Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Edward "Ned" T. Breathitt, Jr., August 6, 1997

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
Toggle Index/Transcript View Switch.
Search this Transcript

KLOTTER: --ask some questions that we didn't ask on some of the earlier ones.

BREATHITT: Okay, fine.

KLOTTER: Go through the list, and then just kind of some summary.

BREATHITT: Okay, fine.


KLOTTER: Okay. With all the discussion we've had in the papers recently about capital punishment, what are your views on that, and what took place during your administration on that issue?

BREATHITT: My views on capital punishment have changed through the years. When I went to Hopkinsville as a young lawyer--Hopkinsville had a very high percentage--black population, as it does now. It was higher then. It was nearly 40 per cent. I observed, as a young lawyer, that if you were black and killed a white you got the death penalty automatically. If you were white and killed a black, oftentimes they laughed it out of court, or a slap on the wrist. If 00:01:00it was a black versus a black, they'd get life imprisonment and out in eight years. And if it was a white versus a white, you know, it was pretty much even justice, and I was appalled by that. Our law firm--in those days, we had court appointed attorneys to defend every criminal case. My first case after I'd been sworn in was a black accused of killing a black. And I remember when I was sworn in before Judge Arty(??) Smith, he--I went out and took my place with the lawyers at the bar, and he motioned me up to the bench, and he says, "Now, Mr. Breathitt, I'm giving you your first case." I straightened up and felt very proud, and he said, "It's a capital case." I said, "Oh Judge, 00:02:00when's it set for trial?" He said, "In about ten minutes." And he said, "Go talk to the commonwealth attorney and the county attorney." Well, John King from Cadiz was the Commonwealth Attorney, and W. E. Rodgers was the County Attorney, and they said, "Well, this is on a plea of guilty; it's a nigger killing," and--over a woman down in Lafayette, which is spelled Lafayette, little rural south central county where they had heavy slave populations. And so I talked to my client, and I said, "Do you understand that--I understand that you want to enter a plea of guilty," he says, "Yes sir, I want to enter a plea of guilty." Said, "I killed him," said, "But he deserved killing, he was messing with my woman, and I went into this little," sort of dive, which was 00:03:00down in that area, and he said, "I shot him. And I killed him. And meant to." And said, "But they told me if I'd plead guilty that I'd get life and I could get out in eight years, and if I didn't they might electrocute me, and so I pleaded." And I said, "Well, do you want to plead your c- --I mean, do you want to change your plea to not guilty and have a trial? I'll defend you, and we'll," he said, "Well, I don't know how I can defend it. I done it." That's what he told me. And I said, "Okay." So I went through with it, and as a little sidelight, I said, "Well, do you want to hire me?" He said, "I haven't got any money, but you can get the pistol if you can get it back from the county attorney." So I went over to the county attorney and said, "My client says that you have his pistol, can I have the pistol as my fee?" And the county attorney laughed and said yes. Well I entered 00:04:00the plea, he went to the penitentiary, he got out in eight years--he'd never--he'd never done anything in his life, and I had a tremendous sense of guilt. And I started watching these--the situation there, and our juries were [Phone Rings] accustomed to it, and that's the way the--that was the unequal system of justice in Christian County when I started practicing law in 1950. So I became a strong opponent of the death penalty, because I said, "Until you have equal justice under the law, then I don't believe in the death penalty." So when I became governor, I was--I was--I was an opponent of the death penalty, although I said, "I have taken a sworn oath to uphold the law, and I will--I will sign an order." The first, week I was there, Ed Fawcett who had been Combs's administrative assistant brought me an order for 00:05:00execution, and it was a case in Jefferson County. And I signed it, because even though I was opposed, I felt I had a sworn duty. Well, before they c- --they could carry it out, this judge, the circuit judge, and the commonwealth attorney came to me and said, "We think we erred." And that was the circuit judge and the commonwealth attorney, which gave me grounds then to commute it to life, pending any court investigation that might call for a new trial, or justify a pardon or parole. And that's the only reason he wasn't executed. At that time, the whole movement in the country was against the death penalty. And from that time, for years, there was no death penalty anywhere in the 00:06:00country. I mean, no execution anywhere in the country. They still were convicting people, and they were going on death row. There was a very small group in Kentucky opposed to the death penalty, and a very small group strongly active for a death penalty, but the general public was still for the death penalty. I took the position of trying to educate, and I made speeches around against it, citing what I found to be the situation in the Christian circuit court as an example. And it was not a very popular situation in Christian County, because it was almost a lynch mentality. And well, I proceeded--we introduced a bill to outlaw the death penalty in Kentucky, and one of the leading 00:07:00Methodist ministers in Kentucky came out bitterly opposed to the bill, named Hightower from Louisville, very powerful Methodist minister. The pro-death penalty people rallied a bunch of Protestant ministers and others in support of the death penalty, and attacked me. Well, we had progressed on this long, long way, and then I have observed it for a long time. And I now feel that under the mad dog theory, if you've got a mad dog in our society, just as you have a right to defend your home, you have a right to defend your society. Serial killers, serial rapists connected with killing, terrorists who attack our 00:08:00society to kill in a planned way, that under the mad dog theory there are justified cases, but only where there has been active due process. So I have modified my position, and I'm not just per se against the death penalty, just as I am not a pacifist. I think that we have to defend our nation when warranted, and I enlisted in the Air Force in World War II, and I knew I was going to be dropping bombs on people, and many innocent people, I guess. And it was a problem for me, but I was prepared to do it. And I just think that you can go overboard on these policies, but--and I think that--that to have people on death row 00:09:00for 12, 15 years is wrong, but I do think they should have adequate due process for appeal and review of the case, and that can be done with a shorter period of time. Now, that's my position.

BIRDWHISTELL: Governor, do you think the race issue then has been neutralized in the--in the courts?

BREATHITT: I think largely, but it's not--that doesn't mean that in some places that it still is not a factor in a jury verdict.

BIRDWHISTELL: And then what we saw with the McQueen trial, or--

BREATHITT: Execution.

BIRDWHISTELL: --execution was that it's a matter of class as much as race sometime, that if you don't have the resources to mount a defense.

BREATHITT: That's exactly what I said. If you've got enough money to hire a very fine defense council in a white on white, where you don't 00:10:00even have to have that strong a defense council, and a white killing a black, you still have got an edge, I think. But we've come a long way from the old lynch attitude. There was actual, judicial lynching going on in Kentucky in places. And I think it has a lot to do, the memory of that, with the disrespect that our African Americans have for the judicial system, for the police, because they still remember that.

BIRDWHISTELL: Now, George Wright's book documents that.


BIRDWHISTELL: On legal lynching in Kentucky. It's a really telling book on ----------(??), if you haven't seen that you might want to take a look at it.

BREATHITT: Well I've never read it, but this is just--

BIRDWHISTELL: It's a U.K. grad.

BREATHITT: Yeah. Well good for him.


BREATHITT: But--now my law partner, Tom Sawyers, who was later a circuit judge went to Swarthmore, and then U.K. Law School, was a law clerk 00:11:00to our chief justice of the then court of appeals, Brady Stewart from Paducah. He was appointed in a case in which a black killed a white liquor store operator down in Christian County right opposite Fort Campbell, and they gave him the death penalty, and he appealed it. He trie- --he was appointed, and he got a reversal with the court of appeals. He fought that thing, not on the question of whether he--he shot him, but on the issue of the death penalty, and then the errors in the case, and finally got it to where--where they got a verdict on a new trial of--of life imprisonment. Because the fellow had an IQ of about seventy, and he--it would have been a legal lynching. And Tom 00:12:00just fought it--they never appointed him to another case like that, as a court appointed--cost our law firm a heck of a lot of money.

BIRDWHISTELL: ----------(??) I mean, 'cause we--we had to take depositions, hire an investigator, do all kinds of work, and Tom--Tom took it and, in effect, won it. It was just against killing him, the death penalty. And he used all kinds of arguments. And--but I still have very firm feelings about you must have equal justice under the law if we are to have a society that believes in the rule of law, and with a great segment of our society who don't really believe in it--that they have equal justice, and for a good cause.

