Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with J.D. "Jiggs" Buckman, December 19, 1984

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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 KLEBER: The following is a spontaneous and unrehearsed interview with Mr. J. D. Buckman, Jr. The interview was made in Mr. Buckman's office in Shepherdsville, Kentucky on Wednesday, December 19, 1984 by John Kleber, Professor of History at Morehead State University. Uh, Mr. Buckman, I wonder if you could tell me when and where you were born and something of your formal education?

BUCKMAN: I was born in Shepherdsville in Bullitt County, Kentucky on March 13, 1911 and grew up, of course, in Shepherdsville and attended grade school in Shepherdsville and high school in Shepherdsville. And then after that I got out of high school in 1931 at the height of the Depression and so we had no money to go to college on, and I finally went to law school. I ran for circuit court clerk and went up to law school every night at Jefferson School of Law to get my degree in law.

KLEBER: Do you remember what year you got your degree?

BUCKMAN: Thirty-six.

KLEBER: Thirty-six.

BUCKMAN: And I've been practicing law since 1936.


KLEBER: Uh, tell me something about your career, uh, before you became attorney general in 1952.

BUCKMAN: Well, as I said, I had to find something to allow me go to law school, and I did want to go, so I ran for circuit court clerk in Bullitt County. And at that time, the, uh, salary was almost nil, very low, and, uh, I did win the election and I went up to law school every night, to Jefferson, until I graduated. And then after that, why, I went to the house for one term and then ran for attorney general in 1952 and was attorney general from 1952 to '56. And then after that I got out of the, uh, attorney general's office and I made the race for lieutenant governor and, of course, was defeated by Harry Lee Waterfield. And I served a term in the house, and then from the house I went to the senate for eight years and was majority floor leader the last two years of 00:02:00my term.

KLEBER: What years were you in the senate?

BUCKMAN: I was in the senate, uh, from around '60 to '68, something like that. I had eight years of it and, uh--


BUCKMAN: It was during the, uh, part-time during Combs administration and then mostly during the Breathitt administration.

KLEBER: Did you serve in the senate with Lawrence Wetherby?

BUCKMAN: Serve with him in the senate? Yes. Lawrence Wetherby, we were in the senate together, Um-hm.

KLEBER: Before I go into the other questions, I didn't realize that. Would you tell me something about serving in the senate along with him, um, particularly did it make any difference that you were serving with a former governor in the senate? What kind of senator was he?

BUCKMAN: Made no difference at all, because, uh, whenever we needed Wetherby, he was a, a willing volunteer, and of course he had a vast amount of experience over the years, and he knew what was good for the state, and, uh, he usually, 00:03:00uh, would round us up when he wanted something passed, and of course we relied on him knowing the good things that the state needed, and, uh, he, he was a good, uh, senator, good senator. And, uh, during that time, you know, we had the bitter fights with Waterfield between Waterfield and Breathitt, and, uh, so it happened with, uh, probably I took the lead in the fight for Breathitt, and Wetherby was always backing me up. We got along fine, but everybody liked Wetherby and, uh, we--he was just an excellent senator. Of course, he was an excellent governor as a matter of fact, too, but he had all that experience behind him. He'd been lieutenant governor, and he'd been governor, and then coming to the senate, it seemed like a step down, but really wasn't at all because I think one of the most valuable positions in state government is the state senate.

KLEBER: Now, he was president pro tem of the senate one term.

BUCKMAN: Uh, yes, um-hm. Did you say he was?

KLEBER: Yes, he was.

BUCKMAN: --well, yes, um-hm, yes

KLEBER: He was the president pro tem one term.


BUCKMAN: That's right. Um-hm.

KLEBER: And, uh, how did he serve in that capacity?

BUCKMAN: Excellent, because, well, this experience that he had, he knew how to contro--control the order in the senate and that was the important thing, of course, always is because we always had a few senators who were trying to get out of line and he'd keep 'em in line good. Well-qualified. Couldn't find any fault with Wetherby at all.

KLEBER: Uh, why did you decide to run for attorney general in nineteen, uh, pardon me, 1951?

BUCKMAN: I, I had--as I said, I had served in the house and, uh, then, uh, I would say that due to the help of the administration of Wetherby and, uh, Clements, I was elected president of the Young Democrats of Kentucky. And, uh, from that, why, when it came time to pick a candidate for attorney general, I think "Doc" Beauchamp, who was a close friend of mine and Wetherby, uh, more or less agreed on me and, uh, I ran and was elected. And that, I had no idea of 00:05:00ever being attorney general or no idea of ever running for it, but they--after we got into it, they encouraged me to run and I did, and they carried me right along with 'em.

KLEBER: Now, you said "Doc" Beauchamp and Wetherby, um, do you know which one it was or did they work together? How did they do that?

BUCKMAN: Well, I will say that "Doc" was the, uh, man that really suggested that I run, and of course Wetherby was fell right in line with it. He had no complaints. He had no-one picked out to run and, uh, so we all ran as a team, you might say, and we got along fine, traveled the state from one end to the other making speeches and, uh, just a good campaign.

KLEBER: Um-hm. Yeah, that campaign, uh, had a major opening speech at Shepherd--at excuse me, at Shelbyville on October 4, 1951. And I believe all of you who were running were up there and Wetherby introduced you, and, and spoke for a while. Tell me about that 1951 campaign across the state.


BUCKMAN: 1951 campaign was, was a good campaign, because I'll tell you why. Wetherby was in excellent shape with the public at that time and, uh, as we traveled around, why, they all--to take Wetherby in, they took all of us in as a--(laughs)--matter of fact. We, we ate more country ham--(laughs)--during that campaign than we ever had in our life, I guess. Matter of fact, some of 'em got developed blisters on their lips from eating too much ham. But it was a good campaign because of Wetherby. And, and Beauchamp was a personable fellow that, uh, everybody loved and, uh, you know, and he had that gravel voice. And, uh, he--(laughs)--he was just an excellent campaigner, because he knew everybody, almost, in every--not everybody, but he knew the main ones in every county in the state of Kentucky. And Wetherby did, too. Wetherby had already developed a nice following of his own. So, it was a good campaign and it--we, the only 00:07:00trouble we ever had is, uh, Wetherby always started out the speeches, and then Beauchamp was second because he was gonna run for lieutenant governor, and I was third. So, we hit Lebanon one night and I asked Wetherby, I said, "If you will tonight, introduce me before you introduce Beauchamp." And he said, "Well, what's up?" And I said, "Well, he's got about eight jokes he tells, and that's all he does, and, uh, he'll call on me, I'll tell his jokes, and then we'll see what he'll do for a speech." So--(laughs)--Wetherby did, and I gave 'em the jokes that Beauchamp gave at other speeches. And, uh, when I walked back to my seat, Beauchamp looked up at me and he--I can't repeat what he said to me--(both laugh)--just now. But it was--he said, "Now, I can't say anything. You done said everything I know."

KLEBER: This shows Wetherby had something of a sense of humor?

BUCKMAN: Yes. And everybody in the--we had Butler who was good at telling jokes of course, and, uh, Wetherby could tell 'em, Beauchamp could tell 'em, and, uh, we, we just had a good campaign, good following.


KLEBER: Did you always travel together or did you go separately?

BUCKMAN: Uh, we were pretty much all together most of the time, especially, uh, I, uh, was along with Wetherby and Beauchamp more than anyone, I guess. But it was pretty generally that if we had a speaking invite, well, everybody showed up. We had one in Lexington and everybody showed up. And, uh, wherever we go, why, everybody'd show up.

KLEBER: How did you go about, together or separately, or--

BUCKMAN: Mostly separately. Very seldom we all traveled in the car together. At certain times we would, because if we were leaving Frankfort and, uh, we were going to a fish fry or a coon supper or something, why, we'd all get in the same car and-- Not all of us, but most of us. I'd usually travel with, uh, Beauchamp and Wetherby, most of the time.

KLEBER: Uh, you said that Wetherby was in good shape then, in '51, with the people, and he wasn't so much later, is that correct?

BUCKMAN: No, I, I never did think Wetherby fall, uh--the people fell out with 00:09:00Wetherby. I thought Wetherby made an excellent governor, and, uh, the reason I said that a while ago was, because he had already served a partial term of, of Clements's term, and, uh, everything that he did. I, I think that people had a lot of respect for Wetherby, all the time, even when he was lieutenant governor. And, uh, I, I can't recall of him ever being in any serious trouble. Of course, everybody developed problems in a camp, in an administration, because you can't please everybody. And he may have, at some time or other, had some faction against him pretty strong, but I, I can't recall right now of any faction that he had any trouble with. Uh, I just don't remember it. I think Wetherby's pretty, when he went out of the governor's office, was in pretty good shape.

KLEBER: How was he accepted in the rural areas when he campaigned?

BUCKMAN: Excellent. Excellent.

KLEBER: Even though he was from Louisville?

