Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Wendell P. Butler, February 3, 1984

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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KLEBER: The following is a spontaneous and unrehearsed interview--interview with Mr. Wendell Butler. The interview was made in the Department of Libraries and Archives in Frankfort, Kentucky on February 3, 1984. The interview was made for the Lawrence W. Wetherby Oral History Project. Mr. Butler was interviewed by John Kleber, Professor of History at Morehead State University. Mr. Butler, I wonder if you could tell me, sir, when and where you were born?

BUTLER: I was born in Metcalfe County, at a place called Sulphur Well, on December 18, 1912.

KLEBER: And could you tell me about your educational and vocational background that prepared you to become the superintendent of public instruction?

BUTLER: Well, when I graduated from a one-room high school, I went to Bowling Green to enter college, a teacher's college then, in 1930-- uh, let's--July, I 00:01:00believe in 1931, in the fall of that year when I graduated. And I when, I reached Bowling Green, I stayed with Miss Elsie Curry who originally whose family originally came from Green County. I was borned in Metcalfe, and Metcalfe bordered Green. I went to school in Green County because they moved the one-room school where I started to school first out of the center of the district. My father got a little angry about it and never would send me anymore and we rode horseback three miles to Liletown. Someone wanted to know what road we rode over; there wasn't any, he said, just go that way--(laughs)--and, uh--well, I had been at Bowling Green one year, working on a teacher's 00:02:00certificate. Finished with thirty-two hours, got a certificate, came back and got a one-room school over in Green County called Little Barren in a remote part of the county. Well, I went to Greensburg, fourteen miles, rode horseback to get my supplies, and the superintendent took me down in the basement, gave me a broom, a bucket, three erasers, and a teacher's registry. And I got on a horse, headed for Little Barren to further the cause of education in the state of Kentucky--and one box of chalk. Well, it was a great year. I, I have to admit that I recognized then that there was something wrong with education, but didn't really know exactly what it was. But the experience that I got there has meant 00:03:00more to me than any, uh, half-year experience only had eight six months that year. Things were pretty rough in 1932 when I started, in the middle of the Great Depression. My salary was forty dollars a month; sixty-one in school, twenty-one in the primer class. No free textbook, half of the pupils there without books. I tell the story about a certain man, had four, five children, and they didn't have a single book and they never had bought any. When I went there, some leaders in the community said, "I wish you'd get that fellow to buy some books." So I happened to have one of the boys in fourth grade geography, and I had been told at Western that the way to get a boy to do something was to ask him a thought provoking question. On this occasion, I said, "John, did you 00:04:00know that three-fourths of the world is covered with water?" Said, "That's a lot of water," and I said, "You go home tonight, you tell your dad that I said that three-fourths of the world is covered with water, and if he'd buy you a book, you can read about it and prove it." Came back the next day without a book. I said, "John, what'd your dad say about the book?" He said, "Pap told me to tell you that--three-fourths of the world's covered with water, just let the book go to hell and teach me how to swim." (both laugh) So I tell that to point up the fact that they were talking about making the curriculum relevant then. (laughs)

KLEBER: So you were modern back at that time?

BUTLER: That's right. That's right. I taught another year there and got promoted to Sulphur Well, another one-room school. After I taught there one year, I went to one called Cedar Hill in Metcalfe County. I was getting close to the county seat all along. Then after that school, I went back to Western 00:05:00and got my degree in 1936, was promoted to high school in Summer Shade, a little town on the south end of the county. I'd been there a year, got seventy-four dollars a month. I bought a new car, financed it and when the term was over, I owed more when it was over than I did before, so the second year I went back the second year. Dave Montgomery, who's dead now, was had been principal there for nine or ten years. And one night I said, "Dave, I believe I'll run for county superintendent." He said, "You can't get elected." Says, "The fellow running against you just needs one board member, and, uh three to be elected. You'd have to elect all three. He's got two friends." Well, I said, "I figured that out last night." You elected board members then by county at 00:06:00large--(laughs)--and I said, "I'll pick one over here and one from Edmonton--the middle of the county, and one on the north end, and slate them. You can, you can beat one with a slate. Everybody who's for the one in the north will vote for the other two. And the one in the center, he'll electioneer for the other two, too. And I'll vote all three of 'em and my friends will do that. The fella over here, he he'll vote. It worked like a clock. I beat him badly.

KLEBER: So you won that election?

BUTLER: I won that one.

KLEBER: And became superintendent?

BUTLER: I became county superintendent in nineteen--July 1938.

KLEBER: Well, I know that's not the only election that you won because you also ran for the state senate in 1947 and 1949.

BUTLER: I ran for when I came back from in 1942, I left for the Navy. Then in four years, when I returned back to Metcalfe County to take the office again, 00:07:00which I did, I served one year and there was a race coming up for the senate in four counties: Adair, Metcalfe, Barren and Hart. And I decided then that I that something ought to be done about education and I could do more in Frankfort if I could get there. 'Course I was told then that I couldn't lose. They had a Republican senator over in Barren County and he had to carry that county because all the votes were over there. Well, I, I carried Barren twenty-four hundred and got elected. Came to Frankfort. Had to resign. They said my office as senator and superintendent was incompatible. I didn't know that when I run, so I didn't have much except the senate. Nothing I could do then but go to the university and work on my doctorate. I got my Master's and spent two years on 00:08:00the other. But, uh, in 1951, Adron was supposed to be the candidate for superintendent.

KLEBER: That's Adron Doran?

BUTLER: Yeah, Adron was gonna run. But in Louisville one night they decided that since Adron was speaking for the teacher's march on Frankfort, it may not be a good political idea. (laughs)

KLEBER: Yeah, yeah, I've heard that.

BUTLER: So they put me in, asked me if I'd run.

KLEBER: That's 1951, right?

BUTLER: Yeah, yeah.

KLEBER: Listen, you you came to Frankfort then with Earle Clements and with that administration

BUTLER: Yeah, yeah. Yeah, I, I ran on the slate with Clements. I was on the, for senator, I ran for senator.

KLEBER: So you must have known Clements pretty well?

BUTLER: Well, I knew "Doc" Beauchamp from Logan County.

KLEBER: Down the other part of the state.

BUTLER: Down my way, Beauchamp was somebody you had to have for you. He--

KLEBER: Interesting man.

BUTLER: Oh, Doc was a good friend of mine all his life. He was a real typical 00:09:00rural politician, had more friends than anybody-- just as plainspoken. I could tell a lot of stories about all of these people, but, uh, I started to write a book and I got to thinking what Irvin Cobb said, "An eyewitness has ruined a lot of good stories." (both laugh) So, I didn't know if I--


BUTLER: --what--(laughs)--and the best that Doc ever told, I think it had a lot of truth to it. Uh, someone's running on the state ticket and brought the votes in from Shopville precinct in Logan County. The this person ran and didn't get didn't get a vote. And Doc said, uh "John," uh, said, "I thought I told you, uh, to give him about nine, and you didn't give him any." But said, "Doc, I misunderstood you; I thought you said none." (both laugh)


KLEBER: Do you think Doc wanted to be governor in 1955?

BUTLER: Yeah. Yeah, but, uh, Doc was, uh, awfully close to Earle Clements. Earle dominated the political scene at that time. I really don't thing Earle wanted to run for that. He ran for lieutenant governor with Clements with, uh, Wetherby.



