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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida.
ORAL HISTORY PROJECT
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
INTERVIEWEE: Roe L. Johns
INTERVIEWER: Jim Fouche
DATE: March 11, 1975
April 4, 1975
May 9, 1975
F: We're having an informal conversation with Dr. Roe Lyell Johns at the University of Florida,
a long-time professor
here at the university, and we'd like to spend the first
interview session getting his biography down on tape for
the record. The first thing that comes to my mind is a
question about your name. Roe and Lyell, are these family
names that were given to you?
J: Well, my name, Roe, was given to me by my father. It was a
surname of a friend of his. When I went to college to regis-
ter, I just put Roe Johns as my name.
The registrar said, "We want your middle name, too."
I said, "I don't have any middle name."
He said, "Well, don't be silly. Put down what your
middle name is."
In order to avoid a fuss I just put an "L" down. Then
one day in class in college, I was sitting by a good-looking
gal, and the professor was an English professor and as usual
rather dull. And he was lecturing on the Lake poets, and she
pointed to that "L" in my name and said, "What does that "L"
I said, "It doesn't stand for anything," and I told her
how I got the "L".
"Well," she said, "I have a book of names, at home. If
I go and pick a name for you, will you take it?"
And I said, "Yes, I will."
And so she went home and got that name book, then brought
it to class and gave me that name. And I took it.
F: Did you ever tell your wife that story?
J: Oh, yes. My wife approves that name to my first name. My
wife always calls me Lyell. Now my very early acquaintances
call me Roe, because that's the only name I had. But later
my friends called me Lyell.
F: So around campus with your friends and colleagues you're called
J: They call me Lyell, yes. Or sometimes they call me R. L.,
and Manning Dauer [Dr. Manning J. Dauer, professor political
science], for instance, always calls me Roe because I use the
name professionally. In my books that I write I sign Roe L. Johns,
and I use Roe L. Johns on programs.
F: Could you tell us where you were born and when you were born?
J: I was born on December 11, 1900, about forty miles from St. Louis.
Now it's in the suburbs of St. Louis, but then it was
in the country.
F: Was there a town nearby?
F: Was it on a farm?
J: It was on a farm, yes.
F: What kind of farm was it?
J: Well, it was just a small farm, a hundred and sixty acres.
F: Mainly planted in...?
J: A variety of crops. It was sort of a maintenance, self-contained
farm, you know. We would grow a little wheat on it, took it to
the mill and had it ground into flour, and then we grew the
vegetables, the meat and so on. That was typical of the practice
in the early part of this century.
F: Did you sell most of the products, or was it more of a subsistence type of arrangement?
J: Well, it was mostly subsistence. But we sold cattle and a few
things of that nature. Then we would take things to the store
and trade them. We would take butter and eggs, and then at the
general country store we would swap them for sugar, coffee,
and things like that which you didn't have. That was typical
of small farmers in the early part of this century.
F: Where did your ancestors come from?
J: My ancestors originally came from England and mostly the southern
part of England. One side of my family came from Cornwall and
the other from Wales. The Johns came from Wales. They settled
in Virginia originally. And this is rather interesting, they
settled there in 1750.
I don't know how many of my ancestors were illiterate.
They wouldn't keep records, you know, but the literate
branch of my family, from whom we have records, settled in
Virginia. And there were three brothers. They fought in
the American Revolution. But they came in relatively late.
And we get this from family records, something you don't
usually get in history, that they settled in this hill land
in Virginia. And then some of them went to North Carolina
in Guilford County, and but they had that hill land which was
rather poor land.
And they were not affluent. They had two or three slaves,
but they didn't prosper very much. And they, from the propaganda
that was made in the Revolutionary War, pre-Revolutionary
War, blamed their lack of prosperity on England. And so they
fought during the Revolutionary War against the British in
hopes that they would improve their fortunes after that war.
But after the Revolutionary War the land was still poor
hill land, and they couldn't raise enough crops to get anymore
slaves. And so they heard that there was cheaper land further
west, and they decided to go west. They migrated; they got
together, a whole group of them.
F: Was this in the eighteenth century?
J: This was in 1798.
F: Then they started to move west.
J: Yes, late in the eighteenth century they started to move west-
ward. One of them, named Sullins, stopped on the Virginia-
Tennessee border and founded Sullins College. One of my grand-
mother's name was Sullins.
F: How do you spell that?
J: Well, some of them would spell it S-u-l-l-i-n-s and the others
S-a-u-l-l-e-n-s. They weren't very good spellers apparently,
and some spelled it one way and some the other. But we know
from the court records and the marriage records that they were
the same people.
And then they went on west, some of them, and went up to
Missouri. It was before the Louisiana Purchase. On the Missouri
River there about halfway between St. Louis and Jefferson City,
one of them bought a farm of eight hundred and forty acres for
forty-one dollars. The French, you know, wanted to get that
F: They bought it from the French government?
J: Well, yes. The French, they were the ones that had the
control of it. It was like homesteading. They wanted to get
settlers in that country there.
F: So they offered them this land?
J: You could get land that way. So they got cheap, good land
there on the Missouri River. Then in closer to St. Louis,
there were others of my family who settled there.
F: Did they stop there in St. Louis?
J: Yes, they stopped there on the way. Incidentally one of the
records, too, shows that they saw Louis and Clark. On one
of the farms they saw that expedition go up the Missouri River.
F: That's in the records?
J: Yes, it's in the family records.
F: That's fascinating.
J: My family is one of the pioneer families of Missouri and is
written up in the history of Missouri as one of the early families.
F: Was this before the Louisiana Purchase?
J: Yes, before. You see that was 1798.
It's interesting to dig into the family history. There
was a scholarly member of our family who got interested in
the history of the family and dug some of it up. Sometimes
they dig up things you don't want. They found a murderer in
F:. So you take the good with the bad.
J: Yes, that was long before the Civil War. I think it was about
1830. A young man was engaged to a girl; they were to be
married the next day; but that night she eloped with another
man and married him. And they teased him about it. It so in-
furiated him that when they came back he killed both of them
and then himself.
F: Oh, goodness.
J: A double murder and a suicide. We didn't find any horse
thieves. If they'd searched further we might have found some.
F: They stopped digging after that.
J: They stopped digging. You just don't know what's the end of
it. It's very interesting.
But the thing that's interesting to me is the propaganda
they put forth in the Revolutionary War to get people to fight
in it: that England was holding down the economic development
of the country and you would be more prosperous and get richer
if you whipped England and got indepedence. I've never seen
that written in one of the histories of the United States at
F: It's only recently coming, out in some of the newer histories?
J: Is it doing that?
F: Yes, it is.
J: I just wondered. But now that's directly in the letters that
were written in our family.
F: That's fascinating. Used to get these people to fight...; so
many of them just weren't that concerned initially and did not
have the interaction with international relations?
J: Some of those people that migrated were illiterate, too; my
ancestors, some were educated. The one that stopped and founded
Sullins College was a preacher, but some were illiterate. Some
were coming over for freedom and to escape religious persecution.
But the main goal, I think, of most of our ancestors who came
over--it certainly was true in my own family--was to improve
their economic status. Those that came from Wales were poor.
F: The land of opportunity in other words.
J: Yes, they came over to improve their economic status. I have
an idea that if it was really know, the main reason that most
of our ancestors migrated to the United States was not for
political or religious liberty. Although that affected some
of them, they were relatively a small part of the total migrant
F: What about your grandparents?
J: Well, the side that I'm talking about is the Johns and then
the Sullins. My grandfather was named Johns and his wife
was a Sullins. The Sullins was the educated branch of the
family that came there. In the early eighteen hundreds they
went to college at McKendree College [now located in Lebanon,
Illinois], which was a Methodist school and one of the oldest
private schools west of the Alleghenies.
My father's people were traditionally educated people
that had always gone to college, going back into the early
eighteenth century. My father's brother, for instance, was
a superintendent of schools. Most of them went to college
in the nineteenth century. Incidentally, one of my father's
brother's sons, Delos Johns, became president of the federal
reserve bank in St. Louis, and he's recently retired. But
he went into finance, too, but was a lawyer and became inter-
nationally a consultant in finance and banking. Whereas I
am practicing public finance he was practicing private finance
and then became president of the federal reserve bank. He
is a conservative Republican.
Incidentally all my family were Republicans, and I was
too until the struggle came up over the League of Nations.
In college then the young men wanted the League of Nations
to end wars. The president of our college, which was Southeast
Missouri State--they called it Southeast Missouri State Teachers
College in those days--and his name was Dearmont, advocated
the League of Nations, and some professors at the college also
advocated the League of Nations. But the Republicans won the
election following Wilson. And then the governor, an elected
Republican, changed the board of regents and wanted to fire
the president because he advocated the League of Nations, which
they deemed to be political activity. They were going to fire
him and then several of the faculty members also who advocated
the League of Nations. They met at the college, and they were
going to fire all of them. But the students rioted, and I was
one of the leaders of that riot.
I became a Democrat over that. The board of regents came
there to fire the president and the faculty members. We closed
the university and told the president of the college, and the
professors all to take a walk. There was very little police
in those days, and we captured the board of regents and the
F: Oh, my goodness.
J: And then, right up there on what's called the Great Divide, we
put up their burning effigies, surrounded them, and made them
stand under their own burning effigies. Then they begged
us, they were frightened, to let them go to the board of
We told them, "O.K., if you do."
But the students got up there first and put some sul-
phuric acid and permanganate in these brass spitoons. That
gassed them, you know.
F: Oh, my goodness.
J: Then they opened the windows and started coughing.
We told them, "Now get out of town, and we don't want
to see you again."
And they said, "If you let us go, we'll get out of town."
And they left, we let them go, and they went out of town.
Now that actually happened. We're talking about a student
Most of us became Democrats over that, although most
of the students in that section were Republicans. It was
over the League of Nations issue. And I've been a Democrat
ever since then.
They did fire the president, but they didn't fire any
of the professors.
F: Was your father a Republican?
J: Yes, he was a Republican. My grandparents on both sides
F: Were they basically farmers, your grandparents?
J: Yes, they were all farmers on both sides. On my mother's
side they were pretty aggressive farmers but not very well
My father and mother wanted to send us all to college,
and they couldn't send us. We had to work our way through
largely. But they encouraged us.
But my grandfather on my mother's side did not encourage
his children to go to college. His idea was that people went
to college to learn how to make a living without working.
And he believed that you should earn a living by the sweat of
your brow, and the people who got an education and made a
living without getting their hands dirty were parasites on
It's rather interesting. They have the same philosophy
then farmers that people have about government today. Some
of the conservatives say the government produces nothing.
Everything is produced in private enterprise. Well, these
farmers said the people in town produced nothing. They were
parasites on society and that the farmers produced everything.
F: Right, that's fairly typical for the period.
J: Typical view that the farmers had; they believed that the
farmers produced everything and that they were being rooked
out of their birthright by crooked people in town, the merchants and various other people who exploited them.
F: Were they organized? I know that the populist movement in
the latter part of the nineteenth century was fairly popular
in the Midwest. This third party farmer movement coalition
that was formed seems similar to what you're talking about.
J: Oh, yes it was. But you see why they didn't think that the
town was very important. They could make a farm wagon in
a blacksmith shop, and they could make their plows. Even
in the last century they could spin their clothes.
That midwestern group, there in Missouri, were pretty
much self-reliant. They didn't see too much necessity of
governmental aid. For instance, when Roosevelt came along
my father thought he was terrible. They had these farm sub-
sidies to take things out of production. My father refused
to accept any of those subsidies whatsoever.
He said if the government wants me to do something to
help control things, I will do it without being paid to do
it. So he did just exactly what theywanted, but he would
accept no subsidies. He arrogantly refused anything for
those acreage controls. He'd cut his acreage on these various
crops, but he wouldn't accept any money.
F: So he was very much in tune with this philosophy of self-reliance?
J: That's right, self-reliance.
F: Did he instill this, or did your family instill this in the
youngsters of the family? I mean, your brothers and sisters?
J: Yes, they did. I have a brother and two sisters. One of
my sisters has her Ph.D. from New York University in social
studies, and she's a Democrat.
F: What's her name?
J: Eunice Johns. You'll find, over here in the library, that
she's written under the name Eunice Johns, And she's retired
now, but she's a Democrat.
Then I have a brother that went with Shell Oil, and a
sister who married a professor, an engineer at the Rolla
School of Mining Engineering [University of Missouri--Rolla].
But they're both Republicans. And they are quite conservative
in their point of views.
F: What is your brother's name?
J: My brother's name is Forrest Johns.
F: And then the other sister, the one that married the professor?
J: Her name is Ethel and the other sister's named Eunice.
F: How would you characterize the home situation when you were
a very young child? Did your parents have a notion that they
wanted their children to get a lot of education?
F: So they weren't suspicious of education? They weren't as
suspicious as some of the other farmers?
J: Even my mother didn't accept the point of view of her father
who was suspicious of it. She thought, that we ought to get
an education. As a matter of fact, we were living on a farm
in Jefferson [Missouri] that was too far from a high school
for children to go to high school. She demanded that my
father get a farm that was close to a high school; so we
could go to high school.
He hunted until he finally found a farm that was close
enough to a high school for us to ride to school by horseback.
We got one within four miles of high school. You can ride
a horse four miles very readily or drive a horse and buggy.
It was close to Piedmont, Missouri.
F: How far was that away from where you were living originally?
J: About fifteen miles.
F: Your family moved from one farm to another so that the children
could go to high school.
J: Interestingly, my father didn't want to make that move, although
he valued education. He taught school at one time in a
rural school. But he was very attached to that old home
place. They had been there long before the Civil War. And
he hated to leave that.
