HAMMACK: This interview is with former Senator Earle C. Clements.The interview is being conducted in the home of Mr. and Mrs. Orville Dyer in Morganfield, Kentucky. The date is October 31, 1974. The interviewer is James W. Hammack Jr. And I told you I think that we might talk some about your college career and your Army career perhaps. You graduated from Morganfield High School in 1915, I believe, and entered the University of Kentucky in the fall of 1915. What decided you to go to college? This is a period when not that many people went to college.
CLEMENTS: Well, the, the principal in our high school and the,uh--(clears throat)--who was also the--coached football and coach of, uh, baseball. 1:00The first, uh, high school basket-, uh, the football and, uh, baseball teams we ever had were 19-, fall of 1915 and the--
CLEMENTS: --spring of 1915, was a graduate of the University ofKentucky. And, uh, his name was, uh, Will T. Woodson. And, uh, he stimulated the interest of, uh, the boys and the girls in the senior class to continue their education. And I guess, uh, he was probably, uh, the most influential person, um, to stimulate, uh, that desire to go to school. And, uh, the fact that he'd, uh, been, uh, the adviser and coach, uh, it, 2:00uh, got him closer, caused me to be closer to him and the other boys on the team were closer to him. And, uh, out of that, uh, group of boys in the senior class--and, uh, there were only five--three of 'em went to the University of Kentucky that year.
CLEMENTS: And, uh, the fact that, uh, I'd been more agriculturallyoriented, uh, I'm sure was the cause of me taking, uh, agriculture at the university. And the other two took, uh, other courses at the university. And, uh--
HAMMACK: But you had been a good student in high school,I understand. Did you find college a little more difficult than 3:00high school? Did you--
CLEMENTS: Yeah, they, uh--I was a far better student in highschool than I was in college. They were--first thing, I spent time working in college. Uh, my father was, uh, uh, twice in, uh, his life where he had, uh, uh had, uh, lost 4:00everything he had. And, uh, I guess being in politics and signing up people's vote--and twice, as I say, he, uh, he became a strong loser and started over. And, uh, I spent a lot of time, uh, I guess adjusting myself to be, uh, uh, a worker out of the, uh, what I had been unaccustomed to doing. I could, uh, put all of my time --------(??)---------- high school --------(??)---------- on my work, and, uh, I was not a good student in college. And, uh, it's always been of, uh, great regret that, uh, I wasn't as good a student in the, uh, in college as I was in high school. And it, uh, it's always been of great regret to me that, uh, uh, even though I've lived a full life and, uh, I wouldn't want to change the life I lived, uh, after I got out of school 5:00in, uh, in, uh, 1917 and, uh, went in the Army, uh, I've always had one regret: that I didn't, uh, start into studying law in preparation for a legal course, 'cause I've seen during my period that I served in public life that, uh, I'd have been a better public official, in my own judgment, uh, if I'd had some understanding of the law. And, uh, it's not only true in my service in county life, county politics, county government. I never did see much difference between the, uh, politics and government. I've, uh, always thought that, uh, politics is somewhat the science of 6:00government. And I haven't changed my mind about that. But, uh, I went in the Army in 1917.
HAMMACK: Before we go into that, can you explain a littlebit further what you mean when you say politics is the science of government?
CLEMENTS: Well, uh, Webster describes it for me. (Hammack laughs) Uh,the last time I looked at the dictionary, why, uh, talk about politics is the science of government, and I think it is.
HAMMACK: Well, I just wondered if that had some special meaningfor you.
CLEMENTS: No, no, that's, uh--has the same meaning to me that,uh, it had to Webster.
HAMMACK: All right. (laughs) You took some law courses at theUniversity of Kentucky, what, in 1917 I believe, didn't you?
CLEMENTS: No, no. I did not. I, uh, uh--Iwanted to be exposed to it. If I'd gone back to school, why, I would have, uh, taken law-- 7:00
CLEMENTS: --rather than agriculture.
HAMMACK: Your biographical sketches need correcting--(laughs)--in that respect. Uh, did--wereyou in UK continuously then until you joined the Army?
HAMMACK: And that was in, uh, what, the spring of 1917?
