Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Kenneth F. Harper, July 17, 2006

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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BOHL: I'm talking with Ken Harper. Mr. Harper, could you please tell me where and when you were born?

HARPER: Okay, I was born right here in Covington, Kentucky. January fifteenth, 00:01:00ninety thirty-one.

BOHL: Okay, did you grow up here?

HARPER: Grew up here, and I've lived here all my life. The entire time other than when I was in service, of course. Why, you know, I spent my time in Northern Kentucky, my work and everything.

BOHL: Can you tell me a bit about your parents?

HARPER: My parents were from here, although they were not originally from here. They were originally from up in West Lafayette, Indiana. My grandparents were railroaders. They moved down here because of the railroad during the Depression. They had some jobs open here, that sort of thing. So my parents, you know, the Depression kind of knocked them down a little bit, but sooner or later, you know, they got in the business. And they passed away. My 00:02:00dad passed away in 1966. My mother passed away in 1970. But long time residents active in the community, that sort of thing.

BOHL: Do you have any personal memories about the depression?

HARPER: Well, other than the fact that, you know, my dad was out of work quite a bit, and we lived with my grandparents, that sort of thing. Because of the Depression, you know, we just didn't have a lot at that particular point, and it took a while. I guess, we lived with my grandparents almost my birth until I was about four years old, and then we moved out in southern part of Kenton County and lived in a tenant house out on a farm out there for a while, 00:03:00and then moved back to the Latonia area, that's where we lived. My grandparents lived in Latonia. At that time, it was a separate little town from Covington. They finally merged, but lived out there until about'43. Moved to Fort Mitchell in January of '43 and stayed in the Fort Mitchell area from then on, so. Yeah, the Depression hit them pretty hard, and it took a while for us to recover, so to speak.

BOHL: Okay, did you have a radio when you were growing up?

HARPER: Oh, yeah. We had a radio the whole time, you know, when I was growing up, and when TV came in, we got one of those little tiny small TVs, you know, that sort of thing. 00:04:00But, you know, that was a rough era back in the thirties, and so on. But, you know, we didn't have a car until, oh, I guess about 1939. We didn't any kind of transportation. We had to do bus transportation or walk, whatever it took.

BOHL: What kinds of activities did you do when you were a child?

HARPER: Well, you know, when I say the normal play time, you know, with our friends in the neighborhood, but we played football and baseball and that sort of thing, but. Of course, we didn't have any computer games and all of that stuff that they have today. It was 00:05:00that way, and during the war, the early part of the war, my mom and dad worked in Wright Aeronautical, which is now GE [General Electric] in Cincinnati, and they worked there. I was home a good bit of the time unsupervised, so to speak, until we moved out in Fort Mitchell, and then I caddied at the Fort Mitchell County Club and that sort of thing and went to military school. They were able to save enough when. They both worked at Wright's and Dad was a foreman, and Mom was a supervisor, and they saved enough to send me to military school because they were gone so much, and it worked real well. So I graduated from KMI in 1948. 00:06:00Kentucky Military Institute, which was located in Lyndon, just outside of Louisville.

BOHL: Okay, where did you go to school before you went to KMI?

HARPER: I went to what they called the Tenth District Elementary School out in the Rosedale area, Latonia area and left there, went to Holmes Junior High for the seventh and eighth grades and then I went to KMI, starting in '44. And [I] graduated in '48 and then went to UK for three semesters, and got called into the Korean War. I was in the Air Force during the Korean War.

BOHL: So it sounds like education was something that your family really stressed for you.

HARPER: Oh, yeah, they stressed that, although I always spent three semesters. Again, 00:07:00money was an issue and only spent three semesters at UK, and by the time I got out of service, I was married. We had children, and so I never got back to college, so.

BOHL: What about religion? How important was religion for your parents?

HARPER: Well, they were religious. They were Presbyterians but I have converted to the Catholic faith. And religion was very important; my dad was an elder in the church, and all of that sort of thing. So, you know, it was very important to them, and it is to this day, as far as we're concerned, yeah.

BOHL: Did your family every discuss anything political?

HARPER: Oh, they were always political. When I was in-let's see-trying to think of 00:08:00the year when Wendell Willkie ran. I ran around the schoolyard with a Willkie button, so that gives you an idea. They were always Republicans, and I guess we always will be.

BOHL: Okay, did you participate in any extracurricular activities?

HARPER: oh, yeah, we were quite involved in Cub Scouts, my dad was a Boy Scout Scoutmaster, he had a troop, and they started the very first Cub Scout troop in this county way back there in the thirties at the Tenth District School. And so they were very active, I was active in the Cub Scouts and the Boy Scouts for a long while, and they were very civic-minded people. 00:09:00They worked on political campaigns. They worked in various fund drives, that sort of thing, as I've done over the years. And so, yeah, they were very community oriented, although most of their time, obviously, was taken up with trying to earn a living, and so on, since the Depression, that sort of thing. I started selling magazines door-to-door when I was nine years old; so that just shows you, I mean, everybody had a good strong work ethic and that sort of thing, so.

BOHL: When you remember about experiencing World War II on the home front?

HARPER: Well, here again, Mom and Dad both were air raid wardens, that sort of thing. So, you know, I was exposed to that, I was in Cincinnati, to that situation, and, of course, 00:10:00we followed the news considerably. I can remember we were going to go to a movie in Cincinnati when the announcement hit that, you know, the Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbor. So, you know, that was our life in many respects. Having Mom and Dad working at the aeronautical, you know, Wright Aeronautical, and my uncle, he came in and lived with us for a while, while he was at UC studying electronics there. Radio communication, that sort of thing and was some kind of a Navy program-I forget what it was. And so we had some members of 00:11:00the family that were in service, that sort of thing. So, you know, just like everybody else was at that time.

BOHL: Okay, you mentioned that you got called up to serve in the Korean War-

HARPER: Well, what happened was I-it's a kind of a funny incident in my mind.

BOHL: Okay.

HARPER: We were in economics class. At that time, I was in my first semester economics class at the UK Community College, which was located up here. And we were all- got in class, and a friend of mine walked in after I did and walked back and says, "Guess what just happened to me," and I said, "What's that?" and he said, "I just got my draft notice." I said, "Well, your birthday is five days before mine," and he says, "Yeah." And a whole bunch of us in the class heard him, and we left the classroom after the class was over. Walked down the street 00:12:00about a block and a half to the recruiting station. We all joined the Air Force. I got home, my draft papers were in the mailbox. So, you know, the timing-we knew the draft board signed off on my admission to the Air Force, and so I went into the Air Force rather than the Army, and so on. And spent-that was January 1951 and went to Korea. I was in Korea starting in November of '51 through November of '52, and then came back, went to South Carolina. While I was down there, we got married, and so that, that was in 1953, and so then. They had an opportunity for those who weren't going to stay in the service to get what they called an early out. So I got out at the end of October 1953 and went into business with my father and was in 00:13:00that business for-oh, let's see-from the end of 1953 until we sold the business in 1970, after they had passed away. So that's essentially it up to that particular time, when I was in Korea just north of Seoul.

BOHL: What kind of duties did you have?

HARPER: Well, I was supply and payroll clerk for the squadron at that time. I was an enlisted man; I was not an officer. I was airman first class, which was a sergeant in the Army. It 00:14:00was airman first class in the Air Force, so.

BOHL: Okay, how did you meet your wife?

HARPER: Oh, I met her after I had graduated from high school. She was still in high school. Through some friends. We dated-I guess, let's see,'48 until we got married in '53. So, with that little hiatus in the Air Force.

BOHL: Now you have five children.

HARPER: Five children, that's correct, yeah.

BOHL: Are any of them interested in politics?

