Interview with Jasper B. Shannon, July 12, 1976

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
Transcript
Toggle Index/Transcript View Switch.
Index
Search this Index
X
00:00:01 - How he came to know about "Happy" Chandler and his early political career

Play segment

Partial Transcript: This is Professor Charles P. Roland of the University of Kentucky history department.

Segment Synopsis: Shannon recounts how he first became aware of who "Happy" Chandler was, which was during the latter's early political career. Shannon also discusses some events in Chandler's early political career as well as some aspects of Chandler's reputation at the time.

Keywords: 1931; Alcohol companies; Democrats; Happy Chandler; Kentucky college football; Lexington (Ky.); Lieutenant governors; Money; Nominations; Political campaign funds; Supporters

Subjects: Chandler, Happy, 1898-1991; Democratic Party (Ky.); Elections; Kentucky--Politics and government; Lieutenant governors--Kentucky; Political campaigns--Kentucky; Politicians--Kentucky; Politics and government; Press and politics.; State governments; Voting

00:08:40 - Chandler's political actions in the years leading up to his first term as Governor of Kentucky

Play segment

Partial Transcript: So, here was, uh--a convention was supposed to produce a harmonious ticket.

Segment Synopsis: Shannon continues his initial discussion of Chandler's early career by describing key events in Chandler's political career. Among these is Chandler's opposition to an unpopular sales tax that was in place at the time.

Keywords: 1931; Alben Barkley; Alcoholic drinks; Elections; Happy Chandler; Indictments; John Young Brown; Kentucky State House of Representatives; Parties; Political supporters; Primary elections; Republican Party; Ruby Laffoon; Sales taxes; Voters

Subjects: Barkley, Alben William, 1877-1956; Brown, John Young, 1900-1985; Chandler, Happy, 1898-1991; Elections; Governors--Election; Governors--Kentucky; Laffoon, Ruby, 1869-1941; Politicians--Kentucky; Politics and government; State governments; Taxation--Law and legislation--Kentucky; Voting

00:22:13 - Chandler's actions in his first term as Governor of Kentucky (1935-1939)

Play segment

Partial Transcript: So, uh, Chandler came in then in the, uh--as Governor on, um, December 1935.

Segment Synopsis: Shannon discusses some of the Chandler administration's notable legislative actions during Chandler's first term as Governor from 1935-1939. Among these actions are repealing taxes, which impacted Kentucky's funding for its public institutions.

Keywords: 1935; Cigarette tax; Debts; First term; Governors; Happy Chandler; Kentucky; Legislation; Political power; Repealing taxes; Secretary; Upgrading institutions

Subjects: Chandler, Happy, 1898-1991; Governors--Kentucky; Kentucky--Politics and government; Law and legislation; Political campaigns--Kentucky; Politicians--Kentucky; State governments; State governments--Officials and employees

00:29:11 - More details about Chandler's first administration as Governor

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Before we, before we go on to that, could I, could I come in and ask a few questions about his administration as Governor?

Segment Synopsis: Shannon expands on his memories of Chandler's first term as Governor. starting in 1935. Among other things, he mentions the various tax bills and state budget matters that Chandler took on during this term.

Keywords: Coal; Coal miners; Federal funds; First administration; Governor of Kentucky; Legislatures; Organizers; Severance taxes; State budgets; State funds; University of Kentucky; Washington, D.C.; Works Progress Administration (WPA)

Subjects: Chandler, Happy, 1898-1991; Governors--Kentucky; Kentucky--Politics and government; Law and legislation; Politicians--Kentucky; Politics and government; State governments; Taxation--Law and legislation--Kentucky; Voting

00:37:19 - How running for Senate affected Chandler's administration as governor

Play segment

Partial Transcript: What is your impression of Chandler's general relationship with organized labor in the state?

Segment Synopsis: Shannon first details Chandler's unfriendly relationship to organized labor interests during his administration as Governor of Kentucky. He also states that Chandler's overall performance as Governor declined in the latter part of his first term, because at this time he was busy campaigning for the U.S. Senate.

