ROMOND: The following is a follow-up interview with former StateRepresentative Dexter Wright, who represented Jefferson County in the Thirty-Eighth District from 1964 to 1972 and from 1976 to 1980. The interview was conducted by Jan Romond for the Kentucky Legislative Oral History Project on February 3, 2006, in the home of Mr. Dexter Wright, in Louisville, Kentucky, at 10:00 AM.
[Pause in recording.]
ROMOND: Mr. Wright, you were remembering since our last talk aboutstarting in politics actually way back in 1940.
WRIGHT: Yeah, I, I just happen to think back, in 1940, uh, here Ilived there was a lady who was a precinct captain, she asked me to get involved.
WRIGHT: And I worked at the precinct level for, uh, Wendell Willkie.
ROMOND: Wendell Willkie?
WRIGHT: Wendell Willkie was running against Franklin Delano Roosevelt1:00for President and that's, Wendell Willkie was, he didn't run a very good race, but, but I worked for him back then. That's, of course, 1940, that's a long time ago.
ROMOND: What were you doing to help?
WRIGHT: Handing out, handing out literature--
WRIGHT: --uh, at the pole, precinct. Few years ago, we used to handliterature out when you voted then, that's why my job was--
ROMOND: --right at the poles, where people could--
WRIGHT: --right at the poles, yeah.
WRIGHT: That's what I did. And then after that, uh, later on when Iam, I moved out south Louisville, uh, I became involved as a precinct worker there, too. And, uh, I worked--well, let's see, I'm trying to remember. That was back in, after I came back from the service. Then I worked at the precinct level, too. and then, and then I got involved with the whole, uh, organization of the Republican Party, and was named chairman of the Thirty-, Thirty-Eighth Legislative District, I think it 2:00was, chairman of the party there. And then, uh, I worked from there.
WRIGHT: And the, of course I was involved with, uh, just, uh, RichardNixon's, uh, race; I guess I told you that before, didn't I, that I was his co-chair?
WRIGHT: Pardon me, co-chairman.
WRIGHT: And then I worked for, uh, Ronald Reagan, I think that wediscussed that, I believe.
WRIGHT: Uh, and, uh, George Bush, the first George Bush, and, uh, I wasinvolved with the state-wide politics, I was on the, the state central committee for a long time, too.
WRIGHT: And, uh, but in, in the last few years I have been real active,I've just of, kinda sat back, you know.
ROMOND: Mr. Wright, what issues were the most important to you duringthe time that you served in the legislature?
WRIGHT: Well, I guess it's basically the same issues they're talkingabout today, because they don't seem to do a lot about it: education. 3:00
WRIGHT: And, uh, a, a lot of it was, uh, uh, education taxes. And, uh,of course I'm, I'm a pro-lifer too.
WRIGHT: So I was, uh, involved in that quite a bit. And, uh, uh, I'mtrying to think, there was, I was involved in a lot of it, but I can't remember, but education was one of the primary.
ROMOND: Do you think over the time that you served in the legislaturethat there was improvement in education in the state of Kentucky?
WRIGHT: Oh yeah, I say, un-, un-, under Governor Louie Nunn, that's, uh,I served under him. He made quite a stride in education in Kentucky.
WRIGHT: I mean, we, we, of course, we brought the University ofLouisville into the state's system, you know, back at that time. And, uh, made, made them a state college.
WRIGHT: I was involved in that, too. And, uh, but there has been a lotof, uh, improvements in education.
ROMOND: Um-hm, um-hm. How did your experience in the legislaturecompare with what you expected, when you first ran for office?
WRIGHT: Well, you know, when you first run for office, you have no idea.
WRIGHT: You go in, you know, you're in among a hundred people andyou, and you're sitting there and you have to make a decision. And, and sometimes you really, you really don't know until you read and study everything that you're doing. And it was a, it was quite an experience. I mean, I, I didn't have anything to compare it to at all. It just, uh, uh, you don't know what you are doing, uh, basically--
ROMOND: --when you first start.
WRIGHT: When you go there, you don't know, it takes you a, a littlewhile. Once you get into it, I mean, you can relate to it pretty good, I mean.
ROMOND: Um-hm, um-hm. When you first took office, what did you5:00understand the role of government to be?
WRIGHT: Well, I always thought the role of government was to help thepeople.
WRIGHT: I mean, I always considered that. I mean, and I thought that myjob was to represent the people. And, and do what they asked me to do.
WRIGHT: Not to think about myself but to think about what was best forthe people and the commonwealth of Kentucky.
ROMOND: Um-hm. Was there ever a time that your personal values oragenda was in conflict with the people you represented, or the people that you served with?
WRIGHT: Most of the time, I would say that the people I served, uh, uh,represented was in tune with me, yeah.
WRIGHT: I, I never tried to enforce my values on them, but I mean, mostof the time they were in tune with me. Now, there was times when the House of Representatives that I wasn't in tune with all of the members there, but, uh, but that was rare. I mean, I was, I wasn't a maverick, 6:00but I was pretty independent, you know, I just, uh, I didn't follow the line, the Republican line, or the Democrat line. I mean, I tried to figure out what the people wanted and go from there.
ROMOND: Have you changed your mind about any issues since leavingoffice? For example, health care, or education, or the way that government is run?
WRIGHT: Well, uh, I, no, I, I would say that the, that all thosethings are, are just about the same as and I haven't changed my mind on anything. Uh, I was trying to think of one thing. But I can't remember it. Going blank.
ROMOND: So, there is really, uh, not issues that you've changed your7:00thinking about since leaving the legislature.
WRIGHT: No, no, I mean, the, the, uh, right-to-life and all that, andthe death penalty, and things of that heavy nature, I haven't changed my mind, I mean.
ROMOND: Um-hm. What do you recall about your campaigns? Who were thekey players in your elections to office?
WRIGHT: I had a lot of good friends. The first time I ran for office Ithink I had three hundred volunteers in my district.
WRIGHT: And, uh, two or three of them in particular that just livedwith me, I mean, they, every time I moved, they moved. And we would go out and campaign together, walk the streets together, and I owe it all to the people who worked for me, because we worked together just like clockwork, I mean, in--
ROMOND: --they were personal friends of yours.
WRIGHT: Personal friends, yeah.
