Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with George Lusby, October 9, 2018

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:00:00 - Background--Introduction and early childhood

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Partial Transcript: Okay, good afternoon. It is, uh, October 9th, uh, at 3 o'clock. We are here in the studio of the Scott County Public Library, and today we have with us the distinguished elder statesman of Scott County, Mr. George Lusby.

Segment Synopsis: James Bartek introduces the interview and its subject, Mr. George Lusby. Lusby briefly recaps his career as a public school administrator and local politician. He says he is 82 years old at the time of the interview and was born in Georgetown in 1932, during the Great Depression. Lusby discusses his father's work as a paint contractor and tobacco stripper, as well as his mother's job making parachutes in Lexington during World War Two. Lusby talks about the rest of his family background before discussing the paper route he ran through high school for the Lexington Herald.

Keywords: County Judge-Executives; Fishing; Hunting; Irving Air Chute Company; Lexington Herald Leader; Newspapers; Paint contractors; Parachutes; Second Street (Georgetown, Ky.); Stripping tobacco; WW2; WWII; World War 2; World War II; World War Two

Subjects: Children of blue collar workers; Depressions--1929--United States.; Georgetown (Ky.); Scott County (Ky.)

00:04:13 - Background--High school and memories of World War Two

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Partial Transcript: W-where did you go to, uh--

Segment Synopsis: Lusby talks about his experiences attending and playing sports at Garth High School before graduating in 1954. He also talks about his memories of World War Two and the war effort on the home front. Lusby says Garth was a small school which ran from first grade through twelfth. He talks about playing basketball and football and says his coach, Tom Green, played an influential role in his life. He discusses playing sports with his friends and mentions one occasion in which he and a few friends saved their money so they could take a road-trip to Florida, which was the first time he had ever eaten shrimp. Lusby says that he was aware of World War Two and remembers the adults huddling around their radios to hear the news of the day from radio broadcasts. He recalls hearing that Japan had surrendered while he was in the backyard digging for fishing worms at a friend's house. Lusby talks about a few local men who died in the war, and he describes how his mother got to her job at the parachute factory. He remembers what the war effort was like on the home front, from rationing and blackouts to scrap iron drives. Lusby also talks about missing the Korean War by just a few years, as he did not graduate from high school until 1954, but says he was aware of it and talked to a few men who had fought after they returned home.

Keywords: Basketball; Blackouts; Clayton Avenue (Georgetown, Ky.); Fishing; Fishing worms; Florida; Football; Garth High School; Georgetown College; Greyhound buses; Horseshoe; Hunting; Korean War; Leather football helmets; Lexington (Ky.); Lexington Herald Leader; Postum Coffee Alternative; Rationing; Recycling; Robert Brooks; S. Broadway Street (Georgetown, Ky.); Scrap iron drives; Second Street (Georgetown, Ky.); Shrimp; Tom Green; University of Notre Dame; WW2; WWII; World War 2; World War II; World War Two

Subjects: Georgetown (Ky.); High school athletes.; High school boys; High schools; School sports--United States.; Scott County (Ky.); World War, 1939-1945--Social aspects--United States.

00:16:09 - College education at Eastern Kentucky University and Georgetown College

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Partial Transcript: Um, so let's move on to college, then. Um, did you always know that you wanted to go to college, or what was that--what was the decision making process there?

Segment Synopsis: Lusby talks about his experiences in college at Eastern Kentucky University and at Georgetown College. He says he started at Eastern before transferring to Georgetown when they revived their football program since he wanted to play. He "quickly realized" that he was not cut out for college football, and went back to studying. When he graduated, he says he started coaching and refereeing, which he did for 52 years. Lusby says he is very proud of his work in state tournaments and in the NAIA football playoffs, and says he is in the KHSAA Hall of Fame. Lusby talks about being a first generation college student, and says he hitchhiked from Richmond to Georgetown every weekend. He graduated with a double major in Sociology/Economics and Physical Education after three and a half years because he wanted to be done with school, though he says Bob Davis was a good kinesiology professor. Lusby says he pursued this track because he had always wanted to coach.

Keywords: Bob Davis; Coaching; Football; Hitchhiking; Kentucky High School Athletic Association (KHSAA); Kinesiology; National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA); Physical education; Refereeing

Subjects: Eastern Kentucky University; First-generation college students.; Georgetown College (Georgetown, Ky.); School sports--Officiating

00:20:23 - Career in education--Early career and managing integration

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Partial Transcript: Well, actually, January of '58, and started teaching.

