SUCHANEK: The following is an unrehearsed interview with Mr. LivingstonTaylor for the University of Kentucky Library, "Kentucky Legislature" Oral History Project. The interview was conducted by Jeffrey Suchanek on February 28, 1992, at the home of Mr. Taylor in Franklin County, Kentucky, at approximately 1:45 PM. This afternoon, I'm speaking again with Mr. Livingston Taylor. Mr. Taylor, we had ended our last interview talking about the Nunn administration. If there's anything else, you'd like to add about Louie Nunn, feel free to do so now.
TAYLOR: As I recall, we talked about his political skill and musclein putting through the tax increase bill in 1968, shortly after he 1:00had campaigned on the promise of no new taxes, but the state revenue, there was a short fall in the state revenue, and there was the threat of having to really seriously cut back on state services. He made a very bold step there and decided to go with the tax increase, which, of course, hurt him politically. I think he was never, or has never been reelected to statewide office.
SUCHANEK: He did run again, I think, I remember.
TAYLOR: Oh, yes. He ran for Senator and he ran for U.S. Senator,and he also ran for Governor. I think the tax issue hurt him a great deal, however; it also allowed him to do a lot of good things during his administration. He put a lot of money into education, into--as he 2:00promised, he built a new state institution for the mentally retarded. So, higher education got more money. You know, it was a double-edged sword for him. While he was seriously wounded politically, he also was able to establish a pretty solid record of financing state services during that time, particularly education.
TAYLOR: There were also several controversies about political moneyduring his administration. Perhaps one of the most celebrated was the case of--well, actually, this was not during his administration--the 3:00case of the missing hundred thousand which came from Herbert Kalmbach, who was Nixon's personal lawyer. They had a lot of money left over from the--I beg your pardon. It came out in '73, after he left office but--yes, the hundred thousand, it came out was given to Nunn in September '71 while he was still Governor. That would be in the last year of his term.
TAYLOR: Nunn said he was only a conduit for the money and that none ofit went to him or to his unsuccessful '72 campaign for senator. Nunn said he gave the money to Roy Fouche (??) of St. Louis who was the campaign consultant for Tom Emberton, the Republican candidate for Governor in the fall of '71, and Fred Karem who was then an Emberton 4:00campaign coordinator and Karem said he and Fouche (??) took the money in a car to Louisville. That was kind of the end of the trail. Fouche (??) indicated that the money went into the Emberton campaign but it was never reported to the State Registry of Election Finance, and so it was kind of a mystery what happened to the money. There were--I quoted one highly placed Republican as saying he thinks the money went to Democrats who were supporting Emberton, and, of course, didn't want to be publicly known as supporting Emberton. So that was one controversy involving political money. There were periodic complaints that during the Nunn administration, state workers were solicited for political funds in violation of the merit system, and there were sworn 5:00statements to that effect. There was a huge fundraiser, the Nunn third anniversary party. They did report that $241,000 from that dinner went to the Emberton campaign and the Republican State Central committee, but there was never beyond that those kind of lump sum figures. There was never any public accounting of the receipts. And that was another controversy.
SUCHANEK: Of course, that's been a popular refrain throughout--well,going back as far back as I've been studying Kentucky politics, state workers being "shook down for campaign contributions." How widespread 6:00is that in your knowledge? Did it used to be more?
TAYLOR: You see, before the merit system law was passed, which Ibelieve was in the Combs administration in the early sixties, although that was before my time, but my understanding was it was fairly common. In fact, I think, seems to me that during one of those prior administrations, you know, state workers were expected to put, I think, it was 2 percent, or something like that, of their paycheck into the party, or into the campaign of the party that was in power. You know there were pretty--of, course, during the Nunn administration, you 7:00know, the bulk of the state employees were still Democratic holdovers, or at least there were many Democratic holdovers. Of course, there was a whole other controversy about him firing several thousand merit system employees without due-just cause and that caused a lot of appeals to the personnel board and some big lawsuits and so on but that's kind of another story. But anyway, it was more likely that the complaints were gonna come out, I think, with a lot of Democratic employees being solicited by or coerced, depending on who you talked to, by Republican administration. So perhaps, more of it came out in the open during that administration. But, I think gradually as the court cases began to build up that, yes, indeed, that was illegal. Then, I believe it has tailed off a good bit since those days, 8:00and I don't think it's nearly as common now because state employees know their rights and they know they can tell a supervisor that that's illegal and kind of put the fear of God in them. I think the supervisors are better informed now. The political fundraisers, they know that that's illegal, any sort of a mass solicitation of merit system workers. So I think it's a lot less common than it used to be.
SUCHANEK: Also during the Nunn administration, I've heard rumorsof envelopes full of money being left in the bathroom for various legislators. How widespread was that when you first started covering the General Assembly, and you know, do you think that's still a mode of 9:00operation today, or is it less practiced these days?
TAYLOR: I don't know, really. Of course, I never knew of any suchinstances that I could prove, or I would have reported them in the paper. Years later, long after the Nunn administration was out of office, I would say a well-informed source did tell me that happened in the 1968 session with one key legislator. Judging the source, I was inclined to believe that that was probably true. But, I just really 10:00don't know. You hear rumors but I've never been presented with hard evidence of that.
SUCHANEK: Do the rumors still persist that, that goes on?
TAYLOR: I don't think so as much. Particularly, you know, in morerecent years, you hear rumors about special interests influence, trying to influence legislators in various ways, including, occasionally, cash, but I think also they're more sophisticated now and--
SUCHANEK: Free trips.
TAYLOR: Right, or people whose occupations lend themselves to beinghired, you know. This is certainly not true of all legislators but 11:00maybe just a handful you would hear rumors about them being hired by the special interests in their law firm, or in their insurance business, or automobile dealer, or whatever that.
SUCHANEK: Or, even after they're out of office.
SUCHANEK: Um-hm. You know, one comes to mind is Helen Garrett whowas defeated for reelection several years ago and she's now employed by one of the special interest groups that lobby quite often in the legislature. Is it more subtle now from a Governor's standpoint in that legislators are rewarded with things in the budget for their district, or has that always been the case?
TAYLOR: I think that's always been the case. As I quoted Governor12:00Nunn on one occasion about the '68 session, about the trading of contracts, and jobs, and so on, for votes on the tax bill, and he said, "Well, there's always been horse-trading in the legislature," and I think that's true. But Governors have and legislators have traded things. Sometimes they're, you know, certainly legal, and, of course, occasionally you wonder if they get outside the bounds. But, there has always been, I guess what you would say "horse-trading" within the law and in the legislature. 'If you'll vote for this, I'll vote for that,' sort of thing.
SUCHANEK: Well, if you have nothing more to say about the Nunnadministration, why don't we move on then to Wendell Ford, and give me your impressions of Wendell Ford's administration. 13:00
TAYLOR: All right. Of course, I thought the greatest achievement ofthe Ford administration was the elimination of the sales tax on food and later on medicine, I guess. But at first on food and replacing that money with a severance tax on coal. That was a great step towards making our tax system fairer. Meant that low income people who--of course, we all have to buy food. That tax fell unduly heavily on low- income people, having to pay the sales tax on food, and it was unfair, and Ford took it off. He replaced it with a tax that was long overdue, should have been in place years ago, to make the coal industry pay some 14:00fair share of their wealth, and of the damage, they do to the roads and environment into the state government. So that, I thought, perhaps, was the crowning achievement of the Ford administration.
SUCHANEK: What did you think--
TAYLOR: He made some, I thought, he had some good appointees but he hadseveral weak appointees in his cabinet. Kind of, well, bordering on sleazy, I guess, you might say. So, I think his administration was kind of a mixed bag from that standpoint, in that some of his appointees, I don't think, were really very guided by the public interest. 15:00Personally, I always thought Ford--and this, particularly, you thought of it in relation to Julian Carroll, his successor--Ford never got puffed up about being in public office. He really had the common touch and he was in touch with the feelings and the wishes of average people, I think. So, from that standpoint, you know, he had a kind of a quiet- -personally, a kind of a quiet administration, and never tried to put on the dog unduly, or get the big head about his power as Governor, I felt. And really was in touch with the average Kentuckian.
SUCHANEK: Now he and Carroll didn't get along, did they?16:00
TAYLOR: No. There was a kind of an uneasy truce on the surface, butunderneath, those two factions were really sniping at each other. Of course, they finally kind of reached a truce in '74 when Ford agreed to run for the Senate, and if not support, at least accede to Carroll then. Of course, he became Governor when Ford left office for the final year. He went to the Senate on what would have been his final year as Governor at the end of 1974. But no, they didn't get along really.
SUCHANEK: Julian Carroll?
TAYLOR: Well, of course, I wrote reams of copy about Julian Carroll. I17:00guess it's no secret that there was a good bit of animosity between- -you know, I tried not to make it a personal thing, but--between the Governor and his people and myself. I did the best I could not to let that affect my reporting, but I wrote many articles that the effect of them was to be critical of the Carroll administration. So I might say that in advance, that, if perhaps that would color my remarks about him. But, you know, basically I think the evidence is overwhelming that Julian Carroll and his cronies used the power of public office 18:00to feather their own nest personally, financially. There were many of instances or several instances of that, which were reported in the paper. A businessman in Lexington who had received a highly prized appointment to the University Of Kentucky Board Of Trustees began sending five hundred dollars a month checks to two of the Governor's children, but it wasn't out in the open. They were addressed to then, I.P. Carroll; that was one of the daughters. You know, they used the 19:00initials, and they were sent to the home of the Governor's personal secretary, who, I think, was an innocent conduit. But, she was handling the bank accounts of the two children, and she would deposit the checks in the children's personal accounts. You know, it just--here was a man who had--and also there were statements by key legislators that the Governor had helped block a bottle bill. This man was a Coca-Cola bottler, and he opposed the bottle bill and didn't want the bottle bill to pass, and the key legislators said that Carroll had opposed the bill. So Carroll denied that, as I recall, but here was a man who 20:00had received favorable treatment from the Carroll administration turned around and paying his two children five hundred dollars a month. Then, there was the case of three men who had received--(laughs)--I think, you could almost fairly call them sweetheart contracts from the Carroll administration, non-bid contracts at least. Dave Clark, whose firm received millions in un-bid state engineering highway contracts. Sonny Hunt, who was Carroll's handpicked Democratic chairman, who's received- 21:00-either he or his firms that he had an interest in--received money from several people who had state contracts. Also, I guess, maybe the biggest amount came from the insurance commissions. Commissions on state insurance contracts which the hold (??) of the agency in Lexington that had the contract, received instructions on who to split these commissions with, and they were all the friends of and cronies of Julian Carroll, who hadn't done a lick of any work, any insurance work for it, in most cases. Then, the third was Bill Curland (??) who had a lucrative tax collection contract. Or, he and another, it was in 22:00the name of an attorney in Louisville but Curland (??) got a piece of- -(laughs)--got a piece of the action. And it was never clear whether his legal work came close to--whether the amount that he received from that contract was--whether the legal work was worth the amount that he received, let's put it that way.
