Citation
Interview with Robert Scott, December 3, 1975

Material Information

Title:
Interview with Robert Scott, December 3, 1975
Creator:
Scott, Robert ( Interviewee )
Button, James ( Interviewer )
Publication Date:
Language:
English

Subjects

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

Notes

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

Record Information

Source Institution:
Samuel Proctor Oral History Program, Department of History, University of Florida
Holding Location:
This interview is part of the 'Florida Blacks' collection of interviews held by the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program of the Department of History at the University of Florida
Rights Management:
Made available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial 4.0 International license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/.
Resource Identifier:
FB 74 ( SPOHP IDENTIFIER )

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COPYRIGHT NOTICE


This Oral History is copyrighted by the Interviewee
and the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program on
behalf of the Board of Trustees of the University of
Florida.

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

This oral history may be used for research,
instruction, and private study under the provisions
of Fair Use. Fair Use is a provision of United States
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For all other permissions and requests, contact the
SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida































UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA


ORAL HISTORY PROJECT


The Dr. James Button Project


INTERVIEWEE: Robert Scott


DATE: December 3, 1975




















I: ...Robert Scott, Lawtey, Florida. Mr. Scott, what year did you first
register to vote?

S: About 1956.

I: What year were you first eligible to vote?

S: In 1935.

I: The year you were eligible to vote? In other words, the certain year
you could register to vote, and then the amount of time in there?

S: Yes, there was a time period. Actually, blacks weren't allowed to vote
when I was sixteen years old, so I have to go way back. There was a time
when we just couldn't vote.

I: When did you turn twenty-one? Must have been about 1935?

S: Somewhere along there, yes.

I: So that was when you were eligible for voting?

S: Yes.

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

S: No. The first time I tried, I guess I just wasn't too interested, but
there was some reason.

I: Was it sort of in the community that blacks really weren't supposed to
register?

S: Right.

I: That is, it was more or less understood that way and there might be
repercussions, is that right?

S: Right.

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

S: Lately?

I: Right.

S: Yes.









2





I: Some of the organizations that were responsible, like NAACP ENational
Association for the Advancement of Colored People]?

S: The NAACP, yes.

I: Were there any others?

S: No, not particularly so.

I: When were the federal registration drives held?

S: The last one was held last year, in 1974. The law changed, at eighteen you
can register. That's the last real big push we had.

I: Then what about in 1960? Through Florida the NAACP was going throughout
the state for registration drives.

S: Yes, there was several pushes for....

I: Through Lawtey?

S: Yes, this was the NAACP.

I: How successful were the registration drives?

S: They're very successful. In Lawtey the ratio is 55 per cent of the blacks
now....

I: Registered to vote?

S: I mean not 55 per cent are registered to vote, but 55 per cent of the
voters in the city of Lawtey is black.

I: So that all of them almost registered to vote?

S: Yes, that was eligible.

I: What is the percentage black in Lawtey? I tried to find out before we
came and couldn't get it.

S: What is the percentage of blacks?

I: Right. I know there's a little over 600 people.

S: About 55 per cent of it is black in the city limits.

I: So that means most of the blacks were registered?

S: Yes. We kept on talking with them, and when there's someone we learned
turns eighteen, why, we carry them in.









3





I: Are there any things which prevent blacks from registering to vote?

S: No.

I: But there were in previous times?

S: This was years ago, when I became eligible. But within the last twenty
years or so, no problems.

I: I'm going to read you the questions and you can look over it. You either
have to put very important, fairly important, or not important. Please
rate how important you think each of the following items are in preventing
blacks from registering to vote in your area. Economic dependence on
whites?

S: Fairly important.

I: Fear of physical violence from whites?

S: Not important.

I: Poor registration hours?

S: Not important.

I: Registration not held often enough?

S: Not important.

I: Re-registration effects?

S: After this new system came in, a lot of people just threw their cards
away, and figured they were important enough to decide what had happened.
Then we began to carry them back and let them re-register. So now, the
majority of them have already been re-registered.

I: Indifference of blacks to voting?

S: None at all. Not important.

I: You probably don't have this problem in Lawtey, but transportation to
the registration?

