Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with John Crimmins, April 6, 1984

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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 KLEBER: --interview with Mr. John Crimmins. The interview was made in Mr. Crimmins' office in Frankfort, Kentucky on Friday, April the 6th, 1984. The interview was made by John Kleber of Morehead State University for the Lawrence W. Wetherby Oral History Project. Mr. Crimmins, I wonder if you would tell, uh, me tell me when and where you were born and a little something about your early life.

CRIMMINS: Uh--(clears throat)--John, I was born in Louisville, Kentucky, lived in the west end of city of Louisville for a good number of years. I, uh, went to parochial and public schools, the old Male High School, and the old Jefferson School of Law, all in Louisville.

KLEBER: I wonder if you could tell me how you became associated with the Louisville Democratic organization.

CRIMMINS: Uh, first of all, I might give you a little background, John. Uh, my godfather, John Whallen, who was a political boss in Jefferson County for a good number of years, uh, was my dad was very close to him, was one of his precinct 00:01:00captains in the early 1900s. My grandmother was a very good friend of John Whallen's, who also did blackface comedic dancer at the old Metropolitan Theater when John Whallen owned that theater, and was political boss in Louisville. Later on she was a bareback rider for John Whallen in a circus he owned, and again this is going back into the late 1800s when this was going on. Uh, so we had, uh, a political ties as far as my life was concerned early life. Uh unfortunately, I never did get a chance to meet John Whallen. Uh, I was born two years before he died. Uh, my dad, uh, did not hold a political office, but he was with the Commonwealth attorney's office as, as a detective for them sometime--for some time. Uh and I guess we had little political background as 00:02:00far as that goes, from my dad. And, uh, I just sort of leaned towards the Democratic Party. And in 1932, I was asked to help in a precinct, and I couldn't work on the inside due to the fact that I wasn't of age, as a, uh, judge or sheriff or a, or a clerk inside the precinct. Later on I--when I did become of age, I worked on the inside, and after about two years I took over a precinct as precinct captain, it was known as that time, the old 68th precinct in the 10th ward. Our voting place was down on--at 1800 block on West Hill Street. Uh, after holding the position of as precinct captain for about three years, then I was made a, a group person that I had at that time twenty-five precincts under me as a group persons--person. The, uh, during that time I was 00:03:00always very fond of Mr. Mike Brennan, better known as Colonel Brennan. And, uh, uh, I, I recall very well when we all learned of his death on November the 25, 1938, due to the tears that we saw from people, no matter where you walked, no matter where you ran into a person, uh, they were all in great sorrow because they were all very fond of Mr. Brennan. Uh, after the time I had spent as a group person, uh, of course World War II came along, and I--(clears throat)--retained my connection with the Democratic Party, although at in 1938, shortly after 19--November 1938, Miss Lennie McLaughlin, who was a secretary for the Democratic Executive Committee of Jefferson County, she was removed, and Mr., uh, John Dugan(??) became the executive secretary and also chairman of 00:04:00organization. Uh, and then, of course, this all happened right at the break outbreak--of War World War II. Uh, we, uh, after, after World War II was over, I received a call from, uh, uh, Mr. Taylor, who was a mayor at that time, and Mr. Taylor wanted to interview me bec--as for his position of, uh, city alcohol beverage control administrator. That was in 1946. Uh, the reason he had called me was was, was 'cause, even though Mickey Brennan was against him when he ran against Neville Miller for mayor in 1933, uh, his appointments he was making were mostly Taylor people, going back to the early'30s; and he knew I was a Mickey Brennan man, and he wanted to try to appoint a Mickey Brennan 00:05:00person--[buzzer]--to one of that position there.

[Pause in recording.]

KLEBER: Uh, Mr. Crimmins, uh, Governor Wetherby has told me that in 1931 he joined Leland Taylor in a struggle to take control of in, in Louisville away from, from Mike Brennan. Could you tell me something about the nature of that struggle between Taylor and Brennan factions in Louisville?

CRIMMINS: They're, uh--'31, I wouldn't be able to tell you a great deal about that, but I do know, uh, that in 1932 when the, uh, race was held for the governor of Kentucky, at which time, uh, uh, we'd better shut it off a second there?


[Pause in recording.]

CRIMMINS: Uh, Ruby Laffoon was running for governor and Colonel Brennan supported him very, very strongly. I don't know exactly where, uh, Leland Taylor was in that particular race, but then the following year when, uh, uh, 00:06:00Taylor ran against, uh, uh, Neville Miller, and Mickey Brennan again was very strong for Neville Miller. And threw his support to him and there was did cause some bitterness between him and Leland Taylor. Uh--

KLEBER: What's at the basis of that struggle between Taylor and, and Brennan?

CRIMMINS: Well, actually, uh, for some time, Colonel Brennan was practically the sole supporter of the Democratic organization in Louisville, putting money out for rent, uh, doing everything he could; and I understand some people were trying to oust him at that time. Uh, and, uh, that was the main feeling I think that that did exist at that time.

KLEBER: Is it a power struggle?

CRIMMINS: I would say yes. Yes, it was a power struggle. And of course Mr. Brennan was a able to take and get, uh, Neville Miller elected, and that made him that much stronger himself. And, uh, there was other people that were 00:07:00elected in that particular year. I remember Judge Ben Ewing was elected the county judge, and he was a, a Taylor man. And so there was sort of a split as far some of the officers were concerned.

KLEBER: Yeah, that that's something that Wetherby, of course, points to very often in his life is the fact that in 1933, while he was in Louisville he supported the faction of Leland Taylor and Ben Ewing, particularly Ben Ewing seemed to have been very close to Wetherby. Could you tell me about Leland Taylor, and particularly about Ben Ewing. Do you remember those men?

CRIMMINS: Very well, and the fact is, uh, I respected both of them very well. Uh, Ben Ewing later on became a member of our board of aldermen, and, and was a member of the board of aldermen when Leland Taylor died. Uh, Mr. Leland Taylor was in the whiskey business for some time, and, uh, he had the respect of everyone down there. Uh, Ben Ewing was not only thought of well in the city but in--out in the rural area, too. Uh, actually, after Leland Taylor died, Ben 00:08:00Ewing was having trouble with heart, with heart trouble at the time and, uh, he, uh, uh, was unable to be at the City Hall the night they voting for a person to succeed Leland Taylor. And on that particular night, uh, there was a tie vote and on during the tie vote they had a, uh, uh, Dan Byck was the president of board of alderman at the time, and he had to finally break the tie vote to elect Charlie Farnsley mayor of the city of Louisville. Uh, but Ben Ewing was not able to be there due, due to his health; the doctor had request he stay at home, not to even go down to the meeting. He had signed a petition that he would be for Tom Graham who was the candidate running against, uh, Charlie Farnsley, but 00:09:00again he was unable to cast his vote due to the fact that he was unable to get to the city hall that night.

KLEBER: Um-hm. Do you know much about the, the relationship between Ewing and Lawrence Wetherby way back there in the early'30s?

CRIMMINS: Uh, I knew that they were very close friends, but I, I couldn't tell you how that came about or anything like that, though.

KLEBER: Well, uh, it's my understanding that, uh, Ben Ewing and Neville Miller went on to solidify the Democratic Party in Louisville, and that way they would have brought Wetherby into the Democratic organization. Is that your--

CRIMMINS: That that is--

KLEBER: --impression?

CRIMMINS: --correct. That is correct, sir.


CRIMMINS: Yes, sir. Yes, sir. Fact is, uh, Lawrence served as a juvenile court judge for a while in Jefferson County. He had not--don't recall whether that was under Judge Ben Ewing or whether it was un--Rita Stern, I think he also ser--served as juvenile court judge for a while under Mark Beecham, if I remember correctly, who was the county judge after Judge Ewing, and al--also a 00:10:00very fine person. The fact is, he was what they would call a, a country county judge. When he would leave his office and go out into the county to look something over, he'd come back up with his pants legs rolled up and mud all over his shoes. I saw that many a time because I worked in the county clerk'soffice for five year, five years, and I was sitting on the probate matters in his court daily. And was he was again, was a very, very fine person. His daughter Jane was his secretary, and they were just, uh, grand people to be around.

KLEBER: Uh, how did Ben Ewing and Neville Miller get together and make peace? Do you


KLEBER: --know?