TAYLOR: So these three men Clark, and Curland (??), and Hunt wenttogether and bought up some oil well interests in Oklahoma and gave them to the Governor, without. You know, it just looked, it looked bad. So, those are two of the instances. 23:00
SUCHANEK: Well, in your opinion was Carroll just careless, or didn'tcare?
TAYLOR: The great mystery about Julian Carroll, I think, is--did hehave this in mind all along as he climbed the ladder politically from a state representative to speaker of the House, Lieutenant Governor, and then Governor? Because there was a great transformation in his public political character, let's put it that way. After he became Governor. Had he planned this all along, or did the power of the Governorship go to his head, and did his personality radically change after he assumed that power, and saw? 24:00
SUCHANEK: What's your impression?
TAYLOR: Frankly, I don't know. I think there's a plausible argument canbe made either way. It's just--I'm not sure. I'm really--it's kind of a fifty-fifty proposition, I think.
SUCHANEK: I was gonna ask you about Carroll as a legislator and asGovernor, you know, as speaker of the House and as Lieutenant Governor, he was a champion of legislative independence.
SUCHANEK: As we spoke of in our first interview, once he becameGovernor, I think your impression was that he probably was the most iron willed, or tried to control the legislature with an iron hand more than any Governor that you had seen.
TAYLOR: Well, yes, I guess. Of course, Combs--as far as any Governor I25:00had seen, that's true. I didn't witness the Combs administration, and Clements, and so on. So I just couldn't say about that. But yes, of the ones I saw. The footprints of his domination of the legislature were the strongest and the most evident of anyone I saw, of the Governors I covered.
SUCHANEK: You know someone might look at Julian Carroll, and really asyou described, the blatant ways that things were done. I mean, you wouldn't call him a stupid man.
TAYLOR: No, not at all. In fact, you know, Julian Carroll went intooffice with an opportunity to really go down as a great Governor, I 26:00think. He had everything going for him. He had a clean record. He was well thought of, and he had won by a landslide, both in the primary and the general election. The party was united behind him, pretty much. At least, much more so than it had been in previous years. The state finances were good. There was money coming in. Plenty of money to finance the programs of state government, so he seemed to have everything going for him.
SUCHANEK: And he had a good relationship going in with the legislature.
TAYLOR: He did. And he had a good relationship with the press, too. He27:00was--up through about the first year of his Governorship, he was very open to the press. He was accessible and would respond to, you know, if critical things came out in the press about his administration, he would respond, and if appropriate, would, you know, make some changes. But when the stories began to focus in on the activities of Hunt, and those who were close to him, and then later on his own activities, he just shut off the press and would not talk with them. Particularly people like myself who were writing critical stories. He went, as I recall, for a period of about two years and wouldn't even speak to 28:00me. Meet him in the hall and he wouldn't acknowledge that you were there, or that I was there. He quit holding--towards the end, when things really got pretty hot, he quit holding press conferences. It was impossible to talk to him, for me to talk to him on the phone. You almost just had to kind of, to ask him a question personally, you had to kind of catch him out in the hall, or in some public place because he just shut off, particularly to the Frankfort press, which was pretty well on his case by this time. He just shut off access to them. Now, when he would go out in the state and in his hometown, he would appear on the radio, or on television occasionally, and talk to reporters who 29:00weren't nearly so likely to ask him these tough questions about what was going on in Frankfort. But, in Frankfort, he shut himself off from the press. (pause) I want to say this about him. I think in terms of political skills, he was a very skillful politician. He really--I had the sense that he really liked the job of being a politician, of being Governor and putting together--he was wonderful at creating a consensus on an issue. He was interested enough in it that he would, you know, he would personally talk to people on all sides of an issue in trying 30:00to get them to come together to take some action. I can recall that after he left office, and succeeding Governors were there, you would hear complaints from county judges or mayors, "Well, the last Governor I could call up and get on the phone was Julian Carroll." In other words, his heart and soul was kind of in the process of governing and in politics. He enjoyed it, I think, and was good at it. You know, where his efforts were focused on good ends and legitimate ends of state government, he was skillful and capable at it.
SUCHANEK: Well, do you think then maybe his downfall was his appointment?
TAYLOR: No. I think his downfall was either by design or just the31:00power going to his head. He became obsessed kind of with the imperial Governorship. You know, there was great controversy about him just using the state plane as kind of a personal ferry service to the Bahamas and elsewhere. Of course, he used it for legitimate purposes, too. Then there was another flap about security. He greatly increased the numbers of state troopers that were around him. Of course, some of the state troopers ended up just kind of being his personal gophers and valets I think. Well, valet, that's probably too strong, but you know, he seemed to crave those perquisites of office to the extreme. 32:00He seemed to, you know, think that he wouldn't--that these things wouldn't be exposed, and if they were, so what. I mean, that he was above reproach, and he was above being called to account for these.
SUCHANEK: He was arrogant, is that what you're saying?
TAYLOR: Well--yes, in a sense, I guess that's the right word.
SUCHANEK: Since we're talking about Carroll's administration, wehear a lot about legislative independence. Not just talking about the Carroll administration now, but looking back through all the different Governors that you've covered, when, for you, did legislative 33:00independence really begin?
TAYLOR: It began in 1968 when Nunn the Republican was elected. Ofcourse, throughout my tenure the Democrats have always controlled the legislature. So, with the election of--and up to then, most of the Governors were Democratic. So they had always controlled the legislature. But with the Republican Governor, then the Democratic legislature began to say, "Hey," you know, "We're not gonna knuckle under the way we have been." Of course, you had pretty strong 34:00leadership in the legislature in '68. You had Julian Carroll as House speaker, and you had Wendell Ford as Lieutenant Governor, President of the Senate. So I think that's when it really began. I must say that there was enormous progress right in those years about the organization of the legislature. Before then, it was just semi-chaos, the committee system, particularly. Committees didn't have any regular meeting times. Some of the key committees had huge memberships on them, which meant getting a quorum could be terribly difficult. Some of the committees were just there to be the graveyard of bills, and they never met. As I said, there was no regular schedule, so if some fast deal 35:00was about to be pulled, why, they met on the call of the chairman. The chairman would get up and call the meeting on short notice. Without warning, they'd meet, and maybe vote out some controversial bill without any hearing or anything like that. Particularly as the session got towards the end, when there's always a backlog of bills and there's never enough time to really consider things, why, it was just really chaotic. So, as I recall, during the Nunn administration in '67 to '71 the legislature began to get organized. There was much more orderly 36:00procedure about committees. The memberships were reduced--in number, to some workable number. And they began to have regular scheduled meetings, so that if you had an interest in a bill, you knew when it was gonna be taken up in committee, and you could be there. And watch its progress, or try to promote, or stop a bill that you were interested in.
SUCHANEK: Well, '68 was also the year that the interim committee systemwas created.
SUCHANEK: Did that help at all?
TAYLOR: Sure. You know, before that, legislators, unless they were,they're in special session, they basically came to town once every two years. And, of course, they couldn't really keep up-to-date on the 37:00issues of state government. So, with the interim committee system--of course, it also gave them more money because they're paid for those meeting days, and they're paid for the travel and all. So, it benefited them that way. But, primarily, it allowed them to study issues between sessions and to be informed. So, they were really much better equipped to vote on the bills when the regular sessions did convene.
SUCHANEK: And you didn't have to rely on the Governor's office forinformation about those.
TAYLOR: That's right. That's right.
SUCHANEK: Well, let me play devil's advocate here just for a second.The last Republican--
SUCHANEK: Go ahead.
TAYLOR: If we want to bring the issue of legislative independence on up,38:00kind of up-to-date--
SUCHANEK: Go ahead.
TAYLOR: --of course, I think it really came to flower then. Itstarted there in '68, and then began to slowly kind of blossom. And then towards the end of the Carroll administration, particularly in the Senate, there was a group of senators called the "Black Sheep Squadron," which was named after a television program--I think of World War II aviators--but they finally got their belly full of the administration telling them what to do. And, of course, they also, I think were motivated by the fact that they thought some of the bills that were being put through were really being put through for odious 39:00motives. So anyway, this group of senators got together to buck the Carroll administration and to exert their independence. And they were beaten down several times. But towards the end of the Carroll administration, they won a few, I think in that second session of his administration. And--
SUCHANEK: Well, particularly the special session in '79.
TAYLOR: I believe that's right. Then, of course, as the controversiesand the, I guess it's fair to say, the corruption of the Carroll administration began to come out, through the federal grand jury in Lexington, and so on. Then, when John Y. Brown Jr. was elected, 40:00there was--I mean the time was right for the legislature to say, "You know, we're not gonna have any more of this domination," and to really stand up and be independent. Conversely--or not conversely--but for his part, Brown was probably the least political of the Governors in recent times. He won his campaign with his own money. He had very few debts to repay. And so, as a result of all this, the legislature was demanding more independence, and Brown was willing to give them more independence. And, so he said in 1980, as I recall, "For the first time 41:00in recent history I'm not gonna play a role in selecting the leaders of the legislature," and he didn't, as far as I know. And that's when legislative independence really turned the corner, and since then, of course, the legislators have grown used to selecting their own leaders and being pretty independent. Of course, the Governor obviously still has a lot of influence and ought to in the legislature. But, since then the gov--the legislature has been pretty independent, I think.
SUCHANEK: You mentioned the "Black Sheep Squadron." What can you tell usabout John Berry, Jr.?
TAYLOR: Well, of course, he was the leader of the "Black SheepSquadron." Was from Henry County, Newcastle, a lawyer. A bright, able 42:00sort of a fellow and--very independent minded and not about to take orders from anybody that he didn't feel were legitimate. And he was certainly a leader in that movement.
SUCHANEK: Um-hm. Certainly there had been talk of legislativeindependence, you know, starting way back when Simeon Willis was Governor in the forties. And he was the last Republican Governor before Nunn and, I think, maybe that's where that all started. In every session, there'd be somebody who would stand up in the 43:00legislature and talk about legislative independence. So, this wasn't a new concept but what made the "Black Sheep" successful in establishing that type of independence that other legislators had talked about for so long but hadn't been able to come through with? I'm trying to figure out, you know, what it was about them in that period in time that brought that to fruition.
