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00:00:04 - Switch from Commissioner of Finance to Commissioner of Highways

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Partial Transcript: The following is an unrehearsed interview with James W. Martin for the Alumni/Faculty Oral History Project.

Segment Synopsis: James W. Martin talks about why Governor Happy Chandler asked him to switch from his position as Commissioner of Finance to Commissioner of Highways. He talks about why he was not interested in the job and why he accepted the position anyway.

Keywords: Abilities; Acceptance; Circumstances; Commissioner of Finance; Commissioner of Highways; Governor Happy Chandler; Highway administration; Interest; Management; Personnel; Robert Humphreys; Scandals

Subjects: Chandler, Happy, 1898-1991; Kentucky. Department of Finance; Kentucky. Department of Highways; Kentucky. Department of Revenue; Politicians; Politics and government; State governments--Officials and employees

00:08:17 - Highway surveys

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Partial Transcript: Bob was, was really elected to that job but, uh, the governor didn't think it was--as good answer because Bob might do the job well enough in, uh, in an unprofessional manner...

Segment Synopsis: Martin talks about Robert Humphreys' abilities as Commissioner of Highways. He talks about new techniques that were developed for road planning and surveys.

Keywords: Bridge supervisors; Bridges; Cameras; Chief Engineer of Highways; Dwight Gray; Friends; Interstate surveys; Planning; Techniques

Subjects: Highway engineering.; Kentucky. Department of Highways; Roads.

00:19:48 - Bert Kiser scandal

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Partial Transcript: Um, when I a, asked the initial question you indicated that you really didn't feel that, um, the reason you were brought in was just because of this one scandal.

Segment Synopsis: Martin discusses the issues that arose in the Department of Highways related to Robert Humphreys' alcoholism, which led to Martin replacing Humphreys as Commissioner of Highways. He talks about a scandal involving Bert Kiser and the Department of Highways, and a situation in which the department was using state funds to build roads for private citizens.

Keywords: Alcoholism; Attorney General; Bert Kiser; Carter County (Ky.); Character; Commissioner of Highways; Construction; Corruption; Criticism; Drinking; Governor Happy Chandler; Highway Department; Lieutenant Governor Harry Lee Waterfield; Louisville Courier-Journal; Personality; Political activity; Private roads; Problems; Robert Humphreys; Scandals; State funds

Subjects: Kentucky. Department of Highways; Politicians; Politics and government; Roads.; State governments--Officials and employees

00:31:17 - Bert Kiser scandal--Governor Happy Chandler's involvement

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Partial Transcript: What was the, uh--we talked a little bit about this but what was the governor's reaction on his return?

Segment Synopsis: Martin talks about an issue involving a former Commissioner of Welfare, who was eventually fired. He discusses the Louisville Courier-Journal's claims that Governor Happy Chandler must have been aware of the Bert Kiser scandal before it became public. He talks more about the issues within the Department of Highways that made him reluctant to accept the position as Commissioner of Highways.

Keywords: Awareness; Bert Kiser; Changes; Commissioner of Welfare; Commissioners; Corruption; Departments; Duration; Fired; Governor Happy Chandler; Governor's Assistant John Demoise; Governor's Office; Highway funds; Highway workers; Involvement; Louisville Courier-Journal; Management; Personnel problems; Practices; Problems; Reactions; Rehired; Responsible; Self-defeating; Tenure

Subjects: Administrative agencies.; Chandler, Happy, 1898-1991; Kentucky. Department of Highways; Kentucky. Department of Welfare; Politicians; Politics and government; State governments--Officials and employees

00:40:29 - Governor Happy Chandler's decision to appoint Martin as Commissioner of Highways

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Partial Transcript: When was the--your first inkling that you were going to be asked to replace Humphreys?

Segment Synopsis: Martin talks about how Governor Chandler dealt with Robert Humphreys' drinking problem. He talks more about being chosen by Chandler to take over Humphreys' position as Commissioner of Highways, and talks more about why he did not want the position. He talks more about personnel issues within the Highway Department.
[An interruption in taping occurs during this segment.]

