Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Darvin Allen, June 20, 2006

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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HERDMAN: The following is an unrehearsed interview with former State Representative Darvin Allen who served from 1968 to 1972. The interview was conducted by Catherine Herdman, for the University of Kentucky Legislative Oral History Project on Tuesday, June 20, 2006, in the office of Mr. Allen. Good morning, Mr. Allen.

ALLEN: Good morning, ma'am.

HERDMAN: First, I want to get into a little bit of background. Can you tell me about your parents and where you were born and raised?

ALLEN: I was born and raised in Magoffin County at Royalton. My parents was Herbert and Loretta Allen. My dad had a small grocery store and hardware store. I went to Truly (??) Royalton High School. That was the last year I believe it existed. I went to--about that time, Korea came along. I was an enlisted rather than be drafted. And I spent 00:01:00four years in the military.

HERDMAN: What years would that--

ALLEN: That would have been about 1950 through '54. We were--

HERDMAN: Okay. Did you serve in Korea?

ALLEN: I was in Korea thirty months. I was with the Ninety-Eighth bomb crew and we did reconnaissance, cleared for top secret. We would identify targets and go in and knock 'em out and then go back and see that we got them. Then, after it was all over, I came home and I went to college.

HERDMAN: You were there thirty months continuous.

ALLEN: Yeah.

HERDMAN: Wow (??) and where did you go to college?

ALLEN: I went to Morehead State University. After I did my undergraduate work, I went into graduate school and I took some courses at Eastern that they didn't have at Morehead and a few at UK. But I 00:02:00graduated from Morehead with both B.A. and M.A. degrees.

HERDMAN: Okay. What were your impressions of your education at Morehead?

ALLEN: Morehead's an excellent school. It has--at that time, it was known as Morehead Teacher College and it went into the university system. Of course, I went to Lees College before that, which was a private school. I am now trustee on the board at Lees, and we are now a part of the university system.

HERDMAN: Okay. When did that change come about with the university system?

ALLEN: Two years ago. And that saved us. We were in financial--well, we was hard straits for funds, no question. Now it not only helped us, but it helped the students because the tuition is much less, and now 00:03:00we're moving into, you know, four-year program, so.

HERDMAN: Well, that's good

ALLEN: It was only a two-year program when I went there. And then, of course, I went to a New Mexico Western Teachers College in Silver City, New Mexico.

HERDMAN: How'd you end up out there?

ALLEN: Well, I was in the Air Force then.


ALLEN: And we did--they gave us some training and educational training and we was--

HERDMAN: Once you got back from Korea?

ALLEN: No, that was on our way.


ALLEN: That's, I guess, why I ended up in reconnaissance and that was a part of the program.

HERDMAN: Um-hm. Thinking about your childhood and growing up in this area, what do you remember doing for leisure and were you--two questions--were you raised any particular religious values?

ALLEN: Well, yes. We, you know, my family was always involved in the 00:04:00church. We, in my elementary years, I went to the Kentucky Mountain Gospel Crusade Center on Puncheon Creek, which was established by Byron and Jewel Smith. They were from Pennsylvania. And, quite frankly, you know, I couldn't say enough good things about them. Many young persons would have gone without clothing or food had--welfare programs weren't in existence.

HERDMAN: So you feel like the church was more carrying than the role of the government was at that time.

ALLEN: Yep, sure was.

HERDMAN: Okay, and what about fun time? Do you remember games, or did you have a lot of neighbors, or?

ALLEN: Oh, yes. We had, you know, my wife and I was talking just a few days ago, we made our own games. We didn't--our radio was a battery radio. We didn't even have electricity out there at that time.


HERDMAN: When did you get electricity? After you got out of the service, or?

ALLEN: No. I was a teenager then. Before they ran the lines out through the Licking Valley RECC. But we made our own games. We would make stilts, walk on stilts. We would play ball in the community, all the kids come together.

HERDMAN: And so you lived fairly near other families?

ALLEN: Oh, yes. It was a very populated area.

HERDMAN: Probably with your dad being at the store, too, that probably served as a place that people came and went.

ALLEN: Right

HERDMAN: So, how did you meet your wife? Is she from there, too?

ALLEN: Well, she was a neighbor. We played--we grew up together. Of course, when I went in the service, she was still in high school. I remember while I was overseas, I had her picture, and I had the--they would paint on silk, portraits if you gave them. And so I had this, we 00:06:00called them "papa-sans," painted her picture on that silk, and I said "I'm gonna marry that girl when I go home." (both laugh) Of course, she's a young girl when I left; we'd never even dated. But it all happened that way. (laughs)

HERDMAN: Well, that's great. That's great that it worked out that way. Do you have any children?

ALLEN: I have two children. One son he's an attorney, locally. He's just been elected county attorney. One daughter and she is managing the Kentucky State Employment Office at Prestonsburg. They have--each one has--I have two grandchildren. My daughter, my son's daughter is a doctor now.


ALLEN: The one I just mentioned Leslie and she was married last month, and there we were down in Florida. She had to get married on the beach. (Herdman laughs) And my grandson will be getting married this Saturday. And his fiance will be going into pharmacy school. She'd 00:07:00been accepted either Cincinnati or Charleston.

HERDMAN: You mentioned earlier, before we were on tape, that you felt like young people needed to come back. Do you think the opportunities are there for that to happen?

ALLEN: Well, we have always been exploited (??) as saying opportunities aren't there.