KLEBER: You know, they seemed to have a hard time in 1955 deciding upon a candidate. Ultimately, they chose, uh, Bert Combs--

BUTLER: --Combs--

KLEBER: But there was something wrong there that they just couldn't make up their minds, and I've always thought that maybe Doc was trying to get it for himself. Do you have any reason to believe that?

BUTLER: No, no. Doc was he'd never push himself in those races. He was very popular and would have been hard to beat. He had more friends than anybody.

KLEBER: Do you think he liked Bert Combs, at that time?


BUTLER: Well, they worked together pretty good. Yeah, Doc was for him very much.

KLEBER: You, uh, before you ran for the superintendent of public instruction, you were called up in 1951 to attend an extraordinary session of the General Assembly. That's the one that Lawrence Wetherby called when he was governor. Uh, do you remember that, that session? Maybe I can refresh your memory.

BUTLER: Well, Earle, Earle, uh, Clements went to Washington.

KLEBER: Right.

BUTLER: And Wetherby, being lieutenant governor automatically became governor and if I remember correctly, in he was appointed-- he became governor in November 1950 and, uh, and the Korean War had started. The state had picked up a little money. Since the election was coming up, he figured it'd be a good time to help the teachers a little. I think I don't know how much he gave he couldn't give much.

KLEBER: He gave six million dollars to the common school fund, to increase 00:12:00teachers' salaries.

BUTLER: Well, I remember what it was then, about thirty million. (laughs) It was pretty ,pretty low. That was a lot of money then.

KLEBER: Six--six million.


KLEBER: It said he would increase the teachers' salary about three hundred dollars.

BUTLER: That's right, then. That's right.

KLEBER: What did what do you think this you obviously said you thought it was done because of the election that was coming up in November 1951.

BUTLER: Well, he was gonna run for governor. Earle prepared him pretty good for the job ahead.

KLEBER: Well, now, you know

BUTLER: He paved the way for him.

KLEBER: Yeah, he had, uh, Clements had antagonized the teachers somewhat, is that correct? Before? So this was an attempt to plac--to pacify them.

BUTLER: They said they said Earle made a commitment. To get I believe thirty-four million dollars. I'm not exactly clear. My memory's faded some. It was to raise it thirty-four million then. See, wasn't and, uh, Earle denied it. Earle got a letter from some teacher saying, at least accusing him of 00:13:00promising thirty-four dollars--thirty-four hundred dollars she meant thirty-four million, but Earle implied and it got to be a thing of ridicule that the teachers asked for thirty--accusing him of being against thirty-four hundred. She meant thirty-four million and the played that up. People don't like for you to reflect on their intelligence or their ignorance. And they, they played that pretty big. They started a controversy. They decided to march on Frankfort. It's amazing how some little thing like that so Earle had a hard time getting over that, and Adron happened to be with the regular faction then, or he'd have been superintendent. I just happened to be standing ready, but I didn't push him out. I was just when I learned that I could get Doc's support, Dick 00:14:00Moloney, and-----------(??) Smith, textbook man. I believe KEA [Kentucky Education Association] had a candidate and they said you can't win it. The KEA is for Chilton, who worked on the Boss Hopkins (??) that's the one that was in when Clements. So they decided to poll the KEA and announce it at the convention down in Louisville that year--(laughs)--in '51. And some of the board got, uh, KEA sent out a little card with two parts. You would vote and you send your part back in. Keep yours. They had the same number of-----------(??). So it was pretty obvious they could check on you, see how I think if I wanted to see 00:15:00how you voted I just have a list there of what I sent you, a number. Could go down and tell you. So one of the guys up east caught on, and he sent a [dodger?] out to the school and asked the principal to put it on bulletin boards that "The KEA has already picked your superintendent." (laughs) 'Fraid that Chilton just got three thousand votes out of the thirty, you know. He didn't get any votes. He dropped out after that. So--

KLEBER: Well, why would the KEA be against you initially, you think? Because of your contact with the Clements administration?

BUTLER: Uh, I, I came up here from a poor county, a senator, and had the support of the superintendents and the board members pretty strong with the KEA. I had worked pretty close with Chilton for four years. He was working in the Department of Education as director of finance, and he played 'em up pretty good 00:16:00and they were committed, but they were frankly on the cover more for me than they were for him. I was chairman of the Education Committee in the senate, and worked pretty close with them. I met with 'em and supported their legislation, except the five million dollars after I learned what it would do--(laughs)--I opposed it. We had to change the constitution there. See, back then, under this constitution, Section 186, all the per capita funds first had to be distributed on the head count of six to eighteen year olds. And it had to go for teachers' salaries. They did finally amend it to put 10 percent and a little more later about 14 percent, I believe, when we changed it, but not enough to do any good. And the schools, then, when I came to Frankfort, when I 00:17:00was elected state superintendent, were really in a deplorable condition.

KLEBER: Yeah, what what were they like? Could you tell me what they were like?

BUTLER: Well, you had oh, I forget how many thousand one-room schools throughout the state. Uh, shortage of qualified teachers, not many degrees. Few buses, and they were broken down. Old, dilapidated buildings. Outdoor toilets. Thousands and thousands of children were being denied their birthright, a chance just to get an education, and that had been going on for a long time. And the big roadblock was Section 186. There wasn't any way to haggle. I got Doctor Johns and Doctor Morfin(??) from California, who were experts on foundation programs to come here. We first got Hascue(??) from 00:18:00Texas. When he got here, he went home before the members of the governor's Legislative Research Commission people. And the next day, he he had completely been sold that we had to put a block grant in there. I said, "What? We're trying to change the constitution and you want to leave it just like it is." "Well," he said, "to pass it you can't pass it with Louisville and northern Kentucky and the wealthy districts against it." Said "We did it in Texas. We put a block grant, just guaranteed they'd hold off and get their part from then on." I said, "That's just what we got now." (laughs) And, and I never did call him back. I called Johns, who had the reputation of being an outstanding expert in the field of writing programs for foundation programs. Had just had, uh, legislated one in Florida. We modeled that after them quite a bit. He came to 00:19:00Kentucky and, uh, worked with us and he got Morfin to come here from California. So I let the other fellow go, and I had to fight all of that. So, Governor Wetherby formed a committee to study the situation. When he appointed a committee, I appointed one. I had one too and--(laughs)--I handled it, I handled it, wrote it all up. He was pretty helpful to me in passing the amendment. But on November 3, 1953, the people of this state went to the poll and voted overwhelmingly to pass Section 186. In 1984, when the legislature met, the Foundation program was adopted. The program was enacted into law, and 00:20:00that was and Wetherby supported this all along. He supported the amendment, but I had to do the preaching a long time. But for before they voted on the amendment, he endorsed it.

KLEBER: Where did that idea originate? That, uh, idea for an amendment, and then the idea for the Minimum Foundation?

BUTLER: I can't--

KLEBER: You, you originated this?

BUTLER: I went over to the university when I was in '48 as senator and in Louisville. And we were talking over there with the professors at the college of education and I started studying. That was in '48. I was a delegate to the national convention that year when Truman was nominated. And in '49, I was in school over there between sessions and in '50, Dr. Hartford (??) and Dr. Mace (??) who we were talking the Foundation Program. Then when I had a chance to run, they said, get in there, get in there. We'll get that Foundation Program. So I made that my platform. I announced that I'd be for Foundation Program. I 00:21:00picked up quite a bit. (laughs) And, uh, that's where it started.

