Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Lawrence W. Wetherby, September 13, 1979

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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 KLEBER: The following is a spontaneous and unrehearsed interview with former governor Lawrence W. Wetherby. The interview was made in Governor Wetherby's home in Frankfort, Kentucky on Thursday, September 13, 1979 by John Kleber of the Department of History, Morehead State University. Governor Wetherby, in looking at the 1952 general assembly, and, uh, considering some of the legislative proposals you made at that time, I'd like to look at this proposal that, uh, called for the revoking of the alcoholic licenses of any place convicted of allowing gambling on the premises. Uh, what was the origin of that, uh, piece of legislation, and what was the result of it?

WETHERBY: The, uh, at that time, we had found that gambling was rampant in northern Kentucky and in the Henderson area in western Kentucky. And it was 00:01:00hard to break it up. We did have several raids by the state police and, uh, so we thought another attack might be by providing for the, uh, cancellation of the license--the alcoholic beverage license of any place in which we found gambling. And, uh, that--was any place that was cited for gambling, then the ABC [Alcoholic Beverage Control] Board could take action to revoke the license. And that was the reason I proposed that to the legislature.

KLEBER: And did the legislature approve that, uh, regulation?

WETHERBY: They did approve it and it's been very effectively used by the ABC Board.

KLEBER: Uh, let's go back to, uh, the, the reason that you proposed that legislation, and can you tell me what was the condition in northern Kentucky at the time you became governor? What had been going on up there?


WETHERBY: Well, it was just wide-open gambling and prostitution and everything under the sun and the, uh, element that was involved in that was, uh, working on the local officials, and the local officials would not take any action to break it up. We, uh, Guthrie Crowe, who was the head of the state police at that time, talked to me about the possibility of making an unannounced raid which we did. (laughs) I approved, and he took several state police and plainclothesmen in and raided several of the gambling houses in northern Kentucky. And, uh, after that, why, they, uh, had raised sand, that we had violated our agreement by coming in to the local community. But the people, the citizens, the good 00:03:00citizens of the community were asking us to do it, so we did it. The same thing happened down in Henderson County, and at that time, they felt that the sheriff was being paid off. So they filed charges against the sheriff before me, to remove him. I appointed a former judge of the Court of Appeals to, uh, look into that situation and conduct a hearing. He started a hearing and the sheriff resigned rather than stand trial, uh, before the judge and--who would have made a recommendation to me one way or the other, whether or not--and under the law, and under the constitution, the governor has the right to remove a sheriff, a 00:04:00local sheriff, if he's found guilty of malfeasance or, or nonfeasance in office. But before the hearing, the attorney for the sheriff came up to the judge and announced that the sheriff would resign. So we started out to break up the gambling rings in northern Kentucky and in Henderson, and we were using all the tools at our command to do that.

KLEBER: What element was behind those gambling rings? You mentioned an element--

WETHERBY: Well, the, uh, they were, uh, getting to the point where the organized gambling group from all over the United States, were involved in northern Kentucky.

KLEBER: Mafia?

WETHERBY: The--well, we didn't know whether it was the Mafia or what it was. But, uh, at about that time, uh, Senator Kefauver, who was the head of a 00:05:00committee of the United States Senate, came down and conducted some hearings and found that there was a connection between the gambling in that area and the organized gambling in the United States. They did not call it the Mafia, they just said the organized gambling--group. So that's who was behind most of this gambling in northern Kentucky. Now that was not true in Henderson. That was a local group down there conducting the gambling. And, uh, as I say, as I stated, the sheriff was accused of being in on that deal down there. This all started when I was acting governor, and, uh, when I went into northern Kentucky 00:06:00campaigning for a full term, they asked me what I was gonna say about the gambling. I said, well, we're--I'm gonna say we're gonna break it up. "Well, are you gonna ease up on all of this, uh, anti-gambling crusade up here?" I said, not a bit; we're going right ahead just as we've started. I went to Henderson and the paper down there had a headline, "What's He Gonna Say About the Gambling?" Well, I opened my speech by saying, we're gonna break up the gambling and I don't care who's behind it. And we did. (laughs) So, uh, as I say, that all started when I was acting governor then when I was campaigning they started asking me questions about it and I told 'em frankly that I was gonna break it up. Then in my inaugural address, in December of 1951, that's one of the things I mentioned, the fact that I had run on that kind of a 00:07:00platform to clean up the state, and I was gonna do it.

