Loranne Ausley’s racist family legacy complicates her run for state senate

by | Sep 27, 2020


 

Since at least 2017, State Representative Loranne Ausley has been an outspoken proponent of tearing down the Confederate monument in front of Tallahassee’s capital complex. She’s given speeches and even supported a bill introduced in 2019 to remove it or replace it with a plaque:

“For those who say we need to preserve history, we can put those symbols in a museum,” she shouted at a rally in 2017. “But they do not belong in the public square. And I ask you to pay attention to politics, because who is elected really does matter…This is the question: what legacy am I leaving…what legacy are we leaving?

In the wake of nationwide protests that swept across Tallahassee in the summer of 2020, Ausley posted photos on social media professing support for the Black Lives Matter movement.

On July 4th, she posted a photo on Twitter posing in front of six Black students heading to a Black Lives Matter rally. Except she wasn’t going to the event herself, though. She was just out on her regular jog, passed them on the sidewalk, and used them as props for her campaign before continuing on her run.

On May 31st, just days after the death of George Floyd, Ausley posted on Twitter:

Been doing a lot of reading, watching and listening to try to process all that is happening from my position of privilege.

Ausley’s “position of privilege,” it turns out, is a rich family legacy with southern roots that include generations of Saxons, McSwains and, of course, Ausleys. But she’s never publicly acknowledged how her family acquired its significant wealth, and how they’ve managed to hold onto it, through the Civil War, the fight for Civil Rights, and into modern times. The true story threatens to shatter a carefully curated narrative that she’s just a humble member of a long line of public servants that hail from a clan of Southern Democrats: hardworking farmers, bankers, lawyers, politicians and newspapermen, all pillars of the community, who helped shape Tallahassee as we know it today.

The untold story is much less flattering.

Beginning in the mid-1800’s, Loranne Ausley’s direct ancestors bought, owned and sold slaves to work on the family plantation, and later used their wealth to start or buy into several iconic Tallahassee businesses, including Capital City Bank, the Ausley McMullen law firm, and the Tallahassee Democrat newspaper, which has played no small part in helping to whitewash the family’s past. The Ausleys partnered with avowed white supremacists, and they fought bitterly against desegregation on buses and schools through the 1950’s, 1960’s and 1970’s. Their family-owned bank has even been accused of discriminating against employees in 2001 and of discriminatory lending practices in 2003.

And Loranne Ausley has never acknowledged any of it publicly.

Several attempts were made to reach Ausley for comment for this story through her campaign website and through a top campaign consultant. She never responded.

GROWING COMMUNITY BACKLASH 

Now, voters are questioning the authenticity of her recent racial activism, bolstered by her social media selfies in front of Black Lives Matter signs, wondering aloud why Ausley has never previously mentioned those shameful chapters in her family’s history. And disavowed them.

“The facts are the facts. You disclose them and be transparent,” says Khana Aramint, a Black woman who plans to vote in November, but not for Ausley. “She benefited from her family’s history, and now she’s not even acknowledging the remnants of that history.”

For Ausley, a white Democrat campaigning for State Senate against Marva Preston, a Black female Republican, the timing of the revelations couldn’t be worse. After a summer of racially-charged protests, riots and violence, Black Democrats have grown increasingly skeptical of politicians who use social media to signal solidarity with Black Lives Matter, but never go further.

That opportunistic photo in front of the six Black Lives Matters protesters that she posted while jogging in July?  Black activists at the rally fired back at her, too.

“If u wouldve been @ the capitol u wouldve heard them speaking about how Independence Day does not mark freedom for all, so why should it be celebrated?” -Twitter user @speshulsnoflayk

Others are more agitated, and energized.

“There’s no time to continue on the merry-go-round of deception when Loranne Ausley could have just stopped and told the plain truth,” says Warren Brown, a Black social activist who is going around Tallahassee putting up yard signs warning the community about Ausley’s family legacy that he says is built “upon the lineage of slavery.”

WHITE SUPREMACIST LINKED TO AUSLEY FAMILY LAW FIRM

Ausley’s devotion to the family legacy is so strong that she kept her family name through two marriages. It’s a name that many Tallahassee residents should recognize. In 1930, her grandfather, Charles Ausley, started what is now Tallahassee’s oldest law firm, Ausley McMullen.