KLOTTER: On a personal level, talked about how you changed your views of this particular issue, but going in as governor, and then leaving office 00:13:00as governor four years later, what--what kind of difference did that make in you as a person? How were you different four years after--?

BREATHITT: When I went into office elected at age 38, inaugurated at age 39--my birthday is November the 26th, between the election and the inauguration day, I was a young lawyer from Hopkinsville, educated in public schools of Southwestern Kentucky, a part of the culture of Kentucky and Southwestern Kentucky. I didn't have the opportunity to be educated in very fine schools in other parts of the country where I might have got some different viewpoints. Educated at the University of Kentucky, which in 1942, when I had two quarters, summer and fall quarter before I enlisted in the Air Force. And then after I came back, the University of Kentucky was a different school than 00:14:00it is now. When I first went in 1942, in the fall of '42, I think we had 3,500 students. We've got nearly twice that in the community college, Lexington Community College now. I had the advantage of one year at Vanderbilt in the Air Force, in a meteorological training program, and all of those students had a good academic record. I had a--an--an all A average, but it was not in science, and math, it was all in history, and political science, and philosophy, and those sort of courses, and so I had a tough time. But--at Vanderbilt, number one, it was academically so much more rigorous in Kentucky. Secondly, 00:15:00I met some outstanding students from all over the country, from Yale, and Harvard, and Princeton, and Purdue, and University of California, and just that interaction of that group gave me a lot of perspective on lots of issues, including the race issue--that affected me. But when I came into the governor's office, I really had not had the kind of a background or education that gave me a broad perspective. I had this advantage: Ed Prichard had spent a year in my headquarters, and Ed had had that, and was an extremely bright person and a liberal, and had very broad contacts, and my mentor was Bert Combs, who was a scholar 00:16:00and had broad ideas. So the two people that had the greatest influence on me as a candidate and as a governor, not just winning, but on the issues in my own philosophy, were Ed Prichard and Bert Combs. And they remained that way until their deaths as my very close friends. Combs, my mentor, and Prichard--Combs used to call him "the philosopher," is the person that really educated me on a number of human, and social, and economic issues that was invaluable. He had educated presidents, Supreme Court--Chief Justices, Secretaries of the Treasury, Brain Trustes(??), Felix Frankfurter, you know, that was invaluable to me. 00:17:00And I would have lunch, or dinner, or conversation with him during that campaign, whenever I've--I's back at the c- --headquarters, and as governor, all during that time. So I think that when I came out as governor, and I'm not--two other influences. I, at that time, was the youngest governor in the country. I had gotten to know Jack Kennedy briefly, and his establishment after the primary. He stayed out of it, and Happy was close to old Joe Kennedy, so Joe kept them from getting involved in it, and--through John Bailey, the chairman of the Democratic Party, who was Joe's man, and some of the people around Kennedy. And Kennedy didn't want to get involved in that little primary anyway, but immediately after the primary, Jack Kennedy himself moved into it, and had me come up to Washington, and as I have said earlier, I've given you a report of that trip. But he captivated me, 00:18:00and that crowd did. And I saw myself as a leader in that campaign as a very young governor associated with Kennedy, and Arthur Schlessinger, who was very close to Ed Prichard. Prichard had gotten me with Arthur, and Ted Sorenson who was close to "Prich," but not as close as Arthur. Arthur and "Prich" were just very close. Being a part of all that-- and it was a terrible sense of loss when Kennedy was killed, but it also gave me a sense of mission, that we've got to carry the flame. Then Johnson latched onto me real fast, because I had--the night before the funeral, as I have outlined--I told earlier about that experience when he had all the governors there, said he was going to carry out the com- 00:19:00--the--the Kennedy agenda for the Democrats, and the Kennedy people among the governors, at that time was pretty heavy Democratic. And then to the Republicans like Romney and Rockefeller he says, "You stay with me for ninety days to establish the legitimacy of my presidency and then take your best holt(??). If you can beat me, beat me." And so I then told him immediately after that meeting that Kennedy had called me and said he wanted to come to Kentucky right after he went to Texas to announce the support of Combs's and the Appalachian governors report--recommending Appalachian commission, and I said, "That's one, Mr. President, I think you ought to carry out." And he said, "Well, as soon as you're inaugurated, come up." And I did, brought Combs with me, and a picture on the wall of that meeting. Right behind your head is one of the one over here. Well, right here--right here it is. And 00:20:00that's in the cabinet room, in which he committed, and that's Franklin Roosevelt Junior on the left, he committed to be for the Appalachian Deal, and I was the lead off witness. And then he sort of looked on me as a pet, you know, young governor, border state, needed Kentucky, so he, in his way--he could take you over fast too, and he did. And he asked me to second his nomination, and so that got me in, and then he appointed me as chairman of the Rural Poverty Commission. And I had people like Francis Hutchins of Berea, and people of that stature all over the country on that commission. And I spent--I spent nearly two years getting that study and that report out. And that was very--that changed me. And then he appointed me because I had--had defended 00:21:00Civil Rights in my campaign, been under attack, he put me on the commi- --well, he had asked me to co-sponsor that resolution of the governor's conference, supporting his Civil Rights Act before it passed in Senate. It was held up in a filibuster, and--which I did with Mark Hatfield. And that gave me credentials on the Civil Rights Act, so he appointed me to the commission to fulfill these rights, which was a--my gosh, it was a fantastic experience for a year, meeting with Martin Luther King, and Roy Wilkins, and Phillip Randolph, and Judge Higginbotham, who's a Yale man, and--well, all the top Civil Rights leaders were there, and there were only two whites on there. Theodore McKelvin(??) who was a Republican liberal from Maryland, who was a--had come out for Johnson against Goldwater, and me. Oh, and Courtland Gross who was the head 00:22:00of Lockeed, who was a great Civil Rights advocate. And that experience changed me. So, you know, as a young--impressionable young man, with a somewhat inadequate education, had the experience of the Army at Vanderbilt, had the experience of "Prich" and Combs, had the experience of my emotional ties to Kennedy, and my political ties to Johnson, and--which led to those two presidential commissions, one of which I chaired with the very best people in the country on both. When I came out of the governor's office, I was a changed person, because I had had invaluable experience.

BIRDWHISTELL: What about the power--having the power as governor? Did 00:23:00that change you? Did it make you more confident? Did it make you more impatient? More aggressive? That's a very powerful jo- --it was more powerful when you were there than it is now.

BREATHITT: Much more powerful. Although--

BIRDWHISTELL: So did that change your personality?

BREATHITT: Although the present governor has shown that he knows how to use power.

BIRDWHISTELL: That's right.

BREATHITT: Raw power. He uses raw power. He uses more power--

BIRDWHISTELL: Well, did you --?

BREATHITT: --than--I used in the Civil Rights Act, to a degree, and the strip mine, for a degree.

BIRDWHISTELL: Right. We've talked about those political ----------(??).

BREATHITT: That's right. That's right.

BIRDWHISTELL: but I'm talking about just the--

BREATHITT: How it affected me?

BIRDWHISTELL: The way you look at yourself, who is Ned Breathitt?

BREATHITT: Yeah. Yeah.

BIRDWHISTELL: I mean, when you thought of yourself, did you--did it change you in that sense?

BREATHITT: It gave me a lot of self-confidence to know that I could take on two issues that every other politician in Kentucky through history had ducked. (Laugh-- Birdwhistell & Klotter)

BREATHITT: And I got them passed. Civil Rights, where I took on the utilities, the coal industry, and the railroads, and that group is charged with having helped build the climate that killed the governor,- 00:24:00-(Laugh--Birdwhistell)--and--and to take them on and win, I know that the gover- --present governor must feel good taking on the University, but that's--that's nothing compared to what I took on. It really is nothing.

