Partial Transcript: Today is October 31st, 2013 and this is the Legacy of African American Judges in Kentucky Project.
Segment Synopsis: Lynch discusses his life growing up in Hopkinsville, Kentucky.
Keywords: Austin Peay State University; Basketball; Betty Thurman Human Relations Award; Brown Street; Christian County (Ky.); Church; Civil Rights era; College; Family life; Family reunions; Fathers; Hopkinsville (Ky.); Hopkinsville High School; Marches; Mothers; Parents; Protests; Transitions
Subjects: African American college students.; African American families; African Americans--Civil rights; African Americans--Conduct of life.; African Americans--Education.; African Americans--Social conditions.; Civil rights demonstrations; Civil rights movements--United States; Integration; Race discrimination.
Partial Transcript: Well, obviously a talented, talented athlete while you were in college and high school but what type of student were you?
Segment Synopsis: Lynch discusses his life during college and what inspired him to go into law.
Keywords: Big Brother/Big Sister; Buddies; Career Night; Carpentry; Challenging; Ed Whitfield; Good grades; Inspiration; Jail; Law School; Mentors; Social life; Studying; University of Kentucky; Woodworking; Working
Subjects: African American college students--Social conditions; African Americans--Conduct of life.; African Americans--Education (Higher); College students--Attitudes.
Partial Transcript: So if I were to say what do you remember most about law school, what would you say?
Segment Synopsis: Lynch discusses some memories of law school. He also discusses his practice after law school.
Keywords: Assistant county attorney; Contracts; County attorneys; Exams; General practitioners; Jobs; Law practice; Law schools; Library; Mike Foster; Phil Hunter; Private practice; Professors; Prosecution; Public defenders
Subjects: African American college students.; African American law students; African American lawyers; African Americans--Conduct of life.; African Americans--Education (Higher); African Americans--Employment.; Law--Study and teaching; Practice of law--Kentucky
Partial Transcript: Well, tell me a little about your first campaign.
Segment Synopsis: Lynch discusses his judicial campaign for his first term, as well as more recent campaigns.
Keywords: Campaign directors; Commonwealth attorneys; Contested; District offices; Ethics; Events; General elections; Jason Finley; Judge McDonald; Judgeship; Money; Primaries; Primary campaigns; Walter Hakins
Subjects: African American judges; African Americans--Politics and government.; Judges--Election; Judges--Selection and appointment--United States.
Partial Transcript: Well let's talk a little bit about your judgeship.
Segment Synopsis: Lynch discusses his career as a judge. He also talks about the number of African Americans currently in the field of law.
Keywords: Advantages; Google; Improvement; Memorable cases; Misdemeanors; Pets; Reduced felony; Small claims court; Versatile degree
Subjects: African American judges; African American lawyers; African Americans--Conduct of life.; African Americans--Social conditions.; Practice of law--Kentucky; United States--Trials, litigation, etc.
Partial Transcript: If you were speaking to a younger version of yourself, what advice would you give?
Segment Synopsis: Lynch discusses what advice he would give a younger version of himself. The interview is concluded.
Keywords: Advice; Business; Law practice; Satisfied; Service
Subjects: African American judges; African American lawyers; African Americans--Conduct of life.
ARD: Good. Today is October 31st, 2013. And this is the legacy ofAfrican-American judges in Kentucky project. I am here with Judge Arnold Lynch, and my name is Constance Ard, and we are doing the interview at the Christian County Courthouse, in Hopkinsville, Kentucky. Thank you Judge Lynch for agreeing to speak with us.
LYNCH: Thank you for asking me.
ARD: Well we're going to get started right away by just talking about yourearly life. Um, can you tell me when and where you were born?
LYNCH: I was born here in Hopkinsville in 1953. Um, I'm one of ten children.And so, we had a--had a pretty busy household. Um, my address here on Brown Street is where I was born. And we lived there my whole life, that's the only home address that I've ever known. Um, educated here in Christian County. Um, my early education was--was primarily at--at black grade schools, and then when 00:01:00we got into what we call middle and high school now, we didn't have a middle school, it went, went through sixth, and then you went straight into high school, that's a different experience to be a seventh grader going in with twelfth graders. Uh, that's when integration came about, and so spent one year at a uh, a black high school, then transferred to what then was a middle school, and then finished my career at--at Hopkinsville High School.
ARD: Okay. Well tell me a little bit about the community? What was it likewhile you were growing up here in Hopkinsville?
LYNCH: Well, I was born in the fifties, and by the time I got to age eight,nine, ten, that's when uh, civil rights really started to take off. So I--I can actually remember those events. Uh, now that--at that age I wasn't much of a participant, but uh, I had older siblings and so, uh, when we went downtown to do marches and protests, uh, I would go with them, um, like most societies at 00:02:00that time, pretty much segregated society. Uh, on our street, on Brown Street, uniquely, uh, there's Second Street, and Fourth Street, and Seventh Street that divide it. And between Second and Fourth, that's primarily where the black residents lived. And between Fourth and Seventh, that was primarily where the white residents lived. And it was not unusual with a lot of streets like that. And you might go through there, but we didn't do a lot of playing together. But you--you'd go up there simply because it was the other end of the street. But uh, that street, Fourth Street, was just kind of a dividing line right there. Um, but so, I do remember uh, the walking, the picketing. Um, when I was young, and uh, like I said, my age, all I could do was carry a sign, probably didn't know a lot about that sign, but I knew what the march was about.
