Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Richard L. Frymire, August 6, 2004

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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O'HARA: This is a unrehearsed interview with Richard Frymire at his office in Madisonville, Kentucky, conducted by Adina O'Hara on August 6, 2004. Mr. Frymire, in the 1962 Legislative Session, a community college bill was passed authorizing the UK Board of Trustees to establish a system of public community colleges. What was your role in the creation of a system of public two-year colleges in Kentucky?

FRYMIRE: My role is probably just as a member of the General Assembly. Uh, freshmen legislators were not called to give advice. Uh, it was more an atmosphere of, uh, for freshmen legislators to be seen and not heard. Uh, this would have been something that, uh, the act itself would have been, uh, a part of, uh, Governor Combs' administration 00:01:00plan to bring some order, uh, to the community college system, if you please, and I think this probably predated calling it a system. Uh, there had been municipal community colleges in the state of Kentucky; uh, for example the Ashland Junior College is well-known. The Paducah Junior College was well-known. There were other community colleges, uh, that had some reputation. I don't recall that they were associated, uh, with a mu-, municipality such as Lees Junior College--

O'HARA: Um-hm.

FRYMIRE: --in Eastern Kentucky. I think, uh, the realization had come to some of the municipalities that the, uh, cost of maintaining, uh, 00:02:00a community college by the citizens of the city had, had become, uh, too, too high a price to pay, and, and they were looking for state aid to help support the schools. So I think that was, uh, a reason for that; uh, one of the reasons for it. Uh, another reason was that, uh, governors were called upon as a part of the political reward setup to designate sites for community colleges. Uh, Governor Chandler had, when he was governor, and this is my recollection. I can be mistaken about it, but Governor Chandler determined that there would be a community college at Henderson, his home county. Uh, Governor Combs, 00:03:00uh, who was there in the si-, 1960 and '62 sessions of the General Assembly, I recall talking about there would be a community college in the Blackey-Hazard area. Well, if you look at the map, uh, you sort of say, "Where is Blackey?" And Blackey's sort of nowhere. (O'Hara laughs) I think it is, I don't know whether he did that with, uh, tongue-in-cheek, but certainly there was not a community, uh, that would support a community college by any stretch of the imagination. So maybe when he said Blackey he was doing it, uh, to, uh, in response to some political, um, campaign promise that he may have made or perhaps he was having a little fun or perhaps he really intended to put it at Hazard in the, all the time, so in the first place. (O'Hara 00:04:00laughs) Um, later, um, uh, along the same lines, uh, Governor, uh, Breathitt, uh, who succeeded Governor Combs, established a community college at Hopkinsville, and it, the, the, the pattern was being set. Uh, and I think the community college, uh, act at that time, and, uh, I confess I don't remember what all it did, but it, it was, uh, probably one of the first steps in, in bringing some, some order to the community college, uh, system and, and, uh, who was going to be included, and that sort of thing.

O'HARA: While we know the outcomes of those talks about creating a community college system, we do not know how this a-, agreement was reached. Because you were the representative for the Sixth District, 00:05:00um, from 1962 to 1964, you can explain how the recommendation for a statewide system of community colleges was discussed in the legislature. You were on a committee on education. Did that ever come up?

FRYMIRE: You would be, uh, today you would be, uh, greatly surprised at how the legislature operated in, in the 1960s. Uh, the, the governor was the strong person and his, uh, administration. If you wanted something to pass for sure, uh, it was important to get the support of the governor. Education committees today, uh, were quite different from the education committees then, and frequently, uh, many of the things that, uh, builds the substance of the bills that you would think would go to an education committee may have gone to another committee. 00:06:00I'll give you an example. (clears throat.) In the 1962 session, in the House of Representatives, we had three committees among a number of committees, but I'm going to focus on three. They were called Statutes #1, Statutes #2, and Statutes #3. I became a member. I was appointed a member of Statutes #3, and I thought when I saw my appointment, What in the world is this? (O'Hara laughs) Statutes #3 was chaired by the Majority Leader of the House, uh, Dick Maloney from Lexington. There were seven people on the committee. Uh, there were, probably, two other freshmen representatives, uh, one second-term representative, 00:07:00and then some old, uh, fellows that had been around for a while. That committee processed probably two-thirds of the legislation that was presented for action in the 1962 session, and it was, uh, it, the administration, uh, all the administration bills or those things relating to state government, for the most part, came through that committee. I don't recall whether the community college bill came through that committee or not, uh, it, it could have, but if it went to the education committee, uh, we would have considered it. Uh, and, you know, th-, there certainly did not seem to be any reason not to do, 00:08:00to enact a community college, uh, bill to regulate or establish in some way because it was apparent in 1962 that there was going to be more demands for community colleges, and there needed to be some order, some establishment, uh, made.

O'HARA: Since you were representing the Sixth District, um, did your consi-, constituencies have an interest in establishing a community college here in Madisonville or in your, any of your districts, and in the 1962, in that time period?