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

BIRDWHISTELL: Well that's--that's--

BREATHITT: And Civil Rights was ingrained in this state, particularly in my home county, and in Western Kentucky, which was the heart of the confederacy, which voted for George Wallace for president. You know, I was a--I mean, people at home, I'd walk in a grocery store, they thought, "Ned had been taken over by these people, he's not the fine young fellow we knew before."

BIRDWHISTELL: And George Romney had been brainwashed.

BREATHITT: Yeah, brainwashed. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

BIRDWHISTELL: I look on that(??), Governor--

BREATHITT: But yes, it gave me a lot of self-confidence that I could- 00:25:00-what I could do in team building, and in leadership, self-confidence, leadership. When I first went into office--I thought the fact that I thought I was an effective legislator--but I was never in leadership. Under Chandler I was in the "anti-s" in the democratic party, and we had some allies in the Republican Party which were very weak in those days, gave me a lot of self-confidence. And--and I tried to do what Combs did, and "Prich" did. They both told me at dinner, during the transition period and said "Now, Breathitt, there are two kinds of governors: those who swell, and those who grow." (Laugh--Birdwhistell & Klotter) And--says, "You be sure that you're one who grows and doesn't swell." And--


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

BREATHITT: And I've always remembered that. And I've seen some since that have swelled and some that have grown. And that's a fault of people with--a lot of people with power.

BIRDWHISTELL: That's right.

BREATHITT: In all of history. Power is intoxicating, and if it's not used totally selflessly for objectives that--that the leader feels are vital--now sometimes they're misdirected. I'm sure that Hitler had a messianic feeling that what he was doing was he was--he was design- --divine guidance, or whatever to do. I don't know what a despot like Stalin thought, I just think he was insane, and--and paranoid. He--and well I guess Hitler had a lot of that too. But then there have been 00:27:00inspired leaders through history in the church, Martin Luther King, in our day, Martin Luther, in his day. And--and I just think that power is so intoxicating that it--it has been the source of great evil in this world and great good in this world, and the lack of the ability to use it, great mediocrity, and lost opportunity in this world, all three. Oppo- and--but I did feel a great sense of accomplishment. If I could have had a second term then, I think that what could have been done in Kentucky and in my period of public service, would have been greatly enhanced, because I was really--just really equipped to provide 00:28:00the leadership at that time. And as we discussed earlier, the fact that I was going to run for the senate, and then Combs lost and Ford won, and Ford at the--that lunch at the governor's mansion made it very clear--we've covered this, and I'll br- --make short, but Ford made it very clear there was only one way you can win the primary against Dee Huddleston, that I'm going to back, is to be anti-administration just as soon as I come into office. You'll divide the Democratic Party. You'll divide the legislature. You'll divide the state. If you win, my chairman J.R. Miller will--will not be enthusiastic for you. Combs--he didn't say I wouldn't, but I read into that that I would have deeply wounded him, and probably couldn't win in the fall. And 00:29:00now, as it turns out, I'm not so sure I couldn't have won in the fall. But you see, that was a year in which Humphrey ran against Nixon, '68, and Nixon carried the state. It would have been a very difficult, difficult year. And so I opted not to divide the Democratic Party, and to--and he said he'd back me then in '72. And--and--but he ran in '72. I'd already gotten this job, which I loved, and I said, "I'm out of it."

BIRDWHISTELL: I want to do another follow-up question to leaving the governor's office. You've just described some of the heady stuff that was going on--


BIRDWHISTELL: --in your administration. And that you felt of a bigger movement, but then the--but then the Kennedy and Johnson administration, the best and the brightest, you were--you felt a part of that group.


BIRDWHISTELL: You were working on big issues, Civil Rights, tremendous 00:30:00issues that you must have felt that the time was going to change our society in great, beneficial ways. Nineteen ninety-seven, you know, you find yourself in a street fight over--over political issues in Kentucky that, you know, could be like 1950 all over again. The question is, on a personal level, does that disappoint you in some ways that there hasn't been greater change during your lifetime? Those battles you fought didn't result in--in sort of a more permanent change in the way society works?

BREATHITT: Well, I think the battle on Civil Rights would have happened anyway. But, the great accomplishment of the Johnson Administration was a southern president who really took that issue, and it--and I am convinced it meant a whole lot to him, because it was a big loss to him. Well, it helped him in big cities, and among liberals, where-- 00:31:00Kennedy had the liberals, and Johnson never did have the liberals. So it helped him with that little segment. They'd have been with him anyway against Gore. And Johnson left a legacy. We got rid of the incubus of the law protecting the segregation, and removed that, and it was an alliance with Martin Luther King and the Hebrew Christian ethic of non-violence that we--we owe such a debt to him in this country, that he led the Hebrew Christian movement of--and non-violent movement, which showed what Gandhi did was so powerful, instead of going with Eldridge Cleaver and Stokley Carmichael, and--and the snake(??) crowd, and the--the "anti-whitey"--anti- --that confrontational, raise 00:32:00your fist, black Muslims--now carry on a loft of the same sort of confrontational politics and social movement. I think that the Civil Rights thing was the greatest thing that I participated in, from a standpoint of changing our society, and I played a real role in that. And we passed it in Kentucky, which was the first state south of the Mason-Dixon Line to pass it. It was a very strong bill and sent a very strong signal about what kind of state Kentucky was, and the quality of its leadership, which I think was good. I think that the strip mine bill would have happened anyway, but I didn't know that it would happen, and I had been so saddened by what I saw from the airplane flying over Eastern Kentucky and parts of Western Kentucky, that 00:33:00I--and Carl Perkins one day, when we were flying in the fall campaign, says, "Governor, you've got to do something about this, I can't in my district, but you've got to do something about it." Said, "You've got a lot of parts of Kentucky that'll be on your side, and you got the Courier on your side strong." And the Binghams, you know, were just totally committed to that. So I say that the strip mine thing helped in the movement. It certainly stopped the pillage that was going on in Kentucky, and the rape of the land, and the forest, and the streams in Kentucky, until the federal act, which didn't happen until many, many years later, was passed. So I think that had a profound effect on Kentucky for twenty years, until the federal law took over. And there'd always been a battle between the forces of regulation and the 00:34:00forces of free enterprise in the coal industry against regulation. And it's a see-saw, and probably--they're probably reaching a fairly good balance on it, over the period of time. But that had effect. I mean, what Combs and I did on KET, I think has had a profound effect on Kentucky. It's the best educational television system in the country by far. And Combs had the vision--well, Leonard Press had the vision, Combs adopted it, and I implemented it and built it, and got the Blazers to put up the money, and their real estate people to go out and get our sites for the transmitter, and I think KET--and so that's why I'm so interested in the foundation of KET. I think that had a lot of effect. I thought the community colleges had a great effect, and as Jane Stevenson said to me the other night, she is just distraught over this legislation, because she heads this group in Eastern Kentucky out 00:35:00of Berea to try to train the young--young women that--to have a future, young women with three or four kids whose husband gets killed in the mine, or runs off and leaves them. And they're not trained, they have no hope except welfare, and now welfare reform's cutting them off that, and all they do is get into the cycle of poverty. She says their sense of self worth to work towards a University of Kentucky degree, and graduate, and wear for life a University of Kentucky class ring, has a meaning that is--was totally lost in this debate, totally lost. And she says--she's just distraught about it. I'm hopeful that we can convince the governor that we've got to keep that on the academic side 00:36:00of this new thirteenth and fourteenth year, that we don't just wipe out the academic side, and just the desire to do what industry wants: have state tax-payers train their workers so they don't have to spend any money training them. And that's a lot of the movement behind Kentucky Tech. And you've got to keep that balance. That's a very worthy goal, I mean, we do have a--that helps us, in a poor state, attract industry to know that we've got that kind of a program. And I'm hopeful--and I had an hour and a half yesterday with the governor, and Cred(??) and Ed Ford, and others. And I'm hopeful that as we really work and take strong leadership in implementing the academic side in a--in a 00:37:00graduate education and research, which we're really taking steps on, that we can do that. But I think the community college thing was an important contribution, certainly during that period of years in those communities that had nothing. They had nothing around which they could build a quality of life and hope for themselves, until they established there were no thirteenth and fourth year Kentucky Techs in those days. All we had were those old vocational schools at the high school level, which automatically said to people, "That's your potential, and that's your limit, and you just go into that." With the right kind of leadership, I think that we can come out of this and save the parts that I think are important. And so that had a--had a--had an effect, and I felt very deeply about it. I used to speak it at graduations, I'd follow them up. It was something that--it drove a stake in my heart, it really did. And because of my involvement, and Combs's 00:38:00involvement, maybe we were blinded by that, and maybe there is a better way for the future, and what we've got to do now is try to be certain it does--is a better way.

