Susie Mae White, a retired Alachua County educator, author, businesswoman and dedicated church mother, died March 30, 2013 of natural causes at Woodland Care Center in southwest Gainesville.

Mrs. White was born in Madison County Florida to the late Rev. John A. Williams and Lucy Crawford Williams. Her education began at Rochelle Elementary, and graduated from Lincoln High School Class of 1935. She furthered her education at the following University’s: Florida Memorial College – Class of 1943 and 1948, University of Maryland – Class of 1953, Michigan State College in 1955, and Michigan State University in 1960. Mrs. White is a retired Alachua County Elementary School Teacher.

She also served in the capacity as Guidance Counselor, Social Service Specialist, and School Psychologist. Affiliations include: NE Eagle Eyes Organizer, Pleasant Street Historical Association, MPAC, Ministers Wives and Widows, Founder of Mother Dear’s Child Care Center, Founder of Friendship Day Care, FL Memorial University Alumni, Church Women United, FL Retired Education Association, AAUW, FL Association of School Psychologist. She was the recipient of various civic, social fraternal and religious awards, citations and honors. She was married to the late Rev. D.E. White and served her church in various capacities: Sunday School Teacher and Superintend ant, Bible School Teacher, State Director of Education for Leadership with the Florida General Baptist Division.

(Reprint of The Gainesville Sun obituary, 4/4/2013)

In the News
Gainesville Sun, “Educator Susie Mae White dies at 101,” 4/3/2013.

Community Oral History Workshop: Lawtey, FL (July 20,2011)

The Philadelphia Missionary Baptist Church of Lawtey invited SPOHP to conduct an oral history workshop, meet and interview community members who marched in St. Augustine during The Movement. Marna Weston lead a workshop with a live interview and post interview discussion.

Community Oral History Workshop: Starke, FL (July 12, 2011)

Jacqueline Totura & the Women’s Club of Starke invited SPOHP to discuss oral history collection and its relevance at the Bradford County Public Library. Marna Weston lectured on previous oral history interview experiences, scheduled future interviews, and fielded audience questions. The event was videotaped by the Women’s Club.

Community Oral History Workshop: High Springs, FL (June 30, 2011)

Reverend Byran Williams and the congregation of Mt. Carmel United Methodist Church in High Springs Florida again invited SPOHP to an evening of community reflections on the local impact of the Civil Rights Movement. Marna Weston conducted a second live oral history interview and entertained questions from the audience.

He survived the infamous Bataan Death March; he survived bombing attacks by his fellow Americans on Corregidor who were shelling the Japanese on Bataan; he survived two hellish internment camps in the Philippines; he survived the terrifying passage in the hold of a Japanese Hell Ship en route to Japan; and he survived forced labor in a condemned Japanese coal mile. Herbert Pepper suffered beatings and malnutrition and contracted tuberculosis and beriberi during those years as a POW from 1942 to 1945.

In 2005, Pepper recounted those horrific experiences in an oral history, conducted by Dr. Julian Pleasants, then director of the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program. SPOHP also had catalogued three other oral histories of POWs held by the Japanese.

In 2008, Deborah Hendrix and Diane Fischler of the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program produced a documentary titled “I Just Wanted to Live!” based on these four oral histories in its World War II collection. The film (both a 35-minute presentation version and a longer 55-minute version) premiered in Pugh Hall on November 10, 2008, in a program titled “Testimony of War.”

Herbert Pepper had been hospitalized in the Lake City VA the week before the premiere but insisted on leaving his hospital bed to come to Gainesville to attend the documentary’s debut. He arrived in a wheelchair accompanied by many family members.

One of the other two ex-POWs, Victor Cote of New Smyrna Beach, also came to the program. The two former POWs shook hands and were both astonished to learn that they had worked in the same coal mining camp in Japan, Camp Fukuoka. Their handshake spoke volumes of their shared prisoner-of-war experiences. hpepper1

On October 2, 2012, at age 93, Herbert Pepper passed away at the Lake City VA. He was a true survivor. It was an honor and privilege for the Oral History Program to capture the hell-on-earth years of these heroic men.

Herbert Pepper’s oral history interview is part of the World War II project, WWII-030.

Thank you, Mr. Clayton!
Thank you, Mr. Clayton!

Mr. Clayton has taken outstanding photographs of SPOHP public programs, symposia, and special events for several years running. A combat veteran of the army, he has also assisted SPOHP in expanding our connections in African American as well as veterans’ communities.

