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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM
Interviewee: William H. Dial
Interviewer: Samuel Proctor
September 15, 1987
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
ORAL HISTORY PROJECT
Interviewee: William H. Dial
Interviewer: Samuel Proctor
September 15, 1987
This interview with William H. Dial is part of the Florida
Business Leaders series of the University of Florida's Oral
William H. "Billy" Dial was born in Lake City on Dec. 12,
1907. His mother's family had come to Alligator, Florida (now
Lake City) around 1820 and was engaged in trading, and his
father's family came in 1843 to Madison and ran a cotton
plantation and a bank. His father went south and opened the
first electric power plant in the "little village" of Miami, and
then came back to north Florida. A few years after Dial was
born, his father died, and his mother supported the family as a
legal secretary. Dial and his brother helped earn money as they
could, selling newspapers, etc. He graduated from Gainesville
High School (now Kirby Smith) in 1926. Dial talks about those
early days in Gainesville, playing sand-lot sports, going to the
Lyric Theater, etc.
Dial then enrolled at the University of Florida, intending
to enter law school. He pledged Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity. He
talks about some of his lower division professors and law
professors and about University social life, including dances,
frat parties, the Military Ball, and Fall Frolics. He also
participated in ROTC. Dial graduated from the College of Law in
1932, with a commission in the National Guard.
Dial then went to Orlando to work in the Ackerman and Palmer
law firm (Ackerman was a fraternity brother at UF), which engaged
in civil practice. His salary was fifty dollars a month, and
room and board cost twenty-five dollars a month. He worked with
a group that organized First National Bank in Orlando, and their
law firm represented the bank's interests.
In 1940 Dial was called to active military service.
Stationed in Jacksonville and then Chicago, he was involved in
the procurement of fresh food. He was released in 1945 as a
Dial returned to the law firm, representing newspapers, the
county, and corporations like the Duda family (citrus), the
Phillips company (citrus), and the Gentile brothers (shipping).
He was a supporter of Florida Senator William B. Shands, and he
worked with a group to promote Dan McCarty for governor in 1948
and again in 1952. McCarty appointed Dial to the Board of
Control, and Dial discusses the Board's search efforts to find a
successor to J. Hillis Miller as president of the University of
Florida. Interim Governor Charley Johns, elected Governor LeRoy
Collins, and candidates Kenneth Williams and J. Wayne Reitz
figured prominently in the search.
Dial worked to revise Florida's banking laws and played a
role in getting the Florida Turnpike to run near Orlando. He
discusses the early dealings of the Walt Disney corporation in
Florida, including the acquisition of land, utilities, access
roads (Governor LeRoy Collins had appointed Dial to the State
Road Board), sewerage, etc. Dial's bank handled their finances.
He also discusses the development of the Sun Bank network, from
which he has recently stepped down as chairman of the board, and
his involvement in the establishment of Florida Technical
University, now known as the University of Central Florida. Dial
has also served with the UF Foundation Board and the Council of
Dial's philosophy of life is simple: "Work hard and do right
by yourself." He is an active Presbyterian and enjoys reading,
especially historical novels, golf, going on cruises, spending
time in North Carolina, and UF football and baseball.
P: I am Sam Proctor and I am interviewing Mr. William H. Dial in his office
here in the CNA Bank Building in Orlando, Florida. This is the morning
of September 15, 1987.
Mr. Dial, I have been doing some research on your background, and I was
intrigued as a Florida historian by the history of your family and I want
to explore that just a little bit. When did your family first come to
D: My mother's family came to Florida about 1820.
P: What was her family name?
D: Ives. They settled in the town of Lake City, which was then called
Alligator. My father's family came to Madison, Florida in 1843 from
Columbia, South Carolina.
P: What brought your mother's family, the Ives family, to Lake City?
D: Well, they were living in Ohio, and my great-grandfather decided to come
P: Were they farmers?
D: No, they were storekeepers. They set up a store at Alligator, and traded
with the Indians.
P: So they established a little trading post.
D: That is right.
P: Were your great-grandparents already married?
D: Yes, I believe they were married.
P: So they raised their family in what is now Lake City, Florida.
D: That is right. My grandmother married a man named Woltz from Lake City.
P: Your father's family came from Columbia, South Carolina to Madison in
1843, two years before Florida became a state. It was still a territory
D: My great-grandfather immigrated from Germany. His name was originally
Diehl, but when he was naturalized in Philadelphia he changed it to Dial.
All of the family settled in Columbia, South Carolina. My grandfather was
the only one who migrated.
P: Why did he come to Florida?
D: He was primarily a cotton farmer, and when he realized the opportunity in
West Florida he came down. He ran quite a large plantation near
Greenville west of Madison, and he lived in Madison. He ran the only
local bank there, which he organized long after he first arrived. He
moved to Florida before the Civil War.
P: So, he came in as a cotton farmer and operated a plantation. Did he own
P: And his townhouse was in Madison.
D: It is now an historical monument. It is called the William H. Dial house.
William Goza, who is now living in Gainesville, restored it. It faces the
park. Bill and his wife, Sue Goza, did a beautiful job restoring the Dial
house. My grandfather was quite wealthy.
P: How large was his plantation?
D: He must have had well over 2,000 acres.
P: Tell me about his family.
D: Well, when my grandfather moved to Florida, he had three sons and one
daughter. He sent the boys back to the Military College of South
Carolina, now known as the Citadel, for their education. They then
returned to Madison and took up various occupations. My father died when
I was only four years old.
P: I understand that you were just a young child when your father died.
D: Yes, then we moved then to Gainesville.
P: How many brothers did your father have?
D: He had Uncle Will and Uncle Dick and one sister.
P: Was it one of these uncles who fought in the Battle of Olustee in 1864?
D: That was my uncle on my mother's side, Washington Ives. The northern
troops were going to invade Tallahassee, and they started out from
Jacksonville. My uncle formed a Confederate outfit under General Joseph
Finnegan. The Federal forces got as far as Olustee and then were turned
back. Tallahassee was the only Confederate capital east of the
Mississippi that did not fall to the Union.
P: I understand that Washington Ives lost a toe?
D: He claimed he did.
P: That must have been an attraction for the kids. I think you said that
every time he came to visit, he would take off his shoes and show you his
lost toe. What business was your father in?
D: My father, who had studied engineering at the Citadel, started out as a
merchant in Madison, and then he and a couple of other fellows went to
south Florida. They built the first electric light plant in what was then
the little village of Miami. They lived on the main street, right on the
river. After sweating in the tropics for two years, he said, "Life is too
short to spend down here in this wilderness. I am going back to
civilization." So, he sold out and returned to Madison.
P: What was your father's name?
D: John Clark Dial.
P: Who was your mother?
D: Her name was Katie Bell Woltz.
P: Where did your mother and father meet?
D: She was a legal stenographer in Madison. She had studied stenography and
they met and married there.
P: Do you have brothers and sisters?
D: I had one brother, John Clark Dial, who died in Gainesville years ago. He
had been the manager for the Union Oil Company. When he retired, he went
back to Gainesville. And I have a sister, Florence. She is now Mrs. Jack
Russell and lives in Clearwater. My mother lived to be ninety-seven and
died on her ninety-seventh birthday.
P: Were you born in Madison after your father retired from Miami?
D: I was actually born in Lake City. My mother went home to be with her
mother for the birth.
P: Were you all living in the Dial house that the Gozas restored?
D: No, we were living about two houses down the street from it, but on the
same block. That house still survives, too.
P: What did your father die of?
D: Pneumonia. After my grandfather died he got part of the farm, and he
would go out on Friday afternoon and talk to the tenant farmers. They
were all former slaves. They had never left the place. He would go
around with them and check on their seed and find out what they needed.
It was one of these rainy fall afternoons, and he contracted pneumonia.
In those days there was no cure for pneumonia. They did not have
P: When were you born?
D: I was born December 12, 1907. I will be eighty this December.
P: You were about four years old when your father died, in 1911. What
brought you to Gainesville?
D: Well, that is kind of a long story. My Uncle Dick moved in with
grandmother. And when my grandmother died, he had gotten everything that
my grandmother owned. So my mother, who had three children and two
mortgaged farms, had to go to work. So she moved to Gainesville and went
to work for W. W. Hampton. That is the law firm that S. T. Dell is now
in--the old Hampton firm. She worked for the Hamptons until she was
sixty-five years old.
P: Your mother was a legal secretary?
D: Yes, and she raised all three of us on her salary.
P: Where did you live in Gainesville?