Segment Synopsis: Lusby talks about starting his career as an educator shortly after graduating from Georgetown College in 1958, before going on to discuss his experiences as principal of a recently integrated school. He says that he started teaching at Stamping Ground Elementary immediately upon graduating, where he taught five different subjects. He talks about then returning to Garth High School where he taught math, history, and health before becoming the school's principal. Lusby says that he loves kids, and all five of his went to Scott County High School before Garth and Scott County consolidated, at which point he became principal of the middle school. He says that the Cold War did not have an effect on curriculum at the junior high level. Lusby talks about integration in Scott County and says it was done immediately following the Supreme Court's ruling in Brown v. Board of Education, but says it was not always easy. He recalls life under segregation, before talking about how he handled integration in the schools. As a coach, he says it was not much of an issue among teammates because most of his athletes were black, but says that road games could be very hostile. He talks about suspending and disciplining kids when they got in trouble, and says that one such kid had their mother threaten to kill Lusby. He mentions the cheerleading team as one area that was still informally segregated with only white girls on the varsity team and only black girls on the junior varsity team. Lusby talks about receiving threats and dangerous calls, and says he could not sit in his front living room for fear of backlash. He goes on to talk about the support networks his black students had at the time from folks outside the county and how valuable it was for those students, whom Lusby calls the best he ever had. He continues to discuss integration, though he says things appeared to calm down after four or five years.

Keywords: Brown v. Board of Education; Cheerleaders; Coach Gibby Graham; Cold War; Garth High School; Lexington (Ky.); Satellites; School consolidation; Scott County High School; Sputnik; Stamping Ground (Ky.); Stamping Ground Elementary School

Subjects: African Americans--Segregation; African Americans--Social conditions; Georgetown (Ky.); Middle school administrators; Middle school teachers--United States.; Race relations; Racism; School integration--United States.; School sports--Coaching.; Scott County (Ky.); Segregation--United States.

00:32:57 - Meeting and marrying his first wife, Betsy

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Partial Transcript: So you mentioned, uh, uh, your children.

Segment Synopsis: Lusby talks about his first wife, Betsy Lusby, and how they met. He says he met her in March of 1958 just after Lusby had broken up with another girlfriend. He says he prayed at Wednesday night church that he would meet another girl. Shortly after that, Lusby went with the Coach Bobby Barlow to recruit a kid from Eastern Elementary. While he was there, Lusby says he noticed a pretty girl selling concessions and asked his friend Johnny to introduce him. They "went steady" for three months before being married for 54 years. Their first child was born in 1959, and after that, they had five kids in ten years' time.

Keywords: "Going steady"; Betsy Lusby; Bobby Barlow; County schools; Eastern Elementary School; Georgetown (Ky.)

Subjects: Courtship--United States.; Families.; Marriage.

00:34:49 - Career in politics--Running for city council and judge-executive

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Partial Transcript: So you've, uh, you've taught all the way up until, it was, uh, 1990s, right?

Segment Synopsis: Lusby talks about leaving the public school system, running for city council, being in local government when Toyota started its Georgetown factory, and the experience of running for county judge-executive and winning a hotly contested race. Lusby says that he left Scott County Public Schools on December 31, 1989 and started as judge-executive on January 1, 1990, though before that he talks about fond memories from being a teacher, coach, and principal. Some of these include winning a conference baseball championship, going undefeated in baseball, and getting the record for most wins in school history in basketball. He talks about being elected to city council after Lawrence Williams talked him into running one day, which he says he had not considered before. He talks about being on the city council in Georgetown when Toyota was in negotiations with the state and with private landowners to open a new factory in Georgetown, though he says he was not much involved in the talks, which he says were tenuous right up until the midnight deadline because the owners of the land Toyota wanted to buy did not want to sell. Lusby says he was elected judge-executive in 1989 after being persuaded to run by outgoing judge-executive Charlie Sutton. He talks about how he did not have to campaign much to win his city council seat, but that the race for judge-executive was very stressful and negative, and that the families of both candidates were heavily involved in campaigning. He and his primary opponent disagreed over whether or not Scott County should pay to buy land to build a bypass highway, which they needed. Lusby says both he and his opponent thought that the state should do it, not the county, but when it became clear that the state would not, Lusby says he thought the county would be better off paying to build it since no one else would, though his opponent vehemently disagreed. He says the election split city votes, which Lusby carried, from county votes, which went to his opponent except for one precinct, which proved to be the deciding factor in favor of Lusby. Lusby says he actually thought he had lost because he was only ahead by thirty votes before the last county precinct was counted, which he assumed would give his opponent the edge. He talks about coming into the job just as Scott County had agreed to a $4.9 million dollar bond, not including interest, to build a jail, but says they still managed to pay for the bypass. He says that the office was partisan, but that Democrats held all the power at the time, so winning the Democratic primary was usually tantamount to winning the general election. This was especially true during his first campaign because there was no Republican candidate running.

