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2002-08-15 Interview with E. Louis Johnson, August 15, 2002 Leg001:2002OH95LEG56 02:04:29 Kentucky Legislature Oral History Project Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries Legislators -- Kentucky -- Interviews. Kentucky. General Assembly. House. Child support -- Taxation -- Law and legislation -- Kentucky. Educational change -- Kentucky. Kentucky. Governor (1974-1979 : Carroll) Kentucky. Governor (1979-1983 : Brown) Kentucky. Governor (1983-1987 : Collins) Kentucky. Governor (1987-1991 : Wilkinson) religion campaigning Brown, John Y. Jr. Carroll, Julian Collins, Martha Layne Wilkinson, Wallace legislative independence Black Sheep Squadron role of media leadership Blandford, Don Donnermeyer, Bill Toyota Manufacturing (Georgetown, Ky.) education reform tax legislation child support legislation adoption reform BOPTROT lobbyists Key Legislation: Kentucky Education Reform Act (KERA); child support law Term/District: House (1978-1992), 13th district Counties in District: Daviess County (Ky.) E. Louis Johnson; interviewee Eric Moyen; interviewer 2002OH095_LEG056_Johnson 1:|29(2)|51(3)|72(4)|94(6)|111(12)|131(5)|149(4)|172(4)|192(6)|209(2)|232(5)|258(10)|278(10)|300(2)|320(12)|341(4)|361(8)|379(9)|402(4)|419(15)|441(1)|463(8)|488(11)|507(9)|525(8)|552(7)|578(9)|596(5)|616(14)|640(16)|664(2)|691(9)|713(12)|736(1)|760(3)|796(9)|815(4)|841(11)|863(9)|881(3)|907(7)|933(2)|952(3)|975(11)|997(12)|1012(12)|1039(2)|1058(1)|1076(8)|1099(11)|1119(5)|1139(5)|1167(1)|1199(13)|1223(4)|1248(5)|1265(10)|1290(14)|1309(3)|1326(11)|1354(7)|1378(6)|1399(8)|1417(11)|1442(9)|1465(2)|1484(8)|1504(13)|1525(2)|1555(1)|1571(7)|1598(1)|1622(9)|1637(13)|1655(13)|1680(9)|1705(7)|1725(9)|1750(2)|1774(12)|1793(2)|1816(5)|1838(2)|1858(9)|1882(5)|1907(9)|1935(4)|1956(2)|1974(1)|1994(2)|2018(3)|2040(2)|2058(8)|2087(7)|2102(11)|2121(2)|2136(2)|2159(13)|2182(16)|2199(4)|2224(1)|2247(8)|2272(5)|2288(10)|2308(11)|2330(8)|2351(8)|2368(17)|2394(4)|2417(8)|2443(5)|2456(1)|2475(10)|2498(8)|2525(9)|2542(11)|2562(2)|2579(11)|2599(8)|2619(7)|2648(12)|2673(10)|2694(11)|2724(4) audiotrans Legit interview MOYEN: someone is working at the legislature or whatever, sometimes it's hard to know where to start- JOHNSON: Yeah. MOYEN: with some of that information. So- JOHNSON: You have a, I know you have connections with Senator Church(??) in- [Pause in taping] MOYEN: I'm here with Mr. Louis Johnson in Owensboro, Kentucky, at his law office, on August 15, 2002, and he was a state representative in Frankfort for seventeen years? JOHNSON: Seventeen. MOYEN: Seventeen years. Thank you for meeting with me today. JOHNSON: Well, it's my pleasure. MOYEN: My, let's just start with some of your family background or your genealogy. How far back can you trace your family or your family's Kentucky roots? JOHNSON: Not very far. My father, if he were still living, would be, like, ninety- seven. He died in 1990, and his father was deceased before I was born. His father and mother both were deceased before I was born, so and then my mother died when I was seven years of age. And I knew her parents, but I didn't know anybody beyond my grandparents on my mother's side. I did not know my grandparents on my father's side at all, so I have very little roots in that respect. MOYEN: Were they from Kentucky? JOHNSON: Yes, they were. All of my family is from Kentucky. MOYEN: Have you lived in Owensboro your entire life? JOHNSON: I've lived in Owensboro all of my life, except for the time I went to college and law school. MOYEN: Okay. Do you have any siblings? JOHNSON: I have, initially, there were eight of us. Two died when they were young, crib deaths back in those days. I had, then I had another, I had four brothers and a sister. I'm a middle child. I had a brother named Bob, who is about eight years older than me, and a brother named Don that's five years older than me, a brother named "Horse" or Jerry, who's two and a half years older than me, and then I have a younger brother named Bill, who's three years younger than I am, and then my sister Mary was seven years younger than I. And then my sister Mary is deceased. She's the youngest. And my oldest brother Bob is deceased. So there's four of us left. MOYEN: All right. And when were you born? JOHNSON: I was born in 1937. Those of us who were born in `37 say we came with the `37 flood. There was a horrendous flood in Kentucky in 1937, and so we're the `37 flood babies. MOYEN: Um-hm. Did your family live anywhere close to the river, or was, did that affect that or- JOHNSON: I think it affected everybody in this area at that time because it got way south of the riverbank. As I understand it, it went all the way to Parrish Avenue, which is pretty far up. There's a big bank there, and that bank held it back from going the rest of the way. MOYEN: All right. So do you have any memories about the beginnings of World War Two? Or when do your memories about World War Two start? JOHNSON: I can remember listening to the radio when I was young and, about the war. I guess the specific, I had several uncles in the war. My father was not in the war. He had several children, so, and he was older at the time, so he didn't go to the war. But my mother had five brothers that were in the Second World War. On my father's side, there wasn't anybody in it, other than he had some nephews that were in it. None of my brothers or family, immediate family, was in the second war, the Second World War, because we were all too young at that time. But I do remember when it was over with, both the war with Germany and the war with Japan, because the newspaper had special editions at that time. And then I can remember there was a parade in downtown Owensboro when the war was over, and there were people in cars honking their horns and people on the streets, and just a celebration that the war had come to an end. And being born in `37, the war started about that time. And then, of course, it ended in `45, so you know, I was about eight years old when it finally ended. But I remember just sporadic things about it, not a whole lot. I remember we were always told to pray for my uncles who were in the war, and I can remember the stars in the windows of people who had lost loved ones in the war. They put a star in the window. It, and I'm not sure whether it, whether they lost one or whether it commemorated having a child in the war. But I don't remember a lot about it, but just bits and pieces. MOYEN: Um-hm. Do you remember anything about the Great Depression or anything with your parents discussing the Depression? JOHNSON: The Depression, of course, was before my time. I can remember my father discussing the Depression, that no one had work and that you had bread lines and food lines. I can remember a little bit about rationing that took place during the Second World War. You couldn't get sugar, hard to get coffee at that time. But they always, the generation I was raised in, you always heard about the Depression in that you need to be very guarded with spending your money and save, because you might have another one. But I, the generation I was raised in, nobody had any money back then. We were all pretty much in the same boat, and you generally, your Saturdays were spent, if you had enough money, you went to matinees at the local theater. It cost about a dime to go and, but nobody had any money. MOYEN: Um-hm. What occupation did your father have? JOHNSON: My dad worked for the city. He was, we have a municipal utility in Owensboro that supplies the city with water and electricity. And Dad worked in the electrical part, and he was what they called a turbine operator at that time. He watched the controls to make sure that there, that they were operating properly, and if there were any problems, then he had to switch, go to work and make sure that they got back on line. MOYEN: All right. Could you tell me a little bit about your schooling experience, when and where you first attended? JOHNSON: I went to Catholic schools beginning in first grade. We were, I was raised in a Catholic family, and I was taught by nuns my first eight grades. I went to, originally to, at that time it was called Blessed Mother School. It was on 7th and Frederica. And then I later when to St. Joseph and Paul School in sixth, seventh, and eighth grade. And I was taught by the Charity nuns from first through five, and by Ursulines from sixth through eight. Then I went to Catholic High here in Owensboro in high school my last four years, and I was taught primarily by nuns and priests at that time. And I graduated from Owensboro Catholic High School in 1955. MOYEN: Okay. The schools that you mentioned going through, one through five and six through eight, I believe, do they still exist? JOHNSON: No, they're both, have been, are no longer in existence. MOYEN: Okay. Were there any individuals that you remember that particularly stuck out in your mind as being an outstanding teacher or influencing you in either your professional life as pursuing law or in terms of pursuing politics? JOHNSON: No, I get my political genes from my dad. My dad was active in the unions back years ago. At one time, he was vice-president of the state AFL- CIO. He was an advocate for the working man, especially for city employees. Back in those days, the city employees didn't have very many, didn't make very much and had little or no benefits. And Dad organized an association here in town to speak as one voice to try to better the working conditions of city employees, and was ultimately responsible for helping city employees get Social Security, back many years ago, and had been active in the city and different local races and such as that. And Dad knew a lot of the, he knew Lawrence Wetherby, who was the governor. He knew "Happy" Chandler, he knew Earle Clements. He used to talk to them on the phone from time to time. He knew John Sherman Cooper. He knew a Congressman from this area, and I can't think of his name right now, but he knew a lot of political people. MOYEN: Um-hm. Do you remember any particular discussions that you all had, say, around the dinner table or at other times, that you found particularly influential or just something that really excited you or you found very interesting? JOHNSON: Well, let me get back to your first question. You asked about teachers. I don't remember any teachers that influenced me, as far as either in the direction of being a lawyer or being involved in politics. It just, it pretty much came from my genes through my dad. But there's no teacher that I could, that stands out in my mind that had any influence on me in that way. I was involved in athletics quite a bit over the years. I played the different sports, as most boys did back then. And the coaches were more of an influence over me than the teachers were. Willis Combus was a man that worked at the local milk plant, factory here, and Willis coached me from the time I was about sixth grade, all the way up through high school. MOYEN: In what sport? JOHNSON: In, well, basketball and football primarily. And so Willis is one that was an influential factor in my life. Beyond that, there is not anybody else I can think of. And you asked me another question, and I can't think what it was. MOYEN: Asking about your father and the role that he played and if there was anything in his discussions of- JOHNSON: Yeah. MOYEN: that that stick out in your mind or- JOHNSON: No, there is not anything that-my generation was a peo--, was a group of kids that wanted to make something out of themselves. Well, I call it the bootstrap philosophy; that you pick yourselves up by your bootstraps to make something out of yourselves. So the motivation I had was to try to be somebody in life. You know, I admired the people who were active in the community, who did various things for the betterment of the community, and my aspiration was to be able to do something like that. And I always had an interest in the law, but I was never around anybody that knew anything about the law. I guess the person who influenced me the most was my younger brother, Bill. Bill was a good football player, got a scholarship to Marquette in Milwaukee. Went up there and played football, and decided he wanted to go to law school. And so Bill ended up going to law school. And I said, "Well, if Bill can do it, I think I can do it, too." So anyway, Bill, I followed in his footsteps rather than him, he following in my footsteps. And so Bill became a lawyer, and I became a lawyer. And then I've got a son that's a lawyer, he's got two sons that are lawyers. So we've got a lot of legal knowledge in our family today. But it just happened, I don't know how. And then as far as politics goes, just something I've always just had an interest in, you know. I think you read the newspaper and, you know, your eyes go to those articles that are about politics, with a, a lot of times, with a local flavor. You just, those things just interest you. I think it's something God puts in you, as I think most things, God