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Interview with Clara F. Gehan, December 13, 1977

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Interview with Clara F. Gehan, December 13, 1977
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Gehan, Clara F. ( Interviewee )
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University of Florida Campus (General) Oral History Collection ( local )

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

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Samuel Proctor Oral History Program, Department of History, University of Florida
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This interview is part of the 'University of Florida' collection of interviews held by the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program of the Department of History at the University of Florida
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the University of Florida.


ORAL HISTORY PROJECT
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
INTERVIEWEE: Mrs. Clara Floyd Gehan
INTERVIEWER: Emily Ring.
DATE: December 13, 1977


R: [Today is December 13, 1977.] The time is 3:00 p.m. My name is
Emily Ring. I am sitting in the Ford Library of the Florida State
Museum. I am about to interview Mrs. Clara Floyd Gehan for the
University of Florida Oral History Project.
Clara, can you tell us who your forebears were and where you
were born?
G: Yes. I was born in Hawthorne, in Alachua County, Florida, on
September 10, 1909, the daughter of Dr. George Mathew Floyd and
Clara Lavinia Clark Floyd.
My father was born in Columbia County, Florida; my mother in
Meriden, Connecticut. When my mother told old Dr. McEwen in Orlando
that she and Dad were to be married, he snorted, "Heaven help you,
the combination of a Connecticut Yankee and a Florida Cracker will
beat anything on God's green earth!" And indeed, the cultural
shock for a Yankee marrying a Southerner then was about as great
as it would be for a Chinese marrying an American today.
R: Yes.
G: Family tradition has it that the Floyd family in the South were
descended from three Welsh brothers by that name who settled in
Virginia in the early 1600s and whose descendants spread out into
the Carolinas and Georgia.
My mother's family were as deeply rooted in New England. Tradition
has it that the first ancestor to arrive in New England was a Sir
Peter Buckley, a nonconformist minister who reached Massachusetts
in 1636 with his young wife. The legend is that the young wife "died"
just a day or so before they were to reach land. Because they were
so near land, the captain was prevailed upon not to insist upon burial
at sea, which was fortunate for she was not dead but in suspended
animation...
R: My goodness!
G: ...from which she recovered and subsequently bore the Reverend
Peter ten children.
During the War Between the States, my maternal grandfather,
Benjamin Buckley Clark, of the Windsor, Connecticut area, paid a
substitute to fight for him. My paternal grandfather, who was living
on a small plantation in Dooley County, Georgia, joined the Confederate
Army at age fourteen. Because he was so young, he was not permitted
to fight, but was made a prison guard at the notorious Andersonville


2
Prison. He told my father that the stories of atrocities committed
there were not exaggerated.
After the war was over, young Mathew Floyd returned home to
find that his father had died and his mother married again. Not
too much later, he and a young uncle, Ben Floyd, set out for Florida.
As they had but one horse between them, they "rode and tied"--that
is, one would mount the horse and ride forward while the other followed
on foot. After an agreed period of time, the rider dismounted, tied
the horse to a tree, and started walking. In due course, the other
man who had been walking reached the then rested horse, mounted him,
and proceeded down the road. In this fashion, they finally arrived
in Florida.
R: A very efficient system.
G: For some reason my father stopped in Alachua County, but Ben Floyd
went on to the Quincy area and settled there, where some of his
descendants still live. Grandfather Floyd, after working for awhile
for old Captain Dell on his plantation just this side of Alachua,
moved on to the Mikesville area of Columbia County. There he met
and married my grandmother, Sarah Ruff, the daughter of a John Ruff,
who had moved from Newberry District, South Carolina, with his wife
Martha Glymph Ruff and their twelve children and their slaves some-
time in the 1840s and had settled in that area of Columbia County.
Mathew Floyd and Sarah Ruff Floyd had six children who lived to
maturity. My father, who was the youngest child, was born in 1881.
The family seems to have been comfortably fixed, though not
wealthy. Grandfather Floyd operated a farm of some 200 acres, owned
and operated two cotton gins, and seems to have been the unofficial
banker for the community. Family tradition has it that grandfather
refused a Confederate pension because he did not need it, but that
the president of the Dutton Bank in Gainesville accepted his.
Although none of the other children went to college, for some
reason my father was inspired to continue his education. I know he
went to a normal school in DeFuniak Springs, Florida, and to another
small college in Adele, Georgia. He became a registered pharmacist
and practiced in Newberry for awhile before deciding to study medicine.
There were no medical scholarships available in those days and Dad
worked his way through in any way he could. As he wanted to get
through as soon and economically as possible, he moved from college
to college. He was eventually graduated from Atlanta College of
Physicians and Surgeons, which is now the medical college of Emory
University, but on the way he also studied at Tulane, the University
of the South, and the University of Tennessee.
In the meantime, my mother was growing up in Meriden, Connecticut,
then known as the "Silver City." One of the "Rogers Brothers" had been


3
her Sunday school teacher. She was the second of six children of
Benjamin Buckley Clark and his wife, Elizabeth Ludington Clark.
After the death of her young husband, she went in training as a
nurse and received her R.N. degree in 1905. In 1907, she came
to visit her father who had retired to Florida and had developed
a flourishing pinery just outside of Orlando.
R: Now what is a pinery, Clara?
G: He grew pineapples under cloth...
R: Oh, pineapples.
G: ...which were shipped to the northern markets by rail. It was quite a
flourishing business. You see, the Hawaiian Islands were no competi-
tion then; there was some competition from Cuba, but it was well
worthwhile.
R: Could we still grow pineapples in Florida?
G: I guess you can grow them, but I don't think it would be profitable--
just too much competition from Cuban and Hawaiian markets, as I understand
it. But in those days, with the difficult transportation, no canning,
no freezing, the nearer they were to the market, the better.
Nurses were in great demand, and it was while my mother was
working for Dr. McEwen and Dr. Crist in Orlando that she met my father.
Dad had not yet been graduated from medical school, but in those days
a medical student might practice under the aegis of a licensed physi-
cian. They were married in January of 1908.
Dad was still not through medical school and he needed money,
so he obligated himself to do contract practice under the nominal
supervision of a licensed practitioner--that was permissible in those
days. They were then building the railroad from Cross City to Perry
and even a third-year medical student was a blessing to take care of
the injuries and illnesses of the workmen. My mother had some rare
stories of her experiences during her seven months stay there. That
was then real frontier.
Mother arrived with a trousseau made by a modiste. She was taste-
fully attired for her wedding trip to Taylor County in a French blue
broadcloth suit lined throughout in white satin, with ostrich plumes
on her hat and patent leather pumps with baby French heels on her feet.
R: Elegant!
G: Dad's brother-in-law drove them and their baggage, including Dad's
medical supplies, in a spring wagon. They stopped for the night in a