TAYLOR: I think it was a combination of several things. One of whichwas that--and I had witnessed this since I came in `64--I think the legislators as a group began to be better educated and more sophisticated and more capable people, just gradually. And you had an 44:00unusual group of really stout fellows who were bright and who weren't gonna take it anymore and I'd have to go back to my clips to think of the names but--of course, John Lackey of Richmond and John Berry of Newcastle. Hughes of Ashland, Lowell Hughes, and those were the three that come right to mind and there were some others. You know, they were very--
SUCHANEK: Tom Ward.
TAYLOR: Yes, he was part of it. I had the feeling Ward wavered oncertain issues but--
SUCHANEK: Richard Weisenberger.45:00
TAYLOR: Yes, yes. But, you know, those folks were all successfulpeople by and large in their own right, and bright, and knew what was going on. So, I think you had strong personalities, a group of strong personalities on the one hand, and on the other hand, you had the increasing deterioration of the Governor's reputation. I mean the Governor's reputation with the public was increasingly being damaged by these disclosures. And so, it was easier for them to stand up to a Governor who was being discredited, I think.
SUCHANEK: Okay, let me turn this over.
[Tape 1, side 1 ends; side 2 begins.]
TAYLOR: And, in fairness, I want to say, you know, a lot of the thingsthat Governor Carroll pushed through the legislature were good things, you know. He put quite a bit of money in public education, and that sort of things, but there were also a number of, as the expression goes, "Turkey Bills," that had financial interests behind them.
SUCHANEK: Putting this time of legislative reform and the "BlackSheep Squadron" and corruption in the Carroll administration, couple that with what was going on nationally. This was not too long after Watergate. Not too long after social upheaval in the sixties. What role do you think that might have played in things that were going on here in Kentucky? Did Watergate have any effect on the way you thought 47:00about politics?
TAYLOR: Oh, indirectly perhaps. I wouldn't--I suppose it made thepublic somewhat more skeptical of politicians in general. So, maybe it had a kind of a subtle indirect affect. I don't recall it having major direct affect on it. Of course, the parties were different. I mean, you know, Watergate was a Republican scandal and Carroll was a Democrat.
TAYLOR: But it might have contributed to kind of a frame of mind withinthe public that they were skeptical of political leaders.
SUCHANEK: And you mentioned that when John Y. Brown Jr. came to the48:00Governor's chair that he said that he was not gonna involve himself in picking the legislative leaders, the leadership of the legislature.
TAYLOR: And, of course, that was a key way that the Governor dominatedthe legislature previously because he was able--you know, all the special interests went to the Governor to get what they wanted and his ability to deliver hinged on his ability to name the leaders and the committee chairman in the House and Senate. You know, they could kill bills or they could promote bills. So that was a key element in his control. Excuse me for interjecting that.
SUCHANEK: No, that's fine. And, in fact, that brings up that specialsession in `79 that Lieutenant Governor Stovall had called while 49:00Governor Carroll was out of state. And it was something to do with cutting some utility tax, or something of that nature. At that point, the "Black Sheep" were able to call the Senate together as a Committee of the Whole. And that way were able to keep what essentially was going to be something that would go to A and R Committee out of that committee, which, of course, were dominated by Carroll's men. You know, John Berry, in interviews we have with him, he points to that as really, you know, 'the storming of the Bastille.' At that point, you know, they were able to control--or take the power away from the Governor's office. He sees that as really the watershed event. But, he also said to--and I wondered if you had any knowledge of this--that prior to taking office, after John Y. Brown Jr. had won, apparently 50:00he sent out feelers to different people in the legislature, to see, counted noses so to speak, and at that point, found out that the "Black Sheep," at least in the Senate, were still in control. So he wouldn't have any say about picking leadership anyway, even if he had wanted to. So I was wondering if you had heard anything like that.
TAYLOR: I don't recall that. Or, I was not aware of that.
SUCHANEK: Um-hm. But knowing John Y. Brown Jr., would that, I mean, doyou think that that might have happened?
TAYLOR: Could have. I just don't know about that.
SUCHANEK: Okay. Well, why don't we talk about John Y. Brown Jr. thenand his administration?
TAYLOR: All right. Of course, he was a millionaire. And, of course,Governor Carroll was backing Terry McBrayer, an attorney. And McBrayer 51:00was just, you know, McBrayer's main financing was coming from those who were aligned with the Carroll administration. And so, whether he wanted to or not, I guess, anyway he did--he had to be supportive of the Carroll administration, or at least he wasn't in any position to criticize it. And that was just too much baggage for him, and in fact, as I recall, he finished third.
TAYLOR: And you'll have to refresh my memory who was second, but.
SUCHANEK: I don't recall.
TAYLOR: But, anyway, the field was pretty well split up. And John Y.52:00Brown got into the race late. He had a kind of a blitz of television advertising, which he financed himself from his personal wealth. He won the Democratic primary then, with I believe it was less than 30 percent of the vote in the Democratic primary.
TAYLOR: Then again, refresh my memory but I believe he ran against LouieNunn in the fall.
TAYLOR: And again, I think Nunn's tax increase hurt him. At least, itwas one factor but anyway, Brown defeated him. Well, my impression was that Brown was, as I've said, the least political in the traditional sense of any Governor that I've seen. He had the fewest debts to 53:00repay. And I thought, as a whole, his cabinet appointments were good and maybe again, as a whole, I think maybe his cabinet was the most capable that I've seen. People like Bob Warren, who later became finance secretary under Brown, were good people and not highly political. He was quite unpopular in Frankfort and still is because- -well, for several reasons. I guess one is that he laid off a good number of state employees. The revenues, they had a kind of a dip or a leveling off in state revenues. And instead of raising taxes, 54:00he decided he was gonna cut back on state government and he did. I think, perhaps out in the state that was quite popular, but, of course, in Frankfort, where you have a lot of state employees, he was quite unpopular. And perhaps that's understandable when your jobs at stake. But also, his kind of jet-set lifestyle didn't go over in Frankfort, and particularly his wife was not popular, Phyllis George Brown, former Miss America. And oh, just some things that she would be quoted, publicly about, just didn't go over well. So, in the Frankfort area, he was unpopular, but I felt that he had a good administration, on the 55:00whole. He did things like reform the state insurance contracts. And, you see, this scandal had been exposed about this slush fund that was built up from the commissions. Well, none of that business had been bid. And so, there was this commission money, which was kind of ripe for the plucking by the politicians. Well, under Brown, the insurance was put up for bid; it was consolidated. A big part of the property and casualty insurance had been dribbled out in small amounts to agents all over the state, who were friends of the administration, and that was very costly. Of course, when you put a policy all together, you 56:00could get the same coverage for a whole lot less money than you could by dividing it out in small amounts. And so he saved--if my memory is correct--in the neighborhood of two million dollars a year simply in the cost of insurance to the state. And that was a major reform. For years, the state had not been getting the going rate of interest on its deposits in banks. And that's something I wrote a lot about over the years. It was always political, and the favored political banks would, and bankers would get the state deposits, or a lot of them, or get larger amounts anyway, and that was kind of a--well, it was a 57:00very bad situation that Brown corrected. And finally, the deposits were put up for bid so that every--most of them, not all, but whoever. Whatever bank bid the most interest to pay the state, well, they got the money, and it was the way it should have been all those years. So, you know, I've had people who were appointed by him say with kind of surprise, "Well, you know, I was never known as a supporter of John Y. Brown and yet, here I was called up and wanted to know if I wanted to be a judge or be appointed to this or that." And I got the impression 58:00that on a good number of appointments--I mean, he appointed his friends and supporters as all Governors do, to a lot of positions, but he also would--much more than most Governors--he was likely to think, Well, now who would be the best person for this job, regardless of whether this person had been a supporter of him or not.
SUCHANEK: As long as he wasn't an enemy.
TAYLOR: Well, yeah. I don't know that he ever appointed any ofhis outright enemies to big jobs. But, I had the feeling, in the traditional sense; he was less political in his appointments than most Governors. Now, there were some exceptions, and one that comes to mind is his appointment of Frank Metz over the highway department. Metz was a very controversial figure. He was a self-made millionaire. 59:00Came from nothing and made a lot of money in Louisville in the real estate business. He had a lot of ability and he had a lot of ideas, and some of them were good and some of them were terrible. Metz came to Frankfort with kind of a chip on his shoulder about the highway department. He thought anybody that had been in the highway department before he got there was suspect. And he kind of had a siege mentality, and it wasn't long before he got into a big fight with the professional engineers over in the department. While the professional engineers over there, perhaps, were kind of--in some cases, kind of stodgily 60:00bureaucratic; yet, as a group, I always felt they were competent and pretty high-minded, and, you know, really tried to build the best roads they could, and get the most money for the state, and kind of operated in spite of the politicians, who, of course, were over them over there. But Metz just didn't trust them. He wouldn't trust any of them hardly, it seemed. He got in a big row with them, and eventually kind of trumped up charges against two of them, and fired them, and they filed appeals and filed a big lawsuit, and it was just a mess. So, that's one of Brown's appointments that really went awry, 61:00I think. Now Metz had some good ideas to kind of break some of the long established traditions over there in the highway department and, you know, for instance, consolidating some of the maintenance garages in these small rural counties, so that every little county didn't have a big maintenance garage, and a lot of vehicles, and a road foreman, and so on, and so forth. Well, that wasn't popular politically but probably from an efficiency standpoint was probably a good thing. So, you know, if Metz had been the idea man well, and his ideas could have been filtered through someone else who was a better administrator and more of a diplomatic person, why, that would have been fine, but. 62:00
SUCHANEK: Now did he serve throughout the Brown administration?
TAYLOR: Most of it, as I recall.
TAYLOR: I can't remember, if he stayed to the end or not. I think maybenot, but he served most of it, I think. So, that was one example of his appointments that I think was not successful. But, by and large, he had good appointments, I think. And again, from my recollection, on this question on tax increases and promising no new taxes, which is unfortunately has just become almost--
TAYLOR: --a cliche and a must. I mean, every candidate for Governor, Iguess, almost every candidate that I can think of has promised no new taxes, except Brown, and Brown, up until my retirement in `87--of those I covered starting, well, Nunn, Ford, Carroll, they all promised no 63:00new taxes, and in one way or another they broke their promise. Brown didn't promise no new taxes and didn't raise taxes. You know, he was able to, by biting the bullet and layoffs and cutbacks, he was able to make the government fit the revenue without raising taxes. I thought that was a plus for him, too.