ARD: Um-hm. That's very interesting, thank you for sharing that. Um, wereyour parents involved in that as well? Can you tell me a little bit about them?
LYNCH: I don't recall my parents being active in that type of activity, even00:03:00though um, my father was very active in the community. Um, you know, my father was the type of person that he accomplished things in a quiet way, but would make his--make his opinion known. Uh, he was actually honored uh, before his death with an award here that we call the Betty & Hal Thurman Award, that's given to people that have contributed a lot to the community, which we were all very proud of him for that. My mother was pretty much a homebody, uh, she was a very good mother, but as far as community activities, she didn't do a lot of that. But certainly our parents were aware of it, and uh, they encouraged us, and they didn't do anything to stop us from participating in that type of activity. Because uh, civil rights being what it was back then, it was important.
ARD: Okay, good. Um, obviously that's one of the values that your parentspassed along to you. Were there other things that they really kind of instilled in you as a child that you carry with you still?
LYNCH: To respect others, um, they really taught that, and they impressed upon00:04:00us uh, education, it was important to--to our parents that their children be educated. A common thing that you--that parents want their children to do better uh, than they did. But uh, you know, when I was growing up, I was next to the youngest, so it was--I was just impressed as my brothers and sisters each gradually graduated, and went off to college. It was just, it was just the next thing to do. Uh, there wasn't any question about what you were going to do when you finished high school, just a matter of deciding where you were going to go, and what you wanted to do once you--once you got there. But they really impressed that upon us, um, we were a family that uh, our parents raised us in the church, so that was--so that was important to us. So, the--the same core simple values that are important today were important back then, and they impressed on us, and as I've told my children when I was growing up, raising them, you know, at the--and my wife's family kind of mirrored ours, you know, 00:05:00the formula worked on us, so we're going to use it on you, when you get grown, if you want to change it, feel free to do so. But it's worked pretty good so far.
ARD: That sounds like a good formula. And you've obviously talked a little bitabout being one of ten children. Um, that's a pretty large family from my point of view. Can you tell me a little bit about what that experience was like?
LYNCH: Well, you didn't have a lot of space, but you didn't know it. (bothlaugh) Uh, my sisters, my two older sisters, and one of my older brothers are much older, so they were--they were pretty much grown, the seven that was in my family plus a nephew was raised with us, we were all in one house. So all the boys was in one room, uh, there were six of us. My parents had a room, and of course the girls, two sisters had a room in the back. So it was a--it was a busy time. Um, we liked to say that we were poor, but we didn't know it. Uh, 00:06:00when we reflect back obviously you knew it but, uh, it's just the simple things that you can do when your situation, when there's no technology that you really enjoy. We were outdoors all the time, that's what we did. And a very close knit family. Uh, our brothers and sisters, because we kind of stair step, you would obviously see each other in school, and uh, you know, our family, because my older siblings set the standards then, you know, there were certain things that were just expected of you as you came along. Because they set some pretty high standards. So um, it was a really good time for us when we reflect on it. And then, what it's done is made us so close-knit that uh, we get together a lot. We get together a lot. Uh, we get together at least two or three times a year, um, we go to Derby, Derby's like a family reunion for us. We schedule the family reunion every year during the summer, and then we get together at Christmastime, and if something happens in between, we'll get together again. 00:07:00So we really believe, uh, strongly in family.
ARD: Oh, that's wonderful. You mentioned um, that when you started middleschool, um, that a year later, you uh, went to an integrated school.
ARD: And one of the questions that I would like to ask you is, what theatmosphere was like um, during that time? Was it difficult, or--?
LYNCH: It was difficult, uh, I actually did an interview, I think it was eitherJanuary or February 2012, and uh, there was an article done here locally in the paper, and I expressed in that article, uh, some of the difficulties not so much in the middle school, but when we went to high school, uh, it was a difficult transition time, because, uh, you're taking basically two societies of high school age kids, and you're putting them together, and uh, you know, there is no 00:08:00transition period. Okay? You have to come together and you have to make it work. And um, they were pretty difficult times, because uh, we felt like from time to time, that um, there was being bias or discrimination, and it was pretty blatant. And what we typically did whenever we--we uh, saw it happening, and wanted to make a statement, uh, we typically took off, left the actual high school building, and went to the gym as a protest, uh, until someone came over and responded, and explained things. And I'm telling you, that happened a lot. Um, but we made it through it, and uh, what I--I said, in that interview is that, you know, it didn't make me bitter, it actually made me better. Um, you know, it was a difficult time for everybody. Things weren't done intentionally so much so, it was people just didn't know how to deal with that situation. So during that transitional time, you just learned. And everybody grew up, and 00:09:00grew better for it, hopefully.
ARD: And were there some teachers or school leaders that were responsive tothose protests?
LYNCH: Yes, because once we got over there, I mean we weren't coming back untilsomebody came over to address whatever the issue was. That's not to say that we might have gotten the outcome that we wanted, but at least we were making it known, uh, that there was something that went on that we felt that was not right, and usually the principal or someone else in the administration would come over and address the problem. So yeah, they were responsive. Uh, and sensitive to the situation. Again, not that we may have always got the results, but you kept it in front of them, so that we would avoid future incidents of the same thing happening.
