Interview with William H. Jackson (March 2, 1988)

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Interview with William H. Jackson (March 2, 1988)
Jackson, William H.
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Marion County (Fla.) -- History.


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

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Samuel Proctor Oral History Program, Department of History, University of Florida
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This interview is part of the 'Marion County' collection of interviews held by the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program of the Department of History at the University of Florida
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Interviewee: William H. Jackson

Interviewer: Kevin Molholland

March 2, 1988

M: This is Kevin Molholland on March 2, 1988. I am at Central
Florida Community College, Ocala, Florida. I am
interviewing Mr. William H. Jackson. This will be a life
history of a man who has been very active in education in
Florida for all his life. This interview will concentrate
on his role as a community college leader.

If you would like to start by giving your name for the
historical record, I would appreciate it.

J: My name is William H. Jackson.

M: Bill Jackson is how you are known in the community, right?

J: Yes. To young people I am known as "Papa Jack."

M: If you could, begin by talking about where you were born,
when you were born, etc.

J: I was born in DeFuniak Springs, Florida, January 26, 1917.

M: The year World War I broke out?

J: Yes, that is right. [World War I began on September 1, 1914.
The United States entered the conflict on April 6, 1917.

M: Tell us a bit about DeFuniak Springs at that time. It is
near Pensacola, is that right?

J: It is near Pensacola.

M: So you are a native Floridian?

J: Yes. When I was growing up, it was a logging community,
where lumber was produced. There were several big mills
there. And, of course, it was also a farming area. But I
never had too much experience with farms. My daddy was a
carpenter, and I worked with him. My mother was a
seamstress, so she stayed at home most of the time. She did
other things that people did at that time. When there were
not many [coin-operated] laundries, she took in laundry and
that kind of thing. And, I guess, the sisters helped her do
that kind of work.

M: Hard-working people?

J: Yes, hard-working people.

M: Would you characterize your family as being relatively
prosperous or fairly unprosperous? How would you have


characterized your family compared to other people that

J: Compared to other people, I guess we were better off.

M: But that may not be saying much, right?

J: No, it may not be saying much--not for that time. But we
owned our own home, and we always had enough to eat. My
daddy was always employed. And, of course, all of the
children learned to work, although my sisters never worked
away from home except for one. There were nine of us who
lived to adulthood. I have five sisters living and two
brothers. There were six sisters and four brothers. Two
brothers are living and two are deceased. One was killed at
the age of six. He was coming home from school when a car
hit him. My older brother, the one next to me, and I worked
at summer resorts in up-state New York and also in Florida
on the west coast.

M: How old were you then?

J: Sixteen or seventeen.

M: Was that during high school or after high school?

J: During high school and after high school.

M: I may come back to that because it is very interesting, but
tell us more about your early life. What about grade
school? Did you attend grade school locally?

J: I attended grade school locally, and I graduated from the
tenth grade. At that time there was no high school there,
so I went to a college that had a high school department.
It was called Florida Memorial College and was located in
St. Augustine, Florida, at the time. It is now located in

M: What year did you go to St. Augustine?

J: I was there for four years. I finished two years of college
and two years of high school, and I was the valedictorian of
my class.

M: So let me get this straight. You graduated tenth grade from
high school near Pensacola. Was that Pensacola High School
or DeFuniak Springs?

J: DeFuniak Springs.


M: And then you attended what we would now call the last two
years of high school and your first two years of college at
Florida Memorial.

J: Yes.

M: Was that transition from tenth to twelfth grade unique to
the black educational system?

J: Well, during the 1930s many times there were no high schools
in smaller communities. They had just begun to develop
them. And, of course, I wanted to continue my education, so
I felt the need to leave. Of course, I worked my way
through college. Out of the nine of us, six are college

M: That is a remarkable achievement. If you were from
Pensacola, or whatever, were there high schools for you to

J: There were high schools there, but it was much easier for me
to go to the college and work my way through than to live in

M: Why would that be?

J: Well, the college needed students who were willing to work.

M: What were your jobs going through college?

J: I played football, and I also was a cook.

M: So during the semesters when you were a football player, you
earned free tuition?

J: Yes.

M: You do not have to be shy about this, but I know you earned
some real fame as a football player. Would you care to tell
us about that?

J: During that time there were four black colleges in the state
of Florida. They were E.W.C., or Edward Waters College, in
Jacksonville; Bethune-Cookman [in Daytona Beach] and Florida
Memorial in St. Augustine; and Florida A & M University [in

M: You were, I think, selected all-state. So in modern times
you would have been .


J: Well, during that time I was a pretty large man in
comparison. But now I would be considered small, even
though I am 245 [pounds]. [laughter]

M: I guess that would be true of me, too. So having been on
the football team earned you a remission of tuition?

J: Yes.

M: As far as the cook, that was for cash, I assume.

J: That was for money you needed for spending change, and you
got that from the government. It was called student aid.

M: Like work study on campus today?

J: Yes.

M: Did you play football at Florida A & M, too, because I know
you ultimately went there.

J: I ultimately went there, but before I started playing I was
called into the service. When I came back, I did not
continue [playing football].

M: So let us go back to the work you mentioned when you were in
college and high school at Florida Memorial. Tell us
something about your New York and Florida jobs.

J: Every summer--and that included Florida A & M University,
too--some boys went to work tobacco. Some went to work in
various hotels that were on the west coast of Florida. But
I always chose up-state New York on what they called Saranac
Lake. I worked up there for a number of years until I
finished college. Of course, I used some of the money to
help Mother support the kids. My brother did the same

M: What position did you hold in the hotel trade?

J: I started out as a dishwasher. Then I was a vegetable cook;
I was assistant baker; and then I was a bellhop.

M: You worked on the west coast of Florida, too. Where did you
work there?

J: At Fort Walton. I was a bartender and also a waiter.

M: Which was most lucrative? Which paid the most money?

J: The waiter.


M: You obviously had a very busy time. When did you leave St.

J: In 1940.

M: Then you went to Florida A & M for two years?

J: I went to Florida A & M for a year and a little more.

M: Did you have your bachelor's [degree] by then?

J: No, it was interrupted.

M: How did you find Tallahassee [Florida A & M] compared to St.

