Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Harry M. Caudill, April 1, 1981

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:00:11 - Chandler winning the 1935 Kentucky gubernatorial election in a runoff

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Partial Transcript: This is Professor Charles P. Roland of the University of Kentucky History Department.

Segment Synopsis: Caudill's earliest memories of Chandler stem from his experience with him in his 1935 campaign for governor. Caudill's father was a campaign manager for the opposing party. Caudill says that Chandler lost Letcher County due to his lack of appeal to the coal miners that made up the majority of the population in the region.

Keywords: 1935; Brilliance; Campaign managers; Coal collapse; Coal companies; Coal country; Coal mining; Coal towns; Economic collapse; Elections; Government policies; Government policy; Governors; Letcher County (Ky.); Masterful; Oppositions; Organization Democrats; Political parties; Poverty; Railroads; Run-offs; Rural; Satellite towns; Sentimentality; Speakers; Thomas S. Rhea; Unbeatable candidates

Subjects: Appalachians (People)--Kentucky--Social conditions; Chandler, Happy, 1898-1991; Coal mines and mining--Government policy; Coal mines and mining--Kentucky--Letcher County; Democratic Party (Ky.); Election districts; Governors--Election; Governors--Kentucky; Letcher County (Ky.); Political campaigns--Kentucky; Poverty--Appalachian Region; Rhea, Thomas Stockdale, 1871-1946

GPS: Letcher County (Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 37.1254, -82.8641
00:07:04 - Chandler losing the 1938 Senatorial election

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Partial Transcript: Well, I could see it would be.

Segment Synopsis: Caudill remembers the Senatorial race of 1938 between Chandler and Barkley more vividly than he does the 1935 gubernatorial race. He describes the candidates and their differences, and he makes it clear that it was an impressive and challenging election.

Keywords: 1938; Alben Barkley; Bankers; Black & white; Black and white; Bonds; Budgets; Campaign; Campaign managers; Challengers; Coal booms; Comedic; Dear Alben; FDR; Firing; Franklin Delano Roosevelt; Highway beautification; Hiring; Humorous; Internal Revenue Service (IRS); Louisville (Ky.); Louisville Courier-Journal; Louisville Times; National economy; New Deal; Old-time orators; Organization for Alben Barkley; Patronage; Pro-Chandler; Republicans; Revivals; Senatorial races; Shortcomings; Speakers; Straw bosses; Styles; Votes; WW2; WWII; Weed cutters; Welfare programs; Works Progress Administration (WPA); World War 2; World War II

Subjects: Barkley, Alben William, 1877-1956; Chandler, Happy, 1898-1991; Coal mines and mining--Government policy; Kentucky--Elections; United States. Congress--Elections; United States. Congress. Senate.

00:18:49 - Controversy surrounding the executive bathroom in the Governor's Mansion

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Partial Transcript: Uh, Mr. Barkley found some shortcomings in Happy. Uh, I remember, uh, you, you've mentioned to me the story that he told about the, uh, about the toilet seat.

Segment Synopsis: Caudill tells an anecdote about Barkley criticizing Chandler for spending money that could have gone toward Kentucky schools on a new indoor bathroom--including a toilet--in the Governor's Mansion.

Keywords: Criticisms; Executive Bathroom; Frankfort (Ky.); Frivolities; Governor's Mansion; Governors; Imported goods; Indian Ocean; Indoor bathrooms; Kentucky; Mahogany; Outhouses; Storage closets; Toilet seats; Toilets; Wasters

Subjects: Bathrooms.; Controversy; Frankfort (Ky.)--Social life and customs; Governors--Kentucky; Humiliation.; Kentucky--Administrative and political divisions; Kentucky. Governor (1935-1939 : Chandler); Kentucky. Office of the Governor; Political campaigns--Kentucky

00:23:55 - Opposition to Chandler ending up in the Senate

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Partial Transcript: Well this, uh, this combination of federal patronage and, uh, oratory, and maybe many other things, won the--won that race for Barkley, of course...

Segment Synopsis: Caudill explains why significant political figures were against Chandler eventually becoming part of the Senate, citing Chandler's stance on hard money.

Keywords: Alben Barkley; Catastrophes; Death; FDR; Franklin Delano Roosevelt; Gold Democrats; Hard money issues; M. M. Logan; Marvel Mills Logan; Party splits; Silver Democrats; United States Senate; Washington (D.C.); Washington, D.C.

Subjects: Barkley, Alben William, 1877-1956; Chandler, Happy, 1898-1991; Democratic Party (Ky.); Patronage, Political.; United States. Congress. Senate.; Washington (D.C.)

00:26:41 - Chandler's political enemies and losing Letcher County

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Partial Transcript: Well, I--of course, uh, Chandler did, uh, get to the Senate and, uh, and then was, was reelected to a full term in, in '42 when John Y. Brown, Sr. ran against him.

Segment Synopsis: Caudill speaks of Chandler's political rivals and the extents to which they would go in order to see to it that Chandler was not reelected.

