Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Lon Carter Barton, February 21, 1991

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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SUCHANEK: The following is an unrehearsed interview with former State Representative Lon Carter Barton who represented Graves County in what was the 3rd District from 1958 to 1964. The interview was conducted by Jeffrey Suchanek for the University of Kentucky Library Kentucky Legislature Oral History Project on February 21, 1991, at Mr. Barton's home at 420 South 7th Street in Mayfield, Kentucky, at eleven o'clock a.m. [Pause in taping].

BARTON: That's, the colored girl is, she is really the person that knows more about this place than I do. She remembers where she put stuff twenty-five years ago. And you 00:01:00don't find very many now that stay in one place for fifty-five years, it's fairly uncommon. There's only two others in Mayfield I know of that's like that. And Dr. Robbins that we talked to this morning has another one, has a colored woman who's been working for him for just about the same length of time Lucy has been here. Now, proceed (laughs).

SUCHANEK: Okay, Lon. The last time we ended up talking about the pre- legislative conference and what happened at those things, and also we got into a philosophical discussion on the difference between a governor being a leader and being dictatorial. What I wanted to start off asking you today, in today's session is, looking back now, do you think you were a little naive about the way the legislature worked 00:02:00when you first went to Frankfort as a state representative?

BARTON: I was naive in the sense of being completely informed about the aspects of the process which were not covered in government courses. Now, I don't know whether I said that in a way that you can make sense out of it. I had previously taught government, senior high advanced government course and, for some years, and I had studied political science and had done a good bit of just independent and individual reading on government, and especially on state government. But I soon found out, Jeff, that everything that a legislator needed to know about the process was not in the civics 00:03:00books and not in the government books, and I certainly feel that I was totally ignorant of these more unpublicized areas of state government. So I'm sure I was naive, and I expect I remained that way for at least one full session, because I think it really requires a session, especially in a state that has a sixty-day limit such as ours for special, for regular sessions, to really get a kind of an overview or an understanding of the whole process. And so in my first session, I'm sure that I had this disadvantage that comes with being a 00:04:00freshman in the session.

SUCHANEK: What surprised you about the system that first session?

BARTON: Well, I suppose one surprise, maybe not the main one, I don't know how I'd exactly rate these in terms of importance, but I was surprised, in the first experience, with the large number of bills and resolutions that were introduced in the session compared to the number of statutes that emerged at the end in the law books. I don't recall the exact number of bills and resolutions introduced through the sixty days, or 00:05:00really through the fifty-five or fifty-six days. I'm sure there were at least 1,500 total, House and Senate, maybe more than that if you totaled the two sides of the Capitol. And I don't recall the exact number of these measures that made their way through the mill and finally wound up being signed by the governor and being made law, but I am certain not more than 150 of them were eventually, as I said, be--, eventually became statute, law. So that was one thing that surprised me. I thought that we would have a larger number of enactments to, more or less, represent the 1958 session than we had. But I later 00:06:00found that this was pretty much par for the course, because in none of the other sessions that I served in, we had no more total laws enacted than that, as I recall offhand. That was one surprise. I guess another surprise was the effectiveness of the committee system. I was not prepared to appreciate just how important the functioning committees were. I thought possibly that there would be more times when disappointed legislators, who saw their proposals go down in committee, would make a strong effort to yank them from the committee and pull them out and place them for a floor vote. Now, this didn't happen 00:07:00very often. It did occasionally, but not as much as I had anticipated that it might, which I thought was a sign of maturity among the legislators to accept the decision of the committee without becoming so agitated or so upset that they would try to sort of overrule the committee, let the committee system function like it was set up to function. So those were a couple of things that I just remember off the top of my head. Maybe by the time you leave here and we finish this interview and all, I'll think of four or five more good ones, but right now this is about it.

SUCHANEK: Was there anything that surprised you as far as the way bills were passed, the kind of horse-trading kind of thing-


BARTON: Yes, that was another point. It was not so much a surprise because I realized that this went on pretty much, but I was somewhat unprepared for the amount of individual legislator horse-trading. If I had a proposal that I was particularly interested in, and a fellow from east Kentucky had one that he was especially interested in having passed, that we could sort of harmonize our viewpoints and exchange pledges of support for each other's bills, and then manage to get a majority of the members of the House to 00:09:00go along with that sort of a bargain. That was done rather frequently, and I think here again, that indicated that the legislative body as a, at least in the sessions that I attended, for the most part were, worked fairly harmoniously. Now, the first session that I went, in 1958, this was not quite so true as in the other sessions that I attended, because in 1958, as you know, the Democrats were rather sharply divided between the Chandler Democrats, the governor's folks in the House and the so-called "rebels" who were on the other side of the Chandler side. And then of course, the Republicans, most of whom 00:10:00were, as I recall, largely with the Chandler Democrats. That is, the rural Republicans. Now, some of the Louisville Republicans were with the rebel Democrats. So you had a kind of a bipartisan combination there, but it all amounted to a fairly strong split that was reflected any number of times, really, on proposals. So this individual legislator-to- legislator compromising and horse-trading was not quite as evident, although there was some then even. But it certainly exists, I'm sure, today, and it's always been a part of the legislative system. I suppose that's one way that it manages to work, for members of the 00:11:00House and the members of the Senate individually to approach others with this kind of an arrangement. Sort of, "You scratch my back, I'll scratch yours." And as long as that doesn't have some sort of inherent danger or carry some sort of an inherent disadvantage to the state as a whole, I saw nothing wrong with it. I did see something wrong with it, though, if it resulted in some kind of a law being proposed or bill being voted on that may have had some real injury to other districts other than the two that were represented by the dealmakers, the brokers, so to speak. If that happened, I think that was, it was not a 00:12:00good thing at all. But you sort of had to judge that case by case, on its own merits, and make a decision about that. But in answer to the question, there certainly-that's one of the, I suppose, one of the features of legislative action that has always been pretty much an integral part of the system. And this is one of those phases or one of these aspects of legislative action that I think might not be covered in the textbooks quite so well. This is the kind of thing I had referenced to awhile ago, in saying that some legislative behavior was pretty well identified in the civics courses and some might not be, and this is in the 00:13:00latter category.

