Interview with Matthew Fair, August 1, 1975

Material Information

Interview with Matthew Fair, August 1, 1975
Fair, Matthew ( Interviewee )
Button, James ( Interviewer )
Publication Date:


Subjects / Keywords:
African Americans -- Florida
African Americans ( fast )
Joel Buchanan Archive of African American Oral History ( local )
Oral histories ( lcgft )


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

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Source Institution:
Samuel Proctor Oral History Program, Department of History, University of Florida
Holding Location:
This interview is part of the 'Florida Blacks' collection of interviews held by the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program of the Department of History at the University of Florida
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FB 39A Page 1

SUB: Matthew Fair

INT: Button Project

PLACE: Deland


NOV. 25, 1980

F: can give you short answers.

I: Don't make them that short, we want a long tape. Okay, what year did you first

register to vote?

F: A1948.

I: And what year were you first eligible?

F: 1948

I: How were you registered, by local registration?

F: Local, by local registration.

I: And did the local registrars ever turn you down?

F: No,

I: Have voter registration drives been held in the district which you hold office?

F: Not really. We get out and sort of campaign and tell, ask people to vote. But

no drives.

I: So like the League of Women Voters, or NAACP, nothing like that's been active


F: No.

I: Well I can skip about the next four questions. Are there any things which prevent

blacks today from registering here?

F: No,

I: I've got a list here, and what I'd like you to do is kind of go over it verbally

and you can check it off if you'd like to. They'reAthings which have prevented

blacks in other areas .

FB 39A 2

F: This is the same .

I: It should be question six, yes. It's the same as the one that's on here.

F: Now what do you want me to do with it?

I: I want you to go over it verbally so I can get it on tape, but also check it off

for me.

F: Are you going to ask me this, and you want me to answer it, that way?

I: Yes.

F: Okay.

I: The first one, economic dependence on whites, would you consider that, how

important that is?

F: Not important. Oh wait a minute now. You mean, are you speaking .

I: As far as things that prevent blacks from registering to vote, in your area.

F: No, not important.

I: Fear of physical violence from whites?
F: Not important. Do I need to check this for you while I'm doing this?

I: I tell you, you're giving me such explicit answers. The only reason we have

people do that is 'cause sometimes they get carried away and .
F: Want to get .

r: So I get confused. Complicated registration forms?

F: No.

I: Poor registration hours?

F: No.

I: Registration not held often enough?

F: No. She'll open the books any time we ask her.

I: Okay, what about reregistration, if you don't vote within two years you have to

reregister. Are there any problems th4uriJ 44i L t?

F: That's no problem there. We have a pretty good, we have a pretty good working

relationship. If we find that there are problems, then we usually can go and talk

FB 39A 3

F: with Mrs. Odom, and she will do anything.

I: Okay. Indifference of blacks to voting?

F: No, no difference at all.

I: Are there any districts drawn here or is it at large?

F: At large. Where are you now?

I: I'm down on number seven.

F: All right.

I: And this pertains particularly to your campaign. Were you able to campaign freely?

F: Very freely, yes.

I: Very freely. Could you tell us more about that?

F: All we had to do was just pick up a permit ,A(nd the permit is where you can put

a loudspeaker on your car, on your vehicle, and you just go around and talk all

over the town. In fact2 I had, I had "e more 0Y white people working with me

than I had blacks and we had the placards. Had I thought I would have brought

one Nice-looking placards, and donations came in.

We had to, I think this is great for you to know- we turned money back. People

were sending checks in, and they came in to late. Like twenty-five dollars and

fifty dollars, and we just had to send the money back. This is how the money

came in.

I: That's interesting. There's another question on here. It asks about how much
money you needed to campaign, Did you spend a lot of money?

F: Yes, quite a bit.

I: Were you handicapped? Apparently not if you were sending money back.

F: No, no, no, not at all.

I: I was really surprised at the amount of money that came in when people found that

I was running. And most of it came from the white families. They were just happy

to give me money.

I: Can you give me some idea how much you spent on the campaign? Just kind of round

FB 39A 4

I: figures.

F: I had a campaign manager, and I didn't have to worry about the finance at all.
I: See this is quite different than it was in St. Augustine, and I just did an

interview there last week. And the person running for city commission there

spent $300 and just didn't, did very little campaigning really.

