Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with John Sherman Cooper, December 8, 1984

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:00:04 - Medicare

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Partial Transcript: The following is an unrehearsed interview, the nineteenth in a series, with former Senator and Ambassador John Sherman Cooper.

Segment Synopsis: Cooper discusses his position on Medicare, focusing on why he decided to vote for it in 1964.

Keywords: Clifford Case; Country doctors; County judges; Doctors; Great Depression; Healthcare; Jacob Javits; Kenneth Keating; Legislation; Margaret Chase Smith; Medical profession; Senate; Senators; Thomas Kuchel; Votes

Subjects: Depressions--1929; Health; Kentuckians; Kentucky; Kentucky Medical Association; Medicare; National Medical Association (U.S.); Politicians; Poverty; Pulaski County (Ky.); Sickness; Washington (D.C.)

00:04:13 - Kennedy Medicare bill

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Partial Transcript: There--there was a Kennedy bill.

Segment Synopsis: Cooper recalls his position on the Kennedy Medicare bill of 1962.

Keywords: Assassinations; Circuit judges; Committees; Congressional records; Constituents; Country doctors; County judges; Doctor's offices; Farms; Financing; Great Depression; Healthcare; Jacob Javits; John F. Kennedy; Medical profession; Political appointments; Senate; Senators

Subjects: Depressions--1929; Kennedy, John Fitzgerald, 1917-1963; Kentucky Medical Association; Medicare; Patients; Politicians; Poverty; Pulaski County (Ky.); Sickness; Social security; Washington (D.C.)

00:07:43 - Lyndon Johnson as president vs. Johnson as a Senator

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Partial Transcript: The Medicare bill that--that finally passed in--in--uh--I believe in 1965. . .

Segment Synopsis: Cooper compares Lyndon Johnson and his actions in the Senate to those of his presidency.

Keywords: Anderson-King bill; Congress; Democrats; Federal aid to education; Lyndon Johnson; Presidents; Republicans; Senate; Senators; Social legislation; Truman Library; William Knowland

Subjects: Johnson, Lyndon B. (Lyndon Baines), 1908-1973; Missouri; Politicians; Texas; Washington (D.C.)

00:12:04 - First term in Senate / Medicare now

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Partial Transcript: --Uh--when President Truman was trying to get a National Health Insurance bill . . .

Segment Synopsis: Cooper reflects upon his first term in Senate, focusing on his stance on the National Health Insurance bill proposed by the Truman administration. Cooper considers the viability of Medicare in the 1980s.

Keywords: Aid to Education bill; Bills; Co-sponsors; Congress; Congressional records; Harry Truman; Healthcare; National Health Insurance bill; Republicans; Robert Taft; Senate; Senators

Subjects: Federal government; Hospitals; Medicare; Partisanship; Politicians; Pulaski County (Ky.); Social Security; Washington (D.C.)

00:16:01 - Tobacco legislation

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Partial Transcript: And in that talk you suggested--that tobacco companies should voluntarily begin labeling cigarette packages with a health hazard warning.

Segment Synopsis: Cooper describes some of the legislation he supported that helped the tobacco industry in Kentucky.

Keywords: Acreage; Alben Barkley; Committees; Congress; Debates; Democrats; Franklin D. Roosevelt; George Aiken; Harry Truman; Health hazard warnings; House of Representatives; Investigation; Legislation; Poundage quota; Price supports; Republicans; Senate; Senate Agricultural Committee; Senate Majority Leader; Senate floor; Senators; Surplus; Testimony; The South; Tobacco companies; Votes

Subjects: Federal government; Health; Kentuckians; Kentucky; Law; Lexington (Ky.); Loans; Maryland; North Carolina; Politicians; Pulaski County (Ky.); South Carolina; Speeches; Tennessee; Tobacco; Tobacco farmers; Virginia; Washington (D.C.)

00:23:41 - Views on tobacco

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Partial Transcript: Well what about . . . what about when--when the warnings actually did become mandatory, then?

Segment Synopsis: Cooper shares his views on tobacco in terms of the conflict of interest between the adverse health effects of tobacco and the economic dependency that many Kentucky farmers have on the crop.

