Interview with Earle C. Clements, November 17, 1976

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:00:00 - Passing on his office to Lawrence Wetherby

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Partial Transcript: The following interview is with former Governor Earle C. Clements.

Segment Synopsis: Clements discusses his 1949 campaign for Senate, and the challenges in passing over many of his pet programs to Wetherby when he left his office for Washington.

Keywords: Campaigns; House of Representatives; Lawrence Wetherby; Legislation; Public works; Senate

Subjects: Clements, Earle C. (Earle Chester), 1896-1985; Kentucky. Governor (1947-1950 : Clements); Wetherby, Lawrence W. (Lawrence Winchester), 1908-

00:04:00 - Parks program

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Partial Transcript: I never went into the--you're from, uh, you're from Murray, you're from western Kentucky and I never discussed the park program.

Segment Synopsis: Clements describes his contribution to the parks program and related legislation.

Keywords: Campaigning; Cumberland Falls; Department of Finance; Kentucky Dam Village; Legislation; Mammoth Cave; Parks; Primaries; Revenue; Tourism

Subjects: Kentucky. Governor (1947-1950 : Clements); State parks & reserves (Ky.)

00:08:51 - State police

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Partial Transcript: I call the state police a piece of foundation legislation and there are a number of other, uh, items, uh, that, uh, were passed in '48 to '50.

Segment Synopsis: Clements continues to describe foundation legislation, his reluctance to influence Wetherby, and the forming of the State Police.

Keywords: County clerks; County judges; Fiscal court; Influence; Lawrence Wetherby; State police

Subjects: Kentucky. Governor (1947-1950 : Clements); Wetherby, Lawrence W. (Lawrence Winchester), 1908-

00:11:32 - Influence on state politics / tax policy

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Partial Transcript: Well now, Senator, you're, you're aware, as I am, that you have a reputation in the state for having continued to have a great deal of influence with succeeding governors and in state politics generally. What did that influence consist of?

Segment Synopsis: Clements explains key areas in which he held an influence on state politics, recalling advice he gave to Wetherby and other legislators concerning a potential tax raise in 1950.

Keywords: Advice; Blanket raise; County clerks; Flem Sampson; Frankfort (Ky.); Governors; Influence; Lawrence Wetherby; Taxes

Subjects: Kentucky. Governor (1947-1950 : Clements); Taxation; Wetherby, Lawrence W. (Lawrence Winchester), 1908-

00:17:07 - Taxation and tax returns

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Partial Transcript: I think that's really the, uh, only piece of advice on, uh, his acts that, uh, I ever really gave him any advice on. I can tell you one other that I gave him some advice on.

Segment Synopsis: Clements continues discussing issues of taxation in 1951, including a meeting of local politicians held at the Seelbach Hotel, and an anecdote about him turning in his tax returns in Louisville. He continues to discuss areas of legislative concern, the considerable surplus in the budget at the time, and funding education.

Keywords: Education funding; Legislature; Louisville (Ky.); Revenue; Surplus; Tax returns; Taxes; Treasury

Subjects: Clements, Earle C. (Earle Chester), 1896-1985; Taxation

00:25:01 - Revenue and Kentucky Education Association

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Partial Transcript: Was this also an opportunity, in regard to education, to help get more education, uh, more money and land, with the problems you had with KEA?

Segment Synopsis: Clements discusses education funding and the Kentucky Education Association (KEA), and his endorsement of Wetherby in the 1950 gubernatorial race.

Keywords: Campaigns; Education; Governors; Kentucky Education Association (KEA); Lawrence Wetherby; Revenue; Special sessions

Subjects: Clements, Earle C. (Earle Chester), 1896-1985; Government spending policy

00:32:20 - Decision to run for Senate

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Partial Transcript: You must have considered a number of things in running--in the deciding make the race for the Senate, uh, Senator Clements.

Segment Synopsis: Clements talks about his reluctance to run for Senate in 1950, comparing himself to Wendell Ford.

