Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Lawrence W. Wetherby, August 15, 1979

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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 KLEBER: The following is an interview with former governor Lawrence W. Wetherby. The interview was made by John Kleber of Morehead State University in Governor Wetherby's home in Frankfort, Kentucky on Wednesday, August 15, 1979. Uh, Governor, I wonder if you could tell me when the, when you first knew that, that you were going to become governor and your reaction to, uh, to that, uh, feeling?

WETHERBY: Well, my first knowledge of course was when the election of 1950, November 1950--when the votes were counted and Clements was named to the United States Senate. I knew then that the minute he took the oath as a senator, I would become acting governor, and would have a little more than a year to serve.

KLEBER: Let me ask you about that transition to becoming governor. Uh, was it 00:01:00harmonious transition? Uh, what were the details of it and your--

WETHERBY: Very harmonious. As soon as the election returns were certified, why, Governor Clements, uh, contacted me and asked me to come up and work with him for about a week, which I did. And, uh, he went over in detail with me various things that were going on in state government that I had not known about. I knew most of 'em but, uh, some things I did not have any knowledge of and he went over those with me, and then on the twenty-seventh of November, he was to, uh, take the oath of office as a senator which thereby vacated the office of governor. He would not resign as governor. He said no one should resign as governor, and that, uh, as a matter of operation of law, when he would 00:02:00take the oath as senator, then I would--as lieutenant governor, would automatically become governor. So our arrangement was made so that when he went to Washington and had taken the oath of office, he was to notify us and he did. He sent a wire to the attorney general and said he had taken the oath of office and therefore the governorship was vacant. So the attorney general then contacted me to come up to the, uh, second floor, and he had the chief justice of the Court of Appeals ready to give me the oath of office as governor.

KLEBER: Who was that chief justice?

WETHERBY: That was jus--Chief Justice Sims. Bax-- not Baxter Sims, but Porter 00:03:00Sims.

KLEBER: So you came up about a week before you became governor and worked with, uh,with Clements and, uh, and learned some of the ropes and the ins and outs, is that right?

WETHERBY: That's right. I was --matter of fact, I had been pretty close to Clements and, uh, had worked pretty closely with him. But then shortly after the election returns were certified, he said, "Now you better come up and go over everything with me," and I did. And spent about a week with him, uh, and then came back again and worked another week and then I told him I was leaving, I was going to see, uh, Kentucky and Tennessee play football. I did, and then got stuck down there in a snowstorm. But, uh, I got back late Sunday night and then drove from my home in Anchorage up to Frankfort Monday morning to await the 00:04:00wire from Clements, which we had arrangements made about, uh, so I could take the oath of office.

KLEBER: Now when you came in at that time, uh, I'm sure there was still a great deal you needed to know and you had to rely on people for assistance. Was there anyone in the Clements administration that came over to work with you at that time, who gave you a great deal of assistance?

WETHERBY: Well, primarily his executive secretary, Ed Farris, who had been with Clements for more than a year as executive secretary, and I asked him to stay on with me, which he did. And then, I had, uh, the budget, uh, director who was very close to Clements and very close to me, Felix Joyner, and he was well acquainted with our fiscal picture, and he and Farris would meet daily with me 00:05:00and go over various and sundry things in government.

KLEBER: For the most part, did you keep the advisors and assistants that, uh, Governor Clements had had?

WETHERBY: Not, uh, entirely. Uh, one of Clements's chief advisors was Joe Leary, and, uh, I did not have any, uh, relationship with him when I became governor. I did, however, keep most of Clements's department heads. Uh, I, uh, named a new commissioner of finance. I promoted a person who had been in the budget division to commissioner of finance, and, uh--but otherwise, I kept most of 'em.

KLEBER: Uh, would--did you review them at all--let's say, did you look at them 00:06:00as a group when you became governor and decided to keep some--

WETHERBY: I, I looked at 'em as a group and one or two I did not think should be kept, and I removed them, and replaced them with people loyal to me. And, uh, but most of 'em, uh, I went over there and had been acquainted with 'em and watched 'em during the three years when I was lieutenant governor and Clements was governor. And I was well acquainted with their activities and their work. And most of 'em, I kept. But two of 'em, I, let go.