4
log cabin where there was a warm welcome but no means of illumination.
Mother says that she and Dad took turns sitting on the bed striking
matches so the other could see to undress. During the night, she was
awakened by a noise and she smelled the wildest smell. The next morn-
ing they found that something had stolen all of the food which they
had left on the porch and there were bear tracks in the yard.
Well, they finally arrived at a turpentine camp near what is
now Clara. It is known as Clara for my mother and the many Negro
babies Dad delivered who were named Clara in her honor. There the
completely urban New England Yankee spent seven months. Had it not
been for the kindness of Mr. and Mrs. P. C. Craps, who were operating
the turpentine still, I doubt if she would have been able to stick
it out. But, in due course, Dad and Mother returned to Atlanta, and
Dad was graduated in June of 1909 from what is now Emory University
Medical School.
After passing the Georgia and the Florida medical exams, Dad
started looking for a location where he could start earning some
money. A doctor was urgently needed in Hawthorne near the eastern
boundary of Alachua County, Florida, and there they arrived on a
sweltering June day. Hawthorne then consisted of approximately 500
inhabitants, of which more than half were black. My New England
Yankee mother often remarked that only God and the angels knew how
it looked to her. The cows wandered at will through the streets.
The hogs wallowed in mud puddles in the street. The houses were, of
course, all of wood. There was no indoor plumbing, no running water,
no gas, no electricity, no sidewalks. But the people were kind and
friendly and though it took them nearly forty years to accept mother,
who was different and a "foreigner," they grew to love her.
Dad was busy practicing medicine almost from the moment he stepped
off the train, and he continued to be busy practicing for almost fifty
years. For the first ten years, he was the only doctor between Waldo
and Ocala, Gainesville and Palatka. There was, at first, no telephone
communication with the outside world. Dad's nearest colleague was
Dr. Boring of Waldo, and it was he who came down by the Seaboard Rail-
way and spent two days assisting Dad and a trained nurse, who had
been imported from Jacksonville, in what turned out to be the very
difficult task of bringing Clara Backus Floyd into the world.
The life of a country doctor in:those days was almost unbearably
difficult and demanded complete dedication and resourcefulness. Dad
had nobody but God, my mother, and a few midwives to help him. He
practiced over an area of approximately fifteen miles in every direction.
The roads were ungraded and, of course, unpaved. The first several
years he traveled on foot or by horse and buggy. In 1912, he bought
his first car--an open, topless, two seater passenger car made by
Brush. It hadacetylene gas lamps, thin rubber tires, and he continued
to use that car for two or three years.


5
R: Did he drive it himself?
G: Yes, but he said the first time he took it out by himself, he landed
in the ditch. But he gradually learned to keep it in the road. He
still continued to keep a horse and buggy for the next five years
because, of course, there were so many places where a car could not
go. When the car could get there, it was often stuck either in the
sand or the mud, depending upon the season. In rainy weather, the
creeks would rise. Dad would put his medicine cases on the seat and
his feet on the dashboard and the water would come up to the seat
and flow through the buggy, but somehow Dad and the horse got across
and Dad got to his patient.
Dad worked night and day. He delivered babies in log cabins.
The demands on his time were unrelenting and the responsibility at
times was almost intolerable. When there was a difficult case,
Mother would read everything his small medical library had and give
him a resume as he'd eat a meal.
R: I suppose there were patients who couldn't afford to pay him?
G: Oh, yes! I still have some of his old ledgers. I've been meaning
to ask if they would like them out at the medical library. Entries
will read: "Visit, wife, two dollars;" "Delivered, wife, twenty
dollars;" "Prescription, one dollar," and charges of that ilk. Of
course, there was a great deal of barter in those days. I can remember
the storeroom usually had a hogshead of molasses, several fifty-pound
cans of lard, and bushels of sweet potatoes. Chickens were a common
form of payment, and pigs. Cash money was not too much in evidence.
When emergencies happened and Dad was miles away, Mother did
the best she could to render first aid and handle the situation. I
remember one occasion when a young Negro boy came in with an arm
shattered from a gunshot wound. Mother fashioned a make-shift tourni-
quet and kept him from bleeding to death. Mother used to say that
her Sunday morning chore was to scrub off the front porch steps, because
usually somebody had stood there during the night trying to rouse Dad
and was bleeding all over the steps from a stab wound.
R: Oh, goodness!
G: Dad only did minor surgery. Unlike some of his comtemporary colleagues,
he realized that he had not had sufficient training for major surgery
and he chose not to "practice" on his patients. The nearest hospital
was in Jacksonville, seventy-five miles away. When major surgery was
necessary, Dad would alert by telegraph the hospital and the doctor
in Jacksonville, and then put the patient on a cot which would be trans-
ported by a horse and wagon to the station, then transferred to the
baggage car of the train. Dad would sit in the baggage car with the
patient and do what he could to help him. Then, having delivered the


6
patient into the care of the Jacksonville hospital and doctor, Dad
would get back on the train and arrive home at midnight.
We were really in a very isolated situation. We were very
isolated from the outside world. In addition to the fact that there
was no medical assistance except what Daddy could give, there was no
police assistance either. At first, there was no telephone service
whatever. But, after about 1912, there was a telephone line to
Gainesville. This, by the way, was established by Mr. E. Voyle, the
father of Miss Mable Voyle, who operated it. But the service was
often interrupted because a tree had fallen on the line and I believe
the office was not open at night.
Our nearest neighbors were at least a block or more away. There
was no police help unless you could reach the sheriff in Gainesville,
who might be able to arrive there within an hour and a half. First
Mother and then I regularly slept with loaded pistols under our pillows,
which Dad had taught us to shoot. But anybody on earth had a right to
come to our house any hour of the night and be told that Dr. Floyd
was away and would not be back for some hours.
R: Which might upset them. You had to be prepared for anything.
G: Yes, and you never could tell when people would get ideas. As it
was, the only thing that ever happened was a drunk came in and insisted
on trying to use the telephone to call somebody in Gainesville, but
he didn't offer us any harm.
Then, of course, during the year 1918, there was the flu epidemic.
R: I was gonna ask you about that.
G: That was, of course, a major medical emergency everywhere. But with
the wide area which Dad had to cover--at that time there was no other
doctor between Starke and Ocala and Gainesville and Palatka--the
situation was acute.
R: Did your parents come down with the flu?
G: Dad only had a very mild case. Dad was going night and day. He
couldn't make all the rounds and the state Board of Health sent
three different doctors down to help him out, and they managed to
pull through that. A little bit later, in connection with the univer-
sity, I'll tell you about my mother's experience with the flu in
Gainesville.
But, by the 1920s, things were a little easier. We did have a
telephone line to Gainesville. The roads were a little better, but
it still took an hour to get to Gainesville. One usually had some
form of car trouble or was stuck in the sand or mud en route. There
were one or two cottage hospitals in Gainesville then, and Dad was