SUCHANEK: Now, when you took office in 1958, this was the second regular session of "Happy" Chandler's second term as governor.

BARTON: Right.

SUCHANEK: In our last session, we had discussed pretty much the theoretical role of a governor during-

BARTON: Um-hm, right.

SUCHANEK: a legislative session, and you had stated that there was a fine line between a governor being a leader and exhibiting leadership and being dictatorial. Where would you put "Happy" Chandler?

BARTON: Well, I'm not exactly certain. On the basis of my own tenure in "Happy's" administration, he appeared to me to be a very strong, very forceful, and very 00:14:00determined governor. And I don't know that I would classify him as having dictatorial tendencies exactly, but since I happened to be generally on the anti-Chandler side of the House, I think most of us felt that he was more interested in having his program enacted regardless, than he might have been in how the effect would be on the state. And I'm sure that most governors are likewise motivated, because after all, the governor is elected 00:15:00by the entire state, whereas we were elected by just a single district or so. But "Happy" had a more direct way of, it seems to me, of communicating his plans and his desires and his demands, even, to the membership than either of the other two governors that I served under, Mr. Combs or Mr. Breathitt, which isn't to say that they were sort of hands-off. I don't mean that. But "Happy" let it be known very plainly through the press and through contacts individually with members of the legislature and through intermediaries that 00:16:00came to talk to the members of the legislature about what the governor wanted and why he wanted it and so on, he let it, he let us know with very little stipulations, conditions I mean, very few conditions attached that this was what he wanted. He wanted his budget passed, for example, to remove the, part of which would remove the med. school from Louisville and bring it to Lexington. Whether he wanted to do that as punishment for Louisville because of Louisville's general anti-Chandler sentiment expressed in the governor's race, the previous race, or not, that was the perception that a lot of the anti- 00:17:00Chandler people had. But, and therefore we felt that there were better places to spend that money when we sort of broke open that executive budget in `58 and reallocated some funds to other agencies and to other purposes. But as you know, the budget that "Happy" had put together and which we had taken apart and reorganized was soon put back together in the Senate. And then when it came to the House, it was approved as the Senate had changed it, and it all came out looking very much like it did going in. The executive budget of '58 emerged from its roundtrip to the Senate and back to the House 00:18:00for approval pretty much like "Happy" wanted it. Some people voted differently on the second go-around in the House to accept it.

SUCHANEK: Why do you think they did that?

BARTON: Well, I think probably that they, some probably had an honest change of opinion about it. Some were probably lobbied pretty heavily. I don't recall that I had too much problem with that because, I guess probably, the administration felt like I was sort of gone down the track and that I wouldn't come back or that I-there wasn't any point in talking to me, that my mind was made up pretty much. So I don't recall having any discussions on that point, but it all turned out, my point is, it all turned out like the 00:19:00governor wanted it to turn out. And, now, this may have been leadership, I'm sure in some respects it was leadership, but on the other hand, I think that there was a good bit of pretty heavy-handed domination of some guys, too, in the legislature to get that budget rewritten roughly in the same form-not, I don't think, in every detail, but in general it was pretty much the same budget that the governor had wanted to start with. On another occasion "Happy" told me individually. I well remember one night after a rather late session, and I don't recall the bill offhand that we were talking about, but on my way out, on my way home after the session that night I sort of accidentally bumped 00:20:00into "Happy" down on the first floor. Well, in the session that evening we had had a rather close vote on a proposal that the administration favored. I do recall that much of it. And I had voted opposite to the way the administration felt, as had most of these other so-called "rebel" Democrats. And I was walking out of the Capitol and "Happy" came up and he said, "Now, young fellow," I was considerably younger than I am now, and he said, "you fellows didn't help me out today very much up there," or words to that effect. And I assured Governor Chandler that there certainly wasn't any personal antagonism, 00:21:00that I respected him personally and I respected his office, and that any time that I could conscientiously go with what the administration wanted me to do, I'd be perfectly glad to do it, as I had done on a good many other measures. But there were some things that I felt like that, in my own judgment as well as in how I felt that the people here believed, that I had to part company with the administration. I tried to convince the governor in a very brief way that I was not just an obstructionist, that I was not just up there to vote against everything he wanted just because he wanted it, any more than some other fellows were there to vote for everything he wanted just because of that reason. I thought that was irresponsible. And he said, "Well," he said, "now, I'll tell you." He said, "You 00:22:00think about this. You all are going to go home here in a short time," the session was half over then or better, he said, "and you know who's going to be left to run the State of Kentucky, don't you?" He said, "I'm going to. I'm going to have to bear the burden, so to speak, of administering this state for the next two years before another legislature comes into operation. And I've got to have something to do it with, and that's what you all are going to have to do, is to provide me with the proper means of making the state tick for the next two years," which was a very reasonable attitude, I thought, and I agreed with him. I said, "I realize that, Governor. And yet on the other hand, the people who sent me up here, I don't believe, were sending me with the instruction or with the 00:23:00mandate to simply sit in that chair up there and echo everything that you want done in the legislature by my vote. I don't believe that, I don't believe you did that when you were in the legislative capacity as state senator." So we had a very interesting exchange, but I felt like that, of the three governors that I had the privilege of serving with, that "Happy" was the most forceful and in some ways the more determined to have his program passed, regardless of how the individual legislator might have felt about it at the time. So I don't 00:24:00know. "Happy's" personality was charming, and as an individual he was a real appealing, attractive sort of fellow. As governor, some of his plans or some of his programs I conscientiously disagreed with, and whether that made me a sort of a black sheep to the governor, I really don't know. It may have, and on the other hand, it may not.

