Interview with Edward "Ned" T. Breathitt, Jr., February 24, 1997

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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KLOTTER: Did you want to get your tape recorder?

BREATHITT: Yeah. Uh-huh. [Long pause] Okay.

BIRDWHISTELL: You ready to go? Okay.

KLOTTER: The--wanted today just to catch up on some of the other things in your administration that we didn't talk about last time. In your inaugural, for instance, you spoke about the demons of parochialism in Kentucky. How strong were those demons in the state at the time?

BREATHITT: Centered in the local school boards and the power of the 00:01:00local rural school boards, the attitude of rural Kentucky against urban Kentucky, particularly Louisville, the feeling that northern Kentucky was really Cincinnati and wasn't really a part of Kentucky. The fact that a lot of people didn't recognize, in the Bluegrass, that there was a Western Kentucky. Western Kentucky was--was just something out there, particularly the Jackson Purchase. There was no real--real feeling of--of that. And--and it was very important, I thought, that we break that down and that we pull the state together, and that there were many techniques by which we could do that.


KLOTTER: The--one of the those techniques, I guess, was Kentucky Educational Television.

BREATHITT: Kentucky Educational Television was one of those. Another one was the building of the highway system, the turnpike system. We couldn't get an interstate that ran east to west from Elizabethtown to Fulton, so we--we--we did have the Western Kentucky Turnpike that was built and that was by Combs and Wyatt, but we needed then the Pennyroyal Parkway that would run north and south in--in Western Kentucky through the Pennyroyal, and then the Purchase Parkway that would ok- --open up the Purchase, tie it into--to the Western Kentucky Turnpike. And then we had a battle to get I-24 through Kentucky. It was a--it--There-- there was a big effort to have it go and--and miss Kentucky. And that 00:03:00was very important because that would tie down to Nashville and on to Chattanooga to Atlanta, and we got that done. We got that done.

BIRDWHISTELL: What did it take to get that done, Governor?

BREATHITT: Well, I went to see Frank Clement--


BREATHITT: --and there was a--there was some money for bridges, and he wanted another bridge across the Mississippi at Memphis and we wanted the road to come up through--so we did some horse trading. (Laugh-- Birdwhistell) (Laugh)

BIRDWHISTELL: They get their bridge?

BREATHITT: They got their bridge and we got our road (Laughter).

BIRDWHISTELL: Well, I knew we got the road. I ----------(??)--

BREATHITT: Yeah, that's right. That's right. That's right. The other thing that--that helped tie the state together were the state parks, because people from all over Kentucky started and going and visiting parks in other areas, and they got to see the beauty of--of--of the 00:04:00state park systems and--and that has--was one of the great devices for tying the state together. And of course, the--the--the one statewide institution helped break that down was the University of Kentucky. And prior to the establishment of the community college system, the University of Kentucky was not meeting its service responsibility to the state, mainly because, as I mentioned before, the University of Kentucky was really controlled by a little oligarchy here in Lexington, the bank, the newspaper, the largest law firm, Stoll-Keenan, and Judge Stoll was a very powerful member of the board for years and exercised a lot of interest, and Frank Peterson was--the person at the university 00:05:00who had great administrative power were the presidents and Frank Peterson worked very closely with these people. And--and there were others that were involved with that--was Rasty Wright, who left a lot of money to l- --at h- --his death, to the university, Hank Adams. And these people really looked on the university as "University of the Bluegrass". And--and they wanted it to be a--sort of a Athens of the west like Transylvania and others were considered, and--but we're a land grant institution and I felt that the university had a great responsibility to break down this parochialism. And the main thing that they could do is through the community college system that--which 00:06:00would be established. We had some extensions and we had two extensions that really were community colleges, one at Cumberland and one at Henderson. And we had extension at Fort Knox and a few others, but it really had not been developed. And the only real work of service was through the extension service of--of the College of Agriculture, but it was too limited in its scope. Even the home demonstration agency were too limited in their scope. And we wanted an institution tied to the University of Kentucky that would have these branches out all over the state that would bring a site for culture opportunities. We got the Louisville orchestra to go out to these community college. We got all kinds of speakers to go to 'em and we envisioned--we saw 00:07:00all sort of--of ways that we could bring, particularly from Louisville and Lexington, wh- --which were two major areas to that. We had a community college up in northern Kentucky which later became Northern Kentucky University and I think that's great, because Northern Kentucky University is the one institution up there that really ties northern Kentucky as Kentucky tog- --ties it together, but those were all the things that we thought about that we could use. And KET, of course, was a--a marvelous device for doing it. And fortunately Lynn(??) Press's ideas were bought by Governor Combs, and were bought by me, and were bought by Governor Louie Nunn, and--and so it reached full flower during those three administrations. Conceived during the Combs administration, he bought into it, because he could visualize what this 00:08:00would do. And I certainly bought into it and implemented this--this through the location of those towers that--those sites that we got Ashland Oil's and the Blazer Foundation to do, to--to set up the system whereby we could broadcast. In those days, great areas of Kentucky got no television at all except KET because all you had were these roof-top antennas and you didn't have a cable and you didn't have satellite services like you do now, and--

BIRDWHISTELL: Could I ask you a question about the community colleges? If--if the community colleges linked to UK's land grant mission were an attempt to unify the state, now thirty years later we're at this debate going on about separating the community colleges from UK. Is that about that lack of unity still within the state or is that about another issue?

BREATHITT: That's politics.

BIRDWHISTELL: Oh, okay. (Laugh--Klotter & Birdwhistell)

BREATHITT: That's politics. The regionals think it gi- --gives 00:09:00University (Laugh--Birdwhistell) of Kentucky too much political clout when they go to dividing up the educational dollar. When you really get down to it, you get all these arguments raised, but that's the basis of it.


BREATHITT: And--and it was one of the things that was not re- --the primary reason that w- --they were established, but it certainly helped provide political balance, because President Oswald came to the university from--from--from California system and he didn't understand the politics of Kentucky, he had built no constituency in Kentucky. The university had no constituency in Kentucky except through the Department of Agriculture and it's graduates, it's alumni that was scattered around, but they had nothing around which they could coalesce and develop. And you had some very powerful political leaders as presidents of the regionals, Bob Martin, who had been head of the 00:10:00KEA, he'd been superintendent of public instruction, he'd been Combs' campaign chairman, he'd been secretary--or commissioner of finance, and he knew how to use power, and he was a strong person. And--and he used it very effectively in building Eastern and did a great job there. Adron Doran had been speaker of the house, very powerful political figure, had--and he knew western Kentucky, having come from there, been an outstanding principal of a little school called Wingo(??), and had gone to Murray and he took this little school up at Morehead about to lose it's accreditation--in fact it was not accredited, and had less than 600 students, and built it, but he was a power, and--and did a great job there. And then Kelly Thompson had been the P.R. guy down at Western. (Laugh--Birdwhistell) He had people all over the state that he knew and particularly in his area, and he was a extremely 00:11:00popular fellow, and he knew how to mobilize. Ralph Woods was--had been a long time leader down at Murray. And these four fellows had votes on the Council on Higher Education, which was the higher education coordinating body at that time, which was a very limited in its scope, but--but they had the power and--and Oswald was just completely overwhelmed. And Combs saw, and I saw, that that would be one thing that the community colleges would do, would give him some--and the University of Kentucky some balance in--in constituency and power, and it has. And of course the regional recognized that (Laugh-- Birdwhistell) and they'd like to pull 'em away.

BIRDWHISTELL: So they're not paranoid, they're actually (Laugh-- Klotter)--it's s- --it's something real to tell.

