Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Troy Welch, June 3, 2008

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:00:00

KLEE: The following is an unrehearsed interview with, uh, Troy Welch for the Ken-- University of Kentucky libaries as part of the University of Kentucky community college system history. The interview is being conducted on June 3, uh, 2008 at Mr. Welch's home in Middlesboro, Kentucky.

[Interruption in taping]

KLEE: Tell me a little bit about your, uh, background, your personal background and history.

WELCH: Well, I was born in Middlesboro, Kentucky and I moved from Middlesboro, Kentucky to Bristol, Tennessee as a kid.

KLEE: You don't mind giving your birth-date, do you?

WELCH: My birth-date is, uh, August 6, 1928.

KLEE: 1928.

WELCH: Right.

KLEE: And you moved to Bristol, Kentu-- uh, Bristol, Tennessee.

WELCH: Tennessee. And, and, uh, from there I moved to Greensboro, North 00:01:00Carolina, and I grew up in Greensboro, North Carolina, and I was, uh, in the US Navy at the age of fourteen.

KLEE: (laughs) Is that right? How'd that happen?

WELCH: I registered to, as a eighteen-year-old draftee in those days and served in the Navy, served in the South Pacific and, uh, served aboard a LST 635.

KLEE: Uh huh. And what is that? Is that some kind of--

WELCH: --It's a landing ship tank. That's an amphibious ship. Landing Marines and ships, tanks. And uh--

KLEE: What were some of the sights where you were--

WELCH: --Philippines,

KLEE: --stationed?

WELCH: --I was in the Philippines,

KLEE: --Uh-huh.

WELCH: --and, uh, the, uh, several other islands in the Pacific in the, of the Hawaiian islands.

KLEE: Mm-hm.

WELCH: And uh--

KLEE: --Gonna move this a little closer to you. Okay.

WELCH: --and they caught up with me and sent me home in May of 1945.

KLEE: (laughs) Is that right?

WELCH: Yeah, and I came back home and came to Middlesboro to visit with 00:02:00my grandparents and, and, um, the coach of the high school team caught me here and asked me to stay here and play high school football and go back to school. So I went back to, uh, high school, where I played high school football and I'm a member of the Middlesboro Football Hall of Fame. And, uh,--

KLEE: --So you were a veteran and came back to high school?

WELCH: Yes. And I, uh, went on, I went to Wasee College one summer and, and, uh, took up, uh, picked up algebra and English. And, um, I, uh, went to Georgetown College on a scholarship, played football at Georgetown College. Of course I only went to Georgetown a couple years at that time.

KLEE: Uh-huh. Right.

WELCH: And, um, I come back to, to Middlesboro and I've been married to my beautiful wife, Jenny, for fifty-seven years and we have three 00:03:00children. I have one young, my daughter, I had a daughter that got killed when she's nineteen--

KLEE: --Aw, I'm sorry.

WELCH: --at the University of Kentucky. She got hit by a train--

KLEE: --Huh.

WELCH: --in 1985. She was going to dental hygiene school.

KLEE: Uh-huh. Well, tell me what, wha-- what was your decision about coming back to Middlesboro? You had lived in North Carolina, and--

WELCH: --Well, I just come back to Middlesboro to visit my grandparents--

KLEE: --Uh-huh.

WELCH: --and, uh, I got to know some guys here and everything and the coach,--

KLEE: --Uh-huh.

WELCH: --the high school coach and he talked me into staying and playing high school football. I was a pretty good sized boy--

KLEE: --Uh-huh.

WELCH: --at that age and--

KLEE: --Right. And for that time, I guess.

WELCH: And that time of the, that time, you know and so--

KLEE: --Well you made the hall of fame. Did Middlesboro have, must have had a pretty good season.

WELCH: Well we, I played, uh, on a team that only lost one conference game in the three years that I played. And um, uh, we was always in the top ten in state. They didn't have A, double-A, and triple-A--

KLEE: --Right.

WELCH: --and all that back then, but--

00:04:00

KLEE: --Uh-huh.

WELCH: --we was always ranked pretty high in the state. Uh, we played big schools. We played DuPont Manual, Louisville,--

KLEE: --Gee.

WELCH: --played the Knoxville High School Trojans in Knoxville, and--.

KLEE: That must have been some kind of travel, uh,--

WELCH: --And we had, uh,--

KLEE: --in the, uh, 1940s.

WELCH: --we had, we, we dominated football here for years,--

KLEE: --Uh-huh.

WELCH: --in this area, Middlesboro High School did.

KLEE: Okay. Now, Middlesboro High School is gone now?

WELCH: No, it's--

KLEE: --Oh, still have the--

WELCH: ----------(??)----------

KLEE: --city high school and the county?

WELCH: --the city high school and then you have Bell County High School.

KLEE: Okay. After, uh, after college, what kind of career possibilities, uh, were there and what was Middlesboro like in that time period?

WELCH: Well, um, uh, after, uh, when I came back to Middlesboro, I went on to, uh, went to work for the Kroger Company--

KLEE: --Uh-huh.

WELCH: --and I was a Kroger store manager for eleven years.

KLEE: Okay

WELCH: And, um, after the Kroger store manager I, um, said if I'm gonna work for Kroger, I'll work for myself, so I went into business for myself and I opened a convenient-type store--

00:05:00

KLEE: --Uh-huh.

