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2006-06-20 Interview with Thomas "Tommy" Todd, June 20, 2006 Leg001:2006OH083 Leg 105 1:22:23 Kentucky Legislature Oral History Project Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries Legislators -- Kentucky -- Interviews. Great Depression -- Kentucky. Religious ethics. Roads -- Design and construction -- Kentucky -- Pulaski County. Education -- Kentucky. Tourism -- Kentucky. Kentucky. Governor (1979-1983 : Brown) Kentucky. Governor (1983-1987 : Collins) Kentucky. Governor (1991-1995 : Jones) Kentucky. Governor (1995-2003 : Patton) Brown, John Y. (John Young) Jr., 1933- Collins, Martha Layne Wilkinson, Wallace G. Jones, Brereton Kentucky. Education Reform Act (1990) Patton, Paul E., 1937- Tourism Reagan, Ronald Depressions -- 1929 Masonry Education Roads School discipline Pulaski County (Ky.) Shepola (Ky.) Nancy (Ky.) Johnson, Lyndon B. Freibert, Pat Somerset Community College Rogers, Harold Dallas, 1937- liberalism Nixon, Richard M. (Richard Milhous), 1913-1994 Truman, Harry S., 1884-1972 Eisenhower, Dwight D. (Dwight David), 1890-1969 Kentucky Education Reform Act (KERA) Kentucky Education Reform Act (KERA) Term/District: House (1982-1996), 83rd district Counties in District: Pulaski County (Ky.) -- Russell County (Ky.) Thomas "Tommy" Todd; interviewee Jessica Flinchem; interviewer 2006OH083_LEG105_Todd 1:|22(7)|31(13)|46(8)|57(4)|68(10)|79(10)|90(10)|97(11)|108(8)|118(11)|129(4)|137(8)|150(4)|160(10)|173(2)|190(8)|204(3)|217(10)|227(14)|238(8)|247(1)|257(1)|267(6)|289(8)|306(7)|318(6)|327(1)|340(7)|349(11)|359(8)|370(3)|387(9)|404(1)|417(6)|427(5)|446(3)|455(9)|469(1)|479(4)|490(12)|501(11)|513(6)|532(3)|547(2)|557(8)|566(4)|582(8)|595(5)|610(10)|622(10)|635(11)|646(10)|657(7)|668(10)|685(5)|696(2)|706(12)|724(4)|738(2)|749(12)|765(7)|776(12)|787(10)|797(7)|809(9)|821(9)|834(13)|846(5)|858(12)|872(1)|884(1)|899(10)|913(10)|925(5)|933(1)|941(7)|950(10)|963(5)|970(12)|981(8)|992(9)|1003(1) audiotrans Legit interview FLINCHUM: The following is an unrehearsed interview with former State Representative Tommy Todd who represented Pulaski County in the Eighty-Third District from 1980 to 1996. The interview was conducted by Jessica Flinchum for the University of Kentucky Library, Kentucky Legislative Oral History Project, on Tuesday, June 20, 2006, in Mr. Todd's office in Somerset, Kentucky, at ten o'clock AM. Mr. Todd, what is your full name? TODD: Thomas W. Todd. FLINCHUM: Thomas W. Todd. TODD: The "W" stands for Woodard. W-o-o-d-a-r-d. There's very few people has that kind of name. It's obsolete. (both laugh) FLINCHUM: Okay. Could you please tell me where and when you were born? TODD: I was born in Pulaski County in the Shepola neighborhood. FLINCHUM: Shepola? How do you spell that? TODD: S-h-e-p-o-l-a. There was a post office there run by a fellow by the name of Shepard. And I don't know if that was the way it got the Shepola name or not. I've always understood it did. They called it Shepola for Shepard (??). And he run a store and a post office when I was just a kid and I don't know how long before. And I was born in 1927 in August; I'm a summer rabbit, so to speak. (Flinchum laughs) I had wonderful parents. Most people, I guess, will tell you that, maybe feel that way about their parents, but I absolutely did have good parents. I've often thought my mother was smooth, serious, laidback. She was the one that really kept the family straight, not that she's overly bossy or anything like that. She's very calm. But, she was very serious. And when she spoke, people respected it. And my dad, he was more of the disciplinarian. Such that when my mother, if us children, we would get out of hand somewhere, she said, "When your dad gets home, I'll tell him. You'll regret it." Well, not all the time by any means would he slash us, but once in a while, he'd take us to task over it. So he was, I think in looking back, he was the disciplinarian but at mother's hands. You know, she'd say when they need it and when they don't. FLINCHUM: Um-hm. TODD: But my mother was a very gracious woman. I don't know, I grew up in a farming community out there, five miles out of Somerset. It's now known as the Nancy community. Of course, Nancy was always, I don't know, that kind of went back to the Civil War, Nancy did. She was the postmaster out there when the Civil War was fought, in the Battle of Mill Springs. And that's the reason they named it after Nancy. Her first name was Nancy and they just went to calling it that. And my grandmother--talking about my parents--my grandparents, my Todd grandparents, my grandfather was born in 1848. And he died before I could remember. But my grandmother was born in 1852. And I remember her very well. She died in 1941, I believe it was. And I remember her well. Of course, she lived on the same farm we did. In fact, she lived in the house with us after she had a stroke and, you know, could no further take care of herself. So I can remember her very, very well. She was a very, very wonderful woman, gracious woman, good (??) grandmother. In fact, she helped keep us kids in line because there was nine of us. And I'm the seventh child. And being born in '27, I remember the Depression very well, you know. I know living through the thirties, anyone who lived through the thirties, they remembered what hard times were, you know. We never went hungry because we had probably a hundred fifty-acres farm, about a hundred fifty-acres. And about fifty of it was down on Fishing Creek in the bottoms, and that's where we always planted corn, and corn's the staple product, you know, for a farm back in those days, and is today, too. And if you had bottomland that was, that was a plus because you didn't need fertilizer very much, and this sort of thing. And we always farmed the bottomlands. And I had three older brothers. I had four older--yeah, three older brothers--I get it straight now--I had three older brothers. I lost one, just older than me, in World War II. He got shot up in Italy. He went through the whole North African campaign. And went in--and when they went in, was going across Italy, and he got hit with a mortar shell, out of Naples, Italy, just after they'd taken Naples, Italy, and in the counterattack the Germans hit him with a shell. And he lived about three years after that and died of his wounds. He never was discharged; in fact, he's committed to the hospital all the time. He got to come home two or three times. We got to go get him and keep him until he'd get bad again and have to take him back to the hospital for care. But, and my other--we was all four in the service at one time. I was the younger one and the war was practically over when I was drafted. But my other two brothers, they was all three in the war zone at the same time. And the oldest brother and--well, the oldest two brothers, they come through without any wounds. My one, other, older brother has had, he got rheumatic (??) fever as a result of it. But, he died with--he had heart trouble after that always. And, but anyhow, that's enough of war stories. But that, I think, you know, who was it wrote the book here awhile back about the greatest generation? Not that I contributed to it but I think you go back to the people that fought in World War II, they, you know, that was a war, that was strictly a global war, you know. It wasn't isolated. And I think that had a lot to do with, the war did, those times of Depression and the war together did a lot in molding, you know, people's principles and so forth. Made them what they were, I think, that generation. But it seems like in the sixties we saw things change dramatically. From then, we've kind of, as a nation, so far as our culture and morals have taken a downturn, you know, for the worse. And it seems to me, that you know, unless