BUCKMAN: Um-hm. Yes, uh, and as I say, the, the fact that he had already 00:10:00been in the office and, uh, which he was just shoved into it when Clements resigned automatically because he was supposed to be under the constitution. And, uh, I don't think he made any mistakes. Of course, I'm sure he had in mind all the time of running for a full term as governor, and he guarded himself against any, uh, ill-fated mistakes. But, uh, I can't remember Wetherby really having any trouble with any group. I'm sure we did, but, uh, I, I don't recall it. And we had a little trouble in, uh, '54, I guess it was, when the Brown decision was made by the Supreme Court on integration and all of that. And I know that I immediately ruled--Allan Trout came down from the press room and told me about the decision of the Supreme Court. And I immediately stated that we would follow the Supreme Court's decision, regardless of what occurred, that 00:11:00Kentucky would go along with it. And Allan later said that we were one of the first states that, uh, spoke out that we would follow the Supreme Court's decision. And Wetherby went right along with that and was very instrumental in accepting the decision of the, uh, Supreme Court. Well, he and I had no problem at all on that question. And, uh, well, we didn't have any--(laughs)--problems on any question, as a matter of fact. We got along fine. He was the type of governor that let you run your office and he ran his. And I can't recall, I've often thought since you called me for the first time, of him ever asking me to try to work something out to the favor of his administration. I think he trusted me to do the right thing always and, uh, he never did, uh, ask me to bend one way or the other on any question.

KLEBER: That 1954 decision was a very, very important one--


KLEBER: --and one that had far-reaching consequences in the state of Kentucky. Um, let's talk about that just a little bit more, because I think it 00:12:00is so important in Wetherby's administration. Uh, whose idea was it to, to go along with the decision and, and, and obey the law?

BUCKMAN: Well, of course, it was mine first, because I was attorney general. And, uh, like I said, when Allan Trout came down and, and told me about the decision, he says, "Now, General, what are you gonna do?" And, I said, "Well, of course, we're gonna follow that Supreme Court decision to the letter of the law." And, uhm as I said, he later came back and told me, he said, uh, "When you said that, you were one of the first attorney generals in the nation to say that." But, uh, they didn't probably didn't interview Wetherby at that time, because they probably came to me because I was chief law officer. But Wetherby fell right in line with it, too, wasn't any question about it at all.

KLEBER: Do you remember talking with Wetherby about it?

BUCKMAN: No, I don't think I had, not until after he came out for it and--well, he had seen my, uh, statement in the paper and then, I think, probably even the next day or maybe the same day, he made a statement. But, uh, we were both same 00:13:00mind, we didn't have to talk about that, because we knew that it was a thing that had to be done and wasn't any question about it. And of course we got some reaction from it. Uh, we got some late telephone calls at night and things like that. But, uh, on the whole people accepted it pretty well in Kentucky. Really a surprise to me as well as it did go over, because you've always got that element that's got hatred in their hearts, you know. But we, we got along fine on it. The administration didn't suffer because of the ruling at all.

KLEBER: Some people pretty high in the administration didn't like the decision.

BUCKMAN: Well, uh, I guess you could s--say that; uh, however, we didn't get any, uh, backlash from any of 'em after we made our point that we were gonna follow it and, uh. They just went along with it, I guess you'd have to say--(laughs)--because wasn't any question about it. When the Supreme Court 00:14:00speaks, well, we had to listen. And, uh, would, would be no point at all in us fighting the question or trying to weaken it or broaden it or anything else. It was just one of those things that had to come.

KLEBER: Did you accept it, you think, and Wetherby accepted it because it was the decision of the Supreme Court or because it was the right thing to do?

BUCKMAN: Well, I think he naturally thought it was the right thing to do, but, uh, you might say that, uh, both of 'em together, it was just a question of either doing your duty or not doing your duty. And that was the whole thing about it.

KLEBER: Do you think that, uh, decision to, uh, go along and obey the law hurt in the Wetherby and Combs in the 1955--

BUCKMAN: I don't think so.

KLEBER: --primary?

BUCKMAN: I don't think so at all. Uh, don't feel like it did. Uh, we just didn't get any a great deal of reaction. Oh, maybe some people'd be at a bar 00:15:00at nighttime, you know, arguing about it and fussing about it and they'd call us up and call us "nigger lovers" and all this, that, and the other. But, uh, just didn't amount to much. Didn't worry anyhow, because you felt like you done the right thing and you knew it had to come.

KLEBER: Well, Wetherby appointed a special advisory committee to, uh, to work out the process of gradual integration. Do you recall that advisory committee that he set up?

BUCKMAN: Uh, no, I don't remember of any. I, at least, I didn't participate in any, that I can recall.

KLEBER: No, it was a biracial committee that he appointed to advise him, uh, on the question.


KLEBER: --but I think--

BUCKMAN: I don't remember.

KLEBER: Let's go back to that campaign in '51. Uh, you ran against a man by the name of J. Leonard Walker, from Louisville--

BUCKMAN: Yeah, that's correct.

KLEBER: --a Republican, and you beat him by, well, three hundred and twenty-five thousand votes to two hundred and sixty-five thousand, which was a, a substantial victory. What about Mr. Walker? Do you remember him at--very well?


BUCKMAN: No, the name, of course, is familiar and I don't think I've ever met the gentleman. I may have over the years. Uh, the fact that I got a majority like that wasn't based to my popularity, it was based to the Wetherby administration. They carried me along and I later found out if you didn't have 'em, you couldn't win elections--(laughs)--without 'em. But, uh, I, Mr. Walker apparently was an excellent choice for the Republican Party, but at that time the Democrats were--just had such a strong hold on Kentucky, not like it is right today. (laughs)

KLEBER: Right.

BUCKMAN: It's different today. But at that time, we had a pretty good lock on Kentucky, the Democrats did. Had good organizations in every county that had come up through the Clements administration, and the Wetherby administration, and so on, and Combs, Breathitt, and all the way through. The last good campaign, of course, we had was the Breathitt campaign, and that's about the last time politics really clicked in Kentucky as far as the Democratic Party.


KLEBER: Well, now, would you say there was a Clements machine or an organization in 1951?

BUCKMAN: Yes, there was. There, that and, and there was Wetherby's, too, because Wetherby was lieutenant governor under Clements and then he went into the governor's office when Clements resigned. So, it, uh, it was just a thing that followed Wetherby on through. He just was a popular governor.

KLEBER: Uh, you, uh, succeeded a man by the name of Alvaredo E. Funk, which I think is one of the most interesting names in Kentucky.

BUCKMAN: He came from Bullitt County.

KLEBER: He did?

BUCKMAN: When he moved--(laughs)--moved away from Bullitt County, I took his law office down here. I had an office, but I wanted his office. When he would--term was up as attorney general, I moved in behind him. And we were both from Bullitt County, excellent friends, and, uh, he had nothing to do with me running, and didn't even know I was running, I don't guess, until 00:18:00he--(laughs)--saw it in the paper. But we were friends and, uh, and that shortly after that, moved in behind him up there, he died, and I said, "Well, I followed him just as far as I'm gonna go. I don't want to--(laughs)--go any farther." (Kleber laughs) But he was a friend of mine and, and from Bullitt County.

KLEBER: Now, he, uh, he was an appointee of Clements. Uh, he came in with the Clements administration.

BUCKMAN: Yes. Uh-huh. He was elected. I don't--

KLEBER: Yeah, he was elected in '47.

BUCKMAN: Yeah, um-hm. S--let's see, I, he--maybe Dummont (??) was before him, was it?

KLEBER: Uh, I'm--

BUCKMAN: I don't know.

KLEBER: --not sure.

BUCKMAN: But it's unusual for a little county like us to have two attorney generals, uh, the two candidates for attorney general just in rotation like that, in years.

KLEBER: Can an attorney general succeed himself?


KLEBER: He cannot. So, that's what happened to Funk.


KLEBER: What kind of man was he?


KLEBER: Um-hm.

BUCKMAN: He was a good politician. He was, uh, he enjoyed life, he, uh, had a good time. He was a good lawyer, good lawyer. Made a good attorney general, I 00:19:00think. And, uh, I never found any fault with anything that he established, except in--when I went in, they were so far behind in briefs that it was pitiful. I think we was maybe some fifty-four or fifty-five briefs behind that were due to the court of appeals. So, I set a deadline on filing a brief, that you had so many days to file it after you received a case, and we worked 'em out and got rid of 'em, but apparently Funk knew he was going out of office and, uh, and didn't worry too much about the briefs. But we got 'em out and we kept 'em out, after that.

KLEBER: Could a part of the reason be , uh, that he was so far behind due to the staff that you had in the--


KLEBER: --attorney general's office?

BUCKMAN: --I kept the same staff and didn't change the staff hardly any, with the exception of one or two. And, uh, the boys that had been there all the time, uh, they got 'em out on time when we made that ruling, they didn't question about it. We had a good staff. We had an old fellow by the name of General Holfield. I don't know how old he was, but he was, uh, like myself, 00:20:00hard of hearing and when the noise got too great, he'd turn it down, keep working, and he was a great Baptist and a great Democrat. And, uh, he kept things pretty well straightened out all the time. But he was, he was an excellent lawyer, and, uh, they didn't have any trouble getting 'em out when, when, when they knew they had to do it, they did it.

