Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with John J. Isler, September 19, 1990

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
Transcript
Toggle Index/Transcript View Switch.
Index
Search this Transcript
X
00:00:00

SUCHANEK: The following is an unrehearsed interview with former State Representative John J. Isler, who initially represented the 60th District and then later the 65th District in northern Kentucky. The interview was done for the University of Kentucky Libraries Kentucky Legislature Oral History Project. The interview was conducted by Jeffrey Suchanek on September 19, 1990, at Mr. Isler's home in Limaburg, Kentucky, at 9:30 a.m. This is the second part of the interview series with John J. Isler. [Pause in tape]. Okay, we're talking again today with John Isler. And John, I'd like to start off the interview this morning by clarifying a few things that we discussed last week in our first interview. First of all, prior to your being elected as state representative in 1955 for the `56 session, 00:01:00you had run for public office only once before, and that was for city commissioner in 1951 or `52. Is that correct?

ISLER: That's correct.

SUCHANEK: Okay. That's what I needed to clarify. I got confused somehow the last visit. Secondly, you mentioned that after "Happy" Chandler's second term as governor was over, when you were in session afterwards under different governors, you used to go and visit "Happy" about once a month down in Versailles?

ISLER: While we were in session.

SUCHANEK: Um-hm. Do you remember who used to go with you to visit and how many there were?

ISLER: Well, I think at one time there was about five of us, Gus Sheehan, Senator Sheehan and Representative Freddy Morgan, and that's about all. But there were five of us. But Senator Sheehan and I, we 00:02:00went, we always went together, always.

SUCHANEK: Did "Happy" ever have any advice for you when you went there regarding pending legislation?

ISLER: No sir, he did not. He just talked about everyday life.

SUCHANEK: And did you ever ask him about his opinions on, maybe, pending legislation or-I'm sure that had to come up, seeing that you were meeting during the session.

ISLER: No, "Happy" wasn't-during that time, I don't know if he was figuring on running for governor again or if he was even interested in politics, but he was very much interested in the University of Kentucky, I know that. And he, I know he went to all their games, basketball, football, et cetera. And that's about all, he-we didn't 00:03:00talk too much politics because we really didn't have too much time. We could only spend about an hour with him or something like that.

SUCHANEK: Um-hm, that's interesting. It's hard almost to believe that "Happy" wouldn't talk about politics, because he was really such a political animal, actually.

ISLER: Well, he was. I'll agree with you there. But when we went up there to see him, well, we just went up there to see him, to visit him. And by the time we talked to Mama and him and our time was about up, because we couldn't spend too much time at that time because we were very busy. Our meetings were-we'd even meet on Saturdays and things like that during the end of the session. And sometimes we put as much as, I'd say, eighteen to twenty hours, especially my job, because I 00:04:00used to get out of there at five and six in the morning at times. But a lot of people don't know that. Even the boys on the floor didn't know that. But it was really rough, and that's why that's really a tough job.

SUCHANEK: Um-hm. I'm also not quite sure yet how you got involved with the Kenton County Democratic Club. Do you recall about what year or what time period that you got involved in that and what your motivation was? And, you know, how did you get into that?

ISLER: Well, first of all, from a young boy eighteen years old, I joined the Eagles when I was eighteen years old, and that was in 1925. And I was always interested in different organizations, and belonged to the 00:05:00Sunday Morning Club and just numbers of them-the K of C, the Knights of Columbus. I went in all them. That was my way of doing it. And, of course, I used to play sports, too. In school, I played basketball, baseball, but not football. I could never seek football on account of the injury. And that brought on one another. Then the reason why I did get into politics mostly was the position I held with the L and N Railroad at that time. And we organized what we called the Veterans Club, the L and N Veterans Club. And you had to have ten years to 00:06:00become a member of that. And I was president of that for the beginning until quite a, well, I believe I was in complete charge. We never had a president, we had a chairman, and I was the chairman for quite a few years. And for the-we promoted picnics, excursions, and vacation trips for the employees, with the employees doing that for the employees. In other words, the Veterans Club done that. It was an employees club organized by them, and it was sanctioned by the L&N Railroad, and we had some wonderful times.

SUCHANEK: Was that a union-type activity?

ISLER: No, it was not. It was just formed by about five or six of us. And it just grew, it just developed over, we had it for, I guess, 00:07:00about twenty-five or thirty years. And then something occurred that we-it faded out. But-

SUCHANEK: What happened? Do you recall why did it fade out?

ISLER: Yeah, misunderstanding between the railroads and the employees.

SUCHANEK: Oh, could you just talk real briefly about that? I don't know anything about that.

ISLER: Well, that was-I can't recall, but it was fifty-six days we were out. The employees were out fifty-six days, but-

SUCHANEK: Was that the issue? Or was it over wages or-

ISLER: Well, no. No, no. This, it didn't have nothing to do with the Veterans Club. But of course, naturally, it hurt the Veterans Club. So that's the way it was, because there was, it was very-the railroad and the employees were very close up to that time. But then (coughs), 00:08:00that was way back there, you have to remember, when organizations were starting to develop and things like that. But ever since, why-I'd just like to go into my political life.

SUCHANEK: Okay (Isler laughs). That's fine. I just needed to know too-

ISLER: Well, I was in the main office at all times. That's one thing I did. After I was about seventeen, eighteen, I worked in the general offices. In other words, I worked under the bosses, in complete charge. And everything worked out all right for me during that time, and the railroads, the railroad and the people of Kenton County were very good to me.

SUCHANEK: Was it through, do you think-

ISLER: But I like to say one more thing.

SUCHANEK: Sure.

ISLER: The railroad never, never asked me to do, to vote any way in 00:09:00Frankfort. Never. And they, a lot of them when I come home, they'd say, "We admired you in the stand you took," or something like that. That's all they'd say to me, the big bosses. But they never did, they kind of liked me because they knew I was a faithful employee. I done my job. I was a steno clerk. I could do anything in an office, from shorthand to on up. And like I stated prior to this, I got my education at night school. And I'm tickled to death right now, at my age right now, that I did that or I wouldn't be where I am today.

SUCHANEK: How long did you work for the railroad?

ISLER: Forty-nine years and three months.

SUCHANEK: Okay.

ISLER: 19--, August, 1920, let's see, August 1, 1924, through October 00:10:0023, 1973.

SUCHANEK: That's a long time.

ISLER: Sure is, sure is. And I worked in quite a few departments. I worked in practically all their departments in the Cincinnati terminal. And I had a good life with them. My family did, too. I didn't have to go into politics, but somehow or other I wanted to, so I went into politics. And they never asked me to do one thing.

SUCHANEK: Do you think your involvement with the Veterans Club helped you to get to know people and people to know you in Kenton County?

ISLER: That's what I was going to say. Judge Goodenough, who I 00:11:00mentioned before, called me up and asked me would I be interested in politics. And at that time I told him no. But somehow or other, through the Veterans Club, there was a-on that picture there you'll notice, it goes back in 19--, I'd say 1953 or 1954, there was several railroaders on there, and they worked among the men. They were in transportation, see. And they come to me and asked me if I'd run for city commissioner. And I said, "I don't know." And so they come back about a month later. And, of course, you know I knew all these fellows. There was two rail--, there was three of us railroaders 00:12:00and two others that were not, but the two others were in the city commissioners and they wanted us in there. So I agreed. And I think I ran a very close race, that when I ran that very close race, why, fellows, several of the fellows decided, the judge, that maybe I should run for state representative. And that's what I did.

SUCHANEK: I see. And when you decided to run for representative, I take it, then, that the railroad superintendents, your supervisors, were very supportive of you going to the legislature and giving you time off to do that?

ISLER: Well, they-at first I don't know if they were, but then they had to, I guess they had to handle it with the ones above them. After all, 00:13:00a superintendent is superintendent. Remember, you got general managers and everything. And they probably handled it through that. And then it probably was referred to the lobbyists at Frankfort, the L and --, the railroad, not L&N, but the railroad lobbyists. And they must have agreed on it somehow or other. But I never didn't know anything about it because I told them that, as I always said in anything or in any of my talks, I've said that my people come first. As long as you don't introduce bills against my people, there's no reason why I can't be for your votes, and that goes for labor and everything else, because I was really representing my people. And I believe everybody admired 00:14:00that because I guess they figured I couldn't go wrong by representing my people, that I wasn't for industry or wasn't for anything else like that. And the first couple of terms, I had a little problems with that, but then after I was down there three or four, and I kept picking up more votes and more votes, and that's one thing I did during my election, I increased my votes. Republicans and Democrats voted for me. They put up my signs, and they wouldn't let nobody else put another sign up there. And I got pretty strong on that and, naturally, they knew my way of thinking and my actions, and they says, "Well, we don't have to bother him. Let him make up his own mind. You lobbyists talk to him and everything, but don't tell him, don't force him. Just ask him if he would like to do that, and I'm sure he'll give you an 00:15:00answer." And I did. I never-people come to me and they wanted an answer, they wanted help. I told them what I could do. On bills, I told them how I stand on bills. And there was no reason why they should feel anyway, any better about me than they always have. And they went with me and I never had no problems. The only problem I had with any bills to amount to anything is the obscene literature bills. That was a big problem.

SUCHANEK: Um-hm. Well what were you-

ISLER: Remember, that's a first in the country-

SUCHANEK: Sure.

ISLER: in the forty-eight states then, I guess.

SUCHANEK: Yeah. Yeah, we'll get to that in just a minute.

ISLER: Yeah.

SUCHANEK: I have a couple more questions that I had, just to clarify things we had mentioned last time. Now, you mentioned the last time 00:16:00that you were named Chairman of the Enrollment Committee-

ISLER: Right.

SUCHANEK: by Thomas Fitzpatrick.

ISLER: Right, `56.

SUCHANEK: Now, Fitzpatrick had been handpicked by "Happy" Chandler to be Speaker of the House because, obviously, Fitzpatrick was a Chandler supporter, and Fitzpatrick was a man whom Chandler knew he could trust to help get the administration's bills passed.

ISLER: Um-hm.

SUCHANEK: The fact that Fitzpatrick then picked you to be chairman of this important Enrollment Committee must have meant that he had talked to "Happy" and convinced "Happy" that you would at least be independent and fair, if not actually a supporter of the Chandler administration. So I'm wondering, did that kind of cast you at the time, whether you meant this to happen or not, did that cast you as a member of the Chandler faction rather than the Clements faction of the Democratic Party? Can you comment on that?

ISLER: Sure. That, when that happened I was surprised when Timmy 00:17:00Fitzpatrick come up to me and told me that-we were just in there for a roll call, and that what he had done, that he'd put me on the Enrollment Committee. And I says, "How come you'd do that to me?" He says, "I want you on there." Of course, Timmy's district was next door to mine, the next district. And-

SUCHANEK: You mentioned he went to the same church as you did.

ISLER: Yes, sir. He sure did. He went to the same church. And I lived out on 22nd Street at that time, and that wasn't too far from where his boundary was. And he said, "No, I want you on there." I says, "I don't know if I can vote the way you want me to vote." "Oh," he says, "you 00:18:00won't have no trouble with that." So he already had it lined up, so he went on through with it. But then he found out that I was for most of their bills, see, and things like that, and that's another reason why some bills I would've liked to talk against, but I didn't, see. But I did vote against the bills, and when I voted against the bills, I got up and explained my vote.

SUCHANEK: Very good, very good. And then last time, you also explained what your role as enrollment chairman consisted of, including the fact that when you rose up in your seat on the House floor, that everything stopped and the speaker had to recognize you.

ISLER: Yeah.

SUCHANEK: Okay. Well-

00:19:00

ISLER: And just let me say this: when I stood up, if there was a debate, which there would be if I wouldn't have stopped it there would be, then when I stood up, the Speaker of the House would recognize me. Because after all, we're all sitting there in this debate and we can't get nowhere, and we figure, in my mind of thinking, that we're not going to get anywhere and we're wasting a lot of time because, remember, we only got about sixty days to complete this work and we're already in on that sixty days. So the speaker looks down at me and he hits the gavel down on the desk, and you know how loud that is, and he says, "I recognize the gentleman from Kenton 60," and that's it. Then it stops (bangs on table).

SUCHANEK: Okay. And as you explained last time-

ISLER: I had to introduce a bill.

SUCHANEK: Right. You would introduce a bill-

ISLER: Yeah.

SUCHANEK: and-

ISLER: And it's ready for his signature.

00:20:00

SUCHANEK: Right.

ISLER: And I'd tell him that.

SUCHANEK: Okay.

ISLER: I tell him House Bill 1 has been enrolled and is now ready for your signature. That means I've went over it (bangs on table), and corrected it, and see if there is anything that-and everything.

SUCHANEK: The point I'm trying to get at is, the speaker, after you do what you do, you get up and you speak and you say that you have so-and- so bill ready, the speaker then does not have to go back and recognize the last member who was speaking, but can go to, and probably often did, go to someone else?

ISLER: He did.

SUCHANEK: Okay. My point is this: did Fitzpatrick or perhaps Vernor Cottingim, did they explain to you before you actually assumed the role of Chairman of the Enrollment Committee that you would have a role to play in the House to end arguments? Do you recall them saying, "Look, 00:21:00there could be times, John, when you're going to have to step in and help me out on this?"

ISLER: Well, yeah. You, the Speaker of the House has an office. Remember, when I went down there we were lucky to have a place to put your coat, not your hat but just your coat. And he brought me in there and he outlined me on what I'm supposed to do, otherwise I wouldn't know, because there's-the only thing, the way you can find out what we do is just read the statutes for back for that session, maybe four or five terms before you-it will come out. But that was it, yeah.

SUCHANEK: Okay. And the reason I bring this up-

ISLER: And that's the only one, that's the only job, the only position in the Gen--, in the House where I think you really have to be advised 00:22:00on what to do, because you can't sit there and let them pile up on the Speaker of the House, and they run up on the desk and hit on the desk (bangs on table) and everything else, see.

SUCHANEK: Um-hm. Did Fitzpatrick or any other Speaker of the House have any secret signal that they would give to you so you would know that, hey, this is a good time for me to stand up and kind of step in here?

ISLER: Yeah. When he looked down at me like that, and then I knew it was my time and I had a bill there, I'd get up. Yeah, we had ways of doing that.

SUCHANEK: Okay, good.

ISLER: But you don't use that until about the end of the session, because the other ones are petty bills, bills that they want, and they wanted to-in other words, to bring them back.

SUCHANEK: Right.

ISLER: And we took care of that-

SUCHANEK: Okay. Well, that's good. That's-

ISLER: providing you're in good standing.

SUCHANEK: Right (Isler laughs). And then lastly, the only thing that 00:23:00I needed to ask you about is, before we actually get into the various legislation for the various sessions here, certainly you were aware that there were, there was a Chandler faction and a Clements faction in the legislature in the Democratic Party. Is that right?

ISLER: Naturally. There is no way in the world you can get around it, but I had my stand. I knew that, but I was schooled by an old-timer.

SUCHANEK: Who?

ISLER: Senator Sylvester Wagner. I hate to say it, he's deceased. And he schooled me for at least a year. He had all, he had the statutes, a copy of the statutes, which is given to all of the representatives. It's mailed to their homes. And he went over and he told me, one 00:24:00thing he told me, he said, "The way you cast your first vote, that's the side you're going to be on." And that's very important. You got to know how to cast that vote. And he schooled me on an awful lot of things, because he was down there, I believe, about eight terms.

SUCHANEK: He was there when you were in? Was he still-

ISLER: No, he, when he went out, then I went in.

SUCHANEK: I see.

ISLER: See.

SUCHANEK: I see.

ISLER: When he went out. And he also was senator. He was Senator Sylvester Wagner. He's the one that advised me.

SUCHANEK: Okay.

ISLER: He schooled me.

SUCHANEK: Great.

ISLER: Yeah. So what I'm saying is that when you asked me about the duties of the Enrollment Committee, I kind of overlooked Sylvester 00:25:00there, but he had me schooled on everything. When I walked on that floor, I guess I had two terms under my belt from his knowledge. And he and I, we met all the time. And when I'd come back from the regular General Assembly, at the end of sixty days, we'd sit down and we would discuss all these things. And incidentally, he was running for mayor, and that's how I got into the city race with him. And this probably brought me in, and took me out of the city race and put me in the state. All these things coming out at a time and time, but you remember-

SUCHANEK: Sure.

ISLER: you're talking about twenty-six years-

SUCHANEK: Right.

ISLER: term. And I-

SUCHANEK: Right.

ISLER: retired in `81.

SUCHANEK: Did you know Sylvester Wagner before you went to, before you ran for representative?

ISLER: Oh, yes. Sylvester was in politics. In fact, he used to have a band. And when we were teenagers, we used to go to dances and the band 00:26:00would-see, Covington was little. See, it was a second-class city, but we all had the Lewisburg-Petersburg-Helentown and things like that, and we all stayed in our district (Suchanek laughs).

SUCHANEK: Okay.

ISLER: And we took our sisters to dances with us.

SUCHANEK: Sure.

ISLER: We didn't go do like they did today.

SUCHANEK: Uh-huh.

ISLER: Yes, Sylvester was-he put me on the first step of success. And I never forgot him.

SUCHANEK: Okay. Well, that's real interesting.

ISLER: Yeah, I never forgot him. When he was in the hospital, I went and everything.

SUCHANEK: When did he pass away? Do you recall?

ISLER: I guess it's about ten years ago.

SUCHANEK: Um-hm.

ISLER: Um-hm. And he belonged to all the clubs and organizations, see, and so he got me in all that. That was really the first step, that when 00:27:00I talked about running for state representative, and he called me and asked me to come down and see him. So I come-he had a grocery store on 18th near Holman Street, and we used to meet there all the time. In fact, that was a regular headquarters for everybody in the city. City commissioners and all of us, we'd all go in and see Sylvester.

SUCHANEK: I see.

ISLER: Yeah. There, somebody has to run the-

SUCHANEK: It was kind of like the old country general store where all the politicians would gather.

ISLER: Right, right. And he was always there. He was always there.

SUCHANEK: So you were a pretty well-informed fellow when you went to the legislature?

ISLER: I knew about everything that you could know about, but I didn't expect I was going to be put on a committee like I was. So I was ready to think.

SUCHANEK: Well, I'm thinking that Thomas Fitzpatrick-

00:28:00

ISLER: Yeah.

SUCHANEK: must have had a lot of faith in you.

ISLER: Well, naturally, or he wouldn't put me on there. But I didn't do a-I come out all right-

SUCHANEK: Sure.

ISLER: for him. I sure did, but there's nothing he could do that would hurt my people, because he was right next to me.

SUCHANEK: Right. Okay, well, I'm ready to get into the legislation now and talk to you about the `56 session.

ISLER: Yeah (laughs), you're really going back.

SUCHANEK: Yeah. Now, we said that Fitzpatrick was Speaker of the House, and Fred Morgan was the majority floor leader.

ISLER: Right.

SUCHANEK: And obviously, he was handpicked by "Happy" Chandler, too.

ISLER: Well, they were read off on the floor, so I guess you're right, but I don't think it's that way now from the way I read the papers.

SUCHANEK: I think it is different now, but back then-

ISLER: Yeah. The governor ran, he was the main guy.

00:29:00

SUCHANEK: Right. Right.

ISLER: Yeah.

SUCHANEK: Now, the first bit of legislation, important bit of legislation was House Bill 1, the first bill that was introduced, and that was repealing liens against the estates of public assistance recipients. And you were a cosponsor on that bill-

ISLER: Yeah.

SUCHANEK: with many others.

ISLER: Oh, I see.

SUCHANEK: And that created quite a controversy in `56. In fact, "Happy" Chandler had to go on the radio and explain his support of that bill. He had run, that was one of the things he ran on, an issue he ran on, and he went on the radio to explain his support of that bill to the people of Kentucky. And that bill passed 84 to 2 in the House. The two people who voted against this Chandler bill was John Breckinridge, 00:30:00the Democrat from Lexington-

ISLER: Yeah.

SUCHANEK: and John B. Reed, who was a Democrat from Stone, Kentucky.

ISLER: Yeah.

SUCHANEK: Do you suppose that they opposed this first administration bill because they were members of the Clements faction? Okay.

ISLER: Well, the only thing I can say about that bill, of course you have to remember that the years I've been down there, and going back to `56 is going way back, but "Happy," that was on his program on that bill. And I voted for that bill because I feel that it was in the best interest of the people. And another thing, by voting for that bill, I let the administration know that if they had bills that they needed, 00:31:00that I would be in favor of those type of bills. I'm not talking about taxes now. And under that way, why, they wouldn't hold too much against me, which they will. You know, you're talking about factions now, and I never was, I never took part in factions. They were on the same level with the Republicans and the Democrats. If they had good bills, they didn't have to worry about me, but if they had bad bills, don't come over to me or anything, because-

SUCHANEK: Um-hm.

ISLER: I'm going to be against it. And that's just about all I can remember back that far.

SUCHANEK: Okay. Now, you introduced a bill, it was House Bill 10, 00:32:00relating to the sale of fireworks. Now, this never got out of committee, but do you remember anything about that bill that you introduced?

ISLER: Well, I introduced so many bills that it's impossible for me to remember them all, but those are dangerous bills. Them sparklers and things like that put children's eyes out. And there was always injuries over that. And that's probably the reason why I introduced that bill and it didn't get out of the committee. Of course, maybe it didn't get out of the committee, maybe I didn't pressure the committee to get it out. Remember, I'm just stepping in there, but I knew what to do. So if I didn't appear before the committee and push that bill, 00:33:00then I did that because somebody asked me to introduce that bill, which is close to me or-

SUCHANEK: House Bill 44 was a bill creating a police and firemen's retirement fund for second-class cities, and you had said Covington was a second-class city at that time. Would this have been a bill that perhaps the Mayor of Covington or a representative of the firemen or policemen would have asked you to introduce?

ISLER: Yeah, I co-sponsored that bill, because I did that, after all, you have to realize I belonged to the union organization myself, the railway clerks. And, but I just felt that they should have a pension 00:34:00like any other organization, and that's why I was a co-signer to that bill. But you got to remember, to get in, to hold office in politics, political office, you got to have leaveways. And the union was one that always, one of my feeding leaveways. And they always sponsored me. They come out in the paper and sponsor you. They do that all, and I had quite a few of them. I had the state police, the cities, the counties, and being living in the city, practically all my life, that was a great help to me. So you got to have some way to get in 00:35:00office. You just simply can't get in there by yourself. And I can remember that I spoke at a lot at conventions and things like that in `56, before I ever went down to Frankfort. And I had to remember what I said, and I knew, I know now some of the things I said, but that's a pretty long time ago.

SUCHANEK: Sure. And then we get to House Bill 86 and 87, which you were just the lone sponsor of. House Bill 86 was prohibiting the sale to minors of certain comic books containing excessive violence, terror, brutality, or sex. And kind of hand-in-hand, House Bill 87 prohibited requiring dealers to accept illegal publications. Both of these bills passed 78 to nothing. I was wondering if you could tell me, what was the genesis of these bills? What gave you the idea to introduce this 00:36:00legislation?

