Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Albert Benjamin "Happy" Chandler, June 11, 1981

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

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

Segment Synopsis: Chandler addresses the rumors that he used taxpayer money to build a pool in the backyard of his Kentucky home during his tenure as a senator.

Keywords: Accusations; Albert Benjamin "Happy" Chandler; Appointed; Backyards; Ben Collings; Businessman; Charging taxpayers; Elected; Estates; John Y. Brown; Phone calls; Swimming pools; U.S. Senate; Unaware; Visiting; Wife

Subjects: Children; Cost; Criticism; Friend; Governors; Kentucky; Louisville (Ky.); Materials; Money; Washington (D.C.)

00:05:56 - Truman Committee

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Partial Transcript: You mentioned the Truman Committee, and it--of course I'm aware--it exonerated you.

Segment Synopsis: Chandler discusses the process of the Truman Committee investigating the building of a pool at his home, which was formed to investigate incidences of possible war profiteering. The Truman Committee exonerated Chandler of all charges of corruption.

Keywords: Albert Benjamin "Happy" Chandler; Armed forces reserve; Carl Hatch; Censure; Federal judges; Files; Friends; Hatch Act of 1939; Henry L. Stimson; Investigation; Issues; Reports; Secretary; Self-sufficient; Senate War Committee; Senators; Shocked; Swimming pools; Truman Committee; U.S. Senate; Unaware; Uncorrupt; Untrained; Untrue; Wife; World War II

Subjects: Archives; Children; Contracts; Friend; Governors; Kentucky; Letcher County (Ky.); Letters; New Mexico; University of Kentucky; Washington (D.C.); World War, 1939-1945

00:10:19 - Tire accusation

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Partial Transcript: John Y. Brown in that same campaign also accused you of, of getting some automobile tires, uh, from the rationing board--

Segment Synopsis: Chandler briefly talks of the accusation that he received a set of tires from the War Production Board during a time of severe rationing of materials such as rubber for the war effort in the U.S. during World War II.

Keywords: Albert Benjamin "Happy" Chandler; Allegations; Bootleggers; Colonel Sanders; Examined; Harlan Sanders; Houses; John Y. Brown; No character; Senators; War Production Board (U.S.); Wife; World War II

Subjects: Fame; Garage; Governors; Kentucky; Materials; Money; Rationing--United States; Tires; World War, 1939-1945

00:12:37 - Cabin accusation

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Partial Transcript: Governor, I have been told that the money to build your cabin, which I'm well aware of, was donated by state employees, is that true?

Segment Synopsis: Chandler explains the circumstances behind an accusation that he used donated money from Kentucky state employees to build a cabin in Kentucky.

Keywords: Albert Benjamin "Happy" Chandler; Cabins; Cars; Collections; Decisions; Donations; Enjoyment; Frank Peterson; Friends; Renovations; State employees; Walnut paneling

Subjects: Cost; Governors; Kentucky; Money

00:15:15 - Liquor company scandal

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Partial Transcript: When, uh, I believe it was in, in running in,in the campaign, uh, for--in '55, for your second election, the newspapers printed a bunch of checks, made out to you from a wholesale liquor company--

Segment Synopsis: Chandler details the circumstances behind an accusation that he profited from a wholesale liquor company's contract with a whiskey distillery. Chandler explains that he was acting as an attorney for the wholesale liquor company amidst the company's negotiations with the whiskey distillery (which was legal while he was a senator, as it is legal to practice law while holding office as a U.S. Senator).

Keywords: Albert Benjamin "Happy" Chandler; Bert T. Combs; Canceled checks; Connected; Contracts; Distillery head; Fiscal courts; Free; Friends; Great; Guarantees; Hurt; Judges; Law firms; Lawyers; Liquor distillery; Negotiations; Outrage; Representative; Rosenstein; Senate; State government; Trouble; Whisky supply; Wholesale liquor; Won; World War II; Wrong

Subjects: California; Checks; Governors; Kentucky; Law; Lexington (Ky.); Money; New York; Newspapers; Race; Southern Pacific Company; Whiskey; World War, 1939-1945

00:21:26 - Connection to wholesale liquor company

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Partial Transcript: I've read in one--some of those articles, there was an implication or an accusation perhaps, that, that this liquor at that time was restricted and that it was illegal for the company--

Segment Synopsis: Chandler illustrates his connection to the owner of the whiskey distillery distribution company, Rosenstein.

