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2007-03-28 Interview with Henry Lackey, March 28, 2007 CC001:2008OH129 CC 51 00:46:21 History of Kentucky's Community Colleges Oral History Project Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries Henderson Community and Technical College Henry Lackey; interviewee Adina O'Hara; interviewer 2008OH129_CC51_Lackey 1:|13(10)|27(12)|41(8)|57(8)|70(8)|83(12)|102(2)|120(10)|139(2)|153(5)|166(11)|179(13)|214(10)|231(10)|244(11)|257(10)|277(11)|318(11)|338(1)|354(11)|377(8)|397(4)|415(10)|429(11)|446(7)|461(12)|493(2)|530(2)|544(11)|566(6)|579(11)|597(1)|617(3)|638(11)|657(7)|681(3)|699(3)|713(3)|733(4)|750(9)|768(3)|787(6)|805(2)|836(3)|858(13)|895(4) audiotrans CommuColl interview O'HARA: This is an interview with Henry Lackey at his office in Henderson, Kentucky, and the date is March 28, 2007. And it's conducted by Adina O'Hara for the Community College Oral History Project. Mr. Lackey, the demand for higher education in Henderson County resulted in the creation of a university center in 1960. The Northwest Center was transformed into a community college after legislation was passed in 1962, and it became a part of UK's community college system. Because of your father's, um, work, he was the, he was one of the early initiators of the community college movement in the state as well as in Henderson. Um, can you explain to me the growth of the community college in Henderson? LACKEY: Well, you're absolutely right it being called Northwest Center. It was actually being built in '58 and '59, and the first class that went through it graduated in the spring of '60. The reason I remember that so well is Hecht Lackey, Jr., my brother, didn't graduate or did not attend his first year in '59 and '60 at community college, but he graduated from high school in 1960. And I, I remember it very, very well. Um, I was there for the groundbreaking, and Happy Chandler was, was there. And, of course, he had been the governor at the time that, uh, the funding was set aside to build that college and thanks to the help of then State Senator Bill Sullivan, um, that all came about. Had it not been for the fact Chandler was from Henderson County--originally from a little town called Corydon just to the south of the college, not more than probably five miles--I seriously doubt if that college would ever have been built there. That was the first--oh, it may have in time--but it was the first community college of the, what, sixteen that we have now, and, um, um, I remember so vividly that, uh, Frank Albert Stubblefield, the U.S. Congressman, was there and there were some other very special dignitaries. But what made, what Hecht Lackey's role in that--other than the fact of just building support for it--he was mayor at the time, and annexed that property. Went out to 60, circled around the campus and came back in. That allowed the city to put in water and sewer service to the college, and natural gas and things such as that, so that was his significant part to play in it. My dad is the only person in the history of the University of Kentucky to ever win the honorary Doctor of Laws degree, um, for his contribution to broadcasting, and that was back about 1974 when Wendell Ford was governor. I remember he was on the platform along with John Jacob Niles, the great writer from the mountains, and there was one other gentleman. I don't recall his name. Dad only graduated from high school; never had an hour of college course, uh, work at all. The college, uh, for many years, uh, physically did not advance much. There was one building that stood there which is now called the Hecht Lackey Administration Building which, uh, our family--I was, uh, that came about in, um, when Dr. Otis Singletary was president, uh, when I was in the Legislature back in the early to mid-eighties. I think it was '83 or '84 when he came down. I rode down with him from Frankfort with Dr. Charles Wethington who was head of the community college system at that time. We flew down here, and my three brothers flew in from their respective homes across America and had a wonderful service there, um, and dedicated that building, uh, to my father, uh, at least, uh, the name of the building. Um-- O'HARA: About what year was that? LACKEY: That was in the early to mid-eighties; '83, '84, along in there. Um, the next building that came on the campus was the student center building. I don't know exactly what the title of the building is now, but it's where the, the students eat and, and those types of things. And, uh, um, it was also where the library was, uh, uh, housed, and, um, what I remember so much about that building was the fact that that's where the community chorus began meeting, um, down the stairs in the music room and then eventually into the, the big activities room, uh, which is headed up, of course has been headed up for many years by a marvelous young musician--I think she'd appreciate me saying young-- -by the name of Heather McCormick who does just a terrific job and is a wonderful musician herself along with her husband and her mother. But, um, the growth, uh, you know, I guess in some people's minds has been pretty rapid in terms of the physical campus, but there was a period of years before the second building was built and then there was a period of years before the, before the third building was built. Um, probably one of the things that brought the entire public's, um, focus to the Hill, as, as we call it, has been the fine arts center which was built in the early nineties. Um, and the reason I say--I don't mean to say that - -from the academic standpoint that the other buildings weren't extremely valuable--but I think it brought from all sectors of the public, and not just in Henderson and even