BREATHITT: Oh, it's --it's (Laugh--Birdwhistell)--it's--it's just pure politics and economics, is what it is, part of the education dollar. 00:12:00And--and it also has to do with the recruiting, which gets to the--the dollar for the number of students. And--because--certainly illustrated by what has just happened in nineteen and ni- --ninety-six in Paducah and Murray and that fight over the engineering program down there. Murray--Paducah fel- --felt that Murray never really wanted to have extensions and programs in Paducah, they want everything on the Murray campus and the students to come there. And so Paducah had its own community college, the Paducah Community College, which they supported. And they decided that--that they ought to be a part of the system and in the University of Kentucky system, and--and--and were successful in getting included. But it's--it is a problem for Murray to have a--the largest city, most powerful city economically in the Purchase 00:13:00at Paducah with a growing education--higher education presence there, which they feel draws students. And so I understand what the pressures are down there.

KLOTTER: What was the role that your office played in the selection of where the community colleges would go?

BREATHITT: It(??) didn't, because Combs had the Otis-Amos Committee that made a study of where the community colleges should go. And--and we--the initial community colleges were all the ones that were located there except for one exception, and that was Hazard's instead of Whitesburg. The original study said the community college there should be at Whitesburg, and the Hazard people with Bill Sturgill in the lead (Laugh--Birdwhistell), just got--organized enough political clout that in the bill they got it changed to Hazard instead of Whitesburg, but 00:14:00that's the only change. The--the study that came out in--before my administration located where they thought they ought to go. Since then--except for the Hazard one was the only political decision during my administration. Since then there's been a lot of politics involved. The Owensboro people used an awful lot of political clout to get one located in Owensboro, even though they had two other in- --private institutions of higher learning there, two or more. And--

BIRDWHISTELL: At least two(??).


BREATHITT: And--Yeah, Brescia--

KLOTTER: ----------(??)----------

BREATHITT: --and Kentucky Wesleyan being the principle ones. And- -and then Madisonville got one just a few miles up the road from Hopkinsville. And then--and they got one. And that was political at the time, and I think it was a swap for a vote for the sales tax by Bill Cox, and--who was in the legislature, and Louie Nunn was 00:15:00desperately trying to get the money principally for education. And he had a Democratic--

KLOTTER: General Frymire was in that, too. He's from--


KLOTTER: ------------(??)----------

BREATHITT: --and he was on the senate side. That's right, he was on the senate side. So Frymire--General Frymire and Bill Cox just used their political leverage and power, get the job, and get one there. And I can't think of a- --well, Western got one at Glasgow. They got a community college. It's a free standing community college in Glasgow, just like the ones in the University of Kentucky system. And so there have been political decisions, but I stuck with--I thought initially that if we went outside of the--of the Otis-Amos Blue Ribbon Commission study, that I'd open it up wide open and everybody would be in a big dog fight for locating community college. And so I said we're gonna 00:16:00stick to that. And I stuck to Whitesburg.


BREATHITT: Well, I mean I stuck to the report. But Sturgill and company just were successful in getting that amendment done.

BIRDWHISTELL: Of course you already had Hopkinsville in, so you didn't--

BREATHITT: It was in. I (Laughter--Klotter & Birdwhistell)--Yeah. Yeah, so the people at Hopkinsville weren't putting the heat on me.

BIRDWHISTELL: 'Cause you'd have been on your ----------(??).

BREATHITT: That's right. That's right. I (Laugh--Birdwhistell) sure would have. I sure would have. But luckily that was done before I was there, and so I (Laugh--Birdwhistell)--I--I just would say, "Well, it's in the report. This study was made by a blue ribbon commission." (Laugh--Birdwhistell) And I really had nothing to do with that study 'cause I was busy out trying to campaign.

BIRDWHISTELL: Do you think there was a--I mean, other than Owensboro, was there a--a city left out that you thought should have had one initially in that initial group(??)?

BREATHITT: Well, Owensboro has proven to be a good city because--


BREATHITT: --because it's--it--it has a tremendous number of students, and--and Madisonville has--has--has had a--ha- --has a very large 00:17:00number of students, and it's--and--and it's worked well. But we had of course Maysville, and Elizabethtown, and--and Somerset, and Hopkinsville, all had been successful in that initial first run of community colleges. And of course, the--Paducah came in after my administration. And Tom Waller was chairman of that board, and they--they did that. When I was back on the university k- --board in '83--'82 and '83, I remember we went down there for one of the early board meetings. We had a board meeting down at Paducah. But it was a political decision for me to stick to the report, because I did not want it opened up, and I did not have that strong a control in the legislature, and there would be tremendous log-rolling, and--and I felt 00:18:00that the communities that they had picked were all good communities in logical locations. And Hazard has certainly worked out fine. Now they've got extension programs up in Letcher County, so--

BIRDWHISTELL: Do you support that--the extension programs running out of the community colleges like the one at Whitesburg, one in Middlesboro and taking the community college based program and then doing a--an extended campus from that? Do you think that is--from being--watching the community colleges develop in the beginning, do you think that's a good move for them politically?

BREATHITT: Well, I'm for access all over Kentucky to higher education. It--I am just as favorable to Eastern, or Western, or Murray, or Morehead or--or having extensions as I am for the University of Kentucky. I think it's important that--that you get access and I 00:19:00think that in balance it's probably wise to--it--it sets up a--a confrontation between the regionals and the University of Kentucky if the University of Kentucky overreaches. And then it's another way in which, I feel, that the University of Kentucky should not overreach, and that is in directing its students from the community colleges to the main campus. I think it's very important for each president of the community colleges to work closely with the regionals and be impartial as to where their students go based on the student-- individual student's need, and --for access for higher education. And I think--And I keep stressing that as chairman of the board of the university to Ben Carr and to President Wethington, because I think it's counterproductive. We had a lot of reaction over this Paducah 00:20:00thing. It has not helped in this whole effort. And we've had a lot of reaction to the Lees College thing.



BIRDWHISTELL: --before that.

BREATHITT: And what?

BIRDWHISTELL: London before that.


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

BREATHITT: Umhmm. And so I really think that we have to be very careful. There has to be a strong case made that it should be UK. There has to be a strong community demand that it be UK. And then I think that it's important wherever we do it that where we can do it jointly with an institution, as we're doing with Lees in one sense and Morehead,--


BREATHITT: --on the programs, that we do that. And there again, I think is--is the need for coordinating council that acts. Like the Council on Higher Education has not acted. It hasn't used the thirty it's been 00:21:00given. The reason for that is you've got to have strong backing from the governor and legislative leaderships.

BIRDWHISTELL: Or you get knocked off.

BREATHITT: Or you get knocked off (Laugh--Birdwhistell) because they've got no constituents. And what happened on the Pa- --Murray-Paducah thing is Governor Jones called Gary Cox, the head of the Council on Higher Education over there, and says, "I want this at Paducah, and I'm not gonna support you if you don't do that." (Laugh--Birdwhistell) And he--and he--he had made commitments to the Paxtons, who had this media empire down there, and he was fulfilling that commitment. And--and that--and it's very important, if the council is to be effective, that the governor back the council, the council selects a strong chairman with a real seat in his or her pants,--


BREATHITT: --and th- --that can really do this, and they have the 00:22:00power. They have the power to limit expansion, limit new programs, limit duplication, all of the things that they're critical of when you carefully examine the statutes, they've got the power to do it. I think the legislature can set a--a mandate, spell out more of a mandate through a resolution I think rather than a statute, and--which really pu- --place the priorities on what they do, and then the governor support it.