HARPER: Not at all. Not at all. Not one of 'em are interested in politics. They're interested from the standpoint of a spectator, and a par [ticipant], you know. They all vote, that sort of thing, and they all express their opinion, but as far as running or participating in the 00:15:00political process, they just, in that sense, they don't do it. So I've got two of the grandchildren-they are my daughter's children-here today. So, you know, they all take an interest, but as far as running-now I did-our eldest son did serve on the Covington School Board for a few years, but then he moved out of state and has never got back in the political, well so.

BOHL: Okay. You mentioned that you were very involved in civic kind of activity.

HARPER: Yeah, that's essentially how I got in politics. I was not politically inclined. In other words, I had never intended to run for political office. That wasn't on my radar screen, so to speak, but I was involved in Rotary, Jaycees, cancer drives, heart drives, the Chamber of 00:16:00Commerce, that sort of thing. So I was completely immersed in community activities, and as a result of that, the head of the Republican Party in the county came to me and asked me to run because there were no Republicans holding office here in Kenton County at all or Boone County for that matter. There were a couple of Republicans, I think, from time to time in Campbell County, but for the most part, it was about three, four, four to one. In some instances in Boone County, it was higher ratio Democrats to Republican. Just Republicans didn't have any force in this county at all. I was the first Republican elected in this county in forty-three years, when I 00:17:00ran my first race in 1963, and so that just shows you, but it was the civic involvement that moved me into the political field.

BOHL: So can you tell me a bit about that first campaign? How did you know about campaigning?

HARPER: Well I was door-to-door. Strictly door-to-door. I mean, we didn't have any money. At that time, you know, it was unheard of that a Republican would run even, and so there wasn't much financial support. The only way to do anything then was to go door-to-door, and I became known for my door-to-door campaigns, which other candidates did not do in the Democratic Party, and it worked. I won my first race by a margin of over one thousand votes, 00:18:00and even though I was running against an incumbent. So I just kept doing door-to-door. It was low budget campaign. (laughs) I did door-to-door every campaign I ever ran, and it had a good effect, you know. It worked out, and then towards the end, I didn't have any opposition, simply because this had become the 63rd district that I represented and had been considered a strong Republican district, even though the registration was always Democrat. It was still a lot of Republican leading conservative people, and that's why Northern Kentucky is now really a Republican area because they're conservatives up here even when they were Democrats. But 00:19:00every time you registered to vote up here, the county clerks would tell you, well, you have to register Democrat because you can't vote in the primary, and that was what a lot of people did, up until the last twenty years, and then that just completely shifted over. That's, that's essentially it. It was door-to-door, and that's what worked, and then, of course, I was in for three terms. That was '66-'64, '66, and '68, and then after the '68 session, Louie Nunn asked me to come into the administration, and I started out as assistant commissioner of child welfare and I moved to commissioner of public information and then, Elmer Begley, who was secretary 00:20:00of state passed away, and the Governor appointed me to be secretary of state for the remainder of the term. Then I ran with Tom Emberton and Jim Host and Ed Schroering-we ran for Schroering for attorney general, me secretary of state, Host for Lieutenant Governor, and Emberton for Governor. We lost that race, and so then I got out and went back into the public or private sector and into the real estate business and, you know, went back in 1981. A friend of mine was holding this seat, Lou DeFalaise, and he was the state representative from this district, 00:21:00and when he decided to take an appointment from President Reagan as US attorney for the eastern district, then I went back in. I ran again and had a primary opponent and had a regular election opponent and was able to win. One of the things I was always fortunate about, at every election, I always increased my margin. My margin was never less than one election from the other. So that, that worked out real well. I had a real good working relationship with my constituents, and it's done me in good stead, you know. I was in the legislature for nine terms and in Governor Nunn's administration and had the privilege; as a result, I was assistant minority 00:22:00leader when Don Ball was minority leader in 1968. And Governor Nunn was, in my opinion, best Governor we've had, even to this day. He spent a lot of time working with Northern Kentucky, which we had, for a long time, been really ignored by the Governors and by the legislature. But Governor Nunn really spent a lot of time working with Northern Kentuckians and did a lot for us. One of the things I really liked about Nunn, though, was that he was so involved-he really loved children, and when it came to programs for children, and that's why I was in as assistant child welfare commissioner for a while, is because he really was promoting- 00:23:00we had, when the juvenile justice agencies under our jurisdiction in the Department of Child Welfare-which which does not exist to this day. Governor Ford did away with the Department of Child Welfare. So, you know, he worked hard doing things for children. I was really involved with the mental retardation area. I was on a committee in the legislature at the time that he became Governor that had done an investigation of what they called the Frankfort State Hospital. That's on the hill where the health department is now in Frankfort. But it was just a human warehouse. It was a miserable place. If fact, at one point, the heating plant went out, and 00:24:00they were using these gas salamanders in the wards, you know, to heat the place. It was just a human warehouse of misery. When we were campaigning, I asked Governor Nunn to do away with that hospital. We asked Governor Nunn for Northern Kentucky State College. Well, Louie Nunn delivered. He always delivered when it came to things of that nature, and it was a real pleasure working in his administration because of the attention he gave to this area. That university has been a godsend to us here in Northern Kentucky. I mean, you know, your mother lives in Cincinnati, you probably watched Northern Kentucky grow, and a major reason is that university. No question about that. So, but he was a great guy for kids. No question about it.


BOHL: You mentioned that you were very involved with mental retardation issues like that.

HARPER: That's right.

BOHL: How did you get interested in these issues?

HARPER: Because of friends of mine were involved with it. And they asked me to get on the board, and I became president of the Riverside School for the Retarded, served on that board, and then under state law, I was on the ad hoc committee that was set up, to set up these regional mental health agencies, which is NorthKey today up here. They call it NorthKey. But it was amalgamation of mental health agencies over an eight-county district, and I was on the ad 00:26:00hoc committee that set up the structure here in this district, this region, and I was on the board then, and I was on the group that hired the first executive director that we had. Joe Willett, who lives right across the road over here, and he's since retired, but I got totally involved. I was vice president of the local Kenton-Campbell Association for the Retarded as well, and I was on the state association for the mentally retarded, and, in fact, one of the first bills I ever passed in the legislature was-I would sponsor along with Foster Pettit-I think it was and who was from 00:27:00Lexington at the time. He was the Democrat, but I was the sponsor of the bill that set up the testing in the hospitals for what they call PKU to determine whether a child might, you know, have some down syndrome or one of the other mental retardation problems, and it was my bill that set that testing up in the hospitals. They still do that today, so. But I was really involved in that. We didn't have anybody in our family that was retarded. It was just one of those things that I got involved in and continued on, and I'm still a member of the local association, but not active anymore.

BOHL: Okay. Well, then, of course, with Northern Kentucky University, you've been associated with that. You said you went to the community college, I think-


HARPER: The community college was UK Community College see and that, when Governor Nunn-I was one of the sponsors of the bill, along with Art Schmidt and all the other Northern Kentucky legislators sponsored the bill that set up Northern Kentucky State College. So from that standpoint, I've been involved with it from its inception. I'm past president of the University Foundation, still on its executive committee, still involved very much with the university. Because it's such a great organization, in my opinion. We've got a great president right now too. Though truly, he's done a great job, so.

BOHL: Okay, and then since you talked quite a bit about when you were working for Governor Nunn in his administration, I understand that one day when you were secretary of state, you were acting Governor?

HARPER: Yes, um-hm. This was after the election was over, and Louie went on 00:29:00vacation. Wendell Ford went on vacation, and oh gosh-all of a sudden I am having a brain cramp here-the guy that was the president pro tem in the Senate. He went on vacation because he was the next in line for Governor, and so I served for a day as Governor. As secretary of state, I was fourth in line. (laughs) So, you know, I had that privilege for one day. The only thing I did was make a few Kentucky Colonels. (both laugh) So, didn't have to call the National Guard in or anything like that.