D: Well, when we first moved there we lived right next to Dean James Anderson
on Magnolia Street. He was dean of the Arts and Sciences School [James N.
Anderson, first Dean of College of Arts and Sciences, Dean of Graduate
School, University of Florida]. Later we moved to the corer of Oak and
Orange streets. That is where our home was located.
P: So you grew up in Gainesville, and went to the local schools. What school
did you attend?
D: Gainesville High School on East University Avenue [now called Kirby-Smith
School]. A new school, Buchholz, was built when I was in high school.
P: When did you graduate from high school?
D: In 1926.
P: What was life like growing up in Gainesville?
D: It was wonderful. We all walked to school, skated to school, or rode our
bikes to school, which was better than a mile. The town was small, I
guess we had 5,000-6,000 people. Everybody knew everybody. We just had a
wonderful growing up.
P: Was there many activities for high school kids in those days?
D: Well, we all played sports. There were particular seasons for different
sports. We played sand-lot ball, for there was no organized baseball.
When top season came we would start spinning tops, when skating season
came we would start skating.
P: And the girls played jacks.
D: That is right. Everybody just had a wonderful time.
P: Were there any movie houses in Gainesville?
D: No. I remember when I was a child, my grandmother on my mother's side was
living with us in our house on Magnolia. I remember they set up a tent to
show "Birth of a Nation." My grandmother rounded up all the neighborhood
kids and took them to see the movie. Then they later built the Lyric
Theater on what was then East Main Street near where the old post office
is located [Hippodrome Theater], and then they built the Florida Theater
on University Avenue. All the kids would go to the Lyric on Saturdays to
see the serials, and they paid a nickel to get in.
P: Gainesville was a quieter place in those days than it is now. You all
were aware, of course, that the University was there.
D: Certainly. They had about 500 students. University Avenue was not even
paved, it was gravel.
P: It was gravel from where? About the Baptist church on?
D: From the old Presbyterian church on the corner of University Avenue, and I
have forgotten the name of the street [N. W. Second Street].
P: Where the Barnett Bank is now located. On that corner.
D: From that corner on out it was all gravel. I was selling papers in those
days, and I would have to ride on the sidewalk to do it.
P: They did have paved sidewalks out there?
D: Yes, the sidewalks must have gone in about 1921 or 1922, something like
P: Were you living in Gainesville when they began constructing what later
became the Seagle Building?
D: Yes, that was during the Florida boom in 1924.
P: That was going to be a hotel, the Dixie Hotel. Did you ever get out to
D: Oh, yes, I was out there. During World War I they had an officers'
training school out there. I used to get a bundle of 100 papers, the
Jacksonville Times Union, off the noon train and put them on my bicycle
and peddle to campus. The first 100 people coming out of the Commons got
a paper. That is all I could haul, and I made two dollars at two cents a
P: So you were an entrepreneur very early in life, Mr. Dial.
D: My brother and I both worked from the time we were able to because my
mother was struggling.
P: After you finished high school, what did you do?
D: I went to the University and decided that I wanted to be a lawyer.
P: How much was tuition in 1926?
D: There was no tuition, you only paid an activities fee amounting to $40.00.
P: Was that for the full year?
D: That was for the full year. It covered student activities like football
tickets, laboratory fees, the infirmary, the Alligator, and the Seminole.
When I got in law school, we paid $75.00 a semester tuition.
P: Dr. Murphree [Albert A. Murphree, University of Florida, president, 1909-
1927] was still president. He died in December, 1927.
D: Then came John Tigert [John J. Tigert, University of Florida, president,
P: What was your major?
D: I really did not have a major. I was trying to complete sixty-eight
semester hours in order to get into law school.
P: So you wanted to go to law school from the beginning.
D: Right. When I went to school I played high school football and knew
Everett Yon. He was head of the ROTC program. He encouraged all football
players to get in Dean Norman's school, the teaching college. So I
actually registered in the College of Education, but I got hurt my
freshman year and Dr. Tillman would not let me play any more football. I
transferred the next year over to the Arts and Sciences College.
P: Who did you take classes from, Dr. Leake?
D: Dr. Leake in history, yes. Dr. Leake lived right next door to us at one
time [James Miller Leake, Professor of History, University of Florida,
1919-1950]. Mrs. Leake taught me algebra in high school.
P: Enwall taught philosophy [Hasse O. Enwall, Professor of Philosophy,
University of Florida].
D: Dr. Enwall yes, and Dr. Farr [James M. Farr, Professor of English,
University of Florida].
P: Jimmy Farr. Did you take his famous Shakespeare class?
D: Yes. There was another professor whose name I cannot recall. He was a
real stout one. He ate at the Primrose Grill every day.
P: So you earned your sixty-eight credit hours and you entered law school.
Tell me about the law school in those days. Did you say that you paid a
$75.00 tuition fee?
D: Yes, for each semester. The classes were small, there were about 100
students in the freshman class. In those days, Florida had the diploma
privilege, and graduates did not have to take the bar exam if they had
graduated from the University of Florida College of Law. So the
professors took the responsibility of thinning the lawyers out. If they
felt a boy was not qualified to be a lawyer, they would call him in and
say, "Son, I think you had better to go to some other college," or
something to that effect. In our graduating class we finally had
forty-three people. Of course, the Florida land boom had busted in the
meantime, and a lot of boys had to leave school. Those that remained for
the most part were working their way through. I remember old Dr.
Crandall [Clifford W. Crandall, Professor of Law, University of Florida
College of Law, 1914-1938] at the last class saying, "I'm going to
make a prediction on this class. The 'A' students are going to make the
professors, the 'B' students are going to make the judges, and the 'C'
students are going to make the money." Looking back, that seems just
about ninety percent correct.
P: Does that mean that you were in the 'C' category?
D: I was in the 'C' category.
P: So you had Crandall as one of your professors.
D: Crandall was one of my teachers, and so was TeSelle [Clarence John
TeSelle, Professor of Law, University of Florida College of Law, 1928-
1958], and Dean Trusler, [Harry R. Trusler, dean, University of Florida
College of Law, 1915-1947]. He taught some courses and so had Dean
Slagle [Dean Slagle, Professor of Law, University of Florida College of
Law, 1923-1958]. Jimmy Day also taught some courses [James Westbay Day,
Professor of Law, University of Florida College of Law, 1930-1961].
P: Was it a good solid law school even in those days?
D: Yes, it was a good law school. I learned more under Clarence TeSelle than
from anyone else. He was a hard taskmaster.
P: Mr. Dial, you were a poor boy going through school. How did you make it?
D: Well, I always had something to do. In 1921, my brother went into the
Buick business. I worked for him, driving automobiles, running the parts
department in the summer, and doing just about anything around the place.
But in 1929 he sold out.
P: Where was that place?
D: It was down on West Main Street. It was the old Gainesville Candy
Company. So when he sold out, I was left without a job. A boy named John
Hinson and I got a clothing line and started selling tailoring to the boys
on campus. We had an office at a place adjoining the Black Cat on
University Avenue with little shed in the back. We would make displays in
the fraternity houses every afternoon. If somebody picked out something
they liked, we would measure them up and take the deposit.
P: You sold suits and shirts. Anything else?
D: We had general accessories, too, for we were an agent for a store in
downtown Gainesville. We had a dry-cleaning and pick-up station where
people could leave their dry-cleaning and come back and get it. In those
days it cost fifty cents to dry-clean. So, we made it. In fact, in my
junior year I made $3,300. That was a lot of money considering the fact
that this was during the Depression. But we spent it. We went to
Tallahassee every weekend to see the girls.
P: You had a car?
D: My brother gave me a Model "A" Ford touring car when he left. I had to
have a car to operate the business.
P: What was your own fraternity?
D: Pi Kappa Alpha.
P: That was the old house on the corner of what was then Ninth and University
D: Right, where the motel is now [Holiday Inn]. My brother bought that lot
for the chapter for $500.
P: Did they build that house while you were in school?
D: No, it was built before I first went to school in 1924.
P: Did you live in the house?
D: No, I lived in town with my mother. There were four of us in Gainesville
that went together from the first grade through grammar school, high
school, and the University. We all joined the same fraternity.
P: Who were they?
D: Dr. J. Maxey Dell, Bill Boltin, J. C. McCraw, and myself. Maxey is still
living and so is Bill Boltin. J. C. McCraw is the only one that has died.
We were all very close. Maxey went on to medical school. J. C. McCraw
became an engineer. Bill got married in his sophomore year, his dad put
him to work. I went on to law school.
P: What was life like as a student on the campus?