BIRDWHISTELL: Well, that Paducah engineering program put UK and President Wethington in such an awkward position because President Wethington basically said, "We didn't say we had to have engineering education in Paducah, but all we said is if there's gonna be one, UK should be doing it." And so it was a really interesting kind of a--



BIRDWHISTELL: --live wire(??).

BREATHITT: --it--it was--it--the initiative did not come with the University of Kentucky, but from Murray's standpoint, that didn't make any difference.

BIRDWHISTELL: (Laugh) That's right.

BREATHITT: And we were the threat. And--and that's e- --that's exactly what the president's position was and always was. And I never opened my mouth about it (Laugh--Birdwhistell) because I could see the--the political reaction to it. And--and then, 'course, Murray and President Alexander, and the Murray board, and--and the people down there fanned the fires. And--and I think that's had a lot to do with the confrontation between Murray and UK, which I think was unnecessary if that had been resolved quickly. Either way, quickly, then I think we'ed have been much better off. The council should have done it. And Gary Cox and the council were--Jim Miller were prepared to do it,-- (Laugh--Birdwhistell)--and Jones jer- --jerked their chain. And any 00:24:00time that a governor wants to undercut a council, or the legislature wants to undercut a council, they can do it. There's no way that you can--since they're a creature of the legislature and the governor has the appointment--power of appointment to the council, and they have no built in constituency. Like the regionals can collectively exercise tremendous power, now, with Northern Kentucky particularly joining the system. And Louisville is a balance--balance wheel in this whole thing, and the University of Kentucky and the community colleges have--have power, and it--it's pretty well divided now as between--and I--probably as well as you could do it. Certainly if you pull the community colleges away, they University of Kentucky, in time, will suffer and its budget will suffer. Because they're talking about, "Oh, well, we're gonna make this up with a whole lot of money for research." 00:25:00You--well, how much money they got? A hundred million dollars. (Laugh- -Birdwhistell) And then they start dividing that pile, you see how much, if we have no clout, the University of Kentucky gets. (Laugh- -Birdwhistell) It's--it's a very carefully conceived, coordinated, and orchestrated political move.


BREATHITT: And--but there is such a legitimacy to this in my opinion, keeping it like it is. Now, there's a way to solve that problem, and- -and that is, I think you could set up a separate council just to deal with the work force on the thirteenth and fourteenth year of schooling, and appoint to that the top people in the state that actually do the employing. Let the--the community colleges remain administratively under the University of Kentucky, the work force cabinet--let the Kentucky Tech. remain administratively under them, but have this 00:26:00council that is not academically oriented, as the regular council is, but work force or- --oriented. Coordinate the two and they'll have the clout and they will have on that board the people who actually do the hiring, UPS, Humana, Lexmark, Toyota. Let those people that are doing the complaining about higher education not providing what you want, but that's really a divergence on present day history.

BIRDWHISTELL: Well, it's all linked. (Laugh)


KLOTTER: The--one of the things, and I think that it was done during your administration, is that the regional schools were given university status at that time. What was the story behind that?

BREATHITT: Political. (Laugh--Birdwhistell) You can imagine that b- --that to get my bill passed and taking the vote away from the four 00:27:00regional presidents, and the University of Kentucky president, on the council where they would become ex officio members, they'd have the power of their presence, which was considerable, but not a vote, and the status in the community college system, that there was a strong reaction by the regionals. And the only way that I could reach a compromise with the regionals was the thing they really wanted, was university status. And so we included that in it, and it was the only way we could get the bill passed and have everybody on board. They got something they desperately wanted. And--

BIRDWHISTELL: It was basically inevitably anyway.

BREATHITT: Well, it was gonna happen--

BIRDWHISTELL: National trend, so--

BREATHITT: Ye- --yeah. That's right.

BIRDWHISTELL: --you knew it was(??) something that was going to--

BREATHITT: That's right.

BIRDWHISTELL: --happen whether you--

BREATHITT: That's right.

BIRDWHISTELL: You--you know, that--you couldn't have spent that capital much later than when you did.



BREATHITT: No. Well, it's the only time I had (Laugh) it. (Laughter)

BIRDWHISTELL: You've got to know when to spend your--

BREATHITT: Yeah, that's right.

BIRDWHISTELL: ------------(??) capital. (Laugh)

BREATHITT: That's right, but--but that was a political decision but- -which I saw no harm in it, because they only thing that I--I felt that we made a mistake in, and I tried it out, was ma- --should make Kentucky State University a university. And they did not include that in the bill and there was opposition raised, because they said it wasn't as comprehensive, and they didn't--they didn't want to be equated with Kentucky State University, these other regionals.

BIRDWHISTELL: Is that right?

BREATHITT: That's right. And--

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

BREATHITT: Well, they didn't think that it--that its offerings were sufficiently o- --at their level to be called a university. I should have stood my ground then, and I tried, but--and Dr. Hill was not the 00:29:00type of personality that would really fight. He was a wonderful man and I have the greatest admiration for Dr. Hill and his leadership, and I worked very closely with him. But I fought back, but didn't make any difference, didn't take long to get 'em named a university, but I would liked to have that done then. But there was opposition to it because they just didn't think that Kentucky State was at their caliber.

KLOTTER: While we're on education, we might as well talk about the--the teachers and their demands for pay raises in--particularly in the second session, and th- --I think there was a--a one day strike. Could you(??) discuss what you viewed(??) ----------(??)--

BREATHITT: It was a--it was a tough time, and I was running out of currency about that time, political currency. I had expended everything I had on civil rights, on strip mine control. They were 00:30:00the really two tough ones. And then that little silly thing on pinball machines, which took a lot of effort, that--but it was a s- --really side issue, as far as the fundamental b- -- in today's climate with casinos all over the world, it's--it's nothing but--

BIRDWHISTELL: ----------(??) something there(??).

BREATHITT: Once I--once I'd taken a stand, then I couldn't back up, but all that, I expended capital. And so--what was the--

KLOTTER: Teachers.

BREATHITT: Oh, yes. The teachers came into town. You see, they had backed me heavily. I had the whole education establishment backing me, and I delivered by not eliminating or reducing or--the sales tax or putting all kinds of exemptions on. I stood my ground there, but I'd also made a pledge, which was a political pledge, of no new taxes, 00:31:00but that I would hold to the sales tax, publicly. And Happy was running on the grounds of--of a strong reduction in the sales tax, or elimination. And he realized he couldn't eliminate, so his rhetoric started saying, we ought to take it off of food, and medicine, and clothing and all these things that had political appeal. And--and I said, "No, no, we're not going to do that. We're gonna hold the ground, but no new taxes." And I hammered away at no new taxes. Well, I didn't want to violate that commitment, and so we had a recession. And Bill Hertzel's(??) estimates, revenue estimates, didn't hold up. And we were not having as much money as we thought we'd have. And 00:32:00then it came a question, do you give in to the demands of the KEA or you do something for higher education. And--and I opted for higher education and didn't meet everything that KEA wanted in their request. And Marvin Dodson, the head of KEA, and the people that had come out strong for me, felt that they were entitled to more.

BIRDWHISTELL: So why'd you make that decision?

BREATHITT: Why did I make it? Because higher education was starved.

