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C O P Y R I G H T N O T I C E T h i s O r a l H i s t o r y i s c o p y r i g h t e d b y t h e U n i v e r s i t y o f S o u t h F l o r i d a L i b r a r i e s O r a l H i s t o r y P r o g r a m o n b e h a l f o f t h e B o a r d o f T r u s t e e s o f t h e U n i v e r s i t y o f S o u t h F l o r i d a C o p y r i g h t 2 0 0 7 U n i v e r s i t y o f S o u t h F l o r i d a A l l r i g h t s r e s e r v e d T h i s o r a l h i s t o r y m a y b e u s e d f o r r e s e a r c h i n s t r u c t i o n a n d p r i v a t e s t u d y u n d e r t h e p r o v i s i o n s o f t h e F a i r U s e F a i r U s e i s a p r o v i s i o n o f t h e U n i t e d S t a t e s C o p y r i g h t L a w ( U n i t e d S t a t e s C o d e T i t l e 1 7 s e c t i o n 1 0 7 ) w h i c h a l l o w s l i m i t e d u s e o f c o p y r i g h t e d m a t e r i a l s u n d e r c e r t a i n c o n d i t i o n s F a i r U s e l i m i t s t h e a m o u n t o f m a t e r i a l t h a t m a y b e u s e d F o r a l l o t h e r p e r m i s s i o n s a n d r e q u e s t s c o n t a c t t h e U N I V E R S I T Y O F S O U T H F L O R I D A L I B R A R I E S O R A L H I S T O R Y P R O G R A M a t t h e U n i v e r s i t y o f S o u t h F l o r i d a 4 2 0 2 E F o w l e r A v e n u e L I B 1 2 2 T a m p a F L 3 3 6 2 0
1 Sandy Freedman Oral History Project University of South Florida Interview with: Bob Seth Interviewed by: Robert Kerstein Location: Unknown (Tampa, FL) Date: November 10, 2005 Transcribed by: Rebecca Willman Audit edited by: Rachel Lisi (2/13/07) Final Edit by: Nicole Cox (09/11/07) [Tape 1, Side A] RK: This is an interview with Mr. Bob Seth, on November 10, 2005. Mr. Seth was a personal bodyguard for Mayor Sandy Freedman. Thanks a lot for coming down here. BS: Thank you. RK: Can yo u tell us a little bit about your background, where you were born and so on? BS: Yes I was born here in Tampa, 1940. Spent most of my life down in Port Tampa, which was a, at that time a separate little town, has since been incorporated into the city. Wen t to school locally, was in the service and came back to Tampa. Got married and joined the police department, was a traffic patrol officer on a motorcycle for a while, in vestigated accidents, hit and run detective. Moved over to check detective and towards the end of my career, I was in the intelligence, Criminal Intelligence Bureau. And they were charged with all the dignitary protection details. When Sandy Freedman cam e into the office, we were charged with our unit was charged with protecting her during the she wanted a bodyguard during her working hours and we did that. As time went on, I became eligible for retirement and I talked to ke to have me full time with her. So I retired from the police department and became her full time bodyguard, personal protection person. And stayed with her for the full eight years she was in office. RK: Do you know if the preceding mayor, Mayor Martine z, did he have a bodyguard as well? like Sandy Freedman did. He, if he was going to a large event, like Super Bowl I went to Super Bowl with him, to all the Super B owl parties and that kind of stuff when it was a real large crowd. A lot of times he would carry a person. And I think it was primarily to get the car parked easily [laughs]
2 RK: And do you have an understanding of why Mayo r Freedman wanted you as a full time, during working hours, bodyguard? BS: Well, as you probably know, Mayor Freedman was kind of a private person, and she was the first female mayor coming into Tampa. And I think her husband felt a lot more comfortable w ith her having somebody with her all the time. To the, with someone there, if she had to go a various times believe. RK: In discussing the Freedman administration in the past with a variety of people Some voiced a concern that the mayor had a bodyguard feeling there was a, perhaps a waste of across that at all? BS: From time to time we had some people question wh y she had a bodyguard. But we never had anybody that I thought was upset about that. They just wanted to know why the female, the first female mayor and that we did g o out we were out quite a bit at our activities were at night. And we did go into some unusual areas. She was, she really responded to anything involving city employees If we had a city employee hurt, we went no matter what time it was. If it was any kind of riot or upset, any of the service or anything, she wanted to go to that which was really a little bit hairy at times in those situations because she probably should go into. She wanted to ride through some of the areas at night to see how people were doing, what they were doing, that kind of stuff in the areas which was probably not done by most mayors before her. So she was real interested in how everybody in the city lived. And seen before. She just wanted to go, she was real, I guess, curious about how the rest of the city liv seen. And we would go over there and you know, several times a month just to see what was going on. RK: When I spoke to the mayor she suggested you might have some interestin g stories about some of the events that you and she attended. Can you tell us a few? BS: I had a, a couple of, I guess humorous stories. I guess the first one I can tell you about is, whenever we decided to start bringing we brought other people on board We had a regular team, security team from the police department. Everybody was a full time police officer that was on the team with the exception of me. And we picked these e to approve them, naturally.
