Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with John M. Berry, Jr., July 28, 2006

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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SALMONS: How are you today?

BERRY: I'm doing fine today.

SALMONS: Great, last time we spoke, off the record we were speaking after the interview and you've brought the Black Sheep Squadron up. That's a very fascinating topic, which I want to give you an opportunity, just to go in on that and just tell me about it because I think anybody listening to this tape really needs to understand that period of Kentucky's gubernatorial history and the power of the Senate coming back to power. I'll let you start, by 00:01:00just asking the question of who was in the Black Sheep Squadron and what was their position in the government?

BERRY: Well, when I went to the Senate in 1974, there had been five freshmen elected to the Senate that-oh, had made a decision that they were the only do what they believed to be the best for their constituents and what they believed to be right. All five of us had heard about the General Assembly and people's opinions of the General Assembly, and the ability of the 00:02:00Governor to dominate.

SALMONS: May I ask what you'd heard about, it? What the opinions that you heard about the General Assembly?

BERRY: Well, I had been told by constituents that they would vote for me but it didn't really make any difference because the General Assembly didn't do anything anyway. The Governor made all the decisions. The reputation of the General Assembly was not good and uncomplimentary things had been said. So, I began to tell people that I had no intention of being that kind of a legislator. There was not anybody going to tell me what to do, how to vote, or 00:03:00how to vote. I would not be just a lackey for the Governor. That I thought I the Governor had a role to play and the General Assembly had a-its members had a role in government, and that I was going to honor that. When I got to the pre-legislative conference and met John Lackey, Tom Easterly, Tom Ward (??) [Thomas M. Ward], Nelson Allen, I very quickly learned that they were 00:04:00four other new members who felt the same way. We took a liking to each other. We really didn't know how the legislature functioned. We didn't know what we were supposed to do, or not supposed to do, but we liked each other, and we generally agreed that we would do what we believed to be right, and that we would stand up to anybody that stood in the way, whether it be the Governor, or the party chairman, or the leaders, or whomever.

SALMONS: Did you all have anything in common in your backgrounds, like a region from-from the same regions, or it was all of the state?

BERRY: No, the first group was very diverse. There were liberals, conservative 00:05:00Democrats, Eastern Kentuckians. There was a teacher, a preacher, a lawyer. We really didn't have anything in common, except that we were freshmen Democratic legislators who agreed that we didn't want anybody telling us what to do. We thought that the legislature had a particular 00:06:00role that it was to play in making the policy of the state and that was not a prerogative of the Governor. That the Governor ought to respect the legislature, the legislature ought to respect the Governor. Each ought to respect and honor the prerogatives of the other, and that we were going to conduct ourselves with that relationship and that objective, as our goal. So that's what tied us together.

SALMONS: When you all decided to do this, what was the first step you took in setting yourself up to be able to achieve your goals?

BERRY: Well, we didn't organize. We didn't have any particular step that we took. 00:07:00We, at that time, simply had that interest and those ideals in common. The first thing that I did-and it was not intended; it was not pre-planned at all-but when I went to the pre- legislative conference, I, like the other freshmen, got an invitation from the Governor to come to the Governor's cabin down at the Kentucky Dam Village. My immediate reaction, like the other freshmen, was that, you know, here the Governor really wants to-he wants to find out from me how to run state government. (laughs) So, you have a tendency to have all sorts, of expectations 00:08:00that are not real, they are not realistic. So I went to the cabin and I wasn't greeted by the Governor. I was greeted by three of his administration members, one was an assistant out of his office, one was the commissioner of parks, one was an operative in the political end of things.

SALMONS: Would you mind giving their names, or do you prefer not to?

BERRY: Oh, I'd rather not do that.