Originally interviewed for the African American History Project, Mr. Clayton shared his experiences of living in the South and service in the Vietnam War. He started working with the volunteer program as a photographer, and his work can be seen around the website, including the Events and Public Programs Archive.

We greatly appreciate Mr. Clayton’s enthusiasm and dedication to the program. His photographs of public programs and office life are unique snapshots of the community that supports the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program, including interns, staff, volunteers, and community partners.

Mr. Clayton’s photography skills are well-known throughout the state. He can be reached for photos and events through his online contact page.

Please join us in thanking Mr. Cornelius Clayton for his outstanding volunteer service to the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program!

 The Samuel Proctor Oral History Program (SPOHP) at the University of Florida will host a series of public programs for the 2013-2014 academic year, presenting a dynamic selection of acclaimed speakers who will share their research with the campus and wider community. This series will illuminate consecutive generations of documentarians and scholars and illustrate how these individuals use their work to inform social change. This series was made possible by the Center for the Humanities and the Public Sphere Rothman Endowment for Workshops and Speaker Series in the Humanities.

On October 1st, 2013, SPOHP will launch the official premier of Siempre Adelante: A Look at Faith and the Immigrant Struggle. The screening will take place at 6 p.m. in the Pugh Hall Ocora in conjunction with Hispanic Heritage Month events. Siempre Adelante features the life narratives of four remarkable people living in Gainesville who emigrated from three different countries and share the struggle of always moving forward. This film offers an important glimpse into the growing immigrant community of Alachua county and north central Florida. This is SPOHP’s third full-length documentary, and the film was produced by Deborah Hendrix, Maria Munoz, and Jaime Zelaya. The screening is co-sponsored by Hispanic Heritage Month 2013.

On October 22nd, 2013, at 6 p.m. in the Pugh Hall Ocora,SPOHP will host a public panel entitled, “Stetson Kennedy: Re-Imagining Justice in the 21st Century.” The panel will commemorate the University of Florida’s acquisition of the personal papers of Stetson Kennedy, the renowned author,folklorist, and human rights activist from Florida. Panelists will include acclaimed author and FIU professor Marvin Dunn, former director of the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress Peggy Bulger, and Lucy Anne Hurston,author and niece of literary luminary Zora Neale Hurston. The event is co-sponsored by P.K. Yonge Library of Florida History at the University of Florida Smathers Libraries.

On December 4, 2013, SPOHP will host a student panel at 6p.m. at the Civic Media Center in downtown Gainesville entitled, “SPOHP in theDelta: 6th Annual Student Panel.” This annual event highlights student research initiatives resulting from SPOHP’s yearly research trip to the Mississippi Delta. Panelists will give a multimedia presentation and share insights after interviewing veterans of the civil rights movement, labor leaders, contemporary activists, and scholars living in the Delta region. This event is co-sponsored by the Civic Media Center.

On January 15, 2014, SPOHP will welcome Academy Award-nominated documentary filmmaker Tia Lessin. Lessin is the director and producer, along with Carl Deal of Citizen Koch and Trouble the Water. Lessin also co-produced several of Michael Moore’s films, including Capitalism: A Love Story, Fahrenheit 9/11, and Bowling for Columbine. At 2:30 p.m., Lessin will participate in a public panel in Ustler Hall, and at 6 p.m. Lessin will host a public screening of Trouble the Water, a redemptive tale of a couple in Louisiana surviving failed levees, bungling bureaucrats, and their own troubled past in this portrait of a community abandoned long before Hurricane Katrin hit the Gulf. The film was nominated for an Academy Award for best documentary feature in 2009 and an Emmy Award for best informational program in 2010. This event is co-sponsored by the UF Center for Women’s Studies and Gender Research.

On March 12, 2014 at 6 p.m., SPOHP will host a public panel in Pugh Hall called, “”‘If It Takes All Summer’: The 50th Anniversary of the St. Augustine Civil Rights Movement.” The city of St. Augustine became a national stage for the civil rights movement in 1964 when the federal government allocated funds for a segregated celebration of the 400thanniversary of the city’s founding. Martin Luther King Jr. came to northeast Florida and remarked that St.Augustine was “the most segregated city in America” at the time. He pledged to defeat segregation using nonviolence, even “if it takes all summer.” This panel will be a vibrant commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the St. Augustine movement and will bring recognition to the foot soldiers that sacrificed so much for equality.