FRYMIRE: The, the germ of the idea of establishing a community college, uh, was probably in place in, in the Hopkins County area in, in 1962. The reason why it was in place is, at that time, probably starting 00:09:00in 1960 at least, um, there was what was called the Madisonville Cooperative Extension School, and it was a, conducted on the premises of the, of that local high school. It was a consortium consisting of Murray, Western, and UK where they all supported, all, uh, furnished, uh, professors, and there was some minimal higher education activity that had been started in 1960s, in the early 1960s, at Madisonville. Uh, one of the prime movers of that program was, uh, State Representative Fred Nichols who I followed as a State Representative, 00:10:00and then he became State Senator, and later I followed him as State Senator when he vacated that, that position, but he was, uh, a very strong promoter of the Madisonville Cooperative Extension School. And local leaders in this community worked with, uh, Western, uh, Dr. Kelly Thompson--

O'HARA: Um-hm.

FRYMIRE: --at Murray, uh, Dr. Woods, uh, UK, which is, uh, probably A.D. Albright, uh, you know, maybe, it seems like to me at a later time Stanley Wall was involved, but I think that was at a, at a later time. And so, this, this, this was the, the genesis of, of a community college at Madisonville, had its beginnings in this cooperative extension school, operated in the classroom and then in nineteen--uh, 00:11:00of the local high school--and then during the, probably 1963, funding for a freestanding building was approved, uh, on the campus of the Madisonville High School for the purpose of conducting classes, uh, uh, for the, uh, cooperative, uh, school. Um, that was done during the administration of Bert Combs. His Commissioner of Finance was a man known, uh, by the name of David Prichard (??). David Prichard's (??) from Madisonville, and Senator Nichols and myself called on David Prichard (??) in the 19-, 1962, 1963, and through his actions, uh, 00:12:00Commissioner Prichard's actions, we were able to obtain this building, which housed the, the, the first college activity that we had in Madisonville.

O'HARA: So it really did get started a lot earlier than I realized?


O'HARA: Is, um, Commissioner Prichard--


O'HARA: --is he, um, is he still with us today?

FRYMIRE: No, he is not. Um-hm.

O'HARA: He would have been a great source, I'm sure.

FRYMIRE: Oh, yeah. He would have. (laughs) Yeah. (clears throat) He could tell some great stories.

O'HARA: By 1962, UK had already developed a system of extension, university extension centers--


O'HARA: --across the state. N-, the Northwestern Center, um, was, actually, I guess, the groundbreaking was in 1959, and that was the one that was closest. Um, the Covington, Ashland, Cumberland centers 00:13:00had all come about before the community college act was put together. Um, did you anticipate the transformation of these branch centers into community colleges prior to the 1962 Legislative Session?

FRYMIRE: I doubt that there was anyone in the legislature in 1962 that really had a good overview of what was going to happen. Uh, I think they were all aware that, that the, these schools were popping up like dandelions across the states, and there needed to be, somebody needed to be in charge in, in some way. I, I think that's, probably we didn't fully appreciate what was going on, but we knew there was a potential 00:14:00area that, that, that needed to be, I hate to use the term regulated, but maybe that's, that's it; a, a fair term until we can find a better one. Yeah.

O'HARA: Whose idea do you, um, think it was to create a system? Do you think it was Governor Combs' idea, and he brought it into the legislature in January and, um, then, of course, it was accepted and adopted, but, um, I'm trying to, to find out whose idea it was initially. Do you have any idea?

FRYMIRE: Uh, I could only speculate. Um, Bert Combs, uh, had the reputation of being very interested in education, and I don't think that interest was limited to secondary and elementary education. I think it also extended into higher education as well. You have to look at whether someone at the University of Kentucky level would have been 00:15:00greatly interested in having a community college system that would be conducted under their auspices, and whether that was that apparent in 1962, I don't know; certainly it was in later years because, uh, as you, as we all know today, UK waded in, um, took over the community college system, and I believe that was done in '68 perhaps, uh, when there was a, uh, an act that, that was, uh, gave the community colleges to UK. Not really sure about that, but I, I believe that, that may have been, uh, done in 1968.

O'HARA: There have, there, the 1962 legislation put them under UK. But, that was, as you stated before, it was more of a preliminary 00:16:00pulling together of the system, and they just put it under the Board of Trustees. But there were addend-, addendments, um, if that's the proper term, later in the sixties--


O'HARA: --that gave, um, greater defined the role of UK.


O'HARA: Um, Governor Combs established a commission on the study of public higher education in 1960--


O'HARA: --to study the needs for all of higher education; four-year institutions, graduate research, and community colleges. With the guidance of out-of-state consultants and the assistance of the Legislative Research Commission, the Governor's Commission recommended two things that--and their recommendation came out in November, on November second, I believe, of 1961, so this was just two months before the start of the '62 Legislative Session. Their recommendations were 00:17:00to create a super board to replace the current Council on Public Higher Education and to establish an independent community college board to bring, as you said, all these, um, these community colleges that were popping up or two-year colleges of different sorts together. Um, the recommendation for a super board was adamantly rejected in the press by all of the, um, state public college presidents and the university president which was, uh, Dr. Dickey at the time, but I could not find very much in the press or anywhere else that talked about this proposal for an independent community college board. And, of course, 00:18:00Governor Combs heard these recommendations and had to deal with this adamant rejection of, of, especially of the one, and then the, the, uh, issue kind of became, was kind of dropped, and he came up with his own proposal, I suppose, in the next two months to put the community colleges under UK and not create a super board; just leave the council, I believe, as it is. There might have been some minor changes. Um, my question is, is do you know why this idea of an independent community college board, um, was given little attention, or do you know anything about that discussion?