BERRY: And I was told that the Governor only wanted three things: he wanted his 00:09:00budget passed; he wanted his reorganization bill passed; and he wanted his leaders elected. How did I feel about that? I said, "Well, with regard to the budget, I don't have any idea what's in it. So I can't say one way or the other about the budget." And they said that, "Well, in looking at the budget, my district had the largest capital construction appropriation, or item, of any district, 00:10:00and that could either stay in or not stay in." One of the three said, "He who giveth can taketh away." I said, "Well, what is that?" They said, "An addition to the Kentucky State Penitentiary at LaGrange." (laughs) Then I thought a minute and I said, "I don't know of anybody in Oldham County that wants a penitentiary to be bigger, and I know that there is nobody in it that can vote for me. So, you know, I really don't care one way or the other about that." Then they 00:11:00asked me, "Well, what about the reorganization of state government and the Governor's proposal on that?" I said, "I really don't know anything about it. I don't know what the current organization is and obviously wouldn't know anything about whether it should or should not be changed, and I'd just have to take a look at it." I had said the same thing about the budget. "I'll have to know more about it." I didn't know at that time that probably nobody would ever really know about the budget, unless they served on the A & R Committee [Appropriation and 00:12:00Revenue] for years and were exposed to it. They said, "Well, what about the leadership?" I said, "I don't know who is running and I don't know anything about anybody. So, I would have to make a decision about those things at the time." They said, "Okay. Thank you very much and you can wait here." The three of them got up and left. I waited, and waited a long time. People were coming in and out, going upstairs and coming out, other people coming in and going upstairs and coming out. After about an hour and a half, I finally figured out that nobody was 00:13:00coming back. That, I wasn't gonna go see the Governor, or talk to anybody any further; they were through with me. Following that, the state senator who had previous(??) me and was then the secretary, or had been appointed as secretary of the natural resources cabinet, Tom Harris, came to see me, and he asked me about my meeting and I told him that I was very angry about it. 00:14:00I had been threatened that they would take my district things out of the budget. Then I had been ignored. I think for the purposes of intimidation. He said, "Well, in fact, John. I was the chairman," he said, "I was the chairman of the agricultural committee and a freshman has never been appointed chairman of a committee, but I think if you would agree to go along with the Governor, that you may even be appointed chairman of that committee." I said, "Tom, I am not going to agree to go along with anybody." So, that was the end of the conversation, at that time, 00:15:00and then I was invited, after two or three-two days, down there to-I was finally invited again to come see the Governor. I went to see the Governor and that time I got to see Governor Ford. He said, "You know, you expressed to my people that you had concerns about the budget. What would you like to see in the budget?" I said, "Well, Governor, I don't really know. There may be things in there that I would rather not be in there, then maybe things that aren't that I would like to be in there, but one of the things that I am concerned about is adequate funding for libraries. I have some counties in my district that don't have access to a librarian." He said-he 00:16:00said, "I'll see to that. I'll take care of that." He said, "Is there anything else we can talk about?" I said, "Not that I am aware of right now." I said, "I want to be cooperative but I also have to make my own decisions." He said he understood that and he showed me out. It was very pleasant. But that, that same experience was suffered by other freshmen. Not long after the session began-that was in December when this occurred, and session began in January-and 00:17:00not long after that, one of the leaders, a fellow by the name of Joe Stacy, from up near Morehead, and who was the caucus chairman, came to me one day after the session and talked to me about playing the game and getting on the Governor's team, and the importance of that, and how I could end my political career before it got started by not agreeing to go along. I would be ostracized by the members if I didn't go along and that I couldn't get anything for my district, 00:18:00couldn't get anything done for my district, and that I would probably not be re-elected. That he would advise me, as a friend, to become a part of the Governor's team and to help to get things done. I explained my feelings about that to him. I think the others-I don't know this for sure-but I think the others, had similar experiences. There was a myth, at that time that was believed by people generally, people of the state, generally, as well as people elected to the General Assembly, that the legislature was not made up of people who were competent to do 00:19:00their job, and that without the strong hand of the Governor, nothing would ever get done. It was sort of a jungle and the Governor was the only source of order. This structure was necessary in order for the legislature to function at all. It was necessary for the legislature to perform certain functions because they were mandated by the Kentucky constitution. Of course, that was to enact the necessary measures to raise revenue, and to adopt a budget that enabled the 00:20:00expenditure of those revenues. That the team, the Governor's team, directed by the Governor, which was made up of the leaders and the majority of the members of each house, made all of that happen. We didn't believe that. We didn't believe it was necessary. We believed that one hundred thirty-eight heads were better than one. We believed that the people of every district- in theory and in fact-needed their own representation in the making of public policy. We 00:21:00believed that the Governor's role was as an administrator, or out in the private world, it would be a CEO, who acted within the confines of the policies set by the legislature, or out in the private sector, the board of directors, and that those roles ought to be respected. The people deserve to have a system of checks and balances with three separate, equal, independently functioning branches of government, with each providing checks and bringing a balance to the power of the 00:22:00others. We never varied or departed from that conviction. That's the one thing that held us together, even though we were widely diversified in philosophy, in policy positions. We didn't vote together on very many issues. We voted together on the single subject of the things that made it possible for the Governor to dominate the legislative branch of government. That was our rules. The manner in which a leadership was selected, the ability of the Governor to dole out 00:23:00things to legislators who played ball, or to pay back campaign contributors with what was commonly referred to as 'Turkey Bills', and we generally voted right down the line within our group, on those kinds of issues, issues that involved things that we considered to be matters of principle. That's what tied us together and it kept us together, not just through that session but through all of the subsequent sessions leading up to the 1979 and '80 sessions when all of this 00:24:00came into fruition.

SALMONS: How did you increase your membership? Because I know five men is a significant part of legislature, but how did you grow it to be a controlling part?