WRIGHT: Nothing, uh, nothing about the party ever, ever helped me.8:00I mean, you know, you got the party hierarchy, well that, I wasn't involved in that. I mean, I was a, and I was outside that, uh--
ROMOND: --it was grassroots help.
WRIGHT: Grassroots help, what it was, yeah.
ROMOND: Um-hm. Um, you, you were campaign director for the UnitedStates Senator Marlow Cook?
WRIGHT: Yes, um-hm.
ROMOND: Um-hm. And what do you call about that experience, and aboutSenator Cook?
WRIGHT: Oh, there're so many things about that. I, uh, of course, Iwas in the House of Representatives at the time. And, uh, when, uh, Thruston Morton, uh, resigned, I immediately went to the Governor Nunn, asked him to support Marlow Cook for United States Senate.
WRIGHT: Because I was the, one of the, uh, legislative leadership atthat time in Frankfort. And, uh, so we had, we did, uh, Louie Nunn didn't support Marlow; of course, Marlow ran against him for Governor 9:00when he, uh--
WRIGHT: --and, and I managed Marlow's campaign against Louie Nunn. So,that kinda, you know, knocked him out as far as supporting Marlow Cook.
WRIGHT: And me, too, because I didn't help but, but, uh, Marlow and Iwere real close. And we, uh, we had, of course we had a, a primary. I sat up his organization state-wide, I, I visited the, every county in the state of Kentucky.
WRIGHT: And met someone and had, I had a book with about ten thousandnames on it that--
WRIGHT: --that I had met because when I, when I would campaign with him,I'd, I had a little, uh, tape recorder in my hand.
WRIGHT: And I would meet somebody in the county, and I'd say, uh, youknow, like Joe Brown and I know, after he leave, I'd say, "I met Joe Brown at the, at certain town and this date," and then I'd get back, I'd write him a letter.
WRIGHT: You know, I mean, I, that, that's the type of campaigning I didwith him statewide. We drove the state, we flew all over the state in, 10:00uh, small airplanes. And, uh, and a lot of it was kinda, well you, you just kinda get lost in the thing. It's, uh, so interesting, because you'd be here one day, and you'd be there the next day, and, and, uh, I think I told you about the fellow that flew me into--
WRIGHT: Uh, yeah, that, uh, those kinds of experiences, you never,you never wash those away. I mean, that's the, of course we fly into certain counties, you feel like you're flying into no, no man's land.
WRIGHT: But that, that was, uh, I guess one of the best experiences I'veever had, because I met a lot of people, a lot of people.
ROMOND: What did you think that Senator, uh, Cook could bring to thestate of Kentucky?
WRIGHT: Well, I always, uh, he was a, a highly intelligent man.
WRIGHT: And, uh, uh, he was county judge here for, uh, I think it was11:00two terms, or something like that.
WRIGHT: Doing a lot for the community, he brought in The Belle ofLouisville. I don't know whether you are familiar with that, but he brought that in. And then of course the, uh, park down at, uh, West Point, and he done just an awful lot of good, the Ford Motor Company, he brought that in down on(??)Fern Valley Road.
WRIGHT: Uh, he was involved in bringing that here. And, uh, he just,well, he was just a highly intelligent man and I just felt that he'd be good for the country.
WRIGHT: And, uh.
WRIGHT: And in fact, when he was sworn in, I was on the airplane withhim when he, uh, we flew to New York when he was sworn in.
WRIGHT: And, uh, I remember a little incident with him because he had,he has three or four kids, the little girl, daughter, and, uh, she wanted to go shopping in Washington, DC. And he wouldn't let her. And, I, I had a talk with him, I said--(Romond laughs)--"Oh, let her go shopping," and she did. She never did forget that, she never did 12:00forget that. And, uh.
ROMOND: She was grateful to you.
WRIGHT: Oh yeah, yes, she got to go shopping and so. But we did havea lot of the, a lot of fun, and a lot of misery. And, uh, you get a candidate, you try to manage him. Now, he wants to tell you what he wants to do.
WRIGHT: And that's not, a candidate can't do it himself. So, I hadseveral conflicts with some of them, uh, you know, didn't(??) how to campaign, where they were going to be, and all of that.
WRIGHT: But it, it worked out. I mean, we, I quit the campaign a coupleof times, then went back after he--
ROMOND: --you did!
WRIGHT: Yeah, um-hm
ROMOND: Over conflicts that you had?
WRIGHT: Over conflicts, because I said, you--
ROMOND: --with him or with other people who were--
WRIGHT: --with him--
ROMOND: --with him.
WRIGHT: With him.
ROMOND: Were they over issues, or--
WRIGHT: --he, no, just not, not listening to me, not, not doing what Iasked him to do.
ROMOND: How to do the campaign.
WRIGHT: Yeah, um-hm, yeah.
WRIGHT: I'd say, "You need to be here." "I don't want to go there!" Isaid, "Well, you're going!" And you know, and so he says "No, I'm not!" I said, "Well, I'll see you later," and I walked out. And, uh, his wife came to me--not him--his wife came to me. 13:00
WRIGHT: She had more influence with me than he did, because, uh, sheunderstood where I was coming from.
WRIGHT: But, uh, but overall, I mean, we, of course we had twocampaigns; we went for the Governor when he was running for Governor against Louie Nunn in the primary.
WRIGHT: I was his manager there, too. And then I was his manager whenhe runs for the senate the first time. We run for the senate for the second time, I wasn't; he gave it to somebody else. That's when he got beat pretty bad. I mean, uh, but, uh, when he run for Governor, I sat up his whole organization. I mean, he didn't know half the people.
ROMOND: You were in the legislature then.
WRIGHT: At the time, right, um-hm
ROMOND: And was Louie Nunn, Governor at the time?
WRIGHT: Louie Nunn was Governor, um-hm.
ROMOND: And you were managing the campaign of the person who was gonnarun against him.
WRIGHT: Against, uh.
ROMOND: Louie Nunn.
WRIGHT: Who Marlow Cook? Was running against him for Governor.
WRIGHT: That's prior to the senate campaign.
WRIGHT: That was before the senate campaign. He, Marlow run for Governor14:00against Louie Nunn. That's what gave him a little up on running for the United States Senate because we had had one statewide campaign.