KLEBER: Do you remember the two people who you appointed to those positions?

WETHERBY: Oh, yes. Uh, one, primarily, and the one that had some troubles and I was afraid was gonna get me in trouble, was the, uh, commissioner of highways. 00:07:00And I removed him and replaced him with Bill Curlin, who was an engineer and had been with the Highway Department for years and years, and was knowledgeable of Kentucky from one end to the other. He was from west Kentucky, so I appointed him as highway commissioner. One of the others was on our Alcohol Beverage Control Board, and I replaced him. I've forgotten who I did name to that one place. Then, later, shortly after that, I named a--an assistant commissioner of finance. Uh, I can't think of his name offhand--George Stewart. I named him as assistant commissioner of finance, and, uh, he had been in state 00:08:00government for quite a number of years. Uh, then the commissioner of revenue, shortly after that, resigned--shortly after I took over and I appointed a new commissioner of revenue. Then the, uh, one other commissioner resigned shortly after I took over and I named a commissioner in his place. But otherwise, most of 'em stayed right through.

KLEBER: You know, when Robert La Follette became governor of Wisconsin back at the turn of the century, one of the progressive reforms he initiated was to appoint people to department positions who had experience, expertise--rather than having, let's say, political power or political influence. How would you say you looked upon, uh, these appointments? Were, uh, were politics important 00:09:00in the choices you made?

WETHERBY: Not, not nearly as important to me as it had been to Clements and to my predecessor. For instance, Bill Curlin had no political connections. He was an expert in highway construction and management. Now, uh--also--(clears throat)--George Stewart in Finance was, uh, not too active politically, but he had been in state government and had knowledge of the finance department. Then I had a quite a battle shortly after that with the, uh, my political friends because I did not name a politician as head of the state police. Guthrie Crowl, who had, uh, been appointed by Clements and he was working closely with me and was an excellent, uh, head of the state police, uh--he would not listen to 00:10:00politicians and he did a fine job, but he resigned. Uh, he was gonna take a position as a judge of the Panama Canal Zone. And he resigned and of course all of my political friends, uh, got after me to name a politician, which I refused to do. I named a professional. I named Charlie Oldham who was a captain in the city police in Louisville. But I had, had knowledge of Oldham and had worked with him when I was in the juvenile court, so I knew he was an expert in police management, and I named him, over the protests of my political friends. So every appointment I made to a department head was purely on the basis of expert 00:11:00knowledge of that operation. For instance, later I named, uh, Felix Joyner as commissioner of finance because he had worked on the budget, he was director of the budget, he knew it from top to bottom. And he worked very closely with me and with Clements. So I named him as commissioner of finance.

KLEBER: Well, now, the fact that you did this, and were naming people without, let's say a great deal of political influence, did this at all cause a great deal of problems within the organization?

WETHERBY: Not too much because, uh, they found out that, uh, I was gonna run state government and they were gonna work with me or else, uh, uh, get out. So it didn't cause too much trouble. And then, of course, uh, when I ran for 00:12:00governor for a full term, a real political, uh, proponent ran for lieutenant governor, and I supported him. That was Emerson "Doc" Beauchamp. And he kept in close contact with the politicians and helped with our organizational set-up. He had more to do with our organization than I did--when he was elected lieutenant governor and took over in 1951.

KLEBER: Well, now, there's no doubt that Clements had an organization or machine--

WETHERBY: That's right.

KLEBER: --as the old term was. Now when he left to go to Washington, you of course being governor, did you take over the reins of that machine or did Clements still exercise power in running that machine?

WETHERBY: Well, uh, I took over. In other words, they looked to me because the governor is the head of the political operation in Kentucky, and they looked to 00:13:00me. Uh, and I had no problem with Clements's organization except one or two of 'em. Uh, one was Joe Leary and one later was, uh, the commissioner of the Economic Security Department. And, uh, he did not want to go along with our support of a successor. And I had trouble with him; otherwise, I had no trouble with Clements's organization. They all just fell right into line because--'course there were reasons for that, I think. Uh, I had worked closely with Clements while he was governor. They all knew how close Clements and I were together, so they just followed right in with me as they did--had with Clements.

