Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Bob Vaughn, June 3, 2008

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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KLEE: The following is an unrehearsed interview by John Klee for the University of Kentucky Libraries as part of their University of Kentucky Community College System Oral History Project. The interview is with Mr., uh, Bob Vaughn of Middlesboro, Kentucky. We're conducting the interview at his office, uh, here in Middlesboro on, uh, June 3, 2008. Mr. Vaughn, I want to start just, uh, asking you about, uh, your personal background, who your parents were and where you were raised and your education.

VAUGHN: Okay. All right. I, I grew up, uh, in Perry County in a coal camp called Hardburly. There's not much of Hardburly left--

KLEE: --Hardburly?

VAUGHN: Hardburly. Hardy Burlingham Coal Company became Hardburly.

KLEE: Is that right?

VAUGHN: That's right. We moved there when, uh, I was a second grader, and, uh, from the third grade on I went to school at the Hazard 00:01:00Independent School District.

KLEE: What was this little, uh, mining camp like? What -----------(??)-- -------- --

VAUGHN: --Uh, well, there was about, uh, two thousand people--

KLEE: --Gee.

VAUGHN: --there when we first moved there. Uh, when we--

KLEE: --So it wasn't a little camp was it?

VAUGHN: No, it wasn't, but it became little before we left. There was, uh, uh, of course, a commissary, uh, a, uh, a combi-- a building where the, uh, camp doctor had his offices, a barber shop, a pool room and a movie theatre,--

KLEE: --Uh-huh.

VAUGHN: --one screen movie theatre. Uh, they were, uh, there was a U-- UMW, uh, mine there,--

KLEE: --Right.

VAUGHN: --and, uh, my dad was a, a, uh, went there to be part of the mine survey, uh, team, part of the engineer's staff, and, uh, later became chief engineer and then became, later became superintendent of, 00:02:00of that, uh, of that, uh, camp,--

KLEE: --Oh, did he?

VAUGHN: --company, and--

KLEE: --So where had he gotten his training? What was his--

VAUGHN: --Well, he actually, he wa-- he was born in 1912 in, uh, uh, in Williamsburg of an e--. He, uh, uh, in 1929, of course, The Depression came along,--

KLEE: --Right.

VAUGHN: --and he was not able to, to go to college. He, uh, worked, uh, for the Kentucky Department of Highways and, uh, learned engineering from that, uh, from the ground up.

KLEE: Uh-huh.

VAUGHN: And, and during the war, we lived at Oak Ridge, and he, uh, worked for Stone and Webster, which was a, a large engineering firm which had, uh, contracts with, uh, with the, uh,--

KLEE: --The government.

VAUGHN: --government at, at Oak Ridge; he was a dressman there. After the war ended then, uh, they cut back down there, and I'm not sure 00:03:00whether he got laid off or whether he got an opportunity there, but he, in uh, in the coal fields. But, and it-- we moved, uh, then to Hardburly--(clears throat)--and--

KLEE: --Now he had been from Kentucky, though. He was from Williamsburg you said?

VAUGHN: Williamsburg, Kentucky.

KLEE: Williamsburg, Kentucky, you were talking about?

VAUGHN: Right. Right.

KLEE: So he was a little bit coming back home.

VAUGHN: Right. Y-- yeah. It was only, it wasn't far down to--

KLEE: --Right.

VAUGHN: --Oak Ridge from Williamsburg,--

KLEE: --Sure.

VAUGHN: --of course, but, uh, yeah, th-- he came up, came to Hazard and worked in the, the, uh, coal industry, uh, from 1947 to 1958.

KLEE: Uh-huh. Before I let you leave that I wanted to ask you another question. Uh, did he talk about any experiences at Oak Ridge very much? I mean, what was, did he--

VAUGHN: --Well,--

KLEE: --ever tell you what that was like?

VAUGHN: --I don't know that, um, that he had, uh, that he talked about it a lot.


KLEE: Uh-huh.

VAUGHN: They, I'm not sure exactly what he did.

KLEE: Right.

VAUGHN: We, I remember, uh, going, when my grandmother-- one lived in Williamsburg and the other lived in Barbourville--

KLEE: --Um-hm.

VAUGHN: --and I remember going, having to check out and in as we--

KLEE: --Is that right?

VAUGHN: --went there. I remember the, uh, rationing program that they had. I remember the flat top houses and the, uh, and the wooden barracks that, uh, made up Oak Ridge and, and, uh, uh, the school I went to and, and the, uh, uh, the hospital where my brother was born and--

KLEE: --You were in preschool and a first grader during that time period?

VAUGHN: --Right. I, yeah, I went until, I think I was there until October of, uh, 1947,--

KLEE: --Uh-huh.

VAUGHN: --which was, I was born in 1940,--

KLEE: --Mm-hm.

VAUGHN: --uh, so I had a, a year and a third I guess at, uh, at Linden School in, in Oak Ridge.


KLEE: Huh. Isn't that something? Uh, I guess they, I mean that place just came up overnight. Thousands of people and--

VAUGHN: --I suppose. We lived first at Norris.

KLEE: Uh-huh.

VAUGHN: Uh, I guess they were concluding the, uh, the Norris Dam project.

KLEE: Uh-huh.

VAUGHN: I suppose Dad worked on that although--

KLEE: --Right.

VAUGHN: --and I have some remembrance of Norris but not, uh, not a lot. And I didn't, I didn't, uh, uh-- we lived, I guess it was probably, I was probably four, uh, when we moved down to, uh, to Oak Ridge. And I, of course, I remember the, hearing about the, uh, bomb and the, uh, the end of the war and, and, uh, and that kind of thing.

KLEE: You mentioned your, uh, father or your mother, um, uh, was traditional, uh, homemaker?

VAUGHN: She worked, uh, during the war, I, uh, in the, uh, in the rationing and the--

KLEE: --Did she?

VAUGHN: --coupon, coupon, uh, area there,--


KLEE: --Uh-huh.

VAUGHN: --and, uh, uh, I, I don't remember,--

KLEE: --Yeah.

VAUGHN: --you know, I don't remember how I was taken care of or anything. But she did work there.

KLEE: Right. You said your father worked in the coal fields from '48 to '57? Or '58 maybe--

VAUGHN: --Some '47 to, to '58. Right.

KLEE: Okay. I was getting those, those dates transcribed. And you went to Hazard at that point.

VAUGHN: R-- right. I, I went to, through the Hazard Independent School District and graduated from high school in '58. I received the Highway Scholarship, uh--

KLEE: --Now what was that?

VAUGHN: --The highway, uh, from the transport, the old Kentucky Highway Department--

KLEE: --Really?

VAUGHN: --had, uh, has and has had for-- this is the sixtieth year of the Highway Scholarship, where they, uh, at that time there were thirty students a year across the state who got that scholarship.

KLEE: You got one of the first ones then?


VAUGHN: I was pretty close,--

KLEE: --Yeah. ----------(??)

VAUGHN: --I guess. I was probably ten years o-- it was probably ten years old at the,--

KLEE: --Yeah.

VAUGHN: --at the,--

KLEE: --Uh-huh.

VAUGHN: --at the time because I had been out of high school.

KLEE: Okay.


KLEE: Uh, that's right. Uh, and what kind of opportunities or what were you thinking about going out of high school as far as career possibilities?

VAUGHN: Well, I had had an opportunity to, uh, uh, when I was in the, the summer following my junior year, or actually just before the, the school was out there was, uh, H.A. Spalding Engineers from Hazard had, uh, uh, the interstate program, of course, that started in 1956 and--

KLEE: --Mm-hm.

VAUGHN: --they had a project up in, in southern Indiana, up, uh, somewhere around Seymour, up that way. And they, uh, uh, were designing a, an interstate road, and they, there was, uh, they had an Engineers Club at Hazard High but I was not a member of that. But, 00:08:00but I, the, most of my, at that time all of, all my math class was all male. The girls had already been, had, I guess, been told that they weren't supposed to be in math;--

KLEE: --Taken out--

VAUGHN: --I don't know. But there was only, there was a dozen of us I guess in the, in the higher math classes. And, and I got, heard about it, and I went to work. Uh, worked about six or eight weeks at a dollar an hour for Mr. Spalding, and, uh, uh, then the, the, uh, the work played out. There was not, uh, there was as you might imagine not a lot of things that we--

KLEE: --Sure.