The firm began as Ausley, Collins and Truett. Racism tainted the family practice from early on. In 1948, a man who would become one of Ausley’s most notable associates at the firm, a young attorney named George Harrold Carswell, was running for elected office in Georgia. He gave a campaign speech at an American Legion event in Wilkinson, Georgia, where he lamented to the assembled guests that:

“Foremost among the raging controversies in America today is the great crisis over the so-called Civil Rights Program,” and suggested it might be better described as the “Civil-Wrongs Program.”

If there remained any doubt about the racial views of the man who would become Charles Ausley’s most infamous associate, he later made those views crystal clear as he closed out his speech:

“I yield to no man as a fellow candidate, or as a fellow citizen, in the firm, vigorous belief in the principles of white supremacy, and I shall always be so governed.”

Ausley hired him the next year.

The speech is now preserved for posterity in the Congressional Record, because Carswell was later nominated to be a United States Supreme Court Justice by President Richard Nixon. But Carswell’s views on white supremacy weren’t the only obstacle he faced at his confirmation hearing. Another scandal also surfaced: his controversial role in keeping Black people out of Tallahassee’s Capital City Country Club in the 1950’s. The story cost him dearly. Thirty-eight Democrats and thirteen Republicans voted against him, rejecting his nomination by a vote of 45-51.

The scandal made national news the morning of Carswell’s Supreme Court confirmation hearing. But Carswell didn’t act alone:

The 1956 machinations to block Blacks from using the Capital City Country Club helped end Carswell’s shot at the Supreme Court, but also involved Charles Ausley (Loranne’s grandfather) and a handful of other prominent Tallahassee businessmen. Together, they are alleged to have conspired with city officials to buy the club from the city for $1, and make the club private to prevent Black golfers, including the Florida A&M collegiate team, from using the course. The Black student athletes were forced to practice their golf game in a nearby cow pasture.

For his part, Carswell denied that he had any knowledge of the country club’s segregationist scheme, claiming only that he bought a share in the newly formed club. And during his 1970 confirmation hearing, he told the assembled United States Senators that he disavowed his previous remarks about white supremacy.

But there is no record of the Ausley family ever publicly disavowing their own culpability in the country club scheme, nor did Ausley distance himself from Carswell. In fact, Ausley continued to defend him and his less-than-stellar record on desegregation. It was a record that Ausley shared.

Ausley was a consistent advocate for continuing segregationist policies. During the same year that he and Carswell engaged in the Country Club discrimination scheme, Ausley played a key role in another racially charged incident, again on the wrong side of history, that helped kick-start the civil rights movement in the Tallahassee:

Sixty years later, it seems impossible to believe there was a time when blacks and whites were not allowed to sit together on Tallahassee city buses. It seems impossible to believe blacks were not allowed to sit in the front seats of a bus. Those seats were reserved for white people. But in 1956, it was the law in Tallahassee, then still a small city of strict racial separation…

On May 26, 1956, two Florida A&M students changed the course of history. Wilhelmina Jakes and Carrie Patterson boarded a Tallahassee city bus on South Adams Street and plopped down on a front bench beside a white woman. The bus driver ordered them to move to the back of the bus. When the two students refused, the driver drove to a nearby gas station and called the police. Jakes and Patterson were arrested and charged with placing themselves in a position to “incite a riot.”

In the ensuing negotiations, Charles Ausley represented the bus company, some of whose drivers were notorious for verbally degrading Black passengers.

 

SLAVE OWNERS, PLANTATIONS, AND MODERN DISCRIMINATION ALLEGATIONS

The Ausley family’s link to pro-segregation policies are just the tip of the iceberg. They also have direct ties to slavery in the Antebellum South. The Last Will and Testament of Henry Saxon, Loranne Ausley’s great-great-great grandfather, which dates back to 6 September 1855, stated clearly his desire to keep at least five slaves on his plantation for one year after his death:

Jane.

Sally.

Harrison.

Charles.

Lucy.

After working for a full year after his death to harvest “one crop,” Saxon directed that these five slaves be sold, not emancipated, and the “proceeds divided among my six youngest children.”

