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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida
ORAL HISTORY PROJECT
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
INTERVIEWEE: Ernest Jackson
INTERVIEWER: Paul Weaver
DATE; October 30, 1976
W: I'm talking with attorney Ernest D. Jackson, Sr. in Mr.
Jackson's office on Broad Street in the Masonic Temple
about black politics in Jacksonville during the 1964 Democratic
gubernatorial primary--specifically, about the riot and the
campaign of Haydon Burns within the black communityin
Jacksonville. Mr. Jackson, how did you become a defense
attorney for blacks during the March 1964 riot?
J: Well, prior to March 1964, I had pursued a type of practice
which caused me to be engaged in a civil rights court strug-
gle at that time. I had filed suits to desegregate certain
facilities in Jacksonville.
W: What specific?
J: Golf course.
W: Brentwood Golf Course?
J: Brentwood Golf Course and all golf courses in the Duval
County area, Jacksonville area. Then I filed a suit after
that to desegregate all of the facilities owned by the city
of Jacksonville. This was brought about as a result of the
action of the city of Jacksonville in selling the golf
courses. We felt that if we brought one suit against each
facility, the city of Jacksonville would sell each facility
as they became desegregated. And we would then have to file
another suit to desegregate another facility, and they
could keep us in business filing suits forever.
W: In a legal turmoil?
J: Yeah, so we felt in order to eliminate the pressures of the
community--where the white community and the black community
apparently was very much antagonized by these suits in that
they were at each other's "throat" in these kinds of struggles.
We felt in order to bring a calm back to the community, we
should bring one suit to integrate or to desegregate every
facility owned at one time. We did that. This is called
the Omnibus Suit. This was the first time an Omnibus Suit
had been filed in any part of the country,
W: When was this filed?
J: It was filed sometime between 1962 and 1964. We were success-
ful in that suit to integrate all of the facilities.
W: Now, other than the Brentwood Golf Course, what other facili-
ties were desegregated.
J: Well, the ball park, the Jacksonville....
W: Gator Bowl?
J: Well, the Gator Bowl. And also Civic..,
W: Civic Auditorium?
J: ...yes. And every municipally owned public facility was de-
segregated. In that one suit.
W: Now, how exactly did you become a defense attorney for blacks
arrested during the 1964 riot? Do you recall?
J: Well, yes. Some of the parents of children came to my office
to employ me as counsel, Mr. Earl Johnson, who is another
attorney, was representing the NAACP cases, I was an asso-
ciated counsel for the NAACP.
J: And when the parents came to me directly to represent them,
I did represent them as a group of individuals that were in
the similar situation and that needed general counsel to
W: Who else, besides Mr, Johnson, was involved in the defense?
Wasn't a Mr. Girardeau involved also?
J: No. Mr. Girardeau was not a lawyer. Mr. Girardeau is a
W: Isn't there another Mr. Girardeau?
J: No, the brother never got involved in the civil rights move-
ment as far as I know.
J: He did not help us at all in these particular suits.
W: Generally speaking, what were some of the causes of the March
J: Well, there are many "causes," Perhaps the particular acts
that were looked upon by the community as a catalyst to
causing the actual riot would have been the action of the
mayor, Mayor Burns, and...
W: What specifically did Mr. Burns do?
J: ,,.and others who were demonstrating downtown. Well, the
one thing that was happening in the community--there were
people, that is private citizens who were white, who were
organizing themselves with the idea that they would act like
militia or something, and try and put down any kind of riots
or what have you.
W: Vigilantes? Would you describe...?
J: Vigilantes or what have you, yes. They had ax handles and
this type thing as weapons, along with other types of weapons,
and attempted to go out and arrest whatever.,.uprisings that
they thought were about to come about.
W: Who were some of these individuals?
J: Well, for a lack of actuAl knowledge of the person, I
would not call names,
W: How about Warren Folks?
J: Well, I understand that Mr, Folks was quite vocal and was
quite visible with those who were involved in the ax handle
carrying, and what have you. I'm not sure; I did not see
Mr. Folks do anything personally; so I can not say that I
know what he did, OK?
J: But I heard about his participation, What did occur is that
the man swore in the fire department...
W; In a speech?
J: ...personnel for the purpose of assisting the police depart-
ment in quieting any riot in the area. The people, the black
people, in the community felt this was unnecessary. To begin
with, black people had not organized with the idea of fighting
or throwing rocks or doing any of these violent things. They
were organized as a nonviolent group...
W: To protest.
J: ...to protest the segregation in the public facilities, such
as eating establishments, hotels, motels, in and about the
downtown area that, by some hook or crook, was not desegregated,
you know, because they were not specifically mentioned in the
suit. This was the kind of thing that they were trying to
demonstrate about and draw attention to these particular prob-
Now, when people started marching with ax handles and
threatening them, it became evident that there was gonna be
some type of confrontation. But as far as the black community
was concerned, it would still be a nonviolent confrontation.