7
able to attend the county medical meetings and have contacts and
consultation with other medical men. It was in 1928 that the Alachua
County Hospital was opened and, of course, better medical service
was then available.
In 1951, the people of Hawthorne held an all-day celebration
in honor of my father. This "Dr. Floyd's Day" was attended by
some 2,000 people, many of whom he had delivered. It was a wonder-
fully warm and happy occasion. Dr. W. C. Thomas of Gainesville was
among the several people who spoke on that occasion. I remember
him telling me privately: "George was one of the two best country
doctors I have ever known. He never hesitated to seek consultation
when it was needed, and Clara, I'm afraid of the doctor who does
not need consultation."
R: Was your father living when this day was held?
G: Oh, yes, yes. He was there. It was in honor of his seventieth
birthday, actually. He continued to practice for several more years
after that, but doing less and less. Finally his health became so
poor that he didn't go to the office at all, but there were patients
who still insisted on coming to the house. He would treat them
around the dining room table and give shots and scribe for them,
although he no longer made housecalls.
R: How long did he live?
G: He died in 1959. He was born in '81 and so he had just passed his
seventy-eighth birthday--he was a little over seventy-eight when
he died. My mother predeceased my father. She died in 1953.
R: Well, that [ceremony] was a great day for the family.
G: Yes, it was.
R: She lived long enough to see that?
G: Oh yes. She was alive then--quite stole the show by inviting any-
body who cared to come down to the house afterwards and have a "post-
mortem."
R: Well, I hope you didn't have to serve refreshments to all that crowd?
G: Well, not to the whole crowd, but Dr. Thomas and a few other people
came. She had a chicken pie for Dr. Thomas because she knew that
he loved that.


8
R: So your mother predeceased your father by several years. This
must've been a great blow to your father. Did he come and live
with you or did he continue to live in Hawthorne?
G: No, he continued to live in Hawthorne. He insisted on maintaining
his independence. He was a well man and still fairly vigorous at
the time. We had anold Negro cook who had worked for us for many
years. Lottie came every day and cooked for him and kept the
house and we brought him over to our house for most weekends. But
he would not give up his independence.
Then, in 1956, he had a severe illness. After that, he still
refused to leave home. So at Dr. Henry Graham's suggestion we
arranged to have somebody with him around the clock. We hired
Lottie to come in the daytime and then we had a Negro man come and
stay at the house and act as chauffeur for him. That lasted about a
week and he fired everybody except Lottie. So we went over and
hired them all back again and that lasted less than a week. We
finally gave up on that. He said, "Now, Clara, I'll let you know
when I need to quit."
R: There were no nursing homes in those days. Perhaps a...
G: A few.
R: ...great blessing.
G: Yes, well they did have some, but of course I wanted very much not
to have to put him in one.
R: Yes.
G: He said: "Just you wait. I'll know when it's time for me to quit."
And so one morning at eight o'clock, the telephone rang. He said,
"Come get me, I'm through."
R: Oh?
G: So I dressed and rushed on over to Hawthorne. We brought him back
to our house and I called Dr. Graham and told him what had happened.
Dad had continually lost weight and just gone steadily down in every
way. Dr. Graham said: "Well, we'll put him in the hospital and
see what we can, give a good thorough check. If I don't see anything,
I'll call in someone else." He said: "You know, a doctor can get
so used to a patient that he might not observe things that a stranger
coming in would notice."
But it wasn't necessary, because it was discovered that he had
a spot on the lung which they felt confident was cancer. They decided
that at his age and in his condition they wouldn't even do the examina-
tion--a bronchoscopy I think it's called--because it would be so
painful and there wouldn't be anything they could do anyway at his


9
age. So he gradually went downhill and died within about six months.
At age seventy-eight.
R: Well, that's a fascinating story of a country doctor in early days
of Alachua County, Clara.
Now shall we go on to your education and what happened to you?
G: Which won't be nearly as interesting.
R: Tell me where you met Freddie [Frederick Edward Gehan]. First of
all, tell me where you went to school.
G: When the schools in Hawthorne became particularly bad--and that was
usually because of internal politics--I was sent over to Gainesville
to grammar school in the year of 1918-1919. That was the year of
the flu epidemic.
R: Well now who did you live with?
G: Well, my mother and I had an apartment at W. E. Baker's [home].
Mr. W. E. Baker was an attorney here in Gainesville and Mrs. Baker
is still living and alert well up into her nineties. That was very
near the present Kirby-Smith School. There were five Baker girls,
and I was right in the middle of them. Nancy was the one who was
just my age and in the same grade with me. It was a very pleasant
situation. Then we'd go back to Hawthorne on weekends.
R: Your mother came over to chaperone you?
G: Yes. Well, at that time, Dad had promised Mother he would leave
Hawthorne. Before I started to school, he did pull up stakes. He
had planned to leave, go off for a year of postgraduate work, and
then locate in some larger town, but the flu epidemic interfered
with that. He couldn't go off and leave people absolutely stranded
and so he didn't go. He went back to Tulane in the summer of 1919
and did some postgraduate work, and then settled briefly in Bradenton.
But the people in Hawthorne just came down, wrote him, begged him,
and called him, and finally he came back to Hawthorne after staying
only six weeks in Bradenton.
I think that must have been a blow to Mother. You see, Mother
as a Yankee would have felt much more at home in Bradenton, where
there were so many other Yankees.
R: Yes.
G: We continued to live in Hawthorne, of course. I came over to Gainesville
for the last two years of high school, because politics got into the
school so badly about that time.


10
R: In what way did politics get into the Gainesville schools?
G: Well, this was in the Hawthorne schools.
R: In the Hawthorne schools? I see now.
G: You know how it is in a small town. A teacher who had the temerity
to fail the child of the leading citizen, her tenure was not too
secure. They just simply were not up to par. Dad wanted me to
go on to college and he thought I'd better just come over and get
a better education than was obtainable in Hawthorne at that time,
although I had some very fine school teachers in Hawthorne. There
was Miss Hattie Hawthorne, who was a wonderful teacher; and Miss
Mary Burkstresser, a wonderful teacher; and Mrs. Gladys Laird;
and Miss Lily Love.
R: Oh, I remember Gladys Laird. She later taught at P. K. Yonge, didn't
she?
G: Yes, she later taught at P. K. Yonge. Miss Lily Love, who was a
native of Trenton, died just a few years ago now. Someone has said
that if you have two teachers in your entire career who are the right
teachers for you at the time, you're lucky. I did have some really
very good teachers, both in Hawthorne and in Gainesville High School.
My earliest recollections of Gainesville must have been about
1915 or 1916. If we drove to Gainesville to shop or transact any
business, it was an all-day trip. We chugged along over winding,
rutted woods roads, usually either too dry or too wet. There was
nearly always a tire to be patched or some other problem to be met.
We came into Gainesville from Prairie Creek by substantially the
same road as today, but then it was just a rutted sand road with
a little clay on it. When we reached what is now Northeast Nineth
Street, there was a brick pavement. University Avenue was bricked
from the present Northeast Nineth Street to about two blocks west
of the courthouse. I can't remember for certain just where it stopped
at that point.
R: Now, it was a double street with the planting down the middle?
G: Yes, it was a double street with planting down the middle.
R: Beautiful trees and shrubs.
G: Nice trees and shurbbery. University Avenue was the place to live
in Gainesville, although Northeast Main Street was very nice, too.
There were nice substantial homes there. It was our custom to park


