Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Lawrence W. Wetherby, March 28, 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 of Kentucky. Governor Wetherby was interviewed in his home in Frankfort, Kentucky on Friday, March 28, 1980 by John Kleber, Department of History, Morehead State University. Governor Wetherby, during your administration, you were known to be a great sportsman, and were often seen hunting, fishing. I know your interest in this goes way back to when you were a young boy and your father had taken you out on this--these occasions, but when you were governor, you have already mentioned the fact that there were those around you who felt that this was good for you to do because it created the image of Kentucky as a state for sportsmen and would have been good for tourism. But there is a possibility also that this created an image of you as a man who was more interested perhaps in sporting events than in the, the hard 00:01:00realities of governing the state. Do you think that this has, has created the wrong image of you in, in the years between the time you were governor and today, and if you had to do it over, would you have downplayed that kind of image?

WETHERBY: Well, to answer your last question first, I would not have changed at all. I do agree, though, that the image of my administration probably was harmed by the fact that I got the publicity that I received as a sportsman. However, one thing that we did as a result of my activities in hunting and fishing was to secure the out-of-state editors. We would entertain 'em. I would hunt with 'em. I would fish with 'em, and they would write favorable 00:02:00stories about the tourist industry in Kentucky and what we had, and we promoted it through that means and that method. And I think that from that standpoint, it was very helpful. But I would not have changed my position in any respect. I have always been a sportsman. I started out as just a youngster with my dad hunting and fishing and I'm still doing it up until the last couple of years since I had a stroke.

KLEBER: So you feel that, uh, you increased tourism in Kentucky by this image of you, uh, as a sportsman?

WETHERBY: Tremendously. For instance, I'll give you one--I'll give you one example. Right after Wolf Creek Dam was dedicated by Senator Barkley, we invited the outdoor writers from all the surrounding states up to a distance of 00:03:00six hundred miles from Kentucky to come down and spend a weekend with us. Earl Ruby who was the sports editor of the Courier-Journal in Louisville was one of the co-hosts with me. We had thirty-some-odd writers from all over the country within a six hundred mile area of Kentucky. We had 'em all down for a weekend at Cumberland Lake, and we showed 'em how many fishing places we had and the kind of fishing. For instance, Ruby and I fished one afternoon and caught a hundred and forty-two bass to show these fellows how much activity we had in Kentucky and the prospects. Of course we turned 'em all loose except twelve. We kept twelve and took 'em in to cook, but that's an example of what we were 00:04:00doing and as a result of that, I received a great amount of publicity throughout the state as being a fisherman and a hunter. And as a result of that activity, the Kentucky League of Sportsmen named me the Outstanding Sportsman of Kentucky in 1952, and I have a plaque in my basement which was awarded to me by the Kentucky League of Sportsmen for the promotion of Kentucky's sports activity.

KLEBER: Did you engage in any other kind of sporting activity besides hunting and fishing?

WETHERBY: Oh, yeah. I, uh, watched all the football games at the University of Kentucky. I travelled with the team. I, uh, watched the basketball games, attended all--most, most of the home games. I did not travel with that team, 00:05:00but I did travel with the football team to all of their out-of-state games, and, uh, promoted our teams in any way I could. And I attended their banquets at the end of the seasons, uh, both basketball and football banquets. I also attended the, uh, Western Kentucky games and some of the Murray games and the Morehead and Eastern Kentucky games. I, uh, spent every weekend at a basketball or football game that I could get away with.

KLEBER: Did you ever play tennis? Swim? Do any of these other activities?

WETHERBY: Yes, I, I did a lot of tennis playing and swimming; very little tennis playing when I became governor. I had played tennis in high school and 00:06:00had won the championship at Anchorage High School in my senior year, among the students. I played just a little bit though, but I'd play in the afternoon occasionally up at the mansion with some of the kiddoes, but usually I was too busy to play much tennis.

KLEBER: Is there--(Wetherby coughs)--a swimming pool at the mansion that you were able to use?

WETHERBY: What did you say?

KLEBER: A swimming pool at the mansion that you--

WETHERBY: No, there was no swimming pool, but there was a, uh, a tennis court. 'Course we were members of the Frankfort Country Club and we had a pool there. I'd go out there and swim, and then, uh, my children were all excellent swimmers and participated in that sport.

KLEBER: I know your son also followed you into this interest in hunting and fishing in--


KLEBER: Did any of your daughters have an interest in this?