puts a calling on your life. And what He calls you to is what you have the ability for, and I feel like I was called to be an attorney, and I feel like I was called to be in politics. And fortunately, I had the opportunity to answer those calls, and did, and it's something I've enjoyed all my life. MOYEN: Um-hm. You mentioned your father knowing a number of notable Kentucky politicians. Were, the Democratic Party at the time was pretty well known for its factionalism. Was there a side of that, the "Happy" Chandler side or- JOHNSON: Dad was on the Earle Clements faction side. Earle Clements was a good friend of Dad's, and that's where he always, he was on the Earle Clements faction. MOYEN: Um-hm. Do you remember any discussions of that or why that would be? JOHNSON: Well, Earle Clements was from Union County, Morganfield, down here. And of course, you know, you had the closeness, the proximity, and he liked Earle Clements, and he never was a "Happy" man. For some reason, he just, he never did, never heard a whole lot about "Happy" Chandler, but he was always, Earle Clements was a friend of his. In our family, friendships are bonds that go deep, and loyalty is something that we've always stressed and has great value to us. MOYEN: Um-hm. You mentioned attending Catholic schools. Did you attend a Catholic church here in town growing up? JOHNSON: Yes, I attended, it's called St. Joe and Paul Catholic Church, all of my young, all of my life. MOYEN: In what ways did that influence your background? JOHNSON: Well, the way I was raised, as far as the church was concerned, they, you were raised in a very legalistic fashion. You know, you need to be a good boy, good, do the right thing. And if you don't, you get in trouble. And so it was raised more on a legalistic fashion, and so I always made it an effort to try to do the right thing, you know, knowing right from wrong, and things being black and white, and trying to do the right thing because it's the right thing to do. And I would have to say that the, primarily the nuns had an influence on me in that direction, and I would say also they were probably my surrogate mothers as I was being raised as well, because I didn't have a mother, and they kind of took that role in my life. MOYEN: Um-hm. How did the passing of your mother influence you or affect you as a young boy? JOHNSON: Well it, as I have had many years to reflect on it, I just repressed that memory. It wasn't a pleasant memory, and so I just didn't, I just repressed it and didn't deal with it. And, you know, she was, wasn't there so, you know, you had to go on and live. And the way it was in our family was that the, Dad worked a lot, so the older children raised the younger children. For instance, we had brothers and had a pecking order, and each one of the older brothers was responsible for the younger brother. And my sister was raised by my grandmother, because she was born one day, and Mother died the next. So we didn't have the ability to raise her because we were all males and Dad had to work. So my grandmother took her and raised her, and so each of the brothers kind of raised each other. MOYEN: Okay. Did you, where did you attend undergraduate college? JOHNSON: I went two years at Brescia College here in Owensboro. Brescia was seven blocks from my home, and I walked to Brescia every day and went, spent two years there. And then, like most young men, I'd like, I wanted to get away from home, so I saved my money, and borrowed some money, and went my last two years to U.K. And so I finished up there with a bachelor's degree in general business, and so I got that, a bachelor degree, at U.K. MOYEN: Did, you said that you walked from home when you were attending Brescia, you lived at home. Did you ever feel a part of that college community, even though you were living at home? JOHNSON: Yeah, pretty much. We were all local people pretty much there. And, yeah, I felt a part of it. It was a good time in my life. It was a small school, wasn't that many students back then, and everybody knew each other. And it was kind of like a glorified high school because it was so small. And everybody knew one another, and as a result, it was pretty easy to move around there. MOYEN: When you moved to Lexington and attended U.K., what was your, what was that like, coming from Owensboro and moving away from home and- JOHNSON: Well, it was pretty difficult because I didn't even have a place to live when I moved up there. I, and I even had to hitchhike up there because I didn't have any transportation. So I did, and found me a little, small room right on Rose Lane, as a matter of fact, and there was about six of us that lived upstairs in a house up there. And, of course, none of us knew each other when we got there, and lived together for, I lived there for a year, and then I moved over on Aylesford Place for another year. But it was a difficult transition for me. I was, I stayed active in the Newman Club while I was up there, and that provided a lot of my social outlet. And I worked in one of the dorms. They had what they called busboys, and you would clean the dishes off as people got finished eating, and you'd wash them, put them up. And you got your food, and then you got about $1.65 an hour. So you did it at lunch, and then you did it at the evening meal. And it kept you pretty busy doing that. MOYEN: Do you remember what dorm? JOHNSON: It was Boyd Hall, Patterson Hall. They were all girls that ate there. There wasn't any males. It was just an all-girls dorm. MOYEN: Do you recall any professors that influenced you to choose business, or is that something that you just knew you wanted to do? JOHNSON: No, I always felt like I wanted to be a businessman, and that was just a, I didn't want to be a schoolteacher, didn't want to be-it was just kind of a general field that you get into and do a lot of different things. And I felt like I wanted to be in the area of business. MOYEN: Was this in the late '50s? Would that be right? JOHNSON: Fifty-seven, `58, `59, `60. MOYEN: In your mind at the time, were there any marked differences between a town like Owensboro and a town like Lexington that you noticed? JOHNSON: Of course Lexington was bigger, and it was a university town. That's the only two things that I felt like were different. Lexington had, back in those days, you had a lot of people from eastern Kentucky coming down there, and you had a lot of blacks in Lexington, and then you had a lot of poverty in Lexington back in those days. So it wasn't the town then that it is today. MOYEN: When you graduated from college, did you go directly to law school? JOHNSON: No, I didn't. I went to work as, with, as a salesman for Swift Packing Company for two years, a little over two years, two and a half years. MOYEN: Where was that? JOHNSON: Swift, S-W-I-F-T, Meat Packing Company. MOYEN: And was that in Lexington? JOHNSON: No. I started off as what you call a relief salesman. I would take routes for guys that were on vacation, and then I got a permanent route, which is over at Hartford, Kentucky, which is thirty miles from here. And I was able to continue to live at home, but I traveled a lot. I traveled all over. Went to Lebanon, Springfield, Campbellsville, Burkesville, Albany. I had just different days I went different routes. I drove over 1,000 miles a week. And I did that for two and a half years, and then that didn't bring me any satisfaction. And I always wanted to be a coach, so the opportunity came up for me to coach football. So I, in the beginning in `62, I taught at Owensboro Catholic High School, and I coached football and basketball for two years, and I did that from `62 to `64. Then I went to law school in `64, and I went to Louisville my first year, and then went to U.K. my last two years. And I got my law degree in `67 from U.K. MOYEN: All right, a couple of questions. When you were driving, when you were working for Swift, what were the roads like? What were Kentucky roads like? JOHNSON: Most of them were two-lane roads, pretty rough, dangerous, a lot of hills, a lot of curves. And there weren't any parkways, there weren't any interstates, just little country roads. And I drove a lot of miles on those roads, got to know a lot of the parts of the country. I enjoyed that. And it was a good time for me, but it wasn't, I didn't get any sense of satisfaction in that line of work. It just didn't feel like I accomplished anything, so that's one reason why I switched careers and became a schoolteacher, because I felt like I could, feel like I could sense doing something worthwhile, and so I did that, taught school for two years, and I coached football and basketball for two years. And then I, at that time, I decided I wanted to go to law school, so then I went to law school. MOYEN: Do you remember what you taught and what grades you were teaching? JOHNSON: Yeah. I taught typing because of my business background. I taught salesmanship, I taught business law, I taught business math, what they called general business back then, those business-related courses. MOYEN: Did you enjoy that? JOHNSON: I did. I enjoyed it. I liked being a teacher. I liked dealing with the kids. I enjoyed the kids. That's what I enjoyed most about it. But it was a good time in my life. MOYEN: What about coaching? Did you enjoy doing that? JOHNSON: I did that. The only problem I had with coaching was we didn't have, we weren't very successful, and I didn't like losing all the time (Moyen laughs). I think we won three football games in two years, so I decided it was time for me to get out of that, and not very many basketball games. I would have enjoyed it a lot more if we'd been successful, but we lost too many games. MOYEN: Um-hm. How did your decision to go to law school, you mentioned your brother before. When in your teaching career did you realize that it's time to go to law school? JOHNSON: Well, Bill started, Bill got out of high school in `58, and he got out of college in `62. So he went to law school in `62, `63. And so that's when it really was birthed in me, when he got into law school and got through that first year. And that was my first year of teaching. And then I taught another year and, of course, Bill went on with his second year of law school. So it was during my second year of teaching that I made application for law school and took the LSAT and did all those things that I needed to do to get in, get admitted to law school. MOYEN: Um-hm. Where was your brother attending law school? JOHNSON: Bill started off at U.K., and he got married between his, after his first semester. And so his wife became pregnant immediately, so he finished out his first year at U.K. Then she, she was from Chicago. He needed to support her and the child, so he went back to Chicago where she was from and got a job and finished working at night, going to night law school. He went three years at night and finished up and got his law degree in Chicago. And then Bill, Bill is quite a success story. He is a very noted trial lawyer in Chicago and has tried cases all over the United States. And he's got a, he's the lead lawyer in a ninety-plus law firm in Chicago. So we're real proud of Bill, and he's done real well. And I think his story would be the same as mine; he just wanted to make something out of himself. But he's done real well. MOYEN: You mentioned attending your first year at Louisville and then transferring to U.K. What was your reason for that decision to switch schools? JOHNSON: Well, first of all, I didn't get in U.K. I applied to U.K., and my academic background was not good in undergraduate school. So as a result, I didn't get into U.K. U of L had an open-admission policy at that time, so I got in U of L. It was still owned by the City of Louisville. The tuition there was quite a bit more expensive for out- of-county students, or out-of-, yeah, out-of-county students. And U of L was an in-state school and their tuition was less expensive, so it was an economic decision. So I applied at U.K. after I finished my first year at U of L. I went to summer school at U.K. as a transient student, made my grades, and so they let me in, in that following year. And I made it out, I went to summer school both years I was in school, and I made it out actually in five semesters and plus two summer schools. And then the other thing, I got married in, after my second year of law school, too. So there were a lot of things going on back then and- MOYEN: What's your wife's name? JOHNSON: Her name is Suzanne. MOYEN: And where did you meet her? JOHNSON: Met her at Brescia College while I was teaching high school. She was a student there and met her then. Met her after the first year, my first year of teaching school, at the end of that year is when I met her, and then the next year she came back again, and we resumed our relationship, which her, was her second year of college. And then after that was my last year of teaching, then I went away to law school, and she was still here in Owensboro, finished her third year of college, and