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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
ORAL HISTORY PROJECT
INTERVIEWEE: Norvell Elliott Miller, Jr.
INTERVIEWER: Christine S. Galbraith
DATE: January 19, 1977
G: Mr. Miller, could you tell me your whole name, please, and the
position you held with the Bicentennial [Commission]?
M: My name is Norvell Elliott Miller, Junior, generally known as
Bill Miller. I served as executive director of the Bicentennial
Commission from 1971 until 1973.
G: Tell me, how were you appointed to the directorship?
M: I had a dual appointment--a bit unusual. The commission appointed
me, but Governor [Reubin] Askew was the one who made the announce-
ment and, of course, the appointment had his approval.
G: How did you hear about the job of director? Were you working in
M: Yes, I was with the government at that time. I had expected to
be a member of the commission when it was formed, because I was
director of Recreation and Parks, which is represented on the
commission. I left Recreation and Parks in 1970 and joined the
Secretary of State's office with Senator [Tom] Adams. Then, when
he and Governor Askew went into office, I went with Senator Adams
to the Department of Commerce. The law that the legislature passed
establishing the Bicentennial Commission assigned it to the Depart-
ment of Commerce.
So, I was there and I knew all about the Bicentennial Commission,
maybe not the plans, but its purpose. So, when I was approached on
the position, I found it very interesting. I accepted it when it
was offered to me.
G: You began working for the commission in, I think, late 1971?
M: October of '71, I believe.
G: What in particular did you find interesting about the Bicentennial
Commission when it was founded?
M: Well, it was something entirely new, of course, and there was a
G: Had you worked on any kind of a statewide promotion like the
M: Well, I worked for the state in a number of capacities for over
G: Considerable experience, then?
M: Yes, in government, finance, and organization, which is probably
the reason I got the job.
G: You spoke of finance. The funding of the Bicentennial was, of
course, an immediate concern. I wonder, what part did you play in
developing the funding structure of the Bicentennial?
M: Well, none at all. We could not organize the commission until we
had the funding, and the funding was the result of promotional
work that was done by people in Dade County led by the Chamber of
Commerce which formed this organization known as Third Century
U.S.A. They were the ones who went to the legislature and persuaded
the legislature to provide funding which was adequate for the purpose.
Of course, the funding did not become effective until the summer of
1971 and there was no money available until the fall of '71, which
was when we set up office and began to work.
G: The basic funding was from pari-mutuel racing days.
M: That's right. Yes.
G: Do you know how that program was developed?
G: Was that Third Century's idea?
M: I assumed that it was Third Century's idea.
G: General [W. E.] Potter yesterday told me that Pat Dodson [of Pensacola]
was also instrumental in getting that.
M: Yes. Well, I think that Pat Dodson certainly played a leading
role in the organization of the commission. But I personally have
always given the people in Miami credit for getting the show on the
road. I feel quite sure that if it had not been for their efforts,
we wouldn't have had the funding that we had.
G: Are there any individuals in Miami and Dade County who were
really instrumental and deserve some credit?
M: Yes, there were a number of them, but I would have to see the list
of names to remember specifically who they were.
G: The only ones I remember were Dr. Gissendanner of the Interama.
M: He was very active, yes.
G: Sylvan Meyer was chairman of Third Century.
M: I think he was perhaps the first chairman of Third Century.
G: Elmer came along later and was an employee.
G: He came along later.
G: As did Steve Nostrand? He came along later?
M: Yes, they were not instrumental in groundwork at all.
G: Well, once the basic funds were available, I assume that a large
part of the staff work must have been administering these funds.
What was the immediate concern once the money became available
for the commission? Was there one program in particular or...?
M: The commission had already established the outlines of its program,
so when the funds became available, we set up our office with a very
small staff of four and then began considering the ways in
which the money would best be spent.
G: Did the staff have a great deal of input into proposals for programs?
M: The commission was responsible for the programming. The staff...
G: Did you make suggestions?
M: Yes, the staff--which was a staff of one--I made suggestions as
time went along and helped organize, but I can claim no credit for
the original ideas. They had already been put in. I think that
Mr. Dodson and Dr. [Samuel] Proctor [Distinguished Service Professor
of History and Social Sciences at the University of Florida] probably
had the greatest input at that time.
G: Yes, they had been involved right from the beginning.
M: That's right.
G: The staff began with only four people, you said. Did it grow
M: No, it grew very slowly. I think that when I left there were only
six in two years.
