I felt that
we had to have bigger use taxes, such as having motorists pay for
the roads--some type of use tax to take care of some of the other
problems like higher charges for tags on cars. Use taxes is what
I liked.


17









P: In one speech I think you lamented the fact that the state was so
broke that it was not capable of giving teachers a $300 a year
raise which they so richly deserved.

M: I thought they needed it, but we did not have any money to give it
to them. The tax base in Florida just had not kept up with our
needs. Our growth had been great but our revenues had not kept up
with that growth.

P: Of course, that is an argument that you continue to hear in
Florida over the years. It was expressed once again as the
rationale for the large increase in taxes this spring 1987.

M: You know, people demand services of government but in so many
instances they are not willing to pay for them. But you cannot
have the services they need without paying for them in some form
of taxes.

P: People do not like to hear that.

M: They do not like it, but it has been shown that taxes are
absolutely necessary. We did get new tax legislation in recent
years--intangible taxes and the corporate income tax, which came
during the Askew administration. But, a personal income tax has
never been passed in Florida, and I have great reservations that
it ever will be.

P: Mr. McKethan, another issue that came in for a lot of publicity
when you were on the State Road Board had to do with the brutal
treatment of some of the prisoners in the labor camps.

M: Yes.

P: One at Largo, I believe.

M: That was an area that always disturbed me. They were saying that
the prisoners were badly treated. I had investigations made--real
in-depth investigations--and I believed that the charges of
brutality were exaggerated. I felt that in our road department
camps, prisoners were treated well under a good system.

P: Was this still the day of the chain-gang?

M: Well, we had limited service prisoners, and then we had some that
were in for more serious offenses; there was different treatment
for different groups. But basically, we did not have what was
commonly referred to as the old-fashioned "chain gang" and the
sweat boxes.

P: The sweat boxes had gone by that time?

M: Yes sir. We tried to improve the system. We built new barracks
for prisoners to live in. We tried to improve the living
conditions at each prison camp, which we did. Of course for a


18








prisoner, having to work on the roads was not easy work. We felt
that we had improved the prison system greatly.

P: Did you ever personally visit any of those camps?

M: Quite a number of them.

P: So you could describe them on a first-hand basis?

M: Yes. As I say, we improved the camps and the living conditions
considerably.

P: How long did you serve on the Road Board?

M: Four years.

P: Did the budgets increase measurably between 1949 and 1953?

M: Yes. They increased, but our income did not increase as much as
we needed. We could only scratch the surface of the needs of this
state.

P: What first got you interested in the possibly of running for
governor?

M: Well, I am going to put it this way. As I traveled around Florida
and observed the conditions in the state, and knowing state
government and the like, I often thought, "What could a
businessman with a business plan do if he could put that type of
operation in as governor of his native state?" A man with
ambition naturally wondered if he could do that kind of a job--I
was ambitious, I admit. We did not make the final decision to
run, and I have never regretted that I did not do it. I am a
great believer that things happen like they are supposed to and I
thank the Lord for having kept me out of a governor's race because
I probably would not be alive today if I had gone through all the
difficulties and heartaches that come with being governor of
Florida or any other state.

P: Did you get any encouragement from Fuller?

M: Fuller would have been for me if I had run.

P: Now, he came out for Dan McCarty [Dan T. McCarty, Governor of
Florida, 1953].

M: But not until after I had made the decision not to run. I
supported Dan McCarty.

P: Who else was running, who were the candidates?

M: Brailey Oldham was one, and Alto Adams.

P: Alto Adams had always wanted to be governor of this state.



19








M: Alto Adams is a very fine gentleman.

P: He had strong political ambitions.

M: Well he did not run very well in his race for governor.

P: No. How did you and Senator Shands get along?

M: Bill Shands was one of my very close friends. I had met Bill
Shands before I ever went to the University through my uncle, Hugh
Hale, who had been state senator. He and Bill Shands were good
friends. One of the first people in Gainesville when I went to
the University of Florida to invite me to their home was Senator
Shands and his wife. We became friends and we stayed friends.
Bill Shands was one of those who encouraged me to run for
governor.

