Interview with Dr. James Robert Cade, March 6, 1982

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Interview with Dr. James Robert Cade, March 6, 1982
Cade, James Robert ( Interviewee )
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History of Florida Education Oral History Collection ( local )


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 'Florida Education' 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: Dr. Robert Cade


DATE: March 26, 1982

G: Dr. Cade, what is your current position at the University?

C: I'm a professor of medicine in the Department of Medicine. I'm a pro-
fessor of physiology at the Medical School of Physiology. I'm also a
professor of physical education in the Department of Professional Physical
Education at the University.

G: How long have you been at the University?

C: Since July of 1961.

G: Where did you come from before coming to the University?

C: Prior to coming here I was at Cornell Medical School in New York City for
three years. Before that I was a resident and research fellow in medicine
at Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas. It's a teaching hospital for
southwestern medical schools. I was an intern in St. Louis before that
and went to medical school in Dallas. Before medical school I was an
undergraduate student at the University of Texas in Austin.

G: Are you originally from Texas?

C: Yes.

G: You grew up there and...?

C: I grew up in San Antonio and went to high school there. After I left high
school in 1945, I joined the Navy. I went to the University of Texas after
I got out of the Navy in 1948.

G: Are you currently married?

C: Yes, I'm married and have six children.

G: What was Gainesville like when you came here in 1961?

C: It was a small town. We came here from New Jersey (but basically from New
York City) and the change from New York to Gainesville was in many ways
very pleasant. Some of the things that we had in the city we surely missed.
In general, though, we thoroughly enjoyed it. It was a pleasant place to
live. We watched our children grow up, and working here was excellent. ,I
don't think the University of Florida is a great school, but it surely gives
one academic freedom and I think that's something to be proud of.

G: Was there a lot of black and white turbulence you can recall when you first
came down here?

C: Well, some. I wasn't impressed by all the turbulence here at that time.
I wasn't part of the black community so I wasn't privy to what they were
saying and fighting. But it didn't impress me that there was an unusual
amount of ferment boiling to the surface.

G: What were your political views? What did you think of Haydon Burns, who
was the governor at that time?


C: Well, I'm a Republican, and my wife and I registered as Republicans when
we came to Florida. I know Haydon Burns personally and I like him, and
I thought that he was a reasonably good governor, I voted against him.

G: Any particular reason?

C: Partly because I'm a Republican,

G: You voted for the Republican camp?

C: Yes.

G: What about Ferris Bryant?

C: I know Ferris Bryant quite well now and I think he is a fine gentleman.
He was a good governor.

G: Did you vote against him?

C: No.

G: He was a Democrat. Would you consider yourself somewhat of a fiscal

C: I'm surely a fiscal conservative, although a number of my colleagues
would say that I am a schizophrenic conservative. Radical is a more
adequate definition.

G: Please explain.

C: Well, medically I think for myself. Because someone says it is true doesn't
necessarily mean it's so. Many things that you do in medicine are absolutely
wrong and you do them because you've been told this is the thing to do over
and over and over again. I've had little respect for dogmas of medicine
that are not based on good observations. The same thing applies to my
attitude toward government. Many of the things that government does are
wrong. I've spoken my mind on occasion.

G: Any such instances that you can recall?

C: I ran for the school board once, before integration. My platform was higher
taxes.and integration, My wife joked with me then because she thought I had
wanted to be elected until I gave my first speech, and then she knew I wasn't
interested. I was defeated.

G: What year was that?

C: I don't remember. It was back around the time of the teachers' strike.

G: How did you feel about the Pork Chop gang that was running the legislature?

C: The Pork Chop gang legislature met only every other year. They could do.;
only half as much damage as they could if they met each year. In general,
I think the Pork Chop gang, in retrospect, did a better job of running


Florida than does the legislature as it's constituted today, They changed
the city rules and legislature.

G: Did you know Claude Kirk before he ran for governor?

C: I still do not. I've never met him.

G: You really don't have any strong personal feelings one way or the other
about Governor Kirk, then?

