Interview with Howard Tilghman, May 26, 1977

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:00:00 - Introduction

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Partial Transcript: --Professor Charles Roland, from the history department of the University of Kentucky.

Segment Synopsis: Professor Charles P. Roland introduces his interview subject, Howard Tilghman. The interview is being conducted in order to obtain information about former Kentucky governor Albert B. "Happy" Chandler for a biography. The interview is being conducted on the campus of the University of Kentucky.

00:00:26 - Meeting “Happy” Chandler

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Partial Transcript: I understand, Mr. Tilghman, that, uh, you’ve been a friend of Governor Chandler’s, he’s been a friend of yours, for a long time.

Segment Synopsis: Mr. Tilghman discusses his relationship with former Kentucky governor Albert B. “Happy” Chandler. Chandler settled Tilghman’s parents’ estate when he was 12 years old, and their friendship grew from that time on. Tilghman discusses his siblings and his relationship to them. He talks about watching Chandler coach high school football and women’s basketball in Versailles. He recalls how Chandler would pray with his team and how he would sing after the football game was finished. Tilghman calls Chandler a successful coach who was able to get the best performance out of his team.

Keywords: High school football coaches; Kentucky lawyers; Kentucky politicians; Personal opinions; Personal relationships

Subjects: Chandler, Happy, 1898-1991.; Governors--Kentucky; Kentucky; Politicians--Kentucky; State governments--Officials and employees; Versailles (Ky.)

00:10:10 - Chandler in the Senate

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Partial Transcript: Well he was elected of course, in that campaign.

Segment Synopsis: Tilghman talks about how he kept in touch with Chandler throughout his life and political career. Tilghman recalls writing a letter to Chandler in Washington, D.C. about being transferred from North Carolina to D.C. for the army. He discusses the gravity of Chandler’s reply letter. He talks about not transferring.

Keywords: Army transfers; Personal correspondence; Personal relationships; Political influence; Political relationships; Political support; U.S. Senators; World War II

Subjects: Chandler, Happy, 1898-1991.; Governors--Kentucky; Legislators--United States; Politicians--Kentucky; Politics and government; World War, 1939-1945

00:17:37 - Chandler as baseball commissioner

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Partial Transcript: Was there any par--do you recall any particular thing he did as commissioner of baseball that you, uh--that especially impressed you?

Segment Synopsis: Tilghman discusses how he was impressed by Chandler assisting Jackie Robinson in being able to be the first black man in the United States to play professional baseball. He also talks about being impressed that Chandler seemed to support the baseball players over the team owners, as Tilghman believes the players deserve more credit and attention than the team owners. He believes this was the reason Chandler’s baseball commissioner contract was not renewed. He talks about attending baseball games with Chandler.

Keywords: American baseball; Breaking color barriers; Desegregation; History of baseball; Integration; Kentucky baseball commissioners; Professional baseball players; Race in baseball

Subjects: African Americans--Segregation; African Americans--Social conditions; Baseball; Baseball commissioners; Career changes; Chandler, Happy, 1898-1991.; Kentucky; Politicians--Kentucky; Robinson, Jackie, 1919-1972.

00:20:39 - Growing relationship with Chandler

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Partial Transcript: Well, uh, then, of course, in '51, he lost that position and, uh, and moved back to Versailles.

Segment Synopsis: Tilghman discusses how his relationship with Chandler grew after his return to Versailles after losing the baseball commissioner position. He talks about visiting Chandler and encouraging him to run for governor. He tells Roland about his close relationship with Chandler, who he visits or talks on the phone with 4 or 5 nights in the week. Tilghman talks about Chandler’s love and admiration for the University of Kentucky. They continue to discuss Tilghman’s current relationship with Chandler and what Chandler does during the day.

Keywords: Campaigns for governor; Central Kentucky; Kentucky residents; Residents of Versailles (Ky.); University of Kentucky alumni; Versailles, Kentucky

Subjects: Chandler, Happy, 1898-1991.; Governors--Election; Governors--Kentucky; Kentucky; Lexington (Ky.); Older people; Politicians--Kentucky; University of Kentucky; Versailles (Ky.); Voting

00:24:50 - Chandler’s first campaign for governorship

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Partial Transcript: Well, uh, eventually, either through your urging, or, uh, not, or maybe through the urgings of a lot of people like you, he did run for governor.

Segment Synopsis: Tilghman tells Roland an anecdote about Chandler as lieutenant governor. He talks about how Chandler was viewed in Kentucky as someone who was concerned with the life of Kentuckians, no matter their race. He talks about Chandler’s first gubernatorial campaign in 1935 and how campaigns were conducted during that time period. Tilghman tells Roland he was farming during Chandler’s first administration and did not take any government appointments until the latter part of his administration as a highway worker.

Keywords: Campaign volunteers; Campaigns for governor; Gubernatorial campaigns; History of political campaigns; Kentuckians; Kentucky citizens; Kentucky farmers; Kentucky highway workers; Personal opinions; Political campaigns in Kentucky; Politicians of Kentucky

Subjects: Chandler, Happy, 1898-1991.; Farmers; Governors--Election; Kentucky; Lieutenant governors--Kentucky; Political campaigns--Kentucky; Politicians--Kentucky; Versailles (Ky.); Voting

00:30:57 - Chandler’s personal character and ethic

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Partial Transcript: What, uh, what do you think his--what was there about his governorship the second time that most impressed you?

