Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Wendell H. Ford, March 28, 1994

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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 BIRDWHISTELL: Okay. Well, it's March 28, 1994, and this is our second session, and uh, while we're concentrating on your early life at this point, I thought uh, I would comment though, since between the last time you and I talked uh, and today, quite a bit has happened in the United States Senate, and of course with the uh, announcement that the uh, majority leader is going to uh, leave the Senate, I suppose your last few weeks have been very, very hectic.

FORD: I don't know whether you'd call them hectic or not, uh. There's been some interest in whether I will uh, run for the majority leader's position or not. Uh, I'm giving it a great deal of thought. My family is not uh -- they're not encouraging me to do that because uh, as one of my children said, 00:01:00"We don't see much of you,--(Birdwhistell laughs)-- and if you get that job, we'll just kiss you good-by."

BIRDWHISTELL: --(laughs)--Just put your picture on the wall, right?

FORD: Yeah. Yeah. And another one said, "You don't want George Will, Sam Donaldson, and Cokie Roberts to be part of our family." --(Birdwhistell laughs)-- And it is uh -- I can run the ship, but I'm not sure I want to be able to try to sell it, and it's what you can do for your constituents, and being majority leader can be helpful in some respects, but a detriment in others. So uh, it'll be a decision that'll be kind of tough to make either way, whether I run or whether I don't. But I'll have to do it in the next uh, two or three weeks. I've got -- because you can't -- those that are for you need to make decisions; otherwise if you're not going to -- if you're going to, they 00:02:00need to have a plan whereby we'd put it together and they'd help. So we'll just have to wait and see. I -- I'd say within the next two to three weeks, I'll make a decision.

BIRDWHISTELL: You know, I -- I hesitate to raise current events in this kind of setting because this is for the historical record, and not, it's not for newspapers or anything like that. But it occurred to me that your biographer, in listening to these tapes, would be interested in your -- your sort of uh, comment on -- on that since that is -- it's a very significant decision you're having to make.

FORD: --(coughs)-- Well it's -- it isn't a political campaign as such, you know, where you have uh, TV ads and brochures and things like that. It's your work uh, and your work habits that uh, you've had in the Senate, uh, your ability to get along with people, uh. It's a one-on-one, and uh, if we keep our 00:03:00present uh, number, it means you have to have uh, twenty-nine votes and that doesn't sound like a whole lot, but they get pretty tough when you've got two or three good candidates running and they uh, have a hard time making a choice. And it is secret ballot --(laughs)-- like -- but I said I -- I had twenty votes, and when they counted them I only had fifteen, and I haven't figured out where the other five went, but he lost you know. And so uh, we had one Republican tell me that he was running for minority leader and the fellow that beat him came over while the votes were going on and uh, congratulated him on winning and looked forward to working with him --(laughs)--and then he lost, you know.

BIRDWHISTELL: (laughs)-- Then he lost.

FORD: So it's uh --

BIRDWHISTELL: So is part of the decision trying to count the votes and see --

FORD: Oh, I think I can uh, uh, -- that part of it -- but uh, I think 00:04:00you have to uh, feel like it's in the best interests of you -- what you can do for your constituents. They're the ones I'm responsible to and uh, nothing -- everything else is secondary. So if I can uh, be helpful to Kentucky, I don't need it on my resume, you know, and --

BIRDWHISTELL: (laughs)-- Well, you know, what I thought when I heard that announcement, after looking at your early life and reviewing your entire career, I thought, well, Senator Ford, in his entire career has always gone for the, the leadership, you know. Whether it's in the Jaycees or whether it's in the uh -- any -- anything you got into, you ended up --

FORD: See that -- that's uh -- you know, but it may be that -- I'll be seventy when uh, the votes are taken and should a man my age -- I feel good. 00:05:00I'm in good health. I work as much as eighteen hours a day, then come back home and travel Kentucky on the weekend -- on the weekend. So uh, that part of it doesn't bother me as much as uh, maybe we do need some -- some future leadership -- maybe I could stay in the second spot, uh. I'll run for one or the other, uh, and support whoever the leader might be. And uh, I may be -- my contribution may be there rather than being majority leader.

BIRDWHISTELL: Yeah. Well, good luck with whatever you decide.

FORD: You're mighty nice. I appreciate that.

BIRDWHISTELL: Uh, let's go back to your childhood.

FORD: Okay.

BIRDWHISTELL: From the Senate leadership to the --

FORD: What is it? "Turn back --" "Turn back, oh time, in thy flight"? --(Birdwhistell laughs)--

BIRDWHISTELL: We -- we left you in Daviess County the last time we sat here, and I wanted to pick up uh -- not to retrace ourselves, but I did want to follow 00:06:00up on, on one part. We had talked about your -- your athletic adventures uh, uh, --

FORD: There weren't that many. --(laughs)--

BIRDWHISTELL: -- in uh, uh -- in high school, and you played basketball and baseball until you -- till you broke your wrist, and uh --

FORD: Yeah, and then I became a cheerleader. I couldn't uh, participate and they said, well, we need -- we need another male cheerleader. We had, I think, maybe only one and uh, said, why don't you try out, and so I did and lo and behold I became a cheerleader, and uh, I just stayed there. We had good times and we traveled a lot and had some good teams. Had a fine coach and uh, so it worked out uh -- things always worked out for the best.

BIRDWHISTELL: Umhmm. So you enjoyed that a lot?

FORD: I enjoyed it very much. We -- the enthusiasm of the crowd, even when we were losing it uh, they -- they were always right there fighting almost 00:07:00as hard as the boys on the floor.


FORD: So we had a good following and uh, people went from game to game, town to town, and uh, a lot of our older uh, people that followed, graduates of the school. Had one fellow name of Winkler that could whistle and boy, he would just uh -- just almost make the walls vibrate when he would whistle. Put those fingers in his mouth and we'd be going good and you'd hear Mr. Winkler whistle. --(Birdwhistell laughs)-- Boy, it was -- it was something.

BIRDWHISTELL: You still have your sweater from --

FORD: Sure do. It's in -- it's in the museum in Owensboro.

BIRDWHISTELL: Wonderful. Wonderful.

FORD: Yeah, --(laughs)--I don't know why they wanted to put that in there, but uh --

BIRDWHISTELL: Well, I think that's good.

FORD: -- the sweater with my letter on it is at the museum.

BIRDWHISTELL: Good. I was hoping that was the answer to that. As you were uh -- you know, we talked last time through, pretty much through your high school 00:08:00days, and I wanted to ask you today, as you were thinking about graduating from high school, you know, you're in your senior year and you're thinking about graduation, what -- what are you ambitions at that point in your life?

FORD: Well, my ambition was to get an education, but uh, World War Two came along about that time, and you couldn't help but think about uh, that, uh. --(coughs)-- I started in college but uh, just couldn't -- you couldn't keep your mind on it because you knew you were going to be drafted soon. And I had a young lady in Owensboro I wanted to marry, and I was concerned about marrying and then being called into the service. And, so your mind was not necessarily on anything but that.

BIRDWHISTELL: It was hard to plan --

FORD: You couldn't plan. You could think about some things, but it always came back to being drafted and going into service and maybe never coming 00:09:00back. I think that was there all the time --

BIRDWHISTELL: Always in the back of your mind --

FORD: Yeah.

BIRDWHISTELL: Tell me about --(Ford coughs)-- December 7, 1941 for Wendell Ford.

FORD: Well I think it was uh -- we were all -- you know, we -- it was a surprise to us, uh, and I don't think we grasped the situation except we had been invaded. Uh, how big and how troublesome it was going to be, I don't think any of us at seventeen years old knew uh, uh, the big picture, like some of the older folks could who had served in World War One. Like my wife's father had. He understood it very quickly and the problems that faced us, and we talked about that. And uh, teachers who had some uh, knowledge of World War One and 00:10:00had read the history and -- we had read the history about it, you know, but uh, it was just not something that we could comprehend. Then all of a sudden when Roosevelt came and asked us to declare war, uh, and then it began to sink in and we knew the uh, uh, age group that were going to be drafted, and they lowered that, you know, down to where uh, you would possibly be next. And we were all required to register, and uh, so uh, uh, it began to build in our knowledge and our feelings. As I said, we were about ready to graduate from high school, thinking about going to work and thinking about going to school. Uh, marriage was on a lot of minds and it -- --(laughs)--it really -- the bomb was dropped uh, uh, hypothetically in, in, uh, everybody's uh, future.


BIRDWHISTELL: Do you remember how you learned about the attack on Pearl Harbor? Somebody come to your house and tell you?

FORD: No, I think we heard it on the radio.

