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Jax Daily Record Monday, Jun. 20, 201612:00 PM EST

50 years ago: Black residents demand fair treatment from city government

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by: Max Marbut Associate Editor

Mass demonstrations would begin July 11 unless city government gave black residents better jobs, said Rutledge Pearson, president of the state and local branches of the NAACP.

He said at a news conference that eight demands were being delivered to Mayor Lou Ritter.

“If these demands are not met, we will begin an action program,” said Pearson.

The letter called for cooperation from the city to employ people trained by the Neighborhood Youth Corps and to adopt housing standards that would lead to urban renewal.

Also demanded were desegregation of the Police Department and hiring black citizens as firefighters and meter readers.

Removing racial restrictions from jobs at public facilities, desegregating the Recreation Department and reopening three city swimming pools also made the list.

Finally, Pearson demanded “more and better jobs” for black residents in all city departments.

“We will have a mass march at 6 p.m. July 11 unless these demands are met,” said Pearson. “Then, we plan a variety of direct-action methods to call attention to the situation.”

He said some of the actions being considered were rent strikes, picketing of real estate offices and sit-ins at City Hall.

• The Port of Jacksonville, luring business away from Port Everglades and Charleston, S.C., landed exclusive rights to handle more than 30,000 Volkswagen cars to be imported from Germany each year.

In an agreement scheduled to take effect Sept. 1, the Jacksonville Port Authority voted to lease up to 20 acres of open storage space at the Talleyrand Docks and Terminals to Volkswagen Southeastern Distributors Inc.

The agreement called for a seven-year lease with an option to renew for five years. Volkswagen would pay the authority $3.30 for each vehicle handled in the port — about $100,000 annually.

Stevedoring and other costs were expected to generate about $250,000 a year for the authority.

• Within two years, the city Electric Department could begin using natural gas at its generating plants, said Engineer-Manager Robert Cowan.

He said the city had been trying to make a deal with natural gas pipeline companies since 1961, but none could come close to matching or beating the cost of producing electricity by burning Bunker C fuel oil.

The subject came up when the Local Government Study Commission of Duval County asked Cowan if the city planned to install precipitators in smoke stacks at its generating plants to reduce air pollution.

It was noted Bunker C fuel was high in sulfur content and when burned, gave off high levels of sulfur dioxide.

Cowan estimated it would cost $3 million to install precipitators at the Kennedy and Southside generating stations and at the Northside station, which was under construction along Heckscher Drive.

When asked about the state of the electric distribution system, Cowan described it as “outmoded and of old-time construction.”

Ronald Hagen, the department’s accounting chief, accompanied Cowan to the task force meeting and wasn’t nearly so kind.

“It’s held together by bailing wire and hope,” he asserted.

Cowan said that was “a bit rough” and reported the overhead system was as good as any other.

“It’s just that more and more systems are going to underground these days,” he said.

The city spent $30 million converting Downtown to an underground system and that meant power was rarely interrupted during hurricanes and storms.

“But citizens complain to me about how fast other cities, like Miami, restore power after hurricanes,” said Cowan. “The reason is that Miami doesn’t have 5 percent of the trees we have. We spend $500,000 a year trimming trees.”

He said the cost of converting the entire city system to underground distribution would cost at least $250 million for cables, plus $500 million for conduit.

Even then, Cowan said, “the consumer would have to pay to connect from the house to the manhole.”

• At a meeting of the Arlington Council of the Jacksonville Area Chamber of Commerce, it was announced the name of the new hospital to be built in Southside would be Memorial Hospital.

Dr. Frederick Mann, a member of the hospital’s board, said notable local medical practitioners would be memorialized with plaques placed in a Hall of Fame.

Among them would be Dr. James Hall, who came to Cowford in 1798 and practiced for 25 years under Spanish rule.

The $3.8 million facility was being financed by a $1.5 million federal grant, a $1.5 million mortgage and $800,000 in 10-year, 7-percent interest debenture bonds that were purchased by the public.

The cost figure did not include the land, a 14-acre parcel at 3625 University Blvd. S.

It was purchased from Arthur Sollee at an undisclosed price with money put up by physicians.

The 200-bed hospital was planned to open in late 1967 or early 1968.

• The Auchter Co. was awarded the contract for construction of the terminal facilities at the $26.6 million Jacksonville International Airport.

Auchter was the low bidder on the base bid at $5.06 million. After analysis of proposed changes to the design, Auchter’s price came to $5.13 million, also the low bid.

Construction of the terminal complex would begin within 30 days. The new airport was scheduled to open in June 1968.

• An ordinance that would limit surfing to a four-block area from 8 a.m.-8 p.m. was being considered by the Jacksonville Beach City Council.

The legislation would restrict surfing to the area between 15th Avenue North and 17th Avenue North and between 18th and 20th avenues south.

It would permit surfing from 8 p.m.-8 a.m. anywhere along the beach, except within 1,000 feet of the fishing pier at Sixth Avenue North.

The proposed ordinance also prohibited swimming, bathing or wading within the designated surfing areas between 8 a.m.-8 p.m. and within 300 feet of the pier at any time.

• City Purchasing Agent Robert Suits was subpoenaed to appear before the Duval County grand jury in its continuing investigation of municipal government practices.

Circuit Judge Marion Gooding called for the grand jury probe, based on accusations of wrongdoing at City Hall made by news reports broadcast on WJXT TV-4.

Assistant State Attorney William Hallowes, who was advising the panel, was unable to disclose any information about the investigation, as grand jury proceedings are secret until findings are released.

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