VAUGHN: --could do, but we were doing, uh, drafting on cross sections and, and things like that. So we, uh, were all laid off and, and, but I did get a taste of engineering. I also, I guess, uh, about the, just 00:09:00before the time I went to work there I had an opportunity to go to UK and go through Engineer's Day at UK,--

KLEE: --Uh-huh. Right.

VAUGHN: --The, uh, uh, the local Society of Professional Engineers group took us up there and, and, uh, and we went through that, and so I had a, had an idea about engineering. And not, I really thought, uh, prior to, to getting the scholarship, though, thought, that I would probably go to Western and go into journalism. But, I, at, uh, uh, when I got the scholarship that was easy to, easy to, uh, carry through and, and, and, uh, so I only, I never worked a day out of engineering in my life.

KLEE: Is that right? Uh-huh.


KLEE: So you went to UK? Uh, I don't know the Engineering Department. Was there anybody that stood out as far as an instructor for you? Someone that was a mentor or--

VAUGHN: --Well, uh, Dave Blythe, Dr. Blythe, was the, uh, head of the 00:10:00department, and, uh, head of the civil department, and he was a very, very, uh, uh, endearing man to the students. He took a big interest in us. Uh, Chick Chambers was a, a colorful and good instructor.

KLEE: Uh-huh.

VAUGHN: John Derringer was the, uh, was the, uh, survey instructor and, uh, and I guess maybe the first high-- no, I had the first highway class under, under Dave Blythe.

KLEE: Uh-huh.

VAUGHN: Those were, uh, those were the, the favorites. Later on John Hutchinson came along. And, uh, I, I graduated in, uh, January of 1963 and, uh, immediately, well, uh, then I went to work; as a, as an 00:11:00obligation of the scholarship, I had a year's service with the,--

KLEE: --Oh, did you?

VAUGHN: --with the Hi-- Highway Department. So I, I worked in Frankfort and, and worked, uh, uh, in the Division of Traffic but really had a hard time breaking away from school. I, I loved it there. And I went, uh, uh, and I really didn't see traffic as, as being a career-type thing so I transferred, uh, to Winchester on a, on a construction with the Highway Department, took a couple, well, I took, I enrolled in two night classes, an accounting class and an economics class. But I didn't, uh, I was working, they were paving I-64 at the time, and I was working about seventy hours a week and trying to keep up with my class work. So I dropped the economics course, and I got through the 00:12:00accounting course. Uh, then in December of '63, of course, Vietnam was heating up,--

KLEE: --Right.

VAUGHN: --and the, uh, uh, I got the call for my army physical. I, uh, at that time UK, the demand wasn't just for civils, was, and mechanicals; anybody was, was pretty, pretty high. There was, the graduate school had almost nobody in it, uh, in, in, uh, engineering and, and Dave Blythe--

KLEE: --Everybody was working, I guess?

VAUGHN: Pardon me?

KLEE: Everybody was working?

VAUGHN: Everybody was working, and, uh, they kept those who--

KLEE: --Mm-hm.

VAUGHN: --were drafted. So, uh, Dave Blythe called and asked if I would be interested in going to graduate school. Well, I really wasn't interested in going to graduate school, but I was interested in not getting drafted,--

KLEE: --Right.

VAUGHN: --so I, uh, went, uh, uh, took the GRE and, and, uh, and en-- 00:13:00and enrolled, and, uh, I stayed here for two semesters.

KLEE: What were you specializing in? Was civil, civil--

VAUGHN: --Well, it was pretty general and it did-- it didn't really, uh, the curriculum didn't really pertain to what I wanted to do. I knew I wanted to go into business, uh,--

KLEE: --Yeah.

VAUGHN: --for myself and, uh, with, with Nick Milton. Uh, we had been both on scholarship and had been friends throughout college. We knew what we wanted to do but it took--

KLEE: --You all wanted to start an engineering business?

VAUGHN: That's right. So we had, you have to be, uh, you have to pass what they call a fundamentals test, a engineering in training--

KLEE: --Mm-hm.

VAUGHN: --examination, and then you have four years of apprenticeship before you can take your, your license exam. So, uh, I had to get 00:14:00the obligation to the state out of the way, and I had to deal with the military.

KLEE: Right.

VAUGHN: Nick, uh, got married and, and he was, he didn't have to go to the military.

KLEE: Right. Right.

VAUGHN: So then, uh,--

KLEE: --I was going to ask you, did those contacts, uh, in the, at the state or did you make any contacts at the state? Did that help you at all?

VAUGHN: Oh, of course. Yeah. It was tremendous. Uh, I realized at a very early age that you, that you had to network, and, and I was very fortunate to, you know, there, there were-- I don't know how many of those thirty who started with me graduated, probably half of them, but that formed a good network. And then I had the, uh, I had the summer jobs. That was part of it. I had a summer job every, every, uh, uh,--

KLEE: --Year.

VAUGHN: --summer, and, uh, then on occasion I worked a few weeks part- time for both, uh, the state and with Mr. Spalding--


KLEE: --Uh-huh.

VAUGHN: --when I'd go home in the, in the winter and, um, over the holidays.

KLEE: Right.

VAUGHN: And I got involved in, uh, the, uh, Kentucky Society of Professional Engineers and that kind of thing, so I, I developed a pretty large network of, of friends. The fraternity I joined was Triangle, which was a engineer-- it was a social fraternity, but it was, uh, restricted to engineers and, and park techs and scientists, so that was another add-- important addition to my, to my network. I was--

KLEE: --I'm just curious. Is there, are there, are there some names that really stand out in your mind as people that you, you know, you touched base with over the years pretty constantly or someone that's succeeded in a big way, uh, in that group that you, uh--

VAUGHN: --Well, there's, uh, one of my very close friends is Ralph 00:16:00Palmer of Palmer Engineering over in,--

KLEE: --Mm-hm.

VAUGHN: --over in Winchester. Uh, uh, most of, well, Phil Annis, who is, uh, uh, originally from Morgantown, and he, he's, uh, uh, president of one of the paving companies, the one owned by the, uh, uh, it used to be Mountain Enterprise. It sold, uh, to an Irish company, but--

KLEE: --And he was from Morgantown?

VAUGHN: Morgantown, Butler County. Yeah. Out in western Kentucky.

KLEE: Out in western Kentucky. Okay.

VAUGHN: Uh, Henry Bennett became, uh, he was the, with the, uh, became State Highway Engineer, and he, uh, went on to, uh, hold a, a high civilian post, probably Chief Engineer at level--

KLEE: --Right.

VAUGHN: --with the army. And, uh, and, um, um, let's see, there's 00:17:00another one or two came to mind, but just, uh-- oh, Gilbert Newman, who is now the State Highway Engineer has had done, had been that, uh, previously.

KLEE: Yeah.


KLEE: --Interesting.

VAUGHN: --Ernie Robbins in, in, in the Air Force was the chief; he was the top civil engineer in the Air Force, so, uh, and then there were people in with Honeywell and Delta Airlines and folks that,--

KLEE: --Right.

VAUGHN: --uh, I stayed in contact with.

KLEE: Right. What happened after the graduate school?

VAUGHN: Well, after, after two semesters of graduate school I, um, was ready to, to leave graduate school, and I had, um, a chance to, um-- well, there was, I checked around and they had openings in, uh, in the Air National Guard--

KLEE: --Mm-hm.

VAUGHN: --in, uh, Louisville.


KLEE: Right.

VAUGHN: Kentucky Air National Guard. There was four or five openings for cooks, and there was one for an, uh, uh, the weather corps.

KLEE: Mm-hm.

VAUGHN: Uh, they hadn't had anybody who passed, passed the math for the, for the, uh, weather school, so, uh, I did. And, and uh, so I had, I served actually only five months in there. I went to basic training--

KLEE: --Right.

VAUGHN: --in Lackland in, in Texas and then--

KLEE: --Yeah.

VAUGHN: --did the, uh, school up in Rantoul, Illinois. So, uh, so, uh--

KLEE: --That math teacher at Hazard came in handy, I guess? Got you through--

VAUGHN: --Yeah. Yeah. That's right.

KLEE: ------------(??) school.

VAUGHN: That's right. Throughout, throughout my life.

KLEE: So you had to serve a, uh, an apprenticeship somewhere?

VAUGHN: Yeah. After that then I came back, worked, uh-- let's see, I got out of the military in the first of June in, uh, '65 and then 00:19:00worked until the following February, I guess, with the, uh, um, Highway Department in, uh, construction in Hazard. Uh, it was a time when they were getting ready to led some big projects but they hadn't led any, and I, I was, uh, my title was Assistant Resident Engineer. And I had fifteen people and no work for them, so it was,--

KLEE: --Gosh.