BIRDWHISTELL: Heard it on the radio --

FORD: Actually heard -- yeah, actually heard it on the radio and uh, uh, we listened to it, and I think maybe my father called from the office, in case we hadn't been listening, to tell uh, us about it. So uh, I'm not sure exactly, but I think it came by radio at home.

BIRDWHISTELL: Um-mm. So you uh -- you finished your senior year in high school with that kind of hovering over you in terms --

FORD: It was a cloud, I think, over all the uh, uh, boys as we were called at that time; became men pretty fast. They were about to graduate.


BIRDWHISTELL: Was it discussed at your graduation ceremony, the fact that people were going to war?

FORD: I don't think it was in the valedictory address or anything like that, but it sure was on the minds of the graduates and on the minds, particularly, of their parents. And uh, uh, it was uh -- it was the dominating part of conversation.

BIRDWHISTELL: When did you make the decision to go to UK.? Was it sometime during your senior year?

FORD: Oh, yes. I had planned on coming to UK, and wanted to come and uh, felt like it was important to get an education. Uh, my father was well educated for people of his time, but he'd only gone to what we referred to then as a junior college or business college --

BIRDWHISTELL: That's right.

FORD: -- and uh, and made him an economic major --(laughs)--almost in those days.


FORD: And I wanted, and he wanted, better education. And so we -- we 00:13:00-- he wanted for all of his children, and Mother was very insistent that we all get a better education, and I -- I got less than -- than any of them. My sister came to UK and uh, uh, stayed here for three years, I think, and then married a senior and they went to the southeastern part of the state, Somerset. My brother then went to uh, Western, and he graduated from there and uh, left, and he went to Korea. So we uh -- that was part of his thinking too, when he was graduating from college, however, rather than from high school as I was.

BIRDWHISTELL: Um-hm. Yeah, that summer between high school and college, you worked at the [J.C.] Penney's store there in downtown Owensboro in the men's clothing section, I believe --

FORD: Well, it was work clothes.

BIRDWHISTELL: Work clothes…

FORD: Work clothes, yeah.

BIRDWHISTELL: (laughs)--You weren't fitting suits? --(laughs)--


FORD: No, I wasn't fitting suits, but any of us -- we -- we could go to the shoe department and, and help people with shoes; we'd go to the uh, suit department and work there. We -- we were not -- we were assigned -- w--we had an assignment in the store, but uh, we could work anywhere in the store. So it was quite a -- quite an experience for me and then when I became president of the Jaycees, I had lunch with Mr. Penney --

BIRDWHISTELL: Oh, you did? --(laughs)--

FORD: Yeah, out in Missouri, at his farm. And we reminisced a little bit. Mr. Penney had a theory that anybody he was getting ready to promote, he'd have lunch with them. And if he salt and peppered his food before he tasted it, he wouldn't hire -- he wouldn't promote him because he said, you had to have -- you had to try a product before you knew what it needed to change it. And so I had heard that story from having been at J.C. Penney, and uh, so when I sat down 00:15:00to the meal and I would check my food before I would put any salt and pepper on it and he never said a word about it. So uh, quite an interesting fellow. I think he had -- at the time I met with him, he had an interest in over sixteen hundred stores.

BIRDWHISTELL: Wow. What'd he think about one of his guys making president of Jaycees?

FORD: --(coughs)-- Oh, he was interested in what we were doing in the community. He -- he had a very -- he was very community-minded in our conversation. And uh, he wanted to know what we were doing and how the young men were -- what kind of programs and how we uh, trained them for leadership within the community and we talked about being chairman of projects that improved the community. He was uh, quite interested in -- in the whole program, and the whole organization.

BIRDWHISTELL: Uh-huh. Uh, was the job you had at Penney's, was that hard to get or were you -- was that like something --

FORD: I don't know whether it was hard to get or not. I had worked 00:16:00there on weekends, --

BIRDWHISTELL: You had already been there…

FORD: -- already been through some of that, and --

BIRDWHISTELL: It was a good job?

FORD: It was a good job, and uh, you ordered uh, sixty to ninety days in advance. And you had to go back and see what months were coming up and what was sold, and the trend, whether it'd been up or down, and a pair -- the work socks or overalls or uh, work shirts or bandanna handkerchiefs, whatever it was, and then you had to uh, order based on that uh, in -- in advance. And you always worried about uh, would I have -- ordered too much? Or would it be too -- not enough? And so it was a challenge to you to look uh, at the -- what the past -- and try to make a judgment on what the future would be. And uh, so you always knew when Easter would come. That was -- the shoe department would just be over, overflowing. Ever--- seemed like everybody bought new shoes for Easter back when I worked there, and uh, so it uh -- it made you think a whole 00:17:00lot and uh, then when -- when -- I think one of the biggest uh, uh, times of my young life working, was when uh, my first order came in that I had placed --


FORD: -- and you had so many dozen socks, so many dozen shirts, so many dozen handkerchiefs -- bandanna handkerchiefs, so many dozen of this, and uh, you, you'd put them out and you could see whether they were selling better than they did the last time, the same time the year before or if they were selling less, and so you had some idea, and I think all of us were challenged and we were given a certain amount to sell.

BIRDWHISTELL: So you were actually out on the floor selling then?

FORD: That's right. So you had -- in addition to that, you had, you had a certain amount to sell, any anything -- you got your regular salary up to that point, and then, say, they set seventeen hundred dollars I think one month I had to sell. That didn't sound like very much now. You know, three suits and 00:18:00you had fifteen hundred dollars now, but anything over that, you got a bonus. And everybody tried to get around Easter time, which we're talking now --Easter will be another week off -- why, everybody wanted to go to the shoe department --(Birdwhistell laughs)-- because, you know, they were buying shoes and they wanted the right col--- bone color was a very popular color at that time, back in the uh, early `40s. So it was quite an experience. I think it was good for me. I met people, I had to sell them, and had to -- they'd bring them back and they wouldn't fit and you had to exchange them or give them the money back. Uh, then you should make the decis--- you should be sure that everything worked, that everything fit uh, and so uh -- that they wouldn't have to come back. And that was deducted from your next month's uh, uh, sales uh, g--goal. So if you had seventeen hundred dollars, and you had a hundred dollars returned, you had 00:19:00to sell eighteen hundred dollars to break even. So it, that taught you some good lessons.

BIRDWHISTELL: But I suspect -- tell me if I'm wrong, I suspect you enjoyed that out there with the public.

FORD: Oh, I always have.

BIRDWHISTELL: When people came in, you were there --

FORD: Always have. I mean a lot of people I knew, they came in from the eastern part of the county where I lived and uh, uh, at that time. J.C. Penney was the biggest thing downtown. And uh, we had two floors and uh, you could just see -- and you'd see the mothers and the fathers of the students at uh, County High School. You recognized them and you'd get to see them. And the boys department -- it was -- I stayed mostly in the -- in the shoe department and the boys department and suits and so forth and work clothes. The uh -- and I got acquainted with a lot of people, still very -- one or two people are still living that uh, worked at J.C. Penney same time I did. And uh, they're -- 00:20:00still have a good retirement. Uh, Mr. Penney uh, had a good retirement for his people and uh, basically it worked very well.

BIRDWHISTELL: Do you remember the names of those people --------(??)

FORD: --(coughs)-- No, I don't. I can't -- this woman lives on uh --

BIRDWHISTELL: I'll get that --

FORD: -- fairly close to me and uh -- oh shoot--

BIRDWHISTELL: I'll get it from you later. We can pick those up -- might be somebody we'd want to put on our list to interview. Uh, now, in addition to selling shoes and clothes, you were, you were known to sometimes go up to the business office, as I understand it.

FORD: Yeah, I went up there to uh, uh --

BIRDWHISTELL: Now, was that on official business?

FORD: Well, --------(??) I had to make it look official. That's where I found my wife.

BIRDWHISTELL: Somebody by the name of Jean Neel was working there. Is that right?

FORD: That's right. And Pauline Riddle. --(Birdwhistell laughs)-- Uh, she was part of the Riddle family that lived out near uh -- closer to Maceo than 00:21:00Thruston. And Pauline knew me and knew our family, and her brother, uh, Tootsie, was one of the boys that was such a good basketball player at Daviess County High School. And uh -- but uh, when I asked her if she'd like to go out and get a hotdog and a Coke one day at lunch, she said she'd let me know,--(Birdwhistell laughs)-- and Pauline Riddle, bless her heart, uh, said to Jean, said, "He -- He's a nice boy and he comes from a nice family and I think it would be all right for you to go out and have a hotdog and a Coke with him." And so uh, we uh, went out that day at lunch and I never dated any other woman after that.

