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1991-03-28 Interview with Lon Carter Barton, March 28, 1991 Leg001:1991OH40LEG27 02:08:24 Kentucky Legislature Oral History Project Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries Legislators -- Kentucky -- Interviews. Express highways -- Design and construction -- Kentucky. Postsecondary education -- Kentucky -- Paducah. Sales tax -- Law and legislation -- Kentucky. Merit pay -- Law and legislation -- Kentucky. Kentucky. Governor (1955-1959 : Chandler) Kentucky. Governor (1959-1963 : Combs) Kentucky. Governor (1963-1967 : Breathitt) Kentucky. Governor (1983-1987 : Collins) Chandler, A.B. (Happy) Combs, Bert T. Breathitt, Edward (Ned) interim committees Legislative Research Commission (LRC) Clements, Earle egg law Wendell H. Ford Western Kentucky Parkway Julian M. Carroll Purchase Parkway Paducah Community College community colleges sales tax legislation Lowman, Harry King merit pay Collins, Martha Layne Key Legislation: egg law, Western Kentucky Parkway, Purchase parkway, Paducah Junior College, sales tax increase Term/District: House (1958-1962), 3rd district, (1964), 2nd district Counties in District: Graves County (Ky.) Lon Carter Barton; interviewee Jeffrey Suchanek; interviewer 1991OH040_LEG027_Barton 1:|10(2)|18(12)|28(11)|41(1)|45(5)|51(7)|58(2)|63(16)|83(6)|95(1)|104(3)|114(8)|120(1)|129(1)|136(3)|143(1)|148(1)|154(1)|176(6)|185(4)|191(15)|198(2)|207(2)|222(7)|227(11)|234(12)|242(15)|254(9)|263(1)|269(5)|281(9)|300(5)|314(16)|321(8)|328(6)|335(15)|341(8)|347(1)|357(15)|365(4)|378(17)|397(4)|403(16)|413(17)|437(8)|447(11)|465(11)|473(1)|480(1)|499(1)|507(13)|528(2)|533(16)|544(10)|550(5)|578(7)|585(3)|592(19)|600(6)|625(8)|642(10)|656(5)|663(19)|673(12)|684(6)|691(15)|703(13)|713(1)|728(7)|754(7)|781(2)|790(8)|804(5)|810(8)|816(5)|822(7)|829(8)|836(5)|844(11)|860(9)|870(10)|901(3)|910(12)|929(9)|953(3)|978(5)|987(9)|997(14)|1024(6)|1041(9)|1048(3)|1057(6)|1078(7)|1086(10)|1098(15)|1116(2)|1126(13)|1140(10)|1167(13)|1177(9)|1193(11)|1199(13)|1210(2)|1239(1)|1264(6)|1274(9)|1279(8)|1285(2)|1291(3)|1298(11)|1311(5)|1318(6)|1331(4)|1337(3)|1346(16)|1352(7)|1359(4)|1370(9)|1377(11)|1392(6)|1405(7)|1411(4)|1416(11)|1423(9)|1433(2)|1460(10)|1468(12)|1484(7) audiotrans Legit interview SUCHANEK: The following is an unrehearsed interview with former State Representative Lon Carter Barton, who represented Graves County in what was the 3rd District from 1958 to 1964. The interview was conducted by Jeffrey Suchanek for the University of Kentucky Library Kentucky Legislature Oral History Project on March 28, 1991, at Mr. Barton's home at 420 South 7th Street in Mayfield, Kentucky, at 1 p.m. [Pause in tape]. BARTON: as I'll ever be. SUCHANEK: Okay. Today we're talking with Mr. Lon Carter Barton. Mr. Barton, in the 1960 session, you were made chairman of the Library and Historical Records Committee and vice-chairman of the Banks and Banking Committee. Do you think your support for Combs during the election helped you win these chairmanships? BARTON: At that time, Jeff, the governor's office did have a very major role in the placement of members in committees, but we filled out a sort of a form, a preference form saying which committees we would prefer to serve on, all things being equal. And I was interested in the Library and the Historical Records Committee. I don't recall about the Banking. Are you sure that-I was on Education. SUCHANEK: Well, you were vice-chairman of Banks and Banking that year. BARTON: But the Banks and Banking, we didn't have any legislation that dealt with that that I recall now in that particular session. And if we did, that was a badly assigned position (Suchanek laughs) because I certainly didn't request it. And I think if we had had any substantive legislation, I probably would have excused myself (Suchanek laughs) because I'm not sure that I would have had a sensible vote on the committee. But the other committee I did definitely want and asked for. And I asked for and I got the Education Committee as well. I just don't recall that Banks and Banking Committee- SUCHANEK: Um-hm, okay. BARTON: offhand right now. SUCHANEK: What was your impression of Bert Combs as governor? BARTON: Well, I liked Bert Combs personally. To begin with, we started off on an affirmative, positive basis, in the sense that I felt like Combs had really conducted a good campaign. I thought that even though his opponent was a neighbor and a friend personally, Harry Lee Waterfield, from here in west Kentucky, Hickman County, I felt that Combs was a kind of a bit of fresh air in the situation in Frankfort at that time. I felt that Combs was progressive. I felt like he would be the kind of governor that I guess he turned out to be in most respects. I think that he was, being an east Kentuckian, being a mountain governor, he may have had some of the same knowledge or some of the same insight as to the deprivations that our part of Kentucky faced, because he came from a section that more or less had the same problem. In other words, the far east and the far west of the state at that time seemed to be sort of on common ground when it came to things, good things, from Frankfort being done for them, rather than being done for the Bluegrass or for the central part of the state. So I felt like that he would at least be sympathetic to the fact that the Jackson Purchase had not got its fair share, inasmuch as he was from a section that probably had not been given its fair share either from state government. So all in all, I would say on balance I was prepared to not only like the governor as an individual, but be supportive of his overall views and his overall program as a legislator. Now of course, that did not mean, I didn't intend it to mean, and I think that he understood that I didn't intend it to mean, that I would be in full agreement with every bill that his administration submitted to the General Assembly, anymore than I had for Governor Chandler in 1958. And it turned out that that's about the way it was. I did not agree with some of the, Mr. Combs' measures, and I had no reluctance in voting against them. But I never detected any sort of vindictiveness about him as a result of this, any sort of personal animosity, any kind of feeling that I would be running the risk of not getting some things for the district because I had voted opposite to his wishes in the General Assembly. I never picked this kind of feeling up. He may have had it, but it was a private feeling if he did. Certainly we parted company at the end of his administration, at the end of his four years, as good friends as we had been at the beginning, so far as I knew. So I would have to rate Combs as a reasonably solid, good governor, with the slight disclaimer that I don't mean by saying that that I went along with everything he proposed that we do. SUCHANEK: Now, you mentioned that you felt that Combs was going to be a breath of fresh air. Now, Harry Lee Waterfield had been in the legislature since the '40s, I believe- BARTON: Right. SUCHANEK: and had aligned himself with the Chandler faction- BARTON: Right. SUCHANEK: of the Democratic Party. And he being from the western part of Kentucky, it seems it would, you know, one would assume that you would have more affinity with him. BARTON: This was a pretty difficult matter, and I didn't campaign actively in favor of Judge Combs, as he was called then. SUCHANEK: You did appear at a rally, though, of his. BARTON: Yeah, I did. I went to a rally and possibly more than one rally, but I didn't, I didn't criticize Harry Lee in the sense that I felt like Harry Lee would not be a good governor because, really, I think Harry Lee would have done a good job. I had great respect for Mr. Waterfield. As you said, he'd been in the legislature, he'd been lieutenant governor, he knew his way around Frankfort, he was fully capable. I suppose that the major issue was the fact that he had been more or less handpicked or selected by an administration that I had some reasonably healthy doubts about. And consequently, that had something to do with it. Although I had-you see, as a representative candidate or as the candidate for senator or for any other office, you don't want to take sides in a governor's race in a primary. It's unwise to do that. Now, Senator Barkley did this, I think, in this 1955 race. SUCHANEK: Um-hm. BARTON: And he sided with Combs then against- SUCHANEK: Chandler. BARTON: against Chandler. But that's usually not, that's usually a political no-no. Because after all, this is an intra-party affair and you're trying to get votes from the same party that the two governor candidates are trying to get votes from. And it's not very wise to alienate one group of Democrats in order to support a different, an opposing group of Democrats in that situation. So I didn't, in 1955 now and back to the first race that Combs and Chandler made, I didn't actively support or oppose either candidate. I tried to steer a totally neutral course, because at that time I had no reason to be on one side or on the other side. This was my first race and I was simply trying to do all I could to get my votes and let the governor's race take care of itself. But apparently, the general picture that finally did emerge at the, in that election, was that if there was a slate for Combs, I was part of that slate. I didn't encourage this. I didn't have anything, really, to do with forming the slate. I, as I said, I didn't want a slate. But I suppose that that feeling got fairly strongly circulated. At any rate, I got defeated, and it was in part, maybe, due to the fact that people here who voted for Governor Chandler voted against me because they thought I was on the other side. SUCHANEK: Um-hm. BARTON: I had other reasons, I think. Personally, I think, my opponent, a very fine gentleman, in that race was from one town in the county, and he had been identified with two other major county communities. And so he had a far greater advantage in the county precincts when it came to the election than I did. On the other hand I had been in Mayfield all my life and had been in school work in Mayfield, and I was therefore better known in the city than Mr. Reid was. And so it wor--, it broke out just about like that. He got the county vote, I got the city vote. There were more voters in the county than there were in the city. I think it was largely this sort of a, I guess you'd call it a demographic breakdown that explained that election. But at the