Interview with Jackie Canyon, October 12, 1975

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Interview with Jackie Canyon, October 12, 1975
Canyon, Jackie ( Interviewee )


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

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Source Institution:
University of Florida
Holding Location:
University of Florida
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Made available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial 4.0 International license:


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FB 73A

Subject: Jackie Caynon

Interviewer: "Button Project"

Place: Ft. Pierce



I: (Laughter) It's going around.

C: Yes. (Pause) I should [ 0W brou 1____. huh?

I: Yes, The following

questions are asked to find out how well the voting rights act

of 1965/ fCij3e blacks take part in Florida politics. What

year did you first register to vote?

C: ljt' vJovuld bC 19_

I: What year were you first eligible to vote?

C: Uh, to vote) tp {o V\lol ?

I: Uh huh.


I: How were you registered, were you registered by local registration board

or by federal examiner?

C: Uh, by local.

I: Did the local registrars ever turn you down when you applied to


C: f not after they passed the voting rights act, they never have no,

I: Have voter registration drives been held in the district in which

you held office?

C: \/', ( 44ic- i/_

I: Could you name some of the organizations that helped in those


FB 73A 2

C: Um, some of the women's clubs, and your o4 paucrf association.

(break in tape)

I: When were the voter registration drives held?

C: They ran on a special schedule, on different intervals, approximate
once a year, maybe SoCep V~cYf c\ Colv1e.

I: Were they successful?

C: Seems to be lately they havelt 9e?c imprlrotlio e-v/ryj
course they kinda, probably catching on pretty

well successful.

I: Are there any things that prevent blacks from registering to
vote in this district?

C: Well, no, just laziness.

I: k0 p lease rate how important you think each of the

following items are in preventing 4ew from registering ~fI Uof\T iVnloUArCCI.

Okay, economic dependence on whites, do you think that's very

important, fairly important, not important?

C: Economic dependence, I think that's very important.

I: Fear of physical violence from whites?
C: That's, physical violence is pretty much played out VY0 Vj*

I: Complicated registration forms?

C: Well, that's complicated, I think the, that the, the
education', -h(J Ck \1- Of 4-I had, you know, and a lot of them be

complicated where they're learning better now ih JeA i-YqfrOc\rdc
school and better education -cyrc Iro 1 0o complicated.

I: Poor registration hours?

C: Pardon?

I: Poor registration hours?

C: Poor registration hours?

FB 73A

I: Are 0" poor registration hours?

C: Hours?

I: Yes.

C: No, they, they have

you know, they have the time

I: Is registration held often enough?

C: preit- 1f4 1Q2rFw -

I: It there an indifference of blacks to voting?

C: Uh, you mean ?

I: is there an indifference? Do they feel

that their votes count?

C: Some of them don't, some of them, some of them ioCqc ..lkir that

they, some of them put out C 10 Ot ,; oi -,nd

I: The following questions are asked to gather information on the

election campaigns of black elected official in Florida. Were

you able to campaign freely?



I: Were you ever threatened when you were campaigning?

C: Never.

I: Were you 'handicapped by a lack of campaign money?

C: Everybody not racially, it was ('IM'i i

I: Why did you decide to run for office, was it your own decision

or did people in the COM1Urqtl'- 6tCoeY~,tifC /oL Yrun?

C: not a thing you don't do

anything about it, so

I: Which political organization do you belong?

FB 73A

C: Democrat.
I: What were the two, two or three most important issues on which

you campaigned?

C: There were ....
I: I'm afraid this may

C: is one of them, that was one
of the big ones, and then, just to improve things around the
city, L loiFOT minor things and I think that, I'm
\.'lh 3 ,1 il /
not a blackAVA complain and that don't ever try to do anything

about, so I thought instead of complaining, improve

something. cooperation from the
black and the white I'm just

for the blacks, you know ,Of T O O .t J particular
race. Let's say you're TOF -1he. a, city for everybody, and they

get ne- like that, cooperate. And I think that's the

way everybody should Cai L-o,o p o ~1'4Y1Aro cdi Pef-or nce .

I: DO) V? -i'miV#C I' S SU, ts -I,. \evrc A -" problems that were
facing black in your community?

C: What you say, what is the main problem?

I: Do you think the issues that were raised in your campaign are the
main problems that are facing blacks in the community?

C: Well now, the main thingsthey're complaining now aboutAthe utility

ilb if ao sr;-iff (ite ij-,taxes and all that kind of stuff, see. 1i fi't

raiSoc5 ath iS5ue ie ten years
still operating now (break in tape) in operation O iThf A committees

I'.: isO have anybody rV)
took the polls somebody in -Th&e'

actually felt suspicious about a lot of this stuff.