KLEBER: That's where it started. Did you have to run in the primary in 1951 against anyone to become the candidate?


KLEBER: For superintendent.

BUTLER: For superintendent?

KLEBER: Um-hm.

BUTLER: Yeah, yeah I had to I had some opposition and I forget who it was, but my main opposition dropped out, that's Chilton. Yeah, yeah, Chilton was a pretty strong man.

KLEBER: Did you know Wetherby pretty well before that campaign of 1951?

KLEBER: I didn't know him until I got to Frankfort. He was lieutenant governor and he was on the ticket with Clements, and I was. We got acquainted and when I got up here in 1948 and was sworn in and as senator, Wetherby had taken office just a few weeks before, you know, in November. And I soon learned that Wetherby was a very attractive, handsome person. Popular, and highly 00:22:00respected by his colleagues in the senate because he was impartial in dealing with them. Wetherby never has gotten the praise or recognition which he should have gotten because he might-- someone said he he was wasn't much of a person to blow his own horn. I used to say that he, he was more concerned with quietly putting the steam to the, to the engine below the deck to move the ship than he was putting steam to the whistle above the deck to hear the-----------(??) you know. And that's about it. And he never made no effort to get a lot of publicity, but he, he passed some--some legislation took place under him that was really, uh, historical. One was the Foundation Program. That's the most important piece of legislation ever passed in Kentucky. I get a little amused now, which I'm for the program which they have for education. I think it means 00:23:00a lot. But I, I question the wisdom of trying to establish something by condemning everything you have in the past. There's been a lot of progress made. Why, they just don't know where we started from. They said nothing's been done. And in 1967, Dr. Johns came up here. We were working on a sales tax in 1960 that's when it was. Now Combs was governor, and we got the Foundation Program. It was financed by Chandler at, at a low level then, and we had run into another roadblock, that is, the tax structure of Kentucky. The program like a car, it wouldn't run without money. It wouldn't deliver service without some money. So we decided to submit an amendment to pay a veterans' bonus; at 00:24:00the same time get some money for education. I made a speech over at--(laughs)--up at Ashland--(laughs)--when we got to my speech, I got worked up pretty good and I said "We need this tax: one for soldier boy and two for sonny boy." (laughs) That came out in the paper. Combs called me and said, "You'll get the whole bunch beat." (laughs) They passing those things-----------(??)----------. (laughs) They listened too. You weren't supposed to talk too much about, sonny boy, at that time they ran that as a headline in the Courier-Journal. (laughs)

KLEBER: Well, you know that sales tax was a great favorite of Lawrence Wetherby too.


KLEBER: But he never seemed to be able to get it. Do you know why that was?

BUTLER: Well, it was just hard at that time, uh, when Lawrence went out, he was, he was--he would have done it but it seemed like to me we were having 00:25:00things weren't as good the last two years as the first. A little crisis in the coal industry. The war, that caused some problems. It was about over, I think the Korean War, and it just was a bad time, and he and they were running Combs against Chandler, and that's a tight race. Chandler was very much against the sales tax. Yeah, yeah. He got elected by opposing it in 1934, I believe.

KLEBER: Did you ever say to Lawrence Wetherby, "Support the sales tax because we need more money for education?"

BUTLER: No, Lawrence was, uh, Lawrence was tilted that way, but, uh, we decided that they it was pretty hard to pass anything then. Yeah, see, Chandler got elected governor the first time by repealing one we had. I was in school at Western when they we came to Frankfort for that sales tax. Ruby Laffoon was governor. (laughs)

KLEBER: You know, Lawrence Wetherby said that he had increased the common 00:26:00school fund by ten million dollars per year that he was governor. Uh, does that show that he had a great interest in education, or, uh, and did he deprive money from other areas--

BUTLER: Did he say--

KLEBER: --to give it to education?

BUTLER: --ten dollars a year? That's--

KLEBER: Ten million.

BUTLER: --ten million--

KLEBER: --ten million dollars for four--

BUTLER: --for four years then forty million. The whole thing was just forty million, I think.

KLEBER: Oh, he had--yeah, okay. That's what he said, uh--

BUTLER: He increased it where it was to forty million.


BUTLER: Yeah. Wasn't over forty. It was just about twenty-eight in 'forty-eight, I believe, and then it went from--

KLEBER: Yeah, in 195-

BUTLER: --and then it went to thirty-four and then went up to forty in when he was elected governor.

KLEBER: See, in 1952, Wetherby said the Common School Fund had increased by 56.4 percent since 1948, or it had an increase, I guess, to thirty million five hundred dollars. Does that sound about right?

BUTLER: Yeah. Yeah.

KLEBER: Yeah. And then, of course, local school districts put in another thirty-six million--

BUTLER: That's right.

KLEBER: --dollars. So, uh, how was this increase possible?

BUTLER: Well, they, they had, uh, they'd picked up some money, a little. Not 00:27:00too much. There just wasn't any, and they come to Clements. Clements decided to do something for parks and roads. He got a two-cent tax for rural highways. On gas, two cents. And, uh, so there wasn't much money, but Wetherby took all he could get by taking it from other agencies, I guess, out of the general fund. He was he was for education and when you consider the circumstances then, you think he didn't do much, but if you did a little then, you deserved as much credit as the fellow think of this now, what they're asking for, in addition to what we got. For the next biennium, three hundred and twenty-four million. Then compare that with then.

KLEBER: Yeah. Why do you think Wetherby was such a strong supporter of education?

BUTLER: Well, uh, I don't know. Wetherby was born over at Middletown, close 00:28:00to Louisville. And he had an image of being a city fellow, he thought, more. He was a little sensitive to that and he wasn't, he went out of the way to work with rural communities in, uh, Kentucky. He knew if he ran for governor, that's where his strength would be. Never had been a governor elected from Louisville, you know, so Wetherby was pretty social when he come to meeting with the rural people. (laughs)

KLEBER: Um-hm.

BUTLER: Yeah. Yeah.

KLEBER: Did he ever go out and look at rural schools?

BUTLER: I don't recall him going out with me. He went to some dedications, I know that. Yeah, we went out in my county, and I went with him a number of places when we'd, we'd use him. And, uh, all during the campaign. He was very popular as governor. Uh, he was independent to a certain extent, too, but when 00:29:00he was elected governor, he joined the regular faction of the Democratic Party, that's the Clements faction. Then the Chandler faction. See, only had two then, but the Clements faction and Wetherby faction finally ran into what they called the Combs faction, later, kindly on up. I served under Governors Wetherby, Clements, Combs, Breathitt, Nunn--the Republican governor, and Ford and Julian Carroll. That's seven. Twenty-eight years, and although, uh, I didn't serve very long under "Happy," and Brown, I served a short period under both of them. But I was present all the time they were in.

KLEBER: Which one of those governors impressed you the most?

BUTLER: I don't know. I, I got along with all of 'em. At times, we'd be 00:30:00disagreeable, but I'd take it. Tell a story or something, laugh about it. I had, uh, Wetherby and I at one time got in a little disagreement. If I remember correctly, he was gonna vote for the Foundation Program not vote, support it pretty strongly. Paper said, I said I'd be for making all raising the requirements for all the voting members of the high school and he was for it, I believe. Well, I made a survey of all the states in the nation. We had the highest. The eighth grade was on we were--had the highest in the nation. 'Course the argument is you don't have any qualifications for governor, you don't have any for county judges. You don't have any for anybody, and they said, at that time, we didn't have too many high school graduates that was interested in being a board member.

