Interview with Mitchell A. Newberger (April 17, 2000)

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Interview with Mitchell A. Newberger (April 17, 2000)
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Spatial Coverage:
Manatee 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 'Manatee 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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University of Florida


Interviewer: Ben Houston
Interviewee: Mitchell A. "Mickey" Newberger
Date of Interview: April 17, 2000

Mitchell "Mickey" Newberger

Mickey Newberger discusses how he became a U.S. marshal, and his involvement with the anti-air
piracy program (page 1) that immediately preceded his call to intervene in the Manatee County
busing crisis (page 2). Page 2 also contains his impressions of Judge Ben Krentzmen (see also page
16), and page 3, some specific interactions with the judge. Mr. Newberger follows with his account
of the heavily publicized standoff in Manatee County (page 4), particularly treating his interaction
with Manatee County Sheriff Richard Weitzenfeld and his deputies (page 5-6; see also page 9). He
talks about the subsequent press conference after the standoff (page 7) as well as his feelings about
having to back out of the situation (page 8).

On page 10-11, Mr. Newberger recalls serving Governor Claude Kirk after the Manatee situation had
died down. Page 11 also contains Mr. Newberger's thoughts on Al Butler, the U.S. Marshal from
Washington D.C. who was involved in the Manatee situation, as well as Oscar Blasingame (assistant
U.S. attorney from Tampa) and John Barr, a fellow marshal, all of whom were variously involved
in the Manatee situation. Page 13 addresses some specifics about the seniority of the marshals; page
13-14 cover's Mr. Newberger's attempts to recall details pointed out to him, particularly in regards
to the long hearing in Tampa before Krentzmen subsequent to the standoff.

On page 14-15, Mr. Newberger shares his views on Kirk, particularly regarding how Kirk handled
the Manatee situation, and how busing affected Newberger personally. He feels that the Manatee
crisis had a lack of heroes, and also had a negligible effect on Florida race relations. He also
discusses Kirk in regard to the common comparison of Kirk to other Southern segregationist
governor demagogues such as Orval Faubus (page 17). On page 18-21 he talks about other possible
oral history prospects regarding this topic, and concludes (page 20-21) with his views on the media's
sensationalist perspective in covering the Manatee crisis.

H: It is April 17, 2000, and I am here with Mr. Mickey Newberger, formerly of the
U.S. Marshals. Mr. Newberger, thanks for meeting with me today.

N: That's quite all right. I'm glad to do it.

H: Are you a native Floridian?

N: Native of Tampa, third generation. My grandmother came over from Germany in
1889 and settled in Lutz, north of Tampa, and I'm still there.

H: How did you come to be a U.S. marshal?

N: It kind of ran in the family. My father was a former chief of police in Tampa, and
my younger brother retired a chief of police in Tampa. I started with the sheriff's
office in 1960 and then went with the federal government in 1964.

H: Why did you switch over?

N: It is a much better job, pay-wise and everything else, than the local law
enforcement position that I had.

H: I understand that you were a FSU [Florida State University] football player before

N: I went to FSU. I did not really play that much football. I was up there with Burt
Reynolds. We knew him as Buddy Reynolds at that time. I had a scholarship,
when Tom Nugent [coach] was there, from Hillsborough High School. I went up
there and played one year and decided I just did not want to play football. I
mean, you really have to have a passion for the game and be willing to get beat
up, and I am beat up enough today. I had a stiff neck and pain from that short
time I played and what I played in high school and I just did not have the desire
to continue with it, so I went back to the University of Tampa and went to school

H: Instead, you decided to beat up governors and governors' aides?

N: That was an interesting situation, but I believe the Time magazine account that
you may have seen was maybe a little sensationalized. It was not quite that bad.

H: So, at the time that this started, you were in the U.S. marshals office in Tampa?

N: At the time this happened-that was in 1970, I think-I was a deputy U.S. marshal
and I am not sure [but] I may have been a supervisory deputy. But I was the
deputy U.S. marshal in charge of the anti-air piracy program at the Tampa
International Airport. I was [assigned to airport] inspections by the U.S. Marshal
Service out of headquarters in Washington. I was an inspector along with five

MCBC 5 page 2

other deputy U.S. marshals. We conducted training of U.S. Customs agents and
local police, working on the anti- air piracy program around the country. We
would fly to different airports in different cities and train local police officers and
customs officers and any other law enforcement officer that was pressed into
duty at the time because of the aircraft hijacking phenomenon that was taking
place back then.

H: How did you come to be charged with dealing with the situation in Manatee?

N: I think that was before I became the supervisor. I was promoted to supervisor
while in the airport, but I think this happened shortly before. The Tampa division
supervisor called me in from the airport. I guess I had the background in law
enforcement, and there were several other deputies in the office that had been
deputy sheriffs with me over at Hillsborough County, mainly John Barr [along
with] Felix Sharpe, a retired captain of the military. Felix had never been a local
police officer, but he had been in the marshal service for quite a while. [The
division supervisor] called us in and told us what the situation was and, if I
remember correctly-quite a bit of time gone by now-we had a conference with
Judge Krentzmen, and he told us to go down and serve the orders. He said he
knew we would be careful not to incite anything. He did not want anybody hurt. If
we saw that it was going to be a problem, you know, and we could not do what
we were there to do, just to diplomatically back out. In other words, do not press
the envelope too far, to an explosive situation where we could have somebody
get hurt.

H: What was your impression of Krentzmen?

N: I thought he was one of the finest jurors that ever sat on the bench. We all have
little peculiarities here and there, you know, but I got along well with him. In fact,
you talk to some people who loved him, and some people did not like him. I
thought he was a great judge, and I thought he did what was the right thing. A lot
of times, you take a lot of heat, but a federal judge is pretty well-insulated.
Sometimes, you can get enough heat, even if you are a federal judge, to feel
it-you know, gets warr-particularly during the days of civil rights. That was a
very difficult time.