BIRDWHISTELL: Is that right? Now, were you pretty uh, uh, pretty cool about all of this, or was that -- was that a difficult thing for you to go up to somebody like that?

FORD: Well, I don't know whether it was difficult. I wanted to do it, so when he -- I might have been clumsy about it, like a lot of folks that uh --


BIRDWHISTELL: You didn't have to sit around and think about it --

FORD: No, no. I --

BIRDWHISTELL: Once you made up your mind --

FORD: -- I made up my mind to do it and uh, I may have been clumsy, but I made it work.

BIRDWHISTELL: I brought you a little picture here. Do you remember that from the book on the history of Daviess County --

FORD: Yeah.

BIRDWHISTELL: -- the day you-all got married.

FORD: That's right. And that suit cost me sixty dollars. --(Birdwhistell laughs)-- It was tailor-made. I bought it from The Toggery. It's a three-piece suit and uh, because of a shortage of material, uh, I couldn't have pleats in my pants. They had to be straight. And so, yeah, that was -- Mr. Mercer made that picture and -- where did you get all these?

BIRDWHISTELL: This is, this is from the History of uh, Daviess County. We have them in the library there. I think it's a nice picture. And then, of course, later, a picture of you and your family when you're governor --


FORD: Right there --------(??) I believe that was lieutenant governor. Was it governor?

BIRDWHISTELL: It says "Kentucky governor". It could be when you're lieutenant governor. I think you might be right.

FORD: Because my daughter had been -- was married uh, in the lieutenant governor's mansion --

BIRDWHISTELL: Okay so that --

FORD: -- she was -- I think this is the lieutenant governor's mansion, in the, the living room.

BIRDWHISTELL: Uh-huh. But I --(Ford coughs)--I like the -- I like the wedding picture.

FORD: Yeah, that was --

BIRDWHISTELL: Nice couple.

FORD: Well, we went down to the -- couldn't set up at home, you know. We had to go down to the studio to have our picture made that night, so --

BIRDWHISTELL: Of course, I don't want to get ahead of myself here. So you had your uh -- had your date, lunch date with -- got out and got a hotdog and -- and a Coke, and of course as you said, you didn't date anyone else after that, but at the end of that summer, you -- you went ahead and enrolled at the University of Kentucky and came up to UK, I would assume, sometime after Labor 00:24:00Day in the --

FORD: That's then, yes.

BIRDWHISTELL: -- in the fall of uh, 1942.

FORD: Right.

BIRDWHISTELL: And I wanted to just find out sort of, uh --(Ford coughs)-- what some of your initial impressions were of uh, college, and your initial experiences at UK.

FORD: Well, I rode up here on a bus that got in here four o'clock in the morning. I slept at the bus station.

BIRDWHISTELL: Oh, gosh. --(laughs)--

FORD: And I really didn't know what to do. I didn't have uh -- wasn't connected well, and so I went to the Calvary Baptist Church, and I forget who the pastor was that night -- that day -- and asked them about uh, if they had any recommendations for a place I could stay, all those sort of things.

BIRDWHISTELL: So you didn't have any idea --------(??)

FORD: Didn't have any idea --

BIRDWHISTELL: -- and you had your suitcase --

FORD: I had a suitcase and a hat and that's all I had; and the desire, and uh, some money to pay for rent and my tuition. And uh, I stayed with Mrs. 00:25:00Costello, right across from the old Good Samaritan Hospital, and we shared rooms. We had -- she had two, uh, two students in several rooms there and she gave us three meals a day.

BIRDWHISTELL: Now, is that on Limestone?

FORD: Yes, sir.

BIRDWHISTELL: So you'd been right over in that -- where the parking lot is?

FORD: Right. And uh, I think the house has been -- or is -- has been destroyed now.

BIRDWHISTELL: Corner of Lime and, and Maxwell?

FORD: Right. That's it.


FORD: So we uh -- she even fried bologna to make it taste good, and so it was -- and the boy I sle--- roo--- shared a room with, he worked uh, his way through school and he was working for Western Union, and he'd have to get up at four o'clock in the morning to go down to Western Union and work several hours early in the morning.

BIRDWHISTELL: What was his name?

FORD: I can't -- I wish -- I -- I can't think of it. I will before we get through here.

BIRDWHISTELL: That's all right.

FORD: And then I went to work, I think, at Swift Creamery downtown 00:26:00here. And they made ice cream. And I made the ice cream, dumped-- I wasn't bigger than a peanut--(Birdwhistell laughs)-- and I was dumping a hundred and twenty-five pound cans of cream to make ice cream, and then I painted -- they had a big sign up on the back --I was kind of a jack of all trades --and I painted the back of the big sign on the roof, and uh -- to try to make a little money in addition to going to school. I had to have it. And I sent my laundry home to my mother.

BIRDWHISTELL: Uh-huh. So when you went to the Calvary Church, they said go up and see Miss Costello?

FORD: They called her and asked her if she had any space left.

BIRDWHISTELL: So you're down at the bus -- you went -- from the bus station, you went to the Calvary Baptist Church --

FORD: Calvary Baptist Church --

BIRDWHISTELL: -- you got the -- they called her and they said, she said come on over.

FORD: Said we got a wandering boy here --(laughs)--from Daviess County. He's lost and needs help.

BIRDWHISTELL: She said send him on.

FORD: So said send him on down here. So I walked up there and, uh, uh, 00:27:00she told me what she had and uh, the uh -- I -- I stayed with her, I believe -- I'm not sure, Doctor, but I believe I paid her a dollar a day for a room and board. And uh, as I say, she made bologna taste awful good. She'd fry it in a skillet.

BIRDWHISTELL: --(laughs)--So you got the -- she said come on in, you got yourself unpacked, settled in your room, and then at some point, you had to walk over to the campus --

FORD: Yeah.

BIRDWHISTELL: -- and get registered.

FORD: Right.

BIRDWHISTELL: How'd that go?

FORD: Oh, it went fine. There was not uh -- not as crowded as it is today, and was more uh -- wasn't all computers and so forth and you had your papers with you, and you'd already been accepted and uh, so uh -- it wasn't hard to get accepted back then --(laughs)--and uh, or I probably wouldn't have made it, but uh, the uh -- I signed up and got my classes and ROTC. History was a 00:28:00tough uh, uh, class for me.

BIRDWHISTELL: Who'd you have, do you know?

FORD: I wouldn't have the slightest idea. That's been fifty years --

BIRDWHISTELL: Oh, I know, I'm --

FORD: -- I couldn't tell you --

BIRDWHISTELL: -- I'm not being fair today. I'm asking you to name some names and that's hard.

FORD: Yeah, that's about like asking me how much I weighed when I was born. I don't know. --(Birdwhistell laughs)-- But -- it was uh -- I didn't stay very long. And I got some classes and maybe got my -- went through the first semester and uh, then everything kind of went under at home. Didn't have anybody to raise crops and that sort of thing, so I went back home and uh, tried to check -- see when my name or number would come up as far as being drafted, and I went ahead and started a crop for -- for uh, uh -- 1943, I guess.

BIRDWHISTELL: Yeah, be the spring of `43.

FORD: Yeah. And uh, we put out our tobacco, our corn, and our soybeans and we were milking about thirty, thirty-five cows and uh, so moving right 00:29:00along. And then uh, they notified me that my name was coming up and uh, they uh, under the circumstances, gave me some time to get rid of my crops, and so I sold tobacco still in the field, and corn that hadn't been picked to -- my part of it, and uh, then they drafted me. During that time, I got married, in September. And --

BIRDWHISTELL: Was there any -- did you ever give any thought that uh -- that fall when you came to UK of not coming to UK and just going ahead and enlisting in the -- in the service? Or did you want to try and get as far along on things as you could before you --------(??)

FORD: Well it was -- we were right on the edge. You didn't know exactly that you would be drafted -- I was only eighteen -- whether you would be drafted or not. And uh, I, I felt like that -- under the circumstances, I might 00:30:00as well get as much education as I could and I -- I was expected to go into business with my father and he expected me to do that and I wanted to farm too, so I was torn between the two choices. And uh, so uh, we uh, went ahead with it, but it just didn't work. It was uh -- we were not well off financially and it was uh, tough for Dad to help with money and I was trying to help as much as I could, and when you were working and you were worried about everything, it just uh -- maybe I -- maybe I wasn't capable of it, didn't have -- wasn't organized well enough in my own mind to -- to do it. But uh, I had some other things that I wanted to do and it didn't --

BIRDWHISTELL: Sure. So that was a -- before we get you back to Daviess County, 00:31:00that, that semester you spent here must have been an interesting semester.

