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2006-07-11 Interview with William K. McBee, July 11, 2006 Leg001:2006OH109 Leg 114 0:51:13 Kentucky Legislature Oral History Project Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries Legislators -- Kentucky -- Interviews. Depressions -- 1929 Great Depression -- Kentucky -- Burlington. World War, 1939-1945. Horse industry -- Law and legislation -- Kentucky. Banks and banking -- Law and legislation -- Kentucky. Kentucky. Governor (1971-1974 : Ford) Kentucky. Governor (1974-1979 : Carroll) Kentucky. Governor (1979-1983 : Brown) Carroll, Julian M. (Julian Morton), 1931- Brown, John Y. (John Young) Jr., 1933- Ford, Wendell H., 1924- World War II Television Fund raising Mental health laws Horse industry Banking law Merit pay Burlington (Ky.) Georgetown College Florence Mall Latonia Racecourse Business Organizations and Professions Committee (Chair) military service political philosophy Northern Kentucky caucus BOPTROT ethics legislation inter-county banking bill Term/District: House (1972-1990), 60th district Counties in District: Boone County (Ky.) William K. McBee; interviewee Christy Bohl; interviewer 2006OH109_LEG114_McBee 1:|11(6)|33(4)|42(7)|56(8)|65(8)|74(14)|87(8)|110(8)|128(2)|140(12)|163(7)|180(3)|192(2)|206(4)|219(10)|230(6)|245(11)|263(7)|279(9)|290(12)|309(5)|325(8)|342(6)|363(10)|377(5)|392(11)|412(7)|435(10)|446(11)|469(4)|486(5)|506(6)|523(4)|537(2)|548(14)|564(15)|588(2)|599(9)|614(6)|644(9)|661(13)|675(4)|694(10)|713(1)|724(7)|736(8)|756(13)|768(11)|787(10)|819(13)|849(5) audiotrans Legit interview BOHL: The following is an unrehearsed interview with former State Representative William K. "Bill" McBee who represented Boone County in the Sixtieth District from 1972 to 1990. The interview was conducted by Christy Bohl for the University of Kentucky Library, Kentucky Legislative Oral History Project on Tuesday July 11, 2006, in the office of Bill McBee in Florence, Kentucky, at 2:30 PM. This afternoon I am talking with Bill McBee. Mr. McBee, could you please tell me where and when you were born and if you grew up there? MCBEE: I was born in Burlington Kentucky in 1932, in a two-story brick house in the back bedroom upstairs. And I'm still living in the vicinity of Burlington; I've lived there all my life. BOHL: Okay. MCBEE: I lived one year in Lexington, but I had to come back. BOHL: Uh, could you tell me a bit about your parents? MCBEE: My parents were, uh, I grew up, uh, my dad was a railroader plus he owned a service station for thirty-six years, of which I worked in a lot of the times, and, uh, my mother worked in the service station. Mostly she was a housewife. And my dad died in--(pause)--like '80 and my mother, like in '90 or '91. BOHL: Okay, did you have any brothers or sisters? MCBEE: No brothers or sisters. BOHL: Okay, Do you remember your grandparents at all? MCBEE: Oh yeah. My granddad on my mother's side, he was sheriff in Boone County in 1933, to '37. Um, my grandmother was strictly mostly housewife. Um, this is kind of an odd story. My Granddad McBee, um, got kicked in the stomach by a mule about three days before I was born. And he died like the night at nine o'clock and I was born the next day at eleven o'clock. And my Grandmother McBee died probably, um, when I was a freshman in high school that's all. And uh, they had, uh, my dad had, uh, three brothers and one sister. And my mother had three sisters. And there's one of those still alive, but she's got Alzheimer's. She's in real bad shape. No, there's two of them still alive; one of them's in good shape. And then, all my dad's family is all dead. I'm about the only McBee left, besides my kids. And I had one child that's forty-seven and handicapped by my first wife. Um, she died about--well, she went and had run off from me and married another man. And she died about eighteen, nineteen years ago. And, uh, I have a handicapped child by her. My second wife, I've got another son about thirty-two years old. They live in this area. Then, that's about as much of my family background, just starting off; unless you want to know more I'll tell you. BOHL: Okay. Uh, what about some of the things that you remember from when you were growing up during the Depression? Did you know that there was a depression going on? MCBEE: Well, I don't know whether I knew there was a depression going on, but we didn't have any money. Um. We delivered Sears and Roebuck catalogs just to make enough money to live on. And uh, that was when I was about four-years-old. And then, uh, my Dad used to work for the state. He's one of the bosses up here. And he lost his job when Happy Chandler got married the first time because he was campaigning for the other guy that ran against Happy. And so he got fired. And then he went to work for the railroads after, uh--after, uh, whenever, I think, maybe '36. And then we had a service station, uh, plus him working on the railroad for