F: I suppose I spent, and I don't want you to hold me to this because my campaign
manager has the records, but I guess around $1500, between $1,500 or $2,000.
I: That's more what I would have expected, yeah.

F: I'm sure because we had the little cards, we had placards, we had radio announcements,

we had TV announcements, everything. Everything was wide open. And the good

part about it is that I ran against a hometown, both of us were hometown boys.
And I ran against this hometown boy, and I just, I had no problems with finance.

I; Incredible, that's good. Let me look through these. Okay, we're down to about

number nine. What made you run for office, how did you decide?

F: I had some friends helping me to decide, both black and white friends were helping

me) And we figured we needed it t was time for us to get a black official

in city government. And of course I've been working with city governmental guess,

ten years. I've been working with many of the civic organizations, and let me

back up. There was one commissioner who resigned because of health or something,
and most of the, my supporters felt that, that we would, there was a good chance

for a black person to be put in this, just put in the position, and after this

we didn't get this opportunity, we just decided that we would have someone run

rather than have them appoint someone. And then after we started with this we

were happier because it really gave us experience. We got that experience in

running campaigns and everything else. Then to win rather than being appointed

made us feel better. But the whole thing was fantastic.

I: Well would you think then that, was that, was it mostly your own decision or,

look down at number three which is selected by a group of concerned citizens.
Which, was it more your decision or .?

FB 39A 5

F: I think it was about we wanted a black official, but at the same time I

knew that I was busy, and I didn't think that I would be the one. And there were

about three of us, two of us really that we felt would be capable, qualified.

I: Well when you say we, you mean blacks and whites I ____ ?

F: Blacks and whites. Don't forget, we are, I'm speaking in terms of black and

whites here. It's not just one side at all. And we had a little get-together,

and we just decided that I was the first one to run. And then too, I was better

known in the community than the other person that was thinking of running along,

no friction at all. But we just decided that I was better known being the

assistant principal and having taught agriculture, and working with so many of

the groups. And I think the thing that helped too is the fact that in 1970 I won

the award, the Man of the Year, Man of the Year Award from the Human Relations

Council, see. So this helped, all of the publicity that I had received, and people

knew me, so uh .

I: So you were in a good position to run?

F: Right. Even when I was teaching agriculture I was in a good position. So by

being principal didn't help that much. People knew me anyway. So it was no


I: Okay, to which political organization do you belong?

F: Democrat.

I: And tell me something about the issues in your campaign, the important issues.

F: Well one was ... you mean the reason that we felt that uh, or you mean my platform?

I: Well the platform really.

F: Huh, I really C I guess I need to sort of get some of my papers

I had to bring this back. But one was to help bring more black people to city

government. Another was to better the working relationship with the people in

Deland. We were really having no racial problems so I couldn't dwell on that too

much. We didn't have many racial problems at all. But I just figured that I could

FB 39A 6

F: do a better job in city government.

I: Were these issues the problems that were facing blacks?

F: Yes, but they were not, you know the big problems. And one of them was to see if

we could work with getting more blacks into, with jobs in city government and

county government you see. Now that was, I think that was the main issueA ana

it wasn't done, and we've been successful. It wasn't done with force, and right

now we're at the point where we're looking for some black people to put in

like this.
I: Okay, we're already on the third section. Got another list, you can do the same

thing we did to the other one. You've already answered the first one, you were

elected at large right?

F: Um hum.

I: How many people are in the city?

F: In the city we must have about 14,000. Twenty-five per cent of these people ,

no, we'll go down the list if you want to.

I: Okay. Okay, what percentage inhei district or in the city is black?

F: Okay about twenty-five per cent of these people are black. Let me say something
here. This is the first time I've seen so many blacks turn out/Atbe voting. I've

never seen as many blacks the time that I was running as before.

I: What was the percentage, do you know?

F: I don't remember, but it was good. It was very, very good.

I: Twenty-five per cent, okay, well that's the next question. Do you know how many,

do you know what percentage of the blacks here are registered to vote?

F: I would say about seventy-five per cent, between sixty and seventy-five percent of

the people in the city, black people are registered to vote. It's fairly decent.

I: Is that comparable to white registration?

F: No I think you have a little more whites.

