Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with John "Jack" Keith, January 12, 2007

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
Toggle Index/Transcript View Switch.
Search this Transcript

KLEE: The following is an unrehearsed interview for the University of Kentucky Community College System Oral History Project. I'm John Klee, doing the interviewing, and I'm interviewing John Keith in Cynthiana, Kentucky, on January the 11th, 2007. And we're in his office here in Cynthiana. Jack, your personal life and the life of the college kind of coincide at different places. Tell me a little bit about your background.

KEITH: All right. I'm from Cynthiana. My father and mother -- my mother was born here; my father was born in Manila, in the Philippines. And his -- my grandfather was a civil engineer with the Army. And 00:01:00they went from the Philippines to China to Chicago, and how my father got here, I'm not really sure. But anyway, I was born and raised here in Cynthiana. The -- my father was in politics. He was the county attorney when I was born here, for Harrison County. And so politics was ingrained -- politics is part of my DNA, I guess. (Laughter-Klee) But the political process, as much as anything, as well as local politics, but it's the political process. So in any event, I went to school here. I got a bachelor's degree at Kentucky Wesleyan College in Owensboro. And I then went to Western, got a master's at Western. And then taught a year of high school and decided I'm -- my father, of course, had been an attorney, and I decided, you know, I wanted to go to law school. So I went to law school. Got out of law school. But all the time -- as much -- I so enjoyed teaching, I really didn't plan 00:02:00to practice law, I planned to teach.

KLEE: So where did you teach your year of high school?

KEITH: Henderson City High. There's no longer a Henderson City. Henderson County, Henderson City joined a few years after I left.

KLEE: And your master's at Western?

KEITH: Western, history education.

KLEE: History education, uh-huh. And you went to law school, then, where?


KLEE: Okay.

KEITH: When I was getting out of law school, I wanted to -- I still had this love of teaching. And even though my father was an attorney here, that love of teaching and working with people was important to me. So anyway, I started looking around and found they were opening a community college in Maysville. So I went to Maysville, interviewed with Dr. Wethington. The day I went in for an interview was the day I 00:03:00met Bob Berry.

KLEE: I see.

KEITH: He was -- he had, I think, just been hired, and I was anxious to -- didn't know anything about Maysville, but he was -- the prospect of teaching in college was something I was really anxious to do, and Dr. Wethington just sold me. And as much as anything, his personality and his -- the acceptance and the excitement in Maysville of this college was just hard to fathom. It was just -- you know, it was great.

KLEE: Tell me about some of the people you met. You met Dr. Berry, and what was your impression of him?

KEITH: Bob Berry, [sounds like Pete Burdine], who's gone now. John Crockett was on an early faculty. [Sounds like Ellen Malone], I think Ellen's passed away now. [Sounds like Natalie Jarzebowski], who was Polish, taught Russian. I don't know who -- she didn't have a 00:04:00whole lot of Russian students, but (laughter-Klee) did teach Russian. Darrell Abney's wife, Kay, she was a Hargett at that time, was a great English teacher. We just had -- I tell you, there was an atmosphere in Maysville and in that faculty that I have never seen duplicated in any place that I've ever been. It was fabulous.

KLEE: So did -- do you remember, was -- I mean, was there an official kind of search procedure? Or does Dr. Wethington just sit down and --

KEITH: I don't know how he did it. I just heard that they had an opening, and I -- now, I'm not sure whether I tried to go through the Community College System. Well of course, UK ran the community colleges. And I don't recall how I caught onto it, but in any event, I heard they had an opening, so I applied and was what I consider 00:05:00fortunate enough to be able to get a position.

KLEE: So what kind of -- you said Dr. Wethington was an energetic kind of person?

KEITH: He was -- to be honest, he really didn't have to be that much of a salesman, but he was. And his -- you know, I was so impressed with his excitement about opening this, and the fact -- you know, our first offices were down on Second Street in the old KU building. On -- our offices were on the second floor; his offices were in the Cochran Building, I think, at that time. And it was just such a -- there's something about being on the ground floor when something's starting. And you know, I guess this sounds a little bit schmaltzy, but you 00:06:00know, to be part of something that was so wanted. And with Mitchell and Harriet Denham and the Duke Family and Jean and [sounds like Junie] Calvert and -- the warmth that you had to feel that was there was just near overwhelming, that you know, these people were so excited. And it grew --

KLEE: How did they demonstrate that excitement? Just meeting you? Or did they have parties or --

KEITH: There were a lot of social events, we were welcomed, you know, just tremendously. There was a tremendous amount of -- you know, it was the greatest thing since sliced bread to hit that town. And those people made you excited by their excitement and what they did. And 00:07:00of course, maybe one of the really great things that happened about it, John, was the classes were downtown. And merchants and Kilgus's Drugstore, and you know, Case's, ----------(??) Case's Clothing Store. And people made you know that you were welcome. We were across the street from State National Bank. And of course, the Bank of Maysville, and the folks down there had been so very active at the Bank of Maysville. That's why -- it was a community just pulled together, that it was just hard to under- -- hard to appreciate it unless you lived in it, and we were swimming in it. And we just had -- it was just an exciting -- and the faculty got to be so very close, and we did a lot of things on our own together. But it was a wonderful time.


KLEE: Now, did you move to Maysville at that point?

KEITH: We moved to Maysville, lived in Limestone Village across from Mason County High School. And they warned me when I moved over there, said "When Mason County starts playing basketball, even though you live all the way over here, you're probably going to have people lining your streets with parking cars, (laughter-Klee) not to mention up and down 68." And of course, that was true, and that was a lot of fun to watch that.

KLEE: Tell me about some of the students at that point. What kind of kids were they? What kind of preparation did they have?