about, uh, thirty-six years. So I guess we actually got the service station about '34, but we wasn't making any money. And instead of inside facilities, we had a path instead of a bath when I was about twelve-years-old. And, uh, and I don't have any brothers and sisters as you said. And I'm about the only one left in the McBees. I have a cousin in Louisville, but we don't get along very well. Which is, it's a girl? And then my dad's cousins, this is very ironic, but they had all daughters. He had six children but he had all daughters. And so, like I say, the McBees are kind of going downhill. (both laugh) And I hope my son, is, uh, well I call it handicapped, brain damaged or whatever, but, uh, I hope he don't have any children. But the other boy does have a couple children, but they're girls. So, the McBees may not last very long. Cause at '73 and almost '74 I don't think I'm going to have anymore. (both laugh) BOHL: What do you remember about World War II? MCBEE: World War II, uh, the day that, uh, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, my dad had scarlet fever, and back in those days the whole family was quarantined. And I was outside in the yard, bouncing a rubber ball off the side of the House, when they told me about Pearl Harbor being bombed. That's a, you know, of course, I was stationed in Hawaii for about a year in 1955 and '56 in the Army. And, uh, my company commander was there when they bombed Pearl Harbor, and he got blown off the road in a jeep. He was only a Colonel then but he didn't get hurt. Then him and I had a few stories about, you know, and they were all gruesome. And, uh, but he was real nice. Then, I drove for him for about two months when I was in the Army. We got to be good friends, and that's how I got to hear about Pearl Harbor. BOHL: Did you have a radio that you listened to at that time? MCBEE: A radio at home, yes. BOHL: And were there any particular programs-- MCBEE: --that's how my mom and dad found out about it. BOHL: Right. Did you listen to any particular radio programs? MCBEE: No. BOHL: No? MCBEE: Fibber McGee and Molly and uh. (both laugh) Uh, there are some programs, that's one of them I can remember. I can't think of some of the others, but, uh, yeah, we had, that's all we had was a radio. BOHL: Um-hm. MCBEE: But we had the first television in the little town of Burlington. And, uh, we had the service station. Of course, I had to clean up the grease room every Friday, so everybody could come and watch the wrestling matches on Friday. And uh, excuse me, it was only about a ten-inch screen, but I'd have to stack it up on the oil cases back in the back of the grease romp. And there'd be about thirty or forty people there every Friday night. And of course that's when Coke sold for a quar-, um, a quarter, a nickel. Candy bar's sold for a nickel. So, we had quite a group then. BOHL: About what time would that have been when you got the TV? The fifties, or? MCBEE: No--yeah, it would've been, uh, like I'd say in '48, something like that when I was still in high school. 'Cause when I left high school every afternoon, I knew I'd have to go home and go to work at the service station. If I didn't, my dad would get after me. (both laugh) BOHL: Um, was education something that your parent's really stressed? MCBEE: I don't think they really stressed it may be that much. I mean, of course, they were happy went I went to college, but, uh, they didn't push me to go to college. Cause we really didn't have enough money. I went to UK the first semester. And then Georgetown College, uh, which back there they didn't have scholarships much, but they came over to UK to get me to come over there and play football, which I did in the spring practice, but, uh, I decided to quit and then, uh, I played baseball for three years at Georgetown, but, all I got was for hauling the boys back and forth to ball games, seven cents a mile I think, or something like that. BOHL: Okay, what about religion? Is that something that was really important in your-- MCBEE: --very important in my mother's life, my dad hardly ever went to church. But, uh, she made religion very important to me in my early years. I went to Georgetown College--uh, this is a joke. BOHL: Okay. MCBEE: Everybody says I went to Georgetown to learn how to be a preacher, a Baptist preacher and I learned about sin, and I liked sin better than I did preaching. (both laugh) Now that's a job really. BOHL: Okay, what did you major in when you were at Georgetown? MCBEE: Business administration. BOHL: Did you pick that for any particular reason? MCBEE: That was about all I knew I wanted to do. I didn't want to be a doctor or I didn't want to be, one of engineer or nothing so I took business administration and that was easiest for me because I was pretty good in math. My minor was history. And uh, I stayed four years and I passed. They didn't kick me out. But I made it. BOHL: So, once you got your