Because we had no weapons whatsoever. To call in armed police-
men and to call in the fire department personnel to get engaged
in this particular kind of a thing was looked upon by the
black leadership and the average black person in the community
as overkill, actually.
W: Over reaction.
J: Over reaction to what they were doing, and they resented it.
They thought that the mayor had been unfair as a public
official in handling this aspect of the problem.
W; What did Mr. Burns do to ease the situation, if anything?
J; I suppose that you would call his kind of method of trying
to ease it as talking with some of the leadership. He came
out and talked with some of the leadership, trying to explain
to them why he had felt calling or swearing in of the depart-
ment personnel was important. His position was that he
wanted to avoid any kind of violence. He didn't want to have
any property destroyed, He thought that...,
W: Was this before or after the riot?
J: After the riot, more or less, because what happened the day
after he had made this speech, which was on a Sunday, I believe.
W: A Saturday, I know that.
J: Sometime during that period of time. There were calls made,
and the black leaders tried to reach him, and I was unable
to reach him. Others uptown.i were trying to reach him, but
we were unable to get in contact with him. I understood from
others that he did talk to some people in the black community.
Now, that's my understanding; I can't certify that. But if
he did talk to them, it did not get around to the people.
The people felt that he simply hid himself and did not make
himself visible at that time so that they could talk with
him before the riot started.
W: Was there any purposeful intent to Mr. Burns's ignoring the
complaints of the black community?
J: Well, I imagine he had reasons, but it would be wrong for me
to speculate as to why he felt that he could not talk to the
W: How politically motivated was Mr. Burns's motivation in
J: Well, I think that...
W: ...their complaints and their grievances?
J: As you well know, the population of the city--about a third
of the population was black and about two-thirds, white. He
was trying to hold on to his leadership. And the two camps
were more or less polarized at that point. And I think that
either you have to be in one camp or the other camp; and that
was the way most people would see it.
W: Isn't the mayor the representative of all the people?
J: Yes, and this is what happened, you see. This is the problem:
the inability of the mayor to articulate the ideas and the
objectives of black citizens at that time. This made it difficult
for him to talk to both camps. I agree that many of the white
citizens were not listening to what was being said and demon-
strated the fact that they were not willing to listen, but I
think they were in a minority. I think there was a majority
of white people in the community who were willing to listen
and who wanted to have some type of explanation of the objectives
of black people at that time. And while black people were
trying to articulate their positions, there were no white
persons in authority articulating the black peoples' position.
Therefore, they were not satisfied with just black
peoples saying, "Well, this is what we want to do." Without
having some official citizen say, "We agree: or "We think
this is a legitimate pursuit on behalf of black people." So
in essence he failed.
W: It was a failure of leadership by Mr. Burns.
J: At that point, yes,
W: Now what credence was there to the Burns charge that black
workers for other candidates were responsible for inciting
the riot? Do you know of any?
J: I know of no incident that would support that. I guess he
had reference to persons who were working for the other per-
son running for the mayorship.
W: Running for the governorship, Such as workers for Mr. High
and Mr. Mathews, I don't know who else was organized,
J: Well, some of the representatives, or the campaign personnel
of Mr. High and others, utilized or capitalized on some of
the mistakes Mr. Burns had made in handling the Jacksonville
population during the riot period.
W: But they didn't have anything prior to the riot as far as
J: No, they had nothing to do with that I know of.
WF Just from the general condition that existed within the
black community and Mr, Burns's not handling the black
J: Well, this is true, and I can say this with some degree of
certainty, that, as far as Im concerned, the white community
was not all polarized into one group of saying, "Look, we
are completely against the black people at this point."
There were some who understood the problem to some extent.
There were a great number that were afraid of the situation
and, therefore, sought to slow down, to deactivate some of
things that black people were doing. Now, had the mayor been
able, as I said before, to really articulate the positions
of black people and their grievances, would have appreciated
him articulating those grievances. I believe the riot would
have been avoided.
W: Was this an inability or just a lack of motivation?
J: Well, it's a lack of understanding. It's difficult to get a
large number of people to agree to a particular act based
on some particular moral concept for the simple reason that
they all have their own positions in society, they're trying
to guard it and to protect it, and they feel apparently that
if they surrender on a particular point, then the thing that
they are trying to guard and protect--"their families, their
home, their job, their stature, political position," or what
have you--they're gonna lose that.
W: And it'll all come tumbling down?
J: Come tumbling down, and that's the real fear. That's why
it's so essential and so necessary that the lines of com-
munication between contending forces remain open and unbiased,
and that each type of communication allow a free flow of
thought, suggestion, and ideas to be freely dispersed among
the people so that they can on their own understand what is
being said. When they try to editorialize, when they try to
show only some facets of a huge problem of this nature, they
concentrate on the violent part of it, on probably the louder
voices rather than the soft voices and the voices of reason.
You see, instead of bringing those to the forefront and allow-
ing the community to hear these people talk, you're gonna get
the kind of resistance that happened here in Jacksonville.
