KLEE: Ah, there it is. The following is an unrehearsed interview by John Klee for the University of Kentucky, uh, uh, Libraries. It's part of the University of Kentucky community college System, uh, Project. I'm in uh, Prestonsburg, Kentucky, and I'm interviewing Mr. Barkely Sturgill. Uh, the date is, uh, May 9, 2007. Mr. Sturgill, I wanna start by just asking you a little bit about your personal background. Tell me, uh, about your family and your childhood.

STURGILL: Well I was, uh, really haven't gone far. I was born in Lackey, Floyd County, Kentucky, uh, uh, seventy-nine years ago in July. 1:00July 4th.

KLEE: I see.

STURGILL: And, uh, my dad was a, was a merchant there, and then, and then we lived in Garrett for-- which is about five miles down the road. This is nineteen hundred-- when I was born in 1928, uh, we lived there from, as far as I was concerned, from 1928 until, uh, 1934 when my dad was elected Circuit Clerk here and we moved to Prestonsburg.

KLEE: I see. Well, he must have been, he must have, uh, had some connections or popularity around the county to get elected not being from the, the major city. How did that work?

STURGILL: Uh, uh, that's true. Uh, he was, my, my father was raised in 2:00Knott County in Hindman--

KLEE: --Uh-huh.

STURGILL: --and my mother was a, she was a Maggard who lived in, in Knott County also.

KLEE: Mm-hm.

STURGILL: But they, they came to this county about 19-- uh, about 1921/22. Dad had a store at, at, uh, at Lackey. That was during the Aver/Aber Korsman(??) Elkhorn Coal Co-- Company had a big mammoth called Big Elkhorn at Whalen--

KLEE: --Mm-hm.

STURGILL: --and Whalen, Lackey, and Garrett are just five, six miles apart. They had the, uh, Standard Elkhorn at, uh, at Lackey and then went to coal, I guess, Little Elkhorn to Garrett. So the coal business was pretty good during those years, even though that was the beginning 3:00of the Depression.

KLEE: I see. Now, so his business was, was pretty, pretty good then.

STURGILL: Those stores, uh, then, uh, principally dry goods, but he sold everything ------------(??)--

KLEE: --I see.

STURGILL: --but he said everything tested(??). The turnips and--(Klee laughs)-- but uh, we, uh, he, our family in Knott County had a, uh, my grandfather was a merchant there--

KLEE: --Okay.

STURGILL: --and, uh, and, and, started the Micah Hindman which incidentally still is--

KLEE: --In opera--

STURGILL: --back in Hindman.

KLEE: Okay.

STURGILL: And-- but, uh, we had some, some family here in Floyd County, particularly in that region in, um, Garrett and Lackey.

KLEE: Okay. And he came here as Circuit Clerk?

STURGILL: He came to Prestonsburg.


KLEE: Prestonsburg, uh-huh. What, uh, did he enjoy that work as opposed to being a merchant?

STURGILL: Well yeah, he was a, a, um, he's just a, um, he was a pretty good merchant evidently--

KLEE: --Yes, sir.

STURGILL: --but he, uh, I think politics was just kind of his groove. He was a, uh, had a, a great personality and public service I think was kindly what he wanted to do. And he, they did it(??) all his life.

KLEE: Okay, what about your childhood then? Did you, uh, after you came here, you went to local schools and--

STURGILL: Yes. Uh, well, I, my, I have, uh, there was four of us children--

KLEE: --Mm-hm.

STURGILL: --and, um, got a sister, an older sister Gwendolyn, who is now not living. Of course she lived here all of her life and I have a sister Winnie who was married and lived in Lynch for years and her 5:00husband was a dentist.

KLEE: --'Kay

STURGILL: She is now in Lexington. And, and I have a brother Bill who, uh, was in the coal business most of his life. He lives in Lexington.

KLEE: Okay.

STURGILL: So when we moved here, well they were, were of course all in school. We were all educated here in, in, uh, the public schools here in Prestonsburg.

KLEE: Mm-hm. Tell me about the community of Prestonsburg when you were growing up. Uh, was it, uh, was it kind of fueled by the coal business?

STURGILL: Well, of course and--.

KLEE: --Mm-hm.

STURGILL: We're the county seat and, and this is about the thirteenth, Floyd County is about the thirteenth, fourteenth largest county in the state.

KLEE: Okay.

STURGILL: Um, we might have about, I think, about fifty, fifty-two thousand people--

KLEE: --Uh-huh.

STURGILL: --but during those years, uh, when I was growing up, uh, 6:00we had sixty-two, sixty-five thousand, you know. And after the war, we, uh, I, I've forgotten; I think the biggest census we ever had was something like sixty-three thousand.

KLEE: Okay.


KLEE: --Yeah.

STURGILL: --and being the county seat town, uh,--(clears throat)--with, uh, the banks and all the, uh, law offices,--

KLEE: --The legal offices, uh-huh.

STURGILL: --and, uh, we had a, uh, uh, small hospital here, and that we called Prestonsburg General. Had a pretty good medical, uh,--

KLEE: --Right.

STURGILL: --uh, group here then. And Prestonsburg was always, uh, a typical county seat town in Kentucky.

KLEE: Mm-hm. Had to be kind of self-sufficient because of, uh, these hills weren't that easy to, to get through?


STURGILL: Well then they weren't but of course, uh, the, uh, we had the old 23(??) to Ashland--

KLEE: --Mm-hm.

STURGILL: --and, and old 460 and 60 to Lexington. And when I was growing up, sort of the, quote(??), unquote, real medical attention people went to Huntington.

KLEE: Okay. Uh-huh.

STURGILL: Uh, you,--

KLEE: --Yeah.

STURGILL: --you're from that area,--

KLEE: --Right.

STURGILL: --you know. And then we had then the Mountain Parkway and all.

KLEE: Yeah.

STURGILL: Uh, uh,--

KLEE: --But didn't--

STURGILL: --that just, that just opened up the world of, uh, world of things to east Kentucky and of course now there are four lanes 23(??) and four lane, almost all four-lane to Lexington.

KLEE: So in the, in those early years it was, it was easier to, get, uh, to the Ashland area and Huntington than it was to get to Lexington.


STURGILL: ----------(??), it was-- Yeah, you didn't have as many mountains--

KLEE: --Right. Uh-huh.

STURGILL: --between here and, and, uh, and it was closer.

KLEE: Sure. Uh-huh.

STURGILL: About a hundred twenty miles to Lexington--

KLEE: --Yeah.

STURGILL: --sixty-five, sixty-eight miles from, from Huntington--

KLEE: --To the--

STURGILL: --to Ashland.

KLEE: --Ashland. I see. So you graduated from school here and what was your, what were your ambitions and--

STURGILL: Well I was never worried about my ambitions.--(KLEE laughs)-- I, I wanted to be a lawyer from the time I can remember.

KLEE: Is that right?

STURGILL: When I was growing up, my f-- I moved here, moved to Prestonsburg when I was about, uh, about four years old.

KLEE: Yes sir.

STURGILL: I was five in, uh, in July and of course Dad being Circuit Clerk and I had an uncle here who was a, who was a lawyer--

KLEE: --Okay.

STURGILL: --and, uh, I hung around the court-house about as much as I went to school, as I could, you know? So I did, I, I, but, uh, of course all my, uh, education was here until I graduated from high school.


KLEE: But you, you'd had made that decision. Was there any, it was just a, kind of, uh, uh, growing up around it just kind of infused(??) you or was there, was there something in particular or--

STURGILL: ----------(??)---------- I was, uh, I was around the court- house and, uh, oh, I was a court-house rat really and,

KLEE: --Uh-huh.

STURGILL: --and uh, I was just, uh, uh, I was gone. They had a lot more trials during those periods,--

KLEE: --Is that--

STURGILL: --especially criminal cases.

KLEE: I see.

STURGILL: It wasn't unusual. Uh, you know, they'd have twenty-five or thirty murder cases. They wouldn't get them all tried in one term but--

KLEE: --Right.

STURGILL: --you, you could, uh-- of course those interested me. But you don't have the real court-room activity nowadays that you had in those years, when I was growing up.

[Interruption in recording]

STURGILL: But that was, prompted my ambition to be a lawyer.

KLEE: Mm-hm. So you saw a lot of murder trials and I guess a lot of-- 10:00(laughs)--a lot of action.

STURGILL: Oh, yeah. Yeah, I saw a bunch of them.

KLEE: Mm-hm. Um, what did you, where did you go to, to college then?

STURGILL: Well, I graduated from high school in Prestonsburg High School in 1945, and in Sept-- Se-- uh, in May of 1945, then I went to the University of Kentucky.

KLEE: Mm-hm.

STURGILL: My brother was in school down there then--

KLEE: --Okay.

STURGILL: --and, uh, I was a basketball player so I went to Kentucky and my brother was there at the time as I said and he was a member of the team and I went to, uh, I went to Kentucky. I came in with the class of Wawa Jones and Ralph Beard.

KLEE: Oh, really? (laughs)

STURGILL: They went on and played a hell of a lot more basketball than I did, but--

KLEE: So you had played here in Prestonsburg?


KLEE: Uh-huh. And did you play at UK then?