WELCH: --and my nickname is Frog; that's what they called me in high school because a boy made the comment, uh, in high school that I leap like a frog,--(Klee laughs)--uh, in playing football, and um, um, the, the, uh, name has helped me throughout the, the ride or--

KLEE: --Name recognition?

WELCH: Yeah, name recognition, people knew me as Frog,--

KLEE: --Uh-huh.

WELCH: --and, uh, but anyhow, I, uh--

KLEE: --Tell me about the city of Middlesboro. You start, you were managing the Kroger here, I guess.

WELCH: No, I started out in Kroger here and Kroger took me, uh, trained me and sent me to school and, and made a store manager out of me and I served as store manager for, for eleven years with Kroger and then I went into business for myself.

KLEE: Was that here in town? In Middlesboro or did you--

WELCH: --No, I was in Harlan and Corbin--

KLEE: --I see.

WELCH: --and London and different places--

KLEE: --They were transferring you around. Mm-hm.

WELCH: Yeah. And, uh, I went into business for myself where I stayed 00:06:00twenty-five years,--

KLEE: --Mm-hm.

WELCH: --I stayed in business. And my wife and I ran that store and I went out of business and went into politics.

KLEE: Uh-huh.

WELCH: And I was the mayor in the late seve-- I served eight years in Middlesboro City Council and I was appointed mayor in 19-- in the late seventies to finish, uh, Crawford Blakeman's term who had heart problems.

KLEE: Uh-huh

WELCH: And they appointed me the mayor and I finished out his term which was about a year and a half or two. And in the late eighties and early nineties, I was elected to two terms as mayor.

KLEE: Uh-huh. Um, tell me what the city of Middlesboro was like in the, in the seventies and eighties. Was that a, was that a good time for the city, or was it a rough, challenging--

WELCH: --Oh, yes. Uh, Middlesboro was a good time for the city. All the mines was working, the people--

KLEE: --I see.

WELCH: --was working and yes, it was a good time for the city. They, uh, uh, built the mall and it started growing and expanding, yeah

00:07:00

KLEE: So coal was the center of the,--

WELCH: --Coal, yes.

KLEE: --center of the business. Uh, when was the first time the idea of a community college came about? Or a site here at, uh, Middlesboro.

WELCH: I was, uh, uh, Governor Wallace Wilkinson's patronage person here in Bell County.

KLEE: Explain what that means.

WELCH: Well, that means that I'm his contact person for anything he wants to--

KLEE: --Uh-huh.

WELCH: --do or I have, uh, the, uh, privilege or whatever you may say that, uh, I can go visit him, you know. I can talk to him, I can get in to see the governor or, and well you just carry a lot of weight, I guess. (laughs)

KLEE: Right. So if somebody was getting a, if, if a name had been suggested here for an appointment from somebody in the area, he might call you to see who the, who it was?

WELCH: Right, yes. Right, yeah.

KLEE: Can you think of any examples where things came up where he gave you a call or you gave him a call?

WELCH: Not right off, I can't.

KLEE: Uh-huh. Right. So you were his patronage person.

WELCH: Yes. Mm-hm.

KLEE: Mm-hm. Uh, and this was in the, uh, I guess this was in the--

00:08:00

WELCH: --Late eighties.

KLEE: --late eighties.

WELCH: Yeah, he was elected in '87, uh, yeah.

KLEE: Okay.

WELCH: And I was his, uh, I supported him when he had just one per cent of the vote.

KLEE: (laughs) Is that right?

WELCH: Yes.

KLEE: He was a long-shot.

WELCH: I, I was a, yes. And, uh, I was, so, but he--

KLEE: --Uh, so uh, was there an idea about-- I mean what was, what was going on with the community college?

WELCH: Well, at the community college, uh, uh, Dr. Ayers, uh, came to me and uh, and uh, Dr. Ayers and Bob Vaughn and myself were the three very instrumental people in getting--

KLEE: --Mm-hm.

WELCH: --Southeast Community College located in Middlesboro.

KLEE: What had to be done? I mean, who,--

WELCH: --Well--

KLEE: --who did you have to talk to? Who did you have to convince?

WELCH: Well, it had been, we had to convince the governor. And, uh, so we had to go see, uh, the governor and we talked with the governor and, 00:09:00uh, he kind of, he agreed with us and then I made several trips back to Frankfort to see the governor and, um, had to work, um, like, uh, I had to show him that being the mayor of Middlesboro and he wanted to see and, um, uh, to show that Middlesboro was interested in having the college. So the city agreed to pay, we bought the land--

KLEE: --Uh-huh.

WELCH: --where the college is.

KLEE: So, how did that, how did you, how did that come about?

WELCH: Well, we, the city agreed to pay forty thousand dollars a year for five years. That's two hundred thousand dollars for the land--

KLEE: --Uh-huh.

WELCH: --and, uh, and we also agreed to do the sewer--

KLEE: --Okay.

WELCH: --lines and everything into the college.

KLEE: Now,--

WELCH: --But it's--

KLEE: --it's at the end of this main drag here, Cumberland. How, what kind of, uh, what happened as far as, uh, deciding where the site was 00:10:00going to be?

WELCH: Well, uh, they looked at, uh, two or three different sites and, um, um, we, uh, Dr. Ayers and them came up with this. Uh, they, they found this site.