ISLER: Well, in those days, you go into a drugstore and some delicatessens, they had magazines there. And they had these types of magazines, and I just thought that maybe I should do something about that. How the original idea come up, I just can't recall right now, but if you knew all the people that were back, all the denominations, anything you can think of, they were in favor of this bill. They come in from all over and had a special meeting with me and "Happy" and all of us. And like I said before, he told you, he said, "I told you that you're not going to get him change his mind, and I'm not pressuring him no way or other. That's entirely up to him, because there's too many 00:37:00organizations in the commonwealth behind this bill. And I'm telling you, gentlemen, we're going to have to pass this bill." And I thanked "Happy" and I thanked them for coming. But it lasted for about five hours.

SUCHANEK: Um-hm. This was a committee meeting, or just a private meeting that "Happy" had called?

ISLER: Between, yeah, it was, what they say, "You go into Room 100." That means you're going in before the governor and all the ones that are against you.

SUCHANEK: Oh, I see (both laugh).

ISLER: Yeah.

SUCHANEK: Do you recall if anyone was against this bill, these bills?

ISLER: Well, publishers were and the newspapers were.

SUCHANEK: Boy, that's, the newspapers is-

ISLER: I had a bill-

SUCHANEK: a powerful lobby, isn't it?

ISLER: Yeah, I had a special bill there for newspapers, see. And everybody got behind that bill, all the churches, all the denominations, religion. And it was just a, if you wanted to come back, it was just pretty near impossible for you to vote against that 00:38:00bill. That's right. But they took a, I'd like to add, that bill didn't been come up until about the end of the session. They never gave up on it, these people. And they were from up East, all over the United States flew in there, because that bill, everybody else would be copying it. It only affected the commonwealth, but all the states would copy off of it, because we had the Council of States. And that bill there would be just right to them through the Council of States. In fact, they would encourage them to do that. And that's where a lot of things did come from, from the Council of States.

SUCHANEK: I see. Now, House Bill 100 was for amending the Kentucky 00:39:00Constitution to authorize issuing bonds for a veteran's bonus. And you co-sponsored this bill with many other people, and it passed 77 to 2. And again, Breckinridge from Lexington voted against this bill. Do you recall why he would vote against that bill?

ISLER: No, I do not.

SUCHANEK: Did you know John Breckinridge well?

ISLER: I knew him, yes. Sure I knew John Breckinridge, knew him well. He's a wonderful guy, and he's, he was a very good legislator, and he's a good lawyer, and he's all right. Yeah, he never voted against any of my bills that I can recall.

SUCHANEK: Okay.

ISLER: But that's the way it is. You know, you, very few people, bills passed with no one voting against it. Very, very few. If you look it up, you'll probably see that's the only bill, them two bills in `56, 00:40:00and it was practically my, they were, well, they were practically my first bills. I introduced them in January.

SUCHANEK: Right. Well, I think those were the first bills that you introduced by yourself.

ISLER: Yeah, um-hm.

SUCHANEK: Then there was House Bill 137. It prohibited taking or offering money in connection with adoptions. Now, you and Vernor Cottingim both sponsored this bill. What do you recall what brought this bill about?

ISLER: Yeah. I co-sponsored that bill with Vernor. And they, I think they were, it was done, because the donations were so much that we 00:41:00probably both thought that that wasn't right to take and have to buy a child or something like that. After all, you have to remember, that you could go to an orphanage, and if they approved your adoption, you got the child. You didn't have to pay no one hundred dollars or three or four hundred dollars you got the child. And that's probably the reason why the bill was introduced by us two. We would, just wanted to let the people know, and then first to let the General Assembly know, and let the newspapers carry it to the people, that we were not in favor of accepting any money for adoptions.

SUCHANEK: Um-hm. You were a co-sponsor on a bill, House Bill 164. It is relating to discontinuation of railroad passenger service. It allowed railroads to notify the railroad commission that passenger 00:42:00service was being discontinued if that service is being carried at a loss, okay. And I know you said that the, that your supervisors at the L and N Railroad never pressured you about any bill-

ISLER: Right.

SUCHANEK: or anything like that. But certainly they must have approved of your sponsorship of this bill?

ISLER: Well, that's another thing. The railroads for years operated the passenger service, and they lost money. So now you're talking about later years, and the railroads are losing a lot of business. Remember, the railroads, they have to go out and get their business like any other company or business. And we just felt (coughs) that it's time for the railroads not to have to pay for the entire business for the 00:43:00passenger train, because they were all flying in the air. And right today, you, if you put on, they got several trains now, the Amtrak and that, sponsored by the government, but they're trying to get it off of their hands because it's very expensive. And you know, you've got to keep them roadbeds up for them passenger trains, because that's, they really run down through them hollers and that. So that was the reason. It was at the time where the railroads had to do something about that. Now, I'm not speaking up for the railroads, I'm speaking up for times that they just can't expect a corporation to finance something that they have to pay so much money out, and they did.

00:44:00

SUCHANEK: Um-hm. Okay, let me flip this tape over.

[End of Tape #1, Side #1]

[Begin Tape #1, Side #2]

SUCHANEK: I don't want to go through all of these bills that you sponsored, because we'd be here for a year.

ISLER: Yeah.

SUCHANEK: You sponsored so much.

ISLER: Yeah.

SUCHANEK: So I just want to mention and get for the record, mention some bills, and if you want to, if you have any recollections of those bills, by all means, jump in. You sponsored, or co-sponsored, a bill relating to payment of wages to railroad employees. It pertained to the amount and time allowed for payment of employees, including dismissed employees, mainly with passenger service lines. And I'm assuming that that was in relation also to House Bill 164 in dealing with the discontinuation of passenger line service.

ISLER: Yeah.

SUCHANEK: In this particular bill here, House Bill 178 received a second 00:45:00reading but not a third. You sponsored, with Vernor Cottingim, the bill authorizing county civil service commissions.

ISLER: Right. Well, we didn't have anything like that in Kenton County, and that's a first step. Remember, you're going back quite a few years, and this is when all this, the unions were organizing and everything was organizing, business was booming. That was about ten years after World War One, see, we had World War Two in 1945, I believe that's when that was over.

SUCHANEK: Right.

ISLER: And this country was really building up, and it's really wonderful how it's built up.

SUCHANEK: Again with Vernor Cottingim, you sponsored a bill providing 00:46:00mediation of disputes between second-class cities and their employees, and again, Covington was a second-class city. That probably goes kind of hand-in-hand with the last bill, which authorized county civil service commissions.

ISLER: Yeah, um-hm.

SUCHANEK: So I mention these two bills to show that you were concerned about-

ISLER: Yeah.

SUCHANEK: the City of Covington.

ISLER: Oh, yeah.

SUCHANEK: And you did sponsor legislation trying to help the employees, the city employees-

ISLER: Yeah.

SUCHANEK: of Covington.

ISLER: Yeah, that's the only protection they had. They didn't know what civil service was, see. But now it's working pretty good. There are still ways of getting, there's loopholes in it. No matter what you do, they'll figure a loophole with the wording. They'll interpret one way, and you'll interpret another way.

SUCHANEK: Right.

ISLER: And that's the only trouble about our English language.

SUCHANEK: (Laughs), well, lawyers love those type of words, don't they?

ISLER: Yeah, they live on that.

00:47:00

SUCHANEK: (Laughs), they sure do. House Bill 250 related to alcoholic beverage sales at an airport. And again with Vernor, you co-sponsored that bill. Do you remember anything about that?

ISLER: I remember that well. The reason why we done it is, we got an airport out here just starting up. It was just starting up, and they're like any other company or corporation. They got to have means to get going on. So we felt that these people, they didn't get here in two and a half hours in those days, they didn't have that kind of an airplane, but they did have a long ride and we just felt there should be a place for them to, when they get off of that plane, that they could go in and have a little drink in the restaurant and things like that. And was this for Sunday or for every day?

SUCHANEK: I think it was for every day.

ISLER: Yeah. Okay. We had some places where they wanted it on Sundays, 00:48:00where it was dry or something.

SUCHANEK: Um-hm. This bill passed, by the way, 42 to 18.

ISLER: Yeah. Well, that only pertained to Boone County, right here on my right, up here, I'm looking over at the, about five miles over that hill there is where it is.

SUCHANEK: The airport?

ISLER: The airport.

SUCHANEK: Um-hm. House Bill 327 limited the water pollution control commission's power to require construction of new sewage disposal systems or treatment works, or the modification, extension, or alteration of existing systems until such time as the federal government kicked in half the amount of the cost. And this was, you co-sponsored this with many folks. And it received a second reading, but not a third. And of course, nowadays, solid waste disposal is a 00:49:00hot topic. And yet, way back in `56, you know, you had already been starting to think about this.

ISLER: Yeah. Well, it was, there was a bill passed in the Congress and, about that waste, the sanitation districts. And it laid in dormant for about ten years. Nothing was done about it. And that's the way they do up there, they let it lie in dormant. And then finally, up here in Campbell County, a lot of equipment come up on the farm up there. And the proprietor, he couldn't figure it out, so he walked out in the field and he said, "What are you fellows doing here?" "Oh," they said, "we're going to dig down here about sixty or seventy feet. And 00:50:00we're sent in here from Washington, a law which was passed ten years ago, that we're going to build a sanitation plant in Bromley. And we're going to start here, drill down, and run our pipes all the way through Campbell County," this was up on the other side of Fort Thomas, "all the way down to Bromley." And that's what they done. That was the beginning of the starting of that. So we had to go along with it, see. And now look what it is today. They moved that out of Bromley and they moved it way down in Kentucky near, I guess, Warsaw, down there along the river down there, and that's where it is now.

SUCHANEK: I see.

ISLER: They moved it out of Bromley.

SUCHANEK: Now, House Resolution 45 expressed appreciation to the 00:51:00University and the City of Louisville for a tour provided by U of L in the city of Louisville, which included stops at various hospitals in the city, including U of L's med. center. And you also got to see a U of L basketball game and had dinner, and transportation was provided by the City of Louisville in the form of eight buses. Now, we all know that "Happy" Chandler, one of his campaign platforms was to build a med. center at U.K. Now, you don't suppose this tour provided by U of L and the City of Louisville was it any attempt (laughs) to influence your thinking in regards to "Happy's" plan for a med. center at U.K., do you?

ISLER: No. There's times when you take those tours, it's offered to all the members of the General Assembly, that's the House and the Senate, 00:52:00so that you can be aware of what you're, what they're going to do. And by doing that, that's in their favor, because when you get there and they talk to you, then you understand just what it is. And that's why I went in many of them, many of them.

SUCHANEK: But the medical community in Kentucky, just about to a person, was against U.K. getting a med. center. I think there was a proposal that the U of L med. center become state-supported, rather than build a new med. center at U.K., or even have the U of L med. center taken under control by U.K., but to remain in Louisville. So there was all that opposition to that bill, wasn't there?

ISLER: Yeah.

SUCHANEK: That appropriation?

ISLER: Yeah, I remember that bill very well because I was on that 00:53:00committee. And I went down to the Louisville hospital and we checked it out very thoroughly, and it had, well, I believe it's still in use. But it had high ceilings and all that, and we wasn't too much in favor of that. So we went through it. We spent the whole day down there, and then we decided that we better send it up to U.K. And that's one bill I'm really glad I voted for. That's one bill I'm glad that "Happy" wanted.

SUCHANEK: Sure, because U.K. is really the regional hospital for all of eastern Kentucky.

ISLER: Yeah.

SUCHANEK: Yeah. One bill that was presented was House Bill 125, and it, 00:54:00the reason I mention it is because it was relating to the minimum wage for all occupations, and I just wanted to mention that you voted for that. In fact, I think, throughout your legislative career, anything to do with minimum wages, you voted for it, increasing the minimum wage, and I just wanted to make sure we put that on the record.

ISLER: Well, I'm glad you did but, you know, I said just a few minutes ago that you got to have a lifeline, and one of them was, that I picked out is the unions. That's one of my lifelines, and like I explained to you, it takes from the state on down. You're talking about a lot of votes.

SUCHANEK: Sure. Sure.

ISLER: And that's the way it was in those days. It might have changed since the last eight or nine years I've been out, but back in those days you had to have a lifeline to get in. You had to have backing. 00:55:00And another thing, anybody that backed me up, it didn't cost them one red penny, not one red penny. I took care of all my own finances. And right today, the age I am today, I don't accept nothing. I think the same way the first day I stepped in that hall, the General Assembly in 1956.

SUCHANEK: House Bill 145 was a so-called "egg law." Do you remember the egg law?

ISLER: (Laughs), I guess I do (both laugh).

SUCHANEK: You voted for that, and it dealt with wholesalers. And I, that provided a little bit of controversy, I understand, that bill.

ISLER: Yeah. Well, that's the farmer, you see, the farmers. You can't get them too mad at you (both laugh).

SUCHANEK: Well, now is a good time to bring up what I had mentioned to 00:56:00you before we started taping today. It was in the `56 session, and representatives of the Farm Bureau had gone to visit "Happy" Chandler. And I'm sure you remember the rhubarb when he told them that, to mind their own business and to quit meddling into other people's business. And I don't suspect that, you know, being from Covington and Kenton County, that this was of particular concern to you, and maybe I'm wrong, maybe it was, but I mean the Farm Bureau wasn't exactly some, an organization that you would want to be mad at you-

ISLER: No.

SUCHANEK: especially if you were a governor.

ISLER: Yeah. Well, the Farm Bureau, they were powerful, don't misunderstand me. And they are powerful right today, I assume. When I went out of office in '81, they were in there. But being that I lived 00:57:00in a city, anybody from the first to the sixth-class, they didn't do, cause the Farm Bureau too much trouble, see. But when "Happy" wanted a bill, now remember, the governor, he wanted a bill. And naturally the ones from the first to the sixth-class city just automatically went over with "Happy" because it wasn't going to affect them, because they wasn't in the rural area, see. But they were a strong organization, but I never had, I didn't have no problems with them. No problems. In fact, I didn't even meet with them or anything.

SUCHANEK: Um-hm. Now, House Bill 146 increased the penalty for driving 00:58:00under the influence of alcohol or narcotics. You voted against this bill, and the bill was defeated. Do you recall why you would have voted against that bill for increasing the penalties for driving under the influence of alcohol?

ISLER: Well, I don't recall a whole lot about it, but one thing about it, the penalties were severe the way it was then. And there was a lot of bootlegging in those days too, and I just didn't feel like that we should pick on the working-class people.

SUCHANEK: Um-hm, okay. Now, Brooks Hinkle introduced House Bill 168, dealing with the regulating of packaging of commodities, and you voted against Brooks' bill. It passed 44 to 23. I was just wondering if you recall what that bill was about, the packaging of commodities, and why you might have voted against that?

00:59:00

ISLER: No, I can't recall that, but Brooks, I think, if my mind serves me right, he was a teacher, school teacher. And-

SUCHANEK: Right. Or a principal, I forget which.

ISLER: Yeah. I believe he was a principal, yeah, yeah. And naturally, he was for the school board. I wasn't against the school board, but I had my reasons, but I can't recall right now.

SUCHANEK: Okay. I also wanted to put on record that you voted for the Teachers' Retirement Act, which was a "Happy" Chandler campaign promise, so you voted with the administration on that.

ISLER: Yeah. Well, now, you see the bill you talked about before is a little bit different than that. You're talking about the school teachers now, and up here you're probably talking about the school board.

SUCHANEK: Um-hm.

ISLER: I said he was a teacher, didn't I?

SUCHANEK: Right.

ISLER: A principal?

SUCHANEK: Right. Uh-huh.

ISLER: So I just wanted to explain that, just to give you an idea-

01:00:00

SUCHANEK: Okay.

ISLER: how, when you have to think of those things over.

SUCHANEK: Sure.

ISLER: You have to remember what your lifeline is.

SUCHANEK: Right (Isler laughs). Well, I'm sure there were a lot of teachers in Covington at the time.

ISLER: Yeah, but those teachers always voted for me, because you just mentioned the pension.

SUCHANEK: Right (Isler laughs). You also voted for House Bill 324, which strengthened the Minimum Foundation Program, and that was also a "Happy" Chandler campaign promise. And you also voted for five different bills dealing with workmen's compensations for different state departments. This, these various bills, House Bill 328, 329, 337, -38, and -39, created workmen's compensation for different state departments, and you voted for those.

ISLER: Yeah.

SUCHANEK: So I think this gives a pretty good indication that you were 01:01:00voting for the working man-

ISLER: Yeah.

SUCHANEK: the middle class person.

ISLER: You see, when you get into something like state politics, city politics you can jump around or do what you want, but in state politics you can't. And you notice all them bills that you're talking about that I voted for, those are people that put me into office. They saved me a lot of money because they knew that they could depend on me, and that's what it's all about, see. So I never had too much trouble, and like I just said before, there was five terms I didn't have any opposition at all, consecutively.

SUCHANEK: Right.

ISLER: And so you just can't say I'm going get in there by myself, because you can't.

01:02:00

SUCHANEK: You voted for House Bill 421 repealing the requirement of separate Negro railroad coaches on the railroads. Now, this is 1956, and I believe Brown v. Board of Education was in 1954. Was this House Bill 421 kind of a result of Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas? Do you recall?

ISLER: Are you talking about John Y. Brown?

SUCHANEK: No, no. This is the Supreme Court ruling, Brown v. Board of Education, dealing with the desegregation of public schools.

ISLER: Hmm. Did we have that to come up on the floor?

SUCHANEK: Well, I think later on there was a bill dealing with that, but I think that was in the, in sixty--, perhaps in `64 or so, but-

ISLER: No, I-

SUCHANEK: You did vote for the repealing the requirement for separate 01:03:00railroad coaches for Negroes, and I thought that that was, you know, in 1956 in Kentucky, that was pretty enlightened.

ISLER: Well, I don't recall too much about that, but I do know that the blacks in some part of our history, that they had to go to the back of the cars.

SUCHANEK: Right.

ISLER: And they had to sit with one another, where we could go in there and sit anyplace we wanted, but we couldn't go back there where theirs were. And probably that's why I took the stand that I-

SUCHANEK: What was the racial attitude of Covington at that time, in the late '50s, mid-to-late '50s?

ISLER: I don't think it's nothing like it is today, no comparison. Back in my days when I was a young man, things have been turned completely around. In other words, what you do today, see, my daddy didn't do 01:04:00that, he done this. We're just turned, we're just turned all the way around. We don't even think the way our fathers and mothers think. It's hard for me to understand these young ones, what they're getting at. It's a new generation, that's not the answer. That's absolutely not the answer.

SUCHANEK: Was Covington a segregated city in the, you know, mid-'50s to late-'50s?

ISLER: Yeah. Well-

SUCHANEK: Did you have any blacks in your district?

ISLER: Yeah, I had blacks. I had blacks. But they were American citizens, and that's the way they acted. They knew-when I was a young fellow, if you had an eighth grade education, you was all right. 01:05:00If you went to high school, that was good. But you didn't need an education to go to work because everything was manual. You didn't press buttons in those days. You learned a trade, you worked with it, even in the office when I was a young fellow. I worked against old- timers on the other side of the desk, and my job was to learn their job and that's what I done. Then you moved up. But we never had all this here thing. You could walk through a black neighborhood. Probably you knew all of them because you played ball against them. They had their teams and your teams. They played with the, the teams played. The blacks were all black, and we were all white. But if you lived up in 01:06:00that district up there where there's a white team, you could play on it and they never thought nothing of it. It's just unbelievable the way things are going today. It's unbelievable.

SUCHANEK: You also voted for House Bill 428, which set penalties for employers who restricted their employees' political rights.

ISLER: (Laughs), you sure I voted for that bill?

SUCHANEK: Yeah, you voted for that bill.

ISLER: It must not have got out of the committee.

SUCHANEK: I think it passed. I think it passed.

ISLER: Oh, no kidding.

SUCHANEK: Uh-huh.

ISLER: Well, I can't recall that bill (both laugh).

SUCHANEK: Yeah. In other words, it said that, you know-

ISLER: Somebody must have hit my button while I was out (both laugh). Does that answer it?

SUCHANEK: Okay.

ISLER: They do that.

SUCHANEK: They do?

ISLER: Why, certainly. I can go over there and hit your button if 01:07:00you're out. You won't know it (laughs) until you, until somebody calls your attention to it.

SUCHANEK: Now, you never did that, did you?

ISLER: No. No. I didn't even lock up my desk, because it was full of bills (both laugh).

SUCHANEK: Okay. And you also voted for House Bill 463, which created a retirement system for state employees.

ISLER: Yeah. I was definitely for that.

SUCHANEK: Yeah. Now, this first, the first regular session of 1956, if you recall Chandler called four special sessions in `56, because he said he needed time to get his budget ready, that Wetherby had left the "cupboard bare," as he said-

ISLER: Yeah.

SUCHANEK: and it would take him more than the two or three weeks that the law allowed him to get a budget together, so he wanted a short regular session-

ISLER: Yeah.

SUCHANEK: and then he would call special sessions.

ISLER: Yeah.

01:08:00

SUCHANEK: According to the Courier-Journal, you know, "Happy," except for a couple of bills there in the first regular session, like House Bill 1 against the liens against estates, and there's also the, I wanted to ask you about the cigarette tax reduction bill that was defeated, and we'll get to that in just a second. "Happy" had a pretty loose rein in this first part of the session on, you know, he didn't call in his chips, he didn't use his political clout, he kind of hung back and let you all take care of housekeeping business and that kind of thing. Is it, was that your impression of that first, I know it's probably kind of difficult for you to separate, being so long ago, the first session from the extraordinary sessions.

ISLER: Well, the administration had their bills, and the corporations had their bills, and every denomination had bills. And talking about, 01:09:00you're talking about the budget now.

SUCHANEK: Well, the budget came up in the, either the third or fourth extra session.

ISLER: Yeah. But even when you talk about the budget, they claimed that back in the old days it was a big sin if you voted against that budget, because the thing about it is, how would the state operate? They've got to have that budget. So the only thing you can do is amend the budget. And that's another thing that the administration wouldn't hold still for. So the only thing most of us done, maybe a few of them didn't, but most of us went ahead with the budget. Now you pass the budget, 01:10:00now you got to pass appropriations that carry that budget. That budget don't mean anything-

SUCHANEK: Right.

ISLER: if you don't have those appropriations in there.

SUCHANEK: Okay. Well, we'll get to that in just a minute, okay?

ISLER: All right.

SUCHANEK: What I wanted to ask you about was, let's see, it was-okay, of the first session, the two bills, along with House Bill 1, the two other bills that created the most controversy were, was Senate Bill 8, which proposed to reduce the cigarette tax from three cents to two cents. There were two or three senators and a couple of House members, the senators, the main senator against it was C.W. McCann.