Keywords: Alben Barkley; Campaigns; Candidates; Democratic party; Governors; Primaries; Reluctance; Self-doubt; Senate; Wendell Ford

Subjects: Clements, Earle C. (Earle Chester), 1896-1985; Politicians--United States; United States. Congress--History--20th century

00:38:03 - Campaign decisions / media and campaigning

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Partial Transcript: Let me then, again, ask about the organization of the campaign.

Segment Synopsis: Clements discusses his decision to run for Senate, comparing it to his decision to run for governor, and the importance of including others in that decision. He then goes on to reflect on how television and media has changed campaigning.

Keywords: Campaign organizers; Charles Dawson; Governors; Harry Lee Waterfield; Labor movement; Media; Senate; Television

Subjects: Clements, Earle C. (Earle Chester), 1896-1985; Kentucky. Governor (1947-1950 : Clements); Political campaigning and communication

00:44:39 - Public opposition

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Partial Transcript: Anybody in government, sooner or later, he becomes what, uh, some people would term as a "political animal."

Segment Synopsis: Clements describes the political opposition he faced, and public dissatisfaction with issues in taxation in the time.

Keywords: Agencies; Charles Dawson; Federal government; Labor movement; Opposition; Politics; Public opinion; Taxation

Subjects: Clements, Earle C. (Earle Chester), 1896-1985; Taxation

00:51:07 - More on the Kentucky Education Association

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Partial Transcript: Aside from the problem with KEA during your administration, did you sense any other particular o--group that was opposed to you?

Segment Synopsis: Clements describes his conflict with the Kentucky Education Association over his budget proposal in 1951. The KEA wanted taxation included in the proposal to ensure increased funding, while Clements wanted to get the budget passed and then work out tax legislation.

Keywords: Budgets; Conflict; Education; Kentucky Education Association (KEA); Legislation; Taxes; Teachers

Subjects: Clements, Earle C. (Earle Chester), 1896-1985; Local budgets--Law and legislation

00:56:03 - 1947 gubernatorial primaries / meeting presidents

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Partial Transcript: Uh, you indicated to me earlier that though the papers were speculating rather freely that Waterfield might enter the Senate race...

Segment Synopsis: Clements discusses his primary race against Harry Lee Waterfield in the gubernatorial primaries. He then talks about how close he was to the Truman Administration and to various presidents (he wasn't). He ends the segment by moving on to the New Deal and its supporters in the Senate.

Keywords: Campaigns; Charles Dawson; Governors; Harry Lee Waterfield; Liberals; New Deal; Presidents; Primaries; Senate

Subjects: Clements, Earle C. (Earle Chester), 1896-1985; Politicians--United States

01:02:19 - Liberalism

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Partial Transcript: Incidentally, in, in talking of, of Dawson, as conservative, Old Dealer, and presenting yourself as a liberal, what did liberalism mean to you?

Segment Synopsis: Clements discusses what liberalism means to him, voicing the importance of the New Deal and social programs following the war that established a middle class and saved the country from rebellion.

Keywords: Banks; Democrats; Government spending; Great Depression; Liberals; Rebellion; Revolution; Road Commissioner; Roads; Teddy Roosevelt; Work programs

Subjects: Clements, Earle C. (Earle Chester), 1896-1985; Liberalism; New Deal, 1933-1939

01:14:52 - Deficit spending

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Partial Transcript: Well, one thing that the New Deal introduced, along with these various, uh, social and help programs, was a degree of deficit spending in government that we hadn't had to that time, and that's gotten involved in the liberal/conservative kind of, of phraseology.

Segment Synopsis: Clements further explains his opinions on deficit spending and public investment associated with New Deal legislation.

Keywords: Budgets; Deficit; Finance; Gerald Ford; Government spending; Ideologies; Liberalism; National defense

Subjects: Clements, Earle C. (Earle Chester), 1896-1985; Government spending policy; New Deal, 1933-1939

01:20:29 - Balancing budgets

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Partial Transcript: I, I gather that your economic attitude toward government budgeting hasn't changed much over the years--

Segment Synopsis: Clements describes his attitude toward government spending, beginning with how he cut the debt in half as County Judge.

