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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida
ORAL HISTORY PROJECT
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
INTERVIEWEE: Lloyd Pearson
INTERVIEWER: Paul Weaver
DATE: October 5, 1976
W: Mr. Lloyd Pearson is the former president of the Jacksonville
branch of the NAACP and is also the brother of Mr. Rutledge
Pearson, who was the president of the local branch of the
NAACP in Jacksonville in 1964 and was also president of the
state NAACP, the Florida NAACP. I'm talking to Mr. Pearson
at his home at 2471 Doby Street. Mr. Pearson, how were you
associated with the NAACP in 1964?
P: Well, I was one of the active members, who attended meetings
regularly, and sat in on finance sessions. I did whatever I
could to assist or help carry out certain projects that were
W: Who were some of the other leaders or the principal leaders
of the Jacksonville branch of the NAACP in 1964?
P: Well, some of the principals during that time were Wendell
Holmes who was serving as a chairman of education. We had
men like Dr. Arnett Girardeau, one of the local dentists.
W: That's Arnett Girardeau?
P: Arnett Girardeau, that's right. He was serving on the executive
board, and he was also one of the vice presidents during that
time. And we had Miss Sally Mathis who was working in the ranks
in political action.
W: What specifically was she doing?
P: She was chairman of political action. She conducted voter regis-
tration drives and this type of thing.
W: Who was in charge of the NAACP Youth Division at that time?
P: Rutledge Pearson was in charge of the NAACP Youth Division,
working under Reverend Williams. I can't recall his first name
at this moment, but he was the pastor of Ebenezer Methodist
Church, which was located on Ashley Street at the corner of Clay.
W: But wasn't Mr. Pearson in 1964 the president of the NAACP?
P: In 1964 he had been elected for president.
W: Uh huh.
P: He served as director of the youth activities...
W: Prior to that.
P: ...prior to that, that's right.
W: Do you recall exactly who was the leader of the NAACP youth
at that time?
P: Under Rutledge's leadership, I just at the moment I cannot
think who was the director of the youth program,
W: Could you tell me who some of the youth members who were
involved at that time were?
P: Yeah, Bob Ingraham was one and Elton Yeats, Rodney Hurst.
Rodney Hurst was the director, and come to think of it, Rodney
Hurst was the president of the youth council.
W: How about Alexander Herd, do you recall?
P: During that time he was on the finance committee.
W: Uh huh. Mr. Ulysses Beatty, was he?
P: He was the treasurer at that time.
W: Could you briefly describe for me what were some of the
principal goals of the NAACP in 1964?
P: Well, during that time the NAACP was working hard to try to
open up job opportunities with the city. One of the projects,
they were trying to get the city to consider employment. At
that time they had many dead end jobs. You were employed as
maybe a laborer with the city, for example, in the garbage
department. If you were a laborer, you could toss the cans on
the truck, but you could not drive.
W: Uh huh.
P: You could not serve in supervision, or you could not serve
in some of the classified jobs you could hold. They even saw
dead end in them, but you see they had janitorial jobs and
other jobs, but they were dead end.
W: There was no way you could move up the ladder.
P: Up the ladder, yeah. So they struggled to break that up. They
were also striving to eliminate discrimination in employment
in city hall. You take most of the persons who collected for
the lights when you go pay your light bill and water bills;
there were no blacks. And in many of the offices around, there
were no secretaries to type things. One of the major projects
was to try to open up eating facilities and this type thing.
P: Restaurants and hotels,
P: This type thing. Another project that they were trying to get
rid of was the school segregation because our kids were bussed
quite a bit in order to keep them in all black schools.
W: Uh huh.
P: So they were trying to get the city to get the school board
to consider some type of desegregation plan.
W: Wasn't 1964 the first year that desegregation of schools began
in Duval County? At Lackawanna Elementary School for instance?
Do you recall?
P: Let's see, maybe so, but I'm not sure whether it was at that
W: Uh huh.
P: I cannot be specific right now.
W: What about the fire department, wasn't that another?
P: Yeah, it was another project that we tried, but at that time
it seemed pretty hard, as if there was very little progress
made. I think there were no blacks, but this was one of the
projects we tried to open up so that blacks could be hired as
P: What opposition did you meet from the city government and, spe-
cifically, from Mayor Burns?
P: We met quite a bit of opposition. The Mayor and his group
many times would use excuses to keep from talking and wouldn't
keep their dates or set appointments. Many times.when they
would talk, after the talks ended, it would seem as if nothing
was ever done.
W: Um hum.
P: But there was very little cooperation on the part of city
officials; the political machine here was very conservative.
W: Um hum.
P: It seem that they were more afraid of the voters than what was
W: How was the NAACP involved in the desegregation of restaurants
and hotels in Jacksonville in 1964?
P: Well, the first major part...it was during that time that many
of the demonstrations were held, A lot of picketing went on,
walking with picketing signs and this type of thing. There
were a lot of meetings held with managers of different businesses
to try to get them to see that they should discontinue having
separate counters. They also had some demonstrations, such as
attempts to sit in and this type thing and go in some place like
hotels and try to get them to open the doors and such things.
W: Um hum. There were negotiations before the actual sit-ins were
P: Yes, there was,
W: What was involved in that?
P: Well, many times they would have a committee of two or three
to go in and sit down and talk with the manager and this type
of thing. To see if they would consider opening doors, but many
of them didn't seem...it didn't get too far.
W; In other words, it wasn't very effective, the actual negotiating
part of the desegregation attempts.
P: Yes, it seemed like it didn't really get very far along that
line. There were attempts made but seemed like the results
were very, very poor, There were those, the managers, and many
of them were more afraid of their patrons, rather than their
traditions and customs of this area, and rather than being
concerned with what was right.
W: Why were these particular establishments chosen, such as Leb's
Restaurant, Morrison's Cafeteria, and the Robert Meyer Hotel,
as the focal points for desegregation attempts?
P: Well, the reason why places like the five-and-ten cent stores
were because in so many of these stores, blacks spent their
money very heavily and purchased the merchandise at the counter.
They spent a lot of money. We noticed that the experiments in
other cities, where it had started before it got here, was made
on these types of stores: five-and-ten cent stores and places
where they have even condiments and department stores, and what
not. So we felt that since we spent such a lot amount of money
at these places, these places should be first.
W: Why was this particular time chosen to attempt to desegregate
these particular facilities?
P: Well, I believe there was a general feeling that the time was
getting right for this type of thing.
W: Um hum.
P: At the national convention, at the regional meetings, in the
workshops, and things like that, there was sort of an effort
across the country to start moving in this direction.
W: Um hum.
P: And this was sort of a follow-through of instructions we re-
ceived to carry on. And we thought that it was an appropriate
time since certain civil rights bills had been passed.
W: Um hum.
P: That was leading toward opening up these things--saying that
you should open up even though some of them were not obeying
W: Um hum.
P: Since certain bills had been passed, they were more favorable
toward elimination of some of these customs. We felt it was
appropriate to make these moves, which was sort of cooperation
with these movements,
W: The Jacksonville movement was pretty much in conjunction with
other movements that were taking place throughout the nation
and throughout the South at that time?
P: Yes, that's true.
W: What connection did the sit-ins and other protests have with
the political campaign, the gubernatorial primary, that was
taking place at that time? Do you know?
P: Let's see, as far as the political connection, I don't believe
there was any special political connection. I believe the poli-
tical voting, and what not that took place at that time, just
happened to come along at a time when these demonstrations were
W: Um hum.
P: There may have been some; I'm quite sure there was some effect
on the political business that was going on at that time. But
the movement was just on at that time, and the effort, the aims,
was to try to get things opened up.