WETHERBY: They had no interest in that, uh, except, uh, my oldest daughter, uh, loved fishing and she would fish quite a bit down on Cumberland Lake. They had 00:07:00a boat down there for several years and they'd go down and spend the weekend, she and her kiddoes and her husband, and do some fishing. We'd go down and visit with them and fish some.

KLEBER: During your administration, uh, was much done in the way of increasing the opportunities for fishing and hunting in the state of Kentucky?

WETHERBY: Yes, quite a bit. And, uh, in our park development, our most successful parks, of course, were those on the lakes, where fishing was available. And we did a lot to promote the fishing activities, and, uh, we appropriated money to build a dock and facilities at Kentucky Dam Village and at Kentucky Lake, the two parks there on Kentucky, uh, Lake. We also appropriated 00:08:00money to the Carter Caves area for a lake in that area. We built a lodge and cabins on Cumberland Lake for the promotion of the fishing there, and the tourist attractions.

KLEBER: How much, uh, how much interest was there during your administration in, uh, in, uh, improving river transportation and dam construction which would have been perhaps, uh, favorable to fishing?

WETHERBY: Very little other than the Wolf Creek Dam. The Wolf Creek Dam was completed and dedicated during my administration. Senator Barkley and I dedicated the dam and then we immediately secured the land for a park out--on, 00:09:00uh, Cumberland Lake. There's where--[telephone rings]--we built the lodge and cottages for the tourist promotion. We did the same thing down at Kentucky Dam Village and at Kentucky Lake, which were the two parks on the Kentucky Lake area. Uh, we built additional cottages and cabins on--at Kentucky Dam Village and at Kentucky Dam. There're two parks there, one is known as Kentucky Dam Village and the other is Kentucky Dam Lake Park.

KLEBER: Another area that would have been very important for growth in your administration is the area of industry in Kentucky. Uh, Kentucky, uh, when you were governor, was not an industrial state. I expect most of the people still 00:10:00lived in rural areas, and many of them still farmed.

WETHERBY: Right. But we started promoting the industrial development. We had the Agricultural and Industrial Development Board, and I worked with them and solicited industries to come into the state. 'Course we had an ideal place for 'em at Kentucky Dam Village and we secured one or two to come in there as the umbrella group. For instance, Penn-Sauk (??) people came into, and built a plant on Kentucky Dam Village, right below Kentucky Dam Village. Uh, then, of course, we developed and I assisted in securing the development of the big plant at Paducah, uh, which was run by the same federal government agency that ran Oak 00:11:00Ridge in Tennessee. And, uh, that was developed during my administration, and the plants at--right below Kentucky Dam at Calvert City, there were three large industrial developments brought into that area during our administration.

KLEBER: Did you actively go out and seek increased industries to come into Kentucky?

WETHERBY: Yes. Yes, for instance, I think I told you once before about the--(coughs)--solicitation of the atomic energy plant at Paducah. I was at a football game with the University of Kentucky at Knoxville, Tennessee when some of the representatives of that department came over and looked me up and wanted 00:12:00to take me to Oak Ridge to show me what they were doing there so that we could understand what they wanted to do in Kentucky with the plant at Paducah, and that, uh--I would then follow that up and visited with the people who represented the Union Carbide Company which was gonna be the operating company for that plant. Then, another plant that I, uh, went out and sought and worked to secure was the one down at, uh, right between Brandenburg and Elizabethtown, which is, uh, the Olin-Matheson Chemical Company, and that is a nice development which we secured.

KLEBER: Uh, you were mentioning the, uh, atomic energy plant that came into, 00:13:00uh, western Kentucky--

WETHERBY: That's right.

KLEBER: --this was, of course, a very early time for the development of atomic energy and, uh, you mentioned something to me off the tape that, uh, there was some security involved in this. Could you relate that to me?

WETHERBY: There was, and, uh, 'course it was very--a very secretive thing and that's the reason these, uh, representatives came to me as the governor and told me what they planned and what they wanted to do. They wanted me to know about it, but they wanted me to assist them in keeping the thing quiet until they could get it developed and until they could build the plant. And that they would work with us in the security of that plant, and, uh, we did and we assigned various patrolmen down there to help them get started and to keep it 00:14:00perfectly quiet as to what they were building. And they went on and built the plant which is still in existence in the Paducah area.