SUCHANEK: I think one of his main campaign slogans was he was going torun government like a business.
SUCHANEK: Can government be run like a business? You've mentioned--
TAYLOR: As a whole, no. I mean, you know, government provides services,64:00and government is not there to make a profit. It's there to provide services. However, of course, Brown and other politicians use that phrase, I think, to mean that they want government run efficiently. Of course, you know government ought to be run efficiently; there's no question about that. So, in that sense, if you assume that business operations tend to be more efficient than government, why, yes, you would like to see more efficiency brought into government. But, in the broad sense, no. You know, the purposes are different. Business is to make a profit and the primary purpose of government is to provide 65:00service.
SUCHANEK: Um-hm. Well, things you described at least in the highwaydepartment seems as though, and with the insurance and banking consolidation, and bidding for different things that indeed government became more efficient under Brown.
TAYLOR: In those areas, yes, I think they did.
SUCHANEK: You know, I think, at least in Frankfort, when you mentionJohn Y. Brown Jr. the impression you get from other people is a cold person. You know, strictly a businessman. And I think his administration is almost symbolized by the Sikorsky.
TAYLOR: Of course, the Sikorsky was very visible because, you know,all of Frankfort would hear 'Brrrmmm'; here comes the helicopter. You know, he commuted everyday from his home in Lexington to Frankfort 66:00because the Governor's mansion was undergoing extensive renovations. And he was the first Governor in quite a while who had the personal finances and the location to have a very nice home nearby. So you know, the idea of him helicopter'ing in everyday to go to work, and you could hear it, and you could see it. And that kind of grated on people in Frankfort who were used to having the Governor there in the mansion. You know, the Governor would normally entertain the prominent folks of Frankfort in the mansion. And they missed that; they didn't like it when they couldn't get in the mansion I guess for the first three years 67:00of the Brown administration.
TAYLOR: That was part of it. As far as being cold, can see why peoplemight think that. But, from my experience, I don't think John Y. Brown Jr. is cold at all. I've heard Ed Prichard describe him as rather shy. In terms, you know, the traditional politician is thought of as the hand shaker and the backslapper and one who would mix easily through a crowd. Well, John Y. wasn't that way as much as most. He tend to stand in one place, and talk to the people he wanted to talk to, and not make an effort to mix, I think. But, I don't think that his description as being cold is really accurate.
SUCHANEK: Um-hm. You mentioned Ed Prichard and we have many interviews68:00with Ed Prichard. What was your impression of Ed Prichard?
TAYLOR: (laughs) Oh, Ed Prichard is one of my favorite people, Isuppose, in Frankfort history that I know. A soaring intellect, I mean there was just a unique knowledge of government and politics. And the great stories and jokes that he could tell about politics. You know, quote Shakespeare and the Bible. And just a wonderfully--well, a genius, I suppose. And he had his weak points. I mean, obviously, 69:00the part about him being caught stuffing the ballot box was a serious flaw in his character. I think it kind of grew out of a kind of an intellectual arrogance that, you know, the normal rules didn't apply to him because he was such a brilliant fellow. He really mellowed, I thought, during the years that I knew him. There was a period there--and I don't know the exact year but I suppose it was in the late sixties, maybe, and early seventies; the IRS was after him, which again showed a flaw in his character. He hadn't paid his taxes, and they sold some of his belongings, I think, at auction or something and 70:00confiscated them or something for back taxes. So, there was a period there he was kind of bitter but then he began to recover financially. Of course, I think he would be the first one to say that although he really did not admire or like Governor Nunn, but Governor Nunn's firing of all these state employees put him on the track to financial recovery because a lot of 'em hired Prichard to represent them before the personnel board, and later in court. And eventually, he and other lawyers won a big judgment, and he got the usual percentage fee of that. So, kind of ironically, whereas, you know, he was, I think, 71:00pretty much confidant of Combs and Breathitt, and very tight with them. Now here came a Governor who he was on the outs with, but ironically, he got well financially as a result of these personnel cases. Then, in later years, he was really quite open about his previous problems and lacked bitterness about them. And people, you know, occasionally, some demagogue would get up on the House floor and take off on Prichard, as a, you know, being convicted of this and that, and "We shouldn't listen to him," and so on. And he could take it in stride pretty much later on. So, you know, he really, in his later years, the bitterness kind 72:00of faded away, I think. He was doing all right financially. And, you know, I think he and--oh, I don't know much about this but just on the surface--he and his wife were, I think, separated in effect for a while and they got back together. So, you know, he was, to use a modern phrase, he was a kinder and gentler Prichard, I think, in later years.
SUCHANEK: Well, he had the reputation as being--this is too strong--maybe your term was better--a confidant of Combs but I've heard 73:00some people refer to him really as the brains behind the Combs administration. Had an enormous effect on Breathitt, too.
TAYLOR: Of course, I was never in on any of those meetings orconversations, so I don't have any firsthand knowledge of that, but.
SUCHANEK: For example, he wrote Combs's speeches, and I'm not sure if hedid that for Ned or not.
TAYLOR: Um-hm. I would judge that he had a close relationship withboth Combs and Breathitt from what I knew. And particularly, I think, maybe even a closer personal relationship with Breathitt, perhaps. But Combs, of course, used to call him the "Philosopher." (both laugh) 74:00You know, Combs had kind of funny nicknames for people, and he called Prich, the "Philosopher." But, you know, I think they were close. And yes, he had quite an influence in both those administrations.
SUCHANEK: How well did you know Bert Combs?
TAYLOR: Not very well. Of course, I didn't cover his administration. Icovered--I suppose the most exposure I had to him was in 1971 when he ran for Governor against Wendell Ford. (laughs) I wrote a story, which some people thought, had an effect on that election. I was never sure of it, but anyway. It's a very interesting story, how it came about. 75:00Over in Charleston, West Virginia, of course, they had a history of crooked Governors and Governors going to prison; I think two or three or four of them were in prison, or were either indicted at least. So anyway, one of their Governors, as I recall, after he had left office, maybe shortly after he left office, he went into law practice there in Charleston. Well, he and this woman who worked for the law firm had a falling out. And she took a great big box of his records into the Charleston Gazette, the newspaper. And there was some pretty juicy stuff in there, and one case involved Combs. Combs then, he had left 76:00the federal judgeship and was in private practice, in Kentucky. As I recall, the former Governor of West Virginia had a client who made these little reflective beads that go in paint that you put down the centerline of a highway to reflect at night. And that firm--which I think was from Mississippi or somewhere--got in a big controversy with the Kentucky State Highway Department over a contract. And Kentucky thought the company owed a big amount of money to them on this 77:00contract. So, the former Governor of West Virginia got in touch with Combs, then a lawyer. Combs made--and from what Combs said, all he did was made a phone call and set up an appointment for the people from the paint bead company to go see the people in the highway department, and try and resolve their differences. The differences were resolved at some kind of a small percentage of the original demand. So, I was never sure, you know, whether the reduction in that amount was justified or not, I guess, as I recall, there were arguments on both 78:00sides. But anyway, the company got off for a lot less than the highway department had originally demanded of them. Well, of course, the former Governor of West Virginia collected a nice fee and he sent--if my memory is correct--ten thousand dollars to Combs, for his fee, for what he did. Well, either Combs had done more than he said he did or he was collecting ten thousand dollars for making a phone call. (Suchanek laughs) And it didn't look good for Combs. And so I wrote a long story about this whole affair, and it came out in the midst of this hot campaign between Ford and Combs. And I must say that I never had the feeling that I did for instance with Julian Carroll--Carroll 79:00really took such stories personally, but I must say, I never had that feeling with Combs. He was always--I didn't have nearly as much occasion to come in contact with him because he was not in Frankfort at that time. At least to my face, he never took it personally, and tried to gain retribution or any that sort of thing. So, that was maybe my closest experience with covering Combs.
TAYLOR: You know, Combs--again, I wasn't here during his administration,but--he did a lot of good things in terms of building the highways and--
SUCHANEK: Sales tax.
TAYLOR: And building up the parks system. And, of course, the people in80:00East Kentucky, I know, will always remember him for building that first good highway into Eastern Kentucky. The--
SUCHANEK: Mountain Parkway.
TAYLOR: --Mountain Parkway. And, you know, opening up that area tomotor transportation, which had been so isolated, and that was one of their big problems.
SUCHANEK: Um-hm. Did you know Earle Clements at all?
TAYLOR: No, just by reputation. (laughs) Oh, I guess I've met him butnever had occasion to cover him.
SUCHANEK: Okay. What about Martha Layne Collins?
TAYLOR: Oh just kind of a mediocre administration I'd say, overall,in my book. She put quite a bit of money and emphasis on education, 81:00I think she got good marks on that. You know, her husband and some of his cronies raised huge amounts of campaign money using very questionable methods. And then, you know, there's an investigation still going on; it's never been settled. Apparently having to do with this selling interests in this horse race, thoroughbred horse company--or, it was not a corporation, but it was one of the limited partnerships, I think--where after his wife took office, Bill Collins, her husband, went out and sold a lot of shares in this business to 82:00people who were doing business with the state government. I mean, the implication was, if you wanted to do business with the state government, it would help you if you invested in Dr. Bill's companies, which, ultimately, I think, were not successful. I don't know if people lost their money but at least they didn't make much of any money. So, you know, I think her administration was marred by all that, and there was a lot of political fundraising going on that was kind of questionable. Her appointments were, I thought, as a group, kind of lackluster. And she also was very offish with the press. 83:00I mean, she just wasn't open. Rather secretive. And I always felt perhaps that was not necessarily that so much that she had anything to hide but that she just wasn't comfortable and didn't feel confident in a kind of a free and open press conference. She just didn't have, as most politicians do, didn't have that supreme confidence in being able to field questions in an impromptu basis. So, you know it was hard to get information in that administration, from at least the Governor. So just kind of an average to mediocre administration would be.
SUCHANEK: Kind of a caretaker type thing?
TAYLOR: Well. (pause) I'm not sure that's exactly the right word, but.84:00Not known for many, really dramatic advancements in state programs or services, I don't think, although, you know, well, she stressed economic development. And, of course, the Toyota plant, she was in charge when the state made the decision to, I guess, as I recall, the figure was something like one hundred and twenty-five million in various state incentives to bring the Toyota plant here. And, of course, that has been controversial, but I suppose it would take an economist to judge whether it was worth it but my impression is that 85:00it probably was. That plant is still there, and it's been expanded greatly and a lot of satellite industries have come to Kentucky, parts manufacturers, and so on. So my guess is that overall, that has been a plus, and she can take credit for that.