I: I've given you the wrong list here. It comes on the next page, so I'm running down

these questions. You've already said you got votes from white soyou've really

FB 39A 7

I: answered that. Do you know what percentage it was?

F: I don't. But it had to have been more. Now you're thinking in terms of percentage .

I: Of your total vote?

F: Had to have been about, I guess about seventy-five per cent of them voted for me,

4ou0sV we don't have enough negroes, blacks to elect any person, one person to .

I: Yeah, Deland is the first place that has had such a small population of blacks

than any of the officials I've talked to. Did you have just that one opponent or

you haven't said, just one?

F: Just one.

I: And he was a white man?

F: Yes, white local. In fact he was in high school the same time I was in high school.

We're about the same age. His father owns a clothing store here in Deland, so his

family, in fact his family is the third generation here in Deland, and my family is

the second generation in Deland. So it was just about equal. His friends are my

friends, white. In fact Richard Martin who's the, what is he District Supervisor

of Florida Power, is a friend of his and he's also a friend of mine. Richard was his

campaign manager, and Dave was my campaign manager, and both of them

are friends. So it was, it was a clean race. Nothing derogatory was said about

the two of us. No the other race was a little gooky, but our race was very clean.

And we shook hands and talked with each other A/nd Jfe offered to work with 0 on

any committee and everything else. It was very, very clean. I've gained a lot of


I: It was a real race too because it was two equal candidates going up.

F: I had his daughter under my supervision the same time that I'm running, and his

daughter was right here in school. (laughter)

I: Oh wow. Do you remember what your vote total was, what percentage you got of the

total vote?

F: No, I don't remember.

I: Well, we know it was over fifty. Okay, the next part deals with black officials and

FB 39A 8

I: how they serve the black people that they represent. So could you tell me something

about how you help blacks in the district?

F: By getting information direct, see I will go to the black people, and I will say

"This is what we have here, this is the position we have open. These are the

positions we need blacks in. We need you to meet with this group." And I insist

on putting them on committee, when I say insist I don't mean from the city point

of view, I mean from the black people point of view. See I will go and say, "We

need you on this committee, and will you please come in and work with us." I think

this is important because for years black people have felt that this was a white

mans world. I'm going to use terms that I wouldn't use ordinarily. See, this is

the white man's world, so the white man is going to do whatever he want to do. And

I can go to them and say, "No this is not the white man's world, this is our world,

and the more we get you in city government, the more we can put you to work on

committees, then the more you can learn about these things."

I: Once you were elected were they, were they ready to go onto the committees, and

to help you and to support you after you were elected?

F: Oh, it's, it's beautiful now. I was just talking with a young, a couple of young

men about three weeks ago, and I was telling this one fellow that we needed him to

work in city government and he says, "Well, I'm ready to even take a low paying job

in the city government so that I can start working in the city." Another fellow

says, "Well I'm back home, and I want you to groom me." I always said that I at

my age I really, I have this nine year-old boy, and I need to spend more time with

him. And I was talking with this fellow and he said, "Well I'm ready, start

grooming me so that I can take your position." And they know that there is no pay

in it, but at the same time they say that they are ready to accept positions that we


I: It's just incredible how these answers differ from place to place.

F: Oh, it's fantastic. We still have some people who, and I say blacks as well as

FB 39A 9

F: whites who feel that things are going to happen anyway. We're going to do, and they

can't say now that the white man's going to do what he wants to do. What they have

to say now is that city government is going to do what they want to do. And when

they say that I'm always there saying, "No, that's not so. If you think so, get in

here and work with us, and you will find that it's not, that we're going to do what

we want, we're going to do what you want us to do. The only thing, we're here in

the meetings and we're doing what we think is right. But if you're there in the

meetings,/Athet you can criticize us, and you can help us make changes in there."

So it works beautiful, beautifully.

I: Is there anything you can think of that prevented you from doing a better job,

particularly with regards to blacks?

F: I really, my greatest hangup is that, and I'm sure this is, we have this in other
cities, _e need someone who has worked in the city, and who can communicate with

the people to be able to go back to these people, but they either need to be paid,

on a salary, or thejneed some type of income so that they could spend hours and

hours schooling these people and telling them what's going on. I don't have the

time because I have an eight-hour job. Now this is the greatest problem, and I've

said1gosh if I live to retire this is what I really plan on doing. Az/oing from

house to house telling these people what they can do to better their situation here.