FORD: Oh, it was. --(laughs)--We uh-- everybody was worried about being drafted and uh, that was the talk of the campus and --

BIRDWHISTELL: The number of men was coming down --

FORD: Yes, very much so and uh, I think that a lot of those were just uh -- they kind of gave up and -- and it's a sad thing too that uh -- but a lot of them after -- that survived came back, uh, went back to school.


FORD: And that's the reason you find the graduating class so much older back then. And uh, I guess `47, the late `40s, early `50s you find a higher uh, age group graduating. And, of course uh, G.I. Bill helped a lot to go to school, and --

BIRDWHISTELL: But I think you said some important things about trying to put this in a context, you know. That when you -- when you came to UK, I mean -- you know, your parents didn't drive up here in a big car and drop you off in front of the administration building. You know, --(Ford laughs)--I think that 00:32:00it's important to keep this in some perspective. And, you know, your girlfriend was at home, your father was -- had all these pressures on him there, and I assume that they weren't able to give you a lot of money --

FORD: No, I --

BIRDWHISTELL: -- for school.

FORD: -- Dad was uh -- Dad was -- as generous with us as he possibly could be.

BIRDWHISTELL: Did he cover your tuition?

FORD: Oh, yeah. --(coughs)--


FORD: And the rest of it was basically mine and uh,what little money I had I used to, to pay my room and board, and uh, to buy what books were necessary.

BIRDWHISTELL: How did you get the job at the Swift Creamery? Did you --

FORD: Just applied. Found out --

BIRDWHISTELL: You heard about it --

FORD: -- just heard about it and went down there and uh, put in my application. I think it was thirty-five cents an hour or something like that. It wasn't any big salary, but you'd go down there and work a few hours and make two or three dollars and that went a long way. That was three days of room and board.


BIRDWHISTELL: Yeah. --(laughs)-- Did you -- did you go home much during that semester?

FORD: No. No. I just -- very difficult to go home. If I went home, I hitchhiked and uh, you'd hitchhike and then you have to worry about whether you're gonna get back in time for class.

BIRDWHISTELL: Did you write to Mrs. Ford?

FORD: Oh, well I wrote to her fairly often. Not -- not a great deal. I wasn't much of a letter writer then, and never have been. --(Birdwhistell laughs)-- And uh, In fact, I -- I'm not sure that I wrote as much -- well I know I didn't write as much as I should, particularly to my mother. But my dad was a faithful writer. You could always depend on his letter. He'd sit down and write me a letter over the weekend, maybe a Saturday or Sunday. And I'd always have it on Mon-, on Wednesday. And mother would put a little note in with his and uh -- and they did that while I was in service too.

BIRDWHISTELL: Have you got any of those letters?

FORD: Oh, I've got most of 'em I think.

BIRDWHISTELL: Okay. Good. That's good.

FORD: I have most of 'em.


BIRDWHISTELL: You know, those letters that I've read of -- when people were in college or in the military, where their parents wrote often, those are wonderful to --

FORD: It's -- it's uh --

BIRDWHISTELL: -- look back on.

FORD: At the time they meant a great deal, and I think they mean a great deal more now than they did then.

BIRDWHISTELL: --------(??) So you -- you made it through the first semester and -- and as you've indicated, even as you finished your high school career, so many questions and so many things pulling you in different directions, and so you just made the decision sometime during this semester that -- well, I'll just go home and, and work the farm.

FORD: Just take -- just take my best shot. And --

BIRDWHISTELL: Um-hm. How'd your parents react to that?

FORD: Uh, I think they felt like it was the right decision, uh. Dad particularly. I think mother was glad to have me around the house because uh, 00:35:00Dad, working in town trying to make a living, and Mother uh, doing the chores around the farm, around the farmhouse, and they are many as you know, and uh, I was then there -- she had two children to help, but uh, I was a little older and a little bigger and -- not much, but uh, she had another hand there to -- that was not going anywhere. You know, I wasn't leaving in the morning, coming back at night. I was there with her all day long and I -- and she uh -- she was -- she had something to do too. She always, about the middle of the morning, you'd see her coming across the field where I'm breaking ground or plowing corn or whatever it might be, to bring me a quart jar of lemonade or something like that. She always -- never -- never let us falter one iota as far as having support. Now we might falter because we weren't strong enough or not uh, 00:36:00willing to do it, but as far as having support, we never lacked any of that from Mother or Dad in different ways. And Uh, Mother, for personal support, and Dad uh, material support, and both of 'em loved us very much and we loved them very much.

BIRDWHISTELL: Yeah. Now later on, in an article I read, Mrs. Ford uh, was quoted as saying that, quote, "He didn't stay there as long as he should because of the war and me." Meaning you came back --

FORD: From U.K. --(laughs)-- that's right. Well, the war and me, I think, she put that -- that's true. And yeah, I -- I'd say that's exactly right. Uh, I wanted to be closer to her and uh, because of the war, we weren't sure it was the right thing to do to get married --


FORD: -- and uh--

BIRDWHISTELL: Tough decision.

FORD: -- but it was a tough decision and we just decided that if we 00:37:00loved each other, we'd have some time together and uh --

BIRDWHISTELL: A lot of people made that decision.

FORD: Yeah, they sure did and uh --

BIRDWHISTELL: -- going -- to go ahead and get married.

FORD: Yeah, and -- and we weren't alone. We uh -- a good many of our friends did the same thing, and uh, we were fortunate enough to be able to survive it and uh, now having uh -- on this date, we'll soon be married fifty-one years.

BIRDWHISTELL: Tell me about uh, Jean Neel before you got married. What was she like? How would you describe her?

FORD: Hm. Uh, she was a, a better organized uh, person than I was myself. Uh, she was uh, one that was uh -- could do for herself. She didn't have to ask a lot of people. She was not only able to work, uh, but she uh -- she learned to do a lot of things like needlework. She makes her own clothes, 00:38:00and to this day, she makes clothes for her grandchildren --


FORD: -- the girls need some kind of special outfit or uniform or something for school uh, they get the material and bring it to grandmother and grandmother will make it and sometimes she takes it back to Washington with her. We have a sewing machine at both places and uh -- so she uh, has the measurements and everything and she'll take it back on a weekend and make it during the week and bring it back the next weekend if they're not in a hurry. Or she uh -- she does lots of things -- quilting -- you -- you just name it and anything you can do with a needle and thread uh, Mrs. Ford is very, very good at all of it.


FORD: So she was very well organized and -- she wasn't anybody that uh, was demanding or uh, wanted any kind of special treatment, uh. She uh -- she 00:39:00was always willing to do her part if I can use that term.

BIRDWHISTELL: When you-all were -- back when you-all were young and -- and dating and courting, did you -- what type of interests did you share at that -- at that point in your lives? Obviously over the years, you've developed many mutual interests --(Ford coughs)-- but what were they then that sort of attracted you-all to one another?

FORD: Oh, I don't uh, think that uh, we were -- I think we were quieter, maybe, than uh -- if I can use that term -- than others. We uh, uh, liked to be with each other. We liked to talk to each other uh, uh, and we liked to go to a movie together. 'Course back then, you could -- for thirty cents you could go to the movie, have popcorn and a Coca-Cola, you know, --(Birdwhistell laughs)-- so even though thirty cents was hard to come by sometimes, put a couple gallons of gasoline in the car at about eleven or twelve cents a gallon -- so for a dollar, you could have a date and uh -- but you 00:40:00didn't go anywhere. But you'd go out and get a Coca-Cola and sit there and talk and then we uh, found a lot of things that we uh -- in chatting that we liked and it uh -- she was interested in -- in things I was interested in, too, and at least she made me feel like it, and I guess that's the biggest part of it. We uh -- far as having a -- the hobbies uh, the same, why uh, she -- took her fishing once or twice and that was the end of it. --(Birdwhistell laughs)-- She didn't particularly like that at all. And uh, one, I remember one time we went to Carpenters Lake there near home and I was fishing and she was sitting up there in the end of the boat knitting. And so at -- she didn't particularly like it. She'd go, you know, but uh, she just didn't care about catching fish and uh, I didn't care anything about needlework, so uh -- but she's always said 00:41:00the needle has been her therapy, having living -- having to live with a politician.

BIRDWHISTELL: Yeah, now that -- that's something else I read. She's been quoted as saying that uh, at the time you-all got married, you didn't warn her about this political life.

FORD: No, --(Birdwhistell laughs)-- and I didn't know about that political life then either. --(both laugh)-- So when I came back, I was just uh, interested in uh, going to work and making a living and having a family, and she was too.

BIRDWHISTELL: So when you-all got -- before you-all got married, you didn't say, "Now Jean, I gotta warn you, I'm gonna be governor."