3 And we had one officer that came in who has since become a very high ranking individual in the police department. But at the time, he came to us, he was a, I believe a patrolman, could have been a detective. But he was a per son that was wanting to do everything exactly right and was really on edge when he was with us. He wanted to make sure that what he did was right. And the first assignment he got by himself with her, he took Mayor Freedman and Bob Buckhorn to a party at Sw ann and Howard. And it was a There was quite a few people there. And of course this guy was real straight laced and was doing his job, standing by the wall. And Bu kind of a, a guy that likes to if he finds a weakness he likes to jump on it. And he knew this guy was, was real straight laced. And Buckhorn happened to know two of the ladies that were there. And he talked these ladies into really putting the moves on this detective that was with us. And I guess embarrassed this guy really, really bad. He kept moving around the room trying to avoid ave been telling him, what they were going to do to him. And it got to be of course Buckhorn thought that was the funniest thing he had seen in a while. And that was talk of the City Hall for a while after that. And this, this fellow has since gone on. He is a very conscientious individual and has since gone on to become a high ranking individual in the police department. But Buckhorn used to really do unusual things. We would go to churches. And sometimes churches have donation envelopes. I probably shou anyway, Buckhorn would fill out one of these envelopes for like a thousand dollars and donation was. And that was just, just, add more fuel to the fi re for Buckhorn. That was, that was one thing. Another thing that happened to us that probably was the funniest thing that ever happened to the mayor There was a fellow that was kin d of my partner, police partner named Bob Wright. Now on the weekends he would drive the mayor because I was usually off on Saturday or Sunday. Back when she had probably been in office a couple of years, we had a pretty Zoo in the M Q Zoo used to, one time a year big operation and, had thousands and thousands of people show up to this thing. So the mayor was going as she was goi ng to either open it up or talk or something, I riding in the right front seat where she usually rode. Buckhorn was in the back. And as they came down Sligh Avenue headed wes t toward North Boulevard, there was a police officer in the street directing traffic. This was a young officer, his name was Leon Green. Leon has closed North Boulevard into Lowry Park because all the parking lots were full, so he was directing all the tra ffic to go straight on past Boulevard, go down to another entrance into the park in the backside. Well as Bob Wright came down the street, he
4 turned on the right turn blinker like he was going to turn onto Boulevard. And of course Leon was flagging him on. And as Bob got closer, it was obvious he was going to make the right turn. Well Leon stopped all the traffic on the street, and walked over to the car. And as he walked over to the car, Bob Wright was lowering the window down. Now you car because it had the heavy tinted windows. And Leon knew Bob Wright. And as he approached the car, Bob rolled the window down, and Leon as he walked up to the car said, I should have known it was a fucking cop. And at that time Bob Wright said, Leon, do you know the mayor? And of course Leon panicked, Bob Buckhorn was just rolling over in the back on the floor. Leon ran into the park, and it was unusual there. Well Leo n run up to her and said, understand what was going on of course. And by that time Bob had done pulled up and related the story to her and up to this day if Mayor Freedman sees Leon Green, she goes up to him, and mak es sure RK: [Laughs] poor Leon, he, he, I that. The other thing that happened, I was with her one night at the Shriners, I, I guess its Club, s he said she had to use the restroom. So she went in the restroom. And I waited probably twenty, twenty ody basically is gone from the building because, because we were right at the end of it when everything was over. So when she decided to go in there, and there was a good thirty or thirty five minutes before she finally came out. Well I asked her what had happened in there and what had gone on in there. Well she had gone into the stall, and when she And there was nobody in the restroom. So about after 20 minutes of wai ting for somebody to come in, she managed to put her coat on the floor and crawl out under the stall, to get outside. Well, after she got out, she realized she had her purse on the hook inside the door. And Mayor Freedman, being pretty short could not jump high enough to get her hand in the door to get her purse off the inside of the hook. Well luckily towards ving without her purse and she RK: [Laughs] Any dangerous occasions where some harm was almost done? BS: Well, we had, we did have threats from time to time come to the police department for various reasons. And they never really panned out the ones that came from the