KLEBER: Did you feel that you had to exercise a strong hand in taking over that organization?


WETHERBY: Yes, sir, I did, and I had to quarrel with Clements over two or three appointments that, uh, he did not, uh, particularly like. For instance, uh, he came down to see me from Washington about one appointment to the Board of Trustees at the University of Kentucky. And he was very high on one person, and I would not name that person. I named the person I wanted to name, and he was a little upset with me, but most of 'em, uh, most of our, uh, relationship when he was in the Senate was good. He would call me and ask me about different things, or I would call him and ask him about different things. So we worked pretty close, even while he was in the Senate and I was governor.

KLEBER: So you feel that Clements pretty much handed over to you the, the organization?


WETHERBY: Yes, he did.

KLEBER: "It's yours and run it now."

WETHERBY: That's right. That's right. He, uh, 'course he kept in touch with a lot of his friends in the organization, but he did not encourage them to oppose me in any respect. We did have one, uh, rather, uh--I guess you'd call it a serious sparring match in reference to a, uh, position. And I beat him--my man beat his man. I supported John Watts to run for Congress in the state Democratic convention or organization meeting to name a successor to Virgil Chapman. Virgil Chapman had gone to the Senate and Tom Underwood had, uh, gone 00:16:00to Congress. No, Tom went to the Senate later, after Virgil. But there was a vacancy in the Sixth Congressional District by virtue of a death. And I supported John Watts. Clements supported, uh, Clyde Reeves, but my man got most of the votes in the, uh, Sixth District, uh, committee meeting, and Watts was named as our nominee and won and served several terms in Congress.

KLEBER: How did Clements take that defeat?

WETHERBY: Well, he, uh, he thought I had made a mistake, but, uh, later he and John became real close and worked closely in Washington. They worked together. He, uh, of course, did not like that defeat, but as I say, he had no bitterness 00:17:00towards Watts because, of course, Watts had been the majority leader in the house under Clements in 1948. And, uh, that's when I became acquainted with him, and he wanted to go to Congress and we had this vacancy to occur, so I supported Watts.

KLEBER: Do you think the fact that Clements supported someone else was an indication, again, of political favoritism that Clements felt toward this opponent of Watts?

WETHERBY: No, not, not particularly in this instance. Matter of fact, he was, he was more obligated politically to Watts than the was to Reeves. Well, he--Reeves had been the, uh, commissioner of finance under Chandler. And he had been the commissioner of finance under Clements, and he, uh, had been commissioner of finance under me--or commissioner of revenue, rather, under me. 00:18:00And, uh, Clements thought he had a lot of, uh, expert ability and he was supporting him purely on that basis, rather than on a political basis. Uh, as I say, politically, he was more obligated to Watts than he was to Reeves.

KLEBER: And what was your reason for supporting Watts in that , uh--

WETHERBY: I had become acquainted with him when he was majority leader in 1948 and I was the lieutenant governor presiding over the senate, and we became close friends, and I felt that he was the type of fellow--he was a farmer, he knew the tobacco industry and the Sixth District was a big tobacco district, and I felt that he would be a great addition for the farm vote. Then the tobacco fellows were encouraging me to be for Watts. Uh, one of the leaders of the tobacco 00:19:00industry came and talked to me about the possibilities. And, he was very much for Watts. Well, that pleased me because I was for Watts.

KLEBER: Watts served several terms.

WETHERBY: Yes, um-hm. Until his death--


WETHERBY: And he ran the last, uh, two or three terms without opposition.

KLEBER: So that shows he must have been a good--a very good candidate.

WETHERBY: That's right.

KLEBER: Uh, go back to this issue of your taking over the organization, uh, which I suppose is a rather difficult thing. There must have been a lot to do in, in trying to get the reins of that, that large machine. But let me ask you this. The ques--the fact that you were an urban governor, in a primarily rural state, where there has been traditionally a great deal of suspicion and mistrust of Louisville, how much did this affect, uh, your coming into that position?