ALLEN: We got to make those opportunities. And if our very best leaves the region, which has happened, it drains us of that. So we're left with the untrained and unskilled individuals. Right now, if Toyota should build a plant here, they would have to train their people. I learned, even when I was--my last position was commissioner of 00:08:00employment services in Frankfort.


ALLEN: We had twenty-seven statewide offices and like eighteen hundred employees and we had a budget of about $287 million, 100 percent federally funded, through the Department of Labor. That's why Toyota came to Georgetown because--I wasn't there; Jim Daniels was commissioner then--they put the money in to entice them to come. It's the greatest thing to ever happen to the state.

HERDMAN: So you feel like those federal funds were used in the right way in that situation?

ALLEN: Absolutely.

HERDMAN: A lot of the argument about, especially Eastern Kentucky, is federal funds come in, and where it ends up going isn't always beneficial for the community. So you feel like industry or a big plant like that that would bring in a lot of jobs was a good--

ALLEN:--well, it's proven. You know, look at the growth in Georgetown- -well, in Frankfort, Lexington, Georgetown area, you know. And we have 00:09:00people here that drive every day. They'll get up before daylight, they work at Georgetown. I'd say we've got probably fifty employees from this county. So it has made a big difference.

HERDMAN: Yeah, that's a good commute.

ALLEN: But for some reason, growth doesn't come east of Winchester.

HERDMAN: Do you think that's political, or sort of a--?

ALLEN: Well, probably, I would say we haven't marketed ourselves enough. We have the resources. We now have the roads. The roads have been built. This road needs to be four lanes, Patton promised to do it, and he didn't do it. But I think it will be done, in time, it has to, from Campton to Prestonsburg.


ALLEN: Roads is the key to getting industry in. Then there's got to be some recreation. Well, we've got the golf course at Prestonsburg. 00:10:00Now, you've got that mega center at Pikeville that he did build up there, which is one, you know, almost equal to the convention center in Lexington. Gorgeous building.

HERDMAN: What about things like movie theaters and that sort of stuff, is there anything around here?

ALLEN: Well, you know, not really. That's not a big item. We got to, we--

HERDMAN: You still have to drive to one of the main cities.

ALLEN: Right, you've got the Mountain Arts, which one, a great investment, and we get some outstanding entertainers. That's in Prestonsburg.

HERDMAN: ----------(??)

ALLEN: Yeah, and it serves the area. And the Expo Center in Pike County now it can accommodate extremely large ones. It's about as nice a building as you'll ever look at.

HERDMAN: When you served in the legislature, what counties did you actually represent?

ALLEN: Well, initially, I represented Magoffin and Knott County. Then, 00:11:00they came out with this reapportionment.


ALLEN: And we had redistricted because of the population in the area. Then I picked up Knott, Magoffin, Wolfe and Menifee County, which was a long--I was--as far as population wise, I was one of the districts that had too many. I guess I gerrymandered it for my own benefit, as most legislators did.

HERDMAN: Especially if you had multiple counties. It seems for a long time the county system was a big deal, so when you had one person representing different counties--

ALLEN: Yeah. Um-hm. But then, what happened, they threw that out. That we had more than and I remember John Swinford who was floor leader then, and his dad Mac Swinford was federal judge down in Harrodsburg. And he said that, you know, "We got to get it down to 00:12:00about less than 1 percent." Well, we argued, and I remember this that when we passed that redistrict again, I did not like to split counties. We did, I ended up with thirteen counties, and Letcher County, but we were there all night, you know.


ALLEN: But then the courts came out later on, said that we could have up to 7 percent deviation. And again, it disenfranchises those people in that district, and I don't like it, and I think it's wrong.

HERDMAN: Like they have less representation?

ALLEN: Absolutely.

HERDMAN: So what made you decide to get into politics in the first place? Is it in your family, or?

ALLEN: Well, I suspect we'd always been somewhat involved. My brother, who passed away while he was in office about ten years ago, he'd been 00:13:00county chairman of the party--I'm a Democrat--he was elected county judge. And my wife's cousin was a sheriff, and another cousin was a circuit court clerk. And we'd always, family had always been involved some way or other.

HERDMAN: Um-hm. So you were involved in the party, and they asked you to run, or did you volunteer to run?

ALLEN: No, they didn't recruit me. I just--what had happened, Knott County outvoted us. And--

HERDMAN: ----------(??)

ALLEN: By population, absolutely. They outvoted this county. So we hadn't had a representative probably in twenty years. I thought, we decided that was going to change. And obviously, they went along with it.

HERDMAN: Now, from what I understand, because Kentucky is so heavily Democrat, the primary is a lot of the times where things are decided. 00:14:00Did you run against someone from Knott County in the primary?

ALLEN: Oh, yeah, yes.

HERDMAN: That was one? (??)

ALLEN: Each and every time.

HERDMAN: Who was that? Do you remember?

ALLEN: Well, I had Casebolt (??), Junior Casebolt (??), and I had--let's see, Adams. There's two of them that helped sort of split that vote up.

HERDMAN: How did you campaign? What was the most effective strategy ----------(??)?

ALLEN: Well, no. We had--and I loved it then. We would stump-jump, so to speak. You would go to like, in Knott County, they had--well, they've got thirty-four precincts but they had CID centers where they would come to, and we would--the county chairman would kind of referee, and we would have about a five-minute speech, and then we'd have a rebuttal.

HERDMAN: Now, is that just primaries? So all of the candidates?


ALLEN: Yeah, yeah, well, all you have is primaries.

HERDMAN: Okay. (laughs)

ALLEN: There wasn't--I believe my first race in Knott County, there was nineteen registered Republicans.