SUCHANEK: How much contact did you have with "Happy" Chandler?

BARTON: Well, you mean personal?


BARTON: Just-not a great deal. As I said, this one time that we had a conversation, I believe, was about the only time during the session itself that I had a one- 00:25:00on-one dialogue. I'm quite sure, though, that I had other occasions to be with groups that talked with him. And here in Mayfield, you know, Graves County was rather strong Chandler county in 195--, what, `55? Some of that enthusiasm, I think, had changed a little by the time I got up there in his second legislative session. Of course, you know, it's a matter of historical record as a rule, the second session of any governor's administration is less cooperative with his overall program than his first session. The honeymoon has ended somewhere between the second or third month of his administration and the 00:26:00twenty-fourth month or such a matter. But I attended a number of meetings, speeches, public rallies, this sort of thing, in which Chandler was the speaker. I always enjoyed listening to him, he was a real stump speaker, and he'd usually wind up singing, "Gold Mine in the Sky" or the "Old Kentucky Home" or "Happy Days Are Here Again." He'd nearly always bring in a solo with his stump speeches. This was especially true out at Fancy Farm at the annual picnic, political barbecue dinners they had out there and still have for that matter. I think "Happy" was one of their favorite statesmen. And he would come and really, it was really a sort of an entertainment. It was worth going to the whole, 00:27:00it was worth going to the entire affair just in order to listen to "Happy" both speak and sing, because he-and his memory was, as I remember, "Happy's" memory was just phenomenal. He would meet someone in a crowd such as the Fancy Farm picnic that he hadn't seen maybe for ten years, and he'd immediately identify them and he'd call them by name. And if they had a nickname, he knew that and he'd call them by their nickname. It was remarkable. I've never seen anybody in politics or out who had the ability to remember names and faces and associate them correctly that "Happy" had. Well "Happy" was, he had-lots of sides to "Happy's" personality. He was not just a simple, 00:28:00profile-type fellow.

SUCHANEK: Now, in your first session, you were on the Agriculture and Conservation Committee, the Education Committee, and the Committee on Military and Civil Defense.

BARTON: Right.

SUCHANEK: How did you get on these committees? Did you ask for those or were you assigned?

BARTON: I don't believe I did, ex--, well, I don't recall in that first session whether they sent out a questionnaire ahead of time. They did, I know some of the sessions that I served in, I selected a preference on committee assignments by a pre- session questionnaire type of thing. I'm not sure that the `58 session went that route. I think probably I was assigned in `58. On the other hand, I'm sure that those particular 00:29:00committees would have been my choices, based on my pre-legislative experience and so on, so I'm really not sure, Jeff, if we made the choices ourselves or if we were given those assignments. I don't recall that there was a pre-legislative conference before the `58 session.

SUCHANEK: Is that right?

BARTON: I don't recall that it, that there was. And on the other hand, the other sessions that I attended did have a pre-legislative meeting. In those pre-legislative meetings, there was an opportunity to discuss committee assignments and state certain preferences and so on. But I don't much think in `58 that we had that. Now, you might 00:30:00want to check this with some other fellows that were in the `58 session to find out if they recall any better than I do. But just off the top of my head this minute, I think that we were given those assignments after we reached Frankfort and after we were sworn in and after those opening-day exercises and so on. It was at that time that we received our committee assignments.

SUCHANEK: Did you have a lot to do on those committees?

BARTON: Education was pretty busy. I don't recall more than one or two meetings of the Military Affairs. On Agriculture, I suppose there were, I guess that was a busy committee. I don't remember any specific piece of legislation that was really, really important that we considered. The call, I recall that we were pretty busy on Education 00:31:00throughout the session. Now, okay.

SUCHANEK: All right. Nowadays, of course, the legislature has the interim committee system.

BARTON: Right.

SUCHANEK: And the committees are pretty much meeting year-round.

BARTON: Right.

SUCHANEK: Do you think the evolution of the committee system is a good thing or an improvement over the committee system of the 1950s and '60s?

BARTON: Now, you mean, do-compared, comparing the two arrangements? Yes, I really feel, although I've not been given any opportunity to see firsthand how the interim committee operation is working, from what I've read and from I've heard from some of the fellows from here who have been a part of it, it seems to me that it's really an 00:32:00improvement, especially in the pre-filing of legislation that permits a member to familiarize himself at least with what the legislation says. Naturally, some of this legislation has to be changed and amended and modified and rewritten, and a lot has to be done when the legislature meets that can't possibly be done in a committee. Still, the very idea that you have a kind of a nucleus of subject matter to start with and can learn a little bit about the fundamentals of that particular matter, it seems to me it would be a pretty big improvement, as it was when, in the `58 session, and in the others too, that I 00:33:00was in, just about everything cranked up with the beginning of the session itself. Now, the Legislative Research Commission was active between sessions back then, and there were specially appointed committees to research certain questions that had been requested by the previous session of the General Assembly. So there was some interim connection between the sessions that I was in, even though the entire committees as such didn't hold meetings. But I started to say that when you have to start from scratch almost on day two 00:34:00of the General Assembly, and then wait until committees can organize and hold their first meeting before you can really get down to any sort of legislating, that usually translates into a week or ten days of just sort of standing by, that is the entire chamber, just standing by and sort of marking time until the committees begin to turn out reports, which in a sixty-day limit means that you've lost some right valuable time. It seems to me that with this interim committee functioning, if it does like it's supposed to, now a lot more can be started on day two than we could start on day two, and consequently more be accomplished in the total period of sixty days than we could. But as I said while ago, I 00:35:00was impressed with the vast number of bills and resolutions that we managed to turn out, even under those conditions in the sixty-day time limit. But I would assume that the interim committee is an improvement in the total picture. That would be my thinking on it.

