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MOYEN: All right, I'm here today with Joe Wright in Harned, Kentucky. Mr. Wright served the Fifth District in the Senate for seventeen years starting in 1976, and he is a farmer here. Thank you for meeting with me today.

WRIGHT: My pleasure.

MOYEN: Uh, Why don't we start out by just finding out a little bit about your genealogy, your family history. How far can you trace that back, or do you know?

WRIGHT: Well, we can go back to the, probably eighteen and ten, uh, that I can be very specific about the genealogy back to then, and really don't know a lot prior to that.

MOYEN: Um-hm.

WRIGHT: My family came to Shelby County from Pennsylvania and then from Shelby County to Daviess County, Kentucky, actually on a, my father 00:01:00and grandmother were born on, in a home in Daviess County, which is on Wrights Landing Road. So I assume that's where the family did land as they came down the river from Shelby County in, in the mid-1800s. Uh, in about nineteen and seventeen my grandfather moved his family from Daviess County to Breckenridge County, not in this home, did not initially come to this home but about the mid-1920s bought the farm where we're now sitting, and in fact my grandfather built this home and I was born in this home where I now live. So in fact my brother and I and sister, uh, three of our four children, children of my brother and sister were born in this home. So, so we have a long history here in, in Breckenridge County.

MOYEN: Did you say it was your great-grandfather or your grandfather 00:02:00who--

WRIGHT: --my grandfather actually came here to this county and bought a farm adjoining this farm and then in the mid-1920s sold it and, and, or bought this and then sold, sold that. He had, my grandfather had four daughters and two sons. Three of his, uh, daughters were from a, not from my grandmother but from a, a, his first wife and she had tuberculosis and in fact, he went to New Mexico, took her out there with those three children to, for her health. And as he always told the story, he was trying to farm in New Mexico and he was out there for two years and it never did rain and she didn't get any better and so they came home and then she died, you know, within a couple of years. Then he married my grandmother and their first child was a daughter, 00:03:00and my aunt, who was the first child from my grandmother, always said that my grandfather thought he would not have a son because he named her Mary Earl, after himself but, but then my father was born and then, uh, three or four years after that another son was born. And the second son was killed in the Normandy invasion in World War II. So he, he never married. He graduated from Western Kentucky University and was very active in Pershing Rifles, in fact, was president of the senior class there at Western and, and graduated in, uh, June of '43 and then was killed in the invasion in, uh, actually it was D-Day plus 00:04:00about twenty, on July the Fourth of '44 that he was killed. That's, that's kind of the background of my family. My wife and I married, do you, you want me to go into that?

MOYEN: Sure. Let me ask you this first, what, what was your grand--, what were your grandparents' names?

WRIGHT: Earl and Lydia Wright.

MOYEN: Okay.

WRIGHT: And in fact my son is named Earl Clement Wright--

MOYEN: --okay--

WRIGHT: --exactly the same name as my grandfather. And then we have a daughter named Lydia after my grandmother too--

MOYEN: --okay--

WRIGHT: --as was the case in the '40s, you know, my father was off in the war for four years and before he went he built a very small house right across the driveway here where my mother lived with my sister and my brother and I. And so my grandparents really were like parents to me during those very early years from, well, from the time I was one til I was five, and so in many ways my grandfather was my father during, 00:05:00you know, an extremely important time as was my grandmother. And they lived in this home that we're sitting in and we lived right across the driveway.

MOYEN: Now, when exactly were you born?

WRIGHT: 1940.

MOYEN: Okay. All right. Do you have any remembrances of the war or of, uh, that time when your father served in--

WRIGHT: --yes, it's very vivid to me. In fact, we have a picture here of, of my, my own special dog and my uncle the day that he left never to return, uh, right out, made right outside here. Uh, probably the thing that, you know, that stands out obviously is when my uncle was killed. And I can remember sitting in this house when they came and 00:06:00told my grandparents about it. So it was, you know, it was a very sad occasion and so that is the, that is a vivid thing that has stayed with me all the days of my life and I'm sure will and, you know, it was not abnormal, other than--

MOYEN: --right--

WRIGHT: --deaths are the same thing, but for a young boy, you know, when people you love are hurt you don't forget it.

MOYEN: Um-hm. Sure. Why don't you tell me a little bit about your schooling, when you first went to school and where you attended?

WRIGHT: I, I went to, uh, Breckenridge County High School and Elementary School, it was in the same building in Hardinsburg. Started in '46 and graduated in '58, uh, and from there went on to UK and graduated from there in '62. So that's, that's basically my, my grandma, my wife is 00:07:00from Hodgenville and we met at UK and she was two years behind me. And so she gradu--, actually she went to summer school, so she graduated in '63. And all of our, all of our children have graduated from UK in one form or another. We have one daughter that went to Centre College, but after she graduated from Centre she then got her master's at UK. So other than that my wife and I and, and all four of our children have graduated from the University of Kentucky.

MOYEN: Do you, were there any particular teachers that had an influence on you that you remember specifically in terms of political philosophy or government or history or, or something that got you interested in 00:08:00politics or, or where did that come from?

WRIGHT: Uh, I think it probably came from, uh, my father's interest in politics. He was very active at, in, particularly after the war for maybe ten or fifteen years in a number of political races, including Governor's races. And so, so that, you know, I kind of observed that. I also recall that it was mandatory growing up as a child that we always watched the national conventions, particularly the Democratic Convention. (both laugh) So my grandfather really encouraged that too. So, but I can remember staying up to all hours of the night at those conventions, you know, just watch them. I, I don't know, I'm sure I didn't think it was exciting, but my grandfather thought 00:09:00it was something that I needed to watch. I remember, uh, very well that in the '48 campaign when Harry Truman was running he stopped at Irvington here in Breckenridge County. My grandfather took me to that. I also remember in the very early fifties, it would've been about '51 I presume, that Alben Barkley, who was then vice president came to Owensboro Sport Center, and I know my father and grandfather took me to that. And so those are just little ole snapshots situations that probably peaked my interest in, in it. And then in 1950, well, it would have been at '55 my grandfa-, I mean my father, was very active in the "Happy" Chandler campaign. And I would've been maybe a freshman, I guess, that year, but anyway the, "Happy" Chandler did 00:10:00win and, and my father had also supported an individual from Meade County who won election for state representative. Between the two, anyway, I was, had an opportunity to serve as a page in the House of Representatives, and so, so that was another thing. And spent those three months as a sophomore in high school, January, February, and March, in Frankfort living across the street from the state representative and his wife and their children.

MOYEN: Um-hm.

WRIGHT: And so that, that was another and, and I think out of all that it was apparent to me that I would eventually at some point do something politically.

MOYEN: Um-hm.

WRIGHT: I never viewed any interest I had in politics as being a long- term thing or something I wanted to do my entire life or that sort of 00:11:00thing, but it was just, just kind of a public service thing, I guess, is where I would put it and, just you know, kind of my thinking on.

MOYEN: You mentioned your grandfather and your father encouraging you to watch particularly the Democratic National Conventions did, and you mentioned your father helping in the "Happy" Chandler campaign. Was that, the "Happy" Chandler side of the Democratic Party, was your family or your, or was your father pretty staunch in his support of "Happy" Chandler throughout his career or is that something that--

WRIGHT: --I, you know, I don't know about that, Eric, I'm, I'm not, I never, I don't recall anything that made me think that to be the case. I know that was the case with many people in Kentucky. I don't know exactly the, the situation there. I think some of his friends were for 00:12:00Chandler and, and at that time. So, of course, at the earlier times that Chandler was involved my father might've been in war or--

MOYEN: --um-hm--

WRIGHT: might've been too young and that sort of thing, going way back to '32 I think when he was first elected Governor. So I, I would not want to say that, that was the case, I don't believe that to be the case at all. I think my father always tried to pick people that he thought had a chance to win and he thought of people that would be supportive maybe of Breckenridge County--

MOYEN: --right--

WRIGHT: --or that sort of thing.

MOYEN: So, there, maybe there wasn't so much a discussion around the house or, or when you were discussing politics of different factions within the Democratic Party?

WRIGHT: No, no, not really. No.

MOYEN: All right. Okay. All right.

WRIGHT: It was more of an individual thing as I recall.

MOYEN: Okay. When you were at the University of Kentucky, what did 00:13:00you study?

WRIGHT: I studied agriculture, animal husbandry, kind of an ag business curriculum. Uh, and I, I might, just one thing that, I was in Phi Kappa Tau fraternity and, as where a, a large number at that time of Breckenridge County men, but I have a letter written to me in about nineteen and sixty-three or four, and I graduated in '62, but the lady who was the house mother and I were very good friends and, and we corresponded when I was in the Marine Corps afterwards and that, that sort of thing. But anyway, I have a letter from her dated around '64 in which she addresses, she begins, the heading to the letter is, Dear Future Senator Wright. (Moyen laughs) And so that was ten, eleven years before I ever became a senator so, so obviously I had said some things 00:14:00when I was in school that, that led her to believe that I was going to do something politically. I don't recall what it was or anything but, but it's an interesting letter and I, I treasure that of course.

MOYEN: Right.


MOYEN: Pretty prophetic. (laughs)

WRIGHT: That's right. Yeah.

MOYEN: Now, when you graduated you mentioned meeting your wife at UK, did you get married while you were in school or after school?

WRIGHT: No, I graduated in '62 in, in May. Then I went to the Marine Corps in June of, of that year, or joined the Marine Corps, didn't actually go in on active duty til, late of, of, late of '62. Was just in for six months, uh, in, I was in the reserves.

MOYEN: Um-hm.

WRIGHT: And so I got out then in, off of active duty in March of '63, and as I say, Barbara had gone to a couple of summer schools, and so she graduated then in December of '63 and then we married in January of 00:15:00'63. So actually she and I both were out when she, when she, when we did get married.

MOYEN: Um-hm. Once you were married did you, did you return back to Harned?

WRIGHT: We did. We moved, moved back, uh, to a home across the field here and in fact, I just torn it, that house down this summer. Every one of the members of my family have lived in that house at one time or another, my brother and his wife, my sisters and their husbands at various times, and so we, but anyway, I've torn it down this summer and my daughter and her husband are gonna build a home on that spot--

MOYEN: --okay--

WRIGHT: --and so that's kind of the, kind of the story on that. Uh, but anyway, we, we moved there after we married and lived there until November of '64, no, I'm sorry, we married in '64, in January of '64, 00:16:00and we lived there til November of '65 and in the meantime we had a daughter that was born in March of '65. And so we then moved to this house where we now live and, and have lived here since.

MOYEN: Um-hm. When you returned did you know that this is where you would work, that this is what you wanted to do?

WRIGHT: Yeah. Yeah. We had already, my mother and father had gone through a divorce and just out all of that they needed one, my mother wanted us close and, uh, my father wanted us to have the farm, my brother and I. So really we, we were put in a situation, my brother was not of age yet and so I was kind of the lead dog in that, in 00:17:00that situation. And, and so we just bought the farm as a part of the divorce settlement actually is, is what it was and so, really, there were not many options, you know. I, I might have been interested in doing some other things but it was, it was a decision it kind of had to be made, not on the spur of the moment, but on a fairly timely basis because of the other problems that were involved. So that's, that's how I was thrown in, into the situation, I guess. And, and, you know, other, my grandparents really wanted me to farm and wanted me here and so, you know, that was all a part of it, of course.

MOYEN: How many acres did you buy?

WRIGHT: Uh, at the time we started out with about 600 acres, this is about where, where we started out with, and just over the years have 00:18:00added to it and, you know, and some of it we in fact have bought from, from my grandfather as he got older then and so forth.

MOYEN: Um-hm. How, how many acres did your grandfather purchase originally, do you know? Do you have any idea?

WRIGHT: Uh, he probably started out with about a hundred acres--

MOYEN: --okay--

WRIGHT: --was about what he would've started out with. In fact, I think that is what he started out originally on, on this side here.

MOYEN: Okay. And, and how many acres do you currently have here?

WRIGHT: A little over three thousand is what we own and then we, we rent about a thousand more. So we're farming about four thousand acres, is kind of about where we are.

MOYEN: Now, in, in 1964, '65 when you begin farming here as the primary, or what were the primary owner?

WRIGHT: Well, my brother and I have always been partners.

MOYEN: Okay. All right.

WRIGHT: Yeah, we've always been partners.


MOYEN: What specifically were you growing, were you raising at the time?

WRIGHT: Well, we had, of course, tobacco and raised corn. I don't believe there in the first three or four years we raised any soybeans because they weren't, really weren't raised here. But fairly on, early on we were raising soybeans and, uh, had a very few hogs and some wheat. So that, that's kind of what it, what it was. As I recall there about, the farm that we bought about the year before that I started farming the gross income was about 38,000 dollars, and this is kind of what, the figure that has always stuck in my mind, you know, before we paid taxes on it and so forth.

MOYEN: Um-hm.

WRIGHT: And so that's, that's kind of where we, where we've come from 00:20:00to me.

