Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Lawrence W. Wetherby, February 14, 1980

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, February 14, 1980 by John Kleber, professor of history of Morehead State University. Governor Wetherby, in looking at the 1954 general assembly, you proposed certain pieces of legislation that you wished that general assembly to enact. I'd like to look at some of those with you now and, uh, see what, uh, what happened to them, and your thinking behind them. Let's take, first of all, you asked the general assembly to consider a new distribution of school funds. Uh, can you give me your thinking behind that?

WETHERBY: Yes, we had, uh, sponsored and passed in the November election of 1953 a repeal of Section 186 of the constitution, which section had provided 00:01:00that school distribution must be made on a per capita basis, so we repealed that section so that it could be made on other than a per capita basis. In the past, under that provision, each county would receive from the state school fund so many dollars for each child of school age within that county, whether he was in school or not. Lots of 'em, of course, were in private schools. Lots of 'em were drop-outs, but still the county has collected on each one of those of school age. So we repealed that section by a vote of the people in 1953. So I submitted to the legislature a proposal known as the Minimum Foundation Program. It was a program which had been developed by the educational leaders of 00:02:00Kentucky. They proposed that each school unit have so many dollars behind it, and that each child would have X number of dollars behind it. The child was--which was in attendance only. In other words, the average daily attendance was the formula used to distribute the school funds under that program.

KLEBER: Had that idea come up in the 1952 general assembly?

WETHERBY: No, it had not. Uh, there had been talk of it by the educational leaders, but no one had ever tried to do it because of the prohibition in the constitution. And therefore, in '52, I suggested that the legislature adopt an amendment to the constitution, doing away with Section 186, which they did in 00:03:00'52, and therefore, it was submitted to the people for a vote in November of '53, and the people supported the amendment to do away with 186 of the constitution. That made it possible for us to pass legislation based on the average daily attendance instead of a--the per capita basis.

KLEBER: Was there much opposition to that legislation?

WETHERBY: Very little. As a matter of fact, I don't recall that there was any strong opposition to it. I took the position that the educational leaders who had been working with the research commission, the Legislative Research Commission, in drafting the legislation, I told 'em that this is your-all's legislation. I'll support it in any way I can, but I'll tell the legislature 00:04:00that this is the educational leaders' legislation, and they want to pass it as their answer to the school problems. And there was very little opposition to it. There was a hearing held in the house, and, uh, I don't recall that there was any serious opposition to it. The Kentucky Educational Association, the, uh, other groups, including the school boards, all supported it.

KLEBER: Now it, it was passed by the legislature then?

WETHERBY: It was passed by the legislature in the latter days of the session of '54, and I had told 'em that we could not fully finance the program, but that we would make a token appropriation to the Minimum Foundation Program which we did. And then we left it for the next legislative session to fully finance the program.


KLEBER: And did they do that?

WETHERBY: They did that in 1956.

KLEBER: What effect do you think this legislation has had on education in Kentucky?

WETHERBY: I think it's been a tremendous step forward to education in Kentucky. I do, though, at this time think that there are some amendments that should be made to the Minimum Foundation Program. There have been a few made in sessions since then, but I think that there is a movement on foot at this time to revise it further, that program. In other words, at that time, we had, as I recall it, uh, a recommendation that each classroom should have twenty-four students as a maximum. Now that has been changed upward, and now I think there's, there's a 00:06:00movement on foot to go back and cut the number of students per class.

KLEBER: One issue that came up before the legislature, that you submitted to it, was the question of time changes within the commonwealth. Can you give me some background on that? That must have been a very serious problem.

WETHERBY: It was a serious problem because we had, uh, time zones in Kentucky. Some counties would be on so-called "fast time" and some on "slow time." Half of the state was on fast time, and half of it was on slow time, and it was to the point where I, travelling around the state, never knew what time it was in any county, and I told the legislature that, that I couldn't tell when I left Frankfort what time it would be when I arrived at a place other, other than Frankfort in Kentucky. And it was, uh, quite upsetting to, uh, industry that 00:07:00was in Kentucky that had their home offices in the east, and they'd be two hours at times ahead of Kentucky. So they're, they were all out of step and then we had the question of the northern Kentucky area. They were trying to get along with the Cincinnati and Ohio section which was much faster and on faster time. We had west Kentucky, which was on the Central Time Zone, eastern Kentucky which was on the Eastern Time Zone, and as a result, there was a fluctuation of time all over Kentucky. So I took the position that we should spell out, in Kentucky, where the dividing line would be between east and west, and provide for Daylight Savings Time in both sections at certain times of the year.


