Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Wendell H. Ford, August 24, 2000

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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 FORD: You've got some of them on record, haven't you?

BIRDWHISTELL: I got some of 'em, I've got some of 'em. All right, well, it's, uh, August 24th, Senator. As always, I appreciate your patience.

FORD: I have more fun than you do. --(Birdwhistell laughs)--You work at this.

BIRDWHISTELL: I want to start out this morning, if you'll indulge me with a, a look at a recent--recent events, and sort of get your impression of the, uh, uh, the political conventions, which had just, uh, just ended, both the Republican and the Democrat. What did you make of that, as an observer of these things?

FORD: Well, --(coughs)-- I thought there--had in--thought the Republican Convention was a false convention. Uh, they had people on there, as a lot of folks have said, it looked like a Democrat Convention.


FORD: Trying to change their image. They didn't have DeLay, they didn't have 00:01:00Armey, they didn't have those people. You know, Gingrich wasn't mentioned. Those sort of things, they were trying--and it was a very tightly controlled convention. And, uh, the, uh, uh, fight over abortion was, uh, subdued, and the Pat Robertsons of this world, and Jerry Falwells, and those that are the Christian Coalition leadership got their people to sit on their hands, when they had the homosexual uh, or gay--


FORD: --speak, instead of marching out like they had planned to do, they were encouraged to stay, and so they prayed, you know? Which, I--is all right, but it was a--they were trying to put a new face on the, uh, uh, Republican Party, and my judgment is that Halloween came early this year. --(Birdwhistell 00:02:00laughs)-- So, uh, that--and I thought, on balance, they did a pretty good job, but what you have to look at is that they've never given any facts. And, uh, they--the--the--the word merchants have done a good job, you know, I'm going to cut your estate tax, and then we find out it's gonna be over a ten-year period, gonna cut death taxes, it's gonna be over a long period of time. It's--you know, all these things that they're going to do, but when you get down to the facts, it's somewhat different than what you wanted to hear.

BIRDWHISTELL: Right, yeah.

FORD: --(coughs)-- But now at the Democrat Convention, I thought it was a normal convention, in some respects. They had controversy, they had the demonstrators out front, which they, uh, uh, got held after the first uh, episode. I thought it--they settled that in pretty well. I'm not sure the 00:03:00so-called, uh, uh, what do you call it, kind of a question uh, and answer period, uh, that they had all these people on the stand giving testimony and that sort of thing, up on the stage, uh, that was a--a lot of work went into that, and--but I don't think that it was one that would catch the viewers. I thought maybe Kennedy ah, was necessary, uh, to shore up part of the Democratic base that was, uh, hadn't come on board yet.


FORD: I thought Caroline was interesting. She had a lot to carry, but, uh, she was not a Kennedy speaker.


FORD: And--but anyhow, she got through it, uh, was poised about it, and, uh, I thought, uh, she came off very well. Uh, Ted gave, uh, the indication that he's 00:04:00getting older and a lot fatter.


FORD: And one of the problems with the Kennedy is that you haven't seen any older Kennedy. What would, uh, John look like at eighty today? What would Robert look like at seventy today? You know, those sort of things.


FORD: And so, Ted is a--is a older Kennedy that the country and the world's not used to seeing.


FORD: So, that brought some disappointment because the imagery of the Kennedys, and then look at Ted, it's somewhat uh--

BIRDWHISTELL: --yeah, yeah--

FORD: --somewhat dis--discouraging. But I thought that was, uh, probably a, a good thing to do. I thought Lieberman did a decent job--


FORD: --uh, with, uh, his speech. He kind of talked to us. Uh, uh, he may have overblown--overused the religion part of it a little bit.



FORD: But uh, I think on balance, Joe did uh, well. Joe is a smart person, uh, and Joe is one who will listen; if you disagree with him, he will listen to why you disagree with him. And I think from that standpoint, is an open--has an open mind about a lot of things.


FORD: Uh, some is not. You go back, though, the morals in this campaign, Tipper Gore was there --(coughs)-- many years ago, years ago, in front of the Commerce Committee on the language used--


FORD: --in the--in music.


FORD: And she was trying to do that. So, Lieberman's, uh, trying to take sex and violence out of the movies and so forth.


FORD: Uh, is--they fit, and that's--that's a moral question with them.


FORD: I thought Gore did as well as he could do in his speech. Al, uh, has 00:06:00a--sitting down in a room, just, uh, talking and having a good time, or having a hamburger with him in the backyard, he's just relaxed and easy. It seems like when he gets in front of an audience, uh, something happens to him. I don't know--I guess it's like some people, they can do well in an oral test, but you give them a written test and they flunk it every time.


FORD: So--but I thought his speech, uh, went well, and as they say, they were giving everybody everything, but he spelled it out a little clearer than the Republicans. And now, the Republicans are finding they're gonna have to--the tax cut doesn't fit because, uh, uh, you don't know the details of it. So, they forced Bush and his crowd, then, from the--the Democratic Convention, and what they've done since then, to rethink this thing of, we have to give more detail. 00:07:00So, did, uh, conventions help both candidates? I think yes. I think, uh, uh, both parties, uh, benefited, uh, from, uh, the cam--from the conventions. --(coughs)-- Uh, and I thought--I was proud of our side because our leaders were recognized.


FORD: Tom Daschle was there, Harry Reid was there, you know? Gephardt, you know, you got--you got these leaders, the Democratic leaders. We didn't try to hide them--


FORD: --like, uh, the controversial people of Armey and DeLay and--and J.C. Watts was on, however, but they were trying to make an impression with that.


FORD: But outside of J.C., that was the end of it. So, it was the strategy of the two conventions. I thought, uh, the Republicans, uh, had a tighter convention, more control by the candidate, than the Democrat convention. But I 00:08:00thought the last two days, uh, got us out of the doldrums of the first two.


FORD: I thought the first two days were not, uh, ones that attracted, uh, much attention.

BIRDWHISTELL: Yeah. Except for the Clintons.

FORD: Well, Clinton's speech, yeah, well, uh, I left that out purposefully because the--but you just have--everybody understands. I mean, he's just something else, and uh, uh, the people, regardless of what he did, and they like his performance, they like the--his leadership. And if he hadn't had the Lewinsky thing, he would really--it wouldn't be a race for--for president, in my judgment, because they'd tie Clinton/Gore together, trying to have the sins of the father wash off on the sins of the son, so to speak. And I don't know whether--how long that's going to work.

BIRDWHISTELL: What's your prediction in August of 2000?

FORD: It's--everybody says it will be a tight race. I think it will be. 00:09:00--(coughs)-- But I think you have to look at what, uh, happened to Dukakis.


FORD: In, uh, his race--he was the governor of Massachusetts, and Texas is a, uh, uh, many-faceted, I guess uh, state, from immigrants to oil production, which creates pollution, uh, it's an independent sort of thing. They don't want this and they don't want that, and don't mess with Texas uh, sort of attitude.


FORD: And, uh, I think it's--it may come back to haunt, uh, uh, George Bush, George W.


FORD: And if it does, then he's going to have a hard time winning. His father 00:10:00worked two years as I understand it, hard putting this together for his son. And, uh, there was--uh, and he stumbled a couple times, pretty hard. McCain made it tough on him, you know, in uh, New Hampshire, made it tough on him in South Carolina. Uh, they used some, uh, uh, uh, unscrupulous, uh, uh, uh, posi--took those positions to, uh, 527 group under the internal revenue code that, uh, talked about McCain and breast cancer. That's awful.


FORD: And then, uh, what they did to McCain in South Carolina, you know, and--


FORD: --spilled over into Virginia. And McCain told it like it was: he didn't, you know, it's a, uh, he didn't have any problem with saying that Falwell and Pat Robertson, what they were doing, this is their candidate. Well, we've got 00:11:00the Supreme Court appointments that ought to be appointed for their ability and, uh, past uh, judgments, not on what--the--the litmus test of abortion and so forth. Uh, it's a, uh, that's a--gonna be critical. Now, do I want, uh, a ultraliberal? No. Do I want ultraconservative? No. I want somebody that'll make a judgment based on the case before 'em.


FORD: And so, Democrat or Republican, I've seen some good Republican judges. And in my lifetime in politics, I've recommended Republicans. Democrats didn't like it--(Birdwhistell laughs)-- you know, but the Republican judge is good and I can name him right now, the one that really cost me some political chips, but of the group that he was the best judge to be appointed at the time, I thought.



FORD: And so he was a Republican and I recommended him, and the president who was the Democrat, uh, nominated him.


FORD: It was Bertelsman up in Northern Kentucky.

BIRDWHISTELL: Bertelsman, um-hm.

FORD: And they were so surprised when they had the crypt at the capitol, on the capitol grounds, that he ruled favorably on that, you know? As long as everybody else was given the opp--other religion given the opportunity to put their crypt on the capitol grounds, you know?


FORD: And they were, and so he said it was all right. So, that was a surprise to a lot of folks, but that goes back to the point that he made a judgment based on what he thought the law was.

BIRDWHISTELL: Um-hm, um-hm.

FORD: And so I have, uh, I had--I respect--and--and Heyburn, in Louisville, I'm not--I was disappointed in him resigning from the all-white country club, and then after he got, uh, confirmed, his wife joined, you know? And of course, that's the way a lot of folks do it. I was very disappointed in him doing that.



FORD: But nevertheless, uh--


FORD: --his wife, uh, is the daughter of a, uh, very, uh, respected, uh, doctor in, uh, Louisville, and, uh, so, uh, it--it--it--and friends of mine thought he was a good one, so I had no problem with, uh, with him, even though he was a Republican. You have to look and you say, "Well, is he better than the Democrats?" Well, uh, maybe over time, I--well--as the President Clinton said, uh, and time has proven us right, well--


FORD: --time can prove you wrong or right.

BIRDWHISTELL: Um-hm. That's right.

FORD: So you just have to wait for time to--

BIRDWHISTELL: --right. It--you know, you mentioned the Bush Senior's uh, two-year groundwork for George W., and, uh, I was thinking, uh, after what you had said about, uh, your father's important role in--in your--in your political career.


FORD: Yeah.

BIRDWHISTELL: Uh, in that '65 race, that the son's vindication by, say, a Ford or a Brown or a Gore or a Bush, it's--it's an interesting part of our political process.