A copy of Henry Saxon’s last will and testament, 6 September, 1855

 

In a 2014 story about the naming of Ausley Road, the Tallahassee Democrat draws a direct line from Henry Saxon to George Saxon, founder of Capital City Bank, and to Ausley’s grandfather, the previously mentioned segregationist, Charles Ausley:

Ausley Road in west Tallahassee is named for physician and longtime Leon County Commissioner Charles Ausley — whose son, grandson and great granddaughter [editor’s note: this is Loranne Ausley] became equally prominent Tallahassee residents.

Charles Merritt Ausley was a native of Camden, S.C., who earned an undergraduate degree at the University of Tennessee and his medical degree at the Baltimore College of Medicine. He came to Tallahassee in 1901 and established a medical practice. In 1906 he married Elizabeth Saxon — daughter of George Saxon, founder of Capital City Bank and Tallahassee real estate magnate.

And Henry Saxon’s slaves weren’t the only direct link to the “Antebellum Ausley” legacy. In 2003, Loranne’s own father, DuBose Ausley, was listed as the registered agent of the Horseshoe Plantation, located near Killearn in Northeast Tallahassee. In 1840, two decades before the Civil War, Horseshoe Plantation housed somewhere between 130 and 150 slaves. It changed hands many times over the years, ultimately becoming what is now modern-day Killearn. The designation as Horseshoe Plantation’s registered agent simply means DuBose Ausley has been designated to receive legal, government and business correspondence on the plantation’s behalf. It’s not clear what connection he or the Ausley family, had to the original Horseshoe Plantation.

But regardless of the reason for his connection there, DuBose himself has also been personally accused of racial discrimination. While serving on the board of the Capital Health Plan in 1987 and 1988, Tallahassee resident Edward Holifield accused him of discriminating against Black doctors:

 

The Ausley family also owns a stake in Capital City Bank, which was founded by Confederate Army veteran George Saxon, son of the aforementioned slave owner, Henry Saxon. In recent years, Capital City Bank has been the subject of a racial discrimination lawsuit, with at least one employee claiming he was not promoted because of his race:

(Tallahassee Democrat, 2/28/2001)

Two years later, the Ausley’s Capital City Bank was criticized in a report over “discriminatory lending practices” in which it was found that they denied loans to Black applicants three times as often as whites:

(Tallahassee Democrat, 5/15/2003)

 

LORANNE AUSLEY’S PERSONAL WEALTH

In an era of “white privilege” and “cancel culture,” Loranne Ausley’s political candidacy has thus far managed to skate through the campaign cycle without a second thought from most Florida Democrats. To those that know her, she is viewed as a wealthy former state representative with deep family ties to the city.  Few voters have bothered to look up her mandatory financial disclosure she filed in June of this year. On it, she claimed a net worth of $2.4 million. Over $700,000 of that comes directly from her share of ownership in Capital City Bank:

(Ausley’s full financial disclosure can be viewed here.)

The revelations raise serious questions about whether Loranne Ausley’s social media solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement is genuine, or mere lip service. Should she be held accountable for the sins committed by previous generations? Better yet, is there anything Ausley can do to win back votes from those who are disgusted by her family’s history?

For Khana Aramint, the answer is no.

Too much time has elapsed. She had a lot of opportunity to be more forthcoming about her family history,” Aramint says. “That’s a history which she has strategically concealed. And the reality is that a lot of people put blind faith in politicians who aren’t deserving of it.”

 

 

15 Comments

  1. J. R. Wilson

    Another job well done by Mr. Burgess! As they say – “Just the Facts”.

    Another case of a hypocritical Democrat – one of MANY. It’s too bad so many fall for their rhetoric and fail to look for or acknowledge the facts.

    Biden is another great example – his current words don’t come close to showing the man (and politician) that he has been for the last 40 years! All fluff – no substance!!

    Reply
  2. Marcus

    Wow. Just wow. She throwin stones in a glass house

    Reply
  3. KDM

    Great story.

    Reply
  4. Dr. JD

    while I may agree to the authenticity of the history, something should have been said about the typewritten probate in 1855-56. typewriters weren’t invented for another 15 or so years. the document shown, if true, is obviously a typed transcription done many years later. The central point of the story, well-written as it is, tells a compelling history of a shameless, hypocritical political opportunist. Shameful, Loranne, just shameful.