F: Did he sell that piece of property?
J: No, he didn't. He just left it there with his mother. He
was renting his mother's farm. His mother was still alive.
Some of my cousins are still keeping that farm up as a family
F: Oh, that's great.
J: They keep the house, and they will have a reunion there
every once in a while and go back to the house. But they
keep a person on the farm. They just rent it to somebody
that keeps the house up.
J: And they don't intend to make any money from the farm, but
it's still kept in the family. Well, there's sort of a
sentiment to that because it was close to 1800 when they
went to that particular spot.
F: What about your father's education? You say he was an
J: Well, I mean a self-educated man. He went to an academy and
didn't go to college. But he read a great deal. He was a
very well-read man.
F: I see. What about your mother?
J: She was not so well-read.
F: Yet, she was obviously influential in the household, and she
got your father to move.
J: She was very influential in that and quite aggresive and
came from the branch of the family who wanted to expand,
and make money. My father wasn't very much of a businessman.
My mother was much more of a businesswoman. She wanted to
F: Did you detect that she kind of ran the household in that
F: And your father just attended mostly to the fields and to the
management of the farm?
J: Yes, my father liked nature. We grew horse and mules for
sale. That was our chief cash crop down there in Piedmont,
and he took care of them. But that was the time when a
team of mules would bring a good price.
F: What about your early training? Before you went to high
J: Went to one-teacher rural schools; one room school.
F: And these included just everybody and anybody who was around.
I mean there were no grades or anything like that.
J: Yes, they weren't strictly graded: graded pretty much by your
reading level and your math level. By the way, the most
educated teacher I ever had in the rural schools was one who
was a high school sophomore. The rest of them had just finished
the eighth grade and then started teaching. They took examina-
tions for a certificate.
F: How old were these teachers?
J: Well, I entered the school, and when I was five years of age,
my first grade teacher was sixteen. Incidentally, she just
died last year, and we corresponded occasionally until she
passed away. She would ride sidesaddle to the rural school.
F: How many children were there in the school?
J: Oh, usually about twenty-five or thirty.
F: What were the hours of the school?
J: Well, we'd go eight to four.
F: What for nine months?
J: Well, usually for six months when I first started school, but
later we began to go eight months. When I finished the
eighth grade I went to a town school. There was something
in these rural schools that was good. They've been degraded
and run-down a great deal. There were no opportunities for
many of the rural students to go to high school, and the
person who was a rural school teacher was the person who
was the brightest person in the community, who did the best
and took the examination.
J: So I would judge that the average I.Q. of these rural teachers
F: They were just bright people....
J: Bright people. They probably had a higher I.Q. than the
average teacher that we have today. Because they were highly
selective. The very best in their community, and they ad-
ministered the schools very well. In the rural school I
attended, the teacher encouraged us to read any book available.
A college-educated man in our neighborhood died and left his
library to the school. They brought it over to the school,
and it wasn't adaptable for elementary school children by
present day standards.
But it had Shakespeare's complete works, and I read it
when I was eleven or twelve years of age. I just loved them
and enjoyed them. I also read Pilgrims's Progress and all
sorts of books like that. When I went to high school, the
teachers dissected them to pieces and took the beauty out
of them. Bored the hell out of me.
F: Yes, taking excerpts and putting them in an anthology of
J: That sort of thing, you know, and taking character after
But if rural schools had any reading matter, the teachers
would let you read anything you wanted to. So you were free
to do individual study. And they used the oldest kids to
teach the younger kids.
I finished high school at seventeen and didn't have any
money, but I wanted to go to college. The first job I got
was teaching in a one-teacher school in 1918. It was in
the Ozark Mountains, incidentally. I was paid fifty dollars
a month. I stayed in a log cabin, that is, sort of a lean-to
plank room on the side of a log cabin.
F: I don't want to interrupt you but something comes to my mind.
Was it very early that you decided you wanted to stay in
education for a very long time?
J: Well, there were no plans. That is, I just wanted to get
an education, and so I taught this rural school at fifty
dollars a month. I was paid five dollars a month to be the
janitor of the school, too.
F: Where exactly was this now?
J: That was in Wappapello, Missouri, which is in Wayne County.
F: Do you know how to spell Wappapello?
J: W-a-p-p-a-p-e-l-l-o, but now that area is flooded by river
after the construction of a dam. The school was located on
a hill at the edge of the hill country. I had thirty-six
children that came to the school. It started the first
day of July 1918. They started early; so they'd get out
early in the spring.
They had an eight-month school. And I was the only
person that wore shoes in the summer and fall. They were
all coming bare-foot. Those were all white children. I
was seventeen, and I had girls that were eighteen. They'd
come to school as long as the teacher could teach them any-
F: How about the Piedmont High School?
J: It had a very rigorous curriculum. We had Latin, English,
history, math, and science. But everybody had to take the
same thing. Thirty-two entered high school in the ninth
grade, and eight of us graduated. That was the typical ratio.
You'd lose three-fourths because we had absolutely no electives.
There was no vocational work.
F: Most of this part of your life was taken up with schooling
and working on the farm?
J: Yes, after I finished high school in 1918, I didn't work on
the farm anymore. After I taught my first school, I went
to a college summer term. As a matter of fact, during that
first term I was teaching school, it was during World War I,
and I ran away to try to join the army.
I had been to a teacher's meeting at the county level,
and a bunch of the boys decided we'd all join the army.
So we went to Cape Girardeau [Missouri] to try to get in
the army, and they turned me down. You were supposed to
be eighteen, and I told them the truth, I was seventeen,
and another thing I'm blind in one eye.
But rather interestingly, I was in World War II and
served as a captain. I came out with three battle scars,
and they didn't hesitate at all to admit me to the army
because I had one eye. I was supposed to serve in the
non-combat troops, but I was attached to the Seventh Army
and landed in Southern France on D-day. They made no
objection at all about being blind in one eye in World
F: They weren't as discriminating in World War II.
J: They were more discriminating in World War I. They wouldn't
take me, and I went back and finished teaching the school.
The war was over by that time. Then I went to school at
Cape Girardeau State Teacher's College for a summer term in
1919, and then taught another one-teacher school in 1919-20.
F: You finished high school in what year?
J: 1918. I started teaching July 1, 1918. Then I went to
school in a summer term of 1919, and then I taught another
rural school this time back up toward St. Louis, where my
ancestors came from. It was more prosperous country up
there, and a friend of mine told me about a school that I
could get that paid eighty-five dollars a month for teaching.
So I went up there and taught that school in the summer.
That was in 1919 and '20.
F: 1919 and '20, and during that time you were going to a teacher's
J: No, I was just teaching school. Then I worked at St. Louis
in the summertime, to get some more money, at the Pevely
Dairy, as a common laborer. But I had saved up enough money
to go a whole year to school by September 1920.
F: So working in the summer you saved up enough money to go?
J: Cape Girardeau. I saved enough money by teaching school in
1919 and '20 to go to school a whole year. And by that time
I could go the next summer, too. By that time I had finished
two years of college work.
F: Did you receive a diploma of any kind?
J: I received a two-year diploma and then I had to go to work
again. I got the principalship of a small school out in
Carter County, a five-teacher school, I was only twenty
years of age when school started.
F: You were principal of that school?
J: I was principal of that school at Hunter, Missouri, but,
incidentally, that school has disappeared. The town was
a sawmill town with aobut three hundred people. They cut
the timber out and the people left. I don't think they
even have a one-teacher school there anymore.
F: Did your salary increase as principal?
J: Yes, I got a good deal more money. I got about twelve
hundred dollars for that. Well, then I save up enough
money to finish college, and that was in 1922. I went
back to college in the summer of 1922.
F: This was at Southeast?
J: Yes, Southeast Missouri State Teachers' College at Cape
Girardeau, and also I got a job waiting tables in the
dormitory. I was able to finish college with the money I
had saved and the money I made waiting tables.
F: And you started there in 1921?
J: Well, my first summer term there started in 1919. But I
kept teaching, you know. I had to go back and forth teaching
while I was going to school. I graduated in 1923, in the
summer of 1923. By that time I had three years of teaching
experience, and a bachelor's degree. Well, that qualified
me to be a superintendent of a bigger school system. And
that's when I became superintendent at Bloomfield, Missouri,
in Stoddard County.
F: That's where, you were telling me before, you consolidated
the district and were the head administrator of the entire
F: What about your experiences in the teachers' college?
J: Well, I had a very good experience there, a very delightful
experience. I waited tables there. Board and room was twenty-
five dollars a month, and then you paid thirty dollars a year
which would give you your fees and also your rentals on your
textbooks. You didn't have to buy your textbooks. For three
hundred dollars a year you could get by all right. I had
an excellent time in college. It was a small college, 500
or 600 students.
F: I see.
J: And I knew every faculty member. They knew me.
F: Were there any people there that particularly influenced your
J: Yes, there was an English professor, rather interestingly,
who encouraged me a good deal, And then I played on the
football team. And then...
F: Had you done athletic things before in high school?
J: No, I hadn't much, but I could run pretty fast, and I weighed
a hundred and seventy-five pounds which was big enough to
play football in those days.
That was the time of the Four Horsemen. If you'll recall
the Four Horsemen of Notre Dame; their fullbacks weighed only
165 pounds. And then their average line wouldn't have averaged
over 175 or 180 pounds.
F: Did you stay in touch with your folks while you were in the
J: Yes, I stayed in touch with them. Vacation time, I'd go
But then I also had a good deal of opportunity for par-
ticipation in student activities. I was editor-in-chief of
the college paper. The Capaha Arrow they called it. It's
called the same thing up to this day. And then I made inter-
collegiate debating team also.
F: Did you battle a lot with this?
J: Not much.
F: In the state?
J: In the state. It was always in the state. So I had experience
in student activities of being the editor-in-chief of a
college newspaper, the intercollegiate debating team, played
football. We traveled more playing football than for any
F: Had you done any other traveling at any other time earlier in
J: No, I never traveled. I had hardly been out of the state of
We went over to Illinois sometimes. A bunch of us
built a sailboat and had a sailing club. We'd sail that
sailboat across the river. There was a big peach orchard
over there, and we'd go over there and steal peaches out of
that peach orchard. Then we'd get in that sailboat and return
to the Missouri side of the river.
F: What else did you do besides steal peaches?
J: We would fish and we would sail up the river in the afternoon,
drift back on the Mississippi by moonlight, playing ukuleles.
F: What about your social life during that time?
J: Oh, we had a lot of fun. The girls outnumbered the boys;
so we dated a great deal. But in those days nobody figured
on getting married until a man got established. The dating
was a lot of fun, but we were quite moral. That is, there
wasn't any shacking up. And then we looked down upon a
college boy who was trying to get next to a girl.
We were quite moral and the girls were, too. They were
very nice. They'd give you a kiss after you'd dated them
a few times, but that is about as far as you ever got.
And, by the way, we got as much kick out of that as,...
They were wonderful girls that we had. I had any number of
girls I dated. We would date different girls. Your friend
would date a girl one night, and you'd date her the next.
Even roomates would do it.
F: Yes. So it was an enjoyable kind of thing.
J: An enjoyable thing, not too serious, and we had a wonderful
time on no money at all, scarcely. That is, for instance,
we figured a dollar was the price of a date. If you had a
dollar you could go to a picture show for twenty-five cents
a piece. Then you'd come back. You'd stop at a soda fountain.
Dad Cliftons was our favorite soda fountain, that you could
get a soda for $.15 or $.20.
Then one night I had a date with a girl, a good-looking
gal, and I only had a dollar. We'd always ask what she would
have, and to my consternation she ordered a banana split which
cost thirty cents. Well, I had to order a banana split, too.
There was sixty cents plus fifty cents, and I was a dime short.
So I had to go back to Dad Clifton and ask him to give me
credit for a dime so that I could entertain my lady friend.
F: What about church activities? Was that an important part
of your life?
J: Yes, it was. I was a Baptist, went to church regularly, and
was president of B.Y.P.U., that's the Baptist Young People's
Union. I served as president of that.
F: Was most of the community in the area Baptist?
J: Well, there were various denominations. Cape Girardeau had a
good many Catholics in it. That was an old river town, and
the French first settled there. The denominations were well
distributed, the Catholics and Baptists and Methodists and
Presbyterians and so on. It was rather cosmopolitan from
the standpoint of religion.
F: Upon leaving the teachers' school at Girardeau, you went
immediately into Bloomfield to start you superintendency?
F: Could you tell us about that? We were talking about it before,
but we didn't get it on tape.
J: Well, as I told you when we were discussing it, Bloomfield
is to the southern part of Missouri. It fought with the south.
They were all southerners down there and had slaves. They
grew cotton down in that section of Missouri. Bloomfield was
fortified as a southern fort, and General Price from the Union
army came down there and captured it. One of my ancestors,
it was a great-great-uncle was fighting with him and helped
capture that town. He went on and joined up with Grant, and
fought and was killed at Vicksburg. His name was Swepton
Johns, S-w-e-p-t-o-n, Swepton Johns.
A private academy with a very classical curriculum had
been located in Bloomfield before the Civil War. When I came
to Bloomfield in 1923, I found that the high school had a
very classical curriculum. It had four years of Latin,
three years of mathematics, four years of English, four
years of history and science and physics. There were no
I decided that the curriculum was not suited to the
needs of the children. The superintendent was boss in those
days, pretty much. The decisions he made went over pretty
well as long as he'd get the board to go with him. If the
board wouldn't go with him, they'd either fire him or he'd
F: Right. He was hired by the board?
