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Florida History:The man who was killed over a train ticket

Discussion in 'GatorTail Pub' started by gatorjjh, May 16, 2019.

  1. gatorjjh

    gatorjjh A Gator with a Glass half full attitude Moderator VIP Member

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    Florida History: Ku Klux Klan exposed
    By Eliot Kleinberg
    Stetson Kennedy is known for being an author of several books and exposing the Ku Klux Klan. For more Florida history, check out Florida Time, a weekly column and newsletter that features Sunshine State everything. Sign up by texting FLORIDATIME to 33777.

    Stetson Kennedy appeared to be a proud member of the Ku Klux Klan but secretly, he was taking notes.

    His book, “The Klan Unmasked,” helped expose what’s arguably America’s longest-running terrorist group and marked him as a dead man. But Kennedy managed to die peacefully at age 94 in August 2011.

    William Stetson Kennedy wrote eight books in all, along with countless articles. They chronicled the dying language and habits of Florida folklife. But they also outlined his uphill fight against a racism that was firmly entrenched, both by custom and law.

    Beluthahatchee, his place in the swamp south of Jacksonville, is now one of the nation’s 60-plus federally-designated Literary Landmarks.

    Here’s more from our archives and from Kennedy’s obituary in our sister newspaper, the Florida Times-Union.

    In 1935, at just 18, he moved from Jacksonville to Key West looking for work. He ended up on the team that compiled the WPA guide to Florida.

    Related: A 1939 guide to Florida history

    In a 1988 interview, he recalled carrying a sound recorder the size of a large coffee table, “capturing the songs of pogey fishermen at Mayport, railroad gandydancers, Latin cigarmakers, Greek spongers and turpentiners.”

    A good deal of the material ended up in “Palmetto Country,” a 1942 landmark history of folklore in Florida, southern Georgia and southern South Carolina which was part of the American Folkways Series. Many people consider it Kennedy’s finest book.

    Ineligible for World War II because of a back injury, Kennedy decided in the early 1940s to become an investigative journalist. After “Palmetto Country” came “Southern Exposure,” a 1944 book about Southern hate groups.
    “The Klan Unmasked” sat unpublished for six years; America instead was fixated by Communists allegedly under beds. The book was published in France in 1954. A heavily-edited paperback, “I Rode with the Ku Klux Klan,” did come out in America that year. Kennedy followed in 1959 with “The Jim Crow Guide to the U.S.A.,” also published in France. It would be his last book for four decades.

    In the late 1980s, Kennedy, then in his 70s, had a renaissance after college presses republished his earlier books. He cranked out “South Florida Folklife” (1993), “After Appomattox: How the South Won the War (1998), “Grits & Grunts: Folkloric Key West” (2010), and “The Florida Slave,” published posthumously in 2011.

    Florida History: Ku Klux Klan exposed
     
  2. gatorjjh

    gatorjjh A Gator with a Glass half full attitude Moderator VIP Member

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    I got to meet and talk with Stetson Kennedy a few yars ago at the SF Spring Arts Festival, what a force he was even at an advanced age, very glad I bought his most recent book, autographed that afternoon
     
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  3. anstro76

    anstro76 GC Hall of Fame

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    Watch it!
     
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  4. Kirby

    Kirby GC Legend

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    I thought it was Native American for “jorts.”

    I still don’t get the jorts thing.... when I was in Gainesville in the late 70’s, I don’t remember seeing anyone wearing them.
     
  5. gatorjjh

    gatorjjh A Gator with a Glass half full attitude Moderator VIP Member

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    never let facts get in the way of a good story....
     
  6. NUM1GATRFN

    NUM1GATRFN GC Hall of Fame

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    You never must have run into my Dad then - late 70's he wore jorts as often as he could - he loved them. He started wearing them after seeing others sporting them. He'd cut the legs off of his jeans that developed holes in the knees - and the bottoms would fray. He did this because essentially he was very CHEAP - lol. And before you draw any conclusions - he was not a hayseed - he was a LT. in the U.S. Navy - Vietnam vet - got his Master's degree from UF, and was a very good Chemical and Environmental Engineer. Smartest person I ever knew even to this day.
     
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  7. stephenpe

    stephenpe Freshman

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    That was me in the late 60s and early 70s. When I wore out jeans they became shorts and mostly a bathing suit. When I began teaching my shorts became classier.
     
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  8. gatorjjh

    gatorjjh A Gator with a Glass half full attitude Moderator VIP Member

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    Irvine, Fl
    Florida History: The man who was killed over a train ticket
    Welcome to Florida Time, a weekly column about Florida history: from the Fountain of Youth and Walt Disney to the Miami Riots, the extent of Jim Crow, the mermaid at Weeki Wachee Springs, the moon landing and more.

