50 years ago: Retirement doesn't shield county official from grand jury indictment
Less than a month after he retired, a former county purchasing agent, 73-year-old B.M. Hooper, was indicted by the Duval County grand jury on charges of accepting bribes from an office supply firm.
Hooper, who retired Dec. 31, was charged with taking three bribes of $400 each from an officer of the H. & W.B. Drew Co., which for many years had been the principal supplier of office equipment for the courthouse.
In all three indictments, Hudson Drew Jr. was named as the officer making the payments in November 1965 and in January and March 1966.
Hooper took the bribes, the indictment said, under an agreement the money would influence his purchase of supplies and equipment for county use.
Each count was punishable with a maximum of 10 years in prison.
The indictment was the first against a county employee to be returned by the jury, which was impaneled in November.
The previous grand jury indicted eight active or former city employees and elected officials on charges of taking bribes and/or perjury.
• During the first year of operation at the Haydon Burns Public Library, circulation of books in the library system more than doubled, said assistant librarian Lawrence Snook Jr.
His report to the board of trustees showed 253,640 books were circulated in 1966, up from 144,215 in 1065.
New library cards issued increased from 4,060 in 1965 to 13,313 in 1966, a hike of more than 200 percent.
• Jacksonville women were carrying tear gas guns to protect themselves from danger on the streets — and that was OK with local law enforcement officials.
The devices, either shaped like a pen or resembling a small flare gun, were readily available in stores for less than $5.
At least two Downtown discount stores put the tear gas guns on display in their front windows. Some of the more trendy stores stocked the devices at the request of customers.
Assistant Police Chief R.F. Hobbs and Duval County Sheriff Dale Carson expressed doubt that women with tear gas guns would be prosecuted for carrying a concealed weapon.
“For such an arrest to be affected, an officer would have to have a reason to stop and search a party,” said Hobbs. “It is remote in the extreme that a normal, law-abiding citizen — especially a woman who only means to defend herself — would be arrested for carrying such a weapon.”
Carson said officers from his department wouldn’t ordinarily arrest a woman for carrying one of the devices.
“We asked for a ruling from the state attorney general once and I think he said they are legal,” said Carson.
Veteran officers at the city and county jails said they could not remember a person being charged with any offense for carrying one of the tear gas devices.
State Attorney William Hallowes said he had never come across a Florida case involving charges stemming from possession of a tear gas gun.
• Segregationist Warren Folks was denied a new trial of his unsuccessful damage suit against the city and two City Council members.
A circuit court jury on Jan. 5 found the city and council members W.O. Mattox Jr. and Barney Cobb not guilty of Folks’ civil charges of battery, false arrest and denial of the right to speak after his ejection from a council hearing on March 22.
He was thrown out of the meeting after making remarks derogatory to African-Americans, many of whom were in the large audience at the hearing on a proposed minimum housing standards bill.
Folks, who had asked in excess of $50,000 each from the city and the two council members, then filed a new trial motion through his attorney, but the motion was denied by Circuit Judge Marion Gooding.
• Women would hold the balance of voting power in the Feb. 7 city referendum on a proposed $57 million bond issue to finance expansion of the city Electric Department.
Of the 73,351 city residents registered for the election, 40,684 were women, according to Supervisor of Elections Harry Nearing.
The bond referendum was open to registered voters who lived inside the city limits because the bonds were to be retired with utility revenues.
Since no ad valorem taxes would be used for debt service, those who did not own property would be allowed to vote on the proposal.
A delegation of labor union representatives pledged their organizations’ support for the bond issue.
Utilities Commissioner George Mosely explained the referendum to the unions at a meeting at the Civic Auditorium, sponsored by the Northeast Florida Building Trades Council.
John Bowden, president of the trades council, said support and promotion of the referendum “would be a great opportunity for the laboring people of Jacksonville to help make a greater Jacksonville.”
• Florida Junior College at Jacksonville President J. Bruce Wilson said by Feb. 15, architects would receive specifications for two campuses — one in North Jacksonville and another along Beach Boulevard.
Rough schematic master plans would be completed by April 15 and final master plans were due June 15.
Construction was scheduled to be complete by Oct. 1, 1969, with furnishing and installation of equipment no later than the following Dec. 15, Wilson said.
• In St. Augustine, the famed Ponce de Leon Hotel was sold to a group of educators from Newton, Mass., who said the lavish structure would be converted into the first private, nondenominational liberal arts college for women in Florida.
The landmark, which opened in 1888 and became one of the nation’s most exclusive hotels, would become Flagler College, a four-year institution.
The first freshman class was expected to begin in fall 1968 with an enrollment of about 200 students.
• Prime rib with salad, baked potato, tea of coffee and a relish tray with kosher pickles and cheese and crackers was served for $2.85 at the Charcoal Steakhouse at 5800 Philips Highway.
Music for dancing was provided by Johnny Duke and his combo.
• Reports of flying saucers were being made in Jacksonville, but the unidentified flying objects turned out to be smoke clouds from a U.S. Air Force study of air currents.
Switchboards were jammed with reports of multicolored, soaring UFOs. One resident called the sheriff’s office and said, “I saw two green men hanging from the cockpit.”
A spokesman from Eglin Air Force Base said the blue-green clouds tinged with red were from two rockets that released barium at a 100-mile altitude.
Scientists used time-lapse cameras to record the clouds’ development and movement, following the Earth’s magnetic field.
• The city started censoring inmate correspondence at the prison farm in an attempt to reduce narcotics smuggling.
City Commissioner George Carrison said narcotics had become a problem at the facility, so he sponsored a resolution to allow the censorship.
Based on a legal opinion from City Attorney William Madison, the resolution permitted the superintendent and the director of internal security to inspect incoming and outgoing mail for the presence or mention of narcotics.
They had the right to determine what mail might be inspected, with the exception of correspondence from the courts.
Carrison said there was evidence narcotics were being smuggled into the farm, either through the mail or being thrown over the fence, following a request mailed by an inmate to an outside accomplice.