FORD: It is, and, uh, I think one of the reasons that it's, uh, I--maybe continued, the name continues, is that, uh, these people, I mean, they're interested. They've been there. They've, uh, maybe they understand the political process, the operation of the government a little better, and they have the ability to answer questions, and have a feel for it, that maybe others would not have. And so, I can understand that. Uh, uh, I think I told you earlier, I didn't want to get into politics. I had no--because I saw all the 00:15:00harassment my father went through.


FORD: And people wanting just gravel, back in those days, [telephone rings] on roads, and it was tough, so, uh.

BIRDWHISTELL: Okay. Um, let's get back to the, uh, time period we're in, and we--we got you elected, uh--

FORD: --did we?--

BIRDWHISTELL: --we got you elected to the senate, to the state senate.

FORD: Oh, my goodness, we got a long way to go yet, haven't we?

BIRDWHISTELL: Yes, sir, we got--we got miles to go before we (both laugh). Let's see--

FORD: --yeah, I've heard that story before--

BIRDWHISTELL: That's why I always use the words "patience" when I thank--

FORD: Um-hm.

BIRDWHISTELL: --you all for your patience. But any rate, during that '65 state senate campaign, we talked about how tough that was, and, uh, how you went about doing that, and of course, that was the--once you won the primary, you--that was it. But in a newspaper article, I think it was the AP article, uh, it said that, uh, in--the two people running for senate that year, uh, Richard, uh, 00:16:00Frymire and, uh, and Wendell Ford were the two candidates in that political year running for the state senate that could be possible candidates for governor in the future. So, your name was floated out there in 1965 as a possible gubernatorial candidate, along with Richard Frymire. Does that sound right to you?

FORD: I don't remember the article--


FORD: --at all, and I don't remember being--


FORD: --suggested, uh--

BIRDWHISTELL: --but that shows that your--your name recognition, statewide, even though you were running for a local state senate race was already out there.

FORD: Well, it goes back to Jaycee days.


FORD: And I think that if you look at anything that gave me contacts across the state, and some r--name recognition among a group of uh, people, uh, that was, uh, uh, when I was, you know, state vice president, national director, state 00:17:00president, you know, and then went on to be national president. And so, that, uh, that gave me uh, name recognition and, uh, I have to give that organization at that time credit for, uh, helping me later on, as you talked about with name recognition.

BIRDWHISTELL: And Dick Frymire never--never moved up.

FORD: Dick, uh, you--that was the, uh, let's see, how did that work? Uh, where the--that's when Lawrence Wetherby wanted to be majority leader and, uh, we took Tom Garrett (??), I think.


FORD: And, uh, Lawrence wasn't too happy about it, and some of his followers, but, uh, that's the way life is sometimes. But when I became governor, Dick 00:18:00Frymire helped me in my race, but Dick was very dedicated to the military. And one of the problems we faced with Richard Frymire was that he was a so-called bluecoat. He was, uh, Air Force, and we'd never had an Air Force adjutant general in Kentucky, uh, up until that time. So, um, when I appointed, uh, Frymire as, uh, adjutant general, I got a two-for-one in it because, uh, Frymire understood the military, he was methodical, he knew where he was going and how to work with the national people, and secondly, he'd been in the legislature, and he knew how to get legislation through--


FORD: --that would be beneficial to the National Guard. And that's when we had 00:19:00the first, uh, uh, female into the National Guard. That's when we helped them with clothing allowance.


FORD: Uh, that's when we, if they were injured, uh, uh, or--or death in the National Guard, that we had scholarship funds for their kids, you know, so they would get educated. We did all those things, which enticed--we had 105 percent enrollment. We had a goal--


FORD: --and we, instead of getting our--our 100 percent, we went 105 percent.


FORD: And so, uh, National Guard was in pretty good shape under--


FORD: --Dick Frymire. So, Dick not--as far as running for, uh, uh, something, uh, on a statewide basis, Dick was influential in--in state politics and played a, uh, a critical role as it related to, uh, the National Guard and the military.


FORD: And Dick is, uh, now, a county judge, you know? He wished maybe he 00:20:00hadn't run, but, uh, he is--but he was--I guess you could put him in the position of a--a kingmaker, you know? Rather than being the king, some would rather be--


FORD: --the kingmaker.


FORD: And, uh, Frymire's highly intelligent, uh, uh, very supportive, uh, always had suggestions, and when you needed, uh, I needed the question answered, when I went to the U.S. Senate, uh, I leaned on Frymire, and of course, I was very strong for the National Guard and became a co-chairman of the National Guard Caucus in, uh, in the senate. We had a Democrat and a Republican.


FORD: And we had what we referred to as a National Guard Caucus. And it was awful hard, once we all got together, it was awful hard to beat us.

BIRDWHISTELL: Yeah, yeah. Yeah. Um, once you went in, in 1965, Frymire was 00:21:00running as a--with the backing of, uh, Waterfield. Of course, we talked about--

FORD: Yeah.

BIRDWHISTELL: --you running with Breathitt's backing because Breathitt had had so much trouble in that '64 session, he needed people in there. So, you went in the primary, you're, you--

FORD: --and Huddleston won at that time, too.

BIRDWHISTELL: Is that when he won?

FORD: Yeah, I think Huddleston won the same year.


FORD: I think the new senators--and Breathitt gave all of us, when we went to the budget, we all made a speech--


FORD: --about certain sections of the budget, and, uh, in support of various and sundry things. Yeah.

BIRDWHISTELL: Tell me about getting organized for the '66 session. How did--what--what are your--your--your memory of that? Did you all have a pre-session, uh, conference, now?

FORD: Yes, yeah, in--down Kentucky Lake.

BIRDWHISTELL: Kentucky Lake. How did that go?

FORD: Um, oh, I think it went all right. Uh, the, uh, I don't remember all of 00:22:00the ramifications of it, and I don't remember, uh, uh, I don't remember the politics of it, uh--


FORD: --Terry, to be very frank with you.

BIRDWHISTELL: That's--seems to me, in an interview you did with Malcolm Jewell once, you talked about the 1966 legislature, saying that the conference committees were chaotic, that there was no jurisdiction over--over, uh, control of the legislature at that point. Is that?

FORD: I may have said that then, from my memory--(coughs)--but, um, as I recall, there were certain chairmen and certain leaders in the house and the senate, that they just did it all.


FORD: And uh, if you had something that, uh, you wanted, if they didn't want you to get it, didn't make any difference what the governor wanted. Uh, but I'm 00:23:00sure that eventually, the governor, and whoever was running the committees, got together and were able to work out--


FORD: --without having things vetoed and that sort of thing.

BIRDWHISTELL: Yeah, because the '60--

FORD: --but I had twenty-two pieces of legislation that I introduced in that session.

BIRDWHISTELL: In the '66 session?

FORD: And passed all twenty-two of them. They all became law.

BIRDWHISTELL: Now, some of the things that, uh, you would later list in your campaign literature would be, uh, uh, you were, uh, involved in a bill to conserve Kentucky water.

FORD: Yeah.

BIRDWHISTELL: What was that about, do you remember? (laughs) Okay. Um, of course, you were involved in the strip mining legislation that passed in 1966.

FORD: Oh, yeah. I supported, uh, Ned on that one.

BIRDWHISTELL: Um-hm. Was that tough?

FORD: Yes.

BIRDWHISTELL: Tell me about that fight.

FORD: Uh, you had, uh, Fred Bullard (??) and, uh, uh, several others, uh, Sturgill, uh, that group of people that--and Barclay Sturgill was very c--I was 00:24:00very close to him, my good friend, and of course, Bill was Barclay's brother. And so, we had a, uh, we didn't go quite as far as the Courier Journal wanted us to, but, uh, we went further than the operators wanted us to. And uh, it got to be uh, very sensitive, and I don't remember all the gory details, but, uh, it was a vote that, uh, uh, there was a lot of labor in the halls--


FORD: --to try to prevent it from happening, and a lot of labor trying to make it happen.

BIRDWHISTELL: Now, who was trying to make it happen? Who were the forces that you were working on?

FORD: Well, basically, it was the Courier Journal.

BIRDWHISTELL: Courier Journal, okay.

FORD: Yeah, basically it was the Courier Journal, and this--their closeness to Breathitt, and of course, they'd been very close to Combs.


FORD: And, uh, so, it was, uh, I don't know who brought the leadership, but it was the pounding every day by the Courier Journal and the reporters and asking 00:25:00questions and putting things in the paper about what was being done to the mountains and all that. And, uh, they were very influential in, uh, uh, getting passed what, uh, was passed that year, as I recall.

BIRDWHISTELL: Now, to put this in some context, as we're talking about this '66 session, had you already decided you were going to run for lieutenant governor?

FORD: No, no, no.


FORD: --no, I had--had no, uh, I had no, uh, premeditated, uh, uh, thoughts, hadn't even thought about lieutenant governor.

BIRDWHISTELL: Okay, so in the spring of '66, you're--you're involved in all of this legislation, obviously with an eye to your political future, but not specifically to any--any office, okay.

FORD: Well, there was an eye to getting reelected state senator, really, uh--

BIRDWHISTELL: --(laughs) that's where--

FORD: --yeah, but, or trying to do a good job, you know?


FORD: And one of the things that, uh, was hard for me to accept, in the Jaycees, you'd fight, it was as tough a political battleground, uh, as you'd 00:26:00want to. Uh, you know, uh, promises were made and, uh--


FORD: --visits were, you know, that you'd come as national president to certain things, if you could vote for 'em, and all that.


FORD: It was--it was a tough political ground, but once it was over, we came together as an organization went on. And I found that in politics, when you were separate, you never--it was hard to get back together, and factions, we--we--uh, they fractured the party, and it was very difficult to get them back together. And, uh, uh, always, uh, remember the--the Breathitt's, uh, now--in Breathitt County--


FORD: --the Turners.


FORD: The Turners would always be for the governor, his candidate.


FORD: And, uh, if he lost, they--the--the winner would have to come to them because they controlled the county, you know, at that time, and then they could 00:27:00give you a sizable majority of that county and others.