CLEMENTS: No. A short time, uh--I left school in, uh,uh, after I endeavored to get into the officers' training school. I'd been in the ROTC at the University of Kentucky.
CLEMENTS: And, uh, I didn't get in the officers' training campand--because of my age. That time, you had to be twenty-one years of age to hold a commission. And when I was turned down on account of my age--I wasn't going to be twenty-one until October of that year--why, I went up to Barberton, Ohio, and, 8:00uh, the Babcock and Wilcox Company. It was making shells at that time for the French government. I never knew whether they were making them with American money or not. But anyway, they were making shells. And I worked in the Babcock and Wilcox Company until, um, I guess in July. July, I made up my mind I was going to enlist in the Army.
CLEMENTS: And I came to Louisville--I came home and I told,uh, mother and father what I was going to do. And, uh, then, uh--there was no enlistment place closer in this state than Louisville at that time. And I went up to Louisville and, 9:00uh, and the first night I was there I stayed at the Seelbach Hotel. And, uh, I went down to look around. And, uh, I went in the pool room. Lo and behold, I found a classmate of mine who was in Army uniform. And, uh, we chatted. And, uh, he asked me what was doing in Louisville. I said I came up to Louisville to enlist the next day. "Oh," uh, he said, uh, "I belong to the National Guard," and said, uh, "Why don't you enlist with us?" Of course they had all, uh, federalized at that time.
CLEMENTS: And, uh, that seemed just as, uh, convenient to meand, uh, uh, after talking with him, he assured that I'd have 10:00no trouble. I'd be a soldier the next day if I--they were down at the fairgrounds. And, uh, actually they were working from there. And, uh, and, uh--(clears throat)--Camp Taylor was being constructed. They were doing guard duty at, uh, Camp Taylor. And, uh, the next day I was in uniform.
HAMMACK: Who --------(??) you'd go into the National Guard?
CLEMENTS: His name was Shaw, and I don't recall the, uh,Sergeant Shaw's--(Hammack laughs)--uh, given name now. But, uh, I guess I can get it from the record --------(??)----------.
CLEMENTS: And, uh, so I was--when I enlisted, I was assignedto, uh, Company M of, uh, the Guard. And, uh, as 11:00I think I told you before, that, uh, Captain Ed Bishman was the commander of, of, of that company. And it was a mountain company. It was a company that, uh, came out of southeastern Kentucky. And its headquarters was in Barbourville.
CLEMENTS: That was the home of Captain Bishman.
HAMMACK: Yes, sir. Uh, what kind of training did theyput you through when you enlisted?
CLEMENTS: Well, it, uh, it would sound, uh, very unusual.But, uh, uh, I had had, uh, ROTC training at the University of Kentucky, uh, which is probably the equal of what most of the young fellows had, had had in, uh, the National Guard. Maybe a little more than that. And, uh--(clears throat)--when, uh, I went in naturally I was assigned to the same group that all 12:00other, uh, first day members were, and, uh--where you were assigned to learn how to do the squads east and west, manual of arms, and, uh, squad performances, and, uh, learned to take the normal military step. And, uh, I guess I stood out among these recruits. But, uh, so much of it that I--so much so that, uh, within a few days, why, the sergeant would, uh, recruit drill sergeant would, uh, leave and do other things and he had me, uh, being the trainer rather than the trainee. And, uh, oh, 13:00I guess that went on for some little time. And, uh, it was, uh--gave some relief to the recruit drill sergeant that was assigned to that duty. And, uh, on an occasion, uh, Captain Bishman came by and, uh, saw it, saw it, said to me later that it, uh, made a little impression on him that, uh, this, uh, recruit drill sergeant was sleeping on the job and, uh, having somebody else out there, one of the recruits to do--(laughs)--to do his assignment. And, uh, I think it had much to do in a period later than that--which was, uh, only about a month 14:00as I recall--why, when he had, uh, gotten a requisition for, uh, a list of names of people that he would recommend, or members of his company that he would recommend to go to officers' training school. Why, they were calling the names and ranks. The ranks. Why, I was the last member whose name was called. And I'd been there--I think I went in on the fifth day of, uh, July. And, uh, I don't think that this was, uh, more than a month--
CLEMENTS: --until, uh, he made that decision. And, uh, allof the others were either corporals or sergeants. I was the only private whose name was called. The experience that I'd had 15:00in, uh, the, uh, the request that I had made and the role that I sought was turned down on account of my age, why --------(??)---------- I went by his, uh, tent one day and asked for an audience with the captain. And I recounted to him, uh, my experience in, uh, applying for officers' training school earlier that year. And I told him that I was not, uh, I didn't think that I was eligible to go to the officers' training camp. And, uh--(clears throat)--he let me know then that if, uh, I hadn't been eligible he wouldn't have, uh, selected me. He said, "You don't have to be twenty-one years of age at the 16:00time you go in. You have to be twenty-one years of age, uh, at the time you're commissioned."