H: What were his peculiarities specifically?

N: I do not know that I can pinpoint any. I never had any problems with him. He was
very straightforward. I do not really know. Peculiarities may not be the right term.
He did not hesitate to do what he thought was the right thing to do. Sometimes in
his courtroom, he would get a little nervous about people moving around the
courtroom, which any judge should. That was the beginning of a [different era].
When I started with the marshal service in 1964, there was no such thing as, you
put your cigarettes out in the repository there on the walls for cigarette butts.

MCBC 5 page 3

Well, you go into a federal building today, and this is when it started failing, and
you are liable to see half a dozen cigarettes. That was before. Now, I think they
banned smoking altogether. But, just a few years ago, right out on the floor of
marble, somebody would drop them and smash them. Things just started
changing about that time. I guess it was the end of the Vietnam War deal. I do
not know what brought it about, but you could really see a difference in people
no longer recognizing and respecting a minor offense situation, like the petty-
type offense, like throwing a cigarette butt on the floor and smashing it on the
floor-type thing. I guess it was just the beginning of the change in times. I do not
know. He was a very straightforward, very stern. I remember one time-this is
getting off the Kirk thing a little bit-we had a case. The airport hijack[ing] program
was basically new ground. The search-and-seizure process was somewhat
vague, in what you could do and what you could not do. We brought our first two
cases in, and, naturally, these cases were all based on [an] exigency where a
person, once we let them past the door and they got on the plane, it was all over
for the passengers, you know? So the courts were beginning to allow for this
period of time. They were stretching the search-and-seizure policy quite a little
bit. The appeals court said the lives of these people are more important than
your inconvenience, at least for the time being, is what they were saying. We
brought a case in, and we went in the chamber. I will never forget this.
[Krentzmen] said, marshal, the law clerks have researched this, and I think that
you have gone a little too far on this. I think we are going to have to throw this
out. It was one of the earlier cases, and I had such a rapport with him, I started
laughing. I said, well Judge, you know, that's up to you but we are going to
appeal it. He started laughing, he said, well, that is what the court of appeals is
for. And he was reversed. As a result of that, for a number of years after that-he
was a reversed a few times later on-when I was still in the service and I was
sitting in the courtroom with a trial or sitting up there on the bench with him, he
would not hesitate to say, well, I have only been reversed one time, and he is
sitting right there. But he took [it] in stride. He knew he was not perfect, and he
did what he thought was right. But, you know, let some other court handle it at a
higher level if they thought it was not.

H: Just to refresh your memory a little bit, Kirk met with the school board and told
them that he was going to take over the school on a Sunday evening. So, when
was this meeting with Krentzmen that you referred to earlier?

N: See, I remember that the headline in the newspapers were, I think, April 10,
1970. It was headlined with our picture, and they were all over the world, as a
matter of fact. I was thinking that if that was the case, it must have been April 9
that we were down there, but I do not remember that for sure. But I did not know
the background. All that we knew was that Judge Krentzmen, the best I can
remember now, had entered an order, and we were told by the judge and by our
division supervisor that [Kirk] was not going to accept the order and he was not
going to let us in the building. He was going to be there, and as we heard it, he

MCBC 5 page 4

had fifty Highway Patrolmen in riot gear in the back with him. Now, I do not think
that was true. I think he had some. And that we needed to go down there and
keep as cool as possible and see if we could affect the service of the [court]
order, and then trying not to provoke any real trouble.

H: So this was the day before the big standoff that made the news.

N: This was probably the day of it. I was called in from the airport, if I remember
correctly, and told to take this order and go down there. I think it was kept kind of
secret in the courthouse until they actually called us in. It is my recollection that it
was just a spur-of-the-moment thing. They called us in and said, this is what we
got to do, this is what is happening. I did not know about it three or four days in
advance, if that is what you are talking about.

H: Were you under the authority of [Assistant U.S. Attorney Oscar] Blasingame and
[U.S. Attorney in Tampa John] Briggs?

N: Well, no. We were under the authority of 28 United States Code 540 and 13
USC 3053. 28 USC 540 gives us marshal authority to act as a sheriff in
executing laws of the United States, and 18 USC 3053 is a criminal statute
empowering the marshals. The United States attorney is a different organization
altogether, but Blasingame was told to go with us, and as a result of that, I think
we all four went down-you know, I do not remember this-in the same car

H: Four is you, Blasingame, Barr and Sharpe?

N: Yes. When we got to the school, naturally there was a multitude of reporters
milling around and a lot of people standing around. As we walked up the steps,
all the reporters were doing their thing. You know how that goes-all over you. So
we walked in and as we walked in the door, there was a door over to the left.
Sheriff [of Manatee County Richard] Wietzenfeld and two or three of his deputies
were there, and we recognized that, although I did not know Weitzenfeld at the
time. He had his badge on outside of his jacket, and we did also. We also had
our badges outside on our jacket, our coat.

H: Were you armed?

N: Yes. We never do anything when we are not armed that I know of, except
handling of a prisoner in a courtroom in a real sticky situation and we have
enough deputies there to overpower somebody instead of having to worry about
fighting for your gun if you got to overpower somebody who just tries to make a
break in the courtroom.

H: From my understanding of the newspaper accounts, which could be completely

MCBC 5 page 5

flawed, there was an initial time where John Barr served an order on Claude Kirk
personally, and then later there was the standoff between the aides, which you,
of course, were involved with. Were you involved in serving the initial order with

N: The only order that I remember serving was the order where they said the
governor was in the back room in the school [administration building], that he
had taken over the school, and that the sheriff was not going to let us in and he
had fifty Highway Patrolmen in there with him.

H: Okay. So this was the big standoff.