KLEBER: Had Governor Clements taken a position on the gambling in northern Kentucky?

WETHERBY: He had not because it had not gotten, uh, the publicity or gotten out of hand. Uh, he never did, uh, take any action because it was not, uh, rampant at the time that he was governor.

KLEBER: Now in going through the letters that you have, uh, in your files, I noticed a, a great many of them came from people in northern Kentucky, complaining about the situation up there, and asking you to do something. And it seems to me that in the beginning, you replied that this was a local matter that had to be solved by local people. Did you try that at first and then that didn't work?

WETHERBY: That's exactly right. I, I took that position. As a matter of fact, you asked about Governor Clements.

KLEBER: Um-hm.

WETHERBY: Shortly before he, uh, left office, they asked him about it and he said--made that statement, well, that's a, a position that your local officials 00:08:00should look into and do something about. Then they got to writing me about it and I told 'em the same thing. But the local officials, we found out, were influenced and probably, uh, paid off by the gambling element and they would not act. So the citizens kept writing me letters and I said, well, we'll act. So I turned them over to Guthrie Crowe and Guthrie arranged a, an unannounced raid and we started breaking it up. And that was in, uh, Covington and then over into Newport. And when he started these raids with the state police, we broke it up pretty quickly.

KLEBER: Had the state police ever been used before in that kind of--

WETHERBY: Never had. Never had.

KLEBER: Never had.

WETHERBY: 'Course they were new, comparatively new as state police, you see. 00:09:00The state police department was just created in the 1948 session, and Guthrie Crowe, uh, a young lawyer from Oldham County who later became judge of the Panama Canal Zone, was picked by Governor Clements to, uh, head the state police, and to organize a new state police department, which he did, and did a grand job on it. And, uh, he cooperated in every respect with local officials, but when the local officials would not act, then he moved in.

KLEBER: Whose idea was it to use the state troops to go into--or the state police to go into northern Kentucky?

WETHERBY: I think it was a joint idea of Guthrie Crowe and me, because, uh, I had gotten all these letters and I discussed it with, uh, uh, Crowe, and asked him if there's anything we could do to break it up. He said, "Yeah, I think so, 00:10:00and let me work on it." So, as I say, I think it was a joint endeavor by Crowe and me.

KLEBER: What about the political repercussions that, that you might--

WETHERBY: Well, everyone said I would get in serious trouble by doing it, and I said, I can't help it. I'm, uh, sworn to uphold the law and I'm gonna uphold the law. That's when I was acting governor. And then when I went up there, to speak in the fall campaign of 1951, they asked me what I was gonna do about the gambling. I said, I'm gonna do the same thing we've been doing. I'm gonna try to break it up. And we're gonna use every method that we have in state government to help you, because your local officials would not do it. (coughs)

KLEBER: This, uh, reorganization of the, uh, police, state police, uh, gave to the governor, it seems, a great deal of power a governor didn't have before. 00:11:00Would you say--

WETHERBY: That's right. The, the, uh, police were only highway patrolmen prior to the time that Clements and I went into office. Clements proposed that they be a state police force and introduced legislation to that effect. And we had a terrible battle to pass that legislation. We had to amend the bill to provide that they would not go into local communities without the request of the local people. And, uh, of course the labor boys all fought the bill on the basis that we were creating a strikebreaking outfit. But, uh, we just created a state police department and let them police the state where it was necessary.

KLEBER: uh, you used the pol--the state police, I know on two occasions. First, the raids here in northern Kentucky and, and Henderson, and then also to 00:12:00maintain peace in the coal fields on occasion. Central City, I think, was an example of where you also--

WETHERBY: That's right.

KLEBER: --used them. Were there any other times when you had to use the state police?