FB 73A 5

justified a lot of the time, but you know how it is if you

o001 ha, 'e representation,Anobody Com41

-4z> VOIY) K 0 UJY) CAiCuSigri =_ 3-
I: These questions are asked to determine some of the conditions which

have enabled blacks to win office in Florida.A/ ere you elected at

large or by district?

C: At large.

I: How many people are in your area?

C: In my area, oh, I'd say population.

I: What percentage of the population in this district is black?

C: Uh, I'd say a third in my district? -About a

third of the population.

I: Okay. About what per cent of the blacks of voting age in your

area are registered to vote?

C: Oh, I'd say about sixty per cent iofPs+ 4 1-

I: ,tA _^. about what percentage of these registered to vote

do you think actually vote?

C: I think about sixty per cent. Sometimes, you know,

sometimes about twenty per cent of them vote, twenty or twenty-

five Qerc CCil ,rcY d'k '

I: Do you think you got votes from whites?

C: Oh, definitely. oT ou ou~'K district, I get 4 6pt two

thirds of the vote.

I: Really?

C: Sometimes m I[ cr,',, aa. t_ born. and


I: In the election in which you won, how many opponents did you have?

C: I've had as high as five.

FB 73A

I: What percentage of the total vote did you get?

C: Oh, about, uh, eighty,Aseventy-five to eighty per cent.

I: These questions are asked to determine how well black officials

in Florida have been able to 4-aa*it-those they represent. In

what ways do you think yo'u have helped blacks in your district

by holding office?

c: In A AJ LS -Io-C -i7 cpCo

I: In what ways do you think you've helped blacks? c

C: _Tf 0)t they have proper representation in kC1rcA they

know what to, they're, they think they're getting a fair shake ,S-?P-

,4 e .i4 Before I got in there, there was maybe
about one or streets they_paved in the black section, now it's

about eight or ten and now they're paving on, gonna pave the

whole section. started out. All of it.

They want to do a whole city, but they have to start

my idea property owners
pay two thirds On each side street they pay

a third, the city pays

now they getting us federal revenue sharing, and different things

in the tax money a&j 4 q1_ 5 places they

don't even pay them not a nickle. Pave their own section of

streets, sidewalks, ca ,~ G, lights a /] They're really

getting a very, very good break, very good.

I: Do you feel that sometimes representing blacks that you also


C: But I don't only represent blacks, I dlV)('- -" ec Ao you

can't do anything like that, you have to represent the people.

I: I know, but I mean on particular issues, when you, you know, when

FB 73A

you're talking about a lack of proper street paving....
C: \)i~& ,Vj ytv IJ tb0Wo black, I'll say do it for

the city. See, that's when you, that's where they-really tighten

down on us, see df blacks get theirs paved, and I
had to pay for mine, and T'n \ y oof( o .

I: I've had officials tell me that a lot of times, where the i-ity
a.Y IIY the black areas, they're also in the poor white areas....

C: Sure. r

I: ....and trY a same issues/ they are representing
blacks, the black' community's ore zi they feel that the white
S .!;,I Cowvmi(nrpliee, YC
community, I 71 h00Y /J'i CA s-et4hee-. also in the same boat.
, /- h-- i'l Work just hkarJ
C: Vj/ICA iT COYCi A any one of their covniu ivhSA to correct it atb-

I: They'said that's how it usually turns out.

C: Definite, ten years, you know, the next time I'm going to do it

for two more years,.I may v-e fourteen years. , ut

you can't get in there if you say I'm just for one particular

I: At leastA ac voice now,Ait wasn't there before.
C: _ ?

I: At least you're a voice now, that wasn't there before.

C: That's right, and if you want to stay there, you've got to go
to the people, and if you're the minority, you can't 0 iCn W Y O $I
s gregate and t4en Z'v voVkJOko<\ o fY -4)Y b tc Oc( W_ Vest- YoIA cn'4}- 8o 4R. _-[.'
I: Please rate how important you think the following items are in
preventing you from doing a better job benefitting blacks. Do

you feel that your office has no real authority, is that very

important, fairly important, or not important?

FB 73A

C: As much as any, any other individuals. One dIecid3, three, three
I: Are you outvoted often by white officials?
C: Very seldom,T'J 4 mostly go along because I try to get to the
things right.
I: You know that's I6Ta V4114b ii told me in Jacksonville.
C: Yeah, if you don't do--- don't eve.r-want to get that
started, white against black. What the heck, you lose. Four
white and one black. You wouldn't get far there.