J: Being a private school, it [Florida Memorial] was a little
different in terms of the kind of instruction and the kind
of attention and assistance given students in order [for
them] to achieve high scores and that kind of thing.

M: So you thought Florida Memorial was more supportive?

J: More supportive in that role.

M: How did you find the academic standards at both

J: Well, in relation to what I have learned since I have been
to a lot of other institutions--including Indiana
University, Columbia University, [George] Peabody [College
for Teachers, Nashville, TN] and that kind of thing--there
was a lack of physical facilities that gave you the kind of
exposure that was needed in order to be really successful
without always struggling.

M: How about the quality of instruction?

J: The quality of instruction was always good.

M: You would say that they were very dedicated teachers?

J: They were dedicated teachers!

M: But I would imagine that facilities were poor, like

J: Yes, libraries, audio visuals, and laboratories were poor.

M: Science, I guess, was particularly a problem area.

J: Yes.


M: What was your specialty? What were you majoring in at the

J: I first started out in premed, but, I realized pretty soon
that it would not be possible for me to continue my
education, so I switched to political science and education.

M: With a career in teaching in mind?

J: With a career in teaching, and later I thought I might go on
to law school.

M: When were you through at Florida A & M for the first time?

J: I was through at Florida A & M for the first time and came
back out of service in 1946, and I was through in 1949.

M: I asked that question very badly. You went to Florida
A & M, had your education interrupted, then went back later.

J: Yes.

M: When was your education actually interrupted? When did you
go into the service?

J: In 1942.

M: Let us go back to the service later; let us finish your
education before we do that. What branch of the service did
you serve in?

J: Finance.

M: Was that [in the] army, marines?

J: Army--the 92d Division. I was chief of the financial
section of enlisted pay.

M: What did that involve?

J: That involved payroll and dealing with all the rules and
regulations of the government payment of troops.

M: You had not had much training for that, had you?

J: Well, they sent you to school. All you had to do was be
smart enough to make a high score on the test.

M: Were you glad to get that duty?

J: I sure was!


M: I would have been, too. [Laughter] Did you go overseas at

J: Yes. We got off the boats initially in Oran, Africa
[Algeria]. Then we came to Naples [Italy]. And then we
went into battle at the Arno [River] and all the way up the
boot to Genoa. The war ended then.

M: So the war ended while you were in Italy?

J: Yes.

M: Was Italy the last foreign post that you had?

J: That is right.

M: Did you see combat, or were you behind the lines?

J: I was behind the lines. I saw enough shells. They shelled
you all the time. It does not mean anything being behind
the line.

M: The forces were segregated at that time, is that correct?

J: Yes. We had a division.

M: What does that mean?

J: A division is made up of three regiments, and it is also
made up of supportive services, including artillery.

M: So all of the enlisted men in that division were black, I

J: All of the enlisted men were black; officers were black and

M: Were a majority black or a majority white?

J: I think that the majority must have been white, but there
were a large number of blacks.

M: How was the reception of black troops in Italy?

J: The people in Italy loved the black troops. They did not
think we were so mercenary. And they thought we were kind
because we were willing to give things to the kids and to
the people.


M: So they preferred the black troops to the white troops.
That must have been quite different from the South at that

J: It was quite different.

M: Do you think that changed people's attitudes a lot? People
serving with you and your own attitudes, was this an eye-

J: It was not a eye-opener for me because I was born in a
community--I hate saying this, I guess--where the whites and
blacks were pretty much related in some kind of way. I
never had the kind of treatment that a lot of other people
had. You see, there are a lot of dualss" in the South. It
depends on who you are.

M: I can imagine. Were you shipped back to the U.S. from

J: Yes.

M: Where did you finish up your service?

J: We came back from Genoa to Lucca, Italy, which was an
embarkment area.

M: Then you shipped back to the U.S.?

J: Then we shipped back from Leghorn, I guess.

M: That is in Turkey?

J: No, that is in Italy.

M: That is right. My geography is a little off today. When
did you leave the service?

J: I left the service December 27, 1945.

M: What was your rank then?

J: My rank was technical sergeant. That is one of those
individuals who is a specialist. I was a specialist in

M: When you got out of the service, did you then qualify for
the GI Bill?

J: Yes.

M: That was given irrespective of race?


J: Yes.

M: When did you re-enter your education?

J: One year later.

M: What did you do in that year between mustering out and going
back to school?

J: I went to Cleveland, and my brother and I opened a business.
I had a relative there who was a real estate broker. You
know how it is with mothers? She thought that this was not
the kind of thing that she would like to have us do. So I
came back the next year. My brother came back the following
year, and we continued and finished our education.

M: What kind of business was it?

J: Well, we had a barbecue business, since we had been in that
kind of thing all our lives.

M: So you re-entered Florida A & M in 1946?

J: Yes.

M: What was your program of studies from then on at Florida
A & M?

J: It was political science and education. I graduated in
1949, and in 1953 I graduated with a master's degree. Then
I went to Columbia University.

M: Let us just back up. You were a full-time undergraduate
until 1949?

J: Yes.

M: Then you were a full-time graduate or part-time graduate

J: Part-time graduate [student].

M: It took four years to get your master's?

J: That is right.

M: In what?

J: In administration and supervision.

M: So it was a master's in education?


J: That is right.

M: What did you do when you were not being a student in

J: When I was not being a student I worked! [Laughter]

M: Even with the GI Bill you still worked?

J: Yes. I was married then, so I worked.

M: I see. You needed more income than the GI Bill could

J: Even though my wife was a teacher, I was not the kind of
fellow to sit around and let her support me.

M: Did you work fairly full-time or just part-time?

J: Part-time.

M: You graduated in 1953 with an M.Ed. What was your first
professional appointment?

J: My first professional appointment was a principal/teacher.

M: What does that mean?

J: The individual taught, but the schools were not that large,
so you had to teach and had to serve as an administrator

M: What kind of load did you have teaching? Fifty percent or
80 percent?

J: I had about 75 percent. Schools were not that large, and
record keeping was not that difficult, especially with
someone who had the kind of experiences that I had.

M: What school was that?

J: That was Mount Zion Junior High School.

M: Which town was that in?