BOHL: Okay, so when you first were elected to state representative-



BOHL: What king of expectations did you have about what you could accomplish?

HARPER: Well, you know, everybody has great expectations of passing legislation, and so on, but also there was a realization. That I was the only Republican in this county, and at that time, we didn't have what they call Northern Kentucky legislative caucus, which encompasses about five counties here in Northern Kentucky that works together now. That came later. That came in my second time when I was in the legislature after '81, and so on. So everybody, we fended for ourselves, so to speak. I'd go down there with projects and hopes, and that sort of thing, and every other legislator here would do the same thing, and we were all vying for 00:31:00position. All vying to get our projects, or our bills passed, and that sort of thing. So expectations were great, but also the realization that we're not going to get a whole lot done, although I passed a number of bills in my first three terms that, you know, were helpful. In fact, I sponsored along again with Foster Pettit, I sponsored the first motorcycle helmet law in Kentucky, which passed, and was signed by Governor Nunn, and then they've repealed it since that time, which I think is crazy. But, you know, that's my opinion. So I got a lot of things done 00:32:00legislatively, and strangely enough, I got a number of projects done here. One of the big things I worked on, which had nothing to do with my legislative-let me put it this way. There was no legislation involved. Was the what they call Doe Run Lake here. We had a big problem with severe flooding of the Bank Lick Creek area, and a friend of mine in planning & zoning had done a study of the creek. They found that they needed some dams to hold back those flood waters because that Bank Lick Creek had three large areas in the Bank Lick Creek watershed that fed into the creek itself, and in severe rain storms, why, it just wiped out an awful lot of 00:33:00people in an area now that's full of industry. It's, you know, it's where I-275 crosses the LLL Highway, and so on. That area can flourish now because of that one dam that was put in, and I was able to get the feds to come in and do some studies, and they put some money in, and oddly enough, I was secretary of state at the time that it happened, but when they got just about finished with the study, they ran out of money, and they didn't have any budgetary money to come in until the new federal budget was approved. They came to me and said, they needed $10,000 to finish it. I went to Governor Nunn and Governor Nunn provided that money to 00:34:00finish that study, and hence you've got all this development down here because we were able to hold back that flooding situation. That's probably one of the biggest projects that we didn't pass legislation to do; it was just the fact that I had the right contacts and that sort of thing in order to get it accomplished through county government. The county judges at that time, they were a little resistant but we got it done. So that's one thing was real proud of because you can go down there now, and it's an economic engine for Northern Kentucky, for Kenton County. So, but we had good relationship in the first three terms. Things are a lot more contentious in the legislature now than they were at that time. I mean, Democrats fought Republicans, and vice 00:35:00versa. But, there was also a much more gentlemanly approach to the way things were handled and the way the rules were handled and that sort of thing. In those days, I had a great working relationship with Mitch Denham who was the majority party's caucus chairman, and we got along real well, and I was able to get a lot of things done as a result of that. We worked together more than we worked opposite each other. Now, when it came to philosophical bills, you know, obviously, I voted against it or voted for it, and they voted against it, whatever. But, in the late eighties, it got pretty contentious, and it's continued that way ever since, and I don't think just 00:36:00this legislature, but that's been kind of the situation across the country. As past president of the National Republican Legislators Association and I've seen how that change has taken place all across the country and even in Congress, as you probably have witnessed. But those days, we kind of worked together, and for many things, if it had to do-But, having said that, the first three terms the legislature didn't control its own destiny. That, that was controlled by the Governor, and it was controlled by the Governor up until John Y. Brown, and then, he kind of let the legislature-fends for itself to some degree, and that's when legislative independence 00:37:00really kind of took off. Because when I first went in, we didn't have an office, we didn't have committee rooms or anything like that, and things started changing towards the end of that period. Then before I got back in, we even had legislative offices that were cubicles, but it's something we had not had before. When I went in the legislature, if we wanted to have a committee meeting, we'd go into the cloakroom off the legislative chambers. Be in there, five, ten, fifteen minutes and pass bills out. But most of the bills were bills that the administration said we want. In fact, I can remember John Y. Brown Sr. standing on the floor of the House saying, "The Governor wants these bills. They've studied it more than we have. They know more about it, and so, therefore, we ought to pass it." That was the approach that was taken. Of 00:38:00course, a lot of us didn't agree with that, but that's the way it was done in those days. If we wanted to do any work, we either did it in our room where we stayed-cause we all stayed in rooming houses or the motels or whatever the case may be-and no office, or we worked right at our desk on the floor. We couldn't review or really question the budget that much. We held a hearing. But it was all for us, in the sense, that the budget was going to get passed whether we wanted it to or not, and we could question some things, and so on. The first time I think we really amended the budget was when Ned Breathitt was Governor in '66, and we got some 00:39:00budget amendments on some educational programs and increased the budget. But that was the first time I could remember that, we really had any sway but that was minimal at best. It turned out then at the end of the-they played a little game with the numbers, and at the end of Breathitt administration, we were almost the identical amount in the red, that we had put in the budget. So I mean, they played games with the numbers, that sort of thing. The Governors really kind of ruled the roost. Then in the eighties, when we started getting our independence and started having committee meetings, and then we went to what they called interim committee meetings where we combined both the House and Senate committees, say on A&R [Appropriations and Revenue], which I was on, we would examine the budgets in detail. I think 00:40:00that was a good thing. Things, as I said, started getting contentious between the legislators as a result of KERA. [Kentucky Education Reform Act] For instance, we had an arena in the budget for NKU, and as a result of that, all of the Northern Kentucky legislators voted in opposition of KERA, because of the funding, mainly because of the funding proposal within KERA that worked against the Northern Kentucky schools. So we voted against it and the Speaker of the House Blandford, at that time, and Kenny Rapier, and so on, the legislators took that out of the budget. We are just now getting the arena. The arena-they just broke ground on it and they are working on the arena now. So it took that long. That arena was shifted over to 00:41:00Murray State University, and as a result. That's when things really started getting contentious between the two parties within the House and Senate. Senate, you know, I heard some people make some comments here recently that because the Democrats control the House they control the budget. Well, that's not the case at all. The only thing that the House does is introduce the budget. It has to introduce the budget, and any taxing programs. The Senate has control of the budget-as long as I can remember, because if you can't get it through the Senate, you're not going to have a budget. So consequently, people have to understand what the difference is- sorry about that. That's got a timer on it-but you know, those things change over the years. 00:42:00But that part of it, the Senate still ends up controlling most of the budgetary programs. I mean, we do a lot in the House to question it, to revise it, that sort of thing, don't get me wrong. If you can't get it through the Senate, can't get their cooperation, you know, it's just not going to happen. In fact, we saw that I think a few years ago, when we didn't get a budget. Period. So that's-it's interesting. But those budgets used to be controlled by the Governor, and it got through. The tax-Louie Nunn got tabbed a 'Nickel Nunn' because of the sales tax, which was done in a large part to make up the deficit. Number one, came out of the Breathitt 00:43:00administration, and number two, to get the Northern Kentucky State College, and number three, to redo that Frankfort State Hospital, which they built down in Somerset. So, you know, those were big spending programs, and so we had to vote for a two-cent sales tax, and that didn't go over well with a lot of people. You know, Combs then enacted the three-cent tax, and then we got tabbed with the whole nickel, even though we only put two cents on it. But 'Nickel Nunn,' and then later it was raised to six percent. Any other questions?