BERRY: Well, the truth, Roy, is that five men are very insignificant part of the legislature. It takes a majority. That's a long way from majority of either house. The way we went about that was to approach new members after each election, and as soon after each election as we could reach them on the telephone. To tell them who we were, what we believed, 00:25:00and that there were obviously two separate schools of thought on this. So they were going to have to make a choice about which way they felt was right. That we wanted to meet with them to talk about that issue, not individual issues or county issues or public policy issues, but the single issue of how do you run the legislature, what does the constitution envision, and what's the proper role of the Governor. The first such meeting was held at Tom Ward's house. All five 00:26:00of the freshmen that I have referred to were there, plus another freshman that had come in with us by the name of Daisy Thaler, but Daisy never did become active, in this movement that we had started. Then Rick Weisenberger came in, came to the meeting, and Bill Sullivan, who had the president pro-tem of the Senate, under the Ford administration but who knew he was going to be replaced because Julian Carroll had taken Wendell Ford's position as Governor, and Julian 00:27:00wanted Joe Prather to be the president pro-tem. Bill Sullivan had been sort of involved in this general concept for a lot of years, but without any success. Mike Maloney came and Mike had been displaced by Julian Carroll as chairman of the Appropriations and Revenue Committee in the Senate. Then new members beside Rick Weisenberger, Joe Wright came. He was a very important addition. He and Rick Weisenberger were two very important additions.

SALMONS: What made them such important additions?


BERRY: Well, for one thing, they were very competent people. Very intelligent, very tough. If they believed something, you couldn't pry them loose from it with a crowbar. They were just tough. They knew themselves. And they believed in things very strongly.

SALMONS: Where were they from in Kentucky?

BERRY: Rick was from Mayfield. Joe was from Harned, which is-I can't remember the county right now. I can't remember.


BERRY: But-another freshman that came but decided that he didn't like what we 00:29:00stood for and he had things that he wanted to get done and he would probably rely on his predecessor, Kelsey Friend, who was a part of a part of the Governor's team, who had been a part of the Governor's team. But Jim Hammond came from Pikeville but made a decision that night that he didn't want any part of what we were doing. [pause] Another freshman that came, and he was committed to do-committed to be a part of us before he ever got there-was David Karem from Louisville. David had told me when I called him, immediately after his primary 00:30:00election that-he listened and then he just, his response was, "I am honored, to be asked. Count me in." Another person joined up at that time from Northern Kentucky, by the name of Gus Sheehan who had been in the Senate longer at that time than any other senator, who was there. The only person who had just been nominated in the primary who didn't come, in the Democratic 00:31:00primary that didn't come, was Lowell Hughes. Lowell had told me that, he had been a friend of Julian's. He was a friend of Terry McBrayer's. Frankly, he was going to have to get there, and kind of measure the situation for himself, and make up his mind. He said, "I'm not going to make any commitments to anybody at this point." So, as a result of the 1977-19-1975 00:32:00primary, and the changes that had gone on when Governor Ford moved to the Senate and to the United States Senate, and Julian Carroll took his place, we picked up-seven new members. So, in the 1976 regular session, we had twelve of twenty-nine Democrats. Obviously, the majority of 00:33:00the Senate is necessary to really make changes. But it begins with the selection of leadership. If the leaders are the Governor's handpicked senators, then nothing is going to change that enables anybody to take the Governor on and take away from him his ability to control everything. So, the goal was to get a majority of the Democrats. It had always been easy for Republicans to challenge the Democratic Governor, and to criticize, and to talk about an independent legislature, 00:34:00and all of that. Because Governors, I mean Republicans, could use that to criticize the other party, and they had nothing to lose. It was Democrats that had to take charge, if anything was ever to be done. That meant you had to have a majority of the Democratic caucus. So, by 1976, we had twelve out of twenty-nine Democrats who were aligned with us. Now that wasn't enough to elect the leaders, but it was enough to make a difference. Because there were nine Republicans. That meant that anytime the twelve of us chose to stick together, we could always 00:35:00assume-we didn't go to them and ask them. We didn't make any deals with them-but we could assume we were going to have at least eight of the Republicans. Now, there was one that would vote with the Democrats every time, but we knew we were going to have eight, and so that gave us twenty, and that was always a constitutional majority. So, they had to pay attention to us. The time before, in 1974, when there were only five of us, and I got up and walked out of the caucus-because I refused to be bound when they took a vote to bind the caucus to vote for rules, that I thought enable the Governor to control the Senate-when I walked out, nobody 00:36:00cared. "He is a maverick, he is a troublemaker, let him go." But, when the same subject came up in 1976, and twelve of us walked out, they took a recess in the caucus and sent the majority floor leader to talk to me about coming back in. That was the difference. We made a deal that changed one of the rules that kept the rules committee from killing legislation, as a result of that. Then 1976 rolls around, or 1977 rolls around and we have another primary, and in that primary 00:37:00the Democrats nominated, among others, Ed Ford, Ed O'Daniel, Danny Meyer-no, yes, and Danny Meyer. Now, the Democrats nominated also in that primary Bob Martin from Richmond, who had been the president of Eastern [Eastern Kentucky University]. Bob told me that he knew about us but he had no interest in belonging to some maverick group. That he knew the legislature, he knew government, and he knew what he wanted to get done, and he knew how to get it done. He didn't want any part of what we were doing, but we would all get along. And 00:38:00we did. We got along with him and others. But, at that time, we gained-of those three new members that we had invited to a meeting, had talked to them about the two ways to do things and what to expect, but we'd also picked up one old member that was very important and that was Ken Gibson. Ken joined up with us prior to the pre-legislative conference down at the Dam. So we picked up four new members at that time. But in the interim, we had lost two. Because 00:39:00John Lackey and Tom Ward (??) chose not to run for reelection. So we picked up four and lost two. That meant in the 1978 session, we had fourteen members out of a thirty-member caucus, which was still less than the majority but it was stronger than before. The Democratic caucus went from twenty-nine to thirty because Don Johnson, who was a Republican from Northern Kentucky, and who had a bitter dislike for me and the other Black Sheep, and who had always 00:40:00kind of voted with the Democrats and been a part of the team, switched his registration so as to keep the Black Sheep-he never said this, but I believe that that's the reason that he did it-was to give the Governor's team in the Democratic caucus a continuing majority. Because fourteen weren't, was not a majority of thirty. If it had been twenty-nine and one of their people had been the caucus chairman, then we would have had a tie in the caucus, and the caucus chairman, of course, would have broken the tie in their favor. So his leaving the Republican Party to 00:41:00become a Democrat, once again, gave them the ability to elect the leaders, but still, we had fourteen members and there were still eight republicans. So if we ever happen to join together, we had twenty-two votes instead of twenty-one. Our position was improving all the time. I believe it was during that session that Lowell Hughes in an interview with-let's go off record just a minute.