J: Hired by the board to run the schools. They told him to
run the schools. The superintendent did the hiring, did
the firing, and did the deciding. It didn't occur to me
to go to the P.T.A. and to work with them to get the cur-
riculum changed or to confer with the faculty. I had looked
over the curriculum and decided that things should be done.
So I told the board, "We're going to cut out two years
of this Latin. We're going to have some vocational education:
vocational agriculture and home economics. I can get a unit
from the state for that. And then we're going to have
business education, too."
So we did. Interestingly enough, students came to
school that had been out of school for years. I had students
who came to high school that wore moustaches and were twenty-
three, twenty-four years of age.
Then I organized a football team. There was no limit
on the age which you could play football. And I had fellows
with moustaches playing on a high school team. But they
came back because the curriculum changed.
F: Because you offered them something that they could use?
J: Something that they could use, you see.
F: This is in 1924?
J: It was in 1923-24, 1924-25, and 1925-26. I taught there
three years. Then we needed a new high school building.
There were a number of rural school districts surrounding
that town, nine or ten, and we needed to increase the assessed
valuation so we could have a high school building.
I went out and spoke in those rural school districts
and told them "You're coming to the school here, but you don't
have any representation on the board. Now if you will join
in this consolidation, you can elect members on the board
and have something to say about the school system. And
then also we can do away with tuition."
They were having to pay three dollars a month tuition
for everybody who came to high school, because they came
out of the district. They had to pay it out of their own
pockets. We got them to vote themselves in, and it made the
biggest consolidated school--that is, in terms of area--in
the state of Missouri at that time.
F: I see.
J: There was an organization, the School and Society, which used
to make ratings of schools and of how well the schools met
the needs of the community. That school;was rated one of the
ten best schools in the state of Missouri at that time in
terms of meeting the needs of the community.
F: Now this school was a high school?
J: It had both high school and elementary grades. It had two
buildings, a high school building and an elementary building.
F: And they were the only two public schools in the country.
J: No, in that particular area; there were others. There were
other schools in the other little towns in the country. There
was one at Dexter, which was even a larger town about seven
miles from there. But this was the county seat town and
cultural center of the county.
F: But you were a county superintendent?
J: No, I was a city superintendent. There was elective county
superintendent, but he didn't do much. He was just over the
one-teacher schools. He had nothing to do with the city schools.
The city superintendents dealt directly with the state, and we
didn't file reports at all with the county. We had nothing to
do with them.
Rather interestingly, there was an opposition developing
in the community because I had broken up the classical curricu-
lum. They thought that I had lowered the school's standards
by putting in vocational education. The old classical grads
were in opposition to me, and they elected members on the
board of education that were opposed to me.
Some of the rural people thought that I had shown too
much interest in student activities. We had a high school
debating team, had a basketball team, baseball team, a foot-
ball team, and so on. They thought they had their minds on
student activities and other things, but that they didn't
have their minds on books enough.
So I realized that if I had asked to come back there
the fourth year--you only got a contract a year at a time
in those times--they'd probably turn me down. So I resigned.
You asked me when I decided to make education my profession.
I had not decided yet whether to become a dentist,
and I thought some about going into medicine.
F: I see. So you were undecided even at that stage?
J: I was undecided, but I was only twenty-five. I decided in
1926 that I might as well be in education as anything else.
F: But there wasn't a person or an event that you could recall
that led you to go into education for your career?
J: No. The only thing, my uncle was a superintendent of schools,
but no college professor encouraged me to do it.
I had heard that the top school for school administrators was,
I mean not necessarily for school administrators--
I didn't know anything about departments of administration--
but the top teacher's education institution in the country
was Columbia University. So I decided to go out there. I
went out there, didn't write to them in advance, but got hold
of a catalogue and found when they opened.
And rather interestingly, there were no formalities much
about registration. I walked into the second floor there
where they were registering and sort of looked around: there
were tables, professors over there like you'd find in typical
Some professor said, "What do you want?"
"Well," I said, "I want to register here as a graduate
He said, "What department do you want to register in?"
I said, "I don't know what department. But I want to
study with the biggest men that you have in Columbia University."
"Well, sir, you can get them at this table."
I said, "All right."
So I sat down there, and he said, "Now, who do you think
are the biggest men?"
"Well," I said, "There's John Dewey."
"Put his name down."
I said, "There's Kilpatrick [Dr. William Heard Kilpatrick]."
"Put his name down."
"There's George S. Counts."
I don't know how I knew these names, but I had been reading
some. I named off the whole list.
Then I said, "There's Strayer [Dr. George Drayton Strayer]."
He said, "Down the table there is Strayer."
I said, "I also want Engelhardt."
He said, "I'm Engelhardt [N. L. Engelhardt]. Now, there's
another outstanding professor or two here that you might be
"Well," I said, "put his name down."
He put down a couple of other names of professors. I think
they were McGaughy and Mossman who were some of the early curricu-
lum people [Dr. James Ralph McGaughy; Dr. Lois Coffey Mossman].
"Now," I said, "I want a course with each one of them."
But Dewey was in Russia at that time. I couldn't get him
but did get Kilpatrick. We made the program with courses with
all of these people.
"Now," he said, "you'll have to register in some department.
You told me you've been a superintendent of schools. You might
just as well register in the administration department."
"Well," I said, "I don't mind registering in the department
of administration if it doesn't prevent me from getting an
"That was exactly the way I happened to select a career
in educational administration. And they allowed a great deal
of freedom, you know, of choosing courses. My program was
basically outside of administration. The background was in
foundations and other areas such as curriculum. And then I
wanted Thorndike [Dr. Ashley Horace Thorndike]. I studied with
all those people. They had a very rich, a very rich faculty.
F: It's like a Who's Who of...
J: It's like a Who's Who of the early years.
F: The greatest.
J: And so they were...
F: You mentioned a minute ago about teaching as superintendent.
Had you done any teaching as superintendent?
J: Oh, yes. The superintendent had to teach. I taught the subjects
that were the most difficult to teach. I taught second year
algebra and physics; things other teachers couldn't teach.
I had three majors in undergraduate school. I took
just enough education to get certified, but I had majors
in English, math, and science.
They asked me about that in undergraduate school. They
said, "Why don't you take some history and economics?"
"Well," I said, "that's easy. I can read that." And
so I read in those fields and studied formally in the other
fields. And I've read books in those fields.
F: Was your trip to Columbia your first major trip away from
J: Yes, it was the first major trip away from home.
F: And you had never been to New York or any other major city?
F: How did you travel?
J: I went by train, and actually I went to Columbia in the spring
to register for the fall. Went out there just to see the
country. First I was going to visit while I stayed at the
Westside Y.M.C.A. And then...
F: This is the spring of 1925 or '26?
J: Spring of 1926. I went to the Westside Y.M.C.A. and went out
and saw the sights of New York, the Statue of Liberty and
various other places. Stayed there about a week.
Then the head of the Y.M.C.A. told me, "Well,'now you'll
get tired seeing the sights of New York before long. Would
you like a little job till you go into Columbia this fall?"
I said, "Yes, I could stand a job, always can use some
He said, "I've got a job up at Camp Smith at the PX
where you can work in a soda fountain and jerk sodas. Well
it's nice country up there at Peekskill where Camp Smith is.
It's close to Bear Mountain. You could have a good time."
"All right, I'll go up there," I said.
And I went up there. I never jerked soda before, but I
had a book on that and studied how to jerk sodas and how to
make all these various things. And in a week's time I had
mastered that pretty well. We had a big fifty-five foot
long soda fountain there and about eight dispensing units.
There were eight people there, and they were all college
boys. After a week the manager of the soda fountain resigned.
They asked me if I would serve as manager. Within a week I
became manager of a soda fountain.
F: You did that during the spring?
J: This was in the summer. All through the summer as long as
the National Guard was up there. Then we stayed in tents
and had a wonderful time staying in a tent and some money.
F: What did your parents think about you going to the big city?
J: Oh, my father thought that it was an awful thing for me to
resign as superintendent. He thought I was already making
great progress as a young man.
"You're going out there to Columbia University." He
said, "You don't know what will become of you out there."
He thought a bird in the hand was worth two in the bush.
I should not have taken that gamble, he thought.
J: He said, "Why, you didn't like Broomfield you could get
Which I could have for sure.
F: What about your mother?
J: Well, my mother never expressed herself one way or the other
about it. But I think that she would have gone. I think
she approved of it.
F: You said you heard about it and started listing these men's
names when the professor...
J: I read their books while I was in undergraduate school.
Then they did this thing, too, at Columbia. They had
no entrance requirements, but they gave a comprehensive
examination in the first week on the whole area of education
and various other things. I was a little bit leary of how
I compared with other people there. I came out of that little
old Cape Girardeau school, and I was competing with people
from Illinois, Nebraska, and other schools. They gave that
examination. In a week I got a notice from them that I ranked
in the upper ten percent and that I would be excused from a
great many of the masters level courses. And so on...
F: You felt pretty good about that.
J: But I still had to take the total number of hours required
for the master's and doctor's degrees. I took seventy-six
F: This was a semester system.
J: Semester system, but that did not include any hours credit
for the doctoral dissertation, just straight hours. They
had to excuse me from the first level of psychology and
various other courses. I had had some statistics in under-
graduate level and then got interested in reading a book on
statistics by Harold Rugg.
J: And then I got interested in finding how many errors I could
find in it, and I found eighty errors in that book. Went all
through, searched everything, listed eighty errors in it,
and I learned a lot of statistics trying to find the errors.
F: Trying to find the errors.
J: That was a primer of statistics, but I learned a lot of
statistics tracing it down finding out where he made errors.
It was a very poorly edited book by Rugg. The only thing
that Rugg did that was sloppy that I ever knew of was that
little book on statistics.
F: Did you ever report to him the errors that you found?
J: No, I never told him because I admired him very much. He
was one of the greatest. People talk about the lecture
method being a poor method of teaching. That's all poppycock.
Take a man like Counts and Rugg and Kilpatrick...you say that
you've got to have interaction. You're sitting there, all
the time you're interacting with them, and thinking of every-
thing they say. You could just stay on your toes, and once
in a while they'd let us ask a question, and we could interrupt.
By the way, Thorndike studied the methods of instruction.
And I did participate in some of the experiments with him.
F: Oh really?
J: He found that the lecture method as contrasted with the
project method, problem method or others, for students
of high I.Q. was the most efficient method of teaching,
but not for the lower I.Q.s. But if you have high I.Q.
students, they can keep themselves mentally active.
Thorndike was a genius; he was a man who just covered
the landscape with his work in the measurement of intelligence
and in statistics, and psychology. He was also interested in
what age you could learn; whether you went down in your
ability to learn. He took a bunch of us young fellows, years
of age who were.... The students included Hollis Caswell,
who later became president of Teachers' College; and Raleigh
Homestead, who later became president of Indiana State
University, not the university but the one at Indianapolis
[Indiana University-Purdue at Indianapolis]; and Paul Hanna,
a professor at Stanford University.
There was a considerable group of us who participated
in the experiment. Thorndyke developed an artificial language
and compared how well forty-five and fifty year old students
could learn the language in competition with the twenty-five
and twenty-six year olds. He found that the forty-five and
fifty year olds could learn the artificial language as readily
as the twenty-five and twenty-six year olds, provided that
they were of the same I.Q. level.
F: What made you decide to focus your attentions on administration,
or did you just kind of fall into it?
J: And then I decided, by the time I was twenty-five years of
age, if I was going to stay in education that I'd better get
some graduate work. Teachers' College, Columbia University,
was the place in the United States where they had the greatest
collection of talent. Men like E. L. Thorndike, the most
famous psychologist; John Dewey, the most famous of philosophers;
Harold Rugg, a curriculum expert; George S. Counts, who was in
comparative education; George D. Streyer, an outstanding expert
in educational administration; and N. L. Engelhardt, who was
also there at that time, just to name a few...
J: They also had Ruger, an outstanding statistician who had his
doctorate from Cambridge University, England. And so you
had such a collection of talent like that.
F: So there really wasn't much choice for you?
J: Well, there was no other institution that compared with it.
I had a wonderful experience there, great freedom. They
gave me a wonderful experience: the administration department
went out and made surveys of various school systems.
We went to Lynn, Massachusetts, for instance. Somehow
or other, they put me, a graduate student, to work on studying
the financing of Lynn, Massachusetts, schools. I did what they
thought was a good job. I got interested in the financing of
We made a state survey in Florida. That was in 1926,
and we came down here and I was a graduate student on that
survey. We studied Florida, considered it, and compared it
with other states. And that's rather interesting. There is
a state survey report available of that time. You'll find
it in the library. The study was made by Columbia University
and you'll find my name listed as one of the students who
helped to make it.
F: How many students came down?
J: Well, we probably had fifteen or twenty doctoral students who
worked on it. We went out and did the dirty work and got the
data. I was over here in west Florida, and the situation was
terrible in Florida with respect to the school systems. Florida
had been through that big land boom and the school systems were
broke. A lot of them were in default on their bonds, the
local school systems. Florida had two depressions. It had
the depression of the 1920s from the breakdown of the land boom,
and then the Depression of the thirties came in.
At that time, as far as Columbia University could tell,
we thought that Florida probably had among the poorest schools
of any state in the nation. Even worse, lower than Alabama or
Mississippi. And it was...
F: Because of this financial problem.
J: Financial problem. It was a very bad situation and the schools...
F: Were recommendations made to the state?
J: Yes, recommendations were made to the state legislature. They
didn't do much about it, and they had a weak legislature and
a weak governor at that time. They were rather hopelessly
trying to survive financially.
Florida was dominated by the fast buck boys and real
estate interests. They would go out and issue bonds with-
out anything in back of them for developments. And rather
interesting though, all the dreams of the real estate people
of the twenties were later realized after World War II.