KLEBER: Now what kind of board are you referring to?

BUTLER: A local school board.


KLEBER: Local school boards, all right.


KLEBER: Um-hm. And Wetherby was for this minimum requirement?

BUTLER: He was for raising it to high school, if I remember correctly. Now my memory may be off a little. I remember talking to him and they, they, they gonna raise it to high school now different, different age I would-----------(??)now. Most all the voting members have high school; some of them college, now.

KLEBER: So you-all disagreed on that?

BUTLER: Well, I, I was pushing the Foundation Program. Had so much opposition to it. Because you have I knew I didn't think it'd get to the legislature. I didn't know anything about it. It came up I saw where people wrote an article on it. Uh, we didn't fall out. We didn't--we got along just fine. Uh, Wetherby now, Bert, Bert called me one time about coffee break. (laughs) And he said, said, "You weren't at the cabinet meeting this morning." And said, 00:32:00"Yesterday, when I went down to the lunchroom here in the Capitol, about half the employees were down there at ten o'clock." Said, "We got to do something about coffee breaks." Said, "What are you doing over in the department?" I said, "Governor, uh, we don't have any problem over here." "Give me the recipe," he said, "I want the other agencies to have it." Said, "How do you explain it?" "Well," I said, uh "they say they don't drink it. They say it keeps them awake." Bert just slammed that phone down. (laughs)

KLEBER: Well, each one of those must have been a unique man.

BUTLER: They was, yeah.

KLEBER: Strong personality.

BUTLER: Bert, Bert Combs had a lot of wit about him, mountain wit. With him one time up in the mountains. He asked some fellow to vote for him and he said, "I wouldn't vote for you if you were St. Peter." Bert said, "You couldn't vote for me." Said "Why?" Said, "I wouldn't be in your district." (both laugh)


KLEBER: Listen, was the large number of emergency teachers a problem to you during Wetherby's administration?

BUTLER: Oh some of 'em had had a--or didn't have very much. But we had a lot of them.

KLEBER: Wetherby said that you all decreased the number of emergency teachers during his administration.

BUTLER: We did, we did.

KLEBER: How were you able to do that?

BUTLER: Well, we, uh, see, a lot of superintendents would just have a cousin or something. To get it, they just say there was an emergency. You know, you had to rely on certifying that there was an emergency. But in the department, I had certification to, to watch it closely. And, uh, they would, uh, call around different counties: "Do you have a teacher that has a much--a degree? If they don't, what's the best qualified teacher in your county that's looking for a job?" So we went to Wetherby's, help with the state board, we kindly tightened 00:34:00up a little and we, we were working on it. Then when we got the Foundation Program in 1960, most of the teachers had degrees.

KLEBER: Yeah. You say you tightened up on it. Can you recall how you tight--tightened up on that?

BUTLER: Well, we had the department--the Division of Certification in the Department of Education supervise it more closely.

KLEBER: And then, did the increased salaries help any? I noticed that Wetherby said here that a teacher's salary in '46-'47 was one thousand, five hundred fifty-five. In 1951 and '52, it had risen to two thousand, three hundred and fifty. Did that attract more teachers into, uh, the field?

BUTLER: Well, any time you raise the salary, it attracts, all right. Yeah. Getting back to your question, how did we tighten up on it, this story will illustrate. Adron had worked up a plan to tighten up on the emergency 00:35:00certificates. And we had a meeting of the superintendents. And, Adron explained it. Tom Olin (??) the superintendent of Lewis County, came down the night before and he was late and he got to the meeting. Adron just finished when he came in, but they were discussing it, asking questions. And Tom was still doing it like the Adron knew they were doing it, and his plan was to stop it.

KLEBER: Now who was this Tom who?

BUTLER: He was superintendent of the Lewis County schools. And Adron, someone asked a question about it. Adron had spent an hour explaining it, and Tom hadn't heard it, so he got up and said, "Mr.--Dr. Doran, I believe I could answer that fella's question. What I'm doing up in Lewis County is working just fine." Said, "We not bothered at all during the year by tormenting you, by 00:36:00sending someone down here, or asking for emergency." Said, "We just go ahead and put 'em on, and at the end of the school, I just send the whole list down so you can record it." Well, they tore the house down. That's exactly what he was trying to stop, you know. So that explains why you had a lot of emergencies, but, uh, you still had to have a lot.

KLEBER: Um-hm.

BUTLER: We didn't have teachers. (laughs)

KLEBER: You know, one of the changes that also came out of Wetherby's administration was the establishment of a bookmobile project. Now that wasn't in your department, I don't think, as such, but do you remember the beginnings of that bookmobile project and did you support that?

BUTLER: Yeah, when it started there was a lot of talk about it when Wetherby was lieutenant governor and some lady in Louisville, Mrs. Gray, Ms. Bingham, somebody else and Mrs. Willis here started a movement to improve libraries in 00:37:00Kentucky. And the bookmobile, they had used one or two somewhere and it was Mrs. Willis went all out for it and since I was state superintendent, she talked to me about it. And I said "If you people will support 186, I'll support the bookmobile." And the PTA and all those organizations joined right in there and started a big campaign and I believe it either took place the--they were gonna raise money for a hundred and something. Cost about thirty-five hundred apiece, I believe. I don't know. But they got the money, finally, and when they got the last one, they had a big meeting in Louisville, had 'em all out to the fairgrounds parked. So at that time, uh, Governor Breathitt drove one off. I don't know, but they started really under Wetherby. Yes.


KLEBER: What kind of impact do you think it's had in Kentucky?

BUTLER: Oh, done a lot for the rural communities and the cities too. They drive 'em out the suburbs, you know, shopping centers. Every place you got a bookmobile, you, you had to get some books, 'cause they were eager to get those books. Just made a great contribution to library service. And, uh, the at Edmonton when I was county superintendent, I put in a library in the basement of the educational building, and it finally served the school, the high school. We'd get books from Frankfort, and the schools would come get 'em, check 'em out, you know--(laughs)--and bring 'em back. So they meant a lot to education.

KLEBER: You know, that, uh, that brings me to the question of illiteracy in Kentucky, and apparently there was a great deal in the early '50s, and I think Wetherby was concerned about that, uh, question, so much so that he established 00:39:00a kind of committee to many to look into the question of illiteracy. Uh, do you recall working in that area, or Wetherby's concern about that?

BUTLER: Yeah. He asked me to work with a man from Louisville, Admiral Purcell.

KLEBER: Right. That's right.

BUTLER: Do I remember correctly?

KLEBER: That's right. I'm not sure if he was from Louisville or Lexington, but he Admiral Purcell.

BUTLER: He came over here and I said, well, sounds all right. He, he was about a day to explain it to me. Said "It's the same method that Christ used with the apostles." Teach one--(laughs)--help one something like that. And it he, he, uh, stirred up quite a bit of interest. And they put a little money in it, and he, he worked at it pretty hard and it went on for years. That little fellow just died not long ago and boy, he was sold on it. He stayed at the Southern Hotel. I used to go in there and I couldn't get away. He'd tell me he 00:40:00had--he'd sit down there and type and send letters out. If he'd had anybody to help him get some-----------(??)-----------them out, but he was an admiral, brilliant. And had worked when he was in the Navy. He had a program on some--someplace and Wetherby's the one got me in on that.

