Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Edward A. Farris, October 28, 1977

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

KLEBER: The following interview was made with Mr. Ed Farris in his office in Frankfort, Kentucky on Friday, October 28, 1977. Mr. Farris, what is your present position?

FARRIS: I am the state distilled spirits administrator and a member of the state Alcoholic Beverage Control Board.

KLEBER: How long have you known Lawrence Wetherby?

FARRIS: I first met, uh, Governor Wetherby in, uh, early 1948.

KLEBER: And do you recall where you met?

FARRIS: I met him either in the Truman/Barkley/Chapman headquarters in Louisville, or in the governor's office. I can't recall which, but it would be approximately mid, uh, mid-year, 1948.

00:01:00

KLEBER: What capacity was he serving in at that time?

FARRIS: He was then lieutenant governor.

KLEBER: And you came then to serve in his administration, is that correct?

FARRIS: Uh, I, began uh, uh, work in the governor's office immediately after the August primary in 1948, and worked for the remainder of the Clements administration, which ended in, uh, November 1950, after his election to the United States Senate, on which--at which point Governor Wetherby--Lieutenant Governor Wetherby became governor.

KLEBER: And you continued to serve, then, with--

FARRIS: That's correct.

KLEBER: --Governor Wetherby? In what, uh, capacity did you serve with Governor Wetherby?

FARRIS: I served in the same capacity that I had with, uh, Clements for the 00:02:00preceding three--approximately, uh, three years, as the governor's--I think the exact title was executive secretary in those days. It was the--it was the chief administrative, uh, assistant to the governor.

KLEBER: I'm very interested in, uh, Governor Wetherby's speech-making. Could you tell me--you watched him on many opportunities, I'm sure. Can you tell me the nature of his speech-making? Did he speak extemporaneously or did he speak from prepared text?

FARRIS: The, uh, governor spoke, uh, from both text and extemporaneously. I would classify Wetherby, uh, as an excellent impromptu speaker. Uh, he had a, he had a long card, uh, in his capacity to, uh, just arise and, in a brief 00:03:00duration, make, uh, make a very plausible, very effective, very, uh, uh, ear-catching type speech.

KLEBER: Did he do that often?

FARRIS: He, he did it often and did it well. I was particularly, uh, impressed with the contrast between Clements and Wetherby, having been associated very closely with both of them, with the ease with which Wetherby could, uh, handle those type occasions, uh, as compared to Governor Clements. Governor Clements, uh, was maybe like myself, uh, more belaboring, and, uh, it was more difficult for, for words to flow and, and him to come to grips with an impromptu situation than, than was Wetherby.

00:04:00

KLEBER: If Governor Wetherby had a speech that was written out for him, if he was going to deliver it, would he stick pretty closely to that text or would he deviate from it?

FARRIS: He did both. Uh, there were many times, uh, when he would, uh, discard the speech, uh, and my--if my memory serves me correctly, discard the speech entirely. On other occasions, uh, he--if the speech involved, uh, more technical, uh, data and information, he would stick, uh, substantially to the, to the script. But as between the two, uh, methods or approaches to handling his public, uh, presentation or public speech-making, he, he was more of the extemporaneous type speaker than he was the strict, uh, script reader.

KLEBER: Do you recall who wrote his speeches for him?

FARRIS: There were a number of, of people that assisted, in uh, always in 00:05:00speechwriting, assisting in preparation of speeches for, uh, governors in those days, as I'm sure is still the case. The governor's office staff, uh, assisted, uh, very substantially, and, and I would say certainly took primary responsibility for, for seeing that they were in ship-shape and ready to go. Uh, the Legislative Research Commission under A.Y. Lloyd, probably assisted some. Uh, the Department of, uh, Finance made contributions to governor's 00:06:00speeches in those days. The governor himself, uh, would, uh, work liberally and effectively on, on his own speeches.

KLEBER: Do you have any of his speeches in your own possession?

FARRIS: I cannot recall whether I do or not. I'll be happy to look through, as a matter of fact, uh, had I had time this week I would have gone through some of my records, which I just simply haven't.

