This Oral History is copyrighted by the Interviewee
and Samuel Proctor Oral History Program on
behalf of the Board of Trustees of the University of
Copyright, 2005, University of Florida.
All rights, reserved.
This oral history may be used for research,
instruction, and private study under the provisions
of Fair Use. Fair Use is a provision of United States
Copyright Law (United States Code, Title 17, section
107) which allows limited use of copyrighted
materials under certain conditions.
Fair use limits the amount of materials that may be
For all other permissions and requests, contacat the
SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida.
ORAL HISTORY PROJECT
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
February 2, 1982
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA, ORAL HISTORY PROJECT
INTERVIEWER: EMILY RING
PLACE OF INTERVIEW: GAINESVILLE
DATE OF INTERVIEW: February 2, 1982
Emma Davis was born on February 12, 1909 in Mansfield, Louisiana to
Jarrell Dean Adcock, a Baptist minister, and Frances Adcock. Mrs. Davis
moved with her family to Nicholasville, Kentucky in 1911, then Tallahassee,
Florida in 1912, and to Orlando, Florida in 1919. Mrs. Davis finished her
secondary schooling in Orlando. She recalls the city at that time had only
ten thousand people.
Following graduation from high school, she attended Coker College in
Hartsville, South Carolina, a small Baptist college. She majored in math,
minored in biology, and played the piano for four years. While at Coker she
met John Davis, her future husband. Davis earned his Ph.D. in Ecology at
the University of Chicago and was teaching at Presbyterian College of South
Carolina in Clinton, South Carolina. The two lived in Clinton for four
years and then moved to Memphis, Tennessee in 1936 when Mr. Davis took a
teaching position at Southwestern College. They then moved to Florida in
1941 and Mr. Davis took a teaching position at the University of Florida in
In the rest of the interview Mrs. Davis discusses her years with her
husband at the University and their travels together. Her husband obtained
grants to do research in Burma, New Zealand, and Taiwan, and the two spent
several years in these places. Mrs. Davis has remained active since her
husband's death in 1978. She has taken trips abroad, and she continues to
be active in the social affairs of Gainesville. Sh has two children;
Virginia, born in 1932, and Susan, born in 1934.
R: Emma, would you please tell us about your birthplace, your parents, and
D: Yes, I was born on February 12, 1909 in Mansfield, Louisiana. My father was
a Baptist minister named Jarrell Dean Adcock, whose parents were farmers in
west Tennessee near Jackson. His parents were Caroline Mills and Alfred
Marion Adcock, both of whom died by the time my father was fourteen.
R: That name is spelled A-D-C-O-C-K ?
D: That's right. Since he lived with sisters and brothers until he went to
college, I do not know a great deal about his family except for four genera-
tions back to Virginia and North Carolina. My mother was Frances Davidson
Rives, which is spelled R-I-V-E-S. Her parents were Albert Martin Rives
and Emma Virginia Durham.
R: So you're named Emma from your maternal grandmother.
D: And Caroline from my father's mother. From two grandmothers. The family
records go back to the sixteenth century but the Rives and the other members
of the maternal side came to Virginia between 1620 and 1638.
R: That is why she can go in the South, isn't it?
D: Yes, and I think so far as I know, all of the family were in the South except
my maternal great-grandmother who eloped from Nova Scotia to South Carolina.
Her name was Maria Martin arid she married Davidson.
R: I see, would you have come from the Canadian French?
D: The reason I was born in Mansfield is because it's my mother's home and my
father had just accepted a call to Nicholasville, Kentucky, where we lived
R: Nicholasville, Kentucky is near what city?
D: I don't know, I was a baby. Anyway,we came to Tallahassee in 1911 and I
wasn't much more than a baby then.
R: Do you remember coming to Tallahassee?
D: No, I was less than two. At the time we got to Tallahassee, it was a very
small town of less than 5,000 and the governor at that time, whom I do not
remember, was Gilchrist [Albert Gilchrist, term: 1913], he had a hobby of
giving people ceramic monkeys -- see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil...
R: Oh yes, I remember those.
D: He gave me one which I kept for many, many years, but somehow I lost them
in one of our many moves.
R: Did your father have a church?
D: Yes, he was pastor of the Baptist church there. It was right at the top
of the hill on College Avenue. It still is but it's in a different church
now. They built a much larger one in 1960. The one that was there most of
my life was one that my father built after he got there.
R: Well, there were probably more Baptists there, in Tallahassee, than any
other denomination, wouldn't you think?
D: I think so. When they started to build the new church I must have been
three and they had me all dressed up to break the ground for the new
church. When everybody bowed their heads to pray I disappeared. I ran
and they caught me two blocks away and took me back because I still had
to dig with my little shovel with the big ribbon on it.
R: Wouldn't it be wonderful if you had a picture of that.
D: I don't but my sister does. Soon after we went to Tallahassee Park Trammell
became governor and he and his wife and my parents became very close friends.
I was frequently in the mansion when they had teas or receptions. They put
me to sleep upstairs. I was a little tiny girl and remember the fun of
sliding down the banisters, and a wonderful little settee in the hall that
was Chinese and had a lot of carving on it. I could trace the dragons and
all these things. It kept me quiet while the ladies talked.
R: And that's how you got your love of Chinese furniture. This room is full of
lovely things from the Orient.
D: When I heard that they were tearing down the mansion that's the first thing
that I asked about. They said that it wasn't very fine furniture and wasn't
worth preservrng,which made me very sad. Those are some of my very special
rememberances of Tallahassee. When I was three and a half my sister, who
was three years older, started school, and I was heartbroken.
R: You haven't told us yet about your sister. Did you have any brothers?
D: I had one sister, Frances, who was three years older than myself.
R: And no brothers?
D: No other family. When she started school, at the demonstration school at the
college in Tallahassee, which was Florida Female College I was--They consented
to let me go to kindergarten, and can you believe, I was bused, only it was a
horse-drawn vehicle that had little benches all around where the children sat
to go to kindergarten.
R: That was at the college? That was probably a demonstration...