J: It was in a little town called Paxton, [Florida].

M: Where is that?

J: That is near DeFuniak Springs.


M: So you really went home in a sense?

J: We went home every afternoon.

M: How long did you stay in that first job?

J: Six years, I think.

M: That was a small, black, rural high school?

J: Junior high school.

M: What was your next professional appointment?

J: My next was principal of Rolek High School in a place called
Chipley, Florida.

M: That was a larger school?

J: Yes, a larger school; it was an elementary school and a high
school. I had an assistant who was principal of the
elementary school, and I was the supervising principal in
charge of both schools.

M: So you were much more an administrator?

J: Much more. In fact, [I was a] full-time administrator.

M: What would be some of the major differences in the kind of
high school you were working at in Chipley compared to a
modern high school?

J: I do not know. I have never found work to be difficult, and
it is difficult for me to gauge this kind of thing. But the
only thing that made the work difficult, I think, was the
lack of the kinds of facilities that I expected them to have
in order to develop the kids' minds to the fullest extent so
that they would be competitive with anybody.

M: What kind of facilities were lacking?

J: Always science equipment and someone trained with real
skills in mathematics.

M: You had problems attracting really trained faculty, then, as
well as equipment?

J: That is right.

M: How many faculty were working there, approximately?

J: Twenty-three.


M: What level of education did most of your teachers have?

J: They had bachelor's degrees.

M: That was required? But a bachelor's degree did not always
mean that they were particularly expert in their area.

J: That is exactly right.

M: That is not too different from today.

J: No, it is not too different.

M: What other areas besides math and science were very hard to
communicate effectively?

J: To me, getting kids to understand concepts as they relate to
the social sciences. And I am talking about real
understanding, not simply learning the facts. I am talking
about learning concepts and being able to use concepts as a
means of manipulating the social order, both political and

M: So you wanted students to be a lot more politically aware, I
think, than they were?

J: Yes, that is right.

M: This was a conservative area, I assume?

J: It was conservative, but I was not bothered too much by that
kind of thing. I got pretty much anything I wanted done.

M: Education was compulsory up to which grade?

J: Sixteen years [of age].

M: What percentage of your potential students would go on to
finish the next two years--to be eligible for college, etc.

J: This may be a little difficult. Most of the kids in the
Panhandle are people whose families are accustomed to
ownership. They owned what they had; they made their
living. They were not too dependent on anybody, and they
were a little more assertive. And then the other thing that
I told you about--the kind of thing that I can remember--was
the large number of blacks that had some kind of connections
and terms with large numbers of whites.

M: Did you find that different when you came down to Ocala,


J: Yes. The central part of the state is the most conservative
part of the state.

M: Let us back up a bit and get the dates when you came down,
what your job was, etc. When did you come to Ocala?

J: I came into Ocala in 1957.

M: For what position?

J: I came as principal of the high school. They were looking
for a president of the junior college. I did not put my
application in, but I was one of the persons that was being
considered. I did not put one in for here; I put one in for
Daytona Beach. When the superintendent met with the
committee--I guess they called them trustees--he said, "I've
got the best man in the state. I'd like to have you
interview him." So he interviewed me, and I got the job.

M: Did you come to this area so you would be better placed to
apply for a community college job?

J: No.

M: You came for the Howard [High School in Ocala]

J: I came for the Howard principalship. I had been selected
four years prior to that, but I refused to come because they
would not guarantee my wife a job.

M: I see. You came first of all as the principal to the high

J: That is right.

M: You were in the high school for only one year, I think?

J: Yes, for one year. But when I left the high school, the
superintendent insisted that I serve as supervising
principal. They would report to me rather than to him or
the board.

M: So you had a lot of power?

J: Yes, I know! [Laughter] But no one ever bothered me.

M: Comparing the high school here to [those in] the Panhandle,
would you say students were less successful here, from your


J: Yes.

M: Why do you think that would be true?

J: Well, I think it had something to do with ownership and
pride, and I think it had something to do with the
individuals who are not contented with the conditions in
which they find themselves.

M: That is still true today, that community colleges always
have the highest scores.

J: They do have the highest scores. It is true; I am not
kidding. I have a nephew--just to tell you a little story--
who went to [the United States Military Academy at] West
Point. He was there three years, and this teacher did not
like him. So the teacher had him make the beds and dust and
this kind of thing. He got him "busted." [My nephew] went
to Georgia Tech and taught R.O.T.C. He was taking Russian
and also mechanical engineering there. He went on there and
finished. They gave him a regular army position. He stayed
in there two years, and--I can bring the papers to show
you--he went back and has been in there two years, and they
are going to send him to school to go back to West Point and

M: So the guy who was kicked out of West Point is going back to
teach at West Point.

J: I had another nephew who graduated from medical school. He
was a professor until he died in April. He was professor of
anesthesiology at Columbia University Medical School, and he
was an anesthesiologist at Columbia Presbyterian. So it is
how kids are motivated at home and in the family. More than
anything else, they have pride in who they are.

M: But you have found a lot of apathy here in Ocala?

J: Yes.

M: What were the economic conditions here? Did that account
for it?

J: Well, economic conditions always account for some of it.
But I think it is this more than anything else: In order to
be successful, something must be a religion to you. That is
why Jews are so successful. Excellence is a religion with
them, and they try to excel everywhere they go. They teach
their children to excel. Another thing is they never forget
the past. I know a lot of them, I have been in classes with
a lot of them, and I have talked with a lot of them. I have
learned a lot from them.


M: And you do not think that people in this area share that
kind of dedication to excellence? How about today?

J: No, I have not seen it, because you have to have values.
You have to have some beliefs and some basic principles that
even death will not change. You have got to believe that if
you die, well, so what. I would rather die free than to die
a slave any day.

M: We are obviously getting close to your becoming president of
the community college in Ocala. Before we do that, we
missed some of the details of your postgraduate education.
I know you went to three other universities besides Florida
A & M, or was it two?

J: Three.

M: Tell us about your post-master's education.

J: For my post-master's education I first went in 1954 and 1955
to Columbia University. My scores were always high scores.
Boys always wanted to know what I made. [It was the] same
thing at Indiana [University]. I had a fellowship to help
integrate Peabody [College], and I had good grades there; I
never had anything under a "B" in any course.