KLEBER: I understand.

FARRIS: I do not, uh, I do not have an extensive, uh, uh, file in my possession of my career in public affairs and politics generally, but I'll be happy to.

00:07:00

KLEBER: I appreciate that.

FARRIS: Anything that I think is, is pertinent to your cause, I'll certainly be able to see if you have a duplicate copy. If not, I'll get it for you.

KLEBER: Well, I could, if you, I appreciate that. I could have the copies made because we have the funds for that. We're looking simply for papers of a public nature, speeches--

FARRIS: Right. Right

KLEBER: --and so on. When, when he left the, uh, governorship, did he take all those papers with him, do you recall?

FARRIS: I believe he took, uh, most of them. Most of them.

KLEBER: He has a large collection down there, and I wondered if it went anywhere else, this collection.

FARRIS: Yes, the, of course the official, uh, routine, housekeeping type, uh, documents that involved gubernatorial appointments and executive orders and 00:08:00proclamations and all the official paraphernalia that, uh, is involved in the governor's, uh, office, administrative functioning is on file with the secretary of state.

KLEBER: I've been to the archives and they, uh, they have some, too, and in fact, I think the secretary of state has now sent those things to--

FARRIS: --to the archives--

KLEBER: --to the archives. I believe that's what happening. What about public letters to, or private letters? Do you have any of these in your collection?

FARRIS: I have very, very few. Now, I think you'll find the governor's files reflects much, if not all, of the exchange of correspondence between the governor and just citizens writing in.

KLEBER: So you would have very few,

FARRIS: I do not think I have hardly any of that sort of thing.

KLEBER: Okay.

FARRIS: I might have a copy of s-- of one or some or even many, but I'm rather 00:09:00inclined to think it's very restricted on the number of, of his speeches. I don't think I have any of the correspondence-type data.

KLEBER: Can you think of anyone off-hand who might have, uh, speeches or letters of Wetherby's?

FARRIS: Uh, Cattie Lou Miller, who was in the governor's office, is the only other person that I could think that might have, uh, some file information on, on this subject.

KLEBER: Because I understand she was his private secretary.

FARRIS: She was and was very closely connected with both the Clements and the Wetherby eight, eight-year period there.

KLEBER: Is she still a secretary of the Court of Claims?

00:10:00

FARRIS: Yes, or the, I'm not sure it's that exact title, but it's something similar.

KLEBER: Where are their offices?

FARRIS: Their offices are on, uh, Third Street, just off Capitol Avenue. Going toward the Capitol, it's, you turn left on Third Street. It crosses Capitol Avenue, and it's about midway of the, of the block on the right. You turn left going toward the Capitol, and you turn left off of Capitol Avenue on Third Street and it's about a half-block off of Capitol Avenue, on the right.

KLEBER: Okay. Thank you. Let me ask you the names of some people that were closely associated with Governor Wetherby, and perhaps in mentioning these, you would be able to recall a few things that might be a source of information. George Kerler.

FARRIS: George Kerler at Owensboro was, uh, connected with the administration 00:11:00and worked some period of time in the governor's office and is in Owensboro with the Owensboro Messenger. And I'm sure Kerler might be a source of, of in, uh, formation that would be helpful.

KLEBER: Mack Sisk.

FARRIS: Mack Sisk was in, I'm not certain he was in the governor's office. He might have been for a short period of ime, but he was in the public information department, which was then in the conser--old conservation department, and Mack, uh, was, was, was very much involved in the governor's public image-building type, uh, role. And Mack has been ill lately, but I understand is improving and 00:12:00would certainly, if he's able, uh, be a, a very likely source of information that you would be interested in.

KLEBER: I heard he's working in a travel department here in Frankfort, is that correct?

FARRIS: Mack has recently had a stroke--

KLEBER: Oh, I see.