degree, what did you, what kind of work did you start doing? MCBEE: I didn't have any choice; I got one of those letters from the United States that says, "Your friends and citizens of this community have selected you to serve in the Armed Forces." And so I went the Army for two years. I didn't try to get out of it or nothing; I just went in and served my time and got out. BOHL: What kinds of things did you do while you were in the service? MCBEE: I was in, uh, Army security. Well, of course I went through basic training and all that. And then I went to six months of training down at Fort Gordon, Georgia, uh, for Morse code and all that. Then they sent me to Hawaii for a year. And that was back when the atomic bomb was being tested, and, uh, Eniwetok. And we monitored all the calls out of Eniwetok. They were allowed a call, or maybe two, I think one call a week. So, they'd call their mother one week, they'd call their wife the next week, and they'd call their girlfriend the next week. (both laugh) But we had all the messages, and uh. I mean, it was, you know, it was security, because anybody could've called, and cause Eniwetok was strictly a rock. And it was only men there, service men, there wasn't any women. And I can't think who the movie actress was, but the plane got in trouble and they had to land there one day, and uh, that really created quite a stir on Eniwetok. But, uh, then we would take all the message and type them up and then give them to crypto, which they would decipher the messages. Whether anybody was trying to give secrets away or not. But that was one level higher than I was. BOHL: Okay, so once you had fulfilled your two years in the service-- MCBEE:-- ----------(??) two years? I came back home, and then, uh, I went to work back at my dad's service station and then a bunch of people talked to me and I decided to go into teaching school. So, I went back to Georgetown. And got my teaching certificate. Got enough hours to get my teaching certificate and then I taught for four years. And then I quit that and went to work from General Motors traveling on the road, uh, southeastern Ohio, uh, western West Virginia, and southeastern Kentucky. After that, then they promoted me to district manager and I moved to Lexington, but my son, who, like I said, was not severely handicapped, but, so, and we'd come home on the weekends sometimes and he just didn't want to live down there, so I just sold out and quit my job. I knew I could always get a job. BOHL: One of the things you are most known for is your bean bash? How did you come-- MCBEE: --the bean bash is probably--well, we just started that in 1970. Wasn't the first campaign, I think maybe, maybe it was the first campaign. You know, that's quite a few years to ask me to remember. But we started that as a fundraiser for my campaign. The ladies cooked the corn bread right there and we cooked the beans in a big black pot. We had tomatoes and all that. And we had the bar hidden out behind the building. If somebody we knew wanted a drink, they'd get it, but ah, I think we made about $2,500 that year. And then it has grown to be one the biggest fundraisers around. We give all the money to three organizations, which all of them, my son's all involved in most of them--is Redwood School, which is, uh, for severely handicapped and all the way up, and uh, Special Olympics, which you probably know about, and, uh, then the other is BAWAC, which is Boone Adult Work Activity Center, where they let these people work. I know you are supposed to use another word, but I still think of handicapped. (both laugh) BOHL: That's fine. How did you become interested in politics? MCBEE: Oh, I had an uncle on my mother's side of the family that married her sister that had been in politics for thirty-some year, or thirty- two years. And, of course, I was always around politics. And I was president of the Democratic Party at one time before I even run for politics, and, uh, a lot of them talked me into running against this fellow. And, uh, I ran and beat them, that's all I can say. (both laugh) It really made him made, but it didn't make me mad. (both laugh) BOHL: During your first campaign, how did you go about campaigning? Did you go door-to-door? MCBEE: Yeah, mostly I knew a lot of people in the county, because of my residence here and because of the service station and I played sports all the time. And so I knew a lot of people. Then I had a lot of people work for me, went door-to-door. And we'd go around the county with music and all that. So, the guy had been in, I don't know, I think for six years and he got beat, and then he went back and beat the guy that beat him, and he'd been in for about eight years. I beat him. BOHL: Were you surprised when you won? MCBEE: Why No! I went in it to win. (Bohl laughs) I never played a ballgame in my life that I didn't expect to win. BOHL: What would you say is your political philosophy? MCBEE: Live and let