P: Would you say that it was that illness that really was the
deciding factor?

M: Absolutely.

P: Do you think you could have raised the money?

M: Well, I think so. I was just about ready to make an announcement
on it.

P: Of course, it did not cost as much to run for public office then
as it does now.

M: We figured that a budget for running would not have exceeded
$400,000. I cannot think what it would cost today.

P: When did you become ill?

M: In the fall of the crucial time. The campaign would have been in
1952, and I got sick in the early winter of 1951.

P: Just like that, you got sick?

M: I caught, I guess you would say, a terrible cold, and it
developed into pneumonia and I lost my voice completely. I could
not talk. It kind of made the decision for me. My local doctor
here, Dr. S. C. Harvard, and I went to Tampa to see Dr. Blake, who
was then considered the outstanding medical man in Florida for in-
depth examinations. When Dr. Blake finished up with me, he said,
"You know Alfred, your friend Dr. Harvard and I have been talking
to other doctors around the state about your running for governor
and we have been doing everything possible to help you. But
considering the condition that I find you in, if you went out and
started a campaign, standing on a soapbox in front of some
courthouse speaking, you would collapse. They won't take you to
the hospital, they will take you to an undertaker." It did not
take me long to make up my mind. I announced the next day that I
was not a candidate.


20









P: I guess that you losing your voice is the reason why rumors began
to circulate about your throat.

M: I had to write everything down in pen and ink or pencil.

P: There was a writer in Jacksonville by the name of Herbert Bayer.

M: I knew Herbert quite well.

P: Was he not the newspaperman responsible for circulating the story?

M: I think he probably was. But I liked Herbert, he was a good
fellow.

P: What about your relationship with Ed Ball?

M: This does not have anything to do with the political angle, but he
and I were always personally friendly.

P: He was much involved in politics in the 1950s.

M: Mr. Ball, I am sure, always had a tremendous interest in Florida
politics because of the important position he held by virtue of
his strength in Florida business. I do not think Mr. Ball himself
ever got out and campaigned for anybody, but he had his way of
doing things.

P: Well, of course he is best known for allegedly being involved in
the Pepper-Smathers senatorial campaign of 1950.

M: Yes, I have heard that, too.

P: Which Smathers now says is not exactly true.

M: I do not know whether Ball was actually engaged in the campaign or
not, but he got credit or blame for being involved. I personally
liked Mr. Ball. I used to hunt with him up in Leon County at his
plantation, shooting geese. I had been entertained at his ranch
house in Tallahassee and fished with him in Jacksonville. I
shared my personal feelings for him long after my days in
Tallahassee. At a hearing in Washington in the Senate Banking
Committee about stripping the banks from the paper companies, I
was ready to testify on behalf of Mr. Ball. I did not have to
testify, but I would have been happy to if asked to do so. I
liked him personally, I thought he was a great man.

P: Why do you characterize in this way?

M: Well, he had vision, and did the things that took a man of vision
to do. He went out and made investments and did the things that
he believed had potential.

P: Potential for him or for the state?



21








M: Well, he was a businessman. He went out and eventually bought the
Florida East Coast Railroad. That was a good business investment
on his part. It is hard to separate what is good for the
individual from what is good for the state. I think what Mr. Ball
did was good for Florida, because during the bottom of the Florida
depression the Du Pont interests started investing in Florida
banks. They organized banks to serve communities without banks.
I thought they did a good job.

P: You were not associated with Mr. Ball in banking, were you?

M: Not in any way, shape, or form.

P: So yours was a personal relationship, solely.

M: Our relationship was completely personal. I believe he did things
that were good for Florida, and his companies were good for
Florida.

P: What was your relationship with Alto Adams?