I: That's a big problem ,. in Jacksonville,' 0o '?lqa Oi *4iI6 49091
some of the black elected officials in Jacksonville want to get
done, they can't get done unless they make promises to do something
for some of the white officials, because they won't vote for
issues that are primarilyenefitting blacks un(fs 0i Ce 4He.ik'
geH'iVj Ome4iJ q i, vriu^ \
And that's a big problem in that area.
\Ok t(,n
C: v0ech, vJel see) ~ h la p ~lldause a problem like that

uhg}> \/LA 1( J I'm/going to /P do smtnng though

I: Pardon me?
W T. .IZ. Jo O50 a +h ^u'/e sc aO&V n
C: gtr45: comz mthinmg, yo_ got to do seme-ttag for me,
see, you know what I mean? you've L o -
If an issue comes up that is controversial, or anything comes up
that's something in the white section,Ayou know it's right, you

qote or But don't make no promise that I'm just working
then you'll come up with

I: I've also had some people tell me that, _'-V_1_ assurances
.tha bI jit,~( An w ituvm i U
that 4W, III 6 ot 4f C{A and when it comes time for the roll call,

FB 73A

they don't vote for who they say they're going to vote for all
that work and everything, the effort and everything is down the
C: Yes, yes, that, I don't like that, that's one thing I don't
commit myself. I tell them.I ae(J4lt -e A but1 don't know
lv) !,he'tJ "Vi' ZV
what l COnnVR 0 do.^ "What yu going to do tonight?"
I say, "Well, I don't know what/1i it all affects.' you people
come in with it and I don't know what I'm going to dogm,3l n'.
S ,,'.^-.p. feel certain ._ .M. 3 SO A come up)
different maybe..
I: I found out is a little bit more sophisticated
than most And they still have a very long way
to go, and it, r'CiC ( O'f 0 .;i very cut and dr though
they're not that way down there, and South Florida has come
a lot farther.
C: Oh,.yeah, they're really coming, they're really moving.
I: North Florida in many ways, is still a 'I o o4 44Z of 4 cef
oSvOH "J it's a very slow progress. The difficulties that
are encountered there are very, very hard to understand, you
C: You see that, the judge, he got a government position h6re
and I, boy, I know he's a veryX A400) O O O I don't mind backItJ C

1te) rlo0 U Uho2s c/I nlrht. I don't Sotnd A radical or militant .7
/j r h9 oh_ a mrak \,voJ i. and I went to the commission,
I said iow you know master F eOJ hCV ,
and some of the f-e(M 5k, V0oWA and some of them didn't. So _i Sd2

know.e7ftfh Ve/I, f'r 'ovj, a to'! J17c
Il I. C be doe-, J60C)eV
1 -f Him 5Y"ve o.- "'e ret p of'/;,sa peoplevele ctte<3;lWag,_ -you

FB 73A

I: Do you feel sometimes that there's not enough revenue available
for what you'd like to do?
C: Oh, I know there's not, pyo Cu4) akl.,15 eI- 'FOPIe7. /I e 'a
I: I don't think there's enough revenue available in my pocketbook
to do what I want to do.
I: Do you ever feel that you're unfamiliar with administrative duties?
C: That I do what?
I: That you are unfamiliar with administrative duties?
C: Oh, I'm pretty much familiar now, since having to start over,
some of (j F h t ( -l) o
I: feel a lack of cooperation from whites?
C: On some issues, I do, but that's natural, you know, it's very few.
I: Do you ever feel a lack of cooperation from blacks?
C: Well, no, they, they've been pretty fair. Actually, you
can't tell the difference between the two after you get to going
on with it. And it, it seems to me, you know, something that
just YOiro ,l 7I, fc don't make up the metey- until i t-
out how X/ov -eCl.
I: Do you ever feel a lack of cooperation from state officials or
from federal officials?
C: Cooperation from the state officials, yes, pretty good, L / cc{
federal, -fln ) )WhC we're getting a lot of federal revenue
sharing, and we do okay. That's just like you said a while ago,
you don't get all your either
You getApercentaget 0. i' bock. .
I: Has criticism or lack of support from the black community hindered
you in holding office, that is, do some blacks not cooperate with

FB 73A 11

you because they feel you are a token in government and have no
real authority?

C: Well, that's natural, 50Y116 ? I&W 1 s iU oe-Wi k a r '- O19t
Mt cooperate with They're just VeYt I1^ ul oja kmo,)p l?) 7 re
0W6 ( youo Vt i, Th 'ey a hu a (
vh you O!C U J'or y.A. n t cooperating.
I: Um), o you feel that white officials treat you differently from
other officials in that)Ayoufeel that some of them consider you
a spokesman for, and, for your community and that you can only
raise certain issues because you've black? Do they treat you
differently in that respect?