CRIMMINS: --actually, back at that time, Mickey Brennan was the type person that wanted to try to see the Democratic organization grow stronger, and he was for a fellow, a fellow that again that everybody respected, and he tried to take 00:11:00and get everybody to work in harmony at all times. And I feel quite sure that he had a lot to do with, uh, Neville and, uh, also Ben Ewing getting together. But in addition to that, you had a very fine person who was chairman of the Democratic County Executive Committee back in those years, and that was Shack Miller, or Shackleford Miller is the correct name. And later on he became a federal judge. And you had some very, very wonderful people working in the organization at that time, and they was trying to just see that the Democratic Party just would grow because they'd been out of power for quite some time. And they didn't want that to happen again anyway soon. I recall reading the Irish American, not in the early'30s but when the Democrats finally lost out in 1960. The Irish American by Mike Berry stated that a lot of wives had told those fellows not to take those political jobs in 1933 because they wouldn't last very 00:12:00long, but they lasted twenty-seven years. (laughs)

KLEBER: Let me go to a couple of years down from 1933 and we come to 1935 and a very interesting political race that year. Uh, "Happy" Chandler ran for governor in 1935.

CRIMMINS: That's right, against Tom Rhea.

KLEBER: Against Tom Rhea. Now this, this is an interesting development here because my understanding is that Lawrence Wetherby supported "Happy" Chandler in 1935. He probably wouldn't want me to say that, but he did and, and yet Rhea was with the--as I understand, the, the organ--the Miller and the organization in Louisville.

CRIMMINS: That is correct.

KLEBER: So can you kind of clarify that for me? Where does that put Wetherby in all this kind of thing?

CRIMMINS: Well, again, Lawrence was a well liked young fellow, and, uh, it, uh, I don't think that they felt too badly about Lawrence, and again, as I say, they when Ben Ewing was, and was against Mickey Brennan and Mickey Brennan was against him, but they finally got back together again. It's just one of those 00:13:00things that, uh, Lawrence made his choice and, uh, Mickey Brennan made his choice. And then later on, of course, uh, uh, Lawrence became a member of that Democratic County Executive Committee. I couldn't tell you the exact year, but, uh, Lawrence was a fellow that, uh, tried to see--again to see that everybody got along pretty well, too. I recall just this past election day, I was working at Martha Layne's headquarters in Louisville. I was one of the people that was taking, uh, the calls and making the arrangements for cars to pick'em up to take'em to vote on election day. We had a lady that was in a nursing home on Hurstbourne Lane, and, uh--I'm sorry, take it back, on Breckinridge Lane, and she wanted to get over to the polls to vote. In fact it was the nursing home was the one that called for her. And, uh, we didn't have cars available at that time, so I used my car and went over and picked her up, and knew the fact that 00:14:00the lady was in a wheelchair; and after I got her in the car, it so happened that she was voting at the Eastern High School over at Middletown, which was in Lawrence Wetherby's old neighborhood. And on the way over I asked her how long she'd been living out there, and she said she had been living there for quite a few years. She had to have a leg amputated, and, uh, I guess she hadn't even received a new leg, she'd just had like a piece of steel from her leg stump on down, and very enjoy--very nice person to be with. And, uh, I asked her if she knew the Wetherbys, and oh, she knew the Wetherbys very well, the fact is, her name was Mrs. McKenzie and was taking care of Lawrence's mother up until the time she died. And, uh, I, uh, I asked her how well she knew Lawrence, how well she knew George. She said she knew both of'em very well. Says now George was 00:15:00supposed to relieve her at a certain time on some Sundays, and, uh, sometime George would be late or wouldn't get there at all. Said but Lawrence was a different type person, he was not only there but generally got there a little early to relieve her. She said there was a lot of difference in the two boys. Yeah.

KLEBER: Uh, Wetherby has said that, uh, that after Chandler was elected in 1935, he came over to the Rhea side. He made his peace with, uh, with Brennan and, uh, and, and Wetherby felt that, uh, maybe Chandler had betrayed some early confidence in that. Are you familiar with this?

CRIMMINS: No sir, I'm not familiar with that. I'm sorry about it.

KLEBER: Yeah. But, uh, do you recall of Chandler coming into, uh, into, uh, into with the Rhea people and, and, and making peace with the Louisville organization?

CRIMMINS: Well, I, I think that later on that, uh, uh, alth--although I think 00:16:00he was more bitter with, uh, Colonel Brennan than he was with, uh, Tom Rhea as far as that goes. Uh the fact is, he, uh, he took and got removed--(clears throat)--Mickey Brennan from a state job he had as from the Revenue Department.

KLEBER: Oh, this is during his first term?

CRIMMINS: Oh, yes. Uh-hm.


CRIMMINS: --that's right--

KLEBER: Well, then, this is this is interesting.

CRIMMINS: That's right. He he's--

KLEBER: This is not what I've been hearing.

CRIMMINS: He, he had removed the fact is, I've got some information, I don't have it with me today, it's stuff I got at home; but, uh, he removed, uh, uh, Mickey Brennan from the job over there. And, uh, then they--later on, both of 'em got along a little bit better. And, uh, the fact is, I think at the time that, uh, Colonel Brennan had passed away that they were getting along very well at that time. In fact, that is "Happy" had some kind things to say, and know some people that were, uh, especially one young fellow at the University of 00:17:00Louisville within the past year, he had, uh, met with, uh, former Governor "Happy" Chandler and wanted to get some information. But, uh, he would not say anything derogatory against Mickey Brennan in the interview that was held.

KLEBER: Yeah. Now, okay, that, that's coming all together there. I wonder if you could tell me, do you remember offhand the, the first time you met Lawrence Wetherby?

CRIMMINS: I never actually met Lawrence, uh, I guess it was back in'46 when, uh, I actually met him personally. Uh, I had ser--as I say, served as city alcohol administrator, and I was going to meetings in Democratic Headquarters, and also the first part of, uh, 1940, I was, uh, secretary of a Young Democratic Clubs of Jefferson County. Uh, later on I was elected president of the Young Democratic Clubs of Jefferson County. I, I don't recall having, uh, met Lawrence during that period. I may have seen him and probably didn't know who 00:18:00he was as far as that goes.

KLEBER: So it was not until 1946--

CRIMMINS: --forty-six--

KLEBER: --that you really began to, uh, to, to know him well.

CRIMMINS: That is right.

KLEBER: What, what position did you hold in 1946?

CRIMMINS: I was city alcohol administrator for the City of Louisville.

KLEBER: And how long did you stay in that position?

CRIMMINS: I was just in there one year, and it so happened that, uh, they were trying to reorganize Democratic Headquarters. They didn't feel that, uh, John Dugan was holding the organization together and producing enough up there. And Mrs. Lennie McLaughlin was asked to go back to headquarters as secretary of the Executive Committee, and, uh, Mayor Taylor said he wanted me to go back up there--wanted me to go up as chairman of the organization. And, uh, therefore, uh, in'46 Miss Lennie and I did go in to headquarters. She returned and that my first time as a person holding a job inside of the headquarters, 1946.

KLEBER: Okay, it's my understanding is that beginning then in 194--


CRIMMINS: Okay, okay. What's that?

KLEBER: --forty-seven, beginning in'47 that you and, and Miss Lennie, uh, ran this organization in Louisville. Could that would that be--

CRIMMINS: --that, that, that is correct--

KLEBER: --fair to say?

CRIMMINS: That is correct. Now we had the chairman of our Democratic county executive committee at that time was Mr. McKay Reed, who is still alive and just turned ninety this past year, getting along fine, health very good, talked to him just about two weeks ago. And, uh, McKay was very close to John Dugan, and, uh, but, uh, we, Miss Lennie and McKay and I, we all three were very close together. No problems at all, and the fact is we started rebuilding the organization and, uh, I think we did a right first job if I have to say so myself with the organization down there. Lawrence was a member of the executive committee back at that time, and, uh, there was only eleven members of the executive committee, uh, due to the, uh, eleven congra--eleven, uh, districts during that time.

KLEBER: Yeah, I have that he was a member of the Democratic City County 00:20:00Executive Committee and that he was also chairman of the 34th Legislative District.

CRIMMINS: That is correct, sir.

KLEBER: Would that have been under the organization, too?

CRIMMINS: That is correct, sir. The 34th Legislative District is a part of the Jefferson County Democratic General Committee. That is correct.

KLEBER: How do you--how did he get these positions? Do you know?