BOHL: (laughs) Absolutely. When you were first starting out in the legislature, was there anyone help shepherd you around? You mentioned that-

HARPER: Yeah, yeah. You know, as I said we all roomed in various rooming houses, 00:44:00and I roomed down on Shelby Street and-a friend's house and one of the people in there was the Senate minority leader at the time, was Senator Wendell VanHoose from Paintsville, and Wendell and I got along real well. He helped me considerably on protocol, on the rules, that kind of a situation. How to get legislation passed. He really did help me for several years while he was still in the Senate, and we all roomed in the same house, and we became very, very good friends. Yeah, he helped me considerably. Then as far as my old contemporaries were concerned, Art Schmidt and I and Don Ball-Ball Homes-and Don, we were very close, and 00:45:00we worked together. I was assistant minority leader under Don Ball when he was minority leader when Louis Nunn was Governor. We worked hard together and was that relationship that really helped us with Governor Nunn. Because the three of us, along with Alex McIntyre, who was from Eastern Kentucky, we really worked closely with Louie and his campaign and then when we were in the legislature. So he was a-Wendell and Don Ball, so-and when you have people who are in the know like Don, and so on, working with you, you know, it really helps. Wendell was the guy that in the very beginning got me on the right tract, and I haven' thought 00:46:00about Wendell-

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

BOHL: How long did it take before you felt like you really had a handle on how to get things done?

HARPER: Frankly-after my first term, we often kid that it takes one term to find the bathroom. After the first term. Of course, when we first started-the other thing is compared to today. I mean, it's almost a full time legislative process; in other words, it's almost a full-time job. But at the time we started back in '64, you know, we were in for sixty days, and unless the Governor called a special session, we were done. We didn't do anything except maybe, constituents would ask for a few things, Kentucky Colonels, or a road patching, or a road job, or 00:47:00whatever, you know, and we would try to get some things done through the Governor's office at that time because there was no legislative process. That was quite a difference. Your first sixty days-we did have what they call a pre-legislative conference every two years and that took place in November or early December, prior to the legislative session. And at the time, when we were first in, our election cycle was different. We were elected in the odd-numbered year and went right into session. Sixty days, it was over. You know, you can't get much done in that 00:48:00length of time but I had a pretty good handle on how to get things done after that first term and was able to do some things in '66 and again in '68, especially when Louie was Governor, and I was in leadership in the Republican part of the House.

BOHL: Okay, as a new legislator from the Republican Party, how much interaction do you have with Governor Breathitt?

HARPER: Oh, I had quite a bit. Believe it or not, Governor Breathitt and I became good friends, I think. I'd get an audience with him. I didn't have any problem with that. Governor Breathitt was very open. I don't think they felt threatened by the Republicans, you 00:49:00know what I mean?

BOHL: Um-hm.

HARPER: Because we were such a minority.

BOHL: Um-hm.

HARPER: So, you know, we got good cooperation with the Governor. They came up here and tried to beat me, every time. That's the funny part-in the years that I was running, I wouldn't get invited to the Derby breakfast. The year that I wasn't running, I'd get invited to the Derby breakfast then. They would always invite my opponent, you know, and that's the way they did it. That was the way it was. Then after Louie became Governor, we always became, I mean, every Governor after that invited the entire legislature. But at that time, they used it as a political tool. You know, we don't want him down here, so to speak, because he is a Republican. 00:50:00I never took offense at it, but that's the way it was done. So I knew the process. (both laugh) And it didn't have any effect on my election. But that's essentially it.

BOHL: Okay, one of the big issues nationally in the mid-sixties was the civil rights movement and clearly, that affected Kentucky as well.

HARPER: That is correct. Governor Breathitt, of course, enacted the first civil rights bill in 1964, and I voted for it. I was a cosponsor of the open housing legislation in '68 when it was passed. Governor Nunn signed it. But yeah, I was cosponsor along with Don Ball of the open housing but Breathitt got the first one in '64. Then we cosponsored the open housing bill.


BOHL: (pause) Okay, with the Republicans being so outnumbered, at least on paper, how did the local Republican Party-that is, Republican organizations work?

HARPER: Well, I mean we always had our Republican organization and our chairman of the party and they always worked hard, it was just that we were low in numbers. We didn't have primaries up here. For the most part until just in the last fifteen years and really in the last ten years did we have a lot of primaries. So, you know-we plodded along. I got elected. Then 00:52:00Clyde Middleton got elected, a couple of years after that. Just step by step. And sooner or later, you know, we grew into a big organization because nationally, and so on, the Republican Party moved into the gap. It seemed like the Democrats in Northern Kentucky were always very conservative. When the Democrat Party on a national basis, and so on, started moving further left, well that left a lot of Northern Kentuckians without a party and they moved over to the Republican Party. A lot of that had to do with the issues of abortion, and that sort of thing, because the Republican Party supported the pro-life groups, and that's where northern Kentucky 00:53:00really stood-it still does for the most part. But the party, you know, we did everything that the Democrat party did, it's just that we weren't large in numbers. It had its effect until we started winning some elections. Once we started winning elections, then it started shifting. Finally, Clyde got elected. Of course Art Schmidt and I started together and Carl Van Burger(??), and so on, from over in Campbell County, and then we got Will Lawson elected in Boone County, and that started a change in Boone County. You know, it's just one of those things. But it took from the early sixties until just in the last ten years that we have picked up the strength that we 00:54:00have. Now we are largely a Republican area. Even a lot of the Democrats that are still registered Democrats still vote Republican. Unless it's a personality thing, they generally will vote that way.

BOHL: Okay. When there were conflicts between your personal convictions and what your constituents were saying that they wanted, how did you reconcile that?

HARPER: Well by and large, I didn't have that kind of a problem, except maybe where I was on budgetary issues. But I did what I thought was right and I wasn't a finger-in-the-wind legislator. I, you know, examined the issues. Having gone door-to-door, as much as I did, and 00:55:00knowing as many people in this district, as I did at the time, I was pretty well in touch with- because of all the civic organizations that I was active in, and that sort of thing, pretty well know what my constituents wanted. When it came to the two-cent tax my constituents didn't want that two-cent tax, but I voted for it anyway because I knew what it would do for Northern Kentucky. Those are the things you gotta do. You know, that university has been a big, big help to us, and as a result of that, Northern Kentucky, by and large through Louie Nunn. Got the new 00:56:00Clay Wade bridge. We got the extension of I-275, which has helped the airport considerably. Lot of those things were done. But, as I said, I generally know how my constituents felt, simply because of the contact from door-to-door and my community service. So I didn't have a whole lot of conflict, you know.

BOHL: How did your experience in the legislature compare with your expectations of what it would be like?

HARPER: You know, when I first got in, I didn't have any expectations because I really didn't know. I had never been there, I had never watched it work. I knew some people that were in state government, but I had never been, you know, participant. So my expectations 00:57:00were that I could do anything that I wanted to, within reason, I guess because I didn't know any better. I think Art Schmidt and all of us were about the same way, you know. We went down there; we were gonna change the world. So our expectations were that we would be able to do well. Many instances we didn't, many instances we did. So, you know, it was just one of those things. It's the experience that counts. Once you get the experience and then you can accomplish things. A lot of times-and this is what gets me-people seem to think that you have to pass a lot of legislation. Well, sometimes you're better off getting rid of some of the legislation. You get things done working behind the scenes once you know the inner workings of the government. At that time, when we first went in, we didn't know-you know, how to get 00:58:00things done. Didn't take us long to find out. But, you know, it's a matter of getting the experience. That's the only way I can answer the question.

BOHL: Okay. You say that things were getting done behind the scenes.


BOHL: Was that something taking place somewhere like Flynn's, or was there somewhere else that?