J: I worked with Paul Mort, who was an expert in school finance.
I did my doctoral dissertation in the field of state school
We were very idealistic in those days. Most of us weren't
married, very few married. Graduate students didn't have
fellowships and assistantships, and we were on our own. And
then it came time for me to get a job, when I finished there.
You had choices of jobs. So they asked me where I wanted to
"Well," I said, "I want to go to a place where they need
leadership. I want to go to the most backward section of the
United States where I can get a satisfactory job."
I had five jobs offered to me including one in New York
State. I took the lowest salaried job in the most backward
state that a job was offered to me, Alabama, and I went to
F: To Auburn, Alabama.
J: To Auburn, Alabama. It's now Auburn University.
F: This was working at the college?
J: At Auburn University, yes. On the faculty there. And so I
worked there for a year. In 1929, I married my wife whom I
had met at Teachers' College.
F: Was she a student there?
J: Yes, she was studying hospital administration. And she was
one of the few students there on a scholarship. She was
there on a scholarship for nursing.
F: What was her background prior to that?
J: Well, she had graduated from the school of nursing at Omaha
at the University of Nebraska, a division of the medical
school there. She was at the Clarkson Memorial Hospital, she
was a brilliant student there, and she won a scholarship.
She was also a very good-looking gal. And we had dances
there at Teachers' College at four o'clock every Friday. We'd
have a dance after our classes would be over with. They'd an
orchestra there and we had a room there.
Then a bunch of us young, unmarried graduate students
picked out the best looking gal that came there. That was the
opening of my second term there. And then we bet on who got
the first date with her. We picked out this gal, I got the
first date with her, and we later married.
F: Did you meet her at...
J: Many of these graduate students met their wives at Teachers'
College, met young women who were there doing graduate work.
But we didn't get married so young then like they're doing
J: It was typical in my generation for college people, even those
with just bachelor degrees, not to get married 'till they got
established. I was twenty-eight when we got married, which
was about a normal age for doctoral students to get married.
J: And most of my contemporaries were about the same age or
older when they weren't married.
F: Did your fiancee stay on at Columbia when you went down into
J: No, her father got ill and had a stroke, and she went home
and took care of him for a year.
F: Was that in Omaha?
J: No, they lived in Lincoln. Then we got married. I stayed at
Auburn, and we had a tough time there during the Depression
because Alabama didn't pay off salaries so well. They were
prorated. Alabama got in a very bad financial situation. Then
we had two children while we were there at Auburn.
F: At Auburn?
J: Yes, two daughters.
F: What courses were you teaching?
J: Teaching educational administration. I taught other things,
too. I taught psychology and statistics. Whatever needed
to be taught, I taught pretty well. I mean I don't know
whether I taught pretty well, but I mean the dean would
assign it to you, and you'd teach it whether that was your
major field or not.
We didn't have enough graduate students for me to spend
my whole time teaching administration. I had a minor in psy-
chology, too, and so I taught some courses in that. I could
teach psychology on a beginning level.
J: I wasn't qualified to teach it on an advanced.level.
F: Had you studied, excuse me, had you studied as you say with
all of these great people at Columbia, or when Thorndike...
F: ...Harold Rugg and Counts. I know it's hard to try to summarize
the experience that that must have been, but is there any way
you could say what influenced you the most out of all of your
experiences aside from the fact that you met your wife there,
of course, and worked with Mort there?
J: Well, we were imbued with a concept of service, that you
should serve humanity.
J: Also we were directly or indirectly taught to be egotists,
that we were the best. Nobody had anything better. We knew
that when we went out nobody was any better than we were.
F: I see.
J: And we had confidence in ourselves. We weren't afraid to tackle
things. Incidentally, in my graduate work and my training here
at the University of Florida, I tried to train my doctoral
students to be egotists, too. I wanted them to be good. They
had to be good, and then they had to believe in themselves.
That's what I mean by egotism, that you believe in yourself
and then back it up.
F: Right, have confidence and the skills to back up....
J: There's one, I have a great respect for the Bible. I'm not
what you would call overly fundamentalist, but I'm a Baptist.
I joined the Baptist church. There's one part in the Bible,
one line that I never could understand, and I think it must
have been some error of translation. I've forgotten those
exact words, but it says "the meek shall inherit the earth."
I never could understand that. The only thing that I ever
observed is the meek gt eaten up.
F: So you think that your career at Columbia just added to your
confidence, to your skills, and to what you knew and how to
J: Yes. It gave me the foundation to go ahead and continue to
learn. Now, one will never learn enough on a doctoral program.
No institution he goes to can give him a program that will
last him all of his life. The only thing that a doctoral pro-
gram can do is launch a student on a lifetime of discovery.
J: You have to keep learning, and keep studying all the time.
Then another thing, that I participated in experiments
with Thorndike there. And I don't remember whether I told
you about that before or not.
F: Which ones were these?
J: About the age of learning. You could learn all your life,
and the popular myth is that you can't teach an old dog new
tricks, that you learn only when you're very young, and
when you get older you can't learn things. Well, the researchers
show in fact that simply isn't true as long as a person tries
to learn, unless he has had a stroke or is physiologically
For instance, when I left Auburn and went to Alabama state
department of education, I was -assistant state superintendent
of education in charge of administration and finance. We
distributed the funds for adult education, or a literacy fund
we called it.
There was a woman there who was sixty-seven years of
age who was illiterate, and her children had left. They'd
always read the Bible to her. There was no one to read the
Bible anymore, and she wanted to learn to read the Bible and
also to write to her children. She entered an adult school,
and she learned to read in six weeks. A sixty-seven year
old woman highly motivated, you know. She evidentally had
a high intelligence.
J: Before I left Auburn, that institution got in financial difficul-
ties. The president found that I was interested in and competent
in the area of finance, and so he asked the dean of the college
of education to let him have my services for a year to lobby
in the legislature. I went down to the Alabama legislature
and had a year's experience lobbying for Auburn's appropriation.
It was a very valuable experience.
L. N. Duncan was a clever politician in addition to being
the president of Auburn. And he taught me a good deal of how
to deal with legislative committees and individuals. L. N.
Duncan had been head of the extension service in the state,
and then he was named president. He would teach you how to
deal with people.
For instance, he says to me "Dr. Johns, you're brilliant
and well-educated, but in dealing with the legislature never
try to impress upon them your brilliance, your education.
And never be contemptuous of them, that if he says anything no
matter how stupid it is, make something of it, make him feel
good. Don't ever humiliate him. Make him think that you think
that he's smart although you know he'd dumb."
F: Just to get along in the legislature...
J: Yes. So you'd respect the person, and although he doesn't
have much education, he may know something that you don't know.
And so learn to respect these legislators. They represent the
J: And they're speaking their language, their thoughts, and in
a democracy you have to know what that language means. What
those thoughts, those desires, and goals are.
F: So you've got to deal with them, and their goals may be quite
F: So did you commute from Auburn to the capital?
J: No, I did commute during the week. I stayed at the Gay Teague
Hotel and come home weekends,
Then the assistant state superintendent of education
in charge of administration and finance left for the United
States Office of Education. The state superintendent then
asked me to come down there.
F: Who was the state superintendent?
J: Albert Keller. I mean they called him A. J. Keller, his
initials and then his name. I went down there and resigned
at Auburn, but they wouldn't accept my resignation. They
wanted to give me a leave of absence.
F: I see.
J: So I worked down there a year, and each year they kept that
position open for three years to try to get me to come back
to it. But I would each year tell them that I had resigned
and wasn't going to go back to the job because a person needs
to move on. I went to the state department because I felt
that I needed more administrative experience to teach administra-
F: I see.
J: You get administrative experience fast on the state level if
you're acting for a state superintendent. The state superin-
tendent got ill, and I had to act for him, dealt directly
with the governor, and appeared before committees of the
legislature. Time and time again I dealt with all aspects
of education. We had colleges under the state board of educa-
tion, the teachers' colleges. I dealt with them and college
administration as well as public school administration. And
so you had a rich experience there.
F: Did it pay any more?
J: A little bit better, but not much better. But it was more
for the experience than anything else. It gave me an oppor-
tunity to experiment on things.
Finally after three years there the president came to
me and said, "If you'll come back to Auburn, we'll pay you
as much as we'll pay any dean on the campus."
Well, I said that would create jealousy among other
professors. So I would not want to do it, and I said, "I
have a job to do here that isn't finished yet."
We hadn't yet pulled out of the Depression, I went
there in 1936 into the state department,
F: Let's see if we could just for a second catch this chronology
up. You finished at Columbia in '28?
F: In '28, and then you moved to Auburn directly and stayed
J: Eight years. Then went to the state department of education
F: Which year were you lobbying for Auburn? Was that '35?
J: '35, yes. That is I practically did some for two years,
'34 and '35. Primarily, I spent 1935 lobbying for Auburn.
F: And your children were born in Auburn, Alabama?
J: Two of them. And then we moved to Montgomery in 1936. So
then we had a pair of twin boys born in 1937.
F: What were the first two?
J: They were girls.
F: They were both girls.
J: Yes, girls. One of them, Millicent, is the wife of Senator
Saunders [Robert Saunders, Florida state senator] here in
J: Robert Saunders.
J: And the other is married to an engineer with Monsanto Chemicals.
Was visiting us this last couple of days.
F: What is her name?
J: Her name is Joan and his name is Cantrell, C-a-n-t-r-e-l-l,
and his son came here to enroll in school in the honors program.
His son is academically inclined. I noticed that you have to
make a minimum score of three hundred to get on here in the
University of Florida. He made a four hundred and eighty-
four. And he wanted to get in an honors program at some
institution. By the way, they've also offered him a scholar-
ship at North Carolina State University at Raleigh.
F: Has he made up his mind to go here, though?
J: Well, I don't know whether he's made up his mind or not.
I think his father's trying to make up his mind for him.
His father and mother both graduated from here, and they'd
like him to go here. But he'll have to make up his own mind.
where he's going to go.
F: So your twins were born in Montgomery?
J: Yes, they were born in Montgomery.
F: What are their names?
J: Their names are Edwin and Thomas.
My daughter, Joan, graduated from college here. Then
her husband was on the faculty at the University of Tennessee
for a while, and she took hermaster's degree in mathematics
there. She teaches mathematics at Pensacola, Florida.
Then my two boys, one of them played football here for
three years. That was Edwin; he played on the first team
for three years. That was Edwin; he played on the first team
for three years under Woodruff [George Robert Woodruff]. He
finished here in 1958. He's an engineer, he also has a
master's degree in engineering. He is quite successful in
that, and he's product manager of Measurex Corporation in
San Jose. He's a very brilliant chap. And the Measurex
Corporation is a very highly sophisticated computer control
corporation. It goes around all over the world putting com-
puters in factories. He's been in Russia, Poland, England,
Japan. He's in the executive branch office.
Incidentally, Stanford University offered him an eight
thousand dollar a year fellowship to go into the doctorate.
But he was getting along so well without a doctorate that
he didn't do it. His salary and benefits are a good deal
more than twice what a college professor makes with a Ph.D.
degree. He's not too much worried about not having the Ph.D.
The other boy, his twin brother, got his doctorate from
this institution in educational administration. He is in the
United States Office of Education, and he's quite successful.
He is the top man in school finance at the United States
Office of Education. So he's following me.
F: Following in your footsteps.
J: And you'll notice all of our children are quite successful.
J: And happy and...
F: Did your wife work during the time of their childhood?
J: She didn't work. I think she's a good deal more responsible
than I am for the success of our children because she worked
with them very closely and she didn't work outside of the
home. She stayed home with the four children.
Pearl Harbor came along, the war kept dragging on, and
the government knew that she was a registered nurse and had
special training--more advanced than an ordinary nurse.
They wanted her to come into the army and make her services
available. Well, at the same time I got a request from the
provost marshall at Washington to come into the army because
of my technical competencies. Here both of us were sought to
come into the service.
I made myself available, and I was commissioned directly
into the service as a captain and was supposed to go into
military government. And then I was sent overseas, that was
in 1943. I was overseas within about two months after I
went in, and I was two years overseas. I was supposed to
be in noncombat service because I'm blind in one eye.
J: But I got attached to combat troops, sent to North Africa,
and joined up with the Seventh Army. I came in on D-Day with
the Seventh Army in the invasion of southern France.
There wasn't too much fighting. I wouldn't have done
much about it anyway. I was put on reconnaissance with the
combat troops, and whenever we'd capture a town to check
over anything that the army could use: places for repairs
of army equipment, stores and supplies, and things.
J: Then to check over also the civilian situation, whether the
Germans had taken the money out of the banks or whether
there was any supply of insulin for the diabetics or whether
they were starving for food and things like that. I had a
couple of G.I.s with me in a jeep, and my orders were to
keep out of combat. I had a pistol and a carbine, but the
two G.I.s just had carbines.
F: Not the Mis.
J: Not the Mls. We were at Lyon. Patton [General George S. Patton, Jr.]
had just gone by Paris. I was with Patch's
Army [General Alexander M. Patch], and he was going through
Lyon. In between Paris and Lyon there was Clermont-Ferrand.
where Michelin tires were made. I was sent in there to check
the condition of that plant so that we could recap or make
the Army tires there.
J: I was the first soldier there. As we were on our way, we
saw some road blocks of stones. We could not go around,
and we pulled up to them and stopped. The road was narrow
there in the mountains and there was not much room between
the trees. The roads were winding and narrow. Two jeeps
could pass all right, but they're not...
F: Not a lot of room.
J: All at once, some people jumped out of the trees by the
road, and somebody stuck one of these sten guns in my side.
