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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM
Interviewee: Charles Edward Bennett
Interviewer: Samuel Proctor
May 15, 1995
FP 60 Hon. Charles E. Bennett
Abstract of oral interview
conducted May 15, 1995
Pp. 1-7 contain the family background of Charles Edward Bennett [CEB], born December
2, 1910 in Canton, New York. He talks of his English and German ancestors on his father's side,
English and French Huguenot forebears on his mother's side. His paternal and maternal
predecessors immigrated into the US around 1820 and 1850 respectively. Charles and his older
brother Robert grew up in Tampa, Florida, where their dad worked as a weather forecaster.
Pp. 7-12 outline his early interest in politics in junior high school, when he was picked to
be president of student government. Since then he always competed and won elections for
either president of his class, or again at UF as president of student government. His parents,
adherents of the Disciples of Christ Church, instilled in their sons a turn for religion, as well as an
appreciation for arts and letters. Many artists visited the family in Tampa. Moreover, Charles
received an early understanding of American diversity, as he attended school with Hispanics and
mother taught English to Chinese laundrymen.
Pp. 12-44 cover the undergraduate and law school periods at UF. Charles received his
BA 1928-1931, followed by the law degree 1931-1934. He related some experiences in the
dorms at Thomas Hall and Sledd Hall and with professors and students. He discussed his stint
as editor of the Alligator, and as an opponent of compulsory ROTC. He worked his way through
college by earning money and food as a waiter at the campus cafeteria, chopping cotton on the
University farm at 5 cents an hour, and doing other work. CEB described his 1933 campaign for
president of student government, when he managed to get elected even though he was not a
member of any fraternity. While a student at UF he was active in federal politics too. On pp. 40-
41 CEB related that in the campaign to nominate the Democratic presidential candidate for the
1932 federal election, he worked for "Alfalfa" Bill Murray (of Oklahoma) and against Franklin
Delano Roosevelt (of New York). As a student, Charles also supported Claude Pepper [US
Senator from Florida 1936-1950].
Pp. 46-49 contain some of his experiences in the practice of law in Jacksonville, Florida,
with Cooper, Knight, Adair, Cooper, and Osborne. He joined the Jacksonville Jaycees in 1934
and became president of that organization in 1938. He left Cooper, Knight in 1939, when he
opted for a full-time life in politics.
On pp. 51-70 CEB noted his campaign for one of the Jacksonville seats in the Florida
State Legislature and some of his political tenets. He won the election to the Florida House in
1940 and served in Matt Christie's old seat with Duval County legislators Charlie Luckie and Chic
Acosta. CEB talked about the style of his campaign, won by shaking hands and meeting voters
one-on-one, without TV or other electronic media. Newspapers were important, and he had
good press coverage. He recalled speaking to an audience of Ku Klux Klan members, when he
openly stated that he could neither become a member nor support the KKK cause, because he
did not believe in excluding from political life members of another race or religion. At the same
time, he took care not to alienate white voters: while on the stump in a district known for its
segregationist views, he refused to shake hands with a young black, who was paid by CEB's
opponents to shake hands with CEB in front of a large audience. For the same reason, he was
not vocally in favor of the Supreme Court's Brown v. Board of Education (1954) decision and
later, as a US Congressman, voted against the Civil Rights Bill of 1964; he did however vote for
the Voting Rights Act of 1965. War interrupted CEB's political career. Persuaded by friend Fuller
Warren to run for the Congressional seat of retiring Lex Green, CEB began campaigning in 1941,
one year before the election, but quit the campaign in December, after Pearl Harbor, to join the
He relates on pp. 72-85 how he volunteered for the infantry, trained at Camp Claibome,
Louisiana, attended officer candidate school (OCS), became an intelligence officer, and went into
combat against the Japanese in New Guinea and the Philippines. He was assigned to a
Philippine guerilla unit in northern Luzon. While in action with the guerillas, in the summer of
1945, he was struck by polio and spent the next eighteen months in the Army and Navy Hospital
in Hot Springs, Arkansas. He mustered out in January 1947, with immobile legs and with a
number of decorations, including the Silver Star and the Bronze Star.
On pp. 86-89 CEB described how he returned to his law practice in Jacksonville, as well
as his political ambitions. In 1947 he campaigned again for the same congressional seat he
contested in 1941 and won it in the 1948 election. He talked about his interest in history and his
intention to create the Fort Caroline National Memorial. In the 1952 election, he "really loved
Eisenhower," but as a loyal Democrat he felt obliged to support Adlai Stevenson.
CEB covered his own family life on pp. 89-92. In 1953, after a whirlwind courtship, he
married Dorothy Jean Fay of Springfield, Missouri, whom he met on a holiday in West Palm
Beach. CEB and Mrs. Bennett had four children, Bruce, Charles [now deceased], James, and
On pp. 93-99 CEB talked about his friends Fuller Warren, Dan McCarty, and William
Shands all contesting the Democratic primary in Florida's 1948 gubernatorial election. He also
had views on the first ever Florida Sales Tax, and on the national scene, the establishment of the
Dixiecrat party, led by Democrats disillusioned by Harry Truman's support of what CEB called the
Blue Ribbon Committee on Race Relations [Report: "To Secure These Rights."]. In that respect,
CEB stated he was on Truman's side, and described his own beliefs as "populist," thus avoiding
use of the label "liberal." Due to the Cold War, CEB wanted to see a militarily strong nation. He
also supported the Marshall Plan and believed in the UN. Closer to home in Florida, CEB worked
for the Cross Florida Barge Canal; despite claims to the contrary by environmentalists, CEB said
it had never been shown that the canal had caused environmental damage.
On pp. 102-117 CEB gave his views on political campaigns. After winning his
congressional seat, his first assignments were to the Merchant Marine and Fisheries Committee,
and later to his favorite, the Armed Services Committee. In Duval County he was able to
maintain the already existing military installations, such as the Naval Air Station and an auxiliary
facility at Cecil Field. He helped reopen Mayport, closed in 1946, as a new Naval Air Station and
ship facility. By pushing for the early re-opening of Mayport, CEB badly irritated Carl Vinson of
Georgia, then head of the Armed Services Committee, who had been in Congress since 1914.
He also brought to Jacksonville the plane repair facility NADEP, the naval hospital, as well as the
naval fuel depot on Heckscher Drive.
Covering his relations with successive presidents, on pp. 118-124 CEB tells of good
relations with Harry Truman. CEB advised Truman to support Douglas MacArthur in Korea.
Both CEB and Truman urged Dwight Eisenhower to run on the Democratic ticket. The interstate
highway system, initiated under Eisenhower, was in CEB's opinion, Ike's greatest achievement.
Asked about the Brown v. Board of Education (1954) decision, CEB thought early integration was
not a positive move. He advocated first giving financial assistance to enhance black schools.
He did promote eventual integration. For example, he said he was the first congressman to have
an integrated office staff, to appoint blacks to military academies, and to appoint black pages in
Congress. As member of the Intelligence Committee, CEB knew Fidel Castro had indeed thrown
in with communists. In 1960, he supported the candidacy of John F. Kennedy against Lyndon B.
On pp. 125-138 CEB continued to talk about his relationships with presidents. CEB was
working at his desk when his secretary advised him of the assassination of John F. Kennedy in
Dallas. He believed that Lyndon Johnson was a "trader" who loved to succeed in political
maneuvers; CEB tells his own LBJ trading story. The discussion then includes other politicians,
such as Floridians Farris Bryant, Haydon Burns, and presidents Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter,
and Ronald Reagan. CEB felt that George Bush made a mistake in pursuing the Gulf War
against Iraq. In fact, CEB thought waging that war was unconstitutional. CEB thought it too early
to judge Bill Clinton, although Clinton "has had problems with being accused of doing things."
At pp. 138-145 CEB discussed his leading role in the movement in Congress for a code
of ethics and his subsequent chairmanship of the House Ethics Committee. He felt some
congressmen thought him too moralistic, a "loose wheel," unwilling to go along with the
brotherhood. In addition, CEB presented legislation in Congress to make "In God We Trust" our
national motto. He initiated yet more legislation as the chairman of the Armed Services
Committee. That committee dealt with placement of military bases and authorized every
expenditure for national defense, such as combat pay and inclusion of the military in fighting drug
CEB talked of his great interest in the environment on pp. 148-154. He was instrumental
in setting aside millions of acres of wilderness areas, as well as creating the Timuquan Preserve
[in the northern part of Duval County, Florida] and locally the Fort Caroline National Memorial
[also in Duval County, close to the St. Johns River entry into the Atlantic]. CEB then mentions a
number of books he authored, including his first, Laudonniere at Fort Caroline, in 1964. He also
joined with Congressman Tony Coelho from California to introduce a "Handicapped Bill," which
evoked some opposition from small hotels.
On pp. 155-167 CEB discussed a miscellany of issues, including his opposition to assault
weapons and the NRA's position on that matter; the reason he retired from politics; his travels to
Europe--but never at government's expense; his returning to the treasury Congressional pay
increases he felt were not warranted. CEB was a Congressman for forty-four years, fought
twenty-two campaigns, and believes that the American public is still the great America it has
always been, motivated by the highest principles. That political party which can actually do what
the American public wants will be revitalized.
Finally, on pp. 167-172 CEB enumerates some honorary degrees and other honors he
received over the years, including the Freedom Foundation Award, the Good Government Award,
and an honorary degree by the Jacksonville University, where he now teaches as an adjunct.
The interview ends with an explanation for CEB's love for history in general and for Florida
history in particular.
P: I am preparing an interview with Congressman Charles Edward Bennett for the
University of Florida's Oral History Archives. We are working in Mr. Bennett's
office at Jacksonville University in the Swisher Library. This is May 10, 1995. The
interviewer is Sam Proctor. Charlie, I want to start off by asking you about your own
background, if I may. Where were you born?
B: I was born in Canton, New York, which is a college town in northern New York.
P: What was the date of your birth?
B: December 2, 1910.
P: Locate Canton for us. You said that it was a college town. What was the college?
B: The college was St. Lawrence University. My father taught up there. We were only
up there three years. I was two and one-half years old when we came to Florida.
P: I want to find out a little bit about your family. Start off with your father. What was
B: My father's name was Walter James Bennett. He was a son of Charles Henry
Bennett. Charles Henry and his ancestors, the Bennetts, were in the bakery business
in London. My grandfather Charles Henry was born in London, as was my
grandfather [on mother's side] Robert Broadhurst.
P: What brought them to the United States?
B: I suspect economy, but I am not sure. The Bennetts were successful bakers for
generations in London. They went to St. Mary-le-Bow, which is a very ancient
church in downtown London, where Zephaniah Kingsley [Florida plantation owner
and slave trader, living on Fort George Island at beginning of 19th century] was
christened and where my ancestors were christened.
P: So there was a Florida association very early on, was there not?
B: Yes, there was. [Laughter].
P: When they came to the United States, did they come directly to New York?
B: They went to Philadelphia. Ultimately, my grandfather Charles Bennett married a
Philadelphia lady by the name of Bertha Lukens. By the time he married, they had
moved to Cinciinati. There was a movement of Germanic people to Philadelphia,
Germantown, Pennsylvania, where the Lukens family lived. They moved in turn to
Cincinnati. Many German-related people in Cincinnati came from Germantown,
Pennsylvania. That part of my family, the Lukens line through my grandfather
Bennett, were Quakers.
The other part of my family, in my maternal family, the Fugates, were French
Huguenots. Irene Fugate married Robert Broadhurst, my mother's father and
mother. He was an Englishman, but he married into the Huguenot family.
Pi Before you get into the maternal side, let us finish up with the paternal. Did your
grandfather continue as a baker after he got to the United States?
B: Oh, yes, he did. He became a very successful baker in Cincinnati. He minted his
own coins, as they did in that time, during the Civil War period. I have an 1863 and,
I think, an 1862 coin with "Charles Bennett Bakery" in Cincinnati. They were
providers of hardtack to the Union Army. Ultimately, I believe, they sold out to the
National Biscuit Company.
P: Now the family then came over from England approximately when?
B: Grandfather Bennett came to this country, I guess, about 1820.
P: And settled in Philadelphia and married a woman from Philadelphia, and eventually
moved to Ohio.
B: Actually, he married Miss Lukens in Cincinnati, not in Germantown. I have a lot
of letters from ancestors of mine who lived in Germantown. As far as I can see,
Bertha Lukens was living in Cincinnati when my grandfather met her. There is sort
of an interesting story about that. He first married a sister of Bertha. He married
Amanda Lukens. As Amanda was a wonderful, thoughtful wife, she extracted a
promise from Charles that if she should die, he would marry the very mild, timid,
little Bertha Lukens. She did die, and my grandfather fulfilled that request.
P: Kept it in the family.
B: Kept it in the family, and they had a big family. They had a lot of children. Of
course, a lot of people died in child birth at that time. I think Amanda did. My
grandmother Bennett lived for a year or two in my lifetime. My grandfather Bennett
was dead long before I was born. As was my grandfather Broadhurst, who died in
P: Now is the Broadhurst, the other grandparent, on your mother's side or on your
B: My mother was Roberta Augusta Broadhurst, named for her father, who was a
P: Where did the Broadhurst family come from originally?
B: They came, I believe, from Sussex, not from London itself but a place northeast of
London on the coast. There is a town named Colchester. I have been there.
P: So on your father's side your grandfather was a baker in London, and your mother's
family, the Broadhursts, also came from England. Right?
B: That is correct.
P: What business was the Broadhurst family in?
B: I think they were mostly agricultural. There was one Episcopalian preacher. My
great uncle was a preacher in a church close to Colchester. The church is over a
thousand years old, and it is made out of wood. He was a rector there at this
Episcopal church. My grandfather Broadhurst was the son of a farmer in a
community just north of Colchester, namely Edwardstone Hall.
P: Many of the families that moved into the Ohio River Valley went there because land
was available. Many of them were farmers. So obviously the Broadhurst family was
attracted there because of that.
B: You are relying on your history, not upon my family history. Actually, my
grandfather Broadhurst was a teacher--well educated. I am not sure where, but he
was well educated. He was in the education business. He was president of four
different colleges, so he was not a farmer.
P: Not a farmer.
B: His father William was a farmer, but this father did not come to this country.
Robert Broadhurst came to this country about 1850. He was president first of a little
school, which still exists, called Midway College in Midway, Kentucky, near
Lexington. Then he was president of another college in Tennessee, where my
mother was born, in Clarksville, Tennessee. That was called Broadhurst College.
And then he was president of one in Missouri. It still exists too. It is called William
Woods College. I think he was president of a fourth college. So he had an
He was married to my grandmother, who came from a French Huguenot family, the
Fugates. My mother's family lived in Kentucky. They were farmers. He married
her when she was only eighteen and he was fifty-four: a thirty-six year difference.
My grandmother Broadhurst became the dean of women at some of these colleges
that I referred to, and taught for fifty-four years in the educational system of
Kentucky, primarily in Louisville. She was very active in trying to strengthen the
school system there, and she was involved politically in that. In other words, she was
sort of a suffragette-type of person.
She led a parade in Louisville to get better pay for teachers, and less influence from
the politicians. She was finally removed, not by law, but by the action of the mayor.
But then she came back to the school system when another mayor came through.
P: Tell me about your father now. You said he was a college professor.
B: My father was basically a weatherman. He was related to a man by the name of
Edward Garriot, who was the primary forecaster for weather all the way through the
United States. The Edward part of my name comes from him. He was the
forecaster for all the United States. He lived in Washington D.C.
My father went to the University of Cincinnati. While he was there, this relative of
mine, Edward Garriot, asked my father to come to Washington D.C. to pursue his
schooling there and also be in the weather bureau. He did in the 1890s, 100 years
ago or thereabouts and graduated there from George Washington University.
After finishing that, he was assigned by the weather bureau, for whom he was already
working, to be in San Francisco. He went to several other cities in the United
States, including Charlotte, where my brother was born. My brother was a professor
at the University of Florida. My father also was a meteorologist in Louisville,
Kentucky, where he met my mother. They were married in 1907.
P: How did he get to Canton, New York?
B: I guess I left that one out. That was his third assignment, I think. In those days, the
weatherman often occupied a building, which was built for him to live in, and also
taught at a nearby university or college. That was a pattern that they had at one
period, about the turn of the century, in the 1890s into 1910, when I was born.
At St. Lawrence University in Canton, New York, today, there is a wonderful
building there two or three stories tall, which is a part-residence, part-office for a
weatherman. My father, I think, was the first occupant of that building in 1908. On
the first floor, the weather activity took place. On the second floor, the domestic
part of the menage took place. That is where I was born. I was born in that
building, which still stands. I was born in the right rear bedroom. I was only two
and one-half years old when my father was assigned to Tampa, Florida, as a
P: As a weatherman in those early years, they used instruments that were then available
to predict what the weather was going to be. But how did they distribute that
information? I am curious about that.
B: It did change through the years. Of course, I do not have a first-hand recollection
of things when I was only two. I have a very fine recollection of things when I was
about four. That was in Tampa, Florida. The information was given out then mostly
P: Of course the newspaper and telegraph lines were in operation.
B: That is right. Later on came radio. My dad, although working for the government,
really fulfilled the function that the people who work for the television stations do
today. In other words, he interpreted weather through newspapers stories, and when
radio came into existence, he would talk with the radio about what was happening.
Eventually of course, in his lifetime, TV came in as well. He never was particularly
a TV meteorologist. He often appeared on TV in the field of meteorology. Early
on, weather was such an interesting thing to people that TV stations hired people
in private industry to tell about the weather. Dad was never one of those. He
always worked for the federal government.
P: I have your mother's full name as Roberta Augusta Broadhurst.
B: Yes, she was named for her father, whose name was Robert Augustus.
P: Do you remember your mother's birthdate?
B: Yes, I should. November 17, 1885.
P: What about your father's birthdate?
B: It was 1879. I have forgotten the date. I think it was September 2. I can look that
P: You say that the family moved from Canton, New York, to Tampa because your
father was transferred there.
P: What was his work there? Where did he work, for instance?
B: In Tampa today, there is a very fine building, which I am very familiar with. My
childhood memories are very closely attached to it. It is a beautiful building. It is
a classical stone and brick building. It was the post office and the weather bureau
was in it. The weather bureau occupied the third floor, to the right of the elevator
as you got off. I spent many a day there, and some nights. When the hurricanes
occurred, the family would leave our place, which was near the bay in Tampa, and
go to live up there so we could answer telephones in an efficient manner. We did.
I had a brother who became a professor at the University of Florida. He, my
mother, I, and my dad disseminated the information as best we could, particularly
during the hurricane season.
P: Were there just the two of you, you and your brother? What is his name?
B: He is no longer living. His name was Robert Broadhurst Bennett. He died about
a year ago.
P: Tell me a little bit about him since he ended up at the University of Florida. I am
curious about him. Where did he go to school?
B: He got a bachelor's degree from the University of Florida in 1931 in chemical
engineering. He got a master's degree and a Ph.D. from Purdue [University,
Lafayette, Indiana] in chemical engineering. He married his wife, who was a student
of his at Purdue. He was an instructor as well as a Ph.D. candidate.
From there, he went to work for a rubber company in Akron, Ohio. That was his
first employment. Then World War II came on, and he worked in the American
Brakeblock Company, which produced tanks for World War II. After that, he came
to the University of Florida, and taught there ten or fifteen years [Robert Broadhurst
Bennett, professor of Chemical Engineering, 1953-1979].
P: You know I did not know that. I did not know that you had a brother who taught
there. In chemistry?
B: Yes, chemical engineering. He left a good deal of money to the University of
Florida too, for chemical engineering.
P: I must have known your brother without realizing the connection between the two
B: We looked a good deal alike. I have always been a little stouter than he was. He
was a better looking man than I. Like most people my age, I have a tendency to
have more weight than I need. He never did that. He was always very athletic. He
died about a year and one-half ago.
P: In Gainesville?
B: In Gainesville. He had already retired.
P: Does he have family living there?
B: No. He has a son in Philadelphia who works for Merck Chemicals, a pharmaceutical
concern. His name is Carl. He graduated from the University of Florida as well.
P: The Bennett family has a close connection with the Gators.
B: Right, absolutely.
P: And Carl has a son?
B: Carl has a son whose name is also Carl.
P: Now, how long did you live in Tampa?
B: We went there in 1913. We moved to Jacksonville in 1928.
P: As a result of another transfer for your father?
B: That is correct. Dad always refused to leave Florida. He loved Florida. He said,
"If you want me to leave Florida, I will just quit the weather bureau". He was
offered a lot of opportunities to go up. Finally one came that he was interested in
taking. That was the one in Jacksonville. I remember it was a hard decision for him
because he loved Tampa.
He was a very prominent man in Tampa in civic affairs. This was indicated by the
fact, strangely enough, that he had a building named for him here in Jacksonville,
based primarily on his philanthropic activities in Tampa. He was a very outstanding
civic leader in Tampa, and did a number of fairly noble things. Silver sets and things
like that were offered to him but he turned them down because of his great interest
in protecting people against the ravages of storms and things of that nature. So the
weather service named a building after him, about a year ago, here in Jacksonville.
P: Where is the building here?
B: The building is on the airport. It is the new weather building. I do not know if it
is named after him or not but it is dedicated to his memory. It has pictures of his
life. He was also a poet. He published some scientific papers and wrote a lot of
unpublished poetry. [It] was very good poetry; not modern poetry, but it rhymed and
had meter to it.
P: Charles, you grew up in Tampa. You went to school in Tampa.
B: That is correct. I graduated from Hillsborough High School in the class of 1928.
I came to Jacksonville just about that time.
P: Remember all of the boom-time activity in Tampa in the 1920s?
B: Oh yes, I am very familiar with that. My father inherited [money] from his [father's]
baking money, when his mother died. He built a very lovely house, which he
designed himself. It still stands. It is a very unusual house. It has floor-level French
windows or doors across the front. It is an unusual house and a very beautiful house.
It still stands at 825 South Boulevard.
P: Were you all a close family growing up--you, your parents, and your brother?
B: Yes, oh, yes. After my mother married my dad, she did not pursue teaching. She
had graduated from Teacher's College in Louisville, which became the University of
Louisville. My father graduated from George Washington University, but he also
went to the University of Cincinnati. My mom graduated from what is now the
University of Louisville as a teacher. She gave that up when she got married, as
most women did in those days, if they could.
