HERDMAN: The following is an unrehearsed interview with former State Senator C.G. Higdon, who represented Carlisle, Hickman, Fulton, Graves, Calloway and Trigg County from 1981 to 1986. The interview was conducted by Catherine Herdman for the University of Kentucky Oral History Project on July twenty-seventh in the office of Mr. Higdon in Frankfort, Kentucky, at 10:00 AM.

HIGDON: Okay, there's was one mistake in ---------(??)--

HERDMAN: --sure--

HIGDON: It was from 1981, I mean, 1982 from nineteen, it was from December of eighty-, of '81 to, to December of '91.

HERDMAN: Of '91, okay. Thank you.

[Pause in recording.]

HERDMAN: Okay, um, Mr. Higdon, let's start with the beginning. Where were you born? Uh, who were your parents?

HIGDON: C.V. and Mabel Higdon are my parents. And I was born in, in, uh, West Kentucky at Riverside Hospital in Paducah. I've lived my 1:00entire life in, uh, in the little town called Fancy Farm in Graves County.

HERDMAN: Okay, and what do your parents do for a living?

HIGDON: My father was involved in the food business, uh, and, uh, sold food.

HERDMAN: Like a general store, or?

HIGDON: No, no, uh, food distributors.


HIGDON: The latter part of his career was Frosty Acre--

HERDMAN: --um-hm--

HIGDON: --uh, Kentucky Foods in Paducah. My mother's been a, uh, basically an, an in-home mom, her, her career. She's done some spotted work. She, she started a little business with two other ladies in Mayfield, uh, called the Good News Shop. Selling Christian books and, and stuff. And, uh, she did that for a few years, the latter part of her life.

HERDMAN: Okay. Do you have siblings?

HIGDON: I've got three brothers: uh, Sam, Gene, and Billy.

HERDMAN: And do they live in Fancy Farm?

HIGDON: They all live in Fancy Farm now. In fact, my father purchased a piece of land, um, in the, uh, uh, mid-sixties. And, uh, my, one of my 2:00brothers built on it. Uh, I own, I own the property now, and, uh, uh, I built a house on it. My other two brothers built houses on the other side. And my middle, uh, my, uh, Gene followed my dad's footsteps, he's in the, in the food business -----------(??)--

HERDMAN: --um-hm--

HIGDON: --my father and his brother owned it for several years in, in Paducah. And, uh, uh, Sam is an engineer from Christian Brothers College in, uh, Memphis, Tennessee, and has been with Continental, now it's Continental General Tire, but he used to be with, uh, General Tire--

HERDMAN: --um-hm--

HIGDON: --uh, from the day he graduated from college. And my youngest brother is an IRS agent with the Internal Revenue Service, Billy.

HERDMAN: So all four of you attended college?

HIGDON: All four, no, Gene, my, uh, the, uh, Gene did not attend college.

HERDMAN: Um-hm. And what do you remember about your grandparents?

HIGDON: Well, uh, Dad's dad passed away when Dad was very young. So I 3:00never really knew him. Miss Daisy, um, uh, uh, was blind most of the time, well, from the time I think I was born.


HIGDON: Uh, and whatever, a very gracious lady. Uh, they lived right down from the church there in Fancy Farm. And, uh, and then, uh, uh, I knew both of mom's, uh, parents, uh, Brown and, uh, Alma Thompson. Uh, Brown Thompson started, had an eighth-grade education, started, uh, uh, killing hogs and selling sausage at a very, uh, young age, and it finally became a very big company. It has now, uh, gone to the wayside since.


HIGDON: But that, um--

HERDMAN: --it was sold, or, uh--

HIGDON: --very, very, yeah, uh, over--

HERDMAN: --yeah--

HIGDON: --over a period of time. But very, uh, rural type people. Uh, Dad's, uh, dad was a doctor, uh, there in the community, and, uh, 4:00but he passed away, he got pneumonia and stuff. Uh, I think he was probably in his fifties.


HIGDON: Or maybe sixties, something like that, when he passed away.


HIGDON: Rural country doctor.

HERDMAN: (laughs) Um, do you, were you, did you grow up in a neighborhood where there kids around, or was it isolated? How would you describe?

HIGDON: Well, Fancy Farm is a very, uh, unique place. It's not really a city. At one time, many, many years ago, long before I was born, it was, but it's, uh, it's basically built around the St. Jerome Catholic Church there.


HIGDON: Uh, it's about ten miles, uh, out of Mayfield, Kentucky. And, uh, in fact, uh, one of the unique things that, that, that I got to experience in, in going to public school at, at, at Fancy Farm was it was all talk about the nuns, Sisters of Charity of Nazareth. All the way through K-, uh, first grade through twelfth.

HERDMAN: Was the settlement related to the church, or?

HIGDON: Yeah, it's all, everything around there, uh, uh, in those days 5:00was almost a 100 percent Catholic community.


HIGDON: Full Catholic community.

HERDMAN: Do you know anything about how it started out there, or?

HIGDON: Not, not a whole lot. Most of the, a lot of the people that, uh, uh, migrated there and started that community, like the Willets and the Carricos(??), and whatever, came from up in and around Marion, uh, County here, uh, in the Bardstown area.


HIGDON: A lot of them came from there.

HERDMAN: Uh, what do you remember for activities in your childhood, games, or, movies?

HIGDON: My fondest memory was, uh, we used to do things, uh, uh, like, uh, paint, uh, tobacco sticks and ride them like horses. And, uh, in, uh, in, in the younger days, uh, down the side of our house, in the back we had a little path, and we'd run our little cars, and we played a lot outside.


HIGDON: Quite a bit outside and stuff, and get muddy and dirty. Uh, there's one year's difference in, in my brothers, in our ages, except 6:00between Gene and Billy, and it's, uh, two years, there.


HIGDON: But, uh, very calm, and, and whatever. And then when I got in, into, uh, the seventh and eighth grade, I developed a healthy interest in basketball--

HERDMAN: --um-hm--

HIGDON: --uh, in a small school. Played on the seventh and eighth grade team, played high school ball there. And then, uh, played a little bit in college--

HERDMAN: --um-hm--

HIGDON: --uh, after that. But it's, uh, you know, one way to describe it, kind of protected in a lot of ways.


HIGDON: Uh, didn't know a lot about things away from there. I remember after I got, you know, close to my junior and senior year, we made trips. We spent a lot of time, my dad was a big baseball fan, St. Louis Cardinals, and we would, uh, he would take us every year as very small kids, uh, to St. Louis. And trips like that, and then the latter part, uh, we made trips to California and different things like that.


HERDMAN: Um-hm. Um, what church did your family attend?

HIGDON: St. Jerome Catholic Church.

HERDMAN: So you were Catholic growing up?

HIGDON: Right.

HERDMAN: Um, where there a lot of Catholics outside of your community, or was it kind of?

HIGDON: Uh, there are more now.


HIGDON: Uh, Mayfield has a Catholic church in it. And then of course St. John's over at Paducah, and, and different ones. Uh, uh, but, uh, uh, uh, the Catholic faith was a smaller part of the overall Christian face in, in west Kentucky.


HIGDON: At, at, during my formative years.

HERDMAN: Do you, uh, did your parents, or your family, whoever migrated there, were they drawn by the Catholic church, or was it because that was basically the only church that was out there?

HIGDON: I really don't have any way of knowing that but obviously when they first came there, they established the--

HERDMAN: --um-hm--

HIGDON: --the church. And, and, uh, if you look at the history of things, it's pretty even although it's diversified some since there are no other churches in the Fancy Farm community--

HERDMAN: --that your family's intertwined with that, yeah.


HIGDON: Right.

HERDMAN: Like that older history. Okay, um, what did you, tell me a little bit about attending that church, what were services like?

HIGDON: Well it, uh, I've had a philosophy about that. Uh, you learn a lot more after you get older, and think back on how you were trained. Uh, we were, uh, you know I mentioned to you earlier that the, the, uh, Sisters of Charity taught school.


HIGDON: Well, uh, we would, we would get to school, we got to go to mass every morning, you know. Of course, when you're a little tyke, that's, that can be, uh, you can get in trouble. (Herdman laughs) Talking in church and that type of thing.

HERDMAN: But that was part of your, your public school.

HIGDON: Right. Uh, uh, uh, we were very fortunate that, that we were allowed to do that as a, as a community, uh, the school there at Fancy Farm. And, uh, uh, uh, I guess probably for me, the first time I really, really related to the, uh, to my faith was, uh, when I, uh, 9:00went off to the military, out of college.


HIGDON: Uh, I got to, you know, I was by myself, lonely, scared, you know, I went to mass the first weekend I was in basic training. And, uh, I'll, I'll never forget the calmness of that. Uh, the Catholic faith, especially when I was growing up in it, uh, was really strong on the sacramental.


HIGDON: And that type of, of thing. The mass is very, was very oriented that way. We, uh, our instruction in our faith was taught to us by the nuns and our families.