Keywords: Appalachia; Campaign managers; Campaigns; Chairman of school board; County judges; Cultural impacts; Denouncements; Dr. B. F. Wright; Earl Clements; Eloquence; Firing; Gutter conversations; Humorless; Inconsistencies; John L. Lewis; John Y. Brown, Sr.; Kentucky traditions; Killings; King Johnson; Letcher County (Ky.); Little old swimming hole; Losing votes; Louisville Courier-Journal; Luxuries; Luxury; Money disagreements; Mountains; Murders; Narrow margins; Political enemies; Political traditions; Politics; Power brokers; Primary elections; Reelection; Ruby Laffoon; Runoff elections; Short tempers; Structural steel; Swimming pools; Threats; Union County (Ky.); United mine workers

Subjects: Chandler, Happy, 1898-1991; Congress--Elections; Kentucky--Elections; Kentucky--Politics and government; Patronage, Political.

00:38:04 - Chandler holding people's attention and receiving affection during his political career

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Partial Transcript: Well, now, to, to come back to the '42 Senate campaign between Happy and John Y. Brown, Sr.

Segment Synopsis: Caudill recalls his time before joining the Army and Chandler's presence during that time. Chandler's popularity grew, regardless of being slighted by opponents for his swimming pool, because of his strong anti-Japanese stance that resonated with the people of Kentucky who wanted vengeance.

Keywords: Adoration; Affection; Anti-Japanese; Anti-labor; Army; Attention; Attraction; August; Basketballs; Charisma; Coal miners; Credibility; FDR; Franklin Delano Roosevelt; Japanese; John Y. Brown, Sr.; Kentucky; Labor lawyer; Miners; Peacock Revolution; Popularity; Primary elections; U.S. Army; United States Army; University of Kentucky; Vengeance; Yellow suits

Subjects: Chandler, Happy, 1898-1991; Congress--Elections; Prisoners of war--Japan; United States. Army; United States. Congress. Senate.

00:46:24 - Chandler becoming Baseball Commissioner and working a crowd

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Partial Transcript: Happy was speaking in Wolfe County--it might have been during that, uh, race against Brown--anyway, uh, the crowd was very friendly toward him, very receptive.

Segment Synopsis: Though Caudill was in the Army during much of Chandler's time as Baseball Commissioner, he remembers the time after, when Chandler returned to the political sphere. Chandler tried to recruit Caudill to join him on his political ticket, which Caudill declined.

Keywords: 1955; 1963; Attorney General; Baseballs; Campaign managers; Commissioner of Baseball; Crowd pleasers; Earle Clements; Lawyers; Louisville (Ky.); Minimum Foundation Law; Political comebacks; Political contacts; State legislature; Union County (Ky.); Whitesburg (Ky.)

Subjects: Baseball; Baseball commissioners; Chandler, Happy, 1898-1991; Kentucky. Attorney General's Office; Kentucky. Legislative branch; United States. Congress. Senate.

00:51:12 - Controversy surrounding the A. B. Chandler Hospital

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Partial Transcript: I was very much in support of Happy's prime undertaking.

Segment Synopsis: Caudill discusses racism in the Kentucky medical system, which was exposed through the planning and building of Chandler's medical center in Lexington. The Louisville/Lexington rivalry is also highlighted by the opposition of the doctors to the A. B. Chandler Hospital.

Keywords: A.B. Chandler Hospital; African American doctors; Bitter oppositions; Civil services; Constructions; Controversies; Controversy; Doctors; Hospitals; Lexington (Ky.); Louisville Courier-Journal; Medical centers; Medical field; Medical schools; Medical training programs; Oppositions; Prejudices; Public services; Racial boundaries; Racial slurs; Racism; U of L; University of Kentucky; University of Louisville

Subjects: Academic medical centers--Kentucky--Lexington; African Americans--Race identity.; Chandler, Happy, 1898-1991; Health facilities--Kentucky--Lexington; Lexington (Ky.)--Buildings, structures, etc.; Lexington (Ky.)--Race relations.; Medical education--Kentucky--Lexington--History

00:55:12 - Taxes during the Chandler administration

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Partial Transcript: Uh, Chandler and I sort of fell out after that.

Segment Synopsis: Caudill speaks of his falling out with Chandler and the circumstantial legislation, including different tax changes from Chandler's administration.

Keywords: Bills; Bonds; Cars; Cheap gasoline; Distilleries; Gasoline taxes; Lawrence Wetherby; Minimum Foundation; Prosperity; Retiring bonds; Roads; Sales tax; Schools; Sinking funds; Sponsors; Surpluses; Taxes; Toll roads; Votes; Whiskey; Whiskey taxes; Withdrawal tax

Subjects: Chandler, Happy, 1898-1991; Gasoline--Taxation; Liquors--Taxation--Kentucky--Wayne County; Property tax--United States; Sales tax; School boards--Kentucky

00:59:21 - Brown v. Board decision in Kentucky

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Partial Transcript: Well, now one of the other, one of the other things that, uh--a very sensational thing during this administration of Chandler was the, uh, Brown decision and his support of the Brown decision in, in Kentucky.