same time, this slate idea very likely did circulate, and that's something that a candidate, really himself or herself, hasn't got much control over. This is something your friends, your, maybe your enemies, politically I'm talking about, do sometimes almost without your knowledge or without your consent or without your being involved one way or the other. But all of that simply to say that my identity seems to have been given to the Combs side of the party, rather than to the Chandler side, and none of it really reflected any personal negativity towards Mr. Waterfield, which is back to your question. I really feel like that the state would have done well with Harry Lee as governor. And so it was more a kind of a holdover from 1955, and it was kind of a reminiscing of personal experiences in the session of 1958 that, I guess, made me tilt toward Mr. Combs in `60. I really hadn't analyzed it to that degree before, so this is all sort of a top-of-my-head explanation. But I would want to make clear that it was not an anti-Waterfield motivation, that there was something more involved in it than just that one single thing because, as you point out very correctly, Harry Lee was familiar with west Kentucky, the Jackson Purchase. I remember one thing he said one time that seemed to say it all in some ways. I recall that he said that the Jackson Purchase had-now, how did he put this? That the Jackson Purchase had received so little from Frankfort in the way of various governmental blessings, that equal treatment looked like preferential favoritism. So (laughs) I think that in the context of the time when he said that, which was back when he was, I guess, maybe running in 1960, I suppose that he, let's see, now wait a minute- SUCHANEK: That would have been `59. BARTON: 1959. SUCHANEK: Um-hm. BARTON: Pardon me, 1959. That at that time, it really did appear this way. I'm not sure that I'd say that today. I'm not sure it's true today. But I think in 1960, perhaps, it had a good bit of truth to it. SUCHANEK: Well, Combs initiated the construction of the Mountain Parkway- BARTON: Right. SUCHANEK: and other highways in the state. He also took care of the Eastern Kentucky Regional Hospitals during a special session that he called for that purpose. Being an eastern Kentuckian, do you think he was partial to helping that part of the state and neglecting western Kentucky? BARTON: Well, of course, he also started the West Kentucky Parkway, and that did a lot for us down here. SUCHANEK: That connected you to the outside of the world, didn't it? BARTON: That's right. It connected us with the rest of the state. I would imagine, and this is sheer imagination, maybe speculation better word, that he did probably do more for eastern Kentucky or the mountain area than he did anyplace else, which I suppose is a natural tendency for a governor who is from a given locality to do more for that particular place. And it, as I said a while ago, it may have been that, and I'm not personally acquainted with this so much because my traveling in east Kentucky has been very, very limited, but it very likely was true that eastern Kentucky stood in need of government benefits in the way of roads and parks and bridges and other things that could be provided, to an even greater extent than western Kentucky did. From what I've read and from what I've seen in various places and from discussions with people that were familiar with eastern Kentucky, I've gotten the impression that, if anything, they really were in greater need in the mountains than we were down here. But, and so therefore, I wouldn't argue the point at all, that Governor Combs didn't give them some real special attention. As I say, however, he also did a good deal down in this part of the state, too, for highway construction and for general improvements. I don't recall whether it was in his administration that it finally was consummated, but the beginnings at least of the changeover of Paducah Junior College, for example, to a community college came in that general timeframe. I believe it was in Combs' administration that the community college system was pretty well started and- SUCHANEK: And Breathitt carried it through. BARTON: some of the beginning foundations laid during the 1960s, during the earlier 1960s and, of course, the development of the park system in west Kentucky was a part of the legacy, I think, of the Combs administration that worked along with the TVA in the development of Kentucky Dam, Kentucky Park, Kentucky Lake, Kenlake Park, and so on. So I think that in gauging and measuring the contributions that that administration gave to east and to west Kentucky, I'm reasonably sure that more went in his section, but a fair amount came down here, more than we had gotten in some earlier administrations down here. SUCHANEK: Now, the most important issue that came up during the Combs administration, of course, was House Bill 75, which was a three-cent sales tax. The sales tax passed in the house 84 to 9, and you voted for it. BARTON: Right. SUCHANEK: We were talking earlier this evening about the reaction of your constituents to your voting for the sales tax. I was wondering if you could state for us on tape what that was. BARTON: Jeff, I got I don't know how many letters that requested me to vote for the sales tax. Now, in all honesty and in all fairness, I need to say that a lot of these letters came from schools, school teachers, classes, students, people who saw in the sales tax, if it were passed, the hope for improvement in education. And, of course, that meant improvement in teachers' salaries, higher salaries for teachers, but it also meant more equipment for schools, it meant a higher level of funding on the state level for schools, it meant, as we saw it in 1960, it meant the overall enhancement and improvement of the entire educational structure from the kindergarten or the first grade, elementary level, right on up through the college level and the university level. And I don't, as I said, I don't recall how many letters, but I mentioned to you this afternoon that I have yet a burlap bag, what we used to call a tow-sack, that I kept a lot of those letters in. And I still have those, I saw them today, hanging up in the attic (laughs), where I haven't looked at them for twenty-five or thirty years, but I did read them when I got them. I was unable to answer them all individually because I couldn't have done much else. Back then we didn't have secretarial help (Suchanek laugh), and I'm not sure they have yet, but I'm quite sure we didn't. And so I do recall, though, very, very distinctly that measured by the correspondence I got, which is not always the only way to go and it sometimes, I think, is not always the best way to go, but in this event, when we were going to have a sales tax, I mean that was part of the amendment to the bonus bill that would be affected by the vote of the people. And when that thing went through and was popularly approved, then it was just a matter of deciding on the structure of the sales tax, the mechanics of the sales tax, what kind of tax it was going to be and how it was going to be used. And there were a lot of things to consider, but I don't recall getting very many requests not to vote for the sales tax. And I don't remember offhand, I wish I could remember because it would be an interesting point to mention here at this juncture, I don't remember offhand the argument that was used by those fellows, those representatives-how many were there, six? SUCHANEK: Nine. BARTON: Nine. I don't remember the argument offhand that was used by those nine representatives in explaining their vote against it, if they bothered to do that, unless it would have been the same argument that you've heard against it, I'm sure a lot of times, that the sales tax is the most regressive tax there is because it puts a greater burden on the people that are least able to pay it. SUCHANEK: Able to afford it, right. BARTON: Of course, on the other hand the most frequently quoted affirmative side of the question, I guess you'd call it, I guess, is that everybody will pay something on a sales tax levy because everybody is going to be taxed a little bit when they buy things that are taxed. We, of course, did not put the tax on certain necessities, on medicine, medical drugs and food and clothing, but when you go beyond that, the general feeling, I think, was in the legislature that a tax that is broad-based enough to pick everybody up, people who pay hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of dollars in income taxes or thousands of dollars possibly, as well as people who, due to no fault of their own perhaps, are not taxed for property and are not taxed for income, everybody has just a little stake in their state government when they pay a small amount of sales tax. And, of course, this was a 3 percent levy. It was not increased to a nickel, I believe, until Governor Nunn's administration. But I think that the sales tax was a very fair, equitable tax. I'm glad that there were certain things that were removed from being taxed. SUCHANEK: That was later on though, right? BARTON: Yeah, that was later on. SUCHANEK: Right, like medicine and- BARTON: That, I should have mentioned it. That was a later change in the thing. And I think this too, while we're on the subject of sales tax, that it is never a bad idea for the General Assembly, which is an elected body, to have some degree of oversight concerning administrative regulations that are set down or established by administrative agencies in the executive department. This was one of my big causes the whole time I was in the legislature all year, all eight years, and it never did really get out of committee. SUCHANEK: No, they fought you tooth and nail on that. BARTON: Until fairly recently. And now we, now my idea of the 1950s and '60s has at least partly been realized in these interim committees and- SUCHANEK: Right. Well, that was their argument that they used against that, the fact that you only met for two- BARTON: Right. SUCHANEK: sixty days every two years, you couldn't possibly- BARTON: Right. SUCHANEK: have the expertise to oversee- BARTON: Right. SUCHANEK: the administrative agencies. BARTON: That is quite true. And the only way to, for the legislative body to have any kind of oversight at all is to do it just like they're doing it now. SUCHANEK: With the interim committee system? BARTON: Is to-in 1962 I introduced a bill that was co-sponsored by three