CRIMMINS: You're, uh, on those, uh--you're elected by the precinct committeeman and committeewoman. (clears throat) Uh, you had an election that you were you would elect a precinct committeeman and committeewoman in each of the precincts embracing the legislative district. And then after they were elected, then they would take and have a meeting and elect their chairman of that particular legislative district, which would have been Lawrence in the 34th Legislative District.

KLEBER: Now how did he get to be a member of the Democratic City and County Executive Committee?

CRIMMINS: Well, when you're elected chairman of a legislative district, you're automatically the chairman for that legislative district, and you are a member of the Jefferson County Democratic Executive Committee. In other words, that is part of the Jefferson County Democratic Executive Committee, to be the chairman 00:21:00of the legislative district. Then that still prevails today.

KLEBER: What would have been his responsibilities in these positions?

CRIMMINS: Uh, during the time that, uh, uh, he was served as the chairman of the legislative district, each of the legislative districts were to take and, uh, look after their district by taking and, uh, appointing the precinct captains. That was not true in all cases, because it fell on Miss Lennie and I as chairman of organization and secretary to try to get captains in a number of precincts. The fact is the, uh, some of the precinct, uh, chairmen--chairmen of the districts, uh, voted that we just go ahead and take care of things. Now, that doesn't mean that we didn't seek the advice of the chairman of the same district, because they would know people that might be interested in becoming a precinct captain, or they could tell us who we might be able to go see--that 00:22:00they would, uh, and that was part of it. In addition to that, we would have our regular meet--meetings within the Democratic County Executive Committee at Democratic headquarters. And when I first went, uh, to work for'em, we were in the Tyler Building on Jefferson Street, between Third and Fourth Streets. Uh, then in 1951, uh, in April, we dedicated the building, and we named it the, uh, Mickey Brennan Col--uh, Colonel Brennan Building. Uh, that remained the home of the Democratic Party up until several years ago, uh, when the State, uh, took that property to build the new garage that's going to take and be across the street from the Commonwealth Convention Center, which is right at the present time is being built. Uh, but the--from 1951 up until, I would say, 1981 that was the home of the Democratic Party.


KLEBER: I have, uh, been told that Wetherby and ten others bought that Brennan Building on the--on South Fourth Street for headquarters.

CRIMMINS: There were--

KLEBER: Were you told that?

CRIMMINS: --sixteen stockholders, uh, on the--that formed the corporation. It was known as the 133 South Fourth Street Corporation. Uh, Lawrence was one of the persons. Each person at that time put up a hundred dollars--(coughs)--pardon me--to take and, uh, uh, form the corporation. Tom Graham, who was president of Bankers Bond Company at that time, was the spearhead of it. Uh, he appointed a committee to take and, uh, look for locations, and the building that was purchased was the old, uh, Vienna Restaurant building at 133 South Fourth Street, and that's where the 133 South Fourth Street Corporation name came from. Uh, we had a large assembly room on the right-hand side, and then we had our office space in the other side. The 00:24:00woodwork in the, uh, right side where we had the, the assembly room was beautiful woodwork. We had, uh, hard, uh, uh--was some beautiful flooring in there. We had that refinished, I think about five times, while a period of time while I was at headquarters and even when I left I to go to work with the United Sates Treasury Department. I married a girl later on that is president of the Woman's Club, and they gave that as a contribution to the Party one year and had our floor fixed up for us again.


CRIMMINS: I went back to Headquarters after I left the Treasury Department for two and a half years.

KLEBER: Yeah, I remember that building very well, and I, I can still vividly recall the, the beautiful wood in, in the building.

CRIMMINS: It was pretty as can be, and I understand that Dow Steder(??) uh, got some of that wood out of there, and he's gonna have a special room built into the new Galt House across the street from his present location, with some of that woodworking came out of it.

KLEBER: I'm glad that was saved. Did, uh, I wonder how Lawrence Wetherby got 00:25:00along in, uh, let's, let' stake the year'46,'47. How did he get along with Miss Lennie and McKay Reed and yourself?

CRIMMINS: They we, we all not only Lawrence got along very well, but, uh, and Miss Lennie, and McKay and myself. But we all worked as a team down there at that time, John. Uh, we had no bitterness within the, uh, Executive Committee, and the fact is, uh, there'd be times that they would just vote their power for Miss Lennie and I to go ahead and handle things for them. And there was no, no feeling at all. We all, all worked as a team, ev--every member on the Executive Committee. Old "Doc" Fee, Robert Fee, who was the chairman out in the well it's called Simon now, was going to St. Helen's area one time. Uh, he was a druggist out there, and, uh, he, he worked very close with us. Uh, we had another person that, uh, died, uh, while he was in office. He was a circuit court judge, and going back again to Judge Beauchamp, uh, this fellow was a trial commissioner 00:26:00for Judge Beauchamp when----------(??) West County judge, his name was Judge Ward Lehigh. And the fellow developed, uh, T.B. And he was sent to Wavely Hill and in order for him to receive a check from the fiscal court someone had to replace him in his job. And Judge, uh, uh, Beauchamp actually took and served as the trial commissioner. He served as the juvenile court judge. He served as a probate judge, and was running the whole thing so this man could take and receive his salary.

KLEBER: You say you worked as a team back then. Uh, did you work closely in those years with Lawrence Wetherby or did you just--

CRIMMINS: Yes, sir.

KLEBER: --serve?

CRIMMINS: --yes, very close to him at that time. And, uh, the fact is, Lawrence attended the, uh, Executive Comm--Committee Meetings faithfully. Uh, if we had to have some information from Lawrence's------------ (??) of course 00:27:00was in the Middletown-Anchorage out there and he was very, very cooperative all--at all times. And, uh, we had, uh, no problems with, not only with Lawrence, but with the rest of the members of the committee. It was just a fine group of people to be working with.

KLEBER: Well, obviously something about Lawrence must have been different than many of the others because this is the man who is going to be pointed to for lieutenant governor. What do you think it was about Lawrence Wetherby that brought him to the attention of you, Miss Lennie, and McKay Reed?

CRIMMINS: Well, back at that time we were--uh, funny thing was, I met originally with Harry Lee Waterfield and talked to Harry Lee, uh, about certain things if he was elected, uh, governor of Kentucky, where the patronage would be handled, who would handle the patronage. Uh, Harry Lee never did answer that question. Uh, at a later date, in the same hotel which was the old Seelbach Hotel, I met with Earle Clements and asked Earle the same question: Who was 00:28:00gonna handle the patronage. Of course at that time you had no merit system at all, John. And we, uh, after I met with Earle, he said it's gonna be handled right through your alls Democratic Headquarters, which it was. And, uh, we were able to put many a person and, and the different jobs at the State the same as we were able to do the same with the city and the county. Uh, we tried to start from the grassroots by taking and having the precinct captain to sign the application for the person that was asking for a job, and then as we had openings since I'd been there, why we tried to take and fill with the proper person that would be qualified for that job. I recall very well that during that period with Charlie Farnsley was mayor of the City of Louisville, and he had a fellow by the name of Roy Owsley was his administrative assistant down there. A system was set up that we would have a department head when there was a vacancy and they had to replace someone, they would send a personnel 00:29:00requisition to the mayor's office in duplicate. One copy would stay in the mayor's office, and the second copy would be sent to Democratic Headquarters for us to try to replace that person with the type work they could do, that was required to be done in that particular department. Uh, again, the same thing happened over in the county was--when we first, uh, went into Headquarters, uh, we had a Republican judge at that time. That was Horace Barker. And, uh, then we ran a fellow who was a was a very good friend of Lawrence Wetherby's, Bowman Shamburger, for county judge. And Judge Shamburger won, uh, along with, uh, the, uh, our candidate for mayor. I'm, I'm trying to stop and think in the last couple of years--

KLEBER: Yeah, there's so many of them.

CRIMMINS: Yeah, that's right. The--I, I'm pretty sure that he ran the same year Andy Brollis(??) ran, if I'm not mistaken. I think that was the year that 00:30:00Andy Brollis and, uh, Bow--Bowman Shamburger ran. And, uh, again, we, we, we got along again with the people who were elected to the offices, elected to the various offices. And, uh, Lawrence was always very cooperative, and if there was any kind of a misunderstanding at all, why Lawrence would want to come down and talk to people. And he was a friendly person, outgoing person with his friendliness, and, uh, when we were looking for a candidate to run for lieutenant governor's race, uh, we selected, uh, Lawrence in that particular year. William May was a, a candidate for lieutenant governor and ran against Lawrence. And, uh, Bill May says that we treated him kind of rough in Jefferson County that year. (laughs)

KLEBER: Yes, I interviewed Mr. May and he does say that. (Crimmins laughs) Is that true? Were you against Bill May?