S: Is this a problem?

I: Right.

S: No, when we find out if one needs to be registered, why, someone will pick
them up and carry them if they don't have transportation. We usually pick









4





them up to see that they do go, because a lot of people say that they will
go and....

I: Never show up.

S: So, we usually carry them to the polls.

I: The next section is going to be mainly dealing with your campaign. During
the campaign, were you able to campaign freely, or were you threatened in
any way, either directly or indirectly?

S: No threat whatsoever. Campaigned as I desired.

I: How long have you been in office? How many campaigns have you gone through?

S: In January, it will be the twelfth, completion of the twelfth year, of
six two-year terms.

I: So you've been in a long time. In all this time, you have not had any
problems at all?

S: Only the first time.

I: What problems did you have the first time? This is the thing we're trying
to get to.

S: Burning crosses, telephone calls, and threats, things like that.

I: But after the first time, you...?

S: After the first time, no more.

I: Were you the first black elected in Lawtey?

S: In the northeastern part of the United States.

I: In the southeastern part of the United States?

S: I mean in the southeastern, yes.

I: So you sort of broke the ice?

S: Yes, pretty rough at the time.

I: You mentioned cross-burnings and threatening phone calls. Do you think
the KKK [Ku Klux Klan] was behind them or were these just people who
were using something like that because they had seen it on movies?

S: These were people that were just using the Klan's tactics. We found out
who they were.









5





I: So, it was really no organization behind it; it was just a bunch of people?

S: No, it was just about a half a dozen.

I: Were you handicapped by lack of campaign money?

S: No, I wasn't.

I: Why did you decide to run for office?

S: I decided it was time for the black people to get up and start doing
something. .I talked to the mayor at the time, which was a white guy, and
he agreed. After about a couple of years, he kept on encouraging me to
qualify, and I kept putting it off. I'd tell him I would right up until
the time and then I'd chicken out. So I finally decided to go through
with it.

I: There was some white support, and some whites could see a black running
for office?

S: Oh, yes.

I: You're talking about the first time?

S: The first time, yes.

I: I have one question about campaign money. You said you had no problem with
campaign money?

S: No.

I: Where did you get the money to run? Was it all your own financial savings,
or was it support from local people?

S: The local people, and with a small town like this you don't need too much
money. I have had some donations. The last time I had more than I
ever had. People would just walk up and give me money to get out and
campaign. One guy surprised me. campaigning and I got to the
house, and opened it up. It was $100.

I: That's a nice surprise.

S: It sure was.

I: To which political organization do you belong?

S: Organization?

I: Right, political affiliation.

S: I'm a Democrat.

I: Have you ever received any aid from the Democratic party for your campaigns?










6





S: No, not as. such. The guy that gave me the donation and all, the majority
was Democrats, but not as the Democratic party.

I: As an organization?

S: No, not as an organization.

I: When you were campaigning--I guess we'll have to do each campaign, or if
you can think of specific times--what were the main issues of the campaign?

S: The last one was, I was fighting for my life this time for, oddly enough,
city water. We got city water this year. Well, it's supposed to be turned
on this month, and there's a lot of blacks and whites that didn't want the
water. So, I had a rougher time this time than I have had the whole time,
because of water.

I: The first campaign, were there any major issues?

S: I hardly had to campaign, but this was the third time since I didn't have no
opposition. This was the third time that I had an opponent.

I: It was mainly just you against him, instead of an issue involved in the
election?

S: I beg your pardon?

I: Rather than being issue oriented, like this time was dealing with the water.
The other times...?

S: Right, that was the main issue. They didn't like it because I voted for
the water and did everything I could to get the water. So there was a
few die-hards that fought me. They really fought, too.

I: Do you think these issues were the main problems facing blacks in your
community? That would be talking about the water.

S: No, to tell the truth, I don't think there is an issue as such. This was
the only time that I really had anything to worry about because the rest
of the times, I didn't have any doubt in my mind at all that the people
that ran against me could win. This is the first time, and the water was
the issue, that there is a group of concerned citizens which was against
the water. They had organized last year, and they were against the water.
This was a group that set out to get me this time.