MOYEN: So, during those just over ten years from when you retur-, or when you return to Harned and, or in between the time you return and the time you take your seat in the Senate what were you doing, not only here at the farm but also politically as you moved toward--

WRIGHT: --uh, I had never thought about running for the state Senate. I'd always thought in terms of the House of Representatives, probably just simply from the fact that, you know, I was a farmer and just, just in, wasn't thinking politically in those terms. Uh, about nineteen and seven--, seventy, uh, probably it's been, would've been in '70 I ran 00:21:00for the school board, and my grandfather had been on the school board in the '30s, my father had been in the fifties--(laughs)--and here I was in the seventies. Kind of an interesting thing, I think--

MOYEN: --um-hm--

WRIGHT: --and my father was on a couple of times. I don't know how long my grandfather was, but, but anyway, so I, I ran for the school board and was elected and I guess, served in the years '71, -2, -3 and -4. But, but during those years, I mean I've always been a, a very community minded, active in the community and so forth, uh, you know, attended all the meetings, did all the things. I belonged to the Rotary Club, you know, and on the fact that my family had lived here for all these years and, and so forth, all of those things were probably a help. In '65 my brother and I bought the John Deere 00:22:00business from an uncle. My grandfather had actually started that business on this farm maybe two hundred yards from where we're sitting and the parts department was not fifty yards from where we're sitting. So, so that again was a family, kind of a family connection, I guess, and my brother when he got out of college that's, the opportunity presented itself so, but anyway, so we went in, we bought that business and he ran that and I ran the farm. And it was, so the business and it's called (unintelligible) company. You know, he did business in surrounding counties as well--

MOYEN: --um-hm--

WRIGHT: --so there, there was a visibility attached to the name that might not have been normally attached, not that that had anything to do with it, it's just if you, you know, if you're advertising Wright 00:23:00Equipment Company--

MOYEN: --sure--

WRIGHT: --it's just a name that kind of stands out, you know, it's not Farm Equipment Incorporated or something like that. So, that probably was also a help, it kind of kept the name out just a little bit, and, and, you know I think we had a good reputation for the way we did business and my brother did and so forth. And, but anyway, to move forward on that, then I did run for the school board and, and served those four years. Uh, along about nineteen and seventy-three or four, in the fall of that year, I suppose it was in the fall of '74, I would guess, it may have been '73, I'm, I'm not sure just off the top of my head, the incumbent state senator resigned. He became sick and he 00:24:00resigned. And so that opened up an opportunity for a special election, and I was encouraged to get involved in it and, and to make an effort to, to get the nomination. I'd never really thought about the Senate at all, and was unsuccessful. Did not carry it to the point that I actually had my name put in nomination. It was very obvious that, that the powers-that-be at that time wanted this other person from Grayson, Grayson County to, to be the nominee.

MOYEN: Do you know how that was?

WRIGHT: Earl Glenn.

MOYEN: Okay.

WRIGHT: Earl Glenn. At that time Wendell Ford was Governor and I suppose, you know, here his people were supportive of Earl Glenn, you know, it's not something, I was still so involved in farming, it wasn't 00:25:00the highest priority in my life right at the moment.

MOYEN: Um-hm.

WRIGHT: Maybe it wasn't even exactly the way I'd like to come to that position, you know. So anyway, he was elected and I was supposed then, he served in that, that would've been '73, in November of '73 he served then in the '74 session--

MOYEN: --um-hm--

WRIGHT: --and then had to run for reelection then in '75. And during, during that timeframe from, from when he won that I really, my appetite for making that race really began to, to get high. (laughs)

MOYEN: Um-hm.

WRIGHT: And so I, I pretty well made the decision, and also at that time there were a lot of really important things going on in this county related to the school board and I was chairman of the school board 00:26:00and we did some very, I don't know if innovative is, is the word, but some, some very pro-active things as far as education is concerned. And I felt that my being involved in that that I probably pretty well established myself as a leader in the community or in the county. So that may even have spilled over into other counties. And so, so the, that's when I kind of came to the conclusion and, and so I went off the board then in, in I guess December of '74 and filed for the Senate then in January of '75 and set about running. And then ran in the primary of '75 and beat the incumbent and then get someone else then in, in the fall and was elected.

MOYEN: Um-hm. Going back to the, when you were serving on the school 00:27:00board, when you originally decided to run for that position and win, did you have anything in particular that you were concerned about with the school board or did you just want to get involved in any way you could?

WRIGHT: Uh, I would not say to you that there was anything specific, uh, no. But I, I found that, that as I was in that position that it was easy for me, for lack of a better way to say it, of doing, to do the honest and right thing. There were some critical situations that evolved that I, I thought that I, it, it told me that I had, had a pretty good background for making not necessarily the right decisions, because who knows what's the right decision--

MOYEN: --right--

WRIGHT: --but, but in, in doing the honest thing and the ethical thing. So I, I felt good about myself from that standpoint. But, but no, 00:28:00what happened was, the state tried to close all the rural schools in the county and during the time that I was on the board, and was chairman of the board, and we got the state representative at that time to introduce a bill to prohibit them from doing this. And Lyman Ginger was the Superintendent of Public Instruction and the, the bill got life, big time. I wrote the bill sitting right, right here and not in this part of the house but the other part before we remodeled it, and carried it up with the state representative and he introduced it and it, it, it got life, I'll put it that way. And Lyman Ginger became very upset about it and he called us up to the, to the, the whole school board up, up to Frankfort and he wanted us to have that bill 00:29:00dropped. And I refused to do it, you know, I was chairman of the board so, you know. And so he, he, what he said was, "All right, if you all go back home and you all get the utilities tax passed, uh, then you can ha--, you can keep your rural schools so you can use that to improve them," and I said, "All right." So we dropped the bill. And so, well, then, you know, the onus was on us to get it passed, and again, I, I was chairman of the board and so we, we imposed the utilities tax which the school board could do. And then a group of citizens got up a petition, which forced us to put on the ballot, which would've been in the fall of '74. And we passed it by about sixty-seven or eight percent. And at that time it was the only county in Kentucky that passed the utilities tax. (laughs) And, and, but, but out of that 00:30:00obviously, you know, I had to be the one to kind of articulate how the money was gonna be spent, what we were gonna do with it, all of that and, uh, you know I, I felt like that I did the right thing, and I felt like also I, I, I was able to take a very hard position, one that could be unpopular and, and convince the public, you know, that it was the right thing to do. So, so, out of that, all of that kind of came my real interest in, in, at that point. You know, politics is a, you know, what is it? Love, luck and timing is everything in love, war, and in politics, well, that's, that's kind of the way it was, you know, you had this state senator who had, had resigned, an incumbent had taken his place or someone had been elected but he, he was a short-timer and, you know, the time to get him out was right then--

MOYEN: --um-hm--

WRIGHT: --it wasn't after he'd been there for a few years--

MOYEN: --um-hm--

WRIGHT: --and so really from, then from the, from Thanksgiving of '74 00:31:00until the election in '75 about every waking moment of my life was in, was related to that, that race, is what it was all about.

MOYEN: Um-hm. And how did you go about preparing for campaigning and campaigning for that race? What type of str--, strategy did you--

WRIGHT: --there was no strategy; it was just sheer old dogging hard work, just day after day after day. And the counties were Ohio, Breckenridge, Meade, Grayson, and Hart County, and I had an extremely strong base, of course here in Breckenridge County and in Meade County because of the, the business and, and, and other connections. I have a lot of friends, long-term, long-time friends in Meade County who were 00:32:00very active in the school super--, school system at that time and so, you know, that obviously was helpful to me.

MOYEN: Um-hm.

WRIGHT: And so I had a really, really strong base to start from. The incumbent, to say, was a short-timer. He had, he was home-based but as luck would have it, luck would have it, another strong candidate from his home county came out also. So, you know, it was just, it was just meant to be, it was meant to be. That's, that's the only way I know to say it. In the end I got more votes than both of them. But again, you know, that's a matter of luck, because the perception became, began to become, you know, Joe is gonna win this race, how can they win it, they're both, you know, and so it just kind of feeds on itself. But I, there was no grand strategy. You know, when I, for instance, I, I'll always remember, well, backing up to probably '74 I already knew that 00:33:00I was gonna make the race, of course. So in the fall of '74 I took all of my tobacco to Horse Cave to the market to sell. Horse Cave is in Hart County and, you know, began to make some connections from that on which, because I didn't know a soul, absolutely not a soul in Hart County, not one living person.

MOYEN: Is that where you would've normally taken your tobacco?


MOYEN: Okay.

WRIGHT: No, I'd always taken it--(laughs)--to different places: New Albany, Shelbyville, Owensboro. But, you know, at, at that point I knew what I was gonna do--

MOYEN: --right--

WRIGHT: --so, and Kenneth Bale who owned most of the Horse Cave market, I remember I called down there and I told the whoever the manager of the warehouse was, I said, "Now," you know we raised a lot of tobacco at the time and I said, "now, I want to meet Mr. Bale," and he said, 00:34:00"I'll have him here." So I took the first load of tobacco down there and, you know, and I got off and corner with him and told him exactly what my plans were, I said, "I don't want you to do anything except don't hurt me and, you know, and just introduce me to people around here and I'll take it from there." And I'm still selling tobacco with Kenneth Bale (both laugh). But, you know, I, I'm sure that was a help. He was a person of stature in the community and, and it, it was helpful to me, connecting me with a lot of those farm folks and it, it gave me some, some base. But it was very obvious when I got in the race in a county like Hart County or Ohio County, where I didn't have any real connections, that the incumbent had a huge advantage. Well, he lives just like, I couldn't make any progress at all, zero.

MOYEN: Um-hm.

WRIGHT: You know, all of the powers-that-be were for the incumbent, 00:35:00you know, every single one of them. And in Hart County I, uh, made a conscious decision that I was just gonna do it on a precinct by precinct basis, and in that campaign I spent over a hundred days in Hart County, and it's sixty miles Hart County from here, so it's not an easy thing to do and, you know, a young family and all that. At that point we had three, three ch--, three daughters. And, but it was just the only way I could see that I could surely win. I felt confident about two of the counties, Breckenridge and Meade, and in fact, I never campaigned a day in Breckenridge County, simply did not campaign because, you know, your friends know you and your enemies know you and you might as well--

MOYEN: --right--

WRIGHT: --spend your time somewhere else.

MOYEN: Um-hm.

WRIGHT: So I, I just really spent a lot of time in Hart County.

MOYEN: What would you do there?

WRIGHT: Well, I just go into a community and just find out maybe from 00:36:00someone else just, just kind of networking--

MOYEN: --um-hm--

WRIGHT: --and, you know, you get a handful of people and you spend some time in their homes and eat at their table and all of that and just little by little by little built a, a network of people at the grassroots level. And, you know, after about a year of that, uh, there was, uh, the powers-that-be had nowhere to go. They didn't have anybody under them that was helping them, you know--(laughs)--and, you know, I just ran like gangbusters in Hart County, just really, I'll always, to me that was a classic way to run a campaign. But it takes time and hard work and, you know, it, it wasn't a TV campaign--

MOYEN: --right--

WRIGHT: --it was just grind it out day after day after day.

MOYEN: Um-hm. Now, you mentioned the, your, the incumbent, what was his name again?

WRIGHT: Earl Glenn.

MOYEN: And where was he from?


WRIGHT: Leitchfield, Grayson County.

MOYEN: Okay. And there was another--

WRIGHT: --that's right, individual, Bill Vinson--

MOYEN: --okay--

WRIGHT: --was his name, who also ran.

MOYEN: And he was from Leitchfield as well?

WRIGHT: He was Leitchfield. That's right.

MOYEN: All right.

WRIGHT: He had a few connections here in Breckenridge County which, uh, you know, he got a few votes here in Breckenridge County--

MOYEN: --um-hm--

WRIGHT: --that, that I, I would've gotten otherwise just because of some family connections, but not a major thing.

MOYEN: So when you're running in a race like that, is there any type of scientific polling that you were doing at all or do you just really not know?

WRIGHT: You just don't know. But I, my campaign treasurer, who's an attorney in Hardinsburg, Tommy Wright, along about, sometime in February before the primary in May I told Tommy, I said, "I'm gonna win this race, you know, I mean I can sense it" at that point, really, 00:38:00you know, you just, you just know, you just, you just, I was no longer pushing a rock uphill, I could tell it was beginning to go downhill.

MOYEN: Um-hm.

WRIGHT: And so I, I sensed that, that, that, that's the way the campaign was evolving. I financed the campaign entirely myself. As I recall it was somewhere around 15,000 dollars that, and I just did it all myself. The early seventies were pretty good years for farming and I, you know, so I, I mean, fifteen thousand dollars then was a whole lot of money. And so I just did it myself, didn't ask anybody for any money and, and, you know, I'm sure I got some money from just close friends and family and that sort of thing, but it was small amount.

MOYEN: In what ways do you spend that money when you're, when you're dealing with a campaign that's not about TV ads and--

WRIGHT: --well, the first thing I did, uh, put together a brochure 00:39:00just to hand to people that had a picture of me on the front with the classic coat over the shoulder bit and, and then had a picture of my family on, on the back of it, it was four pages as I recall. It just kind of set out, one, one part of it was kind of biographical and the other part was kind of philosophical and that's, that's basically what it was about. I've still got it, I'm sure my wife could find a copy of it. What, uh, I belong to the Methodist Church out here and it, as luck would have it our pastor at the time was a retired Courier-Journal empl--, employee. He had been the weekend editor of the Courier- Journal and he was up, Brother Adkins was probably in his late sixties, early seventies at the time but he had all sorts of talent and, you 00:40:00know, he just put that thing together for me in just no time and it was just on, just typing paper basically is what it was on and just put together a little brochure and pictures and everything, didn't cost hardly anything I'm sure, put several, you know, probably had ten or fifteen thousand of them.

MOYEN: Right.

WRIGHT: (laughs) I guess had one in every country store around. And so, so that, that's about it other than newspaper advertising. I made a mistake that I never made the same mistake again, and that is, I got anxious and spent some money early like in March doing some advertising, which was a waste of time, you know. I tell anybody who asks me about how to spend your money in the campaign; I always say the worst money you spend is the first money you spend. You know, and I believe that, you know, it just needs to be more focused near the end when people are beginning to think about who they're gonna vote for and 00:41:00that sort of thing.