M: Let me just back up. What year did you go to Columbia

J: 1954-1955.

M: Were you pursuing a degree there or just taking courses for

J: I had started pursuing a degree. A person who wanted me to
go was D. E. Williams. He was supervisor of what they
called black education. He wanted me to go to Indiana, so I
went to Indiana one summer. Then the next summer they gave
me a fellowship to go and assist with the integration of
Peabody College in Nashville.

M: Was that a white college or a black college?

J: A white college.

M: So when you were at Indiana and Columbia, I assume they were

J: Yes, nonsegregated.

M: So this was a new experience for you in educational terms.


J: This was a new experience for me, going to a school that had
been segregated and was trying to bring in individuals that
they thought would make a good showing and would encourage
the administration to seek additional black students and
that kind of thing. That is what they called assisting with
integration. They were looking for some bright students to

M: What did you think of the differences in teaching,
facilities, [and] students' attitudes? What struck you as
being the major differences from your experiences in

J: You know, I think friendship is not a one-way street. I go
to anything I want to go to in this community. I am
involved in anything I want to be involved in in this
community because I take the initiative to do so. No man is
ever prosecuted for committing a crime; he is prosecuted for
getting caught. So that is the way it is. I am sure that
they do have some fears. I know they have some fears. So
they are probably as afraid of us as we are them.

M: So did you experience a lot of hostility at any of those
three schools?

J: No, I did not experience any.

M: You were moving in a pretty liberal environment, I think,

J: Yes.

M: What did you think of academic standards? Were they
comparable? I have seen your transcripts, and I know your
grades were certainly comparable. But did you have to work
harder to get those grades?

J: Well, I guess working hard all of the time means this: You
are accustomed to doing what needs to be done. It is a part
of you.

M: But did you have to work harder for the same grades at, say,
Columbia or Peabody?

J: No, I do not think so.

M: So you would say that the demands on you were not that much
higher? Just better facilities?

J: Yes, just better facilities.


M: Going on to 1957, you were appointed to what position in

J: I was appointed as principal of Howard High School. Then in
1958 I was appointed as president of what we called Hampton
Junior College.

M: To back up a little bit, when did the state of Florida begin
its community college system?

J: [It began in] 1957, and they started implementing it in
1958. The 1957 legislature [created community colleges].

M: So this was a brand new school?

J: Yes.

M: Where was the school located in Ocala?

J: It was adjacent to Howard High School.

M: What kind of facilities did they allow you or give you?

J: The first year we met in the high school facilities. The
next year we had built some separate facilities, but they
were not always adequate. We also built a library that
could be used jointly by the high school and the college, so
this most certainly improved the condition in the high

M: When the [community] colleges were being created, had there
been any thought of making a desegregated facility, or had
you always assumed that this would be?

J: I always assumed that this was just a holding tactic until
such time as integration took place. In 1954 I was at
Columbia University, and I heard accounts. I heard the
black sociologist--oh, what is his name?--give a seminar on
integration and the law and what it meant.

M: Due to the 1954 decision Brown v. Board of Education?

J: That is right.

M: So you assumed that when this opened it was only going to be
a holding pattern? How long did you think that the holding
pattern would last?

J: I thought maybe at the college level that it would not
exceed ten years.

M: That was a good guess as it turned out, was it not?


J: Yes.

M: What did you have as far as faculty, etc., at the college as
the years went by?

J: You can get verification of this statement from Dr. [James]
Wattenbarger [distinguished service professor of education,
University of Florida]. We were in Dallas, Texas, and he
called all of the presidents in to attend a meeting of the
Southern Association. Everyone was talking and kind of
fearing for their jobs and that kind of thing. They wanted
to know what they were going to do. So later he said, "Bill
Jackson, I have not heard you say anything." And I said,
"Dr. Wattenbarger, I anticipated this from the beginning.
There is not but one thing I need to know, and that is who
is going to be responsible for determining the procedures
that will be used in merging the colleges? If the state is
going to do it, I would like to have the guidelines as
quickly as possible. If the local school systems are going
to do it, I have already established a kind of rapport that
I can work with them in getting whatever needs to be gotten
in order to protect my faculty. I am not worried about

M: That is after you already had a faculty established. How
hard was it to get a faculty on campus originally in 1958?

J: Oh, it was most difficult. I had a high turnover because I
am pretty demanding. If you cannot cut it, you have to go.

M: What problems did you experience--levels of qualification?

J: Yes, [there were problems with the] level of qualification
and this kind of thing, and productivity.

M: What did you regard as a good base level of qualification to
be hired on at Hampton Junior College?

J: I thought an individual should have at least a master's
degree with some prior teaching experience either at the
college or the secondary level.

M: Were a lot of applicants available with those kinds of
qualifications in the 1950s?

J: No. I went all over the country.

M: On a talent search? What about productivity? What were
your guidelines? What was their teaching load, for example?


J: Their teaching load was sixteen [hours]. Some had eighteen,
[but] very few. I tried to keep it at sixteen because I
expected them to be as thorough as possible [so] when these
kids left they could compete satisfactorily with anybody at
any institution. That is what we did. And you can also
verify this from a lady who is from Dunnellon and who
teaches in Inverness. She took her transcript to the
University of Florida, and they wanted to know who developed
this curriculum. She told them it was not that difficult.
All you have to do is know what they require and then be
sure that this is included in your plans to go there.

M: So this was a two-year transfer program to the university.

J: Yes. We later had some vocational and technical programs,
but it was mainly transfer at that time.

M: What problems did you have with productivity? You said you
had to fire some people.

J: Well, when I talk about that, I am not only talking about
productivity and the number of bodies the individual
teaches. I am talking about the individual's being
successful in transmitting the kind of knowledge that is
needed for the individual to be successful when

M: So you thought some of your teachers were ineffective?

J: That is what I thought.

M; Was that because of deficient training or perhaps because of
sometimes being too specialized and too academic?