11
the car on the courthouse square. There was no parking problem
in those days. There were both horse-drawn vehicles and a few
automobiles.
I remember I was terribly impressed with a huge watering trough
on the east side of the courthouse. The courthouse was surrounded
by a privet hedge and large oak trees. Downtown Gainesville then
consisted of an area about a block to two blocks deep on either side
of the square.
R: Cox Furniture, Baird's Hardware?
G: Yes. Baird Hardware and the abstract company marked the end of the
business district on to the east. There were stores across the
street, Vidal Drug Company and then several other stores there.
Rutherford's Jewelers had a shop there and Miss Nora Norton had a
tea room. I think there wasa moving picture there.
R: Who were the ladies who had the hat shop?
G: Mrs. McCormick and her sister...
R: Yes.
G: ...Mrs. Bayer. At that time I believe they were a little further down.
I can't remember exactly where they were at that time. I know at a
later date she went down toward the new post office. People were
saying that it would never do, that business would never really develop
down there. She argued, "But everybody has to go to the post office
to get their mail"
R: Yeah.
G: Across the street near the post office was Alderman's Ford garage.
Now, just when that was built, I don't remember.
R: Well, I suppose Chitty's Men's Store was...
G: Chitty's Men's Store was on the south side of the square. There
was a whole block of buildings on the south side of the square and
they went back for a good block. Then there were stores for about
two blocks west of the square. Now, where the old Commercial
Hotel is, just beyond that there was no business. On that block
was Miss Maggie Tebeau's School for Girls, which had large camellia
bushes and azaleas...
R: Pink perfections up to the second story gallery.


12
G: Yes. The Atlantic Coast Line Railway ran down the middle of
Main Street. The present First National Bank is on the site of
the old railroad station. That marked the end of business to the
north, although there was a Magnolia Hotel just beyond that which
was sort of a glorified boarding house. It was a family home and
they did take in some lodgers. But not more than two blocks in any
direction from the courthouse was there any business. What is now
Cox Furniture Company was then the Baird Theatre building. There
was a drug store below and the theatre was on the second and the third
floors. Travelling companies played there. I'll never forget the
thrill of hearing the Bohemian Girl presented by a travelling opera
company in the year I was thirteen.
R: Was the Boulevard developed then?
G: No.
R: No.
G: No Boulevard. Original Gainesville stopped at present Fifth Avenue
as you went north.
R: At the Hotel Thomas?
G: No, south of the Hotel Thomas. Original Seminary Street, now
Fifth Avenue ran along the north side of the park and was the north
line of original Gainesville. Anything north of that is in Brush's
addition. Original Gainesville came over to the Sweetwater Branch,
which is dammed to make the Duck Pond. The Sweetwater Branch was
the east boundary of original Gainesville.
R: Well, the Carnegie Library was at University, wasn't it?
G: Yes, just west of Sweetwater Branch. Sweetwater Branch always had
a peculiar acrid smell and we were told even then that is was not
safe to go wading in there, but of course that didn't stop us. We
all went wading in Sweetwater Branch.
R: You were going to Kirby-Smith School?
G: Yes.
R: And then you went later to Buchholz?
G: No, to Gainesville High School. By the time I entered high school
in Gainesville, the high school was no longer a part of what is now
Kirby-Smith School, but had been moved to West University Avenue.


13
where it still stands. It was used for Santa Fe [Community]
College for a long time and I don't know what the county's going
to do with it now [torn down in 1979--ed.]
R: Was Prof. Bucholz the principal?
G: Oh, yes, Prof was the principal there before I entered the grammar
school.
R: Yes.
G: He came in 1913, I believe it was.
R: Do you remember some of the teachers you had at high school?
G: Oh, yes. Miss Alice Walker was my teacher in the fifth grade and
she is now past ninety and living in Augusta, Georgia. I still
correspond with her and she writes me a delightful letter in a
much better, much clearer, and more stable hand than mine.
R: My goodness.
G: And, of course, I was devoted to Prof. He was principal when I was
in school and he was principal when I was teaching there. I also
remember and loved Miss Ruth White, Miss Marjorie White, and Mrs.
Dorothy Phipps, who were high school teachers.
R: Did you study Latin, Clara?
G: I had four years of Latin in high school and two years in college.
I really enjoyed it. Took it in college more because I liked Miss
Ella DeTong Winfield, who was the Latin teacher.
When I came out of college, jobs were rather few and far between.
I wasn't able to find exactly what I wanted. In about mid-August,
there was a vacancy in the Latin Department of Gainesville High School.
Mrs. Clara McDonald Olson was head of the department at that time.
I'm told that she said, "Well, I know that Clara doesn't know much
Latin, but I'd rather have her and train her than somebody else I
might get at this late date."
So I started teaching Latin in Gainesville High School the day
I was twenty. I got along very well with the eighth grade Latin
students, because I could study ahead of them, but I had one very
well prepared third year Latin class. One of my pupils is now the
Honorable James Calhoun Adkins, Jr., on the Supreme Court of Florida.
But my prize pupil was young Thomas Haile, the son of Evans Haile.
Thomas was very well prepared and very smart and, furthermore, he


14
had a crush on teacher. Every time teacher made a mistake, Tommy
always managed to correct her so that I got the message and the class
didn't!
R: Good!
G: So I've always been grateful for Tommy.
I can't remember when I wasn't vaguely aware that there was
something called a university on the west side of Gainesville,
although I don't remember going out there or actually seeing the
place until 1918. I think it then consisted of what is now Anderson,
Peabody and Science halls and had only a handful of students.
It was during the fall of 1918, when we were living in Gaines-
ville, that the flu epidemic happened. The university was then
largely a military training camp. I think they were still having
some classes--regular academic instruction--but most everybody there
was in uniform and in some branch of military training. The flu
epidemic was raging, and Dr. Hodges came and pressed Mother into
service as a night nurse. She went out for several nights; she had
125 patients on her own. They were in cots. Mother always referred
to them as cots that were set up in the auditorium. Now where the
auditorium would've been in nineteen eighteen I don't know. It
was certainly not the present auditorium [University Auditorium].
It may have been what was later known as Peabody auditorium, which
was sort of a large lecture room on the second floor of Peabody Hall.
R: Still used as a classroom, yes.
G: That was a rather unnerving experience, too. Mother nursed her 125
patients for several nights until everyone in the Baker family except
Nancy came down with flu. Mother nursed them all.
I remember my father saying that he had happened to be passing
and had seen the first building at the University of Florida started.
They werebreaking ground for the buildings when he just happened
to come by one day and he always remembered that. I have been privileged
to watch the university grow, for over sixty years, from a handful
of students to its present large enrollment.
The university has always been of great importance to the commun-
ity: economically, culturally, socially, and in every way. Its
early professors were all well known and respected in the community
and a definite part of the community. They were regarded with respect,
but with some awe. After all they were "different." And they were
paid for services which the general public, then and now, could not
quite comprehend or appreciate or evaluate.
R: You couldn't actually see what they were doing.