FORD: They had some influence in other counties. So, uh, not many people were in the, uh, enviable position that the Turners were in, but so you'd--you--you--you played hard to get to, to, till September, anyhow, or Fancy Farm, that's when the kickoff was. And if you weren't together in Fan--by Fancy Farm time, you, uh, had a very short period of time to put the party and all the factions back together to win.

BIRDWHISTELL: You also, uh, sponsored a Kentucky student scholarship, uh, and loan fund. Do--do you recall that?

FORD: Yeah.

BIRDWHISTELL: In the '66 session?

FORD: Yeah.

BIRDWHISTELL: What was that?

FORD: Terry, I'm gonna have to go back and look at it--

BIRDWHISTELL: --I'll go--I'll go back, but--

FORD: --there's two or three things about young people I tried to do.

BIRDWHISTELL: Um-hm. You also sponsored a bill for classrooms for handicapped 00:28:00children, um-hm.

FORD: Yeah, yeah. Uh, what I saw was that we weren't--there were a lot of smart kids out there that couldn't go to school, and even though that was--and you know, that was '65, and, uh, we had to try to begin to do something to help these students that were--that were there that had some smarts--


FORD: --but didn't have the, uh, financial ability to go. That's one of the reasons community colleges came into being, one of the major reasons, in my judgment.

BIRDWHISTELL: That's right, that's right.

FORD: But, uh, you had to try to do something, and one of the problems we were facing is that handicapped kids were left out. Uh, it was difficult for them to get to class. They didn't have anybody to push 'em in the wheelchairs. You couldn't get 'em up and down stairs, you know? But they--the--their bodies were, uh, uh, crippled, but their minds were bright--


FORD: --and so therefore, we didn't--we got to try to have special--what I was 00:29:00trying to do was to say to these kids, "Don't give up on this, your mind is good," and there's a lot of, uh, of, uh, handicapped people that were able to do a lot of things--you take over the police department or sheriff's department, had a handicapped dispatcher, you know?


FORD: And that dispatcher was good, you know?


FORD: And--and did a wonderful job. But as far as going out and arresting people, it--there wasn't no way to do that. But they was an integral part of our legal system here in the county.

BIRDWHISTELL: Um-hm. So, how did you get on that issue? --(coughs)-- Was there something that you saw or something that you came across that got you thinking?

FORD: I just think it's from, uh, my kids in school.


FORD: Uh, March of Dimes, uh, work--

BIRDWHISTELL: --that's right, that's right--

FORD: --that I did, uh, particularly March of Dimes, I guess.


FORD: And the polio, and--and--


FORD: --and I had some friends whose sons and daughters had polio--

BIRDWHISTELL: Oh, really?--


FORD: --and, uh, uh, some were, uh, more, uh, crippled than others. Some, you know, it was an arm that--for one, it was the legs for another, and, uh, the story I tell about, uh, the iron lung, uh, that was a project--


FORD: --of Jaycees. All of that, uh, kind of, and I think the Jaycee year put me in the mood of, uh, uh, kids were bright and they needed help, and the handicapped kids were being left behind. And so, uh, they were emotional, and it was often hard to be against those kind of bills. We didn't get a whole lot, uh, money, a whole of money or a whole lot done, but at least it was a signal to these people that there's somebody up there, trying to help you.


FORD: And, uh, I had, uh, some--some surprising support, when they found out, and names, I couldn't tell you, but I remember I got, uh, people that came and said, "Is there--can I talk to my senator? Can I talk to my representative, or 00:31:00should I? I need some material. You're doing the right thing." And, uh, it gave me a--an indication that--that people were out there, were listening, at that time, to--and--and being observant to the legislature--


FORD: --of the legislature.

BIRDWHISTELL: Um-hm. This is an interesting period, it seems to me, Senator, because, um, you have, uh, leaders like yourself and, um, looking out for doing what government seems to me should do, is look out for the people who--who--who need some assistance, whether it's handicapped children or, uh, building new mental hospitals, you know, the--sort of the--

FORD: --that goes back to Bert Combs--


FORD: --and, uh, when we, uh, went through that, uh, episode. We separated, you know, the courts just put the mentally ill and the, uh, retarded in the same place.


FORD: And, uh, they shouldn't be there. We had the dungeon, you know, that 00:32:00they referred to, up on top of the hill there, in Frankfurt.


FORD: And--(coughs)-- what Combs did was an influence--because I worked very closely with him on--on--on--on that.


FORD: And he, of course, had a personal, uh, problem. And, uh, the, uh, um, work that he did from, uh, that, I think, uh, and my polio, the March of Dimes, and all that, and then taking the kids down, you know, to get the vaccine, to--


FORD: --so they wouldn't have polio. All of that was, uh, uh, influential. I don't know that any one thing caused me to do these things, but it--

BIRDWHISTELL: Um-hm. It's cumulative, um-hm.

FORD: --cumulative, yeah.

BIRDWHISTELL: You know, I--this was an interesting session of the legislature, and I--I want to ask some specific questions about it, and I don't want you to think--

FORD: --it would be awful hard for me to answer some of them, I think.

BIRDWHISTELL: --and I don't want you to think, when we get to your U.S. Senate career, that we're going to go through every bill you were ever associated with. (laughs) But--

FORD: --well, I can give you a lot of bills that didn't pass. (laughs)


BIRDWHISTELL: But--but this was an interesting session because in--in '64, Governor Breathitt, uh, had a lot of opposition in the legislature.

FORD: Yeah.

BIRDWHISTELL: Wasn't able to get his--a lot of his program through. Get these new--new members of the, uh, general assembly in, and he's able to--to take on some--some, uh --(Ford coughs)-- what--with what he--for his administration, was some crucial legislation. Uh, for example, the civil rights bill that he had promised, once he took off the executive order, he promised to get a civil rights bill through. He couldn't get it through '64. How do you get it through '66?

FORD: Well, I think there were some changes. Uh, it was two years later--


FORD: --is one thing. So, people were educated about it. Um, change in the membership was part of it. And, uh, I think Ned decided that it was one that he 00:34:00was pressured on, that he would really work at.


FORD: And, uh, uh, Ned, uh, uh, screwed up his courage, if I can use that term--


FORD: --as it related to that particular bill, and some of us that, uh, had--this was our first session, understood what we were--what he was trying to do. And, uh, it was, uh--it was not easy, as you can imagine. (both laugh) But, uh, it was doable, and, uh, it was done.


FORD: I don't remember. We had, uh, we had, uh, uh, some, uh, pretty long nights and days in trying to put that together, as I recall. And I don't remember who, uh, was the leading the opposition, or who was leading the pros--


FORD: --at that time, in the legislative body.


BIRDWHISTELL: Would there be a group of, uh, you senators who would meet with Governor Breathitt or his people on a regular basis during the session?

FORD: I don't remember--


FORD: --doing that. Uh, normally, uh, Terry, would be the leadership that would meet.


FORD: Sometimes you would have them together and sometimes you would have them separate.


FORD: It would be, uh, when you're introducing a piece of legislation or the budget was about ready to become--coming and you want to explain that, there's something you'd have both houses together.


FORD: But then, uh, you talked--we had the house in, and we talked strat--that's what I did. But I don't know how Ned did it because I was not part of the leadership. We'd have the house leadership in, and we'd go over the bills that we wanted to pass, and those we had problems with, and needed to 00:36:00amend it to make it conform. And when you had, uh, report from the commissioners and the secretaries and so forth on what it would do and what it would--how it would help and how it would hurt, and you'd try to correct the hurt. But uh--and you have a bill in the senate, you bring the senate leadership down, that it passed the house, or one that was started in the senate. So, not every time would you have a joint uh, uh, meetings, but, uh, and a lot of the times, the leadership would want to visit with you about a problem--


FORD: --or a senator that wouldn't, uh, that hadn't committed yet, or a house member that hadn't committed yet.


FORD: And so, uh, I had to, uh, uh, resurrect, uh, some, uh, legislation that was failed, you know? The severance tax.

BIRDWHISTELL: And your--yeah, in your administration. Yeah, well, it's an 00:37:00interesting road that these, uh, these, uh, bills take, isn't it?

FORD: Yeah, it is, and, uh, uh, there's peaks and valleys.


FORD: And, uh, the peaks about--uh, when you can pass 'em, and then the valleys is when you're down there, trying to figure out how to get up to the top of the hill. But, uh, uh, it's--I don't remember all of it, but I remember, uh, um, uh, how hard we worked to try to make some changes, and, uh, one of the things I found, uh, that--which I was able to do when I became governor, was that we didn't have young people, uh, involved in the political system. And I'm not sure, but we didn't--did--did we pass then, or in my administration, the putting the student body member on the board of trustees, or the board of regents?

BIRDWHISTELL: That was, uh.

FORD: Can you remember when that was?

BIRDWHISTELL: That would have been while you were, uh, lieutenant governor, um-hm.


FORD: Lieutenant-governor, under Nunn.


FORD: And then we also, uh, put up the--where we made under thirty, a member of every precinct, precinct officer, all across the state.


FORD: So we're trying to bring young people in.


FORD: You know, it's still the same problem today, and probably worse now than it was then--

BIRDWHISTELL: I'd say so--

FORD: --to get young people involved--


FORD: --and interested in government.


FORD: And they just don't want to--they think about it and don't think about it, and tomorrow, they're gonna wake up and why didn't I do something?


FORD: You know, or what--but that's typical, I guess--

BIRDWHISTELL: That's--yeah--

FORD: --of those that are interested will do things, and those that are not, well, let them carry the load.

BIRDWHISTELL: Something that, uh, from 1966 that, uh, very similar in the year 2000, if you look at the--uh, the Democratic Convention of the, uh, of the union uh, delegates to the Democratic Convention, I was reading that some large percentage of those delegates were from teachers' unions. And of course, one of 00:39:00the big issues in 19--in the mid-sixties in Kentucky was teachers' pay and, uh, Combs and Breathitt were very involved in trying to--

FORD: Yeah--

BIRDWHISTELL: --to increase that. And so, in 1966, you faced tremendous pressure from the education lobby, basically, to--to, uh, put money into that, and--and of course, you all did try to do that.

FORD: What year did we set the stage, uh, uh, for, uh, increased pay for teachers? You know, we had uh--I'm not sure when we did that, Terry. --(sniffs)-- You got your degree.