CRIMMINS: We were against Bill May, we was for Lawrence Wetherby because Lawrence was one of our own Jefferson County boys and a person we thought an 00:31:00awful lot of.

KLEBER: Now, let's go to that'47 campaign 'cause you--

CRIMMINS: Yes, sir.

KLEBER: --you saw a lot of that campaign. I'm sure that you can tell me a lot about it and I think that's very important in Lawrence Wetherby's life. Uh, you have said then that, that Mr. Clements, uh, said to you in the Seelbach Hotel that that you could take care of the patronage.

CRIMMINS: That our Democratic Headquarters would handle the patronage.

KLEBER: Right. So this, this throws you onto Clements' side--

CRIMMINS: That is correct.

KLEBER: --doesn't it?

CRIMMINS: That is correct. That is right.

KLEBER: Okay. That's tha--yeah.

CRIMMINS: And, and Harry Lee Waterfield said he would get back to me, but he never did get back to let me know that we could handle it, so that made my decision then, I would be for Earle Clements for governor. And then of course Lawrence came into the picture as a candidate for lieutenant governor. And, uh, uh, we had some other folks out in the State we were in contact with for support of Lawrence also.

KLEBER: Now Lawrence Wetherby has said that in 1947, uh, the organization suggested that he run Clements' campaign in Jefferson County, and that he 00:32:00believes that Miss Lennie was the one who said to Earle Clements: Go see Lawrence Wetherby and Lawrence will run your campaign here. Do is that right?

CRIMMINS: Tha--that is correct. That's right.

KLEBER: Now, why did Miss Lennie pick out Lawrence Wetherby to run--


KLEBER: --Clements' campaign?

CRIMMINS: --again, uh, everybody was very fond of Lawrence, and, uh, he was a person could get along with everybody very well. And again, uh, was a person that could make every effort to take you out and get people organized, uh, that's the type of person you'd be looking for.

KLEBER: Well, uh, we come then to a, to a, to how Lawrence Wetherby got to be a candidate for lieutenant governor. And, uh, he, he has said to me that, uh, that he was a team player, that he was he was with the organization.

CRIMMINS: Strong, strong team player, certainly was.

KLEBER: And that--where did the idea originate to have Lawrence Wetherby run for lieutenant governor in 1947?

CRIMMINS: I think there was--I don't remember how many candidates was in the 00:33:00lieutenant governor's race that year, but I know there was some talk at Headquarters that, uh, uh, they felt that, uh, Lawrence could get into that race and probably win it. Now I don't remember exactly who came up with this suggestion. I don't recall that, John, but, uh, they felt like he would be the person that could take and get in here and do some good at it.

KLEBER: Yeah. Who is--who do you mean by they thought?

CRIMMINS: Members of the Democratic organization, the Executive Committee. See back at that time, they you, you got the endorsement of the Democratic Executive Committee. You don't do that now, they have the open primaries. But at that time you had the endorsement of the Democratic Executive Committee.

KLEBER: And who would have been on that Executive Committee at that time in 1947?

CRIMMINS: Uh, I think that Judge, Judge Ewing was still in yeah, Judge Ewing was still on there. Uh, a fellow by the name of Nolan Powell Hay was down in the--what we call the 43rd Legislative District. Uh, Ward Lehigh was still a member of the executive committee at that time. Dr. Fee was a member at that 00:34:00time. Of course Lawrence Wetherby was a member. Uh, had a fellow up at what we called Billy Goat Hill, up in the Crescent Hill area, Bob, uh--I can't think of Bob's last name right now. He's dead. He was a elec--he was an electrician. Uh, I'm trying to think of some of the other names right now. I just can't think--

KLEBER: Um-hm. Well--

CRIMMINS: --at present.

KLEBER: --you would have been on it, of course.

CRIMMINS: No, sir. I would--

KLEBER: You were not.

CRIMMINS: --not. I never a member of the executive committee.

KLEBER: Okay. Miss Lennie?

CRIMMINS: Miss Lennie was executive she was secretary.


CRIMMINS: She would not have voted as a chairman of legislative district, but she was--

KLEBER: She was secretary.

CRIMMINS: --secretary. Yeah. McKay Reed

KLEBER: --McKay Reed--

CRIMMINS: --was the chairman, and he was also voted by the committee. My job was never voted never had a vote on the committee. But they voted me as the chairman of organization, but I had no vote. I'd sit in on the meetings, but never had a vote on the committee.

KLEBER: Why do you think that that executive committee decided Lawrence 00:35:00Wetherby might be able to win lieutenant governorship?

CRIMMINS: Well, uh, they felt, uh, that, uh--the main reason, I would say, they felt that Lawrence was the type of fellow, no matter where he went he made friends, he was able to take and sell himself to the public, and, uh, they felt quite sure that, uh, he could add in that area raise for Earle Clements also, due to the fact that we was trying to get a big majority for Earle in Jefferson County.

KLEBER: So, you all saw a connection between Clements and Wetherby from the beginning.

CRIMMINS: That is correct, sir. Yes, sir.

KLEBER: Do you know what it took to get Lawrence Wetherby to run for lieutenant governor?

CRIMMINS: Well, I my people had a hard time talking him into it. (laughs)

KLEBER: Is that right? Now, I didn't know that.

CRIMMINS: Yes, sir. I don't think he wanted particular to run in a state-wide race.


CRIMMINS: That I couldn't answer.

KLEBER: Hmm. He doesn't seem to have been a man who is, uh--you know, I never think of Lawrence Wetherby as a classic politician, the way Earle Clements was. They almost have to propel Lawrence Wetherby in, in this way.


CRIMMINS: That is, that is correct. And, uh, Lawrence didn't even, uh--when Lawrence had to run for governor on his own, when, when he--after Earle left over there. Uh, Lawrence was not the kind of guy--great guy that wouldn't really push as far as that goes. Uh, he was a real nice fellow and, uh, I'll say one thing, he had, a had a wife Helen that that was a real asset to him. Helen was a real sweet girl, everybody liked Helen, and she's still the same way right today. I ran into her about three weeks ago and she's still the same way today. But, uh, again Lawrence he wasn't a pushy fellow, as if you, you want to put it that, uh, category.

KLEBER: Could he have decided to run because he knew that it would help the organization?

CRIMMINS: I, I feel that had a lot to do with it. I think that had a lot to do with it. And that was the type of person he was. And say a while ago, a team player, he was a team player a hundred percent. He would do anything that could 00:37:00help the party.

KLEBER: Of course, uh, 1947 Leland Taylor is mayor of Louisville--

CRIMMINS: That is correct.

KLEBER: --old Loui--uh, Wetherby friend. Uh, what role do you think, uh, Leland Taylor had

CRIMMINS: Leland Taylor was--

KLEBER: --in all this?

CRIMMINS: --for Harry Lee Waterfield.


CRIMMINS: Yes, sir.

KLEBER: Now, explain that one to me.

CRIMMINS: I really couldn't answer why, but I do know that Bill Reams, who was the person who had got in touch with, uh, with Taylor to try to get me going as the local alcoholic beverage control administrator, that, uh, Bill told me that Leland Taylor was for, uh, uh, Harry Lee Waterfield. And I do know that some of the people that were holding city jobs, uh, worked for Harry Lee Waterfield in the primary down at the in the north, north end of the city, where we had what they called the North End Democratic Club. And they, uh, they worked for Harry Lee Waterfield in that primary. And, uh, again, uh, some of the people that 00:38:00were working for city und--city employees under Leland Taylor of course were working for Harry Lee Waterfield. So, I feel quite sure he was what Bill Ream had told me and from these other people working for Harry Lee Waterfield.

KLEBER: Do you have any idea what that must have done to the relationship between Taylor and Wetherby?

CRIMMINS: Uh, I really couldn't answer whether they had any problems along that line or not. I couldn't answer that. Uh, I would say this, that, uh, I don't recall of Mayor Taylor coming out in the open and say that he was for Harry Lee Waterfield, but I think that some of the employees that were working for him was suspect that he was for him.

KLEBER: But now, Taylor would have been for Lawrence Wetherby for lieutenant governor.

CRIMMINS: He if he wasn't, I never did know anything to, uh, uh, to the contrary on that.