ARD: So, was that kind of a group consensus, to--to make that protest? Or wasthere some central leader, or?
LYNCH: It--it was like if you got to school, and the word was around, we'regoing to the gym. That's pretty much what it was. Uh, nobody really asked what 00:10:00happened, if you didn't already know, they'd explain it to you when you got there. But the way our physical facilities are set up, the gym is a little walk from the actual high school. So if you got to school and you saw the students headed that way, you pretty well know. And if something happened during the course of the day, the word would just get around.
ARD: Okay. Um, what about college? Was the high school that you attended um,Madison Central?
LYNCH: Hopkinsville High School.
ARD: Hopkinsville High.
LYNCH: Hopkinsville High School. Yeah we have two--two high schools, at thattime we had two high schools, Hopkinsville High and Christian County High. Hopkinsville primarily was for people in the city, and Christian County for people that were, were more outside in the rural areas.
ARD: And where did you go to college?
LYNCH: I went to college at Austin Peay State University, home of theGovernors, uh. I went there, again, I had a brother that went to Austin Peay, 00:11:00and I had a sister that went to Austin Peay. And uh, Austin Peay, if you're in Hopkinsville because of the radius at that time, I think it's still true, they didn't charge out of state tuition. So that made a difference in the cost of attending there. And they're--you know, they were ranked well academically in the state of univ--I mean, in the state of Tennessee. And they're a small university. They're a university where you can go and you might not get to know everybody, but you pretty much know all the people that uh, you have contact with in your classes. Your class size wasn't so huge you couldn't get to know people. So, my sister was already there, doing some--some graduate work, her and her husband. So it worked out pretty great for me. They had an apartment on campus, and uh, I had a--I was in the dormitories, so uh, when you got a big sister around, uh, she can fit in a lot of porridge for you, uh, when things come up. Food, financial, etc. So it really worked out well. And I liked 00:12:00going to Austin Peay. I liked going to Austin Peay. I never was one to--to come home a whole lot, because I enjoyed the--the college life. But, uh, it was a good time, as college should be when you're in college.
ARD: And what years were you in there?
LYNCH: I was actually there from '71 to '75, and anybody that went to schoolfrom '71 to '75 at Austin Peay, everybody wants to know, did you know Fly Williams, anything of that nature. And actually since I was an athlete in high school, I actually played basketball a couple years at Austin Peay. I didn't actually play with him, but we were all in the same dorm, so uh, I know him. Of course he got a lot of notoriety in the early seventies from the antics--antics he did, and he did--did a little professional ball. But that--basketball at Austin Peay in the seventies was--was pretty big. They were pretty--they were good in basketball, and um, it's actually, the coach, um, that recruited all those good players uh, Leonard Hamilton, is now coaching uh, he's at Miami, I 00:13:00think. Yeah. So, um, he actually coached me my freshman year, because he was the assistant coach, uh, so uh, whenever college basketball comes around, I always make it a point to uh, to watch. I think--no, it's Miami or Florida State. It was one of the two he's at. I always make a point to watch him, he's actually Florida State, yeah, that's where he is, uh, to watch him, because he was my coach in high--first coach in college.
ARD: Wonderful. Well, obviously a talented, talented athlete while you were incollege and high school. But what type of student were you?
LYNCH: (laughs) Well, you don't want to brag on yourself, but I mean, I madegood grades. Uh, like I said, the standard was set pretty high by my brothers and sisters, they were all good students. So, it was important to me to be a good student. Uh, I didn't go on an academic scholarship to Austin Peay, um, but my grades obviously were good enough after high school and after college to get 00:14:00into law school. Um, you know, a lot of students, they learned that, you know, if you're an A student in high--in high school, that probably means you're going to be a B student when you get to--get to college. And then you just have to see what happens when you get to law school. But uh, yeah, school never--until law school, I mean it--it never was hard for me. It was never hard for me if--especially if I applied myself. That was the thing, to apply yourself.
ARD: Were you um, did you have any mentors throughout high school or collegethat really kind of influenced you?
LYNCH: The decision I made to become an attorney, I actually didn't have amentor. Uh, when I was in my senior year, in the fall of my senior year, they had what they called career night. And on career night, uh, you come back to the school, and people would come, and they would take certain rooms and put the 00:15:00occupations on the outside, and you could feel free to roam around, and see what they talked about. And see whether that interested--interested you. And when I went around, at that time, I actually had visions of doing something in carpentry or woodwork, because I enjoyed that, and I did a lot of that in class. And I was pretty good at it. But, I saw the door that had attorneys and lawyers on it. And so I went in and sat down, and um, one of the attorneys that was in there is now actually a Congressman, Ed Whitfield. Uh, and he was very young at that time, and I'm not sure he'd been practicing very long. But he and another attorney in there, they got to talking about the practice of law. And--and start explaining it. And it just really intrigued me. It really did. And uh, I left that room thinking this is what I'm going to do. This is what I'm going to do. And so, when I went home and told my mother, she was saying, 00:16:00"Oh no, I kind of wanted you to be a doctor." Well I can't stand a needle or the sight of blood, so I knew that wasn't going to happen. But uh, you know, I pretty much stuck to my guns, uh, when I got to Austin Peay, uh, I had a--a diversion for a semester too, that I was going to go back and do something in engineering. But, when I went in there after one series of classes, I quickly reversed course and went back, and started studying to be an attorney again. And I stayed on track with that, uh, until I left Austin Peay. Um, so it was no one in particular, but that--that session, that career night, it--it influenced me. And that's why I'm where I'm at today.