MOYEN: Um-hm.

WRIGHT: And I never made that mistake again but--

MOYEN: --um-hm. So when you, in the primary or in the, in the general election, how do you go about finding out that you've won or lost? Do you just go down to the courthouse or, or how do you do that?

WRIGHT: Well in, in that first election I just stayed at home and people would call me from the various counties and, and also the local station here had, had the results, you know, and we could get the Meade County station, so we picked up a couple of them and so that's, that's the way we found out.

MOYEN: Um-hm.

WRIGHT: It was, we had a lot of support, a lot of people came, you know, and that, that was, it was a special time, very, very special time. But 00:42:00I ran so well in Breckenridge-Meade county that I mean it was over--

MOYEN: --um-hm--

WRIGHT: --it was over quickly, and I didn't have to worry about what happened anywhere else. And in the end I think I carried every county but, but Grayson County. Well, I know I carried Hart County well and Ohio County, all of them. So it was, it was not a close race. I, I got substantially more votes than the other two combined and so forth. But it was just, you know, it was just plain old hard work. I don't know how else to say it. I, I, the only advantage to all of that work was that it, it carried me for all of my political career because I never again had to work as hard and I knew so much about every community and everything that, you know, it's one of those deals where you can do in ten minutes what the other guy might take him all day to do, because you know the people and, and everything in these communities. So it's, from that standpoint it, it really helped me 00:43:00and, you know, there were people that fifteen years later when I was running, uh, that remembered I'd been in their home. I might never been back but they remembered that, you know.

MOYEN: Um-hm.

WRIGHT: And so, and so I think that's, that's where the work really, really paid off. And I, I had some tough races over the years, uh, but never anything that I was really, you know, thought I had a chance of losing in either, I mean you just had to do your job. But, but my point is that all of that carried all through my political career the whole time.

[Pause in recording.]

MOYEN: All right. So, after your hard work pays of and, and you win the 00:44:00election and you go to the Senate in 1976, correct?

WRIGHT: That's right. That was my first session, yes.

MOYEN: What about that first session surprised you, or was exactly the way you thought it was gonna be, or did you, did you even have any preconceived notions about what you were gonna be dealing with?

WRIGHT: Before I answer that let me back up just a little--

MOYEN: --okay--

WRIGHT: --little bit and, and say that my wife would validate this, that after I won the general election that fall, that would've been after a year of really focused work, was probably the only time in my life I've ever been depressed. And it was like I had, you know, it was all of a sudden, one day I didn't get to do what I'd been doing all this time, and it was also like, you know, I've, I've done all this work and I won 00:45:00this election now what do I do (Moyen laughs)? So, all of that really, it was kind of interesting, I thought my eyes were going bad (both laugh), it was, it was a funny time really but I, it's something that's very vivid to me and to my wife, both there for a couple of months. At that time they had what was called pre-legislative conference down at Kentucky Dam Village. And so when I went down there it was, you know, and you begin to meet some people then you begin to kind of, get over this funk I'd been in. So I wanted to mention that, because it is a, a time and a situation and an issue that kind of, my wife and I have always laughed about and so forth. So--

MOYEN: --did, did you ever share that with any other legislators and find that that was a common--

WRIGHT: --no, I never did--

MOYEN: --thing after running?

WRIGHT: No, no, I never did. I, I probably, I guess everybody works hard, but I worked super hard, you know, and then, I mean I just was so focused that I don't know whether everybody works as hard as I did. And 00:46:00some people can slough things off easier than others too, you know, but when you, when you've been so focused for a year it's hard to break out of that mold that, you know, you're in. You know, it's kind of like I was in the Marine Corps only six months but even today, forty years later, there still are some smells and sounds that you don't forget.

MOYEN: Um-hm. (laughs)

WRIGHT: So, that's the same thing, the same thing. So, what was the question now?

MOYEN: I was asking about when you first go to the, go to Frankfort in the Senate what about that, what type of preconceived notions did you have and how did that shape up with reality?

WRIGHT: Well I, I guess that my first session I was just in kind of a daze. I, I tend to be a very humble person and, I don't, in other words, I'm not a pushy person. And so I was, I didn't have any problem 00:47:00following the, uh, accepting advice that, you know, it's better to be seen and not heard and, and so I just, I don't, probably going up and just dealing with the issues and just making friends one by one, little by little, and, and really, uh, had no plans or thoughts about leadership or anything like that. I, I guess the, the thing that bothered me most about the first session was that I really thought that in the Senate, and I'm sure the House was same way, that individual legislators really had very little impact on the situation, and that was a very frustrating thing to me because I really didn't want to go up if I couldn't make a difference.

MOYEN: Um-hm.

WRIGHT: And, but that was the time when the Governor controlled things and, through the leadership and, you know, the Governor used whatever 00:48:00influence they could to get leadership elected. So that's just kind of the way the system worked, uh, and so you, as an individual legislator in the first term, you know, you wonder, you're never too sure of why things are happening like, like they are.

MOYEN: Um-hm.

WRIGHT: And that was, you know, it was a troubling thing to me, which you've probably or heard about the Black Sheep and that sort of thing, which is the reason I became a part of that very early on because of the very reasons that we talked about. You know, it was not out of disrespect to anyone who happened to be Governor, it was just things had been run one way and I didn't think that's the way they ought to be run, so--

MOYEN: --why don't you tell me a little bit about the Black Sheep and, 00:49:00and how that developed--

WRIGHT: --well, at, at the time in, in the '76 session Julian Carroll was Governor. He had just been elected into his own term; however, he had served a couple of years prior to that because Wendell Ford had left as Governor to become United States Senator. So, Julian Carroll had a huge advantage over the legislature and, and so forth and he, he used that advantage well to his advantage. And, uh, basically an individual legislator had very little idea of what bills you were gonna be dealing with on a daily basis or what kind of amendments might be offered and, you know, Tom Garrett was the majority leader and that's just, he ran the show and that's just, just the way it was.


MOYEN: Um-hm.

WRIGHT: But there were a group of us and, and even in the '76, more so in the '78, who, who began to get enough influence that we maybe could in--, influence a few other legislators and we could never take the Governor on and win but we could get close, we could get close enough that we got their attention. And so that's, that's kind of what was, you know, what was going on at, at that time. People like John Berry in particular, in that '76 session John Berry was a very import-, legis-, a senator who was very instrumental in this Black Sheep group that was put together and, you know, it wasn't a name that we gave ourselves, the press did that.

MOYEN: Um-hm. Why was that?

WRIGHT: Why, what?

MOYEN: Why, why did they give you that name just because it was catchy and you were on the outskirts?

WRIGHT: Well, there was, no, there was a, a, a TV program, I believe it 00:51:00was, it was called "Stalag 13" or something, it was just like a group of people that just wouldn't do what the Germans wanted them to do and they were in prison, you know, and they were just kind of called the Black Sheep Squadron, they, they were always out doing their own thing and that's where, that's where it came from as I recall. And that's, so the press actually coined that name. I don't know who it was, probably Ed Rhine(??) of the Courier-Journal, I guess--

MOYEN: --um-hm--

WRIGHT: --who was an editorial writer. But that's, that's kind of what that came from. And so probably on any given vote, particularly if we joined with the Republicans, you know, we could, even in that first session, we could get within a couple of votes on them. And so it was always so quickly the leadership then had to recognize, you know, that 00:52:00we got to pay attention to this thing, we can't ignore this and so that, so we began to have some influence fairly early on.

MOYEN: Um-hm.

WRIGHT: Walter Baker was in my first session, I think Walter may have been there before I was, even though he was a Republican. As I say, he and I voted a lot alike on, on many, alike on many occasions, and so we, we could make a difference fairly, fairly quickly. I might, one thing I wanted to say, you know, when I came to the Senate, and I may have said, but, but the thoughts of being in leadership is not something that ever entered my mind. You know, I didn't even know what a majority leader was when I, when I went to the state Senate. In fact, my wife and I kind of had an understanding that I was only gonna run two terms, which would've been eight years, and that's what my plans were. I did not intend to be there longer than that. And even 00:53:00when I was reelected the second time, when I was reelected the first time I should say--

MOYEN: --um-hm--

WRIGHT: --uh, I assumed that that was the last time I would ever run. I don't want to get ahead of the story, but the only reason that I continued to run then was, was because in my second term then John Berry retired prematurely as far as I was concerned and was, because of my involvement in the Black Sheep and in, a respected member of the Senate, I was elected majority leader. And so, you know, you get to that kind of position and it's not something you just walk away from. And so that's, that's the story on that.

MOYEN: All right.

WRIGHT: Not to get ahead of the story, you know.

MOYEN: That's fine. When you first arrived in '76 how, how are committee assignments given? How, did you get to make known where you wanted to be and that happened or were you kind of told, "This is where 00:54:00we're gonna put you?"

WRIGHT: Well, you were allowed, of course, to make requests and I guess that that was one of the things. You then got your request based on how good a soldier you were--(laughs)--gonna be, is, is kind of the way it, the way it happened. Uh, and I was on, I was put on Education which I wanted to be on, and Agriculture which I wanted to be on, and Health and Welfare as I recall. And so I didn't, I was, I was satisfied with the committees that I was on, pleased with that, yeah.

MOYEN: Um-hm. Would you describe just a little bit Julian Carroll's, Governor Carroll's leadership style and how he worked with the Senate leaders when you were first elected?

WRIGHT: Well, of course, I was not in leadership.

MOYEN: Right.

WRIGHT: So I don't know exactly how he worked with the leaders.

MOYEN: Your perceptions, I guess?


WRIGHT: Well he, he had absolute control, you know, he, he put those people who were in Senate leadership in their positions and as near as I could tell they met with him on a daily basis and decided what would pass and what wouldn't pass, and what would be heard and what wouldn't be heard.

MOYEN: Um-hm.

WRIGHT: Uh, it was just, that's, that's the way the system ran, which, of course, was totally different than the way it was run a few years later.

MOYEN: Right.

WRIGHT: But, but that's, that's the way he did it. You know, it was not like he was domineering or, or threatening or anything. He was smooth. He was a smooth operator, there's no question about it. And, but he, he got what he wanted almost every time, you know. But at times we challenged him as I say and, and they had to work for what they got.

MOYEN: Um-hm. Can you think of any issues specifically that you challenged Governor Carroll or the Senate leadership on during his 00:56:00tenure as Governor?

WRIGHT: I don't know that I can. I, I know that, that on the issues of leadership there were people who ran against his slate, John Berry being one of them, and got awful close to him, even that would be just within the Democratic caucus. So, so from the get-go they had to pay attention to, to this group of kind of maverick senators.

MOYEN: Um-hm.

WRIGHT: Uh, and, you know, Eric, I'm sure there are dozens of issues but, but they all sl----

MOYEN: --right--

WRIGHT: --slip away--(both laugh)--on me and I don't, I don't really recall what, what they were.

MOYEN: Um-hm.

WRIGHT: I, I guess I remember the, uh, debates in terms of opening up the process and, and the opportunities that we took on a pick-and- 00:57:00choose basis to, to kind of be obstacles, I guess, on some issues that, that we possibly thought the Governor was wrong on and so forth.

MOYEN: Um-hm, um-hm. So, when you decide to run again, that's in 1979 when, when you ran again, right?

WRIGHT: Sure, um-hm.

MOYEN: Did you face opposition then?

WRIGHT: Uh, none in the primary.

MOYEN: Just in the general?

WRIGHT: I, I did not, and in, uh, I was, it was my more, most serious challenge in the general election that I had, and it was a newspaper person, editor from Leitchfield, Grayson County, and he, he ran a, a well-financed campaign, and I was concerned about it. I did, I wasn't 00:58:00in any trouble, I hadn't done anything wrong and I'd worked hard, and all that but you just never know how these things will unfold and, but he made some mistakes that I was able to call his hand on and just, just on, just mistakes that he made, campaign mistakes.

MOYEN: What mistakes were those? Do you recall?

WRIGHT: Uh, well, he circulated a letter that said that I had voted for a pay increase for legislators, which was false. He, he, he did not intentionally do that, he just had poor information and, and it, and I called his hand on it, and then he refused to retract it, which made it even worse. And that happened along in the summer and by the time we 00:59:00got to Labor Day I think the reelection was pretty well over.

MOYEN: Um-hm.

WRIGHT: Uh, Al, who is, who does com--, Al Smith who does Comment of Kentucky was the owner of the newspaper and he, he ended up having to call this guy on the carpet and so forth, and so he just, he, he got himself in trouble. If he had just come clean at the beginning and said it's a mistake, you know, I might've had a totally different race. As it was it just unfolded very, very easily.

MOYEN: Um-hm. When you were elected, that was the same year that John Y. Brown was elected.

WRIGHT: That's right.

MOYEN: When, when you return, how quickly do you and other legislators or senators in particular realize that the tone with Governor Brown is 01:00:00gonna be different?

WRIGHT: Uh, I, I think, I think it, uh, it was different partly because he read the tea leaves and he knew that this group of senators probably had the edge on him. I think that was, I think that was one reading that he gave, and I, then I think it also was his philosophy generally to be more open and less political, less, uh, influential maybe than Governors in the past had been. It made it a little easier for him. He was not a focused person--

MOYEN: --um-hm--

WRIGHT: --as, as most Governors are and so I, I think that that was the easier road for him to take and the one he felt more comfortable on, and so even before he became Governor we knew that there changes 01:01:00were in the wind and, of course, that's when John Berry was elected Governor, I mean was elected the majority leader. I think I was elected assistant majority leader or assistant president pro temp--

MOYEN: --pro temp--.