M: Only personal. I liked him, but there were no business
associations. I have not seen him lately, but I know that my
sister in North Carolina sees him, and last summer he sent a nice
message to me by her.

P: Tell me about your role with the Florida Citrus Mutual.

M: The Florida Citrus Mutual was organized by the growers. The
citrus industry was in the doldrums--we needed something to get it
going. I was active in trying to get the Mutual organized.

P: When was this?

M: In the 1930s. It was just to the point of getting started when
Fuller Warren was elected governor. At that time, we were trying
to get the initial board of directors set up for it, which was
very hard to do because so many ideas existed and as always, every
big citrus man had his own ideas. But finally we came up with a
board. I think I had some influence in helping get the initial
board of directors selected. We had the cooperation of Senator
Spessard Holland and Senator Claude Pepper in trying to get the
growers together. The Mutual was a great thing for the growers in
Florida. Then later, after I served on the Road Board, I was
invited to sit on the Citrus Commission, and I served on that for
one term.

P: What role did the Commission play? What was it doing for the
citrus industry?

M: The Commission set the rules and regulations of operation. You
had to have rules; you had to have standards to work by. It has
been a fine thing for Florida.

P: Did that cover everything from growing, to packing, to shipping,


22








to advertising?

M: It had to do with the quality of fruit we shipped, advertising,
and keeping inferior citrus off on the market. It was insisting
upon quality for the benefit of both the industry and the
consumer.

P: Where did its financial support come from?

M: The growers themselves.

P: They paid an annual fee?

M: It was a fee that was charged on all varieties of fruit, so much a
box.

P: Where were the Commission's headquarters?

M: Lakeland.

P: So you played an active role with the Road Board and then when you
left it, you moved onto the Citrus Commission.

M: Yes, but the formation of the Mutual was before my service on the
Road Board. I was a citrus grower and I knew something about the
industry. We had a local citrus organization here in Brooksville
that was organized and actually run by my grandfather, the
Brooksville Citrus Growers Association. All my family had been in
it. I was elected to the board of directors of the Brooksville
Citrus Growers Association in 1932.

P: The year after your leaving the University.

M: There was a vacancy on the Board and some members wanted me to
serve along with my father because he was a cripple, and so I
worked with him. I served on the Board of Directors of the
Brooksville Citrus Growers Association. I was chairman of the
board until after the big freeze, when we had no more citrus. We
then determined to liquidate that business. I served up until
that time.

P: What do you mean, your father was a cripple?

M: Well, the last several years of his life he had arthritis and
could not walk.

P: I understand that you went into the mining business with your
brother.

M: My brother and I organized a company in about 1954 known as the
Brooksville Rock Company. Then we organized it into the Florida
Mining Materials Company in 1957. We mined limerock to be used as
roadbase. We had crushed stone in 1957, and later we erected a
cement mill. The roadbase material was the base of the limerock
roads that were used all over Florida. Crushed stone was used in


23








concrete work.

P: Was this shipped out of the state, too?

M: No, no. We have a shortage of detrital in Florida and a shortage
of cement.

P: Were you mining in this area of Florida?

M: Our operation in mining crushed stone and the cement mill were
based in Hernando County. Florida Mining Materials did acquire
ready-mix plants all over Florida from Naples and Fort Myers,
around to Pensacola, and through Central Florida to Jacksonville.

P: Your offices were here in Brooksville?

M: Yes.

P: Were you associated with the mining activities in and around
Ocala?

M: No, we were not associated with that group.

P: Was yours an independent operation?

M: Yes.

P: How large was your organization?

M: It was a big organization. The Cone interests in Tampa joined
their plants with our ready-mix plants, and we expanded plants all
over Florida.

P: Are you still in that business?

M: We sold it about seven or eight years ago. It was acquired by the
Moore-McCormick Steamship Company.

P: Was it a major organization when you sold it?

M: Yes, it was a big organization.

P: What about your Florida Water Management activity?

