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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida.
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM
Interviewee: Leo Foster
Interviewer: Denise Stobbie
February 21, 1986
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
ORAL HISTORY PROJECT
Interviewee: Leo Luther Foster
Interviewer: Denise Stobbie
February 21, 1986
Leo Foster is a graduate of the University of Florida
College of Law (1942). He was the class president. He is a
member of Florida Blue Key, recipient of the Centennial Medal of
Honor (presented by UF President J. Hillis Miller), and past
president of the UF Alumni Association. During his law career,
he has worked on civil, banking, and bankruptcy cases. His law
firm formed the Tallahassee Bank and Trust Company, which later
became Barnett Bank, and Foster served on the board of directors
and acted as general counsel. He has also served as a federal
bankruptcy judge in Florida. He was married to Mary Frances
Crittenden of Tallahassee.
Leo Luther Foster was born in Nocon, Texas, September 22,
1912, and was raised in Monticello, Florida. He attended
Monticello schools through high school. He enrolled at the
University of Florida in 1930 and received a B.A. in education
four years later. While at UF, he completed the compulsory two-
year ROTC course. He lived in the dorms and took his meals at Ma
Ramey's boarding house. He briefly discusses life in Gainesville
and its eating establishments. As regards the Depression, he
notes that the Monticello bank was one of the few that did not
close, so he was able to pay his fees. Classes were small, and
there were very few automobiles on campus. He recalls wearing a
rat cap and hitchiking to Tallahassee.
After graduation, Foster went into government service. He
always wanted to be a lawyer, and he entered UF's College of Law
in 1939. He recalls his professors and the courses they taught:
Harry R. Trusler (Torts), Charles J. TeSelle (Contracts), John W.
Day (Property), Robert S. Cockrell (Criminal Law and Chancery
Law), and William A. McRae (Trial Practice). Some of his
classmates were Frank T. Maloney, who later was dean of the law
school; P. K. Yonge; Ray Ehrlich, who later became a Florida
Supreme Court justice; and Marshall McDonald, who later was the
president of the Florida Power and Light Group. There were three
women in the law school. The atmosphere among the students was
congenial, and the professors were tough. Foster participated in
the John Marshall Debating Society; he recollects a particular
debate with the team from Oxford University. He helped organize
the John Marshall Bar Association and served as its first
president in 1941. He also helped organize the first Barrister's
Ball, which was held at the Gainesville Country Club. Foster
pledged Theta Chi and Phi Alpha Delta fraternities.
He distinctly recalls studying in the law library when the
announcement came of the attack on Pearl Harbor. The mood of the
student body quickly turned patriotic. Because of his poor
vision, Foster was classified 4F and was ineligible for military
Shortly before he completed his law degree, Foster began
practicing in the firm of (Millard) Caldwell, McGinnis & Parker
in Tallahassee. He soon became a full partner in the firm. He
discusses the attempts to move the College of Law to Tallahassee
and how he helped convince Governor Caldwell not to move it.
Foster also played a role in the selection of Gainesville for the
College of Medicine, primarily because of its central location.
He also briefly discusses working law cases during the war.
Foster has tried cases all over the world.
S: Please state your full name.
F: Leo Luther Foster (Class of 1934, Univeristy of Florida, College of
S: Your residence.
F: 1902 Golf Terrace, Tallahassee, 'Florida.
S: When and where were you born?
F: I was born on September 22, 1912, in Nocon, Texas, in Montague County.
Actually I was born on Barrell Springs Ranch in Montague County.
S: And where were you rared?
F: In Jefferson County, Florida.
S: Jefferson County, Florida. In any city?
S: Monticello, that is right outside of Tallahassee.
F: Yes, it is twenty-five miles to the East.
S: Is that where you attended...
F: High School.
S: High School, where did you attend grade school?
F: Monticello also.
S: When did you first enter the University of Florida?
F: September 1930.
S: Now, was that to complete an undergraduate degree at that time?
F: Yes, I was a member of the class of thirty-four.
S: Class of thirty-four. What degree?
F: Bachelor of Arts in Education, in January 1934.
S: Those were the depression years, was that evident in Gainesville?
F:, Very much so, while I was in school the banks closed in Florida, with
the exception of my bank in Monticello. And Mrs. Ramsey, where we were
eating, Ma Ramsey we called her, fed us for several weeks until we
could get some money to pay her.
S: Who was she?
F: She was a lady that ran a boarding house off-campus, next door to the
College Inn, I believe you call it.
S: Did you live there?
F: No, I lived in the dormitories. I did not eat.in the cafeteria
for a while, but instead I ate with her.
S: And she would let you run a tab? Is that how it worked?
F: All of us, all the boys that were eating with her. She let us all
run tables. Nobody could get the money.. Nobody had any money.
S: How could you afford to be in school?
F: Well, we had matriculated and had paid our fees and so forth before
the banks all closed. The banks closed, as I remember, in October
S: So you were already in school.
F: Fortunately for me, I had money' in the Monticello Bank, and it
did not close.
S; Is that money you had saved for school?
F; Money, I had saved for school,
S; So did you put yourself through school?
F: Not entirely. There was money, that my family and I had saved for
me to go to school.
S: Can you think of any other ways that the Depression affected the
University,? Were there many students in school?
F; As I recall, there were 2,100 students in school.
S: Did the classes seem crowded?
F: They were very smalli-and most of the professors either walked to
work or rode bicycles. There were very few cars on campus, In fact,
in my class, there was only one car, as I recall, out of 100 graduates,
S: Do you remember who he was?
F: His name was J. Ray Arnold (J, Ray Arnold, College of Business
Administration and Lawl.
S: I bet he was popular.
F: Yes, the way I recall.
S: Did students have much of a social life during those years?
F: No, not much because it was strictly a men's school in 1930,
and our social life was in Tallahassee on the weekends at FSCW.
S: Did you come up here on the weekends?
F: Yes, we did.
S: How would you get here?
F: We would hitchhike most of the time with our ratcaps. The ratcaps
were the badge, which when people saw them, they would pick us up
if they were riding to Tallahassee. We had very little trouble
getting to Tallahassee and back.
S: What is a ratcap?
F: It was a orange cap with a blue "F" on it, and a thirty-four.
S: I heard a little about those. Did you get them as freshmen?
F: As freshmen, when we matriculated.
