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Interview with A. L. Ellis December 2 1988

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Title:
Interview with A. L. Ellis December 2 1988
Creator:
Ellis, A.L. ( Interviewee )
Publication Date:
Language:
English

Subjects

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

Notes

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.

Record Information

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
Rights Management:
Made available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial 4.0 International license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/.
Resource Identifier:
FBL 004 ( SPOHP IDENTIFIER )

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Full Text













UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA

ORAL HISTORY PROJECT


Interviewee: Alpheus L. Ellis

Interviewer: Samuel Proctor

December 2, 1988









UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA


ORAL HISTORY PROJECT


Interviewee: Alpheus L. Ellis
Interviewer: Samuel Proctor
December 2, 1988


Alpheus L. Ellis has had an enviable reputation as a banker in the state of
Florida. During his illustrious career, he has been active with the Florida Bankers
Association and the Federal Reserve Board. Ellis is listed in Who's Who in the
South and Southwest and Who's Who in Finance and Industry, as well as Forbes.
He has retired as senior chairman of the board of NCNB.

Ellis was born in 1906 in Elba, Alabama. His father stressed hard work; Ellis
and his siblings never received an allowance. Ellis began working in his father's
bank, sweeping the floor and cleaning the spittoons--any change he found was his.
Ellis attended the University of Alabama and Alabama Polytechnic Institute (now
Auburn University). Before completing his degree program in finance and
accounting, however, he left Alabama and came to Winter Park, Florida, in 1925,
where his older brother Charles was already working in a bank.

The economic climate in Florida after the boom bubble burst in 1926 was
difficult. Florida was hit by the Mediterranean fruit fly, and this was followed by the
stock market crash that lead to the Great Depression. During these times, Ellis saw
many changes occurring in Florida and in the banking industry. He came to know
men who would rise to the top of the business world, men like J. Neil Greening of
Barnett Bank and then Florida National Bank, Ben Hill Griffin, Jr., of the citrus
industry, Jim Walter of the housing industry, Alfred du Pont and Ed Ball of Florida
National Bank, and George Jenkins of Publix groceries. Congressman Claude
Pepper also figured in Ellis's career, although Ellis generally preferred to stay out of
politics because it was "too costly." In the interview, Ellis recounts his business
relationships with these influential entrepreneurs.

In addition to his business dealings, Ellis discusses his philanthropic
endeavors, especially his work with the hospital in Tarpon Springs, where he
currently resides. He and his wife Helen have contributed a great deal of time and
money to the hospital. To show its appreciation, the hospital board has chosen to
name it the Helen Ellis Memorial Hospital. Also included on his list of causes are









Jack Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, the University of South Florida in Tampa,
and the Children's Home of Florida.

In his free time, Ellis enjoys the outdoors. He likes to dove hunt, and he
takes in Florida Gator and Tampa Bay Bucs football when he can. Ellis also enjoys
reading and traveling.









P: I am conducting an interview this afternoon, December 2, 1988, with Mr. Alpheus
L. Ellis in his office in Tarpon Springs. This interview is in the Florida
Business Leaders Project of the University of Florida Oral History Program.

Mr. Ellis, I would like to ask you, if I may, your full name?

E: Alpheus Lee Ellis.

P: When you were born?

E: February 5, 1906.

P: Where?

E: Elba, Alabama.

P: Tell me where you got the name Alpheus; it is a little bit unusual.

E: Well, it is really a Greek name, but I am not Greek. My father's name, however,
was Alpheus. His father had fourteen children. I guess he found it in the
Bible.

P: Perhaps he ran out of names, with fourteen children.

E: I would think so.

P: Your mother, I understand, was a Lee. What was her full name?

E: Her full name was Lillie Alberta Lee.

P: Did she come from the Virginia Lees?

E: Yes, she was descended from the Virginia Lees.

P: How far back did her family go in this country?

E: It goes back to Thomas Lee, who was the first governor of Virginia before it
became a state.

P: It was still a royal dominion then, before it became part of the United States?

E: Yes.









P: How did that trace down? I would like to find out the tracing of your mother's
family and how the members got to Alabama.

E: Well, descended from Thomas Lee was a Charles Stephen Lee. Charles
Stephen Lee came down to south Alabama. He was a colonel in the army.
Elba, Alabama is named for the island of Elba. It had two roads and a creek
coming together that enabled us to have one of the first hydraulic power
plants. We had electric lights; I do not even remember when we did not.
Charles Stephen Lee, my great-great-grandfather, settled in Elba, and he
owned a lot of land. Some of it was acquired, they tell me, for twenty-five
cents an acre.

P: Was he a slave owner?

E: He owned a 153 slaves. When they were freed, they took the Lee name. We
always treated them much like they were a part of the family. If one of them
got in jail, we bailed him out; if he needed a doctor, we got him a doctor.
Some member of the family would always come to the rescue.

P: Are there black Lees in Elba now?

E: Yes. At one time, I would say about half the black population were Lees.

P: When your mother's family came to Alabama, did they come down at the time of
the Indian troubles with the Cherokee?

E: The Cherokee Indians were quite a bit of trouble in south Alabama at that time.
They were a very strong tribe in Alabama and, the more I hear, were very
ferocious, if that is the right word for them. According to tradition, the rivers
were swollen near Elba when the family first arrived. In the spring there were
not many bridges, if any, that were convenient. So my
great-great-grandfather had to camp until the rivers subsided. He fell in love
with that area of the state and settled there and raised a big family. Among
the family was my great-grandfather, Moses Jourdine Lee, but everybody
called him Captain Pete. He and his five brothers were all commissioned
officers in the War Between the States. He had a big family, one of whom
was Charles Stephen Lee, my grandfather. At one time there were five
Charles Stephen Lees, one of whom was black. They did not have any
trouble with the mail, though, because we had relatives in the post office, and
all they had to do was see where the letter came from and they would know
who it belonged to. My mother was Charles Stephen Lee's daughter, and
she was the oldest one in the family. When she and my father were married
in 1904, my father settled in Elba. He went into business with some other









people who were stockholders and operated a private bank, a
mercantile-furnishing business, and a fertilizer manufacturing plant.

P: Where did your father's family come from?

E: They came, originally, from Holland to England to Boston to New York and then
to Georgia. They did not stay in Georgia very long. In Georgia he married a
member of some colonial family. His wife's family did not like the idea of his
being a foreigner, so he and his bride went over to Alabama and settled.
They homesteaded land and acquired two forty-acre tracts from the
government. The deeds where signed by two presidents.

P: One of those, I think you told me, was Franklin Pierce.

E: Yes, one was President Pierce, but I do not recall who the other president was.
The deed is down there in my box. One of the deeds was on sheepskin, and
one was on parchment written in long hand. They had a big family that was
very closely knit. They did not do much traveling around. My grandfather
had a general store in which there was a post office. Nearby was his cotton
gin and grist mill. The community was known as Ellistown. It really was not
a chartered municipality; it was just a trading settlement. That was about
1812, I believe.

Then, a good many of the population of Elba were Lees. They were in various
activities, but all of them went to college, even my great aunts and uncles,
and in some cases great-great-aunts and uncles. One member of the Lee
family was a widow who was a dean at a women's college in Montgomery,
Alabama, for many years. Another Lee cousin of mine was Sue Gunter.
She was a widow when she was about thirty. She became Matron of girls at
the University of Alabama for many years. She had a daughter, Mary Lee
Gunter, who finished at the University of Alabama in three years and won the
highest medal award. She later became dean of women at the University of
Wisconsin at a very early age.

P: What about your father. Did he go to college?

E: My father went to college. He worked his way through. He would teach between
times. He went to Troy State University, as they call it now. He also went to
the University of Tennessee one summer session. The day he got married
to my mother in Elba, they took a train and went to the University of Georgia
in Athens, Georgia. They boarded with a probate judge of the county. When
he finished his program, he taught school for about a year. Then he went to









a business college in Montgomery. When he finished that he came to
Elba--he was married all this time--and started his business.

P: Which was a success.

E: Most of the time he was in banking business for the First National Bank there,
and he had a mercantile business and an automobile business, but he did
not get rich out of any of them--or all of them combined, for that matter. He
had a family of six boys and no girls. He believed in work; he got a great
amount of pleasure out of work. He could never understand why we boys
liked to play ball. In fact, he gave me a job when I was fourteen years old.
He never gave us boys anything in the way of money; he would give us a
job. He was a great believer in earning what you have. I started working in
the bank as a janitor at age fourteen. I later worked in the summers and on
Saturday. One day he called me up to his office and read in a national
publication about Ty Cobb stealing second base, and he told me, "I have
been telling you boys you are going to get in trouble for playing ball. This
man is going to go to the penitentiary for this." One of the assistant cashiers
heard and told it in the barber shop, so I got kidded about it.

P: How much did your father pay you as a janitor?

E: Eight dollars a month.

P: I understand that part of your job was cleaning the spittoons.

E: Yes, cleaning the spittoons, scouring the marble floor, washing the windows, and
building a fire in the furnance for steam heat.

P: Did you have any acquisition rights to what you found in the spittoons?

E: Well, any money I found in the spittoons was always mine; that was my fringe
benefit. I would place the spittoons right under the windows so when the
customers raked the change off the counter some might fall in the spittoon.

P: It seems to me that I read somewhere that one of the checks that you gave as a
young man bounced. I would like to hear that story.

E: Yes, I was about fifteen, I guess, maybe sixteen. We kids used to hang around a
drug store in the same block as the bank. One evening I found myself there
with about eight or ten girls; all the other guys had gotten away without
paying their part of the check. I did not have any money in my pocket. I had
never written a check from the bank before, although they had been crediting









my salary to an account that I never formally opened. I wrote a check to the
drug store, and when the check came in the bank one of the fellows in the
bank asked my father if that was my signature. He looked the check over
and he said, "Send it back. He has no business wasting his money on soda
pop."

That reminds me of another story. My father's friend and he were at the University
of Tennessee one summer session, and they went out to a ball game. He
told me, "The man said 'Ball one! Ball two! Ball three!"' But he said, "I did
not see but one ball. I knew it was crooked, so I left." I think he was having
fun off of me.

P: I see this portrait of your father that is hanging here. When did you lose him?

E: He died July 15, 1968.

P: At what age?

E: Ninety-seven.

P: I gather that he was physically strong and mentally alert right until almost the end.

E: Well, he was physically strong up until the day he died, but, in fact, he had a
lapse in memory--he could remember what was happening when he was a
boy better than he could what happened last week. He would walk off and
we would miss him, and sometimes he could not tell anybody who he was,
so he would actually get into more trouble than if he had been bedridden.

P: Where and when did you go to college?

E: I went to college in 1923, for three years, at Alabama Polytechnic Institute, which
is now Auburn University, and to the University of Alabama.

P: You left Auburn and went to Tuscaloosa?

E: No, it was the other way around: I went to Alabama first and then to Auburn.

P: What did you study?

E: I studied banking and finance.

P: Did you receive a degree?









E: No, I left school before I graduated.

P: You were one of five boys.

E: I was one of six boys.

P: You were what number? One? Two? Three?

E: I was number two.

P: I understand that you had a brother who was living in Florida in the early 1920s.
Was your older brother?

E: Yes.

P: What was his name?

E: His name was Charles Ben Ellis.

P: Where was Charles working in Florida?

E: He was working in a bank in Winter Haven known as the Snell National Bank.

P: What brought you to Florida?

E: Well, I had a first cousin in Winter Haven working in another bank. I came down
one summer to visit my brother and cousin, and things looked prosperous
down here during the boom days of the land speculation. The banks were
still operating on the old Boston ledger style of accounting--pen and ink
system. My father's bank had Burrough's bookkeeping and mechanized
accounting in World War I, so I had cut my teeth on that. A lot of the banks
down here where converting. Deposits where growing so fast on them that
they had to do something, so they converted from hand bookkeeping and
accounting to machine. Consequently, I had an opportunity, knowing the
system, to convert the systems in the local banks. The one that I worked in
was owned by a man who had five banks in Polk County. It was very easy
for me to get a job. At the banks you would get a good $150 a month then.

P: At that time, though, you were really a student on summer vacation.

E: Yes, I was nineteen years old.









P: What about your parents? Did they object to you leaving school and coming to
Florida?

E: No, not really. My brother worked in one bank and I worked in another, and we
roomed together at the hotel. I think that was the only time banking
competitors ever were friendly.

P: You stayed friendly, of course, with your brother?

E: Oh, yes. He was older than I was!

P: So he could lay down the law. Now, the boom bubble burst at the end of 1926.

E: Yes.

P: The banks began not wanting to loan any more money out on land speculation,
plus, of course, the hurricane came in September of 1926. But you arrived in
Winter Haven the year before, the middle of 1925?

E: I came to Winter Haven August 1, 1925.

P: Tell me again how you got to be in charge of this bank.

E: Well, the man who was president of the bank at Winter Haven owned five banks,
and they were all on the old Boston ledger system of bookkeeping and
record maintenance. He sent me over to Auburndale to change their
bookkeeping system and accounting to machine bookkeeping. While I was
waiting on the stationery to make the transfer--I had been working in the
bank about six weeks--the vice-president and cashier came up one
afternoon after the bank closed and leaned up on the counter and told me he
was quitting, that he was going to turn his work over to me. He said he could
do better in real estate in one a day than in the banking business in a month.
The president of the bank was not active. He only came around about once
a week, and sometimes not that often. So I found myself in charge of the
bank. I was only nineteen years old at the time.

P: What was the name of that bank?

E: State Bank of Auburndale.

P: How large a bank was it?









E: At that time it had half a million dollars in deposits, which was fairly large for that
size town.

P: That was heavy in citrus in that area, was it not?

E: It was very heavy in citrus.

P: Were most of your depositors the citrus agriculture folks and cattle people in that
area?

E: That group, and retired people.

P: How did people get into Auburndale and Winter Haven? The Tamiami Trail was
not yet constructed, was it?

E: The few paved roads in Florida at that time came down what you call the
backbone of Florida. They came down the middle part of the state through
Lake City, Gainesville, Leesburg, and Polk City to Lakeland or Winter Haven
or whichever, and came on on down to Sebring.

P: That was a paved highway, was it not?

E: It was a two-lane, paved highway. There were no paved roads on the west coast
of Florida at that time, from the Panhandle down.

P: Of course, there was the Dixie Highway on the east coast.

E: Oh, yes.

P: And there was a lot of road building during the Martin administration [John W.
Martin, governor of Florida, 1925-1929].

E: There was the [William James] Conners Highway from the west coast to the east
coast, which was a toll road.

P: Where did that run?

E: I believe that it ran from somewhere around Fort Myers across the Everglades to
Miami. [The road ran from Okeechobee City to West Palm Beach, 1923.
Ed.]

P: How did you get from Elba to Winter Haven?









E: We drove from Elba to Baxley, Georgia, to Waycross, I believe. Then we came
south to Madison, Florida, to Live Oak, to Lake City, to Gainesville, to
Leesburg, and then down into Polk County.

P: How long of a trip would that have been in those days?

E: We did not try to do it all in one day. We really did not leave Elba until it was well
into the day. We spent the night in Madison, Florida, and came down the
next morning. I would say it was about ten hours.

P: You had a paved two-lane road? It was not easy getting into the central part of
the state until after 1925.

E: That is right.

P: That was after [Governor John W.] Martin started building all of the roads through
that area.

E: That is right. I believe he was governor when I came.

P: That is right; he became governor in 1924, and he served until 1928.

E: I believe Governor Martin was the one who bought the toll road from private
ownership for the state.

P: It was during his administration that the Tamiami Trail was constructed all the
way to Miami, so that was a real economic boost to that area of Florida.

E: It opened up that area. I can remember very distinctly when Naples was nothing
except a filling station.

P: And Fort Myers was not very far behind.

E: Oh, no. About the only thing Fort Myers could claim fame to was that Thomas A.
Edison lived there.

P: Of course, Henry Ford and Mr. [Harvey S.] Firestone used to come down and
visit him.

E: And Mr. [Luther] Burbank.

P: That is right. So there were some celebrities coming into south Florida at that
time.










E: Oh, yes.


P: Who were the major developers in the Winter Haven-Bradenton- Auburndale
area in the 1920s when you were there, when you first came?

E: There was a fellow by the name of John Snively from Pennsylvania who did a lot
of developing there. Some of the local people joined him, and others
developed partnerships in various developments. Of course, the big
developer in Tampa was D. P. Davis, who developed Davis Islands. He
disappeared off a ship from Europe, and no one ever heard from him
anymore.

P: Did the Snivelys and the other citrus developers use your bank?

E: No, there were three banks in town, and Snively was connected with what was
then the Snell National Bank. It later became Exchange National Bank, and
today it is NCNB [North Carolina National Bank].

P: You are part of that today.

E: That is the bank that my brother worked in. There is a long history between him
and me: that I wound up with NCNB and he started with NCNB.

P: I guess it was about then that you met your wife.

E: Yes. I was working in the bank at Winter Haven. One day at noon I started out
of the bank to go to lunch, and I was looking back for my cousin, who worked
in the same bank. I bumped into a young lady and knocked her school
books out of her hand, so I picked them and gave them to her. About that
time my cousin showed up, and he knew her, so he introduced us. That was
Thanksgiving week, 1925, so I have special thanks for that time of year.

P: What is your wife's name?

E: She was Helen Lansden. She was from Cookeville, Tennessee, and she and her
family had just moved to Winter Haven. She was born March 4, 1907, so
she was a year younger than I.

P: What brought the Lansden family there?









E: Well, the land boom, you might say, and opportunities for mercantile businesses.
Her father was in the furniture business, which was good business in those
days with all of the homes being built.

P: So when you met your wife, she was still in high school.

E: No, she had finished high school and had gone to Tennessee Tech [Tennessee
Technical University] in Cookeville, her home town, for one year. Then she
went to a business school there in Winter Haven and learned to be a
secretary. She was a secretary in one of the citrus growers associations for
seven years. The citrus growers association at that time was a mutual
operation. The board of directors was, you might say, a who's who in the
citrus business, and it included the largest citrus packing house in the world
at that time.

P: When were you and Helen married?

E: April 11, 1936.

P: Why did it take you so long? If you met her in 1925, why did you wait eleven
years?

E: There were many reasons. For one, the fruit fly that hit Florida in 1929.

P: That would have been the Mediterranean fruit fly.

E: The National Guard was called out, and they examined everybody's automobile
that crossed the state line. They even examined my bag when I got on the
train as I traveled around the state on business. They burned and buried the
citrus crop that year. That broke some banks in the citrus area. The bank I
was working with went belly-up.

I then got a job with a national banking department--a comptroller of
currency--working in the liquidation of banks. I was just a secondary man;
they had professional liquidators that handled the liquidation. One liquidator
would have maybe four of five different banks, but he would have a clerical
force in each bank doing the liquidation.

Then, in 1931, I went to work for the Florida National Bank in Lakeland, which was a
new bank but was one of the so-called Du Pont banks. It was owned
principally by Mr. Alfred I. Du Pont from Delaware, who was living in
Jacksonville at that time. A number of the banks in 1929, in the citrus area
particularly, went under. In fact, ours did. There was no deposit insurance









then, and some of the banks that went under were in good shape, but were
not capable of being liquidated in five or ten days, and that is what broke
them. They could not liquidate their loans and pay off the depositors on
demand. That is about what a run would do. If you could not stop a run,
they would not stop until a bank was completely liquidated.

P: Was there a run on your bank?

E: Yes. Practically all of the banks down here had runs on them then. Even after
they were Du Pont banks they had runs.

P: After the boom bubble burst at the end of 1926, banks began closing all over
Florida in 1927-1928, even before the citrus fruit fly problems.

E: The banks that closed at the end of the land boom were principally in the land
real estate developments like St. Petersburg.

P: And Miami.

E: Lakeland did not have a bank in it. Bartow lost all their banks.

P: That is in 1927-1928?

E: Mostly in 1926-1927. There were two or three years there of no activity, but a
number of banks survived. Then when the [Mediterranean] fruit fly hit the
state in 1929, that finished up some of those that did not fail in 1926. That is
when we began to get new banks in the many towns. You see, Bartow did
not have a bank, Lakeland did not have a bank, St. Petersburg had only one
bank, and it was a very small bank in a suburban area. Sarasota lost all of
their banks. That is when Mr. Du Pont began to organize and set up banks
in these towns. The reason that the banks closed in that area was because
of the destruction of the fruit crop. The citrus folks had nothing to sell. It was
completely destroyed; the crop was either buried or burned. Then in October
1929, the big crash came on Wall Street, and that crippled the retirees down
here who had their money invested in stocks and bonds. Then we had the
bank moratorium in March 1933, and that was nationwide.

P: Actually, Florida began suffering from a depression long before the rest of the
nation.

E: Oh, yes, sir.

P: So times were hard here really by the end of the 1920s.










E: In 1933-1934, 1932 even, the school board was issuing script to the teachers,
and some of the bigger department stores, including Sears Roebuck, would
take script. Sears Roebuck would even take a bale of cotton in Alabama
instead of money. That was in 1932 through 1934; that was the Great
Depression in this country. Florida, you might say, got hit triple.

P: [Doyle E.] Carlton was elected governor in 1928. He called a special session of
the legislature to begin cutting back on state funding, including teachers'
salaries.

E: That is right.

P: There were some serious cutbacks in order to try to get out of this hole.

E: I knew Governor Carlton quite well, because I was made president, chairman of
the board, and cashier of a bank in Hardee County. The bank had had some
problems, and there were some indictments. The people came clear of the
indictments, but I remained there at the request of FDIC [Federal Deposit
Insurance Corporation] for five years. I tried to quit after three years,
because I did not have but ten shares of stock in the bank. I told them that if
I had to make ten dollars to have one dollar, I might as well go to Las Vegas.
I wanted to get back into business for myself, so if I made ten dollars, I
would keep at least seven or eight of it. Then I bought into the Sarasota
bank and joined a fellow in the control of that bank. In the meantime, I had
bought a bank in Alabama, but I did not want to go back to there. I bought
the bank because it was a bargain. It was between Pensacola and Mobile,
which were very active communities in World War II.

P: Now, this is a little bit later. The bank goes under in Auburndale in 1929.

E: Yes.

P: What did you do immediately after that?

E: I went to work in liquidation of banks as an employee of the Comptroller of
Currency.

P: I see. That was a federal job?

E: Yes. That agency was in charge of all national banks.

P: How much were you paid for that?










E: I really do not remember. It was on an hourly basis.


P: How did you get involved with Mr. Du Pont and Mr. [Ed] Ball [Du Pont's
brother-in-law and business associate]? That came about, I think you said,
in 1931.

E: Yes. In 1931 I was not with a bank, but I went with a chain furniture business,
Mather Brothers, out of Atlanta. I did not work for them but about six weeks.
The owner had a bunch of stores all over Florida, Georgia, and one or two in
Alabama and South Carolina. I took a job with them as a traveling auditor.
All of these stores were selling furniture on time contracts, and some of the
salesmen and collectors and managers were knocking down a little money
for themselves as they went along. They would write the customer a receipt,
but they would not put the carbon in. The store did not know about these
collections, and the people working for this chain would put the money in
their pockets.

The owner decided he wanted an examining crew to go from store to store
unannounced and conduct audits to stop all of this shortchanging. I went to
work for him, and my first assignment was Lakeland. When I went into the
Lakeland Bank, which was a Florida National Bank, to pull their statements
so I could audit them. It so happened that the man who was running that
bank was the vice-president/cashier I had known previously when I was in
Winter Haven. He asked me if I wanted to get back into the banking
business, and I said, "I sure do." He said they could not pay me much
money, but I could come and work for them at the bank. He said, "I cannot
pay you but $110 a month." I was getting $175 with Mather brothers, plus all
of my expenses, but I quit and took a job at the bank.

P: You wanted to get back into the bank.

E: Being in the bank, I got acquainted with Mr. Ball, who was a brother-in-law to Mr.
Du Pont, and also Mrs. Du Pont. Mr. Du Pont was stone deaf. He carried a
little booklet in his pocket with a little pencil about that long; he did not have
much to say because he was deaf. I did not see him very much, but Mr. Ball
was very active in those days.

P: Mr. Du Pont, of course, brought his fortune to Florida, and he began buying up
the banks that were going under after 1926.

E: He first bought into the Florida National Bank of Jacksonville, and he extended
his investment in that until he had control. Then, when these towns became









bankless, he began to organize and put banks in these towns: St.
Petersburg, Bartow, Lakeland, Orlando, Daytona Beach, Gainesville, and
Ocala. He bought a bank in Ocala. Then he put banks in Miami and West
Palm Beach. At that time his group of banks was the largest group in the
state, and really had the best franchises in the state.

P: Was Mr. Ball the major power, the major stimulus in that banking operation?

E: You can underscore that. He had an iron grip on all of it.

P: Now, he and Mr. Du Pont, of course, were brothers-in-law, because Mr. Du Pont
was married to Ed Ball's sister.

E: That is right, and it was Mr. Du Pont's third marriage.

P: They lived in Epping Forest in Jacksonville.

E: Right.

P: You say you did meet Mr. Du Pont. What kind of a person was he? He did have
that hearing problem.

E: As I say, he did not do much talking. He was a very astute man, as you might
suppose. He did a lot of traveling. He kind of left everything up to Mr. Ball,
and Mr. Ball was on top of everything. That is Mr. Ball's portrait out there;
you probably recognized it.

P: I saw it. Tell me about Ed Ball. He became almost a myth and a legend in his
time in Florida.

E: Very few people knew Mr. Ball, and even those who knew him I do not think had
a full appreciation of his personality. Of course, he had quite a reputation. In
fact, Fortune magazine wrote an article, "The Terrible Temper of Mr. Ball,"
but I found him to be one of the warmest-hearted fellows I ever knew in my
life. He and I became very fast friends. I spent a lot of time with him
because I could reminisce with him 'way back into the 1920s.

P: Where did Ball come from?

E: Virginia. Ball's Point, Virginia. In fact, Mr. Du Pont used to hunt at Mr. Ball's
father's place back when Ed Ball's sister was a girl thirteen or fourteen years
old, when he first met her.









P: Jessie Ball. So the Ball family was an affluent, distinguished family?

E: Mr. Ball would not tell you so, but it is the same family as Martha Ball
Washington, and his father was attorney general.

P: So they did not have Mr. Du Pont's money, but they did have a lot backing in
terms of family prestige.

E: Oh, yes, they were a well-established family. When Mr. Du Pont died--he died
April 29, 1935, I believe--I received a copy of his will. I also have a copy of
Mr. Ball's will and a copy of Mrs. Du Pont's will. I do not know whether you
knew it or not, but all of the Du Pont estate is in our bank.

P: I knew that yours was the trust for it.

E: They were put in the Ellis banks to start with, and we were the corporate trustee.
Then when we merged with NCNB, within a month or so, they named NCNB
of Florida.

P: What brought you and Ed Ball together?

E: It is hard to say. I met him when I was working in the bank, and my job in
Lakeland was preparing the end-of-the-day financial statements. I sent him
a statement and his department a statement, and we kept one in the bank, of
course. There was correspondence back and forth in regard to the
statement about one thing or another.

After I met him, I did not try to cultivate him. In all due respect, I think he cultivated
me. At least I like to feel that way. To tell you how humble that man
was--and you well know that big men are humble; that is what makes them
big men--I had been to his home many times, in his Wakulla Springs lodge. I
was with him in Jacksonville in his apartment. If I had a bag (he called it a
grip), he would grab it and carry it for me; he would not let me carry it. I had
to go from his place to the airport in Tallahassee, and he would waive his
driver aside and take me himself. Even after he had four heart attacks, he
would still drive seventy-five/eighty miles an hour! Some people did not like
to ride with him, but I enjoyed it.

P: Do you think he cultivated that image of being flinthearted?

E: I think he enjoyed it. I do know that litigation was just like a game of chess with
him, and I do not think he was ever happy unless he was in court with
somebody.










P: We have an interview with him in our archives. He talked a little bit about his
early life, his political activities, and things like that.

E: Oh, yes, he sure did. He had a picture of the school house he went to the fourth
grade in, and he showed it to me two or three times. The last time he
showed it to me, I said, "Mr. Ball, I think you are fibbing. I see electrical wires
going into this school house, and there was no electricity when you went to
school." He said, "I'll be dogged! I never noticed that before."

P: Were you always on a Mr. Ellis/Mr. Ball relationship with him?

E: Absolutely.

P: You never called him by his first name?

E: He was a perfect gentleman. When he walked in an elevator, if there was a lady
in the elevator or one got on the elevator he always took his hat off.

P: Although you knew him and visited back and forth for thirty or forty years, you
never got on a first-name basis?

E: Never. There was quite a bit of difference in our ages. I spent many weekends
with him in his home in Tallahassee, and I would tell him I was sleepy and
wanted to go to bed. He would always go upstairs with me and turn my
cover down on my bed and check the bathroom to see that towels and other
necessities were there.

P: Did you ever meet his wife?

E: If I did I do not remember.

P: They were not married very long.

E: No. They had an apartment in Jacksonville. But when she left him, she skipped
out of that apartment with everything, even the dirty linen.

P: He later had an apartment in the old Robert Myer Hotel [in Jacksonville].

E: Well, he first had an apartment in the Roosevelt Hotel [on Adams Street]. They
tore it down, so he moved to the eighteenth floor of the Robert Myer.

P: That was only a couple of blocks away.










E: And only about a couple of rooms.


P: He was not a man who lived luxuriously at all, was he?

E: No, he was very frugal. He had a lot of wit about him, but people did not know
that. I know we were riding to his home in Jacksonville when he had come to
the airport to get me. He was not driving then; he was sitting in the back seat
with me. We were on the private road going out to his place. He told me,
"Mr. Ellis, I do not believe in integration. That is why I keep my Black Angus
cattle on this side of the road and my white-faced Herefords on this side."
[laughter]

P: No integration for him! I do not think he ever supported integration in his lifetime.

E: He had a lot of wit about it.

P: He was a politically astute man.

E: Very much so.

P: He knew where the power lay, and he also recognized his own power position in
Florida.

E: He had a wide circle of contacts and friends.

P: Both within the state and nationally.

E: I will tell you this from my own observation: he would do almost anything for you
if he liked you; but if he did not like you, God help you.

P: I know Mr. Pepper [Claude Pepper, United States Senator and Representative]
found that out.

E: Oh, yes! [laughter]

P: Pepper still talks about that; he has just done that autobiography that he
published last year.

E: Do you know why Mr. Ball fell out with Mr. Pepper?

P: What was the reason for that?









E: Mr. Ball had bought up a lot of these defaulted bonds on the Florida East Coast
Railway; they were bankrupt. It had been seventeen years all total, I think,
and he was trying to reorganize the Florida East Coast. Of course, almost
any scheme he would have followed to reorganize he would have wound up
in control. Well, the Atlantic Coastline Railroad did not have an entree in
Miami, and they wanted very much to take over the Florida East Coast.
They got into a fight, and the Atlantic Coastline retained Mr. Pepper and paid
him a $100,000 retainer. Of course, that put Mr. Pepper and Mr. Ball on
opposite sides in a fight to the finish. That is the real reason he did not have
any use for Claude Pepper.

I might tell you this: I have a two-page letter from Claude Pepper in my desk over
there which I just got a week ago. Claude was from Camp Hill, Alabama.
When he went to the University of Alabama he roomed with a cousin of mine
from Elba. Claude was then shoveling coal and studying at night, studying
by dust-covered light. My cousin was in charge of the dining room of the
college, so he gave Claude a job in the dining area. Of course, that was
clean and nice and short hours. Claude told me numbers of times, and he
put it in his letter, that if he had been named Chief Justice of the [United
States] Supreme Court or as Ambassador to the Court of St. James, he
would not have appreciated it any more. On top of that, Claude married a
girl from my hometown.

P: Mildred.

E: Mildred Webster. They married, and her family moved to Winter Haven the same
time I left for Winter Haven. I was, of course, intimately acquainted with all of
the Webster family. Tom Webster, her daddy, died in an automobile wreck
down near the coast of St. Petersburg one early morning. Actually, he was
driving a citrus truck. We used to have wiener roasts and cookouts in Winter
Haven, and Mildred had one of these little portable talking machines you
wound with a crank. She used to play this record "Yearning just for you, that
is all I do." I told Claude about that, and he said, "Yes, I have been yearning
for her ever since she has been gone."
Claude and I are good friends today. He called me one day years ago and wanted
Helen and me to join him and Mildred on a trip to the Holy Land. It was in
January, and I had fifteen banks then. I did not have the holding company
nor the organization that I later had, so January was a busy month, and I
could not go. [Sargent] Shriver, who was [President John F.] Kennedy's
brother-in-law, was in Paris. Claude told me that we could go from New York
to Paris and that Ambassador Shriver would entertain us in the embassy
there. Then we could go on to Athens, and we would be entertained there
by the American ambassador. Then we could go on to Israel and get









entertained by this one-eyed general, Moshe Dayan. The Seven-Day War
had just finished, and Dayan was going to take us by helicopter over the
battlefields and so forth. We were going to go on to Jerusalem, and the
mayor of Jerusalem was going to entertain us. You see, Claude represents
an area of Florida where there are a lot of Jewish people.

P: South Florida. He had a lot of entrees.

E: Yes, and that strengthened him in his district considerably.

P: Do you think Ed Ball put money into that 1950 campaign against Claude Pepper?
Was he supporting [George] Smathers?

E: I have no proof, but I am quite sure that he did.

P: George Smathers says not, but he may have a weak memory.

E: Mr. Ball had a finger in a lot of things.

P: He liked George Smathers.