ALLEN: So, you didn't have enough to even sit on the board.

HERDMAN: Yeah, wasn't even a race--


HERDMAN: --at that point, wow. So is that pretty much the extent of the campaigning since they would have county rallies.

ALLEN: We'd have rallies. It was a--I guess, the most effective way, and I remember what Judge Cornett said to me, he said, "Darvin, you win elections by wearing out shoe leather, going house-to-house." And I did that. I would sit down and talk to people. And to me, that's much better. Now it's changed. They'll file their name. They'll buy a few spots on TV, newspaper ads, and radio. They don't go out and meet the 00:16:00public. If they weren't home, I would always write a little note on a back of a card, and stick it in the door to let them know, leave my number. And it was very effective.

HERDMAN: It's much less personal at this point, that's definitely true. How did your time in the service affect your political career? At that time, did it help you out that you'd served in Korea?

ALLEN: Not really, I was just a young fellow, only about eighteen, you know.

HERDMAN: It was quite a few years later that you actually ran for office.

ALLEN: Yeah, yeah, it's probably six years after that.

HERDMAN: Yeah, was '67 the first time you ran?

ALLEN: Um-hm.

HERDMAN: Or, did you run and not be able to--so you were elected the first time out on the block.


HERDMAN: Well, that's good. What was your initial view going into the Kentucky General Assembly? Did it seem formal, organized? What your colleagues like?

ALLEN: Didn't know what to expect. (Herdman laughs) I thought, to be honest with you, I thought that I could move mountains. I think my 00:17:00constituency thought that I could bring the capital to Royalton. But I learned mighty quick, if you didn't have fifty-one votes, you couldn't do much of anything. You had to work together, and it became--it's an exclusive club. A lot of camaraderie between legislators. If you gave a man of your word on something, you kept it.


ALLEN: And when you went in caucuses--Democrats had their caucus, the Republicans had their caucus--you bound yourself in caucus, you better never break that.


ALLEN: I think that they're a little more independent now in that respect.

HERDMAN: Did you feel like most votes went along party lines, that way?

ALLEN: Yes, yes, for both parties.

HERDMAN: Um-hm. And what about the regional identity? A lot of Kentucky, people who talk about Kentucky politics talk about Eastern Kentucky, the Bluegrass, and Western Kentucky having different caucuses 00:18:00regionally.

ALLEN: Um-hm, right.

HERDMAN: Did you find that to be true?

ALLEN: We did this--and this was during my tenure--Louisville has one- fourth of the state's population; consequently, they had one-fourth of the House membership. They had twenty-five members out of a hundred. So, when they vote, and when they would caucus and vote as a block, we had a problem.

HERDMAN: Did they generally do that?

ALLEN: They did do that; they stick together pretty, pretty--and what we did, we worked with like the Northern Kentucky legislator, the Fayette County, and I don't know--we became very close friends and we promoted some of the things that they wanted to do, there was a trade-off.


ALLEN: Our interest, of course, was coal and roads. Those were the two--and education, those were the three things. We were able to break that up somewhat. But in the end, the Golden Triangle controlled the 00:19:00General Assembly.

HERDMAN: Um-hm, okay. What about the role of the Governor at that time. I believe you served first under Nunn.

ALLEN: Oh, that was--that's interesting.

HERDMAN: Yeah. (laughs) I'd like to hear about that. For one thing, Nunn is, as you well know, one of very few Republican Governors. And I was reading a little on him, and I read that he deliberately used, of course like they would, divisions in the Democratic Party to split them and managed to get 'em into office, but it'd be very interesting to know your--

ALLEN: He was a very shrewd, astute politician. And a nice fellow. But I learned this--it is much easier for me as a Democrat to serve with a Republican Governor than it would be with a Democratic Governor, for this reason: your demands at home from your constituency was few because they knew that you didn't have much input. Jobs is always the 00:20:00big one. You see it going on now. We did it then; we've always done it. To the victor goes the spoils. We're going to hire our friends. The next administration will do it. But with Governor Nunn, he, I remember the sales tax vote in particular. I had passed a concurrent House resolution to establish a new vocation school. It has the effect of law, although I couldn't fund it because it had to be in the budget. If there was a bill that had budgetary implications, then the Rules Committee, the Committee on Committees--we had fourteen standing committees and the Committee on Committees, the Rules Committee, which was made up of the House leadership. Well, I happened to be appointed by Julian Carroll on that. I was one of those members. Anything that 00:21:00had budgetary problems went to that committee, and that's the graveyard for it. Well, of course, Julian helped me; we passed this one out, but we didn't attach a funding for it. Well, when the 5 percent sales tax came along, and you know, had gotten known as "Nunn's Nickel." It was the orders of the day and that evening, I remember, it was about dark that Alex McIntyre was his legman with the General Assembly, his liaison. He came up and said, "The Governor wanted to talk to you before he leaves." I said, "Okay." Well, I stopped in his office, and we sat down for a casual spell. He said, "Darvin, I'm counting noses 00:22:00on that vote tomorrow,"--that's on his tax bill--and I said, "Now Governor, you can't count this nose because I made a commitment to my constituency and I've gone back and read my statements that I wouldn't vote a further expansion of any tax base. And if I vote for that, I've broken that commitment. And I've got to go back and live with those people. I've got nothing against you, and I want to work with you, but I can't vote for that." He had a--he had a short temper. His face got extremely red, and he's a dark, dark-complected fellow, handsome man, and he just looked at me, said, "I'll tell you one thing, you can forget about your vocational school." Well, I guess I got a little mad. (Herdman laughs) I said, "I'll tell you this, Governor, you can 00:23:00stop it now, but we'll build it when Wendell Ford's elected Governor." (Herdman laughs) And that even made him redder. (both laugh) So, I don't think I was ever in his office after that. Of course, we fought, we fought it, and it did pass, and probably, look--in retrospect, it was probably the right thing to do.

