0:00

MOYEN:The following is an unrehearsed interview with Herbie Deskins, who served in the Kentucky House of Representatives. The interview was conducted by Eric Moyen for the University of Kentucky's Oral History Program and the Kentucky Legislature Oral History Project. The interview took place in Pikeville, Kentucky, on September 9, 2003.

[Pause in recording.]

MOYEN: All right, I am here today with Herbert Deskins Jr., or Herbie Deskins, or Bill--

DESKINS: --Bill is what--

MOYEN: --is that correct?

DESKINS: --is what my--

MOYEN: --friends and family--

DESKINS: --family, uh--

MOYEN: --call you?

DESKINS: --calls me, I grew up, uh, in a little place called West Van Lear and, uh, my favorite team was the Dodgers. When I got in little league, I started playing third base and at that time there was the third baseman named Billy Cox, and I told everybody just call me Billy. And that's what they did.

MOYEN: Okay. (laughs)

DESKINS: Up until I got into, uh, actually law school.

1:00

MOYEN: Okay.

DESKINS: And so, now my wife calls me Bill, my brother and sister call me Bill, my family calls me Bill and, and, uh, my employees call me Herbie.

MOYEN: All right. Okay and Mr. Deskins served the Ninety-Fourth District for over twenty years.

DESKINS: Twenty-three years. Ten, two-year terms and one three-year term.

MOYEN: Okay. And you also chair, were chair of the natural resources and environment committee--

DESKINS: --for nearly two decades--

MOYEN: --in the House? And that was the longest continuous service, wasn't it?

DESKINS: I think it was. Jim Bruce probably has more service on banking and insurance than, than I did, but he, his chairmanship was interrupted, he, uh, uh, didn't vote right on tax one time and they took his--

MOYEN: --bumped him--

DESKINS: --chairmanship away for a couple a years.

MOYEN: Um-hm. Uh, why don't we start by just having you tell me a, a, just a little bit about your, your background, your family background, 2:00even, um, where you're from?

DESKINS: I've got to tell that you, we found those, uh, from '86 up in there, so if you might want, I don't know, you, do, do you write anything or is, is always on tape?

MOYEN: It's all on tape.

DESKINS: Okay. Well, I was born in, uh, Virginia, during the war, uh, Second World War, November 26, 1943. My father was a coal miner and had been, uh, drafted and had taken his, uh, physical, and was declared, uh, 1A, or whatever it was. And he and my mom decided they would go over to, uh, Grundy, Virginia, or, I mean, over to Radford, Virginia, and spend some time with, uh, relatives there before he was drafted into the, uh, before he had to leave.

3:00

MOYEN: Right.

DESKINS: And, uh, he got over to Radford and, uh, the relative, he's an uncle of mine, got him a job at the, uh, Hercules Powder Company and, uh, it was a year before they finally called him and so I was conceived and, and, uh, born in Radford, Virg--Pulaski County, Virginia.

MOYEN: Okay.

DESKINS: I was in, when Dad and Mom moved back to, to Kentucky for him to, to be inducted to the service. Uh, on his way to Ashland, uh, they stopped the train and asked if there was any coal miners on the train. And he said yes, he was a former coal miner. And they took him off the train at Ashland and brought him back to Wayland, uh, Kentucky to work in coal mines rather than being a soldier.

MOYEN: Huh!

DESKINS: And so, my mom and dad did settle in West Van Lear, Kentucky, 4:00in Johnson County.

MOYEN: Um-hm.

DESKINS: I went to school at West Van Lear, grade school, and then to Paintsville High School. And then the University of Kentucky undergraduate and law school. And spent six years in the, uh, Army Reserve of 100th Division in Lexington. And that's about my education.

MOYEN: Let me ask you this about your education, were there any im-, teachers in particular that you can think of, or situations that really influenced--

DESKINS: --oh yeah, I, my advisor was the, was, was named Professor Barrows, Joe Barrows's dad. Joe Barrows was in, in the leadership in the House.

MOYEN: Um-hm.

DESKINS: And, uh, he took a, he took a real active role as my advisor. 5:00Many students said they went to their advisor one time they tell them go on, but, um, Professor, uh, Barrows would, uh, I could go in and talk with him. I told him I wanted to be a lawyer.

MOYEN: Um-hm.

DESKINS: And he said, "Well, uh, the best way to do it, is just to take ninety hours of arts and sciences; they have a program up." He showed me the program. I didn't know anything about the program.

MOYEN: Um-hm.

DESKINS: He said, "Take ninety hours of arts and sciences, uh, maintain a 2.5 and, uh, then, if you want a major, or what have you in law school, then, then let your last years of law--first year law school be your last year." Of course, I didn't opt to do that. I just opted for the ninety hours and majored in English and, uh, uh, history and political science; three areas of concentration, we'll say.

6:00

MOYEN: Um-hm.

DESKINS: I don't think I ever, I had more political science than, than, than English or history but, uh, I got into law school on ninety hours of arts and sciences.

MOYEN: Okay.

DESKINS: They don't have that program anymore.

MOYEN: Did, did you know all along that you wanted to go to law school?

DESKINS: Yes, I knew--

MOYEN: --okay--

DESKINS: --from when I was, uh, my first endeavor in politics was, uh, running for, it, running for, uh, uh, president of my eighth-grade class.

MOYEN: Okay.

DESKINS: And I, I won that, and then I went to Paintsville High School and I was an outsider. We were from West Van Lear--

MOYEN: --um-hm--

DESKINS: --and this was the city school in Paintsville. Uh, fortunately we had a principal at West Van Lear who was one of the top educators in, in Kentucky. His name was Virgil Porter. And when Virgil Porter 7:00came to West Van Lear, uh, he brought with him an agenda that every student would, would learn to read and write and, and be well educated --------- left(??) to school but he was the principal. And, uh, recruited some really good teachers.

MOYEN: Um-hm.

DESKINS: And when I, I didn't realize that I had such a good background, uh, to go to Paintsville High School, because it was one of the top schools in the, uh, Southern Association of High Schools.

MOYEN: Um-hm.

DESKINS: Uh, but my mother insisted that, uh, that I get the best education that I could if I wanted to fulfill my dreams of being a lawyer. So I went there. The first year I had a, I didn't know anybody. Uh, so I didn't run for student congress. Let one of those city boys win. The next year that wasn't enough, I ran, uh, for 8:00student congress, uh, sophomore. And I think the way it was then, freshman class got one, sophomore class got two, junior class got three and maybe(??) the senior class got four. You had to be either a junior or a senior to be, uh, president. Uh, well, I, I won the sophomore race; I won the junior race, and then won for president when I was a senior. So I started out, uh, pretty political. My dad was a Democrat in Johnson County, which is predominantly Republican. Strong union man, helped organize the, the United Mine Workers. So, uh, I started in Paintsville not only as a disadvantage from being from West Van Lear an outsider, but also being a Democrat. Johnson County then about 9:00five- or six to one. But my dad ran for county court clerk twice. And I went with him, campaigning, that's when the primaries were in August, uh, and, uh, the mines was slack running in those years that he was, that, that he ran. And I would go with him campaigning, and, and loved every minute of it. So, it just was in my, I don't know that you can get politics in your genes, but you certainly can be around it enough--

MOYEN: --um-hm--

DESKINS: --that, that you get hooked on it. And, uh, then 1960, uh, I was president of a club that we started there at the insistence of, uh, a Young Democrat Club. That's when Kennedy, that's when, in, uh, Kennedy defeated Nixon. Never in the history of Paintsville High 10:00School had a Democrat ever carried an election. But, uh, there was, there were three or four of us that were among the top athletes there in Paintsville High School and we were all Democrats. Our dads were all miners, practically. Uh, three of, three or the four were miners. And, uh, we sort of formed a club and, and sort of muscled our way into, uh, uh, that race and actually carried Paintsville High School for, for Kennedy, which, uh, absolutely was a no-no for all the hard- headed Republicans.

MOYEN: Um-hm.

DESKINS: But -------------(??) we, that's how I learned how to campaign, you know, you got--

MOYEN: --okay--

DESKINS: --you got to promise some stuff--

MOYEN: --um-hm--

DESKINS: --but you got to fulfill the--

MOYEN: --um-hm--

DESKINS: -- ----------(??). We, we had some, some, uh, some of the 11:00younger, uh, freshmen girls and, you know--

MOYEN: --um-hm--

DESKINS: --the, we, we, uh, we did enough promising that we won the election.

MOYEN: Um-hm. (laughs)

DESKINS: So, that's how I got really involved in--

MOYEN: --and you enjoyed it all, it sounds like, you--

DESKINS: --oh I did.

MOYEN: --you really--

DESKINS: --yeah--

MOYEN: --okay.

DESKINS: The I got to, uh, to UK, another eastern, being from eastern Kentucky is like being from West Van Lear going to Paintsville. (Moyen laughs) And, uh, I was, I sat down the first day in fine arts building, which was just finished.

MOYEN: Um-hm.

DESKINS: It smelled new or it might've been there a year or so, but it was a brand new building, and they had herded us in this big auditorium there. Is probably still, probably small now.

MOYEN: Um-hm.

