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Jacksonville’s  Consolidated Government
After World War II, the government of the City of Jacksonville began to increase spending to fund new building projects in the boom that occurred after the war. Mayor W. Haydon Burns oversaw the construction of a new city hall, civic auditorium, public library and other projects that created a dynamic sense of civic pride. However, the development of suburbs and a subsequent wave of "white flight" left Jacksonville with a much poorer population than before. Much of the city's tax base dissipated, leading to problems with funding education, sanitation, and traffic control within the city limits. In addition, residents in unincorporated suburbs had difficulty obtaining municipal services such as sewage and building code enforcement. In 1958, a study recommended that the City of Jacksonville begin annexing outlying communities in order to create the needed tax base to improve services throughout the county. Voters outside the city limits rejected annexation plans in six referendums between 1960 and 1965.

In the mid 1960s, corruption scandals began to arise among many of the city's officials, who were mainly elected through the traditional good ol' boy network. After a grand jury was convened to investigate, nearly a dozen city officials were indicted, and others were forced to resign. Population was on the decline. Economic growth had stalled. Property taxes were skyrocketing.

"Consolidation," that is, the consolidation of the Jacksonville city government and the Duval County government,  gained momentum during this period. It gained support from both inner city blacks (who wanted more involvement in government) and whites in the suburbs (who wanted more services and more control over the central city). The simultaneous disaccredation of all fifteen of Duval County's public high schools in 1964 added momentum to the proposals for government reform. Lower taxes, increased economic development, unification of the community, better public spending and effective administration by a more central authority were all cited as reasons for a new consolidated government.

A consolidation referendum was held in 1967, and voters overwhelmingly voted for a centralized government as a way to cut duplication, increase efficiency and restore confidence. On October 1, 1968, the governments merged to create the consolidated City of Jacksonville. The day was highlighted by a parade and fireworks that attracted 200,000 people. The new city limits covered an area of 841 square miles, 20 times its former size. Overnight Jacksonville became the largest city in land area in the entire world. The city held the record for many years until sparsely populated Juneau, Alaska, annexed itself in to the record book.

Jacksonville's consolidation with Duval County in 1968 ended much duplication of urban services and provided political access for minorities. It also kept middle-income residents as taxpayers and voters, while attracting national corporations to relocate, providing jobs and tax revenues.
Jim Rinaman served on the Local Government Study Commission, a group of 50 nonpoliticians who guided the city through formation of a new government. By state legislative action, the commission was created October 1, 1965 with a report due to the “members of the Florida legislature from Duval County on or before March 1, 1967.”

Rinaman says Channel 4 and its news reports and documentaries molded much of the public’s opinion in favor of consolidation. “Mayor Hans Tanzler endorsed consolidation even though he’d have to run again in a year if it passed,” said Rinaman.

Click here to read Rinaman's Outline of the History of Consolidated Government in Jacksonville, Florida (MS-Word .doc) written in 2003.

President Emeritus’s View of Consolidation

Consolidation ranks as one of the two most important events in city’s history

In 2008 we will celebrate the 40th anniversary of Jacksonville’s consolidated government. It has been described as “a quiet revolution.” Citizens were disgusted with corruption in city and county governments and frustrated with officials who could not or would not address the needs a growing urban area.

So local government was reinvented. A Local Government Study Commission was appointed to design a better local government. Voters approved the new, consolidated government in 1967. It took office on Oct. 1, 1968.

Consolidation has been described as one of the two most important events in Jacksonville history, second only to the 1901 fire. All of this has special relevance for me. As a newspaper reporter at The Miami Herald, I became interested in the Jacksonville story and applied for a job at the television station (WJXT TV-4) that was crusading for reform. Few, if any, TV stations were courageous enough to get into investigative journalism in those days and I was impressed.

My TV-4 career started in 1967 as an investigative reporter, focusing on the transition to the new government, which was to take office Oct. 1, 1968. Later, for the next 20 years, I did the nightly editorials on TV-4. In another career, I served five years as an at-large member of the city council. (But that’s another story.)

Jacksonville should be very proud of its accomplishments in the nearly 4 decades since the creation of this city's new government.

Jacksonville’s greatest moment

“Not a cloud marred the sky…It was a lovely day.”

“Not a cloud marred the sky as August 8 [1967] dawned on Jacksonville and Duval County. It was a lovely day – the kind of day that makes people want to get out and do things. A lot of them did. More than 86,000 Duval Countians went to the polls and voted. They voted overwhelmingly in favor of consolidation…Of 86,079 votes cast, 54,493 were for consolidation, 29,768 against. It was almost a two to one victory…”  [from the book, A Quiet Revolution.]

When consolidation took effect on October 1, 1968, Jacksonville was suddenly transformed from a city 39 square miles to an astounding 841 square miles – the largest metropolitan city in land area in the world. Overnight the city’s population catapulted to 27th in the nation from a 75th ranking a day earlier.

In 1993, to mark the 25th anniversary of consolidation, an updated version of Richard Martin’s 1968 book, Consolidation: Jacksonville-Duval County was published under a new name, A Quiet Revolution. A few of the last remaining copies of this paperback are available for sale at the society’s headquarters for $15.

