Interview with Thomas D. Clark, December 21, 1977

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:00:10 - First impressions of Earle Clements

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Partial Transcript: Dr. Clark, when did you first meet Earle Clements, and what were your impressions of him, how close were you to him during the 40's, through the 60's and how involved were you in state Democratic politics in these years?

Segment Synopsis: Dr. Clark talks about his early acquaintance with Earle Clements when he was in the legislature. He recalls that Clements played football at the University of Kentucky and had the nickname "Foots." He talks about the rivalry between Governor Chandler and Clements that was both political and personal. He relates an anecdote in which rationed tires during World War II became a political issue between Clements and Chandler.

Keywords: Democrats; Earle Clements; Flem D. Sampson; Governors; Happy Chandler; Highway department; John Young Brown, Sr.; Rationing; Sheriff; State archives; Tires; University archives; William J. Fields

Subjects: Clements, Earle C. (Earle Chester), 1896-1985; Democratic Party (Ky.)

00:09:21 - Constitutional convention campaign--Part I

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Partial Transcript: A second, uh, time around that I knew about Clements was in the constitutional convention. And you'll have to check me on this, uh, Clements was campaigning for the--

Segment Synopsis: Dr. Clark talks about a campaign to call a state constitutional convention in 1947 and the part Clements played. He talks about the need to diversify Kentucky's economy from strictly agrarian to a mix with industry. He talks about the limitations to development built into the Kentucky constitution and the changes needed to the constitution. He attributes popular opposition to a constitutional revision to ignorance.

Keywords: Alben Barkley; Civil service salaries; Coal miners; Coal mines; Constitution; Earle Clements; Governor; Great Depression; Greenville (Ky.); J. Lyter Donaldson; Keen Johnson; Republican Party; Ruby Laffoon; Tax system; Tobacco; University of Kentucky; Utilities; Western Kentucky

Subjects: Clements, Earle C. (Earle Chester), 1896-1985; Kentucky--Politics and government

00:24:08 - Constitutional convention campaign--Part II

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Partial Transcript: Well, we started a campaign. Just a small, internal campaign in the university.

Segment Synopsis: Clark talks about the campaign to amend the Kentucky state constitution in 1947, and lists several people who participated. He states that it was necessary for the campaign committee to be chaired by someone other than a professor, so he recruited the president of Ashland Oil to take the chair. He says Earle Clements supported the constitutional convention campaign privately, but he would not support it openly while running for governor in 1947. He talks about Clements' efforts to ratify the "Five-Thousand Dollar Amendment" which lifted the cap on state salaries. He talks about the opposition by average Kentuckians to lifting the salary cap.

Keywords: Ashland Oil Company; Frazee Hall; Fred Wilke; Howard Henderson; Jack Reeve; Kentucky On the March; Lyle Baker; Paul Blazer; Prentice O'Lear; Russell Baker; Tom Graham

Subjects: Clements, Earle C. (Earle Chester), 1896-1985; Kentucky--Politics and government

00:32:31 - Legislation regarding schools and roads

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Partial Transcript: The other one was the, uh, matter of the state debt. Then in my opinion, Clements did two tremendously important things.

Segment Synopsis: Clark talks about Clements' work to reform of public school financing in Kentucky with the tax equalization policy which reduced corruption and improved quality. He says that although the reform took place over several administrations, Clements took the brunt of opposition as teachers marched on Frankfort. He talks about Clements' work on the Farm to Market rural road bill. Clark says that Clements understood the politics and economics of building roads, but doubts he understood the sociological aspects of road programs.

Keywords: Average Daily Attendance (ADA); Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC); Earle Clements; Farm to Market Road Bill; Happy Chandler; Lawrence Wetherby; State school system

Subjects: Kentucky--Politics and government

00:44:31 - Conflict between Herman Donovan and Earle Clements

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Partial Transcript: During the period that Clements was governor, the, uh, deanship was vacated here at the university.

Segment Synopsis: Clark talks about a longstanding conflict between University of Kentucky President Herman Donovan and Governor Clements. He describes the conflict as a clash of similar personalities in Donovan and Clements, and focusing on the appointment of a new dean of the College of Agriculture. He describes at least one physical altercation between Clements and Donovan. He says Donovan described Clements as a dictator in his book "Keeping the University Free and Growing." He speaks praise of Donovan's work as university president.

Keywords: Burley Tobacco; Frank Welch; Herman L. Donovan; Memorial Coliseum; Tobacco; Tobacco diseases; W. D. Valleau

Subjects: Clements, Earle C. (Earle Chester), 1896-1985; Donovan, Herman Lee, 1887-1964

00:55:18 - Desegregating the University of Kentucky

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Partial Transcript: But Clements went out of office, and, uh, Lawrence came in; Lawrence Wetherby came in. And Lawrence--I always liked Lawrence personally, uh, very much.

Segment Synopsis: Clark describes his unwitting involvement as a witness in the NAACP effort against the Day Law which segregated education. He talks about Lyman Johnson attempting to register at University of Kentucky in order to challenge the law with a federal lawsuit. He talks about other legal efforts to desegregate Kentucky education. He expresses the opinion that Earle Clements as governor put pressure on UK President Herman Donovan and other university administrators not to oppose desegregation in Kentucky because he wanted to avoid political fallout.

Keywords: Day Law; Earle Clements; Frank Peterson; John Hatch; Judge Edward C. O'Rear; Judge Hiram Church Ford; Lawrence Wetherby; Leo Chamberlain; Louisville Defender; Lyman Johnson; National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP); Thurgood Marshall

Subjects: Race relations; Segregation

01:06:51 - Lyman Johnson as a graduate student of history

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Partial Transcript: More directly, uh, how, how did your own department--history department react to the Lyman Johnson, uh, bid for integration?

Segment Synopsis: Clark says that some members of the history department faculty were conservative and opposed desegregation, but generally members of the department were in favor. He says the department generally acted professionally. He says his personal view was in favor of desegregation because of the prejudiced background from which he came. He relates anecdotes from the Johnson trial. He talks about Johnson as a graduate student in the history department.

Keywords: Bennett H. Wall; Judge Hiram Church Ford; M. B. Holifield; Thurgood Marshall

Subjects: Johnson, Lyman T., 1906-1997; Race relations

01:18:31 - Graduate students and graduate schools

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Partial Transcript: And, and, uh, as you must know being a graduate student, that, uh, a department is neither for nor against a man.

Segment Synopsis: Clark talks about the experience of graduate study in general terms. He talks about the Johnson case making an easier transition for desegregation in Kentucky.

Keywords: Alan Trout; Brown v. Board of Education, Topeka; Clay (Ky.); Day Law; Desegregation; Earle Clements; Happy Chandler; Henry Carter; Herschel Murray; Lawrence Wetherby; Lyman Johnson; Sturgis (Ky.); West Liberty (Ky.)

Subjects: Race relations