N: Right. That is the only thing I remember. Now, whether Kirk was in that room or
not, I never saw him. We got in the door, and the sheriff kind of put his hand up
and he said, I am Sheriff Wietzenfeld and Deputy so and so, and we all shook
hands. I do not remember if it was myself or Johnny Barr. I think Johnny was
probably doing the talking at that point. Johnny said that we were here to serve
an order on the governor, and the sheriff said, well, you cannot go in there.
There was some conversation back and forth, and I do not remember what was
said. But, as I remember it, I was thinking, I think the best thing to do here is if
somebody needs to say they were arrested first, probably we should exercise our
authority first, just to be in a better position. As I remember it, we said, well,
sheriff, what we are going to have to do is, you know, we do not want anybody to
get hurt or anything but we have a job to do, and we are going to have to just
simply tell you that you are under arrest. [Weitzenfeld] said, well, something to
the effect of we are not going anywhere. I said, well, I understand that. I said, we
do not want any shootout out here. He got me over to the corner and he said,
look, marshal, I am in a bad spot. And he was nervous. He was scared to death.
They were all nervous. [Weitzenfeld] said, you know, the governor has told me if
I let you in there that he is removing me from office. I said, well, the other side of
it is, you might end up in jail anyhow. We kind of laughed about it, even though it
was tense. Finally, we made a move for the door, just kind of one of these deals
where I rub against you and you push against me, and it does not go any further
than that. Then, Oscar Blasingame, I remember Oscar stepping in. He thought it
was going to get out of hand. Oscar said, wait a minute, wait a minute. In fact, in
the Newsweek thing, you can see where he put his hand up there. He was trying
to cool us down. And I said, let me go call the judge. You know, a few things
transpired there, but this is the gist of it, basically. I went in the room and called
Judge Krentzmen. I said, Judge, they are barring us at the door. I said, if we go
any further, we are going to have to forcefully take out the sheriff and everything
else, and I do not know if there is enough of us to do that. He said, no, no, no, do
not do that. He said, do not worry about it. He said, they are not going to let you
in? I said, no, sir, they are not going to let us in. He said, then just come on back
to Tampa, and I will take care of it. Those were the words I remember him
saying. So I went back to Tampa. Well, we went out and we gave the press

MCBC 5 page 6

conference on the steps, which was in the newspapers all over. I think Johnny
was doing the talking, told them that we had been unable to effect the service
and it was going to be turned back over to the federal district judge who issued
the order to decide what he wanted to do. We went back to Tampa, and we told
Judge Krentzmen what happened. He said, very well, very well, if that is the way
he wants to do it, we will work on it-or something to that effect-I will take care of
it. So, I think the next day or two days later, he issued an order fining the
governor $100,000 a day personally. I do not know how many days went by. It
may have been a couple days. I do not know if you have those records or not,
that maybe we flew to Tallahassee on a Sunday night? I do not know.

H: Do you mean to Tampa, when you testified in a hearing?

N: From Tampa to Tallahassee. When the judge fined him $100,000, I think it was
only one day that went by, or maybe two, that Kirk decided that he had to take
the orders.

H: Let us go back, and maybe we can tease out the order. With this situation in the
superintendent's office, do you think that this quote that-it was either Time or
Newsweek-said that you were accidentally struck. Was this, sort of, this pseudo-
pushing between you and Wietzenfeld?

N: Well, Wietzenfeld did not do it. It was one of his deputies, a pretty big boy, as big
as I was, almost. This is not going to be fun to tackle this guy. It was one of his
deputies, and all we did was, basically, they were standing in front of the door. I
think it was either two or three of them and the sheriff, and the sheriff was off to
the side. I think two deputies, or three, were standing, kind of, across the door.
We just made a move to the door and, basically, walked right into them and saw
that they were not going to move. You know, we ordered them to move, and they
did not. The next step is, you know, start slugging it out, and it is not going to
work that way. We do not want to do that.

H: Did you have any interaction with any of the governor's aides in that situation?

N: None. We did not see any governor's aides. I was told the governor was in the
room. That was my recollection, that the governor was in the room with fifty
Highway Patrolmen. I said, I doubt that, but I did not know. He may have been in
there with ten or something. Claude Kirk was a big showman, and I think he ran
a real risk there doing that of somebody getting hurt. It is fortunate all the officers
involved had cooler heads.

H: What about the newspaper accounts of you and Blasingame serving Robert
Dooley Hoffman, Robert Warner, Lloyd Hagaman [Kirk aides]. The way the
newspapers' account had it-which, again, does not have to be accurate-they
were served with a copy of the order, and then they retreated into the back room

MCBC 5 page 7

and that there was somewhat of a shouting match between you and them across
the door, or even by telephone into the office. Does any of that ring a bell?

N: No. The only thing I can think of is that maybe Oscar Blasingame talked to
somebody in the back room, but I do not even remember that. There was no
phone there. You had to walk over to another office to get to a phone. I do not
remember. I can see Hagaman's face right now. I could be wrong. That was
thirty years ago. I do not remember having any encounter face-to-face with
Hagaman or any of the aides. Now, when I went in to use the phone, I was off
[around a corner], they were standing at the door. I remember pretty clearly they
did not crack that door. That door never opened where the governor was
supposed to be back there with Hagaman and whoever else. That never opened.
I do not recall going with Oscar anyplace to serve.

H: You do not remember having any direct interaction with any of the governor's

N: I do not.

H: Tell me more about this press conference that you had on the steps afterwards.

N: You know, you had a mob of reporters there, and it did not last that long. We just
explained to them that we were here on behalf of the United States to serve an
order on the governor, and we had been barred at the door by the sheriff, that
we were not looking for any confrontation where someone could get hurt, and
that the federal district judge had ordered us to go back to Tampa and counsel
with him as to what our next step would be. Basically, that is what the gist of it

H: Was it true that after that, you went to a Howard Johnson's?