D: It was a demonstration school and they had kindergarten and three grades at
R: How old were you then?
D: I was three and a half; I was there many years. It was an era when
they had many new ideas in education. I was a casualty.
R: You were probably very progressive.
D: Very progressive, yes. While I was in kindergarten I suppose I was four
because I was the baby, and whenever they needed a child for something
like a play, I was the one. When I got to first grade -- after first grade
they decided to put me into third grade, so I skipped the second grade
entirely. I learned to read without any phonics and I can't spell yet.
R: You probably got all those
D: I don't know what you call them, but anyway, I went to public school, of
course, in fourth grade and there again they were trying new methods.
R: What street did you live on?
D: College Avenue. I went to the forth grade and I happen to remember there
was a Mr. Shellex who was a superintendent of the schools. In the fifth
grade, they accelerated me so that I finished almost all of the sixth by the
end of the fifth year.
R: You really rushed through.
D: Well,that was a bad thing.
R: Was your home where you lived owned by the church?
D: Yes, and it was right next door to the church.
R: How did your mother feel about living in the parsonage? My grandmother had
to live in parsonages all of her life, but they kept moving us place to place.
D: She said that when she decided to marry a minister her father objected
strenuously because she would never have a home of her own, and I think that
she would never complain because she knew what she was doing.
R: She knew it was part of the job. She actually did live in Tallahassee for
a long time.
D: Eight years. We went to Orlando in 1919.
R: So you were in Tallahassee from the age of three until ten.
D: No, from the age of two until ten.
R: You must have vivid memories of Tallahassee.
D: I do. I remember when Catts [Sidney Catts Governor of Florida], was elected
as the next governor. I remember particularly that he was blind in one eye and
that he had these glasses he could take off when he wanted to read and then
turn around for normal use. That's about all I remember except that daddy
didn't like Catts' politics. Catts had become a Baptist minister. He had
run for some office and lost because he wasn't well-known. So he became a
Baptist minister and then resigned to run for governor.
R: That's unusual. Did your father feel that he shouldn't stay a Baptist minister?
D: I don't know if he felt that, but he didn't like his politics; he was a
racist, for one thing.
R: And your father was not?
R: Your father was probably a more educated man.
D: Well I don't know. I guess he was.
R: Where did your father go to school?
D: He went to school at Union University, a Baptist school in west Tennessee.
R: Did your father have fairly enlightened views for his day?
D: Oh yes. When he was called to the church in Orlando, the minister of the
largest negro church in Orlando drove up with his own car and chauffeur--
daddy had never owned a car--just to tell daddy he had been elected by this
congregation to be their honorary minister, and they have had a very close
association all through the years.
R: Then you moved to Orlando when you were eleven?
D: When I was ten. Orlando was a smaller town, then a city with a population
of 10,000. It was twice as big as Tallahassee. It had three, what I consider,
skyscrappers. They were at least six stories high. It was a bit traumatic
for me because of the school situation.
R: You had to leave all of your friends in Tallahassee.
D: And not only that, when I got to Orlando I had so much of the sixth grade already,
by the time I was ten years old,that Orlando couldn't think what to do with me
so they sent me to the seventh grade. Those children seemed so old to me, not
only was 1 new and shy but they were two years older.
R: In those days, the seventh grade was still in the elementary building, wasn't
it? Or was it in the junior college? I mean junior high school?
D: They had a junior high school right after I got there, but not later. Mother
decided that wouldn't do so they kept me out of school for a half a year.
I followed my father everywhere then and got to know the county quite wel'l
because daddy did a lot of visiting in all directions.
R: What kind or a car did he drive? Do you remember?
D: He had a Buick, a touring car then.
R: So you went around with him in the county?
D: Yes. In those days the highways were just wide enough for one car. They
were all made out of brick and had deep sand on either side so that when
you had to pass anybody, the wheels on the left side of the car, were in sand.
D: You mean the roads?
R: Did they use crushed shells?
D: Not around Orange County.
R: They wouldn't have used shells, they used bricks.
D: They used bricks in a lot-of places in Florida.
R: They used them on the city streets, but I didn't know they took them
out on the highway.
D: But of course, there weren't that many highways. When we asked them
why they made roads wide enough for only one car going one way, they said,
"Well,nobody is going to leave Florida, they're all coming in, so you don't
need but one way."
R: But if you had to pass somebody you had to get off on the sand.
D: It was very dangerous, because the deep sand could pull you off if you were
going fast. Of course, you didn't go very fast.
R: What age were you when you learned to drive?
D: When I learned to drive I was fourteen.
R: That was legal then?
D: As far as I know they had no laws at that time. But I actually learned to
drive in Louisiana visiting my relatives. My uncle decided to teach me.
R: Well they must not have had laws then because _she learned about
thirteen or fourteen over in St. Augustine. But in Mississippi, where I
grew up in, you had to be sixteen before you could drive and I had to
wait until I was sixteen.
D: Well, my father objected extremely after I returned back from summer
vacation, when he found out I had already learned how to drive.
R: And your sister had already learned...
D: No, she didn't learn until she was in college.
R: AnLyet,she was older than you.
D: We were different.
R: How were you different from Frances?
D: I was more of a rebel, I wanted to do things and I did them.
R: Well,you finally got to the Orlando high school.
D: Yes, I went through high school in Orlando, but every year I was in a
different school because Orlando was growing so rapidly. It was a completely
different climate from Tallahassee; people were not leisurely, instead every-
body was aggressive it seems. So many people were from the north and I had
never heard the word "Yankee" but once in my life before I got to Tallahassee
and I thought that it was something that you didn't say out loud, because I
asked mother why some woman had pronounced something a certain way, and she
said, "Because she is a Yankee."
R: Were you interested in sports of any sort?
D: No, except swimming. When we went to Orlando, the town was small and the
lakes were just as clear as could be with sand bottoms. We could hike through
the woods, strip off, and jump into the lake anywhere. Now you wouldn't dare
put your toe in one of those lakes because they're so polluted.
R: Of course,Orlando has now how many...
D: I don't know,but I don't go there if I can help it. They built a new house
for us. The pastor's home was right next to the church in the middle of town.