live. (both laugh) You know. BOHL: Okay. (laughs) MCBEE: Yeah, it's a--politics sometimes gets too harsh, and. But, uh, if you work at it, do it like you are supposed to, which I didn't do at the end--well, I was already out of the legislature then. But, uh, politics rules the world honey. It rules this country, and I am sure more so in the other countries than the other part of the world. But, uh, you still have your lobbyist, your strong lobbyist in Washington, much stronger than in Kentucky, and they pretty well control the Congressmen. BOHL: What were your expectations of what you wanted to accomplish when you started in the Legislature? MCBEE: Oh, I don't know. There wasn't any great expectations. Just to help the people of Boone County and do what I thought was right for the county, and uh. I was friends with Wendell Ford and he got elected the same time I did. In fact, we got the same amount of votes in this county. The New York Times even wrote it up in the New York Times that the legislator and the Governor got the same amount of votes on the Democrat ticket. And uh, just wanted to accomplish some things that the rest of the, the other legislator's hadn't done, like, one time--I won't mention his name--but some of us went down there to get something done, he says the elevator goes up, but I am not sure it comes down from this floor. (Bohl laughs) That's a true story. But, uh, we did get, I did get a lot accomplished for my county and for people and so forth. I just didn't have it all printed and all that. I kind of was the laid-back, behind the scenes, as Sherry probably told you, that didn't come out. BOHL: When you first got in, Boone County was certainly nothing like it is today. MCBEE: No. Thirty two thousand people. Today it's over a hundred thousand, or about a hundred thousand. I can remember when we're sitting there's a farm. And I grew, I mean, I grew up; I've seen all this growth around here. And I've been a part; I have made a few bucks off of it myself. (both laugh) BOHL: How did-- MCBEE: --of course, I've always backed when someone wanted me to list their property, about half of them were wanting a favor also, when we was in the legislature. See, I was in the real estate also at the time I was in the legislature, cause legislature was part-time. BOHL: Right. How did the Boone County Democratic organization work in that era when there were so many fewer people? MCBEE: How did it work in that era? Just like it always did I guess, friendly with the people and all the elected officials were Democrats back in that time in Boone County. And, uh, the Republicans, they came over here, if they ever wanted to vote in a primary, they even had to register Democrat. And that's why you see such a big change today. The Republicans that registered Democrat are now registered Republican, and about 75 percent of the people that come into the county register Republican, because a lot of them are from Ohio. Where you're from. BOHL: Right. (both laugh) Okay. One of the first things that came into Boone County while you were in the legislature was, uh, the Florence Mall. How do you think that that effected the growth in the area, or do you think it was-- MCBEE: --oh yeah, it surely effected the growth. Uh, I was very instrumental in, uh, I think the city put up five hundred thousand and, uh, we got five hundred thousand out of the state to build Mall Road. And, uh, if you could tell, I don't remember what year that was built. BOHL: Uh, my information says '76. MCBEE: [Nineteen] '76, you're about, you're probably about right, but I don't remember. But I do know that, uh, it was hard to get the five hundred thousand at that time out of the state, but I was able to get it. And the city put up five hundred thousand, that's what built that road. And then, uh, the Williams family, the Williams brothers, whatever you want to call them, come in and built the mall. Something we'd never seen around here. We had the Rabbit Hash store but we didn't have the Florence Mall. (both laugh) BOHL: Okay. Another thing that is accredited with a lot of Boone County's growth is, of course, the international airport. MCBEE: Oh yeah. BOHL: Uh, surely you had some involvement, especially with Delta creating a hub here-- MCBEE:--I did with Delta, but back, when they built the airport, that's back when I was a kid. BOHL: Right. MCBEE: And, uh, but I will tell ya a little side line story. That, uh, Brent Spence, who was the Congressman at that time, uh, we had a service station, like I said, and about, uh, every time he came to Boone County and he came to Burlington, he would stop at McBee's Service Station, and uh, say "Howdy" or use the restroom. (both laugh) So, I'm just telling ya like it is. I'm not one to beat around the bush. BOHL: That's fine. Okay. What about the energy crisis in the seventies? Obviously with the service station you would have been really affected by that. MCBEE: Yeah, but