CLEMENTS: And he said, uh, "I looked at your birth date.Your birthday is in October and that school does not close until late in November. And, uh, you're eligible." And, uh--which was a pleasant surprise to me and, uh, a real great surprise. I--
HAMMACK: Now I gather from this that you hadn't requested thathe s-, that he, uh, put in an application for you to get officers' training.
CLEMENTS: And that'd be correct. I was not an applicant.And I didn't think I was qualified to be an applicant because I'd been turned down and I knew that I wasn't twenty-one years of age.
CLEMENTS: That's correct.
HAMMACK: Where did you go then to officers' training school?
CLEMENTS: I went to Fort Ben Harrison. Uh, but prior17:00to that he, uh--we wasn't, uh, automatically accepted. That is if you--
CLEMENTS: --uh, came from the ranks, we weren't automatically accepted.Uh, he sent us to Cincinnati, uh, for the, uh--that is a mental test, a combination of ment-, ment-, mental and, uh, a military test.
CLEMENTS: And, uh, it so happened that, uh, all of thepeople that he selected all went to the, uh, Fort Ben Harrison to the officers' training camp. We didn't have a failure or the like. And I think I'm correct in saying that, uh, every member that he sent out of that company was commissioned an officer at Fort Ben Harrison.
HAMMACK: Did you keep in touch with Captain Bishman after that,in between that time and the time that you've already talked about 18:00supporting him --------(??)----------.
CLEMENTS: Uh, I had no, uh, no connection. Uh, Iknew he lived in, uh, Barbourville. But--
CLEMENTS: --first time I had anybody else, uh, mention his nameexcept, uh, myself--somebody asked who the company commander, who was some of your associates in military service. I never heard his name mentioned until I picked up the paper one day and saw that he had announced as a--for the office of treasurer of the state of Kentucky.
HAMMACK: Um-hm. You came out of Fort Ben Harrison thenas a second lieutenant, I understand.
CLEMENTS: Came out of, uh, Fort Ben Harrison as a firstlieutenant.
HAMMACK: First lieutenant, I'm sorry. Uh, and where were youposted from there?
CLEMENTS: Well, I was, uh, assigned to the 336th Regiment at19:00Camp Taylor.
HAMMACK: Where is Camp Taylor? I don't--
CLEMENTS: Camp Taylor doesn't exist anymore. But it was acamp at, uh, Louisville.
HAMMACK: In Louisville?
CLEMENTS: That was constructed before --------(??).
HAMMACK: Oh, you mentioned that a moment ago, that they werein the process of building that, I'm sorry.
CLEMENTS: Camp Taylor was, uh--I was, uh--I think, uh, the latedays--it, uh, probably was, uh, it was after Thanksgiving when, uh, we finished the training school. It was early December. And, uh, I reported to Camp Taylor.
HAMMACK: Um-hm. What sort of assignment were you given thenwith your special advantage of service --------(??)?
CLEMENTS: It was in the infantry.
CLEMENTS: In the 336th Regiment of the infantry.
HAMMACK: Um-hm. Uh, why did--
CLEMENTS: You want to know why--uh, you want to know whatwe did early in, uh, the days when I was there?
CLEMENTS: That was the hardest winter, I guess, that the countryhas, uh, has experienced in my lifetime as far as snow was concerned.
CLEMENTS: It, uh, snow was, uh, deep here when, uh, Ileft here to go to Henderson, catch the train to go to--well, actually I caught the train here. And, uh, I went to Henderson and changed trains and then, uh, uh, --------(??). When I landed out at, uh, Camp Taylor, why, the snow was that deep, 21:00uh, and actually we spent more time in the first, uh, two or three months that I was there--two months, maybe three--uh, cleaning off snow so you'd have a place to drill.