[pause in recording]

SALMONS: We were talking about the-

BERRY: -about the 1978 session.


BERRY: During that session, the chief correspondent for the Associated Press in 00:42:00Frankfort interviewed Lowell Hughes. At the time, the Black Sheep Squadron was a program on television involving a group of maverick army pilots who sort of declared their own wars. It was a very popular show. Lowell came up with a name "Black Sheep Squadron," because what we were doing was similar to that show. This Associated Press reporter picked up on the name and he wrote an article and the headline made reference to the "Black Sheep Squadron." So that's 00:43:00when everybody began to recognize. Here, we had fourteen members of the majority caucus and we were making a difference. When bills would come that were clearly, what was referred to as 'Turkey Bills,' or 'Payback Bills,' we beat a good, goodly number of them. Then, some of the observers one day brought us some black sheep pins, lapel pins, and I still have one that because I was the majority leader in 1980, they gave me one in 1980 that said, "Ramrod" on it and had a 00:44:00picture of a black sheep. (both laugh) So that's where we got the name. It became obvious that we were a factor. That session began a pretty remarkable change in the way things were done. Because it could no longer be presumed that if the Governor said it, that's the way it would be. Things still had to pass, on the floor. We were beginning to make a difference in the outcome. We supported the Governor, supported his legislation, cooperated with him in every way, except we did not accede to this notion that the Governor was in charge and that he should call the 00:45:00shots. They had to get by us. We let them know that they had to get by us to get these things done. We'd be there when we agreed, but we would not be there when we didn't, and they were likely not to get their bill passed. So, that was a noteworthy session.

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

SALMONS: In the session, that you gained fourteen members started a period of a lot of change. What happened after that? Because they started recognizing that, you all were a force to be reckoned with?

