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1990-11-30 Interview with Richard Weisenberger, November 30, 1990 Leg001:1990OH307LEG22 01:34:11 Kentucky Legislature Oral History Project Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries Legislators -- Kentucky -- Interviews. Journalists -- Kentucky. Equal rights amendments -- Kentucky. Sales tax -- Law and legislation -- Kentucky. Products liability -- Law and legislation -- Kentucky. Lexington Herald-Leader Hubbard, Carroll Kentucky Equal Rights Amendment Kentucky Education Association (KEA) lobbyists Berry, John Carroll, Julian Black Sheep Squadron committees Brown, John Y. Jr. Product Liability Act Moloney, Mike Powers, Georgia Davis Stovall, Thelma sales tax legislation term limits Key Legislation: sales tax decrease, Kentucky Equal Rights Amendment, Product Liability Act Term/District: House (1976-1980), 1st district Counties in District: Ballard County (Ky.) -- Carlisle County (Ky.) -- Hickman County (Ky.) -- Fulton County (Ky.) Richard Weisenberger; interviewee Jeffrey Suchanek; interviewer 1990OH307_LEG022_Weisenberger 1:|14(11)|37(7)|50(10)|73(11)|84(7)|101(3)|110(12)|121(10)|132(17)|157(18)|169(11)|194(1)|206(12)|228(11)|255(6)|266(3)|277(9)|293(6)|301(16)|312(5)|322(18)|340(7)|357(9)|373(5)|390(2)|403(6)|428(2)|444(13)|456(6)|482(4)|494(15)|506(1)|515(4)|537(3)|567(1)|579(3)|592(3)|610(13)|629(4)|647(13)|663(9)|675(3)|689(6)|711(6)|721(10)|732(9)|742(10)|754(9)|768(11)|783(1)|794(15)|807(10)|835(10)|862(13)|878(14)|903(6)|916(7)|930(11)|944(6)|959(9)|973(12)|988(12)|1007(2)|1029(5)|1046(12)|1064(16)|1090(3)|1109(7)|1128(2)|1161(9)|1178(11)|1202(8)|1226(11)|1241(1)|1265(5)|1281(11)|1303(2)|1320(12)|1334(9)|1360(1)|1388(13)|1410(15)|1431(1)|1450(10)|1468(2)|1483(5)|1498(6)|1509(14)|1528(12)|1544(3)|1555(13)|1573(1)|1594(8)|1608(13) audiotrans Legit interview SUCHANEK: The following is an unrehearsed interview with former State Senator Richard Weisenberger, who represented the 1st District, which consisted of Calloway, Carlisle, Fulton, Graves, and Hickman Counties from 1976 to 1980. The interview was conducted by Jeffrey Suchanek for the University of Kentucky Library, Kentucky Legislature Oral History Project on November 30, 1990, in Mr. Weisenberger's law office, located at 423 East Broadway in Mayfield, Kentucky. [Pause in taping]. This afternoon I'm talking with Mr. Richard Weisenberger. Mr. Weisenberger, could you tell me where and when you were born? WEISENBERGER: I was born April 18, 1938, in Georgetown, Kentucky. SUCHANEK: Can you tell me your parents' names and what they did for a living? WEISENBERGER: Okay. My father was Anderson Weisenberger, who was self- employed as a builder and landlord in Georgetown, and my mother was a housewife. SUCHANEK: Okay. Did your mom ever work outside the home? WEISENBERGER: No. No, she didn't. SUCHANEK: All right. Do you remember your grandparents at all? WEISENBERGER: Yes, my grandparents, my grandfather, was the son of one of the original founders of Weisenberger Mill in Midway, Kentucky, the- SUCHANEK: Oh, is that right. WEISENBERGER: which is in Woodford County, which is still operating. SUCHANEK: Yes, I go past that every day (laughs). WEISENBERGER: It had in a different location initially. I think that my grandfather migrated here from Germany, his family did, in probably around 1880, and they started the mill at a different location. It burned down, and my grandfather, at that point, chose to move to Georgetown, and the other branch of the family rebuilt the mill on its present location. And he was in a number of businesses. Mostly he was a landlord. They owned a lot of small houses in town at that time, and he died in 1939, and my grandmother lived until 1953. She was 83 when she died, and she continued the landlord relationship after he died, until her death. SUCHANEK: Um-hm. How far back in Kentucky, then, do your family roots go? WEISENBERGER: I would imagine somewhere around 1870 to 1880, in that range. I have a diary at home. It's kind of an autograph book, but a diary that-my grandfather, in 1883, was in a private school in Saint Mary's, Ohio, so at that time he was a child, he was a, I gather at that time he must have been, oh, somewhere between ten and fourteen years old, based on the writing in the book. So-and I think his parents had migrated here, probably sometime between 1870 and 1880, in that area, I would say. SUCHANEK: How many people were in your immediate family? WEISENBERGER: I had a brother and a sister. My brother died very young of- in, at the age of 32. He was about six years younger than me. And I have a sister who still resides in Scott County, outside of Georgetown, and she and her husband operate a horse farm. SUCHANEK: Oh, uh-huh. WEISENBERGER: Outside of Georgetown. SUCHANEK: What horse farm is that? WEISENBERGER: I believe it's called Fair Hill. I believe it's called Fair Hill Farm. It's close to Stamping Ground. SUCHANEK: How extensive was your kinship network in Graves and surrounding counties? Did you have aunts and uncles who lived here? WEISENBERGER: None whatsoever. My coming to western Kentucky was more by chance. I had gone to law school in Louisville and had become acquainted with Carroll Hubbard, who was a state senator. And by the time I graduated, he was, had established himself in Mayfield. And I ran into him somewhere during my senior year in law school, and he indicated there was an opening at one of the Mississippi River counties, Carlisle County, where they only had one lawyer who at the time was about seventy-two years old, and they were looking for a young lawyer to come there and take over his practice. And so after graduation, I did come to Carlisle County. I had never been to-I had never been west of Owensboro at that time. And then I moved to Bardwell with my family, and it was a very rural area and a very small area, but wonderful people, but it really was not-it was hard to make a living there. So after about a year there, I just had difficulty in making it, so I moved to Paducah to take a position with the-as district attorney for the highway department. They used young lawyers for cannon fodder back then. They were building the parkways in this area, and I was a district attorney with no experience whatsoever. They thrust me into the breach there against seasoned lawyers, which was a wonderful experience. They showed no mercy, and I probably tried, I was there about four years, and I probably tried 200 cases, which is more than most lawyers try in a lifetime. And even though it was in a limited field, like condemnation, eminent domain, there's still-courtroom experience is courtroom experience. So it was great experience for a young lawyer, but they beat me over the head pretty good and got me seasoned real quick. I was not yet thirty, and they still, I still had quite a bit more experience than most lawyers in a courtroom, I would say. SUCHANEK: Um-hm. Where did you go to school? WEISENBERGER: I went to Georgetown High School, and all through the twelve grades there. And then I went to the University of Kentucky and transferred to Georgetown College, and then I went to University of Louisville Law School. SUCHANEK: Um-hm. Why did you transfer to Georgetown from U.K.? WEISENBERGER: U.K. was a big school, and I was having difficulty there adjusting, and wasn't quite as serious in my academics as I should have been. For one thing, I lived on campus, even though it was only twelve miles away, being a, kind of a country boy away from home, it was not conducive to good study habits. And I had a good time, I'll say that, but I didn't really dedicate myself to my studies. And I came back, and for about a semester or two, I dropped out and I became editor of the Georgetown News, which sounds like a good job, it was for me, but a low-paying job, but it was a weekly newspaper. And at that time, I was the youngest newspaper editor in the state, great experience, which helped me in law school, communication skills, and we won some awards there at Georgetown in the weekly paper contest for the Kentucky Press Association. And I went back to school at Georgetown part-time, and shortly, I'd say after about two years as editor of the Georgetown News, the Lexington Herald offered me a position as assistant state editor, which was a night-time job. At that time the Herald was a morning paper, I guess it still is, and I would go to work at about four and work until midnight, which worked in well with my studies, which were usually from, like, 8:00 to 12:00 or 8:00 to 1:00. It worked out pretty well. A little demanding, but when you're young it doesn't bother you as much. And that experience also was good for me, even though it was a-I was really disappointed. It was strictly a desk job. And being the junior member of the state desk, a lot of my job, unfortunately, was to take the death notices, and, came in on the phone, and then I would-we, at that time, the Herald had what they called stringers, who were primarily housewives, who, for very low pay, would phone in from the surrounding counties various news stories about PTA meetings and car wrecks and so on like that. And we had a midnight deadline. As a matter of fact, it might have been earlier than that, maybe an eleven o'clock deadline, but a midnight paper. And they would call at 10:30 with a major story, like, you know, a major accident, and they'd get right down to the bottom of it, and I'd say, "Well, what are their names?" She'd say, "You know, I didn't get their names. I just-" (Suchanek laughs). And we'd have to call the state police post, and the officer was still making his report. And it was a hectic job, to say the least, but it was a desk job and I didn't like that. I really was interested at that time, and this may be of interest to you, I think the best job in the world, even now, which I would take if offered, would be to be the sports editor of the Lexington Herald. You have no in-house responsibilities. At that time, and I assume it's still the same, you write about three or four columns a week. In the afternoon you go out to the arena and sit there with Joe, with Pitino, and watch the Wildcats, and get on the plane with them when they go on trips, and then you cover Keeneland (Suchanek laughs), you cover the Kentucky Derby, and then throw in a Super Bowl and heavy-weight fights. SUCHANEK: Right. WEISENBERGER: So what a life, you know. SUCHANEK: Right. WEISENBERGER: And really, that was, it's probably not too highly paid, but it's a wonderful job. And at that time, the sports department of the Lexington Herald probably had ten employees, including the younger, some of them part-time. SUCHANEK: Um-hm. WEISENBERGER: I had several times requested a transfer to the sports department so I could work my way up in it- SUCHANEK: Sure. WEISENBERGER: with the idea of maybe becoming a sports editor someday. And they needed me at the state desk, they really did, and they declined the request. So in the summer of 1961, an opportunity came up to go to law school. So I had already decided, I said, "Okay. I'm out of here. I'm, I'll be enrolled in law school in the first of September." Then naturally, they'd say, "Well, would you take a transfer to the sports department?" I thought it over and I said, "No. I've changed directions in my life, and I've decided to do this." And really, in the back of my mind was the thought that I'd be tenth on the list, and I might be fifty or sixty years old before I get a realistic shot at it. As luck would have it, the editor at that time was Ed Ashford, went to the Thoroughbred Record within a year. The assistant sports editor stayed there about another year, and he went to a TV station in Lexington to be a fulltime sports director there. And on down the line, every one of them within a period of five years, and I would have been twenty-six years old (Suchanek laughs). Within a period of five years, had gone, parted and gone other ways. And I don't know to this day whether I could have gotten it, but I think I could have. And that decision probably altered the course of my life more than any other decision. And it's one, that if I knew even