I: So this was the only time that you've had an issue at the campaign. All
the others you just had opponents?

S: Right, no issues whatsoever.









7





I: You're lucky. The next section questions are asked to determine some of
the conditions which have enabled blacks to win office in Florida. The
next question, I don't think it's relevant, but how were you elected,
at large or by district?

S: At large.

I: How many people--well, it's at large so is the population 636?

S: Uh huh.

I: What percentage of the population--it's 55 per cent black in Lawtey, right?
You said that before. About what percentage of blacks of voting age in
Lawtey are registered to vote?

S: It's about half of the blacks is registered. Whole total 338 registered
voters in the city limits, so about half of the population is eligible
to Vote.

I: Is black?

S: Yes.

I: Then of all the blacks eighteen and over, what percentage are registered
to vote? Are all the people that are eligible, that are black, are
they registered?

S: Yes, they are. I found that there was a few just turned eighteen.

I: So you go out, and you....

S: I will get them as soon as the books open up again. Because some called
me and asked me when would the books open again. So they want to regis-
ter, but....

I: So it's almost like 100 per cent of all the blacks that are eligible to
vote are registered?

S: They are. There's only a few that have had their privilege taken away,
such as some that have been inprison or something like that. One or two
of them told me that they were. They will be eligible this year to....

I: Register and then vote. In previous elections, what percentage of your
total vote came from whites?

S: I believe about 50 per cent up until this last election 'cause I didn't
have any problem among them. I was assured by a lot of the whites that
I had their vote, and according to the figure that I won by, I think I
got about 50 per cent of them. I got over 50 per cent of the whites









8





because one ran as a newcomer, the other one was put up by another guy.
They knew that, so they didn't support neither one of them.

I: Did the person that ran against you, was he black or was he white?

S: No, only whites. I've never had a black opponent. As a matter of fact,
I wouldn't run against one.

I: You wouldn't?

S: No, I wouldn't. As soon as they take a notion to run a black against me,
why, I'll give it up.

I: So, you're just running in order to make sure that the blacks in Lawtey
are represented. You would like to retire if another black decided to run?

S: I would. I said that the first year I was elected. I didn't think that
blacks should run against blacks. The first time one qualified against
me, I'd give it to him, and I still mean that.

I: Have you tried to recruit any blacks to run?

S: Yes, two have run. Not against me, but run for election and they've been
defeated.

I: That was for other seats?

S: Yes.

I: How many commissioners are there in Lawtey?

S: Five.

I: You're the only black?

S: Yes.

I: It's funny. There's another city I did that's the same thing:. one out of
five. About what percentage of blacks who are registered to vote, do you
estimate, actually voted when you were elected? The voter turnout?

S: I don't know how many voted for me, because this was a kind of a crucial
time. At that time it was nine of us running for the same seat.

I: How many turned out? Did the black people turn out? Would you say it was
100 per cent of all the elderly voters?

S: Yes, they just say....

I: Maybe 90 per cent?









9





S: But they didn't all go for me. This was something new, and I only won
by two votes. There were eight whites, and myself was nine, was
running for this one post.

I: So you would say 90 per cent?

S: Yes.

I: In that first election, you were running against eight whites. Do you
think that it was mainly blacks that were voting for you and mainly
whites were voting for the white candidates, or do you think it was a
cross?

S: It was a cross, because there were a lot of whites that had hoped and en-
couraged me to run after they found out that I was going to run. Then after
the threats and all that, I had good support among the whites. They would
come by here and sit around all the time at night. I really had good
support from the whites.

I: All the elections after that, you had really good white support then?

S: Yes.

I: Except for the first election, where you had eight opponents, how many
opponents did you have in the other elections?

S: One each time.

I: You've only ran against whites?

S: Yes.

I: What percentage of the total vote did you get? I just want to go by
each election.

S: You mean each time I had an opponent?

I: The first one, you probably got 50.1 per cent, or something like that.

S: The next time I got about 75 per cent, and two years ago I got about
80 per cent of the vote. This time I got about 51 or 52 per cent.

I: That was a close election.

S: Sure was.