Webster county, the other counties, a marvelous facility that some world-famous, um, performers and actors have performed on. Um, I've had the privilege of performing on that stage. My brother is a Broadway actor and singer having the lead in Les Miserables and things such as that on Broadway and the Kennedy Center and so forth. Um, he has performed on, on that stage. My daughter has. My former wife has, uh, and just, you know, a lot of musicians here in Henderson. But there have been a lot of big stars that have come in here and performed on that stage, and, you know, that's brought more tri-state attention to, to the Hill, to the community college. O'HARA: And it's really the essence of a community college. It's one of their major purposes and functions. LACKEY: Yeah. That's correct, and they've had a lot of great lecturers. Raymond B. Preston is a man who, who is well-known in this area. He is the owner of Ohio Valley Bank just down the street from where we're doing this interview. Um, had a big chemical business all over the southeast--in fact, up in the northeast. I think he had, like, twenty- plus plants. It was called PB&S Chemical. You may have seen their tractor trailers on the highway, and he sold out--I don't know how many years ago--ten or fifteen years ago to, uh--maybe longer ago than that- -to a firm out of Germany called Brenntag. And he took his funds as he's always done and has been generous to this community, uh, and set up a Raymond B. Preston Foundation of which the college, I'm sure, has been recipient over the years, several years maybe of, of receiving some of those funds. But, um, he also set up a lecture series, the Raymond B. Preston Lecture Series, and a lot of those are held at the college as well there in the fine arts, uh, in the meeting room off to the side, the Stagg Room. O'HARA: Well, the story of Henderson's embodiment of the community college ideal was unique in Kentucky. It was actually the first center or community to use the term "community college" in writing. LACKEY: That's correct. O'HARA: And, um, I found it very unique, um, - -do you, can you explain where this idea, this notion came from? LACKEY: No. I really can't. I think that the--honestly, I, I often wondered this when they called it Northwest Center if somewhere in Lexington on the campus if some higher-up in the, um, in the administration of the university, didn't have some overall plan that this eventually would be a four-year college of the university, part of the university. In other words, they'd have a Western Kentucky branch and they'd have the main campus in Lexington. I--no one ever told me that, but it seemed like somebody had the idea to call it Northwest Center as opposed to the community college. I think that probably, if memory serves me right, the community college idea came about, um, because shortly thereafter there started popping up other ones across, across the state. Um, but that's about all I know about, about the history of that. O'HARA: In May 7th of 1957, Mayor Lackey, your father Hecht Lackey, called a town meeting to propose the formation of a corporation to purchase land here-- LACKEY: That's correct. O'HARA: --to be presented to the University of Kentucky for an off- campus college. Um, what influence, what influenced your father to take such a formal approach to getting a college because he--it was documented in the UK Board of Trustees minutes in September of 1957 that he led a group, um, and helped them get the information together that took a brochure- -a local advisory group-- that took a brochure to UK and presented it to the Board of Trustees, and no other community college or community had done that. LACKEY: Well, I think--I appreciate you bringing that up. Of course, I was only ten years old at that time, but--I guess I gave my age away didn't I? Uh, you--Dad was, um, Dad was always, uh, concerned about the fact that so many young people, particularly in Henderson because he was the mayor, in '57 was the mayor in Henderson, didn't have a chance to go on to college. He never went on to college. He helped put his younger brother through college over at the University of, at Illinois, um, and, um, I have three brothers and he made sure that we all had college experience. My oldest brother is a Ph.D. My third--the next to oldest boy never graduated, but he went, um, took several hours out at the community college. Um, I got my bachelor's from UK, and my youngest brother, Herndon, who is a singer and actor, he did his undergraduate at the conservatory in Cincinnati and his master's at the school of opera at IU. Um, Dad would just always, um, I don't know if envious is the word, but just, I think, always regretted that he never had a college training, and yet if you sat in a meeting with Hecht Lackey--you can ask Charlie Wethington; if Otis Singletary was alive still you could ask him--you would have thought Hecht, Hecht Lackey was a Ph.D. I mean, his English was, um, just impeccable. His, his, uh, writing was good. Um, he had an enormous, um, history of, especially World War II; just read a great deal, all types of books. Um, was, I mean, if someone sat here in town when Hecht Lackey stood to speak, the room got quiet, and I think that says, you know, a lot, a lot about his--and, and I think that the other purpose of that organization you were talking about in '57 was they, they raised money and they also, um, the land where the college was situated, uh, was I--if I'm not mistaken was donated by the Dempewolf family. It's right across the highway from Huston Keach, and Huston Keach and his family were instrumental in helping to see that the college was placed there, too. O'HARA: The Higher Education Committee was the name of the committee that created it, had that, um, you