fellows, all of whom now I know are passed on, one just last week. Noah Geveden in Wickliffe died last week. He and Mitch Denham from Maysville, and I don't recall the fourth one just off the top of my head, we introduced, co-sponsored, a bill to set up what was called a watchdog committee, that would have full power to meet monthly and to investigate and to survey every agency in state government that received state funds, and to make reports to the General Assembly every other year and if necessary to use subpoena power to command the records and the witnesses and anything else we had to have. You see, one of the functions, really, of a true legislative body is investigative, when we feel that it needs to be done. Now, not to be on a witch hunt, not to go out just to wave a lot of red flags and bring in a lot of people and have a lot of witnesses and make a lot of headlines. I mean this was not, at least, my thinking. But the purpose, the only purpose really, of an investigative committee of the legislature is to determine the need for legislation, and to have those necessary pieces of legislation drafted if it turns out that they're needed. This was a, this was my prime cause in 1962, which was also in Governor Combs' administration. And we drafted a ten-section or maybe twelve-section bill. I don't remember the number of it now. I should because it was a, it was really what we were all working for. At any rate, we got it out of committee, we got it to the floor. It was passed by an 82 to-well, it had, there couldn't have been many votes against it. I think maybe there were seven or eight. And I think those seven or eight, or ever how many there were, I think they were conscientiously opposed to the idea on the basis that the legislature was trying for a power grab. Now, I wonder how those same fellows feel after having seen the development of an independence in the legislature in the last two or three, under the last two or three governors. But at any rate, be that as it may, I could see their point. If it were abused, if this whole thing were misused, it would probably be a step backward. But when the appointed executive branch officials, that is, the commissions, the bureaus, the agencies, the administrators, the specialists, all these folks, when they're perfectly free for a two-year period, practically, to write the rules under which a particular legislation will be enforced and applied and carried out, with no oversight by the very people who passed the laws to begin with that permitted the situation, we felt like that this simply overbalanced the scales of justice to the point that the legislative amounted to so little compared to the executive. And although, as far as I know, all four of the people, certainly I and the other three, I'm sure, were sympathetic to the administration then in power, we all felt very definitely that this was not a matter of personality at all. And it was not a matter of favoritism for any one governor or dislike for any one governor. It was a little larger principle in that to us; that the legislative branch ought to reclaim as much of a balanced power as it could under the constitution, and this seemed to be one way that it could do it. What I started to say, what started me off on this spiel about the watchdog committee was that the tax people had to work up the rules under which the sales tax would be- SUCHANEK: Implemented? BARTON: brought about, brought, carried out, enforced. And I'm sure they did a commendable job. I mean I don't know of any great complaints that arose over rules and regulations that they made, but on a general principle, on a philosophical basis, it was more philosophical with me than it was political, I just felt that any law that is going to be turned over to a group of appointed specialists and experts to enforce should have some degree of oversight by the people that made the law and who are responsible in turn to the folks who elected them for that purpose. So I waved this flag in every session that I happened to be in, whether it was with a governor that I had any particular alliances with or whether it was a governor that I didn't have any particular alliances with. And I didn't like much the idea of making alliances with governors. I mean I, that seemed to me to kind of dilute your opportunity to be independent. And by that I mean making commitments, saying you do this, you let me get this bill through and I'll vote for anything you say vote for. This just never did appeal to me. Horse-trading is the art of compromise, and I know that it's necessary in a legislature of 138 individualists, but I just never did get around to accepting that view of representation. Maybe I should have, but I just never did. And so that pretty well takes care of the sales tax- SUCHANEK: Well- BARTON: unless you have a follow-up question there. SUCHANEK: well, was your vote for the sales tax a contributing reason why Walter Apperson ran against you in the `61 primary? BARTON: No, I don't think so. I don't think it was at all. Walter was interested- what am I doing here? SUCHANEK: You're fine. BARTON: I don't want to get unwired (laughs). SUCHANEK: You're okay. BARTON: Walter, who by the way was one of my really good former students at Mayfield High School- SUCHANEK: Oh, is that right? BARTON: Yeah. I had taught Walter in American history, and his family and my family had been friends a long time, so there was, in the first place, there was not ever the slightest trace of unfriendly campaigning. Walter though, as I understand it, as I recall it rather, had simply entertained a desire from back, I don't know just how long, maybe back to the time I taught him in American history, I don't know, to be in some area of politics and government. And he felt like I'm sure a lot of people feel today like, and maybe a lot of people felt then, luckily not quite as many felt this way (Suchanek laughs), that two terms was enough. You know, you serve two terms and out. And I'd been, I'd been lucky enough to get the job without any opponent in 1960, and so I suppose that, you know, that the general feeling among Walter's folks and the people who later were his voters, that anybody was entitled to two terms and three races, and they ought to be satisfied with that (Suchanek laughs), that I didn't have a mortgage on the job. And I can understand that, too. Anyway, he explained to me that there was no reason to feel as though he was being- SUCHANEK: Personally attack- BARTON: critical of my voting or my views or anything of the kind. But he did make one point continuously and repeatedly and almost successfully, and that was, we had had enough legislation like the egg law. The sales tax was, I don't think the sales tax ever even surfaced as an issue, but the egg law surfaced almost every day because I remember Walter ran little ads in the paper in a sort of a want-ad format, classified ad. I think I remember it by heart, "Have we-do you want more legislation like the egg law (Suchanek laughs)?" "If not, vote for A over B." That was pretty clever. SUCHANEK: Uh-huh. BARTON: And, Jeff, I think I mentioned this in one of our interviews earlier. SUCHANEK: About the egg law (laughs)? BARTON: If I had one vote to do over, I wish I had one vote, if I just had one vote, it would be that one. When I voted in all innocence for the egg law, that was a bad vote. That was, I think, the worst vote I probably cast. SUCHANEK: You and a lot of other people (laughs). BARTON: That's true. And a lot of others were not as fortunate as I was- SUCHANEK: Because I think it- BARTON: in the long run, because that took- SUCHANEK: didn't have much opposition- BARTON: that took several of them out of the House. SUCHANEK: Right. BARTON: Well, without going into the egg law in detail, the thing boiled down to the fact that people who had sold eggs off of farms to grocery stores in the country, on the crossroads, by the crate or ever, however they sold them, by the pail or by the bucket, were, under this law, violators (Suchanek laughs). They couldn't do that any longer because they had not properly graded, they had not properly candled, they had not properly packed, they had not properly marketed those eggs. Well, you know, you go to these country stores scattered around in various parts of the county as a kind of a gathering place to find voters. Your homes, your houses out in the rural areas are usually just a little bit far apart to try to stop at every one, so you go where you think the people are and that's usually to the crossroads store, the rural stores. And they were the very people that were hit the hardest by the egg law. SUCHANEK: Um-hm. Let me switch this tape over. BARTON: Yeah. [End of Tape #1, Side #1] [Begin Tape #1, Side #2] SUCHANEK: Okay, go ahead. BARTON: I'm kind of reminded that the egg law hit the very people hardest that I had to make my most direct appeal to, which were the merchants and the grocery. It was kind of like, I'll give you an analogy of that. When the British Parliament enacted the Stamp Act, the stamps had to be affixed to the newspapers, to legal documents, and to printed sermons in the colonies. That hit the very group who had the greatest vocal and printed influence to stir people up against it: the preachers, the newspaper editors, and the people that dealt with the law, and the lawyers, and the courthouse folks. Well, the egg law hit the people that, the hardest, that I had to depend on the most. And every store I entered, bar none, that campaign season, the first question, "How did you vote on the egg law?" And I said, "I voted for it. I thought I was doing the right thing, and I think it still could have some good effect, but it will certainly not be what the egg law today is if I go back and have a chance to amend it." So I lucked out. And I guess maybe voters realized that nobody, at least I hope they realized and still do, that nobody they elect to any office is going to be 100 percent right on every vote. There are going to be some errors of judgment, and there going to be some errors of honest opinion. And consequently I said, "I can't promise you that I'm going back and never make another mistake. I'll probably make several, but one of them will not be on the egg law" (both laugh). I said, "We will not finish our first day's session- SUCHANEK: Without (laughs; unintelligible)- BARTON: till I have a bill in the hopper to either repeal it outright, or else to amend it to make it work like I thought that it was supposed