G: But I take it the responsibilities had grown considerably during
M: No, I don't think the responsibilities had grown. The volume of
work had increased. The only addition that we made, as I recall,
was to have someone on the staff who did the publicity.
G: An information officer.
M: That's what it was. I couldn't think of the name.
G: If you wanted a new position on the staff, what procedure did
you have to go through?
M: Well, we had to go to the Budget Commission, the state Budget
Commission. Appointments get the commission's approval, but, of
course, all permanent positions are established by the legislature.
G: Did that cause any difficulties?
M: Yes. The legislature didn't follow our recommendations as to the
number of positions, which I think handicapped us to some extent.
G: In the minutes, when you resigned, it said that one of the reasons
was the heavy burdens of the office. Was the small staff a factor
M: Well, I was unhappy with the legislature for its failure to provide
the extra positions that I felt that we needed at that time.
G: So it was something of a factor?
G: Let's go back to the funding. Once the pari-mutuel program was
set up, did the legislature have any further part in Bicentennial
Commission funding or did they keep out?
M: The legislature had no further part in obtaining the funds, but
the legislature still controlled the expenditure of the funds.
G: Well, how so? I don't understand.
M: Well, I never understood it either. I think that was one of the
weaknesses of government at that point. The legislature had pro-
vided the money for the commission and it was always my feeling
that it should have let the commission spend this money as it felt
best. But, instead of that, the legislature felt that it had some
G: How did it take this responsibility? What did it do?
M: Well, it didn't approve the positions that we asked for. Aside
from that, we had a free rein.
G: Did the legislature give any specific instructions on what money
was to be spent for what...?
M: No, no, except in the annual appropriations act. And, at one time,
I think they specifically provided that Third Century would receive
G: Yes, in their letter of intent...
G: ...that went with the appropriations act.
M: I can't think of any other thing in the appropriation that specified
G: As I recall, the letter of intent for one year--I've forgotten which
one--said that up to $130,000 could be given to Third Century and
up to $100,000 for Interama, but that it wasn't necessary, it wasn't
M: We felt that, as far as Third Century was concerned, that was the
wish of the legislature. I think that we followed that.
G: According to the minutes, there were some discussions within the
commission about the substantial monies that were given to Third
Century and Interama. Could you tell us more about that? It's
all summarized. Was anyone unhappy with giving that much money to
M: Yes, I think that some members of the commission felt that a greater
part of the commission's income was going to Third Century than was
justified. I personally felt that they perhaps overlooked the part
that Third Century had played in making those funds available to the
G: So then you think that...?
M: I thought that it was a very fair arrangement.
G: What did members of the commission say who objected? What did they
M: Well, they just felt the money should have been spread more equitably
among the counties and all of the money that did not go to Third
Century was allotted to the counties on a population basis.
G: Were there any regional groups who felt slighted because of Dade
M: Well, yes. You may have read about St. Augustine which raised
quite a fuss about it and caused considerable controversy--which I
also felt was entirely unjustified.
M: Well, St. Augustine is a small town actually compared to many others
in the state. While St. Augustine is the oldest city in the country--
and, of course, we're very proud of that--why, we didn't feel that
they should have been given more than a fair share of the money.
G: Do you think that in the end they received their fair share of the
M: I don't know what they finally received.
G: But they did get quite a bit of funding because of their historic...
M: I see.
G: Do you remember who complained the loudest from St. Augustine?
M: Well, there was some movie actor over there who acted as their
mouthpiece. I guess he was the one--Richard Boone. He made the
G: What did he say? Did he say, "St. Augustine's the most important
historical place and should get..."
M: Well, yes. And he enlisted the support of the members of the
G: Would that be [Representative A. H.] Gus Craig?
M: That would be Craig, yes. They attended several of our meetings and
protested very vehemently.
G: Did they attempt to do anything in the legislature?
M: I don't know. Mr. Craig was going to have me fired at one time.
G: He was?
M: It was because of St. Augustine's poor allotment.
G: Just because of St. Augustine he wanted to have you fired?
G: Who did he talk to over there?
M: He talked to me.
G: Well, that's going to the source.
M: This was in a meeting. He said we need a new director.
G: Well, that's quite a hint.
M: He later apologized for it.
G: Do you think he just got carried away.
M: Yes, I'm sure. I'm sure that's right.
G: You don't remember when it was, do you, he said that?