N: Went to Howard Johnson's?

H: That is a minor point. I was just curious. That is what one of the newspapers
columns said. The newspapers account said that you were sort of lamely talking
about how you had fulfilled your duty of serving them even though you had not
actually arrested them, or something to that effect.

N: I do not remember that. I mean, that was a long time ago. It could have been.

H: How was the press reacting to this?

N: The press was reacting like it would on anything that is international, that was
going to be in the papers all over the world. You know, they are in a frenzy. They
are pushing and shoving and sticking mikes...well, you can see the photograph

MCBC 5 page 8

in the paper. You know, like forty mikes under there. I just kind of had my head
down, said, gee, I do not know what I am doing here.

H: Personally, did you feel that this whole situation had been pointless or
mishandled, or were you just content to follow Krentzmen's orders the way he
wanted it?

N: Well, we did not have to follow Krentzmen's orders. Once he gave us the order,
we could do whatever we deemed necessary to execute it. Krentzmen was not
there to tell us how far to go or how far not to go, what force to use and what
force not to use. That was not his responsibility, or the judge's responsibility
generally. But it is common sense and experience in law enforcement that tell
you, do not lose your cool in heat like this. You have to realize how far you can
go, and there is nothing else you can do short of a physical confrontation, which
means somebody could get hurt. You are dealing with deputies, and you do not
know how cool they are. I mean, one of them could lose his cool and end up in a
free for all there. We were talking to people I had never seen.

H: So you did not have any problem with backing off?

N: Oh no, I did not have any problem backing off. I knew that in the end, they would
have to comply, that the power of the state is subordinate. The Supreme Court
already ruled, and whether you believe in it or what, it does not make [any
difference]. You are just doing your job. It had to come, and it was come one way
or another. Like you said, he fined him $100,000 a day, and that brought him to
the table quick. So, in a way, it was a parallel to this little kid [Elian Gonzalez,
contested Cuban refugee] in Miami. You know, how are they going to get this kid
out of there? A lot of people are criticizing Janet Reno, and I am not one of her
big fans but when you are dealing with something like that--the Cuban people
are very spirited. They stretch to the nth degree, like other people do, their rights
as Americans, you know? But they feel strongly about this, and I do not know
how you are going to get that kid out of there without somebody getting hurt. I
would hope that [they] do just like we did down there, just send a few marshals in
there, plainclothes. They go as far as they can go, and they look you in the face
and say, we are not going to let you in there. Well then, they need to be videoing
this conversation in the back. Then, those people that are not going to let us in,
the next morning when they go to work, you snatch them off the job. Then you
back and do it again until you get the leaders out. Otherwise, you are going to
have a situation where there is going to be bloodshed down there, potentially.
That is the way, kind of, we did it here.

H: Talk more about Wietzenfeld and your impressions of him. You said he was
pretty nervous.

N: Sheriff Wietzenfeld, I do not know if he had any law enforcement experience or

MCBC 5 page 9

not. I did not know him that well. But he was concerned. He did not want to be
there. He did not want to be in the position he was in. He made it clear to me that
he did not know what to do, other than if he did not do what the governor told
him to do, he said, [Kirk] was going to remove him from office. He was in a
catch-22, you know, and he knew that in the end they were going to lose. He told
me that. He said, I do not want any problems. I said, there are not going to be
any problems, unless somebody else starts it, as far as anybody getting into a
confrontation physically. I said, you know, it is not going to happen. He was very
polite. His deputies were pretty polite, but they said nothing. They just stood
there. In fact, I remember in the photograph, they were standing there just as
stern-faced as they could be, but they were not doing any talking. I guess he had
probably told them not to open their mouths, [that] he was going to do all the
talking. I do not know that, but it kind of looked that way. He just wished that he
was not there because he knew that it was not going to work to their benefit.
They were going to lose one way or another, and I think it was embarrassing to
sheriff Wietzenfeld, if you want to know the truth.

H: So the only law enforcement people that you were in contact with were Manatee
County sheriff deputies. You personally did not witness any Florida Highway
Patrol or State Beverage Commission legions.

N: No. The sheriff's deputies and the sheriff were the only ones that we had any
encounter with.

H: Were they armed?

N: Yes, they were all armed. I mean, we were all armed. That is the thing that
makes it scary, you know. The governor doing something like that, I think it was
ridiculous. He put law enforcement people from one agency and pits them
against another, and in his wildest dreams, he did not know what the
personalities of these people were that he was sending in there, or how well
trained they were to hold their emotions and so forth. It was a high risk for him to
do that. Somebody could have gotten shot. I think Kirk even made the statement
to the paper, we are going to shoot any... He made some statement about
shooting people.

H: Do you know where that came from, that statement?

N: No, I do not, other than I heard that he had said that. I read in the paper that he
said that, whatever that means. But, you know, the paper a lot of times...

H: There is some evidence to show that maybe an intermediary said it but it was not
directly an official of Kirk's administration.

N: Yes. You know, I have been shot at before. It is not fun. But, I did not expect

MCBC 5 page 10

anything like that to come out of this. A lot of times, things happen when you do
not expect them, too, so you really do not know what is going to happen.

H: My understanding is that the next day, April 10, you served notice on the aides
with Al Butler. Do you recall that? This is coming from your court testimony,
because you are in Tampa on April 10, in Krentzmen's court, and you swore that
you had served the aides but not the governor himself.

N: I know I was with Al, and Al and I flew to Tallahassee, but I cannot remember
serving. I served him in Tampa?

H: No, sir. You served him in Manatee, but that day, there was the hearing in
Tampa where Krentzmen was.

N: See, I am drawing a blank on that, you know? That may be. Al was from the
headquarters office in Washington. I do not recall going back to Manatee

H: Did you serve him in Tallahassee, then?

N: I served the governor in Tallahassee.