FORD: No, and I didn't know it either. --(Birdwhistell laughs)-- So -- fact, I had no interest basically in politics. My father, uh, of course, was interested in politics, and uh, he liked dealing with people. And one of the things that -- that kind of turned me off of politics, saw so many people coming in asking for things. And a lot of things they wanted that were right, that he couldn't produce -- they just -- wasn't available. You know, new roads or, or 00:42:00something like that. And it'd take awhile to do it and they seemed like they'd come in and ask Dad for it, he ought to be able to do it right then. And it just wasn't in the cards. And it isn't today. Uh, so I -- I was kind of turned off of politics and I worked awful hard in his last race in which he was defeated and uh, uh, it hurt me more than it hurt him, I think. At least obvious in -- in that race. And so uh, uh, being political was not in the cards for me as such. But uh, uh, the uh, activity and civic endeavors, uh, you know, it was -- the bond issue for the new airport, building a municipal golf course that we didn't have, uh, trying to help with the March of Dimes, those sort of 00:43:00things appealed to me.


FORD: And uh, I got active and 'course uh -- went very far in the Jaycees, which I'm very proud of, and uh, that's when local people encouraged me to run for politics. Said we need somebody that's interested in local issues: sewer, uh, water, uh, sports center, uh, things like that uh, that we didn't have in the community. And -- and kind of encouraged me to run. And that's how I got in, not because I was trying to be politically oriented or -- as far as running for office. I was encouraged to run for office and had been reluctant to seek a higher office until things -- until I proved myself in the office in which I was in.

[End Tape #1, Side #1]

[Begin Tape #1, Side #2]

BIRDWHISTELL: The uh -- the election your father lost, that was 1945?


FORD: I believe that's right, `45 -- forty- -- no, I'm not sure what it was.

BIRDWHISTELL: Ah --------(??)

FORD: I don't believe I was -- I don't believe I -- I'm not sure what year it was. See, I thought he ran in `44 and won. I was in Ft. Hood, Texas on that one.

BIRDWHISTELL: Uh-huh. His opponents were Dr. O. V. Brown and Douglas Bowling?

FORD: Yeah, Daddy won that one.

BIRDWHISTELL: Okay. He won the primary -- okay.

FORD: Yeah. Yeah, he won that one. E. W. Richmond -- which one -- do you have E. W. Richmond there?

BIRDWHISTELL: Let's see -- I -- I didn't have my notes out on that --

FORD: But that's all right.


FORD: But uh, that's -- that's the one he lost.


FORD: Yeah. And I think that's after I came back.

BIRDWHISTELL: That would have been after that?

FORD: Yeah. Um-hm.

BIRDWHISTELL: Tell me, you know -- I want to follow up. You said it -- you thought it hurt you more than it did him. In what ways did that -- did that loss hurt you?

FORD: Well, I just felt like daddy had worked so hard, and he'd had major surgery uh, during the summer. And uh, he was out of circulation and 00:45:00couldn't campaign, and I think that hurt. But he never gave up, and he never whimpered about the loss, and that proved to me, later in life that uh, if you're gonna get into politics, you're gonna run for office, you have to be prepared for defeat. And he was. And uh,so uh, uh, I have tapes of uh, speeches that he made --


FORD: -- during his last race. And how important they were, and Dad uh-- Dad was prepared for that defeat. I don't think he wanted it, but I was not. And uh, I went out and worked at grocery stores and Dad had been out with this major surgery and hadn't been able to campaign and he was making a surge. He was coming back, he was beginning to -- people were beginning to talk and it looked like he was going to win, but uh, it was just the appearance, and uh, the 00:46:00other fellow was so far ahead he couldn't catch him. And uh, so I, I learned a lot and uh, during that period of time, Clyde Watson, a fellow that understood politics very well, worked uh, for -- oh -- who was the fella that was in the senate from here? Was killed in an automobile accident?

BIRDWHISTELL: [Virgil] Chapman?

FORD: Chapman, yeah. He was -- he worked for Virgil Chapman in the uh -- in Washington, and uh, we were counting votes at the courthouse and uh, my dad was county chairman of the -- Democratic County Chairman, and Clyde Watson came from the telephone and said [Alben] Barkley -- John Sherman Cooper meet -- beat uh, Barkley seventeen hundred votes in Jefferson County. And that means he'll win by seventy-five thousand. Barkley would win by seventy-five thousand. Well, if you lost Jefferson County, how could win the rest -- by seventy-five 00:47:00thousand? So then I found out looking the next day how well he ran in west Kentucky and other places and if you could hold your opponent to that kind of victory in Jefferson County, that meant the other votes -- you -- you'd get major turnout there and win by a large majority. So I got an, an appreciation of uh,state-wide politics and the areas which would be Republican and the areas which would be uh, Democrat. So uh…

BIRDWHISTELL: Wow that's a big-- a lesson for you.

FORD: Yeah it was. You -- you -- you got to understand, and I was Barkley's county chairman, along with Calvin Ray Robinson -- we were young uh, and had a lot of help, but we were his co-chairmen. And Barkley came in, we had a big caravan into the courthouse and all that. So I was very interested in Barkley winning. And uh, uh, Barkley uh, won that race handsomely and it was between seventy-five and eighty thousand. And I felt good about it, but I was 00:48:00very concerned when they announced that Barkley had lost Jefferson County by seventeen hundred. But in the next breath, they said he'll win by seventy-five thousand. I couldn't figure that out quite clearly, but I got the appreciation of state-wide politics that night.

BIRDWHISTELL: Yeah. --(laughs)--When you listen to the tapes of your father's speeches, do you sound -- do you-all sound alike in your speeches at all?

FORD: Well I'm not sure. Maybe. They say I look a little bit like my father, and the older I get, the more I look like him. I'd say the older I get the smarter he becomes. And I'm almost seventy and he -- (both laugh)-- he --

BIRDWHISTELL: He's looking brilliant? --(laughs)--

FORD: He's looking brilliant, yes. --(laughs)--uh, I'd say some, uh. The tape and the quality of tape back in the 40's, late 40's is not quite what it is today.

BIRDWHISTELL: I'm so glad you have that, though.

FORD: Yeah, I am too, and uh, we -- my brother gave me a collage, it's 00:49:00in a big frame, of Daddy's uh, uh, political uh, or campaign material. Like fans and cards and things of that nature on one side, and then he has mine on the other side. Where you didn't use bumper stickers back in those days. You do now. So I had bumper stickers and Dad's picture was made on the steps going up to the third floor on the House side in a tan suit. And I never could understand why my brother wanted me to have my picture made and he said I'd like for you to have your picture made in a tan suit standing on the stairs going up to the House side uh, in the Capitol building.


FORD: Well, I did and we sent him the picture and uh, lo and behold, he had dad's picture standing basically in the same place wearing a tan summer suit, and there -- and me over there, so kind of parallel what Dad did and my 00:50:00brother's --

BIRDWHISTELL: That's nice.

FORD: -- been very good. He's -- he's suffered through a whole lot. They come to him to get to me --(both laugh)-- you know. They think he'd just pick up a phone and talk to me anytime.

BIRDWHISTELL: I understand. I understand.

FORD: Yeah.

BIRDWHISTELL: Well, you know, when I was listening to you talk about your father's defeat, you know, how he was coming back and you thought he was going to win but he still lost, and 'course what popped in my mind, Senator Ford, is that one of the things they say about Senator Ford running for office is that it doesn't matter how far ahead he is, he runs like the -- like he's uh --

FORD: Behind.

BIRDWHISTELL: -- behind. Now does any of that relate to that earlier --

FORD: Sure. It does. No question about it. And I've never uh, felt like that uh, people appreciate you laying -- sitting on your laurels. If you want the office, uh, you oughta be willing to work for it. And I think it's important to let people know that you work just as hard when you're supposed to 00:51:00win as when, maybe, you're gonna have a tough race. And so I've worked very hard and uh, some of that uh, has helped me I guess in the races after the governor's race, particularly in the senate race, that uh, they know that -- no one will out-work me and uh, probably not raise any more money which is uh, the mother's milk of politics anymore you know, and I want to get away from that if we can with campaign finance reform. But uh --

BIRDWHISTELL: But when that was the rule, you -- no one did it much better than you did.

FORD: I -- I -- and I -- I don't believe that anybody could work more than twenty hours a day and survive the campaign. That's what I did. And even in the campaign that I -- I guess this last campaign, I got more votes than any state-wide candidate's ever received and uh, I worked just as hard, day and 00:52:00night. We had schedules where they had caravans and going from county seat to county seat, uh, all day long and having breakfast in the morning and -- with a group, and going all day. Lunch with somebody and all afternoon and dinner with somebody, and then drive to the next town where you're gonna start the next morning and get up and be ready to go.