S: And it had the year in which you would graduate?
F: Right. The class of thirty-four.
S: So you hitchhiked with your ratcap on?
S: What about students working in Gainesville at that time. Were
there jobs to be had?
F: Yes, there were quite a few boys who would work in the different
dining halls and cafeterias for their meals. That was all the
compensation they received.
S: No pay?
F: No pay.
S: Did you work?
F: Yes, in the cafeteria at one time or another,
S: On campus?
F: On campus.
S: Did a lot of students eat in that cafeteria?
F: I would say a majority did. They either ate in the cafeteria,
or in some fraternity house, or in the boarding houses adjacent
to the campus.
S: If money was a problem, was it just as cheap to eat in the
cafeteria as it was to make sandwiches or eat at home?
F: It was about as cheap to eat in the cafeteria as it was to eat
anywhere. As I recall, most of the boys ate two meals a day.
They ate early lunch and dinner, and the fourteen meals cost
S: So, a week's food cost $2.50. You graduated in 1934?
F: In January of 1934.
S: When did you first enroll in law school?
F: In September of 1939.
S: So you had a break there inlbetween.
F: I was in government service from the time I graduated from the
University with an academic degree, until after I was enrolled in
law school at the University of Florida.
S: Can you tell me what type of service?
F: I cannot.
S: Just in government service.
F: I can tell you that on at least two occasions I was with President
Roosevelt on board the battlecruiser, at Houston at one time, and
another time in the Florida Keys. That was an interesting trip. I
have the identifications if you ever want to see them sometime.
S: I would be interested in seeing them.. So in September 1939, you
enrolled in law school. How did you decide to go to law school?
F: I had decided to go to law school as early as in elementary and
high school. I did not have any money to go, but I had a chance
to work with the government, so I took the job and saved my money
to go back to law school.
S: Why did you want to go to law school?
F: Because I always wanted to be a lawyer.
S: Did anyone influence you?
F: I do not think so, I just wanted to be a lawyer.
S: Were there any lawyers or doctors in your family?
F: No, most in my family are doctors, no lawyers.
S: Did your parents influence you at all?
F: I do not think that they influenced me any at all. I always
wanted to be a lawyer.
S: What type of work did your father do?
F: He was an engineer,
S: He worked here in Florida?
S: And did your mother work?
F: Yes, she was a housewife, of course, and then she did do some work,
but I have forgotten what it was, It seemed like it was with some of
the Roosevelt alphabet agencies, but I forgot what they were.
S: Was your father with railroads, or did he work on ...?
F: Roads, highways, highway construction,
S: And you just wanted to be a lawyer.
S: So you enrolled with a college degree,
S: Had that just become a requirement back then to get into law school?
F: I am not sure of that, but I think so.
S: I believe they started that in 1933. So you had your degree. Do
you remember applying to the law school.
S: Or where you had to go to sign up?
F: I believe they sent me my papers to sign up. I do not believe I went
to the campus until I actually enrolled, to the Registrar's Office.
S: Did you know anything about the law school when you were at the
University as an undergraduate?
S: Had you ever gone over there?
F: Yes, I had gone over there and participated in the debating society
called John Marshall Debating Society. I was on the debating team
and we debated Oxford. One of the debaters on the Oxford team was
a fellow named Floote, who later became very prominent in politics
S: Could you tell me a little bit about that debate with Oxford?
F: Yes, it was resolved that Britian should pay their war debts. We
were the affirmative and Oxford was the negative. I believe they
won, as I recall.
S: Where was that held?
F: Seems like it was held in the Law School Auditorium, but I am not
sure. It was either in the Law School Aduitorium or in the Chapel.
S: It is the University Auditorium, now.
F: Auditorium! I believe they called it that, too.
S: Was this debating society part of the Law School?
F: I do not remember whether it was really or not, I just remember
that debating was the only contact I had with the law school, I
do not remember whether we were part of the law school or whether
we were participating as people outside of the law school. I
do not remember.
S: Were there law students on the team?
S: But you did not have to be a law student.
F: You did not have to be a law student.
S: Well, that is interesting. Do you remember about what year that
was when you debated Oxford?
F: It seems like it was in 1933
S: So you were about a senior?
F: The fall of my senior year. I am sure the Alligator would have
something on that. It should.
S: I will go back and do some research on that. What were your
impressions of law school when you first enrolled? Was it an
F: I was completely fascinated. It was intense, but it was very
interesting, as law has been all my life.
S: What fascinated you?
F: Law, contract and criminal law, chancery pleadings.
S: Were you a studious sort of student?
F: I graduated with honors, I had excellent professors. Dean Trusler
(Harry R. Trusler, dean, University of Florida, College of Law,
1915-1947, professor 1904-1947) taught me Torts, Mr. TeSelle (Clarence
John TeSelle, professor, University of Florida, College of Law,
1928-1930, 1932-1958) taught me Contracts, Mr. Day (John Westbay
Day, professor, University of Florida, College of Law, 1930-1961)
taught me Property, and Judge Cockrell (Robert Spratt Cockrell,
professor, University of Florida, College of Law, 1919-1941) taught
me Criminal Law and Chancery Law, such as divorces, guardianships,
S: Were those your only four professor, or were those the ones that
F: There were the freshmen professor. We were talking about my fresh-
S: So they taught the freshmen. What was Dean Trusler like when you
F: Dean Trusler was an excellent teacher, but he had a habit of closing
his eyes as he lectured. Some of the boys would sit in the back and
slip out. They called the roll in those days, every class, and you
had no excuses so you had to attend class. Now, I will admit that
sometimes somebody would answer for somebody else in Dean Trusler's
class because his eyes were closed, but other than that...
S: He closed; his eyes even when he called the roll? Was he a robust
professor? What kind of character was he?
F: He was relatively a small man, sort of plump with grey hair.
S: Did you consider him tough
F: I did not. I thought he was very thorough and demanded that
everybody be prepared.
S: Did he call on you in class?
F: Oh yes. When he called the roll you answered whether you were
prepared or not prepared. And you certainly did not answer
prepared when you were not.
S: That was Torts. How about Professor Cockrell? What was
F: He was, I guess, a Supreme Court Justice who had been defeated
for the job. A bit bitter, but very intelligent.
S: A good professor?
F: A good professor.
S: Did his practical experience come through in his teaching?