01:11:00

ISLER: Oh, yeah (laughs).

SUCHANEK: I mean he sponsored Senate Bill 8, and of course, McCann was-

ISLER: McCann, Louisville.

SUCHANEK: and he was, McCann was president of a tobacco cooperative, and so, of course, he had his own interest in there.

ISLER: Oh, yeah.

SUCHANEK: But apparently they got the idea during the campaign in `55 that Chandler was for a reduction in the cigarette tax, although Chandler never came out and specifically said that. He apparently gave the impression that he was for such a bill to reduce the cigarette tax. When he took office and Chandler looked at the budget, apparently he changed his mind. And when Senate Bill 8, and McCann introduced Senate Bill 8, "Happy" came out in the papers and said he couldn't support that, that the cupboard was bare, and the state could not do without that money, the extra tax money. Do you recall the controversy over 01:12:00that cigarette tax bill? I must say that Chandler mustered his forces and showed his political muscle there, and it never got out of the committee it was assigned to, but that created quite a controversy.

ISLER: Yeah, but you see you're talking about a Senate bill, and of course, all the fighting and everything is done in the Senate. And of course, I imagine "Happy" did let the House know through memorandums that he was not in favor of that bill. And I'd say that bill did not pass.

SUCHANEK: No, it did not. Representatives J. Rodney Thompson from Winchester and Brooks Hinkle from Paris both said that they would lead the fight in the House for that cigarette tax reduction, and I don't think it ever got as far in the House as it did in the Senate. It did, it was submitted to the Senate Committee on Revenue and Taxation, and 01:13:00it never got out of committee in the Senate. But one of the reasons it created it created so much controversy is, at the same time, I believe it was Senator Anggelis from Lexington and Foster Ockerman and perhaps John Breckinridge, was proposing a tax, a re--, well, let me see here, it was-okay, the bill was to exempt bettors at Keeneland racetrack from payment of the state's four to six percent tax on pari-mutuel betting. And so on one hand, you have Chandler, and Chandler supported that bill. On one hand you have Chandler opposing a reduction in the cigarette tax, which was going to cost the state money, and not supporting that bill. And at the same time he's supporting a bill 01:14:00to exempt the bettors at Keeneland track from paying the tax on pari- mutuel betting, which was going to cost the state money. So I suppose it shows that the Democrats in Lexington had considerably more muscle, or the horse industry had considerably more muscle, than the tobacco growers at this point. Would you say that's accurate?

ISLER: Well, Lexington, Fayette County, it's got a lot of race, farms, racehorse farms. And I believe, I'm not quite sure, but there was a time when quite a few of them farms left Lexington, Fayette County, for some reason, but I can't remember. But they went down to Gainesville in Florida, and places down through there. I don't know why, but I think it is over some kind of tax business, see. But I wasn't too 01:15:00much interested in either way, the way the racetracks went because it didn't affect my people, because my people were working class people and if they went in and made a bet it'd be a quarter bet or fifty cents. And, but I can't comment too much on that, but I do recall that a lot of those in, the commonwealth bought up a lot of those farms. That's where we get our farm, we get our park, our Horse Park up there at Lexington. That's where that come, they bought up the land so they can't come back, see.

SUCHANEK: Okay. Now, in the first extra session that Chandler called, 01:16:00it dealt with, House Bill 1 dealt with reorganizing state government, and you supported the administration bill on reorganizing the state government. Of course, in Chandler's first administration, he is given credit, and I think rightfully so, for reorganizing state government, making it more efficient. But the second, you know, you don't hear that much about this second reorganization that Chandler did as having the same kind of effect. Do you recall anything about that bill?

ISLER: Whenever governors get in there and they're on their second term, not their first term, see, we meet every two years. They generally come up with an organization bill like that, and some of them get them passed and some of them don't, but it's pretty hard to pass anything in your second term as governor. That's your last two years, see. The 01:17:00governor can only serve four years, one term. And they all like to have, do something that history will remember them, and they do come up with that organization bill quite often.

SUCHANEK: Every governor has his own way of doing things?

ISLER: Yeah.

SUCHANEK: Um-hm.

ISLER: They, well, what I, like I said there before, they want something, that if anything comes up in history, they want to be put in history, see. They have to, want to do something outstanding for their state.

SUCHANEK: And then in the second session, Senate Bill 3 provided for a $100 million highway bond issue. I imagine that was a pretty hot topic. You sup--, you either abstained from voting on it or you 01:18:00weren't there. Do you recall why you weren't-

ISLER: I was sick once that I can recall. I believe I missed one day. I was sick that day, and that must have been on a Tuesday or something like that.

SUCHANEK: Would you have voted for the bill had you been there, the $100 million dollar bond issue for highways?

ISLER: That seems like a whole lot, doesn't it?

SUCHANEK: Um-hm.

ISLER: But if I'm not mistaken, that is where we meet the federal government for nine to one.

SUCHANEK: I see.

ISLER: You're riding over those highways right now. And we had to meet- they put up the nine dollars, and we put up the one dollar. And there's no reason why in the world you wouldn't vote for something like that.

SUCHANEK: At that time Kentucky was almost known as the "detour state," 01:19:00wasn't it?

ISLER: Well, our roads wasn't too good. All the little states, the roads wasn't too good. But on account of Eisenhower passing the bill up there in his days to do all that like they did in other countries, foreign countries, see, they had all these highways before we did. And this here made it just wonderful, and it brought us all as one, because you can get in there and you can go here to Florida in about ten hours, and you go through all these states. And another thing, the little states got as just as much money as the big states.

SUCHANEK: I didn't know that.

ISLER: But you had to match it one dollar for each one. Some of the states did not have the money, and they went ahead and built them through, and they paid as they went along.

01:20:00

SUCHANEK: Um-hm. Then in the third extra session, House Bill 1 was the administration budget bill, and you voted for it. Now, the thing about this bill is it asked for more money than the state had projected to take in, and again, you voted for that, okay? In the fourth and last extra session, which was House Bill 1, this was for increasing individual and corporation income taxes, decreasing credits, changing definitions, and imposing a surtax, and you voted against it. And this was the first time you broke with the administration. So you had voted 01:21:00for the administration bill, budget bill, which called for more money than the state had, and then voted against a tax that would provide some of the funds for that, the budget bill that you voted for. I'm just wondering if you could comment on-

ISLER: Well-

SUCHANEK: your thinking on that?

ISLER: it's very simple. My people pay taxes. Well, all of us pay taxes. If you're going to give me something, I'm going to take it. Why didn't he have it in his budget? I would have voted for it in the budget, because I wouldn't vote against the budget. If I voted against the budget, I'd be voting against all the people that are for me.

SUCHANEK: Um-hm. Well, if you recall, Chandler ran, one of his main planks in his campaign was that he would not raise taxes, that he would find the money in the budget to run the state, build a U.K. med. center, and do all these wonderful things that he had promised in his campaign without raising taxes. So speculation has it that he 01:22:00introduced his budget bill before introducing in a later session the way to pay for it.

ISLER: The appropriations.

SUCHANEK: Right. It was clever, it was a clever piece of maneuvering on "Happy's" part, I think.

ISLER: Well, like I said before, if you're going to give me something, I'm already paying, I'm going to accept it. My people accept it. But then on the other hand, you're asking them to pay more taxes when they feel like they've paid enough taxes to cover what your appropriations are. That's a horse with a different color.

SUCHANEK: Um-hm. Do you recall-

ISLER: So what you do, you take what you get, and what you don't want, you vote against. And that's the way it should be. If the governor wants to give you something, he's got a lot of things he can cut out. There's a lot of these jobs that are on that shouldn't be put on, but 01:23:00the governor has to get elected to office, remember that. They have to think of those things on his part. And you got to think the way I, on my part, with my people sitting back home there reading the papers and them telling what a bad job you're doing.

SUCHANEK: Did you get a lot of feedback from the people in your district, you know, not only in this term, but in terms that you were in the legislature?

ISLER: No, they, no, I always voted the way they wanted me to vote.

SUCHANEK: But would they call you perhaps, you know, and say, you know, "We don't want any more taxes, John?"

ISLER: No, they knew I wouldn't vote for it because I set up my program in my first three sessions. No, they were mostly after-you get an awful lot of calls that people that don't have food and stuff like that, and you got to get hold of certain ones in the, down in Frankfort that take care of it, and they always took care of it. But you still 01:24:00had those telephone, you know-

SUCHANEK: Sure.

ISLER: telephone calls.

SUCHANEK: Okay.

ISLER: Yeah.

SUCHANEK: And just as a sidelight, House Resolution 7 in that fourth session, in fact, you sponsored this resolution. It was petitioning Congress, the U.S. Congress, to reduce federal income tax rates (laughs).

ISLER: Well, you knew they were high, didn't you?

SUCHANEK: Yeah.

ISLER: So somebody-

SUCHANEK: By the way, that resolution was not adopted (both laugh).

ISLER: Well, that's the way it goes (laughs). That saved me from writing a letter, right (both laugh)?

SUCHANEK: Okay. So I wanted to ask you, after your first session in the legislature and you're going home, what did you think? What were your impressions of being a legislator? Did you have any-well, answer that 01:25:00first. What did you think of the process?

ISLER: Well, it had to be exciting, but still and all, I was schooled on what to expect and everything. So when I walked out there, I was the same as I walked in. I knew what was going on when I walked in. I knew what was going on when I walked out. So I didn't have any problems. My, when I left there on a Friday, we always left around eleven, twelve, I wanted to get home to see my family, see. After all, I was just a regular working man in that office. I was in personnel and everything else, but I was a family man and my family came first. 01:26:00And another thing I want to tell you about it, when I went to church, everybody come up and shook my hand. I didn't want somebody to, when I go to church, go over and say this and that about him. There's a lot of things you have to take into consideration when you're in office, and if you don't it will come back to haunt you. And I was-I knew all those things. I was ready. I had about three years under my belt.

SUCHANEK: I see. I suppose if you wouldn't have been schooled before you went, I suppose many legislators walk around in a fog down there for a while.

ISLER: For about three terms, that's six years.

SUCHANEK: If they can stay three terms.

ISLER: Yeah. But he had me, I knew what was going on. They couldn't fool me at all. And I-

SUCHANEK: Okay, let's take a-go ahead.

01:27:00

ISLER: There's times when I would, I believe I told you about the tie, I broke the tie, didn't I?

SUCHANEK: Yes. Uh-huh.

ISLER: Well, no use going into that.

SUCHANEK: Okay.

ISLER: But as I said, there's times when you get out of there, you see, and then the papers, you watch the papers and everything else. You always have somebody on the inside that keeps you posted. You always had that.

SUCHANEK: Um-hm. To see what the reaction of the local papers are?

ISLER: No, what goes on in the, up on the second and the third floor. We're on the third floor, and the governor is on the second.

SUCHANEK: Oh, I see.

ISLER: And they, you, somebody will give a name, like if Gus, Senator Sheehan wants to see you, well, I made arrangements to meet with him and things like that. We kept one another posted on everything. We worked together. They, before they had these delegations they all have now, well, Kenton County always worked together. Then they, then I, 01:28:00we got three of them here, Campbell, Kenton, and Boone. And you can't beat it. And with Louisville, we got enough votes to tie any bill up. We have enough.

SUCHANEK: What I wanted to ask you for real quick, on that cigarette reduction tax bill, Harry Davis was sitting in the gallery counting the votes, and who voted for it and who voted against it. And I was wondering, were you aware of when the administration had a man up there counting noses? I mean did that bother you at all?

ISLER: Well, no, it didn't bother me, but I was aware that no matter what bill come up, there's people up there counting the votes, the no votes, because generally there's quite a few of the yes votes unless it's a bad bill. And I'm sitting up in the first row right in front of the speaker, and everybody is in the back of me so I can't tell 01:29:00anything about it, but I don't worry about those things. What I worry about is my people back home, how they're going to feel about it.

SUCHANEK: Okay.

ISLER: That's the only boss I had. The governor was the governor of the state, but these people paid my salary, so I had, that's all I worried about. I didn't worry about anything else.

SUCHANEK: Okay, let me stop this tape. We're going to have to put a new tape in, and then we'll pick up right here.

[End of Tape #1, Side #2]

[Begin Tape #2, Side #1]

SUCHANEK: Okay, this is the second tape of the September 19th interview with John Isler. John, we were talking about when you left to go home after the first session. Did it occur to you that you would stay twenty-six years in the state legislature?

ISLER: No, I never had the slightest idea, because in my first three 01:30:00races I did all right, but there still was a lot of opposition. But as I went in through the years and I didn't have that opposition, because the people took over. And I can say this, that every time that I ran, I increased my votes. And I believe I explained that in the past.

SUCHANEK: Right. Did you ever have any desire to run for the Senate, the State Senate or maybe even governor?

ISLER: No. No. I never had any desire, just to stay right where I was at.

SUCHANEK: Was there a reason for that?

ISLER: Well, the fellows that run in the Senate and that, like Gus Sheehan and Carl Ruh and them, they were all close friends of mine. We 01:31:00would come up in different organizations and things like that. And Gus and I go way back.

SUCHANEK: Oh, so you didn't want to run against them?

ISLER: Well, no. It just didn't dawn on me, you see. I, in other words, I was pretty well pleased with the job I had. I was very active in that enrollment job, and I just, it would take me a long time to work up to chairman. Remember, I started chairman in `56. I don't believe any other representative's ever had that opportunity.

SUCHANEK: Okay. So now, in `57, you didn't, I don't believe you had any opposition in the primary. I couldn't find that out from the-

ISLER: Yeah, that's, well, that's right.

SUCHANEK: Okay. And then in the `57 general election, your opponent was 01:32:00a man by the name of Hobart Landon. Do you recall who he was?

ISLER: I remember that name, but he wasn't too much up in the political world around here. Most of my opposition was light opposition, most of them.

SUCHANEK: You defeated him, by the way, 2,295 votes to 594.

ISLER: Yeah, that, well, that means he was light opposition.

SUCHANEK: Um-hm.

ISLER: In other words, I don't believe the Republicans was trying to defeat me, see.

SUCHANEK: Was your-I take it your district was a Democratic stronghold?

ISLER: It was.

SUCHANEK: Okay.

ISLER: Yeah, even when Eisenhower ran, Kenton County went to, for Eisenhower, but my district was Democratic.

SUCHANEK: And went for Adlai Stevenson? Okay. Now, at the start of the 01:33:00`58 regular session, Morris Weintraub became Speaker of the House. And I don't recall, was Fitzpatrick still in the House at that time or-

ISLER: Yeah.

SUCHANEK: Did he and "Happy" have a falling out?

ISLER: Well, no. Back in those days you didn't succeed yourself as Speaker of the House.

SUCHANEK: Oh, is that right?

ISLER: Yeah, not like they've done in the late years while I was in office. No, they didn't. After all, you had a new governor every year, every other year. And the governor, he's the one that picked the Speaker of the House. And they would. They'd, they didn't succeed themselves like they do now.

SUCHANEK: What kind of leader was Morris Weintraub as opposed to Timmy 01:34:00Fitzpatrick? Was he as strong a leader?

ISLER: They were about the same. They come, really, come from the same district, the Licking River just divided them.

SUCHANEK: I see. So they were both from northern Kentucky?

ISLER: Yeah. There wasn't too much difference in any of them.

SUCHANEK: In the `58 session, Chandler had a lot of problems.

ISLER: Yeah.

SUCHANEK: In fact, I wanted to ask you-

ISLER: You mean his last two years?

SUCHANEK: Yeah, his last two years.

ISLER: Yeah, that's right. That's when they all do. They're lame ducks.

SUCHANEK: Yeah. But in the `57 primary, you know, it's always said that "Happy" has an accurate and a long memory.

ISLER: Yeah.

SUCHANEK: And in the `57 primary, there had been some who have said that "Happy" went out to, and tried to punish his enemies in the legislature and reward his friends. Apparently he backed candidates to run against, in the Democratic primary, candidates to run against people 01:35:00who had voted against his bills during the `56 session. He wasn't very successful. His candidates, in the main, I think, were defeated. So I'm thinking that in the `58 session the Clements' faction really began to show their strength. Is that your impression? Is that why "Happy" had so much problems?

ISLER: I can't say yes or no on that because Clements, I had very little to do with Clements, only in presidential elections. See, he was the senator up in Washington.

SUCHANEK: Right. But he was still influencing Kentucky-

ISLER: Now, he might have some influence with the governors, but I wasn't too much interested in the governors, because I had my job set out, what I was supposed to do. Bills or no bills, I was there to protect my people. So I didn't, probably there's a lot of meetings and 01:36:00things that I never was, I wasn't invited-

SUCHANEK: Okay.

ISLER: because I, remember I said when you cast your first vote, that's the side you're on.

SUCHANEK: Addison Everett was the majority floor leader. Do you remember?

ISLER: I remember him well.

SUCHANEK: Uh-huh. Can you tell me anything about him? What kind of man was he?

ISLER: Oh, he was just the average representative. He was easy to get along with and everything else. He's from down around Maysville, wasn't he, or someplace down there?

SUCHANEK: I believe in that area, yes.

ISLER: Yeah, Maysville, yeah. Yeah. And I think it was, well, in my first term he was in there-

SUCHANEK: Right.

ISLER: when I walked, when I went in there, and he kind of took a liking to me.

SUCHANEK: Oh, he did?

ISLER: Yeah, he kind of liked me a little bit.

SUCHANEK: Did he help you at all or-

ISLER: Well, no, because he was on the other side of the House and I 01:37:00was in front of Timmy. And us northern Kentuckians, we stuck together. We stuck together and with Morris Weintraub and all. We went out and stuck together. And I don't know, Morris was just as good of a speaker as the rest of them. He's a good lawyer, I'll tell you that. He was.

SUCHANEK: Okay. House Bill 1 was the administration bill in `58. And the budget bill really created quite a scuffle in `58. The original budget submitted by Chandler was defeated when "Happy" couldn't get the majority he needed. Now, you voted for the original bill.

ISLER: Yeah.

SUCHANEK: But it took a lot of amendments to finally pass it 91 to 01:38:00nothing. I think there was something like twelve amendments to it, and they kept trying to adjourn and trying to go into caucus session-

ISLER: Oh, yeah.

SUCHANEK: and everything. And it seemed like, just reading the journal, the House journals, it was a mess.

ISLER: Yeah, and I had to follow all that, too.

SUCHANEK: Right (laughs). It seemed like it must have taken all afternoon.

ISLER: Oh, probably up till seven or eight o'clock at night (Suchanek laughs). They don't worry about the time.

SUCHANEK: In, yeah, what was kind of funny is Everett kept trying to get a motion passed for a recess, because you know, "Happy" couldn't get, the administration couldn't get enough votes to have it passed the way it was. And after every amendment was introduced, why, Addison Everett would get up and try to get a vote for a recess (laughs)-

ISLER: Yeah.

SUCHANEK: and he couldn't do it. So you remember that fight quite well?

ISLER: Yeah, I re--, well, we had quite a few of them. We had, we 01:39:00always had a big fight in every session. But Everett, if my mind is treating me right, I went along with him. Maybe it is because when I met him out or something like that, why, he'd come up to my table or something. But I never run around after him because I wasn't sent down there to do that.

SUCHANEK: Right.

ISLER: They had to come to me. I had the vote, didn't I? Huh?

SUCHANEK: That's right.

ISLER: No use me running around after them (laughs).

SUCHANEK: That's right. Now, you authorized, or introduced House Bill 5, authorizing the court to require parents to pay for damages by their child, and that passed 60 to 9. Do you recall what brought that bill about? Did you have someone in your district suggest maybe that this 01:40:00would be good bill to have passed, to have the, make the parents more responsible for their children's actions?

ISLER: Somebody had to bring the bill to me, a lobbyist or somebody high up in the, like the board of education or something like that-

SUCHANEK: Okay.

ISLER: because I was a-that's what we need today, we need better education. We need somebody to look in there and check them things out. And I didn't always go along with the school boards. I don't go along with them right now because they've really messed up with our education.

SUCHANEK: Now, you were a co-sponsor with House Bill 135, authorizing counties with cities of the second-class to create county merit systems. So again, I think this shows that you were, you know, at least co-sponsoring if not sponsoring bills for, as you say, your 01:41:00district was mainly working class-

ISLER: Yeah.

SUCHANEK: middle class people. And this would have, this bill would have affected them.

ISLER: Yeah. When you co-sign the bill, that means that you're going to vote for the bill. That's the reason why they go around and get as many co-signers. And you can always tell, if it's a good bill, it will have a lot of co-signers on it because they're not going to sign bills that's not going to put them back in office.

SUCHANEK: Um-hm. House Bill 186 I found to be an interesting bill. It defines switchblade knives as deadly weapons, and you sponsored that bill. Do you recall that?

ISLER: Yeah, that bill, I can't recall who asked me to do that, because back in those days, when that bill was introduced, there was a lot of people getting cut up with knives, stabbed in the backs and things like that.

01:42:00

SUCHANEK: In Covington?

ISLER: Well, it was everywhere, everywhere, in Newport, Covington, everywhere. It was, they have runs on those things. And that's probably what brought that about. I don't think that bill passed.

SUCHANEK: Let's see. You're right. It received a second reading but not a third.

ISLER: Yeah. Well, they just let me know that they were thinking of me and they wouldn't put it in the orders of the day.

SUCHANEK: Why wouldn't they, I mean, what would be their objection to that?

ISLER: I don't know. Just because a lobbyist-see, the lobbyist has got an awful lot to do with these, not getting the bills out of committee, but getting them out of the orders of the day and passing them, see. They'd like to hold the bills in the committee. You introduce a bill, they'll, if you don't bother them, they'll hold that bill in the 01:43:00committee, the chairman will.

SUCHANEK: Now, House Resolution 54 in the `58 session directed the public service commission to investigate certain utility practices. And this was a bill co-sponsored by you and your northern Kentucky delegation. This was initiated against the Union Light, Heat, and Power Company that serviced your area of northern Kentucky. And it was about the practice of-the power company was abandoning the practice of using substations as bill collection units and instead hired a third party to collect bills. And they charged ten cents per bill collected, and so this was raising consumer rates, and so you co-sponsored this 01:44:00bill to have that done away with.

ISLER: Yeah. Well, that answers my, what I've been saying: who's paying for it? My people is paying for it.

SUCHANEK: You must have been a pretty popular fellow (laughs)?

ISLER: (Laughs), I can't stand to go against my people.

SUCHANEK: Sure.

ISLER: That's what, that was my conscience. That's the way I am. I can't change that, that way of thinking.

SUCHANEK: And then House Bill 12, you voted for House Bill 12, and it repealed pari-mutuel tax exemption of nonprofit racetracks. And I guess this goes back to the Keeneland-

ISLER: That's right.

SUCHANEK: bill back in `56?

ISLER: Yeah.

SUCHANEK: And this passed 80 to 6, and you voted for that.