ROMOND: You had a campaign, um-hm.
ROMOND: Did you feel like it compromised your position in thelegislature, to be managing his campaign?
WRIGHT: I never let it, I never let it. A lot of people got on me aboutit, that I shouldn't do it, you know, I shouldn't, couldn't serve two masters. And ------------(??) got a, uh, a conflict of interest, I never had a conflict of interest.
WRIGHT: I mean, my first interest was the people of the state ofKentucky that I represented. I was representing him as a candidate for United States Senate, I mean, that's altogether different.
ROMOND: It was a separate issue.
WRIGHT: Yeah, um-hm, yeah.
ROMOND: Um-hm. What do you think at this point is, um, what do youfind most satisfying as an accomplishment during the time that you were a legislator?
WRIGHT: Well, of course, one was the University of Louisville, we're(??)15:00bringing them into the system.
WRIGHT: That was, that was a big accomplishment, I thought. Have eversince thought ----------(??)----------. Best thing that happened to this community. But, uh, then, uh, you asked me a question there and I, good Lord! Trying to think back sixteen years. Uh, of course, I can say I was strong pro-life, I mean, stopped a lot of the, uh, abortion bills. I mean, in fact, I introduced bills that against abortion that were passed. I mean, two or three of them are still in effect, I mean , uh, uh, and then of course the, uh, we had, uh, a lot of, uh, conflict at one time over adoption. And I was, you know, I had, uh, an adopted daughter, and.
ROMOND: Um-hm. What was the conflict?
WRIGHT: The conflict was some of the adopted children--16:00
WRIGHT: --wanted to have the rights to open up the, the records. So,they could come back to their adopted parents, I guess, find their real parents. I thought, I didn't think that was right. These people adopted to give them a home, and I said that's, and, this, I had a adopted daughter, too.
WRIGHT: And so, uh, I just didn't think it was right. And, uh, ofcourse since then it's opened up, I mean, which is all right. And I've told my daughter that I adopted, that she could open her records any time she wanted them.
WRIGHT: But at that time, it was, you could, there was, there werecausing a problem, you could tell that they were just a little bit, uh, disturbed. And they weren't really thinking straight because they weren't even thinking about the people that adopted them. They were thinking about their self, that's all.
WRIGHT: That was, that was one major(??) thing that I did, uh, helpstop at that time. I mean, now it's, its open and its fine, I don't, 17:00I don't mind it. But, uh, but at that time I saw it from a different perspective. I saw--
WRIGHT: --I saw those kids as being confused. And, uh, you know, and.
ROMOND: What are your thoughts, Mr. Wright, about how things are beingrun in Frankfort these days compared to where you were there?
WRIGHT: Oh, I'm just, I'm so upset with Frankfort!
WRIGHT: Oh yeah, yeah, I, uh, there's too many in the House and senate,too many lawyers, number one, too many lawyers in there, and they are all interested, the first thing they think about is getting a salary raise, raising their pension.
WRIGHT: Now that's in the General Assembly, I've seen that happen. Itwas happening when I was there. We had one fellow--(coughs)--
[Pause in recording.]
WRIGHT: Uh, one fellow who ran, ran--well, he ran for office for his,18:00he wants to get a bigger pension. And the first thing he'd start working on a pension bill, and that's what he'd do all the time he was there. And, uh, and, of course it was people there drunk all the time and I was not, uh, I don't drink, non-alcoholic and things like that, but today, I don't think that the, uh, the leadership from the top, Fletcher, he hasn't--(coughs)--
[Pause in recording.]
WRIGHT: I think Governor Fletcher surround himself with some people thatreally weren't qualified to be there.
WRIGHT: And, uh, and you can tell by all the conflict that's happened.And then, of course, Greg Stumbo is trying to run for Governor. All this stuff he's bringing up about Fletcher, that's a bunch of garbage, I mean the, the Democrats have done it for years, the same thing. They, they did the same thing all the time I was up there. Ever since 19:00they've been in office, and--
ROMOND: --did what?
WRIGHT: The, the, uh, the, uh, hiring, for hiring and firing of people.They wouldn't hire anybody but Democrats! I mean, uh, I couldn't get one of my constituents a job in Frankfort, even though I was a member of the House of Representative! I couldn't get them a job! I tried! And you know, so they, they've done it for years. And, uh, that's all a bunch of garbage, but that's, that's where I think Fletcher has failed. He failed to get the right people around him to advise him.
WRIGHT: And, uh, he didn't get any of the old-line politicians, whichthey still know something about the, the functions in Frankfort, you know. And , uh, uh, I, I see some of the decisions he's(??) made, boy, I would've been right down his throat, if he had made it while I was there. I mean.
WRIGHT: So, that's, that's a weakness now. I mean, uh, I think he cancome out all right. I believe he'll be all right. He's been a fairly good Governor otherwise, but, uh, it's just all this little nitpicking 20:00stuff that, uh, bothers me. And, uh, you know, I just can't stand that. I mean, I don't like that. I don't like seeing these boys in Washington, Kennedy and, uh, Biden, and that crowd, mouthing off up there about the, uh, Supreme Court Justice.
WRIGHT: You know, and saying their against him, they were against him,they are not going to change, so why get up there and talk about it every day?
WRIGHT: You know, and, uh, we need to concentrate on what's right andwhat's wrong. And, uh, in the state and in, in the, uh, in the federal government, too.
ROMOND: Um-hm. When you first ran for office, were there politicalpeople at that time that you looked up to and admired? And who would they be?
WRIGHT: Well, the only ones that I knew was Marlow Cook and Bill Cowger.And, uh, I'm trying to think. That was locally. I, I admired both of 21:00those at that time. Uh, but that's about all.
WRIGHT: There's two of them. Bill Cowger, he ended up being inCongress, he was mayor of Louisville.
WRIGHT: And Marlow was the county judge of Louisville. And, uh, sothose are two that I admired, I mean that, that--
ROMOND: --what did you admire about them?
WRIGHT: Well, they, they, they both seem to be excellent leaders, youknow, and, uh. And that was, uh, they both led with dignity and, and honor. And, and of course that helped me, I mean I, of course that changed over the years, you know. But, uh, some of them kind of watered themselves down but, uh, that happens, you know. I say, when you get to Washington, D.C., you get Potomac fever, you know.