HIGDON: You know, our mothers and fathers. And, uh, so that's pretty much it.

HERDMAN: And you attended public school in Fancy Farm from elementary through high school?

HIGDON: Correct.

HERDMAN: What were the names of the schools you attended?

HIGDON: It was just Fancy Farm Elementary.

HERDMAN: Fancy Farm Elementary.

HIGDON: And, and Fancy Farm High School.


HERDMAN: Okay. (laughs) And, uh, you said you played basketball? Any other extracurricular that were popular?

HIGDON: I played baseball a little bit.


HIGDON: I played a lot of golf then(??), but we didn't have a golf team, and we were too small a school to have a football team--

HERDMAN: --when you were in high school--

HIGDON: --basketball was the, the thing, when I was in high school.

HERDMAN: Yeah. Yeah, that seems to be, uh, a Kentucky situation. (both laugh)


HERDMAN: Um, was there a movie theater in your hometown?

HIGDON: Not in Fancy Farm. There was the Princess Theater in Mayfield, Kentucky.


HIGDON: Was the one that, took I took my first dates to and things like that.

HERDMAN: Okay. Um, let's go with, uh, do you have any teachers that you remember, or subjects that you liked or disliked leading up to college?

HIGDON: Probably the, uh, one that I remember that impacted me the most was, uh, Sister Catherine Francis of Nazareth and she was the senior, uh, homeroom teacher. Course we went, but she taught me some when I 11:00was in, uh, a freshman, sophomore, junior. But, uh, Sister Catherine Francis was probably the one that impacted me the most.

HERDMAN: Okay. And out of high school, you went into college or into the service first?

HIGDON: I went to college.

HERDMAN: You went to college. And where did you attend?

HIGDON: Brescia College in Owensboro, Kentucky.


HIGDON: Uh, there was, it was a big time in my life, because, you know, uh, while at it was, at that time it had about a thousand students. It's now Brescia University there in Owensboro. Uh, seemed like a humongous place. In fact I was scheduled, I had already been accepted at Murray State University.


HIGDON: And, um, Father Fields there, asked a group of us that were all going to Murray, to go up, about five or six of us, and two or three of us ended up going to the private college.

HERDMAN: Um-hm, and what year did you start school, college?

HIGDON: In, in, I graduated from high school in '65 and started college--

HERDMAN: --and then went--

HIGDON: --the -----------(??)--

HERDMAN: --the next fall?

HIGDON: Right.

HERDMAN: Okay. And then you were there four years?


HIGDON: Four years.

HERDMAN: And graduated in '69?

HIGDON: [Nineteen] sixty-nine.

HERDMAN: And what was your degree?

HIGDON: Business administration.

HERDMAN: Okay. And then when did you go, uh, into the service?

HIGDON: Almost immediately. I'll give you a little story about that.


HIGDON: I, uh, I, uh, graduated on one Saturday, uh, went for my Army physical that week. That was during the, the, uh, Vietnam era.


HIGDON: And, uh, got married the next Saturday. And about two or three months later I was at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, in basic training.

HERDMAN: Wow. And you enlisted?

HIGDON: No, I didn't enlist, I was, uh--

HERDMAN: --you were drafted--

HIGDON: --drafted.

HERDMAN: Um-hm. And, uh, okay, let's talk about the wedding, who did you marry?

HIGDON: Carole Anne Cash.

HERDMAN: Was she also from Fancy Farm?


HERDMAN: You attended school with her or college or?

HIGDON: She was a year behind me in high school, and we dated a little bit my senior year. And then we dated off and on when I was in college.


HIGDON: Of course, toward the end of it, uh, uh.



HIGDON: Got married.

HERDMAN: And where did you get married, in Fancy Farm?

HIGDON: Um-hm.

HERDMAN: What was the ceremony like?

HIGDON: Traditional Catholic wedding.

HERDMAN: And do you have children?

HIGDON: We have three.

HERDMAN: And what are their names?

HIGDON: Tracy, Nathan, and Nicholas.

HERDMAN: And how old are they?

HIGDON: I knew you were gonna ask that. Uh, let's see, Tracy is, uh, I want to get this right--(Herdman laughs)--cause they'll kill me if, I don't know that it'll ever show up but they're five years apart. One of them, Tracy was born in September, and, and, uh, Nathan and Nick in October, all five years apart.


HIGDON: Do you mind?

HERDMAN: (laughs) No, that's fine.

HIGDON: I don't want to give you any answer(??)

[Pause in recording.]

HERDMAN: --thirty-six, and that's your oldest?

HIGDON: Right, and so subtract five from that, would be thirty-one, and 14:00five from that would be twenty-six--

HERDMAN: --twenty-six. Do they live in the area?

HIGDON: Uh, Tracy lives with her husband and our, our oldest grandson in, in Indianapolis. Uh, his name, uh, is Mike and the grandson is Austin. Nathan lives in Murray, Kentucky. His wife's name is Kendra. And their daughter, our granddaughter is Kristian Anne.


HIGDON: And, uh, Nick is in transition right now; he just got out of school and his wife, and just got married. And, uh, they are, uh, fixing to hopefully build a home, probably in Murray, could be in Mayfield, depending on how their jobs work out. And--

HERDMAN: --would you say it's mostly, um, jobs and the economy that have helped them make decisions about where to live or -----------(??) you know--

HIGDON: --uh, you know, uh, to a degree. Uh, they've all been different, uh, in, in, in their approaches to that type of, of, of thing. Uh, I think, uh, uh, at the time that Tracy got started, you 15:00know, um, um, in, uh, was already married by the time she graduated. Uh, you know, their, their careers, Mike was already involved in, in his business ventures and stuff, and in fact, they spent some time in Louisville and then, and then both of them ended up with jobs in Indianapolis through the companies they work for. And, uh, uh, Nathan, uh, uh, has been involved with the university a lot.


HIGDON: He, he was in communications and got involved with Murray State, doing their basketball and football games on the, on the radio, and he was doing other things in radio. And in fact, now, works in Mayfield, but still does a lot of the sports for Murray State. And, uh, Nick and Ashley both show a propensity to want, remain in west Kentucky--

HERDMAN: --um-hm--

HIGDON: --if at all possible.

HERDMAN: Okay, um, well, let's get back to the armed services. How long were you in?


HIGDON: Four years, a little less than four years, cause I got an early- out. Uh, I'd been in Vietnam, and came home at that time, with six months or less, they went ahead and sent you home, even though you were still part of the service to a degree, but you got to ETS home.

HERDMAN: Um-hm. Um how, what years were you in Vietnam, what time frame?

HIGDON: Well, let's see, I graduated in '69 and I was in Vietnam by the end of '69--

HERDMAN: --so you went right immediately.

HIGDON: Yeah, I went boom, boom, boom, pretty much.


HIGDON: By, within six months from the time I went in, uh, I was in, I was, I was in Vietnam.

HERDMAN: Okay, and, um, what did you, what was your capacity, what did you do there?

HIGDON: I was a thirteen-echo-twenty, which is a field automatic digital computer operator.

HERDMAN: Wow. Okay. (laughs)

HIGDON: Worked up firing data for 105's. One of the interesting aspects of that is, when I got over there, it was after the, uh, the, uh, Lieutenant Calley's, uh, massacre at My Lai.



HIGDON: Uh, the guns that I worked up firing data for covered My Lai.

HERDMAN: Okay. Um, any other memories from being there or coming home or anything you want to share?

HIGDON: Uh, it, it was a good experience from the standpoint of growth--

HERDMAN: --um-hm--

HIGDON: --understanding, you know. Uh, uh, how things, uh, uh, you can do more than you think you do.


HIGDON: Uh, that type of thing. Uh, a lot of homesickness.


HIGDON: In fact, Carole got pregnant right before I went and Tracy was five months old before I actually saw her.


HIGDON: Uh, uh, that type of thing. War's a tough deal, but, you know, it's, uh, it's a part of life, you know, uh.

HERDMAN: Um-hm. Any, uh, friends that you made there that you kept, or?

HIGDON: Uh, not, not long term.



HIGDON: No. Um, you have relationships while you're in, and, and whatever, and some people, you know, I, I think if you look back at the history of that type of thing, my, my dad was in the service, uh, my father-in-law was in the service, uh, uh, back in World War II. And, uh, and, uh, you know, most of those people spent a lot of time with their own, uh, you know, because everybody went together.


HIGDON: You know. And, uh, so the, a lot of that is held and, and most of the people back then, like, if you went from, uh, Carlisle County, for instance, and Graves County, and, you know, that area, you know, there was, uh, knew each other probably even before you went, and so those things carried. I think Vietnam was a little bit different in, in that aspect. I saw a couple of people from home, uh, the year I was over there. Uh, but, uh, um, you know, and so I still know those, but, 19:00uh, and corresponded for a few years with some people that I served with, that I met.


HIGDON: Dan Holdtar(??) from, uh, Minnesota, uh, was one that, that we continued to communicate some for a period of time.