Keywords: Congress; Constituents; Credit; Dangers; Federal Trade Commission (U.S.); Medical reports; Moonshine; Poundage; Price supports; Private commissions; Senate; Senators; Tobacco companies; Tobacco industry

Subjects: Authority; Economics; Federal government; Health; Kentuckians; Kentucky; Loans; Marijuana; Politicians; Smoking; Tobacco; Tobacco farmers; Warning labels; Washington (D.C.); Whiskey

00:29:11 - Kentucky constitutional revision

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Partial Transcript: Do you remember anything about the--uh--Kentucky Constitutional Revision--uh--Commission back in
'64. . .

Segment Synopsis: Cooper provides his opinion on the failed Kentucky constitutional revision in 1964. Cooper explains why he was against changing the Kentucky constitution, citing federal precedent in terms of methods of obtaining constitutional amendments.

Keywords: Act of Congress; Amendments; Attorneys; Bricker Amendment; Constitutional Revision Commission; Constitutional conventions; Debates; Decisions; John Bricker; Ned Breathitt; Political appointments; Provisions; Senate; Senators; U.S. Constitution

Subjects: Kentuckians; Kentucky; Kentucky. Constitution (1891); Louisville (Ky.); Ohio; Politicians

00:34:33 - Civil rights background

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Partial Transcript: Now I wanna talk a little bit about the--the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Segment Synopsis: Cooper discusses experiences in his background that led to his support for civil rights legislation in the Senate.

Keywords: 28th judicial district (Ky.); Abraham Lincoln; Black leaders; Circuit judges; Civil Rights Act of 1964; Commonwealth Attorney; County judges; Courts; Fair Employment Practices Committee; Freed slaves; House of Representatives; Jim Eastland; John F. Kennedy; Jury commissioners; Petit jury; Political appointments; Provisions; Public accommodations; Qualified voters; Republican county; Senate; Senate Committee on the District of Columbia; Senate Judiciary Committee; Senators

Subjects: African Americans; African Americans--Segregation; African Americans--Social conditions.; Black people; Civil rights; Civil rights movement; Clinton County (Ky.); Death; Discrimination; Grand jury; Kentucky; Laws; Politicians; Pulaski County (Ky.); Race discrimination.; Rockcastle County (Ky.); Slaves; Trials; United States--Race relations.; United States. Department of Justice; Washington (D.C.); Wayne County (Ky.)

00:40:32 - Views on civil rights / Howard University commencement speech

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Partial Transcript: . . . when this came--came up. . .

Segment Synopsis: Cooper offers his position on voting rights legislation in terms of educational requirements. Cooper recalls a commencement speech he gave at Howard University in the 1960s.

Keywords: Amendments; Bills; Birmingham campaign; Commencement speech; Jacob Javits; Presidents; Qualifications; Senate; Senate floor; Senators; Votes; Voting rights

Subjects: African Americans; African Americans--Segregation; African Americans--Social conditions.; Birmingham (Ala.); Black people; Civil rights; Civil rights movement; Discrimination; Education; Howard University; New York times; Politicians; Race discrimination.; South Dakota; United States--Race relations.; Washington (D.C.)

00:44:41 - Key people in Civil Rights Act of 1964

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Partial Transcript: W--who were some of the people in the Senate--uh--who were--who were most instrumental, both in opposing the bill and--and in--in getting it through finally.

Segment Synopsis: Cooper lists some of the key people in the debates over the Civil Rights Act of 1964, including Senators who were supportive of the bill and those who opposed the bill.

Keywords: Abraham Lincoln; Birmingham campaign; Civil Rights Act of 1964; Debates; Democrats; Filibusters; James Meredith; Jim Eastland; Kenneth Keating; Lyndon Johnson; Parliamentary rules; Principles; Records; Richard Russell; Senate; Senate Judiciary Committee; Senators; Southern Senators

Subjects: African Americans; Black people; Civil rights; Civil rights movement; Emancipation Proclamation; Georgia; Mississippi; New York; Politicians; Speeches; University of Mississippi; Washington (D.C.)

00:48:31 - Warren Commission

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Partial Transcript: We were appointed--Senator Russell and I were two of those that served on the so-called Warren Commission . . .

Segment Synopsis: Cooper talks of his service on the Warren Commission, focusing on fellow member Richard Russell.