KLEE: Uh-huh.

WELCH: And this is the site they liked,--

KLEE: --Yeah.

WELCH: --and, um, it was a horse, people would take their horses, they had a horse track out there,--

KLEE: --Yes sir.

WELCH: --do their horse shows and all that.

KLEE: Uh-huh.

WELCH: And, uh, so, uh, that was the site they liked and then we took field dirt from the, uh, canal right here--

KLEE: --Uh-huh.

WELCH: --and hauled it in there and--

KLEE: --Oh, to fill all that in?

WELCH: --filled all that in. Yeah.

KLEE: Was there, was there any controversy about that? Most of the--

WELCH: --No! No,--

KLEE: --people were okay on that?

WELCH: --no controversy, no. Everybody was, everybody was happy--

KLEE: --Mm-hm.

WELCH: --for that college. Most everyone.

KLEE: Yeah. So you were, uh, well, let me follow up on that, was there, was there s-- I mean anytime you do anything, there's opposition. Did y-- did you have to face much opposition?

WELCH: Well, there was opposition, but I'd rather not go in, say 00:11:00anything, go into that. It,--

KLEE: --Uh-huh.

WELCH: --it was political for ----------(??)-----------.

KLEE: Oh, okay.

WELCH: Didn't mean a hill, hill of beans, you know, so--

KLEE: --Okay. Uh, were you trying to get the legislature then to, uh, uh, to fund a building?

WELCH: Well, the legislatures had to, uh, approve it.

KLEE: Okay. As a center. Uh-huh.

WELCH: Yeah. And, um, they, um, uh, they ran, then, and then but then the governor had the say so. He had the say so. But it, um, it had been, other people had been trying to get it.

KLEE: Oh really?

WELCH: Yeah. Mm-hm. They, uh,--

KLEE: --You mean in this community or in other places close by?

WELCH: In other parts of Bell County,--

KLEE: --Uh-huh.

WELCH: --putting it in another part of Bell County ----------(??)

KLEE: So what were the other, other choices, uh--

WELCH: Well, there was a place between here and Pineville--

KLEE: --Uh-huh.

WELCH: --that one group wanted to do it, do it. Now, how true this is, I don't know, but I never heard, but I, I had heard and, uh, and it's 00:12:00just, just hearsay,--

KLEE: --Yes sir.

WELCH: --but this was about the time that, um, um, Sue Bennett College in--

KLEE: --Right.

WELCH: --London went out,--

KLEE: --Mm-hm.

WELCH: --and I had heard that they tried to get it in London, you know.

KLEE: Okay. Well, they did try to, to work with the, get the, get Sue Bennett worked into the system some way. Uh,--

WELCH: --Yeah. But I, I had, maybe that's what I was hearing, but I said that. But still yet the governor put it in, in Middlesboro.

KLEE: Uh-huh.

WELCH: And, uh, to me, uh, of all of my accomplishments, uh, as mayor and everything, that is my most, uh, uh, the one I think the most of is the college,--

KLEE: --Stands out?

WELCH: --the best achievement, yes.

KLEE: So you, the city had to pledge , uh, two hundred thousand dollars to buy the land.

WELCH: Yes.

KLEE: Did you have to do any other local fundraising?

WELCH: No. Huh-uh. No. But we, we, we did fundraising, but it was for 00:13:00the college, you know. I mean people like, uh, Bob Vaughn and, uh, uh, Neil Berry, the Coca Cola people, uh,--

KLEE: --I was going to ask you, who were the, who were the people in this community or the businesses or industries that when Middlesboro, the site, needs something or needs a new program or, or is seeking funding or, or support, who are some of those, who are some of those individuals? And you mentioned a couple of them yourself.

WELCH: Well, um, um, Dr. Meredith Evans is one--

KLEE: --Mm-hm. Okay.

WELCH: --that, uh, that, uh, plays a big part in fundraising.

KLEE: --I see.

WELCH: And, um, uh, Bob Vaughn--

KLEE: --Okay.

WELCH: --is a big part in fundraising.

KLEE: Okay.

WELCH: Then, um, uh, Dr. Ayers and his group are big in fundraising. And, um, um, there's several, um, uh, people in, uh, Pineville that helped with it. Uh, Jennifer Jones would be one, she helped in 00:14:00fundraising.

KLEE: I see

WELCH: She worked, and she's one of the board members now, Jennifer's, uh--

KLEE: --Uh-huh.

WELCH: And, um, uh, right off, that's uh,--

KLEE: --Yeah, the ones that stand out.

WELCH: --off the top that stand, you know, yeah.

KLEE: --Was there--

WELCH: --There was a hospital, I think, uh, and, Powell Hospital,--

KLEE: --Okay.

WELCH: --uh, contributed.

KLEE: Was there a need for, uh, a college here?

WELCH: Oh yes. By all means, yes.

KLEE: How did, how do, how was that determined? Did people, I mean, were,--

WELCH: --Well, it, it--

KLEE: --people tell you or, I mean, what about the first enrollments? Were they pretty good?

WELCH: Oh yes. Oh yes. And they, um, LMU, um, which is located--

KLEE: --Yeah,--

WELCH: --across the--

KLEE: --Lincoln Memorial.