we can reverse this thing, why, we're liable to lose the status as a great nation, as a great Christian nation. Enough said? FLINCHUM: Do you think that's partly because of the generation gap? Like there is something in the greatest generation that wasn't passed on? TODD: Yeah, yeah, yeah, I think it took a dramatic change in the sixties. You wouldn't remember though, but that was before your day. (laughs) But I think then is a when--oh, I hate to say immorality forces took over. But they got their foothold. If you go back in history, in the sixties that was when it seemed like the people, the nation begin to say, 'Oh well, maybe this is the way to go, you know. Material possessions, and material wealth, and fun and frolic is the way to go.' And we are still on that trend, you know, to a great extent. Things of great value have been sort of sidetracked for the pleasure of the day. I think we see that. We see that in people building--of course, people have always built big houses, you know, some have. But I don't think there is ever been a time when people were going as extravagant with their buildings, their homes as they are today. We're right now building a million-dollar house. My son's, it's his responsibility to see it through. But it's a million dollar house for three people, a man and a wife and a child. It's got, I believe, its thirteen thousand feet. I think that's what it is, I can't remember. But I know I was on it yesterday, and I worked on it yesterday, and he doesn't need it anymore than he needs a freight train running through his front yard. That's just an extreme example of the extravagant way that people are living. It's just showplace. Need is not driving people anymore. That's my personal opinion. I know that's not what you need but I think that's true. Need is not driving people anymore. Now the majority. A lot of people have lots of needs that's not being fulfilled, but. It seems that we have taken the lesser of the two choices in life, in general, we have. And if you go back to the sixties, the Johnson days we passed all kinds of legislative issues that was going to take care of everybody. And now we are reaping the results of that. We've got everybody, a lot of people to take care of that we don't have the means to do, looks like. Because--and we've made, we have made, oh, we have created this problem a lot by telling people that the government should take care of them. And too many are sitting on the sidelines just kind of waiting for the mail to run and get by. They don't think about tomorrow. I deal with people every day and have most of my life that they have no thoughts of saving a dollar. If they make a thousand dollars, they spend it. If they make a hundred, they'll spend it. With no nest egg for tomorrow. That's a lot on society but that's not the--I'm talk too much. FLINCHUM: You mentioned earlier that you've done a lot of masonry work. TODD: Yeah, that's been our main thing. Now, we have built--years ago, several years ago, I had two brothers and a brother-in-law. And we all worked together. And we did total buildings. We did school buildings, and church buildings, and anything, garages, commercial buildings of any kind. But, oh, two of my brothers, my one brother, my brother- in-law died, and I got old, and I'm the youngest one of the crew; they were all older than me. And help we had, done like us, we didn't put new people in place, and not enough. And part, some of them retired, three or four died and I just planted one yesterday, I went to his funeral. And we just didn't have young people to take your place and had no heart to go out looking for them. And as I say I'm old myself; I'm almost seventy-nine. And it's time for me to kind of quit. And my son, see, he's, going on with it, the oldest one of the two boys. But he's not doing any of the commercial buildings, or he hasn't. He's tied up with these big houses. He's got five houses going on right now. But this one, now, is the big one but he's got another one started; just bringing it out of the ground that's almost as big as this one but not as extravagant. But he's going on with that, and the other boy is PVA over here. He runs this building here. But had the--it don't look like it now but it was a Ford tractor dealership, a garage, and all this. But this place right here, where we're at, this is where they worked on tractors. The front end of this. And we remodeled it about--I don't know--about seven or eight years ago. And these people that's in here is friends our children went to school with. They're all from the Nancy area. Not all of them but that family is. The Turpin family, and the boy, the one guy and his sister, they're in the other end of this building, and one of them runs the monogram, and the other one, a drugstore. And so, it's sort of interrelated, you know. They were good strong families, and they've worked well and got along well. Your question was--I've forgotten what you said. FLINCHUM: I think you've answered it. TODD: Maybe that was it. FLINCHUM: Where did you go to school? TODD: I'm a one-room school educated boy. Out in Sargus (??), it's a Shepola neighborhood--we won't get Sargus (??) mixed up with it--but that's another name for the community. But in the Shepola neighborhood--it's almost lost its Shepola. It does have a road through there, a community out here that's called Shepola. But it's-- oh, the larger neighborhood of Nancy--see, we're, our mailing address is Nancy. That whole area out there is Nancy anymore where it used to be Shepola. But, I went to school at the Shepola one-room school. We had two one-room schools, therefore the kids could walk to each school, you know. They only had one for a while, when I first started school. But then they had two. So, I went to the closest one. And that was it. I didn't go to high school. I did--I went to the Army after when I was eighteen. I was eighteen in August and got my call to the military in December. And then went off to the service. And then when I got out, I got my GED. Went to Columbia, down here at the--oh, Union College. Three days down there and got a GED. And so, I do have a high school diploma through GED. So you can see now why I don't understand too much about PhDs. (both laugh) FLINCHUM: I think you're very well educated. TODD: Well, I've got by. [Pause in recording] FLINCHUM: Okay, Mr. Todd, how did you first become interested in politics? TODD: I guess what I said earlier, the depression era, the World War II effort, growing up in those times made me patriotic, I guess. And I was concerned about, you know, how well our country conducted its affairs, not only our state but our nation. And I was always interested and kept up with Presidential elections in particular. So, I guess that was the ground rules for it. And I always thought that one day I might, you know, run for office of some kind. And I never had a great deal of interest of running--I never ran for local office. I had different people to come to me wanting me to run for a local office of some kind. In particular, one time a chairman of the school board and the county judge, I believe it was, they come to me wanting me to run for the school board, you know. And I told them I didn't believe I wanted to. But I just didn't want to get mixed up in the local politics. Because I knew, you know, all the political people, and I just didn't want to get into it. I wasn't interested in that. So I just went ahead with doing my thing, and my work because I've always lived on a farm and owned land, and that's always been one of my loves is for Mother Earth. And I went, I kept, stayed the course, in other words. And then I knew the state representative. I liked him, and I always supported him, and I knew one day he was going to retire. And I was in London, Kentucky, over here on