Keywords: Airplane accidents; Allen Dulles; Assassinations; Central Intelligence Agency (CIA); Conflict of interest; Earl Warren; Gerald Ford; Hale Boggs; House of Representatives; John F. Kennedy; John J. McCloy; Lawyers; Lyndon Johnson; Political appointments; Presidents; Richard Russell; Senate; Senators; Supreme Court; Warren Commission; World War II

Subjects: Alaska; Louisiana; New York (N.Y.); Politicians; Somerset (Ky.); Washington (D.C.); World War, 1939-1945

00:51:25 - Lyndon Johnson and civil rights / Experiences with Johnson

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Partial Transcript: Well, Johnson obviously had a--had a lot do to with--with the passage of--of the Civil Rights bill.

Segment Synopsis: Cooper evaluates President Johnson's views on civil rights. Cooper also shares some interesting stories of Johnson in the Senate.

Keywords: Amendments; Bills; Civil Rights Act of 1964; Committees; Democratic Party; Democrats; Dwight Eisenhower; Leaders; Lyndon Johnson; Presidents; Republicans; Senate; Senate floor; Senators; Veterans' benefits

Subjects: Administration; African Americans; African Americans--Segregation; African Americans--Social conditions.; Black people; Civil rights; Civil rights movement; Health; Politicians; Poverty; Race discrimination.; Speeches; United States--Race relations.; Veterans; Washington (D.C.)

00:56:54 - Everett Dirksen and the Civil Rights Act of 1964

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Partial Transcript: In--in connection with the s--the 1964 Civil Rights bill, what about the role of Dirksen?

Segment Synopsis: Cooper details Senate Minority Leader Everett Dirksen's role in passing the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Keywords: Accommodation; Beliefs; Bills; Civil Rights Act of 1964; Debates; Everett Dirksen; Filibuster; House of Representatives; Republicans; Senate; Senate Majority Leader; Senate Minority Leader; Senators; Votes

Subjects: African Americans; African Americans--Segregation; African Americans--Social conditions.; Black people; Civil rights; Civil rights movement; Cloture; Politicians; Race discrimination.; Reputation; United States--Race relations.; Washington (D.C.)

00:59:36 - Role in the Civil Rights Act of 1964

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Partial Transcript: Now you had a--you had a specific job, did you not, in connection with this Civil Rights bill?

Segment Synopsis: Cooper articulates his role in helping to get the Civil Rights Act of 1964 passed. Cooper provides his opinion on the value and impact of the bill.

Keywords: Amendments; Civil Rights Act of 1964; Congress; Desegregation; Equal opportunity; Equal rights; Jury trials; Paul Douglas; Senate; Senators; Sons; Title IV; U.S. Attorney General

Subjects: African Americans; African Americans--Segregation; African Americans--Social conditions.; Americans; Black people; Civil rights; Civil rights movement; Civil war; Covington & Burling; Equality; Illinois; Politicians; Race discrimination.; Schools; United States; United States--Race relations.; Washington (D.C.)

01:03:19 - Constituents and civil rights

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Partial Transcript: Um--hmm. What--what did you hear from your Kentucky constituents about the Civil Rights bill?

Segment Synopsis: Cooper recalls the overall reaction of constituents to his support of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Cooper also talks of civil rights measures at the state level in Kentucky in the 1960s.

Keywords: Bert Combs; Civil Rights Act of 1964; Constituents; Executive orders; Laws; Legislation; Ned Breathitt; Presidents; Public accommodations; Senate; Senators

Subjects: African Americans; African Americans--Segregation; African Americans--Social conditions.; Black people; Civil rights; Civil rights movement; Kentuckians; Kentucky; Kentucky. General Assembly; Politicians; Race discrimination.; Speeches; United States--Race relations.; Washington (D.C.)

01:07:23 - 1964 Republican National Convention

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Partial Transcript: Senator Cooper in 1964, the--uh--the Republican state convention met in Louisville in April.

Segment Synopsis: Cooper illustrates his experiences and involvement in the 1964 Republican National Convention.