know, appealed to UK and the foundation's name, um, I think was just the Educational Foundation or College Foundation Incorporated. LACKEY: Right. Uh-hm.. O'HARA: And, um-- LACKEY: Which still is, you know, the Henderson Community College Foundation. I-- O'HARA: Is it the same thing? LACKEY: Yeah. I've served on that board for probably twelve years. I'm not on it any longer, but I did. O'HARA: Well, that's interesting, because I've found with some communities the initial foundations no longer exist-- LACKEY: Oh yeah. O'HARA: --and then in others they do. So keeping it-- LACKEY: I have quite a few funds that have been built up. In fact, Bill Sullivan has been its chairman for years and I don't know if he is now, but he has been. Hecht Lackey, um, later became, by the good grace of Dr. Otis Singletary, Hecht Lackey became the chairman of the Community College Council statewide. O'HARA: Please tell me some more about that. I haven't heard of this-- LACKEY: Um. O'HARA: --Community College Council. LACKEY: Well, I think, uh, it was somewhat, um, politically motivated from the standpoint that there's always been friction, or was, when it was the community college system between UK and Eastern or UK and Western. You can, surely you've heard that. O'HARA: Uh-hm. LACKEY: And, you know, the nine years I served in the Kentucky State Senate, uh, I served Dr. Bob Martin, for example, former president of Eastern. He was a state Senator for Madison County, and, um, he knew my dad very well. Um, they were, uh, somewhat friends, I guess you'd say, but politically they were on the opposite sides because all those regional universities literally wanted to break up the system. They wanted, like, three or four of the community colleges near Eastern to be theirs and in Bowling Green they wanted three, like, they wanted E-town to be under their auspices and Murray and so forth. And, um, Hecht Lackey and others including University of Kentucky officials, of course, fought that thing tooth and nail, and, uh, when it became the KCTCS my dad had already deceased, been dead for nearly twenty years at that time. I asked Bill Sullivan, I said, "I wonder what Hecht Lackey would think about this," because, quite honestly I wasn't that thrilled about doing it. I wasn't in the Senate at that time. I'd already left. That was in, during Paul Patton's administration. I left, um, to run unsuccessfully for U.S. Congress in '94 and I think that all came about in '95 or '96, somewhere along, along in there. I don't know how Dad would have felt about that. I, you know, it, um, it depends on your philosophy; what you think a college is. I mean is it, is it a, um, um, traditional academic, um, institution, where you take, you know, 101, 208, you know, three-oh whatever; in graduate schools seven, eight hundred, nine hundred level courses-- you know, of course, you didn't teach graduate courses there but --or is it a somewhat, uh, academic environment/technical/trade school type of, uh, mindset? It's just sort of where you come from, you know. Um, if you graduated from Centre College, for example, you wouldn't think of them teaching the type of, um, things that, um, that the community college, that KCTCS does. I mean, I--and I'm not, uh, being critical of it. Um, probably I'm out of step and everybody else is in step. It's just sort of what- -you saw that particular facility grow from its beginning. Um, even the graduation exercises are different because I used to, you know, tend them back before the change came. I mean, I was obviously invited because I was State Senator, and to me it, it's a little bit different atmosphere now than it was. And, and we, we had back in those days, we had the nursing program which is considered to be the, as far as around these parts of the woods, one of the finest nursing programs in the state. You know, um-- O'HARA: It was the first college, Henderson was the first college to get the nursing program very early on. I believe it was '65. LACKEY: I would say that's probably close. Yeah. Uh-hm. O'HARA: Well, let me ask a follow up question. Um, before KCTCS, before the emergence, was there any cooperation to your knowledge between Henderson Community College and the, the local area technology center that, I believe, in Henderson might be a part of the high school system? LACKEY: It was. It was. I, I can't answer that. You know, the, uh, Henderson Community College has had three directors, three presidents? I think that's, that's all, in its, what, forty-seven year history? Dr. Marshall Arnold preceded Dr. Pat Lake, and that's where maybe you have it in your notes who the first director was, who, who the first-- and I, and I can see his face now. He's been dead for many years. O'HARA: I, I don't have it in these notes, but I, I remember-- LACKEY: Yeah. Marvelous man. O'HARA: - -Dr. Arnold's name is very familiar, very familiar. LACKEY: Yeah. But you know, that's a little unusual, forty-seven years and only three presidents? O'HARA: I, I don't know of that case at any of the other schools, colleges that I've looked at. LACKEY: Right. O'HARA: Yeah. Very unusual, I mean, and I believe, uh, Dr. Lake started, um, at the southwest campus-- LACKEY: He started somewhere else in-- O'HARA: --in Jefferson. LACKEY: Yeah. Yeah. O'HARA: Um, not too far away. LACKEY: That's right. O'HARA: So, um, that'll--he has an interesting-- LACKEY: I don't know if I'm answering your questions thoroughly, but, um,-- O'HARA: Actually you, you are. You're answering a lot of them before I ask them, so that's why I'm skipping around here a little bit. Um-- LACKEY: You go back and edit this or do you just, um-- O'HARA: Um, not for, um, not, not this time just because I'm not writing a dissertation, but it would be edited if somebody used it for, for