15
G: They didn't produce anything. They didn't sell anything across the
counter. But, as I say, the early professors were very much a part
of the community, and active in every phase of community activity, and
made a tremendous contribution. Of course, the University of Florida
was an all [white] male university [until after World War II].
R: Of course.
G: [White] women were educated at the Florida State College for Women in
Tallahassee. Now, in the summer terms, women were allowed to attend
the University of Florida. Usually, most of them were teachers taking
additional credit courses in education and other forms of teacher training.
By 1930, however, the bars of [sexual] segregation had been sufficiently
relaxed to permit women who already had a college degree and were twenty-
one years of age to enroll for courses which were not offered at the
Florida State College for Women.
I had been graduated from college at the age of nineteen and was
teaching in Gainesville High School when I began thinking of going to
law school.
R: Did you go to FSCW?
G: No, I did not. I went to Brenau [College, Gainesville, Georgia].
R: You went to Brenau? Well, you haven't told us about that. Are you
going to tell us about that?
G: Well, I didn't think you were interested in my education except at the
University of Florida.
R: Oh, yes! We want to know what you majored in at Brenau.
G: Well, I went to Brenau. I went there primarily because it had the
reputation of having a good conservatory.
R: Well, you must have gone very young to graduate at nineteen.
G: Well, I graduated in three years.
R: I see.
G: I don't know why I decided to do that. There was no pressure put on
me by the family. There was nothing for me to do in the summertime,
anyway, so every summer I would come over and take about nine hours
at the University of Florida.
R: I see.


16
G: And take a little heavier load in the wintertime, so I got through in
three years. I don't know that it was a good idea at all. But I did,
and it was rather fortunate, because the banks started failing, you know,
in 1929, and so I did have a job.
R: When you went to law school, were you the first coed at the law school?
G: I claim to bethe first coed and I think with some legitimacy. One of
the professor's wives, who was a mature woman, had taken a law degree
before I came. But I was the first girl to enter. The first true coed.
I think that I can legitimately claim that.
R: I think so.
G: At any rate, with encouragement from Dr. Clifford W. [Waldorf] Crandall,
who was one of the most distinguished law professors of his day, and
Dean Harry R. [Raymond] Trusler, I took my courage in hand and registered
for two courses in the summer of 1930. Dr. Crandall had said: "You
won't have lost anything. You might as well be doing this as doing some
graduate work over there inhistory." So I registered.
I shall never forget the first day that I entered law school.
Apparently, the boys knew I was coming. I think my first class was at ten
o'clock. As I walked up the walk--the boys who had a habit of coming
out between classes and standing on the steps, smoke a cigarette, take
a little break--and as they saw me coming, they just divided into two
lines and let me walk between them right up the steps and then through
the little entrance hallway and into the classroom and nobody said a
word. And I didn't say a word. But I never felt so conspicuous in
all my life. It gave me a great deal of empathy for the little black
children who were integrating the schools in the mid-sixties.
R: But the professors were very courteous to you?
G: Everybody was courteous to me. Emily, this is ironic, but the only
discourtesy that has ever been offered me in the practice of law was
offered me by another woman lawyer.
R: My goodness.
G: She was just a very high-strung person and she lost her temper and
jumped down my throat.
The students were friendly. There were some boys who made a point
of ignoring me, not to the point of rudeness, they just didn't go any
farther than a bare nod in passing.
R: What about that tradition of shuffling their feet?


17
G: I don't remember them shuffling for me. They shuffled for the professors
when they wanted them to stop.
R: I see.
G: I don't remember them shuffling me. As I say, they were never rude.
Some of them ignored me as a matter of principle. Others were just as
friendly as they could be. A fair number dated me and two or three
were so brash as to ask me to marry 'em. Naturally, you do feel con-
spicuous when you're the only woman in a group of 50, 60, or 100 men.
R: Of course.
G: You can't help but feel that. But, within my second year, two other
girls entered law school. When I graduated, there were six of us
enrolled by that time. One of them was Kattie Walton, who has been
a very distinguished member of the bar, and the one who represented
Zelma Cason in the famous Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings litigation.
R: Was it your mother who inspired you to go to law school? I mean her
career as a nurse and the things that she had done, or was it any lawyer
who talked to you about it?
G: I had thought about it, but in the course of the years I had wanted
first to be a physical education teacher, then a great violinist, land
I wanted to be this and I wanted to be that. There was no great overwhelm-
ing desire to be a lawyer. Actually, I just made a casual remark to
Dr. Crandall saying that I always thought I'd like to study law and he
took me right up on it.
R: The law school was there and Dr. Crandall encouraged you?
G: Yes, yes. So then I heard that they didn't like women. I went out to
see Dean Trusler and I said, "Dean Trusler, I understand you don't want
women to register in law school." He said, "Why, my dear young lady,
that is not so! May I persuade you to study law?"
R: Good for him.
G: Then the law students I was dating said, "Well, my dear, if you enter
law school, you'll have to work!" So that sort of set me on my metal.
R: Is it true that Dean Trusler wrote love poetry? I seem to remember that
he wrote poetry.
G: I know he did. I think he did write some poetry.


18
R: Yeah, yeah.
G: But he didn't write any love poetry to me.
The Depression was on by that time. As I say, I didn't feel that I
could ask my father to frank me for another three years of school. I
had a perfectly good job teaching in Gainesville High School. So I
continued teaching Gainesville High School. The first semester I just
managed to take one course that met on Saturdays. Then, the next sem-
ester, I worked it out so that I got a substitute for two of my classes.
R: Could you pay just for one course or did you have to pay the full tuition?
G: I have really forgotten. It wasn't very much you know. It was nothing
compared to the tuition now. I think perhaps that I paid for the one
course. When I registered for three or four, I assume I just paid the
whole thing.
Then, at the end of the first year, I went full time to summer school.
Prof. called me in one day and said: "You know, Clara, it's worked out
so I need a Latin teacher and a half. And if you want to go to law school
in the morning and teach Latin in the afternoon, that would suit me fine."
R: How fortunate!
G: So that's the way we worked it out. I went to law school in the morning
and taught three classes of Latin in the afternoon and was enabled to
get through school with practically no financial help from my family.
My salary was $60.00 per month for nine months one year and $54.00 the
next.
R: That was a rugged schedule.
G: I don't know whether I should say this or not, Emily. It's something
that I never mention and anybody who ever knew it has long since for-
gotten about it. But, when I graduated from law school, I had the highest
average for the three years of anyone in our class. I'm saying that just
for the record and just for the sake of other females who have come after-
ward.
R: I think it should be said.
G: I understand now that Mary Jane Twitchell, a young woman who is enrolled
in law school now, has beaten all the records.
R: Good.
G: I don't know whether she's been able to maintain it with two babies.