HERDMAN: Um-hm. Did you find yourself in that position between the constituency and what you felt was right thing to do with the negotiations?

ALLEN: Oh, yes. Yes. They called--see, they know every--they know a whole lot about you. They know the nerve centers to touch. They called the superintendent of the school; I was with Title I Programs. I taught and I coached and I was with the board of education. The superintendent calling me, and just, you know, family members, and friends, and my brother, and just a whole host of people calling you, 00:24:00trying to persuade you to vote for it. Yes, it put a great deal of pressure on me.

HERDMAN: How often did you meet at that--cause they've changed now, I think, how often the legislature meets?

ALLEN: We meet biennium, and not that, of course, they have annual session, and I have mixed feeling about that. You know, they sold it on the idea that you wouldn't run a business, a corporation with one board meeting a year of your trustees. But I don't know that it's been that effective. You notice they didn't pass a budget. There again, if you got the legislature and the Governor is of the same party, things run smoother. Now, when Louie Nunn's term was up and when Wendell Ford was elected, the pressure was greater on me then because everybody 00:25:00expected a job. They expect--so that's why I said it's easier the other way. But, I got things done whereas before I was unable to move a whole lot.

HERDMAN: Now how often did they committees meet between sessions?

ALLEN: Well, the interim committees was a great improvement, and that one of the improvements in legislature. Because what happens--and I was chairman of the health and welfare committee and vice-chairman of the education committee--and of course you call a meeting at the discretion of the chairman. The chairman had life or death control over every bill that came in his or her committee.

HERDMAN: So the chairman could bury a bill, if they--

ALLEN:--absolutely, you didn't have to post it. But here's what happened. The difference now is that independence that the legislature has now become an equal branch of government.

HERDMAN: When did that, when do you think that actually happened?

ALLEN: Well, it sure didn't happen during Ford's administration because 00:26:00I'll tell you what we'd do--and this is interesting--I would get everyday a sheet from the Governor's office that said, "Hold this bill, kill this bill, or pass this bill." We went right by the sheet.


ALLEN: So, if I didn't post the bill, and somebody was in the membership of the House really wanted that bill, they could try to take it away from you, but they had to have fifty-one votes on the floor of the House. That never happens. It never will happen. You just don't do that.

HERDMAN: Because they'd be going against the Governor--

ALLEN: Right. Well, against other members.


ALLEN: So, once--if the chairmen don't want to post the bill, it'll never pass out of that committee.

HERDMAN: And at that time, the chairman went by what Ford sent on the 00:27:00list, is that right (??)?

ALLEN: We got a list every day. So the Governor had complete control over the General Assembly. Now that's good in one respect because we got the right information. We knew, you know, if we had more budget input; he gave some budget input. But again, it made us a stepchild to the executive branch, which should not be--

HERDMAN:-- ----------(??)--

ALLEN:--should be an independent branch of government, representing the interest of the people, and now it's that way.

HERDMAN: Do you feel like it's more like that?

ALLEN: Yeah.

HERDMAN: Yeah, that's definitely one of the highlights as far as been doing research for this project that I've noticed that's come up. What would you say were the major issues before the General Assembly? You said for your region it was roads, infrastructure, and jobs. What did the other regions--what were they looking for? Because that would have been during--I guess what I am asking is, on the national level, issues 00:28:00like civil rights, or the Vietnam War, things that were going on during the time that you were in, did that affect the General Assembly, or was that kind of distant?

ALLEN: Well, not really. We did have the open housing bill. And Representative Hughes from Louisville, he was a black that sponsored the bill.

HERDMAN: Um-hm. Um-hm.

ALLEN: But, the equal rights, you know, had not really--it was not an issue. I think that one passed handily. There was nobody really opposed it. Nobody really stepped out for it. You had two--let's see. We had two blacks in the House at that time, Mae Street Kidd and Hughes. She was--they were both from Louisville.


ALLEN: And she really helped me. I had a judiciary bill that was 00:29:00realigning our judiciary circuit judge from not Magoffin to putting us with another county. Well, Ford did not want to get involved in it. So he pretty much put the monkey on my back.

HERDMAN: You mean for establishing a court, or what exactly was the bill?

ALLEN: No, the circuit--what had happened the local circuit judge being Mann, had beat John Chris Cornett in Hindman. John Chris then ran for Senate, and he was in the Senate. He put in a bill that would realign the judiciary district with Knott, and Letcher, and Magoffin and Johnson. Well, all of my constituency here in this county said, "No, don't do that." So, they had--it was in Judiciary Committee and so what I did, the sickle-cell bill. Mae Street Kidd had one in. She was 00:30:00black and it only applies to the black, and Senator Davis had one in the Senate. So they came together in the House in my committee, in the Health and Welfare Committee. So, I said, I got her in, Mae Street, I said, "Now listen, if you'll do this for me, I'll hold Senator Davis's bill and report out your bill on sickle-cell, and you'll get credit for it back in Louisville,"--they're both from Louisville--"if you'll line up the Louisville caucus on the judiciary and kill that judiciary bill for me." She did it.