All of these events will offer free parking on campus and a reception after the program. In addition, all public programs will be recorded and shared on SPOHP’s YouTube page for public and educational access in the future. SPOHP would like to thank the UF Center for the Humanities and thePublic Sphere for their Rothman Endowment for Workshops and Speaker Series in the Humanities, which support this year’s speaker series.  For more information, call (352) 392-7168 or visit our website .

The Samuel Proctor Oral History Program congratulates Dr. Regennia N. Williams of Cleveland State University on her receipt of SPOHP’s 2013 Julian Pleasants Travel Award. Dr. Williams is an Associate Professor of History at Cleveland State University in Cleveland,Ohio. She received her BAs in Liberal Studies and Urban Studies, as well as her MPA in Public Administration, from Cleveland State University. She earned her PhD in Social History and Policy from Case Western Reserve University.

This summer, Dr. Williams will conduct research in the Zora Neale Hurston papers at the University of Florida. This research will support her work on articles for a special Zora Neale Hurston issue of The Journal of Traditions and Beliefs, a scholarly publication she launched in the 2009-2010 academic year.  This publication is a follow-up activity for the September 2012 “Watching God and Reading Hurston” International Academic Conference, which commemorated the 75th anniversary of Their Eyes Were Watching God in2012-2013.  For more information on the conference, please visit

Dr. Williams also plans to develop new curriculum materials based on University of Florida manuscripts related to the life, art, and legacy of Zora Neale Hurston at the University of Florida,including Hurston’s work with Stetson Kennedy on the Florida Writers Project. The new curriculum materials will encourage history students and pre-service and in-service teachers to use maps, books, letters, etc. to explore the African roots of American cultures and contribute to “An Atlas of the Cultural History of the African Diaspora as Documented by Zora Neale Hurston,” an online publication that will consider the writer’s work throughout the American South and in Harlem, Haiti, Jamaica, Honduras, and other places in the African Diaspora. For information on Williams’ previous online publications, please visit her website,, and the Cleveland Chautauqua Blog at

Dr. Williams will be in residence at the University of Florida throughout the month of June.

The Julian Pleasants Travel Award was created in honor of Dr. Julian Pleasants, Director Emeritus of the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program and longtime Professor of History at the University of Florida.The Pleasants Travel Award promotes cutting edge oral history research at UF,and includes a stipend of $1,000. Competition is open to graduate students,faculty, and independent scholars throughout the United States.

For more information about the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program or the Julian Pleasants Travel Award, visit: .

News Release
Samuel Proctor Oral History Program (SPOHP), University of Florida
May 14, 2013

The Samuel Proctor Oral History Program at the University of Florida announces the release of a new documentary, “The Fire Within: The Rebuilding of a Downtown Community,” which tells the story of the destruction and rebirth of Trinity Episcopal Church in Gainesville, Florida. The documentary can be viewed on SPOHP’s YouTube channel:

On Thursday, April 25, the Spring 2013 academic intern class of the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program (SPOHP) gathered at Trinity Episcopal Church in Gainesville with members of Trinity’s congregation to premiere the new documentary, “The Fire Within: The Rebuilding of a Downtown Community.” The film was a culmination of four months of work between SPOHP interns and digital coordinators with the Trinity Episcopal community.

In January 1991, an arsonist burned down the historic Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in downtown Gainesville, Florida. A four-year rebuilding process brought back Holy Trinity’s worship site and ended in an expansion of church facilities.

Last year, Holy Trinity approached SPOHP about the idea of chronicling their church history. Students spent the past four months chronicling the aftermath of 1991 arson on Trinity’s congregation and the process of church building.

“Today we often talk about the need to build relationships between academia and the community at large, and the Holy Trinity event was a great opportunity to put that philosophy into practice,”said Erin Conlin, one of SPOHP’s internship coordinators. “Our interns were able to work with a warm, welcoming, and enthusiastic group of people, which makes for a great first interview experience. Holy Trinity in return received archival quality video and audio recordings of their oral histories, as well as a great documentary that they can share with the rest of the parish.”

Students conducted individual interviews with church members and then collaborated to pinpoint general themes in their interviews, including religion and civic engagement, women’s leadership,Trinity’s social ministry in Gainesville, and the resilience of the congregation to rebuild their church.  Students received technical training from SPOHP staff in video and audio editing techniques and worked together in peer focus groups to unify their interviews in one narrative, and then combined them into a documentary.