D: We had more fun than they are having today, I can tell you. We used to
have fraternity dances and house parties. They had break dances then--
when you would go to dance you could break in on couples. Today, when
boys take girls to dances they have to dance with the same boy all night.
We had house parties once a year. All the boys moved out of the house,
and we would invite girls in and have chaperones. We had parties and
dances all weekend and then the girls would go back to Tallahassee.
P: And the military ball in the fall and fall frolics. These activities have
disappeared from the social calendar at the University.
D: Well, the school has gotten so large.
P: How did you advertise your clothing line? Were you not also involved with
D: Bansai Curry had a band. And we would give him and his men a discount on
their clothes. They all had to dress the same, white linen in the summer
and dark gray in the winter. Every Friday evening when they played
someone would roll the drums and blow the trumpets to get everybody's
attention. Then they would all stand up and raise a flap of the suit and
say, "Dial and Hinson, they give you a fit." That was our advertising
P: When were you in law school?
D: I started in 1929 and I graduated in 1932.
P: Were you in the middle of the class?
D: Yes, I was 'C' and 'B'. I made one 'A'. I was not so proud of that grade
because I was doped up when I took the examination. I think it was under
Slagle, who taught Admiralty Law. I had a real sharp pain in my side and
I went to Slagle and said, "Dr. Slagle I am hurting, can I come back and
take this exam this afternoon." He said, "No, the rule is you have to
take it before twelve o'clock." That was my last examination in law
school, and I did not know whether I would graduate or not. So he said,
"I suggest you go downtown and see a doctor." This was about nine o'clock
in the morning. So I went to old Dr. Hodges and he said, "You have a
kidney stone. They only thing I can do is give you a hypodermic to kill
the pain, but you will not be able to take that examination." He gave me
a hypo, and I drove back to campus and went back into the law library
where I had left my stuff. Mrs. Pridgen, the librarian, came out and
said, "Billy, you do not need this, you have graduated, the boys told me."
I said, "I am going to show this blankety-blank so-and-so that I can pass
his damned exam." So Mrs. Pridgen went back into her office. I could not
tell you to this good day what I wrote on that test, but I must have done
P: You got an 'A'.
D: Yes. I told Dr. Hodges about it and he said, "Bill, when you are under
the influence of a drug your recall is a hundred percent better than when
you are in possession of your faculties. You probably could remember what
that professor said about each little thing." But he said, "Don't spread
that around because I don't want to make a bunch of hopheads out of the
students out there."
P: Who else was in your class?
D: Phil O'Connell [Phillip D. O'Connell, University of Florida College of
Law, class of 1931]. Phil is in bad shape now, too. He sat right next to
me. I also knew Harold and John Wall, Willie Merton, and the Sinclair
boys--there were two of them.
P: Have you stayed in touch with them over the years?
D: Yes. One is John Wiggington. John and I were partners in trial practice.
P: He was Klein Graham's son-in-law, wasn't he?
D: Yes. He moved into our house his last year in school because we were
studying together. We lived real close to the Graham's, about three
blocks. That gave Johnny an opportunity to see Jane; he was courting her.
I would ride Johnny to school every morning.
P: So you graduated in 1932.
D: June, 1932.
P: Why did you leave the clothing business since you were doing so well?
D: I wanted to become a lawyer.
P: That was your goal right from the beginning, was it not?
D: Yes, right from the beginning.
P: How did it turn out that you went to Orlando from Gainesville?
D: Well, when I graduated, Fred Hampton and the firm my mother was working
for offered me a job. I was real excited about it. But my mother said,
"No, I do not think you ought to take this." I said, "What do you mean,
you have been with that firm." She said, "I think it would be better for
you to get out of town for two or three years and let people forget you
and then come on back. If not, you will always be little Billy Dial."
That was good advice. So I left Gainesville. Hugh Akerman had offered
me a position down here in Orlando at $50.00 a month.
P: Who was Hugh Akerman?
D: He was a lawyer in Orlando.
P: Were you already acquainted with Akerman?
D: Yes, he was a fraternity brother of mine. He was from Georgia. He
brought his brother, Billy Akerman, down to the University and I met him.
Billy came in as a freshman in my junior year. So I met Hugh. I was
looking around for a job, and I came in and talked to him. He said,
"Well, you know times are tough." This was right in the bottom of the
Depression. He said, "I can't pay you much, only $50.00 a month." His
mother took me in as a boarder for $25.00 a month.
P: So you got room and board for one-half your salary.
D: Right. I used the other $25.00 for my dry-cleaning expenses and gas for
P: Where was the office?
D: On East Pine Street. It was a walk up. I do not think there were more
than thirty-five lawyers in Orlando at that time.
P: What kind of practice did the firm have?
D: They called it "civil practice."
P: Was this your first time in Orlando, your first time away from home?
D: Well, I had come down to Orlando before. I was courting a girl from
Orlando whom I later married. So I knew Orlando pretty well. But it was
my first stay away from home for a long period of time.
P: Obviously, Orlando was a very different place than it is today.
D: It was a small city, about 25,000 people, but a beautiful place to live.
There was two-way traffic on Orange Avenue, and angle parking. There were
not quite as many shopping centers as today. There were only the two
department stores right in town. And everybody came downtown Saturday
night. When Martin Marietta moved in and brought about 10,000 employees
with them, things began to move. A group built the first shopping center.
After that, the downtown began to deteriorate. It really was bad for a
while. Our bank built the first building across the street, which was
also the first multi-story building that had been built since the
P: Have you been known as Billy Dial from childhood on?
P: You never departed from that name even though your mother thought that
leaving Gainesville might change that situation.
D: I am known here as Billy Dial.
P: Tell me about this firm that you are in now.
D: Well, it started out as Akerman and Palmer.
P: Who was Palmer?
D: Allison E. Palmer, a very brilliant lawyer. Actually, I went to work for
Akerman and Grea, and they split up and Hugh went with Palmer and I along
with Hugh. That was in 1933, one year after I came to work for him. At
the beginning of 1934, we moved over to West Pine Street with Allison.
Things were still tough and the banks had all closed in 1933. The only one
that could re-open was the Florida Bank. So, a group of us got together
to organize a new bank. We organized the First National Bank at Orlando.
Things were so tough that we could not even sell $400,000 worth of stock--
we only sold $200,000. We got the Reconstruction Finance Corporation to
put up the other $200,000 of preferred stock and opened up, and the bank
prospered. Then Allison got killed in an automobile accident at the end
of 1934. He and Mr. Lawrence Gentile, Sr., were coming back from Tampa
and something happened to the car. It was in broad daylight and the car
went off the road and Allison was killed. So Hugh and I formed a
P: You had not been a partner in law up until then?
D: No, I was just a clerk at that time. So we formed a partnership and two
years later, Billy Akerman graduated from school and we hired him at
$50.00 a month. The firm later became Akerman, Dial, and Akerman. I
stayed with the firm except for the five years that I was in the service.
P: In the meantime, you were already the bank's attorney?
D: Yes. The firm represented the bank. I took over the actual
representation when Allison was killed. In 1940, I was called to active
duty in the army, and I was gone five years. When I came back I picked up
the practice again. We moved into larger offices, and hired more lawyers.
The practice had grown. So I was working Saturdays, Sundays, and nights.
Hugh was not in the best of health, and we could not hire lawyers. This
was right after the war, and there were not many graduates that you could
get a hold of. We had seven in the firm. By that time everything I had
and everything Hugh had, other than our income, was invested in that bank.
So they came over to see me one day. I was on the bank board and they
appointed me to find a successor for Mr. Allan.
P: Allan was chairman of the board?
D: Yes. I brought down one or two people, and for one reason or another they
did not work out or were not satisfactory. They did not hire them. So
finally one day they came over to our offices and said, "We have found our
man." I said, "Who?" They said, "You." I said, "Don't be ridiculous. I
have two daughters that have to go to college. I cannot turn my back on
all this." They said, "We don't know whether you can or not. You tell us
what you have to have." Well, I was pretty fair game because I was pretty
well beaten down by this time.
P: But you had a successful law practice by then.
D: We had a great practice. I was having a lot of personal fun, mostly
representing the newspaper, the county, and other corporate clients.
P: So you had many big accounts?
D: That is right. I was always interested in the banking business, so I told
them what I would have to have. I said, "One condition is that every
member of the board has got to agree. If there is any objection I don't
want the job." So they came back the next day and said, "We have polled
all the board, and everybody is asking when can you come to work." I
said, "Well, I cannot turn my back on this many years and just walk out of
here. I have got to have at least four or five months to get clients
weaned over to other lawyers in the firm and line up things properly." I
said, "You can announce it." This was on May 1, 1958. But I said, "It is
going to have to be effective October first." So we all agreed, and I
moved over to the bank.