M: Oh, yes. I remember that it was in '73, in the spring or summer.
You can find out from the minutes.
G: Yes, that was the time that St. Augustine appears...
G: Mr. Malcolm Stevens was in charge of the St. Augustine committee
for the Bicentennial.
M: Yes, that's right.
G: Did he make a nuisance of himself at the meetings?
M: I think that the commission felt that they took up more time than
they were really entitled to.
G: Yes, in the minutes it appears that chairman [Tom] Adams made some
M: He tried to put them in their place you know, in a very nice way,
which he always did things. But the fact remained that they did
monopolize a large part of some of those meetings.
G: And they were already long meetings.
G: Were most of the decisions made in the meetings themselves, decisions
to programs and what direction to go, or was a lot of it done out-
side the meetings?
M: Well, I would say that all of the final decisions were made in the
meetings, which was necessary. We had an executive committee that
occasionally met. I think some of these proposals were discussed
at length at these preliminary meetings.
G: Do you think that the executive committee tended to dominate the
rest of the commission as far as decision-making goes?
M: Well, I don't like to say that. I think that in any commission of
the size of that, you'll find that there's a certain number of
people who are more deeply interested than others. Those people who
are most interested probably have a tendency to dominate.
G: Also to end up on the executive committee as a subcommittee chairman.
M: Well, that's right, because they mostly held positions on the
commission as chairman of subcommittees or as officers.
G: Yes. I wondered about that. At one point in the minutes, chair-
man [Tom] Adams said, "in the future, the executive committee will
not discuss programs as much and leave the decisions to the regular
M: Yes, someone must have objected.
G: Do you know who?
M: No, I don't really remember. This didn't make much impression on
anyone. You know, any business has to be run by the people who put
the time in. That's just all there was to it.
G: There were some members who didn't come to too many meetings,
primarily the legislative...
M: The legislative members. That's right.
G: Were they still active working for the Bicentennial in the legislature?
M: I would say definitely not.
G: They weren't.
G: They didn't lend active support to the Bicentennial Commission?
M: No, they were a disappointment, frankly.
G: Were there any exceptions to that?
M: Yes, there were. If you'll give me a list of them, I'll tell you
who they were. But they're too many for me to remember.
G: Well, the first chairman of the legislative committee was Senator
Allan Trask [of Fort Meade]. Did he support the commission?
M: He supported the commission, yes.
G: And, I don't remember the...
M: Well, [Representative Robert C.] Bobby Hartnett [of Miami] was a
pretty regular attender. Craig was not until the St. Augustine
thing came along.
G: He had distinct loyalties, would you say?
M: I would say so, definitely.
G: Were there others, perhaps, say the people from.Pensacola? Were
they represented on the commission?
M: Well, yes. In the legislature?
G: Among the legislative group, yes.
M: I don't remember.
G: Because Pensacola had quite an active Bicentennial...
M: Yes, but, of course, Mr. [Pat] Dodson was from Pensacola. And
Pensacola had his support which was, might I say, invaluable.
G: Yes, and...
M: But Pensacola also had a very excellent program.
G: Well, they were the pilot program for Action '76 programs.
G: Were you involved in the development of that program or...
M: No, no. That was developed locally.
G: Do you remember how the pilot program was accepted by the commission?
As a whole, I just know it was accepted.
M: Well, I think that they found it most acceptable.
G: Did they make any changes in it?
M: No, no, the commission did not.
G: They simply adopted it.
G: And accepted it.
M: Accepted it as it was presented.
G: When you were director, the commission gave the staff primary
responsibility for contacting local communities and getting their
participation in steering committees. How did you go about contact-
ing the committees, the local groups?
M: Well, in a large majority of the cases, we initiated the contact.
We did it by selecting someone in the county whom we considered
interested and competent.
G: Was this generally a prominent citizen?
M: Yes, yes. I would say definitely. We would approach him and try
to sell him on the idea of taking over the responsibility. We
told him how much money we could make available and explained the
purposes of the commission and the type of projects that would be
G: Was this person named chairman of the local steering committee?
G: Did he have to organize a steering committee first?
M: No, he was named chairman. It was his job to organize. We helped
a number of them in the organizational efforts. We attended their
first meetings and explained to the people that they had attending
just what had to be done. We gave them an idea of how to start out,
how to go about it.
G: Did you suggest possible projects and things?
M: Broadly, yes. Not specifically.