STURGILL: Yes. I played at UK my freshman year and, and part of my 11:00sophomore year and ----------(??) then Groza and that, his boys came back,--

KLEE: ------------(??)------------

STURGILL: --came back from the Army so---(both laugh),---but I, I had a great time.

KLEE: I bet you--

STURGILL: --But that was-- I would have gone to Kentucky anyway,--

KLEE: --Sure. Uh-huh.

STURGILL: --but that was, uh, of course my brother there and I would have gone and all that, and it didn't hurt that Coach Rupp asked me to come.

KLEE: Right, right. So, uh, tell me about--

STURGILL: --He didn't ask me to come. He told me to.

KLEE: Right. Is that right? Uh, came down here to see you play I guess, or sent somebody?

STURGILL: Well, uh, uh, I don't, I don't know that he saw, uh, Harry Lancaster who was his assistant coach. Uh, Harry saw, uh, saw us play, uh, a couple times and then he, there was a fella who coached at Henry Clay but came at UK just about that time by name Baldy Gibb--

KLEE: --Mm-hm.

STRUGILL: --and Baldy saw several ball games that we, he saw a couple of tournament games we played.

KLEE: Right. So that was in the, uh, uh, what year did you say you went 12:00to UK? Was--

STURGILL: --Well, I started in September of '45--

KLEE: --September '45--

STURGILL: --and finished in June of '49.

KLEE: Mm-hm. And your, what's your, you told me earlier that, uh, some of those veterans came back and, uh--

STURGILL: --Yes--(both laugh)--Alex Groza and Bennie Army--

KLEE: --Uh-huh.

STURGILL: --and, and, um, Kenny Rawlings and, um, uh, Cliff Barker.

KLEE: What was--

STURGILL: --Cliff Barker and Kenny Rawlings and, and, uh, uh, Wawa Jones and Ralph Beard. Groza made, uh, they were the, of course, the, uh, "Fabulous Five."

KLEE: Right. Right.

STURGILL: They won the National Championship and, uh, won the NIT my freshman year and then they won the National Championship back to back '48 and '49 while I was there.

KLEE: That was kind of exciting to be there at that time.

STURGILL: Oh yeah.

KLEE: What kind of person was Coach Rupp personally?

STURGILL: Well, uh, he w-- he was a typical German, general, you know. 13:00He, he, um, he had to, he had to play it hi-- you know, his way and he was, he was, but he wasn't all that strict because everybody knew that, that you had to do it his way. And, and uh, uh, uh, they painted a lot of pictures about Rupp but he, I always found him the years, all the years I, I knew him--

KLEE: --Yes sir.

STURGILL: --he was, uh, always interested in what you were doing and always, uh, uh, uh, helpful if you, you, you know. I never, he never, never went to him anything like that, but he,--

KLEE: --Sure.

STURGILL: --he was, uh, he was, um, a lot different than the general--

KLEE: --the group, the trail?

STURGILL: Yeah, that they, the profile they painted him.

KLEE: Mm-hm.

STURGILL: I, I j-- um, I just want to mention here, I think the thing 14:00they painted about Rupp being, Coach Rupp being a racist is, uh, is just not right. It's, uh, all that Hollywood stuff, there's no, there's not anything to it.

KLEE: Mm-hm.

STURGILL: I was talking to Larry Conley here, uh, oh, it was last fall;--

KLEE: --Yes sir.

STURGILL: --he, he was up here. As a matter of fact we had lunch over at, over at the lodge at the park and we were talking about it and he played on that team when Texas Western beat us in the Championship.

KLEE: Yes sir.

STURGILL: When all, you know. Larry said, "I had a temperature of 103 and we--" a couple of them had the flu and, and, uh, he said, "We just weren't up to par physically."

KLEE: Right.

STURGILL: We could have beaten Texas Western probably eight out of ten times if we had all been up to par. But, race, that didn't have a-- it didn't enter the picture to anybody.

KLEE: Is that right, now?

STURGILL: And, uh, uh, of course I wasn't around Coach Rupp that much, 15:00but I never, I, I never heard him or had any idea that he was a racist.

KLEE: And you played there as a freshman and, uh,--

STURGILL: --Yeah. I was there to, 'til my, December of my sophomore year.

KLEE: Sophomore year. Uh-huh. What about Harry Lancaster?

STURGILL: I didn't play after that.

KLEE: Yeah. What kind of person was Harry Lancaster?

STURGILL: Oh, he was a great fella.

KLEE: Uh-huh.

STURGILL: Harry was, uh, he had a good basketball mind and, and, uh, he was, uh, he was, uh, he was on a more personal basis with you--

KLEE: --With the players, uh-huh.

STURGILL: --than Rupp was.

KLEE: Right.

STURGILL: But, uh, and he really looked about you. He would, you know, be wanting to that you, going to class--

KLEE: --Going to class.

STURGILL: --and all. And, um, but he was, uh--

KLEE: --So Rupp was more the commanding general and--

STURGILL: --Oh yeah. He was the master of all he surveyed. There wasn't any doubt about that and, and--


KLEE: --You all were playing in the, uh--

STURGILL: ------------(??) at the old Alumni Gym.

KLEE: Alumni gym, uh-huh.

STURGILL: I think at tops it'd seat, uh, forty-two hundred or forty- three. And in those years it was just right after the war,--

KLEE: --Mm-hm.

STURGILL: --and when I went there at UK, on campus was, uh, uh, probably around five, six thousand on campus--

KLEE: --Mm-hm.

STURGILL: --and, uh, and then when I, my graduating class, we had thirteen hundred.

KLEE: Gee.

STURGILL: But, you know, in those, in those years, uh, it was just like going downtown in matter-- after being there a while you, you knew damn near everybody on the campus.

KLEE: Is that right?

STURGILL: Yeah. It was, it wasn't anything--

KLEE: --Kind of a close knit?

STURGILL: Yeah. Uh, and--

KLEE: --I guess the gym was full for every game?

STURGILL: Well, what I, uh, so they, so, uh, all the students, they 17:00divided, uh, you, you got tickets section with a, you, you were Sec-- Section A. And they, all those kids that had Card A--

KLEE: --Uh-huh.

STURGILL: --they got to see every other home game,--

KLEE: --Oh.

STURGILL: --if they wanted to. If you got Card B, then you got to see every other home game.

KLEE: The other. (laughs)

STURGILL: Cause he couldn't get them all--

KLEE: --couldn't get them all--

STURGILL: --in there at the same time.

KLEE: Same time. Uh-huh. Yeah.

STURGILL: And, uh, they did that the whole time I was there.

KLEE: Uh huh. What about other, did you make other, uh, acquaintances, contacts at UK, as a student at UK that, that played out over the years?

STURGILL: Oh well yes. Lord have mercy. I've, uh, uh, there was just a world of the--

KLEE: --Oh, okay.

STURGILL: --throughout, uh--

KLEE: --I would hate for you--

STURGILL: --A boy from Maysville, uh, the name of Johnny Crockett's one of the best friends I ever had to this very day.

KLEE: Mm-hm.

STURGILL: Even on, he was retired. He was the Vice President of the 18:00First National Bank of Louisville.

KLEE: I see.

STURGILL: And Johnny, Johnny and I are great friends and, uh--

KLEE: --Now what was his last name?

STURGILL: Crockett.

KLEE: Okay, uh-huh.

STURGILL: Johnny Crockett.

KLEE: Yeah. Huh.

STURGILL: John Richard Crockett, and, uh-- Oh my goodness, it's just--

KLEE: --I'd hate for you to miss anybody, but if you thi-- if anybody comes to mind, you mentioned that another group from Maysville, since I'm from Maysville, were the Wood brothers.


KLEE: Uh-huh. Uh,--

STURGILL: --Donald and, uh, Woody.

KLEE: And Woody, uh-huh.

STURGILL: And, uh, uh, I just, uh, knew them from all over Kentucky,--

KLEE: --I see.

STURGILL: --a boy name Fr-- Fred Nichols, who, and uh, -----------(??), uh, in Madisonville, who's not, not living now, but he was a great friend of mine. He went on, he's a lawyer there and went on to be state senator from down there--

KLEE: --Uh-huh.

STURGILL: --and uh, there were several of them I could go down, but I 19:00can't call-- recall them right now.

KLEE: Sure. Uh, so you, you had this goal to be a lawyer all the way through your life?

STURGILL: ----------(??)---------- The boys I went to school with, you know, couldn't make up their mind what, and I, that's understandable,--

KLEE: --Uh-huh.

STURGILL: --but, uh, I knew what I was gonna do from--

KLEE: Yeah. Uh, so I guess, uh, you applied and went to UK? Or someplace else?

STURGILL: Well, I finished at UK in, uh, in, uh, 1949 and--

KLEE: --Uh-huh.

STURGILL: --and, uh, I had, uh, my dad went to Washington Lee,--

KLEE: --Oh that's right. You went to Washington Lee. Yeah.

STURGILL: --and he was there, uh, into my trouble, but he was there a couple of years and I had an uncle who had gone to Washington Lee Law School and I'd been over there a time or two so I, I just, uh, when I graduated from the University of Kentucky, um, Dean Starr was Dean of 20:00the law school--

KLEE: --Mm-hm.

