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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Reubin Askew, July 8, 1974. Interview A-0045. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Race and religion as political issues

Askew briefly describes the political influence of the Jewish community in Florida and denies that race is the central issue in Florida politics. Askew faced an embarrassing racial situation, however, when word spread that he referred to a black Holiday Inn employee as "boy."

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Reubin Askew, July 8, 1974. Interview A-0045. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

What political impact does Florida's. . . at least compared with the rest of the South, Florida's relatively large Jewish population have on the state's politics?
Well, I think that you have . . . you had two outstanding people, you know, of the Jewish faith who have served on the cabinet of Florida, the attorney general and the secretary of state, at the same time. I think that the Jewish community has been the source of a tremendous amount of incisive state leadership and I think it has been . . . most, of course, coming out of the Miami area. I think that it has helped a great deal in furnishing an element of leadership that is needed in the state. By that I don't mean to say that I would relegate it just to Jewish people, but I think that it has had an impact toward the state being more willing to face up to some of the human problems than it might otherwise have done.
V.O. Key in his book said that if you understood the politics of race, you understood the politics of the South. Is that true in Florida?
I wouldn't think so. I would think that you would have certain parts of Florida where that may be correct. But I don't think that generally I could accept that as a valid premise in all of Florida.
Governor, we were present when you addressed, I guess it was the Florida Voters League. It was in May at the Holiday Inn and you caught some fairly heavy static afterwards when you made a reference to "boy" once or twice. Were you surprised at that?
Well, I think that first of all you have to understand a little of the background of that meeting, you know, because I don't think that was particularly intended to be a friendly meeting to me for political reasons. And so, when you understand that some of it was not by accident, and it certainly was not legitimately spontaneous. The one young lady felt like my reference to the term, "boy" denoted something that wasn't proper. I wasn't particularly surprised, because I think in this area, black people have gotten the worst end on it a lot of times. And therefore, I think that we have to understand and appreciate if they are extra sensitive to something and then misread a situation. But anyone who knows me, I think, would know that I meant it nothing other than as a compliment, because I use the expression too much for people, regardless of color.