KLEBER: And how did the legislature respond to that?

WETHERBY: Legislature passed the, uh, enabling legislation so that, uh, counties could go onto fast time. Subsequent to that, however, they repealed that act, and we had it again when I was back in the senate in 1966. We had another fight over fast and slow time.

KLEBER: In this fight, did the farmers take a significant role--

WETHERBY: The farmers were vigorously opposed to anything by the fast time, as they called it. They said they did not want any fast time, because when they got up in the morning, there'd be too much dew on the, uh, grass and they--it would just set them back, that their farm help could not work under fast time conditions.

KLEBER: But you didn't support this argument, apparently?

WETHERBY: No, I did not. I supported the bill.

KLEBER: Yeah. Now what about the railroads and, uh, airlines? Did they have 00:09:00any pressure on you?

WETHERBY: They were very much for the fast time because it put them on the same basis as other states, and put 'em in--in an even category all over the southeastern states.

KLEBER: Why did they re--revise that bill after it was passed?

WETHERBY: Well, it's, uh, it's been up and down. It's been sort of yo-yo. The Farm Bureau crowd would come in every time and wanna change it back to slow time. They all wanted slow time, the Farm Bureau did.

KLEBER: Did Chandler support slow time, do you know?

WETHERBY: They--during his administration, they, they repealed our act and put the state back on slow time except in the eastern half which was on Eastern Time, but they would not allow 'em to go on Eastern Daylight Time which was two hours different than western--the western part of the state.

KLEBER: Um, you asked also of the legislature for a revision of laws describing 00:10:00mentally ill, and the methods by which the mentally ill were committed, apparently, to state hospitals.

WETHERBY: That's right. We had recommended and passed a mental health program for Kentucky and created a Department of Mental Health, and it was a recommendation of my commissioner of mental health, Dr. Frank Gaines, that we revise all of the laws dealing with the commitment of the mentally troubled people to institutions. Prior to that legislation, a person who was mentally ill was tried before a jury just as a criminal case was tried, and it was the thinking of the psychiatrists and the employees within that department that that 00:11:00should be revised so that there was an examination and a hearing only before a judge to commit someone to a mental institution.

KLEBER: And was that passed?

WETHERBY: That was passed. And it provided for a hearing on, on the testimony of psychiatrists. Under the changed legislation, a person who was filed against for commitment was given the opportunity of having psychiatrists examine him and then them to testify before the judge.

KLEBER: So this would provide greater protection for a person?

WETHERBY: That's right. In other words, uh, we found in the psychiatrists and the, uh, professionals in the mental health department, found that some people 00:12:00had been committed or railroaded so to speak into mental institutions. Had no business being there, but had been sent there under a trial just as a criminal court trial. So that had a great benefit to the mentally handicapped people.

KLEBER: Dr. Frank Gaines must have been a remarkable individual.

WETHERBY: He was. He, uh, was a young psychiatrist in Louisville, had trained under Dr. Spaf Ackerly who was Mr. Psychiatrist in Kentucky, and Spaf Ackerly recommended to me, when I created the Department of Mental Health, Frank Gaines as the person to head it. And I twisted his arm a little bit and talked him into taking the job, and he did a fine job and immediately came up to me with a 00:13:00program to appropriate some money for new drugs which would take a lot of the people out of the mental institutions. And we--I did recommend and the legislature appropriated some money, then I gave him some additional money out of the emergency governor's contingency fund, and he supplied the drugs for all the institutions, and he used them on anyone that the professionals thought could be helped and lots of 'em were helped, were taken out of the mental institutions and put back in their homes.

KLEBER: During your administration, more money was appropriated for mental health, wasn't it? In '54?