SUCHANEK: Do you think she had it more difficult being the first womanGovernor of Kentucky?
TAYLOR: Oh, perhaps a little bit, but. I don't know that that in itselfheld her back. You know, I think, it was just--unless maybe within her that kind of contributed to what seemed to me to be kind of an 86:00insecurity, but. Maybe she felt that she was kind of unduly under the spotlight, or something as the first woman, but I thought people were pretty accepting of her, you know, regardless of her gender.
SUCHANEK: Um-hm. Why is that it seems like every time a new Governortakes office, the treasury cupboard is bare? It seems to happen every four years.
TAYLOR: A (laugh) That's one thing I didn't mention about Ford. Fordwas right prudent about state spending and left--as I recall, a federal revenue sharing came along, too, and that helped him--but he was careful not to spend the revenue, federal money on on-going programs. He tried to limit that money to, oh, capital improvements, and that 87:00kind of one time expenditures, that sort of thing. So, as a result, he left the state with some nice surpluses, is my recollection; that was another plus for his administration. Yeah, but you're right, it has happened several times where new Governors inherit a bare cupboard. Of course, one of the more dramatic cases was when Breathitt. (laughs) When Nunn took over for Breathitt and I think of two reasons for that. During Breathitt's, I guess second term, second legislature, second budget, the teachers were up in arms, wanting more money, and threatening a strike, I think maybe they did strike. So, they raised 88:00the revenue estimate. You know, the money became available because the revenue department raised the estimate of the revenue they were gonna get during the next two years, and then they put that money into teachers' salaries, and that kind of placated the teachers. Well--
SUCHANEK: So you're saying that estimate was bogus? Or, artificiallyinflated?
TAYLOR: Well, that was kind of the sixty-four-dollar-question, was itor wasn't it? It looked bad because the actual shortfall almost matched exactly--(both laugh)--or was very close to the amount that they raised the estimate. So that made it look bad. The revenue commissioner at that time--if my recollection is correct--was William Ursal (??), 89:00a very, very high top fellow and with a good reputation. And, as I recall, he always denied that he had been pressured to raise the estimate, or that was a political estimate, but it didn't look so good as it turned out.
SUCHANEK: In essence--
TAYLOR: And, so there was that factor. The revenue estimate had beenraised. So, it was more likely that the actual revenue was gonna fall short of the estimate. Plus the fact that, that was one of the best- kept secrets of state government during that campaign. That was really a failing of the press, I think. Not to be watching that and I suppose- -well, you could have caught the first--normally, they wrote a report by 90:00quarters, I think, and if the press had been alert when the September thirtieth, you know, after that quarter ended, they should have picked up on the fact that the revenue was falling short of the estimate but they didn't. So there had been virtually no publicity about it until Nunn came into office and found out. And then, there he was faced with a significant shortfall. Of course, I think it was something like twenty-four million. In today's state government, that's not a great amount but back then, that was a significant shortfall. Of course, Nunn wasn't entirely clean on it himself because he'd been going around the state promising no new taxes and not--I mean, he was unaware of it. Here he was campaigning on the basis that the state revenues were sound, and yet they weren't. So, he, I guess, needs to share a little 91:00bit of the blame there, too. I do think the press was negligent in not reporting that. Well, that was kind of how that came about. You know, Governors, incumbent Governors, they don't want to admit that revenues are falling short. They don't want to have to make cuts, and so they tend to try and slide by, and let the next guy handle it, if indeed there is a shortfall and cuts that have to be made.
[Tape 1 ends; tape 2 begins.]
SUCHANEK: Okay. I know you weren't there to cover the Wilkinsonadministration but do you have any thoughts on Wallace Wilkinson as 92:00Governor? (pause) Anything you've heard, or from your colleagues?
TAYLOR: Oh, I don't have any--
SUCHANEK: Any impressions?
TAYLOR: I don't have any inside information, but just from, you know,reading the papers, and watching the news. You know, my impression is that--(pause)--he's another one who perhaps a little bit, taken by the power of the office, and maybe that has colored his good judgment on certain occasions. (pause) Of course, you know, these previous people 93:00that we've been talking about, I've written many news stories about them and approached them from the standpoint of trying to be objective, whereas, you know, I wasn't obligated to do that with Wilkinson. My impressions of him are just kind of as a citizen as opposed to being a reporter.
SUCHANEK: Well, not really. I mean as you saw things develop, I'm surethat the reporter in you said, "Well, that's not gonna fly." (Taylor laughs) You know, his approach to this is not gonna work, because you knew all those people in the legislature.
SUCHANEK: You knew what their response would be.
TAYLOR: Of course, you know, I think one of the kind of outrageousaspects of his administration was he took this business of trading 94:00governmental contracts and favors in return for campaign contributions, which has always gone on, to a new high, and a new art form almost. Not that it hasn't been done but not to that great degree. You know, I think that really hurt his administration because it was pretty outrageous the way they raised the money. These several millions of dollars for Martha to run, and then awarded these no-bid contracts, or favors to people who had given the big bucks. So I think that hurts 95:00his reputation.
SUCHANEK: But would you say his administration paralleled JulianCarroll's almost?
TAYLOR: Well, not--no, because, as far as, we know there is nosignificant personal enrichment. You know, the campaign's collected these huge amounts. You know, that's bad but I don't think there have been any--well, I shouldn't say any significant cases that I can recall about Wilkinson or his cronies personally getting rich out of the power of his office. Oh, you know, there have been.
SUCHANEK: Other than state property being leased by--96:00
TAYLOR: Yeah, there have been a few instances of that. But certainlynot to the extent that came out during the Carroll administration. So I think there's a marked difference. You talked about them being parallel.
SUCHANEK: Yeah, right.
TAYLOR: There's a marked difference in that regard.
SUCHANEK: Um-hm. Who was your favorite Governor that you covered?
TAYLOR: Oh, I suppose, Breathitt, really. Breathitt is a very--youknow, he's an honest guy, and he's very congenial and approachable, and just a fellow you would enjoy spending time with. Not that I ever did very much on a personal basis, but. I'd say he perhaps is at least 97:00among my favorites.
SUCHANEK: Um-hm. Would Carroll be your least favorite then?
TAYLOR: Well, you know, they all have pluses and minuses, in my opinion.
SUCHANEK: Certainly, grist for your mill. (both laugh) Perhaps Carrollwould have been your favorite?
TAYLOR: Yeah, I suppose I would have to say, that isn't exactly the termI would apply, maybe on my own, but. Yeah, I suppose he is the least favorite in that it came to be almost a personal thing between us. And he went around the country, the state, and later the country after 98:00he was out of office talking about this hypocrite reporter who's--you see, we used to attend the same church and I sang in the choir and he'd talk about this hypocrite who was singing in the choir and looking out over the congregation. He finally became so uncomfortable that he had to quite going to church there, which he did. So, it was really a lot of personal tension involved in my coverage of his administration and that was right unpleasant. For me, of course, he expressed his great displeasure with it. But, I must say that he kind of took the initiative, later on, to try and smooth over our relationship. We now 99:00have a--not that I have much occasion to be together--but you know, I mentioned that he didn't speak to me for a couple of years there. We now speak and we're cordial to each other. I certainly give him credit for kind of taking the initiative to reestablish a good relationship.
SUCHANEK: We're gonna have to pause.
[Pause in recording.]100:00
TAYLOR: I'm minus my mike here.
SUCHANEK: Oh, yeah, that's okay. We're gonna use the big table.
SUCHANEK: And we'll just go with that, I think. Testing. Testing.Testing. Testing (pause) If you were just thinking about the various Governors you covered, who would be the most intellectual that you covered?
TAYLOR: (pause) That's really hard to say. I think they all, you know,are bright people, in terms of intellectual capacity. I don't think 101:00of that, you know, were slow mentally. Intellectual in terms of--oh, you know, being well read, and that sort of thing. Again, really none of them stand out. You know, I don't know that when you're covering at that time, maybe to indulge in a lot of things that, you know, reading, and attending concerts, and that sort of things, that you might associate with being an intellectual, or being a patron of the arts, or that sort of thing. And again, you know, I'm not around when 102:00Governor's relax at the mansion, or unwind. So, you know, I wouldn't be in a position to know what they read or how they spend their--
[Pause in recording.]103:00
SUCHANEK: Testing. Testing. Testing. Mr. Taylor, did you find anylegislator in particular that was more helpful to you in explaining things than others?
TAYLOR: (pause) Well, no one single individual really stands out in thatregard. I've had good relationships, I think, with several legislators. Or, a number of them have been very helpful in giving me information.
TAYLOR: And, of course, you know, in times when the legislature is kindof at odds with the Governor, why, they tend to be good sources of information about things that are going on in the administration that they'd like to see exposed, or problem areas that they think you know need attention. So, you know, as a newsperson, you benefit sometimes 104:00from that tension between the executive and the legislative, but. Yeah, no one person really particularly stands out.
SUCHANEK: Okay. Now the General Assembly had acquired over time akind of raucous rowdy reputation, especially out-of-doors, or, you know, during the evening. It was rumored that in previous sessions that it was not uncommon for a few legislators to actually carry concealed weapons onto the floor of the House, or the Senate. That a notorious after hour's hangout called the "Snake Pit" was frequented by legislators. Did you find any truth to these rumors during your stay in Frankfort? What was the reputation of the legislature back in `64, when you first started reporting in Frankfort, and how has that 105:00reputation, if it at all, has changed over the years?
TAYLOR: As a group, as I said, the legislature back then was lesseducated and more rowdy than they are today. I think there have been certainly considerable improvements in the quality of legislators. And I think there was more--you know, abuse of alcohol, I guess, has maybe always been a problem with some legislators. They're away from home and kind of on the loose. And I remember back in the sixties, or maybe 106:00early seventies, well, they used to have the tradition of the pre- legislative conference down at Kentucky Lake Village, or Kentucky Dam Village State Park. And the lobbyists would set up these hospitality rooms. And the legislators and I must confess the reporters also, if they wanted to, they could just roam from room to room and drink all they wanted to at no cost. There was a lot of drunkenness at those events. And I remember once during an evening program--I mean it was a public program as part of the conference and it was in the 107:00evening after supper, there was a legislator, I think he was from Floyd County, I don't remember his name, he just kind of toppled over in front of everybody, and it was kind of embarrassing. So, that event particularly, I think, was subject to abuse of alcohol. There was quite a bit of problem drinking, I think, during those pre-legislative conferences and some of that carried over into Frankfort during the regular sessions. You have a lot of legislators who especially the ones who live in this area, who go home at night, and are never seen at the nightspots, and you have a lot of others who don't frequent the 108:00nightspots. But, back in my single days, I used to frequent some of the nightspots and there were a lot of legislators there and they were carrying on.