BIRDWHISTELL: Yeah, you mentioned that in the last session, and I--I'm not sure exactly what year that was either, I apologize.

FORD: Yeah. Yeah, and, uh, that--I--well, don't apologize, I ought to remember it.

BIRDWHISTELL: No, I'm the one that's supposed to do the research before I come up.

FORD: Yeah, but seems like, uh, you know, we had--then you had your master's, and--



FORD: --and master's plus thirty hours.


FORD: And then your Ph.D.


FORD: And so many years, and--and, uh, that you increase in salary.


FORD: And, uh, when we look at what that increase was, or the--when I got credit to the fellow--we gave them 40 percent increase to higher education--

BIRDWHISTELL: There you go--

FORD: --how much money that is compared to what it would be today.


FORD: But that was--you look at the general fund and you take the money out of there. Of course, we had money left--I was, uh, I was surprised and pleased that we had that much money left, but I also was disappointed that I could have used it for other things.

BIRDWHISTELL: Right. Now, at this particular time, money's a real question.

FORD: Yeah, absolutely, no question about it.

BIRDWHISTELL: And--and--and you know, and Governor Nunn will say later that, uh--

FORD: --Breathitt.

BIRDWHISTELL: --funded that--that pay increase and--but didn't put the money in.

FORD: That is right, twenty-five million, I think, was the figure.

BIRDWHISTELL: And--and so, you know, when he becomes governor, he's looking at a--


FORD: --yeah, at a pretty big deficit.

BIRDWHISTELL: Yes. (laughs)

FORD: And so, that's when he came with Nunn's Nickel.

BIRDWHISTELL: So, did--was--were--was the legislature aware of that problem when, uh, when you're dealing with that?

FORD: My recollection, Terry, is that we were not. I think the budget people made very generous estimates.

BIRDWHISTELL: Projections? (laughs)

FORD: Yeah. --(coughs)-- And just before Nunn took over, somewhere between November and December, Breathitt declared that we were short.


FORD: And he had to exercise--because he had to make the--under the law, you know, if we have to have a balanced budget and it's incumbent upon the governor to take the necessary steps to balance the budget. And so, I think Breathitt, under the circumstances, took the necessary steps to balance the budget, which 00:42:00left Louie Nunn in a hole, financially.

BIRDWHISTELL: Right, right. Big hole.

FORD: Big hole, and then that's when he had to come with the, uh, sales tax.

BIRDWHISTELL: And of course, Ward had run on a, uh, uh, pledge of no new taxes himself.

FORD: Yeah, oh yeah.

BIRDWHISTELL: And he's on the inside of that administration.

FORD: Yeah.

BIRDWHISTELL: So, uh--So, any rate, the teacher pay thing, the revenue in general during this period was, uh, was real tricky.

FORD: Yeah, it was--it was tricky and tight.


FORD: And uh--

BIRDWHISTELL: While was that at--you know, it's not that, uh, it's not but six years after the sales tax is put on in the Combs Administration. How does the money, is, is it the growth of government and the--and the programs that the state needed were so--

FORD: --I think the educational program and construction of buildings, new schools, and so forth, it just took everything we could--



FORD: --we could must--


FORD: --and, uh, one of the things that eased the pain, uh, for Breathitt was the fact that people could go, they could go see they're building new schoolhouses, going up from a 3 percent sales tax.


FORD: That it was invested in education, and that we were getting better schools, we were getting better equipment, we were encouraging teachers to do better and we were giving them better pay, and there just wasn't enough to go around--


FORD: --based on the need.

BIRDWHISTELL: Reminds me of something you said in an earlier session that uh, struck me when I was re-listening to it, was that, uh, you know, if Chandler doesn't take the--doesn't repeal that tax in the thirties, and you have that money over that long period of time, then this crunch in the sixties, where you--people are coming along who really think the state has to make progress, and to do that, it's going to cost, cost money.

FORD: Yeah.

BIRDWHISTELL: So, you're not only trying t--uh, it's kind of like UK's trying 00:44:00to do right now, trying to keep up and leap--leap forward at the same time--

FORD: --hm--

BIRDWHISTELL: --and it--it takes twice the work.

FORD: Yeah. Well--(coughs)--that, you know, you can go back and look at history, and I remember the night well when they repealed the sales tax, and Happy had that big microphone up there, you know, and he laid it down on the desk and put the bill over the top of it, so everybody could hear, you know? And he wrote A.B. Happy Chandler across there, and you could hear that pin scratching on that microphone.


FORD: Oh, it was--it was a--it was a good political stunt. Now, it was--you got to give Happy credit for that, had--that was it. Oh, shoot.

BIRDWHISTELL: But we paid a lot for it.

FORD: Yeah, and we paid dear for it. And, uh, it's, um, like other things, uh, you vote 75 percent emotion, use the other 25 percent to convince yourself that 00:45:00the emotional vote is correct. And so, um, that was--that was quite an emotional thing, and people were there to get rid of it, and Happy kept his word.


FORD: You know? Oh, that's--

BIRDWHISTELL: --another interesting issue in this session is the auto inspection, the--the uh, pressure from the federal government to implement an auto inspection so you get the highway money, the federal highway money? Why was that so tough?

FORD: Oh, I think it's intrusion of privacy uh, one thing in that you always find those that dislike seatbelts.


FORD: I know it will save my life, but I don't want to have to put it on 'cause the government told me to, you know? A lot of people resist.


FORD: And the very fact that, uh, we were doing the, uh, auto inspections, uh, and I think there was a charge for that, too, wasn't there?



FORD: And so, that it made a double problem.

BIRDWHISTELL: Something like twelve dollars.

FORD: I'm not sure what it was, but the--there was a double problem with that. And, uh, there's always this leverage from the federal government, you know, that they withhold funds. And when they withhold funds, then you're confronted with these problems that need to be taken care of at home, or at least partially, and federal government says, "Well, you didn't do this, so we're not giving you the money." And highway money, you know, is, uh--

BIRDWHISTELL: That's real money (laughs)--

FORD: --real money. And--but what you do is that you were building, uh, and I found everybody--uh, this fellow told me up around Berea, I think it was, that this--I told him about 75 going down through there, I believe it was 75--



FORD: --and, uh, I say, "What a grand road that is, it's tying up--tying Knoxville into Lexington and Cincinnati and all that. He said, "Yeah, son, that's all right, but I can't get to it." That meant these roads were, you know? And so, I took up the--the--the slogan of, uh, I'm gonna build get-to-it roads.

BIRDWHISTELL: Get-to-it roads? (laughs)

FORD: Yeah. And you'd be surprised, you know--

BIRDWHISTELL: That's so great--

FORD: --you could build a mile or two of road, uh, that wouldn't be disruptive--


FORD: --or resurface a road and do it well that wouldn't be disruptive to your everyday, uh, transportation job and that sort of thing, where you were taking property and everything else with the interstate highway, you know? Even though it was necessity.

BIRDWHISTELL: Get-to-it roads.

FORD: Get-to-it roads.

BIRDWHISTELL: I like that.

FORD: Yeah, well, it--you know, you come up with a slogan every once in a while--


FORD: --that said, so I'm just gonna built get-to-it roads. What do you mean by get-to-it? Well, that big road's out there and I can't get to it. And 00:48:00that--that fellow up there, he knew--he gave me something to go on. I ought to go back and give him a blue ribbon or something, but--

BIRDWHISTELL: (laughs)-- get-to-it roads. I've heard farm to market--

FORD: Well, that farm to market is, um, is an old cliché.

BIRDWHISTELL: It goes way back.

FORD: It goes way back, you know, and that's when we were trying to put gravel on roads, for that.--(coughs)--


FORD: But--but this get-to-it road is--uh, was something different. Meant the same thing.

BIRDWHISTELL: Sure. Of course, you got all this stuff going on. At the same time, there's a movement to--for a new constitution, and that comes up in the '66 session. Where did--where did you stand on that?

FORD: Oh, I, um, thought we ought to take a look at it. Um, and, uh, uh, my area here that I was representative, always had been good, uh, to, um, uh, 00:49:00our--or been in support of, uh, many changes to the constitution. And that may have been, uh, some, uh, reflection on Morton Holbrook's ability to, um, always be looking, and uh, trying to be progressive, and uh, progress is not made unless you make changes. And, uh, so, it, uh, uh, it was something that at least we needed to look at and have a convention, and it became a political war, you know.

BIRDWHISTELL: Um-hm, um-hm.

FORD: It's like are you for or against daylight saving time? --(Birdwhistell laughs)-- For or against merger? You know, it just--it starts a political war.

BIRDWHISTELL: That--yeah, that's--that's a good point.

FORD: Just like everything, yeah.

BIRDWHISTELL: It's a lot like that anymore.

FORD: So, it was a--it was a political war.


FORD: And when they developed the new proposed constitution, I found that a lot of people had never read our present constitution at the time--



FORD: --and when they laid them down side by side to show, they--they didn't like the present constitution, you know? Let alone the new one, you know? --(Birdwhistell laughs)-- So, it was difficult. They--they'd--they didn't want--they didn't like either one of them, and so, it was, uh, it was a--quite a--quite a challenge, and, uh, I'm not sure about the majority, but I think it got beat fairly bad.

BIRDWHISTELL: Yeah, it did. Yeah.

FORD: Just that.

BIRDWHISTELL: As you probably thought it would, didn't you?

FORD: Oh, yeah, yeah. It was like the veterans' bonus, so--you remember?


FORD: Where all of AIK and all the businesspeople were very much against the veterans' bonus, one-time paycheck, you know? And they were just pounding their chests and the--the businesspeople were, "Well, we're going to beat it, you know, this tax," and that sort of thing. And I said to--I think it's Rayburn Watkins (??) at the time, I said, "Rayburn, you're gonna be--have a biggest surprise you ever had." "Oh, no, no." I said, "You gonna get beat." Said, 00:51:00"How do you know?" I said, "Rayburn, every--every veteran that's entitled to a check will get as many people to the polls as they possibly can because it means money in their pocket, that's number one,"--


FORD: --"and number two, we--it is--is an emotional thing for the veterans, you know, that we ought to try to respect them and do something for them, and they've defended the country." And I went through that, that's number two. And I said, "They're gonna haul 'em to the polls on stretchers."


