Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Lawrence W. Wetherby, November 1, 1979

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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 KLEBER: The following is a spontaneous, unrehearsed interview with former governor Lawrence W. Wetherby. The interview was made in Governor Wetherby's home in Frankfort, Kentucky on Thursday, November 1, 1979 by John Kleber of Morehead State University. Governor Wetherby, I know of your long and close friendship with Alben Barkley. When, uh, Vice President Barkley did not receive the nomination for the presidency in 1952, this meant that he then left the office of vice president in 1953, when Dwight Eisenhower was elected and inaugurated president. What, uh, was the relationship between you and, and Senator Barkley following his, uh, departure from the vice presidency?

WETHERBY: Well, Senator Barkley came to Louisville in the spring of 1974 to speak--

KLEBER: Fifty-four?


WETHERBY: --Fifty-four, yes. He came to Louisville to speak at our Jefferson-Jackson Day dinner and he had the Presidential Suite in the Seelbach Hotel. Immediately after the meeting, several of us met with Barkley in his suite, and talked to him about running for the Senate because, uh, Cooper was gonna run and we figured that Barkley was the man that could beat Cooper for our party. Uh, Barkley was hesitant about even talking about it, and he kept pointing to me and saying to the group, "Well, this fellow ought to run because he's entitled to it, he's the governor." And I said, "Senator, I promised the people when I was inaugurated and sworn in as governor for a full term, that I would serve the full four years, that I would not leave to run for another 00:02:00office during that four years." And he said, "Well, a lot of people say those kind of things, but then they change their mind." I said, "Well I'm not gonna change mine, 'cause to me, that was a commitment to the people of Kentucky and I'm not gonna run and you should run." Well, he had all kinds of excuses and then when the meeting was about ready to break up, he and I went out in the hallway and, uh, he said, "Well, I cannot run. I cannot finance a campaign." I said, well, Senator, you get in that race. We'll help you finance it, and we'll have the state administration behind you and you can win it. "Well, I don't think I wanna do it." I said, well, you think about it and then let me know. Well, he said, "Well, you call me in a few days and I'll give you my answer." 00:03:00Well, I called him shortly after that and told him that I thought he should announce, and that he should run. He said, "Well, I haven't made up my mind definitely, yet." He said, "I'll talk to you tomorrow or in a few days." I said, well, Senator, I'm leaving for Florida for a vacation in the morning, and he said, "Well, where can I get in touch with you?" I said, well, I wouldn't know. I'll be on a--at a fishing camp down out of Bonita Springs. He said, "Well, why don't you do this: where you gonna stay tomorrow night?" I said, well, we'll probably stay at Columbus, Georgia. That's where we usually stop on the way down, driving. He said, "Well, I'll tell you what. You call me from there tomorrow night and I'll give you an answer, yes or no." I said, "Fine, 00:04:00I'll call you." Well, I called him that night and I said, "Well, Senator, is it yes or no?" He said, "It's no. You have to run." I said, "Senator, I told you I could not run, so it's up to you to run. I said, would you do it? He said, "Well, if you put it that way, I'll say yes." I said, "Okay, and when I get back from my vacation, we'll go to work on it. We'll raise the funds to finance the campaign, and we'll have you running." He said, "Well, that'll be all right." Said, "You call me when you get back from your vacation." I said I'll do it. I called him and told him we were ready to go to work, and told him what we would do, and he said, "Well, how about the financing?" I said, "Well, we'll, we'll raise the money." And I went out to raise the money. Subsequent to that, uh, the press boys had always accused me of putting the hammer on the 00:05:00employees to get funds for political races, so I called the press boys in one day, and I said, come on, go with me. They said, "Where're you going?" I said, "Over to the cafeteria." I said "All the state employees up in this end of the, the Capitol are gonna be over there at lunchtime, and I've got a meeting with 'em. I've told all the department heads to invite 'em over; I wanted to talk to them." And Hugh Morris of the, uh, Courier-Journal said, "What are you gonna talk to 'em about?" I said, "I'm gonna ask 'em to help me raise some money to finance Barkley's campaign." So the whole press corps--at that time there only was--there were only about four or five members, the AP and the United Press and two from the Courier and one from the Lexington Herald, and one from the Kentucky Post--were in the Frankfort Bureau, so they all went with me over to 00:06:00the cafeteria. And I started talking to the employees and told 'em, I said, "Now, I'm gonna support Barkley for the United States Senate. I want you all to help me. I want you to help me in two ways: one, I want you to get everybody you can think of to get registered and get ready to vote; and secondly, I want all of you all to make a contribution." I said, "There's not--aren't gonna be any check-off, not gonna be any listing of people who don't contribute so that we can punish 'em. This is gonna be a free and voluntary contribution." One fellow popped up and said, "How much you want us to give?" And I said, "Well, that's up to you all. I'm not even gonna fix an amount." The press boys were completely shocked that we took that approach. But I said, "You all been accusing us of doing a lot of things that we haven't done. I just wanna show 00:07:00you how we do it." And we did it and we raised enough money to finance Barkley's campaign.