KEITH: I was sold, after a year or so, on community colleges. So I'd looked a lot into what -- how our students were going to be doing when they got to main campus or to Morehead or Eastern or wherever they went from there. And our students were doing better. They were having 00:09:00better grades. And what we were doing -- and it's still, I think, a core mission of community colleges that I saw in my -- at least in my relationships with students -- we were getting very, very good students who would have done well wherever they went, but a lot of students we were getting were C students who we -- you know, had never really accelerated or never really excelled in high school. And to watch them mature and -- you know, it was a fascinating and interesting, you know, process.

KLEE: You think the individual attention or the small size of classes --

KEITH: I don't know what it was. I think it was a combination of things, no one thing. But I thought -- you know, my neurologist came 00:10:00from -- Dr. Blake.

KLEE: Is that right? Yeah, yeah.

KEITH: And who was also -- it was, you know, then at the Denham Clinic, or his father was. And you know, when I see him, you know, we still kind of talk about things like that. Mitchell Denham and Mike and his wife -- when Mike and his wife were married in August of 19- -- I think it was '73, I was working in Washington D.C. for a Congressman. And I flew back for the wedding in August, because they were both just -- they weren't students, they were friends. As most of -- I really felt like most of my students were friends. And I had -- I 00:11:00just got an email from Dennis Redmond was sent to me, because he'd heard I'd gone on City Commission in Cynthiana. And of course, Dennis has a background in city management, offering assistance if I needed anything. I'm trying to think. There was a young man from Robertson County that has an outdoor drama up in Ohio. Marion --

KLEE: Oh, yeah. Waggoner?

KEITH: Marion Waggoner. I was by the college recently and saw one of the girls. She said, "Oh, Marion Waggoner was in. Said to tell you hello if you ever stopped in." Phil Hamm, who was a student of mine who was working at Browning, and a district judge --

KLEE: Is that right?

KEITH: -- in Eastern Kentucky. And then beside -- there were so many success stories for that college that -- and I don't know what they 00:12:00would have done, had they gone to -- started at main campus, I can't say. But I can say they have made positive contributions, that they went to that community college and they've made positive contributions since that time.

KLEE: Mike Denham, you mentioned, state representative now. And his wife was a -- Marg Breslin, I believe.

KEITH: She was a Breslin.

KLEE: And they went to college here together?

KEITH: Yeah.

KLEE: Oh, I didn't realize that.

KEITH: And one summer, I -- Wethington was really concerned about this and called me in on it because he had gotten a letter. I decided -- you know, Maysville is in the heart of a lot of Indian culture, and so I formed a lab section of a U.S. history class.

KLEE: I see.

KEITH: We went to the Fox Field out at May's Lick. Well, it would now be a felony.

KLEE: Right. (Laughter-both) Yeah, it's a national site.


KEITH: We excavated an Indian grave as a part of the class. And Margaret was out there, and I've forgotten who else was out there. But you know, you could do it then. You couldn't now. And looking back, it was inappropriate, should not have done that. It wasn't meant to be a -- certainly a desecration. And there's a lot of things we do in our past we look back now and say, "That was insensitive."

KLEE: But it was a different time.

KEITH: It was a different time. But you know -- but Margaret was out there. And Mike, I'm not sure. Of course, he went on. I think Mike graduated from Morehead, as I -- I believe.

KLEE: I'm not sure.

KEITH: But anyway, you know -- and I still see Mike occasionally. And I'll -- because we still love Maysville. I'm over there on occasion, and I'm still trying to be active with the college.

KLEE: Are there any incidents with Dr. Wethington or -- that stand out 00:14:00in your mind? You said there was some concern on that from UK.

KEITH: Well you know, he'd gotten a letter from, I think, the chairman of the anthropology department at UK (laughter-both) saying, "What is this?" Basically saying, you know, "What are you -- what's this guy think he's doing?" And he was very nice, asked me to come in, and we went through it and -- you know, point made, okay. But he was, as always, very diplomatic, very gracious about it.

KLEE: Sure.

KEITH: And you know, of course, Wethington had -- you know, he had Judy, and he didn't have to do much. (Laughter-Klee) Judy's just such a delightful, wonderful person. And I remember -- as I recall, both of their youngsters were born, I think, maybe while they were in Maysville.

KLEE: Okay, I didn't realize that. I know that the community thought 00:15:00very highly of the couple.

KEITH: Oh, yeah.

KLEE: And they were -- yeah.

KEITH: He could have -- if he'd decided to get into local politics --

KLEE: Yeah.

KEITH: -- he could have done whatever he wanted.

KLEE: (Laughter-Klee) Written his ticket, couldn't he?

KEITH: Yeah, yeah. The thing is, it was deserved, because it was an easy sell for him, but it took a lot of work, I'm sure. And he had a lot of support from the community college administration, Stanley Wall and I've forgotten who his predecessor was.

KLEE: I knew it before you mentioned it. It might come to me here in a minute. Now, you were there in '68, '69, when the classes were downtown.

KEITH: Yeah.

KLEE: Where were you teaching the classes?

KEITH: The Presbyterian Church. I was -- I think all of my classes were using -- utilizing classrooms in the Presbyterian Church. I know the 00:16:00science labs were at Maysville High School. And I think the Methodist Church was used some. I don't recall there being any other locations for classes.

KLEE: Were the students -- one of the things about community colleges, as time changed, you mentioned Dr. Blake's son --

KEITH: Right.

KLEE: -- and Representative Mitchell, who was also a doctor. Doctor Mitchell Denham, his son went there, and others. Some of that group goes -- passes by community colleges today. Can you think of reasons why they went then?

KEITH: I really don't know. Because most likely they could have gone -- I wouldn't have been surprised for them to go main campus. Whether 00:17:00or not it was an effort of support, whether or not, you know, they knew that we were going to -- you know, they were going to get personal attention. And we were also pulling some non-traditional students, as we -- community college always does. You know, I taught a history class at night, and Jean and [sounds like Junie] Calvert, Jean's mother, Bill Calvert, you know, just so many people. And they were interested --

KLEE: So these were community people that were interested in the subject probably, and again, wanted to support the college.