ARD: Thank you. Um, so when and where did you go to law school?
LYNCH: I graduated in 1975 from Austin Peay, I just determined at that time Iwas going to take a break. Uh, I felt like seven straight years, I didn't know 00:17:00whether I could--I could handle that. So I came home and worked for a year, from '75 through '76. I got accepted to the University of Kentucky law school in 1976. And I enrolled in the fall of 1976, and of course that's a--that's a three year uh, professional degree. So I was in Lexington from '76 to '79. Um, when I finished up at law school.
ARD: What did you do during the year that you were working?
LYNCH: I came down, I was--I was a uh, what would be the equivalent of ajuvenile counselor. Um, and we also, we called it then, when we started, as part of the duties, we, we started what was called Buddies. Um, that has since transitioned into Little Brothers and Sisters, or Big Brothers and Big Sisters. Um, and I don't think our branch right now is functioning here locally, but we started as Buddies back then, and in addition to counseling youth who might have got into some trouble, uh, we originally began to pair up adults with 00:18:00youth--youth that say, didn't have a father figure, uh, mother figure, or someone who just wanted to, you know, to mentor a youth. So we'd interview the individuals, and then of course, you know, make assignments for the kids, uh, and that--that part was pretty interesting. It was pretty interesting. Uh, you know, I guess the most vivid memories I have of it, however, is the fact that because office space was--was kind of restricted, we got placed in what was at that time, the old jail, that had been converted also to the dog pound. So, we're up front, interviewing kids and making assignments. And in the back, we've got dogs back here. And the biggest challenge was make sure the fleas and ticks didn't make their way up to the front, and to keep the odor down. Keep the odor down, and I can laugh about it now, but it was--there were some days it 00:19:00wasn't very pleasant to go to work at--with the--with the--with the smell and with the noise. But uh, it was--it was just a part of the--of the job process, and the growing process. I was just glad to get a job in between.
ARD: So law school was a--a bit of a--of a--of an escape from that?
LYNCH: Yeah. Yeah, I was ready to go. (both laugh) I was ready to go.
ARD: Well tell me a little bit about the environment of your law school experience.
LYNCH: Well, the law school experience, um, is a big change from--for moststudents from the--from the college experience. You--you have to apply yourself. And um, in terms of college, uh, campus life was, even though Austin Peay is not that big, you really don't tend to look at racial divides. Because, you know, the class situation, go to so many classes and all that. When you get to law school, you become a little bit more--more sensitive to it. Because I--in my class coming in. Of course I told you Judge Payne was--in that class, 00:20:00there were only four of us. Um, there was a class that came in behind us that only had a couple in it, and there was a large class like that. So, uh, you were conscious of--of minorities in the--in the college. Uh, but of course you bonded with all the students because you're all--you're all waging the same war together, and that's to try to get through--to get through law school, and get a law degree. And law school can be plenty challenging enough. So uh, you tend to bond with all your classmates, but you still tend to identify uh, with people of color that are at the college. But uh, that experience, I can--I can honestly say I remember it being much more of a student experience, as opposed to when you're in college, you tend to be a student and your social life. But when you get to law school, the social life part of it kind of--kind of drops off the table. Uh, you really have to tend to your studies, and uh, the notion of going to the library in college, I can remember every time I did it. But in 00:21:00law school, you--you stayed there a lot. You stayed there a lot. So it was a pretty intense process. Process. That's not to say there wasn't some fun times, but uh, you--you knew the books came first.
ARD: So, if I were to say what do you remember most about law school, whatwould your answer be?
LYNCH: I worked at the library in the law school my whole career, and that'swhat I would remember most about it. Um, you know, I've always kept a job of some type pretty much my whole life, simply because that's--that's what our father instilled in us. And so, I worked at the--at the library. Kind of like a--a figure there, just there all the time. Uh, you know, and so you got to see everybody came in, everybody left, and what they did. And you got to carry on conversations. You got all the gossip, even though you might not want to hear it. Uh, but that's what I remember about it. Because of that experience, that was the constant that I had in law school, working at the library. And uh, 00:22:00meeting people, greeting people. And uh, just conversing with them.
ARD: Well thank you for that. Um, were there some mentors within the lawschool experience that kind of guided you towards what you were going to do after you passed the bar?