WETHERBY: Well, it, uh--when we got to talking about who was gonna run for governor in '51, lots of the people in the organization questioned whether I should run or not since I was from the urban area. However, they all recognized that, that would be very helpful in the 1951 race, because I had gotten such a majority in the lieutenant governor's race in 1947, from Jefferson County. They felt that I could do the same thing, probably in the governor's race, so there was pro and con arguments on it. But I did not insist on running. I, kept telling the leadership of our organization when we'd get together to talk about a successor in '51, I'd say, well, I'm not a candidate. If you all want someone 00:21:00else to run, just say so. And if you've got a strong candidate, I'll support him. I don't have to be governor again. I've been governor for a year now. Well, as a result, all of 'em joined in and sort of made me run. Because as I say they were thinking about the possibility of a large majority in the Third District, Louisville and Jefferson County, which I had gotten in '47.

KLEBER: Now were you sincere when you told 'em you didn't want to run, or were you--bluffing?

WETHERBY: I wasn't particularly anxious to run 'cause once you're--(laughs)--agovernor, you're always a governor. So I had--knew I was gonna serve a year and I was gonna get a lot of things done that I wanted done, and, uh, I was sincere. I didn't care whether I ran or not.

KLEBER: But you were delighted when they--

WETHERBY: I was delighted when--because I would not have run had they not been 00:22:00almost unanimous in their idea that I should run.

KLEBER: Did you feel some animosity, uh, in the machine or in the state, let's say, due to the fact you were from Louisville? Was there--

WETHERBY: No, I did not. I never felt it. Uh, and those that pointed out that maybe I should not run, they had no animosity in it, they just were exploring it, and one of the finest supporters that I had during my whole period, in state government was a mountaineer who everyone thought would not be for me running for governor. But he was one of the strongest supporters I had, and one of those in the organization, and one of those closest to Clements who kept insisting, "Well, just forget about that; you're gonna run." That was Herb Smith from Harlan, Kentucky.


KLEBER: Let me ask you this story that I've heard. I'm sure there's no truth to it, but I'm curious about it. Someone said that you were always insistent on the fact that you were from Anchorage and not from Louisville, because of this feeling of some people in the state against Louisville. Is that--

WETHERBY: No, what happened was that when I got in--they talked me into the race for lieutenant governor, I announced that I was born and raised in Middletown. I had later moved to Anchorage which was in Jefferson County, but not in the city of Louisville, but that I practiced law in Louisville. And I always insisted when they'd say "Wetherby's from Louisville," I'd say, no, I'm from Anchorage. I always did that because it started when I was lieutenant--when I was running for lieutenant governor. I'd go into a rural 00:24:00county and they'd say, "Oh, you're that fellow from Louisville." I'd say, no I was from--I'm from Anchorage. As a matter of fact, I was born and raised at Middletown and, and raised on a farm. My daddy was a country doctor, and kept me on a farm right outside of Middletown.

KLEBER: Now did you, you said this because you felt it was, uh--of course it was the truth when you said it--

WETHERBY: That's right.

KLEBER: --but, uh, did you feel there was a need to say that because--

WETHERBY: --yeah, that's right. Because they were--there was an animosity towards Louisville, and towards a Louisville candidate. I think since I was elected lieutenant governor, a lot of that has disappeared. Of course at that time, the rural people thought that anybody from Louisville was gonna just take over the state and deliver it to Louisville. But while I served as lieutenant governor and governor, I proved otherwise, I think. And I think that, uh, in itself, has broken down that feeling. But it was there when I started running 00:25:00for lieutenant governor, and that's the reason I and all of my supporters that started me into the race would say and insist that I was from Jefferson County and not from Louisville.

KLEBER: Wilson Wyatt had been lieutenant governor, right? Was he before you or did he--

WETHERBY: No, he was much after me.