W: Yeah, there was no necessary intent to put pressure on the white
establishment and Mayor Burns in his political campaign was there?
P: Well, right now I cannot truthfully say it was, although it had
great effect, passive effects.
W: That wasn't the reason the segregation protests, and the picketing
were...that wasn't the principal aim?
P: No, that wasn't the principal aim. The principal aim was to
try to eliminate these things. But the principal aim wasn't so
much...I don't believe it was possibly to put pressure on those
that were running. It did have some effect.
W: How effective were these protest marches, the sit-ins, and the
picketing in bringing about a desegregation of these particular
P: Well, they were very effective. When I say very effective, I
don't mean they opened doors right away.
W: Uh huh.
P: But they sensitized a lot of good people, white and black,
who were sort of asleep, because the marches was embarrassing
to many people.
W: Uh hum.
P: It took courage on the part of those who marched, And it was
embarrassing to people; they didn't like to see a lot of blacks
marching through cities, protesting, this type thing, because
the thing had been that black folks were happy and satisfied,
But instead of being satisfied, we was just quiet, It wasn't
that we were satisfied. And the marches disproved many saying
that we were happy under this system.
W: Um hum.
P: So I believe that the marches did a lot toward helping good
people to wake up, and to come to say, "Well, I didn't realize
things were this bad."
W: Um hum.
P: The sit-ins and the demonstrations and the picketing, all these
things did a whole lot towards sensitizing people, It made some
angry, but out of their anger, after they cooled off from their
anger, I believe some of them went off into their closets and
had a chance to think with their real minds, Some of them had
a big change of heart.
W: Um hum.
P: Because some folk even stepped in to try to help, Even though
they could, they were not. Many white have offered help although
they were afraid to get out there and march because of being os-
tracized or hurt by their own. But we had a lot of good white
people that came on in the background and called us by telephone,
or sent money.
W: Can you remember who some of these people were? Who were helping
at this time? Dr. Dreger [Ralph M. Dreger], was he one of these
people? Out at J.U. [Jacksonville University]?
P: Yes, he was one, and we had men like Ed Ballance, and men like
Mr. Davis [James E. Davis]....
W: Who was this Mr. Davis?
P: He was the man over Winn-Dixie. I think he's president or
W: The owner of Winn-Dixie?
P: Yeah. I don't think he's the owner, but he has a lot of stock
W: I know who you're talking about.
P: Some men like that, and we had other men, I can't think of
right off, who sent great contributions to help finance. Some
did some things to open doors, and anonymously they did it.
W: Uh huh.
P: So the marches did a great thing toward helping to sensitize
people as to the wrongs.
W: Yeah. What economic effect did these protest marches and the
sit-ins and the picketing of the restaurants have?
P: Well, it affected a whole lot. Some of the bigger business,
who may have been able to weather the storm, may have got by,
but there were a lot of small businesses all in between who
were being hurt very much and who were businesses right on the
edges as it was. And this tilted the cart. I'm not gonna say
it did close one or two, but it cost them something. We had
some men who ran small businesses, who almost begged us not to
do this thing, because they were being hurt. Wherein big busi-
nesses may have been able to overcome and go on as if nothing
had happened, although they felt it.
W: Um hum.
P: But there were many businesses in between, who felt it, and
then they did quite a bit and said quite a bit to try to help
push this thing on so that they wouldn't have to face this thing
W: They wanted, in other words, the picketing to end, and in order
for the picketing to end, they agreed to what the NAACP was
P: Yeah, some of them. Well, I won't say they agree, but some of
them used their influence to speak up in some of the meetings
that were held, maybe in the chamber of commerce or downtown
to some businessmen, Some of them spoke up in order to try
to influence them to go ahead on and open doors, rather than
fight, because many businessmen were being hurt,
W: Uh huh.
P: Smeof the boycotts were carried out rather effectively, even
far more than some of us realized who were participating,
W: What individuals or groups were involved in organizing the sit-
ins and the picketing and the protest marches that took place?
P: Well, many of the sororities and fraternities did a lot, Groups
like the Kappas and the Alpha ones and these,...
W: What was the second one?
P: The Alpha Phi Alphas, the fraternity, and the Kappas, and there
was some later marches. I can't think of the name of them, but
it was two or three.
W: Uh huh.
P: And the churches, quite a few churches came through.
W: Let's talk about the sororities and the fraternities, what
exactly did they do, can you recall?
P: Well, many of them made contributions, and many of them had mem-
bers who'd come and participate.
W: Uh huh.
P: Many of them did that....
W: In the marches and in...
P: In the marches,
W: ...in the picketing...
P: Many of them did a lot toward helping us to prepare and adver-
tise because we had to get out literature, and we had to get
out stuff to be.,,
W: You're talking about the NAACP doing this now, putting out
P: Pictures and stuff like that to advertise and invitationsr-
inviting people to come. Passing out hand bills, and many of
these organizations stepped in and did quite a bit to help us
to prepare, because a march takes a lot of preparation and a
lot of time in order to be effective.
W: Right. Now what about the churches, what role did they play
in the planning and the participation of these various protests?
P: Well, they did a lot because the churches opened their doors
for us to hold meetings, invite us to their churches, And
ministers came and gave talks and what not, and they allowed
us to pass out handbills in their churches.
W? Um hum. Now, who were some of these ministers, and what were
some of the churches that,..?
P: That participated? Well, we had men like Reverend Jones, I'm
trying to think of Reverend Jones's first name, but he was a
pastor of Central Baptist Church on West Third Street. We had
W: Reverend J. S. Johnson?
P: Reverend J. S. Johnson of Saint Stephen, We had men like Reverend
Young over at Mount Calvary Baptist Church on the east side and
men like Reverend J. C. Sams, the Second Baptist Church, and
Reverend Robert Wilson from Bethel Baptist Church,
W: Uh huh.
P: And we had men like Reverend Barnes from the east side Streetfield
Baptist Church. He played a major role in,...
W: Were many of these ministers also members of the NAACP?
P: Yes, they were all members,
W: All these that you've mentioned were members,
P: And their churches were. They were lifting offerings at
their churches because I think some of the offerings that
came out of some other churches such as Second Baptist and
Saint Stephen and uh, Bethel and Mount Calvary--contributions
were lifted on Sunday morning. It was a big help in helping
us to meet certain....
W: They were giving some of their offerings to the NAACP to help
in their work?
P: That's true, lifting special offerings,
W: Special offerings?
P: Yeah, sometimes they would have some folks standing at the
door with trays; when the members exit from service, they
would make a contribution. So they'd lift a special offering
after they'd taken their regular offering.
W: Uh huh.
P: Then we had some professional people stepped in; it was a few
doctors that came to our side at this time; we got Dr. W. W.
Schell, Jr. and Dr. Charles B. McIntosh. Quite a few professional
men came in.
W: What about your brother, Mr, Rutlege Pearson, what role did
he play in organizing these protests, the sit-ins, and the
P: Well, he played a key role; he was sort of like the center of
W: The overall coordinator for all of these?
P: Overall coordinator, because he was a very fine character,
keep everybody as much as possible feeling happy. Many times
leaders will forget the little man, but he was the type of
person that realized that power was in people.
W: Um hum.
P: And he kept that power right where it should be. Although
he was the vehicle through which it may have passed, he kept
power in its proper place.
W: Mr. Pearson, why did black leaders feel these particular
activities, such as the protest marches, the picketing,
et cetera, were necessary?
P: Well, one thing that many of the leaders had learned in
going to the seminars was that whenever something happens--
that's going on in a community that shouldn't--then it should
be explained, that is, should be blown up.