W: So the basic causes for the riot were a breakdown of communi-
W: .,,which resulted in a fear and a polarization of black and
W: All right, why was this particular time chosen to attempt
to desegregate the restaurants and hotels in Jacksonville,
such as Morrison's Cafeteria and the Robert Meyer?
J: Well, having attacked the school system and having attacked
the problem as it related to public facilities, the next
most adversary, humiliating experience of black people was
around, or centered around, the public market: their going
into places to eat, a place to sleep, or a place to purchase.
This involved generally the women of the black community
and the girls who were the persons who would certainly be
the ones to enjoy this particular aspect of the black problems.
That is, if you would go downtown, for instance, during the
week, you probably would see very few black men except those
who were working downtown. But you will see a larger number
of black women downtown because they were...
W: Shopping in stores.
J: ...shopping and so forth. That's right. And it was simply
a humiliating experience for a black man to have his wife
downtown and unable to eat at a regular restaurant, to shop
at certain stores, or to enjoy the normal facilities that a
shopping person would normally expect to enjoy.
W: Now, these desegregation attempts, were they in the context
of things that were going on throughout the country?
J: Well, yes.
W: There was communication between other groups?
J: Well, I think that after the Second World War and the return
of the soldiers to the United States, it was acutely aware
to most black men especially that we were in a society that
dictated our daily activities, and dictated even to the extent
that we may become involved in a violent war and we played
no role in it. In other words, I concede that if a bullet
would kill me while in a war declared by both black and white
men, that it would be no less of a tragedy to me--I would be
dead. But I would have a greater feeling about involvement
in that war if the black people participated in the decision
It's a possibility that that particular war could have
been avoided, you know, had there been some input from all
of the segments of the population. Because ideas are not
born just in certain people. I think that the Creator rightly
permitted ideas to be born in the heads of all types of people,
and a society ought to draw upon all of these sources of the
highest amount of wisdom that it can ascertain to make critical
decisions. Especially those decisions that deal with the ques-
tions of war and peace, and the total economic system of a
country, and its; social freedoms, and what have you. These
are very broad problems, very serious questions.
W: Getting back to 1964 and the desegregation attempts of the
public facilities, the restaurants, and the hotels, as a
black leader and lawyer, could you explain exactly why blacks
believed they had a right to eat in these restaurants and
register themselves in hotels?
J: Well, sure, I think that a public market is what it says it;
is, a public market. It is supported with public funds. For
instance, the downtown area or the shopping areas, we spent
an awful lot of money to pave these areas, public funds.
We paid an awful lot of money to light these areas; we spent
an awful lot of money for special police protection in these
areas. All right, we also know that certain businesses are
given concessions to open up in an area, tax exemptions or
what have you. So the public market is really a public market;
it's not a private, exclusive market, like your home or your
residence where you like. It's a place where people trade,
and they trade what they have to get what they need.
That has always been what our government declares to be
public, unrestrained, and open to all people. So black people
who had worked in this economy, helped to build it, why not
give them, or at least recognize, they had the same privileges
and the same rights to utilize these facilities. And I think
this is why we felt that a restaurant, a store, or any other
facility that was open to the public should be open to
black people on the same basis that they were open to white
people. Why, we have people from Europe and other people,
who were contributing nothing to this country as far as we
were concerned and who were actually foreigners, who could
use these facilities, That was an insult. It was truly an
insult to our wives, to our children, to all of us. We felt
that should be corrected, and that's why we fought the way
we did. We fought the idea--we tried not to fight people--
we tried to fight the idea by getting people to see the problem
and, through their own moral concepts, to recognize that it
was wrong and to agree to change it. That's what we tried
W: What groups were involved in the desegregation of these facilities?
J: The organized groups in the community that were involved with
desegregation of the facilities, such as restaurants, motels,
and hotels--the NAACP was the main organization. There were
other groups such as...Mr. Frank Hampton, who was a leader
in the community, a group worked with him.
W: What was the name of that group? Was it an informal organi-
J: Well, he had no formal name; it was just a group of citizens
who were working together, under his leadership, to try to
desegregate certain facilities. And the Urban League, to some
degree, cooperated with the NAACP in this movement. There
were many churches and church groups that were involved in it.
W: Can you think of specific groups?
J: I think the Reverend Dailey was a part of the NAACP, and I
think his church was involved.
W: Which church is that?
J: That's..,I can't think of his church now. It's on the east
side of Jacksonville.
W: Also Reverend J. S. Johnson?
J: Reverend J.S,. Johnson was Saint Stephens....
W: Saint Stephens African Methodist Episcopal Church? Reverend
W. S. Wilson?
J: Reverend Wilson of Bethel Institutional Church and Reverend
D. J, Graham of Mount Ararat Baptist Church. These were
groups that were lending assistance and contributing:;to these
types of efforts,
W; Why were black ministers primarily the members of the black
community who actually participated in these desegregation
attempts and who were arrested?
