Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Bert T. Combs, August 14, 1984

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:00:16 - Earliest memories of John Sherman Cooper

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Partial Transcript: Governor Combs, what are your earliest recollections of John Sherman Cooper?

Segment Synopsis: Combs shares his earliest memories of John Sherman Cooper, including when he saw Cooper speak in Prestonsburg during his 1939 gubernatorial campaign for the Republican primary.

Keywords: 1939 gubernatorial campaign; Albert "Happy" Chandler; Circuit judges; Commissioner of Baseball; Courthouses; Democrats; Elections; Governors; John Sherman Cooper; Judges; King Swope; Lawyers; Nominees; Political appointments; Political candidates; Representatives; Republicans; Simeon Willis; World War II

Subjects: Bavaria (Germany); Germany; Kentuckians; Kentucky; Military; Military police; Politicians; Prestonsburg (Ky.); Pulaski County (Ky.); Speeches; World War, 1939-1945

00:03:21 - 1946 Senatorial campaign / 1948 Senatorial campaign

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Partial Transcript: Then Cooper received the nomination and ran for that seat against John Young Brown Sr. Do you recall anything about that election?

Segment Synopsis: Combs recalls Cooper's 1946 and 1948 Senatorial campaigns.

Keywords: 1946 Senatorial campaign; 1948 Senatorial campaign; Alben Barkley; Democrats; Harry Truman; John Sherman Cooper; John Y. Brown Sr.; Louisville Courier-Journal; Media; North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO); Senate; Senators; Vice presidents; Virgil Chapman; William A. Stanfill

Subjects: Kentuckians; Kentucky; Politicians; Publicity; United Nations

00:07:06 - 1952 Senatorial campaign / Cooper as a campaigner

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Partial Transcript: Mr. Chapman had died and two years remain on his term, Senator Cooper decides to run again.

Segment Synopsis: Combs discusses Cooper's 1952 Senatorial campaign, including his opponent Tom Underwood. Combs describes Cooper's qualities as a campaigner.

Keywords: 1952 Senatorial campaign; Beliefs; Democrats; Editors; Impressions; John Sherman Cooper; Lexington Herald; Political campaigning; Political campaigns; Political candidates; Qualities; Senate; Senators; Tom Underwood; Virgil Chapman; Voters

Subjects: Kentuckians; Kentucky; Lexington (Ky.); Personality; Politicians; Travel; Washington (D.C.)

00:11:40 - Alben Barkley and the 1954 Senatorial campaign

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Partial Transcript: And in 1954 ran against. . .Alben Barkley.

Segment Synopsis: Combs details Cooper's 1954 Senatorial campaign and what factors led to Alben Barkley deciding to run against Cooper.

Keywords: 1954 Senatorial campaign; 1955 gubernatorial campaign; Alben Barkley; Albert "Happy" Chandler; Democrats; Elections; Governors; John Sherman Cooper; Judges; Lawrence Wetherby; Majority Leaders; Politics; Republicans; Senate; Senators; Vice presidents; Wetherby administration; Winston Churchill; World War II

Subjects: Barkley, Alben William, 1877-1956; British; Kentuckians; Kentucky; Kentucky. Court of Appeals; Politicians; Washington (D.C.); World War, 1939-1945

00:17:19 - Cooper vs. Thruston Morton / Happy Chandler and Lawrence Wetherby

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Partial Transcript: . . .1956--um--Senator Barkley had died, and Senator Cooper decides once again to make the race for the term.

Segment Synopsis: Combs compares Cooper to Thruston Morton, focusing on the stylistic differences in their 1956 Senatorial campaigns. Combs also provides a comparison between Happy Chandler and Lawrence Wetherby.

Keywords: 1956 Senatorial campaign; 1956 presidential election; Abraham Lincoln; Adlai Stevenson; Alben Barkley; Albert "Happy" Chandler; Controversy; Democrats; Dwight Eisenhower; Earle Clements; Friends; John Sherman Cooper; Lawrence Wetherby; Personalities; Political factions; Political nominations; Political appointments; Political campaigning; Political campaigns; Political candidates; Senate; Senators; Thruston Morton; Virgil Chapman; Voters

Subjects: Corbin (Ky.); Death; Kentuckians; Kentucky; Politicians; Travel; Washington (D.C.)

00:22:48 - Democratic factions in Kentucky / Gubernatorial campaigns

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Partial Transcript: What were the circumstances from your standpoint--uh--surrounding the nomination--uh--for Lawrence Wetherby.

Segment Synopsis: Combs describes some of the main factions in Kentucky Democratic politics at the state level during the 1940s and 1950s. Combs recalls several of his gubernatorial campaigns in the 1950s, eventually winning in 1959.