FRYMIRE: 1961 would have, uh, predated my coming to the General Assembly. Uh, I, I first, uh, matriculated there in, in January of '62. I would have read about the report in, in the news and that sort of thing. I, 00:19:00I think there was just a, a genuine, uh, lack of support. Uh, at that time, these were, you're dealing with the teachers' colleges.

O'HARA: Um-hm.

FRYMIRE: Okay. We-, Western Kentucky State Teachers' College, or they may have taken out the "teachers," uh, by, but--

O'HARA: I think they had.

FRYMIRE: But if they had, it was just barely.

O'HARA: Right.

FRYMIRE: Uh, so, there was not the, a great deal of interest in, uh, from, from anybody in having a, a super board for all of the, all of the colleges. Everybody sort of wanted to maintain their own separate identity and be able to have their own benefactors and their own alums, uh, you know. What, what would somebody from Prestonsburg know about 00:20:00the problems at Murray? And what would somebody at Paducah know about the problems at Richmond and Eastern Kentucky? I mean, that would have sort of been the thinking and, uh, that if you are local, you're more apt to be familiar with the problems and able to, to deal with them. Uh, some states, uh, have the super board. I think the state of Georgia has such a board. I suspect most of them are like Kentucky in that they still maintain their local regents and trustees who are, are dedicated to a, a particular school. As to the community colleges, uh, in 1962 they weren't a big deal. Okay. It, it was, uh, they, they were, they were just something that was getting started. The funding 00:21:00of the community colleges in 1962 was, uh, a problem. You know, Ashland, Paducah--what, what are you going to do with these, these, uh, things that are costing money and nobody wants to be responsible for paying for them? So it, I, I think if, uh, if UK was willing to step in and, and, and provide the oversight, whatever the oversight might, might, might have been, uh, it was a gratuitous thing on their part and administrative burden--

O'HARA: Um-hm.

FRYMIRE: --probably for which everybody was glad that they, they were willing to step in and, and do this chore.

O'HARA: And financially, was UK in a position to float bonds and get the community colleges up and going when maybe that, there wasn't money for an independent governance board that would have been more costly?


FRYMIRE: Uh, they would have had to have created, uh, a separate board that, uh, had no infrastructure in place. That probably was a factor that, uh, if, if you're going to have some common board, then, then you've got to fund the board; they have to have offices; they have to have accountants; they have to have administrators. Uh, it was probably easier to piggyback them on an existing system than, than to create a new one.

O'HARA: And UK had had experience with these extension centers--


O'HARA: --such as Henderson?

FRYMIRE: Yes. And UK was the, the land grant school to which they w-, they will tell you. (laughs.)

O'HARA: That's a good point. Um--(Frymire clears throat)--being a land grant institution, have you heard the, um, I, I've become familiar with 00:23:00the idea that UK saw, first the branch extension system, which became the community college system, as a part of their land grant service mission to serve the whole state, and, uh, are you familiar with that line of thinking?

FRYMIRE: I, I have not heard that, uh, articulated. Uh, I can imagine that it would be articulated, but I have not heard it.

O'HARA: This kind of goes into something you brought up earlier about whether UK was pursuing governance of the community colleges; you know, were they eager, um, in any respects. We know later, of course, that they were, but do you think that, um, Governor Combs could have, uh, more or less imposed these upon UK, um, being that he was on--or do you 00:24:00think that it was more of a negotiation, like, you know, UK wanted 'em and Governor Combs wanted to give it to them? I was just curious.

FRYMIRE: I can't imagine that UK would not want them. Uh, I can't imagine that Governor Combs would, uh, thrust that responsibility upon UK unless it wanted it. Uh, uh, I think it was, there was some harmony there. And, uh, always if you ask a president to do a job that needs to be done, that president will do that job. But he's also got his shopping list of things that he needs to do the job, and sometimes he might add a little bit more to his needs to take care of some other needs that he had. So it's, it's the, the familiar back-scratching, 00:25:00you help me-and I'll help you, scenario.

O'HARA: In oral history interviews, after asking a person why a decision was made, we often ask next why a different result did not occur. During the discussions, um, did you at any time expect a different result in the early sixties other than having them under UK?

FRYMIRE: It seemed to be the, the comfortable fit. It, it seemed to be the place for the community colleges to be. Uh, they were, as I recall, the, the UK administrators, uh, were willing and able. Um, I do not, uh, recall that the, the other, of course, University of Louisville was not in the state system at that time. They were still a 00:26:00municipal system.

O'HARA: Um-hm.

FRYMIRE: And there were studies being made about how to adapt the University of Louisville in some way to, within the state system. Uh, that, I think that was going on later in the sixties, and there was even some talk about U of L, about merging with, with UK in the late sixties, uh, if you can imagine that. (O'Hara laughs) That, that was, uh, more talk than reality. Um, I think U-, UK was very willing to take the responsibility for the community colleges. I don't think that Murray, Eastern, and Western really had the economic wherewithal or perhaps the interest to vie for the community college, and I can, I can give you, as we get later in 1968, I can relate that a little 00:27:00bit better.