Consolidation's Most Famous Photo

A bold photo for a new city: Actress Lee Meredith poses with Jacksonville Mayor Hans Tanzler on Oct. 1, 1968, at consolidated Jacksonville's new border at Florida 13 and Julington Creek. The photo was featured in The Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens' 2006 exhibit: "Picturing Jacksonville: 150 Years of Photography."
It was interesting to watch people's reactions as they looked up at the photo on the banner hanging outside The Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens touting a current exhibit: "Picturing Jacksonville: 150 Years of Photography" back in July 2005.

Some people smiled almost sheepishly, as if they had just been told a joke that they know they shouldn't laugh at but can't help themselves. Some smiled and shook their heads. And you could not quite tell if they missed those days or were glad they're gone.

This is what they were looking at: A 1968 photo of Mayor Hans Tanzler celebrating one of the most significant events in Jacksonville history -- consolidation of county and city -- by standing on a ladder and putting up a new city limit sign at Florida 13 and Julington Creek... with the help of an actress.

OK, at least initially, that's what people were looking at. The actress, Lee Meredith, arching her back and throwing her chest out, kicking one high heel back. Then Tanzler smiling. Then, almost like a punch line, the man down below holding the ladder, looking up with his own sheepish grin.

Although it was one of the more recent photos in the exhibit -- which included an 1855 portrait of Jacksonville's first mayor -- it was an image that felt every bit as dated as the ones of people wearing their Sunday best to the beach in 1919, or the King Kong marquee at the Arcade Theatre in 1933. It reminded how times, and bras, have changed.

"That picture has become sort of the icon for Consolidation, whether you like the photo or not," said Wayne Wood, local historian and author. "A historian's role isn't to decide what is politically correct or incorrect," Wood said. "History is a way to document moments in time. And this photo does that."

Tanzler recalls sitting around a table with his staff, brainstorming about ways to capitalize on Jacksonville's new status as the largest city in land mass in the contiguous United States. "Jack Newsome, a big, tall, ex-newspaper guy, was my public relations guy," Tanzler said when asked about the controversial photo. "It was his idea."

Meredith was a 30-year-old actress whose career was built around, well, her build. Years later, in The Sunshine Boys, she played a sexy nurse in a skit with Walter Matthau.

"I think I have a chest cold," she said, coughing and leaning toward him.

"Looks more like an epidemic to me," Matthau said.

In 1968, the year of Consolidation, Meredith was performing in Jacksonville at the Alhambra Dinner Theatre. And Newsome, hoping to get media to show up for the sign changing for the Bold New City of the South, arranged for her to be there.  "Jack wanted her to put up the sign and me to hold the ladder," Tanzler said, laughing. "I didn't just fall off the turnip truck. If I do that, it's going to be immediately assumed I had advantages a lot of people would like to have."

Both Wood and Emily Lisska, executive director of the Jacksonville Historical Society, said the photo wouldn't have been their first choice as a banner for the photo exhibit they helped design for the Cummer. Yet as they talked about it, both found reasons to support it.

"So many elements are coming together there," Lisska said. "A huge moment in the city's history, the white-hat dashing mayor, and on top of this a statement about the social history of the '60s. It is undeniably one of the great photos of late 20th-century Jacksonville. The conversation, the reaction, the reflection that picture stirs... the more I talk about that photo, the more I love it."

A bold photo for a new city: Actress Lee Meredith poses with Jacksonville Mayor Hans Tanzler on Oct. 1, 1968, at consolidated Jacksonville's new border at Florida 13 and Julington Creek. The photo was featured in The Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens' exhibit: "Picturing Jacksonville: 150 Years of Photography" and is also featured in the Jacksonville Historical Society's book, The Jacksonville Family Album.

Only consolidation and a “white” hat remain

The year is 1968. President Lyndon B. Johnson announces he will not seek or accept nomination for another term. Martin Luther King Jr. is slain in Memphis. Senator Robert F. Kennedy is assassinated. 60 Minutes, the news magazine, airs for the first time. The rock musical Hair opens on Broadway. The Beatles win a Grammy for album of the year. The cost of a first class stamp is five cents. And, on Oct. 1, a new consolidated government takes office in Jacksonville.

On that October 1, 1968 Consolidation Day, a time capsule was buried underground on the river “side” of the 1960 City Hall by Mayor Hans Tanzler and J.J. Daniel, chairman of the Local Government Study Commission. The etched stone cover mandated the capsule be opened October 1, 2000.

The Jacksonville Historical Society participated the October 2000 unearthing and received the capsule and contents. The society houses the nearly unrecognizable contents and maintains an inventory of the items that were clearly soaking wet for most of their 32 years underground. Interestingly, the one item still identifiable, although highly altered, is the white hat of the tireless supporters of that quiet revolution. The “white” hat is on display at the society’s headquarters.


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Jacksonville Historical Society
317 A. Philip Randolph Blvd.
Jacksonville, FL 32202-2217
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Emily LisskaExecutive Director
Meghan Powell Office Administrator
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Jacksonville Historical Society  Archives at Old St. Luke’s
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