a job, and my wife called, and said, "Well, Marshall has announced this morning that he's not going to run again for state representative." And I said, "Well, I'll get ready and take care of that tomorrow." (Flinchum laughs) So I come home that evening. And I'm not sure if the next day, but right shortly I went and filed for state representative. And not only I filed, but seven others filed. So it was a, it was a real rat race for, I don't know, three or four months. And I come out and I was running against one former legislator and he had been a good one. But he was a 'has- been' and an attorney, another builder, and I'm not sure who all but, one attorney that I can remember. But we ran a nice race. Everybody was friendly and no rough stuff. And the night of the election, well, the attorney, physician--or the candidate, he called me, and before I realized I had won. He calls, says, "Tommy, Congratulations." And I said, "Are you sure?" "Yeah, yeah," he says, it's over." He said, "I've got all the calls have come into my office and said you have one by a pretty good majority." And I said, "Well, great, wonderful." And so we got along real well after that. Or as we made a race. And then the time that one or afterwards, one of the candidates that was second- or third runner-up--third runner-up, I believe he was third runner-up--he ran for county judge in four years and won for county judge. But my interest in politics was not for personal gain at all. It was just too hopefully could affect the direction of government because as I said earlier, I'd lived through the sixties. And remind you this was in a 1980. So this was twenty years with the sixties thrust toward state government and national government, and I felt like we were going the wrong direction. And I still think it was the wrong direction for the most part; but not all, but for the most part. And I guess that's the reason I got into politics. It was a long time, it was a long time in coming, but I always had interest in it. And it was almost a miraculous thing that I won because I had some tough opponents. And then I had, of course, in the fall, then I had a Democrat boy, whom I knew--not very well. I knew of him: I knew his family, his mother. And he ran as a Democrat, and of course, that wasn't any problem. I won much easier there than I did on, with the seven Republicans running. FLINCHUM: This is a very strongly Republican district, isn't it? TODD: Yeah, yeah, it is. FLINCHUM: I notice the primaries are usually a lot hotter than the general elections. TODD: Yeah, yeah, right. Now if you win, if you win the primary here, why, usually you got it made. Once in a while, we have went for a Democrat if everybody unhappy with a sitting judge or something. Then the Democrat has a chance to win but it's about two-to-one. Well more, it used to be two-to-one, but now it's more than, greater than two-to- one Republican. Of course, I don't have any problem with that either. (both laugh) I think Laurel County over here is about the same way, too. You know, Laurel is a big county also. But I think, I know Clay County, I believe Jackson, and it's a Republican, isn't it? FLINCHUM: I think Jackson County ranks number one for the biggest Republican ratio, I think. TODD: Yeah, that's what I'm saying per ratio. FLINCHUM: Has in the past. TODD: CD (??) he's a dandy. Of course, he's from Irvine but he's a character. You ought to interview him. But now as I say, he had a stroke. He may not be--he had a stroke three or four years ago and I went to see him a couple of times. But I haven't been back lately and I understand he's had a setback here lately. And he's back not functioning as well as he was. He got to where he'd move around on his own and all. In fact, he was over here. I seen him over here at the Center for Urban Development down here, you know, where it's at down here, by the college. He was down here a while back at a Harold Rogers's function and I talked to him down there, him and his wife, both. But he's a great guy, a great guy. FLINCHUM: Why do you think it is that the Republican Party is so strong in the Fifth District, around in here? TODD: I think--I don't know. It's hard to say. We've had strong Republican leadership. I think you'd have to say that in the past. And I think one, he's went on now to his reward, but Delvin Hope (??). He was circuit clerk over here for twenty years or more. He was a former educator, so you better watch it. (Flinchum laughs) That may tell you something. You may be circuit clerk one of these days or something (Flinchum laughs). But Delvin was very strong. And he was sort of, I guess, you'd say at the helm of the party. And Louise Combs, she's another strong person. She's living yet today. And she's way at it in her nineties now. But thinks it's clear as she ever did. But she's very strong in the leadership of the party and has been for years. And in fact, she assisted me in my campaign, my first one. And I always went to her for advice when I needed it. But I think the party leadership is one thing. And the other thing is we have grown since the sixties. The ratio has increased a good deal Republican. And I think the moral issues is made a greater difference than anything. I don't think there's any question about it. And as I said earlier, I believe there's about 184 churches in this county, big, you know, all sizes put together. And I think, actually, the morals that the Democratic Party has pushed on the national basis has done them so much damage that I think that's bled out into the counties and the rural areas of the state and the nation. It's because of the moral issues. I think you see it every day, or hear it every day on the news, and stuff, and literature you read in particular. Churches, for the most part, they don't go for a lot of this stuff. Hanky-panky, we'll call it. And I think that's good. FLINCHUM: When I was at some regions of Kentucky tend to vote Democrat at a local level but on the national level, they'll vote Republican. Do you think it's mainly because of the moral issues at a national level? TODD: Yes, now you've hit something there that has been very evident for years. I mean this goes on back. This state, for example, would vote, they vote for President more than they will the local person that is Republican. For example, take Reagan. Look how Reagan, and how well he was loved. Look how he stood. I used to say, if a few years ago, I've made the comment, I said. It's a disgrace that our national leaders have to champion moral issues stronger than the church does." And now this has been true, you know, it's the truth. And it was never more evident than it was with Ronald Reagan. And he was, a few didn't like him, but, you know, that's putting it sort of mild to say a few. But he was very strong. And I think his stand on moral issues done more to build the Republican Party and lower the sites on the Democrat Party than anything that's happened in the past few years. Because he was a very strong advocate of the family, of moral issues, family values. And if that's not what we need, I don't know what, you know. It's so goes the family, so goes the nation, you know. I think that's, you know, enough said. Now you used to say, the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world, you know. Somebody said that, one of our old Presidents years ago, I think said that--I don't remember which one. And that's true that if so goes the family--as the family goes, so goes the nation. And strong families builds character. Well, strong families do build character. Now I think that's true. I've already mentioned the fact my family was a strong family, I think. My dad and mother, my grandparents, and I guess sometimes they think they made a failure in me and maybe some of the others. (Flinchum laughs) But I think