- 2014 - January - 20th -

By Max Marbut, Staff Writer

Have you ever wondered what life was like in Jacksonville half a century ago? It was a different era of history, culture and politics but there are often parallels between the kind of stories that made headlines then and today. As interesting as the differences may be, so are the similarities. These are some of the top stories from this week in 1964. The items were compiled from the Jacksonville Public Library's periodical archives by Staff Writer Max Marbut.

• The Navy might withdraw destroyer and air squadrons from the area if Duval County high schools were to lose accreditation in November, said attorney Harry Kincaid, president of School Bootstrap Action Inc.

"The U.S. Navy, with its $100 million annual payroll, won't take kindly to a community which allows its schools to become nonaccredited," he said.

Attorney Franklin Reinstine said Duval County's "improper tax structure has created an unhealthy economic situation" and called for an immediate countywide reassessment of property taxes.

Reinstine, who was president of the Duval County Taxpayers Association, said his organization hoped by March to have a program ready to be presented to the tax assessor and the County Commission.

He said Duval County's population from 1950 to 1963 had grown by 60 percent and the number of households increased 61 percent, but public school enrollment grew 135 percent.

Nonexempt taxable property increased by 107 percent (from $167.2 million in 1950 to $346.9 million in 1963) but homestead-exempt valuations increased 185 percent in the same period, from $118.8 million to $338.5 million.

Kincaid said 67 percent of the homes in Duval County were exempt from taxes and only 33 percent were paying for schools and other services.

"In Pinellas County, 94 percent pay taxes while only 6 percent are exempt," he said.

"We want to make it perfectly clear – we are not advocating the repeal of homestead exemption, but there is a lot of property in Duval now exempt that should be placed on the tax rolls," said Reinstine.

• The questions that caused a Duval County Circuit judge to refuse to validate the Jacksonville Port Authority's proposed $1.54 million bond issue were taken under advisement by the Florida Supreme Court.

Circuit Judge Charles Scott rejected the validation petition on the theory that transfer of the municipal docks and terminals to the authority as provided in the 1963 legislative act creating the authority would tend to impair the holders of dock bonds refunded by the city of Jacksonville in 1941.

The bond issue proposed by the port authority would be its payment to the city for the docks and terminals. The authority already had taken possession of Blount Island, which was proposed for development as a port facility.

Attorney Francis Conroy, representing the port authority, was fielding questions from the Supreme Court bench on the issue when Chief Justice E. Harris Drew asked whether the court could say in its opinion that the rights of the bondholders would not be affected by transfer of the dock properties.

Conroy responded that the court could, that it was what the authority wanted and that he had pleaded with Scott to include such a proviso and validate the bonds.

As Assistant State Attorney Frank Scruby of Duval County rose to order a state position opposing the validation, Justice Stephen O'Connell asked Scruby if the bondholders would be damaged as long as they were assured of payment for their holdings.

Scruby said they would not. He also volunteered to the court his opinion that the atmosphere in Jacksonville and Duval County generally was in favor of the port authority.

The main issue in the validation suit was the city's pledging of the terminal properties, net revenue derived from the operations and the general taxing power of the city on real and personal property to pay off bonds issued in 1913.

When the original issue was refunded in 1941, as general obligation bonds, net revenue from the operation of the municipal power plant was pledged additionally.

Conroy told the court that only about $770,000 of the original issue of more than $1.5 million remained unpaid and that funds already budgeted would reduce the liability further, leaving only $225,000 worth of bonds maturing through 1967.

He said the port authority would retire those obligations through revenue from dock operations, whose net income to the city in 1963 was $108,000.

• Trustees of Jacksonville University were urged by U.S. Rep. Charles E. Bennett to transfer the school to the state university system.

In a letter to the trustees, Bennett also recommended that a committee be formed to establish a medical school in Jacksonville and that a veterans' hospital be built in the area.

"These three things demand mutual consideration and with their accomplishment, Jacksonville will be a greater city, more able to meet the increasing demands of a vigorously growing population," Bennett said.

Bennett said JU had "reached a high point in academic circles," mainly through the contributions of Carl Swisher and the civic and business communities of Jacksonville.