Keywords: 1964 Republican National Convention; Alternate delegates; Barry Goldwater; Brothers; California delegation; Christian Herter; Delegates; Dwight Eisenhower; Elections; Governors; Jay Rockefeller; John D. Rockefeller; Kentucky delegates; Nelson Rockefeller; Political candidates; Political nominations; Presidents; Replacements; Republicans; Secretary of state; Senate; Senators; Thruston Morton; Vice presidents; Votes; William Knowland; William Scranton

Subjects: Black people; Kentuckians; Kentucky; Louisville (Ky.); Massachusetts; New York; New York (N.Y.); Politicians; Pulaski County (Ky.); Republican National Committee (U.S.); San Francisco (Calif.); Speeches; Washington (D.C.); Wayne County (Ky.); West Virginia

01:16:49 - Barry Goldwater presidential campaign

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Partial Transcript: But I--shall I tell you a little about the campaign that fall?

Segment Synopsis: Cooper recalls the campaigning he did on behalf of Barry Goldwater during the 1964 presidential election.

Keywords: 1964 presidential election; Barry Goldwater; Court of Appeals; Elections; Historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs); House of Representatives; Judgeships; Nelson Rockefeller; Political campaigns; Political candidates; Political nominations; Republicans; Senate; Senators

Subjects: Corbin (Ky.); Illinois; Kentuckians; Kentucky; Louisville (Ky.); New York; Ohio; Politicians; Speeches; United States; Washington (D.C.)

01:20:23 - Memories of the 1964 Republican National Convention / Mark Hatfield

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Partial Transcript: . . . Now at that '64 convention, Morton was the--the--the permanent chairman.

Segment Synopsis: Cooper shares his memories from the 1964 Republican National Convention, in which he was a member of the Kentucky delegation. Cooper also talks of his acquaintance with Senator Mark Hatfield.

Keywords: 1964 Republican National Convention; Barry Goldwater; California delegation; Conventions; Dangers; Delegates; Friends; Governors; Keynote addresses; Mark Hatfield; Representatives; Senate; Senate floor; Senators

Subjects: California; John Birch Society; Kentuckians; Oregon; Politicians; San Francisco (Calif.); Stanford (Ky.); University of Oregon; Washington (D.C.)

01:24:37 - Bobby Baker investigation

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Partial Transcript: Now about October I guess it was of 1963 Bobby Baker--uh--resigned. . .

Segment Synopsis: Cooper discusses his perspective on the Bobby Baker investigation, mainly that the investigation became too political.

Keywords: A.S. Mike Monroney; Bobby Baker; Bobby Baker investigation; Carl Curtis; Chairman; Conduct; Debates; Democrats; Elections; Equal representation; Investigations; James B. Pearson; John C. Stennis; John J. Williams; Lyndon Johnson; Political appointments; Politics; Prejudices; Presidents; Republicans; Salary; Secretary to Majority Leader; Senate; Senate Committee on Rules and Administration; Senate Ethics Committee; Senate floor; Senators; White House

Subjects: Business; Careers; Character; Hearings; Integrity; Nebraska; Newspapers; Oklahoma; Partisanship; Politicians; Responsibility; Retirement; Rumors; Washington (D.C.); Witnesses

01:37:28 - Reopening of Bobby Baker investigation

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Partial Transcript: Now actually the--the--the Baker probe was reopened.

Segment Synopsis: Cooper explains why he believes that the second Bobby Baker investigation was better than the first one.

Keywords: Allegations; Bobby Baker; Bobby Baker investigation; Campaign tactics; Carl Curtis; Contractors; Contracts; Democratic Campaign Committee; Democrats; Employees; Insurance; John J. Williams; Lyndon Johnson; Political contributions; Public office; RFK Stadium (Washington, D.C.); Republicans; Senate; Senators; Votes; Witnesses; Wrongdoing

Subjects: Hearings; ITT Corporation; Ireland; Morocco; Philadelphia (Pa.); Politicians; Testimony; Travel; United States; Washington (D.C.)

01:44:45 - Bobby Baker investigation report / Baker's book

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Partial Transcript: When the Rules Committee finally finished their work and--and issued a report, this was about June of--of 1965.

Segment Synopsis: Cooper considers the results of the Bobby Baker investigation report. Cooper also discusses a book that Bobby Baker wrote on the investigation.