HARPER: Oh, you've heard of Flynn's. (both laugh) Okay. Yeah, it took place in Flynn's. It took place in other restaurants as well. It took place in side meetings, you know, with people who could be influential in getting things done. Yeah-lobbyists always had something to say-when I say, they always brought things to the table and we worked on, and that sort of thing. There were any number of ways. But, yeah, you know, a lot of things got done at places 00:59:00like Flynn's because that's where everybody gathered after the thing was over. They had a lot of legislative parties in those days, and wherever those parties were, people were always huddled together in various groups, talking about what needed to be done with this particular bill, or whatever. So, you know, it was that constant being together and interaction, where you got a lot of things done. If you had a good working relationship with certain people in the state government, you know, you got things done. Even though-regardless of what your party was. It's a little more difficult today in some respects, to do that.

BOHL: Okay, you mentioned lobbyists.



BOHL: Was there a difference in the role of lobbyists between your first stint in legislature and your second?

HARPER: Well, yes and no. Yes, in the sense, that in those days the lobbyists paid more attention to the Governor than they did the legislators. They did come up, and they did, you know, try to get us to move their way on particular pieces of legislation. For the most part, if they could get the Governor to say, "I'm for it," then they didn't have a whole lot of work to do. They would come up and try to work us on that. But when the legislature gained its independence that really shifted. I mean, of course, they had to work on the Governor to get him, if it were some budgetary things to get him, to get it in the budget, his budget. But they 01:01:00also had to work on us individually to see if they couldn't get us to go along with what they were trying to accomplish. But-we had a good relationship. They didn't control us like a lot of people seem to think. The lobbyists really didn't control us. There was a difference. Once the legislature got its independence, they had to work harder, much harder than what they did when the Governor controlled everything, as you can imagine.

BOHL: Who were the most prominent lobbyists?

HARPER: Boy, that's kind of hard to say. Generally, utility lobbyists were very strong. Your lobbyists from the various chambers were very strong. There were any number but 01:02:00generally, the utility lobbyists were probably the strongest lobbyists. They had a lot to gain and a lot to lose, you know, when it came to control of the utilities. So consequently, they were ever present.

BOHL: Okay, you mentioned that when you came back in '81, there was this Northern Kentucky regional caucus developing, much more cooperation-

HARPER: Well, there was cooperation, but it wasn't until-and golly, I'm trying to remember whether it was '84 or '86-right around in there that we actually formed the caucus. We, Democrats and Republicans alike, worked together on Northern Kentucky issues. See this is 01:03:00one of the things Governor Nunn had told us a long time before back when he first became Governor. He said, "Northern Kentucky's gotta get its act together. It's got to be more cooperation." Cause I was going down asking for projects. Others were going down saying, Don't do this project; do these projects. Campbell County was working against Kenton County, and we were both working against Boone County and et cetera. We were all kind of at odds. In order to try to get our projects in the Governor's budget, especially in the area of transportation you know, infrastructure, that sort of thing, that's where the big money was. So, we were kind of fighting each other, and as a result, Northern Kentucky wasn't getting anything. Finally, we realized this, and we formed a Northern Kentucky caucus. After that, Northern Kentucky started increasing its presence in the legislature with the Governors and that sort of thing, and 01:04:00things started progressing rather rapidly once we got our act together and the legislators got together and said, "Okay, we want this of NKU," or, "We want this for the airport," or, "We want this project for Northern Kentucky," and we all stuck together. Then things started happening to bring Northern Kentucky closer together and to bring our legislative and economic powers to the floor in Frankfort, and I think that's been an extremely valuable asset to Northern Kentucky, is that Northern Kentucky caucus. That was, I say the mid-eighties; I'm trying to remember exactly. I can remember the meeting-

BOHL: Well, we had a lot of discrepancy about that. Middleton claims that there was 01:05:00sort of a form of the caucus in the sixties, but it wasn't an official thing-

HARPER: No, there was nothing.

BOHL: Most of the others are saying it was-


BOHL: -around TANK issues with the trans-

HARPER: Well, that happened in the seventies, and that was where it was kind of unofficial, but the real formation of the caucus came together in the eighties.

BOHL: Okay.

HARPER: After I became a member-not because of me-but after I came back in is when the caucus really kind of jelled and became almost-well, it became a formal entity. We had a chairman. We alternated those chairmen between counties, that sort of thing. Yeah, you know, we got together, and so on, but kind of informally. That was back in the seventies. The 01:06:00TANK issue did have something to do, but I wasn't involved in that one. Simply because I wasn't in, you know.

BOHL: Okay, did you see much division with the other regions of Kentucky, like the mountain caucus?

HARPER: Absolutely. Absolutely. Each caucus had its own mission. Each caucus worked to get that mission accomplished. Sometimes, it worked against us, sometimes it worked for us because we were able to help other caucuses in what their mission was, and they would help us. So, it became a situation, I think, they saw the result that Northern Kentucky's caucus had such a beneficial effect, that they started this all around the state. Beforehand though, back in the early sixties when we first started, it was kind of haphazard, so to speak. There wasn't any 01:07:00cohesion. You know, Louisville was on its own and Lexington, Fayette County, was on its own, but-you know, it evolved as everything else does, changes. The caucuses, I think, have been a big help to the various regions. They get the message out much more clearly. You know, it's not just one person or two members of the legislature that are promoting a particular position or project. It's their entire caucuses getting together and saying, Okay, these are our priorities. That's extremely important-to know what the priorities are. The Governors can react much better as well, so.

BOHL: One of the things that is talked about a lot today and came up during your time 01:08:00in the legislature as well is the merit system.

HARPER: Right.

BOHL: What kinds of memories do you have of dealing with that?

HARPER: My memories were that-when we were in, they were out, and when they were in, we were out. The merit system-you know, we didn't try to-well, I don't know how I want to put this. There was manipulation in the merit system, all the way through. There always has been. They didn't have emails in those days. So, you know, things weren't as traceable. 01:09:00Where people transferred, they were transferred. When one administration went in, the group that wasn't for that administration years ago, they would all gravitate to some other part of state government. Then when new administration came in, they'd all gravitate back to their old jobs. It seemed like, it was just an ebb and flow. The only people that changed were the elected officials. The people who worked there, stayed there. They always knew how to protect themselves. I don't, you know-to think that you can't go in and have your own team run the show for you, makes it a little difficult. I mean, especially if they are all opposed to your particular point of view. But the only administration I remember, the Louis Nunn administration, 01:10:00there was never any indictments. That was the cleanest administration I think we have had, in all my time in politics. Now, you know, I'm sure people got jobs, because they supported Louie Nunn. Whether they were merit jobs or not, I don't know. Apparently, a number of Republicans who were in state government jobs, got in the merit jobs, during their time there, in order to stay in after the administration was over. But-most of us left when the administration was over and 01:11:00didn't try to stay in state government that respect. We didn't have the oversight of the merit system then, that we do now. That's the same way with elections. We have much more oversight of the elections, the financing of elections, and so on, than we ever did then. There was no oversight when I first went in, and now I'm on the board, commission that audits all of the campaign funds and various races. That shows you how times have changed, so.

BOHL: You've talked a bit about some of the Governors you've worked with, but what about some of the more recent ones that you've worked with, say Martha Layne Collins?