WETHERBY: Well, we used 'em in the coal fields when they had a strike; not as strikebreakers as the labor boys had charged us with using 'em, but to preserve order because the miners got out of hand and started burning bridges, tearing up the roads, and blocking 'em, and blocking traffic and things like that, so I sent the police in purely on that basis, and informed 'em not to take sides between the labor side and the management side. But just to preserve order and not get off of the public property. And that's what they did.

KLEBER: And subsequently, in, in recent years, they've been used in the same 00:13:00way, haven't they?

WETHERBY: That's right.

KLEBER: Yeah. So you kind of set a precedent--

WETHERBY: That's right--

KLEBER: --for that in your administration. Uh, let's, uh, look at another aspect of that 1952 general assembly. You--this one to me is fascinating. You asked that, uh, an act be passed to make the fixing of athletic contests a felony. Uh, was that related to what had happened at the University of Kentucky?

WETHERBY: Absolutely. The, uh, assistant attorney general of the state of New York came down, called me about the point shaving by the basketball players of the University of Kentucky. They had a large investigation going on in New York State because of Madison Square Garden where the--a lot of the point shaving had 00:14:00gone on. They were investigating it and they discovered and found out that some of the Kentucky players were involved in that point shaving, uh, operation. So the assistant attorney general of the state of New York called me and made an appointment. Said he wanted to come and discuss that with me. He did and he gave me names, dates, and places of where some of our boys had been involved in the point shaving propagation in New York state and in New Orleans and two or three other places over the country, and asked me what I would do about it. I said, I'll cooperate in any way you want. What are you suggesting? He said, "All I wanted you to do was have full knowledge that some of your university boys were involved. I do not ask you to do anything at this time, but I wanted 00:15:00you to be informed because we're gonna call some of 'em in and probably indict some of 'em." He said, "If I need your help, I'll call you." He and I were in close contact with each other during the entire time, and he went up, after he talked to me, and talked to Dr. Donovan, the president of the university at that time, and Coach Adolph Rupp, who was the coach of the basketball team. And 'course both of them said that they knew that was not true. Well, this, uh, general had given me facts and figures about it, told me who all was involved, told me that--at times that Coach Rupp had allowed a known gambler and an advertised gambler to sit on the bench with the players, and that he was 00:16:00involved in the point, uh, shaving, and he gave me enough facts that I was convinced he was--that some of our boys were involved. And I made that statement. And I told him that I would back him up in the investigation completely. And I did and, uh, 'course some of the rabid U.K., uh, fans were upset about it, so then after that, at the next session of the legislature, I recommended that we make it a felony to do the things that had been going on.

KLEBER: And the legislature passed this?

WETHERBY: Legislature did pass it, yes.

KLEBER: This must have been one of the, the , the most monumental scandals to ever come --hit the state of Kentucky, and well, I still hear about it years later.

WETHERBY: I, I think it was. I think it was, and, uh, some of the boys were ruined for life. Uh, but they had brought it on themselves. And of course I 00:17:00was convinced that the, uh, situation was true because I had stayed at--and watched the basketball game at the Sugar Bowl, in the preceding year when Kentucky should have won a ball game and one of those involved on the point shaving, just deliberately threw a ball out of bounds, and I heard some , some of the fellows who were doing the betting on the games, who were seated close to me, saying, "See, see, we got it made. We got it made." I did not know at the time what they were talking about. But, putting it all together after the scandal broke, and came out in the open, I could understand what they were talking about.

KLEBER: Well, what, uh, was your relationship with, uh, Adolph Rupp at this time, if he denied any knowledge of it? Do you think he knew about it?


WETHERBY: I called him and talked to him about it, and he said, "I, I just don't believe it. I just don't believe it." And I said, well, they have it dead to rights on some of your boys, and you better not continue to deny it, because I have seen the facts and the figures that have appeared before--that have come out of the grand jury investigation in New York. And I said, you better, uh, he --of course, Rupp was saying all along, "That couldn't be our boys, it couldn't be our boys," but his boys were involved in it deeply.

KLEBER: Why was he saying that, do you think?

