O'HARA: This is an unrehearsed interview --(Mills clears throat)-- with Don Mills on July 1 2004, conducted by Adina O'Hara in Lexington, Kentucky. Mr. Mills?


O'HARA: In the 1962 legislative session, a community college bill was passed authorizing the University Of Kentucky Board Of Trustees to govern a system of publicly-supported community colleges. What was your role in the creation of two-year colleges in Kentucky?

MILLS: Well, I really had no role at that time in '62. Uh, you know, the whole concept came up because Dr. Oswald had come here from California where he had developed a similar system in California of community colleges, so when he got to Kentucky, he sold Governor Combs 1:00on the idea and then, of course, then, Breathitt followed Governor Combs. He was sworn in December of 1963. So anyway, uh, the concept began in '62.

O'HARA: While we know the outcomes of these talks about establishing a community college system, we do not know how this agreement was reached. Because you were Governor Breathitt's press secretary in the 1960s, can you explain, um, what -- the discussions surrounding the creation of a public two-year college?

MILLS: Well, it --(clears throat)-- Governor Breathitt was, first of all, a very strong person, as far as being a proponent of education. He believed the more education you had, the better off you're going to be. And he was also a strong supporter of UK, too. He had gone 2:00to school at UK. He, uh, therefore had a feeling for, uh, UK, and I think when you run for governor as you go across the state of Kentucky, you find that there --(clears throat)-- it perhaps is more towards the basketball team than anything else, but there's a real feeling out in the state towards UK, and so the governor thought the idea of creating the, uh, community colleges was a good idea and even -- as did Combs, who was his predecessor. And so the governor, he felt that it enabled students that -- who otherwise would not be able to go to college, have a chance of getting two years of, of training at home and then, uh, transferring either to UK or to some other college in Kentucky. Uh, the governor used to say--which, uh, he, he, he would say that by having a community college in your community, it was like giving a student a thousand-dollar annual scholarship. Of course, a thousand 3:00dollars doesn't sound like much now, but back in '63 and four, it did sound like a whole lot. And, um, that thousand dollars is what that student would save in board, transportation costs, uh, by staying at home and going to school, and so he was able in his first session, which was '64 to fund Elizabethtown and Prestonsburg as the first two community colleges, and then he also, in his same budget, uh, called for Somerset and Hopkinsville to be funded in '65 of that year. And those was the beginning of the community colleges.

O'HARA: Knowing as we do what happened and how it happened, we need to consider why it happened. Would you recount the reasons why the University Of Kentucky Board Of Trustees was chosen as the governing 4:00body over a new system?

MILLS: Well, I think a lot of it goes back to Dr. Oswald and his connection being president of Kentucky, and he had done -- he had overseen the system in California. I mean, he was very familiar with what they had done there with the community -- uh, started the community college system in California. And so it was his idea, and he just had to sell Governor Combs and then sell Governor Breathitt, which he did a very -- I mean, he was a very able, able president of UK. I mean, one of the best, uh, UK's ever had, and he was able to sell them on the idea. And so, and, and, you know, I think, uh, you take a governor who's politically minded, too, the community college thing is a good thing. I mean, you know, it, it gives the -- it gives you an opportunity to help students that would not otherwise have the opportunity to go off a hundred and fifty miles or three hundred miles or a hundred miles to go to school, to pay the board, to pay the, you 5:00know, in addition to the tuition and the other expenses you have, so it was a good idea; good politically, too. Plus you had a lot of, uh, a lot of these colleges were strongly supported religiously towards, from that community. If you look at the communities, I can assure you there were two or three legislators were very much involved, pushing it, so it was an easy thing for the governor to, uh, to get their support on it as well. And, uh, so it -- the reason UK was chosen, it was one because Oswald thought of the idea going to develop the system, knew how to develop the system, and plus Combs was a graduate of UK. Breathitt was a graduate of UK, and it just, you know, at, at that time it, uh, it was, it was the, um, it was the sensible thing to do. Now I could tell you a little bit later in our interview about some of the problems, though, that that caused, but we'll wait till then.