KLOTTER: If you're speaking at a commencement ceremonies now, and you're talking to that woman in Eastern Kentucky, or you're talking to the gentleman beside us, what advice would you--what's important to young people to know today? What would you be telling them if you were talking to them?

BREATHITT: That, in higher education, we're going to give you a way to a better life for you and your children. It's up to you to take advantage of it. But we're going to give you a roadmap that's achievable to you, for a better life, and that education is the route. The best example 00:39:00of this are the influx of people from the Pacific Rim that have come into this country with nothing except the clothes on their back. Much like some of our fore bearers came from Northwestern Europe, came to this country with nothing but hope, and people came into Kentucky. I've been reading your history on that, and--and these Eastern Eur- --I mean, these Pacific Rim people know that the key is education, and they're totally disciplined. They're bright people, and they know that education is the key, and look how they're excelling. They're now moving into academia and our institutions. M.I.T. has more doctoral candidates from the Pacific Rim, and a few other countries, than from 00:40:00this country 'cause most of our people are motivated to go over to Harvard Business School, and become investment bankers, and get rich in five years. But they're going and getting a stro- --a very fine technical education. So I think that all of education has to recognize all of needs in the whole equation, all the factors in the equation, and that we must work together in a very affirmative way, in thirteenth and fourteenth year education to provide that hope for these people so that Jane Stevenson in two years from now will not be distraught, but feels that we have an improved opportunity for her women, and not a--a lessened opportunity. What we've got to do is see to it that we still emphasize the academic side in these schools because they've 00:41:00got to live a f- --life. They've got to learn to read and appreciate literature and reading, and not just be glued to the boob tube, and sitcoms, and--or worse, on television. And so I think that what years I've got left are going to be higher education, and KET, and of course, helping you folks over there at the Kentucky History Center, because we learn so much--that's education. We learn so much from our history. And I think that's--that's what is so important, I think, in Kentucky. And it's so important for people that have--that have name recognition in the state because of politics, or--or being a University president, or whatever, that gives them identity and credibility in the state 00:42:00that once they leave that office or they leave the presidency of an institution, and those retired years--Tom Clark, and we had lunch with him Monday, Clinton wanted--Clinton Alexander who is a young associate, who just graduated from Queens College, was anxious to meet Tom Clark. And the impact that he's had on this state, and country, since he retired for--been nearly 30 years, has been fantastic. Wilson Wyatt did more after he retired than he ever did in public office as a leader in this state. Bert Combs had only four brief years as governor, and years on the court, but he, until the day he died, was deeply involved in making this a better state. Education was his major--major area.


[End of tape #1, side #1]

[Begin tape #1, side #2]

BREATHITT: I think(??) that we're--at the other end of the line, we're doing a lot now with Leadership Kentucky, the Governor's Scholars, these sorts of programs that are--are training a group of young people to be leaders in this state, are very important, and we must give support to that. Your Young Historians Program is--is very good. I think that the extension service at the University has got to broaden its outreach. With a shrinking number of farms, and a lot of counties that have a limited number of farms, that the extension service is going to have to do a better job, do a more comprehensive job. I'm working with the president of the University, and our--the committees of our 00:44:00board, and people on the faculty to do that. I'm having a meeting today, the president is having it with me and Shelby Lovely, the head of the League of Kentucky Cities, about what we as a university, and what higher education can do for cities. And a lot of it has to do with what we're doing with our health program through the medical center. Cities like Hazard now have a major outreach. What we can do with the Kentucky History Center with cities. What we can do with our own new great library that we're opening. And, when we get Derrick Bock(??) down here to give the key note address, it's going to be a marvelous period--of days of celebration, of reaching for the highest in this state, and the library that will serve all of our institutions, and must serve all of our institutions, public and private, and high 00:45:00schools too, and citizens because it's a commonwealth library. We've named it that, rather than the University of Kentucky library. That has great potential. We haven't really fleshed it out, how we'll do it, but we've got to do it. I just think that these retired leaders from industry, we've got a fellow that's chairman of our finance committee who lives in Lexington, Jim Hardeman(??) from Maysville, mother still lives up there, ----------(??) one of the largest corporations in this world, Textron, a big high tech international corporation, going to retire in three years, going to come back here, live in Kentucky. He's chairman of our finance committee, and he's never missed a meeting and is totally pretar- --prepared. And he's on this coordination committee that I've appointed to work with the governor, and the higher education work towards implementation. First 00:46:00priority, the new Kentucky Tech Community College merged system, but- -and I got on it with him as--a the chairman of it, is Paul Chellgren, Ashland Oil, Jim Hardeman(??), C.E.O. of Textron, and a banker from Northern Kentucky who is Merve Grayson, who's been so active up there, he's president of a bank, very active in that huge expansion on Northern Kentucky. And they're work- --to provide a very fine little group so that our board can give better oversight. And not just get the--you know, the administration giving us something at a lunch before a board meeting, and getting presentation to what they want to give us, so that we--we have a--can really do a better job by oversight. Now, that doesn't mean we try to micromanage the University, because 00:47:00if you get boards that do that, and we've had examples of that around Kentucky, out in Murray, for example, thank God we don't have that now, with a solid board backing Kearn, Alexander, but--

BIRDWHISTELL: They had their moment, I guess.

BREATHITT: Oh gosh, well they did--Morehead, K.S.U, Western, they just--it's been awful, it really has. And--but I think that what I have learned through the opportunities that have been given to me, really by the people of Kentucky, I--and my university, and higher education, I have a deep duty to give back to this state as long as I have any mental capacity and energy to do it. And I intend to do it, and will do it. And I think that I have, as we discussed at our last meeting, a real responsibility to see that the University of Kentucky, 00:48:00which was engaged in a fight I didn't ask for, did not want, did not want pitched on my--in my lap,--(Laugh--Birdwhistell)--felt trapped by, but that the University of Kentucky emerged from that as the flagship University. I said that in my speech to the Prichard Committee as we closed our annual meeting, that as a flagship university, we've got a duty to carry the flag, to see--be in the first row to see that this is implemented. That means coordination programs with every public institution and private institution in this state in higher education. We need to do it. We already have set up--the President of the University of Kentucky, and I have set up a meeting with the new president at Northern Kentucky University, and his chairman, the board, and myself, and Charles, and the two Northern Kentucky members of our board. Lizzie Platna(??) and Mark Grayson, so that the board 00:49:00gets actively involved, not in trying to run internally, we've got to guard against that, that's the worst thing the board can ever do, but actively involved in this outreach. We've got to do the same with Murray, and Western, and Morehead, and Eastern. And continue to be supportive with our knowledge of what we gained from running the community college system, now that we no longer have the administrative responsibility, supportive of this new effort to see that it doesn't collapse. It would be a tragedy if it collapses, because everything we've built up with 43,000 students a year attending these schools, I'm just talking about our community colleges, and then a great number more are attending the community colleges at all the regionals, that it goes forward, and not backward. And there's nothing that the 00:50:00mission of the University of Kentucky is accomplished unless we do that, or--and that we'll have a capital campaign. I'm pushing hard for a capital--major capital campaign to build a major endowment at the University. We, at the university, do not have a major endowment. So much of our fundraising have been ad hoc for each era to glorify some benefactor, or a building to glorify some benefactor, all of which is great, but we need a major endowment with a major capital campaign, and a plan. We're already underway with a plan since our last meeting. The president, totally on his own, picked Dan Reedy, the former dean of the graduate program to chair a group with in ca- --the University family, to come up with a five-year plan for the university. A big 00:51:00part of which is going to be how do we greatly improve our graduate and research mission from the University of Kentucky in accordance with the mandate of the legislature? And I thought it was a astute move on the part of the president because he's an old Roselle man. He's very popular with the faculty. It'n that true? And he was a part of that group that Oswald, who was president when I was governor, stole from the University of North Carolina, the whole Spanish department. Reedy and Margaret Jones, and Joe Jones, and--

BIRDWHISTELL: Bought. (Laugh)

KLOTTER: (Laugh)

BREATHITT: Bought. Bought. (Laugh)

BIRDWHISTELL: We paid good money for--

BREATHITT: Recruited.