HERDMAN: Um, so you would say mostly it was just the people that you knew before you went, and mostly you served with people that you didn't know--.

HIGDON: --right--

HERDMAN: --before you went(??).

HIGDON: You get to know them, but you don't--

HERDMAN: --right, before -----------(??)--

HIGDON: --it's not something, at, at least in my experiences that continued.

HERDMAN: All right. Um, let's, let's move on to politics. What sparked your interest in getting into politics?

HIGDON: You're probably going to find this a very interesting, uh, scenario. Um, of course, Fancy Farm, itself, holds the big picnic and, and, uh--

HERDMAN: --the picnic for? I'm sorry, you said--

HIGDON: --it's the largest picnic in the world; it's held the first 20:00Saturday in, in--

HERDMAN: --(laughs) I didn't realize that--

HIGDON: --May every year. One day picnic in the world(??).


HIGDON: And there's big polit-, you know, politics has always been, a, a big part of that. Governors, for years, uh, George Wallace, when he ran for President, spoke there. Uh, Al Gore has spoken there before. And, uh--

HERDMAN: --at the Fancy Farm picnic?

HIGDON: At the Fancy Farm picnic, and if you rec-, if you have, if you get the chance to go down there this year, I hope, you, you'll find it a unique experience. It's a big tradition well known throughout the commonwealth of Kentucky. Uh, Carole's family was a little, more politically involved. Mr. Albert Cash(??) was involved with, uh, people like Frank Albert Stubblefield over the years, and, and, uh, who was a congressman. Uh, was very much involved in Ed Breathitt's run for governor.


HIGDON: And that type of thing. My family tended not to be too much involved with politics in my formative years. In fact, the first time I spoke at Fancy Farm, I was already an elected state senator. And, and I remember telling my, you know, my, my experience at the picnic 21:00changed over a period of time, and I never dreamed I'd be there. For instance I, uh, uh, you know, as a kid, would, want to get to the, to the, uh, uh, toy stand and get me a squirt gun--(Herdman laughs)--so I could squirt people, and then after I got to be a teenager, I, uh, wanted to find a young girl, maybe I could sneak over--(Herdman laughs)--over in the graveyard with and steal a kiss, and, now here I am speaking to you all--

HERDMAN: --right--(laughs)--

HIGDON: --as, as a state senator. Uh, one of the, uh, things that I briefly mentioned before who I replaced was Rick Wiesenberger; he was a state senator. And I was in, I, I knew a lot of the politicians, I knew the local officials, , uh, but the most that I had probably done, up to, to, to, uh, the late, uh, I mean, the early, uh, late seventies and early eighties was put a sign in the yard.


HIGDON: You know, if somebody asked me and, and that--

HERDMAN: --and so you got--

HIGDON: --that type of--

HERDMAN: --back from the service, um, '73-'74?


HIGDON: No, in, in, uh, in, uh, '69, '70, '71.

HERDMAN: You got back in '71.

HIGDON: Yeah. Right, right.

HERDMAN: Okay. So then, what were you doing between, during the seventies?

HIGDON: I worked in our furniture business for a while. I bought a, uh, root beer stand.


HIGDON: K & N Root Beers. You, you would be more familiar with A & W.


HIGDON: Uh, this was a, uh, I had worked as a car hop there, when I was in school.


HIGDON: In, in, uh, high school. And I knew the family and when they got ready to retire, they contacted me, I'd been home and I was doing some work, to see if I would have an interest in, in buying the place, and ended up buying it. And, uh, that's what I was running when I, when I got, uh, into the political arena.


HIGDON: Anyway, Rick, Rick had, uh, had won the commonwealth attorney's thing and he had two years left on his term. And, uh, I was up there 23:00visiting with him on some other stuff, and a person who had lost in a state representative race came in and was talking to him, and wanted to go through the scenario of how he would be replace.


HIGDON: And I'd just sit there and listened to it, you know. Uh, now(??), I had never run for political office; I'd never been to Frankfort in my life, ever.


HIGDON: And this was in, in, uh, nineteen--

HERDMAN: --starting from scratch, right? (laughs)

HIGDON: This was, this was in 1981, okay?


HIGDON: And so I listened to this scenario. And, and, uh, so I said to, uh, to, uh, Rick, I said, um, after the other guy left, I said, "Do you think I could get something like that?" He said, "No, probably not, but if you want, if you're interested in whatever, it wouldn't hurt to get your name out in, in a broader sense, and stuff." Went home. Uh, uh, in fact, we were going to Current River that weekend. And, uh, Carole and I talked, uh, talked about it, and we knew some of the people on the, on the executive committee there in Graves County, and, uh, whatever, 24:00and just chitchatted and, over about a month's period of time.


HIGDON: Made the decision that we'd at least take a whirl at it.

HERDMAN: ------------(??)-----------

HIGDON: I ended up winning the thing.

HERDMAN: Wow. So how'd you campaign on that first election?

HIGDON: Well, that, that's a, that's a little different scenario that you go through, but it did lead into a full-blown campaign. Uh, uh, there was a, there'd always traditionally been a little bit of a struggle between the two largest counties, that being Graves and Calloway, on who would have the state senator, uh, in, in, in Kentucky. Graves County had had it for a long period of time. And, uh, so, uh, there was a candidate from Graves that was seeking this nomination process. The executive committees in each county get together and nominate somebody.


HIGDON: You know, and you got to win a certain percentage. I won by, I think by five-tenths of 1 percent on the second ballot in this, in 25:00this--

HERDMAN: --wow--(laughs)--within the county? No, within--

HERDMAN: --oh, within the--

HIGDON: --I had the full support of, of--

HERDMAN: --oh, okay--

HIGDON: --Graves County, I got one or two votes out of Calloway.


HIGDON: And a significant amount out of some of the other counties, but so did, did my opponent at that time, or the leading one; there were a lot of people initially, were in trying to get the, get the--

HERDMAN: --so it wasn't officially a primary--

HIGDON: --no--

HERDMAN: --it was kind of a, uh--

HIGDON: --that's what I'm telling you, is this was where they, they meet, they met on a Saturday--

HERDMAN: --um-hm--

HIGDON: --after going through interviews, and some, some counties that would interview and some not, in the executive committees, the Democratic executive committees did this, okay? Well, uh, by me winning on such a close marginal that Saturday, the Republicans decided in Calloway County, that they would nominate somebody. If they hadn't of, we, there wouldn't have been that first election.


HIGDON: You know, I would've--

HERDMAN: --you would've, that would've been your--

HIGDON: --I would've been the, the I'd still been on the ballot, but there wouldn't have been any.


HIGDON: So, um, uh, uh, so they ended up nominating someone, so it was 26:00about a four or five week campaign, and so that first campaign was really laid back. But, uh, we spent a lot of time on it. We, uh, spread out--

HERDMAN: --who was your Republican opponent?

HIGDON: Uh, Reeves, Reeves, Reeves, what was his first name? I can't even remember his first name.


HIGDON: It's probably in the history of ----------(??)--

HERDMAN: --and what--yeah, and what county was he from?

HIGDON: Calloway. And, uh, I won that election fairly easily, uh--



HIGDON: --by the registration down there, it, and back in those days was, and it still is, pretty heavily Democratic registered.


HIGDON: But, uh, uh, Republicans didn't, didn't fare well back then. And now our state senator is a Republican.


HIGDON: Finally, I mean. Ken Winters is the, uh, is the Republican state senator, represents that district--

HERDMAN: --from that district?

HIGDON: Right.

HERDMAN: Okay. So, 1981, you're heading to Frankfort. Uh, what, what 27:00did you, what were your impressions, what did you expect before you got there?

HIGDON: Oh, it's, it's, it's interesting, uh, uh, the first time I ever came to the city, Rick brought me up, uh, to introduce me around and, and, and to get some things. And we drove up, uh, on late, like, on a Tuesday or Wednesday--

HERDMAN: --um-hm--

HIGDON: --evening. And, uh, we stopped in Bardstown, and ate at Talbot Tavern, and we had, uh, rooms, uh, ----------(??) firm rooms at the Holiday Inn up here, that's no longer in, in, in existence. So, we pull in, and, and he says, uh, you know before we go register, he says, "I want to show you something." So we came down that little drive and pulled on that overlook and I looked out there, and I saw the Capitol. I thought I'd arrived at Washington, D.C.--(Herdman laughs)--you know. I mean, I, I never dreamed it was anything like that, you know. And, uh, I met a lot of super people that, that two days we were up 28:00here. And, and I remember Naomi Kitchen(??) who was, took care of all the, uh, our little, uh, sitting places where we could get some quiet and, uh, and peace. And back then, you know, we didn't, we, uh, we just had little cubicles; we didn't have, uh, full-blown offices like, like they have now. But, uh, uh, I mean, that I already began to question whether I was gonna be able to do this, and then I was immediately sworn, sworn in. And then start, that first session got started, Carole and, and my, uh, my mom and dad, and her mom and dad came up and, and, uh, for a couple of days, and where we got started and I'd been up here about a week or two. And I called Carole one day and I said, "I think I'm in over my head." (both laugh) And, uh, uh, you know, with all the stuff that, that you get involved with. But, uh, you learn that, uh, you know, to, to find people that you're, that 29:00you're, uh, close and you, and you trust, and, uh, and show a little patience and it all comes to you. It's a big job. If you do it right, it's a big job. And, and, uh, 90 percent of the people I've served with over the years did it right.