WRIGHT: --or something at the time. Joe Prather was elected president of the Senate and I don't remember who the others were, but it was a pretty well a whole new slate, a whole new slate.

MOYEN: Um-hm. When you were elected assistant president pro tem, how does that, how did that change, uh, the activities that you did as opposed to the other sessions? What new--

WRIGHT: --well--

MOYEN: --responsibilities did you have to deal with?

WRIGHT: First of all, John Y. because of his philosophy, uh, he, he just believed in letting an issue carry the day on its merits. He wasn't interested in trying to go out and get all the votes that it took to 01:02:00get it done. And John Berry's philosophy was the same, in that John, John kept his hand on the pulse of the Senate, but he also was not given to counting votes. Now the whip, whoever that was at the time, that's kind of their job, but somehow because John and I were so close and also Joe Prather and I were close, it just fell that, that I was the one that kind of always was responsible for gathering the votes to get something passed. And so that's, that's just kind of, kind of how that evolved. And so instantaneously my role changed. It wasn't like Joe and John came to me one day and said, "Joe, you got to count votes for us." But it just, you know, I tend to be, take the initiative to do what has to be done, and it was very obvious that if we were gonna get anything done that, that had to be done.


MOYEN: Um-hm, um-hm.

WRIGHT: So that's, that's kind of, that, that is specifically how my role changed at, at that time very, very quickly. And it was, you know, was wor--, the Governor was doing his thing the way he wanted to and allowed us get down to business and do our job.

MOYEN: Um-hm, um-hm. As he took a more hands-off approach what issues, do you recall, what issues you were dealing with during his, during John Y. Brown's tenure as Governor?

WRIGHT: Well the, the main issues had to do with money, revenue. And so we had to raise money and so that was, you know, it was, it was budget issues not unlike what they're dealing with right now, you know--

MOYEN: --um-hm--

WRIGHT: --it seems like every so often you have to deal with that.

MOYEN: Um-hm.

WRIGHT: And so that's, that's really, particularly for roads as I recall and, and just, it, it was primarily budget issues. John Y., of course, 01:04:00had, had come to the Senate, or had come to the Governor's office, promoting collective bargaining for teachers. And I expect that that helped to get him elected as much as anything else. And most of us at that time in leadership in the Senate were opposed to that, and so we were at odds over that issue--

MOYEN: --um-hm--

WRIGHT: --from the beginning. And, and beat him on it in the end.

MOYEN: Um-hm.

WRIGHT: It was, you know, it was, but it was an aboveboard fight and I, I specifically recall, I was kind of the front person on that issue of those who were opposed to collective bargaining for teachers, and from the, when we beat him on a tie vote in, in the Senate, uh, on, on the 01:05:00issue, within five minutes he called me and he said, he said, "You're a really good opponent," and he said, "let's forget this and let's move forward and work together." And I said, "Well, that's what I want to do" (claps hands). I mean just forget it that quick, he didn't harbor any grudges, he was just, he was just a very easy, open kind of a, kind of a person who that's the way I like to do business. But that, that instance stands out in my mind.

MOYEN: Um-hm. Do you recall why you opposed that?

WRIGHT: Well, I'm sure it goes back to my position on the school board and, you know, believing that a st--, school board is responsible and the steward for the, uh, tax dollars and, and just simply did not believe that it ought to be turned over to some bargaining and I, I'd say that's where it came from.

MOYEN: Um-hm, All right. When John Y. Brown was Governor he was gone 01:06:00an awful lot, uh, just on different trips. Did you notice, did, did Lieutenant Governor Collins assert any leadership in his place or were, were you all just busy doing your thing, or did you notice that at all?

WRIGHT: Uh, I didn't. You know, we were just tending to business, I guess, for lack of a better way of saying it, you know, he probably had a handful of issues he was interested in and we dealt with those in one way or another and then just went on tending to business.

MOYEN: Um-hm.

WRIGHT: I have one instance, I, I, it was in the '84 session and I don't want to move forward too quickly on it.

MOYEN: Okay.

WRIGHT: Just, just kind of a personal issue.

MOYEN: Um-hm.

WRIGHT: It was my first session as majority leader and, uh, we were 01:07:00having a real problem funding jails, and we were getting near the end of the session and I had, as I always did, would lay awake at night thinking about these issues that needed to be resolved. And during the night I'd kind of come up with an idea about how I thought we could solve this problem. So I went down to the Governor's office the next morning and I sat there for thirty or forty-five minutes and he never did show, and finally I told the lady, I said, "I've got to go, I just can't," all I wanted to do was tell him what I was gonna do--

MOYEN: --um-hm--

WRIGHT: --just to, he'd probably been gone or something and I just wanted to inform him, nothing more, it wasn't like I was asking him, I was just trying to, put him in the loop. So as I left he was out in the rotunda looking at the statues and so forth with some guy who had a beard and so forth, not a face that I recognized. And so I just thought, well, I'll just go out and so I just went out and shook hands 01:08:00with him and, and started talking to him about what I was gonna talk to him and he said, "Joe, meet Kenny Rogers," and I said, "Hi Kenny," and just went right on talking to the Governor (Moyen laughs) and so forth. And it was about two hours later that, that it hit me who I'd just met and, and--

MOYEN: --um-hm--

WRIGHT: --you know, and then I told my children and of course, they had a fit. He was really a star then, you know, of course, I hadn't gotten autographs, and it's just a, an instance there when, of how relaxed and, I guess, how focused I was at the time--

MOYEN: --um-hm--

WRIGHT: --trying to solve a problem.

MOYEN: Um-hm, that's a good story. Why don't you tell me a little bit about how you did--

WRIGHT: --let's take a break for a minute.

[Pause in recording.]

WRIGHT: That's right, it was '84.

MOYEN: Okay. How, how did you move into the position of Senate majority leader? How did that take place in the Senate and how did those strings come together where you had enough support to take that position?


WRIGHT: As, as I've said earlier John Berry, I guess in probably, um, well I don't know when it would've been but he announced he was not running for reelection. That would've been in an off year so we had a year there when he was still majority leader but there was no business going on.

MOYEN: Um-hm.

WRIGHT: And, you know, at some point I'm assuming that I was encouraged to do this by some members and maybe I just quickly did an analysis of how many friends I had on the Democratic side there and thought that I could do that and, and so just quietly let it be known that I was gonna run for majority leader, is kind of the way it unfolded. And in the end I don't know that anyone else, there were a couple that talked 01:10:00about running and that sort of thing but I don't believe anyone else--

MOYEN: -- ----------(??)--

WRIGHT: --even actually had their name put in nomination as I recall. And I, I, I guess one of my favorite stories, I've told John Berry this, John Berry is one of the most intelligent, brilliant people that I have ever known. He was a wonderful mind, a wonderful intellect and, you know, I'm a farmer and always told John that I really had doubts about what kind of a majority leader I could be because, uh, I, I thought he'd done such a good job with, with his good mind and everything, but once I became a majority leader I found out that John just unnecessarily complicated everything. (Moyen laughs) And so I was able to simplify things and it, it just worked just fine. I didn't have problems; nothing was too complicated at all. I thought it would 01:11:00be but it wasn't, it wasn't at all.

MOYEN: How did your role in the Senate switch? When you become majority leader what changes?

WRIGHT: Well, you, you kind of become the lead dog, I guess, and, and not only, I mean you've got responsibility for making the system work. If the majority, if the system doesn't work the majority leader is responsible is the way I always viewed it. And, uh, I guess my role in vo--, as a, as vote counter in support of John I just continued to do the vote counting even after I became majority leader because it, it was fairly easy, you know, you, you have, I was in the Senate at a time when we had twenty-eight, twenty-nine usually Democratic senators and, and usually it's not too hard to get twenty of those--

MOYEN: --right--

WRIGHT: --that's fairly loyal to you, and so, you know, whatever I 01:12:00needed we usually could get done just, just about every time, you know. And if there were issues that, that I detected there were serious problems with I, I just wouldn't deal with them, you know, just would not bring them up and, and, I mean that didn't mean that we didn't deal with controversial--

MOYEN: --right--

WRIGHT: --and tough issues--

MOYEN: --sure--

WRIGHT: --but sometimes if, if it didn't make any difference then you just don't deal with it.

MOYEN: Um-hm. Did that change the amount of time, when you took this leadership role; did it change the amount of time that you were spending in Frankfort?

WRIGHT: Not really, not really. Uh, no, I, I was always very careful not spending more time in Frankfort than I had to, quite frankly. I may have ended up spending an extra day a week possibly but I, I don't know that I did. You know, there were at the, there were times that I 01:13:00could've become president of the Senate if that's what I'd wanted. That was one reason I had no interest in that because of the timing and, and so forth and my family and my farm were always first for me and so I tried to make sure that I took care of that more than anything else.

MOYEN: Right. And you were able to maintain that pretty well?

WRIGHT: Yeah. Yeah. Actually we took our family with us. I moved my family to Frankfort in the '76 session and in the '80 session. It was like the Griswolds came to town. (Moyen laughs) When we came in, in the '76 session my son had just born, been born the previous April--

MOYEN: --um-hm--

WRIGHT: --and so we were from ten to ten months, I guess, for lack of a better way of saying it, during, during that first session. And put the children in schools up there and so forth and, and I think they, they would tell you that it was a neat experience.

MOYEN: Um-hm.


WRIGHT: We were very, had a good time.

MOYEN: Um-hm.

WRIGHT: had a good time.

MOYEN: And you did that during two sessions?

WRIGHT: In the '76 and the '80 session.

MOYEN: Okay.

WRIGHT: The '78 session I don't really know why we didn't, other than I expect one of the children were, was involved in something here at the school level that was difficult for, for them to break out of it and so forth.

MOYEN: All right. After John Y. Brown's, Brown's term when Martha Layne Collins becomes Governor, uh, in what ways did you work with her and did that contin--, did you see that as continuing in the same stream of the legislative independence that was developing or was that troublesome in any way?

WRIGHT: It was not troublesome. It was not troublesome at all. Uh, Martha Layne was very easy to deal with and, of course, she had been 01:15:00Lieutenant Governor when John Y. Brown was Governor, and at that time the Lieutenant Governors presided over the Senate. So everyone in the Senate had a good relationship with her. So, it was, it was not that much of a change. It, it went fairly smoothly, fairly, fairly easily. She got out front on some issues and got burned on some issues that she probably should've left alone, maybe got bad advice, but it, it had nothing to do with her relationship with the Senate or anything like that. But I, I'd say there was very little difference. She and I did not communicate a lot, no particular reason. She was, early on, she was deeply involved in the Toyota thing--

MOYEN: --right--

WRIGHT: --and I think that's where her focus was and, and had some people to deal with legislative matters and people that we could get along with. So it was no problem.


MOYEN: Do you recall anything in particular about the special session that she called to deal with education?

WRIGHT: I don't, Eric, I'm not sure what year that would've been. As I recall, she, I, I'd forgotten about that, and she maybe had some grand ideas and then it kind of fell apart as I recall. We ended up doing some things, but it was not, it was not the reform that--

MOYEN: --right--

WRIGHT: --that really made a huge difference.

MOYEN: When did you start seeing the, the seeds or the beginnings of what would eventually become KERA? Did you, could you see that developing before the Supreme Court decision?



WRIGHT: No. No. But it was obvious when they made that decision, uh, that, that there was going to be change of some kind.


MOYEN: Um-hm.

WRIGHT: And, and, you know, the, the, and I said it in more than once in the, in the Senate caucus and, that, you know, this was a once in a lifetime opportunity, and I believed that. And, you know, that, that ruling was so sweeping that it was an opportunity that we just, we just could not let it pass us by, and so we had to, had to step up and do the right thing.

MOYEN: Um-hm.

WRIGHT: And, and obviously the right thing entailed lots of money, and so if you're gonna do money then, if you're gonna raise money then you've got to change the system. You can't change, you can't raise the money and put it in the same old system--

MOYEN: Yeah.

WRIGHT: you just, you know, that won't fly.

MOYEN: Um-hm.

WRIGHT: So, that's, that's just kind of my philosophy, approach to it.

MOYEN: Um-hm. Do you remember how you voted on the Toyota incentives package?


WRIGHT: I was for it.

MOYEN: You were?

WRIGHT: Yes, I was.


WRIGHT: --and, and had some questions about it, not from the standpoint of whether it was the right thing, but from a political standpoint, you know, being where I am from, uh, I, I wondered if it was the right thing or how strongly I could justify it or whether I could justify it in the eyes of the majority of the people at the time. Of course, in the end there's probably as many jobs in my district now from the result of Toyota as there is in any other district of Kentucky.

MOYEN: Um-hm. Were there, did you feel from your constituents at all that that, that that was a concern that, okay, here we are giving these breaks to this large company, a large foreign company and what about the agricultural areas and what ways can we help and continue to encourage agriculture. Was that anything that you felt any--


WRIGHT: --I don't think I sensed that. I don't think I sensed that it was a politically troubling thing to do.

MOYEN: Um-hm.

WRIGHT: Uh, I mean there was a little bit of that, but I, I don't think it was, it was not anything that would've carried the day as far as I was concerned. No, no.

MOYEN: Okay. And, and you said that a number of jobs in your Senate districts were created from Toyota?