    Reply
  5. G Anderson

    The matriarch of the Ausley Family along with Children’s advocate Bubb Bell, wrote and was was funded the first headstart program (1965) in Leon County, Florida. Headstart provided early childhood education for underprivileged children.
    Leon County had over 12,000 enslaved persons. Plantations were king.

    Reply
  6. Bobcat

    This is just hysterical, Brian. I know you hail from Kansas, and don’t really know us here, but didn’t you know that huge numbers of Florida politicians came from slaveholder families? You think this is something new or unusual ? Of course they do !! Why? Because they made money n the back of enslaved people and that money gave them education and social prominence, and people to support them. No this is a deceitful smear piece and you should feel ashamed. Go ahead and put out a statewide call for all Florida elected officials who had ancestors who were slaveholders to step forward and take responsibility for that legacy. Do the research and call each out by name. If you do, let’s see how many Democrats step forward and acknowledge the past, and compare them with the number of Republicans. As if you and your Republican pals give a damn ! And that crack about Loranne keeping her maiden name. Many , many, women do that. This somehow means she is anti -equality? And what about your lie about how the ” Ausleys partnered with avowed white supremacists, and they fought bitterly against desegregation on buses and schools through the 1950’s, 1960’s and 1970’s. ” The Ausleys supported LeRoy Collins for Governor in 1954. Look it up ! And by the way, enlightened people haven’t referred to people as “slaves ” for about the last 20 years. We call them instead, ” enslaved people.” Look it up ! By the way , I cant find any mention of “Khana Aramint” on the internet. Is that a nom de guerre or did you just make her up ? And by the way, its been my experience that Dr. Holifield will call most white Folks racist. Look it up ! And as for Marva Preston, well, all skin folks, ain’t Kin folks. Finally, Brian, do you support removing the confederate obelisk from the Capitol grounds ? Clear , direct answer, please.

    Reply
  7. Bobcat

    Oh are you supposed to be a Black commenter? What a laugh !!!

    Reply
  8. Dr JD

    Gee Bobcat–are you trying to enlighten us? If so, you failed miserably. Anyone who is Floridian knows the history of Florida–that was NOT the point of the article. The point, in case you didn’t get it, is that Ausley is just being a hypocritical politician by “posing” for political correctness without admitting to a legacy of wrongs.

    Reply
  9. Anonymous

    So Dr JD Walker, you did not respond to any of my points. In fact looks like you did not really read what I wrote but you , scanned and realized post was critical and gave a knee jerk non response.

    Reply
  10. Bobcat

    So Dr JD Walker, you did not respond to any of my points. In fact looks like you did not really read what I wrote but you , scanned and realized post was critical and gave a knee jerk non response.

    Sorry I have not not posted here before ,did not mean to post as anonymous

    Reply
  11. Anonymous

    This article is absolutely ridiculous. Shame on you for creating such a blasphemous article about an incredibly fine person. This article is a bunch of nonsense made up to hurt Loranne Ausley’s credibility. This is disgusting.

    Reply
  12. Pierce Todd Withers

    This article is filled with so many lies and misrepresentations about the Ausleys that it is complete garbage. What the article fails to mention is that Loranne’s father, DuBose Ausley, was branded a n-word lover and lost his own bid for the Florida Senate because of his fierce stand on behalf of the civil rights movement and close association with LeRoy Collins, the great civil rights hero. I had to laugh at the writer’s attempts to tie the Ausleys to the late Judge Harold Carswell. While we can all agree that Judge Carswell was a bigot, his membership in the Capital City Country Club and the Ausley, Collins law firm has absolutely nothing to do with Loranne Ausley and her staunch record of working to help people of color. Notably absent from this piece of garbage journalism is the fact that Loranne led a national effort to help African American churches that were set afire by white supremacists and has worked tirelessly to help those living on the margins of our society. A Google search by somebody with a hidden agenda does not constitute investigative journalism. As someone who has known the Ausley family my entire life, I am stunned by the omissions of facts concerning the Ausleys and their support for civil rights. This includes the fact that John and Susan Ausley, Loranne’s great aunt and uncle, sold their Betton Hills estate to the president of FAMU, a hugely unpopular move at the time to integrate one of Tallahassee’s most prominent white neighborhoods. I hope readers will see this article as the piece of garbage journalism that it certainly is.

    Reply
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