C: I, I don't raise the issue because I'm black, I'm just another
commissioner trying to do the things right, and, and I-
imagine that they going to treat me very differently, on account
I'm just a blad( See, but I, I had to
and ~yvy things they don't even pay attention, I'd-"tall it to
their attention, but just black all the

time, they'll say this guy don't care about anybody but blacks.
Everybody ,V-e you a hard way to go.
I: What services have you provided blacks in your district that
they didn't have before you took office?
C: Well, it's like I said,,they're holding a lot of offices in
city hall,6. C M tlA'J judicial and and
law enforcement, and things that they didn't have before. And
they got, actually fp do a lot of things that they don't,00

F U4i because they don't want to go to, any extra preparation.
A lot of them want to get in there and then, just because they're
black, they wanted me to make, you know, they can be the

chief of police in a year or two, see, they don't want to study

FB 73A 12

for it. That's the only thing about the whites they study
harderA Every time they down at the junior college there,
so many nights a week. Blacks, they get off, they get dressed and

go out and have fun. So I tell them about it, come to talk about/

Ag complaining about not being promoted, and I some of

the guys that are promoted and prepared for

it and they get it, they don't stop, they cut that out.

I: Please rate how effective you think you've been in each of the

following service areas. Very effective, somewhat effective,

or not effective, in police protection?
noi) OmA
C: Very effective. We have much moreA it's improving.

I: Streets and roads?

C: Very eCecjie We're paving that now, they're going to do
the whole city. We got it all scheduled, we're running pretty

good on the schedule. And is 1 uleSs 14c cuts out on
the revenue sharing or something, I hope what we got coming in

now, we can

I: That's a giant undertaking, isn't it?
C: It is. It is.

I: Um.hmm.
4o2o} ,1 00)
C: I mean t i paving streets all over town, W h-l 0 do k2A Ov

They have to drain sewer, water, and sometimes have to buy about
fifty, sometimes three quarters of the sils And some place we

got thirty, have to have sixty \h) vq we only got thirty or

twenty. And have to buy right-of-way 6[i 6d0lY see, the

city wasn't laid out right, A\ a.,V ,_ have a little,

a little alley r -there, maybe ptg t enough for two cars,

have to buy right-of-way. That's, that's the expensive thing.

FB 73A

But it's got it's now that, you can g-t-pe2op(e a_

even get the streets paved free. Yeah, so, Hio5e 4dhc insisted

on the filling the right-of-way, why, we just have to let

ric s rec-s c1mw C nso C / 0Of 4f an assessment. They,
they be ready in.hole when they get through searching paving,

food, andAdrainage, and all of that. (Laughs)

I: How about in housing?

C: Housing? .S o -r ut we're just like any other city, the

reason why, the city's growing, ,,.W,\e beSidkA last year

when we had, we had 5-0 n uL Cl? -44).

I: How about in welfare?

C: Well, there's too much of that everywhere, so I don't r-ea-4-y

push for any welfare. I don't think people that are elderly

or disabled.

I: How about employment?

C: Employment? Better than U d better than the A 4I/YO .
I: Parks and recreation?

C: Well, we're adding that on our own, parks and recreation. Pretty

\joll catching up to do, the requirements.
I: Water, sewage, and garbage?

C: We're putting that in, all the sewage and the garbage, and water

and drainage, even drainage. That's one other problem we've had.

Had a drainage problem. Every time it rains, everybody had to

move upstairs.


I: Health and hospitals?

C: Well, we got a pretty good hospital, we got about a $12,000,000

or $14,000,000 hospital going on here.

FB 73A

I: My gosh.
C: / O;) q, hanmred and tri-- / 0 CCr- 5 o0f T Jl
I Oh, wow. -cm-'pr3Dm bC' I f- (n rc/ 1;;c/.
C: It is going to be one of the finest in the state.
I: I'll come down here if I need one.

C: Yes.
I: How about education?
C: Well, have a junior college here, and there is a,

- 'lYrj one school Vt 'IovljfAlbe big enough t-Zt-f the next twenty years,
1 .e,'V bdu'tlinq
but it's OUM ld Ot/" iWE (( W r)fo/0 'A another one p
V< and
i r & hOv Three times as big as this one,AI imagine the
next four or five years, this will be too small
I: By the time they get done, you'll need another one.