BIRDWHISTELL: You know, I was also thinking about that -- that cam- -- that race, that election that now seems so pivotal in your political career, of what you heard about Barkley in -- in Louisville and Jefferson County and if I recall correctly, you had some pretty good strategies for dealing with Jefferson County and Louisville when you were running for uh --

FORD: Governor in particular.

BIRDWHISTELL: --(laughs)-- And I'm -- is that right?

FORD: That's right, uh.

BIRDWHISTELL: Does this go back to wanting to figure out that rural urban base?

FORD: Yeah, it's true. And Louisville casts about one-third of all the votes in the state. Uh, whether people want to admit it or not, Louisville uh, 00:53:00and Lexington uh, are very important to the rest of the state, and uh, you shouldn't take them for granted. And knowing -- having people my age in Louisville that I had worked with for a long time, there were a little bit tired of Frankfort telling Louisville what was good for 'em. They wanted Louisville to be able to tell Frankfort what was good for Louisville. And so uh, I decided I'd go around to all the areas in Louisville and sit down with people. We had professors, uh, deans from the University of Louisville, had one little group uh -- we went out into the west end and talked to groups there uh -- all over the city. In people's basements, we'd get together and have little dens down there, 00:54:00you know. We'd sit around the basement and talk about issues, and so I worked out a platform for uh Louisville and Jefferson County. Had twenty-two items as I recall and this is what the people told me Louisville and Jefferson County wanted. And so I pledged to them that uh, during my four years as governor, I would do the best I could to see that all twenty-two of 'em were completed. And so that was, in essence, Louisville telling Frankfort what was good for Louisville, and uh, Frankfort accepting that with Wendell Ford as governor. And we tried to carry out all those. --(coughs)-- And Doctor, I'm not sure but I believe that of those twenty-two, we completed twenty-one of 'em.


FORD: And then the new hotel downtown and the parking center and a lot of other things. The beginning of the convention center, uh, the uh, work out 00:55:00at the fairgrounds to improve that all started then. And so it uh -- I think it was the right thing to do, and then uh, we had individuals endorse me as a result of that, and I had eighteen of the so-called district chairmen in Jefferson County endorse me, not as the chairmen but as individuals. And I think that's when the other side found out that they were in a race. They thought I was not in the race. --(Birdwhistell laughs)-- But when I did that, then they knew that uh, uh, there was a race.

BIRDWHISTELL: So if your biographer --(Ford coughs)-- concludes that some of this goes back to that early period when you were looking at Barkley's campaigns uh, and the elections in the 1940's, would you -- would you agree with your 00:56:00biographer on that?

FORD: Yes. That uh-- that uh -- that taught me a lot. And uh-- about campaigning and then about state-wide, and I got a picture -- it was the next day. I was at the newspaper with -- looking at where the votes came and how -- who got 'em and where in the counties and so forth, and I realized factually then why the statement was that Barkley would win because you start looking at the First District, which they call the Gib--Gibraltar of the Democratic Party. And uh…

BIRDWHISTELL: Right. And build from there.

FORD: And build from there.

BIRDWHISTELL: We're about to run out of time. I want to go back to the -- the time you were getting married, and then -- Mrs. Ford -- when you returned to work on the farm, was she still working at Penney's?

FORD: Yes, uh-huh.

BIRDWHISTELL: And was she living there in Owensboro --

FORD: Yes.

BIRDWHISTELL: -- somewhere in, like, a boarding house situation?

FORD: No, no. No, no. No, no. She was living with her parents.

BIRDWHISTELL: Living with her parents, then.

FORD: Yeah, her parents lived -- her father worked for L & N Railroad.


BIRDWHISTELL: That's right, okay. So she was living --

FORD: And when we got married, we moved to the country and uh, she drove from there in town every day to work at J. C. Penney's until I was uh, drafted. And then I went to Ft. Hood and uh, it was Camp Hood at that time and there's a Mrs. Ormond that had some relatives in Owensboro that we knew, and she had uh, rooms in her home in uh, Temple. Temple, Texas. And so we got a bedroom with kitchen privileges there and Jean put in her application with J. C. Penney and with her experience, they hired her right away.


FORD: So uh --

BIRDWHISTELL: I wondered how you-all worked that out.

FORD: -- so she worked at uh -- she went with me, and uh, uh, uh-- during basic training, I got to ride that school bus in on Friday night and -- 00:58:00or Saturday night and had to go back out at three o'clock on Monday morning. Uh, yo--the only time I ever learned to sleep over the rear wheels of the school bus. --(Birdwhistell laughs)-- --(coughs)-- But she worked there and found uh, uh -- made a lot of friends. McCloskey General Hospital was there and 'course many of those that were injured in the mil-, in the service, either overseas or in the continental, uh, were sent to McCloskey Hospital for rehab.

BIRDWHISTELL: Before you-all get to the Army though, you're -- you're in -- y--you're farming. You're back and you're farming. Talked to me -- told me how you put in the crops and -- and uh, you know you're trying to do the best you can in that situation and still the future's uncertain and -- and you and uh, Mrs. Ford are -- are still dating and trying to make your plans, uh. And I would 00:59:00assume, then, that you-all had some long conversations trying to decide what would be best for both of you's future if you --

FORD: Yeah, I think you can -- you can say that's true. --(laughs)--

BIRDWHISTELL: Yeah. Yeah. And as we said, it was a -- it was hard -- you couldn't -- you couldn't anticipate what was going to happen.


BIRDWHISTELL: So you-all just decided that that's what you wanted to do. You're gonna get married.

FORD: That's correct.

BIRDWHISTELL: And then your-all's parents --

FORD: Agreed.

BIRDWHISTELL: -- all thought was a good idea.

FORD: Oh, yeah, they thought it was a good idea. I -- my parents were so tickled that I found a nice girl, --(both laugh)-- you know. A lovely young lady and they were just overjoyed with it and --

BIRDWHISTELL: What about her parents?

FORD: I think -- I think her parents were -- were satisfied and I think after several years, were surprised. --(both laugh)--

BIRDWHISTELL: Did better than they anticipated?

FORD: Yeah, and -- her -- her parents had their fiftieth wedding 01:00:00anniversary in the mansion.


FORD: And so uh, we had a nice little celebration. Had all the family in and uh, so it was something they wouldn't have gotten otherwise. So it -- but little things like that you do are meaningful and important, I think.

BIRDWHISTELL: And of course we talked earlier about uh, Reverend --

FORD: Yelldell.

BIRDWHISTELL: -- Yelldell who had lived in -- who had stayed with your family --

FORD: That's right.

BIRDWHISTELL: -- and performed his first marriage and forgot to say, "Who giveth this woman in marriage?" --(Birdwhistell laughs)-- And I always told dad if he ever got on me about I wasn't doing right, I'd just let him have her back 'cause he never gave her away. And we had --(Birdwhistell laughs)-- had a --

BIRDWHISTELL: What about your honeymoon? Did you-all take a trip?

FORD: Oh yeah. We went to Henderson, to Louisville, and back to Owensboro.


FORD: Oh yeah, we --

BIRDWHISTELL: Made the circuit.

FORD: -- we made the circuit. --(Birdwhistell laughs)-- It was -- it was -- we --

BIRDWHISTELL: You were on rationing cards, then?

FORD: Yeah, well, we had the -- enough. We'd saved enough to uh, make 01:01:00the trip and uh, it was -- we had "A" cards which is not very much gasoline, but we saved up enough to drive to Henderson and then we drove the next day up to Louisville and went sightseeing around Louisville and spent the night there and then came on to Owensboro. So it uh -- I guess under the circumstances, it was a pretty good honeymoon as far as traveling was concerned. It worked out fine.

BIRDWHISTELL: That's great. That's great. Now when you -- you say you moved out to the farm. Now did you-all have your own house on the farm?

FORD: No. We stayed uh -- we had a huge farm home, and uh, Jean and I had the upstairs and uh, it was a big -- really, this old home was uh, uh -- 01:02:00rooms were twenty by twenty with twelve foot ceilings, and the walls were solid brick. And it was a home that -- slave quarters down in the uh, corner where we were getting ready to make a tennis court and ran into the foundation and looked up the history and that was the quarters for the so-called slaves that were working on the farm back in those days. So it uh … we --(coughs)-- we had -- and the house was so big we had our own privacy and uh, our heat was Warm Morning Stove. I think it was called Warm Morning. Yeah, we were -- and she -- we had -- we had our own bath upstairs and that sort of thing. And we were -- we were --

BIRDWHISTELL: That worked out pretty good.