J: Well, black ministers participated, but they were not the
primary parties. The primary parties were members of the
NAACP as such. As I said, this included Frank Hampton and
his group and some of the other groups. But, now, the mini-
sters always had this position in the community. They were
in a position to talk to people and to have them understand
the problem, I mean to the black people, to understand their
problem, and to explain to them the rightness of their conduct.
So they were an accession, and that's their part of the move-
W: They gave a moral tone to the movement?
J: Well, truly, the whole movement was a moral effort as far as
I'm concerned, because basically speaking whether you want to
call it legal action or direct action on the part of the
people, you are trying to change people, and that means moral....
W: Moral values.
J: Morals, yes.
W: Why did black ministers from an economic standpoint partici-
pate in the desegregation attempts?
J: Well, I suppose that if you were to talk about the persons
who had the ability as well as the independence to take a
position in our society, you'd be talking about black people
that did not rely upon their income directly from some
business or type of institution that was controlled by white
people. So the minister gets his money from the congregation,
which is 95 percent or 100 percent black, and, therefore, he
has sufficient funds that he could afford to stand up and speak
or express his views without fear of someone cutting off or
firing him from the job or probably foreclosing on his property.
This was true with most professional men, black professional
men, as they were in that position so that they could speak.
W; Do you know of such cases here in Jacksonville at this time
where individuals who participated in this movement were
threatened with such sanctions?
J; Well, I know of many persons who called during that period
of time. I'm unable to document that with names at this
particular time, but I can assure you some of the parents of
children that were involved in the marches were threatened
and told that they would be fired for. They got in trouble,
Another weapon that was used by the community was the police
department. It was used to harass families, put them in
jail, and what have you. We had an awful time,
W: What about the police department? What specifically did they
do to intimidate black people who were active in the desegre-
J: Well, they would arrest the children, put them in jail, if two
or more were together.
W: This is taking place in 1964?
J: Yes. If two or more together, they would arrest them. They
would arrest black adults if three or four of them were to-
gether; they would tell them to disperse and if you ask them
questions why, then it might become a question of them actually
physically manhandling you or putting you in jail. Then
maybe a resisting arrest charge would follow. It was not the
best kind of a relationship. But I think we demonstrated to
that time between the black population and the police depart-
ment, In fact, this is some of the positives of the present
attitude of black people about the police department.
W: How did Mr. Burns's position as police commissioner relate
J: Well, this was a part of his problem because even when com-
plaints were brought to him about the conduct of his officers,
they thought it was his duty to take some direct action against
the police officers. Of course, you know that's not the way
it's handled. It is handled by some internal police investi-
gative body to deal with charges brought against a police
officer. And, of course, nine times out of ten, these officers
are cleared of any wrong doing. Even if it was a killing,
they were simply cleared,
W: Who were some of the other leaders of the desegregation
attempts, specifically the Robert Meyer, Morrison Cafeteria?
You mentioned Reverend J, S, Johnson, Frank Hampton. How
about Rutledge Pearson?
J: Yeah, Rutledge Pearson was the president of the NAACP, He
was the leader, as far as I'm concerned, who marshalled the
people together and organized them to join the marches down-
town. I think that he was the central figure responsible
for that. His brother, Lloyd Pearson, played a role in that.
A Mrs, Hattie Dicks,...
W: Who was she?
J: She was a member of the NAACP, and she was over the youth
division of the NAACP, She played a very prominent part in
organfiing' the youth and participating in this.
W: Who were some of the leaders of the youth? Wasn't Rodney
J: No, it was not. Rodney Hearst was, I understood, a member of
one of the committees, Rodney Hearst, according to the infor-
mation that I have, never participated in any of the actual
W: You know anyone who did?
J: My wife did.
W: Is that right?
J: Yeah, she did,
W: Who is this?
J: This is my wife, Thelma. She was Thelma Doogan at that time.
And there were a number of persons who did participate, younger
people who participated in the actual marches.
W: So these desegregation attempts took in all strata of the
J: Right, the poor, the middle class, and the upper class.
W: The young, the middle aged, and the old also.
W: How were blacks treated by the courts during the riots?
J: Well, I think a check of the records down there will show that
some of them were released by the judges without any judgments
being added against them. Some were found guilty of some
charges, some paid fines, and some were treated in other
manners. In my opinion, the judicial system was not equipped
to deal with the problem as it should have. My notion of how
judges should conduct these kinds of situations was entirely
opposite to what was happening.
W: What was happening?
J: Well, the judges were trying to intimidate the people from the
bench, telling them about what they shouldn't do and they
couldn't do and..,,
W: Instead of dealing strictly with the facts of the particular
J: This is right. In other words, you people are doing the wrong
thing. In other words, they were advising the entire black
communities through these particular people before the court,
by saying that they were absolutely wrong. Well, the point
that I'm getting to is that these people were not wrong in
what they were doing. They were trying to straighten out a
matter which the law should have straightened out itself many
years ago. And I think that if we had been right with the law,
the people would not have had to protest. Our government is
built upon the concept that government itself is to be cor-
rected whenever it goes astray and fails to deal with the
people on an equitable and fair basis. I think the govern-
ment at this point had failed its basic obligation.