SUCHANEK: Do you think it's served to, helped make the legislature more independent from the governor's office?

BARTON: It certainly has done that. It's given the legislature a stronger partnership relationship, I think, with the governor or with the executive office than it used to have.

SUCHANEK: Because before, in the old system, you didn't have time to research administration bills.

BARTON: The cards were almost stacked, so to speak, in favor of the governor's 00:36:00office, whoever the governor might have been. And the legislature for, well, throughout our history, from the 1891 constitution which imposed this sort of a straight-jacket on the legislative branch, has simply had to be there as sort of a necessary evil, so to speak, to approve what the executive branch wanted done. And consequently, you didn't have much real independent legislating permitted under the system, even if you are of an independent mind. The system itself militated somewhat against the independent legislative idea, because as "Happy" told me that night, we were there for sixty days and 00:37:00he was there for four years (both laugh). And so that pretty well summed it up. But I'm not personally convinced now, and I wasn't convinced then, that this was necessarily the best route to follow. I thought from the very start-I guess I made my first campaign statement on the premise that the legislative branch ought to be a co-equal branch, insofar as it was possible, with the, not only the executive but the judicial, and that after all, the legislative branch was the people's branch, and you could trace this all the way back to the colonial times when the first assembly met in Jamestown. That the colonists that could 00:38:00vote, the voters in that colony, had the right to put people into those seats and give them the control of the purse strings, and they had the power to appropriate money and to spend money and to raise money, as compared to an appointed executive who was a governor or royal official. And, of course, today we don't appoint governors. I don't mean to carry this analogy too far, but the idea to me has historically been, nevertheless, that there are certain prerogatives that reside in the legislative branch that ought to be kept not only alive, but ought to be, when possible, ought to be strengthened. On the other hand, I don't believe that the legislature has the power to dictate to the governor 00:39:00either. I think that there's an equal risk here of turning the government over to a smaller group of people in the legislative branch to sort of usurp the authority and the prerogatives of the executive. It's a kind of a fine balance that's sort of a fine-tuned arrangement. I'm thinking in terms of this comparison on the national level, I think that the impeachment of Andrew Johnson by the United States Congress and the fact that he was impeached, not that he was convicted, because he escaped that one vote, but the fact that the House of Representatives took that action. To me, it seems and seemed to have 00:40:00been a move that was not unconstitutional, but it was extremely questionable in my opinion that they really had charges enough to bring the indictment against President Johnson. I think in that case the legislative branch overstepped its boundary. So I don't know how you define precisely, I don't guess it can be defined precisely, because what the executive does affects the legislative, and what the legislature does has a bearing on the executive. But within reason and within a common sense definition, I think that both of these branches are essential and both of them should have powers that they exercise 00:41:00prudently and with as much wisdom as they can bring to the problem. So I really have always felt like that, as long as the legislature doesn't go too far and impose its will unfairly and unjustly on the other two, that the legislative branch ought to certainly have a considerable bit of punch. And that's what Kentucky legislatures have always lacked until fairly recently. The people that drew up the 1891 Constitution didn't trust the legislatures. Things had happened that, I'm sure, gave rise to that feeling, and they were expressing their honest opinion that legislators could be bought and sold like a sack of potatoes. And when one delegate mentioned once on the floor of the debate in the 00:42:00Constitutional Convention that it might be unwise to restrict the meetings of the General Assembly to sixty days every two years, another fellow jumped up and he said, "I wish to the Lord it was the other way around." He said, "I wish we would restrict the legislature to meeting two days every sixty years." And this was sort of a general attitude throughout the country in the 1890s. And so we're, as I see it, the legislature for a long time has suffered sort of an inferior position. And I think the interim committee system has served somewhat to equalize the prerogatives between the two branches. And so I'm very pleased with that. That's a long answer to a short question. You cut me off here on 00:43:00some of this stuff.

SUCHANEK: Let me flip this over.


[End of Tape #1, Side #1]

[Begin Tape #1, Side #2]

SUCHANEK: Okay, Lon, in your first session in the legislature Morris Weintraub was Speaker of the House.

BARTON: Right.

SUCHANEK: And Addison Everett was majority floor leader. What were your impressions of Morris Weintraub and Addison Everett?

BARTON: I got along very well with both of them. I realized from the start that they were there to help promote the program of the administration. And as I've already said, I wasn't a down-the-line Chandler member, but I don't recall having had any problem with either Mr. Weintraub or Mr. Everett. I, in fact, I inquired of Mr. Everett a couple of times, I remember, about explaining some provisions of a bill that he as majority 00:44:00leader, floor leader, had introduced, and he very patiently and very, it seemed to me, very generously took time to tell me what he thought about these particular pieces of legislation, which I appreciated. And I was never denied recognition by Mr. Weintraub. And I recall in the budget battle, that, which had to be the highlight of that session to me because it had a lot of a lot of drama as well as a lot of rather important legislative material in it. It seemed that he was very fair to both sides. We amended the budget 00:45:00bill-

SUCHANEK: Nineteen times.