FORD: Worked out pretty well, and Mother thought the world and all of Jean, and they got along fine. And so uh -- and she would -- I'd go -- I'd get 01:03:00up at four o'clock, you know, and go milk. And get back up by the time she was up and ready to go to work and she'd drive to town and then come back in the evening. About the time get back, I'd have to go milk cows again. --(laughs)--

BIRDWHISTELL: You and those cows.

FORD: Yeah, she would --------(??) yeah. But uh, her first -- her engagement ring and the wedding band uh, came from the sale of a cow and a calf. That's --

BIRDWHISTELL: Is that right?

FORD: Yeah, that was a Guernsey. And we -- I was into Guernseys when I was on the farm.

BIRDWHISTELL: So you came back from U.K., you put -- you got your crops in, in the spring of `43, and then you got married in the fall of `43, in September.

FORD: Yeah.

BIRDWHISTELL: Now how long did you have from that September eighteenth until you went to the Army in `44?

FORD: June, I think.

BIRDWHISTELL: Okay, September --

FORD: Yeah, I got the next crop in.

BIRDWHISTELL: You got the next crop in. That's the one you had to sell earlier.

FORD: That's right, had to sell and uh, uh -- I got it in and 01:04:00everything and uh, uh, my name came up and I -- they gave me, I think -- seemed like to be a couple of weeks or something to get rid of it and they were -- notified us of the date we'd go and so that gave me some time to uh, sell and I sold my tobacco crop, my half for ten dollars. My corn for five. Sold my daddy my white shirts for two dollars apiece. They were hard to come by. And somebody stole 'em --(laughs)--out of his car.


FORD: Yeah. And it had -- all of those little things that happen.

BIRDWHISTELL: Yeah. How had you changed from the time of -- going back to what we had started talking about in terms of hearing about Pearl Harbor and knowing the war was coming -- 'course so many things had happened to you by the time that you got your notice, uh, how did you -- how had you changed in terms of thinking about the war, and thinking about what you were getting ready to do.

FORD: I was just uh -- I guess, I'm not sure, Doctor how that -- how I 01:05:00--what I was thinking at that time. The two things that I can recall is, I was worried about uh, going to service, as we all were.


FORD: And that uh -- I was prepared to go; there's no question about that. When they called me, I was ready to go. I didn't have any feeling about not wanting to go. 'Course -- or -- or trying to prevent them from drafting me, but uh,the other part of it was whether you should get married or not. And beyond that, I'm not -- I doubt seriously that I had thought more about the future. And it was almost immediate and when you get into the sort of thing we had in World War II, you really thought day to day. I'm not sure you thought 01:06:00long-term. At least I didn't.

BIRDWHISTELL: Yeah. Had--during the time -- the time you uh, came back to Owensboro during the war, was the war changing Owensboro? Was there more activity, more industry coming to Owensboro?

FORD: I -- I think that -- I'm not sure about that, but there -- there was a lot of work to be done and a lot of military work, particularly at Evansville.

BIRDWHISTELL: Okay, so --------(??)

FORD: And they were working twenty-four hours a day. We had General Electric that was making tubes. There was Kenrad at the time, and they were making -- and then purchased by General Electric -- and they were working twenty-four hours a day. So uh, the job opportunities were there and people were making -- at that time, awful good money as they would say. And uh, the uh -- the war brought economic stimulus to the area. There was a great deal of sadness in the loss of family, but economically and the ability to have money, 01:07:00uh, percentage-wise, I doubt if we've had that uh, before or since.

BIRDWHISTELL: What about your classmates from high school? I assume some of them had already gone and --

FORD: Yeah, and -- and we've had class reunions. We had a lot of fun. We started out in the cafeteria at Daviess County High School and then we went to Gabe's Restaurant and then the next time, they came to the mansion and --

BIRDWHISTELL: Well you-all had moved up. --(laughs)--

FORD: And then -- then the next one they had, we came to Washington. We had eighty-five of the hundred and five graduates, I think, in Washington. And then we've come back to Owensboro since then and they were -- they were saying they wanted me to become ambassador to Bermuda so they could go over there and spend a week, --(coughs)-- but I don't -- we did not lose a member of our, of my graduating class in the military. I'm not sure how many went, but we 01:08:00did not lose a member of our -- of the graduating class of the high school in 1942. We were a very fortunate group of people.

BIRDWHISTELL: But I guess at the time you were -- before you went in, there were reports coming back to Owensboro of people killed --

FORD: Oh sure. No question about that.

BIRDWHISTELL: --------(??)and that was part of the daily --

FORD: Yeah.

BIRDWHISTELL: -- life of the war.

FORD: Yeah.

BIRDWHISTELL: On the home front.

FORD: And it was uh -- and you uh knew the folks that were uh -- you knew the family, or knew of the family, uh, uh. The soldier that was uh, uh, killed in the service probably went to your high school, or, or could have a year, a year or two before you graduated. Or you went to school with him, you were a freshman and he was a junior or senior, so you knew him for a year or 01:09:00two. And we all became very close. Very close to everybody.

BIRDWHISTELL: I guess, you know, as all these fiftieth anniversaries pass, a lot of -- a lot of things go through your mind.

FORD: Yes sir, I --

BIRDWHISTELL: --------(??) on those --------(??)

FORD: -- I thank the Lord for all the uh, good fortune I've had and hope that I haven't uh, done anything to disgrace myself, my family, or my state. So uh, it's uh -- I know -- this -- some people disagree with your position. I understand that. But uh, hopefully, I haven't done anything to disgrace the name of the state and the family.

BIRDWHISTELL: Will somebody tell us when your next appointment is here or --

FORD: No, they -- but we need to wrap it up very soon. I think we got -- we got about ten minutes.

BIRDWHISTELL: Okay. All right. --(Ford coughs)-- Uh, so you -- you -- tell me 01:10:00about getting into the Army. You, you -- you got your induction notice and then where did you -- where did you report that first --

FORD: Camp Atterbury. In Indiana.

BIRDWHISTELL: Uh-huh. You took a bus over there?

FORD: Yep. They put, they gave us -- put -- gave us a bus ride and uh, from there they put us on a train, after we went through all our physicals and everything.

BIRDWHISTELL: So you sort of assembled there, went through your physical --

FORD: Yeah.

BIRDWHISTELL: -- they gave you your uh --

FORD: Papers. Gave me my uniform and shoes and all that kind of stuff. And uh, then they put us on a train and we went to Camp Hood, Texas.

BIRDWHISTELL: So you went on to Camp Hood?

FORD: Um-hm. And I was going to be a TD, tank destroyer unit, and they changed us to infantry. IRTC, Infantry Replacement Training Center at uh, Camp Hood, Texas.


BIRDWHISTELL: Which was better, the tank destroyer or the IRTC? --(laughs)-- Or did it matter?

FORD: Well, it didn't matter because I really didn't know. You have to go through the same basic training uh, to a point, and then uh, uh, after that, then you'd be trained -- be trained in special -- in tank destroyers, uh. And I wasn't -- they sent me from -- instead of -- when they decided they didn't need anymore of those, they sent me into an outfit that uh, was administrative personnel. And then they decided they had enough of that, and they just changed us from administrative personnel to infantry replacement training group. And so uh, we uh -- and they -- they -- you know, the military can do those things. You don't have the -- you have to ask any questions about it. Little bit different than business, you know. But uh, we went from TD's, tank destroyers, 01:12:00and basic training. You know, basic training -- you do exercises, how to fire your weapons and we went out on the firing range and went through all that. And the sixty millimeter mortar and one thing and another. Then, about the time we were able -- we were going to -- we were finishing that up, they changed it from tank destroyer to administrative group and I was -- some of us were separated at that time. But the administrative group, they decided they didn't want that and they just turned us into infantry replacement training center and uh, we finished out the infantry part of it uh, almost -- just everything you could think of, we went through.

BIRDWHISTELL: Did you know when you got to uh, uh, Camp Hood, did you have any idea how long you would be there?

FORD: Well, 'course training with them was seventeen weeks.


BIRDWHISTELL: So you knew you'd be there at least --

FORD: Knew they'd be there seventeen weeks. And uh, uh, that -- that was all you knew. And uh, so you would -- had to make, you just had to stay the seventeen weeks and make the best of it and so you go from there.

BIRDWHISTELL: So that's -- so you could -- either write or call Mrs. Ford and tell her that --

FORD: I'm gonna be there for seventeen weeks.

BIRDWHISTELL: And she decided on her own to come down there?