O'HARA: Okay. That sounds good. The economic and political landscape 6:00of Kentucky's higher education sector in the 1960s played a key role in the passage of the 1962 Community College Act. What was the role of the Council on Public Higher Education during this period?

MILLS: Well --(clears throat)-- let me tell you, uh, a little bit about the history on it. In the early sixties, there was practically no council. What the governor did in, uh, in his session in '66, actually, he, he created the Council on Higher Education. He has proposed that it be established, and, uh, it passed. It, its role initially was to be much more of a, um, governing body than what it ended up being. I mean, it was to not only to review budgets but to, you know, sort of step in and help run the system. So, I would say that came a little 7:00bit after '62, uh, but anyway, it was a measure that helped, uh, push it and helped support it. Um, the, uh, you know, Oswald sold Combs. Combs developed the system or started the system and then it was left up to the governor, Breathitt, basically to fund the colleges. At one time -- well, there was nine at one time, and then even during Breathitt's time, they also acquired Paducah. Paducah Community College, for example, was already an existing two-year college in Paducah, and it was a, um, very good s-- very good s-- body. But they wanted to be associated with UK and wanted the institution to be. I know the newspaper people down there, the Paxtons, were very strong pushing that, and, and Breathitt bought the idea that they would be turned over to UK. And that was part of the -- also the act in 1966.


O'HARA: Documentation leading up to that decision is very informative, and a historian can reconstruct how the issue was emerging, but the records are blank when it comes to explaining how the issue was resolved with the regional colleges.

MILLS: Well --(clears throat)-- the governor -- I tell you; at that time there were two strong presidents at the regional colleges. One was Dr. Martin of Eastern and Dr., uh, Doran of Morehead State. They were very strong politically. Both of them had been involved in politics, uh, in previous years. They were very strong, so Breathitt, um --(clears throat)-- sat down with them. They were then called colleges. It was Eastern College, Morehead State College. Well, they were not -- they 9:00were upset sort of with the idea of creating the community college system but also the Council on Higher Education. This was a body above them that they look upon as sort of a super-board. Well, ended up it wasn't such a super-board over all the college systems in Kentucky, but it was the beginning. And so Breathitt sold those two, two, uh, uh, presidents, Dr. Doran and Dr. Martin, as well as the others from the regional universities that he would pass legislation that would name each of the-- their universities -- each of their colleges a university; just a change in name. And so by his doing that in '66, they changed the, uh, Morehead and Murray and Western and Eastern all to universities rather than as colleges as they were, and they seemed to buy that. They liked that, and at the same time, he created the 10:00Council on Higher Education, which played a role plus, uh, then he went ahead and started developing the, uh, the, uh, community colleges with UK. I think there was always some resentment on the community colleges being associated with Kentucky because I know there was efforts made back in the seventies and the eighties about, "Well, let's divide the community colleges up, and those two that are in the area of Murray, give those to Murray University. Those that are close to Eastern, give a couple of those to Eastern and the same with Morehead." So there was this resentment that developed, and there was some pressure even among legislators to, uh, to go along that line. But I think it, at the time when you had, uh, the strong force of Dr. Oswald as well as, um, of course, Governor Combs, at that point and then Governor Breathitt, um, they pretty well put it through, uh, that it would be a, a UK system, 11:00but I -- but you could see the seeds there that were developing to, to eventually, uh, you know, bring down that system.

O'HARA: The de-- the decision to place the new community college system under the state's flagship and land grant institution was considered unique across the nation. How did Kentucky's development of public two-year colleges compare to the expansion of community colleges in other states?

MILLS: Well, I don't think -- I think Kentucky was way ahead, because in the Breathitt period of four years, uh, the 1966 General Assembly, uh, mandated development of community colleges at Ashland, Covington, Cumberland, Elizabethtown, Henderson, Hopkinsville, Prestonsburg, 12:00Somerset, Lackey, Hazard, Jefferson County and Maysville, plus then later, you know, you had one at UK.

