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- 2014 - May - 5th -
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50 years ago: Haydon Burns speaks too soon on campaign endorsements

Compiled by Max Marbut

“If ever a campaign tasted of victory, this is it,” said Jacksonville Mayor Haydon Burns as he rode in a 21-block motorcade Downtown to cap his campaign in Duval County for the Democrat Party gubernatorial nomination.

Addressing a gathering of “Burns Blitzers” supporters at George Robinson Sports Complex, Burns declared his opponents in the six-man race had employed “every political trick that could be conceived” in an effort to defeat him Tuesday in the first primary election.

Burns said, however, that all moves by his opponents had backfired.

After the votes were counted, Burns and Miami Mayor Robert King High were preparing for a runoff battle. Preliminary returns from 2,049 of the state’s 2,279 precincts gave Burns 277,108 votes to 195,793 for High.

Two days after the primary, Burns announced he had received the endorsement of Florida’s two U.S. senators for his second primary campaign.

He also announced, at a late afternoon news conference in his 14th-floor office at City Hall he had been given the “complete endorsements” of all members of the state Cabinet, except the governor.

Burns termed the announcement of the support of Sens. George Smathers and Spessard Holland and the others as one of the most significant in Florida politics.

Burns’ remarks were followed quickly by a response from Tallahassee. One cabinet member outright denied he was supporting Burns, two expressed only conditional support and one refused to comment.

“It would be in poor taste, as well as bad very politics, to endorse anyone,” said Secretary of State Tom Adams. “Mayor Burns and I are good friends, but I also am good friends with other candidates in the race.”

The next day, Burns blamed a misunderstanding and his enthusiasm for what he called an “overstatement” regarding the endorsements.

“In a statement made to the press yesterday I, in good faith, repeated the assurances of support made to me by several of Florida’s leading public figures.

“It is now clear to me that I misunderstood or misinterpreted the position of some of these gentlemen in the matter, resulting in an overstatement or misunderstanding being brought about by my optimism, enthusiasm and their personal remarks made to me.

“I have the utmost respect and personal regard for each of these gentlemen and of course I completely accept and will abide by their clarified positions,” Burns said in a published statement.

• E. Vann Kirkpatrick, a Jacksonville Beach letter carrier, in the summer of 1963 ran and swam through the surf to rescue three young people caught in a run-out. He was awarded a bronze medal by the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission in Pittsburgh.

Kirkpatrick, who lived at 902 N. 4th St., also received a cash award of $750 from the commission, established in 1904 by Andrew Carnegie, steel magnate and philanthropist.

Kirkpatrick was driving his mail scooter along Ocean Avenue at 34th Avenue South on June 6, 1963, making his normal deliveries.

“After spending 10 years as a surf man, I guess you just naturally glance out at the ocean every chance you get,” Kirkpatrick said at the time.

“I saw those three heads bobbing out there and I figured I had better investigate.

“By the time I got to the beach, they were screaming and I knew they were caught in a run-out. I could recognize the conditions,” he said.

The 50-year-old former lifeguard stripped to his shorts, waded and swam 100 feet through breakers three feet high, then swam 150 feet further to one of the victims, 15-year-olf Judith Hines from Collingdale, Pa.

Kirkpatrick towed her to 15-year-old Michael Jones and 15-year-old Jeffery Jones, both of 3031 New Berlin Road.

The mailman then battled the current 300 feet with the trio in tow until they were able to wade to the beach.

Kirkpatrick also received the Postmaster General Citation, a Red Cross certificate of merit signed by President John F. Kennedy and commendations from the mayor and City Council of Jacksonville Beach.

• The Northeast Florida Heart Association awarded for the first time a fellowship grant to a medical student to enable him to work during the summer months on a research project.

Recipient of the $600 grant was Victor Schneider of Jacksonville, a first-year medical student at the University of Florida.

The association also granted $2,000 to Flagler Hospital in St. Augustine for the purchase of a cardiac defibrillator.

• Sam the gopher turtle took what all hoped would be his last trip of any length when he became a member of the menagerie at the Jacksonville Zoo.

Sam was a pet turtle of Kathy Westerfireld, 6, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Fred Westerfield of 13502 Gillespie Ave. in Oceanway.

In March 1964, Sam was acquired by Kathy, who soon was told by her parents that the turtle would have to go back to its natural habitat. Before Sam was turned loose, the girl wrote her name, address and telephone number on Sam’s shell with an indelible pencil.

About a month later, Trooper W.A. Stewart of the Florida Highway Patrol found Sam in the middle of North Main Street. Stewart got out of his car to remove the hazard (the turtle) and discovered the address and phone number on its shell.

He took Sam home to the Westerfields.

Eventually, Kathy and her first-grade classmates at Oceanway Elementary-Junior High School took Sam to the zoo, where he would live out his life – her parents hoped.

• The Louvre Museum in Paris agreed to loan six art objects to the Cummer Gallery of Art in conjunction with the Fort Caroline quadricentennial.

Gallery Director Joseph J. Dodge said the exhibition, “French Art of the 16th Century,” was scheduled for July-September, concurrent with the celebration of the 400th anniversary of the founding of the oldest European settlement in the United States.

It would be the most comprehensive exhibition of 16th century French art ever held in the South. Dodge said nationally, it would be the most important display presented in almost 25 years.

Dodge spent more than a year arranging the exhibition and compiling the art.

Featured in the Louvre loan were two portraits of Charles IX, an oil painting and a colored drawing and a miniature portrait of Catherine de Medici by a follower of Francois Clouet.

• The fragile peace between Jacksonville Beach pier fishermen and surfers neared the boiling point when the weather improved after several days of rain and windy conditions.

Despite signs posted on the pier warning surfers and swimmers to stay at least 300 feet away from the pier, anglers complained the wave riders were coming too close.

R.L. Williams, operator of the pier, said he had to call police Friday when several surfers, apparently playing hookey from school, rode waves into the restricted area.

“The boys moved back when they were warned, but I am afraid there is going to be more trouble. When the surf gets good the boys just naturally follow it close to the pier,” he said.

Williams said he was concerned that the problems with the surfers might lead some fishermen to quit using the pier.

For their part, the fishermen said they had the right to fish from the pier and the surfers could find other places to surf.

“We pay our money to fish from the pier and we’re going to fish,” said R.H. Thompson. “I’m throwing four ounces of lead about 200 feet now and some of the surfers are closer than that. I’d hate to see any of them get hurt, but they don’t seem to care and I figure it’s up to them to be careful.”

Angler Joe Garcia didn’t think the surfers had to get so close to the pier.

“They don’t have to play here. They can go anywhere along the beach and they will if they are real sportsmen. They know we are limited to the pier,” he said.

On the surfers’ side, they said the best waves at Jacksonville Beach were found near the pier.

Randy Tucker, spokesman for the Jacksonville Beach Association, said the pilings caused a permanent sand bar to form on the ocean floor south of the pier and the bar created waves that were best for surfing.

Tucker had in April petitioned the Jacksonville Beach City Council to designate an area south of the pier for the exclusive use of surfers. The request was being studied.

“We will obey any regulations the city places on surfing, but in the interest of safety, swimmers should be prohibited from the area where surfers are riding,” he said.

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