I: These questions are asked to determine how well black officials in Florida
have been able to benefit those who they represent. In what ways do you
think you've helped blacks in Lawtey by holding office? You can elaborate
all you want.









10





S: It all depends on the attitude of the whites, whether you can help or not, be-
cause for anything youhave to go through the voting system, which is, you
have to have two others besides yourself to accomplish more things. So I
have been on the council. I didn't accomplish anything because the people
were such that they was trying to distract me. I think this happened
about twice. From then on, the majority of the things that I tried to do....
The biggest thing I tried to do was to get a playground, which I finally got
six acres for the blacks. Then the government passed the law that you
couldn't spend the money for black or white. So we still have the play-
ground. We're building a recreation building on it now. I don't have
any trouble getting money to finance it. The whites have been a big help.

I: So the main problem that's occurredwhen you were trying to get things was
that you were one black out of five commissioners, so they could outvote
you.

S: Right, they could. They still can.

I: Is there anything else that prevents you from doing a better job, especially
in regard to benefitting the blacks?

S: No, in a small city the budget is the thing that prevents. But as far as
being variable, anything that the people need--we had a project,before we
decided to get the water,to pave some streets, so we agreed to do two miles,
one on the black side, one on the black side of town. I found out most
towns is designed with a railroad or a hard road so the blacks are on one
side, and the whites are on the other. This was a long time ago that this
was set up.

I: It's still that way in most of the....

S: Uh huh. So we had agreed to put one mile on each side of the tracks.

I: The federal government had nothing to do with that. It was just local
government. When you talk about blacks on one side of the railroad tracks
and whites on the other, was that set up purposely that way, or did it
just happen to come about naturally?

S: It was before my time, but most towns are like that.

I: They were set up purposely?

S: Purposely, yes. The blacks on one part of town and large towns are the
same way.

I: Yes. Many, many towns, north and south, are like that.

S: So I think this is looking way ahead.









11





I: Please write how important you think the following items are in pre-
venting you from doing a better job benefitting blacks. Office has
no real authority.

S: Very important.

I: Do you want to elaborate on that?

S: I had just as much authority as the previous man did because of the
charter. The charter gives the mayor a certain amount of authority,
so I had just as much authority as_ had.

I: Outvoted by white officials?

S: Not because I was black. But I mean it happens all the time, but I
don't think it's just because I was black, because there are some issues
that they voted down even by some of the whites. The whites voted it
down. Whites and myself voted down, but not because I was black, I
don't think.

I: Unfamiliar with administrative duties?

S: Fairly important. As long as I've been in there, I do a lot of reading.
There's no one that prevents me from the books that is sent into the
office. I have a

I: Lack of cooperation from whites?

S: Oh, they cooperate. Not important, because they do cooperate.

I: Lack of cooperation from blacks?

S: Fairly important. I have some that seem like they take that atti-
tude. All of the family old-timers, when I came in here years ago, they
seemed like I was getting out of my place.

I: Lack of cooperation from state officials?

S: They give good cooperation in the state.

I: Lack of cooperation from federal officials?

S: Same thing, no problem.

I: Has criticism or lack of support from the black community hindered you
in holding office?

S: No.

I: They believe that your office is important, and that you really can
help them out?









12





S: Yes, they say to the young people; they really do. Every time they want
something from the city, whether I'm over that department or not, they
come to me. So they think it's important.

I: So, they think it's a very important job? That you can help them?

S: Yes.

I: Do you feel that white officials treat you differently from the other
officials or not? In other words, do you think they treat you differently
just because you're black, or do they treat you just like one of the other
commissioners?

S: Yes, they do, generally. Some of them look like they bend a little back-
wards to be nice. That's the only thing that bugs me. A person, it seems
like he just bends over backwards to be nice to me, it got so it kind
of bugs me. If they just treat me just like anybody else, seems like
it would feel better to work.

I: Then you're a commissioner, not a black?

S: That's right.

I: What services have you provided? We talked about the park for the blacks
in Lawtey that they didn't have before you were in office.

S: The recreation department, that's about the only thing. Roads, street
lights,they didn't have; they don't have now. A lot of curbs, going
in the driveways and things like that, they didn't have before I was in
office.