to work in the beginning. And that sort of a response, I guess, sort of helped me out a little, but- SUCHANEK: Well, you beat- BARTON: I couldn't get ahead of Walter's advertising. I mean I couldn't put this in the paper every day, and I don't believe he missed a day (Suchanek laughs) putting in there about the egg law. SUCHANEK: Well, you apparently convinced a lot of people because you defeated him by 1,200 votes. BARTON: I got a good vote. I was appreciative of the fact that, as I said, that most people didn't feel that one single issue, regardless of what it was, would be sufficient grounds to kick me out, but Walter ran a good race. He ran a good, clean race. We came out of that race, I expect, better friends than we were personally when we went into it, because other than our relationship as a student and a teacher, I'd never known Walter as well as I knew his family. His older brother was a close friend of mine and still is, and his mother is one of my best friends in town today. And I knew them all a little better than I did Walter, because Walter went to Western after he graduated from high school. He graduated in `51 and went to Western then on scholarship, football scholarship, and was there for four years. And that took him down to 1955, and then he was in the service for a while, about the same time I was, I guess, a little later, and our paths just didn't cross as often. But he, as I said, he remains a good friend, although we had a very interesting race. And I spent a lot of time trying to beat down that fire about the egg law. SUCHANEK: Yeah (Barton laughs). Now, another important piece of legislation that passed during the Combs administration was the merit system for state employees. BARTON: Yes. SUCHANEK: The merit system was created to protect state employees from political intimidation- BARTON: Right. SUCHANEK: by sitting governors or as a patronage tool by newly-elected governors. In your opinion, does the merit system really work as well as it was intended in light of recent newspaper revelations that many state employees are being hired on personal service contracts or federal contracts and are thus not protected by the merit system? BARTON: I'm not sure that the merit system as we passed it was intended to be the last word in a merit system, in a competitive test system. But I'm, in answer to your question, I'm really somewhat afraid that it isn't. I think the rationale behind the merit system, as compared to the old-fashioned spoils system, was altogether right, although I know some people here at the time were opposed to the merit system. They had not apparently seen some of the abuses of it happen. I remember one fellow telling me that they had a little trouble firing off one of their early rockets in Cape Canaveral, and he said, "You know," he said, "they ought to name that blankety-blank rocket down there they're trying to shoot Civil Service." And I said, "Why?" He said, "They can't fire it and they can't make it work" (both laugh). I got the point. What he was telling me was that if you put somebody in a merit system position and they feel like they've got it made, they feel like they're above any dismissal for cause, I mean for, not for cause- SUCHANEK: Right. BARTON: any dismissal at the pleasure of the hiring authority, and if they don't, therefore, put out the effort. And then on the other hand, as a result of that, you'd like to see them fired and can't fire them, then it's, creates a problem. And that's the other side of the coin. But I think on balance that the original merit system that we passed, which I supported, I think on balance it was a favorable move. I think it was something that should have been done, because in the first place, the very idea of a merit system infers, at least, merit as far as competence and capability. Your workers achieve a level of professional ability that a person may or may not have who is just picked up from the ranks of folks that voted right or contributed right or did something else right for the governor who happens to be in power. SUCHANEK: Now, Chandler was, Chandler's administration was famous for that, weren't they? BARTON: I really don't know. Well, they didn't have the merit system under Chandler. SUCHANEK: Right. BARTON: Now, whether he put people in that were inefficient, or incompetent, I really don't recall, Jeff. He could have. SUCHANEK: Well, I recall that he took credit for firing 10,000, quote, unquote, "unneeded state employees" unquote, when he took office in `50- BARTON: Oh, yeah. Yeah, now that's right. I- SUCHANEK: and then replaced them under different titles with people of his own choosing. BARTON: Right. Oh, I'm sure that, I'm sure, I think it was just before Christmas, in fact (laughs). I think it was sort of an early Christmas present- SUCHANEK: Right. I think you're right. BARTON: that a good many got fired. I had forgotten the number. And I don't know, I started to say, the fact that a person is hired outside the merit system doesn't have to mean that they're unqualified or that they're incapable, because they're-I have known some personal examples of people who were hired for positions that were never covered by the merit system who are number one employees of the state. So I'm not saying that the merit system is essential, but I am saying that where you do have tests and where you do establish objective standards and require candidates for the job to meet those standards, I'm quite sure that the level of professionalism has to be higher than when that process isn't followed through. I, as I said, I don't know that the merit system that we passed was intended to answer all the questions. I rather think that it was supposed to be a first step, and that subsequent legislatures and future legislatures would see places that it needed to be strengthened and maybe needed to be changed, and they could at least have something there to work from, a statute on the books that would give them a sort of a starting point. Now, whether that's been done, I honestly couldn't tell you, I really couldn't. I'm sorry to say that I just haven't kept up with affairs quite that closely, but if it's like you say, that people are coming in the back door, so to speak, I would have to say that the intent of the merit system is not what we had intended for it to be, if people that are doing, if people that are receiving employment in that way are not competent. If they're competent, if they're qualified, if they do the job, give a full day's work for a full day's pay and really know what's going on, that would be perfectly, as far as I'm concerned, perfectly permissible. But I'm afraid I'll just have to say I don't know exactly an answer to your question because I haven't really been that close to it lately. But I do feel that in theory that the merit system is good, the civil service system is good, the competitive testing is good, and if it's properly handled by personnel boards and personnel managers, then I would hope that it would continue on. SUCHANEK: Was this a conscious attempt, was there any consciousness about this being, the merit system, being an attack on the executive branch of government, an attempt by the legislature- BARTON: An attempt to dilute the power of the executive- SUCHANEK: Exactly. BARTON: to put people into where he wanted them or where it wanted them, the executive department. SUCHANEK: To dec--, yeah, to decrease the power of the governor? BARTON: Now, you mean at the time that it was- SUCHANEK: Right. BARTON: voted on? SUCHANEK: Did you, I mean, was there any- BARTON: Yeah, I think that there were people who really sincerely felt like that the legislature was probably overstepping its bounds. Of course, we had Congress as a precedent. In Congress back in 1886, wasn't it, or 1885, whenever they passed the Civil Service Law to do the same thing in the federal government in a way, in a much less comprehensive way then, the Hatch Act later doing the, pretty much the same, at least the same philosophical roots. So it was-and then a good many states had merit system laws before we had them. So it wasn't anything just- SUCHANEK: But not too many states had- BARTON: brand new. SUCHANEK: had the state governments set up the way- BARTON: No. SUCHANEK: where the majority of power was held by the governor. BARTON: That's true. That's true. In fact, by 1960 a good many of the states that had had constitutions like that had changed them and had almost done away with that relationship there in terms of authority. SUCHANEK: Did you have that in your mind at all? BARTON: Pardon me? SUCHANEK: Did you personally have that in your mind at all? BARTON: Well, I felt like that there-yeah, I did. I felt like that it's possible that we would have to account for the fact sometime that we had created a kind of a Frankenstein in a way that might come back to haunt us if we did so limit the executive branch in placing people in jobs. That sooner or later the number of applicants would probably dry up and good people would not even care to get involved with a situation where they would have to go through testing and go through all sorts of interviewing and all of this kind of thing. That was a, that was the, I guess you'd say the minus side, the downside. But in the final analysis, I decided that it would, that the positive, there were more positives than there were negatives in the deal, because for every case like that that I just mentioned, for every worst-case scenario, there might even be an even worse case scenario for a person who felt like he had to put money into a political campaign under pressure, that he had to do what the bosses said do or else get shipped to the other end of the state to work, or in other words, the rights of the worker, the rights of the employee in state government would be maybe jeopardized to an even greater extent if this thing were brought up and discussed and then voted down, than they had been. So I finally, I-it wasn't a major issue for me. I mean I was kind of, my tendency was in favor of the merit system from the start, but I did try to look at it from the standpoint of what it could mean if it didn't work like we hoped it would . You know, Jeff- SUCHANEK: Like the egg law (laughs)? BARTON: Yeah. I'd learned. That, to me, this was the hardest thing in being a legislator. It was even harder than going against your own convictions sometime, when you felt like that was what the people back home expected you to do. And that was, now, here I go