HIGDON: You know, really worked hard at, at doing. And people, I think the average person doesn't really under-, know how hard you have to work to be successful in getting things done, not only for your district, but for the commonwealth as a whole.

HERDMAN: When you first started, what were the major issues your constituents in your district were concerned about?

HIGDON: Well, we're, uh, we were, you know, we had some industry and stuff down there. Uh, but, uh, agriculture was, is always, still remains a big thing in far western Kentucky. And, uh, so I, uh, uh, I asked Joe White, who was the majority floor leader, uh, you know, and when you talk to him about what committees you'd like to be on, uh, 30:00that was the first one that I, that I asked for, was ag. And natural resources. Uh, little did I know at that time, they, they spent a lot of time on, uh, on coal issues more than, than agriculture issues. It was back in the days of, when the state was trying to get primacy--

HERDMAN: --um-hm--

HIGDON: --over overseeing their call. And you're probably familiar with a little bit of that if you grew up in West Virginia. And so, uh, so those were issues I dealt with a lot. The other committee I served on a lot was banking and insurance. Some of those issues have, were changed over the years, but, uh, they weren't that too imperative, uh, uh, in, in, in, in the early going. But those were the, the two committees that I spent the most time on in, in the early years.

HERDMAN: Okay. And when was your second election?

HIGDON: Immediately following that. Uh, I served that, that session, had to come right out, because being elected again, uh, cause I, that, 31:00Richard's term was ending.


HIGDON: Which was my term then. And, uh, so, uh, then, a young lady named Marty Irwin who taught the, uh, nursing, was head of the Department of Nursing at Murray State University, and a Democrat, filed in the, in the primary.


HIGDON: And so I came right out of my first session and had to run another full-blown election. Didn't have a Republican opponent at that time.

HERDMAN: But that was a primary, then, with her?

HIGDON: Right.

HERDMAN: Okay. And what, what did you use to campaign that second time? Did you mailings, or phones, or door-to-door?

HIGDON: No, we spent, we spent a lot of time, uh, uh, we had a good crew of people that worked together, uh, uh, a lot of Carole's friends and, uh, my family. Uh, it was more door-to-door. We did a few radio spots.



HERDMAN: Did you have any rallies?

HIGDON: Yeah, in fact, that was, I'm glad you brought that up, I hadn't thought about that in, that's probably the, one of the things that, uh, in that election, really shocked(??) me. Uh, uh, Carole and them 32:00thought we needed to do a big barbeque dinner there in Mayfield, and, uh, and, uh, you know, show a lot of early support and stuff. And, uh, and, you know, I, I wasn't sure anybody would show up. (Herdman laughs) And we had an overflow crowd. And, and those things were always really good, you know, yeah.

HERDMAN: Food always helps. (laughs)

HIGDON: You can tell by the, the people that are out there, you always have a certain amount show up for free food and whatever.

HERDMAN: That's right. (laughs)

HIGDON: But there were a lot of substantial people there that were there. And, uh, and, uh, it, it, it, it was really good. I, I think, uh, Katherine, that you'll find, uh, west Kentucky, at least in my experiences, uh, back then you didn't spend a lot of money. In fact, I, I don't know exactly what the figures, uh, were, but I ran three 33:00campaigns. You know, now obviously that first one was a real, real short thing.


HIGDON: Over my ten years in the Kentucky State Senate. And, uh, I probably didn't spend fifty thousand in the ten years.

HERDMAN: On campaigning.

HIGDON: On campaigning, or anything else, really, I mean, from, from you know, publicity to get stuff out. Um, um, I'm, I might be considered a little bit unique in that, uh, I didn't spend a lot of time in parades. In fact I think I rode in two parades in ten years. I concentrated on spending time with various organizations like local fire departments. Uh, uh, I knew every, I would spend time with every county judge in the district, all the school superintendents, uh, and the various other organizations.


HIGDON: Uh, that's where I concentrated a lot of my time. And, and the reason, there were two reasons for that. One, I didn't grow up 34:00politically.


HIGDON: Okay. Uh, number two, uh, uh, Carole and I had a very clear understanding, uh, that our priority was our family.


HIGDON: Our relationship and our relationship with our children. And when you live that far away, okay, and you get here faster now than you could back then, because of the, of the four-lane roads, uh, you have to, in, in, you know, for us to maintain our, uh, family, we had to, uh, uh, make some decisions about having quality time and what, because I was gone a lot, you know.


HIGDON: And, uh, and so, you know, we sat down and thought it out. And, and that's the way we approached the political end of it. Now, some would tell you, "Well, you didn't get your name out," and, and other things. But, uh, uh, I had, I had always had the philosophy of, if, if 35:00you asked the people to vote for you, you need to go do the job.


HIGDON: And not be concerned about moving on--

HERDMAN: --um-hm--

HIGDON: --to, to other positions. And so I didn't spend a lot of money. Uh, I didn't do a lot of the things, uh, uh, that traditionally you would think politicians would do. But I never refused to go to a meeting. I never refused a phone call. Uh, talk about any issue, take my chewings out, try to explain why things were going that a way.


HIGDON: I also spent a lot of time, uh, speaking to civic clubs and stuff when I would be in west Kentucky. Especially if there were issues coming up in the next sessions.


HIGDON: And back then, we only met every two years.


HIGDON: But we had an interim process that--

HERDMAN: --committees--

HIGDON: --that caused you to be tied, to be up here, and that type of thing. But, you know, just letting people know where I stood, why I was making the decisions I was making, and answering any constructive 36:00criticism in a way that hopefully made sense to them, even if they did, or did, or did not agree with you on it, you know, that type of thing.

HERDMAN: Um, do you think the civic clubs were an important part of gauging public opinion?

HIGDON: Yeah, I, I would, I would equate that to that. You know, I, I think as a, as a public official you have to be very careful, uh, uh, about understanding that there are a lot of people that won't say anything to you.


HIGDON: Okay. But you can glean, or at least it was my experiences, when you could be standing up there talking, and it may sound a little but mundane or whatever, but I, I've, I've always felt like I have a good way of reading body language--

HERDMAN: --um-hm--

HIGDON: --and that type of thing, to see if I was making any impact, or if I was being clear enough, or, you know, I, I can remember sometimes 37:00I'd stop and I'd say, "Joe, do you understand what I'm saying?" You know. I could tell--

HERDMAN: --from the platform.

HIGDON: Right.


HIGDON: Yeah, and, and that type of thing.

HERDMAN: What role did the press play in that? Do you, did you have a local paper that you corresponded with, or editorials, or?

HIGDON: Probably the one that I talked to the most during my time was Bill Bartleman from the Paducah Sun.


HIGDON: Uh, uh, we had a good relationship. Sometimes he powdered(??) me, you know. (Herdman laughs) And, and not, but he was always fair and balanced in, in what he put forth, uh, in that. You know, if I had to really clearly define it, and this is personal experience, uh, I think you have to trust your instincts with the people that you represent.


HIGDON: And to do that in the right way, you've got to be pretty 38:00straightforward, and exercise to get the feedback back, back, you know--

HERDMAN: --and so you think--

HIGDON: --and you've got to be confident that, that you fit the overall philosophical, political--

HERDMAN: --um-hm--

HIGDON: --values of that area that you represent, whether it's a small city, uh, a small county, large county, large city, you know, all the way up the line. And I don't care if you're a magistrate, or commissioner, or county judge, or mayor, you know, or, or all that type of thing, you, you have to, to be successful, to do the job right--

HERDMAN: --um-hm--

HIGDON: --okay, you have to understand what the people and the overall majority's philosophies are. And, uh, and, uh, if, if you're in tune with that and, and you're true to that, then you're not looking to--I, I don't know that I ever had a poll done--

HERDMAN: --um-hm--

HIGDON: --or anything like that. I just spent a lot of time with the people that I was going to impact by whatever vote--

HERDMAN: --um-hm--


HIGDON: --or decision I made up here.

HERDMAN: Other than general interest in agriculture, were there any specific issues that your constituents were concerned about?

HIGDON: Education always was a high priority. You know, uh, it, it grew in happenstance, and in fact, probably the best vote, or the thing that I'm the proudest of, was when we passed the KERA Act in, in, here in Kentucky. Uh, uh, there were a lot of people in the General Assembly that spent an exorbitant amount of time working on that and putting that together. Now, it has been tweaked since, and should be.


HIGDON: But the virtual lynchpin parts of that piece of legislation have remained. And, uh, in fact, Carole spends a lot of time now, because she's retired as an educator, uh, in other states, helping schools, uh, with a lot of the stuff that was born out of what we did here in Kentucky.