WELCH: --Lincoln Memorial over here is, um, um, they feed off of this--

KLEE: --Do they?

WELCH: --school right here. At one time I checked and, uh, they had 138 students at Lincoln Memorial University that went from here over to 00:15:00there to finish their four years. See, out here, they was only getting two years.

KLEE: Right. Right.

WELCH: And, uh, I always felt like that, um, if, um, a kid, a young man or young lady got two years of college, we've got people out here that's got two years of college education. If it wasn't for Southeast Community College, they wouldn't have got anything, they'd just got high school.

KLEE: Right.

WELCH: And, uh,--

KLEE: --Mm-hm. Are the health programs, uh, a big part of this? They have a nursing, uh,--

WELCH: --They have nursing, yes,--

KLEE: --Uh-huh.

WELCH: --and the, uh, uh, they're working for, uh, right now, for another building. Uh, we're trying to get it, um, approved, the funds.

KLEE: Uh-huh.

WELCH: Starting out it was to be about five buildings and I think we had to cut one because of budget.

KLEE: Well, tell me about, uh, if you, as much as you can about the timing. Uh, Wallace Wilkinson was, uh, governor in '87. You were the 00:16:00mayor at the time?

WELCH: Right. Mm-hm.

KLEE: And those two things came together.

WELCH: Right, and I was ------------(??)

KLEE: So, uh, when did, when did they sanction the college and when did you get something started out there?

WELCH: Um, you know, right off, I, I don't,--

KLEE: --Yeah.

WELCH: --the dates and everything don't--

KLEE: --I can find those.

WELCH: Yeah. But, uh, I've got the pictures of them. I don't, uh, right off, I, I don't know but everything worked, it all fell right into place.

KLEE: Pretty quickly?

WELCH: Yeah. Matter of fact, the governor at that time picked the, uh, phone up and called the president of the University of Kentucky at that time--

KLEE: --Uh-huh.

WELCH: --and told him that he wanted to locate the college in Middlesboro.

KLEE: Oh really?

WELCH: Yeah.

KLEE: Okay. So you didn't get any resistance from the UK, or--

WELCH: --No.

KLEE: --they were all supportive?

WELCH: They all, everybody was supportive.

KLEE: Dr. Ayers was--

WELCH: --Oh yes. He was very much supportive.

KLEE: Uh-huh. Now how far is it from Cumberland to here? It's a better 00:17:00road, I guess, than it used to be.

WELCH: Oh yeah, it's a better road than used to be. It's, uh, about, uh, sixty miles.

KLEE: Oh, is it? Okay. Uh,--

WELCH: --Sixty-five, maybe.

KLEE: --so really students in this area didn't have any options. I mean, they could go to Lincoln Memorial, which is, uh, would be out of state students--

WELCH: --Yeah. Mm-hm.

KLEE: --and had, had the, uh, the hill to cross,--

WELCH: --Right. Mm-hm.

KLEE: --which I guess was a problem in some ways.

WELCH: Back in that, those times, yeah. Now, they got the tunnel.

KLEE: Got the tunnel, right.--(Welch clears throat)--Uh, how important is, is the college to the community? How does it work with it?

WELCH: Oh, it's very important, very important.

KLEE: Mm-hm. In what ways?

WELCH: Well, it's, um, um, in one, it, the, the most important thing about that college is is we are, um, getting, as I said, we're getting people that's going to school out there, the technical school, going to college that's getting that training and getting, uh, some college education and everything that ordinarily if the college wasn't there, 00:18:00they wouldn't,--

KLEE: --Wouldn't've had a chance.

WELCH: --they wouldn't've had a chance. A lot of kids have went out there two years and have went on to, to four-year colleges.

KLEE: Right.

WELCH: And, uh, they've went on to University of Kentucky,--

KLEE: --Mm-hm.

WELCH: --but as I said a few minutes ago, LMU feeds off of this college and they had like 138 students--

KLEE: --Right. Right.

WELCH: --from over here, over there.

KLEE: Mm-hm.

WELCH: Uh, the, if it wasn't for this college, they wouldn't be able to-- and another thing, too, it helps the economy in the area. They employee over a hundred people.

KLEE: I was gonna ask about that, so--

WELCH: --They employee over a hundred people--

KLEE: --Yeah.

WELCH: --and, um, uh, so that's good for the economy and it brings people.

KLEE: I was gonna ask, does it draw from around the area here?

WELCH: Oh yes. Uh-huh.

KLEE: I guess people from Pineville come over this way?

WELCH: We have had, we have people from Barbourville,--

KLEE: --Uh-huh.

WELCH: --we have people from out in the county,--

KLEE: --Right.

WELCH: --we have people Claybourn County,--

KLEE: --Uh-huh.

WELCH: --Tennessee, we have people from Lee County, Virginia.

KLEE: Really?

WELCH: They all come down here, yeah.

00:19:00

KLEE: How important was the U-- University of Kentucky label on this at the time?

WELCH: Oh at the time, very much so.

KLEE: Tell me, explain that to me.

WELCH: Well, uh, you know, uh, uh, the university after a while dropped--

KLEE: --Right.

WELCH: --the colleges and they kind of went on their own.

KLEE: Yeah.

WELCH: And, uh, but at, at, at the time, uh, uh, the University of Kentucky name being associated,--

KLEE: --Mm-hm.