WETHERBY: I don't know, unless it was to protect the boys or, or to keep--(laughs)--from being involved, I don't know which. But a great friend of his, who was an odds maker and a gambler in Lexington was the fellow who would sit on the bench with him, and of course that came out and he hush--hushed that, but, uh, he, uh, he got a little upset with me for insisting that some of our 00:19:00boys were involved, and of course, as I say, I had seen the facts.

KLEBER: Uh, to follow on that, that point that, right there. I have heard that there was a struggle at the University of Kentucky during those years between "Bear" Bryant and Adolph Rupp for predominance, and what was U. of K. going to emphasize, football or basketball? Is that an, an accurate statement?

WETHERBY: Well, there was, there was some, um, friction between 'em because Bryant came there and developed a winning football team, and prior to that time, Kentucky had been known as a basketball team entirely. And of course, Rupp had a little feeling towards Bryant getting all the good publicity and going to the Sugar Bowl game, going to the Cotton Bowl game, going to the Orange Bowl game. Three consecutive years. And, uh, that upset Rupp. However, Rupp and Bryant later become--became close friends, and, uh, but at that time, there was a 00:20:00little friction there and, uh, certainly I could see it and would feel it when I was with Bryant. And 'course Bryant and I were very close, and Rupp resented that to some extent.

KLEBER: Did you ever feel called upon to support either the basketball or football element at the University of Kentucky?

WETHERBY: Only to the extent, uh, that Bryant and my relationship was such that he would call me and ask me did I--"We've got a rough game on the road, will you fly with us and talk to the boys, if necessary, and visit with us?" Well, I did. And I supported the football team completely because Bryant had been so vigorous in his support of me, and I thought was doing such a great job with his boys up there. And certainly there was no scandal with his football players at any time. So I supported him all out, went with him as I say, anytime he asked 00:21:00me to go with him on a trip. I would go with him and ride with the boys and come back with 'em.

KLEBER: What was the, uh, source of your all's friendship? Did, uh, it go 'way back many years, or did you--

WETHERBY: No, just after he came to Kentucky. When Clements and I were running, in 1947, we became close and he went out to help us win our election. And that was when I became close to him, and he and I became friends and have been ever since.

KLEBER: Did you all ever hunt together?

WETHERBY: Oh, yes. We hunted and fished together all the time, and after he went to, uh, Texas, he called me and asked me to come and visit him and I did. Went out to two or three of his games. Then he subsequently went to Alabama and, uh, on two or three occasions, I went to Alabama and fished and hunted with him.


KLEBER: What was your relationship with President Donovan of the University of Kentucky?

WETHERBY: Well, it became rather strained because, uh, they had, uh, a set-up at the university where no-one in state government could touch their budget arrangement. We would appropriate money, and they'd shove it around anyplace they wanted to. So in the 1948 session, Governor Clements, who was a graduate of the University of Kentucky, proposed a bill which put some strings on it, so that you could appropriate the money for particular divisions of the university, and earmark it, and also they had a provision in that bill giving the legislature more control over the university. And Dr. Donovan came down and 00:23:00jumped on me about the bill and I said, wait just a minute, I'm gonna support the bill, but Governor Clements is the fellow who proposed the bill. Let's have a meeting, and we did have one and he--Dr. Donovan got upset with me and with Governor Clements, with Dick Moloney who was the majority leader in the senate, and he just reared and charged that night and from then on, he and I were not too close.

KLEBER: Did he remain president throughout your term as governor?

WETHERBY: I think so. Uh, I'm sure he did, yes. Uh, I was chairman of the board--

KLEBER: Right.

WETHERBY: --and attended every meeting of the board, and he, at that time, was trying to get rid of the governor as chairman of the board, which they eventually did. And, uh, he did not like the fact that the governor, any 00:24:00governor, was chairman of his board, as he called it.

KLEBER: Would you say that you did not approve of the way he ran the University of Kentucky?

WETHERBY: Well, uh, to some extent I would say that's true. Uh, some things I did not, uh, like the way he handled the administration of the university, but overall I think he did a real good job.