VAUGHN: --it was, uh, just get through the day without having to tear up something was a pretty good thing. I, I did teach, uh, some of the math and some other things to the group, but, uh, it was hard to,--

KLEE: --Sure.

VAUGHN: --it was hard to stay busy and I was bored with it. So I, I went then, uh, in February of 1966 up to, uh, uh, or maybe it was 00:20:00a little later, three or four months later maybe or something like that-- up to, uh, Columbus, Indiana, and I went to work for Crowder and Associates which was a small civil engineering firm there that Nick Milton had already, he'd been up there a couple years. So, uh, I got my taste of, of how a company was organized and, and benefited from doing a lot of report writing and things that way, and,--

KLEE: --Right.

VAUGHN: --and, uh, uh, then in January of '67, I got my engineering license. And in February of '67 we, we came, he and I came-- well, actually, toward the end of '66 and early '67 we scouted around trying. We wrote letters to two or three hundred Chambers of Commerce--

KLEE: --Uh-huh.

VAUGHN: --in eastern Kentucky.


KLEE: I was gonna ask you before you went on with that, uh, you said you came back home, and, and home to you was Hazard at that point.

VAUGHN: Eastern Kentucky.

KLEE: Eastern Kentucky.

VAUGHN: Yeah. Middlesboro. We came to Middlesboro.

KLEE: Okay. But I mean, uh, was your family still,--

VAUGHN: --Not--

KLEE: --uh,--

VAUGHN: They were still in Hazard.

KLEE: They were still in Hazard. Uh-huh.

VAUGHN: Yeah. Right. Right.

KLEE: But you wrote to these three hundred Chamber of Commerces around this region?

VAUGHN: In wester-- or eastern Tennessee, eastern Kentucky and, and western North Carolina.

KLEE: Because this is where you wanted to live?

VAUGHN: Well, when we, we got back a good response. We really preferred eastern Kentucky because that, after all, we did have our network--

KLEE: --Right.

VAUGHN: --here, and I really couldn't go back to, uh, Hazard becau-- uh, to compete with Mr. Spalding who had been good to me.

KLEE: Sure.

VAUGHN: And my dad was a, had become a vice-president of that company so,--

KLEE: --Oh, had he? Okay.

VAUGHN: --so we were, uh,--

KLEE: --Yeah.

VAUGHN: --uh, this was a town, a little larger town than most in eastern 00:22:00Kentucky and they had had some recent, uh, industrial growth. And it looked like, a, a good place to come, and I had, it turned out to be.

KLEE: So when did you, um, when'd you locate here?

VAUGHN: In, uh, February of 1967, so yeah.

KLEE: So you and your partner, um,--

VAUGHN: --We came here. It was a cold start. I had no work and we just, uh, started beating on, knocking on doors,--

KLEE: --Uh-huh.

VAUGHN: --and, uh, and--

KLEE: --Now specifically, uh, what kinds of things, what kinds of projects were you working on?

VAUGHN: We were, uh, uh, I was registered first. Nick being a semester behind me was not, uh, registered or licensed until, uh, uh, mid-year--

KLEE: --Right.

VAUGHN: --of '67. The, in '66, the state had, had created a, uh, a land surveyors law in Kentucky, and, and he and I, Nick and I both, were gra- 00:23:00- well, no, I was grandfathered in because of the, uh, the fact that I was licensed. Nick had previously taken and passed the land surveyors exam in Indiana and so he was able to, to get, uh, reciprocity--

KLEE: --Okay.

VAUGHN: --there. So land surveying, uh, route surveying and, uh, uh, small civil, uh, water and sewer, that kind of work, water and sewer planning was-- at that time, uh, in '67, there was very few, it was really the dawn of rural water systems,--

KLEE: --Mm-hm.

VAUGHN: --and, uh, one of the requirements was that they have a, uh, uh, a water and sewer plan, a twenty-year plan for the, for those. Nobody 00:24:00else--uh, I had done some of that work in Indiana.

KLEE: I see.

VAUGHN: I had a pretty good grasp of what they needed, and, and I was, I wrote the plan for, for, uh, Bell, uh, indepe-- uh, separate county plans for Bell, Knox, Whitley and Pulaski.

KLEE: Uh-huh.

VAUGHN: And, uh, that's remarkable. I mean, it was pretty obvious what needed to be done,--

KLEE: --Sure. (laughs)

VAUGHN: --but they pretty well followed those plans pretty well.

KLEE: Is that right? That was when, I guess, that Great Society money was coming into eastern Kentucky.

VAUGHN: Right. We were-- Yeah, we were at the right time for that. ARC had just been created,--

KLEE: --Uh-huh.

VAUGHN: --and there was a lot of, a lot of that. The, uh, uh, the-- what was, The Old Farmer's Home Administration was, was pushing, uh, rural, city water to rural residents, so that was good. There was not a, a lot of work, although there was some. There was, uh, the, uh, uh, 00:25:00Daniel Boone, later Hal Rogers Parkway was there. And we got a, a, uh, job subcontract for one of the, uh, of the, uh, other, uh, consulting firms and, and, uh, that was fifty or twenty miles of sewer line stakeout and field surveying for that. And, uh, 75 was being built. We did, uh, a stakeout for the contractors on I-75 in Rockcastle County and some other counties, that kind of thing.

KLEE: So this is where all those contacts-- was there, did you have competition here in Bell County?

VAUGHN: Uh, there was a, an older fellow who, uh, was, uh, more a surveyor than a, uh, than an engineer in the terms of the type of work he did. He, he, he was licensed both ways.


KLEE: Right.

VAUGHN: He was, he was, uh, a, a, a fella who was helpful to us, and, uh, we eventually bought his maps and records when he wanted to retire--

KLEE: --Really?

VAUGHN: --and that kind of thing.

KLEE: Yeah. Uh, I don't know how the state laws were set up then, but a lot of that is, um, I don't know, I guess they were, they, they called personal service contracts or I don't know how they do it.

VAUGHN: Right.

KLEE: Uh, so you just had to, uh, uh, know the people and put in your bids and, uh--

VAUGHN: --Yeah. For the most part there was not, uh, there was not a-- on the Farmer's Home work, it was pretty well spelled out about what you're gonna get paid; on the, uh, on the, uh, uh, water line work it was a per cent of construction.

KLEE: I see.

VAUGHN: So they had a fee schedule.

KLEE: --They were all set. Uh-huh.

VAUGHN: There were also fee guidelines which were allowable at that time for, uh, through the, the, uh, engineers' groups that you, there were 00:27:00fee curves that you would use and, uh, that kind of thing. The, uh, stakeout for, on, uh, I-75 and that kind of thing were bid-type--

KLEE: --Right.

VAUGHN: --things, and we worked a lot for KU on their, uh, distribution and power lines, that kind of things.

KLEE: What kind of community was, uh, Middlesboro in the, in the mid- sixties, late sixties?

VAUGHN: Well, it had some, had had some, uh, uh, some industrial growth. In fact, I don't know-- what caught our eye was the industrial recruiter who was actually gone by the time we got here, he--

KLEE: --Uh-huh.

VAUGHN: --but he had, uh, given us a nice reply and asked us to come down and look at it. And, and, uh, it was easy to see that they, that it, uh, that it was a more, had more room for growth than, than most of 00:28:00the mountain towns just because of the terrain--

KLEE: --Literally more room for growth.

VAUGHN: Yeah. That's right. That's right.

KLEE: More, uh, land and--

VAUGHN: --That's right.

KLEE: Uh, was it, uh, I mean, relative to the size today population- wise, uh, what was the heart of its business? Was it coal at that time?

VAUGHN: Well, of course coal was, it underpinned everything,--

KLEE: --Uh-huh.

VAUGHN: --and, uh, it was about twelve thousand and it's barely ten thousand, if that, today.

KLEE: I see.

VAUGHN: Uh, it, uh, it had a little growth spurt in the seventies when the, when, uh, when the first real energy crunch hit, but, uh, uh, it, it, uh-- I wouldn't say that it was a highly progressive town by any means, but it was a, it was a, an area where there was, there was 00:29:00possibilities and, and we found them.

KLEE: Right. You came here because of that.

VAUGHN: Right.