KLEBER: He probably was not for Bill May or--

CRIMMINS: I don't--

KLEBER: --Charlie Gartrell

CRIMMINS: I don't think so. Yeah.

KLEBER: Um, well, I, I wanted to get that think of Leland Taylor cleared up. 00:39:00Of course, Wetherby has told me that he could have very well have served with Waterfield if he had won the primary in 1947.

CRIMMINS: Oh, I don't think there'd be a doubt about that. I don't think we had a--I think Lawrence gets along with people very well.

KLEBER: What do you th--what did the organization in Louisville do in 1947 to help Lawrence Wetherby win the primary race?

CRIMMINS: Well, back at that time, John, uh, we had our precinct meetings. Uh, we believed in the old-fashioned politics of knocking on doors, talking to people personally, and we had some very, very faithful Democratic precinct captains. And the fact is, uh, uh, they like Lawrence and we felt quite sure if they went out and showed him to the public and that was before you had all the television and everything you see where people would get on to make their pleas. Uh, and it had to be from the precinct level of talking to the voters themselves and get as many people out as you could. And the fact is, uh, not 00:40:00this particular year, but our same Democratic organization, when, uh, Ear--Bert Combs ran against, uh, uh, Harry Lee Waterfield, and "Happy" was going out, uh, it wasn't a matter of people didn't like Harry Lee Waterfield, but there was some of 'em in Jefferson County was a little mad at Governor Chandler because he said there was certain taxes wouldn't go on, and in his race against Bert Combs he--and Bert opened up his campaign at the old Shelbyville fairgrounds. And on that night he stated that the county--the state could not get along on the present income they had, there would have to be an increase in taxes. And many a person at the fairground that night stated that Bert had already lost his race for governor, which turned out to be true. But, uh, then the next time, four 00:41:00years later, when Harry Lee and--was running against, uh, Bert Combs, uh, we had a meeting at, uh, Bowling Green. We had the chairman of all the congressional districts, uh, down there. Earle Clements was there. Lawrence was there. And, uh, we, uh, were trying to figure out, uh, what kind of majority each of the legislative districts would come up with. And again, to show you what kind of an organization and the--we had true-blue precinct captains, they we recorded us at headquarters, we had regular meetings of each legislative district, and we took from them, not a professional poll, but a poll was made by the precinct captains what kind of majority they would see in the precinct. And on this particular meeting we was having at Bowling Green, the question was asked, like the first district, "What kind of majority will you all have?" and right on around the line. And it got to the third and the answer was, was that we would 00:42:00carry Jefferson County by thirty-thousand votes. We missed it by two hundred and fifty votes in that particular primary. And again, this actually came from the precinct level from the precinct workers.

KLEBER: Um-hm. In 1947 in the prec--in the primary election, uh, Lawrence Wetherby carried Jefferson County by twenty-three thousand votes. He only won by nineteen thousand state-wide and he said he carried, I think, maybe nineteen counties in all of Kentucky. So this shows, I think, the organization in Louisville was responsible for his--

CRIMMINS: That is, that is correct.

KLEBER: --his win in the primary.

CRIMMINS: And if you take and check the figures in the Bert Combs-Harry Lee Waterfield, you'll find out that Jefferson County people won that race for Bert Combs in here, too.

KLEBER: I wonder, you know in 1947, in the primary, it's, it's Earle Clements wants Lawrence Wetherby. He doesn't come out publicly and say, "I want Lawrence Wetherby," but he helped Lawrence Wetherby clandestinely.

CRIMMINS: That is correct.

KLEBER: Do you think Clements did that to get more support from the Louisville organization?


CRIMMINS: Well, uh, not only that, but I think that the whole thing was, it was Lawrence going into the race. We felt that Lawrence would run an ex--exceptionally good race in Jefferson County, and that would be very helpful to, uh, Earle Clements, as far as that goes. Uh, there was a fellow down in the, uh, western part of the state, uh, "Doc" Beauchamp. "Doc" Beauchamp was very active in that race both for Lawrence and, uh, uh, Earle Clements. And, uh, there was another fellow down there in, uh--later on, his first name was John and, oh, he was a huge fellow. Can't think of his name. He served in the United States Congress. I'd visit him. A many a breakfast in the famous London, Kentucky Hotel, we used to have breakfast there. While we'd have some eggs, he was eating steak for breakfast. I can't think of his last name right now.

KLEBER: Do you think the Louisville organization helped, uh, Clements beat Waterfield in 1947?

CRIMMINS: Definitely, definitely. Yes, sir.


KLEBER: Without it he would not have won, you think?

CRIMMINS: I, I feel quite--well, Earle, Earle had a better, better majority than Lawrence did, but still it was a close race. The fact is, in the primary, I may be wrong but I don't think that Earle got anything close to the majority that Lawrence did, in the primary. I'd, I'd have to look at the, the figures on that, I think that Lawrence had a bigger majority than Earle did in Jefferson County.

KLEBER: Uh, well, let's, let's go to the when the--in 1947, Clements and Wetherby win the primary. And so, uh, and I expect the organization must have worked very hard through their election against the Republicans, and it probably wasn't much of a race there.

CRIMMINS: No, sir, it wasn't. (coughs) But I'll tell you, the organization did work awful hard. We registered an awful lot of people of that year, between the primary and the general election. 'Cause see, you weren't actually, uh, uh, going from a Republican--[buzzer]--uh, governor, trying to get back to a 00:45:00Demo--to a Democratic after--you had Simeon Willis as the Republican governor back at that time.

KLEBER: That's right. Yeah. When, uh, Lawrence Wetherby became lieutenant governor and he moved from local to state politics, did his association with the Louisville organization change very much?

CRIMMINS: Uh, he wasn't able to be with us as much as he was before, but I recall very well while Earle was governor and Lawrence was lieutenant governor, uh, and, and Lawrence was still on the executive committee. Uh, Charlie Farnsley, as due to the death of, uh, Leland Taylor was elected by first by the Board of Aldermen, but then he had to work on his own later on. And, uh, Charlie wanted a particular fellow to be his candidate for police court judge down there, a fellow name of Hutchins, who was also a friend of Lawrence Wetherby's. And, uh, Charlie was very emphatic that he wanted the organization to support, uh, Judge Hutchins. Uh, we knew that there was a lot of bitterness 00:46:00in our ranks as far as Judge Hutchins was concerned and we tried to talk, uh, uh, Mayor Farnsley out of not taking this man as his candidate, because we was afraid he would be cut up in the primary and headquarters would be blamed for it.

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

CRIMMINS: A meeting was set up at the Seelbach Hotel, and dinner, at six o'clock. Adjournment was called following morning at two o'clock. Earle Clements and Lawrence Wetherby came down to try to get this thing worked out. They called over about three or four times and Charlie Farnsley got up and was getting ready to leave and Earle would tell him, "Well, I came down from Frankfort, you just sit there, we're gonna talk about this thing some more." Before the meeting adjourned it was agreed that, uh, we would call a meeting of our executive committee meeting, executive committee members along with all of 00:47:00our group people. At that time we had group people that may have anywhere from three to ten precincts under their jurisdi--jurisdiction. And if there was a precinct that didn't have a group person under, we had the precinct captain at that meeting, too. It was out at the old Tyler Building. Prior to opening the meeting up, we went back to the executive committee room and, uh, Charlie Farnsley told, uh, uh, Lawrence, he says, "Now, you go out there," he says, "you open the meeting up and tell 'em that you want Judge Hutchins as the, uh, candidate for ju--judge." He said, "Wait a minute, Charlie." Says, "You're the one who wants him for judge." Said, "run on your ticket. I'll open the meeting up, but I'm gonna turn it over to you and you make your appeal." Uh, which he did. But during the events of that aft--that evening, every person that took the floor spoke against Judge Hutchins. They would not be for him. And this was a thing we would had been trying to tell, uh, Mayor Farnsley, that he was 00:48:00not gonna be able to get that fellow nominated in the primary. So, after the meeting had adjourned, we went back to executive committee meeting again and Charlie was the first one to state that, uh, that we need another candidate for police court--(laughs)--judge. And we were trying to come up with some, uh, names, and Bob Burke, uh, had suggested that we that that there was this young fellow that was very fast coming a young attorney and that he thought perhaps he might make the race. His name was David, uh, uh, Gates. So, uh, that guy--and he called Dave and, uh, your requirements to be a candidate for police court judge is thirty-five years of age, and had served as, as attorney--been attorney for eight years. And, uh, when Bob called Dave, uh, Dave said, well, he was 00:49:00certainly, uh, well to know they was thinking of him, but this was something he'd have to talk with his wife and some of his friends before he would say yes. Uh, after Bob came back in and told us of his talk with Dave, and he said, uh, "I'm not for sure about his age. I'd better call him back." And Dave was thirty-four years of age. He hadn't reached the thirty-fifth year, but he was gonna be thirty-five before the general election, which made him eligible for them to make the race though.