19
She had one little girl before she started and a new baby in the
process.
R: Amazing.
G: I just say that to prove that women can get through law school if they
want to.
Of course, when I got out, the Depression was just ending. I think
a good third if not more of our class never practiced law a day. There
simply were no openings. Even the smartest boys in the class were
lucky if they could find a job paying them ten or fifteen dollars a
week. In fact, you really had to have a little pull to get somebody
to let you work in their office for nothing. Everybody was so impressed
when Fred Hampton, one of the prominent lawyers in Gainesville, let me
come into his office to work for nothing.
R: I see.
G: I was devoted to Fred Hampton. I appreciated his giving me that status
and also the encouragement. Lance Lazonby, who had graduated a year
before me and had been working with Fred Hampton, at that time had been
raised to ten dollars a week. After all that--after a year's experience!
So then I saved. I continued to teach.
R: Then you and Lance were taken into Hampton's office?
G: Yes. Lance had been there a year before I came.
R: Oh, I see. Did you ever date Lance Lazonby?
G: Not really. We ran around in the same crowd to a certain extent. I
remember going to an apartment that he and several other boys were sharing
at the time. I'm quite sure I never had a date with Lance, although we
were very good friends. Lance Lazonby was a fine man and he developed
into a very outstanding lawyer. He worked very hard to maintain the ethical
standards of the bar. He was always very kind to me and whenever he
could he gave me a helping hand.
I didn't have too many contacts with him after we graduated, because
I only stayed in the Hampton firm for less than six months. Then Mr.
Richard P. Daniel in Jacksonville heard about me. He was an attorney
and his secretary of seventeen years was having twins, so he was going
to need a new secretary. It pleased his fancy to be able to have a
secretary who had a Juris Doctor's degree. So he sent for me and persuaded
me to take the job.
I told him I had only a little bit of typing; I had had not a word
of shorthand. "Nonsense, my dear. Any intelligent person can learn
shorthand in three weeks!" Well, so I went up there and tried to be a


20
legal secretary. When one of the partners left and went to Washington,
I then became technically a lawyer. Which meant that I did more or
less full-time legal practice and stenographic work, too.
R: Now this was in Jacksonville?
G: In a Jacksonville firm. That didn't last too long. I was told there
was no money to pay me, but that I might stay on and work for nothing.
I said, "Well, in that case, if my family has to support me, I think
I'll go home and be a comfort to them, at any rate."
I came back and there was a vacancy in Gainesville High School and
so I taught there briefly.
Mr. E. G. Baxter, who was one of the leading lawyers in Gainesville
and a contemporary of my father, kept sending me word to come and work
for him. I just ignored it. I had had one experience practicing law
for nothing and I didn't want to continue it. So then he sent for me one
day and said he just had to have a brief in the Supreme Court and would
I please come and help him for just a few days. I went and I stayed for
eight years.
R: What was this law firm now?
G: The firm then consisted of Estes Baxter, Erwin Clayton, and William B.
Watson, Jr.
R: Yes.
G: Billy Watson left shortly after I came to become the second assistant
United States district attorney for this district, but Mr. Baxter and
Erwin Clayton and a young man named Clark Gourley and I practiced law
together for the better part of eight years. It was a very happy
situation, and I do want to express my gratitude to Mr. Baxter and to
Mr. Clayton for the very splendid cooperation and support that they gave
me. It was not the situation in which I was expected to sit in the
library and do the work and nobody ever knew that I existed. Mr. Baxter,
who felt very fatherly towards me and had known me since I was a very
little girl, took great pride in taking me around. I remember him taking
me into the First National Bank and introducing me to Mr. Lee Graham,
the president. He said: "Now Lee, I want you to meet Miss Floyd. You
know Miss Floyd is Dr. Floyd's daughter. She's working for us now.
You know Clayton and I tried to practice law for years without a lawyer
and we decided we had to have one, so we got Miss Floyd." Little things
like that, you know.
R: Yes.


21
G: Clayton, a fine student of the law, taught me a great deal. It
was really an experience to work with somebody with such a good
legal mind.
R: Are all of these lawyers still living?
G: Mr. Baxter died in 1944.
R: Mr. Clayton is still living?
G: Erwin Clayton is still living and practiced, I think, until he
was nearly eighty. I think he began to slow down at about seventy-
five.
R: Watson?
G: Billy Watson, of course, is very ill, has been ill for several
years. But he was a very prominent lawyer here in town. He, too,
was always very kind to me and willing to give me any help he could.
I'm very grateful to them all.
I was never too aggressive. I was too busy trying to do a
good job, to do the very best I could in the situation, to worry
about whether there was a chip on my shoulder or not or whether
anybody was trying to knock it off. I just went on about my business.
As I say, both Mr. Baxter and Mr. Clayton were very, very kind to
me. For example, I'd only been there a little over a year and we'd
had a rather important case which we'd won in the circuit court.
I had done most of the work. The other side appealed and we were
due to argue the case before the Supreme Court. Mr. Baxter said,
"You've never been to the court. Why don't you come along and
I can introduce you to the justices. It'll be a good experience
for you." So I packed my little suitcase and called a friend in
Tallahassee and asked if I might stay with her. We were driving
to Tallahassee and we got just beyond Perry and Mr. Baxter said,
"What would you say to the court tomorrow, Clara, if you were arguing
the case?" So I proceeded to tell him. He said, "Fine, you'll
do it."
R: Oh, boy!
G: Of course, I was just terrified. I had never thought of such a
thing. I recall I hardly spoke to Jean Compton. I just went back
to her bedroom and sat down and started writing my oral argument
and polishing it back and forth. From then on I did practically
all the appellate work that was done in the firm for the next five
or six years.
To do the local bar justice, they didn't make any real distinc-
tion. When it was my turn to be president of the bar, I was elected


22
president of the bar. You know, they rotate in the order of seniority.
I was also elected president of the law alumni association. I never
figured that out. But you still felt a little bit conspicuous. I
remember Judge Augustine B. Long, the federal judge, saying to me
after I'd been with Mr. Baxter for about three or four years,.. "Miss
Floyd, what do you do?" I said, "Judge Long, I do everything that
the men do and remember to put roach powder behind the books in the
library." So that was about it. They didn't spare me, particularly.
R: Clara, I guess you had to be very careful to wear conservative clothes.
I've always admired the kind of clothes you wear and your hats, es-
pecially. I suppose you had to be careful what you wore, didn't you?
G: Well, I did try not to overdress. I still think that there are just
some things that seem to me appropriate to wear in a law office or
any business office. I tried to look my best, but I did not go in
for very...
R: Frilly clothes?
G: Elaborate frilly clothes. They don't suit me to begin with. Now,
in the last ten years, it seems to me as though the field for women
has opened as I never dreamed it would.
R: Yes.
G: All through the years, from the time I first integrated the law school,
there would be occasional years when there would be no women students
in the law school. But, for the most part, there were two or three
or four in each class. Now, I understand that it's about 30 percent
female.
R: I understand it is, yes.
G: I think the thing that pleases me is their general acceptance. They're
not looked upon as oddities. These young women that are turned out now--
there are at least twelve young women practicing law in Gainesville,
actively engaged in practicing law--are doing a very fine job.
R: The claim used to be made by both the medical deans and the law deans
that women would not use their profession if they were given a place
in professional school. They wouldn't use their profession; they
would marry instead. But I think that that has changed.
G: Yes, definitely changed. The fact that a woman is in professional
life causes some problems sometimes. You have to have some support
and understanding from your husband.