HIGDON: Um, coal, natural resources was a big, big issue that I dealt 40:00with a lot. And in fact, that's the reason I left the Kentucky State Senate. Well, not, not the rea-, not the total reason. I initially thought I was going to make a run for Congress and made an announcement and then decided that, that it wasn't the right decision.


HIGDON: And then Governor Jones asked me to take the Cabinet for Natural Resource and Environmental Protection, along with Phil Sheppard, uh, when he was elected governor in, uh, uh, in, uh, '91. And, uh, uh, because of my experiences as chairman of ag. And natural resources over that ten years--

HERDMAN: --um-hm--

HIGDON: --and my involvement with a lot of the issues in front of the cabinet, uh, I was afforded that opportunity and, and chose to do that at that time.

HERDMAN: Okay. Um.

[Pause in recording.]

HERDMAN: Okay, let's talk--

HIGDON: --okay, let me--

HERDMAN: --okay--

HIGDON: --I was gonna touch on a couple of other things that, that I experienced in that ten years. Uh, a, a, a legislator has a lot of, 41:00of stuff that they have to deal with. Uh, uh, that are specific to their district. Like the roads in their district. The, uh, the, uh, if you've got a university, as I had in my district, uh, projects there. Uh, local schools systems and buildings and, and that type of thing. Uh, uh, and, and, and when you have a district the size that I had--I think we had like six, uh, county systems and three or four, uh, city systems, uh, you know, within that district, you know, I think I dealt with nine different, uh, superintendents of, of schools and everything--and making all that work in the right frame that covers the areas can take up a, a, a tremendous amount of time. One of the issues that I see today, that we didn't have to deal with that I think is, that, uh, is really putting pressure on a state like Kentucky is 42:00health care. Uh, the ten years I was in the Kentucky State Senate, uh, that was probably less than 5 percent, 3-, 4-, 5 percent of the budget. Now it's approaching 18 to 20 percent, you know, so a lot of those numbers were, were a little bit different, you know. And, and, uh, uh, and going back to the aspect of, of trusting that you're selling and have good backup for why you do things, when we passed that KERA Act, I don't know that it wasn't the largest tax, uh, revenue package to pay for the changes that we were making, but if it wasn't, it was close to the largest that ever happened in this state. Uh, I never got really publicly criticized on that, locally. And it goes back to again, spending time in front of the civic clubs, explaining, "You know, we're doing this, this, and this, but it's gonna cost this and this. We're, we believe that if we do this, that we'll move education forward in 43:00Kentucky." And putting, you know, and, and we put numbers with it. Uh, a lot of us did, because we were in our districts leading up to that session. Uh, we politically used the aspect that the courts had ruled that we had to bring equity to, to funding back then, but we did a lot more than just put equity in; we put a lot of response-, uh, uh, accountability in.


HIGDON: Uh, we changed a lot of the upper structure in, in hiring and appointments. Uh, we put a lot of pressure on the, you know, we kind of independently moved the, uh, head of, uh, the Department of Education in Kentucky from out, from, uh, an elected position. And you know, and, and, and an accountability there to the General Assembly and to the executive branch, those types of things.

HERDMAN: Um-hm. Okay, um, let's move on to day to day, uh, practice 44:00in Frankfort, when you were there, during the ten years, years that you were in. How did you go about doing your job? What were the most important factors? How did it work?

HIGDON: You have to, you know, one of the best things, and I didn't have the experiences of, of, uh, how it worked before I came. Uh, legislative independence was really getting past the halfway point, and the Legislative Research Commission had been created.


HIGDON: And, uh, I don't know how it works in, in a lot of states, but I could not have functioned and done my job properly without the quality of our Legislative Research Commission here in Kentucky.

HERDMAN: And what do they do? What were their functions to you?

HIGDON: They performed, they, they, they provide staffing for committees. They provide, they provide enormous amounts of information on issues. Uh, they send out the packets and stuff before your 45:00committee meetings. I mean, just, I mean, an enormous amount of work.


HIGDON: Of, of, of information gathering, they work, they spend time with other states that have, you know, and how issues are going there.


HIGDON: They keep you, they keep legislators informed of that. And, and all that type of thing. Because no one person, at least of, of my abilities, could do that job, um, if you didn't have that staff people back there, really busting their, uh, tails to, to keep you up to speed and, and everything. Uh, uh, I probably did miss some meetings up here, uh, when I would determine this didn't, I didn't need to make the trip, which saved the commonwealth a little money too, cause they pay you for the trip.

HERDMAN: That was quite a trip, did you, I guess you always stayed in Frankfort?

HIGDON: Initially, I tried to do it, you know, I would drive up the 46:00morning of a meeting, and drive back that night. But the older I got, you know, midway through, uh, I did a little less of that.


HIGDON: I would, uh, spend the night, be it the night before, the night after, and a lot of times you'd have two-day meetings.


HIGDON: Or two different committees over a two day period, and, uh--

HERDMAN: --what hotel did you usually stay at?

HIGDON: Uh, the first, when I first started coming, I stayed at the Holiday Inn, the latter part at the Capital Plaza. Uh, it was build about midway through my, my time. And Frankfort's grown a lot, from that standpoint, uh, when I used to come up, in fact, there was no Wal-Mart, there was no Home Depot, uh, there was no Applebee's.


HIGDON: And, and, and those types of things out there. I'll tell you a little funny story, not eat up a lot of your time, but, uh.

HERDMAN: Oh go, please.

HIGDON: Uh, I, after that first session, my first committee meeting that I came up for, uh, I pulled in at the Holiday Inn, and registered 47:00in, got my key, went around to my room, uh, went back and opened up my trunk, and I'd left all my clothes at home. I had tennis shoes and stuff on. So I had to go down to JC Penney's and buy me a pair of shoes, socks, uh, uh, everything that you need--

HERDMAN: --a new outfit--

HIGDON: --so, uh, uh, that was an invaluable lesson. I, I double check any place I'm going to make sure I at least got my luggage with me, you know.

HERDMAN: (laughs) Um, at places like the hotels and the restaurants, and drinks after work, or was there a lot of, uh, things that went on there, relationships between different politicians, lobbyists--

HIGDON: --you know--

HERDMAN: --that sort of stuff?

HIGDON: --I can only speak for my-, myself personally--

HERDMAN: --um-hm--

HIGDON: --but yes.


HIGDON: A lot of interaction, uh, you, you would interact with each other--

HERDMAN: --um-hm--

HIGDON: --your colleagues in the Senate, your colleagues in the House, uh, people from the administration.


HIGDON: Uh, uh, uh, staff people from, uh, the various agencies and stuff, uh, as well as governmental(??) relations people. Uh, uh, it 48:00was very hard to buy your own meal in, in Frankfort, uh, uh, back in those days.

HERDMAN: Um, what was the role of lobbyists, eith-, either in that context or just the informational context?

HIGDON: Well, they would provide information but it's, uh, unique. I, I'm a firm believer that you got to know who you're dealing with.


HIGDON: And the only way you can do that is spend some time with them--

HERDMAN: --um-hm--

HIGDON: --or, or whatever. Uh, we were getting, you know, when you've got you had your own information that you were getting through your staff people and everything. And then there're usually two or three sides to every story.


HIGDON: Uh, uh, and you learned the ones that would shoot straight with you. And the ones that wouldn't.


HIGDON: And so you, if you, uh, at least in my personal experience, I, I would spend time with people who, uh, I trusted. That would give it, that were giving me the straight stuff. Not that we always agreed, or 49:00not that we didn't disagree a lot, you know.


HIGDON: But, uh, at least you knew that they were, they were being straight with you. The others I was always cordial with but didn't put any emphasis on them.

HERDMAN: Who were the biggest lobbyists you worked with at that time? Who were?

HIGDON: The people that I probably spent the most time with were people like Roy Stevens(??), uh, who represented Ashland. Uh, Roy Strange, I mean, uh. Oh golly, uh, uh. I spent time with Jay Spurrier. Um, almost any of them--

HERDMAN: --um-hm--

HIGDON: --that would want to come and talk. Uh, I, I remember, uh, in the, in those early years, you know, no one said a whole lot to you your first few meetings.


HIGDON: And I was, you know, I was on the ag and natural resource, and I wondered why no one from the coal industry would come and, and, uh, and would say anything. So finally I ran into one of them, uh, uh, 50:00one night, and I said, "I never, you'all." "Well, we just want to let you get your feet on the ground and then we'll start, start talking to you." Um, I spent a lot of time with the environmental community. People like Tom Fitzgerald, and, uh, some others, and, and, uh.