5 ice was out in the lobby. And at that time, the AIDS epidemic was going and this, this fellow was And at one time he brought a, a bloody t shirt in and had started throwin g it around the room, and then we had to restrain him on that and, and get him out. But strange enough as time went on, he became a very good friend of hers, and he really liked her. So he went from being the bad guy to the good guy. And would go out of hi s way to do anything at all for us towards the end there. He, he did pass away but he was, went from one side to the other. no, on the street. RK: Did you ever encou nter any hate mail? BS: Oh yeah, we used to get all of kinds. When I was in charge of the crayon mail, and things of saying crazy things. And I had boxes of the stu ff. Everything that would come in and if it looked like it was a nut case, I would get it. And there was some really were talking about even though it was just, nutty, RK: You resigned from the police department BS: 1987. RK: Can you talk at all about some of the changes that occurred in the police department during the Freedman administration? BS: Well the bigge st thing that occurred that everybody always talks about is the fact that she took the police cars away. As you know, up to her, probably, I guess Martinez gave the police officers their cars to take home. So every police officer had a car. And one of the reasons they did that was because of parking at the police department was a little tight. And if you had the cars left off with shifts, it gets to be a problem in the parking down there. And the other thing was, officers took better care of their cars when they got to take them home. It was their car, and it also [would] give the supervisors a little now who it was, be spending that gas for these guys driving home. So she took the cars. And that probably did more to damage her reputation with the police department th an anything she did. That was what they always talked about, was and they still talk about it today, the fact [that] she took their cars. Now today they have their cars back, so, that was but that was the one thing that really changed the police department
6 police? BS: Oh yeah, she was very, very intent on, on having a balanced minority, you know diversify the department, yes. She was that was one of her major goals. RK: Can you recall back to when you started, was it 1962? Were there any African Americans on the police force then, do you recall? BS: I know of, of about four. One of them was a detective, and two of them, three of t that. I, as a white officer had a black problem with the, that would give me so me And there was a, it was different world. RK: In the police department itself at that point were the whites integrated with the African Americans? BS: At that poi nt? RK: Yes. BS: No, no. They would roll call with us, but they went on their own, did their own thing RK: Were there any other significant changes prior to the Freedman admi nistration in terms of minority hiring? BS: Oh yeah, well that stopped probably I would imagine, probably before Bobby Martinez took his first term. We started riding together, the blacks started to ride with the whites, and then we put a lot of the blac k areas and the white areas of town [inaudible]. And, and whites in black areas do much in the black areas of town either truthfully. That was pretty much two separate nations. And they controlled their areas and we controlled try to control the white areas. But yeah, that, that was a different, different world. I mean, the amount of force we used to cause arrests and that kind of stuff was f abuse that the officers take today on the street. It was you got hurt real quick if you messed with an officer back then. There was a lot of respect for the officers back then, a lot more than there seems to be now. And, and the tactics was a lot differe up with a lot of mouth and a lot of problems because you were going to go. And of course back then we a little situation too where you could actually arrest u cold hold them for