seeing after living through the energy crisis now, seeing that was, I mean--(pause)--way back, well this was back during the war--this is not in the seventies--but, people had to have a red stamp or a blue stamp or whatever to get gas. And for us to buy gas, we had to fill these pages in this book up, to have enough stamps and so forth to be able to buy gas, and so we could not sell it unless we got our little tokens like. But going back to the energy crisis, in uh, that era, it's nothing like it is now. Not compared to this. I mean, I'm not involved in that stuff much. I can tell ya what I was. And that's about all we're going to say BOHL: Okay, uh. What about the Latonia Race Course? My understanding is, in the seventies, it was pretty primitive. MCBEE: Pretty what? BOHL: Primitive. That there wasn't a whole lot there. It certainly wasn't the way Turfway Park is now. MCBEE: You're right. I would probably; I will answer a little bit about that. (laughs) Uh, back in those days Delaware North owned it and I was good friends with them. And I helped get some legislation passed that got them some more money for the track, and, uh, we'll just leave it at that. BOHL: Okay. How did you become interested in horse racing? Is that something that you were always interested in, or? MCBEE: No, but it was a lot of fun. And, uh, they treated me nice over there. So, that's about my answer to that tale. (both laugh) BOHL: Okay. Ah, certainly another big issue while you were in was education and education reform. Uh, what was your involvement with that? MCBEE: Well, uh, that was, uh, I was mostly all in favor of that because I was a schoolteacher. And, uh, about all I can tell ya is I worked on that as much as I could, and tried to help get votes for it and everything, but that's, that's a simple answer but that's what it was. BOHL: That's fine. MCBEE: I'm a simple person. (both laugh) BOHL: Okay, another thing that came through around that time was the lottery. Were you involved in that effort? MCBEE: Yes. BOHL: Okay, well, uh. MCBEE: Just to get the legislators to vote, uh. Like I said, put Terry up front and make them the talks, Mr. Clean, and me going around, working the crown and getting the votes. BOHL: Okay, what about, uh, gubernatorial succession, this idea that the Governor should be able to have a second term? MCBEE: I can't say that I was really in favor of that. I guess I probably voted for it, but that wasn't a big thing in my, whatever I did. BOHL: Okay. Uh, something that's getting a lot of attention right now, and was also while you were in, is the merit system. MCBEE: I guess they really needed the merit system, but, uh, ya know, my mother told me years ago, she worked for twenty-five cents an hour. And that they needed, uh, unions. And the merit system is not much more different than the unions. Uh, I think the merit system in a lot of ways is good for the people that work there. But there's a few of the people that work there that don't deserve the merit system. And it's just like schoolteachers with tenure. Some of them are strictly babysitters, that doesn't, don't teach the children like they should. And some of the people that work for the state, when Keeneland opens, quite a good percentage of them are Keeneland, and yet they got the merit system but they got to have something. And if they are good workers and do their job, that's fine. But you could probably get rid of 20 percent of the people that work for the state government. And, uh, the other 80 percent, if they only worked four days, they'd work four days, eight hours a day, there'd be as much done in the state government as there would as getting' rid of the rest of them. You may not like that, but that's the way it is. BOHL: All right. MCBEE: But that got to have the people working, so they can get the votes. BOHL: Uh, something that you successfully fought against was multi- county banking. MCBEE: Yes, ma'am. BOHL: Uh, what was your rationale? Why were you fighting ---------(??) -- MCBEE: --because I had two aunts that had quite a bit of stock in two different banks here in Boone County. And, uh, I can't see where it's really helped that much. And, uh, but I fought against it and I killed, helped kill the bill. I mean, I got a lot of good cussing over that. But, uh, then when it came along(??) and, of course, my family saw that there wasn't anything else you could do, I just let it go. But my aunt was a big stockholder in one bank here in the county, and my other aunt was a big stockholder. Her son was the president of the bank, and they were against it. And I was against it because they were against it. BOHL: Right. MCBEE: I'm not going to knock my family down for a lot of other people. BOHL: Um, when there was a conflict between what your constituents wanted and what you personally believed, how did you reconcile that? MCBEE: I, uh, usually voted the way I personally believed, unless they could convince me