Now this, that's my greatest hangup.

I: Just kind of communication.

F: Yes,very much so.

I: Now we can go down the list. Um, these are some things that have prevented people

in other areas from doing the job they might otherwise do, and if you could go

down 'em like you did before, and just rate them as to how important they were in

your job. The first one is office has no real authority?

F: Office has, I'd say very important. We do have authority

I: Yu do have authority?

F: Yes.

FB 39A 10

I: Well then it's not important as far as preventing things.

F: All right, yes, all right.

I: Outvoted by white officials? Was your relationship with the white officials when

you got on there was great?

F: And it's better now. I'm sort of hesitant because I think somehow I'm persuasive,

and I don't mean to be that way. I don't want to persuade people to go home with

an issue that .- But nine times out of ten

everybody vote, the five of us vote right along with me.

I: Uh huh, was that what you expected when you went into office?

F: Yes, I sort of expected this because I think I've been a leader in the community

since I came back from the service. And I think people just KidcUpf/ trust me. I

don't know how this happened. Here at school it's the same way. They just trust

me. They come to me for advice. I know the last, I don't remember the issue, brut

at the city meeting, at the city commission meeting before the last one we had an

issue, and just one out of, I guess one out of, maybe this is the third time I've

been voted down, and this is my third year. It's not, and I don't feel that they're

doing this because I am black. I think they're doing this because they don't go

along with it. So I would say that there's no problem there at all.

I: Your relationship's at a real even keel? F: Y UhAW

I: How about revenue, was there enough available epote#r ) to do the things you

wanted to do?

F: There was, we were able to do most of the things.

I: So that really wasn't an important problem?

F: No, I don't think so. Number four is, I think I could put a yes there, I was very

unfamiliar with the administrative duties here.

I: So fairly important, very important?

F: I would say fairly important. Can we cut that a minute?

I: Sure.

(Break in tape)

FB 39A 11

I: What about, did it take you long to familiarize yourself, and then did things go


F: It didn't take long, because I did some research, and I'm still, I don't think I'm

quite as familiar as I would like to be, but I'm familiar enough that I can go

along. So it didn't take that long.

I: Number five, lack of cooperation from whites?

F: Forget it. [ %LkeJ

I: That's amazing, it's great. And would you say the same to cooperation from blacks?

F: Yes, um hum.

I: How about state officials?

F: Fantastic. (chuckle)

I: Okay, we'll take you in St. Augustine.

F: You know what happened, let me tell you, I shouldn't tell you this, I better not

tell you this one .

I: Tell me, the tape recorder's on .

F: No, if you promise you won't .

I: I tell you I'll cut it off.

(Stop in tape)

I: Where were we here, we were at state officials?

F: Yeah, that's right. And number eight, it's about the same way.

I: Do you have much contact with federal officials?

F: I've always had pretty good contact, because we have so many of the small companies

here and usually they come to me, and they ask me questions about the companies, whether
they're practicing fair labor laws in hiring and things like that, so it's been

pretty good.

I: Let's see I can skip number twenty-three and twenty-four because you've answered

those. What services did you provide blacks in Deland that they didn't have before

FB 39A 12

I: you took office.

F: Right now it's just (Ah T{ 6 communication. I go to many of the churches

and I speak to them there, and tell them what we're doing, so it's really just

communication as far as services are concerned. I think I'm co6mntltnj-i more

about city government and city work than before.

I: So they really have a representative?

F: Right. And I think most of them feel that way.

I: Okay, we've got another list, and this, on this one we'd like you to rate your

effectiveness while you've been in office in these gftf6, in terms of benefits

for blacks.

F: Okay.

I: Police protection?

F: Good, it's uh/I can't say somewhat effective, it's effective because I .

I: Well not really how effective the protection is, but how effective you have been

in influencing it. You're kind of rating you're effectiveness.

F: Good, because I just demand Sh T'I Ie ___

I just told the city manager that b would have to hire two more blacks _oicerjy) 0

I: Nobody else is going to hear this interview.

F: Are you sure?