G: Basic themes that they could develop?
M: Yes, and many of them came up with ideas that we never had thought
G: When you first started contacting local people, first started the
Action '76 programs, did you meet a great deal of enthusiasm or
were people passive?
M: Well, we met with very little resistance. Now, the enthusiasm, I
think came later.
G: Yes, because this must have been...
M: You know, you go to somebody and say, "This is something we want
you to do"--very few people just jump at the opportunity.
G: Do you think that it was a factor that it was 1972 and the Bicen-
tennial was four years away?
M: Well, no. We didn't start that early with many of the local
committees. It was, I think, '73 before we began organizing many
of them. That didn't give them too much time, '74 and '75,
G: Did any of them come to you spontaneously and say, "This is what
we'd like to do"?
M: Well, Third Century was already organized. St. Augustine was
already organized. Pensacola was. I don't recall any other comun-
ities that were.
G: In general, did the larger counties organize first or was it the
smaller ones who were very enthusiastic?
M: We tried to make sure that the larger counties were all organized
to begin with, but even while we were working on them, we approached
smaller counties, too. This was not something to take a long time.
You made one or two calls, maybe three.
G: That was enough?
M: That was enough.
G: To get the ball rolling?
M: Yes. That's right. Then, later on, we had to follow up with some
G: Yes, because sometimes the ball didn't roll very far?
M: That's right. We had to get them to make reports to us, but you
have to follow up on anything like this.
G: There were a series of guidelines established for the Action '76
steering committees. One of the chief guidelines was that the
committee was to be representative of the total community.
G: Did you have any difficulty getting county organizations to follow
M: I wasn't involved in it that long.
G: That was a problem that came along later?
M: Yes. If there was a problem.
G: Well, I remember hearing of one county that proved that they
didn't have to have young people because everybody there was old.
M: That was after my day.
G: Let's talk about some of the other programs, especially the ones
that you got going really early, like the facsimile series [Bicen-
tennial Floridiana Facsimile Series]. Were you very active in
M: The program was really developed by Dr. [Samuel] Proctor. My part
in it was taking care of the mechanical parts of it. He maintained
contact with the University of Florida Press and tried to see that
they kept on schedule.
G: Did they keep on schedule?
M: Fairly well. And seeing that they got paid and that the money kept
flowing to them as was needed. We couldn't wait until they had done
a job to pay for it, in other words, because they had to invest in
the paper beforehand and all of that. So, we were sort of financing
the press in a way. Those are the responsibilities that were mine.
G: Was it on a sort of pay as you go basis?
M: Yes, definitely.
G: How did that work? Did they apply for funds, "We need $5,000 for
G: If you got a request like that, what procedure did you have to go
through to authorize it?
M: Well, I had to get them to bill me for whatever it was they needed,
and I approved the bill and sent it on through for payment. That
was no problem.
G: That was just a routine...?
M: That's right.
G: Let's talk a little bit about the traveling exhibit. Did you work
a great deal on developing this project?
M: I worked very little on developing any of the projects, because
they were all ideas of the commission.
G: A great deal of planning and presentations seem to go in...
M: Yes, yes, and I attended all of those meetings. But we had a
committee which I think Mr. Reeves headed.
G: [Professor F.] Blair Reeves [of the architecture faculty at the
University of Florida].
M: That's right. And it was their responsibility, really.
G: Did they ask for staff help much or did they...?
M: Well, as I say, I went to all the meetings and tried to keep them
informed on what they could do and couldn't do financially.
G: What couldn't they do, financially?
M: Well, they couldn't spend more money than was available. I had
my finger on the treasury. I knew where we stood, money-wise.
And, I also was familiar with the laws of the state regarding
purchases, purchasing procedure, things like that, that I tried to
keep in order for them.
G: Did some of their plans tend to outrun their budget?
M: Yes, I guess so. I guess so. I would say not the plans, because
the budget was established before the plans originated. But then,
when we received proposals, proposals outran the budget. In other
words, it was apparent that what they hoped to be able to do,
couldn't be done within the budget. So, how that finally turned
out, I don't know.
G: Yes, according to the minutes, they were several revisions.
M: In the budget. That's right.
G: Both of the budget and the proposals, like the traveling exhibit.
M: The final decision on that came after my departure, so I don't
know what they spent.
G: Did the Bicentennial Trail get going while you were still director?