different. And that was very seldom. Because usually I talked to a lot of lobbyist and a lot of people, my constituents. And, uh, they would give me all the information, then I'd make up my own mind. I was a little bit bull-headed when it come to that. (both laugh) BOHL: How long did it take you before you felt like you knew your way to get things done in Frankfort? MCBEE: Oh, about, uh, maybe two or three months. BOHL: Was there-- MCBEE: --cause I was single at that time and I dated the Governor's secretary. (both laugh) BOHL: Were there any people in particular who helped shepherd you around? Uh, people who sort of were mentors for you there? MCBEE: Governor Ford was a great mentor for me at that time, yes. But him and I were good friends, and, uh, his staff was good to me. Um, I'm not sure who was secretary of transportation, but he was good to me when it come to roads and everything. And that's just how it worked. But no, I don't think Fletcher should ride to work, I think he ought to walk. (both laugh) BOHL: How did your experience in the legislature compare with your initial expectations of what it would be like? MCBEE: Much greater. I had a lot of fun in the legislature, but I got a lot done. I don't know whether that seems like that rhymes, but that's the way it is. BOHL: Okay. MCBEE: And, uh, like I did a lot of individual favors for people. And I never did let the news people know what I did, because I got a lot more done being old Bill sitting in the back row that, "Well, he don't do anything." But I think you, I think maybe Terry probably told you that I got more done than a lot of people thought. Or that's what he told me. And I did. BOHL: Um. What about the factions in the legislature? Did you see a lot of division? MCBEE: A lot of division? Not back in those days there wasn't a lot division. If there was any division, we'd usually, uh, go settle it that night, and, uh, get it over with. And everybody might be, well, I better use the word teed-off for a day or two, but then everybody was happy. I mean, everybody pretty well knew their place. The Republicans knew they was going to get beat by the Democrats if they got in an argument. Uh, small groups like our caucus, if we got in an argument with the Republicans or whatever, it was healed over within six hours. Then we all came together and went for the best for Northern Kentucky. BOHL: Okay, uh. What do you remember about the creation of the Northern Kentucky Regional Caucus? MCBEE: Well, I remember that I was a part of it. And, uh, just some of us got together and started it, and uh. I can say I had a big part in it but other people did to, so. It was started and it was very successful. Back in those days. Even though we had our differences sometimes, and we really did. (laughs) But, uh, in an hour or two it was all over. A beer or two and that stopped it. BOHL: Where did you tend to hang out during your leisure time in Frankfurt? Somewhere like Flynn's, or? MCBEE: Well, first, when I first got there I usually hung out at the Holiday Inn. And then uh, hung out at my girlfriend's House some. And uh, then it, the place to be was Flynn's, so I'd hang out there at Flynn's. And then it became the Capital Plaza. So it, the Capital Plaza came in, and it and Flynn's were kind of there at the same time. But I can tell ya the Holiday Inn was a big place when I first got there. BOHL: Okay. MCBEE: And then I'd go home, I'd go to bed and sleep once in a while. BOHL: Did you commute? MCBEE: I would hang out in the poker room, too. BOHL: Oh, okay. MCBEE: Uh, no, I didn't commute, like, from Monday till Friday or whatever, yes. But I stayed, uh, first time I stayed at another motel down there. Mm, it was on this side of town. I can't even think of what the name of it was. And then stayed at the Holliday Inn, and then when they built the Capital Plaza I stayed there. BOHL: Okay. Who would you consider your political heroes? MCBEE: My political heroes? There's too many of them to name. BOHL: Okay. MCBEE: I was friends with a lot of the Governors. And, of course, Terry Mann, Bill Donnermeyer, they were, I mean I could name, but I'm just not going to do that. BOHL: Okay. What was it like for your family with you being away? I mean, clearly your family was sort of changing throughout the time. MCBEE: Well, I was single for the first nine years. That's all. The woman that I married in 1980, she was working in Frankfort, so she knew all about it before we got married, so. Then she went back to college and finished her college and then she went to law school, and got her law degree and became a lawyer. And so she was busy all the time, too. So she knew how it worked. She knew I was going to be gone. She married me in spite of it. BOHL: What about your children? How did they handle your absence, when ----------(??)