E: I know. Well, his brother Frank Smathers and I used to lock horns, because I
was president of the Florida Bankers Association, and a poll of the Florida
banks was almost fifty/fifty for branch banking and against branch banking. I
represented both factions as president. Frank Smathers was impatient, and
he just felt like I ought to take the lead and create branch banking, as if I had
that power. I did not have it, but I would not have done it anyway because I
had these other people who were independent bankers. He and I clashed a
few times. I liked Frank, and I think he liked me, but he probably liked me
more because I would not give in.

P: Mr. Ellis, was it because of your friendship with Ed Ball that you became the
trustee for Du Pont?

E: I would say yes, and I would also say Jake Belin had a lot to do with that.

P: Who was Jake Belin?

E: Jake Belin was the heir apparent, you might say. He is from Andalusia,
Alabama.

P: What is his connection to the Du Ponts?









E: He is just about everything. He is chairman of the board of St. Joseph Paper
Company and head of another corporation that is owned by the St. Joe
Paper Company.

P: Was he a relative?

E: No. Do not forget, though, that Winn Thornton was president of the Florida East
Coast, and also Thomas Coldeway, who is a retired vice president of St. Joe
Paper Company. He has been retired for a long time, but he is one of the
trustees.

P: Where does Mr. Belin live now?

E: He spends most of his time in Port St. Joe, but he has an office in Jacksonville.
In fact, the executive office for St. Joe Paper Company is in Jacksonville.

P: Is Mr. Belin still living?

E: Oh, yes, he is very active. He is a very strong man, too. He is a
dyed-in-the-wool Southern Baptist of strong convictions, and I have the most
admiration in the world for him. We think alike.

P: So you are in close contact with him, then, if you are involved in this way with the
Ball and Du Pont properties.

E: Yes, I get a report on the relationships. I was supposed to represent the bank as
a corporate trustee. I was so busy until I appointed Tully Dunlap, who still
represents NCNB. Dunlap has retired. He is past seventy, but we kept him
on the board of directors of NCNB solely because of his representation of the
Du Pont estate. Mr. Dunlap and I have been very close friends for thirty-five
or more years. He was born right close to Elba, but he went to Miami when
he was eight years old. He was president of three Miami banks, became
chairman of the Sun Banks, and went back to Miami and became chairman
of the board with Florida National Bank of Miami. I got him to come to
Sarasota as chairman of the board of my Sarasota bank, and also made him
chairman of the board of Ellis National Bank of Jacksonville and Fort Myers.
I bought the Jacksonville bank at the instigation of Mr. Ball and Mr. Belin.
They wanted me to have a bank in Jacksonville for custodial purposes, as a
matter of convenience. Ellis National Bank and Trust Company of Sarasota
was first appointed as the corporate trustee.

P: What was the name of your bank in Jacksonville?









E: It was originally the Jacksonville National Bank. It was organized by Mr. Ball, and
it later became a part of the Charter Company of Raymond Mason. Mr. Ball
wanted me to buy it so that I would have a bank in Jacksonville. Mr. Belin
insisted, too, that I buy it, so I bought it.

P: Where was the bank in Jacksonville?

E: It was in the building that was formerly occupied by the Florida National Bank
right across the street from Barnett. The bank had the whole block front.
There was a ten-story building and an eleven-story building; the ten-story
building was the bank building.

P: Do you still have that bank?

E: No.

P: It is part of the NCNB operation?

E: I bought it without putting up a penny.

P: That is good to be able to buy a bank without having to put up any of your own
money into it.

E: I bought the bank at Jay without putting up a penny.

P: You have the secret formula, Mr. Ellis.

E: Mr. Ball used to lend me money at 2 percent when the government was paying
four. I was working with the Florida National in Lakeland when Helen and I
were married in April 1936. Within a year, I was made chairman of the
board/president and cashier at Wauchula State Bank. At that time the
Wauchula bank had better than a million dollars in deposits, and the First of
Tampa was $12 million. That was in 1936 or 1937. I stayed there for five
years. Then I bought joint ownership in the Sarasota State Bank, which later
became Ellis Bank & Trust Company. I organized fifteen banks in Florida,
and I bought seventeen, which formed the nucleus of the foundation of Ellis
Banking Corporation.

P: Were you doing all of this with Du Pont money?

E: Well, the Florida National in Jacksonville loaned me a lot of money from time to
time from back in the early 1940s.









P: But what about in the 1930s?


E: The 1930s was a rough time in the banking business. I went to Wauchula in
1936, I believe it was. I went from the Florida National to Wauchula. I went
with Florida National in 1931, so I was with Florida National in Lakeland from
1931 to 1936. Then I went to this bank in Wauchula in 1936. I was made
head of the bank. For five years I stayed there. I left in 1943 for the
Sarasota bank.

P: Your rise in banking in the 1930s was really phenomenal. You started in 1931
working for Mr. Du Pont, right?

E: That is right.

P: Within just a half dozen years you were in control of several banks.

E: Well, it did not take much money back in those days to buy a bank.

P: I am sure, though, that it took a lot of brain power.

E: Well, I will tell you. As my son-in-law always said, my credit was too good, and,
as you know, the theory of banking is operating on somebody else's money.
I used that theory.

P: You were also in the right place at the right time.

E: That is absolutely right.

P: These were hard times for Florida and hard times for the country.

E: In 1943, Mr. Ball told me, "Mr. Ellis, I will never put a bank in competition with
you," and he never did. He offered me, not less than fifteen times, to be
chairman of the board and chief executive of all the Florida National banks.
He also urged me, when I had fifteen banks individually, that we get together
and merge. There is one more thing you can add for the record.
Fortunately, I had a lot of good, influential friends. When I ran for
directorship of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, Mr. Ray Gidney was in
Jacksonville then, and he was a good friend of Mr. Ball's. He was formerly
Comptroller of Currency, which, as you know, supervises all of the national
banks in the country. Mr. Gidney used to be president of the Federal
Reserve Bank of Cleveland before he became comptroller in Washington.
He came to Jacksonville, and Mr. Ball made him chairman of the board of
Florida National Bank in Jacksonville and paid him a salary. He was almost









as old as Mr. Ball, if not as old. When I decided to run for the Federal
Reserve directorship in Atlanta, Mr. Gidney just appointed himself my
campaign manager. He did not have anything else to do, so he got on the
telephone and commenced calling bankers in Louisiana, Tennessee,
Alabama, and Georgia. I beat Bert Lance. He was the official nominee, and
they told me that was the first time that had ever happened, that an outsider
beat the official nominee.

P: You had a good campaign manager.

E: Yes, I sure did. I did not do it, he did it. You see, fifty-six banks nominated me
with letters and a little help from the right source. I had gotten on the Federal
Reserve Board branch in Jacksonville and served three years. But, as you
know, the directors of the branch banks--Nashville, New Orleans,
Birmingham, Jacksonville, Miami--are appointed by the parent branch in
Atlanta. You have to be elected to the parent bank, or get appointed by the
Board of Governors in Washington. I was pushing sixty-five, but I had a first
cousin who was on that board, and I also knew Monroe Kimball, president of
the bank. Monroe used to be president of the American Bankers
Association, and I had Monroe as one of my personal speakers at my
convention when he was president.

P: You say this is Kimball?

E: Monroe Kimball, yes. In fact, Monroe asked me to take his son in my bank when
he came out of school. He counseled with him, and he said he could place
him in any bank he wanted to, but he said, "I think he has a better chance
with you, and I would appreciate it if you would take him." I made him
president of our Fort Myers bank. He was only twenty-eight years old, but I
did not hire him because of his daddy. In fact, the man who was chairman of
that bank and the Sarasota bank, Charlie Bailey, called me one day and
asked if I thought he would be crazy if he made Danny Kimball president of
the Fort Myers bank. I asked how old Danny was, and he said twenty-eight.
I said, "It seems to me that he is rather immature to be president of that sort
of a bank." He said, "He is running the bank now as vice president; the
president is not running the bank." I said, "I tell you what to do. You call his
daddy at the Federal Reserve Bank in Atlanta and ask him what he thinks
about it," and he did. Of course, Monroe naturally saw an opportunity for
him, and he supported it. Consequently--I do not mean to be bragging--I had
a very close relationship with the Federal Reserve Bank. A cousin of mine
was vice-president of the Atlantic Coastline Railroad. I got George W.
Jenkins, head of the Publix chain, as a director, and George is on the NCNB
National Bank of Forida's board of directors. He has been a good friend of









mine for many years, ever since we were teenagers. As time went on I got
my president of the Ellis Banking Corporation on the board at Jacksonville,
and I got a couple who had been with me. I got the head of the Pasco
County branch on the board at Jacksonville. Because Jim Richardson of
Ocala was president of the Florida Bankers Association, they passed a
resolution endorsing me when I was running. I got him on the board as sort
of a left-handed compliment or favor for what he had done for me. I would
say friendships have had more to do with what little success I have had than
anything I did myself.

P: Did you ever go hunting with Ed Ball?

E: No, but he tried to convince me to time and time again. He wanted me to go
duck hunting with him in Louisiana. They have a quail shoot over there in
south Alabama, north of Pensacola, and he wanted me to do that. Another
time he wanted me to go out to Gulfport--he owned the Edgewater Hotel in
Gulfport--and I had a first cousin who had organized and was president of a
bank in Gulfport.

In fact, a cousin of mine served six years on the Federal Reserve board in Atlanta.
This fellow, Lee, had his own private railroad car; he was operating head of
the [Atlantic] Coastline. I got him on that board. When I went on there were
nine directors. I told them that we had better have a quorum here every
time; if we do not, we are going to move the bank. It was a lot fun, anyway.

P: Was Mr. Ball a philanthropic man?

E: Very much so. Very much so.

P: But kind of a hidden philanthropist.

E: He and I attended a bank meeting in Orlando when Clarence Gay was
comptroller of Florida. He asked me to come over to the Florida bank with
him. So we went over and borrowed an office just to chat. I said, "Mr. Ball, I
am very fortunate to know you for the kind of man you are. Some people
have an adverse opinion of you. Why do you not get yourself a public
relations man? You do a lot of things that I know about, but the public never
hears about them." He handed me some mimeographed pages, stapled and
bound, at least that thick.

P: About an inch thick.









E: He said, "Mr. Ellis, this is a list of charities we gave money to last year." I said,
"Yes, but nobody knows anything about it." He said that was exactly the way
he wanted it. You would be amazed at the number of people and causes he
gave money to. He just did not want any publicity about it.

P: His goodness certainly did not survive him, because nobody knows that, and his
record in history is lost as a result.

E: Well, I told you that if he liked you he would do anything for you. One Sunday
evening at his home Chauncey Lever was there--he was president of Florida
National. He is a South Carolina man; he is in South Carolina now. Mr. Ball
asked me that Sunday afternoon if I had any charters lately, and I said that I
had three. He asked how much capital I had to put up, and I answered $3.5
million. He just turned to the left and said, "Chauncey, put it on his account
in the morning." That is the way he did business.

Another time, one Sunday evening, we were talking at Wakulla Lodge in his
wing--he had a whole second floor wing in that place. I heard him talking in
the night one time, and the next morning he just came to me and handed his
key to me and said, "This is the key to my cellar. Make yourself at home.
Stay as long as you like, but I have got to leave."

One Sunday evening we were talking there, and he asked if I had bought any banks
lately. I said, "Yes, we bought one in Pinellas Park." He asked, "What did
you have to pay for it?" I told him it was six million, 300 some-odd thousand
dollars cash, but we had to promise the Federal Reserve that we would sell
$6.5 million worth of equity capital within six months to offset it. We never
did have to do that; they never insisted, and we never did it.

Monday morning he got back to Jacksonville and called me. He said, "Mr. Ellis, I
have been thinking about that. Why do you want to pay an underwriting
fee--printing, application, SEC [Securities Exchange Commission], and all
the lawyers and CPAs and all that? I will loan you the money, and you can
buy it for yourself personally." I said, "Mr. Ball, I do not want to owe Florida
National in Jacksonville any more money than I do." He said, "I will loan it
out of the estate." With that kind of support you cannot lose.

P: You cannot lose with those kinds of friends.

P: Mr. Ellis, I would like to get more of your personal history on the record. You told
me that you were married April 11, 1936, in winter Haven. So you celebrated
your fiftieth wedding anniversary about three years ago.









E: We got married again on the fiftieth. We had a reception and the whole
business.

P: Is Mrs. Ellis living?

E: Yes, but she has been incapacitated for almost three years. We have two live-in
nurses around the clock. She has gone deaf; consequently, she does not
converse or carry on any conversation. But she will answer a question. In
February 1987, she suffered a major stroke that left her paralyzed. She has
Parkinson's disease, and has had it for a long time, and all the complications
that go with it.

P: So it has been a burden to you, then.

E: Thank God, she has never been in any pain. She has been conscious all the
while. Right at this time, and for the last couple of months, she has been on
life-sustaining equipment. She does not take anything by mouth, not even
water.

P: Do you have children?

E: Yes, I have a daughter.

P: What is her name?

E: Carol Martin.

P: Carol Ellis Martin.

E: She lives on the same bayou with me. She is in our home every day. She has
three daughters. She is married to a Martin, so she is Carol E. Martin.

E: I have been the director of the Children's Home Society of Florida for fifty years. I
am a member of the executive advisory committee, and she is too. Mrs. Ben
Hill Griffin of Frostproof, Florida, is chairman. Mrs. A. D. Davis is a member.
Mrs. Jim Berry of Winter Haven is a member. I got NCNB to give the
Children's Home half a million dollars.

P: It is a worthy cause.

E: After that, I added $500,000 to it to make it a $1 million perpetual gift, and they
were nice enough to name the headquarters in Jacksonville for me.









P: Who is your daughter's husband, your son-in-law?

E: Paul W. Martin.

P: Is he in business with you?

E: No, he has a business of his own up on Main Street.

P: Who are your grandchildren?

E: The oldest one is named Christine Lee Gagonon, and her husband is with Publix,
and has been for seven years. Three months ago she gave birth to my
great-grandson. That is the only boy in the family. My next grandchild is
named Lynn Ann Durham, and her husband wants to be a stock broker.
They got married last Christmas, about a week before Christmas. They had
a big wedding. He quit school and got a job with a brokerage firm up in New
Port Richey. He had finished three years at the University of Miami as an
honor student. After I got better acquainted with him I talked to him and said,
"Chuck, it is a pity you quit school to go to work just because you got
married. You do not have to do that. With the scholastic record you have
you ought to go ahead and get your bachelor's degree. And do not stop
there; go ahead and get a master's degree, because everybody has a
bachelor's degree. Otherwise, you are going to be a clerk and work for the
other man all your life." So I talked him into it. As an allowance I give each
of my granddaughters $20,000 a year. Now I give each of my grandsons
$20,000 a year. They all have the stock in NCNB I gave them, and they get
their dividends. So I said, "I would rather see you go back to school and
finish."

Well, it happens that I am a trustee of the University of Tampa, and also Florida
Southern College in Lakeland, Florida. I was also a lifetime member of the
President's Council of the University of South Florida. That has nothing to do
with what we were talking about; I just mention that because I believe in
education. I do not have a degree, but I could not get a job with NCNB today
if I answered their application truthfully. I got Chuck to apply at the University
of Tampa. He is going to get his bachelor's degree in June, then he is going
to Harvard for his master's, he hopes. When he applied to the University of
Tampa, they looked at his scholastic record, and they gave him a scholarship
and handed him a check for $3,000 before he ever attended class.

P: Then you have a third grandchild?









E: The third grandchild is twenty, and her husband is in the military service. They
are stationed at Fort Stewart outside of Hinesville, Georgia, down from
Savannah. His folks live in Atlanta. His father is in the automobile business.
Of course, I did a little inquiry, through my friends in the Atlanta bank, and
they are a very fine family. As I say, my grandson is in the service.

P: I am just sorry that you never let one of them become a Gator!

E: I did not control that. I let them do what they wanted to; they are going to do that
anyway. You might as well stay on friendly terms.

P: So you are close to your daughter, then.

E: Very much so.

P: She lives near you, you say?

E: Yes, she lives on the same bayou I live on. She has to pass my house to go to
town. My oldest granddaughter is getting ready to move in a home that was
formerly my daughter's home. The next one is living in Brandon; they rented
an apartment in Brandon when he applied to the University of Tampa. I said
I did not want him driving from Brandon to the university through east
Tampa, so I suggested they get an apartment on Davis Islands. They could
not find what they wanted, so they moved into a new apartment house in
Brandon. He says that he gets on the cross-town expressway and goes right
straight to Hyde Park, which is right in front of the school.

P: You said another very good friend of yours and associate was Mr. George
Jenkins of Publix. How did that come about?

E: Mr. Jenkins came to Winter Haven in 1925 when he was eighteen.

P: The same year that you came, and he is one year younger than you.

E: Yes. I am actually one year and from February to September older than he is.
He was a bachelor when he came down, and so was I.

P: Where did he come from?

E: He came from Atlanta, Georgia. He was born in a small town in Georgia not far
from Atlanta; I do not recall the name of the town right now. It is not a very
big place. He was a manager of a Piggly Wiggly when he was eighteen. He
had been raised in a general store before his daddy died. He went in with









two of his associates in Piggly Wiggly. One of them was Nick Ellison, who
was head of the produce department, and the other fellow, Chance, I believe,
was head of the meat department. George was manager. They went right
next door to the Piggly Wiggly store and rented an empty store building that
a hardware store had been in, and they opened the first Publix store in 1930.


There was a chain of theaters in Florida known as the Paramount-Publix chain, and
the anti-trust justice department broke them up. They said they could not
produce movies and show them too, and control the whole works. When the
name was given up, George had a contest for a name. He gave twenty-five
dollars, I recall, as a prize. Some lady suggested the name Publix, and he
adopted it.

George and I used to go with the same girl, and we used to do a little running
around together. He went along and progressed in life. I took some stock in
two or three of his operations, and he joined me in the organization of a bank
between Bradenton and Sarasota. I sold him a bank in Largo because he
had built his first shopping center there, and he wanted a bank in the
shopping center. The bank was about a year old, and we were paying only
about seventy-five dollars rent for the former bank building there in Largo that
was owned by a Masonic lodge. The Masons used the top floor for lodge
meetings. The fixtures and the vaults were already in there.

He wanted me to move the bank, but he asked me to join with him in building this
shopping center, apparently because he wanted a bank in there. I told him I
could not do that because the directors in the bank there owned the buildings
that their businesses are in. Also, he was building that shopping center in an
orange grove. Of course, it is right in the middle of town, now. I did not want
to make all of those people mad. Later, I told him the bank was new and
was not able to pay a lot of rent. He said, "Tell me how much rent you will
pay and we will tie the rent to the deposits." I said, "George, if you want the
bank in a shopping center, I will sell you the bank and you put it in there." He
asked me how much I wanted for it, and I said, "Give me $15,000 for all my
troubles in establishing it, plus my stock." So that is what he did. Then he
brought his brother down here from Atlanta, who was with the Coca-Cola
Company, as in-house counsel. He made his brother president of it, and his
brother finally owned it.

P: Are you on the board of Publix?

E: No.









P: You had investments in Publix?

E: That is a private company. I doubt if he ever has a board meeting. He showed
me his board room one time, but it was loaded with golf trophies. I think he
has a board meeting any time he sits down.

P: Do you have any investments in Publix?

E: Yes, I have about $2.5 million worth of stock; it cost me $22,000. I have had it
about thirty-five years.

P: It does not sound to me like you are going to get rid of it anytime soon.

E: No, I doubt it. My grandson is an employee, and he just bought some stock the
other day. You see, it is a private company. He sells stock to his key men,
but not outside the Publix family. At one time I was the only stockholder
outside the Publix family, so I was told.

P: What kind of a man is Mr. Jenkins?

E: He is one of the finest people I have ever known, and I will say that for his two
brothers, also, one of whom is dead. I would say George [Jenkins] is very
benevolent; he is very generous. He has particularly assisted the Boy
Scouts. He has had all kinds of honors from the Boy Scouts of America. He
told me once that his three sons all were scouts, and when they took their
oath, instead of saying "for the republic, for which it stands" they would
always say "for the Publix, for which it stands."

P: That is loyalty and dedication!

E: Yes! He has two daughters and three sons, and an adopted daughter. The
reason he has an adopted daughter is his first wife had a daughter when he
married her, but he lost his first wife. This daughter lives in Texas because
his first wife was from Texas. He has a daughter living in Florence, Italy, who
is married to an Italian boy.

P: I want to get an interview with Mr. Jenkins for this series of Florida Business
Leaders.

E: You would find it very, very interesting.

P: I understand he is a fascinating man, very warm and considerate.









E: He takes care of his employees, and he shares his business with them. I once
picked up a book in the airport in Charlotte [NC] to have something to read.
It listed the 100 best companies in America to work for, and Publix was one
of them. Mr. Jenkins has never had any union or any threat of a union.
When he adopted his profit sharing plan, he told me that the Internal
Revenue Service almost did not approve it because it was so generous.

P: Is he still associated with you in business?

E: The only business connection we have, outside of the stock my wife and I have,
is the board of directors of NCNB National Bank of Florida, which is over a
$10 billion bank. I happen to be senior chairman of the board.

P: Tell me about another friend of yours, J. Neil Greening.

E: Oh, yes. The only time in my life I got fired he fired me, and when he died he
was on my payroll.

P: That is a switch. Who was Mr. Greening?

E: Mr. Greening was a native of Kentucky and lived in Oklahoma for a long time.
He came to Florida late in 1929 and went to work in a bank in Tampa. Then
he went to Jacksonville as vice president of the Barnett bank. He switched
from the Barnett bank to Florida National in 1931-1932. Later he came to be
a key man in the Florida National group. He was president of Florida
National in Orlando, Bartow, and Lakeland--all at one time. He was a key
man and handled some purchase of land and other things for the Du Pont
organization. He did a lot of traveling in the interest of the Jacksonville bank,
calling on correspondents in Georgia and Florida and so forth. He was a
very able and professional banker. He never owned a bank or anything of
that nature. He came to Lakeland, as I said, in 1932. I was already there,
and we became close friends. He married a Lee from Dothan, Alabama.

P: Is she related to your family?

E: Perhaps if we go far enough back, but we have never done it. My grandfather
and her forefathers used to hunt deer together. There was a close
relationship there. I have no doubt that there is a family connection, if you go
back far enough. She was queen of Gasparilla one year, and her niece was
queen, her brother was king, her brother-in-law was king.

P: This is Mr. Greening's wife?









E: Yes. She is living; she must be ninety years of age. She has a condominium on
Bayshore in Tampa.

P: Is Mr. Greening dead?

E: Yes, he died in 1960. He was nine years older than me. When I bought this
bank, I put him on the board. At that time Mrs. Greening's people formed the
cirtus packing house in Dade City. It is now Lykes Pasco Packing Company,
but they were all citrus people.

P: What was it then? Do you remember the name before the Lykes's took it over?

E: It was Pasco Packing Association. All Lykes did was put Lykes in front of it and
call it Lykes Packing Company.

P: You said Mr. Greening fired you. I want to hear that story.

E: Well, in 1933, as you know, I was with the Florida National in Lakeland. This was
right after the moratorium.

P: This is after Roosevelt became president and the banks were closed.

E: Yes. Greening came to Florida National from Barnett; he had been
vice-president of Barnett in Jacksonville. He switched to Florida National,
and they had him in Lakeland as president of that Florida National Bank.
After the moratorium in 1933, we had to do a lot of belt tightening. He let
quite a few people off; he laid them off. The bank was overstaffed, anyway.
It got to the point where either me or a fellow by the name of Glen Freer
would be let go. Now, Glen Freer was married and had five children, and
nothing but a salary. I had saved my money and made investments. Neil
knew that, so he told me, "Frankly, it is either you or Glen Freer, and I cannot
afford to let him go, so I will have to let you go." I said, "Neil, do not make
any apologies about it. I am keeping the general ledger, and I know it." He
did promise me that I would not suffer for it. This was in March 1933. I went
back to Alabama to organize a bank up there in my home town.

P: So you were not afraid of where your next meal was coming from.

E: No. He knew my father and mother, and he inquired enough to know that I would
not suffer. I was still single, too. After I went back to Alabama, I heard
through the grapevine--I still had friends in banks down here--that there was
going to be an opening in the American National Bank in Winter Haven. That
just suited me fine, because Helen was living in Winter Haven. I made









application for this job at American National in Winter Haven. A fellow
named Hancock was president of that bank; he owned control of it. So I
gave Neil as a reference, along with one or two others. Hancock called Neil
and asked him about me, and Neil told him, "Hell, you do not want him. He
is not worth a damn. I had to fire him myself." "But," he said, "there was a
fellow in the bank who lives just outside of Winter Haven who was a pretty
good man, and we are overstaffed, anyway." So Hancock hired Charlie
Weber; Charlie left Florida National and went with American National in
Winter Haven. Then Neil called me in Alabama and said, "Forget about
Alabama. Come back here."

P: So that is why he was so negative; he was saving you for his own operations.

E: When I bought the First National of Bradenton back in 1952, Neil was president
of the Bank of Hollywood in Hollywood, Florida. Neil had citrus groves
around Dade City, and his wife did, also. He liked the west coast, and we
were friends, so I called him and asked him to come over because I wanted
to talk to him. I told him I was going to buy the bank, and I wanted him to be
president of it.

P: Where was he from?

E: Kentucky, originally. He came to Florida in 1929.

P: A little bit after you and Jenkins had come here. So you and he remained good
friends, then, for a long time, until his death.

E: Oh, yes, we were friends until he died.

P: I meant to ask you earlier just in passing if you have ever heard of the Citizen's
Bank in Jacksonville that went under in the 1920s? It is on Broad Street
near Bay Street.

E: There is a Citizen's Bank in Tampa that went under in 1929.

P: This one closed about 1926 or 1927, I think.

E: I have never heard of it. I never knew there was a Citizen's Bank downtown.
Now, there was another bank across the street from the old Robert Myer
Hotel, and it changed hands a dozen times. It had problems.

P: This was a little bit west of that.









E: The one I am talking about had two or three different names in the course of
time. It is still there.

P: Who else was instrumental in working with you, others like Ed Ball and Neil
Greening and George Jenkins? When did you and Ben Hill Griffin, for
instance, become associated?

E: Well, when I became president of the Wauchula State Bank in the late 1930s, I
loaned Ben Hill Griffin money. He was buying ranch land, with phosphate
under it for that matter, for $1.25 an acre. He was buying citrus groves for
$400 to $500 an acre, and every time the examiners came through there
they told me that he owed every bank they had examined. I said, "He is
either going to be the richest or the poorest man in the state."

P: He turned out not to be the poorest.

E: He sure is not poor. He was chairman of the board of my Avon Park bank, and
he was on the Ellis Banking Corporations board.

P: If there is ever any truism to what you were saying before about a man, a real
person not changing his way of life, it is Ben Hill Griffin.

E: Yes, that is so. I bought his bank. He had two or three banks at one time or
another, but he never was active in them. When I bought his bank in Avon
Park, he was chairman of the board, and he asked what he was going to do
now that I had bought the bank. I said, 'You just stay right on and keep your
office." He asked what I wanted him to do, and I said, "Run the bank any
way you want to, Ben Hill." And he did.

P: Mr. Ellis, would you consider yourself to be a conservative banker, a conservative
business man?

E: I have been accused of that, and I do not deny it. I will tell you something (and I
have an auditor's certified statement to prove it): from 1938 to 1968 I either
made or approved 90 percent of the loans made by banks that I was
connected with. My net loss for thirty years was 87-hundred and some-odd
dollars; and I did loan money. In fact, when I came to this bank, it was a $4
million bank. I would say that within five years this bank had $9 million in
deposits and $11 million in loans. I was connected at that time with a bank in
New Port Richey that I had organized, I had bought the Bradenton First
National Bank, and I was still co-owner of the Sarasota bank. I also had the
bank in Alabama, so I was selling participation in these loans to these other









banks. I used to keep about $3 million or $4 million loaned out in St.
Petersburg all the time, and $3 million or $4 million in Tampa.

P: Do you think that you are just a good judge of human nature, and that you loan
money to people who will pay you back?

E: I guess I was lucky.

P: Yes, but it has to be more than luck with that much money out.

E: Listen. I got along fine with the banking authorities. In fact, Joe Rehm, regional
administrator of national banks in Atlanta for the Sixth National Bank District,
would come to the Florida Bankers convention. One time the convention
was in Freeport. He did not know I was behind him, but he had about seven
or eight bankers talking to him out in the yard. I heard him say that Al Ellis
ran the best group of banks in the state of Florida. Old Phifer was a
professional career examiner; he was such a good examiner they sent him to
Atlanta to examine the banks in Atlanta, or they would send him to Miami to
examine those banks. He lived in Tampa. He examined this bank.

I went three years in this bank one time without an examination; they are supposed
to examine you at least once a year, and sometimes twice. But immediately
after World War II we had the pick of the crop. There was a demand for
loans, and you did not have to beg people to borrow money like you do now.
You could just pick out the best loans and leave the rest of them. And there
were not many banks.

P: But it is amazing that you would come out in that long period of time with bad
loans of less than $9,000. Does anybody else have that kind of record?

E: I do not know, but I have a certified statement by an auditor, because he audited
the difference. I never had a classified loan as long as I was president of the
Wauchula bank; I never had a classified loan as long as I was president of
the Sarasota bank.

P: I was in your bank here a few minutes waiting for you, and I was standing on your
balcony. It resembles in many ways an old-time bank. I noticed the
relationship of the people in the bank to the people coming in to do business.
There was a lot of friendliness and informality, it seemed to me.

E: Well, Tarpon Springs has a population of about 25,000 now. There was not but
about 7,500 when I came here. There are four cultures in this town: about
25 or 30 percent of the town is Greek; then there is the black culture; there









are the old-timers--they have an old-timers club--who are the pioneers here.
(Tarpon is over 100 years old.) Then there is a fourth group: the newcomers
and retirees. So there are four different cultures in this town. I think the
reason we have been successful to a great extent in Tarpon Springs is our
friendliness. I am proud of that. My secretary, Mary, has been with me for
thirty-two years. Downstairs, there is not a woman on that platform who has
not been here at least thirty years.

P: You get the feeling that it is like a family.

E: Well, I tell people I am easy to get along with, and I can prove it.

P: Nobody leaves you. They do not divorce you and go somewhere else.

E: The manager of this branch is not here today. I brought him here from
Fernandina Beach, and he has been with me since 1958. He has had other
offers from Tampa banks and elsewhere.

P: But he wants to stay here.

E: He is a very prominent man in this town. They tried to get him to run for mayor,
but I would not let him. He is chairman of the board of the hospital out here.
He just completed a term as president of the Chamber of Commerce. He
was president of the Jaycees before he got into the senior chamber. He has
been president of the Rotary Club. I tell people they have to give me credit
for that because I brought him here.

P: Mr. Ellis, would you say that in many ways you are responsible for Ben Hill Griffin's
success?

E: No. Ben Hill Griffin would have been a success if I had never been born. I will
tell you what kind of a man he is. I will tell you, I told him, and I will tell
anybody. I would trust anything in the world I have to Ben Hill Griffin. He
called me about 9: 00 one day and said, "Al, you and I used to be mighty
closely associated, only through the Jesters." That is the Royal Order of
Jesters that we are both members of; we have been to parties at his house,
and he has come to my house. The Royal Order of Jesters is a select lodge
or organization of Shriners. You do not petition them; they petition you to
join. I have been a member since 1948. I am the oldest member of the
Tampa Court, I guess. A lot of entertaining goes on there. They have a
party every ten days somewhere in the area. I proposed that George
Jenkins be invited. So through the contacts I have in there--I do not know
how I got in there, because it is only the top men in the surrounding towns









who are members--I have been able to develop some mighty strong
friendships of prominent people in every community in this area. It is that
kind of an organization.

P: So you have a business relationship and a social relationship, then, with Ben Hill
Griffin and you are friends.

E: Oh, sure.

P: Another man that I think you have been associated with, perhaps not as closely
as Ben Hill, is Jim Walter.

E: Yes, fortunately. When I was with the Lakeland Florida National Bank, Jim's
daddy lived in Plant City. He had a fresh fruit packing house there in the
early 1930s. I handled his account at Florida National. He was selling fresh
fruit; there was no such thing as canned fruit, juices, and so forth in those
days. He would ship a carload of fruit to some broker in Boston; they would
haul them all the way up there. He would draw up a draft and attach a bill of
lading to it, and endorse it to the bank. We would give him credit for it that
day. Then at the end of the month we averaged his outstanding and
charged him interest by the month on the outstanding.

Jim's story has been well documented. When Jim came out of the navy with Bud
Austin, who has been associated with him ever since, he married Saraw's
sister, but lost her. Saraw was treasurer of Jim Walter Corporation. So Jim
and Saraw, his brother-in-law, and Bud Austin went into business together.
He was driving a pick-up truck delivering fruit for his daddy. He bought a
shell house, as the story goes, for him and his wife when he got married.
The idea appealed to him. So he went into business with the man he bought
the house from, and later bought him out.

At that time, Walter sold one type of shell house. You had the lot, and he would sell
you a house for $995, payable in forty-eight monthly payments at a 6 percent
add-on, which gave him a yield of about 12 percent. That was an unusually
good yield. Consequently, when he took back a mortgage on the house and
lot, twenty-four dollars of every one $100 mortgage he had was the carrying
charge built into it. Then he had this profit; he only had seventy-six dollars
true money involved, and that included his profit.

His daddy brought him over here, as I recall, back in those early years--thirty years
ago. I had Jim give me a financial statement, and he showed a net worth of
$23,000. His office was in a shell house over in north Tampa across from
the dog track. Jim had a complete mortgage package with good paperwork.









Of course, he did not do it; his office had prepared it. Every time Jim sold a
house, his capital would be tied up in this mortgage, and he would be out of
business. But the mortgage was not a conforming mortgage under the
regulations of a bank or a savings and loan, so his only outlet for them was
selling it.