LYNCH: I can say in my law school experience, there were a couple ofprofessors, they didn't--they didn't so much mentor me, but they counseled me and assisted me to make my law school experience a successful one. My first year was kind of a difficult year with my grades, and I knew that material, and I didn't know how, I didn't know why I wasn't making better grades. And I actually can see their face, but I don't remember their names. And I'd go in and talk to some professors, and they'd always say, "You know the material, you know the material, I can tell." And say some things, and I'd take the next test and get the same result. And then I went into his one professor, and he 00:23:00took--basically took what I had done on the test and said, "listen, uh, this is how you take a law school exam, okay?" And from that day forward, the light just went off. I didn't have any trouble after that. And I thought to myself, I've talked to several professors before him. What was so hard about explaining it that way? But he just said, this is how you do it. This is where you're missing the boat. And uh, you know, after that, no more troubles. And uh, I was really grateful to him. And I told him I was grateful to him for that. And you know, it's just the way different people, when you talk to them, that they explain--because I'm sure those professors was telling the students, you know, the same things they told me. But others just were--he was just a lot better at saying listen, this is what you need to do.
ARD: That's wonderful. What type of law did you practice when you first gotout of law school?
LYNCH: When you first come out, and you go into general practice, if it walksthrough the door, you practice it. Uh, I was fortunate enough to come back, and 00:24:00I had a fraternity brother here, uh, his name was Phil Hunter, who had a law practice. And he was a general practitioner. And um, he allowed me to come in with him, and when you say general practitioner, that really is whatever comes in. So I mean, you do what we call domestic work, divorces, adoptions, criminal work, real estate work, uh, personal injury. Pretty much anything that, that comes in, you deal with it. Uh, my area of experience was a little unique, because my intention was coming back and practicing under him, you know, until I got, quote unquote, "My feet wet" and everything, but Phil after my first year, decided he didn't want to--he didn't want to practice anymore. So he basically came into me one day and said, uh, "I'm not going to continue to practice law here, uh, if you want the practice, it's yours, you can have it." Well I didn't 00:25:00expect to have a law practice one year after I went into practice, but uh, this was home. I didn't have a whole lot of options. Uh, I wasn't about to pack up and go somewhere else, so I said, okay, well I'll just have to make a go of it. And um, at that time, doing DPA [deferred prosecution agreement] work, or public defender work, was a lot different. It was contract work. Now that it--it's much better, that they have an office with attorneys in it. But back then, they contracted the work out. So basically what happened was, uh, for every three months or so, or however long you worked the contract, several people took all of those cases involving public defender cases, and when the contract money came in, there was an administrator, and they just basically divided it up between the attorneys. So, I did that, uh, which was good. That gave me some source of income that I could rely upon. But after that, you just--you just gradually--you gradually build your practice. Um, after my first three years here, uh, the county attorney, Mike Foster, uh, got elected. And then I went on 00:26:00as assistant with him. So, uh, for most of my practice, I've always had my private practice and something else going on. So, I was assistant county attorney for 21 years before I went on the bench. So, I had a--a general private practice, and the assistant county attorney job. Of course, if you're prosecuting, I didn't do any defense cases obviously because I was in prosecution.
ARD: That's a fascinating way to approach the law.
ARD: (both laugh) Um, what was the most memorable case you tried as a lawyer?
LYNCH: Well, on the defense side, the most memorable case I hadinvolved--actually involved domestic violence, and of course, domestic violence now is highlighted quite a bit. It--not that it shouldn't have always been, but it certainly didn't garner the attention that it does now. And the lady I was 00:27:00representing, ironically, had taken the life of a classmate of mine in high school. Uh, and he had been abusive, and she did it--she didn't intend to--to take his life. It was--it was very much a defensive act. Um, and it was my job to represent her, and you know, it was a difficult case, and I tell people when we talk about it now that I'm convinced that in today's time, she probably would have been acquitted, been acquitted. But the mindset back then to take a life, and not get any time at all, was--was pretty difficult for twelve jurors to--to accept. Uh, so they--they convicted her on reckless homicide or something of that nature. And gave her a minimal sentence. Uh, and I was disappointed with that. I was disappointed with that. And um, you know, I really felt like, 00:28:00under the circumstances, that uh, she didn't intend to take his life, and she did what she needed to do under the--under the circumstances. And uh, you know, that was the most challenging case I did in the defense part. Uh, on the prosecution side, I don't know that I could pick one out. I--I tried a lot of cases as a prosecutor. I tried a lot of cases. Um, and for fear of picking out one, it would be easy for some people to know what I'm talking about.
ARD: I understand that. Um, so career night was a big influence on youbecoming a lawyer.
ARD: Did you--when did you first thing about becoming a judge?
LYNCH: That's a good question, because I never really thought about it. Um,started prosecuting in 1982. And I enjoyed what I was doing, my practice was good. And in the early nineties, in the early nineties, um, one of the judges 00:29:00that was uh, on the bench, was experiencing some health issues. And his next tenure was not going to pursue a judgeship. And he pulled me aside one day and asked me if I was interested. And he said, he said, "I, I think you'd be a good one, if you would consider doing it." That's--that was the first seed that was actually planted for me. However, when he went off the bench, uh, my good Jim Adams, whose office was next door to me, we were uh, assistant county attorneys at the time, and--and Jim made his intentions known, that he was going to run for--for district judge. And because of our friendship, I--I wasn't going to run against him, I had no intentions to do that. So, uh, he went on the bench at that time, but at that point, I knew when the--when the next judgeship, district judgeship became available, which was nine years later, that uh, that I was going to run for the office. 00:30:00
ARD: So, you were not initially appointed, you were initially elected to office?