KLEBER: Hmm. You know, you bring up an interesting point here about Farnsley and Wetherby.


KLEBER: I have the impression, only the impression, they didn't like one another too well. Wrong or right?

CRIMMINS: Well, Charlie served in the, uh, House of Representatives, uh, before that time and I don't know whether they any dealings at all at, at that time. Uh, I think that Lawrence was actually leaning towards Tom Graham, uh, in as far as the nominee when the board of aldermen elected him. There may have been some 00:50:00feeling of that. But again, on Tom Graham, after he was defeated by the board of aldermen, uh, Tom threw a big party, dinner party at the Kentucky Hotel shortly afterwards and had just a beautiful hor--setup of hors d'oeuvres or rather drinks and dinner, and and on that same night he told Charlie he would be his campaign finance chairman. Uh, again showed how people were working on things back at that time.

KLEBER: So you don't have the impression that there's particular animosity between Wetherby and, and Farnsley.

CRIMMINS: If, if there was, I never did know anything about it.

KLEBER: In 1951--

CRIMMINS: 'Course many a time, if, if you got a election come up like the, uh, hor--board of aldermen and a big winner and somebody's trying to get some people lined up, 'course there could be a little feeling on that. But if it was, I don't think it'd last too long.

KLEBER: Nineteen fifty-one, Lawrence Wetherby ran for governor in his own right against Eugene Siler--

CRIMMINS: That's right.

KLEBER: --a Republican. Uh, do you recall the role the organization played 00:51:00in helping Wetherby win that election?

CRIMMINS: I don't recall that majority Lawrence got down there, but, uh, uh, they worked awful hard for Lawrence, that's for sure. Worked very hard for him. Uh, we, uh, we held many, many a meeting. Fact is, an evening didn't go by that we'd have a meeting, you know, at headquarters or someplace out in the one of the districts.

KLEBER: Ob--obviously Lawrence Wetherby owed a great deal to the Louisville organization.

CRIMMINS: Uh, well, Lawrence was so much of part of the Louisville organization that they, they wouldn't feel that he owed him anything, as far as that goes. And--

KLEBER: Oh, Okay. The point I want to get to is that, uh, without the organization he would not have become lieutenant governor and governor I don't think.

CRIMMINS: Well, I, I would I would say that's true. Uh, but, uh, again, uh, we just never did think about it at that time, we just went out and worked like the devil for him, that's all.

KLEBER: Now, what was Lawrence Wetherby as lieutenant governor, and particularly as governor, able to do for the Louisville organization?


CRIMMINS: Uh, back that time, see, again you still didn't have a merit system and we still had the patronage, and, uh, the patronage meant an awful lot to the Democratic headquarters. 'Cause when you're able to take a person that's done something for the party and put them in a job, uh, you're strengthening the organization quite a bit. I recall at that during that time that, uh, our even our county police department was done on a merit system at that time. In the city you did have a civil service over there, but you didn't have it in the county. And, uh, Lawrence, uh, came into one of our meetings we had with our members serving in the house and the senate at that time and, uh, he, he made a talk in favor of the merit system. Of course, I made a talk against it due to the fact that I didn't want to have it ruin our patronage. Although it was the right thing and I, I had to agree with Lawrence. It was proper that they that they go on the merit system, because things were changing, the county was 00:53:00growing. Uh, we did have one thing that, uh, uh, which didn't develop right then, but for a long time the city of Louisville was picking up the tab on welfare down there. And, uh, it got to the point where we passed a million dollars worth on welfare that was being paid by the city, and, uh, it rightly belonged to the county under the fiscal court. But the fiscal court actually didn't have that kind of income on account of the low tax rate they had down there. And later on, uh, uh, Judge, uh, Bert Van Arsdale was the county judge and again who another fellow who was very, very close to Lawrence. Uh, fact, they didn't live not too far from one another. And, uh, Bert, uh, uh, was not in favor of a occupational tax for the county, but we were running into two 00:54:00things; not only did the county need more money, but we had some of the places inside of the city limits was moving into the county on account of not having an occupational tax out there. So we had a meeting at Judge Bert Van Arsdale's house one night. At that time, uh, oh, Bruce Hoblitzell was mayor. And, uh, they spent a considerable amount of time with Bruce and with, uh, Judge tried to talk the judge into going along on it. And he did not want to go along with it because he ran on low taxes, no increase of taxes. But, uh, he finally made up his mind that he was not gonna to be there any longer, it that was the last term he was gonna seek office. He had a good law practice and it was taking all of his time up by being county judge, so he finally agreed to go along with the occupation and property tax for the county. Uh, and Bert Combs was governor and 00:55:00Bert actually was very helpful to us in getting the occupational tax. But the funny thing was though, John, was the fact that, uh, that year Marlow Cook was serving in the house and, uh, Marlow spoke against the bill, he voted against the bill, and, uh, when it g--went over to the senate, we, we h--was having trouble in the senate. We would need to stand our votes together. We had Bert Van Arsdale and myself came up and talked to, uh, uh, Bert Combs against us some help on it, that we needed it badly. And, uh, he did. And we were finally able to pass it, but just by a few votes, though. And the funny thing was that after it was, it became law, then there was a suit filed and, uh, the court of appeals ruled it unconstitutional first time around. And then, uh, they went ahead and 00:56:00they asked for a rehearing on it, and the second time the court of approved it. Charlie Dobbins, again a very good friend of, uh, Lawrence Wetherby, was our county attorney at the time, and, uh, people were asking Charlie his advice while the suit was still pending, what they should do about the collection on the tax. Charlie told 'em to go ahead, but just put it in escrow; not to give it to the county, just put it in escrow. Well, Judge Van Arsdale never did get any of that money to spend on the county. Uh, after he decided not to take and run for re-election, Marlow Cook was elected county--(laughs)--judge and got to spend over two million dollars that fal--fell into his lap. (laughs)

KLEBER: (laughs) Strange things.

CRIMMINS: That's for sure. (laughs)

KLEBER: Yeah. I--you, you make a point that Lawrence Wetherby gave the patronage to you as governor.

CRIMMINS: That is correct. Yes.

KLEBER: So that--your organization must have benefitted in, in, in that and maybe other ways while Lawrence Wetherby was governor.

CRIMMINS: Uh, the patronage was the big thing, but ag--again having somebody 00:57:00from, uh, uh, Jefferson County as governor and bills affecting the city and county were beneficial to us, too, John, because, uh, Lawrence helped us with some of the bills affecting Jefferson County.

KLEBER: Did you all talk to him on the telephone--

CRIMMINS: Well, we--

KLEBER: --about it, for it?