KLEBER: So Wetherby got you in on that?

BUTLER: Yeah. Yeah. He knew the Admiral and he knew somebody in Louisville name of Sales, if I remember correctly--(laughs)--that was interested in it.

KLEBER: Do you think it had any effect upon illiteracy in Kentucky?

BUTLER: Oh, yeah. Yeah, it stimulated interest in education. I don't know how many people, uh, he taught several to read some, but the idea of a program like that is that it stirs up a lot of interest in the whole program, you know.

KLEBER: You had no objections to something like that as superintendent?

BUTLER: No. No, no, it didn't do any damage. It did a lot of good. It's all to gain.

KLEBER: Probably hadn't thought about him in a long time, have you?


BUTLER: No, no I--it's funny how those things'll come to you after you bring 'em up. Yeah. I finally, though, speaking on one time about illiteracy, came out with a statement that if you wanted to teach people to read, the best place to start is kindergarten. If you want to help an adult, start with 'em in kindergarten. And I told a story about a speech I made on illiteracy and, uh, Wilson, a Courier-Journal reporter had done a paper not long ago. He interviewed me on some of those studies that were done. I made a speech on the cost of illiteracy. How much it costs, really costs the state, and I finished. A farmer came up to me and said, "You know what I think about this illiteracy?" Said, "If the cost of education keeps increasing, it's gonna get more expensive 00:42:00than ignorance." (both laugh) I told Wilson that when he called me on the telephone and I saw it in the paper the next day. (laughs) Said, I'll have to keep my mouth shut.

KLEBER: You wouldn't have any idea what percentage of illiteracy was in Kentucky in Wetherby's administration, would you?

BUTLER: No, no. But it the school situation was deplorable and that meant illiteracy was pretty high.

KLEBER: I have the impression, almost, that in many ways, the Weth--the Clements, let's say the Clements and Wetherby administration began a new era in Kentucky. That all of a sudden we seem to be growing and putting money into areas that are badly--that badly need to be developed. Do you have this impression in education?

BUTLER: Well, when Earle Clements came to Frankfort, I was a state senator, and I soon learned that Earle Clements was an aggressive leader. He was a 00:43:00strong leader. He came to Frankfort knowledgeable of operation of government at the local level. Frankly, he was sheriff down there, and clerk. Served about twenty, twenty-one years as county judge in Union County. He had that much experience locally, but when he got to Frankfort, he, he took a position of leadership and he, he ruled almost ruled that place with an iron hand. You didn't get a bill through the legislature then without Earle greasing it. There's a rumor going around, uh, Senator Stevenson, the father of the one that's on the Court of Appeals now or Supreme Court now, Judge Stevenson was senator, and I happened to be sitting by Dick Moloney. That's young Moloney's father, and Stevenson came over and said, "I can't get my bill out, Senator 00:44:00Moloney." Said, "You're the speaker. Why doesn't it come out of that committee? Everybody in there is for it." And I remember hearing Dick say, "You got to get it greased." Said, "What do you mean?" He said, "Go down there to Clements's office on the next floor." I had my office down there where he where the governor is now-- and that side was the Department of Education. Now you can compare that with the Capitol Plaza, got the whole building there. But that was the department then. And, uh, he said, "What do you mean?" Well, said, "He's got a gun down there in the drawer. Go down there and get it greased." So I'm told by Ed Farris who was in the office with Clements, Stevenson broke through that door and he ran over and jerked one of the drawers out and Earle said, "What the devil do you want?" Said, "Where's that grease gun?" Earle said, "What do you want?" Said, "I want my bill greased. Everybody's for it, and Mr. Moloney said if you'd grease it, it'd come out." 00:45:00Earle said, "Go on back." That afternoon, the bill came out. (laughs) He, he--

KLEBER: He could do that kind of thing?

BUTLER: He was a strong leader.

KLEBER: So, now when he went to the Senate in 1950 and then Wetherby became governor, what influence do you think he had on Wetherby from Washington?

BUTLER: Well, Wetherby had good connections in Washington to Clements and Truman. Truman was there then, wasn't he--in '48.

KLEBER: I guess I'm trying to say, uh, how often did Clements interfere in state politics when Wetherby was governor? Who called the--who called the shots?

BUTLER: Well, they no, I, I think Wetherby was independent. He worked closely with Earle and there's a very, uh, tight link between Earle Clements and Wetherby. Uh, Earle early discovered Wetherby's ability and his, uh, integrity 00:46:00and respected him. I, I he talked to me about bragging on Wetherby a lot. And 'course I immediately detected that he was preparing him for governor. He made sure he could win and was a good man. When Earle Clements picked you, he picks a winner. He's not gonna pick somebody --(laughs)--who can't show up when he gets him. So he, he gave, uh, Wetherby important assignments

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

BUTLER: --and you must remember that when Wetherby was lieutenant governor, the office wasn't very--wasn't as it wasn't recognized like it is now. He didn't get any salary. The only statutory function he had was presiding over the senate and he got a per diem. Uh, he didn't have a house. He didn't have a helicopter, he had a car to drive. And he used an airplane. He started using 00:47:00an airplane a little back then 'cause I remember flying a little with him.

KLEBER: With Charlie Gartrell.

BUTLER: Yeah, with Gartrell. Up at Ashland.

KLEBER: Yes. Uh, so you see Wetherby as an independent governor, not calling Washington and getting approval from Clements for this or that.

BUTLER: No, no I think they worked closely, but I think Wetherby was his own boss on things like that.

KLEBER: Which took a pretty strong man because Clements himself was a strong individual, wasn't he?

BUTLER: Oh, yeah. Yeah. Uh. Yeah, we we've come a long ways, and the things that they did back then are just beginning to show up, and that's what I--my thinking about education they're talking about reforming education, which I'm very much for, but I don't think you can establish the relation out there to 00:48:00make it operate in the future by just talking about how bad things were, uh, implying that no progress has been made. There's great progress made under Wetherby, a seed for some. Then, finally a foundation program was enacted. The constitution changed, which had to be the most important thing that happened. Then Chandler got committed to finance it and run it, and we had so much sentiment built up for it, he got committed. That's where we got the money. Then when Combs came in--

KLEBER: Now wait a minute. That sentiment had been built up by the Wetherby administration?

BUTLER: Oh, yeah. Yeah. We spent four years there preaching. Then after we got the program adopted in '54, there started a campaign to get it financed. Like a car, it wouldn't run, it won't deliver services unless you put some money in it. Yes, sir. I , I, I worked out a plan to do this by steps, and was 00:49:00thoroughly convinced that the people of Kentucky will travel by steps, and are reluctant to travel by jumps. And that the people of any state will make good decisions on matters pertaining to their children if you give 'em the facts and time enough to study them. And that the people of this state will never travel any faster on educational matters than--no education will never travel any faster than the people and the people will never travel any faster than educational leadership. You've have to have leadership.

KLEBER: Um-hm.