KLEBER: Let me talk about the, uh, nature of the attorney general's office in the years 1951 to '55. Uh, I've done a little bit of research on this and your organization, as as far as I can figure, in 1952 consisted of twenty-one assistants, and one secretary, now a woman by the name of the of Olga Ri-- BUCKMAN: Risk.

KLEBER: --Risk.


KLEBER: In 1954, again if I'm correct, you had about nineteen assistants, but you had eight secretaries that I noticed at that time. Uh, I wonder if you could tell me about who your staff and your location and the facilities you had in those years?


BUCKMAN: Well, we had all those secretaries when I first went there.

KLEBER: You did, however?

BUCKMAN: Yeah. You probably, what the reason you referred to Mrs. Risk was because she was the personal secretary for the attorney general and functioned under me. We had the same I, I guess the same offices that they got now, and we were limited to this one floor in the capitol, which is as you go in the, uh, mansion end, we had the right side of the m--of the capitol. And we had some assistants farmed out, like over in the highway department. They had s--assistant attorney generals over there, and in the revenue department they had an assistant attorney general. But most of us were right there in a little group and, uh, we did all our work, uh, got out our opinions and same routine that they go through every day, except now it's quite a bit more to it than it used to be, consumer protection and all that. But, uh, the unfortunate thing about the attorney general's office back at that time, the salary was 00:22:00eighty-five hundred dollars a year. And, uh, now that I'm retired from state government--(laughs)--my pension's very small--(laughs)--because of the fact that, uh, I worked for the top salary that I had was eighty-five hundred dollars a year. But the office was conducted, uh, properly. We had, uh, a excellent first assistant in Joe Ferguson and, uh, we had Bill-- a boy by the name of Bill Simpson from northern Kentucky. We had, uh, Walter Herben, who's still there. He was under Funk and--(laughs)--he's still there at the present time, so you can figure how long he's been there. And, uh, we had, uh, Armand Angelucci was one of 'em, and he was assigned to the highway department. He's now judge over in Fayette County, circuit judge. And we had a young boy by the name of Browning who was later killed in an automobile accident. And we had, uh, we had Willie Deep over in the highway department. He's practicing law in 00:23:00Henderson, Kentucky. And, uh, had a boy by the name of Riley over in the highway d--over in the revenue department, as assistant attorney general. And, uh, as I mentioned a while, Holfield. And we had, uh, can't think of his name now. Well, he was assigned to education. He did a good job for me and can't think of his name. Anyhow, that was about the staff that was right closely associated with me, because we were just in that one section. After they had remodeled the Capitol, why, they gave that section to us.

KLEBER: What would be a typical work day for you?

BUCKMAN: Well, for me, mine was sort of, uh, public relations. I would see the 00:24:00people that came in with questions and, uh, I would look at, uh, all the requests for opinions, mornings when they came in, and then that afternoon I would read all the answers to the that the assistants had prepared for me to sign, and, uh, see that, uh, I approved of 'em, and usually I think I did. We had good lawyers that were good workers and a man that'll do research makes a good lawyer; you don't have any problem with him. Uh, but most of mine was I had my eyes on other offices, of course, like all young men do at that time, and I was doing making speeches probably all over the state of Kentucky almost. Almost every night I'd speak somewhere. And, uh, kept me busy doing that. But it was enjoyable and, uh, was a good operation, but as I say it's so far superior now to what we had at that time.


KLEBER: How do you mean?

BUCKMAN: Well, in the volume of business that they have, they've taken over more things and they're--they do a good job now as attorney general. We, we didn't, we weren't allowed to go out and prosecute people if, uh, like a commonwealth attorney wanted a special prosecutor, now the attorney general sends him out. We didn't do things like that, we didn't handle it. We, we were the chief inspector of the nudist colonies in Kentucky--(laughs)--and that was our main function. That's always been the joke of the attorney general's office, because you were named as the chief inspector of the nudist colonies. (Kleber laughs) I ran no inspections over my term that I--(laughs)--know of. KLEBER: When did these changes come that, uh--

BUCKMAN: Oh, gradually--

KLEBER: --do you think?

BUCKMAN: --gradually. Uh, I would say that, uh, General Ferguson followed me and his routine was just exactly like mine was. And then after him came, um, hmm, the boy from Shelbyville, Bob Matthews. And then it begin to pick up. 00:26:00Different things, the federal government started different programs that the attorney general naturally had to take over. But he still knew, uh, the basic filing briefs in court on appeals in commonwealth cases was a big factor, and then writing opinions was a big factor.

KLEBER: When you were attorney general, did you have much daily contact with the governor?

BUCKMAN: Uh, I would say, uh, reasonably so. Uh, we used to get together some time and, uh, we didn't have any regular scheduled meetings. We had, uh--he'd have a staff meeting every once in a while or a had all the officers constitutional officers in and discuss something coming up, but we, we'd probably see each other or have something to say to each other, but no business 00:27:00to amount to anything, because it just didn't occur. He just, like I said at first, he just let me run my office and he, he, he trusted me, I'm sure, and, uh, and we had no problems that way.

KLEBER: Do you remember talking with him on the telephone much? I know--

BUCKMAN: Not a great deal, no. Unh-uh. Because it just didn't require that. I'd say nowadays they probably have to contact the governor more than they did back in those days because of the different, uh, organizations that the attorney general is involved in and different laws that we have now. But, uh, back then, no. We might get together at nighttime and play poker--(laughs)--or something like that.

KLEBER: I'm sure he enjoyed that.

BUCKMAN: Oh, yeah, Wetherby was a scream. He called himself the "Big Coon". And, uh, he'd always say, "`Big Coon' travels late."(laughs) He'd get behind and--(laughs)--but he'd lose and then he'd say "`Big Coon' travels late." (Kleber laughs) He was something else. He was a good fellow. He loved to hunt--



BUCKMAN: --and he, he loved, he enjoyed life and enjoyed a good time. (coughs) He used to say, "Well, come over to the mansion tonight, we'll have to get Sunday School punch for Buckman 'cause he doesn't drink." And, you see, I was the only one in the whole crowd that didn't drink, and he'd always have some kind of mixture for me to--(laughs)--drink. Sunday School punch he called it. (coughs)

KLEBER: Hmm. Was there a particular group that he liked to get together to play poker with?

BUCKMAN: Yeah, uh, Shelby Kincaid let's see, Leon Shaken in Louisville. Shelby was from Lexington, and, uh, Wetherby, and myself. And there may have been one or two others would sit-- wasn't weren't regular members of the organization, but they'd sit in on it every once in a while.

KLEBER: Did Doc ever sit in and play?

BUCKMAN: No, Doc wasn't a card player.

KLEBER: Wasn't a card player.

BUCKMAN: He, he had no interest in cards. I don't remember him, I don't remember Doc ever playing cards. I guess he, he did maybe sometime or other, 00:29:00and he was--Doc's superstitious, you know. Yeah--(laughs)--he was really superstitious. If you throw a hat on his bed in a hotel or anything, man, he'd throw it off right now. He wouldn't allow that at all. Uh, Doc is a great fellow, though. He, he could use you in a nice way and you'd never know he was using you. I recall one time he called me up and I was here in Shepherdsville, and as you know he had that gravel voice. And he said, "`Jiggs', can you fix a speeding ticket in Bullitt County?" And I said, "Well, Doc, how fast the fellow was going? 'Cause, I might be able to." He said, "Well, he was going pretty fast, Jiggs." And I said, "Well, how fast was he going, Doc?" "Oh, he was violating the law." I said, "Doc, just tell me how fast the fellow was going." "Oh, he--I, I'm really don't know, but I know he was speeding." I said, "Doc, send me the ticket and I'll see what I can do." The fellow was doing a hundred and ten miles--(laughs)--an hour. And Doc wouldn't tell me that. (both laugh) It had been a sheriff from down in western Kentucky. He, but we got him 00:30:00straightened out for him.

KLEBER: Took care of it.

BUCKMAN: That's kind of off of the line or whatever.

KLEBER: Oh, that's what I--

BUCKMAN: --but--

KLEBER: Doc is a fascinating man.

BUCKMAN: Oh, he was, for a fact. And, uh, we'd go travel together quite a bit. He and I did travel probably rather more than anybody. And, uh, Kerny Cole would drive. And Kerny'd get to speeding, Doc'd say, "Cole, slow down. I, I want to look at this land along through here. I'm thinking about buying some of this--(laughs)--land."

KLEBER: How did Doc and Wetherby get along?

BUCKMAN: Excellent. Excellent. They never had any problems at all. Doc would, could have run for governor if he'd a wanted to, but he couldn't talk him into it, and, uh, they got along fine. And, and Wetherby depended on Doc, because Doc was a powerful politician. And, uh, he had his hands on more people than, than actually I guess you'd say Wetherby did. I mean, really that he could control. And, uh, they had no problems between themselves at all. 00:31:00Whatever Doc wanted was all right with Wetherby, and whatever Wetherby wanted, Doc was for.

