Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Lawrence W. Wetherby, January 18, 1980

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

 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 Friday, January 18, 1980. The interview was made by John Kleber, Department of History, Morehead State University. Governor Wetherby, Hugh Morris, who recently retired from the Kentucky Press Corps, uh, made a recent statement that, uh, of the ten governors that he has served with, he ranks you as the most outstanding, from the standpoint of being conse--conservator or public rights and really anti-spoils. I wonder if you could comment on your relationship with the press corps during the time that you were governor?

WETHERBY: John, I had a fine relationship with the press. Uh, I had an open door policy. I had very few press conferences as such because of my open door 00:01:00policy. The press boys would come in and ask me about anything that was going on in state government and they felt at liberty just to drop down at any time and come in. Then, in order to sort of consolidate it, and let them know exactly what we were doing from week to week, we established, uh, what was known as the "Corned Beef Club" in which all the members of the press corps here in Frankfort would be invited down to the governor's office for lunch, at which time my wife, from over at the mansion, would send over sandwiches and, uh, pickles and just a real brunch like. (coughs) And the way it got its name--(coughs)--Allan Trout gave it its name as the "Corned Beef Club." We had a new, uh, press member who represented the UPI [United Press International] and 00:02:00he was an eastern fellow, and he had just recently come down when we had a corned beef session and they invited him and brought him down to the luncheon, and he kept asking what that meat was. Of course, it was country ham. And finally, he said to Trout, he said, "I believe that's corned beef." And Trout like to died of laughing. He said, "Corned beef!" Said, "That's a fellow from the north." Said, "He don't know anything good to eat." Said, "That's real country ham." And said, "You don't appreciate it." So then Trout wrote an article about it and named our press meetings as the "Corned Beef Club." And all the members of the press and the radio and television who were here in Frankfort knew that on Tuesday or Wednesday of each week, we'd have a luncheon 00:03:00in the pre--in the governor's office, at which time everyone would let their hair down, and they would ask me questions about everything going on in state government. And it was an informal session, and they were at liberty to write stories based on any information they acquired at that meeting.

KLEBER: About how many people were in the Frankfort press corps at that time?

WETHERBY: Well, let's see. There was Allan Trout; Hugh Morris with the Courier-Journal; Clay Wade Bailey with the Kentucky Post and the Lexington paper. There was another one from the Lexington paper; then there was a member from the AP that was Sam Stiles. Then there was another one, George Kerr, who later--(coughs)--went to work for me as a press representative. He was with the United Press. Then there was another member of the United Press, the one I 00:04:00mentioned about the corned beef. He was here. Then there was, uh, on occasions, a WHAS television representative would come up and meet with us, and the representative of WAVE would come up and meet with us. And that was the group of the press corps.

KLEBER: Did you ever hold any formal news conferences?

WETHERBY: Only to the extent--(coughs)--that, when something out of the ordinary popped up, the dean of the press corps would call me and ask me if he could bring 'em all down to the governor's office for a discussion of that particular subject. And we would have a formal press meeting at that time. For instance, one I recall specifically was when the Brown decision came out by the 00:05:00Supreme Court. One of 'em, who was the dean at that time, uh, Allan Trout, came running down to show me the wire, and he said, "What about this?" I said, "Well, it's the law of the land; we're gonna enforce it." He said, "Well, can I call all the press boys down and you give 'em a statement?" Well, he did, and then they all asked me, "Well, what are you gonna do about it? What are you gonna--how you gonna enforce it? And what are we gonna do about that decision?" So we had a regular press corps meeting about that in a, a regular, uh, press, uh, meeting.

KLEBER: How do you think you were personally treated by members of the press?

WETHERBY: In excellent condition. I never had any serious quarrels with 'em. I had one, uh, fellow who worried the daylights out of me, and the rest of 'em 00:06:00would jump all over him, but, uh, he, uh, was not obnoxious, he would just--didn't make any difference what time of day or night, if he had a question, if I was at the mansion, he'd call over to the mansion. Had to talk to me. And by the way, he'd called me just about this article we were just talking about. His name was Patterson--(coughs)--and he was representing the UPI at that time, or the Associated Press, one of the news services. And he would call me, day or night, just to ask me a question about any news event that was going on, or anything that was happening in state government. The rest of 'em would jump all over him and say, "Well, look, the governor's door is open down there. Wait 'til tomorrow, or come into the office and ask him." "Well, I had to know tonight. I had to know tonight." So he'd call me up 'til midnight anytime, and as I say, he called me, uh, last week about this article. Now I 00:07:00failed to mention there was also a representative of the Louisville Times there constantly at our meetings. He was a fellow by the name of--a man by the name of Fritz Lord. And they all treated me fine. They didn't hesitate to jump on me if they disagreed with me, but, uh, uh, they knew they could get the facts from me at any time as I knew 'em and they'd come in and ask about 'em.