TAYLOR: Of course, in my later years, after I was no longer single, Ididn't have much occasion to be out at night myself, and so I don't know how it is more recently much, but. You know there's a certain small percentage I suspect that still maybe drinks and carouses too much.
SUCHANEK: Um-hm. Later--
TAYLOR: --But, as a whole, I don't think there's nearly as much of it asthere used to be.
SUCHANEK: In later years, has there ever been any rumors of drug abuse109:00in the legislature, other than alcohol?
TAYLOR: I don't recall any.
SUCHANEK: Okay. I forgot to ask you, when did you get married?
TAYLOR: (laughs) Well, unfortunately--I've been married twice since Icame to Frankfort. I was married in `67 and divorced in `81, and then I remarried in `83.
SUCHANEK: How many children do you have?
TAYLOR: I have three children.
SUCHANEK: How old are they?
TAYLOR: They're 35, 33, and 31. And I have a daughter who is an arthistory teacher in San Antonio, and a son who's in business in--well, he works for a mining company, in the home office in San Francisco. 110:00Then I have a daughter who's married and a housewife in Michigan.
SUCHANEK: Did you ever develop any friendships with any particularlegislators, or were you very careful about that because of your job as a reporter?
TAYLOR: Yes, I had friendships with legislators. But I guess--you know,I don't recall any real, real close friendships because that would have been a problem. [telephone rings] 111:00
SUCHANEK: Okay, go ahead.
[Pause in recording.]
TAYLOR: Where was I?
SUCHANEK: Well, oh, let me ask you this; in your experience, is thereany legislator who really impressed you?
TAYLOR: Oh, yeah. Well, the ones there I mentioned there in the "BlackSheep Squadron." Men like John Barry, I think was an outstanding legislator. (pause) You know, he had some high principles and stood up for them under a good deal of pressure. And another one that 112:00kind of sticks out in my mind, although there were a lot of things I didn't agree with him on, and a lot of, I guess, things that I really didn't admire him for, but I remember during the fight over civil rights legislation--and I guess I mentioned this before--Norbert Blume of Louisville who did have some political self-interests in that he had a lot of blacks in his district. But he stood up day after day and advocated the passage of the civil rights bill when it was very unpopular among a lot of his colleagues. I think he took a lot of heat for it. That was kind of an act of courage. I remember another speech that Senator Walter Baker made on the Senate floor. And it 113:00had to do with--I hope this is right--because I remember he talked very eloquently about his son, who was an adopted son, I believe, and that he didn't want the government deciding what sort of religious instruction. I'm almost sure it had to do with prayer in the schools. And Walter is a Republican, and he's from a conservative area, and I suspect a lot of his constituents would think the prayer in the schools is a wonderful thing. And gosh, I hope I'm remembering this 114:00correctly. But, as I recall, he got up and made a very eloquent speech that, you know, that's something that he wanted as a parent to be in charge of, the religious instruction of his child. That he didn't want the government deciding what type of prayer that his child should be exposed to. And I just remember, I thought it was a--you know, there are a lot of demagoguery goes on in the legislature and that was kind of a refreshing example of someone speaking rather passionately about a principle that they believed in, when it might not have been to their political self advantage.
SUCHANEK: Um-hm. What kind of legislators were Mae Street Kidd and115:00Georgia Powers? Does anything stick out in your mind about those two?
TAYLOR: Well, of course, they were black legislators, although--(laughs)--well, I know, I mean if you want to talk about race, I know that Georgia had a white father. And from appearances Mae Street Kidd, also was of mixed race, but I don't know if that has anything to do with anything except that they were elected from predominantly black districts. And well, held themselves out as black legislators. So, what I remember, of course, is that they stood up for civil rights 116:00legislation and advocated the interests of black citizens. Just my general impression of Mae Street was that she wasn't very effective. And, oh, was pretty narrow in her interests. And, you know, a lot of issues that didn't involve her constituents directly she--again, this is just a kind of a general recollection of mine--she would vote with the special interests. They could get her vote, if they wanted it on issues that perhaps were outside of the direct interests of her 117:00urban constituency. Of course, Senator Powers, I thought I heard here recently on one of these black history things that they said Senator Powers was the first woman in the Senate, but that's not true. There have been women in the Senate before her. Now she was, I think, the first black woman--
SUCHANEK: Um-hm. Right.
TAYLOR: --elected to the Senate. And I would say that she had just,generally speaking, more stature than Mae Street Kidd did. Of course, she was one of thirty-eight instead of being one in a hundred, so she's bound to have more influence. And she was strong on civil rights 118:00issues, as you would expect. (pause) But I don't ever recall any examples of her, you know, leading the charge on some good government issue--
SUCHANEK: --she's not one of those--
TAYLOR: --or, so called good government issue or some progressivelegislature--
SUCHANEK: --when you think of outstanding legislators, she doesn't cometo your mind?
SUCHANEK: Okay. Okay. How about someone like Mike Maloney?
TAYLOR: Mike, we used to say Mike has a unique ability to make people onall sides of an issues mad. (both laugh) Mike is bright, and he's able, 119:00and, of course, he's been there a long time now. He's well informed.
SUCHANEK: He started out in the Ford faction.
TAYLOR: That's right. He comes from a very political family andbackground. And, you know, I think his current sponsorship of this campaign finance reform legislation is one of the high points of his career, I think. He's really, in my book, doing good things with that. Mike has got the courage of his convictions. I mean he'll tell-- (laughs)--about anybody where to go if he doesn't like their point of 120:00view, or what they're doing. And, you know, a lot of times that's good, and sometimes I think it hurts his effectiveness too. But Mike's a leader in the legislature.
SUCHANEK: Who else would you classify as a leader?
TAYLOR: (pause) Well, of course, you'd have to classify anybody in aleadership position as a leader, I guess. They got elected to it but--
SUCHANEK: How about Don Blandford?
TAYLOR: I beg your pardon?
SUCHANEK: How about Don Blandford?
TAYLOR: I think Blandford might be categorized as one who has gone121:00beyond expectations a good bit more than a lot of them. And, my recollection is that, you know, he was just a kind of obscure--well, he was a meat cutter as I recall. A meat cutter in Kroger's or one of those supermarkets, when he was first elected. And not that being a meat cutter isn't certainly an honorable occupation, but he just didn't seem to have the characteristics of leadership when he started out. Yet, let's see, he came to power after Bobby Richardson kind of ran 122:00afoul of his colleagues, I think. I guess Bobby, from what I recall, people thought that Bobby was too, grew to be kind of dictatorial.
SUCHANEK: That was under Carroll right?
TAYLOR: Yes, he came to be the speakership under Carroll, I believe;that's right. So, Blandford has kind of been a mildly pleasant surprise, I think. He handles himself pretty well in the speaker's chair. And, you know, I don't think, he doesn't get out front. He doesn't really lead on--I mean public financing of campaigns is a perfect example I think. He was against that in the last session. And, in fact, except for the opposition of he and Stumbo in the House, that might well have passed in the `90 session; it passed the Senate, 123:00as I recall.
SUCHANEK: Well, he certainly--
TAYLOR: And, anyway got out of two House committees. The A and R hadset aside money for it, and then the leadership in which Blandford and Stumbo controlled the Rules Committee, and they sent it back to A and R a second time, and that killed it. So now, in this session, he's kind of coming around and saying that he's open to considering a public financing bill, which I personally think is worth trying. And it is a good step to trying to take the influence of big money out of our elections. So, there's an example, I think, which I think maybe is fairly typical of him, that he doesn't get out in front and try and lead on controversial issues. But on the other hand, he seems to 124:00handle himself pretty well. And keep--you know, you have to have a certain ability to keep a hundred prim donnas happy, and apparently, he's at least kept the majority of them happy.
SUCHANEK: And from killing each other.
TAYLOR: (both laugh) Right.
SUCHANEK: Is there anyone in the legislature that you've met that shouldhave been Governor? That you thought should have been Governor?
TAYLOR: Oh, I think--
SUCHANEK: Or, not even in the legislature, just anyone who you've met.
TAYLOR: I think there's several legislators who would probably makegood Governors. And, you know, John Berry might have been one of them. Joe Clarke is, you know, the long time representative from Danville and chairman of the House Appropriations and Revenue. You know, he certainly has now a wealth of knowledge in how state government 125:00operates, having presided the passage of the budget bills now, for a number of years, and certainly, he's a lawyer, and a bright fellow, and has a reputation for being clean. And, you know, I think I'd like to see him run for Governor. And I'm sure there's others. If I had the list before me, I could pick out some other names I know. 126:00
SUCHANEK: Your name was mentioned as perhaps being offered some typeof position in the new administration. At one point, I saw your name associated with Brereton Jones. How did that all come about?
TAYLOR: That was the wild idea of David Hoff, I think. I assume you'rereferring to an editorial in the Courier-Journal in which the writer- -and I'm pretty sure it was David Hoff, the editor at the Courier- Journal, or at least it's my understanding, he's oversees the writing of the editorials and writes some of them and I suspect wrote that one, where he had the bright idea that I should be the 'Ethic's Czar' in the Jones administration, but that is something that has not been mentioned 127:00before or since. (both laugh)
TAYLOR: Listen, I don't know where he came up with that one, but. Itcertainly didn't come from me and I've heard nothing about it since.
SUCHANEK: Okay. Then you weren't approached by Jones, anyone in theJones administration?
SUCHANEK: All right.
SUCHANEK: All right. What do you think about gubernatorial succession?
TAYLOR: I think it's a good thing. You know, I think, the people,if you have a good Governor that the people ought to have a right to reelect him. And, you know, recent history is that several of our Governors have become quite unpopular towards the end of their term, 128:00and probably never could have been reelected. (Suchanek laughs) And, of course, the problem is that, just as the Wilkinson administration twisted arms to raise millions of dollars for Martha Wilkinson, and the Carroll administration raised a lot of money for McBrayer--in other words, now that we don't have succession, we have the fundraising for the handpicked candidate of the Governor in power, who's Governor in office. The problem is that, that, of course, would carry over in spades if the Governor himself or herself were running for reelection. And you'd have all that power of state government being brought to bear on people to support financially, and otherwise, the incumbent 129:00Governor to be reelected. And that's the downside. But, you know it hasn't been successful since Combs barely got Breathitt elected as his chosen successor; Governors have not been able to elect their anointed successor. And so, I have the feeling that with modern communications and all, that the people are aware enough of a Governor's record that, that will out weight the built in advantage of incumbency. So I think it's a good thing.