FORD: And they did.

BIRDWHISTELL: And they did?

FORD: They did. Why, you--people coming in gurneys, on gurneys, to vote. Oh, it--it was--it was, uh--it was a--a pretty, pretty, uh--it was emotional for it.



FORD: Facts show against it.


FORD: And in those two cases, emotional normally wins out.

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

FORD: Yeah, and that was Combs', you know--


FORD: --attitude.


FORD: And it did, it was the--it was--wasn't--it was close, but, uh--as I recall--but--


FORD: --but, it was, uh, and then we had to expand it, I think, after that, to cover what, Korea?


FORD: Yeah.

BIRDWHISTELL: Where did you live in Frankfurt during the '66 session?

FORD: At, uh, uh, up behind the old Holiday Inn that's now a Ramada Inn. There are apartment there, efficiency apartments up there.

BIRDWHISTELL: Um-hm, did you share an apartment, or--

FORD: No, unh-uh--

BIRDWHISTELL: --you just had your own?

FORD: Ms. Ford came up, and the family came.

BIRDWHISTELL: Oh, did--Oh, okay.

FORD: She didn't come all the time, but I didn't want--

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

FORD: --I didn't want to share it with, uh, anybody because you just walked in 00:53:00there, it was what they call a, uh, uh, it has something to do with, uh, railroad kitchen, uh, Pullman kitchen, or something like that.


FORD: You walked in, there was--there was a little stove and a refrigerator and sink and so forth.


FORD: Then you walked out into a fairly good-sized room and the couch made a bed. And, uh, then I had a closet, uh, uh, open closet, like a motel, to hangs clothes up, and a bathroom. And, uh, so, you could just close the door. Floyd Hayes Ellis was there, that senator from, uh, uh, Warren County and over there, those five counties, and he's in the chicken business. And, uh, I ate--I cooked, uh, my own breakfast--


FORD: --and then went out to a little place that was at the airport. You could 00:54:00get a nice little steak--

BIRDWHISTELL: At the Frankfort Airport?

FORD: Yeah, at--at a restaurant out there.


FORD: Back in those days. And I can't remember the fellows and his wife that ran it. And she would cook for it, and--and I'd go out there and get me my meal. I didn't go out at night too much, I was--

BIRDWHISTELL: --you didn't do the social circuit--

FORD: No, unh-uh, I sure didn't.


FORD: I didn't do that. And, uh, I--

BIRDWHISTELL: I knew you didn't, I was just teasing (laughs)--

FORD: --but, uh, yeah, but, uh, Floyd Ellis brought me two dozen eggs.


FORD: And I thanked him, I said, "How much do I owe you?" And he said I owe him sixty cents, thirty cents a dozen. So, I gave him sixty cents. And the next morning, I broke one of the eggs and it was double-yolk. So, I--I brought in, and--and I broke another one, and it was double-yolk. And to make a long story short, he brought me twenty-four double-yolk eggs. (both laugh) Because 00:55:00he was what you called, going through the------(??), or you could see that they were the--so, he pulled the double-yolked eggs out.

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

FORD: So, he sold them to me, and so I told them, I said it lasted me, those--those--that--that two dozen eggs lasted me a month because hell, did--you got a double-yolk, you just break one egg, you know? You--and so, I--yes, I lived up there on the second floor.

BIRDWHISTELL: Second floor.

FORD: Um-hm.

BIRDWHISTELL: Was that a--did you, uh--I guess the--the, uh, work would ebb and flow during the session, that there'd be busier times than others.

FORD: (coughs)-- Well, it would, and, uh, I always, uh, got out early, and if you went to--you got to get the information. And one of the reasons I liked it, I could read, and, uh, it meant you go out and party or do the social circuit, uh, you don't feel like reading when you come in.


FORD: You're tired and you go to bed, you get up the next morning, you're not prepared.



FORD: So, I used my, uh, time that, uh, to, uh, get the material, and I would go in early. Uh, you find staff there, but you wouldn't find many legislators there or many lobbyists.


FORD: And so you could go in and you could talk to staff and the LRC, or you could get some information, uh, from some department that you needed, and that sort of thing. And I found it was, uh, as I do today, I like to get up early.


FORD: And, uh, do some things that, uh, oh, you know, your quiet period of time. I do my best writing, I think, early in the morning.

BIRDWHISTELL: Yeah, right.

FORD: And you're gonna have to cut this.

BIRDWHISTELL: Alright. [pause in tape] So, while--while you're living in that efficiency and working in the legislature, you're--as you--you still haven't made a decision necessarily about your political future. You're just working on 00:57:00the--on the legislature.

FORD: You know, it's hard for me to explain that I didn't have all these things in mind when I started.

BIRDWHISTELL: Well, see, people will assume people do--

FORD: Yeah--

BIRDWHISTELL: --when you're as successful as you were--

FORD: Yeah--

BIRDWHISTELL: --you had to have a plan.

FORD: Yeah, but I didn't.


FORD: Um, I felt like, uh, that you know, you got a job to do, and you asked for it, and you got to try to do as good a job as you can. And if you do a good job, maybe other things will happen, but I didn't plan on going to the next one.


FORD: Because if I had listened to Combs, he'd suggested I run for the house, and not the senate. Well, uh, here I would have gotten in probably with--and at the time, without opposition. But that didn't test me.


FORD: I didn't know whether the people liked me or I could campaign properly and that sort of--so you took on Ned Breathitt's adversary, Waterfield supporter, here.



FORD: And it was a tough race.

BIRDWHISTELL: Tough, yeah.

FORD: And I run it, you know? And that indicated that I could go out and appeal and do--excuse me, that would get me.


FORD: And so, that was a political decision I made, you know? Get on with it or quit. You know, that was--that was kind of the--you know, if you can do it, do it. And so, uh--and as far as lieutenant governor, that was a--there were several people that were wanting to run for lieutenant governor, and I had been asked by several of the statewide politicians if I would be interested.

BIRDWHISTELL: Do you remember who was interested in your candidacy?

FORD: Well, that--well, you had some that were not as interested in it as they--they were interested in somebody else, and if I was interested, that made them think about somebody else.


FORD: But you had Combs and Wetherby and Cox and Bill May and, uh, uh, Kincaid 00:59:00(??), and, uh, uh, Turners, and you know, it was--and the Courier Journal, all of those people were kind of looking around to see what the next one was going to be. And, uh, they asked me to hold off making any kind of announcement till we got back together--that's Foster Ackerman (??). And, uh, Bob Matthews wanted to run. He was attorney general, hell, you know, big deal, and statewide race, and all that.


FORD: And I hadn't done that. And so, uh, when they asked us to withhold a--making any public announcement, trying to work out something, you know? And I was willing to listen. So, while this--this, uh, hiatus was there, Matthews' 01:00:00people--and I'm not sure, there are several, maybe former governor, so--that said, "Go ahead and announce," even though you've agreed to wait, go ahead and announce. And so, you were out there, then they have to announce later and run against you.


FORD: And that will cause them to hesitate. Well, I went to Frankfurt to the meeting that was scheduled of those who were--they wanted to consider or would even be--that would consider running for lieutenant governor. I went to the meeting.

BIRDWHISTELL: Who was there?

FORD: Me and Foster Ackerman. --(Birdwhistell laughs)-- You know? That was it. But I kept my word. I kept my word.

BIRDWHISTELL: (laughs) Oh.

FORD: And, um, so, um--

BIRDWHISTELL: Were you aggravated--

FORD: Yeah, a little bit, but it--the--when I got--I was on the way home, and, 01:01:00um, I had forgotten to--I always call my wife. She knows basically where I am and who I'm with. --(Birdwhistell laughs)-- And so, uh, I called her and she said, "Wendell, they've been trying to reach you." And I said, "They who?" Said, "A bunch of businesspeople here in Owensboro." And, uh, I said, "They're having a meeting at Gabe's, at lunch, and they want you there." I said, "What it's--What is it about, honey?" She said, "I don't know. They didn't tell me, but they were having a meeting and wanted you there." Well, I thought maybe some industrial development sort of thing.

BIRDWHISTELL: Sure, sure, it could be anything.

FORD: So, I told Jean, it was about a half an hour or so, about 11:30, maybe quarter after 11:00, I guess I was in Elizabethtown when I called her, and 01:02:00she--I said, "Well, I'll just go straight by there, and if you know how to call, or call out to Gabe's and tell 'em that you talked to me and I'll be there in about an hour or so." So, uh, I went by, must have been fifty to seventy-five local businesspeople in there, and I walked in, they all applauded and carried on, and I didn't--still didn't know what the hell was going on.


FORD: And so, they---(coughs)--they said, "We have voted and we have put money where our vote is and we want you to run for lieutenant governor." Well, you could have knocked me over with a feather.


FORD: And that was--that was it.

BIRDWHISTELL: That was it?

FORD: Yeah. And I did not agree, at that time, I don't recall.



FORD: I went and talked to the family and talked to my father.

BIRDWHISTELL: What'd he say?

FORD: Oh, he--Dad, Dad said, "Let's think it through." And, uh, he says, "If you want to, and I under--and I want you to underscore, underscore 'want,' then I think you ought to do it. But if you've got any hesitation, any idea that you can't give it 110 percent, don't run." And uh, so, uh, I talked to the family and I talked to Dad, and--

BIRDWHISTELL: --what'd Mrs. Ford say--

FORD: She wasn't very happy about it. She'd never been--she'd never been happy with--she likes some of the things I do, she's critical of other things. --(Birdwhistell laughs)-- She's a pretty good, uh, sounding board for me.

BIRDWHISTELL: (laughs) Yeah.


FORD: And, uh.


FORD: The kids were so young, it was, uh, difficult for them to--if whatever Daddy wanted to do was all right, you know? Well, so, we decided to do it.


FORD: And it was, uh--and had a--in this old Owensboro hotel up there, we were on the mezzanine, and, uh, Mrs. Montgomery and a few of them just volunteered and Bill Thompson was my treasurer, and he--he--he--found out why he was such a good businessman: he did it quickly, you know? He did things. And so, uh, we, uh, I got on the road, and I had a little boy that, uh, went with me, that was a student at Brescia College, Jim Fallon, and uh, I couldn't--he, he didn't 01:05:00hardly--I didn't hardly have enough money to pay him get his clothes cleaned, uh, over the weekend, you know, take out the next week. And, uh, we--the candy company made a mistake, I may have told you this, we were giving away peppermint sticks.