Bennett said JU "needed a new approach" to building the school's stature. With a state university in Jacksonville, he said, there would be no immediate need for a state junior college or a new private or church-supported university.

A four-year state-supported college also would keep many of Duval County's high school graduates in Jacksonville.

"The Jacksonville area, more compact than other populous sections of Florida, has 11 percent of the college-age students, but most don't stay in Duval County," Bennett said.

Upon hearing Bennett's proposals, Swisher said he could not agree with what was laid out in the letter.

In fact, he said he would do everything in his power to oppose JU's transfer under the state system.

"As for the medical school, a lot of talking has been done on it and about eight to 10 years ago, I offered to provide one," he said.

"Charlie Bennett is a good friend of mine and he's done some good things for JU, but maybe he hasn't thought this all the way through. I'd certainly be against his proposal," said Swisher.

After consideration, JU's trustees sided with Swisher.

In a letter responding to Bennett's proposal, JU board chairman Guy Botts said the trustees were dedicated to preserving the university as an independent institution.

"Many people believe that privately supported institutions of higher learning must be continued so as to frustrate the possibility that higher education in this country shall not by default become the sole responsibility

of the state," Botts wrote to Bennett.

• Criminal Court Judge Hans Tanzler ruled that Sara Thelma Luckie was insane and therefore incapable of standing trial for manslaughter in the slaying of the Rev. George Earl Hodges.

Tanzler ruled on the basis of testimony of two psychiatrists who would offer their opinions Feb. 7 whether they thought Luckie also was insane April 8, 1963, when Hodges, pastor of Beaver Street Baptist Church, was mortally wounded in a scuffle in Luckie's home.

Luckie was committed to the Florida State Hospital. Pending the move, Tanzler ordered her to be confined in the Daniel Memorial Unit, the psychiatric ward of Duval Medical Center, until Feb. 7 to give doctors the time to determine if she was insane at the time of the homicide.

• The medical staff of the county-owned Duval Medical Center sent a resolution to the new Duval County Hospital Authority supporting immediate construction of a hospital with a minimum of 750 beds.

The group also urged that the medical center's financial operations be removed from control of the Duval County Budget Commission.

Dr. Joseph J. Lowenthal, a past president of the 200-doctor staff, said patients needing surgery at the county hospital were being forced to wait three to four weeks before admission.

Due to beds being unavailable, "cardiac patients and other cripples who might be rehabilitated to a gainful existence are sent home to invalidism and occasionally death," he said.

In addition, X-ray and laboratory reports could take three days to several weeks because of inadequate personnel, Lowenthal said.

• The second mass polio immunization campaign in two months in Duval County was completed in a single day with more than 350,000 people receiving doses of the Sabin oral vaccine.

"A fantastic turnout — much more than we expected," said Jacksonville Jaycees President Calvin Roach. The organization, in cooperation with the county medical society, sponsored the drive.

After a polio outbreak in November 1963 in Jacksonville, 425,000 people were fed doses of the Sabin Type I vaccine. The Sabin Type III vaccine was administered to 351,444 people in the second phase.

About 1,000 volunteer workers were stationed at the county's 95 elementary schools to administer the treatment.

The third and final campaign was scheduled March 1. The Type II vaccine would be available and after all three doses were taken, people would be fully protected from polio, Roach said.

• The William E. Arnold Co. was awarded the contract for construction of the Kaiser Gypsum Co. plant.

Arnold said he was advised of the award by the Kaiser Engineering Department at the company's headquarters in Oakland, Calif.

He said he was not at liberty to reveal the exact amount of the contract, but said the plant would cost in the neighborhood of $5 million when it was complete in August.

The new facility would be built on a 21-acre site on the east side of Dames Point on land purchased in 1960 by Kaiser.

Kaiser Gypsum had acquired a 3,500-acre gypsum ore deposit on Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia, which was expected to supply the Jacksonville plant with its raw material.

The Seaboard Air Line Railroad was laying tracks to serve the factory, which would distribute its products in Florida, Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina and parts of North Carolina.

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