She devoted herself to raising my brother and me. It was a very sacrificial job, I
think. She worked hard at it and enjoyed it. We had an exciting home life, because
my father and mother were thoughtful, bright, educated, and highly intelligent
people, who brought to our home, primarily from the North, a constant flow of
visitors of that ilk. We had composers, musicians, writers, and professors visiting us
several weeks at a time from Washington, Boston, Louisville, and other places.
So I had a stimulating youth. As a young boy in that home, I met people who wrote
mathematical books, who appeared on the stage, playing piano and other musical
instruments, and [people] like that. I remember one man who used to come almost
every Sunday afternoon. He was a Tampa person. He would bring his cello and
play. My mother would play on the violin or the piano. She was very versatile in
music. She could even play horns, like the cornet.
P: You and your brother got along fine?
B: Oh yes. My brother was more of an intellectual person than I was. But that was
really not a disparity. I do not think he quite understood the life and attitude of a
politician--trying to be helpful to masses of people and also particular individuals in
the population. In a way it all looked to him as rather political. I never looked at
it that way. I think he grew to understand that. He was more of an intellectual type
than I. He was critical of things that he thought were pandering to peoples ideas.
A politician, if he is going to be a good politician, has to look at the ideas of people,
and try to reflect the best he can from the best ideas of the people. I think my
brother finally understood that about me. We used to have a lot of arguments about
it, about whether I was being candid enough about imperfections I saw. I saw the
imperfections, but I tried to build on the strengths. So there were differences, but
we never fell out, we never had any unpleasantness about it.
P: There were three years difference between you in ages?
B: No, a year and one-half.
P: Were you active in politics in school? Is that where it all started?
P: It started in grammar school. It started because my family talked about grown-up
things at the dinner, lunch, and breakfast table. I was familiar with the fact that they
thought that the political leadership of Tampa at that particular time was rather
corrupt. Even in grammar school, I thought, "That is something I have to do--clean
I really was not led toward being a weatherman, not because I thought something
bad about it, but I just thought I had to figure out what my ship was supposed to do
in the world. I never thought about just doing what he did, doing what my
granddaddy did, being a baker, or what the other granddaddy did, being a teacher.
I thought in grammar school that I would probably like to be elected to public office.
I never did anything about it until junior high school. In junior high school, I had
an algebra course. A lady by the name of Mrs. Polit was my teacher. Mrs. Polit
asked me a question in algebra. I did not know the answer, so I asked her a
question. I said, "Well Mrs. Polit, what good is algebra anyway? I cannot see what
good it is going to do me."
She took off her glasses, I can still see it, and looked at me for a second or two. She
said, "You are Robert's brother." I said, "Yes." She said, "He is president of his
class. He is captain of the track team. He does all kinds of things that show
interests in other people, and you are not doing any of those things. What is the
reason for that?" Of course, she had asked me a question. I asked her one and she
asked me one back. I said, "I will think about it."
I thought about her question until the end of that class. Then I went to my
homeroom teacher, whose name was Miss Redding. I said, "Miss Redding, I think
we ought to have student government." She said, "What is that?" I said, "Well, that
is where you have an organization, a president and officers and all that sort of thing.
You have to bring up questions and decide them." She said, "All right. You can be
chairman of the nominating committee. Bring your own list."
I brought in a list, and of course there was only one person running for each office.
I was the choice of the committee to be president. Since that time, I have never
failed to be the president of my class, or president of the student body. At the
University of Florida, I was president of student government.
P: So you found that you enjoyed politics at a very early age Charlie?
B: I got activated in junior high school. I did other things too. I was on the debating
team. In fact, I went to law school not only to become a lawyer, although I did
practice law for ten years. I thought being a lawyer would be a great foundation for
being in the public life. All my life I have never had a doubt that I wanted to be
in the public life.
P: And your family showed no resistance at all to that?
B: No, they thought it was a good idea. My father was a shy person compared to my
mother. But they both thought it was a good idea.
P: Were you a good student?
B: Yes, I was a good student. I made good grades.
P: You made good grades?
B: At the University of Florida?
P: No. I am talking about in high school.
B: Oh yes, sure. I made good grades. I was in the honor society they had there.
P: Were you interested in athletics?
B: I was interested in the sense that I was trying to have a well-rounded life. I liked
to take exercise. My dad jogged every morning, and I jogged with him. I knew I was
not able to excel physically, I was just not a natural athlete, but I tried. For high
school, in lieu of a letter, I was given a patch to put on a sweater, because I tried
so hard. I tried mostly in track, the 440 (forty yard dash) and the half mile.
Finally at the University of Florida, I became a cross- country runner, but I never
made it there either. I got an F, but it was a managerial F. I was the manager of
the cross country track team. This was stimulated mostly by the fact that I wanted
to have a well-rounded life. I did the best I could to be athletic, but I was not really
P: Did you grow up in a religious family?
P: You said some of them were Quakers and others Episcopalians?
B: Not Episcopalians in my mother or father's family. My father was reared as a
Quaker. He then became a Universalist. He married my mother who was a very,
very strong Disciple of Christ, or Christian Church. My family produced some
outstanding people in the field. In the first place, my grandfather Broadhurst
himself, originally an Episcopalian. These colleges he was associated with were
mostly church colleges, oriented to the Christian Church, the Disciples of Christ
Church. I am a member of that church family. My father married my mother, which
sealed the fact that the whole family was going to be members of that church. I still
I am probably eventually going to retire to a Disciple of Christ facility out here
called Cyprus Village, which is an area philanthropically developed by Mr. J.E.
Davis, of Winn Dixie. They [the Davis family] were Disciples of Christ as well.
P: So this meant going to church on Sunday.
B: Oh, we went to church every week. We went to Sunday school, and went to church
every Sunday. We went to prayer meetings on Wednesday nights, almost every
Wednesday night, but not all of them. Plus we attended a lot of other things which
were religiously oriented.
But my parents were not very parochial. They had very wide interests. For instance,
my mother played violin in a church orchestra. Now this was not a Disciples of
Christ Church. It was the First Methodist Church in Tampa. She and I both played
violin in the Methodist church. Mother played a violin in the orchestra that played
in that church, and I played with my mother. She was first violin, and I was second
Also from that church, there was a very wonderful man by the name of H. E. Adams.
The Adams Beckwith Jewelry Company in Tampa was owned by him. He was
interested in helping the Chinese laundrymen. He persuaded my mother to
undertake in that church, the Methodist church, a Sunday school class for Chinese
men and women. There were not very many women. But large numbers of
Chinamen were in Florida at that point. I do not know where they are now, but they
were here then. They had Chinese laundries then. The top-flight laundries were
Typically on a Sunday afternoon there would be twenty-five to fifty Chinamen in my
home in Tampa, where they would be learning English, which my mother taught
them. In return, they would share their culture with our family. My brother and I
would teach them how to play the games we played, like baseball, not much football,
and something like hockey that you could play in the street. So if you went to South
Boulevard, which was a very effete area at that point, when you got to 825, where
my family was, on a Sunday afternoon, you could find twenty-five or thirty Chinamen
playing hockey in the street. [Laughter]
P: Like an international house.
B: The religious aspects of my family were broader than just my denomination. Of
course when great people like [William Ashley] Billy Sunday [1862-1935; American
baseball player and evangelist] came, we would go to the protracted evangelistic
meetings of the very outstanding religious leaders like that.
Also there was another aspect of culture in my family. Some people would come
down and spend a week or two with my family. Many of them were authors,
musicians, or things like that. There was also in Tampa a very cultural part of
Tampa which brought lectures, singers, and opera in a building which I think has
been destroyed now. It was on the campus of what is now the University of Tampa,
upriver from the big hotel building which became the University of Tampa. There
was a big frame building in which these lectures took place.
P: Is this the Chatauqua?
B: I do not think it was called Chatauqua. Great people came there. There were great
actresses and plays. My life was very much touched by very outstanding people of
national renown. I think [Sarah] Bernhardt [1844-1923; French actress] was there.
P: Sarah Bernhardt?
B: Yes, and people like that, who were visitors to Tampa in that period of time. My
family was very interested for themselves as well as for us children. Both my father
and mother were very interested in that sort of thing, and very broad-minded about
P: Tampa was a much smaller town than it is today.
B: Yes. I think it [had a population of] about 50,000, or something like that.
P: And Ybor City was kind of separated from the town?
B: Yes, it was separated; although as far as the Cubans were concerned, many lived in
Tampa. My classes in school had a good percentage of students of Cuban ancestry
in them, something that shows even today. When I cuss because of something that
happens, like hitting my finger with my hammer or something like that, I do not cuss
in English. I cuss in Spanish. The reason for that is that my parents were very much
against cussing at all. They were not bilingual, so I learned to cuss in Spanish. So
when I am being operated on, or get stuck at an examination, if I happen to have
a Filipino nurse or somebody who knows Spanish, they want to leave the room
because of the volubility of my personality, at that point, in Spanish.
P: Does your language skill go beyond just cuss words Charlie?
B: Yes it does. I have used it a lot. You know I am an amateur historian. Many of
the things I write come from Spanish sources. The next fluent language is French.
They are very closely related. I am pretty well informed in Spanish, French, and
I took Latin at the University of Florida. In fact, Dr. [Wilbert Alva] Little [associate
professor, Department of Ancient Languages] was a good friend of mine there, and
he taught me Latin. He was getting very, very old, and very frail. I had already
taken a lot of Spanish and French before I took Latin. It should have been the
other way and that is true. Anyway, he realized that I really had a good foundation,
so he let me teach. I taught my own class, for which I got a good grade. I got an
A +. I taught the class that I was learning from [in which I was a student]. I was
already well prepared from the foundation I had with Spanish and French. If you
have any imagination at all, you look at a French or Spanish word, and almost nine
times out of ten, you have a Latin root. You find your way around [Latin] really
P: When did you come to the University of Florida?
B: In 1928.
P: Why? Why not one of these northern schools?
B: My parents would have been very disappointed if I had not gone to college. My
dad's highest salary in his entire life was about $6,000 [a year]. He never made
much money. He inherited a little money from his mother when she died and that
is how we had a fine house in Tampa. He never had much money; he would have
been disappointed if I had not gone to college.
P: Yes, but why not one of the northern schools, one that your family was attached to,
[such as] Louisville [Kentucky] or [Cincinnati] Ohio?
B: That was left up to me. I only considered the University of Florida. My parents
treated me as an adult from the time I was two. I could not afford a northern
school. We discussed things, but it was always understood I would be considered
very thoughtless if I did not graduate from college. It was also always understood
that my dad could not send me. In other words, I had to do it myself. So I started
off, even before high school, but certainly in high school, with all kinds of jobs with
Wolf Brothers, Maas Brothers, Giddens and Harris, the haberdashery people,
business people in Tampa I owe a lot to, because they came to my assistance
numerous times in my life. There is Harold Wolf and his family. They were fine
haberdashers and wonderful friends. There was the Guaranty Title Company behind
the Catholic church across from this building where my daddy's office was. They
were a lot of help to me and I could go to college. They helped me tremendously.
I should stress P.R. Robin in the title business.
They gave me jobs all the time. The first job I had was to put the books back in the
courthouse. I was then in junior high school. We were good friends with Roger
Watkins, the clerk of the court. He knew that I was already saving money to go to
college. He said, "I am getting tired of all these lawyers leaving all these books out.
The clerk's office will hire you to put the books back in the right place." That was
my first job.
When that was no longer available with the office of the clerk of the court in Tampa,
Roger Watkins said, "Well, I will have to find another job for you." So he talked to
a friend of his who owned a drug store on Franklin Street. When I went to that
man, he said, "You can run the whole store. You will be it." So here I was, in junior
high school, already running a drug store. He had some other work. He dropped
by to see me, I guess it was on a Thursday and said, "On Sunday you come in a little
later." I said, "I cannot come in on Sunday. It is against my religion to work on
Sunday." He said, "Well I am sorry. You have to do it this Sunday anyway." I said,
"Okay I will, I will work this Sunday. But I will have to stop because I cannot work
on Sunday. It is against my religion." The man was so impressed by that, that
during the Depression I turned down a job, that he went out and found a job for me.
He had been in the marines and this other guy had been in the marines. They found
this job for me in the abstract company. I toted abstracts to the lawyers in town.
I was a delivery boy really. I worked there until I actually went to the University of
P: Now your brother was already at the University, was he not?
B: He went there one year before me. He did the same thing. He worked his way
through school as well. In other words, he saved money.
An interesting thing about saving money was that in 1928, the year I was going to
graduate from high school, W. G. Brorein was head of an independent telephone
company (Peninsula) in Tampa which had run Bell out of town, and he was a good
friend of my family. In fact, we owned a cow together. One time when I was there
with the cow, Mr. Brorein came to me, and he said, "Charlie, you have a good bit
of money, do you not?" I said, "Yes, I do. I am saving to go to college." He said,
"Where have you put it?" I said, "It is in Dr. Bize's bank." Dr. Bize was a doctor
who was a banker as well. He [Brorein] said, "You know it is not wise to have
money all in one spot." I said, "I do not know where else to put it." He said, "Why
do you not buy some stock in the telephone company." I said, "Okay. You are the
president. Sell it to me."
So I took half of my money out of the bank and bought stock in his telephone
company. I was sixteen or seventeen years old at that point. The bank failed. The
Citizens Bank chain failed. They paid 6 percent on [the money deposited]. I am not
talking about interest; that is all they paid on my money. I only got 6 percent on my
P: Is this Dr. Bize's bank?
B: Yes. I knew he was really rich because he had one of those automobiles they called
"towncar" and he had a chauffeur. The chauffeur sat outside in the rain. The people
who were rich sat in the back with the cover on them. So I knew a man like that
was bound to be rich. He lived about a block from our house.
P: But you lost your money in his bank?
B: Yes. I lost my money in the bank. The money in the stock went up, almost doubled,
I think, in a year. That was Mr. Brorein's stock. He was a real close friend of my
P: What was his first name?
B: People called him W. G.
P: W. G.
B: He had a nephew, Carl Brorein, who was better known in Tampa than W. G. I told
you where my daddy's office was, and it was a very fine place. Next door to it was
a Catholic church. I went to the basement of that for the title company. On the
other corner was my church, the Disciples of Christ Tabernacle. On the next corner
from that, the same block, was W. G.'s home. He lived on the same block, in fact,
right next door to a big building where the telephone company was. I think it was
a ten or fifteen story building.
P: I am intrigued by the fact that you all owned a cow together.
B: Well in those days it was something that people did. They did it in various ways.
Sometimes they did it through the dairy, and sometimes they did it by physical
presence of the cow. That is an interesting story. It is a true story. It is a story of
But the stock turned out wonderfully [well]. While I am talking about stock, I will
tell you another interesting thing about stock in my life. This came at a later period.
After I graduated from the University of Florida, and I had worked my way through
the University, I had actually saved up $1,000. I had paid off the people I had
borrowed money from, and saved up $1,000. An insurance man tried to sell me
insurance. I said, "I really do not believe I need insurance." He argued with me a
lot. In the argument I said, "I made all this money, a few years ago, on telephone
stock. I will buy stock. That is what I should do." He said, "You do not know
anything about stock." I said, "I know about as much as I know about insurance."
Anyway, he pressured me into buying a single premium life insurance policy, which
I did. I paid $500 for this life insurance policy. I thought, "I will take the rest of my
$1,000 and invest it in stock." I went down to Merill Lynch. I studied the stock
market a few days before that, and saw that "gold dust cleanser" was going up. I
went in to buy "gold dust cleanser" stock. I was then twenty-four; I had graduated
from the University of Florida.
The man at Merill Lynch said, "You do not know much about stocks do you?" I
said, "No, I really do not. I have this argument going about how I should [invest]
$1,000." Anyway, I bought this stock, $500 worth of stock. It was not "gold dust",
however, because he persuaded me to take Gillette [stock] instead, so I bought
Gillette. That $500 worth of stock today is worth $300,000. I still have it.
P: That was a good investment Charlie, a very good investment.
B: I still have it.
P: Why did you not call me up back in 1928? [Laughter].
B: The man [at Merill Lynch] gave me a lot of good advice about stock. In the first
place, he said, "If you cannot afford to lose it, do not buy it at all." I said, "I can
afford to lose it." So I bought it. He said, "Now, do not worry about it. Do not fuss
with it. If it goes down, just keep holding on to it. It is a good stock."
P: Very good advice.
B: It went down almost immediately to half of what I paid for it. I paid $500 for it, and
it went down to $250 about a week later. [But it went up again, and then it split,
and it] still continues to split.
What I said about the stock came into this conversation, chronologically, because I
was talking about the only other experience I had with stocks after the telephone
stocks. I have never bought stocks since. When I was twenty-four years old, I made
that one investment. I have never played the stock market. I have given away a lot
of stock. I gave away $50,000 of it just a week or so ago to the University of Florida,
plus another $50,000 from other sources.
P: Let us talk about Gainesville now. Had you ever been to the University of Florida,
to Gainesville, before you arrived in 1928?
B: Yes. I was there in 1927. My father brought me and my brother to meet Dr.
[Albert A.] Murphree, the president [University of Florida, 1909-1927].
P: He died in December 1927.
B: I met him just before he died. He was a very sweet-natured man. I think he was
everything a college president ought to be.
P: What was the occasion of your father bringing you to Gainesville to meet Dr.
B: My father took me in 1917 to meet Woodrow Wilson, so he wanted me to meet
people he thought were worthwhile.
P: He took you to Washington to meet Wilson?
B: Yes, when I was only seven, I guess. I met Woodrow Wilson. My dad felt I should
meet Murphree since my brother and I were both going to be connected with the
University of Florida. I met him and talked with him and my brother did so at the
same time. I can remember very well talking to [him]. He was a very kind and nice
P: I think he had an office in what is now Anderson Hall or Language Hall.
B: Right, well, Dr. [John J.] Tigert [president, University of Florida, 1928-1947] was
P: Right, it was the same office. So that is the first time you come to Gainesville?
P: It was a small, small, town in those years, Charlie.
B: Yes, and downtown, I guess for the people who lived there, was a nice, little town.
For the people who visited there from a metropolitan area like Tampa, with tourism
and all that sparkling stuff, Gainesville was really not a seat of excitement. In other
words, the University was fairly isolated from the town. The town was really glad
to have the University there, but there was not the interplay. Now Gainesville and
the University are married. But when I was there, the town had little connection
with the University. There were some people who put it under their wing in
Gainesville, but you had the sort of feeling that they were just really lucky to have
the politicians put [the University] there.
P: I think you are right on that. [Laughter]. Okay. You arrived as a student in
September, in the fall of 1928, right?
B: Yes, as a student, having visited the year before.
P: Of course Murphree is gone now. Had Tigert already arrived?
B: No. We had Dr. [James] Farr [interim president, University of Florida, 1927-1928]
P: He was the acting president.
B: Yes. Dr. Farr was one of the most sparkling, dynamic people you would ever meet;
quite a contrast to Tigert, who was stolid. Farr was like champagne. He was the
vice president who became president in the interim, not chosen to be president.
I had an awkward occasion with regard to him while I was at the University. I had
plotted my life. I figured that English, history, and mathematics were the three
things I should study before I went to law school. I thought that was the best way
to prepare. I decided I would have English as my major. When it was my junior
year, finishing up my major, getting ready to go to the University law school, I went
to Dr. Farr, and I said, "I want to take [Geoffrey] Chaucer [English poet, 1340-
1400] under you." He taught Chaucer. I thought that would be one of the most
exciting things I had ever had to read, [Chaucer's] early English. I thought that
would just be wonderful. I was all just ready to beam into that office, and be
instructed by Dr. Farr. That was also his work, English of that nature. He was head
of the English department. He said, "I am sorry. I cannot allow you to do that.
You are going to take American poetry." I said, "I have difficulties with American
poetry anyway. I really love the idea of studying Chaucer under you." He said, "I
am sorry, you cannot do it." I said, "Dr. Farr, I will not take an English major." He
said, "Well, you have all these background things for an English major. Where are
you going to find another major at this late date in your college career?" I said, "If
you are refusing me, and telling me I cannot take Chaucer, I will find a way." He
said, "Well, find it."
I went to Dr. [Hasse Octavius] Enwall [head professor of Philosophy]. Dr. Enwall
helped me out. He said, "We have two courses here, philosophy and psychology.
They are married at the present time. Due to that marriage, you would be able to
work off all of your major in one year, even though you have only three hours in
psychology. You can get the psychology/philosophy combined major, and you can
do it in a year." So I took a whole bunch of these courses.
P: Why did Farr not want you to take Chaucer?
B: I do not want to say.
P: You do not want to say? He is long gone you know.
B: That is one reason I do not want to say it.
P: All right. I thought he also excelled in Shakespeare.
B: He probably did, but I was not turned on by Shakespeare. I was turned on by
Chaucer. The reason I do not want to say what I might say about Dr. Farr is that
I do not know that it is true. I was told later that in order to take that course, one
had to pay him. I think he got in trouble about it.
P: He did. I can tell you that; I am the University historian. I know a lot more about
all these things.
B: Anyway, that is what I heard. I am not a person who likes to run down anybody.
I have never run down anybody. When I have political opponents, I never discuss
their faults, if any.
P: Charlie, you are not the first person who had documented Dr. Farr's career.
B: He never said anything to me about money. He never said a word to me.
B: If he had said it, I probably would have said, "Fine. I am glad to take the course."
I guess it was one of those gray areas anyway.
P: It was not an unusual thing, I might say, at the University of Florida at that time.
It was an open policy, for instance, for students to have to pay Dean [Walter Jeffries]
Matherly [dean, College of Business] to take certain courses. It supplemented his
pay which the University could not do. If Dr. Farr was doing it, it was probably not
an under the counter kind of thing at all.
B: I am glad to hear you say that. I think that is probably so. I never had a reason to
believe he was being dishonest with me.
P: Dr. Farr did get into some trouble later on, but it was not with students. So what
you are saying here was probably something that was accepted policy. I know it was
true as far as Dean Matherly was concerned because it was in the catalogue.
B: Okay. That clears it up for me. That is fine. I am glad to know that because I
thought he had been accused of being arbitrary. Later on, I asked somebody who
was actually close to him why he would have done that to me since he really did not
know me. It was not a personal thing at all.
P: He was probably trying to fill up that other class. [Laughter].
B: I am glad to have that clarification. I never thought he was dishonest. He never was
mean about it, he was just firm about it. He said, "You cannot take it because you
are going to take American poetry." Of course that really turned me off anyway,
although I like some American poetry a lot and get a lot of inspiration from [it]. My
father wrote good poetry about the stars, hurricanes, and all those interesting things
he was familiar with.