then we got married after my first year of law school is what is was. And then she, we both moved to Lexington for the first time I-and that was my, I'd moved from Louisville to Lexington, and got married that summer, and just a lot of things going on. A lot of transitioning. MOYEN: Was school more difficult once you were married, or did you find it easier or how did that differ? JOHNSON: Well, law school is real difficult the first year. After the first year you kind of get the hang of things, and they're not as hard on you, I don't think. And it was easier the second year and third year. I don't know that it was because of being married, but, because right after we got married, she got pregnant with Beth, and Beth came along nine months later. So I went from Louisville to Lexington, got married, had a child. The first year she was teaching school in Lexington, taught, like, on a Friday and Beth was born, like, on a Monday. And this was, like, on May 11, the first year of law school, the second year was, school was just out, so there was just a lot of stuff going on. MOYEN: Um-hm. Do you remember where she taught in Lexington? JOHNSON: Mary Queen of Holy Rosary. MOYEN: Okay, all right. Throughout your life up to this point, you had mentioned your father knowing Clements and other Kentucky politicians. Did you have an opportunity to meet these individuals? JOHNSON: They were in my house, they were in the house from time to time, but I was young. But I, yeah, I remember meeting them. MOYEN: Um-hm. And when you finished law school, then what did you do? JOHNSON: I came back to Owensboro and set up my law practice. MOYEN: Okay. Was that by yourself at the time? JOHNSON: I set up on my own. I went in with another fellow, a friend of mine that I'd known, took, allowed me to come into his office and use his space, didn't charge me anything originally, starting up. And then I just had to, I hung a shingle out and made it on, you know, had to bring in the revenue. But I didn't work for anybody. I didn't have any income other than what I produced. MOYEN: Um-hm. Was that difficult getting started or were you able to develop clients rather quickly? JOHNSON: It, I had a brother in Owensboro named, they call him "Horse," and "Horse" knows everybody in Owensboro. And so as a result of "Horse," as a result of me being a local boy, and my family, they referred clients to me. That's how I first got my start, with people that my brothers referred to me and my sister. And I made a living at it, almost from the beginning. And the Lord has just blessed me a lot in my practice over the years. I've raised five kids, educated five children in my law practice. They all got out of college debt-free, and so it's been a nice income, provided a nice income for my family. MOYEN: Um-hm. Now, what year did you begin your law practice? JOHNSON: Nineteen sixty-seven. MOYEN: Okay, 1967. And were you getting involved in politics in any form or fashion? JOHNSON: Well, the route I took, you know, I told you earlier I'd always admired people who were involved in the community, and so that's the route, that's what I did. I got back here, I became, I got involved with the senior citizens board, I got involved with United Way, I got involved with a lot of Catholic organizations. And that was what approach I took. I just was involved in different things in the community. Family Y, YMCA, and you know, rose through the ranks. I was a campaign chairman for United Way. I was president of United Way, I was president of the Y, president of the senior citizens center, had just done a lot of things like that over the years and still do them to a certain extent, not as much as I used to, but I'm still involved in, I'm chairman of the OMU board here, which is the municipal utility. I was on the community college board, was on the, president of the free clinic board for three years. So that, those types of things are things I've always done. Now, those are the things I've enjoyed. That's, that was my entree into politics. MOYEN: Um-hm. And were, did any one of those, have any one of those stuck out in your mind as most enjoyable or felt like you were best suited for one of those? Or were they all- JOHNSON: No, not, there's not any of them that stick out. I just, I've enjoyed all of them. MOYEN: Um-hm. Were you helping anyone else campaign at the time or involved in- JOHNSON: I got, the only campaign I got involved in heavily was Harvey Sloane's campaign for governor years ago. And some local guys got me involved in that, but I'd never been involved politically at all prior to running for a race. MOYEN: Okay. So, and in the meantime, from the time you started practice until you decided to run, you were here in Owensboro working in your law practice? JOHNSON: Yes. Yeah, I've always been in Owensboro. MOYEN: Okay. What was the impetus or what caused you to get involved in that race? JOHNSON: In Harvey Sloane's? MOYEN: No, in the, in your- JOHNSON: In my race? MOYEN: in your race. JOHNSON: Well, it, you know, it's, again, one of those things you always wanted to do and you never had the opportunity to do it. And there was another lawyer here in town named Charles Wible. And Charles was the representative, and he decided to run for the senate against Delbert Murphy, so the seat was open. And I didn't know it at the time, because I was naive about politics, but the powers-that-be had selected somebody for that, position and it was Tommy Thompson. And Tommy is a local homebuilder here and been very successful at that. Tommy was about twenty-eight, twenty-nine years old at that time. But I just prayed about it, felt like that's what God wanted me to do. At that time, it was also kind of a time that the Christians began to be involved in politics with the idea of making a difference in our society. And I was one of those what I call a wave of born-again Christians that wanted to be involved and tried to do something to make our society more of a faith-oriented society, and so that's what impelled me to do it. I was also involved with prayer meetings at that time, the Charismatic movement, and had been involved in that since 19--, probably `69, `70, and knew a lot of people through that as well, a lot of church people. But we felt like that's what God wanted us to do, and that's why we did it. MOYEN: Okay. But you mentioned that the powers-that-be had selected someone else, correct? JOHNSON: They did. MOYEN: And so tell me a little bit about campaigning and how you campaigned. JOHNSON: Well, our organiz--, first of all, my wife was the one that primarily organized everything. Suzanne did. She's a, just a tremendous person, a very well organized person, and we knew a lot of people involved with the prayer group, a lot of church people, and we got a lot of those people involved. We walked, we, well, first of all, we got some people that supposedly knew something about politics, and we found out they didn't know any more than we did, and all they did was just confuse us. So we just sat down and organized it. You know, there were forty precincts in this district, and we knew that we needed to go door to door to each one of them. So we got a group of people every night, and we always prayed before we went out, and one thing we prayed, that nobody would get bit by a dog. But we prayed each night. We had an opportunity to witness to people while we were campaigning door to door, and we used that opportunity to do so. And then we'd meet after, after the evening we'd all go to Wendy's a lot, a place to eat and talk about what had happened that night and that type of thing. And then Suzanne also organized a precinct list for people to call, you know, who you're for, that type of thing. And if they're for us, say yes; if they're against us, no; and if they're undecided, that type of thing. And so every precinct was called. And they were all volunteer workers, there wasn't anybody paid. We had a scripture passage that we put on the board, a blackboard that had, that we, as these lists came in, how many for, against, and undecided. And we felt like that we had committed the campaign to the Lord, and however it came out was fine, because He was in charge of it. And ultimately the results, well, this fellow was supposed to win, because I was supposed, I was a political unknown and a novice, which I was. And he was well-known and had all the powers-that- be behind him. But he didn't know what we had behind us, and we had an army of people who were committed to the Lord. And the results were the same as the call-in, the percentages that which we won by, and won about sixty to forty, so it was a pretty nice victory. It shocked everybody because they just didn't think that it could be done with no more political base than what we had. We knew what we were doing, and we felt like we had the right issues, and God just blessed it. MOYEN: Um-hm. And you said that your polling that you did by phone seemed to be pretty accurate? JOHNSON: It was totally accurate to the, percentage-wise. MOYEN: Um-hm. Did you do that just at the end of your campaign or- JOHNSON: No, we did it during the, we had a lot of ladies doing it, and they did it when they could. They were, you know, housemothers and moms and all that kind of, you know, that's a pretty good job to call all those precincts. And then we had one lady by the name of Alma Clark that had, Alma had been involved in campaigns before, and Alma helped us a whole lot. She was a Republican; she was neighbor and a good friend of ours. Alma helped us just an awful lot. She called two or three of the precincts herself, so, but we had a lot of good people help us. I mean just scads of people helped us. We just had all the help you could ask for. MOYEN: With that phone calling, did you see any transition in the campaign where, at the beginning were you losing and then you saw this lead open up or- JOHNSON: No, it was pretty consistent throughout the whole thing. MOYEN: Now, was this all in a Democratic primary? JOHNSON: Yes, in the Democratic primary. MOYEN: Okay. Did you face anyone in the general election? JOHNSON: No. Fortunately, in this area up until recent years, you didn't have a whole lot of general elections because everybody that ran were Democrats. And if you won the Democrat primary then, you got, you won the election. Now, that was in `77 when I first, ran the first campaign. I didn't have any opposition again until 1989, so I ran six terms without opposition. Then I had opposition in `89, had opposition again in `91. MOYEN: Okay. Can you tell me a little bit about those people who opposed you in those years. JOHNSON: Well, in `89 there was a fellow by the name of Don Wathen. Don is a local, operates a pest control business. And Don had never been involved in politics, but I'd been involved in a lot of faith issues. And, you know, he attacked me on that. And he ran against me in `89, and he ran against me again in `91, and we beat him about the same amount both years. And then I had Republican opposition in `91, too. MOYEN: And who was that? Do you recall? JOHNSON: It was Ron, no, wait a minute, that was in '9--, it was Ron Roark. R-O- A-R-K, Ron Roark ran in, this was `89, I had a Democrat and a Republican. And then in `91 I only had Democrat. MOYEN: Okay. Do you remember what the results were like from the general election, or either? JOHNSON: They weren't close. You know, it was probably ten points difference in both of them. I don't remember offhand, but it wasn't so close, would have been less(??). It wasn't real close. [End of Tape #1, Side #1] [Begin Tape #1, Side #2] MOYEN: All right. So when you win the primary in `77, correct? JOHNSON: Um-hm, right. MOYEN: You have more time essentially to prepare for what you're planning on doing than some others who might face more opposition in the general election. Is there any way to prepare as a freshman legislator? JOHNSON: There is no way to prepare for being a legislator, other than the experience of being a legislator. You are totally lost. You think you're something. When you get there, you find out when you get there, you're nothing. You're one of 138, and then in the House you're one of 100. And you're like a lost ball in high weeds when you get there. It takes two sessions for most people to be effective in the legislature because it takes that long to learn the system and know how it operates. Then after that you can be pretty effective if you stay around a long time. And I got, you know, I stayed long enough that I could get most anything passed that I wanted to. MOYEN: Um-hm. So, and you touched on this briefly, what were the things that may be presuppositions that you had or ideas that you had about what the legislature was going to be like, and how that mixed with reality or what, how that differed from reality? JOHNSON: I don't know that I knew. You're asking me to go back a long time, to`77-`78. That's 34 years ago. I didn't have any preconceptions about it. I just knew that I got elected to office. I was going to go up there and try to do