J: I did not always know. I attributed some of the things to
this because I know what took place. Back in those days the
individual leader had to assume the role of seeing that it
was a good school. Nobody [else] gave a damn whether it was
a good school or not. So if you did not assume that
responsibility, no one did. For some people after having
been subjected to a laissez-faire operation for so long, it
means this: they are going to become nonproductive. It is
just like that.

M: When you say that they did not care if it was a good school
or not, you are referring to .

J: I am referring to the local school administration.

M: Which was largely white?

J: Yes, it was white.


M: So what you are saying is that they did not expect much from
black schools.

J: And black schools did not produce.

M: What about your student body in those first years? What
size enrollment did you have?

J: We must have had about one hundred twenty the first year.
We gradually increased until we had about three hundred-

M: What kind of graduation success rate with those three
hundred students?

J: I am not too certain of this, but I know it took some of the
students longer than two years to complete the program, even
if they were going full time.

M: That was because they had to retake courses?

J: Yes. If you have not been accustomed to studying, and also
learning to write (the communication skills), it is going to
be difficult.

M: So you think that you had to fulfill a remedial function?

J: I think so.

M: How did you rate the local high schools? You had been a
principal yourself. You must have known how they were.

J: Out in west Florida--you have seen the scores that indicate
this (and they are not talking about the whites out there
only either)--they were always higher. My high school
[students'] scores were always higher and comparable to the
white schools. So I am saying that down in this section,
which is called the farming areas, there was a different
attitude in terms of the value of education and that kind of

M: How generously were you funded by the state in these years?

J: I think before that time we had a single salary schedule for
all people in 1957. But there was a time when there was a
dual salary schedule for whites and blacks.

M: But you think that when you started here in Ocala, a white
college teacher would be paid the same as a black college


J: That is right. But I may have been paying my teachers a
little more than teachers were making here.

M: So the funding was good enough so you could at least do

J: Yes.

M: How about money for facilities, libraries, labs, etc.?

J: I knew how to write proposals, and I got a lot of money that
way. In fact, when we came here, I transferred a lot of
money to the school.

M: When you came here, would you say that this institution was
better equipped or worse equipped?

J: None of them were well equipped. [Laughter] You can look
at the science building over there. I tried to get them to
do something about it for years--and there were ways that it
could have been done--but nobody ever did anything about it.
In fact, so far as I know there has never been a long-range
plan developed. There have been no feasibility studies to
determine whether this thing will go, whether it will work
or will not work. Everything that I can remember has been
just jump up and do it.

M: When did integration become fairly imminent here in this

J: I think it became fairly imminent in 1962.

M: What brought that on?

M: The marches and the demands and all of that kind of thing.

J: So you began to think that ten years may have been too long
a time to predict?

J: Yes, because it was 1966. It was almost nine years.

M: Were you involved in the civil rights movement?

J: Yes.

M: Give us some examples of some of the things that went on in

J: In order that my superiors might know what my position was,
I went to the superintendent and told him, "You know I am
black and that I am a part of this community. This is one
of the activities taking place, I think, that is designed to


improve the conditions of black people. And if I were to
tell you that I believe in segregation, you should get up
here and kick my so-and-so. I do not, and never did. But
as long as it is the law of the land, I will abide by it--
not that I like it--and I will be involved in whatever
meetings they have." I [also] said, "Now, I do not have a
residential campus. When students complete their work in
school, I have no further control over them. If they want
to go out and march or do anything else they can do until
the next class, then they can do that. I have no control
[over their outside activities]. I want you to understand

M: Were you involved in any of the high-profile events like
events in St. Augustine, or did you have a more local focus?

J: I had a more local focus, but so far as being supportive of
it, I was supportive.

M: Integration came, then, in 1966. Was that before or after
the high schools and universities were integrated?

J: There was limited integration in the high schools, because I
think my daughter was at one of the high schools. She was
in eleventh grade. She did not want to stay there anymore
because she did not want to be subjected to any abuse. So
she asked for early admission here. She was admitted here
early at the eleventh grade level.

M: So the high schools were moving more slowly than the college
system, locally?

J: Yes.

M: Were all of the community colleges integrated at the same
time, or was it spaced?

J: Yes, all were integrated at the same time. There may have
been one in Fort Lauderdale that was eliminated a year
before, or it may have been the one in Pensacola that was
eliminated the year before.

M: Can you explain how integration actually took place in terms
of the process of merging the two institutions into one

J: The guidelines of the local school board here [said] that
all of the persons who had tenure on the staff of the junior
college should be transferred to this college, and all of
the persons who did not have tenure, they would find them a
job in the secondary [school] system. At that time, this


[college] did not have a large staff, and I brought fourteen
people over--all with tenure.

M: Did you lose many people without tenure?

J: We had about twenty-one or twenty-two, so I must have lost
[some]. But most of the people found good jobs. One young
man who worked for me is at Ford. He left and went to
Bethune-Cookman. He got his doctorate degree from Illinois.
In fact, I have two, both of them in the teaching of math,
at Illinois. Another one, Simon [Otis] Johnson, is a full
professor [of education] at the University of Florida. His
wife was head of the English department at Santa Fe
[Community College]. And Billy Mathis was at Santa Fe, and
he later transferred to the University of Florida. There
may have been one or two more, but I cannot remember their
names now.

M: So even if they did not transfer here they still had plenty
of opportunity?

J: They had plenty of opportunity [because] they were well
qualified. In fact, I tried to force two on them who did
not have tenure, and that was Simon Johnson and his wife.
Johnny Seay told me, "Bill, I told you not to recommend
anybody who did not have tenure." So I said, "You know, I
do not have any reason not to recommend these people. They
are entitled to tenure, they have served their probationary
period, and they have satisfied the requirements. As long
as they have done that, I do not see why they should not be
awarded tenure. But, you know, you are my boss, and I am
going to give them to you." But he said, "If you give them
to me, I am not going to send them to the board." So I
said, "Well, as always, you are right. If you do not want
them, send them back to me."

M: Who was Johnny Seay?

J: The superintendent.

M: What was his full name?

J: John W. Seay. He was also an assistant superintendent at
the state department [of education] under [Floyd] Christian
[Florida commissioner of education, 1965-1974].

M: Was this campus here on southwest College Road in Ocala
being built when you transferred over?

J: Yes. They stayed over there in what we call the old
vocational building for only a year or a year and one-half.