P: You did not take any history from Dr. James Miller Leake [professor of History and
B: I did. I thought he was wonderful. I remember the old story about Dr. Leake that
you probably remember. [Laughter].
P: I do. Dr. Leake and his Model-T Ford sitting outside of Peabody Hall.
B: He was an inspiration to me in history. Although I really got interested in history,
in the deep way in which I became interested in it, when I moved from Tampa to
Jacksonville. I felt I was to move into this wonderful great city of Jacksonville, yet
I knew nothing about its history. I knew some of the history of Tampa, which was
also interesting, and how to study about it. I did and I found some really remarkable
things here. We are the only city in the United States that came out of both the
Reformation and the Renaissance. St. Augustine came out of the Renaissance, but
not out of the Reformation. So we have some very special particularities here, which
P: Charlie, when you arrived at the University of Florida in 1928, where did you live?
B: When I became president of the student body I moved into a suite. When I first
came there, I lived at one end of Thomas Hall. It was an interesting experience, in
part because of our next-door neighbor. I think there were six people in our room,
now I think it has two occupants or maybe one because it was not a very big room.
P: Six people?
B: Yes, six people. And across the hall from us was this marvelous man, Dr. [Ludwig]
Buchholz, the father of the man for whom the school is named [Buchholz High
School in Gainesville]. Dr. Buchholz came to America and to Gainesville by way
of Cedar Key.
P: What was he doing living in Thomas Hall?
B: He was a head of the religious part of the University of Florida. At that time, they
had a religious counselor.
P: And faculty lived in the dormitory also then?
B: He did because he was head of the morals of the University. He took care of the
morals. At that time, it was not difficult because we did not have the temptation of
drugs or anything like that.
P: Does it have any particular meaning that the man in charge of morals was in the
room directly across from you? Was he put there to keep you [out of trouble]?
B: He helped a lot.
P: I thought it was to keep an eye on you Charlie.
B: [Laughter]. He was a great guy. He was a good friend of my father too. I have
forgotten how they got to know each other, but they did know each other. Dr.
Buchholz used to come in my room and say, "Kommen Sie," "Habenbrote," and
"Wie war Ihr Morgenmahl?" which I think means how was your breakfast, and so on.
In other words, he talked to us in German.
P: Who were your roommates?
B: I cannot remember all the names and I hate to leave them out. One was named
Edwards, and he was from west Florida. Howard Ribault was from Orlando and so
was Bob Caruthers. We called him "Ryebolt" but his name was spelled the same
way as that of Jean Ribault [Huguenot naval captain, arrived at mouth of St. John's
River with French settlers in 1562, returned in 1565, killed by Spanish soldiers from
P: With an "1"?
B: Yes, the way you usually spell it with an "I", as he signed his name. Now, other
people wrote Jean Ribault's name as "Ribaude" or "Ribaut," but he did not sign his
name that way.
P: In the sesquicentennial exhibit at the Library of Congress, they spelled it "Ribaut,"
which is not correct.
B: He did not sign it that way. But a lot of contemporary writing did.
P: I just looked at it, and did not say anything.
B: I think even in his book that was published, in the contemporary account, the printer
left out the "I".
P: When you came to the University, although the country was not yet in a depression
because that does not come until 1929, Florida is already suffering a depression as
a result of the collapse of the boom.
B: My friend, Mr. Brorein, sensed that of course. We sensed it in our own family. My
family had an experience in this. My father inherited some money from his mother.
So he invested. He finally started investing in real estate, such as Zolfo Springs and
other places where he bought land. He bought a big tract on the Hillsborough
River. This all crashed as Mr. Brorein anticipated.
We wound up selling our house at a very small amount of money compared to what
we thought we should get, and we went out to live on the six acres he bought on the
Hillsborough River. It is near Buffalo and North Boulevard [in Tampa]. We lived
out there in what we called a shack. It was a place that we spent weekends, a
weekend retreat. It had a place for an automobile underneath, and a room up
above. At that time, it was my brother and I, my grandmother, mother, and father.
[We] all lived in what essentially was a one- room house. Taking a bath meant water
from the well applied in a canvas tent in the yard. That is what we went to from
a very swish--at least for us--house on Hyde Park in Tampa.
P: Now when you came to Gainesville, that month in 1928 was when the terrible
hurricane hit Florida.
B: That is right. It is one that did all that harm in...
P: Belle Glade and Moore Haven.
B: That was a very painful time for my father.
P: That is what I was wondering about.
B: The press was not all that hot about it. My dad really felt the federal government
had failed, and he did not want to run down the president. The failure was that they
did not get the veterans off the island when they were caught in the hurricane. Dad
felt they had adequate notice.
P: Are you talking now about the 1935 hurricane down on the Keys?
P: I am talking about the 1928 hurricane. You know we had a terrible hurricane that
hit Miami in September 1926. A second one in September 1928, almost to the day,
that drowned all those people in the Belle Glade and Moore Haven area when the
water spilled out of Lake Okeechobee.
B: This is another hurricane that I do remember, but of course my youth was filled with
P: Those were the two disastrous hurricanes of the 1920s. I presume your father was
very much involved in that.
B: He was. He was involved in it. In fact, he established a hurricane center for
Florida. It was put here in Jacksonville to which he had already moved. He was
head of it.
P: When did the family move from Tampa to Jacksonville?
B: I guess it was 1929.
P: So you came to Gainesville from Tampa, and then the family moved to Jacksonville.
That became your home base then. So you lived in Thomas Hall when you first
arrived. Do you remember how much that cost you?
B: I had a little book that itemized how much I spent for my first year. I do not know
where it is. Maybe it has been lost by now. Anyway, it came out to less than $300.
P: Tuition and everything.
B: Everything for a whole year.
P: I do not think students paid tuition, I think you paid fees which got you athletic
event tickets, the yearbook, the Alligator, and all of those wonderful things.
B: I was involved in that fee system because when I ran for the president of the student
body, one of my platforms was to increase that fee to set aside money to build the
union building, which is now called Dauer Hall.
P: Named for Manning [Julian] Dauer [professor of Political Science and head of that
B: Yes, he is a good friend of mine.
P: Let us get back to the curriculum. I want to talk about life on the campus. That
intrigues me, and I am sure it jogs your memory a lot too. You lived in Thomas
Hall and went to class where?
B: Mostly to Anderson Hall.
P: They called it Language Hall in those years.
B: Yes, Language Hall.
P: It is Anderson now. And Peabody Hall?
B: I do not remember being in Peabody except for Latin under Dr. Little. I remember
later on, while I was at the University, they created the Chemistry Building. My
brother and I had a little chuckle about that. My brother became a professional
chemist. We took the same course together. He was a year ahead of me. I had
such good grades that I got exempt from taking the exam, and he did not. It really
teed him off a bit. That was kind of funny because I never was a chemist and my
brother was. I was not as bright as my brother, and I was not oriented toward
chemistry. It was just one of those flukes in education where a person who is not
really all that confident got a better grade.
P: I think that is the building we now call Leigh Hall, named for Townes [Randolph]
B: That is it.
P: He was then the chairman of chemistry, the dean of arts and sciences, and then vice
B: [Walter Herman] Beisler [professor of chemistry] was my teacher who exempted me.
I knew Leigh too, and I knew all the faculty. They were easy to know. Faculty was
P: Did you have to take ROTC as a student?
B: [Laughter]. Yes I did. I really was not hot at it. I think I had a little leadership the
last days I was there. I was not modest. I wound up being the corporal for the
"awkward squad." The function of the awkward squad was to hide the most awkward
members of the assembly while they were being inspected.
I had some real revolutionaries. Fuller Warren's [Florida governor, 1949-1953]
brother used to appear in a great big cowboy hat with a double barrel shotgun. The
awkward squad were people who were not only awkward in marching, but also were
awkward as students. I was a little bit that way myself. I became the leader of that
awkwardness, [laughter] and that is something. As a college editor, one of the
strongest points I made was to no longer have compulsory ROTC.
P: Of course, that was necessary since that was a land grant college. By federal edict,
you had to have it for two years.
B: Yes, but I never looked at it from that standpoint. A man on the faculty would look
at it that way, but I was having a Churchillian vision. I was thinking about amending
the law. In other words, I was in favor of allowing it to be optional, and still draw
whatever money they would draw for the University.
P: You were looking toward the 1960s when the students took over.
B: [Laughter]. It was a paradox in the sense that I was against compulsory ROTC, yet
my career in Congress was very oriented toward national defense. I guess there is
one thing I carried on. I am the father of the Arms Control Agency. In Congress,
I felt that we spent too much time and energy about what we are going to do about
war, and too little time about what we are going to do about peace.
P: We are getting a little bit ahead of ourselves. I want to get back to your early
student days, the rambunctious days at the University of Florida. After you arrived
here, Tigert comes to the University of Florida. Dr. Tigert arrived in 1929. That
was the beginning of your sophomore year.
B: I became a controversial Alligator editor. College editors, I think, were supposed to
be controversial, and that suited me just fine.
P: Was it in your sophomore year that you move into that?
B: I started off in the Alligator as a freshman.
P: As a reporter, and then writer, and so on?
B: Yes, and then I was managing editor and eventually editor.
P: I think in those early years they had offices in Peabody Hall?
B: In the earliest years I can remember, all the geographical locations on the campus,
as far as my brain is concerned, was either in my homeroom, 49 Thomas Hall, or in
the archway of the building that is added to Thomas Hall. There was a little, tiny
office on the right, in the archway. We had an office there and that was the Alligator
office. Also the mechanical part of it was at the Gainesville Sun downtown. So my
time of writing was either done in 49 Thomas, or when I was editor in the cubical
room in the tower of the new building. They called it New Dormitory.
P: Yes. They called it New Dorm then. I think they call it Sledd Hall now. It is Sledd,
where the archway is. There still is a little room there.
B: A little tiny room, very small.
P: I did not know that was the Alligator office.
B: It was when I was editor.
P: Was being the editor of the Alligator an elective office in those years?
B: It was.
P: And the Alligator came out once a week?
B: Once a week. We won a national championship when I was editor, so I feel good
P: Now you gathered your news in what way? Did you have reporters?
B: We had reporters and editorial writers. I also wrote a little bit professionally there.
P: Was being the editor a paid job? Did you get any stipend?
B: No money.
P: Later on, that was paid.
B: Not while I was there. I got a great bang out of it. I enjoyed it. In the first place,
when you are editor of the paper, you can put anything in it that you want to put in
it. That is fun.
P: What did you mean you did some professional writing?
B: A good friend of mine, Durward Hawkins, wrote for AP and UPI; he was a
professional newspaperman, and continued that as his life career. He worked for
the Jacksonville Journal when he came here. He would get sick or be out of town,
so depending on how naive my audience was, sometimes I said that I have been a
professional writer in college. Because I did get paid for filling in for him.
P: You wrote campus news for state newspapers.
B: That is correct. UPI and AP.
P: How did you and Tigert get along?
B: I liked Tigert tremendously and I have a feeling he liked me. But there was a big
problem, particularly when I was editor. It was that I did not favor compulsory
ROTC. He called me in his office and talked to me about that. He said, "You
know, a lot of people would fire you from the University for what you are doing,
writing editorials like that." I said, "If you want to fire me, you can fire me. I feel
I ought to say what I think. I think it ought to be optional for people to do ROTC."
P: You were already pulling the First Amendment way back then Charlie.
B: He was not in any way mean to me. He just told me that a lot of college presidents
would have arranged that I left the University if I could not reform myself. I said,
"I cannot really reform myself. If I have to leave the University, I have to leave the
University." I really wanted to be in public life and follow this part of my life, all
my life. It is not a secondary thing with me, it is my life. I did not get to be a
Churchill, but I did the best I could with what I had. I never ran from difficulties
P: Was that your only contact or conflict with Tigert?
B: No. Dr. Tigert was really very friendly. On occasion, he had me out to his house
for dinner, which was not usual.
P: That was not usual at all.
B: Not usual at all. So he personally liked me, and I personally liked him.
P: What other faculty people did you work with?
B: I have already discussed the fact that Dr. Enwall bailed me out. He did it twice.
He did it in another way. I took two courses under him, and he gave me an F in
both of them. I went to see him. I said, "Dr. Enwall, I do not make anything but
A's and B's. I have made a few B's. I do not think I have probably ever made a C."
I think the only C I made at the University of Florida was in French. I said, "You
are not talking to a failing student. I think I understand your courses, but you have
given me a failure in both courses. I think you ought to read my papers again."
At that time, Dr. Enwall graded only on the final exam. He did not do it on what
one did in class, he did it on what one did on the final. He said, "Sit down." I sat
down. He said, "All right, now, I will give you a new exam in both of these
[subjects]." I sat there for an hour or more. He gave me two separate exams, and
I got an A + on one of them, and an A on the other one.
P: He changed the [system]. [Laughter].
B: [Laughter]. He bailed me out twice. I have difficulty explaining that except for the
fact that this does show you part of the University of Florida. Then, Dr. Little let
me teach a class.
P: Tell me about Dr. Little. What was Little's first name? We have had several Littles
on the campus, including Dean Little who started the University General College.
Was he in the language department?
B: My Dr. Little was in languages [both English and ancient languages]. I had already
studied French and Spanish for years. I had a background in the romance languages.
I concluded that I would like to study Latin as well. In fact, a lot of the history of
Jacksonville is in Latin, believe it or not, so I wanted to take Latin. A lot of it is
in Italian too; Catherine de Medici [1519-1589, consort of Henry II of France] wrote
So I took this course, and Dr. Little was in very bad health, and reasonably old. I
guess he was not as old as I thought he was; now I am probably older, but maybe
not. He finally said, "You know this course pretty well. You have taken to it. I am
going to ask you to fill in for me." So I ran the class for a while. Of course I made
an A in that too. [Laughter].
P: You graded your own papers.
B: I taught myself. That was an interesting story about him. Of all of the professors
at the University of Florida who had the greatest significance in my life, it probably
was Dr. [Henry Philip] Constans [professor of speech]. I took speech under him.
He made me feel like, "You bet you do not need my class." I can remember when
Phil Constans said one time to me, he said this to the class [talking] about [my
speech], "That kind of speech he is making, the conversational speech, is a speech
of the future. This bombast, all this oratory and stuff, is the speech of the past. I
will teach you whichever you want to do. But Bennett's speech is the way in which
people are going to be speaking in the public life in the future, which is a one on
one, frank, open discussion. A conversation." That encouraged me a lot. He helped
me in other ways. He was an inspiring man. He was a good friend.
So was Professor [Arthur Ariel] Hopkins [assistant professor of speech]. I was close
to Hopkins. I took French under a Frenchman, Professor [Joseph] Brunet. I got
him to write a chapter in my book. The chapter attributed to him was about [Rend
Goulaine de] Laudonniere [Huguenot, arrived in Florida with Jean Ribault in 1562,
returned in 1564 to establish Fort Caroline on St. John's River]. I do not have my
books here. I think he gave me a C. It was the only C I ever got. I may have
gotten more, but I have tried to forget.
P: Did you have anything with Dr. [Lucius Moody] Bristol [head professor] in sociology?
B: Dr. [Elmer Dumond] Hinckley [professor of psychology] was my inspire there. I
really thought he was an exciting man. He was a clinical psychologist. He taught
me to think about something which today people write stories about. What is
matter? What is life? We concluded it is not a very theoretical thing. It is a
biological thing. This chemistry, electricity, psychology was what I learned from
Hinckley. In other words, one should not accept all this theoretical stuff about
whether your daddy was unusual or something like that, but [examine] more why you
act the way you do from the standpoint of your own body existence. If you do
something and you have a pleasant reaction when you do it, that is easy to repeat.
It tends to repeat itself. On the other hand, if you do something that is negative, and
has a negative impact on you, you are not as likely to do it. It makes me feel there
is a lot yet to be learned about what I studied under Hinckley. Part of our reaction
is electrical, and part of it is chemical. And that is how we eventually evolve. This
was very interesting intellectually to me. I enjoyed my courses under Hinckley.
I have not gotten to law school yet, but there was another man, Dr. [Franklin
Wesley] Kokomoor [associate professor of mathematics]. You heard me say that I
thought [I should study] English, history, and math. You may wonder, "Why math?"
Math, because it makes you discipline yourself intellectually if you are a poor
mathematician, as I am. If you master it, you have made your brain really work.
You are in control of your brain. There are a lot of other subject matters, like
American history, poetry, or something like that, about which I do not feel that way
at all. To me, there is no discipline in such subjects. Maybe I have not learned to
discipline myself in these disciplines. Anyway, Kokomoor taught me the theory of
mathematics in a way that was very helpful to me. He made mathematics possible
to me, which was not really possible until I had him explain it to me. He was a
Let me see if I can think of some of the others. I think the Frenchman was Brunet.
He translated one of my documents in a book about Laudonnidre [Laudonnidre and
Fort Caroline, University of Florida Press, 1964]. I hope I am not leaving anybody
out. Of course I liked Beisler a lot too. I am talking about my [undergraduate]
P: You lived in Thomas Hall all the time that you were there.
B: All the time until I became president of the student body.
P: Then where did you move?
B: Sledd Hall. There was a place in Sledd that [the student body president] was
supposed to live in. You got money for that. You got a deduction for living there
and being the head monitor. I was the head monitor for all the dormitories. I was
monitor for my own section in Thomas Hall before I became the head monitor.
Monitors were not paid, but the head monitor was paid, if he accepted the job as
president of the student body, and I did.
P: In other words, to be president of the student body, you also had to be the monitor
in the dormitories. Is that what you are saying?
B: To be head monitor of all the dormitories, you had to be president of the student
P: The two things went together.
B: Yes. You could turn down being head monitor, but it was not that much of a job.
P: The dormitories then were Thomas Hall, Sledd Hall, and Buckman Hall?
B: Yes. When I first went there, there were just Buckman and Thomas. Sledd was
built about then. I worked in the cafeteria and before when it was not a cafeteria
but a dining hall. The bands played music. I was a waiter in what became the
P: Did they then call it the Commons?
B: Yes they did. You sat at a big table with everybody. It was more than one table,
there were about twenty tables. You could work your way through school by doing
that. I did that. That then became a cafeteria and I saw the political possibilities
of the ice cream section, so I handled the ice cream section in the cafeteria.
P: So you carried food from the dining room and served it on the tables.
B: And carried out the dirty plates and wiped the dirty tables.
P: You got your food as a result?
P: Three meals a day?
B: Yes. And politically it was good; since I worked my way up in it, I urged them to
allow me to handle the ice cream dispensing. If there were Republicans coming
through, I could give them a very small amount of ice cream.
P: They did not allow any Republicans at the University of Florida in those early days.
[Laughter] But you were an entrepreneur.
B: In what respect?
P: In making money, working your way through school, and having all of these various
B: [Laughter]. That is right.
P: I think that was very good. It got you ready.
B: I had other [jobs] too. I worked for fifteen cents an hour chopping cotton. The
University had a farm. I guess they still do. People who needed money could go
P: I do not know where the farm was in those early days.
B: It is on the way to Newberry.
P: And they planted cotton.
B: Yes that is right.
P: And you were a cotton jobber.
B: That is right, exactly, at fifteen cents an hour.
P: I can see why you became a very successful politician. You knew where to draw
from all of these various sources there, Charlie.
B: Well I did. As a matter of fact, I got some loans too. My dad was a Mason. The
Masons loaned me some money. The most fantastic help to me was (and this was
really a break) from the man who had been a master sergeant in the marines and
ran the Guarantee Title Company in Tampa. He kept me employed each summer.
He really wanted me to succeed and go to college, which he had never had the
opportunity to do himself. His name was P.R. Robin. He came to me one day,
and he said, "Charlie I want you to go down and take an exam in the county
courthouse. They are giving out scholarships to people who pass with the best
grades." The tough thing was that you had to compete with a great crowd. There
was one scholarship per county. I said, "Mr. Robin, I do not really believe that I can
go down there on short notice with all the people who apply for this and be able to
compete. I have not studied anything; I am not prepared for it." He said, "Bennett
I will be disappointed in you if you do not go. You can take the rest of the day off
and do all the preparing you want to do." The fantastic thing about it was that I
went down to the county courthouse, which was full of people taking this exam, and
you know who made the best grade? I made the best grade. [Laughter].
P: So you got the scholarship.
B: It paid $200 a year.
P: That was big money in those days.
B: It was big money. You could not draw it if you had already gotten a degree. That
is the reason I took my A.B. and my J.D. at the same time. I arranged it so that I
did not get full qualifications for graduation until 1934. I was in the class of 1932.
But I would have lost that scholarship if I had taken the degree.
P: Charlie, were you a member of a fraternity?
B: No. I was not in a fraternity. I was never tempted. I could not afford it. The
Depression really affected that.
P: It sounds to me like all this income you have gotten, you could have bought the
B: [Laughter]. No, not exactly. Most of it was kind of small stuff, although when you
added it up it was pretty good.
P: What do you mean the Depression impacted you?
B: Well, I told you from the age of four or five, until about fifteen or sixteen, I lived
in what to me was a magnificent house. There were people in the neighborhood
who had Rolls Royces. It was in a nice section [of town]. The house was a special
house, not an ordinary house. I think I told you it had French doors at the front of
it. With the Depression we then went to live in what we called a shack, which was
just one room essentially over a garage. Believe it or not, we entertained top flight
people in that spot. My mother was never negative about it. She laughed about
things other people worried about.
One time somebody from China came to visit her. I do not know how she had the
contact, but maybe the Chinese Sunday school class had something to do with it. As
the visitor left after about a week of staying with us, she said she thought she would
never have a chance again to visit a home for lower class Americans. [Laughter]
The comment really turned my mother off. It never bothered my mother at all, the
fact that we lived modestly. The remark was not well chosen. It may have been just
a choice of language.
P: But your father had a government job, so he had a steady income.
B: Yes, but he lost a lot. He had a steady income but he lost much too.
P: His investments?
B: His investments came in and were quite negative.
P: So you and your brother had both had to work your way through school in order to
stay in school?
B: I went through the same thing that most people did. At the University of Florida,
certainly my first two or three years there, almost every night I would have to put
new cardboard in my shoes and do things like that.
P: But that was not unusual?
B: No. In that period of time, it was not unusual for anybody to do that. I am just
saying that was the way we lived.
P: The cost of living was very low on campus, I guess, for food and so on in those days.
You said that your whole first year only came to $300. Where did you eat? The
Commons? Of course you were working there. So you were getting good food
B: Yes I was. I never was deprived. I learned a lot about the value of a dollar. Of
course I had the good luck of talking to Mr. Brorein and buying his stock. I think
I was seventeen when I bought that stock. That is an unusual experience.
