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The Press: In Florida

2 minute read

Marlen Pew, editor of Editor & Publisher, uncovered last week an amazing tale of the Florida celery belt.

It was the story of Rolland L. Dean who, after graduation from Yale in 1923, became editor and publisher of the Sanford, Fla., Daily Herald. The big man of Sanford was Forrest Lake, mayor for 20 years, president of the most potent local bank, business and social dictator. Editor Dean, naturally enough, was taken into the friendship of Mayor Lake. But in 1926, Editor Dean discovered that Mayor Lake had pocketed the difference between $100 and $95.10 on a number of town bonds which he had sold to Manhattan financiers. He immediately published the story, beginning: “An optimist is a man who sells bonds for 95.10 and calls it par.”

Mayor Lake replied by starting a newspaper of his own and getting Sanford advertisers to boycott the Daily Herald. Editor Dean redoubled the investigations of Mayor Lake’s strange behavior, charged him with tyrannical rule and misappropriation of funds. The issue came to an ugly head on Aug. 5, 1927, when Mayor Lake was re-elected by a majority of 22 votes. At midnight, a mob of drunken hoodlums started out to punish Editor Dean for maligning People’s Choice Lake. Editor Dean stood in the doorway of his home with an automatic shotgun, informed the mob that he would shoot dead the first man who stepped on his porch. “You scoundrels, get out of here and go to hell,” said Editor Dean. They went to the plant of the Daily Herald; but the employees of Editor Dean kept them away from the presses with loaded revolvers. They hung crepe on the door of the Daily Herald’s offices, then sheepishly went home to sleep it off.

Next morning, the bank of Mayor Lake was found to be not open for business and Mayor Lake was found nowhere in Sanford. Later, the Florida bank examiner’s report showed that Mayor Lake’s bank owed nearly $1,000,000 and that he had swindled the city of Sanford out of several hundred thousand. A fortnight ago, Mr. Lake aged 62, was sentenced to 14 years of hard labor in the state penitentiary.

Today, Editor Dean is the big man of Sanford. “But,” said Marlen Pew, “try to get Rolland Dean to say anything concerning his adventure—Editor & Publisher could not.”

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