that's true. And there is a family we work with here that's rented this part of the building, they're a good strong family and Republican family. Not that I had a great lot of difference or difficulty with Democrats but I never, never been able to see why a good, decent person would want to support the Democrat Party a national basis. I mean, the higher up you go, the worse it gets. In the national Democrat Party, as long as the people stays in control there that's there now, I don't think they have anywhere to go but down, you know, personally. Well, enough of that I guess. FLINCHUM: Who were some of your favorite Presidents and Governors, or least favorites? TODD: Huh? FLINCHUM: Or least favorite? TODD: Oh, I hate to--of course, there's no question, well, I liked--go back to the end of World War II. Now Harry Truman wasn't a bad President. In fact, he's a credit to a lot of our Democrat Presidents. Harry Truman was not a bad president. Lyndon Johnson, -------- --(??) he's dead and gone, but I thought he passed so much liberal legislation. If you go back to your history books, you'll find that there was more liberal legislation passed under Lyndon Johnson's reign than any other two Presidents or three in the history of our nation. And see, remember it was called "The Great Society." And he was going to take care of everybody. Of course, this all started with Roosevelt. With the-- FLINCHUM:--the New Deal and the War on Poverty? TODD: The New Deal. I know my dad and my dad was, we were Southern Democrats, you know, back in the past. My dad, he was registered Democrat. The things I remember my dad saying. He said, "This man is not for good. Not good for the nation. He's a snake in the grass," if it means anything to you. And I was just a kid then. You know, I was just five, or six, or seven years old. And I remember one night, two neighbors come down. They were strong Democrats, and Dad's a Democrat, and they said, "Tom, we've got to get this man Roosevelt"--they called him Roosevelt [Rue-sa-velt]--said, "We've got to get this man Roosevelt elected." Now I hadn't paid much attention to what was going on. We were sitting out in the yard. And they said, "Now, Tom, we've got to get this"--my dad's name was Tom--said, "We've got to get this man Roosevelt elected this fall." My dad, when he finally spoke, he said, "Now boys,"--they were two brothers--he said, "Now, boys, I can't help you because I think this man is a snake in the grass." Said, "What he's promoting is not good for this country." And he never changed his mind. And I started to say the New Deal started all this stuff and Lyndon picked up on it, President Johnson did. And passed all this. And which it looked good, you know, and the people went for it. Take care of everybody; take care of the needy, so forth. And we've created a society now where there's so many people out there that they can't or won't defend themselves, or won't fend for themselves, you know. And I maybe sound like I'm too hard on it, but I know, as I said earlier, we've created a society where too many people have their hand out and expect somebody else to fill it. You know, I think that's it. Ronald Reagan was probably my most honored President, at least in recent years. As I say, coming out of World War II I liked--I loved Dwight Eisenhower. I thought he was a good President. He went the right direction. I thought he was super good. And, of course, you won't like this; Nixon was running a good, good government and taking the right side of the issues until Watergate come up, and he got entangled in that, and it ended destroyed him. No question about it. And I didn't like some of the things that come out on Nixon, you know, later in all this. When they had tapes where he had used some terrible language, you know if you remember. But I thought he ran government well, so far as the national issues. But Watergate destroyed him. So Ronald Reagan is, would be my favorite. FLINCHUM: You worked with several Governors, haven't you? TODD: Yeah, yeah. FLINCHUM: Do any standout-- TODD:--John Y. Brown! FLINCHUM: Brown. TODD: Now a lot of Democrats say, Away with John Y. Brown", and John Y. Brown said, "Government ought to be run like a business." And I agreed with John Y. Brown, most of the time. And he was a wealthy man, you know. Kentucky Fried Chicken, that was one of his entities that he owned. He's a wealthy man. But he was a guy that would come sit on the edge of the table with you and let his feet dangle over and talk to you. He was that type of fellow. He was just one of the boys more or less. I liked John Y. Brown. I liked Wallace Wilkinson, although Wallace got accused of a lot of things, and nobody is, I guess no one is perfectly clean. But John Y, I liked John Y., and I liked Wallace. Oh, Paul Patton, he was a good enough fellow. He knew how to run the government--I mean to suit himself, now; it not suit everybody else. He was pretty emphatic when it come to what he wanted and wanted for his area of the state. I don't know, I guess I'll just have to say that John Y. was about, the pick. Martha Layne was, she was a wonderful--she was a lady. But I didn't get to see much of her, not near as much as I did the boys. (Flinchum laughs) I don't know if that's my fault, or hers, or what, but she didn't seem to be as accessible as the fellows did. Wilkinson, he was just like John Y. He'd go to the lake with you, if you wanted to go, or just go out and shoot the bull, so to speak, and sit down, and talk to you, just one of the boys, you know. And then there was--oh, what's the other one? FLINCHUM: Jones? TODD: Yeah, Brereton Jones. Yeah, Brereton was a, he was a great guy but--he's a Democrat. Of course, he was a Republican when he left Virginia, you know. Then he come over here and got in the horse business and he registered Democrat because it was the going thing to do. And he was all the time telling us Republicans, when he'd get us together, "Boys" he'd say, "I'm a Republican, son; I'm just in Democrat clothing now. " (both laugh) But that didn't bode too well, I don't think. He's a nice guy. They were all nice. One-on-one, they were all nice. But I'll tell you, you get caught up in the web. People tell me, 'I vote for the man, not the party,' but my response to that is, "When that man gets in a position of authority in the party, he'll do the parties work or he'll be ostracized, you know. He'll either do the parties work or else." And I've seen that happen many times. You know, if you're going to be elected as a Republican, you'd better be act like a Republican when you get there. And if you're going to be elected as a Democrat, you'd better act like a Democrat when you get there, or they'll make it so hard on you that you're just out of step with them, you see. And there was one man, in particular, that I can think of that's in the state legislature, and he's out (??) there today is Tom Riner. I don't know if you've ever heard of him or not, but he's good to the core. He's a registered Democrat. He's out of Louisville. But his number one moral issues whatever they are, and he's always got by with the Democratic Party. They can't touch him. But he's such a good man. His people just keep sending him back. Even though he's Democrat, he doesn't act like it. I mean, on the issues, he's number one. Him and--he was in the House and he is in the House--but him and a state senator, every session used to, they'd take up money to go to--not Hungry--but Romania. They'd both been over there prior to this. And every session they would take up money from the legislators and from the staff, anybody who would contribute. And they'd take, they'd go and take provisions, do whatever they could for the people, and they come back and report to us. They'd tell us what conditions were like in Romania. And I have