HARPER: Well, you know, I got along well with them and that administration. I got 01:12:00along with John Y. Brown's administration. The one reason I got along with John Y. Brown's administration is because we both went to the same high school. He was in junior school and I was a senior at Kentucky Military [KMI]. So I had known John for a long time. I knew some of his cabinet member real well. That were from up here, like Bruce Lunsford and so on, who was commissioner of commerce at the time, or secretary of commerce-I forget what his exact title was then because they changed a number of those. Martha Layne Collins, worked well with her administration, Breathitt administration. Governor Carroll's administration, he appointed me to economic development commission and so on. I was on the crime commission under Carroll and 01:13:00under Louis Nunn, or under Wendell Ford and Louie Nunn. So, you know, I got along with all of them. Wendell Ford and I had been friends before Wendell Ford got into the Senate. Through the state Jaycees, we were totally involved, both of us, with those and the state Jaycees and he had been president of the national Jaycees. We got along well together. Never had a problem with Wendell, and so on. We were friends with all of them. Carroll, had no problems with, and in fact, of course, he's in the Senate now. Let's see. Trying to think who else I served 01:14:00in some capacity, I think most of the Governors since Breathitt, through Breathitt. I've had good relationships with 'em, for the most part. Patton, of course, I was in the legislature when he was Lieutenant Governor, and Wilkinson, I was in the legislature, and we all worked well together. In the sense, we had things for Northern Kentucky, and I worked with the caucus on that. I never had a lot of problem with any one of the Governors. Quite to the contrary, I had good relationships with all of them, and I'm proud to say that.

BOHL: You were the vice chair of the tourism committee for a while?


BOHL: And you seemed very interested in tourism, obviously with this area. It's been growing a lot lately.

HARPER: Yes, of course, I was on the local tourism commission. Still am. What do 01:15:00you call it? (pause) Anyway, yeah, I'm still on it, by virtue of the fact that I have been on for so many years. I was director of tourism when I was in Nunn's administration as commissioner of public information. That was part of my job. So tourism had been, you know, a big issue with me over all these years because it was very helpful to Northern Kentucky, that sort of thing. I hold an emeritus position on it-I couldn't come up with that word. Yeah, tourism has been a big issue with me, and I think I got that largely when I became commissioner of public information. I really got immersed in tourism aspect of what was beneficial. It was our second largest industry at one time and very important to us. So yeah, I was always interested in it.


BOHL: When issues came up about the Northern Kentucky Convention Center-

HARPER: Well, I happen to be chairman of the Northern Kentucky Convention and Visitors Commission and appointed the committee to study that. I was totally involved in that. I guess that's why-of course, I was on Appropriations Revenue Committee to help get the funds in there for the study, and so on. I was out when we finally got the money to build the center, but I was still on the executive committee of the convention and visitors commission up here. I was appointed by a Democrat to be on this commission up here, who was the judge at the 01:17:00time. The convention center was very important to me. I worked on the legislation, as a member of the chamber, and so I worked with the members of the caucus to get the funding necessary for that program, and that convention center has meant a lot to this area. I mean, it's-it's done its job, and it needs to be expanded. No question about that. It was not easy getting it in the first place, but I did have the privilege of appointing the first study committee on the convention center, and seeing it through. I was very pleased with that. I guess that's why there's a room 01:18:00down there named for me and for Joe Meyer and Jim Callahan. Jim Callahan and I worked closely together on appropriations and revenue to see to fruition of that project.

BOHL: Another issue of contention during your time was gubernatorial succession.

HARPER: Correct.

BOHL: Where do you stand on that? What do you remember about that today?

HARPER: Well, I was always for it. I didn't see any sense in not being able to run for re-election. I thought gubernatorial succession was a good idea, quite frankly. There was an issue that-you know, I always said that if you had to stand on your accomplishments, or lack thereof, we have a better chance of getting a Republican in. Cause that was one of the things I 01:19:00always wanted to do. If you-we got in office with Louis Nunn because there was a split within the Democrat Party, and that's the only thing we could ever hope for. Is to get a split within the Democrat Party, and that did happen. Louie Nunn got in as a result of that. If a man can run for re-election, then he has run based upon his track record, and sometimes you can beat 'em on that. Others disagree, but I thought that's, you know, so I was not opposed to Governor succession. I had been opposed to some of the Governors.

BOHL: (laughs) Okay, toward the end of your term, obviously there was the whole 01:20:00BOPTROT scandal going on.


BOHL: Out of that came a lot of ethics and campaign finance reform, which really you have an interest in.

HARPER: Yeah, no question about that. I think while it was difficult-not ethical, but while it was difficult to transition to those changes, as far as dealing with the lobbyists was concerned and so on-and with your own personal business, that sort of thing-because legislators have to have another job. Sometimes it looked like that job could conflict with those ethics rules. So you had to be very, very careful. You were-you know, [you] had to be very, very careful about what you did. I mean, I'm in the real estate business. I ended up saying, 01:21:00"Hey, I won't do any state business at all. I won't even try to get state business," because I could've run afoul of the ethics legislation. That's just the way it is. Frankly, it's for the good. I don't have any problem with it. I don't have any problem with the legislation that set up the commission that I'm on now. Trey Grayson appointed me to that because my experience with elections, and that sort of thing. He appointed me to the board that audits those things, and that's all part of ethics on how you handle your campaign, funds, and that sort of thing. You just have to jump through the hoops. It's just better off for everybody if you do. So I don't have any problems with the ethics legislation. Just it was a difficult transition. I mean, when you're 01:22:00used to doing something one way, then all of a sudden having all kinds of barriers put in your place, it takes a little while to work through that. But it's worth it. It's worth it. I don't see any problem with it at all. If you're going to be unethical, you're going to be unethical, even with the rules in place. You're gonna find a way to do it, but I think that it's helped us all.

BOHL: Another issue around that time, just before, was the idea of allowing a state lottery.

HARPER: Now I voted for the lottery. Now, you're gonna say, "What about the issue of gambling?" I'm opposed to organized gambling. That comes from my background with having lived here in Northern Kentucky during the gambling era. I just don't think it's good. 01:23:00You know, if you can control, you go gamble and quit, that's fine. I don't want to see it become a state thing. In other words, I don't want to see casinos all over the place. Eventually, if they get to the race tracts, they're gonna get elsewhere. It will just creep up as everything does. So I opposed state gambling, but the lottery I felt would help education. At the time, I voted for it. It was pretty well controlled. Most people would get addicted to the lottery like they would the slots and the tables, you know, that sort of thing. Some, I guess, will and do. For the most part, 01:24:00it's fairly clean and straightforward. So I supported the lottery.

BOHL: Um-hm.


BOHL: You mentioned that you voted against KERA and that was a big-


BOHL: -controversy. Was it just the act itself, or what was your position about educational reform in general?

HARPER: Education reform, I was never against education. Quite to the contrary. But I felt the bill, the way it was set up and drafted, and so on, had a number of flaws, and I didn't think it was worth passing. Number one, because up here in Northern Kentucky, the funding mechanism was seriously flawed, as far as we were concerned. And I tell you what, most of the PTAs in this area and the teachers supported my position. I was, you know, re-elected easily. I 01:25:00didn't have any problem. I hated it that we lost the arena for Northern [Northern Kentucky University], but I wasn't going to change because I thought the funding proposal was really flawed. Also, I didn't believe in the health agencies under the KERA bill, as far as the kids were concerned. I felt very seriously that was taking a parent's-that we were taking more parental control in some of those areas. I was opposed to that, but for the most part, it was the funding mechanism that got out attention here in Northern Kentucky. I opposed it to that standpoint. And I opposed the additional taxes. Education reform, there had to be something done. But the idea that you have to throw a lot of money at it, and also it caused a reduction in the funds that we would get up here, I was opposed. Yeah, it was contentious, very contentious.


BOHL: This tape is about to run out, so I'm just going to stop and put in a fresh one before I start another question.


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

BOHL: Okay. How did your public service affect your family?