FORD: I found out they worked in the senate race because I was going door to door.

BIRDWHISTELL: Oh, that's right, giving candy peppermints?

FORD: Yes, and so the kids--


FORD: --the kids, uh, would come up and grab mother around the leg, you know, and we'd be standing outside the door, and tell them what was--would they--we have candy, "Oh, that'd be fine," peppermint, so you give the kids the candy, and they take it and run to the other room, you talk to mother. So, they misspelled "governor" on my, you know, Wendell Ford for Lieutenant Governor, spelled "governor" wrong. So, we raised cane with them, they said, "You keep the candy and we'll send you another bunch." I think it was ten thousand sticks or something. So, people never paid any attention to the name anyhow, you know, 01:06:00so I had twenty thousand sticks of peppermint candy to give away.

BIRDWHISTELL: For the price of two.

FORD: For the price--and we ate a lot of peppermint candy, you know, in studio (??), just got to kill your appetite, and, uh--

BIRDWHISTELL: As an appetite suppressant, ah--

FORD: Oh, yeah, and it was--you know, you put a piece of candy in your mouth and that does curtail your appetite. But we--

BIRDWHISTELL: That meeting--uh, that meeting in Frankfort, do you have any idea what month that was or when that was supposed to take place? Where Ackerman was there? Would that be like, summer? Summer of '66?

FORD: It has to be the summer of '66. It may be early summer.


BIRDWHISTELL: Um-hm. So, you felt like you were double-crossed?

FORD: I don't know--I don't know whether "double-crossed" is, uh, too strong or not. But it's like fighting a war. You, uh, develop your strategy, and whatever happens, you--you try to do whatever puts you over the hill. I felt like that uh, I--that when I gave my word and they gave their word, that there ought to be honor, even in the political arena. And when that word was broken, uh, it disillusioned me quite a bit because the political powers to be in the 01:08:00state were the ones that asked us not to do it. And some of those were the ones that encouraged Bob to go ahead and announce.


FORD: Since I was not going to, you know, the other--a lot--and I don't remember whether there were any more than just Bob and I in that.

BIRDWHISTELL: Those--on you--the two main people?

FORD: Yeah. Uh, Andy Jolly was in that, uh, race, too, and Andy hurt me down here because he had, I don't know whether it's a brother or somebody, in, uh, Union County, down in West Kentucky. You know, that was--that hurt me, uh, politically, as far as votes were concerned. I think I would have gotten--(coughs)-- a lot of those votes, had he not been down there, but I don't believe Andy was in, uh, that--but so, just the two of us.

BIRDWHISTELL: Who would organize the--the meeting at, uh, at the restaurant? 01:09:00Where is that restaurant, by the way?

FORD: It's gone.

BIRDWHISTELL: Where was it?

FORD: Out at Eighteenth and Triplet Streets.

BIRDWHISTELL: Eighteenth and Triplet.

FORD: Um-hm.

BIRDWHISTELL: So, did J.R. Miller organize that?

FORD: He--J.R. was part of it. Uh, several of the business people in town that, uh--


FORD: --felt like it was time Owensboro had somebody, you know?


FORD: It was not--it was not a--it was a semi-political meeting, I think. It was, uh, a political on the basis that Owensboro hasn't had anybody, Owensboro, we're the third-largest city, we ought to have somebody in, uh, lieutenant governor's office, maybe the governor's office, we ought to have somebody like that. And so, that was--not only was it political, but it was also, uh, uh, community-spirited.

BIRDWHISTELL: Obviously, yeah.

FORD: Uh, judgment, and, uh, it was--



FORD: Right good little meeting. It was, uh, you know, and they all stuck. Oh, it was--it was, you know, it--Tommy Lansville (??) was a realtor here, and he knew a lot of folks, uh, around the state. Tommy, uh, but he was also in the Rotary Club, and he'd been lieutenant governor, or whatever Rotary has, and, uh, he knew people up in Pike County, and, uh, the Moore boys were here, and, uh, we flew up to Pikeville in, uh, and we had it full, and we went in there and, uh, Charlie, uh, Moore, I believe Charlie Moore, and he had a service station, a small grocery store, up a hollow, right on the edge of Kentucky and West--and West Virginia. His mother was a schoolteacher, and they spoke several languages. It was just amazing, as those people back up in hills somewhere.



FORD: And--but anyhow, and Charlie Owen was a good speaker. Uh, he was the--he had been a se--both of them were schoolteachers, and they had little receptions for me all around, when I wasn't even there, they'd have a--they'd have coffee and cookies and stuff and bring people in, and it was, uh, interesting time. And that all stemmed from people here. And one of the things that came from that, Terry, was Owensboro found out they could have had connections, play--other places, such as the rotary club, with Tommy Lansville, and fellows in the Ford dealership at, uh, Pikeville he knew very well. And, uh, and then, uh, over at Hopkinsville, they knew, uh, people over there very well. And, uh, so, that, uh, that, uh, got to be a, uh, uh, it was--it helped Owensboro and the 01:12:00fact that they found out that they knew people otherwhere--other places and they could reach out and talk to them, and they would be interested and they would help. And it gave them, I think, uh, a little boost about maybe expanding and new industry and that sort of thing, whether I'm--whether that's just a foolish assumption or not, I don't know, but it, uh, I--I think it did help.

BIRDWHISTELL: It seems to me, Senator, that if you look at Kentucky politics during the--at least during the last half of the twentieth century, I don't know of a link between a politician, government official, and the community that's as close and as obvious as the link between Wendell Ford and Owensboro. The--that closeness, in terms of, uh, of, uh, --(Ford coughs)--how they helped get you 01:13:00started, and that closeness and--that's still--that's still there today, it seems to me.

FORD: Yeah.

BIRDWHISTELL: I mean, you don't see that with, say, John Sherman Cooper, in Somerset. I mean, they're--they don't--I mean, they're proud of that, but it's--it doesn't seem the same to me, or--or, uh--

FORD: --well, you know, I'm--I'm grateful, uh, and, uh, I didn't do as much as I should have done, particularly as governor, for Owensboro.

BIRDWHISTELL: That went so quick. --(laughs)--

FORD: Yeah, and I understand, but it's still, I made some decisions that, uh, I look back on now and wish I'd made the other decision.


FORD: And which time, do you want--


FORD: --and, uh--

BIRDWHISTELL: Twenty-twenty--

FORD: Yeah, 20-20 hindsight. But I'm still here.


FORD: John Sherman's gone, you know? So, um, but, uh, there's been a--a strong feeling that everybody knows that I have tried, I think, or most people know that I have tried, to, uh, uh, be good to this town, tried--or while trying to 01:14:00be fair to everybody else.


FORD: And, uh, tried some experiments at state office building right over here, was the first construction management building in the state.


FORD: And we saved money on it--


FORD: --and worked well, and we had to take bids on every section of it, you know, on the construction management.

BIRDWHISTELL: Right, right.

FORD: And that's a--that went--

BIRDWHISTELL: Well, you know, watching your retirement, uh, and watching Owensboro embrace you during that retirement, both with the, uh, the dinners and the--the newspaper special sections and everything, it's obviously that connection, but going back and hearing this earlier history, it all brings it all together, you know? That--that there was a group of people, uh, for you, a base of support that sort of, uh, boosted your career. Uh, and without that, it would have been a very, eventually--

FORD: Would have been a lot tougher, yeah--

BIRDWHISTELL: --been a lot tougher, a lot tougher.

FORD: So, if it hadn't been for that, I probably wouldn't have run.



FORD: Because the political guessing or the political odds, and it was, you know, it was 619 votes, it's--


FORD: --it's--it's pretty close race.

BIRDWHISTELL: Well, it seems to me that, you know, you're looking at just getting through a very, very tough senate race.

FORD: Yeah.

BIRDWHISTELL: You're, uh, you're looking at a, uh, at a race against a, uh, as you said earlier, against a, uh, person who already--who had already won a statewide race.

FORD: Yeah.

BIRDWHISTELL: And, uh, it's going to be a tough, a tough road. So, to make that choice, one would have to say that you--(Ford coughs)--you have to be a fairly ambitious person to make that choice, in those--in that situation.

FORD: Let's eliminate the word "ambitious."



FORD: On the basis that I felt, uh, obligated--

BIRDWHISTELL: Obligated, okay--

FORD: --to--to--to that group. If they felt that strongly about it--


FORD: --then I was the fellow that they, uh, had, um, uh, gathered around to support, and they wanted to do it for this, you know? I felt that it was my responsibility to--to do it.

BIRDWHISTELL: To pick it up?

FORD: And to give it to everything I had.

BIRDWHISTELL: Oh--that's--

FORD: And, uh, and they did, too, and it--it was close, but successful.

BIRDWHISTELL: I was telling Morton yesterday that, uh, you know, interviewing you guys, uh, it helps me to see some things. I was interviewing, uh, W.T. Young, and--and he says, uh, he looks back on his career and he says it's motivational--you got to be motivated. And that, you know, what--and maybe 01:17:00"ambition" is the wrong word, but once they--once you--you accept that responsibility to--to do what they wanted you to do, you have to be motivated to fly to Pikeville, you got to be motivated to--

FORD: Drive all night--

BIRDWHISTELL: --drive all night and--and, uh, again, take time away from your business to--to make that race because it's a tough race.

FORD: My father hadn't been politically inclined, I don't think I would have run because he, uh, continued to pay my meager salary --(sniffs)-- even though I was not there--


FORD: --to support.


FORD: 'Cause that was a, you know, family support.


FORD: And, um, the difference between ambition and motivation--


FORD: --ambition is something you want for yourself.

BIRDWHISTELL: That's right. That's right.

FORD: And, uh, I--I could have very well done without it, physically and financially, you know?



FORD: And, uh, so it, uh, I was the--I was motivated by local support. I--I--yeah. And--and when you look back on it, it was the right thing to do. If people didn't want you to run or were not enthusiastic about you running, not encouraging you to run, you know, why do it? Then that's ambition. And I can give you one statewide candid--office over right now, that's all he's got, is ambition. His chest busted at seam, and Gore beat him because he's obsessed.