M: Oh, yes. I was very much interested in that, of course, because
this went back to my park days. Mr. [Ney] Landrum succeeded me
as park director and had been with me in the Parks Department
when I was there. So, we were friends of long standing, and we
worked very closely together in developing the trail. I maybe had
a little in-put in that.
G: Would you say that was one of your favorite projects?
M: Well, it was one in which I probably had more interest and more
G: Yes, that always helps. Do you know how they went about selecting
the sites? There was a master list, I thought, but...?
M: Yes. These sites were selected in installments. It's my re-
collection that Mr. Landrum would present ten or twelve sites at
a meeting and have them approved. They were all approved by the
commission, you see. At the next meeting, they would have ten or
twelve more, til finally the trail was complete.
G: Were there any individuals or groups who tried to unduly influence
the selection of sites or...?
M: Not unduly, no.
G: Were there local groups who said, "Oh, we've got a fantastic
M: There may have been, but this was nothing of any consequence.
G: Perfectly normal.
M: Yes. Locally I don't think that many people came up and said they
wanted their museum on the trail. It was really pretty automatic.
There couldn't be much argument about it.
G: Now, let's go backwards. I've talked a lot about local relations,
the Bicentennial's local activities. Did the commission also have
relations with the national Bicentennial administration? Did the
staff work very closely with the national administration?
M: Well, we made every effort to cooperate with the commission. I
made several trips to Washington to meet with them. Then they
organized regions and the...
G: Mike Swinehart.
M: Mike Swinehart was the...
G: Southeastern region director.
M: Yes, and he set up meetings in different places. I think I
attended all of them during the time I was there.
G: Were those meetings especially helpful to Florida?
M: Well, I think that our attendance at the meetings helped us. It
may have helped our position with the national commission. But
I really like to think that we were more helpful to the meetings,
because I think that Florida's program was way ahead of the majority
of the states.
G: Would you say that Florida provided a good example for other...?
M: I think so. I think an excellent example. We were also helpful
to some of the states individually in setting up their organizations.
G: Were there any specific bilateral relations between Florida and an
M: Well, I helped Alabama, I helped Mississippi in getting their
commissions set up.
G: Did Alabama ask for aid from Florida?
G: What kind of things did they ask?
M: Well, they just wanted to know what we'd done and how we were
doing it. And so did Mississippi.
G: Can you recall any specific programs that they were especially
M: They didn't know anything.
G: They didn't?
M: No. They just wanted to know what our law provided and they were
interested in our financing and in the programs that we had adopted.
Also, we had gone well along the way before a number of the other
states even had enabling legislation.
G: Do you know if Mississippi and Alabama adopted any of Florida's
M: No, I don't know whether they adopted the programs, but I think
that they adopted the purposes and procedures.
G: The basics.
M: Yes, the basic...
M: Goals, yes.
G: Could you define what those goals were at the beginning?
M: I think they were largely set out in our statutes.
G: As to improve the quality of life.
G: Did Florida do any lobbying in Washington either concerning Miami
or to get federal aid through other programs or whatever?
M: Well, there was a great deal of lobbying done in Washington before
our commission was organized, but that was also done by Third
G: I see.
M: I think that their principal accomplishment was to persuade
President [Richard M.] Nixon to name Miami as the Bicentennial
city of the future.
G: Yes. Do you know how that came about?
M: No, this is before I was involved in any way, but this is part of
that Chamber of Commerce effort that was, I always felt, most
effective. I think that it really made it possible for Florida to
have a successful Bicentennial program.
G: Do you think that Florida's well organized Bicentennial program
statewide and Third Century's plans won Florida any special consi-
deration by the federal government?
M: I don't believe that we benefited financially from it, but I think
that we were very well thought of in Washington.
G: It's always good public relations.
M: Yes, that's right. That's what it was.
G: In the very beginning, there was some concern to keep the Bicentennial
from becoming overly commercialized and I wondered if you had any
problems with excessive commercialization?
M: I wouldn't call them problems. No. We were approached a number
of times. Sometimes it became a bit of a nuisance. Commercial
concerns wanted to cash in on the Bicentennial with our assistance,
but it wasn't too hard to say no.
G: Was there any specific procedure for dealing with such?
M: Well, I worked with them myself. If something came along that
I thought warranted further consideration, I would present it to
the commission. But if I didn't, if I didn't think well of it,
that was the last anyone heard of it.
G: It just stayed-in the files or what?
M: Well, yes, because no action was taken.