anything. Um, you already talked about the local community activities and such and added a lot to that, so I'm not going to ask that question. But I want to follow up on that and ask, um, student activities over the years, um, included basketball and soccer games, I found at some of the community college, especially in the sixties. And, uh, do you recall any, any intercollegiate or sports that were offered that would, that Henderson Community College offered during your, during your time? LACKEY: No. I, I really don't. I'd, I'd, I'd just like to make one other comment on that preceding question. O'HARA: Sure. Sure. Go right ahead. LACKEY: Um, I think the thing that was disturbing most about going to KCTCS is that there was always some pride before in the fact that your diploma said the University of Kentucky on it. You know, now what's that worth? I mean, to me it worse, it's worth a lot because I'm a graduate. I went all four years of it up in Lexington, um, but I think it meant a lot to the kids here. I mean, you know, you talk to somebody now who's in their forties that's got an associate diploma up on the walls that says University of Kentucky, Henderson Community College and then talk to one of their children that has Kentucky whatever, the Community Technical whatever. You know, and, uh, you've, you've done some work at the University of Kentucky, I assume, some of your background. You know, there's a certain amount of pride when you see University of Kentucky. O'HARA: And, um, in, in my dissertation that's one of the things I came across when I asked people this--one of my questions is, uh, you know, what were the benefits to the connection between the community colleges and UK, and that was one of the, um, common answers that I got. It was, uh, an identity. It gave them-- LACKEY: Well, not only that. Uh, I took a course or two out here in the summer, uh, when I was a student at UK. Um, and maybe it's, maybe it's the same now. I don't know, but if you took, um, History 108, it was the same textbook, the same course number. What was it 107--was it 108 that was before the Civil War, American History, and the other one, 109, like was since the Civil War. So same textbook, same course number, same credit hours. O'HARA: And an easy transfer. LACKEY: Oh, absolutely. O'HARA: There are, um, there are transfer agreements now with, definitely with UK and all the regional colleges, um, so I think that still has continued to be a tradition. As far as whether they're using the same textbooks or not, I couldn't answer that, but, um, but the transferability is important. And I'm wondering over time how has the relationship between Henderson Community College and, and the regional colleges changed? Uh, are you aware of any new, um, any changes in that since KCTCS came on board? LACKEY: Why sure. You know, Murray State has a campus here now. O'HARA: Oh, really? LACKEY: Oh, yeah. Came about, about four or five years ago. "Murray State, you can finish your, your bachelor's degree right here in Henderson." You can take your junior and senior year right here in Henderson, and, and your diploma will be Murray State University. It's right up here at Seventh and Green. O'HARA: Seventh and Green. Wow. LACKEY: Western has, um, um, I think it's done similar things in Owensboro. O'HARA: Uh-hm. They have. I, I am familiar with Western and several other cities, too. They've gone into Elizabethtown, um, are the two that have community colleges and programs. LACKEY: And, you know, of course when I was in the Legislature there was a lot of concern about the reciprocity between, uh, USI over in Evansville--University of Southern Indiana--and HCC, and, um, could those, could, could the, uh, could we be allowed to charge in-state tuition to the kids from southern Indiana and vice versa. If our kids went over there to finish their last two years at USI, that was always a big, big discussion. I don't know how that stands. I assume that it--at that time we got it worked out, but, uh, I don't know where, where it is now. I've been out of that scene for thirteen years, uh. O'HARA: I'm not sure where it is now. Um, I do remember researching Paducah's situation was similar, um, I think with--and maybe up near Ashland; some of the border cities- -um, I think there were agreements to allow the bordering towns to have in-state tuition, but that's a good question. I don't know where that stands today. LACKEY: But, uh, it, it's a lot more competitive out there now. Of course, Murray State, their campus just deals with the junior and senior year, so it's, it's sort of an arm's length deal between the community college and, and Murray State. I mean, they sort of, um, um, trust and verify I think is the best, best way to say, say it. O'HARA: Makes sense. It's--you're right. The competition in higher education has definitely increased in the last decade. LACKEY: As a former State Senator friend from the mountains said to me one time, says, "Hen, you know the old expression about 'forgive and forget'? Up here, it's 'forgive and remember'." (laughs) O'HARA: (laughs.) Which brings us to another good topic- - Um, within thirty miles of each other on the southern bank of the Ohio River, the cities of Henderson and Owensboro have developed a healthy competition, um, for status and resources. Um, what relationship did Henderson Community College have with Owensboro over the years? LACKEY: Well, it depends on who you ask that question to. Um, if you ask the people in Owensboro, the leaders over there--of course, most of them are not living anymore--they, uh, would tell you that they were active in making sure Henderson got Northwest Center. Um, I don't know how to say this. Um, you're looking at the fellow who helped for a few weeks block, uh, the