DESKINS: But we all sat down, we were freshmen English, it was the freshman English--

MOYEN: --um-hm--

DESKINS: --and there was a, I never will forget it, Dr. Black came up. And he said, "Look around you." He said, "The person to your right 12:00or the left will not be here next year." He said, "One of you, one of three of you will fail and drop out from this university. We have a 33 percent dropout rate from freshman to soph-, sophomore."

MOYEN: Um-hm.

DESKINS: They couldn't kick you out the first semester, then.

MOYEN: Um-hm.

DESKINS: It's a state law and they have to keep you a year, I think. Well, that scared me sufficiently enough that I, I, that I studied really hard and then had this good advisor.

MOYEN: Um-hm.

DESKINS: Uh, Dr., Dr. Barrows. And, uh, lo and behold, uh, outside of one, uh, C, I made As and Bs. And I had, and, a B in English and a B in a, in a four-hour psychology course, and you got six, seven hours of Bs, and I had a C and then I had, uh, ROTC. Got an A in that and I 13:00was, I thought I was the smartest person in the world when I came back.

MOYEN: Um-hm. (laughs)

DESKINS: You know, and, and a lot of the people that were from Paintsville did not do as well as I did--

MOYEN: --um-hm--

DESKINS: --and I hadn't been as high in the class as--

MOYEN: --right--

DESKINS: --as they had been. So I found out early on that, uh, you had to learn how to study.

MOYEN: Um-hm.

DESKINS: Because, because a lot of my, a lot of the people that went--we had about twenty people out of our senior class that went to UK, and a lot of them didn't get as scared of Dr. Black as I did.

MOYEN: Um-hm, right.

DESKINS: And, and we, we lost a couple of, of Paintsvillians, but, uh, that was, that was certainly a, a, uh, the nineteen, uh, sixty-one graduating class of Paintsville is probably one of the most successful classes that, that's ever been to that school.

MOYEN: All right, tell me a little bit about your time in the army reserve, did you say?

14:00

DESKINS: Yeah.

MOYEN: Okay

DESKINS: Well, I--

MOYEN: --because that would have been in the sixties.

DESKINS: Okay.

MOYEN: Go ahead.

DESKINS: That, there is a story behind that, and I guess you want me to tell every, everything I, I'm not trying to embellish anything.

MOYEN: No, No!

DESKINS: Okay.

MOYEN: You're doing great

DESKINS: Well, uh, my brother--I had started to work at, uh, at Dixie Cup. He was one of the first five or six people hired at Dixie Cup. And after my first year in college, making those good grades, I decided that I was going to, uh, get me a job, not just a summer job, I could come back to Paintsville and be a life guard. I had been a life guard for five or six summers and then worked one year for the, for the state, uh, in forestry division. But I, I could come back and be the head life guard and of course all those pretty girls and everything, that's a, that was a, a sort of choice not to, but my brother got me a 15:00job at Dixie Cup, uh, for the summer.

MOYEN: Um-hm.

DESKINS: And, uh, I worked at shipping and receiving. And I liked so well that I kept it for four years. I only quit there the first, uh, around the second semester of exams in my, uh, law sch-, first year law school.

MOYEN: Okay.

DESKINS: Uh, I worked there, well, three years, I guess. The second shift, I actually made more money in my last year, uh, working at Dixie Cup than I did my first year practicing law. (Moyen laughs) You asked me about my Army, okay. I'm working at Dixie Cup, and Kennedy gets assassinated. I went into a depression. I was, I was just depressed 16:00and, uh, I had ROTC, Air Force ROTC. And I made, uh, made really(??) good grades in ROTC. So I decided I would go into the, into the military. I volunteered to be a naval air cadet. And they took me over to Memphis, Tennessee, to a big air station there. I passed all the tests and everything but I didn't have 20/20 vision. I let(??) a fire cracker go off when I was a sophomore in high school and turned around and looked at the fire cracker and it went off and hit me in the eye and I have a slight stigmatism and they wouldn't take you back then unless you had 20/20 vision. But that sort of a, I sort of got packed off. They, they had led me on that I was, and they wanted me to be a 17:00bombardier navigator, and I didn't know a damn thing about bombardiers or navigators, but I knew I could fly a plane. So I said, "No, I'll just go back to, uh, to UK." But I, I like the military. And, uh, so I volunteered in the, uh, for the 100th Division there in Lexington.

MOYEN: Um-hm.

DESKINS: I had worked ----------(??) that. I had, I got a job at, at the highway department in my second year in, in law school as a legal aid, by virtue of being a pretty good Democrat. And, uh, it was a political job. You could have political jobs back then. It wasn't, wasn't bad to have a political job.

MOYEN: Um-hm.

DESKINS: And, uh, I met, uh, a major out there, uh, who was in the reserve and he said, "Why don't you, uh," uh, I had planned on going on through ROTC, and I liked it really well.

MOYEN: Um-hm.

DESKINS: And maybe then go into JAG Corps or something like that after 18:00I got out of law school. He said, "Why don't you just join the reserve now?" Said, "You're gonna to make some money. You could pay for a car." That's how he sold, sold me.

MOYEN: Um-hm.

DESKINS: He said, "Your monthly payments will pay for a car. And as you get rank, uh, by the time you get out of law school you'll probably will be an E5 or E6 and, and you'll be making money, and then, then, then you can al-, always go into the the military, and you will have these years added on to it."

MOYEN: Um-hm.

DESKINS: So I joined the 100th Division and, uh, stayed in the 100th Division through law school. Uh, and transferred back to, when I came back to Pikeville, uh, uh, transferred here to this unit and stayed--

MOYEN: --okay--

DESKINS: --for the rest of the time. And that's another story too. Uh, my job at the highway department was political. I was, had, had run for president of the University of Kentucky on the Democrats and won.

19:00

MOYEN: Um-hm.

DESKINS: And, uh--

MOYEN: --was this in, in undergrad, or, or law? Do you?

DESKINS: Yeah, it was undergrad school.

MOYEN: Okay.

DESKINS: And then my, and that was my last year, I think, in undergraduate school, I, I ran and won. And then I got into law school. And again and that's sort of like we, going from West Van Lear to Paintsville, and then going from , uh, uh, you know, from Paintsville to UK, there I was in law school, uh, with about a hundred and some other people, Most of them, 95 percent of them had a lot more money than I did. And to tell you the truth, when I signed up for my classes in law school, they said, "You got to take torts," and I didn't know what in the hell a tort was. I really didn't. I looked at, at another student, I said, "What is a tort?" (Moyen laughs) He 20:00said, "I don't know." So we finally--(both laugh)--found out that was what a tort was. Uh, but, uh, then, then in, uh, law school, I ran for second-year representative and won. Beat a fellow out of Bourbon County, County, name of Hubbard who was one of the richest boys in the second-year class. Scotty Baesler was the president. He and I did not see eye-to-eye. (Moyen laughs) Scotty didn't like us country boys ---- -------(??). So, but we've since got to be good friends in the Democrat Party and everything.

MOYEN: Um-hm.

DESKINS: But he didn't, he didn't think much of, of, uh, people from out of Lexington or, or out of the triangle, you know.

MOYEN: Um-hm.

DESKINS: They all had their, their friends and. But I worked with his brother at the highway department. And, but, uh, for years we just didn't like one another. And, but we've made up since.

21:00

MOYEN: Um-hm.

DESKINS: And, and I've campaigned for him for senator and Governor and things, but, uh, and I learned there on that, I have been used to being the head honcho, you know, president of this--

MOYEN: --um-hm--

DESKINS: --president of that, and all of this. I learned in that second year law school but you can get voted down about ten to one and on everything you do, because those guys there, they figure they are just as smart as you are. And, uh, I had some rather liberal ideas and didn't go over well with, with the conservatives very(??) well. But, uh, I was an instructor in the, uh, in the 100th Division, as soon as they found out I was a lawyer. Uh, going to law school, they gave me lesson plans that you had to do when I was an instructor all the way through(??) and actually, during my whole, uh, career in the, 22:00uh, in the, in the army I was mainly, even though I was a, a legal, I was a legal--I forget how they classify you--while I was called, I was actually an instructor all the time. And, uh, when we'd go to summer camp I would, I would be our instructor--

MOYEN: --um-hm--

DESKINS: --from our unit to, you put up two or three people. So I, actually I taught, I taught school in the army more than I did anything, but in doing that you don't teach just one thing; you teach tactics and, uh, different, just different--

MOYEN: --um-hm--

DESKINS: --things in, that's in the, uh, in the military. Esprit de corps and all that stuff. But while I was there and the Young Democrats and in law school, I, I befriended a fellow, name of Steve 23:00Banahan. You're from Lexington?

MOYEN: Um-hm.

DESKINS: Banahan Insurance Agency?

MOYEN: Okay.

DESKINS: You've heard of that?

MOYEN: Um-hm.

DESKINS: This is the old fellow--

MOYEN: --sounds familiar--

DESKINS: --Steve Banahan, big Democrat.

MOYEN: Okay.