I: Please rate how effective you think you have been in each of the following
service areas. Police protection?

S: Somewhat effective, because we've often had men patrolling different
areas. As far as police brutality, we haven't had that, but a lot of
times we just don't go around. This place is pretty rough and we just
don't.

I: Just try to stay out of them so you don't have any trouble.

S: So usually when they see a policeman, why, they'll quiet down anyway. So
I have got them so you'll go around and drive through there. Everything
quiets down.

I: Before you were in office the police didn't patrol black areas too well?

S: Yes, some of them did, too much.

I: Too much? Police were overactive?









13





S: Yes, they were overactive. One police we had--he was before I got in
there--was overacting.

I: By you getting in office, you were able to calm the situation down?

S: No, he was out of office. The same year that I was elected, he lost.

I: So he wasn't in office very long.

S: No, he wasn't in office when I was there.

I: How many policemen do you have in Lawtey?

S: Only two policemen.

I: Two policemen.

S: One in the day and one at night.

I: And neither are black, are they?

S: No.

I: Both white.

S: One of them is elected, and the other one, he is a Title XI CETA Program.
They gave him to us last year.

I: You have an elected sheriff and a deputy?

S: He's the town marshall and a deputy.

I: They switch off, one during the day and one during the night? They work
a twelve-hour shift?

S: The one that's elected, he's on duty for twenty-four hours. He's off but
if he's needed,he's available. So the other one just works eight hours
at night. He works sometimes about six o'clock until eleven or twelve,
something like that. At night everything quiets down.

I: The area's streets and roads?

S: Somewhat effective, because we have better streets and roads. They're
more regular than they were before I got here to the office.

I: So you have made improvements in that area?

S: Right.

I: Then housing?









14





S: It's a kind of funny thing about housing. While we stated a state
building code and all of that, about 90 per cent of the blacks own
their homes in Lawtey. So there wasn't any problem with the housing
situation. As the town is situated, we never have any problems about
whether you should build a house or something like that.

I: If a black wants to build a house next to a white, you don't have
problems with that then?

S: No problems whatsoever.

I: Welfare?

S: I have helped people on welfare, I was on the about six or seven
years, and I helped a lot of people on welfare. Right now, if I end up
getting trouble, I know the officer pretty good. I get to him right
quick.

I: Employment?

S: The situation is improving. I'm a member of the NAACP. We're about to
get them to advertise all placeable employment as far as the county and
city and all that. Now they're beginning to start advertising the jobs.

I: Parks and recreation? Already mentioned that.

S: Yes, I improved that. Until recently, we didn't have any.

I: Water, sewage, and garbage?

S: We have water, and we have an improvement on garbage now. We had a dump.
Now we go into a different type of disposal there. We're setting up a
compressor that can press all the garbage together and then carry it out.
This is the county and we've gone in with the county. We had to pay our
share of it, but the county has the trucks and all of that. It's a
cartage type. We bring the cartage, and put it out. We have to hire a
man to work it and educate the people. This will be pretty soon because
they have just started on this project. We're just going to have to put up
a fence and all of that.

I: But as far as trash pickup or something like that, the blacks have it
just as well as the whites?

S: Yes, we have a man that goes around all over town and grabs from both
sides.

I: Health and hospitals?

S: We don't have a hospital, but we have good connections with the emergency
unit, if we need somebody. If someone gets sick, they come around immedi-
ately.









15





I: Education?

S: There's no problems there because, oddly enough, the blacks under
twenty-five have their high school diploma. I don't know how many
graduates we have here in a small place, the ratio is greater than
Jacksonville.

I: Graduating?

S: One to one, yes.

I: Fire protection?

S: Yes, we have fire protection. We have three units. All this happened
recently. We had three trucks; we bought two, and the forestry service
let us use one. We have two that belong to the city of Lawtey.

I: Has Lawtey gotten federal funds?

S: Yes. The water is on a federal project.

I: Have you been part of the initiate on any of these funds?

S: Yes.

I: So you've been effective in that area, then?

S: Yes.

I: Has there been any other grants, or any aid that you've gotten from...?

S: No.