H: On April 10? Or after the showdown?

N: No, it was after April 10. April 10 is when it was headlined in the paper. What
was April 10, what day?

H: April 10 would have been a Thursday.

N: I think we served the governor on the weekend. For some reason, it seemed like
a Sunday night, but maybe it was not. Al came down, I think, from Washington,
and my supervisor sent me with Al.

H: Who was your supervisor?

N: Marvin Price. I think Marvin is still alive and he is over around in Lake Griffin
somewhere. He is up in his eighties now. We chartered a plane out of Peter
O'Knight, I believe, on Davis Island, if I remember correctly. We flew to
Tallahassee at night. I think we served the governor around 9:00 at night. I will
never forget it because I had sat in on trial a year or two before, where two
prominent attorneys and a wealthy businessman in Tampa had flown from the
same airport were flying to Tallahassee to go on a hunting trip. They got caught
in a storm, and the plane was lost. A single-engine plane. They never found it.
Deblois, Kreher and Hill were their names. They finally had the trial right before
the statute of limitations ran [out], and the judge had to throw it out because they

MCBC 5 page 11

never found the plane or a body. They did not know if it went down in federal
waters or in the state. Then, twenty years later, a shrimper grabbed the plane. It
was, like, fifteen miles offshore. It was supposed to fly in and never out. It should
not have gone out to the Gulf. It should have come inland to get around the
storm. We were coming back, and we got in this hellacious thunderstorm. I was
sitting there saying, oh man, and the plane was bouncing around in lightning.
The pilot had its lights on, and it was raining. He had his lights on trying to find
the horizon. I did not feel like we were going down like this, but if you do it
gradually, you do not know it. Finally, we broke out of it, and we were right over
Cedar Key. Man, I was sweating, because I do not like flying in little planes
anyhow, or big ones really. I will never forget that part, coming back. I know it
was Al Butler and I. We got to Tallahassee, and we went in to the back of the
[governor's] mansion. I think it was about 9:00 at night, and they let us in the
back gate. We walked downstairs. It is kind of a cellar in there where he had an
office. Every governor changed all that stuff around, but that was his office
downstairs. He invited us in, and he was just as cordial as he could be. He said,
whatcha got for me, fellas? You know Claude Kirk. We sat there and gave him
the orders, and he said, okay, thank you. A little inconsequential chat, which I do
not remember what it was about, but we laughed and joked at each other. And,
we got up and we left and got on the plane. Then, as I was saying-I got ahead of
myself a little bit-we got in that storm coming back. But I just absolutely do not
remember serving Hagaman with Al Butler. I just do not remember that. It is just
something that I cannot recollect.

H: Clarify for me, if you would, why Al Butler was brought down.

N: When I first started off in the marshal service...Al had worked in the
headquarters office when the marshal service was quite small, had a small
headquarters office-it is much larger now-and he transferred to Tampa. Before I
went to work for the marshal service, I was riding as a guard, off and on, with Al
when I was a deputy sheriff, on a trip here and there. That is how I got to know
him. He is a friend of Johnny Barr's, actually. Then I think Al went back to
Washington into the headquarters office after he transferred out of Tampa. Then
he became the warden at a United States penitentiary in Lewisburg
[Pennsylvania], I believe, if I remember correctly. You know, I had not seen him
in years, and my understanding is he passed away. But, I do not know that. He
may still be around. Al was probably ten years older than me.

H: Why did he come in from Washington to deal with this?

N: I think the reason the headquarters office sent him down here is because they
wanted a presence here.

H: But he was just another marshal, right?

MCBC 5 page 12

N: No, he was on headquarters staff. That would be like any bureau, the FBI
[Federal Bureau of Investigation] or anybody else, sending somebody down from
headquarters just to be in on the deal because of the magnitude of it and the
potential press and all that, that could result. Al was a very cool person, very
experienced also. Johnny Barr had been deputy sheriff also, for some reason,
the supervisor chose me to go instead of Johnny. Johnny had been on the
marshal service about two years longer than me. He had no criminal
investigation background. He was uniform patrol while he was in the sheriff's
office. But I do not really know why Price chose me to go.

H: Did Al Butler talk at all about any sort of connection or interest that Washington
had in the case?

N: No, it was just, historically I think, when you have a situation like, well, we can
take Elian [Gonzalez] down here in Miami right now. You can rest assured that
the marshal service is going to send someone from headquarters down there. I
am kind of surprised the attorney general of the United States went down there,
but that is neither here nor there. But a presence from the headquarters office,
just for the purpose control it, they need to know everything that is going
on in a situation that could become adverse publicity. They want to be in there to
help coordinate it and help make decisions. That is just the chain-of-command
operating here. Basically, that is what it boils down to. And that is the reason, I
am sure, they sent Al down, because he had been in the Tampa office and he
knew me. I do not know, Al Butler may have asked for me to go. I do not know
the answer to that. Whatever Al Butler said back then, the division supervisor
would not have said do not do it. Marvin was the type, all he wanted to do was
serve his process, you know, and go home. He did not want to get into this real
law enforcement stuff. Any chance of any problems, he did not want anything to
do with that. So, he backed off and turned the whole thing over to the
headquarters office, I am sure, when Al came down.

H: What are your impressions of Blasingame and Barr?

N: Oscar Blasingame was the first United States attorney I ever found who had any
interest in environmental cases. Generally, Republicans are not too interested in
environmental stuff, from my experience, and I am a Republican. That is the one
thing I do not like about them. But Oscar was a very dedicated person. He was a
young fellow at the time. He was getting some time under his belt and learning
something about the government before he went into private practice. Johnny
Barr was a motorcycle officer. He had spent so many years in the Navy as a
Navy SEAL [elite commando unit], as I understand it. Johnny was all right. When
I became United States marshal, we kind of separated a little bit. Our friendship
kind of waned because he did not like to work very hard. He thought maybe I
was riding him too much, that we were not real close after I became the marshal
for the district. But Johnny did a good job. You know, you give him process and

MCBC 5 page 13

you give him stuff to do and he knew how to handle prisoners. He was very good
at handling prisoners, very careful. Overall, he was an all-right guy. Felix Sharpe,
the same way. Felix was a low-profile, kind of a pencil man, you know? I was
definitely not a pencil man. Barr was not a real pencil man.