O'HARA: Speaking of the regional colleges, um, there was, after the commission's report, there, um, in the past, I guess, I don't know how far after, but basically, there was some interest or some ideas floating around, I don't know how serious they were, that possibly the, they could divide the state up, and the regionals could have a couple community colleges each within their territory surrounding them. It, um, I was wondering if Governor Combs, when he decided to put those, put the uni-, the community colleges with UK, if he felt the need to give something to the regionals because they didn't get community colleges; like, uh, did they get extra funding or, um, or did they just 00:28:00get what they would normally get anyway regardless of the situation?

FRYMIRE: Um, Dr. Robert Martin, who became the president of Eastern Kentucky, later, University, was the Commissioner of Finance at, uh, under Bert Combs, preceding David Prichard that I mentioned earlier. When Dr. Martin was the Commissioner of Finance, he laid out a blueprint for construction to be done at Eastern State College, and when he left, when he resigned as the Commissioner of Finance to go to be the president at Eastern, he had all these building projects 00:29:00already approved by state government when we went there. There wasn't much else you needed to do for Dr. Martin at Eastern. Um, it had already been done for him, and, uh, he was, I believe that he was the one that, uh, crafted the law enforcement niche, uh, for Eastern, and they started to do all the training of law enforcement officers at, at Eastern--and I, I think that started during his time. So, while we're not necessarily talking about community colleges, programs may have been given as a part of whatever political compromise was going on at that time that I, I would not have known about but perhaps suspected.

O'HARA: Um-hm.

FRYMIRE: Uh, so that's an example of, of, uh, No, we don't need any 00:30:00community colleges. We're too close to UK. Uh, there's Lees Junior College to the east of us. There's Cumberland to the south of us. Uh, just give us these programs and these buildings, and we're okay.

O'HARA: And the sixties were, um, an age of major campus building.

FRYMIRE: Indeed.

O'HARA: At Western, I've seen the pictures of the sky rises, rise going up and, and all. So, so I think that's a very good point that, um--


O'HARA: --maybe it didn't go quite at the same time. It might have occurred a little earlier even.

FRYMIRE: Well, there was a, there was a little quid pro quo. Uh, if you did it for Eastern, you needed to do it for Western, and you did it for Western, you needed to do it for Eastern. They were sort of the balancing schools of comparable size. Murray and Morehead were sort of 00:31:00counterparts--

O'HARA: Hmm.

FRYMIRE: --each further from the state capital, and what I've observed in my time, the further you are from the state capital, the less attention people pay to you--(O'Hara laughs)--and probably less benefits come your way, fewer benefits. But, uh, Murray was, uh, and Morehead were slightly smaller schools than Eastern and Western, and they remain so today. And that's, that reflects their demographics of where they are and there are fewer people, so to speak, uh, but, but the schools, all of these schools back in the early 1960s were very small places, as was the University of Kentucky. It's not the, the mega university that you see today. It, it was, uh, University of Kentucky in 1960 was smaller than Eastern and Western, uh, are today.


O'HARA: So possibly the regionals, even if they had truly pursued at getting community colleges attached to them, may not have been able to handle it? I mean, they weren't, they had enough of a baby boomer population coming through their doors that they needed to deal with their own growth.

FRYMIRE: I, I think there, there was more interest from all of those schools on their campus than, than extension programs in, within a satellite area. Um, Glasgow was given a, a, uh, excuse me, Western 00:33:00was given, I think, the community college at, at Glasgow, at, at some point in time. That was with, determined to be within their, their jurisdiction, and Glasgow was, uh, put in the mix and, by the 1968 General Assembly, simply because Louie N-, Nunn was governor. He didn't ask for it, but the members of the legislature thought, Well, this would be a nice gesture because Governor Chandler had his, Governor Breathitt had his, and Governor Combs had his. (O'Hara laughs) By golly, Governor Nunn needs, needs to have his. (O'Hara laughs) So, we'll just lump it into the bill and fund it whenever we can fund it, but if you'll look at the statute, you'll see where Glasgow was authorized back in the 1960s even though nothing happened with it.

O'HARA: Was there just too much, why do you think nothing happened at the time? Do you think that there were too many community colleges popping up everyplace and they just--

FRYMIRE: Money was tight.

O'HARA: Money was tight.

FRYMIRE: Uh, yeah. Money was very, very tight. It's, uh, in the, in the sixties, the economy of Kentucky was, was pretty slow. Um, the 00:34:00number of automobiles that you see today up and down the road did not exist. Uh, the limited access, uh, parkways that we have, for most part, did not exist. They came into being in, in the mid-sixties. Uh, that's, that's when they were started and, and, uh, so there, the, the Kentucky that you see today was, uh, it was very rural, slower, less money. Um, uh, people really were not looking for a lot of satellite, uh, education centers in the early 1960s. They did not have the wherewithal to be able to, to support them.