Keywords: Albert "Happy" Chandler; Carl Perkins; Congress; Democrats; Earle Clements; Elections; Emerson "Doc" Beauchamp; Friends; Governors; Harry Lee Waterfield; Judges; Lawrence Wetherby; Lieutenant governors; Media; Political appointments; Political endorsements; Political factions; Political nominations; Political opponents; Simeon Willis; Votes

Subjects: Administration; Floyd County (Ky.); Kentuckians; Kentucky; Kentucky. Court of Appeals; Kentucky. Department of Transportation; Politicians; Prestonsburg (Ky.); Travel; University of Kentucky

00:33:10 - Views on Happy Chandler

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Partial Transcript: Bitter--the race had been called bitter.

Segment Synopsis: Combs provides his opinion on Happy Chandler, including a discussion of Combs' race for governor against Chandler in 1955. Combs considers what led to Chandler's dip in popularity at the end of his political career.

Keywords: 1955 gubernatorial campaign; Albert "Happy" Chandler; Commissioner of Baseball; Courthouse politics; Democrats; Earle Clements; Elections; Governors; Jackie Robinson; Lawrence Wetherby; Lawyers; Political campaigning; Political campaigns; Political candidates; Politics; State legislature; Taxes; Voters

Subjects: Baseball players; Courthouses; Jingles (Advertising songs); Kentuckians; Kentucky; Politicians; Press; Prestonsburg (Ky.); Television

00:41:03 - Combs vs. Chandler

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Partial Transcript: Yes, on the toll roads with you--between you and Governor Chandler.

Segment Synopsis: Combs compares his stances on various issues including toll roads, sales taxes, and state parks to the views of Happy Chandler.

Keywords: Albert "Happy" Chandler; Bert T Combs Mountain Parkway; Bluegrass Parkway; Construction; Democrats; Eastern Kentucky; Eisenhower administration; Elections; Family; Gas tax; Governors; Harry F. Byrd Jr.; Highways; Interstate highway system; Interstates; Louie Nunn; Ned Breathitt; Political campaigning; Political campaigns; Political candidates; Ruby Laffoon; Sales taxes; State legislature; State parks; Wendell Ford; Western Kentucky; Western Kentucky Parkway

Subjects: Administration; Bonds; Budget; Debt; Elizabethtown (Ky.); Investments; Kentuckians; Kentucky; Ohio; Paducah (Ky.); Parkways; Politicians; Poverty; Tennessee; Toll roads; Travel; Versailles (Ky.)

00:51:47 - Reasons for Republican victory in 1956

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Partial Transcript: Of course, Cooper won in 1956, following the gubernatorial primary and general election, over Lawrence Wetherby.

Segment Synopsis: Combs considers what factors led to the sweeping Republican victories in Kentucky during the 1956 presidential election in which Cooper and Morton both won seats for the Senate.

Keywords: 1956 Senatorial campaign; 1956 presidential election; Adlai Stevenson; Albert "Happy" Chandler; Chandler administration; Democrats; Dwight Eisenhower; Earle Clements; Friends; John Sherman Cooper; Kentucky Democratic Central Committee; Law firms; Lawrence Wetherby; Lyndon Johnson; Political candidates; Political factions; Senate; Senate Majority Leader; Senators; Thruston Morton

Subjects: Health; Kentuckians; Kentucky; Politicians; Popularity; Washington (D.C.)

00:57:37 - Working with Cooper as governor

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Partial Transcript: You have mentioned several things that--that--uh--you saw as--as--uh--great strides forward while you were governor. You had been elected in 1959.

Segment Synopsis: Combs reflects upon his work with Senator Cooper during Combs' term as governor of Kentucky in the early 1960s.

Keywords: 1959 gubernatorial campaign; Albert "Happy" Chandler; Appalachia; Appalachian Governors' Conference; Congress; Democrats; Elections; Federal aid; Governors; John F. Kennedy; John M. Robsion Jr.; John Sherman Cooper; Legislation; Lorraine Cooper; Partisanship; Politics; Presidents; Republicans; Senate; Senators; Thruston Morton; Votes

Subjects: Administration; Appalachian Regional Commission; Education; Federal government; Kentuckians; Kentucky; Kentucky. Constitution (1799); Louisville (Ky.); Politicians; Sales tax; Teachers; Washington (D.C.)

01:08:22 - Cooper's contributions to Kentucky / Cooper's personality

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Partial Transcript: What do you think--uh--Cooper's most valuable contributions have been to the state of Kentucky?

Segment Synopsis: Combs evaluates what Cooper's most important contributions to Kentucky were. Combs tells a story of Cooper that illustrates his personality.

Keywords: County judges; John Sherman Cooper; Public service; Road systems; Senate; Senators; U.S. Ambassador to East Germany; U.S. Ambassador to India; Waterway development

Subjects: Ambassadors; Kentuckians; Kentucky; Personality; Politicians; Pulaski County (Ky.); Tobacco; Washington (D.C.)