Jack Carter, Jake Godbold, Walter Dickinson, Sallye B. Mathis, John Lanahan, Mary Singleton, I.M. Sulzbacher, Homer Humphrey, Earl M. Johnson and W.E. “Ted” Grissett, Don MacLean, Wallace Covington, Johnny Sanders, Joe Carlucci, Oscar Taylor, Earl Huntley, Bobby Moore, Bill Basford and Walter Williams.
Those were the members of the first City Council after the city and county governments consolidated into one.
Williams just died. Only Dickinson, Basford and MacClean remain.
A few days ago, according to news reports, Williams went to pick up his boat from where it had been repaired and was returning in it when it struck the Buckman Bridge and capsized. The 84-year-old businessman did not survive.
Williams was a 1954 graduate of Lee High School. Like a number of future elected officials he belonged to the Jacksonville Jaycees, a political incubator in the ‘50s and ‘60s.
He began a real estate business and became very successful at it.
Williams was impeccably honest. Once he was offered a bribe. He immediately refused, left City Hall and went across the street to the courthouse, where he reported the incident to the state attorney.
Most members of the first council were not politicians. They had been pulled into it via their work with the supporters of consolidation.
Sulzbacher, for example, was a quiet businessman. During an early TV interview, he asked to be excused, saying he was not used to being questioned in front of a camera. Whoever heard of a politician avoiding a camera, unless he was on a perp walk?
Mathis, Singleton, Taylor and Johnson were the first black residents to be elected in the city.
Lanahan and Huntley were Marine Corps combat veterans of World War II. Huntley ran a chain of food stores and Lanahan owned a lumber company.
Humphrey, Grissett, Basford and Johnson were lawyers.
Godbold went onto become mayor. Basford became property appraiser. Lanahan ran for mayor but lost. The others simply did their jobs and then went back to their old lives — without term limits.
The 19 people were handed the job of creating a government, no easy task. But, being businessmen, they ran the government like a business and they did it so well that there were tremendous strides in the first decade, and property tax rate reductions each of those years.
Local government has grown in 52 years but amazingly there are fewer city employees now than the combined total of city and county employees then. Eliminating duplication via consolidation and technology are the main reasons.