KLEBER: Now what about when they took this information and wrote it up in the newspapers? Do you think they objectively presented you and your administration?

WETHERBY: Pretty much. Pretty much. I, I had, uh, very few quarrels with 'em about what they would write.

KLEBER: Do you recall any--

WETHERBY: Once in a while, I would say, uh, I would kid 'em about, uh, writing something that I had told 'em, now this is off the record, but at the same time, they'd write it.

00:08:00

KLEBER: Did they have a tendency to misquote you, in the press?

WETHERBY: No, not, not too much. As a matter of fact, I--they would ask me, they would read me what my quote was and ask me if I had any idea about changing it, and occasionally I would. I'd say, well, you went too far, or you, uh, didn't cover the thing completely, and they'd allow me, before they sent in their stories, they would allow me to discuss it with 'em. So I had a fine relationship with all of 'em.

KLEBER: One of the great powers in this state for years has been the Louisville Courier-Journal, and of course it's well-known that the Courier-Journal has supported many politicians and then others it has not supported, then, and sometimes to their detriment. What was your relationship with the Courier-Journal?

WETHERBY: My relationship was fine. Barry Bingham and Barry, Sr. was then running the newspapers, and we had a very fine relationship. He would come up and visit me. As a matter of fact, I'd invite him to come up and, uh, eat 00:09:00dinner with me at the mansion, and we'd talk over various programs and various problems in state government, and they were very supportive of me. 'Course, Barry was tremendously interested in mental health, and I was sponsoring a mental health program and developed one which pleased them very much and they wrote some very fine editorials about it. Also, they were very hepped on strip mining, and I had passed a strong strip mine bill which they approved of very much. I had very few quarrels with 'em. Uh, as a matter of fact, they would--I'd say 90 percent of the time, they were supporting me editorially. They supported me in my race; in the lieutenant governor's race and also in the governor's race.

KLEBER: Um-hm. Did they support you in 1955 with Bert Combs?

00:10:00

WETHERBY: Yes, they supported Bert Combs.

KLEBER: So the Courier--

WETHERBY: Matter of fact, I went down with Bert to meet with Barry Bingham and the editorial staff, and told 'em what I know--knew about Bert Combs and asked them for their support and they did support him.

KLEBER: Um, what about the Lexington newspapers? Or those in northern Kentucky? Did you get the some--same kind of support from those newspapers?

WETHERBY: I got a little support out of northern Kentucky because of my position on gambling and trying to clean up the rackets up there. I got some support from the newspapers there. I got quite a bit of support out of the Lexington papers, uh, through my administration.

KLEBER: Do you think your relationship with the press changed a great deal from the time that you were a juvenile judge to becoming a lieutenant governor and then governor? Uh, did you work differently with them?

00:11:00

WETHERBY: No, not a bit. Uh, as a matter of fact, I think that's one reason my relationship with the press corps in Frankfort was on such a good level, because I had started out with 'em at the juvenile court level in being perfectly frank and honest with 'em, and they all supported me in that. The Courier-Journal was very praiseworthy of me while I was juvenile court judge, and all of the writers were the same way. Now that's somewhat unusual at times when the writers are for you, and the editorial crowd's for you too. They're usually on opposite sides, but they supported me when I was in the juvenile court. They supported me when I was lieutenant governor, and then they supported me when I was governor. Both sides, the editorial group and the reporter group.

KLEBER: How important do you think was the support of the Courier-Journal to you, and what you accomplished?