O'HARA: Lexington Technical Institute, which was --

MILLS: So this was, you know, uh, then under separate legislation, same session in 1966, Paducah Junior College became, uh, uh, UK Paducah College. So you really had a whole system, uh, in, in about a three or four-year period that where these, uh, institutions were developed, and one of the things that helped was that, was that Breathitt pushed a hundred and seventy-six million dollar bond issue. And you got, you got to remember that back in the sixties, you've got a lot of good federal money that was going towards schools. Lyndon Johnson was president. Um, just -- they pumped a lot of money into the construction of colleges all across the country, and I think those colleges, those, 13:00those states that were ready for it and prepared to accept it and run with it, I think, often had advantages. So the governor had proposed a hundred and seventy-six million dollar bond issue that covered roads as well as colleges and vocational schools, but once they passed that and people was borrowing a hundred and seventy-six million dollars, in return, they got over a billion dollars in federal money.

O'HARA: And what were some of those, uh, federal monies? Was it the Perkins?

MILLS: The -- well, Carl Perkins certainly had a lot to do with it. I mean, it was just money that, that passed, and Johnson, in, in the Congress, passed, uh, legislation authorizing the money for the construction of a lot of buildings for colleges all across the, the country. And Kentucky was in a position that they were able to take it -- real advantage of it, and, uh, Breathitt was very close to Johnson.

O'HARA: And that's why it was up and running so quickly?


MILLS: And he seconded, he seconded the nomination of LBJ at the '64 convention as a very young governor, and, uh, it was just a -- one of those things in the end that Kentucky benefitted from.

O'HARA: That makes sense. He had it up and running so quickly. It was a model to follow.

MILLS: And I, and I think once again -- let's go back to, uh, to, uh, Oswald, Dr. Oswald, and Combs on getting it started even before Johnson became president, but Kennedy was also a good supporter of the college construction.

O'HARA: Some states developed independent governing structures for their community college systems such as in North Carolina and Florida -- independent boards -- while other states, um, built branch campuses, 15:00four-year branch campuses. Indiana's a good example of that. Um, did you at any time expect a different governance structure in the 1960s?

MILLS: No, because I thought even the two-year community colleges were very unique, and they really were. You did not have a, a four-year college constructed until in the -- Governor Nunn's session, when he proposed Northern Kentucky University be a four-year college. All the others were either already that or, or two years. And I don't know when these other states developed those systems, uh, as they did.

O'HARA: It varies.

MILLS: Um-hm.

O'HARA: Some, some fifties, some sixties, some later, but what was unique that I found is that, um, is that they were two-year branches. They were not four-year branches.

MILLS: Well, I can't -- there probably was a good political reason for 16:00that, too, because by being four years, you ran into the conflict with the other regional universities in Kentucky; Eastern, Morehead, Murray, Western. I mean, they didn't want another four-year college being developed.

O'HARA: Sure.

MILLS: You, you would have had a real in-fight there, and, and so, they just simply was -- they reluctantly were happy with the two-year college that once the, the student went for those two years, then that student would either transfer to UK or to another, uh, four-year college in Kentucky, be, be it Western or Murray or whatever.

O'HARA: They could buy the -- the regionals could buy the two-year concept better than --

MILLS: Than a four-year.

O'HARA: Than a four-year branch.

MILLS: Sure. And I think that's -- I'm just saying that politically just says so.

O'HARA: That makes more sense.

MILLS: Yeah.

O'HARA: Critics have attacked the University of Kentucky Community College System since its conception. What are -- were the benefits and the drawbacks to having one governance structure for both the state's 17:00key research university and the community college system?

MILLS: Well, I mean, I still, you know, I'm still probably an advocate of the old system the way it was --

O'HARA: Sure.

MILLS: -- with UK being the person. I think what happened, though, was that -- I think perhaps down the road maybe Ken-- people who headed the helm at the University of Kentucky maybe should have been more concerned about their community colleges and what they were. Uh, there was, uh, you know, some of them lacked money. Uh, some of the professors didn't make as much money, and I think that was a problem that should have been corrected by the university itself. Now Dr. Oswald left in March of, uh, 1968. He went to Penn State. Uh, had someone like him continued, he may have seen to it that, that it had that kind of system, but you have -- had a -- back then you have a governor for four years, too. Not all governors would be necessarily 18:00committed, and that changes.