KLEBER: You don't think Doc wanted to be governor in 1955?

BUCKMAN: I think he wanted to be, but I don't think he ever thought that he could win. I think he thought he wasn't, uh, qualified to be governor. He was qualified, of course, to be governor, but I think because of his voice and, he had that fear maybe. But he could have governor without any question at that time, but he, he just didn't, uh, pursue it. Everybody thought he would run, but he didn't.

KLEBER: Think Clements and Wetherby would have supported his candidacy if he--

BUCKMAN: Oh, yes. Yes. Because Clements, uh, Doc was the man that helped Clements more than anybody, because he travelled right with Clements, uh, in his campaign when he ran for governor. And, uh, he was very instrumental in the bringing about Clements's victory, in my opinion.

KLEBER: That '55 campaign, the administration seemed to have trouble finding a 00:32:00candidate. You know, ultimately they selected, or chose, Bert Combs, but there's some problem there. Do you recall--(Buckman laughs)--that?

BUCKMAN: Well, the only problem was, Bert was a excellent candidate, uh, and I say it, by reputation. He--(laughs)--he was the poorest speaker that--(laughs)--you ever heard in your life. And we'd go out campaigning and the people'd call me on the side and say, "Jiggs, you make the speech tonight, don't let Bert talk." (laughs) But, uh, he was popular. He'd been on the court of appeals and made some good decisions. And, uh, we travelled together before--I know we were in Harlan one Sunday afternoon to make a speech. Herb Smith had us there to make a speech and Herb had to go see a fellow, we were sitting in the car talking, Bert and I, and I said, "Govern--Bert, you don't want"--Judge--I called him "Judge" at that time, I said, "you don't know this, but you're gonna be the next governor of Kentucky." He said, "No, Jiggs," said, 00:33:00"I'm not gonna be, you ought to run." Said, "You're in a position to run. You ought to do that." And I said, "No, they're gonna end up selecting you and if they do, you ought to run." Of course, I knew how his speeches--(laughs)--were, but he had a lot of dry wit upon him, which was good, and it would go over good, but, uh, most of the time people wanted some of us to do the talking. (laughs) They didn't want Bert to talk. And we lost that, uh--let's see, Bert lost his first campaign.

KLEBER: Yes, he did. '55.


KLEBER: To, to Chandler.

BUCKMAN: Yeah. That's right.

KLEBER: I know this going back a long time, but I, I'm really curious as to how Bert Combs was selected and why they had trouble deciding on Bert Combs. Do you know any insight into that?

BUCKMAN: Well, uh, truth about the thing, uh, I guess he was the only--I don't know of anybody else that was really discussed as far to be governor at that time. Just seemed to me like it was a natural, 00:34:00because I, I said that quite some time before they ever picked him. And I certainly had some reason for saying it. And, uh, I--the, the only thing that I can think of at that time was that they knew Chandler was gonna run and Chandler, you know, was strong as the devil and popular as the devil. And, uh, not too sure about that. But, uh, can't remember. But anyhow, uh, I would say that they all agreed on Combs because he looked to be, uh, lily-white coming out of the court of appeals and having rendered good decisions and, uh, but I don't think any of 'em knew really that, uh, the his ability to speak He's still got the same, uh, speaking concerns, but, uh, he, he comes up with this dry wit 00:35:00which puts him over real good, you know. But I think that's what Doc was worried about, was the speaking end of it. But this Happy, you know, he--(laughs)--I was never for Happy in a campaign in my life, and yet when he was governor I guess I got along with him about as well as any man who was ever governor. I defended him when he killed a crippled goose down in Ballard County. You ever hear about that?

KLEBER: (laughs) Yes, I have. I, that's a great story.

BUCKMAN: Well, he--(laughs)--

KLEBER: He really did kill that goose.

BUCKMAN: He, he called me up and asked me to come over to the man--come over to the office. He was governor and he said, "Jiggs, I don't want a city lawyer, I want a country lawyer to go down there with me, defend me." Said, "I don't want no city lawyers going down there." So I said, "All right, Governor. I'll go with you." And so we left. A trooper picked us up at Frankfort, took us down to the lodge, and we spent the night at the lodge. And next morning we got ready to go over to the courthouse, and, uh, I said, "Now, Governor, you just be yourself today. You be natural." He said, "What do you mean by that, General?" I said, "Just be your natural self. When you get over to the courthouse, you 00:36:00just be Happy Chandler, nothing else." He said, "All right, you're boss today." So, we got over there and I, I'll tell you that at least there was four, five, six hundred people waiting to see Happy come to court. And he went out and "Oh, boy" this, and "Oh, boy" that, and got into hugging 'em and kissing 'em. By the time I got out in the courtroom, the case had been--(laughs)--over with. (both laugh) Right after that, later on--I'll have to tell you this, 'cause this is the best part about it--later on he got affiliated with, uh, Daniel Boone Fried Chicken over in Lexington, he and his son, and went broke. They sued Happy, and, uh, Sammy Davis, Jr., and Dan, and all of 'em for, oh, I don't know how many millions. So, Happy called me up and said, "General, can you come to Frankfort?" I was here in Shepherdsville. And I said, "Yeah, I'll come to Versailles if you want me to." This was after he was out of office for governor, of course. And he said, "No, come to Frankfort." Said, "Meet me over at the Game and Fish Department." Said, "I want to talk to you about something." So, I said, "All right, I'll be there," and made arrangements to 00:37:00go. And walked in and old Happy--(laughs)--said, "General," said, "you got me out of that goose business one time, now I want you to get me out of this chicken business." (laughs) He was a character.

KLEBER: (laughs) Chicken business.

BUCKMAN: But he was always--I had never been for him in any campaign. Well, of course, in general election, I was a Democrat, I had been for him for that. But never in the primary, not even in that primary. And then I was against him when Breathitt won. And, uh, so, it's--(laughs)--

KLEBER: Now, that's Kentucky politics.

BUCKMAN: That's, that's right. That's true. But he was good to me. I could come in late at night from making a speech, and if the lights were on up in his section of the mansion, I'd go up and get a sco--something to drink, Coke-Cola, fruit or something, he'd have 'em bring it up. He was just as nice to me as he could be.

KLEBER: Let's go back to the early Wetherby administration--


KLEBER: --now. You know he was lieutenant governor from, uh, '47 to '50, and, uh, in 1950 you served in the house of representatives when--



KLEBER: --of course Wetherby would have been lieutenant governor and president of the senate.


KLEBER: Is that when you first met Lawrence Wetherby? I know that's hard, again, to--

BUCKMAN: Well, I guess it was about We got closer together at that time. I probably knew him and had seen him and talked to him, but never really, uh, discussed any, uh, politics to amount to anything. I, I would say it was almost the first. We, we probably knew each other, but that was about all.

KLEBER: You were also in the, uh, extraordinary session of the general assembly in 1951, is that correct?

BUCKMAN: You're better up on my life than I--(laughs)--am.

KLEBER: Well, I would just assume that--(laughs)--that would be the case. Uh, if you--


KLEBER: --in 195-- Well, you remember that extraordinary session--


KLEBER: --when Wetherby called and gave away several million dollars, uh, to education and--


KLEBER: --the needy and so on. Uh, was that a political move?

BUCKMAN: Well, it was a political move, but it had to be done. It was necessary. I think it, uh, I always realized that those members of the general 00:39:00assembly that had any, uh, uh, fondness for education at all had a desire to see education go up in the statistics instead of down, uh, for usually for those things. We had no trouble with that and, uh, if you just came to question. Of course, if you were a friend of education, why, you was for it, and if you weren't, why, you could do what you wanted to. (laughs)

KLEBER: I heard that Clements objected to that call for an extraordinary session. Do you recall that?

BUCKMAN: No, I don't recall that, because if, if he did, it would have just been with Lawrence and, uh, that, that would have been the extent of it. I wouldn't have any inkling of that at all.

KLEBER: Of course the reason would have been that all of a sudden, let's say three months after he left office, Lawrence Wetherby is giving away about eight million dollars.

BUCKMAN: That's right.

KLEBER: And, uh, why didn't Clements--

BUCKMAN: Might be.

KLEBER: --do this?

BUCKMAN: He thought it would overshadow his term of office. But I don't, I 00:40:00really don't know anything about it, to be honest about it. I was never consulted or discussed with me and I never. Matter of fact, I didn't even know that Clements really opposed it.

KLEBER: I'd heard that and I was just trying to, to follow that--

BUCKMAN: It's possible--

KLEBER: --that through.

BUCKMAN: --because Clements was, Clements was a rough character. He, he--(laughs)--he was a good governor, one of the best, and, uh, well, now he rode a, rode you pretty rough at times. I know when we were at the convention in fifty--what was it, '53, the national convention--


BUCKMAN: --in Chicago?

KLEBER: Fifty-two.