DESKINS: And, uh, so my duties was, as we wait, was on Saturday, if Mr. Banahan wanted to go to the race track and needed a driver, old Herbie drove him to the race track. And, and that old gentleman, I liked him and he like me. And, uh, so I am a senior in law school and working at the highway department, taking Mr. Banahan around. And he's, we go to these political things that, burgoo dinners they used to have at, uh, in Lex-, in Fayette County. And, uh, and in fact his, his, uh, his son was PVA at one time, and got in trouble, and had to resign. And I think got a little, maybe got some free food from the government for a while. (Moyen laughs) Uh, but, uh, I'm talking with him one day and 24:00he said, uh, "Deskins,"--that's what he called me--he said, "Deskins, what do you want to do when you get out of law school? Are you gonna go work for these bigwig lawyers down here?" I said, "No, Mr. Banahan, I don't want to do that. I, I came to law school to go back to eastern Kentucky to, to help coal miners out there. I want to do that." And I told him my dad's, uh, background. He said, "Well, I hate to lose you." Said, "You've been a good Democrat." I said, "I hate to, I hate to leave too, but, you know, there's, there are, uh, opportunities in eastern Kentucky I think that I want." He said, "Well, let me check around and see what we might have available for you." And so, I got a call from him one day. And he said, "Why don't you come in? I've got something you might be interested in." And Henry Ward was running for Governor. He said, "I've talked to Henry. And Henry would like you to 25:00be his contact man up in eastern Kentucky." And I said that flattered me pretty well.

MOYEN: Right, sure.

DESKINS: I said, "Yeah, I, that's sound good." He said, "Well, and so we're gonna to let you be the, in the, uh, attorney there at the highway department. And we're going to count all this time that you've been and, and up you to a grade," that I was going to be making about fifteen thousand dollars a year. And that was in 1967.

MOYEN: Um-hm.

DESKINS: And that was, that was dang good. That was, that was successfully good.

MOYEN: Um-hm.

DESKINS: Plus you get a month's vacation and you take off all this stuff, you know, what he was telling me--

MOYEN: --right--

DESKINS: --all I can do. And what I was gonna do was to be working out of the highway department down here, making sure that Henry Ward, who was running for Governor against Louis Nunn, that his, uh, uh, hind end was covered on anything, and also that, that our friend was 26:00gonna be, uh, elected and good Democrats. And I said, "Oh, I thought, that's, that's fine." I went back and told my wife and said, "I, I got the biggest pie job in the world; I get to be a Democrat and doing it. Lord have mercy, this is something else I." (Moyen laughs) Well, Ward won the primary.

MOYEN: Um-hm.

DESKINS: Worked really hard for him, and I drove him around. I remember once, one of the places I drove him to was the opening of the -------- --(??) Rig Company up in Winchester. And, uh, people didn't like Henry Ward. He was a gruff man. A little, they call him a little tyrant. Uh, smoked big whole long cigars--(Moyen laughs)--and looked like a bull dog. Do you remember Henry Ward?

MOYEN: Um-hm.

DESKINS: Okay.

MOYEN: Sure.

DESKINS: I mean, he, and he's had a big gruff voice, you know, but I got to, uh, uh, drive him around, the same Banahan treatment--

27:00

MOYEN: --right--

DESKINS: --the ----------(??) Rig and to places, and if somebody had to go speak, uh, for Henry Ward and he couldn't go, I've been places and, and spoke on behalf of Mr. Ward, you know.

MOYEN: Um-hm.

DESKINS: So, Kiwanis Clubs and places like that.

MOYEN: Right.

DESKINS: So I was getting a, a pretty good, uh, political education too. And, uh, lo and behold I joined the 100th Division. And, uh, I had to take the, uh, the bar exam in July. Why I had thought that I probably not have to go into the army to take my basic training--they deferred it for a year.

MOYEN: Um-hm.

DESKINS: And then I got another deferment--not a deferment but so, but the, the Vietnam War got real hot. And I'd get my call for about--and 28:00this is like in, in June to report to Fort Jackson, South Carolina, immediately. And I'm studying for the bar exam, uh, with Chris Gorham and Pat Mulloy. I don't know if you know, uh?

MOYEN: Sound fami-, sounds familiar.

DESKINS: Chris Gorham was the attorney general and Pat Mulloy was United States district attorney now out of Lexington(??).

MOYEN: Okay.

DESKINS: The Mulloy family, Mount Brilliant and -------------(??) out there.

MOYEN: Um-hm.

DESKINS: We're studying for the bar exam and I get my call to go to Fort Jackson immediately. Well I, I, I pulled enough strings, so I got my deferred from going to Fort Jackson immediately until the day after I took the bar exam. So I had to go tell Mr. Banahan and all of them, you know, "I, I've got to go to the Army; there's no, there's no way. I, I don't want out of this," you know.

29:00

MOYEN: Right.

DESKINS: I don't want to be, I want to go!

MOYEN: Um-hm.

DESKINS: But I don't want to go now, but I still want--well, I, I went. I took the bar exam in, in Louisville. Uh, came back to Lexington, uh, spent one night with my wife there at the, my brother, uh, my sister's house, lived in Lexington. And went on to Fort Jackson. Checked in there in July the eighth or ninth or tenth. It was right after the fourth(??). Hot as it could be. Studied for the bar exam, all we did was eat and drink beer. That's what, you know--

MOYEN: --um-hm--

DESKINS: -- -----------(??) studied, so I weighed about two hundred, oh, two-fifteen, and I, my average weight was about a hundred and seventy. (Moyen laughs) Talk about a miserable puppy for about ---------(??). (Moyen laughs) But at, at any rate, I, I took to military training. I said, "I'm here, may as well do the best I possibly can do, and, uh, waiting for the bar exam." And I did, and, uh, uh, Kathy was, was back 30:00here. She came back to Pikeville and got--that's my wife.

MOYEN: Um-hm.

DESKINS: She came back and got a, uh, a job with the bank and rented an apartment right down here on the corner. That's where my son was conceived, right down on that corner. But she lost her job! She got a job--no, she got a job with a CPA, and about the third or fourth week, he got indicted, um, for some kind of federal conspiracy, and she lost her job. We'd already rented this place here. And, and places to rent in Pikeville then were scarce as they possibly could be, and we had to pull some, we had to have everybody looking for it, a place, uh--

MOYEN: --um-hm--

DESKINS: --a nice apartment in town.

MOYEN: Right.

DESKINS: So we just sat, paid, we decided just go ahead and pay rent. She came to South Carolina, got a job at the University of South Carolina as a stenographer on, on some professors that were writing 31:00some book. She'd, she would go in, they would dictate and she would transcribe their notes, and they'd correct it--

MOYEN: --okay--

DESKINS: -- -----------(??) into a manuscripts. Made pretty good money, but, uh, so she is down there. And, uh, I'm keeping up with the, uh, campaign, and Ward and Nunn--

MOYEN: --a little harder to do in South Carolina.

DESKINS: Oh yeah, I had to letters and my mom was writing me back and forth and, and, uh, every now and then I would, I would be the CQ of, in, at, that the, uh, at the back of the company. And, uh, you had to limit your telephone conversations back then.

MOYEN: Um-hm.

DESKINS: But when you were CQ, that's when you had duty all night long. Uh, when I was there, then I could call and reverse the charges and talk to people. And it wasn't free.

32:00

MOYEN: --right--

DESKINS: --but it was -----------(??)--

MOYEN: --right--

DESKINS: --I could do that, but at any rate, uh, I still had my job back here. There was a lady that was the, the, uh, uh, employment person. Her name was Miller, Cathy Lou(??) Miller or something, I'd check with her and so say, "Oh yes! Your job sticks. You're, you're, DON'T CALL ME ANY MORE!" You know.

MOYEN: Um-hm.

DESKINS: You, you're in. (Moyen laughs) So I said, "Okay, I just want to make sure. I don't want to be coming back to Pikeville and not have a job."

MOYEN: Right.

DESKINS: Well, the night of the election of November, Nunn against Ward, and I knew it had, it had tightened up. I didn't know how much. But, uh, Kathy and I got in the car and drove back to the, to the, to a place where we could get some returns, uh, in, in the election. And the first returns that we, that we got, eastern Kentucky had already 33:00reported, but I, I didn't get to hear it. The first returns that we got was from the First District and, uh, Nunn was running just about ten thousand votes behind in the First District. Well, if Ward doesn't carry the first district by twenty-five or thirty thousand votes, he's, he's, he's gone. And sure enough, uh, Ward, uh, uh, Nunn beat Ward.

MOYEN: Um-hm.

DESKINS: Barely, but Ward--

MOYEN: --right--

DESKINS: --did better in eastern Kentucky and those places that I thought that he would, but, but Nunn still, still nudged him out. And, uh, I kept waiting, I called back to, uh, uh, personnel there. And they said, "No," says, "You still have your job." Says, "You've been, you've been hired; you've got your job." The day we's graduating from, from, uh, school--I mean, from the Army, I'd had basic training and advanced infantry training. We're going down the field and a beautiful 34:00day in South Carolina. Just beautiful morning.

MOYEN: Um-hm.

DESKINS: Uh, and I was down to hundred and seventy pounds again, and just doing(??) great, you know. And looking(??) I was disappointed with the election but I was looking forward to coming back, so. We're marching down and, to all these Souza marches, and just feeling so great. And my wife sitting over, you know, watching all this parade stuff.