P: I want to get back into the 1930s for a moment. The land boom in Florida
collapsed in September, 1926. Then the hurricanes of-1926 and 1928
devastated the state physically and economically. As a result, Florida
was already in a depression long before the rest of the nation. Things
were pretty tough here in Florida when you were just getting started.
D: They certainly were.
P: When did you get married?
D: I could not get married until 1935.
P: Who did you marry?
D: Grace Franklin of Orlando.
P: What are the names of your two daughters?
D: Joan Dial.
P: She has just been named chairman of the Board of Regents.
D: That is right.
P: She lives in Orlando?
D: Yes, her husband is an account executive for Dean Witter. My other
daughter is Patricia Dial Vig. She lives in Dallas, Texas. Her husband
is the financial vice-president for Sabine Oil Company.
P: When you married in 1935, times were very tough. You had been in the law
practice since 1932. Had your salary increased from $50.00 a month?
D: Yes, to $100 a month. I also had a commission in the National Guard, and
I received $300 a year from that. That is when we got married. We went
on a two-day honeymoon. Young people today do not understand how
difficult it was then. The boys in this office cannot understand. They
do not believe me when I say I started here at $50.00 a month. They
started at $25,000 to $30,000. My own grandson just looks at me with that
lost look when I tell him. He is a lawyer.
P: But things began to pull out of the Depression by the middle of the 1930s.
D: About 1936 or 1937 things began to turn around.
P: Orange County was always an important agricultural and citrus area, was it
D: Yes, much more so than it is now.
P: So a lot of your accounts were with people in the citrus business and
cattle industry, like the Duda family.
D: Dr. P. Phillips' company was the largest grower of Florida citrus. And
the Gentile brothers had the largest shipping firm.
P: Did you represent the Chase family of Sanford?
D: No, but we had the Dudas, the Phillips, and the Gentiles.
P: And of course the bank.
D: And some smaller groups, and yes, the bank.
P: Were you becoming involved in community affairs?
D: Oh yes, I was very much involved by the late 1930s. I was not involved in
much at first, however.
P: When were your children born?
D: Well, my oldest daughter was born in 1939. The other was born in
Jacksonville after I went into the service in 1941.
P: Tell me about your period in military service. When did you go in?
D: November, 1940.
P: Even before Pearl Harbor. How did you happen to go in so early?
D: I had been in the National Guard for seven years. Then, when I got out of
the National Guard, I was placed on the reserve list, although I did not
know it at the time. So when they inducted the 31st Division they
inducted me right along with everyone else.
P: So you came in as a private?
D: As a first lieutenant. I had a commission when I came out of school.
P: That is right, you took advanced ROTC.
D: We went to Camp Blanding [Starke, Florida] for a year, and I left my
family here in Orlando. Then, our regiment was pulled out of the division
and moved to Fort Benning [Georgia]. A man named John Martin, who headed
Westco Foods, the Kroger Grocery company's produce-buying organization--I
had represented him in some litigation--approached me when I was at
Blanding. He wanted me to come down to Orlando and set up a citrus
procurement office. This was before Pearl Harbor, before the shooting
started. I said, "That sounds fine." When the papers came through I had
to agree to serve for the duration of the emergency. At that time my
orders read one year. I said, "No, no. I don't want to get caught in
that trap." I wanted to get back to my family and practice. In the
meantime, Pearl Harbor was attacked in December, 1941. I had already had
my physical and was to be released on December 15. That went by the
boards, of course, and I went to Benning with the regiments. John Martin
knew I was non-divisional by then, so he just had orders written
transferring me back to what they call the Quartermaster Market Center.
We handled all purchases of perishables for the army, and later the navy
and the marine corps. So I was based in Jacksonville, but it was a
P: Where did your family live in Jacksonville?
D: We lived in an apartment in South Jacksonville. We had an office set up
in Jacksonville. I had to travel around to the various posts in the
P: Were you still holding the rank of first lieutenant?
D: I was a captain by then, and they made me director of southeastern
operations. I was then promoted to major and traveled throughout the
southeast, including everything this side of the Mississippi and south of
P: What did you do?
D: We handled all procurements, including fresh vegetables, butter, cheese,
milk, ice cream, and meats. We had what they called market centers.
There was one in Orlando, one in Miami, one in Columbus, Georgia, and
others in South Carolina, New Orleans, and in Mississippi. I had to check
on these operations to see that they were being properly run and check out
the procurements to see that there was no fraud involved.
P: So you had to check billing and so on?
D: That is right. So then in 1944, a year before the war was over, they
transferred me to Chicago and put me in charge of fruit and vegetable
procurements for the entire country. So then I was traveling throughout
the United States.
P: You had not gone overseas at all?
D: No. Although I was in Mexico and Canada.
P: Did you stay in service through the Japanese surrender in 1945?
D: Yes. After five years, I had enough points to get out. I had accumulated
leave, so I actually got out on November 15, 1945.
P: What was your rank when you were released?
D: Lieutenant Colonel.
P: And your two bases of operation had been Jacksonville and later Chicago.
Had your family moved to Chicago with you?
D: Yes, they were with me.
P: You said one daughter was born in Jacksonville. Where was the other born?
D: In Orlando.
P: What do you do when the war was over?
D: I returned to Orlando to pick up my practice. The firm had continued to
operate in my absence.
P: Was the firm then still Akerman, Dial, and Akerman?
D: Yes, I practiced for five years, and then damn if I did not get a set of
orders ordering me back to active duty in the Korean War.
P: Where was your office when you came back to Orlando in 1945?
D: On West Pine Street. We remodeled a whole section.
P: Had the firm expanded during that period?
D: Yes, we had nine lawyers. A crippled fellow took my place while I was
away-Joe Kirton. He had been a classmate of mine.
P: Did you say you were called back into the service in 1950?
D: But, in the meantime I had been at a bank picnic, and I was hit by
lightening and had busted my left foot. So when they gave me my physical,
the doctor asked me, "Have you been treated by a physician in the last
year?" I said, "Yes." He said, "For what?" I said, "A broken foot." I
did not tell him that I had been struck by lightening. He said, "Well,
Colonel we have to get a cardiogram on you because you are over forty."
So I got up there and that old navy captain says, "I don't know what you
are trying to pull, but you can't get back in the service." He made me
mad. He was really fussing at me. He said, "What are you trying to
pull?" I said, "I am up here. You've got a buck slip to give me an X-
ray. You write down any damned thing you want to write, and I'll take it
back downtown. But I don't want you mouthing off to me about what I'm
trying to pull. Because I'm not trying to pull a damned thing." They
sent me back and later I got a nice letter saying that I was no longer
under consideration. Would you believe six months later I got another set
of orders ordering me back up to Jacksonville for a final physical? I
went through the same rat race back out to the navy. I thought that navy
captain was going to have it out with me. He said, "I told you, damn it."
I said, "Captain, they did not believe you then." So then they said, "You
can either go on honorary reserve or take a discharge." I said, "Give me
In the meantime a bunch of us after the war had decided that we wanted to
get some good government in Florida. Most of us were University of
Florida graduates. So we dusted off Dan McCarty [Dan T. McCarty, Governor
of Florida, 1953] and ran him for governor.
P: I want to talk to you about that. But first, I want to clear up
something. You were a lawyer and you represented the bank, but you were
not yet a full-time banker. Is that right?
D: That is correct.
P: You did not become a banker until 1958. Were you making a good living as
P: Just an aside, how does Alex Akerman fit into this firm?
D: He does not. He was a cousin of Hugh Akerman. Alex's father was Judge
Alexander Akerman; he was a Federal judge in Florida's southern district.
Hugh Akerman's father worked for the railroad. He and Alexander Akerman
P: Alex Akerman became involved in some of the early suits against the
University of Florida when blacks were attempting to get into the law
D: He got involved with blacks. In fact, he got involved with a Lake County
rape case, and was associated with Thurgood Marshall. Then he had to
leave Orlando. He is retired now.
P: So you became involved in politics during the McCarty administration. Did
you have any association with the Fuller Warren [Governor of Florida,
D: No, I supported Bill Shands when he ran for governor in 1948 [William A.
Shands, member, Florida Senate, 1941-1957]. He was a strong friend of
the University of Florida.
P: It was only fitting that they name the hospital for Senator Shands,
because he was instrumental in bringing that whole operation there.