HARPER: Considerably. The fact that I was-when I was in the Nunn administration especially, I lived in Frankfort during the week and commuted on the weekends. Eileen and I, with the five kids, I mean she had her hands full. Campaigning all that time, that sort of thing, and I think that's probably one reason the kids aren't involved in politics because they had their fill of it when I was running. It's just one of those things that does happen. Sometimes the kids 01:27:00get involved and they want to run, but in this instance, why, I guess I was gone so much that they just didn't want political life, and so on. It does have a very definite effect on the family because it puts so much of a burden on the spouse. No question about that. She did a lot of campaigning and I did a lot of campaigning. It took an awful lot of time, probably away from the kids on occasion. You know, it's got some detrimental effects, as well as beneficial. I mean, we've done things as a family that probably we wouldn't have been able to do or have done, otherwise. So I mean, it has, you know, its tradeoffs as anything does. Probably took more out 01:28:00of my business than should have. You don't make a lot of money as a legislator-you don't make any money as a legislator. You can't live off what that is. The time it takes away from your business and depending upon your businesses, the ethical considerations we talked about a while ago, you know, it can be detrimental to your business. I always kid about the fact that in the real estate business, it's very, very competitive. I kidded the fact that all my realtor friends supported me for election because they knew I'd be down state. You know, I wasn't a big threat to 'em as a competitor while I was doing business down state. We kid about that. In some way, 01:29:00it's true because you just don't have the time to do, your other job that you would, especially when the legislative set up now where it's almost a full-time job, even though the pay isn't full- time.

BOHL: Would your family ever give you any input when you were debating issues?

HARPER: No. No, they kind of stay away from that. No, they stayed out of telling me what they think I ought to do, as far as that's concerned. No, that was my decision. Whatever decision I made, they lived with, so.

BOHL: How would you describe your political philosophy?

HARPER: Conservative.

BOHL: Um-hm. (pause)



BOHL: Okay.

HARPER: Yeah, it's conservative. I'm pro-life and all of that. (pause) I don't know how else to put it. But I am conservative.

BOHL: How would you say the needs of the people of your district changed over time?

HARPER: My district is, you know, a bedroom district for the large part. The Cincinnati area, the district is changed because the infrastructure has changed and because there is a lot more business on this side of the river than there was when I first started. Most of the people that were my constituents when I first started, worked in Ohio. Now, that has changed 01:31:00considerably. They all work around here, Northern Kentucky. That can be gauged by the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce. When I was first in the Chamber of Commerce- and I've been a member of the Chamber of Commerce since the fifties-so, you know, the Chamber has just changed immeasurably because of several things. Number one, this unity factor, you talked about the caucus. The chambers all worked, the Boone County Chamber and then the Campbell County Chamber were always-they didn't work together all the time. Once they merged, then the Chamber and through the efforts of the caucus, there was more economical development down here in Northern Kentucky, and so consequentially now, a huge 01:32:00Chamber of Commerce and a good portion of 'em are Northern Kentuckians who work in Northern Kentucky. That's different because the university is here. You know, they're educated here. They work here. We've had a lot of economic expansion here. So that's the kind of change that's taken place here in Northern Kentucky, as I see it. More people working on this side. But when I first ran, they all worked on the other side of the river, and so on.

BOHL: Do you remember anything that was particularly amusing that happened while 01:33:00you were in the legislature?

HARPER: Hm, boy, that's one I've never thought about. Well, I can't come up with one right now. Maybe later I might think about-I've never really thought about that aspect of it. Yeah. (pause) Well, I'll have to think about that one.

BOHL: Okay.


BOHL: Who would you say are your political heroes?

HARPER: Reagan, Bush, Senior, and this Bush. Lincoln, definitely Lincoln, as you can probably tell up there. I've done a lot of stuff on Lincoln up there. Lincoln, I think, was one of 01:34:00the real political heroes. Reagan-of course, I met Reagan on a number of occasions, as you can probably see. I've met Bush on a number of occasions, and so on. I've worked with the White House when I was with the National Republican Legislators Association. I worked a lot with the White House. Consequentially I got to know them. They, in essence, are my political heroes. Lincoln is the number one.

BOHL: What would you say are your biggest accomplishments from your time in Frankfort?

HARPER: Well, I've talked about the PKU bill. That to me was a big accomplishment. 01:35:00Helping to get the new hospitals in Frankfort, the NKU. The Doe Run Lake, the convention center, those are the things I was involved. They weren't my accomplishments. You know, because you can't do it on your own, but they were things I was able to get done because I had an input and I worked hard on those particular projects. Along with a number of others, because you cannot do-in my opinion, you cannot do anything by yourself in politics. So they're not your accomplishments alone. You don't get 'em done unless you're able to convince others and work with others. Helping to get-some may not agree with this-but helping to get the 01:36:00Republican Party on the road to success, in this particular area. Cause we just didn't have a big Republican Party, at all, when I first started. You know, some people may not look at that as an accomplishment. (Bohl laughs) But I do. Depends on your philosophy, but, you know. From that standpoint, I don't see that I've had any, you know, I became president of the National Republican Legislators Association. But that's because I worked with other people. I was able to be fortunate enough to, you know, get that kind of position. I look in all these things as being, you know, great, but none of it was because of me and me alone. So-I don't know how else to 01:37:00express it. But, yeah.

BOHL: Okay. You decided to retire in 1994.

HARPER: Correct.

BOHL: Why?

HARPER: Well, that's a good question. In fact, a awful lot of people asked that because they didn't think I could be defeated. Of course, a lot of them didn't realize that, you know, I was in my sixties at that particular time. But to answer your question, if I had felt then like I do now physically, I probably wouldn't have retired, at that particular time. I ended up with a heart problem, later on, but when I was sixty-nine. Apparently it was one of these things that was gradually, and I just had enough. So I decided that it was time for me to retire because 01:38:00number one, I had-I was still-a lot of people respected me. A lot of people felt I was doing a good job, and sometimes it's better off you going out at the top of your game than at the bottom. I also felt that if you're in too long, you begin to lose the steam. You don't do what you should be doing, and it was time for a younger person to get involved. Now, since I've had my heart repair and all that kind of stuff, I have more stamina now than I did in '94, and so maybe I wouldn't have gotten out. But at that time, I felt it was the right time to make a move. So that's 01:39:00why. A lot of people ask that. My wife will tell you she was glad I made that decision, so.

BOHL: If you were just starting over, would you want to be in office now?

HARPER: I tell you what-I'm not so sure. It's a mean world out there. While politics has always been rough, from the standpoint, especially campaigns, they're just downright nasty now. Instead of me running for office, so to speak, you're always seem to be running against the other guy. I don't know. I always ran for the office. I never, during my whole time, worked 01:40:00against the other opponent. I always worked to win the office, and today, it seems like everything is so negative. And even the media is so-I mean, they go down and research you to, you know, such an extent that no one, you know, can have a decent race anymore. I'd rather run the race based on the issues and my competence and not on, you know, someone else's inabilities, indiscretions, and that's what they try to find anymore on you. I just don't-so, to answer your question, yes, there is a desire to perhaps hold an office, but I don't know that I 01:41:00want to go through that kind of scrutiny. I can stand up to 'em. But I don't know that I'd want to go through it. The kind of examination that the media and your opposition would put you through, the kinds of things they say about you. It's just to me, it's very difficult. I admire the people that are willing to get out there and run under the circumstances, so.

BOHL: You mentioned that you were involved in national level party things. Why did you not run for a higher office?