building of the community college in Owensboro. My argument was is everybody always cries we don't have enough money in higher education. Here we're going to go out and spend thirteen million dollars to build buildings in Owensboro, and you're twenty- eight miles away with a four-lane highway, which now they don't even have a toll on it anymore. And, um, you wouldn't believe the phone calls I got from people that I either knew or knew of from Daviess county, very influential people wanting to know why I was trying to block, block this resolution on the Senate floor. And, uh-- O'HARA: Now didn't Henderson Community College offer classes over in Owensboro or not? Was there any sort of a, prior to the 1980s, when Owensboro Community College-- LACKEY: I don't recall that. I don't recall that. This was, um--let's see--I guess this was in the eighties when this, this happened. See, I served from '82 through '86 and then came back. I lost in '86 and then came back and took the fellow out who took me out, and I served from '91 through '94 and then ran miserably for U.S. Congress. But, um-- O'HARA: This was about '86 probably when the, it actually was opened, so I'm saying the proceeding years-- LACKEY: Yeah. And, of course, Don Blandford was Speaker of the House from Owensboro, and I got--we got threatened with all kinds of--they were going to move the state police post from Henderson to Owensboro, and there was all kinds--it was, it was pretty hot. The heat was raised on Henry Lackey I can, I can tell you. And, uh, even Dr. Lake and I got into it; um, not in an ugly way, but, you know, he didn't see it was any major harm that the, that the college be built over there. Uh, I don't know if he sang quite the same tune after it got opened, um, you know, because just like you said splitting up resources and, and, uh, Henderson lost, uh, no doubt a ton of kids from Daviess County, probably McLean County. O'HARA: It was a significant change, and it was the last community college to be built. LACKEY: Probably should be the last that's ever built quite honestly. I think the, um, you know, there may be some reason that you might differ with that, but, um, the state's pretty well covered by them now. And the state, quite honestly, can't--you know, the state funds, um, believe it or not, every college in the state. Every college gets some amount of benefit or funding from the state. I didn't realize that either until I got to the Legislature. Now, in some cases it's very, very, small, but every college in this state-- O'HARA: Even the private--you talking about private, four-years? LACKEY: Uh-hm. O'HARA: Centre, Berea? LACKEY: Yep. Pikeville College. Yeah. Uh-hm. O'HARA: Interesting. You can educate me on the whole higher education funding realm. LACKEY: Oh, I can tell you who, I can give you the names of people who would really know that were in the Legislature at that, at that time. O'HARA: That's interesting. LACKEY: I never served on the Committee on Education or anything such as that. I had a chance to, but I chose not to. I, I dealt more with health and welfare, with Medicaid and things, which nobody else wanted to deal with. You know, it wasn't one of those sexy, jazzy types of a committee to serve on. O'HARA: But critical, (laughs) very critical. LACKEY: Well, it is to the people who have nothing, you know. O'HARA: Yes. Exactly. LACKEY: Got more, got more fulfillment from that than I did anything else the whole time I was there. Go ahead. O'HARA: Well, it sounds like your, your father, um, obviously he was in, also in the radio business. LACKEY: Started this radio station ten days after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. O'HARA: Really? LACKEY: December 17, 1941, and it's one of America's few radio stations left that's owned by the same founding family. O'HARA: Amazing. LACKEY: It's, it's by far the state's oldest by twenty or twenty-five years. O'HARA: Have you always been in this location? LACKEY: No. This probably is about the fourth or fifth place that we've--he started out on the road called Zion Road which runs out right past the high school now. I used to live above that radio station when I was six years old. O'HARA: Oh, how neat. I mean, well, I think that, that explains a lot about your father. You've already talked about how, how eloquent, um, and, uh, commanding of a presence of a--eloquent he was at addressing people, but I think it all goes back to, he was an educated man, self- educated. And that would probably explain, um, why a lot of the early stuff that I found on Henderson, like the brochure that was taken to the board, um, UK Board of Trustees and stuff, is so well-made. It's, you know, for the time--even now --it's professionally done, and, and I think it made a big impression and, and also, you know, capturing new ideas about community college growth and development. He just, he made a real impression on this community and the state by leading the state in that, that direction. LACKEY: He was known, um, you know, pretty much from Pike County to Paducah, I mean, in the higher, higher ed. Yeah. Um, he was a good friend of a fellow named Dr. Harry Sparks who was the former president of Murray State but later, uh, became the superintendent of public construction. This was before the constitution was changed. We don't have that, that position anymore. My dad was chairman of the state school board when he was the superintendent of public construction. O'HARA: Wow. Wow. Interesting history and, and he touched so many segments of Kentucky culture. LACKEY: Yeah. In the fifties, he was, he set up the first human rights commission, um, right here in Henderson; one of the first in the whole Commonwealth which was not a real popular thing to do back in the fifties. O'HARA: (laughs.) No, no. LACKEY: And also, let me give you another little sidelight. It doesn't have anything to do with your project necessarily, but, um, last year as mayor--two years ago as mayor--I had to put a payroll net profit tax on. We didn't have enough money to operate the city. We were going to have to fire about eight policemen, eight firemen, shut a fire station down, all that type of thing, and, um, we were the last city of any size in the state to ever have one, you know, to put one on. And it ended up costing me the election last year miserably. Uh, when Hecht Lackey was mayor, went in as mayor, um, you lived in the city limits, of course, which were much small geographically than they are now. Uh, you could run a garden hose out in the street twenty-four hours a day, and you didn't pay a bit for the water. And Hecht Lackey was the mayor that put in water meters, three thousand of them, and a few individuals decided to be real smart about it and cover those up with some type of shed or something. And, um, he told them they'd be fined if we can't get to them to be able to be read, and the, one of the police officers at that time who later became police chief and later became sheriff by the name of Charlie West told me that the night that Hecht Lackey announced they were going to put those water meters in that there was a crowd of people down at the city hall which still stands. The building's on the same property, but it's not the same building. And he said Hecht Lackey had to get up on the table, and we had about three or four policemen there. And he said, uh, "I thought they were going to hang him." You know, there probably was 150 people that just were really bitter over this. My dad ran for State Senator in 1961 after two four-year terms as mayor and lost to a fellow from Providence, and at that time, the district was only Henderson, Union and Webster County. Dad should have won the race just by, by doing well in Henderson. He didn't do that well because, you know, he had to make some tough-- O'HARA: Tough decisions. LACKEY: --tough decision, and people--you wouldn't find anybody, and those who are old enough to remember when Hecht Lackey was mayor - -they'll tell you he was the greatest mayor the town ever had. Um, and they would also tell you that, um, that, um, they might, uh--they all respected him; even his enemies respected him. Not enemies. His political foes maybe is a better way to say it, but in some circles, he wasn't liked very well because of--you know, when he came here this place was wide open with gambling, slot machines and everything. O'HARA: And where was he from originally? LACKEY: Paducah. He had - - there were seven boys in that family. He had, uh, his, his father was mayor of Paducah in the teens, about 1913. He had a brother who later became--who was in the radio business--who became the mayor of Paducah, Pierce Lackey. He had a brother by the name of Dutch who later became mayor of Hopkinsville, owned the radio station there. In fact, my dad put that station on the air and then was dispatched by Brother Pierce to Henderson to put this one on, and then Hecht Lackey became mayor. I think they actually, there was a period of a year or two there where they all three were mayor simultaneously. O'HARA: Fascinating. LACKEY: And, of course--in fact, I, I think the history will show, certainly since 1900, that there was only one other mayor, father/son mayor combination in this town; uh, maybe ever. There's a park up on the north end called Atkinson part, A-t-k, Atkinson, and there was a fellow by the name of John Atkinson which the park was named after. His son later became mayor, but other than Hecht and Henry Lackey, that's never been, been done before. O'HARA: Interesting man. I wish I had, had the opportunity to meet him. LACKEY: There's his picture right out there on the wall, out in the lobby out there with the microphone. I've got a better one in my office. It's that big one sitting over there in the corner where you were sitting. O'HARA: Yes. I'll have to take a look at that. LACKEY: He always wore--well, he doesn't have it on in that picture--but all the years I was growing up, he wore bowties, polka dot, uh-- O'HARA: Distinguished character. Well, there's one question that I think--there's only question that I can think of that we didn't cover, and it's sort of a geographical question. Um, my understanding is that, uh, when Governor Chandler, um, talked to, uh, Mr. Sullivan about bringing or creating a community college in Henderson that there was some initial talk about putting the community college at Governor Chandler's hometown. Um, do you know if there was--when they did decide to move it five miles away, was that ever an issue? LACKEY: No. And I think what probably dispelled it was the fact the Dempewolf family, they either gave them all the land or they sold it to them at an incredibly low price. Um, I want to say they gave the land to-- O'HARA: I, I know it was a large piece of land. Um-- LACKEY: Yeah. And generally when someone does that, that pretty much puts to rest any, you know, conversation. I mean, if you've got to buy the land down at Corydon as opposed to someone giving it to you closer- - I, I guess now that I think about it maybe another reason that, uh, that it was put there as opposed to Corydon, they could get city sewer and water to it and they couldn't in Corydon. They didn't have a sewer system back in those days. I would just--and gas. O'HARA: Right, right. LACKEY: Natural gas. I, and, you know, the city owns all that, and I assume that's, that had a big part to play in it, too. O'HARA: More logical. LACKEY: Plus by, by annexing it--and they had fire protection, police protection, bus service. There was a bus that runs out there. O'HARA: And it