WELCH: --it being an association of the University of Kentucky was big for the college.

KLEE: People in Middlesboro, uh, have a, uh, have a positive view of the university?

WELCH: Yeah, the majority of the people, as, um, um, as I said awhile ago, you know, we have, uh, some opposition, some, and I, I don't mind saying it, I'd say it to--

KLEE: --Sure.

WELCH: There, there's some people that don't even know that college is out there.

KLEE: (laughs) That's a shame, isn't it?

WELCH: Yes, it's a shame. Very much so. Yeah.

KLEE: Yeah. Um, going back to the UK thing, was that important to the, 00:20:00I mean, to students or supporters?

WELCH: Oh yes. Yeah. Yeah. See, they, the, when they graduated from out here, they had UK,--

KLEE: --Right.

WELCH: --University of Kentucky stamped on their, uh, ----------(??).

KLEE: --Diplomas.

WELCH: Diplomas, yeah.

KLEE: Right. Right. Uh, do you remember any of the, were there any board members? You mentioned a Miss J-- uh, Miss Jones. Uh, the other board members from Middlesboro over the years that have sat on the Southeast board?

WELCH: Uh, um, Bob Vaughn was a board member,--

KLEE: --Uh-huh.

WELCH: --you know Bob.

KLEE: Yeah.

WELCH: And, um, um, let's see, who else was on?

KLEE: Uh, the, the, um, the president you'd dealt with the whole time was, uh, Dr. Ayers?

WELCH: Dr. Ayers, yes.

KLEE: And so you told me he was a--

WELCH: --a very, very good, very nice fella.

KLEE: He was interested in trying to serve the, uh, citizens of Middlesboro?

WELCH: Yes, he's very interested in trying to serve the whole area, the 00:21:00area for students and--

KLEE: --Uh-huh.

WELCH: --he's a fine fella, a good friend.

KLEE: Yeah. And you said that the, uh, as far as like the corporate, uh, you know, business people, the hospital was important. Was there anybody, uh, is there anyone else that stands out as far as being a real patron of the college?

WELCH: Well, um, we've had, um, um, several people right off, you know, um, um, a lot of people that we've contacted, uh, and the fundraising thing, never came through, you know.

KLEE: Yeah. Yeah.

WELCH: Um, right off, right off the top of my head, I, I can't, uh, remember--

KLEE: --Is--

WELCH: --all that many people. But, uh, but, uh, the, all the business, uh, uh, people in the area, the majority of them, have been involved, like the Coca Cola people as I mentioned to you--

KLEE: --Uh-huh.

WELCH: --and, uh, very much so involved. There's been doctors involved.

00:22:00

KLEE: Has the college, um, played a role in being a, a spot for people to see things or go to, uh, I mean as far as the cultural part of the, of the community, is it, uh, do the, do the, does the community utilize the college?

WELCH: Oh yes. Yeah. Yeah, they, they utilize it.

KLEE: Do they have, uh, I, uh, I don't know what Middlesboro does as far as cultural events. Uh, talks or lectures or--

WELCH: --They have a lot of those out there.

KLEE: Do they?

WELCH: Yes. Uh-huh. But in the last couple years, I haven't been so much involved. At one time, I was the, uh, was in charge of the, uh, seniors.

KLEE: Uh-huh.

WELCH: ----------(??) see the, uh, the senior citizen could go out there free and take and class they like,--

KLEE: --Right.

WELCH: --do what they wanted. And a lot of them went out ----------(??) and stuff like that and did real well.

KLEE: Sure!

WELCH: But since I had gotten sick and everything, I, I,--

KLEE: --Haven't done as much.

WELCH: --uh, get to do as much, you know.

KLEE: Mm-hm. I wanted, uh, uh, I wanted to ask you about, uh, you said 00:23:00that was the, I guess the crowning achievement of your,--

WELCH: --Oh, yes!

KLEE: --of your mayoral term? Tell me about some other things that happened just in, uh, you know, politically, uh, what other challenges where there in the community and, and what were some other things that, uh, that took your time?

WELCH: Well, um, I was, um, very instru-- I was very instrumental in the, uh, along with other people, uh, in getting 25-E finished--

KLEE: --Okay.

WELCH: --with the governor.

KLEE: Well, explain that to me. That's, I mean I, I just came in on that, that's a main--

WELCH: Well when, when Governor, when Governor Wilkinson went in, they hadn't finished 25-E--

KLEE: --Okay.

WELCH: --from, uh, Barbourville to the tunnel over here.

KLEE: Okay.

WELCH: See, they hadn't even finished the tunnel.

KLEE: Yeah, sure.

WELCH: And that was supposed, that was a government project and everything and Kentucky was supposed to have, they had theirs done. Tennessee's still working on theirs.

00:24:00

KLEE: Oh, is that right?

WELCH: Yeah, they lack about seven miles yet and the tunnel's been open eleven years, twelve. And, um, but, uh, um, lost my train of thought there.

KLEE: You were talking about how you helped get that finished.

WELCH: Yeah. Well, okay. And, uh, I was just instrumental in it, with the governor.

KLEE: Okay.

WELCH: (coughs) And um, um, I was, uh, we have a place here called Cumberland Gap Provision.

KLEE: Uh-huh.