into some more philosophy. Do you want to pick up on all this sort of- SUCHANEK: Go ahead. BARTON: philosophical business? And that was, that you had to take the downside, and you had to take the upside and have a sort of a mental scales, and put what would be likely to happen if this law were passed and went haywire, like the egg law, as against what would happen if this law were not passed, or what would happen if it were passed and everything worked like you expected it to. And then you had to sort of make a decision that you hoped and you prayed would turn out like you voted for. Sometimes that was a no-vote, sometimes it was an aye-vote, but you just couldn't walk in the chamber when they had a vote scheduled on a bill and just decide on the spur of the minute, well, I'm going to vote for this because the governor wants it voted, or I'm going to vote for this, or against this because the governor wants it beat. I just never could reconcile myself to this type of rationalizing. So this was one of the bills that I did do some pretty hard thinking about, but I think I would have surprised myself in the long run if I had gone in there and voted against it because I was reasonably set on voting for it from the start. No argument I heard on the floor changed my mind, as it very seldom ever did. By the way, I don't think many legislators ever changed their minds by floor arguments. Sometimes they might, sometimes they're so persuasive. Leonard Hislope could probably change some votes. I certainly never could. But (laughs) at any rate, I tell you somebody else that could maybe change some votes occasionally was none other than John Y. Brown, Sr. SUCHANEK: Is that right? BARTON: I remember him as extremely persuasive. He could take a bill and I believe argue either side of it. But if he really wanted to get you to thinking about voting his way, he was very influential, just his floor speeches. Not very many were. There were a few, but- SUCHANEK: Well, let's shift gears just for a minute then. Tell me your impression of Harry King Lowman as Speaker of the House. BARTON: Harry King, I thought, was very fair. I don't recall any time that anybody felt, you might say, downgraded, degraded, or in any way abused or anything of that sort by the way Harry King handled procedure and handled rules. In fact, I don't recall ever feeling real strongly that any speaker that I worked up there with or under did what some people felt like sometimes they did. I thought Mr. Weintraub, who was the `58 speaker, eminently fair, although he almost got in a battle one time over something that he said- SUCHANEK: Um-hm. About eastern Kentucky. BARTON: which he might have not said on second thought, (laughs) and I'm sure he never (laughs) repeated. SUCHANEK: He almost got punched in the nose. BARTON: He almost got into a little fracas right there in the well, but it, that didn't have anything to do with his fairness. I don't think anybody would have ever accused Weintraub of being unfair or prejudicial or anything like that, played favorites. And Harry King didn't, to my knowledge. And my fellow Jackson Purchase representative, Shelby McCallum from over here at Benton, same way. And the speaker in the fourth session, who was that? Who was in `64? Was that, that was Shelby, I believe. SUCHANEK: Right. Uh-huh. BARTON: That was Shelby. SUCHANEK: And Mitchell Denham was majority floor leader in `64. BARTON: Yeah. The sp--, let's see, Weintraub, McCallum, Lowman, maybe Lowman was twice. I was trying to figure the fourth one, and it's, unless Harry King was speaker twice, that escapes me. SUCHANEK: Yeah, I believe he was. BARTON: I believe he was, too. SUCHANEK: Right. BARTON: I think Harry King was Combs' speaker both- SUCHANEK: Exactly. BARTON: sessions. SUCHANEK: Well, in the `62 session, by reading the newspaper accounts, Richard P. Moloney, who had been majority floor leader, wanted to be Speaker of the House. Do you recall the fight over that in the pre-legislative session? BARTON: No. No, I wasn't that close to the Combs leadership. If that was the case, I imagine the bickering or the political infighting or whatever you want to call it was done strictly among the leadership. That never got out on the floor. SUCHANEK: But- BARTON: And I don't even remember reading that now in the papers, but I'm sure I did. SUCHANEK: Well, apparently this happened at that pre-legislative- BARTON: Oh, at the pre-legislative conference. SUCHANEK: session. Right. BARTON: Over here at the Dam. SUCHANEK: And I was wondering if Moloney had presented a different slate. BARTON: No, I don't recall a thing about that. SUCHANEK: Okay. BARTON: There usually is, I'm not sure there is now, but there usually was, and I expect still is, a fair amount of politicking going on among different ones who want to get a leadership position. And here again, I didn't ever circulate that close to the top to know or to have very much knowledge and practically no input about things like this, but I do know Moloney made an excellent majority leader. He understood legislation and explained it very clearly, so we understood it. SUCHANEK: Did you know him well? BARTON: I knew Dick fairly well. I got to know him, and I had quite a few personal conversations with him, probably more than I did any of the other majority leaders that I was up there with. SUCHANEK: As far as him explaining bills to you? BARTON: I couldn't always-pardon? SUCHANEK: As far as him explaining bills to you? BARTON: Yeah, he was very good. He was very good at that. He'd do this on the floor. I talked to him about different things. I couldn't always, as no other legislator, I'm sure, saw exactly eye to eye on every matter, but on-he was a reasonable sort of fellow. He understood your thinking. At least he appeared to me to understand the way I felt on things, on some things. And we had no difficulties at all. I remember one particular issue I felt fairly strongly about, and he was handling the bill for the administration. And I don't know how strongly he felt personally about it or whether he felt like that it was his obligation to be the advocate for the Combs administration, and that was this indeterminate sentencing of people, giving the parole board the authority, if they saw fit in twenty minutes after a guy was admitted to the institution, to issue a parole; I mean just no fixed time to be spent. I didn't see this for one or two reasons. I thought it gave too much power to too few people. The parole board, be they ever so filled with sociologists and experts in criminal justice, I felt like that to give them the power to virtually overrule a jury and a judge, or both, in one fell swoop with practically nothing to be held accountable for. And then I felt like that the whole idea of imprisonment was to impose a penalty for some violation that a person was found guilty about would be pretty well weakened by this. And then beyond that is my firm feeling at that time and this time right now, that we have got to be a, and I know this sounds almost obsolete, Jeff, but in a way I think it's quite true, we've got to be a nation of laws and not of men. And you've got to base your actions in government on the laws of the state, or in national government in the laws of the United States, and to just say that men individually can set aside laws at their own pleasure or they can make laws at their own pleasure, and this goes back to this whole idea of executive regulation, just never did appeal to me at all. And I thought this was a superb example of men rather than laws determining something that was right important, which was the sentencing of people who had been convicted of crimes in the prison system. And I thought that the same rule that would say they could let a guy out much too soon would also permit them to keep a guy in much too long. If somebody on the parole board had a personal grudge or a personal feeling that this guy ought not to ever get out, he'd be there for good. And that was looking at it from the other spectrum. And I talked this over with Dick at some length, because he, like I said, he was having to support the idea and did support it I'm sure on his own free will, and he was very reasonable. He said, "I understand your point. But," he said, "on the other hand, we've seen these fixed sentences not do too well either." And I said, "Well, I'm sure that's true. There might be a need for a change, but if you don't, if you don't think that I am just a complete radical, I'm going to have to be on the other side on this issue." And I was on the other side on some other things but, as I say, he always seemed to be perfectly reasonable with his discussions. Now, if the vote, if he knew, if he had counted noses, and if he knew the vote was down to maybe one or two difference, and my vote was just absolutely vital to the administration getting that bill passed, he might have used some forceful language, more than he did. But that wouldn't have really mattered to me one way or the other because that just wouldn't have affected my voting at all. I never did have to put up with any of that. I never did have anybody come up and say, "Now, you vote this way or else!" I heard of some guys that, in past legislatures, that had had that experience. I've heard of them facing up to governors and all this kind of thing. But I was lucky, I guess. I never did have to meet that particular situation. And I'm glad I didn't, really. That would have been unpleasant. SUCHANEK: Now, in 1963 Ned Breathitt, who was Bert Combs' handpicked successor, was elected governor. BARTON: Right. SUCHANEK: And Harry Lee Waterfield, Chandler's man, was elected lieutenant governor. I know this circumstance created dissension in the State Senate, and I was wondering if that dissention trickled down into the House of Representatives, if you can recall? BARTON: No, I don't recall that it did, Jeff, really. If there was any dissension, it was pretty muffled and pretty muted. I don't, here again, like I said a while ago, I don't recall anything getting out on the floor. Of course, we all knew, it was statewide knowledge, that Harry Lee and Ned were from opposite sides of the coin and that they were just a little bit antagonistic toward each other politically. I don't have any reason to think they were personally. But I was trying to think, did-was it Harry Lee that kept Ned in the state or was it Thelma Stovall that kept Julian Carroll in the state so close- you know, it's a funny thing. We've had a whole