F: I do not think he had any practical experience. I think he was
appointed. The rumor around campus was that he was appointed
to the Supreme Court by the governor, who thought he was
appointing his bother, who was a very distinguished lawyer
in Jacksonville. But Robert Spratt Cockrell, who was appointed
then, was a professor. That was a rumor, now. Whether there
is any justification to that I do not know, but it was the
talk of the town.
S: Would he refer to his having already been a Supreme Court
S: Would he refer to that in class?
F: Yes he did. Several times he would call attention to some of the
things that he had written. He was a specialist in criminal law.
S: How much competition do you remember among your classmates?
F: I do not remember any competition. We were all really interested
in law. And I do not think there was any competition to beat
the other students. I do not recall any real competition.
S: Were you friendly with most of your classmates?
F: Oh yes, I loved every one of them. All of them.
S: You knew all of them?
F: I knew all of them, and I was very fond of them.
S: Did you study together?
F: Oh yes.
F: Either in my quarters, or at the fraternity house, or at their
fraternity house, but mostly in the library or adjacent rooms
that belongs to the library.
S: Did they have rooms where you could study and hold discussions?
F: Oh yes.
S: Were there enough books to go around?
F: Oh yes,
S: No problem with that?
F: No problem with that,
S: In the library, was Ila Pridgen (Ila Roundtree Pridgen, Librarian
and Executive Secretary, University of Florida, 1930-1954)
F: She was the librarian when I first went there and served in a
second capacity as the dean's secretary. Later, I believe
Stanley West (Stanley L. West, Class of 1938, University of
Florida, College of Law, Assistant Librarian, 1937-1941, Director
of Libraries, 1941-1948) became the librarian. That is my
S: She was librarian and the dean's secretary at the same time?
F: As my recollection, she was during my freshman year, But I
think in my sophomore year, or maybe the second semester of
my freshman year, Stanley West came in. It seems to me that
he was Judge Cockrell's son-in-law.
S: I believe that is right. I think he married Caroline Cockrell
F: Dee Cockrell we called her. We called her Dee.
S: Do you remember Cockrell's daughter being at the school?
F: I know her. The two firls at the school when I was there
were Jeanette TeSelle, who was Professor TeSelle's daughter,
and Lois Thacker (Lois E. Thacker, (Mrs. Lois T. Graessle),
Class of 1941, University of Florida, College of Law).
S: Were they in your class?
F: And Mary Dewell (Mary F. Dewell, Class of 1942, University of
Florida, College of Law). There were three of them. No,
TeSelle and Thacker were a class ahead of me, but Mary Dewell
was in my class.
S: What about Jeanette TeSelle? Was she ever in her father's
S: How was that?
F: Well, he was teaching Contracts, and she had to have Contracts.
S: I have heard he was pretty tough on his students.
F: He was very tough.
S: Was he tough on his own daughter, do you know?
F: He was tough on everybody. I loved it. He made me a lawyer.
S: How is that?
F: He would just teach me how to practice law. How to handle
your cases. He would put you on your feet and make you believe.
I have never been more alert in my life as I was in his classes,
even when I argued cases before the United States Supreme
S: Because of him?
F: Because of him.
S: Would he drill you?
F: He would drill you, and then lead you out on a limb, and then
kick the limb out. He was just rough. He was just a great
professor. He was the best professor I ever had, academically
S: He had the practical experience.
F: Oh yes.
S: Did he ever set up mock trials or anything like that?
F: We did not have that.
S: So it was just a matter of him drilling you in class.
F: I believe that in my senior year, we did have some trial practice
with Bill McRae teaching (William A. McRae, professor, University
of Florida, College of Law). We had to prepare a case and try
it. I just recalled that.
S: In your senior year.
F: Yes, but not the freshman year.
S: Let us talk about that. I read that the law school had a
court room that was set up just like a regular court room.
F: That is right. Where we did our trial practice work.
S: Who served as judge?
F: We would have either the professor, Bill McRae, who later
became a federal judiciary, or we would have some of the prominent
alumni in the state come to sit in judgment.
S: Were they all local alumni?
F: No, they would come from other places.
S: How about Trusler, did he ever serve as the judge?
F: I do not recall he ever did.
S: Do you remember whether the court was a course that you
F: Yes, Trial Practice under Bill McRae. I had forgotten it until
you refreshed my memory.
S: What was McRae like?
F: It is hard to judge somebody that was a close friend of yours.
It is hard to be impartial. I thought he was a typical
Rhodes Scholar. I think he was a better professor than he
was a lawyer and probably was a better professor than he
was a judge. But, as I say, it is hard to judge somebody
who you were very close to at one time.
S: Did he help to give you practical experience through that
F: I think some, but again I go back to TeSelle who taught me how
to be a lawyer.
S: I do not know much about McRae. I do not know how long he
was there. I will have to check on that.
F: It seemed like two or three semesters. Then he was appointed
to the federal bench.
S: Do you know if that Trial Practice course was new at that time?
F: I believe it was. I just do not remember it until we took
it. It may have been going on, and I did not know about it.
I do not remember it. I am talking about forty-three years
S: Did you have mych association between seniors, juniors and
freshman, or was it all very separate?
F: It was not very separate; it was one law school. The seniors
met the freshmen, and the sophomores met the freshman, and
vice versa. There was an esprit de corps.
S: So you knew seniors when you were a freshman?
F: I was close friends with some of them and still am.
S: Was there anything that singled out the freshmen? Anything
at all? Anything they did?
F: I do not recall that.
S: How many students do you.remember being in a typical classroom
as a freshman. Let us say in Trusler's class or TeSelle's class.
F: Just sixty-five or seventy.
S: Big classes.
F: All the freshmen would be taking Contracts, all the freshmen
would be taking Property, so they were fairly big classes.
S: So everybody that was in the freshmen class would be in that
F: Practically all of them.
S: Did you attend school all day long?
F: Yes, most of our courses were in the morning, and we spent
the afternoon studying, but we did have some afternoon classes,
and we went to classes on Saturday morning, too.
S: Any night time classes?
F: I do not recall any night time classes.
S: Do you remember any field trips? Visits to the courtroom
F: I do not remember any at all, and I do not believe there were
S: Do you remember any visitors coming to the law school to
lecture to the students -- practicing lawyers?
S: Did you ever have competitions in law school, for example,
any court, like now they have the moot court competitions?