HERDMAN: Were those concerns, uh, burgeoning in the eighties? Like when you were--

HIGDON: --oh yeah--

HERDMAN: --in that--

HIGDON: --coal was--

HERDMAN: --that was the time for(??)--

HIGDON: --coal was the, was, uh, when I first came in, Katherine, was the, was the thing. Uh, uh, as I said earlier--

HERDMAN: --um-hm--

HIGDON: --you know, there were, the state was trying to get control of their own program, and, and privacy, and, and all those type things. And there were a lot of battles, uh, you know, on, on how Kentucky was gonna regulate that, uh, regulate the, uh, the, uh, coal community as a resource community. And, uh, and, uh, as, as things, uh, diversified through that period of time, you know, the Clean Water Act had come onboard. And so, there was a lot of interaction with the cabinet. Um, 51:00and, uh, making sure that our reg. process and our laws formulated and fit the federal laws.


HIGDON: And, and we were keeping up to speed, so that we could maintain privacy over those, over those programs.

HERDMAN: What do you remember about voting blocks in the General Assembly? Who voted together, or was there like a Louisville block, or an eastern Kentucky block, or?

HIGDON: That's an interesting question because, uh, in my time, you know, our, our party, our caucus in, uh, in, in the Senate was, uh, heavily Democratic.


HIGDON: Uh, Democrat members, uh, in comparison to the Republican membership. And, uh, and, uh, it was the thing that I'd learned when we would caucus and talk a lot, uh, we had very few, well, what you'd call mandatory caucuses.


HIGDON: In other words, whatever the majority wanted, everybody was going to vote that same way. Uh, but there was a lot of discussion of 52:00various issues, uh, in there. And that's when you learned that it's not just Democrat/Republican.


HIGDON: There, it really, it, uh, it's more are you a conservative or are you a, a liberal?


HIGDON: Are you a hardcore conservative or are you a hardcore liberal?


HIGDON: And there's a lot of stuff in-between that, you know. And, uh, you know, that's what makes this country great, is the ability to discuss that and get it out, and then hopefully make the right decisions, uh, for the commonwealth as a whole. Because this state is different. Uh, uh, you don't have to come very far from the west moving east until you see a little change.


HIGDON: And then you get into the central, and, you know, it's a little more diversified there, and then you get, you know, on east of here, and sometimes people think that's ultra-liberal. Well there's a lot of conservatives in east Kentucky.


HERDMAN: Sure(??).

HIGDON: Uh, especially when you look at northeast Kentucky. And so, so, you learn that, you know, uh, through the process, and you get a, you get a feel for where people are coming from. You know, uh, I've watched with interest the debate over, uh, over seatbelts. And, you know, uh, uh, while I was in, and then just through the, after they finally passed, uh, uh, the seatbelt law, but didn't make it, you know, uh, uh, a primary offense, and then this last session they finally passed it with a, with a primary offense. And I remember debating Henry Lackey, uh, from Henderson on the floor of the Senate over the seatbelt laws--

HERDMAN: --I'm going to see him tomorrow actually--(laughs)--

HIGDON: --are you?

HERDMAN: So, yeah. (laughs)

HIGDON: Well, he--you bring this up.

HERDMAN: I will.

HIGDON: Uh, Henry and I went into the Senate together. And, uh, uh, uh, I was totally opposed, uh, to the seatbelt at, uh, at that time, and, and well, my, my district was.


HIGDON: But those things change as you go. Uh, west Kentucky for the 54:00most part is pretty conservative.


HIGDON: Uh, uh.

HERDMAN: Was, was there ever a time where you had a crisis of conscience between what you thought was right and what your constituents thought was right. And if so, which way did you go?

HIGDON: I think the best way to answer that question, you go, you could go back and listen to the tape earlier.


HIGDON: It's, you, you get that feel, I think where you make a mistake is if you, if, if you go against where you think the, the, uh, the overall philosophy of your district is.

HERDMAN: Even if on a particular issue, you feel strongly--

HIGDON: --well, if you haven't(??) educated them(??).


HIGDON: Or at least have a trust that you've at least put it out there, then if you messed up when you voted against what they thought you should do, then you could, uh, uh, uh, say, "Well, at least I explained 55:00it."


HIGDON: You know, "And I apologize. You're right or wrong; I will go back to Frankfort and work very hard to overturn that type of thing." That didn't happen a lot.


HIGDON: But, uh, it at, at least with me personally, but it can happen if you, if you, uh, if you don't at least explain on the front end, uh, why you're doing. So yeah, there's some vote. I mean, uh, uh, one that I debated probably in my mind about as much as anything from a standpoint, was when we passed the, uh, put the lottery on, you know, but the constitutional amendment on. Uh, the first time I had the opportunity to vote on that, which I didn't think that was the right, you know, the best thing to do for Kentucky, but I was starting to get a little bit of a feel from, from the district that they thought they at least wanted the opportunity to vote on it, I voted against putting it on. And then the next time, you know, I had to go back and, and apologize because I got a lot of heat on that.


HIGDON: Talked it out and I said, "Well, I still don't think it's good, but I, you know, if you want the right to vote on it, we'll, we'll 56:00do it."

HERDMAN: And why did you feel that it was bad early on?

HIGDON: I just don't think that that's the, the proper foundation for, uh, at that point, uh, in, in, in, in ------------(??). Quite frankly, I was wrong.


HIGDON: To be exact. Uh, uh, I think Kentucky has shown that, that, uh, that the lottery is, uh, has worked very well. It's been a, it's, it's, uh, it's gone, uh, really well for the, for, uh, it's been, it's been very helpful, especially now that we've got it to help out for, for scholarships and those types of things. And, uh, and I don't see a lot of people, uh, uh, just getting, uh, totally out of line. It's, it, it's a, it's a choice thing for people, if they want to participate in it or not.

HERDMAN: Okay. Um, was there anything that really surprised you in your legislative experience, anything that was very different than what you expected or big changes?


HIGDON: Well, no, not really, because I didn't know what to expect. (Herdman laughs) Uh, uh, quite frankly. Uh, my, you know, I, I, I think I probably could not have served at a, at a much better time. Uh, the opportunities to, to do things, like what we talked about earlier, on education.


HIGDON: Uh, uh, I think that, that, uh, there were a lot of significant things in west Kentucky that as I drive through it today I can think, Well, I was involved with--

HERDMAN: --um-hm--

HIGDON: --with that. And, and, and whatever that's made good. Right now they're starting to really complete something that, that a group of us began to work on back in the, in the, uh, mid-eighties, the, uh, road, uh, system connecting, uh--

HERDMAN: --um-hm--

HIGDON: --from Bowling Green down to Murray, and back to Paducah, and, and, uh. Hopefully on up to the Henderson area, and all those things, uh, uh, that we worked hard on over the years. You're starting to see 58:00that, you know, come about.

HERDMAN: Did you have any, uh, disappointments that stand out? You've mentioned a few things you were proud of, was there anything you just didn't get through that you'd hoped to, or?

HIGDON: I have to put some thought into that.

HERDMAN: I think it's a good thing that nothing stands out. (laughs) That's good.

HIGDON: Well. (pause) Not, not overall policy issues.

HERDMAN: Um-hm. Well, that's great. That's great to, to be able to feel that.

HIGDON: I feel pretty good about it, even though there's a ---------- (??)----------

HERDMAN: --(laughs)--someone else might have that for you, right.

HERDMAN: Yes(??).

HIGDON: Okay, you came in under--let me double-check--John Y. Brown, the last couple years. Um, let's talk a little bit about the governors you 59:00served with. What are your memories of, uh, Governor Brown?

HIGDON: He was unique, uh, you know. Uh, as I said, you know, there had been, uh, the movement for what was known as legislative independence and stuff, and he lead it really during his four years. Probably most legislators would say he really did do a, a lot of hands-off. Uh, he, he would communicate and we would talk, but he didn't force you on a lot of stuff.

HERDMAN: Did you get the impression that people earlier on had been forced?

HIGDON: Well, forced is probably too strong a word, but, uh, the governor's office controlled more--

HERDMAN: -- ----------(??)----------

HIGDON: --at least, that's what I've been told.



HERDMAN: Umm the people that served prior to you confirmed that, that they knew--

HERDMAN: --yeah--

HIGDON: --how they were supposed to vote.


HERDMAN: ---------(??)---------

HIGDON: And, and we didn't, we didn't have that. Uh, I didn't experience, uh, anything significant along that line. Now, there were 60:00times where, you know, that, that governors would want to talk to us individually, or to our leadership, and whatever, because we may be headed in a different direction on some of the things. For instance, the constitutional amendment for, for the governor to succeed himself. Governor Wilkerson wanted that, uh, uh, really strongly, and, uh, and, uh, the, the big battle on it toward the end was, we would, we had decided we would put it on the ballot, as long as the sitting governor could not participate.


HIGDON: And during Governor Jones's administration, when it did finally pass, uh, he was not able to succeed himself.

HERDMAN: Um-hm. And that it made it remain that way--

HIGDON: --right--

HERDMAN: -- -------------(??). What about, um, Martha Layne Collins?

HIGDON: Uh, unique, uh, just, just a, uh, uh, as fine a person as, as, 61:00as I've ever known. Um, um, uh, did a lot for education, uh, pre-KERA.