Particularly today, people seventeen years old do not buy stock. Even people twenty-
four years old do not buy stock.
P: That is right. They are spending their money on compact discs or something.
B: They would not do stock dealing. I stopped buying stock at the age of twenty-four.
P: When you were there, in 1930, the first stadium opened did it not?
B: That is correct. I can remember our teams playing football games on something that
was not really a stadium.
P: Fleming Field?
B: Fleming Field.
P: Where the north end zone is now located.
B: I remember that. Of course, I remember the military drill and all that sort of stuff
that one did.
P: Were you into sports?
B: No, but I think I told you I jogged a lot. And I did distance running; I ran every day,
and usually miles. I had real confidence there, just doing something to keep my
body in good shape.
P: What did students do for fun in those years?
B: Not much. [Laughter]. Well, they had fun, I should not say that they did not have
fun, because they did have fun. It was not a bad period of life.
P: Did you ever go downtown to the movies?
B: Yes we did. An interesting event occurred in my leadership as the president of the
student body. It was traditional that after a successful game in Gainesville the
student body would adjourn to the theater and celebrate by going free to the show,
keeping it open against the real will of the people who owned the theater. I would
not say exactly against their will, but the theater agreed to it reluctantly. When I was
president of the student body, Claude Leigh, the moviehouse owner, talked that over
with me. I said, "Well, I do not know whether I can stop them from doing that or
not. You could just close up the theater and put a cop there. But how about
instead of having this occur every football game, when everybody goes down to the
theater, why do you not just give the movie to them for free?" Now, he was alarmed
about the fact that things could be broken. Nevertheless he said, "I will do that."
So he did it. So when I was president of the student body, there was a free movie
after every football game. Leigh deserves great credit for that.
P: Was that the pajama parade activity?
B: I do not remember the pajama parade. I was not really in that. I do not remember;
maybe I could if I thought about it. But there was another custom I did not
participate in except for one or two years. It was a tradition of the University of
Florida, not kept alive by heritage particularly, but just because people liked it,
sometimes just to be ornery. This was to have a day, I have forgotten the name of
it, but it consisted of fighting in the mud among the students. They had a sort of a
mud day. It was not called that, it was called something else. Anyway, they all got
out and fought in the mud.
I thought a little bit about it, now that I have become very mature, about how
different our games were even as young kids. As young kids, we had all kinds of
games. We did not have any TV or even radio originally; although I finally had a
crystal set. But we had lots of games. When younger, we played cops and robbers,
Germans and Americans, cowboys and Indians, all essentially fighting games among
boys. We got into an athletic sort of thing that was sort of a holdover, I guess, at
the University of Florida. One day, they devoted to getting real scroungy and
fighting each other, particularly in mud. I guess some of the annuals will have
something about that.
P: When were you president of the student body?
B: 1933 and 1934. I was editor of the Alligator the year before that.
P: What were political campaigns like in those years? How did you get elected?
B: The first thing was not the presidency. Theoretically, I became editor of the Florida
Alligator because I was competent as a writer, and I had worked my way up from
reporter; I won awards for good reporting. But it was also partly a political [office]
and the editorship was voted on by the student body. As far as president of the
student body was concerned, I just concluded that I would be a good man to be
president of the student body and ran for it.
I went to the place where I had already been active, which was the "liberal party" of
the campus. We had two parties. I have forgotten what the names were. I believe
the "liberals" and the "independents." Anyway, I was in the major party as a non-
fraternity representative at the caucuses. We had caucuses that discussed how we
were going to distribute the nominations among the fraternities. It came to the time
when I would have to be running as a non-fraternity man, if I wanted to be president
of the student body and no fraternity was taking up for me. So I had to do it among
the non-fraternity people, like [Joseph Edwin] Ed Price, who was a professor
[instructor of English] and a student, Manning Dauer, and people like that. At first
they turned me down.
I was editor of the paper, so I came out enthusiastically for having a primary system.
If the caucuses were going to turn me down, I was going to get elected by a primary,
I hoped. There you could nominate yourself. Then they decided it was time to have
a non-fraternity candidate. They had never had a non-fraternity person as president
of the student body before.
P: That office had always been part of the Greek system.
B: Yes that is right. It took a little persuasion, but partly because I was going to run
anyway, both parties chose a non-fraternity man. Bill Joubert, who had been my
assistant as the editor of the paper, ran as my opponent. He was managing editor,
and I was editor in chief. He became the choice of the other party. I was the choice
of the party in which I was actively interested.
Of course a lot of very fine people were considered, including one who became
president of the student body later, Bill Sherril. Later he died from multiple
sclerosis. He kindly stepped aside for me. He had control among the Greeks. If
he had not tipped his hat to me, I would have had to run either in a primary or
independently. There would have been very little chance of winning the election
independently, although I probably would have run anyway.
I am a very fortunate person because I have done in life what I wanted to do. I am
not sure I have always done it right. But I have done what my conscience told me
I should do. I have done what I wanted to do. I think that is wonderful, the fact
that I had that opportunity in life to do that.
P: Were you a strong winner in the election?
B: Yes I was a strong winner. I have been a strong winner in almost every race except
when I first ran for the legislature after I got out of college. I was very marginal
then because I was running against a very well-known man. I had heavy opposition.
The city machine here was very much opposed to me. And my race for Congress
in 1948 was close.
P: When you came to the campus and when you were on the campus, was Fuller
Warren still around?
B: Oh yes. He was a very good friend of mine. Fuller played a part in my own life
later on because we were good friends. I would say some things about Fuller. I
think I introduced him to the first Gator Bowl, or one of the first, and I forgot to
mention his name when I introduced him. [Laughter] I told them what a wonderful
guy he was, but did not say his name. He corrected that. That was one place that
we came together. Another place we spent time together was here; we were both
not particularly well-heeled young lawyers in Jacksonville. We were both having a
hard time scrounging by.
The third time our paths crossed was in connection with [Robert Alexis] Lex Green
[Florida Congressman, 1924-1942]. Lex Green told Fuller prior to World War II that
he was not going to run for Green's seat in the United States Congress and wanted
Fuller to do it instead. Lex was going to run statewide hoping to be senator. Fuller
turned it down. He said he and Lex decided I was the logical person to run if Fuller
would not. Fuller was not interested in going to Washington.
I talked to Lex. Lex said he would support me if I would run. I was in the state
legislature from Duval County; I thought I was going to be elected to Congress in
a race prior to World War II. But I was young, not even thirty years old. Early on
I had already decided to run for Congress in 1941 and did campaign but dropped out
when Pearl Harbor occurred.
P: I want to go back and ask you about some other people on campus. Was [William
Graves] Bill Carleton [instructor, Department of Sociology] on campus?
B: Oh yes. Bill was there. I admired him greatly because he was one of the real brains
and he had a tremendous personality. However, he was unhappy with me about one
thing. That was that I joined ODK [Omicron Delta Kappa]. He thought I should
wait for [Florida] Blue Key. I felt that Blue Key was turning me down. They could
have made me a member, and they did not. ODK had asked me to be a member.
They were competitive at that time [both were leadership fraternities; ODK merged
with Blue Key in 1933].
P: You did not get into Blue Key?
B: I entered Blue Key ultimately.
P: Sure, as president of the student body and as editor of the Alligator?
B: As editor of the Alligator, I was already on ODK. When I became president of the
student body, I was taken into Blue Key. But the Blue Key people did not like the
fact that I had joined ODK before I was offered Blue Key. They thought I should
P: I see.
B: Bill joined in the [opinion that I should have waited]. He let me know that he really
did not like my joining ODK. I do not really know why. What I am trying to convey
is that I cannot say that he was a buddy friend. I think he was mad, really, mad at
the fact that I even felt I should be in Blue Key. He felt for one reason or another
that it was not available to me. At that point, Blue Key was the dominant
organization. But the president of the student body [1930-1931], [E.] Dixie Beggs,
was ODK. I said, "I will join ODK if the president of the student body will be the
one tapping me. If he taps me, I will do it."
P: Charlie, where were the offices for the student body president then? You had an
office as the editor of the Alligator.
B: The office of the president of the student body, when I was president of that body,
really was in my room on the second floor. It was not very convenient.
P: Thomas Hall, second floor?
B: Sledd Hall, second floor, which leads me to how I looked at the presidency. I felt
there ought to be better circumstances. I did one specific thing after I graduated
from the University of Florida. I talked to my dear friend Scott [Marion] Loftin,
who was United States Senator [May to November 1936], and represented the
Flagler interests in Florida. I said to him, "Senator you have the desk of Flagler .. ."
P: I want you to tell that story of the Flagler desk because I know you were
instrumental in that.
B: I am telling you now. Anyway, Scott Loftin lived in the bend in Riverside
[residential area in Jacksonville], only about 100 feet from where I now live, and only
about a block from where I lived then on Riverside Avenue. We lived in the same
neighborhood near Five Points.
Scott was a good friend of my father. He would often come and sit on our front
porch at 2130 Riverside. I would sometimes sit there with him, and talk with him.
He asked me if there was anything he could do for me. He offered me lots of
things. He offered me the opportunity to become a corporate lawyer for Gulf Life
[Insurance Company] because he was on the board of Gulf Life, and could arrange
it. He offered me that job. I was in the state legislature at that time and I thought
I should not do it.
P: Go back to the desk now. I do not want to lose that.
B: We will get back to the desk. The thing that he did was nice to me.
P: How did you hear about the desk in the first place?
B: Well, Scott Loftin would talk about a lot of things, about religion, government, and
everything else. The Flagler interests were a popular topic of conversation.
P: So he told you about the desk.
B: He told me the desk existed in the Ponce de Leon Hotel. I said, "I think you ought
to give that desk to the president of the student body of the University of Florida,
with the chair. You do not want it. It is not being used by Flagler anyway."
P: Now this is after you leave the University. It is not while you were president of the
B: Exactly, it was after I left.
P: I had always heard it was while you were president.
B: I never got the desk then. Within a year or two after the desk was placed there, the
P: So anyway he told you that he would be able to arrange it.
B: He did it.
P: How did it get to Gainesville?
B: I think I paid somebody to move it. He might have paid for it. I do not know. I
was kind of broke then. I would have seen to that if I had the money.
P: So the desk and the chair came.
B: The desk and the chair came, and they were used for a while by the president of the
P: In his room if he had one.
B: The room was then in what is now Dauer Hall.
P: That is right, Florida Union.
B: But I never had an office there.
P: I see.
B: That is where it was. It was disappointing to me that the artifact of the chair
disappeared. It was not much of a chair, but you would not think of it like a chair
I am sitting in here. It was a dinky chair. It really looked like a secretary's chair.
It was not up to the desk. The desk was more important looking. I was discouraged
about some abuse of it. So I talked to them about it. They said, "You know it is
not really practical to have the president of the body use this. This is not a
ceremonial thing as far as the president is concerned. He will be putting his feet
all over it, and the desk will be ruined."
Somebody talked me into putting it somewhere else, I think in the museum. I said,
"Well, I do not want it to be destroyed. So it ought to go somewhere where it is
protected. The guys who are president of the student body do not have to worry
about not putting their feet on the desk. They can do whatever they want to about
P: Do you know what has happened to the desk now?
B: I think it is in the president's office.
P: It is in the president's office. I was the one responsible for that.
B: Good for you.
P: It was in the museum all these years. J.C. [Joshua Clifton] Dickinson [director and
curator of Ornithology, Florida State Museum] used it as his own desk. He retired
and the new director came in. He did not want to use the desk. It was not a
practical desk for him. Of course they wanted to protect the desk. They put it up
into the corner of the conference room in the museum, so that it would not be
touched by anybody. It was all beautifully polished. It had been refinished and so
on. I do not know if you ever saw it when it was in Dickinson's office. Anyway
about two years ago, I had a call from the president's office, [indicating] that he did
not want all this modern furniture in his office. He wanted things that had some
historical significance to the campus and to Florida. [He asked] if I knew of
anything. I said, "Yes I know of this desk." Within fifteen minutes there was
somebody over from the president's office to look at that desk. That person said,
"Oh this is exactly what Dr. [John] Lombardi [president, University of Florida, 1990-
present] is looking for." So they arranged with [Thomas] Peter Bennett [director of
the Florida Museum of Natural History; professor of zoology] to move the desk
carefully over to the president's office. In the meantime, he also saw a grandfather
clock at the museum and wondered if they could get that too. So Bennett did.
That is exactly how Lombardi is using that desk now. He loves it. He said it is the
most wonderful thing. He loves that desk. He asked me, "I understand there was
a chair that went with that." I said, "I heard that there was. I think it is long gone."
B: If you ever see it, it was a modern type of chair. I think it swung like this. It was
a very small chair. You really would think it would be a typist chair. Anyway, it was
not very big chair.
P: Anyway, the desk is now in top position, beautifully taken care of, and being used
by John Lombardi as the president's desk.
B: Oh that is great. Flagler would be excited about that. So would Scott Loftin. So
P: In the meantime, they wanted to know if I knew of another piece of historic furniture
that will help fill up the room over there. He has the desk in his office, and he has
the clock in his office.
B: Where did the clock come from? Do you know?
P: Somebody had given it to the museum many years ago. It was a grandfather's clock.
I do not think it had any particular significance to Florida history in the way that the
B: There may be some furniture, although I doubt it, but there may be some furniture
in connection with the buildings that still exist. I think of Epworth Hall [built in
1883 as part of the First United Methodist Church] of the early University.
P: There is nothing down there. I know that building. We have a plaque outside of
that building to show the relationship to the old East Florida Seminary. Anyway, I
am sure there is some other stuff that Lombardi will latch on to. I had always heard
that you were responsible for getting the desk.
B: Which reminds me there was another interesting desk which fled--from my
standpoint--improperly from the state. This is the desk that Colonel Raymond
Robbins used at Chinsegut Hill in Brooksville. Colonel Robbins was an exciting,
thrilling man whom I knew in my youth. He had a house that was built prior to
statehood on a hill in Brooksville called Chinsegut Hill. It was later owned by the
state. It may be owned by the University of Florida.
P: It was, but it now [belongs to] the University of South Florida.
B: Anyway they gave the desk of Colonel Robbins, who owned the house, to some
person. I think it was the same person who was the curator of the building. That
was a mistake. In other words, wherever that desk is, [it] ought to be owned by the
B: Colonel Robbins was a very interesting man. He played a part in my life.
P: We have some of his library at the University of Florida. He gave that to the
University in his will. His sister's papers are [also] at the University.
B: His sister's or his wife's?
P: His sister's.
B: Where was his sister from?
P: She was into some social work or something.
B: His wife was too. That is the reason I wondered. There was a lady there, Lisa von
Boroski, and [through her] my father got to know Robbins because she was a local
weather reporter. I guess you know when he [Robbins] left that property to the
federal government, it [included] a statue of Lenin. Did you know that?
P: Yes. Of course he went over to Russia at the time of the Russian Revolution.
P: He may have been a representative of the American Red Cross.
B: Perhaps, I do not know.
P: He went over as a representative of some American health organization. Let us get
back now to the University of Florida. You went to law school.
B: Yes, and in law school there were professors who had a tremendous impact [on me],
the whole faculty did.
P: It was a small faculty then?
B: Yes. Of course you had Judge [Robert Spratt] Cockrell [professor of law], who had
been on the [Florida] Supreme Court [1902-1917]. He had a wry sense of humor,
a tremendous sense of humor really. You had [Clarence John] Te Selle [professor
of law], who was probably my closest friend; [Harry Raymond] Trusler [dean and
professor, College of Law]; [Clifford Waldorf] Crandall [professor of law]; and the
man who stayed with them a long time [James Westbay Day]. Then we had
professor [Stanley] Simonds, who was a professor of Roman Law, and professor
[George Washington] Thompson. Anyway, they were all good friends of mine. The
fact was that the student body was relatively small, so you knew everybody very
P: Your years in law school were what?
B: I graduated in 1934, so it was three back from that. I got a juris doctor degree,
which was given at that time for making good grades and writing a thesis. I wrote
a thesis on the Agricultural [Adjustment] Administration [AAA] [established 1933
to help farmers recover from the economic depression]. It was Roosevelt's
P: The first AAA that was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court?
B: Yes. I thought it was unconstitutional.
P: You agreed with all those conservatives. Franklin Roosevelt would not have liked
you any more than you liked them.
P: Were you involved in any of the campaigns? They used to have student
organizations supporting governors, and so on.
B: I supported Alfalfa Bill Murray [William Henry Murray, Democratic representative
from Oklahoma] for the presidency against Franklin Roosevelt.
P: In 1932?
P: You were on the popular side. [Laughter].
B: Roosevelt was not liberal enough.
P: They actually had a student organization for him [Murray]?
B: Yes. I used to have an autographed picture, but I have lost it now. I am not really
sure why I did that, why I was turned off by Roosevelt. Maybe it was just
opportunity. Maybe somebody just offered me the opportunity to run Alfalfa Bill
Murray's campaign, for he was a fine man.
P: And Murray never came to Gainesville to give the talks.
B: I was very active with [Claude Denson] Pepper [United States Senator from Florida,
1936-1950; House of Representatives from Florida's 14th district, 1962-1990] too.
P: Were you active in any of the gubernatorial campaigns? In 1932 [David] Sholtz
[governor of Florida 1933-1936] was running against [John Wellborn] Martin
[governor of Florida 1925-1928; defeated in 1932 for nomination for governor]?
B: Martin was a good friend of mine. He only lived a block or two from where I lived
on Riverside Avenue.
P: Yes, but you were a student then. So that was later?
B: That is right. I did not know him at that point. I did however know his nephew.
In fact, his nephew was my closest pal at the University. [His name] was Bill
Simmons. He became president of the Florida Bar Association. Scott Loftin was
president of the American Bar; Bill was president of the Florida Bar. Martin was
his uncle. So I guess I probably met him while I was still in college. I was not
close to him, and was not involved in his campaign. I was involved in the campaign
of Claude Pepper.
P: On the campus?
B: As a student, I was active for Pepper.
P: Pepper and Bill Carleton were very good friends.
B: Yes, very. They were both extremely bright people. My association with Bill
Carleton left me feeling that he was a very great man, and I felt he knew it. In the
case of Pepper, I felt he was a very great man, but part of his greatness was being
able to mingle with people of lesser talent with grace. That is the association I had
P: And Bill did not always tolerate that, or people like that.
P: What was social life like for a student like you in the early 1930s on campus? You
did not have much money.
B: Practically nil.
P: And you were non-fraternity.
B: I never learned how to dance. The first dance I ever tried to dance in was a
ceremonial dance in Tallahassee. My date was the president of the student body in
Tallahassee. I have forgotten the occasion, but it was a big event. I had never
danced before. I was not really good at it, ever, even before I got crippled in World
War II. In fact, I told my wife [about the one dance]; when she married me she did
not know I could dance. But even after being crippled I could dance to a degree.
Of course the kind of dancing we did, in most of my happy years of dancing, after
I left the University of Florida because I never really danced before, was [dancing]
to smooth, soft, delightful music. There was nothing very complicated about it. You
really just walked around hugging somebody.
P: Did you ever go downtown? That was a long way.
B: I went to church every Sunday, to a very sad church. I take that back. I would not
say it was a sad church, but it was not a very lively church.
P: It was a small church.
B: Well sometimes small churches can be dynamic.
P: Where was the church?
B: I think part of it is still there. You know that tower down near the courthouse?
B: That was part of the church. I do not know if it is still there or not. Is it there?
P: It is still there.
B: Well if there is the tower, that congregation may still be near there. The people
were magnificent in the church. They were nice people. But downtown Gainesville
was a very dull city for me having come from Tampa which was much more exciting
in every respect. I have already told you we would go to opera and all those sorts
P: We did not have those.
B: Not in Gainesville. They were fine people, but they had no facilities.
P: Although we had the Lyceum Council and people did have some concerts from time
to time in the auditorium.
B: The University itself brought things in.
P: Not much but a little.
B: Not much but a little. There is nothing wrong with that church. It was a good
church. I should not have said anything negative about it. It was not the most
sparkling place on earth. I really had no real social life outside of honorary
fraternities I belonged to.
P: Did they have a YMCA on campus?
B: They did, and I attended it some. Some of that is when I helped put together the
monies for the Student Union Building. I really did it, or at least I felt I was the
prime sponsor. There were some alumni like [Erwin Americus] Erv Clayton
[Gainesville attorney, charter member of Florida Blue Key] who did a great job of
fund raising too. The foundation for the Student Union Building, the first one that
was built, was YMCA money. It had been raised by William Jennings Bryan [1860-
1925; American lawyer, political leader, three-time Democratic presidential candidate
and Secretary of State, 1913-1915].
P: Right. That is why we have Bryan Hall and the Bryan Lounge.
B: Yes. I think it was $75,000 that he raised, which in those days was a lot of money.
The student body agreed with my platform that I ran on to assess the students and
build the building. They had a vote on it. They voted themselves a fee to build the
building, plus the YMCA and PWA money.
P: PWA money? [Public Works Administration, New Deal agency established 1933].
B: That is right, PWA money. That was where Clayton did a great job. He was very
active in that. That building was my biggest accomplishment at the University of
Florida. Although there were other things.
I think the annual called me the "Great Commoner" probably because I was a non-
fraternity man. I do not have a copy of this annual; over the years I have lost all my
annuals. I think it said, "He retained a standing vice squad." What I did about that
was to contest the slot machines they had up and down University Boulevard. I was
opposed to that.
I was also opposed to the high cost of cleaning and pressing. Of course there was
not a hell of a lot of cleaning and pressing done, but some was. I told the people
if they did not bring their prices in order, we would create a laundry ourselves for
the University student body. So I got the prices down on that. I ran out the slot
machines. I had people tell me where the slot machines were, and ran them out.
They were against the law. I enforced the law because I thought that was damaging
for the guys, to be tempted to throw their money away.
P: They had the College Inn across the street from the campus, did they not?
B: That is right. My friend Bill Simmons lived in the back of it. I was just across the
street at Thomas Hall.
P: So you could go over at 11:00 for a milkshake and a hamburger.
B: As we did, and we had bull-sessions there. We studied at the University of Florida
in a collegial manner. Bill Simmons, I, [Louis] Lou Schwarzkopf, who is still living
in Miami, [Robert Fryer] Bob Underwood, who lived in Miami and is now dead,
Mike Steed, and one or two others were in our group who studied together.