KLEE: Uh, when did, when did you first, uh, as far as a community college, when did you first hear about community colleges and, and, uh, uh, when did, when was there a connection to Middlesboro made?

VAUGHN: Well, I was, uh, I was on the, the old Council on Higher Ed.

KLEE: And I, I do want to talk to you about that, yeah.

VAUGHN: Yeah. Okay.

KLEE: And when, what, do you remember the term or who appointed you?

VAUGHN: I was appointed by, uh, Governor Collins. I, the, uh, Kentucky Society for Professional Engineers, KSPE, had, uh, lobbied for some time for an engineer, a PE to be on the, on the, uh, on the council.

KLEE: Why do you think that was the case?

VAUGHN: Well, I, I don't know. I, I, they had, uh, uh-- Russ Reynolds 00:30:00was a fella in Lexington who was the, uh, a long-time KSPE Executive Director,--

KLEE: --Mm-hm.

VAUGHN: --and he and a number of Lexington engineers were working with UK and, and, and I guess in some ways were frustrated by, uh, the support that the engineers' community was getting. Now I don't, I don't really know the, the ins and outs of that,--

KLEE: --Right.

VAUGHN: --and, uh, but any--

KLEE: --Was pa-- was part of it, you think, I, I'm just, uh-- was it, uh, that, that the organization had a, an interest in how engineers were being trained or the--

VAUGHN: --I don't think there was a criticism of the, uh, of the type of education and the quality of education they were getting. I think it was more a case of, uh, uh, compared to the other, uh, colleges within 00:31:00the university there was--the old Anderson Hall was old when I was there, and it, it was, uh, uh, finally upgraded during the time that I was on the, on the Council.

KLEE: Mm-hm.

VAUGHN: I'm sure that had a lot to do with it as far as, as they were concerned that, that, that, uh, the old building, old equipment and, uh, are not faring well especially compared to, to the medical school and other, other--

KLEE: --My mind's--

VAUGHN: --areas.

KLEE: --not working as far as gubernatorial terms. About what year are we talking about here? Uh,--

VAUGHN: I could go in there and look. Let's see. Uh, I'll have to-- let's see. After Ford came Carroll, and he had--

KLEE: --Carroll was seventies, in the late seventies.

VAUGHN: Seventies, yeah.


KLEE: So Collins--

VAUGHN: --And then she came after, after Julian Carroll so it'd be late seventies.

KLEE: Yeah. Early eighties, I guess.


KLEE: Maybe. I'm not sure. I remembered you and Carroll, the, the Oral History Commission started in '76,--

VAUGHN: --Yeah. Okay.

KLEE: --and he was the governor at that point. So I don't know how it shakes down. I can look that up. So she appointed you. Were you a recommendation from the organization?

VAUGHN: Yeah. I was a recommendation,--

KLEE: --Uh-huh.

VAUGHN: --uh, uh, for-- in fact, I guess I was, I was appointed in Al Smith's place. That's a--

KLEE: --Is that right?

VAUGHN: --claim to fame that I have.

KLEE: Uh, so you had to drive to Frankfort for these meetings, I guess, and, or they had meetings around the state, too?

VAUGHN: They had them around the, around the state, but more, but more in, uh,--

KLEE: --Right.

VAUGHN: --Lexington or Frankfort.

KLEE: And this was the, uh, Council on Higher Ed?

VAUGHN: Right.

KLEE: And what, what did you, uh, do you remember any, uh, any incidences there or, uh, any people that stood out on that board because that's usually a pretty prominent group?

VAUGHN: Well, uh, Mike Harreld was the, was the chairman, and he was 00:33:00with, he was a Louisville banker. Uh, Terry McBrayer was, was on it. Uh, uh, gosh, there were, there were a lot of-- one lady up there from northern Kentucky whose, uh, whose husband is the judge in the, in the, uh, ongoing trial of the three lawyers there--

KLEE: Oh, really? (laughs)


KLEE: I know, yeah. I know the case.

VAUGHN: Uh, but, uh, gosh.

KLEE: Yeah.

VAUGHN: There's a whole bun-- I ju-- I'd have to--

KLEE: --Yeah.

VAUGHN: --look at my records, but there were, there was quality people and--

KLEE: --Mm-hm.

VAUGHN: --the, the buy, the watchword was, uh, access,--

KLEE: --Okay.

VAUGHN: --as opposed to what's happening today.

KLEE: Mm-hm. Which, uh, what do you mean by that, uh-- Oh, do you mean with tuition going up so high?


VAUGHN: Yeah. With, it was student access. Get them,--

KLEE: --Right.

VAUGHN: --uh, give them an opportunity to get, to get a higher ed. Another, another big issues was, was the, uh, transfer of credits which I,--

KLEE: --Yeah.

VAUGHN: --I was in a meeting last week, and they were complaining about credits not being, not transferring. We were always assured that they were going to be,--

KLEE: --Right.

VAUGHN: --that that was no problem, but it never, never been solved.

KLEE: Just a fix. Right. So and with access, uh, the community college system was right at the, right in the middle of that, I guess?

VAUGHN: Right.

KLEE: As far as a, a top issue.

VAUGHN: Right.

KLEE: Well, did you start making the connection at that point that, you know, maybe, uh, there ought to be more services in this region?

VAUGHN: Well, yes. Uh, uh, we had a, uh-- I don't know the sequence of it--

KLEE: --No.

VAUGHN: --but we had, uh, a mayor come in here who, uh, at least started 00:35:00with a, with an attitude of listening to people. We got together a group and, and did a very informal strategic plan, and one of the issues that came up at that was the, uh, the lack of, of, uh, of affordable, uh, higher ed here. Now Lincoln Memorial University is just over the mountain and,--

KLEE: --Right.

VAUGHN: --and, uh, they, uh, a lot of our kids went there, but the, but the, uh, the tuition was,--

KLEE: --Expensive.

VAUGHN: --was pretty expensive. So, that was--

KLEE: --So this strategic plan was for the, for the whole community. It wasn't--

VAUGHN: --It was for the community--

KLEE: --Right.

VAUGHN: --involved, it involved in industrial development, and, uh, uh, at that time the Chamber of Commerce was without a director and it was pretty much a, uh, defunct organization. And, uh, we talked about, uh, 00:36:00that and, and, uh, other, everything from residential housing to, uh, all the community needs. And, and, uh, out of that came a, a, an idea of what we called the generic higher ed building, just, just a building here where classes could be offered by anyone who,--

KLEE: --Mm-hm.

VAUGHN: --any college that wanted to.

KLEE: Wanted to, uh-huh.

VAUGHN: So we, uh, uh, set up a meeting down at the First State Bank, and, uh, invited Union College and LMU, um, and, uh, Dr. Wethington and, uh, Eastern, I think, was probably invited, although I don't remember--

KLEE: --Right.

VAUGHN: --that they had anyone in attendance. Um--


KLEE: --Now was this in the, this was sometime in the eighties.

VAUGHN: Uh, yeah. Yeah. It's got to be early eighties, I, I would think, I--

KLEE: --Dr. Wethington, at that point, was with the community college system?

VAUGHN: Right. He was the chancellor of the system at that time.

KLEE: And how did that, tell me about that meeting and how that--

VAUGHN: --All right. Well, that, that meeting, uh, uh, we talked about the, of course, the mining was moving at the time and,--

KLEE: --Okay.

VAUGHN: --and, uh, we just talked about the types of, of courses that needed to be offered and, uh, and the difficulty people had in going away from home to go to school or to go to LMU. And I don't remember the specifics of the meeting,--

KLEE: --Mm-hm. Right.

VAUGHN: --but it was, uh, it was, uh, just a call for, uh, some help in, in, uh, in trying to make those offered. Well-- go ahead.


KLEE: So when you said you talked about a generic building, did you put something together at that point? Was there a building available or--

VAUGHN: --Well, it, uh, the, uh, third floor of the First State Bank building was, uh, uh, in the process of being vacated or had been vacated--

KLEE: --Mm-hm.

VAUGHN: --by a coal company that had moved to other quarters. It--

KLEE: --Okay

VAUGHN: --was about a ten thousand square foot space up there,--

KLEE: --Right.

VAUGHN: --so, uh, they offered, uh, free rent for some years-- I don't know how long-- and, uh, and pretty soon, uh, uh, Southeast was offering classes up there.

KLEE: I see. Okay. So that's how Southeast got started?

VAUGHN: That's how it got started.

KLEE: First National Bank, third floor?

VAUGHN: First State Bank.