KLEBER: You never had any question about the, uh, worth of building that plant down there, did you?

WETHERBY: We never did have any question. However, some of the people in that area got disturbed about what was going on and we couldn't tell 'em much except that it was, uh, we knew it was absolutely all right and was safe. That's the only thing we could tell 'em. We could not tell 'em who was gonna operate it, what it was gonna make, but that it was a government plant that would be run by an agency that the government would pick.

KLEBER: Now you've mentioned the fact that you've brought industry into western Kentucky.


KLEBER: Did you have much luck attracting industry into the central, the Bluegrass area? Louisville? Northern Kentucky?

WETHERBY: No, because, uh, at that time, the people in the Lexington/Bluegrass 00:15:00area were sold on the horse farms. They did not want industry to come in and upset their economy because most of the land was owned by horsemen and they promoted their horse business, the breeding and--(coughs)--breeding and production of race horses. Now in Louisville, I did help to secure the development and construction of the General Electric Plant, the Ford Plant. The General Electric, for instance, the Louisville Chamber of Commerce had solicited GE to come into Kentucky, and had asked 'em to come into the Louisville area. They were having trouble with it, so they called me and asked me if I would 00:16:00assist 'em. I told 'em I gladly would, so we arranged a meeting with the officers of General Electric, and I attended that meeting. We mapped out the place that we would like for them to locate in Jefferson County. They then put me right on the spot: would you build a bypass on the Bardstown Road area so that we could have an access to our plant if we located there? I said, we surely will. They built their plant, we built the access, and it's the largest single employer, I guess, within the Commonwealth. They have thirteen to fourteen thousand employees at this time. Now the Ford Plant, I bought the first Ford that was produced at the plant after it was expanded down in the 00:17:00Louisville area. I went down and I have some pictures which show me taking delivery of the first Ford that came off the line at the plant there in Louisville, and they were talking about expanding it and I went down and met with 'em and helped 'em promote the expansion. Then I bought the first Ford that came off of the line.

KLEBER: And in northern Kentucky?

WETHERBY: Northern Kentucky, yes. Uh, f or instance, we worked with the Chamber of Commerce in, uh, Covington in securing--and we did secure, they're still in existence up there--a bass--brass foundry, and I have on my desk at this time, 00:18:00the ashtray which they sent or presented to me when they opened their plant at Covington. And it was a brass foundry that--and I've forgotten the name of that, but we went to work with the local Chamber of Commerce to secure that industrial plant.

KLEBER: Um-hm.

WETHERBY: And as a result of that plant, they, the local people, then developed an industrial park which is still in existence between Florence and Covington.

KLEBER: During your term as governor, one of the depressed areas of our state was eastern Kentucky, and I know you were greatly concerned about that. (Wetherby coughs) Can you characterize for me how that was, uh, depressed and, and what about industry in that area?

WETHERBY: Well, it was depressed because there was no industry there. There were no roads to get there. I started out to--trying to promote, along with a 00:19:00local, uh, organization of the Appalachian group, trying to promote transportation into east Kentucky. You could not get industry in there because there was no transportation. The only transportation we had were the railroads, which were in there for one thing and one only, and that was to haul coal. And, uh, we worked with the local group from the Appalachian group--(coughs)--trying to get additional industry in there. We were successful in securing one industry over in, uh, Pulaski County near Somerset. We also--I, at the suggestion of the local leadership in eastern Kentucky, put some money up to 00:20:00expand Mayo's vocational educational school so that they could train the local young people in vocational education, in doing things to be available as the laborers--if we could get the industry in. We worked on that project. I also worked on several of the railroads trying to get them to help us bring industry in. I made a trip to the C & O Washington--C & O [Chesapeake and Ohio] Railroad and talked to Mr. Walter Tuohy who was then president, to try to get him to encourage some business interests to come into east Kentucky, that the C & O 00:21:00would service 'em. We did not get any that I recall. We did, uh, secure some expansion, though, in the Ashland area, the expansion of Ashland Oil, and the, uh, uh, other industries there. The, uh, and I think they did a pretty good job of securing industry in that particular area.

KLEBER: In, in general, though, eastern Kentucky remained a depressed area during your administration.