W: How were you treated as a black attorney? Were you talked
J: Well, I had to stand up and defend my position as a lawyer and
officer of the court and defend my clients' rights that were
before the court. Some judges certainly demonstrated their
distaste or dislike for me. I expected that. Some judges
would, off the bench, say one thing and on the bench say some-
thing else, this type of thing. But as a whole, as far as I'm
concerned, I carried my burden and they carried theirs.
And in this type of a struggle, who am I to say they were
wrong, you know? Because I was a part of the struggle. From
their point of view, I might have been wrong. From my point
of view, I was right, And from my point of view, they were
wrong in some respects, and from their point of view, they
think they were right. I think this, however: that I don't
think I was held in contempt of court.
W: You're talking about during the riots and Judge John Santora?
J; Right. I think I was told if I didn't stop talking or didn't
stop doing certain things, I might be held in contempt of
court, I had no..,I thought about saying, you know, that
the day that I'd have to stop defending my client S rights
in court, that's the day I would no longer be a lawyer, I
would really accept whatever kind of respect was due me. And
I meant that. That was the only way I could answer the ques-
tion at that time,
W: What threats of intimidation were made against you and other
blacks active in the civil rights movement in 1964?
J: Well, I was threatened in the sense that my family was threatened,
my children were threatened, my wife. I was told that my chil--
drenwould be kidnapped and I'd find them dead someplace. They
were going to shoot me, assassinate me, I never gave any of this
information to newspapers. I would also tell my family not to
repeat it and not to say anything about it.
W: Why would you do this?
J: Well, I thought it would simply build up to the kind of things
that were going on. People would call my house and speak all
types of profane names to my wife and my children. They would
call me every ten minutes, you know.
W: Chain phone calls?
J: Chain phone calls, things of this sort. It was a harassing
kind of thing over several months. I had to have guards with
me all the time, they guarded my house, they guarded me.
W: Who were the guards? Were they individuals...
J: Individuals, yes.
W: ...you hired personally?
J: Well, no. The organizations that were about would ask for
volunteers, and they would come and volunteer to sit in my
house. They had three or four shifts; they would sit around
the clock, you know. For some period of time; this was
probably for about a month or so, two months.
W: Did you go to the police?
W1 Why not?
J; Well, my reason for not going to the police was that I felt that
would escalate the problem, because I didn't want police in the
community. The police had demonstrated that they were much
opposed to what we were doing as average citizens, and to bring
the police into the community to protect me would make my friends,
who were protecting me, feel that they were not....
J: That they were inadequate. Secondly, if something would
happen over there, I would feel responsible for it. To the
police officers, I would feel responsible; also, the men I
would feel responsible. So my decision at that time.was that
I would give no publicity to any kind of threats that were
made against me or my family. I would not give them the
privilege of knowing that I had even thought about it. That
was my attitude about it.
W: How did the riot and Burns's stand on desegregation affect his
popularity within the black community?
J: Well, it went from about a 85 percent support in the black
community to about 15 to 20 percent support. It really dropped
and they demonstrated it at the polls.
W: What support had Burns had within the black community prior
to the riot?
J: Prior to the riot, Burns had the support of most of the mini-
sters in the community, businessmen of the community, and most
of the average citizens in the community. They respected him.
The mayor as such--speaking about him as a person, his character
had impressed black people with the idea that he understood
to some degree the frustrations of the black people over these
problems and how they anguished over these problems. To some
extent, he committed himself to try and eliminate some of
these problems, such as saying, "All right, we'll hire some
black people in certain areas of city government. We will try
to get blacks as firemen."'
And he made efforts to do these things you see? So that
made me know that he understood to some degree the problems
of the black community. Now, his problem is that he was not
able to articulate his conduct in relating to the black prob-
lems with the white community. He was not able to do this.
And this caused him a great handicap in dealing with the
W: How politically motivated were these jobs he gave to black
policemen and other positions? Were these done in exchange
for political support for Burns?
J: Well, when people ask me the question about how politically
motivated those certain things were, I often ask myself how
can a politician act in a nonpolitical way because whatever
he does affects his popularity one way or another. So it's
gonna be political. I think a better question is whether or
W: Were his motives sincere?
J: Did I feel that Burns was sincere about what he was doing?
The answer to that is yes. I definitely felt that Burns was
sincere for the things he wanted to do. He was not hypocriti-
cal. The illustration I gave you before probably demonstrated
his attitude more than anything else, and that was when we were
in his office.
W: Can you describe that for us?
J: Yeah, he asked some of the fellows who were involved in the
litigations and said, "Look, you fellows should not bring
this suit." We were talking about the golf courses at that
time. He said, "You fellows should not bring this suit at
this time. You got one day on the golf course; I got that
for you. Now, give me time, I'll get you another day, some
more time and I'll get you a full week like anyone else."