WETHERBY: Well, I think it was a tremendous support to me, and I think, uh, one 00:12:00of the things that, uh, helped us pass the new road tax, the two-cent rural road money, was the support of the Courier-Journal, because that helped me to secure the support of the five senators from Jefferson County, which were necessary in order to pass the two-cent, uh, rural road program. I think their support of me was of tremendous help, and, uh, I've always been deeply appreciative of it, and my relationship with, uh, Barry Bingham, Sr. was always great, still is great. When I, uh, had a stroke three years ago, and came home, one of the first letters I received about getting over it and getting home was from Barry 00:13:00Bingham, Sr. And just recently, uh, he and I were, uh, at the KET [Kentucky Educational Television] program honoring Smith Broadbent, Jr., at which time he and his wife, Mary, and I had a very pleasant meeting and visit.

KLEBER: Did you ever attempt to use the press in a kind of manipulative way to bring about change or win support for some kind of bill you might have?

WETHERBY: I, uh, tried to use 'em by occasionally going down and visiting with 'em and telling 'em what I was gonna propose, and asking for their support so that I could get the help--their help, in influencing the legislature to pass legislation that I wanted to pass. For instance, I never could have passed the mental health program without their strong support and endorsement and I went to 00:14:00them and talked to 'em about what I proposed to submit to the legislature. And they were 100 percent in back of it and I think were very helpful in helping me to pass it, because some of the medical profession, at that time, some of the medical profession were against a separate Department of Mental Health because they thought it was, uh, diluting their authority under the old Health Department, and, uh, the mental health was just sort of shoved over in the corner, but when I got ready to create a new Department of Mental Health, some of the, uh, medical profession was vigorous in its opposition to it. And I think the help of the Courier-Journal and the newspaper boys helped me pass it.

KLEBER: Hmm. And you think this was true on several occasions?

WETHERBY: I think it was. I think it was, and I know, uh, another specific 00:15:00instance was when the Brown decision came out in the Supreme Court, the Courier-Journal particularly was very vigorous in their support of my position and the fact that that was the law of the land, and that it should be enforced in Kentucky. And they were very helpful in paving the way for the gradual integration under the Brown decision.

KLEBER: Someone has told me that, uh, while you had this very excellent relationship with the press, Governor Clements did not have that--

WETHERBY: That's right.

KLEBER: --relationship. Uh, and you had an opportunity to observe that. Uh, what was the difference between you and how Governor Clements handled the press?

WETHERBY: Well, Governor Clements was a strong-willed, uh, real determined fellow. And when the press boys would come and ask him something, if he were 00:16:00not in a real good humor, why, he would, uh, sort of jump on 'em a little bit, and I remember one occasion--and this, uh, was a bad situation that developed, but it certainly hurt Clements with the press. Uh, John Ed Pearce, who was with the Courier-Journal came up during the legislative session and we were--Clements was up in my office and we were trying to work out a bill that was in the senate and John Ed got after Clements and kept, uh, needling him, so to speak, and finally Clements grabbed him and shook him a little bit. And I think that had a great influence on the whole press corps. Now, Clements had a fine relationship with Allan Trout because, uh, Allan knew Clements's, uh, attitude. He knew Clements's---(coughs)--demeanor and he, uh, accepted it as such and 00:17:00if--(coughs)--Clements was in a humor he wasn't gonna talk, well, Allan understood that and left him alone.

KLEBER: But you feel that you handled the press in, uh, a little better than Clements did in the fact that you weren't prone to lose your temper with them?

WETHERBY: Well, I didn't lose my temper with 'em. They'd worry me to death at times, but I never did let them know it. Uh, the other boys in the press corps would sort of help me with those who were worrying me to death, and in addition to that, uh, I had a different policy than Clements. I had an open door policy at the governor's office, not only for the press, but for people generally. And if they came up--(clears throat)--my receptionist would ring me in and say, "So-and-so is here, wants to see you." I'd say, I'll see 'em; if I was busy, I'd walk out and see 'em. And then if the press corps, any member of the press 00:18:00corps came down and talked to the receptionist, said they'd like--had a question for me, the receptionist would call me in. I'd either go out and talk to 'em or tell her to send 'em in. And I'd try to answer their questions and get 'em out in a hurry. I had, uh, some good friends who said they got in to see me quicker than anybody, but I could walk 'em out quicker than anybody. (both laugh) Of course I learned that practicing law, so that people didn't take up my whole day with insignificant chatter.