ROMOND: (laughs) Potomac fever?
WRIGHT: Yeah, you think you're, you're there and you're going to stay,you do no wrong. So, so, you just, you run cheap shod over things. And, uh, a lot of people got that. We got them in Washington right 22:00now.
WRIGHT: And, and they stay there; I don't know why, but they stay.
ROMOND: Who do you admire now in politics?
WRIGHT: Uh. I'm trying to think. Well, of course, I, I like, I like,uh, Donald Rumsfeld.
WRIGHT: Of course he is not in pol-, uh, he was, well, he's, uh, I guesshe is in politics in a way. I also like Condoleezza Rice, uh, uh, I think they are both good leaders. Uh, I like, I voted for(??) Bob Dole. I did like Bob Dole. And, uh, uh, well, most of mine that I really admired are gone.
WRIGHT: Nixon, Reagan, uh, Eisenhower. I mean, now Eisenhower's the oneI really admired, of course. I thought that was my grandfather warmed 23:00over, you know.
WRIGHT: But, uh, uh, but I, I really liked him. And, uh, well I likeHarry Truman, too, you know.
WRIGHT: But right now, I guess that's it, that, that's, there's nobodythat I could, uh, really jump up and down and say, "I want them to run for President," you know, it's not there on either side. And, you know.
ROMOND: Did you learn anything new about people during your life inpolitics?
WRIGHT: Oh yes.
ROMOND: What did you learn?
WRIGHT: I learned that you, uh, certain people you could trust andcertain people you couldn't trust. I mean, there's just a lot of faith and friendship and fellowship, and, uh.
WRIGHT: My, uh, I, when I first went--and I was a city boy; you know,I'm from Louisville, Kentucky; I'm a city boy.
WRIGHT: You got a lot of country boys up there. They don't like thecity boys back then.
WRIGHT: There was a conflict all the time, and I introduced myself to24:00all of them. And I told them, I said, "Now, look I'm an old country boy from Splinter Ridge, Indiana. And if I tell you something, that's what I mean. Now, I'm gonna tell you now. If you ask me to be for something and I tell you I'm for it, you just put it in the refrigerator because it's all done."
WRIGHT: "And I expect that from you." Now, those country boys liked that.
WRIGHT: They liked that. And I'll tell you the truth, I had a lot ofthem that stayed with me on votes, and, even on the Democrat side--
WRIGHT: --that voted with me on the Republican side. And so that's,that's what I learned that was, fellowship and, and, uh, trust.
ROMOND: Um-hm, what your word was worth.
WRIGHT: Your word is, yeah, what it's worth. I mean, that's, that'swhat I always said, my word is just as good as anything. I say, "You 25:00just, if I say so-," but I said, "Now, I'll you ----------(??) though, if, if I come to the point where I cannot support what you're telling me, I won't(??) go out here and vote against you. I'll come and tell you I can't do it." And of course, there again, that was another, a good factor with them, because they knew where you stood all the time. You know, if you'd tell them something and they could believe it, then, I don't very, I had to change it a couple of time, but I mean, it was on a, on something that wasn't important to them, too, so it was, it wasn't too bad.
WRIGHT: But, uh, but that's, that's primarily, I just, uh, I met a lotof fine people up there.
WRIGHT: And then I met a lot of that weren't. (laughs)
WRIGHT: And, uh, there was, of course a lot of them, like I say, theyrun for the money and they run for the party and then all that. And, 26:00uh, I never went to the parties.
WRIGHT: And never went to the big moneymaking things, I never went tothose things. Uh, I just didn't want to fool with it.
ROMOND: Hm. What do you recall about your campaigns over the years?What kind of memories do you have about experiences campaigning?
WRIGHT: Oh, goodness gracious, I have so many, uh, I had a lot, a lotof people say working for me but my campaign worker were just, I had a lot--I don't know why it was--but a lot of women who worked for me.
WRIGHT: And, uh, I had one, she was really an artist when it came to runa campaign, I mean.
ROMOND: Who was that?
WRIGHT: Uh. Elaine Morgan, Elaine Morgan, she, but now she came latethough. I mean, I, uh, on the first part of them I ran them all myself.
WRIGHT: I mean I had no campaign chairman or anything like that. No27:00finance chairman, I financed myself. I didn't ask for any money. And, uh, but in later time, uh, she was one and, but they just worked their self to death. I mean, I, uh, I for-, I'll never forget this one lady, had, hadn't been too--well, long ago, but I mean it was, uh, she came over to pick up a bunch of envelopes. She was gonna address a thousand or two thousand envelopes, you know. And so, she took off and I looked out of my office window, and she was turning the corner, and those envelopes were flying all over the street.
ROMOND: Oh my.
WRIGHT: She had set them on the roof of her car and forgot to putthem in the car. (both laugh) And. (laughs) Ah, that Maryanne(??), Maryanne(??), I think Maryanne(??)'s her name but I, I laughed about that, I said, "Oh my gosh." I said, "Look out there." And, and, but she saw them, she turned around--
ROMOND: --um-hm, came back--
WRIGHT: --came back, was out there picking them up, you know. But thatwas one instance I thought was funny. And then, uh, uh, a lot others. 28:00I met, you know, I'd go around and shake hands with people. And I meet, uh, I met a, uh, older couple on, uh, -----------(??) Avenue. I took pictures with them. They were senior citizens and they stood there and talked to me for the longest time. And I took pictures of them and used them in the, uh, campaign literature.
WRIGHT: And, uh, uh, and, of course, we had meetings at differentplaces. And, uh, uh, I just, well, I don't know. The mainly, the, the door-to-door was the, was the main thing. I enjoyed it; I enjoyed it quite a bit.
WRIGHT: Of course, the last time, I couldn't do it. Uh, uh, I couldn'tget out as much. And, uh.
WRIGHT: Uh, I wasn't as old as I'm now, but I was, I was getting towhere I was, you know, campaigned out, really what you, you know. And, uh, but, uh, I met a lot of fine people.
WRIGHT: Good people that, uh, I mean, people would come to me and, uh,29:00men, too and wanted to, I had a couple three men who wanted to put out my signs. I put out the first yard sign that was put out in Jefferson County.