G: I see. There were some proposals that were accepted like one
from the Franklin...
M: The Franklin Mint, yes. This was commercial, but our program
benefited greatly from it.
G: They promised an $83,000 profit, I think.
M: Yes, I don't know what the commission finally received, whether
it worked out, but I assume that they paid off as contracted for.
[The commission received $154,458.72 in royalties--editor].
G: The commission accepted some commercial ventures and rejected
others. Were there specific criteria established for considera-
tion of these proposals?
M: No. I think each proposal was considered on its own.
G: Would you say that any pattern developed of acceptance or rejection?
M: Well, I recall only two that were accepted.
G: I see. So the commission was very selective?
M: That's right. The commission was certainly opposed to making a
commercial venture out of the Bicentennial for itself or for anyone
G: What was the second commercial venture they accepted? Was that
M: Yes. It was, it was a concern up in Pennsylvania [Wilton Brass
Company of Wilton, Pennsylvania] and they had pewter mugs and
things like that. I don't think they were pewter, but they looked
G: If you were to evaluate the total Bicentennial program, looking
back over it now, its five-year history, what areas do you think
you would say were the most pleasing to you? Things that were
M: Well, you know, I'm familiar with only two years of that operation.
So, what happened in the final three years, I have no definite informa-
G: You were mainly involved with the planning of things and don't know
how they came out?
M: How they came out. That's right. I know that the Facsimile Series
was well on its way when I left. I thought that that was certainly
a very excellent project.
G: So as of mid-1973, that was a very prominent...?
M: That's right. The traveling exhibit I visited a year or so after
I left. I thought that what they had was quite acceptable, but
was much less than we had originally planned on having. I imagine
that money was the reason for the reduction.
I suspect that the value of the Bicentennial program was
really in the local participation of having the local groups get
to work and do something in their communities. That, after all,
is what it was all about to begin with.
G: A citizens' celebration?
M: Yes. I think the great disappointment of it was the failure of Interama,
because it had just tremendous possibilities. I think that it
failed because of the state of the economy and the interest rates
which really made the whole program just impossible.
G: Were any of these problems, potential problems, apparent while you
were still director?
M: Yes, they became apparent before I left. But when we began, Interama
looked like a beautiful thing and it would have been, had interest
rates remained at the level of 1971.
G: When you left the directorship, do you think the attitude of the
commission was that Interama could still succeed or that it was...
M: I think it was doomed by that time.
G: You do.
M: Yes, I'm afraid so. Because for Interama to have succeeded, the
bond issue would have been needed and the Interama could not have
paid the interest rates. It would have been necessary to sell those bonds.
G: The principal problem was the economy?
G: Was the management of Interama a factor in its failure?
M: Oh, no. I don't think so. I don't think so at all. I had nothing
to do with the management. Dr. Gissendanner was, I guess, the one
who was responsible for all of that. I never knew anyone to work
harder or longer hours or make greater efforts than he did.
G: You left the directorship in 1973 and then you became a consultant.
What did you do while you were a consultant to the...?
M: Well, I was a consultant for only one month. My job as consultant
was to look out for the financial end of the business.
G: Would you say this was to provide continuity with the finances
for the commission while Mr. [Shelton] Kemp was...?
M: Was finding out what it was. He had no knowledge, of course, of
that part of it at all.
G: He didn't. Where did he, where did they find Mr. Kemp?
M: Well, Mr. Kemp was working for the Department of Commerce, but
prior to that time he had been Director of the Division of Corpora-
tions in the Secretary of State's office. Before that he had been
a beverage agent. I don't want to detract from his ability, but
he had no background in financing and that part of it. So Senator
Adams thought that I could sort of keep my finger on that part, the
spending and making sure that we got our money from the race tracks
and all of that, which was fine with me, 'cause I still wanted some-
thing to do. But at the end of the month I realized that I was in
too bad shape physically to continue with it. So I departed and I
went to the hospital and I got myself a new hip. It took me a year
to get over it. So, they got along without a consultant and maybe
they would have gotten along without me ever being a consultant.
G: Well I expect it provided some continuity.
M: Well, for a month it did, yes. But they had to make other arrange-
ments after I left.
G: Do you know what other arrangements they made?