WETHERBY: That's right. I was very sold, very much sold on the idea that people with mental conditions could be helped under a professional program, and that's what we did. We devoted all of the money that we could get our hands on 00:14:00into the treatment of the mentally ill. And as a result of that, the population in every one of our mental institutions immediately started going down instead of up.

KLEBER: Yeah. Did Dr. Gaines stay with you your whole administration?

WETHERBY: He stayed with me from the time we created the mental health department until I left office. Then he stayed a while under Chandler. And I have a beautiful letter from him when he resigned, because of the fact he was not given the freedom to operate the program that I had given him. (coughs)

KLEBER: Did you ever tour the--and go through the, the mental institutions in Kentucky?

WETHERBY: I went through all of 'em, and, uh, of course, I was quite familiar with the largest one at that time, at Central State, because that was close to my home and I had visited there prior to the time I became lieutenant governor and visited there regularly during my term as lieutenant governor and as governor.


KLEBER: Before you had a chance to initiate these reforms, were conditions pretty bad in those mental health--

WETHERBY: They were horrible. They were just horrible, and that's one reason I was so strong for a new mental health program. And the, uh, institutions were in dilapidated conditions. Uh, they were overcrowded. They were--the patients were not securing treatment, they were just confined there and--with nothing to do, and lots of 'em were made worse instead of better in the mental institutions. That's what I found and that's one reason I was so strong for a new program.

KLEBER: And then, too, the mental hospitals were able to, uh, support themselves to a great extent through producing their own food products, weren't they?

WETHERBY: That's right. They, uh, we had farms at each one of 'em and they raised their beef cattle, they raised their hogs. They raised, uh, uh, apples; 00:16:00they raised all kinds of farm produce. Canned it and had a cannery at each place, and that gave the patients some extra opportunity to get out and get their minds off of their troubles. They worked in the--on the farms with the other people.

KLEBER: Uh, you also proposed to the legislature, uh, a bill dealing with probation and parole. And, uh,can you be more specific exactly on what that was?

WETHERBY: Well, we, we had had, uh, probation and parole, uh, office and division within the, uh, old Welfare Department. So we reorganized under that a 00:17:00new probation and parole office and tried to put professionals out doing the examination on applications for probation and parole. And we took the position--and I took the position I would not grant a parole or not order a probation of any person within those institutions without they first went before the Probation and Parole Board, and they made a recommendation to me. If they recommended I issue a probation or a parole to a, an inmate, I would grant it. If they wouldn't recommend it, I did not grant it. I never granted any pardons or probations or paroles during my administration until the last week of the administration, and I did grant pardons to some of the inmates who had been 00:18:00employees over at the mansion.

KLEBER: And why was that? What, what was your thinking on that?

WETHERBY: Well, my thinking was that they had proved to me during their work at the mansion that they were capable of going back to the, uh, community in which they came from, and behaving themselves. And, uh, everyone that I pardoned at that time turned out to be an, an excellent citizen. One of 'em was just up to visit me last year and he is now a medical assistant at the Louisville General Hospital. Another one was a great mechanic and he located right here in Frankfort, in the city of Frankfort and eventually opened a garage and was right 00:19:00successful until his death about three or four years ago.

KLEBER: Now if I look at, uh, this piece of legislation, it seems to me what you're proposing is a more professional approach to the question of parole and probation.

WETHERBY: Right. In other words, we had had, uh, more or less, uh, political appointees as probation and parole officers. When we created the new department or parole board, we set up standards for the selection of probation and parole officers, in every judicial district so that they could keep in touch with the people who were paroled and so that they could make investigations about the people that were up for probation and parole.

KLEBER: And you must have--(Wehterby coughs)--placed strong faith in this system, because then you never interfered with it, is that--

WETHERBY: I never did interfere with it because we had professionals operating it and running it. And we had a strong parole board. One of 'em had been a 00:20:00federal parole officer. Another one had been active in, uh, police work and in, uh, institutional work for years before I appointed him on the board.

KLEBER: And, uh, I assume there wasn't--(Wetherby coughs)--much opposition in the legislature to this proposal?

WETHERBY: No, there was, uh, there was some opposition, but, uh, very little. We had no trouble passing it.

KLEBER: Along that same line, you also asked that the general assembly consider, uh, some review of the jury selection system.