MOYEN: Um-hm.

DESKINS: And we're practicing actually.

MOYEN: Um-hm.

DESKINS: And then all of the sudden, uh, over the loud speaker, said, "Private Deskins, report to headquarters company immediately." Well, when something like that happens, you know something bad has happened. And I didn't realize this was December the eighth or ninth. This was the day that, that, uh, Nunn was being sworn in as, uh, Governor. Why, I, I go to headquarters company. It's just about three or four 35:00blocks from the parade field, and I went over and reported in. And, uh, I get this telegram. And the, uh, telegram says, "Your appointment with the Kentucky Highway Department is hereby terminated, terminated, terminated." One of the first things that had happened when, uh, uh, Nunn took office was he got rid of all these, all the Democrats, and I was, I was one.

MOYEN: Um-hm.

DESKINS: So I lost my job because I was a Democrat but, uh, and left me with nobo-, no, I hadn't interviewed with anybody(??).

MOYEN: Um-hm.

DESKINS: Hadn't, nobody--

MOYEN: --right--

DESKINS: --no one, nothing, nothing. So, uh, but we came back to Pikeville. And, uh, took a job with Dan Jack Combs, former Supreme Court--

MOYEN: --um-hm--

DESKINS: --Justice. And one of the first cases, I, I, I had interviewed 36:00with him about two years beforehand.

MOYEN: Okay.

DESKINS: And then I, then once I got the job with the highway department, I just didn't interview with anybody. I thought it was a waste of time, but, uh, when I got fired, uh, it was no longer a waste of time. My wife didn't have a job coming(??) back here. And I didn't have a job coming back here.

MOYEN: Um-hm.

DESKINS: Here we're paying rent on an apartment that we hadn't lived in. (Moyen laughs) So, I, I thought what in the, you know, this, this may be a bad deal. I'd even thought about going down and, at, at the, the recruitment center and said, "Hey, you know, give me that commission and four years and I'm gone."

MOYEN: Right, right.

DESKINS: I didn't though, so we--

MOYEN: --but you, but you knew you still wanted to come back here to Pikeville.

DESKINS: Oh yeah, yeah.

MOYEN: Okay.

DESKINS: I came back though, to, uh, -----------(??), and, uh, so I called Dan Jack and he said, "Yeah, I'll take you home." And so I 37:00came back. And, uh, he hired me for the, uh, started in on December- -my wife's birthday--December 19, 1997, my first day back here in Pikeville, was when he hired me -----------(??). We drove back to Pikeville on the day the Silver Bridge fell going across the river at Ashland. I remember that. I don't know whether that was the nineteenth or the seventeenth, or what.

MOYEN: --um-hm--

DESKINS: But that was--

MOYEN: --was when you drove back--

DESKINS: --we were, we were just coming into Virginia when the newsflash came that the bridge had failed and all those people were, were drowned. But anyway, I got back here. And, uh, Dan Jack was embroiled in one of the most controversial cases that was ever in Kentucky; that 38:00was the McSurely, uh, Sedition Case. Did you ever heard of that?

MOYEN: No, I haven't.

DESKINS: We had a commonwealth attorney here in Pike County. His name was Thomas Ratliff, who wanted to indict every Democrat that ever drew a breath. And would probably have dug Franklin D. Roosevelt up and, and, and, uh, given him a few more, given him a few years in prison if he could put -----------(??) his will. Uh, well, these Vista workers came in Pike County, and, uh, there, there was Allen and Ann McSurely from Washington. And they started schools throughout the county. It was started teaching people how to cook, and, and how to vote.

MOYEN: Um-hm.

DESKINS: And unfortunately they were good liberal Democrats from up in Washington DC and they were was teaching them how to register 39:00Democratic, and that, that got to Thomas. So, uh, Thomas goes to the grand jury--at that time the grand jury was handpicked by a certain judge--uh, and , uh, he worked in co--, they worked together and they, uh, succeeded in, uh, uh, getting a indictment issued against, uh, the McSurelys for sedition against the state of Kentucky. Now, Bert Combs had been on the court of appeal, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals that had just heard that case, not that case but another case about sedition, and the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals had adopted the, this the other circuit's, uh, interpretation that you cannot commit sedition against a state. That sedition can only be committed--

MOYEN: --okay--

DESKINS: --against the United States--

40:00

MOYEN: --um-hm--

DESKINS: --against the most powerful government. You can't, you can't be seditious against the city of Pikeville and the state of Kentucky and that, you--

MOYEN: --um-hm--

DESKINS: --to have sedition, you have to be, it has to be against the, the government. But that didn't stop Thomas from using that statute and indicting them. The sheriff broke in their house and confiscated their library. And, uh, and they had such books as, uh, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich and historical books about communism and stuff like that.

MOYEN: Marx or something.

DESKINS: And, and Ann McSurely was having an affair with a fellow named Drew Pearson who was a columnist up in Washington DC. Well, her husband didn't know anything about it. But they had written love letters and the sheriff confiscated the love letters. Well, Dan Jack 41:00Combs, who I'm working for, asked for all of the personal stuff back and Thomas wouldn't give them back. So he files a motion, going, driving to, to, to the Sixth Circuit up in Cincinnati, he's driving this, this thing up there to file to give an order, getting Ann McSurely's private papers and ------------(??).

MOYEN: Um-hm.

DESKINS: In the meantime, Thomas hears about Dan Jack's trip to, to, to Cincinnati. He goes to the sheriff's office, loads all that stuff up in the back of his truck, and takes it up and turns it over to the McClellan Committee who was in, in, that was investigating communism. And once it turned over to the McClellan Committee, it becomes the 42:00property of Congress. The federal court can't take the, the property of Congress, so that stood there. Finally a lawsuit was filed, settled for over a million dollars the, Ann McSurely and ------------(??), uh, a big verdict up in Washington over that, but that's, that was, that was the--

MOYEN: --okay--

DESKINS: --first case I came back to, in. And then, uh, Dan Jack was a feisty little fellow, and he had gone in federal court with a tape recorder, which was, which you wasn't supposed to do. This is the second, this, whose cases we're on(??). Well he, uh, he did it because it, it was, uh, it was in this, uh, uh, it was in this case.

MOYEN: Um-hm.

DESKINS: And he wanted the daily transcript, and he asked the judge for the daily transcript, and then judge mowed him down, said, "Mr. Combs, 43:00you're, you're in the eastern district of Kentucky; we, we don't have daily transcripts," you know. Well, that, that didn't go over well with Dan Jack, so he went out and bought this very expensive tape recorder back then. And it was pretty big, but it was, was a portable back then.

MOYEN: Um-hm.

DESKINS: And took it into court, put it behind a book. It was sitting there. And he disguised it and punched it on and he taped the, the procedures, and then of course he was going to take it back to a stenographer at his office--

MOYEN: --right--

DESKINS: --and he got his own daily stuff.

MOYEN: Um-hm.

DESKINS: Well, right in the middle of, of the proceedings, that's being recorded, uh, the judge stops it. "Hold it!" He said, "I see somebody back there, uh, council stand down for a little bit; I've got to take care of this business." Uh, I forget what it was Well, the whole 44:00court goes sort of, everybody is, uh, the rest of the jury go, and, and they're gonna get ready to do this other business, and, uh, we're setting there in court, Dan Jack forgets to turn the tape recorder off, and all of the sudden it goes, CLICK! (Moyen laughs) Judge Moynahan goes, "What was that?" (both laugh) And I'm setting there at the table. I don't want to say nothing, nothing, no, "Mr. Combs, what was that?" He says, "Uh, Judge, that was my tape recorder." "What!" "MY TAPE RECORDER." Well, needless to say he held Dan Jack is in contempt of court, and Dan Jack would not ask the court for forgiveness. So, that went all the way to the Supreme Court. They brought in a constitutional lawyer here, a Kunstler, do you remember? I don't guess you remember.

45:00

MOYEN: No.

DESKINS: At one time he was the big lawyer.

MOYEN: Okay.

DESKINS: Well, Dan Jack had him come in and argue all his cases and everything. So, uh, and he finally, when he was a justice of the Supreme Court that case finally got decided. Years and years later he finally had to ask, and did ask, uh, for forgiveness of the court for that. At that time he was a Supreme Court justice himself.

MOYEN: So, this is your introduction into the law here. (laughs)

DESKINS: Introduction into law, right(??).

MOYEN: Okay.

DESKINS: Well, uh, in January then--how long do we have to do this? Am I going too--

MOYEN: --no--

DESKINS: -- ----------(??) to death?

MOYEN: No, not at all.

DESKINS: Okay, -----------(??)----------- on a, as, because I was a Democrat.

MOYEN: Okay.

DESKINS: Okay. Do you want to go back in on that now, because see, I've 46:00got through Dan Jack, didn't I?

MOYEN: Yes, and we were discussing your introduction into Pikeville and law here.

DESKINS: Okay, well, okay, I was, and, and going back, is it, not, is it on?

MOYEN: Yes, it is.

DESKINS: Uh, I called Mr. Combs from South Carolina, and he gave me a job starting on December nineteenth; that was my wife's birthday.

MOYEN: Um-hm.