CRIMMINS: --we no, we went to his office and talked to him. We didn't talk on--we came up. We would have regular caucus with our members of the General Assembly from Jefferson County. And back at that time, when there was any bill that the city or county was going to introduce, uh, we would have a meeting with our legislative body, our members of, of the General Assembly from Jefferson County and we the bill would be passed around, was whoever felt affirm yes and when you would take it and not only introduce, but you would try to follow it right on through there. And then we would have regular caucuses with our organization to see what the status of the bill was, where we stood, kept it--I recall Senator McCann, uh, Charlie McCann--I don't know whether you knew Charlie 00:58:00or not, John, but he was pretty much of a showman, especially St. Patrick's Day. Uh, but, uh, he had a pet bill on soap and--(Kleber laughs)--he never could do anything with it over in the senate, and they took a vote one day and they gave him the silent treatment. They never--nobody said anything about it--(laughs)--for or against it, just, just invoked period. So, we were having a meeting at the Kentucky Hotel on that following Saturday and, and I say that each one of the people had one bill or maybe several bills that they were supposed to take and keep a good close check on. And we would go around the table asking for a report. So, I came to Charlie McCann to get his report, he was still pouting. He went over and he had stretched out on the divan. The rest of us were eating lunch and talking about the bills, too. I said, "Charlie, uh--" Mr. Reed understood, "Charlie," says "Charlie," says, "can you 00:59:00give us a report on the bill you got?" But Charlie didn't answer him. So, Mr. Reed asked him about three times and Charlie said, "Yeah, I can give you a report on it. A pocket veto and I've got it right here." (both laugh) He got bent, and he went back when everybody soap bill see, so he pocket vetoed it. (both laugh) But--(laughs)--but Charlie was I had to take Charlie up when we were voting on that occupational tax bill. I called him and, uh, I told him we was gonna need every vote from Jefferson County we could get. And he, he was suffering with the flu at the time. And he told me the doctor was coming by the next morning and for me to give him a ring and, uh, he would get--see if he could get permission to go up to the place and come on back home. So, I called him back and said the doctor said, "It's okay if I go up if I go up to a warm car, get out of the car and go in and vote, and get in the warm car, and come back home." I said, "Well, Charlie, Charlie, I'll come by personally and pick you up," which I did. When he came out of the house, he had his flu mask on, 01:00:00and and he had a brown bag, and had a flu mask on and had a brown bag. And he got in the car, I said, "What you got there?" He said, "It's my medicine." Well, I left him out to the closest entrance, uh, I possible could, and that was on the side as you up towards the clock. And, uh, I had to find a place to park the car. Well, when I got to the--into the senate, uh, I looked down and Charlie still hadn't gotten to his desk. I said, "Lord, I hope he hasn't gotten sick on the way in." So finally he came in and he came on down the aisle, still had his flu mask on and his brown bag. Well, they had that at that time they had a roll-top on the desk and he rolled his top back on it and took every prescription he had and set it up on there. The little devil had made a real good talk that day. He said, "I got up out of a sick be--bed. This means so much to Jefferson County," he said, "I got out of sickbed and came up here to vote for it. I'm gonna leave just as soon as it's over and go back home and get back in bed." Made a real good appeal and we were able to get the thing passed 01:01:00all right.

KLEBER: The flu probably helped then.

CRIMMINS: That's for sure. That's--(laughs)--for sure.

KLEBER: You know, in, in studying Kentucky politics, uh, I am more and more convinced that one of the most important governors this state every had was Earle Clements.

CRIMMINS: I think Earle was, was a person who really got--I recall meeting with Earle one time and he was trying to get the better benefits for the Kentucky State Police. And he said that either one of two things had to happen; those ple--police had to be paid more and the working conditions had to be better, or they'd have to abolish the police department, he didn't want it the way it was.

KLEBER: Did He got reform, of course--

CRIMMINS: -----------(??)

KLEBER: --in that respect was--

CRIMMINS: Also, when Earle was the governor, he broke the Day Law as far blacks and white were concerned.


CRIMMINS: And, uh--

KLEBER: --that's true.

CRIMMINS: --that was two things that I remember that stood out. But I'll say one thing about Earle, if you sat down and went over something and Earle told 01:02:00you how it was gonna be, you could put it in your bag and go home, 'cause you never had to worry about it. It was that gonna be that way and that's the way it was.

KLEBER: Wetherby, too? Did he--

CRIMMINS: Same, same way with both of them. Same way with both of them. Never got a double-cross from either one of them.

KLEBER: You know, Earle Clements put together in this state a, a, a political organization, I guess I have to use that word.

CRIMMINS: That is correct.

KLEBER: And there are still remnants of it even, even in 1984. Uh, that organization that he put together, he kept his finger on it even when he was in Washington.

CRIMMINS: That is correct.

KLEBER: And some people have said that although Lawrence Wetherby might have governed the state from 1950 to'55, Earle Clements governed the party from 1950 to--

CRIMMINS: I think Earle--

KLEBER: --fifty-five.

CRIMMINS: --had a very big part in it. And I recall, uh, at headquarters I received a call from Dr. Marsh, uh, who was connected at that time with the Publicus (??) Chemical Corporation. Well, they took over the old plant that was operated by Carbide and Corman Chemicals Corporation during World War II that 01:03:00made the synthetic rubber, the basic substance of synthetics rubbers. And I did not know this, and at that time Earle was in the United State Senator was a United States Senator and Barkley was United States Senator. And this was after Barkley had been vice-president and we had run against John Sherman Cooper. And, uh, Dr. Marsh got in touch with me and asked me if there was any way possible that I could get the delegation of the Senators and the, uh, members of the house in Frankfort together, that they were throwing a cocktail party and dinner up there. Uh, I called Earle, uh, and in fact, I had been with Barkley right at Christmas time, I had him out to Fort Knox at Christmas time. But I called Earle and, uh, told him that the these people had a problem down here. That, uh, they had a contract with the Federal government and in order to ne--renegotiate the contract, they had to close their plant down for sixty days before they could start neg--renegotiation of the new contract. Well, to shut 01:04:00down a plant of that type, uh, John, uh, they use alcohol to make the basic substance of what they call butylenes--butylene. That it so happened, if you shut it down, that stuff will rubberize and it was like a, a still in a whisk--in at a distillery. And they had to sandblast all that rubber and everything. They had to do that every, every so often anyway. But if you closed down, everything rubberized. And they didn't want to go to all that cost. Uh, I called Earle and in turn, Henry Ward was his administrative assistant at the time, later one became a candidate for governor and was also the highway commissioner here. Also the fellow that started the state parks office. I would say within an hour's time, Henry called me back. They'd already set the date, the time, and had already contacted the members of the house and Senator Barkley. And, uh, I flew up with Dr. Marsh and we, we went 01:05:00in, we Before we--well, he had something to take care of in Washington when we got up there, and I went on over and to visit Earle, and then Senator Barkley heard I was there and he sent for me. And I recall very well about our conversation. (coughs) He, uh, told me he first that he wasn't gonna, was not gonna be able to attend the dinner and he wanted me to sort of bring him up to date on what the purpose of it was and so forth.

[Pause in recording.]

CRIMMINS: --had a contract like that, which was true. But at any rate, uh, at this Christmas party I had him out at Fort Know, he had a lot of many youngsters. And on one picture he had a youngster on each lap. Well, I was told by Fort Knox that they was gonna send those picture in to me, I could take 'em up to Washington. So happened, they never had, when I talked to the Senator I said, "Senator, I thought I was gonna have those pictures they made out there 01:06:00at the Christmas party for you." He said, "Well, Johnny," says, "don't worry, they sent 'em direct me. I, I got 'em." He said, "You remember when that one child was on one knee and another child on another knee at the same time?" I said, "Yes, sir, I remember very well." He said, "Well, I went home and, uh, showed it to Jane." Said, "She looked at one child, she went and looked at the other child," said, "then she looked at me. I don't know whether she was trying to suggest anything or not." (both laugh) And there was a case that, uh--


CRIMMINS: --a lot of people have a lot of different arrangement. They were both crazy about one another, John.


CRIMMINS: There was no two ways about that. We'd have a, a meeting with Senator Barkley, or Vice-President Barkley would be making a speech, and he wasn't a, a fellow that talked for fifteen minutes, he was always good for an hour or better.

KLEBER: Oh, yeah.

CRIMMINS: Everybody would just give him complete quietness. Just, uh--

KLEBER: You know, Barkley's an interesting man. Now, you bring that name up and, of course, Wetherby feels he owes a lot to Barkley. But we come to it's1956, Wetherby's left office. He has he's living in Louisville now, or 01:07:00close to Louisville. And he, he was prevailed upon in 1956 to run for the United States Senate,

CRIMMINS: That's right?

KLEBER: --for Barkley's old seat.


KLEBER: Did you and the organization in Louisville have anything to do with that decision?

CRIMMINS: Uh, I wouldn't say that we, we had anything to, to do with the decision, th--unless somebody else within the executive committee did, I didn't I, I really don't know about that. But we worked hard for him, and unfortunately we didn't get across to everybody there. But, uh, uh, he--but of course the other fellow he ran against became very well, was a very influ-- influential person and also was a, a fellow that, uh, had a pretty good name.

KLEBER: Cooper?

CRIMMINS: Cooper, yeah.


CRIMMINS: Cooper. That that was John Sherman Cooper. Then they went after, uh, uh, when--back in that race, get back to Barkley. Again when Barkley ran against Cooper, everybody would Cooper was saying to himself, you know, Barkley's too old to make the race. And at the end of the race, the fact is we 01:08:00met at the Kentucky Hotel, and they had, uh, some boys, uh, with the Secret Service was making the rounds with Barkley, young fellows. And I asked 'em, I said, "Are you all getting pretty well worn out?" Oh, no, "Is he is Barkley showing any signs of getting worn out?" He said, "No, he isn't, but we sure are," because he was an old campaigner from way back, uh, goes from county to county in buggies and everything. So, so wasn't nothing new for him to be all tired. They said he could fall asleep, sound asleep on that plane no time get back on the airplane.