STURGILL: --and I had known that he was sort of our, I was a Sigma Chi, uh, Fraternity and Dean Starr was sort of our adviser and, um, I had actually applied, and-- well, first you, then you could get a what they call a combined degree.

KLEE: Okay.

STURGILL: You could take your senior year as your first year at UK. Well I was, uh, I was about twenty years old at that time and Dean Starr said, "You got no business over there at law school."

KLEE: (laughs) You were really young.

STURGILL: Yeah, with all those, uh, see they had all those boys coming back from the war and,--

KLEE: --Right.

STURGILL: --and Ned Breathitt was in law school at the time, Foster Ackerman--

KLEE: --Uh-huh.

STURGILL: --and, and, so I just went on and got my degree.

KLEE: Yes sir.

STURGILL: And then I decided, Well, I, I think I probably done all right 21:00and do at the University of Kentucky so I applied at W & L and,--

KLEE: --Mm-hm.

STURGILL: --and went the, went to W & L in, in September of, uh, of '49 and finished in June of '52.

KLEE: And you told me that, uh, uh, you just came back from the fifty- fifth Reunion.

STURGILL: I did. I just got back, uh, uh, fifty-fifth law class reunion.

KLEE: What was Washington and that? What kind of experience was Washington Lee for you?

STURGILL: Oh it was a great experience. It, it's just, uh, I've made a lot of decisions in my life that, uh, turned out all right. I made a whole lot that didn't, but--(Klee laughs)--but one of the best decisions I made was going to Washington Lee Law School. It was a great experience. Lot of tradition and that kind of thing interests me and uh, besides that, it's a hell of a good law school--

KLEE: --Top, top-notch law school.

STURGILL: --And Kentucky is a hell of a good law school

KLEE: Yeah. Uh-huh.

STURGILL: But I, that was my, I had a little, uh, I had a little family 22:00relationship with Washington Lee.

KLEE: Right. Otherwise might not have had, might not have gone that direction?

STURGILL: Well, probably not--

KLEE: --Probably not, sure.

STURGILL: --I would have, uh, I'm sure I would've gone on to UK Law School.

KLEE: Yeah. So, you got out of law school and, and your options were, were open. What did you decide to do? Were you always thinking about coming back to--

STURGILL: --Well, yeah I, I guess. But when I got out of law school, I, uh, um, first, uh, uh, Bert Combs, who grew up, I, I grew up about, almost next door neighbor, he was on the Court of Appeals and, uh, he run for governor and then he came back ----------(??) so it was a good timing for me so I started practicing, as I told you, right here in this building, fifty-, fifty-four years ago,--

KLEE: --Uh-huh

STURGILL: --fifty-two-- -three years ago.

KLEE: So you came back here and you were practicing with Bert Combs?

STURGILL: Yeah. Bert Combs and Kilmer Combs and Paul Combs.


KLEE: Okay. Uh, tell me about those people. Uh,--

STURGILL: Well you know about, about Bert Combs.

KLEE: Well, I want you to tell me though. (laughs)

STURGILL: He, uh,--

KLEE: --What kind of person was he?

STURGILL: Well, he was, he's just one of the greatest people I've ever known,--

KLEE: --Uh-huh.

STURGILL: --had a great, great legal mind as a, and very, um, very humble sort of fellow, had a lot of humility about him,--

KLEE: --Uh-huh.

STURGILL: --and the same great ability.

KLEE: Yes sir.

STURGILL: And uh, we've sat around this table many a day and say, "Now, Barkley, you know, there's three sides to everything. It's your side, their side and the right side." (both laugh) But, and he had a lot of wit about him and, uh, unassuming nature, he-- But he, he thought, he thought grand ideas.

KLEE: I see.


STURGILL: And I don't know that he ever really, uh, after his governor's race in '55 when Happy Chandler, a very close election, beat him, I don't, I don't know that he ever, but my goodness, uh, when he came back here and we ----------(??), it was just amazing at the people would just come by here or call almost every day.

KLEE: Uh-huh.

STURGILL: You know, "You've just got to run for Governor." "You've got to run for Governor." And, uh, he did and won.

KLEE: So you were suggesting after that '55 loss that you didn't, you didn't think it was in his mind to maybe run again.

STURGILL: Well, oh I'm sure it was in his mind,--

KLEE: --Yeah, but,--

STURGILL: --but I don't think he ever had any, uh, uh, I don't think he really-- I'll put it this way, he didn't make any concerted effort about really running for governor until two and a half, three years after that.

KLEE: Right. So it wasn't consuming him or anything, but you say he had 25:00people nearly daily coming through.

STURGILL: Oh yeah. Oh yeah. It was, and then when it, after a couple of years or so, why then, he would, uh, they'd call him and invite him to speak--

KLEE: --Mm-hm.

STURGILL: --at different places: Lyons Clubs and Kiwanis Clubs and, uh, we started doing that and spent a lot of time on the road that way--

KLEE: --I'd say you'd have to be.

STURGILL: --when we really got into it, you know.

KLEE: Let me take you back a little bit. When you, when you came back here and, and took up practice with, with, uh, uh--

STURGILL: --Combs -----------(??)

KLEE: Combs is right. You said their names were, there was Bert and, uh,--

STURGILL: --Kilmer

KLEE: --Kilmer


KLEE: And Paul. Was there enough business for everybody? How did you all sort that out?

STURGILL: Well yeah. It was enough for me--(both laugh)--at that point in time. It may not have been for them, but they, uh, uh, they had, 26:00they had a pretty good representative clients that they had had two years, Kentucky and West Virginia and, um, uh, Elkhorn, uh, but and has a lot of, uh, well ----------(??)---------- you had a lot of small coal companies they were doing business. And a lot of people, different people represented, but we represented a bunch of them, and, uh, uh, didn't, didn't do much criminal work. We did mostly, uh, represented the bank and,--

KLEE: --Right.

STURGILL: --and, and,--

KLEE: --So your days were filled with, uh, just, um, the legal kinds of needs that these companies and, uh, would need.

STURGILL: Yeah, of course, and then we handled, dealt, dealt with a lot of estates, a lot of people with, uh, with, with, wills and then just people coming in and wanting legal advice.

KLEE: Sure. Uh-huh. Uh, you said you didn't get to do much criminal, 27:00even though as a child that was one of things that attracted you to--

STURGILL: --Well, I think that's probably what attracts any young, uh,--

KLEE: --Right.

STURGILL: --young -----------(??). And they, as I say, that was the thing that they did more of here then because they particularly, uh, say, the murder docket when I was a kid would be fifteen, twenty murders, uh, murders, uh, on the docket.

KLEE: What was--

STURGILL: --And they would try, they'd try one or two every term.

KLEE: Sure. So there was always some entertainment.

STURGILL: It was a good theater. You know, when you try John Key-- Klein? Excuse me.

KLEE: Klee. Uh-huh. Uh-huh.

STURGILL: Klee. John Klee. If you tried John Klee why there would be a full courtroom, ev-- you know, for any trial and that, that was, uh, that was, uh, the theater that attracted me of course.

KLEE: Yeah. Just, just from your own experience, what accounts for, uh, as many murders as there were and uh,--

STURGILL: Well, you had, uh, had a lot of coal camps here.


KLEE: A-ha.

STURGILL: Wheelwright was a inn and, inn and -----------(??), which is one, uh, at the time, uh, Wheelwright, uh, Inn and -----------(??) and, uh, over at Lynch which was US Steel, were the two biggest coal companies in, in, in Kentucky.

KLEE: Yes sir.

STURGILL: And they had forty-two or -three hundred people working. So Wheelwright was a pretty good community, uh, in itself and you had Whalen and Garrett as I mentioned earlier, and, and, um, we had a lot of people here and I guess you could just say they, they had a lot of, had a lot of quarrels.

KLEE: Right. Well, a lot of, I guess a lot of men--

STURGILL: --I think at that particular era, that would probably hold true throughout Kentucky. You had a lot, uh, of people fall out over 29:00property lines particularly and you could read some of the greatest murder cases going over a, a fence line you know. People just took their own-- they just settled, uh, settled their own, uh, their own legal problems.

KLEE: Tell me a little about, uh, personally after law school and so forth. Were you establishing a family or--

STURGILL: Well, I, I, uh, it took me a while, but I did. I, uh, I finished in '52 and then my, my first job was, Bert was still on the Court of Appeals and I worked for him in Frankfort for,--

KLEE: --Oh did you?

STURGILL: --for a year. And, uh,--

KLEE: --Now did he--

STURGILL: --Bob Stephens who later on became the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, he and I were great friends, knew him in college. We were great friends until he died. And he worked for, uh, uh, Judge Cammack, who was then the Chief Justice.


KLEE: Uh, why did you, why did you go over to Frankfort? Did Combs already know you and your family and--

STURGILL: --Well yes. That was, uh, you know, he was -----------(??)-- -------- and he said, "Well," in his usual humble way, or, uh-- I won't say condescending, but he would say "Well, you gotta do something. You just might as well come to Frankfort." (both laugh)

KLEE: How did you like that?