O'HARA: And during the sixties two very, very committed governors?

MILLS: Right.

O'HARA: Got it up and running.

MILLS: Plus you got a president who was very committed to Dr. Oswald.

O'HARA: Um-hm.

MILLS: Very much so.

O'HARA: It takes a, it takes a strong personality to make major changes.

MILLS: But, you know, you talk -- you know, I mean, some of the things that, uh, not only were the, not only were, you know -- some people I've heard fuss about the money, but the other thing was this division of, of, of some of these colleges didn't want them going, being called UK. They wanted them to be, you know -- they just didn't want them to be called UK. Uh, Western, Murray and Morehead, uh, and that was part of the problem, too, but, uh, you know, I, I still -- I'm still convinced that it was a good system, and I don't know. I, I saw in the paper a 19:00story today where the independent schools, which is now called Kentucky Independent College, whatever it's called today -- that enrollment's up higher, pretty high because I think one of the things about, uh, having it connected to UK was when you got an associate degree, when you got a degree from a community college, it said UK on it. That means a lot to a lot of people when they're looking for a job or when they go out to -- away from Kentucky to another state having, uh, UK on that, uh, on that, uh, diploma, and, uh, I think, uh, you know -- I don't, I don't think if you went into these communities they all wanted to remain with UK. I don't think there's any question about it. Now they may be now happy, happy -- I mean, I don't know that, and we may not know for -- you know, it may take us several years to determine that.


O'HARA: Um-hm. Definitely. Both economic and political factors played a key role in the decision, uh, to grant the UK Board of Trustees governance authority of the community colleges. Um, how did the debate over governance of Kentucky's community colleges change over time? And that's pretty much what you've been addressing.

MILLS: Um-hm.

O'HARA: Um --

MILLS: Well, I don't -- you know, it hasn't -- there never was a strong, big debate. I'm, I'm just saying some of the underlying motives that were there, and, of course, until Governor Patton came along and made a proposal which passed, uh, UK had been able to withhold any kind of, uh, criticism up until that point. But, but I can see, you know, I've talked to people about it, and people said that there was an underfunding; that UK maybe did not support it as much as they should 21:00have, their own community colleges, either the professors or the amount of money given there, and I'm sure that was a factor.

O'HARA: Are there any questions that I have not asked that you wish I had?

MILLS: Well, uh, I can tell you that I --(laughs)-- the last day of Governor Breathitt's real life, he and I went to the races at Keeneland. Uh, it was a Friday afternoon, and, uh, we went with s--other people. There were six of us at the table, and he s-- told me that, uh, he was speaking that night at the UK Community College and that when he left the races, he was just going to go by there and make a speech at 7:30 or whatever time it started. But he talked to me about, about a little bit -- I, I don't know whether he -- of course, he died so quickly once 22:00he got there that night. I mean, he just keeled over. He never got into his speech, and I always wondered what he might have said because he, he really expressed concern to me that afternoon at the races about the fact that --(clears throat)-- at that point the decision was being made whether or not to, uh -- in fact, I didn't know about it, until he told me that the discussion was whether or not to, um, take the UK community college away from UK and turn it over to the Kentucky system which they had done, what, three or five years earlier; four years earlier. He had real concern about that. He thought that the, uh, colleges, these community colleges, uh, offered a lot of people an opportunity to get an education that would not get it otherwise. He thought also that, that, um, it being closely identified with UK that, 23:00that gave, gave those graduates a boost in their own thinking; made them feel better and more like they were part of a system. And he was concerned because he s-- he knew that the president of the UK community colleges was for leaving UK as it is and going back into the, uh, under the old -- well, under the new setup of Kentucky Community College System. Uh, but Breathitt had a real concern as governor about it, and I don't know whether he would have said anything about that that night or not. He probably would have, because, you know, I was just noticing in today's paper where they announced a letter of agreement --

O'HARA: Um-hm.