DESKINS: Uh, $300 and--is it $350, or $375, I forget what, what it was. But, uh, I was still amazed as to why I got fired. And because the highway commission--

[Pause in recording.]

MOYEN: Okay.

DESKINS: And I had gone to school with, uh, with his daughter Jean, who was a cheerleader and my client, and, and my wife's client, and my wife 47:00had gone to school with Jean and was one of Jean's best friends and he was the commissioner of highway.

MOYEN: And what was his name again?

DESKINS: Bill Hazel--William Hazelrigg

MOYEN: Okay.

DESKINS: He was a, he was a circuit judge in Johnson County, and then went on in the Nunn administration was the, uh, uh, was the commissioner of highways. They might've called it something a little bit different then, but it, but anyway he was the big cheese. His hatchet man was a fellow by the name of Slick Melvin from Paintsville who had been my pony league, all star coach in, at Paintsville. And a big, and, and ran a restaurant up there. And his mom and dad ran a restaurant out there called Slick and June Bugs and I've eaten, and I just wondered what, why would, uh, Mr. Hazelrigg and why would Slick, why would they go ahead, why would they get rid of me? So I finally got, I, I didn't have a chance between the ninth and the nineteenth 48:00coming back to, to have much conversation with my parents. So I go there for Christmas, and I said, "Dad, you know, I got my, I got a job with Dan Jack Combs, and, uh, at $375, and, and I'm gonna to go over to talk with the unions, see if maybe I can't do a little work for the union. But , uh, and Kathy's, uh, got an interview with the bank, and we think that she is going to get on off with the bank, so we're going to do fine, no, no problem, we are not going to have that fifteen thousand dollars cushion"--

MOYEN: --um-hm, right--

DESKINS: --that, that I was gonna get, but we're going to do fine." He said, "Well, I'm glad." He said, uh, "I sure hated to see you lose that job." And we got to talking, and I said, "Why, did you know something about?" He said, "Oh yeah!" He said, uh, he said, "Back after you left and went to the Army," uh, said, "Slick came up here and talked to me and your mommy." And I said, "What about?" He said, "Well, they had this thing, Democrats for Nunn. And said he came up and came in 49:00the, the gate, your mom and I sitting on the porch at West Van Lear." They knew him, they, baseball coach and ate at his mom and dad's restaurant and Slick is a nice personable fellow, you know. He is just a hard-headed Republican. And, uh, came and sat down, "Grace, how are you doing? How's Bill doing?" "He's down Fort Jackson, you know, we give ------------(??) hear from him -------------(??). He's doing fine. Looking forward to getting out of the military come." He said, "Oh, by the way," he said, "Now, we know where he's going to work." He said, "He's going to work down at the highway department, so we know that." He said, "Now Nunn is going to win this race." And he said, "If you and, if, if you will take this bumper sticker and put on your car, 'Democrats for Nunn,'" he said, "we're gonna keep him on." My daddy said, "Do you see the gate that you come in," said, "you hit it right 50:00now, get out of here." So Daddy kicked him out of the, out of the, off the front porch, and, and my daddy didn't tell mean, but--

MOYEN: --right--

DESKINS: --Daddy told him, he said, "You know, we don't do stuff like that. You get, you know, go ahead and leave we don't we won't even to discuss it anymore." But Daddy never told me that, and Mommy didn't tell me that. And there I was, setting, you know, I was still thinking that I'm--(Moyen laughs)--got me this pie job, and, and here I am in the process of getting fired about. And that's how--

MOYEN: --so your dad stood up and it cost you.

DESKINS: Yeah! And I got another story to tell about--

MOYEN: --okay--

DESKINS: --about the other time I got fired. I, I do this when I make a speech(??) every now and then. People that, you know, it's not a sin to get fired. I've been fired twice; once because I was a Democrat, and the other because I was a union man. And to beat it all, it was a union that fired me for being a union man. So, I'll tell that story later on. But, uh, uh, I came back here, uh, in December nineteenth, 51:00and started practicing with, with Dan Jack. And we was going through all these controversial cases, and I'd walk down the street, and people would say, "There's that young communist lawyer." Uh, it was a hot bed. I mean, Thomas had them, had them ready to, uh, a witch hunt. And, of course, I was just stubborn enough by God, whatever they didn't want anyone to trade some dollars, I traded with them, about the First Amendment and the Fourteenth Amendment and all that stuff. (Moyen laughs) And, and, uh, I wasn't very well liked by the local Chamber of Commerce, per say(??), and the local people who were hunting out the communists. But at any rate, uh, I befriended a fellow here name of Claude Reed who was a circuit judge, circuit, uh, clerk. And Claude had just got defeated in the, in right, in that race that Nunn had--

52:00

MOYEN: --okay--

DESKINS: --had won. He had just got defeated for clerk of the court of appeals. He, he was the closest Democrat; they didn't beat him until, they had to, they had to count him of it. It was such a close race in that race. Because all the Republicans won, I think except Drexel Davis. Drex Davis survived that, uh, that Nunn landslide. But I, I befriended him. And, uh, he was big friends with, uh, Katherine Peden. He had met her during the campaign. Katie Peden and she was running for, uh, senator. And nobody, that was unheard of back then for a woman to run for United States senator.

MOYEN: Um-hm.

DESKINS: So, uh, I'm befriending Claude, and Claude, Katherine Peden 53:00called Claude, and I don't know what happened, "Claude, uh, can you find me somebody who might be chairman up there of my campaign?" "Well, who's a young lawyer in town, everybody is talking about him anyway," not everybody, but, you know, so hey, "Yeah!"

MOYEN: Um-hm.

DESKINS: "I think I've got a young fellow that will fit the bill for you." Said, "He used to be president of the Young Democrats at UK, and, uh, why, I'll ask him." So, Claude Reed asked me and he's a circuit clerk. And, and to tell you the truth, then the circuit clerk picked out different lawyers, and he threw these little wanting order attorneys, and, and, uh, uh, ------------(??)---------- items to. That's where you, where you're appointing an attorney to write them a letter and they, you get a fee for it.

MOYEN: Okay, okay.

DESKINS: So, uh, Claude was, was giving me, he gave me several of those, 54:00and I felt, well, yeah, that's not going to hurt me any. Uh, it's pick-up, I think it was seven dollars and a half for a ------------(??0 attorney, maybe fifteen dollars for -------------(??), if you had to, to do that stuff, but I, I took on Katherine Peden's, uh, campaign. And we carried the county. And then nob-, then that was the year that Hubert Humphrey was running for President and George Wallace was running for, for on the third party.

MOYEN: Right.

DESKINS: And everybody in this county seemed likely to support big George Wallace; they wanted to beat that old liberal Hubert Humphrey.

MOYEN: Um-hm.

DESKINS: Uh, then it fell to who is gonna be the cannon fodder for, uh, Hubert Humphrey and they looked and I was the cannon fodder. But little did they know that we was gonna have the biggest Democrat rally that's ever been held in eastern Kentucky right here in Pike County. We had Fish Trap Lake that was gonna be dedicated in 1968. Carl 55:00Perkins was the, was congressman.

MOYEN: Um-hm.

DESKINS: We dedicated that Fish Trap Lake. We, I was going to say, you know, and I always Thomas Ratcliff and all these people were the, were the Republicans, all this courthouse still was Republicans except the county court clerk. And, uh, of course, Fish Trap's gonna be dedicated and, lo and behold, Lyndon B. Johnson came down to, uh, dedicate Fish Trap Lake. Well, all the officials they invited, and they wanted to be up there at Fish Trap. And up there, there was of the Thomas Ratcliff and, and the fiscal court that was six or eight of them Republicans, they were all there, and the jailer, Rover Adkins was a big Republican, they were all there under this big tent and, and Pike County and 56:00everybody that was anybody, and Chamber of Commerce was there and they were all Republicans and all this stuff. And Lyndon Johnson came in, buddy, he gave the, the hardest Democrat speech that you've ever heard in your life. One of those Franklin D. Roosevelt speeches--

MOYEN: --um-hm--

DESKINS: --telling them that, that this, what you see right here was done because of Democrats, not Republicans. And that if, if the, if the per-, if, uh, it'd had been up to people like Richard, and he called him Mule Head Nixon, you know, Richard M. he said, that M stands for Mule Head, uh, if it's up to that, he said, they would, they, they'd, they'd move this dam here; they wouldn't want you to have anything up here. Never have, never will, he said, "It's people like me and Hubert Humphrey and," he said, "I want you to go out and vote for Hubert Humphrey." And, uh, lo and behold, we(??) turned down around, and, and this is one of Humphrey's best county. So that's, that got me into the county attorney's race the next year, in 1969.

57:00

MOYEN: Okay.

DESKINS: Let's stop right there. And --------------(??).

MOYEN: All right.

[Pause in recording.]

MOYEN: All right, so we're picking up and we had just gotten to, I believe, your decision, or, and I am not sure how it transpired, but where you decided to run for county attorney in Pike County.