BUCKMAN: Fifty-two. And we had planned Barkley made one of the greatest speeches you ever heard in your life. I mean, it was just, it just stunned the whole convention. It was great. And we had planned a demonstration that night for Barkley and several of the other states had agreed to join in on it. And I came in late at the convention and went down front where Wetherby and Clements 00:41:00was. (laughs) And I saw Clements had Wetherby by the front of a white shirt and shaking him like that and he said, "I said, sit 'em down and I don't want any demonstrations." Said, "You sit 'em down." And I walked up just stunned as I could be and he said, "And you get you a seat, too." Said, "You sit down." (laughs) And I couldn't even find a seat at that time. "But," I said, "I don't have a seat, Governor." Still called Clements "Governor" at that time. And, uh, some reason or other he was opposed to us demonstrating for Barkley, which I think would have made Barkley the candidate for president. But, uh, I, I heard that labor had gotten Clements to object to it and I, I never did know, but I know that he made us all sit down and Pearl Runyon, who was very close to Clements from Pike County, she was crying and--(laughs)--everything was going on. We had an awful night that night. He was telling Wetherby, "Sit 'em down, and I mean sit 'em--(laughs)--down."


KLEBER: Well, now, that brings up the interesting point in that relationship between Clements and Wetherby, when Wetherby--

BUCKMAN: Well, the rela--

KLEBER: --was governor.

BUCKMAN: --the relationship was good, as far as I know, but the--he just didn't want us demonstrating for Barkley, because Barkley was, uh, you might say, a potent candidate for president at that time after that speech he made, because you never heard such a speech. See, you just don't hear anything like that nowadays. And, uh, I think he, uh, Clements had a desire to keep Barkley from being president. And, uh, as I said, I heard the rumor that labor had persuaded him to keep us from demonstrating, but I don't know whether that's true or not. But he did keep us from demonstrating, I'll put it that way.

KLEBER: I hate to use a strong word, but there have been some people that have even said that Wetherby was a puppet of Clements's during the five years he was governor.

BUCKMAN: No, no.

KLEBER: No. Okay.

BUCKMAN: I think this; I think he tried to get along with Clements. Uh, but I'd say if it came to a question who was right, uh, Clements or Wetherby, and it 00:43:00was Wetherby's decision, you'd say Wetherby was right. Uh, now, I don't think that's true. I think Weth--Clements tried to keep a tight hand on control for his own personal gain, uh, in future elections. But, uh, he had no trouble with Lawrence. Lawrence was, was had appreciated the fact that he'd become governor while Clements had had when Clements resigned. And, uh, I, I don't, don't want to go along with that too much. Might be true and I just didn't know it.

KLEBER: No, I more and more I hear people saying the same thing you're saying, that that's not true. I'm wondering how close the relationship was between the two once Clements went to Washington.

BUCKMAN: I think very close.

KLEBER: Think they, um--

BUCKMAN: I think Clements depended on Wetherby to take care of him back in Kentucky and I think that, uh, uh, Wetherby, uh, looked to Clements for whatever help Clements could give if, well, Wetherby made the race, which he did, of course.

KLEBER: Do you--

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

KLEBER: Clements was fooling around in state politics?


BUCKMAN: Oh, yes. Clements was, was a strong-willed individual that stayed right in politics all the time. He never got out of 'em, 'til he got old, of course, like all of us. And, uh, he, he was powerful. He could talk you--(laughs)--talk you out of anything. He was something else. I liked him, though. Matter of fact, uh, I went to this '50 session, uh, told everybody in this chamber, "Well, you don't have to worry about me, I won't be up on the floor the whole time I'm here because I, the first year and I don't know anything about it." So, the night they organized, why, Clements came in and he got him a chair and he pulled it right up beside my desk, and, uh, they nominated somebody for speaker, and he said, "Second that motion." Up I go and second the motion. He--(laughs)-- they had sergeant-at-arms next, and "Second that motion." Up I go again. And within a matter of about five minutes I'd been on the floor about four or five times seconding motions with Clements 00:45:00sitting there gigging me.

KLEBER: Governor right on the floor.

BUCKMAN: Yeah, right on the floor. Well, this was just in the organization, of course.

KLEBER: Oh, okay.

BUCKMAN: And, uh, some fellow on the far side, Morris Wantrell (??) from northern Kentucky said, "Has that fellow over there got a state job or what's wrong with him, getting up so much?"

(both laugh)

KLEBER: What, what was the personality of Clements and Wetherby like, were they different, uh, alike?

BUCKMAN: No, no. They, they, uh, oh, Clements was just domineering and Wetherby was more or less, uh, didn't have that trait at all, in my opinion. But they got along fine. I don't think they ever had any trouble. If they did, you didn't come in the say--you didn't hear about it, at least I didn't. Uh, they might have been a lot of the people closer to Clements than I was and, but, uh, I didn't see anything wrong between 'em at all.

KLEBER: Uh, is apparently one of the big issues back in the early '50s is the issue of gambling and prostitution in the state of Kentucky.


KLEBER: It was an embarrassment, I think, to--


BUCKMAN: That's right.

KLEBER: --to, to Wetherby, and in fact Wetherby even had raids on north--in northern Kentucky in August of 1951. And in 1952 Wetherby asked the general assembly to suspend the license of those who permitted gambling on, on their premises. Was your office involved in this gambling and prostitution--


KLEBER: --in the 1950s and tell me about it.

BUCKMAN: We were, at that time. Uh, it was a wide-open thing, of course, in northern Kentucky. Uh, we didn't have so much of it any place else, that I can recall, but some little operations in Louisville, on the outskirts of Louisville. But, uh, we tried to figure out a way that, uh, we could enact some laws that would stop 'em or put 'em in the position of losing their alcohol beverage license if, uh, they did any gambling. But then we got into that and we ran into Churchill Downs, who--(laughs)--were gambling and had alcoholic 00:47:00beverages for sale, and we couldn't stop it that way, so we had to back up from that. And we didn't, we didn't do very good in, on eliminating it. We'd raid those places up there and, uh, they'd be back the next night operating again. But, uh, I didn't have a, a great deal to do with that until, well, when Combs came in. Combs, you know, finally, uh, got rid of it more or less by ousting some of the officials up there. And, uh, but Wetherby did a pretty good job of trying to control it, but it just it was just out of all-- The local officials up there, apparently I don't say were for it, but they turned their head away and didn't try to do anything about it. And to sit down in Frankfort and trying to clean it up with laws was just almost impossible, 'cause any law we would enact you could get around it some way or the other. And then we couldn't jeopardize a place like Churchill Downs who had gambling, of course, 00:48:00and well, then we'd try to say, well, that's a different type of--(laughs)--gambling, that's pari-mutuel. But it's still gambling.

KLEBER: Do you know where that idea originated, to suspend the, uh, license, uh, the alcoholic license of a, of place, places permitting gambling?

BUCKMAN: No, I don't know where it originated. I would say that it probably came from northern Kentucky itself, because you did have other ones up there that wanted to clean it up and, uh, they were very anxious to try to clean it up. But just, you can't even believe what the operation was like because it was just like Las Vegas wouldn't have been any different than northern Kentucky, because they had it in, uh, all those institutions up there, all those, uh, nightclubs. They had everything.

KLEBER: Obviously organized crime was involved in this.

BUCKMAN: Well, I never did know about that, but you would think that. You 00:49:00would think that. However, some of the local people up there owned some of the establishments, but that could have been a front, you know. But we always had the fear that organized crime was behind it.

KLEBER: Um-hm. I think the Kefauver Committee

BUCKMAN: Yeah, they did--

KLEBER: --was trying to link up--

BUCKMAN: --they did a good job at it and, but it didn't stop 'em. Yeah, I think Kefauver did find that it was organized crime, didn't he?



KLEBER: Did you ever see any of those places in operation?

BUCKMAN: Saw one, uh, bookie joint one time. Of course, they had bookie joints everywhere. But, uh, I was up there to make a speech and, uh, had some time and somebody had called me about a horse. They wanted me to bet they were gonna win. And, uh, I had colored glasses on and I walked into this--(laughs)--bookie joint and asked if they'd take a bet. He said "Yes." I made my bet, and I was gonna make this speech and I didn't have time to wait, and I said to him, I said, "If that horse wins, can you mail me my money?" And he said, "Yeah." And 00:50:00I said, "Well, you don't know who I am." He said, "Yeah, we know who you are General Buckman." (laughs) He had me spotted already. (Kleber laughs)

KLEBER: I wonder what would have happened if you'd walked into a place like the Beverly Hills.

BUCKMAN: Uh, nothing. You mean as far as my appearance there?

KLEBER: Um-hm.

BUCKMAN: Nothing, except I would probably end up being a witness sometime or other against them, if I had seen it. And, uh, I had shows at Beverly Hills, but I never was in their gambling room at all. I mean, I had heard they gambled, but I didn't even attempt to go in there. I took my family up to see, uh, Nat King Cole, I believe it was, somebody we wanted to see that was there. They had good shows and good, pretty good food. But the gambling was off--I believe it was you had to go to the right to get to the gambling and of course I never would go in there because of being attorney general. And then even after I had been attorney general, I looked in there once or twice, but I 00:51:00wouldn't go in.