BERRY: Well, after that session, there were occasions when all of us, or at least one 00:46:00occasion when all of us were together. We were still a cohesive group. Everybody was still committed. Nobody was wavering. A lot of people over that period of time had suffered losses of favors by the Governor. They're people not getting appointed to things, their projects not being included in the budget, and being put on the most insignificant committees and being denied chairmanships at times. Of course, I had been denied a chairmanship from the very beginning. I was probably the only member of the majority party that ever served my full two 00:47:00terms, without ever, ever having the chairmanship of a standing committee. Others had been punished in similar ways. Bills killed in committee. But we were still committed to what we were doing, and nobody had ever wavered. I saw people whose faces were as white as that bond paper and with tears in their eyes, who had been told by the Governor's people that their careers were ended. They had bright futures but all of that was over-the same things that I had been told. They were clearly, intimidated by these kinds of things, but they never succumbed to 00:48:00it. They stuck, and it was tough times. Then, in the summer of 1978, I was having a meeting in Campbellsburg, which is just down the road. A call came in and they interrupted and told me that I had a call from Lieutenant Governor. I went in to another room and it was Lieutenant Governor Stovall and she said, "John, I'm sitting here with my staff and my friend,"-and I 00:49:00can't remember his name off hand, an attorney Joe Leary-"and I need to ask something of you." I said, "Feel free to do it." She said, "Confidentially, and I want your word that you won't disclose this." I said, "You have it." "Confidentially, I'm going to call a special session of the legislature when Governor Carroll goes to where,"- she knew where he was going, how long he was going to be gone-"and we have the executive order prepared, but I've got-I'm going to tell you what the purpose of that session will be and ask for your help." I said, "What's the 00:50:00purpose?" She said, "I want to reduce taxes." She told me that she wanted to reduce the tax on utility bills, and she wanted to reduce property taxes on individual homes. She said, "You know that I can't handle this by myself. If it's to be done, I need you and your group," she said-she referred to just my group and it was not my group, but I knew who she was talking about-"To take charge of it and see that my agenda gets introduced and passed in the General Assembly." I 00:51:00said, "I can't answer that without talking to a good many people." She said, "I have to know right away." I said, "I'll talk to them right away and get back to you." So I made a sizeable number of phone calls. By that time, Senator Prather, who was going to run for Lieutenant Governor, had been turned down by Julian Carroll, even though he was Julian's man in the 00:52:00Senate and in the Senate leadership. He was alienated from the Governor. Also at that time, I had already called and received an unequivocal commitment of support from Benny Ray Bailey, who was-intending to run for the Senate. So I knew that if it didn't get done, then it was going to get done later, because I had fourteen. I just needed one. Joe Prather, if he came on board, would be enough anyway. So I called the Lieutenant Governor back and told her that I 00:53:00would meet with her. I met with her in the basement of the Lieutenant Governor's mansion with her staff and with Joe Leary. They told me in essence what they wanted to do, what they were wanting to accomplish in the special session. Of course, she was running for Governor. I knew she was running for Governor. I told her that we would be willing to do it, but only on one condition, that is that, that session would not be used at any point during that session for any political gain. She would have to make that commitment to me. She used it after it's over for anything she wanted to and anybody else could. Joe Prather could use it in his race. But during 00:54:00that session, nobody would use that session politically. She made the commitment and so I proceeded then to report to everybody that we were going to do it. A very short time later, and I think that was in-let me back up-I think that was in, maybe September of 1978, and a very short time after that, I got a call from Lowell, Lowell Hughes. Lowell was a very creative legislator, and a very, very bright man. He had come on board back in '76, but not until later. 00:55:00He didn't come on board with the immediate invitation but after the session started. Lowell called me up and said, "I've been reading the Kentucky constitution." He said, "Are you familiar with the Committee of the Whole concept?" And I said, "I just know there is something like that, Lowell, but I don't know anything about it." He said, "Well, under the constitution, the Senate or either House has a right to resolve itself into a Committee of the Whole. So instead of acting as a body to enact legislation, it can act as a committee to consider legislation." The 00:56:00chairman of the Appropriation and Revenue Committee at that time was a gubernatorial appointee. It was the person that had been chosen by the leaders, in collaboration with the Governor to run the most powerful committee in the Senate, and he did what he was told. So, if the session is going to involved Appropriations and Revenue, obviously that committee had to take the action. If the committee was under the control of the Governor and the leaders, then that committee wouldn't act. So he said, "The way you do that is to have the Senate decide if 00:57:00it's going to operate as a Committee of the Whole." I said, "Well, then you would have a chairman, and who would be the chairman?" He said, "Well, the Lieutenant Governor would be the chairman." What is-No. He said, "The Lieutenant Governor is the chairman of the Senate, in effect. She is the presiding officer, and she wouldn't qualify to be the chairman of the Committee of the Whole. So it would probably be a selection from anybody, of anybody from the body. To vote to get all of that done would be a vote of all of the members." Well, that includes the Republicans. So we had fourteen who could vote at that time, and Joe Prather, that 00:58:00we were pretty sure was going to come on to our side, which would be fifteen. We needed twenty to get it done. So I got on the telephone with the Republicans, and I said, "Can we count your vote to do this? Will you keep this confidential?" and so on. They all agreed to do it. They agreed to keep it confidential. They, of course, thought it was a great thing because they were going to embarrass the Democratic Governor. So, believe it or not, all of those people that had been contacted never-said-a-word. The Lieutenant Governor called a special session, and the session was to be held in December. We, in the meantime, had a meeting of the Black Sheep, 00:59:00which never got out; nobody ever knew about it. We agreed at that meeting that Joe Prather, who was now on our side, would take the Lieutenant Governor's place in all sessions. She might call the session to order but then she would ask the president pro-tem to step in, and he would run the session. Unlike Thelma, he knew parliamentary procedure. He had twenty years of experience, nearly. We knew that he could handle any parliamentary maneuver. So, he would 01:00:00run the sessions, instead of the Lieutenant Governor, and then they would elect me as chairman of the Committee of the Whole. Let's stop a minute.

