The following is an interview with Judge Jesse Willson conducted by Judge Dale Durrance on March 13, 1981. Any names that appear as links in the interview will take you to more information about that person so that you can form a more complete picture of this time in the circuit's history.
DURRANCE: Judge Willson, why did you come to Polk County to practice law and when did you come? Also, where was your office and why did you choose law as a career?
WILLSON: I came to Polk County not to practice law, but to see if a citrus grove that belonged to my parents could be straightened out. It was in poor condition, so they had been advised, although they had been paying regularly for its care. I had had one year at the University of Illinois and I came here expecting to get the grove in shape and go back. About the time the grove showed improvement, my father became ill and had to retire, so I was not in the position to go back to the University of Illinois I had become acquainted with a young lawyer in Bartow by the name of George Edwin Walker whose sister lived on the grove adjacent to ours. This was the time of the Florida boom. Mr. Walker had developed a large collection business and he was busy making money in real estate transactions. He wanted someone to handle his collection business so I took that job. Then he suggested that I might study a little law in his office and maybe I might pass the bar examination. I worked the collection business and I studied law under his direction. In 1927, I passed the bar examination and was admitted to practice. I continued my practice here in Bartow until I went on the bench.
DURRANCE: Did you have to go to Tallahassee to take your bar exam?
WILLSON: Yes, indeed.
DURRANCE: What kind of bar examination did you take?
WILLSON: It took one day for the examination and it covered a few of the subjects that presently are taught in the law schools. There were no essays. It was largely answering the questions that had been prepared by the examining committee. I recall they examined us on real estate, civil practice, criminal law, and contracts, about six subjects. However, I will say this, at that time I think there were about 135 or 136 persons who took the examination. Among them were lawyers from out of state, some of them had been judges either in trial courts or appellate court and out of that 135 or 136, I think only about 30% passed the examination. Apparently, even though it was sketchy, it wasn't simple.
DURRANCE: Do you recall who the justices of the Supreme Court were?
WILLSON: I recall Justice Whitfield, Justice Ellis, and Justice Buford. Also, Justice Glenn Terrell. I don't remember who the others were. Justices Terrell and Whitfield were typical southern gentlemen. Justice Ellis was peppery individual, testy I would even say. Mr. Justice Buford as from West Florida, and he was more noted for the amount of liquor he could consume.
DURRANCE: Did you ever have any other occupation other than law?
DURRANCE: What was your first legal experience as a lawyer in Polk County?
WILLSON: There was some litigation in the office over a contractor's lien. My partner was representing the defendant and I had been working on that for him. When I was admitted to the bar, he very kindly told me that I might try the case. Of course it was an equity case. That was my first experience.
DURRANCE: That was in private practice. Who was the person you were associated with?
WILLSON: G. Edwin Walker.
DURRANCE: Where was your office located?
WILLSON: Our office was located above the Bartow Drugstore which is one of the buildings occupied now by the county. As a matter of fact, it's the third building from Main Street North. It's hard to distinguish them anymore.
DURRANCE: Do you remember who the judges were and who the other officials were at the time you started practicing law?
WILLSON: Yes. The circuit judges were H. C. Petteway and Harry G. Taylor. The Clerk of the court was J. D. Raulerson. The tax collector was J. P. Murdaugh. The tax assessor was Werner G. Jones. The County Judge was S. L. Holland and the registration officer was a man named Moore, I don't remember his first name. The county commissioners were, I can't remember all of them, A. T. Mann, Joe Robinson, and I don't remember who the other three were. I can tell you who their attorney was, M. D. Wilson.
DURRANCE: What was the courtroom dress code or demeanor in the courtroom?
WILLSON: It was somewhat more informal than the present. The judges did not wear robes. There was no air conditioning. In the summer the only ventilation was the windows or ceiling fans that made so much noise that you couldn't hear yourselves. Generally, lawyers wore jackets but if the weather got hot and the courtroom got warm, they felt that you could take off your jacket. I think as far as the conduct is concerned, the lawyers in that day were courteous to each other as they are today. I don't think there is much difference in the attitude of lawyers towards each other or lawyers towards the judges.