C: No.

G: I wonder if you could tell me a little bit about the teachers' strike?
How old were your children at the time?

C: They were all in school. The oldest was in the seventh grade. We had a
sixth grader, a fifth grader, and a second grader.

G: You had four kids then?

C: We had five in school and one in pre-school.

G: How many males and females?

C: Two boys and four girls.

G: Were the boys the oldest?

C: The boy is the oldest, then two girls, then another boy, and then two more

G: Then the seventh grader and the second grader were boys?

C: The second grader was a girl. I had a third grader who was a boy.

G: All the rest were girls?

C: The seventh grader and third grader were boys. The fifth grader and sixth
grader were girls. The youngest (a pre-schooler) was four years old.

G: It must have been hard keeping track of all of them.

C: Yes,

G: Were you involved in any kind of school activities, such as PTA, or anything
of that nature?

C: I was the president of the PTA at Littlewbod. Our son was in the fifth
grade when we moved at the end of the year to Terwilliger School district.
I was active in the PTA at Terwilliger, but not like I was at Littlewood.
My distinction in the Littlewood program was for conducting the shortest
PTA meeting ever conducted. It was about forty-three seconds!


G: What business was conducted at that meeting?

C: Elections of new officers.

G: Was your wife involved in any of these activities?

C: She did a lot more work for the PTA when I was president than I did. So
yes, she was involved.

G: She held no formal office?

C: No.

G: Did she ever teach in the schools?

C: She taught during the strike.

G: Could you please give an explanation or account of the events that led up
to the strike?

C: There was an increasing amount of rhetoric on the part of the teachers in
the education association about how unjustly teachers were treated. There
was a great deal of talk about how bad classroom conditions were and a
great deal of talk that the teachers weren't really interested in salaries.
They were interested, but that was a minor part of their complaints. It
really hardly deserved mentioning. My own view is that they were somewhat
hypocritical. When we talked to them and listened to them, one of the major
things they were saying was "we're underpaid," which may or may not have
been true. I think it probably was true. When I ran for school board, I
ran on the platform of higher taxes because I thought the schools needed
higher salaries. In a large part, those salary increases were justified.
I still think, though, that to a very significant degree, the position that
they espoused was hypocritical, Had they said, "we're underpaid and we
want more money," that would have been an honest position. Then I would
have been able to deal with their enthusiasm. As they presented it, it
struck me as being an extremely hypocritical position and I don't like

G: That makes sense. Were you in favor of the state having higher taxes?

C: I was in favor of having higher state taxes and letting higher taxes
support the schools. I was greatly in favor of Claude Kirk raising the
state tax and I wrote him a letter to that effect.

G: Governor Kirk had been elected on a plank of having no new taxes, which
he somehow managed to uphold. Part of the battle, or the walkout, came
from his unreasonableness to sign some bills. What were your recollections
of the roles of local individuals, like Bill Constans, as the thing started
to heat up on a state-wide level?

C: Bill Constans tried to distort the facts. He reminded me of the Pharasees,
and Christ called them hypocrites. I think he was dishonest, I had and
have little respect for him.


G: What exactly were your feelings?

C: I don't think he presented any of the issues with great honesty.

G: He was president of the Florida Educational System?

C: I think so.

G: He was also a University professor.

C: His father was a University professor.

G: This was Dr. Constans's son, then?

C: Yes.

G: He was an Alachua County teacher?

C: I think so.

G: Then we come to the point where the teachers walked out. Before that
time, were you involved locally in any of the discussions, or were there
PTA meetings that took place where this was a topic of discussion? Were
there any contingency plans of anything of that nature?

C: There were PTA meetings that took place in which the salaries of teachers
were discussed. A number of us voted in favor of higher taxes and better
salaries for teachers. I don't remember any real contingency plans being
developed until very shortly before the strike actually occurred. Then the
possibility of parents, or other people in the community teaching in our
schools was discussed. I think it was a very poorly developed plan, and
we had very little discussion until a day or two before the strike actually

G: There was really nothing planned if the teachers actually went through with
their threats?