Without him I do not think they would have been able to get it.
D: I was doing some lobbying in Tallahassee at that time when all the debate
was going on.
P: Did Senator Shands recruit you to be a lobbyist for the Medical Center
D: No, I was in Tallahassee representing the banking interests.
P: Had you expanded your involvement in banking beyond the bank in Orlando?
D: Yes, I was the attorney for the Florida Bankers Association and their
representative in Tallahassee.
P: So you had expanded your interests throughout the state by that time?
P: What was your personal relationship to Dan McCarty?
D: I knew him in college. He came to the University after I was there, of
course. We were good friends.
P: And you knew John McCarty?
D: I know John. A group of us all over the state decided we were getting
damned tired of south Florida getting the short end of the stick. We were
going to elect us a governor to represent our area. So we dusted Dan off
and ran him. He was defeated the first time--Fuller Warren beat him in
1948--but he made it the next time in 1952.
P: He was a strong candidate even in 1948.
D: Yes, he was an excellent candidate.
P: Of course, Fuller Warren had built up a strong following in the state.
D: Even back in college.
P: That is right, he was a big man at the University. Did you know Fuller on
D: I knew him very well. In fact, I had agreed to support him, but only on
the condition that Bill Shands did not run. "If Bill runs," I said,
"Fuller, I'm going to have to support him because he is the nearest thing
to a father I ever had."
P: Did you know Fuller as a fellow student on campus?
P: Was he a big man on campus?
D: Yes. He was a member of the legislature.
P: Did you hold a student office when you were on campus?
D: No, I never held a student office other than vice-president of the senior
P: You were never active on the Alligator or any of those things?
P: Did you play sports?
D: I played freshman football.
P: And then you were knocked out of that. Tell me again about the accident
with your foot.
D: We were at a bank picnic at Sanlando Springs, and I was leaning up against
the picnic shed when lightening struck the shed. I was barefooted, and I
had on swimming trunks and the current went right through my foot. It
burned all of the calcium out of my foot, and two days later my arch
P: Has that been a troublesome thing ever since?
D: It was for five or ten years. I developed spurs, but I think I wore them
P: Now let me go back to the McCarty campaign and your involvement in
politics. What did you do during the campaign for McCarty?
D: Well, we organized this area.
P: Did you raise money for him?
D: Yes, I raised money for him.
P: Did you get out and stump for him?
D: I got the Orlando newspaper to support him. We just worked hard trying to
P: And you were successful.
D: The second time we were. Dan, of course, died in office as you know
P: But now, you did not work for Dan McCarty in 1948. Weren't you a Shands
man in 1948?
D: Only in the first primary. In the second primary I was for Dan.
P: So you did not support Fuller in either of the two primaries.
D: No, I called him and said, "Fuller, I have seen enough, I just can't do
it." There were some interests that were supporting Fuller that surfaced
that I did not want to become involved with.
P: A lot of that scandal came out before the Warren administration ended.
D: Right. So when Dan was elected, he asked me to go on the Board of Conrol,
the predecessor of the Board of Regents. And I said, "Dan, I don't know
whether I have the time to fool with that stuff. I am up to my eyeballs
in my practice." He said, "Well, I have a four-year appointment or a one-
year appointment." I said, "I will accept the one-year and see how it
works out." In the meantime Dan died and Charley Johns [Charley E. Johns,
Acting Governor of Florida, 1953-1955] came in, and Charley and I did not
see eyeball to eyeball.
P: You did not get along with Charley Johns?
D: Not at all. He was trying to cram Dr. Williams down our throat.
P: Kenneth Williams from Ocala?
D: Yes. We had a good chewing match one night, the governor and I.
P: He wanted him to take over after J. Hillis Miller's death [J. Hillis
Miller, President of the University of Florida, 1948-1954, died in
D: Right. I was chairman of the selection committee to find a successor.
P: What did you mean when you said that you had a chewing match?
D: Well, we had a meeting up in Tallahassee, in the Board of Control's
office. I said, "Governor, we are going to have to increase the
compensation of this president if we are going to get the right man at
the University." And he said, "I can get a man for $15,000 a year." I
said, "Well, I am going to put this in language I think you can
understand. When you are hiring a president of a university it is like
buying cattle on the hoof. If you want canning and cutter grade you get
it pretty damned cheap. If you want top grade, you are going to have to
pay for it." He got furious. I said, "We are not going to buy Williams."
P: Was Williams banned because Charley Johns was supporting him?
D: No, he just was not qualified. We had a complete report on him, and he
was not qualified to head the University of Florida.
P: Now, you all selected a man from Kentucky as I remember.
D: We did, but he came down and it got involved in politics, and he backed
P: Was this because Charley Johns announced that he was not going to sign his
D: Yes. The man said, "I do not want to have anything to do with this
operation." And back to Kentucky he went. Then we worked on Wayne Reitz
[J. Wayne Reitz, President of the University of Florida, 1955-1967] and
I thought I had commitments from the majority of the board on Wayne, but
they insisted on a secret ballot and Wayne missed by one vote. In the
meantime, I went off the board, and LeRoy Collins [LeRoy Collins, Governor
of Florida, 1955-1961] had been elected governor [November 1954]. So I
briefed Roy on the situation. I had supported Roy Collins. Then, when
the Board met they selected Williams and called the governor and told them
of their actions.
P: So now Charley Johns is gone, and LeRoy Collins is governor. But they are
still selecting Williams?
D: Right, the old Fuller Warren appointees were still on the Board of
Control. Roy said, "The Board of Education will not approve Mr. Williams."
P: Had you been the only strong opposition to Williams?
D: Oh, no. There were several of us on the board opposed, but we were
outnumbered. We had a split board, and the McCarty appointees were in the
minority. Anyhow, the governor said, "You better all go back and do your
homework." So they went back and nominated Wayne Reitz. Then Wayne kind
of balked. He said, "I don't know whether I want to get involved in this
political fight or not." And I said, "Wayne, there is not going to be any
fight. We have got a good governor in Tallahassee and he is going to
support you. I think you owe it to the University to go in there and take
the job." And he did.
P: Why do you think that Wayne Reitz lost by a single vote the first time he
D: The Warren appointees were so hell-bent and determined on nominating
Williams that they just voted that way.
P: Was Charley Johns a vindictive man?
D: Very much so.
P: So when you crossed him, were you then an enemy?
D: Unbeknownst to me, Bill Shands went to Charley. I would not have accepted
an appointment under Charley. Bill told me about this. He said, "I want
you to do me a favor, Charley." And Charley Johns said, "Anything within
my power to give you, Bill. You know how I feel about you," and all that.
He said, "I want you to reappoint Dial to the Board of Control." Charley
said, "That is something I can't do, Bill."
P: You had crossed him, and he was not about to let you get back on the
D: Well, I would not have accepted the appointment. I did not know Bill was
P: Of course, you would have been on the Board had you taken that four-year
appointment in the first place.
D: That is right.
P: Who were the other members of the Board at that time? Do you remember?
D: Well, Jessie Ball DuPont of Jacksonville. She was a Warren appointee.
P: So she was supporting Williams, presumably.
D: I cannot even remember the names of those characters. Mrs. DuPont was
very fine. She was very good. In fact, she supported Wayne Reitz.
P: If Wayne Reitz failed the first time, he must have come through as a
compromise candidate the second go-around.
D: Well, after the governor refused to accept Williams, the Board had to
P: Of course the University had been operating for a year and a half under
Dr. John Allen [Dr. Johns S. Allen, Interim President of the University of
Florida, 1954-1955]. Allen had first stated that he did not want to be
president. He must have rethought the situation.
D: He decided he wanted to be president after all. I went to John Allen and
asked him if he wanted to be and he said no. He said he was not
P: That is right. He announced publicly that he was not interested, but then
he decided that he did not want to leave Gainesville. Perhaps he liked
the perks, including the beautiful new president's house which George
Boughman [Vice-President of Business Affairs] had been responsible for.
D: That house caused some real problems in the legislature.
P: I understand that it was not built with state money.
D: The state had refused to build it. The legislature had left it out of the
University budget. But Boughman went ahead and found other funds and
built it anyway. That made the legislature mad. It took a year or two to
get over that.
P: I understand the money came from overcharges from Flavet rents, not
planned overcharges. But the money had accumulated and it had to be spent
some way. You could not return it to the hundreds of veteran's families
that had lived there. They had long ago graduated and moved away.
D: Well, I was for building the house, but the legislature was mad over the
way it was done.
P: Of course, they had promised to provide a home for the president way back
when Tigert was still in office.