7 three days on that suspicion. And detectives would go in usually the next day and talk to them, and see if there was enough evidence to hold them for a charge. And they would actually do the charge. But if he gave a detective a problem the detective could put an initial hold for another three days. So we could actually take a person out of service for a have an affect on a lot of people. They, they were a lot more cooperative back then [laughs]. So just, it was a different kind of police department. RK: And just so I understand it right, the whites police officers only patrolled the white areas? BS: W ell we went into black areas occasionally, like on a traffic stop or an accident, The white guys were the accident investigators. So if you had an accident and they would want something like that. But if you had a, you know, problem in the, one of the streets the black officer t of it we It was very, very seldom you had any problems in black areas that I remember. I never heard ing except maybe if, if they got into a problem where they had a fight or something, whatever that then just help them out, but no, they would take care of it. And they knew everybody. And they, I mean everybody knew them, and they knew everybody. So if yo u ever had an incident could probably name him for you. So that was, it was a great thing. I mean I remember the black detective was Sam Jones. Sam knew more about the black population in Tampa, it was just unbelievable. If we ever had anything at all, everybody always went to Sam, because he was the man that could probably put you on t hat guy. If it, about who that was. So, it was a, it was a different world. Like I said, it was just everybody wa s we were tough, probably a tighter knit group back then too, everybody looked out for each other a lot [inaudible] RK: You know if Mr. Jones is still alive? BS: Not the elder alive or not. He was the highest ranking black that I knew back then you know.
8 started riding together and everything. And, and then the blacks starte d making rank, you know. Up to that point you never saw a black sergeant or anything, I never saw a black sergeant. But then after he started moving up, then we, y ou, the whole thing started [inaudible]. Several of them moved up, and made rank and, was a little different than it used to be. RK: You said that you, when they [inaudible], a group in the police department that guarded dignitaries? BS: Yes. RK: Can you tell us about some of the dignitaries? BS: I was on, any time the secret service came into town, I stood I was on with Reagan, and I think there was some people remember the secret service, when the local pin. It stands for law enforcement colored pin with the letter E on it. And these, these pins, change color every, every city. So you never have the same pin. And interesting. Yeah, I, I did that for five years, and I was kind of the guy in the intelligence bureau that did all of the stuff for the secret service for protection, so I kind of got an early start at that. RK: Were you with the mayor when Queen Eliza beth came? BS: Yes. I was. RK: Did that work smoothly? a, quite a lady. R K: I remember when she came to the University of Tampa. BS: Yes, yes. RK: Did you have any dangerous situations with any of the dignitaries in Tampa?
9 detailed in what they deal in. You know, they know where to get through their defense usually h ave any problems with that. The only problem I ever had was, Sandy was in this Gasparilla parade, so, you know, they would throw things at her from time to time. That was just, drunks just being drunks. And Cuban sandwiches, beer cans, you know, not a lo of those fly out of the crowd. And that was about the most dangerous thing we had in a large crowd that I remember now. She went into some areas where we could have had some really, really good problems because of the fa When we had some, some civil disturbances on the eastside of town, she wanted to go in should we should have had a little more coverage on that before she got in there. But it worked out fine, there was no problems, just made me nervous as the person who was responsible for her getting out of there safely. And you know, to go into those areas without the proper protection was not probably what I would have elected to do. Being not the one in charge, we went, so [laughs]. RK: How would you characterize Mayor Freedman as your, whatever term you want to use, supervisor, I guess? BS: Oh she was, she was says she was the ideal politician, because if you ever told her about your family, she would remember names, and she would remember what your kids did and, and I mean, it conversation and st arted over again. She could just talk to them about their family and, you know you said he was going to college does he still have so and so for a teacher? And just, I never saw another mayor like that, I was just it amazed me to watch her. She was, she wa s the ideal, I think, the ideal politician, I respect her. Because she, she has a memory like it is unbelievable. If you ever told her, she remembered it, I tell you. RK: Did you go with her when she would for example, attend, just have personal meetings BS: A lot of times. Now, a lot of times she would be go into a, a room with them, and I to the part where she would go into a private meeting or RK: Were there certain people in the business community she would meet with often, do you recall?