today that I could be sports editor of the Lexington Herald, I'd go in a minute. SUCHANEK: (Laughs), is that right? WEISENBERGER: I really would. I mean that's one of the greatest jobs in the world. You don't have to work in the office, you just come in and type up a column and leave, and at Keeneland, sit in the good boxes, you know the good seats and, you know the, right there at ring-side. SUCHANEK: Right. WEISENBERGER: And, you know, it's a great job. I mean it's a, to get paid for doing something like that would be a wonderful job. But anyway, that's what-so I went to law school after that and- SUCHANEK: Well, you say an opportunity presented itself to go to law school. WEISENBERGER: Yeah. Well, it, I just, as a matter of fact, it was Carroll Hubbard, again, who had gone to Georgetown College. He was, he phoned me with a news story one night on himself, which was, he was, at that time, a young politician. And I think he was doing something for the Young Democrats or something like that, in statewide, and he was-phoned in a news story. And at that time, he was two years ahead of me, and he was already a second-year, finished, he'd already finished his second year in law school. And we were just acquainted at that point, and he asked me how I was doing. And I said, "Fine." And then he, I don't know exactly how it came about, but the question came up, you know, "Would you be interested in going to law school?" And I said, "Well, really, I really never thought about it. But, yes, if I could get in, yeah, I would be interested in going to law school." And one thing led to another, I talked it over with my parents and with my family, and the rest, as they say, is history. And in a matter of two months, I was moving to Louisville and embarking on a whole new career, or a whole new direction in my life, which has been the same path ever since. SUCHANEK: Do you remember who some of your teachers in high school were, and what subjects you might have been taught? WEISENBERGER: Sure. I think when you get older you have a tendency to remember things thirty years ago better than last week. And (laughs) I have visions- SUCHANEK: I've noticed that (laughs). WEISENBERGER: I have visions and images locked in my memory, that when I go back-if you move away, by the way, especially after your parents are gone, you have good intentions, but you return home less and less frequently. And then when you do go home, you feel like a stranger after a while. It's funny how, at the time, when you first leave, you know, "I'll always be back. I'll always keep my friendships up," but it doesn't- SUCHANEK: Work out that way. WEISENBERGER: work that way. I went to a thirty year reunion in 1986, and it was interesting, because I'd never thought about it, but your-that's all you have is the image of what they were like when they were eighteen. And, you know, you see them later, and they're, you know, have changed, of course. But everything is frozen in your memory, obviously the way you saw it the last time. And you go back thirty years and see somebody, and- SUCHANEK: They're more serious, and you're more serious, and it's not the same. WEISENBERGER: Well, you know, you, it's just kind of an interesting experience, I think. Yes, I remember some of the teachers. And I had-I think that the most profound influence in my life was a coach that I had who was an excellent coach. He was a Bear Bryant-Knute Rockne-Vince Lombardi type. He really and truly was a real influence. His name was Tom Green. He had been a great athlete at Georgetown, as had my father, by the way. My father held the state discus record in track, and he was an all- state football player and basketball player at Georgetown, and played in college. And I never was able to duplicate his feats, but- SUCHANEK: You played sports though? WEISENBERGER: Yeah, I played football. I played high school football. But a lesson, if you're interested in this? SUCHANEK: Yes. Definitely, yes. WEISENBERGER: I don't know if you'd be interested or not, it's not on the subject. SUCHANEK: Yes. WEISENBERGER: But a lesson, I thought- SUCHANEK: Well, it does relate, yes. WEISENBERGER: a lesson I thought was extremely important to me in my life was taught, was learned inadvertently, you might say. When I was a sophomore I really wanted to play. I mean I religiously followed the sports section and bought sports magazines and memorized, you know, back then the college was bigger than pros. I mean I can rattle off the, almost the starting line-ups of the top twenty-five teams, you know, even the linemen and linebackers. I was really into it as a kid and really wanted to play but, unfortunately, I didn't get my growth until later. As a sophomore I weighed 104 pounds, which even back then was a little light, as a running back. I was fast, but I really, at that, obviously as a sophomore I was little bit too small. And so I practiced religiously, and I would, some of the bigger boys would-I'd be playing safety, you know, the last one back, scrimmages and practice, and I would be the-I would try. I would hit them and bounce off of them, but I'd at least try, you know, to bring them down. And anyway, I realized that, you know, that I was not at a level where some of the rest of them were, and I was on the bench and that didn't bother me. But about the middle of the season, we only had about, oh, I would say twenty-eight to thirty players, and about the middle of the season we played a team, I don't remember, and beat them, like, 55 to nothing. And there was one kid on the team who was bigger than me, but he was a real clown. He wasn't serious about the game. He and I were the only two who didn't get in the game, and they, you know, time and time again they looked down the bench and called on other persons. And I felt it was an injustice, I felt that I had earned the right just from practice, you know. In a 55 to nothing game, I ought to at least get in for a couple of plays. And I felt it was very personal. It hurt me deeply. And at that time, as a matter of fact, all through school, we played our games at the Georgetown College campus. We had to walk up there about, oh, half a mile or so, and walk back through the dark in the campus. And I can remember crying that night. I can remember like it was yesterday. And we had to walk back in uniform. Of course my uniform was clean (Suchanek laughs), everybody else's was dirty, you know, and I- SUCHANEK: Like a neon light (laughs). WEISENBERGER: I felt, and really, of course you, at that age, especially, you magnify the emotions of it. I felt that everyone was looking at me and saying, "Oh," you know, "he's just a loser. He's a nothing." But, of course, they weren't. Nobody even, it was a 55 to nothing victory, and in the shower they were thinking of other things. And I felt like everybody was looking at me, you know, as if I was the big loser. And so I-that was on a Friday night. It really bothered me all weekend, and I determined to just quit. And I walked into the coach that Monday at school, and I told him that I was going to quit. And he asked me why, and I explained to him that I'd worked hard in practice and didn't get to play. And he became somewhat emotional, and he apologized. He said, "I want you to know that I really felt it wasn't safe." He said, "I felt like that at your size, it'd be, it would perhaps be unsafe to play you." And he said, "But I think I made a mistake." He said, "If you will stay at it, when the situation arises again, in a game, have to be a game where we've obviously got it won, where we're ahead, I won't do that to you again. You keep out there and keep trying, and maybe it'll come together for you someday." I didn't really believe him fully, but I stayed out. And then the next year, I was, I got in a lot more. As a senior, I weighed 138 to 140. And the first game of the season I was on the second team, and a junior was starting in my place at running back. And we played a bad game and got beat badly. And all those years of practicing. And the next Monday in practice the coach was put out and angry. For some reason he had the line--, he had a center, and then he had the linemen back up, all them get in a line behind the center, and the rest of us got on the other side, where the running backs were tackling the linemen, which was an odd thing to do. But they would center the ball to a lineman, and he would just come toward me, and it was just a hit and hit-(unintelligible) really, and it was one of those lucky times. At 140, of course, the other fellow might have weighed 180, I believe he was a guard. But I don't know, it just really came together. He got the ball and he came toward me. And it, you could hear the crack of the hit, and he, we both landed about six feet backward from where the impact was. And the coach just came out and he said, you know, "That's what I've been looking for." He said, "Now, this is one of the smallest men on the team." And the upshot of it was that I was, he said, "You're going to start this Friday night," which was after all those years. Well, that, of course, thrilled me to be a starter. But then it was a rainy night. We were playing Paris, and one of my assignments was to be single safety in a punting situation where you're back there by yourself, rain, ball's slick. The first punt they punted, the ball hit me in the chest and it bounced up-field for-and the other team recovered the fumble. And I felt terrible. I just, I said, "Look, put somebody else in. I just can't do it." He said, "You've come this far." He said, "You can do it. I know you can do it." Well, what I'm leading up to is this. I'm not boasting, but it was really a thrill to me anyway. I went back there the next time, they were three and out, and they punted. And I took the ball the next time on the 20-yard-line, and one of those magic moments, the field just seemed to clear, and I went eighty yards for a touchdown. And from then on, the rest of the season, I was able to start. But that lesson of, you know, you don't have to have all the ability in the world, and if you just hang in there and you work hard, that with average ability, if you maximize your potential and work hard at it, and set goals, and you have a desire, you can overcome a lot of lack of ability. And that's true in business, true in law, any profession in the world. That's what I was getting at. That's the lesson that I felt that was very important in school. That was more important than any book lesson I ever learned. SUCHANEK: Did you have a favorite subject in school? WEISENBERGER: Yeah, I think. I was on debate team, and I liked English and liked Latin. I was fairly good at math, but I didn't particularly like it. It was okay. Physics, chemistry. But I would say that I liked the debate team, had a good time on that. SUCHANEK: Did you have a civics course? WEISENBERGER: Yeah, we had civics, but it wasn't the kind they have now. It wasn't really, it didn't go into government in much depth. It was just a, I don't remember, it wasn't much of a course or anything. SUCHANEK: Um-hm. When you studied history, did you have a favorite historical figure, or a favorite sports figure? WEISENBERGER: Well, obviously the, in the history, it would certainly be people like the usual, George Washington and Abraham Lincoln and some of those. And in sports, oh, I don't know. Historically, I guess one of my boyhood heroes was Babe Parilli, who played quarterback for Kentucky at that time. I was a child, and he was-that's when I first started taking an interest in sports, and he was an All-American at Kentucky and obviously had a lot of fans at that time, sure. SUCHANEK: Um-hm. When you think back, do you think any teacher in particular made an impression on you, or perhaps started you to form, or helped you form your political philosophy? WEISENBERGER: Not my political philosophy. I don't think back then, and maybe now, I don't think that teachers, I don't recall much discussion of political philosophy. Now, we talked about political history, maybe, like the Emancipation Proclamation, and you know, some of the how the Constitution was written, but as far as, I think now