KLEBER: In that 1954 campaign, when Barkley ran for the Senate, um, was he running for a seat that was unoccupied at that time, or--

WETHERBY: No, he was running, uh, against, uh, Cooper--

KLEBER: Who had the seat?

WETHERBY: Yeah, who had the seat or who had been nominated to run, and I forget whether there was a vacancy or not, but, uh, anyway it was--what Cooper said was his seat.

KLEBER: Uh, in that campaign then, did you go out on the stump and work for Alben Barkley?

WETHERBY: Went all over the state. I travelled with Barkley. I, uh, travelled with him to east Kentucky and west Kentucky, and then the last few days of the campaign I spent in west Kentucky, and the two days before the election, he and I together made the same tour that he always made before a general election 00:08:00through the Purchase section of the state, and we spoke at every county courthouse throughout the first district.

KLEBER: Um-hm. So you spoke together?

WETHERBY: We spoke together.

KLEBER: I heard that he was a, uh, a tireless campaigner.

WETHERBY: He was. And he--I was much younger than Barkley, but he wore me out on that--in that campaign. Uh, prior to that tour down through, uh, west Kentucky, Barkley had sort of made our home--the mansion, his headquarters. And he'd travel out of there and tour in various places by himself, come back and spend the night with me, and other times, he and I would go out together and we 00:09:00campaigned together through that whole fall campaign.

KLEBER: Did you all become close friends at that time?

WETHERBY: Oh yes, very close.

KLEBER: Uh, I have heard a story that's been told on several occasions about the fact that, uh, Charlie Gartrell at that time was, uh, the pilot, I guess, flying, uh, Barkley around. Were you with him the time that, uh, Gartrell dozed off at the controls of the airplane and Barkley took them over?

WETHERBY: Well, Barkley grabbed--(laughs)--grabbed the plane to wake Charlie up. I was with him, yes.

KLEBER: You were with him, then?

WETHERBY: I was with him.

KLEBER: So that's a true story?

WETHERBY: That is a true story. Uh, Charlie sort of dozed or his head fell over and Barkley grabbed at the control which he didn't know anything about, but he woke Bark---he woke Gartrell up. Another time that Gartrell was flying us, we were going to east Kentucky, and Mrs. Barkley was with us and, uh, Barkley was in the back seat with Mrs. Gar--uh, Barkley. I was in the front co-pilot 00:10:00seat with Gartrell, and I heard some wind. I looked around, and Barkley had got to tinkering with the door on his side and the thing had gotten open a little bit--if it had gone off, on out, it would have jerked all of 'em out of that plane. But I told Gartrell, I said, "Let--that door's open." (laughs) And he said, "Oh my goodness! Oh my goodness! Senator, pull that door to." (laughs) The senator had a hold of it. I was afraid it was gonna pull him out, but it didn't, and he finally got it latched and we went on in--we were going into Pikeville, I believe.

KLEBER: Any kind of interesting experiences on that campaign trail?

WETHERBY: Well, that one, which was very exciting. And then, uh, as we went through the first district two days before the election, we kept getting further 00:11:00and further behind. We had a schedule set up as to where we were gonna be at such and such a time. And Barkley would get all wound up down there in his home territory and we'd get later and later by stop-by-stop. I finally told him we were about four stops from the end of that day's tour. I said, Senator, you're gonna have to cut down on your speeches or else we're gonna miss the last two. It'll be pitch-dark the time we get there. He said, "I won't speak from now on, you speak." (laughs) And I said, I'm not gonna do your speaking for you, but I want you to cut down on it and just tell those folks you want 'em to get out there and do the job in this Gibraltar of Democracy.

KLEBER: Did he cut down on the speeches?

WETHERBY: Yes, he cut down on 'em and we finished before dark, uh, fortunately. But then, started out bright and early the next day.