H: Tell me again why you think that John Barr was in charge of doing all the talking,
in the showdown and to the press afterwards.

N: Well, there was nobody really in charge. When the three of us went down there,
Felix Sharpe was senior deputy. I was junior deputy by two years. We just kind of
played it by ear between us. If it was directed to me, then I took over. Johnny
liked to talk anyway. He was a talker, so it just came natural for him when we
walked down the steps. He had the papers in his hand, and I believe that he
made the statement. Now, I do not know that coming down the stairs we did not
say, Johnny, you go ahead and make the statement. We probably did. That is
basically what it was. We kind of had the understanding that if somebody is
talking to me, you know, you respond to them, do not interrupt, and it worked out

H: So you do not have any recollection of being in Judge Krentzmen's court on
Thursday, April 10, and swearing that you had served notice upon the governor.

N: You know, the record speaks for itself and I am sure I did, but, boy, I tell you
what. I know we had to go in the courtroom, but to say I have clear remembrance
of that, I just cannot say it. I am sure we did because, you know, the judge had to
hold a hearing, but it is just something that has faded out of my mind over the
years. Tell me something else. Maybe it will shock my mind. Is there something
else that happened there?

H: Thursday was the big long hearing, and Hagaman and Hoffman were brought to

N: They appeared in the federal building that day, and that is when I served them?

H: No, I do not think so. The serving was different, I think, because what happened
is, I think they snuck out the back window after you had been there on the 9 [of

N: Down in Manatee?

H: Yes, and they stayed in a motel, and then they came up to Tampa because they
could not dodge Krentzmen's order. So, there was a lot of to-do about
questioning them, and Wietzenfeld was there as well. They made all three of
them testify and talk about...

MCBC 5 page 14

N: You know, I remember something about this. I still do not remember this very
clearly, but I remember Wietzenfeld, now that you say it, being up in Tampa. But
I just cannot put any real clear recollection on the hearing as a whole.

H: Well, let us take a break, and maybe I can use my outline and we can try and
reconstruct the events a little better. [Tape interrupted.] Okay, so you do not
have any recollection of being brought in Judge Krentzmen's court and simply
swearing that you had served notice. That does not ring any bells to you?

N: No, but that does not mean I did not because I spent a lot of time in that
courtroom. That just does not ring a bell.

H: This hearing was when, shortly thereafter, that is when he handed down his
decision that he Kirk was in contempt as well as his aides and he was fining
them. It was the next day that they withdrew from Manatee County. Were you
privy to any sort of information about what had happened behind the scenes?

N: No, not really. Pretty much, I do not know what deputy was in the courtroom with
the judge at that time or may have been in chambers with him, but I do not think
it was me because I was probably back out at the airport, back and forth. We
were working day and night at the time. I was putting in, like, nineteen hours a
day when that hijack program started. It could have been one of the other
deputies. I do not know. I never heard anything other than when I was called and
he told me I had to fly to Tallahassee. I just do not recall anything else. It may be
because I was pretty well stressed out and tired anyhow because, you know,
they were hijacking planes all over the place. Unfortunately, we never lost any,
never had any hijacked out of Tampa. We disarmed a few people who went on a
plane trying to hijack them, but...

H: Did you feel after you served Governor Kirk, that was pretty much the closing
with your involvement in this whole episode?

N: The best I remember, sitting down with the governor about 9:00 at night in the
mansion was the last involvement I had, other than reading in the paper, I think
the following day or something, reading he had complied or something like that.
That is pretty much the best I can recollect.

H: You mentioned that you were a Republican. Were you a supporter of Kirk before
this happened?

N: No, I did not support Kirk. I cannot even remember if I voted for him. Probably at
that time, as a matter of fact, I was a Democrat. I changed my registration when I
was very disgruntled with the national situation, and [George] McGovern was
nominated for president of the United States and had all those riots up at the
convention and all of that. A year or so after that, that is when I changed my

MCBC 5 page 15

affiliation. You know, there were only Democrats in Florida. There was no such
thing as a Republican, hardly, back when I was a kid. As a matter of fact, when I
changed parties in 1970, I think it was, 1971, I had a lot of people who were
elected officials really chastise me for it. The funny thing was, some of them four
or five six years later changed to the Republican party, too. I am not that
politically involved in campaigns and stuff, but I have never voted for a
Democrat, I do not think, for president of the United States since I have been
able to vote.

H: What were your impressions of how Kirk handled this whole situation?

N: I thought it was reckless. That is the way I feel about it. It was very reckless. I
thought he endangered...he put me in jeopardy, he put everybody in there,
around there, in jeopardy. For him to sit back and say that all these people are
going to get in this emotional face-off, all law enforcement officers from too many
different levels of government, and there is nothing that potentially could happen,
it was dangerous. It was dangerous and it was reckless. That is basically the way
I will put it.

H: What about the bussing issue itself?

N: The bussing issue? Well, yes, it affected me. I lived rurally, and my kids for
awhile had to walk for, like, a mile and a half down a rural road to even get to
school, unless we took them. Then, my son about that time, they bussed him all
the way down into the inner city, when the school that I went to and my family
went know? It was not easy. I knew what they were trying to achieve,
and I did not have a problem with that, but I think it cost certain generations, at
least that generation, I think their education was not as good as it would have
been if they had not had the bussing.

H: Why is that?