They were guerilla troops, and they didn't know the difference
between Americans and Germans. And this boy that had that
gun stuck in my side--I noticed he wasn't even shaving and
he was white, just trembling, and that damn thing could go
off anytime, you know.
J: Fortunately, I can speak a little French, and I told him that
I was an American. Then they took us, me and my two G.I.s,
to their command post where they had a senior officer.
The military government headquarters was at Frankfurt.
I was a captain there at that headquarters, and there were
140 generals there. To understand how high I ranked there
at the Eisenhower headquarters, one day I saw a brigadier
general thumbing a ride.
F: Oh, my goodness.
J: Things were not quite that bad, but a brigadier general,
was waiting for a ride. Now you can imagine how far down
on the totem pole a poor captain was.
F: Yes, indeed.
J: I was sent down to Munich to see if we could get the schools
started again in the fall of '45. I went down there and
found that Patton had taken over all the high schools. He
had his troops quartered in the high school buildings. We
couldn't get him out.
If you went in his territory, it made no difference if
I had a Seventh Army pass on me, you had to wear your leggings,
and you had to have your helmet liner polished and everything
spick and span. Patch's Army was much more loose than that.
But when you went down there you had to dress up.
I went down to Munich, and the first thing I had to do
was to see about the financing of the textbooks we used.
We wouldn't let them use the Nazi textbooks. Because they
were just full of all sorts of Nazi stuff and propaganda.
And so I was sent down to see about how we could get the finances
distributed among the various lands in Germany, L-a-n-d. They
call it, pronounce it lant. Like the land Bavaria and land
Hesse. Those lands correspond somewhat to our states.
Lands are subdivisions of Germany; each one had its own
capital, each one its own financing, and they don't necessarily
like each other I found out. We had to use new textbooks, but
no non-Nazi textbooks were available. The Teacher's College
at Columbia University had copies of all the textbooks that
they used in Germany back in the Weimar Republic time, and
so we borrowed those books from Columbia University, flew them
to England, and made plates there of each one of them. They
flew them to Munich and ran off the textbooks there, and we
gave them those textbooks. This was 1945, but the textbooks
had been used in 1923, twenty-two years earlier.
Well, somebody had.to pay/for them, and then get your
money back from the other lands.
He said, "No, we're not going to pay for these boxes to
go to Wurttemberg or to Hesse."
F: So there was a lot of rivalry among these...
"Well," I said, "You don't have any choice. You will pay
for it." And I was there with an Army uniform and orders. I
said, "I have orders for you to pay for and to distribute those
J: Well, he sort of clicked his heels in a way and agreed to
pay for them, although he did not want to do it.
Then I said, "Let's see about operating and getting at
least the elementary schools open this fall. How's your
"Well," he said, "we have plenty of money. We didn't
spend it last year."
I said, "Why?"
He said, "You people were bombing so much we were afraid
to run school, afraid you were hitting schools or anything
that looked big you'd hit. We wouldn't dare to risk it when
the daytime bombing that you were doing with the American
We did hit some school buildings. You couldn't tell
from the air whether it was a school building, or what it
was. They may think it's a factory.
"Well," I said, "where is your budget?" I expected to
see a budget document.
"Well," he said, "There it is."
I looked over the wall. There was something that looked
like about several sets of international encyclopediae over
there, and they had a budget for every school in Bavaria there.
This was the Bavarian capital.
F: Southern region of Germany.
J: It's like Florida. We have some 2,500 schools, you know.
There'd be 2,500 budgets, one for each individual school.
And, by the way, there were no local boards of education
in Germany. They were completely centralized, and the teachers
were employed there at the central level. There.were no P.T.A.s.
The books were all sent out there, and no teacher could bring
any material into the classroom.unless it was approved by the
Nazi party. If you bring a mimeographed paper into the school
and distribute it there without prior consent, and if the in-
spector comes by and catches you, you'd go to a concentration
Another thing a lot of people didn't know--so much publicity
was given about the Jews that were in the concentration camps
in Germany--that there were hundreds of thousands of people in
the concentration camps in Germany who were not Jews. For
instance, we started staffing the schools with teachers who
the Germans had put in concentration camps. They were Germans
that had been opposed to Hitler in some way or to other
The first staffing that we did was to take the teachers
out of the concentration camps and put them in the classroom.
And then the...
F: So there were a lot of political prisoners as well as...?
J: Yes, there were a lot of political prisoners that weren't
there because they were Jews. That surprised me, and it
surprised many of us.
J: Teachers were not paid locally at all. They were employed
and paid directly by the government.
It was interesting for me to study their system; a cen-
tralized system, a centralized curriculum, what it amounted
to, and what it would do. And so...
F: You say that you were over there for two years?
J: Yes, I got ninety-five points, and they were putting through
papers to promote me to major. But I got the colonel to stop
that because you had to have 105 points to come back home if
you were a major. A captain could get back home on ninety-
five points, they held me down to a captain. I came home late
in the fall of 1945. That was after Japan fell.
F: All during the war your wife was at home?
J: She was home taking care of the kids. In addition to that she
was teaching a course for practical nurses in Montgomery. They
were very short of nurses, and she did training for practical
nurses in addition to taking care of the kids.
F: Now what about your work in Montgomery during the late thirties?
Now you got there in '36?
J: Yes, I kept working there. I worked there with the legislature,
and worked on school finance, and greatly improved the school
financing system. I helped develop the school financing program
and had very interesting experiences with the legislature.
F: What was the impact of the Depression upon school finance in
J: Well, it really put them in very bad shape. They finally
passed an income tax and then a sales tax which pulled the
schools up. At least they were operating on a financial
basis and paying appropriations in full. But it took them
time to do it. Opposition to taxation was very bitter in
F: Was that before the war?
J: Yes, before the war. They got that passed in about 1936,
and then, rather interestingly, responsible members of the
Alabama legislature, men like Jim Simpson and Hayes Tucker,
who are conservatives, ran for office against the sales tax.
They were opposed to it, but they were men of the character
of Goldwater: very honorable men, but they were very, very
They argued for a while that we could finance the schools
just by economy. If we had economic and efficient management,
we, they argued, didn't need new taxes. It finally became
evident to them that we're going to have a sales tax to save
the government, the school system, and the universities.
The state superintendent and I were working with the
governor, Bibb Graves. He was a pro-education man, a liberal.
He had that reputation, but he'd also ran against the sales
tax. But he was secretly working for it, and I was working
with him. We got the sales tax through the house, but then
it came to the Senate which is always the most conservative
body, you know.
Well, these two senators, Hayes Tucker and Jim Simpson,
hoped that the sales tax would pass, but they wanted to vote
against it. They called me up before the final vote on the
sales tax. By that time the governor had come out openly
So they said, "Dr. Johns, what's your count on the sales
tax? On the vote?"
"Well," I said, "the only thing we're sure of is twenty-
That would make it twenty-four against us. There were
forty-six votes in the senate.
"Well," they said, "we've got the count just in reverse.
There's going to be twenty-four for it and twenty-two against
it. We know this thing must pass. You know we are pledged
against it, but we want the state to have it."
"Well," I said, "I'm very worried that it's going to
fail. I want you two fellows to vote for it. If you're
honest men and statesmen, you should vote for it. But I
tell you what we'll do, if we're wrong and you're right about
the count on the vote on this thing, we will pass when they
call our names, and then when it comes to the very end of
it and they call our names again, we'll vote for it if neces-
sary to pass it. "Now you go home and sleep."
F: And that indeed happened.
J: What happened, they were right. We got twenty-four to twenty-
F: And so they did vote against it, but they were...
J: They voted against it, yes, but they were working for it.
Now that frequently happens in political situations. You've
go to learn to deal with legislators like that.
F: You were essentially lobbying at that time, weren't you?
J: Yes, I was lobbying. I was assistant state superintendent
in charge of administration and finance for the public schools.
In dealing with legislators, you do not mock and lambast
somebody and call him an S.O.B. because he differs with you.
You've got to deal with people who differ with you and respect
their opinions. I took bill after bill up to the legislature
which we supported. Many other types of bills would come up
which we would have to oppose.
I would talk to an individual senator who was supporting
a bad bill and say, "Now, I'd like you to vote against this
bill. It's a bad bill."
"Well, Dr. Johns, I'd sure like to do it," he would say,
"but I promised in my campaign that I would be for it."
"Well," I would say, "I wouldn't want you to break your
campaign promise at all. I respect your position, and it
would ruin your influence locally and in the legislature if
you double-crossed people like that."
He said, "Tell you what I'll do Dr. Johns, I'm going to
have to vote for the bill, but I'm not going to ask anybody
else to vote for it. And I'm not going to speak for the bill.
So the next time you have a bill you want somebody to sponsor,
bring it up here and I'll sponsor it."
F: So you traded off. So you had a good political background.
J: That's the way that you've go to deal at least with the
Alabama legislature in respect to those matters.
F: Most of them I would assume.
J: Most of them. A bureaucrat who gets arrogant, you know...
F: Cuts a supporter off.
J: Well, you take a man like this Simon [William Simon, secretary
of the treasury]. Frequently they bring in to the political
administration in Washington people that have no political
experience whatsoever. They'll put them in important positions
like Simon has.
Simon came before a congressional committee and said, "Now
this thing is all wrong because you're giving tax relief to
the poor people. You ought to give a tax relief to the rich
people, because the rich people will expand the economy more.
The people in the upper-income brackets will spend it for new
automobiles and other large items, or invest it in capital for-
Ford is not doing a very good job now either. He is
harassing the Congress and blaming them for the Viet Nam thing.
As a matter of fact, the Viet Nam war has been a bad deal
known to every intelligent person for a good many years.
When Nixon pulled the troops out of there, it was known
then that the communists were going to give us a little time
so that we would not put our troops back in there. Then they
were going to take over the country. And there was no amount
of stuff that we could have put in there to save the situation.
It was like sending ammunition to Chiang Kai-shek in China.
They turned around and sold it to the communists.
F: How long did you stay as assistant superintendent for finance
before the war? Did you go up to 1941, '42?
J: '43. I was there for seven years.
F: From '36 to '43.
J: Then I came back late in '45 after V-E Day, and it took a
while to get processed through.
I came back to Montgomery. The salaries were still low
there. We had four children and they were getting older.
The first child was born in 1930, by that time she was fifteen.
And the other girl was fourteen. When I came back, I was
severed from the service up in Atlanta, and the family came
up to meet me there. A grown young girl came running to meet
me that I didn't recognize. That was my fourteen year old
daughter. She had grown from a child while I was in the Army.
If I had met here on a street in Paris, I would not have
F: That's amazing.
J: How much they change from eleven years of age up to fourteen.
F: Very important years.
J: Extremely important.
And then my wife told me that my salary at Montgomery
at that time was too low. It was only about 4,800 dollars,
which is incidentally about the same salary of a captain in
the army at that time. It was about the same when you were
She said, "Prices are getting higher for things, and so
we can't send the children to college on a salary like this.
So you're going to have to find a job that's more lucrative
and pays better money."
Well, right after the war, people were coming to college,
and they were hunting for college professors. I didn't send
out any letters seeking a new position. But some employers
knew that I had a reputation as an educator in the South.
Before I knew it I had five jobs offered to me. As a matter
of fact, while I was still overseas, Doak Campbell, who was
president of F.S.U. [Florida State University], sent me a
cable and offered me the job of business manager of F.S.U.
F: For when the war was over in other words?
J: Yes. That was in 1944. He sent a cable offering me the job,
but, of course, I was tied up and couldn't make any promise
of anything. When I came back, I had a number of jobs offered.
Dr. Morphet [Edgar LeRoy Morphet] was here in the state
of Florida at that time in the state department of education.
He and I are the co-authors of The Economics and Financing of
Education, and he later went to the University of California.
He left the office of education and came to Florida as director
of administration and finance. He told me that there was great
possibility here in Florida at the University of Florida. He
said this institution was underdeveloped, and they wanted to
expand their program of administration. The dean down here,
Dean Ballard Simmons, called me up and wanted me to come down
to meet with him. This was 1946, early...
F: He called you to come down from Montgomery?
J: Yes, he called me by long distance. I came down. It was
about January or February, maybe a little bit later than that.
F: In '46?
J: In '46. I met with the Superintendents' Association. He
asked me what salary it would take to get me down there.
Well, I said $6,500. I was getting about $4,800, and then
I was going to get maybe a raise up to $5,000. I figured
I'd need that much to move and improve myself. That was
more money than they had. No professor at the University of
Florida was paid $6,500 in 1946. There was no medical school.
He went over to see Tigert [Dr. John J. Tigert], who was
president at that time. He didn't have any money, and then
he got in touch with Colin English, state superintedent of
education. He told Colin English that they lacked $600 of
having enough money to pay that salary, and so Colin English
said he'd pay fifty dollars a month on my salary, and I could
do consultant work for the state department of education.
That was fifty dollars a month. And that would make the six
hundred. So they made the salary up that way, and I continued
to receive that fifty dollars per month and wouldn't let
them change it until I retired. I got that fifty dollars a
month from the state for twenty-five years, but they'd always
deduct it from my official salary over here.
F: Over here.
J: So I'd get two checks, one from the university here, another
from the state department of fifty dollars. I did that for
twenty-five years till I was the only person who hadn't had
a salary raise from the state department of education in
F: That's interesting.
J: They also gave me travel money. I could travel anywhere I
wanted to. That was one of the main reasons I kept my
connection with the state department. You know it's very,
very difficult to get travel money at the university. So
they gave me the travel money that I wanted to attend pro-
That was one of the things that I wanted when I came
here. I had an agreement that I would have the travel money
I needed. The state department said they would pay me the
fifty dollars a month and then let me have whatever travel
money I needed to go to whatever meetings I desired. Usually,
I'd get about $600 a year for travel. The typical professor
today doesn't get ninety dollars.