KLEBER: Now of course he went on to win that 1954--



KLEBER: --Senate seat, and then he went to Washington, and then--when he went to Washington as a senator you were governor, uh, during that, what, a little more than a year, I guess?

WETHERBY: That's right.

KLEBER: Did you work with him closely during that year that he was a senator?

WETHERBY: Very closely. Very closely. And anytime we had a problem, I would call him and of course at that time, you had all of the, um, programs being developed about, uh, uh, welfare and, uh, Social Security and all of that. And I would call him and contact him and he would help us where he could.

KLEBER: Um-hm, his death in 1956--

WETHERBY: 'Fifty-six.

KLEBER: --unexpectedly, uh--how did that affect you when you heard that news?

WETHERBY: Well, I was rather shocked. I pulled up at my home. At that time, I had moved back down to Jefferson County, and I pulled up at my home and was 00:13:00working in my yard. And a friend of mine came by and he said, "Have you heard the news?" And I said, "What news?" And he said, "Barkley just died." I said, "Oh no." "Yeah, he was making a speech over in, uh, Virginia," and said, "He dropped dead while he was speaking." And he said, "Now you better get ready 'cause," he said, "the committee will probably name you as the nominee." And I said, "No, I don't wanna go to Washington." "Oh, yeah," said, "Our side, our crowd wants you to go and they'll want you to take the nomination." 'Course I had just left the governor's office in December of 1955, and the committee, the Democratic State Central Executive Committee were all my friends, so that's the reason this member of the committee had come by to tell me to get ready. So, uh, we had a real sparring match, underneath, over who was gonna be the nominee. 00:14:00'Course Chandler was governor. He had the right to appoint someone to serve until the next general election because Barkley had died more than ninety days before the general election. Therefore, they would have to have an election for--an election for the unexpired term, in November. So we had quite a sparring match. Chandler named Bob Humphreys as the interim senator. Bob had no intention of running, but then Barkley--I mean Chandler--tried to name the nominee, and my friends on the committee got all upset about it and mad and just demanded that I run. And so they had a meeting of the state central committee at the Seelbach Hotel, and after they met, they called me down to the committee 00:15:00meeting. I did not attend it. They called me down and said, "We have unanimously named you as the nominee of the party to run for the unexpired portion of Barkley's term." At that time, Clements had already been--the winner had been named for the other Democrat--the other senatorial seat--

KLEBER: Um-hm.

WETHERBY: --so Clements and I were running together during that campaign and both of us took the position that we were supporting the Democratic ticket from top to bottom. We were all out for Adlai Stevenson and Eisenhower was running against Stevenson and shortly before the election day, we had the Mideast crisis and of course they harped on the fact that you don't change horses in the middle 00:16:00of the stream and Barkley swept Kentucky. He beat Stevenson just unmercifully in our state. However, Clements lost by only six thousand votes, and I lost to Cooper by some fifty-six thousand as I recall, and yet Eisenhower carried the state and beat, uh, Adlai Stevenson by over a hundred thousand. But both of us ran way ahead of our ticket even though we had run with the ticket. We had not done like--a lot of the candidates throughout the country had, they had sort of dumped Stevenson, but we ran with Stevenson, spoke for Stevenson, just as we were working for ourselves.

KLEBER: Um-hm. You sound as if you were reluctant to run for the Senate in '56. Is that true?

WETHERBY: I was. Yes. Uh, I had had the opportunity, Barkley had insisted on 00:17:00me running in '54--

KLEBER: Um-hm.

WETHERBY: --and I didn't care to go to Washington.


WETHERBY: Well, I just, uh, had a young family, young kiddos and I didn't wanna pick them up and move off to Washington and--another thing, I could not afford two homes, so they'd have to go with me, and we'd have to live in an apartment or something like that. I was a little reluctant to go.

KLEBER: What about your family? Were they anxious for you to go?

WETHERBY: No, they were not. Matter of fact, I'd had an opportunity when I was governor to go, and seriously considered it at that time, and went home and talked to my wife and the kiddos and they like to have had a fit about me even thinking about going. They didn't want any part of Washington, and insisted on me turning down the opportunity to go. And, uh, 'course the people who were encouraging me to go were saying, "Well, look, you've been lieutenant governor and governor, and you'll be a senator, all within a period of less than a year. 00:18:00And it sounded pretty good, but my wife and kiddos just, just rebelled against it and I turned it down.