SUCHANEK: How about the idea of limiting legislator's terms?130:00
TAYLOR: I'm against that; I think it's a copout. Sure, we'rekind of disillusioned with our legislators and our congressmen or congresspersons, but. The solution to that is for people to get off their duffs and find out the good ones and the bad ones, and vote the bad ones out of office. I mean, that's the greatest term limitation of all. That you've got the chance every two or four years to go to the ballot box and vote 'em out. And that's the ultimate in term limitation. And whereas you've also got a core of good people who need to be reelected, so that you have some continuity and you don't lose all the knowledge and experience in government. And so I think term limits are kind of the easy way out of--well, you know, we're 131:00suspicious of politicians. Oh, let's just vote them all out. Well, I don't think that's a good solution. And also you're gonna have the problem of without people who are experienced and knowledgeable. You know, information is power, and so the lobbyists who have been around forever and know how the system works, and the bureaucrats who've been around forever, they're gonna take on added power in the legislature because they have the knowledge and experience. And the legislators will tend to be novices and who are learning. And these special interests and the bureaucrats can just put things over on them, on 132:00occasion. So I'm against term limits.
SUCHANEK: Do lobbyists have a role? A positive role do you think?
TAYLOR: Oh, sure there are good lobbyists and bad. And the ones, whowill give you, bring you valid information certainly play a useful role.
SUCHANEK: They're not just a necessary evil then?
TAYLOR: (laughs) No, no, I mean, you've got lobbyists for good causesas well as special interests. So, lobbyists have a useful role to play. And, of course, sometimes they stray outside the bounds of--by distorting information, and giving you false or distorted information 133:00on a bill.
TAYLOR: And, of course, occasionally they use improper means ofinfluence like personal perks for, you know, trips, or meals, or whatever. I suppose there always has been and maybe always will be a certain amount of that. But that tends to give lobbyists bad names. But, I think the good ones avoid that sort of thing. The good ones who are trying to build up a reputation year after year after year would tend to avoid that. And they'll build their credibility by giving you straight information and not distorting it because if they get caught giving you bad information, of course, then next time you 134:00won't believe them, or pay any attention to them.
SUCHANEK: Have you had the experience of being fed bad information bya lobbyist?
TAYLOR: Oh, sure. I mean, lobbyists and Governors and legislators,I mean they're all trying to put the best spin they can on their own case, and sometimes they go outside the bounds of honesty in doing it.
SUCHANEK: Um-hm. Okay. Let me turn this tape over and I just have afew more questions to ask you.
TAYLOR: All right.
[Tape 2, side 1 ends; side 2 begins.]
SUCHANEK: Did you ever have an editor kill one of your stories?
TAYLOR: Yes. Well, I guess the most to me outrageous case happenedway early in my career in Muncie, .Indiana. I investigated a kind of a shyster lawyer who was representing the township, which was kind of 135:00the least important unit of government but they had bonding authority. And he was just making these astronomical fees as their bond attorney. And was in on some other shenanigans. Myself and another reporter investigated him and we're getting ready to write stories about it. And we saw him one day come in and talk to the managing editor. It wasn't long after that that they decided not to run the stories. I was very upset and that led me to--really, I guess that was the last straw that led me to look for the job, which I ended up at the Courier-Journal.
SUCHANEK: Um-hm. In the New Albany office?136:00
SUCHANEK: Yeah. Um-hm. How about in Frankfort?
TAYLOR: Well, I remember one instance in which I investigated a bankerin Mount Sterling. And wrote a story, and it was kind of a mutual decision to kill it. I mean I didn't really protest it. It was a marginal thing as to--it had to do with. Oh, I believe whether the banker had personally--I think some people applied for a loan, and the 137:00banker wanted to charge them points or a fee or something for making the loan; it was a questionable thing. But, you know, it wasn't a clear-cut case. And it was kind of a muddy situation, as I recall. And the story probably, as I wrote it, I remember probably was much too long for the content of it, and the editor decided not to run it. And, you know, I could agree with him on part of it. A little later, you know, the guy, as I recall got into some other things. I had some 138:00mild regrets that this side--(laughs)--of his operations hadn't been brought to the public. But, you know, it was not an outrageous case.
TAYLOR: There were some good reasons not to run it, too.
SUCHANEK: Um-hm. Well, why you were in Frankfort you did garner quite areputation for ferreting out corruption in--what was not just covering the legislature, but what would you classify in your career as the story you're most proud of, or your biggest story?
TAYLOR: (pause) Well, in terms of a series of stories, I suppose thetwo biggest things were the series of stories on the outrageously low 139:00interest rate that the state got on its bank deposits. And I rode that issue pretty hard over a number of years, and a number of state treasurers, and Governors. Finally, that situation was reformed and, you know--
SUCHANEK: Do you feel good about that?
TAYLOR: Yes, I do because that money instead of going into the coffersof banks all over the state went into state government to be used for education, or corrections, or welfare, or whatever. I mean, it was a subsidy for the banks basically. And, you know, banks are well able to stand on their own feet financially; they don't need welfare from the state.
SUCHANEK: But you must feel like you played a role in that then.
TAYLOR: I do feel and, you know, I won a national award for it. AndI do feel that, that I had an impact on that situation. Of course, 140:00I suppose the other series of stories was about the--I know Julian Carroll would object to this word--but I think it's fair to say the corruption that took place during his administration.
TAYLOR: I was kind of in on that from the beginning and followed it allthe way through the kind of endless federal investigation, and that I must say was quite unfair to Governor Carroll. The way, it just dragged on and on and on. And the Feds, the Justice Department just didn't seem to get on with it and make a decision. But, you know. (laughs) Whether or not it was my stories, the net result, or one result was 141:00that when Governor Carroll ran again for Governor, he finished kind of a poor fourth. And, you know, I feel that the people--(laughs)--got the message about what kind of an administration he'd had.
SUCHANEK: Well, that was in `87, wasn't it?
SUCHANEK: Or, was he running against Martha Layne [Collins]?
TAYLOR: Let's see he went out in `79. He did not run in `83. Yes,he ran in `87. One of the--(Taylor laughs)--I suppose in terms of in one in eight or ten-hour period, the story of where a whole kind 142:00of investigation just [snapping fingers] just fell into line, just one after another. Within a day's time, I gathered the information and wrote the story about the political fundraising in the Nunn administration that was traced to Larry Forgy. That story was resurrected during this last Governor's race and used against Forgy. But the essence of the story was that state employees from finance and natural resources went into the backroom of the natural resources office, called up businessmen who had state contracts, and said, "We're calling in the name of Governor Nunn and the Finance Commissioner Cristan (??) and we'd like you to contribute to"--I believe it was a Republican campaign or maybe it was the State party and--"We'd like for 143:00you to send your contribution to post office box," such and such. And even though post office box owners are supposed to be confidential, I was able to find out that the state purchasing director had rented the post office. I was able to get quotes from, I believe, two people that Larry Forgery had set up this operation, and arranging for the room, at least, for these people to use this room, or to be assigned to do this. And Forgy denied it. So, I think my recollection is that he denied it again when this whole thing came up during the campaign. But that was--I was just really, that was the most fortunate set of reporting 144:00circumstances that--as I recall, I gathered all of that in one day and wrote the story. And it was just--I was just lucky [snapping fingers] in that I called the right people. So, that story kind of sticks out in my mind. Oh, well, Hugh Hanniger (??) drew a great cartoon after that, and it showed Nunn's face with an elephant's trunk, and it was wrapped around a businessman who was upside-down. And the trunk was shaking the guy and the money was falling out of the businessman's pocket into the GOP, the 'Grand Old Pot.' (both laugh) Oh, another, I guess, personally, I got a great deal of satisfaction about, I wrote 145:00a profile once of Clay Wade Bailey, and I previously referred to him. And he was such a wonderful, likeable character, and with kind of wonderful foibles. And I wrote a profile for him, that was while I was free-lancing for the, it appeared in the Lexington Leader first, and also in the State Journal, the Frankfort State Journal, but that was really a fun story to write.
SUCHANEK: Well let's talk about--now, you left the Courier-Journal in`66 to work for the Louisville Times, is that right?
SUCHANEK: Why did you leave the Courier-Journal at that time in yourcareer?
TAYLOR: Under duress. (laughs) I had, you know, been in the Frankfortbureau for about two and a half years and thought I was doing fine. 146:00Was having a lot of byline stories in the Courier, including, oh, things like this, I started in almost immediately on these bank deposits. And the strip mining, among a number of others, wrote a lot of the stories that led to the Pulitzer Prize, the Courier-Journal for their strip mining coverage. And, of course, mine was all on the news side. You know, a big part of that was the editorials, and then there was a wonderful, color special section magazine came out one time on, "Kentucky's Ravaged Lands" with color photographs of the devastation of strip mining. So, you know, there was a whole lot more to it than the stories I wrote. But, anyway, I had an integral part in that. And 147:00in 1966, then after that legislative session, it was just kind of an inside joke or story but Norman Isaacs was the--I've forgotten if he was the editor of both papers or managing editor of the Courier--but anyway, he was in charge. And he invited me to lunch at the Old House, which was in the Old House Restaurant in Louisville. And it had become kind of an inside joke among the Courier that, you know, if you were gonna get fired or demoted or reprimanded, well, Isaacs had you to lunch at the Old House. So I went with much trepidation, and it turned out that he said there's got to be a cutback in Frankfort bureau. Of course, I was the junior member of the bureau, and so we have a job 148:00for you in Louisville working for the Times. Well, I had just bought a farm in Anderson County which I--a beautiful little farm--and was really enjoying that part of my life and was enjoying my work in the Frankfort bureau. That's the place that I had aspired to be. And so, it was a real blow to me, and said, "Well, I'll think about it." You know, I took several weeks to think about it and took too long, and he came back and said, "You know, either, you know, report by next Monday or you don't have a job," in effect. So, I decided to take the transfer and I did for a year but I didn't like it, and so. 149:00
SUCHANEK: Did you move from Anderson County?
TAYLOR: Well, I kept that place and had an apartment in Louisville.