[pause in recording]

SALMONS: Okay, we were speaking of the special session.

BERRY: Okay. As I said, the plan of the Black Sheep at that time was to-

SALMONS: Hold on one second.

BERRY: Was for the Senate to resolve itself.

SALMONS: One second. If you don't mind, please repeat what you said.

BERRY: Yeah. As I was telling you, the plan of the Black Sheep at that time was for the Senate to resolve itself into a Committee of the Whole, and that Senator Prather, who was now committed to vote with the Black Sheep, would serve as the presiding officer of the Senate 01:01:00in the place of the Lieutenant Governor. When the Senate once resolved itself into the Committee of the Whole, the second thing it would do, while he was still presiding was to remove by an act of the Senate, the jurisdiction of appropriations and revenue from the Appropriations and Revenue Committee and vest that jurisdiction in the Committee of the Whole. That simply took away from the Governor's people even the jurisdiction of the subject and vested that in the whole Senate where we had a clear majority. So the motion was made to 01:02:00do that and it passed by the twenty-two votes, or twenty-two or twenty-three votes that we had. Then following that, Senator Prather gave the gavel to me and I assumed my position as the chairman of the Committee of the Whole. Incidentally that was my first chairmanship since I had been elected to the Senate, and it was the chairmanship of the whole Senate.

SALMONS: How often is the committee of the whole called? Is it very-was it really rare to do that, or?