They bought a lot on Livingston Avenue, and at that time Livingston was just
orange groves and a dirt road in front of the lot. This must have been in
about 1922, and now the big Federal Savings and Loan building is there. They
took and bought the lot where my house was in that little town.
R: Is the church still standing?
D: No, it's been torn down, I think, and a great big building built. While we
were there they built a whole new sunday school section to it. They doubled
the size, which is much bigger now.
R: I suppose as the minister's daughter you went to Sunday school and church
D: Yes,I did. For the first time in my life, I was criticized with everything
I did, whether I was good or bad.
R: Well,that goes with being a minister's child, doesn't it?
D: Not in some places, but in Orlando it did.
R: I think that they do it all over the South.
D: I never thought that it was southern because the South, as I knew it, had
never been like that. It was people from the Midwest that were the ones
that did the complaining.
R: Did your mother have any hobbies?
D: Well, not really because when she was growing up she rode horses, played
tennis, rode bicycles, and did all of those things and then when she became
a minister's wife she couldn't keep doing those things. She was very active
in church work and some club work, but she was a rather retiring type of
person. She didn't want to take a leadership role in any church activities.
R: Had she been to college?
D: Yes, she went to a junior college in Kentucky, and majored in mathematics,
which was the family's strong trait all of the way.
R: So by the time you got to high school in Orlando, you were changed from one
school to another?
D: I changed every year that I was there.
R: That must have been very _
D: It was difficult. About the time I was making friends I had to go to another
R: Why was that?
D: Because they were building new schools and each time I was in a different one.
They kept changing the district. It was not a happy school life.
R: You didn't meet John down there, did you?
D: Oh no. I met him in college.
R: Did you have any particular boyfriends in high school?
D: I suppose every girl does. I had a number of them. I kept it...
D: No, I just liked to go with a lot of different people.
R: You were interested in music then? I know that you are interested in music now.
D: I took music from the time I was a little girl. I did not major in music.
in college. My sister did, and I knew that I wouldn't be as good.
R: Where did you go to college?
D: I went to college at Coker College, in Hartsville, South Carolina.
R: Why did you pick that?
D: Well, it was a small Baptist school that gave good scholarships,and Florida
was in the depth of its depression in 1926.
They had an enormous real estate boom here in the early 1920s. I know my
best friend's father in Orlando was a real estate man and they were feeling
very smug because they thought they had two million dollars. They woke up
one morning and they didn't have anything.
R: Did you come to Orlando at the beginning of the boom?
Did that affect the people who contributed to the church?
Oh, very much. My father reduced his own salary by half because everybody
was having such a hard time. This was at the time I was going to college.
It was difficult.
That was hard on the family.
It came as a surprise to us because he hadn't told us he was going to
do it, but he was so concerned about his people that were having a hard time.
How many people would you suppose a church like that would have in those days?
Unfortunately, it was too big with a membership of 3000.. It's too big any
day. Daddy started colonizing buildings and small churches. With his leader-
ship his congregation was all over the city of Orlando. Every time they would
open a new development he would try to build a church in that area. So that's
when they started many new churches.
The Baptist denomination is a congregational type government.
That's why so many people think that the Baptists are strange and uneducated
because anybody can say that they're a Baptist church.
And there are different varieties.
Your father's church was a southern Baptist.
He was a southern Baptist. He was in Orlando for eighteen years. He was
president of the Florida Baptist convention three different times.
His name must be in many records...
...of the Baptist churches of that area of the state of Florida;.
I'm still surprised he's stilliknown because as many years as it has been,
he has been dead since forty-three or forty-four, and people still remember
him very well.
Describe him. How did he look?
Well, a daughter can't do that. To me he was a very handsome man.
Now youtre a small woman. Was he small or large?
He was small, he was about 5'9" I guess, and had curly hair which turned
beautifully white when he was about forty-five.
Oh, that made a very strong...
And he sang...He had a lovely tenor voice so he could combine things.
Was he a good preacher?
D: Well, he must have been.
R: A charismatic man?
D: He may have been a better pastor than a preacher, I really don't know.
R: But in any case he had too many parishioners.
D: Yes he did. When he went to St.Petersburg in 1937, he was sixty and he
thought that he was going to retire. He went to a tiny church and it
started growing and it got to be a big, big church even though he was...
R: of course was growing too.
D: It was not the first church, but a little church, but it grew so fast.
It was the Fith Avenue Baptist Church.
R: In St. Pete. Now, by that time you were in college.
D: By that time I was married and gone.
R: Tell us about going to college. The name of the college was...
D: Coker College, in Hartsville, South Carolina. -A small women's college.
R: Was it strict?
R: Did you have to wear uniforms?
D: No. Nothing like that. We had to wear an evening dress to dates and concerts
on the weekends. We were expected to change our clothes for dinner at night.
R: You went to college in what year?
D: In twenty-six.
R: At what age?
D: I was seventeen. I majored in mathematics, minored in biology, and took piano
for four years. I had a busy time.
R: That was the same year I went to college at the women's college in Mississippi
and we had to wear uniforms. So I know that some colleges had to wear uniforms
in the South in those days.
D: They didn't at Tallahassee.
R: They didn't at that time at Tallahassee? Well, I guess you're lucky. How did
you feel about the college? Did you like it? You went because of the scholar-
ship, but did you like it when you got there?
D: I did not. My sister loved it.
R: Your sister had gone there ahead of you?
D: Yes, she was there and she loved it, but it was very confining. I did not
like all of the rules and the fact we couldn't leave campus except for
certain times, and had to be in bed by ten o'clock.
R: Howwere the meals?
D: Very good. Unfortunately a lot of the girls got quite fat. I didn't.
R: They probably had very starchy meals, and wonderful biscuits.
D: We had marvelous people come to the University and lecture and
because the Coker family was not only wealthy but they were cultured and
they had these people that would come and stay with them, so we would have
the advantage of that.
R: They had founded the college and endowed it.
D: Yes, a generation before.
R: Were there boys' schools nearby?