BIRDWHISTELL: Recruited. (Laugh)

BREATHITT: Recruited. Recruited. In church, we'd say proselytized. (Laugh)

BIRDWHISTELL: I think North Carolina might have said stole. (Laugh)

BREATHITT: They said stole. They didn't like it a bit. I heard from Terry Sanford about that, and Bill Friday. I'll tell you that right now. But at any rate--so we're--we're doing that, and that plan--we're 00:52:00going to give--the president's going to speak to the Kentucky Chamber at the November meeting, and outline everything we're doing. We're having a meeting the 26th with the--the head--the president of the Kentucky Chamber and their staff. The president and I are going over to outline what we're doing, and what we intend to do with the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, and they're excited about it, and Mike Harrell is the new president, and of course he's a--Mike Harrell is a--I'm with PNC, and he's the head of it, and he's head of everything, including the Filson club now, and on the Kentucky Historical Society Board.

KLOTTER: He's vice-president of our board.

BREATHITT: Well, he ought to be the head of it too because it gives you somebody real seat in the pants(??), and it ties you more to Louisville, which is really great.

BIRDWHISTELL: Governor, can I ask another follow-up question--


BIRDWHISTELL: --on the community college issue?

BREATHITT: I've been on a soap box here.

BIRDWHISTELL: That's all right. I want to get you on another soap box that's connected to it. If a person is listening to this interview, or reading a transcript of this interview in 25 years, hoping that 00:53:00you talked a little bit about this recent community college issue, and you've done a--you told us how the University is going to move forward with this, and how it affected you personally. But if that researcher is really intrigued by whether or not there was just a fundamental difference in the view of the future of higher education on the part of Governor Patton and the University of Kentucky, or was it a fight over power, what would you--

BREATHITT: Both. Both. The governor was very astute in taking on the University of Kentucky to build a political coalition of the regionals that have always felt jealous of the University of Kentucky. That's one point. And the other is the community college system has hemmed in and has taken away an awful lot of the students. You take 43,000 students, a portion of whom would have gone to regionals, or to private institutions, a lot of them wouldn't because they couldn't. They 00:54:00didn't have the resources and they couldn't go there, but that--when they're desperately fighting for money under a formula that's based on a head count, which I think is--is flawed, because it gives a great incentive to not raise academic entrance requirements, because you're trying to fight for dollars to keep your institution alive, and it's also flawed because it has a tendency to keep them there. Students that really ought not to stay in the school, and an awful lot of remedial education expense to keep them in school, or get them ready, that's not all wasted, because it--that experience is very valuable to those young people. But--so it was a fight for money, and power, and thirty years of frustration about the great power of the University of Kentucky, where they felt encircled, and encroached upon. And so 00:55:00the governor seized on that. He knew if he was going to have to take on a--43,000 students, and fourteen community colleges, and a powerful alumni of the University of Kentucky, which is a very powerful alumni association, he had to build a very strong coalition, and the governor did it, and he reached out to U of L, which has been in a constant battle with U.K. to have more graduate programs, and ultimately be the flagship University. What they really want at Louisville, and that we be the Texas A&M, they be the University of Texas. That's--and it's always never been great support for U.K. in the Louisville area among the power structure. It has been among the people, and the people that go to the community college. Even our polls show that, that in Jefferson County, they put a--it was opposed to the shi- --losing the 00:56:00community college. But the power structure there is united behind U of L, which is good for U of L and good for Kentucky. It's just that we need to recognize that. Now, the--so it was a battle that vented a lot of the frustrations of the regionals against the University of Kentucky, and the natural desire of institutions to improve themselves. I served on--on the board at KSU and they were very resentful of the effort of the council to make it a community college, and a part of the University of Kentucky system, rather than a four year institution. The African American alumni fought the heck out of it, very distrustful of U.K., that they thought that we wanted to do that. It wasn't our initiative, it was the council's initiative, but it was shot down. John Y. started out for it, and McCann and--and then John Y. got hit by the black caucus, and that very strong alumni they had 00:57:00around the country, and they enlisted all their allies and bl- --and John Y. didn't want to get caught in that, and so he backed up. And I think that's what it was, is a mixture of those who also saw--and I'll give you examples of that, like Lee Todd, who felt we weren't doing a good job training the whole person to really meet the changing technical needs in the work force. That a state agency is mired down in bureaucracy, other than the Kentucky Historical Society. And--

KLOTTER: ----------(??) (Laugh--Birdwhistell)

BREATHITT: --well, and Lee Todd, who is an MIT graduate from Earlington, Kentucky got his doctorate, taught at the University engineering school, has strongly been in favor of this. Now, the Prichard Committee has been very much in favor for years of a merger of 00:58:00the community college system and the Kentucky Tech system, under a board that is really focused on thirteenth and fourteenth year total education package. So, it's mixed. I mean, the governor put together a winning coalition of support, and he was wise to --to enlist the total support of the regionals.

BIRDWHISTELL: That was a strategy to get to a higher education goal, it wasn't a strategy to bring down U.K. was it?

BREATHITT: Oh, the gove- --no, no. No. Oh, no. Oh, no. No. It wasn't a strategy to bring down U.K. at all(??), no, certainly not. There was just a difference of opinion as to how you do it.


BREATHITT: I mean, the University's position--the board's position was we support everything in the governor's bill, except we think that if you leave the management of the community colleges, and the degree, and the name with U.K., it can still be under this new president and a new 00:59:00chancellor, but let us pick the chancellor, and let us have the faculty as University faculty, and let us really control the quality of the academic side. That was lost in the battle, and we lost on that issue. That was the Scorsone Amendment that passed the senate, which supported the rest of the bill. And--but the power was, and this was the factor that I had discussed in my earlier statements in this interview, when Oswald was president, he saw that the--that the regionals ganged up when they had a vote on the council, they took his budget and reduced it, and divided it up among themselves. And he said, "What are we going to do?" He's a guy from the University of California who was --who was suspect anyway, being with Clark Kerr, and all those liberals out there, a president of the University of Kentucky. And the only 01:00:00way that we could get balance was to take all presidents from having a vote on the council, giving to the regional university status, which I thought was important, to give them prestige and standing. And it was a fair balance, whereby they got that that they had desperately wanted, and I thought was right. It was happening around the country.

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

BREATHITT: And--and then having the community college system in the university system as a part of its service mission, but also gave them a lot of clout. And there's(??) no question it gave them clout, and that was recognized by the regionals, and as well as the threat to them from their base of student enrollment and support. So--but there was a very strong element of people that really believed that this was the right way to go. And Lee Todd with his science and technology 01:01:00organization, he's very much involved with that, and a really great citizen, and the Prichard Committee, that did the thinking, that did the critical thinking. No, I do not think it was--on the part of the governor, and they really felt that the role of the University should be the research and graduate institution. But there are a whole lot of people at the University that think you've got to really not forget about the undergraduate. I mean, that is the thing that I'm concerned about as a chairman of the board, that we don't get so caught up in research and graduate that we forget the undergraduate quality. Because if you don't build top-flight young associate professors, or assi- --assistant professors or graduate assistants, or full professors, we're going to lose them. We've got to hold the best 01:02:00we've got. And schools like Kentucky are recruiting grounds for the top institutions in this country, and they take them when they gain distinction, or--they come get them. Texas has stolen people, bought people from all over the country. You look at their faculty.