O'HARA: What was the economy in Kentucky like when Combs came into 00:35:00office in '59? Was it tight or did they, they doing okay, or--

FRYMIRE: Very, uh, very, uh, slow economy. These were, as I recall it, the, the Eisenhower years, and it was peace and tranquility. Not much going on. Um, probably, uh, a house loan would, uh, be, uh, for residents, was perhaps 5 or 6 percent interest. Um, automobile may have cost, uh, maybe twenty-two hundred dollars, something like that for a new automobile, uh, not, you know, not top of the line, but, but a nice automobile. Uh, you could buy a nice three-bedroom home for sixteen thousand dollars. Um, a different, different world then than 00:36:00today, and I don't remember what the members of the General Assembly got paid at that time but it was, uh, not very good. I think we had a fifty-dollar a month expense allowance to help us. (O'Hara laughs) Contrast that with today's, uh, compensation package.

O'HARA: It's real important, I think, for my, for my study to attempt to see what it was like to live at, in Kentucky, during this time period because, the more in context you are, the greater understanding of the decisions that were made.


O'HARA: Um, so that, that was really interesting what you just told me about, yeah, uh, everyday living and an idea of how the state operated. That, that makes some of these endeavors like the Northwestern Center 00:37:00in 1957 going to, to the governor, at that time Chandler, it makes it even more significant because of the size of its community, and it got the notion of creating a community college. That was the first time that I have found that the term community college was used, and then Governor Combs used it, um, in his years.


O'HARA: But I, I find that terminology interesting because prior to that, UK used the terminology--within UK, they didn't use the terminology community college almost until Oswald showed up, even though it was in the legislation. They still called 'em university centers, um, even after the Community College Act was made, um, they kind of used both depending who was doing the talking. So I just find 00:38:00that idea interesting because at the same time, on a national level, the community college movement was beginning to build some steam, and I was, uh, I'm always curious where these ideas came into Kentucky at. And evidently, Henderson had a link.

FRYMIRE: In the, in the sixties, uh, from the colleges that their, their prime focus was on the mai-, their main campus. Uh, supporting, providing aid to an extension school was something they would do, but funding of that was critical. They simply did not have a lot of money, and you nearly had to go to the president of the schools and say, Can you provide a professor? And he would scratch his head a little bit and think, and, and uh, you know, we, we were fortunate in this community, 00:39:00as I mentioned earlier. UK provided help, Murray provided help, and Western would provide help, and those people would, would drive down. I'm not sure where UK's, uh, contribution came from, but they would be on the road. And this, this was a, uh, you know, a two-lane drive over crooked roads to come and teach a night course at Madisonville, Kentucky, and that, that was, uh, you had to have a professor who was dedicated and willing to do that because that, that was pretty, pretty hard teaching in, in those days. And I, I don't know whether other things were going on at, at other places around the state, but, um, I'll tell you whenever you want me to about, uh, about Madisonville at some point in time.

O'HARA: Sure. Go ahead. Yeah. This will be a good time.

FRYMIRE: Let me take a break and--

O'HARA: Sure.

FRYMIRE: --get some more coffee. Would you like--

[Tape 1, side a ends; tape 1, side b begins.]

O'HARA: Mr. Frymire, uh, you were, uh, mentioning, uh, Madisonville 00:40:00and the establishment of a community college here after the cooperative extension. What happened to the cooperative extension when--

FRYMIRE: The cooperative extension, uh, grew, um, and numbers were added each year, and, um, so from the sixties, in the early sixties, uh, it, it was beginning to grow. And as it grew, there was talk within the community that we should have a community college designated for, for Madisonville, and a group of citizens, uh, was formed at that time. I'm not sure who did the forming, but you had the, the usual suspects that, that were a part of the committee and that included, uh, the Mayor of Madisonville, David Parish, who was a very strong, 00:41:00uh, political person; uh, the county judge at that time who was Hubert Reid, uh, who was not that strong politically but he was county judge. Uh, Dr. Loman Trover who was, uh, headed up the Trover Clinic and who was, uh, an important businessman and strong advocate of education. Uh, John Gray who is, uh, with the West Kentucky Coal Company, which is the area's largest employer, and he was sort of their front man, their, their PR guy, their community-relations person. Uh, Edgar Arnold, Junior--(clears throat)--who was the, uh, the editor of the Madisonville Messenger. You always needed to have the press--

O'HARA: Yes.

FRYMIRE: --on, on your side. Ethel Baker, uh, who was a partner of Baker-Hickman Department Store, which is the largest, largest retail 00:42:00store, in town, and Ethel was, uh, a very good writer and a very, very smart man and, uh, he later did some freelance writing and, and, and that sort of thing. Um, Mr. C.I. Henry who was a vice president at the Kentucky Bank and Trust Company, which was the largest bank in town, and Mr. Henry was a strong alum of Western and had been the school superintendent and principal, so he had deep roots in education. I was a part of that committee by virtue of the fact that I was the State Senator and, and that was important to have your State Senator included. Along in the mid-sixties, the Council on Higher Public 00:43:00Education, and I think that was the name at that time. I think it had public in there--

O'HARA: It did.

FRYMIRE: --Higher Public Education--

O'HARA: Um-hm.