Segment Synopsis: Tilghman talks about how he was impressed by Chandler’s high morals and standards, as well as his conduct. He discusses Chandler’s abstention from alcohol and tobacco as an example of his high morals and good character. Tilghman gives other reasons for his appreciation for Chandler’s second administration, including the building of the Chandler Medical Center at UK. Tilghman and Roland discuss Chandler’s abstention from alcohol and the possible paradox which stems from it, as Kentucky is a large exporter of bourbon and tobacco. Tilghman continues to cite this as a sign of Chandler’s strong morals and character. He also discusses how Chandler attends the funerals of many friends and acquaintances, since Tilghman drives him to many of these funerals. He tells Roland there are no traits of Chandler’s he does not admire.

Keywords: Abstention from alcohol; Bourbon; Chandler Medical Center; Funerals of friends; Kentucky bourbon; Kentucky exports; Lexington (Ky.)--Medical centers; Moral character; Paradoxes; Personal beliefs; Personal politics; Political figures

Subjects: Alcohol; Bourbon whiskey.; Chandler, Happy, 1898-1991; Governors--Kentucky; Kentucky; Politicians--Kentucky; Tobacco; University of Kentucky. Medical Center

00:42:28 - Rumors about Chandler

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Partial Transcript: And, uh, there are rumors that, uh, I’m sure you’re aware of.

Segment Synopsis: Tilghman discusses the rumors Chandler has been with other women besides his wife, which he denies as far as he knows. He also dispels rumors of Chandler betting on horse races or gambling, drinking, or smoking.

Keywords: Affairs; Children; Elections; Gambling; Governors; Horse racing; Jealous; Kentucky; Kissing; Loyalty; Morality; Ned Breathitt; Personal morals; Political morals; Political support; Popularity; Romantic affairs; Rumors; Rumors about politicians; Smoking; Vices; Wife; Wives; Women; horse races

Subjects: Breathitt, Edward T., 1924-; Chandler, Happy, 1898-1991.; Ethics; Gambling; Governors--Election; Governors--Kentucky; Horse racing; Kentucky; Marriage; Political ethics; Politicians--Kentucky

00:45:46 - Chandler's loss in the 1963 gubernatorial election

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Partial Transcript: I can tell you this. The last time he ran for governor and lost to Ned Breathitt there was a lot of damn sick people in Kentucky because they didn't elect him for governor.

Segment Synopsis: Tilghman discusses Chandler's loss in the 1963 election against Ned Breathitt. He talks about Chandler's relationship with Governor Bert Combs, who supported Breathitt in that election.

Keywords: 1963; Age; Attitudes; Bert Combs; Dislike; Friends; Losses; Ned Breathitt; Older people; Political candidates; Reactions; Support; University of Kentucky

Subjects: Breathitt, Edward T., 1924-; Chandler, Happy, 1898-1991.; Combs, Bert T., 1911-1991; Elections; Governors--Election; Governors--Kentucky; Kentucky; Political campaigns--Kentucky; Politicians--Kentucky; Politics and government; State governments

00:50:57 - Chandler's famous friends / Chandler singing

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Partial Transcript: When he goes to the base--when you go together up to Cincinnati to the baseball game, what kind of recognition does he get?

Segment Synopsis: Tilghman talks about Chandler introducing him to some of his famous friends including Bob Hope and Andy Williams. He talks about Chandler's singing ability.

Keywords: Andy Williams; Attitudes; Bob Hope; Celebrities; Commissioner of baseball; Records; Singers; Singing

Subjects: Baseball commissioners; Chandler, Happy, 1898-1991.; Kentucky; Politicians--Kentucky

00:53:36 - Chandler's attitude about Governor Louie Nunn

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Partial Transcript: Mr. Tilghman, uh, at the end of Breathitt's administration, uh, a Republican in the next c--uh, governor's campaign a Republican won.

Segment Synopsis: Tilghman talks about Chandler's attitude toward Republican governor Louie Nunn.

Keywords: Attitudes; Bert Combs; Democratic Party; Democrats; Louie Nunn; Ned Breathitt; Qualifications; Republican Party; Republicans; Support

Subjects: Breathitt, Edward T., 1924-; Chandler, Happy, 1898-1991.; Combs, Bert T., 1911-1991; Elections; Governors--Election; Governors--Kentucky; Kentucky; Nunn, Louie B., 1924-2004; Political campaigns--Kentucky; Politicians--Kentucky; Politics and government; State governments

00:56:33 - Chandler's personal qualities

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Partial Transcript: Back to some of his personal qualities, and I'm kind of--I'm just skipping around here because obviously--

Segment Synopsis: Tilghman talks about Chandler's tendency to cry easily. He talks about Chandler continuing to help the citizens of Kentucky even after leaving political office. He talks about his friendship with Chandler. He talks about Chandler's speaking ability and his sense of humor. The interview is concluded.

Keywords: Childhood; Compassion; Corydon (Ky.); Crying; Emotions; Family; Fathers; Football games; Friendships; Helping; Jokes; Letters; Mildred Chandler; Mrs. Chandler; My Old Kentucky Home (Song); Personal qualities; Personalities; Personality; Political office; Problems; Sense of humor; Sentiment; Singing; Speakers; Speaking; Speeches; Tears; Trouble

Subjects: Chandler, Happy, 1898-1991.; Governors--Kentucky; Kentucky; Politicians--Kentucky; Politics and government; State governments