WETHERBY: That's right. Uh, we were not too successful with that. They, uh, they did amend the acts setting up the, the jury system, but they did not go as far as we had recommended.

KLEBER: Can you tell me what your thinking was behind this proposal, or--like the need of it?

WETHERBY: Well, the, the, uh, practice had been in the judicial district just 00:21:00to name a group of people on the jury panel. Well, we thought there should be a uniform system throughout the state where the jury was selected from the rolls of the taxpayers, by the operation of the selection through the capsules out of a jury wheel. In other words, that the, uh, person who ran the selection of the jurors' names to put in the drum should select them from the tax rolls.

KLEBER: And you say this did get some kind of opposition?

WETHERBY: It did, yes, because it, uh, it did away with the ability of the circuit judges throughout the state to call John Doe and, uh, others up and put 00:22:00'em on the jury for--

KLEBER: Did the legislation pass?

WETHERBY: Yes, they passed it.

KLEBER: They did pass it.

WETHERBY: They passed it.

KLEBER: Grudgingly?

WETHERBY: Yeah, that's right.

KLEBER: Has it been--is it still in effect today?

WETHERBY: Yes, it is. It's been strengthened some since then, however.

KLEBER: And, can you see that it's been an improvement in--

WETHERBY: Oh, yeah, it's been a definite improvement. And it's pretty hard now to get off a jury--or to get on one if you--if you're not in the drum from which they draw the names, you don't get on the jury now.

KLEBER: This, to me, would seem to be one of the most important things that you proposed to the legislature in that it would give us more objective and clearer juries.

WETHERBY: Well, the thing of it is, uh, you're touching the political toes of circuit judges all over the state when you fool with the jury system, because it had been the practice in a large number of our counties where the judge selected the members that were gonna serve on the jud--jury. For instance, he would pick 00:23:00friends of his who were out of work or were, uh, in the slack season from the farm, and he'd put 'em on the jury, so that they'd make, at that time, three to five dollars a day for their service.

KLEBER: Now are these the county judges?

WETHERBY: No, they were the circuit judges. That's right.

KLEBER: And I assume that, uh, that you made some enemies there when you--

WETHERBY: That's right. And of course those people objected to it because they were gonna lose some of their, uh, little patronage that they had, and they'd jump on their representative and ask him to be against it. So it was pretty tough.

KLEBER: How did you get along with the county judges in Kentucky?

WETHERBY: I got along with 'em fine. I didn't have much trouble with the county judges--generally.

KLEBER: Now those men must have felt the same way. They had their little power blocs, didn't that? Their little fiefdoms?

WETHERBY: Yes, but they were more interested in roads and they knew that I was gonna help 'em build roads; so I didn't have too much trouble out of them. I 00:24:00did have some opposition when I proposed the toll road. I had some opposition from county judges because they thought that was gonna hurt their, uh, money from the highway department which it wasn't, but, uh, it was a little trouble convincing them of that.

KLEBER: So they thought the money would be taken away from--

WETHERBY: From the--

KLEBER: --there for the county roads--toll road--

WETHERBY: That's right, from the county road appropriation.

KLEBER: Well, didn't the--subsequently, the toll road was supported by bond sales, is that right?

WETHERBY: That's right.

KLEBER: Was, was this your intention originally, to build that road through bond sales?

WETHERBY: Yes, that's right. It, uh--we had passed, while I was lieutenant governor, we had passed a toll road enabling act so in 1952, I talked to my highway department, uh, officials about the fact that we could not build the 00:25:00roads in Kentucky without some additional help and asked their opinion of toll roads. And I had become sold on toll roads and, uh, they were all very much for it and we employed an outside professional firm, an engineering firm to come down and make a study. And we asked 'em to make a study first from Cincinnati to Louisville, because we had no decent highway at that time between those two cities, and they also--and from Louisville to Nashville. They made the study and came in with a recommendation that you could not justify one from Cincinnati to Louisville. That would not be feasible. But, that there was a place, because of Fort Knox and all the traffic between Louisville and Fort Knox that we could build one that was justifiable and that would pay for itself if we 00:26:00built one from Louisville as far as Elizabethtown, with the idea that it could be extended later from Elizabethtown to Nashville. And that's the one we built.