M: No, I have no idea. I'd lost interest at that time. I could hardly
G: I have some more questions on Interama. A couple of more questions
on that. There was some discussion in the commission meetings about
the specific, formal relationships between the Bicentennial Commission
and Interama and between Interama and Third Century and between
Third Century and the Bicentennial Commission, those three. Third
Century seemed to be having some trouble defining its relationship
to Interama. Do you know what the trouble was?
M: No, I don't. I don't have a clear recollection of Third Century's
connection with Interama. I don't see why there would have been
a particular connection, because we provided money for Interama
entirely independently of Third Century. Of course, we provided
money to Third Century and our only problem with Third Century for
a little while was in getting proper reports of their use of our
G: Yes. There was one incident, I believe it was in the first half
of 1972, when Third Century's total budget was $180,000 and they
had made a loan of $115,000 a substantial loan, to Interama. The
commission questioned this.
M: It's my recollection that loan was repaid, but I'm not, I can't
be definite on that.
G: Do you know why they made the loan in the first place?
M: No, no, I don't. I don't remember.
G: 'Cause the...
M: We just weren't involved in the goings on before the commission
was established. That happened before we had a commission, as I
recall, or before we contributed any money to Third Century. Well,
we didn't learn about this loan until we started getting reports from
Third Century, which was, I guess, a considerable time after we'd
G: This was, I think, early in 1972.
M: I think that was when the question was raised as to whether we were
putting money into Third Century for them in turn to lend to
G: Did the commission maintain any kind of control over the monies that
it gave to Third Century?
M: Well, only after we received the reports. Then we found how they
were spending the money and we took exception to some of their
expenditures and they refunded that money. It was a peculiar
arrangement. Third Century had money which had been raised locally,
you see, at the beginning of this. Then they had money that they
received from the commission. To begin with they co-mingled those
G: Oh, Lord.
M: Well, there would have been no questions about it, if they had
used all the funds for purposes that the commission could approve,
but some of them weren't. So, after we took exception, then they
set up two separate funds, one of which was our money only and for
which they were directly accountable to us on a monthly basis. At
that time, we had a monthly detailed report of every expenditure
that was made.
G: Were there any further misunderstandings once the monthly reports
M: No. Once we got straightened out, for the rest of my time, every-
thing went along very smoothly.
G: Were there any problems with Interama? Did you have the same sort
M: No, we didn't have that problem with Interama, because Interama
is a state agency, so they were subject to audit by the same general
auditor that we were. The state auditor agreed with us that he
would see that they spent their money properly. So, that relieved
us. All we had to do with Interama was to write the check.
G: At one point, Third Century proposed to the commission that the
commission delegate all of its responsibilities for the Bicentennial
celebration in South Florida to Third Century, but there was some
discussion as to whether a state agency could do that. What was the
M: Well, I don't think that it was a matter of could it be done, but
was it the right policy. The commission decided against that. We
set up our separate committee in Broward County; that was the one
that the question was about.
G: Why did they think it would have been an error in policy to do
M: Well, I think it's much better to do business direct with each
county than to have someone else handling a region. But this was
just a matter of judgement and preference.
G: Well, I believe we've gone through just about all the questions
that I have here and you've been very helpful. I thank you very
much for your evidence.
M: Well, I like to think so.
You asked me if I would like to say something further. I
think that I would like to point out that, in my opinion, a factor
that helped the Bicentennial Commission succeed was that Governor
[Claude] Kirk appointed the original commission and he appointed
Pat Dodson as the first chairman. Governor Kirk and Mr. Dodson
were both Republicans, but from that point on Governor Kirk was
entirely nonpartisan in his appointments. I doubt if there was
another Republican on the commission. I think that a great deal
of credit should go to Governor Kirk for having considered what
was best for the commission rather than what maybe would have been
his preference politically.
G: You don't think that the commission was entirely nonpartisan?
M: It was. It was very definitely nonpartisan, yes.
G: There was no partisan political infighting or...?
M: I never heard any sign of politics until Dodson and [Governor Reubin]
Askew finally fell out, which was I guess inevitable, and Askew got
rid of Dodson.
G: Was the falling out between Dodson and Askew one of the reasons
for the statuatory changes in the commission's organization?
M: I don't know what they were.
G: Well, the commission was reorganized and the lieutenant governor
was made automatic chairman of the commission.
M: Oh, yes. I don't think that was automatic, though.
M: No. Governor Askew finally asked for Dodson's resignation and he
appointed Senator Adams chairman; he did that at my urging.
G: He did?