M: So when they began building this campus, had they began
assuming that this would become an integrated and larger

J: I do not know.

M: Was there any thought around the state that the white
students would go to the previously black institution?

J: I had one at our institution.

M: Just one? What was the reason for that?

J: He wanted to go there.

M: Did he just think it offered a better education?

J: Evidently. He came from Leesburg.

M: That is a long way to go. When you arrived on this campus,
you had fourteen faculty. How many administrators did you
bring with you? Just yourself?

J: Yes, and Ann Hampton. They put her in the finance office,
and I am not sure what they called her. She was a
tremendous person in finance.

M: What position did they find for you?

J: I was associate dean for academic affairs.

M: How did black college ex-presidents fare around the state?
What was their general fate? Do you have any idea?

J: I think only two of us survived and went to the other

M: So most of the administrators were eased out of the system?

J: Yes. Only two of us, although it may have been four,
[remained administrators].

M: Out of how many?

J: About sixteen or seventeen.

M: What do you think that did to black administrative talents?
That must have really damaging if there were so few job
openings all of a sudden.

J: Some went to the state Department [of Education] and some
went to other schools and other leadership roles, and that


kind of thing. But John Seay told [Joseph] Fordyce,
"Listen, I do not want you putting this man in any corner.
He can help you."

M: So Fordyce was the president here at that time.

J: Yes.

M: When did Henry Goodlet come [as president]?

J: He came in the middle of the year.

M: So he came in 1967 or 1968?

J: He came in 1967.

M: So he was the man you were going to deal with for most of
your time here at the college?

J: Yes.

M: Did you feel like you had been treated fairly by this

J: Knowing the system, I did not expect to be president. But
they left me in the academic role, which I knew more about
than anybody else, including the president. I do not care
what they say. I know this! [Laughter]

M: I am not disputing you. I knew him. [Laughter]

J: Hell, anytime they ever got anything up there, whether it
was financial or otherwise, and they did not know anything
about it, they merely would call me. They did that until my
last year, and I got fed up with it. I told him [the
president], "I think I have been an asset to this college,
but this year I will only do what is required of me in my
job title." So I let Bob Ritterhoff send a report to the
Southern Association that was incomplete, incorrect, and
wrong. I carried it to him and told him. I asked, "What do
you want to do to it?" He said, "Send it on," so I sent it
on. The Southern Association sent it back. Now, Bob
Ritterhoff knew what it was. Well, his office called me and
asked, "What is that, Bill?" I said, "That is that report I
had brought to your office and asked you what you wanted me
to do with it." I asked him [Bob Ritterhoff] if he needed
some help.

M: What year was that?

J: The last year I was here, 1985.


M: In the earlier days, did you feel that people were drawing
on your expertise sufficiently?

J: In the earlier days I did pretty much everything here until
there got to be a lot of jealousy among the administrators
about "I'm running the college." So I decided that I would
just let them take it. I could sit there and draw my money
and go on about my business. I did not worry about that.
If money had been in the equation, I would have gotten up
and gone somewhere else.

M: Let us move away from administrators and faculty. When
black students transferred here, how easy was that

J: I think it was traumatic. You know, it was a peculiar
thing, and it took me a long time to rid myself of racism
and prejudice and biases. And I think it was kind of
evasive, but you could always feel it. It pervaded this

M: Was there any violence?

J: There was a little. I kind of curbed it initially. I
curbed it because the kids had a lot of respect for me.

M: So there was violence on the black side as well as the white

J: Yes, and also the Arabs.

M: Yes, that was later, in the 1970s.

J: Yes.

M: Going back to the early days, did you notice an increase in
black enrollment after this campus was integrated, or [was
there] a decrease?

J: [There was] a decrease in black enrollment.

M: Would you try to explain that for us?

J: Sure. In order to have a good educational program, you must
have a total plan, and you must know how it relates to each
other. And you also must know the functions of individuals
at every level of operation. You have to have a curriculum
that is organized on the premise that it will meet the
mission of the college. Then you have to have someone who
knows enough about it to supervise and give some suggestions
to individuals and monitor it to see that it is being


carried out. I do not know that any of those things ever
happened to this institution.

M: Was that typical of integrated community colleges, or was
that a problem specific to this place?

J: I think that was a problem specific to this place. I,
personally, do not think that the president had the
qualifications for the job.

M: What happened to black enrollment at other community
colleges around the state when they became integrated?

J: A lot of them [community colleges] have [black] individuals
at high-level positions. Down in Miami they have several
[vice-]presidents, and they even have [vice-]presidents at
some of the campuses. They also have a fellow who is [vice-
]president of resource development. Now this fellow has
gotten about $15 million or $16 million out of this
millionaire who died. He gets all of the money that the
school needs. They have a foundation that is one of the
best in the country. Before he came there, he and other
fellows had organized a bank in Chattanooga, Tennessee. You
see, you have a lot of people out there--if you are willing
to go out there and look for them--who have the abilities to
do things, but they are not coming [to a place] where they
always operate under duress.

M: Are these black people or white people?

J: These are black people, in all of the junior colleges,
pretty much. They have a vice-president of the north campus
of Jacksonville Community College. They have one in Broward
[Community College], they have one or two in Dade [Community
College]. Then they have other people in high-level
administrative positions. And they are productive, too. I
am telling you what I know!

M: So at this institution, do you think that it is incompetence
or racism that has kept qualified blacks away from the
campus? This has been a very "white" campus in the last
twenty years.

J: I think it is both.

M: Obviously not open racism.

J: No.

M: Do you think that this has been reflected to our students?

J: Oh, yes.


M: What, for example, do you think we should have been doing
specifically for minority students in the last ten or twenty
years that we really have not done here?

J: [The] number-one [thing] that has not been done is
implementing the programs with the resources that you had
available. There has been nobody to see that these things
were done--nobody with the skills to assist.

M: Give me an example of such a program.

J: The program over there. There has always been a fight about

M: Are you referring to the special services program?

J: Yes, special services, [and] the remediation program. [The
remediation program offers special classes to students with
deficient reading, writing, and numeric skills.] I am also
referring to all the programs when it comes to organization
for providing a good delivery system.