N: Because of the transition. I mean, it is simply the fact that, you know, there is
hostility there with some people. You go to school, you are uncomfortable, you
are being bussed into an inner-city school. Most kids had not been really
associated with African-Americans at the time. You were concerned as a parent
because even though it had to happen, it was just a difficult time to go through. I
recognize that it was the right thing to do, but I felt like, temporarily, for a period
of time, it lowered the standard of education. You know, now, it is pretty much
leveled off. But, you had to get a kid up before daylight, bus him twenty miles to
a school, when he is in the fifth grade or something? But, again, I realize that it
was something that, you know, there was apparently no other answer. That is
what it was going to take, so you just had to live with it. You had to work with it.
My son is now the vice president of a bank. He is very intelligent with numbers
and stuff. His English is the pits. The other thing was, you know, that I was

MCBC 5 page 16

concerned about was the dialects that you start picking up when you put a
handful of white kids in an all-black school. You are going to pick up the dialect,
and then your English is going to change. And it affected...his English and his
writing skills are terrible, but he is doing fine, other than he probably ought to
take a course in English sometime now when things are settled down to improve
his writing skills. But those things basically worked out for the best. The only
thing that I hated about it, it really kind of destroyed the local-school concept
where the parents know each other. The schools no longer had that close-knit
deal where they could get the parents to come to the meetings, you know?
Those things kind of dissolved in result of this bussing. That is just part of it, to
get what you had to get, I guess. Everybody survived it.

H: Some people have surmised that this came about in large part because it was a
clash of egos between Governor Kirk and Judge Krentzmen. Do you think that
would be a fair characterization?

N: Ben Krentzmen did not have...he was a federal judge. I do not know why you
have to even worry about having an ego. You have the power of the United know, the most powerful person under the Constitution of the United
States is a judge.

H: The reason why people say that is because when Krentzmen was trying to get
Manatee County to comply, he set the date that they had to comply to be just a
couple weeks before the school year was going to end A lot of people felt that
was heavy-handed because it was increasing the disruption that you were talking
about earlier, because it was in the middle of the school year.

N: The only thing I can say to that is, apparently the judge had dealt with this and
that he was the type of judge, again, that when the time came that he thought,
this is going to have to be done, I am going to go ahead and do it now and get it
over with. I think that is why some people maybe did not think too kindly of him,
you know? I do not know a lot of people, but some people did not like [that]. He
made a decision, and I can see what he was saying, well, am I going to go
ahead and do this and let us get all this over with and all this out of the way and
let the steam settle down. I am going to let it keep steaming for another two
months and then do it. He was not that type of person. When it was there on the
board and this is going to happen, why put it off? Let us do it. That is the
impression I had of Ben Krentzmen, and that is what he did. He was not afraid to
do it.

H: You probably read the next day in the newspapers that Governor Kirk had
claimed victory in his handling of the situation. Do you recall what your reaction
to that might have been?

N: No, not specifically, but we probably just looked at each other and laughed

MCBC 5 page 17

because it was evident that he was grandstanding, and if he is not he is going to
lose. I do not know what kind of victory he claimed. I mean, the sad part is that if
one of us had shot each other, then what is he going to claim then? He would
have blamed it on me. And it does not matter if a sheriff had pulled out a gun
and shot me. It would have been my fault. So I think it was reckless.

H: Do you think there are any heroes in this story?

N: No, I do not think it is the type of thing that really generates a hero. I think it is
one of those times in history that was difficult for a lot of people. The federal law
had become clear, and Judge Krentzmen was just doing his job. We were just
doing our job, and Governor Kirk was taking a dangerous position grandstanding.
That is the way I feel about it. So I do not know that you generate any heroes out
of a deal like this. It is hurtful for everybody.

H: What effect do you think this had on race relations in Manatee County and/or

N: I think it probably blew over pretty fast. I do not believe there were any long-term
or lasting effects from it. I think there were people who were cussing Judge
Krentzmen, and there were people who were cussing Claude Kirk. It was
according to which side of the fence you were on. A lot of the, probably, rural-
area people who really had never been faced with desegregation, they did not
want their kids bussed. Nobody really wanted their kids bussed. I did not want
mine bussed. I would have preferred that they had bussed-even though I do not
guess it worked-the black kids out to a new school. Let them go to a new school,
but leave my kid in the school. I did not mind the mixing problem, but it was the
damn bussing I just did not, you know, nobody liked it. And nobody likes it today.
I do not think anything has changed.

H: That is true. A lot of comparisons were made comparing Kirk to George Wallace,
Orval Faubus, Ross Barnett [segregationist governors of Alabama, Arkansas,
and Mississippi respectively]. Do you think that is accurate?

N: I think that is a good comparison, only it was on a lesser scale. I think Claude
Kirk knew that those days were over and he better not entrench himself the way
Wallace did or Faubus did or Ross Barnett did. He knew not to do that. He did
not even get close to doing that.

H: If there was that difference, why do you think that it is a good comparison?

N: Well, because they were all taking a stand as the head of the state against this
issue. The other three just carried it to a point where there was violence. This
was not a situation where Kirk went beyond after he was fined and says, you
know, old Claude ain't gonna do this, old Claude ain't gonna do that, [and] don't

MCBC 5 page 18

come back down here, where we really had to generate a special operations
group of 100 or 200 deputy marshals from all over the country and go in there in
a situation where people got hurt, like in Oxford and at Ole Miss. As a matter of
fact, Johnny Barr was at Ole Miss. He had just gone in the marshal service, and I
came on the marshal service right after Ole Miss. They were shot at and
everything else out there. It was wild. I think Kirk knew not to carry it that far, that
he would never be able to talk his way out of that. Those days were gone. Still,
you never know where the brink is. That is why I think it was reckless, even if you
have eight law enforcement officers from different areas facing off at each other.
It is less likely to happen than if you have 100 facing off at each other, and
something throws a brick or something and it gets out of control.