people are more aware of conservative, liberal, you know, labels like that, and philosophies. I really don't remember political philosophies other than the usual free speech and, you know, things like that. Constitutional rights were discussed, but as far as different philosophies, you know, that people discuss today, not only students but adults, I don't think that they did that as much back then. SUCHANEK: Okay. Now, when you were growing up, did you attend church? WEISENBERGER: Yes. SUCHANEK: Which church did you attend? WEISENBERGER: I went to the Georgetown Baptist Church, which is a huge church. The town is a Baptist, of course, Baptist college, and I was totally disillusioned early on by the (laughs)-at that time, the Baptist church was really uptight. I mean they were really strict and fundamental back then. And we would go to high school dances and the girls would wear their corsages the next morning to church, and it almost, it seems odd now that, I'm sure they don't, no, they don't have this philosophy anymore, but they would preach hell and damnation sermons, and about dancing's a sin, and I mean, everything was a sin. And we knew that if I had a tuxedo or a dinner jacket on, and a girl had on a great big formal, where I couldn't get within two feet of her, we knew we were not committing any sin. We didn't feel like we were. And at that time, the church was a lot more, a lot stricter than they are now. They thought everything was a sin, you know. SUCHANEK: Um-hm. Well, do you think- WEISENBERGER: And so I was turned off of it until I was about, oh, twenty, and then I went back to a different church. SUCHANEK: Okay, which church was it then? WEISENBERGER: Well, at that time I went to the Episcopal church, and I would have stayed with it, but Mayfield has, well they have one here, but it's extremely small, maybe thirty members, so I, it just, here I go to the Christian church. And it's a fairly liberal, modern church, and suits my needs. SUCHANEK: Well, let me ask you this. Do you think that your religious upbringing in that type of strict environment, that might have had an influence on the way you felt or thought about politics, in that, in an abstract way? WEISENBERGER: Yes. Yes, I think in an abstract way it made me more tolerant, because I saw the injustice of intolerance. I was able to tolerate opposing views and, you know, opposing opinions better, because I just felt like that the church as I knew it, when I grew up, was a stifling influence. And it didn't suit modern needs. I mean it really was old-fashioned, let me put it that way, and it just didn't, and I think they've changed since then. Although I read now where the Baptists are having a fundamental/liberal argument today. As a matter of fact, it, last week they met in Paducah, the state Baptists met in Paducah, and the argument continued. SUCHANEK: Right. WEISENBERGER: They're still arguing over it. And I don't know about that (laughs). SUCHANEK: Well, when did you graduate from high school then? WEISENBERGER: 1956. SUCHANEK: Okay. And when did you meet your wife? WEISENBERGER: Well, I've been married twice. I met my first wife when I was nineteen, and that marriage lasted eight years until I was twenty-seven. And I married my present wife when I was twenty-eight, and we've been married since then. SUCHANEK: Okay. WEISENBERGER: We have, together we have one child, who is a senior in high school now. SUCHANEK: When and how did you begin to get interested in politics then? WEISENBERGER: Well, it just seemed kind of natural. In one, I guess one area where I started to become interested, when I was editor of the Georgetown News a part of my job was to cover political functions, and they're always looking for a warm body to do some legwork or anything, you know, to-and so I was kind of a youth coordinator for the county in gubernatorial elections and senate races. They're always looking for some young person who's willing to volunteer for anything, you know, they like it. And I was involved in the Young Democrats a little bit. And I started covering those things, then I joined the Young Democrats, and then I somehow got involved in a very small way in local, at the local level, in statewide governors' races and- SUCHANEK: Was that in Georgetown? WEISENBERGER: In Georgetown, just local. And that kind of got me, I guess you might say, whetted my appetite a little bit, and it seemed interesting, exciting, and promising. And then I think, obviously looking at the legislature and its makeup, you can tell that the legal profession seems almost a natural, because you're talking about interpreting laws and the practice of law. And then you would have-law-making would just seem to come natural. Plus, I think that lawyers are not better legislators, but they're better qualified when it comes to the wording of the statutes, you know, to pick out potential problems that might crop up as far as legislative intent and ambiguities in the language itself. With a legal background, you're a little bit better qualified. It doesn't mean you're a better legislator, it means you're better qualified to judge the language in the bills. SUCHANEK: Um-hm. Well, had anyone in your family ever before been involved in politics? Were you the first? WEISENBERGER: No. No, I was the first. SUCHANEK: Okay. When you ran for the State Senate, what was the local political situation like in Mayfield and Graves County? WEISENBERGER: How do you mean? SUCHANEK: Well, was there much interest in state politics in Graves County? WEISENBERGER: Oh, yes. SUCHANEK: By looking at the newspapers, it seemed like there was a plethora of candidates for judgeships and sheriff and that kind of thing. WEISENBERGER: This is a little bit of a remote area. We're-the closest metropolitan area is Nashville, which is about 140 miles from here, so people don't get to metropolitan areas too often. It's a pretty big trip. And sports and politics are real, of real interest here. And people, we have extremely high voting percentages here, far more than they have-I think they said in the presidential race, less than half the people voted in the nation. Here we vote 80 percent. SUCHANEK: Is that right? WEISENBERGER: Yeah. People, and people know who their elected officials are, they can rattle them off. It's a spectator sport. People really keep up with it, and an officeholder is a, to some extent held in high esteem. Sometimes they're not, of course, but generally speaking it's a sought-after position in most elected jobs. Plus, in a low- income area, a lot of people find that the level of pay is more than what they can make in private, in the private business world. SUCHANEK: Was there any type of "Doc" Beauchamp-type of figure here in Mayfield or Graves County? WEISENBERGER: There had been before, several years before, but it was-those types, at that time were, I ran in 1975, and those types were really beginning to break up by then. They were everywhere up through the `60s, I think, yeah. Really the `50s is when they started going out, and by the end of the `60s, they had really probably declined to some extent. And when I ran, I had been here, I told you I worked for the highway department, I was waiting for an opportunity. I liked western Kentucky, and I knew I, for some reason, I never wanted to stay in Paducah. Although I liked Paducah, it was a little bit larger. I like a town about the size of Mayfield, which is about the size of Georgetown. I think Mayfield is 14,000, and I was looking for an opportunity in either Benton, Murray, or Mayfield, in that triangle, three adjoining counties, all three of them county seats sort of like Mayfield. And it just happened that the first opportunity came in Mayfield, and I moved to Mayfield in 1969. And I was, I think I had enough political experience to know that you don't just wake up one day and say, "I want to run for office." So I spent six years preparing myself to run for office, making contacts, going to meetings, chili suppers, and I even went on a speaking tour just to get known in the district for-in which I gave speeches to Rotary and Kiwanis and Optimist Clubs on the Civil War in this area. I had researched a lot of, well Lon Carter Barton is a great historian, he would know that. But anyway, I had researched a lot of what I felt was pretty interesting information of what actually happened in the Civil War right here, specific anecdotes and stories that I felt that an audience would appreciate. And I've spoken to many, many Optimist and Rotary clubs just, in other counties way off somewhere, just to make a few contacts. And because, you know, I was a total stranger in this area. And in 1975, the seat was vacated by Carroll Hubbard, who had moved on to Congress, and so it was a natural for me. I felt like I had a shot at it. SUCHANEK: Um-hm. Were there factions here in Graves County or Mayfield? WEISENBERGER: No, there really weren't at that time. SUCHANEK: Were those kind of going by the wayside, too? WEISENBERGER: There were a couple of people who wanted to run, but when they heard I wanted, see, I had worked here as local chairman for Wendell Ford in his governor's race- SUCHANEK: Oh, I didn't know that. WEISENBERGER: and "Dee" Huddleston when he ran for Senate, and also for Wendell Ford, I believe it was in `74, when he ran for the Senate. He was governor and ran for the Senate, and I had been local chairman and established myself with the political hierarchy by managing several campaigns here locally. And I think that helped me a little bit. And when I made it known that I was interested in the seat that had been vacated, why, luckily, very luckily, I was able to be the only candidate from Graves County. The other two were from Calloway County. One was a young farmer, and the other was immediate past president of Murray State University, Harry Sparks, who was my main competition. And it was a three-man race, and one in which I won by 600 votes in three counties. But, and one of the reasons is, well two of the reasons is that I swept Graves County heavily, and Dr. Sparks lost his home county by a few votes to the other fellow, and that made a big difference. SUCHANEK: That was going to be one of the questions I had for you. WEISENBERGER: Yeah, that was a big difference. SUCHANEK: Whether, let's see, it was- WEISENBERGER: Harry Sparks and- SUCHANEK: and Jackson? WEISENBERGER: Yeah, Ronnie Jackson. SUCHANEK: Ronnie Jackson, whether Ronnie Jackson had pulled votes from Harry Sparks. WEISENBERGER: Absolutely. Sure. SUCHANEK: Okay. Well, what personal qualifications, personal qualities, or experience did you feel that you had that qualified you for the General Assembly? WEISENBERGER: Well- SUCHANEK: Besides being an attorney. WEISENBERGER: well, I felt like I was, I don't know, I felt like I was maybe- hopefully, I had the intelligence to contribute something in the way of, make the, a contribution in Frankfort, and I felt like that I was as qualified as the next man to run for office. And I felt like that I was energetic and young and willing to take on responsibilities at that time. SUCHANEK: Okay. Did you have a campaign manager or a campaign advisor? WEISENBERGER: No. I had read a lot and researched a lot, and managed my own campaign. And I think that my advertising was very effective in that race, and I felt like that I, through my research, had developed a more imaginative, innovative type of campaign. And that's really when campaigns were in transition from the old studio portrait, a solemn figure in a studio portrait, to more informal. I mean I had pictures of me in a pair of Levis, my foot propped up on a post talking to a farmer, you know, just informal. That-I think Kennedy, John Kennedy, kind of set the stage in 1960 for that, and it's been coming ever since, more informal and more, you know not just a, used to have those ads showing a studio portrait, and in the line they'll put a little, "Honest, Dedicated, Sincere," and that's it. And, you know, that was going out, that was the old politics. And what I tried to do was take one issue per week, and with a catchy title and not much, not much verbiage, but hopefully