KLEBER: Let, let's take that just a minute and let's see what a day would have been like for you in the office. Let's say you decided you were gonna spend a day working in the Capitol, in your office in the Capitol. You come in, in the morning. Did you have a certain routine that you went through?

WETHERBY: Yes, I would, I would come in before eight o'clock, usually a quarter to eight I'd get over to the governor's office. Ed Farris, my administrative 00:19:00assistant, would be there and he and I would go over every question that he had about what had come up the preceding day or that evening, or what was in the mail. And he'd have the mail there to present to me, the pieces of mail that I needed to give him some response to. And we'd work until maybe 8:30 or nine o'clock on that. Then I would start seeing the people that we had made appointments with, and they would schedule--and I had an hourly book on my desk, and they'd schedule appointments--Miss Cattie Lou Miller would schedule appointments for me, or Ed Farris, either one of those two could schedule appointments for me and put 'em on my book. If someone called and wanted to see me, they would find out as much as they could about what they wanted to see me 00:20:00about. Then they would make an appointment for that next day or days in the, in the future. And then they would mark those down on my log book and I'd see those people as they came in.

KLEBER: Did you usually break for lunch and go out in the afternoon?

WETHERBY: Yes, I, I seldom went out. We'd break for lunch, but most of the time, I would go over to the cafeteria and eat with the state employees, and just go through the line and--just like all the other employees and eat there. Ed Farris and I would usually go together or if he were not available, if he was tied up, well, one of the other department heads--and time after time, I'd call Felix Joyner over in finance or one of the other people--Henry Ward or some of 00:21:00those, and ask 'em to come and go to lunch with me and we'd go over to the cafeteria and eat lunch. (coughs) Occasionally, I'd go to the mansion, but most of the time, I would go right to the cafeteria.

KLEBER: Then, how long did you usually work in the afternoon, until you stopped for the evening?

WETHERBY: Until we got through. Sometimes it would be, uh, most of the time, it was around six o'clock when Farris and I would break up. Sometimes, though, I'd take the whole group out of the office, over to the mansion, and we'd go over things that we had not covered during the day, and visit and have a little social hour. And we'd run 'til eight or nine o'clock. A lot of times when I'd take them over to the office, Mrs. Wetherby would have dinner for 'em, and we'd eat and talk and go over problems that were coming up in the office.

KLEBER: Let's talk about some of those people who helped you in your office situation, and, uh, let's go through some of these. For example, you mentioned 00:22:00Ed Farris. Could you tell me how you met Ed Farris and, uh--

WETHERBY: I met Ed Farris, uh, he was over in one of the departments and Clements needed some help when I was lieutenant governor and Clements was governor, and he borrowed Ed Farris. And Ed was such a qualified person and knew the ropes so well that when I came in as governor, I talked him into staying with me as my chief assistant.

KLEBER: Your administrative assistant--

WETHERBY: That's right.

KLEBER: --would he be called?

WETHERBY: That's right.

KLEBER: Now what were his responsibilities as administrative assistant?

WETHERBY: To, uh, keep me in touch with the various department heads, to sort of weed out unimportant, uh, matters, and to make appointments with people who 00:23:00had real problems and lots of 'em, he could take care of. Those he could not, he would bring straight to me, and those there were any questions about, he would come straight to me. And he was sort of the, uh, bird dog of all of the problems in state government. And if one of the department heads had problems, he would talk to Farris first; if Farris couldn't solve it, then Farris would make an appointment with him, bring him to see me. And he was sort of the watchdog and bird dog of the governor's office.

KLEBER: Did he serve with you the entire five years that you were governor?

WETHERBY: That's right. The whole time I was there.

KLEBER: You must have had a very good working relationship.

WETHERBY: We had an excellent working relationship, and he had a little office right in front of my office. There was a door from the reception room into his office and a door to the side of that into my office, and he had a door from his 00:24:00office into mine, so they could take 'em into Farris and if he couldn't solve their problems, he'd bring 'em right into my office. And, uh, we had a fine working relationship.

KLEBER: Did Farris give you a lot of advice? Did he have a big influence on you?

