Interview with Mildred Watkins Chandler, July 2, 1991

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:00:02 - Happy Chandler's Senate term--Appointment

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

Segment Synopsis: Chandler and her son, Ben Chandler, discuss the circumstances leading to Happy Chandler's appointment in 1939 to a seat in the United States Senate. There is some discussion over the appointment compared to the special election a year later to allow him to continue filling that seat.

Keywords: 1940 United States Senate elections; U.S. Senate; Washington (D.C.)

Subjects: Brown, John Young, 1900-1985; Chandler, Happy, 1898-1991.; Elections; Governors--Kentucky; Kentucky--Politics and government; Logan, M. M. (Marvel Mills), 1874-1939; Politicians--Kentucky; Politics and government

GPS: United States Capitol (Washington, D.C.).
Map Coordinates: 38.890157, -77.008995
00:03:38 - Life in Washington, D.C.

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Partial Transcript: Did you, did you go up to Washington with him, uh, Mrs. Chandler?

Segment Synopsis: Chandler discusses Happy Chandler's swearing in ceremony in 1939. She also discusses the decision to move the family to Washington, D.C. During their time in Washington, she talks about moving into an apartment in the Mayflower Hotel. She also notes that J. Edgar Hoover, then director of the Federal Bureau of Investigations, would play with the Chandler children. Eventually she notes that the family moved back to Versailles, Kentucky while her husband was in office.

Keywords: 1939; U.S. Senate; Washington (D.C.)

Subjects: Chandler, Happy, 1898-1991.; Elections; Garner, John Nance, 1868-1967.; Hoover, J. Edgar (John Edgar), 1895-1972.; Kentucky--Politics and government; Mayflower Hotel (Washington, D.C.); Politicians--Kentucky; Politics and government; Politics, Practical

GPS: Mayflower Hotel (Washington, D.C.).
Map Coordinates: 38.904747, -77.039250
00:07:53 - Happy Chandler's friendship with Harry Byrd

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Partial Transcript: Uh, who were some of his very best friends already, in the U.S. [United States] Senate?

Segment Synopsis: Chandler discusses her husband's friendship with Harry Byrd, then-Senator from Virginia. She notes her own connections to Byrd through her father, who lived near Richmond. She also describes Happy meeting Byrd due to a mutual friend in Senator Johnson Camden, Jr. There is some discussion over whether her husband was a state senator or lieutenant governor at that moment in time.

Keywords: Johnson N. Camden, Jr.; Richmond (Va.); Senator Johnson N. Camden, Jr.

Subjects: Byrd, Harry F. (Harry Flood), 1887-1966; Chandler, Happy, 1898-1991.; Kentucky. General Assembly. Senate; Lieutenant governors--Kentucky; State governments; State governments--Officials and employees

00:16:22 - 1939 Senate race--Campaign tactics

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Partial Transcript: Is there anything--of course, the next big and spectacular event is, is the Senate race in '42 when he's run--when Happy is running for re-election to the Senate for a full six-year term.

Segment Synopsis: Even though asked about the 1942 election, Chandler's answers are from the 1939 Senate race against John Y. Brown. Chandler notes the tactics used by her husband's opponent John Y. Brown in the 1939 Senate race against her husband. She charges that Brown's supporters attempted to get proof that the tires on her car were using contraband rubber in violation of rationing provisions during World War Two.

Keywords: 1942 United States Senate elections; Politics; War rationing; World War II

Subjects: Brown, John Young, 1900-1985; Chandler, Happy, 1898-1991.; Elections; Law and legislation; Political campaigns--Kentucky; Politicians--Kentucky; Politics and government; Press and politics.; World War, 1939-1945

00:24:18 - 1942 Senate race--Swimming pool controversy

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Partial Transcript: Okay, now, you, you mentioned the swimming pool, and this also was an issue--a political issue--in that campaign wasn't it? The business with about the swimming pool.

Segment Synopsis: Chandler discusses the political impact of the installation of a swimming pool in the Chandler home. She notes that the pool was a gift from a friend in the construction business who suggested it would help with her son's asthma. However, the pool became controversial over the possibility of violating wartime rationing laws, to the point of a Congressional committee investing the pool.

Keywords: 1942 United States Senate elections; Politics; Senate Special Committee to Investigate the National Defense Program; Truman Committee; U.S. Senate; World War II

Subjects: Brown, John Young, 1900-1985; Chandler, Happy, 1898-1991.; World War, 1939-1945

00:32:17 - 1939 election--Mildred Chandler's illness

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Partial Transcript: Alright, well, okay. Were there any other issues, uh, that, that you recall that stand out in your mind, or any other incidents of that '42 election that you'd like to tell me about?