HERDMAN: And it worked?

ALLEN: It worked just like clockwork.


ALLEN: That is, you know, you got to trade off like that, and if you've got something to offer them, they'll come along with you.


HERDMAN: Sounds like the negotiating of ----------(??).

ALLEN: It is; it is.

HERDMAN: (laughs) Now, let's see. What about the Louisville caucus? What were they attempting at that time to pass? What were their interests?

ALLEN: Well, it was mostly--it would run contrary to the rural legislators. I remember I passed the gun control bill. I happen to be a gun collector. I happen to believe in the right to bear arms. I think that's part of the First Amendment. But, the bill that I had was that a resident of Kentucky could buy a gun in the neighboring contiguous states without going through a dealer and it pass. It sailed through the House, and nobody opposed it, and it passed. Well, 00:32:00Peter Conn, who was a Louisville legislator and a good friend, had in a bill related to gun control, and he came to me and said--and a lot of times, we would do this--"Darvin, your bill did real well. I would like for you to handle my bill on the floor."


ALLEN: He'd help me with educational bills and other bills. Well, I said, "Sure, Pete, I'd be glad to." Well, when I read it immediately- -knowing you've got a stack of bills yah high--it actually was gun control. Of course, obviously, I was vigorously against that. So I had back up and I said, "Now Pete, I can't do that. I didn't realize what was in it when I told you I'd do it, and I got to fight it." So, of course, we killed it. But theirs was quite different, although it 00:33:00applied only to third-class cities (??).

HERDMAN: Um-hm. Okay.

ALLEN: But still, we didn't feel that would have been a popular thing. It certainly wouldn't have been in my district.

HERDMAN: Do you feel like that tension between urban areas and rural areas, it happens in counties too, like the county seat versus the outlying areas of the county? Or do you think it's mostly regional?

ALLEN: I think it's more regional.

HERDMAN: Yeah, the county seats don't really function as an urban center.

ALLEN: Well, now, we have moved a little bit in that direction of regionalization.


ALLEN: For instance, we don't have a jail in this county. This started in about the late seventies. We have a regional jail in Johnson County, which takes in Magoffin, Johnson, Lawrence, and some of the surrounding counties. So, regionalization is probably the way that we're going now.


ALLEN: Hospitals, medical clinic, same thing.


HERDMAN: You mean, for several--serving several counties?

ALLEN: Several counties come together with--but you got this problem. It costs too much to maintain. We've got one hundred twenty counties. Now, the logical thing would be to do is to bring together more, Morgan, Wolfe, Magoffin, and make one county, but, you know, the legislature will never touch that.

HERDMAN: Right. Sure.

ALLEN: Absolutely won't.

HERDMAN: So, do you feel like people in the region are going to have to drive too far for services, or is it close enough within the counties that?

ALLEN: If you've got good roads, you know, we're only about twenty miles from Prestonsburg Highlands Regional Hospital. We're about eighteen miles from Paintsville Hospital. Eventually maybe we'll get something; we got good medical centers, clinics.

HERDMAN: You have clinics here.

ALLEN: Two or three. So, yes, we've improved in that respect.

HERDMAN: Um-hm. When you were serving in the legislature, did you have another job? What did you do?


ALLEN: I was, of course, a teacher, and then, I went to--I was coaching.

HERDMAN: And you maintained all that?

ALLEN: Then I went into--I went into administration. I was with the Title I Programs in the superintendent's office.

HERDMAN: That was during the years you were in the legislature?

ALLEN: Yeah.

HERDMAN: What was your salary for serving the legislature? At that time?

ALLEN: Oh, that's interesting, I'm glad you mentioned that. (Herdman laughs) Because I think when we went in--I'm a quoting from memory--I believe we got fifty dollars a day in session, and I believe one hundred fifty dollars a month in between; it was ridiculous.

HERDMAN: You couldn't live on it. I mean it was good pocket change.

ALLEN: You could not. See, it kept a lot of good people from coming in.

HERDMAN: Some states are starting to go to fulltime legislators. Do you think that's--

ALLEN: You've almost done that now. With your interim committees has almost double. We had fourteen standing committees. Now you've got 00:36:00probably twenty-two. Because of the complexity of problems that's come up, it's broadened. Another thing that interim committee does, you could--it will take, if you do your homework, and they do, you get more input from the public on the main on an issue. You can have all those hearings. Each legislator now has an office. He has clerical staff. We didn't.

HERDMAN: You didn't have staff?

ALLEN: We did that out in the hallway. We didn't have any of that.

HERDMAN: You had no office or stuff--

ALLEN:--no, no--

HERDMAN:--in Frankfort at all?

ALLEN: No, no. Only the leadership had an office. Oh, we had a pool of secretaries and staff. Your LRC has pretty much doubled in staff. Jim Fleming was the director then. A super individual and, of course, 00:37:00Wendell Ford took him to Washington with him when he became U.S. Senator.


ALLEN: And you got highly qualified and skilled people in there, that helps you to have--for instance, if I wanted a bill passed in the next biennium--now the annual--I would do the hearings, all of the input from the public, so that when the session came up, it would pass early on, and you wouldn't have that logjam at the end of the session where we'd have to sit there half of the night until ----------(??) --

HERDMAN: --and do bill after bill.

ALLEN: Yeah, we did that.

HERDMAN: How often, how much do you think the bills are, were actually read? You were talking about having a stack of them. Does everybody read them, or?

ALLEN: It'd be impossible.