BUTLER: And you've got to handle it in such a way that they think they are doing it. That's public relations, to me. So a lot of those things were done 00:50:00under the Wetherby administration that you don't get any credit for it. Uh, the conditions were terrible back then, so you have a way of overlooking comparing what you have now by saying there wasn't anything done back then. I remember when I was plowing one Saturday morning and I wanted to get through by noon, so I could go somewhere. I set the turning saw, that's what you turning plow. Just set it off so it cut more. Turn it. But I got caught at noon. My father showed up and that plow wasn't turning all the grass. Just about that much sticking up. And I remember what he said, said, "You're not plowing, you're just cutting and kibbering(??)" he called it. And I said, "Dad--(laughs)--it does look bad but, I said, you should have seen it this morning before I started." They should have seen some of these things before it started all along. Uh, Combs was a good governor for education. He went all out to pass 00:51:00the, the sales got the sales tax, three cents. Then Breathitt did all he could do. He took all the money he had and put it in that. Then Nunn--by the way, Nunn came from down where I came from, uh, he got elected and I did too, and a lot of Democrats got defeated that year. Combs got defeated. A lot of the others, you know, and but Nunn, when I was county superintendent, he was in the eighth grade in one of my schools. (laughs) That's where the story started. When he heard I was gonna run for, for commissioner of agriculture that year, he just, uh, he, uh-- that was 1967 in, uh, in Breathitt's term, I believe. I was gonna run for superintendent of public instruction, third term. And he called 00:52:00me, "Wendell," said, "what in the world what's happening?" Said, "You, you when you ran for commissioner of agriculture back there, I remember calling you and asking you what you knew about it." This was my first term when I ran. Said, uh, "You know what you said? You said," I asked you what you knew", and you said "It'd take a big hog to weigh a thousand pounds." and he quoted that when he was running in made the headlines. It made votes for me.

KLEBER: Oh, yes, I'm sure it did.

BUTLER: Yes, yeah, that went all over the United States. Show how I'd go to a meeting they said "How big's that hog now?" you know.

KLEBER: 'Course, uh, recently, uh, under--

BUTLER: Now, what I was getting at, under Nunn--


BUTLER: --he increased the sales tax too, so--

KLEBER: Yeah. Under Nunn also, we're getting a lot of federal money coming into education, too weren't we?


BUTLER: Oh, yeah. Yeah.

KLEBER: And you didn't have much back in Wetherby's time, is that correct?

BUTLER: Not too much. No, no. Hadn't started getting money.

KLEBER: So you--

BUTLER: I remember going to Washington to speak on the need for federal aid. The big thing then, people opposed it on the ground that it would control education you have control, yeah.

KLEBER: It's still a criticism I hear.

BUTLER: Oh, yeah. Yeah.

KLEBER: What do you feel about that?

BUTLER: I--it's doing more good than doing harm, and I have a--I don't have any fear of control. I don't I haven't seen anything. It bothered me just not getting enough.

KLEBER: Do you recall the committee on functions and resources which was formed by the 1950 General Assembly? That is according to my record, that is the thing that recommended a constitutional amendment that allowed the, uh, General Assembly to, uh, prescribe the manner of distribution of public school funds, which was then enacted in the '52 General Assembly.


BUTLER: They, they authorized appointment of that committee, I believe, by the governor.


BUTLER: It was appointed, and they one of the purpose was to study the constitution, make recommendations on amendments, if I remember correctly.

KLEBER: Yes. Wetherby kept referring to this in letters he was writing, that, uh, that apparently he saw this committee as a way of raising revenue for the, uh, for the schools, and I expect through the j--constitutional amendment.

BUTLER: He did. He did. And he appointed a committee--

KLEBER: You don't I'm sure you couldn't recall who was on that committee--


KLEBER: --or the makeup of it?

BUTLER: No, no, I just remember he had one.

KLEBER: You were not on it, though?


KLEBER: Uh, in looking at Wetherby's letters, also, he, he writes many letters to retired teachers saying that he simply didn't have enough revenue to put into the Teachers' Retirement System. Did you work with the Teachers' Retirement System, and what was it like?

BUTLER: Well, uh, it was set up--I don't know whether Earle set it up or 00:55:00Lawrence, but there wasn't much money and the first director of the Teachers' Retirement System, if I remember correctly, was Mr. Kimmler (??) you know, Kimmler. And, uh, it started 'fore I got to Frankfort in 1941, because I was superintendent of schools and joined it. And I had trouble getting the teachers to join it. A lot of 'em wouldn't pay two dollars. If you take just a dollar or two out, they couldn't afford it, they said, and a number of teachers didn't get in until I got in the senate and made arrangements where they could go back and pay up and get in. They began to realize what they's missing. But it was--it started, started then and Mr. Kimmler, he was the first director. But 00:56:00that was a great thing. And as time went on, you know, the universities and the colleges had their own. They finally merged, you know.

KLEBER: Did you have much contact with teacher retirement? Uh, or did you just allow someone else to take

BUTLER: Oh, yeah, I knew Mr. Kimmler well. I worked closely with him. When I was in the senate it was going down in '48. When I got here, they had already started under Clements, I guess. 'Cause I, I remember some experiences we had. Mr. Kimmler you had to retire at the age seventy. No exceptions made. Had a fellow down in Adair County was seventy and he wanted to teach school where they didn't--couldn't get a teacher, and I was running for senate. I told him I'd do all I could to help him. (laughs) I talked Mr. Kimmler into letting him finish 00:57:00the school they started down there. And, after he got started, he asked for it again, and he just kept teaching three or four years, you know, and Mr. Kimmler said "It's gonna" said "It's gonna ruin me and you too." Well, I said, "I'll take credit. The school is way up a hollow, they couldn't get anybody. This old fellow had been county superintendent down there," and I said, "He's doing a good job. They like him. But he's past seventy. But he can outrun anybody in the county. Well," I said, "if we're gonna have trouble, the legislature will go ahead and change the law." He didn't want that to happen. (laughs) Marvin Dotson, the KEA, decided to honor all the teachers who had taught thirty years. Big big meeting in Louisville at the fairgrounds. A. O. Stanley was the speaker. Great orator. And boy he whipped them up. He had those teachers 00:58:00sitting there, you know, and when he finished, Marvin says--(laughs)--"Does anyone in the audience want to testify?" 'Course Mr. Lawrence from Adair County got up. He started, he said, "I almost said praise the Lord." He said, "I'm seventy-six years old and I'm still teaching. I'm getting stronger every day," and Mr. Kimmler is sitting there. (laughs) The next morning he called me down to his office and he had telegrams from teachers, said "If Mr. So-and-so is seventy-six, I had to stop at seventy." Said "How in the world did that happen?" He said, "I don't know, just tell 'em somebody slipped somewhere." I said, got by. So I never did hear no more about that, he teased me about this until he died.

KLEBER: I bet he did. You know, another element that comes up under Wetherby's administration that we, uh, we don't think about enough is the fact 00:59:00that he was the first person, I believe, first governor to support the idea of educational television. And he moved to supplement it in Kentuc--or to implement it in Kentucky but simply didn't have enough revenue for it. Do you recall the early interest in educational television then, during that time?

BUTLER: Well, they didn't have television then. But the first step towards getting a state television system started up in Indiana. They had one of these planes that were televising up there-- you could go up in it. I went up there and flew around in it, you know--and they were trying to use that for the whole region. But it seemed like to me, we decided that sooner or later we'd develop our own system, and when I took office of superintendent for the second time under Combs, Combs appropriated funds to start it.