KLEBER: What made you finally decide to accept it?

WETHERBY: Well, this was--(Kleber coughs)--the time I could go by appointment when they had so much upset about it, but then when the, uh, situation came up in '56, after Barkley's death, uh, it was a question of our side against Chandler's side. Chandler wanted to appoint someone, wanted the committee to appoint someone to run, and the committee did not want Chandler to control that seat. So they insisted on me going and being loyal to my friends and all, I agreed that I would run.

KLEBER: So the loyalty to your friends on that committee, plus probably your 00:19:00feeling toward Chandler, influenced the decision?

WETHERBY: That's right. That influenced me as much as anything, and then, 'course I had only been out of office, uh, a few months when that, uh, came up--

- KLEBER: Um-hm.

WETHERBY: -and, uh, I saw that there was an opportunity to serve our side and also to go to Washington. And at that time, my kiddos were, uh, well, they'd all left home. They'd all gotten married and I was--there was just my wife and me. We'd--there'd only be two of us going to Washington instead of five of us. So that--

KLEBER: Made it easier.

WETHERBY: --uh, influenced me, I guess, as much as anything.

KLEBER: In that campaign, 1956, what was Chandler's position, and what did he do for you or did--

WETHERBY: He bolted the Democratic party, and went out to help the Republicans, 00:20:00and boasted that he named two Republican senators, Cooper and Morton. And we found, after the race was over and we had lost, there was a big movement afoot for Clements to contest the election because of the, uh, accused stealing of votes in some eastern Kentucky counties. And we went out to examine the returns and to see whether or not we should file a contest. And we found in two counties in eastern Kentucky, the people told us that Chandler had called them into Frankfort and asked 'em to bolt with him, and to count as many votes as they could. One of 'em was willing to go to court and testify to that, and we explored the whole field, and finally Clements said, "Well, I'm not a poorly 00:21:00loser, I'm not gonna contest it." I had no intention of contesting it because I was beaten by fifty thousand--fifty-odd thousand votes.

KLEBER: Um-hm.

WETHERBY: But Clements was only beaten by six thousand. But, Chandler boasted that he had named two Republican senators, Cooper and Morton. During that campaign, one of Chandler's strong supporters in west Kentucky called us and asked us to come to the Frankfort Country Club for a luncheon that he was sponsoring for the Democrats, to get 'em to straighten out and be for the Democratic ticket. He had invited Chandler and he invited us. We had an engagement in northern Kentucky, but we made arrangements to get a helicopter at 00:22:00the Frankfort Country Club so that the minute the meeting was over we could fly to northern Kentucky and attend that meeting. So we did attend it, and Chandler was there, and he refused to endorse us at that meeting.

KLEBER: What was the reaction of the Democrats when he did that?

WETHERBY: Well, 'course he controlled the Democrats that were there because most of them were connected with state government, but the one fellow, Willie Foster from west Kentucky, who had arranged the meeting and had talked us into attending, he was quite upset. He said, "I'll see that he's straightened out; I'll see that he comes out for you all," and this, that, and the other. Well, we left immediately and got in the helicopter and flew to northern Kentucky for our meetings there.

KLEBER: Wasn't this almost unprecedented for a Democratic governor to support Republican candidates?

WETHERBY: Yes, it was. Uh, that's the first time, and of course Chandler has done that regularly. Uh, he has bolted the party. Uh, he has, uh, come out and 00:23:00tried to beat the Democrats anytime he did not have his candidate. He tried to beat, uh, Combs when Combs beat his candidate in 1955.

KLEBER: Um-hm.

WETHERBY: He beat us in 1956 and on numerous occasions, he has bolted the party. So much so, that there was an article in the Courier-Journal a few days ago, a, a letter to the "Point of View" by a strong Democrat who was urging, uh, Larry Townsend, the chairman of the party to excommunicate Chandler from the Democratic party and to kick him out because he had always supported the Republicans--

KLEBER: Um-hm.

WETHERBY: --when it was to his advantage.

KLEBER: Did you, uh, or Senator Clements ever face Chandler with this situation, of him not supporting you?


WETHERBY: No, we didn't have to. He was bragging in the papers.

KLEBER: Yeah, did you ever talk about it with him afterwards?