C: Not really. There was some discussion of people coming in and teaching,
and I think they even discussed it all the way up in Tallahassee. I don't
really remember. The plan surely went well and worked out at the time.

G: Do you remember the time of year when the strike took place?

C: It was in the spring.

G: In the spring of 1967. You took a very active role in the whole situation.
What exactly did you do?

C: I went over and volunteered to teach at Terwilliger. My wife and a couple
of our neighbors also went. When they reopened classes, my wife and I were
both teachers and three of our neighbors were in the group. We had volun-
teered to teach.


G: Did this conflict with your duties here at all?

C: To some extent, yes. I took a leave of absence here, and when I finished
school at Terwilliger, I drove in and made the rounds with my students.
We would start at four in the afternoon and went until seven o'clock at
night. That was the amount of time I would need for the rounds. I had
been coming in mornings, and instead of mornings I made late afternoon

G: Why exactly did you get involved with teaching?

C: You mean in the strike?

G: Yes.

C: First, I think if someone wants to quit, they have a right to do so. To
organize as a group and quit is a different matter. When one has a contract
(the teachers each had a contract to teach that academic year), if at the
end of the academic year, they had said "we will not sign up again until
our demands are met," I could have enthusiastically supported it. But to
say in the middle of the school year "I have signed a contract but I am
no longer honoring it," is a different matter. I don't like coercion.
I obey the traffic laws voluntarily because I think it is my, and other
people's, good. Many of our laws I view in that light. Of course, there
are others that I think are coercive, and I don't like coercion. To some
extent, I don't like unions because this is organized coercion. I rec-
ognize that they have in some ways contributed to the welfare of people in
this country and other places. But the automakers go out and strike when
their contracts have run out. I strongly object to unilaterally saying,
"I am no longer going to honor the contract which I agreed upon earlier."
I think it is legally and morally wrong. I thoroughly disapprove of that
kind of action.

G: Would you consider yourself a libertarian?

C: I think philosophically probably more libertarian than Republican.

G: Minimum interference, in other words. Do you have particular animosity
for public employee unions as a concept?

C: No, I have no real objection to the concept. I don't think that policemen
or firemen or air controllers should strike. My own opinion is that
President Reagan handled that as it should have been handled.

G: Getting back to the teacher strike, there was a lot of tension in the
community. What was the role of the Gainesville Sun back then?

C: It was the same as it is now, pouring kerosene on the fire.

G: Did you feel that the editorial writers were making the situation worse?

C: I think perhaps one editorial in a thousand says something constructive.


The rest of the time, their facts are deliberately wrong. I think many
times they know the facts and they deliberately write something else.
In my own area, they may write something but I know the facts in the
case because it is my field of endeavor. I would suspect that in areas
that I can not know, they are uniformly wrong,

G: Would you, in your mind, ascribe that more to layman's oversimplification

C: In the case of the Sun, no.

G: A deliberate distortion of facts?

C: That's what I think.

G: The paper changed hands around that time to the New York Times. Do you
notice any effect...?

C: I think they have gotten worse as the years have gone by. But no, I don't
think it made a tremendous difference. I think they were rotten before and
it's hard to do worse than that. I think they succeeded, but it's difficult.

G: Do you subscribe to the Gainesville Sun?

C: The comics are good. [laughter] And the want-ads are reasonably good.

G: What's your favorite comic strip?

C: Gasoline Alley, which they took out a few years ago. It's been cancelled
since then. But I guess that, now perhaps, Doonesbury is my favorite.
Gasoline Alley was my all-time favorite.

G: What were the roles of parents and teachers in the community? Did you
have any discussions with any of the teachers that were involved regarding
what their positions were? Did you try to persuade any of them not to
do this?

C: No. I talked at a teacher meeting before the strike occurred and I had
approached them and tried to persuade some of them not to do it. But no,
I did not go and talk to individual teachers.

G: Were there any other individuals that you knew that tried to do that?