STURGILL: Oh I loved it. You know, it was out-- I loved that, uh, we, uh, we worked around the Capitol building, mostly out of the law library. The governor's office was on the second floor at the time, and--

KLEE: --Oh, okay.

STURGILL: --I took a lot of interest politically, too, you know. I was involved with politics I guess through my dad more than-- And, uh, that year in Frankfort, of course, helped a whole lot. And, uh, Dad was there a lot to, uh-- Clements was governor and then Weatherby was-- 31:00Weatherby was really governor when I was, when I was there at that time.

KLEE: Okay. Ha-- Did your dad hold other political offices?

STURGILL: Well, he was, he was clerk of the senate and he was clerk of the house and he was, uh, oh Lord, he was, I guess, twelve, twelve, fourteen years, uh, so he was in Frankfort a good deal during those years.

KLEE: Okay. Uh-huh. Uh, so when, uh, Bert Combs came back to Prestonsburg, you came back and got into practice.

STURGILL: Oh, yes. Yes.

KLEE: Now you said after that loss--

STURGILL: --But I came, I came back, uh, a year or so before then because he ran for governor--

KLEE: --Okay.

STURGILL: --and then he came back.

KLEE: Now, were you active in that run for governor, that first run in '55?

STURGILL: Well, yes. Uh, I, I, uh, wasn't as active in that as I was in '59 because, and, but, uh, yeah, I was, uh, I went everywhere and did 32:00everything from tacking up signs to making what little speeches I had to go to.

KLEE: Uh-huh. Uh, and, and then in '59 you said that you and, uh, uh, the future Governor Combs traveled a lot around the state together.

STURGILL: Oh yes. Yes.

KLEE: You drive him around, or--

STURGILL: --Yes. Uh, we would, then, he'd have an itinerary, you know, and he'd go and, and we would go. And then as the campaign got, got closer, then, uh,--(laughs)--I had to come back and work a little bit, you know.

KLEE: Oh! Make some money.

STURGILL: So, uh, uh, they, uh, they had a headquarters then. I worked in headquarters a good deal--

KLEE: --Uh-huh.

STRGILL: --in Louisville and at the old Seelbach. And, um, I guess I was always part of the, ---------(??), I won't say the kitchen cabinet, 33:00but I, you know, I was, yeah, I was, for a year and a half, I was really involved with it.

KLEE: I guess after, uh, he, he gave you that first year experience in Frankfort, but after a couple years of you all working together, you uh, uh, formed some, uh, mutual admiration or--

STURGILL: --Well, I, I don't know how mutual it was;--

KLEE: --You admired him, obviously.

STURGILL: --we were, we were very close,--

KLEE: --Okay

STURGILL: --very close.

KLEE: Uh-huh.

STURGILL: And were 'til he died.

KLEE: Right. Um, who else was in that, in that group that, uh, in those campaigns, that, uh, other people that were, did the nitty gritty and were on the road and--

STURGILL: ---Well of course in the campaign, uh, in 1959 that he won, uh, Wilson Wyatt was,--

KLEE: --Right.

STURGILL: --who was, uh, was former mayor and, uh, he was his, was kind of lieutenant governor; they didn't run like they do now.


KLEE: Right.

STURGILL: But, uh, it-- And Harry Lee Waterfield, uh, was the, Happy Chandler's candidate for governor and--

KLEE: --Mm-hm.

STURGILL: --and of course Wyatt Earl Clements was the former governor and a great political organizer and, and Governor Weatherby and Smith Broadbent. Uh, just on and on.

KLEE: You said that, uh, uh, Combs was a, uh, was a, I don't know, I don't know if you used the term dreamer or had ambi-- uh, had visions for the, the state.

STURGILL: Well, I guess you, I guess you could call it visions. He, uh, he would not have been a candidate for, for governor the second time. He had had a lot of time to reflect on, he had been a candidate in '55 and he had had a lot of time to reflect on what and, he, uh, his intense vision was education.


KLEE: Mm-hm.

STURGILL: And the second thing is, uh, transportation, particularly into east Kentucky. Uh, I think, I think those two things probably drove him to make that second race.

KLEE: Right. Goals and things.

STURGILL: He was so intent on, on doing something about the educational system in Kentucky and, and you know, he started from a very humble background and very bright and he didn't have a hell of a lot of trouble getting through school. But, uh, he, uh, he knew that if he was governor that two of things he would do, would, uh, improve the educational system in Kentucky,--

KLEE: --Uh-huh.

STURGILL: --and roads and transportation, particularly in east Kentucky.

KLEE: Right. Um, he was seen as the, uh, I think the progressive, you'd 36:00have to say, candidate, uh, and some people wouldn't associate that with coming from eastern Kentucky. Uh, how do you explain that?

STURGILL: Well, um, first he was, he was, I wouldn't say he what you'd, what they call now, quote, unquote, a "liberal," but was, uh,--

KLEE: --Yeah.

STURGILL: --he grew up in, in, in Clay County, which is in the heart of you know, if you're not a, if you're a Democrat over in Clay County, you gotta watch, they'll burn your house down. Everybody's got to be a Republican over there ----------(??), that's what, that was one of his sayings. And, uh, but he was a, he was a Democrat and he, he just believed in those, what you would term as a social, uh, agenda at that particular time you know--

KLEE: --Do you think he was more influenced by, like, the New Deal and Roosevelt kind of politics?

STURGILL: Yeah, I think he was, yes. I don't, I, uh, never heard him say,--

KLEE: --Say that.

STURGILL: --but I'm sure that that was, uh, uh, he was very, very strong 37:00for Kennedy.

KLEE: Mm-hm.

STURGILL: And, uh, as a matter of fact as a side issue, this county per capita gave John Kennedy the largest majority--

KLEE: --I didn't know that.

STURGILL: --uh, in the country.

KLEE: Is that right? Huh. That's, that's something and--

STURGILL: --He lost Kentucky,--

KLEE: --Yeah. But he won,--

STURGILL: --but he carried this county.

KLEE: --he won in Floyd County. Huh! Um, when, when Bert Combs was elected Governor, uh, I, I'm sure there were probably options for you to become involved in that administration, uh,--

STURGILL: --Well, oh, yes, but, uh, um, at that point, I, I wanted, uh, I was practicing law here--

KLEE: --Yes sir.

STURGILL: --and, uh, I had gotten married and had started a family. And my dad, he, he called Frankfort, uh, uh, Death Valley. (both laugh) 38:00But, uh, well, I, yeah, I could have gone, to--

KLEE: --Yeah.

STURGILL: --but uh,--

KLEE: --Did he call it that because people go there to their careers, fade away, and--

STURGILL: --Yeah. That was what, that was I, I didn't want to get bogged down in the, in the, you know, being in the ----------(??)------ -----. Then, you'd be, they called them, uh, secretaries of whatever.

KLEE: Right.

STURGILL: But I was, as I say, I was practicing law and, and they, they, they didn't pay as much--

KLEE: --That's right.

STURGILL: --in the government as they do now. You know,--

KLEE: --Yeah.

STURGILL: --you can make a pretty good career in state government--

KLEE: --Right.

STURGILL: --now, but then,--

KLEE: --But not then. Uh-huh.

STURGILL: And, he, uh, Bert just always thought, said, "You can do more for me,--"

KLEE: --Yeah.

STURGILL: "--help me during the sessions and so forth than if you came down here working." And I say, I had a family here. And then I ran for, uh, I ran for county attorney here, uh, uh, in sixty-, uh, '62.


KLEE: Yes sir.

STURGILL: And uh, '61 or '62,--

KLEE: --Uh-huh. Did you win that race?

STURGILL: Yes. I was county atto-- I was county attorney three terms here.

KLEE: Okay.

STURGILL: And then--

KLEE: --So the political bug hit you a little bit too.

STURGILL: Well, I guess I always had it and, uh, and then I, uh, after, uh, I was on the, uh, I was county attorney here twelve years and then, uh, Wendell Ford appointed me to the Public Service Commission.

KLEE: Okay. Uh-huh.

STURGILL: And, uh, I think, well, seventy-, '72 I guess it was because I was on the Public Service Commission from '72 to '78.

KLEE: Okay. And that ha-- requires regular meetings, and--

STURGILL: --Well, it's full-time now,--

KLEE: --Full time. Okay.

STURGILL: --but in those days it was not.

KLEE: --Yeah.

STURGILL: We, we, uh, we met once, once a month and we held hearings 40:00every third week.

KLEE: Gee.

STURGILL: And I was chairman, uh, three, three years and I spent more time there than I wanted to then,--

KLEE: --Right. Right.

STURGILL: --but, uh, that was under, Governor Ford appointed me and then, uh, Governor Carroll, when he, he reappointed me. And I was there a year.

KLEE: Well, uh, Bert Combs had been elected Governor. Do y-- do you remember a time when he or you or the first time you heard anything about community colleges?

STURGILL: Well, I, I think, uh, I don't recall that he, uh, talked about the community college, uh, during the campaign, but it wasn't too long after he was governor that it became pretty much, uh, he always 41:00paraphrased Dr. Donovan who was the President of the university back in for several years and he was President when I was at the univer-- Dr., Dr. Donovan, I think, uh, said that you cannot have a great state without a great university.