FRYMIRE: --issued guidelines or rules that said if you want to be a community college, here are the criteria that you must meet. That was the first time that that had ever been said before. Up until that time, there had been no criteria to become a community college. It was whatever the governor wanted. Uh, if the governor wanted one, he got one. I'm not suggesting that changed, but as for all the other people that did not have a governor come from their community, there needed to be some set of standards, some guidelines. We took their guidelines, 00:44:00and, and those included that you had to have, uh, demographics that would support a community college within thirty miles or forty miles, I've forgotten what the commuting, the commuting distance--but you had to demonstrate that you could support a community college with, with the people and the assets and that there was a need. So, we sat out this local group to comply and to demonstrate that we were worthy in Madisonville, Kentucky, of having a community college, and we put together the written document thing, and did all of these things, and it was primarily authored by Ethel Baker and Edgar Arnold, Junior, who were the two, two writers of the group. We, uh, s-, submitted it, and then we appeared, our group, representatives of our group, appeared 00:45:00before the Council on Higher Education and made our presentation. I was spokesperson, uh, for the, for the group, um, and i-, I remember that Ed Prichard, Prichard--

O'HARA: Um-hm.

FRYMIRE: --was a member of the Council on Higher Education. I don't remember the other names, uh, but we, we appeared before them, made our pitch, and they gave us their blessing. I don't recall if they gave it that day, but anyway, in time, we, we received their blessing. One of the things, uh--so that, and, and I think that Madisonville was the first community college--

[Pause in recording.]

FRYMIRE: --for all I know, perhaps the only one ever in the history, uh, to, uh, to, to meet the guidelines established by the Council on Higher Education. So we did that, and then that set the stage for going 00:46:00to the 1968 General Assembly with a bill to create the Madisonville Community College. Uh, I was majority floor leader in 1968, so I had a little, I had a little bit more going for us than, than most people would have, and, uh, so we, we introduced the bill. Then, as always, other communities said, Well, we, we would like to have a community college as well, and one of those communities was Carrollton, Kentucky, which, uh, Carrollton had not done any of the things that we had done to prepare to go through the Council on Higher Public Education. Now they had a, their Senator, uh, was Tom Harris who represented that 00:47:00area. He was a good friend of mine, and Tom said, "I want you to include Carrollton in the bill," and I nearly died--(O'Hara laughs)-- because I didn't want to start adding things to, to that bill. Um, it's pretty difficult to explain to somebody why you should have something and they shouldn't, and you can explain to them why you have done all the, you, you've met the guidelines and you're entitled and they haven't done anything and they are not entitled. That's, that's a difficult explanation to make.

O'HARA: I can imagine.

FRYMIRE: Well, as it turned out, members of the General Assembly really didn't care much one way or the other. We, we were going to get our bill, we were going to get our community college in Madisonville, and they really saw no harm in adding Carrollton because Senator, Senator 00:48:00Harris was a very nice person--(O'Hara laughs)--and why not do that for Senator Harris? Besides that, if you put it in, you didn't have to fund it. Uh, you can put the name in, but if you don't fund it, it's never going to happen anyway. And if that was a good idea, well, then certainly you should not offend the Governor who is from Glasgow. You should include his hometown as well, even though they had not done those things to go through and be approved by the Council on Higher Education, and you don't necessarily have to fund it either. So, if you look at the 1968 General Assembly acts, uh, Madisonville, Glasgow, and Carrollton were all authorized as community college sites by the 1968 General Assembly. Um, there was, as a preliminary to all of this, 00:49:00there was concern within the community that we did not want to offend Western and Murray by asking to be a part of the UK community college system--

O'HARA: Hmm.

FRYMIRE: --because they had been very gracious.

O'HARA: Um-hm.

FRYMIRE: They had been very nice, uh, to Madisonville. They had provided instructors. So we had, this group that I identified earlier, had discussions. How are we going to handle this from a diplomatic standpoint? How are we going to tell Kelly Thompson--

O'HARA: Yeah.

FRYMIRE: --over at Western and Dr. Woods down at Murray that have been so nice to us that we really want to be a part of the, of the UK system? How, how are we going to do this? So--(clears throat)--what we 00:50:00did, we, uh, selected about, uh, three people to go see Dr. Thompson and another three of our group to go see Dr. Woods and to ask for their blessing. Uh, I recall going with two or three others to see Dr. Kelly Thompson, and I've forgotten who went to see Dr. Woods, but we went in. Uh, Mr. Henry was in the group because he was an alum of, of Western. It was thought that he would, he would be good, good to go. And so we explained our purpose, that we were there, we were not, uh, uh, being ungrateful, that, that we did not not appreciate what they had done for us, but we were deeply appreciative. But we, we saw this as the next step in the growing of a community college for, for 00:51:00Madisonville, and we thought that it would be, be appropriate to do it under the auspices of the University of Kentucky Community College System. And, uh, Dr. Thompson was very, very gracious, um, and, and simply said, uh, "We've, we've been pleased, uh, to have been a part of your growth, and go in peace."

O'HARA: Really?

FRYMIRE: "You have our, you have my blessing." (clears throat.) So it, it was, uh, there was no hostility. There was no acrimony of any type. Uh, it was, uh, and, and I, I think there was more collegiality at that particular time than exists today.

O'HARA: Um-hm.

FRYMIRE: It, it was, it was a more peaceful time. People were not quite 00:52:00as strident as they are today.