series, fairly recently, of governors and lieutenant governors that simply couldn't get along with each other. In fact, the only exception to that was when Combs and Wyatt- SUCHANEK: Um-hm. BARTON: and they ran on the same ticket. I mean they were elected- SUCHANEK: Right. BARTON: by separate ballots, but they were on the same slate. SUCHANEK: Right. BARTON: And everybody knew. And, in fact, their bumper strips carried the Combs-Wyatt message. SUCHANEK: Right. BARTON: But if you go back and look at all the rest of them, nearly, of course Nunn and Ford were naturally- SUCHANEK: Opposites. BARTON: on opposite poles because they were different parties. You'd expect this. But I think it was Harry Lee that somebody said one time kept Ned from traveling very much outside Kentucky. He was afraid to get out because Harry Lee might- SUCHANEK: Call a special session? BARTON: do what "Happy" did (Suchanek laughs) in his first administration, way back there in the '30s. SUCHANEK: Right. BARTON: As soon as Laffoon got across the Ohio River, "Happy" had the word out (laughs) to the legislature to come into Frankfort. Well, that's been a rather unusual thing now. I don't know that Martha Layne Collins had that problem with Beshear or not, but I do know that Nunn and Ford, and Harry Lee and Ned, and certainly Wilkinson and Jones, and the, let's see, who was the lieutenant governor under John Y.? I don't think they had any particular problem. I don't think John Y. really tried to dominate much. SUCHANEK: Well, Martha Layne was lieutenant governor. BARTON: Martha Layne, sure, right. Martha Layne was his lieutenant governor. I don't know of any friction that developed between those two, but, and I don't recall, in answer to your question, I don't recall anything in the House that reflected this feeling of, of opposition between Ned and Harry Lee at all. SUCHANEK: Well, during the `64 session, I guess as a concession to Waterfield, Breathitt allowed James C. Ware to be elected president pro tem of the Senate and Cap Gardner majority floor leader in the Senate. Now, both Ware and Gardner had been Chandler supporters in the past. Now, in the House, your friend Shelby McCallum, was elected speaker and Mitchell Denham was elected the majority floor leader. BARTON: Yeah. SUCHANEK: Is it fair to say that McCallum and Denham were Combs and Breathitt supporters then, as Breathitt and Waterfield attempted to reach an accommodation? BARTON: That's a good question, but I'm afraid I lost you about toward the end of it. Is it fair to say what, now? SUCHANEK: Is it fair to say that McCallum and Denham were Combs and Breathitt supporters? BARTON: Yeah, I'm sure they were. SUCHANEK: Okay. And do you think that this was an attempt by Breathitt and Waterfield to reach an accommodation? In other words- BARTON: To put two of the old Chandler people in the Senate- SUCHANEK: Right. BARTON: leadership, put two of the other folks, Shelby and Dr. Denham. Well, that's an interesting speculation, but I can't clear that, I can't say anything that would clarify that, Jeff. SUCHANEK: Okay. You have no firsthand knowledge of that, then? BARTON: No. SUCHANEK: Okay. There was-you don't remember any speculation on that? BARTON: No, I really don't. Now, if I had had some time to really reflect on that question for a day or two, I might. But I don't, offhand, I don't recall anything that would suggest that there was- SUCHANEK: An accommodation. BARTON: a formalized agreement or just a tacit arrangement. I think it makes sense that that might be the case. That very likely could be. SUCHANEK: Okay. Well, let me ask you about that- BARTON: I wouldn't doubt that at all, but I really don't know. SUCHANEK: Okay. What do you remember about your last term in the legislature? BARTON: Sixty-four. SUCHANEK: Right. What do you recall about that? BARTON: Not very much, as I recall. SUCHANEK: Well, let me ask you this, do- BARTON: Let me think. Maybe you can trigger off some thoughts. SUCHANEK: Well, we can get into the things that you sponsored. BARTON: Of course, we had the run-of-the-mill things, like education. I'm not too sure that `64 was not, it could have been `64, it could have been `62. One of the bills that I took pardonable pride in, in supporting, co-sponsoring, was the action to establish the archives. SUCHANEK: Right. BARTON: I don't recall if that was in `64 or in an earlier session, but I was very, very pleased that the committee that I was chairman of cleared that bill for passage. That was the same, it was a holdover committee from the early one that you mentioned while ago, the Historical Records Committee. That bill naturally went to that committee, and we cleared it in nothing flat, and went to the House floor and it was, of course, approved by a big vote. I remember Dr. Clark at U.K. was a prime mover in that bill. There always has to be somebody, I don't say always, but a lot of times it's good to have somebody who is- SUCHANEK: 1958 (laughs)? BARTON: not a practicing politician, to really come and testify for a certain piece of legislation, somebody that you have full faith in their credibility. And T.D. Clark was the fellow that really put that archives bill across. I don't know whether he has ever gotten full credit for it or not, but he had a- SUCHANEK: Well, he has now (laughs). BARTON: tremendous, well, he had a tremendous amount of influence, not just with me. Now, I'd been one of his old students. I'd have been inclined to have gone along with T.D. Clark, whatever his views were, because of my respect for him. SUCHANEK: Uh-huh. BARTON: But he was largely responsible. And, of course, there were other people, too. I mean there were other people that were interested in the archives, but I do look back on that as a highlight of whichever session it was. And I guess that sounds sort of contradictory because (both laugh) I don't recall the exact session. But I- SUCHANEK: It was `58. BARTON: Sixty-two and `64- SUCHANEK: Bill tells us it's 1958, the `58- BARTON: Was it `58? SUCHANEK: That's what he said. BARTON: Excellent. Okay. That's fine. I'll buy it (Suchanek laughs). Fifty-eight was the year that I did my graduate work over at U.K. under Dr. Clark. And- SUCHANEK: So he was holding a grade over you, right (laughs)? BARTON: So I was already-no, I was already through- SUCHANEK: Oh, okay. BARTON: with it, see? That was- SUCHANEK: I thought we had a scandal here (laughs). BARTON: I was, no, I was through with the-that would be a good one. I was through with the legislature, and then that fall I shipped out to U.K. But at any rate, I tell you another piece of legislation that I was interested in that did not get passed but I always thought it was a good bill. It should have been passed. Henry Ward beat it, my friend from Paducah that was the highway commissioner. I guess that was when Ned was governor. And it's had a sort of a strange origin, not a strange origin, but not the ordinary, everyday, commonplace origin. One of the bills that Girls State had argued and passed in a session, the American Legion Auxiliary's program like Boys State, this was Girls State. And one of my former students here at Mayfield had proposed it. And I thought it was good enough to put into the General Assembly, and that was to white-stripe, luminous- stripe, on the sides of the two-lane roads, two-lane highways. I'd driven to Frankfort enough times in the fog and the rain and all of that to appreciate the need for a stripe along the shoulder or the side, so I put that in as a bill. And it came back to the Committee on Highways, and they asked me to come and explain my bill, and I did. And then Henry came in, and he said, "Now, if you pass this bill, it's going to just almost bankrupt the highway department. We just can't do it. We haven't got the money and we won't have the money to do anything like this. It's a good idea. I'll buy the idea, but don't buy the bill" (both laugh). And so they didn't even report it out. And now, some, I don't know how long it was after that, several years later, through administrative regulations, going back to that, through administrative regulations they ordered that to be done. So now the two-lane highways and maybe the, I guess the four-lanes now have these stripes on the sides. And my idea went back to the Girls State proposal that was made by Jenny Ball, who represented the Mayfield group, one of them, in that meeting. So you get ideas from everywhere, I guess. But- [End of Tape #1, Side #2] [Begin Tape #2, Side #1] BARTON: Again? I thought we were through (laughs). SUCHANEK: (Laughs), almost. BARTON: Almost? SUCHANEK: Yeah. Now, in 1964 you were Chairman of Committee on County Government. BARTON: Which I don't think met but once (Suchanek laughs). I don't imagine it did. See, you know, Jeff, there are two kinds of committees. And this is no trade secret, I'm sure other legislators, maybe, have told you the same thing. There are actual committees, and then there are letterhead committees. And the actual-there are more committees than are really necessary to transact a sixty-day session business. But then there are also these letterhead committees-you don't want to have a letterhead printed, as expensive as it is, and then just have one or two committees on it. And it's just like old Judge Gus Thomas said one time. He was a circuit judge, and then he was a Court of Appeals judge in Frankfort, and he was something else. Somebody asked him one time what the value in the world was there in a Kentucky Colonel's commission, being a Kentucky Colonel. And Judge Thomas thought a minute. He said, "Well," he said, "I'll tell you. Having a Colonel's commission is just like tying a pink ribbon on a pig's tail. It don't hurt anybody, and it does make the pig feel so good" (Suchanek laughs). Now, that's the letterhead committee I'm talking about. It doesn't hurt anybody, and it does make the representative or senator feel so good to have an extra committee or two on his letterhead. But actually, , honestly, some of those committees were not ever intended to function an awful lot. And now, the County Government may have. I may have been a little facetious in saying that it didn't meet, I don't remember. It's all I can do to remember the sessions of the General Assembly, much less the committees. SUCHANEK: (Laughs), right. BARTON: But I don't recall that we had an abundance of legislation to consider. If we did, I don't, I'm like I am on that banking thing. I don't have any real clear recollection of it, so