whatever I was supposed to do. And I'd have to find out what I was supposed to do after I got there. Now, the thing that I found out when I got there is that most everything was cut and dried, because at that point in time, the governor determined everything, the bills that were going to pass and the bills that weren't going to pass. And Julian Carroll was governor then, and Julian Carroll was a very powerful governor and very knowledgeable about the legislative process, because he'd been in the legislature for a number of years, so whatever Julian said is what went, when I first got there. And then, that was in `78, and then, of course, his term was over at the end of `79. And John Y. Brown was elected, and John Y. Brown was a whole lot like me; he didn't know anything. So when he got elected, and he just, you know, they talked about legislative independence and this and that person was responsible, but John Y. Brown was the person responsible for legislative independence because he was the first guy elected governor that didn't try to dominate the legislature and dominate what took place in Kentucky. He just didn't care. You know, he was going to do what he thought was right to do, but as far as the legislature, he was going to let them do what they were supposed to do. He said, "I'll do my job and let them do their job." So he's the guy most responsible for legislative independence. MOYEN: When you first arrived you, did you have any conceptions, or had you articulated exactly what your political philosophy might be? Or, I guess, to put it in simpler terms, what the role of state government should be? JOHNSON: Well, I had, you know, I had, I guess, a conservative philosophy. You know, I was pro-life, I was anti-gambling, anti-vices, so to speak. I felt like that the less government, the better government. Felt like the bureaucracy a lot of times, and I found this out, they actually run state government most of the time, your people who work for state government, but, you know, the people who are hired to do that, because there's so much of our laws that are by regulation rather than by statute. And the people who work for state government administer those regulations. So there's a whole lot of things that take place in government that are just decided by the employees that work there. They have some parameters, but they usually decide what those parameters are. So that's why it is so important to have good people working in state government, who do the right thing for the right reasons. So, but I didn't have any preconceived notions of this or that, I just wanted government to serve the people. And you know, I was concerned about the hot- button issues of pro-life and anti-gambling. You know, the drinking wasn't a big issue with me because of my Catholic background. Of course, I was raised in that environment to some extent. But those were pretty much the two hot-button issues. MOYEN: Um-hm. And when did you, in your legislative career, start having an opportunity to vote on those type issues? JOHNSON: I had my first, I had to, when I got there, because they were dealing with both the lottery, and they were dealing with pro-life legislation. And that happened pretty much all the way through my tenure. MOYEN: Um-hm. Was there anything in particular that stuck out in your mind in terms of good or bad legislation, or good or bad incidents that occurred in your first session when Julian Carroll was governor? JOHNSON: I can't think of anything that sticks out. One of the things I determined early on about state government is the people that benefit from state government operate state government. You've got all the people, all the different employees of state government who are up there to influence your votes on things that are self- serving for them. You know, you've got your policemen, your firemen, your schoolteachers, people who work for governmental agencies. And they're all, you know, their pay, their retirement benefits, their health benefits and everything are pretty much determined by the legislature. So they're always in there lobbying for their issues. So that's the thing I discovered early on. And you know, and they can block legislation if they don't like it. You know, your teachers union has a, they block a lot of legislation and they pass legislation. So you've got a lot of special interest groups. And some people say that those are, you know, put a bad connotation on special interests, but they're not. They just have a particular interest. And their interest always, all the time is not always the best interests of all the people. So you've got to be vigilant about type issues, and that's what I found out early on. I think of something today that, I don't remember exactly when it was passed, but there is a 1.5 percent tax on every insurance premium in Kentucky, all insurance premiums. It's got to be a pretty hefty amount, but that was originally passed because the federal government said if your policemen and firemen had a certain type of training, they'd get like a $1,500 incentive added to their pay each year for that training. That was to train them. And then the federal government took that money away, so the state government had to make it up. So they had to find a way to do it, and the way they did it was tack it on the insurance premiums. So you pay 1.5 percent premium, insurance tax on all your insurance premiums to fund this training program for policemen and firemen. And now it's up to $2,500 a year. So that, you know, that's a kind of a special- interest legislation that you've got out there. Of course, you know, it did provide the training for our policemen and firemen but, you know, it's kind of a back- handed way of funding it. MOYEN: Um-hm. Do you remember anything about the special session that Thelma Stovall tried to- JOHNSON: I sure do, 1979. MOYEN: What are you recollections or memories of that happening? JOHNSON: Well, it was, you know, nobody could be against it. You know, you were taking the sales tax off of, I think it was food and utilities? MOYEN: I have something to limit property tax. JOHNSON: Well, that was part of it too, but she also took sales tax off of something else. The sales tax off of something, and limit the growth of property tax to no more than 4 percent each year, plus a recall provision if you took it above 4 percent each year. Plus, you leveled it out. You couldn't have it more than 4 percent over the whole county. So it's gotten to be, it's kind of a regressive, got to be a regressive thing. But, you know, as I look back, it's probably one of the best pieces of legislation I voted on. MOYEN: Which is that? JOHNSON: That was one of the best pieces of- MOYEN: Oh, okay. JOHNSON: Because it's held down property taxes in Kentucky. MOYEN: And in the 1980 election, you had mentioned, or sorry, the `79 election for the `80 term, you had mentioned supporting, was it Harvey Sloane? JOHNSON: Harvey Sloane. MOYEN: From Louisville? JOHNSON: Um-hm. He ran against John Y. Brown. And that would have been in `79. MOYEN: `79. JOHNSON: Yeah. MOYEN: How did you get involved in supporting him? Or what, how did you make that decision? JOHNSON: A good friend of mine, two friends of mine were supporting him and they said, "If we can get him elected, it will be good for Owensboro and Daviess County, because he won't forget us." And so I said, "That sounds good." And I didn't know any of the others-well, Terry McBrayer was one, and he was Julian Carroll's hand- pick, and I didn't want any more of that. And then John Y. was running, and I thought that he had no chance whatsoever of winning, but I underestimated Phyllis George Brown. And then there was Harvey Sloane, and there was one more. Thelma Stovall was running. And I couldn't be for Thelma, so I, you know, kind of process of elimination. And I didn't realize how Har--, how liberal Harvey was until a few years later, but that didn't amount, it didn't bother me at that time. And so anyway, those local guys got me involved. MOYEN: Um-hm. And we briefly touched on this. When John Y. Brown became governor, how quickly did the legislature realize that things were going to be different? JOHNSON: Well, almost immediately because, see, up until that point, the governor had dictated who your leadership was going to be. And he didn't do it that time, so we could vote for whoever, you know, pick whoever we wanted. That's when it happened. MOYEN: Were you able to get on the committees that you desired to be on in your first session there or did that take a little while? JOHNSON: It took a little while. I got on judiciary, and that was my first preference, and it was because of my legal background. I stayed on that committee all the way from the time I started till the time I finished, and I was chairman of it the last three or four sessions. So that, and that was my primary committee, and I'd kind of jumped around on the others. MOYEN: Um-hm. What types of issues did you have to deal with on that committee? JOHNSON: On judiciary? MOYEN: Um-hm. JOHNSON: Primarily related to the court system, child support, even ran some of the abortion bills through there. It was because we knew we could get them passed there. I sure, all the criminal statutes, crimes, of course, drugs and the DUI bills and enhancing crimes, the, I can't think of the name of it, but where you, the slammer bill, not the slammer bill, but where you had to serve out so much time if you got convicted of a felony, rather than being paroled after serving minimum time, but anything that related to the courts. MOYEN: A few years before you arrived in Frankfort and are on the judiciary committee, Kentucky's judicial system essentially is overhauled and changed. JOHNSON: Um-hm. MOYEN: Did you have, did you see anything develop out of that that you had to deal with? JOHNSON: That was all completed before I got there. MOYEN: Okay. JOHNSON: It was in place. The fellow I succeeded, Charles Wible, was the chairman of the judiciary committee and was the one that shepherded all that through, and Charlie is from here in Owensboro. MOYEN: Okay. How much, you mentioned different individuals from Owensboro. How much did you all begin to sense and capitalize on an Owensboro connection or a western Kentucky connection, in terms of wielding influence in government? JOHNSON: Well, the best thing that ever happened to our area was Don, you know, and it was another result of John Y. keeping hands off, was when Don Blandford got elected speaker pro tem. And that happened, I think, in the `82 session. And then Don was named speaker in `84, and he won that election by one vote or so. And then when he was speaker, we took off. We had a lot of power then, and maintained it until BOPTROT. And, but Don was able to do a lot for Owensboro and Daviess County while he was the speaker, and did a lot for Owensboro. MOYEN: Is there anything in particular that you can think of, other than legislative independence developing during John Y. Brown's term, anything that sticks out in your mind during those sessions? JOHNSON: John Y. was a good governor. He had some real competent people around him and, you know, they looked at trying to make government more efficient. And John Y. was a good governor. And, you know, he didn't take himself too seriously, and he tried to do the right thing for the right reasons. He didn't have, he was a very nonpolitical governor. One thing they said, "Well, one reason he could be that way is because he didn't owe anybody anything, because he got there on his own." And, but he was a good governor. Sure was. But I can't think of anything specific, other than that, you know, he impressed me as being a very honest person and trying to do the right things for the right reason. MOYEN: You mentioned the different assignments that were made and how the governor didn't, or how John Y. Brown didn't push those on anyone or allowed the legislature to choose. JOHNSON: He didn't in--, try to influence the leadership or the assignments on committees. MOYEN: Did you, what other contrasts could you draw between Julian Carroll and John Y. Brown that let you know that things were different? JOHNSON: Julian Carroll had his finger on everything. There wasn't anything that took place that Julian Carroll didn't control. John Y. only controlled the things that he felt like were, that his office had a responsibility to take care of. MOYEN: Um-hm. Do you remember what some of those things were, that he was interested in? JOHNSON: Well, you know, as far as the legislature goes, as I said, Julian determined who was going to be the leadership and who was going to serve on what committees. He determined what bills-and it was not only him, it was all the governors before him. That had just been the tradition in determining what bills were going to pass. And he had a list he sent up every day. "I want this and this passed. And this one, hold this bill." And I didn't even know that it existed until after my first session, because I never, you know, it never got to me, because