O'HARA: Well, that's, that's an interesting story with, uh, with, uh, having Kelly Thompson--


O'HARA: --um, his reaction.


O'HARA: Soon after that, I want to say maybe in, uh, '69, I've had others mentioned, maybe in '69, early seventies, the issue with regionals--the issue of UK having governance of the community colleges came up again in, uh, in reports. Um, the blue (??) report was put out by the Council on Higher Education, um, in '69, actually, and, uh, so, there started to be questions of, of UK governing the community colleges. Were you aware of, of those talks in the late, late sixties right after you-all became a part in the early seventies? Did--


FRYMIRE: I may have been aware. I, I don't, uh, have anything that stands out in my mind. Um, again, life was different. It, things moved at a slower pace. There wasn't that much money involved. There were no big buildings going on, uh, you know. Our first building that we got for the community college was a, a struggle to get that, and, uh, so it, uh, I d-, I don't, uh, I don't have any recollection of any strong effort to wrest the community college system from UK. Uh, there could have been talk, um, that could have originated at Eastern, 00:54:00Western, Murray, and Morehead, but sometimes when there's talk, it's a bargaining chip to heighten the awareness of, UK is getting this. They're getting all this money. What are you going to do for me at Richmond--

O'HARA: That's a--

FRYMIRE: --at Morehead, and Murray, and Bowling Green?

O'HARA: A good point. (laughs.)

FRYMIRE: So, s-, sometimes the, the talk that you hear--

O'HARA: Um-hm.

FRYMIRE: --is a little bit of a smokescreen because I, I really didn't sense that anybody wanted to take the community college system away from UK in the '69 to '70 time frame.

O'HARA: That's interesting. That gives me some insight on to--


O'HARA: --maybe how higher education politics worked. (laughs.) Very 00:55:00interesting. The decision to place a co-, the community college system under the state's flagship and land grant institution was considered unique across the nation. Um, how did Kentucky's development of public two-year colleges compare to the expansion of community colleges in other states in the 1960s? I don't know if you all did, if you were involved in any studies or were familiar with other state systems. You mentioned Georgia earlier.

FRYMIRE: The, um, I don't know that we did a study. I, I, I know in the, uh, fifties, um, I was stationed in Texas with the military for a time, and they had huge community, what they called junior colleges in Texas, uh, scattered around the state. Uh, these junior colleges played football. They had football teams. They had, uh, from, the name of 00:56:00the town will come to me, Victoria Junior College had a dance team, uh, where they took girls in their Texas outfits that appeared on national television in the 1950s and '60s. Uh, television was just starting, but the-, these were halftime performers. So Texas had a huge junior college system. I, I, uh, my wife and I took an adult education course in Corpus Christi, and they had the Del Mar Junior College that had about four thousand people involved, and this is in 1955.

O'HARA: Wow. Were these state-funded institutions?

FRYMIRE: Uh, I'm sure. Yeah. Yeah. And then California had a very 00:57:00large junior college, community college system, and I think they all later ripened into four-year programs. So, I don't recall in those, those years very much at all about states to the north and to the south of us with community colleges. They may have had them, but I just don't recall hearing about them.

O'HARA: There were, there are different types of systems. Almost no two states are exactly alike in the way they structure their higher education sector. There might be a couple, but for the most--


O'HARA: --part there's, there's a lot of variety. There are some trends, though. One trend was, um, that was familiar to, um, North Carolina and Florida, was an independent board, that idea. Um, it 00:58:00was, they were the southern leaders next to, uh, California probably, and, uh, possibly Texas. I'd have to check on that. So they had independent governance boards, and i-, in the sixties, North Carolina had a separate system for their technical institutes and their community colleges, but in the sixties, they merged those systems together, which is more what we have in Kentucky now. On the other side, Indiana did not, it only has, had, at least until recently, one community college. It didn't create a system of community colleges. Instead, it created, um, branch campuses, four-year branch campuses, of the university system, and what I thought was unique about Kentucky was that initially UK was crea-, creating branch campuses, but they 00:59:00made sure to limit 'em to the first two years. And they did not have four-year programs, and then a-, and then they did convert those into community colleges under the flagship university, which is, is unique, um, but because Kentucky's flagship institution and land grant institution are the same thing that's, that's sort of the story. So I, I find it, I find it fascinating to look at these other states and see where Kentucky borrowed its ideas from.


O'HARA: Critics have attacked the UK Community College System since, partially, you know, some critics, since its conception and then in more recent years, um, we've been aware of it. What do you consider to be the benefits of having one governance structure for the, the state's flagship and land grant institution and the community college system? And then what do you consider to be the drawbacks?