KLOTTER: George Wright.

BIRDWHISTELL: They took George Wright, the guy who wrote the book on violence in Kentucky.


BIRDWHISTELL: They bought him. (Laugh)

BREATHITT: Well I'm sure they bought--University of Texas, it's amazing what they've done as an institution nowadays.

BIRDWHISTELL: They've got money.

BREATHITT: They've got--well, that is behind a lot of the political side, and power side of this fight: money.


BREATHITT: And based on a formula that rewards head count, and as long as you have that, it's that old theory that the people in the budget division here say, "Well, we've got a big chunk of raw meat 01:03:00here, let's pitch it out there and let these crews fight over it in the legislature." There's so much money we've got this--the red meat theory. And that's a hell of a way to do business.

BIRDWHISTELL: That reminds me of the story you told us about Marie Turner, about--found out she liked power more than money. Remember that story?

BREATHITT: Yeah. Yeah. (Laugh)


KLOTTER: (Laugh)

BIRDWHISTELL: If it was a choice between power and money, she took power. (Laugh)

BREATHITT: I think now we're at a period that is very important in Kentucky, that we unite all of higher education behind a common purpose, and a goal, and a vision. Unite, rather than this last fight, which was divide and conquer, and left a lot of scars. We've got to heal that--those wounds. We've got to heal them internally in the University, because the University was divided--the faculty was divided. Faculties don't look at the political side of how you get your money in this sort of fight. That's irrelevant. Your job is to get the money,--(Laugh--Birdwhistell)--but let's--our job is how you use those 01:04:00resources, helping you see that, and goes to my department and goes for research in my department, and give me so many more people, and so many more graduate assistants, and all that sort of stuff. The president has to--in a public institution has a responsibility to figure out how am I going to get the resources to do the job? And we at U.K. had had no question about it--it relied on the power of the alumni, half a million alumni, nearly, of these community colleges. (Laugh) And they are the most loyal people the University has, really is. I mean, people around here in Lexington just take it for granted, a lot of them, you know, they think it's here, it's always going to be here.

BIRDWHISTELL: In a broader sense, looking at the--the nation and its political make-up, what do you see as the most worrisome aspect of modern day politics to you? And what's the positive--

BREATHITT: Money. Money, the corruption of the whole system, 01:05:00absolutely. The most powerful people, politically, are fundraisers and contributors. We have--well, I won't get into this.


BREATHITT: Boards of Universities have people that get their power from contributions and fundraising. In the old days, that's the way you got on a board, and you bought a position on a board through a major contribution, and it's--it's much less. But if you are a fundraiser, every candidate for public office is dependent on getting a strong fundraiser, and that fundraiser has to use the influence of the ends, if you're a democrat, to raise money. Which means that you have to make a promise to these people to raise money that you'll have influence to give them a fair advantage.


BIRDWHISTELL: You know, in the earlier times, it was the political bosses that you went to.

BREATHITT: Oh yeah, well you don't go to political bosses anymore.

BIRDWHISTELL: And now you go to these power brokers.

BREATHITT: The power brokers are the fundraisers, the big contributors, and the powerful lobbies that these powerful special interests set up, that use money and influence to, in effect, buy the Congress of the United States, or buy governors, or buy legislators. And that's what they do. Now, I don't mean totally, or every one, but they buy access first, and that may be if you're limited, okay, but then when you buy influence, it's not okay. And when you flat out buy them, whereby there's no independent judgment or thinking, as far as that individual power force is, it's very corrupting on our society. The British system does not do that. You have very short campaigns, the 01:07:00parliamentary system, that they pick their leaders that run from their party internally, and then BBC and the networks have to give them free television time, and they have very limited ca- --short campaigns. And now they're on television all the time every day, because they televise the debate in the parliament. And the public knows who they are, and what they do, and it's kind of a show. They put on a show, like the Knesset in--in Israel. They have fights there. And the Diet in Japan, my God, that's serious business there! (Laugh)

BIRDWHISTELL: Original ----------(??).

BREATHITT: But it also vents their frustrations and views. But that's the most perversive evil--pervasive evil in our society, and ultimately will bring it down if we don't do something about it.

BIRDWHISTELL: Mitch McConnell was on NPR yesterday.

BREATHITT: I'm sure.

BIRDWHISTELL: Talking about freedom of speech. (Laugh)

BREATHITT: Yeah, well here's the problem about the Republican Party. 01:08:00It's the minority party, and in Kentucky, they wouldn't have anybody if it hadn't been for money, big time money.


BREATHITT: And so they're going to defend it to the death, because it is--the Democratic Party, the majority party, in having the courthouses, and the party apparatus, the old line power, and they say we can't get anybody elected--this is their argument that has some validity to it, the price is too great though for it, but that we can't train young people to get enough exposure so that they can run and win, if we don't have the money to use direct television, and then also running against the liberal press that rarely will ever give us a fair break, even in the news columns. And so they say its' the only way we can win, and it's the only balance that we have in our political system. That's- -that's Mitch's philosophy. And--but I'm going to tell you it is very 01:09:00corrupting, and that's the greatest problem we have to face. And then the problem is that television makes so much money out of it, you don't hear an awful lot from television. I mean they don't really go on the crusade--you get it on the talk shows now, some. That people--

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

BREATHITT: Yeah, and you know, the "Washington Week in Review," or the "McLaughlin," or the--those kinds of talk shows you'll get a lot of talk about it, but they always present both sides. And--now, the newspapers get on a tirade, because they don't get that much out of it. (Laugh--Birdwhistell) It's their competition that gets that big fat money. It's so lucrative that now television stations are all owned by big combines. There's not an independent television station left, in my opinion, in Kentucky, other than channel 18 here. And channel 18 01:10:00has the most public service into--non-biased public service programming too, "Your Government with Sue Wiley. And I think that's the greatest worry that I have about politics in government, and--

KLOTTER: What's the most positive thing about politics and government that you see?

BREATHITT: The most positive thing is that we have a--some better educated members of the legislature. But I think that at the local level we're getting a whole lot better quality of people at the local level in government, that are getting elected, that are the products of Leadership Kentucky, and Governor's Scholars, and all of those sort of things that work in their communities, and I think you're getting people on the school boards and on the city councils, and the run for mayor, or county judge executive, mainly mayor, I find. And I think 01:11:00that we're getting a better quality of leadership at the local level. Hopefully out of that we'll begin to get better quality of leadership at the state level. I'm really distressed about quality of leadership in the Congress, the quality of the members of the Congress, and the Senate. The best ones are quitting. And it's the people that sell out to consultants, and sell out to the fundraisers, and the special interests that want the prestige of being a congressman or a senator, rather than the thrill and the challenge of serving, and what it means to them, and I see that everywhere. ----------(??) A congressman that will change parties, or candidate will change parties just because that's the only way he can get elected, or in states where 01:12:00the political shift, politic shift, immediately shift with the wind, change parties. And blueprints, or litmus tests--litmus papers of that--really it's just very disturbing to me that you don't have people with real conviction. Now, except with the ideologues of the extremes. They have conviction, and you see that. I mean, the--the Christian Coalition types, or the people that are--the greens in Europe, the Green Party, they are the zealots, and have deep conviction. So there are people on the fringes of the left and the right--the two parties on the left and the right that have conviction, but I see so many people, the others just want to hold office, and figure out the way to do it. Now, I'm sure that's been true throughout history. I mean, you look at the quality of our leaders, but we also have some good ones coming 01:13:00on. But I see it more at the local level than I do at the state or the national level yet. But I think it's going to bubble up.

KLOTTER: You talked a little earlier in this interview about the ministers and their role, and the capital punishment fight and things like that. And this is a tough question, but how would you describe your views on religion?