Keywords: Administration; Alcoholism; Appointment; Commissioner of Finance; Decisions; Drinking; Duration; Fired; Governor Happy Chandler; Issues; Memo; Personnel; Plans; Quitting; Reinstatement; Replacements; Resignation; Robert Humphreys; Tenure; Ward Oates

Subjects: Kentucky. Department of Highways; Politicians; Politics and government

01:00:16 - Personnel administration

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Partial Transcript: Um, I, I see two things here, and again, correct me if these assumptions are incorrect.

Segment Synopsis: Martin talks about the ways in which he wanted to reform the Department of Highways when he took over as commissioner, including switching to a merit system for personnel.

Keywords: Employees; Field offices; Framework; Georgia state government; Highway Department; Merit system; Personnel administration; Personnel management; Reform; Unpalatable

Subjects: Administrative agencies.; Kentucky. Department of Highways; Politics and government; State governments--Officials and employees

01:09:32 - Martin's expectations and plans when he became Commissioner of Highways

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Partial Transcript: You had a pretty good idea of what you were up against initially.

Segment Synopsis: Martin talks about how he was received by the department when he became Commissioner of Highways. He talks about the tension between following tradition and following statutes. He talks about the policies he wanted to put into practice when he became commissioner, including the policy that each employee reports to only one supervisor.
[An interruption in taping occurs during this segment.]

Keywords: Bosses; Chief engineers; Commissioner of Highways; Competitive bidding; Contact; Employees; Established practices; Expectations; Field supervisors; Laws; Managers; Memos; Philosophy; Plans; Political contributions; Private property; Purpose; Reception; Statutes

Subjects: Administrative agencies.; Kentucky. Department of Highways; Politics and government; State governments--Officials and employees

01:21:47 - Difficulties with Highway Department employees

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Partial Transcript: Incidentally, I told you about our district engineer, didn't I? Down here in s, south of us?

Segment Synopsis: Martin describes the issues he had with a district engineer who would not follow the policies Martin had created. He discusses the Highway Commission, the scope of its authority, and why he "all but shelved" the commission.

Keywords: Administration; Administrative organization; Administrative relationships; Directives; Disobeying; District engineers; Employees; Firing; Highway Commission; Requests; Salary; Statutes; Supervisors; Technical abilities; Tradition

Subjects: Administrative agencies.; Highway engineering.; Kentucky. Department of Highways; Politics and government; State governments--Officials and employees

01:32:29 - Administrative issues in the Highway Department

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Partial Transcript: While we're on salaries, as I recall you were making around $12,000 as Commissioner of Finance, is that right?

Segment Synopsis: Martin talks about the similarities and differences between the position of Commissioner of Finance and Commissioner of Highways. He talks about why the Department of Highways necessarily had more issues with personnel management than other government departments. He talks about a memo he sent to his employees and its reception by both the employees and the governor.

Keywords: Administrative issues; Administrative personnel; Administrative problems; Commissioner of Finance; Commissioner of Highways; Conflicts; Decisions; Departments; District engineers; Employees; Engineers; Field personnel; Field staff; Governor Happy Chandler; Highway Department; Memos; Policies; Questioning; Reactions; Responsibilities; Salary; Supervision; Technical

Subjects: Administrative agencies.; Highway engineering.; Kentucky. Department of Finance; Kentucky. Department of Highways; Politics and government; State governments--Officials and employees

01:45:20 - Comparison of various states' governments

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Partial Transcript: The Courier Journal--this is interesting, the Courier Journal called your "new order," they called it "new order," "Nothing more than what progressive states have been doing all along."