read since but along then (??) and since then that Romania was a very, a very poor country and privilege is refused, refused. Oh, it's just one of those things. But that was a Democrat, ----------(??). I was saying a thought there, but that was a Democrat and a Republican that teamed up to do good work. So all of the Democrats are not bad. My sister that's out of the education system she just never did change. See I registered Democrat when I was young, eighteen years old. But after--in 1970, I believe. We kept complaining about it and our daughter who had become eighteen years old and time for her to register, and I told my wife, I said--and my wife registered Republican all the time; she's always registered, never, she's always registered from when she was eighteen years old--I said, "Go with her and register Republican and tell them to change my registration." I said, 'I'm tired of trying to make excuses for what the Democrats have done and me registering one." And I changed my party affiliation then. And I struggled, I struggled with it. I just worried with it for so long of a time. And then I, seem like I've talked too much about Democrats. (Flinchum laughs) You never told me, you may be a Democrat, it don't matter. FLINCHUM: (laughs) I have both in my family. TODD: Have you? FLINCHUM: In the past but I know what you mean about party changing over time. People sometimes change with their parties, sometimes not. TODD: Oh yeah, yeah, that's true. But you don't have--you know, too many people--I've said this and I'll say this one more time,- if people wait until election time to figure out who they're going to vote for, they've waited too long, you know. If you don't pay attention to what's going on the two years before or the four years before, whatever time it takes to get to an election, if you don't pay attention to the trend, you can't wait till the man starts running or a woman starts running for office and pay attention just to what they say then because that may not be the true person. FLINCHUM: They'll be on their best behavior. TODD: Yeah, that's right. (both laugh) That's right. FLINCHUM: What were some of your first impressions when you first went to Frankfort in 1980? Was it what you expected when you got there? TODD: Well, I don't know. It was new for me. It was new for me because I had, I'd spent my year and a half in service and moved around all over the country. I never went overseas because the war, as I say, had ended. It was a new experience for me. I'd come home after service. And I had been to Indiana. I went to Ohio at sixteen years old with a family that lived up there, went there from this neighborhood, and had a boy my age. So, I went up there and stayed with them, and worked in a foundry when I was sixteen years old. Weapons foundry where they made military stuff. And I come home that winter--I believe it was I went back to Indiana when I was seventeen years old and stayed till just before my birthday. I worked at construction work, helping brick- layers on a military project. And come home to register in August. The thirteenth of August, my birthday, came home and registered and then got my call in December and went away in service. And so I hadn't had a lot of experience as an eighteen year old boy, you know, with legislative stuff. And Robert's Rules of Order and all this stuff, you know. It was a new experience for me. And it sort of made me feel--I was out of my class, so to speak, you know. When you get running with, the saying is, "the big dogs," a bunch of attorneys and stuff like that it. It made you feel like you was pretty ill prepared for it. But you get used to it in a little while and you make friends with all these guys regardless of who they are and you get adjusted to it pretty soon. I don't know if there were any big surprises. No, not really. I always thought, you know, after, in these days, I've got to where, you've heard this story that they put their britches on just like I do? I got accustomed to that even before. The Army taught me a lot, I'll tell you. With, when you went to the service, you were with guys from all over the United States, and you did things their way. [Tape 1, side 1 ends; side 2 begins.] TODD: I think to a certain extent I've always been a people person, you know. For the most part I like people and I've dealt with people all my life. And after I got out of the military, I went to come back to here, and went to work at construction work. And that's one of the reason I won my first race as easily as I did, I had worked in every area of the county just about in Somerset and out. And I knew a lot of the people and they knew that if I told them the sun was going to rise tomorrow, they believed it. (laughs) And if I said it wouldn't, they'd believe me, you know. (Flinchum laughs) They knew me, you know. They knew I was a person of my word. And I think that helped me along a lot. So, in the legislature, I just I learned, you know, people are just people. You respect their authority and their--and I learned that very well in the Army, too. The first time I went--the second week in the Army, we shipped to Little Rock, Arkansas, the home of Jefferson Clinton, Bill Clinton. And they told us--it was two o'clock when we got down there and they drove us to the mess hall to give us a meal. They said, "Now, when you come out," said, "Bring everything that's on the table"--there's was only bowls, you know, food--said, "Bring everything out. And bring everything through the mess hall and drop it off." Well, I could--I had only been; mind you, now I'd only been there a week and that was very ----------(??) --now I come through this mess hall, the first day there, two o'clock, and this big red-faced cook was standing there when I went through the mess hall. And I had this bowl of cooked cabbage and that was something I never thought I could eat at home. I had this bowl of cooked cabbage and I looked him right in the eye and said, "Where do you want this 'you know what' put?" And boy, he looked at me and said, he called the name that I had called his cooked cabbage. He said, "You call that so and so?" He said, "Look here, young man," said, "You're in the Army now." Well, he chewed me out. I stood there for about five minutes, it seemed liked, that he chewed on me and he said, "For your information young man, that's cooked cabbage." "After I stood here since four o'clock this morning and worked my you know what off in this hot kitchen to have you food and then you call it something like that." (both laugh) That was my first lesson in the discipline in the Army's way. And I didn't forget it easy. And it was a good lesson. FLINCHUM: You learned to eat cooked cabbage. TODD: I learned to eat--I love it today. That's something else too. You learn to do it the military's way and that's the way you do with people. You get used to people. I guess I developed down through the years since those days; no one's a stranger hardly. You know, the saying is, "everybody puts their britches on the same," we all deal with similar things in life. And the Book says, "No man stands alone." But we all have to lean on each other. And you have anxieties, I have anxieties. And we just, we move on. And we absorb what we have to or what we need to and reflect what we need to. FLINCHUM: What were some of your top priorities for your district when you went to the legislature? Some issues you are more concerned about than others? TODD: Oh, it has always been true, I guess, roads. I know there has always been one route down here and it's a prominent road in the Oak Hill area down here--you may be familiar with it--but just down the road here, a couple mile off going west. I know I went to the transportation secretary and told him, I said, "Oak Hill Road is my top priority." And we didn't