Keywords: Budget committees; Budgets; County judges; Debt; Defense spending; Fiscal conservatives; Fiscal policy

Subjects: Clements, Earle C. (Earle Chester), 1896-1985; Government spending policy

01:25:48 - Foreign aid

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Partial Transcript: I guess I'm not as much an internationalist as, uh, some people are. I think the Foreign Aid Bill has been a drain on this country.

Segment Synopsis: Clements laments the amount of U.S. spending on foreign aid, claiming it does little to improve relations with other countries, and goes on to discuss our natural resources and oil dependency.

Keywords: Foreign aid; Foreign policy; Imports; Israel; Marshall Plan; Natural resources; Oil; Oil dependency

Subjects: Clements, Earle C. (Earle Chester), 1896-1985; Foreign aid programs; Government spending policy

01:30:24 - Agriculture legislation

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Partial Transcript: We had been talking, before we took a break, about your basic political philosophy, Senator Clements, and we had mentioned your attitudes toward the New Deal, and your, your opinions regarding it, and I had some other things listed here that I think we might discuss in terms of fundamental philosophies.

Segment Synopsis: Clements recalls his time on the Agriculture Committee in the Senate, and the state of agriculture legislation in America.

Keywords: Agriculture; Agriculture Committee; Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC); Farmers; Legislation; Natural resources; Senate

Subjects: Agricultural laws and legislation; Clements, Earle C. (Earle Chester), 1896-1985

01:36:11 - Farming and price reports

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Partial Transcript: So you considered the price reports parity business, the key to the farm.

Segment Synopsis: Clements, using tobacco as an example, conveys the importance of price reports and the nature of farming in Kentucky, also listing a good number of Kentucky cash cropS, and addressing challenges facing certain regions.

Keywords: Agriculture; Bluegrass; Corn; Drought; Food; Minnesota; Price reports; Pricing; Rice; Shortages; Tobacco

Subjects: Agricultural laws and legislation; Clements, Earle C. (Earle Chester), 1896-1985

01:46:15 - Cold War-era foreign policy

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Partial Transcript: Well that brings us back to the subject we were at, we were discussing, the specific subject we were discussing...

Segment Synopsis: Clements gets back to discussing foreign policy, discussing the process and those involved with it within the Senate. He goes on to discuss wartime politics, and his opinion of Cold War-era conflicts, including Vietnam, Korean War, Russia, and China.

Keywords: China; Cold War; Communists; Foreign relations; Harry Truman; James William Fulbright; Korean War; Legislation; Russia; Senate; Vietnam War

Subjects: Clements, Earle C. (Earle Chester), 1896-1985; Cold War; Communist countries--Foreign relations; Foreign policy; United States. Congress--History--20th century

01:56:18 - Franklin D. Roosevelt

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Partial Transcript: And then I was not in the confidence of, uh, Mr. Roosevelt. I was in the State Senate in Kentucky--(laughs)--but, uh, I'm sure that, uh, he wasn't as strong physically at that time as he had been earlier in his life.

Segment Synopsis: Clements describes the first time he met Franklin Roosevelt, FDR's declining health, and his efforts to manage public perception about his illness. He reflects that people will look back on him favorably in the future for the "big issues," and overlook the smaller issues that were the source of public disapproval at the time of his death.

Keywords: Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR); Greatness; Health; Illnesses; Legacy; Physical strength; Presidents; Senate; Weakness

Subjects: Clements, Earle C. (Earle Chester), 1896-1985; Roosevelt, Franklin D. (Franklin Delano), 1882-1945

02:09:46 - Supreme Court under Truman / storytelling

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Partial Transcript: One of the great things I thought Truman did was when he had a divided court.

Segment Synopsis: Clements reflects that Harry Truman's greatest contributions to the Supreme Court were his mixed appointments of Justices, including Fred Vinson. He then tells an anecdote about Vinson and his supporters, and goes on to talk about Alben Barkley's storytelling finesse and his support of the New Deal.