KEITH: And I think wanted to support the college. And most of them came under probably Donovan Scholars at that point. But that's fine, that's great.

KLEE: It probably made for a lively discussion.

KEITH: Oh, yeah. They'd seen a lot of history. (Laughter-both)

KLEE: Yeah, right.

KEITH: And you know, Jean Calvert's mother was such a neat gal. And 00:18:00there were just so many people that were --

KLEE: Now, these students, they accepted the concept of going downtown and doing all that?

KEITH: Yes, absolutely.

KLEE: What about the connection to UK? What was that -- was there an importance there?

KEITH: I think there was. And that's one of the reasons -- and I'm in the minority in this, I recognize -- there was a -- you know, when the big fight came up in the -- for removing the community colleges from UK, and I'd looked at some salary issues. And I was a spectator at that point, a supporter, but kind of a spectator at the same time. And I thought there was some salary issues for community colleges that were not getting as good a shake, maybe, as they should. But the thing that I thought was so important -- and I'm having to be on a board with Paul 00:19:00Patton right now, and I still talk to him about that, because he was so adamant and pushed that through, what I call "The Great Divorce," that it meant so much to those students to have University of Kentucky on that diploma, as opposed to the Kentucky Community and Technical Colleges. And the degrees -- accreditation wasn't an issue in that, but I thought it gave at least a psychological boost to those youngsters to say, "Yes, I graduated from the University of Kentucky," as opposed -- and I mean nothing against KCTCS, because, you know, they've done -- but I just thought there was -- that was -- and I knew what those local people had done. That college wouldn't have been there, had it not had 00:20:00been the University of Kentucky. And the University of Kentucky had a strong alumni hand and supporters, not just alums, but just supporters of the University of Kentucky. And that was so ingrained in that area that I thought it was so important. And I thought there was a debt owed to that community, but you know, not the first fight I lost.

KLEE: I guess a few students even probably got tickets and went to games?

KEITH: Oh, yeah! Darrell Abney even organized -- the community college had its own basketball team. (Laughter-Klee)

KLEE: Right.

KEITH: Darrell was such an ardent Western Kentucky University fan. You know, he wanted -- at one point he suggested that the library floor be really red carpet. (Laughter-both)

KLEE: That sounds like him.

KEITH: That sounds like Darrell.

KLEE: Right. Now, did you get into the building when it was built? Were you still there?


KLEE: Okay.

KEITH: Yeah, I was there three years. The first year we were downtown; 00:21:00the next two years we were on the hill.

KLEE: Mm-mm. And what was that like?

KEITH: It was wonderful. I'd miss the relationships downtown; I'd miss the people, because we made a lot of friends.

KLEE: Sure. I guess you all walked to lunches and had lunch together.

KEITH: Yeah, we were eating our lunch at the drugstores and at the restaurants downtown, and we just met so many people.

KLEE: People, sure. Saw them on the street.

KEITH: And that didn't hurt the college.

KLEE: Oh, no, no.

KEITH: When you put all those youngsters and oldsters downtown, buying supplies and eating lunch. And of course, you know, we're clogging up parking places and all this kind of business that goes with traffic. But you know, it was -- that did not hurt the impact of the college. I'm sure that helped it.

KLEE: And of course at that time, downtown was all there was.

KEITH: There wasn't anything on the hill.

KLEE: Right. So that was the lively business district.


KEITH: That was the business district.

KLEE: Right, yeah. So you went out in '69, I guess.

KEITH: Yeah, in '69 we went out on the hill, and that was a wonderful move. And obviously --

KLEE: Again, I guess the thrill of being in a new facility, brand new.

KEITH: Brand new facility. The University had a new president at the dedication, Otis Singletary. I immediately checked the library to be sure we had Singletary's book on Andrew Jackson.

KLEE: I see. (Laughter-both)

KEITH: I told him at the dedication. (Laughter-Keith) I said, "President Singletary, we do have your book that you wrote about Andrew Jackson. I've checked and our library has it." (Laughter-Keith)

KLEE: Good. And he was there at the dedication?

KEITH: He was there at the dedication. Governor Nunn was there. Of course, Nunn got a lot of criticism, but that was more political than anything.

KLEE: I see.

KEITH: That was just the way it was.

KLEE: You mean criticism at the dedication or just --

KEITH: Well, no, no. Just that he had added two cents onto the sales 00:23:00tax.

KLEE: Right. Oh well, yeah. I mean, to raise the money for these things.

KEITH: And -- yeah, for a lot of -- and it needed to be done. But everybody loved him in Maysville when that college got there. But I think, you know, there were so many people that had so much to do with that. The Browning family, obviously, were just -- you know, you mentioned Lou. Larry, all of them were just major, major supporters of the college.

KLEE: Of course, the first thing you had to do was buy the property and so forth.

KEITH: We had to buy -- and what a great deal, what a great facility and a great tract of land. I'm sure everybody was saying, "My God! It's nowhere here. (Laughter-Klee) This is not in Maysville! It's in Washington!"

KLEE: Right.

KEITH: So what?

KLEE: And it literally was in the city of Washington at that time, right.

KEITH: Yeah.

KLEE: And seemed like out in the country.

KEITH: And it was out in the country. And there had been a little bit about as far out as Mason County High, because Limestone Village, where 00:24:00we were living, was about as far out as it went.

KLEE: Yes, that's right. Two-lane highway out, then, to the college.

KEITH: Two-lane highway. And there wasn't much building going on.

KLEE: That day -- I guess you remember the dedication, because you mentioned Dr. Singletary and told him you had the book. Most of the people that were, I guess, instrumental really in getting that there were there that day.

KEITH: Yeah, they gave -- as I -- they gave special recognition. And I'm trying to think. There was a gentleman that I have not mentioned. Jean Calvert, I think, was recognized. Harry Denham was on UK's board, and Mitchell was, I think, majority leader in the House, not bad to have that kind of muscle --

KLEE: That's right, yeah.