KLEBER: There is another act that came out of this, uh, legislature that, uh, in, in our present day, it seems to be very interesting and almost seems to be, uh, ahead of its time. That is, you act--asked for an act increasing the penalties for the illegal sale and distribution of narcotics. Was that a serious problem, uh, twenty-five years in the state of Kentucky?

WETHERBY: It was just starting. And, uh, Dick Moloney, who was my, uh, 00:25:00majority leader in the senate, had been a druggist. He was an attorney at the time that he was working with me, and with Governor Clements. And he said that, at that time, that the--and he's the one who primarily asked me, uh, to sponsor such a bill. He said, uh, that even youngsters were getting into drug--the drug racket. Ambehistamines [amphetamines] I think he said were the first ones, that they were buy--able to buy those at the drugstores and that, as a result of that, that they were getting into other drug business. And they were, it was so easy for 'em to get the drugs, that he suggested to me, that we introduce such legislation, which we did.


KLEBER: And it was enacted by the--

WETHERBY: It was enacted, yes.

KLEBER: Another part, uh, of that general assembly was a call for the removal of the University of Kentucky and other colleges from the control of the Personnel Division. Uh, what was the purpose for this proposal?

WETHERBY: Well, uh, that was for the purpose of getting back to the discussion I told you about between Dr. Donovan and us. They had ignored the state. All it did was come down with a request for money, you'd appropriate it, and in a lump sum. And they would shift it around between the various schools of, of the university and the various, various colleges any way they saw fit. Then, at that time, they had a person in charge of their money operation who had been in state government as commissioner of finance, and he was running the University 00:27:00of Louis--of Kentucky by taking the appropriation of the state and doing with it as he saw fit, and, uh, there was quite a battle going on between the legislature and the university authorities about the control of their funds and what they could do with 'em and what they couldn't do with 'em. And we, we, uh, bypassed 'em to some extent by--in our appropriations bill, we spelled out so much money for the College of Agriculture, so much money for this college, so much money for that college. And they did not like it.

KLEBER: Now, now let me get this straight. The legislature was appropriating a lump sum to the University of Kentucky and all the other state universities at that time?

WETHERBY: Up until Clements became governor.



WETHERBY: Then we started spelling out what the appropriation--and breaking down the appropriation.

KLEBER: According to the schools?

WETHERBY: According to the schools. And the College of Agriculture was to get so much money. The Extension Service was to get so much money, and the various colleges within the university, so that it was not a lump-sum deal as it had been in the past.

KLEBER: Did anyone ever accuse you of favoring the University of Louisville against the University of Kentucky?

WETHERBY: No, they did not because all I would--could ever do, and we did it while I was lieutenant governor, I got, uh, Governor Clements to agree to make an appropriation to a board for the purpose of helping the University of Louisville Medical School, because that was the only one in the state and they were in desperate shape. And we did create a board so as to not appropriate 00:29:00money directly to a private institution. The University of Louisville, at that time, was a Louisville school and a private school for the University of Louisville. So, uh, you could not appropriate state funds to 'em. So we devised a scheme, to set up a board known as a research group and appropriated some money to them, and they in turn spent it at the University of Louisville Medical School.

KLEBER: Now while you're on the theme of the University of Louisville Medical School, am I correct in saying that it was during your administration that the idea originated and was approved for the construction of the University of Kentucky Medical School?

WETHERBY: That's right. I, uh, they, uh, had a big movement on for a medical school, a second one. And I said, well, I don't know whether we can afford it and whether we need one. So I appointed a committee to study it, and they studied it and came back with a recommendation that we do create a medical 00:30:00school. Now that's as far as I went. Uh, from then on, Chandler then appropriated some money for a medical school, but that's all he did, and he broke ground. Combs, when he ran and was elected, and then Breathitt created the money for the building of the University of Kentucky Medical School.

KLEBER: Um do you remember who was on that committee that you appointed to study the--

WETHERBY: Yes sir. Dr. Baughman my next-door neighbor down here was one, and I have a paper that he recently, uh, presented to the medical association about the history of that. Uh, Dr. Howard from Glasgow was another member of it. Uh, one or two doctors out of, uh, Lexington, and one or two out of Louisville were 00:31:00on it. I can't recall all of their names at this time.