Jim and I are very close friends. There is a story being written now on the Jim
Walter Corporation. He sent the men over here and spent the day with me
to get background for it. To make a long story short, I incorporated a
company called General Discount Corporation, and I took stock in it, and my
secretary--not Mary, but another one--took stock in it, and Neil Greening took
stock in it, and Arch Clements, my attorney, took stock in it. He was on the
board here. I had about 27 some-odd percent of the corporation. I looked to
my friends in Jacksonville and St. Petersburg and Mobile, Alabama, and got
myself a line of credit for General Discount Corporation. I commenced
buying Jim Walters's paper; I was the exclusive outlet for him.

When I said I would make a long story short, Jim finally got to be worth
$1,226,000--1 remember very distinctly. I told Jim it was getting to where I
needed to get out of either the banking business or the mortgage business. I
helped get him a line with Florida National for $1 million. Then he got
acquainted with a broker in Cleveland, Ohio, who took an interest in him. He
began to arrange a line in Chicago for him. From there he went on. He had
Karl Krier, who was manager of Thompson and McKinnon office in Tampa,
set up a corporation for him. He first started out as Jim Walter Incorporated.
He had a partnership called Dixie Supply Company. Dixie Supply Company
would buy the materials, and Jim Walter Inc. would build the houses. Walter
never did build the houses; he contracted everything. He still does, as far as
I know. I told him, "Jim, I think you have the same idea in housing that Henry
Ford had in transportation."

Jim has a tremendous amount of ability, and he has a lot of humility. He is a
top-flight man in every respect. I used to go to his stockholders meetings,
although I never was a stockholder. After he started entertaining his
stockholders, which, incidentally, is in the first part of December, usually
around the seventh or eighth, he would have these stockholders meetings
that would run two or three days. He set them up for fishing in his boat,
TICA, which stands for "This I Cannot Afford." He would arrange for them to
play golf. He made a big social affair out of it. He would have a big cocktail
party and banquet, and I would always go to his banquet. He always
introduced me. One time he got up and told them that there would not be a
Jim Walter Corporation without Al Ellis.









P: I knew that you had been very instrumental in supporting and developing the Jim
Walter Corporation.

E: Well, he did not need me.

P: He needed somebody like you, and you were the person.

E: I have to admit I was there when he needed it, but his friendship has meant a
great deal to me.

P: I have met him only once, but I know Joe Cordell in his organization.

E: He is a good friend of mine. Joe Cordell's daddy was president of the Florida
National Bank in Lakeland after I left there. His uncle was president of the
Florida National Bank of St. Petersburg, and both of the Cordells had a bank
in Daytona Beach. I know the Cordells very well.

P: There is another man that, obviously, you had an association with and helped a
great deal, and that is one of your own Tarpon Springs citizens, Mr. Pappas.

E: Yes. When I came here Mr. Louis Pappas was still living. They had a little
restaurant on the river down here, and it was a four or five room house that
was built on stilts to put the house back down on the ground. Mr. and Mrs.
Pappas had it. Two of their boys were in the service in World War II. The
boys came home with youthful ambition, and they wanted to enlarge the
restaurant. The third boy was in high school then. They asked me for a
$23,000 loan, and they enlarged the restaurant in stages. They did not have
a liquor license in those days, so they built half of the restaurant at that time;
then they tore down the other half. They continued to operate the business
all the time, even with the construction going on. They finally completed it in
three stages, but their business was growing fast.

The boys were, of course, getting married and had families coming along, and they
were all living out of that restaurant. Then they planned this present
restaurant, and they feed about two or three thousand people a day, so they
say. I had heard about their expansion plans. They discussed their plans,
so I knew about as much about it as they did. Finally they took the plunge
and called me.

The three boys came up right here in this office and showed me the plans--I knew
about them already--and I asked how much money they needed. They said
$1,700,000, and I said all right. So they went across the street to a coffee
shop, Hometown Tarpon Springs, and I understand they told everybody how









amazing it was for little people like them in a little town like this to get a loan
for $1,700,000 okayed in fifteen minutes. I loaned them the money to build
the building for their automobile business. I loaned them the money to build
those shopping centers off of town here. I loaned them the money to buy
their liquor license; they paid only $2,500 for it.

P: They obviously were a good investment.

E: Well, they have been good customers of mine, and I would loan them practically
anything they wanted. I would loan any one of them $100,000 or $200,000
just on their signature anytime.

P: So you stayed good friends and supporters of the Pappas family.

E: They all bank here.

P: How long have you lived here in Tarpon Springs?

E: Since 1946.

P: So you are almost a pioneer yourself.

E: I came here with the intention of moving back to Sarasota after five years. I
figured within five years I would build a new bank in Tarpon Springs with
drive-in facilities, air conditioning, parking, and so on. I brought a couple of
fellows up from the Sarasota bank to change the internal operations and to
modernize it; it was being operated just like banks were in World War I. Old
man McCrocklin was from Kentucky, and he was over-aged, but he ran it just
like they used to run banks in my daddy's time. I commenced buying banks
in other towns like Lakeland. I put banks in Winter Haven. I went over the
east coast buying banks in Gainesville, Tallahassee, Live Oak, Deland, and
so forth. The new airport in Tampa was built then. I could get anywhere in
the state in an hour's time from Tampa, and I could go from my home to the
Tampa airport in thirty-five minutes. So it was much more convenient than
going back to Sarasota.

P: And it is a nice community.

E: Yes, it is. It is in the middle of things, so I just built my home here and have been
here ever since.

P: What did you do during World War II?









E: I was president of the Sarasota bank. I could not pass the physical examination.
I was thirty-six.

P: You were already over the age limit.

E: Or right at it. In 1931 I was with the Florida National in Lakeland, as you know,
and I had a ruptured appendix. Herman Watson of the Watson Clinic was a
friend of mine, and he operated on me. I was supposed to die, and Florida
National hired another fellow in my place after talking to Herman. I used to
go with Herman's niece; he was her guardian. Herman was quite wealthy
and married a Kibler of the Kibler family. They used to control phosphate in
Ocala; they were very wealthy people.

P: Burke Kibler's family.

E: Yes. Watson attached himself out here at Anclote Psychiatric Center at a dollar
a year after he retired. He established the Watson Clinic, which, incidentally,
handles about 1,100 patients a day. I go there for my physical checkups.
When he came over here, a chauffer would bring him on Monday and would
come get him on Friday. He and I would go to the Julia Lounge across the
street and have a drink or two, and then go out and have a steak. I told him,
"Herman, you sure did cut me up." He said, "Well, I did not expect you to
live. I did not take great pains with you." I was out of the bank about four or
five months, and they told me to come back. They paid me--of course, I was
not making much--the whole time I was out, and they let the other fellow go
when I came back.

P: So it was physical reasons, then, that kept you out of World War II.

E: I tried to join the navy. I had a recommendation from a commander in the
Pentagon who was a personal friend of mine. I tried to get in the Special
Services Division that did office work. I was president of the Wauchula bank
in Hardee County; that was the only bank in the county. Hardee County is a
big food-producing county. But they decided that I was worth more as
chairman of the bond drives and so forth, and I was so near the cutoff age
they said I was worth more at home.

P: Mr. Ellis, during this long conversation we have had this afternoon, you have
mentioned dozens of banks, it seems to me, in almost every community in
Florida. You have not said anything about west Florida in the Panhandle
area, and you have not said very much about south Florida, the area of Palm
Beach, Miami, and Key West.









E: I had eighty-one banks in this state, and every one of them was a full-service
bank, except four.

P: Did you go to west Florida and the Panhandle?

E: Oh, yes. I bought the bank in Blountstown, I bought the bank in Jay, I bought the
bank in Tallahassee, and I bought the bank in Cross City.

P: Did you have any banks in Pensacola?

E: No. I had a deal to acquire four branches of one bank. When I went with NCNB
I had a deal all ready to close for the Bank of Jackson County, which was at
Marianna and Chipley. I liked west Florida because I was born in Alabama
not over forty miles away. Then I also had a bank between Mobile and
Pensacola in Alabama, so I knew that area of west Florida. When I merged
with NCNB the first thing they wanted to do was get rid of those west Florida
banks, but I told them they had better not do that. "But there is no growth
there." I said, "Are you telling me there is no growth there? When I bought
the Blountstown bank it was $4.25 million, but now it is worth $38 million.
Those people do not send their money off to Merrill Lynch or the stock
market or something like that; they keep it in the bank." The board of
directors have about four million because of that bank. When I bought the
Jay bank it was $3.8 million; it is now a $42 million bank.

P: How about south Florida? Did you have any holdings in south Florida, in Miami,
Key West area?

E: I had banks in Avon Park, Lakeland, Ormond Beach, Bunnell, Flagler Beach,
Deland, Deltona.

P: But nothing in Dade County or Broward County?

E: No, I never had any banks down in that area.

P: Mr. Ellis, I do not know much about banks or banking, but I have learned a great
deal from you this afternoon. How did the NCNB merger come about?

E: I guess every holding company in Florida talked to one another at some time, but
I saw no point in merging with another holding company in Florida because I
could put a bank anywhere they had one. There was no use in going out
and paying a premium for something. NCNB was the only out-of-state
banking institution that was permitted to be in Florida except Northern Trust









from Chicago, which had a trust company in Sarasota, but they were not
interested in commercial banking.

P: Where is the home-base for NCNB?

E: Charlotte, North Carolina. NCNB now is the ninth largest bank in the nation.
They have the only bank I know of that does not have a classified asset in it,
and that is the NCNB Texas National Bank. They picked out all the assets of
the First Republic Bank Corporation they wanted and capitalized it with new
capital. FDIC owns 80 percent and we own twenty, but we have full voting
stock. We have an exclusive option for five years to acquire the rest of the
stock from FDIC, and we have acquired it.

P: Did they come seeking you?

E: Well, yes and no. That is a hell of a way to answer your question, but they let it
be known through intimation to some of the larger capitalized banks in the
country. From all the publicity that Texas had, we knew the bank had
slipped. We already had a holding company in Texas; we already owned the
Charter Bank shares in Houston, which only had about $500 million or $600
million in deposits. They had four banks in or around Houston. We already
owned that holding company. We had a loan production office in Dallas, so
we had a foot in Texas anyway. We got back with them, I think, on the
invitation of FDIC. They negotiated it, and that was not exactly perfect, so
then they drew up a third proposal. The key to it is that we got a ruling from
the Internal Revenue Service that we could use all of the losses of the First
Republic for the next fifteen years. We got a good deal. I have write-ups
and brochures on Bear-Sterns, Morgan Stanley, Goldman-Sachs, Solomon
Brothers right there in that drawer. Every one of them was thinking
sweetheart deal.

P: And it was personally good for you?

E: For the stockholders of NCNB. The way it was finally worked out is excellent; it is
fine.

P: Where are you in it now? What position do you personally have in NCNB?

E: I am senior chairman of the board of NCNB National Bank of Florida, which is a
$10 billion bank. I am the largest stockholder of NCNB corporation.

P: Anywhere, or just in Florida?









E: No, anywhere. I own about 10 percent of the whole company, from London to
Australia. It just happens that way. I did have 13 percent when we merged,
but because of the growth I now have about 10 percent of the stock.

P: Do you have any involvement in the day-to-day operations?

E: No. I might tell you this: I am a member of the executive committee in Charlotte
for the whole operation. I am also a member of the board of directors in
Charlotte, and they had an office fixed up for me there, but I would not take it.
I said I was not going to live up there; I wanted to live down here.

At the very first meeting we sat down in that board room right there, and I told them
in the beginning, "Gentlemen, I have talked to every holding company in
Florida, and they have come to talk to me as well. There is no reason for me
to merge with anybody else in this state, because I could put a bank
anywhere they had one. I am not going to give up anything I have already
worked for. Unless you are willing to agree to that, there is no use in talking,
because I do not have to sell. Nobody is going to take me over because I
absolutely own and have absolute control of the Ellis Banking Corporation."
At that time it was the eighth largest in the state. They wanted me to
continue, so we talked.

I also told them that I was well up in age and did not have a son or grandson to
carry on the business after me, and that was the only reason I even
considered merging with them. I said, "I do not want to punch a clock. I do
not want day-to-day responsibilities. I want to come and go when I want to,
but I want a voice in the management, which I am entitled to." They agreed
to it. Then they asked me if I had any employment contracts. I said I had
none, but I had some personal commitments to certain key men in my
organization that they would have to honor, because they are just as good as
a contract. They agreed to that, too. I added, "What I have earned and have
today is this: I have a salary." He asked how much, and I told them.

Hugh McCall, the new chairman, had never worked for anybody except NCNB. He
is a very nice fellow, and he knows his business. He is also very aggressive.
He wanted to know what else I wanted. I said, "I have an automobile that is
furnished me by the bank, and I have a chauffeur that I have had for
twenty-some-odd years. I have an office, a secretary, and bank-related
expenses, and that is what I will have to continue having." They agreed to all
of it, and we signed a contract. So they pay me now. They pay me a salary
and give me an automobile, but they pay the tax on it. They pay my chauffer
a salary and my secretary, too. The contract has been publicized in the









proxy statement; it is no secret. Everything I have told you is in the proxy
statement. I will have to say they have been extremely nice to me.

P: So you have been very happy.

E: They have lived up to every agreement they have made.

P: When did you do this?

E: 1984. It was official March 16, 1984. Now, the tallest commercial building in
Sarasota was owned by my bank. I did not put my name on these banks. In
fact, Ellis Banking Corporation was organized by me, but I did not intend to
put my name on anything. That came about from my board of directors in
Sarasota because I had five banks in Sarasota, and the [Potter] Palmer
family had five. Palmer's name was everywhere you looked, but we were the
biggest bank in Sarasota. The directors down there said we ought to have a
common name so we can compete with Palmer. I had four banks in Tampa.
I organized three and bought one; I bought one and then organized the
others. I got two charters on one date.

P: So your relationship with NCNB has been a happy marriage, then?

E: Well, yes. Now, they do confer with me on matters, and I help them a great deal.
Just yesterday they called me and wanted me to talk to a certain man
regarding a loan. I have discussed some of the big loans for people I have
known for a long time.

The president of the Florida bank called me one day and wanted me to call John
Turner, treasurer of Publix. They wanted the Broward County account.
There are fourteen Publix markets in Broward County, and they keep about
$12 million in the bank. They wanted that account, so Ken Lewis, who is
president of the Florida bank--he is president of the Texas bank, also--called
me. I told him, "Ken, there is no reason for me to call John Turner and
saying a good word for NCNB, which is what you want me to do. I will call
George Jenkins. He is the one who is going to make that decision, anyway.
I will pick you up and take you over there and introduce you to him." So I
called George, and he said, "I was going to the east coast, but I will stay here
if you are coming." I took Ken Lewis over there to see George, and we sat
down and spent the afternoon together with John Turner and got that
account.

P: You used your own network, then.









E: Take the Pappas family, for instance. I interceded there and saved that business
for this bank. The same was true in Sarasota. You see, the United First
Federal Savings and Loan of Sarasota was over a $1.5 million savings and
loan association. Their officers asked me to help them get a man thirty years
ago, and I brought a man down here from my little home town in Alabama,
and he was appointed head of that federal savings and loan. He was only
making $6,000 a year in Alabama as head of a savings and loan, but he
must be making $200,000 or $300,000 now. The savings and loan at that
time would have been a $35 million savings and loan, and it is over $1.5
billion now. George Page was his name. Naturally, he was one of the two
closest friends I had because he came from my little home town, he knew my
father and brothers and everything. I am responsible for getting him down
here.

P: Mr. Ellis, what made you want to get on the Federal Reserve Board?

E: As I told you, I had a very close relationship with Monroe Kimball, the president.
As I mentioned a while ago, he was one of the best of speakers I had when I
was president of the Florida Bankers convention. Not only that, he and a first
cousin of mine were associated. This first cousin of mine was on the board
of the Federal Reserve for nine years, and I was on the board for nine years.
The last year or two the executive committee only had three members: the
chairman, the vice chairman, and myself.

I went to the meetings every week. It was an ego thing, you might say. I say ego
and greed gets people into trouble. I did not get much money for it; they paid
all of my expenses and the chauffeur who picked me up at the airport. I
could come to the bank here in Tarpon Springs and read my mail and dictate
some letters, as long as I made it to the airport by 11: 00 a.m. I was in
Atlanta by noon, and the bank had a chauffeured limousine there for me.
The chauffer took me into the bank, and we had lunch and an executive
meeting. When lunch and the executive committee meeting was over--we
would do both at the same time--I could catch a plane and be back here by
4: 00, with the airline schedules they had.

Anyway, this cousin of mine had been on the Federal Reserve Board for a long
time, and he said, "Al, you are getting up in age, and if you ever expect to be
appointed, this is the time!" In addition, we had a doctor here in town who is
a very close friend of mine. I was on his board out here at the hospital until I
began to curtail some of my activities. I helped him out; I loaned him a lot of
money to get started. His grandfather was first president of the Federal
Reserve Bank in Atlanta, and his wife's grandfather was president of the
Federal Reserve Bank in Atlanta in my youth, way back in the 1920s, around









1929 or 1930. His great uncle was Henry W. Grady, whose statue is right
downtown in Atlanta. Grady had owned the Atlanta Constitution. In view of
these people that I knew at one time or another, I decided I would run. I had
had a lot of honors that I may not have deserved. More important, I had
friends, and, as I told you, friends take care of you. Fifty-six banks
nominated me. I think I told you how I beat out Bert Lance.

After I started working on the bank board, there were such fine people that I became
acquainted with. I enjoyed it very much. I had had contacts with the Federal
Reserve Bank of Atlanta for many years before I ever decided to seek
election to that board. I had been in banking since 1929, and I have been
executive officer of banks since back in the late 1930s. I had quite a lot of
contacts with the Federal Reserve Bank. When I was in college, we made a
field trip to Atlanta. They took us through the General Motors plant, through
the Ford Motor Company plant, and through the Federal Reserve Bank.
They took us through the federal penitentiary--I do not know why they took
us through there.

Every time I applied for a new national bank, the board started out as if they had
never seen me before, in order to make their file complete on every charter.
I just reprinted an old application and had it brought up to date for each new
bank charter. I brought a copy of one of these so you could have one for
your files.

P: I want to ask you also about your investments--they go beyond just banking. Are
you into real estate? Are you into other things?

E: Yes, sir.

P: You must be a broadly based man.

E: I have been listed in Forbes for four or five years. I tried to get them not to print
that, but they published it last year. I told them, "I wish you would leave me
out of that thing. All you do is create a best seller for all the cons and crooks
in the country. Anyway, anyone who reads Forbes has no business asking
for a handout." Last year they printed that statement, too.

P: Let me read you this little comment that I picked up from a Miami newspaper
item. It says, "Ellis confesses to ownership of nine well-located shopping
malls, and he is buying a tenth. He also owns half of a city block in
downtown Tampa, a quarter of a block in Clearwater, and property in Tarpon
Springs, some of which he leases to the city." Is there any basis to all of
that?










E: Yes, sir.


P: How the Miami newspaper learn all of that?

E: I do not know where they learned it, but I do own twelve shopping centers located
in Pasco, Pinellas, Manatee, Hillsborough, and Polk counties, and I own half
of a downtown block in Tampa. There are fifteen store buildings there, and I
have owned it for forty years. I do own a quarter of a downtown block in
Clearwater; I am surrounded by four banks there. I do own quite a bit of
property here in Tarpon Springs, including the former bank building, of which
part is leased to the state, and the rest is leased to private interests. I own
six store buildings on the main street up there. You asked me this, and I am
not trying to brag. I own an office building in Clearwater, and I also own
three bank buildings and the bank building in Tarpon Mall. Incidentally, I
bought that bank building out there on Tarpon Road from George Jenkins in
1984 for $355,000, which is exactly what he had in it. I was arguing with the
state road department the other day. I had it appraised recently for
$1,273,000. It is leased on a triple net lease to NCNB.

P: Mr. Ellis, what drives you? When you get up in the morning, what do you want to
do?

E: I cannot answer that. I just get bored to death sitting down and doing nothing. I
read two newspapers in the morning before I get started.

P: Your lifestyle has not changed as a result of your prosperity.

E: No, it has not changed at all.

P: You do not buy thousand-dollar suits and all of those kinds of things. You do not
have caviar for breakfast, do you?

E: No, sir.

P: What I am really saying is you look like a man of simple, conservative taste.

E: You are absolutely right.

P: You are not trying to impress anybody at all.

E: You have not asked me much about my wife Helen. I will tell you this: she was
always active in communities which we were in--in Red Cross, the library,









and the like. We came to this town in 1946, and she had an operation in
1949. We did not have a surgeon in this town, but she would not leave
Tarpon Springs, so they brought in a surgeon and his staff to operate right
here in our little hospital. This hospital was just like a four-unit apartment
house built in the boom days with stucco. It did not have but twelve beds in
it. Even the street out there was full of potholes. She took an interest in the
hospital. She has given thousands of hours of volunteer work at the hospital
over the years as a pink lady, and also operating a thrift store they have
uptown, as well as the gift shop out there. She and I have furnished several
rooms out there in the additions. I have made loans to them at cut rates at
every move they have made.

When they built this last addition, they added a chapel, and I got a famous local
artist to do a window of St. Luke in stained glass. A quotation of physicians
and my mother's and father's names are on it, and they dedicated that.
About five years ago they built another addition onto the hospital, and they
are about to add three more stories to it. I guess they have at least one
hundred fifty or more beds. They service this whole area: they have a
branch up here, in Holiday, between here and New Port Richey. We had to
plan our family life around Helen's duties at the hospital. A committee came
to me five years ago and showed me an artist's rendering of an addition they
were going to put on, and they had her name across the top: Helen Ellis
Pavilion. They said, "Mr. Ellis, we will fix up a suite for her." My daughter
selected the wallpaper and carpet and all that. They also gave a dinner; they
had about 300 there down at that big hotel at Clearwater Beach. As a
surprise to her they had the program "This Is Your Life." They brought all the
former pastors of our church, friends we knew in Sarasota, friends we knew
in Wauchula, friends we knew in Lake Wales, Lakeland, and Bradenton as
guests.

P: All as a grand surprise for Helen. Are you a religious man? Are you a church
man?

E: I do not go to church too much, but I say my prayers every night.

P: What church do you belong to?

E: First Methodist here.

P: Was that your family's church?

E: Two of my granddaughters were married in it.









P: This was the church of your mother and father?

E: No, my mother and father were Baptist, but my wife was a Methodist, so I joined
the Methodist Church. It was a choice of my daughter when she was here
as a baby because the friends she grew up with were all members of the
Methodist Church, so we all went to the Methodist Church. I support the
Methodist Church very generously. The hospital continued to expand before
adding three more stories to the hospital last year--they added a wing for the
surgical department and the cafeteria. They are planning a reception in
January, at which time they will unveil the new name; they are naming the
hospital Helen Ellis Memorial Hospital. Of course, I gave them a couple of
million dollars, besides the $500,000. It is now the Helen Ellis Memorial
Hospital.

P: Have you ever been interested in politics?

E: No, sir. I would not last one minute.

P: So you have never thought about running for any office as Ben Hill ran for
governor in 1974.

E: He was a senator from Polk county for thirty years or so.

P: But you have no desire for politics?

E: No, it never teased or tempted me whatsoever.

P: Have you been involved as a supporter or as a banker in politics, in terms of
supporting candidates with money?

E: Yes. I thought I was pretty liberal for a long time. But then they got Bud
Dickinson [Fred O. Dickinson] and indicted him with income tax evasion and
violating banking laws and whatnot--he was comptroller for ten years. I
never was very close to Bud. I used to give money all the time to the
candidates. Ray Green was comptroller; he was on the board of Ellis
banking when he died. He was a very close friend of mine. He used to be
mayor of Clearwater. He began as a druggist. I have had some good
friends in politics, and I was rather generous, I think. So I got subpoened,
along with Alfred McKethan of Brooksville, Bubba Nelson of Panama City,
and some others.

P: Is this in the Dickinson case?









E: I got subpoened before the grand jury, and I testified in his case in Tallahassee. I
was subpoened in Miami for the [Thomas D.] O'Malley case; he was
treasurer of Florida. Since then I do not give any money to politicians.
Those eariler experiences cost me money. I had to have a lawyer just as a
matter of precaution. He went to Miami with me, and he went to Tallahassee
with me, and I paid him a nice fee. I went before the grand jury in Tampa in
Bud Dickinson's case, and I was there about two or three hours. Before I
testified I said I would have to have immunity before I gave any testimony. I
met with the United Stated district attorney, his assistants, and the Internal
Revenue people in Tampa the night before. They told me what they would
ask me, and they even told me what my answers should be. Then they took
me before the federal judge the next morning, and it did not take but about
ten minutes. They had the papers all drawn and everything; it was cut and
dried. He gave me immunity, so I went to the grand jury room immediately
and testified.

After about two or three hours, the foreman said, "Mr. Ellis, I have one more
question. Why did you ask for immunity? You have not said anything in this
room today that would implicate you in any particular." I said it was because
I have never held an office in the Ellis Banking Corporation, and in the course
of time I received five national bank charters and five state bank charters.
But those charter applications were made out in my group office, which had
the fifth floor and part of the third and fourth floors of the First National Bank
in Bradenton. I also said, "I signed those applications, but all they sent me to
sign was just a sheet. I do not know what was in the application, and I did
not know what you were going to ask me, and I did not want to be
implicated." He said he understood fully, and that is all there was to it. Then
the government later said I was the best witness they had.
The trouble was this: they subpoened every bank account I had, every check I had
written, every share of stock I had, and every deed I had for five years back.
I went to Tampa every evening until 11: 00 at night and went through every
detail. I had nothing to hide. Everything was clean as a whistle, and we
were best of friends. They said I was the best witness they had.

P: But that is not what soured you on politics, is it?

E: No. It soured me on giving money to politicians.

P: Mr. Ellis, are you a sportsman? Do you watch games?

E: When I was in Wauchula for five years, I used to go hunting. Sometimes I would
go dove shooting before the bank opened. A lot of afternoons I would go
with another boy in the post office who knew that whole country down there.









While everybody had their ranches posted to keep people from Tampa and
Plant City and Lakeland out of there, they all offered me a constant invitation
to come hunt on their land anytime I wanted to. This other boy's daddy was
a pioneer down there, and he and I would go out. I would leave the bank
maybe 2: 00 or 3: 00 and hunt until dark. I enjoyed it.

P: Do you follow basketball or football?

E: I go to Gainesville sometimes for football games. We have a sky box, but that is
mostly social.

P: Where is your sky box?

E: Over here in the Tampa stadium. The University of South Florida has a sky box,
too, that I can go to.

P: I am sure you would be welcome in a lot of sky boxes around.

E: I am about to give the University of South Florida $600,000 to study Parkinson's
disease. Of course, the state is putting in $420,000.

P: And that will create a chair?

E: The reason I am in with the University of South Florida is that Sarasota has a lot
of culture, but it has not always had a college, and the people there wanted
one. They tried mighty hard to get Florida Presbyterian College there. It is
located in St. Petersburg and is now [Jack] Eckerd College. Eckerd was a
very close friend of mine; I have been acquainted with him ever since he
came here. This bank gave him his first line of credit. Mrs. Eckerd was Ruth
Binnicker, the daughter of R. J. Binnicker, who was president of the First
National Bank in Tampa at one time. I was with them the other night at
Eckerd College for a dinner.

P: Do you have a foundation?

E: Yes, I have been giving the foundation at least $1 million a year. The foundation
has $5 million worth of life insurance on my life, and they also are going to
inherit $27 million from my will. With what they have already, they will have
$35 million. I have said several times that you only live after you are dead
through your children and deeds--deeds, particularly. So what little bit I have
been able to do I think I will still owe a great deal.









P: Do you read very much? Is that one of your interests? You said you read
newspapers in the morning.

E: I read very much.

P: What do you read?

E: Well, somebody is always giving me an autographed book, and I actually read it.

P: Do you have any special interests in history--the Civil War and the South?

E: Yes, but I do not have to read about that. I have already heard about it all my life!
My wife and I drove up to Washington to see her sister years ago, and we
were quite late getting there, so Helen's sister said that I probably read every
historical plaque all through Virginia.

P: And North Carolina.

E: North Carolina and South Carolina. So she did not get worried a bit.

P: It sounds to me like when you get up in the morning you have got your day
planned, and when you go to sleep at night you are a satisfied man.

E: Sure.

P: Is your health good?

E: Fortunately, it is. I have a perfect score. I go to Watson Clinic. I used to go to
Leahy Clinic in Boston forty or fifty years ago, then I switched to Duke
University. For the last ten years I have been going to Watson. They give
me a clean bill of health every time. They do a better job than Duke, in my
opinion.

P: Were you able to travel much before your wife got sick?

E: I traveled all over the world except Africa and China. I have been from Australia
to Alaska. We made a trip around the world with another fellow and his wife;
I paid their way just to have some company.

P: Do you enjoy traveling?

E: I sure do. Another couple, who are very close friends of ours over on the east
coast, have been all over Russia and Europe with us. I guess we have been









to Europe seven or eight times or more. We have been all over Russia,
except Siberia, thank goodness. We made three airplane trips within Russia,
and we did not have a guide, either. We had a guide the first day, but we
just went on our own from then on.

P: So you have lived, you would say, Mr. Ellis, a very satisfying life.

E: Yes, it has been a very productive life, except the trips to Alaska and Australia. I
would not make those anymore. That was time wasted.

P: Do you feel that there is anything that you had wanted to do that you have not
accomplished?

E: I guess if I gave it some thought I could think of a lot of things.

P: But you have done the things that you have wanted to do.

E: Yes, I have seen a lot of this world.

P: And you have had a lot of interesting experiences. You have lived through a lot
of the history of this state.

E: Well, that is true enough.

P: From the boom of the 1920s to where we are right now, 1988.

E: As I remarked a while ago, I think that is why Mr. Ball and I were such close
friends. We could sit down and have a drink of bourbon and reminisce, and
he enjoyed it. I was one of the few, I guess, that he could go all the way
back to the 1920s with.

P: Have you been a social man in your life, partying with friends?

E: I have enjoyed a social life, very much so. In fact, I know a lot of people in
Tampa, a lot of people in Sarasota, and just about every town around here
because I have banks in them. They had boards of directors, and through
those boards I made friendships. They included me in a lot of invitations, a
lot more than I could possibly attend. Then too, with my affiliations with three
colleges, all three are carrying on social affairs all the time, promotional
affairs and whatever.

P: Mr. Ellis, what else should we put on the tape? We have talked a lot.









E: I have been enjoying this conversation with you very, very much.

P: I have enjoyed it, also. I want to thank you for your gracious hospitality and for
spending so much time with me. I appreciate your openess and your
willingness to talk about your personal and business life in such detail.
Thank you very much.







COPYRIGHT NOTICE


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and the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program on
behalf of the Board of Trustees of the University of
Florida.

Copyright, 2005, University of Florida.
All rights, reserved.

This oral history may be used for research,
instruction, and private study under the provisions
of Fair Use. Fair Use is a provision of United States
Copyright Law (United States Code, Title 17, section
107) which allows limited use of copyrighted
materials under certain conditions.
Fair use limts the amount of material that may be
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the University of Florida










I represented both factions as president. Frank Smathers was impatient, and
he just felt like I ought to take the lead and create branch banking, as if I had
that power. I did not have it, but I would not have done it anyway because
I had these other people who were independent bankers. He and I clashed
a few times. I liked Frank, and I think he liked me, but he probably liked me
more because I would not give in.

P: Mr. Ellis, was it because of your friendship with Ed Ball that you became the
trustee for Du Pont?

E: I would say yes, and I would also say Jake Belin had a lot to do with that.

P: Who was Jake Belin?

E: Jake Belin was the heir apparent, you might say. He is from Andalusia,
Alabama.

P: What is his connection to the Du Ponts?

E: He is just about everything. He is chairman of the board of St. Joseph Paper
Company and head of another corporation that is owned by the St. Joe Paper
Company.

P: Was he a relative?

E: No. Do not forget, though, that Winn Thornton was president of the Florida
East Coast, and also Thomas Coldeway, who is a retired vice president of St.
Joe Paper Company. He has been retired for a long time, but he is one of
the trustees.

P: Where does Mr. Belin live now?

E: He spends most of his time in Port St. Joe, but he has an office in
Jacksonville. In fact, the executive office for St. Joe Paper Company is in
Jacksonville.

P: Is Mr. Belin still living?

E: Oh, yes, he is very active. He is a very strong man, too. He is a
dyed-in-the-wool Southern Baptist of strong convictions, and I have the most
admiration in the world for him. We think alike.

P: So you are in close contact with him, then, if you are involved in this way with
the Ball and Du Pont properties.

E: Yes, I get a report on the relationships. I was supposed to represent the bank
as a corporate trustee. I was so busy until I appointed Tully Dunlap, who still

19










P: How did you get involved with Mr. Du Pont and Mr. [Ed] Ball [Du Pont's
brother-in-law and business associate]? That came about, I think you said,
in 1931.

E: Yes. In 1931 I was not with a bank, but I went with a chain furniture
business, Mather Brothers, out of Atlanta. I did not work for them but about
six weeks. The owner had a bunch of stores all over Florida, Georgia, and
one or two in Alabama and South Carolina. I took a job with them as a
traveling auditor. All of these stores were selling furniture on time contracts,
and some of the salesmen and collectors and managers were knocking down
a little money for themselves as they went along. They would write the
customer a receipt, but they would not put the carbon in. The store did not
know about these collections, and the people working for this chain would put
the money in their pockets.