WETHERBY: Yes, I did. One, uh, well, I'll tell you on who--the occasion. I was seated next to him at a testimonial dinner in Louisville for Earl Ruby. And Chandler got to buddying up to me and talking about how different things would have been in politics in Kentucky had he and I gotten along, and he said, uh, uh, "You could have gone to the Senate." I said, "Sure and I would have if you hadn't bolted us."

KLEBER: Um-hm.

WETHERBY: And he said, "Well, I just didn't think, the way you acted, I didn't think that you ought to go to the Senate." And that's about all he would say. I said, "Well, what'd you have against Clements?" "He was on the ticket with you." (both laugh)

KLEBER: In that campaign in '56, how much weight do you put to the fact that Eisenhower swept the state versus the fact that Chandler worked against you all? 00:25:00Which do you think was the deciding factor?

KLEBER: Well, I think either one of 'em could have beaten--could have been responsible for Clements's loss, but primarily the reason that, we lost--I think the main reason was that the Mideast situation came up and Eisenhower was talking about he was a soldier and he could handle that situation, and he swept Kentucky. I think that was the prime reason we were defeated. But Clements's race was so close I think--I'll go then another step, I think the Chandler bolt beat Clements.

KLEBER: But in your case, you probably think it was the sweep of Eisenhower in the state.

WETHERBY: Yes, I think it was because Eisenhower carried the state over a hundred thousand, and, uh, I lost it by less than--by fifty-odd thousand.


KLEBER: Were you greatly disappointed when you lost?

WETHERBY: Not too much because, as I say, I never was crazy about going to Washington. I had, uh, resigned myself to go if, if we could win it, and I, I had been close to Earle Clements and I thought, if I went to Washington with him and the two of us representing Kentucky, that we could get a lot done for our state. And, uh, I felt that, uh, that would be helpful.

KLEBER: In politics, uh, an important issue is luck, isn't it? And timing?

WETHERBY: That's right.

KLEBER: And, uh--

WETHERBY: Luck and timing, and it's a question of, uh--I've been very fortunate in politics. Uh, I have, uh, up until '56, I have been at the right place at the right time.

KLEBER: That's really important, isn't it?

WETHERBY: It really is. I--for instance, when I ran for lieutenant governor, I had no idea of running for a state office. I was a judge of the juvenile court in Jefferson County. Some of my friends got after me to run for lieutenant 00:27:00governor. Well, it was just the right time and I was there at the right time and the right place.

KLEBER: Um-hm.

WETHERBY: And, uh, coming out of Jefferson County, I could carry it big in the primary, and did. And then when I was lieutenant governor, the right time and the right place came along again 'cause Clements went to the Senate.

KLEBER: Um-hm.

WETHERBY: We had a battle royal in his race but he won and he went to the Senate and vacated the office of governor, and I took over. Then, there I was serving the rest of his--(coughs)--his term, and running for re-election. So I was, again, in the right place at the right time.

KLEBER: Yeah, and again, 1956 was just the wrong place and the wrong--

WETHERBY: That's right, wrong place.

KLEBER: --Eisenhower was just unbeatable--

WETHERBY: That's right, Eisenhower was unbeatable, and, uh, Stevenson made the same kind of campaign he made in '52, and he talked above the heads of the people.


KLEBER: After that 1956 election, did you ever seriously think about running again for the Senate or for the governorship?

WETHERBY: No, I never did. Matter of fact, uh, some of my friends in the press, after we were defeated in '56, came to me and said, "You shouldn't have run. You should have waited and run for governor again when Combs's term's over." I said, no, once you been governor, that's it to me. I said, uh, it was fine to be governor, and I enjoyed it. I liked everything about it, but I wouldn't, under any consideration, attempt to run again.

KLEBER: Just because you feel that one term is enough for you?

WETHERBY: I think, uh, one round is enough. And, uh, I have felt that way. I so advised Combs when he came back and was gonna run for a second term. I said, 00:29:00Bert, you're making a mistake. You made a great governor. You're foolish to go out there and lay it on the line now because every governor makes a lot of enemies--makes as many enemies as he makes friends. And they'll all be out taking potshots at you.

KLEBER: That's--very few governors have come back for a second term. That's--

WETHERBY: That's right.

KLEBER: Chandler is about the only one that's--

WETHERBY: Yeah, but that was, uh, uh, well, that was exactly twenty years later--

KLEBER: Twenty years.

WETHERBY: --from '35 to '55.

KLEBER: A lot of his enemies had vanished by then.

WETHERBY: That's right. He'd outlived most of 'em.