WETHERBY: I wouldn't say he, uh, uh, gave me too much advice. He would give me reactions of various people to things we were doing, and on occasion, uh--(coughs)--we would sit down and hash and rehash matters that had come to his attention, or had come to mine, and I'd--(clears throat)--I'd tell him occasionally about something that came up and ask him what he thought of it. And, uh, he would be very frank with me as to just what he felt about it, what 00:25:00were the political implications, and so forth.

KLEBER: What was his background? Where did he come from?

WETHERBY: He was a, a rural farm boy from Adair County. He went to the University of Kentucky and graduated there and then went back, after he went into the Army, and got a Master's degree and then after that time, he came down to work for state government and I believe it was in revenue that he started out, either revenue or finance, and that's where Clements borrowed him from when he was governor.

KLEBER: Now a man in that position, who is so close to the governor and has the governor's ear all the time, could become a very powerful individual and could begin to exercise some of that power if he wanted to. Was this ever a problem with Farris?

WETHERBY: Never was a problem with Farris, and Farris was as honest as the day 00:26:00is long and anything he told you, you could depend on. He never, at any time, had any desire to be a power broker or to run for public office. As a matter of fact, we tried to get him to run for one of the other offices in state government in 1955, and he declined. He did not wanna be a candidate for public office.

KLEBER: Now, another person who helped you in your office was Cattie Lou Miller.

WETHERBY: Um-hm.

KLEBER: In what capacity did she serve?

WETHERBY: Cattie Lou was the, uh--started out as the receptionist and the appointments secretary. And she continued that through my entire administration. Then she supervised the work force in the office. In other words, all of the other secretaries who did the day-to-day typing and all of 00:27:00that were supervised by Cattie Lou. Cattie Lou, uh, though, had the responsibility and the power to make appointments for me, which she did. She also was the first person to receive the mail. Lots of it, she would weed out so that it never got to Farris or to me. She would put it in one of the girls' hands. For instance the old age assistance program, one of the girls was taking care of all of the inquiries on that. Cattie Lou would take that mail and turn it over to that person. Another one was taking care of the prison re--uh, set-up, and any inquiries about that, she'd turn over to one of the other girls.

KLEBER: Now there are thousands of letters that you wrote--

WETHERBY: Yes.

KLEBER: --during your administration that carry your name on them. Were ever any of those letters written by anyone with your name on it without you actually 00:28:00dictating that letter?

WETHERBY: Yes. A few of 'em were because, uh, Cattie Lou would write some of 'em. Ed Farris would write some of 'em. If they were--

KLEBER: Now, would they sign your name to them, or would they sign their own names?

WETHERBY: No, what they would do, they would dictate 'em to one of the girls, and then when they were all finished for the day, they'd stack 'em on my desk and I'd run through 'em and if I didn't agree with what they had said, I would weed that one out, but I'd sign those that they had prepared and put on my desk.

KLEBER: Did you sign all of your own letters, or--

WETHERBY: Yes.

KLEBER: No-one else used your signature, did they?

WETHERBY: No, now Miss, uh, Neimeyer could write my name as well as I could, and she would sign Colonels' commissions and things such as that, that were not too important, and she would occasionally sign my name if I was out of the office to letters that were--that had made inquiries about, uh, old age 00:29:00assistance or about, uh, other questions--highway department, this, that, and the other.

KLEBER: Now George Kerler also served with you.

WETHERBY: That's right. George was with the Associated Press when I first became, uh, lieutenant governor and then when I was governor. And Mack Sisk had been working with me in dealing with the press, and Mack took another position, and left a vacancy in my office at which time I asked Kerler to come down and work with me in my press relationship and in the public information, uh, end of the governor's office. And Kerler did come down and work with me.

KLEBER: What was his title, do you recall, that he carried?

00:30:00

WETHERBY: Well, he was just an assistant in the governor's office. Uh, actually, he was what is now known as a press secretary. He would, uh, if the press had a question and couldn't reach me, they'd call Kerler and then Kerler in turn would ask me for a comment on it, and he would deal with the press mostly.

KLEBER: Now who else was there that served, uh, in your office with you on a day-to-day basis, in addition to these people?

WETHERBY: Well, uh, Farris, Cattie Lou, Lydwiner Thompson (??) uh, Bobby Crosswaite (??) uh, the girl I told you used my signature quite often, uh, and, 00:31:00and that, that's about all of 'em.

[Pause in recording.]