WRIGHT: Sure. Sure. All, all over this area, particularly in Hardin County, the neighboring county here even though, I did have a few precincts in Hardin County--

MOYEN: --um-hm--

WRIGHT: --that I didn't mention earlier that was in my district. And who would've known that that, that county was gonna be twenty years ago what it is today? You know, there are just, there was no way to, to foresee what's happened there. And it, so much of it is the result of Toyota, so much of it is.

MOYEN: After Martha Layne Collins' administration, Wallace Wilkinson 01:20:00takes office and, uh, having read some old newspaper articles about his relationship with the Senate, was it strained at the beginning? Did you have a sense that his relationship with the Senate was at all more difficult as he, by some people's perspective, was trying to reassert some gubernatorial power?

WRIGHT: Well, I think that the strain that, that came about was, I don't, I don't want to say it was so much what he was trying to reassert, I think part of it was just his personality and his way of doing business. Uh, you know, he was kind of like a banny rooster, for, for lack of a more descriptive way of saying it. I don't mean that bad toward him, that just was his way of doing business. It was 01:21:00like you're gonna do it my way or--

MOYEN: --um-hm--

WRIGHT: --you know, and, and from my experience I'd never dealt with a Governor like that, never. You know, even Julian Carroll when he controlled everything, he was never threatening, not at all. One of my favorite stories about Wallace, and, and there are others who can validate this too and have and would. Uh, we, he used to have us over to his house to eat breakfast, have you heard the story I'm about--

MOYEN: --no, I haven't--

WRIGHT: --to eat breakfast. And he was pushing so hard to get, what's the word, where you could follow himself, what, what's the word on, on--

MOYEN: --uh, is it exces--, succession is what we're looking for. (laughs)

WRIGHT: Succession, yeah, and that, that's the word, I'm just brain-dead 01:22:00on that issue. But anyway, he pushed hard. When he ran he said he didn't, he wasn't interested in that sort of thing, just wanted four years, and then once he got in it was a whole different--

MOYEN: --right--

WRIGHT: --deal. And so he, he just pushed and pushed and pushed and it became obvious there was nothing else that he wanted more than succession. That was the issue with him.

MOYEN: Um-hm.

WRIGHT: So one morning we were eating breakfast over there at the Governor's mansion, and he raised the issue again. And I basically said, "Governor, that is not going to happen." And others can tell you the same thing, but he jumped up and threw his biscuit into, down on the table there and walked out. And we never went back to the Governor's mansion when he was there (both laugh) ever again, ever again. But that didn't keep him from pushing for it, but that's, that's one thing that I recall very well that, that happened.

MOYEN: This is just speculation but do you feel like if Governor 01:23:00Wilkinson had pushed for succession without allowing himself to succeed, would that have had any more chance?

WRIGHT: I think so. I think so. I think it was just that he was being, uh, different than he had been in the campaign. He was ch--, changing directions and we just wasn't, wasn't gonna let him do that.

MOYEN: Um-hm.

WRIGHT: And, of course, I'm sure Brereton Jones was up there presiding over the Senate during that same timeframe, see, and he didn't want him to be able to succeed himself and he was friends with us and that sort of thing.

MOYEN: Um-hm.

WRIGHT: So that was, that was part of it too.

MOYEN: Um-hm. Um, a, an individual, and I'm not sure if I'm gonna pronounce the last name correctly, Joe Popplewell--

WRIGHT: --um-hm--

MOYEN: --who announced that he was going to challenge you for reelection 01:24:00and then eventually dropped out, did you ever know if that, if he ran because of Wallace Wilkinson, that that was something that Governor Wilkinson wanted him to do, or do you know any specifics behind that?

WRIGHT: Uh, I, I don't know that. I would assume that was the case, because by that time, let's see, Wallace was elected in '87 and, and so I, I'm trying to think, '83--well, so I would've been running fairly early on in Wallace's term. I would assume that he did. This fellow was a friend of his and I'm, I'm quite sure that Wallace got him out to race. And basically as, as, you know, as I understand it, there were some members of the Senate, Democrat members of the Senate, went to talk to Wallace about it. I was not a party to it nor did I know of 01:25:00it at the time, but I think they made it quite clear to him that, you know, that he was probably buying himself a lot of trouble if he didn't get Joe Popplewell out of that race. (Moyen laughs) But as I said I did not, you know, I don't know that much about that. He may have. It appeared that he did and, and it probably was tied back to succession and, you know, some things like that.

MOYEN: Um-hm. Going back to the succession for, for just a second, did you feel like, and you may have answered this sufficiently, but I just want to make sure, did you feel like that was, it was just Governor Wilkinson's attitude toward the Senate or toward the legislature with that issue that doomed that during his term? Or did it have more to do with the legislative independence that had been asserted or is it, it--

WRIGHT: --it probably, it probably had something to do with legislative 01:26:00independence, but more than anything it was that he had run on this issue and then he changed coats, and it became the number one issue for him. And I think in the end it was like, you know, we're just not gonna give you that. And, and I think that's kind of what it, what it boiled down to in the end.

MOYEN: Um-hm.

WRIGHT: Uh, John Y. had tried to get it and it had failed when he was Governor. We put it on the ballot for him--

MOYEN: --um-hm--

WRIGHT: --and it failed. And we just weren't ready to turn around and do it again.

MOYEN: Right.

WRIGHT: That's, that's kind of what the deal was.

[Pause in recording.]


MOYEN: During Governor Wilkinson's term you and, I believe, Ed Ford cosponsored a bill, it was Senate Bill 274, dealing with education to help provide, uh, training or vocational education for, uh, the unemployed, people who were unemployed. Do you recall any, anything about that legislation or any other educational legislation before KERA that seemed to be helping the system at all or, or was it just absolutely necessary to revamp it all at, at once?

WRIGHT: Well, of course, I served on the Education Committee my entire Senate career and in every session, uh, there were always issues and we 01:28:00were trying to tweak and do the things that we could and occasionally you would do something like the one you just talked about that maybe was more innovative than others, but still we were only dealing with the edges and, and we're not really doing anything that meaningful. It was a kind of a situation where you could do it or not do it and it probably wouldn't make a lot of difference. And I guess from my standpoint the most frustrating thing in those years was, was that we constantly had the school boards and the administrators kind on one side and you have the teachers on the other side and every session they were straining en masse to do, again, tweak things in, in their favor 01:29:00over, over the others and, and it was a very, as, as someone who really could've cared less who had control and that wasn't, shouldn't have been the issue it, it got to be real frustrating, real frustrating. And so, you know, all of that and I think the fact that most of the members of the Senate Education Committee, many have been there for a long time, uh, probably I guess was the reason that the Senate was willing to just be very open to change and innovative in trying to move forward.

MOYEN: Um-hm. So when the Kentucky Supreme Court does rule the system of funding unconstitutional--

WRIGHT: --the whole system--

MOYEN: --or the whole system unconstitutional, what did you as a member 01:30:00of the Senate start discussing with other people as to how you're going to tackle this issue?

WRIGHT: Well, uh--

MOYEN: --or the Education Committee, either one.

WRIGHT: Yeah. Well, it seems to me like that, that Governor Wilkinson, uh, had maybe the leadership of the Senate and the House in fairly quickly, and maybe the, maybe the leadership, maybe the education committees. And then we, as I recall we had an education summit fairly quickly. I, I want to think that decision came in maybe in June and fairly quickly there we had a, had an education summit, uh, I wouldn't bet that Bill Clinton didn't come and speak to that. I wouldn't bet 01:31:00that he didn't. It was out of Kentucky State as I recall, it may have been one that Martha Layne had, but Bill Clinton spoke at, at one of these educational summits. But anyway, out of that, the decision, out of these meetings, the decision was made to divide this up into those three different categories: finance, governance, and curriculum, I believe were the three committees. And, and then Kenny Rapier and I were named co-chairs of the governance and Karem and some on the curriculum, I forget who the House side was, and Mike Moloney and Joe Clarke then of the finance as I recall.

MOYEN: Um-hm.

WRIGHT: And so, uh, you know, by, by early July the, which would've been in '89, you know, everybody kind of knew what their area of responsibility was. And I don't believe that, I think the Curriculum 01:32:00Committee met semi-regularly. I think the Finance Committee did not meet much at all, because at that point Wallace was saying, "I'm not gonna be for any new taxes and that's, that's just the lay of the land." Now we, the Governance Committee, we met fairly regularly, if not weekly, biweekly in secret meetings. We met down at Walter Baker's in Glasgow, the first meeting we had. We met at the Kenny Rapier's secretary's home several times there in Frankfort, I don't know, other places. And began to kind of, I guess, the word would be flesh out what we thought we could do in terms of changes, or what we wanted to 01:33:00do in term of changes. At that point we were, we felt like whatever we decided we could do we probably could sell.

MOYEN: Um-hm.

WRIGHT: And so, you know, we, we just worked at that, all of the issues about school board responsibility and, you know, superintendents' responsibility, and, you know, how do you govern a system and school councils and, you know, nepotism and just the whole, whole bit. And were able to come to some conclusions during that summer and in early fall, and then ran into some issues, and today I don't remember exactly what they were, but we had some strong, strong differences of opinion. And really decided then the best thing to do was just kind of let those things simmer for a while--

MOYEN: --um-hm--

WRIGHT: --and just kind of see what unfolded.


MOYEN: Um-hm.

WRIGHT: So, that's kind of where we stood early on in the session then, in that '90 session we, we were able to kind of resolve most of our differences, I don't know whether it was mediators we brought in or some, uh, some people to kind of, kind of help us along to resolve our difference. Kenny Rapier and I had some very strong differences, and for the life of me it shows how it important I thought they were then but today I can't even recall what they were, which is good.

MOYEN: Um-hm.

WRIGHT: But whatever we, differences we had we were able to reach conclusions and agree, and so everything was just sitting there then during this time. And all the time Wallace was saying he wasn't gonna be for any taxes so, you know, obviously you couldn't do one without 01:35:00the other.

MOYEN: Right.

WRIGHT: And there was no reason to try to move forward. And so we just stayed that way during the whole session til the day, til the day. Do you know the story on the day?

MOYEN: No, let's hear it.

WRIGHT: Well, uh, I would guess it was, it was on a Friday in March probably about two, no more than three weeks out from the end of the session. And, you know, we always tried to have our business over with as quickly as we could so everybody could go home on Friday. We met at nine o'clock and, you know, normally eleven would be the outside if we wanted to still be in session, sometimes late in the session you have to do whatever. But, uh, so everyone, the day was over and I got a call, I was, I was still in my office, but I'm sure I was thinking about going home probably before noon, and it was a, it was from down 01:36:00in the Governor's office and--[telephone rings]

[Pause in recording.]

MOYEN: All right.

WRIGHT: Uh, so anyway, on this Friday and, and I don't know the exact date although I'm sure you can go back and look at, at, find out what day it was because of, there, there would've been major newspaper articles about it. And I get a call that the Governor is in a meeting with the House leadership and could the Senate leadership come down and meet with them? And it took me twenty or thirty minutes to get everybody rounded up and maybe one or two was already on the road, but anyway, we got everybody back and, and went down and, and met. And the Governor and the House leadership had struck a deal and, that the Governor was gonna be for the taxes and, and for the reform and so 01:37:00forth and the House leadership had agreed. And so if we, if we agreed, the Senate agreed then it, we would move forward, and if we didn't it was dead. So we had about ten minutes to decide what was gonna happen on the issues there. Of course, I think we all knew immediately what we were gonna do, but it, it still is kind of a shocking development, because I can assure you there was not a clue on the Senate side that anything was going on. Zero. Zero.

MOYEN: Why was that do you think?

WRIGHT: Well, I think the, the Governor realized that his time was about up and he probably was a legacy thing, I guess, and that's what brought him and they, you know, it got down to where if it was gonna be done it had to be done right then--

MOYEN: --um-hm--

WRIGHT: --couldn't, couldn't go another week. I assume that's what was going on. And so in particular one of the concerns I had was if 01:38:00we struck the deal, you know, Mike Moloney was chairman of A&R and I dang sure didn't want him hearing about that on the radio (both laugh). So, so, so it took me a while before we could agree. I had to get on the phone and chase him down and tell him what was going on and, and so forth.

MOYEN: How did he respond, do you remember?