KLEBER: According to our constitution, our 1891 constitution, a governor cannot succeed himself. Do you agree with that stipulation?

WETHERBY: No, I think that we probably ought to get in line with a lot of the other states, that a governor could serve two terms, and only two. That way, it would take a fellow who's--has not been lieutenant governor and has not been 00:30:00close to government, it would take him half of his term to even learn what's going on in government in Kentucky.

KLEBER: Um-hm.

WETHERBY: And learn what the ropes were. 'Cause our governor is the strongest governor of any of the fifty states, has more power, and in order to exert that power properly, he needs to know government from one end to the other.

KLEBER: Um-hm.

WETHERBY: And the only way he can learn that is by being lieutenant governor and working with the governor, or being in the Senate and helping to pass the laws for years and learning government from that side of it.

KLEBER: What do you think about, uh, the fact that we can have and have had a governor from one party and a lieutenant governor from another party? You just--

WETHERBY: Well, it's, uh, it's all a question of the makeup of the people, I believe. Uh--(coughs)--'course I would much rather see it, the constitution, 00:31:00changed so that you had two terms per a governor, that he could serve two terms, and that he and the lieutenant governor ran jointly just as the president and vice president do.

KLEBER: Why do you think that hasn't been, uh, tried?

WETHERBY: Well, it's just hard to change our constitution. People are, uh, just, uh, kind of opposed to that kind of change. For instance, I thought one year during my term that we could do away with the election of all of these minor officers in state government, like the secretary of state and the treasurer, and this, that, and the other. So I proposed and supported vigorously a short ballot so that the only state officials we would elect would be a governor, a lieutenant governor, an attorney general, and a superintendent 00:32:00of public instruction, or the head of the school department, whatever you might call him. I thought we could pass it. We couldn't even pass that one because all of the political organizations, Democrat and Republican in the various counties went all out to beat it, and they did beat it. And, uh, for that reason, I don't have much hope for the, uh, passage of a two-term and a, uh, governor and a lieutenant governor running together.

KLEBER: During your five years as governor, what one thing were you most proud of accomplishing?

WETHERBY: I think the climate of the people of Kentucky. They had confidence in government at that time. They were proud of our state government. They 00:33:00would do almost anything you asked 'em to do to help you along that line. I think that--the climate of the people, the climate of the state, and the attitude of the people toward state government, was the thing that I was most proud of. There wasn't a place in Kentucky I couldn't go and get a fine reception.

KLEBER: Um-hm.

WETHERBY: I travelled the state from top to bottom selling our tourism, promoting the park development, and all of those kind of things. And every place I went, I was received with open arms.

KLEBER: Think state government has gotten too big now?

WETHERBY: I think it's too big, yes, and, uh, I think there's a tremendous amount of waste in state government.

KLEBER: What about that in--when your administration? Do you feel there was much waste back at that time?

WETHERBY: Very little. Uh, I had to buckle down every department, cut their 00:34:00appropriations, cut off employees and all, but that was, uh, only to get within our expected revenue. I found very little waste in the government at that time.

KLEBER: 'Course the budget now is so much bigger--

WETHERBY: Oh, yes--

KLEBER: --seven billion dollars, aren't they talking about, coming up?

WETHERBY: Yeah, they're talking about seven billion dollars for, for--

KLEBER: And you had seventy-four, seventy-six million?

WETHERBY: I had seventy-four and seventy-six million the last budget that we passed. And now they're talking about seven billion for a two-year period.

KLEBER: That brings up the question of what we're hearing a lot about now, in this administration and that is hands in the till, and corruption. Kind of a personal question: how much of that do you feel was in your administration?

WETHERBY: I didn't find any, except one time. I found it and I fired the fellow that I thought was responsible. That was in the highway department. 00:35:00That was the only place I ever suspicioned or ever had any idea there might be some shenanigans going on.

KLEBER: Um-hm, and you, you feel pretty confident that it just wasn't there?

WETHERBY: I just--I knew it wasn't there because I had people that I had confidence in looking at 'em, every day.

KLEBER: Would you think that perhaps the fact that the budget is so large now, there's so much money around, would tend to make more corruption?

WETHERBY: It's that plus the attitude of the present governor. He, uh, just hands out that money like it's, uh, going out of style, and I think makes, uh, allocations that are illegal and irresponsible. For instance, when you take the taxpayers' money and give it to a private club to develop their private club for only the members of that club, I think that is illegal and irresponsible government.