KLEBER: The coal industry was, uh, was in a slump at that time--

WETHERBY: That's right. Coal was way down; very little production. And when I advocated a strip mine law, the coal people were tremendously upset, so I went 00:22:00up and visited with them, went to their strip mine areas, talked to 'em about what we proposed to do. We were not gonna run 'em out of business; we were just gonna try to control them from destroying the whole area of eastern Kentucky. And I finally succeeded in gaining the friendship of most of 'em. I did go to one place and was successful in assisting them. I didn't do it but I assisted them, in developing a, an entire town in the coal area. The United States Steel owned several mines in that area, and I went up and spoke to them and helped them to promote the town of Wheelwright where they built a complete town, with 00:23:00its own bank and schools and new homes for all of the workers in the area. And it was quite successful until the last few years, as a town.

KLEBER: Would you have any idea how many new industrial jobs might have been added during those five years that you were governor?

WETHERBY: No, I would not. I, I would hesitate to guess.

KLEBER: But there was an increase in--

WETHERBY: Oh, there was a tremendous increase, uh, just as I mentioned. Uh, take the Louisville area alone, the, uh, GE and Ford plants. That increased the industrial jobs by twelve to fifteen thousand. The plant at Paducah, the--run by the Union Carbide Company. At one time, they had close to six thousand 00:24:00additional employees, industrial employees. And all through the state we had additional ones, during that five years.

KLEBER: The only opposition that would have come to this, you think, would have been come from around the Lexington area and the horse people.

WETHERBY: Yes, where, where the--and which I could understand. The, uh, big, uh, horsemen and the big, uh, Bluegrass farms that were used for the promotion of the horse industry, they did not want the industrial development to come in at that time and destroy the horse farms. That was what they were noted for, and they wanted to maintain it. So I could understand that, and I did not quarrel with that position. But recently, they have relaxed a little bit. Their planning and zoning has allowed business to come in. They now have the IBM plant there and several other large industrial developments.

KLEBER: Do you think that, uh, the position you took on the issue of 00:25:00right-to-work at all affected industry coming into Kentucky?

WETHERBY: I think it did. I think, uh, the fact that, uh, we did not allow the labor group to take over completely in Kentucky, I think that encouraged industry to come into our state.

KLEBER: Um-hm. And what about labor itself? Did it support, uh, increased industrialization?

WETHERBY: Well, yes, they, uh, to a large extent, they did. Uh, uh, after we had an understanding about, uh, what position we were gonna take, uh, they were pretty fair about it and, uh, as a matter of fact, uh, helped me talk to some groups that wanted to develop a plant in Kentucky.

KLEBER: Um, one of the, the areas of, of construction in Kentucky at the time was in the area of, of airport construction. Seems to me, that during your 00:26:00administration, we begin to see the first concerted effort to build airports throughout this state.

WETHERBY: That's right.

KLEBER: Uh, which would have been, certainly, a departure from the heavy emphasis on railroads before. Uh, what did you do to, uh, to support and stimulate the growth of airports in the state?

WETHERBY: We, uh, made an appropriation to the Department of Aeronautics for the purpose of matching federal funds to also match local funds any time a local community desired an airport development. Charlie Gartrell, who was my commissioner of aeronautics, would meet with 'em and tell 'em about the formula that the federal government had set up, that the federal government would pay half of the cost, the state would pay a fourth, if the local community would pay a fourth to develop an airport. And we were going on the basis that the airport 00:27:00would give industrial, plants places for their leaders to fly in and visit and be near their plants. For instance, the--we developed one on our own at Kentucky Dam Village, and all of the executives of those plants there at Calvert City would fly into the park area and go to their plants which were within five miles of our airport. That became a pattern throughout the state. We built one at Hopkinsville. We built one at, uh, Pikeville. We built one at Harlan, and we built 'em throughout the state which gave the business leaders a place to 00:28:00come in near their plants and not have to depend upon the railroads or other transportation. That had a tendency to open up the eastern part of the state as well as the western part where the industries had already moved in.

KLEBER: And this construction was financed with local, state, and federal money?

WETHERBY: Local, state, and federal money. At that time, we had a federal, uh, legislation which provided that on certain criteria, the federal government would put up fifty percent; the state would put up twenty-five percent, if the local community put up twenty-five percent. And that's the way we built several of those airports.

KLEBER: Did the Louisville and Nashville at all oppose this airport construction?


