MARCH 19, 1953
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., Wednesday—There has been a marked improvement in race relations in Florida. Mrs. Mary McLeod Bethune said to me yesterday, as we drove from the airport, "We have come a long way."
I came here to see Mrs. Bethune and attend a board meeting of the Bethune-Cookman College, here, of which Mrs. Bethune is president emeritus and trustee. I certainly had not expected that any attention would be paid to my arrival or departure, but there were people at the airport to meet me, both white and colored.
Mrs. Bethune said that she had been offered automobiles for my use and there was an open one to bring us from the airport to her house at the college. Her student band and the college color guard in uniform met us about three or four blocks from the school and marched ahead of us. Our pace was very slow and the sun was hot, but nevertheless I think it gave pleasure to the children on the way home from school to see and hear this stimulating band marching down the street. Everyone waved at us in friendly fashion.
The mayor not only met us and escorted us to the house, but in a very few minutes he was back at the house, ready to escort us in a drive around the city. We spent an hour passing by many lovely homes and then driving along the wonderful Daytona beach. It is a world-famous beach, and I remember many years ago driving a measured mile along it at breakneck speed with my brother, Hall.
We went slowly enough yesterday so that we could see how many apartments there are and the great number of people. Many beach devotees put up shelters of their own, lie in the sun, go in for a dip and come out again and spend a good part of the day looking out to sea over curling white waves that break on the beach. The shore line shelves very gently, so one can go out a long way. Yesterday the waves were not big enough to be unpleasant.
Our flight from Sarasota to Daytona was slightly bumpy because we made a good many stops and flew very low, but it interested me very much to be able to get a good idea of the country and see the many orange groves. Some of the woods were so smothered in hanging moss that the trees were dying. This is a very picturesque and graceful appendage and I have come to think of it as being a part of the landscape in South Carolina, Georgia and Florida, but it is destructive, too. If it is not taken out of the trees it will eventually destroy them.
At the airport in Daytona two sweet little girls presented Miss Thompson and me with old-fashioned bouquets of flowers. One of the youngsters was Mrs. Bethune's great-granddaughter. The other had her grandmother in tow and was certainly giving both her grandmother and her companion a race as we left the airport. I could just make out the little fair-haired girl pulling the black-haired one after her to get into the car with her father first.
There was a dinner at the college last night at which a George Washington Carver memorial scroll was presented to Mr. Reeves for his work in race relations. Also, the foundation to benefit the college here was announced.
This morning Mrs. Bethune had some ladies at breakfast and by 10 o'clock the meeting of the board of trustees began. Later I was given an honorary degree.
Somehow we wedged in a radio interview, too, and I still got away in plenty of time for the drive to Jacksonville and a 7:20 p.m. plane. Ordinarily, I would be anxiously wondering what the weather in New York City would be like but the weather is so beautiful here you cannot imagine it being bad anywhere else.