DURRANCE: Do you remember how and when robes came into being and what was the reaction when judges started using black robes?
WILLSON: I don't recall that there was any objection to it. By that time air conditioning had been put into the courthouse. Most everyone felt it was alright.
DURRANCE: Even with the prior relaxed code of shirt sleeves, to you feel there was just as much dignity given to the court at that time as there is now with the more formal dress?
WILLSON: Yes. I don't notice any difference in the general attitude of the bar and the parties and the spectators. Over the years I think it has been fairly uniform.
DURRANCE: You mentioned Judge Petteway a few moments ago, what kind of judge was Judge Petteway?
WILLSON: He was probably the best circuit judge we ever had. He had practiced law with J. Hardin Peterson. He was not a successful practitioner but he had a fine legal mind and he had the ability to grasp what the point was in any law suit. He either knew what the answer was or he had an excellent ability to guess what the answer was. The only thing I can say against Judge Petteway is that for young lawyers, he wasn't the very best kind of judge. You knew when you went into Judge Petteway's chambers on a motion or demurrer as we called them in those days, that about the only chance you would get would be to read the declaration or bill and the motion would be read and before you could start any arguments he would tell you what the answer was. There was no incentive to do a lot of research when you were before Judge Petteway.
DURRANCE: Do you think that was because he was knowledgeable in the law and knew the answer?
WILLSON: Indeed, I think so. He had a good legal mind and could grasp the law. He had the ability to apply his knowledge to the immediate case and come up with a good decision. He was very seldom reversed. Now so much couldn't be said for the other judge. He was a nice chap. Judge Taylor was not a legal scholar by any means. You had better be prepared when you went before Judge Taylor because he didn't know the answer, you would have to tell him what the answer was.
DURRANCE: Years ago, they used to at times have attorneys serve in the position as special masters or sometimes as referees or commissioners. Did you ever serve in one of these capacities?
WILLSON: Yes. Eventually. During the depression years, and you will remember you heard that Florida had a boom and that collapsed and then we had a depression in Florida. Then came the national depression and when the national depression came the legislature, being pushed for money, told the bar it could either retain the criminal court of records or have the additional circuit judge. They couldn't have both. So Judge Taylor was eliminated. That entailed more work for the one judge and he was not always well. He devised a plan under which all uncontested and many contested divorces actions were referred to special masters. In reality. They were masters because it was to report the evidence and make findings fact of law. I served in that capacity.
DURRANCE: What did you think of it? How do you compare that system with today's system?
WILLSON: At that time, I think it was a good system. It expedited the disposition of the cases. It was abused eventually. I much prefer the system we have now and I think everybody is entitled to have a duly elected judge to hear their case. You notice I didn't say qualified. There may be some rare exception where a special master is justified.
DURRANCE: What was the most unusual thing that ever happened to you as a practicing attorney? Out of the court and in the court?
WILLSON: I've thought about that, and you know I don't recall anything that I consider to be extraordinary. In fact, I led a rather quiet life as a practicing attorney.
DURRANCE: What about any funny incidents that ever happened to you?