to drive a single point home. And then the next week a different subject, a different picture. And my opponent ran the same picture throughout the campaign, and basically the same- SUCHANEK: Message. WEISENBERGER: same ad. And, you know, it doesn't have the effect. And if you can, I felt that if you could get a good catchy title and a message that wasn't too long, that it would create an image over a period of time that maybe you were someone who had something to offer, and I think that helped. But, really, I don't know, I think being the only candidate from Graves County helped me more than anything else in the whole race, I'll be honest with you, it just-and he had another, he had an opponent in his home county, and that made a big difference. I would like to say that my great management skills had a lot to do with it, but unfortunately issues, every candidate loves issues, and really I place issues very low on the totem pole in any political race, I really do. Candidates love issues. The public could care less, as a general rule (laughs). SUCHANEK: Well, I was going to ask you about your platform there. WEISENBERGER: I had a platform. I don't know if anybody paid any attention to it or not, but I did. SUCHANEK: You know, you stated that you were against the Equal Rights Amendment. WEISENBERGER: That's right. Now, that one did, that one was different. Now, that one really was an issue. That was an issue at that time. That's the only issue, I would say, that the general public was concerned about at that time, that's about it. SUCHANEK: So they didn't care about your advocating the revision of the 5 percent usage tax on the sticker price of a used car. WEISENBERGER: Well, if they read it, they'd say, "That's not a good idea." What you hope is that over a period of time, if what your, what you believe in is-well, if it's not marketable, you shouldn't be in the race. If you don't have better ideas and something to offer, you shouldn't be in the race. But hopefully, you really can't expect the public to truly remember all that stuff. But when they go in the voting booth, they have kind of a vague image of somebody, and they say, "This one guy did this. I kind of like something he said here." And maybe the cumulative weight of it will convince them to pull your lever. That's the best you can hope for. Every candidate loves issues. SUCHANEK: Well, how much do you think the endorsement by the AFL-CIO helped you? WEISENBERGER: Almost none. Very little at that time. SUCHANEK: Um-hm. Now, during the primary, you made a statement that perhaps foreshadowed what your philosophy would be once you got to the Senate. You stated in a newspaper ad that, and I quote, "The day of the old-fashioned, baby-kissing, back-slapping politician, who will promise almost anything to get elected, is drawing to a close, and I say, 'Good riddance.'" WEISENBERGER: I still say that but, unfortunately, it's not true anymore (laughs). I keep hoping it's going to be true, and it is a little less true. But, unfortunately, we still see that, and it's unbelievable that the people still buy it. Time and time again people come around, and really there's nothing more effective than the baby-kissing and back-slapping, I have to say that. Good example I don't care if it's on tape. I'm thinking about supporting Scotty Baesler for governor for the simple reason that he's not a back- slapper and a baby-kisser, but he's a lousy campaigner. He's lousy. SUCHANEK: Right. He's got the most experience. WEISENBERGER: I like the guy. I mean, but I, you know, I like the guy because he doesn't do those things, but I don't think he's going to win. I don't think he has a chance but, you know, I would hope that the public would be more mature than to fall for those kinds of things, but they seem to do it even now. But I still believe that. SUCHANEK: Turning to a philosophical question for a moment, when you first went to Frankfort, what did you think the role of government in society was? What was government supposed to do? WEISENBERGER: Well, that's kind of a broad question, but within limits, supposed to meet certain needs. A governor has an obligation to provide certain services, like the police protection, educational system, road system. I don't think the government should be an answer to all problems as it's trying to be. SUCHANEK: How intrusive should government be? WEISENBERGER: Well, I used to be against regulations in general. But I've seen, I'm seeing now the effects of what we have, like in the regu--, when we deregulated savings and loans, for example. I mean, unfortunately, when you say the market will seek its own level and trust businessmen to do the right thing, that won't always happen. And I'm probably more inclined to reinstate some regulations now, because of the bad experience we've had in the last ten/fifteen years, just like I was unaware that, I had a friend here who's got a job as a meat inspector. I didn't know that at all slaughterhouses, they have two federal inspectors at all times by law, federal law, who inspect my meat, and I'm glad. At Seaboard out here, the chicken factory, they have federal inspectors, right on the job, every day, two of them. And some people might call that overregulation, but I'm glad, because when I buy a chicken or a piece of meat, I'd like to know that it's been inspected. And really and truly, I don't think you can always trust business and corporations to do the right thing. And so probably I'm more mellow on things like that than I used to be, more, I'm probably more liberal on that, because I think now that, unfortunately, in the real world, you have to have some regulation. It sounds good to say, "Get the government out of our pocketbook and off our back." SUCHANEK: Right. WEISENBERGER: But those are catch-phrases that sound good in a campaign, but in real life, you can't always trust people to do the right thing. I think the government should provide law enforcement and prosecution of criminals, provide prisons, a lot of things that the government provides, you know, human services, human resources services. I think there's a place for welfare. I think we overdo it maybe, but I think that some people, of course, I have-my philosophy on welfare is that we should have full employment, that every person who wants to work should report to the courthouse or the city hall or wherever, and have free daycare centers. And these people who have four or five children, no problem, bring them to the daycare center, they'll be fed their lunch, and the woman can work at some assignment, at a decent wage, and if she doesn't want to work, I don't care if she works one day a week or three or two or whatever, and then she goes home and she gets paid. And that, in the long run, would be cheaper, I think, than what we're doing now. But that's not going to happen. But that's a pipedream, but it's not going to happen. It's kind of realistic, I think, I mean it's unrealistic but it's a good solution that's-I don't think they're going to adopt, I'll put it that way. SUCHANEK: Okay. I have to turn over the tape. WEISENBERGER: Um-hm. [End of Tape #1, Side #1] [Begin Tape #1, Side #2] SUCHANEK: Okay. WEISENBERGER: One thing you might be interested in, you hit on it a little bit while ago. When I was campaigning, you talked about the AFL-CIO endorsement, I think the endorsement that helped me the most was the endorsement by the KEA, especially the Purchase District KEA. That resulted from a commitment I made, which was probably a, the most, oh, ill-advised commitment I ever made. It was- philosophically, I was not in favor of it. And I did it simply for political gain, simple as that, and it haunted me a little bit later, because it wasn't what I philosophically supported. It was collective bargaining for teachers, which at that time was a big issue. Unionization of teachers is what it boiled down to. And it occurred in a meeting in Carlisle County. One night the three of us were there on a platform, and they're smart enough now where they don't-they pin you down if they're going to endorse you. And they get you there, and they want to hear you, hear what you've got to say. And the other two went, and both of them were, well, one of-Jackson was strongly opposed to it. Dr. Sparks made the mistake of trying to ride the fence, which made everybody mad. And on the spot, it just was impulse, I said, "I'll do it. I'll support it. No qualms, no reservations. You can count on me to support it." And I did. And a victory of 600 votes, I think that all those teachers who, certainly they voted for me I think, and they may have had some family that did. That could have made the difference in my race. But it's a dangerous political lesson there, in that when you start making concessions in your philosophy, where do you draw the line? Luckily, I only had to make that one. That's the only one I ever made. But when I was in the session there, I was in there for six years, and it came up all three times. And all three times, I had many letters from my constituents, and more importantly, I had many principals and superintendents and board members out in the hall, in the balcony, shaking their fists at me over those years. And all I could say was, "I gave my word, and I'm simply, I'm obligated." And it was just one of those unpleasant commitments, but I had to do it, and I did it. And I wasn't, like I say it was something I, it was a vote that I would not have cast had I been uncommitted. That's all I can say. It's true. And, but I kept my word, but it sure was hard at times. And, but like I say, in a race where you won by 600 votes, you wonder if that didn't make the difference. And that's why that I decided to run for commonwealth attorney, and, one of the reasons-but anyway, the problem, I think, [phone beeps] tell them to hold my calls, excuse me, problems we have, I thought about running for attorney general or some-using, I was chairman of counties and special districts, which lets you know all the county judges and the county politicians. I felt like I could use that as a springboard maybe to, I had to go up or down, you know. And I felt like that-and you're seeing it even more now. That was really about the time of the big-money races, when they really started. And the problem with politics today, whether it's Frankfort or Washington, is really it's, if you're not John Y. Brown or a multi-millionaire, like Wilkinson or Brereton Jones or some of them, to be competitive, you have got to raise the money. You cannot be competitive without money, and that's a shame, but that's another issue. To raise that kind of money, you have got to make concessions. There is no other way to do it. People don't give you $100,000, half a million, or a million, organizations I'm talking about, for good bills, and say, "Just go on out there and be a good governor." It's always for something bad. It's always for something that they're having trouble getting passed. If they're having that much trouble that they're willing to spend big bucks on it, there's always something wrong with it. And it's as simple as that. And it bothers me that, I'm glad I made my choice. I mean it's, look at people who run in the past governor's races. The ones who weren't wealthy had a real hard time, and had they won, they would have been so committed, a lot of them. To raise three or four million dollars, you have to make some commitments to the wrong things. And that's unfortunate, and I don't know what they can do about it. I don't know if public funding is what we're heading for, or whether we're going to have to-I think there's a constitutional problem with limiting what a man can spend out of his own pocket. That's been the problem. See, you can limit spending, I mean raising like, you can't get more than $100 from any individual, fine. But I don't think you can tell an individual he can't spend five million of his own money. And that's the problem, and I don't know, that's true, the McConnell race, both of them spent umpteen million dollars. You know, it just makes you wonder. SUCHANEK: Yeah. WEISENBERGER: That's why I was reluctant to go beyond the Senate. I'd