BIRDWHISTELL: You just looked at both ----------(??)--

BREATHITT: I just looked at both of 'em and I saw the KEA had profited extremely well, and--and K through 12 had profited extremely well under Combs, and in the first two years of my administration, and they really went big in their demands. And I said if I'd meet their demands, 00:33:00all of our--our colleges and--and our--then the universities would suffer. And--and I said it's just time that we--that we made a major effort towards higher education. So I opted for higher education, because they had not been the real beneficiaries of that big movement during the Combs administration or my first two years. And having served on a board of the university, and--the governor then served on the board of the University of Kentucky, I saw what--how--how they were really cramped and--and--and we'd fallen way behind our benchmark universities, and--all of our state systems. So I went for higher education, and so the teacher marched, just as they marched on Clements, and--because they can mobilize. The KEA in those days could 00:34:00really mobilize. And--and so they prepared to--to do the same thing, and--and so they--they really hit us hard. And we then compromised on what we do for--for K through 12. And I got Bill Hertzel(??) and--and- -and I got Felix Joyner over and I said, "Now, give me all your e- -- estimates on where we will be on our budget." And he says, "Well, if we take the most optimistic that's within the range, we'll have this pot. And then if we take a more conservative one, it'll be here. Or if we take the least conservative and take a doomsday economy, it'd be here." 00:35:00"Well," I said, "forget the doomsday economy," (Laugh--Birdwhistell) and then we--we came in between the highest estimate and the most likely estimate, really hoping that we'd do it. Well, what happened was, we got into a--a real recession and our estimates didn't hold up. And--and--but I--I did that, and we were able to come forth with some more money. Then I got hit by this lawsuit, which Combs helped foment (Laugh--Birdwhistell) on the hundred percent assessment.


BREATHITT: And--and it was very clear that had wiped out Governor Wetherby and Combs before in '55. And that--and the--the then Court of Appeals decided we had to assess at a hundred percent of fair market 00:36:00value. Well, that was just deadly for anybody in politics, with all the farmers and all the--all the home owners in Kentucky. So we then had a special session and adopted the law which is now--which called for a--a minimal increase that the school boards a year could impose without a vote. And--and so we--we got that passed. And which--but that still had a negative impact on our--our resources for higher education, that lawsuit did. And in the long run I think it was counter productive for the school people and others to have filed that, because the reaction was so strong. I couldn't have withstood it, and nobody could have withstood it, and we had to pass this legislation 00:37:00which protected us some.

KLOTTER: On that special session, after the Russman v. Luckett decision came down, Waterfield, at that time, had an alternate plan that I think he presented to--to deal with that issue, too. How did you deal with that?

BREATHITT: Well, Waterfield had a great friend in Allan Trout, who was the political writer for the "Courier-Journal" and a fine man, but they were--were great friends. And I remember Trout went up talking to (Laugh) Waterfield, and he talked to me about it later in my office. I mean, he was--he was not so partisan that he--he could wear two hats. "I'm a friend of Waterfield, but I'll also put on my journalistic hat." And he says, "Governor, this destroyed Ruby Laffoon with the sales tax and elected Chandler. It--it destroyed Combs when he came 00:38:00out in his speech for a sale tax and--and elected Chandler in '55 twenty years later." And--and this hundred percent assessment that Bob Offin(??) had just tried unilaterally to impose as--as commissioner of revenue during the Wetherby Administration, was--was--was equally as--as damaging to Combs, and to Wetherby, Combs' principal supporter, and--and--and Waterfield's package was purely political. Waterfield was convinced, in conversations with Trout, and Joe Leary, and others, that this was the way he would be elected governor.

KLOTTER: ----------(??)----------

BREATHITT: And so he took that position. And he knew I would not leave the state, and I did not leave the state, didn't even go to the governors' conference, didn't go anywhere. And the press was 00:39:00talking about me and being trapped, and I was trapped (Laugh--Klotter & Birdwhistell). And--and--but I came up with what I thought was a responsible way to--as responsible as you could be under those circumstances. And--we just passed our bill, he didn't have the votes, is what it boils down to. And I wasn't running anywhere (Laugh-- Klotter & Birdwhistell), for anything, and he was. And he saw this--he was hoping that he would trap me. He was hoping that I would say it's wonderful, this court decision. We're gonna have all this money now to do these things with.

KLOTTER: But the session basically then reduced the tax so that with a hundred percent assessment, you basically would be bringing in about the same amount of money, is that--or at least ----------(??)--


BREATHITT: We--we tried to have a revenue neutral--


BREATHITT: --provision, but also gave some leeway to the school districts where they could--could each year increase their--their rate.

BIRDWHISTELL: Or cut it, too(??).

BREATHITT: Yeah. They could--they--increase their rate. And--but now it also has--has been a restraining influence on (Laugh) school boards ever since. And a lot of 'em would like to out from under it, but I'm not so sure that that's bad that they don't have these limits, because I served as attorney for school--I served as attorney for school boards for fifteen years in Christian County and those superintendents and those teachers and those people would--they can spend it,--(Laugh)--and there are always so many needs (Laugh). So I--I really don't worry much about that, but we'd have been better off if they hadn't had that suit. But I guess not, in good government you ought to have a--a fair 00:41:00evaluation and a hundred percent assessment.

KLOTTER: One of the things you said you expended political capital on that education fight was the pinball machine--


KLOTTER: --issue. What--who--who was pushing that? What was that story- -?

BREATHITT: I had invited--Bill Scent w- --had been commissioner of revenue w- --and then was named U.S. Attorney and was a great supporter of the Kennedys. And he had invited the Justice Department and the Sixth Circuit to come to Louisville for a big conference on bail bond reform. And judges and U.S. attorneys were all invited from the Sixth Circuit, including the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals judges. And he asked me to invite Bobby Kennedy, then the Attorney General, to come and give the keynote address. And most of those new- --newer judges and--and all the U.S. attorneys nearly had been appointed 00:42:00by Kennedy, President Kennedy. And I got him to agree to come. And it was right after the inauguration of the president in January of 1964--'65. And Bobby Kennedy calls me up two--well, the day after the inauguration and says, "I can't come," says, "I'm down here in Palm Beach with my father and my mother and our family. This has been very traumatic to see Johnson sworn in as president when we expected it be my brother," and said, "I really just don't feel like it. I think I ought to stay here with my mother and father." And I said, "General, we've got all these people coming built around you and if you will just fly up just in time to do it, I'll have our state plane fly you 00:43:00back to Cincinnati. I'll meet the plane in Cincinnati and--" no, in L- --"in Louisville, get you right to the speech, and then I'll fly you back in the state plane to Cincinnati which has a flight going back to Palm Beach, West Palm Beach. And we'll fly you right into that little airport there." And he said, "All right." Well,--

[End of Tape #1, Side #1]

[Begin Tape #1, Side #2]

BIRDWHISTELL: Sorry. Go ahead.

