This week in 1966, Claude Kirk was elected governor of Florida, the first time a Republican was elected to the office since Reconstruction after the Civil War.

50 years ago: New grand jury directed to continue government corruption probe

By: 
Nov. 7, 2016

The new Duval County grand jury was directed to continue the investigation of city and county government that was launched by its predecessor and led to the indictment of several elected and appointed officials.

Circuit Judge Charles Luckie read a seven-page charge to the panel shortly after the 23-member body was sworn in at the Duval County Courthouse.

The group then retired with State Attorney William Hallowes to its meeting room on the third floor.

George Ecord, traffic manager for the Regis Paper Co., was elected foreman of the jury, which would serve for six months.

• On Tuesday — Election Day — a man was walking around in Hemming Park wearing a barrel instead of trousers.

The Jacksonville Junior Chamber of Commerce had put on a number of demonstrations Downtown to urge people to vote.

The man in the barrel was carrying a sign that read, “I may have lost my pants, but not my right to vote.”

On Monday, Jaycees led ducks around Hemming Park with the slogan “Don’t duck your responsibility — get out the vote.”

On previous days, it was slogans with chickens, “You can’t squawk if you don’t vote,” and goats, “Don’t let politics get your goat — get out and vote.”

Also Tuesday, the Jacksonville and Jacksonville Beach Jaycees combined efforts to visit every voting precinct in Duval County and report the results for state and national news coverage.

• Investment banker Claude Kirk rode a wave of Republican support and an angry tide of public discontent over war, civil rights and inflation into the Florida governor’s office.

He beat Miami Mayor Robert King High, who conceded defeat shortly after 11 p.m. Election Day.

Kirk, 40, became the first Republican to be elected to the state’s highest office since 1872, during Reconstruction after the Civil War.

He scored heavily in all parts of the state in which the Democrat party’s nominee had been consistently elected for nearly 100 years.

• Duval County’s Tom Slade also made election history, becoming the first man to serve in the state Legislature under both Republican and Democratic banners.

Even though all the votes had not been counted by Wednesday, it was noted that unofficial but convincing returns gave Slade, who ran in 1966 as a Republican but was a Democratic member of the Florida House in 1963, a lopsided margin over state Rep. Clyde Simpson in the race for the District 9 Senate seat in Duval County.

• Supervisor of Elections Robert Mallard said he would check voting machines to determine why paper rolls for write-in candidates on several machines did not operate.

He said he suspected moisture might have caused the rolls to stick because it was humid with scattered rain on Election Day.

Mallard didn’t rule out mechanical failure because some of the machines had been in service since 1938, he said.

Also, some voters complained the write-in slots at the top of the machines couldn’t be reached, particularly for short people. They were at about eye level if a person was six feet tall.

Mallard said anyone who couldn’t reach a slot could get a chair from a poll worker on request. And, he added, so far as he knew there was no law against a voter bringing his own stool or other device to the polling place.

• The Community Improvement Advisory Committee had an organizational meeting to launch a program to make Jacksonville “a showplace of community action, civic cooperation and economic and cultural progress.”

The committee was named by Mayor Lou Ritter and would deal with some aspects of city planning, proper application of the city’s minimum standard housing code and development of programs entitling the city to federal aid.

Ritter thanked Julian Fant, president of the Riverside Bank of Jacksonville, for having assumed the job of chairman, which Ritter said would be a thankless task.

“The question is how the city will develop,” said Ritter. “Will it be in a helter-skelter, haphazard fashion or will there be a plan?”

• Bonanza Sirloin Pit opened its second restaurant in Jacksonville in the West Mall shopping center at Lane Avenue and Normandy Boulevard.

The grand opening special was a sirloin steak dinner including a baked potato, a “giant slab of Texas toast” and a salad for $1.59.

Seafood lovers headed to Morrison’s Cafeteria for fried red snapper, tartar sauce, slaw and French fried potatoes for 69 cents.

• George Henry Hodan, 81, who turned in the alarm for the Great Fire of 1901, died in a Jacksonville hospital after a brief illness.

He was a young man working in a grocery store at Davis Street and Kings Road on May 3, 1901, when the fire began in the Cleveland Fiber Factory and destroyed most of Jacksonville.

A native of Hamburg, Germany, Hodan came to Jacksonville when he was 14.

• A Jacksonville mother learned that in the rain-soaked jungles of South Vietnam, pinups of glamorous girls weren’t as highly prized as razor blades and warm socks.

Weary homesick Marines on jungle patrols during the monsoon season wrote home also asking for small steel brushes, canned soup and even machetes to hack through underbrush.

That’s what Joan Bolinski heard from her son, Pfc. John Davenport, 20, a 1965 graduate of Landon High School.

He arrived in South Vietnam on May 29 and would remain there with the 3rd Marine Division near Laos until February.

“Socks rot off their feet from dampness,” Bolinski said. “He writes for us to send thick white socks and foot powder.”

Grooming meant sacrifice and pain when 12 Marines on extended patrols had to share one razor and one blade. Outerwear also was on her son’s wish list.

“Their clothes get stiff from rain and mud and John wrote home for a short raincoat to wear over his jacket,” added Bolinski.

• The war in Southeast Asia also was on U.S. Rep. Charles Bennett’s mind.

It was being fought in a “shocking, absurd way,” he said as he addressed the Meninak Club of Jacksonville at its weekly meeting at the Mayflower Hotel.

“It makes my blood run cold to think of U.S. troops fighting and dying to gain a piece of enemy territory and then pulling back and fighting for it again and again. This is an absurd way to run a war,” Bennett said. “It would take perhaps a million men — or a miracle — to fight the war the way it should be. We should win this war in our day and not stretch it out forever.”

A member of the House Armed Services Committee, Bennett also called for a cutback in various domestic programs, including the War on Poverty, which he said was “one of the worst the country has.”