already made one concession I told you about, and I didn't like the taste of it, and I didn't want to get more involved along those lines. And I couldn't honestly maintain a state campaign without getting a lot more involved in those kinds of things, and I didn't like it. SUCHANEK: Well, turning to another philosophical question for a moment. When you went to Frankfort, what did you think the role of a legislator was? WEISENBERGER: Well, it's easy to say to serve the people, but it's a little bit more complicated than that. I felt like they expected me to vote-most of the time they didn't know how I voted. They didn't care. Everybody has their own axe to grind, and the system, in a way, works too well. Politicians really do want, a lot of people don't think so, but politicians really want to please people. They like to do good. They like to get a pat on the head, you know, they like to be rewarded and praised. And the tendency is to vote for everything anybody wants. Doctors call you up say, "We've got a doctor's bill that we're interested in." Chiropractors call you, "We've got a chiropractor's bill." Bankers call you, "We have a banker's bill." And you want to make everybody happy. You know, you don't want to say, "Gee, fellas, I'm sorry. I don't buy that." And it's tough, you know, and more and more they're worried more about getting reelected than doing their job, and they wind up voting for a lot of bad bills. They tend to vote for all the appropriations and all the good things without worrying about where the money's coming from, until just this last session, and it was dues-paying time, after all those years of living beyond their means and, but they, you know, a lot of people think that politicians are cynical and they're laughing at people. But they're really not. They want to do well, but they tend to vote for everything that three or more express interest in. And it's hard to get up there and to tell these groups, "No, I cannot support this bill." But generally speaking, I think that they expected me to reflect, generally, the philosophy of the district, which was a conservative philosophy in general, and to use my best judgment in most cases. Now, in things like ERA, if that had been put to a vote in my district, probably 4 to 1 would have been to rescind ERA, which we did. Now that was an issue that everybody was excited about and involved in, but in a four-year term, counting committee meetings, you probably cast 3,000 votes. Ask a person on the street about my voting record, they'd say "Well, he voted against ERA," or, "He voted-" They'll name you one or two bills, and that's what they judge you on. They have no idea what I did the rest of the time, no earthly idea. So I think they trust you to generally vote your conscience and vote for what's right, and if they figure you're qualified, they'll send you up there. SUCHANEK: Before you actually began the regular session in 1976, did you attend the pre-legislation meeting at Kentucky Dam? WEISENBERGER: Yes. SUCHANEK: What went on there? Who chose the Democratic leadership? WEISENBERGER: What went on, everybody got drunk (laughs), basically. That's all that happened. SUCHANEK: Is that not where the Democratic leadership was chosen? WEISENBERGER: Yeah. SUCHANEK: And who did the choosing? WEISENBERGER: I'm not sure I remember (both laugh). SUCHANEK: That's an honest answer. WEISENBERGER: Everybody was too drunk. No, no. Really, it was cut and dried. Those are, those kind of, back then especially, it was very cut and dried, and it was a foregone conclusion. And just like the bills on the floor even now, I mean, it looks like an open debate and, but no competent legislator puts, unless it's a last resort, puts a bill on the floor unless he's got his votes. They can talk all day, but he knows he's got his votes, you know, the bill is going to pass, unless it's a rare case, where he just wants to test everybody and hope it will-once the people expose their hand and the people back home maybe find out he didn't vote for it, that they can recall the bill next week and get a little pressure from home. But generally speaking, everything is a foregone conclusion. I mean they're not, you know, you don't bring a bill on the floor unless you've got your votes, you just hold it back. And then if you see it's beat, you, to save the humiliation and the, you might just, just might not ever call a bill up. Same way with the leadership, I mean, it's, it appears to be an open discussion and debate, but it's not. I mean they had their votes before they ever got to Kentucky Dam Village, which is, nothing wrong with that. They've been campaigning for it. When I, as a matter of fact, when I won the nomination in May, of course, I was unopposed in the- SUCHANEK: The general election. WEISENBERGER: general election, I was courted and corresponded with the people by I'd never heard of. All summer, you know, different people were asking me for my votes in the- SUCHANEK: Different legislators or- WEISENBERGER: Yeah. Oh, yeah. Sure. SUCHANEK: Julian Carroll? The administration? WEISENBERGER: Oh, no. No, he was the governor. He was the governor. No. SUCHANEK: No, he wouldn't come to you? WEISENBERGER: Well, no, he didn't-well, he congratulated me that night, but as far as lobbying me to vote for somebody, no, he didn't. But there were a couple of, several legislators who were actively lobbying for leadership posts. I don't think any of them had a chance because the governor back then had a tight rein on that, but they thought they had a chance and they were lobbying me, which there's nothing wrong with that. SUCHANEK: Do you remember who they were? WEISENBERGER: Yeah, Delbert Murphy was one, and John Berry, who was my best friend in the Senate, became my best friend, was lobbying me. And I don't remember who else, but they were, you know, there was nothing wrong with that but, unfortunately, back then, the governor had such an iron grip, there wasn't any way he was going to let the leadership. See, the leadership is so important because the governor contr--, if the governor controlled the leadership, the leadership selects the committees. Well, they were, they knew exactly where everybody stood, who could be, who was a "yes man" and who wasn't. And they could march it right down where every committee, an average Senate committee has seven members, they'd have four of the good guys, four of the old boys on it, and three of the mavericks and Republicans. So, you know, right down the line, every single committee was stacked. And once you started at the top, it just goes all the way down to the bottom level. And, you know, if you're three votes out of a seven-man committee, you're nothing. You can argue all day, like the bottle bill that John Berry fought for. If you can't get it out of committee, you can forget about it. And it just, we were minorities all the way, 4 to 3, 4 to 3, 4 to 3, all the way down the line. That's why the governor knew that leadership was so important, and that's why leadership was able to control it. It all funneled down from the top. That's the way it was when I got there. SUCHANEK: Now, you were a charter member of the so-called "Black Sheep Squadron." WEISENBERGER: Uh-huh. SUCHANEK: A term coined by Sy Ramsey, I believe. WEISENBERGER: I don't know. SUCHANEK: When and where did the idea of forming a coalition to oppose the governor begin? WEISENBERGER: Of course, it had been come up over the years lots of times, but the one I was, the successful one really started in `74, the session before me, with John Berry and some of the others at that time. There was a, the senator from Richmond at that time was a guy who was a Yale graduate and was a preacher. I can't think of his name now. Quite a few of them, the young ones, oh, there was maybe five or six of them. Tom from Frankfort, Tom, he beat Breckinridge later, then Hopkins beat him. I swear, I can't remember his name. Anyway, there was four or five at that time, and then I think I went in with about five more new ones, and we picked up some steam. And `76 was not totally successful, but by `78 we were really picking up steam. That was my second session of my first term. And then by 1980 when Brown got in, of course he was a little more of a laid-back governor. And it was inevitable by that time, but he expedited it, because he had no resistance. When leadership came up, he didn't even get involved in it as a governor-elect. So then that really was the final act of it. SUCHANEK: Well, what is your impression of John Berry? WEISENBERGER: I think John Berry is probably one of the greatest men I've ever known; one of the most honorable, great statesmen I've ever known. He really is. It's a shame that he chose to, not to run after a couple of terms. He was one of the, he's one of the greatest natural leaders. He's one of the most eloquent, one of the most articulate person I've ever seen in government. He is, it's a shame he can't be governor. If he ever runs, I'll vote for him. He's a wonderful person, and one of the finest people I've ever known. I really mean that. I wish I didn't live so far away from him. SUCHANEK: Do you recall how you were first offered membership in the "Black Sheep," how that all came about? Did that happen in- WEISENBERGER: Well, I think just the young ones kind of naturally band together, and the newer members kind of, you know you socialize and, you know, you kind of, we were the have-nots, so to speak. And we were on the outs, and we were the three members of the seven-man committees, and we had no power. All we had were dreams and hopes that maybe, you know, that we could make the system better. And it was just a natural, I mean, obviously, I didn't fall in with the old-heads who had been there a long time. We didn't have that much in common, they didn't care that much about me because they had the power and they didn't need me for anything particularly. They were kind and accommodating but, you know, lip service. They just kind of, they were nice, but they didn't really want to share the power with me, that's for sure. And- SUCHANEK: Well, what was the philosophy that held the "Black Sheep" together? WEISENBERGER: Well, for one thing, we had nothing to lose. And secondly, we didn't like the, we felt that the governor, well, we felt like the executive branch was very much overloaded with the power, you know. It should be more equal, and even now, I think the judiciary is the weak sister, to some extent, of the three branches. At that time, the executive was, had awesome control, probably more than any state in the union. The governor of Kentucky was more nearly a dictator. SUCHANEK: And that's due to the 1891 Constitution, right? WEISENBERGER: And it was due well, I think the committee system was the starting point. Back when Clements and Wetherby were governor, and Chandler the second time, legislators were local politicians, really, who literally went to Frankfort every two years for sixty days and got drunk. And they didn't have any information, they didn't have any knowledge, and they went up there for sixty days every two years and stayed home the rest of the time. That's all there was to it. And they got up there, and the governor spoon-fed them and gave them their marching orders every morning. And you either went along, or you didn't. And if you went along, you got roads and jobs and the usual government handouts. And if you didn't, you were a fool because you didn't get anything, your district was shut out, and the next election, you most likely wouldn't be back. And that system went on for a long time, but I think the committee system, which started probably in the, I believe in the early `60s- SUCHANEK: `68. `68. WEISENBERGER: `68. That made legislators more informed and better qualified. It really did. It made a big difference to them. And they would go up there then, and they'd have some knowledge about a bill and what was going on. And it really made a difference, like in budget things. Imagine going there every two years if you were on the budget committees there. How would you possibly cope with all the facts and information in just sixty days