Keywords: Bobby Baker; Bobby Baker investigation; Books; Circuit judges; Committees; County judges; Lawyers; Press conferences; Protests; Senate; Senate Committee on Rules and Administration; Senate floor; Senators; Wheeling and Dealing: Confessions of a Capitol Hill Operator (book)

Subjects: Europe; Jurisdiction; Politicians; Travel; Washington (D.C.); Writing

01:48:05 - Senate Ethics Committee

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Partial Transcript: . . .The new committee, the Ethics Committee.

Segment Synopsis: Cooper discusses the establishment of the Senate Ethics Committee following the Bobby Baker investigation.

Keywords: A.S. Mike Monroney; Bills; Democrats; Equal representation; Everett Dirksen; Gene McCarthy; Hubert Humphrey; Inquiries; James B. Pearson; John C. Stennis; Mike Mansfield; Nominations; Party leaders; Political appointments; Republicans; Senate; Senate Ethics Committee; Senators; Special committees; Vice presidents; Wallace F. Bennett

Subjects: Kentucky; Minnesota; Mississippi; Oklahoma; Politicians; Utah; Washington (D.C.)

01:50:58 - Impact of Baker investigation on Senate / Reasons for new Ethics Committee

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Partial Transcript: Did the Senate lose some respect as--as a result of the way the Baker investigation was handled?

Segment Synopsis: Cooper assesses the impact of the Bobby Baker investigation on the Senate. Cooper lists reasons for the creation of a Senate Ethics Committee.

Keywords: Accomplishments; Beliefs; Democrats; Equality; Fairness; Investigation; Opportunities; Partisanship; Politics; Republicans; Senate; Senate Ethics Committee; Senators

Subjects: Hearings; Politicians; Protection; Washington (D.C.)

01:53:16 - Food stamp expansion amendment

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Partial Transcript: In July of 1964 the--the Senate passed a bill which expanded--uh--the food stamp program.

Segment Synopsis: Cooper articulates reasons why he supported an amendment to a food stamp expansion in 1964 that required able-bodied food stamp recipients to participate in public works projects.

Keywords: Amendments; Bills; County judges; Employment; Food distribution; Franklin D. Roosevelt; George Aiken; Great Depression; Provisions; Public works projects; Republicans; Salary; Senate; Senators; Surplus food; Works Progress Administration (WPA)

Subjects: Cost; Depressions--1929; Federal government; Food; Food stamps; Money; Politicians; Public works; Pulaski County (Ky.); Roads; Schools; Unemployment; Vermont; Washington (D.C.); Work

01:56:39 - Views on the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution

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Partial Transcript: On August the second 1964, North Vietnamese torpedo boats allegedly attacked a U.S. destroyer in the Gulf of Tonkin.

Segment Synopsis: Cooper expresses his views on the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, mainly that he made the best decision on the Senate vote based upon what information was available at the time.

Keywords: Attacks; Beliefs; Chairman; Commanders; Congress; Congressional records; Debates; General Westmoreland; Gulf of Tonkin Resolution; Lies; Lyndon Johnson; Military intelligence; Naval hospitals; North Vietnam; Protests; Retrospection; Secretary of defense; Senate; Senate Foreign Relations Committee; Senate floor; Senators; Tensions; Troops; U.S. Constitution; USS Maddox (Destroyer); USS Turner Joy (Destroyer); Votes; William Fulbright

Subjects: Authority; Hindsight bias (Psychology); New York (N.Y.); Politicians; Power; Protection; Regret; Torpedoes; Trials; United States; Vietnam; Vietnam War, 1961-1975; War

02:05:41 - Alternative theories on the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution / Stanley Karnow book

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Partial Transcript: What about the story which doesn't necessarily deny that the ships were fired upon . . .

Segment Synopsis: Cooper considers alternative theories on the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution. Cooper also addresses a comment about himself from a Stanley Karnow book on the Vietnam War.

Keywords: 12 mile limit; Attacks; Conviction; George McGovern; Gulf of Tonkin Resolution; Lyndon Johnson; Military officers; Naval officers; Prevention; Senate; Senators; Spy ships; Stanley Karnow; Violations; Votes; Warnings; William Fulbright

Subjects: Books; Politicians; Power; Total war; Truth; United States; Vietnam; Vietnam War, 1961-1975; Views; War

02:08:33 - Opinions on the Vietnam War

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Partial Transcript: That's what gets me about this stuff about Vietnam then.