WRIGHT: Yeah, I started it, in, in Jefferson County. Uh, said, "ThisFamily is for Dexter Wright." And, uh, I think I had a six hundred signs. That's a lot of signs in a legislative(??) district. And these fellows come and started putting them up. And, and I'll never will forget it, the fellow was important to the Federal Savings and Loan, John Evert(??). I'd borrowed a lot of money; I was in the real estate business and borrowed money from them on the real estate and all that. But, uh, he came out in my office one day, he says, "Here's a hundred dollars." I said, "What for?" And he said, "Somebody got to pay for all those damn signs!" (Romond laughs) So I said(??), "John, they're already paid for."
WRIGHT: But we had, uh, we had six hundred of them out. And, uh, and-----------(??) Democrats Republicans ------------(??). Those, uh, I had one fellow, I think he put out about three hundred himself. 30:00
ROMOND: That's a lot.
WRIGHT: Oh yeah, that's a lot of work, a lot of work.
WRIGHT: And, uh, you go up and knock on the door, if you, it is allright. I mean, because they all, we already had approval for it.
WRIGHT: Because we had phones banks going, and they would ask, "Could weput a sign in your yard?" They say "Yes." Well, we, and we would follow it up. But, uh, but, uh, then, uh, the bigger signs, I never, I run for office one time and, and, uh, another fellow was running for alderman in my district. And I had, uh, been influential in getting a stop sign put, a stop light put up in cross traffic because we're having a lot of wrecks at this place. And I had it put up. I mean, through Frankfort, I mean, that, you know, that's the way you get things done, you know.
WRIGHT: And, uh, so, I was over there, I said, "Well, I might as welltake a picture of this and use it as, uh," you know, and, this guy runs for alderman, he come over and stood right with me. And, and then he had it in his ads, too, that he had helped with that, he didn't have a 31:00thing to do with it. I mean, but, and that kind of bugged me a little bit.
WRIGHT: But, uh, but those freeloaders, you have those, you know. And,uh, they like to take credit for what you're doing, uh.
ROMOND: Mr. Wright, what advice or wisdom would you pass on to somebodyconsidering running for political office?
WRIGHT: Well, the, the first piece of advice, have a thick skin.(laughs) You know?
WRIGHT: Not, not, I would always, I, I, you know, I didn't worry aboutwhat anybody said. I mean, that's, you did, that's what you have to be.
WRIGHT: And then also, be real honest with people.
WRIGHT: Be hon-, be honest with yourself first and then everybody. Justbe honest; if you tell them something, do it, and if you, you know, if you believe something, believe in it.
WRIGHT: Believe in yourself, believe in everybody else. And that's,and, uh, and not, don't think of yourself all the time when(??) you're 32:00running.
WRIGHT: You want the office or you want to run? But you don't want theoffice for what you can get out of it; it's for what you can do for the people that you represent.
WRIGHT: And I firmly believe that's the only way you should be in publicoffice. And then, that's the best advice I can give them. And, uh, be sincere. And that's, that's the advice I would give them, I mean. And, uh.
WRIGHT: Uh, have faith and trust.
ROMOND: Is there anything else you would like to add to yourrecollections?
WRIGHT: Oh, I don't know, if we go back through my childhood I'dprobably come up with a, a whole lot of stuff. But, uh, I can't, you know, like I told you, I can't remember too much of my childhood. I remember about almost drowning in the creek down there where I went swimming and, uh. 33:00
ROMOND: How old were you when that happened?
WRIGHT: I was probably about eight or nine years old.
WRIGHT: And, uh, my grandparents, of course, they, I lived with them.And, uh, uh, and going back, my goodness gracious! When I left, uh, my granddad, we, I lived with them when my grandmother died, that's when I had to get out. I headed for Kentucky.
WRIGHT: I had two sisters here and a brother. I got here in, uh, uh,I had a Model A Ford roadster. My grandfather had a Model A Ford two- door that he gave me that I worked on all the time. Every time you'd look up the engine was up and I was working on the thing. (Romond laughs) So he gave it to me.
WRIGHT: So, I traded it in on a yellow Model A roadster. Look in there.
ROMOND: Oh, you have a painting of it!
WRIGHT: That's not the same one but that's exactly what I can--
ROMOND: --um-hm, the same model--34:00
WRIGHT: --can tell(??), yeah.
WRIGHT: I came to Kentucky in that Model A roadster. And I will neverforget, I got to Louisville, and I, I was on Frankfort Avenue now--now that I recall--and I was calling trying to locate my sisters, so I could, you know, have somewhere to land. And, uh, so I finally found a, I found one of them, and I drove over to her house. And, and I stayed with her about three days.
WRIGHT: And, uh, I had a job within eight hours after I got here. Iwent out to the grocery store and I had a job--
WRIGHT: --and, uh--
ROMOND: --that's fast!
WRIGHT: So I moved out. I mean, my brother and I moved out together ina rooming house in the--
WRIGHT: --uh, one experience I had on that job, uh, being an old countryboy, I wasn't used to the, uh, streetcars.
WRIGHT: You know? Along Bardstown Road, you know, uh, where, uh, theycome together, Bardstown -----------(??) road. 35:00
ROMOND: I don't know that--
WRIGHT: --you don't know it--
ROMOND: --uh, section, no--
WRIGHT: --well, anyhow, there is, I worked for Decko's(??) Grocery.
WRIGHT: And I rode the streetcar. Well, I got, uh, I got there and Ijumped off the streetcar running around in the front and got hit by a car.
ROMOND: Oh my.
WRIGHT: Hit me and just knocked me up in the air and, uh. (laughs) AndI still got a little scar on my leg, but I was lucky, I put my hands out when, when the car hit me and pushed myself away from it. Now see, I'd forgotten this but this, and, uh, but, uh, it didn't knock me out. I mean, I got up and walked all over. And, and the fellow that standing over there at work, "My God, didn't you know that, get off and ran out in front?" And I said, "I didn't think." He said, "You should of got out and walk around the back where you could see something coming." You know?
WRIGHT: And of course the guy who was driving lickety-split down throughthere anyhow, but anyhow.
ROMOND: You were lucky.