Keywords: Charlie Sutton; Clark Equipment; County Judge-Executives; Democrats; Fiscal courts; Johnson Control; Lawrence Williams; Municipal bonds; Partisan offices; Tobacco; US Highway 460 bypass; Write-in candidates

Subjects: City council members; County government--United States.; Georgetown (Ky.); Local elections.; Rural-urban relations.; School sports.; Scott County (Ky.); Toyota Motor Manufacturing U.S.A.

00:51:48 - Career in politics--Serving as judge-executive for twenty six years

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Partial Transcript: Did you know what you were getting into?

Segment Synopsis: Lusby talks about some of the high and low points during his time as Scott County Judge-Executive. He says he had an idea of what he was getting into but he did not know just how bad of a shape the budget was in. He says now, taxes from Toyota payrolls are a big portion of the county's revenue. Lusby thinks the most challenging aspect of the job was managing the budget and personnel, since he did both almost entirely on his own, without human resources staff or accountants. He also says he is proud that his administration has never lost a lawsuit. Lusby thinks that people do not fully realize the amount of pressure that is put on judge-executives and other local leaders by municipal departments asking them for money, and he thinks one of the best skills for new leaders to learn is the ability to say no. He says that a low point for his administration was not getting approval from the Army Corps of Engineers to build a reservoir which would have provided Georgetown with its own water. He talks about his proudest moment being the overall job he did managing the budget as well as getting city water run along every road in the county. He says this lowered water costs for some families in rural areas from $100 a month to $25 a month. Lusby adds that fiber optic needs to be given similar treatment in the county, but he does not know when that will ever happen because internet is a private utility, not public.

Keywords: Cisterns; ConnectKentucky; County Judge-Executives; Elkhorn Creek (Ky.); Finance directors; Gov. Steve Beshear; Human resources; Kentucky American Water; Payroll taxes; Reservoirs; Royal Spring (Ky.); Toyota Motor Manufacturing U.S.A.; US Army Corps of Engineers

Subjects: City council members; County government--United States.; Georgetown (Ky.); Local budgets--United States.; Scott County (Ky.); Water utilities

01:01:46 - Career in politics--Advice for next judge-executive on how to face future challenges given Scott County's past

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Partial Transcript: What do you think, um, looking forward from where we are now, um, that some of the major challenges are going to be that Scott County, Georgetown's going to be facing?

Segment Synopsis: Lusby talks about what he thinks the major challenges facing Georgetown in the future will be, namely population growth and budget control, and how he thinks those can be met given what he learned during his time in office. He says that population growth and budget control are the biggest challenges. Much of this growth he attributes to Toyota and other manufacturing businesses in the county, and he says he hopes they stick around. Lusby talks about some of the services Scott County offers that most other small Kentucky counties cannot afford to, like a full-time ambulance and fire fighting service. He believes that maintaining the quantity and quality of services will be an issue, since service expenditures are outpacing revenue. To fix this, Lusby says he thinks the county will have to raise more revenue in the form of taxes, though he mentions a case recently where the city council voted to switch from the local property tax rate to the compensating tax rate, which was two-hundredths of a cent lower. He talks about the number of manufacturing jobs in Scott County and says that the new expansion of the business park is an example of their growth. Lusby mentions Scott County's older economic staples like tobacco, and talks about how a five acre plot of tobacco could sustain an entire family. He then goes on to talk about ways that the Fiscal Court increased their revenue in the past, like taxing for collecting garbage, taxing cars, and then finally passing the payroll tax which paid dividends for Scott County once Toyota arrived. Lusby says that those tax increases were contested, heavily in some situations, but he thinks people do not mind paying taxes as long as they see sufficient benefits. He mentions other decisions which were also controversial at the time but were proven to be the right decision, like his administration's repealing of local blue laws.

Keywords: Ambulance services; Asphalt resurfacing; Blue laws; City councils; Compensating tax rate; County Judge-Executives; Finance committees; Fire departments; Fiscal courts; Interlocal agreements; Lexington (Ky.); Paul Wainscott; Payroll taxes; Property values; Subdivisions; Tobacco; Toyota Motor Manufacturing U.S.A.

Subjects: City council members; County government--United States.; Georgetown (Ky.); Local budgets--United States.; Local taxation--Law and legislation--United States.; Scott County (Ky.); Taxation--Kentucky.

01:14:39 - Career in politics--Political philosophy, religion in politics, and party realignment

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Partial Transcript: You're, you're a Democrat, you're still a Democrat, uh, uh, and I, I would think you're probably going back to, if I had to guess, kind of an FDR / New Deal Democrat?