P: Publicized--sorta like fish in a creek. If you want to catch
fish without a hook anytime, you muddy the creek, and the
fish will come to the top. And then you can pick them right
off. But many times some of these evils that go on are deep
seated. In order to bring them up to the light, you got to
do something that drive them to the surface. And protests
and demonstrations were one vehicle through which these things
were brought to the surface; so they could be seen far and
wide, and dealt with properly. Dealt with more effective,
I'll put it that way.
W: Right. Who were the principal participants in the desegrega-
tion attempts of Morrison's Cafeteria, the Robert Meyer Hotel,
and you mentioned some of the dime stores downtown?
P: Well, the principal participants were youths in the desegrega-
tion of restaurants and the five-and-ten cent store counters
and lunch counters and this type thing.
W: Right. The sit-ins....
P: Yeah, the sit-ins were directed by adults, but the youths were
W: Uh huh.
P: But the hotels, the principal participants there were ministers.
W: Why were students and ministers chosen to be the participants
in these demonstrations?
P: Well, we thought that students and ministers stood less chance
of being hurt economically.
W: Uh huh.
P: Students were dependent upon their parents. And they didn't
have a great deal to lose. It was a few of them that realized
there is something to be lost by everybody, but we really felt
that students, in this particular instance, will be the best
ones to use in this type of demonstrating. We didn't feel it
was a cowardly thing to do.
W: Um hum.
P: We thought it was the appropriate thing to do. And ministers,
since they depend upon primarily blacks for their survival,
their livelihood, we figured that they didn't have to worry
about their livelihood being cut off.
W: Um hum.
P: Because they had the support...the support of their churches
would remain through these demonstrations.
W: So the principal reason these particular groups within the
black community were chosen was economic then.
P: That's right. Economic.
W: Why were black professionals, such as ministers, doctors,
and teachers, encouraged to participate in these activities?
Was it basically the same reason?
W: You've got some others other than ministers; now we're talking
about doctors and teachers, why were they encouraged?
P: Well, we figured many of them would probably be helpful as far
as being able to plan and to advise and to sort of direct as
they participate. Although, we were not limited to these
people, because we found out so many times your more effective
participant were lay people who were not professionals.
W: Um hum.
P: But we needed the professionals in the ranks in order to direct
and to officiate and to advise and also to participate.
W: Um hum.
P: So this is why they were called on quite a bit,
W: Now, how were church groups, such as the Jacksonville Inter-
denominational Ministerial Alliance, working with the NAACP
in these desegregation efforts? Were there formal church
groups working with the NAACP, or was it most mainly individual
P: Well, I would say it was some of both; I would say it was
groups, sure, I would say church groups, because I was a
minister of an alliance right then,
W: Um hum.
P: And they went before the alliance to talk this, because with
the alliance you have a lot of ministers there, It's a group-
type thing, and we felt that the word could be passed. Of
course, in many instances many ministers came on an individual
basis who may not have been affiliated with the group.
W: And those were some of the men you mentioned before? Ministers
like Reverend Johnson, Reverend Sams, or were there others?
P: There were others. I can't...some who came and participated
that I can't think of their names right off, but most of these
men that you just mentioned were men who were part of organized
W: Uh huh.
P: These men, they were really leaders; like Reverend Sams, for
example, he is president of the state convention of Baptists..,
W: Baptist ministers?
P: ...in his particular denomination. There are two or three of
Baptists, I think. But he is state president, also national
W: Uh huh.
P: So most of the ministers you just mentioned were pretty much
members of organized groups.
W: And they were the leaders...
P: They were the leaders.
W: ...more or less,
P7 Most of them were leaders, that 's right,
W: What facilities, other than restaurants and hotels, was the
NAACP trying to desegregate at this time? What about hospitals?
P: Yes, we worked on hospitals. Back then they were not working
as hard on hospitals as they were others, Although that was
in mind, they were concentrating at that time on a particular
W: And that was public facilities, restaurants,,,.
P: That's right. But hospitals were a part of the program, At
that time the demonstrations were not carried out at the hos-
pitals primarily, but there were efforts and meetings held with
hospital officials. I remember I went to two meetings, I was
part of the committee that went to talk to two hospital admini.
W: Do you remember which hospitals these were?
P: One time we went to Duval Medical Center,
W: Duval Medical Center,
P: Old Duval Medical Center, Another time we went to,,tlet's
see, I believe it was Saint Luke's, yes, Saint Luke's, Those
are the two that I remember sitting in with,
W1 What specifically were blacks complaining about in the way these
hospitals were being administered? In what way were they dis.
criminating against blacks?
P: Well, they were concerned with being divided up by wards and
also with employment.
W: Uh huh,
P: Because we were getting a lot of complaints from the workers
as to discrimination in employment and also in segregation in
wards, and this type thing, And many times they felt that medit
cine in most places where you have segregation and where you
go into one facility that's intended for blacks, you can see a
W: In the quality of care?
P: The quality of care and quality of facilities, and anything
else, We were working to open doors so that people, patients,
would be able to share facilities and services in a respectable
W: How actively involved were state leaders of the NAACP, such as
Mr. Robert Saunders? How actively were they in local NAACP act
tivities at this time?
P: Well, he was helpful as far as giving us direction, He would
come in occasionally, when we would run into a crisis, he would
come in to advise us and to keep us reminded that we should
stay within the bounds of NAACP's national policies,
W: Um hum.
P: Because it's something we had to be careful, because NAACP is
very liable, as you know presently with the Mississippi situation,
W: Um hum.
P: He was very handy about coming in town; he kept right up with
us. As far as keeping us advised and,,,.
W: What specifically, what matters did he advise you on, legal
matters, for instance?
P: Legal matters and on NAACP policies, and what not in general,
Then he had to keep us reminded of our national responsibilities,
too; we have responsibilities to our national office as we moved,
because eventually we have to call on them for legal help,
W: Uh huh.
P: So we have to make sure we keep our freedom funds and things
flowed to the national to help pay for these things.
W: Could you describe exactly what freedom,.,you mentioned freedom
P: Freedom funds, yeah, On the national level we had a freedom
fund which was initiated years ago in St, Louis, Missouri,
NAACP was in a crisis at one time, and they thought the NAACP
would probably have to close its doors. That was years ago,
So someone came up with the idea of a freedom fund, This
freedom fund is raised by each branch across the state. For
example, you give an activity where you raise so much money,
and you keep half the funds in your local treasury and send
half of,them to the national. That half you send to the national
is called the freedom fund, to help the national to be able
to take care of its obligations across the country.
W: Um hum.
P: So he would come in town and remind us of these obligations.
Plus, he would also keep us abreast of many things that we
could do locally to help carry out the program.
W: What recommendations in 1964 was he making for local activities?
P: Well, he would recommend plans of desegregation of housing and
this type thing--I mean for elimination of certain conditions
in a housing area down in the ghetto. He would give instructions
on procedures to use as far as using the news media to expose,..
and he'd always sort of remind us of many of the laws that we
can use to deal with these matters.
W: Uh huh.
P: He'd advise us, and on many times we could try to follow to
break up discrimination in labor and this type thing. Right
now I can't think of some specific laws he was for.
W: But that was generally what he did.
P: Generally what he did.
W: He was the Florida field secretary?
P: Yes sir, he was, that's right, the field secretary for the state
W: And that's what his job entailed, exactly what you described?
P: That's true; he was based out of Tampa. His office was in Tampa,
W: Mr. Pearson, how involved were national and regional leaders,
such as Roy Wilkins, in the desegregation attempts and activi-
ties here in Jacksonville?