DESKINS: Well, well that came after, uh, the, uh, election of, the Humphrey, uh, Nixon election, and I, I was the, uh, chairman, uh, for the Democrat ticket that fall, and we turned, turned the election completely around Pike County, as I said, uh, by virtue of Lyndon Johnson coming in to, uh, uh, Pike County to dedicate the Fish Trap Dam. It got the momentum going and so we just turned everything around. And the, uh, uh, of course, Katherine Peden lost that race. Uh, Kentucky, we went solidly Republican that year, but, uh, I had 58:00made friends during that '68 campaign. Uh, we had rallies all through the county and I was, uh, uh, given hell and brimstone speeches on the Republicans, and, and made a lot of good Democratic friends. So I, I decided to run for county attorney against a local, uh, uh, attorney whose family was very rich. Uh, and, uh, I was fortunate enough to, to, to win that primary handily.

MOYEN: And who was it that you ran against?

DESKINS: John Klein III. The Kleins was the biggest coal, independent coal holders, uh, coal interest in, in Pike County at that time. Probably still are as of, as we speak today. Uh, they're, in, in their family they had had a fellow who was, uh, sheriff that had 59:00obtained just enormous amounts of mineral back during the, uh-- [telephone rings]--that, that's yours, that maybe your baby.

MOYEN: No, it's not. Go ahead.

DESKINS: And, uh, uh, of course, he thought a newcomer in the town, I'd been in town for, uh, fourteen months.

MOYEN: Um-hm.

DESKINS: That it was just gonna be a, uh, shoe-in for him and, uh, I handily defeated him because of the '68.

MOYEN: Right.

DESKINS: I mean, the '68 election. And Judge Rutherford or the fellow who ran for county judge, uh, on the Democrat ticket won the primary was a, was a fellow named Wayne Rutherford who, who, who served I think three, three terms as county judge and ran unsuccessfully for 60:00Lieutenant Governor one time. He and I eventually became the, uh, best of friends, uh, when I took over as county attorney I was twenty-six, and I think he was twenty-nine; we were the youngest, uh, uh, county attorney, county judge-executive, uh, in, in Kentucky.

MOYEN: Um-hm.

DESKINS: At that time it was called county judge. Uh, Wayne didn't know anything about politics. And, uh, I had, I knew a little bit a, about politics, fiscal responsibility, and what have you. And he had actually come down to file for county court clerk. Uh, and the day that he came down to file for county court clerk, the county court clerk who said that he wasn't gonna file, decided to file, so Wayne came down with papers to file for county court clerk and ended up filing for judge, judge, but.

MOYEN: Okay.

DESKINS: But we had the momentum from '68 that carried on into '69, and 61:00we, we had some rallies, and we, and by that time, uh, people were, uh, uh, sorry that they had not elected Hubert Humphrey as, uh, as President. And, uh, there was a whole mood to kick the Republicans out, and we soundly kicked them out in '69. Uh, got all of the county offices and, uh, at that time they had eight magistrates, and we, we elected, uh, six out of eight magistrates, so we had the fiscal court. Unfortunately we didn't have any money. Of the prior Republican regime that had been in, did not believe in asking for federal money. They were that old-line conservative, uh, uh, mossback, uh, people that believed that if you couldn't do it yourself, you didn't want the federal government coming in. Uh, they had turned down, uh, invitations 62:00by Congressman Perkins to make applications for water lines and to make applications for new courthouses, uh, like a new courthouse. In fact, Pike County was, was the only county in this whole area that didn't get a new courthouse during the Perkins years, because, mainly because they wouldn't ask for one. And, uh, we, they would not ask for grants to get, uh, uh, water or sewage. They, they're, it was just their, their philosophy that they didn't want the government, the federal government to do anything. But that quickly changed under my philosophy of government and under what, what Wayne learned, uh, my philosophy was. I don't know what his actually was going in, but I knew mine was that, uh, that government exists to help people, and, uh, the richest 5 percent of the people in America need very little help and the other 63:0095 percent, uh, need as much as the government can give them. And so that's what we, we started in on that premise, and, and we, uh, uh, got with Congressman Perkins, uh, and Judge, Judge Rutherford and I would take, uh, about a trip every two months. Sometimes we would go more often, uh, up there. And Congressman Perkins would take us around to these different agencies, and, uh, in that first year, uh, we got more money in grants, uh, than the, than the whole budget was, uh, starting out. So, it, it just sort of mushroomed from that, uh, to, uh, when I left the office in '76 to run for the House Representative--

MOYEN: --right--

DESKINS: --uh, that, that we had, uh, uh, had a budget about twenty times more than what it was when we first came in. And it was as a result of, of federal monies.

64:00

MOYEN: Um-hm.

DESKINS: And we didn't raise any local taxes doing it; we got, we got the federal dollars. But, uh, that county attorney, when I was county attorney, uh, you didn't, I didn't have a slew of assistants. Uh, the county attorney was the county attorney.

MOYEN: Right.

DESKINS: And, I, I think during that six years that I had one part-time assistant, uh, to handle mainly criminal cases, uh, when I was out of town or, or unavailable. And, uh, I appeared in eight different magistrate courts, the county court, which is nine criminal courts. Took care of the grand jury and, uh, and was on the budget commission to make sure that, that--it was a busy, busy job. The six years went--

MOYEN: --um-hm--

DESKINS: --went by, and the first four years, I sufficiently made, uh, 65:00a, a lot of the people mad. Uh, a lot of Democrats mad.

MOYEN: Um-hm.

DESKINS: Uh, especially the sheriff. I, and he, and still he's our sheriff now, Fuzzy Kazee. Uh, I was idealistic. And, uh, I'd witnessed that there was literally hundreds of deputy sheriffs out there. And in fact, on Saturday nights, if somebody arrested somebody they had to make sure they wasn't arresting the fellow deputy sheriff. That's the, and, and that sort of irked me because I always felt that seeing anybody carries a, a gun with the authority to kill somebody, which he, which the state sanctions when you put a badge on, that they ought to at least be educated on how, and at least be able to spell Constitution.

MOYEN: Um-hm.

DESKINS: But, uh, I dare say nine out of ten of them couldn't, and, uh, I shouldn't have done it, but idealistically, I said, "We've got to, 66:00this is a protection of, of the average Joe citizen out there keeping him from his constitutional rights being violated." And, and, uh, so I confronted the sheriff and I said, "Sheriff, uh, it says in the statutes that, uh, you have to take a picture of all these deputies, and post it down here in the clerk's office, and then you've got to, they got to post a bond." Well, uh, the sheriff immediately told me that he would run the sheriff's office and I would, uh, but I would run the, uh, county attorney's office. And, uh, I, I immediately told him, yes, and, and it would be run damn right, too, uh, his office and mine, too. So, we got into a, a match the third day in office and it lasted for twenty years. Uh, we've finally gotten back to where we are very good friends but, uh, but that brought on, uh, during that four years, 67:00uh, a, uh, opposition in my fourth year that, uh, from State Senator Kelsey Friend.

MOYEN: Um-hm.

DESKINS: Uh, his son had graduated from, from, uh, uh, law school and was back practicing law and was duly qualified to, to run for county attorney. And, uh, I had, uh, not been real friendly with the, the senator. So the senator and, uh, the sheriff decided they was going run me back down to Johnson County. And so, we had a knockdown drag out, uh, uh, battle in that 1975--uh, 1973, I'm sorry, '73. And, uh, they had everything going for them. They had the state Senate. Uh, I 68:00mean the senator was the contact man with the Governor.

MOYEN: Um-hm.

DESKINS: Uh, Carroll was the Governor at that time. Uh, or Ford, Carroll or Ford won, I think, Carroll, I think.

MOYEN: Ford may have left and Carroll ------------(??)--

DESKINS: --Carroll was the Governor, -------------(??), been, been appointed. Uh, even though Julian was my friend, he was a much better friend to Kelsey than he was to me, because Kelsey had a vote in the Senate.

MOYEN: -------------(??)----------

DESKINS: Yeah, and then the school board, they had, uh, uh, Kelsey, uh, had, had controlled the school board elections, his people were there. And the sheriff's department, these hundreds of deputies. Uh, so everybody and all my friends said, "Are you going to seek reelection?" And I said, "Yeah, I'm going to." Um, they said, "Well, why, why don't you just practice law?" I said, "Well, I just don't like the thoughts of somebody is gonna take something away from me. So I'm gonna, I'm 69:00gonna file." So, in the, I brought my mom and dad up. Uh, even though I had a wife and two small children, I thought my mother and daddy would be better, uh, an, an image--uh, not an image but I just wanted to, to project that out there, my father, a United Mine worker and my mother, a, a homemaker. Uh, and that's how I started my campaign, uh, with my mother and father at my side and of a, a picture ran in the paper and, uh, a, a speech that when nobody expects me to win except these two people and the rest of my family. And, uh, during the '68 campaign, uh, Hubert Humphrey had run in, in a primary in West Virginia, uh, against John Kennedy. And it was the test, the Catholicism test.

MOYEN: Um-hm.

DESKINS: But a, a fellow had picked up on the Humphrey campaign; his 70:00name was Jimmy Wofford. And Jimmy Wofford came up with the song, "I'm Gonna Vote for Hubert Humphrey, I'm Gonna Vote for Hubert Humphrey on Election Day.' And it was sang to the, to the tune of "The Old Time Religion." Uh, so I, I got up with Jimmy Wofford and gave him a business proposition; I wanted him to come and cut a tape that "I'm Going to Vote for Herbie Deskins. Vote for Herbie Deskins, vote for Herbie Deskins on Election Day. His daddy was a miner, an old family any finer, he is the Pike County Attorney and he is the man for you and me." I made that up.