KLEBER: After--after you. I couldn't--

WETHERBY: Wyatt was running for governor in 1959, and then Combs was running. He had been defeated in '55 by Chandler. But he was running again in '59, and Wyatt was running also, but all of us decided that they could not win by fighting each other so we got 'em together and got Combs to run for governor and Wyatt to run for lieutenant governor.

KLEBER: So you must have been one of the first lieutenant governors and 00:26:00governors from Louisville.

WETHERBY: I was. There was only one prior to my election as lieutenant governor, and that was the lieutenant governor from Jefferson, but he was a Republican, and I was the first Democrat from Jefferson County to be elected governor.

KLEBER: Hmm. Probably one of the--well, I would say the most important thing that you did, uh, in that one ye---one year or so being governor before you were elected at your own right, is the fact that you called an extraordinary session of the general assembly.

WETHERBY: That's right.

KLEBER: Uh, and it met on March 6, 1951.


KLEBER: Can you tell me the--your thinking behind calling that session?

WETHERBY: Well, uh, Clements had had a lot of trouble with the school lobby. And he--they--uh, marched on Frankfort during his session of 1950, and, uh--but 00:27:00he stuck to the budget that he had proposed, because he did not anticipate a big surplus. So we passed the budget that he and I had worked up, and we went on through that year. Well, by the end of that year, we could see that we were gonna have some surplus money, and I felt that there were two things--really, three, that needed attention when I became governor. One of 'em was we were gonna have a substantial surplus at the end of June, of 1951. I wanted to do something for the mental health program. I picked a professional to head my 00:28:00mental health program, Dr. Gaines .

KLEBER: Right.

WETHERBY: --and I had some money and he had done an investigation with all of the various hospitals and he had found that these, uh, super drugs were very effective in getting people out of the mental institutions and letting 'em go back home. So he wanted some money. We had this surplus, and I wanted to put the state employees under the Social Security program. We had to have money for that. And I wanted to give the school people some of that surplus so that they wouldn't pick on me. They'd been picking on Clements, so I called a special session, primarily for those three things: to give six million dollars to the 00:29:00educational fund for teachers' salary; to give some money to the Department of Mental Health to put in the new drug program for the treatment. We figured, Dr. Gaines and I both figured, that if I gave them the money to buy these new super drugs, that we could reduce the population in all of the mental institutions. Then, of course, the employees, uh, at that time had no, uh retirement program. They were not under Social Security, so I wanted to put 'em under Social Security and appropriate the money to pay for it.

KLEBER: Now part of that, uh, plan that--you had also called for two million dollar old age assistance aid to needy, blind, and dependent children.

WETHERBY: That's right. Um-hm.

KLEBER: That was another part of the--of the call.


WETHERBY: That's right.

KLEBER: And a rather important one, I gather, from looking at the letters that, uh--

WETHERBY: Well, it was. It was a very important one, but, uh, as I say, the three primary reasons I wanted to call it were these. That one came along a little bit later by virtue of the head of economic security telling me how much better they would be with some matching federal funds, if they had this additional money.

KLEBER: Two million dollars?

WETHERBY: That's right.

KLEBER: So then the four things that came out of this extraordinary session were increased teachers' salaries--

WETHERBY: That's right.

KLEBER: --and, uh, uh, two million dollars to old age assistance, aid to needy, blind, dependent children--


KLEBER: --increased money to the Department of Welfare--

WETHERBY: That's right.

KLEBER: --and then the government employees and officials would be placed under Social Security.

WETHERBY: Yeah. Now the increase to the Department of Welfare, that was part of the mental health program, which at that time was under the Department of Welfare.


KLEBER: You're the one that separated the mental health department--

WETHERBY: That's right.

KLEBER: --out of it later.

WETHERBY: At my first regular session.

KLEBER: Um, well, you submitted these things and what kind of problems did you encounter in, in getting this legislation through the general assembly?

WETHERBY: None. I didn't think we'd have any problems because--(coughs)--I had worked closely with the senate of course when I was lieutenant governor. In addition to that, you never have any problem getting members to vote for appropriations. You have trouble getting 'em to vote for taxes to take care of the appropriations. And we didn't need any additional, uh, revenue. We had the surplus that I was banking on, so I had no trouble whatsoever. As a matter of fact, I don't think I lost a vote in either house on the whole program.

