Larem Graves


What happens to the pursuit of truth and the advancement of learning in such an atmosphere as the heresy hunters and thought controllers have created in parts of the South can only be conjectured,"1 historian C. Vann Woodward wondered in his essay on "The Unreported Crisis in the Southern Colleges," published in 1962-the same year that members of the Florida Legislative Investigation Committee (FLIC) descended on the University of South Florida (USF). The Committee had come to Tampa to investigate reports of communism, homosexuality, obscenity in course materials, and professors' alleged attacks on students' religious beliefs. This emboldened advance carried the Committee into territory far removed from its legislative mandate, and exposed it to new criticisms. Thus far the Committee's actions against civil rights activists, and then gay and lesbian educators-however egregious-had fallen within the boundaries of the dominant ideology in the region, in fact, the nation. Indeed, the Committee's very existence came about as part of the State's effort to preserve segregation in the wake of the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision. When the NAACP entangled, and finally defeated the Committee in the court system, it sustained its legislative life by taking on the so-called problem of homosexuality in the school system. In the 1950s and 1960s homosexuality was an issue that no court, indeed no public voice, would yet defend. When State Senator Charley Johns and his Committee launched its USF investigation in 1962, it had been frustrated by the NAACP maneuvers but still remained relatively unchecked.