M: Yes. But that was not because he was lieutenant governor. I
thing it was more likely because he was secretary of commerce at
the time and the Bicentennial Commission was tied in with the
Department of Commerce. That was the logical reason for it.
G: Do you know why Askew and Dodson fell out?
M: Well, yes. Because they're both from Pensacola and one was a
Democrat and one was a Republican. They had been political enemies,
I suppose you might say, for a long time. I don't think that
personally they were unfriendly but...
G: It was just a continuation of political disagreements?
M: Yes. I think that Governor Askew felt that he couldn't have
Dodson continue as chairman.
G: When they changed the organization of the commission, the legisla-
ture also removed the $350,000 ceiling on the annual budgets for
M: Well, you see, I wasn't aware of that.
G: You don't know anything about that?
M: No. I guess that it was apparent that the race track money would
G: Yes. Also, I think, the money was going into the general funds.
They set up a Bicentennial Trust Fund, do you know about that?
M: They did? No. But that was certainly very advisable. We had
problems when the money went into the Department of Commerce and
during my time we never could agree with the Department of Commerce
on the amount of money that was available.
G: You couldn't?
M: No, because they did all the bookkeeping, you see, and if they
made a bookkeeping error--which they did--that changed what their
records showed. Of course, they had to spend according to their
records. I spent a great deal of my time getting these errors
G: Were there many errors to correct or were they simply bookkeeping
M: Well, they were bookkeeping errors. Items were charged to wrong
accounts and things like that. But they were numerous. I mean
to me they seemed numerous.
G: What was done to correct the situation? Was separate bookkeeping
M: Well, apparently, if they set up this trust fund, that would have
kept those funds intact. They couldn't have spent them except on
a warrant from the commission.
G: As I recall, the Department of Commerce continued to do the book-
keeping for the commission though, because they asked for $7,000
or something which was the salary of one bookkeeper.
M: Is that so?
M: Well, they did it for us for nothing before that. We got our
money's worth, I guess.
G: Were the finances pretty well straightened out, in order, by the
time you left?
M: No, no.
M: Not by the time I left. No.
G: What were some of the outstanding problems then?
M: Well, the problems were those of the Department of Commerce in
their handling of, their accounting for, the Bicentennial funds.
G: So that was the chief problem then?
M: That was a very definite problem, yes.
G: Simply their bookkeeping, or what was the problem?
M: Well, they'd spend money and charge it to the commission. Then,
at the end of the month or at the end of two months, I don't know
when they did it, they would just reimburse themselves. Well,
if they had charged something to the commission that shouldn't
have been charged there, they were over-reimbursed. The commission
was short. We were not provided with a copy of every transaction
that they made.
G: Did you have trouble proving that they made an error?
M: Yes. We had to call on them for a printout each month. Then we'd
go through this printout and find out what was wrong. Well, that
was a very time-consuming operation. It would have been even had
they been right. But we found these errors.
What scared me the most was that the state auditor came in and
criticized the commission for its poor accounting--which the commis-
sion had absolutely nothing to do with! They were at the mercy of
the bookkeepers over in the Department of Commerce.
G: Did the auditor also criticize the Department of Commerce in that
M: No. Well, I think he finally did after I wrote them about it. Yes.
Because this was after I had left them. I wrote a letter to the
general auditor and thanked him for having made it more clear that
it was not the commission's responsibility. But it still looked
bad, because the newspaper says commission funds are...
G: Did this cause any bad publicity?
M: Yes, yes.
G: Serious bad publicity or...?
M: Well, bad publicity's always serious. I don't know that it did any
irreparable harm, but it could.
G: Did the commission have to survive any other bad publicity that
M: I think that we had bad publicity from the St. Augustine case.
G: What did they charge?
M: Well, they charged that they were not being treated properly by
the commission. They also, of course, enlisted the support of their
local newspaper. That made it bad, too, because the newspaper stories
were all slanted.
G: Yes. I recall in the minutes of one meeting, chairman [Tom]
Adams remarked that he'd had to answer a great many questions about
M: Yes. You can never win in a case like that.
G: Thank you very much, Mr. Miller.
M: Thank you.
G: This has been a Bicentennial Commission oral history interview
with N. E. "Bill" Miller, former director of the Bicentennial
Commission's staff, at his home at 222 Seventh Street Northwest,
Winter Haven, Florida. The interview was held at 9:30 a.m. on
Thursday, January 20, 1977. The interviewer was Christine Galbraith.