M: Well, I was interested in irrigation originally for my citrus
groves. In investigating that, I found out that we had an
infiltration of saltwater into some of the irrigation systems for
some of our coastal counties.

P: What caused that?

M: Saltwater from the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean.

P: Was that because there had been too much drainage in South
Florida--the Everglades?


24









M: I do not think that that necessarily caused it, but the fact that
there was not enough water in the aquifer to take in what was
being used, and the saltwater moved in. I became interested and
studied the problem. I knew that in Florida we sometimes had a
period of too much water and a period when it was too dry. And
then when I was in Tallahassee on the Road Board, we organized the
Central and Southern Water System on the east coast of Florida. I
continued my concern with the water deal, which came to a head
with me in 1960 when we had the terrible floods in this area and
over other parts of Florida. So I met with our then State
Senator, James E. Connor [1953-1966], and Representative John L.
Ayers, and the Board of County Commission urged that we call a
meeting here in Brooksville. So we did and representatives came
from eighteen counties to Brooksville and talked about the
problem. I chaired that meeting, and we all agreed that we would
have to go to the Florida legislature and see if we could not get
some legislation passed for water management. We did get it
passed, creating the Southwest Florida Water Management District.

P: When was this?

M: About 1961. At that time, Farris Bryant was governor [1961-1965]
and he was quite interested in this and helped us get it passed.
And when he began appointing men for a water board, he asked me to
serve on it and wanted me to be chairman. I told him, "I think I
have served enough in state government--pick somebody else." He
said, "No, you are the one that got behind this thing and probably
without what you did, we would not have gotten it passed. To make
this thing successful, I have to have somebody who knows something
about state government. I want you to do it." Well, I agreed, and
served as the first chairman and got the thing going. It has been
a very fine thing, and we need it in Florida. We need to control
"ruthless use" of our water supply, and we need to control
flooding. We have done some good work in both ways. For example,
in Tampa the bypass canal from Tampa's Hillsborough River was put
in by the United States Corps of Engineers in a cooperative deal
with them. That eliminated the flooding problems in Tampa. We
have had some regulations about the drawing of the inland water
and the use of it--how to protect it. We have a problem in
Florida with our tremendous population. We have enough water, but
it needs to be controlled. We have these rivers and water
flooding into the Gulf and the Atlantic, and we have been looking
too much to the underground water supply. I feel so strongly
about it myself, and it disturbs me so much, that if I was
currently a candidate for governor in Florida, our water supply
would probably be next to schools as the number one issue on my
campaign platform. We have to protect it. If you go back and
study the history of the world, you will find that where the water
supply was good the population grew; where people did not have
water and could not bring it in, civilization went into oblivion.

P: Was the Southftst Florida Water Management District the model that
was used for the creation of water management districts elsewhere
in Florida?


25









M: It was not the first management district that was set up. The
first one was on the east coast. The Southgest district was
modeled after the one on the east coast but with additions to it.
It was a good set-up.

P: Mr. McKethan, would you describe yourself today as an
environmentalist?

M: It depends on how you use that term. I think the term has been
terribly misused. I think some of the people who organize
themselves and call themselves by that name are not using it
properly. I was an advocate, for example, on the Water Management
Board of using north Tampa Bay to make a big freshwater lake. We
have the Courtney-Campbell Parkway across there, and with the
addition of a dam or two and locks, we would have to have locks
for boats to go in and out. We could have a tremendous freshwater
lake. Now the so-called do-gooders that call themselves
environmentalists, they got active all of a sudden, fearing we
were going to kill the crabs and marine life. The project was
approved, and the engineering to do what I was advocating was
designed. Hillsborough County and Pinellas County had the
services of Reynolds, Scott, and Hill in Jacksonville to study it.
We were all ready to do that and all those do-gooders that had
nothing to do but start fussing about it became involved, and I
recommended to our board to leave it alone. The heck with it.

P: Where would you have stood on the Cross-Florida Barge Canal?