WILLSON: Well, let me tell you one that I can. I won't tell you one that I don't want on the record. The City of Bartow in her earlier days accepted plats in subdivision that had streets in them but they didn't ever open up the streets. There used to be, in the south part of the county, a section, where white folks lived on one street and black folks on the other street. There was a spot over there where there was a street platted but where there was no street in the section where the black people lived. The City of Bartow wanted to open up the street through a tract of land that belonged to Carpenter. They offered to trade him the street in the black quarters for an equivalent amount of his land to use for a street, and he made the transaction with them. There had been a house on the street owned by a black woman named Aunt Sally Kennedy and she had fenced up the lot even though she had moved the house off. She wouldn't let Mr. Carpenter occupy the lot and he took down the fence and she would put it up again. So, Judge Wiggins was then practicing law, and he was the city attorney. He really brought, we really brought the suit, Mr. Walker and I, for Mr. Carpenter who was Mr. Walker's uncle. We had to bring the suit in the name of the city for use and benefit of Mr. Carpenter and Mr. L. C. Johnson who was then an outstanding trial lawyer was employed by Aunt Sally Kennedy. We finally got before Judge Petteway on the trial and we made out the prima facie case that was required of us and then Mr. Johnson called Aunt Sally to the stand as a witness. He hadn't apparently spent any time preparing and he said, "Now, Aunt Sally: I want you to tell the judge and these gentlemen of the jury just exactly how you came into possession of this land that Mr. Carpenter is trying to take away from you." Well," she said, "I'll tell you just how it is. Ms. Mary told me, 'Aunt Sally, if you want to build a house on that property you can. It belongs to the city. It's a street and if the city ever wants it, you've got to give it up.'" And Mr. Johnson, without another word, picked his hat up off the table and walked out of the courtroom. I think perhaps the story I could tell about the funniest incident in the courtroom would be that one.
DURRANCE: I want to ask you also about criminal cases. How were they handled, any differently than how they are being handled today?
WILLSON: When I first began practicing law, we had the criminal court of records and the circuit court. All the felonies, except capital felonies, were tried in the criminal court of record. Capital felonies of course were tried in the circuit court because they could only be tried on indictments which brings up another thing that I might mention about the judicial system. When I first came to Polk County the county court had jurisdiction of all misdemeanors and the circuit court had jurisdiction of all felonies. The felonies in the circuit court had to be prosecuted on indictments because the state attorney couldn't file an information. The Constitution of 1885 provided for the criminal court of record and provided that prosecution in that court could be on information. It became so burdensome as far as grand jury was concerned, the last one I think that sat before the criminal court was established took three weeks of intense labor to take care of all the cases they had to consider. So they finally decided they would establish the criminal court of record and of course that eliminated the county court's jurisdiction of misdemeanors. This was a step in the right direction to expedite the cases, felonies particularly. Does that answer your question?
DURRANCE: Yes, sir. What about plea negotiations?
WILLSON: Plea negotiations were just as common back then as they are now.
DURRANCE: What kind of sentences were handed out to defendants back then?
WILLSON: Well, I would think about like they are now with this exception: there probably were many cases in the older days where a person would be sentenced to jail for some time where now they are put on probation. I think perhaps more persons went to prison under the old system, percentage wise, than do today.
DURRANCE: Do you think that has made a difference in the criminal justice system?
WILLSON: What do you mean? Do you mean has that increased the number of crimes?
WILLSON: I question whether it has or not.
DURRANCE: Was probation used back in the older days?
DURRANCE: Do you think that the reason it is used more today is because of overcrowding in the prisons?
WILLSON: I think there has been a different attitude towards crime and punishment in my day. My good friend, Judge Amidon, was a strong believer in retributive punishment. And I think that was true probably up until 25 years ago. And then there seems to be a change in the view. This was particularly true with respect to first offenders and when the Parole and Probation system was set up I think it was because there was a feeling that the public would be better served in many instances by probation than it would be by prison sentence.
DURRANCE: Do you think that is true?
WILLSON: Well, that's a matter of opinion, as far as I'm concerned: Yes, I think it is true. I have seen a good many cases where a man has been sent to prison and I can't think of a single case where the man came back and made a respectable citizen. Now there may be, but I don't know of any. I do know of several instances of where a man committed a serious crime and was put on probation and had become respectful and a respectful citizen. So I think maybe there is a place for the probation system. I think the problem is there hasn't been enough probation officers to properly supervise some of the cases. I think that is your big trouble. A young man in this area, I won't mention any name, in this county that had a very hot temper. He had a brother who was a trifling sort of chap who hung around the pool rooms, and so on. In the town where they lived he was a frequent patron of the pool room and he was there one day and got into a row with somebody and the man hit him over the head with a bottle and cut a gash in his head. Somebody thought he had been killed and they called his brother and told him so-and-so had killed his brother. He took his revolver and went to the pool room and without inquiring whether his brother had been killed he shot at the man and fortunately skinned a little place on top of his head and they stopped him before he could shoot again. That time I was the assistant county solicitor, this was during the war, Mr. B. G. Langston, Judge Langston's father was the acting county solicitor, He said, "Now, Jess, what are we going to do about this." I told him I didn't know, "he's guilty of assault with intent to commit murder. That's a serious offense." "Yes, that's right, but if we send him to the penitentiary, he never will amount to anything in the community, he is basically a good man," he said. I said, "Well, sir, that's your problem, really." He said he wanted to recommend to the judge that he be put on probation, and he was. I'm not going to tell you who the man was on the record, I'll tell you later, but you know him and he's a decent citizen of the community. I've known several cases of that kind where the man had committed a serious offense and was put on probation and they straightened up and behaved themselves. If they were sent to the penitentiary they never would have any standing in the community except as a con man. It's a complicated question for which there's no simple answer.