KLEBER: But here again, I think we see Wetherby planting a seed, perhaps, for 01:00:00educational television.

BUTLER: Oh, yeah, yeah, seeds were sown back then. And we, we were getting some television in northern Kentucky from that airplane.



KLEBER: Didn't know that. You had pointed out to me earlier in this, uh, interview I don't think we put it on tape, that that there were three momentous, uh, accomplishments under your first tenure as superintendent of public instruction: the constitutional amendment 1953; the Minimum Foundation Act in 1954, and then we come to the third one and that is the fact that you were superintendent of public instruction when the Supreme Court decision of Topeka vs. Brown vs. Topeka Board of Education was handed down, and that had to be a tumultuous event for you and for Wetherby. And Lawrence Wetherby, I have heard, and have--and it seems to be true, met that very courageously by saying that "Kentucky will obey the Supreme Court decision and we will integrate our 01:01:00schools." What was your role in this? This had to hit you hard.

BUTLER: Well, the court is it '54, 1954 the Supreme Court ruled on integration in public schools. 'Course the day the Court ruled, the press hit it and the phones started ringing. It was a it was a landmark decision. Well, uh, I talked to Wetherby, he talked to me, and he, he was a hundred percent strong supporter of the Court. He said the courts rule, and that's the law of the land. And he took appropriate steps to move as fast as you could on it to, uh, integrate the schools. And the first person, I guess, took action and the school system was Carmichael Louisville. And they for what he did, they called 01:02:00him up to Washington and gave him some kind of recognition. (laughs) Starting off 'cause Wetherby's influence was felt then and he, he paved the way for peacefully compliance, I'd say, compared to what happened in other states. And 'course I called a state board immediately. We acted together and they approved. Uh, approved what the Court had done and took fast action to go ahead and take appropriate steps to implement the decision is what we did.

KLEBER: How do you think Wetherby personally felt about the decision?

BUTLER: Oh, he, he was very much well he, he had a fear that we was gonna have some trouble over the state, you know, and a number of reasons and I don't think you wanted to get too involved, but it was his thinking that the way to solve a 01:03:00problem, a big problem like integration, was to face it, then handle it with discretion as much as possible. So that's what he did.

KLEBER: Did you think it could be done?

BUTLER: I, I, I was reading up on what was happening, you know, in, uh, in Oklahoma and other states, you know, down south. But, uh, we were fortunate in Kentucky, and I think Wetherby deserves a lot of credit there.

KLEBER: Now you come from a part of the state that's fairly conservative, I think. Has some southern traditions there and it must have what did you think? Was your county, uh, going, uh, to, uh to integrate the schools?

BUTLER: Well, they, they were against it. When I taught in Green County, when I got there, the people in the district told me, said "If you go down to a 01:04:00certain man's house, stay all night, I hear you're going, and there's a report out that he has a black man working there, and this person eats in the kitchen with him." Said, "If you eat in there while he's there, said it's gonna hurt you." That's what they thought. Well, I was going down there the next week, and I was scared to death. I got there and it so happened there was a little table there but he never did come in, and that's how strong it was, the idea then integrating schools but, uh, it--we went ahead in '54. My brother was superintendent of Metcalfe County schools and, uh, we'd gotten by for a while by paying the tuition and sending 'em up to Lincoln Ridge, you know. They'd go--

[Pause in recording.]

BUTLER: I had the reputation of being very much for the black people in my 01:05:00county, when I ran for superintendant. In fact, although they had seven red schoolhouses that was on a ridge--(laughs)--my platform was to--have I'd paint 'em all white like the white people. So I got a good start. (laughs)

KLEBER: If education for whites was bad in Kentucky for 1954, what was black education like in those days?

BUTLER: It was a disgrace almost. Almost. Uh, I had to teach a teach 'em at that little school. I went out to a school. This teacher came up to Kentucky State College on a summer, got a course in close core curriculum, they call it. That and I went out that day to visit all the people who were seated on a 01:06:00recitation bench up front, the reading class and geography class and history class. I said to the teachers, "What are you doing?" said, said, "I'm using the core curriculum." Well, I'd taken about eighteen hours of that over at the university under Doctor Muss- Mussman(??) I believe. And I had a good idea of what it was. I said, "How's it work?" "Well," said, "what you do," said, "you put math, history and English together, with geography, and you teach 'em in such a way that you can't tell one from the other." (laughs) Or putting those lines together, you know?

KLEBER: Yes. I guess they had no choice but to do that.

BUTLER: No, no, that's all--that's the--

KLEBER: So did you have a separate budget, uh, for the black schools in Kentucky? Did you divide it in that way?

BUTLER: No, no, no, we just had one budget when I was superintendent. Maybe 01:07:00they had before me, I don't know. Some places they did, yeah.

KLEBER: But do you feel that, well, more money must have gone to white education than to black education proportionally. You they used to try to say "separate but equal." Was it separate but equal in Kentucky before 1954?

BUTLER: Well that "equal" came along after years they didn't have such a thing as equality, you know. The Court ruled on that, they figured that would tide 'em over for several years and it did, you know. They caught on to that. Yeah, yeah. So when the big decision came in 1954, the case of Brown, I believe, I knew quite a bit about it back then, but I've forgotten. It was, uh, it was an important event, when the Court ruled, think where we are now. It marked 01:08:00changes, and there would be more.

KLEBER: Do you think Wetherby's stand on that hurt him politically?

BUTLER: Well, he didn't, uh, he ran for Senator--

KLEBER: '56.

BUTLER: --after that. Yeah. Uh, I don't know. I don't know. Could have, could have.

KLEBER: It didn't hurt you politically, it seems.

BUTLER: No, no. Well, in my position you don't stand out as much as you do in the governor's race, politically. I always tied up with 'em lot of times though, I ran, when I didn't have the governors for me, you know. I broke through anyway. When I ran in, in, uh, fifty--no, in '59--that's alright when I ran--when let's see, when Earle Clements--hard to remember.


KLEBER: I know. I'm sure it all blends together after this many years.

BUTLER: Well, after I, uh--anyway. And yeah, '59 when Combs was running, Earle Clements probably was handling the campaign for Combs. He was superintendant. He was chairman, I remember that. State chairman, that's what he was called it, I believe. Campaign chairman. And I was, uh, running then and they slated Kyle-----------(??) of Union County, that's Earle's county. 01:10:00Earle put him on a slate with Combs-----------(??). All of 'em. Course Wyatt and Louisville all had to support him, they--I was on their side. I immediately jumped over and ran with Chand--Waterfield, supported by Chandler. I was on a different faction then. Got both sides, I was beat--beat-----------(??) all to pieces. I helped the others, you know. They didn't like it because they stand together, but they had to do it--Earle was the big boss.

KLEBER: Oh, yeah.

BUTLER: Yeah. (laughs) That's funny, when you go back and recall all these things, it's hard to believe you've come that far.

KLEBER: I know. It's--


KLEBER: --it's amazing that you survived it because I know the political--

BUTLER: I never did lose a--

KLEBER: --intrigue was--

BUTLER: --election--

KLEBER: --rough and really something.

BUTLER: I never did lose one.