BREATHITT: Well, Bobby Kennedy came as attorney general, and made a great speech, and really hit this hard. This had been one of his big issues. I had Bill Scent, who was the U.S. Attorney, with me in the plane which flew him back to Cincinnati at the tim- --by that time we had a snow storm. We were taking off from Louisville and we got into Cincinnati an- --and it was rough and we were bouncing around, and-- 00:44:00(Laugh--Birdwhistell)--and he's cool. I mean, it didn't even bother him a bit and I was scared to death(Laugh). And we got there, the airport manager took us up to his office, because the planes were late. And-- and nothing could land, nothing could take off. It was a real blizzard, hit. And--and Bill Scent then raised the issue with me and the attorney general, they were trying to break up what had become a plan by--in Kentucky for the pinball machine operators. They had a pinball machine that was called a multi-coin machine that could play quarters, and what they had done is you could keep putting the quarters in and change your odds, and then play it once you got the odds you wanted. And they--and--and they were paying off. The ch- --machine wouldn't, but 00:45:00the operator would pay you off. And they were putting 'em in little beer joints and little back rooms in stores around all the factory gates in Louisville and in Northern Kentucky, some in Lexington, and some in Paducah, and some in Henderson w- --I think were the only towns that--that really moved in on. And they were underworld connections. They knew who they were because they had to have a--a four hundred dollar gambling st- --tax stamp affixed to every machine or they were in violation--they could nail 'em and put 'em in jail for tax evasion. So they knew every machine. But somebody had gotten a law passed in Kentucky, stuck onto some amendment--(Laugh--Birdwhistell)--which exempted pinball machines as gambling devices, which says they were not gambling devices, and--and they could not then go to court and have 00:46:00them found as gambling devices per se, which would outlaw 'em. They had that exemption and they wanted us to remove that exemption. And the U.S. Attorney, Bill Scent, got the attorney general to gang up on me to agree to propose legislation that would change that amendment, that somebody'd slipped through the legislature the prior year, and-- previous administration or--or before that. I don't know when. But it was one of those things that probably went through and I've forgotten my legislative history, but it's the kind of thing that gets done right at the end of a session. And well, I felt so obligated to the attorney general for really getting him to come that I said, "Okay, I'll help 00:47:00you." Now, they were working in Maryland and working--they were trying to break this up because it was in league between the manufacturers of these machines, and the Mafia were involved. There were underworld groups involved in this sort of thing because it made a lot of money. And well, I proposed it, and I didn't realize how many toes I was stepping on,--(Laugh--Birdwhistell)--people that came to me, trying to get me to back off. And then even--I had veiled offers of campaign contributions, said, "Well, we know you want to run for the Senate. I can raise you fifty thousand." Then it got up to "a hundred thousand dollars in campaign contributions if you'll forget this."

BIRDWHISTELL: These are Kentuckians or people from out of state?


BREATHITT: They were Kentuckians. And I said, "I'm not gonna do that." And I said, "In the first place, the bill is introduced and I'm gonna see it through, because if I don't, everybody's gonna say I got bought off." (Laugh--Birdwhistell) Of course, they were careful about the way they said it. And they'd send somebody that wasn't in the underworld. And--and I said, "I--I'm not interested. We're gonna see it through." Well, the newspapers never really supported me. They thought--nobody really in their minds could see the difference between the old nickel pinball machine that used to be in every drugstore. I used to play between Sunday School and church. And that doesn't(??) (Laugh)--

BIRDWHISTELL: And I remember, I thought those--I thought you were gonna do away with all pinball machines.

BREATHITT: Yeah. (Laugh--Birdwhistell) Well, and--and--but it was only the multi-coin gambling device. And-- well, the "Courier-Journal" 00:49:00kind of pooh-poohed it. And Herndon Evans helped me over here with the "Lexington L- --Herald," but the "Lexington Leader" didn't pay m- --they sort of pooh-poohed it. And I had a tiger by the tail without any real support. And you know, some of the churches and the s- --b- --some of those folk--sort of folks backed me, but it was a extremely difficult b- --bill to pass. And these unsavory looking people c- --started coming up lobbying the legislature, bringing girls, and money, and g- --rich entertaining, and by the time that came up, I said, "We're not gonna turn this thing over to that crowd, we're gonna beat 'em." Well, then they tried their last thing and that was when Ted Bassett, head of state police, came to see me and said the F.B.I. had an informer 00:50:00that told 'em that these two fellows that have just been recently propo- --paroled from La Grange are gonna make an attempt on your life walking between the governor's mansion and the--and the--and the governor's office. And of course, I couldn't say anything about that. And they were to pick up the gun, 'cause they couldn't carry--own a gun 'cause they were parolees, and that was an offense could throw 'em right back in jail, behind the cigarette machine at the Holiday Inn. "Now, we'll stake that out." But Ted brought me a--a police pistol, says, "You carry this. We'll have you carefully guarded by the state police, a plain clothes man, and don't make any appearances anywhere other than what you have to do doing this." And--and we concluded that once we got the bill passed, that was it. I do not think that--I think 00:51:00they set those two guys up. They--they caught 'em and arrested 'em. And I think they set 'em up to intimidate me and got that word back to me to try to intimidate me. And well, you know, if you bow to that sort of thing, you're no longer governor. And--and I never told my pare- --my family what was going on. They couldn't understand all the security around--that, suddenly around the mansion. And--and they had more security--ha- -- we had one guy that--policeman that stayed on. He'd usually go to sleep on the couch at night, and they stopped that. And--In fact my son (Laugh--Birdwhistell), one time he went to sleep, and he got his handcuffs and hand-cuffed him to the--(Laughter)--arm of the chair (Laughter). Saint Corn(??) was his name. He'd been an 00:52:00athlete at Western Kentucky. (Laughter) And he'd gotten so fat that he didn't meet Ted Bassett's standards for a patrolman on the road. You know, you had to look good. And--by--he was an old Marine, you know and you had to look like a Marine. Well, I loved Saint Corn(??), and the family loved Saint Corn(??), and he was a great guy (Laugh). But my family knew something was wrong, but I never told 'em.

BIRDWHISTELL: Umhmm. So how worried were you?

BREATHITT: Well (Laugh), who--yes, I was worried, but there wasn't anything I could do about it but go on, but it just meant I had to pass the bill.

KLOTTER: Yeah, the Kennedy assassination had just happened a few years--

BREATHITT: Oh, yeah,--

KLOTTER: --earlier(??).

BREATHITT: --it had.

BIRDWHISTELL: Oh, I would have been worried. I--

KLOTTER: ----------(??)----------

BIRDWHISTELL: --wondered how worried you were(??) (Laugh).

BREATHITT: Well, you wer- --I was worried, but--

BIRDWHISTELL: I would have been, too(??).

BREATHITT: And--and a guy comes to you,--

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

BREATHITT: --a state police guy, and says, "You carry this gun." And I was, you know, carrying a pistol the whole time. And he said, "We'll have you totally protected with the state police," but they weren't 00:53:00trained like the Secret Service and--and you know, we have such open access for governors in Kentucky. And except for Goebel, and that was a different situation. But at any rate, once we passed it, that was it.

KLOTTER: I don't think the press ever really picked up though on the depth of all--the fight that was going on there. Did--

BREATHITT: Uh-um, uh-um. I didn't want to tell about the threat, 'cause that'd give some nut the idea.

KLOTTER: Uh-huh.

BIRDWHISTELL: Yeah. That's ----------(??)--

BREATHITT: I mean, that's the trouble on--on that. And they never did pick up on it. And it was a--Well, it was just one of those unfortunate things that happened. But--but I wound up spending an awful lot of political capital on it that was never fully appreciated and had no long term affect in Kentucky because it was such a side issue. And now we got gambling everywhere.


BIRDWHISTELL: What about the long term knowledge you had of the people who were trying to influence you with money and basically some type of bribery. I mean,--

BREATHITT: That happens to every governor.

BIRDWHISTELL: So it's every--

BREATHITT: Some succumb and some don't, and it's done very--in a very sophisticated way. They don't put it in the terms of quid pro quo.