F: Yes, I know.
J: It's a shame that they don't get any travel money. I had
that all these years; so I could take off and go anytime I
wanted to. I never did use the university travel money. I
gave it to other people in my department, because the
University of Florida never did pay any of my travel. It
was such a chintzy policy they have on travel.
J: Most of the professors that travel to a professional meeting
over here have to travel out of their own pockets, unless
they have grant money.
F: I know, I've attended several meetings, and I've talked with
J: There's scarcely travel money at all, which is not a good policy.
F: What did you think of the place when you got down here?
J: Well, I liked it. My office was over there in the old P. K.
Yonge building, later named Norman Hall. They had the P. K.
Yonge school there. There were only eight professors in the
college of education at that time.
F: I see.
J: Nothing but boys here, you know. The boys were in the service
during the war, and they had nothing here in school but those
who were physically unfit for the service and some who were in
There wasn't any administrative training program at all.
I spent the first year here not teaching much but working with
a committee of the legislature established by Governor Caldwell
[Milliard F. Caldwell] to make an educational survey of this
state: a study to build, to develop an educational program and
financing system to solve the problems of education here in
this state after World War II.
F: Was it just for higher education?
J: No, elementary, secondary and higher, all of them.
F: All the way through.
J: But I concentrated on elementary and secondary education.
Ken Guernsey [S. Kendrick Guernsey] chairman of that committee--
he, was the president of Gulf Life. He was a very prominent
man in the state at that time. Ken Guernsey has retired,
but is still alive. He would have been in his middle eighties
by this time. He's considerably older than I am, and I'm
seventy-four. He made a wonderful leader, and the legislature
passed the minimum foundation program law developed by the
citizens' committee and it pulled the schools up by their
bootstraps. And it put Florida on the map educationally.
F: Did it involve taxation or...?
J: Yes, it involved taxes, and we had to pass a sales tax later.
F: Florida had no sales tax other than on gasoline?
F: Did Florida have a sales tax?
J: No, Florida didn't have a general sales tax. We passed the
foundation program, but there wasn't enough money to finance
it. The same thing that happened in Alabama.
J: Well, we had a terrible time financing the educational program
in Florida in 1949 and had a weak governor. He ran on a plat-
form against the sales tax. When he got in office he found
that they had to have a sales tax.
He sent word to his legislative aides, "Although I'll
officially have to be against it, I want my administrative
leaders to be for it."
He pussyfooted around, and actually the people who put
the sales tax through were primarily legislative leaders.
We had no leadership in the governor's chair in 1949.
Caldwell, who served from 1945 to 1949, was a strong
leader. Conservative, but still a strong governor. He and
some other strong leaders in the legislature were primarily
responsible for putting through the foundation program law,
which also put in these colleges on a co-educational basis
and greatly increased the appropriations so that we could hire
some professors to do the job.
F: Was this in '47?
J: Yes, that was in the '47 legislature. I spent the whole time
lobbying in the legislature for the foundation program.
F: So your experience in Alabama must have been very helpful
J: It was very helpful. They assigned me to the senate and Dr.
Morphet for the house.
The chief leader was Mathews [John E. Mathews], the father
of Jack Mathews [John E. Mathews, Jr.] who ran for governor a
few years ago against Reubin Askew the first time. His father
is dead now; he later served on the supreme court. He was a
marvelous individual and he was one of the main leaders in
getting the foundation program bill through the legislature,
and, later, he was a leader in getting the sales tax passed.
And then in the senate, where you always have tough going,
the two main leaders who put things through were Bill Shands
[W. A. Shands], who was at this time planning to run for governor.
He's passed away. Now LeRoy Collins and Bill Shands were
working on the same committee, but they hated each other's guts.
Each one was intending to run for governor. So I had to play
very careful you know. Those two men were on the finance
F: It's like a tightrope.
J: Like a tightrope. And, then it's funny, Bill Shands didn't
know me. I was a sort of a stranger that had just come here.
He didn't know me, and he looked upon me as just some theoreti-
cian presenting the foundation program to that committee.
I spent about two hours explaining it to the committee,
and Shands was very, very unfavorably inclined to it. He was
very, very negative. And Collins in the meantime was supporting
it on the same committee. I didn't realize at the time what
was wrong. Finally they took a break.
Bill Shands at that time was Episcopalian and a member of
the vestry. They had a layman's league. The women would put
on a supper for the league. Bill Shands came back and helped
wash the dishes.
I mentioned to Bill Shands during the recess, "Mrs. Johns
was very thankful for you to come back and help wash the dishes
after the league dinner the other night."
And he looked at me and said, "Is Mrs. Johns your wife?"
I said, "Yes."
When the committee came back, he was for the foundation
program right on. He changed completely.
F: So behind every great man there's a woman.
J: My wife was the one that got his support for the foundation
Later on, Bill Shands and I became great friends, respected
each other, and admired each other because he was a very able
man and a statesman. And he wanted to do what he could for
Florida. He was such an honest man he couldn't be elected
governor. He told them when he ran for office, before the
sales tax, that we were going to have to have a sales tax.
Bill Shands advocated a personal income tax, which was sound
then and needed to this day.
J: When we got the bill through the legislature, there wasn't
enough money to finance and pay for it. And so there had to
have another session of the legislature in order to pass the
sales tax. But old Fuller Warren [governor, 1949-1953] was
pussyfooting around doing nothing, providing no leadership
at all. The leadership of the senate was taken over by Shands
and Collins and the House by Mathews and Simpson. All of the
men I'm talking about have passed away, excepting Collins.
[A new tape begins at this point.] When I came to the
University of Florida in April, 1946, there were only about
eight or nine members of the faculty of the college of education.
F: They were housed over in P. K. Yonge?
J: What is now known as Norman Hall, but it was called the P. K.
Yonge building then. They also operated the demonstration
school in the same building. They only needed about one or
two classrooms for the college of education then, and there
were no students practically because the institution was restricted to men only.
It wasn't until after July of 1947,
that girls could come to the University of Florida. We had
not many students.
F: The men had been taken with the war.
J: Yes, and the students were primarily 4-Fs. I had just gotten
out of the army myself.
J: I had been serving overseas, and so most of the soldiers hadn't
gotten back yet to take advantage of the G. I. Bill. Florida
was undertaking the Citizen's Committee Study on Education.
Education was in a crisis in this state,
J: Why was it in bad shape? Over a third of the teachers were
not properly certificated, and the salaries were low. The
average salary was about $1,800 a year, some counties $1,200,
as low as that. The cost of living began to go up after World
Since I didn't have any teaching responsibilities at the
university much, I was assigned to work with the Florida Citizen's
Committee on Education, and the top research director, was Dr.
E. L. Morphet. He and I became very close associates. He later
went to the University of California, and Dr. Morphet and I have
coauthored several books on educational administration and school
finance. But we worked with the Citizens' Committee on Education,
did a lot of research, and presented it to the legislature. Ken
Guernsey, the chairman of the Citizens' Committee, later became
president, of Gulf Life which has its headquarters at Jacksonville,
does it not?
F: I believe so.
J: He was a very outstanding citizen, a wealthy man and had a great
deal of influence. We had many other outstanding people on that
The legislature interpreted it as a non-political force,
which it was. Dr. Morphet presented and explained the program
to the house committees, and I did the same thing for the senate
Well, the bill to the legislature seemed very complicated.
For instance, Bill Shands, who came from Gainesville and was a
very famous person here, was critical of the complexity of the
bill. I presented this bill, omnibus bill on education of about
forty or fifty pages to the legislature, to that committee.
Then Senator Shands said to me: "This is a very complicated
bill. Why don't you, write a simple bill?"
"Well," I said, "I can write a very simple bill for you.
In fact, I can write it all in one paragraph if you want me to."
He said, "Why in the hell didn't you do it?"
"Well," I said, "I want you to know what that paragraph
would be, what it would read like."
He said, "What would it read like?"
I said, "We hearby appropriate X-millions of dollars to
the Florida State Board of Education to disperse at its dis-
cretion for the equalization of educational opportunity in
in Florida. You'd completely abrogate your power to the
State Board of Education, the executive branch of govern-
"Hell, no, we don't want to do that. We'll take it."
And I said that's exactly what this bill does. The
legislature spells out how these funds are to be apportioned
for the purpose of equalizing educational opportunity. It's
a technical matter, and it cannot be done simply as a side
The legislature in Florida in 1973 decided they'd simplify
the foundation program bill and redrew it. I helped them some
on it and worked with them, and I'm still working with them
incidentally. They wanted to change the basis of distribution
from a teacher basis, which had a salary schedule in it, to a
pupil basis, because they were very sore at the teachers who
went on a strike a few years earlier.
J: And they were going to appropriate the money, not for teachers
by instruction units, for the pupils. They also wanted to
simplify the foundation program bill. They redid it and wound
up with a bill far more complicated than the one that they re-
placed, of course. But it's a good bill, and it really doesn't
make any difference whether you're appropriating funds on the
basis of an instruction unit or a pupil unit. One is on an
inch basis and the other is on a foot basis.
J: It's just a smaller unit. Anyway, the house approved the bill
unanimously. One person who voted against it in the senate;
his name was Johns [Charley E. Johns].
Rather interestingly, he later became a governor of the
state. But I told him it was embarrassing to me that he voted
against that bill because we had the same name. He later ran
against LeRoy Collins for governor. He temporarily served
as governor, but he never was really elected. He was put in
office because Dan McCarty was dead before he ever took office.
Johns was presiding officer of the senate.
Anyway, Johns said he was in favor of the bill. He had
promised his local superintendent of schools to vote against
it because the superintendent supported him politically. The
bill required educational qualifications for the superintendents
which his superintendent did not have. At that time they had
no qualifications. As a matter of fact thirty of the sixty-
seven county superintendents in Florida in 1946 or '47 were
not even college graduates.
F: Were they political appointments?
J: No, they were all elected by the people. And we recommended
that it be placed on an appointed basis and that qualifications
be established for appointment. It took a long time to change
the method of selection. The legislature finally passed a
constitutional amendment authorizing counties to vote for it
on a local option basis. Most of the larger, more metropolitan
counties in the state now appoint the superintendents.
F: So they have to meet minimal qualifications.
J: Yes, the board generally appoints people with doctor's degrees.
J: We didn't set it up that high, but the Southern Association
later required that the superintendents have a master's degree
with a major administration and supervision, or the schools
wouldn't be accredited. There are many counties still on
elective basis; they elect superintendents with master's degrees
in order to get their schools accredited.
J: And it will usually be some principal who will run for the
office, and so the situation is not too bad even in the counties
which have not gone on the appointive basis, because they elect
men normally who have been school principals and who...
F: To retain their certification or accreditation rather.
J: Yes, they have a master's degree with a major in administration
and supervision. Well...
F: I recall you saying that they passed this bill, but they didn't
have any funding for it. Was that correct?
J: That's right. They didn't have sufficient funding for it;
there wasn't enough money to pay for it. Then the legislature
had to come back in 1949, and they passed the sales tax.
Rather interestingly, the whole program of state aid for
capital outlay originated in the foundation program, and it,
of course, had many other important things in it, too. I
had made some surveys of the local school systems in this
state and found that we had about 720 subdistricts within
the counties of the state. For instance Hillsborough County
had some thirty-five districts and the local district tax
went to the teachers in that district; so they had different
salaries within the same county.
Then we recommended that they consolidate them all in
one district. We put that in our recommendations, and we
also had a recommendation that amount of money per teacher
unit be given annually to the board for capital outlay to
build buildings, but to be allocated only for centers that
were approved by survey as necessary, and so we wouldn't be
putting the money on unnecessary centers.
Well, Governor Caldwell didn't like state aid for capital
outlay. Ken Guernsey and Colin English, who was the state
superintendent of education, wanted me to come with them and
have a conference with Governor Caldwell, which I did, They
asked me to explain it to him which I did.
Then Governor Caldwell said, "Well, Dr. Johns, that's
the unsoundest thing that I ever saw, for the state to put up
money to build buildings which are owned by the county."
"Well," I said, "Governor, how many bridges have you
built in the state that are actually owned by the county,
and the highways in the county? All the money that you're
putting in on them and recommending to put on them. What's
And he couldn't answer that. "Well," he said, "Dr.
Johns, you've made several studies of counties and found
that these local districts they have within a county de-equalize
educational opportunity. Why do we try to equalize educational
opportunity at the state level and turn around and de-equalize
it at the local level. Why didn't you recommend that the
legislature itself abolish all of those districts instead of
recommending a referendum on it in each county. You know
those referendums won't pass in a great many of the counties."
"Well," I said, "we thought it might be considered a little
bit arbitrary and undemocratic to just have the legislature
itself to do it."
He said, "I'll tell you what, I'll make a deal with you.
I'll go along and support the capital outlay and let that go
through if you will recommend and change you recommendation
that the legislature itself directly consolidate all of these
I looked at the state superintendent, and he nodded, and
looked at Ken Guernsey, he nodded. So we shook hands on it.
Now that's the way the legislature passed an act consolidating
all the districts in each county into one and also passed a
law giving state aid for capital outlay.
F: I see. This was through a sales tax?
J: Yes, a sales tax. Then...
F: That was 1947?
J: Well, the sales tax wasn't passed until 1949, to go into
effect for 1949-50. Fuller was governor then. He went in,
of course, purely on a political basis. He was a loudmouth
from over there in West Florida where a great many politicians
have come from. He was opposed to a sales tax and lectured
on that in his campaign.