KLEE: Yes sir.

STURGILL: And he's probably right about that,--

KLEE: --Mm-hm.

STURGILL: --and, and that's about how Bert felt about it.

KLEE: Uh-huh.

STURGILL: And so the, he uh, the community college system appealed to him I think for one reason more than any other, that e thought that if you could get the community college system, uh, set up that it would give access to our students here and, and really all over the state, but particularly here in,--

KLEE: --Right.

STURGILL: --in the mountains and--

KLEE: --Yeah.

STURGILL: And of course you had, uh, you had Ashland Junior College and 42:00I think they had a Maysville Junior College, uh,--

KLEE: --Well, Paducah, we were part of the, we, we came in as, as part of this system that he created.

STURGILL: --and, and Paducah Junior College.

KLEE: Paducah had one, yeah.

STURGILL: Uh, of course, they had Lee's over at, uh, Jackson,--

KLEE: --Mm-hm.

STURGILL: --um, and, uh, uh, Southeast over at Cumberland--

KLEE: --Right.

STURGILL: ------------(?) and that, that was just the thing that he thought ought to be done.

KLEE: Uh huh. I know he got, he appointed a committee to kind of study it and he got criticism, he got criticism.


KLEE: Go ahead. Do you remember any of that?

STURGILL: Well, uh, the way I remember it,--

KLEE: --Mm-hm.

STURGILL: --uh, he, he appointed this, this, this commission--

KLEE: --Mm-hm.

STURGILL: --and the idea was that the, the access of who could afford 43:00it, affordable access,--

KLEE: --Right.

STURGILL: --was the pressing need, about one of the pressing needs about his vision as I, we talked about it a minute ago, uh, and it just made a lot of sense to him. Um, I, I think Virginia had, had, had gotten into this community college system. I'm pretty sure. Uh, incidentally, Dr. Edwards down here at our Prestonsburg Community College,--

KLEE: --Yes sir.

STURGILL: --he's a product of that.

KLEE: Okay.

STURGILL: And, uh, he was over at the, uh, Southwest Community College over at Big Stone Gap, Virginia, and he's from close to Big Stone. That's where he was, Dr. Edwards was raised. And, uh, I was on the board when we hired him here.

KLEE: Oh, okay. I think he's been quite successful.


STURGILL: Yes. He's, he's, and-- but anyway, Bert always thought that the idea that, that if you get it set up, well, I'll get back to the commission, the commission studied it and I don't recall, uh, their recommendation was, uh, that I think the basis for final analysis was that if they did it and we got into it that it ought to be part of the University of Kentucky because UK had the, had the wherewithal to do it.

KLEE: Mm-hm.

STURGILL: Now on the other side of the coin, uh, you had Dr. Martin, who had supported, Dr. Bob Martin had supported him strongly. You had Dr. Dorn at Morehead. Dr. Dorn wasn't, he was more with, with Harry 45:00Lee Waterfield. They grew up together at west Kentucky,--

KLEE: --I see.

STURGILL: --and, and Dr. Dorn and Dr. Cherry, who was president of Western at the time. I've forgotten who was president of Murray. But those regional colleges, uh, uh, Morehead particularly, uh, Eastern,--

KLEE: --And Eastern--

STURGILL: --Western, uh, most of whom, uh, probably with the exception of Dr. Dorn, had strongly supported Bert for Governor.

KLEE: I see.

STURGILL: And they could see that, ----------(??) even, you know, that-- They had the idea-- I know Dr. Martin did-- that Eastern can do as much as UK can.

KLEE: Uh-huh.

STURGILL: And Clements was, who was then the United States senator, he 46:00was, he was a great Bob Martin man--

KLEE: --Uh-huh.

STURGILL: --and then they, it was mutual. That got to be a hurdle to get over.

KLEE: Oh okay.

STURGILL: But I think that was the, as you probably heard in other, that, those regional colleges thought that they, if they weren't able to do, have the facilities and all to do it right away that they would shortly and if they would, uh, you know, if he was gonna, Bert appropriated all this money that-- but uh, he, he, Bert just thought, I think he got a lot of it from Virginia again--

KLEE: --Yes sir.

[Interruption in recording]

KLEE: And then it, uh, half the time it doesn't work and then you're in trouble. This is side two of a tape by John Klee with Barkley 47:00Sturgill. You were discussing how, uh, the, the regional colleges-- and these guys were pretty powerful fellows, Robert Martin at Eastern--

STURGULL: --Oh, yes.

KLEE: ------------(??)-----------. They came from politics.

STURGILL: As I said, because, uh, uh, most of them, if not all of them, except Dr. Dorn, who strongly supported him for Governor,--

KLEE: --Support Bert Combs.

STURGILL: --and of course Dr. Martin was, uh, was co-manager of his county.

KLEE: Ah. Oh gosh. And so, and Martin was close to Clements, who was--


KLEE: --United States senator.

STURGILL: That's right, and, uh,--

KLEE: --So Governor Combs had some obstacles to overcome to get this thing through.

STURGILL: Well, I think that was the biggest obstacle he had,--

KLEE: --Uh-huh. Okay.

STURGILL: --and of course the second obstacle was money.

KLEE: Uh huh.

STURGILL: And while this commission was going on-- this was of course in the, just the first, first term, but in, to do what he was wanting to do for secondary education--

KLEE: --Mm-hm.

STURGILL: --and teacher salaries,--

KLEE: --Yes sir.


STURGILL: --uh, he came with the idea of how to raise this money and so they, much to the chagrin of a lot of people who were in the legislature and a lot of people who ----------(??)----------. Uh, they came up with the two-cent sales tax.

KLEE: Mm-hm.

STURGILL: And they just didn't think they could pass it and they probably couldn't have but they put on to that that it would be a Korean veterans' bonus--

KLEE: --Bonus. Uh-huh.

STURGILL: I think it was $350. I d-- I've forgotten.

KLEE: I'm not sure. Uh-huh.

STURGILL: And uh, I don't know whether that was, uh, Governor Combs's idea or whether--anyway that, when they got down to the nut-cutting on it,--


KLEE: --Yes sir.

STURGILL: --they uh-- it may have been somebody in the legislature, some people who came up or however, but they couldn't pass it with you would just say, We're gonna put two-cents--

KLEE: --Two-cents.

STURGILL: But if y-- if you, Well, let's do this on a one-time basis and say, We're gonna do something for our Korean veteran, and, uh, that was just a one-t-- one-turn,--

KLEE: --Right.

STURGILL: --one-time thing. And then you'd, you'd, they would figure it out or, or got the, the, uh, black pencil fellas--

KLEE: --Mm-hm.

STURGILL: --and figured out how much money that they could really, after you paid the Korean veteran on the,--

KLEE: --How much it was going to generate.

STURGILL: --on the first year,

KLEE: --Yes sir.

STURGILL: --than what you would have for the next three, three years. Uh, and it passed. So that, that really opened up the, the 50:00implementation, I think, of the community college system.

KLEE: Yeah. By getting that legisla-- getting that,--

STURGILL: --And I think, uh,--

KLEE: --getting, taking care are of second--

STURGILL: --Well, you, you-- Yeah.

KLEE: --elementary and secondary.

STURGILL: Uh, and then, but I say, the thinking then as I recall, uh, that UK had the, had the facilities--

KLEE: --Right.

STURGILL: --and, and, and could, could put this community college system into-- and there again, you had to start talking about, Well where are you gonna put them?

KLEE: Right.

STURGILL: And uh, that has since been broadened from the initial time and--

KLEE: --Sure.

STURGILL: --uh, of course now you go out to Paducah Community College and all of them as you well know.

KLEE: Right.

STURGILL: But uh, one of things about, I know about, about Prestonsburg 51:00Community College was-- well, you've got, you've got a school at Pikeville;--

KLEE: --Mm-hm.

STURGILL: --of course it's private!

KLEE: Right.

STURGILL: I mean people is on the outside looking in say you've got a college at Pikeville, you've got Lee's Junior College at, at Jackson, you're sixty-five miles from Marshall, you're about sixty miles from Morehead,--

KLEE: --Yeah.

STURGILL: --and, uh, as one of our dear neighbors down there said "What in the hell do you want to try and build one here?" So anyway,--

KLEE: --Uh-huh.

STURGILL: --he said, "Well, I want-- There gonna be one in Prestonsburg; you can bet on that." And--

KLEE: --That was the Governor.


KLEE: Okay. Yeah. That wa-- this is hi-- his--

STURGILL: --So but I, I think it, it really became, uh, it really became a with the passage of that session,--

KLEE: --Yes.

STURGILL: --of the, of the two-cent sales tax that really nailed it to 52:00the, really got the planning with it. And I, I don't think he ever looked back after that. I,--

KLEE: --Right.

STURGILL: --I don't think Dr. Martin ever really got over it,--

KLEE: --Sure.

STURGILL: --but today they didn't have that big a falling out over it, but--

KLEE: --Right. Right. You were, you were, you, you say that, uh, that wasn't really part of his campaign, but once he got in there I guess he saw this opportunity?