The owner decided he wanted an examining crew to go from store to store
unannounced and conduct audits to stop all of this shortchanging. I went to
work for him, and my first assignment was Lakeland. When I went into the
Lakeland Bank, which was a Florida National Bank, to pull their statements
so I could audit them. It so happened that the man who was running that
bank was the vice-president/cashier I had known previously when I was in
Winter Haven. He asked me if I wanted to get back into the banking
business, and I said, "I sure do." He said they could not pay me much money,
but I could come and work for them at the bank. He said, "I cannot pay you
but $110 a month." I was getting $175 with Mather brothers, plus all of my
expenses, but I quit and took a job at the bank.

P: You wanted to get back into the bank.

E: Being in the bank, I got acquainted with Mr. Ball, who was a brother-in-law
to Mr. Du Pont, and also Mr. Du Pont. Mr. Du Pont was stone deaf. He
carried a little booklet in his pocket with a little pencil about that long; he
did not have much to say because he was deaf. I did not see him very much,
but Mr. Ball was very active in those days.

P: Mr. Du Pont, of course, brought his fortune to Florida, and he began buying
up the banks that were going under after 1926.

E: He first bought into the Florida National Bank of Jacksonville, and he
extended his investment in that until he had control. Then, when these towns
became bankless, he began to organize and put banks in these towns: St.
Petersburg, Bartow, Lakeland, Orlando, Daytona Beach, Gainesville, and
Ocala. He bought a bank in Ocala. Then he put banks in Miami and West
Palm Beach. At that time his group of banks was the largest group in the
state, and really had the best franchises in the state.

P: Was Mr. Ball the major power, the major stimulus in that banking operation?

13










E: It opened up that area. I can remember very distinctly when Naples was
nothing except a filling station.

P: And Fort Myers was not very far behind.

E: Oh, no. About the only thing Fort Myers could claim fame to was that
Thomas A. Edison lived there.

P: Of course, Henry Ford and Mr. [Harvey S.] Firestone used to come down and
visit him.

E: And Mr. [Luther] Burbank.

P: That is right. So there were some celebrities coming into south Florida at
that time.

E: Oh, yes.

P: Who were the major developers in the Winter Haven-Bradenton- Auburndale
area in the 1920s when you were there, when you first came?

E: There was a fellow by the name of John Snively from Pennsylvania who did
a lot of developing there. Some of the local people joined him, and others
developed partnerships in various developments. Of course, the big developer
in Tampa was D. P. Davis, who developed Davis Islands. He disappeared off
a ship from Europe, and no one ever heard from him anymore.

P: Did the Snivelys and the other citrus developers use your bank?

E: No, there were three banks in town, and Snively was connected with what was
then the Snell National Bank. It later became Exchange National Bank, and
today it is NCNB [North Carolina National Bank].

P: You are part of that today.

E: That is the bank that my brother worked in. There is a long history between
him and me: that I wound up with NCNB and he started with NCNB.

P: I guess it was about then that you met your wife.

E: Yes. I was working in the bank at Winter Haven. One day at noon I started
out of the bank to go to lunch, and I was looking back for my cousin, who
worked in the same bank. I bumped into a young lady and knocked her
school books out of her hand, so I picked them and gave them to her. About
that time my cousin showed up, and he knew her, so he introduced us. That
was Thanksgiving week, 1925, so I have special thanks for that time of year.


9










Florida banks, but I told them they had better not do that. "But there is no
growth there." I said, "Are you telling me there is no growth there? When
I bought the Blountstown bank it was $4.25 million, but now it is worth $38
million. Those people do not send their money off to Merrill Lynch or the
stock market or something like that; they keep it in the bank." The board of
directors have about four million because of that bank. When I bought the
Jay bank it was $3.8 million; it is now a $42 million bank.

P: How about south Florida? Did you have any holdings in south Florida, in
Miami, Key West area?

E: I had banks in Avon Park, Lakeland, Ormond Beach, Bunnell, Flagler Beach,
Deland, Deltona.

P: But nothing in Dade County or Broward County?

E: No, I never had any banks down in that area.

P: Mr. Ellis, I do not know much about banks or banking, but I have learned a
great deal from you this afternoon. How did the NCNB merger come about?

E: I guess every holding company in Florida talked to one another at some time,
but I saw no point in merging with another holding company in Florida
because I could put a bank anywhere they had one. There was no use in
going out and paying a premium for something. NCNB was the only
out-of-state banking institution that was permitted to be in Florida except
Northern Trust from Chicago, which had a trust company in Sarasota, but
they were not interested in commercial banking.

P: Where is the home-base for NCNB?

E: Charlotte, North Carolina. NCNB now is the ninth largest bank in the nation.
They have the only bank I know of that does not have a classified asset in it,
and that is the NCNB Texas National Bank. They picked out all the assets
of the First Republic Bank Corporation they wanted and capitalized it with
new capital. FDIC owns 80 percent and we own twenty, but we have full
voting stock. We have an exclusive option for five years to acquire the rest
of the stock from FDIC, and we have acquired it.

P: Did they come seeking you?

E: Well, yes and no. That is a hell of a way to answer your question, but they
let it be known through intimation to some of the larger capitalized banks in
the country. From all the publicity that Texas had, we knew the bank had
slipped. We already had a holding company in Texas; we already owned the
Charter Bank shares in Houston, which only had about $500 million or $600
million in deposits. They had four banks in or around Houston. We already

40










represents NCNB. Dunlap has retired. He is past seventy, but we kept him
on the board of directors of NCNB solely because of his representation of the
Du Pont estate. Mr. Dunlap and I have been very close friends for thirty-five
or more years. He was born right close to Elba, but he went to Miami when
he was eight years old. He was president of three Miami banks, became
chairman of the Sun Banks, and went back to Miami and became chairman
of the board with Florida National Bank of Miami. I got him to come to
Sarasota as chairman of the board of my Sarasota bank, and also made him
chairman of the board of Ellis National Bank of Jacksonville and Fort Myers.
I bought the Jacksonville bank at the instigation of Mr. Ball and Mr. Belin.
They wanted me to have a bank in Jacksonville for custodial purposes, as a
matter of convenience. Ellis National Bank and Trust Company of Sarasota
was first appointed as the corporate trustee.

P: What was the name of your bank in Jacksonville?

E: It was originally the Jacksonville National Bank. It was organized by Mr.
Ball, and it later became a part of the Charter Company of Raymond Mason.
Mr. Ball wanted me to buy it so that I would have a bank in Jacksonville.
Mr. Belin insisted, too, that I buy it, so I bought it.

P: Where was the bank in Jacksonville?

E: It was in the building that was formerly occupied by the Florida National
Bank right across the street from Barnett. The bank had the whole block
front. There was a ten-story building and an eleven-story building; the
ten-story building was the bank building.

P: Do you still have that bank?

E: No.

P: It is part of the NCNB operation?

E: I bought it without putting up a penny.

P: That is good to be able to buy a bank without having to put up any of your
own money into it.

E: I bought the bank at Jay without putting up a penny.

P: You have the secret formula, Mr. Ellis.

E: Mr. Ball used to lend me money at 2 percent when the government was
paying four. I was working with the Florida National in Lakeland when
Helen and I were married in April 1936. Within a year, I was made chairman
of the board/president and cashier at Wauchula State Bank. At that time the

20










relationship of the people in the bank to the people coming in to do business.
There was a lot of friendliness and informality, it seemed to me.

E: Well, Tarpon Springs has a population of about 25,000 now. There was not
but about 7,500 when I came here. There are four cultures in this town:
about 25 or 30 percent of the town is Greek; then there is the black culture;
there are the old-timers--they have an old-timers club--who are the pioneers
here. (Tarpon is over 100 years old.) Then there is a fourth group: the
newcomers and retirees. So there are four different cultures in this town. I
think the reason we have been successful to a great extent in Tarpon Springs
is our friendliness. I am proud of that. My secretary, Mary, has been with me
for thirty-two years. Downstairs, there is not a woman on that platform who
has not been here at least thirty years.

P: You get the feeling that it is like a family.

E: Well, I tell people I am easy to get along with, and I can prove it.

P: Nobody leaves you. They do not divorce you and go somewhere else.

E: The manager of this branch is not here today. I brought him here from
Fernandina Beach, and he has been with me since 1958. He has had other
offers from Tampa banks and elsewhere.

P: But he wants to stay here.

E: He is a very prominent man in this town. They tried to get him to run for
mayor, but I would not let him. He is chairman of the board of the hospital
out here. He just completed a term as president of the Chamber of
Commerce. He was president of the Jaycees before he got into the senior
chamber. He has been president of the Rotary Club. I tell people they have
to give me credit for that because I brought him here.

P: Mr. Ellis, would you say that in many ways you are responsible for Ben Hill
Griffin's success?

E: No. Ben Hill Griffin would have been a success if I had never been born.
I will tell you what kind of a man he is. I will tell you, I told him, and I will
tell anybody. I would trust anything in the world I have to Ben Hill Griffin.
He called me about 9:00 one day and said, "Al, you and I used to be mighty
closely associated, only through the Jesters." That is the Royal Order of
Jesters that we are both members of; we have been to parties at his house,
and he has come to my house. The Royal Order of Jesters is a select lodge
or organization of Shriners. You do not petition them; they petition you to
join. I have been a member since 1948. I am the oldest member of the
Tampa Court, I guess. A lot of entertaining goes on there. They have a
party every ten days somewhere in the area. I proposed that George Jenkins

34










E: He died July 15, 1968.

P: At what age?

E: Ninety-seven.

P: I gather that he was physically strong and mentally alert right until almost the
end.

E: Well, he was physically strong up until the day he died, but, in fact, he had
a lapse in memory--he could remember what was happening when he was a
boy better than he could what happened last week. He would walk off and
we would miss him, and sometimes he could not tell anybody who he was, so
he would actually get into more trouble than if he had been bedridden.

P: Where and when did you go to college?

E: I went to college in 1923, for three years, at Alabama Polytechnic Institute,
which is now Auburn University, and to the University of Alabama.

P: You left Auburn and went to Tuscaloosa?

E: No, it was the other way around: I went to Alabama first and then to Auburn.

P: What did you study?

E: I studied banking and finance.

P: Did you receive a degree?

E: No, I left school before I graduated.

P: You were one of five boys.

E: I was one of six boys.

P: You were what number? One? Two? Three?

E: I was number two.

P: I understand that you had a brother who was living in Florida in the early
1920s. Was your older brother?

E: Yes.

P: What was his name?


5










Then, in 1931, I went to work for the Florida National Bank in Lakeland,
which was a new bank but was one of the so-called Du Pont banks. It was
owned principally by Mr. Alfred I. Du Pont from Delaware, who was living
in Jacksonville at that time. A number of the banks in 1929, in the citrus
area particularly, went under. In fact, ours did. There was no deposit
insurance then, and some of the banks that went under were in good shape,
but were not capable of being liquidated in five or ten days, and that is what
broke them. They could not liquidate their loans and pay off the depositors
on demand. That is about what a run would do. If you could not stop a run,
they would not stop until a bank was completely liquidated.

P: Was there a run on your bank?

E: Yes. Practically all of the banks down here had runs on them then. Even
after they were Du Pont banks they had runs.

P: After the boom bubble burst at the end of 1926, banks began closing all over
Florida in 1927-1928, even before the citrus fruit fly problems.

E: The banks that closed at the end of the land boom were principally in the
land real estate developments like St. Petersburg.

P: And Miami.

E: Lakeland did not have a bank in it. Bartow lost all their banks.

P: That is in 1927-1928?

E: Mostly in 1926-1927. There were two or three years there of no activity, but
a number of banks survived. Then when the [Mediterranean] fruit fly hit the
state in 1929, that finished up some of those that did not fail in 1926. That
is when we began to get new banks in the many towns. You see, Bartow did
not have a bank, Lakeland did not have a bank, St. Petersburg had only one
bank, and it was a very small bank in a suburban area. Sarasota lost all of
their banks. That is when Mr. Du Pont began to organize and set up banks
in these towns. The reason that the banks closed in that area was because
of the destruction of the fruit crop. The citrus folks had nothing to sell. It
was completely destroyed; the crop was either buried or burned. Then in
October 1929, the big crash came on Wall Street, and that crippled the
retirees down here who had their money invested in stocks and bonds. Then
we had the bank moratorium in March 1933, and that was nationwide.

P: Actually, Florida began suffering from a depression long before the rest of
the nation.

E: Oh, yes, sir.


11









P: You never called him by his first name?

E: He was a perfect gentleman. When he walked in an elevator, if there was a
lady in the elevator or one got on the elevator he always took his hat off.

P: Although you knew him and visited back and forth for thirty or forty years,
you never got on a first-name basis?

E: Never. There was quite a bit of difference in our ages. I spent many
weekends with him in his home in Tallahassee, and I would tell him I was
sleepy and wanted to go to bed. He would always go upstairs with me and
turn my cover down on my bed and check the bathroom to see that towels
and other necessities were there.

P: Did you ever meet his wife?

E: If I did I do not remember.

P: They were not married very long.

E: No. They had an apartment in Jacksonville. But when she left him, she
skipped out of that apartment with everything, even the dirty linen.

P: He later had an apartment in the old Robert Myer Hotel [in Jacksonville].

E: Well, he first had an apartment in the Roosevelt Hotel [on Adams Street].
They tore it down, so he moved to the eighteenth floor of the Robert Myer.

P: That was only a couple of blocks away.

E: And only about a couple of rooms.

P: He was not a man who lived luxuriously at all, was he?

E: No, he was very frugal. He had a lot of wit about him, but people did not
know that. I know we were riding to his home in Jacksonville when he had
come to the airport to get me. He was not driving then; he was sitting in the
back seat with me. We were on the private road going out to his place. He
told me, "Mr. Ellis, I do not believe in integration. That is why I keep my
Black Angus cattle on this side of the road and my white-faced Herefords on
this side." [laughter]

P: No integration for him! I do not think he ever supported integration in his
lifetime.

E: He had a lot of wit about it.


16










he would not have appreciated it any more. On top of that, Claude married
a girl from my hometown.

P: Mildred.

E: Mildred Webster. They married, and her family moved to Winter Haven the
same time I left for Winter Haven. I was, of course, intimately acquainted
with all of the Webster family. Tom Webster, her daddy, died in an
automobile wreck down near the coast of St. Petersburg one early morning.
Actually, he was driving a citrus truck. We used to have wiener roasts and
cookouts in Winter Haven, and Mildred had one of these little portable
talking machines you wound with a crank. She used to play this record
"Yearning just for you, that is all I do." I told Claude about that, and he said,
"Yes, I have been yearning for her ever since she has been gone."
Claude and I are good friends today. He called me one day years ago and
wanted Helen and me to join him and Mildred on a trip to the Holy Land.
It was in January, and I had fifteen banks then. I did not have the holding
company nor the organization that I later had, so January was a busy month,
and I could not go. [Sargent] Shriver, who was [President John F.] Kennedy's
brother-in-law, was in Paris. Claude told me that we could go from New
York to Paris and that Ambassador Shriver would entertain us in the embassy
there. Then we could go on to Athens, and we would be entertained there
by the American ambassador. Then we could go on to Israel and get
entertained by this one-eyed general, Moshe Dayan. The Seven-Day War had
just finished, and Dayan was going to take us by helicopter over the
battlefields and so forth. We were going to go on to Jerusalem, and the
mayor of Jerusalem was going to entertain us. You see, Claude represents
an area of Florida where there are a lot of Jewish people.

P: South Florida. He had a lot of entrees.

E: Yes, and that strengthened him in his district considerably.

P: Do you think Ed Ball put money into that 1950 campaign against Claude
Pepper? Was he supporting [George] Smathers?

E: I have no proof, but I am quite sure that he did.

P: George Smathers says not, but he may have a weak memory.

E: Mr. Ball had a finger in a lot of things.

P: He liked George Smathers.

E: I know. Well, his brother Frank Smathers and I used to lock horns, because
I was president of the Florida Bankers Association, and a poll of the Florida
banks was almost fifty/fifty for branch banking and against branch banking.

18










P: He was a politically astute man.

E: Very much so.

P: He knew where the power lay, and he also recognized his own power position
in Florida.

E: He had a wide circle of contacts and friends.

P: Both within the state and nationally.

E: I will tell you this from my own observation: he would do almost anything for
you if he liked you; but if he did not like you, God help you.

P: I know Mr. Pepper [Claude Pepper, United States Senator and
Representative] found that out.

E: Oh, yes! [laughter]

P: Pepper still talks about that; he has just done that autobiography that he
published last year.

E: Do you know why Mr. Ball fell out with Mr. Pepper?

P: What was the reason for that?

E: Mr. Ball had bought up a lot of these defaulted bonds on the Florida East
Coast Railway; they were bankrupt. It had been seventeen years all total, I
think, and he was trying to reorganize the Florida East Coast. Of course,
almost any scheme he would have followed to reorganize he would have
wound up in control. Well, the Atlantic Coastline Railroad did not have an
entree in Miami, and they wanted very much to take over the Florida East
Coast. They got into a fight, and the Atlantic Coastline retained Mr. Pepper
and paid him a $100,000 retainer. Of course, that put Mr. Pepper and Mr.
Ball on opposite sides in a fight to the finish. That is the real reason he did
not have any use for Claude Pepper.

I might tell you this: I have a two-page letter from Claude Pepper in my desk
over there which I just got a week ago. Claude was from Camp Hill,
Alabama. When he went to the University of Alabama he roomed with a
cousin of mine from Elba. Claude was then shoveling coal and studying at
night, studying by dust-covered light. My cousin was in charge of the dining
room of the college, so he gave Claude a job in the dining area. Of course,
that was clean and nice and short hours. Claude told me numbers of times,
and he put it in his letter, that if he had been named Chief Justice of the
[United States] Supreme Court or as Ambassador to the Court of St. James,


17











E: Very much so.

P: She lives near you, you say?

E: Yes, she lives on the same bayou I live on. She has to pass my house to go
to town. My oldest granddaughter is getting ready to move in a home that
was formerly my daughter's home. The next one is living in Brandon; they
rented an apartment in Brandon when he applied to the University of Tampa.
I said I did not want him driving from Brandon to the university through east
Tampa, so I suggested they get an apartment on Davis Islands. They could
not find what they wanted, so they moved into a new apartment house in
Brandon. He says that he gets on the cross-town expressway and goes right
straight to Hyde Park, which is right in front of the school.

P: You said another very good friend of yours and associate was Mr. George
Jenkins of Publix. How did that come about?

E: Mr. Jenkins came to Winter Haven in 1925 when he was eighteen.

P: The same year that you came, and he is one year younger than you.

E: Yes. I am actually one year and from February to September older than he
is. He was a bachelor when he came down, and so was I.

P: Where did he come from?

E: He came from Atlanta, Georgia. He was born in a small town in Georgia not
far from Atlanta; I do not recall the name of the town right now. It is not
a very big place. He was a manager of a Piggly Wiggly when he was eighteen.
He had been raised in a general store before his daddy died. He went in
with two of his associates in Piggly Wiggly. One of them was Nick Ellison,
who was head of the produce department, and the other fellow, Chance, I
believe, was head of the meat department. George was manager. They went
right next door to the Piggly Wiggly store and rented an empty store building
that a hardware store had been in, and they opened the first Publix store in
1930.

There was a chain of theaters in Florida known as the Paramount-Publix
chain, and the anti-trust justice department broke them up. They said they
could not produce movies and show them too, and control the whole works.
When the name was given up, George had a contest for a name. He gave
twenty-five dollars, I recall, as a prize. Some lady suggested the name Publix,
and he adopted it.

George and I used to go with the same girl, and we used to do a little
running around together. He went along and progressed in life. I took some

27










came to be a key man in the Florida National group. He was president of
Florida National in Orlando, Bartow, and Lakeland--all at one time. He was
a key man and handled some purchase of land and other things for the Du
Pont organization. He did a lot of traveling in the interest of the Jacksonville
bank, calling on correspondents in Georgia and Florida and so forth. He was
a very able and professional banker. He never owned a bank or anything of
that nature. He came to Lakeland, as I said, in 1932. I was already there,
and we became close friends. He married a Lee from Dothan, Alabama.

P: Is she related to your family?

E: Perhaps if we go far enough back, but we have never done it. My grandfather
and her forefathers used to hunt deer together. There was a close
relationship there. I have no doubt that there is a family connection, if you
go back far enough. She was queen of Gasparilla one year, and her niece was
queen, her brother was king, her brother-in-law was king.

P: This is Mr. Greening's wife?

E: Yes. She is living; she must be ninety years of age. She has a condominium
on Bayshore in Tampa.

P: Is Mr. Greening dead?

E: Yes, he died in 1960. He was nine years older than me. When I bought this
bank, I put him on the board. At that time Mrs. Greening's people formed
the cirtus packing house in Dade City. It is now Lykes Pasco Packing
Company, but they were all citrus people.

P: What was it then? Do you remember the name before the Lykes's took it
over?

E: It was Pasco Packing Association. All Lykes did was put Lykes in front of it
and call it Lykes Packing Company.

P: You said Mr. Greening fired you. I want to hear that story.

E: Well, in 1933, as you know, I was with the Florida National in Lakeland.
This was right after the moratorium.

P: This is after Roosevelt became president and the banks were closed.

E: Yes. Greening came to Florida National from Barnett; he had been
vice-president of Barnett in Jacksonville. He switched to Florida National,
and they had him in Lakeland as president of that Florida National Bank.
After the moratorium in 1933, we had to do a lot of belt tightening. He let
quite a few people off; he laid them off. The bank was overstaffed, anyway.

30










E: I came to Winter Haven August 1, 1925.

P: Tell me again how you got to be in charge of this bank.

E: Well, the man who was president of the bank at Winter Haven owned five
banks, and they were all on the old Boston ledger system of bookkeeping and
record maintenance. He sent me over to Auburndale to change their
bookkeeping system and accounting to machine bookkeeping. While I was
waiting on the stationery to make the transfer--I had been working in the
bank about six weeks--the vice-president and cashier came up one afternoon
after the bank closed and leaned up on the counter and told me he was
quitting, that he was going to turn his work over to me. He said he could do
better in real estate in one a day than in the banking business in a month.
The president of the bank was not active. He only came around about once
a week, and sometimes not that often. So I found myself in charge of the
bank. I was only nineteen years old at the time.

P: What was the name of that bank?

E: State Bank of Auburndale.

P: How large a bank was it?

E: At that time it had half a million dollars in deposits, which was fairly large
for that size town.

P: That was heavy in citrus in that area, was it not?

E: It was very heavy in citrus.

P: Were most of your depositors the citrus agriculture folks and cattle people
in that area?

E: That group, and retired people.

P: How did people get into Auburndale and Winter Haven? The Tamiami Trail
was not yet constructed, was it?

E: The few paved roads in Florida at that time came down what you call the
backbone of Florida. They came down the middle part of the state through
Lake City, Gainesville, Leesburg, and Polk City to Lakeland or Winter Haven
or whichever, and came on on down to Sebring.

P: That was a paved highway, was it not?

E: It was a two-lane, paved highway. There were no paved roads on the west
coast of Florida at that time, from the Panhandle down.

7










E: He said, "Mr. Ellis, this is a list of charities we gave money to last year." I
said, "Yes, but nobody knows anything about it." He said that was exactly the
way he wanted it. You would be amazed at the number of people and causes
he gave money to. He just did not want any publicity about it.

P: His goodness certainly did not survive him, because nobody knows that, and
his record in history is lost as a result.

E: Well, I told you that if he liked you he would do anything for you. One
Sunday evening at his home Chauncey Lever was there--he was president of
Florida National. He is a South Carolina man; he is in South Carolina now.
Mr. Ball asked me that Sunday afternoon if I had any charters lately, and I
said that I had three. He asked how much capital I had to put up, and I
answered $3.5 million. He just turned to the left and said, "Chauncey, put it
on his account in the morning." That is the way he did business.

Another time, one Sunday evening, we were talking at Wakulla Lodge in his
wing--he had a whole second floor wing in that place. I heard him talking in
the night one time, and the next morning he just came to me and handed his
key to me and said, "This is the key to my cellar. Make yourself at home.
Stay as long as you like, but I have got to leave."

One Sunday evening we were talking there, and he asked if I had bought any
banks lately. I said, "Yes, we bought one in Pinellas Park." He asked, "What
did you have to pay for it?" I told him it was six million, 300 some-odd
thousand dollars cash, but we had to promise the Federal Reserve that we
would sell $6.5 million worth of equity capital within six months to offset it.
We never did have to do that; they never insisted, and we never did it.

Monday morning he got back to Jacksonville and called me. He said, "Mr.
Ellis, I have been thinking about that. Why do you want to pay an
underwriting fee--printing, application, SEC [Securities Exchange
Commission], and all the lawyers and CPAs and all that? I will loan you the
money, and you can buy it for yourself personally." I said, "Mr. Ball, I do not
want to owe Florida National in Jacksonville any more money than I do." He
said, "I will loan it out of the estate." With that kind of support you cannot
lose.

P: You cannot lose with those kinds of friends.

P: Mr. Ellis, I would like to get more of your personal history on the record.
You told me that you were married April 11, 1936, in winter Haven. So you
celebrated your fiftieth wedding anniversary about three years ago.

E: We got married again on the fiftieth. We had a reception and the whole
business.


24










P: Of course, there was the Dixie Highway on the east coast.

E: Oh, yes.

P: And there was a lot of road building during the Martin administration [John
W. Martin, governor of Florida, 1925-1929].

E: There was the [William James] Conners Highway from the west coast to the
east coast, which was a toll road.

P: Where did that run?

E: I believe that it ran from somewhere around Fort Myers across the
Everglades to Miami. [The road ran from Okeechobee City to West Palm
Beach, 1923. Ed.]

P: How did you get from Elba to Winter Haven?

E: We drove from Elba to Baxley, Georgia, to Waycross, I believe. Then we
came south to Madison, Florida, to Live Oak, to Lake City, to Gainesville,
to Leesburg, and then down into Polk County.

P: How long of a trip would that have been in those days?

E: We did not try to do it all in one day. We really did not leave Elba until it
was well into the day. We spent the night in Madison, Florida, and came
down the next morning. I would say it was about ten hours.

P: You had a paved two-lane road? It was not easy getting into the central part
of the state until after 1925.

E: That is right.

P: That was after [Governor John W.] Martin started building all of the roads
through that area.

E: That is right. I believe he was governor when I came.

P: That is right; he became governor in 1924, and he served until 1928.

E: I believe Governor Martin was the one who bought the toll road from private
ownership for the state.

P: It was during his administration that the Tamiami Trail was constructed all
the way to Miami, so that was a real economic boost to that area of Florida.


8










considered merging with them. I said, "I do not want to punch a clock. I do
not want day-to-day responsibilities. I want to come and go when I want to,
but I want a voice in the management, which I am entitled to." They agreed
to it. Then they asked me if I had any employment contracts. I said I had
none, but I had some personal commitments to certain key men in my
organization that they would have to honor, because they are just as good as
a contract. They agreed to that, too. I added, "What I have earned and have
today is this: I have a salary." He asked how much, and I told them.

Hugh McCall, the new chairman, had never worked for anybody except
NCNB. He is a very nice fellow, and he knows his business. He is also very
aggressive. He wanted to know what else I wanted. I said, "I have an
automobile that is furnished me by the bank, and I have a chauffeur that I
have had for twenty-some-odd years. I have an office, a secretary, and
bank-related expenses, and that is what I will have to continue having." They
agreed to all of it, and we signed a contract. So they pay me now. They pay
me a salary and give me an automobile, but they pay the tax on it. They pay
my chauffer a salary and my secretary, too. The contract has been publicized
in the proxy statement; it is no secret. Everything I have told you is in the
proxy statement. I will have to say they have been extremely nice to me.

P: So you have been very happy.

E: They have lived up to every agreement they have made.

P: When did you do this?

E: 1984. It was official March 16, 1984. Now, the tallest commercial building
in Sarasota was owned by my bank. I did not put my name on these banks.
In fact, Ellis Banking Corporation was organized by me, but I did not intend
to put my name on anything. That came about from my board of directors
in Sarasota because I had five banks in Sarasota, and the [Potter] Palmer
family had five. Palmer's name was everywhere you looked, but we were the
biggest bank in Sarasota. The directors down there said we ought to have a
common name so we can compete with Palmer. I had four banks in Tampa.
I organized three and bought one; I bought one and then organized the
others. I got two charters on one date.

P: So your relationship with NCNB has been a happy marriage, then?

E: Well, yes. Now, they do confer with me on matters, and I help them a great
deal. Just yesterday they called me and wanted me to talk to a certain man
regarding a loan. I have discussed some of the big loans for people I have
known for a long time.

The president of the Florida bank called me one day and wanted me to call
John Turner, treasurer of Publix. They wanted the Broward County account.

42











P: Burke Kibler's family.

E: Yes. Watson attached himself out here at Anclote Psychiatric Center at a
dollar a year after he retired. He established the Watson Clinic, which,
incidentally, handles about 1,100 patients a day. I go there for my physical
checkups. When he came over here, a chauffer would bring him on Monday
and would come get him on Friday. He and I would go to the Julia Lounge
across the street and have a drink or two, and then go out and have a steak.
I told him, "Herman, you sure did cut me up." He said, "Well, I did not
expect you to live. I did not take great pains with you." I was out of the
bank about four or five months, and they told me to come back. They paid
me--of course, I was not making much--the whole time I was out, and they let
the other fellow go when I came back.

P: So it was physical reasons, then, that kept you out of World War II.

E: I tried to join the navy. I had a recommendation from a commander in the
Pentagon who was a personal friend of mine. I tried to get in the Special
Services Division that did office work. I was president of the Wauchula bank
in Hardee County; that was the only bank in the county. Hardee County is
a big food-producing county. But they decided that I was worth more as
chairman of the bond drives and so forth, and I was so near the cutoff age
they said I was worth more at home.

P: Mr. Ellis, during this long conversation we have had this afternoon, you have
mentioned dozens of banks, it seems to me, in almost every community in
Florida. You have not said anything about west Florida in the Panhandle
area, and you have not said very much about south Florida, the area of Palm
Beach, Miami, and Key West.

E: I had eighty-one banks in this state, and every one of them was a full-service
bank, except four.

P: Did you go to west Florida and the Panhandle?

E: Oh, yes. I bought the bank in Blountstown, I bought the bank in Jay, I
bought the bank in Tallahassee, and I bought the bank in Cross City.

P: Did you have any banks in Pensacola?

E: No. I had a deal to acquire four branches of one bank. When I went with
NCNB I had a deal all ready to close for the Bank of Jackson County, which
was at Marianna and Chipley. I liked west Florida because I was born in
Alabama not over forty miles away. Then I also had a bank between Mobile
and Pensacola in Alabama, so I knew that area of west Florida. When I
merged with NCNB the first thing they wanted to do was get rid of those west

39











E: You can underscore that. He had an iron grip on all of it.

P: Now, he and Mr. Du Pont, of course, were brothers-in-law, because Mr. Du
Pont was married to Ed Ball's sister.

E: That is right, and it was Mr. Du Pont's third marriage.

P: They lived in Epping Forest in Jacksonville.

E: Right.

P: You say you did meet Mr. Du Pont. What kind of a person was he? He did
have that hearing problem.

E: As I say, he did not do much talking. He was a very astute man, as you might
suppose. He did a lot of traveling. He kind of left everything up to Mr. Ball,
and Mr. Ball was on top of everything. That is Mr. Ball's portrait out there;
you probably recognized it.

P: I saw it. Tell me about Ed Ball. He became almost a myth and a legend in
his time in Florida.

E: Very few people knew Mr. Ball, and even those who knew him I do not think
had a full appreciation of his personality. Of course, he had quite a
reputation. In fact, Fortune magazine wrote an article, "The Terrible Temper
of Mr. Ball," but I found him to be one of the warmest-hearted fellows I ever
knew in my life. He and I became very fast friends. I spent a lot of time
with him because I could reminisce with him 'way back into the 1920s.

P: Where did Ball come from?

E: Virginia. Ball's Point, Virginia. In fact, Mr. Du Pont used to hunt at Mr.
Ball's father's place back when Ed Ball's sister was a girl thirteen or fourteen
years old, when he first met her.

P: Jessie Ball. So the Ball family was an affluent, distinguished family?

E: Mr. Ball would not tell you so, but it is the same family as Martha Ball
Washington, and his father was attorney general.

P: So they did not have Mr. Du Pont's money, but they did have a lot backing
in terms of family prestige.

E: Oh, yes, they were a well-established family. When Mr. Du Pont died--he
died April 29, 1935, I believe--I received a copy of his will. I also have a copy


14










P: So times were hard here really by the end of the 1920s.

E: In 1933-1934, 1932 even, the school board was issuing script to the teachers,
and some of the bigger department stores, including Sears Roebuck, would
take script. Sears Roebuck would even take a bale of cotton in Alabama
instead of money. That was in 1932 through 1934; that was the Great
Depression in this country. Florida, you might say, got hit triple.

P: [Doyle E.] Carlton was elected governor in 1928. He called a special session
of the legislature to begin cutting back on state funding, including teachers'
salaries.

E: That is right.

P: There were some serious cutbacks in order to try to get out of this hole.

E: I knew Governor Carlton quite well, because I was made president, chairman
of the board, and cashier of a bank in Hardee County. The bank had had
some problems, and there were some indictments. The people came clear of
the indictments, but I remained there at the request of FDIC [Federal
Deposit Insurance Corporation] for five years. I tried to quit after three
years, because I did not have but ten shares of stock in the bank. I told them
that if I had to make ten dollars to have one dollar, I might as well go to Las
Vegas. I wanted to get back into business for myself, so if I made ten dollars,
I would keep at least seven or eight of it. Then I bought into the Sarasota
bank and joined a fellow in the control of that bank. In the meantime, I had
bought a bank in Alabama, but I did not want to go back to there. I bought
the bank because it was a bargain. It was between Pensacola and Mobile,
which were very active communities in World War II.

