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Jax Daily Record Monday, Feb. 16, 201512:00 PM EST

50 years ago: Tom Slade proposes plan for new airport and deep-water shipping terminal

by: Max Marbut Associate Editor

Former state Rep. Tom Slade put forth the broad outline of a plan to place airport development under the Jacksonville Port Authority, locate a deep-water shipping terminal and industrial center at Imeson Airport and scrap the long-range plan to develop an industrial complex on Blount Island.

He said the proposal would be far more practical in the development of a new airport than the plan being considered by two separate government agencies, the city and the authority.

Speaking to the Arlington Civitan Club at the S&S Cafeteria, Slade said his plan would “capture the imagination of national industrial leaders looking to Jacksonville for plant locations” and could result in “the most fabulous port facility on the Eastern Seaboard.”

Through legislative action, the port authority’s jurisdiction could be expanded to include operation of all city-owned airport facilities. Slade proposed adding four “air-minded” members to the seven-member board.

Mayor Lou Ritter said there were some good points to the plan. However, he said, the proposal could have political implications since local Republicans, whom Slade joined about two years earlier, expressed opposition to development of a new airport.

He also questioned the timing of the announcement.

“I will have to give it considerable study,” Ritter said. “I am surprised such a proposal would come so late as the legislative delegation has had public hearings on local bills.”

• The formal groundbreaking ceremony for the $25 million Gulf Life Center along the St. Johns River Downtown was attended by city and state officials, company executives and more than 1,000 spectators. The highlight of the event was meant to be a blast, but there was no bang.

Two sticks of dynamite, slated to detonate as the symbolic earth moving in preparation for construction of the 27-floor home office building, didn’t go off as planned.

That wasn’t the only change in the program.

M.S. Niehaus, president of Gulf Life Insurance Co., served as master of ceremonies and eliminated his speech from the agenda in the interest of saving time and of sparing the large audience the discomfort of standing in the chilly wind any longer than necessary.

“I knew we should have used shovels,” he said when several attempts to detonate the dynamite failed, including trying set off the blast with an electrical impulse from a truck battery.

• A one-arm tackle by an attorney in Criminal Court thwarted an escape attempt by a prisoner who had just been sentenced to a 20-year term for robbery.

The quick-thinking lawyer was Assistant Public Defender Tracy Danese. The man he put on the floor was James Clifford Green, who had drawn the term from Judge A. Lloyd Layton.

About an hour before the take-down, Green had been brought before Layton following his Feb. 4 conviction for robbery. The judge denied a motion for a new trial and then imposed the sentence. Green was returned by bailiffs to a detention cell behind the courtroom where prisoners appearing in court were kept pending completion of the session and their return to jail.

When a bailiff opened the cell door to return one of the other prisoners to the cell, Green jumped out the door and pushed the bailiff aside. He then sprinted into the courtroom past the judge’s bench and headed for the front door.

The bailiff who had been shoved aside yelled, “Stop that man.” Danese, seated at a counsel table, reacted instantly as Green passed by him.

Danese reached out his right hand and grabbed Green’s right leg, holding on tight. Green’s momentum carried Danese to the floor and then Green sprawled onto a chair, striking his throat, before hitting the floor face down.

The prisoner was returned to custody.

• Gov. Haydon Burns, former mayor of Jacksonville, said he believed in doing business with his friends so long as it didn’t cost the taxpayers any additional money.

That was how he planned to handle insurance, attorney fees and other state business coming under the prerogative of his office and generally considered a part of the governor’s patronage, Burns said.

He made it clear he had no intention of canceling existing contracts just to give the business to a friend.

Rather than cost the state a penalty loss, Burns said, he would wait until the contracts in force came up for renewal and then “see about making changes.”

• The board of directors of the Jacksonville Convention and Visitors Bureau hit the road and convened its quarterly meeting on the way to the Ponte Vedra Inn.

A chartered bus picked up the directors at Hemming Park. While traveling to Ponte Vedra, the bus passed two billboards along Beach Boulevard that allowed directors to see the bureau’s 1965 promotion campaign.

The organization’s slogans, “Be friendly, it pays,” and one intended to increase membership, “Everyone benefits, members pull the load,” were displayed on the billboards.

When the group arrived at the inn, they were greeted by E.B. LeMaster III, president of the Ponte Vedra Club, and Charles Bremicker, general manager.

George Tobi, executive vice president and general manager of the bureau, said his office was working to postpone for a year or two the Southern Baptist Convention meeting planned in Jacksonville for 1968.

The national convention, which would be the largest in Jacksonville history, would be attended by more than 15,000 delegates and guests. Tobi said the postponement was needed to allow construction of more hotels and motels in the Jacksonville area to accommodate the convention attendees.

Jack Becker of the St. Johns River Line Inc. said his company purchased a 60-foot riverboat, the Moon River Queen, which would operate as a charter sightseeing and excursion vessel on the St. Johns River.

Becker said he hoped to have the first public sailing coincide with the opening of the Dallas Thomas Waterfront Park and Marina (later renamed Friendship Park), tentatively scheduled for March 10.

• Addressing the Northside Business Men’s Club, Nassau County School Superintendent Dean Blankenship said the county was anxious to have a proposed junior college constructed in North Jacksonville.

“Ideally, the college should be accessible from both U.S. 1 and U.S. 17 and hopefully near Interstate 95, if and when it is extended farther north,” he said.

Nassau County probably could enroll more than 250 students when the junior college opened, scheduled in the fall of 1966. The students would be transported along bus routes originating at Fernandina Beach and Hilliard, Blankenship said.

With a Northside location, he added, the junior college possibly could attract many area students who were enrolled in colleges in South Georgia and many South Georgia high school seniors seeking colleges away from home.

• The Board of County Commissioners deferred action on a controversial petition to close a semi-circular portion of Old San Jose Boulevard in front of the Saki Shop cocktail lounge and package store.

Residents of the area with homes nearby on Inman Place, Jean Court, Ardsley Road and Peachtree Circle South attended the meeting to protest the road closing.

Hudson Oliff, attorney representing the group, submitted a petition he said was signed by 897 people opposing the closure.

The strip involved was abandoned by the state several years previous and was taken over by the county when Hendricks Avenue became the primary thoroughfare in the area and San Jose ended at its junction with Hendricks.

The roadway in 1965 was used for parking by customers of the Saki Shop. Oliff and some petitioners voiced fears if the road was closed, the Saki Shop could be assured of permanent parking all the way to Hendricks Avenue and could expand its existing location to the 300-seat threshold required to serve alcohol on Sundays.

“As the business expands, you’ll have more noise, more lights and more traffic,” Oliff said.

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