TAYLOR: And I came home to the farm on the weekends and the farm wasbroken into. And, of course, you know, the grass would go un-mowed and it was just really hard to take care of the place. And so, anyway, after a year of that. I quit, and I had this dream of setting up kind of a freelance Frankfort news service for smaller newspapers, like ones that wouldn't--you know, at that time, I guess, I'm not sure, I don't believe the Lexington paper had a full-time--no, they did not. They didn't have anyone fulltime in Frankfort. I guess the Courier-Journal was the only newspaper that had a fulltime representative there. There were, of course, the Associated Press. Well, Clay Wade Bailey was here 150:00for the Kentucky Post. And, you know, the two wire services UPI and AP and then for a while, WAV Channel 3 in Louisville had Tom Duncan and later with the Gold Association, he was their full-time reporter here for several years. But that was about it. So, my idea was there are all these other papers, you know, there are a lot of good stories involving, oh, the legislators from Bowling Green, or Ashland, or Paducah, or Owensboro, and what they're doing, and, oh, just all sorts of, you know, liquor permits or controversies over liquor permits. There are, all kinds of local stories that are in Frankfort, and I 151:00thought, you know, they can't afford to have somebody here fulltime, but I was hoping they'd jump at the chance of having somebody who had some experience that would serve them on a part-time basis. Well, I didn't, I didn't know--(laughs)--how tightfisted newspaper editors in Kentucky were because, boy, the soup was awful thin. And I just barely scraped by and made a living. In fact, it was supplemented by--I did a study for, there was what Tom Lafetis (??) today likes to call a good government group and I can't think of the name of it now. But it was 152:00kind of predecessor group to what the Kentucky Center for Public Issues is now, but. It eventually faded away. But I did a study of the state bonding practices, debt, issuance of debt, and got a--oh, I don't know- -maybe a thousand dollars, or something like that. It kind of helped keep bread and water on the table for a while. But the newspapers, with some exceptions, didn't buy into this. So eventually--
SUCHANEK: It was a great idea.
TAYLOR: Eventually I was under financial pressure to get a steady joband so I went back to work for United Press International for about, oh, eight or nine months, I think. And then was able to get back on 153:00with the Courier.
SUCHANEK: Um-hm. Was it easy to get back on the Courier after havingquit? I mean were they--
SUCHANEK: --vindictive at all?
TAYLOR: Well, not vindictive but, you know, I sensed that there was kindof a policy of, you know, if you quit once, why we're not gonna go out of our way to, or we normally would not hire you back.
TAYLOR: But [telephone rings] You know, I think there was an openingand I was still in Frankfort [telephone rings] and I was experienced and was able to make connections with George Gill. And was hired back. [telephone rings]
[Pause in recording.]
SUCHANEK: Okay. Where were we?
TAYLOR: Well, I just was hired back with the Courier-Journal.154:00
SUCHANEK: Okay, all right. What can you tell me about John Ed Pierce?
TAYLOR: John Ed's a great writer and I enjoy reading him every Sunday.
SUCHANEK: Did you know him well?
TAYLOR: Oh, fairly well.
SUCHANEK: Do you know him, well I guess.
TAYLOR: Yeah. Yeah. I like to call John Ed, the last of the red-hotliberals at the Courier-Journal. You know, he's just a wonderful writer. Well, he knows how to move people with his writing and, you know, he's a passionate advocate of his point of view, and obviously his point of view and mine are often the same, not always, but.
TAYLOR: For instance, it was John Ed who back in the early or mid-155:00eighties got me interested in our policy, our U.S. policy toward Nicaragua. He had been down there. There was a priest who was a friend of his, and he kind of out in the hinterlands of Nicaragua and John Ed had gone down there and visited him, and saw the killing and the destruction and the devastation that the Contras financed, trained, and directed by the U.S., and CIA, and others. And the impact that they were having on the people of Nicaragua and what an outrage it was. And he got me interested in that, and as a result, one thing led 156:00to another. And I, after I retired, went to Nicaragua as Witness of Peace, as part of the Witness for Peace delegation and saw myself those things that I've described in the rural areas of Nicaragua, and was outraged by them and came back. And wrote a lot letters to senators and representatives and I even made a speech down at a demonstration down in front of the federal building in Nicaragua which was something really--federal building in Louisville on the Nicaragua situation--which was something really new to me because here all these years I'd had to not show my personal opinions and demonstrate them. And, of course, now that I was retired, I was able to do that. So, that was just an example of how his writings really have an impact on people I think. 157:00
SUCHANEK: What kind of relationship do you have with him?
TAYLOR: Good. I mean we don't see each other a lot. But, oh, we have agood relationship, we do.
SUCHANEK: What other things are you involved in?
TAYLOR: I'm a hospice volunteer. I was trained to visit people whoare terminally ill. Do what you can for them. And I help conduct Bible studies twice a week at the Franklin County Jail, and that's a fascinating experience. And I'm active in my church, and.
SUCHANEK: Which church do you go to?158:00
TAYLOR: South Frankfort Presbyterian. I sing in the choir and do a oncea week.
SUCHANEK: Is that the same Carroll, he was a member of?
TAYLOR: Yes, yes.
TAYLOR: He was a member of our choir. I play a lot of tennis. Play inthese senior tournaments and raise a big garden in the summer.
SUCHANEK: (laughs) Okay. I just wanted to ask you what changes, I guessif any, occurred when the Bingham's sold the newspaper. You know what changes have you seen in the Courier-Journal, and in your opinion, are they good or bad?
TAYLOR: I don't see any really major changes in that the same,159:00essentially the same people are running it now who ran it under the Bingham's. I do think--well, the obvious changes are, there are some obvious changes of style more really than substance. In other words, I think they want shorter stories, more use of pictures and now more use of color, of course. Although, you know, even when the Bingham's had it, there was this question of, you know, they were looking to get into more use of color but it was a great big investment and they hadn't made that jump before they--excuse me--sold it. 160:00
SUCHANEK: I often hear people say the Courier-Journal is a goodnewspaper but it's not like it used to be.
TAYLOR: I heard more people say that. And I think that's overstatingthe case. They still have a core of really good reporters like Mike Brown and Bob Garrett and Tom Loftis (??) among others. And that, of course, to me is a reporter, that's at the heart of any good newspaper. You can--you don't have to have great editors to have a great 161:00newspaper, but you have to have some great reporters, I think. And, of course, great editors go along with it too.
SUCHANEK: Do you think there's still a future for newspapers?
TAYLOR: Well, it's kind of discouraging because you know the percentageof the public who gets the main source from newspapers--the portion that get their major portion of news from newspapers seems to be declining and the younger people coming up seem to be more and more attuned to television, and the thirty-second, or the ninety-second news snippet. And, you know, I mean there's certain things that television can do wonderfully well in terms of reporting news but-- 162:00
SUCHANEK: No in-depth stories.
TAYLOR: But you can't really find out what's happening in depth. Youknow, so many issues today are complicated, and they're not black and white, and they take some time to explain and to explore. And the newspaper is, of course, best equipped to do that, on a daily basis I'm talking about. And so, it's discouraging that fewer and fewer people look to newspapers as a primary source of news. However, you know there's still--in the foreseeable future, I don't see newspapers going away in the foreseeable future, but they do seem to be declining in 163:00their influence.
SUCHANEK: Was covering the General Assembly a tough job for a reporter?
TAYLOR: Yes. Because, especially in the last several weeks of thesession, they always, you know, put off a lot of the major and controversial bills till the end of the session, and a lot of the other bills, too, and it gets to be just a flood of legislation going through that you can't possibly know all of the content of all of those bills. And so, you just have to make snap judgments on what's important and trying hit the highlights of that and kind of let the other go. And 164:00it gets to be awfully frustrating and tiring and just exhausting to try to keep up with flood of legislation, especially towards the end of the session, that's, you know, one of my main memories of covering the legislature is how exhausted you get towards the end.
SUCHANEK: Did covering the legislature teach you anything about life orhuman nature?
TAYLOR: (laughs) Oh, you know, it's kind of a cross-section of Kentucky.And you've got all sorts of people and it's fascinating. It's kind of a theatre, a political theater, you know. And legislators are mostly great performers anyway, and it's fascinating to watch the flow 165:00of legislation, and how influence is applied, and how, you know, what influence is successful and what isn't. And, of course, there are a lot of interesting personalities involved. I mean there are great stories to, personal profiles to write about legislators who happen to be in the news or in the forefront of an issue, or something like that. So, it's a very interesting exercise, and, yeah, it teaches you a lot about people and what they're motivated by and what makes them tick. 166:00
SUCHANEK: Do you feel positive about government?
TAYLOR: Yes, I'm basically an optimist. I don't know if it wasChurchill or somebody said, "We've got the worst kind of government there is except for all those other kinds." And, you know, I don't know of any better way by which we can regulate our society and try accomplish things like education or health and welfare that need to be done by government that's, you know, it's very frustrating at times, too. (laughs) In that, you'll write story after story about something that seems to cry out for change or improvement and nothing is done. So that can be kind of discouraging sometimes, but usually, if you 167:00wait long enough, something will be done. And you kind of have to get used to that, I think, especially in the legislature. A good idea will come along, and often times it will take one or two or three sessions of hashing it out before that bill will get passed and be on the books. But you kind of have to be patient. But, you know, I think, the people, if you give them enough information over a long enough period of time, the people will usually make the right decision about an issue or a candidate. So basically, I have a confidence in the good sense 168:00of the electorate. Of course, there are a lot of exceptions to that. (both laugh) But, yes, basically I'm an optimist in our government and think that we ought to be well informed about it and support it when it's on the right track.
SUCHANEK: The last question I have is, as a reporter, what does it feellike to open up the newspaper and see your own byline?
TAYLOR: (laughs) Well, especially when you're a beginner, it's exciting.It gives you a good feeling, I guess; as the years go by, it doesn't have as much impact on you, as it maybe did at first, but. It gives 169:00you the feeling that that you have some, at least some impact on the course of events. And it's, I suppose, an ego building thing or self- esteem. It helps your self-esteem.
SUCHANEK: Well, certainly your work is out there for everyone to see,unlike most of us whose work no one ever sees.
TAYLOR: Yeah. You know, that, although a good reporter tries to not170:00get into the arena other than to observe, but inevitably, if you write about controversial topics, inevitably somebody's, some object of your, or subject of your story is gonna try make you part of the story, too, and you have to try and resist that, I think, as much as possible, if you're strictly a reporter, as opposed to being a columnist or an editorial writer. Of course, then you are in the thick of it. Yeah, it makes you feel like you're part of the process.
SUCHANEK: Well, I think I speak for many Kentuckians in saying that Imiss seeing Livingston Taylor's byline in the Courier-Journal. 171:00
TAYLOR: Well, bless you heart. You're very kind to say that.
SUCHANEK: And we're done. That's great. Thank you very much.
TAYLOR: Thank you.
[Tape 2, side 2 ends.]
[End of interview.]