Segment Synopsis: Martin compares the state governments of places like Georgia, Louisiana, and New Mexico to that of Kentucky. He says Kentucky is not progressive but that it is also not the least progressive. He tells a story about a Mississippi Commissioner of Revenue who would not leave office for fear of corrupt politicians taking over when he left. He talks more about the importance of instating a merit system for state personnel.

Keywords: Alf Stone; Character; Commissioner of Revenue; Comparisons; Corruption; Department of Revenue; Engineers; Finance; Florida; Governors; Indiana; Kentucky; Legislation; Louisiana; Louisville Courier-Journal; Merit system; Mississippi; New Mexico; Pennsylvania; Progressive; Qualifications; South Carolina; State government

Subjects: Administrative agencies.; Political ethics; Politics and government; State governments--Officials and employees; State governments.

01:52:58 - Louisville Courier-Journal articles about the dismissal of Highway Department employees

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Partial Transcript: On December 5th--now you took over the 15th of November.

Segment Synopsis: Martin talks about an article in the Louisville Courier-Journal about the dismissal of many Highway Department employees, and discusses why the article was misleading. The interviewer discusses a story from the newspaper about a supervisor who was going to be dismissed but resigned first and was hired in another position in the Highway Department. Martin clarifies the details of this story. Martin discusses Governor Chandler's reactions to his decisions.
[An interruption in taping occurs during this segment.]

Keywords: Bond issue; Chandler Administration; Changes; Commissioner of Finance; Employees; Exams; Fired; Governor Happy Chandler; J. L. Suter; Layoffs; Louisville Courier-Journal; Martin Petty; Press; Qualifications; Recommendations; Rehired; Reorganization; Reports; Resignation; Road maintenance; Seasonal work; Staff; Standard procedure; Supervisors; Surveys; Winter

Subjects: Administrative agencies.; Kentucky. Department of Finance; Kentucky. Department of Highways; Politics and government; State governments--Officials and employees

02:07:02 - Meeting with a delegation regarding the dismissal of Highway Department employees

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Partial Transcript: On December 19th, 1957, uh, two weeks, uh, after you had let a lot of those people go, um, and announced that you had relented on twelve of the investigators...

Segment Synopsis: Martin talks about a meeting he had with Harry Lee Waterfield, Harry Davis, and Charles Blackburn concerning issues relating to his dismissal of Highway Department employees. He describes the politics and character of the men he met with. He talks about being unable to get in contact with the governor during this time.

Keywords: Character; Charles Blackburn; Delegations; Fired; Governor Happy Chandler; Harry Davis; Investigators; Issues; Lieutenant Governor Harry Lee Waterfield; Meetings; Political Organization Committee; Political aspirations; Political machinery; Qualifications; Resentment; Speculation; Successors; Western Kentucky

Subjects: Administrative agencies.; Kentucky. Department of Highways; Politicians; Politics and government; State governments--Officials and employees

02:20:51 - Governor Happy Chandler's reaction to Martin's resignation as Commissioner of Highways

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Partial Transcript: Your reaction to all of this, um, was to draft up a memo, uh, of resignation and giving your reasons why.

Segment Synopsis: Martin talks about why he decided to resign from his position as Commissioner of Highways and why he could not return to his former position as Commissioner of Finance. He talks about his meeting with Governor Chandler regarding his resignation, and discusses why Chandler did not want him to resign. He tells a story about Governor Chandler's reaction to Robert Humphreys' work as Chairman of the Democratic Central Committees, supporting a politician Chandler did not approve of. He talks about Chandler's ability to use pressure to get what he wanted. The interview is concluded.

Keywords: Agreements; Candidates; Caretakers; Chairman of the Democratic Central Committees; Decisions; Democratic Party; Effects; Elections; Governor Happy Chandler; Harry Davis; Interference; Jobs; Legislature; Memos; Pressure; Reactions; Reputation; Resignation; Robert Humphreys; Salary; Status; University of Kentucky; Ward Oates

Subjects: Kentucky. Department of Highways; Politicians; Politics and government; State governments--Officials and employees; State governments.