KLEBER: Was there anybody who said, well, we, we, we should not put it here. Let's take the money and put it for something else?

WETHERBY: No. Well, some of 'em said that, but they--they weren't, uh, really 00:32:00fighting over it. Now some of the Republicans said well, the only reason he did this is because he wants to run for governor and he's trying to buy some votes, and there was that kind of talk. But, uh, they all went along with it. They wouldn't vote against appropriations like that to those different groups.

KLEBER: Uh, the increased teachers' salaries that you appropriated amounted to about three hundred dollars per teacher.

WETHERBY: That's right.

KLEBER: What was the reaction of the teachers? Were they satisfied with that?

WETHERBY: Oh, they were tickled to death, because they had, uh, been defeated in their--in the 1950 session when they were battling for more money. And at that time, it didn't look like there was any money there. It would have taken additional tax revenue to give more money. But then when I found we were gonna have the surplus and called the KEA [Kentucky Education Association] leadership and told 'em that I was gonna give 'em some money, they were tickled to death. 00:33:00It was just a question of how much. And I spelled it out in the bills that I submitted that it should go to teachers' salaries instead of to building projects and this, that, and the other. (coughs)

KLEBER: I remember that in 1950, the teachers had been rather upset, hadn't they--

WETHERBY: That's right.

KLEBER: --yeah, over what the legislature did. What was the cause of this surplus? Was it the Korean War as much as anything else?

WETHERBY: Much as anything else. The Korean War, uh, and the business pick-up at that time. 'Course by the same token, you come along to 1954, and just the opposite was taking place. We were not gonna have any surplus. Matter of fact, we couldn't meet the appropriations without a cutback because of the war situation. So, uh, in 1954, I had to cut the budget across the board that the 00:34:00legislature had appropriated, and had to do away with the filling of jobs as they became vacant, and cut out all raises to everyone in state government. (coughs)

KLEBER: During your five years as governor, how much did the taxes go up? Uh, do you have any idea?

WETHERBY: Only to this extent: I increased the--recommended to the legislature, and they did it--increased the tax on beer. I increased the tax on, uh, one or two--oh, cigarettes. I changed the method of collection of tax on cigarettes. And, uh, instead of putting it on, uh, a penny on this or that, we put a 00:35:00three-cent tax on a twenty-cent pack of cigarettes.

KLEBER: Um-hm.

WETHERBY: We spelled it out. Then in addition to that, I proposed and the legislature adopted it, a withholding tax on state income tax, a withholding plan so that we immediately would collect the taxes that were due from a salary and by virtue of that we did pick up about a six month gap in, uh, revenue. But that was not an increase in taxes. It was a different method of collection of the state income tax, and it did help us get over a rough spot in financing.


KLEBER: So you did not raise the, uh, public, uh, income tax and--

WETHERBY: Never raised the income tax, and, uh, a sales tax was defeated in the legislature which was sponsored by John Young Brown .

KLEBER: I'll, I'll wanna come back later to that in--that sales tax--


KLEBER: --but that's an interesting position you took on that. Um well, I, I think that, that shortly after that extraordinary session, you began to plan for the primary, uh, campaign of 1951.

WETHERBY: That's right.

KLEBER: Uh, I believe there's a primary election at that time, was in August--

WETHERBY: August, right.

KLEBER: --of 1951. Uh, let me stop

[Pause in recording.]

KLEBER: Uh, I have a letter here dated July 26, 1951, and it's written by you to a Reverend James A. Shepherd of Louisville, in which, uh, you outline, uh, 00:37:00some of the things that you have advocated, things you've placed special emphasis on during your administration, and I'd like to list these. You mentioned, number one, improvement of our state school system. Two, full development of our tourist industry. Three, better road system and continuation of the rural road program. Four, continuation of park development. Five, treatment program for mental patients. Six, further industrial development for Kentucky. Seven, a new registration and purgation law. And eight, full development of Kentucky agriculture, particularly dairy and beef cattle industry. These are all things you had em--emphasized during the few months you had been governor, is that correct?