C: No. I think that Pat Dunlap did. She lived right behind us and she's one
of the volunteers who taught during the strike. She became a full-time
teacher after the strike.

G: Did you have children at Terwilliger Elementary at that time?

C: And Westwood.

G: And you went in to teach at Terwilliger. Did you go in the first day of
the strike?


C: Yes. They didn't hold classes, but a number of people went in and
volunteered and when they had a roster of teachers made up to cover the
classrooms, they opened. It took about three days.

G: Was there any kind of orchestrated effort?

C: Mr. Albert had an article in the newspaper that volunteers were needed
and we walked over and talked to Mr. Blount. He was then the principal
at Terwilliger. And we had to volunteer.

G: Were there a lot of other people volunteering?

C: There were a number, yes. At Terwilliger, there were three or four
teachers who did not go out on strike. The rest of the classes were all
filled because someone could teach or, as the teachers would say, baby-
sit all the students.

G: There was an instructor for each class within three days?

C: At Terwilliger. That wasn't the case at all the schools, but at Terwilliger
it was.

G: Was that the case in most of the elementary schools?

C: I didn't know that. All I can speak for is Terwilliger. I didn't go
around to any of the others to see. I was busy enough that I wasn't read-
ing the newspaper in detail to find out whether these other schools had
adequate staff. The classrooms were staffed at Westwood,

G: How did your children react? Did you have to sit down and explain to them
what was happening?

C: They had it discussed with them in class every day for weeks before the
strike. They brought home mimeographed material from teachers seeking
support for the strike. They had been living with it for at least a
month before the strike took place. We had discussed it in our home and
our attitude was that if the teachers wanted to quit at the end of the
year or not sign a new contract until things were worked out, that would
be fine. But we thought it was wrong for them to go out on strike in the
middle of the school year.

G: How did the children feel about not having regular teachers in there?

C: You mean our children?

G: Yes,

C: I don't think any of them minded. They all had parents of their classmates
that they knew and liked. I'm sure there was great variability in skills
in teaching, but by and large, I think they felt they learned something.
They came home with homework everyday and they did their homework and that
was that. There was a bit of griping about Miss So-and-so or whatever, I
think as much that they were assigned too much homework as anything else.


Obviously they were prejudiced by what their mother and I said so perhaps
they looked at it from a somewhat different view than a child whose
parents were criticizing the school board or the state.

G: Did any teachers give you a hard time as you walked through their lines?

C: No. Not me.

G: You pretty much just walked in and taught. What grade did you teach?

C: I taught the fifth grade.

G: What exactly did you teach? Do you remember?

C: We had arithmetic, English, and history. We had spelling things. I devel-
oped my own prejudices with my spelling. I had lists of words that their
regular teacher had given for spelling and I would ask them what that
word means. At least half the time they had no idea what the word meant.
It's fine to be able to spell a word but it's better to know what it
means, and use it properly. On spelling tests, I would give them a word
to learn to spell but they were also expected to get the meaning of the
word. Then if they gave me the derivation of the word, they would get
extra credit. Like a verb from Latin: if they could tell me the root in
Latin, they got extra credit. Their spelling tests called for them to
spell the word, define it, and give its derivation. Some of them strongly
objected. Others remember it as great fun. Six or eight months ago, I
saw one of the them in the street downtown. He stopped his car and came
running over to talk to me and he gave me the derivation to some words he
had learned. Most of them thought it was great fun to know what a word
meant and where it came from. Initially, there were maybe five or six
kids in the class who told me that their other teacher never asked the
kids to do something like that. We discussed why one is illiterate when
they don't know what words mean. That connection between the past was
of some importance in the meaning and evolution of words, and they saw
some importance in their social and political development. By the end of
the three weeks I was in class, most of the kids liked learning what the
words meant. They looked them up themselves. I would give them a list
of words for the week. They were expected to look them up in the diction-
ary adn get the derivations for themselves.

G: Did you have any contact with the lady who preceded you?

