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Jax Daily Record Monday, Dec. 8, 201412:00 PM EST

50 years ago: Black students boycott public schools

by: Max Marbut Associate Editor

More than 17,000 black students skipped classes at Duval County public schools in the first day of what black leaders called an organized sit-out protest of conditions in the schools and elsewhere.

In black high schools, 52 percent of the approximately 5,000 students missed classes.

Junior high school attendance was 55 percent of an enrollment of about 7,000 students.

In elementary schools, attendance was about 39 percent of an enrollment of about 19,000.

It was noted that the absences would cost the county more than $36,500 per day. Under the state’s Minimum Foundation Program, schools received $2.11 each day for each student who attended class.

Wendell Holmes, spokesman for the boycott, called it “a tremendous success.”

Schools Superintendent Ish Brant declined comment.

In Tallahassee, State School Superintendent Thomas Bailey said, “I think the status of Duval County schools has been amply demonstrated with its disaccreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and, frankly, I cannot see what a boycott can accomplish.

“To the contrary, keeping children out of school will only magnify the county’s problems. Under the Minimum Foundation Program, state aid is based on the average daily attendance and the lower the attendance, the lower the amount of state aid,” Bailey continued.

Rutledge Pearson, a social studies teacher at Darnell-Cookman Junior High School and president of the Jacksonville and Florida chapters of the NAACP, read a list of dissatisfactions prior to the boycott and said the organization supported keeping students out of school.

One point of contention was the new Moncrief School, off Moncrief Road between Clarkson and Owens Roads.

Black leaders contended the school was promised in the bond issue program as a senior high school, but that junior high students and students in fifth and sixth grades would be transferred there.

The school was scheduled to open the day of the boycott but did not because, Brant said, access to the school by road was not complete.

Other grievances listed were outmoded curricula, “a not-too-well-disguised dual system of education,” and old or inadequate school facilities.

It was noted the list included grievances outside the scope of schools, such as “political corruption” and “complete lack of representation in policy-making and administrative aspects of our local government.”

Of the 125 public schools in Duval County, 27 were predominantly black. Attendance ranged from a low of 15 percent at one elementary school to a high of 75 percent at one of the smaller schools.

The boycott ended after three days.

• In recognition of the 173rd anniversary of inclusion of the Bill of Rights in the U.S. Constitution, Mayor Haydon Burns signed a proclamation designating Dec. 15 “Bill of Rights Day” in Jacksonville.

Attending the ceremony in Burns’ office at City Hall were Mrs. Judson Freeman and Mrs. Mason Romaine III, members of the National Society of Colonial Dames of America. Freeman was the Florida representative on the board of regents of Gunston Hall, Lorton, Va., the former home of George Mason, formulator of the Bill of Rights. The Colonial Dames were the trustees of Gunston Hall.

• U.S. District Judge Bryan Simpson found the Florida East Coast Railroad in civil contempt for not having complied formally with an Oct. 9 injunction to observe labor contract provisions.

After the ruling, the

railroad, operating under the nation’s longest railroad strike, announced it would stop hauling rock products and pulpwood in 48 hours, caused by personnel shortages posed by compliance with the injunction.

Simpson rejected a demand by the Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen that he fine the FEC $4.4 million. He directed the railroad file, within seven days, “a formal report in writing and under oath indicating item by item compliance and how and when put into effect, still existing deviations and the reasonable necessity causing same.”

Counsel for the railroad previously had reported informally that the FEC was in compliance with the injunction.

The union had complained that the railroad was not posting seniority rosters, crew boards and extra boards as required by a contract.

Simpson’s Oct. 9 injunction ordered the railroad to comply with contract provisions despite a continuing 22-month strike by 11 other unions.

Similar injunctions were issued later applying to jobs covered by the 11 non-operating unions and jobs covered by the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers.

• Rear Adm. William Kenney, chief of the Navy’s Bureau of Medicine and Surgery and surgeon general of the Navy, made an informal visit to Jacksonville and said a new hospital soon would be built.

He said the design for a $7.4 million facility to replace the U.S. Naval Hospital at Jacksonville Naval Air Station was approved and that Reynolds, Smith and Hills was awarded the contract to draw up the architectural and engineering plans.

“We hope they’ll be finished by spring and put out for bids,” said Kenney.

The eight-story, 400-bed hospital would be located northwest of the existing campus of 29 buildings, most of which would be demolished.

Kenney said the new hospital would be completely air-conditioned and include “all the

latest equipment in medical care.”

• Four pianos would be on the stage for the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra’s concert Dec. 15 at the Civic Auditorium.

Conductor John Canarina said he would be at one keyboard, joined by C. Edward Bryan, W. James Crosland and Gerson Yessin. The performance of the Bach Concerto in A minor for Four Pianos would mark Canarina’s first appearance with the orchestra as a musician.

• Quoting from the writings of Rene Laudonniere, U.S. Rep. Charles Bennett helped dedicate Fort Caroline Elementary School with a blast at the recent disaccreditation of Duval County’s public high schools.

Bennett quoted the co-founder of the French settlement at the north end of what is now known as Arlington, saying, “While you thought to escape the justice of men, you could not avoid the judgment of God, which cannot be avoided. It made you return here to make you confess. How true His judgments are and that He will allow no such foul deed to go unpunished.”

The tradition of the area was built by men who died for their principles, Bennett said.

“We should resolve now with our hearts to stand up for something even if it costs. And we will have to pay more taxes for our schools,” he said.

• Tuition at Jacksonville University would increase in 1965 by $125 for Duval County residents and $175 for non-residents, university officials said.

Tuition for a two-semester academic year for locals would increase from $675 to $800 and from $675 to $850 for out-of-county students.

“Regretfully, we must announce a tuition increase at Jacksonville University because quality education is increasingly expensive,” said Guy Botts, chairman of JU’s board of trustees.

“Among those colleges we surveyed, JU’s was the very lowest, and it will continue to be among the lowest,” said JU Vice President and Business Manager O.D. Barksdale.

• At Jacksonville University’s mid-year commencement, Mayor Haydon Burns, governor-elect of Florida, received his first honorary degree.

University President Robert H. Spiro granted Burns an honorary doctor of laws degree.

“We are proud that he can be with us and the first to offer him a well-earned, though honorary degree,” Spiro said.

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