BERRY: Never have seen it or heard of it before. I have never run into anybody else who ever saw it done before. So, the Committee of the Whole then began to function as the 01:03:00Appropriations and Revenue Committee and we called witnesses to testify about the source of revenues and whether there was a sufficient surplus, to make the tax cuts that we wanted to make. If not a sufficient surplus, then were there things that could be cut? Were there programs in which there was waste? When we opened that door that meant that all of the expenditures of the Governor became a subject of inquiry. Our first witness that we called was the Governor 01:04:00himself, and he knew that we had subpoena powers. We ordered him to come to the Senate chamber, where the Committee of the Whole was meeting and to testify. The next day he came. I, as the chairman of the Committee of the Whole, had the opportunity to make him raise his right hand and swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help him, God. I don't know of any other occasion in history when that was ever done. He was the same Governor that had seen to it that I didn't have any voice in the Senate or no chairmanship. So that was a very satisfying experience for me. And incidentally, he and I are friends today. But, 01:05:00anyway, we asked questions and opened the floor to questions for every witness we called. The Governor and his cabinet heads. Republicans had an open opportunity to examine any aspect of the budget they wanted to, asked question about any expenditure. It was orderly. We managed to keep rules in place, and required the witnesses to answer, and required the questioners not to make speeches but simply to ask questions. It was an orderly investigation of the budget of 01:06:00Kentucky. Governor Carroll obviously knew the budget better than anybody, including our chairman of appropriations and revenue, and Joe Clarke who was the House chairman. He was a very knowledgeable Governor about the run, about the state government. Because the General Assembly had never had exposure to that kind of thing, it was difficult for us to find the money. We knew it was there. We knew money was being given away, hand over fist. We knew that the biggest problem the administration had, had in preparing the budget for the 1978-'76 and 01:07:00'78 sessions was finding some way to spend all the money. So we knew it was there but we weren't equipped to find it. But during the examination of these people, we learned that the Governor didn't just have one contingency fund or two; the Governor had three. He had the contingency fund of ten million dollars that was-which was sort of a slush fund for the Governor's office, and he'd used that to help golf courses and little leagues and a myriad of 01:08:00things. But then he had a second fund that was a thirty million dollar contingency fund, which was to take care of revenue shortfalls, in the event that the revenues fell below projections and the amounts budgeted. He would have this contingency fund to make up the difference. But then, unknown to all of us, there was a third contingency fund, which at the time amounted to thirty million additional dollars. And that fund contained all of the un-appropriated surplus. So, 01:09:00if revenues exceeded the projected revenues that were budgeted, all of this surplus went into a contingency fund that the Governor could spend, as he wanted to. Nobody had ever known that before. As a result of those hearings in 1979, that particular fund was discontinued, and I think maybe even the other thirty-million dollar contingency fund had restrictions placed on it that it 01:10:00had to be spent only for, in the case of revenue shortfalls, otherwise it would lapse into the surplus, and other restrictions on the ten-million dollar slush fund. So that session produced substantial results. In addition to that, that particular session not only reduced those taxes, and we did reduce the taxes that the Lieutenant Governor wanted reduced, but it balanced the budget, without that revenue, and I believe it was somewhere in the neighborhood of a hundred million dollars. I don't remember whether that was over the biennium or hundred million per year. The way we found the money to balance the budget, we knew it was there, and we knew 01:11:00about these slush funds and contingency funds, and we knew about many expenditures that had been made unnecessarily, and we couldn't find it specifically. So we said to Governor Carroll, "We are going to cut the budget. We're going to cut it X number of dollars per year, or biennium, whichever. We want a budget from you, a proposed budget, as the constitution requires, that's balanced with those tax cuts considered. We want that in advance of completing this session. In less than a week, he gave it to us. He knew-(laughs)-exactly where it all was and exactly how to do that job but we had to force his hand to do it. As a matter of technical 01:12:00accuracy, I told you that that session was called for December of 1978, and all the arrangements had been made, and everybody was prepared to do that in 1978. But a flood came, and Frankfort was flooded. The session had to be postponed to either late January or early February of 1979. That's the reason it's referred to as the 1979 special session. Other things came out of that session that were important. The Capital Construction Oversight sub-committee was a 01:13:00product of that session. Reform of the contingency spending was a product of that session. Administrative regulation review may have been a product of that session. But-it made a significant change in the ability of the legislature to understand the budget and to control expenditures by the executive branch. One person that has spoken since then on the subject was employed by the Governor's office, during the Carroll administration. He gave a speech not long 01:14:00ago. It was in August of last year to the Capital Construction Oversight committee, and he was a deputy state budget director. Bill Hintz, and he'd been in that position since 1978, I believe. Let's see; I think it was 1978 or early 1979. In his speech was his farewell speech to that sub- 01:15:00committee and he'd worked for Governors ever since he was appointed back in 1978 or '79. So, it's the perspective of someone on the other side of the issue, the executive branch side of it. He devotes practically all of his farewell speech to the 1979 session and what was accomplished by the Black Sheep Squadron. I never met the man. Never talked to him about the subject. In all these years he's worked there, and then the-assistant, or deputy state budget director, and I 01:16:00never knew him, or never knew he had these sentiments. But he gives credit to that group, to the Black Sheep, for having brought some control on capitol construction and some order to it, that's lasted all these years. I was really pleased when somebody in the legislature sent me a copy of his remarks. During that session, and not long after it commenced, maybe a week or ten days after it commenced, the majority leader, the Democratic majority floor leader, died of a heart attack. We were into the Committee of the Whole functioning of the Senate at that time, and we 01:17:00got word that he had, had a heart attack in, I believe in the motel room there in Frankfort. So that vacated that position and there was an assistant president, assistant majority floor leader, Doug Mosley, from Owensboro who assumed that position at that time. But the people in the Black Sheep Squadron began to approach me about running for majority floor leader. So, after the session was over, the next thing to happen was the Democratic primary in 1979. Benny Ray 01:18:00Bailey got elected. I called him immediately after the election. He re-affirmed his commitment, and said that he was with us. That gave me fifteen solid votes. I knew that we had a majority of the Democratic caucus. In that primary, John Y. Brown was nominated by the Democrats to run for Governor. He had announced his plans to run at a point in the waning days of that special session. Nobody had any idea he was going to run or do anything about his interest in it. He did it as a surprise; that was his plan. His campaign strategy was to bring Miss America on the scene 01:19:00and make this announcement and shock everybody into knowing who John Y. Brown, Jr. was and what he was doing. The session was over. The Black Sheep were in charge. Nobody questioned the fact that it was done. The legislature had functioned independently, the first time since the constitution was adopted in 1892. The idea of that somehow, a Governor came along and gave independence to the General Assembly, and the Black Sheep were just a group of 01:20:00political opportunists sitting there waiting to pounce on it, is totally unsubstantiated by any fact or any record of the history of that period. Yet, it's today the only recorded history and it's false. It does the people who read that history a great disservice.

SALMONS: Did the Black Sheep continue functioning after the '78, or was it they had achieved their goal and started spreading apart?