WETHERBY: The other two were Rosie Neimeyer and Addie Dean, who's now Addie Stokely who has recently left the personnel commissioner's job in state government.

KLEBER: It seems to me that these people served with you just about the whole time that you were governor.

WETHERBY: They did.

KLEBER: Which, which would indicate then that, uh, you all had a very good working relationship and that you were very easy to get along with as a boss.

WETHERBY: Well, I, I have a letter from Addie Dean written when her mother died about eighteen months ago, and in the funeral notice--I was unable to go to the funeral--so I sent a contribution to their church at Wilmore in memory of 00:32:00Addie's mother. And I received a letter from Addie thanking me for the contribution to their church, and in it she goes into detail and says, "I've been wanting to write this for twenty years and now I'm gonna write it," and she wrote about our whole relationship in the office and all of the employees' feelings. And the employees, uh, they would, uh, write me poems and everything else on my birthday and Christmas. We had a fine relationship, and I would do this, uh, with 'em, as I mentioned, I'd take 'em, uh, over to the house, over to the mansion, time after time, in the evening when we--particularly if we were working late. I'd call over to the mansion and ask Mrs. Wetherby to get us something to eat and call me when it was ready and I'd tell her how many were 00:33:00coming, and I'd take the whole crew over to the mansion and we would socialize and, uh, work over there. 'Course during the legislature, that whole group, they would work around the clock if I asked 'em to, and they always were the last people to leave the Capitol during the legislature. They were always there, available to talk to legislators or to the press or anyone that wanted to get into the governor's office. They would stay 'til everybody else left.

KLEBER: They were loyal to you, very much.

WETHERBY: They were very loyal to me. So loyal that when--(laughs)--I went out of office and [A.B.] Chandler came in, they got out in front of the stand and chanted. (laughs) 'Course they, they were leaving, they weren't--

KLEBER: (laughs) What did they chant? Do you recall?

WETHERBY: (laughs) "We want Wetherby."

KLEBER: (laughs)

WETHERBY: And 'course all of 'em walked out, uh, of the governor's office the 00:34:00day I did, and, uh, they were not gonna work with Chandler.

KLEBER: It was almost like a family, wasn't it?

WETHERBY: That's right. And, uh, two of the people who joined us quite frequently, uh, they would come down if we were working late: Henry Ward and his wife. They would come over and visit with us. Henry was a great help to me. He had been in the press business, uh, up until the time I became lieutenant governor and he was a member of the state senate at that time, and he and I became very close. He was then named a commissioner of conservation under Clements and I kept him and named him--renamed him, and, uh, he was a very close advisor of mine, and helped me develop the parks system. And he was right close to--he and his wife were right close to the whole group in the office, so if 00:35:00they were gonna stay late or if they were gonna party, why, they'd call Henry and his wife and they'd come over. Lots of times they'd be there when we went over to eat dinner at the mansion, and they'd go with us.

KLEBER: Let me ask you, uh, a question a little bit different than this. Did you have extensive support among Roman Catholics in the state because your wife was Catholic?

WETHERBY: I had it, but it was spotty.

KLEBER: It was spotty.

WETHERBY: For instance, I went to see the archbishop in Louisville. I got his support. I went to see the bishop in, uh, northern Kentucky, and he indicated he was gonna give me his support. Whether he did or didn't, I don't know.

KLEBER: Was this in 1950--or '51?

WETHERBY: This was '51, yeah. But two or three priests in western Kentucky 00:36:00were all out against me. And I went to see them when I found out they were against me, but I couldn't do much with 'em. But, uh, generally, and right here in this town, the Catholic priest here was never for me. He was opposed to me and then in 1955, when we were running Combs, he bitterly attacked me, and, uh, that's Father O'Dwyer, but he never, uh, was for me when I was governor. However, I'd attend his church with my wife every once in awhile, particularly on Christmas.

KLEBER: This question fascinates me, because I know that you were a devoted hunter and fisherman, and still are.

WETHERBY: Yes.

KLEBER: During the time that you were governor, did you ever support the idea for the establishment for natural resources and environmental protection, other 00:37:00than the strip mining bill?