M: I favored it just like Senator Spessard Holland favored it. It
was less than two months before Senator Holland left office when I
visited with him in Washington in his office, and he told me that
he had studied every aspect of it and he thought it would be an
asset to Florida.

P: The environmentalists have been critical of it for the last
several years, and it is a dead issue.

M: Yes, but I want to tell you, the environmentalists were not the
ones who stopped that. There were other interests that were
behind stopping that. The railroads were one of them.

P: Well, the railroads were always opposed to it.

M: One of the big opponents to it were the people who owned Silver
Springs. They thought it was going to ruin Silver Springs. Now
it is my personal opinion that if Spessard Holland had still been
a member of the United States Senate, Nixon would not have been
able to stop it like he did. But we had very inadequate
leadership in the Senate from Florida for a while after Senator
Holland passed out of the picture.

P: Would you join an organization like "Save the Everglades" if an
organization like that existed? Would that the kind of thing
appeal to you?


26








M: That is another thing that I wonder whether or not that
terminology has not been overplayed. That is something I would
stay away from.

P: But you can see the threat to water shortages and the need for
water control.

M: We have to protect our water supply.

P: Do you see a danger to the environment of Florida and the quality
of life as a result of all the growth and population increase? We
hear about pollution of our rivers and streams.

M: Well, naturally, you are going to have these problems as
population increases. A good deal of inconvenience, sometimes, is
caused by progress and change. With the population that we have
in Florida today, and the population that we may have five or ten
years from now, we cannot remain at the status quo, we have to
make many changes. Protection of our rivers and lakes is one of
the things that we must do. I think a reasonably good effort has
been made, and probably we are making headway. Just take for
example how the Northern states let the Great Lakes get polluted
and how they have been trying to do something about that.

P: Are you involved in politics now?

M: I strongly supported Bob Graham for the U.S. Senate. But my
political activities ceased there. I did not take any part in the
latest governor's race.

P: How about national politics?

M: Well, I am just waiting to see what we are going to have open to
us. I do not see too much on that front. In the Republican
party, Vice-president Bush is a good man, but I am afraid he is
going to be hurt bad by all this mess that is now going on in
Washington.

P: Would you classify yourself today as a Republican or a Democrat?

M: I am a registered Democratic. In the Democratic party I do not
know who will be the leader in the presidential race. A number of
our Florida Democrats in Congress are beginning to pick out the
ones they want to support?

P: Would you endorse somebody like Senator Sam Nunn of Georgia?

M: I think Nunn would be a good man. I do not know if he could be
elected but he has done a fine job in the United States Senate.
At one time, I actively supported Senator Richard Russell of
Georgia. I thought he was one of the great men of our time. I
have seen playbacks of interviews between Walter Cronkite and
Lyndon Johnson. One of the things L.B.J. said was that Dick
Russell was probably the best qualified man to be president. I


27







have been to Plains, Georgia, and I looked around there and I
thought to myself, "Isn't it something that in this great country
of ours, a man from a little, tiny place like Plains, Georgia,
educated in the public schools in this little town, could rise to
the point of becoming governor of Georgia." But to think that he
could become president of the United States. Irrespective of what
you might think of Jimmy Carter personally or what kind of
president you think he was, I think it is a great thing in this
country that there is a real American way of getting ahead. Jimmy
Carter received an appointment from the Naval Academy, and he was
a brilliant man at the Academy in the field he went into. And if
he had stayed in the navy, he would probably have become one of
the very top men in his field. Those of us who believe in the
American system, and believe that this is the land of opportunity
cannot help but say that it was our beliefs and our system that
enabled all this happen to a man from a little place like Plains,
Georgia. It is very interesting to read the details of some of
the things that Jimmy Carter did. He had no money when he was
running for governor of Georgia, and very little money in his
campaign chest when he ran for president of the United States.

P: And he came out of the presidency a relatively poor man, at least
not rich.