FRYMIRE: I think, um, things evolve over time. So, and things, circumstances change over time, and you start into a system of governance, and you see no particular problem with that system of governance. And then, as the institutions expand and ripen and change their missions, um, sometimes then you have to go back and take a look at whether this is the right system at this time for these institutions that we have. I think Governor Patton had the right side of the issue when he thought it would benefit the state of Kentucky to separate 01:01:00the community college sys-, uh, system from the flagship and further to merge the technical programs and the community colleges. Uh, I think that was the right thing to do. Uh, I think it took con-, considerable courage, on his part, to do that, and it took, uh, some con-, considerable political skill to, to cause it to happen. I, I think, uh, one of the things that had happened, uh, that cried out for separation is that the University of Kentucky Lexington campus was using the political clout of the community colleges to accomplish 01:02:00whatever budgetary needs it had on the main campus back home in Lexington. That didn't necessarily work its way down to benefit the local communities, but members of the General Assembly understood that if they wanted to improve, improvements on their campus, that they first of all had to get the blessing of the President of the University of Kentucky. Uh, the President of the University of Kentucky then said, "You support me on these programs, and I will support you in your local community." Uh, I think under President Wethington this got 01:03:00carried to its ultimate worst case example that you have, and for that reason, I think the Governor reacted to it and said, "We need, we need to have the community college as a freestanding, uh, group with, with their own governance, and we need to separate them from the University of Kentucky," uh, to which probably Western and Eastern and Murray and Morehead said, "Hallelujah, thine the glory. That's what we've been telling you for all these years." (both laugh) So, so, uh--(clears throat)--that, that, that was done. Um, I think, uh, that anytime you separate a system, you've got to be very, very cautious about whether you don't increase, create a new administrative monster that is 01:04:00expensive to support and maintain, uh, that is, is worse than what you had before.

O'HARA: Um-hm.

FRYMIRE: That's hard to do to, to maintain that oversight, and people of the, within the General Assembly today, it's difficult for them to have the knowledge that it would take to be able to act, uh, incisively on dealing with a budget for the community college system. I, I think that, uh, that separation was timely; separation from the, the community college system from the university. Um, I mentioned the merging of the, melding together of the vocational-technology schools 01:05:00with the community college. What was going on all across Kentucky is that they, the community colleges and the vocational-technology centers, were competing; offering the same courses in the same communities. They had turf battles going on, and the Governor was wise enough to say, "We're going to stop this. We're going to, we're going to pool our resources. Uh, we're going to have, get rid of the, the, uh, du-, duplication. Uh, we're going to have, uh, a system when people come out of the community college that their credits are accepted at any state university, uh, in, in the state," because what was going on is that, uh, certain of the schools would say, "Well, yeah. You had Economics 202, uh, at, uh, the community college, but 01:06:00that's not acceptable. Your Economics 202 is not as good, is, doesn't, is not acceptable to Western. We, we can't receive your credits. So, there have been some, there's been some order brought out of chaos. Um, how long we will stay away from chaos, I don't know. (O'Hara laughs) But that was, needed to be done.

O'HARA: That was very informative. Are there any questions that I have not asked that you wish I had?

FRYMIRE: Well, uh, I'll volunteer something. I, I just, I, I think the community college system today is a godsend, uh, to--(clears throat)--to this community, and, uh, we have, uh, uh, a person can live in Madisonville, which is in many ways remote to a lot of places 01:07:00even though we're on two four-lane roads that bisect the place. We're ninety miles from Murray. We're ninety miles from Western and, and Bowling Green. Um, we're fifty miles from Evansville, if you want to go across the river to a four-year school, but today in Madisonville you can, uh, for a limited number of, of, uh, degrees, uh, you, you can do all four years at Madisonville. You can get a degree in elementary education. You can get a four-year degree in nursing, and we have a huge nursing program that's, uh, done through the Madisonville Community College. Uh, Murray is very large on the Madisonville Community College campus, and they offer these third and fourth-year programs. And, uh, the community college is so vital 01:08:00in this community, as to provide educational opportunities, and, uh, I'm, I'm, you know, I'm excited about what they do and--(clears throat)--and what Murray does is, uh, I think they get caught up in it, too, because they, they are, we, we have, I don't recall the number of Murray graduates that we had this last, uh, May who never left the Madisonville campus, but it's a considerable number.

O'HARA: That's great.

FRYMIRE: And growing. And what our community college does here, it branches to other counties within our area, and we have a branch in Muhlenberg County. We have another branch in Crittenden County. It's sponsored out of the Madisonville, uh, Community College ar-, 01:09:00area, so you're putting out, uh, education opportunities, uh, through the community college to these other, other towns that are, I guess, Marion, Kentucky and Crittenden County is maybe three thousand people or twenty-five hundred, and then in Muhlenberg County, it's a county of about thirty thousand population. So--(clears throat)--they, they have enough people there that, and they have a, a very attractive building.

O'HARA: Um-hm.

FRYMIRE: Uh, it's beautifully done. It's, uh, located just outside Central City, and, uh, so they, they have a very active community college program that is mana-, managed, uh, from Madisonville. So it's, it's all about providing education to our undereducated Kentucky population, and it's alive and well; and doi-, doing well 01:10:00in Madisonville.

O'HARA: Sounds like quite a network.


O'HARA: Going in both directions.


O'HARA: Excellent.


O'HARA: Well, Mr. Frymire, thank you so much for your time.


O'HARA: You've really, um, informed me of, of the history of Madisonville, and, and, uh, your role as a legislator in the '62 Legislative Session gave me some insight into how politics works in the General Assembly, and I appreciate it--


O'HARA: --very much. Thank you.

FRYMIRE: Okay. You're welcome.

[End of interview.]