10 ly I know she had some she talked to quite a bit. They were always coming to the office. It was, you know, I favored one over the other. I mean it was, being the m meetings. We were, she was scheduled in meetings all day long usually. And from the time we hit the office until we left to go home at nigh t, she had meetings. And then when between you know, nine, ten and eleven at night. So it was a, it was a full day. It was automatic. RK: Do you have any memories of the later days of her administration as far as her feelings towards leaving office? BS: No she, Mayor Freedman was, she was a super person RK: Mayor Freedman is known for trying to improve race relations in Tampa. Did you observe anything along those lines? BS: Yes. Mayor Freedman really, really did go out of her way, I thought, to bring the black community in line with the white community as much as she could. She would, we went to a lot of meetings with them at night and during the day too. She was always trying to think of ways to improve their living condi tions. She, we did a lot, I told you, a lot of going around in the evenings and seeing how people lived and what they did and why they did it. She wanted to know a lot about it. How those people lived and, and why they lived they way they did and how we co uld improve the ways that they lived. And I know one of her big things was trying to get the, what we called 22 nd street, the assisted living areas over there torn down she wanted to tear those down and rebuild them. And at the time there was some problem with the federal government not allowing that to happen. But now that since that has been changed and they have been torn down, and getting that started, I know that w standard of living as much as she could. RK: So you would say you had a, a good eight years or nine years with the mayor. BS: Oh, oh yeah. We had a, we had yes. It was a great, great time. Except for the hours, if there was a negative it was amount of anything she could do for you she would. She was, she was a great great person and
11 everybody that was on the team with us agreed with that. She would, some of the people that was what it all went back to, the fact that she took you about the fact that she raised their salaries considerably while she was in there. They, they went from mediocre pay to very good pay while she was there. But the police department was kind of like that. When they get on something, they, they stay on one thing and the police sad but true. BS: Oh no, no. I went back to the police department when she left. And as a civil ian, and artment. I take care of any problem the business district has, and any problem we can solve in the police department we solve it. RK: Did Mayor Greco also have police protection? BS: He, he was kind of like Martinez, he only used a driver when he needed one for a Like I say, majority of the time, that was more for parking and getting them in there and hat they wanted a personal protection guy, they wanted now Mayor Iorio does use a person from the police schedule is or anything, but I know he is assigned to her. RK: Thank you very, very much for speaking with me, Mr. Seth. BS: Thank you Doctor, Thank you sir.
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interviewed by Robert Kerstein.
Tampa, Fla. :
University of South Florida Tampa Library,
1 sound file (28 min.) :
digital, MPEG4 file +
e 1 transcript (digital, PDF file)
Tampa Mayor Sandy Freedman administration oral history project
Interview conducted on November 10, 2005.
Mode of access: World Wide Web.
During the tenure of Tampa Mayor Sandy Freedman (1986-1995), Bob Seth served as her personal bodyguard. The interview begins with Mr. Seth discussing his background and growing up in Port Tampa. He goes on to discuss his time working for the Tampa Police Department and how he met the Mayor. Mr. Seth also talks about various dignitaries who visited Tampa during Mayor Freedman's tenure and how the Tampa Police Department worked alongside the U.S. Secret Service for many of these visits. He also describes what it was like meeting one of these dignitaries Queen Elizabeth. Mr. Seth discusses Mayor Freedman's desire to improve race relations within the city and the steps that she took to improve the minority community's standard of living. The interview ends with an overview of Mr. Seth's impressions of Mayor Freedman and what it was like working for her.
Office of the Mayor.
x Race relations.
Kerstein, Robert J.
University of South Florida Libraries.
Florida Studies Center.
Oral History Program.
University of South Florida.
y USF ONLINE ACCESS