WETHERBY: I supported the natural resources, and protection of 'em, but at that time, there was no such thing as a--as an environmental protection, uh, organization or department, in federal government or state government. But I did support and bitterly fought to pass the strip mine bill and I was very supportive of our Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, and as a matter of fact, gave them the money to buy the Ballard County Hunting Preserve. They wanted to buy it and didn't have enough money, so I gave 'em out of the emergency fund the additional money to buy that land. Earl Wallace was the 00:38:00commissioner, and I was very supportive of them and helped them pass all the legislation that they wanted during my administration.

KLEBER: Seems to me that I recall during your administration there was some concern about clean air in the state, particularly in the Louisville area. Do you recall your support in that situation?

WETHERBY: I supported it, but it was not up for support in the legislature during my term. It was, however, when I came back as a senator--it was under Breathitt's administration, we passed a clean water and clear air act and we--(coughs)--passed some legislation at that time which was bitterly opposed by the farmers and different people, for the protection of the air and water resources of the commonwealth.

KLEBER: But during your administration, this was not ma--not an issue?

WETHERBY: It was not an issue. It never was raised at that time.

00:39:00

KLEBER: Uh, there just wasn't much talk about it at that time?

WETHERBY: Wasn't much talk, and of course, the federal government had not started their programs on, uh, the, uh, air pollution and, uh, control of air pollution and control of the water resources. (coughs) However we, in Kentucky, were doing everything we could to provide additional water resources and we were encouraging the construction of dams and the clean water problems. And the Southern Governors Conference raised the question--(coughs)--of our running out of clean water, and we supported that in the governors conference. (coughs)

KLEBER: So you were a, a strong supporter of dam construction within Kentucky?

WETHERBY: That's right.

KLEBER: Do you recall during your administration, what, uh, steps were taken in this direction?

00:40:00

WETHERBY: Well, for instance, we worked on the Cumberland River, on the Wolf Creek Dam and helped the Corps of Engineers get set up to build that dam. Then Senator Barkley and I dedicated the dam when it was completed. Uh, we also worked with the development of the parks on the Kentucky Dam Village area, and tried to provide good public beaches there for the use of the people.

KLEBER: Well, what was your reason for supporting these dams? Was it flood control or was it recreation?

WETHERBY: Flood control and--flood control, recreation, and pure water. In other words, uh, we took the position that if you dam some of these places, you avoided the floods in that area. You backed up clean, pure water for the use of 00:41:00industry and the people generally, and you provided a great recreational area.

KLEBER: Right. Was there much opposition to damming these rivers during your administration?

WETHERBY: Not during my administration. There was no opposition to it. As a matter of fact, the people were thrilled to death to see 'em developed.

KLEBER: Uh, if I could backtrack just a bit, and I--there's a question I, I wanted to bring up on the, uh, on your relationship with the press. Now, when you were governor, uh, and really it's a very interesting time because radio was still in its heyday at that time, yet at the same time, television was just coming on the scene, and I'm sure more and more Kentucky families were buying televisions.

WETHERBY: Right.

KLEBER: How extensively did you use, let's say, radio first of all, and then television?

WETHERBY: Radio, I used it extensively. Uh, they had, at that time, a program on WHAS, uh, every week, "What's Your Question?" And a boy by the name of Dick 00:42:00Oberlin ran that program, and he'd call me about every other month or so to appear on the program, and answer questions that were called in by the listeners of WHAS. And I would appear on those regularly. I guess I appeared more than any other person on WHAS, "What's Your Question?" I used it to that extent. I used it in my campaign for reelection in '51, uh, I used radio extensively. Every place I went that they had a radio in campaigning throughout the state, I would go to the radio station and appear and make a, a pitch for my campaign. Uh, I, uh, used the radio in promoting, uh, traffic safety. I used it in 00:43:00promoting the various subjects that we were gonna have in a legislative session. I used it extensively.

KLEBER: Did you ever broadcast, uh, from your office or from the--

WETHERBY: On the tapes for the highway safety program and matters such as that.

KLEBER: Did you ever speak any over, over any statewide hook-up from, let's say, a station in Frankfort or in Louisville to the whole commonwealth?

WETHERBY: Yes, from, from Louisville, uh, two or three times. Uh, they would have a state hook-up about various subjects, and I would speak out of Louisville on a statewide hook-up. I, uh, particularly used the statewide hook-up in my campaign for reelection in '51. I spoke out of Lexington, on a hook--statewide 00:44:00hook-up. I spoke out of Louisville on a statewide hook-up, and out of Paducah, and I think out of Ashland.

