50 years ago this week

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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 1961. The items were compiled from the Jacksonville Public Library’s periodical archives by Staff Writer Max Marbut.

• Emory H. Price, who had been appointed clerk of the Civil and Criminal Courts of Record, said that all just obligations of the clerk’s office would be paid as soon as the clerk’s bank accounts could be “straightened out.”

Price was named to the post by Gov. Farris Bryant Oct. 9 after Kathleen Hartley was suspended and charged with embezzling nearly $36,000 of County funds over a period of two years.

Woodrow “Woody” Richardson, chief deputy clerk, was named as co-defendant in the embezzlement charges. Hartley suspended him when the shortages were discovered and six days before she was removed from office.

Price said some of the office’s financial issues he was dealing with were due to the fact that money in the clerk’s bank accounts was tied up until a decision was reached in Circuit Court on a suit to recover $3,500.

The County tax collector claimed his office lost $3,500 when it cashed a check written by Hartley for the stated purpose of paying juror fees that bounced.

It was revealed that 35 checks paid to jurors in September had also bounced – due to the money in the account being tied up, Price said.

He also confirmed that due to the civil suit, the clerk’s office had no money on hand to pay future jurors. He said none would be needed for at least two weeks and the situations would be resolved by then.

• An irresistible urge to see the ocean and an orange grove led to four Ohio teenagers being held in the Duval County jail under bonds of $2,500 each.

All were charged with interstate transportation of a stolen automobile.

The youths were arrested in Green Cove Springs by a deputy sheriff who found them sleeping in the car. When they could not establish ownership of the vehicle, the case was turned over to agents of the FBI.

An investigation determined the car in the teens’ possession had been stolen Oct. 12 from a parking lot in Foster, Ohio.

The suspects told agents they had a longing to visit Florida, primarily to view the Atlantic Ocean and see fruit-laden orange trees, and stole the car to provide transportation for the trip. They said they hadn’t yet seen the ocean or an orange tree.

One of the young outlaws, age 14, admitted to the agents he had been arrested in 1958 on a breaking and entering charge and had been fined $100.

Another suspect, age 17, said he had received probationary sentences on convictions for drunkenness and breaking and entering. The other two youths said they had no previous criminal records.

• The 10 surviving members of the Last Man Standing Club of Jacksonville gathered at the Ambassador Hotel for their 31st annual meeting. Club President Carroll Carter presided.

Founded by Thomas Mallem on Oct. 22, 1931, within the ranks of the Phi Kappa Alpha fraternity, the club had as its purpose eternal friendship.

The surviving members conducted services for the deceased members: H. Dillard Mullis, who died in 1947, and Lester Mickler, who died in 1957.

Only one meeting was held each year and a ritual in keeping with the pledge taken by the original group was observed. A bottle of wine would remain for the last surviving member, who would open it and drink a toast to the departed members.

Vacant seats of deceased members were draped in black and placed in their original positions at the banquet table.

In addition to Carter and Mallem, surviving members were Victor Zambetti, Edward Acosta, Mack Fillingham, John Naugle, Norwood Gay, Elliott Martin, Joe Duffy and Loyal Parnell.

• Criminal Court Judge A. Lloyd Layton sentenced Will Rogers Perry to 12 years in prison for burglarizing on Feb. 11 an office at the Mayflower Hotel.

The sentence was identical to the one imposed on Perry in July by Judge William T. Harvey when Perry pleaded guilty to the crime.

Perry was later allowed to withdraw his guilty plea and the case was shifted to Layton’s court.

A jury on Sept. 27 found Perry guilty after deliberating only 40 minutes of breaking and entering with intent to commit a felony and grand larceny of $4,387.54 of a safe. He could have received a maximum of 20 years in prison.

The case which County Solicitor Edward M. Booth presented against Perry included testimony by an FBI agent that palm prints left on the hotel safe were Perry’s. Other testimony showed Perry confessed to the crime to officers. On the witness stand, Perry denied the burglary.

Perry created a controversy after his sentencing July 10 by asking permission to withdraw his guilty plea on the ground that he was improperly induced to confess the burglary. He claimed detectives secured his confession on a promise he would receive no more than five years in prison, a claim that was denied by the officers.

Harvey’s order allowing Perry to withdraw his plea was based primarily on a finding that the detective’s prolonged questioning of the suspect did not comply with state law covering a person arrested without a warrant. The law stated that an officer who had arrested a person without a warrant was required to take the prisoner before a committing magistrate to make a formal complaint without unnecessary delay.

Before issuing the sentence, Layton denied a motion for a new trial and set Perry’s appeal bond at $15,000.

• Enhanced by the addition of a horse exhibit in connection with a professional rodeo and a swine show, the livestock division was expected to dominate attention at the Greater Jacksonville Agricultural and Industrial Fair, which was scheduled to open Oct. 25.

Joe Forshee, supervisor of the livestock division, said he considered the addition of the horses and swine as the “single most significant improvement” in the fair.

Twenty-four registered horses of different breeds would be shown in one tent in the Jacksonville Baseball Park, into which also would be crowded tents for swine, beef and dairy cattle, rabbits and poultry as well as the rodeo arena.