WELCH: Uh, I helped appropriate, uh, through the governor, two million dollars or better to, uh, help save the, uh, Cumberland Gap Provision. They was about to go under.

KLEE: Okay, that's a, that's a, a corporation or a business?

WELCH: Yeah, they employee about three hundred and fifty people. They make, uh, ham, sausage, bacon, bologna and all that--

KLEE: --Huh!

WELCH: --and they were about to go under. Of course, this has been about seventeen years ago now,--

KLEE: --Yeah.

WELCH: --eighteen. And uh, they were about to go under and I, uh, --- 00:25:00--------(??), uh, about two million dollars or better appropriated for them and then they, they went, then they paid the city back,--[plane flies over]--the city back, and the city invested it in the industrial parks--

KLEE: --Uh-huh.

WELCH: --and, uh, so what happened there after I left as mayor, and I don't know what they did, uh,--

KLEE: --Right.

WELCH: --after that. But uh, uh, Cumberland Gap Provision went to, uh, uh, employee stock, ESOP.

KLEE: Okay

WELCH: And, uh, the employees bought stock into the company and that saved the company; they're still over there today,--

KLEE: --Is that right?

WELCH: --and, uh, they, uh, sold the company back maybe about three years ago and, uh, some of those people that bought into that company and everything, uh, made a lot of money out of it--

KLEE: --They done all right then.

WELCH: --and they're still working over there.

KLEE: Well, that's a, you know, it's amazing, you know, we've lost so 00:26:00many corporations and industries, that's a success story.

WELCH: And then I was, uh, uh, instrumental in the Middlesboro Health Care Facility Center out here. It's a nursing home.

KLEE: Okay

WELCH: And, uh, I was mayor when I brought that; I got that here and, uh, it's been here for about twenty years now,--

KLEE: --Uh-huh.

WELCH: --and, uh, they employ a hundred and seven people and they have over a hundred beds out there and they've got, they have won several awards and everything for being, uh, uh, one of the tops in the state.

KLEE: That's great.

WELCH: And my daughter is the executive director of it.

KLEE: Oh is that right? Of that, that place?

WELCH: -----------(??), mm-hm.

KLEE: Huh. I was gonna ask you, uh, you talked about how that, uh, the city invested in the land to buy the college and, and then you had to invest in saving this industry. Uh, the city must have been generating 00:27:00some funds at that point. Was that because the coal business was good? What was, how, how did the city have it's--

WELCH: --Well, we, we, uh, I went to the governor, the governor did the, the, uh, they worked that out and gave--

KLEE: --Oh, with that business.

WELCH: --a gift come through a grant,--

KLEE: --Okay.

WELCH: --not through the city,--

KLEE: --Right. Okay.

WELCH: --but I, just being the mayor and--

KLEE: --Yeah, you just put it together.

WELCH: Put it together.

KLEE: Right.

WELCH: And, uh, that all come through the state and then they, uh, they, the deal was was they, the money that they give them went to put it back into the city for industrial park to make Middlesboro grow.

KLEE: Now, I see.

WELCH: You see what I'm saying?

KLEE: Uh- huh. Right.

WELCH: They do, a lot of them do that.

KLEE: Right. So it was able to be able to be reinvest it.

WELCH: It wasn't that they gave the company that money,--

KLEE: --Sure.

WELCH: --that company had to pay it back--

KLEE: --Right.

WELCH: --to the city. So the city has a, an industrial park out here now and, and, um, they've done several different things--

KLEE: --Right.

WELCH: --on that end, so--

KLEE: Right. Um, you've been in this community I guess pretty 00:28:00constantly for, you know, or in and out of course for all your life but particularly for the last sixty years. What, what, uh, what kind, what are the, uh, what are the positives and negatives of, of Middlesboro and, and how has it changed over the years?

WELCH: (laughs) You know, I, I've been in politics and--

KLEE: --You don't want to say anything negative, do you? (laughs)

WELCH: I don't want to say anything negative. I'm gonna try to stay positive.

KLEE: Okay, that's fine.

WELCH: Yeah, yeah. But, uh, Middlesboro just needs it, they just need to change,--

KLEE: --Mm-hm.

WELCH: --and, uh, it needs some, there's just, they just need to change with people that's got, uh, the, the city at heart and want to see it grow and,--

KLEE: --Uh-huh.

WELCH: --and, uh, and Middlesboro is a good town to be. It's a very, very, it's a beautiful city; it could be a lot better. But it just, uh, just needs a, just needs a change is what it needs.

00:29:00

KLEE: Uh, of course, I mean, from, from when you came back after World War II, I g-- the highways are much better I guess than they were.

WELCH: Oh yes. None of those highways ran here.

KLEE: Right. They're all gone.

WELCH: All four lanes, yeah.

KLEE: Yeah, kind of amazing.

WELCH: Yeah.

KLEE: Uh, and then what about the, the people with their educational level and those kinds of things? How, how's that? Has that changed much?

WELCH: No they ----------(??) much better now. Their educational levels are much better.

KLEE: Yeah. And the college has had a role in that.

WELCH: Right, exactly. I think so.

KLEE: You mentioned some things you tried to do are progressive and it got back into the history of this community a little bit. You came up with a, a sister city idea; can you tell me about that?

WELCH: Well, uh, that, uh, was Middlesboro, England,--

KLEE: --Mm-hm.