Keywords: Ambition; Anti-labor; Aspiration for U.S. Presidency; Campaign managers; Decline in administration; Democrats; Franklin D. Roosevelt; Fred Wallace; Happy Chandler; Harry Byrd; Howard Henderson; J.C. Jones; Jailers; John Y. Brown; Kentucky Academy of Social Science; Kentucky state government; Labor laws; Legislature; Louisville Courier Journal; Organized labor; Running for senate; Sales tax; Senate; U.S. president; Unsympathetic; Young Democrats

Subjects: Brown, John Young, 1900-1985; Chandler, Happy, 1898-1991; Democratic Party (Ky.); Elections; Governors--Kentucky; Kentucky--Elections; Kentucky--Politics and government; Law and legislation; Leadership--Political aspects; Political leadership; Politicians--Kentucky; Politics and government; State governments

00:42:26 - Chandler's use of coercion to obtain votes and campaign funds

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Now, one other thing. You, you used a very interesting expression about his methods to get his measures through the legislature.

Segment Synopsis: Shannon discusses Chandler's use of the patronage system, in which politicians would promise jobs in the government in exchange for votes. He talks about the practice in Chandler's time of soliciting campaign donations from government employees. He talks about Chandler's campaign manager, Fred Wallace, being indicted for these actions.

Keywords: 1938; Assessment; Bills; Coercive; Fred Wallace; Highway department; Highway employees; Indictment; Legislation; Legislature; Patronage system; Persuasive; Public; Soliciting; Votes

Subjects: Chandler, Happy, 1898-1991; Democratic Party (Ky.); Elections; Elections--Corrupt practices; Governors--Kentucky; Kentucky--Elections; Kentucky--Politics and government; Law and legislation; Leadership--Political aspects; Loyalty.; Political campaigns--Kentucky; Political corruption--Kentucky; Political leadership; Politicians--Kentucky; Politics and government; State governments

00:46:21 - Chandler, Frank Peterson, and the University of Kentucky

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Now, here's where we come to Frank Peterson.

Segment Synopsis: Shannon talks about Frank Peterson, who worked for Chandler as his "bag-man" collecting campaign funds. Shannon says that Peterson went to trial for keeping his brother-in-law on the payroll in state government. Peterson was then appointed to the University of Kentucky around the same time that there were rumors that Chandler wanted to be president of the university, which did not occur because of Chandler's appointment to the Senate upon Senator Logan's death. He discusses the politics behind the decisions regarding the appointment of university presidents and deans, including Frank Peterson, James Graham, and Herman Donovan. He talks about Peterson's financial scandal which led to his being fired from the university.

Keywords: 1941; 1963; Arrangements; Bert T. Combs; Campaign funds; Dean James H. Graham; Dean of engineering; Dr. Herman Donovan; Frank Peterson; Heating; Howard Henderson; Keen Johnson; Lawsuits; Marvel Mills Logan; Ned Breathitt; Nominations; Political appointments; Property; Rumors; Senate; State employees; Succession; Trials; University presidents; University senate

Subjects: Breathitt, Edward T., 1924-; Chandler, Happy, 1898-1991; College administrators; College presidents; Combs, Bert T., 1911-1991; Democratic Party (Ky.); Education, Higher--Kentucky; Elections; Elections--Corrupt practices; Governors--Kentucky; Johnson, Keen, 1896-1970; Kentucky--Elections; Kentucky--Politics and government; Law and legislation; Leadership--Political aspects; Loyalty.; Political campaigns--Kentucky; Political corruption--Kentucky; Political leadership; Politicians--Kentucky; Politics and government; State governments; Universities and colleges--Administration.; Universities and colleges--Faculty.; Universities and colleges.; University of Kentucky

00:57:52 - Chandler's attempt to control the selection of election officers in the 1938 campaign

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Now back to, to Chandler's political career.

Segment Synopsis: Shannon talks about the 1938 U.S. Senate election in which Chandler and Barkley were opponents in the primary. He talks about how Chandler attempted to control the election by appointing the election officers, however Barkley ended up being able to select the election officers through a loophole in the law.