23
R: Yes. You had a very sympathetic husband.
G: Fred had been supportive. Fred and I were married in 1943. At
that time Clark Gourley, a very able young lawyer, could not get
into military service of any kind. He had an enlarged, leaky heart,
which resulted from rheumatic fever when he was a child. So when
Freddie and I decided to be married, it wasn't quite the blow to
them that it might have been. I went with their blessing. We were
married on the ninth of October. Clark was killed in a tragic acci-
dent on October the twenty-seventh. Mr. Baxter developed a bacterial
infection of the heart and died in April of 1944. And there was poor
Clayton just snowed under and, of course, no young men were available.
I came home at the end of the war seven months pregnant. The first
day, Clayton was asking me if I couldn't come and do just a little
light work for him.
R: Now, you haven't told us how you met Fred Gehan.
G: Well, I had known him when I was in law school and he was an under-
graduate here. Clark Gourley had been a friend and fraternity brother
of his and it was through him that we became acquainted again. In
the spring of 1946, Clayton was begging me to come back under any terms.
I could have a full partnership, any terms I'd accept. That was because
he was in such a desperate strait. Fred and I discussed it. I remember
Fred saying: "Well, you do what you want to do. But come to think
about it, I don't know that there's any more reason for you to give
up your profession because we've had a child than for me to give up
mine." He said, "If you want to go back to work, I'll do my share
of the diaper washing and the babysitting." And he did.
R: Well, bless his heart.
G: It's been very good for Julie, because she has been very close to
her father. But Fred's attitude was really wonderful. It was really
rather revolutionary at that time.
R: Yes, it was.
G: But I am so very pleased now at the young women and at the general
acceptance of them. Two of our four county judges are women. No-
body's looking down on them or criticizing or saying, "Well, of
course, she didn't do the right thing. That's just because she's a
woman."
R: Perhaps we should mention their names at this point.


24
G: They are Judge Jeanne Crenshaw and Judge Margaret Wright. They're
both doing splendid jobs.
Then the governor has just appointed Ann Cawthon Booth as the
first female appellate court judge in Florida. Anne has lived in
Gainesville. I'm not sure whether Anne was born in Gainesville or
not, but she lived in Gainesville as a small child. Her father is
Rainey Cawthon, and her grandfather, W. S. Cawthon, was state super-
intendent of education for about thirty years. Ann is thoroughly
equipped--thoroughly--and she had her degree from the University of
Florida Law School, too.
I do want to commend the college of Law at the university for
the well-trained young people they're turning out. Both the young
men and the young women are well prepared and, I think are going
to be a credit to the school and to the profession in general. Of
course, they have some rather stiff standards. They don't even
get in the door of the law school unless they are really quite superior
people in background. Those LSATs, I understand, are not for dumbbells.
It's been a very interesting experience. When I was here in the
university as a coed, I was not too aware of my status. Everybody
was friendly. There were no facilities for women and we had to go
over to Anderson Hall because there were no restrooms in the law build-
ing for women. I didn't realize that I was a conspicuous person on
the campus, but years later I talked to Archie Carr and others from
other colleges who were aware that I was there.
R: Yes.
G: But I just was minding my own business and going to law school and
doing the best I could with the situation. It's been an interesting
experience. I've enjoyed the practice of law. It's been exciting
to see the university grow, and I just wish that the legislature
would realize that they have to spend some money if they're going to
have a first class institution.
R: Yes. Well, now, how long were you a member of the Clayton firm?
G: In 1946, I told Clayton that I did not want to become a partner,
because I didn't think I could do so in fairness to himself or to me.
So I worked on just a part-time basis as much as I could. I would
work three or four hours a day in the office and often work at night
at home.
R: At this time your daughter Julie was...?
G: Was an infant.
R: Was an infant, yes.


25
G: So I stayed with them until 1950. Then I did the same thing with
the Jenkins firm. Then, by the time Julie was in junior high school,
I felt I could go ahead and start practicing full-time, which I did.
R: Then did you go on your own?
G: I've been practicing as a sole practitioner since 1963.
R: I see. Have you always been a solo?
G: I've been solo.
R: I see.
G: Earlier, I referred to "Storefront," because I have to go there
after this meeting. That is something that I've been rather proud
of. A group of lawyers decided that something had to be done to
furnish legal aid to the poor and the bar association had made only
a gesture, a very feeble gesture, for several years. So we began
to argue about it. With the help of Dean Frank Maloney at the law
school and a series of rather amusing coincidences we managed to
get a legal aid and defender clinic established at the law school,
which has been an excellent teaching and learning device and also
has been a great service to the community in general. But even so,
some of our clients didn't have the twenty cents to get on a bus
and get to the law school. And, if you've ever tried to find your
way around the University of Florida Law School and get to where you're
supposed to be, you're a better man than I am Gunga Din. I get hope-
lessly lost in the place.
R: At the new building [Spessard Holland Law Center]?
G: Yes. So we felt that we had to take some legal aid to the people.
R: Mm Hmm.
G: We really wanted a storefront in one of the poor areas of the town.
R: Oh, I see.
G: But we felt we could only operate one, and there were just about as
many of our prospective clients on the west side as on the east side.
We didn't have a dime. A group of young lawyers responded to an
appeal I made to the bar association one day. About twenty young lawyers
signed up to go down and work at "Storefront" in turn for three
nights a week.


26
R: They have a rotating roster?
G: Yes. So then the county commission said that we might use the
community action agency building after five. So, from five until
seven or seven thirty two nights a week now, there is a legal aid
clinic manned by volunteer lawyers known as "Storefront."
R: Now where is that located?
G: Well, that's just opposite the hospital at 926 Southwest Second
Avenue. Just opposite the hospital in the old red brick home that
was formerly Dr. Smith's office.
R: Smith's office, yes.
G: Later Dr. Casey's office. For years we operated on an absolute shoe-
string. We hadn't any money. If we needed any supplies, we bought
them with our own money. We took care of the cases that came to us
and handled them just as though they were paying clients. Now we
do have money from a grant and we have one full-time lawyer in charge
of the program.
R: Is this a federal grant?
G: I think part of it is state, and part of it is federal, but it is
still manned by volunteers.
R: It's mostly young lawyers who do this?
G: Yes, for the most part. I am on the board of directors. There are
five directors. I think now they're incorporated.
R: These are both civil and criminal cases?
G: Not criminal cases, because we have the public defender's office
for that.
R: I see.
G: We really don't take any criminal...
R: Things having to do with family problems and land...?
G: Landlord-tenant, child custody, child support, divorce, real property.
Sometimes you get some interesting real property cases, mortgage
foreclosures. The client has to meet a certain standard of indigency.
R: I see.