D: No, that was another thing. There was no way to meet a boy anywhere, except
when they would come on campus for Glee Club concerts.
R: But it was very confining.
D: I did manage to meet John, though.
R: How in the world did you meet him?
D: He was teaching in Davidson at that time. He had gotten his Ph.D. and he was
taking a class down in Charleston at the Gardens. One of the boys in the
class was a Coker, who asked John to stop at his home for the night, for the
boys to have dates at Coker. John thought he would talk with the Dean.of
Women, but somehow I happened to meet him, so that plan didn't work so well.
That was my senior year and he had gotten his Ph.D. at Chicago in December.
R: Was he several years older than you?
D: Eight. We were married the next year after I graduated.
R: What was John teaching then?
D: He was teaching botany...
R: At Davidson?
D: At Davidson. But he had gone to Davidson to college, gotten his Masters there,
and then he went to Chicago. He would teach at Davidson a year and then go to
Chicago for a year, with the understanding that when he finished he would get
a job somewhere else.
R: So you started writing to each other?
D: He came down several times. He arrived in the spring and I guess he got down
there about four or five times after that. He was anxious to get married
quickly, but I made him wait until the next spring because I didn't feel like
I knew him that well.
But you did graduate before you married?
Yes, I was out of school for a year actually.
What did you do that year?
It was during the Depression, and I went home and couldn't find anything
to do, because I hadn't taken any courses in education so I went to a clinic
and learned to be a technician.
What kind of technician?
A laboratory technician for a doctor.
That was a smart thing to do.
Not really, because the only job I could get was in a small town
nearby that offered fifteen dollars a week and daddy said, "No way, you're
worth more to me having you home," so I stayed at home. And I had a very
good time in spite of being engaged. It didn't seem to stop the dates.
Was John able to come and see you during that time?
Oh yes, he was able to come down for Thanksgiving, Christmas, spring and
Anr your family liked him?
Yes, they did but like any family they were dubious about marrying somebody
Was Frances married by this time?
Yes, she had been married. She had married a doctor from Richmond, Virginia,
and she's been living in Virginia ever since.
Is she a widow now?
Who did she decide to marry?
She married Herman Bailey. Strangely enough, Herman and John were born
within fifteen miles of each other and had never met until they came to my
wedding but they had courted the same girl at one time when they were young
What a coincidence. Where were you married?
Was it a church wedding?
D: Oh no, it wasn't. That's another time I rebelled. It was very upsetting
to my family but Frances' wedding had proved to be a Roman Holiday. Every-
body got to the church because daddy wouldn't consent to not inviting
everyone, and I said that I would not have that happen to me, so I married
at home with a small wedding.
R: You had a mind of your own. You had a small wedding in the home?
D: In the home, and then we came to Gainesville right after the wedding on
our honeymoon. John had engaged a room at the Thomas Hotel and stopped by
to have flowers in it, and so of course they knew that it was a wedding.
R: You must feel very sentimental about the old Thomas Hotel.
D: I do, and especially since we were the only people in it. It had closed on
the first of June and we were married on the second. They had kept it open
just for us, but everybody else had left. We had the whole hotel to ourselves.
There were no meals, we had to go to the Whitehouse for meals.
R: The Whitehouse Hotel, which is just a few blocks away, which had wonderful meals.
Did you just stay there the one night?
D: No, we stayed there two nights. We were exhausted from parties so we decided
to stay. The main thing I remember is swimming in _Springs.
Of course, John had stopped by this campus many times before.
R: He had his eye on this campus.
D: No he didn't. It never occurred to him he was coming here.
R: Was it because he liked to teach at Davidson?
D: No, he was at a little college in South Carolina at this time; it was a
Presbyterian college in Clinton.
R: But that's where you went to live?
D: Both of our daughters were born during the years that we were there.
R: Now, John's parents were Presbyterian?
D: His father was a Presbyterian minister.
R: Any your father was a Baptist minister, so you both were brought up in the
D: Yes. We were not so different in our backgrounds, really.
R: And he had already given his oral history to the Florida State Museum so
perhaps we don't really need to go into his ancestry because it's already
been recorded. You went to live in Clinton, South Carolina,
which was a very small place?
D: It was very small. We were there for four years.
R: What did you do during this time? Did you have a baby?
D: I had two, within twenty-two months of each other.
R: Tell us about the girls, their names, and where they were born.
D: Well, Virginia was born June 24, 1932 and in Orlando because she chose
to be born in June when the college was closed and we didn't have any
place to go, so I went home. That's really when John started on his
Florida work. While he was waiting for me to recuperate he started going
down to south Florida and discovered those mangroves. Then his interests
continued and we went back every summer for a while to visit my parents.
R: And he's got the research interest now.
D: Susan was born on April 22, 1934 in Clinton. We went from there to Memphis,
Tennessee in 1936.
R: To Southwestern?
D: To Southwestern College.
R: Do you remember approximately John's salaries in those days? It seems so
now that people talk a little bit, but of course this was the Great
D: John's salary was supposed to have been two hundred dollars a month for the
nine months but they couldn't pay it some months. Some months we'd get one
hundred dollars and some months we'd get one hundred and fifty but they payed
it all up through the years. We'd get a check from them when we needed it
most, like when the children had a tonsilectomy or something else.
R: So their father did pay...
D: They payed it up. And this summer John would get grants from different
places. Carnegie Institution being one of them. They had a laboratory
on the Dry Tortugas. I don't remember the other places, but he got several
grants to study at the mangroves.
R: After the babies came, did he go on to research the mangroves by
D: Yes. I would stay with my family while he went. There's no way I could
R: It was nice for you that your father and mother helped with their two little
D: We enjoyed that. Of course, we went to John's family's for six weeks in the
summer up in the mountains in North Carolina, at Montreat.
R: They had a summer home there?
R: A lovely place.
D: It was very good for the children.
R: What time did you come to the University of Florida?
D: We had come to Florida in forty-one. John had done this research on mangroves
in the everglades and it was really beginning to be published. Dr.
Herman Gunter, who was the state geologist, asked him to come down on a year's
leave of absence to work on the ecological aspects of the everglades.