Keywords: 1938; Alben Barkley; Control; Election officers; Legislation; Legislature; Losses; Political candidates; State election commissions; U.S. Senate

Subjects: Chandler, Happy, 1898-1991; Democratic Party (Ky.); Elections; Elections--Corrupt practices; Kentucky--Elections; Kentucky--Politics and government; Law and legislation; Leadership--Political aspects; Loyalty.; Political campaigns--Kentucky; Political corruption--Kentucky; Political leadership; Politicians--Kentucky; Politics and government; State governments

01:00:41 - Chandler's ambition and personality

Play segment

Partial Transcript: He of cour--Chandler of course lost that.

Segment Synopsis: Shannon talks about Chandler's ambition to become U.S. president. He talks about Chandler's personality and his treatment of people like University of Kentucky president Frank McVey. He talks about Chandler's reaction to book Shannon had written in which he said some negative things about Chandler.

Keywords: Ambition; Attitudes; Books; Dr. Frank McVey; Expectations; Favorable; Personalities; Political majority; Political nominations; U.S. president

Subjects: Chandler, Happy, 1898-1991; Elections; Kentucky--Politics and government; Leadership--Political aspects; Loyalty.; Political campaigns--Kentucky; Political leadership; Politicians--Kentucky; Politics and government; University of Kentucky

01:05:28 - Rivalry with Alben Barkley in the 1938 campaign

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Now when he was running for the pa--the, uh, the Senate--this I got from John Mann.

Segment Synopsis: Shannon talks about Chandler's attitude when his followers would mention that he might not win an election. He talks about Chandler's campaign against Barkley in 1938 and says that although Barkley had many issues to run on against Chandler, Chandler had to manufacture issues to run against Barkley. He gives his opinion on the story that Chandler had been poisoned on this campaign, saying that he believes it was only Chandler's bad eating habits that made him ill. He talks about how Barkley won over the crowds on the campaign trail and easily won the election. He talks about Chandler's ambition to be nominated as a candidate for vice president, but Keen Johnson endorsed Barkley instead.

Keywords: 1938; 1944; Alben Barkley; Attitudes; Bitter rivals; Campaign funds; Campaign issues; Franklin D. Roosevelt; Highways; Howard Henderson; Keen Johnson; Laughingstock; Losses; Poisoning; Political cartoons; Political endorsements; Public speaking; Speeches; Support; Traveling; Vice presidents

Subjects: Barkley, Alben William, 1877-1956; Chandler, Happy, 1898-1991; Democratic Party (Ky.); Elections; Governors--Kentucky; Johnson, Keen, 1896-1970; Kentucky--Elections; Kentucky--Politics and government; Law and legislation; Leadership--Political aspects; Political campaigns--Kentucky; Political leadership; Politicians--Kentucky; Politics and government; State governments

01:16:38 - 1942 Senate campaign

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Well, so Chandler then was--first got to the Senate by being appointed by Governor Keen Johnson...

Segment Synopsis: Shannon discusses Chandler's 1942 race for Senate against John Y. Brown. He talks about the Hatch Act, a federal law which forbids politicians from using promises of jobs, promotion, financial assistance, contracts, or any other benefit to coerce campaign contributions or political support. Chandler supported the Hatch Act and stated that if he were elected he would create a similar act on the state level, though he never did. During the 1942 campaign, Chandler's opponent found out that he was having a personal pool built and questioned the source of the funds for it.

Keywords: 1942; Campaign issues; Contractors; Hatch Act; John Y. Brown; Keen Johnson; Mildred Chandler; Political appointments; Political endorsements; Political opponents; Support; Swimming pools; U.S. Senate; United Mine Workers (UMW); World War II

Subjects: Brown, John Young, 1900-1985; Chandler, Happy, 1898-1991; Elections; Johnson, Keen, 1896-1970; Kentucky--Elections; Kentucky--Politics and government; Law and legislation; Leadership--Political aspects; Political campaigns--Kentucky; Political corruption--Kentucky; Political leadership; Politicians--Kentucky; Politics and government; State governments

01:22:38 - Leaving politics for Major League Baseball and returning in 1948

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Well, then of course he, he served in the Senate and left that position, uh, near the end of the war to become baseball commissioner.