KLEE: First State Bank. I'm sorry.

VAUGHN: Yeah. Third floor. Then, uh--


KLEE: --At that meeting, I guess, was that your first meeting with Dr. Wethington?

VAUGHN: I think I had met him, uh, at, uh-- I'm pretty sure I had met him previously with the, at different Council meetings. I, I met,--

KLEE: --Yeah.

VAUGHN: --uh, most of the presidents and, and, uh, and him. They all made presentations, and we got--

KLEE: --Right.

VAUGHN: --acquainted at that. Ben Carr was--

KLEE: --Mm-hm.

VAUGHN: --the person with, uh, him,--

KLEE: --Right.

VAUGHN: --and, uh, he, of course, he's from Harlan County.

KLEE: Is he?

VAUGHN: Yeah. And, so, uh, uh, and Roger Noe was a state, uh, representative, and they made a point of trying to get board members on campus, especially me being close here.

KLEE: --Right. I can't remember,--

VAUGHN: --So I had had some involvement there.

KLEE: --I can't remember the, that, that group has gone up and down as 00:40:00far as their clout. I don't know if you were on it when it was, uh, pretty powerful or in one of its weaker moments. Uh--

VAUGHN: --Well, it was the most frustrating deal that I, that I ever worked with. I, I was very glad to be off.--(Klee laughs)--Uh, I don't remember whether I resigned or whether my term was up;--

KLEE: --Yes, sir.

VAUGHN: --I think I filled a, I think I filled a, an unexpired term when Al resigned--

KLEE: --Uh-huh.

VAUGHN: --and then I maybe got appointed for the other term, but I was so glad to be off because I just, it was not anything I could put my arms around. I couldn't figure out, you know, a way to help. I, I worked hard to try to understand what was going on, but, uh, there was so much-- I never, I fairly, feel like I'm fairly, uh, knowledgeable 00:41:00about politics but not, not that politics. I couldn't grasp it; it was just too tough.

KLEE: Yeah. Well, and it's, it's, yeah--

VAUGHN: Uh, so whether it was a, an effective group, uh, the philosophy was-- Gary Cox was the--

KLEE: --Right.

VAUGHN: --executive director, and the philosophy was that, that you can't trust the universities because they, if we don't hold them together, they'll lobby in the budget process to, to take advantage of it.

KLEE: Right.

VAUGHN: They take advantage of everybody. UK was isolated and, uh, especially in the latter part of it, uh, by-- there was a close, uh, uh, liaison between Western and U of L. They were, they were close together, and, uh, but, but all of them were very suspicious of UK. 00:42:00And, and, uh, it's, uh,--

KLEE: --Turf battles.

VAUGHN: --it's statewide clout.

KLEE: Right. Right. Uh-huh. So they, you, they started some classes. Did Union or Lincoln Memorial follow up or was it mostly the community college system that--

VAUGHN: --Uh, they, LMU and the community college, once it got underway, worked for a number of years pretty closely together. LMU taught-- Dr. Ayers has, has been there, uh, the entire time up there, and,--

KLEE: --Right.

VAUGHN: --and they, uh, had a close cooperative arrangement. In fact, uh, the upper division, uh, business courses of LMU were taught at Cumberland up there,--

KLEE: --Oh really?

VAUGHN: --some of them. So it was a, they worked well together. I don't know that that's quite as close as it was, but it's,--

KLEE: --Right.

VAUGHN: --it's, uh, it has endured.

KLEE: So how did Southeast, uh, go from being, teaching classes here to 00:43:00being a center?

VAUGHN: Okay. The next step was a, uh, when they got to the point where they had more students than they had capacity they, uh, paid for the remodeling of the, uh, Middlesboro Independent School--

KLEE: --Oh, really?

VAUGHN: --District central office and, uh, had its classes out there. Of course, they've always had classes over at Pineville in their health sciences area.

KLEE: Okay.

VAUGHN: Then, uh, uh, when Wilkinson, uh, when KERA started and the, and the educational reforms started, uh, w-- we had, Charlie Burger was on the, uh, on the, Senator Charlie Burger was on the, uh, uh, Senate side and in, in the conference we had, and Roger Noe, uh, was, uh,--


KLEE: ------------(??)

VAUGHN: --with the inside group there. So our Chamber of Commerce worked hard to get a building, get a campus--

KLEE: --Uh-huh.

VAUGHN: --at that time, and, and, uh, I was still on the Council. And so we had the, the stars lined up pretty well, and then in the final conference they gave us, I believe, ten million for, for a Bell County campus. Uh, they--

KLEE: --They were going full-blown right at the start. I mean, that's a pretty substantial amount of money--

VAUGHN: --Yeah. It was.

KLEE: --and a substantial building.

VAUGHN: Yeah. It was. Matter of fact they got, wound up getting two buildings out of it. Mike Bowling came in, uh, as a state representative soon after that and, and became, uh, a great spokesman for the college.

KLEE: Now was he, uh, in Noe's seat, or--



KLEE: --in another one.

VAUGHN: --he was in the Bell County seat.

KLEE: Okay. Bell County seat, huh?

VAUGHN: I think he--

KLEE: --You're saying that with Noe, with the community colleges and Burger and then Wilkinson had a couple of supporters-- I think the, uh, I did hear that Mayor Welch was a,--

VAUGHN: --Mayor, Mayor Welch was, yeah, he was--

KLEE: --was a supporter.

VAUGHN: Yes. He was an early supporter, and he, he-- I don't, you couldn't count the number of trips he made in support of the college. He, he did a good job.

KLEE: Yeah. Uh, so, uh, that went through and that was, they built a building.

VAUGHN: That's right. They, they did a study looking at possible sites in Bell County.

KLEE: Uh-huh.

VAUGHN: Uh, there was really no other sites that had the infrastructure readily available. It was the, the property was owned by the Airport Board or the joint city and county board, so, uh, it was readily available. It did require some, some fill material,--

KLEE: --Mm-hm.

VAUGHN: --but it was, uh, it was a, a, uh, the very obvious choice and, 00:46:00uh--

KLEE: --You mentioned some of the, uh, political people. Was there, were there any, um, um, businesses, other individuals, corporations that were instrumental? Did you have to raise some early money?

VAUGHN: There were.

KLEE: It must have came through the pro-- political process.

VAUGHN: Of course, the--

[Tape 1 ends; tape 2 begins.]

KLEE: Let me, uh, introduce this side two. This is side two of a tape with Bob Vaughn by John Klee with the University of Kentucky Library project on the community college system. I asked about, uh, uh, supporters, uh,--

VAUGHN: --Right.

KLEE: --of the, of the college early on and,--

VAUGHN: --Yeah.

KLEE: --and maybe even carry it through the years.

VAUGHN: Well, you're familiar with -----------(??) Don Brothers was the-- you know Don; he was the, uh, he's from Maysville but he was the 00:47:00Chamber, uh, Executive Director--

KLEE: --Oh was he?

VAUGHN: --at the time, and he did a good job of--

KLEE: --Yeah.

VAUGHN: --organizing things. Um, Glen Denham was an attorney here in town who was, who, uh, was very helpful. Neil Barry, B-a-r-r-y, is the owner of, uh, Middlesboro Coca Cola Bottling Company, and he was very helpful. Um, Dr., uh, Meredith Evans then and now has always been a great big supporter of--

KLEE: --Uh-huh.

VAUGHN: --the college.

KLEE: Was there any problem with the, you said the land was a natural because there was some public ownership of it and it was one of the best--

VAUGHN: --Right.

VAUGHN: --sites. Any controversy? I, it's a little bit out of the, uh, on the outskirts, I guess, but I mean we're--

VAUGHN: --Well, it was, uh, there was some opposition. There was a 00:48:00fellow, uh, who was either the chairman or de facto chairman of the airport board--

KLEE: --Oh.

VAUGHN: --who, uh, took issue with it. He, uh, he did it, he was kind of a chronic again-er,--(Klee laughs)--but he, uh, he, uh, was from some things I considered good and some I didn't, but he, uh, they raised a, a ruckus. And then one of the, uh, attorneys here in town-- Mayor Welch had, uh, proposed, uh, to provide a water line extension out there and he sued,--

KLEE: --Oh, my.

VAUGHN: --and, uh, that cost him a little bit.

KLEE: Right.

VAUGHN: Uh, but by, by and large there was very little opposition; nothing but, but, uh, real positive, uh, uh, support for the college. 00:49:00It was never, I mean, you couldn't have anything--

KLEE: --Well, sure.