Segment Synopsis: Even though asked about the 1942 election, Chandler's answers are from the 1939 gubernatorial race between John Y. Brown and Keen Johnson. Chandler discusses becoming seriously ill after taking a sulpha drug to treat strep throat. She describes the allergic reaction to the drug. She describes how John Y. Brown violated doctor's orders that no traffic occur around the Chandler mansion while she recovered by driving and honking his car horn.

Keywords: 1939 United States gubernatorial elections; Sulpha drugs

Subjects: Brown, John Young, 1900-1985; Chandler, Happy, 1898-1991.; Elections; Government and the press.; Governors--Election; Governors--Kentucky; Johnson, Keen, 1896-1970; Kentucky--Politics and government; Political campaigns--Kentucky; Politicians--Kentucky; Politics and government; State governments; State governments--Officials and employees; Sulfonamides--Therapeutic use.; Women in politics

00:38:06 - U.S. Senate--Conservative Southern Democrats / Senate Armed Services Committee

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Partial Transcript: Well, alright, now then, let's come back a way-- you remember we, we had gone on and were talking about the Senatorial election of 1942 when Happy beat John Y. Brown, Sr. in, in running for a full term in the United States Senate.

Segment Synopsis: Chandler discusses the circle of conservative Southern Democrats that Happy Chandler found himself affiliated with in the United States Senate during the Second World War. She also talks about her husband's time on the Senate Armed Services Committee, especially how Happy Chandler became a supporter of Douglas MacArthur during the war.

Keywords: Conservative Democrats; Senate Armed Services Committee; Southern Democrats; U.S. Senate; WW2; WWII; World War 2; World War II

Subjects: Brown, John Young, 1900-1985; Byrd, Harry F. (Harry Flood), 1887-1966; Chandler, Happy, 1898-1991.; Glass, Carter, 1858-1946.; Lodge, Henry Cabot, Jr., 1902-1985.; MacArthur, Douglas, 1880-1964; Russell, Richard B. (Richard Brevard), 1897-1971.; World War, 1939-1945

00:45:00 - Mimi Chandler's experience with Hollywood

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Partial Transcript: Okay, so, so that is what--the war and those matters took up most of Happy's energy really throughout--

Segment Synopsis: Chandler discusses her role in taking care of family affairs in Versailles while he husband was in the Senate. She talks at length about her daughter, Mimi's entry into Hollywood working in the film industry through Paramount Pictures. Chandler also notes Mimi's marriage to Buddy DeSylva. Ben Chandler finishes the segment with noting how his father spent his entire career in the Senate living in an apartment in the Mayflower Hotel.

Keywords: And the Angels Sing (Motion picture); Butler, David, 1894-1979; Henry Aldrich Swings It (Motion picture); Paramount Pictures, Inc.

Subjects: Chandler, Happy, 1898-1991.; Chandler, Mimi; DeSylva, Buddy G., 1896-1950; Hollywood.; Mayflower Hotel (Washington, D.C.); Motion pictures

00:54:00 - Happy Chandler's appointment to National Commissioner of Baseball

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Partial Transcript: Well, alright. But, the war ended, eventually, in the summer of 1945, and shortly thereafter Happy made a big change in his career.

Segment Synopsis: Chandler discusses Happy Chandler's appointment as the National Commissioner of Baseball following the death of the former commissioner, Kenesaw Mountain Landis. She talks about how motions were made for his involvement before he accepted the position officially due to his support of the sport during the Second World War.

Keywords: Baseball.; Commissioner of Baseball; Major League Baseball (MLB)

Subjects: Barkley, Alben William 1877-1956.; Chandler, Happy, 1898-1991.; Landis, Kenesaw Mountain, 1866-1944.; Professional sports.

00:57:58 - Happy Chandler's support for baseball racial integration

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Partial Transcript: And, uh, and this, uh, this led him into, uh, uh, what, in some ways, uh, may have been most--one of the most enjoyable, but also one of the stormiest, uh, periods of his career.

Segment Synopsis: Chandler and Roland discuss Happy Chandler's support for signing Jackie Robinson to the Brooklyn Dodgers, making him the first African American to play on a Major League team. She notes Chandler's constant support of black players through his life, since he coached football at Versailles High School. They note that the Dodgers' owner, Branch Rickey, wanted Robinson and thus needed the National Commissioner's approval to finish the deal.