KLEBER: Yeah. Governor Chandler never saw it the same way, did he?

WETHERBY: No, he, as a matter of fact, when he was campaigning against my administration, he was saying I started a toll road that started nowhere and went nowhere, would never pay for itself. However, as an aside, it paid off twenty years in advance.

KLEBER: Now was he referring to the, uh, Louisville to Elizabeth---

WETHERBY: To Louisville to Elizabethtown.

KLEBER: Yeah. I thought maybe he was referring to the Mountain Parkway, that--

WETHERBY: No, no. He was referring to--the Mountain Parkway had not even been dreamed of at that time. That was under Combs's administration, uh, eight years later. Uh, but Chandler ran on the basis and kept saying, so I'd go to E-town, and I'd say, well, I'm at nowhere.


KLEBER: (laughs) Well, well people in Louisville must not have thought much of that statement.

WETHERBY: That's right. 'Course people in, uh, Elizabethtown generally were for it except the two newspapers there, just raised sand about it, and said they didn't wanna have to pay a toll to go to Louisville. Well, they didn't have to. They could go on the freeway. But there was opposition by the two newspapers and I was right gratified later that both of 'em came out and apologized to me for opposing the road after it was completed.

KLEBER: Did the merchants along that roadway complain to you at all?

WETHERBY: They did not complain.

KLEBER: They didn't? Hmm. Do you think they didn't complain because they didn't foresee the economic consequences?

KLEBER: That's right. That's right. And, uh, I think, uh, 'course now, Elizabethtown is the hub of our whole highway system. The Western Kentucky Parkway is there; the Bluegrass Parkway, all of 'em feed into Elizabethtown, and 00:28:00as a result of that, Elizabethtown now at that intersection there, at that juncture of those roads, has more motels than any place in the state of Kentucky.

KLEBER: You also asked the general assembly in 1954 to consider a report on alcoholism. Uh, did you ask, uh, that this report be prepared and what was the nature of that report?

WETHERBY: I just asked them to recommend to the Legislative Research Commission that they make a study of it and make a report back to the legislature. That's as far as we went.

KLEBER: Did anything come of that?

WETHERBY: Not that I recall.

KLEBER: This is an interesting proposal that you made and we're certainly see the results of it today. You proposed the use of voting machines statewide.


WETHERBY: That's right.

KLEBER: And what was the response to that?


KLEBER: That would--that's interesting to me.

WETHERBY: --it was bitterly opposed.

KLEBER: I can imagine.

WETHERBY: Because the local political leaders thought that we were destroying their control over the elections, and they bitterly opposed the voting machine and they fought it tooth and toenail. But--

KLEBER: Are, are you telling me that they would lose their ability to stuff the ballot box?

WETHERBY: That's exactly what, uh, was in back of it. They wouldn't admit that, but I'm certain that that's what the local political leaders were afraid of, that we would prevent them from manipulating elec--elections within their counties.

KLEBER: Why did you propose this legislation? For that reason, or were there other considerations?

WETHERBY: No, I thought it would save money, and I thought in addition to that, we'd have elections that no one could say was a rigged election. We had had 00:30:00contests all over the state in local elections and it kept the courts busy during those contests. I figured if we had voting machines, it would get beyond the idea of having fixed elections.

KLEBER: Um-hm. Did this pass the general assembly?

WETHERBY: Yes, it did.

KLEBER: And Kentucky, if I understand, was the first state to go completely--


KLEBER: --to voting machines.

WETHERBY: --to a voting machine. Now, we started it out, it was not mandatory. It was optional for the counties to buy a voting machine. Subsequent to that, the legislature passed a bill which made it mandatory to go to voting machines.

KLEBER: Okay. So this is a start, anyway?

WETHERBY: That's right. We made a start on it.

KLEBER: Now, Governor, being in that position you were in, you had an opportunity to see lots of election results and a lot of--menech-- mechanisms, chicanery and so on. How extensive was voter fraud throughout the state of Kentucky?

WETHERBY: Well, it was tremendous in certain elections. I had seen one when a 00:31:00county voted more people in a primary election than there were within the county. I saw at another time where they voted more in an eastern Kentucky county for a constitutional amendment than there were people living in the county. So it was--it was not general, but it was extensive.