KEITH: -- if you want something done.

KLEE: They were working from both ends, uh-huh.

KEITH: Yeah. There was a couple other people that were noted, as I recall, John. And I'm --

KLEE: Well, I have -- we have those newspaper articles.

KEITH: In any event, a lot of people were recognized, justly so. It was 00:25:00held out in front of the college on the Great Lawn. And it was just a truly joyful occasion.

KLEE: Dr. Wethington was, I guess, kind of what you'd call the founding director. Later they used the word "president."

KEITH: He was kind of like -- he was like an OB; he delivered the college.

KLEE: Yeah. And then Dr. Shires came. And you were with him for a year as an instructor.

KEITH: No, no. I resigned to come back here to practice law in Cynthiana. Wethington was leaving at the same time. And I was chairman of the search committee.

KLEE: Oh, for the president?

KEITH: For the president. And we had a number of really good candidates. And anyway, Dr. Shires got the nod. And I came here -- I moved back 00:26:00here at the end of August, and Dr. Shires, I think, went in in August or maybe July. And Wethington went to main campus as assistant -- whatever they called them then, vice president or chancellor or --

KLEE: Yeah, for the community colleges, right.

KEITH: Yeah, for community colleges. And Shires came on board then.

KLEE: Do you have any insights on -- I know you'll have insights on your own decision -- on Wethington's decision? Did he talk to the faculty or --

KEITH: Not that -- I don't recall anything specific.

KLEE: Right. I guess it was just a career move for him?

KEITH: It was a good career move for him. He had shown his mettle. And he was -- got a pretty good handle -- he was well -- obviously well- respected and well-liked throughout the system. And of course, the more 00:27:00he was in it, the more people got to know him. And he became the kind of fellow -- UK president ----------(??).

KLEE: And if you care to share it, what about insights on your decision to leave?

KEITH: Well, it was -- I kind of joke about it. I was spending too much time -- of course, I was an attorney. In teaching, I was spending some time getting my students out of jail (laughter-Klee). That's -- not really that much to that, though. But no, I decided -- I was practicing some, and I decided, you know, as much as I'd enjoyed teaching, I needed to give, you know, what I'd spent my time doing to -- into the practice of law. And I've thought about, and my wife and I had talked about -- although it wasn't a long discussion -- going to IU to go on and work on a doctoral degree in Educational Administration, 00:28:00and maybe get into educational administration. But educational administration wasn't the reason I was in education; teaching was the reason I was in education. And so I didn't really know if I would have enjoyed that. And we toyed around with that, but I decided, you know, I don't know if she'd stay with me.

KLEE: (Laughter-Klee) Community college teachers didn't make a whole lot of money, either.

KEITH: I started at $7,400. I remember that vividly.

KLEE: Well, I remember what I started at too, and it wasn't a whole lot more than that ten years later. (Laughter-Klee)

KEITH: I started -- my high school was $4,650.

KLEE: Gee. I started at $9,300 in '77.


KLEE: So things hadn't --

KEITH: Hadn't gone up much!

KLEE: No. No, I mean, considering inflation.

KEITH: And I got a little supplement for teaching, I think, in summers.

KLEE: Yeah, yeah, they did pay extra, which wasn't (laughter-Klee) --

KEITH: Wasn't going to retire on that either, but it was another time. It was just the time, and that's just what it paid.

KLEE: So you came back to Cynthiana. What was Cynthiana like in the 00:29:00early '70s?

KEITH: Okay. I came back here -- my father was county attorney -- and went into practice with him. Throughout, you know, my undergraduate days and when I was at Maysville, I was involved in local Democratic politics. Lloyd Berry and a lot of people that were in Maysville, I got to be close to and friends with. And when I got back here --

KLEE: Before I leave that -- I know that, you know, these tapes sometimes get a lot of information that you don't think you're going to get, but people find useful. And I want to mention -- you mentioned Lloyd Berry, and I hadn't thought of him for a long time. He was Mr. Democrat over there for a while.

KEITH: Absolutely. First club over at the community college was the Young Democrats.

KLEE: I see. I guess you were sponsoring that.

KEITH: As I recall -- I was there. (Laughter-Klee) I was there. In fact, someone suggested as a project; and it never went anywhere, thank goodness,(Laughter-Klee) because the Democrats were awfully strong at 00:30:00that point, Wouldn't it be neat -- and they talked about this, because I also taught also a class on political behavior that I thoroughly -- had a great time with -- What about as a class project, we take over the Republican Party surreptitiously? (Laughter-Keith)

KLEE: Could have worked! I mean, considering the numbers.

KEITH: Yeah, considering the numbers. But I -- no, we're not going to do that, we're not going there. (Laughter-Klee) A lot of Republicans have supported this, and it -- we're just not going to go there. Forget that. (Laughter-both) But somebody thought about, you know, just -- because -- and I did some projects in political behavior. I did some polling. I sent them out of Maysville -- my class out of Maysville one time to Cynthiana. And I divided Cynthiana into two separate sections that were basically equal in socio-economics.

KLEE: Okay.

KEITH: But I put one group -- this was at a time, a lot of anti-war stuff going on. And I had one group with a lot of anti-war garb on, who did 00:31:00polling. And I had the other group dressed up, who did some polling. And I wanted to find out how people perceived people they'd never seen before, their dress. And I called -- you know, I'd made arrangements here with the newspaper, the chief of police, I said, "You're going to see some strange people here. They're okay." It turned out it made no difference. And it might have been a silly project anyway.

KLEE: Oh, it didn't make a difference?

KEITH: No, it made no difference at all, how people -- the responses they got insofar as reactions to, in that time, Vietnam.

KLEE: Right. Well, that's kind of surprising. You'd have thought, you know --

KEITH: Yeah, I would have thought that would have made a difference.