And one of the fellows asked him, "Mr. Mayor, we under-
stand that this is what you gonna do, but we want to ask you
one question. We feel we should be on the golf course every
day, now! And do you think we're wrong?"
So posed with that particular question, Burns walked
around his room, thinking, looking up and down as he would
do, and finally he walked back and looked us straight in the
eyes and said, "Well, no. I don't think you are wrong. I'm
just asking you for more time because if you pursue this, you
probably gonna make me lose the election."
I thought that was pretty fair. I thought that was pretty
forthright, and I think that was true. He gained as far as his
reputation was concerned with me.
W: What about certain promises that Burns made to blacks to
better their conditions which he later reneged on? What I'm
thinking about is the fire department.
J: He didn't renege on the fire department. The fire department
was a project that had been promised to black leadership in
the community. All right, Burns took the position, saying,
"Now look, we got the money appropriated for the fire station
out here on Myrtle Avenue, and the station was built."
That was a kept promise. The reason black firemen were
not stationed in that particular fire station was because it
would have been a segregated, black station. It would have
been all black with a few officers who were white.
Pearson opposed this and said, "Well, no, we don't want
to have it that way."
But Burns said, "Well look, if you give the black people
the kind of a test that you gonna have to give them to pass
to be a fireman, they're gonna flunk it. And you're not gonna
get anybody to pass that test."
Well, that's true.
W: Wasn't that a prejudicial attitude?
J: No. That was a fact.
W: Wasn't there some black individuals who could have passed the
J: No, they couldn't. Unless they take certain preliminary work.
For instance, the guys who were passing were fellows who had
worked either in the service as firemen, or had worked on the
bases as firemen...
W: Naval bases?
J: ...naval bases as firemen, or they had worked as volunteer
firemen, you see? Now, what happened...let me ask you if
you're a college graduate, you cannot pass certain things
in certain areas unless you study the kinds of things that
are involved. And what we needed to have at that time was
what we have now. To bring black people aboard, give them
training, give them minimum examination if they can read or
write, and this type of thing, the minimum. Then bring them
aboard and give them the training and see whether or not they
could work out.
Now, I'm simply saying that was not done and that was
not pursued. Unfortunately, black leadership at that time,
evidently did not understand it. But I understand that., It's
like you can't pass, or you can't be a lawyer just because
you want to be one. You have to go to study to be a lawyer.
W: What you're saying is that there were no black individuals
who were qualified to be firemen, and had the training who
were denied positions because they were black?
J: This is right. I was simply saying that while there were
many black men capable of being firemen, they were not given
the preliminary training they needed in order to pass the exam
to be a fireman, I think those same persons, without that
exam, could have been put in training, could have passed, and
would have passed.
W: Had Mr. Burns in a sense mislead the black community on this
particular issue by promising them that there would be black
J: No. He told them at the outset that it would be a segregated
fire station; and when the day come to integrate the fire sta-
tion, then at least they would be there, and it would all be
integrated at one time,
W: What factors other than the rioting caused Mr. Burns's black
support to decline? You spoke last time of the mayoral elec-
tion between Burns and John Lanahan.
J: Right, well during that particular election, the people against
Burns used the riot as a way of saying that he was not qualified
to be the mayor. And this was used very extensively,
W: Now, this is the first riot you're talking about?
W: There was one in the early '60s, I believe,
W: So Mr, Lanahan had used this against Mr, Burns, the way he
J: Well, I wouldn't say Mr, Lanahan, but his workers did, I don't
know if Mr. Lanahan was for it or not, and I don't want to
slander a person unless I heard it from his mouth. I said
people who worked for Mr. Lanahan.
W: His organizers within the black community?
J: Right, he was against them.
W: How did Mr. Burns campaign in the black community during his
1964 bid for governor? How open was his campaign?
J: I think his campaign was very open. He had difficulty
getting people to work for him in the black community. Very
few black people were willing to stand up and support him be-
cause of the fact that prior to that he had been pointed out...
he had been stigmatized by the black community as being a
person who was against their progress. He was a segregationist;
he was against it, And you can plainly see it's very difficult
for a black person to stand up among black people and support
a man who had been stigmatized as a racist. Now, it's very
difficult for a white person to stand up in the white community
and support a black man, you know, among people that themselves
who say we don't want to be bothered with black people. So
it's a question of integrity and courage.
W: You supported Mr, Burns?
J: Certainly I did.
W: Why did you support him?
J: Because I think he deserved it, I did not believe that his
attitude, I mean the things he had said in connection with the
riots alone should have been the deciding factor. I think a
public officer deals with many things, many problems, and I
think that how well he managed, how he organized to get things
done, how he would go about doing it, and whether or not he
would listen to the black people and try to do something about
problems within the limits of his power as a mayor. I think
he did that,
W: Now, what had he said he would do as governor to help in the
J: He would hire black people in the state government, and he did,
He put more people in the state government thah there's ever
been in the state government since reconstruction time. In
fact, that's one of the things that caused him to lose the elec-
W; In 1966?