Segment Synopsis: Lusby talks about his general political philosophy, and gives his opinions on contemporary national politics, the role of his faith in his political alignment, and party realignment in the late 20th century. He calls himself an "FDR Democrat" and says he believes people do not mind paying taxes as long as they see sufficient benefit. Lusby says that everyone used to be a Democrat, even if they internally leaned towards being a Republican, and that every political race was actually decided by the primary, not the general election. He talks about nonpartisan races versus partisan races and the political leanings of seemingly nonpartisan officials, though he says partisanship does not play much role in the Fiscal Court. He goes on to say the he is a Democrat now for the same reasons he was when he was younger: they are the party for the lower and middle classes whereas he says the Republicans are the party for the wealthy. He says his Christian faith is also very important as he sees the Democrats as the party which will take care of struggling people, as the middle class is struggling. He criticizes several national and local politicians for their recent actions. Lusby talks about how no one party has sole claim to religion and criticizes Republicans for behaving seemingly incongruously with their faith. He does say that he disagrees with Democrats' views on late term abortion and some reproductive rights because of his faith, saying he does not know where to draw the line but that a line must be drawn somewhere. He mentions his administration's charitable programs, like paying for indigent funerals and scholarships for preschool. Lusby talks about party realignment in Kentucky and says he thinks the state has flipped because the Republican Party has simply done a better job of marketing and propagandizing than the Democratic Party has. As an example of this, he cites the Republican victory in the appointment of Justice Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. Lusby says he sees hypocrisy in Christian leaders like Franklin Graham supporting President Trump despite his personal history and in their increasing of the national debt, despite posturing themselves as fiscal conservatives. He says that his time as judge-executive has been mostly nonpartisan. Lusby talks about how young people need to search for the facts for themselves, not take things off of Facebook like he sees some members of the older generation doing. He says that, "If you destroy the media, then you're going to destroy the United States." He sees the rhetoric of "fake news" coming from the President as doing just that.

Keywords: "#MeToo movement"; "FDR Democrat"; "Fake news"; AMEN House, Inc.; Abortions; Commonwealth's Attorneys; Coroners; County Judge-Executives; Democrats; Donald Trump; Facebook; Fiscal courts; Fox News; Franklin Graham; Indigent burials; Justice Brett Kavanaugh; Magistrates; Mayor Tom Prather; Nonpartisan offices; Pres. Donald Trump; Pres. Trump; President Donald Trump; Rep. Andy Barr; Republicans; Scott County (Ky.); Sheriffs; Social Security; State pensions; Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017; Ten Commandments; Trump

Subjects: Partisanship; Politics, Practical--United States.; Religion and politics--United States.; Taxation--United States.

01:35:48 - Closing thoughts--Students and former students who fought in Vietnam / Advocation for gay rights

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Partial Transcript: So your students probably would have been a little bit too young at the time, but did you--did you have any of them that, that served in Vietnam or, or got killed in Vietnam later on that you found out about?

Segment Synopsis: Lusby talks about students of his who fought in the Vietnam War and his support for gay rights. He says that he had a few who went, including Tarleton Thomas, his basketball manager, a junior varsity football player, and a baseball player. Thomas was shot down in Vietnam, the basketball player was wounded-in-action, the football player survived the war before killing himself due to PTSD, and the baseball player was killed-in-action. Lusby goes on to talk about officiating the first openly gay wedding in Scott County and explains why he did it, saying that it is not up to him to judge others, especially those who love each other, as they have "the same route to heaven as me." He says some kids have come to him in church to thank him for what he did, though he no longer officiates weddings because of the workload.

Keywords: Killed-in-action (KIA); Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD); Suicide; Tarleton Thomas

Subjects: Gay rights--Religious aspects--Christianity; Gay rights--United States.; Scott County (Ky.); Vietnam War, 1961-1975--United States.; Vietnam War, 1961-1975.

01:40:37 - Closing thoughts--Writing columns on fishing, depression, and everyday life

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Partial Transcript: I, I well, I suppose I--(laughs)--I have to ask you this question: I know you're an avid, avid fisherman, what's your, what's your favorite place to fish in Scott County?

Segment Synopsis: Lusby talks about writing a column in his spare time for the Georgetown News-Graphic called "Crawfish and Minnows." He says that these include a lot of stories from his childhood of him fishing with his father, including wanting a turtle call so he could catch turtles on Elkhorn Creek. He talks about other columns he wrote, some about growing up in their small house on Second Street, and one about his neighbor hearing that his son had been killed in Korea. Lusby says he did not set out to become a regular writer but he just wanted to talk about life and people. One column he wrote detailing his daughter's struggle with depression got tremendous positive feedback from the community. If he has one talent, Lusby thinks that it is caring for people, which he did as a principal and which he attributes to his background. Lusby and Bartek sign off and end the interview.

Keywords: "Crawfish and Minnows"; Archie Fry; Elkhorn Creek (Ky.); Georgetown News-Graphic (Georgetown, Ky.); Missing-in-action (MIA); Second Street (Georgetown, Ky.); Stanley Arthur Brooks Sr.; Turtle calls

Subjects: Depressed persons.; Fishing--United States.; Newspapers--Sections, columns, etc.; Scott County (Ky.)