MOYEN: Um-hm.

DESKINS: But anyway he came and did that. And I decided instead of, of going out and spending money and, trying to get the vote out and buy-- uh, not buying votes but hiring--

MOYEN: -- -----------(??) money.

DESKINS: To vote hollers and stuff, that the last time of, uh, fifteen- 71:00twenty days, I was gonna put a blitz campaign on, where the, if you turned the radio on, that's all you was gonna hear, "I'm Gonna Vote for Herbie Deskins." And, uh, I did that; I saturated the airwaves, uh, from, uh, the West Virginia stations, the Virginia stations. Every station that I could possibly get, uh, I, I bought, I think about almost ten thousand dollars worth of, of radio ads, which was a bunch of money, but, and a bunch of ads. And then we cut them down into, uh, like a fifteen-second ad or the close, the, or the, uh, uh, shortest ones you can get. "I'm Gonna Vote for Herbie Deskins, Vote for Herbie Deskins, Vote for Herbie Deskins on Election Day." I think that was fifteen seconds. And that was cheap. And then we would go on and then 72:00I would come on and tell stuff. But, but at any rate, on every channel that you turned on every hour, you would hear, "I'm Gonna Vote for Herbie Deskins." And the tune caught on to the point that schoolchildren were running around singing on the buses and everything else, you know. And, uh, on, on election evening, uh, I, I was fortunate to win. I won a pretty big victory; about fifteen-hundred vote, uh, victory. And, course Kelsey Senior, the, the, uh, senator was across the hall--I mean across the road from the courthouse. And course, we were celebrating in, in the county attorney's office and I, I looked, I could see from the county attorney's office over to his office, and by 7:30, uh, most of the people that had gathered there to, to celebrate Kelsey Junior's victory had, had, had left and, and I could see him, 73:00that he was sitting up there, and, and, or, in the office. Not, I couldn't see it, but I'm, I, I could, uh, uh, the lights was on and.

MOYEN: Right.

DESKINS: So, uh, I left my little party and walked over to his office and knocked on the door, and he was there by himself. And I said, "Senator, could I come in and talk with you?" And he said, "Sure, sit down." He said, "Congratulations." And I said, "Well, I, I appreciate that." And I said, "I just want to come over and tell you, I want to be your friend." And he said, "You mean that?" And I said, "I certainly do. I want, want, I want be your friend." And he said, "Okay." And we were the best friends for, until he died.

MOYEN: Um-hm.

DESKINS: Uh, in fact I supported his, his youngest son, Joe for senator when he got beat by Senator Jones this last time, and that's what I told Senator Jones when he asked me if I'd support him, and I said, "No, I promised Kelsey that if his son ever ran for senator that I would--if 74:00I didn't run myself, that I would support him. So, and I'm gonna stay true to my word." But, uh, from then on, I think, uh, uh, probably my best political, uh, ally was, was Kelsey Senior. He never ever told me a lie. Lots of other people accused him of not telling the truth, but he never did tell me an untruth; that's what I've been telling them. You know, he is, you know, he know he's, I said, "I don't know that; he never has, uh, never has done anything that I need to question, uh, his, uh, truth and veracity," so. Uh, but, in that election, Wayne Rutherford had been very instrumental in helping me , uh, to set up a precinct by, by virtue of, of contacting people, because he was county, county judge and everyday people coming in on roads and stuff and, and I--excuse me--I sort of used his knowledge, uh, in '76. And, 75:00uh, and thought that at that particular time that he was the, the best political friend I ever had. Little did I know that ten years later, I, I would be involved with him in the race of my life. But after, uh, I got elected county attorney, uh, I got, uh, interested in state-wide Democratic politics. And I had been a, uh, uh, a Bert Combs's man. And Wendell Ford ran against Bert Combs and beat Bert Combs. Nobody thought that that could happen and it floored us.

MOYEN: -----------(??)

DESKINS: And then the Young Democrats that, that flowed that, that they 76:00were, that the, they wanted kick the Combs people out of the Young Democrats, and the Ford people was going to take over from down Western Kentucky, down Owensboro in that place, gonna kick us mountain boys out. That didn't sit well with, uh, with a bunch from Floyd County. That's where Bert Combs was from. Uh, you get beat and then they want to kick your hind end in, you know. That's, uh, generally you win more if you'd go help somebody than, like I was telling the story about Senator Friend, but they, they'd won in the primary, and they was gonna kick our butts out. So, we organized, and, uh, one of Senator Ford's, later Senator Ford's, uh, uh, top men was a fel-, fellow name of ---------(??) Curry. And he picked a man name of Bob Hoffman(??), uh, from Louisville, uh, to run for national committee man. And that was 77:00the race that was gonna, going to determine who controlled the Kentucky Young Democrats, which was a very active organization back then. It ran, it was, it was something to be in the Kentucky Young Democrats and to go to a convention.

MOYEN: There's, there's really this factionalism, even though in the broad sweep of history it seems like the Clements-Combs versus the Chandlerites--

DESKINS: --yeah--

MOYEN: --it's(??) gone but there still is this factionalism(??).

DESKINS: There was then, yes, yes. It was, and, uh, uh, as, as I say, the Curry, uh, Bob Hoffman(??) and several, uh, people. Uh, Dale Emmons was a young, budding, uh, Fordite back then, you know.

78:00

MOYEN: Um-hm.

DESKINS: Uh, I'll never forget one of the funniest things that I've, I've--not funny--but Bert Combs was not a man that had, had a whole lot of, uh, he had a lot of wit, but he wasn't a humorous type person. He'd tell some yarns, but, uh, he was, he was talking about, uh, uh, a Jaycees, what are Jaycees. You know, the Jaycees is the one that, that led the fight for Wendell Ford. And, uh, he said, "You know what a Jaycee is? That's, uh, uh, a junior achievement." He said, "That's a mouse trying to grow up to be a rat." I remember that. And he said that here in Pikeville. But, uh, yeah, we had a, we had a fight. So, uh, anything went back then. I mean, there was no cheating in elections; elections were elections. And it was there(??), and it 79:00was over, fine. You, if you got cheated on, that was shame on you. (both laugh) So, so, uh, uh, we knew that, that they were gonna have a superior organization. The Ford people.

MOYEN: Um-hm.

DESKINS: We knew we just had to get more hot bodies to the convention. But the, the bylaws called for a limited amount of delegates from each county. And you were limited to the amount of Democrats that voted in the last general election, and also how much dues that you'd paid, or would pay up then. Fortunately, I had a bunch of people that, that raised some money. And we got all these charts and everything out. Saw 80:00all the Democratic vote. Saw that our Democrat vote in Floyd and Pike, and Knott, and those places where we had enough potential to, to beat the big Louisville--they was gonna kill us in Louisville; we knew that.

MOYEN: Right.

DESKINS: So, uh, we figured it all out. And, uh, figured up all the names and paid in all the dues and paid in from different counties, so, uh, nobody ever questioned it. It was a credentials committee. They didn't care as long as they were getting money, you know.

MOYEN: Right.

DESKINS: They didn't know that, uh, so-and-so didn't live in Inez, Kentucky, or Martin County Young Democrats. So, we, we went down to, uh, uh, to Lex--Louisville. And we took, uh, about twenty cars from here and, and, uh, two busloads, uh, all from, from Pike County. And, 81:00uh, the Pike County's won the convention that day. Uh, we had them from every county going. Uh, but the, the Governor's brother-in-law, was later to become his brother-in-law, Governor Carroll's brother-in- law, uh, was running for national committee. Uh, Steve Wilson, do you know Steve?

MOYEN: No(??).

DESKINS: Well, Steve was the third person on the ticket and he was from western Kentucky and he was, he, thank goodness he got on the, got on the, the, uh, uh, got it on the ticket, but it threw it into a three- way race. Nobody could get a majority. And Steve came off. And, uh, I had learned a little bit about politics, and I said, "Steve, I want you as chairman of my executive committee." And he say, "Oh yeah, great!" 82:00You know, uh, uh, "Next year when I run for president." Now this was, I said, "I am gonna win this race and I'm gonna run for president next year. I want you chairman of my executive committee." Well, he came off and gave me the nomination; we won by one vote. And the next year won handily for, uh, the presidency and beat, uh, uh, a fellow that's the circuit judge now up in, uh, Northern Kentucky, name of Stan Billingsley. Uh, Stan was a, uh, uh, lawyer, idealistic lawyer. And he thought coal was dirty. Uh, and ran a, a campaign for president and he ran against me because I was from a coal county.

MOYEN: Um-hm.

DESKINS: Because it was, uh, but we, we prevailed there. So, that was my, that came when I was county attorney, I got, I won national committeeman, and won, uh, president of the Kentucky Young Democrats. 83:00And--

MOYEN: --and what would you do in those roles, once you had won -------- ---(??)--

DESKINS: --national committeeman, I would, I would, I would go to Washington--

MOYEN: --um-hm--

DESKINS: --and be in on the, uh, National Young Democratic, uh, Committee from Kentucky.