D: Dr. Tigert used to live on the other side of town.
P: That is right. Then when J. Hillis Miller came he lived in the old Tigert
house until this house was constructed. I do not think John Allen ever
occupied the house. It stood vacant until the Reitz's moved in. Was Dr.
Reitz an effective president?
D: Yes, he was what was needed at the time. He ran the University with a
P: Now he is the grand old man on campus.
D: That is right.
P: What about the work that you did revising the banking laws of Florida?
D: The banking laws had grown like tops ever since 1887, and many were
outdated. So the Florida Bankers Association decided it wanted to
recodify the banking laws. I went through the statutes and drew up a
banking code. I then went around to what we called the group meetings of
the Bankers Association. We had a committee that was working with me. J.
Reed Chapman, who was executive controller, was working with us. We
finally came up with a code that satisfied the State Comptroller and also
satisfied the bankers. So we introduced it to Tallahassee.
P: Did the legislature pass it?
D: They passed it without a great amount of trouble. We had to lobby like
hell on it. Farris Bryant, who was speaker of the house [Farris Bryant,
Governor of Florida, 1961-1965], let me get on the floor and sit next to
Carl Duncan, who was chairman of the House Banking Committee when the bill
was presented [Carl E. Duncan, member, Florida House of Representatives,
1951-1957]. That way, I could help Carl answer any questions that came
up. That upset all of the lobbyists, they wanted to know how in the hell
I got on the House floor. Old Judge Dill Clarke [S. Dilworth Clarke,
member, Florida Senate] was dean of the Senate, he was also chairman of
the Senate Banking Committee. I briefed him on it, and told him what was
in it. There was nothing too radical, so he got it through the Senate
with only one dissenting vote.
P: What is the status of that revised code today?
D: They revised it again after that.
P: In the 1970s?
D: Banking has changed. Don Senterfitt, who was in my firm and succeeded me
as attorney for the Bankers Association when I went to the bank, revised
it. It was passed in the 1970s.
P: You were on the Board of Control appointed by Dan McCarty. What were the
appointments that LeRoy Collins made for you?
D: He put me on the State Road Board.
P: Were not you also on the Florida Development Commission?
D: That was after I had moved to the bank.
P: How long were you on the Road Board?
D: Three years. I resigned when I went with the bank.
P: I want to ask you about something that I have heard often about, that is
the Florida Turnpike's coming through downtown Orlando because of your
D: It was not my influence. It was a boo boo that a man in Daytona Beach
made that really turned the trick. It was Saxon Lloyd, a Buick dealer in
Daytona. He was very active both in the McCarty campaign and the Collins
campaign. The original turnpike was scheduled to go from Fort Pierce,
where the first leg was built, up the east coast to Jacksonville. But
Saxon and his group opposed it. They said, "we do not want a toll road
out there. All we want is a four-lane US-1." So when they did not want
the turnpike, I talked to Colonel Manuel, who was chairman of the turnpike
board, and I said, "We would love to have that thing come right through
Orlando. I have already talked to the Martin-Marietta people and they will
give you right of way through their six miles."
P: Who was Colonel Manuel?
D: Thomas B. Manuel was chairman of the Turnpike Authority. We met up here
in Orlando with Martin Anderson, the publisher of the Orlando Sentinel. I
also represented the paper and Martin. We told the Turnpike people that
we would support them editorially, and get the bill through the
legislature. So Manuel agreed, and it went before the legislature and
they approved. So to this good day, they call that the Martin Anderson
P: I have heard that. I have also heard of Billy Dial's involvement in the
D: Well, I was in the background. And then when Interstate-4 came to
Orlando, it made Orlando the crossroads for Florida. So when Walt Disney
was looking around for a location. .
P: Walt Disney Productions came here on its own?
D: Yes, sir. Those people were looking at three locations in Florida. One
at the Tomoka Park area near Daytona, one down near Stuart, and this one
here in Orlando. They had taken options on three rather large tracts of
land here. There had been a leak in California.
P: What do you mean a leak?
D: They were doing this in the name of dummy corporations. They did not want
anybody to know that Disney was thinking of coming to Florida.
P: They wanted to continue to buy the land for as low a price as possible?
D: Yes. So, Paul Helliwell, a lawyer from Miami who was representing Disney,
came to see me at the bank and said, "Bill, we have got a problem. This
big industry wants to come into Florida, I can't tell you who it is. It
is top secret, but this is not a promotional deal. It is something that
any town in Florida would give its right arm to get. We have three tracts
under option in the area, but we have some "ins" that we have not been
able to close out on yet. If this leak is publicized, it is dead." So I
said, "Well, we had better go talk to Martin Anderson."
P: Had you any suspicion of the particular industry that he was talking
D: None at all. So we went out and talked to Martin. Martin was a very fine
newspaper man, but very community-oriented. He called in his editorial
staff and said, "Now there is something going on. There is a lot of land
buying." He said, "I don't want it mentioned in anybody's column, or in
anybody's news stories, or in anything else."
P: Had the reporters not already begun checking into the situation?
D: They had checked it out, but they had not written anything. Anyhow,
Disney had all these dummy corporations and they were taking their deeds.
They had covered their tracks very well, so they held off. That was
eight months before it was announced. I helped them on some of their
acquisitions. Then finally they exercised their options and took these
deeds, still in the name of these dummy corporations. There was a lot of
speculation as to who it was. It became mystery industry "X". I told
Paul, "I don't want to know because if there are any leaks, I don't want
to be under any suspicion." So about three weeks before the public
announcement was made I learned it was Disney.
P: What year was this? Was Haydon Burns [Haydon Burns, Governor of Florida,
1965-1967] in office?
D: Yes, Haydon was in office. We are talking about 1966. So about three
weeks before the public announcement was made, I had a suspicion that it
might be Disney. There was so much property--27,000 acres. They told me
that they were going to make an announcement three weeks hence.
P: Did that give you an opportunity to buy some stock?
D: I had the opportunity, but I did not buy any. So Walt Disney came down
and made the public announcement, and all hell broke loose after that.
P: Do you think Haydon Burns came in on any early stock purchase?
D: I do not know. He got a job for his son with Disney.
P: He came out of office as a very well-off man. You do not get rich just
from a governor's salary.
D: That is true, too, but there are other ways of getting rich. You know, he
is sometimes known as "old slick." So Disney and his people came in. I
had a party for them out at my house the night after the announcement.
But Walt was not here. He had already gone back.
P: I have the name Don Tatum connected with the Disney operation.
D: Don Tatum was chairman of the board after Walt died. They were all out at
my house, including Roy Disney, who handled the financing and everything
P: Is Roy Disney Walt's brother?
D: Yes, his brother. We were out at the house and Roy said, "Bill, you have
been awfully helpful to us down here; you have been awfully nice and all
that, but when are you going to ask me for our banking business?" I said,
"That is secondary, Roy. The main deal was to get you here." He said,
"Well, you have it." So I said, "Okay, thank you very much."
P: So the bank represented the Disney operations?
D: Yes, it was a very fine connection. It was a very lucrative account. We
have three bank branches on the Disney property now.
P: So, Martin Anderson cooperated with Disney, and he sat on his writers so
that there would be no prior announcement?
D: In fact, Florida Trend magazine in an article one time said that Martin
stonewalled the deal. And he did. But the end justified the means.
P: What about the Martin-Marietta Corporation? Were you involved in any way
in getting them to come to Orlando?
D: Very much so. The bank was more involved really, but I also got involved.
The chairman of Martin-Marietta came down to Orlando and began looking at
160 acres for an executive airport. This is an aside, he went by the
Citizen's Bank. He had been recommended to the Citizen, but Mr. Gay was
busy. The chairman had something else he had to do, so he wandered on
down to First National Bank and the chairman Linton Allen rolled out the
red carpet for him. He took him around and showed him everything. The
chairman later took an option on 6,000 acres of land down where the plant
is now, using his own money, $1,500. He then went to Baltimore and told
Martin, "You can get this land for $200 an acre." So the company bought
it, although not right away. At first they said, "We are interested." So
they came down to Orlando and we had a meeting over in the bank boardroom.
We had the mayor, the head of Orlando utilities, myself, and the county
attorney there. They had a want list. They said they had to have power.
The utilities had already been primed to say, "all right, we will furnish
you your power." Number two, they had to have roads. I said, "We can
give you an access road to your plant site this year, and next year run
you out to highway 50." Then they said, "We need sewage." At that time
the county did not have any provision for sewage. Everything was done in
septic tanks. So I said, "I think that can be worked out with a sewer
district. I have got the county commissioner sitting in my law office
right now, and if this deal goes through I can go over and get their
approval to do the sewers." So the chairman said, "Can you commit these
damned roads?" I said, "I am a Road Board member and the governor
authorized me to commit." And he said, "Can we see the governor today?"