WRIGHT: I was lucky, yeah! I got, I got--(both laugh)--the fire knocked36:00out of me but, uh. But anyhow, that was one experience that I had, uh, back then and, uh. I stayed here, I tell you, I stayed here, uh, almost a year. And you know, you, you don't remember this, but used to, they had bank nights on, on the theaters. Have you ever heard of that?
WRIGHT: Bank nights at the theaters in, in downtown. When you went tothe theater, you got a ticket, and they would have a drawing, the $75 bank night or something. And, you know, whose ticket was drawn, that was, you won the $75.
WRIGHT: So I had worked, uh, almost, almost a year in Decko's(??)Grocery. And the, uh, chauffeur for, uh, Taylor's Drugstore came in one morning. And, uh, "Anybody want to go to Florida?" (laughs) "I'm going and it won't cost you a dime. You can ride with me and we'll and 37:00I'll buy all your lunches and everything, while we, while we were on our way." And, uh, well, it, it so happen just before that--to go back a little bit--our family, someone would go to bank night every time and take all the tickets. Well, I hit the bank night!
ROMOND: You did?
WRIGHT: I hit the bank night, got seventy-five dollars, so--
ROMOND: --you were a rich man.
WRIGHT: I was a rich man, so when he said, "Do you want to go toFlorida?" I said, "I'm ready!" (Romond laughs) And so I rode to Florida with him. And I stayed down there about four or five weeks. I could not get a job down there. ----------(??)---------- money(??), I hitched hiked back here, rode on the top, uh, you know, big semi trailer--
WRIGHT: --a load of tomatoes. I was laying on the top of those in, inthe back. And, uh, over(??) we came across the mountain and I looked down over there, I thought(??), "Oh boy!" (laughs) But we made it back all right. Then, uh, then I went back to Bloomfield where I was from, 38:00and, uh.
WRIGHT: Stayed there until I, until I got married, and then, uh, thefirst time, and, uh--
ROMOND: --then came back here.
WRIGHT: Then I came back here in 1940, um-hm.
WRIGHT: Um-hm, yeah, 1940, I think it was, yeah. And, uh, yeah, becausemy oldest daughter was born, uh, in '41. And, uh, yeah, that was about 1940.
WRIGHT: And then, of course, I went to, uh, I went to the service, youknow, and served over there. And, uh, when I came home in 1945, I think it was, uh, my little girls was about four- or five years old. Then, uh, I got at the railroad station downtown and got off the train. And, and my wife said, "I've sued you for divorce." I hadn't 39:00even, uh, sat my--
ROMOND: --you didn't have a clue.
WRIGHT: Uh, I didn't have, uh, I didn't even set my duffle bag down, youknow. And, and, uh, I never thought too much. I mean, I thought about it, yeah, well I thought when I was over there, you know, I--
ROMOND: --did you suspect?
WRIGHT: Yeah, in the letters and all of that, you know. And, uh, butanyhow she, uh, she said that, I'm telling you, it, it floored me though, I mean.
WRIGHT: I didn't, but, uh.
WRIGHT: But anyhow, we, we got the divorce, and she got my little girl,and I tried my damnedest to get her but.
WRIGHT: Back then they wouldn't give them, uh, daddies a child.
WRIGHT: No matter what the women did, and oh, she had done had somebodyelse. So, uh, uh, but I never did get her, but anyhow.
ROMOND: That was hard to come home to.
WRIGHT: Yeah. Yeah, you, I, uh, anyhow, it was unique situation, butLord, I'm glad it went, it went the way it did, because no telling where I'd be today if I was stayed with her. (laughs) You know. 40:00
WRIGHT: Of course I wasn't about to stay there when she already told meshe wanted a divorce. I wouldn't of stayed. You couldn't hire me to stay. Unh-uh. Because I know what happened.
WRIGHT: In my mind, but, uh. But that was a, that, that's actually thebeginning of, uh, of a new life for me, uh.
ROMOND: What work did you do when you first came back--
WRIGHT: --I worked--
ROMOND: --after you were in the service?
WRIGHT: I, I, I worked for, uh, I worked for the federal gover-, uh,naval ordnance station when I went in the service.
WRIGHT: When I came back, they took me back, because they had to. Andthen Harry Truman closed down the naval ordnance station. I went to work for B. F. Goodrich. Uh, I had worked for them before I went to the, uh, to naval ordnance. I worked at the gas pump. But I came back and, uh, B. F. Goodrich, the manager was there, and I always liked him 41:00from, uh--
WRIGHT: --uh, when I worked for him before. He said, "Why don't you,why don't you get, take this job? I got a commercial sales job. You ought to try it!" I thought, "Man, that's going to be tough," you know. I had never been into sales. Well, I've always been in grocery store and all that, but he hired me. He had faith in me. Well, I started doing pretty good. (laughs)
WRIGHT: And, and, uh, I think they had one salesman who had been therefor about thirty years and he had called on this one company for twenty years and never sold them a thing. I went in there, I kept, I was driving around, driving my car around the block to keep from going in, because I was so nervous, you know. (Romond laughs) And finally there was a place right in front of us. So, I said, "Well, hell, I got to park." So I went in, I sold that guy fifty tires. Took the order--
ROMOND: --first visit.
WRIGHT: First visit, took the order back to the, the manager, he didn'tknow what to think. He said, "My God, we've trying for years to sell 42:00them tires." (laughs) Oh my God! I sold them fifty tires, truck tires.
WRIGHT: And, uh, but that's when I got interested in, uh, selling, and Itraveled--well, I traveled, uh, southern Indiana and southern Illinois for Cooper Tire and Rubber Company.
WRIGHT: Uh, then I left there and went to Firestone Tires for a littlewhile. And then I had taken the real estate license and, uh, uh, a friend of mine worked for a, a mortgage company. He said, uh, "Why don't you talk to this fellow? I, he might hire you to sell all his houses."
WRIGHT: When I went and talked to him, he did, he hired me. Uh, ------------(??) Homes. They had three hundred houses going up.
WRIGHT: And that's when I went to work for, uh, in the real estatebusiness. I sold three hundred houses in just about two years. I 43:00wrote twenty--
ROMOND: --that's a lot of houses--
WRIGHT: --I wrote twenty-eight contracts in one day.