HERDMAN: Yeah. ALLEN: What you do, LRC, with their staff--and their staff has grown big time--they would prepare a legislative journal for us each day, and you'd have a synopsis of each bill. You could run 00:38:00down that but it'd be impossible. You could not do it. You've got to rely on other people to interpret it. Now, if there's one particular one, or one that you're interested in, yeah, you do it.

HERDMAN: What do you think it was like for your family when you were serving? Did you have kids at that time?

ALLEN: That--in retrospect that was probably one of the things that I had to sacrifice that relationship with my kids. They were growing up just young kids. My wife was a teacher. Of course, she stayed at home and kept things going, but I lost a lot of those early years. And I regret that--

HERDMAN:--when you were juggling legislature, your job?

ALLEN: I was gone all the time.

HERDMAN: And the kids?

ALLEN: I was--let's see. I served on the Post Secondary Education Commission. I was appointed to the Education Commission of the States. 00:39:00We traveled all over the country. As far as Hawaii to meet. That's made up of all of the Governors of the states as chairman. Then I was selected on the Rural Steering Committee with the commission, and I remember Arch Moore was the chairmen then, and he was running. We were meeting in Denver, Colorado. Governor Ford was supporting Governor Hall of Oklahoma. So he called me late that night, and there was five of us on there. There was a Katzenbaum; she was from New York. She was on that one, too. He wanted Hall to have the chairmanship. So, I got with her, and I said, "Now, if you'll do this, we will elect you as vice chair. You can do it. You don't have to be the Governor, 00:40:00and you'll be the first woman ever, but we won't use Governor Hall." Of course, we got Governor Hall. A very few--two years later, he was in prison. I don't know what he got into but he did. (laughs) But, anyway.

HERDMAN: So, you went to those committee meetings as Ford's representative, or you both went, and you kind of did the negotiating for him? How did that work?

ALLEN: You mean?

HERDMAN: Like the education committees that the Governors actually sat on.

ALLEN: Education Committee of the State(s)?

HERDMAN: Yes, um-hm.

ALLEN: It's still--I was--let's see. Governor had appointed someone in the office. I was elected by the General Assembly, I represented them. Then, he appointed two laypersons. Adron Doran was one of them; a padre from Ashland was the other. We met, you know, all over the country. What they did, they set policy. It had more effect on education at the national level than it did at the state level.


HERDMAN: Um-hm. Right.

ALLEN: But eventually got down to the state. We did the national assessment. That's when the interest, it showed that we were failing in math, science, reading, vocabulary. So that, it's a great institution.

HERDMAN: Definitely very important. Who were your friends? The most memorable people from the dates that you served? Was the other people from this region, or?

ALLEN: Well, when we went to Frankfort, Don Blandford--do you remember Don Blandford? You remember BOPTROT. And, I think that was wrong. I think that was blown out of proportion. And I'll tell you why. As chairman of my committee, I handled every piece of legislation that Kentucky Medical Association had dealing with health. They had their lobbyist, and I happen to think that the lobbyists do a lot of good 00:42:00since they informed the legislators, things that we wouldn't know about. And I, quite often, the eating establishment in Frankfort then was--what was the steakhouse? Well, it was the only one we had--anyway, it was the one outstanding steakhouse that we would go to, and I would set up meetings, the lobbyists would pick up the tab, and I'd ask the whole committee to come, and they would tell us. They would give us input. For example, the generic drug bill, which saves a lot of money for people, when it was first introduced, I opposed it. I wouldn't post it because I felt that if I went to the doctor and he or she wrote a prescription for a certain drug from a pharmaceutical company, that's 00:43:00what I ought to be taking. Well, I killed the bill and got a lot of bad publicity out of it. Really, I didn't understand the bill. They hadn't really sold us on it. The next time around, we did the work on the interim in between sessions; we passed the bill no problem.


ALLEN: And it was a good bill. But at that time and that's why I say I think they serve a worthwhile purpose.

HERDMAN: That was my next question.

ALLEN: Now they'd say it's unethical.

HERDMAN: Right about lobbyists. That's an interesting take on it. Because if you are busy enough, I mean you have a family and a job, and you're doing what you're doing in Frankfort, that they provide information to you. That's interesting take on it.

ALLEN: That's true, they do.

HERDMAN: Who were the major lobbyists you worked with? That was a good example, with the generic drug. What, who else was very active at that time?

ALLEN: Probably Sammie Zell (??) was one; he was with AFLCIO.


ALLEN: And again, they gone overboard with these ethics. You can't legislate ethics. You either have it, or you don't have it. I've 00:44:00got now sitting at home a beautiful little jewelry box and crossed it AFLCIO. They put one of those on every one of our desks. There was nothing wrong with that. They didn't buy a vote from anybody with that.

HERDMAN: Just a--

ALLEN: But it cultivated a good relationship.


ALLEN: Yeah, but one thing that, too, that had made the difference is the press. During my tenure, the press didn't pay too much attention to us. We didn't have to worry about it. KET would have a few cameras in there, every now and then. I remember J.R. Miller was state chairman, Ford was Governor then. I remember that we had a bill in, a banking bill that would let them cross county boundaries. The banking 00:45:00industry was big on this.


ALLEN: They were pushing it. A lot of money involved I'm sure. The Republican Party, the minority party, was playing it up as, they called it, "the turkey bill." And I won't ever forget this. (Herdman laughs) And not much was said in the press. When that bill came up on the Orders of the Day, someone, and--to this day, I don't know who it was, but it was certainly somebody in the minority party--slipped a big turkey in the House gallery and turned it loose. (both laugh) People diving over the bench, trying to get it. You know, the press never even picked up on that.