I: Since you've been in office, has industry or retail stores come to Lawtey?
Have you been effective in bringing .that to Lawtey?

S: Yes, because I've had to agree for them to come in. One company came
in: Handy Way. Also the post office, we had to seek it out after we
found out that the postal system had changed. Finally got a new one here.
Company came and put it in and also the Handy Way store.

I: Have you been able to see that blacks are fairly hired in...well, I remem-
ber you talked about your cousins were in specific areas. Have you been
able to change that somewhat?

S: Yes.

I: Explain a little bit how you went about changing that.

S: The laws of Florida changed a lot, and all we had to do was to see that
it's carried out in many places. We had to go through Florida's oldest
outfit and threaten to cut off revenue sharing or some of the federal









16





grants and loans succeed in getting them to be fair about
hiring.

I: So there was some people against the fair employment for blacks?

S: Yes.

I: You had to take some measures to....

S: Yes, we had to take some.

I: We've already got into this some. Maybe you could explain it a little
better. Has federal revenue sharing helped Lawtey?

S: Yes, it really has. I think we are getting about $18,000 a year from
property taxes. We get around about $42,000 from the state and federal
revenue sharing.

I: Since you've been in office or even before then, have you had any black
protests, sit-ins, or boycotts?

S: No, we haven't had any because we have been effective in other ways. The
people just gave in, so we didn't have to go through black riots.

I: Next section is asked to enable an assessment of black politics in
Florida in general. What do you think of Reuben Askew? What is your
opinion of Governor Reuben Askew? Do you think he's been favorable in
attitude and policy toward blacks in Florida? Later we can talk about the
other state officials and state representatives.

S: If he goes too far to the right, it will hurt him. So, if an officer
gets into an office and just turns to the blacks, he hurts himself and
he won't get anything done. I think he has been about as lenient as
he possibly could without....

I: Without risking losing the next election?

S: Right. Plus he can lose all the effectiveness that he has.

I: Support from others?

S: From others then.

I: What about other state officials or representatives?

S: I think they have done very good because anytime I have called on them
or any of the blacks have called any of them and asked for an appointment....
Concerning the correction center up there, the lieutenant governor recently
gave three of the blacks a date in Tallahassee. He kept the appointment.
They went up there and talked with him. He gave them a good response.









17





I: Have you had any problems with any of the state officials?

S: No, I haven't.

I: No problems have happened?

S: No problems at all.

I: Do you think that winning and holding office in Florida has been worth
the effort? You might want to explain that a little.

S: Yes. Maybe mine is kind of a weird idea, but my idea for one to hold
office is to prove to blacks that if they have the initiative they can
make it in life. I don't believe me being black holds me down, although
I know there is some diehards. I think a person's abilities carries
him. If he has the initiative to try, I think he will succeed.

I: These questions were asked to compile an overall group profile of
black elected officials. Before we go on, was there anything about
holding office that has negative aspects, that you really don't like
about it?

S: No, I don't mind. As I said, I went in it to prove a point, that blacks
can make it if they try. So I don't mind giving my free time. As a
matter of fact, I never give myfree time all the way through the period
that we get. I can use that up in telephone bills, calling people that
leave their number for me to call like that. There hardly isn't a month
passed that I don't go places. It's all with the official duty. I just
don't head home with no pay. So, it don't worry me.

I: What is your salary?

S: Twenty dollars per meeting.

I: It's not an annual thing. It's pro-rated according to how many meetings
you hold.

S: Right.

I: How long has that been in effect?

S: Some years someone would get up and say, "We're moved that you be paid
every meeting, every extra meeting." You try to say at least once a
month. Sometimes we have four and five meetings a month, and then some-
times someone will say, "Well, we move that you pay for every meeting."
So sometimes we do pretty good. Then again we would just get paid for
once a month, regardless of how many meetings we have. I'll go along
with it either way. It really doesn't matter.

I: The type of office held, commissioner or what, I think we already have
these answers. Is that correct?









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S: A commissioner?

I: Right, as type of office held.

S: Yes.

I: Date first elected; 1964?

S: Right.

I: The date you took office?

S: Must have been January 6.

I: January 6, 1965. Number of times you've run for office? You mentioned
that earlier.