P: Now, this is a little bit later. The bank goes under in Auburndale in 1929.

E: Yes.

P: What did you do immediately after that?

E: I went to work in liquidation of banks as an employee of the Comptroller of
Currency.

P: I see. That was a federal job?

E: Yes. That agency was in charge of all national banks.

P: How much were you paid for that?

E: I really do not remember. It was on an hourly basis.


12










and crooks in the country. Anyway, anyone who reads Forbes has no business
asking for a handout." Last year they printed that statement, too.

P: Let me read you this little comment that I picked up from a Miami
newspaper item. It says, "Ellis confesses to ownership of nine well-located
shopping malls, and he is buying a tenth. He also owns half of a city block
in downtown Tampa, a quarter of a block in Clearwater, and property in
Tarpon Springs, some of which he leases to the city." Is there any basis to all
of that?

E: Yes, sir.

P: How the Miami newspaper learn all of that?

E: I do not know where they learned it, but I do own twelve shopping centers
located in Pasco, Pinellas, Manatee, Hillsborough, and Polk counties, and I
own half of a downtown block in Tampa. There are fifteen store buildings
there, and I have owned it for forty years. I do own a quarter of a downtown
block in Clearwater; I am surrounded by four banks there. I do own quite
a bit of property here in Tarpon Springs, including the former bank building,
of which part is leased to the state, and the rest is leased to private interests.
I own six store buildings on the main street up there. You asked me this, and
I am not trying to brag. I own an office building in Clearwater, and I also
own three bank buildings and the bank building in Tarpon Mall. Incidentally,
I bought that bank building out there on Tarpon Road from George Jenkins
in 1984 for $355,000, which is exactly what he had in it. I was arguing with
the state road department the other day. I had it appraised recently for
$1,273,000. It is leased on a triple net lease to NCNB.

P: Mr. Ellis, what drives you? When you get up in the morning, what do you
want to do?

E: I cannot answer that. I just get bored to death sitting down and doing
nothing. I read two newspapers in the morning before I get started.

P: Your lifestyle has not changed as a result of your prosperity.

E: No, it has not changed at all.

P: You do not buy thousand-dollar suits and all of those kinds of things. You
do not have caviar for breakfast, do you?

E: No, sir.

P: What I am really saying is you look like a man of simple, conservative taste.

E: You are absolutely right.

45










P: I meant to ask you earlier just in passing if you have ever heard of the
Citizen's Bank in Jacksonville that went under in the 1920s? It is on Broad
Street near Bay Street.

E: There is a Citizen's Bank in Tampa that went under in 1929.

P: This one closed about 1926 or 1927, I think.

E: I have never heard of it. I never knew there was a Citizen's Bank downtown.
Now, there was another bank across the street from the old Robert Myer
Hotel, and it changed hands a dozen times. It had problems.

P: This was a little bit west of that.

E: The one I am talking about had two or three different names in the course
of time. It is still there.

P: Who else was instrumental in working with you, others like Ed Ball and Neil
Greening and George Jenkins? When did you and Ben Hill Griffin, for
instance, become associated?

E: Well, when I became president of the Wauchula State Bank in the late 1930s,
I loaned Ben Hill Griffin money. He was buying ranch land, with phosphate
under it for that matter, for $1.25 an acre. He was buying citrus groves for
$400 to $500 an acre, and every time the examiners came through there they
told me that he owed every bank they had examined. I said, "He is either
going to be the richest or the poorest man in the state."

P: He turned out not to be the poorest.

E: He sure is not poor. He was chairman of the board of my Avon Park bank,
and he was on the Ellis Banking Corporations board.

P: If there is ever any truism to what you were saying before about a man, a real
person not changing his way of life, it is Ben Hill Griffin.

E: Yes, that is so. I bought his bank. He had two or three banks at one time
or another, but he never was active in them. When I bought his bank in
Avon Park, he was chairman of the board, and he asked what he was going
to do now that I had bought the bank. I said, "You just stay right on and
keep your office." He asked what I wanted him to do, and I said, "Run the
bank any way you want to, Ben Hill." And he did.

P: Mr. Ellis, would you consider yourself to be a conservative banker, a
conservative business man?



32










would be out of business. But the mortgage was not a conforming mortgage
under the regulations of a bank or a savings and loan, so his only outlet for
them was selling it.

Jim and I are very close friends. There is a story being written now on the
Jim Walter Corporation. He sent the men over here and spent the day with
me to get background for it. To make a long story short, I incorporated a
company called General Discount Corporation, and I took stock in it, and my
secretary--not Mary, but another one--took stock in it, and Neil Greening took
stock in it, and Arch Clements, my attorney, took stock in it. He was on the
board here. I had about 27 some-odd percent of the corporation. I looked
to my friends in Jacksonville and St. Petersburg and Mobile, Alabama, and
got myself a line of credit for General Discount Corporation. I commenced
buying Jim Walters's paper; I was the exclusive outlet for him.

When I said I would make a long story short, Jim finally got to be worth
$1,226,000--I remember very distinctly. I told Jim it was getting to where I
needed to get out of either the banking business or the mortgage business.
I helped get him a line with Florida National for $1 million. Then he got
acquainted with a broker in Cleveland, Ohio, who took an interest in him.
He began to arrange a line in Chicago for him. From there he went on. He
had Karl Krier, who was manager of Thompson and McKinnon office in
Tampa, set up a corporation for him. He first started out as Jim Walter
Incorporated. He had a partnership called Dixie Supply Company. Dixie
Supply Company would buy the materials, and Jim Walter Inc. would build
the houses. Walter never did build the houses; he contracted everything.
He still does, as far as I know. I told him, "Jim, I think you have the same
idea in housing that Henry Ford had in transportation."

Jim has a tremendous amount of ability, and he has a lot of humility. He is
a top-flight man in every respect. I used to go to his stockholders meetings,
although I never was a stockholder. After he started entertaining his
stockholders, which, incidentally, is in the first part of December, usually
around the seventh or eighth, he would have these stockholders meetings that
would run two or three days. He set them up for fishing in his boat, TICA,
which stands for "This I Cannot Afford." He would arrange for them to play
golf. He made a big social affair out of it. He would have a big cocktail
party and banquet, and I would always go to his banquet. He always
introduced me. One time he got up and told them that there would not be
a Jim Walter Corporation without Al Ellis.

P: I knew that you had been very instrumental in supporting and developing the
Jim Walter Corporation.

E: Well, he did not need me.

P: He needed somebody like you, and you were the person.

36










E: Well, descended from Thomas Lee was a Charles Stephen Lee. Charles
Stephen Lee came down to south Alabama. He was a colonel in the army.
Elba, Alabama is named for the island of Elba. It had two roads and a creek
coming together that enabled us to have one of the first hydraulic power
plants. We had electric lights; I do not even remember when we did not.
Charles Stephen Lee, my great-great-grandfather, settled in Elba, and he
owned a lot of land. Some of it was acquired, they tell me, for twenty-five
cents an acre.

P: Was he a slave owner?

E: He owned a 153 slaves. When they were freed, they took the Lee name. We
always treated them much like they were a part of the family. If one of them
got in jail, we bailed him out; if he needed a doctor, we got him a doctor.
Some member of the family would always come to the rescue.

P: Are there black Lees in Elba now?

E: Yes. At one time, I would say about half the black population were Lees.

P: When your mother's family came to Alabama, did they come down at the
time of the Indian troubles with the Cherokee?

E: The Cherokee Indians were quite a bit of trouble in south Alabama at that
time. They were a very strong tribe in Alabama and, the more I hear, were
very ferocious, if that is the right word for them. According to tradition, the
rivers were swollen near Elba when the family first arrived. In the spring
there were not many bridges, if any, that were convenient. So my
great-great-grandfather had to camp until the rivers subsided. He fell in love
with that area of the state and settled there and raised a big family. Among
the family was my great-grandfather, Moses Jourdine Lee, but everybody
called him Captain Pete. He and his five brothers were all commissioned
officers in the War Between the States. He had a big family, one of whom
was Charles Stephen Lee, my grandfather. At one time there were five
Charles Stephen Lees, one of whom was black. They did not have any
trouble with the mail, though, because we had relatives in the post office, and
all they had to do was see where the letter came from and they would know
who it belonged to. My mother was Charles Stephen Lee's daughter, and she
was the oldest one in the family. When she and my father were married in
1904, my father settled in Elba. He went into business with some other
people who were stockholders and operated a private bank, a
mercantile-furnishing business, and a fertilizer manufacturing plant.

P: Where did your father's family come from?

E: They came, originally, from Holland to England to Boston to New York and
then to Georgia. They did not stay in Georgia very long. In Georgia he

2










Fortunately, I had a lot of good, influential friends. When I ran for
directorship of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, Mr. Ray Gidney was in
Jacksonville then, and he was a good friend of Mr. Ball's. He was formerly
Comptroller of Currency, which, as you know, supervises all of the national
banks in the country. Mr. Gidney used to be president of the Federal
Reserve Bank of Cleveland before he became comptroller in Washington.
He came to Jacksonville, and Mr. Ball made him chairman of the board of
Florida National Bank in Jacksonville and paid him a salary. He was almost
as old as Mr. Ball, if not as old. When I decided to run for the Federal
Reserve directorship in Atlanta, Mr. Gidney just appointed himself my
campaign manager. He did not have anything else to do, so he got on the
telephone and commenced calling bankers in Louisiana, Tennessee, Alabama,
and Georgia. I beat Bert Lance. He was the official nominee, and they told
me that was the first time that had ever happened, that an outsider beat the
official nominee.

P: You had a good campaign manager.

E: Yes, I sure did. I did not do it, he did it. You see, fifty-six banks nominated
me with letters and a little help from the right source. I had gotten on the
Federal Reserve Board branch in Jacksonville and served three years. But,
as you know, the directors of the branch banks--Nashville, New Orleans,
Birmingham, Jacksonville, Miami--are appointed by the parent branch in
Atlanta. You have to be elected to the parent bank, or get appointed by the
Board of Governors in Washington. I was pushing sixty-five, but I had a first
cousin who was on that board, and I also knew Monroe Kimball, president
of the bank. Monroe used to be president of the American Bankers
Association, and I had Monroe as one of my personal speakers at my
convention when he was president.

P: You say this is Kimball?

E: Monroe Kimball, yes. In fact, Monroe asked me to take his son in my bank
when he came out of school. He counseled with him, and he said he could
place him in any bank he wanted to, but he said, "I think he has a better
chance with you, and I would appreciate it if you would take him." I made
him president of our Fort Myers bank. He was only twenty-eight years old,
but I did not hire him because of his daddy. In fact, the man who was
chairman of that bank and the Sarasota bank, Charlie Bailey, called me one
day and asked if I thought he would be crazy if he made Danny Kimball
president of the Fort Myers bank. I asked how old Danny was, and he said
twenty-eight. I said, "It seems to me that he is rather immature to be
president of that sort of a bank." He said, "He is running the bank now as
vice president; the president is not running the bank." I said, "I tell you what
to do. You call his daddy at the Federal Reserve Bank in Atlanta and ask
him what he thinks about it," and he did. Of course, Monroe naturally saw
an opportunity for him, and he supported it. Consequently--I do not mean

22











E: I go to Gainesville sometimes for football games. We have a sky box, but
that is mostly social.

P: Where is your sky box?

E: Over here in the Tampa stadium. The University of South Florida has a sky
box, too, that I can go to.

P: I am sure you would be welcome in a lot of sky boxes around.

E: I am about to give the University of South Florida $600,000 to study
Parkinson's disease. Of course, the state is putting in $420,000.

P: And that will create a chair?

E: The reason I am in with the University of South Florida is that Sarasota has
a lot of culture, but it has not always had a college, and the people there
wanted one. They tried mighty hard to get Florida Presbyterian College
there. It is located in St. Petersburg and is now [Jack] Eckerd College.
Eckerd was a very close friend of mine; I have been acquainted with him ever
since he came here. This bank gave him his first line of credit. Mrs. Eckerd
was Ruth Binnicker, the daughter of R. J. Binnicker, who was president of the
First National Bank in Tampa at one time. I was with them the other night
at Eckerd College for a dinner.

P: Do you have a foundation?

E: Yes, I have been giving the foundation at least $1 million a year. The
foundation has $5 million worth of life insurance on my life, and they also are
going to inherit $27 million from my will. With what they have already, they
will have $35 million. I have said several times that you only live after you
are dead through your children and deeds--deeds, particularly. So what little
bit I have been able to do I think I will still owe a great deal.

P: Do you read very much? Is that one of your interests? You said you read
newspapers in the morning.

E: I read very much.

P: What do you read?

E: Well, somebody is always giving me an autographed book, and I actually read
it.

P: Do you have any special interests in history--the Civil War and the South?


49










be invited. So through the contacts I have in there--I do not know how I got
in there, because it is only the top men in the surrounding towns who are
members--I have been able to develop some mighty strong friendships of
prominent people in every community in this area. It is that kind of an
organization.

P: So you have a business relationship and a social relationship, then, with Ben
Hill Griffin and you are friends.

E: Oh, sure.

P: Another man that I think you have been associated with, perhaps not as
closely as Ben Hill, is Jim Walter.

E: Yes, fortunately. When I was with the Lakeland Florida National Bank, Jim's
daddy lived in Plant City. He had a fresh fruit packing house there in the
early 1930s. I handled his account at Florida National. He was selling fresh
fruit; there was no such thing as canned fruit, juices, and so forth in those
days. He would ship a carload of fruit to some broker in Boston; they would
haul them all the way up there. He would draw up a draft and attach a bill
of lading to it, and endorse it to the bank. We would give him credit for it
that day. Then at the end of the month we averaged his outstanding and
charged him interest by the month on the outstanding.

Jim's story has been well documented. When Jim came out of the navy with
Bud Austin, who has been associated with him ever since, he married Saraw's
sister, but lost her. Saraw was treasurer of Jim Walter Corporation. So Jim
and Saraw, his brother-in-law, and Bud Austin went into business together.
He was driving a pick-up truck delivering fruit for his daddy. He bought a
shell house, as the story goes, for him and his wife when he got married. The
idea appealed to him. So he went into business with the man he bought the
house from, and later bought him out.

At that time, Walter sold one type of shell house. You had the lot, and he
would sell you a house for $995, payable in forty-eight monthly payments at
a 6 percent add-on, which gave him a yield of about 12 percent. That was an
unusually good yield. Consequently, when he took back a mortgage on the
house and lot, twenty-four dollars of every one $100 mortgage he had was the
carrying charge built into it. Then he had this profit; he only had seventy-six
dollars true money involved, and that included his profit.

His daddy brought him over here, as I recall, back in those early years--thirty
years ago. I had Jim give me a financial statement, and he showed a net
worth of $23,000. His office was in a shell house over in north Tampa across
from the dog track. Jim had a complete mortgage package with good
paperwork. Of course, he did not do it; his office had prepared it. Every
time Jim sold a house, his capital would be tied up in this mortgage, and he

35










It got to the point where either me or a fellow by the name of Glen Freer
would be let go. Now, Glen Freer was married and had five children, and
nothing but a salary. I had saved my money and made investments. Neil
knew that, so he told me, "Frankly, it is either you or Glen Freer, and I
cannot afford to let him go, so I will have to let you go." I said, "Neil, do not
make any apologies about it. I am keeping the general ledger, and I know
it." He did promise me that I would not suffer for it. This was in March
1933. I went back to Alabama to organize a bank up there in my home town.


P: So you were not afraid of where your next meal was coming from.

E: No. He knew my father and mother, and he inquired enough to know that
I would not suffer. I was still single, too. After I went back to Alabama, I
heard through the grapevine--I still had friends in banks down here--that there
was going to be an opening in the American National Bank in Winter Haven.
That just suited me fine, because Helen was living in Winter Haven. I made
application for this job at American National in Winter Haven. A fellow
named Hancock was president of that bank; he owned control of it. So I gave
Neil as a reference, along with one or two others. Hancock called Neil and
asked him about me, and Neil told him, "Hell, you do not want him. He is
not worth a damn. I had to fire him myself." "But," he said, "there was a
fellow in the bank who lives just outside of Winter Haven who was a pretty
good man, and we are overstaffed, anyway." So Hancock hired Charlie
Weber; Charlie left Florida National and went with American National in
Winter Haven. Then Neil called me in Alabama and said, "Forget about
Alabama. Come back here."

P: So that is why he was so negative; he was saving you for his own operations.

E: When I bought the First National of Bradenton back in 1952, Neil was
president of the Bank of Hollywood in Hollywood, Florida. Neil had citrus
groves around Dade City, and his wife did, also. He liked the west coast, and
we were friends, so I called him and asked him to come over because I
wanted to talk to him. I told him I was going to buy the bank, and I wanted
him to be president of it.

P: Where was he from?

E: Kentucky, originally. He came to Florida in 1929.

P: A little bit after you and Jenkins had come here. So you and he remained
good friends, then, for a long time, until his death.

E: Oh, yes, we were friends until he died.



31










E: He is one of the finest people I have ever known, and I will say that for his
two brothers, also, one of whom is dead. I would say George [Jenkins] is very
benevolent; he is very generous. He has particularly assisted the Boy Scouts.
He has had all kinds of honors from the Boy Scouts of America. He told me
once that his three sons all were scouts, and when they took their oath,
instead of saying "for the republic, for which it stands" they would always say
"for the Publix, for which it stands."

P: That is loyalty and dedication!

E: Yes! He has two daughters and three sons, and an adopted daughter. The
reason he has an adopted daughter is his first wife had a daughter when he
married her, but he lost his first wife. This daughter lives in Texas because
his first wife was from Texas. He has a daughter living in Florence, Italy, who
is married to an Italian boy.

P: I want to get an interview with Mr. Jenkins for this series of Florida Business
Leaders.

E: You would find it very, very interesting.

P: I understand he is a fascinating man, very warm and considerate.

E: He takes care of his employees, and he shares his business with them. I once
picked up a book in the airport in Charlotte [NC] to have something to read.
It listed the 100 best companies in America to work for, and Publix was one
of them. Mr. Jenkins has never had any union or any threat of a union.
When he adopted his profit sharing plan, he told me that the Internal
Revenue Service almost did not approve it because it was so generous.

P: Is he still associated with you in business?

E: The only business connection we have, outside of the stock my wife and I
have, is the board of directors of NCNB National Bank of Florida, which is
over a $10 billion bank. I happen to be senior chairman of the board.

P: Tell me about another friend of yours, J. Neil Greening.

E: Oh, yes. The only time in my life I got fired he fired me, and when he died
he was on my payroll.

P: That is a switch. Who was Mr. Greening?

E: Mr. Greening was a native of Kentucky and lived in Oklahoma for a long
time. He came to Florida late in 1929 and went to work in a bank in Tampa.
Then he went to Jacksonville as vice president of the Barnett bank. He
switched from the Barnett bank to Florida National in 1931-1932. Later he

29










He never gave us boys anything in the way of money; he would give us a job.
He was a great believer in earning what you have. I started working in the
bank as a janitor at age fourteen. I later worked in the summers and on
Saturday. One day he called me up to his office and read in a national
publication about Ty Cobb stealing second base, and he told me, "I have
been telling you boys you are going to get in trouble for playing ball. This
man is going to go to the penitentiary for this." One of the assistant cashiers
heard and told it in the barber shop, so I got kidded about it.

P: How much did your father pay you as a janitor?

E: Eight dollars a month.

P: I understand that part of your job was cleaning the spittoons.

E: Yes, cleaning the spittoons, scouring the marble floor, washing the windows,
and building a fire in the furnance for steam heat.

P: Did you have any acquisition rights to what you found in the spittoons?

E: Well, any money I found in the spittoons was always mine; that was my fringe
benefit. I would place the spittoons right under the windows so when the
customers raked the change off the counter some might fall in the spittoon.

P: It seems to me that I read somewhere that one of the checks that you gave
as a young man bounced. I would like to hear that story.

E: Yes, I was about fifteen, I guess, maybe sixteen. We kids used to hang
around a drug store in the same block as the bank. One evening I found
myself there with about eight or ten girls; all the other guys had gotten away
without paying their part of the check. I did not have any money in my
pocket. I had never written a check from the bank before, although they had
been crediting my salary to an account that I never formally opened. I wrote
a check to the drug store, and when the check came in the bank one of the
fellows in the bank asked my father if that was my signature. He looked the
check over and he said, "Send it back. He has no business wasting his money
on soda pop."

That reminds me of another story. My father's friend and he were at the
University of Tennessee one summer session, and they went out to a ball
game. He told me, "The man said 'Ball one! Ball two! Ball three!'" But he
said, "I did not see but one ball. I knew it was crooked, so I left." I think he
was having fun off of me.

P: I see this portrait of your father that is hanging here. When did you lose
him?


4










to be bragging--I had a very close relationship with the Federal Reserve Bank.
A cousin of mine was vice-president of the Atlantic Coastline Railroad. I got
George W. Jenkins, head of the Publix chain, as a director, and George is on
the NCNB National Bank of Forida's board of directors. He has been a good
friend of mine for many years, ever since we were teenagers. As time went
on I got my president of the Ellis Banking Corporation on the board at
Jacksonville, and I got a couple who had been with me. I got the head of the
Pasco County branch on the board at Jacksonville. Because Jim Richardson
of Ocala was president of the Florida Bankers Association, they passed a
resolution endorsing me when I was running. I got him on the board as sort
of a left-handed compliment or favor for what he had done for me. I would
say friendships have had more to do with what little success I have had than
anything I did myself.

P: Did you ever go hunting with Ed Ball?

E: No, but he tried to convince me to time and time again. He wanted me to
go duck hunting with him in Louisiana. They have a quail shoot over there
in south Alabama, north of Pensacola, and he wanted me to do that. Another
time he wanted me to go out to Gulfport--he owned the Edgewater Hotel in
Gulfport--and I had a first cousin who had organized and was president of a
bank in Gulfport.

In fact, a cousin of mine served six years on the Federal Reserve board in
Atlanta. This fellow, Lee, had his own private railroad car; he was operating
head of the [Atlantic] Coastline. I got him on that board. When I went on
there were nine directors. I told them that we had better have a quorum
here every time; if we do not, we are going to move the bank. It was a lot
fun, anyway.

P: Was Mr. Ball a philanthropic man?

E: Very much so. Very much so.

P: But kind of a hidden philanthropist.

E: He and I attended a bank meeting in Orlando when Clarence Gay was
comptroller of Florida. He asked me to come over to the Florida bank with
him. So we went over and borrowed an office just to chat. I said, "Mr. Ball,
I am very fortunate to know you for the kind of man you are. Some people
have an adverse opinion of you. Why do you not get yourself a public
relations man? You do a lot of things that I know about, but the public never
hears about them." He handed me some mimeographed pages, stapled and
bound, at least that thick.

P: About an inch thick.


23









politicians. Those eariler experiences cost me money. I had to have a lawyer
just as a matter of precaution. He went to Miami with me, and he went to
Tallahassee with me, and I paid him a nice fee. I went before the grand jury
in Tampa in Bud Dickinson's case, and I was there about two or three hours.
Before I testified I said I would have to have immunity before I gave any
testimony. I met with the United Stated district attorney, his assistants, and
the Internal Revenue people in Tampa the night before. They told me what
they would ask me, and they even told me what my answers should be. Then
they took me before the federal judge the next morning, and it did not take
but about ten minutes. They had the papers all drawn and everything; it was
cut and dried. He gave me immunity, so I went to the grand jury room
immediately and testified.

After about two or three hours, the foreman said, "Mr. Ellis, I have one more
question. Why did you ask for immunity? You have not said anything in this
room today that would implicate you in any particular." I said it was because
I have never held an office in the Ellis Banking Corporation, and in the
course of time I received five national bank charters and five state bank
charters. But those charter applications were made out in my group office,
which had the fifth floor and part of the third and fourth floors of the First
National Bank in Bradenton. I also said, "I signed those applications, but all
they sent me to sign was just a sheet. I do not know what was in the
application, and I did not know what you were going to ask me, and I did not
want to be implicated." He said he understood fully, and that is all there was
to it. Then the government later said I was the best witness they had.
The trouble was this: they subpoened every bank account I had, every check
I had written, every share of stock I had, and every deed I had for five years
back. I went to Tampa every evening until 11:00 at night and went through
every detail. I had nothing to hide. Everything was clean as a whistle, and
we were best of friends. They said I was the best witness they had.

P: But that is not what soured you on politics, is it?

E: No. It soured me on giving money to politicians.

P: Mr. Ellis, are you a sportsman? Do you watch games?

E: When I was in Wauchula for five years, I used to go hunting. Sometimes I
would go dove shooting before the bank opened. A lot of afternoons I would
go with another boy in the post office who knew that whole country down
there. While everybody had their ranches posted to keep people from Tampa
and Plant City and Lakeland out of there, they all offered me a constant
invitation to come hunt on their land anytime I wanted to. This other boy's
daddy was a pioneer down there, and he and I would go out. I would leave
the bank maybe 2:00 or 3:00 and hunt until dark. I enjoyed it.

P: Do you follow basketball or football?

48




















UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA

ORAL HISTORY PROJECT


Interviewee: Alpheus L. Ellis

Interviewer: Samuel Proctor

December 2, 1988











P: Who are your grandchildren?

E: The oldest one is named Christine Lee Gagonon, and her husband is with
Publix, and has been for seven years. Three months ago she gave birth to my
great-grandson. That is the only boy in the family. My next grandchild is
named Lynn Ann Durham, and her husband wants to be a stock broker.
They got married last Christmas, about a week before Christmas. They had
a big wedding. He quit school and got a job with a brokerage firm up in New
Port Richey. He had finished three years at the University of Miami as an
honor student. After I got better acquainted with him I talked to him and
said, "Chuck, it is a pity you quit school to go to work just because you got
married. You do not have to do that. With the scholastic record you have
you ought to go ahead and get your bachelor's degree. And do not stop
there; go ahead and get a master's degree, because everybody has a bachelor's
degree. Otherwise, you are going to be a clerk and work for the other man
all your life." So I talked him into it. As an allowance I give each of my
granddaughters $20,000 a year. Now I give each of my grandsons $20,000 a
year. They all have the stock in NCNB I gave them, and they get their
dividends. So I said, "I would rather see you go back to school and finish."

Well, it happens that I am a trustee of the University of Tampa, and also
Florida Southern College in Lakeland, Florida. I was also a lifetime member
of the President's Council of the University of South Florida. That has
nothing to do with what we were talking about; I just mention that because
I believe in education. I do not have a degree, but I could not get a job with
NCNB today if I answered their application truthfully. I got Chuck to apply
at the University of Tampa. He is going to get his bachelor's degree in June,
then he is going to Harvard for his master's, he hopes. When he applied to
the University of Tampa, they looked at his scholastic record, and they gave
him a scholarship and handed him a check for $3,000 before he ever attended
class.

P: Then you have a third grandchild?

E: The third grandchild is twenty, and her husband is in the military service.
They are stationed at Fort Stewart outside of Hinesville, Georgia, down from
Savannah. His folks live in Atlanta. His father is in the automobile business.
Of course, I did a little inquiry, through my friends in the Atlanta bank, and
they are a very fine family. As I say, my grandson is in the service.

P: I am just sorry that you never let one of them become a Gator!

E: I did not control that. I let them do what they wanted to; they are going to
do that anyway. You might as well stay on friendly terms.

P: So you are close to your daughter, then.

26










E: Well, they have been good customers of mine, and I would loan them
practically anything they wanted. I would loan any one of them $100,000 or
$200,000 just on their signature anytime.

P: So you stayed good friends and supporters of the Pappas family.

E: They all bank here.

P: How long have you lived here in Tarpon Springs?

E: Since 1946.

P: So you are almost a pioneer yourself.

E: I came here with the intention of moving back to Sarasota after five years.
I figured within five years I would build a new bank in Tarpon Springs with
drive-in facilities, air conditioning, parking, and so on. I brought a couple of
fellows up from the Sarasota bank to change the internal operations and to
modernize it; it was being operated just like banks were in World War I. Old
man McCrocklin was from Kentucky, and he was over-aged, but he ran it just
like they used to run banks in my daddy's time. I commenced buying banks
in other towns like Lakeland. I put banks in Winter Haven. I went over the
east coast buying banks in Gainesville, Tallahassee, Live Oak, Deland, and
so forth. The new airport in Tampa was built then. I could get anywhere in
the state in an hour's time from Tampa, and I could go from my home to the
Tampa airport in thirty-five minutes. So it was much more convenient than
going back to Sarasota.

P: And it is a nice community.

E: Yes, it is. It is in the middle of things, so I just built my home here and have
been here ever since.

P: What did you do during World War II?

E: I was president of the Sarasota bank. I could not pass the physical
examination. I was thirty-six.

P: You were already over the age limit.

E: Or right at it. In 1931 I was with the Florida National in Lakeland, as you
know, and I had a ruptured appendix. Herman Watson of the Watson Clinic
was a friend of mine, and he operated on me. I was supposed to die, and
Florida National hired another fellow in my place after talking to Herman.
I used to go with Herman's niece; he was her guardian. Herman was quite
wealthy and married a Kibler of the Kibler family. They used to control
phosphate in Ocala; they were very wealthy people.

38










of Mr. Ball's will and a copy of Mrs. Du Pont's will. I do not know whether
you knew it or not, but all of the Du Pont estate is in our bank.

P: I knew that yours was the trust for it.

E: They were put in the Ellis banks to start with, and we were the corporate
trustee. Then when we merged with NCNB, within a month or so, they
named NCNB of Florida.

P: What brought you and Ed Ball together?

E: It is hard to say. I met him when I was working in the bank, and my job in
Lakeland was preparing the end-of-the-day financial statements. I sent him
a statement and his department a statement, and we kept one in the bank,
of course. There was correspondence back and forth in regard to the
statement about one thing or another.

After I met him, I did not try to cultivate him. In all due respect, I think he
cultivated me. At least I like to feel that way. To tell you how humble that
man was--and you well know that big men are humble; that is what makes
them big men--I had been to his home many times, in his Wakulla Springs
lodge. I was with him in Jacksonville in his apartment. If I had a bag (he
called it a grip), he would grab it and carry it for me; he would not let me
carry it. I had to go from his place to the airport in Tallahassee, and he
would waive his driver aside and take me himself. Even after he had four
heart attacks, he would still drive seventy-five/eighty miles an hour! Some
people did not like to ride with him, but I enjoyed it.

P: Do you think he cultivated that image of being flinthearted?

E: I think he enjoyed it. I do know that litigation was just like a game of chess
with him, and I do not think he was ever happy unless he was in court with
somebody.

P: We have an interview with him in our archives. He talked a little bit about
his early life, his political activities, and things like that.

E: Oh, yes, he sure did. He had a picture of the school house he went to the
fourth grade in, and he showed it to me two or three times. The last time he
showed it to me, I said, "Mr. Ball, I think you are fibbing. I see electrical
wires going into this school house, and there was no electricity when you went
to school." He said, "I'll be dogged! I never noticed that before."

P: Were you always on a Mr. Ellis/Mr. Ball relationship with him?

E: Absolutely.


15











E: I have to admit I was there when he needed it, but his friendship has meant
a great deal to me.

P: I have met him only once, but I know Joe Cordell in his organization.

E: He is a good friend of mine. Joe Cordell's daddy was president of the
Florida National Bank in Lakeland after I left there. His uncle was president
of the Florida National Bank of St. Petersburg, and both of the Cordells had
a bank in Daytona Beach. I know the Cordells very well.

P: There is another man that, obviously, you had an association with and helped
a great deal, and that is one of your own Tarpon Springs citizens, Mr. Pappas.

E: Yes. When I came here Mr. Louis Pappas was still living. They had a little
restaurant on the river down here, and it was a four or five room house that
was built on stilts to put the house back down on the ground. Mr. and Mrs.
Pappas had it. Two of their boys were in the service in World War II. The
boys came home with youthful ambition, and they wanted to enlarge the
restaurant. The third boy was in high school then. They asked me for a
$23,000 loan, and they enlarged the restaurant in stages. They did not have
a liquor license in those days, so they built half of the restaurant at that time;
then they tore down the other half. They continued to operate the business
all the time, even with the construction going on. They finally completed it
in three stages, but their business was growing fast.

The boys were, of course, getting married and had families coming along, and
they were all living out of that restaurant. Then they planned this present
restaurant, and they feed about two or three thousand people a day, so they
say. I had heard about their expansion plans. They discussed their plans, so
I knew about as much about it as they did. Finally they took the plunge and
called me.

The three boys came up right here in this office and showed me the plans--I
knew about them already--and I asked how much money they needed. They
said $1,700,000, and I said all right. So they went across the street to a coffee
shop, Hometown Tarpon Springs, and I understand they told everybody how
amazing it was for little people like them in a little town like this to get a
loan for $1,700,000 okayed in fifteen minutes. I loaned them the money to
build the building for their automobile business. I loaned them the money
to build those shopping centers off of town here. I loaned them the money
to buy their liquor license; they paid only $2,500 for it.

P: They obviously were a good investment.




37











P: You are not trying to impress anybody at all.

E: You have not asked me much about my wife Helen. I will tell you this: she
was always active in communities which we were in--in Red Cross, the library,
and the like. We came to this town in 1946, and she had an operation in
1949. We did not have a surgeon in this town, but she would not leave
Tarpon Springs, so they brought in a surgeon and his staff to operate right
here in our little hospital. This hospital was just like a four-unit apartment
house built in the boom days with stucco. It did not have but twelve beds in
it. Even the street out there was full of potholes. She took an interest in the
hospital. She has given thousands of hours of volunteer work at the hospital
over the years as a pink lady, and also operating a thrift store they have
uptown, as well as the gift shop out there. She and I have furnished several
rooms out there in the additions. I have made loans to them at cut rates at
every move they have made.