I: The only thing we would, well no, I'm not positive, I'll tell you what we'd like to
do, we want to have somebody transcribe these tapes, send it back to you with a

legal release and have you edit whatever you like out of it, and then put it on

file at the Florida library.
uo ice vev1
F: Okay, I've asked the city manager to hire two more black &oma We approved

three more positions and I asked that he hire three black police.

I: All right, then black people here are qualified for the positions.

F: Yes.

FB 39A 13

I: I know some of the places I've been, they've wanted to hire blacks, the officials

have wanted to put their people in the positions, but they haven't been able to

find somebody qualified.

F: -We've had that problem, but just recently we, we're sort of eliminating that

problem because we know some of the home boys who are away, are away, and they're

looking for positions back here in town so we have contact with people so it's not

quite that bad.

I: Okay, streets and roads?

F: Very effective.

I: What were the roads like in the black districts? What are the differences before

and after you took office?

F: I can't take credit for that because we've had pretty good roads all the time. Before

I was elected we had three or four of us who would go to city hall and just say

"We need these streets repaired, or either buildAin the black communityso we've had

pretty good streets there.
ya k"w,
I: If some of these areas don't really apply to your job as city commissioner thenAnot
ans ver.
effective. That's not aplica .- h- that's a reasonableA You know

you might not not be effective.

F: Okay.

I: Housing?

F: Housing, very effective. Welfare, city, we don't have welfare unless you're talking

about the welfare of the individual.

I: Well no, I think we're talking about, I guess what would be county welfare. State

monies that are handed down...

L: Yeah like nursing homes or food stamp funds, not really food stamps doesn't come

under it, but you know a food order for somebody

F: Very effective. I can just pick up...

I: You can pick up the phone, tell me more about that.

FB 39A 14

F: I can just pick up the phone, and I've done this, and I can say that there's this

family who needs some assistance ...

I: Okay, that's exactly what I'm talking about.

F: -Okay, that's good. Employment's the same way. Parks and recreation, fantastic.

Now when you get to water, sewage and garbage, I'm sort of hesitant there because

these are services that we offer anyway, and if there's a problem or someone is not

able to pay this then we usually, I can sort of fall back on some of the organizations

or something like that. And we work with organizations that help pay this for

some poor needy family or something. Would that be. .?

I: Sounds like a very cohesive community.

F: Yeah, it is. We, you would be surprised. Right now in the community we have one

of our largest glass and paint companies here in Deland sending people out to repair

and replace windows, paint up on homes.

I: Really..

F: See we have what we call HAND, home and neighborhood development, and this organization
consists of both black and white people, and we just go in the community and paint.

I: Is that a city organization?

F: No that's part of....

I: State, federal?

F: No, that's an organization that we organized. It stemmed from the Human Relations


L: _

F: Yes it's same principles, but we just organized here.

I: That's a national organization.

F: Well we just organized here in Deland. We found that there were run down homes,

and we wanted to do something about it, and we just organized as such. We have the

professors at the university working on it, and the wives work, daughters and sons

work on it and everything. Health and hospital, I would say very effective. If

there's someone who needs
(End of Side 1)

FB 39A 15

F: ...we'll talk about the bill later if I can go to some group or something and

we'll be able to work it out. Fire protection, no problem because it's an automatic.

If they live in the city they get fire protection. If they live in the county

then they do have a problem. Of course)I do work very close, I work very closely

with the fire department and police department, street department, I work close

with all of them. If I get criticism or complaints from the citizens then I'm

right on top of f r .

I: Education?

F: Education is fantastic. We have, now when I say we- I'm a part of so many groups


I: That's another question at the end of this.

F: ...I get mixed up. But we have organized in Deland what we call Evergreen. And

this is where we take, and we have sugar and spice, and we take, and this was

organized before I became commissioner now, we take these tots when they're small,

and some of them the parents bring in in their arms, and we have sugar and spice

where we put them there all day until the moms and dads go out and do a day's job,

and then they come back by and pick them up.

I: So it's like a city run .

F: But it's not.

I: It's not city run, it's just...

F: We did this. We had to sign a notes for buildings and things like this. And then

we have sugar and spice that's supported by/ solely by the citizens of Deland, and

it's fantastic. We get on the radio and say hey we need finance or tuition for three

or four kids, and we get it. So as far as education...


I: I know.