HARPER: Timing. Timing is everything in politics. I was going to run in 1966 for-we 01:42:00had just re-districted in '66 session of the General Assembly and we finally fashioned a district, for Northern Kentucky, that a Northern Kentuckian could win. I was going to run for Congress from this district. The day before I announced, on that weekend, I, along with Gene Snyder and Buddy Thompson, went before the State Central Committee to let em see us because all three of us were going to run in a primary, for Congress. That was on Saturday. On Sunday morning, my dad passed away. I was going to announce on Monday. We had the press conference all set up, 01:43:00and I was going to announce on Monday. But when he passed away on Sunday morning, that left me to run the business. So there was no way that I could make a shift, at that particular point; so I did not run. Later on, I was going to run for Congress, but Jim Bunning announced that he was going to run, and he got Snyder's backing. I knew that running a primary against Jim Bunning was, you know, no question I couldn't win that. So-timing. I had thought about running for Congress on several occasions, but just, the timing wasn't right. That's the way it goes. (both laugh)

BOHL: Okay, what advice would you give to someone who was considering going into 01:44:00politics?

HARPER: Have a very clean background, number one. Based upon what I was commenting on before. Have a very clean background. Run your own race; don't worry about your opponent. Depending upon what the race is, door-to-door is still one of the best approaches to running a race, on a local basis. You can't do it on a national basis or a congressional, you know, that sort of thing. You can do a little bit, you know, but nothing to the extent you would do in a local race. But have a very clean background. Have a very good idea of what you want to do, with that particular office, and work awfully hard. Those are the things you gotta do, and 01:45:00that's the kind of advice I've given to others now. One party wanted to run statewide, and I told him before he run statewide, he ought to run and win a legislative seat, before he does that. So that he can get a lay of the land, understand what the state's all about, what the politics are around the state. Get acquainted with that and then run for state office. But running for a statewide office, without having ever run for anything else, for the most part is foolish, unless you got just one tremendous name across the state, because of whatever background you have. Business wise or otherwise. It's a very difficult deal to do-this state is so diverse, you know, 01:46:00Eastern Kentucky, Western Kentucky, Louisville, that Golden Triangle [Economic demographical area, including Northern Kentucky/Cincinnati, Louisville, and Lexington]. We all have different needs and whole different constituencies, and then try to run in all those districts without having the knowledge of what you are dealing, with is, you know, really very difficult and almost impossible to ask. Obviously you got to have a lot of good contacts, a lot of good political contacts, that sort of thing, and that's all comes from working hard and having experience. I wouldn't advise anybody to run unless they had a very clean, personal background. Because of the things that the media, and so will dig up on you. Now issues, those are one thing. I mean, media and you or whoever can differ with me on my position on an issue. That's open 01:47:00season. That's no problem. It's just, I have a real problem with the way media digs into your background, and, you know, if you sneezed wrong, they report it, so.

BOHL: Are there any issues that I have not asked about that you want to talk about?

HARPER: No, in fact, you've done some background work, I've noticed. (Bohl laughs) So you've pretty well hit the issues. I've gone over the fact that Northern Kentucky has progressed so much in the last fifteen, twenty years, a large part because of well organized 01:48:00caucus, and an unity between the counties up here. In other words, we get together pretty well now. In fact, we have a committee made up people, community leaders from the five counties. It's called a Consensus Committee, which is what we never had that before either. That has helped us prioritize what we need from Frankfort. When the Consensus Committee does that, and the local caucus takes on those projects, the way the Consensus Committee has prioritized, then everybody in Northern Kentucky seems to get together on 'em. That gives us an awful lot 01:49:00of clout with Frankfort. That, I think, has been extremely important. We've talked about that before, but I didn't mention the Consensus Committee, and that I think has been a big help also. We didn't have that-I didn't have anybody to go to when I first started. In other words, if somebody came to me, "We need this." You know, I try to get that. But, there was no strong support. The first one was when the Chamber of Commerce came along, and said, "We want a university in Northern Kentucky." Most of us in the caucus-when I say the caucus, that wasn't a formal caucus at the time-most of the legislators up here were of the same mind. We all worked together for that. That was the beginning of the cooperation, in large part. That 01:50:00university has done a lot for us, in many ways. Not just the education but in getting this area unified. So that's about it. If I think of anything else, I'll be glad to let you know but I don't know of anything else. Have I said anything that's been contrary to your research on me? That you know of?

BOHL: I don't think so. Your statement about all of the Northern Kentucky legislators being against KERA, that seems a little off, especially what some of the others have said about it.

HARPER: Okay, who said they were for it?

BOHL: Well, that's the thing. I need to go back through and check the legislative-

HARPER: If it hadn't been for most of the legislators, I think there might have been one or two, but for the most part, the caucus was against KERA, and we wouldn't have lost the 01:51:00arena for Northern Kentucky University, if there hadn't been such a preponderance of Northern Kentucky legislators against it. If all of the Democratic legislators had been for it, then we probably wouldn't have lost it. Now, having said that, I can't remember who in the caucus, other than maybe Callahan, but then I can't even remember Callahan being for it. It seemed to me, for the most part, most of us were against it. It wasn't just me or Lawson Walker. There were a number of us that were against it. We would have-lost the thing, if it hadn't have been for most of the Northern Kentucky legislators being against it. But you tell me if I'm wrong. When 01:52:00you do the research.

BOHL: I have a feeling that they're approaching it as, Well, we supported the idea of it and said-

HARPER: Well, yeah, I think everybody, everybody supported the idea of education reform. There were none of us that were against-that I know of, that were against education reform. But the biggest thing were the taxes and the funding mechanism that we were opposed to. You know, I was gaveled down right in the middle of my speech on the House floor by Blandford because he was tired. I got one amendment passed. That he was against. I started on another on the tax rate, and he gaveled me down mid-speech and took a vote, and so on. So I 01:53:00have to say that most of the members of the legislature-of this caucus were against it, not all. I can't remember who voted just exactly how. But, the issue is, we lost an arena because most of the Northern Kentuckians were against it. Now, who knows exactly where, I can't tell you. I can't remember. It has been a day or two ago. (both laugh) So anyway.

BOHL: You mentioned a few times how much Governor Nunn did for Northern Kentucky and I've seen that referenced, as I was doing research too, Governor Nunn being as if he was from Northern Kentucky, he was doing so much.

HARPER: You know, Louie knew so much about Northern Kentucky, and one of the reasons was that Louie Nunn went to UC Law School. So he was familiar with this area, but he 01:54:00had such support out of Art Schmidt. Myself and a few others, and Clyde that we were able to get a big victory for Louie in the primary, with Marlow Cook, in Northern Kentucky. At that time, Marlow was, of course Catholic, and most of us-not Clyde-but most of us were Catholic. A lot of people probably thought that this area would go for Marlow, but we were able to get this area strongly for Louie Nunn in that primary. Louie recognized that. So, you know, when we had a problem with the C & O Bridge, which is now the Clay Wade Bailey Bridge, he 01:55:00saw to it and worked with Gene Snyder and got that thing, you know, demolished and put up a new bridge, and dedicated the new bridge before his administration was over. He got Northern Kentucky University. He just helped get our transportation programs together. He helped get the chambers of commerce to realize that they had to get together. So, you know, Louie just-he loved Northern Kentucky and Northern Kentucky loved him and. Even with the two-cent tax. (both laugh)

BOHL: Okay. Well, that's pretty much my questions. Have you thought of funny stories yet?

HARPER: No, you know, I should be able to think of some, but at this particular 01:56:00point-I can't. I sure can't. You know, when we first start in the legislature, even I-75 wasn't completed. We had I-75 to Williamstown, and then we had to get off and go down US 25, or go over US 27. But we could not-not 27 but through Oldham County, to go down to Frankfort. We had to get off 75. Shortly thereafter, I-75 was completed but not when we first went. It was still not completed yet. That shows you how times have changed. I guess that's it, then?

BOHL: Okay.

HARPER: Well, Christy, thank you.

BOHL: Thank you.

[Tape 2, side 1 ends.]

[End of interview.]