HIGDON: Um, uh, concentrated a lot in that area. And, uh, obviously, uh, during that time, uh, was able, uh, to bring, uh, uh, the motor plant up in Georgetown.


HIGDON: Which is, has been a tremendous success story for this state.

HERDMAN: What, do you remember the debate over that, and what the nature of it was?

HIGDON: Uh, we really, we, we were able to put that package together pretty, pretty easily when you compare a lot, a lot of things. There was a lot of trust that she had negotiated--

HERDMAN: --um-hm--

HIGDON: --in, in good faith and, and, and whatever. And, uh, I think everybody, at least from my understanding of it, was pretty comfortable with, with what we did. I don't remember a lot of, of, uh, of grinding teeth and, and worry over it, once, uh, once we got into that part 62:00of it.

HERDMAN: With Brown or Collins, did, were you ever or often called into their office, do you have any recollections of that?

HIGDON: Oh, probably once or twice with Governor Brown over, over some, uh, uh, uh, road issues, uh, from the standpoint of how we were going to continue build roads in Kentucky. Uh, a, a few times with Governor Collins. I did have the opportunity, uh, uh, late in my career to go to, to, uh, Japan and Taiwan with her in a, a delegation.

HERDMAN: For what purpose?

HIGDON: Just recruitment.


HIGDON: Businesses, and, you know, and, and though, their, they, you know, so that occasionally they would take some people. And so, I had the opportunity to sit across from Dr., uh, ---------(??) himself, I guess--(Herdman laughs)--in Nagoya. And dinner and different things like that.

HERDMAN: How did that process work while you were over there? What, uh, 63:00did you have an interpreter, did they speak English?

HIGDON: That's a unique thing. Almost every, everyone you're with, they can speak your language and theirs.


HIGDON: Uh, and, uh, and, uh, so, yeah, no, it wouldn't, we, I didn't need an interpreter.

HERDMAN: Yeah. Okay, and then what about Wilkinson?

HIGDON: Uh, hard working. I mean, he worked day and night at it. Uh, as, as most successful governors have to do. Uh, uh, did some stuff for education.


HIGDON: That type of thing. Uh, won on getting the lottery on the ballot, and was successful in that, and then worked very hard on it, uh. You know.

HERDMAN: Do you remember any funny stories, anecdotes, anything from, uh, that stands out?

HIGDON: (pause) Yeah. (Herdman laughs) He and I had a running battle 64:00on height.

HERDMAN: Oh yeah. (laughs)

HIGDON: We're about the, about the same height. And, uh, and, uh, we used to argue about which one was the tallest.

HERDMAN: (laughs) Who won in the end?

HIGDON: He did always. (Herdman laughs) The governor always wins on that type of thing--

HERDMAN: --well, he is the governor. Okay, um. Of course, at this time and still the, serving the General Assembly is not a full-time job. What job did you do while you were serving?


HERDMAN: --what was your other job?

HIGDON: Worked in the, uh, back in our furniture store.


HIGDON: And, uh--

HERDMAN: --how were you--

HIGDON: --that kind of thing--

HERDMAN: --how did you balance the two? Did you have someone that helped you run the furniture store at home, or?

HIGDON: Yeah, you had to, uh, uh, you know, have a lot of support at 65:00home. Uh, I often said this about Carole. Uh, she was a, uh, 100 percent wife.


HIGDON: Hundred percent mother to our children. And 70 percent father. (Herdman laughs)

HERDMAN: And she taught school, right?

HIGDON: Right.

HERDMAN: And then--

HIGDON: --yes--

HERDMAN: --she helped with the business, too?

HIGDON: Right. She's a--

HERDMAN: --wow.

HIGDON: She's a remarkable individual, uh, uh, from that standpoint. You know, it's, uh, uh, it's, it's, it's tough to do. Even if you're close here, it's tough to do. Uh, so you got to be in, in the right situation, and have the right colleagues back home--

HERDMAN: --um-hm--

HIGDON: --that, that understand and cover, because, uh, uh, just like the profession I'm in now you've always got to be here to, to do the job.


HIGDON: You can't do -----------(??)--

HERDMAN: --what, what was your salary?

HIGDON: Oh my, let's see. We had expenses at a certain rate. I don't 66:00remember what that was, I don't remember what the gas rate was, and whatever, but, uh, I'm trying to think. I think we made about, I could be wrong in this, but I think we made about fifty dollars a meeting.


HIGDON: And it got up to, uh, a hundred by the time I got out, I think. But I'm not 100 percent sure about that.

HERDMAN: And the, at that time--

HIGDON: --you don't make a living at it--

HERDMAN: --right--

HIGDON: --let me tell you that.

HERDMAN: --right--(laughs)--right. Um, there's--

HIGDON: --and during the session, you got, you got paid seven days a week a certain amount.

HERDMAN: Per day?

HIGDON: Yeah, and, uh, uh, then a certain per diem, uh, five of those, or for what legislative days were. That's the unique thing too. You know, a lot of people think you only work sixty days, back then, sixty days every two years. Well, the session would run from the, uh, early in December until the end of April.


HIGDON: And, uh, with everything that's going on and that, you're here all the, basically all the time. And, uh, so, uh, but then so the pay structure fits the sixty days.



HIGDON: Plus you get paid for the other days--

HERDMAN: --in-between--

HIGDON: --a little bit differently, yeah.

HERDMAN: Um, what do you think about the annual meeting now? Do you think that's an improvement that was needed?

HIGDON: Well it, obviously the people of Kentucky did.


HIGDON: And, uh, um, um, I think there is a certain need, especially from a, from a budgetary standpoint that, that needs to be dealt with. You know, and, uh, uh, and making sure, because that part of the thing can change, you know, within months.


HIGDON: Uh, and, occasionally there, there obviously will be dealt with in the off-year now, the shorter session year, uh, some issues that maybe didn't get through in the, in the, in the longer session, uh, that can be dealt with. So, overall, it's probably been a pretty fairly positive for the state. But it, but Kentucky had reached a point where it seems to me that just from a revenue standpoint, and, 68:00and making sure that things continue to balance out, uh, uh, that there was need to be here, uh, where you can actually make a vote and, and change something, in that regard.

HERDMAN: Um-hm. What do you think about the committee system? You served on, you said ag. and natural resources and, uh.

HIGDON: Bank and insurance, and, uh, capital projects and bond oversight, and those different, different types of committees--

HERDMAN: --are the committees effective--

HIGDON: --the committees--yes. They're very effective. Uh, and understanding the, the makeup, even though you don't serve on another committee, and the trust factors that, that leadership is dealing with, with the various committees, and making sure they're doing their work properly, and, and, and going through, yeah, I mean, I can't imagine you doing this job up here without it.


HIGDON: It's, uh, it's a very--Kentucky has got a good system on that.

HERDMAN: Um-hm. Okay, during the years you served, um, the national political scene would have been, uh, the Presidents would have 69:00been Reagan and Bush Senior. Um, how much, or at all, did national political issues, or the Democratic Party at a national level infiltrate what you guys did in Frankfort?

HIGDON: Not a lot.

HERDMAN: Seems separated?

HIGDON: Yeah, to me it does. Um, probably the one change that, that has occurred, uh, that impacts Kentucky, at, at least in my mind, is, you know, as the federal government has--and this, I think this is been a trend to a degree, uh, especially in the health care area. I had trouble, uh, maintaining, uh, the amounts of money coming and the availability of it. It puts a, a, a little, uh, more pressure on a state from a compliance standpoint, uh, to meet and, and do those types of things. Um, um, you know and to come up with revenue, I mean, 70:00you, this state has, has a little over three million, three and a half million people.


HIGDON: And, you know, that's more, that's, what, you've probably got more than that in the city of Chicago.


HIGDON: And so, when you, but a lot of the needs are the same. It costs almost as much to build a mile road here in Kentucky as it does in, in Illinois--

HERDMAN: --sure--

HIGDON: --and that type of thing. And so, working through all of that is probably the things that, that state government from my stand-, my, my viewpoint, uh, uh, is the, is most of the issues that you deal with on the federal level.

HERDMAN: Um-hm. Um, did you serve on any federal committees as a state senator?

HIGDON: Well, most of my interaction with the federal level was, uh, after I became cabinet secretary.

HERDMAN: Um-hm, which was a little later after.

HIGDON: Right.

HERDMAN: Um, okay, let's talk a little bit about that. Why did, why did 71:00you decide not to run on state senate?

HIGDON: I thought I could make a good congressman.


HIGDON: Uh, I thought the timing was right for that. Uh, I was gonna have to give up my seat to run.


HIGDON: And, uh, uh, once I made the decision to do that, I also made it known that if I pulled out, I would not run for reelection to the state senate.


HIGDON: And, uh, when I made the decision not to go ahead and run for Congress, I, I felt like I needed to honor that commitment.



HERDMAN: What made you change your mind about running for Congress?

HIGDON: I couldn't raise any money.