F: Only the Trial Practice class that we were talking about a
while ago. Only that.
S: Did you ever compete with other students?
F: Well, we were representing the plaintiff or the defendant
in cases. The lawyers for the opposing side would be, in that
sense, competition, but that is all as I remember.
S: How were you judged? Would you sit down with the professor
afterward, who would critique you?
F: What happened, which I think was a regular thing, is that we
had to prepare a trial brief. In that trial brief we had to
outline our opening statement, we had to outline the witnesses
we were going to use and what evidence they were going to
introduce. We had to outline the points of law that might
come up, where we put emphasis on testimony, and the validity
of all the evidence. We would have to outline our closing
arguments, and we would end the trial brief. We would also
have to prepare charges we were going to request the court
S: Put it all in there.
F: And the professor would go over our trial briefs, and if he
was not the judge, he was sitting in the court room listening
to our presentations and.grading us on the presentations.
S: Did you have people who served as witnesses?
F: Oh yes. Some of the students would serve as witnesses and we
would coach them.
S: So it was pretty realistic.
F: It was a realistic trial.
S: Would the professor sit down afterward and tell you how you
F: Exactly. Individually.
S: He would. Nowadays they video tape all that.
F; We did not know what a video tape was.
S: No. The professor plays the tape back with the student and tells
them how they can improve. The students say that helps a lot
because they can see themselves and hear themselves.
F: Burns is the one who said, "Would the Lord the gift to give
us, to see our selves as others see us." (Ode to a louse).
S: They say it is a good learning experience. In 1940, you would
have been a freshman, and 1941 you were a junior. Did you
go all three years of law school?
F: No, I had two and a half years of law school, but I went summers,
too. When I entered law school in 1939, I went every semester
that they had until I finished.
S: You were in a hurry?
F: Well, I was in a hurry. I knew we were going to have some
unpleasantness, and I thought it would be soon.
S: What gave you that idea?
F: I could just see what was happening in the world. I could see
that World War II was inevitable. And in 1939, when the
Germans went into Poland there was no question then. Eventually
America was going to be in the war, and I wanted to get through
before the war.
S: You did?
F: I was in the library studying the Sunday morning that Pearl
S: You were in the law library. Did you hear about it?
F: Yes, somebody came in and said that the Japs had bombed
Pearl Harbor. And that reminds me, I believe it is my re-
collection that I was studying with Jack Daniel, (J.J. Daniel,
Class of 1942, University of Florida, College of Law) who, at
one time, was the publisher of the Jacksonville Florida Times-
Union. You might put his name down and interview Jack, too.
Jack was a Princeton boy. He graduated from Princeton, but
he had come to Florida law school.
S; And you believe you were studying with him at that time.
F: That is my recollection.
S: What was the reaction of the law school?
F: Well, I believe a lot of them expected something to happen.
Of course, we never expected the Pearl Harbor situation, but
we felt like it was inevitable that we would be drawn in.
S: Had any students started leaving the law school before Pearl
Harbor to go off into the military?
F: Not that I recall.
S: Any of the R.O.T.C. boys?
F: I do not recall any of them leaving until after Pearl Harbor,
but a lot of them left immediatley after that semester was over.
See, Pearl Harbor happened in December, and the semester was
over in January. A lot of them left, including me. I had
S: Did the semester end after the holiday?
S: Did you take your exams after the holiday?
F: Yes. All of our exams were after the holidays when I was in
law school. We would go down for early Christams holidays
and prepare :reviews for the examinations coming up.
S: So you spent your holidays studying.
F: A lot of it.
S: You graduated right after Pearl Harbor.
F: I graduated the January after Pearl Harbor.
S: So you were fortunate. A lot of students have said they had
to leave and then come back and-finish their education.
F: I was fortunate because I had gone to school summers and winters
because I thought that it was coming.
S: So you saw something like that coming up and hurried to get
out of law school. Did you think other students were aware
of that? Were they rushing to get through, too?
F: I do not think so. Of course, I had insight, inside insight.
I was with President Roosevelt when he made that speech in
Key West, when he said he was giving Britain those destroyers.
S: So you had a pretty good idea from your government experience.
F: That is right. But I was in a position that I could not discuss
any of my government experience.
S: How old were you in law school, approximately?
F: Subtract 1912 from 1939.
S: So you were about thirty.
F: Yes, twenty-nine I guess.
S: So, you were a little bit older than the other students.
F: Right. That is correct.
S: Do you think that helped you? Was that an advantage?
F: Very much so. Especially the experience that I had had in those
S: Were most of the students younger, or were there any around
F: No, most of them were younger. Anywhere from three.or four
years younger. There was one, maybe two, that were my age.
One boy named Danny Clark, (Vernon Wilmont Clark, Class of
1942; Professor, University of Florida, College of Law,
(1946 1974 and 1976 1977)) who later became a professor.
He was about my age, and he had considerable experience. He
had been principal of Leon High School in Tallahassee before
he went to law school.
S: I would like to have an interview with him, too, In
S: Was Frank.Maloney (Frank T, Maloney, dean, University of Florida,
College of Law, (1958 1970).) one of your classmates, too?
F: Yes, but he did not graduate in January. He graduated in the
Spring, I believe.
S: But you know him?
F: Very well, in fact, I believe that you will find that when
he was being considered for the dean of the law school,
President Reitz (J. Wayne Reitz, President, University of
Florida, (1955 1967)) came up and made a special visit to
me for my analysis of Frank Maloney as a dean. I think President
Reitz will verify that now if you want to talk to him.
S: Were you already practicing?
F: Oh yes.
S: So you put in a good word for Frank Maloney?
F: Yes, I recommended him very strongly, and I think I would do
S: What other classmates stand out in your mind?
F: All of them. Phil Yonge, (Philip K. Yonge, Class of 1942,
University of Florida, College of Law), P.K. Yonge, John
Ruff (John Ruff, Class of 1947, University of Florida, College
of Law), and Ray Ehrlich (Hon. Raymond Ehrlich, Class of 1942,
University of Florida, College of Law; Justice, Florida
Supreme Court, 1981 present)j
S: I am going to interview him next week.
F: You will like Ray.
S: There were quite a few prominent people who were members of
F: Jack Daniel.
S: Do you agree?