KLEBER: They were unanimous in their support for another medical school?

WETHERBY: Yes. Even the doctors from Louisville, because they figured that the University of Louisville could not get the money from the state at that time, and they felt that we needed more medical doctors, uh, in--trained in Kentucky. And they all recommended that the state of Kentucky create a medical school.

KLEBER: Did you have any opposition?

WETHERBY: Oh yes. There was opposition to it, yes indeed.

KLEBER: Were you opposed to it at all?

WETHERBY: No, I was not. I said I would abide by whatever recommendation the committee that I named came up with.

KLEBER: I'm curious who might oppose something like that.

WETHERBY: Well, primarily members of the legislature who felt that a medical school at the University of Kentucky would rob all of the other, uh, higher 00:32:00educational facilities of funds by virtue of the cost of a medical school. That was the only problem in it, was the, the dollars involved.

KLEBER: Right. Did you, during your administration, attempt to find money for it at all? Or did--would that then have changed--

WETHERBY: No. No, I did not because that committee reported to me right towards the end of my term.

KLEBER: Uh, during your, uh, that general assembly, there were annual appropriations to elementary and high schools, uh, in the, uh, sum of thirty million dollars. Was this an increase at that time--


KLEBER: --of money that was going to elementary --

WETHERBY: It was. It, it was the increase that I had given 'em in the special session, plus some additional increase.

KLEBER: Yeah. Now there's something, I think, important that came out of that, and that was an attempt to change the constitutional restrictions around the distribution of the common school funds.

WETHERBY: That's right. And I 00:33:00advocated that we just repeal outright. During Clements' administration, we amended Section 186 of the constitution to provide that 25 percent of the school fund did not have to be distributed on a per capita basis. You see, 186 of the constitution provided that all state money for schools should be distributed on a per capita basis. In other words, if there were a thousand children in a county, they--the per capita basis was used to distribute the money, whether there were five hundred of those children going to Catholic schools or not going to school or not. They'd--the school system would get their proportionate part of the per capita school fund. So then, after we amended it to provide for 25 00:34:00percent not to be distributed on that basis, but be distributed otherwise, I then advocated and supported and helped to get through the legislature a bill to repeal Section 186 of the constitution outright. We did, and in 1953, with a battle royal over the state, we passed that legislation creating a--or proposing an amendment to the constitution to repeal Section 186. We did repeal it. Then in 1954, I proposed to the legislature, and they adopted it, a minimum 00:35:00foundation program which was exactly what the leaders of the educational field had wanted and had advocated so I said, you all draw your bill and let me have it and I'll support it. And we had a battle royal to pass it, but we did pass it.

KLEBER: And what do you think the results of that, uh, passage were?

WETHERBY: Well, at that time, I thought they were great. Now I think that we need some additional changes. I think that now the--maybe the state's gone too far because in recent sessions, they have passed a state tax now for education, and they've taken that--I think it's thirty cents away from the local people. They collect it for the state, and add that to the fund for education. As I 00:36:00say, I think they've gone a little too far and I think the, uh, minimum foundation program has outlived its usefulness. I think that we need to look at additional methods of financing education.

KLEBER: The, uh, when the program was first approved twenty years ago--twenty or more years ago, what results could you see at that time?

WETHERBY: Well, you could see immediately that--see, we had, uh, provisions in the law that the local people, you have to have so much effort locally before you could get funds from the state. Then the program provided that you would have so many students in each class, not more than--I believe it was twenty-five 00:37:00or twenty-six that--then so much of the money must be used for supplies and, uh, things of that sort, and so much had to be applied to a building program, to upgrade legis--the educational facilities. But, in order for a county or a school district to quality for the minimum foundation money from the state, they had to exert a local effort of such and such a percentage.

KLEBER: Did most counties do that?

WETHERBY: Yeah, they had to.

KLEBER: Had to.

WETHERBY: Because if they didn't, the superintendent of public instruction could withhold their funds. So he sort of had a club over 'em and most of 'em have to do it. 'Course some of 'em got around it by doing this: reducing their assessments at, uh, the local level, their assessments on real estate, and 00:38:00raising their tax rate to comply with the law.