WETHERBY: That's right. That's right. On that beef cattle, we started a Green Pasture Program, and I toured the state with the agricultural leaders, uh, to promote a beef program in Kentucky, "Green Pastures." One other thing, and today is the twenty-fifth anniversary of it, and they're celebrating it at the 00:38:00state fair today, I advocated and sponsored a bookmobile program for Kentucky. That, of course, was not in that period there.

KLEBER: Couple of--

WETHERBY: That was after I became governor and the--I asked the legislature in 1952, in my first regular session, to appropriate money for a bookmobile program.

KLEBER: Well, let's, let's take this primary of 1951. Was there opposition to you, uh, in the primary election?

WETHERBY: Well, there started out to be some. Chandler started exploring but he found out I was in pretty good shape, and he backed off. Then he could not encourage--he tried to encourage several people to run against me. He could not, but finally--a harum-scarum sort of fellow from northern Kentucky-- I call 00:39:00him that--decided to get in and run against me. He did. He ran against me in the primary and he carried one county, his home county of Kenton.

KLEBER: Who was that?

WETHERBY: That was--I'll be a minute--

[Pause in recording.]

That was Hal Vinson from Covington, Kentucky and he carried one county against me. He carried that one on the basis that--on telling the people up there I was the fellow that sent the police up there to close up their gambling joints.

KLEBER: (laughs) One county?

WETHERBY: One county.

KLEBER: So the, you--the opposition was nominal to you in--

WETHERBY: Very nominal and--

KLEBER: Do you recall the vote that--

WETHERBY: No, it was a landslide vote as I say, because he got very few votes anyplace other than in northern Kentucky.

KLEBER: Now was there a Republican primary that year?

WETHERBY: Yes, I believe there was. And a former judge of the Court of 00:40:00Appeals, Judge Eugene Siler, won the primary. And he was my opponent in the fall campaign.

KLEBER: Now did you know Eugene Siler well?

WETHERBY: I didn't know him too well, but as a lawyer, I had appeared before the court when he was on the Court of Appeals and I knew him to the extent of a relationship of a lawyer--one lawyer to another.

KLEBER: Were you at any time during that campaign, the prime--let's say the fall campaign, were you at any time doubtful of winning the election?

WETHERBY: Well, I wasn't doubtful in the campaign. I had, uh, when he won the primary, I knew what kind of campaign he would make, and I was a little worried about that. But when we got into the campaign, I was not worried about winning. 00:41:00I knew that he, having been a lay Baptist preacher, would capitalize on that in eastern Kentucky. Having lived in eastern Kentucky, I knew he would capitalize on it with the Republicans, and would get out a tremendous vote. He--I knew also he would--he--his supporters would, uh, start the whispering campaign against me because I was married to a Catholic. And, uh, getting in the Bible Belt with his supporters, I knew it would be dangerous. But, uh, we were so well organized and we had--I had such a good record in the year I'd been there as governor, I wasn't a bit afraid of losing the race. I knew that--and felt 00:42:00confident we could win it.

KLEBER: Did you campaign extensively over the state during that campaign?

WETHERBY: All over the state, yes. I went from one end to the other, in the small county--I mean the small towns as well as the large ones.

KLEBER: How did you travel around? By car or--

WETHERBY: By car. By car entirely. And I would go into a county and visit every town in the county. Go in and--I, uh, have told this story often--I campaigned extensively in western Kentucky because that's where the Democrats are, and I went to western Kentucky one week, and spent a whole week. I said I--ate country ham three times a day for one solid week and came back with fever blisters from my eyes to my chin. (both laugh)

KLEBER: Did you do a lot of stump speaking?