P: What were some of the other student haunts? The Varsity was there, the Black Cat?
B: There was the Black Cat, the Varsity was there, and of course there was fraternity
life for people who had the money. Of course during the Depression [few of us had
money]. If I were doing it all over, and I was telling my son to do something like
this, I would say, "There are a lot of cheap things you can do that are social, like
playing bridge." I learned these cheap things after I got out of the University of
Florida. After I got out of the University of Florida, I learned how to play bridge.
I enjoyed it very much. That is a very cheap way to exist socially. I did not have
much of a social life at the University. Now, after I got out of the University of
Florida, I had a tremendous [social life].
P: What about homecomings? Do you remember those on campus?
B: I remember them. But, you see, they were not centered around non-fraternity
P: Dances and all of those activities were in the fraternity houses?
B: I never went to a single dance. The only dance I went to was when I was a senior,
and I went to Tallahassee.
P: Now you get out in 1935, right?
P: In the meantime your family has moved to Jacksonville.
B: Oh yes. Early on.
P: When did your brother graduate from the University?
B: He graduated in 1931.
P: And then you graduate in 1934?
B: Yes. I was in the class of 1932, but due to the fact that I had gotten a scholarship
that ran out if I received a degree, I waited until I got my law degree.
P: When the family moved to Jacksonville, it was because your father was transferred
to Jacksonville. Where did the family live in Jacksonville?
B: They first lived on the river where the Christian retirement home is today, on the
St. Johns River. There was a big house there then. They lived in that neighborhood,
within a block or so of that part [of Jacksonville] most of their lives. Most of my life
was spent at 2130 Riverside Avenue, which is still standing. It is next to the parking
lot across from the Riverside Hospital. When I came back from World War II, I was
pretty well beat up. I was crippled. My family, Mom and Dad, built me a little
apartment on the front porch. It is still there. It had a bath and a bedroom.
P: How did you get back and forth to Jacksonville if you did not have a car? Did you
hitchhike in those days?
B: 100 percent.
P: You wore the little ride cap?
B: Yes. I went also to Tampa the same way. My transportation was 100 percent the
back of the thumb. I never had a car.
P: There were very few cars on campus in those years.
B: Standing out in my memory are a number of trips like that. One was on my way
from Gainesville to Tampa. Unwisely, I guess, I did not choose my routes very well.
I finally got to Tampa, but I went all over the Orlando area. Then it was not
Orlando, but there were tiny little towns like Ocoee. I was carried mostly by
negroes. Mostly negro people had seen me bumming a ride, and they would take
me, which I thought was pretty wonderful for I expect a lot of white people would
not then pick up the negroes. They did pick me up. I was truly grateful. The area
did not have very many white people living there. Most of my rides on that
particular trip were from black people.
P: It was safe in those days to pick up people and take them along, particularly students
with ride caps.
B: That is right. I remember another time when we had a very heavy fog. In this case,
I was with somebody who lived in Tampa, who had a car. That was another way I
would get to Tampa. Anyway, there was a heavy fog, so we had to have a flashlight.
We [drove] all the way to Tampa with this flashlight in front of the car. [Laughter].
P: You get out of law school now, and you decided to settle in Jacksonville.
B: I felt as if I came to Jacksonville in 1929, when my parents came. I did try [to get
a job] in other places. I applied all over the state. Nowhere in the state, not even
in Tampa where my family was very prominent, much more prominent than they
were here, could I find a job that would pay me anything. I had to pay them [the
law firm], to have a desk in their office. In Jacksonville, I was lucky enough to get
a job that paid me. It paid $15.00 a week. That really did not put the groceries on
P: You were not yet married.
B: I was not married. Oh heavens no. I could not marry. There was no way I could
have married. In fact, I could not have lived if it had not been for my parents.
P: You lived at home.
B: I lived at home.
P: Who did you get the job with?
B: I got the job with Cooper, Knight, Adair, Cooper, and Osborne.
P: Two Coopers.
B: Yes. John C. Cooper was the second Cooper. He was a brain. He joined the
Princeton brain group, you know where [Albert] Einstein was. He was real sharp.
P: Who was the first Cooper?
B: The first Cooper was a very able man and an early lawyer. That family had five or
six generations of lawyers. The Cooper River in Charleston is named after that
P: Do you remember his first name?
B: Yes, I think he was John also.
P: How about Adair?
B: Hal Adair. He really ran the firm when I was there because the old Cooper had left,
and Cooper Jr. had gone to Princeton. Adair was [part of] the old firm of Knight
P: Who was Knight?
B: Knight was the son of the mayor of Jacksonville, Ray Knight. The man I worked for
was Ray Knight Jr. and he had a son named Ray Knight Jr.
P: Where was the firm's offices?
B: When I went with them they were in the Bisbee Building, which was a narrow little
building next door to the DuPont Bank. It is called the Jacksonville Bank now. I
think I am being accurate about the present name of the building.
P: I think the building was named for Horatio Bisbee [Jr., 1839-1916; lawyer,
Republican member from Jacksonville, US House of Representatives].
B: I think so.
P: He came down as a carpetbagger during the Civil War and became a prominent
citizen of Jacksonville.
P: So how did you get that position?
B: How did I get it?
P: How did you get the job?
B: I was president of the student body. I did make, I think, straight A averages in law
P: Except you were not able to get a job as a lawyer in other cities, like Tampa.
B: Well this was a big firm; they represented people like the DuPonts and Edward Ball
[1888-1981; American business executive, chief trustee of DuPont Trust].
P: I know it was a major law firm, and they were paying you.
B: My problem with getting jobs at other places was the same problem everybody had.
There were no jobs.
P: It was the Depression.
B: It was not me, it was the fact that there were no jobs.
P: I understand that, but what I meant was how did you get the job with this particular
firm? This was obviously a very desirable job with a top-notch firm.
B: Well, I did not have any entry to it. I just applied, and met Mr. Adair. He was a
very, very hard worker. I think he knew that I was a hard worker. What I do not
think he knew was that I was not a brain. I had been helped. He was both a hard
worker and a brain; I just had reasonable competence. I do not think I was ever an
P: What kind of law practice was it?
B: It was everything. In other words, they managed suits, estates, they represented the
Edward Bok estate [1863-1930; American editor, author, editor Ladies Home Journal,
1889-1919], and the Charles Deering estate in Miami, the Viscaya mansion.
P: So they were the big lawyers.
B: I guess they were the biggest firm in Florida. They used to call them the forty
thieves. There were thirty-eight, I think, in the firm then. It was not like today.
P: Did you have an office or a desk?
B: I had an office. They gave me an office. Mr. Adair had an exceptional brain, and
he was an exceptionally hard worker and demanded a lot. I think he had a rapport
with me as he knew I worked myself real hard to do a good job for him. I think I
impressed him that way but my real interests were in politics and he disliked that.
P: And you lived with your parents, so you had to travel back and forth on the
B: Streetcar, or my daddy's car. I never owned a car of my own until I was thirty-
seven years old, which astounds many.
P: How long were you in practice with this firm?
B: I went with them in 1934. I guess I got out when I decided when I was going to go
into political life. I always knew that they would not want me if I entered political
life. They knew I was eventually going into political life. You see in those days they
did not want you in political life.
P: So you were with them until you ran for the legislature?
B: Yes that is right.
P: And you did that when, in 1941?
B: Oh no, earlier than that. I guess it was about 1939 when I ran for the legislature.
P: And if you had to leave the firm what did you do then, go into private practice?
B: Yes. That was an adventure, I must say. Many weeks went by and I could barely
pay my secretary. I only paid my secretary $4.50 a week. That is all it paid.
P: It was still the Depression era.
B: Oh yes, but that was not much money. It did take care of the streetcar and maybe
a sandwich at lunch and that was about it. I really made very little money. But then
I had sort of an interesting break. Governor [Fred P.] Cone [governor of Florida,
1937-1941] appointed me assistant to the worker's compensation representative for
the state of Florida, which did not mean that I had to leave my law practice. I had
to move my office. I moved my office next door to [James] Jimmy Knott, who was
the real appointee and I was his assistant. He became president of the Florida
Historical Society. He is still living today.
P: I know Judge Knott. Of course Jimmy is a good friend. But I wanted to get it on
B: Okay. Jimmy was a good friend of mine. Jimmy had a lot to do with my being
selected too. I think he probably recommended me to Governor Cone. So did Fred
Kent. I think Fred Kent was related to Governor Cone. Although in that political
campaign for Cone, I was more affiliated with Mr. [Raleigh W.] Petteway [candidate
in the 1936 Democratic primary for Florida governor] whom I knew from Tampa.
P: So you kept your hand in politics from the moment you really arrived in Jacksonville
and became affiliated with the firm.
B: I was president of the Jaycees, which is a very good foundation for political life.
What Jaycees did was free public service. One of the things I am proudest of in my
political career is creating the Fort Caroline Memorial, a National Park facility in
this area. When I was president of the Jaycees I went to Washington, and attempted
on my own, for the Jaycees, to get the federal government to create that facility in
1938. I was not successful in doing it. I was elected in 1939 to the state legislature
for 1940. I served in the 1941 legislature.
P: Did you try to run for the legislature once and were defeated?
P: The one time you ran for it you won.
B: I have never been defeated.
P: Did you make any effort to win any city offices or county offices?
B: No. I never did.
P: So your first real effort was for the legislature?
B: That is right.
P: You were with the firm from 1934 to 1937, and then you went on your own.
B: It was later than 1937 because I did leave in connection with my political career and
I started campaigning in 1939. I was in the 1941 legislature.
P: Was Jacksonville a sad city during the 1930s, the Depression decade?
B: Not for me. I loved it. It was a great city. For the first time in my life I really had
great social opportunities that I really had not had before. I had never missed them,
but I had never participated. When I was at the University of Florida, I was just
barely getting through financially. So I was not tempted at all to join a fraternity,
even when the fraternities offered me free memberships as some did.
P: But when you came to Jacksonville, you became part of the social crowd at
B: In the first place, our clients included Alfred I. and Mrs. DuPont, who had a
daughter whom I used to date. The DuPonts opened all kinds of doors for me.
They had a yacht or two.
P: A yacht or two. [Laughter] They had a beautiful home.
B: Epping Forest and the [yacht] Nenemoosha.
P: I know it was named for their estate.
B: No, it was not Nemours or Ditchly, their Delaware and Virginia estates. It was an
Indian name. It had a meaning. They gave their yachts to the federal government
in World War II. Anyway, that opened big doors for me.
P: And they lived in a beautiful home.
B: They lived in a beautiful home. It was not just them. I became very active in social
life otherwise. I belonged to and enjoyed the Bachelor's Club, which was a club that
gave dances and house parties; I went to the Cloister resort in Georgia and places
like that. That sums it up pretty well. Of course I thought it was wonderful that I
had that opportunity. I was invited into the best homes and participated in a full
P: So you went into private practice? That really must have been a pretty risky thing
B: It really was. I really had to make a tough decision. As Mr. Adair explained to me,
"We are not a political firm. If you persist in this political thing, you really should
leave." With that heavy insistence, I left. I was not fired, but I was given a choice
to either stick with the law practice or be active in politics.
P: Had you built up any kind of a clientele by then Charlie?
B: Not much.
P: Not much that you could carry with you?
B: I had a hard time financially. I shared in the beneficence of my mother and dad,
with whom I lived. Expenses were not as high then as they are now. My room was
absolutely free, since it was a room added onto the house, and so was the food. I
paid rent to my parents, but they never cashed it. I gave them bonds every month.
That is all they would do, they said, "We will take the bond," but they never cashed
it. When my parents died, the bonds were still there. So I distributed them to my
brother and myself. I paid my way in a way, but in a way I did not, because I
eventually inherited the bonds.
P: Let us talk about the beginning of your political career because that is in some ways
a major turning point in your life. You were getting ready now to launch yourself
into what you would do for the rest of your life.
B: There was another thing that happened at this time. I was president of the Jaycees,
still looking forward to going into political life, when the Jaycees decided they would
change their officers' tenure. Instead of leaving it as it was, they decided to split up
the year. I had a choice to make. I either had to run again and do a year and one-
half as president of the Jaycees, or stay in office only half a year. I really wanted
to do a year, which I had been elected to do. I had to make that decision. I decided
I had enjoyed being president of the Jaycees but I felt I was ready to launch my
political career. Now looking back, as young as I was, in my mid-twenties or not yet
thirty, it was egotistical on my part to do that.
Then a very magnificent man died. Actually, he was a state legislator, and he was
killed in an accident. Matt Christie was his name. I said to myself, "He was a great
guy. I would really like to follow him. I will announce my intention to run for the
legislature and follow him. He is no longer there; I will not be upsetting anybody.
His seat is not filled. It is an opportunity, so I will take it." So I ran.
Some interesting things arose out of this. Most people had not been looking at me
very much as a politician at that point. There was one who did. He was Fred Valz,
chairman of the City Commission. He invited me into his home for dinner to talk
to me about this. I outlined my platform. He said, "You could not have picked
three things that I dislike more than the ones you picked to run on. Is there any way
of changing your mind about this?" I said, "No, those are the things I want to run
The first was to abolish the elected officials' pensions, which were paid without any
contribution at all. For example, Mr. Valz was going to get a pension without paying
anything into it. Next, they had created a judgeship for a very nice man by the name
of Lonnie Howell. He was a lovely guy, but they did not need a judge. The third
thing I wanted done was to combine the county and the city registration office, a first
step toward consolidated government. Mr. Valz was a great friend of Howell, the
judge, and I was going to abolish that judgeship. Valz was to get the pension that
I was trying to abolish, and Valz was a good friend of the guy who had been the city
P: Whom you were going to fire. [Laughter].
B: He said, "Well you have had it, unless you can change your mind." I said, "Well, we
will find out whether I have had it or not." So we parted pleasantly in a way, but
he turned loose all the stops. He got a very magnificent guy to run against me, P.
Guy Crews, who was a very, very able politician. He had never been defeated. He
was from an old family and was a good friend of mine. P. Guy wore a bow tie and
he was stout. I guess the combination of a plump politician with a bow tie and warm
heart presented a very, very charming picture. He had some problems, but I never
exploited the problems. I was elected by a very narrow vote.
P: Before you get into that, tell me about the Jaycees. Date that for me. When were
you [involved with them]?
B: I joined the Jaycees as soon as I could, which was in 1934. So I have been a
member of the Jaycees since 1934. I am still a member of the Jaycees.
P: When did you become president? In the 1930s?
B: A little earlier I said to you 1937. But it could have been 1938. It probably was
P: So you played an active role from the beginning of the Jaycees.
B: I was a very active Jaycee. I took part in all their activities. The wonderful thing
about the Jaycees was that you had an opportunity to use leadership even if you were
not paid for it. The officers were all non-paid.
P: You moved up the ranks pretty quickly if in that short time you became president.
B: Yes. I guess you know you are not getting a very modest person in this interview.
I am not modest. Maybe I am too egotistical, but I believe people have to evaluate
what they can do, and then do the best you can to do that.
P: What were some of the things you did in the Jaycees before they elevated you to
B: Well we had a lot of sheer workhorse committees. The ones during my actual
presidency were often carryovers from things we did before. We created an
employment bureau. We made three by five cards with names of people who were
out of work, and then three by five cards of people who might be able to employ
people. Then we went to those potential employers, and tried to get them to hire
these people who needed jobs.
P: Tried to match them up.
B: Yes. Now it is done by the government, but the Jaycees did that. That was a very
outstanding thing, in my opinion, to do that.
P: All right. Let me talk to you about your moving into the campaign now. Where did
you get the money?
B: To run for which office?
P: To run for the house, the Florida legislature. Is that not your first activity?
B: I am a real good saver. I think I told you about my Gillette stock, and the magic
of that Gillette stock was that I never touched it. I could see it growing and I did
not mess with it. I did not do anything to make it better or worse. I let it go.
P: So the Gillette stock did not fund the campaign?
B: No, not at all. I guess you have a tendency to look back and say that you have a
financial problem. I had a feeling I was always on the verge of one.
P: Did people and businesses put money into the campaign like they do today?
B: Some did, but very little. That campaign cost me $5,000.
P: That was a big hunk of money back then.
B: Yes. I had mostly saved it up, but did get some assistance from the members of my
old firm, like Clarence Ashby, Fred Kent, Mack Crenshaw, Victor Blue, John
McNatt, Mr. Adair, and Mr. Knight. They all made contributions. Some of their
clients did too.
P: They had more money than you had. [Laughter].
B: Oh yes. If I had asked for more, I think they would have given it to me. I do not
remember any large sum. Mr. Ball, I think, might have given me $10 once. He also
helped me with some of my philanthropy, very generously.
P: You were a young man now, a real young man, running in a state race for the first
time. You launched yourself for the first time since you left the University of
Florida. That took a lot of courage.
B: I had confidence in myself. A moment ago on this tape, I sort of ran down my
intelligence, but I have fair intelligence. I am a hard worker. I never compromised
principles. I am an adherent of strong, basic, moral principles. I do not vary from
them at all. I work hard. I enjoy life. I have reasonable intelligence. I have vision.
I have perseverance. I have courage. Those qualities, I knew I had.
P: All of those things then meant that you got out on a sidewalk and ran around
B: Oh yes. That is how I got elected.
P: There were political rallies in those days?
B: Sort of like Mayor Jake Godbold [mayor of Jacksonville in the 1980s]. He was a
similar type regarding our approach to politics. I thoroughly enjoyed politics. Jake
Godbold thoroughly enjoyed politics.
P: You could be called a "natural born" politician?
B: Yes except that I was not a compromiser by nature. I only did that by necessity.
P: Campaigning in those days was vastly different than it is today. You did not have
television, none of those things. So you had to get out and meet the voters on a one
to one basis, did you not?
B: I really loved that. Not only did I have to, but I enjoyed it. I really did not enjoy
hiring top-flight advisors to spend lots of money on TV. I did not really enjoy that.
I guess for me, political life was like a great meeting of a lot of people who went
forward to accomplish things that were good. The joy of being a part of that and
even being a leader of it was a fascinating experience. I had that deep in my body
and my spirit.
P: Did you have a political manager or somebody in charge of planning the campaign
B: I nearly always had a campaign manager, and certainly people who looked after the
P: Who was your campaign manager in this campaign?
B: Frank Watson was my campaign manager for Congress. I really do not believe I had
a campaign manager for the state house.
P: What was the date, Charlie, of your election to the Florida legislature?
B: I know I was in the legislature in 1941. That was the legislature I served in, so I
must have been elected in 1940.
P: Yes, that must be right. Let us back up for a moment. You continued your
relationship as an alumnus with the University of Florida. When did you serve as
president of the Jacksonville Alumni Association?
B: Early on. In fact, I mentioned only the Jaycees, but I was in a lot of organizations,
including the Jacksonville Alumni. I do not remember the years.
P: Later on you became president of the National Alumni Association. That was when
[Stephen C.] O'Connell was president [University of Florida, 1968-1974].
B: I had other things that I did, if I had an interest. As with my interest in history, for
instance. When I went into World War II, I was first vice president of the
Jacksonville Historical Society, but If the war had not occurred, I would have been
president of the Historical Society of Jacksonville. I am still a member.
P: You say you were in the Florida House of Representatives in 1941?
B: And, technically, also in 1942, but I was really not there. I was in the army.
P: You were elected in 1940, and you were in the House in 1941?
P: And that was for a two-year term?
P: Two years. The legislature in those years met every other year, did it not?
B: That is right. The interesting thing about this was that it cost me $5,000, which I had
saved up and people had given me, to be elected to a job which paid $180 a year for
two years. In other words, the total income for being in the legislature for two years
was $360. The campaign cost me in excess of $5,000.
P: And you had to live in Tallahassee for a while?
B: Oh yes. They did not pay for your motel room, or for your transportation. It was
a very underpaid job, but the opportunity to serve was tremendous.
P: Did Duval County then have a single legislator or were there others?
B: There was [Charles A.] Charlie Luckie, and [St. Elmo W.] "Chic" Acosta, after whom
the bridge is named [first permanent span connecting Jacksonville to the Southside,
built in 1921 when Acosta was member of the Jacksonville City Commission]. That
P: So there were three of you. Now you went to Tallahassee. What committees were
B: I do not even know if I can remember. I will have to look that up. But I might tell
you how I did there.
P: I would like to know how successful you were.
B: That is about all I can tell you. I think I did okay. They gave various awards for
our services. I got the award for being a distinguished member of the state
legislature. I accomplished the things I ran for. I abolished the unnecessary court
position. I combined the city and the county registrar's offices. I ended the free ride
with respect to pensions for the elected city officials.
P: You made Fred Valz an enemy for life?
B: Well, in time he admired me and I admired him. I was very frank with him. He
invited me to dinner. I did not invite myself to dinner. I went to dinner at his
house. He was a good host. We had a fine dinner. We were very candid. He
acted shocked that I would resist him at that point.
P: You were a young squirt.
B: He probably would have used that word if he had thought of it. He did not hurt
himself, or downgrade himself by being nasty or mean. He was enthusiastic about
feeding me. The disagreement was not personal.
P: Tell me about this little job you had with Workmen's Compensation.
P: Did that make friends for you and help you in this first political campaign?
B: It did, but it probably was one thing I have not really talked about with you. It
probably had some bearing upon the fact that I existed financially. There was some
income from that. That probably helped me save the $5,000. How could I have
made so little practicing law and at the same time do these other things? I have not
really thought about that.
P: The main thing I was just wondering about was what kind of friends you made who
were helpful to you in this political campaign.
B: I was a member of a lot of organizations, and very active in all kinds of them. I
think that helped a lot. The Jaycees could see that I was accomplishing things that
I had set out to do.
P: Were you getting good press coverage?
B: Yes, [I had] pretty good press coverage, which added difficulties to the law firm I was
with. I made good speeches; they were controversial. Politics at that time was a
little different. It was a hand-shaking thing. There were a lot of fish fries. After
fish fries, in that first legislative race, there would be communists who were handing
P: In Duval County?
B: In Duval County, people were handing out literature for communism. There was
also great activity with regard to the Ku Klux Klan. Mr. Edgar Waybright was head
of the Democratic party, and if I am not mistaken, head of the Ku Klux Klan.
B: I was asked to come down to speak to the Ku Klux Klan in the old courthouse
building which is still standing. It was built in 1886 and greatly remodeled after the
1901 fire. It is at the northeast corner of Forsyth and Market streets.
P: So they [the KKK] were able to use a public facility?
B: Yes they were. I addressed the Ku Klux Klan and told them that I would not belong
to the organization.