it must not have amounted to very much. SUCHANEK: But still, to be named chairman of that committee- BARTON: Yeah. SUCHANEK: and also chairman of Governmental Affairs must have, evidently means that you were held in high esteem by the administration. BARTON: Well, let's just say- SUCHANEK: They didn't give chairmanships out to just anybody. BARTON: Well, let's, well, that's true. Let's just say that I guess maybe that they felt like I'd be on the level with them, you know, that I wouldn't mislead them or anything like that. I'm quite sure that there were other people in the assembly, the General Assembly, that could have exercised those chairmanship positions fully as well and better, but I appreciate the fact that, you know, that they saw fit to place me there, but I don't- Harry King, one of his favorite expressions was, and I pretty well feel the same way, I, he said when he wanted a whole bunch of people to sign a bill that he had drawn up, he'd say, "There is no pride in authorship" (both laugh). Now, there's not very much pride in chairmanship. They had to have somebody to do it, and I don't know that high esteem is exactly the way to put it. But I guess they figured that I'd do as, the right thing as far I could see it to do. SUCHANEK: Okay. BARTON: I guess it just meant that I had some credibility. I don't know that it went beyond that. SUCHANEK: Now, during the `64 session, you sponsored House Bill 45, which increased the minimum school term to 184 days, and this passed the House 90 to nothing. Do you remember where this bill came from? BARTON: To increase the school days to 190? SUCHANEK: One hundred eighty-four days. BARTON: One hundred eighty-four? No, I really don't, Jeff. That's another interesting point that I'm cloudy on. Of course, that's been a recurring question among educators, but the state department of education would not have submitted that, I don't believe. It must have been just some individual legislator who had the idea that this would make schools better or teach kids more or give them a better chance or something. That sounds sort of like just an individual legislator's bill- SUCHANEK: Well, you sp--- BARTON: rather than any particular lobby group. SUCHANEK: you sponsored it. BARTON: Well, I don't recall why in the world I would have sponsored such a bill (Suchanek laughs). I don't recall anything about it. SUCHANEK: Okay. BARTON: Now, when was this, in `64? SUCHANEK: Right. BARTON: Well, I told you I didn't recall much of `64, but I don't, I don't- SUCHANEK: Well, that says a lot in itself (laughs). BARTON: I suppose, did it pass? SUCHANEK: Yeah. Yes, it passed 90 to nothing. BARTON: Well, I suppose that I introduced it because somebody here suggested that that would be a good bill to pass, but I think right now I'd vote against my own bill (Suchanek laughs). I'm not sure that's a good thing, as it's turned out. That's kind of like a, I don't guess this is getting confused with that, I remember I did this. Now, let me put this together. Kennedy's assassination was November, was it 22nd or something of the sort? SUCHANEK: Twenty-third. BARTON: Twenty-third in `63. Well, the school calendar had been made out in the fall of `63 for the school year of `63-`64, and the assassination resulted in the dismissal of schools for a day of mourning, which, let's see, the assassination was on Friday, wasn't it? SUCHANEK: Thursday or Friday. BARTON: Thursday or Friday. For a day of mourning the following, well, whatever day in the week the funeral was. SUCHANEK: I think it was on Monday- BARTON: Could have been. SUCHANEK: if I recall. BARTON: Could have been. So it turned out that the personnel director here that was in charge of the daily attendance, you know the state paid, and still does, on the daily attendance. So if a school was out on a given day that was not in the original calendar that was made out even the spring before, in other words, they're making out the calendar, will be in the next two or three weeks, for the `91-`92 school year. Okay, since this was not in the calendar, it would cost every school a bunch of money for that unexpected dismissal. And he suggested that I would introduce a bill that would affect the number of days in that one school year of `63 and `64 to, some way or other, to legitimize or to sanction or whatever you want to call it, the state's dismissal of schools on that day, which was done by state, you know, edict. And so I did that. I believe that's the, I believe that's the one that you have reference to. SUCHANEK: Okay. BARTON: I wouldn't have come back here and lasted thirty minutes with my life if I had introduced a bill to extend the school year by any number of days, I don't believe, because I came right back after that session to teaching. See, I was through legislating and I went back to educating. And at least I hope I was educating. So I believe that, do you remember the House number, the number of that bill? Does it- SUCHANEK: It was- BARTON: I don't remember the number either, but I think I'll check it. SUCHANEK: Forty-five, House Bill 45. BARTON: Forty-five? SUCHANEK: Um-hm. BARTON: Well, I believe that's- SUCHANEK: So it would have been fairly early in the session. BARTON: Yeah, that makes sense to me because I was the only one that sponsored that one. I don't think I had any- SUCHANEK: That's right. BARTON: co-sponsors, did I? SUCHANEK: No. BARTON: And I really intended to mention that very bill when we talked about the, when you asked me about the `64 session a while ago, I thought of that one. Then I got off on this highway-striping story, and that temporarily slipped my mind. But I'm nearly positive that that's what it was. It was to officially grant a vacation day, which is not a vacation day in the sense of, you know, enjoying a day off, but a day recognized as a day of mourning for the president's funeral, and in order to keep these schools from losing the money that they would get if the schools just closed and had no legitimate or no legislative authority to do it. SUCHANEK: Right. BARTON: Does that make sense to you? You see what I'm saying? SUCHANEK: Um-hm. BARTON: Well, I think that's it, because that other didn't make sense to me (both laugh) at all. SUCHANEK: Okay. BARTON: I was really perplexed. SUCHANEK: Okay. Now, also during that `64 session, you sponsored House Resolution 129, which interests me because as you know, my wife works at the historical society in Frankfort. BARTON: Right. SUCHANEK: And this resolution vested jurisdiction of the Old Capitol Public Square in the Kentucky Historical Society. Now, throughout your tenure in the legislature, you had shown an interest in protecting historical landmarks and historic preservation, which I, being an historian, can appreciate. Did you find that your colleagues in the legislature were appreciative of the historical treasures located in the commonwealth? Did they share your concern and did they have a sense that what they were doing in the legislature was historic in itself? BARTON: I'd better take two, I'd better answer that in two different sections here. The first part, not very many in the legislature were quite as involved in history as I was. Some were. I remember Sam McCracken, who represented Franklin and Simpson County, was very much interested in the same thing. There were one or two others that were, Dr. Denham from Maysville's historical community was, he was very much a part of the history caucus in the House. But no, I'd have to say, as a general rule, your merchants and your farmers and your folks that were preoccupied with a lot of things that were of more immediate importance to them had to have their attention called to the historical value of things, and then they were very supportive. But as far as being as gung-ho on the idea of preserving historical sites, markers, monuments, and things like this, I rather doubt that the majority of them were that involved. Now as I say, that doesn't mean that they were uninterested, because when somebody that was interested, real interested, went to see them or talk to them, I don't remember ever being turned down on anything that I requested in the way of a vote or in the way of help to further the cause of historical sites and so on. But I don't recall that very many of them ever got worked up enough about it to come see me. So it would probably be fair to say that they were-they could be turned on, but they would have to be turned on, in light of that. As far as the other part, I guess maybe some of them had a pretty good sense of the history that they were participating in. Here again, I expect that a lot of them in all four sessions, I don't know how many guys this would have been, but quite a number of different ones, were more interested in getting the job done the best they could and calling it a session and getting back home to their stores, getting back home to their farms, getting back home to their law practice, getting back home to school teaching, whatever it was. I don't know that they dwelled on the fact that what they were doing would someday be a historical statement of some kind. I, it would be hard for me to generalize because I don't recall ever talking to any of them along that line. I wish I had, but I certainly do think that they were all aware of the importance of history, the value of history, and the need to sometimes be guided a little bit by some historical values. And I think without them consciously maybe realizing it, they just instinctively knew this, that it was a part of their heritage. Maybe they didn't all carry it quite as far as my old friend, Paul Young, from Logan County. When we voted on that famous budget in "Happy's" first- SUCHANEK: Fifty-eight session. BARTON: in "Happy's" second term- SUCHANEK: Right. BARTON: in `58, and voted "no" on some of it, I remember Paul got up and made a speech. And he said, "When I left home in Logan County this morning, the very first thing I saw very soon was the Jefferson Davis monument." And he said, "I asked Jefferson Davis, 'How would you vote, Mr. Davis, on the budget?' I knew we'd vote today on the budget." And he said, "Jefferson Davis said, 'Vote no'" (laughs). Said, "Then I drove on up the road a piece and I came to Hodgenville, and I looked over there and I saw that great memorial to Lincoln." And he said, "I asked Abraham Lincoln, 'Mr. Lincoln, how would you vote on the budget today?' Mr. Lincoln told me, 'Paul Young, vote no'" (laughs). He, so he said, yeah, because that was