BREATHITT: I've grown up in the Methodist Church. I attend regularly. I believe in a divine power. I don't know how to define it. I have not gone into the depths of my feeling about it like the real theologian, or the real person who studies and reads the Bible, and 01:14:00feels strongly about it. I keep saying I want to do that, because when you talk about the possibility of eternal life and the divine power, you--I think people--well, me, is the question, have not gone into it as deeply as others have, but I believe. And I also believe this. I think as an institution, religion has been a--a very solid force for good in the world, except when it becomes a source for great evil, and persecution, as I see with the extreme Muslim position, as I see with the problems that the extreme position of the real fundamental orthodox 01:15:00in Israel, it's creating a world problem, their image is being hurt, I think, or in this country with the extreme positions of some people on all sides. But it--the inquisition, religious wars, the crusades, some of the worst examples of man's inhumanity to man have been in the cause of the religion, carrying the cross, or carrying the banner of Muhammad, or--it's--religion as an institution, I think suffers from the same concerns that all other institutions have because--and I thi- --there's an alliance now that's been formed in this country. Walter Cronkite heads it--got a solicitation in the mail yesterday, and I'm fixing to send them a contribution, that is a--and it's an alliance 01:16:00of Christians and other religions, against the extremists that are preaching almost a- --how can you have a Christian group that argues for freedom of guns or--or pushing for the death penalty, the eye for an eye sort of a thing? They've been taken over, and are being used and manipulated very shrewdly by people in politics. Just as I think a lot of the people in--are being taken over in the fundamentalist Muhammad. Those poor young Iranians, with three days training, thousands of them are ordered to go across mine fields to attack the Iraqis in 01:17:00human waves, thinking that they're going to be, within a matter of an hour, or minutes, in heaven, with beautiful women, and all the great advantages that they were going to promise them. Well--and they life they were leading--man, this is a great deal for them. (Laugh-- Birdwhistell) That is a perversion, and a prostitution of religion in my point, but it's not only that, the children's crusades, the Christians, my gosh, what we did in the name of religion: preaching in the pulpits of the protestant churches of the South that upheld slavery as a divine creation of God. I think that--I have a problem about religion as an institution. I don't have a problem about divine power. I think there 01:18:00is a divine power. I don't know how to define it in my own mind, but I do. And as a Methodist, I call the divine power God and his son Jesus Christ. And I'm comfortable with it, and it's been an important part of my life. It doesn't dominate my life, like some really sincere, dedicated Christians. And I--I don't define it as--as clearly as some do or as narrowly as some do.

KLOTTER: That's part of your life away from the--the public sphere. What do you like to do for enjoyment with your free time, when you're not working?

BREATHITT: I like to read. I like to fish. I like to hike. I like to go to the Red River Gorge, Natural Bridge, and I'm going up to the 01:19:00breaks of the Sandy--saw that program on television, and it showed--on public television, it showed the place where Mel Skyburn(??) and I established that park, at the breaks of the Sandy, and I told Lucy, we've got to go back.


BREATHITT: That's the only time I've been there, when we established the park. (Laugh)

BIRDWHISTELL: (Laugh) It's time to go back. Yeah. Yeah.

BREATHITT: And it's such an important part of history and the location- -and Tom Clark went with Bob Sexton and his wife, and Tom's new bride, up to see Cumberland Gap, and rock where Daniel Boone looked out and saw Kentucky, and he went up there just a few days ago. Now--and I love the out of doors. I'm a member of the nature conservancy; I headed the natural resources committee of the national governor's conference; I've been a part of the environmental movement. I just 01:20:00love the out of doors. I'd rather sit in a fishing boat on a lake than anything in the world, whether I catch any fish or not, if it's in a pretty surrounding. I've been to the--I bought a little interest in a fishing camp up in Ontario. I've been there twice this year, and I'm going again in September for a week. I went for R&R after that fight, which was a--which was a bitter, hard fight, and I hated it, because friends of a lifetime got pitted into that, calling each other names. I saw hatred in the legislature. I never did lobby. I wouldn't go over there, but I saw hatred between institutions and people. It was very distressing to me, they ought to have been united behind a common purpose. But I went on R&R, as soon as that bill was passed inside, I 01:21:00went up to Canada with Bob Bell.


BREATHITT: And fished in a boat with him. He was fond of the advocates, very much on the other side.

BIRDWHISTELL: That's right.

BREATHITT: And for two days of fishing, we never mentioned it.


KLOTTER: (Laugh)

BREATHITT: But--and I--in the course of it, we began to, I think, understand each other's viewpoint, because I knew Bob Bell's was a very honest position.


BREATHITT: A legitimate position. And he had been the founder of the advocates, and the leader of the advocates for education, and acting man with the Prichard Committee, and my cabinet. He was a dear friend of mine, and I--and I said, "Now, I'm not going to let this thing influence my feelings towards people. I'm just not going to let that happen." So I started with Bob Bell, we--sitting in the fishing boat. And then I went up with Bill McCann in July, who was head of the Prichard Committee. He was in this office. And Bill and I went. And 01:22:00Bill, you know, he got real fired up. He really did. And Bill had been so frustrated as chairman of public services--I mean, of the Council on Higher Education by the regionals, and U.K., ganging up to keep from having coordination or any influence on their own autonomous power in boards. And then, frustrated with the community college system, not, in his opinion, being flexible enough and the faculty, the failure of flexibility of the faculties were there, entrenched little areas, and disciplines. And he felt that you just had to shake it all up and start over, and he really felt strongly about it. And so I avoided getting any--into any arguments with him. Before it was over, with a week up there, McCann and I were visiting and laughing, and --and--

KLOTTER: But did you catch any fish?

BREATHITT: Yeah, we caught a lot of fish.



KLOTTER: (Laugh)

BREATHITT: Yeah. But that's the thing I love. Because I see nature, and I--and the shorelines are so interesting if you study them, and then sitting around at night, with Kentucky's ex- --great product, glass of bourbon whiskey--(Laugh)--and seeing the--and seeing the sunset, and getting up early in the morning, and seeing the sun rise. I had a cabin out at the lake that overlooked the land between lakes. And I just loved it. I'd sit out there--I'd go out there two hours before anybody else in the family would get up, and I watched the daylight arrive. And I'd see the beavers swi- --the beavers had done all their work by the time most people get up. And the birds flying, leaving their roosting nests, and that is the thing I love, is nature, and saving nature, and--because it's such a vital part of what we've 01:24:00been given in Kentucky, and we have a duty to preserve that for future generations. And I love that. I really do. That's what I love to do. I get frustrated playing golf. I will go and play a little bit, but it--mainly for just the--being with some friends. I met a jock, and I got a letter at U.K., if you can believe it, an athletic letter, but I got it as manager of the track team. (Laugh)


BREATHITT: When I got initiated into the K Club, those football players, and those basketball players, and the real people who ran the 4-40, and the 2-20, they really--we had hazing in those days, they worked on the managers. (Laugh--all) Oh me, but I was never a decent athlete. I mean--and I tried, but I was just no good. That's what I like. And I 01:25:00think another thing--you st- --replacing or you done?


BREATHITT: Are you done, or are you going to put something else in?

BIRDWHISTELL: I'm going to put another one in.

BREATHITT: Okay, go ahead.

[End of tape #1, side #2]

[Begin tape #2, side #1]


BREATHITT: In the final analysis, I think there are two sources of leadership in this Kentucky we've got to nurture. And that's our people who retire, so that they just don't take off to Florida, the mountains of North Carolina or somewhere and vegetate, playing golf, watching TV, and going to a cocktail party every night. That, to me, is a tragic loss, these tremendously vital people, and the spouses of these vital people, particularly the women that have raised their families, and they've retreated to a martini and bridge game, or a tennis game in the morning, or a golf game in the afternoon, without 01:26:00any contribution at all except self-gratification. That is a terrible loss, and I think that how we can involve them in our state and nation, this terrific talent is very important. And then training our young people, and then having opportunities for them to stay in Kentucky, and I think that's probably the best argument for the newly re-constituted work force, president and board of coordinating community colleges in Kentucky Tech is that we better equip people to at least see a pathway to go on to other hi- --greater level of higher education in the third and fourth year and graduate programs. Because out of that, we awaken an interest and confidence, and pride in a lot of people that--and self-discipline that gets them going. I think we've got to concentrate 01:27:00on both areas for leadership, because they're so exp- --have such great experience--these top corporate executives, it's terrible to see them leave. Or a retired academic, or a retired--the retired academics that I see go and have lunch at the faculty club, and that's about all they do except maybe--now, that's not true of a lot of them. A lot of them are very vital, because Tom Clark goes over and eats with them, but these retired academics, what do they do? How do they get involved in their community? That's important. And I think that that's something that each institution, as they think about what they can do with our pool of leadership potential in our state--retired academics have no real vested interest other than academia, so they don't have a vested interest that's anti-environment, or anti- --or against clean 01:28:00government, or--they're a great source of dedicated people that ought to be harnessed more.