P: They invited you to be a member?
B: They invited me to be a member, and told me if I were elected, I would be the first
person not to be a member of the Ku Klux Klan in all the elections since
Reconstruction. I had a very dim chance of being elected, they said.
P: What was that? I am not sure I got that.
B: They said if I were elected ..
P: Elected to public office?
B: To the state legislature. If I were elected, and had not joined the Ku Klux Klan, I
would be the first non-member since Reconstruction started.
P: Are you saying that people like Chic Acosta and Charles Luckie were members of
B: No, I did not believe it.
P: I see.
B: In the first place, I have a feeling that Chic Acosta and Charlie Luckie went through
the same experience.
P: I see. They were offered memberships in the Klan?
B: I do not know whether they accepted to speak or not. I accepted to speak. I told
them, "I am a young man starting off in my career in politics. This is not a passing
thing. I am going to be a professional politician. That is my quest in life. I do not
want to do things which are contrary to my principles to be elected to office. I want
my career to be based on what I think is best for the people. It is inconsistent for
me to do this. Furthermore, how could I justify being against Jewish people, black
people, and against people that you feel are somehow or another inferior? I do not
feel that. I would be telling a lie about my life if I did that." Well it was not a very
P: But you did speak.
B: I did speak and I said what I said. I said those things. I said, "I cannot belong to
the Ku Klux Klan because you are doing wrong. You are not doing right. You are
doing wrong. That is the way I feel about it, and I have to be myself."
P: But you got out safely.
B: I got out safely. In fact, I got a good applause. Nobody stood. It was a courageous
speech. It was a meaningful speech because it was real. Here I was, running for the
first time, doing what I have directed my entire life toward, since grammar school.
I have wanted to be a lawyer and to begin a public life. I have done all of these
things, and here I was making this decision. The first thing I ran up against,
according to those people, was that I had to do something which is contrary to what
P: I did not realize that Duval County had an active Klan during the 1930s. I knew
they had it in South Florida. It had weakened so much nationally after 1926. So
they did have an active Klan in Jacksonville?
B: Yes, and this [meeting] was in connection with the race for the legislature. This was
probably in 1939.
P: And 1940. So the Klan was still active in Jacksonville?
B: I did not believe what they said; I did not believe that Acosta and these other people
had been there before, although there were some outstanding people there at the
meeting. It was not full of "trash."
P: In earlier years, the Klan had marched in robes down Main Street [Jacksonville].
B: I did not know about that.
P: There were pictures of them.
B: Something happened the next day, which was interesting. The next day I was walking
from the courthouse to my office. R. P. Daniel, one of Jacksonville's best lawyers,
was walking the other way. He said, "I want to talk to you for a minute." I said,
"Okay." He said, essentially, "You have a great future ahead of you Charlie. Do not
be despondent. You look like you are feeling bad about something. Do not feel
bad. You have a great future ahead of you." As I look back over all those years,
I wonder whether Mr. Daniel had a mole in that meeting because he spoke to me
the next day. He had no real reason to think I looked rejected, but he said that to
me. That was very inspiring to me. It meant something to me, that he would take
notice of me. He also knew of course that I was starving to death. I was doing
pretty well to be running for the state legislature at all. That probably astounded
him. Not many people would do it. I was being pretty courageous to run for office
under my financial circumstances.
P: Your one stint in the legislature was stopped as a result of the war then. You go
into the military?
B: As a matter of fact, I ran for Congress in 1941. While I was in the legislature, I told
you that Fuller Warren told me that Lex Green was not going to run. He wanted
Fuller to run, but I ran instead, because Fuller did not want to run. He said, "You
run. You will be a good congressman." Lex did not originally contact me. It was
Fuller who originally contacted me, but on behalf of Lex. Later I talked to Lex.
Lex did not run, and he did support me.
P: So when did you run for Congress the first time? In 1942?
B: In 1941. I was in the midst of the campaign in 1941 when Pearl Harbor came. My
father was in the hospital. I remember when the news came over the radio. He
said, "Well Charlie, what are you going to do?" I said, "Well, I am a young man,
unmarried, no responsibilities. I think I should go into the service." He said, "What
are you going to do about the race for Congress?" I said, "Well, again I am a young
man. I will come back." I jokingly said, "[Douglas] MacArthur and I will line victory
up. I will come back and pick it up then, and run again."
P: So you were elected to the legislature and you were serving in 1941. Then you ran
a campaign for Congress in Washington?
B: I printed literature, and spoke in every county--sixteen counties.
P: You played a very active role as a candidate.
B: Oh, very. I had horns put on my Dad's automobile; my daddy saved those until I
came back from the war.
P: Where did you get the money to run this campaign? You had just spent $5,000
running for the legislature.
B: I found that out. I found that expense greater after World War II. The kind of
politics I did [before] was not that expensive.
P: I know but [you spent] $5,000 on one campaign, however thrifty you were. You
started out with nothing. Just creating that $5,000 was a miracle. Maybe you left
a lot of bills?
B: No, no bills; I operated cheaply. Ninety percent of my campaign was handing out
little cards about three or four inches long.
P: What about those horns you put on your car though?
B: I talked people into helping me, people who knew about putting horns on the car.
There was a man (Mr. Bamford) who lived in the Springfield area of Jacksonville.
He knew how to do that and he got me cheap horns. He repaired the horns I used
after World War II as well.
P: Who were you running against for Congress?
B: At that point, I did not have an opponent. I was the first person to announce. Then
there was Jim Cary, who was a county commissioner, and Emory [H.] Price [US
Congressman, 1942-1948], who was elected. I thought I would beat all of them. For
one thing I had visions about things I wanted to do.
P: What was your platform?
B: I do not remember the details, but I can resurrect them from my published material.
P: You were pretty radical in your run for the legislature--abolish this, get rid of that.
B: I think I do have political courage. When things need to be done, I do not run from
P: When you were running for Congress, were you the liberal candidate?
P: You endorsed Franklin Roosevelt?
B: Yes, yes, I believe I have always been more liberal than the power structure I
represented. I think my views were in accordance with those of the majority of the
people, including opposition to the racial degradation placed upon the blacks. I had
a strong feeling that was very wrong. But the power structure supported it. When
I first ran for office, you could not vote for me if you had one-eighth black blood.
That was the law. You and I sitting here, we cannot help but say what a great thing
it was that that has changed. That touches me, the fact that things were so bad,
and they are so much better today.
P: Were you able to campaign in the black churches to get the support of the black
community, as limited as they were as voters?
B: Well, I did not make much of a point of it. In the first place, I felt that my feelings
about trying to help get black people ahead, should not be tied too closely to a
P: This might hurt you?
B: Yes, I thought so. I appealed to the idealism of people, and not to their politics.
I am sure that some black people probably got word of the fact that I was more
generously inclined than the power structure of Jacksonville. I am not saying more
than the people of Jacksonville because I did in fact represent the people of
Jacksonville, but I was not in accord with the power structure of Jacksonville.
P: Now this is [part of] the Third Congressional District at that time?
B: It was then the second.
P: You say there were sixteen counties [in the Second Congressional District] at that
B: Yes, it went out to Cedar Key and Otter Creek.
P: You needed a car, obviously, at that time.
B: Yes. I borrowed my daddy's car.
P: And you campaigned in your father's car?
P: And he was relegated back to riding the street car?
B: That is right. [Laughter]. I tell people, as I sometimes tell high school students, that
the first car I owned of my own was when I was thirty-seven years of age. The
government gave me that car because I became crippled in World War II.
P: You said you did not have a campaign manager, or you did have one?
B: For the campaign for the Florida] legislature I cannot remember having a real
P: Who was your campaign manager for Congress?
B: Look who is here: Frank Watson. He was a lawyer; he was a good lawyer. He was
my first [campaign manager].
P: Is this the same Frank Watson who later lived in Gainesville?
B: No. He was a prominent lawyer here in Jacksonville.
P: Is he still living?
B: He is still living. I do not think he practices law anymore.
P: The Frank Watson I am referring to, who lived in Gainesville and was a lawyer too,
is now deceased.
B: Was he a state official?
P: No. We are talking about the campaign, and you are getting ready to tell me a
wonderful story about Jerry [W.] Carter, one of the most colorful men in Florida
political history [served on a variety of state commissions since 1918, elected as
railroad commissioner in 1934 and served on this commission until the 1960s].
B: I knew Jerry very well, even before I met his son Jerry Jr., who I shared experiences
with at the University of Florida where he was an undergraduate when I was an
undergraduate. One time his father, speaking of my political future, which he hoped
would be good, told me a story about himself and how I could use that. We are now
talking about the old second district with sixteen counties which had a lot of rural
towns and isolated places like Otter Creek.
He [Jerry Carter Sr.] said, "Charlie, in the early days when I was campaigning
originally by horse and buggy, I could not possibly stop at all these places where the
people were. So I got myself up some little cards that tell the story of my life and
what I wanted to do. When I would pass the mailbox, I would throw down one or
two cards. That may seem silly to you, but in some of these isolated areas, they do
not get much mail. A printed story like that on a card for them is very meaningful.
It will be very helpful to you politically." So I did that. I used that as a technique
in campaigning. Of course I did it in an automobile, not in a buggy. I did it with
the windows down. When I would pass a mailbox, I would drop a card or two,
knowing that somebody would pick it up because there was not much printed
material in that area. It is something to read if nothing else. That was a very
helpful thing to me.
P: It gave you exposure?
B: Yes it did. And in places where I was sure my opponents did not know about. He
told me other stories too about politics and devices in politics. One of them was
done in a Senate election, although I never used it. He said one was to send a
couple of guys into a town, a barber shop or something like that. They would drop
into a grocery store or barber shop. They would introduce themselves as if they had
never met each other before, and one would say to the other, "How is the race
going?" Everybody was listening of course. The guy would say, "I am for Jones, but
he does not have a prayer of being elected. Nevertheless, I think I will support him."
That was a negative way of getting at your opponent. The people who heard the
conversation would report to other local voters, "Jones is not doing so good. Even
people who are supporting him think he does not have a chance." That sort of thing
traveled by word of mouth. It was very valuable.
One of the candidates, I believe he said it was [Park] Trammell, who was a United
States Senator [1917-1938] from Florida, who Carter said used that device very
frequently in small towns]. He would send in people locally unknown. This
conversation would take place, and have an impact upon the people. There were
a lot of little devices that were used in politics back then by people like Jerry Carter,
who understood the potential of things which other people would not understand.
P: Jerry W. Carter. Charlie while you are thinking about that, tell us for the tape, for
me, and for posterity, who Jerry W. Carter was.
B: Jerry W. Carter held a number of state offices, but the one I remember mostly was
railroad commissioner. Mr. Carter was a born politician. He really loved politics.
He had that in common with me. I really loved politics. I loved the opportunity to
share experiences with people in a loving way. Jerry Carter felt that way about it.
I think Mayor Jake Godbold, here in Jacksonville, was another example of people
who really enjoyed public life. There are some people who really hate public life,
and they get elected to public office too.
P: Did Jerry Carter come in as a Sidney [J.] Catts [governor of Florida, 1917-1921]
B: I believe he was. You may not know this story, but I will tell you this story.
Sometimes stories are better when they are not true anyway. I think this was true.
I believe I remember Governor Martin telling me this one time when I was going
by his house. He told me how Catts happened to be governor. He told me that he
and a friend of his from the road department, Mr. Hathaway, were driving along on
their way from Jacksonville to Tallahassee.
P: Was this Fonz Hathaway?
B: That is exactly who it was. Anyway they were riding along toward Tallahassee, and
they went through Madison. This was Sunday morning and they had not gone to
church, but they heard this man preaching in this little country church. This was
before the days of the microphone, and certainly before the days of the microphone
in the church. This man was well heard from the highway. They were looking for
a guy to run for governor. They said, "Well goodness if that man is as good as his
voice, he would be a great man to have as governor." So they stopped off there after
the meeting, and they asked Mr. Catts whether he would be willing to consider
running for the governorship. They did not know him "from Adam's housecat." The
result was that he did run for governor. He ran against Jimmy Knott's father
[William V. Knott] in the Democratic primary. Catts was beaten in the primary, I
believe. Then Catts ran on a program of temperance.
P: He ran as a candidate for the prohibition party.
B: Yes, that is right, anti-drinking. So he beat Mr. Knott in the final election even
though he had been defeated for the Democratic nomination.
I have another little story about Mr. Catts. In my teenage life, when I was working
in that abstract company across the street from the old post office building in
downtown Tampa, my father and I used to have lunch together. We had lunch
together in a room which had the exhibits from the federal court there. I used to
sit on the plates that Governor Catts was supposed to have used to counterfeit
money with. I tell people how deeply impressed I was, from an early age, by the
highest principles, and show them how I sat on ten-dollar bills. It is true. I sat there
and ate lunch with my dad. Our chairs were the plates which Catts was accused of
using in counterfeiting. He was never convicted of that. I am not sure why, I guess
because he was innocent.
P: They did not indict him, but his secretary had some problems.
B: Well anyway, that is a true story. I remember to this day sitting on those plates and
thinking, "I can tell this." I can chuckle and say I sat firmly upon high principles in
those early days.
P: Well Jerry Carter became a legend in Florida political history because of his colorful
ways and the kind of language he employed. Although he never had that high
office. He really determined, in many ways, the course of Florida politics.
B: He was a loving, fine gentleman who greatly appreciated the opportunity of mingling
with people in a political arena, but really probably did not have the qualifications
to be governor.
B: But he knew many, and helped many to be elected. As I say, he volunteered
information to me as to how I could get ahead politically. That was just an
illustration. Not many politicians shared their political knowhow.
P: Their secrets?
B: Secrets, you cannot say trickery. The special mechanics of [politics].
P: That was mostly not trickery.
B: It was mostly not fooling anybody. It was how you shared your life with your
constituents. The first thing about it was that you have to be open. You have to be
yourself. You have to be frank and candid. If you expect candor to come to you,
you have to exert candor.
P: Charles, let us get back to your congressional campaign of 1942, I guess, was it not?
P: The war was already on.
B: Well, the war was not on yet.
P: All right. Pearl Harbor came in December 1941.
B: That was when I quit. I quit the race in December 1941.
P: All right. The questions I wanted to ask you were about the race before you quit.
B: I myself felt I was going to be elected because I was running against people who I
did not feel had as high qualifications as I did. I had been qualifying myself all
along with a law degree, practicing law, and activity in a civic-minded way. So I felt
I was the best candidate.
P: Charlie, I know that newspapers probably played a more influential role then than
they do now in terms of endorsements and so on. Try to remember back and see
where newspapers like the Jacksonville Journal and the Florida Times-Union were.
After all, you were a local boy.
B: Well the other people who ran and who had a chance were local people too. That
was Mr. Price and Jim Cary, both fine men. Mr. Price made it when I quit. He
went ahead and got elected. I guess a lot of people thought he was going to get
elected anyway. He was a good man. I was fairly young.
P: Were the two local papers here for you?
B: I never was endorsed by local papers, but my opponents were not either.
P: What about the weeklies? There were a lot of weeklies out in the hinterland.
B: I think they generally supported me. I think there was nobody opposed to me. I do
not think they supported my opponents either. I think later on, when Congress met
again after World War II, I think then people did take sides. They were always
P: I am very well acquainted with the role that the Times-Union played during
[Napoleon Bonaparte] Broward's [governor of Florida, 1905-1909] campaign of 1904.
They were very much opposed to Broward. Not only did you get negative editorials,
but also he was never portrayed very well in the press. I just wondered what role
these Florida newspapers played in 1941, as far as your campaign was concerned.
B: I always felt I was fairly treated. They did not endorse me and they did not endorse
P: I see. So they were not anti-Bennett?
B: No they were not. I think a lot of people thought I was too young and too
ambitious. I obviously did not feel I was too young nor too ambitious. I remember
trying really hard to accentuate my wrinkles in any pictures I had, so I would look
older. My mother said that was a mistake. You ought to look like you look. Now
of course I would be happy to get rid of those wrinkles.
P: In those days did radio play any role at all in political campaigns?
B: Yes sir, a lot; a great deal.
P: You bought time to give talks on radio, and advertise on radio, like the candidates
do with TV today?
P: Was this a dirty or negative campaign in 1941? How bitter was it?
B: I never ran down my opponent. If I were going to say anything about him it was
going to be nice, not negative. I never felt that I was particularly run down by my
opponents. I had people who opposed me, but they had good reasons for opposing
me. Maybe they had an ideological opposition to something I stood for. The one
exception probably was the second race after World War II. In that instance, racial
matters caused my opponents to have a very negative attitude toward me. They were
based on attitudes concerning race relations. I remember a publication. I am sure
that somewhere at the University of Florida there is a copy of this pretty lengthy
publication about me and race matters. It stressed the fact that I sat at lunch in the
Capitol with a black congressman, and had lunch with him. The article indicated I
could have evaded having lunch and did not. Then it also criticized me for referring
to him as Mr. Chairman. But he was the chairman of the Education and Labor
Committee. This was Adam Clayton Powell [Jr., 1908-1972, Democrat, New York].
That stuff, all the things they felt were offensive, was printed underlined or [in] heavy
face type. There were areas in my congressional district out in the Panhandle or
near the Panhandle, where race matters were very close to the surface, and people's
feelings were very close to the line on this issue.
An interesting event occurred in Madison, Florida, when I made a speech while
running [for Congress]. A young black man came up to me early on, when I was
getting settled there and starting to speak. He attempted to shake hands with me.
I was then walking with two canes. I just held on to the canes. I said to him, "Could
you wait until after the meeting is over? Let us talk a bit." He said he would.
After the meeting was over, he came again to me, and he [again] stuck out his hand.
I said, "That is what I wanted to talk to you about. Here the Ku Klux Klan is very
active. This is very inflammatory, what you are suggesting we do. To shake hands
with you, is very inflammatory to many people here. They are watching." He said,
"I know they are watching you. Your opponent paid me to shake hands with you."
I said to him, "Well, we do not want people who are dumbminded to control my
political race. Therefore you ought to be careful about what you take money to do
and not do. Just rely upon my background in the state legislature and the speeches
I have made. Rely upon that and do not put me in the spot where I unnecessarily
lose support." He said, "I understand, and I appreciate you talking to me in this
candid way." He was a bright young black man.
You [should] realize that in Congress I was the first southerner to appoint black
people to the military academies. I was the first southerner I know of to have
partially black office staff. I had a black receptionist for a long time. I was the first,
in the North and the South, to appoint blacks to be pages in the House of
Representatives. I was the first to do that. I was also the first to appoint a lady as
So I had those ideas in my mind, and I insisted on carrying them through. My
constituents put up with that. I do not think they were terribly fond of it, but
nevertheless they supported me. I was reelected in that next election
overwhelmingly. In the first election for congress I think there were only 1,800 votes
between [me and my nearest opponent]. In the second race I was ahead of my
opponents by something like 25,000 votes.
P: Let me get back to the earlier race for Congress. Now I need to get the dates
straight because I am finding some discrepancy with what I have here.
B: I probably made that discrepancy. I was obviously running for Congress in 1941.
P: Now, let me get this straightened out so that we have the historical accuracy here.
You were running in an election for Congress in the fall of 1941. Pearl Harbor
came in December, 1941. Presumably, you made up your mind that you were going
B: I did.
P: You enlisted on March 13, 1942.
B: I did, and the reason for that delay was that I had clients who had business in my
[law] office. I had Mr. Vandiver, who had large holdings here. His father had
purchased a lot of land.
P: Who is Vandiver?
B: His son, I think, became president of the University of Texas. He was a prominent
man. He did not actually live here, but he had a lot of property here. He left these
property matters in my hands. I had them in my hands to handle. I gave them to
Chester Bedell, a prominent Jacksonville lawyer and city councilman. When I quit,
I asked Chester to do that for me until he went into the service himself. He handled
that. There were other things I had to complete. Mostly probate type things. I had
things I just could not walk away from.
P: How did you go about withdrawing from the race?
B: I announced it. I announced right away that I was going to quit. My feeling was
that the war would not be very long, so I really was not making a tremendous
sacrifice. I was a young man at that period in my life, and did not have a wife. I
felt that my country needed me. I needed to help my country.
P: I understand that. You were in your early thirties then. You were born in 1910.
We were talking about 1941. So you were thirty-one years old when Pearl Harbor
B: Yes. A lot of people thought I was too young to be in politics.
P: I know. But not too young to go into service.
P: But too young maybe to go into Congress. Now you announced that you were going
to withdraw from the race. The election was in November. Pearl Harbor was the
B: What are you saying? I had already announced that I was running. I was running
for an election in 1942.
P: Yes, but you were already in the service in spring of 1942.
B: Yes. I had planned to be elected into Congress in the ongoing congressional race
which started in 1941 and would end in 1942. That was the race I was in.
P: You were going to run for a full year?
B: Oh yes. I did it the same way when I came out of the service. Anybody who
thought you can be elected to Congress in less than a year, particularly in that kind
of district, was mistaken. Mind you, my district went way out to Cedar Key, up to
Madison, and to Perry, the rural areas.
P: What did you do? You made a public announcement, you sent letters and
statements to the press so that the people would know you were withdrawing from
the race because of the military emergency?
B: I do not know to what extent I made such a formal gesture. I may not have thought,
at that point in my life, that I necessarily would even come back from the war. I was
not really planning anything.
P: I am saying you threw your hat formally into the ring, rather than informally just
talked about it.
B: Yes. I did formally announce that I was running.
P: You were in the race.
B: I was interviewed. I did draw up a statement and submit it to the media, who
printed it. More important, I actually campaigned for months in 1941..
P: And you had two real live opponents, Cary and Price.
B: Absolutely. Both good men. Although I thought I would still be elected. Largely
because I thought I had vision of things that I thought should be done, and I was not
sure that they did or that they would express them. Some people had vision, but
they were not willing to express it. About the racial matters I have already referred
to, you have to have vision for that kind of thing, that mankind should be more
P: Were you even thinking that positively, in the early 1940s, about the Brown decision
[Brown v. Board of Education, 1954], that was not made until the middle 1950s?
B: Absolutely. I felt it was unconscionable, the things that people had to go through
just because their skin was black.
P: Even the courts did not rule, until 1944, that the white primary system was
B: That just struck me as being in every way contrary to what America stood for. So
I had that burning feeling within me, which I had to express with considerable care
in an area where it was assumed that these very negative attitudes about race were
necessary. The negative attitudes existed because of an apprehension that black
people were, firstly, incompetent to carry on in government, and secondly, would
be very negative if they ever got there.