KLEE: Yeah, that was your hypothesis.

KEITH: Yeah.

KLEE: But we always learn. I didn't mention that, but in those days, people were teaching a lot of different disciplines. So you taught political science and history.

KEITH: Business.

KLEE: Is that right? (Laughter-Klee)

KEITH: Yeah. Well of course, again, I taught business law.


KLEE: Right, right, because you had a law degree.

KEITH: I taught philosophy, with -- but it was probably -- I'm not going to call it illegal, but I had no business teaching it. I didn't have enough graduate hours for it. I taught political behavior; I taught American government, U.S. history to 1865, since 1865, then Kentucky history. I had a lot of preparations. But that's all right. I loved it.

KLEE: Right. Yeah, that was kind of fun, you know, dealing with a different subject every day.

KEITH: It was! It was exciting.

KLEE: I wanted to ask you about Lloyd Berry. I mean, what kind of -- just describe him, because I don't know if anybody would --

KEITH: Yeah. Lloyd Berry was Mr. Democrat. He loved -- he was just that fish in water when it came to politics, loved it dearly. In fact, we'd gone to Lexington. Lloyd had asked me to go to Lexington with him for some kind of meeting. And it was political, I guess. And we were coming back, and where -- we were on -- just leaving Lexington. 00:33:00I know exactly the area of the road that we were on. There used to be place up there called Joyland Park. We were right there, and we were coming back to Maysville. We were talking about politics, and I said, "You know, Lloyd, one thing that ought to be interesting, ought to be helpful, county officials should start their own organization. They have so many like needs, but they don't have a like voice. So what they ought to think about doing, is all of the clerks, the jailers, the county judges, all of those people should form their own association. And it's going to be hard to argue with that group if you're in the General Assembly, because they -- if they can speak with a voice, all politics is local. And that's the ground -- that's the basics." And 00:34:00we talked about that on the way back. I told him, "You know, Lloyd, you ought to think about that sometime." Because he was a wheel in the Kentucky Jailers Association, and Lloyd was also always -- even when I left the college, occasionally he'd call and say, "Jack, I've got a guy that's in jail over here, charged with a felony." I remember the fellow's name exactly. "Been charged with a felony." And he said, "He doesn't have any money. I think he's got $90, Jack. Will you come over and represent him?" And so I remember -- you know, Woody was on the other side.

KLEE: Woody Wood you're talking about.

KEITH: Woody Wood. And I was commonwealth attorney, and Woody was on the other side. And I went over and represented him. But Lloyd and I had a good relationship. His brother taught for the college, taught golf. His brother was a --

KLEE: That's right, a golfer. Yeah

KEITH: He was a -- he taught --

KLEE: I can't remember his name. Was it Don?

KEITH: Donny.

KLEE: Donny. Yeah, okay.

KEITH: Taught for the college.

KLEE: Now did Berry follow up, then, on the statewide organization?

KEITH: I have no idea.


KLEE: Of course, they got one of those now.

KEITH: There is now one, KACO, Kentucky Association of Counties. And I don't know if it ever came from our conversation that night, but I'd say somebody -- you know, I doubt if my thought was original.

KLEE: Sure. Yeah. I'll take you back now to Cynthiana in the early '70s. Is this a pretty bustling area?

KEITH: It was pretty good. To be candid with you, it was better than it is now. We've lost some industry. But at the same time, were a tobacco business then, just like Maysville. And the thing is, Maysville has become, for whatever reason -- a lot of it I attribute to the college, a lot of it I attribute to the AA [Highway] -- has become a very good commercial area. We have not done that. We have lost -- like must rural areas in our area of Kentucky, we've lost our tobacco. And the -- that was a -- you know, tobacco built most of this town, just like it did much of early Maysville. Now, your economy has 00:36:00switched, you're still pretty -- very agricultural, but you still have a -- you've got a good industrial base, much better than we do.

KLEE: Yeah, we've been fortunate that way. Has there been talk about a college over here any -- over the years?

KEITH: No, not really. I think occasionally somebody -- UK may have dropped in for an extension or something. But when I got here, and I'd settled in, I started practicing law, and then because of my fascination and interest in politics, I'd worked in a political campaign for John Breckinridge, who ran for Congress. And I was one of his county chairmen. And he called me in May after that election, and said, you know, "I'd like to offer you a job." And I said, "Well, I 00:37:00don't know." You know, that was in late April, because my father was in Florida. And I said, "Let me think about it." I said, "Well, what are you talking about doing?" He said, "I'd like for you to come to work for me in Washington as administrative assistant." Well, I'd done some organizing for him, and I knew people and had gotten to know a lot of people, all the way from the Ohio River down to -- I think our district at that point -- it went through Fayette County, and I don't think it went to Madison. But anyway, I'd gotten to know people, and so -- and I enjoyed the process. So I went up. I said, "Let me come up. I'll fly up and talk to you about it." And I went up and spent three or four days with him, and he was very gracious to me. His office was in the Cannon Building. So my father came back, and I said, "Dad, I'd like 00:38:00to give him six months. But you know, I'm still working for you, and I don't want to leave you." He said, "Well, try it." So I went up in -- I think it was June, and worked for him until December, and I decided -- in Washington. And I decided, you know, I'm not going to raise my children.

KLEE: Right. I want to get a year on that. Was that in '7- --

KEITH: That's in '73, because of Watergate -- it was such a glorious time because Watergate was going.

KLEE: Oh, gosh! (Laughter-Klee)

KEITH: And you know, a political animal. And I got to [meet] a number of the people involved. I was -- I hadn't got -- a friend of mine from here had a place out in Georgetown, and he found me a little apartment that I thought was outrageously expensive.

KLEE: I'm sure it was! (Laughter-Klee)

KEITH: But I got an apartment out in Georgetown, maybe -- about the size 00:39:00of this room.