P: They were very involved, because whenever you make a move
such as this, become involved in demonstrations, you gonna
run into problems. They would come in and advise us how to
deal with these problems. For example, at one point we were
carried to court.
W: What was that?
P: We were carried to court one time,,,
P: ...about the schools, They had a boycott, school boycott;
they had asked the kids to stay home for a few days. And
it was called by the Ministers' Interdenominational Alliance
W: Uh huh.
P: But it was called in a way in that it appeared that the NAACP
called it, but it was actually called by the ministry, They
did it for the NAACP, The school board thought the NAACP called
it, and they carried us to court, It was proven in the court-
room that the NAACP didn't call it; so the case was dropped,
W: The case was.
P: We got out of it, But anyway, I would end up that the national
office was very, very effective in sending lawyers in here to
work with these cases, Many times we ran iinto problems, and
they would send someone in, such as Roy Wilkins or maybe someone
else to represent him, to advise us and what not, They were
very effective-rrather effective, I'll put it that way, in
sending help and sending persons down to assist us and advising
us, and this type thing. Now, it was our responsibility to use
our local people to carry on the work. But they would come in
in an advisory capacity.
W: And they were in close communication and coordination with you
and the NAACP at this particular time in 1964?
P: That's true. They were very close because it was a matter many
times of picking up the telephone and calling, If we needed
someone here, they would fly someone in.
W: Could you tell me, Mr, Pearson, what connection the events in
Jacksonville had with other desegregation attempts that were
going on across the state at this time?
P: Well, they had a great effect, because in Tallahassee and down
in Daytona and in St. Petersburg and Tampa, and one or two other
areas, similar attempts were made, In Tallahassee there were
quite a few arrests that took place, and they tried to carry
out many of these events around cities where there were colleges,
They could use a lot of students, that's why I mentioned
W: Students from Bethune-Cookman College [Daytona Beach],,,
P: That's right.
W: ...and Florida A&M University,.,
P: That's right,
W: ...were participating..,,
P: That's true. They participated. We had the state conventions
and the district seminars, and what not; so they planned it so
they did eventually sort of worked in coordination with the
W: Who was planning these events? Was your brother involved in
P: At that time, when it really got to going, he was the state presi-
dent and local president.
W: Uh huh.
P: Because he elected state president, he was playing a major
hand in helping to plan along with others around the state,
W: Who was Mrs. Ruby Hurley?
P: Ruby Hurley, the regional director, she is in charge of seven
states which make up this particular region, It covers the
states of Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Tennessee,
North and South Carolina.
W: Um hum.
P: So she would be director of this particular area,
W: How was she involved in some of the activities that were
going on in Jacksonville at this time?
P: Well, she made many trips here to...once or twice she parti-
cipated. And the other times she came in to give advice and
to use her influence in whatever way to help make it more
W: Can you recall exactly what she did when she came here? You
said she participated, remember what she did?
P: Well, if I'm not mistaken, I think she marched with us one
time. If I'm not mistaken, I think she participated in a
W: Which march, do you recall, was that? Was it one that went
to the Civic Auditorium?
P: City hall.
W: City hall.
P: Yeah, most of our, all of our marches went to city hall or the
courthouse, one or the other. And I believe she participated
in one of our marches, if I'm not mistaken, but she came in
and planned with us and met with us in our mass meetings. She
was the principal speaker. She's quite a speaker.
W: Uh huh.
P: She spoke for us many times. She was a great help in inspiring
people to want to participate.
W: Um hum.
P: Because she's an.effective speaker with a lot of influence.
W: And she also helped in organizing...
P: Yeah, organizing. Very much.
W: ...and coordinating with the regional NAACP offices?
P: Yeah, very much, she did a great job along the line of coor-
dinating and this type thing.
W: How influential were leaders such as Mrs. Hurley and Robert
Saunders, who were outside of the local black community, in
organizing and coordinating these desegregation activities?
P: Well, they were rather influential because many times when
they would come in town, the news media would get it. It
would be a headline thing. I won't say a headline thing be-
cause the Times-Union was slow about printing. They tried
to subdue as much as possible by not printing. But the news
would get out: many times on the radio or many times in the
black publications her picture would be in it. Many times
city officials sort of hated to see certain leaders come in,
like her, because that did....
W: It was inspiring?
P: It was inspiring to the people, yeah. And it caused some move-
ments to get underway that probably, possibly would not get
off the ground.
W: Right. What about some of...you mentioned black newspapers,
I guess, radio stations, perhaps. How were they effective at
this particular time in publicizing what the NAACP and other
black groups were trying to do?
P: Well, the black newspaper we had here wasn't so effective be-
W: Is that the Florida Star?
P: Florida Star. At that time a lot of stock in the Florida Star
was held by certain men downtown, who were businessmen.
W: Uh huh.
P: And there was a certain influence that they had on the paper,
and the editor here was a little afraid to be all that you
would expect a black newspaper to be, because of the fear of
losing certain support he was getting to keep his paper going.
P: So we had problems with the Florida Star, even though it was
a black published paper. But we did get quite a bit of help
from the radio.
W: Which station, do you remember? WOBS, was that one?
P: WOBS was one, and what is it, WRB, WRD or something to that
W: Uh huh.
P: But one or two black radio stations, predominantly,,,I won't
say they were owned by blacks, but they were good about pub'
fishing, I mean, advertising news about what activities there
was going on,
W: What about the Florida edition of the Pittsburgh Courier?
P: Well, the Pittsburgh Courier did quite a bit, but it being
published out of town...it was out of:state. Many times when
the news came through, it was kind of late.
P: So they did quite a bit, but it wasn't as effective as if it
would have been if it would of been a local,..
W: If it had been a local news....
P: ...a local paper.
W: How did Mr, Rutledge Pearson's position as state NAACP president
bring the Jacksonville situation to the attention of the state
and national leaders?
P: Rutledge Pearson's position as state president of NAACP did
a whole lot to bring this attention to state and national
leaders because Rutledge was a good speaker, He was a very
effective speaker, and he was invited quite a bit to speak
at banquets all over the state. Then he attended many semir
nars outside the state, where he would serve as consultant
W: Um hum.
P: So he was very effective as a speaker. And through that he was
able to do a whole lot to bring this attention to other states,
W: Was he bringing to the attention of state and national leaders
the way Mr. Burns was handling the situation?
P: Well, he did do this along with many other things, He was
effective at also helping blacks to see the viciousness of
the system under which they were living, and he was effective
too in bringing attention to what a conservative government we
had in Jacksonville as far as not being cooperative with blacks
and not being fair, and this type thing,
W: This was a way that black people throughout the state found
out exactly what Mr. Burns's position on desegregation was,
P: Yeah, this is one of the means,
W: Right. How long had Mr, Pearson lived in Jacksonville?
P: All his life, he was born and raised here,
W: In a telegram sent after the riot, Reverend Martin Luther King
promised to send one of his top aides to assist in the desegrer
gation attempts in Jacksonville, Did he send anyone, and if
so, whom did he send?
P: I don't recall him sending anyone, because one thing, at that
time, the local branch was pretty well organized, It did not
want to, I would say, it did not want to destroy its image with
other organizations, Many of those organizations were doing
a great work, it's true, but their policies were not in keeping
with NAACP's methods.
W: Uh huh.