wasn't really that far. Nowadays, we think of five miles as nothing. I mean, it might have been different back then, but, but pretty close. Well, I've learned a lot from you. Are there any questions that I haven't asked that you wish I had? LACKEY: I'll just say it's been a, uh, tremendous blessing not just to Henderson County but, but, um, the surrounding counties. Um, there are a lot of, uh, as I understand a lot of industrial folks that use it for training; you know, the KCTCS which is good. Um, you know, they're just building this new technical center out there on the, on the campus. That'll be interesting to, to take a tour through that when that's finished. Um, I think it has a real bright future. I think it is an absolute blessing to not only young people that graduate from high school but even folks my age, if there are many folks left to be that age. Um-- O'HARA: You're still young. LACKEY: In turn of going back and getting, uh, an associate's degree or even a GED; um, any number of things. Like, I've had the privilege to speak, uh, at the college on a GED graduation a couple of times, um, when I was State Senator. I mean, there are just--you know, there's no, there's no better investment outside of good manners in your life than higher education. I mean, there just, there is, you know--what's it worth? What's it worth? You have a Ph.D. I mean, what's, you know, how much does it mean to you? And you're just, you know, just an infant sort of as far as age. I mean, you know-- O'HARA: I wouldn't be sitting here today if it hadn't been for, for those people who made my education possible, um, because I, I could not have done it on my own. Um, I went to Berea. You know, how Berea operates and then KCTCS paid for my entire grad school, so the value of education is hard to put your finger on but you just know it. I mean, you just know you wouldn't be sitting here today. LACKEY: Well, I--and I had other opportunities. Uh, I remember talking to Walter Cronkite one time when I was, uh--(clears throat)--about a sophomore at UK. I went up there to International Radio Television Society meeting, and, um, Dick Salant was President of CBS News. He's deceased, and I've got a picture somewhere where I'm standing between Dick Salant and Walter Cronkite. And I asked Walter Cronkite--because I was in a vexing situation trying to figure out should I maybe turn my eyes toward New York and maybe to make, the so called, the big time or should I come back here and take over an AM/FM operation my dad had started--and, um, I remember him saying, "Well, Henry,"--uh, I forget how many folks worked in the newsroom there at CBS there at 51st, West 52nd Avenue in downtown Manhattan--he said, uh, "I would say anybody in this room would love to have the opportunity to go back to Henderson, Kentucky, and own their own radio station." Because, of course, it wasn't handed to me on a silver platter. I paid $1.3 million dollars for that whole operation in 1979, but, uh--and I'm not boasting about that. That's all public record anyway--but, uh, I even asked him if he had ever heard of Henderson, Kentucky. "Oh, yes." He says, "I had a flat tire one night in Hopkinsville, Kentucky." I swear he did. Swear he did. O'HARA: (laughs.) Walter Cronkite? LACKEY: Walter Cronkite. Fascinating. O'HARA: Amazing. LACKEY: Yeah. I've had the privilege to, to work with some very talented people, and, you know, I've, I've, I've had a little success along the way. I was, I was the youngest State Senator, uh, in 1982. I was thirty-four years old. You had to be thirty to serve. I was, uh, one of the very youngest presidents of the Kentucky Broadcaster's Association. I was, I think it was that same year. I think it was '81. I was about thirty-three, thirty-four years old. Um, I did my BA degree in four years. I was the top graduating senior in Tel Comm at UK, and I had a full graduate assistantship at Michigan State in Broadcast Management. I was the top grad student there and did that in eleven months, and you know you've got to be hustling to do a master's degree in eleven months. I wouldn't recommend that highly to anyone unless you want to read a book every day. O'HARA: I didn't do mine that fast. (laughs) LACKEY: But, you know, uh, three hours of graduate school is considerably tougher than three hours of undergraduate school, and they wanted me to stay on and work on my doctorate. But I, you know-- O'HARA: Well, you made a significant difference with the, the roles that you've had through the radio station and in Kentucky. If you, if we, if you had left for the Big Apple and stayed up there, just think of all the things that we would not have in Kentucky; all the, all the things that you influenced. LACKEY: Well, you're very kind. I, I was the sponsor of Kentucky's first drunk driving law. John Y. Brown, Jr. was governor in '82, and it didn't pass in '82. Eventually, we had to work over it on the interim, and we got it passed in '84. Martha Layne Collins was governor. I also sponsored the Kentucky Seatbelt Law in 1986, and that helped to contribute to my demise as a State Senator. And, of course, it didn't pass eventually until '91, and we unfortunately lost about three or four teenagers in this county that didn't, that weren't buckled in that would have lived for sure. Three or four that I know of. I don't know how many others, so, um, you know, when you make those kinds of stands, um, there's a price to pay for it at the polls. There's no question about it, but, um, I can sleep well at night. I don't have to worry about, about those. Um-- O'HARA: And that's the type of leadership we need. We need people who can make tough decisions. LACKEY: It's not- -well- - O'HARA: I mean, that's why--that's what leaders need to do. Otherwise, why, why be in that