I said, "Sure." So I called LeRoy Collins and we flew up on a Martin
plane and went into Roy's office. They said, "Mr. Dial has committed to
build us a road out to 441 and another one next year out to highway 50."
Roy said, "Well, if Mr. Dial is committed, it will be built." That
satisfied them. So we came on back to Orlando and we closed. Our
office was employed to handle the transaction and represent them. The
property had some ins around the edges that belonged to a lady who was
very hostile to the owner of this other property. They decided that they
wanted to get those ins and the price went up in one day from $200 an
acre to $500 an acre. They bought $1,000,000 worth of property from this
lady, built the plant, and employed 10,000 people.
P: Which of course was a tremendous boost to the economy and the community.
D: And they were high salary people.
P: I want to ask you if the Disney people asked for the same kinds of
things--roads, sewers, and lights.
D: They did not ask for anything. They furnished all of that themselves.
P: Even the access roads getting out there?
D: Well, the state committed on those. I-4 was already going right by the
property. All that was needed was an interchange.
P: So they did not ask Orlando for anything?
P: Obviously they have been giving a tremendous boost to the economy of this
whole area, much beyond Orlando.
D: They are fine people.
P: Tell me about Sun Bank. That is something that you have been involved
D: When I went with Sun, the National Holding Company Act had been passed.
Comer Kimbell, who headed the First National Bank of Miami and was a
past president of the Florida Bankers Association, Frank Norris, head
of Barnett National Bank, and I talked about forming a holding company.
We said we ought to get a bank over on the west coast of Florida. So we
got in touch with Dick Griffin over at the Exchange. The four banks were
going to organize a holding company.
P: Where was Mr. Griffin's bank?
D: In Tampa. It was the Exchange Bank of Tampa. This was all very hush,
hush and very secret. We met at my camp and at a couple of other places
and talked it all over, and finally worked out all of the details of the
exchange ratio and everything else and got the application together. In
the meantime, Manufacturers Hanover was being sued by the United States
Department of Justice to break up their merger. The head of Manufacturers
Hanover was real upset, and so were we. We wondered what attitude the
Justice Department would take on the four largest banks in Florida
consolidating into one holding company. So we decided to take the
application to the Justice Department before we filed it with the Feds.
We did not think we would have trouble with the Feds, so we went to the
Justice Department. An assistant talked to us and said, "This decision
will have to be made at a lot higher level; just leave the application and
you will hear from us." Well, in two weeks we got a one-page letter back
saying that based on this application the Justice Department would
interpose no objection. We thought we were in like Flin. So we
published a red herring prospectus. We publicized it then, indicating
that we were going to form a holding company, filed the application with
the Feds, and sat there waiting for a solid year. Then they turned it
P: They turned you down after the Department of Justice had approved it?
D: Yes, on anti-trust grounds. There was some monkey business. Then we
decided we would go our separate ways. So we all formed the First at
Orlando Corporation, Miami Southeast, Barnett and the Exchange Bank
Corporation. We all started acquiring banks in this neighborhood and over
the state, and it grew. We later changed the name to Sun Banks. We could
not advertise the First of Orlando Corporation. Maybe we had a bank in
Fort Pierce that did not have First National in the name. So we finally
hired a promotional firm and they came up with Sun Banks, which we
P: What position did you hold in it?
D: I was chairman of the board of the Sun Banks. We continued to expand. I
retired ten years ago.
P: Was that a decision you made?
D: No, we had a rule in the bank that anybody that reached seventy could not
stand for re-election. I put the rule in to get rid of some superannuated
P: And it caught up with you.
D: Well, I was ready to retire, anyway.
P: When you retired were you still chairman of the board?
P: Did you hold an honorific position on the board after that?
D: No, I insisted that I not. I am on the advisory board of the lead bank.
P: So other than a financial interest, you have no direct connection with the
D: I still hold stock interest.
P: Did you move back over here to the firm, then?
P: Were you in these quarters?
D: Yes. In fact, they came and said, "We want you to come back across the
P: What do you do here?
D: Not a damned thing.
P: You are a senior advisor, is that what you mean?
D: Well, I work with them. Old clients come up with matters, and I interview
them, and take down what they want done and turn it over to one of the
P: In the meantime, had you expanded your community interests and state
interests? Were you not involved in the establishment of Florida
Technological University which later became the University of Central
D: Yes, we got a group together. Martin-Marietta wanted an institution that
would let engineers pursue their education. So myself, Wayne Reitz, and
Dean Linton Grinter came down, and we met with Tom Willy, who was then the
vice-president in charge of Martin-Marietta's operations. We wanted to
put a branch down here.
P: A University of Florida branch?
D: Yes, but Dean Grinter said, "We can't do that. For a man to get a
doctorate or masters he has to do a certain percentage of the work on
D: Tom Willy said, "I know better than that, Dean. We are working with
Drexler in Baltimore right now and our people are conducting their studies
and getting their degrees." The meeting got kind of rough. Finally I
said, "Well Wayne, I am sorry that this is your attitude because somebody
is going to furnish us with an institution down here that is going to give
these people some place to go. And I was hoping it was going to be the
University of Florida."
P: Was Reitz in favor of it?
D: I think he let Grinter overrule him.
P: So without the University of Florida being interested in it, you went to
to the legislature?
D: We got a bill through authorizing the establishment of an institution of
higher learning somewhere in the six county area of Central Florida. The
bill got through after a lot of opposition from the University of Florida
and FSU. So we had the college, but we had no money. So the Council of
100 promoted a $75,000,000 issue for higher education and they voted on
it. It was the first Florida bond issue authorized since the War Between
P: Were you on the Council of 100?
D: Yes. We got the bond issue through. We got a copy of the Board of
Regents's budget. Broward Culpepper sent me a copy. It allocated money
to various institutions on the list, but when it got down to Florida Tech,
the money had given out. So I asked him, "Broward, where in the hell are
we in this deal? We promoted the thing on the grounds of needing an
institution to take care of these high tech people." He said, "Well, you
all have got enough clout to get a special appropriation from the
legislature." I said, "Don't be ridiculous." So I came back and talked
to Martin. I asked permission to appear before the Budget Commission. In
the meantime, Martin had gotten in touch with Governor Haydon Burns and
had briefed him on the situation. When I went up there, Broward Culpepper
stood and presented the budget to the Board of Regents, and he asked the
sixty-four dollar question. He said, "Where is Florida Tech?" And
Broward said, "We figure you can get that money out of the legislature."
So Governor Burns said, "Mr. Culpepper, I think you all better go back and
do your homework, and when you do, put the $6,000,000 for Florida Tech at
the top and then work down from there." So after a while the Governor
asked, "Mr. Dial, do you want to appear before this committee?" I said,
"No, sir, Governor, you already made my speech." We got the
appropriation. But we were not through yet. We had gotten people to
offer to donate property in the six-county area. And one piece was where
the Mormons were, just west of where the University is now.
P: The Mormon church?
D: Yes, they offered 2,000 acres for free, none of which was satisfactory to
the Board of Regents. They picked out the site where the school is now.
It cost us $1,000,000. In the meantime, this money had not yet been
appropriated, but we wanted to get the planning started. Broward said,
"We cannot draw a line until we got a deed in hand." So one hundred
locals got together and we each put up $10,000. The county had no
provision under its law to appropriate money for higher education. So we
had the legislative delegation and the county commissioners agree--and
sign in blood-that they would introduce a bill to authorize the county to
buy the property. Broward said no. So we put up the $1,000,000 and
bought the property and said, "All right, start drawing." In the
meantime, the state appropriations came through.
P: Did you all get your $10,000 back?
D: Oh yes, in three years.
P: So then they started planning and building out there?
P: Were you on the Advisory Council for the University?
D: I helped to get it organized, and I worked with Chester Ferguson who was
on the Board of Regents. We selected as president Dr. Charlie Millican
[Dr. Charles N. Millican, president, Florida Technological University,
1967-1978] from the University of South Florida. But before he became
president, there was a meeting of the presidents of the universities at
the Board of Regents meeting. You had to be at the Regents' meetings or
you might have something cut out of your budget. I told the chairman, "I
am at somewhat of a disadvantage. I don't know what went on last night at
the presidents' meeting." He said, "From now on you are the acting
president." I attended two meetings of that group before Charlie Millican
P: How did they make the decision to appoint Millican as president?