    Early in the 20th century, ugly hearings and a sensational trial aimed scrutiny on the state’s brutal convict-leasing system. Its martyr: Martin Tabert.

    “He wanted to see the world,” Clifford Tabert, then 87, told me in 2004 about his uncle. “He saw the bad part of it, I guess.”

    Martin Tabert died over 80 cents, the estimated train fare he stole by jumping aboard without a ticket near Tallahassee in January 1922.

    Read more Florida history: Here are Florida’s top 25 stories of all time

    Tabert, just 22-years-old, left his 560-acre farm in Munich, North Dakota, when he ran out of money and couldn’t pay a $25 vagrancy fine, he was sentenced to 90 days in jail and was leased out for $25 to help lay a railroad bed for the Putnam Lumber Co.

    The lucrative leasing practice had been outlawed in 1905 at the state level, but for some reason, not in the counties. Legislators later discovered Leon County Sheriff J.R. Jones and Judge B.F. Willis had a deal to funnel defendants to the lumber company.

    Tabert telegraphed home, saying, “In trouble and need 50 dollars to pay fine.” His family wired $75 to Tallahassee; it arrived six days after his arrest. The sheriff returned it unopened. The Taberts presumed their son had found a way out of his jam. But Putnam Lumber wrote that their son had died of a fever and complications, and been buried in a grave that has still never been found.

    In July 1922, a bunkmate of Martin’s, Glen Thompson, tracked down the Taberts and told them he had seen their son repeatedly tortured. The family filed a $50,000 lawsuit against Putnam and wrote the nation’s 10 largest newspapers. North Dakota legislators called on their Florida counterparts to investigate. Florida Gov. Cary Hardee promised to look into the case but sniffed that no state treated its convicts more humanely than Florida.

    READER REWIND: Everyone has their own piece of Florida history. Share yours with us by leaving a voicemail at (850) 270-8418.

    Pressured Florida legislators finally formed a joint committee. More than 100 witnesses told horror stories of beatings. Another camp reported no fewer than nine deaths, none of them were investigated. But Tabert’s death drew indictments.

    Walter Higginbotham, Putnam’s “whipping boss,” would admit to flogging up to 10 prisoners a week with a “Black Aunty,” a 5-foot-long, 7 1/2-pound rawhide strap.

    Guard A.P. Shivers testified that when Tabert could not keep up on a 2-mile march, Higginbotham “gave him about 30 licks as Tabert groaned and screamed for mercy.” He said Higginbotham placed his boot on the youth’s neck and “gave him about 40 or 50 more,” and when Tabert couldn’t get up, the boss gave him another 25.

    “At first, I heard screams which grew weaker and weaker,” said Mrs. Walter Lyles, who’d been fishing near the camp. “Finally, there was only the sound of the lash.”

    A jury later convicted Higginbotham of second-degree murder. Putnam settled the Taberts’ suit for $20,000. And, horrified by the abuses -- and not a little worried about the bad publicity’s affect on the tourist trade -- the state Legislature outlawed convict-leasing in May 1923.

    Last week: This Florida location doesn’t the recognition it deserves

    Next week: Florida’s lost businesses, Part 3

    From a reader: Eliot, a couple of days ago our newspaper ran your article on the Ma Barker gang. I truly enjoyed reading the article mostly because I enjoy such history and because I may have a couple of handguns that belonged to Ma Barker. Problem, I have no provenance to the fact that these are her pistols and wondered if you could be of any help in certifying that these are her pistols.

    How did I get them you ask? My daughter-in-law’s great great grandfather was the mayor of Jacksonville. He went on to become the governor of Florida. Somehow these pistols passed down the family tree and my daughter-in-law acquired them from a great aunt who called her and said that she had some family materials she needed to pick up.

    I cleaned up the pistols and traced them back to about 1915 so that would be about the time frame for Ma Barker to own that gun, the other I could not trace. Both are 32 caliber pistols. Can you help shed any light on these weapons and their linkage to Ma Barker or the gang members? I would appreciate any help you can provide. - Gerald S.

    Readers: Do you have any information that might help Florida Time reader Gerlad?

    Eliot Kleinberg has been a staff writer for the past three decades at The Palm Beach Post in West Palm Beach and is the author of 10 books about Florida (www.ekfla.com). Florida Time is a product of GateHouse Media and publishes online in their 22 Florida markets including Jacksonville, Fort Walton Beach, Daytona Beach, Lakeland, Sarasota and West Palm Beach. Submit your questions, comments or memories to FloridaTime@Gatehousemedia.com. Include your full name and hometown. Sorry; no personal replies.
    Florida History: The man who was killed over a train ticket