WRIGHT: Uh, just kind of his normal way. I wasn't too worried about how he was gonna respond, but I could not; it was not acceptable that he wouldn't know about it before the fact. That was, that was the main thing, I wasn't, so, so, once I got over that hurdle, why, I thought we were, we were ready to go. An interesting part of that meeting is, we then agreed that, you know, we were gonna do reform, that we were gonna raise the money, we agreed on, pretty well on all the taxes but, 01:39:00but for Wallace one of the critical things was he wanted, and I forget the figure, in, in the papers you could find this, 250 million dollars in road bonds, he wanted soap as a part of this whole package, which seemed what he wanted, that's what he wanted more than anything else. He wasn't worried about the tax increases, he wasn't worried about education reform, he wanted those road bonds, you know, and probably had something to do with helping Casey County--

MOYEN: --right, um-hm--

WRIGHT: --you know, 127 down through there and 68-80 off down toward Hopkinsville and Russellville and all that and it was all good, you know, anytime you build roads is good but I mean that was important to him--

MOYEN: --right--

WRIGHT: --and he wasn't gonna be for anything that didn't include that. But he was so, he lacked so much trust in the legislature that he insisted that we put it in writing. And I've got the piece of paper 01:40:00in here torn, it's torn up, my wife pressed it out and I don't know whether she can lay her hands on it, but anyway, we spent about two hours there trying to reduce this agreement to write it, and we did and that's what I have here. But anyway, it started around the room then for different ones to sign it, forced, forced all the leadership to sign it, and it got to Charlie Berger from up in Harlan, and I will always remember Charlie doing this, Charlie can always reduce you to pulp with, you know, he just knew how to do it, and it, it got to him and Charley said, I mean several had already signed it, and he said, "Boys, I'm not gonna sign this." He said, "If we can't stand here and look one another in the eye and do what we say we're gonna do this paper is not worth anything anyway." And I never will forget Wallace said, "You know, Charley is right. We don't have to have this in writing." And I was holding it, by that time Charlie just, Charlie and 01:41:00I was sitting there, he just handed it over to me and I wadded it up and, and kind of tore it up and was going to throw it away and then it hit me, you know, this, this is a valuable piece of paper. So I just stuck it in my pocket--

MOYEN: --um-hm--

WRIGHT: --and brought it home, my wife (Moyen laughs) ironed it out and we got in there so. (laughs) So that's, that's the story on, on actually how it came about and, you know, we just moved quickly on the whole thing then and, you know, the issues that we dealt with on the Governance Committee were the issues that were gonna, that would destroy it anyway. You know, the taxes, that was not gonna destroy it because you were either gonna be for them or you weren't gonna be and it wasn't like it was some controversial issue out here and anytime you vote for taxes it's gonna be a close vote anyway. And the curriculum si--, side was no big deal, even though it too could be controversial 01:42:00but people were not going to understand it. And so the governance side, you know, about school board, about the nepotism issue and, you know, the site-based councils and, you know, that, that took away the authority of the superintendents and so those were the issues. And basically we just kept it all a secret. I mean we, everybody knew we'd struck a deal but nobody knew what it was gonna be, you know, and before you knew it you got this, what, nine hundred pages of bill and nobody is really not sure of what all is in it.

MOYEN: Um-hm.

WRIGHT: And then just boom one day there it was and, you know, we just moved quickly and the, the people who would've been opposed to various parts of it just really never had an opportunity to generate any opposition to it and, you know, sure the school board didn't like this, the teachers didn't like that, and, you know, but they were all fragmented in a way--

MOYEN: --right--

WRIGHT: --I mean it, it was a classic way to do major reform as far as I am concerned, as far as I am concerned. But, uh, you know, just, it was 01:43:00not difficult at all once we got, got going. I mean the House passed it, of course, first. They probably amended the bill, Kenny Rapier did that and the amendments over there pretty well and was the lead person, and I did it in the Senate. You know, we sat there one day and no telling how many amendments we put on that bill, technical, lots of them, other, other things trying to, uh, resolve problems that various members might have. You know, for instance, we, at my insistence, we fixed it so that a superintendent's wife could teach in the same school system if they had at least twenty years experience. And, you know, they had wanted it so a superintendent's wife just couldn't teach, and I was afraid that was gonna hold the day. I happened to have a very 01:44:00good friend who wasn't superintendent yet but he was gonna be and, you know, his wife probably had twenty-two years but she'd had to go to some other county to teach. And so you, you see--

MOYEN: --right--

WRIGHT: --what I mean? I was just, and there were other situations and we just had to tweak all of those to try to, you know, satisfy people as best we could, and we did. And, you know, David Williams voted for it and he voted for it because he got a park down there at Dale Hollow Lake. That was, that was the bottom line on that.

MOYEN: Were there any other political dealings that you can think of where you in order to get someone to do something you had to do anything?

WRIGHT: No. No. And I would guess that David Williams may have even been for it. I think he was just, I think he asked us for that. I don't think it was like, as I recall he didn't say, you know, "If y'all 01:45:00don't give me this, I'm not gonna do this." I don't think it was that at all. I think he was just very supportive and helpful and, and, you know, as a result he asked for this and I had no problem with it because the House had just, they'd just given away, they did lots of things over there--

MOYEN: --um-hm--

WRIGHT: --there was not much left to do with the Senate.

MOYEN: Um-hm.

WRIGHT: So, to help one or two people, particularly to get a Republican to be for it was--

MOYEN: --right--

WRIGHT: --something we were trying hard to do.

MOYEN: Looking back on the implementation of KERA and how that's come about, is there anything now that you think that you would have done differently in terms of the legislation?

WRIGHT: Uh, as far as the legislation, no. I think that, that, uh, I don't think that Tom Boyson was a good guy to start with to, I, and 01:46:00I don't mean not a good guy but I, I think we could've had a better choice, someone who understands where the rubber meets the road a little bit better, maybe less idealistic and a little more practical. I think Penny Sanders and, and I, I was as responsible as anybody for hiring her in that inspector general's office or whatever it's called. I, I think that probably we could, again, gotten someone that was a little more reasonable in her approach to dealing with people and maybe not quite so aggressive. Probably it would've helped smooth things along a little bit. I don't know that we'd been any further along today than what we are, but those are just some things that, that quickly come to my mind. But, but that's people things, see--


MOYEN: --right--

WRIGHT: --that's not, that's not the legislative side.

MOYEN: Um-hm.

WRIGHT: It must've been pretty good. I don't think there have been major changes--

MOYEN: --right--

WRIGHT: --as near as I can tell since that time. We had some good consultants, you know, we did on the, on the governance and, you know, each, each one did. And, and, of course, those people talked at times we weren't in meetings so I mean that, that helped to bring it all together in a way that made sense and the reason that it worked and so forth and, and--

MOYEN: --are there any other things about Governor Wilkinson's term in terms of legislation or in terms of any other battles that may have taken place between the Governor and the legislature that you think are noteworthy or should be mentioned?


WRIGHT: No, I, I think I've mentioned probably, you know, the things that stand out, of course, is that we did KERA--

MOYEN: --right--

WRIGHT: -and the issues there. Uh, and, and then his desire to get succession. It, it was just not a, it was not a happy time in terms of relationships between the Governor and the legislature. It was just, just, just was not. You know, I, I, and I always hated it and I told the Governor that, you know, philosophically I think he and I were pretty much in tune and I don't, don't have any problem with, with his philosophy, but it was just the way that he dealt with people. You know, I think probably in, in his business life he probably was pretty adamant, maybe overbearing and was able to force things and you just 01:49:00simply can't deal with a legislature in that way and that's, that's the thing that stands out and I'm sorry that's what stands out, is what it is as far as I recall that, that timeframe.

MOYEN: In 1990, at least there was an article mentioning your possibility or, or the possibility of you running for Lieutenant Governor. How did that develop, or not develop, I guess might be a better term?

WRIGHT: You know, I don't, I don't really know. I certainly had no interest right at that time. Of course, by that time we had done the succession thing which, which meant that in '92 I guess or whenever, '96 I guess it would be, that there would be, maybe '95 is actually 01:50:00what it was, that the Governor and Lieutenant Governor would be running together and so there was a time, I mean I'd already made up my mind I was through, I was coming home. But then there were three or four years there where I toyed with the idea of running for Governor--

MOYEN: --right--

WRIGHT: --and so forth, you know, and, and was serious about it. I mean just, I don't know in the end it just didn't seem like the thing to do and I couldn't, just didn't seem like I could get situated exactly with the right person. I can say to you, I can say to you, uh, and I need to know, let's see, Paul Patton would be running next year which is '03, see, so that would've been '95, that's where, that's when he was running and that, so in the fall of '94, fall of '94 Joe Prather and I 01:51:00on, I'd say it was probably December, I picked Joe Prather up and, and we went to, uh, the Hyatt there. That's Rupp Arena, right?

MOYEN: Um-hm.

WRIGHT: for a meeting with Bob Babbitt, and I absolutely believed, and Joe Prather absolutely believed when we left home that Bob Babbitt was gonna run with me as Lieutenant Governor. I was gonna be the Governor candidate and he'd be Lieutenant Governor, we believed that. And Bob Babbitt didn't show. He changed his mind and called and, and that was a real downer in that whole issue. It was, you know, it'd gotten far enough down the road at that point, had kind of zeroed in on that. Joe had been an intermediary with me. I think it would've been a 01:52:00dynamite ticket, I think we'd been hard to beat. Babbitt had a good name recognition, most people thought of him as immature, most people thought of me as being very mature seasoned, I guess, and I think, I think we'd been tough, that we would've been tough. But, you know, it, it, it did not transpire and, and, you know, and Bob said he just, of course, he was at that time running for Governor--

MOYEN: --right--

WRIGHT: --and, and he said, "You know, I've just got," and his response was, he just could not do to the people that had supported him and were expected him to run for Governor he could not back down from that, which was fine, you know, but I can tell you how close, how close it was. So, you know, it didn't happen and, and in the end it's best that it didn't. I'm, I'm better off here than I would've been there.

MOYEN: Do you think, uh, or you said you did leave there thinking that 01:53:00he was--

WRIGHT: --no, we left here going up there--

MOYEN: --oh, thinking that that--

WRIGHT: --that's what this meeting was about--

MOYEN: --all right.

WRIGHT: Joe Prather had had a couple of, uh, preemptive type of meetings and, and we believed it was gonna happen, and so we went up there to basically shake hands on the deal.

MOYEN: Um-hm.

WRIGHT: And, you know, just it didn't happen. He, in the end he changed, he got cold feet, which is fine, you know, is no, no problem--

MOYEN: --right--

WRIGHT: --those things happen all the time.

MOYEN: Um, in, in '91 you announce that you were not gonna seek a fifth term. Why was that?

WRIGHT: I was tired. I was just, I was whipped every way you can whip somebody: emotionally, physically too probably. I, I honestly thought I, I, I honestly, today I believe I probably wouldn't be alive if I'd have stayed there. You know, the pressure, you just cannot imagine 01:54:00the pressure that's involved in trying to make that situation work. Uh, and what happens is that as the longer you're there, the greater your responsibilities come, become, and by the time that I had gotten through the '90 session, and then here was Brereton Jones, you know, it was almost like nothing could happen in the General Assembly unless I signed off on it.

MOYEN: Um-hm.

WRIGHT: And it, you know, that wasn't what I was in politics about, it wasn't what I wanted, you know, here, here along comes Brereton Jones, he's gonna be Governor. It won't get better; it'll only get worse. You know, he was my friend. And so I, I just decided, as I've already said, I didn't intend to be there as long as I was anyway, and so I 01:55:00didn't tell another soul except my wife and, you know, I just had a press conference one day in la--, in Frankfort and announced that I wasn't gonna be running for election. And that way I didn't have to worry about anybody talking me into or out of something, you know. Some people like to--

MOYEN: --right--

WRIGHT: --see which way the wind is blowing--

MOYEN: --um-hm--

WRIGHT: --but I, I, you know, I made up my mind and I did it and that, that's all it was. I just really had gotten tired. You know, and it wasn't like you get tired of your enemies, it's your friends that eventually will wear you out, because, you know, every session people that are your friends they want this and that and the other. I'm not talking about personal things for them, I'm talking about issues and groups and, you know, that sort of thing and it, it's just, I just got tired of it. And I was an age that, you know, I thought, you know, I really have always thought of myself as a farmer and I'd better be a farmer so--


MOYEN: --um-hm--

WRIGHT: --you know, so I just came back and, and did.

MOYEN: What were your thoughts or are your thoughts on the whole BOPTROT thing as it began to unfold and, and the ethics reform that developed out of that?

WRIGHT: Uh, BOPTROT, was it at the end of the '90 session?


WRIGHT: It was at the end--

MOYEN: --I think so. I'm pretty sure.

WRIGHT: Same time we did, yeah, I guess it was--no, it wasn't--

MOYEN: --okay--

WRIGHT: --it was '92.

MOYEN: Okay.

WRIGHT: It was '92, because I had already announced that I was not running, see, in September and here all of a sudden this whole thing, it was '92. It, if unfolds right--

MOYEN: --okay--

WRIGHT: --at the end of the session there. So it was '9--, it was '92 is when it was, Eric. Uh, you know, just as one who was there during that, that timeframe, uh, I guess most people the first thing they 01:57:00would say is, "Well, why didn't you do something about it?" Because I will have to say to you that I am not really surprised of anything that came out. I mean it was a good old boy network, it was very obvious to me and, but it's kind of like, uh, wherever you live in Lexington, let's say you lived in Lexington. Do you live in Lexington?

MOYEN: Jessamine County.

WRIGHT: All right, and you live in a subdivision?

MOYEN: Downtown.

WRIGHT: All right. All right. So, if I said to you, Eric, uh, do you think there are any drugs on your street that are sold and traded? Do you think there is any drug used? Chances are you'd probably say, "Yeah, there probably is." And I'd say to you, "Well, what have you done about it?" Well, it's kind of the same thing the way I view the, 01:58:00the corruptive side of, of politics in Frankfort during that timeframe. You know, you, you wonder what you ought to do about it but you don't know because you don't know anything for sure. But you just simply know that there is a good old boy network that's out there. It's, it's like, it's a, there is an undercurrent, there is something going on below the table but, but, and you sense that it is there but you don't know what it is. You don't know who, even who is, who is involved in it. That's, that's kind of way I viewed the whole, whole thing at that time. So I wasn't really surprised, you know. The last couple or three sessions that I was in Frankfort I doubt if I ever was going to two reception, two receptions a whole session. You know, it was just, I just didn't like all the drinking that went on and, you know, 01:59:00you could just tell it just was not a good situation. It was just, it's just not, it was not a good situation. I don't know how else to say it. That's not very descriptive, I know. You know, you, I probably didn't go to Flynn's three times in my whole seventeen years, but anytime those three times I was there it dang sure looked like not a good place to be to me, you know. The three times that I was there my meal was paid for and I don't even know who paid for it. And, you know, I'm sure there were people that were hanging, from what I heard, that were hanging out up there every night drinking, whatever, carousing, whatever, whatever. Uh, so there was just, you know, there was just a lot of bad things going on.


