I’m gonna share a few with you.
Aware, no doubt, of Alabama’s ongoing battle with illegal immigrants who are coming in and taking jobs Alabamians don’t want, Gary sent me a clipping describing how the state of Florida in 1941 had its own problem with “furriners.”
After hearing constituents complain that folks with political connections were moving to Florida to take up cushy state or county jobs that Florida friends and family had waiting for them, state legislators passed a law that made it a crime for either the state or a county to hire anyone who had not been a Florida resident for at least two years.
Though the clipping did not say so, I suspect the law was aimed at immigrant Republicans.
At that time Florida was a solidly Democratic state and its governor, Fred P. Cone, had a history of dealing with Republicans that made clear the lengths to which he would go to keep the GOP out of the state.
This was revealed in another clipping Gary sent.
It seems that as a young man, Cone had become outraged when a former Union soldier and staunch Republican was given a local patronage job. (There was no mention of how long the interloper had lived in the state, because, being a Republican, it didn’t matter.)
So Cone shot him.
But didn’t kill him.
Cone’s uncle rushed to the rescue and paid for the Republican’s medical bills on the condition that the Republican would not press charges.
A kind gesture to help the wounded and save his nephew?
When the Republican agreed to the arrangement, Cone’s uncle had him arrested for — get ready — concealing an attempted murder.
Then, to add insult to injury (pun intended), Cone appeared as a witness for the prosecution — “Yessir, I shot him and he concealed the crime.”
The Republican went to jail. Cone went on to become governor.
Undeterred, Republicans kept finding ways to slip into the body politic. Ten years later, the president of the Sunshine State Senate (according to another clipping) learned to his surprise and “embarrassment” that the “beloved chaplain” of the all-Democratic upper chamber, a Baptist minister the president had personally appointed, was “a real-honest-to-goodness, dyed-in-the-wool Republican.”
The president assured the press that he had not known of the preacher’s political peculiarities prior to the appointment, but even if he had, “the matter of a man’s politics has nothing to do with his duties as a minister” — a novel idea then and now.
One suspects that a “come-to-Jesus meeting” between president and chaplain soon followed.
But Gary is not all about politics.
Being a professor, matters pertaining to education catch his eye. And since we are in the same business, he sends those clippings along as well.
One he sent was a 1953 article telling of the controversy surrounding a $2,800 barbecue pit at the new home of the president of the University of Florida. Always alert to any scandal that might justify cutting education’s budget, one outraged legislator also demanded that the state should hire a consultant to look into the “fat” salaries on the university’s payroll.
Nothing was said about the consultant having to be a resident of the state for two years.
But not everyone in Florida was out after the universities and their faculty. Gary also sent a 1938 Miami Herald editorial titled “Let’s Give Profs a Hand,” which pointed out that while it is one thing to praise football teams for their success, folks should remember that “there wouldn’t be any footballers … if the humble ‘prof,’ male and female, had not made a real, living educational center out of a vision born of boom-time enthusiasm.”
Preach on, brother.
But it is one thing to preach, another to meddle. And in 1951, the Southern Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools started meddling.
That year (according to another clipping) the accrediting association voted to investigate “why football players with poor grades are given college educations on a ‘silver platter’ while brilliant students get no such consideration.”
Reform was in the air.
And then it wasn’t.
Four years later, 1955, when critics complained that the University of Florida had spent $2 million on football since 1949, Gators Coach Bob Woodruff pointed out that during the same period, the program had brought in more than $2.5 million and was able to pay off the cost of a stadium expansion well ahead of schedule.
“Football isn’t costing Florida money,” the coach said. “It is making money.”
The critics fell silent.
And have been silent ever since.
Harvey H. (“Hardy”) Jackson is Eminent Scholar in History at Jacksonville State University and a columnist and editorial writer for The Star. E-mail: email@example.com.