WETHERBY: Yes, they opposed it. They opposed the expansion of Standiford Field when we were trying to enlarge it so that, uh, larger commercial planes and jets could come into the Louisville area. The Louisville and Nashville Railroad opposed that, uh, expansion down there, and we fought that out and secured the expansion of Standiford Field.

KLEBER: Talking about the financing of the construction of the airports brings me to the, the question of financing in general during your administration, when the budgets, in comparison to what they are now, were very low; minuscule in fact. Uh, but what is apparent to me is that you, during your five years that you were governor, you were an economic conservative, uh, that is, the fact that you believed in tight budgets and as small budgets as possible and based upon, I 00:30:00suppose, low taxation. Uh, why were you this kind of economic conservative, and do you think that that was a good position to take?

WETHERBY: I think it was a good position to take and it, it was just ingrained in me. I, uh, graduated from college in 1929 and the following October we had the crash and I went through the Depression. My daddy was a country doctor and he was very conservative and I learned conservatism fiscally from him. Then when that crash hit and I started practicing law, it was necessary to be a conservative because there was no way to do anything else. As a matter of fact, if you got a dollar, you were lucky. Uh, things were so tight that it was just, 00:31:00uh, almost unbelievable and it remained that way through the early thirties. So I became a very conservative person by virtue of the fact of the economic picture during my early years in practicing law. When I came into state government, there was a very small amount of money available, and during the time that I served as lieutenant governor, we wrote a budget based on what was available. Then we increased the road tax by two cents to build some rural roads, some farm-to-market roads, and that was the only increase in revenue that we had at that time. When I became governor, I knew the budget conditions, I knew the economic conditions, and I did not want to get into a position of 00:32:00passing a sales tax, which was the only alternative, and give people the chance to destroy our state government. I, uh, wrote my budgets, three of 'em: the one in the special session in 1950, the one in the regular session in '52, and the one in regular session in '54. I wrote 'em from top to bottom. I knew where every dollar was going, and I would try to see that it was spent judiciously.

KLEBER: Would you call yourself a fiscal conservative?

WETHERBY: Very much so.

KLEBER: Some people have called, uh, Governor Chandler a fiscal conservative, too. How do you think you-all differed in looking at the budget appropriations?

WETHERBY: Well, I think we differed in this respect. He was an anti-sales tax 00:33:00person and he harped and won an election as governor on the repeal of the sales tax which, at that time, had been passed by the Laffoon administration for the purpose of providing funds for the matching of federal funds on the, uh, Aid to Dependent Children and other fiscal programs such as that. I did not, in my own mind, oppose a sales tax because I thought that was the easiest tax to collect and the one that was best suited to secure the money that Kentucky needed. However, he had made it a political issue where you could not get the 00:34:00legislature to touch it during my term. Uh, another difference that we had, when he came in, he did some things in his second term. He raised the income tax. He raised the income tax on business. He raised the tax on whiskey production which was one of our main industries in the state; he drove 'em out of the state. Those kind of things differed from my way of thinking. I did not want to raise the kind of tax that would discriminate against industry that we needed to build up in Kentucky.

KLEBER: Now you bring up an interesting point that I should have hit on earlier, and that is the fact that while you were governor, was the tax structure favorable to industry coming into Kentucky?

WETHERBY: Very much. Very much. And when I, uh, needed some additional 00:35:00revenue, I put it on beer and cigarettes and things like that that did not destroy any industry.

KLEBER: Sin taxes?

WETHERBY: (laughs) That's right. And, uh, uh, as a matter of fact, we changed the corporate tax so as to attract industry. And during Clements's and my administration, we took off the tax on--the ad valorem tax that the state had been--had since Chandler's administration. And we, uh, reduced the state tax on real estate. 'Course the constitution provides that you have to have it. So we reduced it to just a bare one cent, so as to comply with the constitution, but 00:36:00at the same time encourage people to own real estate and to own stocks and bonds and not to tax 'em to the point where they were destructive.

KLEBER: You know, in, in following that same theme, now, you did things to encourage industry to come into Kentucky. Obviously you brought some good industries in here--if you brought General Electric in, you brought a real big one, and yet, even today, Kentucky is not an industrial state. What do you think has kept Kentucky from becoming a great industrial state? We've got a good location, don't we?