BARTON: nineteen times. I didn't recall, but I remember quite a number of times. There were places, I think, in that afternoon session that the speaker, had he wished, could have become rather arbitrary for the governor's bill, which was right there in front of him being slaughtered, and still we amended it nineteen times. To me, that was a testimony of a sort to the fairness of the speaker. In fact, I don't recall offhand at the moment any speaker in any of the sessions that I had who obviously was making an effort to engineer things in one direction or to go just down the line on the side of the 00:46:00governor's proposal or his views, although at that time that's what the speaker was expected to do, that was his job. Now, I think, the speaker is pretty independent of the governor. In fact, a speaker can, I've read recently where Speaker Blandford has had direct opposition to some of Governor Wilkinson's ideas and beliefs and programs and so on. Now, that wouldn't have happened in 1958, I don't think, or in 1960 or in 1962 or in 1964. So the body as an institution to me seems to be maturing in the sense in growing up, in the sense that it wants to do its own thing more, and it has the power to do its own 00:47:00thing more, and the officials of the House, the speaker and the majority leader, the caucus chairman and the people who used to huddle with the governor every day after the sessions were over, no longer see the need or at least see the requirement to have to do that. They may do it to kind of direct the traffic in a sense and see what bills are going to be on the calendar for the next day and all this sort of thing, routine meetings. But I don't think that today there are any required sessions or huddles of the legislative leaders in the governor's office to plot and to engineer strategy and do all of these kinds of things. There may be. I haven't even been in Frankfort for ten years, much less been, visited the legislature. But from what I've read, it seems that there isn't all that much association 00:48:00between the legislative leadership and the governor's office. There used to be an intimate association. But as I say, that didn't appear to affect Speaker Weintraub's sense of fairness on the matter of recognition and rulings and so on. I had no problem with either one of them. In fact, I got along great with fellows that never deviated a tenth of a degree from the Chandler program. Personally, I felt like that this was sort of an individual decision and it was based on your own best judgment and your own conscience and how you felt like your folks wanted you to go. And once you had stated 00:49:00that position and once you had voted your feelings, personalities really were no big problem to me. I enjoyed, in other words, I enjoyed the association and friendship of fellows that I voted differently from every single day, without any-we didn't fall out individually. Now, I don't know how, as I said awhile ago, I don't know how the governor felt about me. I'm not privy to that information yet, and I probably never will be. But with the so-called Chandler people, I was on perfectly good terms with them. And I voted with the administration on a number of things, a good many issues-in fact, probably ninety percent of the things.

SUCHANEK: Now, the newspapers portrayed the battle over the budget bill and the rebel faction as being a battle between "Happy" Chandler and Earle Clements. Did 00:50:00you get that feeling?

BARTON: Well, in, with some of the fellows on our side, I should say in our caucus, I guess, I'm sure that was true, with the people who were-well, the folks who had been in politics long enough to make a decision which side they preferred and the people who expected to stay in politics long enough to want an identity on one faction or the other for their own future plans. In my case, I didn't have that much future plans in politics. So I was never particularly concerned about the repercussions of anything we did 00:51:00on Governor Clements. I had known Governor Clements-back in the 1940s, I taught in Mayfield High School on an emergency certificate before I graduated from Murray State. And I was on the faculty at a time when a lot of school districts were very upset with Governor Clements' failure to appropriate the amount of education money that the KEA had been led to believe would come out of the budget. And so the KEA sponsored in every local district a plan by which a couple of people or one person, however they 00:52:00wanted to do it locally, would make a march on Frankfort, and I was one of the marchers. Why they selected me to march, I do not know yet, but they did. The Mayfield Education Association sent me. And coincidentally, the fellow that represented the Graves County Education Association on that week trip to Frankfort was the fellow who defeated me the first time I ran for representative, Mr. Howard Reid, who was at Symsonia High School. So in the '40s, Howard and I made this trip to Frankfort to argue with Governor Clements and anybody else we could find that we could talk with. That was about my only personal contact with Governor Clements, although he didn't live so terribly far from here, you know. He lived at Morganfield, up 60 here. But I had nothing 00:53:00against the governor, except the fact that he kind of ridiculed us by (laughs) reading some of the messages that schoolchildren had written to him under, I'm sure, the encouragement of their teachers back home. And the spelling and the sentence structure and the usage of words led the governor to make what, I'm sure, was a very practical application, "You folks had better go home and teach these kids how to read and write instead of coming up here and arguing with me or taking time out to be my opponents," which as I said, as teachers.



BARTON: Okay, are we on now?


BARTON: So that really pretty well counts for my sole exposure to the Clements program or to the Clements faction. In other words, I didn't really consider myself, I didn't really think of myself as being a member of either faction because I had no plans to stay in politics. I didn't go in order to become a career politician or a career legislator. And the fact that I stayed as long as I did, I, really now, looking back on it, I'm rather surprised that I stayed with it as long as I did stay with it, because I never did from the beginning go into it with the long-range view of being in politics.


SUCHANEK: What was the difference between "Happy" Chandler and Earle Clements? Were there dif--, were the differences between Chandler and Clements philosophical, or do you think it was just a case of personalities?

BARTON: I should know that right offhand, Jeff, having done some study in Kentucky political history, but I'm not really sufficiently informed on that point to make an intelligent answer. I don't think that it was philosophical in the sense that one leader believed that government ought to be carried out in a given respect and the other leader believing that it ought to be done opposite to that. I don't recall this kind of philosophical 00:56:00disagreement. I think it was pretty much simply based on which one could exercise the power. I think they were both very interested in power.

SUCHANEK: Kind of the "ins" versus the "outs?"