When they built this last addition, they added a chapel, and I got a famous
local artist to do a window of St. Luke in stained glass. A quotation of
physicians and my mother's and father's names are on it, and they dedicated
that. About five years ago they built another addition onto the hospital, and
they are about to add three more stories to it. I guess they have at least one
hundred fifty or more beds. They service this whole area: they have a branch
up here, in Holiday, between here and New Port Richey. We had to plan our
family life around Helen's duties at the hospital. A committee came to me
five years ago and showed me an artist's rendering of an addition they were
going to put on, and they had her name across the top: Helen Ellis Pavilion.
They said, "Mr. Ellis, we will fix up a suite for her." My daughter selected the
wallpaper and carpet and all that. They also gave a dinner; they had about
300 there down at that big hotel at Clearwater Beach. As a surprise to her
they had the program "This Is Your Life." They brought all the former
pastors of our church, friends we knew in Sarasota, friends we knew in
Wauchula, friends we knew in Lake Wales, Lakeland, and Bradenton as
guests.

P: All as a grand surprise for Helen. Are you a religious man? Are you a
church man?

E: I do not go to church too much, but I say my prayers every night.

P: What church do you belong to?

E: First Methodist here.

P: Was that your family's church?

E: Two of my granddaughters were married in it.

46










P: Is Mrs. Ellis living?

E: Yes, but she has been incapacitated for almost three years. We have two
live-in nurses around the clock. She has gone deaf; consequently, she does
not converse or carry on any conversation. But she will answer a question.
In February 1987, she suffered a major stroke that left her paralyzed. She has
Parkinson's'disease, and has had it for a long time, and all the complications
that go with it.

P: So it has been a burden to you, then.

E: Thank God, she has never been in any pain. She has been conscious all the
while. Right at this time, and for the last couple of months, she has been on
life-sustaining equipment. She does not take anything by mouth, not even
water.

P: Do you have children?

E: Yes, I have a daughter.

P: What is her name?

E: Carol Martin.

P: Carol Ellis Martin.

E: She lives on the same bayou with me. She is in our home every day. She has
three daughters. She is married to a Martin, so she is Carol E. Martin.

E: I have been the director of the Children's Home Society of Florida for fifty
years. I am a member of the executive advisory committee, and she is too.
Mrs. Ben Hill Griffin of Frostproof, Florida, is chairman. Mrs. A. D. Davis
is a member. Mrs. Jim Berry of Winter Haven is a member. I got NCNB
to give the Children's Home half a million dollars.

P: It is a worthy cause.

E: After that, I added $500,000 to it to make it a $1 million perpetual gift, and
they were nice enough to name the headquarters in Jacksonville for me.

P: Who is your daughter's husband, your son-in-law?

E: Paul W. Martin.

P: Is he in business with you?

E: No, he has a business of his own up on Main Street.

25










E: His name was Charles Ben Ellis.

P: Where was Charles working in Florida?

E: He was working in a bank in Winter Haven known as the Snell National
Bank.

P: What brought you to Florida?

E: Well, I had a first cousin in Winter Haven working in another bank. I came
down one summer to visit my brother and cousin, and things looked
prosperous down here during the boom days of the land speculation. The
banks were still operating on the old Boston ledger style of accounting--pen
and ink system. My father's bank had Burrough's bookkeeping and
mechanized accounting in World War I, so I had cut my teeth on that. A lot
of the banks down here where converting. Deposits where growing so fast on
them that they had to do something, so they converted from hand
bookkeeping and accounting to machine. Consequently, I had an opportunity,
knowing the system, to convert the systems in the local banks. The one that
I worked in was owned by a man who had five banks in Polk County. It was
very easy for me to get a job. At the banks you would get a good $150 a
month then.

P: At that time, though, you were really a student on summer vacation.

E: Yes, I was nineteen years old.

P: What about your parents? Did they object to you leaving school and coming
to Florida?

E: No, not really. My brother worked in one bank and I worked in another, and
we roomed together at the hotel. I think that was the only time banking
competitors ever were friendly.

P: You stayed friendly, of course, with your brother?

E: Oh, yes. He was older than I was!

P: So he could lay down the law. Now, the boom bubble burst at the end of
1926.

E: Yes.

P: The banks began not wanting to loan any more money out on land
speculation, plus, of course, the hurricane came in September of 1926. But
you arrived in Winter Haven the year before, the middle of 1925?


6





Full Text
xml record header identifier oai:www.uflib.ufl.edu.ufdc:UF0000544600001datestamp 2008-09-05setSpec [UFDC_OAI_SET]metadata oai_dc:dc xmlns:oai_dc http:www.openarchives.orgOAI2.0oai_dc xmlns:dc http:purl.orgdcelements1.1 xmlns:xsi http:www.w3.org2001XMLSchema-instance xsi:schemaLocation http:www.openarchives.orgOAI2.0oai_dc.xsd dc:title Interview with A. L. Ellis (December 2, 1988)dc:subject Businessmen -- FloridaBusinesswomen -- FloridaBusiness enterprises -- FloridaBusiness -- Florida.Business leaders.dc:description b 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.dc:date December 2, 1988dc:type Bookdc:identifier http://www.uflib.ufl.edu/ufdc/?b=UF00005446&v=00001FBL 4dc:source Samuel Proctor Oral History Program, Department of History, University of Floridadc:language English



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UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA ORAL HISTORY PROJECT Interviewee: Alpheus L. Ellis Interviewer: Samuel Proctor December 2, 1988

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1 UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA ORAL HISTORY PROJECT Interviewee: Alpheus L. Ellis Interviewer: Samuel Proctor December 2, 1988 Alpheus L. Ellis has had an enviable reput ation as a banker in the state of Florida. During his illustrious career, he has been active with the Florida Bankers Association and the Federal Reserv e Board. Ellis is listed in Who's Who in the South and Southwest and Who's Who in Finance and Industry , as well as Forbes . He has retired as senior chairman of the board of NCNB. Ellis was born in 1906 in Elba, Alabama. His father stressed hard work; Ellis and his siblings never received an allowance. Ellis began working in his father's bank, sweeping the floor and cleaning the sp ittoons--any change he found was his. Ellis attended the University of Alabama and Alabama Polytechnic Institute (now Auburn University). Before completing his degree program in finance and accounting, however, he left Alabama and came to Winter Park, Florida, in 1925, where his older brother Charles was already working in a bank. The economic climate in Florida after the boom bubble burst in 1926 was difficult. Florida was hit by the Mediterranean fruit fly, and this was followed by the stock market crash that lead to the Great Depression. During these times, Ellis saw many changes occurring in Florida and in the banking industry. He came to know men who would rise to the top of the bus iness world, men like J. Neil Greening of Barnett Bank and then Florida National Bank , Ben Hill Griffin, Jr., of the citrus industry, Jim Walter of the housing industr y, Alfred du Pont and Ed Ball of Florida National Bank, and George Jenkins of P ublix groceries. Congressman Claude Pepper also figured in Ellis's career, although Ellis generally preferr ed to stay out of politics because it was "too costly." In the interview, Ellis recounts his business relationships with these in fluential entrepreneurs. In addition to his business dealings , Ellis discusses his philanthropic endeavors, especially his wo rk with the hospital in Tarpon Springs, where he currently resides. He and his wife Helen have contributed a great deal of time and money to the hospital. To show its appr eciation, the hospital board has chosen to name it the Helen Ellis Memorial Hospital . Also included on his list of causes are

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2 Jack Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, the University of South Florida in Tampa, and the Children's Home of Florida. In his free time, Ellis enjoys the out doors. He likes to dove hunt, and he takes in Florida Gator and Tampa Bay Bucs football when he can. Ellis also enjoys reading and traveling.

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1 P: I am conducting an interview this afternoon, December 2, 1988, with Mr. Alpheus L. Ellis in his office in Tarpon Springs . This interview is in the Florida Business Leaders Project of the University of Florida Oral History Program. Mr. Ellis, I would like to ask you, if I may, your full name? E: Alpheus Lee Ellis. P: When you were born? E: February 5, 1906. P: Where? E: Elba, Alabama. P: Tell me where you got the name Alpheus; it is a little bit unusual. E: Well, it is really a Greek name, but I am not Greek. My father's name, however, was Alpheus. His father had fourteen children. I guess he found it in the Bible. P: Perhaps he ran out of nam es, with fourteen children. E: I would think so. P: Your mother, I understand, was a Lee. What was her full name? E: Her full name was Lillie Alberta Lee. P: Did she come from the Virginia Lees? E: Yes, she was descended from the Virginia Lees. P: How far back did her family go in this country? E: It goes back to Thomas Lee, who was the first governor of Virginia before it became a state. P: It was still a royal dominion then, befor e it became part of the United States? E: Yes.

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2 P: How did that trace down? I would like to find out the tracing of your mother's family and how the members got to Alabama. E: Well, descended from Thomas Lee wa s a Charles Stephen Lee. Charles Stephen Lee came down to south Alabama. He was a colonel in the army. Elba, Alabama is named for the island of Elba. It had two roads and a creek coming together that enabled us to hav e one of the first hydraulic power plants. We had electric lights; I do not even remember when we did not. Charles Stephen Lee, my great-great-g randfather, settled in Elba, and he owned a lot of land. Some of it was acquired, they tell me, for twenty-five cents an acre. P: Was he a slave owner? E: He owned a 153 slaves. When they were freed, they took the Lee name. We always treated them much like they were a part of the family . If one of them got in jail, we bailed him out; if he needed a doctor, we got him a doctor. Some member of the family would always come to the rescue. P: Are there black Lees in Elba now? E: Yes. At one time, I would say about half the black population were Lees. P: When your mother's family came to Al abama, did they come down at the time of the Indian troubles with the Cherokee? E: The Cherokee Indians were quite a bit of trouble in south Alabama at that time. They were a very strong tribe in Al abama and, the more I hear, were very ferocious, if that is the right word for them. According to tradition, the rivers were swollen near Elba when the family firs t arrived. In the spring there were not many bridges, if any, that were convenient. So my great-great-grandfather had to camp until the rivers subsided. He fell in love with that area of the state and settled there and raised a big family. Among the family was my great-grandfather , Moses Jourdine Lee, but everybody called him Captain Pete. He and his five brothers were all commissioned officers in the War Between the States . He had a big family, one of whom was Charles Stephen Lee, my grandfather. At one time there were five Charles Stephen Lees, one of whom was black. They did not have any trouble with the mail, though, because we had relatives in the post office, and all they had to do was see where the le tter came from and they would know who it belonged to. My mother was Charles Stephen Lee's daughter, and she was the oldest one in the family. When she and my father were married in 1904, my father settled in Elba. He went into business with some other

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3 people who were stockholders and operated a private bank, a mercantile-furnishing business, and a fertilizer manufacturing plant. P: Where did your father's family come from? E: They came, orginally, from Holland to England to Boston to New York and then to Georgia. They did not stay in Georgia very long. In Georgia he married a member of some colonial family. His wife's family did not like the idea of his being a foreigner, so he and his bride went over to Alabama and settled. They homesteaded land and acquired two forty-acre tracts from the government. The deeds where signed by two presidents. P: One of those, I think you told me, was Franklin Pierce. E: Yes, one was President Pierce, but I do not recall who the other president was. The deed is down there in my box. One of the deeds was on sheepskin, and one was on parchment written in long hand. They had a big family that was very closely knit. They did not do much traveling around. My grandfather had a general store in which there was a post office. Nearby was his cotton gin and grist mill. The co mmunity was known as Ellistown. It really was not a chartered municipality; it was just a trading settlement. That was about 1812, I believe. Then, a good many of the population of El ba were Lees. They were in various activities, but all of them went to college, even my great aunts and uncles, and in some cases great-great-aunts and uncles. One me mber of the Lee family was a widow who was a dean at a women's college in Montgomery, Alabama, for many years. Another Lee cousin of mine was Sue Gunter. She was a widow when she was about thir ty. She became Matron of girls at the University of Alabama for many years. She had a daughter, Mary Lee Gunter, who finished at the University of Alabama in thr ee years and won the highest medal award. She later became dean of women at the University of Wisconsin at a very early age. P: What about your father. Did he go to college? E: My father went to college. He work ed his way through. He would teach between times. He went to Troy St ate University, as they call it now. He also went to the University of Tennessee one summe r session. The day he got married to my mother in Elba, they took a trai n and went to the University of Georgia in Athens, Georgia. T hey boarded with a probate judge of the county. When he finished his program, he taught school for about a year. Then he went to

PAGE 7

4 a business college in Montgomery. When he finished that he came to Elba--he was married all this time--and started his business. P: Which was a success. E: Most of the time he was in banking busi ness for the First National Bank there, and he had a mercantile business and an automobile business, but he did not get rich out of any of them--or all of them combined, for that matter. He had a family of six boys and no girls. He believed in work; he got a great amount of pleasure out of work. He could never understand why we boys liked to play ball. In fact, he gave me a job when I was fourteen years old. He never gave us boys anything in the way of money; he would give us a job. He was a great believer in earning what you have. I started working in the bank as a janitor at age fourteen. I later worked in the summers and on Saturdays. One day he called me up to his office and read in a national publication about Ty Cobb stealing second base, and he told me, "I have been telling you boys you are going to get in trouble for playing ball. This man is going to go to the penitentiary for this." One of the assistant cashiers heard and told it in the barber shop, so I got kidded about it. P: How much did your father pay you as a janitor? E: Eight dollars a month. P: I understand that part of your job was cleaning the spittoons. E: Yes, cleaning the spittoons, scouring t he marble floor, washing the windows, and building a fire in the furnance for steam heat. P: Did you have any acquisition rights to what you found in the spittoons? E: Well, any money I found in the spitt oons was always mine; that was my fringe benefit. I would place the spittoons right under the windows so when the customers raked the change off the counter some might fall in the spittoon. P: It seems to me that I read somewhere that one of the checks that you gave as a young man bounced. I would like to hear that story. E: Yes, I was about fifteen, I guess, maybe sixteen. We kids used to hang around a drug store in the same bl ock as the bank. One evening I found myself there with about eight or ten girls; all the other guys had go tten away without paying their part of the check. I did not have any money in my pocket. I had never written a check from the bank before, although they had been crediting

PAGE 8

5 my salary to an account that I never formally opened. I wrote a check to the drug store, and when the check came in the bank one of the fellows in the bank asked my father if that was my signature. He looked the check over and he said, "Send it back. He has no business wasting his money on soda pop." That reminds me of another story. My fa ther's friend and he were at the University of Tennessee one summer session, and they went out to a ball game. He told me, "The man said `Ball one! Ball tw o! Ball three!'" But he said, "I did not see but one ball. I knew it was cr ooked, so I left." I think he was having fun off of me. P: I see this portrait of your father that is hanging here. When did you lose him? E: He died July 15, 1968. P: At what age? E: Ninety-seven. P: I gather that he was physically strong and mentally alert right until almost the end. E: Well, he was physically strong up until the day he died, but, in fact, he had a lapse in memory--he could remem ber what was happening when he was a boy better than he could what happened last week. He would walk off and we would miss him, and sometimes he could not tell anybody who he was, so he would actually get into more trouble than if he had been bedridden. P: Where and when did you go to college? E: I went to college in 1923, for three years, at Alabama Polytechnic Institute, which is now Auburn University, and to the University of Alabama. P: You left Auburn and went to Tuscaloosa? E: No, it was the other way around: I went to Alabama first and then to Auburn. P: What did you study? E: I studied banking and finance. P: Did you receive a degree?

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6 E: No, I left school before I graduated. P: You were one of five boys. E: I was one of six boys. P: You were what number? One? Two? Three? E: I was number two. P: I understand that you had a br other who was living in Flor ida in the early 1920s. Was your older brother? E: Yes. P: What was his name? E: His name was Charles Ben Ellis. P: Where was Charles working in Florida? E: He was working in a bank in Winter Haven known as the Snell National Bank. P: What brought you to Florida? E: Well, I had a first cousin in Winter Haven working in another bank. I came down one summer to visit my brother and cousin, and things looked prosperous down here during the boom days of the land speculation. The banks were still operating on the old Boston ledger style of accounting--pen and ink system. My father's bank had Burrough's bookkeeping and mechanized accounting in World War I, so I had cut my teeth on that. A lot of the banks down here where converting. Deposits w here growing so fast on them that they had to do something, so they converted from hand bookkeeping and accounting to machine. Consequent ly, I had an opportunity, knowing the system, to convert the systems in the lo cal banks. The one that I worked in was owned by a man who had five banks in Polk County. It was very easy for me to get a job. At the banks you would get a good $150 a month then. P: At that time, though, you were really a student on summer vacation. E: Yes, I was nineteen years old.

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7 P: What about your parents? Did they object to you leaving school and coming to Florida? E: No, not really. My brother worked in one bank and I worked in another, and we roomed together at the hotel. I th ink that was the only time banking competitors ever were friendly. P: You stayed friendly, of course, with your brother? E: Oh, yes. He was older than I was! P: So he could lay down the law. Now, the boom bubble burst at the end of 1926. E: Yes. P: The banks began not wanting to loan any more money out on land speculation, plus, of course, the hurricane came in September of 1926. But you arrived in Winter Haven the year before, the middle of 1925? E: I came to Winter Haven August 1, 1925. P: Tell me again how you got to be in charge of this bank. E: Well, the man who was president of t he bank at Winter Haven owned five banks, and they were all on the old Bost on ledger system of bookkeeping and record maintenance. He sent me over to Auburndale to change their bookkeeping system and accounting to ma chine bookkeeping. While I was waiting on the stationery to make t he transfer--I had been working in the bank about six weeks--the vice-p resident and cashier came up one afternoon after the bank closed and l eaned up on the counter and told me he was quitting, that he was going to turn his work over to me. He said he could do better in real estate in one a day t han in the banking business in a month. The president of the bank was not ac tive. He only came around about once a week, and sometimes not that often. So I found myself in charge of the bank. I was only nineteen years old at the time. P: What was the name of that bank? E: State Bank of Auburndale. P: How large a bank was it?

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8 E: At that time it had half a million dollars in deposits, whic h was fairly large for that size town. P: That was heavy in citrus in that area, was it not? E: It was very heavy in citrus. P: Were most of your depositors the citrus agriculture folks and cattle people in that area? E: That group, and retired people. P: How did people get into Auburndale and Wi nter Haven? The Tamiami Trail was not yet constructed, was it? E: The few paved roads in Florida at t hat time came down what you call the backbone of Florida. They came dow n the middle part of the state through Lake City, Gainesville, Leesburg, and Polk City to Lakeland or Winter Haven or whichever, and came on on down to Sebring. P: That was a paved highway, was it not? E: It was a two-lane, paved highway. Ther e were no paved roads on the west coast of Florida at that time, from the Panhandle down. P: Of course, there was the Dixie Highway on the east coast. E: Oh, yes. P: And there was a lot of road building during the Martin adm inistration [John W. Martin, governor of Florida, 1925-1929]. E: There was the [William James] Conners Hi ghway from the west coast to the east coast, which was a toll road. P: Where did that run? E: I believe that it ran from somewhere around Fort Myers across the Everglades to Miami. [The road ran fr om Okeechobee City to West Palm Beach, 1923. Ed.] P: How did you get from Elba to Winter Haven?

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9 E: We drove from Elba to Baxley, Georgia, to Waycross, I believe. Then we came south to Madison, Florida, to Live Oak, to Lake City, to Gainesville, to Leesburg, and then down into Polk County. P: How long of a trip would that have been in those days? E: We did not try to do it all in one day. We really did not leave Elba until it was well into the day. We spent the night in Madison, Florida, and came down the next morning. I would say it was about ten hours. P: You had a paved two-lane road? It was not easy getting into the central part of the state until after 1925. E: That is right. P: That was after [Governor John W.] Martin started building all of the roads through that area. E: That is right. I believe he was governor when I came. P: That is right; he became governor in 1924, and he served until 1928. E: I believe Governor Martin was t he one who bought the toll road from private ownership for the state. P: It was during his administration that t he Tamiami Trail was constructed all the way to Miami, so that was a real ec onomic boost to that area of Florida. E: It opened up that area. I can remember very distinctly when Naples was nothing except a filling station. P: And Fort Myers was not very far behind. E: Oh, no. About the only thing Fort Myers could claim fame to was that Thomas A. Edison lived there. P: Of course, Henry Ford and Mr. [Harve y S.] Firestone used to come down and visit him. E: And Mr. [Luther] Burbank. P: That is right. So there were some ce lebrities coming into so uth Florida at that time.

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10 E: Oh, yes. P: Who were the major developers in the Winter HavenBradentonAuburndale area in the 1920s when you were there, when you first came? E: There was a fellow by t he name of John Snively from Pennsylvania who did a lot of developing there. Some of t he local people joined him, and others developed partnerships in various dev elopments. Of course, the big developer in Tampa was D. P. Davi s, who developed Davis Islands. He disappeared off a ship from Eur ope, and no one ever heard from him anymore. P: Did the Snivelys and the other citrus developers use your bank? E: No, there were three banks in town , and Snively was connected with what was then the Snell National Bank. It la ter became Exchange National Bank, and today it is NCNB [North Carolina National Bank]. P: You are part of that today. E: That is the bank that my brother worked in. There is a long history between him and me: that I wound up with NCNB and he started with NCNB. P: I guess it was about then that you met your wife. E: Yes. I was working in the bank at Winter Haven. One day at noon I started out of the bank to go to lunch, and I was looking back for my cousin, who worked in the same bank. I bumped into a young lady and knocked her school books out of her hand, so I picked them and gave them to her. About that time my cousin showed up, and he knew her, so he introduced us. That was Thanksgiving week, 1925, so I have special thanks for that time of year. P: What is your wife's name? E: She was Helen Lansden. She was from Cookeville, Tennessee, and she and her family had just moved to Winter Hav en. She was born March 4, 1907, so she was a year younger than I. P: What brought the Lansden family there?

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11 E: Well, the land boom, you might say, and opportunities for mercantile businesses. Her father was in the furniture business, which was good business in those days with all of the homes being built. P: So when you met your wife, she was still in high school. E: No, she had finished high school and had gone to Tennessee Tech [Tennessee Technical University] in Cookeville, her home town, for one year. Then she went to a business school there in Winter Haven and learned to be a secretary. She was a secretary in one of the citrus growers associations for seven years. The citrus growers asso ciation at that time was a mutual operation. The board of di rectors was, you might say, a who's who in the citrus business, and it included the lar gest citrus packing house in the world at that time. P: When were you and Helen married? E: April 11, 1936. P: Why did it take you so long? If you met her in 1925, why did you wait eleven years? E: There were many reasons. For one, the fruit fly that hit Florida in 1929. P: That would have been the Mediterranean fruit fly. E: The National Guard was called out, and they examined ever ybody's automobile that crossed the state line. They even examined my bag when I got on the train as I traveled around the state on business. They burned and buried the citrus crop that year. That broke some banks in the citrus area. The bank I was working with went belly-up. I then got a job with a national banking department--a comptroller of currency--working in the liquidation of banks. I was just a secondary man; they had professional liquidators that handled the liquidation. One liquidator would have maybe four of five differ ent banks, but he would have a clerical force in each bank doing the liquidation. Then, in 1931, I went to work for the Flor ida National Bank in Lakeland, which was a new bank but was one of the so-ca lled Du Pont banks. It was owned principally by Mr. Alfred I. Du Pont from Delaware, who was living in Jacksonville at that time. A number of the banks in 1929, in the citrus area particularly, went under. In fact, our s did. There was no deposit insurance

PAGE 15

12 then, and some of the banks that went under were in good shape, but were not capable of being liquidated in five or ten days, and that is what broke them. They could not liquidate t heir loans and pay off the depositors on demand. That is about what a run woul d do. If you could not stop a run, they would not stop until a bank was completely liquidated. P: Was there a run on your bank? E: Yes. Practically all of the banks down here had runs on them then. Even after they were Du Pont banks they had runs. P: After the boom bubble bur st at the end of 1926, banks began closing all over Florida in 1927-1928, even before the citrus fruit fly problems. E: The banks that closed at the end of the land boom were principally in the land real estate developments like St. Petersburg. P: And Miami. E: Lakeland did not have a bank in it. Bartow lost all their banks. P: That is in 1927-1928? E: Mostly in 1926-1927. There were two or three years t here of no activity, but a number of banks survived. Then when the [Mediterranean] fruit fly hit the state in 1929, that finished up some of thos e that did not fail in 1926. That is when we began to get new banks in the m any towns. You see, Bartow did not have a bank, Lakeland did not have a bank, St. Petersburg had only one bank, and it was a very small bank in a suburban area. Sarasota lost all of their banks. That is when Mr. Du Pont began to organize and set up banks in these towns. The reason that t he banks closed in that area was because of the destruction of the fruit crop. The citrus folks had nothing to sell. It was completely destroyed; the crop was eit her buried or burned. Then in October 1929, the big crash came on Wall Street, and that crippled the retirees down here who had their money invested in stocks and bonds. Then we had the bank moratorium in March 1933, and that was nationwide. P: Actually, Florida began suffering from a depression long before the rest of the nation. E: Oh, yes, sir. P: So times were hard here really by the end of the 1920s.

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13 E: In 1933-1934, 1932 even, the school board was issuing script to the teachers, and some of the bigger department stor es, including Sears Roebuck, would take script. Sears Roebuck would ev en take a bale of cotton in Alabama instead of money. That was in 1932 through 1934; that was the Great Depression in this country. Flori da, you might say, got hit triple. P: [Doyle E.] Carlton was elected governor in 1928. He called a special session of the legislature to begin cutting back on state funding, including teachers' salaries. E: That is right. P: There were some serious cutbacks in order to try to get out of this hole. E: I knew Governor Carlton quite well, because I was made president, chairman of the board, and cashier of a bank in Hardee County. The bank had had some problems, and there were some indictm ents. The people ca me clear of the indictments, but I remained there at the request of FDIC [Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation] for five years. I tried to quit after three years, because I did not have but ten shares of stock in the bank. I told them that if I had to make ten dollars to have one do llar, I might as well go to Las Vegas. I wanted to get back into business fo r myself, so if I made ten dollars, I would keep at least seven or eight of it. Then I bought into the Sarasota bank and joined a fellow in the control of that bank. In the meantime, I had bought a bank in Alabama, but I did not want to go back to there. I bought the bank because it was a bargain. It was between Pensacola and Mobile, which were very active communities in World War II. P: Now, this is a little bit later. The bank goes under in Auburndale in 1929. E: Yes. P: What did you do immediately after that? E: I went to work in liquidation of banks as an employee of the Comptroller of Currency. P: I see. That was a federal job? E: Yes. That agency was in charge of all national banks. P: How much were you paid for that?

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14 E: I really do not remember. It was on an hourly basis. P: How did you get involved with Mr. Du Pont and Mr. [Ed] Ball [Du Pont's brother-in-law and business associate]? That came about, I think you said, in 1931. E: Yes. In 1931 I was not with a bank, but I went with a chain furniture business, Mather Brothers, out of Atlanta. I did not work for them but about six weeks. The owner had a bunch of stores all over Florida, Georgia, and one or two in Alabama and South Carolina. I took a job with them as a traveling auditor. All of these stores were selling furnit ure on time contracts, and some of the salesmen and collectors and managers we re knocking down a little money for themselves as they went along. T hey would write the customer a receipt, but they would not put the carbon in. The store did not know about these collections, and the people working for th is chain would put the money in their pockets. The owner decided he wanted an examining crew to go from store to store unannounced and conduct audits to stop all of this shortchanging. I went to work for him, and my first assignment was Lakeland. When I went into the Lakeland Bank, which was a Florida Nati onal Bank, to pull their statements so I could audit them. It so happened that the man who was running that bank was the vice-president/cashier I had known previously when I was in Winter Haven. He asked me if I wanted to get back into the banking business, and I said, "I sure do." He said they could not pay me much money, but I could come and work for them at the bank. He said, "I cannot pay you but $110 a month." I was getti ng $175 with Mather br others, plus all of my expenses, but I quit and took a job at the bank. P: You wanted to get back into the bank. E: Being in the bank, I got acquainted with Mr. Ball, who wa s a brother-in-law to Mr. Du Pont, and also Mrs. Du Pont. Mr. Du Pont was stone deaf. He carried a little booklet in his pocket with a littl e pencil about that long; he did not have much to say because he was deaf. I did not see him very much, but Mr. Ball was very active in those days. P: Mr. Du Pont, of course, brought hi s fortune to Florida, and he began buying up the banks that were going under after 1926. E: He first bought into the Florida Na tional Bank of Jacksonville, and he extended his investment in that until he had cont rol. Then, when these towns became

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15 bankless, he began to organize and put banks in these towns: St. Petersburg, Bartow, Lakeland, Orlando, Daytona Beach, Gainesville, and Ocala. He bought a bank in Ocala. Then he put banks in Miami and West Palm Beach. At that time his group of banks was the lar gest group in the state, and really had the best franchises in the state. P: Was Mr. Ball the major power, the ma jor stimulus in that banking operation? E: You can underscore that. He had an iron grip on all of it. P: Now, he and Mr. Du Pont, of course, we re brothers-in-law, because Mr. Du Pont was married to Ed Ball's sister. E: That is right, and it was Mr. Du Pont's third marriage. P: They lived in Epping Forest in Jacksonville. E: Right. P: You say you did meet Mr. Du Pont. W hat kind of a person wa s he? He did have that hearing problem. E: As I say, he did not do mu ch talking. He was a very astute man, as you might suppose. He did a lot of traveling. He kind of left everything up to Mr. Ball, and Mr. Ball was on top of ev erything. That is Mr. Ball's portrait out there; you probably recognized it. P: I saw it. Tell me about Ed Ball. He became almost a myth and a legend in his time in Florida. E: Very few people knew Mr. Ball, and even those who knew him I do not think had a full appreciation of his personality. Of course, he had quite a reputation. In fact, Fortune magazine wrote an article, "The Terrible Temper of Mr. Ball," but I found him to be one of the warmest-hearted fellows I ever knew in my life. He and I became very fast fri ends. I spent a lot of time with him because I could reminisce with him 'way back into the 1920s. P: Where did Ball come from? E: Virginia. Ball's Point, Virginia. In fa ct, Mr. Du Pont used to hunt at Mr. Ball's father's place back when Ed Ball's sister was a girl thirteen or fourteen years old, when he first met her.

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16 P: Jessie Ball. So the Ball family was an affluent, distinguished family? E: Mr. Ball would not tell you so, but it is the same family as Martha Ball Washington, and his father was attorney general. P: So they did not have Mr. Du Pont's money, but they did have a lot backing in terms of family prestige. E: Oh, yes, they were a well-established family. When Mr. Du Pont died--he died April 29, 1935, I believe--I received a copy of his will. I also have a copy of Mr. Ball's will and a copy of Mrs. Du Pont's will. I do not know whether you knew it or not, but all of the Du Pont estate is in our bank. P: I knew that yours was the trust for it. E: They were put in the Ellis banks to star t with, and we were the corporate trustee. Then when we merged with NCNB, withi n a month or so, they named NCNB of Florida. P: What brought you and Ed Ball together? E: It is hard to say. I met him when I was working in the bank, and my job in Lakeland was preparing the end-of-the-day financial statements. I sent him a statement and his department a statement, and we kept one in the bank, of course. There was correspondence ba ck and forth in regard to the statement about one thing or another. After I met him, I did not try to cultivate him. In all due respect, I think he cultivated me. At least I like to feel that wa y. To tell you how humble that man was--and you well know that big men ar e humble; that is what makes them big men--I had been to his home many time s, in his Wakulla Springs lodge. I was with him in Jacksonville in his apar tment. If I had a bag (he called it a grip), he would grab it and carry it for me ; he would not let me carry it. I had to go from his place to the airport in Tallahassee, and he would waive his driver aside and take me himself. Even after he had four heart attacks, he would still drive seventy-five/eighty miles an hour! Some people did not like to ride with him, but I enjoyed it. P: Do you think he cultivated that image of being flinthearted? E: I think he enjoyed it. I do know that lit igation was just like a game of chess with him, and I do not think he was ever happy unless he was in court with somebody.

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17 P: We have an interview with him in our ar chives. He talked a little bit about his early life, his political activities, and things like that. E: Oh, yes, he sure did. He had a pictur e of the school house he went to the fourth grade in, and he showed it to me two or three times. The last time he showed it to me, I said, "Mr. Ball, I think you are fibbing. I see electrical wires going into this school house, and there was no electricity when you went to school." He said, "I'll be dogged! I never noticed that before." P: Were you always on a Mr. Ellis/Mr. Ball relationship with him? E: Absolutely. P: You never called him by his first name? E: He was a perfect gentlem an. When he walked in an elevator, if there was a lady in the elevator or one got on the el evator he always took his hat off. P: Although you knew him and visited back and forth for thirty or forty years, you never got on a first-name basis? E: Never. There was quite a bit of difference in our ages. I spent many weekends with him in his home in Tallahassee, and I would tell him I was sleepy and wanted to go to bed. He would a lways go upstairs with me and turn my cover down on my bed and check the bathr oom to see that towels and other necessities were there. P: Did you ever meet his wife? E: If I did I do not remember. P: They were not married very long. E: No. They had an apartment in Jacksonv ille. But when she left him, she skipped out of that apartment with ever ything, even the dirty linen. P: He later had an apartment in the old Robert Myer Hotel [in Jacksonville]. E: Well, he first had an apartment in the R oosevelt Hotel [on Adams Street]. They tore it down, so he moved to the eighteenth floor of the Robert Myer. P: That was only a couple of blocks away.