DURRANCE: Of course that raises a question. Nowadays we have some offenses, well, an example that you gave in a situation like that, which would be aggravated assault with a firearm, which requires a three year mandatory prison time.
WILLSON: Right, and I'm opposed to that. Because really what they were after was a different class of offenders than the one I'm talking about. They were after the holdup man, primarily, and other law violators that were prone if the occasion arose to use a firearm. I think it's wrong to take away from the judges the ability to deal with each offender on the basis of that offender's offense and position in the community and general character. This may not be popular among people, but that's my opinion.
DURRANCE: Well, that's what we want to get to. That's part of history and you've been able to compare the prior system to the present system, and I think that's important for legal history for us to have that benefit. How about civil cases, how were they assigned?
WILLSON: There was no assignment system, you filed your case, your opponent filed a demurrer or some other pleading.
DURRANCE: That was common law pleading?
WILLSON: Yes, we had a modified common law pleading. You got an appointment with a judge, whoever the judge was, if we had one or two judges, you got an appointment with one of them and went ahead. You never knew who was going to try the case, because you didn't know what judge was going to sign the docket and have the trial.
DURRANCE: So it could be either one of the judges?
WILLSON: If we had two judges, even if we had only one, frequently they would send a judge in here to help him, so you never knew who you were going to be before. And let me say this to you, in connection with that, that there was no discovery process at all, none whatever. You walked in the courtroom, you might know a little bit about what your opponent's case was or the defense's but you certainly didn't know very much about it.
DURRANCE: Of course, that's completely different now. Do you think that's an improvement?
WILLSON: Yes, indeed I do. I think it is a very distinctive improvement, however, I think the discovery process is probably abused, both in civil and criminal cases. But it is certain no experienced or intelligent lawyer needs to go into a courtroom without knowing everything about his opponent's case. Yes, there's been a big improvement in my opinion in not only the pleading but in the actual preparation for the trial of the case. The common law pleading was not as bad as it was made out to be. You filed your declaration if it was a civil action, your opponent could either demur to your declaration or file a motion for bill of particulars. Eventually, he had to file a plea. If you found it necessary you could file what was called a replication. By the time you got to this, there was one thing for sure, you knew what the issue was. You had your issue defined before you went to the pretrial conference. And in that respect it was a better system than present.
DURRANCE: How many other lawyers were in Polk County when you started practicing?
WILLSON: I can't remember. There were not nearly as many as there are today. Only a few of those that were here then are still here.
DURRANCE: Can you name some of those?
WILLSON: Well, I can think of Tom Bryant who was here.
DURRANCE: He's in Lakeland?
WILLSON: He's in Lakeland. Frankly, I don't remember, well, there's Judge Amidon. When I started to practice he was starting a practice too. He's still here. Harry King, Marshall Edwards, and Clarence Boswell, Sr. are still here. Beyond that, I don't remember.
DURRANCE: You were first in private practice and then you later became an assistant county solicitor, is that right?
WILLSON: That was for two years, during the war while Judge Stephenson was on leave and Judge Love, who was his assistant, was also in the Army. He had a reserve commission. I think I served for 2 1/2 years before the war was over and the two of them got back.