KLEBER: It evened out, then, when they did that. Did this raise additional monies for, uh, for public education?

WETHERBY: Yes it did, um-hm.

KLEBER: Improved public education, you think?

WETHERBY: Um-hm. Oh, I think it did. It, uh, it had been done in several other states, and the educational leaders throughout Kentucky and throughout the nation at that time were advocating minimum foundation programs, providing that, uh, no child would be deprived of an education because of lack of funds, if the fellow in the other county, the child in the other county, was getting funds.

KLEBER: Who opposed it in Kentucky?

WETHERBY: Well, uh, a lot of the local school board members and a lot of the local officials. They felt that the state was taking over the educational, uh, 00:39:00functions of the child, and as I say, I think that maybe the state has gone too far now, uh, state has raised their real estate tax to--I think it's now thirty cents, and then they feed it back to the counties through the minimum foundation program.

KLEBER: Do you think the minimum foundation program helped rural counties more than urban counties?

WETHERBY: Oh yeah, definitely did. And of course, you asked who opposed it; that was who opposed it, were the urban counties, primarily the Louisville and Jefferson County school board. They just fought it like tooth and toenail.


WETHERBY: And all of the urban areas did. They felt they would be deprived of some of their funds. And the, the big thing about it, though, after we repealed 186--Section 186, was that the money could be distributed on any other basis. 00:40:00In other words, and in the minimum foundation program, we provided that it would be distributed on the average daily attendance instead of on per capita. In other words, if a county had five hundred students, and only four hundred, four hundred of 'em were going to public schools, those four hundred were counted in the minimum foundation program for distribution of funds. That hundred that weren't going to the schools were not counted. (clears throat)

KLEBER: When you were governor of the Commonwealth, were there large areas of Kentucky that were not served by electric service?

WETHERBY: Yes indeed. Quite a few. And REA [Rural Electrification Administration] was coming into a big, uh, development about that time.


KLEBER: You supported, I think, during your administration an Eastern Kentucky Rural Electric Cooperative Corporation to construct power plants giving electricity to eighty thousand rural families.


KLEBER: Uh, what area of the st--the far eastern part of our state?

WETHERBY: That's right. From Winchester, east. The Kentucky Utilities Company, which was the large, uh, uh, electrical company in Kentucky, fought and fought and fought to preserve that territory for future expansion. But, uh, the REA could get money from the federal government on loan, and develop it immediately. So, uh, I supported the REA from that standpoint, and our Public 00:42:00Service Commission, headed by Judge Robert Coleman, directed the REA to go into those territories even though KU was saying, well, we will develop that, but REA was going in there immediately. So I supported that, and supported the east Kentucky REA to develop all of east Kentucky for electrical needs.

KLEBER: Is this figure of eighty thousand rural families receiving electricity about the number that received it during your administration, or do you think it was greater than that?

WETHERBY: I think it was greater than that because that was just what we had when we started talking about it.

KLEBER: Yes, sir.

WETHERBY: And, uh, after that, and after they started building electrical lines into those areas, why you'd see an icebox on the front porch of a little cabin out in the--on the side of a hill. Prior to that time, they didn't even have an 00:43:00electric light, but then they got, uh, refrigerators, uh, they got refrigerators and they got radios and they got conveniences that the city folks had had for years.

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

KLEBER: So you remember a time when you campaigned for governor, and you went into areas where there was no electricity?

WETHERBY: Oh, yes, indeed. And as a matter of fact, I remember the time when I was a youngster growing up in Middletown, and we did not have electricity there. I remember when it came. And the first light that we had was one hanging from the ceiling. With a just a tube down and a bulb on it, and a chain to pull it.

KLEBER: You must be very proud of the fact that electricity was spread to so many more people during this day. When you left office, was, was the whole state pretty much blanketed with electric--

WETHERBY: Pretty much. We had the REA developed in not only east Kentucky but west Kentucky, and, uh, some of my strong friends and supporters were involved 00:44:00in those, uh, developments.