M: Ronald Reagan is inconsistent. At one time he was was an advocate
for an organized labor union in California's movie industry. He
was a good student, and a great communicator. People write his
fine speeches and he delivers them well. But I do not think that
Reagan has the fluency that we give him credit for having. He was
a good actor, and he learned how to act dignified, and with money
behind him he was able to get elected president of the United
States. I do not think it at all resembles a man starting with
nothing in Plains, Georgia. Just like I do not think that
Franklin D. Roosevelt's election is the same. In fact, when Harry
Truman assumed office after Roosevelt's death and ran in 1948,
everybody thought he was going to get beat. That is another
example of our American way. To see a man come from the land, so
to speak, is wonderful. I do not dislike Ronald Reagan. I do not
ever try to carry on criticism about a president while he is in
office. If he is the president, I will support him. I am quite
disturbed about all this mess right now concerning the aid to
Iran, and bypassing government regulations to help the Contras. I
do not approve of that. We ought to stay at home more and look
out for ourselves rather than try to run the rest of the world.

P: Mr. McKethan, in some ways you are a man who came from the land.
You were born and raised in a little place called Brooksville, and
yet you are a man who has played a major role in Florida.

M: Well, I have tried. My hope is that when I die they will be able
to say that I helped make the world a better place in which to
live.

P: I am sure that will be true. And I think that one of the places
that well reflects your influence is the University of Florida,


28







where, I believe, you have continued your interest from your
student days to the present.

M: I will tell you something that never has been publicized, and I do
not want it publicized. It will be up to the president and how he
wants to handle it. But I have in my will a $2,000,000 gift to
the University of Florida through the Foundation. It will become
an endowment to be used for students who need financial support.
They will have to meet the University's academic standards. Only
the income from the endowment can be used for that purpose, and it
will be able to help many, many students. The president knows
about this, but it has not been announced. I have also provided
support for two Eminent Scholar chairs in the College of Business
Administration. There has been a gift that amounts to about
$500,000 to help build a baseball stadium that is very much
needed. Baseball is my favorite sport. There is a beautiful
stadium for football and I like it. I like football. And there
is the O'Connell Center for basketball, and now it is baseball's
turn. That old field was unsafe. I just made up my mind that I
wanted to see something done. So by making that gift I kind of
put them on the spot. They had to put up the rest of the money
needed to build that field. It is going to cost more than I gave,
but I expected that too.

P: You gave them a challenge grant.

M: That is exactly what I said when I presented it, "I am giving you
a challenge Mr. President and Mr. Athletic Director."

P: I see exactly what you are saying. You have been a strong
supporter of your church too, haven't you?

M: Yes. I have been a Sunday School teacher, and deacon and elder in
my church.

P: Would you consider yourself a religious man, Mr. McKethan?

M: Yes. This is part of my philosophy. I want to feel like I helped
make the world a better place in which to live. I feel that I can
do that by helping young people to get a good education.
Education makes better citizens for tomorrow. When I help
churches, I feel like I am helping to improve things. I support
the community college because I think the community college system
has an important role to play in advancing scholarship. I think
libraries are another one of the great things that we all have.

P: Mr. McKethan, are you close to your family?

M: Yes, very close. My wife and I were divorced many years ago, and
I have never remarried. And I will not remarry as long as my
former wife is living.

P: Do you consider yourself to be a happy man?

M: Yes, I get along very well. I really enjoy life. I never miss a


29







football game. Right now, I am gathering historical information
together for a history of Brooksville and the surrounding area.

P: I hope that you will let us help you in any way that we can here
at the University. We do have a lot of records and information
about Florida.

M: I want to know about the Armed Occupation Act of 1842 and the
people who received land under that bill. Somewhere .there is
bound to be the records of the deeds. In the book I am planning I
want to bring out the story of our heritage here in Hernando
County, which is based partially on historical facts and partially
on legends that have been passed down over generations. This is
not a history, it is a story. These things that have been passed
down from one generation to another cannot always be proven with
facts, and yet you just know that they are true. Just like me
sitting on my grandfather's knee right here in this house and
having him tell me some of the stories--I know that they are true,
but I cannot prove it.