Segment Synopsis: Shannon talks about Chandler leaving the Senate to become the commissioner of Major League Baseball. He talks about how Chandler could leave politics and return later and still be successful. He says that Chandler loved being the center of attention. He talks about the stories that Chandler told on the campaign trail to disparage Lawrence Wetherby, who was supporting his opponent, Bert Combs. Shannon says that these stories were untrue and that Chandler knew he was lying.

Keywords: 1948; Absence; Alliances; Ambition; Bert T. Combs; Campaign issues; Commissioner of baseball; Contracts; Control; Earle C. Clements; Executive secretary; Fired; Friends; John Sherman Cooper; Lawrence Wetherby; Leaving; Lies; Major League Baseball (MLB); Money; Power; Publicity; Returning; Rugs; Rumors; Scandals; Students; Truth; U.S. Senate; Walter Mulberry; Walter Mulbry; Winning

Subjects: Baseball commissioners; Chandler, Happy, 1898-1991; Clements, Earle C. (Earle Chester), 1896-1985; Combs, Bert T., 1911-1991; Cooper, John Sherman, 1901-1991; Democratic Party (Ky.); Elections; Elections--Corrupt practices; Governors--Kentucky; Kentucky--Elections; Kentucky--Politics and government; Law and legislation; Leadership--Political aspects; Loyalty.; Political campaigns--Kentucky; Political corruption--Kentucky; Political leadership; Politicians--Kentucky; Politics and government; State governments; Wetherby, Lawrence W. (Lawrence Winchester), 1908-

01:31:43 - Shannon's article on American politics

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Well, so, so Happy, uh, Happy was able to come back.

Segment Synopsis: Shannon talks briefly about Chandler's second administration. He talks about his own work with the American Association for the Advancement of Science, giving a talk about southern regionalism and American nationalism. He talks about how an article was written misinterpreting his speech which resulted in many politicians and citizens of Kentucky being angry at him.

Keywords: American politics; American south; Articles; Dan Talbott; European; Frank Peterson; Media; Norway; Press; Race; Religion; Southern

Subjects: Chandler, Happy, 1898-1991; Kentucky--Politics and government; Leadership--Political aspects; Political leadership; Politicians--Kentucky; Politics and government; State governments

01:36:46 - Chandler's interference in the selection of university presidents

Play segment

Partial Transcript: So, uh, the question of selecting Donovan's successor was coming up in 1956.

Segment Synopsis: Shannon talks about the process for choosing the successor to Herman Donovan as president of the University of Kentucky. He says that the professors hoped there would be a committee that they could voice their opinions to, however Chandler, as governor, appointed the committee members himself. He also appointed Frank Peterson to the committee. Shannon talks about having Chandler's sons in his class on Kentucky politicians. He talks about professors who were targeted by Chandler due to their politics, including Gladys Kammerer and Elvis Stahr. He talks about how Chandler may have promised certain people that they would be appointed university president, however Frank Dickey was ultimately appointed.

Keywords: Appointment; Bert T. Combs; Candidates; Clyde Reeves; Committees; Control; Dan Talbott; Dr. Herman Donovan; Elvis Stahr; Frank Dickey; Frank Peterson; Gladys Kammerer; Interference; Professors; Promises; Selection; Spending; University presidents; Welfare

Subjects: Chandler, Happy, 1898-1991; College administrators; College presidents; Combs, Bert T., 1911-1991; Education, Higher--Kentucky; Elections; Governors--Kentucky; Kentucky--Elections; Kentucky--Politics and government; Law and legislation; Leadership--Political aspects; Loyalty.; Political campaigns--Kentucky; Political leadership; Politicians--Kentucky; Politics and government; State governments; Universities and colleges--Administration.; Universities and colleges--Faculty.; Universities and colleges.; University of Kentucky

01:45:56 - Chandler using his power to control the University of Kentucky and its professors

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Now, you've mentioned Professor Kammerer's name.