I think it was. He got a leave of absence to come down here. By then my
parents were living in St. Petersburg, so the plan was that the children and
I stayed in St. Petersburg while he did his research in southern Florida to
come back and forth. It worked out beautifully until the war came, of
course, and then it was a whole different story. The Geological Survey got
very involved in many things, particularly oil, and then John got interested
in the peat deposit with the idea that it could be used for fuel.
R: John had so many original ideas and so many interests.
D: Yes he did. I frequently said that he could keep a whole class of graduate
students working for a hundred years on all of the projects that he could
think up. He did a lot of them himself.
R: We had not called them environmentalists in those days, but he...
D: He was not an environmentalist. He would resent that. He was an ecologist.
He got his degree in ecology from [the University of] Chicago when people
didn't even know what ecology was.
R: Make the distinction between those two words Emma, I had never realized that
there was a distinction.
D: Well, ecology is the whole environment; the reaction of everything. It
includes the plants, animals, water tables, the whole business. It's done
scientifically. I think the environmentalist does it emotionally.
R: I see, it has become a political pressure group, hasn't it?
D: Exactly, and they use the word "ecology" that way too, which is too bad.
I frequently told John that nobody can just say that I'm a dentist and
set up shop without having an examination and a degree. People can say I'm
an ecologist without even knowing what the term means.
R: And he became interested in all of these measures which would have some
significance for the war efforts, is that it?
D: Well, not necessarily. He was still completely a scientist; it was a spin-
off for the war effort which was good.
R: Did he finally dome to this university in 1946? Where did you first live?
D: We lived on what was called College Court then, it's Twentieth Terrace now;
right near the University.
R: Right near the new Stephen O'Connell Center.
D: Right near there. We must backtrack a little bit, because when we first
came to Florida to do this research I got a job working with the welfare
office in St. Petersburg. That was during the war era, but this was surplus
food. We were to deal with just beginning old age assistance and a very few
cases of aid to mothers with dependent children.
R: I see, this was part of the New Deal.
D: This was part of the New Deal. I was there just one year and then we went
to Tallahassee because the Geologicial Survey needed John there. We lived
in Tallahassee for the rest of the war. This was in the winter of fortythree
and I again started working for welfare in Tallahassee, and that was
a revelation for me. Florida at that time was going through growing pains
of all kinds. This whole idea of welfare was something that was just begin-
ning. We not only had cases in welfare, but we interviewed every woman who
volunteered for the service. I interviewed all of the men,such as the draftees
who had psychological problems. There was no training for this, but I did it.
They had just passed a law that children had to be adopted within certain
laws from the state. Before that some lawyer or doctor could just take a
baby and apply for adoption and that was it.
R: Today you would have to have all sorts of court work and social work.
D: Exactly. I did the first adoption that was done in Tallahassee, knowing
nothing about it.
R: Let me get this straight, you came from Southwestern to Tallahassee or to
D: St. Petersburg. John's job was to be with the Geological Survey working
and doing his research.
R: Then you went to Tallahassee.
D: Then we went to Tallahassee.
R: And why was that?
D: His grant for the year was with the Geological...
R: He had not yet made it to the University of Florida.
D: No, we were in Tallahassee until 1946. Dr. Herman Gunter was the state
geologist and he was a remarkably wonderful person, we thought. Everybody
thought so. He was the first graduate from the University of Florida after
the university moved to Gainesville, and I had known him when I was a small
child living in Tallahassee. It was a very busy time at the Geological
Survey during those years. John would be three weeks in the everglades
during the war, and we would be in Tallahassee. And then he would be maybe
three weeks in Tallahassee and then work at the university. He was learning
a lot about Florida as well as contributing a lot and I was learning a lot
about Tallahassee, particularly about what had happened around Tallahassee
with the big plantations the wealthy people had bought.
R: Tell us about that.
D: The first I remembered was being a small child living there, because it
made an impression on me. The Fleishmann's, the yeast-people, bought one of
the big plantations for a hunting place and the ladies in Tallahassee, being
southern ladies, tried to find out what day Mrs. Fleishmann would be home so
that they could call. She had no phone, and she sent word that she did not
care to know the villagers. Twenty-five years later, when I went back to
Tallahassee to live and had welfare cases on the plantations, I discovered...
R: 'Black people had been allowed to live there all of those years?
D: With the understanding they plant crops that the wild animals, the deer,
and the turkeys would eat. The negroes had very little to eat. Sweet
potatoes, beans, and corn were planted, but the deer usually got that.
They were trying to get help from the welfare, and yet I remember going
to the owner of the plantations when somebody was ill. They were glad
to take them into a hospital because that was tax deductible.
R: Anything that was tax deductible was I suppose...
D: But they weren't interested in trying to fix it so that people could make
R: And they probably lived in terrible shacks.
D: Yes, and of course they said, "They're no good" because we've got all this
lumber somewhere if they come and get it.,; Well,they didn't have any
particular way to get it. And when you'reso underfed you don't have the
R: And their house was probably a very low level.
D: It was. Of course in those days, they were just beginning to find out they
could cure with pennicillin, and so many of them were ill. In fact.
one of my many jobs at the welfare agency was to go to the jail every
morning to get an interview with the prostitutes before we sent them off
to be cured and rehabilitated, only it didn't work.
R: Well, before penicillin, they tried to kill syphilis with a drug called
666. It was, I believe, a natural compound. Those were
very hard days for black people in the South, and the death rate among
infants was enormous.
D: Once we started to give them the shots, they didn't want them because they
were afraid they'd get pregnant. They didn't have birth control. They
didn't understand what syphilis would do to them. But when they kept
saying they want to have babies, I kept questioning them.
R: Syphilis is a dreadful form of population control.
D: Emma, I hadn't realized that you had been a social worker.
You seem to me to have never done social work. I won't go into
D: I enjoyed it immensely.
R: I interviewed our friend the year before and she was a social worker and I
think it was wondertul. Did you know her when you first came here?
D: No. I would like to have continued but John and the girls voted against it.