ALLEN: So we were--

HERDMAN: Nowadays, that wouldn't have escaped notice.

ALLEN: Oh, mercy's sake, they'd had cameras going, and, you know, we'd all been chastised, but that was the--the press really didn't pay too 00:46:00much attention.

HERDMAN: And you think that's affected the lobbyist.

ALLEN: Well, that's affected the legislator more, too, because the cameras are rolling all of the time, and when he's on the floor--

[Tape 1, side 1ends; side 2 begins.]

HERDMAN: Okay. You were saying, "the cameras were rolling all the time?"

ALLEN: Right, and, you know, you're sensitive to that fact, and you know it. I believe the only one that--Clay Wade Bailey was the chief news agency there. They had a little section in the capitol, a little hole in the wall. Every now and then, he'd talk to you, but that was it. So, it's changed it. It's made the legislator more conscience, more aware, more responsive than in the past.

HERDMAN: Back to the AFLCIO, what were their interests in this part of the state at that time? Because at that, by the time you were serving, 00:47:00the unions were kind of on the decline.

ALLEN: The AFLCIO had no--really, up here, we had the United Mine Workers.


ALLEN: We didn't--they didn't have any input too much. At all. Period.

HERDMAN: Right. How was the UMW at that time here? Were they very active in?

ALLEN: Yes, very active. There was a--

HERDMAN: There's high-publicized activity like--

ALLEN: Right.

HERDMAN: You know, further south.

ALLEN: You know, there was a lot of bloodshed when mines--I know when Ned Breathitt enacted the strip mine, there was a lot of marching on the capitol on that, and I remember, when he got the first strip mines law passed, but there was a lot of bloodshed back when the unions first came in and what was happening, too, and the unions really broke 00:48:00the company's grip on people. They owned them from the cradle to the grave. What they would do, they would pay them in--well, first of all, it was slave labor. Dangerous, very dangerous. They had to go up to a company doctor. They paid them a script, and they had to go to a company store. When they died, they buried them in a company cemetery, and the union broke that, and it was good.

HERDMAN: What were the major coal companies you were dealing with in '68 to '72?

ALLEN: Well, now, at one time, we had about sixteen companies in this county. Now we got two or three.


ALLEN: Probably Wolverine, Consol. Consol was a big one.

HERDMAN: Did they contact you directly in any sort of lobbyist format? Did you talk to them? Did they have a representative they sent to you, 00:49:00for the companies?

ALLEN: No, they didn't. They had--you've got a president-elect of the United Mine Workers.


ALLEN: They would send out literature but they didn't have lobbyists there.

HERDMAN: The companies really didn't--they just responded to the UMW?

ALLEN: They didn't, they would endorse a candidate. They would let you- -they would have a meeting, and let you would speak. They would--they always endorsed me. You know, although I was always for the working man, always, and my voting record went that way. But they always endorsed me.

HERDMAN: That's interesting. Was that a personal relationship, like why would they endorse you?

ALLEN: Because they thought, I was going to win.

HERDMAN: Yeah. (laughs) It would be--can't back a Republican--(laughs)- -not with nineteen. How many Republicans were in the House, roughly, the years that you served? How minor was the minority party?


ALLEN: Very minor. There was probably only about twenty-seven then. I mean, only about one-fourth.

HERDMAN: Where did they tend to come from? Within the state, I mean.

ALLEN: Well, I was thinking, geographically, most of it, central or west.


ALLEN: But you didn't have many from this area.

HERDMAN: I want to go back to national politics for a minute. Presidents? You would have served under Nixon. Did that ever trickle in, national politics, party politics, that sort of thing, or did it really hold itself to the state level?

ALLEN: Probably, yes. I'll show you how it comes in, and we're getting this even today.


ALLEN: Jimmy Carter was in, too. You remember when the energy crisis 00:51:00was there? The tankers was setting off the Gulf with plenty of oil waiting to get the price set. Jimmy Carter turned the thermostat down in the White House and freeze Rosalind to death, and everything, you know. Everybody talked, and then, we get a bill to roll back the speed limit to 55. We were against, everybody was against it. It wasn't going any place. Until we got a notification of the Department of Transportation in Washington saying, "You either pass this or you lose," I believe it was sixty-five million in road funds.

HERDMAN: And that changed who was against it. (laughs)

ALLEN: We passed it.


ALLEN: Okay, you had the same thing to happen, just recently. What was--yeah, on the seatbelt law. Now, seatbelt, I wear 'em. I happen to think they save lives. My partner was an undertaker, and he had 00:52:00a funeral home, and he said, "I've never taken a dead person out of a seatbelt." But, that should be my right. That's an individual right. And I think each time that--again, at the annual session, they come, they meet, they take away some of our rights, and that is wrong. But they had to pass that for the same reason. They got the mandate from Washington, telling them, "You either pass it, or you lose federal funding."

HERDMAN: What about the Democratic Party as a whole? Does the national party have much control over the state party or the local Democratic Party?

ALLEN: Yes, a great deal, although were a conservative state and we'll always be a conservative state. I was elected by the House to serve as a member of the State Central Executive Committee. Wendell Ford, during his tenure, and J.R. Miller was chairman, and we built a headquarters down there. We didn't have any place then.