WELCH: --and the mayor over there came over here and made us a sister city and all that to them, you know.

KLEE: Uh-huh. And why was, uh, why was England the choice? Explain that to us.

WELCH: Well, it being Middlesboro, England and England settled here in Middlesboro, England and Middlesboro, Kentucky. The two Middlesboro's 00:30:00you know.

KLEE: Right. The English settled this community.

WELCH: Yes,--

KLEE: Uh,--

WELCH: --the English settled this community.

KLEE: Yeah. Explain to me how it's laid out and some of the street names and how that connects.

WELCH: Well, the, the street names are, are English names if you notice that, like Manchester and Worchester, Rochester, Eochester, Rochester, um, and uh, Loftbury and, um, just different English names.

KLEE: Well, you're off, uh, Twenty-fifth Street, I guess.

WELCH: Off of Twenty-fifth,--

KLEE: --Yeah.

WELCH: --but I live on Manchester.

KLEE: Yeah. Obviously, this is, I mean, Twenty-fifth, Twenty-fifth Street, this was laid out as a big town; is it, I mean, has, have you seen the population go up?

WELCH: The streets, the streets all run north and south and the avenues run east and west.

KLEE: Okay. Uh-huh. Has the population remained constant? Have there been boon times in the l-- uh,--

WELCH: No, the, uh, the uh, I don't, -----------(??) the population is, uh, I don't think that the population is as big as they say it is out there.

00:31:00

KLEE: Mm-hm. Right.

WELCH: Uh, I ju-- I just think Middlesboro is about a thousand or two under that.

KLEE: Yep. Uh, the coal companies, are they back now?

WELCH: There's some of them back, yes. They have the Bell County Coal Company back, uh, Asher Coal Company, which has been going around the clock for years.

KLEE: Is that right?

WELCH: Yeah. And they, they're, they're pretty big.

KLEE: Now where's that at in relation to the community here? Are they--

WELCH: --Well, the Bell County Coal Company is located west here,--

KLEE: --Okay.

WELCH: --and the Asher Coal Company is southwest right over here,--

KLEE: --Yeah. All right.

WELCH: --this way. And then there's other coal companies too.

KLEE: Right. So the coal reserves, I guess, are, those are the two that are actively--

WELCH: --Right, they're, they're real big.

KLEE: Mm-hm. Yeah. The, uh, the college has merged, uh, with the technical college. Was there a technical college here,--

WELCH: --Hm-mm.

KLEE: --uh, in '87?

WELCH: No. Huh-uh.

KLEE: Okay, so--

WELCH: --No. There wasn't any, wasn't any college.

KLEE: Okay. So Middlesboro was it, so any technical they, they programs they started--

WELCH: --The closest college was Union College and LMU, you know.

00:32:00

KLEE: Uh-huh. Right. Right. Were any, the, uh, of course and then the closest community college was in Cumberland, which you said was about sixty miles away.

WELCH: Cumberland, yes. Yeah. Mm-hm.

KLEE: Yeah. So you, uh, uh, was there any, as you said, things came together pretty quickly. Uh, uh, there weren't any crises you had to, had to overcome? Wilkerson was all behind it?

WELCH: Oh yeah, he was over, he was behind it and everything. Of course, we, you know, in, in politics you have a time getting things passed and,--

KLEE: --Uh-huh.

WELCH: --and all of this you know, and to my knowledge it was passed you know, so I didn't pay anything, didn't pay attention to the negative parts of it.

KLEE: Okay. Don't remember any of the details. Wasn't anybody in particular you had to convince or--

WELCH: --No, well there's some that, uh, some of them,--(laughs)--some people wanted, uh, the negative people that were, was being against it, w-- really was against me is what it was.

00:33:00

KLEE: I see. And so since you were for it, they were against it.

WELCH: They, yeah, they didn't want to. Yeah.

KLEE: They wouldn't any feather in your cap.

WELCH: Right. Exactly. Exactly, so--

KLEE: Uh, you became mayor, uh, uh, really when a lot of people were retiring. Uh, uh, you said it was in, uh, '80, you were in the eighties.

WELCH: Yeah, late eighties and early nineties. I served two terms then, and then I finished out a term about a year and a half or two for, uh, Crawford Blakeman who was the mayor in the late seventies--

KLEE: --Uh-huh.

WELCH: --and I was a, a council person. And I'd been on the council for about eight years.

KLEE: Yeah. What drew you into that, into the whole--

WELCH: --I just ran for council one time and got into it and,--

KLEE: --Yeah.

WELCH: --and got a little politics in my blood--

KLEE: --Uh-huh.

WELCH: --and it just stayed there.

KLEE: Liked it?

WELCH: Liked it, yeah.

KLEE: Okay. Uh, well I appreciate you talking to me. Are there any questions you think I should have asked that I forgot?

WELCH: No, I just, you know, just, uh, I hope I've been some help for--

00:34:00

KLEE: --Sure, sure, sure. Yeah.

WELCH: Uh, my, my part in the college was getting the governor to locate it here--

KLEE: --Right.

WELCH: --along with, uh, Dr. Ayers and Robert Vaughn. They were very big.

KLEE: Yeah. And you said, uh, when you, when you had those conversations, you said he came down here.

WELCH: Who, the governor?

KLEE: Uh-huh.