MOYEN: Okay.

DESKINS: So, and then, of course as president, you're, you're the president of the organization. And, uh, we actually got up with the Louisville Chamber of Commerce, and said, "Hey, we want to bring the National Convention to Kentucky. We can do it. We got a good enough organization to do it."

MOYEN: Um-hm.

DESKINS: "But you got to help us. The convention's in Little Rock, Arkansas, and, uh--no, Hot Springs, Arkansas, and we need you all to help us, uh, and we will bring this convention here," which was a fair 84:00size convention. And convinced the Louisville Chamber of Commerce to do that through my friendship with Todd Hollenbach. And, and Todd had been elected, uh, county judge the same time that Wayne Rutherford and I had, had been elected county judge and county attorney, and I got to know him, and Todd, "Do you think you can do this?" I said, "Yeah, I've got these girls from Pulaski County that are as pretty as any girl in the, in the world, and we've got a bunch of people's willing to go down there and party with them. And, and if you'll just give us half a chance, give us some backing, uh, we'll, we'll go down there and bring that convention back here to Kentucky." And sure enough, they went, we went to Maker's Mark, uh, Distillery and named, and had, took with us all of the names of the site selection committee. And had Maker's Mark 85:00fifths brewed specially for them as a little token of our appreciation. And don't you think that didn't go over well with them. (Moyen laughs) I bet some of them still have those bottles of Maker's Mark--

MOYEN: --um-hm--

DESKINS: --brewed especially for blank, in the site selection committee, we did that. And took them, uh, a Louisville slugger and, uh, whatever, what all the Chamber of Commerce could--that's the only time I ever worked with the Chamber of Commerce, is whatever the Chamber of Commerce could put together with the goody bags.

MOYEN: Um-hm.

DESKINS: We really hit that selection committee and, and we won the convention for the, uh, the YD convention the next year. So, uh, but that all happened when I was county attorney.

MOYEN: So even though you were county attorney, you were becoming very 86:00well versed in, in, or even--

DESKINS: --Kentucky politics--

MOYEN: --if you had been, but--

DESKINS: --Kentucky politics--

MOYEN: --especially--

DESKINS: --Kentucky politics--

MOYEN: --Kentucky politics.

DESKINS: And then I wanted to do one thing I had always dreamed of. And, uh, uh, I actually would, would've done it in '74 if, if there hadn't been the challenge that they were gonna run me back to Johnson County.

MOYEN: Um-hm.

DESKINS: And that was run for the, the, the legislature.

MOYEN: Um-hm.

DESKINS: And, uh, so in '75, I decided to run for the legislature. And, uh, ran against an incumbent.

MOYEN: So that was something you had been planning on doing for, for quite some time(??)--

DESKINS: --yes, I had always, since I had been in law school, uh, and went over to the, uh, uh, to the State Capitol and sat in the, uh, gallery, uh, of the House of Representatives, uh, that was always like, uh, uh, just made--

MOYEN: --um-hm--

DESKINS: --your chills go up your spine when you went. I, I never was 87:00that impressed with the Senate. Uh, the Senate, uh, was sort of slow and moving.

MOYEN: Um-hm.

DESKINS: And, and, and while it was really impressive to sit there and listen to general and, "The Senator from so-and-so," and they'll(??) speak and be real nice.

MOYEN: Um-hm.

DESKINS: Over in the House, you know, you hear that rumble and tumble and people running around and, and noise and the gavel hitting and, and--

MOYEN: --um-hm--

DESKINS: --people, pages walking up and down, that was where the action was to me. And, and I would've run for that in '74, or '73--

MOYEN: --um-hm--

DESKINS: --had it not been, uh, for the, the test, the challenge of that, uh, that they were gonna run me back in the Johnson County.

MOYEN: Af-, after the challenge, did you feel like that had to some extent maybe helped you, you know, a lot of people once they run for the House or whatever, shortly thereafter may face their biggest challenge when they're still young, when they still might be seen as 88:00vulnerable, did you feel like at all that maybe you had dodged a big--

DESKINS: --when, when I was county attorney--

MOYEN: -- ----------(??) when you were county attorney, that you had solidified--

DESKINS: --yeah, I, I think--

MOYEN: -- -----------(??) your base?

DESKINS: Yeah, I think I had. Uh, the, being a Democrat in '68 and continuing on through and then surviving that challenge, that I think that put my niche out there. That, uh, while some people say, "I'm a Kelsey Friend Democrat," there's a bunch out there says, "I'm a Herbie Democrat."

MOYEN: Um-hm.

DESKINS: So, yeah, I'm, I'm sticking with -----------(??).

MOYEN: Right.

DESKINS: And then when we sort of meshed together, that was actually the making, I think, of Paul Patton. Is when, uh, Kelsey and I meshed together. Not that I knew anything about Paul Patton then, but when 89:00we meshed our strengths together, I was, I was the second man in black lung and this, and he was number one man, but I was the second man.

MOYEN: Um-hm, right.

DESKINS: And everybody, uh, the UMWA trust, they put their trust in me because they knew my dad was a, a, an union organizer.

MOYEN: Um-hm.

DESKINS: And then I made those fiery speeches against, uh, uh, Nixon and, and, and all those people. That made Kelsey and I a tremendous force, uh, in the Democratic primaries. And, and in the fall too, we kept -------------(??). And Paul was one of Kelsey's favorite people. Uh, I never, uh, uh, did, did, did like, uh, Paul from the beginning. Uh, I thought he was too cocky and too arrogant when we, I first met 90:00him, but Kelsey liked him.

MOYEN: Um-hm.

DESKINS: And because Kelsey liked him, I tolerated it.

MOYEN: Right.

DESKINS: Then he got, uh, when he got elected, uh, county, he beat--

MOYEN: --um-hm--

DESKINS: --Wayne Rutherford in the primary to be.

MOYEN: Right(??).

DESKINS: I was for Wayne in that, uh, this was before he ran against me, so I was--

MOYEN: --right--

DESKINS: --for him in that primary, and that's one of the few times that Kelsey and I ever sort of split our allegiance.

MOYEN: Right.

DESKINS: Uh, but we always, we got back together after that, and Paul went in office and did some things that I admire, that I admire him for! Uh, one he sat out something I had proposed when I was county attorney and got thoroughly trounced on, and that's the universal garbage collection. Uh, well, Paul jumped on that and, and, and actually I told him, I said, "Paul, that can beat you in this county. And that, because they'd sure backed me up real good when I was going, wanted to do it, you know." He said, "No, I don't believe it will. If 91:00everybody has to pay, I don't believe it will hurt you that bad." And I say, "Well, you know, I am all, I am with you. I, I, I admire you. And I, while you're at it just go for zoning too." (Moyen laughs) He said, "No, I'm not gonna go that far!" But, uh, he went for universal, uh, collection and then he started an educational program to teach people how to read and write. And one of my client's name was Luther Bellator. I had represented him, Luther was illiterate, and Paul Patton took him in this program and taught Luther Bellator how to, uh, read and write his name and read simple sentences. And I thought, You know, any guy that can do that's not all bad.

MOYEN: Um-hm.

DESKINS: But, uh, I've changed my mind since so. (laughs) No, I'm just kidding. (both laugh) Uh, no, but he did those things and made a tremendous county judge. Uh, fiscally--

MOYEN: --um-hm--

DESKINS: --uh, the county had gone, uh, amiss, a good accounting 92:00procedures when, uh, Paul took over and he put it back. Uh, and, and did away with, uh, Judge Rutherford's, uh, police force that he had started--

MOYEN: --um-hm--

DESKINS: --the county police force. And did a lot of good things. And, and I worked with him from the legislature, and then from there he went to Lieutenant Governor, and then, uh, and from there he went on to, you know, got beat that first race, and then , uh, won, won the race, and then won for Governor.

MOYEN: Right.

DESKINS: And then I helped him to do, in the succession amendment.

MOYEN: Right.

DESKINS: Uh, and we became rather good friends, uh, until December of '76 when, uh, when he just turned his back on everybody that had, that I thought had, had made him Governor in this county, and, uh, passed that awful workers' compensation bill.

MOYEN: So, you didn't feel like that there was a whole lot of tension there necessarily after you had supported someone else for that 93:00position?

DESKINS: You mean for county judge?

MOYEN: For county judge?

DESKINS: Hm, no because, uh, Paul needed me more than I needed him.

MOYEN: Um-hm.

DESKINS: And, uh, uh, especially, and I, he would, he would emphasize that. I have to say that. At, at meetings, uh, that where I would be present and, uh, Representative Little, uh, Clayton Little, uh, I don't know if you're gonna interview him or not on this thing. He, he was tran-, he was chairman of the transportation committee--

MOYEN: --um-hm--

DESKINS: --at the time that I was chairman of natural resources. And at the same time that, uh, uh, uh, Greg was, uh, came in as speaker.

MOYEN: --um-hm--

DESKINS: And Kelsey was over in the Senate, we had a, we had one heck of an organization. And Ron Cyrus was there, Billy Ray Cyrus's dad was 94:00from Ashland, and he was ----------(??) with the AFL-CIO and--

[End of interview.]

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