KLEBER: You knew this was going on, but at the same time, I suppose you didn't have a great deal of power to do anything about it, is that right?

WETHERBY: We didn't, we didn't until you got to the point of the registration law, comparative voting--comparative signature law, and the voting machines. It all tied together, all three of those, those things.

KLEBER: So I don't think anybody would deny that today Kentucky has a much better, uh, system of voting--


WETHERBY: Completely fair. The best example of that is the administration had a candidate in this last primary and could not nominate him against a complete outsider, and that's the best example that I think you can make of the fact that we have an honest election system in Kentucky.

KLEBER: And certainly your administration would have to take the credit in starting that--

WETHERBY: Well, we started it anyway.

KLEBER: Yeah well, that's--

WETHERBY: It's been elaborated on, but we started it with the comparative signature law, then--and the voting machine law and then it has developed in the last six years, the legislature has passed a statewide registration law. Prior to that time, we only had the, uh, Louisville and Jefferson County registration law and the others had only an optional registration law. But now, you have in 00:33:00the legislature in recent years, has passed a mandatory registration law and a statewide election law, registration law, so that each voter has to have a card before he can vote.

KLEBER: Right. That registration and purgation law must have brought you a lot of, uh, criticism--

WETHERBY: It did. It did.

KLEBER: --from those county--county judges at this time?

WETHERBY: County judges and of course they were all friends of my lieutenant governor and, uh, they worked on him and he worked on me, trying to kill a lot of it, but, uh, I finally would get him down to the office and tell him I wanted to pass it and I had proposed it when I ran for governor and I was gonna bulldoze it through if necessary. And we did.

KLEBER: Talking about this reminds me of Robert Ireland's book on the little 00:34:00kingdoms in Kentucky, when he talks about the strong counties.

WETHERBY: That's right.

KLEBER: Kentucky is almost like a feudalistic system. You would be the king and they would be the manorial lords and they had a lot of power within--

WETHERBY: They did. And--

KLEBER: --the thing--

WETHERBY: --you take my lieutenant governor. He, he ran the strongest political organization in Kentucky outside of Jefferson County, in Logan County. And, uh, they practically voted a straight down the line with anything the lieutenant governor was for. And of course, he had the friendship of all of the county judges. He had been in government since he was twelve years old. He had started out as a page. He had been the head of the Rural Highway Department under Clements. He had friends in every county of the state, and they were working on him to beat my comparative signature law. And he was working on the 00:35:00legislature, which I found, and then I called him in and I said, you just can't do that to me. And I stopped him.

KLEBER: Yeah. You s--I bet these men could tell you exactly how many votes they would deliver to you, couldn't they? And pretty near--

WETHERBY: They'd almost tell you. They'd almost tell you how many votes you were gonna get in the county.

KLEBER: Yeah, now that, that's kind of old bossism that used to be prominent in the urban areas.

WETHERBY: That's right.

KLEBER: Back in the turn of the century.

WETHERBY: That's right. And it was true in certain counties of Kentucky, right straight up until recent years.

KLEBER: But you don't see a great deal of it anymore, is that--

WETHERBY: There's very little of it.

KLEBER: Dynasties are gone.

WETHERBY: Very little of it.

KLEBER: You glad to see 'em go?

WETHERBY: They're wide open. Yes, I'm glad to see it, except that I think you have one problem and that is that, uh, what has happened in the recent primary is a dangerous thing that a rich man could come in and buy all of the media and 00:36:00have the publicity where the average fellow would be cut out. That's the one danger I see in it.

KLEBER: Um-hm. So that the media exposure is more important than, than making the contact with--

WETHERBY: That's right. That's right.

KLEBER: --the bosses and the local political leaders?

WETHERBY: That's right.

KLEBER: 'Course he didn't do that in this election, did he? He didn't court the--

WETHERBY: No, as a matter of fact--

KLEBER: --local leaders at all.

WETHERBY: --he, he did not even visit the courthouse crowds at all. He did it all by the media and the television programs.

KLEBER: And that is a remarkable thing to happen--

WETHERBY: That's right.