FARRIS: --and has been in the hospital in Lexington, in the V.A. hospital for some period of time. I think he is out. I do not think he has returned to work. I do not think it's in the travel division or whatever it is, or the public information department. I believe it's in the, uh, department of--Secretary Short's department or, or cabinet. Secretary Bill Short's cabinet, I think, is the place that would, could give you Mack's, uh, 00:13:00whereabouts. I, I should be able to myself, but after he got out of the hospital, I lost track of exactly where he is.

KLEBER: He's here in Frankfort, though?

FARRIS: Uh, yes. He lives here in Frankfort.

KLEBER: Addie Stokely.

FARRIS: Addie Stokely, commissioner of personnel, was in the governor's office and might well have information.

KLEBER: Henry Ward.

FARRIS: Henry Ward would certainly have, uh, things to say, if not documented records that reflect both information and, uh, and commentary that would be very helpful.

KLEBER: Felix Joyner?

FARRIS: Felix Joyner would.

KLEBER: Uh, Charles Gartrell?

FARRIS: Possibly, yes. He was one of Wetherby's candidates, opposed Wetherby 00:14:00for the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor.

KLEBER: He's an old friend of mine.

FARRIS: Is that right?

KLEBER: Yes, he's living in Louisville now.

FARRIS: I didn't know Charlie was living in Louisville.

KLEBER: He's working down there for some part of state government. I'm not sure who he's,

FARRIS: I did not know that.

KLEBER: He's been down there now about two years. I doubt if he'll go back to Ashland.

FARRIS: He must have moved to Louisville soon after relinquishing the mayor's job.

KLEBER: About a year ago. He played around for a year--

FARRIS: Right.

KLEBER: --and didn't particularly like it up there. Uh, Charlie Farnsley, Wilson Wyatt, Bert Van Arsdale possibly might have--

FARRIS: They certainly, they certainly would.

KLEBER: Uh--

FARRIS: There's an attorney in Louisville that was, has been a lifelong friend of Wetherby's that would be a resource. His name is Dave McAfee, 00:15:00m-c-a-f-double-e. David McAfee. He's an attorney in Louisville.

KLEBER: That's a good Bullitt County name.

FARRIS: Well, he's, I think his father was a Methodist preacher, so--

KLEBER: It's possible.

FARRIS: --he, he has moved around all over the state considerably. I, I believe that's true.

KLEBER: All right, that's, thank you. That's the kind of thing I need to find out.

FARRIS: Right.

KLEBER: And he's an attorney there?

FARRIS: Right.

KLEBER: Let me ask you, uh, one question which is in some way related, and in some way isn't. I've been working on the Adron Doran project for a long time. We've been gathering at Morehead information relative to Dr. Doran's role in higher education, state government, and so on. And of course when, uh, he was named as president of Morehead, Lawrence Wetherby was governor of the state. 00:16:00Were you at all involved in that, uh, process of selecting Adron Doran, and do you, did you know him at the time?

FARRIS: Oh, yes. I knew him and, uh, there's, there's no question that we were involved in the selection of, uh, college presidents generally. And I say that without, uh, fear of, of, of the, whatever the national association of professors' organization might be that shudder at such things. Uh, in those days that's the way you got to be elected president. And, uh, in many instances, uh, outstanding, uh, selections were made, starting with, uh, Adron, 00:17:00in my, in my judgment.

KLEBER: How well did you know him?

FARRIS: I knew him well. He had served a number of terms in the state legislature, had been speaker of the house, uh, worked both in, on the civic side of, uh, of government and on the political side with, with the governor and the governor's office and the state administration. We, we were very--Adron was very close to Wetherby, me, and state government generally.

KLEBER: His nomination or selection, let's say, was somewhat controversial. In fact, I think he was elected by the board of regents on a three to two vote. Do you recall the, the controversy here in the state capitol when, uh, when this was proposed?

FARRIS: I have probably forgotten many of the small details that transpired 00:18:00about, uh, Adron's selection, but I, I do know that all possible, bases were touched and, and, uh, and the gears meshed to assure Adron's, uh, election as president.

KLEBER: And you supported that election?

FARRIS: Oh, very, very much so.