Of course, everybody opposed taxes, but we had some
very wise members in the legislature who knew that we had to
have some revenues. The state had to have some revenues to
fund the state program for education and other things. There
was absolutely no leadership in the governor's office at all.
He found out after taking office that we needed it, but he
wouldn't furnish any leadership. He knew he was going to have
to have it, although he was elected against it.
Incidentally, the same thing happened in Alabama when I
was working there. The governor opposed the sales tax and then
went around and encouraged the legislature covertly to levy
the sales tax. That's not unusual for governors to do that.
They'll run on one platform.
F: They have to be careful.
J: ...and then actually manipulate on another, and so they had
very strong leadership in the senate. I can name some of
them. I mentioned Senator Shands from this town, who is dead
now; Walter Rose from Orange County; and LeRoy Collins. I
think LeRoy Collins is the only one of that three that is
F: Still alive, yes.
J: They were top leaders, very powerful in the senate, and what-
ever they supported you could get through. And then Senator
Baynard [Henry S. Baynard] from Pinellas County was one of
the four top senators. Then over in the house I didn't know
them so well. But Simpson [Richard H. Simpson], who ran a
nursery up in North Florida, was very influential. The main
one who got the sales tax through the House was John Mathews.
They got no help at all from the governor or his picked
cohorts. The legislature passed the sales tax and funded the
program. Let us go back to what I was doing here at the
University of Florida,
J: In 1947 the legislature appropriated additional money for the
institutions of higher learning, and they made the institutions
coeducational. And then the state department of education
wanted me to serve as a consultant--I don't know whether I
told you about that or not? The state department wanted me
to carry on an in-service training program for superintendents,
which I did for years and years. We'd call the superintendents
to the university for two-day conferences about four times a
year. We actually offered credit for it and organized a course
for them. They'd write papers, and do things. They could also
take extension credit. We helped the superintendents to build
up their qualifications. Some of them were not even college
graduates when we started.
J: But they began to elect those that were college graduates, and
they began to work on their master's degrees. A great many of
them got their master's degrees through that program. As the
university became coeducational and the boys got on the G,I.
Bill, the institution began to be flooded with students,
J: Graduate students. I taught graduate classes over there in
the auditorium where I'd have ninety students in a class in
the summertime. We didn't have enough professors to handle
the work. But Glenn Ballard Simmons, who was acting dean at
that time began to employ more professors. Ballard Simmons
took charge of the off campus program when J. B. White [Dr. Joseph B. White]
was appointed dean of the College of education.
F: What year was that?
J: Well, I've forgotten the exact year, but I would say about '49,
Ballard Simmons himself did an excellent job, He went
out and a number of strong people. As a matter of fact, I
told Ballard that I'd stay here one year to see whether he
was going to improve the institution, :to build it up. I
wasn't going to stay at a third-rate institution because I
had offers at that time from five different institutions in
the country. But I knew that the University of Florida had
J: And so I said, "Now if you go out and hire some outstanding
men, not just for the administration department, but in the
foundations department, instruction department...
J: You can't have a college of education unless it's strong all
the way through. He went out and got them. He got such men
as Kimbell Wiles, you know. He got Kate Wofford [Dr. Kate
Vixon Wofford], who later died, and he got J. B. White, who
later became the dean, Then he got Vynce Hines [Dr. Vynce
Albert Hines]. Hal Lewis [Dr, Hal Graham Lewis] was already
here, but he had brought him in through the laboratory school,
F: He had brought Hal in?
J: Oh yes, he had brought Hal in. He did an exceedingly good
job and later became dean of education at Florida Atlantic
University. And so the program grew and developed.
F: Which were the earlier courses that you were teaching?
J: Well, the courses I taught primarily were courses in educational
administration, school finance, school business administration,
and school buildings and school plant planning. Those were the
courses that we primarily emphasized. Dr. Leps [Joseph Mc Elroy
Leps] was then my associate here. There were only two of us on
the staff. He taught the courses in elementary administration
and high school administration because he'd been a high school
Dr. Leps worked with me for almost twenty-five years, and
he died just a year before he was to retire. It was about six
years ago. He unfortunately died suddenly of a heart attack.
Dr. Leps was a very faithful worker and worked very hard in
this institution, but he never received very much publicity
because he didn't write anything much. But he was always working
with graduate students on their dissertations.
F: Was there a doctoral program at the time?
J: Yes, the doctoral program was established about the time I
came here, and the doctoral program in administration and
supervision was the first one authorized for the college of
Education. That was one of the reasons that the dean brought
me in, someone who had enough experience and research and reputa-
tion to direct such a program.
After the Florida program became so well-known, Dr, Morphet
and I were invited to make many financial surveys of state
F: You did these on a consultant basis?
J: Yes, did it on a consulting basis. We've worked with them on
improving their school laws. I'll just name a few states;
Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, of course Florida,
Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, West Virginia,
Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, and a number of other states. Some
states that Dr. Morphet worked with out in the West that I
didn't work with.
J: I believe in Idaho, California, New Mexico, Alaska and some
of those other states.
F:,i Did you work with state boards of education?
J: We worked with the legislature and with the state department
of education. Also Tennessee is one I should have mentioned,
too, and Arkansas, and Missouri. In fact, we've worked with
more than half the states of the nation, I've done work with
Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, and, well, there's some
that I've forgotten to name.
F: Yes, but that's incredible.
J: The states that we've worked withserved as the basis for a
good deal of the writing in our textbooks,
J: Then the doctoral program at the University of Florida
developed and grew. We began to get research grants, Of
course, we had the G.I. bill which brought students in here.
The first doctoral student who got his doctorate degree
under me was Dr. James Wattenbager, who is now head of the
Institute of Higher Education, He's nationally famous in his
own right at the present time. He's probably the outstanding
man in the United States in the junior college field.
F: Right. Most of these were federal grants?
J: Yes, federal grants. We began to get grants in the '50s.
Not all of them were federal. We got a Kellogg Foundation
grant, and we began to do more research, to involve our students
in it, and to get fellowships for them. Then they got the pro-
fessional development aid from the Office of Education and so
on. At the present time we've got about a dozen professors in
the department of administration.
J: And we've had as many as seventy-five or eighty students working
at the doctoral level.
F: Was there any undergraduate work that was done in administration?
J: We didn't teach administration undergraduate level, only at the
F: Right, and this was always true?
J: Yes, always true since I've been here. Now there were some in-
stitutions in the United States that attempted to give under-
graduate courses in administration for teachers, sort of an
orientation course. Occasionally, I would go down to undergraduate
classes, and they'd ask me to come down and tell them something
about finance and administration. All reputable institutions
gave their course work on the graduate level. They didn't give
any on the undergraduate level because normally the person had
to have experience before he goes into administration. Most
states have a requirement of three years experience before they
get a degree in administration. That's the typical requirement
even for a principal.
J: I don't know the number of doctoral students that have gotten
the doctor's degree here at this time, but I think there's
something like 200 of them in administration. They're all
over the United States.
J: When you could go downstairs here on your way out, I want
you to look at the map that shows where we have placed
junior college administration.
F: Good, I will.
J: We have attempted to get more black students in here after
the 1954 United States Supreme Court decision outlawing
segregation of the races. Even after that decision, some
officials fought bringing in Negro students here.
J: Then the AAUP, American Association of University Professors
passed a resolution recommending to the Board of Regents that
they bring qualified black students in here. A member of the
Board of Regents spoke to the Rotary Club of which I was a
member, and he was furious about it. He said if he could find
out who those professors were, he'd fire them if he could for
passing such a resolution. And I can tell you the name of
the member of the Board of Regents who said that, but I'm not
going to do it. But he actually did.
F: About what year was that?
J: Well, that was in the early sixties. And you know they tried
to get into the law school and other schools here, and they
finally won their way in.
F: Right. And the regents fought this. Not all of them, but
certain regents fought the desegregation of this institution.
J: Yes. Then we got doctoral students in administration that
were black students. And I directed the doctoral dissertation
of the first black student who ever got a doctorate degree
from the University of Florida. Hrx name was Johnnie Ruth
Clarke [Ed.D., April 1966].
J: Uh huh. We've had several black students that have done
F: So you did a lot of work with doctoral students and with in-
service workshops of these superintendents?
J: Yes. There is another thing I should have told you, In
the early '50s right after the war, the National Citizens'
Committee for the Public Schools was formulated and, Roy
Larsen, who was president of Time Incorporated was chair-
man. The commission was made up of a number of big business
people and publishers. For example, it included Beardsley
Ruml, an internationally known banker; Neil McElroy, presi-
dent of Proctor and Gamble and later secretary of defense;
James Brownlee and Richard Smith of Wall Street; Frank
Stanton, president of Columbia Broadcasting Company; Mrs.
Eugene Meyer of the Washington Post; Henry Toy, a Dupont
executive; and some twenty other outstanding people. I
can't give you the names of all of them, but they were big
people, and they promoted public education all over the
United States and published a lot of material.
They had Dr. Morphet and me write a book summarizing
all the research on educational finance and paid for it.
That was the first book that we wrote collectively. They
wanted us to take a year off and do it. Morphet was at
the University of California at Berkley at that time, and
I was here. We were just getting started; so we couldn't
do it. We said we believed we could get our colleagues at
other universities to help us review that research, and each
could write a chapter. Thus, we could do it while staying
on the job. We told them that we would have to pay them
Then Beardsley Ruml turned to me, this was back when
money was money, and he said, "Dr. Johns, about what would
it cost to do it that way?"
I did a little figuring and said, "Oh, about $5,000,
plus the publishing cost, maybe a total of about $15,000."
He turned to the treasurer and said, "Have we got that
He said, "Yes."
He said, "Do it then."
Well, that was the only contract we ever had. Just...
F: Gentlemen's agreement.
J: ...by word of mouth. We were given a contract to do that in
less time than it's taken me to tell you about it. They
would give support to any kind of program in the states that
would improve the school program.
F: Uh huh, and what was the name of this organization again?
J: The National Citizens' Commission for the Public Schools was
a private group formed on their own initiative. It was a
bunch of liberal big business people who believed in public
[A new tape begins at this point.] After Dr. Morphet
completed his work with the Florida Citizens' Committee on
Education, the dean of the dollege of education and the presi-
dent of the University of Florida recommended that Dr. Morphet
be appointed as a professor of school administration at the
University of Florida. He and I had planned on working together
to develop the program for training educational administrators
at the university. But the Board of Regents turned him down
because of the Citizens' Committee had recommended that they
keep their fingers out of such little things as buying type-
writers, approving out-of-state travel, and let the institutions
By the way, that's still an issue up to this day with the
legislature. President Reitz [Dr. J. Wayne Reitz] told me,
for instance, he didn't have as much authority here at the
university as a high school principal to spend money, and
that's true. The junior college presidents have far more
authority than the president at the University of Florida.
They have continually tied the hands of the president and
given him line item budgets.
J: And so he could not spend funds for needed items when he had
a surplus in other items.
F: Has this lump funding measure been tried?
J: That would help. But they've had a line item budget which
we recommended against twenty-eight years ago.
J: And so they still have it and control it so that the presi-
dent cannot maximize educational returns from the funds
available. The idea of that was to prevent the presidents
from spending money; so they'd revert it to the legislature.
If you had any excess money in one account, you couldn't
transfer it to the other. Now that was really the reason
for it. We've had a bunch of penny-pinchers in the legisla-
F: Wanted that money to come back to them.
J: They want that reverted back to the state. Time and time
again, the universities had to revert money back to the
state which they needed very badly for things.
F: They just couldn't transfer it across lines.
J: There was an interesting event that happened when Dr. Morphet
and I were working for the National Citizens' Commission for
the Public Schools. That's when Truman was president, and
the whole picture of him is that he was a man of the people.
So he was and I'm very fond of him. But Truman was no fool.
He touched base with the big boys.
While I was meeting with the commission in Radio City
in New York City; I recall that President Truman called that
commission by telephone while I was president. Sometimes
I wondered if I had dreamed it. I saw Henry Toy, a member
of the commission. I told him I had remembered this, but I
wondered if I'd dreamed that it actually happened.
He said, "Hell, yes, it happened."
I saw him in Atlantic City about five years ago, and I
said, "I have this recollection about that. Now did I dream
it or did it actually happen?"
He said, "While we were there, Truman called up Brownlee
there and said, 'The North Koreans are invading South Korea.
Will you big business people support me if we react against
it and put troops in there and help the South Koreans?' And
Brownlee siad, 'Yes, Wall Street will support you, and business
Truman talked personally about it to this group of
business and industrial leaders.
F: Touching base with these people.
J: He touched base with those people. He knew that that group
was in existence. It was a fairly famous outstanding group.
J: President Eisenhower called a White House Conference on
education comprised of representatives from all over the
United States, over two thousand people. But they had to
do research before that meeting, and Dr. Morphet and I were
engaged as financial consultants to the White House conference
on education that was held in about 1954.
F: This was for educational finance...
J: This White House conference on education studied various
matters but primarily the financing of education,
F: They were trying to get the states to move on this stuff
J: Yes, and then we had a big split. There was a group there
that was opposed to federal aid for education, and then
there was a group of us who were in favor of it. That became
a big issue at the convention. But the majority of them
voted for federal aid. These were citizens-about two
thousand of the leading citizens from all over the United
J: And they did their best. The opponents to federal aid to
education were led by their lobbyists. Roger Freedman, who
is now at Stanford University, was an economist working with
them. And they were doing everything they could to oppose
federal aid to education. They were supported by the Advisory
Committee on Inter-Governmental Relations. It has been opposed
consistently to federal aid for education. However, federal
aid to education became so obviously desirable that it finally
surfaced under the Johnson administration.