Emily Nyren, one of the interns, interviewed Georgia Vickers and was inspired by her work this semester to continue work in oral history. “When first assigned to conduct an interview with a member of Holy Trinity Episcopal Church, I wished that the project was more related to my interests. I wondered if religion would be a large focus of the project and feared being asked difficult questions. Thankfully, when I met my interviewee, I soon realized that I had nothing to worry about.  Georgia Pete Vickers kindly welcomed me into her home and we spent a few hours together after the interview where we drank tea and ate Girl Scout cookies. Georgia was the quintessential interviewee and I’m so grateful for her part in the process. The Holy Trinity Episcopal Church project became a highlight of my spring semester and seeing the work that the other interns and I created come to fruition was incredible. I’m staying on to volunteer with SPOHP this summer because I can’t get enough!”

Carolyn Horter, the Historiographer of Holy Trinity Episcopal Church, was similarly pleased with the outcome of the project. “I enjoyed interacting with the students, the faculty, and our parishioners as we worked on this project together.  It is a bit intimidating to be video-interviewed, and I think we were all a bit nervous about the process.  As well, seeing ourselves on the final tape created some self-conscious reactions.  The final video, The Fire Within, adds valuable pieces of personal history to our Archives.  It reviewed the fire and its impact on the church, and it gave evidence to our outreach programs in the downtown community.  As well, the individual interviews add greatly to our Archives and provide us with the opportunity to create even more videos with excerpts from each.  Our final evening pot luck supper was an enjoyable evening of fellowship—a wonderful chance to meet the hardworking students and their leaders.  The project was a worthwhile experience for Holy Trinity.”

“SPOHP shared its technical and intellectual expertise technical by helping Holy Trinity capture and archive its history, and we were able to package it in a beautiful video documentary,”said Conlin. “Holy Trinity opened its doors to SPOHP and gave us the opportunity and freedom to train our interns in a variety of skills including interviewing and video editing. In the end, we both benefited immensely.”

“This was a great experience in community-based oral history, and it builds on SPOHP’s research initiatives with faith-based communities in Florida and beyond,” remarked SPOHP director Paul Ortiz. The Fire Within is particularly relevant in discussions and courses of study on civic engagement, religion and social activism, women’s leadership, and church history.

For information about this and similar projects, please contact Tamarra Jenkins at and visit the web site of the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program:

News Release
Samuel Proctor Oral History Program (SPOHP), University of Florida
May 14, 2013


The Samuel Proctor Oral History Program congratulates its students, volunteers, and associated researchers who were recently recognized at the UF History Department’s Fourth Annual History Honors Conference and Awards Luncheon for undergraduates this past Saturday, April 6.

Congratulations to all of these wonderful students! We are so proud of your great work, and excited for the bright futures that are ahead of you.

Presenters/Honors Students
Victoria Petrova, “The Revolutionary Significance of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church”
Military, War, and International Diplomacy

Kapri Crowley, “Casting Light on the Dark Ages: Tropes of Medievalism in Fantasy Films”
Representations of Past & Present in Literature and Film

Monica Blair, “With All Deliberate Delay: School Desegregation in Alachua County, Florida, 1954-1971”
Desegregation and Activism in Florida Educational Institutions

Chris Duryea, “The Problem of Resegregation & Magnet Schools as a Solution”
Desegregation and Activism in Florida Educational Institutions

Anna Walters, “Competition, Guilt, and Fascination: Incorporating Jewish Memory into the Polish Present”
History and Memory: Family and National Identity in Twentieth-Century Europe

Senior Awards
Isht Vatsa was awarded the book “Fatal Purity: Robespierre and the French Revolution” by Dr. Eisenwein’s in recognition of his work in senior seminar this semester.

Future Scholars: 2014 University Scholars Recipients
Joanna Joseph, Genesis Lara, and Brittany Hibbert were chosen as University Scholars recipients for the 2013-2014 school year. Genesis Lara was also recently granted the Ann Regan Scholarship.

In this episode, Ralph Jones recalls witnessing the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Jones, a Navy Yeoman, served in an air squadron in the Pacific Theater of Operations, and awoke on December 7 hearing explosions. After World War II ended, Jones attended the University of Florida and served as a flight instructor during the Korean War. Dr. Julian Pleasants interviewed Jones on March 24, 1999.

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