ISLER: Well, the farm, the horse farm people wanted that bill. 01:45:00Remember, that's a big business in Kentucky, and right today it's a big business. It's really something now. And we always went along with them, but I think here just recently they kind of voted [telephone rings], voted them down on some of the things. Yeah, that's, there's a lot of money comes back into Kentucky from all over the world over the selling the horses. And they have them, they auction them off right there in Lexington.

SUCHANEK: And there's no tax, there's no sales tax on that.

ISLER: No.

SUCHANEK: Right. And again, in the `58 session, you voted against a bill, House Bill 76, which would have increased the penalty for driving under the influence of narcotics or alcohol again. And I think you explained why you opposed that. I found House Bill 526 pretty 01:46:00interesting. It prohibited school district officers and employees from holding state offices, and this was introduced by Addison Everett. What I found interesting about this was it was defeated 90 to nothing, and even though Everett introduced the bill, he ended up voting against his own bill (both laugh). Do you recall anything about that bill?

ISLER: No. No, I don't, but I can understand why he done it. He wanted to go along with the group. In other words, he just wanted to show them that he's a pretty good fellow, that he wouldn't vote against that, yeah.

SUCHANEK: Okay.

ISLER: That was a rough session for "Happy." Really rough.

SUCHANEK: Right.

ISLER: And I believe I told you a few things about that session when we went to the ballpark and all that.

01:47:00

SUCHANEK: Right, right.

ISLER: That's where it was brought up.

SUCHANEK: Now, we get into something that's, that was extremely interesting: House Resolution 50, condemning attempts to coerce legislative employees. Now, two Republicans introduced this resolution, Charles Buchanan from Knox County and H. Nick Johnson from Harlan. I'll read it to you just to refresh your memory and (Isler laughs) maybe you can comment on it. It says, "Whereas it appears that there have been numerous attempts to influence the vote and actions of members of the General Assembly by coercion; whereas it appears that freedom of thought and action is an absolute necessity if the will of the majority is to be reflected in the acts of legislation; whereas it appears that numerous employees of the commonwealth have likewise been 01:48:00the victims of coercion; and whereas such coercion appears at times to have taken the form of threats of economic reprisals; whereas this body wishes to recorded as being violently opposed to any and all types of coercion and pressure, therefore be it resolved that the House of Representatives does hereby express the condemnation of and opposition to the exercise of coercion by any means whatsoever." Now, what was this resolution all about?

ISLER: Lobbyists.

SUCHANEK: Okay, this was a lo--, this was against lobbyists?

ISLER: You see, to be a lobbyist, all you have to do is, before, when you go up there five days before the General Assembly convenes, go in and sign up, register as a lobbyist, and you have to put down there what you're lobbying for. You can do it.

01:49:00

SUCHANEK: Um-hm.

ISLER: And what they do, these lobbyists just, wherever you go, they jump you. They jump you in the halls, they, you know, they stop you. And if you're going out to eat, they might even come up and sit while you are eating, sit right down there. They, you're a public servant and they, I guess they feel like they got a right to do anything they want. And that's where it is, see. They just, why, it's pretty bad sometimes. Sometimes you have to keep them out of the, up, the second floor because you don't have enough room for the people from your district coming up there to see you in action on the floor.

SUCHANEK: Can you recall if you were threatened with economic reprisals by lobbyists? I mean did they, can you recall instances where, I mean, what would they mean by economic reprisals if a lobbyist-

01:50:00

ISLER: Well, it, whatever it means that they can go ahead and they get you to vote against that bill. That puts a feather in their hat. They're going to get a raise in salary, and they're going to be sent back there again. No, they never bothered me because they knew, the old-timers knew that they could talk to me and that's all. And they knew when I said "yes" or "no," that's what it was and I didn't want them to bother me again. And after all, I didn't spend too much time running around and eating and things like that and other things because I had a job to do and I had to do it, see. And I didn't get any extra salary for that.

SUCHANEK: Well, I thought it was interesting, too, that two Republicans would sponsor this resolution. And I thought, before you had said 01:51:00that, that maybe this was an attempt or a shot at "Happy," that maybe "Happy" had been putting some pressure on to get some bills passed. And the economic reprisals would be, you know, roads in their districts or something like that.

ISLER: Let me ask you. How far did that bill go? It couldn't have gone too far.

SUCHANEK: Well-

ISLER: Did it get a reading or was it just-

SUCHANEK: I believe it was passed.

ISLER: Huh?

SUCHANEK: I believe it was adopted.

ISLER: Was it?

SUCHANEK: Um-hm. This was adopted. If I'm not mistaken, it was unanimously adopted.

ISLER: Oh, it was a voice vote. Was it a bill or a-

SUCHANEK: No, it was a resolution.

ISLER: Oh, well, that's a voice vote.

SUCHANEK: Right.

ISLER: Yeah.

SUCHANEK: Okay.

ISLER: Yeah, that's a voice vote.

SUCHANEK: So do you think it was more, do you recall? Was it more an attack on, or a resolution against lobbyists rather than "Happy?"

ISLER: Well, I just used that as an example. It could be probably anything.

01:52:00

SUCHANEK: Oh, I see.

ISLER: I just used that as a lob--, an example. But his last, that session was really rough.

SUCHANEK: So it could have been geared at, or aimed at "Happy?"

ISLER: Yeah.

SUCHANEK: Okay. Now, that's-

ISLER: I wouldn't say that. Remember, I don't think "Happy" was too hard on any of them. He was just like I am. He had a job to do, and he told you he had a job to do and that was it.

SUCHANEK: Well, didn't "Happy" actually count on a lot of Republican votes to get his bills passed because a lot of the Clements supporters would not vote for his bills?

ISLER: Well, I can't answer that because I didn't sit in on any special meetings.

SUCHANEK: Okay. Now, House Resolution 127, and you voted for this resolution, it was a resolution authorizing an investigation of 01:53:00allegations concerning the solicitation of bribes for the purpose of influencing legislation in the General Assembly. As I recall, a representative from the Louisville area had reported, either on the floor of the House or to the newspapers, that he had been approached by a lobbyist with a bribe to influence his vote on a particular piece of legislation. And at that time, he said that more or less that, "well, this happens all the time, that there's members of the General Assembly on the take in the legislature." And in there, this resolution was calling for an investigation of that. Now on March 21st, Frank Burke, a Democrat from Louisville, read the report of the committee 01:54:00that was appointed by the speaker to look into this. And do you recall what the committee reported on that, what they found out, whether those allegations, there was any substance to those or-

ISLER: Well, you see, I didn't associate with people like that. I had no problems whatsoever, because like I said, they knew from the beginning what I was there for.

SUCHANEK: Um-hm. But do you recall what the-

ISLER: No.

SUCHANEK: committee found out?

ISLER: No, I don't recall about that.

SUCHANEK: Okay.

ISLER: But they're, probably things like that were going on, but I can't say anything because none of them ever come up to me. Of course, they knew that I wouldn't, from financing my own elections and things like that, that I wouldn't be interested in anything like that, see.

01:55:00

SUCHANEK: Did the Chandler administration or did "Happy" ever offer you special projects for your district in return for votes on particular administration bills?

ISLER: No governor.

SUCHANEK: Okay.

ISLER: No governor offered me.

SUCHANEK: Okay. Now, I'm getting to the 1959 primary.

ISLER: Okay.

SUCHANEK: Okay. Daniel J. Goodenough and Henry Hahn were your competition in the Democratic primary in `59, and I'm sure you remember this very well. At first, Goodenough was apparently the winner-

ISLER: Oh, yeah.

SUCHANEK: of the primary, defeating you, 1,288 votes to your 1,223 votes. And Hahn received a paltry 122 votes.

01:56:00

ISLER: Uh-huh.

SUCHANEK: And I think Goodenough was an attorney. Is that correct?

ISLER: Right.

SUCHANEK: Okay. However, controversy arose over Precinct 22 at 23rd and Howell Streets-

ISLER: Yeah, that's up there, yeah.

SUCHANEK: where only 78 votes in the state representative race were reported, despite the fact that 200 votes were cast in that precinct. The precinct officers reported that you had only received six votes, while Goodenough was reported to have received sixty-five votes and Hahn seven. It turned out that you actually received 106 votes-

ISLER: Yeah.

SUCHANEK: after you had called for a recount.

ISLER: Recount, yeah.

SUCHANEK: And you ended up winning the election then by thirty-five votes.

ISLER: Yeah.

SUCHANEK: Was that an honest mistake, do you think, or do you think there was some hanky-panky going on?

ISLER: Well, I can't say that (laughs). You have to use your own thoughts. I wouldn't think so.

SUCHANEK: Okay.

01:57:00

ISLER: Those machines, there's no lights in them. There are up high and there are little numbers up in there, and you could, you know, it all depends-they don't have young people to work at these polls. They might have overlooked it. I don't think anybody, especially up around there, that's my own neighborhood, that's where I lived with my mother and father, on 22nd Street, I don't think they would do that.

SUCHANEK: Okay. Did you know Daniel Goodenough well?

ISLER: I mentioned his father's name in our statement there several times.

SUCHANEK: Right, right. Were you surprised that he would run against you?

ISLER: No, I wasn't surprised anybody run against me. His father was passed away. He wouldn't have run, I don't think, if his father was living. I think the boys down at the courthouse tried to do that.

SUCHANEK: I see.

ISLER: And that's the reason why I didn't fool around with the 01:58:00courthouse.

SUCHANEK: Well, then, well, that's interesting that you would mention that because apparently when you were asked to run, the judge called you up and asked if you'd be interested in running. They wanted to make you a part of their, if there was a faction in Covington or city politics, that, you know, they were asking you to be part of them. And then perhaps because of your stands in the legislature-

ISLER: Yeah.

SUCHANEK: they found out that you weren't really a part of their faction at all-

ISLER: That's right, and-

SUCHANEK: that you were independent, and they wanted to put somebody in there who was more to their liking. Is that the way you read that?

ISLER: Yeah. And another thing is I was on Cities for about twenty years.

SUCHANEK: Um-hm.

ISLER: And through annexation and that, I wasn't too much in favor of annexation. They were going out taking all these little towns like 01:59:00Edgewood and all that, so I was absolutely against that.

SUCHANEK: Oh, so that-

ISLER: And that was my last-

SUCHANEK: made them mad.

ISLER: that's the last time I served on Cities.

SUCHANEK: Oh, do you think they engineered you being removed from that?

ISLER: I don't know, but I wasn't-

SUCHANEK: Well, that's interesting.

ISLER: see, I wasn't appointed to that job.

SUCHANEK: Uh-huh. Well, that's very good. Okay. So and then in the `59 general election, you had no Republican opposition, so you went in very easily. Now going to the `60 legislature, Harry King Lowman became Speaker of the House. Of course, Bert Combs was elected governor. Thomas L. Ray was the majority floor leader. Now, as many years and terms as you served in the House, were you ever approached if 02:00:00you'd like to have the speaker's job?

ISLER: No.

SUCHANEK: Why don't you think, because you were so independent?

ISLER: Yeah, absolutely. There are, you know, there's factions. You know, right now there's factions.

SUCHANEK: Sure.

ISLER: But I don't have nothing to do with them. You notice I don't fool with elections right now because they never helped me, so why should I help them? And furthermore, my thinking would be the same as if I'm up at Frankfort. I won't do nothing against my people.

SUCHANEK: Do you have any stories you'd like to tell about Harry King Lowman or Thomas Ray?

ISLER: No.

SUCHANEK: What kind of men were they?

ISLER: Well, these bills, or it looks like the same bills are passed every year, because after all, you're down there, you're really only down there to vote for the budget, to tell you the truth about it, and 02:01:00the appropriations. But, because you're only there sixty days over a term of about three months or two-and-a-half months. But they have practically the same bills have to come up, it's got to have something to do with state government, because in two years, that is really not enough to take care of it. But with a, like Kentucky, a small state, it would work, see. But, of course, today they got a much better, and I'm definitely in favor of what's going on today. I think the governor shouldn't have the say of everything. You know, if you are not for the governor, what, they say if you vote for his budget, that's all he wants. But it's not always that way, see. You got racetrack people 02:02:00like you said. And they know "Happy" better than we know him, and naturally-I'm just using that illustration to show you that there's difference of opinion in everything-

SUCHANEK: Sure.

ISLER: and way of thinking (laughs). Some of them only think one way. And if you're a big businessman, then you have to either go there yourself or have a lobbyist, but you can do just as well yourself, but you have to register as a lobbyist. But it's fascinating, I'm telling you. You have to go there to-what you have to do, you have to be on that floor and you get to go to the committee meetings. You can walk into any of the committee meetings if you're a member of the General Assembly and sit in there. And, but boy, it is really hard on you. After two hours, you get pretty worn out and beaten.

02:03:00

SUCHANEK: I wanted to talk to you about the committees a little bit. In 1960, you were assigned to eight different committees (Isler laughs). You had Charitable, Penal, and Reformatory Institutions as one.

ISLER: That's my first.

SUCHANEK: Constitutional Amendments, Drainage and Water Districts, Chairman of the Enrollment Committee, Kentucky Statutes Number Two, Municipalities Number Two, National and Civil Defense, and Railroads.

ISLER: Yeah.

SUCHANEK: With all those committee assignments, could you really, did you really have time to go into depth, how-on bills-

ISLER: Well-

SUCHANEK: How useful were the committees?

ISLER: let me say it this way: you generally have three committees. See, like the last time, I was on, let's see, I was Enrollment 02:04:00Committee, Insurance and Banking, and I was on one more. I can't even think of what it was.

SUCHANEK: In 1980?

ISLER: Yeah, my last ones.

SUCHANEK: Oh, I would have it here. Banking and Insurance, Business Organizations and Professions, and the Judiciary.

ISLER: Yeah, Judiciary. Right, I couldn't think of Judiciary. Well, that's the way it is, but you might be in here with, meeting with, there was generally about anywhere from ten to fifteen or twenty of them on different committees that they assigned you. Those are like temporary committees. Just like I was, when I was on Cities, I was chairman of a, I was co-chairman, but I held hearings all over the state. And I was one of the first to hold one, and I held it right 02:05:00down here in Covington courthouse.

SUCHANEK: Is that right?

ISLER: The first taking the state government to the people. That was what it was, state government to the people. And we went to, I was, that lasted about three years, and we-it was very successful. We brought it up and had to present it on the floor of the regular, you know, when we first meet, like our, like they're going to meet now in January.

SUCHANEK: Um-hm. But the committee system back then in the '50s and up until 1968 was different than it is now, where you have the interim committee system. Is that right?

ISLER: Yeah. This was the starting of the interim committees. This was the starting of it.

SUCHANEK: So I think the argument has been made that one of the reasons 02:06:00why the governor was so powerful over the legislature was the fact that you only met for sixty days. There was no way possible you could do research on bills that the administration presented, so basically you had to rely on the governor and his men's expertise as to, you know, if they wanted a bill passed, you kind of relied on them. Is that-

ISLER: That's right. That's right, because when your sixty days was out, the next thing you did was run for office. Two years later, you ran for office. But now they have these interim committees and they're, I think they're wonderful.

SUCHANEK: Because you can do research and hold hearings and-

ISLER: Well, you see, when we had them for sixty days, when we left there, the place, there wasn't nothing going on. The only places you went is in the Supreme Court and to the governor's office. I believe 02:07:00I, I think I've said that.

SUCHANEK: Um-hm.

ISLER: It was, there wasn't no more, but now it's really interesting. You go right into regular session and you don't know that space in there, that, a year, a year and a half, or not quite two years that space in there, you go right into it. And another thing, they got, at least they got a place, they got a desk, they got a place to hang their clothes and they got everything nice, and they got privacy and things like that. We didn't have that. We had no privacy. We had to go downstairs on the second floor in the law library and sit down there and work things out.

SUCHANEK: So the General Assembly, after the coming about of the interim committee system, the General Assembly really began to have some expertise into some areas.

02:08:00

ISLER: In the '80s.

SUCHANEK: Well, in-

ISLER: Let's see. Yeah, the `80, no, in `82 see, they, we got the desks, we moved there into where we had desks and things like that. We moved in there in `81.

SUCHANEK: So that was your last session, is that right?

ISLER: Yeah, we moved in there in `81, and I think I went in there about March. They opened it up about March or something like that, in the spring. And I was only there-well, I did, in fact, I didn't put nothing in there. When we went to these meetings, I would sit there, but it would have been nice if we had them back in those days, see.

SUCHANEK: Okay. I mentioned the committees that you were on in 1960, and it's been said by different historians and different writers that 02:09:00the powerful committees in the Kentucky House are Appropriations and Revenue, and you've mentioned the Enrollment Committee and your role in that.

ISLER: Committee on Committees is very important.

SUCHANEK: The Ways and Means Committee.

ISLER: Yeah.

SUCHANEK: The Committee on Education.

ISLER: Yeah.

SUCHANEK: And the Rules Committee.

ISLER: Yeah.

SUCHANEK: And those were the really powerful committees. Looking over your legislative career, I notice that only in 1964 during Ned Breathitt's administration were you appointed to the Appropriations, and I think you served on the Rules Committee twice, both in `64 and in `66. I was wondering, for all the years that you served in the legislature under seven different governors, why you weren't put on, like, Appropriations and Ways and Means more often?

02:10:00

ISLER: Well, I guess it's the way I handled myself on the floor, see. The Committee on Committees is a very important thing, because everything has to go through the Committee on Committees, see. And a lot of bills are referred to the, what I mean, referred to them-

SUCHANEK: Well, they're the committee that decides where the bill goes, is that right?

ISLER: Right, Committee on Committees.

SUCHANEK: Right.

ISLER: Then I come in next, because all bills has to go across my desk, and I have to sign for all bills, House and Senate. And, boy, you're responsible because some of them bills are missing, but I've always had signatures for bills that I had.

SUCHANEK: Now, prior to 1968, the membership of the Committee on Committees was selected basically by the Democratic leadership, which was selected by the governor. So you being an in--, more independent 02:11:00legislator, it's not surprising that you weren't put on that committee because those were stocked by administration supporters.

ISLER: Back in the, and I don't know how it is in this modern age, but back in those days the governor knew what was going on with these chairmen. Am I saying it?

SUCHANEK: Um-hm.

ISLER: In other words, they put out a list. And when I was put on them other committees, I was on that list.

SUCHANEK: Because the governor, through the chairman of the committee, he controlled what bills came out of committee and what bills did not, is that correct? In other words, if-

ISLER: It's not supposed to be that way, you see. The way, what I am, 02:12:00an independent Democrat, I would have to say I don't know. But I do know, see. I do know.

SUCHANEK: And that's the way it was?

ISLER: Well, it really had to be that way. If you come to think about it, sixty days, what in the world can you do in sixty days? Of course, you didn't count holidays, or Saturdays and Sundays, so that ran you over until about the 15th of March. You went in the first Tuesday in January and you come out in the middle of March, about the 15th. You sine die on the 15th. And after all, we're not, we're still not a big state, but there's still a lot of money going in there, see, and 02:13:00that's where it is. There's no other way you could do it. But when they come with these, I guess, the governor didn't, well, the governors don't know because they have to be elected in. But these senators and representatives are down there until they get voted out. See, they don't have a schedule, how many years they're going to be there, like me with twenty-six years, you see. So there's no other way you could do it.

SUCHANEK: Okay, let me turn the tape over.

ISLER: You see.

[End of Tape #2, Side #1]

[Begin Tape #2, Side #2]

SUCHANEK: Now, back in the '50s and the 1960s, did the Democrats hold pre-legislative conferences at the Kentucky Dam or any other places? Can you recall those?

ISLER: Yeah, we held them down there. They were holding them there when 02:14:00I left. They were holding them when I left. But, and I'd have to say that first one I attended to was in 1956.

SUCHANEK: Okay. Do you recall what goes on down there during those pre- legislative conferences? Do you talk about legislation that may come up or-

ISLER: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. When you go there, they give you a, your, everything is lined up. You put in your fulltime there, and then you vote for who you want, speaker and all that.

SUCHANEK: I see.

ISLER: You vote on them, but they're, like we said, the governor's got a lot of influence.

SUCHANEK: Prior to 1968, right? When Louie Nunn was-

ISLER: I don't think Louie Nunn had any trouble. He's got his budget passed, didn't he? And that's what you're supposed to do (laughs).

02:15:00

SUCHANEK: Well, in one interview we have that we've done, one legislator said that at this pre-legislative meeting, new members of the General Assembly would be taken, and I quote, "up to the mountain," unquote, at Kentucky Dam to meet with the governor and/or his advisors, and at that meeting the new member would be told what was expected of him or her and what upcoming legislation the governor expected that person to support or, again I quote, "you wouldn't be here," meaning the member of the General Assembly, "very long," unquote. Again meaning, that if you crossed the governor, and I guess this would be maybe pre-1968, that if you crossed the governor he would see to it that you were not elected to another term. Were you ever invited up to the mountain?

ISLER: This is the first time I've heard about the mountain. I never heard anything like that.

SUCHANEK: Okay.

02:16:00

ISLER: That don't even sound like that's in my times.

SUCHANEK: Oh, really?

ISLER: Because after we said, the governor, he's only got sixty days to get what he wants to run the state for two years. No, I never heard of that before.

SUCHANEK: Okay. In other words, before the session began, especially in the `56 session, before the session actually began, you weren't told by, it might not have been "Happy" Chandler but maybe one of his advisors or maybe even Fitzpatrick that, you know, the governor expects this from you and, you know, if you want to be, if you want to come back next session, you'd better go along or anything like that?

ISLER: Well, I just didn't go along with the administration, so I wasn't invited to all of those things up on the mountain or what you're talking about.

SUCHANEK: Okay (Isler laughs). Okay.

ISLER: No, I can't comment too much on that.

SUCHANEK: All right.

ISLER: The only thing I can say, the governor's got a, any governor's 02:17:00got a big job. When you think of sixty days, it's better now, but I imagine it's a little harder on him. The other way, all he had to do was see that he, try to get his right chairmen of his committees and things like that, but that's not supposed to be known. That's all handled in privacy. But after years and years you eventually know that, but you don't know it your first two sessions.

SUCHANEK: I see. I see. Okay. [Long pause as Suchanek shuffles through papers].

ISLER: That's the kind I'd like you to read to me (laughs).

SUCHANEK: Now, Wilson Wyatt was elected lieutenant governor. How well did you know Wilson Wyatt?

ISLER: Well, he's from Louisville. He's all right. I can't say 02:18:00anything against Wilson Wyatt, but I never had any personal connections with him.

SUCHANEK: Oh, I see. Okay. Were you ever invited to the lieutenant governor's mansion when Wyatt was lieutenant governor for any social functions that-I understood he was quite active in giving dinners and whatnot. Do you ever remember going there?

ISLER: Yeah, I've went to, well, we went to, they still do, go down to the, our second White House down there, they still do that. Yeah, we did that, we went there. And let's see. Yeah, we had lunch. We had lunch. The place is not very large, so they can only take care of so many at a time.