J: But there have been people who have fought federal aid all
F: All along, right.
J: Now one of the chief opponents to it, too, is the Catholic
church. The church would agree to it if they got some of
it. Johnson made a sort of a shrewd political deal with
them. The elementary and secondary act of 1965 provided
that they could get some of that money indirectly through
Title 3 and some other sections. They supported the bill.
J: ...and aid for some of the disadvantaged children and aid
for the school lunch program.
J: They did not get a major part of it, but they got some aid.
And the Catholics withdrew their opposition to it,
J: I have appeared before committees of the Congress arguing for
federal aid for education. But it would not have gotten
through Congress without the very strong leadership of LBJ.
Now I did not admire LBJ at all.
I didn't think much of Eisenhower, either. The only thing
that Eisenhower's administration proved is that in normal times
the country can get along without a president. And so we had
the same thing under Coolidge, you know. They supported the
theory of laissez faire administration.
Then Kennedy was in there for a brief time. I don't
know what he would have done on education, although John Kennedy
F: Federal aid?
J: No, he opposed federal aid to the Catholic schools,
F: Uh huh.
J: He said that federal aid to parochial schools would be unconstitutional.
The American Association of School Administrators suspected
that Kennedy would be the next president. The
year before he ran for president, we had him on the program
in Atlantic City at the American Association of School Administrators.
Well, now that's a big meeting. There's usually about
thirty thousand people that attend it. We meet there in that
huge Atlantic City auditorium. And I was one of the platform
guests. They usually have maybe twenty, thirty platform guests
at a general meeting.
Well, Kennedy was late. It was bad weather, and the air-
planes couldn't fly. He had to take a train or bus. He was
up all night. His clothes were not pressed, but I think he
had managed to shave. But the rest of us were all slicked up,
and pressed and everything. But he came out there so casually
with his clothes unpressed because he'd been up all night in
them. But he looked the best-dressed man on the stage, he
took it so casually.
J: It was interesting how he could casually pass off the fact
that he had a dirty shirt and wrinkled clothes. I think
he would have made a good president if he hadn't been
J: Johnson did many good things, but he spoiled it all with
that Vietnamese war. That's too bad.
F: Did you work with the NEA [National Educational Association]
in getting those measures through, the National Defense
Education Act and ESEA [Elementary and Secondary Education
J: Yes, I worked many months. I went to Washington, and at
one time I spent a month in Washington. That was when I was
working with the citizens' committee.
However, we haven't gotten nearly all the federal aid
yet that we think should be provided. We believe that about
30 percent of the school revenue should be provided by the
federal government. At the present time it's only about 7
percent. We've had these Republican administrations who
have been trying everything and doing everything they could
to strangle it.
J: There are other factors which concern education. We are
going to have to teach in the schools that we need a mixed
economy. We cannot teach that we don't need government,
only free enterprise.
F: Free enterprise.
J: Or that government is .evil, especially the federal govern-
ment and the state governments. The theory that all govern-
ment is bad, especially in Washington, is being advanced in
the presidential campaign.
J: I continue to do consulting work and writing. I was invited
by the United States Office of Education in 1968 to direct
the National Educational Finance project and study the
school financing systems of the public schools and junior
colleges of all of the fifty states. We were given a total
of about two millions of dollars from that.
I directed it for four years. I continued on a sort
of an implementing basis for two years. Dr. Alexander
directed the last two years of it. I had retired by that
time. I retired in '71, but I continued to direct it through
That was a fundamental project which is bound to have
an impact on financing education. We dealt with federal
financing as well as state financing, and it will undoubtably
have great impact upon....
F: Will these recommendations be implemented by various state
J: Yes, partially and...
F: By the federal?
J: Hopefully the federal government.
J: As a matter of fact, some of our material was put in the
Congressional Record. I just happened to run on to one
Congressional Record recently that, to my amazement, included
one of our publications in its entirety. Some congressmen
liked it. We sent copies of our reports to all legislators
in the United States. So the material was widely disseminated.
J: I have continued to work after I have retired officially at
the university on consulting work and research. Florida's
department of education in 1974 asked me to make a study of
extra costs for equivalent educational opportunity in sparsely
settled counties, if there were any extra costs, what they
would be, and could I develop a formula that could be used.
I organized a private corporation, the Educational Finance
and Management Institute Incorporated of which I am president.
We could have the corporation accept grants, and then I could
hire people through that. I hired a staff and over about
a five month period of intensive research produced a publica-
tion, which I think I showed you, that little...
J: And incidentally, the legislature has accepted that in the
school bill and has incorporated my recommendations into law.
However, they have not yet founded the sparsity correction.
F: These are financial formulas to equalize?
J: Financial formulas to equalize. You lack economy of scale
in a small county like Lafayette County or Gilchrist County
or Levy County.
F: It just costs more per...
J: It costs more per student, yes, for an equivalent educational
opportunity, because you don't have as heavy a pupil-teacher
ration for classes. For instance, you've got to give subjects
in vocational education. In order to give the subjects you
have a lower pupil-teacher ratio in these small high schools
because of sparsity. So this formula makes a correction for
it. Now that's the latest research that I have done. I got
it completed in April 1975.
F: So you're just fresh out of that one.
J: Just fresh out, and so now I'm sort of coasting.
F: That's good.
J: But another thing, which I should have mentioned, is that we
have worked for years with the National Conference on School
Finance, which was sponsored by the N.E.A. The N.E.A. got
interested in union activities more and didn't want to spend
the money on research activities like that. So they dropped
Well, the National Educational Finance project took it
up, and then the Institute of Educational Finance here at the
University of Florida, directed by Dr. Kern Alexander, has
directed it for the last two years. Then the leaders in
school finance throughout the United States, which includes
professors, state directors of finance, state budget directors,
and some of them not in education, and decided to form a
We met in New Orleans this last March, and there were
several hundred there. We decided to form a national association,
the American Education Finance Association. We initiated it
there and established a board of directors. And I was chosen
to be the first president.
I tried to get them to get some younger professor who was
still active teaching to serve. But they said they wanted
someone with national prestige who would legitimize the organization.
I had directed the National Educational Finance project,
and I was among the best known of them. They wantdd me
to head it for one year.
F: What is the greatest single problem in the state of Florida
right now in terms of educational finance?
J: Well, the greatest single problem is that Florida has a
very regressive state tax system. It is one of the most
regressive of any state in the nation. We've made a study
of the regressiveness of the tax system in Florida, and I
think we ranked about third or fourth from the bottom. That
is, we are extremely regressive. It's been improved some
under Governor Askew. I give him credit for the corporation
J: That helped some. But the thing that has to be done before
we get any sort of a reasonable tax equity is to put on a
personal income tax. We're one of only about five states
now in the nation that doesn't have personal income tax. We
need a personal income tax, and we need to rely more upon
state revenue from income and sales taxes than from the
What we should have in property taxes is what you call
circuit breaker. A circuit breaker is when you rebate property
taxes paid by people who spend over a certain percentage of
their income for property taxes. For instance, if the per-
centage of their income spent for property taxes exceeds 3
percent of their total income, then you'd rebate to them the
amount that they spent on property taxes in excess of 3 percent.
That's one way.
Another way is to rebate computed taxes paid by renters
which exceeds a certain percentage of their income. That's
done in a number of states.
The property tax can be made much less regressive. And
the sales tax could also be made less regressive in the same
way. Fortunately, we're not putting it on food and medicine,
so that the sales tax is not too regressive at the present
time. There are some states, though, that levy a tax on
food, but they'll rebate to people with low income. They give
them a credit on their stated income tax, or they just give
them a cash rebate.
F: Right, so it's one of these circuit breakers that you were
J: We have too high a percentage of the income of low-income
people in Florida going into taxes.
F: At the same time there's not enough of that...
J: Not enough of it.
F: ...to give good support to education.
J: We have an absurd provision giving $10,000 homestead exemp-
tion, the last $5,000 going to the people over sixty-five
years of age. What the heck. There are sixty-five year old
people who are millionaires. They don't need that exemption.
And then homestead exemption is inequitable to begin with
because it doesn't apply to renters. The poorest people are
J: I can tell you what they're going to do; they're going to
piddle around and horse around, and the next thing that
they'll do in the legislature, probably next year, put on
another cent on the sales tax because that'll be much easier
and quicker to do.
J: As a matter of fact, they're trying to pass through the
legislature now a local cent on the sales tax to add on.
F: What about the college of education in your career here?
What have been the major changes that you've noticed in the
J: Well, there's a major change in a college that grew from
nothing and a very low reputation to one with a high reputa-
tion. First, it had only boys in it. And it couldn't have
much of a college because not many boys were going into
education. Then girls came here, and the institution itself
grew into a huge institution. This college of education grew
into one of the more distinguished colleges of education in
the United States.
Of course, I'm biased, but I would say that the college
of education in outstanding terms of the number and the
achievements of the outstanding nationally known professors
it has and in terms of the quality of the students that it
turns out. They don't just admit anyone. The institution
itself selects students after they stay two years in the
general college and apply to get in the College of education.
They turn down a great many people who try to get in the
J: They do take some affirmative action on blacks, though, and
let some in who do not meet customary requirements. There's
been some complaint that you ought to have the same require-
F: Reverse discrimination?
J: Reverse discrimination, but, nevertheless, if you have the
expected number of blacks at all, you've got to let some
come in that don't meet the academic standards.
A national survey made about three to four years rated
the department of administration, University of Florida, in
the top eight in the United States. That survey was headed
up at the University of Wisconsin.
F: Very good.
J: Along with Harvard, Chicago, Wisconsin, University of California
at Berkley, Stanford...institutions like that.
F: Do other departments fare as well?
J: Well, they haven't been rated nationally, but they are very
good, very strong departments. I would say that the college
as a whole rates in about the top twenty in the United States.
J: Now my biased judgement would rank even higher the department
of administration, of course.
J: But the policies that are being advocated now in this legisr
lature are going to make it difficult for the college and
for the whole institution to continue to grow. Some members
of the legislature want professors to spend all of their time
teaching. They don't know anything at all about what it
takes to make higher education outstanding,
By the way, we had a survey made over at the college of
Education. The students rated the teaching ability of the
professors and what they did in their classes. Then we
took the reports from each professor in the college, what
they did in writing and research, and we found that there
was a very strong correlation between the student rating
and the professors who were the outstanding researchers and
F: Were good teachers?
J: The professors who were researchers and writers were graded
in the top level of teachers. There's no great institution
in the United States that doesn't have professors who do re-
search and writing.
J: As a matter of fact, you cannot get an outstanding professor
to come to an institution unless he's permitted to do research.
J: Because he'll go to an institution where he can do research,
and he must be permitted to do consulting work on the outside.
J: That adds a great deal to income. For instance to give you
a notion--I won't tell you how much my retirement from the
state of Florida, and they gave me ten years credit when I
F: From Alabama.
J: ...Alabama. I got two years credit for military service,
making thirty-seven years of creditable service at 2 percent
per year eauals 74 percent of average salary for the last
five years. But my retirement income is less than a third
of my income. Now that's true of other professors, They
make their money from consulting and writing and royalties.
J: And now that's what your top professors do in every institu-
J: They do it in engineering, in physics, in political science,
I did not accept consulting fees from a local school
system here in this state because my salary was paid through
the state of Florida. But, a professor learns to be a better
professor and teacher if he goes out and operates in the real
world, and works with school systems. But Dempsey Barron
[state senator] doesn't want them to do that. He wants them
to do nothing but teach like a high school teacher.
J: If the will of those people in the legislature, such as
Dempsey Barron, prevail, this institution and all institutions
in the state would become mediocre colleges. It would
be an aggregation of mediocre colleges.
F: What do you think about the response of some professors
throughout the university to collective bargaining? Do you
think that's a viable alternative?
J: Because of some of the decisions that have been made by the
Board of Regents, I can understand why many professors want
collective bargaining. For instance, they're proposing to
do away with the traditional thing you do with a university
professor in the United States which is to give a year's
notice if you cannot continue him. If he's not on a con-
tinuing contract, or he's going to have to be cut because
of budget purposes and so on, you give a year's notice. Well,
they wanted to do away with that year's notice, throw a person
out with a month's notice maybe or a week's notice.
Well, now professors won't come here if that is the policy.
You could not recruit unless you give the man the promise of
tenure for satisfactory service before he comes here. Because
you would never know when you'd be kicked out, top institutions
in the country don't do that. If they want us to have a
quality institution at the University of Florida, we can not
do very differently than what they do at other top institutions
like Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio State, and Illinois.
F: Right, because it's a competitive market.
J: Yes, it's a competitive market. You've got to follow them,
or you would recruit nothing but professors who couldn't
get jobs in other places.
Now that may be what Dempsey Barron wants himself, because
all of his work and policies as I see it indicates that mediocrity
is his goal. He came over from West Florida. Actually, for a
long time Alabama wanted West Florida. I wonder if it had been
a good idea if we had given it to them.
F: That's really funny. As long as he'd go with them, huh?
F: You retired in '71?
J: Yes, July of '71. They continue to give professor emeriti
a desk if they have room. They have given me a desk, although
part of the time I've been renting my own space. If I got a
grant, then I need more room. If I need more room, I just
rent office space for the time which I need it. Then I'll
come back and take up a desk until I get something else,
F: You got any plans for the future?
J: Yes, there's some irons in the fire; I'll do some more consulting work.
F: For the state of Florida or for other states?
J: A lot of both, I hope.
F: Both, I see.
J: And as long as I'm in good health and so...
...and so can be creative.