Governor orders investigation into Duval public officials
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.
An investigation into “allegations of criminal violations of the laws of this state which may involve public officials and private individuals in Duval County” was ordered by Gov. Claude Kirk.
An aide in Kirk’s office said Duval County State Attorney William Hallowes had been advised in advance of Kirk’s action.
Jack Ledden, who was Kirk’s “war on crime liaison” and executive director of the state Police Standards Council, said investigators from the governor’s office had been in Duval County “off and on for four months.”
Four months earlier, County Commissioner Bob Harris was acquitted in Duval County Criminal Court of accepting unauthorized compensation for paving a road. The state Senate then refused to remove him from office as recommended by Kirk.
Harris was among several Duval County and City of Jacksonville officials indicted by the Duval County grand jury in 1966 after an investigation into alleged corruption in local government.
Also, Kirk assigned Hallowes to Baker County Circuit Court to assist in the prosecution of former Jacksonville City Council member Lemuel Sharp on grand larceny charges arising from the grand jury probe.
Parking shortage at police HQ
The Duval Board of County Commissioners was cooperating with the city to solve a parking crisis at the Police Department headquarters building on Liberty Street.
The board decided to let the city use space then occupied by the old and unused county jail and criminal court buildings as the site for a motor pool area for police vehicles. County Attorney J. Henry Blount said he foresaw no legal obstacles, so the board unanimously approved the motion.
A letter from City Commission Secretary J.M. Ingram told the board that Police Chief R.C. Blanton Jr. had advised the City Commission the Police Department was in urgent need of adequate off-street parking because all available on-street parking around the headquarters building was being used by department vehicles.
“This results in great inconvenience to citizens who have occasion to conduct business at Police Headquarters,” the letter stated.
County Commissioner Bill Basford said removal of the old courthouse and jail facilities on the Downtown riverfront would “blot out an eyesore and improve the property.”
Consolidation, Christian leadership praised
By virtue of the impending implementation of the consolidated city and county governments, Jacksonville was “blazing an American path toward effective governmental reorganization,” said W. Ashley Verlander, president of the Jacksonville Area Chamber of Commerce.
Speaking to 60 members of the Southside Methodist Church Men’s Club, Verlander said the city and “all of America” needed Christian leadership and energy to safeguard freedoms and provide more opportunity than security for citizens.
Verlander urged club members to “get in the arena of public affairs” and give moral direction to city, state and national governments.
“Too many Christians are sitting it out when they should be sweating it out. Some are so weak, they couldn’t lead a group in silent prayer,” he said.
Davis, Lanahan appointed to the JPA
Business and civic leaders Robert D. Davis and D.J. Lanahan were appointed by Gov. Claude Kirk to serve on the Jacksonville Port Authority.
Davis and Lanahan replaced JPA members D.A. Watts and Joseph Gill, whose terms expired June 25 but who had continued to serve, pending the appointments.
Davis was financial vice president of Winn-Dixie Stores Inc. and had served as chairman of the Jacksonville Area Chamber of Commerce’s Aviation Committee. He led the chamber’s campaign for voter approval of the airport bond issue to finance construction of Jacksonville International Airport, scheduled to open in 1968.
Under consolidated government, the port authority would be in charge of operating airports.
“I am very enthusiastic about the future of the port and airport facilities,” Davis said. “I hope that I can bring some helpful background in financial matters and some familiarity with airport problems to the Jacksonville Port Authority.”
Lanahan was president of Lanahan Lumber Co. He was a member of the chamber’s board of governors and a past vice president of the organization. He also was a strong supporter of consolidation and served as a member of the executive committee of Citizens for a Better Government.