H: You may not be in a position to answer this, but some people have surmised that
there was kind of an inner circle acting on Kirk that was very aggressive, eager to
make a stand...

N: Do you mean Hagaman and his staff?

H: No, probably more a circle of advisors sort of behind the actual aides.

N: I have no idea. I am not in a position to answer that. Now, Oscar may know
something about that. Probably not, but you can sure ask him.

H: Yes. Who else do you think figures into this that I need to talk to, besides Mr.
Blasingame? Have I neglected to drop any names that might shed some light on

N: Did you say that Al Butler had passed away, or you do not know?

H: I do not know.

N: Okay. The marshal service, or Lewisburg Penitentiary. He was with the Federal
Bureau of Prisons, where he retired from. He was deputy warden or warden at
Lewisburg. The Bureau of Prisons can probably tell you if he is on retirement or if
he is still alive. I have not heard. I have not seen Al in a long time. Johnny Barr
lives in Tampa. He lives on Overland Drive, at least he used to. John C. Barr in
Brandon. Did you talk to Felix?

H: He called me, but when I told him what I was asking about, he kind of said, well, I
do not remember much about that, you probably do not want to talk to me. So I
am kind of keeping him in reserve.

N: Well, Felix is getting up in his years.

H: I figured. I mean, I noticed from the newspaper accounts that you were several

MCBC 5 page 19

years younger than him, so I thought I would talk to you first.

N: Felix is probably seventy-five, seventy-eight. He lives in Brooksville. You know
how to get a hold of him.

H: Yes.

N: Okay. Oscar Blasingame was the other one. Now, I do not know who Judge
Krentzmen's law clerks were.

H: The only name I have come across is Steve Pffeifer. Does that ring a bell?

N: Yes. He is a practicing lawyer, I think in Tampa now. I think Steve Pffeifer is still
in Tampa. If not, all you have to do is get the Florida Bar Journal, or somebody
that can tell you. Steve Pffeifer can tell you who the other law clerk was. Ted

H: That sounds familiar. Who was that?

N: Court reporter. I think Ted is still alive.

H: In Tampa?

N: Yes. Now, Ted did all of Krentzmen's transcribing, almost every bit of it. He may
be able to tell you if there are any documents around, even though they may
have destroyed them by now. I do not know. I do not know how the government
does that.

H: Well, I have the transcripts of the hearings.

N: Okay. Ted probably did those because he was Krentzmen's...

H: He did.

N: Yes. He was Krentzmen's man. He was good, too. Who was in charge of the FBI
at that time? That was Joe Santiana. He is still alive. But you know, I do not think
they had much to do with that. He is still living in Tampa, and I think he is still

H: Okay. Well, certainly John Barr and Blasingame would be prime catches. I tried
looking for them, but I was not able to find them.

N: Well, Oscar is in St. Petersburg, in the phone book, and John Barr is...

H: Brandon is actually...I am staying in Valrico with my cousin.

MCBC 5 page 20

N: Oh, well you are only three miles from Barr's house.

H: That is terrific.

N: I have not kept touch with Johnny, because like I said, our friendship kind of
waned when I became marshal. But, he was a smart person. You know, he was
not any dumbo. I just felt like, really, that he just kind of got lax on me, so our
friendship kind of waned there when I was U.S. marshal for the district.

H: Yes. Well, is there anything that you think I have not touched on that I need to?

N: No, but I believe that Oscar, he probably handled this for the U. S. attorney's
office because he went down there with us. So, he was probably in these
hearings. I do not know how much recollection he will have, but he will have

H: Okay. I called the U. S. attorney's office, and they said they did not have any
records of people who used to be U. S. attorneys. They were not real helpful in
that regard. I think someone did not want to check their files for me.

N: Well, he is in St. Petersburg.

H: That is great.

N: I am surprised [at] Felix. Maybe Felix's memory is slipping a little bit, and he just
does not...because, you are telling me about going with Al to serve Hagaman,
and it is a blank with me.

H: Yes. You have to piece it all together with...

N: That is thirty years ago, too, and there was a lot going on at the time. Like I said,
I was really putting in much hours in the hijack program, day and night.

H: Well, I am relying on newspaper accounts, which are not any more reliable than
your memory.

N: Well, the Time magazine account was done for sensationalism.

H: Yes. Why, specifically, do you think that was sensationalized?

N: Because that is the way they like to do it. I have not seen too many reporters that
do not like to sensationalize things when...

H: But what, specifically, about the account do you think was, just the tone of it?

MCBC 5 page 21

N: Well, the deal, no, the fact that Al was accidentally pushed and the rest. That
was not the way it happened. I think it was a matter of procedural thing, and I
think we thought that we were better off, if something happens here, that we can
testify under oath that they were under arrest.

H: Yes. I think at one point they described you as menacingly talking to the sheriff's

N: Well, I might have said something. You know, in that photograph, I might have
said, do you mean you are not going to let us in here? You know what this
means, do you not? I probably told them, you are not going to win this, what are
you doing this for? Then, Wietzenfeld pulled me over and said, look, I want out
of this. I mean, it was clear he did not want anything to do with it. He was a
nervous wreck. I mean, he was not happy that Governor Kirk, apparently,
according to him, said he is going to remove him from office if he let us in that

H: Yes. All right. Well, I think that is a good place to wrap it up.

N: What about the deputies from Manatee County?

H: I have a list of their names. I have not gotten in touch with any of them. Kurt
is one of them. Bud McKay, I think. [Al] Lippert is another one. I do not
know if that is ringing any bells.

N: Three of them and sheriff, but I do not remember. I only met them one time.

H: Okay. Well, I thank you for your time.

N: All right. Well, I appreciate you coming over.

[End of Interview.]