KLEBER: Of course, I myself can remember slot machines in, in St. Matthews when I was a, a boy growing up there. The old Eagles Hall in St. Matthews had slot machines--


KLEBER: --and they would close them up and then open them at certain times.

BUCKMAN: Well, I think the worst thing we had to contend with was pinball machines. Uh, I, I and I wasted a lot of money in slot machines, but I never would play a pinball machine for anybody because I thought that was the biggest waste of time there was. But under the Breathitt administration we got those pretty well outlawed and got by with pretty good.

KLEBER: Were you involved at all with the basketball scandals of 1951--


KLEBER: Your office?

BUCKMAN: Unh-uh.

KLEBER: Not at all?

BUCKMAN: Not at all.

KLEBER: Okay. Uh, I was gonna ask your interpretation of them, but if you weren't involved that closely--

BUCKMAN: Didn't, didn't follow it and didn't know anything about it and just--

KLEBER: In 1952 the, uh, general assembly, uh, prevented the attorney general and the auditor of public accounts from succeeding themselves when they drew up 00:52:00the constitutional amendment creating a short ballot. You may remember that, uh, 1952--


KLEBER: --uh, constitutional amendment. They, subsequently it was defeated in 1953. But in justifying the short ballot, Wetherby said something very interesting. He said, "We need a short ballot because it cuts the number of elected officials from nine to five, so that the, there is a less possibility that unfriendly people will be elected and serve together," which brings me to the fact of Wetherby's cabinet. Uh, how did you all work together as a cabinet, uh, and did you see much of one another?

BUCKMAN: Yeah, we, well, he had pretty regular cabinet meetings, but, uh, we, we had no problem with the cabinet meeting. Wetherby was--if you ran your office and didn't cause him any trouble, uh, you, you didn't have to worry about running your office, because it was left to you to run it. He wasn't gonna tell you how to run it. I don't think he had any running battles with any of the 00:53:00constitutional officers while he was governor, to my opinion, in my thinking. Now, I don't remember of anything that we had. Everybody seemed to get along fine, it was just one big family. Doc was the center bone of everything. He, he, uh, he sat up there and if there was anything going wrong, Doc could pretty well con--con--could control it and correct it, because Doc was he could talk you out of--(laughs)--anything.

KLEBER: You mean he would sit in the cabinet meetings?

BUCKMAN: Yeah. Yeah, not only that, but I mean if, in other words, if Wetherby had a problem. If he'd call Doc on it--and I don't know of any that he had--but if he'd call Doc on it, Doc would work it out for him someway. Doc was that type of politician. Wether--he was a better politician, of course, than Wetherby. Wetherby was a little kind of cool at times to a lot of people. Never was cool to, to me, I never found him that way. But, uh, he just didn't mix like, uh, Doc did. Doc was the type would get down on, on the floor with you, talk if you wanted to talk.

KLEBER: Well, how did you work with the other cabinet heads?


BUCKMAN: Well, fine. There wasn't any problems that, uh, not any anywhere that I knew of. And of course there could have been some that I didn't know about. But we all got along fine. We ran together and, uh, stayed and like we spent the night and we stayed in the same hotel together. It was just close. Had breakfast together the next morning, had the meals together. Like I say--(laughs)--people would feed us most of the time. And there just wasn't any s--any friction at all, that I can remember of. I never, I didn't have any, I know.

KLEBER: Do you recall, uh, favoring or opposing that short ballot in 1953?

BUCKMAN: No, I had forgotten all about that, to tell you the truth. I, I don't remember anything about it, really.

KLEBER: It was overwhelmingly defeated--


KLEBER: --by the people--

BUCKMAN: Well, they--

KLEBER: --when they tried to do that. Of course, it would not have affected your office at all. You would still would have been to the


KLEBER: --to, to be elected. Uh, in 1954, you were put on invited In 1954, 00:55:00the General Assembly put you on the Public Library Service Commission and you were also made a trustee of the state law library, along with the judges of the Court of Appeals. Do you recall those appointments at all? Are they--

BUCKMAN: Yes. They didn't really amount to anything.


BUCKMAN: As far as the Court of Appeals library and so forth, they controlled that themselves like they wanted to, and I went along with whatever they had. And, uh, I don't remember too much, too much about that function, to be honest with you. So, apparently there wasn't a great deal--ton on it. I would say it was more or less appointment that, uh, in name only, not duty.

KLEBER: We come now to a very interesting aspect of, uh, the Wetherby administration and one that, that you would know more than anyone else to talk about, and that the use of capital punishment. Of course, capital punishment was accepted and, and used in the early 1950s. Uh, Wetherby said he approved of 00:56:00the use of it because he felt it was a deterrent. He also said that he had the policy of, uh, minutely studying the record of the condemned for any flaw that might alter the facts of the case or the decision of the court before electrocution--


KLEBER: --and that he would have your office do this. Do you recall that?

BUCKMAN: Yeah. I remember something about it. Uh, I'm trying to think if, uh, I can't remember, but there was one execution that had to come up at that particular time that had created quite a bit of an interest from some standpoint. And, uh, anyhow the execution was carried out, but I can't think what that case was about. But anyhow, Wetherby would consult with us on those things and, uh, uh, I don't, don't think we had--I don't remember but one or two 00:57:00during his term. I don't know whether there was more or not, but, uh, I was supposed as attorney general, I was invited to witness one of 'em, but I didn't go. I don't know whether I sent a staff member or not. I can't recall. But I personally have always been in favor of death penalty myself and, uh, I'm not sure that that's right or wrong, but I think it's a good thing to have and to--if you can protect one innocent person from being killed by a criminal, why, it's worth the effort to try. I, I can't recall any real controversies we had on that, except one case and I don't remember what that was, but the, the execution was carried out, because I know they wanted me to come to be a witness 00:58:00to it.

KLEBER: And your feeling is that there wasn't a great many capital punishments?

BUCKMAN: I don't believe there was. I, I, I don't remember One or two is all I can think of. But now, there could have been more and I wouldn't have paid any attention to 'em, probably. I'm just not sure about that. But I know this one was, and there was some reason for all of us to take particular pains to see that everything was in order. Now, I guess it had been referred to us by the governor, I'm not sure. I'm, well, I'm positive it would have been. But I don't know, just seems to me like there was only one or two. One that I know of definitely and the others I can't recall.

KLEBER: Um-hm. Did you advise the governor much on legal matters?

BUCKMAN: No, governor, uh, really--(laughs)--he was a lawyer, of course, and, uh, he, he had, uh, he had a lot of good lawyer friends that was close to him--Louis Cox and some of those fellows, Dick Moloney from Lexington--and, uh, 00:59:00I think that he picked up from them mostly. Uh, if he had any legal questions, uh, he probably maybe even discussed with them sooner than he would me. I, I don't remember of him I'm sure he did at times contact me on some problems, but, uh, he would naturally want, want, want my opinion if he was gonna make a move that, uh, something a little different than the ordinary. But, uh, he, he didn't ask for a lot of legal opinions, because he, he's a good lawyer himself and he had a good head on him, and, uh, after all law is nothing more than common sense, and he, he had that, plenty of it.

KLEBER: Of course, he had been a judge, also.

BUCKMAN: Yeah. Um-hm, he had been.

KLEBER: Uh, in, in the speech that Wetherby gave in October, 1951 at, uh, Shelbyville, he said that you would be a good attorney general because you were 01:00:00well-qualified to quote "Defend the commonwealth in lawsuits and prosecute those who violated state laws, including persons working for the governmental agencies to ensure they remain honest and upright in financial transactions and in the rendering of service." That's a very interesting use of words. Do you know what he's talking about there?

BUCKMAN: No. I guess--(laughs)--he's just trying to get me elected. (Kleber laughs) Uh, we had no real problems in government at that time, that I recall of any--

KLEBER: Let me refresh your memory just a minute. There had been some question about the road commission under Clements, and there had been an, a little let's--

BUCKMAN: The truck deal?

KLEBER: Well, some people were doing--well, it isn't no, that's not the truck deal. This is, this is--


KLEBER: --this goes back way before that.

BUCKMAN: That was way before that, yeah.

KLEBER: But, when Clements went out, there was some feeling that someone in the highway commission had, had used money incorrectly to enrich themselves. 01:01:00And there was a call for a complete investigation in the highway commission, which Wetherby kept fudging on. And, uh, but that doesn't ring a bell with you at all?

BUCKMAN: No, it doesn't. Uh, the only thing that, uh, I remember that we really were particularly trying to deal with was what you referred to a while ago as the gambling in the state. Yeah, and we had a bad situation down in Henderson, Kentucky. Uh, and we had trouble with some of the magistrates down there involved in it or something. But, uh, I would say that that it when we went in as attorney general, we had no investigations, uh, going at all, either during my term or before my term, had had no investigation been started. And, uh, I think he was just simply using that type of expression to convince people that, that he wanted me elected, that's what and that was about it.