BREATHITT: And I had only two attempts to bribe that I considered to be attempts to bribe. One--the other one was before I was inaugurated and after I was elected a person came to me representing bootleggers in Eastern Kentucky. And he said, "These people think you're a--gonna make a fine governor and that you're not gonna be going on any witch hunts." They didn't say "lay off". (Laugh--Birdwhistell) "And we want 00:55:00to help you begin your campaign fund for your next race." And I said, "I don't know that I'm gonna run and I'm not interested in any campaign funds, and--" which I never did have a slush fund. I never did build one. And that's standard procedure now, as soon as people get in office. Look--good God, McConnell raised five million before he even started (Laugh--Birdwhistell). And--and everybody does it. Everybody does that goes to the Congress, or now they will be because they can run for re-election in state offices. This fellow went back and wrote me a letter and says, "Maybe you can be a statesman, I can't." Now, he was not the bootlegger, but he was an intermediate. Bootleggers are always too smart to--but what they had set up in Eastern Kentucky was a situation in which in all those dry counties they had a deal going 00:56:00with the sheriff principally. You could--those--in those days serve one term. And the sheriff protected the bootlegger, and the bootlegger would run from a licensed establishment truck loads of illegal beer, wine, and whiskey to the bootleggers of Eastern Kentucky principally, very limited in Western Kentucky, but very much Eastern Kentucky. And--and it was a--a thing that was just corruptive and--in the whole system. And--and it was a--people didn't think much about it. They just felt that they couldn't book the bootleggers and the preachers 00:57:00both,--(Laugh--Birdwhistell)--and they wanted their supply, and they just did it. And it shows how difficult prohibition is to enforce. But they're the only two times I ever had anything that I--I knew--I couldn't have 'em arrested because they never did say enough. They're very smooth about the way they do it; they want to talk about campaign contributions. But they're the only two times that I had any approach. But I--I--I am confident that every governor and every public official has to fend off that sort of thing--

KLOTTER: ----------(??)----------

BREATHITT: --and some don't. And the drug enforcement agent general down in Mexico barely in office, and he got arrested. It--it's just a part--and in--in other countries other than ours and a lot of third world countries, it's just they way they do business, particularly 00:58:00totalitarian countries. It's very unfortunate.

KLOTTER: Speaking of Eastern Kentucky, you had the--the strip mine fight that went on, which was another thing that you had to spend a lot of effort on. What--who were your allies and enemies on that?

BREATHITT: My allies were first the "Courier-Journal" and the Bingham family, who did everything they could to highlight the issue for a number of years. And then I had the Farm Bureau and the soil conservation people, and--and then I had the beginnings of the environmental group. Sierra Club was still--was in existence in those days. The real environmental movement had not gained full force in those days, but the Courier had highlighted this issue for a long, long time. And Kyle Vance and Eastern Kentucky bureau chiefs had been given 00:59:00the assignment, and the Binghams were just determined that--that we weren't gonna destroy Kentucky, in the western coal fields, which had a lot of strip mining, and in the eastern Kentucky coal field, different type of strip mining. Western coal fields was--was--they didn't have auger mining and mountain top--well, they didn't--didn't have mountain top mining when I was governor, but they would go in and--and make a bench and then go in with augers or mine right on in that way. And then we had some open pit mining in Eastern Kentucky, but not as much as in Western Kentucky where--which was much more rolling and flat, but my allies were newspapers, media. Other newspapers jumped on it. The Lexington papers were on our side, not nearly as strident as the Courier, but Herndon Evans supported me, as he did--(Laugh)--everything 01:00:00nearly I did, Hern- --with the "Lexington Herald." And then there was a--a group of conservationists, the soil conservation people, that had backed Henry Ward and Lawrence Wetherby way back in the '54 session of the legislature, when the first strip mine bill was passed. And I was in the legislature at that time and it was the same coalition except that the issue had grown so much greater and more heated. My opponents were the coal industry, and the utilities, and the railroads. The railroads haul the coal, the utilities burn the coal, and they were interested in getting the coal. The railroads wanted to haul it, and they--And the utilities wanted it at a cheaper prices they could get, and they didn't want added costs for reclamation on top of it. And 01:01:00the coal people felt it placed them at a competitive disadvantage with other states that did not have strict requirements for reclamation. And I never got a threa- --a--an offer of a bribe. It was all just cold hard political opposition. Now I don't know what--I'm sure there's some--(Laugh)--individual members of the legislature that had their campaign coffers greatly enriched and--but it was an economic battle, the economic interests versus the conservation and reform interests. And I was wearing the white hat and they were wearing the black hat. And I had very strong allies in Harry Caudill, who'd--by that time was not in the legislature, but had gained great fame with 01:02:00Night Comes to the Cumberlands, and the Widow Combs who was fighting and had been front page "Courier-Journal" trying to stop the bulldozers and wound up in jail. It was either Thanksgiving or Christmas, I've forgotten which, and--and then the efforts through the courts to have her arrested and thrown in jail. And the newspapers knew how to play that one. This poor little old widow woman didn't want 'em knocking her baby's coffin over the hill (Laugh--Birdwhistell). And that was I think very important. Plus, I had some very key allies that I had backed in the '65 races, Governor Wetherby, who was totally committed to this. John Y. Brown was my majority leader and he was totally committed to it. I remember him standing up to one strip operator one time at a seminar which I attended and says, "If you tear it down, 01:03:00you've got to put it back." And of course, he'd always been against the operators and on the UMW side. And he had the guts to fight a buzzsaw, you know, and he was majority leader. Then I had Har- --I had Wendell Ford and "Dee" Huddleston that were added to that legislative group, and "Jiggs" Buckman, J.D. Buckman, former attorney general. And he was for me, I think not so much on philosophy or the--the reason, except that he was my majority leader and he wasn't gonna be majority leader and not s- --support me, and--and he did, he was very effective. And so I had those people. And I don't think if I had not had Wendell Ford, and "Dee" Huddleston, and J.D. Buckman, and Floyd Hayes Ellis, and Governor Wetherby, that I backed in the senate--because Waterfield, 01:04:00again thinking about running, knew that he could pick up in a primary all the coal industry of the state, and the utilities probably, and the railroads probably against Henry Ward who had been the commissioner of conservation and who'd fought hard under Wetherby to pass the first strip mine bill. Plus they knew he was incorruptible, and mean, and tough--(Laugh--Birdwhistell)--and that he would enforce the law. They knew they had nowhere to go there and that I would be supporting him. And so Waterfield was very careful not to st- --take public positions, but he and his allies in the senate, and he had almost--well, in the first session he had as many as I did, counting the Republicans and the Waterfield-Chandler supporters. So I didn't have any help there, but he didn't take a public position really as a leader of the opposition. 01:05:00He left that up to the coal industry.

KLOTTER: Did the--did the coal industry say, basically, "We're not gonna compromise at all, we don't want any--any changes in the law," or did they see that there was gonna have to be some changes?

BREATHITT: Well see, Combs had worked on the premise when he made some amendments to strip mine bill and he worked on a basis of, "Let's sit down together and come up with what you can live with and what improves it." And then Combs appointed people that would enforce the law. See, under Chandler, Chandler didn't change the law, he just didn't enforce it. He had the support of the coal industry. It just wasn't enforced. But the--the technology of strip mining had--had made such rapid advances and the technology of reclamation had improved 01:06:00so, and we had the experience of Pennsylvania which was ahead of us, and which I relied very heavily on the experience of Pennsylvania, and Governor Bill Scranton, and Dr. Chaumbury(??) from Penn. State. And we flew the legislature out there to see what they's doing. They took us around and showed us what they was doing, and--and we had media. We made a big media deal out of it, you know. But it was a situation in which the politics lined up very heavily against us, and it helped Louie Nunn, really helped him in his race. And I knew it was gonna be very difficult and it would be--that I had permanently alienated the coal industry and that I had to make that decision 'cause to get a real effective strip mine bill, you had to have a--a confrontation and use 01:07:00the power of the governor and--and the people, just as Wetherby did on the first one. It was very modest compared to what we did, but it w- - -it started the reclamation process, established the division in natural resources. In those days it was called the Department of Conservation. Henry Ward headed it. And that's what it--what happened, and we got it passed. But it--when that--at that dramatic hearing in--in the house chamber, it was a joint hearing, and Harry Caudill came up with the Widow Combs and they stood up there and she told her story, and I was right there listening to it. And I looked up in the galleries and there were these coal operators just shaking their heads. (Laugh-- Klotter & Birdwhistell) They knew it was powerful stuff.