HERDMAN: Um-hm. The campaign was on a much different level?


HERDMAN: What would it have required? T.V. spots, that sort of thing?


HIGDON: Well I, you know, just, just the general stuff, that I thought I had the desire to run.


HIGDON: And when I got into it, I really didn't.

HERDMAN: So, your term ended in '91, and when you decided not to run, you accepted a position?

HIGDON: Uh, yeah, I'd been, I made the decision earlier that, that summer, and so I was just going to serve my term out. And, uh, we were getting ready for that session, and, uh, and, uh, for the '92 session.


HIGDON: And Governor Jones called. And, uh, when I was in Frankfort, and wanted to talk to me about the cabinet. And, uh, I mean, I could still have filed for the senate, but I already--

HERDMAN: --said you wouldn't--

HIGDON: --said I wasn't gonna do that. So, uh, so we had some talks. I met a fine person named Phil Sheppard and decided to give it a whirl. I'd spent ten years messing with, uh, those issues--

HERDMAN: --um-hm--

HIGDON: --and, and, and whatever, and I thought, in fact, I, I used 73:00to say, "If you couldn't be governor of Kentucky, the next most significant position would be the secretary of the Cabinet for Natural Resource and Environmental Protection.

HERDMAN: Yep. And so, what, you accepted that in '92?

HIGDON: Yeah, actually, December of '91.

HERDMAN: And how long did you serve in that capacity?

HIGDON: Three and a half years.

HERDMAN: Okay. And what are your memories from that? How was that different than being in the Senate?

HIGDON: We were known, Phil and I were known as the marriage made in hell. (Herdman laughs) We--

HERDMAN: --didn't get along, or?

HIGDON: No, you can, you can, uh, that's the way the press, uh, equated it when they announced us as co-secretaries of the cabinet. Uh, Phil is a, was at that time an environmental lawyer.

HERDMAN: Hm, okay.

HIGDON: Uh, and, uh, and, you know, I'd served in the Senate and chaired the ag and natural resources committee. And, and, uh, in fact had gotten elected into the leadership, so I wasn't gonna be a chairman of 74:00the committee any longer anyway.


HIGDON: And, and, uh, as majority whip. And, uh, so the, that, when the governor made the announcement the next day, the stories(??) from the press, uh, uh, in the central part of the state, "This is the marriage made in hell." The agreement was, if, if he and I could not agree on an issue, uh, that, uh, that we would come over and sit down with the governor and talk about it. Uh, in that three and a half years, we never had to do that.

HERDMAN: Wow. That's great. And so he purposefully picked people from two different perspectives to try to keep that balance. That was the, that's great. Okay, and what do you do now?

HIGDON: Governmental relations.

HERDMAN: And what is that, uh, entail?

HIGDON: Lobbying. Uh, interacting with, uh, uh, the legislature for, for your clients.

HERDMAN: And what happened to the furniture business, do you still have that?

HIGDON: Oh no, that's, that's in our family.


HIGDON: Uh, it's in Paducah.

HERDMAN: Family's still working with that?


HIGDON: Some of the, some of the family.

HERDMAN: Okay, um, let's talk a little bit about looking back. Um, you've already talked about your most satisfying accomplishment. Did your time in the Senate, uh, change the way that you view things? Or the way that you viewed your upbringing or that sort of?

HIGDON: No, I, I wouldn't think that it changed that part. Uh, I, I, I think that, that the biggest thing that you learn is that, that as small a state as Kentucky is, uh, you have to understand that there're different cultures.


HIGDON: And understanding those cultures helps you understand where people are coming from.


HIGDON: Um, and I, I think that's very important, because a lot, a lot of the decisions you make don't just impact the constituents in your--

HERDMAN: --um-hm--

HIGDON: --constituency; it impacts the whole constituents; it impacts people who come through this state.



HIGDON: Uh, uh, and, and all that type of thing. And, and, and I think it's very important. And it's, it's the one, one of the things that I learned very early in the process. And I had some good mentors, people like Joe Wright and Eck Rose and, uh, uh, uh, Ed Ford, who was chairman of the education committee, and, and all that, you know, were very good, uh, when I came in, in helping me understand where different, other, my colleagues as I, from different parts of the state, and where they were coming from, and taking the time and the patience to, to look at that, and hopefully come up with, with a, with a policy or a goal that would, would meet everybody's concerns and move Kentucky forward. It takes a lot of work. It takes a lot of patience, and it takes a, a lot of open mindedness.

HERDMAN: Um-hm. Okay, um. Let me ask you a general question about the General Assembly. Kentucky has been, uh, historically slow to add, uh, 77:00women and especially African-Americans, percentage wise, compared to the rest of the country. What were your memories of women, especially serving under Martha Layne Collins as the first female governor, and African-Americans from your time that you were in the Senate?

HIGDON: Yeah. Um, goes back to, to, uh, a few minutes before.


HIGDON: Uh, having the patience to listen and understand, uh, you know, their, their side of things and whatever. I don't ever remember ever having a problem with--

HERDMAN: --um-hm--

HIGDON: --with any of them.

HERDMAN: Um-hm. So once--

HIGDON: --from that standpoint.


HIGDON: You know, now there, does that mean we 100 percent agreed on everything, no.


HIGDON: Did we 100 percent disagree on everything, no. Were, were, were the ones that I served with, uh, you're able to work with, and, and, and get to a, to a way that we could both live with it and the 78:00commonwealth could live with it, I think, worked very well.

HERDMAN: Um-hm. And with Governor Collins, do you think that it mattered that she was female? Was there ever an issue that came up?

HIGDON: No. It was a benefit to her in Japan.

HERDMAN: Yeah. (laughs) Okay. Um, what do you think of politics in Frankfort now, compared to when you were in office?

HIGDON: Just, just like I do life in general. Things change. Uh, uh, uh, as long as whoever is, is moving in control. And, and, and if you think back, you know, uh, uh, if you're able to put--and they're always going to be partisan issues.


HIGDON: Make no mistake about that. That, I don't mean that there's a glorious world out there, but, but understanding what your real philosophies are, and how they fit, uh, uh, make things work, you know.


HIGDON: If, if you're talking about the General Assembly as a whole. 79:00And, uh, uh, uh, so I, I had no problem with, with, uh, uh, Democrat, Republican.


HIGDON: Uh, you know, I, I, I look at more, what is your philosophy, more conservative or more liberal, do you go too far either way, uh, that type of thing.

HERDMAN: What do you think are, is the basis for your political philosophy, your upbringing--

HIGDON: --the way I was raised.

HERDMAN: Yeah. Religion part of that too? The, are you still act-, an active Catholic?

HIGDON: Oh yeah. Uh, I, no, I, you know, the way I was raised as a Catholic, was to, was to be inclusive--

HERDMAN: --um-hm--

HIGDON: --in your thinking. Uh, I think that was helpful--

HERDMAN: --um-hm--

HIGDON: --to me in a lot of ways in life. Um, um, so, you know. It, it was a big positive, it is the way I was raised, you know. And, and, uh, and, uh, you know, that didn't mean you don't make mistakes. 80:00You know, and as you're going through things, but, uh, uh, the biggest thing I learned up, up here was to do, be patient.


HIGDON: You know, uh, be understanding, be open-minded, and have a strong foundation under you, and then get, get to solving the problem, whatever it is.

HERDMAN: Did, were any of your--

HIGDON: --recognizing opportunities.

HERDMAN: Um-hm, sure(??).

HIGDON: Uh, uh, my family, uh, uh, my father taught me that at a very early age, to, you know, a lot of times there's an opportunity out there and you just have to recognize it and then, then go on it.

HERDMAN: Were any of your children interested--

HIGDON: --kind of the way I got in--

HERDMAN: --what's that?

HIGDON: Kind of the way I got in the Senate.

HERDMAN: Yeah. (laughs) Were of your children interested in going into politics?

HIGDON: Nathan might, would someday take a look at it, that's my middle 81:00child, but I don't, I don't know. I mean, they, uh.

HERDMAN: Would you encourage him, if he--

HIGDON: --my youngest, I'll tell, I'll tell you this one, little story. He was born after I was already in. And, uh, and, uh, he got into, into grade school and stuff, and he was, uh, he was, uh, going through the food line. You know, and he wanted an extra roll, and, and the lady, the cafeteria lady said, uh, said, "No, we don't have any extras today." And she said, he said, "Don't you know my dad's a state senator?" (both laugh)

HERDMAN: That's great.

HIGDON: Yeah. (laughs) So, you know, it's, uh.

HERDMAN: If they were interested--

HIGDON: --it's been good. I, I, I have no regrets about doing it.

HERDMAN: That was my next question. Would you do it again?


HERDMAN: You consider it a positive experience in your life?

HIGDON: Yeah, yeah. Now would I do it again at my age, no.


HERDMAN: Um-hm. Um, is there anything else you'd like to add? Okay, well thank you Mr. Higdon, I appreciate it.

HIGDON: Thank you.

[End of interview.]

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