We had a family conference. They voted to send me home and I agreed, but it
was very hard when I first got to Gainesville.
R: While you were a social worker in Tallahassee, what happened to the girls?
D: They were in demonstration school.
R: The same one you had gone to?
D: The same one I had gone to, only now it had all grades.
R: And those days you could have a black servant in the household to be there
when the girls got out of school.
D: I did. And then when we had only been in Tallahassee onryear, my father
had a stroke in St. Petersburg. He had always wanted to live in Tallahassee
when he retired. They bought a house there, and we lived with them; but he
only lived a year after that.
R: Now we have finally come up to the time when you had come to Gainesville.
D: The spring before we came, John had been commuting back and forth because
Dean Hume had asked him to come down and teach some courses and John still
hadn't decided whether he would come to the University of Florida or stay
at the college in Tallahassee. He would come down here and teach for four
days and then come back to the Geological Survey to write up all of the
stuff he had on hand for the rest of the week.
R: Do you remember what Dean Hume...
D: He was a wonderful man. John admired him greatly.
R: We are all grateful to him for writing the books about how to raise
Camelias and Hollies.
D: Well, that was just one of his...
R: And he founded the Camelia society, didn't he?
D: Yes, I think he did but his big hobby was I'lex or Hollies. He's planted
many varieties on the campus.
R: And he's written a book on all of this.
D: He was a thoroughly well-educated man. He gave a commencement address here
in Latin. He was president of the University during the time interval between
Dr. Miller and Reitz.
R: That's right. A temporary president.
D: John loved him. They were very congenial and they could talk about anything.
He would come over, sit on the desk, and start a conversation and they would
go on and on.
R: When did John have the accident that injured his eye?
D: He didn't have an accident that injured his eye. He was born with Primary
Glaucoma. When he was a small boy he started having problems and he went
to an eye hospital in Washington a number of times for operations and I
suppose the operations injured it as much as anything else. But he did have
an accident. One night, when he was a graduate student in Chicago, he was
hit in the eye with a baseball. They removed it immediately, but he
hadn't been able to see out of it for some:time.
R: It didn't seem to slow him down with his research...
D: It didn't with anything. I give his mother a great deal of credit, because
as a little boy the eye was painful and it must have been hard not to make
him a baby, but instead to make him into a real person, and I think that it
is a great achievement.
R: He was a wonderful person and had many friends and always seemed to be
outgoing and gracious to everyone. When you first came you lived
on College Court. Tell us who your neighbors were by the campus?
D: On one side was Fred Smith who was in Agronomy, and across the street was
Freeman Hart who was in Humanities and down the street was Constans, who
was in speech. Fernandez later built a house there. On the other side of it
were several different people there. He's still here. Our dearest friends
lived on the street in back of us and they were Adelaida and R.J. Harris.
R: Yes, they were wonderful. They came here to retire. You didn't live there
long, did you?
D: No, just for a short time.
R: Alfred and Elsie Ring, they came in forty-seven and lived until they built
a house on the Millhopper. They're in an interesting neighborhood -- and then
at the end of the street, College Court, lived the Vaiks.
D: Yes. And the Fullers, did the Fullers buy the Ring house?
R: Yes, I believe they did.
D: Didn't they go somewhere else before they went to Millhopper? I don't
recall the dates.
R: No, I think that they went to the Millhopper road which was considered way
D: Alfred predicted that's the way the population would grow, and he was so right.
R: Did the girls have playmates on that street?
D: They were beginning high school, but there were no children on that street
at that time except the younger Ring girls.
R: The Davis girls were in P.K. Yonge or Gainesville High School?
D: In Gainesville High School. We went to the demonstration school and discussed
what to do about school and they strongly recommended that we not put them in
P.K. I thought that may have been professional jealousy.
R: Well, Gainesville was divided right down the middle for and against P.K.
Yonge schools. Many people thought that it was too progressive and children
were allowed to do pretty much what they wanted to do. Gainesville High School
at that time was a very fine school...
D: It was,but the first thing that happened to Virginia was on one rainy afternoon
she was reprimanded because she sat at the window and wrote a poem instead of
sitting down at her desk and listening to what the teacher was saying. If
she had been in Tallahassee they would have published her poem.
R: If she had been in P.K. they would have published it...
D: They probably would have done pretty well at P.K., but they did all right
at Gainesville High School.
R: Dr. Buchholz,the principal there...
D: Yes. Virginia didn't finish high school here because we went to New Zealand
in 1950. She was a senior, but she wanted to enter a university down there.
She could get her diploma by taking tests. In November they gave her a test
and she passed them so well that she said, "I'm never going to put my foot
in that school again,"and she didn't! So we never had the experience of a
high school graduation because we came back from New Zealand and Susan
discovered the difference in the school down there. By taking some summer
session, no, by taking some examination and going one semester she could
graduate from high school and enter the university. She finished at the
university in three and half years.
R: At the University of Florida. So you had never had a high school graduation?
D: No, never a high school graduation, thank goodness. Well, Susan was president
of student government during the half of year that she was there, and she did
go and march down with the rest of the class, but I forgot to go watch her.
R: Tell us about going to New Zealand. Was that an interesting experience?
D: It was very interesting. There again John's mangrove work attracted the attention
of a professor down there and he asked him to come but they had no money.
This was when the Fulbright program first came. John was among the first
Fulbright scholarships that were granted. They knew so little about it they
didn't know if we were going to be taxed or even how we were going to be paid.
They didn't know anything but we went. It was a wonderful experience.
R: I can imagine it was. This was your first time abroad.
D: The first time. We went early in 1950 and returned in Christmas of 1950.
Almost a year.
R: Well, what did you do while you were down there, take care of the family?
D: I took care of the family. It was not easy because the conveniences were meager.
The place is very male-oriented. If you're a sportsman, that's fine.
R: Did the girls like it?
D: Virginia had a wonderful time. She was new and all of the boys were crazy
over her. Over here her clothes didn't look like much, but down there they
looked very glamorous. The whole thing, and Susan had to wear a school
uniform which was dreadful in high school. She was most miserable. It was
a segregated school of course. She had been having dates here and wearing
make-up and so forth. So this was hard and she dropped out of school and
got a job in a lawyer's office. In New Zealand they thought she
was never going back to school, but, of course, we knew that she would.