KLEBER: Were you com--

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

KLEBER: Were you comfortable using radio? Did you --

WETHERBY: Very, very much. Very much.

KLEBER: You have a particularly good voice, I would think, that would come over well on the radio--

WETHERBY: I had a real interesting visit on radio regularly, and I had, uh, for instance, uh, WHAS and WABE would send reporters up to the governor's office and interview me about various subjects that we had coming up in the legislature, and I used the radio extensively on that premise.

KLEBER: Now what about television, which was in its infancy at the time you were governor?

WETHERBY: Very little television. I, I did use it, used it in the, uh, 00:45:00campaign, and I used it later in my administration as it developed, and, uh, I was always anxious to get on it and get before the public and let 'em know what was going on.

KLEBER: But you felt that radio was probably a better means of reaching the people than television was?

WETHERBY: More people in Kentucky had radios--(laughs)--than they had television.

KLEBER: You wouldn't have any idea how many people would have owned televisions during your--

WETHERBY: Very few, uh, when I was first, uh, elected governor. That was in 1950 and '51, and very few people had television.

KLEBER: Now, of course, you can't really become governor unless you look good on television.

WETHERBY: On television, that's right.

KLEBER: In your administration, that would have been unthinkable, wouldn't it?

WETHERBY: That's right.

KLEBER: There was not this concern, I suppose, with the media appearance during your administration.

WETHERBY: People weren't concerned. They were concerned about the kind of record you would make.

KLEBER: So, uh, you know, that, that's a fascinating thing for me to, to 00:46:00contemplate back about thirty years ago, the difference.

WETHERBY: Well, the difference a few years make, that's right.

KLEBER: Did you--how do you view this now, with some of the obsession for appearances on television and so on? Do you think this is good for politics?

WETHERBY: Well, I think it's gonna cause problems in the future, and I think it's gonna make a poor boy such as I was, uh, incapable of becoming governor of Kentucky. Uh, 'course we had three different things when I was running. You would travel the state from place to place and town to town and speak, and answer questions. You would appear on radio all over the state and answer questions, and the same way when television came along, you would appear on television all over the state. We had Ashland, Lexington, northern Kentucky, 00:47:00Paducah and Louisville had television. Those cities covered the whole state on television when I was governor, and if you could appear on those, you would cover the whole state.

KLEBER: 'Course in this last gubernatorial campaign, it was virtually won on the basis of television media.

WETHERBY: It was, it was a media campaign, pure and simple. And the successful candidate in the primary spent a million and a half dollars on television and the media to promote his campaign and was successful in winning the race in a five or six-man, uh, race.

KLEBER: Um-hm. And don't you think that appearance had a great deal to do with that victory?

WETHERBY: I think it had a, a big, big, lot to do with it. In addition to that, uh, his experience in television and in salesmanship, we used to him to 00:48:00television had a great deal to do with John Young Brown's successful campaign in the primary.

KLEBER: Are you glad that there wasn't this emphasis on the media when you ran for governor?

WETHERBY: I am, because, uh, I thought that the way to win a race in my time was to take your message to the people directly, and we'd have tremendous crowds no matter where we went, Republican territory or anyplace. We'd have big crowds. When you finished speaking, you'd ask 'em if they had any questions, and they'd pop 'em to you.

KLEBER: Just like a big social event at that time.

WETHERBY: That's right, and it was sort of like the, uh, old-time town meetings. You'd speak and then you'd say, "You have any questions?" Or the master of ceremonies would say, "Well, now you have any questions of this fellow? If you do, pop 'em to him." Sometimes, I remember, on several occasions, the master of ceremonies would say, well, write your question down 00:49:00and send it up here and I'll get you an answer. And I'd stay there for an hour maybe answering questions.

KLEBER: We've lost that direct contact with the people.

WETHERBY: You've lost that contact. You've lost the fact that people knew their candidates. I mean, they--

KLEBER: Now it's an image, right?

WETHERBY: That's right. In other words, when you went out and spoke to a group of people and they came around afterwards and shook hands with you, and pressed the flesh as we called it, they had a contact--

[End of interview.]