F: There was a boy named Marshall McDonald, (Marshall McDondal
Jr., Class of 1941, University of Florida, College of
Law; Chairman of the Board, Florida Power & Light Company)
who is now president of Florida Power & light. It is hard to
remember forty-six years ago.
S:; You are doing a good job. It is hard for me to remember my
college days, and I have only been out six years. As I said,
there were a lot of prominent people in that class. What
made them successful? Do you think the training helped, or
were they outstanding to begin with?
F: I think they were well-educated in the law. I think that we
had.the finest law school in the South in those days. We
did not have any frills. We studied law, and I think we were
fortunate enough to have an extraordinarily good faculty.
Plus, we had a better than average student body, because they
had to have a degree to get into law school. They were selective
in that you had to have a degree with good marks to get into
law school. A certain number would flunk out their freshman
year. Those that did not make it their freshman were cut out
so to speak. If the professors did not think they could make
lawyers, they just did not pass, and if they did not pass, they
were kicked out of law school. So, I think that when they
did graduate, they knew law and they knew people.
S: Were there quite a few that were kicked out?
F: I would say a third of my freshman class did not finish the
S: So that was a pretty big weeding out.
F: Oh, Fletcher Rush (Fletcher G. Rush, Class of 1942, University
of Florida, College of Law), to go back a bit, was one of my
very good friends, too. He was in my class. Elmo Robinson
rH. Elmo Robinson, Class of 1942, University of Florida,
College of Law), was one of my classmates that I liked
S: Did you ever consider going anywhere else to law school?
S: Was that the place to go?
F: That was the place to go.
S: Did it have a reputation?
F: It was the law school in Florida. Stetson was a distant
S: Did most of the people that were dropped from the Florida
Law School go to Stetson?
F: Not to my knowledge.
S: When you were getting ready to graduate and other students
were getting ready to leave to go to war, was their a big
good-bye or any scenes like that?
F: I do not believe so. I do not remember any. I think each
had his own mission; each had his own destiny. I do not
remember any celebrations. We were all in a state of shock
after Pearl Harbor, and when we realized that the Japs had
knocked out our whole fleet .
S: You were in a state of shock, then.
F: Yes, we thought Hawaii would be next, and then maybe the
West Coast would be next. As I recall, Roosevelt incarcerated
most of the Japanese on the West Coast and kept them in a
concentration camp of some kind. I believe the Japs were
actually bombing Attu Island and the other Aleutians. We
were not at all sure that we would not have to fight a war
on our own grounds.
S: Do you remember talking to other students about that?
F: Denise, I do not remember that. I remember how I felt.
S: Do you keep up with it through the newspapers mostly?
F: Yes, and through announcers.
F: Yes, radio.
S: Did you go into the military?
F: I did not. I was drafted and my classification was "four F"
because of my eyes. So they never took me, although I tried
to talk them into it.
S: You did?
F: I wanted to go. I had a very good friend who was the
Quartermaster General named, Rufus Boylan, General Boylan,
and he wanted me to come in, but they would not pass me,
because of my eyes.
S: Among your classmates, was there a feeling of patriotism?
F: Yes, very mcuh so. When I first went to school there was
some feeling of isolationism on the campus, but after
Pearl Harbor there was none. It was all patriotism.
S: How about the feeling of isolationists?
F: As I recall, it disturbed me some. They felt it was England's
war and they did not want to fight it. We had pulled their
chestnuts out of the fire in 1917. They got themselves in
this war; let them fight it. It was the minority feeling,
but it was a strong minority feeling.
S: Then after Pearl Harbor?
F: The day after Pearl Harbor we had no isolationists on the
S: You and people that you knew wanted to go?
F: That is right. We wanted to get it over with. I had taken
two years of R.O.T.C. at the university.
S: You had? When was that?
F: During my academic period.
S: Was that popular?
F: It was compulsory.
S: Oh it was? Well, that is an interesting change. It is certainly
not :compulsory anymore.
S: Had the military begun drafting students before you left?
S: So that must have been right after.
F: From De-ember to January, about a month, thirty days.
S: Tell me about some of the activities in which you were involved
in law school, other than studying.
F: In the Fall of 1940, I met with some of the Florida Bar
Association officials, The President of the Florida Bar Associ-
ation was very interested in establishing a Student Bar at
Florida. At that time, we started organizing a John Marshall
Bar Association, as we called it. It was the fall of 1940
or theLspring of 1941 when we-had the-first election of officers
of the John Marshall Bar Association. And I was elected
President of the John Marshall Bar Association, the first
president of the John Marshall Bar Association. I defeated
Al Graessle (lHon. Albert W. Grawssle, Class of 1941, University
of Floridd, College of Law), who became a circuit judge
in Jacksonville, and married Lois Thacker. Lois is his widow
now. Bill Goza (William M. Goza, Class of 1941, University
of Florida, College of Law). handled his campaign, as I recall,
and John Ruff handled mine. That is the way the John Marshall
Bar Association started.
S: You met with the Bar officials?
F: That is right,
S: Was it just you meeting with them?
F: As I recall, it was just me. Fletcher Rush might have gone
with me, but I do not know. I remember going to Tampa and
talking to whomever this man was, I forgot his name.
S: To Tampa? Why Tampa?
F: Because that is where he lived.
S: And he was the president.
F: The Florida Bar did not have any office in Tallahassee. It
was jIst a voluntary organization, and the office was wherever
the president was. It was later that we built this building
S: I figured that it had always been headquartered here. Who was
the President of the Bar Association then?
F: I do not know.
S: I will have to check it out. And it was his idea to establish
F: It was his idea and the board's idea to establish a student
bar association. He wanted a student bar association at the
University of Florida and a student bar association at
Stetson. I do not know what happened at Stetson. I do know
that we started one at Florid, and I was the first president.
S: What was the purpose of that organization?
F: Same as any other bar association in Florida, It was like the
Tallahassee Bar Association, the Voluntary Bar Association,
but it was a student bar association and our dues were not
as much. I think the state bar association was five dollars
a year at that time, It seems to me that fellow had a Latin
name, but I cannot think of it.
S: I have to do some research at the bar, so I can check. I am
sure they would have a record.
F: They probably have minutes on this. You ought to find something
in the Alligator, too, about the election and the officers
and that sort of thing.
S: Was the idea to prepare students for membership in the Bar?
F: No. As with any other bar at that time, it was more of a social
organization to instill the spirit of being a lawyer,
S: And how would you do that?