FORD: And, uh, can't talk to him.


FORD: You're doing your job, you're gonna be reelected, and you know, four more years, if--if he doesn't run for something else, but do your job, do it well, get well known, and said, "Every time we--we called on him, he's responded, he's been a good soldier, been a good office-holder," and all these things, you know? This was not anything that you can say unkind about him.


BIRDWHISTELL: Right. (laughs)

FORD: Now, you say he's so obsessed with running for President of the United States, he can't be an officeholder here in the--in Kentucky. And so, that's ambition, in my judgment.

BIRDWHISTELL: Yeah, you know.

FORD: And ambition overrides, uh, doing a good job because he will let that go and let somebody else do it while his ambition drives him someplace else. Now, I may be--I--maybe that's white hat. Maybe I'm trying to say, you know, I'm better than everybody else and that sort of thing--that's not true. But it just doesn't make sense to me that, uh, if you don't have people for you and--and support you, that, uh, you could go out, and--and generate their support. You don't have to generate that support--it's already there, you know? All you got to do is show them that you're a willing participant and you'll work your heart out, you know? And so, they continued that support, and then, as you work your 01:20:00heart out, you go place to place, and you have some ideas. I went around and got all a hundred--and got almost all 120 county Democratic chairmen signed my papers before I filed.


FORD: Yeah, see, with everybody--see, it was just announced, and I'm the winner, you know? And then sitting up in the--in Letcher County, in front of a fire, you know, in--in early spring, sipping a drink, and get a call, said, "You better get down here and that little Ford station wagon's everywhere." You know? And I'm sorry they called him because he was--he begin to realize that they had a race on their hands.

BIRDWHISTELL: (laughs) Hm.

FORD: So, uh, it's--(laughs).

BIRDWHISTELL: So that was your, uh, your approach? It's--well, the reason I ask that question, see, I think it's good to--for your biographer to hear your--your explanation of that because somebody'll just say, "Wendell Ford was 01:21:00ambitious at an early age," right? This gives you a chance to explain your motivation.

FORD: See, I didn't want to get into politics--(Birdwhistell laughs)-- you know? That was the furthest thing from what I wanted to do, you know?

BIRDWHISTELL: Right. --(laughs)--

FORD: And, uh, it's, uh, it was, uh, it--it--and that--that's--it's hard for people to believe, being in this business, or the political arena, getting cut up like you do, and having to--you--you abuse yourself physically, you know?

BIRDWHISTELL: Right, no question.

FORD: It just--you--you--you do that, uh, you know, look, waitresses at the banquet, they'll keep your coffee cup full because they want you to have to go to the bathroom and get the hell out of there, you know?--(Birdwhistell laughs)-- And so, you're sitting there drinking that coffee, and you're--you have to have a Baptist minister's bladder in order to be a politician.

BIRDWHISTELL: (laughs)--I haven't heard that one before.

FORD: Yeah, well, it's true. That's 'cause the Baptist minister preach long 01:22:00sermons, yeah.

BIRDWHISTELL: Long sermons, long sermons. Um, so, once you decide to run for lieutenant governor, it sounds to me what you're saying is that you approached it, uh, like you did your local campaign, here. You went out and started beating the bushes. --(Ford coughs)-- You--and--and from what you said a minute ago, you went to all the counties and touched base with all the--the leadership, the Democratic leadership, within those counties.

FORD: Some were very active, some were very--some were just, you know, took it because nobody else wanted it, but, um, they--they still were the party leadership.


FORD: Now, they signed my papers and that was a form of endorsement, and I didn't get them all, but I got a whole lot of them. I think it was close to a hundred.

BIRDWHISTELL: I had a question I was going to ask you--had you considered just 01:23:00running for governor, not lieutenant governor, but that's--


BIRDWHISTELL: --the scenario you've--you've just told me about, it helped--I was just wondering that.

FORD: Yeah, that didn't--No.

BIRDWHISTELL: And you knew pretty much who your primary opposition was going to be.

FORD: Yeah, I did, at the time. When I announced, I knew.

BIRDWHISTELL: You knew Bob Matthews--

FORD: Yeah--

BIRDWHISTELL: --was your--was your opponent? What did you, um, anticipate as the issues in that race? Or did you think it would come down to--you know, there's a lot of talk in this presidential campaign that it's gonna--it's gonna be about issues, you know? And sometimes, it's about personality, and sometimes it's about issues. Um, did you think that the '67 lieutenant governor's race would be about issues, or would it be about organization?

FORD: Well, one, if you--my--my observance of politics is that, uh, if you don't have a good organization, don't make any difference much what you do.

BIRDWHISTELL: What--why, this year, you've got--

FORD: --yeah. And so, my first emphasis was to try to find people to be for me 01:24:00in as many counties as we possibly could. So, organization was, uh, number one. Uh, number two, we took the legislation that I had passed and used that as the ability to get legislation through.


FORD: And set out all these things that, uh, we--we, uh, had worked on, and been able to do. Some were good and some were not so good, as far as politics was concerned. But it touched a lot of people, like the handicapped kids, you know?

BIRDWHISTELL: Right, right.

FORD: It--just like when I ran against, uh, the majority leader of the senate, here, uh, he voted against the budget. Well, he voted against everything, you know? And so, you could say he voted against this, he voted against that, and that sort of thing, and that was legitimate.

BIRDWHISTELL: That's right.

FORD: He had to explain why he voted against handicapped kids. He had to 01:25:00explain why he voted against mental health. He had to explain why he voted against the road program. He had to explain all that, you know?

BIRDWHISTELL: Education, yeah.

FORD: Yeah, education. So, uh, the, uh, that was a political decision because it was the governor's budget and not the lieutenant governor's, who he was supporting.

BIRDWHISTELL: Right, obviously.

FORD: And so, okay. [pause in tape] And he got down to, uh--I don't think, Terry, the issues, as I recall, the issues were too hot. There were some, uh, I have to go back and look. There were just some things that I laid on in generalities that I'd like to do. Which were populist, I guess.


FORD: And, uh, knowing that, uh, uh, I don't think Bob had too many issues at 01:26:00all. Of course, our issue was, uh, Ward and Chandler and uh--no, Buckman, Jiggs Buckman. And they threw down the gauntlet from the Ward people on their slating--


FORD: --in the primary. That Ward had to, uh--we had to support Ward, or if we didn't, he would slate the other one. And we both, uh, supported him, he wouldn't slate either one of us. Well, uh, that was damned if you do, damned if 01:27:00you don't. So, I endorsed Henry, in a letter, which they published publicly. But I lost all the Jiggs Buckman people, and those that were--the Chandlerites, who were for me because, uh, Matthews was seen as the--


FORD: --Combs, Breathitt, uh, Wetherbee group, that was opposed to Chandler. I had that going in without making a big deal out of it. And then when I had to write that letter, I lost that group. Now, I don't know how many votes Jiggs got.

BIRDWHISTELL: I'll have to look for it, I think.

FORD: But I would have been slated with him, not because I ask him to, but because they were against the other side.


FORD: And so, I would just normally have gotten that without making an effort for it. But once I made this statement, then they dropped me, and I got a 01:28:00pretty harsh, uh, letter from Jiggs.

BIRDWHISTELL: What'd he say?

FORD: I don't remember, but I remember it was a harsh letter. And then he went against me, you know, as lieutenant governor, and you had Louie Nunn as governor to take the leadership away from me. And so, once we got to Frankfort, you know, and uh, nominated him and voted on him, why, Jiggs lost. And--uh, but he--he--he was a thorn in my side as a result of that endorsement because he was in the state senate.


FORD: And Jiggs and I had gotten along well. It just seemed like at this, uh, set him off pretty good.


FORD: And, uh, it was long time before that was healed. I tried my best to do 01:29:00it, but it was not an easy thing to do. But he, uh, he, uh, made me earn my political keep, uh, as it related to the leadership in the senate.

BIRDWHISTELL: Yeah. What'd you know about Bob Matthews? Tell me--Tell me about Bob Matthews.

FORD: Bob Matthews is a nice fellow. I liked his wife, um, he, um, uh, was not a fellow that was aggressive. He was very slow. Uh, if he didn't have to do it today, he wouldn't do it, you know? And that was one of my advantages.

BIRDWHISTELL: (laughs) You weren't slow?

FORD: Yeah. And, uh, he, uh, as I say, he was a nice fellow, and I think he was, uh, smart. Uh, but, uh, he, uh, uh, was not, uh, uh, if you lay something 01:30:00on his desk and he'd look at it and you want to--this is, uh, August the twenty-third and you didn't have to answer it until September first, he would just shove it over here and it wouldn't go. You could go ahead and know what you're gonna do on September first, and set a note, and go on and do it, you know, and it's behind you, put it on your calendar, and you're doing something else, but Bob just put it over till September first.


FORD: And that's the way he campaigned.


FORD: Uh, he was--he would do it with--it wasn't anything early about him getting up in the morning, you know? --(Birdwhistell laughs)-- Or writing all night. And, uh, I think that was probably what--one of the main differences, that, uh, at least I hope I out--I know I outworked him.


FORD: And, uh, it was, uh, it was not a mean campaign in any way at all--



FORD: --it was just that, uh, you were out there trying to present your side of it and what you'd like to do, and what you felt like, with the experience you'd had, uh, presiding over--being in the senate, you had the experience to preside over the senate. And, uh, you knew the--knew the rules committee. Even though he had been statewide, he had not been in the senate, he didn't understand that maneuvering, I didn't think, you know, let him, you know, I'd had--that was some of the things we did, but Bob, uh, I think Bob's, uh, uh, loss can be, uh, everything else being equal, that he just, uh, one, he thought he was going to win, uh, without much trouble, and secondly, he was never one that was, uh, we use your word "motivated" to get up out of the chair and go work.

BIRDWHISTELL: Um-hm. I can remember, um, when I was working on the Nunn interviews, going back and reading the Courier Journal for this period--and I 01:32:00need to go back and re-read them again before our next session because--

FORD: I need to--I need to read them myself.