DURRANCE: When you were in private practice, what kind of cases did you mainly handle?
WILLSON: Most of my work was civil, title work and probate and general equity practice. I didn't do too much jury trial work, although I had reasonable amount of that too. I preferred the other type for several reasons: 1) the probate and title work is probably as remunerative as any type of work and is much less burdensome, and the equity practice was a lazy lawyer's practice because you didn't have to hurry with it. You went leisurely and as you went along you found out about your opponent's case too. So it wasn't like trying a jury case where you didn't know what was on the other side until you got into the courtroom.
DURRANCE: What about fees? What kind of fees did you have?
WILLSON: Well, the fees back in the early days were few and small. I suppose you younger lawyers thought I was being facetious when I said that collecting a $10 fee was an event but that was a fact. If you drew a deed you got $5, if your client could afford it, otherwise maybe it was only $2.50. Divorce cases were handled for a mild fee. I never handled them on that basis but I always got $50 plus the costs or I wouldn't bother with them because I didn't like them in the first place, but many handled them on the basis of $25 plus costs.
DURRANCE: Did you ever get paid in something other than cash?
WILLSON: Yes, the lien case I'm talking about, we were successful in defeating the lien. I'm not sure that the defense I raised was one that would be strictly honest, it was legal. The property was owned by the man and his wife. He made the contract to build the buildings. She never signed the contract. I raised the defense, the lien didn't lie against the state entirely because she hadn't signed the contract which was upheld by the court. I say now as I review it I thought that was pretty smart but I'm not really sure whether when you look it from an objective and dispassionate standpoint that was a very good defense. It was legal. Well, the man couldn't pay me. He didn't have any money, that was the reason he was in trouble but he had been an automobile dealer too. He had the agency for the Cleveland, did you ever hear of the Cleveland automobile? He had a Cleveland that he had used as a demonstrator, I think maybe it had 10 or 12 thousand miles on it, and I needed a new automobile so he said he couldn't pay me but if he had anything I wanted, he would give it to me. I said, well, what about that automobile. He said sure. Just drive it away and I'll put gasoline in it. So, I got an automobile. That was not an uncommon practice, really.
DURRANCE: What about any highly publicized trials?
WILLSON: What do you mean by highly publicized?
DURRANCE: Well, any trials of community notoriety?
WILLSON: Well, there is one that I defended. Well, I think there are two that I would say follow that category. I can put one of them on the record. A man whose name has escaped me over in Mulberry killed a constable. Merle Whidden was the constable. He was an uncle of the Whiddens at the funeral home down there. He was the brother of their father. That was a large and prominent family. He was charged with murder in the first degree and Judge Barker, who was the judge, couldn't find anybody to defend him. It was election time and the lawyers that he contacted said they couldn't do it because they were connected with somebody's campaign and this was a hot issue. So, he called me in and said, now Jess, I want you to defend him. I said well, Judge, I hesitate to say no but you know I've tried some criminal cases but I'm really not what you would call a good criminal lawyer. He said, well, you're good enough lawyer to defend him. You know it is your duty if I ask you to. I said yes, sir. So I took that case. It took us two days to get a jury. As soon as you'd get somebody in the box and start inquiring they were either related to Merle Whidden or they had been in the Army with him or they knew some of the family and they were prejudiced. Finally, we got a jury and tried the case and the jury came back with a verdict of murder in the first degree with a recommendation. I thought the man was guilty of manslaughter, but that was not the day in which you took an appeal. He was so pleased that he wasn't going to be electrocuted that he promptly thanked the judge, me, the prosecutor, and the jury profusely. But I incurred the wrath of some of the Whiddens. They finally cooled off. Mr. Pat didn't get upset over it. He told the others that I was just doing my duty and did what the court asked me to. The defendant was probably the most worthless man in Mulberry. I can't think of any other cases that was worth noting.
DURRANCE: What about any legislative changes, can you think of any time as a practicing lawyer or even as a judge that you had the opportunity to confer with the legislature and try to advise them on what you thought was an appropriate legislation.