P: Mr. McKethan, I want to thank you for your generosity in meeting
with me and talking with me about your past and the history of
your family and the things that you are interested in and involved
with. Thank you also for your warm hospitality today and the
delicious lunch. Just as soon as we transcribe this tape, I will
be back in touch with you.






























30







football game. Right now, I am gathering historical information
together for a history of Brooksville and the surrounding area.

P: I hope that you will let us help you in any way that we can here
at the University. We do have a lot of records and information
about Florida.

M: I want to know about the Armed Occupation Act of 1842 and the
people who received land under that bill. Somewhere there is
bound to be the records of the deeds. In the book I am planning I
want to bring out the story of our heritage here in Hernando
County, which is based partially on historical facts and partially
on legends that have been passed down over generations. This is
not a history, it is a story. These things that have been passed
down from one generation to another cannot always be proven with
facts, and yet you just know that they are true. Just like me
sitting on my grandfather's knee right here in this house and
having him tell me some of the stories--I know that they are true,
but I cannot prove it.

P: Mr. McKethan, I want to thank you for your generosity in meeting
with me and talking with me about your past and the history of
your family and the things that you are interested in and involved
with. Thank you also for your warm hospitality today and the
delicious lunch. Just as soon as we transcribe this tape, I will
be back in touch with you.






























30







have been to Plains, Georgia, and I looked around there and I
thought to myself, "Isn't it something that in this great country
of ours, a man from a little, tiny place like Plains, Georgia,
educated in the public schools in this little town, could rise to
the point of becoming governor of Georgia." But to think that he
could become president of the United States. Irrespective of what
you might think of Jimmy Carter personally or what kind of
president you think he was, I think it is a great thing in this
country that there is a real American way of getting ahead. Jimmy
Carter received an appointment from the Naval Academy, and he was
a brilliant man at the Academy in the field he went into. And if
he had stayed in the navy, he would probably have become one of
the very top men in his field. Those of us who believe in the
American system, and believe that this is the land of opportunity
cannot help but say that it was our beliefs and our system that
enabled all this happen to a man from a little place like Plains,
Georgia. It is very interesting to read the details of some of
the things that Jimmy Carter did. He had no money when he was
running for governor of Georgia, and very little money in his
campaign chest when he ran for president of the United States.

P: And he came out of the presidency a relatively poor man, at least
not rich.

M: Ronald Reagan is inconsistent. At one time he was was an advocate
for an organized labor union in California's movie industry. He
was a good student, and a great communicator. People write his
fine speeches and he delivers them well. But I do not think that
Reagan has the fluency that we give him credit for having. He was
a good actor, and he learned how to act dignified, and with money
behind him he was able to get elected president of the United
States. I do not think it at all resembles a man starting with
nothing in Plains, Georgia. Just like I do not think that
Franklin D. Roosevelt's election is the same. In fact, when Harry
Truman assumed office after Roosevelt's death and ran in 1948,
everybody thought he was going to get beat. That is another
example of our American way. To see a man come from the land, so
to speak, is wonderful. I do not dislike Ronald Reagan. I do not
ever try to carry on criticism about a president while he is in
office. If he is the president, I will support him. I am quite
disturbed about all this mess right now concerning the aid to
Iran, and bypassing government regulations to help the Contras. I
do not approve of that. We ought to stay at home more and look
out for ourselves rather than try to run the rest of the world.

P: Mr. McKethan, in some ways you are a man who came from the land.
You were born and raised in a little place called Brooksville, and
yet you are a man who has played a major role in Florida.

M: Well, I have tried. My hope is that when I die they will be able
to say that I helped make the world a better place in which to
live.

P: I am sure that will be true. And I think that one of the places
that well reflects your influence is the University of Florida,


28








M: That is another thing that I wonder whether or not that
terminology has not been overplayed. That is something I would
stay away from.