J: I think so,
W: Why was that, because Mr, High was openly supporting civil
rights at that time and equal opportunity for black people?
J; But Burns actually was not talking, Burns was doing. Burns
would place black people in positions in Tallahassee, and they
were very visible. For instance, he appointed Reverend Graham,
I think, to the Board of Funeral Directors, we had never had
"a black on it. All right, he had placed on the board of regents
"a black man out of....
W: Fort Lauderdale?
J: Fort Lauderdale,
W: John J. Gardener?
J: No, not Gardener. What is his name? I've forgotten it now.
He had placed a woman on some other position; I've forgotten
now what it was. These were on state committees and organiza-
tions. I was at that time joint counsel-working in the Office
of Economic Opportunity in Tallahassee. He had in that particu-
lar department at least three or four other black people
working there: black secretaries and what have you.
W: Do you believe this was more than just a token effort by Burns?
J: Yeah, this was token, but it was a genuine effort on his part
to bring black people into the government. When you say token,
I suppose you mean it was by no means an effort to bring black
people into an equal, proportionate share in the state govern-
ment, right? That is, they should be employed without discrimi-
J: ,..in any area of the state government. I think that Burns
had that notion that there should be no discrimination. I
think that he had that notion; I firmly believe Burns had
that notion. However, the things he was able to accomplish
at that time was very limited. When you compare it with the
total employment and apparatus of the state government, it was
token in that sense. It was not enough.
W: Getting back to Jacksonville in the '64 gubernatorial political
campaign, who were some of Mr, Burns's principle supporters in
Jacksonville? Black supporters? Other than yourself.
J; Well, there were a few ministers, I'm trying to think what
ministers; IIm not quite sure. It was a long time back.
J: A few ministers supported him, there were few businessmen that
supported him, I believe Josh,,,,
W: Joshua Hillman?
J: I think Josh Hillman supported,..I believe Josh did support
W: Now, why did these men and women support Burns?
J: Well, I suppose from their own point of view, he had earned
their support. Same as I did. As I said before, you don't
select a man based on any one problem, and if you do that,
you lose sight of the whole world as far as I'm concerned.
And I don't think he was opposed to integration.
W: Were many of these individuals either connected with the Burns
administration here in Jacksonville in a job or were being
paid by Burns to campaign and organize for him in the Jacksonville
J: I don't think so. I said I don't think so; it's a possibility.
I was not employed by him at that time, and I was not being
paid. He and I were still opponents.
W: And it was after this that he gave you a job?
J: Well, after he gave me a challenge, he said, "Well, you feel
that you can integrate or you can desegregate or you can
bring harmony between black and white people. You feel it
can be done."
I said, "Yes,"
He says, "Well, I'm gonna give you the opportunity to do
this. So you're organizing community action agencies through-
out the state of Florida, Now, these are new agencies to be
developed, and here's your chance to get involved. Do not
wait and sit until we get it wrong, you do it right."
So I said, "OK."
W: So that was your motivation for it?
J: I took it as a challenge, and I lost about $10,000 a year so
that I could pursue the job, But I thought it was worth it.
W: That leads into my next question. How were blacks who supported
Burns treated by the majority of the blacks who supported Mr.
High and other candidates?
J: Well, I suppose they were ostracized to some extent; I suppose
you could say that. But that doesn't mean very much to me,
a man like myself and of course other people, because I really
respect people who have their own views about life.
The fact that someone says to me, "I think you're wrong
I said, "Well, OK, you tell me your reasons why."
And I'm a very good listener. Once he finishes his
reasons why, then I explain to him my reasons. If his reasons
are better than mine, I'm willing to adapt. But I found no one
who could tell me why not. I mean their reasons were all
centered around the riot, what was done in the riot, and I
said, "That's not enough."
W: What about Mr. High and his position on the civil rights,
wasn't that a motivation for his support, rather than just
the anti-Burns sentiment?
J: Well, Mr. High had a good theme. I saw Mr. High as a pretty
liberal thinking man, but whether Mr. High would do what he
said he wanted to do was very questionable to me. And it's all
right to be a liberal; for a guy to say, "I'm a liberal." It's
not whether you're a liberal that deserves my support as far
as I'm concerned. It's whether or not you can articulate and
can do what a liberal minded person should do.
That means you got to talk to the people that are my
enemies, or my opponents. Doesn't mean you got to talk to me,
that's no good. You must be able to convince the people who
are opposed to my equality, you must be able to tell them
that you're wrong, and that's the way we should do it. And
Burns was that kind of man. Burns could talk to the Ku Klux
Klan; Burns could talk to other organizations. He said, "Well,
look I think you better modify your view on this particular
thing. For these people have certain rights."
And just like when he was criticized for hiring people in
the government. And they said, "Well, you are only hiring in
He said, "Sure. Why should I hire my enemies. If my
friends can do the job, why not hire my friends? In fact, I
know these people. It's just a job to be done. If I don't know
you and here's a guy over here that knows...."