BARTON: Yeah, the "ins" versus the "outs." It seems to me that these two fellows emerged in the same political generation as sort of the opposite poles. And although I'm sure that Clements had much greater sympathy for the sales tax, for example, than "Happy" did, and there may have been some other issues where the two were more 00:57:00totally opposed to each other, but I think it was really just a matter of which one could take care of the other one at the polls. And whichever one happened to be on the outside looking in developed a strong desire to be on the inside looking out in the next election. I really, if there was any deep-rooted philosophical difference, I'm not aware of it as-of course, both men were born almost in adjacent counties. Chandler was born in Henderson County, and Clements came from, I believe, Union County. And so they both had 00:58:00basically the same environment to grow up in, and they were both well-educated. They were both able to command the respect of people in their own counties and in other offices before they reached the governorship, either one of them. They both held public office prior to that. I don't think there was anything particularly strong in the background of either one that would have make them natural enemies like Andrew Jackson and John Quincy Adams, for example. But I do think that each one of them was interested in playing the game to the hilt. They both wanted power, and both really did pull all the 00:59:00stops to get all the votes that they could get for both themselves and their folks in their faction, their followers.

SUCHANEK: Did you get to know "Doc" Beauchamp at all?

BARTON: I knew "Doc" just casually. He was a fellow I used to talk to occasionally, not so much on legislative matters as folklore and history. He was very interested in Logan County, of course, and that area. And I used to have some very enjoyable conversations down at the old hotel, where a group of us usually gathered to eat supper and then sit around and talk at the Southern Hotel there in Frankfort. "Doc" would come down and he would regale us with some stories that came from, basically 01:00:00from Logan County and that area. He was a delightful fellow. I don't recall any particular legislative matter that involved "Doc," except, let me take that back. Was it in his term as agriculture commissioner when the egg law was enacted? Have you checked that?

SUCHANEK: I don't know.

BARTON: The egg law-

SUCHANEK: Yeah, we talked about that last time, the egg law.

BARTON: a terrible law. That's the one vote that I wished many times I could have had back. (Laughs), it came as near beating me than any other move that I made the entire time I was in Frankfort. But I don't know whether "Doc" was, I just don't recall whether 01:01:00he was the commissioner of agriculture at that time. I know my friend, Mancil Vinson, was, from Murray, was the, one of the deputy commissioners who was there at the time of the egg law, because Mancil persuaded me to vote for it. But I'm not sure that Mancil worked for "Doc" or whether he was in a later administration. Some of these things have sort of blurred a little bit.


BARTON: But I know the egg law gave me a lot of trouble, a world of trouble.

SUCHANEK: Speaking of Frankfort, where did you stay when you-

BARTON: I stayed with some people from Mayfield who lived in Frankfort. He was Mr. Baldree, Hickman Baldree. He and his wife were originally from Graves County, and Mr. Baldree had been a school superintendent here, a county school superintendent, 01:02:00until sometime in the '30s, and then he left that job and took a job with the education department in Frankfort. And he and Mrs. Baldree were fine, fine people. They're both gone now, but their house was located on Tanner Drive, which is just almost across the street from the Capitol. I didn't have to go very far to get to my desk or to get to my room, either one. And they had been old family friends here for a long time, so it was just a very natural thing to go to their place to live, which I did the entire time I was there. And they also kept two or three other fellows from the legislature. Lambert Hehl stayed 01:03:00there and Jim Newberry stayed there. Incidentally, Jim was from Barren County, and as far as I know, he seldom deviated from the Chandler support in the House. And he and I were in rooms adjacent to each other and best of friends during that time. We used to do a lot of good-natured kidding about rebels and other things, but he was a very fine young fellow from near Glasgow, and he stayed with the Baldrees. So we had our own Baldree caucus some nights-stay up half the night going over what was done the day before or what would be done the next day. We had-but you know, that brings up this other point, and I'm rambling here, so this is not in answer to your question, but legislating goes 01:04:00on in Frankfort around the clock, where two legislators get together or more. It might be at the Holiday Inn, it might be in the Southern Hotel. It used to be in days past in the old Capitol Hotel. They said more laws were either passed or knocked down in the lobbies of the Capitol Hotel in its prime than there were in the new capitol building. But at any rate, that interested me somewhat, that you get together and talk about lots of different things, but invariably the discussion would center on what we're going to do tomorrow, what's coming up next week, why in the world we did what we did yesterday. Since Harry 01:05:00Caudill's death, I have thought so many times about the extremely interesting chats that Harry Caudill and I had, along with others at the old Southern Hotel. Harry could tell more stories than almost anybody in the world about the mountains and about his people up there. And they were all good, and he had a way about him that was extremely winsome. And it really would, I think, be rather accurate to say that the legislative mill turned pretty much everywhere in Frankfort that legislators happened to get together, social affairs and everything else.

SUCHANEK: Do you remember your first speech in the legislature?


BARTON: I don't think I ever made one.

SUCHANEK: Oh, you never made a speech?

BARTON: (Laughs), I don't really recall, yeah I'm sure I did. I don't recall any particular speech the first session. I think somebody told me when I went up there that the rule for freshmen was to listen and stay quiet, and I did a lot of staying quiet. But of course, the later sessions, as I got more comfortable and felt more at ease and knew a little more about what to say and how to say it and all that, I did some floor speeches, primarily in support or in endorsing of bills that I introduced. That was, you know, fairly 01:07:00common procedure for the person whose bill was being voted on to take the floor to explain it and to persuade people if they could. And I did that a good many times, but I don't recall in that first session ever making a speech. I may have, but I don't remember it too well. It certainly didn't impress me much (both laugh).

SUCHANEK: Now, getting back to the rebels in that `58 session-

BARTON: Right.

SUCHANEK: what was your relationship with some of the prominent rebels in the house, such as Foster Ockerman and John Breckinridge, Pat Tanner?