P: But you can see the threat to water shortages and the need for
water control.

M: We have to protect our water supply.

P: Do you see a danger to the environment of Florida and the quality
of life as a result of all the growth and population increase? We
hear about pollution of our rivers and streams.

M: Well, naturally, you are going to have these problems as
population increases. A good deal of inconvenience, sometimes, is
caused by progress and change. With the population that we have
in Florida today, and the population that we may have five or ten
years from now, we cannot remain at the status quo, we have to
make many changes. Protection of our rivers and lakes is one of
the things that we must do. I think a reasonably good effort has
been made, and probably we are making headway. Just take for
example how the Northern states let the Great Lakes get polluted
and how they have been trying to do something about that.

P: Are you involved in politics now?

M: I strongly supported Bob Graham for the U.S. Senate. But my
political activities ceased there. I did not take any part in the
latest governor's race.

P: How about national politics?

M: Well, I am just waiting to see what we are going to have open to
us. I do not see too much on that front. In the Republican
party, Vice-president Bush is a good man, but I am afraid he is
going to be hurt bad by all this mess that is now going on in
Washington.

P: Would you classify yourself today as a Republican or a Democrat?

M: I am a registered Democratic. In the Democratic party I do not
know who will be the leader in the presidential race. A number of
our Florida Democrats in Congress are beginning to pick out the
ones they want to support?

P: Would you endorse somebody like Senator Sam Nunn of Georgia?

M: I think Nunn would be a good man. I do not know if he could be
elected but he has done a fine job in the United States Senate.
At one time, I actively supported Senator Richard Russell of
Georgia. I thought he was one of the great men of our time. I
have seen playbacks of interviews between Walter Cronkite and
Lyndon Johnson. One of the things L.B.J. said was that Dick
Russell was probably the best qualified man to be president. I


27







where, I believe, you have continued your interest from your
student days to the present.

M: I will tell you something that never has been publicized, and I do
not want it publicized. It will be up to the president and how he
wants to handle it. But I have in my will a $2,000,000 gift to
the University of Florida through the Foundation. It will become
an endowment to be used for students who need financial support.
They will have to meet the University's academic standards. Only
the income from the endowment can be used for that purpose, and it
will be able to help many, many students. The president knows
about this, but it has not been announced. I have also provided
support for two Eminent Scholar chairs in the College of Business
Administration. There has been a gift that amounts to about
$500,000 to help build a baseball stadium that is very much
needed. Baseball is my favorite sport. There is a beautiful
stadium for football and I like it. I like football. And there
is the O'Connell Center for basketball, and now it is baseball's
turn. That old field was unsafe. I just made up my mind that I
wanted to see something done. So by making that gift I kind of
put them on the spot. They had to put up the rest of the money
needed to build that field. It is going to cost more than I gave,
but I expected that too.

P: You gave them a challenge grant.

M: That is exactly what I said when I presented it, "I am giving you
a challenge Mr. President and Mr. Athletic Director."

P: I see exactly what you are saying. You have been a strong
supporter of your church too, haven't you?

M: Yes. I have been a Sunday School teacher, and deacon and elder in
my church.

P: Would you consider yourself a religious man, Mr. McKethan?

M: Yes. This is part of my philosophy. I want to feel like I helped
make the world a better place in which to live. I feel that I can
do that by helping young people to get a good education.
Education makes better citizens for tomorrow. When I help
churches, I feel like I am helping to improve things. I support
the community college because I think the community college system
has an important role to play in advancing scholarship. I think
libraries are another one of the great things that we all have.

P: Mr. McKethan, are you close to your family?

M: Yes, very close. My wife and I were divorced many years ago, and
I have never remarried. And I will not remarry as long as my
former wife is living.

P: Do you consider yourself to be a happy man?

M: Yes, I get along very well. I really enjoy life. I never miss a


29