CLEMENTS: And, uh, you'd have it for a few days.And of course, uh, we didn't have any, we didn't have any warm weather during those months. And, uh, you'd clean it off today. And then you'd have it for two or three days. And then you'd have another big snow and then you went through the process of, uh, cleaning the snow again and having, uh, someplace to drill and to be conditioned and, uh, condition other people who were even junior to you. And, uh, uh, it was a very pleasant assignment to me. Uh, even in that, uh, 22:00period of, uh, great snow. We worked the rifle ranges as well as, uh, we did the foot training and the, uh, manual of arms and other things that, uh--Of course it, uh, gave a lot of opportunity for people to get inside training in that time. And, uh, while you were not, uh--you could do the military manual of arms the same on the inside as you could on the outside. And we had places where we'd do that. But, uh, you spent more time on the, uh, studying the military records and so forth which, uh, helps a person to be a better soldier.
HAMMACK: Do you think this contributed in any way to your,your executive ability? Or was this training valuable to you later 23:00in any fashion?
CLEMENTS: Well, uh, if I look back on it I wouldsay that it, uh, meant something to me. It, uh, meant something to me in training camp. When I --------(??) training camp, uh, really the officers, uh, although highly qualified, they had, uh, many other things to do. And, uh, the recruit drill sergeant from Columbus Barracks, he had been assigned there for assistance to the--we had one of them in each company. And, uh, the, uh, this recruit drill sergeant was a man by the name of John E. McClure. And, uh, he was in the regular Army --------(??) and reached the posture of, uh, a knowledgeable, fine, tough drill sergeant. 24:00
CLEMENTS: And, uh, he did all of the drill work withour company. And, uh, he would have you do the manual of arms and the--I guess it, uh, maybe sounds, uh, like a little braggadocio, but, uh, he picked me out of the ranks one day and, uh, he announced to the company that he had some business in, uh, the office. Because he knew more about paperwork --------(??)---------- paperwork as well as, uh, his, uh --------(??) field. And, uh, he said, "I've got some work in here I need to do." And, uh, I was serving as an acting corporal in 25:00the group.
CLEMENTS: And, uh, he told me later that the reason hepicked me out, that he thought I was a, was a--understood the manual of arms. And he left me there with the--to lead the company to practice the manual of arms. And, uh, I had a good forearm and good wrist and, uh--which is important in doing the manual of arms. And, uh, as the youngest person in the, in the company--most of these were Kentuckians in the company. And, uh, so from, uh, then on he never gave us the manual of arms. He, uh, he assigned me to the 26:00task of, uh, teaching the company--
CLEMENTS: --the manual of arms.
HAMMACK: You were back in the role that you had playedas a recruit, uh, earlier.
CLEMENTS: Well, not only recruit but, uh, I had, uh, beennearly two years in, uh, the ROTC at the University of Kentucky. And, uh, there were a number of people there I thought could do the manual of arms as well as I did. But, uh, he thought I did it real well, you know. (Hammack laughs) It was, uh, it was, uh, I think was rather important to me in, uh, my military life that John McClure had, uh, detected, uh, at least detected to his satisfaction that I did understand 27:00that. He was comfortable having me carrying other things, because when the--(clears throat)--when, uh--as the work in the company developed, why, he used to bring me into the office, uh, for extra duty. He'd bring me in the office to help him on paperwork.
CLEMENTS: And, uh, I guess we became fast friends. He'sstill living.
HAMMACK: Is that right?
CLEMENTS: He's still living and, uh, he lives in Washington.And, uh, I see John often. Uh, as I said, he's older than I am. John, uh, I guess now is, uh, eighty-two or -three years old. But, uh I'd, uh--
HAMMACK: May have to ask him someday what kind of recruityou were. (laughs)
CLEMENTS: He's available.
HAMMACK: What decided you to go into the Army? You28:00weren't seeking a military career, were you? Was it the--
CLEMENTS: No, I was not, Jim, seeking a military career.I didn't know anything about a military career. I was, uh, in the Army because, uh--I wanted to go in the Army because, uh, I loved my country. And, uh, I thought I ought to be in the Army.