Um-I told you that, I think.
ROMOND: Um-hm, um-hm.
WRIGHT: And(??) that's a lot of houses, but anyhow, that, uh, then whenI got involved in politics, I was active in church; I was a steward in the Methodist church, which is a deacon in the Baptist church, and all of that. And the people at the church asked me to run for office.
WRIGHT: And that's when I got involved, and, uh.
ROMOND: Could you ever have imagined in your young life that you wouldend up in politics?
WRIGHT: I never imagined that, uh, at all about politics. I neverimagined that I'd be, to have the money that I've got.
WRIGHT: I always admired my cousin's new Pontiacs and all of that.
WRIGHT: And here I'm driving a Cadillac. Never, never, uh, in fact thatright now it's hard for me to believe that I've gotten, you know, a -----------(??). 44:00
WRIGHT: Never, never have dreamed about it. Now I thought, I'd bestruggling and working like a horse all the time, all my life!
WRIGHT: Well, I did. But I mean it was, not with my hand, with my mindI worked in, in that.
WRIGHT: Of course I did a lot of work at home, too. I mean I did alot of repairs and all that, but I mean, but, uh, never in the wildest dream did I think that I'd end up in politics, and did I ever think I'd meet a president or.
WRIGHT: I always looked up, and man, those people are really up there,and here I am.
WRIGHT: I was in Washington, DC, the same place they were, you know.
WRIGHT: But it's, it's, it's, it's just like a dream come true, Iguess. I mean, but I never dreamed I'd do it, but so, I guess I'm just fortunate it fell into my lap. And I took advantage of it. I, the Lord, Lord blessed me. And what I am is what he gave me. And I used it. You know, I could've sat back. An orphan, no family. 45:00
WRIGHT: I could've sat back, and said, "Oh, you know," but I'vescratched my way, all the way through.
WRIGHT: So, I mean, I owe it all to the man upstairs. I mean, he gaveme the ability and I used it.
ROMOND: Um-hm. You've had some really interesting experience.
WRIGHT: Oh, I have, I mean, if I could just, you know, if I could justwrite it down, all of it. I mean, I've met a lot of people in, in my lifetime. And I go back, I'm going back, I happened to think of this, I'm going back, 1935, we lived at Splinter Ridge, Indiana.
WRIGHT: There was an old man down the hill, Sam Kneed(??)--
[Pause in recording.]
WRIGHT: --now, Sam Kneed(??) was a, a real wealthy farmer. And of46:00course we were poor Joe Turkey, you know. And I, uh, I was just a kid, I mean. In 1935, I was probably thir-, twelve, thirteen years old.
WRIGHT: I went down to work for him, you know, in the corn field and,uh--
WRIGHT: --followed the corn planter. The corn planter puts the corn inthe ground. Sometimes it doesn't cover it, so you follow it with your feet. You take your feet and you kick the dirt--
ROMOND: --cover it up, um-hm--
WRIGHT: --over them, yeah. And we went in and they were supposed tofeed us. So we went in to eat. And, uh, we, uh, we ate, and I reached up to get a banana. He was ----------(??), "Oh you can't have those, those for just for the family." I never, I never did forget that. I said, "Now, why would he not let me have a banana?" But, uh, that's how, I just thought, through a thought run through my mind, just then when that happened.
WRIGHT: I guess he took all that money to the grave with him, you know.I never did get him, I never worked for him anymore.
WRIGHT: I wouldn't(??) to go back, back down there. But, uh, I guess47:00that was the first-paying job I had, twenty-five cents a day. (laughs)
ROMOND: Hard work.
WRIGHT: Walking behind that thing eight hours a day--(laughs)--eighthours a day. Yeah. I told you about my grandpa and the car--
WRIGHT: (laughs) That's where we did--
ROMOND: --you could only drive forward?
WRIGHT: Forward, yeah. (Romond laughs) Pulled that thing up next to thebarn and I kept pushing the barn, you know. And, uh, I'll never forget that. (both laugh). I kept, I said, "This damn thing"--oh, I didn't say that, I don't, uh, I was too young then, but I, "I can't get this thing to go back, what's the matter?"
WRIGHT: Well, I didn't know where gears were, you know. So, I ended upcarrying the gas can all the way back in the back, way down over the hill, I know. And my grandpa said, "Grab darn it, son, you said you could drive!" (both laugh) And I--
ROMOND: --I guess you learned pretty quick.
WRIGHT: I learned pretty quick, yeah. (Romond laughs) He took me, he48:00showed me when we got up there, how to put it in reverse. He did show me.
WRIGHT: Yeah, so I, we both had to walk back up there to get the carback, and, uh. (laughs)
ROMOND: Well, thank you so much, I've really enjoyed this time.
WRIGHT: Well, I've enjoyed, uh, I just wish I could--well, I could thinkmore about me, but I mean you have had that time. I wish I had done this a long time ago. Uh, I think there's things here that my daughter will enjoy.
ROMOND: I know she will. And your grandchildren.
WRIGHT: Uh, I was just, uh, thinking back when I went to the service,and, uh, my little girl was just a, we didn't have any money back then. I was living in a house on Fisher Avenue. And, uh, and I, we had a--I couldn't buy a new tricycle. So I had an old one I'd brought home. 49:00And sanded it down and painted that and it looked just like new, a little wooden ----------(??) on the peddle. And when I left to go to the service, I was walking down the street. She was riding that little tricycle, up that sidewalk, saying, "Bye Daddy, bye Daddy." And oh man!
WRIGHT: That tore me up.
ROMOND: That was hard.
WRIGHT: Oh hard, yeah, yeah, it was really--
ROMOND: --how long was it until you saw her again?
WRIGHT: Oh, it wasn't very long. We had, uh, fifteen weeks of basictraining and that was it. And I came back and then home for a week, that was it, and then we were overseas, gone.
ROMOND: And how long were you gone overseas?
WRIGHT: I was gone, uh, twenty-one months; I think it was, all together.So, uh.
ROMOND: So she grew a lot, during (unintelligible)
WRIGHT: She grew a lot, and then, that's of course, that's when hermother grew away from me too, but that's, uh. Yeah, I used to work on the cars, and I bought a couple of jeeps when I first got back, and 50:00worked on cars, and fixed them up and selling.