Keywords: Albert Benjamin "Happy" Chandler; Dinners; Football coaches; Letters; Liquor boards; Newspapers; Rosenstein; Sad; Short supply; Wholesale liquor company

Subjects: Character; Danville (Ky.); Death; Florida; Friend; Governors; Kentucky; Lexington (Ky.); Los Angeles (Calif.); Whisky

00:23:40 - Accusations of nepotism / Campaign supporter / Other governors

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Partial Transcript: I know you are aware of a statement that was, uh, used against you politically, uh, "Fill a sack for Jimmy Jack."

Segment Synopsis: Chandler justifies his appointment of his son-in-law for a position in the state government as a highway engineer. Chandler explains that his son-in-law was qualified for the position and selected by other state officials than himself. Chandler then illustrates an example of when he did not use favoritism when he denied a campaign supporter a favorable contract for the oil and gas supply of Kentucky. The interviewee also briefly talks of the corrupt nature of other governors, including a former governor of Tennessee, who was found guilty of mail fraud and put in jail.

Keywords: Albert Benjamin "Happy" Chandler; Campaign supporters; Contracted work; Contributions; County bids; Favored; Highway Department; Issues; Jailed; No mistake; Oil; Precedent; Prices; Qualified; Selected; Son-in-law; State government

Subjects: Contracts; Daughters; Engineers; Gas; Governors; Grandchildren; Highway engineering; Kentucky; Mail fraud; Money; Nepotism; Opponents; Tennessee

00:27:46 - Innocence / House building controversy

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Partial Transcript: There are none of these episodes that, uh, uh--where you feel that you did anything wrong or illegal?

Segment Synopsis: Chandler maintains his innocence in all of the accusations put forward against him throughout the interview. Chandler emphasizes the clean and virtuous nature of his administrations and in his personal life. Chandler also clarifies that he did pay the contractor to build a home for him in Kentucky (amid a rumor that the contractor was not paid for his labor on building the home).

Keywords: Aides; Albert Benjamin "Happy" Chandler; All-American; Attorney generals; Careful; Construction; Contractors; Gutters; Houses; Lawyers; Legality; Misled; Neglect; Not devious; Paid; Rain; Sober; Untrue

Subjects: Administration; Character; Friends; Governors; Honest; Kentucky; University of Kentucky. College of Medicine

00:31:00 - Stance on gambling

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Partial Transcript: I have also had it intimated to me, Governor that, uh, you were soft on the gambling spots up in Northern Kentucky because of big contributions to your campaign.

Segment Synopsis: Chandler clears up the notion that he was soft on gambling as governor. Chandler discusses the value of the gambling industry to communities in Northern Kentucky. Chandler also details the terms that he laid out for the casinos in exchange for their operations: each casino had to be non-violent, and dog racing was forbidden. Chandler declares that if any of these terms were broken, then he would have cracked down on gambling in Northern Kentucky. The interviewee also discusses a rumor that he went to a gambling house in Chicago, a story that ended up in the newspapers.

Keywords: "Home rule"; Albert Benjamin "Happy" Chandler; Anti-dog racing; Basketball coaches; Campaign contributions; Casinos; Colonel Bradley; Conduct; Economy; Free; Friends; Gamblers; Gambling houses; Gambling racket; Good qualities; Idle Hour Farm; Illegal; Indirect support; Jails; Jobs; Journalists; Lies; Local enforcement; No contributions; No fighting; No killing; Non-gamblers; Non-violent; Northern Kentucky; Proposition; Senate Committee; Shows; Sober; Support; Unenforced; Untrue; Unusual; Wendell Ford

Subjects: Bingo; Catholic Church; Character; Charities; Chicago (Ill.); Dog racing; Entertainment; Federal government; Friends; Gambling; Governors; High schools; Judges; Kentucky; Lexington (Ky.); Newspapers; Palm Beach (Fla.); Restaurants; Rumors; Situation

00:37:08 - Special interests / Campaign / Rumors

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Partial Transcript: Was there any interest in the state, Governor, let's say the trucking interest, or the coal mining operators...

Segment Synopsis: Chandler denies that he had any special interests as governor. Chandler also discusses the difficulties and pressures to reward loyal supporters in politics without being unfair to others. Chandler lists some of the most outrageous rumors that have surfaced about him, including that he had off-shore accounts in Cuba during the Fidel Castro era.

Keywords: Albert Benjamin "Happy" Chandler; Attitudes; Conduct; Dangerous; Favors; Fidel Castro; Friends; Ignorant; Interests; Lawrence Wetherby; Obligations; Off-shore accounts; Political campaigns; Primary; Raising money; Repay; Rewards; Secret commitments; Special interests; Unsure; Worst

Subjects: Cold War; Cuba; Enemies; Governors; Kentucky; Loyalty; Money; Pressure; Rumors