KLEBER: Lord Acton, one time, said that power corrupts, but it seems in this case that it's money that is the corrupting--

WETHERBY: Money that corrupts. And of course I, I plead guilty to being partially responsible for 'em having so much money, because I voted for an increase in the sales tax when I was in the senate and as a result of that extra two cents, succeeding administrations have had more money than they know what to do with, and they've just doled it out promiscuously.

KLEBER: Do you feel the governor could, uh, could tighten up on this kind of thing if he wanted to?

WETHERBY: Certainly--

KLEBER: If he has the power--

WETHERBY: Certainly. And if the governor would stay in his office there and talk to his department heads and his people who are running the government underneath the p--the, as we used to call 'em, the paper pushers, if he'd talk to them, he would save a lot of money and he wouldn't be worried about meeting the budget.


KLEBER: You did this, didn't you, you--

WETHERBY: Yes, I did it and I, I not only did it by having 'em to come to my office, I had 'em to come over to the mansion. Had 'em come over there and eat supper with me. Talked with 'em about their problems and what they needed and what we needed from them. And I was very close to all of my department heads.

KLEBER: In government, it seems to me communication is one of the most important things you can have.

WETHERBY: I think it is and, uh, I, uh, disagree with what the present governor has done in reference to the Legislative Research Commission. The Legislative Research Commission, in my time, I was named as chairman of it when I was lieutenant governor. I named my lieutenant governor as chairman of it. Under the bill, as originally passed, the governor was the head of it. But the governor didn't have the time to devote to it, so he named--Clements named me as 00:38:00the head of the research commission. I named "Doc" Beauchamp, and as a result of that, I knew everything that they were working on. They knew what I was working on because the executive branch was working closely with the legislative branch.

KLEBER: Um-hm, and then you kept the governor informed, as Doc Beauchamp kept you informed?

WETHERBY: That's right, exactly.

KLEBER: It's a good idea. And that's not done now?

WETHERBY: No, it's not done now because the--Carroll initiated a bill to take the lieutenant governor off of the research commission and to name the alternate. Now, the majority leader of the house--of the senate--no, the president pro tem of the senate and the speaker of the house alternate from year to year as chairmen of the research commission. So the executive is not even 00:39:00close to what's going on up there during the interim between legislative sessions. He is not informed of what the research commission is thinking of, what they're planning to pass at the next, next session, so there's a big gap of communication there.

KLEBER: That's right. Let's look at, uh, some of the, uh, events during your administration that we haven't talked about yet. Uh, in 1952, you helped to organize the Southern Regional Education Board.


KLEBER: And I'd like to--if you could tell me some background on that, if the--

WETHERBY: Well, the background so far as my connection with it, was this: uh, Governor Millard Caldwell of Florida called a meeting of the governors of the southern area to come together and discuss the problems of education. 'Course 00:40:00some people thought that it was designed to head off the black race in the colleges. Actually I attended that meeting for S--Governor Clements. I did not get that impression of it. Millard Caldwell was trying to overcome the duplication of programs in higher education in the various southeastern states. We formed a Southern Regional Education Conference, and then I served on it all the time I was lieutenant governor, and all the time I was governor. And I was elected as chairman of the Southern Regional Education Program in '53 and '54. I was elected for two terms. And, uh, during that time, we tried to avoid 00:41:00states making--setting up programs that our sister states had available, uh, places for our students. I made an agreement, for instance, with--through the conference for Kentucky. We had a big move on by the horse people to create a, a new department of, uh, the--to set up a whole new college at the University of Kentucky, a veterinary school. I explored it and found out it would cost millions of dollars to set it up, and it would drain the funds from the other schools in the university, so I explored it with the--through the conference and 00:42:00found that we could buy twelve scholarships in Auburn University, and some additional ones in Ohio University for our Kentucky students. That was advantageous for two reasons: when we bought those scholarships, we could require whoever took 'em to come back to Kentucky and practice veterinary medicine in our state, where if we set up our own school of veterinary science, we could not make 'em stay in Kentucky. They could go anyplace they wanted to and practice. But we could tie 'em up when we gave 'em the scholarships that we were buying. And at that time, they were costing us, uh, ten thousand dollars a student. We finally worked up and by virtue of getting twelve a year, we 00:43:00finally had forty-eight, Kentucky students in veterinary medicine schools outside of the state and it was costing us only ten thousand dollars a, a scholarship.