SUCHANEK: Right. Now, Wyatt was in charge of economic development 02:19:00during the Combs administration. Did you ever meet with Mr. Wyatt about economic development in northern Kentucky?

ISLER: No, I don't think so.

SUCHANEK: Okay.

ISLER: Because I probably was on the Insurance and that.

SUCHANEK: So you didn't, you don't recall ever meeting with Wyatt about issues concerning northern Kentucky?

ISLER: No.

SUCHANEK: Okay. Did you know Ed Prichard?

ISLER: (Laughs), yeah, I knew Ed Prichard.

SUCHANEK: What can you tell me about Ed?

ISLER: Well, he's highly educated, I'll tell you that. And you can't kid him on education. And I've heard him speak a lot of times, and I enjoyed every minute of it. But the only thing I can say is good about him.

SUCHANEK: Okay. Do you recall any conversations you had with him?

02:20:00

ISLER: Well, when you're in session, you're generally with three or four or five representatives, and you just talk among-he comes in or whoever the person is comes in and talks to you and you say, "I agree with you," or something like that, or you don't say anything, see. There's not too much talk goes around when they get off away from the floor and from the Capitol. The representatives, senators and representatives, don't like to talk about legislation unless you're up there where they can get their material out and show you where you're right or you're wrong or something like that. They don't do too much away.

SUCHANEK: Okay. Now, Prichard was a kind of a major unofficial advisor of Bert Combs, wasn't he?

ISLER: Yeah, he was all right. But fellows like Prichard and them, they 02:21:00don't get out. They just meet you up at the Capitol and things like that. Then you know it's strictly business.

SUCHANEK: I see.

ISLER: Because when you're out, you don't talk about all these things. You don't know who's listening to you.

SUCHANEK: I see.

ISLER: You can't-everybody is not for you, you know.

SUCHANEK: Sure. What did you think of Bert Combs appointing Earle Clements as highway commissioner? Did that surprise you?

ISLER: No, it don't surprise you with fellows in that capacity. He, Senator Clements was liked by everybody, by everybody. No, it wouldn't surprise me. Listen, that highway commissioner's not no easy job. If you think so, ask Henry Ward (both laugh). It's a rough job.

02:22:00

SUCHANEK: Sure.

ISLER: It's easier now because you got all your highways. But, boy, prior to the government building these highways, the highway, the federal highway department building these highways, it was rough. Bridges, we had more problems with bridges, things like that.

SUCHANEK: Well, the governors used to use the highways as a patronage reward, didn't they? You know, if you were, supported their programs, they might help you put a road through your county or something of that nature.

ISLER: Well, it's never happened to me, but I've heard of it. But I'm sure it's true (both laugh). I can't, I don't, I wasn't up in that category.

SUCHANEK: Okay (both laugh).

ISLER: I was down below over here where they, if they couldn't get nobody else, they'd just say, "Call Isler" (laughs).

SUCHANEK: Now of course, there was a lot of speculation that, well, it 02:23:00wasn't speculation, it was well known that Bert Combs was a protege of Earle Clements. And when Combs appointed Clements as highway commissioner, the reason I asked you if it was a surprise is because there was speculation that this was a political payoff, that, you know, Bert had put, as a payoff for Clements' support for his gubernatorial campaign. Do you put any credence in that? It seems strange that, you know, Clements, a former U.S. senator, would suddenly be, want to be interested in the highway commissioner's job in Kentucky.

ISLER: Well, they wouldn't let me know about that anyhow.

SUCHANEK: Okay.

ISLER: That's, that wouldn't, I'm not in that category, I'm down here. I'm down with the people. So I wouldn't know about that. They wouldn't even think about talking to me about that.

SUCHANEK: Okay. And you don't recall any conversations among other legislators about that?

ISLER: No. I-when we're up there at Frankfort, we don't talk too much 02:24:00about local stuff. What we talk about is bills.

SUCHANEK: Okay.

ISLER: Get them bills passed, that's the important thing.

SUCHANEK: Okay. Now, it was rumored that, in 1960, that R.P. Moloney wanted to be selected as Speaker of the House or at least majority floor leader by Combs. Were you ever interested, or were you ever aware that Moloney might have been interested in those two positions?

ISLER: I think he was. I think he was, but I didn't come in on that. Yeah.

SUCHANEK: Did you know Dick Moloney well?

ISLER: I knew him. I think he served about three terms with me. He was the majority floor leader. So he had to know, he knew me well because we worked together, the three of us. Remember me explaining that to 02:25:00you about the speaker and the three of us?

SUCHANEK: Right. I had failed to mention Harry Lee Waterfield to you before. Did you know Harry Lee Waterfield well?

ISLER: I sure did.

SUCHANEK: Can, what can you tell me about Harry Lee?

ISLER: He's a wonderful guy. Got a nice personality and everything else, and he was much easier to get along as governor than all the rest. In fact, I was with him in on his insurance. I'm one of the first ones, his insurance company.

SUCHANEK: Oh, I didn't know-

ISLER: He organized that, you know. And I was one of the first, and I still got that stock.

SUCHANEK: Oh, I see. So you were one of the first stockholders?

ISLER: Yeah.

SUCHANEK: Uh-huh.

ISLER: Yeah.

SUCHANEK: Did that happen when he was lieutenant governor or-

02:26:00

ISLER: Yeah. Let's see, I said he was governor, but he ran for governor quite a few times, didn't he?

SUCHANEK: Well, he ran against Ned Breathitt and lost, no, he ran against Bert Combs and lost.

ISLER: Yeah. That's right. He was lieutenant governor, I'm sorry.

SUCHANEK: Right. And he was lieutenant governor again under Ned Breathitt.

ISLER: Yeah. And he-

SUCHANEK: And there was a lot of problems there.

ISLER: Yeah, but he would have liked to have been governor, I'm pretty sure.

SUCHANEK: Sure.

ISLER: Well, anyhow, he did. Yeah, and I'm a charter member. In fact, the, where they're at here, they had a, we used to meet, the stockholders used to meet in Lexington. And he brought up the point about there's a lot here on Capitol Avenue and things like that. And he said, "That would be nice if we moved to Frankfort." So I got up and made the motion. I made the motion.

SUCHANEK: I see. There was much speculation in the press about whether 02:27:00it was actually Bert Combs or Earle Clements who was running the state. That, you know, Bert Combs was just a puppet for Earle Clements, Earle Clements being the highway commissioner. What did you think about all that speculation?

ISLER: I didn't hear that, no. I didn't hear that.

SUCHANEK: Uh-huh.

ISLER: Like I said, I wasn't among those type of people. See, you're talking about organizations. They wouldn't say anything to me, knowing that if they come up with a tax bill I was going to be against it, so I really can't answer that. But there are probably some people, some of the senators and representatives, who'd be able to comment on that.

SUCHANEK: Right.

ISLER: But I can't do that.

SUCHANEK: And then Earle Clements got into trouble over the truck deal controversy. Do you recall anything about that?

02:28:00

ISLER: I remember reading about it.

SUCHANEK: Um-hm.

ISLER: Yeah.

SUCHANEK: Okay. Now, E.W. Richmond and Rex Logan formed a rebel faction in the Kentucky senate that opposed many of Combs' programs. I was wondering if there was, were you aware that there was any type of faction in the House like that, a rebel faction perhaps loyal to Chandler and was maybe trying to undermine any administration bills from Bert Combs?

ISLER: Well, you have to remember you're going to have opposition, you're bound to run into that. That goes on every bill. They're either for you or against you, and that's the only thing I can answer on that. When it comes to this here close-knitted together and movements on the floor, I didn't get in on that, see, because I wasn't 02:29:00their boy (laughs).

SUCHANEK: Do you recall who Bill May was?

ISLER: Who?

SUCHANEK: Bill May.

ISLER: That name is familiar, but I think that's when I first went up there.

SUCHANEK: They called him the "Kingmaker."

ISLER: Yeah, when I first went up there.

SUCHANEK: Okay.

ISLER: But I didn't have too much to do with him because I was just getting my feet wet.

SUCHANEK: Um-hm. Now, "Happy" Chandler had created a merit system for state employees in 1959, but this was done by executive order only. That meant it could be reversed by any succeeding governor at any time, is that correct?

ISLER: Well, they can-they do that. The governor does that on a lot of things.

SUCHANEK: But Bert Combs wanted to make the merit system, he wanted to 02:30:00have it legislated into existence to make it permanent. Was there a lot of opposition to making a merit system for state employees?

ISLER: I imagine there is. Remember, back in those days they didn't pay the General Assembly, members of the General Assembly too much. They just barely made enough to pay for their board and their meals and what little transportation-

SUCHANEK: I'm talking about state employees of, you know-

ISLER: Well, it has to go through the General Assembly, see. And I didn't, I don't think I got in on much of that.

SUCHANEK: Okay.

ISLER: You're kind of getting out of my-

SUCHANEK: Okay. All right.

ISLER: jurisdiction.

SUCHANEK: Now, if you wanted to get in to talk to Bert Combs, first of all, did you ever talk to him directly? Or did he ever call you and 02:31:00say, "John, I need help on a bill," or anything like that? Or did his advisors or-

ISLER: No.

SUCHANEK: the people around him ever go to you and ask for aid on a bill or anything like that? Did you have any direct contact with Bert Combs?

ISLER: No. But a governor will not call you in unless it's something like I was talking about them bills, 86 and 87. Then he'll call you in, but the governor is, he's got his leads, he's got his people down there on the floor.

SUCHANEK: Like the Speaker of the House and majority floor leader?

ISLER: He's got them all, see. And that's what he does. He don't, all he does is-

SUCHANEK: Okay.

ISLER: He'd, now, I've never met with him, but he probably meets with them, see, probably meets with them.

SUCHANEK: Okay. I noticed in the `60 session especially, you sponsored, 02:32:00well starting in the `60 session and throughout your legislative career, you sponsored a lot of bills dealing with automobile safety. Where did the idea for these bills originate? Would a lobbyist or maybe an insurance lobbyist talk to you about that? I noticed on one bill, I forget whether it was the `60 session or another session, where you had legislation dealing with specifications of tires and that type of thing, seatbelt laws.

ISLER: Yeah.

SUCHANEK: Would-how did those come about?

ISLER: Well, some of those bills were my ideas, but most of them were ideas of the tire people or maybe somebody even like you would sit down and write me a letter. It's pretty hard to keep up with that, because 02:33:00your mail is heavy. I'm telling you, your mail is really heavy.

SUCHANEK: How many letters would you say you got a session?

ISLER: Oh, gosh. I'd say I'd get about fifteen to twenty letters a day.

SUCHANEK: A day? Wow.

ISLER: A day. And I, the Legislative Research, we'd write them out. So what I done, (coughs) with certain letters, I had certain letters mimeographed, and I put a number on them, and each one of these girls, I had a certain girl, and I'd put on there "Two" and she'd write that letter to them. She'd bring them all down and I'd go over and sign them and mail them out.

SUCHANEK: I see.

ISLER: And some of them I wrote personally because I was good at a 02:34:00typewriter. That's all I'd done all my life was use a typewriter.

SUCHANEK: Um-hm. These would be letters from constituents?

ISLER: Oh, yeah. Every--, anybody, yeah. General public.

SUCHANEK: Um-hm. Okay.

ISLER: Yeah, business people, everything. I-that's one of the things that I insisted. If I talk to you on a telephone about what you wanted or anything, I'd always say to you, "Please, write me a letter." And the reason why that I do that is because if you write me a letter and somebody contacts you, you're going to say, "Yes, I did write him a letter." But if you didn't write me a letter, you could say, "I don't remember saying that to him." So I always, that was another practice I had. You had to write me a letter and sign your name and address on 02:35:00there or I wouldn't handle it for you.

SUCHANEK: I see.

ISLER: And then when I talked to you, I said, "Well, if you put it in writing and mail it to me, and I'll take it from there."

SUCHANEK: Okay.

ISLER: That's exactly what I done. So I had pretty, I had principles in all my dealings.

SUCHANEK: I noticed here, you know, talking about automobile safety, you had sponsored House Bill 19 in 1960 regulating the sale of motor vehicle brake fluid. And again-

ISLER: Yeah. Well, there was all kinds of brake fluid in those days, so they wanted to have it standardized like they got it today.

SUCHANEK: The lobby would?

ISLER: Yeah. Remember, these fluid brakes didn't come in till about, I guess 1950. In the meantime, see, why, I guess they were, they just 02:36:00had to have a standardized fluid to go in there for the pressure.

SUCHANEK: Well, I imagine the insurance companies would have been happy to see this legislation pass, too?

ISLER: Yeah, they probably could have been part of it. I can't recall those bills.

SUCHANEK: Yeah.

ISLER: You're talking about a room full of bills.

SUCHANEK: Sure (Isler laughs). Now, this is a bill that you sponsored. It never got out of committee, but it required precincts using voting machines to have ballots in case of machine failure.

ISLER: Yeah.

SUCHANEK: This wasn't the first session that you would introduce a bill like that. Do you recall anything about those proposals?

ISLER: Yeah, the people went to the polls, and they-well, up until these ones they just got rid of here lately, them things wouldn't work. They'd sit there for two years, well, no, they had elections every year, excuse me. They, right now, see, they have elections every year. And they'd just say, "it's shut down," see, and they had nobody to fix 02:37:00them or anything else, so a man from the factory would have to fix it. I don't believe they even tested them.

SUCHANEK: And I noticed you sponsored other similar type bills, bills regarding allowing people to vote who were in the building at the time the polls closed.

ISLER: Yeah.

SUCHANEK: In fact, I think there was one bill that you sponsored, if they, this isn't the right wording, but if they were in the general vicinity of the poll when it closed, that they would be able to, allowed to vote.

ISLER: Well, now, what they do now, yeah, and they put a, one of-they close, and if you're out there in that big line, they'll put a flag in the back of you, see. They'll put a flag here and a flag there, and that means that line is closed and they go on up.

02:38:00

SUCHANEK: Now, was that an attempt to help your constituents have enough time to vote after they got out of work or, you know, what-

ISLER: Well, that always happened. After every election they said, "I couldn't vote. I got down there at six o'clock and they were all lined up." And, you know, if you quit at five o'clock and you have to drive maybe it would take you twenty-five minutes to get where you're going from Cincinnati even out to here, see. A lot of people live around here we're about twelve miles from Cincinnati on the expressway. And these people all work, and they got a right to vote. Some of them go in early in the morning, some of them work in back of Cincinnati. But now the northern Kentucky is really picking up and it's not going to be too long when they'll have to, people are coming from out of state too, because it's, you can't hardly believe the cars that people work over 02:39:00here that live in Ohio.

SUCHANEK: Is that right?

ISLER: Oh, yeah, because a lot of them companies moved over here.

SUCHANEK: Um-hm. Now, House Bill 86 required a permit for purchase of dangerous weapons, and you sponsored that bill. And the Committee on Criminal Law recommended that this bill not pass. Tell me about the gun lobby and the National Rifle Association. How, are they real powerful in the legislature?

ISLER: United States, yes. The reason why the Saturday night guns-I just happened, that was my own, that's one bill that was my own. I read it in the paper and I says, "That shouldn't be. These Saturday night guns, they can buy them and they don't have to register them, they don't have to do nothing with them, they're a small gun, but if 02:40:00they're close to you, they can kill you." So I introduced the bill. And, boy, I'm telling you, when I introduced that bill, that there Rifle Association out of Washington, D.C., whew, they had everybody on my back, everybody. It was so bad that I didn't even ask the committee to bring that bill up. That's how bad it was. And I just couldn't believe, they wrote me and every--, and oh, gosh, I got all kinds of letters and everything.

SUCHANEK: What would they say to you?

ISLER: Well, I can't recall exactly. They had their reasons for it and everything. So finally I got a hold of, I don't know who it was, and told him, I said, "I'm not going to ask for that bill." And they let up on me. And they asked me how come I done that. And I, just like you 02:41:00said, I said, "I read it in the paper, this fellow that was shot by one of these Saturday night revolvers." And I said, "They, you carry them any place in your pocket." And I said, "It's not very-" They're still doing it though. And they're still doing it, and the rifle club is still after them. They won't let you take any rights away from them.

SUCHANEK: You had no idea you were stirring up that hornet's nest, did you?

ISLER: (Laughs), you're not kidding. I was only in the, I guess we were only down there a month. That was in `56, and they thought-

SUCHANEK: Well, this is `60. This is-

ISLER: Well, it was in `60 then. I was down there. I should have knew it, that they would do that.

SUCHANEK: Uh-huh. Did your-

ISLER: But I challenged them. I just wanted to let them know that I wasn't in the favor of it, see.

02:42:00

SUCHANEK: Did your fellow legislators say, "John, what are you doing?"

ISLER: (Laughs), no, when that bill was introduced, that was it (both laugh). Nobody else got to talk to me, but their members, all the guys that had 12-gauge shotguns and 4-10s (laughs), they wrote me and everything and called me and everything. And I told them, I said, "Tell them I'll forget about that bill" (both laugh). I said, "I thought I was just helping people."

SUCHANEK: That's a good story. Now, you also introduced House Bill 87, which prohibits employment discrimination based on age. And this bill never made it out of committee in 1960. Now, equal employment opportunity legislation wasn't passed at the federal level until 1972, 02:43:00so this put you about twelve years ahead of your time. What spurred you to introduce this bill?

ISLER: Well, I just felt like that wasn't the right thing to do. And nobody told me to do that, I just-getting, like I said, I belonged to the Railway Clerks, I still do, and I read up a lot of stuff on that, and that's where I got some of my ideas on all this stuff. Remember, when you're a legislator, everybody sends you magazines, everybody sends you circulars, everybody sends you this and that. And they, you know, you really know what's going on, and sometimes you'll pick some of that stuff up and take it up to Frankfort with you and do something about it. And you always run a file on those things too. That's another thing I used to have, I had a complete file on everything, no matter what it was. All them years, I'd just go to this file and get 02:44:00it out and I could go all the way back to `56.

SUCHANEK: I wish you would have saved those for us (both laugh).

ISLER: Well, most of that stuff went down to the library there in Covington. I don't know if it's still down there or not myself. I imagine it is.

SUCHANEK: I didn't mean to throw you off there.

ISLER: Yeah.

SUCHANEK: I was just thinking out loud.

ISLER: Yeah. Yeah, that, it's interesting to know what they do, but remember, when you're introducing these bills, you might be introducing something against somebody's livelihood too, and you got to respect that to a certain extent, what they got to say. And whenever you talk to me, I always let you talk to me. You can tell me what you think about me or anything you want. Then after that, then I'll tell you what I can do about it. I always let you speak, and when I had these cities and I go up in these mountain districts and up through there, 02:45:00people would come a long ways, and we stayed there till midnight. We had buses, we took them up, we had buses. We come out of Frankfort and we stayed there for maybe a day or two. I always stayed there for them. I said, "If you travel that far, you got a right to be heard." That's what I told the committee. And I stayed there with them. Sometimes I was the only one, but I stayed there. I was chairman. And the girls that, you know, our personnel. We had about seven or eight on the personnel, and they were good. They took everything down like you're taking here now.

SUCHANEK: Now, you served on the Penal Committee, too. And you were telling me last week briefly that you used to go to prisons and that kind of thing. And you laughed when you said it, and you said that 02:46:00some of those were interesting experiences.

ISLER: Yeah. It-when, I was a junior, so I got all the junior committees, the beginner committees, and that was one of them. Yeah, and I don't know if I told you. Did I tell you one about the quarters?

SUCHANEK: No.

ISLER: Huh?

SUCHANEK: No.

ISLER: Well, we had to go down there, and whenever we went down there they fixed a, they had a lunch for us and things like that, but we always left there around six or seven o'clock in the evenings. And they had this here boxing match that we were going to. Well, anyhow, before we left up there at Frankfort, and they told me, they, a friend of mine from northern Kentucky told me, he says, "Now, listen, when you go down there to-" let's see, the-Eddyville, he said, "When you go down to Eddyville," he says, "you want to be sure that you got enough 02:47:00quarters." I said, "What do you mean?" He said, "Well, they are going to come up and ask you for a quarter or half a dollar or something." So they did, they come up, and I had enough quarters. I give them quarters (laughs), so they were glad to see us. They got that extra quarter.

SUCHANEK: The prisoners?

ISLER: Yeah. They walked right among us in this big auditorium, whatever they call it down there and, yeah.

SUCHANEK: So they were-

ISLER: We got to meet all the northern, all the ones, just from Kenton County.

SUCHANEK: I see.

ISLER: Just the ones from our county, see. We got, we had them on one section, and all the rest, and, you know, before the fighting. And after the boxing matches were over, why, we got, we went out and got in our buses and went home. We had a lunch before the fight, just a lunch.

SUCHANEK: So that was interesting?

ISLER: It was. I was on that one only one term.

02:48:00

SUCHANEK: Yeah, um-hm.

ISLER: And they moved me up into Cities and stuff like that. After I was reelected, why, they moved me up into Cities.

SUCHANEK: House Bill 106 prohibited state employment of persons related to legislators, and you were a co-sponsor of this bill. And it passed, but it was very close, 46 to 43. Now, this bill was perhaps aimed at political patronage, do you think?

ISLER: I tell you, them bills are like anything else. If I sign your bill, and you and I, then after I sign your bill, then maybe the next day or maybe that afternoon I might come over and ask you to co-sign my bill. And when you think of all them bills that are introduced, you're talking 100 and 150 bills a day introduced, why, it's hard for you to keep up there, but you know when the title, it gives you, what 02:49:00you do, you open up your digest. You get one every day. And they just got that little bit of title of it, and you look at the, you read the title, and you know if you're going to be for that bill or against that bill. You get that because they couldn't put all that stuff in there. Them things are that thick at the end of the session, just with a summary, you see.

SUCHANEK: Well, was this bill-

ISLER: Like a right-to-work bill or like that, they don't go into details.

SUCHANEK: Yeah. Well, probably you've been versed on it anyway, is that right? You kind of know what it is about?

ISLER: Well, you read the papers.

SUCHANEK: Yeah. Oh, is that how you find out about it?

ISLER: Oh, yeah, you read the papers.

SUCHANEK: Oh, uh-huh.

ISLER: Yeah, you-the Louisville Courier-Journal, we used to read that every day.

SUCHANEK: I see. So that's where you got a lot of information-

ISLER: Yeah.

SUCHANEK: about the different bills?

ISLER: Well, all I had on here was the title of the bill that you put on the, you fold it over and the title of it. And if you read every one 02:50:00of them bills, you'd be there for five years, just one session.

SUCHANEK: Sure. So you needed a capsule summary of what it was?

ISLER: That's what they do. That's what you depend on. That's the reason why some of them that you, you go into details that-some of them bills I never even read, because I had my district and things like that. Then I had my next thing would be the state, see, see what they're doing.