WRIGHT: And, uh, I can see, see her today, she would get under that carand lay down there with me.
WRIGHT: I say, "Hand me a screw driver," and she handed me, and she has,to this day, she remembers that. The oldest daughter remembers that.
WRIGHT: But, uh, we missed out a lot because her mother wouldn'tcooperate with me, wouldn't let me, I wanted her here.
WRIGHT: I wanted to bring her here when she got older to go to college,but she wouldn't go.
WRIGHT: She wouldn't come, so, uh. But, uh, I can still see that littlesquirt laying there under that car with me, and handing me my tools.
WRIGHT: Yeah, handing me my tool, yeah.
WRIGHT: And, uh, used to go up and see her every weekend, until it gotso bad, her mother got so bad at it, it just tore me up every time I went up there. You know.
WRIGHT: I cried all the way back home. And I know she was crying, too.So, I just, I just said I'm not gonna go through this. And, uh, I did 51:00go over to see her, but I mean not, not as often as I was. And, uh, we, I used to go up there and we would stay in a hotel.
WRIGHT: Take, take her shopping, you know. We would go shopping at thefive and two cents store. She would pick up everything and look at it, and never buy a thing.
WRIGHT: (laughs) Of course I bought her stuff, but she, she just didn't,uh, didn't want to buy anything. She now, she's not like that. Sixty- four and poor. (both laughs)
ROMOND: And now you have two little squirts right next door, yourgrandchildren.
WRIGHT: Oh man. The Lord is really good to me on that one. Whenhe gave me that girl, I adopted her; I was forty-seven years old. Everybody says, "You can't adopt a child, you're too old." I said, "I will adopt a child." Of course I was in Frankfort at that time.
WRIGHT: State Representative. And the people that, uh, in the, uh,52:00child welfare department, that's where she came from, I don't know, she was born here in Louisville some place.
WRIGHT: They'd -----------(??)--I, I, I'll run this in. When she was,going down to see her, they brought her out. Handed her to me like this. And she was so little. And her butt about that size, you know. And the girl said, "What do you think?" And I looked at the girl, I said, "I don't think I want her." "Well, why not?" I said, "Well, she ain't got any butt!"
ROMOND: (laughs) ------------(??)
WRIGHT: Yeah, she looked at me. She was so shocked, she thought I wasserious. (Romond laughs) I said, "Oh, no-no-no. No, I'm joking." Uh, when we got her, she was, uh, just a little thing. Lord, I used to have to hunt all over town to buy her little clothes for her when she 53:00was a little girl.
WRIGHT: We shopped and shopped and shopped. I did it with her becauseher mother was sick most of the time. But, but the Lord, when he gave me her, he gave me a gift. I tell her that, and she just say, "No Dad, I'm tired of hearing that!" You know. (both laugh) I say, "Well, you've been a blessing to me." You know, and just, uh, I tell her, every once in a while, she's a pretty good mother, but not as good a mother as I was a father, you know.
ROMOND: (laughs) You tell her that?
ROMOND: You give her a hard time.
WRIGHT: Yeah, I give, oh yeah, she said, "You tell everybody, he givesme a hard way to go." Oh yeah! But, uh, but she knows what I'm doing.
WRIGHT: You know, a lot of people couldn't take it. Some of it. They'dget mad at me, but she knows what I'm doing.
WRIGHT: But I see her with those little kids, and man, I'm telling you.54:00Oh boy.
ROMOND: It's a gift.
ROMOND: It's a gift.
WRIGHT: Oh, it's the most wonderful gift there is. A child is.
WRIGHT: The most wonderful gift there is. If more parents realizedthat, a lot of them don't. You know, it just their child and, you know, don't(??) take care of. But, uh, I, I think a lot of parents don't realize just what a wonderful experience and gift it is to have a little baby. And, uh, but I'm, uh, like you say, I'm lucky, I got them. It's a wonder--
ROMOND: -- -----------(??)--
WRIGHT: Oh no, she's in school; Zoe is at school. And their--
ROMOND: --she's in kindergarten, huh?
WRIGHT: Huh? Yeah, yeah, but she's gonna have to repeat it. Teachertold my daughter say, she's just not mature yet. I said, I know that, I can tell--
ROMOND: --she is just young.
ROMOND: She's young.
WRIGHT: Yeah, well it won't hurt her to come back, you know.55:00
ROMOND: No, get a good start.
WRIGHT: Yeah. I start, uh, I put her in school at the wrong time.Though I mean, I'm experience at that, so I just, it's gonna cost $5500 tuition to put her in kindergarten.
WRIGHT: The schools here aren't worth a dime, you know. Uh, that's,that's another experience I had in Frankfort with the school system here.
WRIGHT: I was always in conflict with them. And, uh, spending moneyfoolishly. Uh, but she's gonna ---------(??), she'll go back and, uh, she'll be alright.
ROMOND: She'll be fine.
WRIGHT: I'm surprised, now I bet, if, if Jake, if, uh--
ROMOND: --your little grandson?
WRIGHT: Yeah, if Dawn would mention it to me, or if I would drive overthere on that golf cart, and he saw me, he -----------(??)--------, 56:00"Papaw, Papaw, Papaw, ride! Ride! Go, go!" (Romond laughs) Last night it was raining. And I took Zoe home. Went, Zoe wanted me to pick her up. So, he's here at the door with my daughter. She's got his jacket on because she knows he is gonna to want a ride and, uh.
ROMOND: In the golf cart?
WRIGHT: In the golf cart. So we got, so we got on, he got on. And Zoesaid, "I don't want him to go, Papaw." I said, "I'm going to take him for ride." (Romond laughs) So I brought her over here and left here. And, uh, we rode around, go back home, my daughter had come out. "No, no, no. Ride, ride. Go, go!" I do it again, done it three times, and then Zoe, I looked up and here she was coming over. "You're taking too long with him." (both laugh)
ROMOND: Spoken like a true sister.
WRIGHT: Yeah. (both laugh) Yeah, yeah.57:00
ROMOND: Well, thank you so much.
WRIGHT: Well, I appreciate you coming. I hope you got something youcan use
WRIGHT: And, uh.
ROMOND: You've shared some really interesting stories, thank you.
[End of interview.]