VAUGHN: --if it were, uh, but you would have somebody that probably--

KLEE: --(laughs)--Didn't like it.

VAUGHN: It's always been very well-supported.

KLEE: From the beginning when they started offering classes they had a pretty good response from the community, I mean, as far as enrollment and--

VAUGHN: --Yeah. Enrollment was,--

KLEE: --Uh-huh.

VAUGHN: --was very good, and, uh,--

KLEE: --Yeah.

VAUGHN: --uh, I don't, I can't say how many years it took to outgrow it but it was,--

KLEE: --Right.

VAUGHN: --uh, it moved pretty rapidly until at one point-- and probably still is the largest, uh, campus on the, on Southeast.

KLEE: Southeast, yeah.


KLEE: Uh, Dr. Ayers has always been a pretty good person to work with or--

VAUGHN: --Oh, yeah. Yeah. He's always been great in his business; uh, uh, been a, been a, uh, a good leader, a well-respected person--

KLEE: --I was going to say, What qualities does he bring to the process?

VAUGHN: Yeah. Well, he, he, uh, they have given, from what I know, uh, 00:50:00an inordinate amount of, uh, support, um, training.

KLEE: Uh-huh.

VAUGHN: For example, when we had this company, we, uh, created a subsidiary to, to, uh, uh, manage the tunnel, the Cumberland Gap Tunnel here--

KLEE: --I see.

VAUGHN: --and still do today.

KLEE: Huh.

VAUGHN: But, uh,--

KLEE: --You're talking, when you said your company, you're talking about Vaughn and, uh,--

VAUGHN: Vaughn and Milton.

KLEE: --Milton, uh-huh.

VAUGHN: --Yeah. And, uh, he, uh, we were, the tunnel opened in, uh, in October of 1996,--

KLEE: --Okay.

VAUGHN: --1996--(clears throat). They created a, it was a, uh, a bid process. There was a, a two-step bid process to, uh-- we had been involved in, with the construction of the, of the tunnel all the way 00:51:00through.

KLEE: Had you? Uh-huh.

VAUGHN: Uh, inception and, uh, toward-- in early, uh, '96, the State, uh, Transportation Cabinet, uh, advertised for a manager for the tunnel.

KLEE: Mm-hm.

VAUGHN: Now what it take, you, we man it, uh, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. We stop-- it's a, uh, a, uh, pretty dynamic environment up there in that there's a lot of water, uh, coming out of that mountain, and, uh, and there's a lot of, uh, complex electronic and, uh, and mechanical equipment up there and then there's traffic to deal with. There's, they stop the hazardous materials 00:52:00trucks going through, so it requires forty, forty-one people--

KLEE; --Gee.

VAUGHN: --to do that. Well, we had, uh, just a few weeks-- I guess our proposal was accepted in, uh, June, and the community college stepped up to the plate and provided. We, our people up there are, have to be, uh, emergency medical technicians in both states,--

KLEE: --Mm-hm.

VAUGHN: --Tennessee and Kentucky.

KLEE: Gee. (laughs.)

VAUGHN: They have to, uh, have to, uh, do, have all manner of first aid training. They have to extract people from collisions.

KLEE: Right.

VAUGHN: They have wrecker and fire training, and, uh, and, uh, of course there was a lot of computers; a lot of electronics, a lot of computers,--

KLEE: --Right.

VAUGHN: --so all of that training had to be done. We, we bought, we 00:53:00brought on, uh, classes of sixty or sixty-five, and, and, uh, selected from those. So that's a real success story for community college system;--

KLEE: --So--

VAUGHN: --had they not been here, we could have never made it in the,--

KLEE: --Right.

VAUGHN: --in the time we had. But we were--

KLEE: --So in the, in the summer of '96, essentially, they put together the classes and you put together the people and what you needed, and--

VAUGHN: --Right,

KLEE: --you all worked together to get that done.

VAUGHN: Right. And we had to buy, we had to buy equipment and get, and a- adapt it to it; everything from tunnel washing to, uh, fire trucks and, uh, uh, electronic signs. All of that had to be--

KLEE: --And you say you're still, your company's still--

VAUGHN: --Yeah. We're still, uh--I'm retired--

KLEE: --Right.

VAUGHN: --and not, no longer an owner. But, uh, yes, they maintain that agree--, that, uh,--


KLEE: ------------(??)

VAUGHN: --thing, and it's, I, I'm pretty, pretty proud of it. It's--

KLEE: --Sure!

VAUGHN: --a, uh, it's an operation that has, uh, brought people all over the world-- Russia, China, all-- to, uh, see a, uh, contracted out operation like that. So--

KLEE: --As opposed to being run by the national government or state governments or--

VAUGHN: --As opposed to being--

KLEE: --Yeah. Yeah.

VAUGHN: Yeah. Well now, it's in a national park,--

KLEE: --Right.

VAUGHN: --so we were, our, the owner of the tunnel is the Department of Interior--

KLEE: --Right.

VAUGHN: --National Park Services; we work as an arm of,--

KLEE: --Yeah.

VAUGHN: --of that organization.

KLEE: Right. And I guess the college still does training because you hire people all the time, and--

VAUGHN: --Uh, I think there's some training going on,--

KLEE: --Right. Yeah.

VAUGHN: --although we do internally--

KLEE: --a lot of it.

VAUGHN: --a lot of it anymore.

KLEE: Right. I see.

VAUGHN: Um, but we, there have been, uh, uh, different, uh, uh, aspects that we require. They, I, this, I think that, that Southeast does a, 00:55:00does a, uh, there always a quick response to any type of training need.

KLEE: Okay.

VAUGHN: I'm on the Road Development Center Board over there, and one of the complaints that, uh, somebody voiced the other day was, uh, the fact that they couldn't get training when they, uh, they had to build a class before they could get training. And, uh, but that's never been,--

KLEE: --Right.

VAUGHN: --uh, never been a complaint over here.

KLEE: Sure.

VAUGHN: We always had, always--

KLEE: --Yeah. I think--(laughs)--yeah, if you, uh, called President Ayers or somebody, I'm sure some things--

VAUGHN: --Yeah.

KLEE: --would get done.


KLEE: Um, this all seems to have come together. I guess KERA was going on and that's where some tradeoffs were taking place as far as projects in the state.

VAUGHN: Right.

KLEE: You had in, you had people lined up, as you said-- you on the Council and,--

VAUGHN: --Yeah.

KLEE: --and the mayor was a Wilkinson supporter and you had Roger Noe and this Burger. How important was the UK connection to getting 00:56:00support here in the community and getting students in the place?

VAUGHN: Well, I think it was, uh, I think it was certainly important in the beginning, and there was some,--

KLEE: --Mm-hm.

VAUGHN: --of course, when the, when the, uh, uh, separation occurred,--

KLEE: --Uh-huh.

VAUGHN: --uh, there was, uh, there was some who opposed it; of course, Roger Noe was pretty adamantly opposed to it.

KLEE: Right. Mm-hm.

VAUGHN: Uh, the, uh, Glen Denham was one who, who had-- and Dr. Ayers called me. I was, I was for it. I was--

KLEE: --Mm-hm.

VAUGHN: --for the separation, and,--

KLEE: --Yeah.

VAUGHN: --uh, but it, anyway it happened--

KLEE: --Well, there was a lot of, a lot of UK people really pushing for it. What, uh, how, why, how and why did you decide it that that might be a good move?

VAUGHN: Well, uh, I could see that that workforce development was 00:57:00standing out there without adequate support--

KLEE: --Yes sir.

VAUGHN: --and adequate leadership, and I, uh, and I think Bruce Ayers is certainly a strong disciple now of, of the way it's come down.

KLEE: Right.

VAUGHN: Uh, but, uh, while it's not a, uh, it's not a perfect situation even now, but you, you have to, uh, uh, people have to be trained all their life and,--

KLEE: --Yeah.

VAUGHN: --and, uh, and I think it's h--, I think it's helped UK's focus. I think the, at least the general, uh, the majority of folks would say that it's been good both ways, but I don't know.

KLEE: There wasn't a, uh, a separate technical college in this area either, I mean, in, in Middlesboro?

VAUGHN: There was a, uh, Bell High had a vocational school,--


KLEE: --Right.

VAUGHN: --and that was, uh, that was it.

KLEE: But now the, the Middlesboro Campus here is doing, um, technical training now?