SUCHANEK: Yeah. Okay. Well, let's go to House Bill 109 then, in 1960, makes sanitation districts subject to certain public utility laws. And this passed 64, nothing and you were the sole sponsor of that bill. It seems like you did pass, introduce and co-sponsor legislation, as we said before, regarding sanitation and solid waste disposal and that kind of thing. I guess being from an urban area, that would have been 02:51:00a concern of yours.

ISLER: Yeah. And like fluoridation, I was absolutely against fluoridation because our county was, I lived in Kenton County at that time, it was a large county, and I tried to pass that bill for three and four sessions, but now you've got it, see. They said it would help teeth and things like that. But the information I had and all the data I had on that, it wasn't too good. And, of course, the city, they didn't like that. But I wasn't worried about that. It affected my people.

SUCHANEK: Now, there was a house resolution, House Resolution 120, condemning the religious attack on the House Education Investigating Committee. And you were, again, a co-sponsor on this resolution, and it was adopted. Do you recall anything about that? There was a religious attack on the House Education Investigating Committee?

02:52:00

ISLER: No. Those resolutions, we didn't pay much attention to those-

SUCHANEK: Okay.

ISLER: because they were voted on, and generally is something for some little town that gives them praise and things like that what they're doing. But resolutions, they don't have too much strength. There is no appropriation, no money involved in them, see.

SUCHANEK: You voted against House Bill 30. I'm sorry, you voted for House Bill 30, which prohibited political contributions by public employees. It was a bill that was introduced by J.D. Buckman. Do you recall why you, the bill was defeated 39 to 52, again, prohibiting political contributions by public employees. Do you recall why you would vote for that?

ISLER: Well, I voted for one reason, what did I say about my lifeline? 02:53:00Whatever they wanted, I voted for it, because if I vote against them once, you're done. Once. You can vote for them year after year, session after session. You vote against them once, you're done. So-

SUCHANEK: Okay.

ISLER: so it's not an easy job to select, but you got, you just have to, like I said, they voted me in office, they kept me in office for years.

SUCHANEK: Okay. And then House Bill 75 was the big one, providing the 3 percent sales tax and sale of bonds to finance the veterans' bonus, and this passed 84 to 9. And you voted for the sales tax, do you recall that?

ISLER: No, but I would for the veterans.

SUCHANEK: Okay. Because the sales tax was going to be used-I'm sorry, the sale of bonds to finance, so in other words, you weren't 02:54:00necessarily voting for the sales tax, but you were voting for-

ISLER: The bond issue.

SUCHANEK: the bond issue and-

ISLER: Yeah.

SUCHANEK: Do you think that was, well, I think obviously it must have been on purpose that Bert Combs would have that, those two issues introduced on the same bill, because if you voted against the sales tax, then you were voting against the veterans.

ISLER: That's right. I shouldn't say that's right, but that's the way of thinking, that's the way I'd think. If I couldn't carry a bill, then I'd have an amendment put on the bill, on the original bill. And as long as it is the same subject matter, you can do that. And sometimes they do that and you don't know it. But it's up on that the orders of the day, it will tell you.

SUCHANEK: Well, I think you would have known this because that was-

ISLER: Yeah.

SUCHANEK: you know, that was Bert Combs' sales tax.

ISLER: Yeah. But I didn't do it just for, on Bert Combs.

SUCHANEK: But, you know, looking at the various campaign-

ISLER: Now you said I voted in favor of that bill, didn't you?

02:55:00

SUCHANEK: Right. Yes.

ISLER: Well, that, then that's what it was, on the account of the veterans.

SUCHANEK: Veterans, uh-huh.

ISLER: Yeah.

SUCHANEK: But the fact that you voted for the sales tax, even though you were actually voting just for the veterans and the sales tax was part of that, it didn't appear to really hurt you in the `61 primary after that, because you ran against Clarence Woody Banister, and you defeated him pretty good, 1,900 votes to 566.

ISLER: Right.

SUCHANEK: So the fact that you voted for the sales tax apparently didn't hurt you with your constituents.

ISLER: No.

SUCHANEK: Okay.

ISLER: They're mostly veterans at that.

SUCHANEK: House Bill 122 increased the expense allowance of General Assembly members, and this passed 58 to 18 and you voted for this bill. Did that create any controversy, voting for an increase in your own 02:56:00expense allowance? I imagine some of the members were-

ISLER: Well, we-

SUCHANEK: a little hesitant to vote an increase-

ISLER: Yeah.

SUCHANEK: for themselves.

ISLER: Yeah. That's right. And did I vote for that bill?

SUCHANEK: Yeah, you voted for it.

ISLER: Well, we needed it. I used to drive a car back and forth, and sometimes I'd have to drive every day back and forth. And I really used up a good car in two years, so probably that's why I done it. But most of the time I'm against anything like that.

SUCHANEK: Okay. House Bill 275 required voting machines in all precincts not later than 1963, and you voted for that bill. The 02:57:00previous bill, House Bill 274, authorized voting machines for counties agreeing to rent/purchase contracts, and you voted for that bill.

ISLER: Yeah, um-hm.

SUCHANEK: Now, House Bill 242 was for creating a greyhound racing commission for regulation, and for regulation for such racing. And Fitzpatrick and George Harris sponsored that bill and you voted for it, but it was defeated 33 to 42. Now, dog tracks were and are popular in other states, like Florida. Was the horse industry against this bill?

ISLER: Yes, why, naturally. They didn't want no other races in here. Timmy introduced them bills every session.

SUCHANEK: Oh, he did?

ISLER: Yeah.

SUCHANEK: Why would Fitzpatrick introduce bills to create greyhound 02:58:00racing if-

ISLER: We used to have around here a dog track.

SUCHANEK: Oh, you did?

ISLER: Yeah, and somehow or other, that was before my times. That was when Timmy first went down there. Used to be a boxing area down there where they boxed. And they just tore that down and built a dog track in there.

SUCHANEK: I see. I didn't know that.

ISLER: And then they, I don't know how they did. But they stopped them. And Timmy used to introduce that bill all the time. He wanted it out here in Florence. That's when this was more a farm area.

SUCHANEK: I was just wondering, because, you know, states like Florida have both, and they both seem to do well.

ISLER: Oh, yeah.

SUCHANEK: But apparently the horse industry here in Kentucky wasn't about to-

ISLER: They're against-

SUCHANEK: chance that.

ISLER: they're against anything racing but horses, because they, here's 02:59:00another thing, they breed horses. They don't like they used to. They used to control the whole works, but they don't anymore. And younger people are coming in and different ideas.

[End of Tape #2, Side #2]

[Begin Tape #3, Side #1]

SUCHANEK: This is tape number three of the September 19th interview with John Isler. Okay John, we're still talking about the 1960 session here. House Bill 300 was the biennial administration budget bill, and that passed 94 to nothing. And that was quite a contrast to the `58 budget bill that "Happy" Chandler had put before the legislature. Apparently, you all were much more satisfied with the budget Bert 03:00:00Combs presented, with the sales tax coming into place and everything.

ISLER: Well, (coughs) like I said before, you're going to vote for that budget for the governor because we know what it does. It pays all the salaries and everything else, and keeps the state in motion. So that's what you really go down there for. And that's the only answer I can give you. In other words, I couldn't afford to vote against it. That means, if I vote against that there budget bill, that I won't get any bills passed, and that's not what I'm sent down there for.

SUCHANEK: Okay. House Bill 351 was for prohibiting purchase or possession of alcoholic beverages by persons 18 to 21 years of age, and this passed 57 to 3. You were one of the three who voted against that 03:01:00bill. Do you recall why?

ISLER: Well, in my generation everything had to be 21. To be an adult, you had to be 21. So that's what the feeling was back in those days. The one certain age, they just felt like, that's too young.

SUCHANEK: But this bill was going to prohibit 18-year-olds, from 18 to 21 from purchasing alcohol, and you voted against it.

ISLER: Well, that's the reason. We just felt like the 18-years-old shouldn't be, shouldn't have that right.

SUCHANEK: Um-hm, um-hm. Okay. Now, House Bill 444 was to prohibit 03:02:00conflict of interest between state officials in state matters. This almost seems like an early ethics bill. You know, the, with the current administration, there's been a lot of talk about ethics.

ISLER: Um-hm.

SUCHANEK: And it seems like way back in 1960, you were already starting to worry about that. Would you call this an early ethics bill? You voted for it.

ISLER: Yeah.

SUCHANEK: And it passed 79 to nothing, so there was no controversy about it.

ISLER: Yeah. I wasn't any co-signer of it, was I?

SUCHANEK: No.

ISLER: I guess you're right on that.

SUCHANEK: Okay. House Bill 446 was the Kentucky Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, and it was introduced by Thomas Ray. And it passed 80 to 03:03:00nothing, and it regulated traffic in food and drugs, and you voted for that one as well. House Bill 500 prohibited recruiting of employees during labor strike or lockouts. This was introduced by Representative Qualls. Now, this bill was defeated 45 to 17, and you voted for this bill. Was that your labor background-

ISLER: Yeah, um-hm.

ISLER: that caused you to vote for it?

ISLER: Yeah. Labor, I voted for labor an awful lot.

SUCHANEK: Um-hm, um-hm. Now, House Bill 505 revised property, motor vehicle, and alcoholic beverage taxes. And it passed 52 to 27, and you voted for the bill. Was this, do I take this to mean that it was for higher taxes? It revised the property, motor vehicle, and alcoholic 03:04:00beverage tax. Was that a revenue bill?

ISLER: It had to be a revenue bill, yeah.

SUCHANEK: And then in 1960, Bert Combs called an extra session of the legislature, and it dealt with, it was to deal with eliminating Kentucky residence requirement for the veterans' bonus. If you recall, the original bill had stated that only residents of Kentucky qualified for the bill. But after the war, World War Two, so many veterans had moved out of state. And I understand Governor Combs later realized his mistake and decided to call a special session to make those veterans who had moved out of the state after the war still eligible for the bonus. And you voted for that.

ISLER: Yeah, um-hm.

SUCHANEK: And then Senate Bill 1 in that extra session amended the 03:05:00Medical Assistance Act of 1960 to authorize payment of federal funds to recipients of medical assistance for the aged, and you voted for that, too.

ISLER: Yeah, that's true.

SUCHANEK: Was that part of the, in reaction to the federal, I think Kennedy had proposed some kind of Medicare-type bill or something.

ISLER: It could have been. It could have been. It sounds like it.

SUCHANEK: Okay. And then in, as I mentioned to you, in the `61 primary you defeated Woody Banister 1,900 votes to 566. Do you recall Woody Banister, who he was?

ISLER: Is he a state employee now?

SUCHANEK: I don't know.

ISLER: No, I cannot. I had so many running against me, I can't remember.

03:06:00

SUCHANEK: And in the general election you had no opposition, and that was the year that James Dressman defeated, I believe it was Wehrman, Judge Wehrman.

ISLER: Judge Wehrman.

SUCHANEK: Um-hm. So, apparently, there was, in your district, even though you won reelection, there was this changeover in city and county politics taking place at that time, and yet you survived that.

ISLER: Yeah. I had no interest in going into county or, or after I once went into city, I didn't have any more interest, because I've known quite a few of them that went from one to the other, and they only served a couple of terms. So I wasn't interested in that. I wanted to just represent the people at the state level.

SUCHANEK: Well, that was part of the risk that legislators who were members of factions took, wasn't it?

03:07:00

ISLER: That's right.

SUCHANEK: You know, if your faction was out of power, you were out of a job.

ISLER: Yeah. But you see with me, the way I ran, I couldn't very well go back into the city or to the county. I had to stay up there where I took in the whole district, and that's one reason I probably stayed right where I'm at.

SUCHANEK: You had no desire to run for a city office at that point?

ISLER: Not the second time. I did run the first, and I just didn't feel, I just didn't want to go any farther than what I went because, after all, you run every two years, your people know you. If you run every four years, they know less about you. And if you run for a Senate job for the Congress, it's six years. People forget all about 03:08:00you. The representatives are close to their constituents. They are. They're close to their constituents. And I guess that's one thing that I liked about it.

SUCHANEK: Okay, getting to the `62 term, you introduced House Bill 38 to purge voter registration lists for failure to vote after four years. Can you tell me a little bit about that bill?

ISLER: It's very simple: they never purged any of them.

SUCHANEK: Did that lead to a lot of vote fraud?

ISLER: Oh, yes. It could have. I don't say it did, but it could have. Somebody move out of the district, and there's people down there that know this. Back in the old days, there used to be a lot of that. Yeah.

SUCHANEK: And is that why you introduced that bill?

03:09:00

ISLER: Yeah, um-hm.

SUCHANEK: Okay. Now, House Bill 92 was the first of this kind of bill that you introduced just about practically every session. House Bill 92 exempted food and medicine from the sales tax.

ISLER: Yeah, I done that for quite a few years.

SUCHANEK: Tell me about that.

ISLER: Well, I just didn't think it was right to put sales tax on food. And I introduced these bills, I know, four or five sessions. And the only reason I can give that they locked it up in the committee is that the way I vote, what my principles are. Instead of, if I was an administration boy, why, I probably would have got that passed, but 03:10:00somehow or other I was, they wouldn't hold still, they didn't want me to have that, you see.

SUCHANEK: Did you ever testify before the committee on that bill?

ISLER: You mean getting that bill out?

SUCHANEK: Yeah.

ISLER: Oh, sure. Sure, you have to. All the bills, they won't bring the bill up unless you let them know you're going to be there. And I think one time I got a reading, a first reading on the bill and, but when I didn't introduce it, why, somebody else that introduced it.

SUCHANEK: Wasn't it a trick used, sometimes used by the administration, if a bill came out of committee that the administration really didn't want passed, they would have someone make a motion that it be recommitted to another committee if it seemed like the other committee did have some jurisdiction over it?

03:11:00

ISLER: Oh, yes, that's done. That's done. I know it's done because it's done a lot of times, but I never paid too much attention to it because I wasn't involved, see. You can't be, you can't be against every bill. Now, there's a bill right there, you said it, for instance, if I would vote against that bill, then they'd, there would be no chance in the world for me to pass anything. Then my opponent would come out and say, "He don't do nothing but sit down there."

SUCHANEK: I see. If you voted against, say, the revenue bill-

ISLER: Yeah.

SUCHANEK: you would become an enemy of the administration.

ISLER: Especially with the budget, see. But outright sales tax, I was against.

SUCHANEK: Okay. Yeah, so you're saying if you voted against the administration's budget bill, the administration would make sure that none of your bills got passed.

03:12:00

ISLER: Right.

SUCHANEK: Okay. Then House Bill 98 was a similar bill to House Bill 92, in that-

ISLER: Let me say this.

SUCHANEK: Go ahead.

ISLER: Excuse me for interrupting. The governor is not supposed to come in on all that stuff, even back in the olden days, but they did come in on it, see. And what I'm saying is, it's the chairman of the committee is the one that says the bill is not going to do this and the bill is not going to do that. So who's the chairman? He meets in special committees, and in those special committees I was never invited so I had no way of getting in there because, you know, they had the sergeant-at-arms there guarding the door. They met. The Committee on Committees met.

SUCHANEK: Well, as I recall reading somewhere, Earle Clements, when he was governor, actually used to sit in the House during roll call votes.

03:13:00

ISLER: He might have, but not in my times.

SUCHANEK: Right.

ISLER: I don't recall him. He might have.

SUCHANEK: Right.

ISLER: But I don't recall him.

SUCHANEK: This was back in the '40s.

ISLER: Oh, no. I never even thought about politics.

SUCHANEK: Yeah. Yeah. Well, I'm just, I just bring that up as-

ISLER: Are you going to write a book on Clements?

SUCHANEK: No. No (Isler laughs). No, no. And if you recall too, I think it was Julian Carroll, when he was governor, had an electronic system piped into his office so that he could listen to roll call votes.

ISLER: That's right. That's the first time I heard, it was there all the time. He could turn it on and off. And when there's nothing going on, why, he didn't have it on, but when they, when the hot ones come up, yeah, that's right. I knew that. But that didn't worry us.

SUCHANEK: Well, I was mentioning that House Bill 98-

ISLER: I imagine they still got that, haven't they?

03:14:00

SUCHANEK: I would imagine they have something like that, yeah.

ISLER: (Laughs), it won't do them no good, though, now the way they're set up.

SUCHANEK: Right. House Bill 98, you sponsored with Representative Oelsner.

ISLER: Oelsner, yeah.

SUCHANEK: Uh-huh. And that exempted food, clothing, and drugs from the sales tax.

ISLER: Yeah, that's a parent bill, the same bill that was my bill.

SUCHANEK: But if you would have cut out the sales tax on food, clothing, and drugs, that would have really cut out the heart of that sales tax.

ISLER: (Laughs), yeah. But they're doing it now. They're doing it now.

SUCHANEK: Yeah.

ISLER: Like you said, I was just a little ahead of my times.

03:15:00

SUCHANEK: Okay. Then we're going to the, in the 1963 primary, your opponent was James J. Gillies, G-I-L-L-I-E-S.

ISLER: Yeah, Gillies, yeah.

SUCHANEK: Gillies, okay. And that was, he gave you a little bit of a run for your money.

ISLER: Oh, yeah. He was a lawyer.

SUCHANEK: Uh-huh.

ISLER: Um-hm.

SUCHANEK: You defeated him 1,864 votes to 1,286. So he made a good showing anyway.

ISLER: Yeah. He did fair, but when you talk about 1,200 votes, today they, it's four and five thousand, see.

SUCHANEK: Do you recall what his platform was?

ISLER: No.

SUCHANEK: I mean would they attack you on voting for the sales tax or-

ISLER: No, they were told the only way you'll defeat Isler is to go out and talk about it. Don't write, put it in the papers or anything like 03:16:00that, because you won't defeat him.

SUCHANEK: Did you ever enter any debates with these fellows or-

ISLER: Yeah, I entered a debate with quite a few of them. The only one I can really remember is Clyde Middleton's wife. She was, she ran against me.

SUCHANEK: That was later, wasn't it?

ISLER: Yeah.

SUCHANEK: Yeah, we'll get there, I think.

ISLER: Yeah, she (laughs) ran against me. It's the only lady-

SUCHANEK: Was that-

ISLER: that ran against me.

SUCHANEK: was that Suzanne Cassidy?

ISLER: No, no. I don't know if she, no, she didn't run. She was very active in the parties. She was very active.

SUCHANEK: Okay. Getting to the `64 election now, Ned Breathitt had been 03:17:00elected-

ISLER: Yeah.

SUCHANEK: governor. Did you have much contact with Ned Breathitt?

ISLER: Not any more than any other governor.

SUCHANEK: Okay. Could you discern any differences in administrative style between the different governors that you served under? For example, take "Happy," as opposed to Bert Combs, as opposed to Ned Breathitt, Louie Nunn. Were any more-could you pick out ones that were favorites of yours or that you worked better with, or you just didn't have much contact with any of them?

ISLER: Well, what you spoke just a minute ago, I didn't have, I've had very little contact with any of them. And I can't, I couldn't see 03:18:00any too much change in them as far as state government is concerned, because after all, the reason why they only have term, one term, you can very well understand it (laughs). They got to introduce the same bills over and over and over, but they just add an appropriation to it. Your highway department and all of them are all the same, see. So they, as far as I am concerned they were good governors, but I didn't get in on anything. And like you said, they had these special meetings for the chairmen and all that. They didn't bother me. Even when I was co-chairman, they didn't bother me. Or when, Chairman of Enrollment, they didn't say, "You got enough problems, we don't want you to get in here." But they had their reasons.

SUCHANEK: Sure.

ISLER: See, it fit up with my job and everything.

SUCHANEK: Um-hm. Okay, it was in 1964 where you introduced House Bill 03:19:0078, prohibiting the use of re-grooved or re-cut tires. Remember, I'd mentioned-

ISLER: Yeah, re-cords.

SUCHANEK: a bill, right.

ISLER: Re-caps. Pardon me, re-caps.

SUCHANEK: And this passed 64 to 3, but then you moved that it be tabled for vote reconsideration and it never came up again. Why would you have asked for a vote reconsideration?

ISLER: Well, the only reason I can say is the people that re-cap them, the manufacturers, they asked me to do it. And you notice right now, the highways are full of them. I travel them highways quite a bit, and I know that I've had a lot of doors and fenders fixed on account of them re-caps, because you can't get out of the way from them. And I still say they shouldn't be allowed to put them on trucks.

03:20:00

SUCHANEK: Now, House Bill 252 in 1964 was for establishing procedures for termination of control over illegitimate children. And you co-sponsored this bill with many others. And what it said was, and I quote, "If a woman after the birth of an illegitimate child should give birth to one or more illegitimate children, the Department of Child Welfare may institute action to terminate parental control of the minor children of that person." And that passed 80 to 1, and it was enrolled.

ISLER: Yeah. Sure, it had to be. That's an administration bill.

SUCHANEK: Oh, it was?

ISLER: It's bound to be. It's bound to be. Humane, what is it, the Department of Human Rights or something?

03:21:00

SUCHANEK: Resources? Human Resources?

ISLER: Human Resources, that's their bill.

SUCHANEK: Okay. Okay.

ISLER: But you see, they got people to introduce the bill. I didn't introduce any of those bills.

SUCHANEK: Okay.

ISLER: I might co-sign them or something like that. You see, the state, the governor's office, they have their bills they introduce, you know. Just like you said the budget, they don't only introduce the budget. They introduce as many bills as anybody else, but their bills come first. They get them right in the beginning of the session.

SUCHANEK: Well, usually I think I can tell which are administration bills by the sponsor of it. For example, back in "Happy" Chandler's second administration, Fred Morgan was the sponsor of many of those types of bills.

03:22:00

ISLER: But any of those bills are, the majority floor leader sponsors the bill, that's who it is for.

SUCHANEK: Okay.

ISLER: And that's where the instructions come, would be from, to all the chairmen from Freddy Morgan.

SUCHANEK: Okay. Now, in the '65 general election, or I'm sorry, the `65 primary, Robert M. Hofstetter was your opposition.

ISLER: Yeah.

SUCHANEK: And you defeated him overwhelmingly.

ISLER: Overwhelmingly.

SUCHANEK: Almost 2,600 votes to 650.

ISLER: Well, he doesn't, nobody knew him. See, you just can't walk in jobs like that. Even city jobs, you have to run a couple of times so people know who you are, see.

SUCHANEK: Do you recall what, was he an attorney or-

ISLER: No.

SUCHANEK: Do you recall what he did?

ISLER: No, I don't remember. He was just a regular working fellow, 03:23:00I'd say.

SUCHANEK: Okay. And you didn't take his candidacy that seriously?

ISLER: No, but I worked just as hard.

SUCHANEK: Okay.

ISLER: Because if I let up, then the next election my people would say, "You wasn't around to see me." And I went around to see them. And I think that's what-they got a chance to talk to me and ask me. And I told them the truth, and they expected to see me too.