C: Yeah, that's right.
I: How about in fire protection?

c: '2r vAQhaf ?
I: Fire protection?
C: Fire protection, yeah, we got five fire stations built

right in the city, on the north, south, and one
in the west, two on the west side,Aone over there on the beach.
I: Have you gotten federal funds for your district?
C: Yes,
I: Um, could you list some of the more important federal grants?
C: And the street paving,
that's the s* T'V e beD doing to he street paving, federal

I: Have you, as an elected official, been able to bring industry or
retail stores into your area?

FB 73A

C: Well, it's part of this, not much of either one. 17 ef n ,.
working nowAtrying to get the industrial area thing started.

yO Cn00 L~u, 1 .,- -:,-1.7 we don't want real heavy
industrial, you want lighter, don't you know.

I: I/&e a oInh '//tf hn 6'

icd.i -jt we got one coming in here now, it's been a little problem
though, I went over to Houston and they, they got a real nice

place over there, the oil refinery, see, they give
$40,000, and so I think we're going to get that. And I think
that they can do it without polluting and then we have the
energy,4the energy, our problem's solved.
I: Have you been able to see that blacks are hired fairly in local

C: They are, they are what in fairly?
I: Have you been able to see that blacks are hired fairly?
C: Yes, oh, yes, we have that very definitely. We have that committee

for that, you know. rQ 1Ta',A,

I: We're almost done. Has federal revenue sharing helped your
district or not?
C: Oh, a lot of actually, we couldn't do anything
we've done, or a third of what we've done i\ \)D l iDY H,

I: Have there been any protests, sit-ins, boycotts or riots in this
city in the last ten years?
C: Uh, lI ee the last, not the, since the last eight years.
I: Pardon me?
C: A43 the last eight years.
I: What were the, what were the issues involved?

FB 73A

C: You know, just c Ol'<4 -ko.VJ iCdea khoIO started. Somebody
just pushed a little fight, anything, but it's not like that
now. People kept a chip on their shoulder, you know, jif eU ~ J

fo IFbt, AJ phV government retaliating and all that stuff.

FO .u OJ- enouhthey could do something, they wanted to spread
it to the street, you know. I think it's pure meanness.

I: These questions were asked to enable an assessment of black politics

in Florida in general. What is your opinion of Reuben Askew?

Do you think he's been favorable in attitude of blacks, toward
blacks in Florida?

C: I think he has, I think he's a very fine man, I

He has the Christian in him, tendency, and I think

that s bee \)oc( h il

I: Do you think has possibilities for a national office?
C: I really think he has, I don't think he seemsto be ready to push

for it, but Ia kr 45; TIm Oi u odJ I

I: What is your opinion of other state officials and state representatives?
C: They are very fine, I think w got extremely O_ C

I: I've had a better response on that question from South Florida
than from North Florida. People from South Florida seem to feel

that the, the group from these areas are more responsive to the

communities than the people in North Florida do.

C: They are.

I: F)0 \jOL do you think that winning and holding office in Florida
has been worth the effort?

C: I think so, that's the way I look at it. It's paid off very good.

I, I wouldn't give anything for the experience I've had.

I: i) these questions are asked to compile an overall group profile

FB 73A 17

of black elected officials in Florida) 'o individual nmes,

_tfts will be recorded. Type of office held? Have you held

office other than the one you're holding now?

C: City office, like

I: But elected offices?

C: This is first elected office.

I: The date that you were first elected into office?

C: The day I was first elected?

I: First elected, first term.

C: UP, December, 1965.

I: The date that you took office?

C: Uh, that is the week after that.

I: The number of terms that you've run for office?

C: Five ties-. e~-rm

I: Yfur age, doesn't have to be exact. (laughs) You don't want to

tell me?

C: Sixty-five.

I: Your occupation before election?

C: Uh, general contractor.

I: Your education?

C: College, yeah.

I: College? Where'd you go to school?

C: Cookman.

I: Oh, Bethune Cookman?

C: Yeah.

I: Salary recieved from your elected position?

C: I'd say about $6,000, it doesn't pay much.

I: Were you active in the civil rights' movement of 1960 through


FB 73A

C: Not directly.

I: The church to which you belong?

C: Missionary Baptist.

I: Are you an official in your church?
.Vc t
C: --aSi--. on the trustee board for fourteen years.

I: Are there other community organizations or activities that you're

involved in?

C: I'm on the fe bo- Aon the II d4a board, had

and I'm on the bra(c 6 bLrjand I'm on the d( ai ni u[ I ,-

break in tape

I: I would just like to make a short comment pertaining to this

interview. Mr. Caynon was kind enough to take me to lunch, and

the background noise that you hear throughout the tape is

conversation carried on by other customers in the restaurant.

I think that we did the best we could-in-less than quiet


(End of tape)