up there? You wouldn't know anything about it. And that got to be more, you got more professional-type of lawmakers who were doing a better job, because they had more information. It was inevitable, it had to happen, and really it's with mixed results that it did happen. Not necessarily all that-I think it's better now. It's simply a transfer of power, but I do think that the rank-and-file member now at least has a colleague to look to. You know, the first floor is kind of remote. The governor's office, you know, is a little bit remote to have to go through him for everything. When I first went there, always been a tradition, it was no different, Julian Carroll, at that time, the governor, literally met at night with "Sonny" Hunt and his crowd, and they would stamp every bill, "Yes" or "No." "Yes" or "No," simple as that. And they had the votes in both chambers to pass it. If you looked like a team player, if it was a bill they didn't care much about either way, if you showed promise of being a, of lining up right, being a team player, not causing any trouble, you'd be able to get it passed, as long as he didn't have any serious objection to it. And if you weren't a team player, or if you were a Republican, forget it. I don't care how good a bill it was, it didn't matter to anybody how good a bill it was. And that wasn't, that's not taking anything away from Julian Carroll, because that was the system that he grew up in and- SUCHANEK: Yeah, but Julian Carroll, as he had come up through the, first the House and then lieutenant governor, he had so-called championed the independence of the legislature. And then when he became governor, the shoe was on the other foot. WEISENBERGER: That's true of a lot of them, right. When they get in there, it's a little bit different. And it's like the governors always say they're going to share power with the lieutenant governor, and they never do. You know, on election night they've got their arm around them, "Boy, we're going to be buddies. And old second-in-line here, he's going to have a lot of responsibility in this administration." And you can forget that, you know (laughs). January the 2nd, it's all over. He's, all he's doing is running for governor four years from now. But, you know, I can't blame Julian Carroll for that. That was the system he was nurtured in, and that's natural. I don't- SUCHANEK: What was your impression of Carroll as governor? WEISENBERGER: Very astute. See, he was a student of government. He wasn't just a guy that ran for office a couple of times. He had been in there a long time, and he knew the inner workings of government. He was a very astute, he was a good student of government. He knew what, he knew how the highway department worked, how the human resources department worked, he knew how everything worked. A lot of governors are, like Wilkinson, are not that familiar with the workings, but Julian Carroll had grown up since, he was in the legislature since he was about twenty-two or three years old, and he knew what he was doing. I didn't agree with everything he did, but he certainly knew what he was doing. He was in control. But there was a transition period that I was a part of, the "Black Sheep," Mike Moloney, different ones there, Joe Wright. SUCHANEK: Tom Ward was the one I think you were thinking of. WEISENBERGER: Yeah. No, no. I was thinking of another guy from, this guy's from Richmond, I can't remember his name. SUCHANEK: Tom Morgan? WEISENBERGER: No. He's from Richmond. I've got his name in there. I've got a picture of him, some of the "Black Sheep." Anyway, it was something that was inevitable, but we were the, we happened to be there at that time. And then, like I say, when Brown came, if a different kind of governor had been elected, it would have taken a few more years for full independence, but Brown just immediately made no effort whatsoever to control the leadership. SUCHANEK: Well, do you think- WEISENBERGER: And, of course, the horse is out of the barn now. You can forget about it, it will never come back. SUCHANEK: Do you think Brown was a new type of, a new breed of governor? Or do you think he had counted noses and knew that the "Black Sheep" were still in control? WEISENBERGER: No, I think he was, I don't think he realized the importance of it, for one thing. And I think Brown, Brown is not a vindictive, power-hungry kind of guy. He didn't impress me as being a power grabber. He enjoyed being governor, but as far as the nuts and bolts of every day-it's a hard job, if you want to make it a hard job. Julian Carroll was there until midnight. John Y. was at Vegas or somewhere when he could get away. You know, he was just a different kind of guy. And he was, of course, he was from the corporate world, and one of his gifts was that he was able to delegate responsibility in the corporate world, which carried over to the political scene. And when he said, "Look, I'm going home. You guys stay until midnight, I'm out of here." And he was a laid-back kind of guy. He didn't get emotional and mad. He didn't have a bad temper. And I think he enjoyed being governor and enjoyed the big picture, but he didn't like to get involved in details. We would go over to his house, the mansion for lots of meetings, he was very cordial. And we'd go over there a lot of times at night when, my last session there. By that time I had gotten some seniority. And you know, he was very congenial and we'd literally talk these bills out, you know, on a one-to-one basis. And if you convinced him, he'd back off, you know, no problem. He'd say, "I believe you're right." And he was very reasonable. SUCHANEK: Did you ever have meetings like that with Carroll? WEISENBERGER: No. SUCHANEK: Were you ever called over to discuss bills with Julian Carroll? WEISENBERGER: Yeah, but not in the same context. He calls you over in a more intimidating atmosphere and wanted to know what the hell was going on, basically. You know, he, that was his style, that's what he was accustomed to. And he thought it was his duty and his job to ride herd on all those bills. And to push his programs through, which I understand that. But he liked to see people in line more than-I'm sure Wetherby and all of them were the same way. You know, all of them had been that way up until then. But Brown represented a new change that was-Brown really was laid back. He didn't really get too upset about anything. SUCHANEK: Well, do you think there was a philosophical difference between the "Black Sheep," John Berry, you, and the rest of the "Black Sheep" and, say, Governor Carroll as to what the role of each branch of government was? WEISENBERGER: Absolutely. Julian Carroll wanted to control it all. And even more than that, he wanted team players, and people who, of course we thought of them as "yes" men. You know, we really did. We thought they were just "yes" men, stooges for him, who didn't have a mind of their own. SUCHANEK: Um-hm. Was that, be like Joe Prather and Tom Garrett? WEISENBERGER: No, Joe Prather was one of the "Black Sheep." SUCHANEK: Oh, was he? WEISENBERGER: Yeah, he was the only one in leadership. SUCHANEK: But he was president pro-tem. WEISENBERGER: Yeah, he was the only one in leadership that was on, more or less on our side. But people like Pat McCuiston, yeah, Tom Garrett, good friend of mine. He, Tom firmly believed in the governor's right to control the legislature. And, yeah, all the old ones there that were that way. And I thought it was disgraceful the way they treated Republicans. I mean that, they represented the same number of people that we did, districts of Kentuckians, and they'd treat them like dogs, you know (laughs). No bill they ever introduced got passed, and their districts were cut out on roads and funding. I thought that was very unfair. SUCHANEK: Um-hm. WEISENBERGER: And we were all kind of at the bottom, grouped together, Republicans and young Democrats who had no power. And they, you know, held out a plum and said, "Now, if you'll line up, go along, it won't be any time until you'll be up here with us." And we rejected that notion because we didn't want to, we didn't want to be in that, we didn't want to rise to power with those kind of strings. Because what good is power if somebody above you is calling the shots? SUCHANEK: Well, do you think there was a generational gap between- WEISENBERGER: Oh, yeah. I think that was just a transitional period in a lot of ways. We'd just come through the `60s and the hippies and Vietnam. I-the world was changing then in a lot of ways, the whole world was changing. SUCHANEK: Do you think your educational background might have had- WEISENBERGER: Yeah. SUCHANEK: a part in it? WEISENBERGER: I think legislators were becoming more and more qualified, yes. A lot of times, what we used to get, the political hacks, you know, the old-time, the old guys, you know, come up there and, you know, not even serious about their work, in the `40s and `50s. You know, they were just old drunks, a lot of them, and illiterate and, you know, just uncaring about their work. But we seem to-I think Kennedy in the `60s, and, we're seeing a little trans--, saw a little transition there that's still evolving today. And I think it's people that really are better qualified. I don't know that they do a better job necessarily, but they, I think they're better qualified and they, they're much more politically in tune with their constituents, to some extent. Different than it used to be. SUCHANEK: Now, in that `76 session, I guess the legislation that caused the most controversy that session was House Bill 193, the anti-busing bill, which passed in the senate 25 to 11, and you voted for it. WEISENBERGER: Anti-busing bill? Was that the Louis--, or it was from Jefferson County, wasn't it? SUCHANEK: Right. WEISENBERGER: Jefferson County. SUCHANEK: Right. WEISENBERGER: It was the, I don't remember-what, the anti-busing bill, it was, what would it do? Do you remember? SUCHANEK: It was basically a bill that would require, or not require students to be bused clear across town. WEISENBERGER: Right. Right. Okay, I remember now. Yeah, I voted against it. SUCHANEK: No, you voted for it. WEISENBERGER: I voted for the bill, which was to prevent the busing. SUCHANEK: Right. WEISENBERGER: I felt that was, you know, that's carrying it too far. SUCHANEK: And in the `78 session, you co-sponsored with Tom Garrett the Product Liability Act of Kentucky. WEISENBERGER: Actually, I wrote it. I was in the, that was-it's interesting you mention that. That was probably my, the most unrecognized, but the most important piece of legislation I ever was involved in. Governor Carroll, in 19--, was that 1980 or `78? SUCHANEK: This is `78. WEISENBERGER: In 1977, he appointed me as chairman of a blue-ribbon commission involved in, I believe two other legislators, and we had around a twenty member committee that had representatives of labor, and of trial lawyers, product liability lawyers, of defense lawyers, and all kinds of consumers, and we had a great cross-section of Kentuckians, all of them eminent in their fields. And we met throughout `77, and I was the chairman of it. And we evolved that bill, which, people don't realize this, but that bill that we wrote and passed in the 1978 session, I'm not, I haven't checked on it in the last couple of years, but a couple of years ago, I believe twenty-six states had copied ours almost verbatim. SUCHANEK: Is that right? WEISENBERGER: It's a model code for the products liability field. It was kind of a complex, something doesn't turn the public on. It's a complex, legal-type of bill, but it was probably- SUCHANEK: I tried to read through it, and it was, I couldn't (laughs). WEISENBERGER: It's probably the most important piece of legislation, the lasting piece of legislation that I was ever involved in. And almost nobody knows about it (laughs). SUCHANEK: I do (laughs). WEISENBERGER: Yeah, I'm surprised you did, really. SUCHANEK: Now, the bill passed in the senate 36 to 1, and Mike Moloney, a "Black Sheep" member, was the lone dissenting vote. Do you have any idea why he would have opposed it? WEISENBERGER: Yeah, yeah. He is