FORD: That's right. She -- they got hold of the folks that knew Mrs. Ormond and she had a place to stay before she got there. And all the folks got together and uh, she drove up in a Pontiac. One of those torpedo jobs they called 'em. --(Birdwhistell laughs)-- And they -- they got her -- family found the car and the families got together and uh, she uh, drove it down. Her father -- with her father.

BIRDWHISTELL: I was gonna say --

FORD: Her father drove down with her and got her all settled in. He got on the train then, the next morning and [train whistle sounds] headed back for Kentucky. He -- old L & N Railroad, you hear the whistle now.


BIRDWHISTELL: That train right on cue here.

FORD: Yeah. Yeah.

BIRDWHISTELL: Like we're doing sound effects.

FORD: Yeah. --(laughs)--Yeah. That shows you how lucky we are.

BIRDWHISTELL: (laughs)-- Well -- so that must have really uh, made your spirits higher.

FORD: Well it helped a whole lot and I talked to you earlier about dad's letter. And dad, I'd always get the letter on uh, Wednesday and it had a five dollar bill in it.


FORD: Yeah. And uh, we would go to Frank's Place in Temple on a Saturday night and get a country-fried steak and that was -- and uh, we -- we would use that five dollars to buy that meal 'cause every -- you know, you kind of have to get off that military food. Some, some of it's very good and some of it wasn't. --(Birdwhistell laughs)-- But -- but it always -- we looked forward to going to Frank's Place and had the best country-fried chicken -- I mean country-fried steak and uh, vegetables and good meal and we would have money 01:15:00left from the five dollars and so dad --

BIRDWHISTELL: He sent you that every --

FORD: He sent me that every Wednesday.


FORD: I got that in the -- and I'd always feel the letter -- he put a paper clip on it. --(Birdwhistell laughs)-- And so --

BIRDWHISTELL: That's a nice memory too.

FORD: Oh it is, yeah. Didn't have much money, either, to send. But five dollars every week.

BIRDWHISTELL: That's right. Were there other people in the, at the camp at the same level that you, whose spouses were able to join them or was that kind of an exceptional thing?

FORD: --(coughs)-- Well there was some there. Mrs. Ford made -- she got acquainted with some. Uh, and one of 'em was Kern, K-e-r-n. And uh, they met at the little local grocery store there. Was a small, kind of community 01:16:00store. Older couple ran it, and she met this Kern lady there, and her husband was at McCloskey General Hospital. To make a long story short here, their son uh, wound up being the quarterback for Ohio State, and so uh, we uh, talk to them back and forth several times and they still drop each other letters, but it was interesting to watch him and how uh, how great they felt over their son being quarterback at uh, Ohio State's football team. Now -- yeah, that's Ohio State, not Ohio University. That's a different school. The big school's Ohio State, yeah.

BIRDWHISTELL: That's right. That's right. Uh, so now, Mrs. Ford had a -- had a room in a boarding house in --

FORD: Yeah.


BIRDWHISTELL: -- in Texas?

FORD: That's right. With kitchen privileges.

BIRDWHISTELL: And you stayed on the base?

FORD: That's right, all during the week, and I'd come home --

BIRDWHISTELL: On the weekend.

FORD: -- come in on the weekends, that's right.

BIRDWHISTELL: That's all right. That's great.

FORD: So it --

BIRDWHISTELL: So this went on for what? The seventeen weeks?

FORD: Yes, and then uh, when we left uh, uh -- when we were through with our seventeen weeks, and we were all packed up and ready to go, and Jean was packed up ready to go home, we had a fourteen day furlough. And uh, we were going to the South Pacific. We knew where we were going. Didn't know exactly where. They took about uh, two dozen of the men out of our uh, battalion and held 'em back. And we didn't know what was going on. And I had to get hold of Jean, 'cause she was getting ready to leave to go home 'cause I was on the train and I was gonna meet her on the way, and leave the train and drive on home with 01:18:00her. And I had to get a hold of her and stop that because we had been pulled off the train, getting ready to be -- be shipped out, really, for all practical purposes. We had, uh, I think the train was going to Chicago and making stops along the way and then I was to pick up the train and go into Louisville. But uh -- and she was there with the car. Well I was gonna go into -- I forget where -- Waco. Waco, I think it was, and she was to meet me at Waco and uh, we -- and then I was gonna drive home with her. Well, I had to get hold of her, because I'd been pulled off the train, along with about two dozen others. And we didn't know -- and we're taken back to a barracks that -- there were no soldiers there. They were just empty barracks and they put us in one barracks. And so I did catch her 'fore she left and uh, so we waited and they made us -- 01:19:00we trained men. Uh, we were -- we were asked -- we were told and -- that we were gonna be training new recruits coming in or new draftees. And uh, they brought in some people from Ft. Benning, Georgia uh, that were in Officer's Training School. And they gave us two weeks of hard training and uh, uh -- so we would be prepared. So then we trained people that -- we were made uh -- some of us were acting platoon sergeants, uh, and then we were given grades and I made Master Sergeant -- Tech -- Tech Sergeant I believe it was. Tech Sergeant.

BIRDWHISTELL: You were a master sergeant by the time --

FORD: Yeah. And so uh, then uh, we uh -- I went -- that was -- when we stayed there and then I was transferred to a camp in Arkansas and then was 01:20:00sent to uh, San Antone [San Antonio], Ft. Sam --


FORD: -- Houston to be discharged.

BIRDWHISTELL: -- Ford come on back, though?

FORD: Yeah. Yeah.

BIRDWHISTELL: She came on back --

FORD: But she stayed -- she stayed as long as we were there. When --


FORD: -- yeah --

BIRDWHISTELL: While you were still doing the training?

FORD: Right.

BIRDWHISTELL: She stayed as long as you were at Camp Hood?

FORD: Yeah. Yeah, she stayed there the whole time.

BIRDWHISTELL: Now did you ever find out how you were selected for that group?

FORD: No. No, it was by recommendation of the company officers.

BIRDWHISTELL: So that must mean that you did quite well if --

FORD: Apparently so. And I -- they could hear me. I've got a loud voice, I guess --(both laugh)-- and I could give instructions. But out of the, I guess twelve hundred, they picked about two dozen and I was one of those. And didn't know they were doing it.

BIRDWHISTELL: And you had no --

FORD: No idea.

BIRDWHISTELL: -- no forewarning?

FORD: No, we were just --(Birdwhistell laughs)-- I was loaded up. I had uh, my duffle bag ready to crawl on the train and they came up there and said we want these men to step aside. And when they called my name, why I -- 01:21:00you know, I -- you -- you think all kinds of thoughts when they do.

BIRDWHISTELL: (laughs)--That's right. They selected you to be a target somewhere. --(laughs)--

FORD: Yeah. Yeah. Um-hm. So we uh -- we uh -- had a -- a very interesting -- one of the things that uh-- and I think this is an accurate story. Maybe I oughta be sure about it, but anyhow, let's put it down. If I'm not accurate, we can correct it. After I went through this training from uh --(coughs)-- Major Baer was the leader of the group from Ft. Benning Officer's Training School in that two weeks. They put us out on the infiltration course, and we couldn't understand why so many generals were out there and all that kind of stuff. And come to find out that Walter Winchell's nephew was fatally 01:22:00injured and uh, on doing -- going over the boards, you know. Over the walls and underneath the wire and being shot at over the top, and one thing and another. And uh, he was fatally injured, and he was listed as AWOL until they found his body. And Walter Winchell, if you recall back during those days, would end his commentary as the United States uh -- Germany has its concentration camps, and the United States has Camp Hood, Texas. And that was all over that, and I had to be set right into the middle of training, sending recruits and draftees through these infiltration course with all the brass and everything else right down on top of us, you know, and it wasn't -- and we couldn't -- and we didn't know why. And then we found out a few days after we got there going through all 01:23:00these exercises that uh --

BIRDWHISTELL: Wow. So the day they pulled you off that train was one of those -- another one of those turning points.

FORD: That's right. Absolutely. Absolutely. You just go back, that's --

BIRDWHISTELL: That's a big one.

FORD: Yeah, and absolutely 'cause you've never -- And uh --

BIRDWHISTELL: 'Cause you don't know what's out there --

FORD: They didn't know where I was going or what would happen in the -- so it was just one of those things that uh, uh -- and surprised. Had I done something wrong? You know. Why are they taking me off? Why are they taking the rest of these fellows off?


FORD: And so uh, we uh --

BIRDWHISTELL: 'Cause you'd done something right, I guess.

FORD: Apparently so. --(both laugh)-- You've only found two so far. --(laughs)--It is --

BIRDWHISTELL: --------(??) those --------(??) when we get --

FORD: We better call it -- we better call it.

BIRDWHISTELL: That's great. That's --

[End Tape #1, Side #2]

[End of Interview]