P: Let me jump ahead for just a moment. The question may be out of chronological
order here, [but relevant here] since you were talking about the race situation. After
1954, when the courts ruled in the Brown decision about integration, I did not know
of you standing forth at that moment as a strong, vocal person in favor of it [the
Brown decision]. I do not know how you would have lasted in Florida politics if
you had done that. It would have been [political] suicide.
B: I have often said that there were two votes I had cast as a congressman that I was
least happy about. One was the Bay of Tonkin Resolution. [An action by the US
Congress in 1964 that was used by LBJ as the chief constitutional authorization for
the escalation of US military involvement in the Vietnam War. Passed the Senate
88-2, the House 466-0.] If I had voted against it I would have been totally alone.
I would not have had one other person with me. The other was the 1964 Civil
Rights Bill. Now intellectually, I excused myself on some improprieties in the 1964
law. In voting against it, I said, "Why should the federal government tell a person
who has created a hotel for black people that he now is going to have to compete
with other hotels and be run out of business, perhaps, after making that big
investment. What they ought to do is justify that somehow. There ought to be some
recompense coming to the people whose business is wiped out by that sociological
change." That was how I intellectualized the thing myself.
But in my heart, I felt that this was an opportunity that must be met. The next year,
either I had become more courageous or not so picayunish about details. They had
the Civil Rights Bill which had to do with voting rights on the floor. I voted for that
bill, feeling that it could be the end of my career. I do not know that anybody else
from the South who voted for it survived it. There were not very many people from
the South who voted for it. A lot of people were defeated because of that bill. I
voted for it anyway, and I am glad I did.
I want to tell you an interesting little story about that. I had the responsibility of
doing things which people call "pork" today, things that the local communities were
interested in, but were not of the high-level type of things we have been talking
about. One of those things was the barge canal, the Cross Florida Barge canal.
One night, I was sitting down at supper in the kitchen with my wife, three children,
and my mother. The telephone was right above my right shoulder. It rang. I picked
it up. The caller said, "This is Lyndon Johnson." I said, "Well fine. We are at
supper." He said, "Well I want to talk to you." The implication of what he said to
me was, "I will be for your canal if you will vote for the 1965 Civil Rights Bill." That
was the implication of what he said. I have chuckled about this a lot. In fact I once
said to him, "It is kind of a dumb thing to do, to call me in my home when I am
eating supper, with my mother, wife, and children sitting around listening to me
talking with the president of the United States about trading a canal for a vote on
civil rights." This shows the political side of me. I wanted the canal because that
was what my district asked me to do. I was also going to vote for the Civil Rights
Bill, but I did not want to tell him that, because if I told him I was going to vote for
the Civil Rights Bill, he probably would have turned down the canal. I did not want
P: You wanted that canal.
B: So I wanted to leave the impression with him that he was making a real deal. Here
I was doing this in front of my mother, God bless her, who did not like that
approach to political life. Neither did I. That was an interesting thing that
happened in my life.
I did not really deceive him. As a matter of fact, I think Lyndon Johnson liked that
kind of operation more than he liked anything else in political life. He loved
trading, compromising, and he liked the challenge of the thing. He would have
thought "challenge" was a good word. He liked the challenge of dividing things up
the way he thought they ought to be divided up. He would much rather have to fight
for something in which he wound up the victor than to find out the person he was
talking to was already for it. That was a real victory for him.
P: Charlie, I want to get back now to the chronology that we are following here. I want
to talk now about your military service which I know was a very major episode in
your life, if we could call it an "episode." You enlisted in the infantry March 13,
1942. Let me start up by asking why the infantry?
B: Well I really thought this through. As a matter of fact, I was offered a commission
in the navy, which astonished a lot of people. I was not offered a commission in the
P: Even with all of your background, college and all?
B: I really did not apply for a commission. I guess I had not applied for one in the
navy because it was offered to me. They said I could do it. I just came to the
conclusion that I was going into this war because it was my duty as an American
citizen, of my age, unencumbered by a family, to be in this war. When you talk
about duty, then you do not slice it up and see which was more pleasant for yourself.
The easiest way to understand and fulfill this duty was to be a dough-boy. Of course
I was really not a professional soldier at that point in my life, having had a very anti-
compulsory ROTC outlook.
P: I was going to say, you were not very enthusiastic when you were exposed to the
military before, and now you have become a patriot. Of course there was a war on.
B: I never considered what I was doing at the University of Florida in opposition to
compulsory ROTC as being anti-American. I just felt it was a question of freedom.
I did not see why people should be compelled to be soldiers, if this was not needed.
I did not think it was needed, therefore I was opposed to having compulsory ROTC.
I guess there was a little bit of this feeling on my part that I like to run with the
I liked to be at the cutting edge of decision. I liked to make dangerous decisions,
not too dangerous, but reasonably dangerous. I guess that has been true all my life,
otherwise I would never have sat down to eat lunch with a black congressman as I
did. I did not know that was going to get all the publicity it got, but I did not
anticipate that conduct as something I should not do.
P: So you elected infantry rather than another branch?
B: I elected infantry because any ordinary guy got into war that way.
P: And you went in as a private.
B: I went in as a private. I soon became a PFC [private, first class], then corporal, then
a staff sergeant, and went to OCS [officer candidate school] and became an officer.
P: Where did you go for basic training?
B: Basic training was at Camp Claiborne [Louisiana].
P: Were you drafted or volunteered?
B: I volunteered. I was not capable of being drafted because I was in the state
legislature. As long as I stayed in the legislature, I was not draftable.
P: Did you enlist in Camp Blanding and then go out to Claiborne?
B: It was Claiborne I went to. I was first sworn in at the Jacksonville Post Office
building where I later had a congressional office. I enlisted and did my basic
training at Claiborne. I did not really consider myself much of a military man. I was
surprised when I went up to the rank of staff sergeant pretty quickly. The problem
I had all the way through my military career was that even though I was not gung
ho for cutting people's throats, at the same time I was not gung ho about sitting
behind a desk during a war. With a doctor's degree in law, experience in being in
the legislature, and a candidate for Congress, with all that known, the problem I had
was that it was very difficult for me to find my way to be a platoon leader, which I
sought and which is a very vulnerable spot in the infantry.
P: You could have gotten into judge advocates office?
B: I am sure I could have. In fact, I had to fight that. I guess the most touching thing
that happened to me in my entire military career was one time when the
commanding general of my division wanted me to be his aide-de-camp. When he
asked me to do that, I said, "Well can I think about it?" He said, "I can order you.
What is the problem?" I said, "The problem is the brothers that I have picked up
in the military service in my platoon. I have got thirty-two men. They are like
brothers." Well, word spread about that. So the whole platoon went down to see
him, and asked him not to take me.
P: Not to take you?
B: Yes. I was grateful for that. So I stayed on with them as a soldier, even though I
never was a very good soldier, but I tried. They knew I was trying. We had a real
brotherhood. What they did is my best medal.
P: Well you went from Claiborne to where? Try to sketch out your progress before you
B: From Claiborne I went to OCS at Columbus, Georgia.
P: I see.
B: There was doubt whether I would become an officer or not. Although I made good
grades and was reasonably intelligent, I was terrible about close order drill.
Coordination was one of those things that were not really with me. I guess that was
one reason my platoon loved me, because I was not perfect and did not claim to be.
So I was very marginal in getting out of OCS. I thought I was not going to make it.
I went before the board twice. You do not normally go before the board at all. I
was questioned; I had officer material in me except in some respects, primarily
because I was not good at close order drill.
Finally, my very dear friend helped me graduate from OCS. I did not arrange this.
Several other mutual friends at Fourth Corps headquarters also requested me to be
assigned there. This friend was Mack Crenshaw, a former law associate who is the
father of Judge Crenshaw and of state senator Ander Crenshaw. And Wally Joplin
from Lake City was another friend at headquarters. They were high up in the
Fourth Corps and wanted me there. I did not ask for it. They asked for me to be
assigned to headquarters. When I got out of OCS, they asked for me to be assigned
there. I did not arrange this at all. It was their doing. That turned the mind of the
board. The OCS board members said, "Well, if they want Bennett on the Fourth
Corps headquarters staff, why not?"
P: This was still the infantry?
B: Oh yes, this was still infantry.
P: You were in the infantry throughout the war.
B: Yes. It was infantry, but at that point in time it was high level. I was an assistant
G-2, an intelligence officer, and also in CIC, which is something most people did not
know existed. It was the Counter-Intelligence Corps. I was in that as well. Anyway
I went to the Fourth Corps headquarters, and the unit moved out west to Oregon.
P: Oregon? Fort Lewis?
B: Yes, we went to Fort Lewis. In Fort Lewis, I was sitting behind a desk as assistant
G2 of the Corps. I said, "I gave up a race for United States Congress to sit behind
this desk. This is kind of dumb. I am supposed to be fighting for my country. I do
not have any great qualities that make me a good G2. However, I think I could
make a fair platoon leader."
So I went to the commanding general, Griswald, and I said, "General I came into
war to fight a war. I feel overcome by the bureaucracy with which I am surrounded.
I do not feel I am doing anything except occupying a space, space to which there may
be a rank attached in the future. I am not looking for rank. I am looking to serve."
He said, "I understand how you feel. Where do you want to go?" I said, "I would
like to go as fast as I can to the outfit that is going overseas." He said, "The only
one I have going overseas is getting ready to fight in Africa. They are down in
Needles, California, in the Mojave Desert, training to fight in Africa." I said, "Okay.
That is fine. I will go." So he sent me there.
Before that training was over, the war was over in Africa. So then he sent the whole
unit, including me, to Hawaii to train to fight in the jungle, to fight first of all in New
Guinea, then in the Philippines. So I trained there in Hawaii on the island of Kauai.
I then went to New Guinea and fought in New Guinea. From New Guinea we went
up through the China Sea to the Philippines. I got there about the same time
General Douglas McArthur did, in the early months of 1945.
My outfit captured Baguio, which was the summer capital of the Philippines. Manila
was so hot, and so tepid that the bureaucracy liked to go to Baguio in the mountains.
That was the summer capital. So we captured Baguio. On the way there, for
combat on the way to Baguio, I was awarded the Silver Star.
P: Now, when you were in New Guinea, you were actually involved in jungle fighting
B: Yes, that is correct.
P: Do you have a date when you received the Silver Star?
B: That was for a combat unit in the Philippines. The date was April 18, 1945.
P: All right. What did jungle fighting in New Guinea consist of? I can see the jungle
in my mind's eye.
B: The jungle in my mind, after I came back, was probably the same as yours, with a
few additional details. For example, the water table where we were in New Guinea
was about three inches below the surface. If you stood long enough in one spot, the
spot would become a well. There was very little dry land where we were, which
made it really easy to get water to take a bath, although not a hot bath. Anyway,
you could get a bath easily. In places where we got the water from down
underground, we made holes in gasoline containers for airplane fuel and took
showers underneath them [the containers]. Combat there was mostly on patrols. We
would go [on patrols]. We got to know where the Japanese were; then we would try
to develop a broader perimeter by destroying them or running them away.
P: Were you in actual combat at this point?
B: Yes, I was.
P: So it is better for me not to ask you whether you shot anybody or not?
B: Well I did. I do not like talking about that very much. Combat in New Guinea was
unique. The countryside was quite different. The cliffs in New Guinea were 14,000
and 15,000 feet high. The waterfalls falling from such distances were really
spectacular. The birds in New Guinea, which one saw on patrol, were exquisite
birds. There were probably more birds of paradise on New Guinea than anywhere
else in the world.
P: It is amazing they would still have survived there with all the fighting going on.
B: I think a man would have to be pretty much a chicken to kill one of those beautiful
birds. The native people did not even kill them. They said they kill them
occasionally to get the feathers off them, but they did not eat them. The natives ate
mostly vegetables and insects. Insects grew very large in New Guinea. One time I
came in and found an insect in my bed that was thirteen inches long.
P: Ooh. [Laughter].
B: I drew pictures of the fauna and flora. In New Guinea I experienced many of the
same things that were expressed in the Red Badge of Courage . There was a
lot of delay, waiting, and frustration. So I wrote to my mother, who was a good
painter, and said, "Send me some color materials, and I will paint you some pictures
of birds and things like that." And I did, I think I produced about 100, most of
them of bugs, fish, or birds. There were two or three landscapes.
That experience too came to an end. There were tangential incidents too that were
different. We did some unloading and warehousing of stuff on a little island called
Wakde, a little island off the coast of New Guinea. But mostly our action consisted
of going out and trying to push the perimeters further out so that the Japanese would
be more confined.
P: What about this guerilla fighting in Luzon? You went from New Guinea to the
B: We went up from New Guinea through the China Sea to Luzon, a large island of
the Philippine archipelago. We captured Baguio. When we captured Baguio, my
gritty nature, or my revolutionary ideas, made me become critical of some of the
things that were happening with the military in the Philippines. I asked my company
commander to go with me to the commanding general in that area and try to make
changes. There were some local things in my own company that I did not like, and
I expressed my concerns to the commanding general.
P: Charlie, when you left New Guinea and went to the Philippines, was New Guinea
then already secure for the American side? Had the Japanese been defeated there?
B: No, there were a lot of Japanese still there. Thousands of them, and some of them
very close to us. Many Japanese and many Americans were being killed. Some of
them would be positioned a few hundred yards away.
P: But New Guinea was American? This was allied territory?
B: I would say we were in effective control if that is what you mean.
P: How far were the Philippines from New Guinea? Was this several days' sail? It was
B: I think it took us three or four days to get there.
P: So it is a good piece.
B: The ships we were on had great big metal barriers to protect against the pirates of
the China Sea. This was a surprise to me. The ship I sailed on was not an ordinary
military boat. It was a ship that had iron rods at every entrance, specifically installed
to keep pirates in the China Sea from attacking the ship.
P: There were pirates in the middle of the wartime period?
B: That was what the rods were for. I am not saying it made sense, but I am saying
that was the truth. On that journey I read the Red Badge of Courage, which I think
was written in Jacksonville. It was a marvelous book, one of the great military books
of all time.
P: Stephen Crane [1871-1900, American author, journalist, poet].
B: That is right. It was a very impressive book. It was so impressive because it
candidly told the life of a soldier. He had the courage to say what a lot of people
do not say. That was that some people experience a lot of ennui, boredom,
B: Loneliness is an excellent word. That was a word I used in a memorandum I wrote
back to my family, which I called Coconuts and Combat Too, a little unpublished
book. Anyway, after Baguio I had these differences with my commanding officer.
He said, "Maybe this company is not big enough for both of us." I said, "Okay.
What do you have in mind?" He said, "The guerillas here in northern Luzon want
an American officer to be with them."
P: We are now talking about a Philippine outfit numbering 1,000 guerilla fighters?
B: That is right. He said to me, "You can be it." I said, "Give me the jeep so I can get
there." He gave me a jeep. I went to that guerilla outfit and fought with that
guerilla outfit for some months.
P: Now these guerillas were native Filipinos? They opposed the Japanese who had
occupied the Philippines and they were trying to resecure their land.
B: That is right. The guerillas were living off the land. The land had been occupied
by the Japanese.
P: Were there other white officers present?
B: Not in my outfit.
P: Where were you getting the guns, ammunition, and supplies?
B: Back from my home company which was separately situated on some bay. They
were not in combat at that point.
P: But the Japanese were still ensconced on the Philippines?
B: Oh yes.
P: So it was not easy to get those needed supplies in there?
B: Our route to the supplies was not too awkward. Our route to the combat edges of
our outfit were difficult. Not knowing exactly where the Japanese were, it was not
unusual for us to encounter them and get ambushed. That is why they gave me the
Silver Star, because of such an ambush. We were ambushed in getting ammunition
to the guerillas.
P: I have here that you started as a private. You moved through the ranks and became
a noncommissioned officer, a sergeant.
B: Staff sergeant, in fact, a little higher rank.
P: From there you went to Officer Candidate School and you came out as a captain.
B: No, I came out as a second lieutenant.
P: Second lieutenant, then a first lieutenant, and then a captain?
B: The highest rank that I had on active duty was that of first lieutenant. They had a
system in World War II, that if you had high efficiency ratings and you had been first
lieutenant for a certain period of time, you would be made a captain on discharge
from service in the war. I was made a captain while I was in the hospital at the end
of my career. I never served as a captain on active duty.
P: I see. You left the service January 13, 1947, as a captain.
B: That is right. That title was given to me as I retired. I was retired as a captain.
P: What were some of the perils that you went through in the Philippines? First of all,
were you the only American officer working with the guerillas?
B: Yes, I was the only American officer with these guerillas, about 1,000 of them.
P: Did your group have Filipino officers?
B: I had Filipino officers with me who had higher rank than I did. I think one of them
was a full colonel.
P: But you were in charge of the operation?
B: That is correct in a shared way. I did it in the sense of sharing. I was an American
and he was a Filipino, and I acted as if we were basically buddies.
P: Was there active warfare going on in Luzon at the time?
B: Oh yes.
P: Guns and bullets?
B: Yes, we were involved in continuous combat. We did mostly patrols. Sometimes
there was an onslaught by a larger number.
P: I know you have never been there, but did this approximate Vietnam as it was
described to us in the early 1970s? It was jungle warfare?
B: Vietnam had so many describe it, and they all saw it from different angles. The
tragedy of Vietnam was a multiple tragedy. One thing that did not happen in World
War II, that did happen in Vietnam, was killing civilians.
P: A lot of civilians.
B: Nobody in World War II would have expected to be freed without court-martial, if
he had shot a civilian, as in My Lai. It was to the contrary in Vietnam; that was one
difference. Another difference was the presence of drugs, about which we cannot
be too righteous today. We have not conquered drugs, even today when we have no
other major problems. People are killing themselves and killing society in our
country, today, when we have no excuse. The people in Vietnam had to contend
with boredom, terror, and all kinds of perils pushing at them, things that were bigger
than they were. Drug availability was perhaps even understandable. It is not
understandable how people today, people who are almost guaranteed a living wage
and have great opportunities for medication, could turn to drugs and ruin their lives
and trash our country. We should not be too critical of the soldiers who laid down
lives for us in Vietnam and also maybe gave in to some things they should not have
given in to, when we in peace times have numerically been much more destructive
But in World War II, those temptations were not there. In fact the only temptation
I had in the way of narcotics was when my platoon thought I could be a better guy
to get along with, so they got me a pipe and tobacco for it. Every once in a while,
the PX [post exchange] would come around and offer a pipe, a Kodak [camera], or
something like that. They had this pipe there, and my people said, "Bennett, you
would be a better man if you smoked a pipe." So I got the pipe and enjoyed it.
P: Charlie, you were in service for five years. You went in in March 1942. You got
out in January 1947. Five long years. You went in with all of this great enthusiasm,
a sense of patriotism, and wanted to do the thing you felt you should do as an
American citizen. When you left the service in January 1947, did you leave with any
regrets? Or did you feel you had achieved what you had hoped to achieve?
B: I guess I felt, firstly, I was leaving my second mother. The army had become a
mother to me; that was one thing I felt. I loved my association with people I knew
in combat, and people I knew in the hospital. And here I was leaving that "home."
I was now starting off on a new challenge in my life. I felt like I had done my duty.
I did not feel I was a hero. I do not feel today that I was ever really a hero. I think
I had good aspirations for my country, which were detached from what would
necessarily be good for me. I thought maybe it would be better for me if I had not
gone into the military. Many people did just that, stayed out of service. A lot of
new people in Congress got elected at that time. I will not name names, but a lot
of them did well in Congress even if they did not see service in World War II. I do
not feel badly about that.
P: You felt it was something you had to do.
P: Now, you came out as a much-decorated soldier.
B: I have a Silver Star, which is a high decoration, and I have a Bronze Star.
P: The Silver Star was given for which action?
B: It was given for a patrol action, of which I was the leader, with a mission of getting
ammunition to the front lines near Baguio.
P: What about the Bronze Star?
B: The Bronze Star was for combat operations in New Guinea.
P: What about the Combat Infantry Badge?
B: Well that was an overall badge, which was given to people who fought in combat in
the infantry. That was not given for a particular incident.
P: Then there was the Philippine Legion of Honor and Gold Cross for bravery in
B: That was basically for the same action as the Silver Star was. They gave me that
P: Why would you have gotten the French Legion of Honor?
B: Why did I get it?
P: Why would you have received it, I wonder, since you were not active in the
B: What happened there was that in 1976, France wanted to make a gesture to the
United States to mark the 200th anniversary of our independence. They brought a
French battleship to Jacksonville. At Fort Caroline the French ambassador pinned
this medal on me. They, the French, did so with the background of my military
service of World War II and the books I had written about the French seeding
freedom in America. They thought that the Legion of Honor was an appropriate
way to acknowledge somebody who fought for freedom in the Pacific. They debated
it a while. They debated giving me something for the writing of French history
connected with Jacksonville. In fact, they talked to me about it. They said there
were two awards, they were thinking of giving me one or the other, either the Legion
of Honor or whatever the other one was.
P: So the French Legion of Honor was a ceremonial thing. All the others were as a
result of combat and service.
B: To some extent, the French decoration was ceremonial, and to some extent it was
for combat for freedom in the Pacific. The dual purpose can be determined by the
reading of the statement they made. I do not think it the statement has ever been
printed, but it was taken on video somewhere. That reference to military activity was
there. They did ask me which I would prefer. I said, "I prefer one that I have
heard of rather than one I have not heard of." The other one that they talked about
giving me had to do with books that I had written about French history in America.
Certainly the decoration was given in recognition of the bicentennial of the United
States in 1976 and recognized Fort Caroline, which played a role in the history I had
written about the French in America. Both the decoration and the location where
it was given seemed to be appropriate. I, of course, was delighted that they did so.
P: Charlie, let us talk about the polio attack which came in the Philippines and which
had an impact on both of your legs. Start at the beginning of that. How did that
come on? Did you just wake up one morning not feeling well?
B: I have wondered myself how I caught polio, because nobody was quite sure. There
was a certain analogy between me and Franklin Roosevelt. In the first place, we
were about the same age when we got it. He was mature and in his thirties
and so was I. He also had some exercise involved and he was very tired physically.
He had been putting out a fire if I remember correctly. Then he went swimming.
Well, I had come off a patrol, just beaten down. And I was very tired and went
swimming to clean up.
P: But you were feeling all right health-wise?
B: I was in a perfectly healthy condition, but I was very thin. I weighed less than 130
pounds, which was about the same weight as Andrew Jackson when he was in
combat. He was six foot one, however, and I was only five foot eleven. Anyway,
I was skinny, very tired and very hot.