MILLS: -- with UK Community College and UK and that they're going to continue to, to, uh, use their facilities; uh, continue to be able to buy their basketball seats for the students. Uh, the students will be able to, uh, um, still have some close -- and how long that will last, 24:00I don't know, but right now, you know, it's probably not too bad.

O'HARA: Um-hm.

MILLS: But back when the day Breathitt died, he had no idea what in the end was going to happen; uh, for -- just what would be done. He thought -- he, he just thinks it would be -- it was a real mistake to take the colleges away from UK, the two-year colleges.

O'HARA: It would have been really interesting to know what he was going to speak on, I mean, speak about; what he was going to say.

MILLS: He was going to talk about the college, but I don't know w-- what he was going to say or how because he knew that the president himself of the, of the junior college -- two-year college --

O'HARA: Um-hm.

MILLS: -- was for, you know, going with the old, with the, uh, new system of, uh, community colleges.

O'HARA: It's a fascinating history.

MILLS: Um-hm.

O'HARA: Well, Mr. Mills, do you have anything else you'd like to add?

MILLS: No, no. Uh, I tell you, I want to talk to you about one thing, 25:00though.

O'HARA: Sure. Did you want to do it on the tape?

MILLS: No, no, I was going to--see, I'm a little confused about -- you said authorized in 1962, which I, which I think is right, but somehow or another, an act of the 1966 General Assembly gave UK control of the community college system and mandated that colleges be maintained in this. And it's house bill two-three-eight, acts one-nine-six-six. You might look that up in your time. I, I don't question that it was authorized, but, but what they may have done is come back with another act --

O'HARA: Um-hm.

MILLS: -- a second act in '66. But what that act did was, the act of 1966 general, gave UK control of the community college system and mandated that colleges be maintained and then I gave you that list.

O'HARA: That's key. I'm glad you brought that to my attention. I had --


MILLS: Well, now there's no question that the idea of the community colleges was developed and talked about, but I just wondered if it was '62. I s-- I said -- you said it was.

O'HARA: There was legislation passed in '62 to create, um, the system initially. The legislation --

MILLS: Did they put it under UK at that point?

O'HARA: I believe so, but basically, I believe the way it was stated was UK had extension centers in northern Kentucky, Ashland Junior College had already been converted into an extension center; um, Fort Knox, at that time -- it had four or five, and this legislation converted the extension centers, with the exception of Fort Knox, into community colleges and then made provisions for when there was additional funding 27:00to --

MILLS: And that sounds right --

O'HARA: --then --

MILLS: -- and I don't know. What probably happened was in '66, they just wanted to restate it and come back and say, "Well, here's what we want to do." Maybe it wasn't clear enough or something. I don't know.

O'HARA: I think that's a good point.

MILLS: ----------(??)

O'HARA: Maybe by that time they had the funding and it was solidified.

MILLS: But it was, it was house bill 238, acts of 1966.

O'HARA: I will --

MILLS: I did, I did look that up.

O'HARA: Excellent. Excellent. Well, I appreciate that --

MILLS: And, uh --

O'HARA: -- and I'll double-check on that, because that's a very important part of the story to show how it kept on going.

MILLS: I think I've got everything else.

O'HARA: Well, Mr. Mills, thank you so much. Um --

MILLS: You ought to--if you get a chance, give Dick Wilson a call because, uh --

O'HARA: I sure will.

MILLS: -- he said he was going to be doing something next week or something, but anyway, he, he covered, uh, higher education. He could 28:00tell you a whole lot about what happened in the system, too.

O'HARA: I will follow up on that. In fact, um, I'll try to give him a call tomorrow.

MILLS: Good.

O'HARA: And, uh, I look forward to talking with him.

MILLS: And if you want to talk to me about anything further, feel free to do so.

O'HARA: Okay. Great. Thank you for your time.

MILLS: You're welcome.

[End of interview.]

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