MOYEN: Um-hm.

WRIGHT: I would like to think and I believe that it did not affect the legislative process, uh, but I wouldn't bet my life that there weren't some instances, some issues, you know, that, that it probably did. If I suspected things like that then I just tried to kill the thing, you know, if it was very obvious that--

MOYEN: --right--

WRIGHT: --you know, the issues that the, the banking legislation I always, I don't think there was a lot came out of that as far as BOPTROT, maybe there was, but, you know, that, that, that thing just seemed very unseemly to me, the whole thing, the Humana Bill in particular, I, I was not surprised that there would be something out of that. Some of this horse racing legislation, you know, none of which 02:01:00any of those I was ever really, I mean the banking bill I was always opposed to that. John Hall who was one of the first people that got in trouble over that BOPTROT thing, uh, in the fall prior to that session John called me a number of times and wanted me to meet with one of these guys who was an undercover guy, wanted me to meet with him, and John and I never did, you know, socially we were on different wavelengths. He was a party animal. So I mean I just, you know, I just never met--

MOYEN: --um-hm--

WRIGHT: --but I, you know, I think that probably was an op--, I missed an opportunity to get set up there, would be my guess (Moyen laughs), and not something I'm concerned about afterwards because it wouldn't have worked but, but I mean I, I don't think there was any question that they were, you know, seriously working at that, because the same 02:02:00guys, the one that got Helen Garrett and, you know, just, something going on there.

MOYEN: Right.

WRIGHT: And, and I don't have any problem with them doing what they did. I mean I, you know, I, I think it was, on balance they probably did a pretty good job. They caught about everybody they intended to, you know. They probably would have caught some more if they, you know, if they'd stayed at it. Any, you know, in many cases it was, it was not that they caught people knowingly doing things that were wrong, it was that, that, because of the way the system had evolved they were just unknowingly doing it. They didn't have, they, they lacked the personal self-discipline to recognize right from wrong.

MOYEN: Um-hm.

WRIGHT: You know, it's that good old boy network I'm talking about. That's the way I view it.


MOYEN: So, when you, uh, left the legislature, when you left the Senate did you simply return home and pick up where you'd left off from--

WRIGHT: --I did. Yeah--

MOYEN: --what you had been doing all the time?

WRIGHT: Well, of course, I never left off--

MOYEN: --right--

WRIGHT: --because it was a part time job.

MOYEN: Right.

WRIGHT: But since then, you know, we've expanded our farm operations substantially and, you know, I've been focused on that. And just, of course, in '96 then I made a race for Congress and, which, you know, I probably shouldn't have done but I felt a responsibility to do it. I was encouraged to do so by a number of Democrats. Because of my rural background it was believed that, that, you know, I might, could, could win that seat back for the Democrats. And so my wife and I made a conscious decision and, you know, we had a lot of fun doing it. I 02:04:00mean it became obvious early on that I didn't have a chance, but it was still, you know, I have nothing but positive feelings about doing it, you know.

MOYEN: Um-hm. Who, do you recall who encouraged you?

WRIGHT: Uh, well, Wendell Ford encouraged me.

MOYEN: Um-hm.

WRIGHT: You know, about anybody I talked to encouraged me--

MOYEN: --right--(laughs)--

WRIGHT: --you know. They thought, of course, Joe Prather had run and lost and, and David Adkisson had run, the mayor of Owensboro had run and lost, and so, you know, most people thought, well, Joe's rural, it's a rural district maybe he can do this.

MOYEN: Um-hm.

WRIGHT: But by that time, you know, I was four years removed from being in the Senate and, and probably I never got totally comfortable in doing it. You know, I had already gone another life.

MOYEN: Right.

WRIGHT: but it was a fun thing to do. I mean I, I, I have very positive feelings about what we did.

MOYEN: Um-hm.

WRIGHT: My wife does too.

MOYEN: Was that campaigning any different?


WRIGHT: Oh, yeah. Yeah. You know, again I, you know, I was not late getting into the race, but in terms of making a race for Congress, yeah. I mean I'd been a lot better off if I'd just coming out of the Senate and I'd been planning for three or four years and, you know, to do something like that and could've been speaking down and all of this, see, because I'd never even done that because when I ran the last time in '87 I guess it was, I knew then that I was not running again for the Senate. So I just pretty well let all my contacts even in this dis--, district dry up, you know, I just tended to business up there but I didn't, I quit going to meetings and all of that because I knew what I was gonna do.

MOYEN: Um-hm.

WRIGHT: And so, yes, it was, it was, it was different. Of course, the money raising was, you know, just unseemly what you have to do. We 02:06:00did a poll in June prior, I didn't have opposition in the primary so that, that helped me and then we did a poll in June and I don't know, sometime in early July we got the results of that poll and basically it said you can't win this race. So, you know, then the question becomes how do you deal with it and you know, we just ran out, ran out the strings, we--

MOYEN: --um-hm--

WRIGHT: --did, did the best we could.

MOYEN: Which of the two offices that you had, at least, expressed interest in, the, the Governor's or, or a seat in Congress would you have preferred? Which do you think would've better suited you?

WRIGHT: I think, I think it would have suited me better would have been the seat in Congress. I think I could've done either one, but I, I think that I generally would work better, uh, in a quiet behind 02:07:00the scenes way, I guess, for lack of a better, and I think I would've fit well in Congress. I think I could've, I think I could've made a difference. If I didn't think so I would not have made the race, because it was not in my plans to make the race. Uh, but, but I believe I could've really done a good job. I think I could've been a leader in Congress, believe I could have. And I don't know that I would've, you know, I could've done fine as Governor, but I don't know that I would've liked to being Governor. I doubt if I would. The speaking and the travel and the, just the totally disjointed life that, you know, that I see a Governor has to lead that's, that's not something that would've turned me on very much.

MOYEN: Right. Yeah. Uh, we've mentioned your working on the farm, and in '94 I believe it was, you replaced John Berry Jr., which is 02:08:00interesting--

WRIGHT: --I did--

MOYEN: --as president of Burley Tobacco Growers Cooperative--

WRIGHT: --yes. Yeah--

MOYEN: --just because of your--

WRIGHT: --yeah--

MOYEN: --previous--

WRIGHT: --yeah--

MOYEN: --following. What do you, what did you do in that position?

WRIGHT: Well, first of all, I had been on the Burley Co-op board for probably nine years and attended meetings once a month and so forth and John had this terrible heart attack, just a terrible heart attack and had to give up the position, and at that time we were faced with a, a crisis of too much tobacco in the Burley Co-op, and it was weighing heavily on prices, it was weighing heavily on the poundage that we were allowed to raise. And so I was encouraged to run for president 02:09:00of the Co-op and, of course, was elected. Didn't stay very long, but I, I did what I, what they wanted me to do. Basically we sold a, a billion dollars worth of tobacco. I said a billion dollars worth of tobacco. (Moyen laughs) Got the tobacco companies to take that and get it off the books so it didn't keep us from having reduced, having to constantly reduce our poundage, quotas. And so, so, that's, that's what I did there. Uh, and that was an interesting experience. Wendell Ford was still in Congress and we spent about three weeks in Washington doing that. And hired a lawyer out of Lexington and, she did a wonderful job and, and just, just got that tobacco sold, got the companies, got a deal done with the companies and, you know, you 02:10:00had to negotiate with Philip Morris and RJR and Lorillard and there was Liggett. It was an interesting, interesting exercise. And I, you know, it was kind of one of those things I think I probably was in the right place at the right time to, to make a difference.

MOYEN: Um-hm.

WRIGHT: So it, you know, I had no, I was glad to do it, glad to do it, but I didn't want to spend my life, you know, that, that was not something that I wanted to spend a long time at.

MOYEN: Um-hm.

[Pause in recording.]

MOYEN: So, what is your opinion or your take on the development of the issues facing tobacco farmers that have developed in the nineties and 02:11:00the tobacco settlement and, and farmers feeling like they can't raise tobacco anymore, where, where do you see the future of Kentucky farmer or Kentucky tobacco farmers in general?

WRIGHT: Well, the future ain't what the past has been, I can tell you that. (laughs)

MOYEN: Um-hm.

WRIGHT: Change is in the winds. I would suppose and, and guess that, you know, the number of people that are raising tobacco in Kentucky is gonna be about ten percent of what it has been in the past when in the next year or so it, it's finished. That, that's kind of what I'm guessing is gonna happen. I think right now that most farmers are for a tobacco buyout, and I think they should be, not so much because of the money but because of the future as much as anything else. Because I think the companies are determined that they're gonna buy tobacco 02:12:00cheaper than what they have been. They're gonna, they're gonna aim to get tobacco out of Kentucky or out of America, U.S. grown tobacco, at a price that's competitive with what they can get from these other countries. And so if that's the case, and I believe that to be true, then best thing for the farmer is to go ahead and get the buyout and get his money and then if he wants to go on and raise tobacco he can raise it for the companies and, you know, move on down the road. Tobacco as, as it has evolved over the decades, maybe even centuries in Kentucky I guess, uh, you know, it, it, there was a time it was a family operation. If it weren't for the Mexicans, the migrant workers, you wouldn't get this tobacco raised in Kentucky today, because most tobacco farmers are getting too old, they're, you know, and the young 02:13:00people just aren't interested in it, they don't want to do the hard work and why should they? They can make more doing other things. And so, uh, I, I just, I just see major change happen and I think it's, it's, it's August right now as we talk here in August of, you know, 2002 I think, I fully expect that next year, maybe this year but probably next year, will be the last year that we'll raise tobacco as, as we've known it, you know, in the last hundred years or so in Kentucky. That, that's what I see happening to us.

MOYEN: Um-hm. This kind of ties in because obviously you served at a rural agricultural district. I, I want to talk a little bit about your, the district that you served in and also the re--, what the region was 02:14:00like here in terms of where do people in Breckenridge County or Ohio County, from where did they get their news or their information? Is it, is it out of Owensboro or Louisville or, uh, in terms of, and maybe it's speculation in terms of newspapers or television broadcast when they're watching the news, where does that come from?

WRIGHT: Uh, well, in, in, in the Breckenridge-Meade County area I would say that ninety percent of it comes from the Louisville Courier- Journal, as far as newspapers. Uh, and, and I assume you're talking about daily news not the weekly newspaper--

MOYEN: --um-hm--

WRIGHT: --uh, which every county has by the way. And then as far as TV 02:15:00in these two counties it, it's pretty well the, out of the Louisville station, the Louisville media market. If you get into Ohio County or, then it, it becomes an, an Evansville thing. If you go to Grayson County it's a Bowling Green thing, and so, you know, that's, that's kind of the way it is, you know, in this area.

MOYEN: Um-hm. Does that, or did or has that ever affected any way that you deal with any of your constituents or do, is there any difference that you noticed in, in what they're concerned with because of that?

WRIGHT: I don't think so. I don't, I don't think so at all. Uh, television never played a role in any way that I had of communicating with the people that I represented.

MOYEN: Um-hm.

WRIGHT: It was always done through the local radio stations and through the local newspapers. In no campaign did I ever advertise in any other medium than, than those two. And so those are the same ways 02:16:00that I would communicate. If I was in a county I'd always go by the local radio station or the newspaper and, you know, that, that sort of thing. That, that's just the way they operate. And on a local basis I'd say that's the way they still do it. You know, if you're a state senator or a state representative in this part of the world, you know, they're not gonna write about you in the Courier-Journal or they're not gonna report about you on the local station, or the TV stations out of Louisville or Bowling Green unless you just do something so obnoxious and outrageous that it, that it's worthy of that. So, so, it, it still is a local thing, I think, sure do, sure do.

MOYEN: What about your place in terms of the Senate and region? What types of regional differences did you see in the Kentucky legislature, and where does your district fit in terms of that?


WRIGHT: Well, this district is probably the most rural in Kentucky, I would guess, in terms of numbers of, of farmers and, and small towns. There just are no large towns in, in the second, in the Fifth Senatorial District. Uh, you know, a couple of thousand is about as large a town as there is and I don't guess there's any others maybe that would be just exactly like that. Uh, obviously the interest that a senator from this part of the world would have in Frankfort would be some different than what a senator from Jefferson County of Fayette County would have, or northern Kentucky, or Owensboro, Bowling Green would have. It never really presented a problem to me. I've 02:18:00always tried to think of it as a bigger picture of a Kentucky thing rather than a 5th District thing, I guess, and I've always kind of, my philosophy was that whatever was good for Kentucky was probably in some ways good for the 5th District--

MOYEN: --um-hm--

WRIGHT: --and so that's, that's kind of the way I always viewed it, and I believe it, works that way. So I never had major problems and, and in fact, always tried to open my mind and my thinking process up to whatever issues there were that affected Fayette County or, or Jefferson County and that, that sort of thing. But there, there are certainly differences. You know, I particularly remember issues related to landlord-tenant kind of a thing that you'd have in the cities, you know, that was not an issue in my district but you, see, you, you have 02:19:00to pay attention to those things and, and learn about it I guess.

MOYEN: In terms of caucus membership or something would, would this be considered western Kentucky where you are?

WRIGHT: Probably, but I, I don't think that people would think you were trying to stretch it a bit if, you know, if I tried to say I was from western Kentucky, I, I've never thought of myself as being from western Kentucky. If you were in Ohio County you might be able to say you were in western Kentucky, but, you know, that's one county removed--

MOYEN: Right.