KLEBER: Now, one other thing that comes up during your administration is the fact that, uh, as far as I know, it was during your administration when the concept of toll road was proposed and accepted and supported and indeed toll road construction began. Uh, did this idea originate in your administration or was it an older idea than that?

WETHERBY: No, it was--well, we had had just a smattering of discussion about it in the 1950 session of the legislature, and there was a bill introduced to create a toll road commission, but that's as far as it went. But then in--during my administration, we had the governors' conference at New York, up at Lake George, and I drove there and took my family. And I hit the New York 00:45:00Thruway in going up there, and I made the comment--I was chairman of the committee dealing with, uh, highway programs and safety--and I made the comment in our discussion that I was really excited about what I had seen on the New York Thruway. Governor Dewey was governor at that time, and was running for re-election and he quoted me, a Democrat, as to how good his toll road system was. Well, I came back and went to work on a toll road, and I employed some out-of-state consultants to come in and advise us whether or not we could build a toll road from Cincinnati to Louisville or from Louisville to Nashville. They made a survey and said that there was only one road that would be feasible, and 00:46:00that would be from Louisville to Elizabethtown to do away with 31W, and that would be the start of our toll road system, that later it could be extended from Elizabethtown to Nashville. But the one from Cincinnati to Louisville would not be feasible, would not support itself. So I stuck to their recommendations and started building a toll road from Louisville to E-town. (cough)

KLEBER: As far as I know, that was the first toll road anywhere in the area, wasn't it, at the time?

WETHERBY: Oh yeah. Yeah.

KLEBER: Indiana had no toll road.

WETHERBY: Indiana did--Indiana did have one shortly after that, but they did not have one at that time. Now, Ohio was starting one about the same time I was. Then we had a meeting of the governor of Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, and Tennessee. All of us met at Kentucky Dam Village, and discussed a Lakes-to-Gulf 00:47:00highway system and decided there wasn't but one way to build it and that was on a toll. And I was the one that started the toll, and we built our section. They haven't built theirs yet. 'Course subsequent to that, we did have the, uh, interstate highway system set up, under the federal government.

KLEBER: Do you think there was a relationship between the toll road construction and the later interstate highway--

WETHERBY: I know there was because I served on the committee. There was a seven-governor committee appointed by the Governors' Conference to call on the president to discuss the interstate system. And we took the position we were gonna build it by tolls unless the federal government got into the act and passed legislation to create it.

KLEBER: Was President Eisenhower receptive to the idea?

WETHERBY: He, he finally agreed to it. He said we were kind of silly when we came up there talking about that, but he subsequently, uh, agreed that it was a 00:48:00fine idea and he proposed it then to Congress.

KLEBER: Which, uh--what, what effect do you think that was going to have on your toll system in Kentucky? And did you--did this play a consideration at all?

WETHERBY: Well, I did not think it would affect us, because I knew that the interstate system would not build one in competition with our toll road unless we, uh, got involved in some kind of a trade and a subsequent administration did get involved in such a trade. My original toll road instrument, which, under which we sold the bond, provided that we could continue tolls and extend it on to Nashville or anyplace else in Kentucky and keep the tolls on the road. But a subsequent administration made a deal with the federal government, 'fraid that the federal government might build a parallel road from Louisville to 00:49:00Elizabethtown, they made a trade with 'em, and said we'll take the tolls off the minute your bonds are paid off. So we had to take 'em off here about two years ago. That was when the toll road was just half--it was half the time that it was supposed to take to pay 'em all.

KLEBER: And where has that money come now to pay them off? From the federal government?

WETHERBY: To pay the--the bonds were paid off --

KLEBER: --to pay those off--

WETHERBY: --off by the money that was --

KLEBER: Oh, they were paid --

WETHERBY: --collected from the toll and it--they paid off so well--


WETHERBY: --that they retired the bonds and took the toll road--toll off of the road twenty years in advance of its original plan.

KLEBER: Do you support, still, the concept of toll road building?

WETHERBY: I think it's right, particularly for a state like Kentucky, because a lot of our traffic, north and south, we're just a bridge state. Traffic going 00:50:00north and south across --

[End of interview.]