KLEBER: Did you do that kind of extemporaneous--

WETHERBY: Yes. And, uh, from courthouses and from the, uh, squares--public squares. I had a pretty good organization and they would arrange a--we would arrange a schedule and tell the people in the local community, our leaders there what time we'd be at a certain place, and they would arrange a crowd and we'd have fine, uh, meetings all over the state, and as you asked, did you speak extemporaneously, I did. Talked about my record. Talked about the, uh, possibilities in their community of the tourist development and different things and of course reporters followed us, uh, and, uh, ordinarily, why, they would just write about what kind of speech I was gonna make and all. (laughs) I was 00:44:00in Sebree one day, speaking in a--in the courtroom and one--

[Tape#1, side 1ends; tape 1, side 2 begins.]

WETHERBY: --theme a little bit, and when I did, I looked out and Fritz just practically fell out of his chair. Jumped up and ran. He had to change his story about the speech I had made. (laughs) And after it was over, I was kidding him, I said, Fritz, why'd you leave when I was speaking? He said, "Well, you changed your theme," and he said, "I had already filed a story that you were gonna speak about the tourist industry, and about your mental health program, this, that, and the other." Said, "Here you get off on another theme on me." (laughs) So he said, "I had to go wire my additional story in." (laughs)

KLEBER: I wonder if he was as polite in his language as you just were then?

WETHERBY: Well, yes, he was, he was, pretty much.

KLEBER: He didn't get mad. Uh, were most of your speeches written out for you 00:45:00then, or did you just--


KLEBER: --could you just give 'em on--

WETHERBY: No, I, I never--as a matter of fact, I'll tell you a little story about that.

KLEBER: Um-hm.

WETHERBY: I, uh, went before the state, uh, women's, uh, the, uh, organization of the women to speak to them, uh, and the voter's league. And, uh, I spoke for about thirty-five minutes, I guess, and after it was over, one of the women came up to congratulate me on the fine speech, and said, "I want a copy of it." And I said, here. And I had one of my campaign cards, and on the back of it I had made four notes, just one-word notes so I could stretch those four different things. I said, here it is. She said, "I wanted a copy of your speech." And I 00:46:00said, that's it. (Kleber laughs) I said, I don't--I do not write a speech. I can't make one by reading it, so I just go over in my mind what I'm gonna say and jot down just a word to remind me to touch on that subject.

KLEBER: Now later on, I know that some of your speeches were written for you--

WETHERBY: That's right.

KLEBER: --when you became governor. But you always preferred to speak extemporaneously.

WETHERBY: That's right. That's right. 'Course when I spoke to the legislature for the special session or regular sessions, I always prepared speeches. I would go over with Ed Farris what I wanted to talk about and we would jointly write a speech.

KLEBER: Now this campaign, this fall campaign of 1951, you pretty much emphasized these eight points that I read before.

WETHERBY: That's right.

KLEBER: You would characterize that as your platform--

WETHERBY: That's right.

KLEBER: --at that time. And, uh, Siler--did, did he run on anything positively, or did--was it pretty much just innuendoes against you?


WETHERBY: Innuendoes against me and the fact that we had a corrupt administration in Frankfort, that nobody worked, that all they did was play, and this, that, and the other. And, uh, he said, "I've been there. I was on the court and I know what they do down there. They don't work, and the governor won't make 'em work."

KLEBER: But it didn't get him very far.

WETHERBY: No, it didn't.

KLEBER: Well, I know that the outcome of that election was, uh, I guess, rather gratifying. It was about three hundred forty-six thousand votes for you to two hundred and eighty-eight thousand for Siler.

WETHERBY: That's right.

KLEBER: So that was a--

WETHERBY: It was very gratifying to me because, uh--particularly when you looked at the returns as to where he got his--he received his votes. He received most of his in the Republican district of eastern Kentucky. He carried 00:48:00very few counties in the rest of the state. And, uh, of course he did get a lot of votes in Jefferson County from the Republicans because the Republicans at that time were pretty strong in Jefferson County. And, uh, but over the rest of the state, he got very few or very little support.

KLEBER: Did you carry Jefferson County in that election?

WETHERBY: Yes. Um-hm. Um-hm.

KLEBER: Okay. So you carried the city of Louisville as well?

WETHERBY: That's right.

KLEBER: He was carrying the county. Okay. Uh--

[End of interview.]