ALLEN: We built that room. We made up the money and built it. I believe Ted Kennedy came down and we would, met down at Louisville, and went on the cruise. Adron Dorian told me he stayed all night with him over there with him over at Eastern, but. The position that they take, the national committee, is beating (??) the Democrats, is the hot button issues. The Republicans have been more effective in selling conservative values. They do it. And, by and large, they win. And that's why they're in the White House today. We deal with gun control, Al Gore, after he saw that the country's against it, and he gets out, you know, with a shotgun on his back.


ALLEN: People laughed at that. We deal with affirmative action, and 00:54:00those days, the times passed. It's time now to have a level playing field for everybody. We deal with abortion, and we deal with gays and lesbians. Those are hot button issues. And they'll get you beat. For some reason, the old liberal bunch out of Boston, New York has controlled the Democratic Party.

HERDMAN: So you feel like the Democratic Party in Kentucky is--

ALLEN: It's--

HERDMAN: It's fiscally liberal but socially conservative, is that?

ALLEN: We're conservative.


ALLEN: I'm a middle-of-the-road Democrat. Those issues that--and that's why this state went--it was in the red.


ALLEN: Simply because of those issues right, those four.

HERDMAN: Yep. Okay, let's do a little bit of looking back. What was 00:55:00your most satisfying accomplishment from your time, in the legislature?

ALLEN: Probably educational, some educational reform.

HERDMAN: Like university reform, or secondary, elementary?

ALLEN: Well, both of them. I won--it took me four years to get this one through. A teacher who had taught thirty years, if they'd retired after thirty years service, then take 5 percent deduction for each year that they were less than sixty-five. Teachers went in at twenty; they could retire at fifty, fifty-five. They shouldn't be penalized. So I had the bill that I fought for, it took three terms to get it through because they said it wasn't actuarially sound.



ALLEN: My bill would have let them retire after thirty years with full benefit regardless of age. We passed it.

HERDMAN: I guess that's a big improvement.

ALLEN: Yeah, yeah, it was. It was really great.

HERDMAN: Did your thinking change on any particular issues that stand out to you from when you thought you could move mountains to later on in your career? Any major issue changes?

ALLEN: Not really. You know, I developed or cultured a greater respect for the people in state government.


ALLEN: They're doing a good job. By and large, they're good people.

HERDMAN: Do you keep up with it generally now?

ALLEN: Yeah, sure.

HERDMAN: Know what's going on.

ALLEN: I think that--before, you know, you thought, Well, the people there are deadbeats, just marking time. That's not the case. You've 00:57:00got some highly qualified, skilled people dedicated and done a good job.

HERDMAN: Has that improved over time? For like, more education, more skilled people in office, do you think?

ALLEN: Right, absolutely. Same--and the legislature, by getting it savvied (??) up, got people that could--at the time I was there, there was only seven educators in the General Assembly.


ALLEN: Now, I think there's less, and I'll tell you why because it got other qualified people interested in it. You've got more lawyers probably than any other profession.

HERDMAN: Is that one--that's something I should have asked you about. What did most of the other legislators do, between '68 and '72 for their other jobs? Was it just farmers, or?

ALLEN: Oh, you had doctors, lawyers, farmers; you had all walks of life.


HERDMAN: Pretty well represented?

ALLEN: Yeah.

HERDMAN: If you were just starting over, would you want to run for 00:58:00office again? Was it something you thought was enriching to your life?

ALLEN: Well, I enjoyed it. It was a tremendous experience. I've made friends all across the Commonwealth. I can pick up the phone and call one in any county--if they're still alive. But, no, I don't think I would want to go back through it again.

HERDMAN: What about advising young people who would be considering going into politics?

ALLEN: We need young, capable people. I think probably my son went into political--local politics is rough and tumble--because of me. I didn't recruit him. I preferred almost that he hadn't.

HERDMAN: I was wondering if you were glad he did, or.

ALLEN: Because of, you know.

HERDMAN: Were you discouraged?

ALLEN: It moves him to a prose--he's a prosecutor now. There's a lot 00:59:00of--the biggest threat to this country today is drugs and drug abuse, and it's in all walks of life, and it's across the country, and he was dealing with those things, and I don't know what the answer is.

HERDMAN: What do you think is the best hope for improving the economy here in Eastern Kentucky? I was thinking--I saw a couple prisons on my way down here. That seems to be one of the new possibilities--

ALLEN: Prisons?

HERDMAN: --in the region and it's very highly, highly debated issue about whether that's the way to go or not.

ALLEN: Well, you've got to build them someplace.


ALLEN: They do bring in jobs. The one in West Liberty, Woody got, Woody May. Was a senator and my roommate; we were like brothers.

HERDMAN: Um-hm. And you think that was an improvement for that area?

ALLEN: It was an improvement. Yeah, yeah. Any structure like that, that employs a lot of people will bring in jobs.


HERDMAN: So, you feel like the key is just more jobs, and more economic development.

ALLEN: More jobs. Jobs, jobs, jobs.

HERDMAN: What did you think of Paul Patton? Because he is from Eastern Kentucky, and he also took that economic development, I mean, that was really key to at least his ideas of how to improve the state.

ALLEN: Well, Paul was a good person, good Governor, and he did a lot for the area but it's unfortunate things happened like they did.

HERDMAN: Um-hm. Yeah, that's definitely true. Okay, well, that's all I have. Do you have any other stories, or?


HERDMAN: Or, anecdotes you want to share?

ALLEN: None whatsoever. You've got my life story.

HERDMAN: All right. (laughs) Well, that's great. Thank you so much, Mr. Allen.

[Tape 1, side 2 ends.]

[End of Interview.]