P: And it was felt that there may have been some things done that
could have got the NAACP sued. I don't recall Martin Luther
King sending anyone here, during that time, to be with us, And
I don't remember Rutledge or any of the officers inviting any-
one. Now, they invited local people to help as much as possible,
Some folks came in from out of town who were in the ranks of
NAACP. As far as other groups like SNICC and SCLC, they did
not intercede to bring any men and this type thing, I don't
remember Martin Luther King sending anyone in,
W: What were some of the differences between the NAACP and its pro-
gram and some of these other groups, such as Dr, King's SCLC
and CORE, for instance,
P: Well, some of these groups would come in town, and they would
do a lot of good, but they would leave things in a way that
many times you had a financial burden on your shoulders when
they left, If you didn't have certain funds, you were left
sort of destitute,
W: What exactly would cause there to be a financial problem?
P: Well, many times folk would be arrested and fined, and they
didn't have the funds to pay, They would leave you locally
to try to get it up, NAACP had to bail out quite a bit, ber
cause the NAACP was a little bit more financial and more
secure by being nationally effective.,,
W: Um hum.
P: ...as it is--to get so much support from allover, Many of
these organizations were not as responsible; they would do
a lot of good, but some of their moves were not as responsible
as they should have been.
W: Um hum.
P: And some of them are a little bit too drastic,
W: In what way were they irresponsible?
W: You mentioned the fact that they would leave without maybe
paying the bonds of some people?
P: Yeah, many times they would leave certain other expenses that
were incurred. They would leave it, and it would be left for
somebody local to try to pay.
W: Um hum.
P: The NAACP was more responsible. In our democratic society we
have processes, grievance procedures to follow, I know that,
I realize some of them seem slow. But when you follow them,
you get a lot of good accomplished when you follow them properly.
For example, many times they would come in and say we want to
have a march, and they would try to have a march without getting
a permit. And this would cause problems,
Wherein the city permits you to march; but you go down and
get a permit, and the permit would direct the time of day to
have it. Because they don't want you to have it during the time
of day when the traffic is heavy, people trying to get back
and forth from work; this can cause congestion, They don't
want you to cut across certain thoroughfares, where you're
subject to tie up traffic. So they have guidelines. When
you get a permit, they would have guidelines.
So some of these organizations would come in town, and
disregard certain guidelines. And this would throw you liable
to suit and liable to many other things that would cause you
to be hurt. Although we were trying to stop something that
was hurting all of us, in the meantime we were trying to avoid
getting anybody hurt unnecessarily.
W: How cooperative were city officials in issuing parade permits
to the NAACP?
P: Well, they were rather cooperative. At times they were a
little slow, but when you come in, they were pretty cooperative,
I'll give them this. There are times we took off on one or two
of our marches without getting a permit. And we ran into prob-
lems. One time we were stopped uptown before we got to where
we were going. And we had arrests, arrested quite a few. But
at the time we were not...hadn't got a permit. But we were not
following a pattern that was different from the pattern we had
followed under a permit. We'd been slow about getting it, and
they were slow. So we decided we would march anyhow. We agreed
to march and follow the pattern we had followed with a permit.
But although we ended up getting arrested sometimes, we were
going on without the permit.
W: When people were arrested in these desegregation attempts, and
sometimes you just mentioned in the march, what did the NAACP
do for these individuals?
P: Well, they would go down and get them out. Many time they would
go hopefully prepared to pay a bond, and many times they would
let them out without paying a bond. That has happened a number
W: The judges did?
P: The judges released them on their own recognizance.
W: Uh huh.
P: And we would go looking to pay a bond, prepared to pay it, but
often time they would open the door and just let them out on
their own recognizance.
W: How about providing legal defense for some of these individuals
who were arrested.
P: Well, we were fortunate that there were some lawyers who worked
for practically nothing. Because we were NAACP.
P: Some lawyers, they just gave their time. We pay them something,
but we did not pay them really what they were worth. And they
would let it go because they were trying to help. But I mentioned
about our marching a few times without a permit and making certain
types of demonstrations, we had to go to court many times and
work with court procedures. And often times we got a sentence,
but the sentence was suspended, this type thing.
W: Who were some of the lawyers that worked with the NAACP at that
P: The two primary lawyers who were working with us were attorney
Ernest Jackson and Earl Johnson. Those two spent more time;
there were a few others who may have come in locally, but those
were two local ones that I can remember that did quite a bit.
W: They defended blacks who were arrested and also defended some
of the suits...soon pursued some of the suits that the NAACP
P: That's true. They pursued some of the suits. Not only that,
but also they would appeal some cases, some decisions, where
our brothers had been sentenced. And we helped them to appeal
it. And they fought some of those cases.
W: Were these appeals for individuals who had been arrested?
P: Individuals, yes. A few, one or two, were rape cases and this
type thing--those who had been sentenced to the electric chair,
W: Was this in 1964?
P: That was prior to that.
W: What opposition was there to the NAACP and its desegregation
drives from within the black community?
P: Well, there were some who felt we were moving too fast; there
were some who were afraid; there were some like that who com-
plained and said that we were being agitators, this type thing.
Some who didn't understand, who said we were moving too fast.
W: Why were they exactly opposed to desegregation and the NAACP?
P: You mean the blacks?
W: The blacks...within the black community.
P: Well, I believe many of them were opposed because of a lack
of understanding. Some were opposed because they were afraid
of being hurt. Even though they were not participating, they
felt that they were going to be hurt in some way. And some
of them were just afraid that something's gonna break out and
somebody's gonna get hurt.
W: Were any of these individuals or groups tied with Mr. Burns
and city government in some way, or politically? Was that
the reason why they were opposed?
P: Well, that may have been a reason, but I believe there were
possibly a few who were opposed due to that. What percentage
of that negative element was caught up in this type of camp
I couldn't say.
W: How segregation could be a benefit to certain blacks, and for
this reason they would be opposed to desegregation?
P: Well, now, some folks, for example in institutions, felt that
there were certain men--who had been made principals and presi-
dents of certain colleges and this type thing, presidents of
certain institutions, such as hospitals for blacks--they figure
when the desegregation came that meant some of their positions
would be lost. And they were lost in some instances. But we
feel overall it was for the best. There are some, who under
this separate, had had little empires out there that they felt
would be toppled when desegregation came along.
W: Could you describe exactly what these little empires were?
P: Well, I would say...let's take the example of when we had sepa-
rate facilities, we had the old Ashley Street, where the blacks
hung out. It was a big thing, for example theatres and every-
thing; that's where the blacks hung out, on Ashley Street. And
came along with desegregation, it was almost like a ghost town
out there. I mean 'cause blacks could go downtown and go to
better theaters and enjoy the better restaurants and sleep
in the nice hotels, and many of these places tend to died
out. Men up in these places who have made big money, who
had little kingdoms up there.
W: Um hum.
P: Many blacks...so many of these things are diminished. Of
course, we feel that it was better for blacks all in all
because in some of these places many things went on that
were not good. Because the law enforcement officers were
rather lax in some of these areas because nobody cared if
there was blacks being hurt. So that's when some of those
empires went down....
W: What about political empires? How were they affected by
P: Well, as far as political empires, let's see, we had nobody
around town as far as commissioners or anything like that.
There may have been some out there who were the right-hand
men of some councilmen who were white. They held, say,
enjoyed special privileges maybe.
W: Um hum.
P: But as far as politics, since we had more whites downtown,
I don't see where anything came about as far as that's con-
cerned. Unless it was, as I mentioned, somebody who had
special hand with some of the officials.
W: Now, what resistance was there to NAACP desegregation attempts
by Mr. Haydon Burns when he was the mayor of Jacksonville?
P: One of the things he did in opposition that I recall that
really got us rather upset was he deputized the fire depart-
ment to be able to make arrests and this type thing. One of
the things that Southerners had done in some of the troubles
was use firemen and waterhose, this type thing, in order to
drive folk back. So he deputized the fire department, and
we felt he was getting ready to try to use waterhose on the
folk downtown, in case something broke out.