get much then. I mean, 1980, there's been a lot of change from then to 2000 or 2006, whatever which you want to say. And there's a lot more money available. A far more money available. And I told him, I said, "That road is a death trap. There's one section on it that's a death trap." And I had witnessed an accident on it just prior to this. And I said, "That's my top priority is that one road." Well, then we got it fixed. And today that whole area is full of traffic, houses, the whole area back in there is housing. So I guess roads in general is everybody's top priority. At least more so then than it is now because you've got, everybody's got good roads for the most part. And I don't know, educational buildings. So, we've added on some buildings down here at the community college. And I supported them. Just school buildings anywhere, as far as that's concerned. But the community college, we got a couple of buildings while I was up there. And this last one they built was on the books to be built, that they built a couple of years ago--we got finished. But roads, and buildings, school buildings, and things that the general public needed, you know. I guess one of my strong points as a legislator was--and I don't know if it was a strong point but it was a good PR for me--I almost never failed to answer a phone call. And I had people, we had a senator up there from this area. And he and I shared drives up there a lot. And he said, "Tommy, man, I can't believe you're getting all these phone calls. I never get a phone call. Hardly ever, you know." "Well," I said, "Maybe you don't answer them." And I said, "I'll never, I'll either answer or send a card but usually do it on the phone." You can do it so much quicker. And I've had people to tell me, lots of people say, "Tommy, you are the first legislator we've ever had that would return a call," you know. I think that was my strong point and the reason I stayed there for seventeen years. And, you know, ----------(??). I had a couple of people that ran. I think one of them ran twice, and the other, the lady ran once, and she was from out west. She'd moved away from here and then come back. She was a schoolteacher. But they didn't present a problem at all. It's always a problem but they didn't run close. (pause) I don't know; I forgot what the question was. FLINCHUM: You were talking about priorities, education being one. TODD:--yeah, yeah, priorities-- FLINCHUM: Communication. TODD: Well, that was it. Mainly, actually, I guess you could sum it up, and say that the things that was important to the most people. You know, educational things, roads, I don't think of anything in particular. I do know though, for example, this rural center development, rural development down here, you know? Hal Rogers come up here-you talk about money. It's amazing the money Hal Rogers brought into this district, you're aware of that. He's brought in more here in the last six years than he's ever brought in the history of time, you know, actually more dollars. But he come up there and I went--Wilkinson was the Governor then--and we went to Governor Wilkinson's office. And I didn't know about this until Harold was telling me. And I supported Harold when he ran the first time, when he ran for Governor, Lieutenant Governor before ever he went to Washington. But anyway, we went to the Governor's office and talked to him about it. Harold laid it out to him what he needed, five million seed money for this rural development building. And he said, "I need that. Then I can take this local commitment back to Washington and get some big money on it." And so, Wilkinson said, "I'll look at it." And so, later on, I talked to Wilkinson about it, and he said these very words, and I forgot what his finance secretary was, he said, "Tommy," he said, "We'll talk to"- -whatever his name was--he said." If he says we can do it, we'll do it." Well, in the long run, they put the five million up, Wilkinson did, and his finance secretary. And that's what got the thing rolling. That's just one example. And the odd thing about it, or the curious thing, I went before a Republican caucus pretty soon after that, after it was pretty well-developed, that Wilkinson had himself to it, if they could do it. I went before the caucus and told them, I said, "Anytime you have opportunity to support this," I said, "please do." And I know, Pat Freibert, she is a legislator from Lexington, and she's a very, very nice and very good legislator. She could talk the issues very well. And she said, "Tommy," said, "you don't really believe they're going to build a building like this in Somerset, Kentucky?" I said, "I don't know, Pat," but I said, "That's just what they tell me, now." I said, "The Governor's committed to it." "Well," she said, "I can't believe they'll build a building like that." So, later on, after the building was up and they had an open house, why, Pat was on the steps down there and I met her, and I said, "Well Pat, here it is." (both laugh) I said, "You believe it now, don't you?" Of course, I didn't know it was going to happen either. But I just knew what the Governor had said. And I've often thought of that, she said, "Tommy," said, "You don't believe this is really going to happen, do you? Build a building like that in Somerset?" But it's been a very good thing really for the long run. FLINCHUM: Somerset Community College has grown a lot over the years too, hasn't it? TODD: Oh yeah, oh yeah. It has. That's what I saying. During my fifteen years up there, we got at least two buildings and this--oh, you may have not heard of her, Mrs. Thompson. She's a former schoolteacher herself and you talk about being relentless. She's just promoted a four-year college, but it's not happened, you know. And it may never happen because the state has always said--and I've talked to them about it--they've always said, "We've got more colleges now than we can support." But, you know, they're branching out with these extensions and that seems to be the best way to go. And there may be a four-year college one of these days but--I lost my--what was it? What was the question? FLINCHUM: Somerset Community College growing. TODD: Oh yeah, yeah, yeah. This building that she talked about so much, they put it on the books, on the, you know, the long range plans. And they just finished it two years ago, about two years ago, I believe, and they're using it now. I've been there a couple of meetings in the last year. A fantastic building, it's beginning to look like a really a college campus, you know. And it's just an asset to the community. It's really a good asset. It be really wonderful as a four-year college but I don't know if, it's hard to afford everything they've got going now, the state has, you know. But Hal Rogers is liable to come up with something on, enough money to--(Flinchum laughs) But there is talk around (??) --I heard this last week--he was thinking about running for Governor. I said, "He'll never do it." I don't think he will. He may not particularly. College is an asset to the community. And that came under Bert Combs, you remember? And, of course, I knew Bert Combs. I met him a few times but he was before my time in the legislature. But the community college began, was funded in his administration as I remember it. FLINCHUM: You were in the legislature when KERA came about, weren't you? TODD: Yeah, I sure was. FLINCHUM: Any comments on that? TODD: Yeah, I never had any support for it. Good or bad, I've never supported it. And they got a lot of criticism for it. But I don't know. The way it was presented, and what we knew about it and what we can tell about it, it seemed liked it was more bad than good. And I'm not so sure that it's--and I'm not in tune that much with education right now anyhow--but I'm not so sure that it's been all