role? LACKEY: The biggest issue in my opinion, um that the federal government, um, has, has to do something about is healthcare. Um, it's not a question anymore that, you know, we need to study it. Um, there are not only the millions that are, that are, that have no insurance but the businesses, uh, major businesses, corporations that are just not offering it anymore. And, um, I think what it's going to take is--I mean it, in your lifetime for sure, and probably in mine. Well, I think it'll happen in this decade--there'll be some form of national healthcare. The medical world would say socialized medicine, but it's going to--it's not a question of if it might happen. It's going to happen. It'll probably happen, as I said, when we get a democratic president. It's got to. I mean, there just--there is, you know, you hear all these threats about the fact, well, you know, that system in Canada, it's so terrible. I've never talked to anybody in Canada that says it's terrible. Now there may be a delay of surgery and those types of things, more of a structured, you know, but people get seen by practitioners. I mean, you don't see people dying on the streets of Montreal every day. I mean, you know, um-- O'HARA: And they can afford the drugs. (laughs) LACKEY: Correct. And the older heads in the medical world in this country, in this town of Henderson that have been around a while, they know it's coming like a freight train because people just can't afford it. Just--you know, I served on Health and Welfare in the State Senate, and Benny Ray Bailey from the mountains and I cosponsored a bill that required every college student to have catastrophic healthcare coverage, you know, for, I forget, it was just a token amount of money. You wouldn't believe the opposition that we had on that, and people said, "Why are you so concerned?" I said, "Because if a student, something seriously happens to them, they'll be bankrupt the rest of their life over medical charges." O'HARA: When did that pass? LACKEY: Um, I'm not so sure it did pass. It's been some time ago. O'HARA: I didn't know. I knew I had to get insurance when I went to undergrad at Berea, and I had to pay-- LACKEY: Maybe, maybe it did pass. O'HARA: It was very inexpensive. It was the early nineties, but I had never had insurance my entire life. LACKEY: You're, you're right. My memory's beginning to fail me. You're right. It did pass. O'HARA: Well, I was just wondering. It impacted me. LACKEY: Well, the reason why I know now it did is because, uh, uh, a, a lady who is on the faculty here at HCC, uh, KCTCS or whatever it's called. O'HARA: KCTCS. Uh-hm LACKEY: Said, um, that she was an attorney. She didn't practice, but she told me that, that she didn't think that was constitutional or, or fair. And I don't know if it's been stricken since then or--is it still? O'HARA: I don't know. I haven't--you just brought it to my attention, and I realized I think, yeah. I think I had it. LACKEY: See, our argument was, you know, when you pay your tuition, you're paying a small portion of it for activities fund. O'HARA: Uh-hm. And now IT, you pay for all these other little fees and things. LACKEY: So which was more important? Being able to go see the UK Wildcats or maybe becoming a quadriplegic or a paraplegic and, and, or AIDS or whatever, you know, that would absolutely bankrupt you, you and your family. O'HARA: And from what I remember, um, I don't remember it, I remember it being an insignificant amount compared to regular insurance. LACKEY: It was twenty-five or forty dollars a year or something. I mean, you wouldn't believe the people that raised Cain over that and, um-- O'HARA: Interesting. LACKEY: And it was catastrophic coverage. It wasn't for a regular, general practitioner visit, you know; that type of it. O'HARA: We need that protection. LACKEY: Anyway. O'HARA: Well, thank you so much for your time. LACKEY: Doctor, a pleasure. O'HARA: And I tell you what, it's a real treat to get to record in, in your--in the oldest radio station in Kentucky. LACKEY: That's right. Oldest family, continuous-- O'HARA: Continuous family. Family-owned. LACKEY: You know, there's 12,000, there's over 12,000 AM and FM radio stations in the United States, and I've never paid a, uh, clerk or an attorney in Washington to research it, but I would have to submit to you that there's probably not another fifty radio station in the country that have been on for sixty-five years by the same family. You know, you know, people like the-- O'HARA: It's rare. LACKEY: You know, people like, like the Clear Channel's and the Cosmos and all these people who come in. There are hundreds of them. O'HARA: They're traded daily. LACKEY: Well, it's, it's--you know, I was not in favor of that Telecom Act of '96 that passed that allowed all this merging. See, prior to that, you could only own, like, in Lexington one AM and one FM. Prior to '96 in the Evansville, Owensboro, Henderson market there were probably ten owners. Now there are, there are basically two, and Henry Lackey-- [End of interview.] Oral history with Henry Lackey, Kentucky Senator from Henderson County. Lackey discusses his family's political history and work in helping establish Henderson Community and Technical College as well as their radio station business. He details the use of the fine arts center on the campus and its impact on the community. Conflict between the community colleges and the regional colleges in Kentucky as well as their current relationship with the KCTCS colleges. He describes as well those directors who administered throughout the college's history. He recounts the need for the college by the community as well as the access it provided local students. Concludes with a discussion on the necessity of health reform. insert here