LYNCH: Yeah, I was--I was elected to office, yeah. Uh, appointments come aboutif a person doesn't finish out their tenure, or the term, and then you have to run after that. Otherwise, you--if you serve out, then the next election, you run for that office.
ARD: Okay. Well, tell me a little bit about um, your first campaign. What wasthat like?
LYNCH: Well actually, my first campaign was a lot of years before that. Iactually ran for commonwealth attorney here, um, sometime in the late eighties. And I can tell you that when, even having--I had worked in a campaign before I ran for commonwealth attorney. When you run a campaign for an office, that's when you get the first realistic information about what is actually involved. 00:31:00And you begin to know there's a lot more that goes on to winning a race than simply putting your name out there and trying to impress people as to why they should vote for you. And uh, it was an experience for me. It was an experience for me. You have to have a lot of people working for you, uh, you have to be able to certainly raise money, and when you're running county-wide, you have to cover a lot of territory. So you have to have a lot of people in your corner that are willing to work for you, and to make contacts, put up signs, disseminate information. They have to tell you when something is going on, public events, so that they make sure you go there. Uh, it was an eye opening experience. And I was, I was unsuccessful for that. But that experience let me know that if I were to pursue it again, that one thing I have to start a whole lot earlier than I did the first time. And I need to make contacts with a lot 00:32:00more people than I did the first time. It's a lot more than just simply calling a, a conference, radio conference, or a news conference, say this, I'm running for office. If you haven't laid the proper groundwork, until you get to that point, your chances of being successful are probably going to be pretty slim. Uh, the next time I pursued it, obviously, was when I ran for district judge in 2002. At that time, uh, in the legal community, everybody knew I was running. Uh, Judge McDonald, who was the judge that was retiring in front of me, we knew he was retiring, and I made it known that I--I was going to be pursuing, you know, the vacancy, uh, I made all the necessary contacts that I felt were important. Um, you know, running for public office is a challenge. And when people say they enjoy it, I just kind of wonder if they're telling the truth. (both laugh) Because I'll tell you, it's a lot of work. You have to meet a lot of people, you have to repeat the same thing every time you go to another group 00:33:00of people. Uh, you have to go places and to events that you typically wouldn't go to, but for that you're running for office. And it's a lot of work involved. And in my case, and this happens frequently, with a lot of people running, uh, mine was a contested race. And it was contested because in judgeships in Kentucky, we run nonpartisan. We don't run by party. We run nonpartisan. And if more than two people are pursuing a judgeship, you have to run twice. You have to run in the primary, and then you have to turn around and run in the fall. And that's what happened in my case. And um, so going into it, you know, I anticipate I knew I'd have at least one challenge. I didn't know I'd have two, but I wound up having two. So you're thinking in terms of trying to run a campaign probably starting after you've made all your initial contacts, you know, maybe early spring, late summer, and then on into the fall, and then 00:34:00you've got to get to work starting in January, February to do it. And um, I can tell you, it was an experience. It was an experience. Uh, I met a lot of good people I never met before, uh, made a lot of good contacts, uh, enjoyed a lot about it. But I'll tell you, being unopposed is a lot better. Uh, you know, running for office is a lot of work. It's a lot of work. And so uh, if you're going to run county-wide, city is--is bad enough, and--and boy, it's divided up here, even if you're running, uh, in school board, the matters of districts, they're large enough. But Christian County is a big county. Uh, it's one of the bigger counties in the state. So, you've got a lot of territory to cover when you're running in Christian County. But uh, everything went well, I won the primary, and uh, the--the guy that I beat in the primary actually is a circuit judge now, so I mean his career went on, and he's a--he's in a judgeship as well. Um, but the margin in the--actually the margin in the--in the primary, 00:35:00and in the general election, it--it worked out to be about the same. So, the third person, and the vote--the voters that were, voted for the third candidate in the primary, they pretty much just divided the vote in the fall. And so uh, the lead that I had in the spring, I was able to maintain it in the fall.
ARD: Were there um, any mentors that you worked with, or anybody that kind ofhelped you in the commonwealth attorney's race, and the judge's--judge's race, to help you learn how to campaign? Or was that all on the ground work?
LYNCH: The commonwealth attorney was just uh, kind of a small knit group ofpeople trying to pull something off that wasn't going to happen, okay? When I ran for district judge, I actually hired a campaign director. See that's one of the mistakes I made the first time around. Uh, hired him, he did a good job for me. Um, you had to put together slogans and postcards, and all these things. 00:36:00And you don't know how many votes they get for you. But, you have to put a lot of thought into them. You know, they have to--they should be impressive when you mail them out. And so, there's a lot involved. Voting lists, and all those type of things, you get that information when you run, how frequently people vote and all that. So, your campaign director gets all that information for you, tells you how to best use it, who to best send the information out to. Um, some of the technologies employed now, you know, we didn't have back then. Uh, we actually had to call people. Okay? We didn't have anybody doing any phone banks, they just did, you know, caller, sends out all these calls at six o'clock at night, it didn't work. So yeah, he wasn't so much a mentor as he was a campaign director. And of course, we had other people in it as well, you have your treasurer and everybody else. But uh, it was a working group, probably of about ten to fifteen people that was involved. That way, when you, when you got ready to get together to do something, you always at least had seven or eight 00:37:00people there to help you with it. And I--I'm eternally grateful to those individuals.