M: How do you think black faculty have been handled over the
last ten, fifteen, or twenty years, including the faculty
you brought with you?

J: Ignored!

M: We have several members of the faculty who have been here
from the beginning. Give me an example of somebody who you
think had a lot of potential for administrative talent and
was ignored by the institution.

J: The only person that I can think of that had the kind of
talent You see, you can have academic credentials and
not have the talent to be an administrator. Do you

M: Sure. That is me.

J: That is what I am trying to say. I do not know. Maybe Miss
Cochran and maybe this girl over here. There is nothing
[bad] about having a lot of good academic credentials, but
being an administrator is an entirely different thing.

M: You do not think that we have sought out or encouraged black

J: I do not think you have sought [them] out.


M: What has happened to the percentage of black faculty on this
campus over the last twenty years? Did it go up or down?

J: Down, I think.

M: [It has gone] down dramatically if there were fourteen in
1956 and there were only six last year.

J: Yes, a dramatic decline. Do you know what people tell me
who come in? It is white and black. Look, I work with
people on that doctoral program that the University of
Florida [has]. I have been doing it for years. They tell
me, "Bill, what kind of place is this?"

M: I am still curious. I understand your complaints about
administrative deficiency, but it seems--if that was all it
was--it would hurt whites equally to blacks.

J: It has hurt whites.

M: We have had rising white enrollment over the years and not
rising black enrollment.

J: You had rising white enrollment because of economics. It
was economics! That is what it was. All the people who can
afford it do not come. I know what I am talking about!
Economics was the reason they were here. I do not say now.
I am talking about before.

M: When you look back, I know you were very active on the
integration front. Thinking, at least, from a local
perspective, do you think that this college and other things
around the area lived up to your expectations of

J: No.

M: What have been some of your biggest disappointments?

J: I think the biggest function any president has is to sell
the programs of the college to the community and know what
the community needs are and to be able to convey these to
businesses and industry. After that, fund raising [is
important]. Now, all those mundane things are not the
president's responsibilities. That is why you have the
deans. You do not need the deans if you are going to do
that. You are going to shuffle papers all day. I did that.
I know what is going on in the community.

M: Taking a broader view than just the college, though, what
about what has happened in Ocala's high schools? Has that
met your expectations or not?


J: I really do not think, with the available resources at our
disposal now, that we have met our obligations to the state
and the nation.

M: In what sense?

J: If you were to look at the various races or ethnic groups or
whatever you want to call them, and if you take the Asians,
there are more physicists on that little island off of China
than there are in the whole United States.

M: In Taiwan?

J: Yes, Taiwan. And another thing that is happening in this
country [is] the greed on the part of our political system.
It is going to destroy the foundation of this country in
terms of its industrial might. If you were to look at what
is happening in terms of productions of goods and services
in this country, you will see all of the work being done in
undeveloped countries of the world, down on the borders of
Mexico and everywhere else. You know what happened to Rome,
don't you?

M: And you think that education should be really turning this
thing around?

J: I think education is the only solution to our problems. The
other thing is if you keep any segment of the population in
subservient roles, it also affects the success of the total.

M: And you think blacks in Florida--or Ocala--are still being
kept in a subservient role?

J: Yes, that is right.

M: How is that?

J: One thing about it is [this]: If you had been subjected to
slavery, and if you are only one hundred-some years out of
slavery, and then you were in a segregated society for all
but about thirty years of that time, how do you expect a man
to catch up when he does not even have any incentive to do
anything? In order for people to do things, there must be

M: I understand.

J: Then, you always have the fear that "If I do certain things,
economic reprisals are going to be taken against me."


M: So you do not think--again, using this as an example--that
we have done enough to reach black students?

J: You have not done enough to change their concept of self as
it relates to the concepts of the total American population.
You see, it is a subculture.

M: So this is not the problem of just this area or this

J: Listen. The only way to justify having a government is that
the government becomes responsible for the welfare of the
people. Who needs a damn government if that is not the
purpose of it! And welfare includes all of those things
that would go to make an individually productive citizen.

M: Apart from work at the college here between 1956 and your
retirement in 1985, I know you were very active in the
broader community, too, and I would like to talk a little
bit about that. What, apart from college, were your main
outside interests in those years, from 1956 to 1985?

J: In 1958 when they had dual [black and white] associations of
teachers, I was president of the Florida State Teachers
Association. Of course, I was interested in eliminating all
of the conditions that impact on black teachers and
professionals unfavorably.

M: Give me an example.

J: I was interested in salaries. I was interested in
promotions and retentions. If an individual had the ability
to be the principal in an integrated setting and that kind
of thing, I thought that he should be given the opportunity
to do so. I do not want anybody to employ anybody just
because he is black.

M: So this was an educational association?

J: Yes.

M: How long were you involved with that?

J: I have been involved with it since 1960.

M: So that was a long-running commitment?

J: Yes.

M: Do you think that organization had much success in
safeguarding the rights of black faculty?


J: We got a lot of results in terms of improving the conditions
for black teachers and black administrators.

M: What about politics? I know you were very active in the
local Democratic party.

J: I have always been very active in politics. I have been
very active in politics since I came out of the war. I have
been involved in politics all of those years at one level or
another. The only thing that I try to convey to politicians
is there is no way to improve this community, there is no
way to improve this nation, and there is no way to improve
relationships unless you are willing to accept an individual
on equal terms.

M: Did you ever run for office?

J: I ran in 1970 in a field of nine for a [city] commission
[seat], and I came in third in the field of nine in this

M: That is good. It is a shame you did not win. What about in
terms of presidential politics? I know right now you are
campaigning for Jesse Jackson.

J: Yes, I am campaigning for Jesse.

M: How do you think that is going?

J: Well, I think it is going all right. We are having a
political rally for Jesse Saturday from 10:00 to 4:00. Mr.
Baron and myself were appointed as party representatives,
and this is the first time that I think anybody has tried to
get anything organized and going, especially in the state of
Florida--I do not know about the other states--where you can
reach the total populous. Of course, we are trying to carry
on voter education: getting people out to the polls to vote,
informing them of the issues on which they are voting, and,
in fact, trying to let them know no matter what they feel
about it that politics controls the economic system, the
social system, and all other systems that deal with what
takes place in this country. Now, politics determines the
kind of economic system you are going to have, [and] it
determines the kind of social system you are going to have.