I wasn't, you know, I was kind of a non- entity. So when John Y. came on board, you know, he didn't, it didn't make him any difference, you know, what we did, just as long as we did what we were supposed to. That was, he said, "You all got a job to do, you do it. I got a job to do, I'll do it." And there was a major difference between the two. And John Y. added a lot of prestige to the office, because he was quite well known throughout the country, and Phyllis George Brown was well known. She made a good first lady and made a good presentation about Kentucky, and it was a, it was one of those times that, Camelot-type times for Kentucky. MOYEN: Um-hm. Although Governor Brown did have a good relationship with the legislature, one thing that he pushed for and that later Wallace Wilkinson would push for that they couldn't get was gubernatorial succession. Do you remember anything about that debate and why the legislature stood where it did on the issue? JOHNSON: Well, all those issues are political, and I'm sure there was somebody, and I don't remember right now who it was that was opposing it, but they always, somebody out there that wants to be governor is opposing it, who has some influence inside the legislature. And if you had succession then they wouldn't have an opportunity for another four years, so it was all, and I don't even know who was in the, who would have been involved at that particular time. Now, Wallace Wilkinson was a whole lot different than John Y. Brown. Wallace did not get along well with the legislature at all. Nobody, he just, he was his own person, and unless you were with him early on in his election for governor then he just didn't have the time of the day for you. And he was a very tough man to deal with. I mean we had a lot of, a lot of sparks flew from the first floor to the third floor when Wallace was governor. MOYEN: Now, in between John Y. Brown and Wallace Wilkinson is Martha Layne Collins. I was reading in a history book, there's this quote about her first session as governor. It said, "The General Assembly rejected her proposals and her program," but it didn't offer any specifics on that. What about her original session was the legislature concerned about or what did they reject? Do you recall anything in particular? JOHNSON: That, if I'm, if my memory serves me right, Joe Wright probably told you as much yesterday about that as, they, Joe Wright and his group kind of had control of things back then at that time. Joe Wright, Mike Moloney, Ed Ford, John Berry, David Karem, they kind of controlled the whole state government there for a period of time. And if my memory serves me right, it was probably during Martha Layne's time. And they just decided what things, what was going to happen and what wasn't going to happen. They, you know, they treated us like stepchildren down at the House. And, you know, they talk today about the problems in the House and the Senate. Back when I served, we had as much problems with the Senate back then as they probably have today, because they didn't, you know, they decided they were going to be in control. And it didn't make any difference they were Democrats and we were Democrats. They just kind of dictated things because they had more ways to do it than we did. So you always have had problems between the House and the Senate. And, but anyway, if my memory serves me correctly, it was just pretty much that group in the Senate that pretty much ran things. And they decided what they wanted to do and didn't want to do, and it wasn't, I don't think, a reflection on her, but just that's just the way it was. They had the power. MOYEN: Um-hm. The group of individuals that you just mentioned, who gained control in the legislature, became known, at least had been tagged the "Black Sheep Squadron." How did they come to wield so much influence or power? Do you know the political in-workings at all of how they assumed such a powerful or prominent role in the legislature? JOHNSON: Well, you know, you talk about legislative independence; they got in some conflict with Julian when he was governor. That's when it really began. And that's when they got, I think they got their name as the "Black Sheep Squadron." And then it carried over into John Y.'s tenure. But I think it was primarily from the, from Julian, from them taking Julian on. That's how they originally got that. And then when Julian left, they were in a position just to continue that resource they had. And they'd all been around for a number of years and knew how the system worked, and they knew how to work the system. And they were all do-gooders, too. So, you know, it's hard to beat do- gooders when they're in power. They were the ones that knew the right things to do. MOYEN: Uh-huh. What do you mean exactly by doing the right thing? JOHNSON: Well, they were all, all wore white hats, the press liked them, they were good guys. And as a result, they could get things done, because they had the media behind them and- MOYEN: How much, by this time you've served a number of terms by Martha Layne Collins' term, and you just mentioned they had the media behind them. How much does that influence your ability to get things done in the legislature? JOHNSON: Well, it's my opinion that it's hard to get anything done real constructive unless you have the media with you. And I began to study that, and The Courier-Journal always had a history of deciding what was important for the upcoming session. And then, you know, six months before the session they'd start running a series of articles on things that they wanted to see changed, so that when those articles were over, by the time the session started, that was the hot-button issue. And so they decided what the issues were going to be for the session. And you can go back through history and see their series of articles over the years, and you'll see that those. Like drunk driving is a good example of it, election reform is another good example, education reform. And you then you go back and it's there. MOYEN: Um-hm. During Martha Layne Collins' term, she calls a special session on education, or for educational purposes. Do you recall anything about that session or- JOHNSON: I don't think we did anything, did we? MOYEN: I have written down that it resulted in a few hundred million dollars extra for education, but that there weren't that many specifics, in that it didn't really change the way the system was run, so maybe that's why you don't- JOHNSON: I'm sure it was a precursor to the, education reform passed in what, `90? MOYEN: Um-hm. JOHNSON: when Wallace was governor. But she was governor, what, from eighty-- ? MOYEN: four to `88. JOHNSON: Eighty-four to `88, and I'd say that that's probably the precursor to education reform. You know, they filed that suit right after that too, I think, and that's what, that's all part of that whole scenario of education reform. And I'd say that probably gave it the impetus for the suit and that type of thing. MOYEN: We discussed, you know, just briefly the "Black Sheep Squadron" and the leadership in the Senate. During Martha Layne's term, I believe it was 1985, there is a big leadership change in the House. Particularly, Don Blandford is able to defeat Bobby Richardson as speaker. How did that evolve or how did that develop? JOHNSON: I'll tell you how it evolved. There was Bobby and Jimmy LeMaster and "Herbie" Deskins and Bob Jones. There was about seven or eight of the guys that were in leadership, and they lost contact with their members. And as a result, people just became a little bit disenchanted with them and decided they wanted a change. And they got change. And Blandford took them on because of that. And Greg Stumbo, that's when he became majority floor leader. And Blandford carried Greg in. Bobby was the one that was in trouble, and then he took LeMaster with him, too. Nobody, LeMaster, nobody was mad at LeMaster, but when Bobby went, LeMaster went, too. And so Stumbo and Blandford came in. And Kenny Rapier, I think, and Jim Dunn, Donnermeyer. MOYEN: You- JOHNSON: It was Dunn, Donnermeyer, Blandford, Stumbo. MOYEN: Pete Worthington? JOHNSON: Pete, yeah. MOYEN: You mentioned people being upset with Bobby Richardson but not with Jim LeMaster so much. What were those frustrations with the speaker? JOHNSON: Well, they, I said they lost contact with their membership. You know, they just felt like they could do what they wanted to and that they didn't have to be answerable to their membership, and that's what got them in trouble. MOYEN: Was that a tough election to switch things? JOHNSON: You bet you it was tough. Yes, sir, it was tough. You had governors involved on Bobby's side, calling the members, putting pressure on them to vote for Bobby. I mean it was a tough, tough time. There was a lot of tension. It's not very easy to topple a speaker, especially one as tough as Bobby. Bobby was tough. He was a tough politician, and he had a lot of debts out, a lot of IOUs out there, and that was a tough, it was a tough thing for Blandford to take him on. MOYEN: Um-hm. Just trying to get a sense of the political in-workings or how that develops, what types of things are the buttons that either the governor or the speaker pushes when those elections are going on? What types of things are in those phone calls or conversations? JOHNSON: There are usually projects in your district, there's committee assignments, committee chairmanships, those are the plums that are out there. Those are the three, I'd say committee assignments and committee chairmanships are the two plums that you use in a speaker's race. MOYEN: Were you ever threatened to lose any committee chairmanships, or were you ever promised to be rewarded with anything out of those (unintelligible)? JOHNSON: I never got into that scenario. I came out with a committee chairmanship because of Blandford being elected. But I had never been promised or had anything taken away from me. Where I did, one of the things I had to deal with was Blandford was speaker and Bill Donnermeyer was caucus leader. And Jody Richards was a friend of mine, and we spent a lot of time together, ate together a lot at night. And Jody decided to run for caucus chairman. And so I told Jody I'd support him. And Don Blandford and I got in a big argument and fight over that because he was for Donnermeyer, and he felt like that I should be for Donnermeyer. And I just said, "I can't be for Donnermeyer." And there was some infighting in there, too. But, see, Donnermeyer, he's a pro-life man, but he is also a lottery man, and I was against the lottery. And I knew if I got him out of leadership, he'd have less chance to pass the lottery than if he was in leadership. So I voted for Jody out of friendship, out of the lottery issue. And so Don and I had some, a little hard time over that. And then Jody only won by one vote. I tell him today he wouldn't be running for governor if it hadn't been for me (Moyen laughs). And then here I am next door to Blandford, too. You know, we're in the same city and the same, he had, I had District 13, he had District 14, so it was a tough vote for me. And I had to step up to the plate. Eww, it was hard! MOYEN: So that is a very difficult decision to make? JOHNSON: It was then. It sure was. And it was a difficult decision to, you know, David Thomason had been the speaker pro tem prior to Blandford getting elected too, I think. And I had, David's a good buddy of mine, went to law school with him and all that, and he tried to get me to vote against Blandford on that, so, you know, your relationships get involved in those issues and that makes it real difficult because you, you know, you like to get along with people and you don't want to have to be in any more of an egregious situation than necessary, but sometimes it's necessary. MOYEN: Um-hm. Are there any examples of political friendships that you were able to maintain, despite extreme disagreements on the way you were _______(??)