WETHERBY: We have the location. We're a big state. We needed roads. That's one reason that I promoted and built the first toll road in Kentucky which was going north to south. People just pass through our state, going to Florida and coming back. And in addition to that, we have not promoted the industrial 00:37:00development in Kentucky since the time we secured the big plants. For instance, each one of these plants could bring in other plants if we did the right amount of promotion. Now, I see the legislature has before it now a bill to allow fiscal courts in a city to issue bonds to develop industries which might help bring some more industries into the state. But that's the reason we're not highly industrialized.

KLEBER: Why don't you think--

WETHERBY: We've had a good labor market. We've had a good relation between labor and industry, but we have not promoted the state as an industrial state.

KLEBER: Why not?

WETHERBY: The lack of foresight on the part of some governors, I think.


KLEBER: Do you think our educational system has hurt also?

WETHERBY: It did for a while, but I think in the past few years, uh--well, in the past twenty years, our educational facilities have increased. We have probably the best higher educational set-up in Kentucky than any state west or south of the Ohio River. And, uh, we have the educational facilities in the lower grades. Since the Minimum Foundation Program was set up, our teachers' salaries have increased, our facilities for educating the children have increased, and our education has moved upward. But at the same time, we have lacked the promotional ability to bring in industry.


KLEBER: Um-hm. While you were governor, probably the education of eastern Kentucky was a hindrance to bringing industry there.

WETHERBY: It was. It was. That was one reason that I was very much in favor of the Minimum Foundation Program because they, the people in eastern Kentucky could depend upon getting money from the state for their children.

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

KLEBER: Let's go to, uh, one other, uh, topic here, Governor, and that is the, uh, Kentucky Court of Appeals.

WETHERBY: Yes, sir.

KLEBER: This is the high court, uh, of the state of Kentucky when you were governor.

WETHERBY: That's right, it was until two years ago, and now we have a Supreme Court and a Court of Appeals and four-level courts.

KLEBER: What was your, uh, relationship with the Kentucky Court of Appeals?

WETHERBY: Excellent. I had a fine relationship and the chief justice at that time--well, there were two during my term. One was Judge Cammack and he would 00:40:00drop by my office two or three mornings a week. He would get to the office like I did, before all of the employees came. So he would drop by and chat and tell me what was on the mind of the court in the way of money they needed and in the way of, uh, space, and things like that. He would come in two or three mornings a week and visit with me. The same with the next chief justice, who was Judge Porter Sims. Judge Sims would drop by and visit with me and we would regularly entertain all of the judges, their wives, and the commissioners and their wives at the mansion, once or twice during every year. So I had a fine relation with all the members of the court. Judge Stewart, Judge Sims, and then one of the 00:41:00former chief justices was a great personal friend of mine, and he had retired from the bench when I had problems in one of the western Kentucky counties with one of the sheriffs who was not enforcing the law, and I cited him to remove him.

KLEBER: Was this Daviess County?

WETHERBY: No, it was, uh, Henderson County.

KLEBER: Henderson County.

WETHERBY: And I then secured Judge Reese as my hearing officer to hear the charges against the sheriff. He set the case for a hearing and before it came up, the attorney for the sheriff came in with his resignation, as sheriff. But, uh, I had a fine relation---I had called him and asked him if he would serve. 00:42:00He said, well, he had been retired and didn't like to get into those kind of things, but as a favor to me, he would be glad to serve. So he had agreed to undertake that tough task.

KLEBER: Do you think that the Court of Appeals was an equal branch of the state government at the time you were governor?

WETHERBY: I think it definitely was, and, uh, two or three different, uh, pieces of legislation that we had had, uh, they had voided. But two or three that were brought before 'em, they upheld, so it was a give and take and I think they were equal, to the legislative branch of government. I don't think that they were equal to the executive because our constitution was written so that the executive is the executive of the state.

KLEBER: Uh, one man whom you knew at that time, and is now a chief justice of 00:43:00the Supreme Court, that's Judge John Palmore--

WETHERBY: Yes, sir, uh, they kidded me at a meeting just recently here about my two appointees. One of 'em, Judge Palmore; the other one was Judge Combs. And a fellow in the group said, "Well, you started 'em both out, you appointed both of 'em as commonwealth's attorney which was true. I'd appointed Combs as commonwealth's attorney in, uh, Pike County--or in, uh, Floyd County and I'd appointed, uh, Palmore as commonwealth's attorney in Anderson County. And, uh, both of 'em are good friends of mine and I think both of 'em have done excellent jobs. Combs later ran at the same time I ran for governor for a full term. He ran as judge of the Court of Appeals for a full term and was elected. Then he was, uh, governor and then he was appointed a judge of the Circuit Court of Appeals at, uh, Cincinnati. Judge Palmore ran for the Court of Appeals and has 00:44:00been there ever since. He is now the, the chief justice and he is doing his best to balance the four-tier court system that we have under the constitutional amendment which was passed in '75.