Segment Synopsis: Shannon talks more about University of Kentucky professor Gladys Kammerer who criticized Chandler on social issues relating to children as well as his stance on political patronage. Chandler also required state workers to attend the state convention to vote for him. Chandler denounced Kammerer on the radio. Kammerer had been elected distinguished professor at the university but then did not receive a raise. The general consensus was that Chandler used his role on the Board of Trustees to block her raise. Kammerer eventually left the university. He talks about how Chandler was against anyone who had supported the Clements administration.

Keywords: 1953; Advisors; Careers; Clements administration; Control; Criticism; Denounced; Dr. Amry Vandenbosch; Earle C. Clements; Europe; Foster homes; Frank Dickey; Frankfort (Ky.); Gladys Kammerer; Jack Reeves; John Y. Brown; Leaving; Lexington Leader newspaper; Opposition; Orphans; Personality; Petitions; Political conventions; Political endorsements; Political opposition; Political patronage; Political science departments; Presidency; Pressure; Public administration; Public employees; Raises; Social workers; State employees; Votes; Welfare Administration

Subjects: Chandler, Happy, 1898-1991; Clements, Earle C. (Earle Chester), 1896-1985; College administrators; College presidents; Democratic Party (Ky.); Education, Higher--Kentucky; Elections; Elections--Corrupt practices; Governors--Kentucky; Kentucky--Elections; Kentucky--Politics and government; Law and legislation; Leadership--Political aspects; Loyalty.; Political campaigns--Kentucky; Political corruption--Kentucky; Political leadership; Politicians--Kentucky; Politics and government; State governments; Universities and colleges--Administration.; Universities and colleges--Faculty.; Universities and colleges.; University of Kentucky

01:58:14 - Chandler's ambition to be U.S. president

Play segment

Partial Transcript: And then he--course that same year--(coughs)-- '56, I attended, as a delegate from my home county, the state convention.

Segment Synopsis: Shannon talks about attending the 1956 Democratic presidential nomination convention, where he says Chandler gave a speech denigrating Clements and Wetherby. He talks about how Chandler controlled the convention. He talks about Chandler's opponents and his criticism in Kentucky newspapers. He talks about Chandler hiring his supporters in state government, especially the highway department.

Keywords: Barry Bingham; Chairman; Criticism; Delegations; Democratic national convention; Democratic state conventions; Earle C. Clements; Fayette County (Ky.); Hatch Act; Highway departments; John Ed Pearce; Lawrence Wetherby; Louisville Courier Journal; Nominations; Patronage; Presidential nominees; Primaries; Primary elections; Speeches; State employees; U.S. presidents

Subjects: Chandler, Happy, 1898-1991; Democratic Party (Ky.); Elections; Governors--Kentucky; Kentucky--Elections; Kentucky--Politics and government; Law and legislation; Leadership--Political aspects; Political campaigns--Kentucky; Political leadership; Politicians--Kentucky; Politics and government; State governments

02:04:22 - 1956 Senate campaign

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Now the, uh, the thing that got national attention, I have an article on this in the, uh--it's called "Presidential Politics in Kentucky," uh, 1938.

Segment Synopsis: Shannon talks about why the Louisville Courier Journal did not support John Y. Brown as a candidate. Shannon says that in the 1956 election, Clements would have won if not for Chandler. He talks about how John Sherman Cooper was convinced to run in 1956 despite wanting to get out of politics. He talks about how in the 1963 election, Clements said he was supporting Chandler but was actually working behind the scenes to get Ned Breathitt elected. Shannon talks about Chandler supporting Republican candidates.