SUCHANEK: Yeah. And then in the `65 general election, George Starks was your opponent. And Starks ran as a slate with other Republicans, which was kind of a new thing in Covington or Kenton County. You all used, didn't used to run a slate too much, did you?

ISLER: We didn't. Except at the end, Gus and I ran together.

SUCHANEK: Right.

ISLER: Senator Sheehan, we ran together, and I think that was about the last time I ran. I only put up billboard signs with Gus once or twice.

03:24:00

SUCHANEK: Why did you prefer to run alone?

ISLER: It was easier for me. See, when you run with somebody, now like, Gus is in the Senate and I'm in the House. Well, that's all right. But if I run somebody, a representative, that would make us a faction.

SUCHANEK: I see.

ISLER: That would join us together.

SUCHANEK: And you'd be-

ISLER: Remember what I said about putting up signs?

SUCHANEK: Right.

ISLER: I didn't, I put up, I asked them not to put up any more signs or I wouldn't put them their yard. And so that's the reason, I didn't want to be connected with any factions.

SUCHANEK: Okay.

ISLER: I wanted to, I want that independent Democrat.

SUCHANEK: Okay. Now, his, Starks' platform was to stop the 4 percent sales tax, stop the tax rise on property, stop the tax rise on 03:25:00automobiles, stop the tax on livestock and farm machinery, and reduce the Kentucky state income tax. And apparently, the voters didn't buy that.

ISLER: Well, you can't stop all the taxes. The governor, the General Assembly has appropriations for highways, appropriations for the budget. Well, where's the money going to come from? If you're going to stop everything, you're going to put, turn us back to Virginia (laughs)?

SUCHANEK: Well-

ISLER: And they'd have to put the tax on you (laughs).

SUCHANEK: Well, apparently, the voters agreed with you, because you beat him 3,195 votes to 1,086.

ISLER: Yeah.

SUCHANEK: So it was about a three-to-one margin for you.

ISLER: Yeah.

SUCHANEK: Yeah. I guess we can move on to the `66 session. Ned Breathitt, of course, is still the governor, and again, House Bill 191, 03:26:00you were going for exempting drugs, braces, wheelchairs, et cetera from the sales and use tax.

ISLER: Yeah.

SUCHANEK: And you sponsored that by yourself, and Kentucky Statutes Two recommended that it not pass. And I guess the Statutes Two would have been dominated by members who were loyal to Ned Breathitt.

ISLER: Yeah.

SUCHANEK: Okay.

ISLER: Well, if the majority floor leader didn't want that passed, it's not going to pass.

SUCHANEK: Um-hm.

ISLER: First of all, they hold them in the committees. You don't know that.

SUCHANEK: Now, you were a co-sponsor with Representative Harper on House Bill 265, prohibiting the use of force in resisting arrest whether or not there is a legal basis for arrest. Do you, was that Harper's bill rather than your bill or-

03:27:00

ISLER: I think that was Harper's bill.

SUCHANEK: Okay. Now, House Bill 2, remember now, this is 1966.

ISLER: (Laughs), I'm trying to.

SUCHANEK: House Bill 2, prohibiting discrimination in employment and public accommodations because of race, color, religion, or national origin. Now, this bill passed 76 to 12, but you voted against it. Do you recall why?

ISLER: What was the, what was that subject matter?

SUCHANEK: Prohibiting discrimination in employment and public accommodations because of race, color, religion, or national origin. If you recall, the federal civil rights bill was passed in 1964.

ISLER: Um-hm.

SUCHANEK: And so this would have been the state version of the federal legislation here in 1966 and you voted against it.

ISLER: Yeah. Well, as-some organization must have asked me to do that. 03:28:00They must have-

SUCHANEK: You don't recall-

ISLER: in my district. No, I can't recall, I can't recall (laughs) everything.

SUCHANEK: Okay, all right. Now you joined, I think, with just about all the representatives in supporting House Resolution 5, which was supporting the United States action in Vietnam. One of the things I wanted to ask you about, John, is how much national events influenced your thinking in the Kentucky legislature, for example, the Cuban missile crisis. I know you were on the Civil Defense Committee during the Cuban missile crisis. You know, you're here supporting the United 03:29:00States' action in Vietnam.

ISLER: Yeah.

SUCHANEK: How much attention did you pay to national events or how much did that influence your thinking when you were in the Kentucky legislature?

ISLER: We don't get too much of it, very little of it. No, we didn't have-the federal, it seems like the federal stays to themselves and the states stay to themselves. And like I said, they're, the-I mentioned it before, the state council, about the drafting legislation for all fifty states now. They're the only ones that would come in on that.

SUCHANEK: Okay.

03:30:00

ISLER: Because remember, the states have their problems too, and they're not, they're a little bit different than the federal, but not that much difference.

SUCHANEK: Now, House Bill 205 was for establishing fines and jail sentences for distributing obscene matter to persons under eighteen years of age. You voted for this bill. It passed 72 to 1. Norbert Blume was the only one who voted against this bill. I guess this is Kentucky's first obscenity law?

ISLER: I guess so.

SUCHANEK: What can you tell me about Norbert Blume? I wonder why he would vote against this bill.

ISLER: I don't know. Norb is a very good talker. He's a good speaker. 03:31:00And I think he's like all the rest of us, he tries to do what is right for his constituents, and sometimes it doesn't always work out that way-

SUCHANEK: Um-hm, okay.

ISLER: you know.

SUCHANEK: Do you-it passed 72 to 1, so I don't suspect that there was much floor debate against that bill.

ISLER: No debate at all.

SUCHANEK: Okay.

ISLER: No, there wouldn't be on that.

SUCHANEK: Okay. Now, in the `67 primary you had no opposition. In the 1967 general election, your opponent was Alfred Taylor. Do you remember Alfred Taylor?

ISLER: No (laughs).

SUCHANEK: Okay.

ISLER: I have so many of them (laughs).

SUCHANEK: Now, the thing about this election, the `67 general election, 03:32:00is there's almost like a voter rebellion in northern Kentucky, and the GOP gained many, many seats, both, I believe, in local politics and also at the state level. The 60th District, which was then Boone and Gallatin County, elected their first Republican representative to the House, ever. Kenton County elected its first Republican senator, Clyde Middleton.

ISLER: Yeah.

SUCHANEK: Okay. Or their first since 1901. However, you defeated your Republican opponent 3,139 votes to 1,665 votes. So, again, the voter rebellion, which put a lot of Republicans in office, didn't affect you.

ISLER: No. The reason why, my interest was in the people. Now, like I said before, a lot of them go down there and their interest is not, 03:33:00they forget about who's back home. But when election time comes, sometimes they have to answer for it.

SUCHANEK: Um-hm, um-hm. And, of course, in 1968 there have been some writers who have-with the election of Louie Nunn as governor, they've pointed to 1968 as a real watershed in the history of the Kentucky legislature. The fact that Louie Nunn was the first Republican governor-

ISLER: Yeah.

SUCHANEK: since Simeon Willis-

ISLER: Um-hm.

SUCHANEK: in the 1940s. The Democratic Party in the legislature, with no Democratic governor to make their decisions for them, had to select their own leadership. Wendell Ford was elected lieutenant governor, and Julian Carroll was Speaker of the House. Do you recall any 03:34:00discussions among your colleagues at the time discussing this really momentous change in the makeup of the legislature? It was still a legislature dominated by Democrats, but with a Republican governor.

ISLER: Well, it's very unusual to have that, but what can you do if you got the House and the Senate Democrats, a majority of them, a majority is Democrats, then with being governor, you got to really play it the way it should be played. You get up your budget, and whoever the majority floor leaders in the House and the Senate, you bring them in and said, "Here's my budget. Now I just hope you don't mess it all up." And you take it from there. But Louie Nunn, he knew how to handle 03:35:00it. I don't know, he's just a fellow that, under those circumstances, you know that he's going to come out all right. And I don't believe he ever pressured anybody, because he had, didn't have too many of them down there he could press, put the pressure on. And he, I think he did very well. He did about the same as all the rest of them did. He left it up to his chairmen and things like that to do it.

SUCHANEK: Well, he has a reputation of, in that term, of being a real good wheeler-dealer, that he was able to make deals with the Democratic leadership who controlled the legislature. And, of course, without the legislature, his budget bill couldn't pass, whereby he agreed to, at 03:36:00least if not support some of the Democratic legislation, at least not raise any opposition to it. Were you aware of that type of thing?

ISLER: Well, things went pretty smooth, so you're not aware of anything when things go smooth. And in other words, he acted like any other governor do when he got elected. He went in there, and whoever his advisers were, his aides, why, they probably schooled him and told him, "it will-everything will be all right, you just go out and talk to the chairmen and that." And they brought the majority floor leader in, and he's the one that put the message to them. See, now the governor, see they don't, they just say, "Governor," see, just like us. We don't call nobody by names, you could call them by their districts, see. 03:37:00And as I said before, he had no problems because he was just that type of man. You know, when you find out, how did I get elected with all these, just such a few Republicans down here, how did I get elected? All right, I'm going to do what the people want, see. So he set up his budget, and he's got advisers from other, for years the fellows have been, them aides has been there, because you depend on them to run your state. When the General Assembly sine dies, they go home. You depend on them, and that's what it's all about. It's just like a company. He just was smart enough how to do them. And when he went in that office, party went out. He had a job here to do.

SUCHANEK: Well, let me ask you this then, John. With so much being 03:38:00written about factions in the Democratic Party and Louie Nunn being a Republican governor, and the possible trouble that that could have caused, not only the commonwealth, but could have caused Louie Nunn, do you think that type of factional interpretation to the history of the legislature is overblown? You know, do you think that the Democratic leadership got things from Louie Nunn because he had to wheel and deal in order to get his administration bills passed?

ISLER: Well, I think that's what politics is all about, what you said, wheel and deal. But he done like any other governor would do, he had a situation there that he had to face up to. He didn't have enough on his own where he could count on (unintelligible). But even now today 03:39:00with this here, the system they got right now, the governor doesn't have too much say, so the governor has to do just like Louie Nunn done. He's got to get along with the chairmen. If he don't like the bill, he can call them in and, or send somebody down there and tell them he doesn't like the bill, but that's all he can do. But Louie Nunn done very well. And I don't think he had any problems, and I've never heard him spoke at any time, even while we were in session two times, about anything. He just spoke like a governor should speak, and that's what you have to do, just like I got a job when I go up there, and that's what I do. Some of them don't do that, but I do.

SUCHANEK: The speaker pro tem in `68 was Terry McBrayer.

03:40:00

ISLER: Um-hm.

SUCHANEK: I believe Terry McBrayer was known as one of the Young Turks.

ISLER: Yeah.

SUCHANEK: Can you tell me anything about Terry McBrayer?

ISLER: Well, he's a, really a nice boy. He's a gentleman, and there's nothing that I can say against him but praise. There's nothing, he's like all the rest of us, there's nothing he wouldn't do for you. And I thought he was going run for a state job, the way he was going.

SUCHANEK: Well, I believe he, at one time, he ran in a primary for governor.

ISLER: Yeah. That's right. You're right, yeah.

SUCHANEK: How about Julian Carroll? What kind of a speaker was Julian Carroll?

ISLER: Very good. He had to be, to, you know, to do what he done, he had to be, and he had to have a following. He had to have a following. 03:41:00In other words, he, if he got you as a friend, you're always his friend. Now, if you voted against his bill once in a while, it didn't bother him a bit. Didn't bother him a bit. And he was good to me, and he knew, well, he served in the House with me.

SUCHANEK: Right.

ISLER: He served in the House with me, and he served in the House when it was really rough, when we, back in the-(unintelligible)-he was majority floor leader, Moloney was the majority floor leader-it was rough back in those days. And sometimes I wonder why he would ever, he was much older than us, and I wondered why he would want a job like that, but he did. And Julian was really a, he was-remember, when you 03:42:00run for governor, you got to be somebody outstanding, you see, or you just can't get those jobs.

SUCHANEK: Right.

ISLER: And he, but he had a little more polish on his, and he was always nice and everything, and he was very calm and collected. And-

SUCHANEK: And you worked well with him as Enrollment chairman?

ISLER: I did the same thing with him. It's a, you mentioned the boy from Louisville that was Speaker of the House, Blume?

SUCHANEK: Yes.

ISLER: He, somehow or other, he didn't pay too much attention to me and he had a rough time.

SUCHANEK: Oh, did he? Um-hm.

ISLER: Was speaker only once, see.

SUCHANEK: That was under Carroll, I believe?

ISLER: All right. See, you have to work with everybody. You can't, 03:43:00because it, they, I'm telling you, it's rough.

SUCHANEK: Let me flip this over, John.

[End of Tape #3, Side #1]

[Begin Tape #3, Side #2]

SUCHANEK: Was there a feeling in the legislature in `68 that the state was really a partnership, the leadership of the state was really a partnership? Yes, Louie Nunn was the governor, but Wendell Ford as lieutenant governor and Julian Carroll as Speaker of the House were sort of co-governors, in that Louie Nunn wouldn't be able to do anything without their help.

ISLER: (Laughs), well, that's natural. Yeah, that's a good question, and I'll give you a good answer. You couldn't do-and because they control all the chairmen. You see, the, your chairmen are selected. You don't vote on your chairmen.

03:44:00

SUCHANEK: Right. And so that would have been, well at that point, I guess, Wendell Ford would have assumed the titular head, at least, or nominal head, been nominal head of the Democratic Party in the state at that point as lieutenant governor?

ISLER: Well, whatever the Democratic Party, they have, you know, they got their officers too, the state Democratic Party.

SUCHANEK: Right.

ISLER: And-

SUCHANEK: You mean the executive committee?

ISLER: Yeah, the executive committee, yeah.

SUCHANEK: Okay.

ISLER: They have theirs, and I don't know if that would come in on it. But they got the Senate and the House to run, and they, no matter what governor it is, it's got to come down through them-

SUCHANEK: Right, right.

ISLER: see. So I don't think they had any problems with him. I didn't know it, because like I said, they didn't invite me in on all the, 03:45:00only chairmen, they only invite the chairmen, but somehow or other they never brought the Enrollment chairman in on anything, never brought him in, because he's handling the bills, he's handling all bills, and I guess that's why they done it.

SUCHANEK: Well, do you agree then, John, that `68 was sort of a turning point for the General Assembly in that because they had to select their own leadership, it sort of distanced them a little bit from the governor's office, that the governor, this is the first time since at least the '40s, that the governor didn't control the selection of the Democratic leadership in the legislature?

ISLER: I think Julian Carroll had an awful lot to do with all the changes that are taking part right now. He thought an awful lot about the members of the General Assembly. In fact, I believe they came 03:46:00first. Look what he'd done. He built them a garage. Nobody expected him to build a garage, but he did, see. He done everything he could for us. He even had us cloakrooms and things like that, he had it done. We didn't have that, and we wouldn't have these offices they got up there if it wasn't it for Julian Carroll. He wasn't, he was a governor for six years.

SUCHANEK: Right, when Ford went to the Senate.

ISLER: And he had a chance to do something, and he done it.

SUCHANEK: Okay.

ISLER: We owe an awful lot to Julian Carroll when it comes to a governor, more than any other governor.

SUCHANEK: Now, he did that when he was Speaker of the House or when he was governor?

ISLER: I think he done it when he, while he was governor.

SUCHANEK: Okay, okay. Now, in 1968 House Bill 255 was an act 03:47:00establishing Northern Kentucky State College.

ISLER: Yeah.

SUCHANEK: And you were co-sponsor with that, with many others, introduced by Carl Mershon of Ludlow.

ISLER: Yeah, yeah.

SUCHANEK: Uh-huh. In Kenton County.

ISLER: Um-hm.

SUCHANEK: And that established Northern.

ISLER: Yeah.

SUCHANEK: Uh-huh.

ISLER: That's right.

SUCHANEK: And-

ISLER: We, the delegation, we formed a coalition on that. And we went up there and we got Louisville behind us and everything, and we put it through. But we tried to do a lot of things prior to that, but we couldn't.

SUCHANEK: Was there, well, back in `55, you had run as part of your platform in 1955, you'd run as part of your platform the expansion of the U.K. Northern Center here.

ISLER: Yeah.

SUCHANEK: Was there much opposition, that you know of, from U.K. to the establishment of Northern Kentucky College?

03:48:00

ISLER: Well, I'll tell you, I wouldn't like to get into that because you got your three big colleges and this little college here. And you know what a problem that is, asking them to give some of their money towards Northern, but we finally did it.

SUCHANEK: But there was opposition?

ISLER: Well, (laughs) let's say it this way: Louisville had the votes, and our votes, that took care of it.

SUCHANEK: Okay.

ISLER: So that's the way we done it. We had to play a little politics there.

SUCHANEK: Yeah, I was going to say, did you have to negotiate with Louisville?

ISLER: Oh, yeah.

SUCHANEK: Okay. I mean that's the way it-

ISLER: And somehow or the other, that worked out for about three terms, where we used to meet. And later on, it just-different ones got in, they, nobody passed it on to them, I suppose.

SUCHANEK: Okay. During this session in `68, you introduced or co- 03:49:00sponsored thirty-five total bills.

ISLER: (Laughs), that's what I say, I couldn't answer all those bills.

SUCHANEK: But the majority of them never came up for a vote, especially the bills that you sponsored alone. Was there a reason for this, do you think?

ISLER: Well, they were introduced and they didn't put them up. They didn't schedule them to be heard in the committees, and there's nothing I can do about it.

SUCHANEK: Do you think that this shows that you were really independent, in that, you know, you owed nothing to Wendell Ford or Julian Carroll?

ISLER: I wasn't for no administration, no factions.

SUCHANEK: Okay.

ISLER: The only faction I belonged to was the Democratic Party.

SUCHANEK: Now, also in this session, House Bill 47 exempted the legislative branch of state government from executive budget 03:50:00requirements. And this sort of is an independent-type action by the General Assembly, saying that the executive branch can't control the budget for the legislature. And that was a kind of a-

ISLER: Well, that's the beginning of it.

SUCHANEK: Sure.

ISLER: See, that's what I said, Julian really helped us with everything that we got. All the other governors never had any idea about this stuff, and we didn't have any idea. But it's through the Council of States, that's what I was trying to think of before.

SUCHANEK: Right.

ISLER: They're the ones that fed all that stuff to us because they were just in the next county from us, see, in Fayette County. And they would've like to try everything here in the General Assembly of Kentucky, but we couldn't do all the things because we weren't that 03:51:00big. But that's where a lot of these ideas come up.

SUCHANEK: Okay. By the way, that bill was introduced by Fred Morgan, who was from Paducah, as was Julian Carroll, so I think that that was a-

ISLER: I think he was majority floor leader for Julian, wasn't he?

SUCHANEK: He might have been. I'll have to check.

ISLER: No, you don't. That's all right. He was, I think he was. He always had a job like that.

SUCHANEK: Now, House Bill 198 required professional negotiation for teachers. And you voted for this bill, and it passed 70 to 11, so again, I think, you know, we can point to this bill and your sticking up for your constituents and the schoolteachers, as you say, your lifeline.

ISLER: That's right.

03:52:00

SUCHANEK: House Bill 264 authorized public employees to organize for collective bargaining, and you voted for that. It passed 44 to 17.

ISLER: Yeah.

SUCHANEK: House Bill 337 established methods of solid waste disposal. We've talked about your involvement in, you weren't a sponsor or a co-sponsor of that bill, but you did vote for it.

ISLER: Right.

SUCHANEK: House Bill 393 was for increasing salaries of judges and legislators.

ISLER: We have to do that once in a while or we don't get good judges. We have to do that once in a while.

SUCHANEK: House Bill 399 was Louie Nunn's sales tax increase.

ISLER: I was against that (laughs).

SUCHANEK: And-well, you moved the adoption of Amendment Number 5 to this bill, which exempted medicine, clothing, and food sold for consumption 03:53:00off the premises. Again-

ISLER: Yeah.

SUCHANEK: you know, you're-now, this amendment gets pretty interesting because at first, it passed 48 to 47. It passed by one (Isler laughs), okay? The next day, Buford Clark, who was a Republican from Barbourville-

ISLER: Yeah.

SUCHANEK: asked that your amendment be reconsidered, and your amendment was then defeated 59 to 34.

ISLER: I know that.

SUCHANEK: Okay. So sometime-

ISLER: I knew that was going to happen because they told me. I held them up, I don't know how long, on the floor, four or five hours. And they adjourned, they didn't adjourn, they recessed till the next day so they could do it.

SUCHANEK: Right.

ISLER: And they did it.

SUCHANEK: Right. So in between the close of March the 5th business and whenever this motion was introduced by Buford Clark, I guess it would, 03:54:00the administration got twelve people to change their mind.

ISLER: Yeah.

SUCHANEK: Okay. And some of these people, well, these people were Everett Akers, a Democrat from Martin, James Alexander, a Democrat from Versailles, I won't read all of them.

ISLER: No. SUCHANEK: But what's striking to me is that with the exception of a few like Brooks Hinkle and Lloyd Clapp, most of these were first-term Democrats that Nunn got to change their votes.

ISLER: Well-

SUCHANEK: Do you think there was a reason why they contacted first-term Democrats?

ISLER: Well, they'll do anything to put their bill over. I remember that very well. The paper wrote up, "Isler, King for a Day." It's a big headline.

SUCHANEK: Is that right?

ISLER: Yeah.

SUCHANEK: Was that in the Courier?

ISLER: It might have been in the Courier, but I think it was in all the papers, "Isler, King for a Day." And I knew they, that it was going to 03:55:00be gone because all the ads said, "Isler, King for a Day. The lights in the mansion is going to burn late until in the morning." That's what it said, "Late in the morning."

SUCHANEK: So you knew beforehand that they were going to switch some votes.

ISLER: That's why they'd done it. That's why they'd done it. They, because I think I held them already for four hours, and I had to hold the floor. I wouldn't yield the floor. So finally-

SUCHANEK: You just had to keep speaking, is that it?

ISLER: That's right. I held the floor for about four and a half, maybe longer than that. And they asked me if the gentleman from Kenton would yield to a question, and said, "Would you agree if we just recess and 03:56:00take this up tomorrow? We'll tell the speaker, we'll say right now that you can continue where you left off, and we won't adjourn, so somebody else can take over and you-" Well, they did and that's what happened. They let me have it as long as I had it, and I knew it. They told me they had the votes-

SUCHANEK: I see.

ISLER: see. So I did. I got up and spoke a little bit, and then they voted and it was, yeah.

SUCHANEK: Okay.

ISLER: Yeah, that was a big one.

SUCHANEK: So anyway, the sales, that sales tax minus your amendment-

ISLER: Yeah, that-

SUCHANEK: finally passed 56 to 41 (Isler laughs). But you created some trouble (laughs).

ISLER: When I got up they knew there was trouble, because when I, I didn't get up unless it was constructive, unless I had something to 03:57:00really say and something to do, and I knew I was going to get it over.

SUCHANEK: Just as an aside, what did you talk about for four or five hours?