KLEBER: Governor Wetherby said he was somewhat apprehensive when he made this selection. In fact, uh--

FARRIS: Well, Morehead had this volatile record in accreditation and such related matters that, uh, we, we were concerned, but we also felt that Adron was, had the ability and was, was the right man for the job, and that if we 00:19:00could get him appointed that, uh, he would bring Morehead out of the tailspin that it was in.

KLEBER: So you feel that it was his ability which was the key factor?

FARRIS: I think Adron's, uh, the, the merit that was associated with Adron's application or interest in or desire to be president, uh, was the prime moving factor in, in our ability, the governor's ability to get him elected.

KLEBER: Do you recall that at that time, or prior to that time, just prior to that time he wanted to be also president of Murray State University? Are you aware of that?

FARRIS: Yes. I, I knew about that.

KLEBER: He was denied that at the time--

FARRIS: Right.

KLEBER: --and became Morehead's instead.

FARRIS: Right.

KLEBER: Do you think his contribution was great to higher education in Kentucky?

00:20:00

FARRIS: Yes, I think so.

KLEBER: Did you continue a relationship with him after that or--

FARRIS: Not, certainly not, not, not nearly as close as it had been for a number of years during the Clements-Wetherby administrations, because he, he, of course, removed himself completely, as far as I know, from, well, certainly from Frankfort, uh, state administration matters, and political affairs, though, uh--

KLEBER: --well, he kept his--

FARRIS: --I understand from the grapevine that, uh, these regional university presidents did not remove themselves entirely from, from regional politics. (both laugh)

KLEBER: That's true. But I think he always kept his hand on the pulse of what was going on here in Frankfort.

FARRIS: Oh, yes, I think that's true.

KLEBER: I think particularly for budget purposes.

00:21:00

FARRIS: Yes, sir, I think there's no question about that.

KLEBER: All right. Thank you very much, Mr. Farris.

FARRIS: Well--

(Pause in recording.)

KLEBER: In speaking with Mr. Farris after this taped interview, he made some comments on the character of Governor Wetherby that I thought were interesting and wanted to put on this tape. He said, for example, that, uh; whereas Governor Clements had been a rather scheming and devious individual who was uneasy with the press and loved power, Governor Wetherby was just the opposite of that. He was open, relaxed, friendly, uh, knew how to use the press, was on very good terms with them. He had, did not have this tremendous, uh, love of power and so was not consumed with it. He, uh, also pointed out that one of the most important traits of Governor Wetherby was his ability at decision-making, 00:22:00and that he, he possessed this to a tremendous degree and, and much more so than Governor Clements. He was able to arrive at a decision quickly. He, uh, considered all the facts, and he, Mr. Farris kept iter--reiterating this as an important aspect of Wetherby's character. He felt that, uh, Wetherby liked the governorship. He felt also that, uh, uh, Governor Chandler had done a very terrible thing when he ran that very dirty campaign of 1955, and maligned Wetherby's character. Um--

[Pause in recording.]

KLEBER: He made an interesting observation that, uh, Wetherby seemed to be open 00:23:00about everything. In fact he, he never tended to hide things, but let everything out for everyone to see, and many times this got him into trouble. In other words, he was a candid and honest individual in his dealings. For example, he pointed out that Wetherby would take a drink in public and that other governors had not done this, and I'm sure Chandler played up on this aspect of Wetherby. Also, it's interesting that, uh, he was the--as Mr. Farris pointed out--the first governor from Louisville, the city slicker, and, uh, Chandler used this against him, and I'm sure others must have held this against him too, and somewhat suspicious of him because of that background. Oh, this is some of the ideas that Mr. Farris expressed and I put these on tape as I sit outside this Capitol Plaza building where I interviewed Mr. Farris on this very warm and sunny, beautiful day, and the mountains in the distance only a few 00:24:00leaves on them. Many of the leaves have fallen off due to the recent rain and I see the fountains in there and a mother with two young boys walking toward me, flags flying here. And it's an ideal setting that I hate to get up and leave now.

[End of Interview.]