KLOTTER: P.R. ----------(??).

BREATHITT: Yeah, that's right. And it was emotional. And so we--we called it up. But we were so close in the senate that I c- --lacked 01:08:00a vote, and I had to send somebody out to find John Raymond Turner and get him there.

BIRDWHISTELL: Where was he?

BREATHITT: He was over here in Lexington (Laugh--Birdwhistell) and--and he was avoiding conflict (Laughter). And I--and I sent a friend of his who knew where to find him (Laughter), who worked for me--

BIRDWHISTELL: How good(??) how--how good a friend could that (Laughter) be.

BREATHITT: Well, the--the friend w- --worked for me. He--

BIRDWHISTELL: Oh, he worked for you.

BREATHITT: --was in--yeah, and he--he was in my office, and I said, "You got to get him over here." Plus I called Marie Turner and I said, "Marie, I have to have this vote." Of course, they own a tremendous amount of coal land up in Breathitt County and those areas. And they weren't for it, either, but they loved the political power and they loved to have the patronage. And I said, "It's the operators or me. Now which one do you want? I got to have John Raymond." I had to get 01:09:00tough about it, because it was playing for keeps, and I mean it was really tough. That was the hardest, toughest fight of all. Civil rights was emotional, but it was not tough. But the coal operators' point--they fought it extremely hard but they didn't go to the extent that those people did that--because they were basically honorable--most of 'em except for the wild--the fly-by-nighters, were honorable people and business people, and they just had a strong view against what we were trying to do.

KLOTTER: Yeah, they were organizing--on the civil rights issues, it was--there wasn't that same kind of organizational opposition as much as just opposition in a general sense.

BREATHITT: It was cultural.


BREATHITT: It was cultural. And it was his- --historic, cultural, 01:10:00broke along the old fights that I read about in your books--(Laugh- -Klotter)--and I read about in Cassius Clay book that I just finished reading, between the pro-slavery and anti-slavery people. And--and it was--it just was historic. And came down--and my opposition came from those parts of Kentucky which had slaves, in Western Kentucky, my home county. Oh my goodness, they just--I mean, I--I'd go home for that year after that, I mean, there was a lot of opposition to me in my home county, Christian County.

KLOTTER: What--what happened when you went home? What did--I mean, did people stay away from you, did they tell you how they felt?

BREATHITT: Well, they just--well, they'd tell me they felt about it (Laughter).

BIRDWHISTELL: No problem there ?

BREATHITT: (Laughter) Yeah. No, they'd seek me out. (Laughter) Yes, 01:11:00and--and Logan, Todd, Warren. Christian, of course, had such a very heavy slave population that we had some--for many years it was fifty percent black population there. And there are no great concentrations of--of African Americans in Kentucky except in a few spots. Here in the Bluegrass, and Christian County, and--and--and to a lesser degree in other counties in Western Kentucky, but there weren't any blacks in Eastern Kentucky. I got most of my support on that issue from Eastern Kentucky and from the liberal reformer types. There were a lot of those, too, that--like Shelby Kincaid and people like that that just--it was an emotional sort of issue. It wasn't a classic economic battle like the strip mine. But it was a--but I had strong leaders 01:12:00on that. John Y. Brown made a great speech on it. And I had a strong speaker that--o- --that was not as experienced as some of the speakers in the past, but Shelby McCallum. Marshall County, until fifty years ago, had a unwritten rule that no black stays after dark in Marshall County, or he'll never leave the county. I mean, it was that bad in--in parts of Western Kentucky. And--but we broke that incubus and once it was broken, it was broken. We had a lot of--of centers of enlightenment in Kentucky, the Louisville school board back in--in--in implementing desegregation. And there were lots of areas and very decent, enlightened people over Kentucky that rallied to this. Plus 01:13:00it was an emotional issue nationally, what Martin Luther King and the whole movement spilled over into Kentucky, and a lot of support out of Louisville, a whole lot of support out of Louisville. And Norbert Blum and those people in the legislature were strong on my side, from Louisville.

KLOTTER: When you--when you--in the first--in '64 when there was the march in Frankfort,--


KLOTTER: --and Martin Luther King was there, and you met with--with King and--


KLOTTER: What did King say to you that time? And wh- --


KLOTTER: --and what did you s- --

BREATHITT: --it was a whole group that came in to my office. It was Jackie Robinson; and--and King; and Frank Stanley, Jr.; and Peter, Paul, and Mary; and quite a--we could only get so many and they had to pick who that--see, we cooperated with the leaders of the march and--to 01:14:00keep it peaceful and under control. And they came through and--and he says, "Governor, you have an oppor- --you have an opportunity to be the supporter and pass the first civil rights bill south of Mason-Dixon Line." Secondly he said, "We're concerned about your statement during the campaign that you would repeal--rescind the executive order of Combs, but support the bill--a bill," which was to get around the one argument that Nunn was using that this is the kind of issue should not be done by executive order but ought to be done by the legislature. 01:15:00Of course, he made an appeal and says, "You and I know what the legislature'll do to this issue." Well, I said, "Reverend King, we'll pass it. I'm committed to pass it. I ran on that and--and we'll pass it." And I've got pictures. I don't have one in here of that. I've got a bunch, pictures of King in--in my office. I think it's right here. Yeah, here it is. And the person that--that really made the pitch against--They tried--they talked to me and tried to talk me into not being--that's when they were talking to me, and that was taken just by our state photographer. And they tried to get me not to rescind 01:16:00it, the executive order. And he says, "That'll be rescinded when you pass the bill." I said, "No, I said I would when I ran. I'm gonna do it. I'm gonna rescind it, and--but then we're gonna pass the bill." So that was the discussion, but of course my daughter was in the march. And she was one of the first people through the door, all excited, Mary Fran, my oldest child. And my preacher from Hopkinsville, Dr. Fred Fister, was in the march, awful lot of preachers. Half my cabinet was in the march. And Ed Prichard had rounded 'em all up, Phil Swift, who had formerly been an editor of the "Frankfort State Journal"--and the "Woodford Sun," rather, the "Woodford Sun." He was the former editor of that. He was our minority commissioner. We had half the--And we a lot of people in the legislature that were in the march, too, I mean, 01:17:00the--the Shelby Kincaids, and the Norbert Blooms, and the--and the--I think Foster Pettit was in it. Quite a few were in it. It was-- you know, it was an emotional reform time. There was a lot of feeling after Kennedy's death, "We've got to do these great things he laid his life down for." It was a great time to do those sort of things. And so it was not a battle in which we didn't have a lot of support, but that there was an underlying cultural opposition that was here, the darker side of our nature in Kentucky and it was there. And they wouldn't say anything. I mean, they wouldn't get out and make a lot of big speeches. They wouldn't harangue like Wallace, but they talked to 01:18:00their farmer constituents when they went home, and they talked to their kinfolks, and--and they just--they weren't ready to do it.

