Have you ever wondered what life was like in Jacksonville half a century ago? It was a different era of history, culture and politics but there are often parallels between the kind of stories that made headlines then and today. As interesting as the differences may be, so are the similarities. These are some of the top stories from this week in 1965. The items were compiled from the Jacksonville Public Library’s periodical archives by Staff Writer Max Marbut.
• Creation of a nonpartisan, nonpolitical police board was suggested by Duval County Sheriff Dale Carson as a way to improve Jacksonville’s police department.
He proposed the board be comprised of citizens appointed by the mayor.
Carson said the board, if formed, would have the power to nominate candidates for chief of police. The nominations then would be submitted to the mayor, whose choice would be governed solely by professional and executive qualifications required for the job and not by local residency.
The proposed board would prepare and submit the annual police budget, adopt rules and regulations governing the department and hear disciplinary actions involving police officers.
Carson’s suggestion received a less than enthusiastic reaction from Mayor Lou Ritter and Police Chief Luther Reynolds.
“There’s such a thing as getting too many bosses,” said Reynolds. “The more dabbling in the thing, the worse it gets.”
Ritter said he was interested in learning more details about Carson’s proposal. However, he said, “We don’t want to see the police department become a political football.”
• Edward Ball, board chairman of the Florida East Coast Railroad, criticized the Florida Public Utilities Commission’s order to restore passenger service on the line between Jacksonville and Miami while railroad workers were on strike.
“We think it is unreasonable to expose the traveling public to the violence of the criminals and would-be murderers who have committed some several hundred acts of sabotage against the railroad since the strike began,” he said.
The FEC suspended passenger service on the line in January 1963 when 11 unions went on strike against the railroads. Freight service was restored three days after the strike began.
“The fact that criminals shot into the houses of three of the personnel of the FEC night before last is a good illustration of why we have not run passenger trains,” Ball said.
Responding to comments made by Miami Mayor Robert King High in support of restoring the service, Ball said he would consider reinstating passenger service if the railroad could divest itself of liability.
• Walter Lane, president of the board of directors of Goodwill Industries, asked the public to support “Good Turn Days,” a program designed to provide job training and employment to handicapped people.
The drive was scheduled Feb. 6-13, when several hundred Boy Scouts, joined by Navy personnel and members of the business community, would collect clothing, household items and other materials that could be salvaged, repaired and resold by the handicapped workers at Goodwill.
About 22,000 filled bags were collected during the 1964 campaign.
• The Duval County Board of School Trustees voted unanimously to bring charges against Rutledge Pearson, a black public school teacher, but the board’s legal counsel said the charges were yet to be determined.
“The trustees have asked me to bring charges of insubordination against him, but such charges must be explicitly drawn and cannot be in generalized terms,” said attorney Elliott Adams.
Pearson was a social studies teacher at Darnell-Cookman Elementary School and Jacksonville and Florida president of the NAACP.
Trustees were attempting to tie Pearson to a Dec. 7-9 boycott of schools by black students. Pearson, as an NAACP leader, voiced a number of what he called “inequities” within the school system and gave tacit approval to the boycott even though he was in his classroom during the widespread truancy.
Shortly after the boycott, Pearson was called on the carpet twice and each time refused to answer any questions posed by the trustees. The first time, he requested a continuance until he could hire an attorney. The second time, Pearson’s attorney advised him to remain silent.
• In other news from public schools, a haircut administered to a student by an assistant principal was described as possibly leading to the end of closed hearings for teachers in Duval County.
The student was Jerry Harper, a 15-year-old ninth-grader at Kirby Smith Junior High School. He claimed his long, wavy hair was shorn to the scalp by Siegfried John Mark, the school’s assistant principal.
While Mark admitted the barbering, there was some misunderstanding as to whether Harper consented to the haircut or was forced to submit to the shears. The issue was thrashed out in a private hearing before the Board of School Trustees in School Superintendent Ish Brant’s office.
George Stallings, Harper’s attorney, objected to the meeting being closed to the press and the public.
He acceded, however, when shown a section of the state Teacher Tenure Act, which stated that charges against teachers are typically aired in public, but can be handled in private if the person against whom the charges are brought requests that occur.
Hugh Wilcox, trustee chairman, said no action had been taken and the meeting was simply to ascertain the facts in the incident. The trustees would not reach a decision in the case until after a hearing scheduled a week later before Justice of the Peace Dorcas Drake.
Stallings said no matter the outcome, he would take the matter to the Legislature.
“There is no logical reason in the world why a schoolteacher should be given special immunity or privileges that any citizen or public official is not given,” he said. “School teachers are in the public light and should be subject to public view. It goes back to the old adage that people who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.”
• At the 80th annual meeting of the Jacksonville Area Chamber of Commerce, Claude J. Yates was installed as president.
After he was sworn in, Yates outlined his goals for 1965, including reorganizing Duval County’s public school system, establishment of a junior college in Jacksonville and creating a minimum of 5,000 jobs each year for the next five years.
Treasurer A.B. Conley Jr. reported the chamber had $21,675 on deposit as compared to $20,000 in the bank when the 1964 meeting was called to order.
• Faced with a wave of protests from residents, the County Zoning Board rejected an application that would have allowed construction of an elaborate restaurant, cocktail lounge and package store on Lake Geraldine, just north of Lakewood Shopping Center.
The facility, referred to as a “$500,000 showplace,” would have been built on pilings over the lake, east of San Jose Boulevard.
The ruling was at least a temporary setback for Walter R. Crabtree Co., which filed the petition to rezone the 2.2-acre parcel.
Crabtree’s attorney, Harry B. Fozzard, said his client was amending the petition to ask rezoning of only half of the property, shifting the proposed restaurant further from homes on the north bank of the lake.
R. Hudson Oliff, attorney for the residents protesting the rezoning, had 63 petitions that he said contained signatures of 1,370 opponents.
“The petitions represent a community protest, not just the people living on the lake,” he said.
Another attorney, John Paul Howard, a deacon in San Jose Baptist Church, also was in the forefront of the opposition, joined by ministers of several churches in the area.