W: And this reminded black people, for instance, of what went on
P: Yeah, that's right, It reminded them of some of the things
that happened in other places,
W: Can you think of anything else that Mr. Burns did? Now, what
effect did this deputizing of the fire department have on the
P: Well, it made the blacks angry for one thing, and I believe
it made those who were participating in the demonstration more
determined. It didn't cause anybody to take a back seat as
far as wanting to turn around. I believe it only made the
organization and those participating more determined to get
involved to try to desegregate.
W: Did the blacks involved and the black community in general feel
that deputizing the fire department was an overreaction to the
P: This was very much an overreaction. We figured it wasn't ne-
cessary; we figured the police department was enough. Considering
the fact that we had national guard, and what not, who could
possibly be called on, we figured it was an overreaction.
W: How was the police department involved in the desegregation
attempts? How did they react to what was going on?
P: Well, they did not, you could tell, they did not like it, but
it appeared that they had been instructed to be careful in
dealing with it.. Because on one or two instances they did
not come in and try to pull those out who were participating.
They just come around and stood to make sure there was no
fights. I know this ordinary thing, but they did not, locally,
I don't recall the policemen coming in and actually being real
rough in dealing with the demonstrators. They came in and
stood by, and whenever they were ordered to make an arrest,
they made an arrest.
I don't recall them going beyond that really;and doing
some of the rough things that I heard of and that we saw on
television that happened in other places. They seemed to care
because I remember one instance where a counter clerk asked
one of the police, "Aren't you going to arrest these people?"
And he said, "Well, they have a right to go around. I
have orders not to arrest them as long as they're orderly."
And so they reacted in a manner that was rather reasonable
in some instances. In other instances they were a little
hasty in doing some things.
W: Now, how did Mr. Burns's stand on desegregation relate to the
riot that occurred in March of 1964?
P: Well, apparently he was very much against what was going on,
but as mayor he tried to deal with it. Although we didn't
feel he dealt with it fair, I believe he was concerned: I know
he was concerned. He was not in favor of what went on.
W: What about the speech he gave? He gave a speech Saturday night
before the riot in which he deputized the fire department. How
did that speech and the fact that he deputized the fire department
relate to the riot?
P: Well, we figured it related quite a bit because naturally it was
part of the trouble that caused him to do this. We figured that
at the time it did go a long way in causing people to think. I
mentioned it did cause our folk to have a great determination to
try to keep the movement going.
W: Can you think of some other causes of the riot? Other than the
Burns speech and the deputizing of the fire department?
P: Right now, I cannot think of any other incident, although there
was some; I can't think of any right at the moment that contributed
to the riot, outside of the actual desegregation movement and sit-in
demonstrations and what not that happened downtown. Many things
had been building up. But I can't think of anything specific
right at the moment.
W: Could you explain to me, Mr. Pearson, exactly why the state and
federal officials were requested by the NAACP to intervene during
P: Well, it was the feeling of the local branch of the NAACP, the
feeling of the officials of the local branch, that some federal
guidelines may have been broken, or federal laws may have been
broken. And we could have utilized the federal government in
some ways to try to bring pressure on and to cause some of these
things to cease. In many instances we reported certain things
to the FBI and to federal officials, that deal with labor, housing,
this type thing, in hopes that certain laws, other than those
violated, we could have dealt with.
W: Was it because blacks were in a sense frustrated because the white
local officials weren't being receptive to what they were asking?
Weren't being receptive to the riot situation itself?
P: It was the feeling of NAACP locally that local officials was not
doing an effective job. It was our feeling that the Federal
government could possibly do something that would help the
movement by maybe penalizing the city officials for not following
certain procedures and for permitting certain things to go on.
It wasn't our feeling, we weren't so much afraid that anything
worse would happen in the way of a riot, but we were hoping that
through some federal officials and agencies, we could bring some
kind of pressure on the city.
W: Now, did these federal officials intervene at this time?
P: Well, I can't recall of any specifics, although we reported many
instances, many things to them, and they sent these reports to
Washington, Many officials came back; many times there were men,
who approached some of us, who were involved in some of the in-
cidents. For example, after certain civil rights laws had been
passed, we started filing certain grievances through the Justice
Department. Many times we realized that as a result of filing
it, men were sent in to investigate and to advise; so this is
one thing we did utilize, certain methods.
W: How effective were these grievances that were filed in changing
the practice that was going on here in Jacksonville?
P: Well, some of them were rather effective because according to
the law, when you file a grievance through the Justice Department,
they first send someone in to advise them that they have done
wrong. Then if the person continues to do it, they would come
back and give them a court order that they had to do it.
W: Um hum.
P: Discontinue the practice of discrimination.
W: Mr. Pearson, at whom were these court actions directed?
P: Well, these court orders, most of them, were directed to a
specific business--a specific restaurant or something like
that, a store. And these court orders would be given that
they would have to comply with the federal laws that had been
passed. Then if they continue to practice and when they come
back again, I mean after someone has complained, they would come
back the third time with a notice holding them in contempt of
court. It would go to court. If they were fined, they were
fined for disobeying a court order, not segregation.
P: Although that came from the result of segregating, it's true,
but the final fine was due to disobeying a court order.
W: Can you think of any examples of businesses or restaurants who
went that far?
P: Well, yes. I don't know of any locally that went that far, but
I can remember one or two in the state that went that far. But
the few who went that far, when the judge got ready to issue
the fine, then they made a promise that if you hold up the fine,
they would go through, I think of Dairy Queen out of Madison,
Florida. This was a restaurant down in Madison, Florida.
W: But none of the local, no business or restaurant in Jacksonville
went to the third step you mentioned.
P: I don't recall of any that went to the third step .in Jacksonville.
In fact, I don't know of any that I can recall who went as far
as to be fined. They went to the point where the judge was about
to issue the fine, and they were allowed to speak. Then the hold
up and they would comply.
W: What attempts were made to intimidate the NAACP and black indi-
viduals participating in the segregation attempts?
P: Well, there was an investigation here. Or rather, there was a
time when they had a court trial here of some students who had
been picked up for participating in certain activities. There
were persons in the courtroom who favored my brother, and they
thought that he was there. And someone reported that he had
left the classroom, where he taught school, to go to court without
getting permission. So they thought they really had him, but
they discovered later on that it wasn't him. But only after
they had gone to a lot of investigation and a great attempt to
try and get him out of the school system.
This is one effort that was made to try to intimidate him.
And there were many threatsmade, as had happened in the past.
There were one or two bombing attempts, and one or two threats
made, quite a few threats made.
W: What specifically were these threats?
P: Well, there were phone calls made, and there were those who
said that certain persons would be hurt, certain leaders in
the organization would be hurt.
W: And were these chain phone calls? One right after another?
P: That's right, chain phone calls and this type thing.
W: Do you know of any specific example of anything the Ku Klux
Klan did at this time to intimidate blacks?
P: They had a march; they called it a march; they had sort of
a...I would consider it a kind of march. And then I believe
they hoped this type of thing would have frightened us, caused
a certain amount of fear. And this is the only major movement
I remember. Of course, they have always had potential meetings,
you see, where that certain same things would be done. I don't
recall any real move that was made. They had rallies around
and this type of thing but....
W: Nothing major?
P: Nothing major I can think of.
W: You described an ax handle incident that took place in Hemming
Park. What happened then?
P: At that time some of the students were out walking picket lines
and this type thing around the stores. They were using Hemming
Park as sort of gathering place to go over and march and to lead
the marches. Because when you have pickets around the store,
you are not supposed to have over so many because you're con-
sidered blocking. So those extra picketers that they had hanging
around downtown, the substitutes, were sort of hanging around
Hemming Park area. They were sitting around and standing around
waiting to take their turn. So they see those fellows who had
ax handles start attacking some of them. There were hopes of
breaking it up. This is one thing that was done to intimidate.