BIRDWHISTELL: Did you have a sense--like looking at that picture of you and--


BIRDWHISTELL: --Dr. King, did you have a sense of the amount of history that was going on in that room at that time? Did--


BIRDWHISTELL: --you--You knew it was happening?

BREATHITT: Oh, yeah.

BIRDWHISTELL: You were very aware of it.

BREATHITT: Yeah. And--and I was--I was emotionally involved, like so many others were, because of Kennedy's death. I had Bert Marshall, who had been Bobby Kennedy's civil rights fellow in the justice department and John Douglas, who was Senator Paul Douglas' son. Bo- --they flew down and--and helped me on determining how to structure the march so it 01:19:00wouldn't get out of hand, that it would be a peaceful march, and that I would not be confrontational but--as it happened in Alabama. They'd gone through all those states, and how it would not be that, and they were very helpful. And they both helped i- --us in drafting the bill, and so I was working very closely with those people. Now, Frank Stanley really took me on about the--he was with the paper and they took a very strong position against my rescinding the executive order. And--and there was only one way to wipe that out, pass the bill-- (Laugh--Birdwhistell)--and sign the bill. And--and I did one thing in '64 to further convince people that I was really for it. See, a lot 01:20:00of people were saying, "Well, Breathitt's not really for it. That's just talk. He did the same thing Louie Nunn said he was gonna do, and he didn't get it passed. And Louie Nunn's right, the legislature knows how to deal with that issue." And I had a lot of that going on for the nay-sayers, and my enemies, and some of the more zealous civil rights people that didn't know what the political realities were. So I went to the governors' conference and Johnson called me up, knowing I'd tried to pass it. And he says, "You're the only governor south of the Mason- Dixon Line that I can call that I think would sponsor a resolution in support of the '64 Civil Rights Act before the Congress," said, "It's hung up in the Senate with filibusters from some of my best friends,"- -(Laugh--Birdwhistell)--and--the southern senators. And he said, "Would 01:21:00you do that?" And I said I would. He says, "Get you one of those liberal Republicans to co-sponsor it with you so it'll be bi-partisan." So I asked Hatfield. Of course, it was great for him politically, from Oregon, you know. And--and Hatfield did co-sponsor it with me. And he didn't know who I was, and--and I really didn't know him, but I knew he was an academic, and he'd been on that side, and--'cause I'd heard him at the governors' conference speak out on the issue. And so we introduced it and we got every governor north of the Mason-Dixon Line, and we got every border state governor to support it. We didn't get a single vote south of the Mason-Dixon Line. And I--there are people like Sanford that were really for us, and there were people like Frank Clement that were really for us, and there were people like--


KLOTTER: Florida?

BREATHITT: No, Sanford--Carl Sanders, I mean, from Georgia who had run on a reform ticket against Marvin--oh, what was that guy's name? He was a real r- --segregationist governor. He ran against him, but they wouldn't--they wouldn't do it. They wouldn't sign it. They voted against it. It was that tough in the south, politically. And even Fulbright, you know, never would vote for a civil rights bill. It was political death in the south, and so they didn't vote for it. But we did get all the border state--but that--by taking that stand I incurred the wrath of the--in Kentucky of the anti-civil rights side. And I think that went a long way to convincing them that I was really on that 01:23:00side, but a lot of 'em said, "Oh, well he's a great reformer when he goes to a governors' conference, but he ain't much when he comes back to here to do something." They attacked me, the--from two sides, my political opposition from the Republican party, and--which is expected. I mean, that's just in the game, and--and then for the real liberals that felt that I should not have rescinded the executive order. And so it just left me there where I had to get a legislature that would vote for it. Plus I campaigned all over the state. I helped try to build--we got a whole bunch of people really working to try to change the sentiment. And the press recognized what the situation was and they helped--helped build a climate. Plus the country was moving in that direction. It was easier in 1966 after the passage of the '64 Civil Rights Act. (Cough)


BIRDWHISTELL: But it was still hard.


BIRDWHISTELL: But it was still hard.

BREATHITT: Oh, yeah, sure it was. (Laugh--Birdwhistell) Sure was.

BIRDWHISTELL: Did you know how hard all these things were--were when you got into office?

BREATHITT: No, uh-uh. I--(Laugh)--sure didn't (Laughter). Well, I'd been in three sessions of the legislature, but we had never had--

BIRDWHISTELL: These are hard ----------(??)--

BREATHITT: --that kind of confrontations.

KLOTTER: Yeah. Yeah.

BREATHITT: They had--although Wetherby was very much--he was a forerunner--


BREATHITT: --on both civil rights and--

BIRDWHISTELL: Environment.

BREATHITT: --and environment. [Phone Rings]

BIRDWHISTELL: But those are tough conflicts.

BREATHITT: Umhmm. They sure were,--(Laugh)--but we succeeded. We succeeded.

KLOTTER: To--Do you ?--

BIRDWHISTELL: Well, I was--I always like to think, you know, about--and I think we've talked about this before, that if you put a different governor in from '63 to '67, with a different political philosophy, a different view of civil rights, a different view of strip mining, a 01:25:00different view of bribery,--(Laugh)--things--it does n- --things would have been a lot different.



BREATHITT: --that's right.

BIRDWHISTELL: --would have missed some opportunities. And I think--


BIRDWHISTELL: --it's important that when you look back at these things to point out how--how much difference that could make.

BREATHITT: Yeah. That's right. It--it--I think that there were two-- three influences on me that--four influences on me that helped me come to the conclusion that I should move. One was the "Courier-Journal" and its strong position, and they had strongly supported me, and I felt I could not let them down. Secondly was Combs, essentially was an intellectual and a reformer, and he was at a different time than I was. His was a di- --more difficult time for him, but he had--of course had 01:26:00signed this executive order, and he had to endure the slings and arrows from having signed it, and he was basically--that's the way he felt. It w- -- and--and I could never have been governor without his su- --early endorsement and support. And then Ed Prichard who was a great influence on me in helping to develop my--and articulate my thinking on these--in these social areas, and on the strip mine area, you know. He was always against exploitation of--by capital against the interests of the people. And "Prich" was an influence on me. So you take the paper, and you take Combs, and you take "Prich" as an influence on me, 01:27:00and then there were a whole lot of people at the University of Kentucky that I had in my formative years. Jack Reeves in the political science department, Tom Clark in the history department, to a lesser degree Jasper Shannon in the political science department, they all took a young man from a s- --a--a county like Christian and pointed out issues and problems in this state that I'd never focused on. And so I had the advantage of having that kind of political support in close contact with. And I sat in with Combs during his administration as a member of his cabinet, and I'd worked so in his campaign that I got to sit in on a number of sessions, including the session in which--(Cough)--he 01:28:00and "Prich" decided that the only way the University of Kentucky would ever meet its responsibility as a land grant institution was through a community college system, to carry it to the ex- --extent that it really could help enrich the lives of people in Kentucky, that the Ag. school was too limited in its ex- --extension service to really do it. And-- and of course--(Laugh)--"Prich"--I remember that one night. He started banging on the dining room table, says, "This little old oligarchy of ar- --aristocrats in Lexington, they don't give a damn about any of those poor miners standing in the cold--in a food stamp line with the wind whistling up their britches' legs!" (Laughter) He sa- -- and you know, he would get all emotional about these things, and it made you think about it. And he strongly supported this community college idea 01:29:00as the only way you'd ever make this university reach its potential.

BIRDWHISTELL: You don't hear him linked to it(??)--

[End of Interview]