STURGILL: Well I think, uh, well it, it wasn't one of the things that he really leaned on a whole--

KLEE: --Right. Uh-huh.

STURGILL: --lot in the campaign. And he, and as part of his education, he would mention that the community college, community college system, he sort of planted the seed, but he didn't lean on it a whole lot.

KLEE: I see. Okay. Yeah. It, w-- It wasn't a vote-getter or whatever when they, yeah.

STURGILL: The vote-getter part of education was that we were gonna, we were gonna raise teacher's salaries and we were gonna improve our educational system on the secondary and on, uh, well, the, uh, uh, 53:00college level as well.

KLEE: Right. Right.

STURGILL: But I say, he didn't, that was, uh, well Wyatt, Governor Wyatt, uh, he wasn't too keen on it because he was from Louisville; he had, he had, uh, Louisville and Bellarmine, and, and, and, uh-- Well, I think that was, uh, when, when they, when they got that, the sales tax passed,--

KLEE: --That provided the--

STURGILL: --I don't think he ever had any other idea but to put it on the University of Kentucky.

KLEE: Right. Well you mentioned the infrastructure several times. The o-- the other, one of the other options was creating this thing kind of full-blown with a new system. That would have required even more money. So this was a way to, to use what you've got and, and, you know, UK had an infrastructure and, and had the reputation--

STURGILL: Well yes. I think, uh, Dr. Wethington probably tell you more about,--

KLEE: --Right.

STURGILL: --uh, about, uh, that-- I'm sure he can because he was such an 54:00integral part of the community system. You, know as far as I know damn near from the beginning.

KLEE: Almost, yeah. Well, and of course, I, I'm not, I think there were even some people at UK that weren't so keen on it, maybe some faculty and so forth, uh, expanding out.

STURGILL: Well, I think, uh, they probably thought that if they were gonna try to spend all this money by building community colleges,--

KLEE: --Mm-hm.

STURGILL: --that they could spend a little more money on professorships,--

KLEE: --Right.

STURGILL: Some of the same argument we've got it going on now, you know?

KLEE: Sure.

STURGILL: ----------(??) times taught that we gotta pay these professors,--

KLEE: --Right.

STURGILL: --which is true.


STURGILL: But, uh, but I, I don't recall it, uh-- Dr. Oswald was President of UK at the time--

KLEE: --Mm-hm.

STURGILL: --and, and he, he was, he thought about the community college 55:00system.

KLEE: Yeah.

STURGILL: Of course, he ended up in California, and they, California was a, sort of a front-runner I guess--

KLEE: --Right.

STURGILL: --of community college systems.

KLEE: Yeah. And as far as you know, he bought into it at this point.


KLEE: Yeah. Mm-hm. Uh, well, let me take you back to Prestonsburg then. Um, Governor Combs said there was gonna be one here. It was gonna be on the list. Uh, I don't guess it was too hard to raise the local funds to, to buy the property. That was kind of one of the deals I think.

STURGILL: Yes. Uh, the, where the, where the community college is now--

KLEE: --Mm-hm.

STURGILL: --was owned by one of our neighbors down there where I was raised.

KLEE: Okay. Uh-huh.

STURGILL: The Porter family,--

KLEE: --Uh-huh.

STURGILL: --and Graham Porter who was, he was a great fella, and th-- but he, he, he couldn't understand why you wanted to feed kids and go to school at Morehead and,--

KLEE: --Yeah.

STURGILL: --and, uh, and Eastern and so forth. Why in the, why in the 56:00hell you want to build something here? But anyway uh, we purchased the property and I, I, I think, uh, there was three of them in the family, the Porters. Graham had two sisters. One lived in Huntington. Well, they, they wanted to, they want-- If you're gonna use it for anything, I'd rather it have ----------(??), and Graham grumbled around for a while but he-- Combs, I think; of course they were neighbors, he just sort of cajoled him--

KLEE: --I see. Yeah.

STURGILL: --back to sanity. So we, we bought, bought that property where the college is now. As I recall I think it was for ninety-six thousand dollars.

KLEE: Mm-hm. Yeah. Worked out pretty well then. Who were some of the community leaders at that point at, in the beginning of the college? Anybody that stands out in your mind?

STURGILL: Well, um, I, I guess just about everybody that, uh, as I 57:00recall. I don't think they had any, I can't remember who really, I know we didn't have that much trouble getting the money,--

KLEE: --Getting money

STURGILL: --getting that money.

KLEE: Uh-huh. Right. Um, I guess Governor Combs took a special interest in this one?

STURGILL: Well, yes. Uh, he uh, first he wanted to get that property down there because it's about, you know, it probably one of the nicest campuses in j-- in the c-- in the community college system.

KLEE: Yeah. So it's very nice and--

STURGILL: And, uh, um, he, he was, as, as best he could show it, he was, uh, had a keen interest in it. He--

KLEE: --Uh huh. Right. He couldn't sh-- yeah, he had the whole state to be governor of, of course.

STURGILL: And of course he had keen interest in the park system as you very well know ------------(??). And--(clears throat)--he built, uh, the park, uh, Jenny Wiley Lodge over there.


KLEE: Yes sir. Uh-huh. Um, tell me about your role with the college over the years.

STURGILL: Well, I, uh, and I told you, I was, I served on the board and, uh, I've, I've just been interested in, I've served I guess four or five committees--

KLEE: --Yeah.

STURGILL: --you know, something with the college and--

KLEE: --Right.

STURGILL: --anything they'd ask me to do, I'd do.

KLEE: You did it, huh. What about the first president and long-time president was Henry Campbell. What kind of individual was he?

STURGILL: Well, of course, I knew, Henry and I weren't too, uh, he was, uh, matter of fact raised him up at Whalen and, and, uh, he, Dr. Campbell of course, was here all those years and, and, uh, he did a fantastic job.

KLEE: Did he?

STURGILL: And I think one of things was he was local.


KLEE: Mm-hm.

STURGILL: And he, he, he had a sort of unassuming drive about him.

KLEE: Right.

STURGILL: You know he could al-- he could always convince that I'm not, you're not gonna do anything. What I'm asking you to do is not for you; it's, it's for something broader and bigger--

KLEE: --Ah, right. Uh-huh.

STURGILL: --and everybody ----------(??). And they were so pleased to have the community college here. Why, the, locally it's always, I think, given it pretty good support.

KLEE: I was gonna ask you, uh, what kind of contribution has the college made to the community?

STURGILL: Oh my goodness. Uh, there's, uh, just from a professional standpoint with our teachers and our, uh, gee, I guess we've got four or five members of the bar who--

KLEE: --Uh-huh.

STURGILL: --would have never gone to law school and--

KLEE: --Right.

STURGILL: --they went here and then they went on.

KLEE: Yeah. Gave them a start.

STURGILL: They were-- and these guys in these community colleges are 60:00pretty helpful in guiding these fellas or these students into some school. They, they can get them in pretty near anywhere they want to get them into.

KLEE: Yeah. Mm-hm.

STURGILL: And uh, uh, I think that's, uh, as I say, particularly from, uh, her teachers and professional doctors. I don't know, we've got, hm, uh, three I can think of now who are a product of the community college system here,--

KLEE: --Right.

STURGILL: --practicing today.

KLEE: Is that right. Uh-huh. Combs's, uh, idea of having affordable access then, there really was a need that, even though people thought there were colleges nearby, I think I, I, talked to, as I told you, I talked to John Harold; he said the first class had three hundred people in it right off the bat.

STURGILL: Well, I, I'm not surprised at that. I didn't know that, but,--

KLEE: --Right. I think he said 325 was in his group,--



KLEE: --the first group that came in.

STURGILL: Yeah. And I think, I don't know what the enrollment is, is now, probably around four thousand; I'd say thirty-six hundred or four thousand. But, uh, uh,--(laughs)--Dr. Campbell, uh, he s-- he, he started a basketball team and, and, and wanted to know where all the, where're you gonna get your uniform and he said "I don't know." (both laugh) But we worked, you know, we worked--

KLEE: --That's right.

STURGILL: --that out.

KLEE: Uh-huh.

STURGILL: They, the, w-- they had, well, I think they used to have a community college tournament and they used to--

KLEE: --Right.

STURGILL: --do a big, uh, big, big thing--

KLEE: --I think it filled the town ever-- every year, didn't it? Uh, Mountain Dew Festival?

STURGILL: Oh yeah, Mountain Dew Festival, thank you. That got a lot of students, they came from and they, they, they played basketball. We had this gym down here that seats about six thousand,--

KLEE: --Oh, my.

STURGILL: --forty-- no it's about forty-eight hundred.

KLEE: Uh-huh. Huh. Yeah. I understand that Dr. Campbell was, uh, I mean, uh, some people kind of characterized him as a character that he, 62:00uh, you know, sometimes he, he was a very ordinary guy and he would, um, um, communicate well with students and the community. Was that, was that your impression?

STURGILL: Yes, I think that was, I think that was Henry's biggest, uh, as I say, he was, he was local and he, uh, he had that, uh, ability to, um, communicate probably if you had somebody who, at that particular time, in the, in the beginning germation period of it, you know,--

KLEE: --Mm-hm.