F: We started the first Barrister's Ball. We had the first
Barrister's at the Gainesville Country Club. We could have
beer at the Gainesville Country Club, but we could not have
it on campus. I believe the first Barrister's Ball was held
in the fall of 1941. You should be able to find some ink on
it in the Alligator, too.
S: Did you have regular meetings?
F: I do not remember.
S: Were all the students at the law school members?
S: Everyone.. Was the first Barrister's Ball a big dance?
F: It was sort of a dance. We had our tables where everybody
sat, and we had a place to dance.
S: Did you have a band?
F: Yes. A student band of course, a campus band. It seems
like it was Banzi Curry or it could have been Rabbit Robbins
or some of those bands of those days. It could have been
S: Did they have women at that ball.
F: Yes, we had, of course, law school women, but we had Gainesville
girls, so you could bring your dates.
S: And did women come in from Tallahassee for that?
F: As I recall, they did. Some of them had girls down for
S: Was it a big thing?
F: Well, we thought so.
S: So that was the first, and you were the first.
F: That is right. Then I was elected president of the law
school class of 1942. And, of course, when I left in January,
whoever was vice-president took over my duties. I do not
even remember who the vice-president was. Let me tell you
a funny thing about that election. We had two parties on the
campus in those days. Both parties nominated me for president
of the senior class, so I had no opposition. That is the
way I won. If I had opposition I would have probably been
S: Who were the parties?
F: Seems like one of them was named the Gator Party, but I have
forgotten the other one. I had very dear friends in both
parties, as you could tell, because they both nominated
S: Was that just a law school election.
F: Yes, this was just the president of the law school class of
S: So it was just law students who voted.
F: And only that class.
S: Were those parties representing that class?
F: The parties were campus-wide. They nominated for all the
different offices on campus from the president of the student
body down the ranks including class officers. Like the
National Democratic Party nominates right on down through the
ranks. So in that sense it was a campus organization, and
some of the fraternities belonged to the Gator Party and
some of the fraternities belonged to the other party.
S: Were you in a fraternity?
F: Theta Chi and Phi Alpha Delta.
S: Was student government a big thing back then?
F: I did not think so. It was fun. It was more fun than it was
S: Students did not have a lot of power.
F: Very little power, if any. The fact is that the dean of students
and the president ran the university.
S: Well, you must have been popular.
F: Maybe I was. No, I would not say I was popular. I think the
boys respected me because I was.older, and I think they liked
me, but I do not think I was any more popular than anyone else.
S: You graduated with honors. Were you on the dea4's list
throughout law school.
F: I do not believe we had dean's lists. I do not recall a
dean's list at all.
S: Any other types of awards?
F: Blue Key. But, no, I do not remember. I was given the
Centennial Alumni Medal of Honor by President Miller (J. Hillis
Miller, President, University of Florida, (1947 1953)),
which I have and I think that was the first one that they gave.
S: You were a member of Blue Key?
S: Was that organization well established by then?
F: Oh yes. During the fall of 1941, Governor Caldwell, (Millard
F. Caldwell, Governor of Florida 1945 -.1949), who at that
time was Congressman Caidwell, or had just left the congress,
talked to some of the professors at the university about hiring
somebody in the class to practice law with him when he set up
in Tallahassee, and the faculty recommended me. I was chosen
by Governor Caldwell, who later ran for governor. He was
elected governor of Florida while I practiced law with him.
My law firm was CMidwell, Parker, Foster & Wigginton, and I
was the trial lawyer in that firm for years and years.
In 1945, right as the war was coming to a close, there
was a concerted effort to make FSU coeducational and move
the law school from Gainesville to Tallahassee, because
Tallahassee had the Supreme Court, the Federal Court, and all
the agencies. It disturbed the faculty down in Gainesville
very much, because they had homes there. They liked Gainesville
and they did not want to see the law school moved. When I
found out about it, it was practically done. The majority
of the members of the Board of Control in those-days, which
we now call the Regents, wanted it moved from a practical
standpoint. I worked very strenuously, and I talked Governor
Caldwell out of moving it and we kept it in Gainesville,
Then I was president of the University of Florida Alumni
Association. You call it national president now, but in those
days it was just president of the association. Congressman Billy
Matthews, (D.R. "Billy" Matthews, U.S. House of Representatives,
(1953 1967)), who is somebody.else you might want to talk
to, was my secretary. In 1944, I believe, a bill was passed
establishing the medical school at Miami. There was a
concerted effort to put the medical school in Miami because
the tropical nature of Miami would make it a good place to
research tropical diseases. Dr. Cason in Jacksonville, who
is a very prominent alumnus, wanted it in Jacksonville, Of
course, I wanted it in Gainesville, I persuaded Governor
Caldwell to allow me to pick out the best man we could in
the United States to make a survey and tell us where the
medical school ought to be. I said that was the only way that
made sense. At that time, I was attorney for the Florida
Highway Patrol, too. So I took the appointee, who was dean
of Virginia Medical School, I believe. Anyway, Governor
Caldwell appointed him to make the survey. I took him and
Billy Matthews in a Highway Patrol car and the three of us went
all over the state. When we finished the impartial survey,
we decided the medical school ought to be in Gainesville.
S: Was that before they had started building it anywhere?
F: There was no. medical school anywhere. They were going to use Miami.
Dean Lippard was his name. He was dean of the School of Medicine at the
University of Virginia.
S: Why would Gainesville be his choice?
F: Well, we figured at that time, Gainesville was more centrally located
in the state than aniy other place. More than a majority of the population
lived within 160 miles of Gainesville, when you considered Tallahassee,
Jacksonville, Orlando, Tampa, St. Petersburg, those areas. If you put
the school down in Miami, it would be limited to South Florida. We
wanted a teaching hospital. We wanted it where we.could bring in.people
from the state to learn at a teaching hospital. That was Dean Lippard's
reason. You can find his conclusions in a report; it is filed. I think
that was the primary persuasion we had. My main argument was that most
of our basic science courses were taught in Gainesville, and it did not
make sense to uproot the students and take them down to Miami and teach
S: Were your feelings so strong about the law school staying there for the
F: No, because my friends were on the faculty. They knew I was on that
council, and I was going to see that they were not hurt if I could
S: And they wanted it to stay there.