Keywords: Brooklyn Dodgers (Baseball team); Brooklyn Dodgers (Baseball team)--1950-1960--People.; Brooklyn Dodgers (Baseball team)--1950-1960.; Brooklyn Dodgers (Baseball team)--People--1950-1960.; Commissioner of Baseball; Major League Baseball (organization); Racial integration

Subjects: African American baseball players; African Americans--Segregation; African Americans--Social conditions; African Americans--Sports; Baseball players; Chandler, Happy, 1898-1991.; Discrimination in sports; Integration; Professional sports.; Rickey, Branch, 1881-1965.; Robinson, Jackie, 1919-1972.

01:04:38 - Happy Chandler's friendship with Branch Rickey

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Partial Transcript: I understand that, uh, that Happy and Branch Rickey had actually been friends for some time long before Happy became baseball commissioner.

Segment Synopsis: Chandler discusses her husband's long relationship with former baseball player and owner of the Brooklyn Dodgers, Branch Rickey. She describes how they knew each other as early as the 1920s, bonding over issues unrelated to baseball. She also talks about his two visits to the Chandler household to speak to Happy. She does not recall what the two men spoke about during those two visits.

Keywords: African American baseball players; Baseball; Baseball coaches; Baseball managers; Discrimination in sports

Subjects: Chandler, Happy, 1898-1991.; Durocher, Leo, 1905-1991.; Professional sports.; Rickey, Branch, 1881-1965.; Robinson, Jackie, 1919-1972.

01:08:26 - National Baseball Commissioner--Other controversies

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Partial Transcript: And, and, and, uh, Happy, uh, certainly, uh, was very much involved in all that. And that has become one of the significant occurrences of his career as National Baseball Commissioner.

Segment Synopsis: Chandler discusses other controversies that occurred during her husband's tenure as National Commissioner of Baseball. She notes Happy Chandler's criticism of how Kenesaw Mountain Landis handled the question of integration. She also speaks somewhat about Leo Durocher. She also discusses how her husband was always at odds with most of the team owners during this period.

Keywords: Baseball; Commissioner of Baseball; Major League Baseball (organization)

Subjects: Alexander, Grover Cleveland, 1887-1950.; Chandler, Happy, 1898-1991.; Day, Laraine, 1920-2007.; Durocher, Leo, 1905-1991.; Landis, Kenesaw Mountain, 1866-1944.

01:15:12 - National Baseball Commissioner--End of contract

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Partial Transcript: Well, now, another thing, that, uh, that Happy did, the, uh, then--and I'd like to question you about, if you know anything about it, was his--he, uh--a bunch of players jumped from the Major Leagues and went to the Mexican--newly formed Mexican League...

Segment Synopsis: Chandler finishes her discussion on her husband's tenure as National Commissioner of Baseball, noting how he knew his actions supporting players put him at odds with the owners and managers. She describes how he was not surprised that his contract was not going to be renewed, but that he considered his actions worth it to do what he considered right.

Keywords: Baseball; Commissioner of Baseball; Major League Baseball (organization)

Subjects: Baseball coaches; Baseball players; Chandler, Happy, 1898-1991.; Professional sports.

01:19:58 - Happy Chandler's post-Baseball Commissioner plans

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Partial Transcript: But, uh, but what I wanted to really find out was, uh, that, that he really was not surprised when they did not, when they did not renew his contract.

Segment Synopsis: Following the end of Happy Chandler's baseball tenure, Chandler notes his return to Versailles and to law. She describes his interest in getting back into the Senate, but the contemporary political climate made such an appointment to finish the term of the late Senator Virgil Chapman unlikely. She and her son Ben Chandler talk about how a Republican governor had come into office due to his resignation. The segment and the interview end by setting up the next stage of Chandler's life in the 1950s.

Keywords: Baseball; Kentucky Senate appointments; National Commissioner of Baseball; Senate appointments; U.S. Senate; Versailles (Ky.)

Subjects: Chandler, Happy, 1898-1991.; Chapman, Virgil, 1895-1951; Clements, Earle C. (Earle Chester), 1896-1985; Elections; Governors--Election; Governors--Kentucky; Kentucky--Politics and government; Law and legislation; Lieutenant governors--Kentucky; Political campaigns--Kentucky; Politicians--Kentucky; Politics and government; State governments; Wetherby, Lawrence W. (Lawrence Winchester), 1908-1994