Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke were packing movie theaters in Jacksonville this week in 1966.

50 years ago: Attorney advises indicted City Council members not to resign

By: 
Sep. 12, 2016

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 1966. The items were compiled from the Jacksonville Public Library’s periodical archives by Staff Writer Max Marbut.

In the face of petitions for a recall election of all City Council members and commissioners, two indicted council members stood firm and said they did not plan to step down.

Meanwhile, another council member said, for the first time, he did not believe the accused should remain on the city’s legislative body.

When asked whether he felt council members Cecil Lowe and W.O Mattox Jr. should remain in office, council member Lavern Reynolds replied, “No I don’t. In fairness to the community, they should not remain in a position of making decisions affecting city government while they are under indictment.”

The two were charged with grand larceny and perjury.

The reaffirmation from Lowe and Mattox not to resign came after they consulted their attorney, Walter G. Arnold.

In a letter to his clients, Arnold noted the indictments were returned by the Duval County grand jury after it heard evidence submitted in secret session.

The accused neither heard the evidence nor had the right to submit evidence on their behalf, he said.

Citing the state and federal constitutions, Arnold said a person charged with a crime was presumed to be innocent and that presumption applied in every criminal case from larceny to murder.

“And the rules in connection therewith must be scrupulously observed,” he said

Arnold further stated that resigning prior to a settlement of the charges in court would be imposition of a penalty of forfeiture without due process of law.

“As your attorney, I advise you not to relinquish your position as a member of the City Council nor any of your duties connected therewith prior to a fair trial before an impartial tribunal,” Arnold wrote.

• City Auditor John Hollister Jr. took a different tack. In a letter to the City Commission, he asked to be relieved of his duties and the commission granted his request.

Hollister was under indictment by the grand jury for grand larceny of city funds totaling $1,108.

He wrote that his usefulness as the city’s financial chief had been impaired by the indictment to such an extent that he should be relieved of his duties until the court’s final disposition.

Hollister reaffirmed his innocence of the charge against him and expressed confidence he would be acquitted.

He attended the meeting, but had to wait until all other items on the agenda were discharged before his request was addressed.

It was noted while other business was being conducted, commissioners and the city attorney, at times, talked behind their hands, whispered to each other and passed papers back and forth and that some of the activity obviously was related to Hollister.

Mayor Lou Ritter appointed Prim Fisher, a CPA who for many years was executive secretary and financial adviser to the Duval County Budget Commission, to be the interim city auditor.

He would begin work at a salary of $1,500 per month, the budgeted salary for Hollister.

• A feud reminiscent of the Hatfields and McCoys broke out in East Jacksonville and four men ended up in jail after a shooting and stabbing.

The first victim was 27-year-old Roscoe Grover of 1126 Odessa St., who was stabbed on Union Street near Florida Avenue (now A. Phillip Randolph Boulevard).

Grover was cut several times across the forehead and on the scalp and stabbed twice in the back. His attacker fled before police arrived.

About two hours later, officers H.F. Hemingway and R.H. King were stopped by Grover’s brothers, Charles and Mitchell Grover. They said the assailant was hiding at 900 Oakley St.

When the officers arrived to investigate, they found 45-year-old George Washington, who had been shot in the back and badly beaten.

He said Roscoe Grover’s two brothers had jumped him after the fight.

When they returned to where they talked to the Grover brothers, the officers arrested them on aggravated assault charges.

After treatment at Duval Medical Center, Washington was charged with aggravated assault and Roscoe Grover, who was jailed earlier, was charged with fighting.

• Directors of the Jacksonville Beaches Area Chamber of Commerce gave their backing to a proposed new bus route between the Beaches and St. Augustine.

They agreed to support a request from Jacksonville Transfer & Storage Inc. that its existing service be extended to Jacksonville Beach and Jacksonville.

Padgett Powell, vice president of the firm, said the company was operating between St. Augustine and Cedar Key on a portion of a certificate issued to the Greyhound Bus Co.

He said he would petition the Public Service Commission to extend the route as soon as he had sufficient local support.

• It was reported the Duval County public school system operated the largest school motor transportation fleet in Florida.

Each morning, 194 buses traveled 5,780 miles carrying children to school and taking them home in the afternoon for a total of 11,560 miles daily.

Duval’s nearest competitor in total miles traveled was Hillsborough County, with 10,357 round-trip miles daily. The smallest number of daily miles was 416 in Franklin County.

According to Aaron Brown Sr., supervisor of school transportation, the cost was low per pupil at 15.7 cents a day round trip. The state average was 18.7 cents.

Duval, according to Brown, was the only county in the state that ran its school buses on a contract basis. The operators owned their vehicles and bought equipment out of earnings.

In the other counties, he said, bus fleets were owned by the school system and the drivers were paid salaries.

In the 1965-66 school year, there were 28,589 students riding the buses each day, and increase from the previous year’s ridership of 28,006.

• A man wanted to tell his troubles to a bartender, but in this case an escaped prisoner also wanted to talk to the authorities.

“I’ve got enough money for two beers. When I drink them, call the police. I just shot a boy,” said William Coon to the bartender at the Springfield Bar on Main Street between Seventh and Eighth streets.

He got his beer before police arrived.

Officers already were searching for Coon in the shooting of his partner after escaping from the Sumter County jail in Bushnell.

Investigator W.E. Beacham said Coon shot Paul Lindquist in an alley behind their rooming house at 1246 Hubbard St.

Coon tried to order Lindquist, who was listed in serious condition at Duval Medical Center with a gunshot wound in the chest, out from behind the steering wheel of a car parked in the alley.

Lindquist stumbled from the car and fell onto the steps of the rooming house, where police found him.

Coon fled in the car, which police said was stolen after the two broke out of jail. He drove six blocks from the rooming house to the bar and abandoned the vehicle on Eighth Street.

Police arrested Coon for assault to murder. Lindquist was listed as an escaped prisoner.

• The City Commission put the cork in the free drink bottle at Imeson Airport.

Airport Manager James Howard told the commission that one airline served free drinks to its travelers in a VIP lounge, another airline was planning to open a similar lounge and two other carriers were interested in offering the amenity.

Noting the regular cocktail lounge was a leased concession from which the city derived revenue, Howard said the free drinks from the airlines meant a loss of money for the city.

He asked the commission to rule that if airlines wanted to serve free liquor, they should purchase it from the concession.

The commissioners agreed.

“The first thing you know, the liquor concession owners are going to be giving free airplane flights,” said Commissioner Claude Smith.

• Chicken was the meat of choice on many restaurant menus this week in 1966.

At Morrison’s cafeterias — Downtown, Roosevelt Mall and Southgate Plaza — on Tuesday, all the fried chicken you could eat was 79 cents.

Fred Abood at his restaurant, Mama’s Fried Chicken, was serving all the chicken a customer could eat for $1.35, including fresh string beans, French-fried Idaho potatoes, “real” chicken gravy, slaw and homemade biscuits with honey.

At Bailey’s Restaurant at Main and 28th streets, they served an “excellent businessman’s lunch” weekdays for 87 cents. The $1 take-out special was chicken, hickory-smoked or fried, with French fries, slaw, rolls and butter.

• A blush pink hibiscus named “The Bride” won top honors at the annual show of the Jacksonville chapter of the American Hibiscus Society at the Barnett First National Bank.

The flower, also judged best single shown by a collector, was from J. R. Wallace of Ormond Beach.

He said he had been growing hibiscus for about five years as “one of several retirement hobbies.”