W: Wasn't this earlier?
P: This was prior I think; this was prior to that particular in-
W: Now during the riot, twenty-three people were arrested at NAACP
headquarters. Do you know exactly why they were arrested?
P: It was during a time when many demonstrations were going on.
Many of the youngsters had been chased, and they would run.
Some of them would go to NAACP organization, and some would go
to the police. So this particular afternoon, they had been
pursuing some of these participants. They just came on to the
NAACP and arrested persons that were there.
W: What had they done specifically to warrant being arrested?
P: Well, I don't see where they done anything to warrant being
arrested. But the law didn't like it because some of them
participated in demonstrations downtown, such as sit-in and
picketing and this type thing. And so they were pursued.
W: How were blacks arrested during the riot treated by the police?
P: Well, they were treated in some instances roughly, treated
pretty rough, and in other instances they were not. There
were times, when it first started up, they were treated a
little rough because I believe that even law enforcement
officers didn't realize that this thing was going to be as
effective as it was. But after certain things happen, then
they were evidently instructed to kind of be more careful
about handling those who they arrested. And they started
arresting but in the process, they were not as rough as they
would normally be because of the fear of certain repercussions.
W: What would some of these repercussions be?
P: Well, I feel some of them may have been...of greater group
participation in the marches or...
W: Escalation of the....
P: ...escalation of the picketing, escalation of the sit-ins,
and this type of thing. Then there was a certain element out
there, which was not NAACP, that was out of bounds. There was
what you call a gang element out there that was not a part of
NAACP. These fellows were pretty rough in doing things that
were violent. And I think that was a fear on the part of some
people downtown that the police dealt with the picketers too
rough and that this gang element would step out and do something...
W: Would react to what was being done.
P: ...to react to this and hurt the people.
W: Could you tell me how the NAACP was involved in that 1964
Democratic gubernatorial campaign?
P: Yes, the NAACP played a major part in exposing some of the
adversities of the men. According to our national policy,
the NAACP does not endorse or campaign for a candidate. But
it does advise the local officials to expose those things that
are adverse, or those records in the past, or those activities
of the candidate that has been discriminatory or highly pre-
judiced toward blacks. So the NAACP played a major part in
exposing to blacks the qualities of a certain candidate that
were not good.
W: What specifically did they do? Didn't they have recommendations,
or formal recommendations, that were circulated throughout the
P: Yes, they recommended, but on the recommendation they tried to
avoid very much saying things that would make it appear that
they were supporting a particular candidate. We had circulars
that were put out, quite a few circulars that were put out,
that exposed certain adverse qualities of the candidates.
W: Now, could you tell me how Haydon Burns, if he did, did try
to win the support of Mr. Rutledge Pearson and other individuals
within the black community in that particular campaign?
P: Well, if I'm not mistaken, I believe that one or two job offers
were made in city government: jobs that would have been under
the influence of the politicians. He wouldn't have been as
free as he was as the presidentL of the NAACP. There were those
men who came around and attempted to do certain favors for him.
W: What specifically would they offer to do?
P: Well, such as making it possible for him to get some outfit
downtown free, or maybe some like that, or maybe letting him
have the use of an automobile for some service, or this type
W: In return for his political support?
P: Yes, in return for political support here, but he never did
fall for any of these things.
W: Who were these individuals that came around? Were they black
men or white men?
P: Many times they were black. Of course, some of those officials
had friends among black people. And many times fellows who
would come would be fellows who had been prompted...
W: Or paid?
P: ...or paid, that's right,
W: Can you recall anyone who did this?
P: I remember one or two actually; I wouldn't want to call
W: Wasn't Joshua Hillman one of these men?
P: Well, I couldn't say whether Joshua Hillman made an offer of
that type or not. I couldn't be able to say. I notice he was
in politics back then. But whether he did that type thing I'm
not sure, I couldn't say.
W: Right. How open was Mr. Burns's effort to win support from
the NAACP officials and other black leaders within the black
community at this time? Was he campaigning himself within
the black community, or did he have individuals, who worked
for him, that did his campaigning?
P: You know, I really don't recall him coming into any black
community so much to campaign. Now, he had representatives
come. But I don't recall him coming in person.
W: Who were some of the men who campaigned for Mr. Burns at this
P: Let me see. Now you got me because....
W: Attorney Jackson, didn't he?
P: I believe Attorney Jackson campaigned for him one time, but
I can't say. I don't know definitely.
W: Mr. Pearson, could you tell me why the NAACP recommended Robert
King High for governor in 1964?
P: I'm just trying to see if I can recall that the NAACP recommended
him. I know that the NAACP thought favorably toward him.
W: They didn't formally endorse him, but their recommendations did
say that he was...they did support him for governor in that sense.
Could you tell me do you have any idea why?
P: Well, King High, as you know, had been the mayor of Miami.
P: And he was looked upon as being a sort of a liberal mayor, as
far as liberalism could go at that time. It was thought that
he was one of the more liberal type, although, of course,
Florida is, was, a very conservative state. High, even though
he may not have been as liberal as we'd like to have seen him,
we thought that he was a more liberal type. I guess it's why
that they leaned, kind of leaned toward him.
W: Do you recall if Mr. Rutledge Pearson was involved in the High
campaign and in what capacity?
P: Let's see. I was trying to think if Rutledge involved them-
selves in his campaign. I don't recall him involving himself
in this campaign as such. Although he was favorable toward it.
He said a lot of things to expose Mayor Burns's adversities,
and he said a lot of things to show High...
W: As being better?
P: ...as being better, the better than Burns. But about him...
W: Being actively involved?
P: ...actively involved, I don't recall him being actively in-
volved in this campaign.
W: Do you recall any other NAACP leaders who were actively in-
volved in the High campaign? What about some of the ministers?
Do you recall any of those?
P: Let's see, no. There were quite a few ministers involved, but
I don't remember just which ones. But there were quite a few
ministers involved in this campaign.
W: Do you recall what effect the overwhelming black support for
High had on the way white politicians dealt with the needs.oaf
the local black community?
P: I believe locally the whites sort of resented it. I believe
the effects of black support of High during that time...I
believe it went a long way in causing white politicians to
think when they say that the black wasn't registering in
heavier numbers and turning out a larger number to vote.
I believe it had quite an effect of changing their way.
Because it wasn't too long after that, before whites here
moved to single member districts for councilmen seats along
with consolidations. Heretofore, it was citywide, and I
believe that there were those who didn't want citywide vote
for councilmen. So I believe this went a long way in in-
fluencing some to take a stand to change.
W: What resulted? Were blacks able to run for office and to be
P: That's true in that respect, yeah. Well right after that, a
few blacks, one or two blacks, did get elected.
W: Could you tell me how actively the NAACP was involved in drives
to register black voters here in Jacksonville?
P: The NAACP was very much involved. We had special voter regis-
tration campaigns where we divided the city up in areas, in
blocks. We had funds that were raised locally to match funds
that were sent in by our voter registration chairman who operates
out of Birmingham, Alabama. It was rather effective because
we had block captains, and we also had certain cars that would
volunteer to carry people to register. It worked real well,
W: There were, in other words, each block had someone assigned to
attempt to find out who was registered and...
P: Who were not.
