50 years ago this week
History often repeats, and there often are parallels between the news of today and 50 years ago. Here are some of the top news stories of this week in 1967 compiled from the Jacksonville Public Library’s periodical archives by Associate Editor Max Marbut.
POLITICS: Ritter, Tanzler tie in mayoral primary
Trailing in the three-man race was Democrat John King, who conceded after early vote counts put him about 1,000 votes behind the front-runners.
Final unofficial vote counts gave Ritter 16,803 votes — about 40 percent — to 15,521 for Tanzler — about 32 percent — and 5,887 for King.
Also, in the first Republican primary held for a city election in Jacksonville history, Dr. William Hembree, a dentist and chairman of the Duval GOP Executive Committee, defeated physical therapist Wayne Cummings 582 to 270 for the chance to oppose the Democratic run-off winner in the June 10 general election.
The strongest vote-getter among the City Council candidates was Mary Singleton, a black woman who faced three opponents in her Second Ward contest.
She missed by only about 1,000 votes building enough support to give her a first primary victory.
In the runoff, Singleton would face William Thompson, a real estate broker and appraiser who worked for 10 years in the county tax assessor’s office.
In the Third Ward, another black woman, Sallye Mathis, out-polled her four opponents and would run against incumbent council member Barney Cobb, who she beat by 53 votes in the primary.
BUSINESS: First customer for Blount Island port
Blount Island, the area’s multimillion-dollar stake in becoming the Southeast’s biggest port, gained its first customer with the signing of a 10-year contract between the Jacksonville Port Authority and St. Regis Paper Co.
Construction would begin in 90 days on a wharf and a 160,000-square-foot transit warehouse on the island in the St. Johns River, north of Arlington.
St. Regis agreed to use the $2.2 million facility as the distribution center for all of its foreign exports, guaranteeing shipment of at least 200,000 tons of paper products annually.
The project would create 125 jobs on the waterfront to service 65 additional ships that would dock in Jacksonville each year.
“It means more than $7 million added to our economy,” said port authority Chairman Randolph Thomas.
“We have dreamed about, talked about and planned about a new port on Blount Island,” Thomas said at a meeting of the Jacksonville Area Chamber of Commerce Committee of 100.
“Now we have the first customer and we can begin building our port of the future,” he added.
SCHOOLS: Protest by teachers could backfire
The Duval County Teachers Association, the union of public school instructors, invoked sanctions against the county and its public school system over the issue of lack of action on initiatives the teachers supported.
Outgoing DTA President Constance Cason said the sanctions did not call for a walkout, but would include censure of the Duval County Legislative Delegation and notifying teachers throughout the state that conditions in Duval could no longer be tolerated by the teaching profession.
She also said charges of unethical conduct would be placed by the profession against anyone in Florida who accepted an instructional or administrative position in the county.
“We are most reluctant to take this action, as we know it is a last resort. We have done our best to find another way, but have been unable to do so,” Cason said. “For the sake of our community, our schools and the children we teach, we embark on this course. Conditions can be changed, they should be changed, and they must be changed.”
She was referring to teachers seeking a reduced teacher-pupil ratio, increased state funds for salaries and allowing teachers time for planning and to eat lunch each day.
The union also sought legislation for fiscal independence of the School Board by making the board “clearly responsible to the public” for the school system, Cason said.
The local legislators said the action was “premature and ridiculous.”
State Rep. George Stallings said it was “regrettable the teachers were such poor students” of legislative psychology.
“Instead of improving the situation, they are irritating legislators rather than drawing sympathy. The problem won’t be solved by sanctions, but by constitutional revision,” he said.
State Rep. Fred Schultz agreed with his colleague.
“This is ridiculous and very irresponsible – what the leadership is doing to education. It is very unfortunate for the state and for Duval County when education falls into the hands of people who hold positions in DTA,” he said. “Their act certainly isn’t going to make me more disposed to try to do more for them.”
COURTS: Murder suspect challenges the validity of indictment
A Jacksonville man charged with first-degree murder claimed the indictment should be thrown out because the grand jurors took an oath to God.
That, said Ernest Robinson through his attorney John Paul Howard, constituted a violation of the constitutional guarantee to the defendant of the separation of church and state.
The motion to quash the indictment further claimed Florida law required a grand juror to “demonstrate his belief in God as a condition of serving as a grand juror.”
The motion contended that was invalid under the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights.
“The exclusion of non-believers from jury service is not only authorized, but demanded, by the Florida statutes. Such exclusion or discrimination deprived the defendant of the equal protection laws as guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution,” the motion said.
Robinson, 25, was indicted May 5 in the pistol slaying of another Jacksonville man.
The grand jury was empaneled May 1.
At that time, according to Robinson’s motion, the court required the clerk to administer to jurors, as a prerequisite to their service, an oath including the words, “so help me God.”
State Attorney William Hallowes declined to comment on the motion or give any arguments of his own to answer it, but did say that so far as he knew, the question posed by Robinson had never before been raised in Duval County or elsewhere in Florida.
Circuit Judge Charles Luckie, who was scheduled to hear the murder case, did not immediately set a hearing on the motion.