KLEE: Gee. (Laughter-Klee)

KEITH: Yeah. And this room isn't that big. But anyway, that was all of it. I didn't need anything else, I was there alone. And I was flying back every two weeks to come home, because I had two children at the time. So anyway, we -- I was really swimming in politics then, because, you know, local news is world news.

KLEE: Right, yeah. (Laughter-Klee)

KEITH: And so anyway, I came -- I decided I just wasn't going -- as much as I loved it, I wasn't going to raise my children.

KLEE: You were just doing casework for the Congressman?

KEITH: Yeah, I was, you know, just doing --

KLEE: Constituent --

KEITH: Constituent services, contacts, trying to smooth waters, explain issues, this kind of stuff. Meeting constituents and this kind of stuff. So I came back here, and -- back to practice. But when I got back here, I started, you know, looking around, and I knew what the 00:40:00college -- what I thought the college had done for Maysville. And I was anxious for Cynthiana to have that opportunity. So I talked to -- went over and talked to Shires and Crockett, and I said, you know, "How about getting some classes here?" So we started -- I think it might have been in January, maybe, of '74, I'm not sure.

KLEE: Yeah, I can check that.

KEITH: But anyway --

KLEE: Offering a few classes.

KEITH: We started with three classes, three or four classes at the high school. And then we started to expand a little bit, and grow and grow. And we've had a lot of -- it's been a lot of fun, and it's fun watching it grow, and it's exciting watching it grow.

KLEE: Now, things changed in -- I guess the late '80s is when they started talking about a center over here, an actual --

KEITH: Yeah, I'm not sure when -- well, I was aiming for that --


KLEE: From the beginning.

KEITH: -- from the beginning. I wanted that. And I'm not sure when it really started. You know, we were continuing to press for classes and getting more classes. And we've got a great gal that's running our system here, Bruce Florence, and she's just done just a whale of a job. And it's grown. We're happy; we're pleased.

KLEE: You've got a building now.

KEITH: We've got a building, getting ready to put an addition on.

KLEE: Okay. Who in the community -- I know you worked on Shires and Crockett from that end.

KEITH: Yeah.

KLEE: There was -- at one point, there was actually some legislative money that was designated, I believe, for the Cynthiana Campus.

KEITH: I think so.

KLEE: Uh-huh. Who was working on that? I mean, politically, were there any political allies you had here that were important?

KEITH: I think -- there wasn't anybody that wasn't willing to help.

KLEE: Was Ed Ford --

KEITH: Ed Ford was a state senator, and subsequently of course, later 00:42:00went to the Governor's Office. But that's when -- unfortunately, that governor is the one that arranged our "divorce."

KLEE: Oh, right. (Laughter-Klee) Paul Patton, you're talking about.

KEITH: But Ed and I had known each other for a long time. I had -- when I came back, the then-superintendent here, Martin Carr, asked me to look into a legal issue for the Board of Education, and I had started with that. And Martin had done some tremendous stuff in education for our community.

KLEE: Now, who's that? Martin?

KEITH: Martin Carr, C-A-R-R.

KLEE: Okay.

KEITH: And he had assembled a tremendous staff here, had done a lot of really advanced kinds of work in education for handicapped children. We were fortunate enough to get in early on that. He got -- he assembled just an outstanding staff, and our system blossomed, starting 00:43:00then, really. Of course, a lot of --

KLEE: You did -- you said you did legal work for the Board?

KEITH: I represented the Board for twenty-five -- I quit representing the Board when I became a full-time commonwealth attorney, because I couldn't have a private practice. But that started in the mid-'70s as well, I think.

KLEE: Now, was he there -- that was another key to this, the early cooperation of the high school.

KEITH: Absolutely. Martin Carr and the Board of Education, and Ed Ford came on board. And I'm not sure when Ed Ford did, but Ed was a very strong and early advocate for the community college and gave us a lot of support. John Swinford, who had formerly been a legislator here, gave support. Then after John left, there was -- Mark Fitzgerald, 00:44:00who was a legislator. Another legislator after that was Mark Farrow, who was from Georgetown. And the current representative is Tom McKee, who has been very, very helpful and a real force for us insofar as -- particularly the -- weighing in for the community college.

KLEE: I see. So all these people were supportive --

KEITH: All these people -- you know, it was a common effort by lots of people here. Some businesses -- we had a former UK board member from here, a fellow by the name of Tracy Farmer. Tracy helped us a lot. Another banker here, Jim Brown, who has Farmers Bank here, gave us office space, an office building, and said, you know, "Use it." Paid maintenance, taxes, whatever else.

KLEE: Was that the building that you had for a while?

KEITH: Yeah. This was a building we had out on US 62, Oddville Pike.


KLEE: Right.

KEITH: But he donated the building for our use, remodeled parts of it.

KLEE: And you used that for many -- several years.

KEITH: Yeah, a number of years.

KLEE: Had classes and offices there.

KEITH: Had classes that were there, offices were there. But we had classes at the 3M plant; we had classes at the high school; we had classes at the Methodist Church. And you know, everybody was willing -- it was the same kind of effort or the same type of effort as in Maysville. Maysville was so much more intense.

KLEE: Well, it was a shorter time period to.

KEITH: Yeah, a shorter time period.

KLEE: You all kind of grew this.

KEITH: This kind of grew up like Topsy.

KLEE: Right. (Laughter-Klee)

KEITH: You know, that one kind of grew up like a tornado, you know. Thrown into the deep end of the pool, and everybody was learning to 00:46:00swim at the same time.

KLEE: Right. No naysayers that --

KEITH: I never heard one.

KLEE: Is that right?

KEITH: I never heard one. Now, people may have known not to say anything to me. (Laughter-Klee) Because -- but I never heard a negative comment about the college and the prospect of the college.

KLEE: Now of course, you became associated with Maysville. That was a connection you had.

KEITH: Yeah.

