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Colorful Characters

Tom Healy on Andrew Robinson

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"When I came down here to interview, Andy and his daughter Conchita, picked me up at the airport. Andy had me stay at his house, so I got to meet his wife Mildred as well. So I'm here for a two day interview. The first day he takes me downtown to a meeting of the United Way Executive Committee in the St. Johns Building. We walk in and everybody knows Andy. Andy is introducing me and it's all on a first name basis. We had just stopped segregation and the separate water fountains and everything else a year or two before we got here, and Andy seemed to know all these people in the power structure, and most of them were white. It was all on a first name basis. That was kind of that one level down from the top level of the power structure in Jacksonville. So that was fine. It turns out that evening, right after work, they are having a reception at the Robert Meyer Hotel to announce that Offshore Power Systems was coming to town. So Andy says, after we fit in these interviews with everybody all day long, well come on, we've got to go downtown again. So we walk in there. Now you're talking to the two senators, the governor, the mayor, and everybody comes up and say, Andy, how are you dong. All this is just constant, and all just as positive as they can be. So Andy would introduce me and immediately and say, this is a fine young man I want to bring down here and all that stuff. So he knew everybody, white and black, at a time when there was a lot of strife that had gone on between the races. I thing it was probably one of the major bridges that really helped Jacksonville come out of the dark ages and begin to move towards more integration and acceptance of one another. He knew everybody, everybody knew him. If you were at his house, people would call up and their son or daughter was in trouble or whatever, and so Andy was kind of a patriarch of the black community as well. People would always turn to him when there were special needs, and Andy never turned them away and tried to help where he could and all that kind of stuff. So he was very respected by everybody in the town at that point in time.


Andy had also run Raines School at a times when there was still segregation, and it was recognized as one of the better high schools in the country at the point in time. That's where the guy on my doctoral committee had met him. He had interns who came from Washington, D. C. to work with Andy in Raines High School. I've been told by a number of influential people in the community that, in the days of segregation, there were white people who wanted to send their kids to Raines High School because it was a better high school than their kids were going to type of thing. So he earned a great reputation and great acceptance in this community. We never questioned. If you needed something, you call Andy Robinson. He would do whatever he could, give you whatever he had, to help get through whatever the crisis was yo're in. That was the kind of person he was. Very astute, very practical kind of guy. He talked to me about how he couldn't go to graduate school in the South. He actually got his doctoral degree through NYU and once a month he had to ride the train to New York City and take classes. Then in the summertime, he went to New York full-time until he earned his doctorate. He had fought in the war in Korea, in the trenches and everything. So his background had prepared him for a life of dealing with all of the heavy, heavy issues that he had to deal with. He was just taken from us too early was all."


Robinson sitting at this deskRobinson holding an Osprey painting

Andrew Farkas on Jack Funkhouser and Bill Brown

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"Colorful was, first of all I would say Jack Funkhouser. Jack was brought in by Roy Lassiter who saw him create at the University of Florida a department that never existed before, that filled a vacuum that everybody desperately needed. Instructional Communications. That's why he came, that's why he was brought here. Jack created Instructional Communications from scratch that worked extremely well. Jack himself would never hesitate to, by himself, push the equipment to a classroom at eight in the evening so the professor would have it. Jack lived this university. The other colorful character was of course our inimitable Bill Brown. He was a one man show when he walked down the street. He had exuberance, ebullience, an acto's acting ability, a socialite's social ability, he was playing in life a character called Bill Brown."


Funkhouser pointing at the cameraFunkhouser sitting behind a desk

Lenard Bowie on Bill Brown

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"Bill, when you hear him sing, you figure he's one of the biggest snobs in the world because the HEY BROTHER MAN! comes off like somebody from the bucket blood down in the joints somewhere. But he was a voracious reader. He read everything. He knew a lot about what was going on, whether it was politics, the arts, people talking about the Oprah Winfrey reading list, he said, I've been reading that stuff for years. He was just a fantastic guy. He met no strangers. He was no stranger to anybody and he called himself in the classroom, most of his students didn't know what his real name was, he called himself Dr. Feelgood in his classes. Do you feel good today, child? Come on into class, I'm going to make you feel good. I'll make you feel good. They call me Dr. Feelgood."


Brown posing with hands on his faceBrown holdng a medal

Allen Tilley on Bob Loftin

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"Bob Loftin was a craggy undergraduate philosophy teacher and he was passionate about his undergraduate teaching. He asked to have a four-course load assignment rather than three because he said I'm not going to publish. I love teaching. That's what I want to do."


Loftin and friend singingLoftin and group standing at the lake

Gary Harmon on Bob Loftin

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"Living close to nature, he was a bird watcher and an ornithologist. He was just a very close observer of bird nature, but I think human beings as well, which made him an interesting philosopher to the students. He was a person unlike some of the more recent graduates from the departments of philosophy. Not our department, but in the universe of American universities and foreign universities, in that you could never mistake what it was he was trying to say. You might not have agreed with him, but he was very plain spoken and folksy spoken. Some of his speech, his philosophical statements were couched in the vernacular. He, too, preferred a beard. Those tennis shoes, honest to goodness, I've never seen such a variety of red, white and blue and every other color of tennis shoes. That's what you just expect to see. I think he was a person of great integrity."

Betty Flinchum on Bob Loftin

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"Well, Bob was unforgettable because the way he looked was interesting, the way he approached you as a colleague. He was very easy to talk to and everything. He had a passion of his Sawmill Slough, and he was to be sure you knew about it. Everybody knew about Sawmill Slough. It didn't matter if you were in another college or whatever, Bob had a passion and he pursued it."

Betty Flinchum on Andrew Farkas

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"Again, you think of Andrew, you think of his glasses hanging off his ear. And Andrew was a straight shooter, I thought. He would tell you. It didn't matter if you weren't going to like what he was going to say. It was his opinion and it was usually a pretty learned opinion, because he had a great wealth of knowledge that he was very happy to share, I thought. He was extremely cooperative. We had library tours for every international group that I had. Andrew would always try to make a point of coming out, and he wanted to know what groups were coming, and he would have something to say either in their language or about their country that he would use. Very learned, I thought, in terms of his knowledge about the countries, his passion for music, his uniqueness there I thought was interesting. But I loved his insightfulness in meetings. I loved it when Andrew was in a meeting or on a committee or whatever because he didn't say very much, but when it said it, it was always straight to the point.


Farkas at his desk with pen in handFarkas with his arms around two comrades