W: ...and to get them down to the courthouse or wherever to
P: That's true. The thing we did: we went down to the courthouse,
and we found out those persons who had been dropped because
of them not voting within a period of time. This type thing
and not registering. Also we got those rosters, and then we
also got hold of a city directory of all the people who live
in different areas. We checked those names. We had people
in an office, something like seven or eight ladies in an office,
who volunteered their services to run through these records to
see who lives in certain areas and how many of them are registered.
So we went out in neighborhoods, and many of us had a list
of people who were not registered. And we went by those lists.
W: How active were other groups in these registration drives?
Before we mentioned the fraternities and sororities, how
active were they? Were they working in conjunction with the
NAACP or independent from it?
P: Well, most of the organizations worked independent. We didn't
have too many organizations that was working, and some of them
may have sent a few to help us, but most of our efforts were
coordinated by the NAACP. We utilized a lot of people out there,
but it wasn't so much other groups. It was mostly NAACP coordi-
nated. Although some folks, I don't think they would have come
to help us.
W: Do you recall any of the other groups, for instance, the Duval
Citizen's Registration Committee? Do you recall who they were
and what they were doing?
P: No, I don't recall.
W: Who from the NAACP was in charge of voter registration drive?
P: Miss Sally Mathis, she is presently on the city council. She
is a councilwoman. Miss Sally Mathis was the chairman...
P: ...of the political action.
W: Who else was involved?
P: Let me see, I'm trying to think who else was involved around
that time. I can't think of names right off, but there were
W: Could you tell me how black teachers and students were active
in surveying black voter registration?
P: I recall that the teachers and the students did do some things
to help, but I can't recall specifically how effective they
W: Could you tell me how Mr. Pearson used his position as a teacher
to influence other teachers to support goals of NAACP in the
P: Well, I would say he set the example for them to follow. In
his position as the president of the NAACP, he tried to show
teachers wherein they could be active and not lose their jobs,
because one of their fears was losing their jobs. So he went
on, and he demonstrated the way. He went on and allowed him-
self to be elected to the highest position locally on a state-
wide and regional.... And I believe this went a long way to
prove to teachers that they could be effective if they would.
W: How were, do you recall, teachers were involved in any of the
civil rights activities? Were they formally involved or just
involved as individuals?
P: Most of them were involved as individuals, didn't too many
teachers come to the front. Most of them had the chance to
stay in the background because they were.... You see, the
Jacksonville school system is under the board and under the
influence of those people who were elected. So many teachers
were really afraid. So he didn't have such a great support
on the part of the people. He had some, but it wasn't such
a great support considering the number of teachers you have
in Duval County.
W: And the reason for the lack of support was basically a fear
of losing their jobs if they became too prominent in the
P: Yeah, I believe that was one fear. That was their major fear,
the fear of losing jobs.
W: Do you recall how black trade unions were involved in organi-
zing the black community politically at this time?
P: The longshoremen's union, I believe, was one of the most effec-
tive as far as working for people to participate all the way
with us. In marches they came too.
W: What else did theydo, can you recall? Voter registration
drives? Did they help in those?
P: They contributed quite a bit of money to these drives, and
to other activities. They supported us financially; they had
given quite a bit of financial support.
W: What about some others, such as the Pullman porter's unions?
Do you recall if they were actively involved? The Pullman
P: I don't recall them being active. There were many of the
railroad men that came in individually.
W: Do you recall some of those? Mr. Sam Jones, was he one of
P: Yes, Sam Jones was one and Barnwell. I can't think of Barnwell's
first name, And there were a few others out there.
W: Mr, J. C, Holland was one of them?
P: Who's that?
W: J. C. Holland, do you recall who he was?
P: I can't think of him right off. Preston, another railroad
man by the name of Preston. He was very effective. He still
is, he's up in age now. I can't place anybody else right at
W: Can you recall any other unions, other than the Pullman porters
and the stevedores, who were involved?
P: I can't recall right at the moment.
W: How about organizations such as sororities and fraternities.
We mentioned before that they were very active at this time;
could you briefly describe again what they did?
P: Well, one thing, I believe, they encouraged our members to come
and participate, I believe this was a big help to us.
W: How about financially?
P: Yes, they made contributions financially. Many of them took
out life...made initial payments on life payments. This would
help us because of the initial payment.
W: Life membership?
P: Life membership. We sent off thirty, and we keep twenty: thirty
for the national and we keep twenty locally. So they joined
and they helped us in....
W: In registration drives for instance?
P: Yes, registration drives and this type thing.
W: Could you describe for me the buying boycott that was organized
by the NAACP?
P: The boycott was effective to a degree. It wasn't as effective
as we would have liked, It went a long way because there were
some businesses that were hurt due to the blacks staying out
of town. Of course, the boycott was something that wasn't as
effective as we had hoped, although it did a lot of good.
There were quite a few blacks who really respected that.
W: How extensive was the boycott? Was it confined to the downtown
P: It was confined to mostly the downtown area.
W: And at what businesses, can you recall was it directed?
P: One time it was directed at May Cohen and Woolworth and Kress.
One time it was directed at Morrison's Cafeteria.
W: Was this in 1964?
P: I believe some of it did go on in 1964.
W: And can you recall exactly how long it lasted?
P: Well, it would last something like two or three weeks, a
month, something like that.
W: And how cooperative was the black community generally in
supporting these boycotts?
P: Well, they were pretty good when they first started out. But
about a day or two and then they would begin to go back. But
once or twice they were weak, and some other times they were
strong, very, very strong.
W: What was done to encourage blacks to participate in this boy-
cott, do you recall?
P: Well, mass meetings were held, and we would try to bring in
some speaker who was inspiring that sort of seen the light.
This was one of the major means, and then we would have
personal, public contact. Mass meetings was a thing that
they would use to try to inspire.
W: And what would happen to blacks who ignored the boycott?
What could you tell me what would happen?
P: Let's see. Well, I can't think of anything effective that
we did--no more than we just made appeals to them., We never
did do anything effective as far as trying to inconvenience
them. We never did go that far. We just....
W: Just tried through reasonable persuasion to urge them to
cooperate with you?
P: That's true.
W: How effective was the biracial committee, created by Burns
in 1964, in dealing with the city's racial problem?
P: The biracial committee did us some good, but the biracial
committees wouldn't hardly have any power to subpoena and do
certain things along that line. It was set up to, but it was
sort of like one of these do-nothing committees to a degree.
Like if you say well you gonna get something done, you say
we'll just set up a committee. Many time the committee never
meet. And maybe there's something you are particular about
doing, but you say well we'll set up a committee to get it
done, to deal with it. And then many times the committee don't
meet, and it doesn't get done. The biracial committee, I
think, was a good thing to do, but it wasn't as effective as
it could have been.
W: Do you recall why Mr. Pearson and other top NAACP officials
resigned from this committee?
P: One reason why Rutledge resigned from it...they had a meeting
back then, and they didn't think it would be best for him to
be on the committee. Even if the committee was an effective
committee, they felt that this position as NAACP president
caused it to be kind of inappropriate for him. They figured
it would be best for someone who knows him on the right to be
on the committee. They felt that his being on the committee
may have caused some conflict of interest, or something that
may not be so appropriate. For example, the biracial committee
had to come to a certain verdict, a certain decision. Him being
on the committee may have cast an effect on him. Even though
he may have been against what they passed, so we thought that
it may have been best for him not to be on it.
W: To disassociate himself from the committee?
P: The committee and be president of the NAACP.
W: What about some of the other members, do you recall why they
P: Well now, some of the members got off 'cause they didn't feel
the committee, commissions, was doing a worthwhile job. Some
of them stayed on then because they thought they would try to
make it better. But there were others who left it because
they were not satisfied because it was under the influence of
the folk downtown.
W: Really nothing was being done positive?
P: Nothing positive was being done, yeah.