R: She had a mind of her own, too.
D: As soon as she was out of school,she went with the university group.
They went skiing and did other things.
R: What kind of church did you go to down there?
D: Well, it's pretty interesting. We didn't go to church a whole lot.
R: Most of the churches would have been Anglican.
D: I think so. You're asking questions that I'm not very familiar with. I
did write the Harris's that I thought our status must have gone up since we
belonged to the Episcopal church right then.
R: So you were there for just two months?
D: We were there for eleven months.
R: And then you came back?
D: We came back and the girls finished college.
R: What did they major in here at the university?
D: Virginia majored in political science and Susan majored in mathematics.
My mother, myself, and Susan and her children are mathematically inclined
too, so it must be a strong steak in the family.
R: Usually that's not true. Many girls don't like math.
D: It's so easy.
R: For some people it is, but it wasn't for me. Well Emma, when did you move
away from College Court?
D: We went to Burma in 1958. Both of the girls married in 1956.
R: The same year?
D: Within six weeks of each other.
R: How much differences are there between their ages?
D: Twenty-two months. Susan finished college a year earlier so they were just
one year apart in school.
R: Tell us who the girls married.
D: Virginia married Robert Jeffers,whomshe met in Germany. She went to Germany
right after she got out of college. He was doing his G.I. stint. He is now
a lawyer in Washington, D.C. Susan married James Wiltshire, who's
from Ft. Meyers, Florida and who was at the University of Florida. He was
two years ahead of Susan, and he was majoring in Engineering. They were
married a year after Susan graduated. She went up to work with General
Electric in New York for a year.
R: And where do they live?
D: They live in Hamilton, a small bedroom town in a lovely section near Boston.
R: How many grandchildren do you have?
D: I have six.
R: Tell us their names.
D: Virginia's oldest son is Robert Davis Jeffers, who finished at Duke two
years ago and now has a job in advertising in New York City. He's an artist.
He just had his first television commercial recently. They have a daughter
named Susan and she is a senior this year at Genrgl Washington University in
St. Louis. Susan's oldest is James Denham Wiltshire. He finished at
Dartmouth a year ago and he is with IBM in Chicago in computer sciences.
Their daughter Elizabeth Wiltshire is a junior at Harvard this year. She
took a year off last year to work in Washington. The next son is William
Morton, named from John's brother. He is a sophomore at Princeton. Caroline,
the youngest, is a freshman at Yale.
R: My goodness. They really did make the best colleges.
D: They're very fortunate because they seemed to inherit the right genes.
They all made very high scores on the SAT's. The youngest one actually
made a perfect score.
R: I'll bet you're very proud of them.
D: Well,you know, you'd be very proud of grandchildren if they could just
R: I can't understand how your grandsons got to be so much older than mine.
I guess it's because I had...
D: You had boys.
R: I had boys and they married late.
D: I had girls and they married early.
R: Right. That'makes a big difference.
D: It does.
R: Do you see them often?
D: Yes,I go up at Thanksgiving, Christmas and during summers, but they don't
get down here.
R: You went to Burma after the girls married, right?
D: Yes we did.
R: It must have been a wonderful experience for you.
D: It was. We were there two years and that was a Ford Foundation grant.
We were in Mandalay. We were teaching at the University of Mandalay.
Bob and Miriam Williams were there, and Helen and Dick Edwards.
R: We had quite a contingent of the University of Florida people over there,
D: Three professors. We stayed two years, they stayed four. It was a wonderful
experience and educational in many ways.
R: John travels between the towns you had _while you were there active
in the clubs in Gainesville. Tell us about what organizations you belonged
D: When I first came here I joined the Women's Club and the University
Women's Club, the Ag. Women's club and all of the interest groups. It
was all a new life to me because I had been working those years during
R: Are you a member of AAW?
D: No, I had been a member of AAW in Memphis and then very active in that,
actually, but I didn't join it when I came down here. I don't think I did.
At first I joined everything and then I had to resign a lot of them because
I had too much to do. After we came back from Burma I worked with Shands
auxiliary at the crippled childrens' clinic for quite a few years and enjoyed
that very much. But you were asking about when I left College Court.
We came back from Burma in 1960 and bought a house on 1729 Eighth Avenue, and
at that time the other side of the street was outside the city limits. Eighth
Avenue was a dead end at the bottom of the hill on 23rd Street. No sooner had
we bought it than they started widening the street. We thought they never
would because that was Shands' property, and we didn't think that he would
want anybody going through it. He didn't mind.
R: Then the edge of town had become the middle of town, so you decided that it
was too north, and you had trouble coming out of your driveway because of
the traffic, didn't you?
D: Well, I never did but the reason we moved--we loved the place, and John had
a garden there that he liked very much, he had started getting heart I
trouble and so he couldn't handle that hill anymore and we decided that we
better move to a place we could manage. John retired in 1969 and he started
to do full-time consulting. He had been consulting for years with the Army
engineers because they were doing a big project in the everglades for water
management and he did ecological surveys for that. After he retired he did
full-time consulting with a lot of different development companies who needed
some kind of ecological impact study, and then he did coastal studies.
He did some for the Navy all the way up to Cape Hatteras, but he did the
whole state of Florida. I went with him and I started traveling.
R: Then you're very familiar with ecology problems in Florida?
D: I don't know. I'm familiar, but I'm not knowledgable.
R: So about the time you retired in 1969 did you buy this house?
D: No, we had this house since seventy-five.
R: And this was a new development.
D: It's been here since the sixties.
R: Who are some of your neighbors?
D: On one side there's Joseph Frank and his wife Irene. Across the street,
Wilford and Ruth Hasen and on the corner there's Dr. Chen, Dean of Engineering,
and on the other corner is Dr. Lewis and his wife Gwendolyn. He's in education.
R: Didn't Denver Gaughan live nearby?
D: They lived not too far away, on Twenty-first street.