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18 E: And only about a couple of rooms. P: He was not a man who lived luxuriously at all, was he? E: No, he was very frugal. He had a lot of wit about him, but people did not know that. I know we were riding to his home in Jacksonville when he had come to the airport to get me. He was not driv ing then; he was sitting in the back seat with me. We were on the private road goi ng out to his place. He told me, "Mr. Ellis, I do not believe in integrati on. That is why I keep my Black Angus cattle on this side of the road and my wh ite-faced Herefords on this side." [laughter] P: No integration for him! I do not think he ever supported integrat ion in his lifetime. E: He had a lot of wit about it. P: He was a politically astute man. E: Very much so. P: He knew where the power lay, and he also recognized his own power position in Florida. E: He had a wide circle of contacts and friends. P: Both within the state and nationally. E: I will tell you this from my own observation: he would do almost anything for you if he liked you; but if he did not like you, God help you. P: I know Mr. Pepper [Claude Pepper, United States Senator and Representative] found that out. E: Oh, yes! [laughter] P: Pepper still talks about that; he has just done that autobiography that he published last year. E: Do you know why Mr. Ball fell out with Mr. Pepper? P: What was the reason for that?

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19 E: Mr. Ball had bought up a lot of these defaulted bonds on the Florida East Coast Railway; they were bankrupt. It had been seventeen years all total, I think, and he was trying to reorganize the Flor ida East Coast. Of course, almost any scheme he would have followed to reorganize he would have wound up in control. Well, the Atlantic C oastline Railroad did not have an entree in Miami, and they wanted very much to take over the Florida East Coast. They got into a fight, and the Atlantic Coastline retained Mr. Pepper and paid him a $100,000 retainer. Of course, that put Mr. Pepper and Mr. Ball on opposite sides in a fight to the finish. That is the real reason he did not have any use for Claude Pepper. I might tell you this: I have a two-page le tter from Claude Pepper in my desk over there which I just got a week ago. Claude was from Camp Hill, Alabama. When he went to the University of Alabama he roomed with a cousin of mine from Elba. Claude was then shoveling coal and studying at night, studying by dust-covered light. My cousin was in charge of the di ning room of the college, so he gave Claude a job in the dining area. Of course, that was clean and nice and short hours. Claude told me numbers of times, and he put it in his letter, that if he had been named Chief Justice of the [United States] Supreme Court or as Ambass ador to the Court of St. James, he would not have appreciated it any more . On top of that, Claude married a girl from my hometown. P: Mildred. E: Mildred Webster. They married, and her family moved to Winter Haven the same time I left for Winter Haven. I was, of course, intimately acquainted with all of the Webster family. Tom Webster, her daddy, died in an automobile wreck down near the coast of St. Petersburg one early morning. Actually, he was driving a citrus truck. We used to have wiener roasts and cookouts in Winter Haven, and Mildred had one of these li ttle portable talking machines you wound with a crank. She used to play this record "Yearning just for you, that is all I do." I told Claude about tha t, and he said, "Yes, I have been yearning for her ever since she has been gone." Claude and I are good friends today. He called me one day years ago and wanted Helen and me to join him and Mildred on a trip to the Holy Land. It was in January, and I had fifteen banks then. I did not have the holding company nor the organization that I later had, so January was a busy month, and I could not go. [Sargent] Shriver, who was [President John F.] Kennedy's brother-in-law, was in Paris. Claude told me that we could go from New York to Paris and that Ambassador Shriver would entertain us in the embassy there. Then we could go on to At hens, and we would be entertained there by the American ambassador. Then we could go on to Israel and get

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20 entertained by this one-eyed general, Mo she Dayan. The Seven-Day War had just finished, and Dayan was going to take us by helicopter over the battlefields and so forth. We were going to go on to Jerusalem, and the mayor of Jerusalem was going to enter tain us. You see, Claude represents an area of Florida where there are a lot of Jewish people. P: South Florida. He had a lot of entrees. E: Yes, and that strengthened him in his district considerably. P: Do you think Ed Ball put money into that 1950 campaign against Claude Pepper? Was he supporting [George] Smathers? E: I have no proof, but I am quite sure that he did. P: George Smathers says not, but he may have a weak memory. E: Mr. Ball had a finger in a lot of things. P: He liked George Smathers. E: I know. Well, his brother Frank Smathers and I used to lock horns, because I was president of the Flor ida Bankers Association, and a poll of the Florida banks was almost fifty/fifty for branc h banking and against branch banking. I represented both factions as presiden t. Frank Smathers was impatient, and he just felt like I ought to take the l ead and create branch banki ng, as if I had that power. I did not have it, but I would not have done it anyway because I had these other people who were i ndependent bankers. He and I clashed a few times. I liked Frank, and I thin k he liked me, but he probably liked me more because I would not give in. P: Mr. Ellis, was it because of your fr iendship with Ed Ball that you became the trustee for Du Pont? E: I would say yes, and I would also say Jake Belin had a lot to do with that. P: Who was Jake Belin? E: Jake Belin was the heir apparent, you might say. He is from Andalusia, Alabama. P: What is his connection to the Du Ponts?

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21 E: He is just about everything. He is chairman of the board of St. Joseph Paper Company and head of another corporation that is owned by the St. Joe Paper Company. P: Was he a relative? E: No. Do not forget, though, that Winn T hornton was president of the Florida East Coast, and also Thomas Coldeway, who is a retired vice president of St. Joe Paper Company. He has been retired fo r a long time, but he is one of the trustees. P: Where does Mr. Belin live now? E: He spends most of his ti me in Port St. Joe, but he has an office in Jacksonville. In fact, the executive office for S t. Joe Paper Company is in Jacksonville. P: Is Mr. Belin still living? E: Oh, yes, he is very active. He is a very strong man, too. He is a dyed-in-the-wool Southern Baptist of strong convictions, and I have the most admiration in the world for him. We think alike. P: So you are in close contact with him, then, if you are involved in this way with the Ball and Du Pont properties. E: Yes, I get a report on the relationships. I was supposed to represent the bank as a corporate trustee. I was so busy until I appointed Tully Dunlap, who still represents NCNB. Dunlap has retired. He is past seventy, but we kept him on the board of directors of NCNB solely because of hi s representation of the Du Pont estate. Mr. Dunlap and I have been very close friends for thirty-five or more years. He was born right close to Elba, but he went to Miami when he was eight years old. He was pr esident of three Miami banks, became chairman of the Sun Ban ks, and went back to Miami and became chairman of the board with Florida National Bank of Miami. I got him to come to Sarasota as chairman of the board of my Sarasota bank, and also made him chairman of the board of Ellis National Bank of Jacksonville and Fort Myers. I bought the Jacksonville bank at the inst igation of Mr. Ball and Mr. Belin. They wanted me to have a bank in Jacksonville for custodial purposes, as a matter of convenience. Ellis National Bank and Trust Company of Sarasota was first appointed as the corporate trustee. P: What was the name of your bank in Jacksonville?

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22 E: It was originally the Jacksonville National Bank. It was organized by Mr. Ball, and it later became a part of the Charter Company of Raymond Mason. Mr. Ball wanted me to buy it so that I woul d have a bank in Jacksonville. Mr. Belin insisted, too, that I buy it, so I bought it. P: Where was the bank in Jacksonville? E: It was in the building that was formerl y occupied by the Florida National Bank right across the street from Barnett. The bank had the whole block front. There was a ten-story bu ilding and an eleven-story bu ilding; the ten-story building was the bank building. P: Do you still have that bank? E: No. P: It is part of the NCNB operation? E: I bought it without putting up a penny. P: That is good to be able to buy a bank without having to put up any of your own money into it. E: I bought the bank at Jay without putting up a penny. P: You have the secret formula, Mr. Ellis. E: Mr. Ball used to lend me money at 2 percent when the government was paying four. I was working wit h the Florida National in Lakeland when Helen and I were married in April 1936. Within a year, I was made chairman of the board/president and cashier at Wauchula State Bank. At that time the Wauchula bank had better than a million do llars in deposits, and the First of Tampa was $12 million. That was in 1936 or 1937. I stayed there for five years. Then I bought joint ownership in the Sarasota State Bank, which later became Ellis Bank & Trust Company. I organized fifteen banks in Florida, and I bought seventeen, which formed the nuc leus of the foundation of Ellis Banking Corporation. P: Were you doing all of this with Du Pont money? E: Well, the Florida National in Jacksonville loaned me a lot of money from time to time from back in the early 1940s.

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23 P: But what about in the 1930s? E: The 1930s was a rough time in the banki ng business. I went to Wauchula in 1936, I believe it was. I went from the Florida National to Wauchula. I went with Florida National in 1931, so I was with Florida National in Lakeland from 1931 to 1936. Then I went to this bank in Wauchula in 1936. I was made head of the bank. For five years I st ayed there. I left in 1943 for the Sarasota bank. P: Your rise in banking in the 1930s was really phenomenal. You started in 1931 working for Mr. Du Pont, right? E: That is right. P: Within just a half dozen years you were in control of several banks. E: Well, it did not take much money back in those days to buy a bank. P: I am sure, though, that it took a lot of brain power. E: Well, I will tell you. As my son-in-l aw always said, my credit was too good, and, as you know, the theory of banking is operating on somebody else's money. I used that theory. P: You were also in the right place at the right time. E: That is absolutely right. P: These were hard times for Florida and hard times for the country. E: In 1943, Mr. Ball told me, "Mr. Ellis, I will never put a bank in competition with you," and he never did. He offered me, not less than fifteen times, to be chairman of the board and chief executive of all the Florida National banks. He also urged me, when I had fifteen banks individually, that we get together and merge. There is one more thing you can add for the record. Fortunately, I had a lot of good, in fluential friends. When I ran for directorship of the Federal Reserve B ank of Atlanta, Mr. Ray Gidney was in Jacksonville then, and he was a good friend of Mr. Ball's. He was formerly Comptroller of Currency, which, as y ou know, supervises all of the national banks in the country. Mr. Gidney us ed to be president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland before he bec ame comptroller in Washington. He came to Jacksonville, and Mr. Ball made him chairman of the board of Florida National Bank in Jacksonville and paid him a salary. He was almost

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24 as old as Mr. Ball, if not as old. When I decided to run for the Federal Reserve directorship in Atlanta, Mr. Gidney just appointed himself my campaign manager. He did not have anything else to do, so he got on the telephone and commenced calling banker s in Louisiana, Tennessee, Alabama, and Georgia. I beat Bert Lance. He was the official nominee, and they told me that was the first time that had ever happened, that an outsider beat the official nominee. P: You had a good campaign manager. E: Yes, I sure did. I di d not do it, he did it. You see, fifty-six banks nominated me with letters and a little help from the ri ght source. I had gotten on the Federal Reserve Board branch in Jacksonville and served three years. But, as you know, the directors of the br anch banks--Nashville, New Orleans, Birmingham, Jacksonville, Miami--are appointed by the par ent branch in Atlanta. You have to be elected to the parent bank, or get appointed by the Board of Governors in Washington. I was pushing sixty-five, but I had a first cousin who was on that board, and I also knew Monroe Kimball, president of the bank. Monroe used to be presi dent of the American Bankers Association, and I had Monroe as one of my personal speakers at my convention when he was president. P: You say this is Kimball? E: Monroe Kimball, yes. In fact, Monroe asked me to take his son in my bank when he came out of school. He counseled with him, and he said he could place him in any bank he wanted to, but he sa id, "I think he has a better chance with you, and I would apprec iate it if you would take him." I made him president of our Fort Myers bank. He was only twenty-eight years old, but I did not hire him because of his daddy. In fact, the man who was chairman of that bank and the Sarasota bank, Char lie Bailey, called me one day and asked if I thought he would be crazy if he made Danny Kimball president of the Fort Myers bank. I asked how old Danny was, and he said twenty-eight. I said, "It seems to me that he is rather immature to be president of that sort of a bank." He said, "He is running the bank now as vice president; the president is not running the bank." I said, "I tell you what to do. You call his daddy at the Federal Reserve Bank in Atlanta and ask him what he thinks about it," and he did. Of course, M onroe naturally saw an opportunity for him, and he supported it. Consequently--I do not mean to be bragging--I had a very close relationship with the Feder al Reserve Bank. A cousin of mine was vice-president of the Atlantic Coastline Railroad. I got George W. Jenkins, head of the Publix chain, as a director, and George is on the NCNB National Bank of Forida's board of directors. He has been a good friend of

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25 mine for many years, ever since we we re teenagers. As time went on I got my president of the Ellis Banking Corporation on the board at Jacksonville, and I got a couple who had been with me . I got the head of the Pasco County branch on the board at Jacksonv ille. Because Jim Richardson of Ocala was president of the Florida Bankers Association, they passed a resolution endorsing me when I was running. I got him on the board as sort of a left-handed compliment or favor fo r what he had done for me. I would say friendships have had more to do wit h what little success I have had than anything I did myself. P: Did you ever go hunting with Ed Ball? E: No, but he tried to convince me to ti me and time again. He wanted me to go duck hunting with him in Louisiana. They have a quail shoot over there in south Alabama, north of Pensacola, and he wanted me to do that. Another time he wanted me to go out to Gulf port--he owned the Edgewater Hotel in Gulfport--and I had a first cousin w ho had organized and was president of a bank in Gulfport. In fact, a cousin of mine served six years on the Federal Reserve board in Atlanta. This fellow, Lee, had his own private railroad car; he was operating head of the [Atlantic] Coastline. I got him on that board. When I went on there were nine directors. I told them that we had better have a quorum here every time; if we do not, we are going to move the bank. It was a lot fun, anyway. P: Was Mr. Ball a philanthropic man? E: Very much so. Very much so. P: But kind of a hidden philanthropist. E: He and I attended a bank meeting in Orlando when Clarence Gay was comptroller of Florida. He asked me to come over to the Florida bank with him. So we went over and borrowed an offi ce just to chat. I said, "Mr. Ball, I am very fortunate to know you for t he kind of man you are. Some people have an adverse opinion of you. Wh y do you not get yourself a public relations man? You do a lot of things that I know about, but the public never hears about them." He handed me so me mimeographed pages, stapled and bound, at least that thick. P: About an inch thick.

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26 E: He said, "Mr. Ellis, this is a list of char ities we gave money to last year." I said, "Yes, but nobody knows anything about it." He said that was exactly the way he wanted it. You would be amazed at the number of people and causes he gave money to. He just did not want any publicity about it. P: His goodness certainly did not survive him, because nobody knows that, and his record in history is lost as a result. E: Well, I told you that if he liked you he would do anything for you. One Sunday evening at his home Chauncey Lever was there--he was president of Florida National. He is a South Carolina man; he is in South Carolina now. Mr. Ball asked me that Sunday afternoon if I had any charters lately, and I said that I had three. He asked how much capital I had to put up, and I answered $3.5 million. He just turned to the left and said, "Chauncey, put it on his account in the morning." That is the way he did business. Another time, one Sunday evening, we we re talking at Wakulla Lodge in his wing--he had a whole second floor wing in that place. I heard him talking in the night one time, and the next morni ng he just came to me and handed his key to me and said, "This is the key to my cellar. Make yourself at home. Stay as long as you like, but I have got to leave." One Sunday evening we were talking ther e, and he asked if I had bought any banks lately. I said, "Yes, we bought one in Pi nellas Park." He asked, "What did you have to pay for it?" I told hi m it was six million, 300 some-odd thousand dollars cash, but we had to promise t he Federal Reserve that we would sell $6.5 million worth of equity capital within six months to offset it. We never did have to do that; they never insisted, and we never did it. Monday morning he got back to Jacksonville and called me. He said, "Mr. Ellis, I have been thinking about that. Why do you want to pay an underwriting fee--printing, application, SEC [S ecurities Exchange Commission], and all the lawyers and CPAs and all that? I will loan you the money, and you can buy it for yourself personally." I said, "Mr. Ball, I do not w ant to owe Florida National in Jacksonville any more money than I do." He said, "I will loan it out of the estate." With that kind of support you cannot lose. P: You cannot lose with those kinds of friends. P: Mr. Ellis, I would like to get more of y our personal history on t he record. You told me that you were married April 11, 1936, in winter Haven. So you celebrated your fiftieth wedding anniversary about three years ago.

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27 E: We got married again on the fiftieth. We had a reception and the whole business. P: Is Mrs. Ellis living? E: Yes, but she has been incapacitated for al most three years. We have two live-in nurses around the clock. She has gone deaf; consequently, she does not converse or carry on any conversation. But she will answer a question. In February 1987, she suffered a major stroke that left her paralyzed. She has Parkinson's disease, and has had it for a long time, and all the complications that go with it. P: So it has been a burden to you, then. E: Thank God, she has nev er been in any pain. She has been conscious all the while. Right at this time, and for t he last couple of months, she has been on life-sustaining equipment. She does not take anything by mouth, not even water. P: Do you have children? E: Yes, I have a daughter. P: What is her name? E: Carol Martin. P: Carol Ellis Martin. E: She lives on the same bayou with me. She is in our home every day. She has three daughters. She is married to a Martin, so she is Carol E. Martin. E: I have been the director of the Children's Ho me Society of Florida for fifty years. I am a member of the executive advisor y committee, and she is too. Mrs. Ben Hill Griffin of Frostproof, Florida, is chairman. Mrs. A. D. Davis is a member. Mrs. Jim Berry of Winter Haven is a member. I got NCNB to give the Children's Home half a million dollars. P: It is a worthy cause. E: After that, I added $500,000 to it to make it a $1 million perpetual gift, and they were nice enough to name the headquarters in Jacksonville for me.

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28 P: Who is your daughter's husband, your son-in-law? E: Paul W. Martin. P: Is he in business with you? E: No, he has a business of his own up on Main Street. P: Who are your grandchildren? E: The oldest one is named Christine Lee Gagonon, and her husband is with Publix, and has been for seven years. Three months ago she gave birth to my great-grandson. That is the only boy in the family. My next grandchild is named Lynn Ann Durham, and her husband wants to be a stock broker. They got married last Christmas, about a week before Christmas. They had a big wedding. He quit school and got a job with a broker age firm up in New Port Richey. He had finished three year s at the University of Miami as an honor student. After I got better acquaint ed with him I talked to him and said, "Chuck, it is a pity you quit school to go to work just because you got married. You do not have to do that. With the scholastic record you have you ought to go ahead and get your bachel or's degree. And do not stop there; go ahead and get a master's degree, because everybody has a bachelor's degree. Otherwise, you are going to be a clerk and work for the other man all your life." So I talked him into it. As an allowance I give each of my granddaughters $20,000 a year. No w I give each of my grandsons $20,000 a year. They all have the sto ck in NCNB I gave them, and they get their dividends. So I said, "I would rather see you go back to school and finish." Well, it happens that I am a trustee of the University of Tampa, and also Florida Southern College in Lakeland, Florida. I was also a lifetime member of the President's Council of the University of South Florida. That has nothing to do with what we were talking about; I just mention that because I believe in education. I do not have a degree, but I could not get a job with NCNB today if I answered their application truthfully. I got Chuck to apply at the University of Tampa. He is going to get his bac helor's degree in June, then he is going to Harvard for his master's, he hopes. When he applied to the University of Tampa, they looked at his scholastic record, and they gave him a scholarship and handed him a check for $3,000 before he ever attended class. P: Then you have a third grandchild?

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29 E: The third grandchild is twenty, and her husband is in t he military service. They are stationed at Fort Stewart outside of Hinesville, Georgia, down from Savannah. His folks live in Atlanta. His father is in the automobile business. Of course, I did a little inquiry, thr ough my friends in the Atlanta bank, and they are a very fine family. As I say, my grandson is in the service. P: I am just sorry that you never let one of them become a Gator! E: I did not control that. I let them do what they wanted to; they are going to do that anyway. You might as well stay on friendly terms. P: So you are close to your daughter, then. E: Very much so. P: She lives near you, you say? E: Yes, she lives on the same bayou I live on. She has to pass my house to go to town. My oldest granddaughter is getting ready to move in a home that was formerly my daughter's home. The next one is living in Brandon; they rented an apartment in Brandon when he applied to t he University of Tampa. I said I did not want him driving from Brandon to the university through east Tampa, so I suggested they get an apar tment on Davis Islands. They could not find what they wanted, so they moved into a new apartment house in Brandon. He says that he gets on the cross-town expressway and goes right straight to Hyde Park, which is right in front of the school. P: You said another very good friend of yours and associate was Mr. George Jenkins of Publix. How did that come about? E: Mr. Jenkins came to Winter Haven in 1925 when he was eighteen. P: The same year that you came, and he is one year younger than you. E: Yes. I am actually one year and from February to September older than he is. He was a bachelor when he came down, and so was I. P: Where did he come from? E: He came from Atlanta, Georgia. He was born in a small town in Georgia not far from Atlanta; I do not reca ll the name of the town right now. It is not a very big place. He was a manager of a Piggly Wiggly when he was eighteen. He had been raised in a general store before his daddy died. He went in with

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30 two of his associates in Piggly Wiggly. One of them was Nick Ellison, who was head of the produce department, and the other fellow, Chance, I believe, was head of the meat department. Geor ge was manager. They went right next door to the Piggly Wiggly store and rented an empty stor e building that a hardware store had been in, and they opened the first Publix store in 1930. There was a chain of theaters in Florida known as the Param ount-Publix chain, and the anti-trust justice department broke t hem up. They said they could not produce movies and show them too, and control the whole works. When the name was given up, George had a contest for a name. He gave twenty-five dollars, I recall, as a prize. Some lady suggested the name Publix, and he adopted it. George and I used to go with the same girl, and we used to do a little running around together. He went along and progress ed in life. I took some stock in two or three of his operations, and he joi ned me in the organization of a bank between Bradenton and Sarasota. I sold him a bank in Largo because he had built his first shopping center there, and he want ed a bank in the shopping center. The bank was about a year old, and we were paying only about seventy-five dollars rent for the former bank building there in Largo that was owned by a Masonic lodge. The Ma sons used the top floor for lodge meetings. The fixtures and the vaul ts were already in there. He wanted me to move the bank, but he ask ed me to join with him in building this shopping center, apparently bec ause he wanted a bank in there. I told him I could not do that because t he directors in the bank there owned the buildings that their businesses are in. Also, he was building that shopping center in an orange grove. Of course, it is right in the middle of town, now. I did not want to make all of those peopl e mad. Later, I told him the bank was new and was not able to pay a lot of rent. He said, "Tell me how much rent you will pay and we will tie the rent to the deposits." I said, "George, if you want the bank in a shopping center, I will sell you t he bank and you put it in there." He asked me how much I wanted for it, and I said, "Give me $15,000 for all my troubles in establishing it, plus my sto ck." So that is wh at he did. Then he brought his brother down here from At lanta, who was with the Coca-Cola Company, as in-house counsel. He made his brother president of it, and his brother finally owned it. P: Are you on the board of Publix? E: No.

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31 P: You had investments in Publix? E: That is a private com pany. I doubt if he ever has a board meeting. He showed me his board room one time, but it was loaded with golf trophies. I think he has a board meeting any time he sits down. P: Do you have any investments in Publix? E: Yes, I have about $2.5 million worth of stock; it cost me $22,000. I have had it about thirty-five years. P: It does not sound to me like you are going to get rid of it anytime soon. E: No, I doubt it. My grandson is an em ployee, and he just bought some stock the other day. You see, it is a private company. He sells stock to his key men, but not outside the Publix family. At one time I was the only stockholder outside the Publix family, so I was told. P: What kind of a man is Mr. Jenkins? E: He is one of the finest people I have ev er known, and I will say that for his two brothers, also, one of whom is dead. I would say George [Jenkins] is very benevolent; he is very generous. He has particularly assisted the Boy Scouts. He has had all kinds of honors fr om the Boy Scouts of America. He told me once that his three sons all were scouts, and when they took their oath, instead of saying "f or the republic, for which it stands" they would always say "for the Publix, for which it stands." P: That is loyalty and dedication! E: Yes! He has two daughters and three sons, and an adopted daughter. The reason he has an adopted daughter is hi s first wife had a daughter when he married her, but he lost his first wife. This daughter lives in Texas because his first wife was from Texas. He has a daughter living in Florence, Italy, who is married to an Italian boy. P: I want to get an intervie w with Mr. Jenkins for this series of Florida Business Leaders. E: You would find it very, very interesting. P: I understand he is a fascinating m an, very warm and considerate.

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32 E: He takes care of his employees, and he shares his business with them. I once picked up a book in the airport in Charlo tte [NC] to have something to read. It listed the 100 best companies in America to work for, and Publix was one of them. Mr. Jenkins has never had any union or any threat of a union. When he adopted his profit sharing plan, he told me that the Internal Revenue Service almost did not approv e it because it was so generous. P: Is he still associated with you in business? E: The only business connection we have, out side of the stock my wife and I have, is the board of directors of NCNB National Bank of Florida, which is over a $10 billion bank. I happen to be senior chairman of the board. P: Tell me about another friend of yours, J. Neil Greening. E: Oh, yes. The only time in my lif e I got fired he fired me, and when he died he was on my payroll. P: That is a switch. Who was Mr. Greening? E: Mr. Greening was a native of Kentucky and lived in Oklahoma for a long time. He came to Florida late in 1929 and went to work in a bank in Tampa. Then he went to Jacksonville as vice presi dent of the Barnett bank. He switched from the Barnett bank to Florida National in 1931-1932. Later he came to be a key man in the Florida National gr oup. He was president of Florida National in Orlando, Bartow, and Lakel and--all at one time. He was a key man and handled some purchase of land and other things for the Du Pont organization. He did a lot of traveling in the interest of the Jacksonville bank, calling on correspondents in Georgia and Fl orida and so forth. He was a very able and professional banker. He never owned a bank or anything of that nature. He came to Lakeland, as I said, in 1932. I was already there, and we became close friends. He married a Lee from Dothan, Alabama. P: Is she related to your family? E: Perhaps if we go far enough back, but we have never done it. My grandfather and her forefathers used to hunt deer together. There was a close relationship there. I have no doubt that t here is a family co nnection, if you go back far enough. She was queen of Gas parilla one year, and her niece was queen, her brother was king, her brother-in-law was king. P: This is Mr. Greening's wife?

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33 E: Yes. She is living; she must be ni nety years of age. She has a condominium on Bayshore in Tampa. P: Is Mr. Greening dead? E: Yes, he died in 1960. He was nine years older than me. When I bought this bank, I put him on the board. At that time Mrs. Greening's people formed the cirtus packing house in Dade City. It is now Lykes Pasco Packing Company, but they were all citrus people. P: What was it then? Do you remember the name before the Lykes's took it over? E: It was Pasco Packing Association. All Lykes did was put Lykes in front of it and call it Lykes Packing Company. P: You said Mr. Greening fired you. I want to hear that story. E: Well, in 1933, as you know, I was with the Florida National in Lakeland. This was right after the moratorium. P: This is after Roosevelt became president and the banks were closed. E: Yes. Greening came to Flori da National from Barnett; he had been vice-president of Barnett in Jacksonville . He switched to Florida National, and they had him in Lakeland as president of that Florida National Bank. After the moratorium in 1933, we had to do a lot of belt tightening. He let quite a few people off; he laid them off. The bank was overstaffed, anyway. It got to the point where either me or a fellow by the name of Glen Freer would be let go. Now, Glen Freer was married and had five children, and nothing but a salary. I had saved my money and made investments. Neil knew that, so he told me, "Frankly, it is either you or Gl en Freer, and I cannot afford to let him go, so I will have to le t you go." I said, "Neil, do not make any apologies about it. I am keeping t he general ledger, and I know it." He did promise me that I would not suffer for it. This was in March 1933. I went back to Alabama to organize a bank up there in my home town. P: So you were not afraid of where your next meal was coming from. E: No. He knew my father and mother , and he inquired enough to know that I would not suffer. I was still single, too. After I went back to Alabama, I heard through the grapevine--I still had friends in banks down here--that there was going to be an opening in the American National Bank in Winter Haven. That just suited me fine, because Helen wa s living in Winter Haven. I made

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34 application for this job at American National in Winter Haven. A fellow named Hancock was president of that bank; he owned control of it. So I gave Neil as a reference, along with one or two others. Hancock called Neil and asked him about me, and Neil told him, "Hell, you do not want him. He is not worth a damn. I had to fire him myself." "But," he said, "there was a fellow in the bank who lives just outsi de of Winter Haven who was a pretty good man, and we are overst affed, anyway." So Hancock hired Charlie Weber; Charlie left Florida National and went with American National in Winter Haven. Then Neil called me in Alabama and said, "Forget about Alabama. Come back here." P: So that is why he was so negative; he was saving you for his own operations. E: When I bought the First National of Bradenton back in 1952, Neil was president of the Bank of Hollywood in Hollywood, Florida. Neil had citrus groves around Dade City, and his wife did, also. He liked the west coast, and we were friends, so I called him and asked him to come over because I wanted to talk to him. I told him I was goi ng to buy the bank, and I wanted him to be president of it. P: Where was he from? E: Kentucky, originally. He came to Florida in 1929. P: A little bit after you and Jenkins had come here. So you and he remained good friends, then, for a long time, until his death. E: Oh, yes, we were friends until he died. P: I meant to ask you earlier just in passing if you have ever heard of the Citizen's Bank in Jacksonville that went under in the 1920s? It is on Broad Street near Bay Street. E: There is a Citizen's Bank in Tampa that went under in 1929. P: This one closed about 1926 or 1927, I think. E: I have never heard of it. I never knew there was a Citizen's Bank downtown. Now, there was another bank across the street from the old Robert Myer Hotel, and it changed hands a dozen times. It had problems. P: This was a little bit west of that.

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35 E: The one I am talking about had two or th ree different names in the course of time. It is still there. P: Who else was instrumental in working with you, others like Ed Ball and Neil Greening and George Jenkins? When did you and Ben Hill Griffin, for instance, become associated? E: Well, when I became president of the Wauchula State Bank in the late 1930s, I loaned Ben Hill Griffin money. He wa s buying ranch land, with phosphate under it for that matter, for $1.25 an acre . He was buying citrus groves for $400 to $500 an acre, and every time t he examiners came through there they told me that he owed every bank they had examined. I said, "He is either going to be the richest or the poorest man in the state." P: He turned out not to be the poorest. E: He sure is not poor. He was chairm an of the board of my Avon Park bank, and he was on the Ellis Banking Corporations board. P: If there is ever any trui sm to what you were saying before about a man, a real person not changing his way of lif e, it is Ben Hill Griffin. E: Yes, that is so. I bought his bank. He had two or three banks at one time or another, but he never was active in them. When I bought his bank in Avon Park, he was chairman of the board, and he asked what he was going to do now that I had bought the bank. I said, "You just stay right on and keep your office." He asked what I wanted hi m to do, and I said, "Run the bank any way you want to, Ben Hill." And he did. P: Mr. Ellis, would you consider yourself to be a conservative banker, a conservative business man? E: I have been accused of that, and I do not deny it. I will tell you something (and I have an auditor's certified statement to prove it): from 1938 to 1968 I either made or approved 90 percent of the loans made by banks that I was connected with. My net loss for th irty years was 87-hundred and some-odd dollars; and I did loan money. In fact, when I came to this bank, it was a $4 million bank. I would say that within five years this bank had $9 million in deposits and $11 million in loans. I was c onnected at that ti me with a bank in New Port Richey that I had organized, I had bought the Bradenton First National Bank, and I was still co-owner of the Sarasota bank. I also had the bank in Alabama, so I was selling participat ions in these loans to these other

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36 banks. I used to keep about $3 milli on or $4 million loaned out in St. Petersburg all the time, and $3 million or $4 million in Tampa. P: Do you think that you are just a good judge of human nature, and that you loan money to people who will pay you back? E: I guess I was lucky. P: Yes, but it has to be more than luck with that much money out. E: Listen. I got along fine wit h the banking authorities. In fact, Joe Rehm, regional administrator of national banks in Atlant a for the Sixth National Bank District, would come to the Florida Bankers c onvention. One time the convention was in Freeport. He did not know I was behind him, but he had about seven or eight bankers talking to him out in t he yard. I heard him say that Al Ellis ran the best group of banks in the state of Florida. Old Phifer was a professional career examiner; he was su ch a good examiner they sent him to Atlanta to examine the banks in Atlanta, or they would send him to Miami to examine those banks. He lived in Tampa. He examined this bank. I went three years in this bank one time without an examinati on; they are supposed to examine you at least once a year, and sometimes twice. But immediately after World War II we had the pick of the crop. There was a demand for loans, and you did not have to beg people to borrow money like you do now. You could just pick out the best loans and leave the rest of them. And there were not many banks. P: But it is amazing that you would come out in that long per iod of time with bad loans of less than $9,000. Does anybody else have that kind of record? E: I do not know, but I have a certified statement by an auditor, because he audited the difference. I never had a classified loan as long as I was president of the Wauchula bank; I never had a classified loan as long as I was president of the Sarasota bank. P: I was in your bank here a few minutes waiting for you, and I was standing on your balcony. It resembles in many wa ys an old-time bank. I noticed the relationship of the people in the bank to the people coming in to do business. There was a lot of friendliness and informality, it seemed to me. E: Well, Tarpon Springs has a population of about 25,000 now. There was not but about 7,500 when I came here. There are four cultures in this town: about 25 or 30 percent of the town is Greek; then there is the black culture; there

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37 are the old-timers--they have an old-ti mers club--who are the pioneers here. (Tarpon is over 100 years ol d.) Then there is a fourth group: the newcomers and retirees. So there are four different cultures in this town. I think the reason we have been successful to a great extent in Tarpon Springs is our friendliness. I am proud of that. My secretary, Mary, has been with me for thirty-two years. Downstairs, there is not a woman on t hat platform who has not been here at least thirty years. P: You get the feeling that it is like a family. E: Well, I tell people I am easy to get along with, and I can prove it. P: Nobody leaves you. They do not divorce you and go somewhere else. E: The manager of this branch is not here today. I brought him here from Fernandina Beach, and he has been with me since 1958. He has had other offers from Tampa banks and elsewhere. P: But he wants to stay here. E: He is a very prominent man in this town . They tried to get him to run for mayor, but I would not let him. He is chairman of the board of the hospital out here. He just completed a term as president of the Chamber of Commerce. He was president of the Jaycees before he got into the senior chamber. He has been president of the Rotary Club. I te ll people they have to give me credit for that because I brought him here. P: Mr. Ellis, would you say t hat in many ways you are resposible for Ben Hill Griffin's success? E: No. Ben Hill Griffin would have been a success if I had never been born. I will tell you what kind of a m an he is. I will tell you, I told him, and I will tell anybody. I would trust anything in the world I have to Ben Hill Griffin. He called me about 9: 00 one day and said , "Al, you and I used to be mighty closely associated, only through the Jest ers." That is the Royal Order of Jesters that we are both members of; we have been to parties at his house, and he has come to my house. The Royal Order of Jesters is a select lodge or organization of Shriners. You do not petition them ; they petition you to join. I have been a member since 1948. I am the oldest member of the Tampa Court, I guess. A lo t of entertaining goes on there. They have a party every ten days somewhere in the area. I proposed that George Jenkins be invited. So through the cont acts I have in there--I do not know how I got in there, because it is only the top men in t he surrounding towns

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38 who are members--I have been able to develop some mighty strong friendships of prominent people in every community in this area. It is that kind of an organization. P: So you have a business relationship and a social relationship, then, with Ben Hill Griffin and you are friends. E: Oh, sure. P: Another man that I th ink you have been associated with, perhaps not as closely as Ben Hill, is Jim Walter. E: Yes, fortunately. When I was with the Lakeland Florida National Bank, Jim's daddy lived in Plant City. He had a fr esh fruit packing house there in the early 1930s. I handled his account at Fl orida National. He was selling fresh fruit; there was no such thing as canned fruit, juices, and so forth in those days. He would ship a carload of fruit to some broker in Boston; they would haul them all the way up ther e. He would draw up a draft and attach a bill of lading to it, and endorse it to the bank. We would give him credit for it that day. Then at the end of the month we averaged his outstandings and charged him interest by the month on the outstandings. Jim's story has been well documented. When Jim came out of the navy with Bud Austin, who has been associated with hi m ever since, he married Saraw's sister, but lost her. Sara w was treasurer of Jim Walt er Corporation. So Jim and Saraw, his brother-in-law, and Bud Au stin went into business together. He was driving a pick-up truck deliveri ng fruit for his daddy. He bought a shell house, as the story goes, for him and his wife when he got married. The idea appealed to him. So he went into business with the man he bought the house from, and later bought him out. At that time, Walter sold one type of s hell house. You had the lot, and he would sell you a house for $995, payable in forty-ei ght monthly payment s at a 6 percent add-on, which gave him a yield of about 12 percent. That was an unusually good yield. Consequently, when he took back a mortgage on the house and lot, twenty-four dollars of ever y one $100 mortgage he had was the carrying charge built into it. Then he had this profit; he only had seventy-six dollars true money involved, and that included his profit. His daddy brought him over here, as I recall, back in those early years--thirty years ago. I had Jim give me a financial st atement, and he showed a net worth of $23,000. His office was in a shell hous e over in north Tampa across from the dog track. Jim had a comple te mortgage package with good paperwork.

