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President Lyndon Johnson was on the campaign trail in October 1964. While he was making a speech in Hemming Park, a man carrying two concealed firearms was arrested nearby. (Photo from
Jax Daily Record Monday, Oct. 27, 201412:00 PM EST

50 years ago: President Johnson campaigns in Hemming Park

by: Max Marbut Associate Editor

With the 1964 national election only a week away, President Lyndon Johnson brought his campaign to Jacksonville, the last stop on a two-day tour of Florida. Thousands of people lined Downtown streets and filled Hemming Park to see and hear Johnson.

After Air Force One landed at Imeson Airport, Johnson’s motorcade took him to the Convention and Visitors Bureau Building along Monroe Street, where the president received a final briefing and had coffee before making his way to the speaker’s stand in the park.

Many people in the audience held signs touting Johnson’s candidacy for president, but there also were a number of sign-carrying supporters of U.S. Sen. Barry Goldwater, the Republican candidate.

Despite a strong plea by Lacy Mahon, Duval County campaign manager for Johnson, for the crowd to be polite and not harass the candidate, chants of “We Want Barry” were heard during much of Johnson’s speech.

Some of the signs read: “Berlin Wall? Bay of Pigs?” “We want a clean America –– not a scandal-tainted one. Vote Goldwater” and “Will LBJ help surfers?”

With the memory of the assassination of President John Kennedy fresh in the minds of the Secret Service, security was tight throughout the city.

A man in possession of an unloaded handgun and an unloaded rifle was arrested three blocks from where Johnson made his speech.

Bryce Cornell of Wyandotte, Mich., was booked into the city jail on charges of vagrancy and held for investigation for carrying concealed weapons.

He said he was visiting friends and hunting in St. Johns County while on vacation from his job at a steel mill in Wyandotte. Cornell said he planned to catch a plane in Jacksonville on his way home and had no intention of hurting anyone.

After being questioned by federal agents and spending the night in jail, the charges against Cornell were dropped and he was released.

Just before he boarded his plane bound for Detroit, Cornell objected to being held in jail overnight.

“I could see being taken in by police at the time, but I could not see being held in jail without being able to contact anyone. I know lots of people here and in St. Augustine who would have backed me, but they would not let me make any telephone calls,” he said.

• Pollution in McCoys Creek, attributed by the state Board of Health primarily to 1 million gallons a day of raw sewage overflowing from a city pumping station, was termed by the board “a public health hazard of the most obnoxious type.”

A report sent to the city by the board said, “Of 16.8 million gallons of raw sewage flowing daily into the waters of Florida, the City of Jacksonville is contributing 15 million.”

City Commissioner of Streets and Sewers Louis H. Ritter said a $380,000 request was included in the budget for repairs to a broken trunk line that was causing much of McCoys Creek’s problem. He said similar requests for the same repair job had been cut from the budget in previous years by City Council.

In addition to the sewage flowing into the waterway from the pumping station, the report cited other local sources of pollution including untreated offal from a slaughterhouse and a poultry company, untreated human waste and oil sludge from city sewers and septic tank seepage.

• In an effort to put to rest rumors that he had deposited $1.2 million in a secret account in a bank in the Bahamas, Mayor Haydon Burns, the Democratic candidate for governor, asked the state attorney general to investigate the matter.

At a news conference in Tallahassee, Burns said he would put in writing an invitation to Attorney General James Kynes and to Earl Faircloth, the incoming attorney general, to investigate the claims made by Charles Holley, Burns’ Republican opponent.

Burns said they would be “assured of 100 percent cooperation” and “if Holley is found to be right and if I am found to be wrong, then on that day I will resign as governor of the state of Florida.”

Holley responded that Burns’ invitation to investigate was an attempt to mislead voters.

“He should know that our attorney general has no authority and can have no authority to make any investigation whatever concerning any of his assets outside this country,” said Holley.

• Lawsuits against 12 suppliers of electrical equipment, charged by the City of Jacksonville with rigging prices through a conspiracy, were dismissed by U.S. District Judge Bryan Simpson.

The dismissals came upon a motion by the attorneys retained by the city to prosecute the cases.

In its motion to dismiss, the firm of Bedell, Bedell and Dittmar said that on Aug. 25 the Jacksonville City Commission had authorized its attorneys to effect a settlement being offered by the defendant electrical suppliers.

Pursuant to that agreement, the city would receive $1,041,203.53 from the 12 companies involved.

• Gov. Farris Bryant said he was opposed to a mandatory gun registration law that might “inhibit the right of honest citizens to own firearms for protection.”

At the same time, Bryant said there was no need for Florida residents to buy rifles and shotguns to protect themselves against Communist sympathizers in the federal government.

He was commenting on a report that the John Birch Society was urging people in St. Petersburg to buy guns. The report said the Communists expected defeat of Barry Goldwater and sympathizers in the federal government would move quickly to pick up known patriots after the election.

“I don’t think we have arrived where there is any occasion for people to arm themselves against a firing squad,” Bryant said at his weekly news conference.

He added that he opposed any legislation to take guns away from citizens because a gun registration law “could be a step in that direction.”

• The Duval County grand jury recommended legislation to establish the position of county zoning and planning director.

The jury, in a special presentment handed up to Circuit Judge Tyrie A. Boyer, also recommended abolition of the Duval County Zoning Advisory Board.

In 1964, the county engineer also served as the zoning director.

“The job of zoning should not be a secondary duty,” the jury said. “The county engineer has a full-time responsibility and to burden him further with the task of zoning is not reasonable.”

The advisory board was a group of private citizens, appointed by the Board of County Commissioners from each of the five county districts, to act purely in an advisory capacity to the commissioners on zoning matters.

The grand jury’s presentment said the idea behind the creation of the advisory board was that it would reduce the possibility and impression that politics would enter into zoning decisions.

“An alert public, however, aware that the ultimate decision rests with the Board of County Commissioners, has tended to disregard the hearing before the Zoning Advisory Board and to concentrate its effort on the Board of County Commissioners. Thus, we feel that the Zoning Advisory Board has outlived its usefulness and that it should be abolished,” the jury said.

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