Keywords: Alben Barkley; Fred Vinson; Harry Truman; Majority Leaders; New Deal; Storytellers; Supreme Court

Subjects: Barkley, Alben William, 1877-1956; Justices (U.S. Supreme Court); Storytelling; Vinson, Fred M., 1890-1953

02:14:49 - McCarthy Committee

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Partial Transcript: Just like Sam Ervin.

Segment Synopsis: Clements recalls the formation of the McCarthy Committee and the selection of its members, particularly Sam Ervin.

Keywords: Democrats; Gene Millikin; Joe McCarthy; McCarthy Committee; Sam Ervin; Senate; Walter George

Subjects: Clements, Earle C. (Earle Chester), 1896-1985; United States. Congress--History--20th century; United States. Congress. Senate. Select Committee to Study Censure Charges

02:24:33 - McCarthy's censure

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Partial Transcript: Now, what, uh, led me from Barkley's stories to Sam Ervin, Sam Ervin is one of the--first thing, he's a fine citizen, and a great American.

Segment Synopsis: Clements reflects on Sam Ervin, how they disagreed on civil rights, and how Ervin had an unyielding reputation in the Senate. He also describes Joe McCarthy's censure, and the lasting detriment he had on the Senate and its members. He continues discussing McCarthy's various tactics.

Keywords: Censure; Civil rights; Communism; Joe McCarthy; McCarthy Committee; McCarthyism; Ralph Flanders; Sam Ervin; Senate; Slander

Subjects: McCarthy, Joseph, 1908-1957; United States. Congress--History--20th century; United States. Congress. Senate. Select Committee to Study Censure Charges

02:36:12 - Partisan reaction to McCarthy hearings

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Partial Transcript: Did you discuss, or did Johnson discuss with you other d, democratic members who might be selected to that committee besides Ervin?

Segment Synopsis: Clements continues discussing the McCarthy Committee, and Republican and Democratic reactions to McCarthy's censure.

Keywords: Censure; Communism; Democrats; Joe McCarthy; Joseph McCarthy; McCarthy Committee; Republicans; Senate

Subjects: McCarthy, Joseph, 1908-1957; United States. Congress--History--20th century; United States. Congress. Senate. Select Committee to Study Censure Charges

02:43:32 - Civil rights

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Partial Transcript: Um, one of the things that you mentioned a moment ago in passing that I wanted to go into just a little bit further was the question of civil rights.

Segment Synopsis: Clements addresses civil rights issues during this time, and the resistance faced by those working to pass civil rights legislation.

Keywords: Civil rights; Equality; Harry Truman; Legislation; Minorities; Women's rights

Subjects: Civil rights--Law and legislation; Clements, Earle C. (Earle Chester), 1896-1985; Minorities--Political activity

02:47:22 - Atomic bombings

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Partial Transcript: Isn't but one thing, uh, uh, Jim, that, uh, will ever tarnish it, in my judgement. If we ever have an atomic war, it will tarnish Truman's historical record.

Segment Synopsis: Clements states that atomic war could be the bane to Truman's legacy, but also says he would have responded the same way to Japan's refusal to surrender. He then goes on to reflect on his opinion of various conflicts in the region over the next few decades, such as Korea and Vietnam.

Keywords: China; Douglas MacArthur; Harry Truman; Hiroshima; Japan; Korean War; Nagasaki; Nuclear warfare; Russia; Victory; Vietnam; World War II

Subjects: Clements, Earle C. (Earle Chester), 1896-1985; Nuclear warfare; Truman, Harry, 1896-1980; War

02:52:27 - Leadership roles in the Senate

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Partial Transcript: But I think Dick Russell had, uh, one of the fine minds that I knew--of people that I knew in the Senate.

Segment Synopsis: After reflecting on the role of Dick Russell, and the role Majority Whip plays in the Senate, Clements continues to discuss various leadership roles in the Senate and the power those positions carry.

Keywords: Committees; Dick Russell; Majority Leaders; Majority Whips; Minority Leaders; Minority Whips; Senate; Votes

Subjects: Clements, Earle C. (Earle Chester), 1896-1985; United States. Congress--History--20th century