KLEBER: Do you like the, uh, the revised court, uh, system then?

WETHERBY: I have never liked it because I think it's--(laughs)--gonna break the state of Kentucky. As an example, right now, the legislature has passed a bill which gives all of these judges many, many more ten thousand dollars a year raise. In other words, they're raising 'em from thirty-four thousand to forty-four thousand; some of 'em from forty-five thousand to fifty-five thousand--or fifty thousand. And, uh, I think if we're not careful, with all of these judges we have floating around, they're gonna break the commonwealth.

KLEBER: You're showing your fiscal conservatism again. Um--


WETHERBY: That's right. Exactly. Goes right back to that. I was one of the few lawyers in this area who would not support that amendment because I thought at that time, and I still think, that it was too much of a lawyers' bill.

KLEBER: At the expense of the people.

WETHERBY: At the expense of the people and at the expense of other divisions of state government.

KLEBER: Can you see any good that the change has done?

WETHERBY: Yes, I can see some good, and there is some good, uh, in that the, uh, Court of Appeals has taken some of the load off of the Supreme Court and in addition to that, the, uh, district judges are better organized than they've been in the past. Well, now, the lower level of judges, I can't see much improvement. And there's just too many of 'em.

KLEBER: One of the, uh, tragic events that happened during your term as 00:46:00governor is the fact that you lost your brother at that time.

WETHERBY: That's right.

KLEBER: Uh, can you tell me the relationship with your brother? He had a political position he held in the state also, and how did you all work together?

WETHERBY: Well he, uh, was elected, uh, county judge of Jefferson County in 1953. I, uh, we had a fine relationship and they started a rumor in Jefferson County that I was not for George for county judge. So we had a big rally and I went down and made a speech for George, uh, and he was elected. He had several bills up here affecting county government, and we were passing some of 'em, but on the last day of the session, George was ill. He had the flu, and he called me and asked me about a certain bill, and I've forgotten which one it was, and I 00:47:00said, "George, it , it's not gonna pass." "I'm coming up there and see that it is passed." I said, "We can't pass it. I've tried to get it passed and cannot. Don't you get out of bed and come up here." "Well, I'm a-coming." And I said, "No, don't you come up here." But three or four hours later, someone came in and told me that he and the county attorney, Lawrence Duncan had started up here and had gotten about five miles this side of his home and a big gasoline truck hit 'em and killed 'em both.

KLEBER: That must have been a, a great tragedy to you--

WETHERBY: That was the last day of the legislative session in 1954.

KLEBER: Um, how did the rumor ever get started that you weren't, uh, supporting your brother? Is that any credence--

WETHERBY: Because I was governor and was staying out of the fight in Jefferson 00:48:00County. See, he had an opponent and I was not down there messing around in their business. So they started the rumor that the reason I wasn't there was because I wasn't for him. So to dispel that rumor, I went down and made a speech at the big rally at the Kentucky Hotel.

KLEBER: Did your brother run with the support of the Jefferson County machine?

WETHERBY: Yes, he had the support and had, uh, very little opposition in the primary, but then he had a vigorous opponent in the fall who was running against George and me, fellow by the name of Watts and he was attacking me, the administration, and saying that there were too many Wetherbys on the payroll already. I had none on the payroll in state government.

KLEBER: You probably stayed out of it then for a long time thinking you could do better--more good for your brother by staying away from the--than getting into it.

WETHERBY: That's right. And of course I was advising with him and talking with 00:49:00him all the time. But then the rumor got rampant that I wasn't for him, so in order to dispel that rumor, why we set up a big rally at the Kentucky Hotel and I went down and spoke for him.

KLEBER: Did he give you much assistance after he was elected county judge?

WETHERBY: Oh, yeah, yeah. And I was giving him assistance in the legislature in passing the legislation that he and the mayor of Louisville wanted. They were working closely together, and they had a legislative program for Louisville and Jefferson County. And we were passing most of their bills. But there was one bill that was hung up and because some of the Louisville delegation were not for the bill--

[End of interview.]