WRIGHT: or Owensboro possibly. But I don't think you could call this, I don't know what you could call this--

MOYEN: --right--

WRIGHT: --north-central Kentucky, I guess.

MOYEN: (laughs) Uh, in terms of, and, now, you did mention, uh, moving your family to Frankfort, in, in terms of your time in the legislation were there, were there other ways that you saw that, your position 02:20:00there as taxing on your family or, or were you able to cope with it by, by moving to Frankfort, and do you feel like that there were other concerns there about being able to spend time with your family along with working in the legislature?

WRIGHT: Well, first of all, I have a wife who is a very wonderful mother as well and she gave up her position as a teacher in order for me to pursue a political career. So, you know, I did what I had to do as a legislator, and the rest of my time was spent tending to my business and my family. Hopefully not in that order but, but that's, that's just kind of what she and I worked out and, and so she did a great job covering for whatever I failed to do--


MOYEN: --um-hm--

WRIGHT: --you know, as a, as a parent. But, you know, I, I think on balance I, I would not consider it a great problem. I think our children gained from the experiences, you know, of going to Frankfort and, and being subjected to a different life situation. I think those were, were positives. Uh, we, we tried very hard to not make any big deal out of it, you know, that their daddy was majority leader and that sort of thing. We just simply tried to downplay it in every way that we, that we could. Uh, a part of my thinking in leaving the Senate was that my son was coming to a, a critical time in his life and I thought, you know, that, that was another reason for leaving too, you know, he, 02:22:00he wouldn't have to be his daddy's boy, he could be his own man and that sort of thing.

MOYEN: Um-hm.

WRIGHT: And in addition of being worn out it was, you know, it was another factor on the side of leaving--

MOYEN: --right--

WRIGHT: --I guess, for the lack of another way of saying it. Uh, but I, I did not consider it to be a, a conflict many times. The, the toughest thing in the world for me as a legislator would be to be here on the farm, work like a dog all day, and come in and have about twenty phone calls to return. You know, if you got a meeting to go to you know up front that you got this meeting to go to, days ahead or whatever, you kind of work that into your thinking and doing. But it was tough, you know. You, you try to, then you need to be out working the next working and you've made all those calls at night and then you 02:23:00got all these other calls you got to make to Frankfort to solve the problems from the calls the day before. It, it was hard, it was hard. And I, I don't believe I ever failed to deal with whatever the issue was and whatever the call was but it, it was not easy. It was, it weighed on me, weighed on me hard, hard. And I've really enjoyed not having to do that too (both laugh). I sure have.

MOYEN: Are there any other things about your legis--, your legislative career or, uh, your leg--, your legislative experience that you think I've not covered that you'd like to mention that I haven't asked you about?

WRIGHT: Oh, I don't think so, Eric. You know, it's wonderful that our memories are not too good, because I have a lot of fond memories and there's been a lot of neat, funny experiences and, and things that, 02:24:00that, you know, situations that, that happened that probably are, are, well, it might be interesting to some people and not interesting to others but I, I, I, I can, you know, mention one or two, I can think of one of them if you're interested in it.

MOYEN: Let's hear it. That'd be great.

WRIGHT: Charlie Berger was a very good friend of mine, he is a very good friend of mine, from up at Harlan and of course, Charlie is no different than all the other people, we never know anyone, you just go to Frankfort and here is these people that, that the people have sent down there--

MOYEN: --um-hm--

WRIGHT: --you know, and you're supposed to work with them. But anyway, Charlie is a chicken fighter and he, he really worked hard to make sure that the interests of the chicken fighter were not harmed when he was in the, in the Senate and did a good job of it in, in his own way. And, and I have already told you one experience about Charlie, I mean he was a, an extremely ethical, straight person in every way and, and I have 02:25:00nothing but the highest regard for him as a person, as a friend. But any time anything, any issue that came up that could possibly be linked to chicken fighting in any extreme way Charlie's antenna went straight up. (Moyen laughs) I mean he was watching for it . (Moyen laughs) So we had, one session we had a, a bill that was introduced in both the House and the Senate to make dog fighting a felony. And the one that was in the Senate, Charlie was in leadership at the time, I think he was assistant president pro tem or something, and he knew that a bill that made dog fighting a felony if it got out on the floor somebody could amend it and add cockfighting to it just real quickly, and so he was very, very concerned about a bill like that moving. And so the bill in the Senate had not moved anywhere but the bill in the House passed the House and so it came to the Senate, and Charlie made sure it 02:26:00was put to bed too. (Moyen laughs) But Joe Prather who was president of the Senate at the time and there were two others got very concerned that we needed to pass that bill. And I, it was left up to me to tell Charlie that we needed to bring that bill out and, and vote on it. So, we talked about it and, and he said, "Well, give me a little time to think about this." So he called me on a Sunday morning and he said, it was in Pat McCuiston's committee, and he said, what about, if Pat would be willing to bring that bill out on the Consent Calendar, now that's where you vote on twenty-five or thirty or forty bills in one time, no debate or anything, you know, they're innocuous kind of bills, no, there's no opposition to them or anything like that, nothing, extremely 02:27:00technical. And so Charlie's idea was to put this, bring this bill out and put it on the Consent Calendar because you can't amend a bill on the Consent Calendar. You could take it off and do it but, and I said, "Well, that's fine but," I said, "uh, Louis Peniston," who had the bill and sent it, the same bill introduced in the Senate, I said, "he might want to talk about that bill and," I said, "I'll call Lewis and if he doesn't mind well, then I'll call Pat and we'll see what we can do." So I called Lewis and he didn't want to talk about it, I knew he wouldn't but you can't just do somebody that way--

MOYEN: --um-hm--

WRIGHT: --so then I called Pat McCuiston and Pat is from down Pembroke in Christian County, he said, "Yeah, I'll do that. I'll, I'll put that, we'll bring it out this week and, and I'll put it on the Consent Calendar." So he did. And so, you got this long list up there on the orders of the day on the Consent Calendar. We approved the Consent 02:28:00Calendar, we were probably within a couple of weeks or a week of the session being over and for some reason, and I don't know why I happened to think of it, I went up to the lady who, who kept this projector over the projector and had her write an FA for, floor amendment out beside this particular bill, that's all I had to do. It looked like there'd been a floor amendment there, you know, and just went back and we just went on about my business, our business of the day. And after about thirty minutes or so I looked over at Charlie and I realized he had seen that FA and he was going through every book that he had to try to see what that floor amendment was, because he, he thought somebody had amended that thing, you see, and--

MOYEN: --um-hm--

WRIGHT: --and was probably terrified. (Moyen laughs) And you know, I sat there and watched him and I told him once, and the clerk of the Senate brought me a whole box of Kleenexes back. I was literally crying, Charlie, you'd have to see Charlie, had big ole eyebrows and 02:29:00they were arched up here, you know, and he was trying to figure out what in the world had, he had let happen there to his, to this bill. It was, you know, it was quite a, quite a funny situation there in the Senate and everybody had a good laugh about him. (Moyen laughs) Sure, sure did. But, you know, there are just a lot of, a lot of things. Bob Heleringer got awfully upset with me one time, he's in the House, over an issue, and I wouldn't let him do what he wanted to do. You know, he had a bill that came to the Senate and we weren't, there was opposition to it and I, it was, it fell to me to make sure it didn't go anywhere, and he got awfully upset at me. He eventually got over it years later but--

MOYEN: Do you recall what it was?

WRIGHT: No, I don't. Bob probably could but I, I honestly, I think he's retiring this year, but he really, really got upset. I hear people 02:30:00talk about how they could hear him squalling at me clear, all, you know, it was after hours--

MOYEN: --right--

WRIGHT: --and he came in the office though and did what he wanted (both laugh).

MOYEN: So, overall you did have a very positive experience in Kentucky--

WRIGHT: --yeah. Yeah. David Karem, we were sitting in, in the Appropriation and Revenue Committee one time and "Eck" Rose, of course David is as non-farmer as any person that ever walked, wonderful human being, but anyway, had gave it to the, whoever the sergeant-at-arms at the door was and they take this note up to David Karem and it said, "Senator Karem, your cattle are on the freeway, please call" (both laugh). Oh, that was, we all had such a good laugh over that. Funny, little, old incidences, you know.


MOYEN: Um-hm (both laugh).

WRIGHT: That, but that experience, you know, you quickly learn and, and I think that I, I got along as well as I did because people always knew I told them the truth without fail whether it hurt or not, you know, they always knew that if they asked me they were gonna get the truth. And, you know, I, I think that that probably helped me as much as anything and, and, you know, there were people when I came to the Senate that were kind of hotshots and lawyers and all this, you know, they soon just kind of faded in the background and, and more, more times than not it was because they just weren't, didn't have the personal discipline and the kind of focus and the, they had more self- interest than public interest and, and those things they show up in time, you know, you can't have them, they all come to light, you know, 02:32:00in due time, you know, sure do. I can't think of anything else, Eric--

MOYEN: --all right, those were some good stories--

WRIGHT: --as, yeah, I can't, can't think of any, anything else, Eric. You know, all the Governors were good to work with. Wallace was, as we've already said, was the most difficult.

MOYEN: Was there anyone in particular that you felt was best suited for the position or that you thought was--

WRIGHT: --well, as far as just in joined working with the person I, I liked John Y. You know, I, I thought he, he kind of had broader goals in mind and, and looked at the bigger picture and he was easy to reason with, he was not difficult at all, just not difficult at all. Uh, and so, so I thought he was, I really, Martha Layne, I don't know, you 02:33:00mentioned that education session she had. You know, that thing kind of fell flat on its face as I recall, and she and her administration was never the same after that. And then I think she was preoccupied with all the problems that Bill was involved with.

MOYEN: Um-hm.

WRIGHT: And I, quite frankly I shouldn't put this on tape, but quite frankly I don't think that Martha Layne ever was willing to recognize that Bill was doing some of the things he was doing, I guess by lack of a better way of saying it. I mean today she still has very hard feelings about what happened in that case and I just, I just don't think she's willing to acknowledge the truth, quite frankly. I got along great with Brereton Jones, you know, he was Lieutenant Governor 02:34:00so I knew him well during that four years and then I was there one session when he was, when he was Governor.

MOYEN: Now, the entire time you were there you were part of the majority, were there any Republicans in particular, now, you'd mentioned Walter Baker, any other Republicans in particular that you were able to work with or felt like you worked with, even though in the Senate you didn't have to have their vote, you didn't have to have--

WRIGHT: --well, yes, Gene Stuart. He was minority leader at the time. Gene is just died in the last year, but, uh, Gene and Walter both, I think were, they were beyond politics. You know, they really weren't into this Republican-Democrat thing. They were just great people to work with as far as I was concerned. I hope they would feel the same way about me. I mean, you know, just literally, uh, Gene Stuart lost 02:35:00his position as minority leader because of doing something I asked him to do when I was majority leader. Uh, we, it was an issue related to the, to the agriculture commissioner, and Gene committed to me to vote a certain way, and he did even though most of the Republicans voted the other way, and eventually he lost his position and I'm quite sure that that was, you know, what, what did it. But you know, he did what he said he'd do. It was not a political thing with him, and it wasn't with me, it was more a philosophical thing, which I, you know, that's really the way I've viewed the, the Senate when I, during my time there, it was, it was more philosophical because, you know, just 02:36:00like the Black Sheep, that wasn't a Democrat-Republican thing, it was a philosophical thing. And, you know, we, uh, I, I always tried never to say bad things about other people, got caught a time or two when I talked when I should've been listening but, but on balance, you know, I don't have any regrets about, about that sort of thing.

MOYEN: What, do you remember what, what you're referring to when you say you got caught a couple of times?

WRIGHT: Well, there was one situation related to, John Y. was Governor and David Boswell was agriculture commissioner and, and Blandford and he were good friends and, and I would assume it was probably the '8--, it would've been the '80 or '82 session, it's when John Y. was Governor I believe and I presume it was the '82 session, and David was trying 02:37:00to get control over the North American and he was trying to do it so he could fire the manager of the North American and (unintelligible). And we, uh, it was a tough issue. It went on into the night, I'm talking about two or three o'clock in the morning when we were doing this conference committee, and finally I, I won out, finally. But it was, it was hard, you know, Blandford was Speaker of the House and, and finally managed to keep them from getting what they wanted, and it wasn't easy. And afterwards that same night, Al Cross, uh, quizzed me about me, kind of like you just did, and I specifically said to him, "Al, are we off the record?" And he said, "Yes." And I said some things about them that I would not have said publicly, and Al printed 02:38:00it. And, and, of course, naturally I had something to say to Al about that. His excuse was, "Joe, it was just such a perfect situation, I just had to let people know, just, just what a crisis--(laughs)--mode this was." That was the way he forgave himself, you know. But it, it, you know, people soon forgot, but, but it, you know, I called them rednecks or something like that and I'd preferred that they, that I said something like that, "I really don't like dealing with rednecks in these kind of situations," or some, something which was not a good choice of words and I would not have said it to have been quoted.

MOYEN: Right.

WRIGHT: But that particular is one, one that situation. But, you know, it's, it's been a, it was a neat experience. I, I had an interesting political career, it was, as long as I wanted it to be --(laughs)-- 02:39:00and no longer, you know, and, and so, you know, and, and we managed to raise four wonderful children through it all, and I think they're all well grounded and successful in their own rights. So, so for that I'm very thankful, and I give my wife credit for, for that, you know, as much as any, as much as anyone else.

MOYEN: I sure do thank you for your time--

WRIGHT: --sure thing, sure thing, Eric. It's, it's been good, pretty good. It's longer than two hours I believe.

[End of interview.]