a, of course, he dances to his own tune. He's a real funny guy, great-nobody knows him, see. He never, he walks out of the building, gets in his car, and goes to Lexington. You never see him, nobody knows him. He's kind of a-but he is very honest and straightforward, and he had some kind of problem with it, and I never could talk him out of it. Was nothing personal, but Mike, you just have to know him, he's that way. And he just had a problem with it, and he thought it was going to do something to, I guess to the people he was concerned about, I guess, which would be the claimants, that they wouldn't have as many rights, I guess. But we felt like what it really was designed to do, at that time they were having a real flurry of sham suits, and this was designed to weed out early on the bad suits, and protect the rights of those who had legitimate claims. And he just had a problem with it, that's all I can say. SUCHANEK: Okay. WEISENBERGER: He's an unusual guy. Do you know him? Have you interviewed him? SUCHANEK: No, I haven't interviewed him yet. WEISENBERGER: Weird. I mean he's an unusual guy, but he's extremely intelligent, and probably one of the most intellectual people in the Senate, and a very hard worker. He's on the budget committee, A&R. He knows what he's doing. Nothing goes through A&R without his clearance. And he's got a lot of power now, and it- SUCHANEK: Of course, his dad had been in the- WEISENBERGER: Yeah, he was, he's an excellent legislator, but he's hard to get to know, he really is. Very difficult to get to know. SUCHANEK: Now, in the `78 session, you were made Chairman of the Committee on Counties and Special Districts, as you mentioned, and vice-chairman of the Enrollment Committee. Given the fact that you were given the chairmanship of a committee by the leadership, did Governor Carroll consider you a loyal supporter? Or why would he- WEISENBERGER: Somewhere in between. I was from his home area, and I was not a, I mean the "Black Sheep" didn't always go against administration bills. We only went against bills we thought were bad bills. Obviously, a lot of his bills were, the great majority of them, were not bad bills. Just because he, just because you exercise power doesn't mean you exercise it with malice at all. You know, he was, had a lot of good bills, and I had voted for most of his bills, you know, the free textbooks and a lot of things that went on in those sessions. And just occasionally, we felt like a bill was bad, and we, together we'd rise up with the Republicans and oppose it and get beat most of the time (Suchanek laughs). But you know, we felt like that, no, I didn't have no, I had no hard feelings with him. He was from my area. We'd been friends when he was a lawyer in Paducah. And I think that he felt like-for one thing, it was also a matter of attrition. Some of them got beat and, you know, you work your way up and finally you get to the point where he has to, he has to pick a few of the opposite side, you know, to, and he felt I was maybe less damaging to him than some of the others had been, which was probably true. SUCHANEK: Did he ever take you aside and say- WEISENBERGER: Not really. SUCHANEK: you know, "What are you doing?" WEISENBERGER: No. SUCHANEK: No? WEISENBERGER: I was never, I never went to the governor's mansion that often or down to the first floor that often, you know. I'd see him occasionally, but I saw him a lot less when I was up there than when he was in the House here. I'd see him in Paducah all the time, but I, when he was governor, I saw him maybe, in a session, personally, I might see him once or twice. I'd see him in crowds maybe, but no close relationship. SUCHANEK: Now, also in that `78 session, you sponsored Senate Resolution 4, which was to withdraw the ratification by the General Assembly of the proposed 27th amendment to the Constitution of the United States relative to equal rights for men and women. Why did you oppose equal, the Equal Rights Amendment? WEISENBERGER: Quite simply, we felt that it went far beyond, I think, it's what you label it, like the civil rights bill that Bush vetoed. I'm glad he did. I think they passed it anyway. To call something a civil rights bill, or an equal rights amendment, you know, it's what you label it, makes it difficult to be against it. We felt like the Equal Rights Amendment went far beyond equal employment opportunities. Everybody would have been for it then. Everybody would have been for it. But it had ramifications far beyond that, that we felt would-it, unfortunately, was going to be left, at that time, to a liberal Supreme Court to interpret. That was another problem we had. SUCHANEK: Oh, you thought that far ahead? WEISENBERGER: Sure. At that time, you know, they had a very liberal Supreme Court. And this wasn't just in Kentucky, this was, all over the country this was a raging issue in the `70s. And it hadn't come back yet, but I think that women have gotten what they want. See, nobody was opposed to equal rights for women, you know, in jobs and so on. It went, we were worried about it going way beyond that, you know. In this area, like I say, probably 80 percent of the people were opposed to the Equal Rights Amendment, and it was kind of a liberal/conservative issue, too. Generally speaking, the main ones in favor of it, Teddy Kennedy and the, you know, the ones that were really pushing it were the-Mondale, were the real liberals, and the ones that were really opposed to it, violently opposed to it, were the Jesse Helms types, the right-wingers, you know. And in between was the great masses, and I was reflecting the views of my district, and we eventually were successful in rescinding it. And as it worked out, it was all for naught because it didn't get the necessary votes. SUCHANEK: Right. WEISENBERGER: Even though they got an extension on it for several years. SUCHANEK: Well, one of the supporters of that bill, or one of the ones who, I guess, voted against that resolution was Georgia Powers. WEISENBERGER: Naturally, female. SUCHANEK: What was your impression of Georgia Powers? WEISENBERGER: Well, she's deceased now, isn't she? SUCHANEK: No, she's still living. WEISENBERGER: I thought she died. SUCHANEK: No, we just interviewed her- WEISENBERGER: Maybe it was her husband, her husband died, Jim. Jim died. Georgia Powers was a spokesman for her people. Like a lot of, like a lot of black legislators in Washington and otherwise, they-she was a true spokesman for her people. SUCHANEK: Are you saying she had a limited agenda? WEISENBERGER: Yes. I think, well, I think she concentrated in the areas of legislation that affected her constituents. And she was very definitely, you know, in favor of more welfare and more programs and more affirmative action and busing, more busing. All the civil rights-type issues, she was a very strong spokesman for, which she should be, because those are the people who elected her, and she was reflecting her constituents' wishes. And I felt like she did a good job of that when she was there. SUCHANEK: Um-hm. Now we come to the all-important 1978, '79 special session of the General Assembly called by Lieutenant Governor Thelma Stovall while Governor Carroll was out of the state. And I think that was to affect a tax cut of sorts. First of all, what were your impressions of Thelma Stovall? WEISENBERGER: Heart of gold, old war horse, old-style politician. Really, you know, colorful, kind of a last of a generation, kind of like the Chandlers and the, you know, the old guys. She was a kind of a "Doc" Beauchamp, she was one of those carryovers, and plain-spoken, a little crude, but lovable and likeable. SUCHANEK: Do you think she had any idea what the "Black Sheep Squadron" had in mind in the first days of that session? WEISENBERGER: Which was what? What are you referring to? SUCHANEK: Well, okay. Well, we can get into this now. The crux of, and I guess the crowning glory of the "Black Sheep Squadron" was taking control of the Senate- WEISENBERGER: Yeah. SUCHANEK: during that session. Do you think Thelma Stovall had any idea that- WEISENBERGER: No. SUCHANEK: you all had that in mind? WEISENBERGER: No. SUCHANEK: Okay. Who in the "Black Sheep Squadron" decided that that special session would be a propitious time to take control of the Senate away from Governor Carroll? WEISENBERGER: I don't know that it was a conscious decision, it just kind of the opportunity presented itself. And it was more or less spontaneous, because Carroll wasn't there. And the leadership was in disarray, and the person in the chair was Lieutenant Governor Stovall, who was not one of them. And it was just kind of a, it was really a kind of an opportunity to seize control at that particular time. It just happened, and of course, there were- SUCHANEK: So that wasn't something that was planned? WEISENBERGER: Oh, no. No. The special session wasn't planned. That shocked everybody. SUCHANEK: Um-hm. Well, the session was called in December of `78, but didn't actually meet until January of `79, and Carroll was already back by then. WEISENBERGER: That's right. That's right, he was back. But the agenda on there was, wasn't it repealing the tax on- SUCHANEK: Right. WEISENBERGER: the sales tax on- SUCHANEK: It was some kind of tax cut. WEISENBERGER: sales, tax cut, right, sales tax on utilities- SUCHANEK: On utilities. WEISENBERGER: I believe, utilities. Big deal. And, naturally, it's really, it really was a bad move. I voted for it. Of course I did. You going to vote against a tax decrease? Bad move, though. It crippled the state. Helped, it's one of the things that helped cripple the state for the next decade. You know, the-and then they came back this last time and really had to, really had to do a number. But it was obviously something that was, had great popular support, and you'd be a fool to vote against it, you know, say, "I'm not for a tax, decrease in taxes." SUCHANEK: Well, do you think Governor Carroll saw the takeover of the Senate by the "Black Sheep?" Did he see that coming? WEISENBERGER: No. No. No, I don't think he did. SUCHANEK: Because by adjourning into, the "Black Sheep," coupled with the votes of the Republicans, if you recall, were able to adjourn into a Committee of the Whole. WEISENBERGER: Right. SUCHANEK: And bypassing Carroll's dominated Appropriations Committee. WEISENBERGER: That's right, I remember it now. But I don't think he saw it coming. I think it was just a sudden thing. And it was a, I just don't think he saw it coming, and I don't think he was prepared for it. And I think he was stunned by it, but I don't think he thought it was any big deal, because, of course, he was a lame duck by then. But had he been somehow able to run again, by the next regular session, he'd have been right back in this driver's seat. It wasn't, I mean he would have certainly fought for it. But, see, that gave the momentum that carried over into the Brown administration. And when he didn't even put up any resistance, why, then it was "Katie, bar the door" at that point. SUCHANEK: Well, do you see that maneuver by the "Black Sheep," in taking control of the Senate, as a significant event in the history of the legislature? WEISENBERGER: No, because it would have happened in 1980, regardless. I mean if Carroll had been successful in beating back the effort, so what? I mean that's Carroll. But now when Brown came in I mean I don't think Brown had any, he wasn't, he didn't back off and say, "I can't beat these guys." He was just a laid-back kind of a guy. Said, you know, "Let them have their way. Who cares?" You know, "As long as I'm governor, I'm not going to worry about these people. Why shouldn't they have a little power?" You know, he was just kind of a different- SUCHANEK: Okay. WEISENBERGER: Because he was an outsider, he was a corporate man. And he liked delegating responsibility to start with, so he wasn't, he didn't want to have it all in his, pulling on a string, he didn't mind sharing the power. I think later on he regretted it maybe, turned too much of it loose. But you know, I think, generally speaking, he was, he didn't even resent it later on. SUCHANEK: Okay. Now this session