50 years ago: City proposes referendum on bond issue for airport

  • Columnists
  • Share

A unanimous call for a May 20 referendum to decide whether Jacksonville would build a $27 million airport was made by the City Council and City Commission.

The proposal included issuance of $9 million in general obligation bonds that would be repaid with ad valorem taxes and income from the sale of Imeson Airport and $9 million in revenue certificates that would be paid off with income from the new airport.

The remaining $9 million would come from the federal government.

“If this referendum is passed, we can see Jacksonville joining the other great cities of the South and moving ahead in the field of transportation,” said Mayor Lou Ritter.

He then took the campaign to local civic clubs and other groups.

Speaking to the Downtown Lion’s Club in the Mayflower Hotel, Ritter said a new airport would bring new industry and payrolls to Jacksonville and would produce more tax dollars to support all local government, including public schools.

He cited statements by representatives of the Federal Aviation Agency that in their program for national airport development, Jacksonville was second only to Atlanta in importance in the Southeast.

• County officials agreed that Sheriff Dale Carson was operating on firm legal ground in making payments of county funds to support the family of Hodges McGee, a former gambler and moonshiner who was the key witness in cases involving bribery charges against four city police officers.

McGee received $3,445 in county funds while the cases were pending.

County Attorney Henry Blount said there was no doubt in his mind the payments were legal based on a longstanding practice of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies in various jurisdictions.

Carson issued a statement in which he defended the practice. He said McGee would continue to receive payments “until the Office of the State Attorney informs me that his services as a witness are no longer needed.”

McGee was still involved in one pending case, Carson said.

Board of County Commissioners Chairman Bob Harris said he was concerned whether payments to McGee would result in a request from Carson to transfer additional funds into the account from which the witness was being paid.

Carson’s budget had $7,000 in an account for special payments, such as those to McGee, out of a total budget for the sheriff’s office of $2 million.

• A bronze plaque in memory of the late President John F. Kennedy was dedicated in Hemming Park.

Mounted on a gray marble shaft, the plaque was placed near the park’s bandshell, where Kennedy addressed a crowd of thousands the night of Oct. 18, 1960, during his campaign for the presidency.

Mayor Lou Ritter, who was Kennedy’s Duval County campaign manager in 1960, said Republicans estimated the crowd at 10,000 people.

“But the true Democrats put the estimate at 50,000,” said Ritter.

The memorial was donated by the Jacksonville Building and Trades Council, which was represented at the ceremony by John Bowden, its president, and other labor officials.

• The Marshall Taylor Doctors Building adjacent to Baptist Hospital was sold by Mallin Developers to Southern Baptist Hospital, operator of the hospital.

The purchase price was not disclosed, but documentary stamps on the deed indicated it was $1.25 million.

The sale was closed in the offices of Glickstein, Crenshaw, Glickstein and Hulsey, attorneys for the hospital. Management of the building by Stockton, Whatley, Davin & Co. would continue.

• In Tallahassee, Duval Rep. Bill Basford introduced a bill to establish a bail commission for indigents in all counties in the state.

If established, the commission would provide release from jail for indigent defendants awaiting trial who were unable to post bond. Such releases would be granted at the discretion of circuit judges on the recommendation of the proposed bail commission.

The bill also provided for an additional probation and parole officer for each county.

Basford said one of the major benefits of the bill would be to ease crowded conditions at county jails.

“This is particularly the case in Duval County,” he said. “A law of this type would save Duval and other counties millions of dollars in new jail construction.”

Basford said the proposed law also would permit defendants who were good risks to continue to work and provide for their families, who probably would otherwise have to receive state support.

The Duval County legislative delegation was considering introduction of a local bill, requested by Public Defender Ed Austin, that would apply only to Duval County. The local bill probably would be withheld, Basford said, unless the general bill ran into strong opposition.

• A Jacksonville Area Chamber of Commerce committee heard a proposal to change the names of Downtown streets to either alphabetical or numerical designations.

Robert Farkas told members of the Parking, Traffic and Public Transportation Committee the change would help eliminate confusion, particularly for people who weren’t familiar with the city.

“It frequently is difficult, even for old residents, to immediately pinpoint the location of a Downtown building,” he said.

James Craig, former president of the Jacksonville Historical Society, had a different opinion.

“You get a kind of cold feeling from numbers,” he said. “We need to know something of the people who have been here in the past. I don’t see why we can’t let people who built the city and state have some recognition.”

Craig said when Jacksonville was laid out in 1822, its founders carefully selected names for the streets even before naming the town. Downtown streets were named for the families of early settlers, governors, generals and other prominent figures.

• A Duval County Patrol lieutenant watched two men take a coin box from a telephone booth, chased them down in his patrol car and captured them after shooting out two tires on their car.

Lt. Maynard Crouse said several patrolmen under his supervision reported that a number of pay booths in the northern section of the county had been broken into and money taken.

Crouse began checking the area and found that the booth at Broward and Clark roads was still intact. He cut off the lights of his patrol car and about 3 a.m. parked behind a service station across the street.

About 30 minutes later, Crouse said, a car drove up and then a man got out and ran to the booth. In his hands was a steel hook, with which he began tugging at the telephone.

Crouse then radioed for assistance.

The man ripped the phone from the booth, grabbed the coin box and ran back to the car, Crouse said.

As the car pulled away, Crouse drove from his hiding place, turned on his lights and pulled alongside the car.

When he ordered the driver to pull to the side of the road, the car sped off toward Broward Road at high speed. Crouse fired five shots from his revolver at the speeding car, apparently missing.

Crouse then hooked an automatic shotgun in the crook of his left arm, leaned out of the window and fired three blasts.

Two tires and the front and rear windows were shot out. The car stopped immediately, but the occupants were not hit, Crouse said.

Six other officers soon arrived to help, but Crouse had the situation under control.

Inside the car, police found a steel hook, three screwdrivers, a shovel and a telephone box containing $37.25 in nickels, dimes and quarters.

Both suspects were booked into jail, each on $10,000 bond, on charges of causing damage to telephone equipment and larceny.

• For the first time in its 35-year history, the Civic Music Association of Jacksonville sold every seat available for its new season and had more than 400 people on the waiting list for tickets.

Association President Robert Hutchinson, reporting at the group’s annual meeting, said 3,600 tickets were sold for the six-performance series. The capacity of the Civic Auditorium was 3,200 seats.