that, it has improved education that much overall. I think we could have got the same improvement in education without KERA, as we got with it because there's been so many things happened with it that was counterproductive. Not all's been (??) counterproductive, you know. And I don't know it's been worth a lot. I know we got a lot of school buildings and lots of school buildings that's state-of-the-art, more or less. But as I say--and I'm not bragging about it in any way--but I got mine out of a four-year, four-room school--two-room-one-room school with forty kids in it. Now you think about that. One-room school with forty kids in it. And I think kids in that day--and not just me--they got the basics of education. Now I read one time that somebody, some educator had wrote, said, 'Education is good if you realize you've just begun.' You know, you've just began your learning process, you learn every day from there on. And I think that's true. You know, you learn to learn. Then you get a head start if you take your education serious. Of course, a lot of teenagers--and I didn't take it too serious myself. I thought, you know, it was just something you had to do, I guess. But a lot of it is, I think, it's on the people doing the teaching. And how well--of course, I know this day and time it's probably a lot more difficult to get kid's attention than it used to be. You know, there's, with all the competition that the teachers have with other things. Teachers themselves are not under a lot--are not competent I'd say, and not a good influence. I mean you hear that every little bit that everywhere they're not being a good influence. And we see it some in our own areas but KERA was--I don't know, like I've said, I've said enough I guess. I don't know if it was overall if it was good. It's put a lot of school buildings out there but whether education's improved, I don't know. I'm not that close to it. It seems from a lot of reports you get that we are turning out a lot of kids that can't read or write, either one. You know, a lot, we hear this. That, you hear it on national news a lot that kids graduate with a fourth grade reading ability or writing ability. And that don't speak well for KERA or education in general. FLINCHUM: Do you think that problems in public education have less to do with money and funding than with how they're administered-- TODD:--yeah, yeah. I think quality of education depends a great deal on the faculty and teachers and the way schools are run. Of course, I know you've got to have discipline. Discipline was taken out of the school; that's one of the big things. I absolutely don't believe in imposing on kids, mine or anyone else's. But when my kids were going to school--that's been fifty years ago now, or forty or fifty--the oldest is fifty-three--I told the teachers out at Nancy--of course, they all got their education; they all went to college--but anyway, I told the teachers out there, I knew the teachers at Nancy. And I said, "If you think my kid needs a whipping, give it to them." I said, "I'd rather have it then go without it when he needs it." And I said, "So if you think, don't worry about me." Because some parents will go up there and jump all over the teacher. I said, "Don't worry about me coming up here." I said, "I'll never do it." I said, "You think they need a spanking, then lay it on them." And I think that's one of the big problems. Parents have got in the way. Some have got in the way. And discipline, that's just one of the liberal ideas that you're not supposed to spank a kid. And without spankings, I don't know where I'd be, from my dad or schoolteachers, either. I got one--I got two whippings one day at school, and I mean our teachers gave you a whipping, when you got it that day, with a switch. I've had people, I've seen people--I don't know that I've ever done it--but he'd send you out to get you a switch, and you'd come back with a little old switch that you couldn't whip a cat with and he'd say, "You expect me," he'd say, "Go get you a switch that I can whip you with." I've seen him do that, one teacher in particular. And it didn't hurt these people; it didn't hurt me. It hurt me at the time, you know, and embarrassed me more than anything. But he called me up once. I was probably twelve or thirteen years old, and over something I had been involved in. So I went back to my seat and I was put on like I was crying. Went back to my seat, put my head down on my desk. And he seen that I was putting on. "Oh, Tommy, he said, that's so funny. Come up here and get you another one." (both laugh) He called me up in front of the whole class, the whole house, and gave me another whipping, you know. Now that really embarrassed me. I never forgot that either. You know, I think discipline, Lord, it's needed. You don't need to be abused. Kids don't need to be abused. It needs to be done in the, you know, the proper manner, but they need discipline. You know, what's a home without discipline in it? You just think about it. If there's no discipline in a home, a kid's got no direction. I mean, you can tell a kid something, but if he don't know that there is a penalty for it, he's going to ignore you. That's just--well, most of the time, I think that's true. True with me. If I didn't know there's a price to pay, why, I'd have got away with a lot of stuff. But that's the difference. Education is wonderful but it's needed. If we're not for education, we'd all be heathens, you know? We learned to be what we are. It don't come automatic, I don't think. FLINCHUM: What about tourism? Pulaski County has done a lot in the way of tourism lately, hasn't it? TODD: Yeah, that's another thing I said. Well, I guess that's included when I said the things that matter most to most people like roads. Roads is a big part to tourism, you know. And we see that going on now under Harold Rogers bringing stuff to town, more or less, the way with roads all over the place, new roads--that's another thing these bypasses. Well, I was instrumental, and I hope, in this western bypass--I mean eastern bypass over here, and I tried to get them or at least recommend it that a four-lane all the way while they was at it, or rough it out while they was doing the blasting, and so forth. And they said, "No." And I said, "It cost less now than it will later." But they said, "Yeah, but we ain't got the money to do it all." So they didn't four-lane it all the way around. That was one of my favors. But the western bypass here and I think this was under Wallace Wilkinson. And we promoted this western bypass. And they're surveying it out now, getting ready to start the ground work on it, moving houses and stuff out on the western side of town. It will be on New Circle Road, you might say, when it's all completed. And Wallace kept telling me, "We'll get this started before the end of my term." It was getting towards the end of his term and he was running out of money. And so then he told me, he said, "Tommy, we'll put it on a six-year road plan. They'll have to do something to it in six years"--because we had a legislative bill passed that once a project was put in the six-year road plan, they couldn't take it out. They couldn't move other things ahead of it. So he put in a six-year road plan where we're just now. And that's been, what six or eight years now, and they're just now beginning to move dirt for the western bypass. And it's needed immensely because there's a little, bitty road over here called Patterson Branch and just five years ago it was a gravel road--maybe more than five--a little horse path, you know, wagon road, you might say. And it gets almost as much traffic as this road right here, by coming out of western Pulaski County and even Russell County on down in there. And it's a shortcut across from West 80 out here at