Segment Synopsis: Caudill recalls Chandler's stance on the Brown v. Board decision and his role in integrating Kentucky schools.

Keywords: Alabama; Brown Decision; Brown v. Board; Desegregation; George Wallace; Integration; Kentucky; Kentucky schools; Race; Race relations; Racial Commission; Schools; Supreme Court; Supreme Court decisions

Subjects: African Americans--Race identity.; African Americans--Segregation; African Americans--Social conditions; Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka; Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka; Chandler, Happy, 1898-1991; Integration; School integration; United States. Supreme Court--Cases

01:01:56 - Chandler's accomplishments during his second administration

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Partial Transcript: What other, uh--are there any other, uh, accomplishments of that second administration that, uh, you particularly remember that you would give Chandler high marks for?

Segment Synopsis: Caudill recounts Chandler's accomplishments during his second administration and how politics played into his decision making.

Keywords: A. B. Chandler Hospital; Appointments; Constructions; Constructive; Directors; Economic growth; Effective governing; Grudges; Keen Johnson; Kentucky governments; Kentucky traditions; Letcher County (Ky.); Medical centers; Modern governmental systems; New Education Act; Patronage; Petitions; Pine Mountain; Prisons; Roads; Thomas Rhea; US 119; Vacancy

Subjects: Chandler, Happy, 1898-1991; Economics; Governors--Kentucky; Johnson, Keen, 1896-1970; Kentucky--Officials and employees--Selection and appointment; Letcher County (Ky.); Politicians--Kentucky; Prisons; Rhea, Thomas Stockdale, 1871-1946; Roads--Design and construction--Kentucky.

01:08:51 - Accusations against Chandler during his political career

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Partial Transcript: Well now, Happy, uh--not everybody in, in Kentucky loves Happy despite of all these constructive things that he's done.

Segment Synopsis: Caudill discusses Chandler's checkered past involving the IRS and accusations about his profiting from the government.

Keywords: Accusations; Adversaries; Checks; Discreteness; Donations; Embezzlement; Enemies; Firing; Internal Revenue Service (IRS); Kentucky traditions; Lawful franchise; Liquor companies; Money; Newspapers; Patronage; Profiting; Swimming pools

Subjects: Chandler, Happy, 1898-1991; Fraud.; Patronage, Political; Stealing

01:22:13 - Harlan County War and labor unions

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Partial Transcript: Well, uh, how, uh, how, how would you summarize this man's role in, in Kentucky?

Segment Synopsis: Caudill talks about the Harlan County War, which happened during Chandler's first administration. This painted Chandler as an anti-labor governor to many, though he largely won the support of the laborers in his second election.

Keywords: American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO); Anti-labor; Anti-unions; Coal associations; Coal country; Colorful politicians; Company police; Conservatives; Criticisms; Deputy sheriff law; Endorsements; Harlan County War; Hatred; John L. Lewis; Kentucky; Labor troubles; Laborers; Maintenance of order; Organized labor supports; Party loyalty; Political parties; Pro-labor; Red states; State militias; Trailblazers; Unions; United Mine Workers

Subjects: Chandler, Happy, 1898-1991; Coal miners--Kentucky--Harlan County; Coal miners--Labor unions--Kentucky; Harlan County (Ky.); Labor disputes -- Kentucky; Labor unions--Organizing

GPS: Harlan County (Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 36.8890, -83.2078
01:32:30 - Environmentalism and the coal industry

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Partial Transcript: Professor Caudill, I know that one of the things that's, uh, dear to your heart is, uh, is the environment-- protecting the environment of Kentucky.

Segment Synopsis: Caudill speaks of how Chandler did not align with his passion of preserving the environment, though he does not fault Chandler for the stance he took on this issue.

Keywords: Abundances; Alben Barkley; Cleverness; Coal industry; Coal severance taxes; Cursed policies; Destroying; Environmental problems; Environmentalism; Generational differences; Ignoring; Influences; Lax enforcements; Miners; Political judgments; Pollution; Proposals; Resource problems; School systems; Strip-mining laws; Supports; Unconvinced; Whiskey taxes

Subjects: Barkley, Alben William, 1877-1956; Chandler, Happy, 1898-1991; Coal mines and mining; Coal mines and mining--Environmental aspects; Environmental policy--Kentucky; Environmental protection--Kentucky; Environmentalism; Taxation--Law and legislation

01:41:12 - Chandler's accomplishments and attributes in comparison with other governors

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Partial Transcript: Well, is there anything else about this man that you know that, uh, I ought to know?

Segment Synopsis: Caudill speaks highly of Chandler's accomplishments and attributes. He compares Chandler to his successors, Lawrence Wetherby and Earle Clements.

Keywords: Appreciations; Better than average; Complexity; Earle C. Clements; Expansions; Foundation Law; Governmental set-up; High rankings; Lawrence Wetherby; Prison reforms; Prisons reform; Rural roads; Toll roads; University of Kentucky; Weaknesses

Subjects: Chandler, Happy, 1898-1991; Clements, Earle C. (Earle Chester), 1896-1985; Governors--Kentucky; Kentucky. Governor (1950-1955 : Wetherby)