27
G: There's a hard and fast rule that nobody may make a dime out of a
storefront case. If it turns out to be a potentially fee generating
case, then we refer it back to the lawyer's referral service.
R: The welfare agencies direct these clients to you?
G: Some, yes. They let people know about it. The welfare agencies
send us a great many of our clients.
R: Now, Clara, I think you should say something about your activity in
the civil rights movement in this community.
G: That was an interesting experience.
R: Yes.
G: A great deal of credit belongs to Byron Winn, who was the mayor of
Gainesville. He was already working on it when a group of blacks
decided to integrate the Florida Theatre in June of 1963. So he
promptly set up a bi-racial committee of volunteer people. I was
on that from June 1963 until it was finally dissolved in 1966. Jim
Richardson finally dissolved it when he became the mayor. Then it
became the human relations advisory committee or something like that.
But it was a most rewarding experience, and a great many dedicated
people worked and gave a tremendous amount of time. I wound up as
chairman for the last eighteen months and we did a tremendous amount
of good. We got things moving. We had not one iota of power or
authority. All we could use was the art of gentle persuasion.
R: Well, on the whole, don't you think Gainesville lived through the
decade of the sixties and integration requirements with less
trauma than many southern communities?
G: I think undoubtedly it did and I think it was in large part because
of the leadership. We had splendid cooperation.
R: Yes.
G: The Gainesville Sun was very cooperative with us.
R: Yes.
G: And other news media, the radio stations. There was no television
station then, but the radio stations and the Gainesville Sun were
very cooperative.


28
R: And influence of theuniversity as a whole?
G: Yes. The calibre of the people helped a great deal.
R: Yes.
G: We had the cooperation of pretty much of the entire community and
things did go off with surprising ease. Looking back on it after
fifteen years, it seems almost incredible that in June of 1963, no
Negro in the city of Gainesville was permitted to attend any public
school except a Negro school; be served in any but a Negro restaurant;
use any but a rest room marked "colored"; be admitted to a hospital
except to a floor reserved exclusively for Negroes; stay in a hotel
or motel except in the occasional hotel serving only Negroes; go
into a doctor's office except through a separate "colored waiting
room"; ride in a taxi except one operated for Negroes; sit anywhere
except in the back of a bus or in the "Jim Crow" car on a train;
drink from any drinking fountain except one marked "colored"; attend
any theatre except one for "colored only." All that was changed
within a space of three years--without violence and with no power
save that of persuasion.
I can recall that in 1938, the firm of Baxter and Clayton held
a special meeting to adopt a policy of addressing letters to our
Negro clients. It was decided that no title such as Mr. or Mrs.
could be used on the address; that Mr. Baxter and Mr. Clayton would
use "Dear Charlie" or "Dear Ed" in the salutation, but I should say
"Dear Sir." It sounds as far away as the Salem Witchcraft trials!
R: Well, I think we should say that you're married to one of our English
professors.
G: Yes. Fred, my husband, Fred Gehan, who just retired from the univer-
sity in June, entered the university fifty years ago as a freshman.
Except for the war years, he has been very closely allied with the
University of Florida. So, of course, I have been. I was not only
a university student but I've been a faculty wife for more than
thirty years.
R: Now, he was not a native Floridian...?
G: Oh, yes, Freddie is a native Floridian.
R: Is he?
G: I always attributed all my peculiarities and shortcomings to the fact
that I had that cross ancestry of a Florida Cracker and a Connecticut
Yankee. And darned if I didn't turn up and marry one with the same
cross ancestry. Fred's father came from Hartford, Connecticut, to
Quincy, to Leon and Gadsden counties to introduce shade tobacco.


29
R: Has he given us an oral tape yet?
G: Not yet.
R: Well, we want one from him. So we'll get his story.
G: Fred's mother's family had been in Florida since 1825. So he has the
same cross ancestry that I do. He was born in Florida, but when he
was about two and a half, the family moved back to Connecticut. He
lived there until he was fifteen, when he came back to Florida. But
we have the same cross ancestry and we both like to blame all our
limitations on it.
R: That's nice to have that excuse. Well, I don't think you have much
to blame.
G: Interestingly enough, even in 1909, when Fred's father and mother
wanted to be married, her father at first refused his permission
because Mr. Gehan was a "Yankee." My grandfather Floyd was also
pretty upset because George had married a Yankee!
R: Now, what about your daughter, Julie? You have the one daughter,
and she studied anthropology....
G: Julie is a seventh-generation Floridian and there's no Indian blood.
R: You're supposed to be proud of that if you do have it now.
G: Oh, yes! Yes. I meant no denigration. But people have said she
couldn't be unless the Seminoles were our ancestors. That's why
I said that. Not that there's anything derogatory about it. But
she is seventh generation! She was graduated from Gainesville High
School and from Vassar and from UCLA. Her field is anthropology.
She's been doing largely applied anthropology in a mental health unit
for about five years now.
R: Well, are you going to continue as a lawyer for some time to come?
Or do you have some plans to retire in a few years or...?
G: Unless my health makes it necessary, I don't plan to retire completely
any time soon.
R: Lawyers and doctors just don't retire.
G: I just think it's better. I've tried to cut down, you know, and not
take the kind of work that really doesn':t interest me.


30
R: Well, what kind of work does interest you?
G: In recent years, my work has become almost entirely probate and
administration of estates. Some real property, although I don't
do as much real property as I used to. But I have done a tremendous
amount of real property work in my day. More and more, it's estate
work. That's what I really do like, because you're working with
people on a one-to-one basis. You're usually working with people who
need help...
R: Yes.
G: ...and at a time of grief. I think you can, by reassuring them and
standing by, help in ways other than just a purely legal way.
R: Yes, yes.
G: You are working with people. It is fascinating work. It isn't as
dull as it sounds, because every case has different overtones and
different human values, and different human relationships....
R: And the law changes.
G: Oh, yes. I bet half the courses that they're teaching out at law
school now weren't even thought of when I was there. All this field
of administrative law that has grown up. We hardly were aware of
it. Environmental law, we didn't have any courses on that. Dean
Trusler taught a two-hour course on air law, which was practically
non-existent in 1930. So it went. It has changed so much and has
become so diverse. There are more and more and more decisions to
keep up with, so it's almost imperative that you concentrate on one
or two areas and don't try to do anything else, because you can't
keep up with the whole field.