WILLSON: Yes, sir. I had one that I had in mind for years. We had no provision in the divorce law for permanent insanity being a grounds for divorce. If your spouse was permanently and incurably insane you simply could not get a divorce and I felt that it was not right. People would got to Nevada, for example, and get their divorce out there, but they were of questionable validity. I complained about it and finally I persuaded Quillian Yancey when he was in the legislature to introduce a bill making permanent or incurable insanity a ground for divorce, which they did. They did, I think, provide reasonable safeguards, you had to get two psychiatrists to testify that the person was insane. In fact I can't think of anything else.
DURRANCE: Do you remember having any women lawyers?
WILLSON: Yes, sir. Whenever I started practicing law there was only one woman lawyer in the county, Allie R. Barnes, who lived over in Lake Wales. She was from West Florida. I think she was almost middle-aged when she was admitted to the bar. If I recall correctly she went to the University of Florida or maybe it was Stetson.
DURRANCE: What was the reaction from other members of the bar?
WILLSON: Well, very frankly they didn't think too much about it. She felt it and whenever she had any matters in the court she always came and employed me to assist her because she said plainly the judges and lawyers were prejudice against women. I thought she was right.
DURRANCE: What about any black lawyers?
WILLSON: No, no black lawyers.
DURRANCE: Among the judges, do you ever recall a judge having a particular reputation for being mean or cantankerous?
WILLSON: Well, you know there is a difference between being mean, in my mind, and cantankerous. A mean person is one who just deliberately goes about humiliating, embarrassing or injuring one. A cantankerous person really doesn't intend to do you any damage or insult, but that is just his nature. As far as cantankerous judges, yes, I can mention two cantankerous judges in this area. One was Judge John Edwards who preceded Judge Petteway, and he certainly was cantankerous. As a matter of fact, he was so cantankerous that when the boom came along the lawyers were rolling in money they persuaded him to resign from the bench and enter a practice because he could earn much more money. The other one was one they sent in here from Volusia County. His name was Roe, I can't remember his first name. Somewhere he lost the lower part of one leg and had an artificial limb. He went by the name of "Pegleg Roe" and undoubtedly Pegleg Roe was the most cantankerous, he was even more cantankerous than Judge Edwards. He was not a bad judge either as far as his knowledge and trying a case. When he called a case first thing at 9:00 he'd call Doe vs Roe and if Doe got up and said he was ready and Roe didn't answer he'd say, "Mr. Clerk, enter a default against Roe." Mr. Doe proceed to prove up your case before the jury. If the plaintiff didn't show up, he'd just dismiss it. Of course, the word got around pretty quickly and the lawyers were present.
An interesting thing occurred during his time here. There was a man named Donnelly in Lake Wales, he was a well-educated man and a fairly good lawyer, one whose sense of right and wrong hadn't developed very well. It was alleged that he had one of his associates shot. It turned out that Mr. Donnelly had a $10,000 life insurance policy on him, with a double indemnity on it. Later on, a young chap from West Florida named Guyton came here and went to work for him and there was some difference of opinion about collection of fees and who got the money and I think that Donnelly filed a suit in the county against Guyton. Judge Roe was here holding the trial term and Judge Petteway was in chambers back of the courtroom, you remember the arrangement of the courthouse. On that side there was a big courtroom, part of which is courtroom A now, but then there was a hallway back of it and two large chambers. Judge Petteway was having a hearing in this county case and Donnelly called Guyton a liar and Guyton promptly got up and got in a fight with him. Judge Petteway tried to get them to stop but they wouldn't stop and he undertook to separate them physically and somebody got hold of his belt and broke it so that his trousers came down and in the meantime Judge Roe heard all this disturbance and told the bailiff to go get those men who are making the disturbance and bring them in here and he tried to tell him that Judge Petteway was back there and he wasn't paying any attention to him. So the bailiff goes and Judge Petteway said he would take care of it. The bailiff told him Judge Roe said to bring them in there and he guess he had better do it. He took them in and when he found out what the situation was, well, he sent them back but it was quite a bit of fun poking Judge Petteway about getting into a fight. He was very mild and a perfect gentleman. Subsequently, Donnelly was charged with conspiracy to murder one of his clients and arrested and got out on bond. The next morning he was found dead along the road, a road not well traveled, near his house, shotgun beside him. I am satisfied that he committed suicide. He was a proud man, and they had him just dead to right. This is interesting but not humorous. Well, you see, now you have two items of history, one was the Joe Beal case, and one was the Donnelly case, Mrs. Byrd, I believe her name was, who was his client that he was trying to murder. The Lake Wales News was satisfied that Donnelly killed Beal and every year almost on the anniversary of Beal's death, Mr. Alan Brice would publish an obituary with a big black border and he always vowed that the murderer of Joe Beal was still walking the streets of Lake Wales. Nobody had any doubts of who he was talking about.