[End Side 1, Tape 1]

[Begin Side 2, Tape 1]

KLEE: -- with Jack Keith of Cynthiana on January the 11th, 2007. And I was asking why the Maysville thing? And you were saying that you already had the connections there.

KEITH: Yeah. My relationships went back there. And another relationship that I had at the time, that I really didn't consider, about 19- -- and I can't give you an exact date -- about 1974 or '75, 00:47:00by what I think was probably a political accident, I went on the Board of Regents at Eastern.


KEITH: And so you know, I -- but I never -- I watched one of the great politicians Mason County ever produced, Bob Martin.

KLEE: Oh! (Laughter-Klee)

KEITH: Yeah, he was president at Eastern. I'm also convinced that if Bob Martin would have been U.S. Senator, we may have had the Lexington Spacecraft Center. (Laughter-Klee) This man was -- he was a master politician as anyone I ever watched, just fantastic. But I was fortunate enough -- I was on their board for about twelve or fourteen years. That accident kept reoccurring, and I kept getting reappointed. But anyway, I went on under appointment of Wendell Ford. But -- and I 00:48:00knew what community colleges could do, and I really thought -- it never occurred to me that Eastern could do what Maysville could do.

KLEE: Okay. As far as the connection?

KEITH: As far as the connection that -- I felt much more comfortable -- at one point before -- just before I went on that board, Martin had made a proposal to take the community colleges away from UK and give them to the regionals.

KLEE: Yes, I remember that.

KEITH: And he and I kind of -- and I used a pen name at that time, as Sonny Fletcher from Lincoln, Kentucky. (Laughter-Klee) And I did this from -- I started using that when Wallace ran for President. And so I 00:49:00wrote some -- we traded some correspondence, but of course, he couldn't find Lincoln, Kentucky.

KLEE: Right. He couldn't trace down where you were from. (Laughter- both)

KEITH: But we -- I think there might have been a letter or two in the Courier at one point or another, I don't know.

KLEE: I see. So you were opposing this move?

KEITH: Absolutely, because I'd just come out of the community college. And I thought it would have -- you know, the reason the colleges were there was the University of Kentucky. And for the regionals to take that away would be a terrible disservice to the people who put it there, as in Maysville, because Eastern didn't have a relationship to Maysville, but the University of Kentucky had the prestige and the following to do it. Now, part of that following might have been basketball, but I don't care.

KLEE: Sure. Right. It was there.

KEITH: It was there, and if it hadn't been for the muscle and the 00:50:00political acumen and the desire, it wouldn't have been there, except for the University of Kentucky.

KLEE: At some point, you were appointed to our board, I believe?

KEITH: I'm not sure if I ever was.

KLEE: I thought you were on -- I might be mistaken.

KEITH: I might have been. I was on some search committees over there when --

KLEE: Maybe that's what I'm thinking.

KEITH: Yeah. I was on some presidential search committees, I think, after -- later.

KLEE: That's right; that's what I was thinking about. Was there any question about, I mean, service areas or anything like that? I mean, that didn't come up.

KEITH: I was always pushing for -- which I understand has been done now, and I did then. We needed to have a tuition relationship between Ohio and Kentucky, because, you know, these people are a stone's throw away and were being serviced by our economic market. And we needed to appreciate that. That was more students for us and a service for that 00:51:00area of Ohio.

KLEE: Sure. Yeah, really, I guess kind of like our citizens, except just a border.

KEITH: Yeah. Yeah, they happen to live on the other side of an artificial barrier. But they still supported us economically. Not in, obviously, real estate taxes, but --

KLEE: Now 3M was a -- I don't know if they're still a big player here?

KEITH: They are the biggest player here.

KLEE: A big player. Was there anyone there? I know that they took in classes early on.

KEITH: Yeah. I loved teaching there, because I got to go to the 3M store.

KLEE: I see. (Laughter-Klee)

KEITH: And they had a store. You can't imagine how many products 3M makes. Hundreds! And then of course, this is where all the Post-it notes are made.

KLEE: Sure, sure.

KEITH: And -- but they -- a lot of -- when 3M -- we came back here, 3M was growing and just started here. Not at their current plant where they are now, but they were, you know, getting off the ground. They 00:52:00were making copiers. And Post-it notes came later, I guess. But with the copiers, they had a lot of engineers. And that's the kind of -- you know, we needed it for the people we had here, but we needed also those engineers, those trained engineers.

KLEE: And of course, that was pretty -- they brought income into the area, housing --

KEITH: That's it. Housing, you know, so much that they contributed.

KLEE: I was thinking, I was going to ask you, are there any individuals that stand out in your mind, names of people that you thought were -- that, you know, brought in the classes and so forth?

KEITH: We've been -- insofar as 3M is concerned, we have been so very, very fortunate in the plant managers they've had here. This has been a stepping stone --

KLEE: Oh, I see. Uh-huh.

KEITH: -- I think, really, because we've seen some really good ones come in here that have gone to larger plants. And 3M has been a long-time 00:53:00-- just a good supporter and a good public citizen for us.

KLEE: '87 -- no, '97, excuse me, was the "divorce," as you call it.


KLEE: And you got into that politically a little bit?

KEITH: Yeah, I did.

KLEE: Tell me what your involvement was in that.

KEITH: Well, I was just an advocate for trying to keep the family together. We got -- several of us met with the Governor. And we had no headway. I mean, it just wasn't -- and he was gracious, but he also -- there were some arguments made, and he said, you know, basically, you know, they didn't persuade him.

KLEE: Yeah. I'm thinking, of course, Dr. Wethington fought that change quite a bit.

KEITH: Oh, yeah.


KLEE: Did you have any contact with Dr. Wethington over the years after that?

KEITH: Yeah. When I was at Eastern and he was at UK, I nominated him for presidency at Eastern.

KLEE: I see.