WELCH: Oh yeah, he--

KLEE: --Uh-huh.

WELCH: Yeah. And, uh, but, we--

KLEE: --How do you think you became, well you said you would support him when he didn't have any support.

WELCH: That's right.

KLEE: So that's how you, why did you make that choice then?

WELCH: Um, I had a friend of mine that, um, um, asked me to support him. Well, um, I had lunch with Wallace, uh,--

KLEE: --Uh-huh.

WELCH: --before ever he was governor and I knew him and--

KLEE: --Right.

WELCH: --and, um, we had some people we met at Pine Mountain State Park one time when he was running. He came down and they was eleven of us there and they were the big politicians in Bell County and, uh,--

00:35:00

KLEE: --Yeah.

WELCH: --so, uh, I walked out onto the parking lot and none of the other ten, other than myself, they was eleven there--

KLEE: --Yeah.

WELCH: --and just had lunch and met with him and talked with him and this--

KLEE: --Right.

WELCH: --was when he first started running--

KLEE: --Uh-huh.

WELCH: --and, uh, we walked out, uh, side on the lot and I just looked at him and shook hands and I said, um, "I believe I'll just support you."

KLEE: So he was actually there to s-- to elicit support.

WELCH: What he was, what he's soliciting was soliciting, he was asking for support--

KLEE: --Uh-huh.

WELCH: --and I was the only one out of the ten that, uh, said, "I'll support you,"--

KLEE: --Mm-hm.

WELCH: --so, um, they, um, I supported him and I was his number one man.

KLEE: Right.

WELCH: I mean, I mean just like politics work.

KLEE: Right, that's how it works. And then when you wanted to--

WELCH: --That's right. I was on, I got, I was the first one on the bus. (laughs)

KLEE: And when there was, when the community colleges extensions got on the list, you were right there in line.

WELCH: And, uh, in my, to my knowledge and the way I think and 00:36:00everything, I, uh, to me, uh, Wallace Wilkinson is one of the best governors this area ever had.

KLEE: Mm-hm.

WELCH: And I never went to him and asked him for a thing and he turned me down.

KLEE: And you're saying, among the accomplishments was the community college and this road extension.

WELCH: That's exactly right. Yes, and other things that he did too for the community, all out through Bell County.

KLEE: Uh-huh.

WELCH: I mean roads, bridges,--

KLEE: --Yeah.

WELCH: --whatever.

KLEE: Right.

WELCH: He, he, he had, he was a--

KLEE: Well, how about, you know, people have different ideas about eastern Kentucky, uh, but when you come into this community, you know, you, you're coming in on four-lane highways and you've got, you know, the community college building, and--

WELCH: --I don't know if you know it or not, but where you came in out there, there's, uh, thirty-one thousand cars ----------(??) places out here.

KLEE: Is that right? Gee.

WELCH: On weekends, through the north-bound tube and the south-bound tube in the tunnel--

KLEE: --Mm-hm.

WELCH: --and everything there is forty-some thousand cars go back and 00:37:00forth through that tunnel,--

KLEE: --That's amazing.

WELCH: --on weekends. So just today,--

KLEE: --Uh-huh.

WELCH: --in a day's time. So the traffic here,--

KLEE: --Yeah.

WELCH: --so what, what we need to do, what Middlesboro needs to do is is to make arrangements to try to stop,--

KLEE: --Capture them.

WELCH: --capture some of the traffic--

KLEE: --Right.

WELCH: --and get them to stop, spend the night.

KLEE: Yeah. Mm-hm. Well, I appreciate you talking to me.

WELCH: Yeah, well I appreciate you coming by. I hope I was a help.

KLEE: You, you were.

WELCH: Uh, I know a lot of things, but I just couldn't say them.

KLEE: Oh, that's fine (laughs).

WELCH: I didn't want to say no negative stuff and everything and, uh,--

KLEE: --That's quite alright.

WELCH: --and uh, I just, uh, I'm just glad to be a part of Southeast, uh, College and its, um, Dr. Ayers and--

KLEE: --Oh, I did want to ask you, you mentioned one of the directors. Were there any of the, any of the leadership out there that stand out in your mind? At the actual Middlesboro campus?

WELCH: Oh, yeah. Leadership out there as I mentioned awhile ago was Walt Green. He was a real leader out there.

00:38:00

KLEE: Was he?

WELCH: He was. He, he, he was a, he's a good, uh, uh, but it's in good shape now. I don't know how many, I haven't been out there since I had a real problem.

KLEE: Sure. Right.

WELCH: I'm going to take me a trip out there--

KLEE: Yeah, and see how things are going?

WELCH: Of course I know all the people that work out there, just about and, and, um, they're good people and, but, uh, Walt was, uh, everybody liked Walt. Walt was a high school coach here twice and--

KLEE: --Oh, was he?

WELCH: --taught at Bell County High School--

KLEE: --Uh-huh.

WELCH: --and superintendent of the schools over in Campbellsville, uh, at one time. Uh, he's a real educator, he's a real nice guy, and he just lives right out the road here.

KLEE: Well that really helps if you have somebody local, everybody knows and has that contact.

WELCH: Yeah, everybody likes Walt.

KLEE: Yeah. Yeah. Well, thank you again.

WELCH: He's been very good.

KLEE: Thank you.

[End of interview.]