KLEBER: Was it an honest administration?

BUCKMAN: Honest?

KLEBER: Um-hm.

BUCKMAN: I thought it was. Uh, I don't remember any real scandal in the Wetherby administration. Oh, you'd always hear somebody sta--start something maybe about taking a contribution from somebody that you shouldn't have--(coughs)--and things like that. But, uh, I don't remember any real scandal during his term. And you usually get somebody that's doing something wrong. But I don't recall it.

KLEBER: You have a feeling why not?

BUCKMAN: (coughs) No, it just, I don't know, just wasn't any reason for anything that, uh, was out of the ordinary to occur as far as violating the law in state government. Everybody had their job to do and, uh, take, uh, my office, we handled no money whatsoever. Uh, and I guess other offices, 01:03:00Beauchamp's office, they didn't handle any money. Maybe they had some government program, but, uh, they didn't have any, any complaints that I ever heard of. Could have been that I just didn't hear of 'em, but I don't think so.

KLEBER: What were the major issues of your office, 'fifty-

BUCKMAN: Well, the--

KLEBER: --one to '55?

BUCKMAN: --major issues actually was getting the briefs to the court of appeals so they could decided commonwealth cases. In other words, when the commonwealth is case is tried down in say a man is tried for murder down in Bullitt County and, uh, that case is appealed, then the attorney general takes it over, not the commonwealth's attorney, th--although the commonwealth attorney handled the case in circuit court. When it comes to Frankfort, then it's the duty of the attorney general to prepare the brief and to prosecute from then on. And, uh, that was about the biggest thing that we ran into that was, uh, out of 01:04:00the ordinary, because they had stacked up. Usual thing we could keep our briefs up without any trouble, because they wouldn't come in more than three or four a week at the most. And, uh, when you let fifty of 'em, fifty-five stack up, you've got a whole lot of work to do. But, uh, attorney's general office, as I said, was nothing, nothing like it is today. You just didn't have the ability to send prosecutors out. We didn't have the ability to send investigators out. Uh, just is altogether different today than what it was back in those days. Back in those days it was just a small operation, of writing opinions and filing briefs and glad-handing people. (laughs) That's it.


BUCKMAN: We had a lot of trouble with school boards. Some of the school board members, uh-- one of the big issues was down in, uh, Marion County where the 01:05:00nuns were teaching in the public schools, or the Catholics were on the school board, or something and--

KLEBER: The buses. Wasn't it that they--

BUCKMAN: Something--

KLEBER: --were using buses--

BUCKMAN: Yeah. Um-hm.

KLEBER: --to transport. And nuns--

BUCKMAN: We had--

KLEBER: --were teaching in public--

BUCKMAN: --we had that in Washington County and Marion County and, uh, that was pretty big issue. The attorney general had to file any action against any board member to oust him and nobody else could do that. But we didn't have too many of those because we usually worked 'em out with-- talked 'em out of it. But you couldn't, you couldn't say that the you--two operations were the same. They're just so far apart, what it was in '52 and '56 and what it is today, because well, they've got I don't know how many assistants they've got today and it's a large affair, but of course you've got a budget that probably twenty 01:06:00times I don't remember what my budget was, but it wasn't--(laughs)--much because we, we couldn't pay salaries much. I finally got their salaries, of the assistants up to more than I was making by operations, different ways and--

KLEBER: It was hard to get good people then.

BUCKMAN: Well, it, uh--you could, you could get 'em, but you couldn't keep 'em. But, we were lucky. Back in those days, of course, eight thousand five hundred dollars wasn't a bad salary. It's just bad nowadays because of the fact that that's what your pensions are--(laughs)--based on. But back in those days, why, the boys accepted those salaries and, and worked hard and, uh, were satisfied with 'em, as a matter of fact.

KLEBER: They were mainly young men.

BUCKMAN: Um-hm. Oh, yeah.

KLEBER: Starting off.

BUCKMAN: But they were good. They were all students in the law and, uh, I don't, I only had one boy that I had to really get after and threaten to fire the whole time I was there, and he just wouldn't get his work out. But he 01:07:00finally got better and then finally got killed in an automobile accident.

KLEBER: Do you, uh, have any feel, uh, on the power of the Louisville and Nashville Railroad in state politics--


KLEBER: --in the early '50s? Okay.

BUCKMAN: They, their only fight, uh, that they have the railroad lobbyists have, is with the unions.


BUCKMAN: They don't have any fights with the gover--with the state government. And they don't control anything. They--now, they may do a good job lobbying against unions, uh, but, uh, as far as any business with the state, none at all.

KLEBER: Harry Caudill has recently said in a new book that came out on the moguls of eastern Kentucky that the coal interest was very powerful in the state in the early '50s. And he goes so far as to say the coal barons were responsible for Bert Combs's nomination for governor in 1955. Do you have a view of the coal interests being that powerful in state government?


BUCKMAN: Well, the coal interests were powerful, because people felt like that coal was important to the state of Kentucky. And it was. When you've got a question like that it's easy to lobby for it, because people who are down in the heart, favor the production of coal, 'cause it in eastern Kentucky it was all they had to make a living out of. Uh, I, I would say that, uh, they were powerful. It was that way, but it wasn't because of what they did. It was simply because they all they had to do was to lead the people like myself that didn't have any coal in my district, but at the same time I had a feeling for eastern Kentucky which was very important to the livelihood, as a matter of fact. And, uh, the railroad association was always interested in coal, because they wanted to haul it, of course. And, uh, we--I just didn't see any problem there. And as far as electing or nominating Bert Combs or electing him, I 01:09:00didn't ever, ever remember. Now, there was some individuals that did give substantial sums of money to Bert that were involved in coal, but any big money, I can't think of anything that the coal people did that would, uh, bring about that statement. Could be true, but I don't think so.

KLEBER: 'Course now Wetherby did a very interesting thing, he got the first anti-strip mining law enacted in 1954.


KLEBER: Were you involved in that much?


KLEBER: Not at all. Okay. Were you involved, in any way, in the 1952 registration and purgation law that Wetherby enacted?

BUCKMAN: Yeah, I guess I was. I was I probably for it as a main--(laughs)--and, uh, I, uh, I think, well, I don't remember any real problems with it that I had at all. I was no doubt for it on, on my own, but would have been for it because of him if nothing else, because if he wanted it, 01:10:00I thought it was good for the state.

KLEBER: Your office would not have been involved in something--

BUCKMAN: Unh-uh.

KLEBER: --like that? Do you recall a fight that occurred in the Frankfort Country Club during the Wetherby administration, a fist-fight?

BUCKMAN: You--(laughs)--you tell me the parties, I might--

KLEBER: No, I wish I could. I'm going to get to the bottom of this. I just found out about it recently. I heard that there was a very interesting fist-fight that went on at the Frankfort County Club, I guess it was among some of the big officials in the, in the Wetherby administration, but I don't, uh, I can't--don't have enough--

BUCKMAN: You, you--

KLEBER: --to tell you right now.

BUCKMAN: You've struck a nerve in my body, but I can't recall who it was or what it was about.

KLEBER: Yeah. I'll have to go to Wetherby on that one--(Buckman laughs)--I think.

BUCKMAN: I don't, uh, I wasn't present, I can't s--vouch for that, 'cause I didn't see it. But there is--there was something to--somewhere down the line, some fight somewhere that they had, and I don't know what. Was Clements involved in it?

KLEBER: Might be.

BUCKMAN: (laughs) You got me.


KLEBER: I'm gonna follow that one up and see what happened there. Uh, you said Wetherby was could be cold at some times, and I've heard that.

BUCKMAN: Well, he's not warm.


BUCKMAN: He --(laughs)--kind of like, uh, we always said the eastern Kentucky people were cool to reception by us and, uh, Wetherby in--he, well, he was just the finest fellow in the world and, and like, when we got together at nighttime, you couldn't beat him. But then during the daytime, why, I guess he had a lot of worries on his mind and he maybe he was thinking and, uh, some of his friends would say something to him and, uh, he might not even pick it up, as a matter of fact, that they had spoken to him. But, uh, he just had a--he just didn't get down like Doc did, in other words. He's just two different people.

KLEBER: Did he have a temper?

BUCKMAN: I'd say that he did, but if he ever did display it, I don't recall. 01:12:00I, and when Clements had him by the front of the shirt shaking him--(laughs)--he wasn't, he wasn't fighting back by any stretch of the imagination. He was going along with Clements and gonna sit down--(laughs)--if he could find a seat.

KLEBER: Let me ask you. Let's close out with this question here, this 1955 campaign, uh, when you ran for lieutenant governor.


KLEBER: And how did that decision come about? And tell me about your race.