ARD: So how did you know to hire a campaign director?
LYNCH: Well like I said, I had worked in some other campaigns before mine, andin this particular effort, I knew that's what I was going to do. I knew that's what I was going to do. So um, the hard part was trying to find somebody. But the individual I chose, uh, he was an by the name of Walter Hawkins. He now practices in Bowling Green. Uh, he assisted me, and--and Walter did a good job. He did a good job. And uh, you know, when you're running campaigns like these grassroots, uh, nobody's getting paid anything. Anybody that's running for public office, uh, I'm not saying anything surprising. I mean, nobody gets paid, it's all volunteer. So again, you have to be extremely grateful to those individuals that are not related to you, that are willing to devote their time.
ARD: So, in that contested race that you were running, were there any major00:38:00issues that came up that were used against you, uh, during the campaign?
LYNCH: No, uh, I can honestly say, the primary, even to the general election,most of the comments I heard during our running was that uh, it was just a well run campaign by two good candidates. Uh, there--there was no "mudslinging," quote unquote, in that campaign. Uh, we came across as two good people running for the job. Uh, at that time, Jason Flemings, who's the circuit judge now, he hadn't been practicing that long, so I basically tried to let the voters know that my long tenure of experience, having been in the county attorney's office twenty-one years, there was not much I had not done. And that I--even though I wasn't a judge, I knew the job inside and out. But that was a positive I was putting out, there was no negatives that you put out to say uh, in a campaign 00:39:00like that. And judicial races are encouraged to be that way. Our uh, you know, our ethics and rules that we operate under, uh, they're strict and I'll tell you, they're--they're sensitive about being followed. Uh, you can get called on the carpet pretty quickly in--in judicial races. Uh, so, they're constantly keeping it in front of you, the dos and don'ts. But uh, no, there were no major issues that were--were slung back and forth. Uh, it was just a good, clean campaign. And uh, you know, whoever got the most votes, and fortunately, I got the most.
ARD: Okay, very good. Well let's talk a little bit about your judgeship. Arethere some cases that really kind of highlight your experience thus far, that you want to share with us?
LYNCH: Well, in this business, we like to say uh, boring is good. Which meansyou get to do the same thing all over the place, because judges don't typically like being in the--in the limelight. That's--that's not good. Uh, but I can 00:40:00say there's one case, when I first came on the bench, it was just, it just took off in notoriety as soon as I got it. And uh, you know, people are so sensitive about things that happen to pets. And uh, it was a case involving an accusation about a pet being uh, uh, poisoned. And uh, it was--it was just amazing to me, and I'm not insensitive to pet owners, but that those type of issues can get so much attention and, you know, when there are so many other cases, uh, involved, but that case just uh, it just uh, took off. And it just kind of had a--a history all to itself. And I mean, I'm talking about in the--the local people, as well as the media just kind of kept up with it. And uh, it finally went to trial, and--and ended. But uh, the only reason I point that out is because after I got elected, uh, my friend, I had a couple of friends, and when we would 00:41:00talk, they would always kid me, because they would Google my name, and this case would come up. They'd always want to know, what is the deal here that your name always comes up with this case involving a dog, or dogs? And I was like, I didn't know it did. Until I went on the internet, and I Googled it, and I'm like, that's how you get on the internet, you get a case of this nature? Uh, but uh, in district court, we handled, to the finality of the case, misdemeanor cases, which are cases of a year or less, and any felony cases that are reduced. We get some pretty serious matters down here, but uh, they take a backseat to--to the homicides and other things, uh, that go on in circuit court, that garner a whole lot more attention. So the cases here are very important, don't get me wrong, they're very important, we handle--district court's going to handle more cases combined, I mean, than combined in any number of, of circuit 00:42:00cases. Uh, but they're not the type of notoriety cases, generally speaking, unless it involves uh, you know, someone of influence or affluence. Uh, so most of our cases are pretty low file in terms of attention. And I can tell you, as I tell groups when we talk all the time, there's no sense coming to a small claims court, there are no fireworks going off there. So all those judges' cases you see, it just doesn't work like that. So you can come to our case all year long and wonder why aren't any of your cases interesting? Well, they're the real cases. They're the real cases.
ARD: So boring is good?
LYNCH: Boring is good, yeah. Most of the time in our cases, one side doesn'teven show up in small claims court.
ARD: Well let's talk a little bit about um, kind of the status of the legalfield. Um, you said that your law school class had four African-Americans?
ARD: Were any of them women, by any chance?
LYNCH: Uh, no.00:43:00
ARD: Yeah. So, does it surprise you to hear that--
LYNCH: Wait a minute, let me correct that.
LYNCH: Five, and there was one. Yeah.
ARD: Five, and one woman?
ARD: Okay. So, would it surprise you to hear that the number ofAfrican-Americans in the legal field has pretty much remained unchanged?
LYNCH: It would.
ARD: It does surprise you?