? JOHNSON: Well, the longer you get up there, the longer you're there, the less personal it gets. You can disagree without being disagreeable. And most everybody knows where the other one is coming from on most issues and you respect that. You don't always agree with their positions, but you respect their right to have the position. And as I say, the longer you're there, the more you're able to deal with those. When you're first there, you just, it's hard to deal with it because you can't understand why somebody would be the way they are. After you're there and after you get to know people, you understand it more and you're able to accept it. And, you know, you have friends that disagree with some of your issues. They're still your friends, though. So it makes it a little bit easier as you've been, after you've been there for awhile and know how the system works. MOYEN: Um-hm. You mentioned that you pretty much know where people, after you get to know someone, you pretty much know where they are on a vote. Can you think of any examples where either you or someone else gave a speech that was actually able to convince someone to vote otherwise on an issue because of a good persuasive speech? JOHNSON: Most people's decisions are made before they get to the floor. I'd say there are very few times you change people on speeches. One of the things that you run into sometimes are amendments, and amendments can sometimes have as much effect on the bill as the actual vote on the bill. And you commit to vote for the bill or against the bill, but you don't commit on the amendment. And so that kind of, you're able to wiggle a little bit on those. But most of the time, on hot-button issues, you know where you are before you get there. Now, on issues that aren't hot-button issues, you might be influenced by a speech, but not too often. MOYEN: Um-hm. Probably the biggest legacy of the Martha Layne Collins era as governor, which the legislature played an important role in, was bringing Toyota to Kentucky. JOHNSON: Yes. MOYEN: Do you recall how you voted on that incentives package? JOHNSON: I voted for all the things that brought Toyota to Kentucky. MOYEN: It, was that particularly difficult, simply because it wasn't helping, or didn't appear to be helping, Owensboro as much because, hey, the plant's in Georgetown and it's going to be so far away or is that- JOHNSON: No, no. No, we just, we were delighted to be able to get Toyota to Kentucky. We would have done, we would have moved Frankfort to Georgetown to get them here. I mean it was a big coup for us, and it's proven to be true today, that it was one of the best things that's happened to Kentucky in most of our lifetimes. I'm driving a Toyota right now (Moyen laughs) that I got from Georgetown. Well, it's an Avalon. I have a nephew who works up there. You know, he's been up there for several years, moved from here to there to work there. So it's just, it's been a win-win. MOYEN: Has there been any development of business in Owensboro because of that? Has it reached that far? JOHNSON: Well, not, ours, there's a Toyota plant over at Princeton, Indiana. And we've got a Dana plant here that makes frames for the trucking, their trucks over there. So that's helped, it's helped from the fact that we've got a Toyota plant in Princeton, Indiana, and we've got a factory here that makes frames for them. But we've had a little bit of, not from Toyota in Georgetown, but from Toyota here. MOYEN: Okay, all right. JOHNSON: But, you know, I say this: if it hadn't been for that Toyota plant up there, they wouldn't probably be here in Princeton, so I'd say that Indiana has benefited from it. MOYEN: Um-hm. In that, during the 1987 election, Wallace Wilkinson comes to power. We did touch on him just briefly a little earlier. Could you tell me a little bit about the transition back to maybe a governor who's trying to assert more- JOHNSON: Contentious, contentious, contentious. What's the guy's name that helped to get him elected governor that's now a national campaign consultant? Married to Mary Matalin? Carville. Carville was here. You know, Carville was Wilkinson's campaign chairman. And then when we were having problems with Carville, with Wilkinson, he was back in here advising Wilkinson again on how he needs to deal with us, and began to put campaign ads on radios about how bad the legislature is and that type of thing. And I think eventually the leadership told him, said, "Either get him out of town or we're not going to even do anything with you." And so ultimately, Carville left. But anyway, Wallace, there was only one way with Wallace and that was his way. I mean he just didn't know how to compromise on issues, and he was hotheaded. Nice guy, but he, boy, he was a contentious guy. MOYEN: Can you think of any examples in particular where he either threatened or cajoled or attempted to get you or anyone else in the House that you know of, in particular, to vote a certain way on something? JOHNSON: The only thing I can think of is, of course, back in those days, we always had worker compensation issues come up. And I think he tried to get me to vote on a worker's comp issue. That's the only one I can remember. And I didn't vote with him. I voted against him because I had committed to vote for the other side. MOYEN: Um-hm. And did you feel like you faced any repercussions because of that or (unintelligible)? JOHNSON: I never did get anything out of him. Toward the last part of his tenure, I became good, not good friends, I became a friend with Milo Bryant. Milo Bryant was the transportation cabinet, and I had a project that was promised to me in Martha Layne Collins' campaign. I voted for a gas tax, and that they would improve Carter Road out here. And they had it on the, in the six-year road plan, but it just wasn't making any progress. So I began, I voted for another road, another gas tax, and Milo was the governor, I mean the transportation cabinet. And I got to know Milo and, ultimately, Milo pushed the project up and got it moving. It was completed during Paul Patton's campaign. But it's a beautiful road out here that was promised to me during Martha Layne's tenure, promised to me again during Wallace's tenure, and Wallace's group got it moving for me. And it's out here where the Dana plant is. And that's probably the only real project I ever got in Daviess County. I was influential in getting a new judicial center over here because I served on the committee that funded that. But, and then we, you know, we all, we're going to dedicate the bridge tomorrow here, the new bridge. And we were all involved in that in various ways. Wallace helped us with that a lot. Wallace helped Daviess County a lot. He had some people here with him that were here with him early and up front. And he didn't ever remem--, forget that. He did quite a bit for Daviess County. He gave us some money for the arts center over here, that type thing. Built a garage over there, built that parking garage. MOYEN: Now, when was the bridge built? JOHNSON: Well, it started twelve years ago. And it's going to be dedicated tomorrow, be open in September. We had a lot of, of course, Bill Natcher was involved in it. Wendell Ford was, Mitch McConnell, Ron Lewis, Wallace Wilkinson, Paul Patton. MOYEN: Um-hm. Do you have any interstate cooperation that has to go on with that? JOHNSON: Well, we've been working on that bridge for years and years with Indiana, trying to get a road from the bridge to 64. And that's, Indiana's promised that, but they haven't come through yet, but ultimately there's supposed to be a four-lane from the bridge to 64 that will connect us there. And that way, you know, we get the bridge, go 637 or go 6--, down that, 231, I guess it is, and go to Louisville that way and St. Louis that way. MOYEN: Um-hm. Has that been a difficult issue for Owensboro, that they haven't been on an interstate? JOHNSON: Absolutely. We tried many years ago to get the West Kentucky Parkway over here, and we weren't successful. That's where we wanted it to come, about another thirty miles this way, and we didn't, weren't able to get it done. MOYEN: Any idea why that was? JOHNSON: Didn't have the political influence. Everything's determined by politics (Moyen laughs). [End of Tape #1, Side #2] [Begin Tape #2, Side #1] MOYEN: We had talked earlier about just your campaigning and doing that and how you didn't face too much opposition until you'd served for quite a while- JOHNSON: Um-hm. MOYEN: which certainly helped, but one thing that you had mentioned, I think, off the tape was that you switched churches, and that that was a tough decision. JOHNSON: It was. I'd been a Catholic all my life, and I felt like God had called me to, in another direction. And there was a group of us that started a church at that time, and it, but it was a, it's the most difficult decision I ever had to make. Because you're, you know, the way you're raised is part of your culture, and you had to make a cultural change, and that was difficult. And a lot of people didn't understand it, so it was just a hard, hard, difficult time. MOYEN: Was that difficult just personally, or did the fact that you were a representative, did that make it more difficult? JOHNSON: It did, because I had a pretty high profile in the community. And you know, you can't just slip out and nobody notice when you do something like that. So that it made it much more difficult. And then, of course, I'd always gotten a lot of votes from the, from that group of people, and so that was an issue there too, that I had to deal with. MOYEN: Getting back to where we were in terms of Wallace Wilkinson and his help with Owensboro, another big issue during Wilkinson's term becomes education reform and raising taxes to be able to pay for that. JOHNSON: Um-hm. MOYEN: That occurred in the 1990 session. What difficulties do you remember about education reform and the taxes that were going to be needed? JOHNSON: Well, I wasn't convinced about education reform, and I'm still not convinced about it today. I felt like we had a good educational system in Daviess County and Owensboro, and our kids were getting educated. It seemed like most of the impetus for the reforms occurred in eastern Kentucky, and it seems like so many of the things that drive the legislature are issues that are eastern Kentucky issues that we have to deal with throughout the whole state and affect the whole state. So that was one issue I dealt with. The other thing was that a whole lot of the education reform was to give teachers raises, which I don't say that they didn't need. And supposedly it was to provide for a better educational system for our students. And based on what I knew and the decision itself that brought it about by the Supreme Court was an oxymoron of a legal decision. It was a social decision rather than a legal decision. You know, for the Supreme Court to state that all statutes relative to education are unconstitutional is ridiculous. It was a ridiculous decision, and it was a political decision made by the, by Bob Stephens primarily, and the rest of those members that went along with him, that he convinced to go along with him. And a lot of the things they said we needed to do were social issues rather than educational issues. If you reach the, read the seven or eight points, they deal with social problems rather than educational problems. And what had happened also was that a lot of our problems weren't educational. They were societal problems, because of the disjointed families and the educational system having to step in and be mother and father to kids, because mothers and fathers were not fulfilling their responsibility, and the educational system is not set up to be mother and father to children. So there was just a lot of issues out there that I wasn't convinced that were being dealt with, and the reasons for the changes, I wasn't sure were going to improve our educational system. And then I had to vote for a major tax increase in the process of it. And that's one vote I gave Don Blandford. If it hadn't been for Don, I probably wouldn't have voted for it. But I felt like he, you know, he was the Speaker of the House and he, you know, he wanted it. And it would have been, looked very bad on him if I hadn't voted for it. MOYEN: Is that just the tax increase or- JOHNSON: You had to vote for the whole package. MOYEN: It was all together? JOHNSON: You couldn't vote, see, they put it all together. And so you either voted it up or down. And they did that, because a lot of people who'd vote for education reform wouldn't have voted for a tax. So they all included it in one bill for that reason. So, and I'm not convinced even today that educational reform has done what it should have done. One of the things they sold us on was that you would be able to take people who weren't the traditional teachers, educated the traditional way, and get them in the classroom to teach some of their skills and technology, and that's never taken place. It's supposed to have been, technology was supposed to have really improved on it; that hasn't happened. The accountability testing has never worked the way it was supposed to. So, you know, what we did, I think, is two things. We gave teachers a raise, and they needed that. I don't have any problem with that. And secondly, we made teachers more accountable. I'm not sure we made the students more accountable. And, you know, the after-school programs, the family resource centers, you know, they're social, family resource is social programs. After-school programs, I'm not sure that we get a good enough bang for our buck on those, whether there's enough students to take advantage of it and whether they get enough help with what they need. So, and then with education, you know, they'll spend as much money you give them. You know, there's no, it's a bottomless pit, so, but, see, that was driven by the newspapers, too. So, but anyway, it was a hard vote. And it was a hard vote for two reasons. One, I wasn't sure that we weren't getting more into social education rather than education. And then it was a stiff tax