the Fishing Creek bridge across there, down south of town here. And it is--and it'll relieve that situation, and that bypass will when it comes around there. And that's just one of those things and that's part of tourism because if people don't have roads, they're not going to get there. FLINCHUM: You need a way to get to the lake, don't you? (laughs) TODD: That's right. We want to get to the lake. See there and that something else. I was here before the lake, you know. And as I said earlier, that we had like fifty acres. Well, the government took fifty or sixty acres--I'm not sure how much it was now--but we had about fifty acres of farmland in the bottoms, and we grew corn down there every year. And that was when I was a kid, but that was before the war--and everything changed. The war changed everything in my life and the life of the community. But I was here before the lake and seen, you know, I knew Fishing Creek to Cumberland River. But I seen the lake come in and there was a dramatic change. And that river, really, no one, no one ever thought would make the kind of change it's made in this area of Pulaski County and the other counties adjoined because it's, you know, tourism is a big part of that. Because, you know, they all used to call it the 'Ohio Navy,' you know, but all about quit calling it that but that's about what it is. FLINCHUM: I heard a professor at UK call it that just a year or so ago. (laughs) TODD: Yeah, yeah, the "Ohio Navy," it's--it's something else. But, oh, I don't know, tourism's wonderful, it's wonderful. It can get monotonous, you know. You can't get where you want to go on account of it. Used to be that way anyhow. But with more roads, you know, you can get there. And, you know, four-lane and a lot of roads around town here now. And of course, US 27 over here is six or eight lanes now and probably eight lanes, I'm not certain; I ain't counted them lately. But it's a boom in this county, it sure is. It's a very, very--revenue enhancement to the area. FLINCHUM: What are some of the biggest issues facing Kentucky today in your opinion? How would you like to see things change in the future or where should we stay the same? TODD: (pause) I don't know. If you think about the fundamentals, it seems--I don't know if you'd call it a change. But we talked about education. I don't know that you can start with any more basic improvements than education. Not that it's terribly bad. But if education don't stay abreast of the issues and the needs on the community or the state, we fall behind fast, you know. If we don't stay up with the good subjects, good teaching. You know, I keep hearing and I get mail, bukoo of mail, all the time from different organizations that says that, even on a national basis now, probably more so than Kentucky--definitely more so than Kentucky--that in school they don't teach much about, our heroes of the past, you know. Our Abraham Lincoln's, George Washington's, Paul Revere's, Nathan Hale, all these people, they don't teach much about that. They take them out of the textbooks. I hear this. They want to play down heroism, individualism, and so forth. The framers of our education today, and they want to play these things down. But we do have heroes of the past and we need to--if we don't elevate them, how can we expect to have heroes in the future? If you don't elevate and take notice, if the young people don't realize that we had people that were willing to take positions and stand on the issues in the past, how can you expect them to do it now? It's just like the discipline. There's people probably need to know there's a price to pay, but they need to be willing to pay it, when it comes down to it. And I think it would be hard to--you know, we shouldn't put dollars and cents ahead of character. You know, I hear quite a bit about character education, anymore. And I think that's one of the good points. I don't know the details of it but it sounds good. Character education in schools sounds very good to me. And I know, I see and hear about it here in the county schools, the Somerset schools, all the time, or frequently. But it sounds good. Is there anywhere that you could--I'll ask you the question--is there anywhere that you think, anything more important than education? FLINCHUM: It's very fundamental. It's hard to find something more important. TODD: It touches the lives of every young person. Its ----------(??) for bad. And, you know, since we think about that, so many, so many young people are falling through the cracks of the system now. Drugs, alcohol--it used to be alcohol and tobacco, and now, it's just almost drugs, more so than alcohol. And nobody's immune to it. No family's immune to it. And that's the reason the character education sounds awfully good, mighty good to me. If character is promoted, you know, almost above everything else. We need our ABCs, but we need character with it. If you don't have character, the ABCs not worth much. FLINCHUM: Do you have any closing remarks? Anything else that you'd like to go on the record? (pause) What would you like your term in office to be remembered for most? Are there certain things that stand out that you're the most proud of? Certain accomplishments? TODD: No, not really. The things we've mentioned is some of the highlights, I think. I've enjoyed--now not every day was a joy not every hour of the day was a joy. There've been frustrations and embarrassments all along the way. But I've enjoyed, generally, I've enjoyed working with the legislature, the Governors, the staff. The staff, they've been wonderful; they've go out of their way to help you, most staff people would in Frankfort. I've enjoyed doing this and I've enjoyed the support of the people at home here that sent me there to start with. That's why I feel an obligation to do what is best for the county. As I said a while ago, like with KERA, it give me a lot of pain, more or less, because, you know, some people couldn't believe I wouldn't support education to this extent. But I was there; I heard what was said about it. A lot of stuff that they weren't hearing maybe. And I don't know. It might be--maybe I should have, you know, in hindsight. I don't know this. But like I say, I just don't know if it's been worth that much. I'll repeat again: it brought lots of buildings in but the quality of education, I don't know if I can see a difference because a lot of our kids, more kids have fallen through the cracks today than did eight years ago or ten years ago. I think they definitely are. We see it every day. And at church, we have got a prayer list of a dozen kids; I guarantee you a dozen that have felt for those cracks, and a lot of them from prominent families. And they're hooked and nowhere to go. No way, they can't fend for themselves now. And, you know, that's really sad. A kid had better be spanked when he is little than when he gets too big to be spanked, you can't do him any good. That's--so I don't know. I just, as I reflect on it, nothing in particular stands out other than I've enjoyed my contribution, whatever it is, whatever it has been. And I do appreciate the people that have supported me and helped me along the way. That's about it, okay? [Tape 1, side 2 ends.] [End of interview.] Todd (House 1982-1996, 83rd district; Republican) begins the interview talking about his parents and growing up in a farming community during the Great Depression. Other topics include the “immorality forces” that took over in the 1960s, masonry, his entry into politics, first impressions of being in the legislature, the importance of roads, Somerset Community College, education, tourism, and the Republican Party. He reflects on the leadership of presidents Truman, Eisenhower, Johnson, Nixon and Reagan and of governors Brown, Collins, Jones and Patton. insert here