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39 Of course, he did not do it; his office had prepared it. Every time Jim sold a house, his capital would be tied up in this mortgage, and he would be out of business. But the mortgage was not a conforming mortgage under the regulations of a bank or a savings and loan, so his only outlet for them was selling it. Jim and I are very close friends. There is a story being written now on the Jim Walter Corporation. He sent the men over here and spent the day with me to get background for it. To make a long story short, I incorporated a company called General Discount Corporat ion, and I took stock in it, and my secretary--not Mary, but another one--t ook stock in it, and Neil Greening took stock in it, and Arch Clements, my attorney, took stock in it. He was on the board here. I had about 27 some-odd percent of the corporation. I looked to my friends in Jacksonville and St. Petersburg and Mobile, Alabama, and got myself a line of credit for General Discount Corporation. I commenced buying Jim Walters's paper; I was the exclusive outlet for him. When I said I would make a long story short, Jim finally got to be worth $1,226,000--I remember very distinctly. I told Jim it was getting to where I needed to get out of either the banking business or the mortgage business. I helped get him a line with Florida Na tional for $1 million. Then he got acquainted with a broker in Cleveland, Ohio , who took an interest in him. He began to arrange a line in Chicago for him. From there he went on. He had Karl Krier, who was manager of T hompson and McKinnon office in Tampa, set up a corporation for him. He first started out as Jim Wa lter Incorporated. He had a partnership called Dixie Supply Company. Dixie Supply Company would buy the materials, and Jim Walter Inc. would build the houses. Walter never did build the houses; he contracted everything. He still does, as far as I know. I told him, "Jim, I think you have the same idea in housing that Henry Ford had in transportation." Jim has a tremendous amount of ability, and he has a lot of humility. He is a top-flight man in every respect. I used to go to his stockholders meetings, although I never was a stockholder. After he started entertaining his stockholders, which, incidentally, is in the first part of December, usually around the seventh or eighth, he would have these stockholders meetings that would run two or three days. He set them up for fishing in his boat, TICA, which stands for "This I Cannot Affo rd." He would arrange for them to play golf. He made a big social affair out of it. He would have a big cocktail party and banquet, and I would always go to his banquet. He always introduced me. One time he got up and told them that there would not be a Jim Walter Corporation without Al Ellis.

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40 P: I knew that you had been very instrumental in supporting and developing the Jim Walter Corporation. E: Well, he did not need me. P: He needed somebody like you, and you were the person. E: I have to admit I was there when he needed it, but his friendship has meant a great deal to me. P: I have met him only once, but I know Joe Cordell in his organization. E: He is a good friend of mine. Joe Cor dell's daddy was presi dent of the Florida National Bank in Lakeland after I left ther e. His uncle was president of the Florida National Bank of St. Petersburg, and both of the Cordells had a bank in Daytona Beach. I know the Cordells very well. P: There is another man t hat, obviously, you had an association with and helped a great deal, and that is one of your own Tarpon Springs citizens, Mr. Pappas. E: Yes. When I came here Mr. Louis P appas was still living. They had a little restaurant on the river down here, and it was a four or five room house that was built on stilts to put the house back down on the ground. Mr. and Mrs. Pappas had it. Two of their boys were in the service in World War II. The boys came home with youthful ambiti on, and they want ed to enlarge the restaurant. The third boy was in high school then. They asked me for a $23,000 loan, and they enlarged the restaurant in stages. They did not have a liquor license in those days, so they bu ilt half of the restaurant at that time; then they tore down the other half. T hey continued to operate the business all the time, even with the construction goi ng on. They finally completed it in three stages, but their business was growing fast. The boys were, of course, getting married and had families coming along, and they were all living out of that restaur ant. Then they planned this present restaurant, and they feed about two or three thousand people a day, so they say. I had heard about their expansion plans. They discussed their plans, so I knew about as much about it as they did. Finally they took the plunge and called me. The three boys came up right here in this office and showed me the plans--I knew about them already--and I asked how much money they needed. They said $1,700,000, and I said all right. So they went across the street to a coffee shop, Hometown Tarpon Springs, and I understand they told everybody how

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41 amazing it was for little people like them in a little town like this to get a loan for $1,700,000 okayed in fifteen minutes. I loaned them the money to build the building for their automobile busine ss. I loaned them t he money to build those shopping centers off of town her e. I loaned them the money to buy their liquor license; they paid only $2,500 for it. P: They obviously were a good investment. E: Well, they have been good cu stomers of mine, and I would loan them practically anything they wanted. I would loan any one of them $100,000 or $200,000 just on their signature anytime. P: So you stayed good friends and supporters of the Pappas family. E: They all bank here. P: How long have you lived here in Tarpon Springs? E: Since 1946. P: So you are almost a pioneer yourself. E: I came here with the intention of moving back to Sarasota after five years. I figured within five years I would build a new bank in Tarpon Springs with drive-in facilities, air conditioning, par king, and so on. I brought a couple of fellows up from the Sarasota bank to change the internal operations and to modernize it; it was being operated just like banks were in World War I. Old man McCrocklin was from Kentucky, and he was over-aged, but he ran it just like they used to run banks in my daddy's time. I commenced buying banks in other towns like Lakeland. I put banks in Winter Haven. I went over the east coast buying banks in Gainesville, Tallahassee, Live Oak, Deland, and so forth. The new airpor t in Tampa was built then. I could get anywhere in the state in an hour's time from Tam pa, and I could go from my home to the Tampa airport in thirty-five minutes. So it was much more convenient than going back to Sarasota. P: And it is a nice community. E: Yes, it is. It is in t he middle of things, so I just built my home here and have been here ever since. P: What did you do during World War II?

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42 E: I was president of the Sarasota bank. I could not pass the physical examination. I was thirty-six. P: You were already over the age limit. E: Or right at it. In 1931 I was with the Florida National in Lakeland, as you know, and I had a ruptured appendix. Herman Wa tson of the Watson Clinic was a friend of mine, and he operated on me. I was supposed to die, and Florida National hired another fellow in my place after talking to Herman. I used to go with Herman's niece; he was her guardian. Herman was quite wealthy and married a Kibler of the Kibler fam ily. They used to control phosphate in Ocala; they were very wealthy people. P: Burke Kibler's family. E: Yes. Watson attached himself out here at Anclote Psychiatric Center at a dollar a year after he retired. He establis hed the Watson Clinic, which, incidentally, handles about 1,100 patients a day. I go there for my physical checkups. When he came over here, a chauffer would bring him on Monday and would come get him on Friday. He and I would go to the Julia Lounge across the street and have a drink or two, and then go out and have a steak. I told him, "Herman, you sure did cut me up." He said, "Well, I di d not expect you to live. I did not take great pains with you." I was out of the bank about four or five months, and they told me to come back. They paid me--of course, I was not making much--the whole time I was out, and they let the other fellow go when I came back. P: So it was physical reasons, then, that kept you out of World War II. E: I tried to join the navy. I had a recommendation from a commander in the Pentagon who was a personal friend of mine. I tried to get in the Special Services Division that did office work. I was president of the Wauchula bank in Hardee County; that was the only bank in the county. Hardee County is a big food-producing county. But they decided that I was worth more as chairman of the bond drives and so fort h, and I was so near the cutoff age they said I was worth more at home. P: Mr. Ellis, during this long conversation we have had this afternoon, you have mentioned dozens of banks, it seems to me, in almost every community in Florida. You have not said anythi ng about west Florida in the Panhandle area, and you have not said very much about south Florida, the area of Palm Beach, Miami, and Key West.

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43 E: I had eighty-one banks in this state, and every one of them was a full-service bank, except four. P: Did you go to west Florida and the Panhandle? E: Oh, yes. I bought the bank in Blountst own, I bought the bank in Jay, I bought the bank in Tallahassee, and I bought the bank in Cross City. P: Did you have any banks in Pensacola? E: No. I had a deal to acquire four br anches of one bank. When I went with NCNB I had a deal all ready to close for the Bank of Jackson County, which was at Marianna and Chipley. I liked west Florida because I was born in Alabama not over forty miles away. Then I also had a bank between Mobile and Pensacola in Alabama, so I knew that area of west Flori da. When I merged with NCNB the first thing they wanted to do was get rid of those west Florida banks, but I told them they had better not do that. "But there is no growth there." I said, "Are you telling me t here is no growth there? When I bought the Blountstown bank it wa s $4.25 million, but now it is worth $38 million. Those people do not send their money o ff to Merrill Lynch or the stock market or something like that; they keep it in the bank." The board of directors have about four million because of that bank. When I bought the Jay bank it was $3.8 million; it is now a $42 million bank. P: How about south Florida? Did you have any holdings in south Florida, in Miami, Key West area? E: I had banks in Avon Park, Lakeland, O rmond Beach, Bunnell, Flagler Beach, Deland, Deltona. P: But nothing in Dade County or Broward County? E: No, I never had any banks down in that area. P: Mr. Ellis, I do not know much about ban ks or banking, but I have learned a great deal from you this afternoon. How did the NCNB merger come about? E: I guess every holding company in Florida talked to one another at some time, but I saw no point in merging with another holding company in Florida because I could put a bank anywhere they had one. There was no use in going out and paying a premium for something. NCNB was the only out-of-state banking institution that was permitted to be in Florida except Northern Trust

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44 from Chicago, which had a trust company in Sarasota, but they were not interested in commercial banking. P: Where is the home-base for NCNB? E: Charlotte, North Carolina. NCNB now is the ninth largest bank in the nation. They have the only bank I know of that does not have a classified asset in it, and that is the NCNB Texas National Bank. They picked out all the assets of the First Republic Bank Corporation they wanted and capitalized it with new capital. FDIC owns 80 percent and we own twenty, but we have full voting stock. We have an exclusive option for fi ve years to acquire the rest of the stock from FDIC, and we have acquired it. P: Did they come seeking you? E: Well, yes and no. That is a hell of a way to answer your question, but they let it be known through intimation to some of the larger capi talized banks in the country. From all the publicity that Texas had, we knew the bank had slipped. We already had a holding com pany in Texas; we already owned the Charter Bank shares in Houston, which only had about $500 million or $600 million in deposits. They had four banks in or around Houston. We already owned that holding company. We had a l oan production office in Dallas, so we had a foot in Texas anyway. We got back with them, I think, on the invitation of FDIC. They negotiated i t, and that was not exactly perfect, so then they drew up a third proposal. The ke y to it is that we got a ruling from the Internal Revenue Service that we c ould use all of the losses of the First Republic for the next fifteen years. We got a good deal. I have write-ups and brochures on Bear-Sterns, Morgan Stanley, Goldman-Sachs, Solomon Brothers right there in that drawer. Every one of them was thinking sweetheart deal. P: And it was personally good for you? E: For the stockholders of NCNB. The way it was finally worked out is excellent; it is fine. P: Where are you in it now? What position do you personally have in NCNB? E: I am senior chairman of the board of NCNB National Bank of Florida, which is a $10 billion bank. I am the largest stockholder of NCNB corporation. P: Anywhere, or just in Florida?

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45 E: No, anywhere. I own about 10 percent of the whole company, from London to Australia. It just happens that way. I did have 13 percent when we merged, but because of the growth I now hav e about 10 percent of the stock. P: Do you have any involvement in the day-to-day operations? E: No. I might tell you this: I am a mem ber of the executive committee in Charlotte for the whole operation. I am also a member of the board of directors in Charlotte, and they had an office fixed up for me there, but I would not take it. I said I was not going to live up there; I wanted to live down here. At the very first meeting we sat down in that board room right t here, and I told them in the beginning, "Gentlemen, I have talked to every holding company in Florida, and they have come to talk to me as well. There is no reason for me to merge with anybody else in this state, because I could put a bank anywhere they had one. I am not going to give up anything I have already worked for. Unless you are willing to agree to that, there is no use in talking, because I do not have to sell. Nobody is going to take me over because I absolutely own and have absolute control of the Ellis Banking Corporation." At that time it was the eighth largest in the state. They wanted me to continue, so we talked. I also told them that I was well up in age and did not have a son or grandson to carry on the business after me, and that was the only reason I even considered merging with them. I said, "I do not want to punch a clock. I do not want day-to-day responsibilities. I want to come and go when I want to, but I want a voice in the management, wh ich I am entitled to." They agreed to it. Then they asked me if I had any employment contracts. I said I had none, but I had some personal commitm ents to certain key men in my organization that they would have to honor , because they are just as good as a contract. They agreed to that, too. I added, "What I have earned and have today is this: I have a salary." He asked how much, and I told them. Hugh McCall, the new chairman, had never worked for anybody except NCNB. He is a very nice fellow, and he knows his bus iness. He is also very agressive. He wanted to know what else I wanted. I said, "I have an automobile that is furnished me by the bank, and I have a chauffeur that I have had for twenty-some-odd years. I have an o ffice, a secretary, and bank-related expenses, and that is what I will have to continue having." They agreed to all of it, and we signed a contract. So they pay me now. They pay me a salary and give me an automobile, but they pay the tax on it. They pay my chauffer a salary and my secretary, too. The contract has been publicized in the

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46 proxy statement; it is no secret. Ever ything I have told you is in the proxy statement. I will have to say they have been extremely nice to me. P: So you have been very happy. E: They have lived up to every agreement they have made. P: When did you do this? E: 1984. It was official March 16, 1984. Now, the tallest commercial building in Sarasota was owned by my bank. I did not put my name on these banks. In fact, Ellis Banking Corporation was organi zed by me, but I did not intend to put my name on anything. That came about from my board of directors in Sarasota because I had five banks in Sarasota, and the [Potter] Palmer family had five. Palmer's name was ev erywhere you looked, but we were the biggest bank in Sarasota. The director s down there said we ought to have a common name so we can co mpete with Palmer. I had four banks in Tampa. I organized three and bought one; I bought one and then organized the others. I got two charters on one date. P: So your relationship with NCNB has been a happy marriage, then? E: Well, yes. Now, they do confer with me on matters , and I help them a great deal. Just yesterday they called me and wanted me to talk to a certain man regarding a loan. I have discussed some of the big loans for people I have known for a long time. The president of the Flor ida bank called me one day and wanted me to call John Turner, treasurer of Publix. They wanted the Broward County account. There are fourteen Publix markets in Broward County, and they keep about $12 million in the bank. They wanted that account, so Ken Lewis, who is president of the Florida bank--he is president of the Texas bank, also--called me. I told him, "Ken, there is no reason for me to call John Turner and saying a good word for NCNB, which is w hat you want me to do. I will call George Jenkins. He is the one who is going to make that decision, anyway. I will pick you up and take you over ther e and introduce you to him." So I called George, and he said, "I was going to the east coast, but I will stay here if you are coming." I took Ken Lewis over there to see George, and we sat down and spent the afternoon together with John Turner and got that account. P: You used your own network, then.

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47 E: Take the Pappas family, for instance. I interceded there and saved that business for this bank. The same was true in Sarasota. You see, the United First Federal Savings and Loan of Sarasota was over a $1.5 million savings and loan association. Their officers asked me to help them get a man thirty years ago, and I brought a man down here from my little home town in Alabama, and he was appointed head of t hat federal savings and loan. He was only making $6,000 a year in Alabama as head of a savings and loan, but he must be making $200,000 or $300,000 now. The savings and loan at that time would have been a $35 million savings and loan, and it is over $1.5 billion now. George Page was his name. Naturally, he was one of the two closest friends I had because he came fr om my little home town, he knew my father and brothers and everything. I am responsible for getting him down here. P: Mr. Ellis, what made you want to get on the Federal Reserve Board? E: As I told you, I had a very close rela tionship with Monroe Kimball, the president. As I mentioned a while ago, he was one of the best of speakers I had when I was president of the Florida Bankers convention. Not only that, he and a first cousin of mine were associated. This first cousin of mine was on the board of the Federal Reserve for nine years, and I was on the board for nine years. The last year or two the executiv e committee only had three members: the chairman, the vice chairman, and myself. I went to the meetings every week. It wa s an ego thing, you might say. I say ego and greed gets people into trouble. I did not get much money for it; they paid all of my expenses and the chauffeur who picked me up at the airport. I could come to the bank here in Tar pon Springs and read my mail and dictate some letters, as long as I made it to the airport by 11: 00 a.m. I was in Atlanta by noon, and the bank had a c hauffeured limousine there for me. The chauffer took me into the bank, and we had lunch and an executive meeting. When lunch and the execut ive committee meeting was over--we would do both at the same time--I could catch a plane and be back here by 4: 00, with the airline schedules they had. Anyway, this cousin of mine had been on the Federal Reserve Board for a long time, and he said, "Al, you are getting up in age, and if you ever expect to be appointed, this is the time!" In additi on, we had a doctor here in town who is a very close friend of mine. I was on his board out here at the hospital until I began to curtail some of my activities. I helped him out; I loaned him a lot of money to get started. His grandfather was first pr esident of the Federal Reserve Bank in Atlanta, and his wif e's grandfather was president of the Federal Reserve Bank in Atlanta in my youth, way back in the 1920s, around

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48 1929 or 1930. His great unc le was Henry W. Grady, whose statue is right downtown in Atlanta. Grady had owned the Atlanta Constitution . In view of these people that I knew at one time or another, I decided I would run. I had had a lot of honors that I may not have deserved. More important, I had friends, and, as I told you, friends ta ke care of you. Fifty-six banks nominated me. I think I told you how I beat out Bert Lance. After I started working on the bank board, there were such fine people that I became acquainted with. I enjoyed it very much. I had had contacts with the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta for many years before I ever decided to seek election to that board. I had been in banking since 1929, and I have been executive officer of banks since back in the late 1930s. I had quite a lot of contacts with the Federal Reserve Bank . When I was in college, we made a field trip to Atlanta. They took us through the General Motors plant, through the Ford Motor Company plant, and th rough the Federal Reserve Bank. They took us through the federal penit entiary--I do not know why they took us through there. Every time I applied for a new national bank , the board started out as if they had never seen me before, in order to make their file complete on every charter. I just reprinted an old application and had it brought up to date for each new bank charter. I brought a copy of one of these so you could have one for your files. P: I want to ask you also about your in vestments--they go beyond just banking. Are you into real estate? Are you into other things? E: Yes, sir. P: You must be a broadly based man. E: I have been listed in Forbes for four or five years. I tried to get them not to print that, but they published it last year. I told them, "I wish you would leave me out of that thing. All you do is creat e a best seller for all the cons and crooks in the country. Anyway, anyone who reads Forbes has no business asking for a handout." Last year they printed that statement, too. P: Let me read you this little comment that I picked up from a Miami newspaper item. It says, "Ellis confesses to ow nership of nine well-located shopping malls, and he is buying a tent h. He also owns half of a city block in downtown Tampa, a quarter of a block in Clearwater, and property in Tarpon Springs, some of which he leases to the city." Is there any basis to all of that?

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49 E: Yes, sir. P: How the Miami newspaper learn all of that? E: I do not know where they learned it, but I do own twelve shopping centers located in Pasco, Pinellas, Manatee, Hillsborough, and Polk counties, and I own half of a downtown block in Tampa. There are fifteen store build ings there, and I have owned it for forty years. I do own a quarter of a downtown block in Clearwater; I am surrounded by four ban ks there. I do ow n quite a bit of property here in Tarpon Springs, includi ng the former bank building, of which part is leased to the state, and the rest is leased to private interests. I own six store buildings on the main street up there. You asked me this, and I am not trying to brag. I own an office building in Clearwater, and I also own three bank buildings and the bank buildi ng in Tarpon Mall. Incidentally, I bought that bank building out there on Tarpon Road from George Jenkins in 1984 for $355,000, which is exactly what he had in it. I was arguing with the state road department the other day. I had it appraised recently for $1,273,000. It is leased on a triple net lease to NCNB. P: Mr. Ellis, what drives y ou? When you get up in the morning, what do you want to do? E: I cannot answer that. I just get bor ed to death sitting down and doing nothing. I read two newspapers in the morn ing before I get started. P: Your lifestyle has not changed as a result of your prosperity. E: No, it has not changed at all. P: You do not buy thousand-dollar suits and all of those kinds of things. You do not have caviar for breakfast, do you? E: No, sir. P: What I am really saying is you look like a man of simple, conservative taste. E: You are absolutely right. P: You are not trying to impress anybody at all. E: You have not asked me mu ch about my wife Helen. I will tell you this: she was always active in communities which we were in--in Red Cross, the library,

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50 and the like. We came to this to wn in 1946, and she had an operation in 1949. We did not have a surgeon in this town, but she would not leave Tarpon Springs, so they brought in a surgeon and his staff to operate right here in our little hospital. This hospi tal was just like a four-unit apartment house built in the boom days with stucco. It did not have but twelve beds in it. Even the street out there was full of potholes. She took an interest in the hospital. She has given thousands of hour s of volunteer work at the hospital over the years as a pink lady, and al so operating a thrift store they have uptown, as well as the gift shop out t here. She and I have furnished several rooms out there in the addi tions. I have made loans to them at cut rates at every move they have made. When they built this last addition, t hey added a chapel, and I got a famous local artist to do a window of St. Luke in st ained glass. A quotation of physicians and my mother's and father's names are on it, and they dedicated that. About five years ago they built another addition onto the hospital, and they are about to add three more stories to it. I guess they have at least one hundred fifty or more beds. They service this whole area: they have a branch up here, in Holiday, between her e and New Port Richey. We had to plan our family life around Helen's duties at the hospital. A committee came to me five years ago and showed me an ar tist's rendering of an addition they were going to put on, and they had her name across the top: Helen Ellis Pavilion. They said, "Mr. Ellis, we will fix up a suite for her." My daughter selected the wallpaper and carpet and all t hat. They also gave a dinner; they had about 300 there down at that big hot el at Clearwater Beach. As a surprise to her they had the program "This Is Your Life." They brought all the former pastors of our church, friends we knew in Sarasota, friends we knew in Wauchula, friends we knew in Lake Wales, Lakeland, and Bradenton as guests. P: All as a grand surprise for Helen. Ar e you a religious man? Are you a church man? E: I do not go to church too much, but I say my prayers every night. P: What church do you belong to? E: First Methodist here. P: Was that your family's church? E: Two of my granddaughters were married in it.

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51 P: This was the church of your mother and father? E: No, my mother and father were Baptis t, but my wife was a Methodist, so I joined the Methodist Church. It was a choice of my daughter when she was here as a baby because the fri ends she grew up with were all members of the Methodist Church, so we all went to the Methodist Church. I support the Methodist Church very generously. T he hospital continued to expand before adding three more stories to the hospita l last year--they added a wing for the surgical department and the cafeteria. They are planning a reception in January, at which time they will unve il the new name; t hey are naming the hospital Helen Ellis Memorial Hospital . Of course, I gave them a couple of million dollars, besides the $500,000. It is now the Helen Ellis Memorial Hospital. P: Have you ever been interested in politics? E: No, sir. I would not last one minute. P: So you have never thought about runni ng for any office as Ben Hill ran for governor in 1974. E: He was a senator from Polk county for thirty years or so. P: But you have no desire for politics? E: No, it never teased or tempted me whatsoever. P: Have you been involved as a supporter or as a banker in politics, in terms of supporting candidates with money? E: Yes. I thought I was pretty liberal for a long time. But then they got Bud Dickinson [Fred O. Dickinson] and indict ed him with income tax evasion and violating banking laws and whatnot--he wa s comptroller for ten years. I never was very close to Bud. I used to give money all the time to the candidates. Ray Green was comptro ller; he was on the board of Ellis banking when he died. He was a very close friend of mine. He used to be mayor of Clearwater. He began as a druggist. I have had some good friends in politics, and I was rather generous, I think. So I got subpoened, along with Alfred McKethan of Brooksv ille, Bubba Nelson of Panama City, and some others. P: Is this in the Dickinson case?

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52 E: I got subpoened before the grand jury, and I test ified in his case in Tallahassee. I was subpoened in Miami for the [Thom as D.] O'Malley case; he was treasurer of Florida. Since then I do not give any money to politicians. Those eariler experiences cost me money . I had to have a lawyer just as a matter of precaution. He went to Miami with me, and he went to Tallahassee with me, and I paid him a nice fee. I w ent before the grand jury in Tampa in Bud Dickinson's case, and I was there about two or three hours. Before I testified I said I would have to have immunity before I gave any testimony. I met with the United Stated district atto rney, his assistants, and the Internal Revenue people in Tampa the ni ght before. They told me what they would ask me, and they even told me what my answers should be. Then they took me before the federal judge the next morning, and it did not take but about ten minutes. They had the papers all drawn and everything; it was cut and dried. He gave me immunity, so I w ent to the grand jury room immediately and testified. After about two or three hours, the foreman said, "Mr. Ellis, I have one more question. Why did you ask for immunity? You have not said anything in this room today that would imp licate you in any particular. " I said it was because I have never held an office in the Ellis Banking Corporation, and in the course of time I received five national bank charters and five state bank charters. But those charter applications were made out in my group office, which had the fifth floor and part of the third and four th floors of the First National Bank in Bradenton. I also said, "I signed those applications, but all they sent me to sign was just a sheet. I do not know what was in the application, and I did not know what you were going to ask me, and I did not want to be implicated." He said he understood fully, and that is all there was to it. Then the government later said I was the best witness they had. The trouble was this: they subpoened every bank account I had, every check I had written, every share of stock I had, and every deed I had for five years back. I went to Tampa every evening until 11: 00 at night and went through every detail. I had nothing to hi de. Everything was clean as a whistle, and we were best of friends. They said I was the best witness they had. P: But that is not what s oured you on politics, is it? E: No. It soured me on giving money to politicians. P: Mr. Ellis, are you a sportsman? Do you watch games? E: When I was in Wauchula for five years, I used to go hunting. Sometimes I would go dove shooting before t he bank opened. A lot of afternoons I would go with another boy in the post office who knew that whole country down there.

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53 While everybody had their ranches pos ted to keep people from Tampa and Plant City and Lakeland out of there, they all offered me a constant invitation to come hunt on their land anytime I w anted to. This other boy's daddy was a pioneer down there, and he and I would go out. I would leave the bank maybe 2: 00 or 3: 00 and hunt until dark. I enjoyed it. P: Do you follow basketball or football? E: I go to Gainesville sometimes for foot ball games. We have a sky box, but that is mostly social. P: Where is your sky box? E: Over here in the Tampa st adium. The University of South Florida has a sky box, too, that I can go to. P: I am sure you would be welcome in a lot of sky boxes around. E: I am about to give the University of South Florida $600,000 to study Parkinson's disease. Of course, the state is putting in $420,000. P: And that will create a chair? E: The reason I am in with the University of South Flor ida is that Sarasota has a lot of culture, but it has not always had a college, and the people there wanted one. They tried mighty hard to get Flor ida Presbyterian College there. It is located in St. Petersburg and is now [Jack] Eckerd College. Eckerd was a very close friend of mine; I have been acquainted with him ever since he came here. This bank gave him his firs t line of credit. Mrs. Eckerd was Ruth Binnicker, the daughter of R. J. Binnicker, who was president of the First National Bank in Tampa at one time. I was with them the other night at Eckerd College for a dinner. P: Do you have a foundation? E: Yes, I have been giving the foundation at least $1 million a year. The foundation has $5 million worth of life insurance on my life, and they also are going to inherit $27 million from my will. With what they have already, they will have $35 million. I have said several times that you only live after you are dead through your children and deeds--deeds, particularly. So what little bit I have been able to do I think I will still owe a great deal.

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54 P: Do you read very much? Is that one of your interests? You said you read newspapers in the morning. E: I read very much. P: What do you read? E: Well, somebody is always giving me an autographed book, and I actually read it. P: Do you have any special interests in history--the Civil War and the South? E: Yes, but I do not have to read about that. I have already heard about it all my life! My wife and I drove up to Washington to see her sister years ago, and we were quite late getting there, so Helen' s sister said that I probably read every historical plaque all through Virginia. P: And North Carolina. E: North Carolina and South Carolina. So she did not get worried a bit. P: It sounds to me like when you get up in the morning you have got your day planned, and when you go to sleep at night you are a satisfied man. E: Sure. P: Is your health good? E: Fortunately, it is. I hav e a perfect score. I go to Watson Clinic. I used to go to Leahy Clinic in Boston forty or fifty years ago, then I switched to Duke University. For the last ten years I have been going to Watson. They give me a clean bill of health every time. They do a better job than Duke, in my opinion. P: Were you able to travel much before your wife got sick? E: I traveled all over the world except Af rica and China. I hav e been from Australia to Alaska. We made a trip around t he world with another fellow and his wife; I paid their way just to have some company. P: Do you enjoy traveling? E: I sure do. Another couple, who are ve ry close friends of ours over on the east coast, have been all over Russia and Eu rope with us. I guess we have been

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55 to Europe seven or eight times or more. We have been all over Russia, except Siberia, thank goodness. We m ade three airplane trips within Russia, and we did not have a guide, either. We had a guide the first day, but we just went on our own from then on. P: So you have lived, you would say, Mr. Ellis, a very satisfying life. E: Yes, it has been a very pr oductive life, except the trips to Alaska and Australia. I would not make those anymore. That was time wasted. P: Do you feel that there is anything that you had wanted to do that you have not accomplished? E: I guess if I gave it some thought I could think of a lot of things. P: But you have done the things that you have wanted to do. E: Yes, I have seen a lot of this world. P: And you have had a lot of interesting experiences. You have lived through a lot of the history of this state. E: Well, that is true enough. P: From the boom of the 1920s to where we are right now, 1988. E: As I remarked a while ago, I think that is why Mr. Ball and I were such close friends. We could sit down and have a drink of bourbon and reminisce, and he enjoyed it. I was one of the few, I guess, that he could go all the way back to the 1920s with. P: Have you been a social man in your life, partying with friends? E: I have enjoyed a social life, very much so. In fact, I know a lot of people in Tampa, a lot of people in Sarasota , and just about every town around here because I have banks in them. They had boards of directors, and through those boards I made friendships. They included me in a lot of invitations, a lot more than I could possibly attend. Then too, with my a ffiliations with three colleges, all three are carrying on social affairs all the time, promotional affairs and whatever. P: Mr. Ellis, what else should we put on the tape? We have talked a lot.

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56 E: I have been enjoying this conversation with you very, very much. P: I have enjoyed it, also. I want to thank you for your gracious hospitality and for spending so much time with me. I appreciate your openess and your willingness to talk about your personal and business life in such detail. Thank you very much.