increase on the people, too. Every time you, I pay my income tax, we had a relatively small income tax in Kentucky up until then, and we raised it to six, a flat 6 percent. It's a significant amount of money that you pay in income tax today, whereas before, you, it was a pretty insignificant amount, plus your increase in sales tax 1 percent. And the people, you know, I had opposition that year in, both for the primary and the general. And that's what they ran against you on, you know, was the tax increase. So it was pretty tough, it was a tough year. Ninety was a real tough year for me, you had the education reform to deal with, you had the, that vote there, my dad died in, March 31, 1990, I had a primary election in 1990, and I had a general election in 1990. So I spent, I gave my whole year to the legislature that year. It was a tough year. I was glad to get it behind me. MOYEN: Yeah. Let's talk about the one other big, tough thing, at least when reading the papers about you from the `90 session was dealt with a child support law and- JOHNSON: Um-hm, exactly. MOYEN: and where that was in your committee. JOHNSON: Yeah. MOYEN: What was the controversy there? How did that develop? JOHNSON: Well, there were two, a couple of issues. One was they wanted a law passed that would require every man or woman who had to pay child support to have an automatic wage garnishment, in other words, that automatically withheld child support from their paycheck. I said, "Why would you punish a guy that's doing what he's supposed to by garnisheeing his wages? Why can't he continue to pay, to his spouse or to his ex-wife, child support if he is doing it anyway? Why do you, why does the government have to get involved in that?" So that was my first issue. The second issue was how the child support guidelines themselves were going to be implemented. And I'm trying to remember, there was the attorney general, he was going to, it was Fred Cowan is who it was, and he was the guy pushing all this stuff, and he, Fred and I had always butted heads on things, and I kind of got my back up over that. But I'm not, I know I got a lot of bad publicity over that, but I'm not quite sure what the other reason was. But that was the primary thing I was opposed to was garnisheeing their wages when they were paying child support anyway, rather than having them continue to pay as they had in the past. MOYEN: What type of political backlash or, did that cause? JOHNSON: Well, they used that as an issue in my campaign down here. They took, got some of those editorials from The Courier-Journal and ran those things, but it-and I was always fighting with women, it seemed like, in the legislature, because they were always, you know, the domestic violence laws, you know, arresting a person without a warrant. And it just seemed like that a lot of our constitutional rights were being violated. And so it kind of got to be a male-female issue, and then I kind of took the male side, and that was the wrong side to take as far as the newspapers and editorial boards and other things were opposed to the male issue. And I had dealt, you know, they had some father-rights groups up there and, on child visitation and that type of thing, but it was, I guess the, as I try to think about it, and that's been a while, you know, my idea of it was to try to preserve the family unit as much as possible, and to try to keep as much quarreling down as they could, and I felt like a lot of legislation tended to divide the family rather than to bring it together. So that's really, that was where I was coming from. MOYEN: Um-hm. It was- JOHNSON: And I lost (both laugh). MOYEN: How, so how did that issue end up resolving itself? Do you recall? JOHNSON: Well, ultimately, I sponsored a bill and ultimately passed it, and pretty much in the way that they wanted it passed, but I made some changes to it that I felt like were essential and important and gave the judges a little flexibility on child support guidelines, whereas they weren't hard and fast. In extraordinary circumstances, the judge has the right to change them, and I was responsible for that. And, but then we, they wanted to put them in the, in regulations, the people that were pushing them, and I put it in the statute book. I said, "You need, it's a law, and it needs to go in the statute book rather than in regulations." And they finally agreed that that was probably a good decision. But ultimately, there was a lot of fighting and quarreling that went on. But ultimately, it turned out where everybody was satisfied. MOYEN: Um-hm. Another issue that you've mentioned that you've been in support of are, basically, pro-life issues. Reading up on you, any articles in, primarily, the Lexington Herald that mentioned you, one of them is adoption reform. Can you tell me anything about adoption reform legislation, or what the impetus was for encouraging it? JOHNSON: I gave two years of my life to that. It really came up because there were a lot of, there were people who felt like some of the babies were being sold and, because of high fees that lawyers or doctors or somebody charged for securing babies for adoptive couples. And so that's how we got into the reform. And we tried to, and it hadn't been updated for years, and we had testimony, and it also, you know, back the way I was trained was that all adoption records were private and you didn't open up any of them. Now then, today it's wide open, and we, I think we made it easier for people to adopt. And that was the goal, to make it easier for people to adopt. And I know one of the things that used to be, you could take a baby from the hospital, but before you could get it to the adoptive parents, you had to have a guardian appointed for the child in the court until this person was approved by the cabinet to accept the child. Now then, you can get a temporary guardian appointed, assigned by the judge, and then they can take the child immediately from the hospital to their home, and then the cabinet can approve their application later. But just tried to streamline and make it a little bit easier; made it easier to terminate parental rights. That's one of the things we did. If people don't pay child support, don't visit their children, that type of thing, they don't do that for a period of six months, then they can terminate their parental rights. MOYEN: Okay. In 1992, Brereton Jones comes, takes the governor's office. Did you feel like there was much of a change between the former administration and his? JOHNSON: He succeeded Wallace, didn't he? MOYEN: Yes. JOHNSON: There was a whole lot of change. It wasn't contentious like it was with Wallace. Brereton was easy to get along with. Of course, he's the one who took us through the health care fiasco. You know, he had, that was one of the things he ran on, was health care access for everybody, and he was going to try to pass legislation that made health care available to everybody in the country, in the state. And it really backfired on Kentucky. It caused insurance companies to leave Kentucky. We don't have any competitive insurance companies, even in Kentucky today. Anthem's got almost a monopoly on it, and the insurance premiums are sky-high and- MOYEN: Do you recall what about that legislation has caused that? What types of things were involved in that? JOHNSON: Well, yeah. He made insurance cover everybody; they couldn't exclude anybody because of high risk. And that was the primary thing that drove it. In other words, you could take somebody that had cancer, so to speak, you had to take them. You know, it's very expensive to treat cancer, especially if you have surgeries and things like that. And he said the insurance company could not refuse to write somebody, so they left the state. MOYEN: Um-hm. Do you recall how you voted on that health care reform? JOHNSON: I voted, the first time around, I voted for it. The second time around, I voted against it. MOYEN: Did you feel like you noticed in that time difference, or what was the logic behind your different votes on that? JOHNSON: I didn't really care about voting for it the first time, but I did it. But then the second time, I decided I didn't, I wasn't going to vote for it the second time. MOYEN: Of course, the other big thing in the, at least in terms of the legislature during Brereton Jones' term in office, is BOPTROT and that. Can you tell me a little bit about what that was like when that broke, when that all came out? JOHNSON: It was a state of shock. You know, I just, I didn't hear about it till about 6:30 that night, and they later found out FBI agents had been all over the place all day long. We'd been on the floor, had had a session that day, and I found out about it that night, and it shocked me. I couldn't believe it. There was accusations of bribery and the other things. All these different people had been interviewed. And Jay Spurrier was at the center of it, and I, we were in Lexington the night before all this took off, took place, and I saw him over there at an eating establishment, talked to him like there wasn't anything wrong. So I was just stunned. MOYEN: Did you ever have a sense or a feeling that some of that was going on, but that it was smaller? Or were you really not- JOHNSON: I never had any sense that there was anything like that going on. The only thing, and it was a culture up there at that time, lobbyists bought every, all your legislators' meals, they bought them drinks, you know, whatever you wanted a lobbyist to do, that's what they did. And, you know, they took them on trips, different things of that nature. They bought food for you when you were on the floor during the late parts of the session. You'd go late at night, you always had food around that they bought for you, and it was just an accepted part of the system. And so it, you know, it wasn't, you know, what they did or what they were accused of didn't surprise me, because that was what, you know, it was, that was the culture. Now, I was surprised about them giving them money to buy food. Now, what they generally did was to buy the food, and just, you know, just put it on a charge account or what-have-you, but you didn't, never got any money. I never saw any money pass hands. MOYEN: A number of people have said that, that have been interviewed said, "Well, when I went to this restaurant or whatever, my meal was purchased, but I didn't even know who bought it." Was that the case with a lot of the things that went on? JOHNSON: No, I always knew who bought my food. The only time I, that ever occurred to me, when I went up to, and I wasn't there very often, was to the hangout where Blandford and them hung out, that Pete's place, Pete's-Flynn's. Flynn's. Now, I had, I've had it bought for me up there once or twice where I didn't know who bought it. Pete just said it was on the house or something like that. But any other time, when I went out to any other place, I always knew who bought it. Usually they took us out. I mean the lobbyists were with us when we went. That's how they paid for the food 99 percent, well, that's the only other, the only time it ever happened to me was at Flynn's. MOYEN: Um-hm. How did that change your political relationship, either with, or personal relationship with individuals? And how did that change the influence that western Kentucky had in the General Assembly. You had mentioned that earlier. JOHNSON: Well, after BOPTROT, we didn't have any influence anymore. It all went down the tube with Don, because Don was the one that, you know, had the influence, in the position to have the influence. Well, I guess the thing that, it was hard to believe these guys did this. It's still hard for me to believe they did it. And I can't make excuses for them, but I just, it's still difficult for me to believe that they knowingly broke the law and knowingly, would knowingly influence legislation for money or whatever. It's just hard for me to believe that. I don't believe Blandford would do it. I mean, now Blandford would, you know, somebody would want him to, you don't have, you did not have to do things for Don to get him to do things for you, as far as the legislature goes, as legislation. I mean he would help whoever he could, but you didn't have to pay him to do that. He would do it because he either liked you or wanted to try to help you out or he felt like it was a good thing to do. But by the same token, if he thought it was bad, he'd say, "No, I'm not going to do that." So I just, you know, I still, now, you know, one thing he did that I think probably was the worst thing he did was that he bought, he took some money out of his campaign fund and bought one of his secretaries a car out of his campaign funds. And, of course, that's a thing he had no right to do. But as far as selling votes, Blandford wouldn't do that. He wouldn't do that. MOYEN: In the wake of the BOPTROT scandal, there is a, well, there is a push for ethics reform. Of course, before that, there's the run for Speaker of House, which you got involved in- JOHNSON: Um-hm. MOYEN: against Joe Clarke and one other- JOHNSON: Pete Worthington. MOYEN: Worthington. What caused you to decide to run for that? Is that a decision made on your own that you felt like you needed to do, or were there other individuals that were encouraging you to do that? Or how did that develop? JOHNSON: Well, you, I feel like it was something the Lord wanted me to do; had no reason to do it out of, other than that. Nobody asked me to do it. Everybody was surprised when I did do it, but I felt like that's what God wanted me to do. So I did it. It's the only reason. MOYEN: Um-hm. And when you're attempting to gain the speaker's role, how do you go about campaigning, in a sense, campaigning with other legislators? What do you do? JOHNSON: You get in your car and you start driving to all the districts, contact them one by one. And that's what I did. MOYEN: Um-hm. And you ended up coming in second of three, right? JOHNSON: Um-hm. MOYEN: Okay. JOHNSON: But by a long shot (laughs). I think I got ten, eleven, twelve votes. Pete got maybe eight or ten, and Joe got the majority of them. MOYEN: Um-hm. Why do you think they chose Joe Clarke over you or over Pete Worthington? JOHNSON: Well, it was the powers-that-be; you know, that Joe was anointed by the press, by the leadership at that time to do it. MOYEN: Um-hm. And it, in that next term, ethics reform became probably the big issue, at least it seems like. JOHNSON: In `94, I guess, wasn't it? MOYEN: Um-hm. What did you think of the ethics reform? JOHNSON: That was driven by the newspaper, too. If you go back and look at all the articles, you'll see that coming up to the session. I think that it has done two things. First of all, it's probably made the legislators a little, a lot more closed in, not nearly as open as they were, made a little bit more fearful of what could happen to you. Nobody likes to be set up, so it, and even make you a little paranoid to think that the FBI could come in and try to set you up to break the law, and so that's a little, that's scary. So that's the first thing. The second thing it's done was that it, I don't think the legislators are as near accessible to people now as they used to be. One thing's happened, we had the offices all in the basement there, and we were all with each other all the time. And now then they've got these offices on the second and third and fourth floor of the annex and, you know, it's hard to get hold of them anymore, it's hard to make contact with them. And so it's a lot more difficult to get things done as a result of that. But BOPTROT had a very traumatic effect on me. It really did. And it's probably one of the things that made me leave the legislature. I just didn't want anything to do with it anymore. The other was, I had a boy that was going to be a senior in high school. I felt like I needed to come home and raise him, and that's what I did. I enjoyed the legislature. I liked it, I really did. I enjoyed it. And I would have stayed forever if it hadn't been probably for those two things, or until I got beat. But I enjoyed it, I enjoyed the process, I enjoyed being in the legislature. But I felt like it was time for me to come home. You know, one thing that happens if you stay up there for a long time, you feel like you own the office rather being owned by the people, and you just need to turn it over. You don't need to be there forever. But I, it was a good ride for me. It was a good experience. I felt like I spent most of my adult life up there, and I enjoyed it. I enjoyed the people I got to know, I enjoyed the process, enjoyed being able to have that opportunity to serve in that way. It was a good experience for me. MOYEN: Um-hm. You mentioned BOPTROT and your speaker's race and your family as big reasons to decide to let someone else- JOHNSON: To come home. MOYEN: To come home. How does being in Frankfort during those sessions, or even in between sessions, affect your family life? JOHNSON: Well, it certainly takes you away, takes time away from your family, and it's a sacrifice that your family makes from you being away, especially for my wife. She's the one that bore most of it. MOYEN: Let me ask you this real fast before I forget. How far a drive from Owensboro is it to Frankfort? JOHNSON: Two hours and forty-five minutes. MOYEN: Okay. JOHNSON: Many a morning I'd get up at five o'clock and go up there. In session, you have committee meetings when we're not in session, just so I wouldn't have to spend the night up there. I didn't spend very many nights up there out of session. I did through the session, like Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, came home on the weekend. But anytime I had a committee meeting, I'd always go up that morning, because I just wanted to be at home. As I said, I didn't lose anything in Frankfort, and so I only went there when I had to. MOYEN: Uh-huh. How did, thinking in the long term, how did region or even your single district influence politics and the way that you had to align yourself with voting? JOHNSON: Well, there's a couple of different things. First of all, on issues of "on principles," I called them, I voted my conscience. And I said, "If they, they all know where I stand on these issues, and if they don't want me there, they can vote me out." Then the second thing I looked at was try to think about what's in the best interests of the people that I represent. And we're not a democracy, we're a republic, and it's my job as their representative to vote what I think is in their best interests and the way they want me to vote. So I just, you know, I put all those factors together and tried to come up with a way I thought was right. I represented a primarily urban business district. My voting record historically was with labor primarily, because labor is what helped me get there, and with schoolteachers, because they would help, helped got, get me there. But I just tried to analyze and see what, you know, what I thought was best. Now, on most issues, you don't have time to do that because you deal with too many issues. On the major issues is where you have to kind of, sort of try to figure out what your district would want, what's in their best interest. And so that's the way I tried to do it. MOYEN: Um-hm. Looking back on your legislative career, what would you say your chief legacies were? What are you most proud of about your time in Frankfort as a representative? JOHNSON: Well, I, one of the things we did each day was to have a prayer before the session, and we pledged allegiance to the flag. And when I pledged the allegiance to the flag, I always thought about the compliment that the people gave me by electing me and allowing me to represent them in Frankfort. And, you know, as far as any landmark legislation, there wasn't any. But what I tried to do was give them good, honest, open government, and to be accessible to them, and tried to vote the way I thought would be in their best interest. But I don't have any legacy. You know, I never was in a leadership position, other than chairman of the Judiciary Committee. Most major decisions are made by the five people who are in leadership. I was able to influence them from time to time, but just being available, accessible, trying to vote the way I felt like my district wanted, would benefit from, and just being, trying to be an honest politician, one that they could be proud of and respect. MOYEN: Um-hm. And since your decision to come back home, have you just been involved in your law practice? Is that primarily- JOHNSON: Well, I've been, yeah, primarily I haven't done anything else to speak of. I've been, I told you I was on the utility board here, and I used to, I was on the free clinic board here, which offers free medical care and prescriptive drugs for low-income families. And I used to be on the community college board here until Governor Patton took me off because of gender-equity issues. He wanted, he felt like he needed to appoint a woman in my place, because he had made a commitment that he would have all of his boards gender-equity before he went out of office, so he took me off of that. But anyway, those, I've been on those three boards, and I'm on the Leadership Owensboro board and, but I'm not, you know, I've stayed involved, but I'm not as involved, I used to spend a lot more time on church work. I don't have to do that anymore. Back when, during the session a lot of time, I was kind of pastoring a church back here too, so I was doing three different things. I was pastoring a church, legislator, and lawyer, so that's pretty busy, and raising five kids. But- MOYEN: Have you been- JOHNSON: God's been good to me. He has been so good to me. MOYEN: Have you been involved in any type of lobbying, or any type of going back to Frankfort? JOHNSON: Yes, I've lobbied for the Williams Company here in Owensboro. Texas Gas, and I've done some lobbying for them since `96. And I'm back up, up and back at least one time a week during the session. MOYEN: Um-hm. What is that like, being a lobbyist, from the other perspective? JOHNSON: You're an outsider. You're an outsider (Moyen laughs). It's a major difference, a major difference. The legislature is a club, and the only way you can belong to that club is by being elected to it. And if you're not elected to that club, you are not a part of it anymore. So it's real, a lot different. MOYEN: Do you notice anything in particular about the legislature now that you are, think is a particularly good change or a particularly a bad change, a change in the wrong direction? JOHNSON: Well, you know, I alluded earlier to, back to the fact that they had the new offices and BOPTROT. I don't think they're as accessible now as they used to be because of that. They used to be out in public a whole lot more than they are now, and those offices kind of insulate them from the public. MOYEN: You mentioned raising five kids. Do you have any grandchildren? JOHNSON: I have five grandchildren. Sure do. Proud of them. Got one that had a birth--, one's four-years-old today. And I turned 65 last Thursday myself, so it's been a birthday month. MOYEN: Um-hm. Is there anything else about your life, your career, or the legislature in general that I haven't touched on that you'd like to mention? JOHNSON: Yeah. I guess the thing that I got out of the legislature most, I served with a lot of fine men and women, and I made a lot of good friendships during that time. And that was a great joy to me, to be able to have the opportunity to meet the men and women who served and also the people who are lobbyists up there. They are part of what I call the system, and I really enjoyed that. It was a pleasurable time of my life. MOYEN: Um-hm. Are there any friendships that you've developed that you still maintain now? JOHNSON: No, there's not. Usually what happens, and I wasn't aware of this, but once you get back home, you get back in the routine of home and you don't have time for anything else. There's two or three, several friendships I developed, but, you know, once you're out of that circle, then it just, they just kind of go by the wayside. My best friend that I developed up there was Albert Jones. Albert is down at Paducah. He used to be a federal prosecutor, and then he was Commonwealth Attorney, and he and I became very good friends over the years. MOYEN: Did he serve in the legislature? JOHNSON: Yeah, he served about eight years, and then he ended up being mayor of Paducah for four years, left office about a year ago, but he was a good friend. And Jody Richards is a good friend of mine over in Bowling Green, and Dorsey Ridley over at Henderson. You regionalize yourself to the people you run with. Charlie Geveden down at Wickliffe is a friend of mine. But it seems like the western Kentucky guys stick together, and the eastern Kentucky guys stick together, and Louisville and Lexington, but it's very regionalized. MOYEN: Um-hm. Is that a good thing or a bad thing, or do you see- JOHNSON: Well, I don't think you can do anything about it because it, I think it's a cultural thing. You know, you have similar cultures. You run with the people that you're culturally in tune with. MOYEN: Um-hm. Anything else you can think of? JOHNSON: I believe that's it. MOYEN: All right. JOHNSON: It's been good. It was, as I said, it was a good time. I can't end up without saying that it's the Lord who hath done great things for me. MOYEN: I thank you for your time. JOHNSON: You're very welcome. [End of Interview] Johnson (House 1978-1992, 13th district; Democrat) begins the interview by discussing his family and education. He discusses campaigning and the experience of being a freshman legislator and contrasts the leadership styles of governors Brown, Carroll, Collins and Wilkinson. He critiques the outcomes of the education reform passed by the 1990 legislature and discusses his opposition to the child support legislation proposed in the 1990 legislature. He reminisces about the collegiality of the legislature and his pride in having served there. Kentucky Legislature