VAUGHN: Right. They, that, they actually got two buildings in the initial thing--uh, three buildings--

--KLEE: --Uh-huh.

VAUGHN: --and, uh, they were, they--

KLEE: --How did that break down? They had a, a technical building and a--

VAUGHN: --Yeah. They, they have a, uh, uh, classroom building, and they have a science and technology building,--

KLEE: --Okay.

VAUGHN: --and, uh, in, in that they have a, uh, a decent lab, electronics lab. Uh, they have a CAD, uh, program, and I'm not sure what all else.

KLEE: Sure. Yeah. Um, h-- what's the connection between Middlesboro and the college now? How has the, has the, uh, uh, how is the college seen 00:59:00by the community? What, what changes has it brought about do you think?

VAUGHN: Well, I think it's, um, universally thought as a, thought as a tremendous asset. There are still a few folks, not many, but a few folks who are loyal LMU supporters who consider that, consider that this is inferior,--

KLEE: --Uh-huh. Right.

VAGHAUN: --and, uh, I don't know that I hear as much of that as I, as I used to but, uh, there was kind of an attitude over there and maybe over here as well that, uh, we do it better than they do. And I guess that's, that's just human nature.

KLEE: Right. What about some personalities other than Dr. Ayers, associated with the college? Uh, I'm, I don't know of anybody that stands out down there. Maybe an early director or any faculty or--

VAUGHN: --Well, Walt Green, uh, was the, uh, um, director. I guess--


KLEE: --Right.

VAUGHN: --that was the title. Walt was a tremendous, uh, did a tremendous job. He was, uh, a long-time, uh, superintendent in different parts of the state and was a, was a very successful football coach--

KLEE: --Oh

VAUGHN: --and, and a good, uh, he related well to people. Uh,--

KLEE: --Brought some instant credibility, I guess.

VAUGHN: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, he did a, did a great job out there. Uh, Astor Simpson is one of their, uh, uh, strong instructors. They, uh, uh, Dr. Ayers w-- provided the money to, uh, have to re-- to hire, uh, uh, Ken Mikulla to head up the drama department, and that was, uh, uh, allowed us to, uh, to get the Little Theater going again after a number 01:01:00of years of being dormant.

KLEE: That's good. I w--

VAUGHN: --They lead the community theater activities.

KLEE: --I wondered. I mean, the college has provided-- or I'm asking you, has it provided any cultural, um, uh, possibilities or even, I mean, I don't know where you-- uh, does it have a meeting place where people can meet and--

VAUGHN: --Uh, no. No, we just have the conference room out there.

KLEE: Okay. Right.

VAUGHN: They don't have, there is a, uh, uh, an auditorium, a six or seven hundred seat auditorium at, in the high school.

KLEE: I see. So that, that's, that serves that function for the community?

VAUGHN: The big thing going, uh, uh, the big thing going right now is-- I don't know if you've seen anything out of it-- is the, uh, history project we're doing.

KLEE: No. No.

VAUGHN: Okay. We--(clears throat)--, we had, I've been the co-chair 01:02:00with Dr. Evans on the fundraising,--

KLEE: --Uh-huh.

VAUGHN: --and, uh, we had a, a young man who, who actually had worked here and went off to, uh, Texas and learned something about, uh, the tarp and awning business.

KLEE: Uh-huh.

VAUGHN: And he came back home. He was Mike Bowling's first cousin, Jeff Bowling, and he, he, uh, has a real knack for creating products in the, he, uh, you've seen-- I'm sure you've seen the Mountain Tarp?

KLEE: Uh-huh. I think I have, yeah.

VAUGHN: Uh-huh. Well, he, he founded Mountain Tarp with his cousins. Cousin helped him initially, then they signed a note for it or something. So he created Mountain Tarp and, uh, ----------(??) it's, uh, Mountain Tarp products are all over the United States.

KLEE: Right.

VAUGHN: They became one of the very biggest in the, in the U.S., and he 01:03:00got bought out, uh, maybe early '07, late '06.

KLEE: Uh-huh.

VAUGHN: Uh, got a nice big check and, and a j-- he's still with him. But any rate, uh, I went to him and, and his dad and I had been, uh, close friends, and, and uh, his dad was in, was a salesman but he liked singing and drama and acting and that kind of thing. So, uh, I suggested to him that, that, uh, what we could do in his dad's memory was to, uh, to see if we could develop a play or pageant that would depict the local history.

KLEE: Mm-hm.

VAUGHN: Uh, he gave us a hundred and twelve thousand, five hundred over five years, and, uh, the way it works is that, um, of course there's 01:04:00part of it is a scholarship and part of it's an endowment and part of it is, uh, is, uh, money for a writing contest.

KLEE: Sure. Uh-huh.

VAUGHN: There are, uh, five-- it's, uh, Robert Cox is the, uh, instructor out here who heads the project. They've had two semesters now of five classes studying local history.

KLEE: Really?

VAUGHN: There's two, two English classes, 01 and 02,--

KLEE: --Right.

VAUGHN: --and, uh, an Appalachian studies class, a history class, and a drama class,--

KLEE: --That's great.

VAUGHN: --and they use as their foundation the, uh, a book called The Magic City which, uh, well, a local lady had written and, about, uh, more, actually, it touches on the, uh, the pioneer era, the Civil War 01:05:00era, and then the founding era when Middlesboro was founded by the English corporation and then the wide-open Little Chicago era. So there are four eras that they look at, but our, uh, they, they used the book but they can do, they, they can have something entirely modern like,--

KLEE: --Sure.

VAUGHN: --uh, uh, they write their papers, uh, and from that, uh, Amy Kreiter, another English instructor, is developing one-act plays, four one-act plays, which will be given here on, uh, uh, Labor Day weekend.

KLEE: This year?

VAUGHN: This year. That's the first, first part of it.

KLEE: Right.

VAUGHN: They are, uh, uh, they've done some very creative things. The kids are, uh, the students are, can see an end product, and they're very enthusiastic about it.

KLEE: Well, it's, it's fun to learn a discipline, uh, talking about 01:06:00something you have a natural interest in, too,--

VAUGHN: --Right. Right.

KLEE: --and it's an interesting cross-disciplinary--

VAUGHN: --Oh, yeah.

KLEE: --approach.

VAUGHN: Yeah. They, they have, uh, uh, one of the, one of the plays is, um, to be presented this in, Labor Day is a, uh, "The Day the P-38 Flew".

KLEE: Mm-hm.

VAUGHN: A student wrote a paper about, uh, where he was, and, I, I, I haven't seen it


KLEE: Right.

VAUGHN: Amy, who herself, uh,--

KLEE: --Now that's the, that's the, uh, case where the guy took a plane out of the, out of the ices?

VAUGHN: Out of the ice. Yeah. Yeah.

KLEE: And rebuilt it down here.

VAUGHN: Right. Yeah. Put it back to-- well, actually he had to construct--

KLEE: --Sure.

VAUGHN: --a lot of the parts,--

KLEE: --Right.

VAUGHN: but, uh,--

KLEE: --Yeah.

VAUGHN: --so that, uh, Amy herself-- uh, I don't know if it was a result of a student paper or whether she got interested in it, but she has researched, uh, the, one of the guys or people mentioned in the book, 01:07:00uh, was attribute-- was, uh, said to have created ragtime music--

KLEE: --Really?

VAUGHN: --here; the, the origin of ragtime music.

KLEE: Right.

VAUGHN: She's looked up, uh, really researched the thing very deeply, and, and, uh, Middlesboro has a legitimate claim--

KLEE: --Make a case.

VAUGHN: --to, uh, to be the birthplace of ragtime.

KLEE: Well, that's interesting--

VAUGHN: --She's gonna do a one-act on that.

KLEE: Uh-huh.

VAUGHN: And then, uh, uh, there's a, there was-- when the town was, uh-- I've forgotten. Around the turn of the century or nineteen hundred, they had, uh, a place over, um, in the east side of town called, they called "Over the Rhine." And they had a, a lady of the night murdered over there, and one of the students wrote about that. And I think the play, she was murdered upstairs and, and the guys, four guys playing 01:08:00cards and the blood dripped down on the table.--(Klee laughs)--And anyway, there's a play about that and then there's a play of, about, uh, Floyd Ball who was one of, who was one of the, he was a political strongman here.

KLEE: Ah. Uh-huh.

VAUGHN: Uh, uh, all of the work that is being done is being, uh, uh, uh, made students sign off on it,--

KLEE: --Right.