S: This is the seventh time.

I: Seventh time?

S: Two year terms, yes. In January it will be twelve years, so I will be
elected now for two more years.

I: What was your occupation before becoming commissioner?

S: The same that I have now, cement mason.

I: That's all I was going to ask.

S: I have to work to support my family. We have most of our meetings at
night. Since I've been mayor, sometimes I have to take off a day to
attend some meeting, but usually I am home at night. Even Jacksonville
meetings are at night.

I: You just said mayor and we've been calling you commissioner.

S: It's mayor-commissioner. That's what I am now.

I: That's like the head of the commission?

S: Yes.

I: Were you elected as mayor-commissioner from the very start?

S: No.

I: That's a separate post? That's this time?









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S: No, the law changed. There was a time when there was five commissioners
and a mayor. All the mayors, the constables, and all that was cut out
a few years ago. Then they had to go to just five, and then one is
selected from the group as a mayor.

I: Lawtey has a strong council or a strong city commission rather than a
strong mayor.

S: Right.

I: You're just there as a head of the commission or the head of the council.

S: Right. You have all the duties of the mayor, signing the usual official
things that have to be signed, sealed,and all of that.

I: You're the man they come to when something goofs or something?

S: Yes.

I: When were you elected mayor?

S: When was I elected?

I: When did you get that extra post of being mayor-commissioner?

S: This is the second year I've been, '73 and '75.

I: Did you get reelected to that again too?

S: No, it won't be until the meeting.

I: You have a meeting and vote on it?

S: Yes. At that first meeting in January, he is elected out of the group.

I: Did you complete high school?

S: No, seventh grade.

I: Seventh grade?

S: Yes. 'Course I been going to school since then. I've been in school up
until theyear before last. Every chance I get, I go to school.

I: Right. But you haven't received an official diploma?

S: No, I haven't.

I: During the 1960s and through '66, there was the civil rights movement.
Were you active in that? That doesn't necessarily mean that you were
out rioting, it could just mean, like you said, you were a member of
the NAACP.









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S: Yes, I was.

I: Like what sort of activities did you take part in?

S: The last one was the drugstore in that wouldn't serve blacks.
We succeeded in stopping blacks from going there. We didn't go sit in.
We just pulled them away from there, and we finally succeeded in getting
blacks away from there. We didn't go. We changed tactics. Rather than
go and sit in and harass them, we pulled the money string.

I: That hurts the most, doesn't it?

S: Sure.

I: To which church do you belong?

S: African Methodist Episcopal Church.

I: Do you hold any positions in your church?

S: Yes, I'm a trustee and a class leader. They give you a group that you
have in the church. Number one, you collect dues. Class meetings, you
group them off, and they tell you how they're getting along. You see
to their welfare and all of that. Supposed to happen once a week, so I'm
a class leader. If they don't have any complaints or anything like that,
each member of the church is supposed to go to his class leader. So
I'm a trustee and a class leader. I'm a schoolteacher.

I: Are there other community organizations or any activities which you take
a part in?

S: No, nothing special. I'm in a fraternity organization.

I: What was your father's occupation?

S: Farmer.

I: You sketched this somewhat before, but what effect did running and
holding office have on you personally and your family? Did it change
your way of life any?

S: Yes, it did. It opened doors that I never would have gotten into. One
main thing that I got into, which is kind of a burden now with the taxes:
the mayor liked me. After I was elected, he had a lot of land, and he
let me have a lot of pieces. He let me have all the land around Lawtey
that he had at cost. I would have never got that. Now that it begins
to be a burden, I got to sell it.

I: Have there been any other black elected officials since 1974 in Lawtey,
in any aspect at all?

S: Since '74, no.









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I: Anytime previously? Have you been the only black in any type office in
Lawtey?

S: There was one that was phased out, and that was a school--the way the
school board had put it--school trustee, I think it was.

I: School trustee?

S: Yes, it was phased out though, a few years ago. We had a black. He ran
at large. He lived here in Lawtey and he was elected.

I: Do you have anything to say? Do you have any questions or anything you'd
like to add, just in general?

S: No, I don't think so.