Keywords: 1956; 1963; Barry Bingham; Bert T. Combs; Democratic national convention; Democratic nominees; Dwight D. Eisenhower; Earle C. Clements; Eastern Kentucky; Endorsement; John Sherman Cooper; John Y. Brown; Lawrence Wetherby; Louie B. Nunn; Ned Breathitt; Republicans; Support; Thruston Morton; U.S. Senate

Subjects: Chandler, Happy, 1898-1991; Democratic Party (Ky.); Elections; Governors--Kentucky; Kentucky--Elections; Kentucky--Politics and government; Leadership--Political aspects; Loyalty.; Political campaigns--Kentucky; Political leadership; Politicians--Kentucky; Politics and government; State governments

02:11:10 - Chandler's role in desegregation of public schools and Major League Baseball

Play segment

Partial Transcript: One of the most, uh, interst--one of the most interesting episodes of his second administration as governor was the school desegregation--

Segment Synopsis: Shannon discusses Chandler's role in the desegregation of both Major League Baseball and Kentucky's public schools despite his Confederate ancestry. He talks about the balance between Chandler gaining the votes of African Americans for his support of integration versus losing white votes for the same issue. Shannon says he believes Chandler's support of desegregation was motivated by his desire to be U.S. president.

Keywords: 1954; 1956; Ambition; Ancestry; Confederate; Desegregation; Dixiecrats; Jackie Robinson; Major League Baseball (MLB); Presidential nominees; Risks; Southern; U.S. presidents; Votes

Subjects: African Americans--Segregation; African Americans--Social conditions.; Chandler, Happy, 1898-1991; Civil rights--Law and legislation; Discrimination in education.; Elections; Governors--Kentucky; Integration; Kentucky--Elections; Kentucky--Politics and government; Law and legislation; Leadership--Political aspects; Loyalty.; Political campaigns--Kentucky; Political leadership; Politicians--Kentucky; Politics and government; Race discrimination.; Race relations--Kentucky; Racism; School integration--Kentucky; Segregation in education--Kentucky; State governments

02:15:30 - Chandler's impact on Kentucky

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Professor Shannon, how would you, how would you, uh--what, what is his--what--how--what do you see as his, uh, overall role then in Kentucky politics?

Segment Synopsis: Shannon discusses his opinion on Chandler's overall role in Kentucky politics.

Keywords: Bond issue; Budgetary process; Centralization; Effects; Julian Carroll; Progressive; Roles

Subjects: Chandler, Happy, 1898-1991; Governors--Kentucky; Kentucky--Politics and government; Law and legislation; Leadership--Political aspects; Political leadership; Politicians--Kentucky; Politics and government; State governments

02:18:09 - Chandler's role in the creation of the University of Kentucky medical center / Chandler's control over Kentucky universities

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Well, is there anything else you would, uh--oh yes, one other thing.

Segment Synopsis: Shannon discusses Chandler's role in the creation of the University of Kentucky medical center and its effect on the university as a whole. He tells a story about Chandler attempting to control Transylvania University as he did with the University of Kentucky. He talks about Chandler's level of control over UK.

Keywords: Budgets; Control; Damage; Deans; Dr. Frank Dickey; Dr. Herman Donovan; Dr. John Oswald; Federal government; Fired; Frank Peterson; Frank Rose; Funding; Medical schools; Money; Opposed; Opposition; Political patronage; Power; Quitting; Selection; Transylvania University; University of Kentucky College of Medicine; University of Kentucky Medical Center; University of Louisville

Subjects: Chandler, Happy, 1898-1991; Elections; Governors--Kentucky; Kentucky--Elections; Kentucky--Politics and government; Leadership--Political aspects; Loyalty.; Political campaigns--Kentucky; Political corruption--Kentucky; Political leadership; Politicians--Kentucky; Politics and government; State governments; University of Kentucky; University of Kentucky. College of Medicine; University of Kentucky. Medical Center

02:25:17 - Foster Ockerman / Shannon's research for books

Play segment

Partial Transcript: --(??) And I said, "Why not?"

Segment Synopsis: Shannon talks about Foster Ockerman who was Ned Breathitt's campaign manager. Shannon talks about articles and books that he would like to write on the subject of politics.

Keywords: Books; Campaign managers; Careers; Election returns; Foster Ockerman; Kentucky politics; Ned Breathitt; Research; Teaching; Works Progress Administration (WPA)

Subjects: Governors--Kentucky; Kentucky--Elections; Kentucky--Politics and government; Political campaigns--Kentucky; Politicians--Kentucky; State governments; Universities and colleges--Faculty.