C: I tried to but she would not talk to me.

G: She would not talk to you at all?

C: She left no lesson plans, Anything on what she had taught them for the
last three months was gone. Nor would she speak to me when I called her
on the phone.

G: What did you do?

C: I asked the children what they had been studying and where they were in


their arithmetic and reading books. From there, I used my own lesson
plans according to what they had studied.

G: How long did you teach?

C: The duration of the strike, which was roughly two weeks.

G: The whole time then?

C: My wife and I both taught the full time.

G: What was your wife's experience? Did she have any similar experiences
in terms of not being able to get lesson plans?

C: Exactly.

G: Just total reluctance on the teacher's part?

C: Worse than reluctance. Reluctance is passive; active hostility is different!

G: Did they make any comments that were less than kind?

C: They didn't threaten to beat us up, but yes, they made comments that were
less than kind.

G: Could you state some of these?

C: I don't remember them. The rhetoric was similar to that that unions use
between employers in the automobile plant or the steel mills. They were
couched in terms of the educated individuals, therefore more cutting than
the rather primitive forms of criticism of someone who can't read.

G: You said that there were neighbors around you that taught. How did they
get involved in this?

C: I think the same way we did. They objected to a strike in the middle of
the year. They felt that if they wanted to protest, it should be done
at the end of the year and if they didn't want to sign contracts next year,

G: Did you feel that was the predominant view of the community?

C: It sure was the view of a large segment, but a predominant view--I'm not
really sure.

G: Were there any other faculty members at the University of Florida that you
know of that went in and taught?

C; I don't know tf anyone at the medical school taught. I know there were
letters written to the medical school about me doing it.

G: Really?

C: Criticizing me and asking that I be fired, because I was a scab. There


were a number of phone calls of the same kind. To prevent that, I had
taken leave of absence for that period of time. I came in and made
rounds anyway, but I was not paid by the medical school during that time.

G: So you essentially left your job here for three weeks without pay to
assume an unpaid position?

C: No, the school board paid. I don't remember what it was. They paid us
a substitute's rate, which was considerably less than a regular teacher,
but I got a check for the three weeks I worked. My wife did, too.

G: But it was nothing compared to what you made here at the University?

C: No.

G: Did the students in the class adapt to the situation well as everything
progressed? Or do you feel they got a little bit restless?

C: I can speak for my class and my wife's class, but I can't really speak
for the other people.

G: All right.

C: The children in my class adapted very well. They liked the things that we
studied, the books and stories that we read.

G: Would you read them stories every day?

C: Yes, at the end of the day we had like a thirty minute period when we
would read stories.

G: How about some of the school administrative officials? Did any of them
leave? What was the situation at Terwilliger in regard to that?

C: Mr. Blount talked as if he was in favor of the efforts of the staffs to
keep the schools open. I don't know if that was his innermost feeling.
There was nothing he did that would make you think it wasn't, There
was initially a bit of a problem with discipline--the kids would test
the substitutes any time. In situations like that, they were quite
willing to test the will of the substitute teachers. I would send a
child to the principal's office and nothing would happen and they would
be back in a few minutes. If one was a good disciplinarian, that wouldn't
become a problem. Teaching on a graduate level, one forgets the need
for discipline in the classroom. You need to keep them awake, not
discipline them. I had not developed the skills of a disciplinarian, For
the first few days at least, it was a little difficult to handle.

G: You were involved in the PTA. Was there any role that they took during
the strike? Any involvement?

C: The philosophy of the people making up the PTA went across the entire
spectrum, from great support for the teachers and the strike, to real
opposition to it. When you have eight people on the PTA board and two
of them are very strongly in favor, two are them are strongly opposed,
and the rest are in the middle, no position is really taken. That was


pretty much the was the PTA responded all the time,

G: How did you respond to some of the irate calls and letters?

C: Mostly I ignored them. There were a few calls where people cursed and
I hung up on them.

G: Were these people that you knew?