M: Back a little bit further, in the 1960s, did you have much
function then in trying to work toward the selection of
certain congressmen or senators or whatever with very white,
traditional, southern people running?

J: I did [work for LeRoy] Collins [Florida governor, 1955-
1961]. I was in Chipley then, and the only two people who


had any status in the community, myself and the [editor of
the] white newspaper, came out for Collins against [Charlie
E.] Johns [acting Florida governor, 1953-1955]. And Collins
won the state. This was in Chipley, a small community,
[and] a conservative community.

M: When was the next time you got involved in gubernatorial or
national politics?

J: Well, I told you. I am involved in all of them. I may not
get the people elected that I want to get elected.

M: How much success do you think you had over the years in
terms of the candidates you were pushing?

J: Last year [among] those that we pushed, all except one won.

M: Who was that?

J: We were split on this one. I supported Medford (not that I
thought that Medford had done much), and Mr. Jinkins
supported this other young fellow. I cannot recall his name
now. He is a Republican.

M: I cannot recall it either, but I know who you mean.

J: One Democrat we did not support, but all of the rest of them

M: I know you are also active in the NAACP.

J: Yes.

M: How enduring is that commitment? How long back does that

J: About forty years.

M: What have you been most active in in Ocala since 1956 or

J: Ocala is a peculiar community. The blacks in this community
are as clannish as the whites, and I have had more success
working with the whites than I have had working with the
blacks. They always invite me. "Bill, [be] on this
committee." The Boys' Club, hospital boards, A.R.C.
[American Red Cross] boards, the chamber of commerce--there
are all kinds of committees. I worked with them.

M: Do you think that the NAACP has been effective in Ocala?

J: I think it has been effective the past two years.


M: Is that because of newer people in this region?

J: No, it is because of better leadership.

M: Who is the leader of the NAACP now?

J: Mr. Jinkins! [Laughter]

M: With the able assistance of .

J: [Laughter]

M: Mr. Jackson!

J: I figured you were going to say that!

M: But previous to that you do not think that it has been a
tremendously effective organization locally?

J: No.

M: You did not see much pressure, for example, on the college
over all of those years .

J: I will tell you. The only time it has been effective before
was during the marches.

M: In the 1960s. Thinking about the NAACP in the college, how
much notice did they try and bring to the community about
declining black student enrollment and declining faculty and
all of the other things that were going on? They were not
effective on highlighting those problems?

J: No, the NAACP spoke to them. And Mr. [Hy] Jensen, before I
came, did not have anybody to do research and to get the
facts. And Hy and I were good friends, and we knew how to
get them. And we got them! As I have said, I made some
decisions when I came to this community in terms of
education of black boys and girls, that black boys and girls
were being exploited as much by black people as they were by
white people, and I cleaned house. I do not guess I have
ever been too popular since.

M: What about other civic organization or religious
organizations? Have they been a part of the focus of your

J: Yes, they have been part of the focus. I have been a
[member of the] board of directors of the chamber of
commerce. The Marion [County] A.R.C. I have been president
of. I was the individual who kind of put it on its


financial feet by hiring an accountant who got it in shape.
Now we have money. I am still the director--or at least
chairman of the finance committee--of the A.R.C. I am on
facilities development and marketing of the [Munroe
Regional] Hospital board. You see, you have to have
somebody to market your products. I get the chance to do
all of the work I want to do and more. I am always too

M: When you look back, how much more impact do you think
someone like yourself--very articulate, intelligent, and
black--has in a community like this compared to when you
arrived thirty years ago? We are looking at a thirty-year
span here. How much do you think has really changed?

J: There was a young man who I employed from this community who
became the assistant superintendent in charge of
instruction. He just retired in Fort Pierce. There have
been a lot of other fellows who had jobs in Miami. It has
been much more difficult to get anybody to be concerned
about this kind of thing here. There seems to be a
tremendous amount of fear of reprisals or something. Or
they are only concerned about whether they live good or not:
"As long as I am living good, I don't give a damn about
anybody else." That is what I have almost concluded.

M: So you think the main barrier to further achievement is

J: It is apathy. I think over the period of years that blacks
have not emerged as leaders from among the blacks. The
blacks have met a point by the whites to assume leadership
in the community, and nobody ever followed.

M: Do you think--this is kind of a tricky question--that
segregated schools would have been more effective at
fostering that black leadership?

J: I think for some it would have been; for some it would not
have been. I think that for some it would have been because
it is how you make people feel about themselves. You know,
you can quickly destroy an individual's good concept of self
in a classroom.

M: I am probably guilty of that.

J: [Laughter]

M: Whites and blacks are [guilty of that]. So you think that
the prevailing milieu here was not conducive to developing
that good self-concept.


J: I think so. Even now there are some people in this town
that have always been what they call leaders. [They have]
not emerged because they had anything to offer, but they had
been appointed and had been in these appointed positions,
and everybody is afraid of them. I mean, you would be
surprised. Nobody would take a stand.

M: Give me an example. Who are some these people?

J: Ha! [Laughter] I am not sure I can tell you that. But I
will tell you this, because I am a member of the church. We
had a bright young pastor, Dr. [William] Simmons, from the
University of Florida who is over at the [Institute of]
Black Culture. They had been accustomed to telling the
pastor how to run the church. Well, he would not listen to
any of it. He told them that it was his responsibility to
do this and submit it to the various organizations of the
church, which includes both the stewards and the committee
on stewardship in financing, then to the official board, and
from the official board to the church cardinals. These same
people wanted to tell him how to run the church. Do you
know that because he would not do it, they have gotten
around and tried to destroy the church. [They] do not come.
They go pick [their] kids up and carry them to other
churches and all of that kind of stuff.

M: What year was this?

J: This year.

M: These people who were doing this, are they white or black

J: Black!

M: So there is an enormous force of conservatism in the black

J: Yes, exactly. And this is a bright, young man, too.

M: Well, on that somewhat somber note, I would like to thank
you very much and call this to a halt. Thank you very much.

J: Thank you.