KLOTTER: As we approach the 21st century, what do you see as Kentucky's strengths and weaknesses, in the state?

BREATHITT: Its strength is that we are focusing on education. We've been focusing now for really about ten years at a maximum level on K-12, and we've made a lot of mistakes,--(Laugh)--but that's the way you learn when you go into a revolutionary program. We must not lose sight of that and let the forces of reaction seize upon the mistakes of testing, or the mistakes of mixing up the first four years, whatever, that the forces that really are either against public education because they think that it infuses their children with ideas against their 01:29:00ideas, and believe in home schooling, or the elitists that believe in private education as the only source that the elite, and those that really ought to lead should have, that we've got to really--really concentrate on education, and we've got to concentrate on opportunity, and that's where the work force thing comes in, because we've got to see that that is the entryway to a better capability to compete and cope. And then thirdly, and I think of equal importance, is the academic side, so that our people can make the right decisions at the ballot box, make the right decisions in their families and in their homes as they teach their children, and that environment, and--and 01:30:00understand what life has to offer, other than just a spoon-fed life of work, and television, and titillation, and--and what happens in a--our society. We're a family that--of non-participance now. We love to go to huge arenas like they did in Rome, and we get our vicarious thrills that way, and that's fine, doesn't get out of bounds. And- -but I think that we need to have more participation by people, and particularly by people at all ages, including our older citizens in a vital, constructive way. Now, they're the challenges I see, those 01:31:00three of the ones. I think that we also have got to--because if you have an enlightened citizenry, then the problems of racism, or hatred, or divisiveness as opposed to inclusiveness or diversity, that--they'll understand the importance of it. But if they see a--an African American sees that the Asians, or the Hispanics as threats to them getting a job, that doesn't lead to understanding of diversity. So the way you attack it, I think, is through education and opportunity for the--our black citizens, or our Hispanic citizens. The Asians take care of themselves, but now, maybe their second or third generation may not have the same discipline, but we've got to concentrate on that, but 01:32:00education is key to that. You're not going to do it with government edict alone. You can try to help government give a level playing field and support education and these things, but an academic education is so important to having--a citizenry that can maintain this society. That's central to it. And libraries, Terry, are--are one element of it, a Kentucky History Center is another element, KET is another element, and all of education, K- --as far as you go, and then adult education. And if we concentrate on those in Kentucky, and I think we're doing that now in Kentucky. We now have in place two pieces 01:33:00of legislation that we have to maximize the opportunities that they present. Man, I met with our president yesterday and this morning, and the governor and others, and we have, in the last week, implemented a whole bunch of things that the president's gonna to do. Including this thing with the state chamber, which is a discipline of focusing him on where we're going with the University to take full advantage of this legislation. Now, that gives him--instead of hunkering down, talking to his people and thinking about an old battle, you just realize you can't unscramble an egg, and you can't fight old wars like--we fought the Civil War for a hundred years after the war was over. And it influenced--and we joined the losing side, as Combs said, after having been on both sides, we joined the losing side, and it influenced our- 01:34:00-our thinking in this state for a long time. Certainly, the University can't do that. And we--and he's set up this--we're meeting at two o'clock today after we go leave right now and go have lunch--(Laugh- -Birdwhistell)--with Sylvia Lovely with the League of Cities about how the University can really help cities across this state in its outreach program. And we're really moving, and that's a good sign. It's taken really a couple of months to--you have to heal a while, when you get beat so bad in an all out struggle, and--what I considered to be an unnecessary struggle, but maybe it was necessary. Maybe it will--we have to assume that it was necessary, and take that--play those cards at the deltas and maximize it. And that's where the University's going to be. We're going to be in the forefront, and everybody else better 01:35:00work hard to catch up with us. We're going to be in the forefront, and everybody else better work hard to catch up with us.

BIRDWHISTELL: Did you see Bob Garrett's article in the Courier a week or so ago--


BIRDWHISTELL: --speculating on the Ford appointments.


BIRDWHISTELL: Are you worried about that?

BREATHITT: I'm concerned, not worried because I tell you, when I saw the quality of people that the governor appointed to the new council, he appointed good people. And as long as he can keep Crit Luallen down there in that office of his, the secretary of the cabinet, she's going to be a very positive influence towards quality on boards. And I don't know who he's going to appoint. I predict--you're off the tape now, aren't you?


BREATHITT: Well no, that's all right. This won't be of any interest to- -but I think that he's going to appoint Grady Stumbo in Lois's place, and Grady'd be a good member. He's a very thoughtful, innovative, caring doctor up in Hindman in that clinic with Benny Ray Bailey. And the governor got Benny Ray's vote that way, by his agreement to appoint 01:36:00her there, and Lois to go to the council. They call them the "Hindman Mafia," but they're an enlightened mafia. Bill Weinberg, and Lois, and Grady Stumbo, and Benny Ray Bailey, and I think he's going to reappoint Paul Chellgren, and Ashland Oil has done so much. So they're two good members, and I don't know who he's going to appoint. I think maybe he's going to appoint a banker politician from down at Harrodsburg that I don't know much about, for a--Clay's position. Clay is a great loss, but they felt that--had too many from Central Kentucky, and that's a le- --legitimate concern on balance. We didn't have anybody from South Central Kentucky, and nobody from Southeast Kentucky as such. And the U.K. board ought to have both represented. You're from south central Kentucky, and that's been an underrepresented and unknown area 01:37:00of Kentucky for a long, long time. Listen to the Graves, with Graves Construction about that, coming from Marribone, half their family. And you came--your family came from Marribone, that's right. He's an Alexander from Marribone.



KLOTTER: Morrowbone. (Laugh)

BREATHITT: Morrowbone, yeah, that's right. I've been trying to talk this young man, in this last interview, out in Portland(??)--returning to Kentucky roots. His grandfather was Sam Alexander, who ran the department of education forever, and was your father's teacher, wasn't he? And is a cousin of the Graves, about fifth cousins now. And Sam mad a major contribution, and we had those elected superintendents, some of them probably could--hadn't read a book since Black Beauty and- -and he ran the department of education, his father, the quarterback at Center and President of Western and Murray, and his mother's a fine 01:38:00academic down at the University of Florida, has two brothers that went to Oxford, and he went to Cambridge. One's a lawyer practicing there, and where's your other brother?

KLOTTER: He just took a job in --professor at University of Illinois, ----------(??).

BREATHITT: Okay. Now, this is the kind of a young man we've got to keep in this state. Either--and in Tom Clark's lunch with him Monday he says, "Have a base if you're going to make a contribution." And in your case with your degree from Cambridge, academia will take you anywhere. You've got an open seat, academia or law, or both. And then you can do public things. And as Tom and I made a point, you don't have to run for office if you get involved. And you can get involved from a law practice or academia, or you can run. Of course, if you look at this 01:39:00guy's resume, he could be president of the United States and be a whole lot better qualified than most of them. He kind of laughs at me when I talk like that, but I'd love to see him in public life.

BIRDWHISTELL: He should run(??)

BREATHITT: What? What?

BIRDWHISTELL: Don't let the pressure up on him any.

BREATHITT: I'm not going to. Listen. When he graduated from Yale-- let's go eat, and we can talk about this--

[End of interview]