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

KLEBER: If you were a chairman of this board in 1953 and 1954, then you were in that position when the Supreme Court decision of Brown vs. the Board of Education of Topeka came about.


KLEBER: Was there a reaction among the members of that board to that decision?

WETHERBY: Well, there was a reaction to my statement about the decision, as well as to the decision. The day that the decision came out, the press boys came to my office and asked--told me about it and asked me what I thought. And I said, well, it's the law of the land; we're gonna abide by it. That statement was quoted throughout the southeast, and several of the members of the 00:44:00conference started calling me and wanted me to call a meeting of the Southern Regional Education Board, and the Southern Governors Conference. At that time, I was chairman of the conference also. And I called the meeting. I knew what they were after, and they took out after me pretty strongly. KLEBER: Um-hm.

WETHERBY: And said, "Well, you just abused us." I said, no, I did what I thought was right because I'm a lawyer, that's the Supreme Court decision, and until it's reversed or changed, I'm gonna abide by it and you all should do the same thing. I had the help of two or three governors in the conference and on the board, and we beat down the opposition to it.

KLEBER: Which governors assisted you, do you recall?

WETHERBY: One that assisted me, is the one who's in the Senate now who's had a little difficulty and that's Talmadge. He was one. And the governor of Arkansas got on my side very strong. Then, uh, Clement of Tennessee supported me.


KLEBER: Um-hm.

WETHERBY: 'Course Clement, uh, was running to succeed me at that time, and--(laughs)--he wanted to help me.

KLEBER: So the Arkansas governor, uh,--

WETHERBY: The Tennessee governor--

KLEBER: --Tennessee--

WETHERBY: And Georgia.

KLEBER: --Georgia. Those three helped you.

WETHERBY: That's right.

KLEBER: And the other governors pretty much, uh--

WETHERBY: Well, they were sort of, uh, pro and con, but those three helped me in the fight that I had with the other governors about my position. What they were fighting about was that I was chairman of their conference. I was chairman of the Southern Regional Education Board. 'Course the board supported me.

KLEBER: The board did support you in this--

WETHERBY: The board supported me because you had educators from every state on the, uh, Southern Regional Education Board. In other words, each state had the opportunity to appoint two, three, or four--I've forgotten the exact number. I 00:46:00know at one time it was two, and then later it was four.

KLEBER: Um-hm.

WETHERBY: But they had to be--it was required that they be educators.

KLEBER: And so they tended to, to go along with the Supreme Court decision?

WETHERBY: That's right. The Southern Regional board did, but the Southern Governors Conference was the one who jumped--was the group that jumped on me, 'cause I was chairman of it as well as chairman of the Southern Regional Education Board.

KLEBER: Uh, what do you think has been the greatest contribution of that Southern Education--that Southern Regional Education Board?

WETHERBY: I think the, uh, development of programs throughout the south. For instance, they receive grants from every one of the big, uh, trust funds in America. They receive grants and they do a tremendous job of studying the programs in the south and advancing education at the higher level.


KLEBER: Um-hm. And this is an area, then, of limited resources and it was looked upon as a way of taking those resources--

WETHERBY: That's right. Taking the resources and doing the best job with 'em. And they're still working on that. For instance, I was down to Atlanta at a meeting of the Southern Regional board--Education Board, uh, just within the last two or three years, when they celebrated the twenty-fifth anniversary of the board and, and honored all of the past presidents of the SREB as they call it.

KLEBER: Um-hm, were you satisfied with the amount of assistance education was getting in Kentucky when you were governor?

WETHERBY: Based on the income that we had, I was. But, uh, I never did think it was sufficient, and that's one reason that I advocated and passed two or three, uh, additional revenue bills in order to step up educational funds.


KLEBER: Um-hm, 'course at that time, there were a lot of one-room schoolhouses over in eastern--

WETHERBY: Lots of 'em. But then we promoted the bookmobile and things like that to help those rural counties that were, uh, not up to par.

KLEBER: Now this bookmobile came out of your administration?

WETHERBY: That's right.

KLEBER: That must be--you must be very proud of that.

WETHERBY: I am very proud of it and, uh, I was glad of the opportunity to contact businesses all over the state and get them to contribute a bookmobile and we had 'em lined up down at the state fairgrounds and allocated 'em to various counties, when I was governor.

KLEBER: So much of this support came from private industry?

WETHERBY: A lot of it, lot of it did, yes.

[End of interview.]