F: You know it'sAfantastic. And I'm not saying that because I'm a city official, I'm

saying that because if you get in the community and work, I was telling the little

FB 39A 16

F: girl that's working with NYC, and she's debating as to whether or not she could go

on and get her, no get her B.S. or just withdraw from school, and I said no, you

can be of more service if you will go on and get that B.S. degree because once you

start working with these people, then you will be able to help them, and this is

both black and whiteA It's just fantastic. I, my pride is the HUD, this is one

of the federal housing projects, and to see as many blacks or as many whites in this

project is fantastic, and we need about 200 more units. WE have 200...

I: How long has the housing project been active here?

F: I would say, I was one of the organizers on that too, I would say we've had it

built for about four or five years or something like that. Okay?

I:A federal funds, it's not something you've mentioned too much yet.

F: Well, we've been fortunate. We've, I think we've gotten our share of federal funds.

We're not dissatisfied at all, we wish we could get more, we could do more things,

but we've been fortunate.

I: Do these grants... how do they help black people, are they...?

F: Jobs and housing and things like this.

I: I don't guess you could give me some idea how much you've gotten?

F: No, I can't do that.

I: Okay, industry and retail stores in the area, I'm assuming you have quite a few.

Have you had any problems in hiring, and have you brought any more in since you've

been in office?

F: We've had just small problems with hiring, but I haven't been instrumental in

bringing any into the city. Now the Chamber of Commerce does all of this. And

it's very effective. I haven't worked with any of them. And we've had small

problems with hiring, but we usually get on the phone and ask for a conference,

and things workjpretty good. Here's one.... I[nb k into ei

I: We've talked a little bit about hiring. Were you able to see that blacks were

hired fairly in local government?

FB 39A 17

F: Yes.

I: Sort of answered that before. Do you want to say anything more about that?

F: Not really.

I: Has federal revenue sharing helped you out?

F: Yes, it's helped. And I said yes, and you asked me to explain. All right, it's

helped us to get many of the things that we wouldn't be able to get with tax

revenues when this is as far asgcity is concerned, because we, being a small city

we just don't have the finance. But when revenue sharing comes in then we think in

terms of places like getting an auditorium or providing places for the citizens

to meet. So that's the reason I say yes, it's helped.

I: Okay, have there been any protest, sit-ins, boycotts, riots during the last

twenty years?

F: Very seldom. I can remember one march, and it wasn't really a militant....

I: How long ago?

F: That's been years ago. Let me mention this, back in 1957-58, the black kids when

we were at separate schools, we were one of the first schools to have our black kids

march, and we had nothing to do with it, IhiB teachers had nothing to do with it, but

we were supporting them. We knew that this was the thing to do. Now we were, these

kids were the first in the state of Florida to march, and it was peaceful. No

windows broken.

I: That's a long time ago though.

F: Yes, that's right. No windows broken, no swearing or anything else. And I was

just a teacher.

I: That was like just after the Brown decision then.

F: That's right. And the students who organized this was working with some firm down

at the .So he was an organizer, and it was done

very effectively, very effectively.

I: So there's been nothing in Deland that's really sparked.

FB 39A 18

F: We usually meet if we get criticism or if we find that there, and since I've becomes

commissionermost of the time they will come to me, and I will channel them in the2

in the, on the right channel. See;I will just tell them that they need to go talk

with this person as a group, but we won't, we just don't have boycotts, we don't

have sit-ins. The one thing I can mention is just recently we had a KKK march

through Deland, and of course we had to give them a parade permit to parade on the

streets. And that was done orderly, and we had as many blacks out there watching

the parade as, and I think we had more blacks out than we had whites. And the

main reason was that we wanted to see who the supporters were, who these people

were that were marching. And it sort of gave us an idea. And believe it or not

we still, we found that there was one person who has a big firm here in Deland or

service station. And for a while the black people stopped trading, and now they

go back, and I think what they're doing, they're talking with him and trying to

find out why he felt that he should reorganize the KKK in this area. So, and there

it's no big thing. Of course we were invited, I was invited to the barbeque they


I: Are you kidding?