C: I don't think any of my close friends called up cursing, but there were
a number of people--parents of children in the schools and parents of
children all over the county--who apparently went down the list calling
to object. It bothered me a little bit when some of my children would
get phone calls telling them that their daddy was an S.O.B. and so on.

G: They would get this from their parents?

C: Yes, They would call us on the phone.

G: Did you get a lot of calls?

C: Enough that we instructed the children not to answer the phone if we
weren't there, We would answer it.

G: And there'd be ten or fifteen calls a day that you would.,.

C: I think that's probably more than we ever got, but there were some days
we probably got four or five.

G: Were they all hostile?

C: Occasionally. There were a number of parents of children in my class,
and in my wife's class, who would call up to tell us that they thought we
were doing a great job and that their children were studying, They were
happy with school and were learning more than they had ever learned before.
In the course of three weeks, there were more and more calls from parents
to that effect, By the end of the three weeks, there were a lot more
supportive calls than there were insulting calls. There were four or five
children in my fifth grade class who were working on second grade levels,
and their parents came in to tell me that they had no idea that their
children were so imcompetent. We made up special lessons for them to take
home. There were two black girls in the class who were sweet, nice little
kids, reasonably bright, who could not read at a second grade level. I
had the parents of both children come in and we had conferences about their
reading. In three weeks, they were reading better. I got Christmas cards
from those parents for six or eight years, which expressed their appreciation
for what I had done.

G: So you then felt that overall it was a rewarding experience?

C: I think the children in my wife's class learned something. My class was,
and from what may of them and their parents said, they were learning more


than they had learned from their regular teachers. Outside of that, I
don't know.

G: How about some of the other substitute teachers--what kind of people were
they usually? Were they professional people such as yourself, or house-
wives or...?

C: Most of them were housewives. There weren't many men who volunteered. I
think there weren't many men who had a boss who would say, "Okay, you
can have a leave of absence to go teach in a public school." The one I
had said, "Fine, if that's what you want to do, go ahead. More power to
you." I don't think there are many people who were in the position to
walk out and do that. The majority of the teachers were housewives. In
our neighborhood, every one of them was a college graduate. My wife had
taught nursing at Southwestern Medical School after we were married. She
also taught nursing in New York. Mrs, Dunlap had been a substitute
teacher before and the next year was on a full-time basis, All the
substitutes I knew were college graduates. Some of them had been teachers
before, had retired and came back. A couple of them we had known and
worked with had retired the year before and came back to teach during the

G: What did you feel about the role of Governor Kirk in helping to settle
the strike? Or Floyd Christian, for that matter.

C: I don't really remember much about it.

G: Did you ever get involved in any conversations with Mr. Talbott, who was
the superintendent during the strike?

C: Not during that time.

G: Your role was limited to going into the schools and.,.

C: I spent from eight in the morning until three o'clock in the afternoon at
Terwilliger. I spent from four o'clock to seven or eight o'clock in the
evening here. Then I went home, worked on the next day's lesson plans and
graded papers. I was going to bed at two o'clock in the morning. I didn't
have a whole lot of time for running around, talking to other people to
see what they thought.

G: Between phone calls and everything else. All right. When the whole thing
was over, were you happy with the way everything turned out?

C: I can't say I was really happy. I was glad the school board didn't capitulate.

G: Would relieved be a better descriptive adjective?

C: Yes, a lot better.

G: Are there any additional comments you would like to make or any additional
observations that you think are relevant?


C: Well, I think, afterwards all of the teachers knew that my wife and I
had been among the substitutes. It may be paranoia on our part and on
the part of our children, but several of our children really got harsh
treatment because of our role during the teachers' strike. Our second
grader, Emily, would come home in tears because of things the teacher
would say to her. Most of the children experienced their teachers'
anger. They took it out on the children.

G: Even the second grader?

C: Yes, that was the part.

G: Okay. This was an interview with Dr. Robert Cade on his experiences
with the 1967 Alachua County teachers' strike. It is March twenty-sixth,
as I said, and we are in Dr. Cade's office. Thank you.