KLEBER: --in Kentucky. So I--I guess you could say it's a new day in politics virtually.

WETHERBY: That's right. It's new politics.

KLEBER: Well, another proposal you made to the legislature was a bill to allow Kentucky and Virginia to develop the Breaks into a recreation area.

WETHERBY: That's right.

KLEBER: This, this was done, wasn't it?

WETHERBY: Breaks of the Sandy. I had become quite--quite close to Governor 00:37:00Battle of Virginia. And I had told him how beautiful that area was. At the time I had told him about it, at a governors' conference, he said, "Well, you know, I've never visited there." So we made arrangements, after that conference, to meet up at the Breaks of the Sandy and we met up there and he was just thrilled to death with it, and I said, well, we ought to do something with it. He said, "Well, all right, but," he said, "you're not gonna take that away from us." Says "It's just as much ours as it is yours." I said, all right, let's work on the joint development of a park at the Breaks of the Sandy." And we started that development and we met two or three times at the Breaks of the Sandy and he brought his parks people, I brought mine. He brought his finance 00:38:00fellow and I brought mine, and we sat down and started working on a plan to develop a joint park for the Breaks of the Sandy, supported equally by Kentucky and Virginia. And it's been developed into a right fine, uh, Grand Canyon of the East.

KLEBER: What kind of facilities are there?

WETHERBY: They now have a fine lodge there. It's on the Virginia side--(laughs)--but it's part ours, and, uh, they have a, uh, a fine restaurant, nice,uh, lodge, and cabins for overnight tourists.

KLEBER: And this has become part of the state parks system?

WETHERBY: That's right. It, it's operated separately from the state parks system because it is under a joint deal with Virginia. And Governor Battle, at the time of our last meeting to develop it, said, "I have something for you," 00:39:00and he presented me with a picture, autographed, of Monticello. And it's hanging in my hallway right now.

KLEBER: Very nice.

WETHERBY: John Battle, who was then governor and a great fellow and a man easy to work with.

KLEBER: (laughs) Of course, Virginia's our mother state. Did he ever--

WETHERBY: That's right.

KLEBER: --did you ever have the impression that he was trying to act as still the mother state, to you--

WETHERBY: No, no. He, he said, "Well, well, we were responsible for your state, so we ought to, uh, work together."

KLEBER: Okay, he didn't, didn't treat us like a child?

WETHERBY: No, he did not. He, he treated us as a full partner.

WETHERBY: You also proposed a rabies control law to the legislature. Was this enacted?


KLEBER: A rabies control law.

WETHERBY: Yes, yes. That was enacted. We proposed that at the suggestion of the, uh, department that we put in effect a rabies control law and we authorized 00:40:00the Department of Agriculture to start out and make a survey of the counties and how much control they had and what--how we could help 'em in it. And, uh, as a result, then the Department of Health took over and now anytime there's a question of rabies, they send the animal, if they catch 'em, down to the Department of Health for an examination, and a determination.

KLEBER: I expect in Kentucky, a rather large number of people must have died every year of rabies bites?

WETHERBY: Well, uh, it was pretty prevalent and it's still prevalent, scattered over the state. But, uh, now we have the facilities to treat it, if it's found quick enough.

KLEBER: Um-hm.

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

KLEBER: You also, in this,uh, proposal to the legislature, alluded to--well, 00:41:00you allude to proposed highway construction. That, that's the only information I have on it. Was this referring to the toll road, do you know--recall?

WETHERBY: Yes, it was referring to the toll road, and, uh, the fact that we needed a new overall highway system in Kentucky because in my opinion, at that time, that was the reason that we were not getting industry in the state, because they could not get from one end of the state to the other. In other words, we were a bridge state, and our question of roads from east to west Kentucky, which is almost six hundred miles, we had no roads in it, and I proposed that we go into that. I also proposed that we build a north-south highway. I had a meeting with the governors of--to the north of us, and the 00:42:00governors to the south to build a Lakes-to-Gulf highway system. And I started by building our toll road. Tennessee picked it up and they built across their state, and we did get started on a real north-south road from Lakes to Gulf. That's what we called it.