BERRY: Well, in the summer, just after the primary, the Black Sheep had a meeting. It 01:21:00was decided in that meeting that I would run for majority floor leader, that Joe Wright would run for assistant president pro-tem, that Lowell Hughes would run for majority whip, that David Karem would run for caucus chairman, and that, in effect, the Black Sheep would become the leadership. The question of whether Bill Sullivan or Joe Prather might be the president pro-tem, that election and contest hadn't been joined at that time. So we knew that both of them were interested. I think some were committed to Bill Sullivan, some were committed to Joe Prather 01:22:00and Bill was a part of the Black Sheep, but Joe had become a part of the Black Sheep too, so. That was the subject at that meeting. But the other leaders who would run and receive the Black Sheep vote were selected at that time. So that was-in the early summer of 1979. Shortly after that meeting, very soon after that meeting, I received a call from John Y. Brown, whom I had known in law school and known for years. He was in the Bahamas, and he referred to me as 01:23:00Johnny, and I always had called him Johnny that was just the name that we knew one another by. He said, "I understand that you've got the votes to be majority floor leader." I said, "Yes, I do." He said, "All I'm concerned about is that you won't use this committee that you chaired on-if the-doesn't the majority floor leader chair a committee?" I said, "Yes, the rules committee." "Well, that you don't use this committee to kill all my legislation." I said, "Where did you get a notion like that?" He said several Governors had told him that, and that he needed to see to it that, that I didn't get elected, and that the other members of the Black Sheep didn't get elected because he would never be able to get any of his program adopted. That the Black 01:24:00Sheep would just interfere with anything that the Governor wanted to do; that, that's all they were about, was opposing the Governor. He said, "I just don't want that to happen." And he said, "I don't care who's in what position but I just don't want that to happen." He said, "They've advised me to get involved in it, but," he said, "it's my understanding that you all have the votes." I said, "We do." I said, "I'll tell you what I'll do. I'm not much of a trader, and vote for vote, and one thing for another in the General Assembly, but I will make you a deal on that subject. I will not use my position as majority floor leader to kill any legislation that has a 01:25:00substantial public interest. Or any legislation for any reason other than it needs to go back to a committee that reported it for work, or it doesn't have an appropriation." I said, "I'll make you that commitment, provided you'll make me a commitment that you won't use the budget and your powers of appointment to buy votes in the General Assembly. That you'll let the system function as it's supposed to function." He said he would agree, and I agreed. I had already made that commitment to everybody in the Senate. (both laugh) Because that's what I had been for six years already. So we had a deal, and he stuck to it and I stuck to it. He doesn't 01:26:00remember making that deal. He also doesn't remember that his legislative liaison, Ralph Ed Graves, had polled the Democratic caucus in the Senate and had found out that we had, that I had the votes for majority floor leader, and he, Ralph Ed was a member of the House just before becoming John Y.'s liaison. He knew the system and he knew the people. He told me himself at John's campaign headquarters in Louisville that he knew not one of those votes could be changed. That it was a done deal. So he'd already told John of that, that it couldn't be done. 01:27:00John Y. didn't make that decision on his own. But he also thinks that he-if extracted from me a commitment not to kill his legislation, well, I wouldn't have killed his legislation anyway. That wasn't our purpose. We went to the pre-legislative conference at the Kentucky Dam Village, the last one I think that was held, down there, and the Black Sheep voted their commitment, the other side had a candidate but he didn't get enough votes, and I think I got about eighteen votes, even though there were only at that time fifteen Black Sheep. I assume that Joe Prather was maybe the seventeenth vote, and who was the eighteenth, I never knew. But all of our 01:28:00candidates got elected and we ran the Senate in the 1980 session just exactly the way we'd always said it ought to be run. We never-there was no retribution. There was no attempt at intimidation. There was no effort to stifle any voice. No punishment-dished out to anybody. Everybody had a chance to bring their positions to the floor. The Republicans had bills on the floor, numerous times. We even appointed Republicans to positions of assistant, or vice chairs of 01:29:00the various standing, some of the standing committees. We gave the Republicans, without even their knowing about it, we gave them through the LRC [Legislative Research Commission] enough money for additional office space, new carpets, better furnishings. They had-at that time, they just had junk in a little room not much bigger than this one. And we got along. There were no arguments. There was nobody complaining in the 1980 session about leaders being heavy-handed. Nobody saying that the Governor was forcing anybody to do anything. No-the word 'Turkey,' which came up all the time in previous sessions, the word 'Turkey' was never mentioned in that session. No bills were offered or passed to pay people back for something. So 01:30:00it was the smoothest session that I had ever served in and other people told me who had longer experience that it was the best functioning session that they had ever been in. So it worked. The system, as it was designed to work, worked, just as it was planned by the framers of the constitution and the people who conceived it. It didn't have to be distorted, or manipulated, or circumvented, or twisted in some way because of circumstances to make it work. It was just allowed to work as it was supposed to and it did.

SALMONS: After that, did you decide to leave politics, or?

BERRY: Not too long after that session, that 1980 session ended, sometime during that 01:31:00year, I decided definitely that I wasn't going to seek reelection. I had always thought that people generally serve too long, and that it wasn't good for the person who was serving, and it wasn't good for the people, to have people too entrenched into the system. I had five children, and a living to make.

[Tape 1, side 2 ends.]

[End of interview.]