BARTON: Well, we got along great, as you might expect. We were kind of united. We didn't have very many defections. We held caucuses from time to time and kind of planned out strategy, especially before the budget. We really did want to do the job right 01:08:00on that issue in particular. The member in the General Assembly then that represented Franklin County was a fine fellow named Alton Moore, and as you mentioned, Ockerman and Breckinridge, whom I thought a lot of, and Pat Tanner from Owensboro and Roy Searcy from up above Louisville. I believe Roy was from probably Oldham County or some of those counties near Jefferson. Most of the Jefferson County guys, I don't think all of them, but I'd say the vast majority of them were in our group. We had one or two Republicans, although most of the Republicans, as I said, gradually wound up siding with 01:09:00the administration. We had Leonard Hislope, who was "The Orator." He was absolutely the finest speaker that I can recall in any session.

SUCHANEK: I'm going to interview him later.


SUCHANEK: I'm going to interview him later.

BARTON: Oh, you are? Is he still around-


BARTON: in Somerset?


BARTON: Tell him hello for me.


BARTON: Leonard and I were close, we were on opposite, partisan sides, but that's another point, Jeff, that might we worth mentioning. The, aside from the organizing of the legislature at the beginning, not many times was there any real party-line division necessary. I mean the Republicans did not stake out a position here on a given bill, and the Democrats stake out just the opposite position, based on party alignments. It 01:10:00happened a good many times that most Republicans went one way, most Democrats went another way, but it was usually based on something other than just the fact that it was a Democrat/Republican break. We didn't have too much of that. At any rate, I started to say Leonard was such an outstanding speaker, people really did quiet down to hear him when he spoke because they knew what was coming-they were going to get a real good bit of old-fashioned oratory. And the other Republican that I remember with us was Marlow Cook, who, of course, had the Louisville connection or the Jefferson County connection. So, and then we had a very fine lawyer from Bowling Green named Huddleston, who was "Dee" Huddleston's brother. I'm not sure, I guess Paul was his older brother, Paul Huddleston, who, I think, is deceased now. And we had, from "Doc" 01:11:00Beauchamp's county in Logan, we had a fellow named Paul Young, who was very adroit and a very knowledgeable legislator.

SUCHANEK: How about Gil Kingsbury?

BARTON: Gil Kingsbury was another one from northern Kentucky.

SUCHANEK: Harry King Lowman?

BARTON: Harry King was really our, I guess you'd say our caucus chairman, unofficially. Most of these fellows had been there before. A good many of them had served in `56, and they knew their way around a lot better than those of us that had not been there. And Harry King was one of those. Harry King probably traced some of his political opposition to "Happy" to his political allegiance to Clements. Now, he was a 01:12:00fellow that I expect this Clements/Chandler oppos--, rivalry had a bearing on because he was very close to Earle, I think, if I remember correctly. But Harry King kind of, he was sort of our quarterback. He called the plays. And then we had, in fact, I believe, I'm not absolutely certain of this, but I believe that we had the majority of the Democrats in the House with us. And I'm thinking here, all the time I'm saying "we" and "us," I'm thinking of the budget battle. I'm excluding a lot of other measures that the rebels had no problem going along with the administration. But that budget thing was the, sort of the, the watermark or-


SUCHANEK: Well, the budget is sort of a-

BARTON: the watershed.

SUCHANEK: the litmus test of the administration.

BARTON: That's the litmus test, right, of where you were. At least that's the way the governor looked at it, and I'm not sure he ever completely forgave any of us for it. But that's the, that was really the issue that counted. But at any rate, we all harmonized very well in this group, and I had great respect and regard for these fellows because they, as I said, knew their way around very well.

SUCHANEK: In your tenure in the House-

BARTON: And, of course, down here we had rebels, too. Charlie Williams from Paducah, for example, was elected on the independent legislature campaign pledge just 01:14:00like I was. And Mickey McGuire from Paducah, the same thing, and then Shelby McCallum from over in Marshall County was on our team, so to speak. We had pretty well statewide coverage. Excuse me. Now go ahead to what you started to say.

SUCHANEK: Well, do you think western Kentucky got the attention in Frankfort that it deserved? As a representative from western Kentucky, did you find that you had much in common with representatives from other parts of the state?