STURGILL: --but, uh, he was able to get people-- excuse me, I'm gonna get me some water. I'm gonna get you some?

KLEE: That's all right. Yeah. Yeah, we'll take a break. I knew you were getting a little dry.

[Interruption in recording]

KLEE: --talking about Henry Campbell and his, uh, contribution, uh, to the college. I was going to ask you, how important was that UK connection to the community and students in that beginning?


STURGILL: Well,--(clears throat)--I'm sure it was important, uh, uh-- I think it may be true in Kentucky, but I know it is in the mountains, people have a great, whether they went to UK, University of Kentucky, or not, of course a lot of it's through basketball and,--

KLEE: --Uh-huh.

STURGILL: --uh, and have a great affinity of University of Kentucky,--

KLEE: --Yes sir.

STURGILL: --and people just sort of looked at it that they were getting a piece of UK up here,--

KLEE: --Uh-huh.

STURGILL: --and that, uh, that, that, that, that eased them.

KLEE: Yeah.


KLEE: Had some credibility right from the beginning?

STURGILL: I think that's the point exactly. Uh, credibility is a good word. It didn't, uh, uh-- I think that w-- that it was the easiest, smoothest way to do it if you were gonna, if you were gonna make this 64:00vision , quote, unquote, "clear,--"

KLEE: --Uh-huh.

STURGILL: --uh, the community college system, uh, I don't believe it would have worked any other way except at, uh, at that time to do it through the University of Kentucky. As you mentioned a moment ago, local, uh-- within the university was, it wasn't a hundred per cent, you know.

KLEE: Right. Right. Yeah.

STURGILL: Uh, uh, I think principally getting back the money, they just--

KLEE: --Sure.

STURGILL: --thought it was the way to the money--

KLEE: --They didn't want to spread the funds.

STURGILL: As I say Dr. Wethington knows this--

KLEE: --Right.

STURGILL: --better than anybody,--

KLEE: --Right.

STURGILL: --and, but I'm sure that's true. But it was, it was an easier sale--

KLEE: --Mm-hm.

STURGILL: --in Prestonsburg and Madisonville and Paducah and, and Ashland and Maysville--


KLEE: --Yeah.

STURGILL: --by being a part of University of Kentucky. And now it, uh, and of course there's still a lot of that sentiment now, that, uh,--

KLEE: --Right.

STURGILL: --uh,--(clears throat)--the, uh, you know, the transition to make the community colleges system--

KLEE: --Separate.

STURGILL: --a, a, a, a separate entity, uh, is, uh, I think it's, it may have worked out far better than I thought it would.

KLEE: Uh-huh. Yeah.

STURGILL: I mean I have to admit, I wasn't for it, but, uh,--

KLEE: --Yes sir. Yeah.

STURGILL: --(clears throat)--and, uh, I lost my vote, but I wasn't for changing the name to Big Sandy Community, Community College--

KLEE: --Right.

STURGILL: --rather than Prestonsburg Community College because it had been Prestonsburg Community College for thirty-six years.

KLEE: Sure. Yeah.

STURGILL: And we had a lot, and now, they, uh, it may, as time goes on, but people locally, they don't,--


KLEE: --They still--(laughs)--

STURGILL: --they still say PCC.

KLEE: Right, right, right. Yeah, that's--

STURGILL: --You probably run into that, uh,--

KLEE: --Yes I have.

STURGILL: --um, and, but I, that'll all, that's, uh, I've had a lot of, a lot of discussion with Dr. Edmonds about that you know, and,--

KLEE: --Uh-huh. Uh-huh.

STURGILL: --and there was a lot of sentiment growing here about changing it.

KLEE: Yeah.

STURGILL: And, uh,--

KLEE: --Well, I guess they weren't, uh,--

STURGILL: --I'm thinking someone from ----------(??), uh, in deference to him, uh, blunted some of that with, uh, you know, as far as getting any organized effort to say, "Well hell, we're not going to change it" and--

KLEE: --Right.

STURGILL: --go to walking up and down the streets about it, but uh,--

KLEE: --Yeah.

STURGILL: --getting back to the point, I think, I don't know whether they could have had the initial success with the community college system--

KLEE: --Right.

STURGILL: --had not they done it through UK.

KLEE: Yeah. Had they tried what they have now forty years ago, it might not have worked quite as well.

STURGILL: Oh, it wouldn't have worked at all I don't think.

KLEE: Right. Right.


STURGILL: I just uh,--

KLEE: --They'd run into funding problems right at the beginning, I'm sure.

STURGILL: Well of course because, you know,--

KLEE: --Didn't have any money.

STURGILL: --community college system is, they've got a hell of a budget.

KLEE: They sure do. Yeah. And it's grown significantly. Uh, I wanted to ask you, uh, after Governor Combs, you know back in that day you could only serve one term, uh, did he come back here or--

STURGILL: --Well, he lived here for a number of years, but he, uh, of course, he, he, uh, start-- he didn't come back here; he started practicing in, he had been living in Lexington for,--

KLEE: --Right.

STURGILL: --uh, and--(clears throat)--then he was appointed to, uh, President Johnson appointed him to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati.

KLEE: Okay. Uh-huh.

STURGILL: I think he did that about sixty--(coughs)--'65--


KLEE: --Mm-hm. Yeah.

STURGILL: --and then he made a great judge. You can talk to those judges up there that, that are still living--

KLEE: --Uh-huh--

STURGILL: --and then he, he resigned from the court. He was there in '65, he was there five years. He resigned from the court and, uh, ran for governor again in, uh, 1971. He resigned in '70--

KLEE: --Mm-hm.

STURGILL: --and, uh, Wendell Ford was a candidate--

KLEE: --Right.

STURGILL: --and Wendell beat him,--

KLEE: --Yeah.

STURGILL: --and, uh, getting back about Wendell, uh, one of,--(laughs)- -one of the things that happened during the campaign, Wendell and I, Wendell Ford and I became friends through the Junior Chamber of Commerce.

KLEE: I see. Uh-huh.


STURGILL: And, uh, he was elected United States, president of the Uni-- or president of the United States Junior Chamber of Commerce in Kansas City. Uh, he was elected on the eleventh ballot at three o'clock in the morning,--(Klee laughs)--but anyway,--

KLEE: --That's something.

STURGILL: --through that, uh, I was, one of my jobs in the '59 campaign when he won for governor was that I knew a lot of people in different communities and about getting young people involved in it,--

KLEE: --Yes sir.

STURGILL: --so I got Wendell involved and he was the, he was the State Youth Chairman they called it then,--

KLEE: --Uh-huh. For the Bert Combs campaign.

STURGILL: --and he won it in-- and then when he was, when, when Bert was elected and Ford came to, and worked in his, uh, worked in his office,--


KLEE: --I see.

STURGILL: --as a, I think, and then he worked for a couple of years and ran for the state senate.

KLEE: Mm-hm. Yeah.

STURGILL: He won by fifty-two votes and then--

KLEE: --Oh, gosh!

STURGILL: --from there on you know the story.

KLEE: (laughs) He w-- had trouble winning those elect-- he had close elections, didn't he?

STURGILL: Yeah, yeah. When he ran for lieutenant governor he won by, uh, it was less than seven hundred, six, six hundred and something.

KLEE: So the senate and the governor, and then the Junior Chamber of Commerce. And you had, you were active in that Junior Chamber of Commerce also?

STURGILL: Yeah. I think that's the hardest work I ever did. We didn't sleep for seventy-two hours out there or more and it was just like, but it was, you know, young, we were the,--

KLEE: --Right.

STURGILL: --we were having a great time doing it, but uh, that's just beside, but,--

KLEE: --Yeah.

STURGILL: --and then of course incidentally, uh, uh, of course Breathitt came in and he, he augmented the community college system.

KLEE: Right, right. Yeah. That's when Maysville was born.


STURGILL: Yeah and uh, he was, uh, of course Ned had been a part of all this early part we've been talking about. He was in the house when, when Bert was, uh, was governor and then Bert appointed him, I think he was first Parks Commissioner, Parks Commissioner Personnel.

KLEE: I see. Uh-huh.

STURGILL: And then, of course subsequently he ran for governor but Ned just took the, he just took the torch and ran along with the community college system.

KLEE: Right. Yeah. Yeah, I think that's, up until Owensboro in the eighties, that was, that was the last bit of growth. Uh, I think Hazard and Maysville, uh, the Breathitt administration brought those in.

STURGILL: I think that's right. My brother lived in Hazard at, at that time and I think Hazard and, uh--


KLEE: We came in a little later.


KLEE: Um, were there, were there any, in this community, in reference to the community college, was there any, um, institutional support or, um, any, I was thinking about politicians also or office holders that were particularly important after that, after that time period you're talking about in the seventies and eighties and, and later?

STURGILL: Well, I, I, I don't know that I could do it that often or anybody. Um, you had, uh, of course, they, the first board, you had Marvin Music was uh,--

KLEE: --Yeah, his name has been mentioned. Uh-huh.

STURGILL: --(clears throat)--He was a, a great friend of, uh, and them, and he lived right down there next door. Marvin did. Our house was here and Marvin was here and Bert was here, and--


KLEE: --(laughs)--That's something.