ISLER: Well, I read everything that you could name, newspapers (Suchanek laughs), no kidding.

SUCHANEK: Is that right?

ISLER: Yeah, they couldn't stop me. I'd read newspapers, but I had to stand up, and they'd bring me over books and everything. You know, everybody was helping me, so when they seen all that, all that commotion going on in the House, and they said, all these fellows, the Senate, they would adjourn in about forty or fifty minutes, and here we are all day (laughs) and all, just trying to settle one bill. It was fun. It was fun. That makes it good when everybody is trying to help you, you know.

SUCHANEK: Uh-huh. House Bill 400 was the biennial executive budget, and four of the five amendments to the bill were defeated, and the bill finally passed a 100 to nothing. House Bill 401 established new 03:58:00community colleges at Carrollton, Glasgow, and Madisonville, and you voted for that.

ISLER: Good.

SUCHANEK: Now, House Bill 423, this is all part of that legislature independence movement. This proposed a constitutional amendment to require annual sessions of the General Assembly. That was introduced by McCallum, Ralph Mitchell, Bill Henry, George Massey, and it passed 83 to 2. And you voted for that.

ISLER: Yeah. That's the beginning of a, that's all in Julian Carroll's-

SUCHANEK: Right.

ISLER: See, Julian Carroll, he had a little legislator, legislative blood in him. He's the one that really give us what we got today, and I doubt if you'll be getting any more. I might be wrong there because 03:59:00maybe they got the power now to vote in what they need. I don't know if they set up their own budget yet or not. I haven't, I'm talking about this here legislative, you know.

SUCHANEK: Yeah.

ISLER: Do they have their own budget? They must, huh? Now, I can't answer that, see.

SUCHANEK: Well, yeah.

ISLER: But I imagine they do. If they do, then they're all right.

SUCHANEK: Okay.

ISLER: You might look into that.

SUCHANEK: Okay. We need to move along on this.

ISLER: Yeah.

SUCHANEK: House Resolution 84 created a joint committee on un-American activities. This was introduced by Clapp and Kessinger. And then you added, you along with others, later requested that your name be added as a co-sponsor-

ISLER: Yeah.

SUCHANEK: to this bill, and this was adopted. Do you recall what was 04:00:00behind that? This was 1968. It was a committee, or creating a joint committee on un-American activities.

ISLER: Yeah.

SUCHANEK: Do you recall anything about that?

ISLER: No, I don't.

SUCHANEK: Okay. That's fine.

ISLER: Yeah.

SUCHANEK: That's fine. I want to move along, getting to the `69 primary. You had two opponents. One was Don Reisenberg and the other was, again, Robert Hofstetter.

ISLER: Yeah (laughs). Yeah, that, well, that helped me there.

SUCHANEK: Uh-huh. And you received 1,972 votes, Reisenberg 452 votes, and Hofstetter only 195, so you really didn't have much opposition in the primary.

ISLER: No.

SUCHANEK: And then John Kraut was the Republican who faced you in the `69 general election, and you defeated him really handily, almost 2,900 votes to 900.

ISLER: Yeah.

SUCHANEK: So, and then just to put this on record, for the next, `71, 04:01:00`73, `75, and `77, you were unopposed both in the primaries and the general elections.

ISLER: Right.

SUCHANEK: Okay. So we don't need to go over that. Now, in, let's see, 1970, Ford was still lieutenant governor, Julian Carroll was speaker, and the speaker pro tem at that point was Norbert Blume.

ISLER: Yeah.

SUCHANEK: And McBrayer went to majority leader at that point.

ISLER: Yeah, majority floor leader.

SUCHANEK: Now, when you voted for the sales tax increase in `68, in the `68 session, you and your colleagues must have known that there would be a price to be paid politically. And that price was evident on the first day of the `70 legislative session, when almost one-third of the 04:02:00members in the legislature were new.

ISLER: That tax was put on out-of-state companies, companies that shipped stuff into Kentucky and wasn't paying no tax. That's what that was.

SUCHANEK: Okay.

ISLER: Out of state.

SUCHANEK: But-

ISLER: See, what they were doing, they were taking away from the state. In other words, the people in Kentucky was paying for what they wasn't paying for, so that was out of state. And I can remember that very well. Who was majority floor leader at that time?

SUCHANEK: In `68? The-

ISLER: He's down at Glasgow, lives at Glasgow.

SUCHANEK: You know, I don't have that.

ISLER: Yeah.

SUCHANEK: I don't know who was majority leader at that point.

ISLER: Yeah. Well, he was majority floor leader, and he come over to me and he said, "John," he says, "this won't hurt your people, this tax." 04:03:00He came over to my desk and said, "This will not hurt your people. It's going to tax companies that ship into Kentucky." And he said, "I know you're in favor of that." I said, "Okay, I'll go along with you." Then after it was all over and a little later on, he says, "I can't believe it, but I did get John to vote for a tax" (both laugh).

SUCHANEK: In fact, I've talked to Leonard Hislope recently, and-

ISLER: Yeah. Well, how is he?

SUCHANEK: He's fine, and he said, he says, "Well, when you talk to John Isler," he says, "you ask John about him never voting for a sales, for any kind of a tax" (laughs).

ISLER: Well, I answered it there, didn't I?

SUCHANEK: Right. Right.

ISLER: I can't think of that young boy's name, that young fellow, but he 04:04:00said, "The first time that Isler voted for a tax" (both laugh).

SUCHANEK: Okay.

ISLER: But that's a different kind of tax, isn't it?

SUCHANEK: Yes, uh-huh. Okay, I just wanted to mention some of the bills in `70 that you voted for. You voted for the Archie Brown Bill. Do you recall what that was? That was the, authorizing professional negotiations for teachers.

ISLER: Oh.

SUCHANEK: It was called the Archie Brown Bill.

ISLER: Yeah, I voted, yeah. Now, they, see, they do that occasionally, but that's a rare occasion that they do that.

SUCHANEK: You voted for House Bill 347 creating a citizens commission on consumer protection.

ISLER: Right. That's good.

SUCHANEK: You voted for House Bill 163, which raised the minimum wage to $1.30 an hour.

04:05:00

ISLER: Yeah, I'm always in favor of that. This last one, I was in favor of.

SUCHANEK: House Bill 414 authorized the establishment of public transit authorities, and you voted for that. You also voted for House Bill 421, which created a citizens conservation and environmental council.

ISLER: Right.

SUCHANEK: House Bill 478 established a Kentucky housing corporation.

ISLER: Right.

SUCHANEK: Mae Street Kidd sponsored that bill.

ISLER: Yeah, that bill, and that bill helps. That means for low interest rates on, I think it was $25 million that was appropriated for that. Yeah.

SUCHANEK: Um-hm, um-hm.

ISLER: Yeah.

SUCHANEK: You voted for House Bill 509 authorizing collective bargaining for firemen.

ISLER: Right.

SUCHANEK: You voted for House Bill 526, established a law enforcement 04:06:00foundation program.

ISLER: Good, um-hm.

SUCHANEK: Now, you voted against House Bill 543, which authorized city- county merger in certain counties.

ISLER: Remember, I told you that I wasn't for annexation. They took me off of Cities.

SUCHANEK: Right.

ISLER: That spells it.

SUCHANEK: Okay. You voted for House Bill 577, which established a farm development authority.

ISLER: Right. I'm not a farmer, but a farmer asked me to do it.

SUCHANEK: Um-hm. You voted for House Bill 624, which prohibited discrimination based on sex.

ISLER: Yeah, that's a good bill.

SUCHANEK: And then there was House Resolution 83. This was in 1970. It declared the independence of the General Assembly.

ISLER: Right, I voted for that.

SUCHANEK: Yes, you did.

ISLER: So that's the beginning of it.

SUCHANEK: So, Carl Ruh introduced that bill, that resolution.

04:07:00

ISLER: Yeah, Carl Ruh.

SUCHANEK: Now, Senate Bill 4, you voted for that. It exempted prescription medicine from the sales tax.

ISLER: (Laughs), naturally. I'd been introducing it for about seven years.

SUCHANEK: And you voted for Senate Bill 23, which created a commission on women.

ISLER: There's got to be a little more to that (both laugh).

SUCHANEK: I'm sure there is. Okay. In 1972, Wendell Ford was governor, lieutenant governor was Julian Carroll. As you mentioned, Norbert Blume was Speaker of the House. I thought he was under Carroll, but he was under Ford.

ISLER: Oh, I see.

SUCHANEK: And the speaker pro tem was Billy Paxton. Majority leader was John Swinford, out of Cynthiana.

ISLER: Yeah. Oh, yeah.

SUCHANEK: And you were on the Enrollment Committee.

ISLER: Right.

SUCHANEK: Business, Organizations, and Professions. And Cities, you 04:08:00were vice- chairman of Cities.

ISLER: Yeah, um-hm.

SUCHANEK: Again, you sponsored House Bill 70 exempting food from the sales tax. That never got out of committee.

ISLER: (Laughs), yeah.

SUCHANEK: House Bill 104, you sponsored, exempting local government purchases from the sales tax.

ISLER: Right.

SUCHANEK: And that never got out of committee.

ISLER: I was a devil, wasn't I (both laugh)? I was a thorn in their sides.

SUCHANEK: You co-sponsored House Bill 397, which proposed a constitutional amendment for a Kentucky Derby lottery.

ISLER: Yeah.

SUCHANEK: Do you recall that?

ISLER: Yeah. I think that was for education.

SUCHANEK: It never made it out of committee.

ISLER: No. Well, we're liberal up here. These three counties here, we're liberal. We go for things like that.

SUCHANEK: House Resolution 47 urged the recognition of God in public 04:09:00schools. You, this was adopted, and you co-sponsored that with many others.

ISLER: Yeah, um-hm. We need that, we need that now.

SUCHANEK: Now, House Bill 112, to redefine some congressional districts, this bill brought down the ire of Arthur Schmidt and Phillip King. Schmidt said he witnessed with shock and embarrassment the steamroller pushing House Bill 112. I guess he's talking about Wendell Ford (Isler laughs).

ISLER: I like Schmidt. He's pretty good. So I don't like to make any comments on him because he's part of the Kenton County group.

04:10:00

SUCHANEK: He claimed he had never seen the committee system misused in this manner before. He contended that the committee knew that they were using old population figures, but turned a deaf ear. He claimed this bill gutted the political power of the first and second largest counties in the 4th Congressional District by taking 28,000 people from Kenton County and 28,000 people from Campbell County and putting them in the 6th District. And you voted against this bill, but it passed 75 to 18.

ISLER: That's redistricting.

SUCHANEK: Right.

ISLER: They tried to redistrict me, too. They messed me up a little bit.

SUCHANEK: Did they?

ISLER: They tried to, but the way I was located, it was hard for them to do, but they would have liked to have done it to me. And they didn't get by with it.

SUCHANEK: And then you voted, you voted for some, several environmental protection bills. I want to put that in the record. Now, you voted 04:11:00against a-House Bill 336, which would increase the gasoline tax by two cents a gallon.

ISLER: Oh, yeah. I believe I voted against all gasoline bills, because people drive their car too much today. They depend on a car, and everything is built around a car, so there's no reason why that gasoline should be that high.

SUCHANEK: Now, you voted against House Bill 355, granting home rule to cities of the first-class. Do you recall why?

ISLER: Well, there must have been a misunderstanding between the second- class cities and first-class cities. That's the only reason why I can give, because we don't have a first-class city.

SUCHANEK: And you voted for House Bill 401 which increased the salaries 04:12:00of judges and expense allowances, again, for members of the General Assembly. And as you said, you have to do that periodically, because the cost of living increases.

ISLER: And you want good judges, good lawyers.

SUCHANEK: Um-hm. Now, in the special session in 1972, House Bill 3 created the Department of Environmental Protection, and I believe you voted for that. It passed 95 to 1.

ISLER: Yeah.

SUCHANEK: You know, environment is getting a lot of interest by historians. And they're going to be interested in the history of some of these bills, and I want it on record that you're-

ISLER: Yeah.

SUCHANEK: that you voted for a lot of these things.

04:13:00

ISLER: Yeah. Good. I appreciate that.

SUCHANEK: Okay. Now, in 1974 Carroll, I believe, would have been governor in `74-

ISLER: (Laughs), you're going way back.

SUCHANEK: or maybe later in the year in `74, when Ford went to the Senate.

ISLER: Yeah, Ford served two years.

SUCHANEK: Right. Okay.

ISLER: Yeah, you're right.

SUCHANEK: And House Bill 2 was your bill, and it was an act relating to fluoridation.

ISLER: Yeah, that's it.

SUCHANEK: Okay. Now, you voted against its recommittal to Health and Welfare, which Representative Kafoglis wanted to do.

ISLER: They wanted to kill the bill.

SUCHANEK: Okay. Why was it assigned to Business, Organizations, and Professions in the first place?

04:14:00

ISLER: So it couldn't, couldn't get it out of the committee.

SUCHANEK: Oh, I see.

ISLER: Yeah.

SUCHANEK: Okay. House Bill 105 was an act for establishing Northern Kentucky State College again. We talked about that. Did you know A.D. Albright?

ISLER: Oh, sure. Yeah.

SUCHANEK: We have a series of interviews with A.D. Albright.

ISLER: Oh, yeah. Steely, he was the first professor they had up there.

SUCHANEK: The first president?

ISLER: Yeah, the first president. Yeah, Albright, I sure did. He was very nice. They're all, them fellows are all gentlemen. You know, they're professors.

SUCHANEK: What I wanted to talk to you about now is we talked about when Louie Nunn was elected governor and how the legislature started to establish its independence from the governor's office back in `68. Now in `72, people have written that it kind of went back to the old days. 04:15:00Wendell Ford was able to select the leadership of the legislature, and this continued when Julian Carroll took over and was elected as governor, and he kind of selected the legislative leadership. And it's also been suggested that it was during this time when people like John Berry, Jr., started to form what was called the "Black Sheep Squadron." Do you remember that term, the "Black Sheep Squadron" in the legislature?

ISLER: Well, for a good, (coughs) excuse me, for a good while, we only had one black in there, and then we got a couple more.

SUCHANEK: Well, this was called, these weren't weren't blacks, these were so-called radical legislators who did not like the way things were 04:16:00being done in the legislature under Ford and Carroll. They felt that it was wrong for the governor to have control over the legislature like Ford and Carroll were doing.

ISLER: Yeah.

SUCHANEK: And did you know John Berry, Jr.?

ISLER: No, I don't think I did.

SUCHANEK: Okay. Do you recall the-

ISLER: See, some of them were way over on the other side of the House, and I very seldom I ever saw them.

SUCHANEK: I think he was in the Senate, but I was wondering-

ISLER: No.

SUCHANEK: were there any rumblings in the House at that time about the way the legislature was being run by the governor's office again?

ISLER: No, unh-huh.

SUCHANEK: Okay, that you were aware of?

ISLER: No. I think they were aware of how things run, but what could we do about it, see? But Julian was pretty good to us. He, even though he did pick the committees and that, I won't say he picked them, but even 04:17:00if that's the way they picked the committees, he sure leaned towards the legislators. Yeah, I didn't get in on any of that stuff. Even with him, I didn't even go in with the chairmen.

SUCHANEK: Did it make a difference, do you think, the fact that he had come through the ranks and gone through the House of Representatives, and he probably had a lot of friends there?

ISLER: Yeah, he sure did. It had an awful lot to do with it. But incidentally, I think I could have went into those committees if I wanted to. But I felt like I didn't want to go in there, because here I got all their bills and all the, all the ones, the members of the committee bills. And if I go in there, you know, so I didn't. So they, we kept that indepen--, kept the Enrollment Committee independent.

04:18:00

SUCHANEK: And that was a conscious decision on your part to do that?

ISLER: Yeah. They'd say, they'd call for the chairmen, and I didn't go in the first time. They called the chairmen, I didn't go in the second time.

SUCHANEK: Oh, I see.

ISLER: Nobody questioned me about it, so I-

SUCHANEK: I see.

ISLER: just didn't go in.

SUCHANEK: So you were invited in?

ISLER: Oh, they called all the chairmen.

SUCHANEK: But you just didn't go, you chose not to go.

ISLER: Well, I just felt like it wasn't my place to go in there, my job.

SUCHANEK: That would be like, the governor would call the chairmen in, and you just-

ISLER: Yeah.

SUCHANEK: Okay.

ISLER: Yes, so I just didn't go in.

SUCHANEK: Um-hm. Well, that's fine.

ISLER: And they never said nothing, so I guess I established something there.

SUCHANEK: Well, I think rather than-let's see, this would be under Carroll, Thelma Stovall was lieutenant governor.

ISLER: Yeah.

SUCHANEK: She was from this area, was she not?

ISLER: She's from Louis--, wait a minute, Louisville.

04:19:00

SUCHANEK: Louisville, okay. And Bill Kenton was the speaker. What kind of speaker was Bill Kenton?

ISLER: He's a, he was very good, very good.

SUCHANEK: Did you have your signals arranged with him-

ISLER: Oh, yeah. Yeah.

SUCHANEK: for you to stand up and-

ISLER: In fact, I asked him to take me off of it, and he says, "No way" (laughs). He says, "I wouldn't even think about that" (both laugh). "What else did you want?" No way.

SUCHANEK: Good, good.

ISLER: Because he didn't have to stay there till three in the morning (laughs).

SUCHANEK: And the caucus chairman was William Donnermeyer.

ISLER: Yeah. He's very good.

SUCHANEK: Yeah.

ISLER: Democratic. Democratic.

SUCHANEK: In 1978, there's House Bill 179, not allowing public 04:20:00assistance or financial aid where the purpose of such aid is to obtain an abortion, induce miscarriage, or induce premature birth, unless in the opinion of a physician, such procedures are necessary for the preservation of the life of the woman seeking such treatment or except an induced, premature birth intended to produce a live, viable child and such procedure is necessary for the health of the mother or her unborn child. This is in 1978. You were a co-sponsor of this bill with many other representatives.

ISLER: Yeah, that's right-to-life.

SUCHANEK: And a Senate Amendment called for the words, "or in cases of rape or incest," be inserted. That senate amendment was defeated 19 to 65, and you voted against it. This House Bill 179 passed 84 to 6, and you voted for it.

ISLER: Yeah. That's right-to-life.

04:21:00

SUCHANEK: Do you have any comments on that bill? Or what is your own philosophy about-

ISLER: What was going on back in those days is going on right today. You got your factions on both sides, and right now I'm still for that bill.

SUCHANEK: Okay, because I think Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion was in 1973, and so this is 1978.

ISLER: Yeah.

SUCHANEK: And Kentucky is kind of going against the mainstream here.

ISLER: Well, I'm glad I'm up there, not up there to have to face all this.

SUCHANEK: I imagine the lobbies up there are unbelievable today on those issues.

ISLER: Quite a, oh, there's about three times as many when I was up there. It's got to be a big thing. So, yeah, I think that we should meet just the same, we have as many problems as they do in Washington, 04:22:00D. C., but ours is a little bit smaller, see. We have the problems form(??) because the states made the federal, the states made them. And I think we should meet just as much as they do. I'd like to have them, see them have regular sessions, and then they wouldn't have to have all these meetings running back and forth.

SUCHANEK: The interim committees, you mean?

ISLER: Yeah.

SUCHANEK: Uh-huh. Okay, that's-

ISLER: And regular ones, and they could just meet if it's all year around except in the summertime, because I don't know if they put air conditioning in the capitol or not yet.

SUCHANEK: Okay. And then the last, the final bill that I wanted to ask you about was in the 1978, '79 special session, when Thelma Stovall called the special session of the legislature. And if you recall, the "Black Sheep Squadron," the radicals in, basically in the Senate, I believe, managed to pass Senate Bill 44. And according to some of the 04:23:00members of the "Black Sheep Squadron" that we've interviewed, they say that this really was the final stroke that established the independence of the legislature from the governor's office. Now, Senate Bill 44 was the capital construction and equipment financing. It says, "Governors shall include in the biennial budget report a recommended state capital construction program and a recommended program for the purchase of major items of equipment," unquote. And this passed 86 to 4, and you voted for it. In other words, this was taking capital construction and equipment financing out of the office of the governor and putting it before the legislature to be changed or amended-

ISLER: Yeah.

SUCHANEK: or whatever.

ISLER: Right.

SUCHANEK: And I guess capital construction was one of the main patronage 04:24:00tools that a governor had.

ISLER: Yeah, you're right. Yeah. So they probably got that taken away from him now.

SUCHANEK: Well, I'm not aware that it's been re---

ISLER: Repealed.

SUCHANEK: Yes, it hasn't been repealed.

ISLER: Yeah.

SUCHANEK: So the, this was, according to some members, this was the bill that really established the independence of the legislature.

ISLER: Yeah, because they have to make the decision. The governor requests of them what he wants now instead of a budget, and it's up to them to put it in there.

SUCHANEK: Right.

ISLER: And if they don't put it in there, his hands is tied. Sometimes that's good and sometimes that's bad.

SUCHANEK: Do you recall if there was a lot of discussion about this bill?

ISLER: No, not as I remember.

SUCHANEK: It was pretty much taken for granted that this was the way it was going to be?

ISLER: Yeah, but it's going to be rough the way it is now if they don't 04:25:00come up with all this stuff. Then the governor will have to call them back in a special session. But they have the same trouble up in Washington, and that's what you're going to have here. You know, they can't vote on a budget, they're split on it, and they go home and they come back. That's the way it's going to be up there, turmoil.

SUCHANEK: Well, we have about two minutes left. Is there anything else you'd like to tell me?

ISLER: No, but I'm glad you come down. I had no idea that I'd be interviewed for such a cause.

SUCHANEK: I'm sorry, I didn't want to go through all the legislation, and I apologize for probably skipping a lot of major bills-

ISLER: Oh, no.

ISLER: that you introduced or voted on. It's kind of a-

ISLER: You couldn't begin to get them all down in there.

SUCHANEK: Right. You sponsored so many that I had to kind of pick and choose.

ISLER: But you got the right thing, in my beginnings, you can see how I 04:26:00worked myself through each session to stay on that line.

SUCHANEK: Right.

ISLER: Huh?

SUCHANEK: Right.

ISLER: I didn't deviate either way.

SUCHANEK: Right.

ISLER: I'd just say to the governor-yeah.

SUCHANEK: Well, I thank you for taking the time to talk to me, and if there's anything else you want to add later on, why, just give me a call and I'll be happy to come up and talk to you again.

ISLER: Good, good. But I think you got me pretty well covered. The most important things is emphasis be placed on my idea of the people. The people come first, then the state. And that's the way it has to be, because the people really made the states because they had to vote for the states. So, but everything is being turned around in this modern age, and something is going to have to, somebody has to take the leadership, correct it. And I don't think it's going to be very far 04:27:00off that people are going to be thinking altogether different than what they think right now.

SUCHANEK: Well, thank you very much.

ISLER: (Laughs), thank-

[End of interview] 1