BUCKMAN: Well, it came about, uh, because I wanted to run. And, uh, I didn't have sense enough to listen to, to, uh, the people that were involved in the race. Uh, as I told you a while ago, Ben Adams was commissioner of agriculture and he wanted to run, and I was attorney general and I wanted to run, and that took a chance on splitting our votes. Now, if Doc had asked me to get out, or had asked Ben to get out, then we wouldn't have split the votes and we might have won the race. However, Waterfield was pretty strong in his own rights and, 01:13:00uh, might have beaten us regardless. But I ran second and, uh, it's just a question I always said, if you don't have the administration for you, you've got a hard battle because you can't raise the money. Uh, I had to raise all my own money and I paid cash as I went along. And, uh, I didn't accumulate bills like you do nowadays, and don't spend money like they do nowadays. But it was, uh, ambiti--too ambitious on my part, that I wouldn't sit by and, and let Doc say, run or not run, because--and Wetherby the same way. They just wouldn't take a part, because they didn't want to fight amongst their administration boys, with Ben Adams and myself. And if I'd have been smart and stayed out of it, and waited for the opportunity 'til they said, all right, now it's time for you to run, like they did for attorney general, then I'd probably been elected. 01:14:00But when you get too far out in front and you don't have your friends with you, you're in trouble. I'd say they was, I'd say Doc voted for me and he helped me all he could. Matter of fact, I carried Logan County, yeah. But, that wasn't the thing about it, because Doc could have changed, uh, uh, he could have elected me if he wanted to.

KLEBER: Hmm. Why do you think Doc just didn't tell one of you to get out of the race?

BUCKMAN: Uh, I guess 'cause he didn't want to hurt either one of us. He liked Ben and he liked me. And I'd been with him, oh, even before the Clements for governor's race, because Doc was the one that brought Clements down here to see me about the campaign. 'Cause we'd been together in the old Tom Rhea faction. And, of course, Clements was in the Tom Rhea faction, too. He was the state chairman for Tom Rhea. Now, that's going back--(laughs)--two or three--

KLEBER: Yes, sir. That's way--


KLEBER: --back there.

BUCKMAN: But, uh, Doc was the type of fellow that he, he wouldn't hurt me for 01:15:00anything in the world and he wouldn't hurt Ben, and he let us both get beat. And either one of us would've gotten out. If he'd said, "Jiggs, you can't win," why, I would have gotten out. But he didn't say it, and I kept thinking that Ben would get out, and Ben didn't get out.

KLEBER: So, the administration supported neither one of you in 1955?

BUCKMAN: No, I'd say that I got the votes from Wetherby and Beauchamp and like that, but, uh, Well, I had to get 'em to run second, but couldn't win.

KLEBER: You didn't get any money from them, though.

BUCKMAN: No, no. They didn't give--matter of fact, we didn't get any money in that race at all, that I remember of, because races just didn't--we made races then on five or six thousand dollars. But Lord, now you talk about five or six million.

KLEBER: Oh, yes.

BUCKMAN: It's just altogether different. But I had, uh, a lot of the good administration people for me, Herb Smith and down in eastern Kentucky, and, uh, 01:16:00of course I'd always said Doc delivered his county for me, and, uh. But and I should have said--well, I, I should have been smart enough to know that I couldn't split the vote and win, but I didn't. You're ambitious, you know, sometime when you shouldn't be ambitious. And that was my mistake.

KLEBER: And Clements and Wetherby never said anything to you about, uh--


KLEBER: --getting out?

BUCKMAN: Clements, Clements, of course, didn't take any part at all. I don't think I even saw him during that period of time. And, uh, Wetherby was friendly and we still played poker together--(laughs)--and all of that, but, uh, he just wasn't gonna split up his administration with being for one or the other.

KLEBER: You said that, uh, that, uh, Doc Beauchamp brought Clements here to see you in 1947, is that right--


KLEBER: --when he was running for governor?



KLEBER: And you were then an early Clements supporter?


KLEBER: And that meant a Wetherby supporter, too.

BUCKMAN: Yeah, because, well, I hadn't been a Wetherby supporter. Uh, I believe, if I'm right, Bill May ran against Wetherby--

KLEBER: That's right.

BUCKMAN: --for lieutenant governor--

KLEBER: Yes, he did.

BUCKMAN: --and I believe I voted for Bill May.

KLEBER: Ah-ha.

BUCKMAN: But, uh, I was for, uh, Clements because, uh, I had known him in the Tom Rhea fight, which was a bitter battle. And, uh, I also knew Doc even before that Tom Rhea fight. But, uh, Clements was state chairman, and I had occasion to meet with him on that campaign. But Doc brought him here in, in when he decided to run for governor to meet with me and, uh, to get me for him, which I was.

KLEBER: Against Waterfield.

BUCKMAN: Yeah. Um-hm.

KLEBER: What about the Louisville machine that Wetherby ran for? What's your image of that machine in the early '50s?

BUCKMAN: That machine was a crackerjack. It, uh, was one of the best that you 01:18:00could find, in my opinion and the, they--if you were in. If the machine was for you, you were in. And if that machine with Miss Lennie and John Crimmins and them was against you, you were out. And, uh, they, they was a good organization. Now, the first time that organization started falling apart was in the Breathitt campaign. Uh, Miss Lennie said she wasn't gonna take any part and, uh, it got to where we had to go out on our own and go down in the different districts and organize for Breathitt, because there just wasn't any organization taking any part in the thing. And we finally got things in pretty good shape for Breathitt in Jefferson County by maneuvering around. Bert Combs, of course, was strong for Breathitt and he sent me down to headquarters to see what I could do with Louisville and Jefferson County. And, uh, old Bert would, he'd back up everything every deal I made, Bert would back it up. He was, he 01:19:00was an operator. And we won the thing. But Miss Lennie and them walked out completely of that campaign and they never did do much good after that. I never did know why, because wasn't any reason for 'em, because we had Wetherby and Clements and all of 'em were for Breathitt, of course, and they went on--their old friends taking care of them in the machine down there for years. But it split up after that, just kind of dwindled down and wasn't like it used to be. But, boy, it used to be a good one.

KLEBER: It did?

BUCKMAN: Oh, it was a crackerjack.

KLEBER: What makes you say that?

BUCKMAN: They could operate. They had everybody that had any political ability at all, would see they had a --(laughs)--job in the state government or county government, boy. And they knew their people. That Johnny Crimmins was one of the smoothest operators in the world. He was just a excellent operator. And 01:20:00they, they, they played it for keeps, I mean keeps. If you weren't in that organization, you was just out of luck. And you'd better not ever run unless you had that organization for you. I, we had--and it was about like Doc's down in Logan County. Doc had the same thing down in Logan County. He, uh, he had that county tied up tight. He had the main men around him that he had to have. And, uh, if you wanted an open county, you had to get Doc. If you didn't get Doc, you didn't get anything. (laughs)

KLEBER: Did you work much with that Louisville machine?

BUCKMAN: No. That's the only time I worked with 'em, was when Combs sent me down to the Breathitt headquarters to make some deals and get some line get some people lined up. And, uh, didn't work with them at that time, as a matter of fact, because I--they weren't gonna move. And we had to go out and go into the precincts and get the, get all the workers that they had had and line them up. But the, the as a machine operation, they never did move.


KLEBER: Yeah. Of course, Bill Cowger had been elected mayor back about that time--


KLEBER: --and I think with the Republicans coming in, the, the machine began to go into a--

BUCKMAN: Well, I don't know what the I never did--

KLEBER: --serious decline.

BUCKMAN: --know what caused it, but Breathitt was a good candidate and made a good, excellent speaker, and made a good appearance. And of course they could have been afraid of Happy, because Happy'd always been a winner, you know. But, uh, they just, just wouldn't go. And Bert knew it and So, I, he called me up and asked me if I would I do something for him, and I said, "Sure, what it is?" And he said, "Go to Louisville and get in headquarters and don't let Foster Ockerman know what you're doing down there. You just go in on your own. You make the deals and I'll back 'em up." And I'd make a deal and old Bert would back 'em up.

KLEBER: Hmm. Talk about interesting campaigns, you remember the '56 campaign when Clements and Wetherby ran for the Senate against Cooper and Morton?


BUCKMAN: Yes. I can't recall too much about it, to be honest with you. Uh, you know, some of those things, you just went through 'em and was for 'em, and that was it. And you weren't involved in the inner circle of the organization. If you're not in the inner circle, you just don't know what goes on.

KLEBER: That's true. Of course, that's the one they both lost.

BUCKMAN: That's right.

KLEBER: It must have been a terrible blow to the Democratic Party organization--

BUCKMAN: It sure was.

KLEBER: --I guess I should say.

BUCKMAN: Sure was. We get that way sometime, you know. We get too cocky, too, too sure of ourselves, and we think we're nobody can beat us, and they show us--(laughs)--they can beat us.

KLEBER: Well, uh, thank you very much, Mr. Buckman. I--

BUCKMAN: Well, I--

KLEBER: --appreciate this.

BUCKMAN: --I don't know whether it's been worth your time or not, but I enjoyed talking to you anyhow.

KLEBER: Thank you, sir.

[End of interview.]