P: This was a late afternoon?
B: Yes. After patrol was over, I went swimming in a river to take a bath. I was
sweating and I wanted to get cool. There were dead Japs in the stream. There was
no way to stop that. They were all up and down the stream for miles. We did not
bury very many of the enemy. We buried our own, but we did not bury the enemy.
I was in that stream, and I thought there was a possibility I caught polio then.
P: But on the other hand you were not feeling badly while you were swimming.
B: Not at that point, no. In the days preceding this, a young fellow of about nine or
ten years of age, a child of one of the guerillas, brought me some papayas and stuff.
He had done this before. He died during the same period when I was getting sick.
He died, and he died of polio, at least everyone thought he did. If he had polio he
could have given it to me, which is very likely, because polio was highly
communicable, particularly in the first two weeks.
The lad's name was Pablo Guilardo. It was very likely that contact with Pablo
caused my polio. The sensation I had was that I felt I was floating in space. It is
what my grandmother would have called biliousness. In other words, a kind of
dizziness attached to my digestive system.
P: Did you get this feeling after you were swimming in the river?
B: Not immediately. It was a day or two later. Not immediately. I buried this young
P: This child.
B: We buried him maybe two days before I felt affected. So when I felt strange, in that
way, I communicated with my commanding officer. The American commanding
officer thought I ought to go to the hospital, or at least be inspected by a doctor.
I thought I had probably caught something in New Guinea. New Guinea was loaded
with bugs, dirt, and of course there were a lot of dead Japs everywhere. I felt I
had probably caught something. He said, "Come on back, and we will get a doctor
to see you." He got a doctor. I did not have a fever. The doctor said, "You just
better lay in bed until you feel better." Well, I lay in bed. The next morning I got
up, and found I could not stand anymore. I could not coordinate my legs or my
P: You had slept all right during the night?
B: Yes, I slept okay. I forgot to tell you another symptom, but I will skip it. On July
4, 1945 I went to a GI hospital. By then I was totally lacking in ability to stand,
walk, feed myself, even go to the bathroom.
P: You could talk though?
B: I could talk.
P: And mentally there was no problem?
B: None at all.
P: Had you or the doctors already diagnosed this child who died as a polio victim?
B: No. He never had a doctor. There were no doctors available.
P: It was just something that you surmised later on.
B: I wondered how I got it. Originally I thought it was because of swimming in the cold
after being very hot on the patrol. Later on I was with other people who had polio
and thought of that little boy who died. I would guess twenty-five to thirty of the
guerillas died of polio. That is another thing. I was not in close contact with them.
I was with them, but I was in a command situation, in close contact mostly with the
top flight guerillas.
P: So in July  you were transferred to a hospital.
B: I was kept there for a couple of weeks, and then flown to Rome, Georgia. I said all
along, "I want to go to a hospital which knows something about polio. With the
millions of young men in the service, there must be some place that collected people
who had polio."
P: At this point you knew that you had polio?
B: Oh yes.
P: They had diagnosed it over there?
B: They did.
P: By American doctors in the Philippines?
B: Yes, and I was treated that way, as if I had polio. Nobody had any doubt about that
from that point on.
P: Because of the lack of your ability to stand or move and so on.
B: That is right. They also took a spinal tap. They microscopically discovered it as
well. Then they flew me to Rome, Georgia.
P: From the Philippines, from Manila?
B: First I went to San Francisco. I flew by way of Wake Island.
P: From the Philippines to Wake Island?
B: At Wake Island I was notified that the bomb was dropped on Japan. Then they flew
me to Rome, Georgia. I said, "Is this hospital prepared to take care of a polio
patient? I am a polio patient." They said, "We would really like to take care of you,
lieutenant, but we have never had a polio patient." I said, "Will you call the surgeon
general or somebody and see if I can be moved to a hospital which can?" They said,
"No, that is not something we can do." I said, "Well I want to call my United States
senator, and see if he can arrange it."
So I called Pepper, but Pepper was in Europe at that time. So I called United States
Senator [Charles O.] Andrews [senator from Florida 1936-1946] and told him my
situation. He said, "Charlie do not worry about it." Now, his son Charlie Andrews
had gone to the University of Florida when I did.
P: Yes. You were in Rome, Georgia at this time?
B: Charlie Andrews's father, Senator Charles Andrews said, "Charlie do not worry about
it. There will be a plane on the campus of that hospital tomorrow to pick you up
and take you somewhere where they know something about polio." That was exactly
what happened. He flew a plane to that hospital in Rome, Georgia. This plane flew
me from there to Hot Springs, Arkansas, where they had a magnificent specialized
hospital. They called it the Army-Navy Hospital. It was dedicated to immobility
difficulties, mostly polio.
P: When were you stricken?
B: I think it was about the first or second day of July, 1945.
P: The bomb has exploded sometime not very much later.
B: I think I knew about the bomb on Wake Island. I had been flown there. My guess
was that was when it happened.
P: The bomb exploded in August [6 & 9, 1945].
B: I had an interesting conversation.
P: They did not move you that quickly then.
B: No because I was so contagious. They did not want me to be floating around among
P: I see. So they hospitalized you first in the Philippines, then Wake Island, and then
San Francisco. Did you stay in San Francisco or were you just transferred and
B: Just transferred.
P: To Rome and then from Rome you went to Hot Springs. You were in the hospital
all that time until you were released from service?
B: Yes. Almost two years. I was in the hospital almost two years. I was really very-
well hit. If you saw my picture, I do not have a picture here, you would see about
the only thing that was not hit [affected] was my head.
P: I was going to say, you were vastly improved over what you were when you were first
stricken, when you could not move your arms and legs.
B: Yes, I was never able to stand, even with braces, until almost a year [had passed].
I had a great recovery in the hospital.
P: Yes. Your arms and hands are very strong even now. You must have been in even
better shape in the 1940s and 1950s.
B: Well, when I was discharged from the hospital, I had learned one thing. I saw a lot
of people die, my roommates. I saw a lot of people who did not die, and continued
to live. I saw people who were afflicted by polio or something else, where the polio
or something else had become the dominant part of their life.
This never happened to me, because I had been a candidate for Congress before the
war, and thought I was going to be elected. When I came back after the war, I said,
"I am now every bit as good a man as I was when I went into the service. Just
because I am physically handicapped to some degree, how could that keep me from
being a United States congressman?" I came to the conclusion that it my physical
handicap could not restrict me.
P: Your ambition obviously had not been hampered in any way.
B: Not at all. I had a goal. As I saw these guys in my room, from the war and so forth,
many of whom did not have a goal, I realized I was lucky in that. I had something
I wanted to do. They did not. Their disability was going to rule them. It was going
to be the most prominent thing in their life. A disability has never been a prominent
part of my life.
P: They were going to be permanent cripples?
B: Absolutely. It was not necessarily their fault. It could be the loving kindness of
those around them. I had that loving kindness, but my parents and others were kind
enough to let me do what I could do. Just like you have been kind enough here
today. I have gotten up and down from this chair, several times; you have seen me
and you have been kind enough to let me do it myself, which is really quite
important. As I grow older, and I am now eighty-four, I have this ongoing,
increasing disability every day. Not only every day but every hour, in every part of
my life, I face the fact that I may not get out of this chair that I have gotten into.
This is an ongoing thing. But it is the kindness of people who allow me to struggle
that helps me best. If I had given up, I would wind up being just a guy in a bed.
That is all I would be. Now I am a teacher here at Jacksonville University, a teacher
at Georgetown University, and at George Washington, in Washington D.C., and at
the Army Staff College. I am really living a full life.
P: I was going to say, you were not able to get around on your legs very much, but
there was nothing wrong with your mind or your mouth in terms of being able to talk
and think. You have then returned to Jacksonville, right?
P: You have returned to [your] law practice?
B: Sort of; I almost immediately decided to run, to pick up the race for Congress.
Then, my office was in the Florida Theater Building.
P: You were back in Jacksonville in 1947?
B: [Russell W.] Russ Cummings [Jacksonville attorney] was my partner. I should not
say partner, because each of us had an individual practice in the Florida Theater
Building. I was laying my groundwork to run for Congress just like I was before.
I survived and I was able to put on the campaign.
P: Now was this a successful law practice that you were entering into?
B: I was now paying my keep pretty well. I do not think at any time prior to World
War II, I really totally paid for my keep. I think my parents assisted me to such an
extent that I really was dependent on them. However, I did pay bonds to them.
P: You did what?
B: I made bonds out to them every month.
P: I see. You told me that.
B: They never cashed.
P: When did you get married?
B: I got married in 1953.
P: I want to get the personal [information] in here.
B: I went to Congress before I got married.
P: Okay, that is what I wanted to do. I wanted to get you into the chronological mode.
You came back to Jacksonville in January 1947, determined that you were going to
pick up your life as you had left it?
B: As a lawyer and potential statesman.
P: As a lawyer and potential public statesman. [Laughter] You reenter politics very
quickly, in 1947?
B: I certainly was planning to do so. I did not announce or anything like that. I do not
know what my announcement day was, but it was months later. I had to get a base
in being a lawyer again, and that was not easy. People now talk a lot about other
wars. When I came home, I had a hard time finding a place to sit down as a lawyer.
Mr. Percy Clarkson, a lawyer located across from the Florida Theater, was a well-
to-do lawyer, and he knew I was looking for a desk. He said, "You can use my desk
in the morning. I use it only in the afternoon." So he gave me that desk. He was
a great patriot to do that because I was able to start practicing law.
Eventually there came an opening of a space in the Florida Theater building and I
moved there. When I came back, you could not hire space. There was no footage
for you to enter the practice of law; there were no buildings available, much less
bands out to welcome you home. I did not feel rejected; I certainly did not feel
overlooked like some Vietnam veterans did. At the end of World War II, when I
came home, that was all over. Maybe they had a great celebration here in August
P: The excitement was gone?
B: Yes, and I was just a guy who was over in a war. It was not an event which was
P: Your parents met you at the airport and that was it.
B: Yes. I did not feel bad about it. Luckily for me, I had something to do that was
bigger than me. I had a vision of me being in Congress, being a great guy, and doing
great things for my country. That was so exciting that the fact that there was not a
band out there to welcome me home was a non-sequitur.
P: It was Congress, not the governorship, or anything else that you were interested in?
B: That is right.
P: You wanted national service and you wanted it to be in Washington?
B: The opportunity had really not come to me to go for the governorship, but I thought
about it several times. If it had been really opportune, I might have done it, just to
change the pace a little bit. I spent forty-four years in one job, which is a long time.
Although that kind of ran in the family. For fifty years my father was a weatherman.
For fifty-four years my grandmother was a teacher. We served for long periods of
P: Charlie, when were you elected? What year?
B: In 1948.
P: Okay. So you moved very rapidly after you get back. You get yourself an office.
You began to establish a law practice. Presumably business was beginning to pick
up for you.
B: Mr. Leon Forbes, who was the Duval County tax assessor, gave me the greatest
assistance. I must mention him, because for the first time in my life I had a retainer.
Imagine having a retainer! I think it was $100 a month. It was $100 a month, which
I knew I would have until he died. I think he was being patriotic. He thought,
"Here is Charlie coming back dead broke, and very ambitious. He does not have any
income." So he made me the attorney for the tax assessor. Wow!
P: Did you not get anything from the military as a result of your illness? It was service-
B: Oh yes. I got a disability paycheck and I should not forget that. That was
substantial. I did draw that until I was elected to Congress. When I was elected to
Congress I was still entitled to it, but I returned it to the government.
P: Of course, that was one of the things that you became notorious for. Turning things
back and not taking raises and so forth. Very anti-American and unpatriotic, and
setting a very bad example. [Laughter]
B: There is one wonderful thing about it that is about to happen, which is that the
southern-most battlefield of the American Revolution, namely Thomas Creek, is
about to become a part of the Timucuan Preserve. I think most of the money for
this project is coming from me, about one-half million dollars. About half of that
one-half million, about $250,000 is from money which belongs to me, that was left
over from campaigns. It does belong to me and I could spend it. The other half
came from things that I have turned back to the government for many, many years,
since I have been in Congress. There was my veteran's pension, pay raises, and so
P: Whatever sums you did not need?
B: I guess that was basically it, monies that I felt I really did not need. My wife and
children were allowing me to do this. I am facing the same thing right now as I
become elderly. I am giving away money.
P: You call a thirty-nine year old man elderly? [Laughter]
B: Anyway, my children are very kind about that. When [George] Smathers [US
Senator from Florida, 1951-1969] gave all that money to the University of Florida,
I came to the banquet in his honor. I thanked not only George, but his family,
because that was quite a decision in their case involving a lot of money.
In the case of my children, it involves a few thousand dollars. Generally, people do
not have even that kind of money. But in the case of Smathers, I guess, it was
millions. I thanked his family, and I thanked my own family for allowing me to do
this. They have never resisted any gift I have decided to make. I am making this
very big one to the Timucuan Preserve because I do not know of anybody else who
will do it. I sort of feel like the Lord made it possible for me to do.
When I created the Fort Caroline National Memorial, the law I caused to be passed
imposed upon me the responsibility of raising the money from private sources. It
took then $40,000 to acquire about 100 acres of very historic land. To my surprise,
I was able to pay most of that money myself, even though my income as a
congressman, when I started off in congress, was only $10,000 a year. I borrowed
some from Bernard Baruch [1870-1965, American businessman, statesman, adviser
to several US presidents, special adviser on war mobilization, WWII], who is a world-
known national figure. I went to see him in New York. He said, "Well, I will lend
you any amount of money you want, but I will not give you any."
P: I want to get some of the personal things in here. Who are you married to?
B: I am married to Jean Fay (that was her maiden name) Bennett.
P: Where does the Dorothy come in?
B: Oh that is right. She does have a Dorothy. She was born in an era when everybody
was "Sally Jane." She was supposed to be called Dorothy Jean. Nobody ever called
her that. They called her Jean.
P: Fay was the family name?
B: That is correct. Irish.
P: Where is she from?
B: She is from Springfield, Missouri. Once you know her, you will realize she is a very
down to earth, uncomplicated, beautiful lady, directed by Jesus Christ.
P: What about her birth date?
B: It was August 13th. What about it?
P: I just wondered. Will you give me the rest of the date? I just want it for the record.
P: Tell me a little bit about the Fay family.
B: I arrived at marrying her under very unusual circumstances. I urged Eisenhower to
run for president as a Democrat, but he turned out to be a Republican. So Harry
Truman and I were dangling in the wind with Adlai Stevenson [1900-1965, American
diplomat, politician, lost to Eisenhower in presidential races 1952, 1956; UN
ambassador, 1961-1965]. I was a Democrat, so I supported Adlai Stevenson. I really
loved Eisenhower. He was like an uncle to me, and I was very fond of him. I hardly
knew Adlai Stevenson. He was an intellectual anyway. I am far from an intellectual.
Anyway that gave me ulcers. I went to St. Vincent's Hospital [in Jacksonville], and
I could not turn off the stream of mail and people coming to see me.
P: I have never heard of that, blaming Adlai Stevenson for your ulcers. [Laughter].
B: Well he caused them. At St. Vincent's they said, "You have to go somewhere where
you are not in contact with your daily business." I said, "I do not know where that
would be." They said, "Well, go to an island." I said, "Okay. I will go to Nassau."
That was the closest and cheapest I could go. I went there.
Previous to that I talked to Harry [W.] Stewart, who was a Palm Beach lawyer
[senior partner of Stewart, Call, Byrd] from the University of Florida. He told me
there was somebody he wanted me to marry. He actually asked me how I was
getting along. I said, "I am getting along but I am very, very lonely. I have got a
wonderful mother, and a great dad. Here I am in my late thirties and I really should
be out on my own and I should be married." But now, I already had $10,000 [yearly]
as a congressman. I was not affluent, but I could live on it. I went to the islands.
On the way down, I stopped off to see Harry. He arranged a date for me and Jean.
P: She was visiting there?
B: No, she lived in Palm Beach. He was the lawyer for her family. Her family was
reasonably well-to-do. On coming back from the islands, I stopped off again to see
her. I did not propose to her, but I said, "I would like you to meet my mother,"
which I guess was a pretty good hint. After I got back to Jacksonville, I asked her
to come up to visit my mother. My daddy had died in the meantime. I proposed
to her the day before she left to go back to Palm Beach. So in three dates, we
P: You are a fast operator. [Laughter]
B: Then we were married about six months later.
B: We were married in Palm Beach.
P: What is the marriage date?
B: April 6, 1953.
P: Do not forget it.
B: Okay, I will not. I never have forgotten it.
P: Tell me about the Fay family, about her family.
B: Well, their ideals and objectives are very similar to my own. Prior to me marrying
Jean, I would say they were basically Republican and very conservative. Springfield,
Missouri is where they were from, and Springfield is a very conservative town. In
fact that was one of the big disappointments my father-in-law had with me. I really
did not want to correspond with him about political views because I was afraid it
would create a problem. So I asked him not to. He said, "It is a disappointment for
me not to do that. But I will not do it." So he did not. He saw everything through
a certain kind of glasses. They were his glasses. If I had had his glasses, I would
have felt the same way he did about things. But I saw through a different set of
glasses, and therefore the things that I aspired to were many times things that he
simply adjusted to. Vice versa, the same way.
P: Where did Jean go to school?
B: She went to the University of Colorado.
P: She is not a Gator?
B: No. She is not a Gator. She also went to the University of Missouri. She never did
get her degree. She decided to be a nurse. She went to the University of Missouri
which has a great nursing school.
P: Was she working when you got married?
B: Well, I doubt if she got any money for it. I think she was just a volunteer. She had
money, but she was a church volunteer.
P: What I would like you to do is give me the names of your children, the full names
of your children, and their birth dates.
B: Gosh, I am not sure I can do that.
P: Of course you can.
B: I will try.
P: Your oldest?
B: The oldest one was [born on] October 21, 1941. That is Bruce.
P: Wait a minute. It is not 1941 if you get married in the 1950s.
B: I know. I adopted him.
P: Okay, I see.
B: He is an adopted stepson. He is my wife's child, but I adopted him.
P: So I understand she had a first marriage.
B: Yes she did.
B: Then the next child born to us was Charles Jr. He was born in 1955.
P: Is he the child you lost?
B: He is the child I lost. The next one after him was James. He was born on May 17,
P: Is Lucinda next?
B: Lucinda Fay Bennett is her name. She was born thirty-two years ago on May 7.
P: So her birthday was just around the corner. She was born in 1963. Now we named
three boys, did we not, and one girl? Four children.
B: Yes, right.
P: Does James have a middle name?
B: Forrest. He is named after his Grandfather Fay. He is also named after my father
James. My father was Walter James Bennett. He took the James from that name,
and he took the Forrest from Forrest Fay.
P: Lucinda's middle name is Fay. So she used her mother's family name?
B: That is right. Lucinda was an ancient name in the family.
P: I think you said that Jim is a high school teacher?
P: In Connecticut?
B: Yes. A great school system.
P: And Bruce lives in Palm Beach?
B: He works for a water company which is owned by Perrier.
P: And Lucinda lives in Washington?
B: She does.
P: Okay. That is all we need in terms of personal stuff for the record. Let us go back
to Congress; I want to get you through the election and so on. Who are you
running against in 1948?
B: I am running against the incumbent, Emory Price.
P: He is the man who ran and was elected in 1942 then?
P: He is a Jacksonville man.
B: That first race I only won by 1,800 votes. The next time, I remember, I won by
something like 26,000 votes. This was just two years later.
P: Let us get the 1948 campaign out of the way first. Was he the only candidate? He
was running as a Democrat too.
B: It seems to me that I wound up having as an opponent a Republican lady, Camille
[Marion] Geneau [MA in Government, former Duval County public school teacher].
Wait, I am not sure whether she was [my opponent in] that election or the next
election. I would have beaten Price in the primary.
P: What is her name?
B: Camille Geneau. There was an interesting story about me and Geneau you might
want to hear. We were supposed to debate. She was a Republican. Anyway, I was
campaigning before the Rotary Club in Gainesville. We were to have a joint debate,
she and I, before the Rotary Club. I arrived on time. She arrived very late. I spoke
first and when my allotted time ran out, I said, "I can keep on talking if you want
me to keep on talking, and filling space." They wanted me to do that, so I did it.
I shouted in a jocular vein, "She is not likely to be here anyway because I found out
where she parked her car, and I jiggled her motor around so that she will never start
it." That was just a made-up joke. But here she came in late. I do not know how
she knew it, she probably had heard what I said. Anyway she said that somebody
had jiggled up her car, so she was late. [Laughter]
That actually happened to me. She was an interesting gal. She ran little paragraphs,
cute little ads. She called them the Geneau letters. She would ask me some
irritating question in each one of these little letters. They appeared every other day
in the newspaper.
P: So the Republicans were fielding a slate of candidates in 1948?
B: Yes. It was either 1948 or 1950. I am inclined to think it was 1948.
P: This was the year, in 1948, that Fuller Warren won the governorship. It was a very
hectic campaign. Now his opponent for the governorship [in the 1948 Florida
Democratic primary] was Dan McCarty. Did you know Dan also?
B: Oh, a dear friend, yes. When did Dan serve?
P: Dan was elected the next time [in 1952]. Fuller beats him [in 1948]. Governors then
could only serve one term. Dan came in at the end of Fuller Warren's
administration, in 1952.
B: I appreciate you telling me that. I loved Dan McCarty, anybody would love him.
He was a great man. I greatly admired Fuller Warren as well. I owe both of them.
P: I was going to say both of them were close personal friends.
B: Very. So therefore I was in an awkward position. Not as awkward in this as you
think, because they were realistic politicians. They knew I was running myself.
Really a politician is a fool if he gets actively involved in somebody else's race.
P: A third one running in that campaign for governor was William A. Shands from
B: Oh yes. He was a good friend. In fact, such a good friend that I told him one time,
"Senator Shands, you know you are defeating yourself. Nobody can run on a policy
of raising taxes. That is what you are doing. That is a real loser."
P: But Fuller Warren was also running on the sales tax you remember. We got a sales
tax for the first time in Florida.
B: Yes. My memory is that Shands ran for a tax that Fuller Warren opposed. When
Fuller Warren was elected, he saw that he could not run the government without it.
That is my memory. I may be wrong.
P: Of course the fence law came in, and he did run on that.
B: I was very much in favor of a fence law. In fact, I introduced it when I was in the
state legislature. The legislature finally passed a silly little law that said a cow ought