BIRDWHISTELL: Well, I need to bring you that inf--(Ford coughs)--I can--see, I--I can bring some print-outs of those articles and they're very helpful and I'll do that next time, but, uh--

FORD: --it would jog my memory. [telephone rings]

BIRDWHISTELL: Yeah. Go on for just a little bit longer.

FORD: All right.

BIRDWHISTELL: And, uh, what I was saying was that, in looking back at that, uh, lieutenant governor's race, I was just, uh, you know, you--you start at a disadvantage, in some ways, that we talked about. And you win by a very narrow margin. But--and that's such a crucial race in your future political career. If you lose that race, then you could argue if you lose in '65, that's a setback, but--

FORD: Yeah, that'd have been it.

BIRDWHISTELL: --but if you lose the state--your first statewide race, that's a--that would be pretty tough, too, because a lot of people who run for lieutenant governor and lose that's--

FORD: That's the last time you hear from 'em--


BIRDWHISTELL: --they never recover.

FORD: Um-hm.

BIRDWHISTELL: So, that--so, it's a very interesting race for you, in that regard. And, um, one of the things I wanted to find out about it was, uh, your organization and your strategy and your fundraising, and I think you've explained a lot of that in--in that it started as your base in Owensboro, you had your key supporters here, and then that networked out across the state. You made contacts in all the counties, and then just developed support from there.

FORD: See, I had--we--we have to go back and think about what--why I knew so many people. Well, the Jaycees you know, for years, even when I was national president, I came back and spoke to the state convention and made stops here and all that. But then I was in Combs' office.


FORD: And even though when Mother died and Daddy was sick and I had to come back and run the business, uh, I made the contacts in campaigning for him 01:34:00because I was his statewide youth chairman, you know, '58 and '59.


FORD: And packed up suitcase and lived in a hotel room that was my office. It had a rollaway, you know, pulled it out and sleep there at night and take a shower and close her back up, open my door, and you had the desk and everything, you went to work. So, I got acquainted with a lot of people, and on--and on some occasions, uh, uh, Combs would ask me to sit in the meetings with him. And I don't know why, but, uh, he did. And I was there when they made decisions about organization. I was there when they made the decision on, uh, oh, uh, shoot, making--put him on the court of appeals, from down here in Henderson--Palmore [John S. Palmore].



FORD: And, uh, so, that was the--I was in the room when they thought about Palmore, and he was Commonwealth's Attorney down in Henderson. And so, I got to know these people and how they thought--


FORD: --and how they went about organizing. Now, the best organizer, political organizer, I ever met, is Earl Clements. Earl Clements was a stickler for organization. And one of my races for the U.S. Senate, we sent out a schedule for the counties, and that on a certain date, they would have a cochairman, and on certain date, they would have something else. (telephone ringing) Damn. That's Mama.

BIRDWHISTELL: (laughs)--Okay, we'll finish in about--

FORD: But in this, in these meetings, you seem I got to get the feel of the 01:36:00political atmosphere.


FORD: And how decisions were made, and how they talked about individuals that could do things, and this one had this strength, and this one had this strength, so you needed them both to work as cochairmen, you know? All those sort of things.


FORD: And that gave me a --(sniffs)-- political perspective--


FORD: --that I wouldn't have gotten any other way.

BIRDWHISTELL: Sure. You were paying attention.

FORD: Yeah. Well, I was listening, anyhow--(Birdwhistell laughs)-- and then when the--two things happened after Combs was elected. Uh, we were leaving the hotel and I--and Combs and I were on an elevator, and he gave me a hundred dollars for expenses.


FORD: And I said, "Bert, I can get by without this." He said, "Oh, go on, take it, it's just part of the deficit anyhow." (both laugh) And a hundred dollars 01:37:00looked big because--

BIRDWHISTELL: Yeah, of course--

FORD: --uh, it was--anyways, we--we--we--we'd been on a shoestring.


FORD: I'd been, you know, the office was your hotel room, so you didn't--you paid for the offices, didn't have to pay for a hotel room for me.


FORD: And then, uh, we had--he had the thank-you breakfast for headquarters, up in the squirrel age, we called it, that's at, you know, two-bedroom, living room, dining room, kitchen, couple of baths, up on the top floor of this old Seelbach Hotel, or the ninth floor. And, uh, then he asked me to stay, after everybody else was gone, and, uh, I didn't know what the heck was going on.


FORD: And we went into the living room there and, uh, he just put his hand in so and said, "Now, I want you to come to the governor's office with me."



FORD: I said, "Come to the governor's office? What you want me to do?" He said, "Well, I'm gonna make Bob Matthews my chief assistant, and I want you to be the number two man."


FORD: I said, "What do you expect me to do?" He said, "Anything I ask you to do. --(Birdwhistell laughs)-- But I want you to see that the office runs as smooth as possible."

BIRDWHISTELL: (laughs) Hm.

FORD: Well, that was a -- a pretty hefty decision, and, uh, not many folks were for it, except Dad. Dad, I think, had, uh, ideas. I wish he had lived to see me governor.


FORD: But, uh, I didn't have the same ideas that Dad did. And, uh, he just says, "Wendell, that's a--it's a--it's somewhat of an obligation that you have"--



FORD: --"that, uh, you know, you have to dedicate yourself, you have to give a portion of yourself to make this place better, and, uh"--


FORD: --"it, uh," he said, "I think it's important that you do." Mother says, uh, "Son, anything you want to do is fine with me, but I hate for you to take your family away from here and I won't get to see 'em."


FORD: And, uh, of course, that's when she--she passed away, and that--I think about that a lot.


FORD: And, uh, but Jean, we had some kinfolks there that, uh, Jean knew, and they helped us get a--and her husband helped us get a house. And, uh, I went up and worked in December. I signed five or six hundred letters every night in the hotel room, "Bert Combs," or "Bert."



FORD: And, uh, I can still sign his name pretty good. I haven't tried for years, but I bet I could.

BIRDWHISTELL: (laughs)--I bet you could, too.

FORD: And, uh, uh, those--and that was in--and once that was decided, that was a pretty tough transition because I was just getting into the business. We were doing reasonably well, and, uh, Rayburn was in--come--had come in, and he graduated from college. And, uh, it was, uh, we were beginning to gel, uh, in the business. And so, it was a--uh, it was a tough, tough decision.


FORD: But I learned a lot.

BIRDWHISTELL: It--it gave you that experience.

FORD: Gave me that experience that, uh, when you get down to it, what--I had had the experience, probably having served in the governor's office, been a state senator, and been a lieutenant governor, you know? And then going to the 01:41:00governor's chair, that background, I should have been as well--


FORD: --experienced. Maybe not as well educated as some thought I ought to be--


FORD: --but I beat those people.

BIRDWHISTELL: That's right. But you know, it's interesting, in the state senate race, you had to run against Cap Gardner, local guy, insurance man--

FORD: Yeah, yeah--

BIRDWHISTELL: --popular, majority leader--


BIRDWHISTELL: --to run for lieutenant governor, you have to run against the guy you worked with in Combs' office, and to run for governor, you have to run against Combs. --(laughs)--

FORD: But as I told him at the Albin Barkley dinner, when we were running against each other, you know, he--

BIRDWHISTELL: That you told, uh--

FORD: Yeah, that he--that he ran against, uh, Barkley, you know?


FORD: Uh, in his first race--


FORD: --ran against his old boss.


FORD: And won.

BIRDWHISTELL: Oh. --(laughs)-- You told Matthews that?

FORD: No, I told Combs that, yeah.

BIRDWHISTELL: You told Combs that? (laughs)

FORD: Yeah, 'cause we were at this Barkley dinner down at, uh, you know, Barkley's gone, but they had this big Barkley dinner.


FORD: --and Combs spoke first, you know, and talked about experience and how 01:42:00Alben Barkley served and went through all of that, you know, and he gave--gave a big--big--Alben Barkley speech. And then I had--I was next, you know? And, uh, I don't know what else I said, that night. I can't--I couldn't, if my life depended on it, but I did--I do know that I said that I respected Alben Barkley and I liked what he did, but Alben Barkley had to get a start. And when he got his start, he ran against his own boss for county attorney, and won. Well, the crowd just kind of--it was exasperated with that, you know? And what ca--And Combs was--was taken aback a little bit, too.

BIRDWHISTELL: (laughs)--I bet.

FORD: 'Cause Combs smart, oh-ho, boy, he's smart. Don't tell me he wasn't--he said, he--he--he pretty good. But it's--like the fellow said, I taught him all he know, you know? I said, "I know all he knows, but he doesn't know all I know. It worked for--


BIRDWHISTELL: (laughs)--Oh, that's funny. That's a great one--that's a great story, Senator, that is a great story.

FORD: Glad to--

BIRDWHISTELL: But, uh, well, we'll, uh, on our next visit, we'll--we'll pick up the --(Ford coughs)-- '67 primary campaign.

FORD: Do what now?

BIRDWHISTELL: On the next session, we'll pick up with the '67 primary--

FORD: Okay--

BIRDWHISTELL: --get you elected lieutenant governor, and then, uh, things really start to pop. Then you got to deal with the--being the head of the Democratic Party. --(Ford laughs)-- A party in debt.

FORD: Uh, bought life insurance in case I died and pay off the debt, yeah.

BIRDWHISTELL: A general assembly that's, uh, a little confused. --(laughs)--

FORD: Yeah. We had seventeen to twenty-one was the vote on the tax.


FORD: We had the bread hung up, you know, in there, in my office.

BIRDWHISTELL: (laughs)--So, um--

FORD: I took a--uh, they--they voted and, uh, I can't remember exactly how it 01:44:00went, but anyhow, it was seventeen to twenty-one, Louie won, and Vanhoose was a nice fellow, I liked him. He was, uh, the majority leader, and, uh, then we took a voice vote and I announced that carried, twenty-one to seventeen, you know, on the voice vote, you know?


FORD: He got a kick out of that.

BIRDWHISTELL: So, we'll, uh, we'll pick up there, next time.

FORD: What was Vanhoose's first name? He was up, senator of Eastern Kentucky--


FORD: --Wendell.

BIRDWHISTELL: Wendell Vanhoose?

FORD: Yeah, Wendell Vanhoose.

BIRDWHISTELL: Yeah, all right. Thanks, Senator.