VAUGHN: --and out of that work, uh, will be, uh, the, the, the pageant, uh, in a few years. The, uh, they're, of course, the, uh, a lot of people are still alive from the Little Chicago eras, so they're recording oral histories--

KLEE: ------------(??) tape.

VAUGHN: --and doing the same thing that you are and video,--

KLEE: --Right.

VAUGHN: --as well. So,--

KLEE: --That's great.

VAUGHN: --that's, uh, that's really as, uh, Judy Leonard said, "That's, 01:09:00the community, that puts the community in the community college,"--

KLEE: --Right.

VAUGHN: --when you, that's a, uh, community pride project. Uh, they just got a grant; we talked about in our meetings and that about murals and, and, uh, they just got a grant to do some murals here. I guess you, you've got some great ones--

KLEE: --Right.

VAUGHN: --up there that, uh, they've talked about,--

KLEE: --Yeah.

VAUGHN: --but we'd like to, they'd like to do, depict our history on downtown buildings that way.

KLEE: Well, all these people you mentioned, uh, you know, the instructors and so forth, it's an example; without that infrastructure here, this would have been, uh,--

VAUGHN: --Impossible.

KLEE: --at least, probably impossible but, uh,--

VAUGHN: --Yeah. That's right.

KLEE: --tremendously more difficult. You've got people and the, and the structure there, so all said and done the, uh, uh, the college is an important, uh, uh, asset to the community?

VAUGHN: Oh, no, no question. Yeah. It, it is, uh, uh, really there 01:10:00will be as the result of the college's involvement in the history project. I, we've got so many natural, uh, attractions here, uh,--

KLEE: --Right.

VAUGHN: --with the gap and the national park and the state park, it'll be part of a renaissance I th-- I think, a tourist renaissance of, uh, it'll hold people here. I, I think, I think we can do reenactments. We can do, uh, uh, different plays, different exhibits that will, that will depict local history, and, and this is, this kind of project can be replicated across the state, uh, uh, and will be, I'm sure.

KLEE: The one-acts are a good format, too, because you can, they, they can be shorter and you can, you know, you can do it at a state park or the national park with a few individuals involved and--yeah.

VAUGHN: Right. Yeah. We've talked about, uh, they got a new 01:11:00amphitheater over here in the national park over in Virginia, and, uh, we can do that,--

KLEE: --Sure.

VAUGHN: --we could do that soon.

KLEE: I wanted to just, uh, finish up by talking a little bit about your career. You, uh, I guess your firm was involved with the, a lot of the roads you mentioned. Uh, uh, tell me about some, some high points, and I guess the, the tunnel would have to be one of them.

VAUGHN: Yeah. That's sort of the signature project of the company, but, uh, well, the, uh, they had the big flood in Pineville in '77.

KLEE: Right.

VAUGHN: And, uh, and the idea of a highway on top of the floodwall, uh, originated over there then as opposed to cutting a slab through the town for 25-E.

KLEE: Mm-hm.

VAUGHN: We did a lot of work on it, but, but, uh, I guess our, uh, 01:12:00biggest contribution was just to, uh, to talk it up, to--

KLEE: --Oh.

VAUGHN: --support it and to, uh-- you got, you give politicians, uh, uh, a lot of confidence when you, when a professional can say, Listen, I've got a crazy idea,--

KLEE: --Right. Right.

VAUGHN: --and know that there's justification for it and, uh--

KLEE: --I remember some of that conversation. They, didn't they talk about moving the town?

VAUGHN: Yeah. I got a call from-- what was it, Anderson? Not him--the national, uh, columnist--

KLEE: Oh, I remember. Yeah.

VAUGHN: And it was, uh, uh, not him but one of his staff, and he had--

KLEE: --Right.

VAUGHN: --picked up on that and they wanted, wanted to support-- (coughs)--that. I--(coughs)--couldn't, uh, hadn't got any numbers on 01:13:00it, but I,--

KLEE: --Yeah.

VAUGHN: --I pooh-poohed that argument. In fact, in church Sunday somebody said that, we were, they were talking about the town in Kansas or Iowa that got blown away the other day, and they said, they were saying, "Well, it'd been cheaper to move Pineville." Well, it wouldn't have when you think of a thousand houses at, uh, and public buildings and public infrastructure, that kind of thing.

KLEE: But you'd had to pay for it and rebuild.

VAUGHN: Yeah. Yeah. It's, uh--

KLEE: --So your firm, uh, supported the idea that this would work?

VAUGHN: Well, we, yeah, it went around-- and the tunnel, too. I, uh, that, uh, Nick spent one summer in, in Washington to try and just figure out the design. Of course, uh, we, anytime there's a project, we wanted to be a part of it, but even if we couldn't, it would help economically.

KLEE: Right.


VAUGHN: Uh, um, there's thousands of miles of water line, sewers, uh, industrial parks, buildings, uh, highways, of course. Uh, uh, we worked, we were on the double-A up here a while.

KLEE: Is that right?

VAUGHN: And, uh, we had an office over in, uh, uh, well, near Augusta.

KLEE: Okay.

VAUGHN: Near German-- two or three miles from Germantown up there.

KLEE: Yeah.

VAUGHN: Had, and then over in Lewis County we had another, another office when, in the later part of it.

KLEE: So you've gone pretty far afield from--

VAUGHN: --Oh, yeah. And we're in other states. We're in, uh, uh, Tennessee. We were in Tennessee first and then, uh, North Carolina; now there in South Carolina. And, uh, we have, had an office in West 01:15:00Virginia, but, uh, they, uh, their economic situation, uh--

KLEE: --So, uh, back to the college a little bit, you're the, uh, you're one of the contact people for the college, I guess, when they're having fundraising drives or when they want something done.

VAUGHN: Well, yeah. I guess so.--(Klee laughs)--I'm on the board, but I hope-- my term's up and whenever, it has been up since the first of the year. I, I, I've got another fellow around here who's agreed to serve, and they've nominated him and, uh, he's, uh, he'd do a good job. And I, I'll continue to work for the college, but I, I'm not, uh, I don't want to stay on the board.

KLEE: You're talking about the Board of Directors for Southeast?

VAUGHN: Right.

KLEE: Right.


KLEE: Who appointed you? Uh, that must have been a recent one.

VAUGHN: No, it's not. I've been on it forever.

KLEE: Oh, is that right?

VAUGHN: Uh, that might have been Wilkinson.

KLEE: Okay.

VAUGHN: I don't remember. It's, uh, that was through all the Patton 01:16:00term I'm pretty sure.

KLEE: Okay. So you've, you've been through all those fundraisers and the growth and so forth?


KLEE: Uh, what are they, what are they talking about for Middlesboro now?

VAUGHN: Well, they've asked for a, uh, for another building, uh, but it's hard to, to get the, uh, to schedule the classes. They have--

KLEE: --I see.

VAUGHN: --such good enrollment now.

KLEE: Yeah.

VAUGHN: Uh, I, we had, we were able to -----------(??) some property adjoining the campus over there; not, it doesn't belong, it belongs to the industrial foundation--

KLEE: --Right.

VAUGHN: --but, but, uh, we're, it's, it's a tech park and we're recruiting, uh, industry to that.

KLEE: Sure.

VAUGHN: We, we're right on, I hope we're on the verge of getting some, and that's the reason for getting a, a company. And, uh, and of course Southeast is going to do all the training. That's--


KLEE: --Right.

VAUGHN: --Vic Ad-- I didn't mention Vic Adams, but Vic's been a tremendous, uh, uh, well-known locally; he, he grew up here, played for UK in football,--

KLEE: --Uh-huh.

VAUGHN: --and he's, he's extremely well-known. And he's taken, becoming the face of the college down here.

KLEE: Oh, is that-- And that's one of the functions of the college when you wanna, uh, show off the community or whatever, you, you say, Here's a place that training takes place, or,--

VAUGHN: --Right.

KLEE: --It's another,--

VAUGHN: --Right. Yeah.

KLEE: --another jewel for you.

VAUGHN: It's a big asset. Yeah.

KLEE: Well, I appreciate you talking to me.

VAUGHN: Sure. Yeah. Glad to.

KLEE: Oh, I can ask you before I turn off the tape, was there anything I should have asked you that I didn't get to?

VAUGHN: Gosh, I don't know. (both laugh) I can't thi-- I can't think of it.

KLEE: Okay. I appreciate it.

[End of interview.]