F: No I'm not. They invited the city commission, and I'm sure they knew that they had

a black commissioner on the commission. And believe it or not the kids, both black

kids and white kids here on the campus were concerned, and they were asking whether

or not I was going out to the barbeque, and they were telling me, Mr. Fair, you

know, you'better not go out there. They were concerned. That's the reason I say

it's beautiful here in Deland, because people are concerned about you and everybody

else. But it was no big thing about the you know parade. Once we explained to the

people that we had to let them have a permit, now some of them wanted to know how

we permit the Klans to march or to parade in town, and once we explained that they

couldn't hood their faces, this is a new law, and that we had to let them have a

parade permit, then they were satisfied.

FB 39A 19

I: Okay, that's the end of really the longest section. Could you give me your opinion

of Reubin Askew?

F: I knew that was coming. Who is Reubin Askew? I think he's fantastic, I think he's

done a good job. My wife was listening to a conferenceI believe, I didn't hear

this, and some white person wanted to know why he had given this black person a

job, do you remember what it was? I don't remember what it was.

I: No, I didn't hear the conference, but it was a supreme court position that he gave.

F: Yes I believe so. And he proceeded to explain to this person who asked hiz& question,
and they called him a nigger lover, and right there he says, "Yes, I love them."

And I think this was something good. He couldn't have said anything any better.

This was fantastic for him to say yes, I love them. And my wife said that everybody

just loved him, and there was nothing said. But I think he's a superb job. He's

doing as much for Florida as, I can't think of the Governor's name, what was his

name, some years ago... Collins. He's doing a fantastic job. Collins did a good

job you know. When they mentioned the fact that if the blacks would stay in their

places, and Collins says, "What place, they don't have a place. Their place is the

same as yours." So I don't know whether Askew picked up any of his opinions from

Collins but he's doing a good job.

I: Do you want to comment on any other state officials?

F: No. (chuckle) Now where are we, down to F?

I: Not quite. Tell me has it been, has it been worth the effort for you to run for

office and hold office here?

F: Has it been what now?

I: Worth your effort? We're on thirty-three.

F: Yes, sure. It puts my family on the spotbeing the first, and I've been the first

in so many things here in Deland,tht it sort of puts them on the spot.

I: Are they getting used to being on the spot, or is ?

F: Well not when you get threats. And for a while we, last year we were getting threats,

FB 39A 20

F: not from the blacks or not from the whites, but from an integrated group, and we,

I've never found out who it was but the police I think found out who it was, and

the kids had to be under surveillance.

I: Like physical threats?

F: Yes. Kids had to be under surveillance all the time, and uh,it, but other than

that)it's, we've been enjoyed it. My little girl has enjoyed it because I've said

to her, "Now look, as city commissioner you're going to have to remember that

you're, certain things that you wear, you wear your slacks, but you must dress neat,"

and she's learned. I said, "Now when we go to church," we're Catholics too, "when

we got to church, if we go on Sunday..." It's bad being a black Catholic and first

in everything and this, we had a joke with this at the uh, Bob Smith was the

executive secretary, and when I was running for the office he would always come up

to me, and we understood each other and he would say, "Matthew, no black one-eyed

Catholic is going to win this race." We would laugh, and those people who didn't,

the whites who didn't understand this, when he said this they would sort of ...

(chuckle). And after it was over I went up to Bob Smith who, and I said, "Hey Bob,

guess what happened? This black, one-eyed Catholic won." And we just laughed
everything. He was for me though, but he was formerly

a teacher here, and we knew each other real well, but as far as the position, the

only thing is that it keeps you on the spot. And I've enjoyed it, my kids have

said to me, "Well if we don't have another black that we can put, then Dad, you're

going to have to run again." And as long as the family's happy, I'm happy.

I: Sounds like they're behind you. Okay, we're on section F and it's very quick.

Type of office you hold? I have to have this on my machine.

F: City Commissioner.

I: Okay, date you were first elected?

F: I don't know, it's been three years ago, what was that? I don't keep up with it.

Let's see three years ago, this is '75, in '72.

FB 39A 21

I: Spring of '72?

F: Um hum. You'll have to call our secretary to get C.

I: Okay. Number of times you ran for office?

F: This is the first time.

I: Your age?

F: Right now I am forty-eight.

I: Occupation before the election?

F: Assistant principal.

I: Your education?

F: I think I haveAA, .

I: You think? (Laughter)

F: They're gonna think we're crazy on this. (laughter)

I: Salary received from elected position?