took almost a circus-like, took on almost a circus-like atmosphere, in that for the first time in recent memory, at least, if not in the history of the commonwealth, that a sitting governor testified in front of the Senate regarding the state's budget, his budget. And correct me if I'm wrong here, but I think one of the revelations that came out of this session was that the Capital Construction Fund was essentially a slush fund for a sitting governor. And again, if I'm correct, it was revealed that even though the legislature would approve funding for certain construction projects, the governor could more or else build what he wanted to anyway. WEISENBERGER: Sure, but I don't- SUCHANEK: Which- WEISENBERGER: think that was any really big secret. It just became public at that, I mean it got public focus. I mean I think people on appropriation and revenue knew it. You know, everybody knew that stuff like that, and it wasn't illegal, it just was a tremendous advantage for the governor, gave him a little slush fund where he could throw out bouquets to whomever he pleased, you know. And that's, you know, maybe not in the best interests of the people, but it was something that had gone on for a long time, and probably is still going on. SUCHANEK: Um-hm. Well, in response to this, you co-sponsored Senate Bill 44, which required, I guess, more detailed accounting of how funds in the Capital Construction Fund and Equipment Financing were spent. So you don't think this bill really diminished the governor's power any by taking away his ability to- WEISENBERGER: Yeah. I think it took away some of his ability, yes. And I think it was the right thing to do, but I don't think that, I don't think it stopped it. Obviously, in the Wilkinson administration you're seeing similar types of things now, maybe not directly like a slush fund but, you know, as long as there's a will, there's a way. And you're dealing with a budget in the billions of dollars, there's going to be some waste in government, and it's hard to, it's just hard to stop it. SUCHANEK: How did the "Black Sheep" feel about themselves after that special session? Did you feel like you had accomplished something significant? WEISENBERGER: Yes, we did. We felt like we had made progress, and we were looking forward to the next session. And we had no way of predicting what the next governor would do in the way of resistance, and we were really surprised when we met no resistance at all. It's like showing up for a battle and only one side shows up. SUCHANEK: Um-hm. I know you have to go soon, so I'm going to-now, in the `80 regular session, John Berry was elected majority floor leader. With a "Black Sheep" member in control, was the Senate run any differently than it had been under, say, Tom Garrett? WEISENBERGER: Yes. Much fairer, in that the bills flowed better and the, you know, there was less committees were holding bills hostage. It always seemed unfair to me, if I had a really good bill in a committee, Senate or House, they would try to get me, you know, in the early on, earlier days, they would get me to vote for a bad bill, with the understanding that my good bill would get out of committee. Well, that's ridiculous. I mean why should I have to vote for a bad bill to get my bill out of committee? That's not in the best interests of the people. That may be naive politics, but that didn't seem right to us. And that still was going on, to some extent, but it got a lot better, much better. The 1980 session was altogether different than previous sessions had been, much more free flow of bills and ideas and legitimate disputes. And the "Black Sheep" didn't always vote together, you know. And it was the way it should be, a lot more, instead of a locked-in vote. SUCHANEK: In the last couple of minutes we have, how would you like to be remembered as a legislator? WEISENBERGER: Well, I think as one who voted my convictions and who would not, under pressure, vote for a bad bill. And like I told you, I voted for collective bargaining several times, but other than that, I believe I can defend any vote I ever made. And there were times, and I also felt like, toward the end, I was getting the experience and the know-how, and hopefully the respect of my colleagues where, like in the banking committee, I was just a member of that committee. No, I was vice-chairman, I believe, the last session. And the chairman was not there much, and he was having problems, and I basically took over that committee. And I did some things that I felt were good, and were-I was able to get a little muscle, finally. And it felt good to feel like you could do something good. Before, you had good intentions, but no power, no way to get anything done. Later on, it, I felt like I was making some progress. And I made a difference a few times, especially in the committee. If a bill gets voted out of committee by one vote or gets not voted out or gets killed by one vote, if it's a bad bill, that makes a difference, you know. You can feel like you, and sometimes you feel like your personal weight made a difference. If you talked to one of your colleagues and said, "Joe," or "Bill, this is, I know you planned to vote for this bill, but think about it. It's really not a good bill and here's why." And if he, you switch his vote, and he says, "I believe you're right." That kind of camaraderie and cooperation is what the system should be. And several times, especially in the 1980 session, I had reached a point where I had a little bit more expertise, and maybe a little bit more influence with my colleagues, and had built some reputation, I hope, where they would listen to me and I could make a difference. It's a good feeling. [End of Tape #1, Side #2] [Begin Tape #2, Side #1] SUCHANEK: Okay, this is the second tape with the Richard Weisenberger interview. Okay, the last question I have is: why did you decide not to seek reelection, I guess? WEISENBERGER: Three good reasons. Number one, it's unfortunate that the distance between Frankfort and Mayfield is 260 miles, a dreadful drive, 520 miles roundtrip. With modern legislators, if you're going to do your job, you really have to go twice a week, year-round, at least once a week. And really, you can't hardly make it in one day, because the meetings start at eight o'clock our time, nine o'clock their time. We're-and you really can't drive it in one day, because eight o'clock, you have to get up at, like, 3:30 or something. It's ridiculous. SUCHANEK: I know (laughs). I just made the trip. WEISENBERGER: So what I wound up doing, trying to keep up with the private practice of law, would be to leave the, and I didn't want to get there at midnight, so what I'd really wind up doing is leaving at about one or two o'clock in the afternoon, taking a half-day off, and then meeting the next morning, getting back here late that afternoon, a day and a half, and then maybe turn around and do it again later in the week. I felt like that there was a danger that I was doing both jobs poorly, or not as well as I could. Ideally, you should be (laughs) independently wealthy to serve in legislature, or retired. It's a wonderful opportunity for somebody like Dick Castleman or someone who is in a business that can run itself while you're gone. Secondly, I had a young child, who is now a senior in high school, so he would have been just starting-one session, he switched schools in Frankfort and, you know, went to the Frankfort school, but that's not really good for a family. We used to live in an apartment for three months. I didn't want to be away from my family for that long. That was a consideration. And I wanted a, I felt like that the opportunity to run for commonwealth attorney, it's a stay-home job, it's a very satisfying job, which I've had ever since then. I had a big trial this week. It's a, it pays pretty well, you're not really in politics, you don't have to kiss the babies and slap the backs. It's not, even though they vote on it, it's not quite a political job, you don't have to go to all the meetings and glad-hand everybody, that kind of stuff. You really don't. And you get elected every six years, and if you do your job, prosecute the way you're supposed to, you'll get reelected. And it's, I've never regretted it, even though I enjoyed my time there. SUCHANEK: Um-hm. Did you feel as though the "Black Sheep" and that philosophy would survive beyond you? WEISENBERGER: Oh, absolutely. I mean it was a movement that was, couldn't be stopped at that point, and it hasn't been. Now we see the, I'd say the legislature is by far the strongest branch of government now, and it's, although the power has become centered in a few in the House and Senate, at least they're more accessible to the other legislators. And like I say, the governor is always kind of remote, and you feel helpless if you're a rank-and-file. What can you do? Who do you talk to? And, you know, you can get on Don Blandford or some of the others in leadership, in the Senate, you know, Joe Pra--, I mean, Joe Wright, some of them. You go, "Joe, what's the problem here?" Talk it out. And it's a little bit-so that's, I think it's better to that extent. SUCHANEK: There's been talk for many sessions about annual sessions for legislators. Do you think that's a good idea? WEISENBERGER: I have mixed feelings about it. I think probably, I don't know that more laws make better laws. I don't, like I say, we've got too many laws probably, but I don't really see anything wrong with it as long as they don't, you know, pass unnecessary legislation, which, they do that anyway sometimes, just meeting every two years. I don't really have a problem with it, no. SUCHANEK: And then in the olden days, it seemed like legislators would serve one or two terms, and then they would retire from the legislature and somebody would take their place. But now people are staying on for multiple terms, and people are starting to view the legislature as a career. Do you think the legislature as a career is a good idea? For example, even at the Congressional level- WEISENBERGER: No. SUCHANEK: it seems that unless someone either dies or retires, you can't get rid of them. WEISENBERGER: No, I don't. No, I don't overall. I really don't. I don't think it's a, I don't think it's good for the country. I think it's what we're seeing now, and especially in Washington. I would favor a limited term to ten years or twelve. SUCHANEK: Like Oklahoma has? WEISENBERGER: Yes, sir. I just, it just seems like that with PAC money and the way the whole system is evolving now, with the special interest money, you're not going to get out entrenched incumbents. You, last time(??)-everybody was very much disappointed in what was going on in Washington this month, last month, when they voted, or this month, it's still November. Yet, what was it, 2 percent of them were turned out? You know, it's just unbelievable. And you just can't beat all that PAC money, and entrenched incumbents are just not, they're not doing their job, but people, I think, are getting frustrated and saying, "We don't know what to do," so they just reelect the incumbent. And, yeah, I'd be for a limited term, I think that, and, of course, you have a problem there. You, some of the real statesmen go, too, in that system. But I think, on balance that, it would be a good idea to have a complete turnover every twelve years or so, ten or twelve years. Yeah, I wouldn't have any problem with it. SUCHANEK: Well, I'm going to let you go now, and I want to thank you for taking the time to talk to me. WEISENBERGER: Yeah, sure. Sure. Thank- [End of Interview] 1 Weisenberger (House 1976-1980, 1st district; Democrat) discusses his early childhood in Graves County (Ky.) and early work as a journalist for the Lexington Herald before beginning his political career. During this interview Weisenberger focuses on his time with the "Black Sheep Squadron" while in the House and his views on major pieces of legislation sponsored and rejected including the sales tax decrease, ERA legislation, and Kentucky's Product Liability Act. Weisenberger concludes with his reasons for not seeking reelection. Kentucky Legislature