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Jax Daily Record Monday, Jan. 19, 201512:00 PM EST

50 years ago: Longshoremen's strike shuts down Jacksonville's port

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by: Max Marbut Associate Editor

Activity was at a virtual standstill along Jacksonville’s waterfront as a strike by the International Longshoremen’s Association entered its second week.

“We’re out of business,” said David Rawls, executive director of the Jacksonville Port Authority.

So were about 1,000 local members of the union, who joined 30,000 of their brethren from Maine to Texas who walked off the job in a dispute over crew sizes and wages.

While work at port authority facilities was stopped except for office operations, a few tankers and other vessels not requiring longshoremen to load or discharge cargoes continued to arrive and depart.

About 65 authority employees paid by the hour were laid off because of the strike. Salaried employees still were on the job, but could face layoffs if the work stoppage continued, Rawls said.

Landon Williams, local union business agent, said the 650 regular union members and 350 part-time workers were awaiting new contract proposals to be offered.

One of the key issues was the union’s demand that the hourly rate be increased from $3.20 to $3.26. The South Atlantic District workers were the only ones who made 6cents an hour less, Williams said.

• Also at the port, the first major expansion step of the Talleyrand Docks and Terminals began when a $4.6 million, 25-year lease contract was signed by Sea-Land Service Inc.

The container ship company’s agreement would mean start of construction of a $3 million parallel docking facility at the old city docks to be used by Sea-Land.

Using the contract as basis for financing the project, the authority proposed issuance of $4.5 million in revenue certificates to build the new $3 million dock and use the balance of the income to pay off $1.5 million in municipal bond debt dating back to when the city operated the docks prior to creation of the authority.

The expansion plan included building a 1,220-foot wharf along the shoreline to accommodate two ships at a time, installation of a 28-ton gantry crane to unload the ships and a 13-acre paved parking lot for the trucks used to transport containers.

Project plans also showed construction of a 7,200-square-foot maintenance shop, a 6,000-square-foot control building and a 1,000-square-foot administration building.

The 25-year contract specified an annual payment of $185,000 to the authority and provided a five-year extension option at $135,000 annually for the additional period.

• Top-ranking city and county officials filed requests for pay raises to be considered by the 1965 Legislature.

The largest pay hike was requested by Public Defender Ed Austin, who sought an additional $4,500 per year. The raise would take Austin from $13,000 a year to $17,500.

Mayor-Commissioner Lou Ritter asked that his salary be increased from $15,000 to $16,500.

City Council members also lined up for their share of the proposed increases. One of the bills submitted would provide for an annual base salary of $5,100 for each council member, with the condition that the sum drawn monthly for expenses could not exceed $500.

Justices of the peace wanted the maximum they could draw from the earnings of their office to be hiked from $9,000 to $12,000 annually.

The constitutional officers also were looking for bigger paydays.

The sheriff, tax collector, tax assessor and Circuit Court clerk each asked for increases from $15,800 annually to $18,500.

• City Police Capt. Gerald Duggan was convicted in Criminal Court on a charge of accepting gambling protection payoffs.

Defense attorney Albert Datz was given 15 days to draw up a motion for a new trial.

During the four-day trial, ex-gambler and convicted moonshiner Hodges McGee testified he paid Duggan $90 a month in protection money from August 1963 to February 1964 in Duggan’s office at police headquarters.

In return, McGee said, Duggan agreed to let him run an illegal gambling operation at 1091 Florida Ave. without interference from Duggan or any of his squad.

On questioning by Assistant State Attorney Edward Booth, McGee testified he paid Duggan $20 a month before entering federal prison in Tallahassee in 1961 to serve time for moonshining.

Before the verdict was read, McGee told Judge Lloyd Layton his gaming operation was grossing about $2,200 a month, but that $1,600 was going to police officers for protection. He said he finally became fed up with the amount of money that went to payoffs and agreed to cooperate with FBI agents.

Duggan could be sentenced to as many as 10 years in prison or fined $5,000. He was free under a $1,500 bond pending the outcome of a planned appeal.

• Comedian George Jessel came to Jacksonville to raise money for Israel. It was noted he was working on his second $100 million in donations from U.S. contributors for the Jewish state.

In addition to his fund-raising effort, Jessel sounded off about his opinion of modern technology. Despite regular appearances on The Tonight Show and Jackie Gleason’s weekly television show from Miami Beach, Jessel had nothing good to say about television.

He said television was destroying the United States mentally and physically. He blamed that on control of programming by advertisers.

“You take 15 or 20 children on the street and you’ll find that each one past the age of eight will know 10 or 20 detergent commercials like that,” Jessel said, snapping his fingers. “And very hesitantly, they’ll know the Pledge of Allegiance to their flag.”

• Former Mayor Haydon Burns, who two weeks earlier was inaugurated as governor of Florida, visited Jacksonville and ran afoul of the law, but it didn’t take him long to resolve the matter.

Burns was issued a citation for parking in a loading zone in the 200 block of Laura Street. A spokesman for the Parking Meter Department said as soon as Burns returned to Tallahassee, he mailed the city the ticket and $3 in cash to cover the fine.

The ticket was left on the windshield by Patrolman Hudson Cowart while Burns and his driver were inside an office building. He said he had no idea he had tagged the governor’s vehicle and added he was a member of Burns’ Blitzers, the grassroots organization that campaigned for Burns in the gubernatorial race.

• The City Commission called for a study by the Electric and Water Engineering Department of a request from the Jacksonville Branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta to dig a 700-foot-deep well on its property at 515 Julia St.

In a letter to the commission, T.A. Lanford, branch manager, said the well was for a fallout shelter to be built on the site and would be for emergency use only.

• City Park Superintendent John Rogers implemented a new tactic in the 15-year attempt to drive flocks of sparrows out of Hemming Park. He wired a flashing light similar to those used on police cars to one of the park’s oak trees.

“We had to order it special. It cost about $80,” he said.

Rogers reported the small black birds weren’t getting within about 50 feet of the tree with the light, but were roosting in other trees. If the light continued to repel the birds from the test tree, lights could be paced in other trees, he said.

Previous experiments intended to banish the birds had not been successful.

“We put two men in the park for a week squirting water on them and they stayed away for months, but people complained they were getting wet,” said Rogers.

The park manager was aware that any tactic could raise the ire of the local chapter of the Audubon Society. “If the society finds a dead bird, they’re on our necks,” he said.

• The United Fund of the Jacksonville Area Inc. elected Van Etten Bent as president for the 1965 campaign.

With the organization coming off a record fund-raising year, Bent was ready for the challenge and optimistic that another record could be set during his term.

“I appreciate the confidence you have placed in me,” he said, “I hope that a year from now you will feel this confidence was not misplaced.”

Bent was president of the Florida School Book Depository. He succeeded Laurence F. Lee Jr., chairman of the board of Peninsular Insurance Co., who presided over the fund as it raised a record $1,543,824 in the previous campaign.

Attorney Charlie Towers was praised for his leadership in guiding the 1964 fund raising effort.

“I want you to know the job you gave me did more for me than I can say. I got 10 times more out of it than I put into it,” Towers said.

Prudential Insurance Co. Vice President Hugh Abernethy was elected senior vice president and J.H. McCormack Jr., vice president of the Atlantic National Bank of Jacksonville, was named vice president for fund raising.

Bent said there were two areas he would like to see improved during his administration: public relations and developing a better understanding between member agencies and between the agencies and the fund.

“When the people of Jacksonville fully know the needs of the United Fund, I think they will feel more a part of it,” he said. “This is their responsibility and I am sure they will take care of it.”

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