LYNCH: It does surprise me. I--that does surprise me. Uh, I guess becauseyou'd just like to think that things improve, as things improve, uh, you know, I would like to think that it's still an attractive field for African-Americans. So by that I mean that people are still applying to get into law school. And actually, for instance, locally here, even though I came back to practice law, there are--there are a lot of attorneys that have gotten degrees--that have, I mean attorneys from Hopkinsville that are practicing elsewhere. Uh, they simply chose not to come back home. Um, and in Kentucky, as you know, because when you 00:44:00start doing interviews with--with other judges, we tend all to migrate into the--what we call up there, you know, the tri-city area of Louisville, Lexington, and Cincinnati, they just tend to hover there. They don't--for some reason, they don't come out and stay and practice. Uh, so I know that most minorities tend to practice in the same areas, but I wasn't--it does surprise me that the numbers aren't up, the numbers aren't up.
ARD: They--they have definitely pretty much stayed the same, um, in terms ofadmittance, uh, numbers and so forth. Um, but uh, thank you for sharing that kind of insight. What would you recommend um, as a, as a path forward to help more minorities enter the legal field? What do you think could help improve those numbers?
LYNCH: Well, I believe when I do one-on-one counseling, that type of thing is00:45:00very helpful, that nothing beats someone sitting down with you, and telling the advantages of uh, pursuing a particular career. Uh, hopefully that, you know, law schools, law schools can network with their graduates certainly, for almost everything else. So, hopefully they could assist with some of that. Uh, and I know people like myself would certainly be willing to participate, uh, in that effort. Uh, you have to know the advantages of a law degree, and be able to appreciate that. A lot of people, you know, four years of college and then professional school is not attractive to you. But a law degree, uh, as I mentioned in our conversation before we got started, it's a very versatile degree. It's a very versatile degree, there are plenty of people that uh, have law degrees that don't necessarily practice law. We need many more in the 00:46:00field, but it's a very versatile degree. And uh, you know, I--I'm just a little surprised that more people have not entered into the field, because it affords you so many opportunities, um, and--and in my instance, you know, it really concerns me because the only way you can get more African-American judges is to have them as attorneys. There's no in between, in Kentucky you have to be a licensed practicing attorney, uh, to be a judge. And so, and if those numbers are dwindling, that means the chances of us getting more of us on the bench are being reduced. So that--that's a simple equation that uh, you know, I'd like to see reversed.
ARD: Thank you for that. Um, if you were speaking to a younger version ofyourself, what advice would you give?
LYNCH: Hmm. I think I'd probably tell myself, when you run a law practice, it00:47:00really is, in addition to running a law practice, it's running a business, okay? So I'd tell a younger version of myself, you could have done a better job running your business, in your early law practice. Um, because I would have done something different in terms of hiring somebody to actually do that for me. Because I can tell you, all the books associated with it, and then you have an employee and taxes to keep up, and all of that. Not that I ever had any trouble, but I'm just saying, I would have had somebody to make sure that stayed in place, so that I primarily could have just focused on practicing law, and not have to worry about oh, I need to get this business aspect of this done. Uh, you know, that's the advice I would have given to myself. As far as the course that my--my practice took, um, I'm satisfied with the way it's worked out. I'm satisfied with the way it worked out. Um, you know, when I first came back, 00:48:00I--I wondered about my decision to come here. Because actually, uh, it was not my first employment choice. But it--it's just amazing, you know, how things can work out for the best, even though you might not have the insight to do it. Uh, I went for a job interview that I was pretty convinced that I was going to get, and uh, I didn't get it. I actually was told even before I got there that the job was pretty much yours. But when I got there, it wasn't mine. Uh, so I had to go to game plan B, which I said okay, you can always go home and practice law. Uh, and I had already talked to, like I said, Mr. Hunter, and he let me know if I wanted to do that, I could. So, I--I wound up coming back here. Um, but as people are inclined to say, the good lord knows what's best for you. If I had gotten that job, I don't know where I'd be now. So, having to come back here and start it, and took the path that I took, it all worked out. It all 00:49:00worked out.
ARD: Very good. Was there something that you wanted me to ask that I haven'tasked? Is there something that you want to talk about that we haven't touched upon yet?
LYNCH: Uh, I can't think of anything. Uh, I would just like to say that, youknow, if someone wanted to take something from this, especially if you were uh, in high school or college, and--and trying to base some decisions about career choices, look into the legal field. In Kentucky, uh, there is a shortage. Uh, I was assuming, when I said I was surprised by that, that like in the instance here in Hopkinsville, a lot of people that get degrees simply don't choose to come back to the area. But it's disturbing that they're not entering into the field. I would encourage them to make that career choice. You know, it's--it's not as bad as you think, to--to go to school an additional three years for professional school, and generally speaking, even though practicing law, as I 00:50:00pointed out earlier, sometimes it's not all it's cracked up to be. But, you can provide a service to the community. You do provide a service. I guarantee you, most of the rewarding things that I did, didn't involve large returns on fees when I was a practicing attorney. It's when you do something that's good, and you know you bettered a situation, it--it's very rewarding. It's very rewarding. Uh, everybody wants to make money, but you get to deal with people, and make a difference in people's lives, positive differences. So I would encourage more people to uh, if you have an, especially African Americans, if you happen to make that choice, to look into practicing law. It has some pretty rewarding results.
ARD: Thank you so much for that, Judge Lynch. I appreciate your time.
LYNCH: Okay. Thank you.
[End of interview.]