He made mention of the fact that he would hire a person
that could do the job. The main thing was to get a man who
could do the job. I think that's right. Whether it's friend
or foe, if he's hired to render a service in a particular posi-
tion and is paid for it, then he should be able to deliver If
he can't, he shouldn't be hired.
W: You mentioned Mr. Burns's ability to articulate the viewpoints
of different groups of people opposed to one another. Now
you had said during the riot he had been unable to do this.
Why this change?
J: Well, no, I said this..,let me say this. To a limited
degree, he could deal with the question of why you should be
in government, why you should have a job in government like
any other citizen. He could talk about that, and why he thought
it was wrong to segregate against black people in this respect.
But he was unable to articulate why black people should march
in the street to demonstrate about this problem. You see, that's
the distinction I made.
J: Many people believe that black people have a right to be treated
equally. But by the same token they condemn black people for
marching in the street and sitting in cafeterias and refusing
to move, or going to hotels and motels and refusing to move,
to protest. In other words, they could not articulate the matter
and the method used by black people to bring this change they
were looking for. Well, that's like talking about whether we
should do it by war or we should do it by conferences, you see.
W: The style, and not the substance,
J: The style, right. Now, see Burns could not articulate that.
I could, but he could not, you see. So weMd had a conference;
we had talked for many years,
The white businessman downtown was in this pocket, this
bag. If he say, "Come in,"' then he's gonna lose his white
customers, So someone above him had to say, "Yes, come in."
Now, he was willing to acquiesce, but he was not willing to
be the one to say, "All right, I'll open my door."
W: Now, could you tell me why Mr. High was so popular in Jacksonville
in the black community in 1964? Why do you believe he was so?
J: Well, I think Mr, High exploited the fact that in Jacksonville
we had had a very intensive campaign here to desegregate all
the facilities here, public and private, I want to say quasi-
private; I dontt want to say private, like homes. And I think
that he recognized that the mayor had opposition in the black
community because of his inability, as I said before, to deal
with the problem of black people marching and sitting in and
doing this type of thing to resolve their problems of illegal
discrimination, And he is simply saying to the black people
that I am a person that believes that black people are entitled
to the same rights as white people in the community, that I'm
going to work for that purpose, and that I'm going to try and
Well, it's a far cry to making a promise of what you're
going to do, and the man who was on the spot had to act during
an issue of this sort. Now, how Mr. High would have handled
the matter had he been Burns, I'm not sure, He might have
handled it better, I'm not sure. But I knew this--Burns was,
in my opinion, a man that felt within his own heart, his own
way, that black people were entitled to be treated fair.
That was the thing that impressed me about him.
W: Hadn't he exploited the riot, the race issue, and civil rights
in his campaign for governor?
J: Yes, I think he did. And I challenged him for that. You know
once he said that the reason he was not supported by black
people was because he was opposed to certain kinds of inte-
gration and what have you, and he said that to get white groups
on his side, The irony of it all was that he lost this election
W: What election year was this?
J: The one when he ran for a full term,
J: Right, He lost that election because of the fact that people
who were opposed to him said that he was too fair to black
W: Now, how could they say that when Mr. High was running on a
civil rights platform?
J: Because Mr. High could talk openly on one point and behind doors
on another point. The mayor, or the governor, was acting out
the role of fairness, He was actually performing, actually
putting black people in government.
W: DonFt you think there were other reasons that were probably
more important than that?
J: Well, if you asked me, were there always internal political
reasons that the average person would not be knowledgeable
about. For instance, how the businessmen felt in the community
throughout the state. People in construction work, road work,
lobby for who they want to support as governor. Of course,
there are many private things that were never brought out in
the open to the general public. Why certain groups of persons
support a particular candidate. That's true with every candidate
that runs for public office.
Well, the point that I'm getting to is that the mass of
people that vote are moved on less concrete things. I mean the
average voter that votes in the polls has to see the image of
the man because there are no deals with him and the man.
Therefore, what kind of image do you project for that candidate?
High was projected to the general public as a fair-minded civil
rights liberal, fairly liberal man. Right? All right, now
High had supporting him some of the persons who were really
W: In 1964?
J: Yeah. I don't know why. You'll have to find out why.
W: Well, hadn't Mr. High in Miami dealt with the racial question
in a moderate way, and hadn't he incorporated black people into
an active role in government and in the private sector as well?
J: Well, he had done some of that, yes. I think Mr. Henry H.
Arrington, one of the lawyers there, had been a judge there.
I think there was another fellow who was on the county commission
there, I'm not sure. Mr. High had made quite a few local commit-
ments to employing people. Yes, he had. But when you compare
Burns, acting in Tallahassee, with what High was acting in Miami,
you get a lot of criticism. How do you think the people who
were represented on board of wholesale and retail association
felt about Burns when he put a black person on that board, and
there'd never been a black person on that board.