KEITH: And he withdrew from that process. He got to the finals, and of course -- you know, they have, as you well know, dozens and dozens. And I was co-chairman of the selection committee for Eastern's president. And Henry Stratton was a co-chair, who is an attorney down in Pikeville. And we had -- we were in the interview process, and on a Saturday morning, I remember him calling and said, "Jack, I'd like to withdraw." And I said, "You sure this is what you want to do?" And he said, "Yeah, I'd like to withdraw." I said, "Well, I hate that, but you 00:55:00know, I want you to be happy." Of course, he was an Eastern graduate, too.

KLEE: Oh, okay. I didn't realize that.

KEITH: Yeah, as I recall, I think he graduated from Eastern. And I was a Charles Wethington man.

KLEE: Oh, sure, sure.

KEITH: But anyway, he withdrew. As it turned out, obviously it was a good move for him. But we ended up hiring a fellow by the name of Hanly Funderburk, who'd been president at Auburn.

KLEE: Sometimes those searches, people withdraw because they know that somebody else is the inside -- or that's gotten the nod.

KEITH: Right. There's a lot of reasons.

KLEE: That wasn't the case in this -- at this point.

KEITH: Not that I -- no, no.

KLEE: He was still actively --

KEITH: He was still actively there.

KLEE: Right, okay. I wanted to --

KEITH: I think -- to be honest with you, I think the perceived -- I was his strongest advocate. I think there was a perceived weakness, in that his whole administrative structure had been with junior colleges or two-year colleges, as opposed to a regional university. I think 00:56:00that was going to be a problem for him.

KLEE: Right, and there was a prejudice about that.

KEITH: Yes, there was. A lot of people -- they were wrong, but --

KLEE: You taught, over the years, for us.

KEITH: Yeah.

KLEE: Just --

KEITH: I taught American government and U.S. history, and I think I taught Kentucky history. It's been sporadic. A lot of it has depended on what my office calendar is and what I've perceived as -- of course, you never know what it's going to be. But I went -- I became a full-time commonwealth attorney in 19- -- I guess about '95. We were given an option but -- by the Attorney General's Office -- or by the General Assembly, if we chose to go full-time, we could go full-time, we'd receive a full-time salary. Or we could stay part-time and have a private practice. At that point in my life, full-time meant 00:57:00-- Kentucky does have a good retirement system, a better retirement system. And I looked at it financially as a wash, but -- except for the retirement system. So I chose to give up a private practice. And so I don't even know if I taught for several years.

KLEE: So after you left Washington, from '74 until '95, you were in private practice here and doing some --

KEITH: I became commonwealth attorney in 1980, in June of 1980, at the appointment of Governor Brown. And I served as commonwealth attorney until I retired this past May when I --

KLEE: Right, 2006.

KEITH: Yeah, 2006, yeah.

KLEE: Okay. Well I've covered some of the topics I've wanted to cover and got some bonuses. I don't know what I missed.

KEITH: I've told you more than you needed to know.

KLEE: No, no. This is fantastic.

KEITH: It's dangerous to ask lawyers questions. (Laughter-Klee)

KLEE: I sure do -- is there anything about the early history of 00:58:00Maysville or the subsequent history of here in Cynthiana that I -- that you've -- that you --

KEITH: No, you know, I attribute much of what I think the success of Maysville has been to the college and to the leadership Maysville's had.

KLEE: You're talking about community leadership?

KEITH: Community leadership. You know, I am so very pleased, because we still go to Maysville, if not to go to Cap's to eat dinner, go across the river or for some function, to the Maysville Players or -- that I'd still -- I cherish that as one of -- honestly, one of the happiest times in my life, one of the most fulfilling.

KLEE: A home away from home.

KEITH: Yeah, one of the most fulfilling, because I like to think I helped and made a difference.

KLEE: Oh, sure. I was going -- there is a point that I had forgotten 00:59:00is what about the -- you're seeing students now graduate from Licking Valley on their own. Are you starting to -- what kind of differences is the Licking Valley campus making to Cynthiana as far as an institution?

KEITH: We're making some difference, but it's slower than what I saw from Maysville. Maysville had a much larger student body, and it's -- Wethington put together a pretty daggone good faculty.

KLEE: Right, right, yeah.

KEITH: You know, a lot of us were looking for and needed jobs, but we had a faculty that was -- and I think they are here as well -- but a faculty that was really interested in teaching students. And that's still, I guess, you know, schmaltzy. It's almost an emotional feeling with me, that I saw youngsters, who if that college had not been there, 01:00:00would have been lost. Or at best, would not have had -- been able to make the kind of contributions to their community they've subsequently made. And I attribute that solely to that college. And it's just --

KLEE: It is an -- as I do these interviews, it was an interesting and diverse group. A lot of young people, just enthusiastic. Dr. Wethington was young.

KEITH: Yeah, we were all pretty young. (Laughter-Klee) [Sounds like Natalie Jarzabowski] and [sounds like Ellen Malone] were two of the -- what I'll call seniors. But you know, I was twenty-something. And Crockett --

KLEE: And Dr. Berry hadn't had his doctorate very long.

KEITH: Bob Berry had just recently -- I think -- I'm not sure how long. But -- and you know, whether part of it was luck and part of it was just good -- and of course, I have no idea who had applied and who he didn't -- who didn't get jobs.


KLEE: Yeah. Dr. Wethington probably had a real role in that, I mean, by the way he picked them.

KEITH: He was the guy that, you know, put the magic hand on and said, "You've got a job."

KLEE: Yeah. There wasn't -- as I understand it, you didn't talk to a search committee or have --


KLEE: It was just Charles Wethington.

KEITH: Just he and I. I came down, found where his office was on Stanley Reed Court, and went up and talked to him. He drove me around town, went to the country club for lunch. And he was just -- you know, it didn't take a lot of salesmanship.

KLEE: Well, I sure appreciate you talking to me, and I think this will be a real addition.

KEITH: Well --

KLEE: Thank you.

KEITH: Good or bad.