F: Mr. Day, Mr. TeSelle, and a fellow named Dean Slagle, (Dean Slagle,
professor, University of Florida, College of Law, 1923-1928 and 1929-
1958) who were all on the faculty at that time, came up to see me and
told me about these developments. I told them they could go home,
because it was not going to happen.
S: Was Gainesville the academic community then that it is now?
F: I do not know what it is now, because I have not been down there in a
long time, but at that time it was town and gown. The town was here
and the gown was there. We did not associate with the town.'iofTGainesville
very much. The university was it. We went to the picture show downtown,
we had some dates downtown, and some of us would go to church downtown,
but it was mostly a town and gown situation.
S: So the university was really separate from the city?
F: Yes. L. K. Edwards is another person, (L. K. Edwards, Jr., Florida
Senate 20th District (1955-1965); 14th District (1966); 13th District
(1967-1968)) if you really want to find out about the medical school.
I would put him donw there. L. K. Edwards was a rancher over at Irvine
and a very wealthy man, a very fine man. He was one of my closest
friends, and was my right hand man in establishing the medical school
in Gainesville. He ought to be given all the credit. Of course, he
became the state senator from Marion County, Shands, (William A. Shands,
32nd District, (1941-1959); President 1957-1959 ) who was senator from
Alachua County at the time, was instrumental in getting the bill to
the legislature and getting it passed.
S: So you retained an interest in higher education?
F: Yes, especially at the University of Florida.
S: That is great. By keeping both the law school and medical school there,
it really has become an academic community. The whole city is centered
around that university. You went to work for Governor Caldwell right
out of school?
F: Right out of school. In fact, I went to work for him before I actually
S: Was that an internship?
F: No, I was just visiting there for the Christmas holidays, and he put me
S: Was that the Christmas right before you graduated?
S: What was the firm called when you entered it?
F: Caldwell, McGinnis & Parker. McGinnis was appointed county judge about
the time I went in, and then it became Caldwell, Parker, & Foster.
S: So you became a partner in the firm?
F: Within a year. You remember all the lawyers had gone to war. It was
not brilliance; it was the fact that there were not any lawyers here.
S: So you started to work that Christmas, and then went back to school and
took your exams?
F: I went back to school and took my exams, and then I came right back here
and started trying law suits.
S: Did you go to any kind of graduation ceremony?
F: Yes, I did. I remember going to a ceremony, but I went down there to
graduate from law school and came right back here to the firm.
S: Who gave you your diploma?
F: Dean Trusler.
S: During that ceremony?
S: Did you walk up and get it?
F: We sat in different sections in the auditorium, and they would announce
the law-school, and all the law students would rise. They would say,
"Seniors, you are now graduated," and the dean would pass out diplomas.
I think we would walk up, and the dean gave them to us. I forgot
exactly how that was done, but we had to stand up in a body when they
called on us.
S: Did you wear a cap and gown?
S: Did they announce those students who graduated with honors?
F: No, only thing we received for graduating with honors was a Bachelor
of Law degree with a seal of honors on it and an orange and blue ribbon
across the corner. I have that in the attic at the house.
S: Do you remember if they mentioned anything about the war at that
F: I do not believe so. I think it was a very formal graduation ceremony.
S: Did anyone give a speech?
F: Maybe Dr. Tigert. (James J. Tigert, President, University of Florida,
1928-1947) Oh, yes he did. Senator Hodges from Tallahassee, (William
C. Hodges, Florida Senate, 8th District, 1923-1939; President, 1935-1937)
I believe was the commencement speaker, but Dr. Tigert, who was president
of the university at the time, was also a speaker. Incidentally, Dr.
Tigert came one day with TeSelle and Slagle, when they wanted me to stop
that movement of the law school from Gainesville to Tallahassee. Maybe
I am tooting my own horn too much. It was not the fact that I had any
power; I was just fortunate enough to be the governor's law partner.
S: He had already become governor at that time?
F: At that time he was governor. At the time we are talking about, he
had just become governor in 1945.
S: So they thought if they came to you...?
F: Well, I do not know why they came to me. They knew me, and I knew the
governor. I was practicing law with the governor.
S: Did they come to your office?
F: Yes. We owned the building right there where that hotel is. That is
where we practiced law. They came to that building that is the
governor's office right over there in that building. I can walk right
out of my door and walk over to the governor's office.
S: What happened to that building?
F: They are building a Hall of Justice there now. They tore it down and
dug it up. See, right in that hole.
S: Yes, I saw the hole and wondered what happened to the building.
F: They tore it down.
S: You got out of law school the, and went right to work. Were you prepared
to go to work?
F: I think so. My first spring, my senior law partner, who was the trial
lawyer at the time, got sick with the mumps, and I had to try all his
cases that had been docketed for trial. And meanwhile, I was trying law
S: Were you scared, being a young lawyer...?
F: Sure, I was scared. I was scared to death. I remember very well the
first case I ever had. I had gone over to argue a motion and the judge
said, "I rule with you. Draw the order." I came back to the firm and I
said, "Julius, the judge told me to draw an order. (Julius F. Parker,
Florida House of Representatives, Leon County, 1943-1945) I do not
know how to draw an order. They did not teach me how to draw an order
in law school. I thought that was the judge's job." So when I got to
be a judge, I made the lawyers draw the orders.
S: How long did you work with Governor Caldwell, before he became governor?
F: From 1942 to 1945. When he became governor, he was still a member of
the firm, and when he was appointed Civil Defense Administrator, in
the Truman Cabinet in Washington, he left the firm again. But, when
he got through with that, he came back to the firm. Then he was
appointed to the Supreme Court, and when he finished being on the Supreme
Court, he came back to the firm. So, we were closely associated from
1941 until he died.
S: Did he help you out when you were first with the law firm if you had
F: Oh yes. What we would do back in those days, each lawyer kept a docket.
This is it. We kept what we filed in each case, and we had an appointment
book of what to do. So we never let anything slip up on us. Then every
week we would meet either on Saturday morning or Saturday afternoon,
and go over each case that each one of us was handling, the status of it,
and what we would do with it. When Governor Caldwell had a case, he
would come out with some of the most preposterous ideas about that case
I have ever heard of. And I said, "Oh no, that is not the way you do
it, No, this is the way you do it." He said, "Well, if you think that
is the way to do it, you handle it yourself." So it took me about two
years to find out what he was doing. He was taking those positions to
get me to argue about them so he could make me go to.work.