D: Well, he was running the School of Business at the University of South
Florida. We knew him because he had done his thesis over at our bank.
P: So it was a personal relationship, too?
D: It was, and he did a good job.
P: Have you continued your interest in Florida Tech, now the University of
D: Yes, I work with them in any way I can.
P: Were you happy when they changed the name?
P: I heard that you were dissatisfied.
D: There was a lot of us who were dissatisfied. Because that was the whole
idea of the program, to create an engineering school.
P: Did the school over at Melbourne, the Florida Institute of Technology, get
in the way of Florida Technological University?
D: No, that was never a problem. This new president, Trevor Colbourn [Trevor
Colbourn, president, University of Central Florida, 1978-present],
decided he wanted to change the name.
P: Do you have any contacts with him?
P: I hope that will not get in the way of your loyalty, dedication, support,
and enthusiasm for the University of Florida?
D: None, whatsoever. This is just a side interest.
P: Had you served as chairman of the University of Florida Foundation Board?
D: Yes. I have been involved in lots of things at the University of Florida.
I figure I owe them something. I received a good education for nothing,
really. I will be forever grateful.
P: Did your daughters go to the University of Florida?
D: One of them did--Joan. She is a Liberal Arts and Sciences graduate and
Phi Beta Kappa. The other one, all the way through grammar school and
high school, said, "Daddy I am not going to follow her through the
University. All I will be is Joan's little sister."
P: Where did she go to school?
D: The University of Georgia of all places.
P: Where did your wife attend?
D: She went to the Florida State College for Women [now Florida State
University]. Then Patty, after she finished and taught for a year, went
to Spain and got her masters at the University of Madrid.
P: Is she bilingual?
P: So you have been active at the University of Florida, particularly in the
College of Business Administration.
D: I have not been so active in the College of Business, but the holding
company set up a chair there, the Billy Dial chair. But no, I have not
been active in any particular college. I contribute to the law school.
P: Let me ask you about some of your community service activities. Have you
been active in the Orlando Chamber of Commerce?
D: Yes. I was in the Rotary club and I was on the board of the Orlando
Regional Hospital for many years. I have pulled out of most everything.
P: Is your wife still living?
D: Yes, very much so.
P: Do you travel?
D: We spend six weeks of every year in North Carolina.
P: Do you have a place there?
D: No, we rent a place every year. We have done quite a bit of traveling.
We like to take cruises and we both like to play golf. I am still
healthy. But I am retired from active business, so there is really no
point in being too damned active.
P: I heard you say you had a camp.
D: I have a place out on the Lake area. We raised our kids out there.
P: So you just stay there to relax on the weekends?
D: Well, we have not been there much in the last two years. My daughter and
her children use it, though.
P: How many grandchildren do you have?
D: Six, altogether--three in each family.
P: Are any of them in the firm with you?
D: No. The one boy is practicing law with another firm. He was not
interested in a large firm.
P: What are your other grandchildren doing?
D: His sister is on the bank's officer training program. She just started.
She just finished her teller training, and now she is going into something
P: What about the Council of 100? Are you still involved in it?
D: No, as soon as I retired from the bank, I put someone else on the board.
But I was on the Council for many years. I come to the office every
morning, to take care of personal stuff and anything else that comes up.
I am usually over at the bank two or three times a week. And they consult
with me from time to time.
P: Are you a reader? Books, periodicals?
D: I read a lot.
P: What do you like?
D: I like history. I like historical novels like Texas. I have read
everything on the War Between the States. Did I ever tell you what my
grandfather said about the surrender?
D: I was talking to him one day, and he said, "What did your mother teach you
about the big war?" That was before World War I. I told him. He said,
"No, that is not the way it happened at all. What really happened is that
Lee went up to Appomattox to talk to Grant about an exchange of prisoners.
He walked in the front door and he saw that fellow standing in his blue
suit, and he thought he was a butler and he handed him his sword, and then
everything got out of hand." My grandfather kept a saddle in the lobby of
his bank to remind him of the indignity that he suffered when surrendering
to the Union forces. He said some Yankee trooper stole his mount, and he
had to lug that saddle all the way back to Madison.
P: Are you a religious man?
D: I am active in the Presbyterian church.
P: Do you go to church?
D: Regularly. I served on the board of deacons as chairman.
P: How do you account for the fact that you started out as a poor boy with no
background, no family connections, certainly no money, mediocre education,
and yet you have ended up where you are today?
D: The Lord has been real good to me.
P: You obviously have worked hard, too.
D: I have worked all my life, from the time I was ten years old.
P: Have you enjoyed working?
D: I have enjoyed every minute of it. I had a lot of very lucky breaks, and
they did not just happen. I happened to be in the right place at the
P: What is your philosophy of life?
D: Work hard and do right by yourself.
P: Is that what you tell your grandchildren?
P: As you look around Orlando and Florida and the world today are you
discouraged with what you see?
D: At times I get that way, but I do see some good coming out of a lot of
these things. I think a lot of it has to do with how kids are raised
P: When you read the newspapers, you read about crime, corruption, and
D: But those problems go back to the family I think, to a lack of strong
P: Do you think we are doing anything about that situation?
D: I do not think so. We get down to where there are two workers--both
father and mother--in every family, which used to be very rare. There is
nobody to supervise the kids.
P: Of course, the argument is that they need extra income to buy the things
they feel they need.
D: In the old days the husband worked, and they did without the things they
could not afford. Now they have to have two or three cars.
P: Are you and Mrs. Dial active socially?
D: Yes, we move around.
P: Do you like parties and people?
D: I do not like too many big parties. I enjoy getting together with a few
friends and talking about things. One big party a week is enough for me.
P: Do you still see some of the fellows you went to school with and knew as
you were growing up?
D: Yes, we keep in touch.
P: Do you have any reunions?
D: We had a reunion before J. C. McCraw died. I used to have to go to
Gainesville for a board meeting at Sun Bank every Thursday. And I wrote
Bill Bolton, Maxie Dell, J. C. McCraw, and then I tried to meet for lunch
at the Country Club. We had an hour and a half of real fun. J. C. had a
picture taken at about our second grade, we were all barefooted. I had
on a tie that went down below my waist. I had borrowed it from my brother
I guess. And I said, "That's the toughest looking bunch of kids I think I
have ever seen. It is wonder some of them didn't get hung." J. C. said,
"That one sitting up there on the side of that step up there, he got
P: Do you stay in touch with the people at the University? Are you helping
in this University's capital campaign?
D: I am helping in this area. Marshall Criser wanted me to make a five-year
commitment to go on to the national committee, but I said, "Marshall, I am
not making a five-year commitment to do anything." I am kind of like the
lady that went to the trust office. The trust office manager said, "You
have $5,000 you need to reinvest in your trust. I recommend a five-year
bond." She said, "Young man, at my age I do not even buy green bananas."
I have tried to help the universities. There are two things I have tried
to support: my college fraternity and the University because I think I owe
both of them an awful lot.
P: What have you done for the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity?
D: I have contributed down through the years.
P: Were you a friend of Preacher Gordon of the First Presbyterian Church in
D: Yes, very, very close. We went to his church. My brother, when he
retired, used to go down to Archer to hear him preach. In fact, about a
month before my brother died he bought Preacher a new suit; he said he was
looking kind of shabby. I would not be surprised if he was buried in the
suit my brother bought.
P: I knew Preacher well, also. We have a taped interview with him. He was a
great guy, and I know that he was particularly close to the Pi Kappa Alpha
D: He used to walk up the sidewalk, and he would holler, "Put your chips
under the table, here comes the Preacher." I think we have about covered
everything I know.
P: You do not think that there is anything else about the unknown side of
Billy Dial that we ought to record for historical purposes?
D: I do not know of any.
P: Do you like sports?
D: Very much so.
P: Any sports in particular?
D: Football and baseball.
P: Do you get to the Gator games often?
D: I try to. I have had the same tickets in that stadium since the day they
P: Where are you sitting?
D: We sit on the sixty-seventh row right in front of the president's box.
P: Are you a friend of Alfred McKethan?
D: Very much so. Alfred and I went to school at the same time. We have been
friends down through the years. In fact, we acquired his bank.
P: Well, he is a very fine gentleman.
D: And Ben Hill Griffin is another one of my friends from the University.
P: Mr. Dial, I want to thank you for taking time to do this interview for the
University of Florida's Oral History Program and its Eminent Florida
Business Leaders project.
D: Well, I appreciate you coming down to Orlando.