KLEBER: Oh, yeah. He was an amazing man. Charlie Gartrell's told me some great stories about Barkley.

CRIMMINS: Charlie Charlie's a nice fellow. I, I ran into Charlie, hasn't been recently, but I guess within the last year.

KLEBER: He's a--

CRIMMINS: I think I saw him at, uh, John Young Brown's, uh, uh, Derby Day breakfast last, last year, if I'm not mistaken.

KLEBER: He was also at the Clements recognition. Uh, I don't know whether you were at the--


KLEBER: --that night.

CRIMMINS: I was down, down there. Uh, I was supposed to go to a fiftieth 01:09:00wedding anniversary that night and with a fellow I used to play baseball with, but I went down to the, the, uh, uh, Clements That was a real nice night down there, very nice night.

KLEBER: That Clements machine that he put together, and he did put one together, did your Louisville machine work with the Clements machine--

CRIMMINS: --very, very--

KLEBER: --alright--

CRIMMINS: --very much so. Uh-hm, very much so. And, uh, 'course Earle and I were we were on the opposite side in the John F. Kennedy, uh, Johnson race for president. I was a Kennedy man. Fact is, there were sixty-two of us that went to Los Angeles that year and out of sixty-two, uh, Kennedy only got seven of those half of votes from, from, from Kentucky out of sixty-two. Johnson got the greater majority, but there were other candidates who got some votes in that race, too. Fact is, uh, the fellow in Louisville that just passed away, Lyle 01:10:00Baker, had quite a write-up in yesterday's paper and again this morning. His wife was a, a delegate out there at Los Angeles and she voted for Kennedy. Uh, the Senator voted for Kennedy. Was a -----------(??) White House was with the C.I.O., that's before the A.F.of L.-C.I.O. combined. He was from northern Kentucky. Uh, Dick Moloney from over in Lexington was a, a state senator at the time. There was Baker, "Happy" Chandler. First time "Happy" and I was ever on the same side--(laughs)--was out there. Uh, myself. Uh, there was Lucille Ogburn, who was a clerk in the board of aldermen in Louisville. That was six. And I'm trying to think who the seventh was. We only had seven at that time to vote for him.

KLEBER: I'm, I'm, I'm gonna--we've got to end here 'cause I know the time's running out, but here's something about Lawrence Wetherby that's always confused me. And, uh, Governor Combs brought this up, too. He said, that Lawrence 01:11:00Wetherby is something of a paradox. That he was the product of machine politics out of Louisville, yet he was able to speak the language of rural Kentucky, and rural Kentucky seemed to go along with him. How do you explain that?

CRIMMINS: Well, Lawrence lived in Anchorage which was in the rural section to begin with. Lawrence was always a great lover of fishing and hunting and, uh, uh, I don't think that was anything excessive. (laughs) I think he was rural, rural man to begin with. Fact is, Lawrence was married to a Catholic and, uh, they didn't they wanted to downplay that as much as they could. And they also wanted to downplay the Louisville as much as they could.

KLEBER: Yes. He always said he was from Middletown.

CRIMMINS: That is--

KLEBER: Did that ever bother you that he did this?

CRIMMINS: No, sir. No, sir. Anything to win with, we didn't care. (laughs)

KLEBER: Pragmatic politics.

CRIMMINS: That's right. That--

KLEBER: Um, he--

CRIMMINS: --that that does go into the record as far as, uh, uh, later on, though, where he's from or anything, they, they was getting in there. (laughs)

KLEBER: He's about the only Louisville politician that's been able to do this 01:12:00statewide, isn't he?

CRIMMINS: Uh, governor, governor-wide, yes. Not a question Wilson Wyatt ran from Louisville.

KLEBER: Lieutenant governor.

CRIMMINS: --as lieutenant governor.


CRIMMINS: The fact is, he was, uh, going to run for governor against Bert that year, and that Earle Clements played a big hand in that--getting that switched around, speaking about Earle.

KLEBER: Yeah. Right.


KLEBER: Why is it so hard for Louisville politicians to win in the state?

CRIMMINS: There is a certain amount of feeling by the, from our--my feelings on the thing is that certain amount of people, from around the state just don't somebody from a big city. That's I think that's true right today.

KLEBER: --let me uh, yeah--

CRIMMINS: Although Sloane ran a very good race in the primary against, uh, uh, John Brown, and also Miss Martha Layne is running good.

KLEBER: You see it changing?

CRIMMINS: I, I, I would say it's breaking down some. Well, I, I know even during the General Assembly a long time ago, but, uh, some of our, our boys weren't too popular, some of the boys out in the state. We had a couple--fellow 01:13:00by the name of Douglas Miller, he seemed to be able to work with the boys out in the state real well. And a fellow by the name of John Farmer was in the house over there. John and Douglas got along very well. And even today of course, John and Doug Farmer's dead, but even today, I'll have some of the fellows that served -----------(??) or had served want to know how Doug's getting along.

KLEBER: Do you think Lawrence Wetherby helped to break down any of this prejudice--

CRIMMINS: Oh, I think I think--

KLEBER: --when he was governor?

CRIMMINS: I think definitely yes. Um-hm. Yeah. Again, Lawrence was just a fixture. He, he was hunting or fishing with a lot of the boys while he was over there as governor. Just go out from time to time. Uh, the thing about--

KLEBER: Pictures here?

CRIMMINS: No, this is uh--I've got some pictures of Lawrence and, and at, at home. I've got a book I've got about eight books like this here. But, this was--

KLEBER: This is--

CRIMMINS: --two young ladies when John Whelan the background of John Whelan.

KLEBER: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah, that's going way back, isn't it?

CRIMMINS: But this, this hasn't been, been too long since this has been written, but it goes back during John Whelan days of--


KLEBER: Was he an Irishman?

CRIMMINS: Oh, yes. He was apparently was.

KLEBER: The machine of Louisville seemed to be Irish, to a--

CRIMMINS: That that is--

KLEBER: --certain extent.

CRIMMINS: --that is correct, uh-huh.

KLEBER: There's some work being done now on the on the Republican machine in Louisville, uh, back in a much earlier date than this, in the--

CRIMMINS: He probably go--

KLEBER: --nineteenth century.

CRIMMINS: You're probably talking about Roscoe Circe or someone like that?

KLEBER: Yes. Um-hm.

CRIMMINS: Uh-huh. Yeah. Um-hm. Roscoe was, uh, highly thought of.

KLEBER: Do you know--did the--let me ask you this, the Irish seem to be at the basis of this Louisville machine. What about the Germans? Do they ever play any role down there when you I mean, in your--

CRIMMINS: Oh, the--

KLEBER: --own city?

CRIMMINS: --German neighborhood was very, very strong, not, not as an individual, but the neighborhood was very strong Democratic.

KLEBER: A strong Democrat.

CRIMMINS: Oh, yeah.

KLEBER: Now, this

CRIMMINS: Old Schnitzelburg, that's still, still Democratic-- Let me

KLEBER: You mean--

CRIMMINS: --show you this, this, this next page here. There's some pretty few things down at the bottom.

KLEBER: This was--

[Pause in recording.]

KLEBER: I wonder if you could tell to close, Mr. Crimmins, what contributions and what influence, uh, Wetherby had on Kentucky politics.

CRIMMINS: I, I think that Lawrence had a great influence on, uh, politics in 01:15:00Kentucky. Again, uh, he was a fellow that, uh, while serving as governor he always told the truth, uh, he was working hard for the tax-payers. Uh, he gave his time in if he was at that office a lot more than some other governors I know of during their time. Uh, again, even back with Governor, uh, Clements, he was a man with his office. There was no, uh, here today and someplace tomorrow, they were they were actually tending, tending shop each day over there. And I think that had a big influence. Uh again, by telling the people the truth, trying to do what they could for 'em as far as their communities were concerned. Uh, they showed their self as concerned persons, and I think that had an awful lot to do as far as Kentucky politics is concerned.


KLEBER: Thank you, Mr. Crimmins.

CRIMMINS: Yes, sir.

[End of interview.]