KLEBER: That's--the legislation that I have that you proposed to the, uh, 1954 General Assembly. Let me jog your memory just a minute and throw a question at you that you may have to think about. What one piece of legislation that you proposed and was enacted are you most proud of in those years that you were governor?

WETHERBY: I would say two things: I cannot very well separate 'em. Uh, one was 00:43:00the strip mine legislation. The second one was mental health programs. I think those two were the--plus the Minimum Foundation Program. Those three things, I think, had a greater effect on Kentucky and its future than all the other things put together.

KLEBER: And these are on--this seems to be on the important things, the, the development of the mind, uh, the curing of a sick mind, rather than upon road construction which--

WETHERBY: That's right.

KLEBER: -- as a priority, would not be as important.

WETHERBY: That's right. And of course we started the road construction, but those were less important to the people of the state in my opinion than these other three. I think the educational step on Minimum Foundation Program, the mental health to get people out of these mental institutions and keep 'em out, and then the other. And I think the roads were in the background.


KLEBER: Is there anything that you would like to have proposed or accomplished in form of legislation during those years you, you were not able to?

WETHERBY: Well, I thought of lots of things at the time, but I think of very few now because lots of 'em that I mentioned have been followed up by future administrations and, uh, Bert Combs and, uh, Ned Breathitt have put into effect a lot of those things that I was thinking about but didn't get to accomplish.

KLEBER: If you were governor today, what one thing would you do right now?

WETHERBY: Right now, I would revise the way our highway funds are secured by putting our gasoline tax on a percentage basis of the cost instead of on a flat 00:45:00seven cents a gallon. (coughs) I would then take some of that money and repay it to the general fund, the forty million dollars that was taken away from the highway department by the general fund in the last administration, and I would start cutting programs so that you could balance the budget and increase the educational fund so that we could move along and develop a better educated public.

KLEBER: Which we need badly. Yeah. You worked closely with four general assemblies: '48, '50, '52, '54.


KLEBER: And then, of course, later too--


KLEBER: --but then these as lieutenant governor and governor. Which one of those four was the most impressive?

WETHERBY: I suppose the '54 because in the '52 we had real problems in the 00:46:00state over the gambling situation, and, uh, we did not accomplish as much then as we did later in the '54 session. We did accomplish quite a bit, but I think the '54 session, other than the '48 session which Clements started, he put a foundation under a lot of programs that we have subsequently developed: the A.N.I.D. program, the A.N.I.D. board and those kind of things, the, uh, Kentucky Building Commission. Those were all created in the '48 session, and that was the foundation for the advancement of Kentucky. And I think, though, the '54 session, we accomplished more generally than any one of those other three.

KLEBER: What about the quality of representatives in those four? Were they 00:47:00pretty much uniform each time, or did you--

WETHERBY: Pretty much, but I thought the '54 was probably the strongest one that we had. Uh, we had quite a few of the senators back, and we had picked up quite a few new members in the house. And, uh, politically, we were much stronger in '54 than we were in '48 because we had picked up members and I had the, uh, support of more members in '54 than I had during '52 or that Clements had in '50.

KLEBER: Well, certainly, you must have felt more comfortable with the '54 than you did with--

WETHERBY: Much more comfortable.

KLEBER: --any of the other three. Yeah.

WETHERBY: And I felt that anything that I could justify they would pass.

KLEBER: Did certain strong individuals dominate these general assemblies?


WETHERBY: Yes, very much. Dick Moloney was the majority leader in the senate, and he could corral almost enough votes on any bill that you could sell him to be for. That was in the senate. In the house, we had two or three rather strong fellows, Harry Lowman from Ashland was rather strong. A boy from Paducah was strong, he'd been there several years. They more or less led.

KLEBER: Doran? Adron Doran?

WETHERBY: Adron Doran who was the Speaker of the House, and he did a tremendous job of influencing the legislature in '48 and '50. I was talking, though, later about the '52 and '54 sessions.

KLEBER: I think next time we come back I'd like to, uh, talk about those strong 00:49:00leaders and all of those ones you worked with and see how, uh, you work with them and what kind of influence they had.

WETHERBY: All right, fine.

KLEBER: Thank you, Governor.

[End of interview.]