HAMMACK: Um-hm. So it was the World War I situationthat got you in.
CLEMENTS: Oh yeah. Oh yes. The, uh--The, uh--To me,I thought that, uh--I thought then and I think now that every citizen of this country has an obligation and a responsibility to defend this country. And, uh, it was that thought that, uh, prompted me to take whatever decision that I made with reference to entering-- 29:00
CLEMENTS: --to the military service.
HAMMACK: Were you disappointed that you didn't get overseas?
CLEMENTS: Yes, I was.
HAMMACK: I know a lot, a lot of young men were.
CLEMENTS: Yes, I was. Uh, I don't know how manytimes that I applied for overseas, uh, duty. But, uh, I was, uh--Would you like me to tell where I went from, uh--
CLEMENTS: --------(??)-------- Camp Taylor? Well, much to my surprise, uh,one day I got a notification that, uh, I was to report to Lewis Institute, a school on the west side of Chicago, a town that I had, uh, heard about a lot, but I had never been in. And --
HAMMACK: Excuse me. Let me get this right. Lewis?30:00 L-e-w-i-s?
CLEMENTS: L-e-w-i-s. Lewis Institute. It's on the corner of,uh, Madison and Robey.
CLEMENTS: And, uh--it was at that time. It's been incorporatedwith, uh, merged with another school. I believe it was Armour Tech it merged with at a later date. And, uh, I reported there in, uh, probably the first few days in April. And, uh, when I arrived there, why, I found that, uh, Captain, Captain King was in, uh, charge of the detail. And, uh, and later the two second lieutenants assigned to --------(??), uh, constituted the commissioned officers'--
CLEMENTS: --group. And, uh, first two hundred, uh, young men31:00that, uh, came into that, uh, as, uh, as, uh, assigned to it were--mostly they were boys from, uh, Chicago and the areas of the states around Chicago.
CLEMENTS: And they really thought they was coming in there to,uh, preflight training. But, uh, it was a great shock to many of them when they got there. They found out that, uh, it was, uh--they had been misinformed. And, uh, they were really coming there to be trained for the mobilization or the, uh, 32:00the, uh--for service overseas in the, uh, in the, uh, motor--the field of motor transportation overseas. And, uh--But it didn't, uh, take away from them, the quality of soldiership and, uh, I would say it was as fine a bunch of, uh, two hundred people that I was ever associated with in the Army of the United States. They, uh, they had many college graduates in them. They had, uh, a number of them that I could, uh, single out. They had a number of lawyers in the group that, uh, had 33:00been licensed practitioners(??). One of them was, uh, a young man who had, uh, had graduated from the University of Michigan, was in one of the prestigious law firms in the--in Chicago, great, uh, copyright patent firm in Chicago, was a senior member of that firm. And, uh, naturally he was disappointed. But, uh, he was a fine soldier. I followed his life, uh, many years after that. And, uh, we were great personal friends. And, uh, he later took into his law firm, his father did, Will T. Woodson, 34:00who was my football coach--
CLEMENTS: --baseball coach when I was in high school here.
HAMMACK: Who was this young man?
CLEMENTS: Uh, his name was Reed. And, uh, interesting experience.When, uh, by the time that these folks were transferred, why, Captain King had been transferred. And me being the ranking member, although the youngest member, of the, of the officials there, commissioned officers, why, I assigned him to being the mess sergeant. Uh, manner in which we were handling the food at the school I thought 35:00could be improved on. And, uh, I called Allen Reed into the office one day.
[Break in tape]
HAMMACK: Interview interrupted at this point. End of this session.Prepared by Murray State University Oral History Program.
[End of interview.]
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Segment Synopsis: Clements discusses his transition from high school to college, including why he choose to pursue an undergraduate education.
Keywords: college; education; high school; higher education; mentor; sports; University of Kentucky
Subjects: college education high school higher education mentor sports University of Kentucky
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Segment Synopsis: Clements regrets that he did not study law because he believes it would have made him a better public official. He also discusses how working during college kept him from being as good a student as he was in high school.
Keywords: law; public life; public official; study; study of law
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