STURGILL: --but, but Marvin, and, uh, you had, uh, when those, the money thing, Marvin was one of the leaders in that, then, uh, Burl Spurlock who was then president of the First National Bank--

KLEE: --Uh-huh.

STURGILL: --in the building we're in here now,--

KLEE: --Uh-huh.

STURGILL: --uh, they um, uh, Woodrow Burchett was, uh, was, uh,--

KLEE: --Active.

STURGILL: --helpful in that and uh, but locally, as a spearhead, I guess you, you would have to give the accolade to Marvin really.

KLEE: Okay. Uh, as a, as an institution here--

STURGILL: --Well no, let me tell you. Then we, we had, uh, um, uh, Mr. Dorton, who out of Paintsville, was in there, the, uh-- Trigg Dorton, 74:00he was an early advocate of the community college system.

KLEE: Mm-hm.

STURGILL: And uh, uh, B.F. Reed, who was a coal operator here. Uh, he was, he was closely associated with Morehead but it,--

KLEE: --Uh-huh.

STURGILL: --but he was very helpful with the community college system.

KLEE: Okay. Uh, is the, I guess the colleges, what kind of contribution, you talked about doctors and lawyers and, and the other graduates, uh, does the, does the college add to the atmosphere of the community in any way? How d-- how does--

STURGILL: Oh I think so. They have, ----------(??)---------- -- (coughs)--and I think it's growing all the time, but, uh, the, uh, they, uh, the, the programs, uh, the programs that they, that they put on, 75:00uh, uh, they have all, as you well know, they have all kinds of, uh, seminars and so forth and--

KLEE: --Right.

STURGILL: --and I, I think another thing that probably is coming to more fruition now under the community college system as we know it now that it didn't have when it was, before it was, when it was under UK, is the thrust. And this was the thing that I believed on very much when I was on it is the thrust that, that we had this, these guys can go to s-- goes to the community college and then they go on to become lawyers and teachers and doctors and so forth.

KLEE: Yes sir.

STURGILL: But the vast majority of them are gonna be boys, girls and boys who want to stay here locally.

KLEE: Right.

STURGILL: And you have to have these programs that they design to help 76:00them what they can find to do work here.

KLEE: Start here and stay here--

STURGILL: --Start here and stay here.

KLEE: -- and have a skill. Uh-huh. Yeah.

STURGILL: And particularly attention in, in the coal business.

KLEE: Mm-hm. Yeah.

STURGILL: These guys are wanting these, they, they train now, they've set up some training programs--

KLEE: --Uh-huh.

STURGILL: --because the coal business has sort of been up and--

KLEE: --Right.

STURGILL: --been a great demand for it but the majority of them are not gonna go on.

KLEE: Right, right. People are, you know, they like, they like where they were raised, and--

STURGILL: --So we're thinking if you can get nurses--

KLEE: --Sure.

STURGILL: --and if you can get stenographers and if you can get bookkeepers and, uh,--

KLEE: --Tradesman, I guess.

STURGILL: Yeah, and all.

KLEE: Right.

STURGILL: Uh, it, it, and I think that they're probably doing a better job of that now than they are, uh, then. But I think that was always kind of the idea behind it.


KLEE: Right. Well, yeah and that in the beginning, most of the kids were transfer students. They were gonna go to be doctors or,--

STURGILL: --Yeah, I,--

KLEE: --or teachers or--

STURGILL: --I think that's right. But, but, uh, there again, you've got a world of people who are just in business--

KLEE: --Right, right.

STURGILL: --who were just went, went to the community colleges.

KLEE: Right. Wouldn't've had a chance otherwise, I guess.

STURGILL: No. You've got guys-- well, I was just ----------(??) down to First Commonwealth Bank here today talking to a boy down there and, uh, he's in the lending department down there and, uh, he's a two-year. I didn't know it 'til today, but--

KLEE: Uh-huh. Right. Uh-huh. Yeah. Uh, let me bring you around full circle because I've, I've asked you about your personal story too; you continued, you were, uh, County Attorney for twelve years and then you were on the Public Service Commission, which required trips I guess to Frankfort,--


KLEE: --uh, continued to your law practice.

STURGILL: Yes. See, at that time it wasn't a full-time job.


KLEE: Right.

STURGILL: And I've just, I've continued to practice law since that time.

KLEE: I see and that's where we're, it takes us up to the day. Your family, you said you had a, a--

STURGILL: Well, I have, uh, uh, four children. Uh, my wife's from Owensboro.

KLEE: Oh okay.

STURGILL: Uh, I met her--

KLEE: --You didn't tell me where you met her.

STURGILL: Well I met her in Owensboro. Uh, uh, a matter of fact, Wendell Ford introduced us.

KLEE: Ah, I see.

STURGILL: And, uh, how the hell, I had only been to Owensboro once or twice. They had a, a, uh, Bert Combs made a talk.

KLEE: Mm-hm.

STURGILL: I don't know whether it was a district meeting of the American Legion and this was early in the campaign, but uh,--

KLEE: This is the '59 campaign?

STURGILL: Yeah, and, uh, no this was earlier than that.

KLEE: Oh okay. Okay.

STURGILL: Uh, so Wendell and I were talking and I said, "Why don't I 79:00bring Bert down to speak?" So we did--

KLEE: --Uh-huh.

STURGILL: --and we were at this ----------(??), wasn't connected with the speech at the American Legion, but we had this little reception you know and,--

KLEE: --Mm-hm.

STURGILL: --and, uh, Ford introduced me to my wife ----------(??) later on.

KLEE: What's her name, uh?

STURGILL: Nancy. She was a Lewis or--

KLEE: --Nancy Lewis.

STURGILL: Her dad was a banker there in Owensboro and, uh, we have f-- four children, I have three girls and a son. My daughters all are graduates of University of Kentucky--

KLEE: --I see. Uh-huh.

STURGILL: --and my son went to Washington Lee. And two of my daughters live in Lexington and, uh, one of my daughters is in Memphis, Carterville, and my son is in, uh, his name is Barkley Jr. We call him BJ.

KLEE: Uh-huh.

STURGILL: He's, uh, living in St. Louis. He's with Arch, uh, Coal, 80:00Arch Mineral.

KLEE: Oh okay. Uh-huh. Did, uh, he make that connection here in this area somehow?

STURGILL: Well, he practiced law here about, he got out of law school and he, he stayed here almost six years and he got through his law practice here while he got, met some people with, uh, Massey Coal and Arch Coal and, and uh, to end the story, they made him a deal he couldn't, he couldn't turn down. (both laugh)

KLEE: He couldn't turn down, right.

STURGILL: And I hated to see him leave, but he did.

KLEE: Well you were closely associated with, uh, Governor Combs because of, uh, uh, you know, being here in this, as you said, I guess you sat around this table and, and dealt with, you know, legal matters--

STURGILL: --Yeah. Oh, yeah.

KLEE: --and business meetings all the time.

STURGILL: I always said that, that I carried the books for him. (Klee laughs)

KLEE: And then happened in with the relationship Wendell, Wendell Ford, 81:00who became a senator of course and, and governor.


KLEE: Did you stay active politically after those times?

STURGILL: Well yes. I've always, uh, I've always, uh, yeah, I've been active politically. (Klee laughs) My time is running out.

KLEE: Any, uh, uh, I mean did you have posts later than that? Uh, I don't know how, of course we haven't had an eastern Kentucky governor for since--

STURGILL: --No, I haven't, uh,--

KLEE: --Patton, well, Patton.

STURGILL: --I haven't, uh, I didn't have time, well really, I didn't have time to much after, after that.

KLEE: Right.

STURGILL: I had reason.

KLEE: You were raising children.

STURGILL: And they're all two years apart.

KLEE: Oh my.

STURGILL: I had three girls at the University of Kentucky at one time.

KLEE: Oh my. (both laugh) You had to w-- to put in extra hours here, didn't you?

STURGILL: Oh, yeah. Yeah. But uh, you know, I've stayed active politically and, and it's, I just like it, you know.

KLEE: Right. Okay. Well, I appreciate you talking to me.


STURGILL: Well, um, I don't know if I've been helpful with this,--

KLEE: --Oh, yeah. This'll be--

STURGILL: --but it's been nice meeting you--

KLEE: --This'll be nice--

STURGILL: --and give my regards to Dr. Wethington.

KLEE: I'm gonna see him Tuesday. That's why I'm working today to, uh, take some tapes, show him I've been working. Uh,--

STURGILL: You can tell him I didn't lie too much.

KLEE: (laughs) Okay.

STURGILL: You know my brother Bill has been very interested in the university. He's a great, uh--

KLEE: Yeah. On the board there and so forth.

STURGILL: Mm-hm. He was on the, he was on the Board of Trustees I think fourteen to fifteen years.

KLEE: Mm-hm. And of course you done everything that the college asked, you said, as far as you were on this search committee that hired present president?

STURGILL: Well yeah, I was on the board and then we had the, had the committee and we hired him--

KLEE: --Mm-hm.

STURGILL: --and, uh, uh, he's, he's a gumshoe sort of fella but--

KLEE: Yeah. (laughs) He's getting the job done. Well, thank you.


[End of interview.]

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