intended to sort of release the tension, because by that time, by the time we got to the "Y's" on the roll call, things had gotten kind of heated. And that was Paul's way of kind of, sort of reducing the stress a little, but I think that the majority of the membership that I knew valued history, even if they didn't realize that they were part of it. And I'm not sure that a lot of them didn't realize they were part of it, but that's just not something they expressed, you know, in- SUCHANEK: How did you feel about it? BARTON: conversation. SUCHANEK: Were you acutely aware that what you were doing was historic? BARTON: No, not particularly. I was aware of our responsibility to future generations, but I, as I have said before, I've just never pictured myself as being a very historical sort of character. It's sort of a downplaying, I reckon, of my role, but for whatever reason, I just, for the same reason that I've said that I don't see why anybody would necessarily find these letters particularly significant or particularly important. But, you know, it's quite possible to view yourself as a historical person, provided you don't take yourself too seriously and think that you have a greater claim to historical fame than you really have. That's when it gets to be bad, and you go overboard with it. So far, I've not, and I doubt I now ever will get that far, but it certainly is something for every legislator today, back then, anytime, to consider the fact that their actions are affecting future generations, and in that sense of the word they are playing on a rather historical stage and doing things that have a bearing on what's going to happen in the future. SUCHANEK: Well, in 1965, why did you decide not to seek reelection to the General Assembly? BARTON: Jeff, I guess, for two reasons. I wanted to get back to teaching. That's what I, that's where I felt my real love was, in the classroom. That was one thing. And then sort of in tandem to that, very closely related to that idea was that I didn't have any ambition in politics, and I didn't see much point in just staying on and on, even if I could have been elected. I mean I'm assuming a whole lot here. But assuming I could have kept my job, I didn't see very much value in staying on and on in the House and building up seniority in the House, rather than making some sort of effort to climb the ladder, which I alluded to tonight at one point. When I decided that I didn't have any desire to remain in politics from the standpoint of participation in it, I thought that was a pretty good time to leave, while I was ahead. I had been defeated once, but I didn't want to stay around until I got defeated again. And so I figured, well, this is a good time to bail out and get it all out. I guess the main thing was, though, that I wanted to get back to school, and I couldn't do it, legislating and teaching at the same time. Although we had some people in the legislature that did do that, they were people who lived near enough Frankfort they could almost have classes in the morning and come to Frankfort at noon and-Brooks Hinkle, for instance, he was the chairman of the Education Committee, was a principal, but he just lived up at Bourbon County. SUCHANEK: Yeah, in Paris. BARTON: In Paris, so he was in a different shape. But I just never did go into it to start with, as I think I mentioned before maybe, the first interview we had, with the idea of political life. I wanted to serve in government enough that maybe it would make me a little better teacher of political science and government, because I could go a little bit beyond the textbook treatment on certain points, and then-but I enjoyed it. I didn't burn out in the sense that I was just ready to resign or anything like that. I thoroughly enjoyed the fellowship, and felt like that it had been a learning experience from the word go, that I'd really gotten my money's worth out of serving. And so I left it with a very, sort of a positive view, which some don't. I mean some guys just really, some just didn't care for it at all, it wasn't what they thought it would be, I guess, and they didn't like the pressure, they didn't like the calls, they didn't like having to go home and face the constituents that didn't like what they'd been doing and didn't like their votes. I can see where some of them got pretty teed off with the whole idea of being in the legislature. But I never did get that way. I didn't quit because of any feelings along that line. SUCHANEK: Did anyone in Mayfield try to encourage you to run again? BARTON: Well, several have asked me why I didn't run again. I don't know whether you'd call that encouragement (laughs). That's an open question. I've had a lot of people, in fact, to want to know the very same thing you asked, why I decided to get out when I did. And I've made that point to everybody, that I was more comfortable in a classroom than I was in the General Assembly, in the sense of feeling like I was doing what I was best prepared to do and maybe best able to do. But- SUCHANEK: And you never- BARTON: at any rate, it was an interesting eight years. SUCHANEK: you never aspired to higher office? BARTON: No. I really never did, except that one time that I mentioned tonight. I thought for just about three minutes one time about running for a higher office, and I soon got over that. SUCHANEK: (Laughs), with the help of- BARTON: Yeah, that's right. I had some motivational factors there. Then a slightly more personal reason, I guess, entered into it. By `65, when it would have been time to announce again and run again, my folks were not in very good health. Both my parents lived on into the late '70s and died just six months apart, as a matter of fact. And they were both ninety-one years old. But at that particular time, they were not in good condition, in good health. And my father had made an arrangement that he later regretted and I regretted, but it had been made, and therefore it was something that went-the shopping center out here is located on our old farm, and instead of Daddy selling the land to a developer to put a shopping center, he went the other route, assuming that it would be just a goldmine for me in the future. And it turned out to be everything else but. I was made the president of the Barton's Incorporated that built the center. And that threw me into an area of activity I was totally unprepared for. I mean I just hadn't had any business background at all. And this all started in `64, so by `65 I not only had some personal responsibility here at home and some teaching duties, I went right back into the classroom, but I also had this, what became an albatross out here on the Paris highway. And that would, that is a totally another story. That's a chapter that's just completely apart from anything else that I've ever done, and so I won't even get into that. But that was a part of my overall decision. I couldn't afford to be in Frankfort trying to keep my mind on the people's business and be faced with that thing out there, too. So it was just sort of a combination of personal and political, philosophical obstacles to going back. Now, a fellow, let me tell you, the fellow that took my place is the one you're going to interview, Mr. Clapp, Lloyd Clapp. Lloyd went in, in `66, and stayed longer than any other representative from Graves County has ever stayed. I think probably, I'm not sure about this, but my landlord told me, and he knew a lot about Graves County because he was from here, Mr. Baldree in Frankfort, I lived with them for the whole time I was up there, he told me that I had the record at that time of longevity. Apparently we don't elect our representatives around here for more than about two years at a whack, and so my four years, I mean my four terms pretty well, according to him, pretty well gave me the record up till then, but Lloyd just wiped my record completely off the sheet. I mean he was there- SUCHANEK: Twenty years. BARTON: twenty years. SUCHANEK: Exactly. BARTON: And could have still been there, I'm sure, if he had kept running, but he retired, too. So he really, he really set the, he set the standard. I expect our representative that we have now will be there for a long time, as long as he wants to be there, Dick Castleman. Have you talked to Dick yet? SUCHANEK: Not yet. BARTON: You ought to talk to him. He was county judge of Graves County for longer than twenty years, I guess, and he's been up at Frankfort now for four. He's had two complete terms. SUCHANEK: Well, then the last question I have for you is- BARTON: Oh, I thought that was the last one or I would have stopped talking- SUCHANEK: How would you like to be remembered- BARTON: some time ago. SUCHANEK: how would you like to be remembered as a legislator? BARTON: How would I like to be remembered? Well, you mean sort of like writing your own epitaph on the legislative period of my life? SUCHANEK: Right. BARTON: In so many words, I guess I would like to be remembered simply as a legislator who tried to do what was right in every situation, as he was given to see the right, to paraphrase Lincoln. And who respected his people in his district and what they believed and what they wanted, and had some sense of values from studying history and political science. That's more than I'd really want, but I think that pretty well would sum it up. That's a very interesting point. I'd never really thought about anything like this. It's an interesting thing. I think everybody, maybe, would be advised to figure out what they'd like to have said about them, maybe not do like Jefferson did, but, he wrote his own tombstone message. But on the other hand, if Jefferson did it, I would buy it (Suchanek laughs). That goes back to where we started from. SUCHANEK: That's right. BARTON: Full circle. SUCHANEK: And I think that's a good place to stop. BARTON: That's a good place to wind her up. SUCHANEK: All right, we're done. All right, thank you very much. BARTON: Well, you are more than welcome. I appreciate your coming this far for such a discussion as this has been (Suchanek laughs). [End of interview] 1 Barton (House 1959-1964, 3rd district, 2nd district; Democrat) discusses his reasons for leaving the legislature and the various pieces of legislation he supported while in office, including the construction of the Wendell H. Ford Western Kentucky Parkway, and Julian M. Carroll Purchase Parkway. He concludes with his interests in education and historical initiatives. Part 3 of 3. Kentucky Legislature