F: Salary! What do you think it is?

I: Okay, I gotta ask. Nothing?

F: I get twenty-one dollars a week.

I: Really?
F: Sure.

I: You're the first.

F: Isn't that a fantastic salary. You know what I do with it? I just tell them to

put it in a annuity or something, because it puts me in a different bracket if I

take it, see. Then I just have to pay more into taxes so I just tell them to ....

I: Were you active in the civil rights movement from '60 to '66?

F: I was active but I didn't believe in V, in the sit-ins and all f/i'tis but we

worked it our way. So I would say yes.

I: So you really didn't work with any organized groups kJ4KAQt11 ? you

didn't have y\1 0Y4 Jni c YO

F: Not M you know, from civil rights. We had our own group and we've always

FB 39A 22

F: been the aggressive type here. So before '60 to '66 we were moving on.

I: This is quite different thanljsome of the places I've interviewed. Are you an

official in your church?

F: Should I say this. I'm a lector in the church. That's Catholic Church, lector,

that's where you get up and you read, do you know what it is?

I: Mom probably does. She went to twelve years of Catholic schools.

L: True, but I don't really remember it.

F: She don't know what that is. That's where the, a first again.

I: Okay, okay.

F: That's where we, I have to get up and read the Bible and all of this to the ....

I: How do you spell that, I know I'm going to have to?

F: What, lector?

I: Uh huh.

F: L-E-C-T-O-R, I think.

I: Okay, well that's close enough. Now you said you're in a lot of organizations,

can you name a few.

F: Okay, here we go. Member of the Human Relations Council, um do you want me to.-..

I: Just a couple, the things that you're most active in.

F: All right, all right. Vice-commander of the American Legion, need any more?

I: Oh, one or two.

F: Member of the Knights of Columbus, you didn't get that one.

I: I'm looking at the pictures here on the other side.

F: Of my kids?

I: Uh huh. They're really cuties.

F: They've grown since then. All right, what else do you need? A member of the


I: That's good.

FB 39A 23

F: That's a first.

I: That's a first too?

F: Um, the Knights)l'm the first. So you can see why, Schuckle) y, nd it's no

problem at all. I make applications and there it is. The really ...

I: Is that because you're established in the community?

F: This is what I'm saying. You asked the question that I was going to either ask

or make a statement on. I'm wondering if--no it isn't, it isn't, because I've

taken other people up there and they're making membership too. So it's not, I

don't think it because I'm...

I: Well do you think it helps you to be first, like if the other person had gone up

to be first maybe they wouldn't have been....

F: I don't think so. I don't believe so.

I: Is it just a change of the times then?

F: I think my reputation is, and I don't mean to be bragging, but I think my reputation

in the city is of such nature that most people want the type person I am, and

please don't think that I'm bragging.

I: No, no, I'd like you to tell me exactly you know....

F: But I think most of the organizations nowadaysin Delandappreciates someone of my

nature working with them, I believe. Now that's the way I feel. So it makes it

easy for me to be a first because I think I'm just aggressive. And maybe I'm

not quite as aggressive as I should be. But that's the way I feel. I missed one2

the YMCA.

I: Okay. Do you know of any other black elected officials in your area?

F: In?

I: In this area, black elected officials?

F: In the city?

I: In the area.

F: Now when you say area we have Daytona.

FB 39A 24

I: Okay, I have two people in Daytona Beach and one person in Lake Helen, and I

think that's near here.

F: That's it then, that's it because there are none in Orange City, and there, I don't

think we have any in Seville, Seville, so that's about it.

I: Okay, thank you. One thing I need to get on tape# ye would like to transcribe

the tape, and we'd like to send it back to you, &A) it might be six months or a

year before you'd get it with a release on it and have you take off whatever parts

you wouldn't want on the record. And then we'd like to put it in the library at

the University of Florida for reference for other people.

F: Okay.

I: Okay, as far as our study goes, it's all going to be anonymous, this is sort of

a sideline, thing to put it in the Florida library.

F: All right, but you haven't even asked me my name.

I: I've got your name.

F: I know but it's not on there.

I: It'll be on it when I send it in. (laughter)

F: Okay.

I: Is that all right with you?

F: That's fine.

I: Okay.

(End of interview)