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Jax Daily Record Monday, Nov. 17, 201412:00 PM EST

50 years ago: Legal Aid Association votes to establish full-time paid staff

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by: Max Marbut Associate Editor

The Legal Aid Association of Duval County voted to go to a full-time paid staff after hearing speakers describe the success of such operations in Miami and Tampa.

At the time, attorneys were helping indigent clients through the association on a voluntary basis.

Quentin Eldrid, executive attorney of the Legal Aid Society of the Dade County Bar Association, and Josephine Howard Stafford, executive director and staff attorney of the Legal Aid Society of Tampa and Hillsborough, described the operations of their offices.

“Justice is not a charity work. These people have a right to justice. It is not within your power to grant it or take it away,” Eldred told the association at a lunch meeting at the George Washington Hotel.

He said Dade County went to a full-time paid operation in 1950. A special act was passed by the Legislature earmarking $1 of the fee for filing a case in Circuit Court to legal aid work. The fee later was raised to $1.50 per case.

The society’s budget increased from $15,000 in 1950 to $42,000 in 1964. The number of cases doubled in that period and totaled 3,600 in 1964, Eldred said.

The paid staff operation in Tampa was started with a $5,000 grant from the Ford Foundation, Stafford said. The Legislature passed a special act designating $2.50 from the fee for filing a case in Hillsborough County Circuit Court, which later was raised to $3.50.

Legal Aid in Hillsborough handled 1,000 cases in 1957 and 3,139 in 1964. The budget increased in that time from $5,000 to $23,756 in 1964.

Nathan Wilson, president of The Jacksonville Bar Association and a member of Legal Aid Association of Duval County, introduced the motion to establish the full-time paid staff operation.

• The Board of County Commissioners took action to help prevent disaccreditation of 15 local high schools.

At the request of a committee headed by state Sen. John E. Mathews Jr., the board agreed in the future to allocate annually the county’s share of state race track funds for operating the schools rather than having it go into the road and bridge fund.

• Jacksonville University was awarded a $135,000 grant by the Wolfson Family Foundation for expansion of the Wolfson Student Center.

The announcement was made on the eve of the inauguration of Robert Spiro as JU’s fourth president at a formal dinner for more than 400 friends of the university. It also was a few hours after the dedication of the Phillips Music and Fine Arts Building on the campus.

“I believe that our College of Music and Fine Arts, and its splendid new home, is representative of a vitally important aspect of the life and character of our times, and of Jacksonville University,” said Spiro. “Through the vigorous endeavors of Mrs. J.E. Davis, Mrs. Carl Swisher and the many friends and supporters of the university, items of essential equipment are transforming the building into a highly effective instrumentality. We are hopeful this task will soon be consummated. And of course, we take pleasure in recognizing most importantly Mrs. E.L. Phillips, whose generosity in large measure made this day possible.”

The building was financed with a donation from Catherine Reed Phillips and the estate of her late husband, Elwyn L. Phillips Jr., who was an insurance company executive.

Appearing on the dedication program were Spiro, Mrs. Davis, Mrs. Swisher, Boston Pops Orchestra Conductor Arthur Fiedler and Frances B. Kinne, dean of the JU College of Music and Fine Arts.

• A police captain accused of accepting bribe money from an ex-gambler was acquitted after a Criminal Court jury deliberated for one hour and four minutes.

Found not guilty was Harold Branch, brother of H.V. Branch, the city’s acting police chief. The men broke into tears after the verdict was read at 9:41 p.m.

Two of Branch’s co-defendants, also police officers, were acquitted earlier that day.

The trio was arrested March 30, 1964, by the Duval County Patrol and charged with accepting monthly payoffs from Hodges McGee, a former gambler and convicted moonshiner.

• Arthur Christopher Jr., who was born in Jacksonville, became the first African-American to be appointed a hearing examiner in a federal agency when he was named to the 70-member examiner staff of the National Labor Relations Board.

Christopher, 51, worked for the board since 1946 and would begin his new duties Jan. 18. Hearing examiners traveled throughout the U.S., conducting hearings and issuing decisions in unfair labor practices cases under the National Labor Relations Act.

He was valedictorian of the Stanton High School class of 1931, received his bachelor’s degree from Howard University in 1940 and his law degree from Howard in 1944.

He was a member of the Federal Bar Association Committee on Juvenile Delinquency and the National Labor Law Committee.

Christopher, who in 1935 moved from Jacksonville to Washington, D.C., maintained his voting registration in Duval County.

• Lonnie Wurn, local attorney and land developer, accepted the general chairmanship of the 1965 United Jewish Welfare Fund, the fund-raising arm of the Jacksonville Jewish Community Fund.

Wurn said the campaign would emphasize the United Jewish Appeal’s role in helping to make thousands of uprooted Jewish families secure and self-reliant citizens of Israel.

“In addition to our responsibility to our people overseas, we have an obligation to provide vitally needed additional funds for several local services such as the River Garden Hebrew Home for the Aged, Jewish Family and Children’s Services, the council’s program at Camp Leitman and for more than 30 important national services in the fields of human relations, culture, religion and education,” he said.

A subdivision developer with a particular interest in the creation of social and leisure time club centers, Wurn and his partners built the Adolph Wurn Park in San Souci in 1955 with a swimming pool as the focal point.

Wurn and his associates established in 1962 a similar project in the Fort Caroline Club Estates subdivision near Jacksonville University.

• The St. Johns River got a bubble bath in the vicinity of the Jacksonville Shipyards when city fire crews sprayed emulsifier on the water in an effort to rid the waterway of a heavy black oil scum left by a leaky oil tanker.

C.I. Stephens, general superintendent of the shipyard, said approximately $24,000 worth of high-powered detergent was applied to the water and surrounding piers, pilings and warehouses.

It was noted the quantity of detergent was equivalent to nearly 100,000 regular-size boxes of household laundry detergent, such as those found in supermarkets.

• Martha Rountree, nationally known writer, columnist and radio and television personality, urged women to help combat what she termed “massive Communist infiltration of the United States that threatens to put a spy in your backyard.”

She addressed members of the St. Johns Dinner Club at the Robert Meyer Hotel.

“I think it is up to women to do something about the threat,” said Rountree. “Women have the most time to work toward the preservation of the American way of life.”

She urged the club members to initiate a campaign of getting out, ringing doorbells and getting into the thick of politics.

“In almost every walk of life and every business, Communists have come here from Moscow to infiltrate our country and take over our American way of life,” she said. “Everywhere you look, there are Communists working here in positions you would never believe. Why, Communists have addressed or lectured at more than 30 colleges and universities to more than 75,000 students during the past year.”

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