Segment Synopsis: Cooper provides his overall opinion on the Vietnam War.

Keywords: "Draft dodgers"; Congressional appropriations; Congressional records; Frank Church; French colony; George McGovern; Prevention; Protestors; Protests; Richard Nixon; Senate; Senate floor; Senators; Stanley Karnow; U.S. Army; U.S. Constitution; William Fulbright; World War II

Subjects: Canada; France; Money; Politicians; Poverty; Total war; United States; Vietnam; Vietnam War, 1961-1975; War; World War, 1939-1945

02:11:02 - Precedent for Gulf of Tonkin Resolution

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Partial Transcript: Was there any . . . any--uh--precedent--uh--for the . . . in American history . . . for this kind of . . . .of thing . . .

Segment Synopsis: Cooper discusses some of the precedent in American history of events similar to the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution.

Keywords: American ships; Attacks; Barbary Coast; Gulf of Tonkin Resolution; North Africa; Orders; Republic; Senate; Senators; The Marines’ Hymn; Thomas Jefferson; Troops; U.S. Constitution; U.S. Navy

Subjects: Marines; Pirates; Politicians; Power; Protection; San Francisco (Calif.); United States; Vietnam; Vietnam War, 1961-1975

02:12:53 - Role in Southern strategy

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Partial Transcript: In talking to Senator Baker recently . . . he felt your greatest contribution--uh--was the rebuilding of a strong Republican Party in the South.

Segment Synopsis: Cooper explains why he feels that he did not play a major role in the Republican Party Southern strategy to reestablish the party in the American South beginning in the 1960s.

Keywords: Alben Barkley; Democrats; Elections; Fathers; Foreign policy; Fred Sackett; George McGovern; Governors; Henry Clay; Howard Baker; John Tower; Mothers; Politics; Popular vote; Re-election; Republican Party; Republicans; Retirees; Richard Ernst; Richard Nixon; Robert Taft; Ronald Reagan; Senate; Senators; Southern strategy; State conventions; Strom Thurmond; The South; Western Kentucky; William J. Deboe; William O. Bradley

Subjects: Alabama; Birmingham (Ala.); Chattanooga (Tenn.); Civil war; Death; Florida; Fortune; Kentuckians; Kentucky; Kentucky. General Assembly; Lancaster (Ky.); New York (N.Y.); North Carolina; Orlando (Fla.); Politicians; Presidents; South Carolina; Speeches; Tennessee; Texas; Washington (D.C.)

02:18:23 - Friendship with Howard Baker

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Partial Transcript: . . . Never, you never did a lot of--uh--of campaigning for Republican candidates for the House or Senate . . .

Segment Synopsis: Cooper describes his friendship with Senator Howard Baker of Tennessee.

Keywords: Eastern Kentucky; Fathers; Favors; Grandfathers; Howard Baker; Howard Baker Sr.; Independent; Political candidates; Republicans; Senate; Senators; Southern Republican Senators; Television stations

Subjects: Civil war; Huntsville (Tenn.); Knoxville (Tenn.); Marriage; Politicians; Somerset (Ky.); Tradition; Voting

02:21:39 - Thruston Morton and the Southern strategy / Democrats and the Southern strategy

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Partial Transcript: Now, Senator Morton did have a lot of influence in the party.

Segment Synopsis: Cooper articulates Thruston Morton's role in the Southern strategy of the Republican Party. The influence of the Democratic Party and their support for civil rights in the 1960s on the Southern strategy is also mentioned.

Keywords: Civil Rights Act of 1964; Democrats; Dwight Eisenhower; Elections; Howard Baker; Influence; Liberal; Lyndon Johnson; Republicans; Retirement; Richard Russell; Senate; Senators; Southern strategy; Southerners; The South; Votes; Voting records

Subjects: African Americans--Segregation; African Americans--Social conditions.; Civil rights; Kentuckians; Kentucky; Morton, Thruston Ballard, 1907-1982; Politicians; Race discrimination.; Republican National Committee (U.S.); Reputation; United States--Race relations.; United States. Department of State