DURRANCE: That was while Donnelly was still living?
WILLSON: Yes, and when Donnelly died he published his eulogy and said the case is closed.
DURRANCE: What about any famous people, like governors, etc.?
WILLSON: Well, of course, I knew Spessard Holland, who was governor and United States senator. I knew J. Hardin Peterson Who was a congressman.
DURRANCE: What about any justices of the Supreme Court?
WILLSON: No, my acquaintance with them was casual. As I recall ever had anybody on the Supreme Court from this section. Among judges, talking about cantankerous judges not in Polk County, did you ever hear of Judge Rouels over in Hillsborough?
DURRANCE: Yes, sir, I've heard of him.
WILLSON: Well, now he was cantankerous too. A good judge, but cantankerous. Judge Parks was a little bit on the peppery side too. Harry Sandler, he used to be a judge over in Hillsborough was alright. Most of the history of the legal organization is concerned is on the statute books if anybody is interested in that.
DURRANCE: Let me ask you this, because there was a lot of controversy about it at the time, and still is, whenever Article V was revised, how do you view that?
WILLSON: Chesterfield Smith had been my friend since he came to Bartow and Chesterfield Smith is a very intelligent man. He's not a legal scholar, he's a good lawyer, but he has a very practical mind and common sense and if I wanted a representation in a hard case I might ask Chesterfield to represent me. Did you know Judge McCray?
DURRANCE: Yes, sir.
WILLSON: Judge McCray was a legal scholar. No question about it, but he was not nearly as good a trial lawyer as Chesterfield because he had a single track mind. He would get his case all prepared and he knew just how he was going to try it, and his opponent interjected anything new in it, he was just lost. He had to go back to the office and figure it out again, but McCray and Smith were obsessed with the idea that the New Jersey system was the best system that had been devised. I knew they were going to have a change so I felt that was the best we could get. The problem is that New Jersey is a .very small state and the chief justice could sit in his chambers and look out the window and see what every judge in the state was doing, figuratively, and you surely can't do that in Tallahassee. Our problem is, in my opinion, is that we have never had the judicial supervision from Tallahassee or locally that Article V intended. I think Article V would be an improvement, both as far as the court is concerned and as far as the lawyers are concerned if it really worked, but it doesn't work. You know that. The idea was to make things flexible, to be sure that every judge carried his load and did his share of the work and did it properly. It is not being done that way, so I think as far as Article V is concerned it has not been a success. I think it still could be. If your local administrative judge was thought free at all times to say, "Judge Willson, you are getting behind on your work and are not making your decisions promptly. Now you have to do something about it." But they just will not do that and Tallahassee never hears about it. If we had a court administrator and you must understand me I like the Colonel, I think he does the best he can, if we had a court administrator who was in position to do the same thing, to slip by Judge Jones chambers and tell him that he has a lot of cases he hadn't decided on and people were complaining about, I would appreciate it if you would get busy and dispose of these things. But the court administrator is not allowed to do that. He's not performing his duties as well as he could. He's doing the best he can as far as he's permitted. So as far as I'm concerned I don't think there's been much help in Article V. The only thing that I can see that maybe does help a little is the ability of the circuit court to call in county judges to help with the work.