BARTON: This goes back to whether west Kentucky is sort of a distinct region that is different from central Kentucky and eastern Kentucky in more ways than just the 01:15:00terrain and just the landscape. I think at one time that certainly there was a distinctiveness about west Kentucky. Going all the way back here historically, you know, this was the part of Kentucky in the Civil War, and before that, that was so distinctly Southern in comparison to eastern Kentucky, which was predominantly Union in sympathy during the Civil War, and the Bluegrass, which was pretty much divided, and Louisville, which was pretty much divided and so on. The Jackson Purchase and what now would be considered the 1st Congressional District, this general part of Kentucky from Hopkinsville and Henderson on back here to this area, had a different philosophy at the 01:16:00time of the Civil War than the rest of the state did. And this, I think, has prevailed pretty much down to the 1930s. Then I think we have gradually become more integrated. We've got highways down here that jo--, you see, that was one of our big problems here. You had to ferry if you didn't go on a train. If you went any other way besides rail, you had to ferry across a couple of rivers before you could get in, even into the other part of west Kentucky, the Tennessee and the Cumberland. When they built those bridges, and then later when they built the West Kentucky Parkway and the Purchase Parkway, you have no idea how that has expedited and how it has speeded up and how it has simplified 01:17:00movement, transportation between here and Lexington and Frankfort. The first session that I attended was before the parkways were built. I went up either 62 through Greenville and Beaver Dam and Elizabethtown, or I went through Hopkinsville and Bowling Green and cut off to Hodgenville and Bardstown and then over to Versailles and around that way. It was just about a six or seven-hour trip, sometimes even longer if the road conditions were not very good. And today, I believe, ya'll made it down here from Lexington in, what, three hours, three and a half? This has had a, I think this has had a bearing on our political equality with the rest of the state. I think as we have become more oriented to that area because of easier transportation, I think that that area 01:18:00has become more aware of us. Although we've not had many governors from this end of the state, we've had a few. We've had Breathitt and we've had Carroll, we've had Harry Lee Waterfield, who was pretty close to being governor a time or two. Still, I think that Frankfort is much more aware of our needs and our very existence than they were twenty-five, thirty, thirty-five years ago. Well, I should say fifty years ago, because those bridges have been in now since the, I guess since the '30s or '40s. So I think that at one time there was a historical precedent for this entire area of west Kentucky being almost considered by Frankfort to be separate. Today I don't see as much of that. I hope that I, I 01:19:00hope it isn't as much, because we did suffer from that. I guess we had something along the same problem that they had in the far eastern Kentucky region, in the hollers and the hills and the mountains over there. They were pretty remote from Frankfort, too. But in terms of miles, they weren't really as far away from the capitol as we are. I guess we're further away from the capitol than any county in Kentucky except Fulton, which is a little further west. But we've sort of always had a tendency to look upon ourselves down here as being stepchildren of state government and not getting roads and not getting services and not getting the kind of thing that we could see when we drove to Frankfort. And I 01:20:00served on the, this is a sort of an off-the-wall comparison, but I recall that I served on the Historical Markers Commission once. And I counted the number of historical markers that had been set by the state in the Jackson Purchase, compared to the number in just one county in the Bluegrass. We didn't have as many throughout eight counties as they had in one county up there at one time. Now we're running, I expect, pretty even. We got our share, in other words. As I say, that's no big deal, but I think it reflected something, that people in Frankfort were not as much aware of anything down here worth marking for a 01:21:00long, long time. And now we have seen a change along that line. And that same principle applies, I think, to other situations too, probably.

SUCHANEK: In the 1959 primary and general election, you apparently had no opposition. Is that right, in `59?

BARTON: Let me think. Right, that's true. I lucked out.


BARTON: Although I appreciated the fact I didn't have to spend a lot of money campaigning, I didn't want to overlook the pleasure that I had had the time before in making the campaign trips around. And so I did some campaigning, although I wasn't faced with opposition. I just enjoyed going out and talking to people and seeing what 01:22:00they thought and what they believed and what ought to be done and what they wanted. Sometimes they wanted things that I couldn't produce, couldn't do much about, but I felt like it was my job to at least acquaint myself with what the people in this district were thinking and some of the things that they would like to see state government do for them. So I enjoyed that freedom from pressure and-

SUCHANEK: Why do you think you had no opposition?



BARTON: Why do I? Well, I don't really know, Jeff. I had that condition to exist twice of the four times, well really, I ran five times, you see. The first time I ran, I lost. 01:23:00And then the second time was the `57 race. Then I didn't have any opposition. And then the next time I did have opposition, and that's the time the egg law nearly took me out of action. And then the last time I didn't have opposition. And then I decided I'd better-

SUCHANEK: Do you think the people were just satisfied with-


SUCHANEK: you think the people were just satisfied with the job you were doing?

BARTON: Well, I don't know whether that was altogether it or whether people just didn't feel that that job was really worth their time of going out and trying to win. Graves County has generally had races. I mean by that, we historically don't, we haven't had many elections that people have just managed to win without some sort of a race, but I 01:24:00never really gave very much thought to anything along that line. Back then it was not a really rewarding job financially. We didn't get very much in terms of a year's pay or a two-year's pay, really, if you were not going to be doing something else. We didn't get, it didn't have any financial gain to it. In fact, I expect in my case, traveling from this far, in the long run I spent more than I got on travel. I don't know that it was a particularly prestigious job. I think the State Senate would have probably been a little bit higher on 01:25:00the status ladder than the House job. And on the other hand, I felt like it was a responsible job and I enjoyed it. But apparently nobody, at least in these two times, felt like they wanted to enjoy it (laughs) at all. So-

SUCHANEK: Now, during that primary campaign, you appeared and were introduced at a campaign rally for Bert Combs and Wilson Wyatt.

BARTON: Right.

SUCHANEK: So I guess it is fair to say that this identified you as a member of the Combs faction during the election. Is that-

BARTON: During the campaign, right. I did align myself then with the Combs candidacy. I was impressed with Mr. Combs. I felt he-not, here again, not because of any faction or loyalty to Mr. Clements, but in meeting him and talking with him and 01:26:00actually having heard a good bit from him in 1955 when he ran the first time and having some friends here in Mayfield who were very strong, stronger, really, than I was on his, in his support, I didn't find it hard at all to support him. And still, when in the session, I maintained my same independent voting record. I voted against his program on occasion just as quickly as I did for it, but I was just-of course, he knew, and I'm sure people here knew, that I tried to honestly take issues on the basis of how I felt that the issues 01:27:00would work out as being good or bad for the people. And I'm sure I made some mistakes. I know I did with the egg law (both laugh). And I'm sure I made others, but I did try to steer away from saying, "I'm going to vote against this bill because the governor wants me to vote for it," or "I'm going to vote for this bill because the governor wants me to vote for it." And I'd see some of this attitude expressed. There were some guys in the legislature, all, every session I attended that basically had this rationale. And as, I guess as far as it went, as far as it happened to satisfy them, that was fine with me, but I just never could quite talk myself into being that casual about it. I felt like that was 01:28:00kind of shortcutting the job in a way. Not exactly abdicating responsibility, but it's certainly not, I didn't see it as being totally responsible either.


[End of Interview] 1