KLEBER: You know, one thing that Lawrence Wetherby did to meet this integration problem was to establish a committee to advise the state on problems 01:11:00of ending segregation in public schools. He did this in--he announced it on July 2, 1954. And on that committee were Dr. Wade Weldon and Mrs. Simeon Willis and Homer Nutter and, uh, Walter Wells. I'm sure you know of some of these names. Were you on that committee, too? Wetherby said you were, but I cannot find it in the newspapers.

BUTLER: I don't know. A lot of times I was just on 'em by virtue of my position and--


BUTLER: But I know about the committee, and they, they made a great contribution. He relied on some committees to advise him. Wetherby I think I should point out, since I served on with Wetherby eight years, four when he was lieutenant governor and four when he was--five when he was governor, three when he was lieutenant--you know, he served five years almost--and gives me the right to say I reached certain conclusion about, uh, his administration and some of 01:12:00the things that have never been talked about--and he never got much publicity. The press never highlighted what he did as much as they did some people later, you know. Uh, some of the main, uh, achievements were as follows: close to being the state superintendant, and my interest in education, I, I put the Foundation Program, the passage of Amendment 186 to the constitution and the enactment of the Foundation Program into law in 1954 under Wetherby. And the court's decision--the Supreme Court's decision, and it's significant that Wetherby went all-out to implement it and he it took courage then. It took courage to do that because all the states south were going the other way. He'd 01:13:00meet with the south, you know, and tell about--(laughs)--how tough it's going to be down there. And then Wetherby was honest and he wanted an honest administration. It's, it's significant to remember that he didn't have any scandal during his. And he was very much interested in rural Kentucky and rural roads. Earle got a two-cent tax while he was in and Wetherby that paved the way for him to do some things and Earle was a great supporter of parks and Wetherby was too. He did a lot for tourism. He went all out on that. And, uh, Wetherby, another important thing that we've overlooked--he separated he established the Department of, of health and hospitals.


KLEBER: Um-hm. Mental Health.


KLEBER: And Doctor Frank Gaines.

BUTLER: Yeah, yeah, Gaines was here. Psychiatrist. And he, he at that time, it was just part of the Welfare Department, if I remember correctly.

KLEBER: That's right.

BUTLER: And that was and Wetherby during most of his life he's tilted towards mental health and things like that. In Louisville, if you go back and study, he was a judge of the juvenile court and at that time we worked for the Jefferson County Juvenile Center they had there for children and Wetherby worked up there with them before he came to Frankfort, and he had a pretty good background in the field of health and hospital care and juvenile delinquents and all that and he, he was interested in it. And he, he established as governor, as evidence of 01:15:00his interest, the Youth Authority. So things that you that nobody'd ever know about. Yeah. Which is plain to see. I had something else I don't know whether it'll help. See, under Governor Clements he took the highway patrol when he was elected governor and made it the state police. Then when Wetherby came in he, he appropriated and got some money and put some more police on, on the highways. He supported that program very much. And he was very much for rural roads. And he was the first governor to start the toll road in this state. We had a lot of fun out of that one, I tell you. Chandler was running he talked about that toll road. He said "Wetherbine's got a road over here in Louisville from 01:16:00Louisville to E-town," said, "You can't get on it, and when you get on it you can't get off." (laughs)

KLEBER: "Starts nowhere and it ends nowhere."

BUTLER: Yeah. And, I'll never forget that. (laughs)

KLEBER: He got a lot of mileage out of that.

BUTLER: Then the state then made on it, that when they passed the law, to establish the Toll Road Authority, the money collected had to go to pay off the road. And it paid off the road, if I remember correctly, about ten years before the deadline.


BUTLER: And if they had made it possible to use that money for other toll roads, we'd have had well-paid toll roads all over the state by now. (laughs)

KLEBER: You know, something that you didn't mention there, and I need to ask you before we finish, and that is the fact that Wetherby was not the least bit reluctant to interfere in higher education in the state. Now, I have a feeling that that was a time in which, uh, higher education and state politics were intimately connected with one another and Wetherby did not hesitate to, to, uh, 01:17:00exercise a firm hand in selecting university presidents and directing the course of university education. Is that correct?

BUTLER: That's right. He, he took a lot of interest in, uh, uh, higher education and, uh, I think he did it because he thought it was right to get in on--he was interested in who was selected president of these colleges. Doran went in at Morehead; he had with his blessing--

KLEBER: Kelly Thompson?

BUTLER: Kelly Thompson. Kelly Thompson, uh, at Bowling Green and Kelly was a good man. And, uh, I believe those two went in Wetherby.

KLEBER: Good or bad situation? That he should do this?

BUTLER: At that time? Well, I don't know, I don't know who would have been president. Uh, he picked good men. I don't think he'd have supported the people 01:18:00if he hadn't thought they'd been good men, and it turned out that way. I remember when I voted for Adron he and Marsh(??) said, they said "What do you, what do you think now since you--do you think Adron's a good man for this?" And I said "If you'll ask me in a few years from now I'll tell you. I don't know now." (laughs) Yeah.

KLEBER: 'Course the superintendant of public instruction no longer holds those positions on the various boards of regents.

BUTLER: It came out during Dr. Jander's (??) administration. They took him off. I that's a good thing. I tell you, I was chairman of the board of all of these colleges. You couldn't go to all of them. Impossible. I usually went to 'em. They'd call and they had to have me. That was when they was working on a raise. (laughs)


KLEBER: When you didn't want to go, I expect. (Butler laughs) Well, let's sum up if perhaps we could. I appreciate the time you've given me and, uh, if you had to sum up the four years of Lawrence Wetherby as governor of the Commonwealth of Kentucky in regard to public education, uh, how would you sum that up for us?

BUTLER: Uh, when history is written, I feel that Lawrence Wetherby will be recognized by historians as one of Kentucky's great governors. He served at a time when resources were limited and as someone said, "Things were bad and times were hard." But he courageously faced some issues that laid the foundation for much progress we have in education today when he did. And it's-- he deserved 01:20:00more credit and praise than he's getting. I--my experience in serving with him gives me a right to say those things because I was there. I was a eyewitness back there.

KLEBER: Did you have easy access to him? Was he--

BUTLER: Oh, yeah. All right.

KLEBER: You could get to him any time you needed to?

BUTLER: Any time. Had no trouble seeing Wetherby.

KLEBER: Unlike some other governors, I expect.

BUTLER: He, he was friendly. I, I could say anything to him like I did Combs. Most of 'em I--(laughs)--

KLEBER: Did you socialize with Wetherby?

BUTLER: I, I didn't socialize like some other people he socialized with, but mostly because I didn't do it. I was his office was always open. Most of the meetings.


KLEBER: Never hunted with him or fished with him?

BUTLER: Uh, Wetherby was a sportsman. And a good shot they tell me. I--they had in honor of Wetherby a varmint supper here in Frankfort, and that got to be quite a occasion. I, I, I'd go to that occasionally. Then we modeled on I got one started out here at the water plant board called the Metcalfe varmint supper. The people down in Metcalfe County started coming up here and inviting the governor, it got to be quite a supper. (laughs)

KLEBER: Yeah. Was, uh, Wetherby a hard-working governor?

BUTLER: Yeah, yeah, he any governor's got to work hard if he does anything and Wetherby did work at his job. He, he wanted to be a good governor.


KLEBER: Well, thank you very much, Mr. Butler.

[End of interview.]