R: And then they retired?
D: They went to South Carolina and sold their house to Ruth Maren. Her husband
is in Pharmacology. They're divorced. And on this side is the manager of the
Belk Lindsey stores.
R: Well, it's a lovely neighborhood and this happens to be the neighborhood
that was hit by a tornado several years ago.
D: It is, and fortunately I had left the day before to go to Washington.
R: Not a tree on your place was touched.
D: The top of an oak tree was taken off, but it needed to be taken off
R: But some people had their tall pine trees cut off in the middle.
D: Yes, the people across the street lost many, many trees and my neighbor said
that he saw the tornado just lift up and come to the top of our houses and
take the tops off trees and then come down farther to the north.
R: That was about four years ago? What year was that?
D: I think that it was three years ago, I'm not sure.
R: I was just coming back to Gainesville from Atlanta, and we had heard about it
in the Atlanta airport and the Denver Baughan's were there. We brought them
from the airport into the house and they were so nervous because we saw that
this was the place that had been hit so badly. As we came closer and closer
to the house they became more and more nervous. I don't think the house was
badly injured, but it lost a few trees. That was the way it was. It just
touched here and...
D: I think that it was a year afterwards that a very small one came down
through at the bottom of the hill, right at the stream, and took quite a
few trees there.
R: But now this again is in the middle of Gainesville and is no longer on the
edge of Gainesville.
D: That's right. We selected this so we wouldn't be so far away; we would like
to have found a place even closer to the University, but it was just not
R: Well, what are you interested in now, Emma? Your grandchildren are success-
fully into college and into careers of their own. Tell us about your life
D: I'm afraid my life today is one of being entertained a good bit because I
play golf, and I have a group lunch every Wednesday, and the Garden Club
has been a big thing in my life. I joined it because of John, but then I
found I enjoyed it a whole lot.
R: Which club do you belong to?
D: I belong to the Gloriosa, and I was a charter member so we've been together
R: Does that mean a lot to you?
D: We're not such good gardeners any more, but we do have a good time. I do a
little bit of church work but not much, and I keep thinking that I'm going
back to the hospital work, but I haven't yet. But the thing is I go away so
much. I went to China last year.
R: Oh, tell us about the trip to China.
D: Ann Little and I-went together and it was an experience I always wanted.
John and I became very fond of the Chinese after we had lived in Taiwan for
a year. John had always been interested in the topography of China.
R: Did we skip over your time in Taiwan?
D: I believe we did?
R: What year did this go on?
D: I believe that was sixty-four or sixty-five. Well, it was the year, just one year.
R: Was he with an international organization?
D: It was a Fulbright with the university. He taught at two universities
there, the Provincial University and the National University.
R: Is that where you got this beautiful rug?
R: And the chest in the dining room?
D: Well, we got that one when we were in Burma, and we got the table when we
were there. It was made in Hong Kong.
R: What about this Chinese screen?
D: That was in Hong Kong; we had it in our house in Burma. I had been to
Hong Kong so many times that I was really sad when I went this summer
because it changed, well it's always changing, but it was so changed that
I hardly recognized the places that I had loved so much. I had
been there six times. When I was in Burma we were over
there for Christmas and I had been there maybe two or three times from Taiwan,
sometimes with John or sometimes by myself. I just liked to go.
R: This time you and Ann went on a Lindblad trip to the Gardens of Classical
D: It was a beautiful trip.
R: She says she wants to go back again. Are you going to go back with her
D: I'm greatly tempted but these are very rigorous trips.
R: You didn't get to the interior...
D: The more we hear about the interior the less enthusiasm we have because one
of the ladies on our trip went to Hong Kong, waited a week, and then took
the interior trip. She wrote, "If you like rice you're all right". We
had beautiful food, good hotels and the creature comforts of America
on our trip.
R: So this time if you did go back to China...
D: Well, I would want to take a more interior trip. But I haven't been to
Africa. Ann had been to Africa two times and she wants to go back
there also. The other places I haven't been. I've covered a good part
of the world but not everything.
R: Have you been watching the Masterpiece Theatre recently? The Flame Trees
R: The landscape looks so interesting. I suppose the animals will not be
there much longer for anybody to photograph because they have to put them
in zoos to preserve them, don't they?
D: Well, they still have some mighty big game preserves...
R: I meant preserves, not zoos.
D: Preserves, yes. The people encroach. They lose so much. People have to live.
R: How do you feel about nuclear energy and nuclear bombs?
D: I feel that nuclear bombs are a perfectly horrible idea. I think that
nuclear energy may be a very necessary thing and I think that it can be
R: Did John think so?
D: Yes, he thought so more than I do. He did a lot of work on the Turkey Creek
plant down in Miami. They couldn't figure out what to do about the hot water
that they had and they didn't want to let it into Biscayne Bay, so he finally
came up with the idea that they could build trenches that could go back and
forth, around the place that let the water cool and then let it out, which
R: Did they do that at Crystal River too?
D: I don't know, he didn't have anything to do with that.
R: I feel edgy about the nuclear industry and would prefer that we didn't
have any nuclear installations whatsoever. Of course, I don't know as
much about it as John did. Well, Emma I wanted to thank you so much for
talking to me this afternoon and giving us your life history. Is there
anything else you'd like to say before we close it down?
D: I don't know, unless you want to know the date at which John died.
R: Yes, I do.
D: In January of 1978.
R: He had a rather long illness.
D: He had a pacemaker which was not too successful. But, it was actually
only one year that he couldn't do anything. He managed to do a little bit
of consulting after he got the pacemaker, but very little. He had the
pacemaker for two years.
R: What age was he when he died?
D: He was seventy-six. He would have been seventy-seven that summer.
R: He had a very productive life and made friends with many. I know you miss
him very much, but you seem to be having a wonderful life now and I hope
that you get back to China and I hope that you get to Africa.
D: As you know, it takes quite a bit of money, too!
R: We want to thank you for telling us about your life and as you know this will
go into the Florida State Museum and be available to anybody who wants to do
research on the last of the women in the Gainesville University during the
good old days. Thank you so much.