S: So you would take the case, and everyone in the 'firm knew what everyone
else was doing.
F: That is right. Mostly. When the war was going on later, the lawyers
from south Florida could not come to Tallahassee easily. So they would
associate either with me or Julius to argue their cases for them in the
Supreme Court. That means they would file their briefs and everything,
but to present their case in the Supreme Court, they would associate with
either me or Julius to handle it for them. One morning, I started out of
the office, and Julius turned to me, he said, "Are you going to the
Supreme Court?" I said, "Yes, I have to go over there." He said, "I
have a case over there, too." So when we got over there, we found out
that I had been associated on one side of it, and he had been associated
on the other side of it, and we both had to step down.
S: You did? That would have been a conflict?
F: Right. So that is how hectic is was during the war. We did not have
time to go over our cases like we did later.
S: What was the case load like during the war? Were lawyers in big demand?
F: Oh yes, gosh yes. See we were just a few lawyers, and we were very much
in demand. That is the jump I got on most of the lawyers in my class,
because I had so much practice. During the war, there were no lawyers
here, and all the law practice had to be done.
S: That is interesting. Most of the people I have talked to, if not all
the people so far, were away at the war. Just about everyone I have
talked to. So you jumped right in.
F: It was sink or swim.
S: Did you remain with the law firm? How long did you stay with the law
F: I just do not remember show long I stayed with the law firm. During
the time I was practicing, we formed the Tallahassee Bank and Trust
Company, which now is Barnett Bank. I served on the Board of Directors
of the Tallahassee Bank and Trust Company, as an attorney for the
Tallahassee Bank and Trust Company, on the Executive Committee of
the Tallahassee Bank and Trust Company, and later, I did all of that
for Barnett Bank. I also had extensive civil practice in law suits.
A big mortgage compnay named Commonwealth went bankrupt, and District
Court judges here wanted me to take over and handle the thing for them
as special master, because it was completely out of their field.
Neither one of the district judges had the experience that I had to
be the judge in that case. They appointed me as special master, and
it later developed that I had to take over the Federal Bankruptcy
judge's job. That was the Commonwealth case and that is the way I
got to be judge. I have had a terrible time living it down.
S: How long-did you serve in that capacity?
F: Several years, I do not know. Well, I had the experience. I had the
banking experience, I had the civil law experience, and I knew
bankruptcy law. I had formerly been associated with the bankruptcy
court when I was very young, but I have forgotten when. But I did
have some bankruptcy experience, I had some banking experience, and
I had some law experience, and the Commonwealth case needed all of
S: So that is when you became a judge?
F: That is Federal Bankruptcy Judge.
S: Did you serve in the court house? Where is the Federal courthouse here?
F: See it over yonder?
S: Oh yes. Is that where you served?
F: Yes. Not only there, I held court in Gainesville; I held court in
Tallahassee; I held court in Marianna; I held court in Panama City,
and I held court in Pensacola one a month.
S: So you were the judge for all this area?
F: The whole northern district of Florida.
S: Were you the Federal Bankruptcy Judge at that time?
F: The only.
S: What years?
F: I do not know. I forgot.
S: Do you think I can find that out?
F: Oh yes. It is a matter of record over there.
S: Was that still during war, or was that much later?
F: No, that was much later.
S: After that did you come back to the law firm?
F: No, after that I decided that I had all the money that I wanted. I
had all the fame and fortune that I wanted, and what I wanted to do
then was to have my own office. I wanted to handle just the cases
that I wanted to handle, and do just the things that I wanted to do.
S: You opened your own law firm?
F: No, I did not want a law firm. I just wanted to be independent and
do the things I wanted to do.
S: What were those things?
F: Well, represent some people who I thought had a just cause but could
not afford a good lawyer. Some of my friends needed help. Many of
those times, I would refer the case to someone else. The people would
come and talk to me, and I would call a lawyer and tell him to handle
it. Other things that I did not want to fool with. But I just wanted
to be interesting, to have a secretary and my books and friends and
that sort of thing. I did not want to retire, but I did not want the
burden of a law practice.
S: When was that?
F: After I quit being a Federal Bankruptcy Judge.
S: Right after that?
F: Yes. I was fortunate that my Barnett Bank stock had become very,
S: And that is what you continued to do since you served as the bankruptcy
F: I just had my own office with my own secretary, and handled the cases
that I wanted to handle, and did the things that I wanted to do.
S: Did you keep busy?
F: Well, as busy as I wanted to be.
S: And you chose to remain in Tallahassee?
F: Because I love Tallahassee. I married a Tallahassee girl. Her family
came to Tallahassee in 1835, but her people came over here from England
S: What is her name?
F: Her name was Mary Frances Chittenden. We have some furniture in our
house that the Chittendens had made and brought here in 1635.
S: Looking back, did you law school education prepare you for things you
faced in the legal profession?
F: I would say that my law school education made me a millionaire.
S: Do you attribute a lot of that to TeSelle or Trusler or Day?
F: Indeed I do.
S; So you continue to use things that they taught you?
F: Even when I was a bankruptcy judge I could remember things that TeSelle
taught me in his Evidence class, or things that Trusler had tuaght me
in Torts, yes.
S: What happened when all these veterans started coming back?
F: They took over a lot of the practices, and became real good lawyers
or businessmen and remained my friends.
S: Did the work load ease a bit when they came back?
F: No, not mine, because we jsut had a terrific practice. Well, I had
a case one time in Haiti. I tried another case, took my wife and
court reporter with me, in South Africa. We tried a case in Pretoria
and then went to Cape Town. I tried a case in Australia. We had a
terrific practice, and it was still a terrific practice when I left
the firm to become a bankruptcy judge. At that time I had decided,
really, that I had all I wanted. My ambition was to be a lawyer, and
I had been a lawyer. And I had acquired all the money that I possibly
could ever have used.
S: Are there any other accomplishments or events that you would like to
discuss between the time when you stopped being a bankruptcy judge and
F: No, I just had fun, and I still do.
S: Well, good. Now let us see if there is anything else I want to ask
you about. We covered quite a bit.
F: Well, I have got to go. I enjoyed chatting with you. I do recommend
that you see Billy Matthews. He will give you a lot of background.
I also recommend that you see Fletcher Rush.