? MCBEE: Well see, my first job, Mother was still alive, uh, up until probably the last two years. And then he was in a group home. I'd see him on weekends, but, um, he handled it real well. But then the other boy, um, well, he was with his mother all the time, um, because we divorced, like after the first year or two I was in the legislature. I don't want to make it to simple, but that's the way it is. BOHL: No, that's fine. Okay, I read that you were diagnosed with skin cancer in the 1970s. MCBEE: Nineteen seventy-four. I had melanoma. Uh, I was operated on here, and then I went to Bethesda, Maryland to be operated on at the National Institute of Health. They told me like, I had a 10 percent chance of living and 90 percent chance of dying. I was on the operating table for eleven and a half hours, but I won't go into all that. But, I was flat on my back for forty-five days. BOHL: All right, so when you were having your health problems, did you have trouble balancing, or was it-- MCBEE: --nah-- BOHL: --it was still-- MCBEE: --I had somebody to take care of me. BOHL: All right. Okay. MCBEE: That's why I was still dating the Governor's secretary. (both laugh) BOHL: Okay, you talked a lot about your relationship with, uh, Governor Ford. What about the other Governors you served with? MCBEE: All of them. I had a good relationship with all of them. BOHL: Okay. Do you have any particular recollections about any of them? MCBEE: I mean like what? BOHL: Just, like stories. MCBEE: I wouldn't want to tell stories on them. BOHL: Okay. MCBEE: John Y. and I were real close. And Julian. Julian and I got in a couple of heated arguments. He called the police on me one day to get him out of his office and I didn't go, and said, "Get him on back." So, then he sent in a good looking woman to try to get me out. (both laugh) BOHL: Okay, what about the changing relationship between the legislature and Governors? This, uh, more independent legislature? MCBEE: Well that, that came about under John Y. Brown, because he was, uh, he was an individual that, uh, was very strong. But he put a lot of good people around him. And I used to meet with him a lot. And, uh, they were very sharp, the people that he brought in to put around him. And I think he was a real good Governor. Some people don't but I do. Because he was not the, he was not a 100 percent politician. He might have been 50 percent politician, but 50 percent what's best for the people. BOHL: Okay. Who were the most prominent lobbyists while you were in? MCBEE: Oh, Jay Spurrier, the one that got me in trouble was one of them, and uh. Oh, my goodness. I can't, I really can't remember. Frank ----------(??), oh Kearny Cole(??), and Woody ----------(??), they were real good lobbyists. Oh, there's just so many of them, but. Frank (unintelligible) who is dead, of course, a lot of the others are to, but. That's a strong group there. I could go on and name others, but, that's enough. BOHL: Okay, you served as the chair of a couple of committees. Uh, Public Utilities and Transportation; I read that Governor Carroll handpicked you for that. MCBEE: Yeah. BOHL: Uh, do you remember anything particular about being in the leadership that way? MCBEE: Other than, uh, one time he tried to get me to pass a bill under committee that I wouldn't do it. And he called me personally and said "Yes you will." And I said, "No, I won't." BOHL: Oops, your microphone just fell off. MCBEE: So, that's, uh, you know, about all I can say about that. BOHL: Uh, you were also the chair for Business Organizations and Professions. Do you remember anything about that in particular? MCBEE: Oh yeah, that was where all the race track bills and all the license bills come through. BOHL: Right. MCBEE: I was for the small tracks more than I was for the big tracks. And so I helped get them a bigger percentage in then, uh, wagering on exactness and perfecta's and so forth, and the other tracks got ah. I just helped them all I could. BOHL: Okay. There were a lot of developments with horse racing during this time. Uh, simulcasting, Sunday racing, how they were going to divide revenue, that sort of stuff. Uh, did you have strong feelings about any of that? MCBEE: Well sure. A lot of people didn't want Sunday racing. How the revenue's were divided was, uh, quite controversial. Um, Mr. Meager, Churchill wanted more than his share, but I was chair of the committee and he didn't get more than his share. Turfway and Ellis Park to keep them alive and the ----------(??) tracks. I fought for the smaller tracks, and got them more money and kept them alive. BOHL: What would you say were your greatest accomplishments while you were in? MCBEE: Oh, um, vocational school for Connor High School was supposed to go to another county, and, uh, highways that people didn't even know was supposed to be built, um. Helping the old people get things that they hadn't been able to do before, uh, like on their pensions or health care or something like that. One accomplishment I felt like I did that was great was on the ----------(??) bill but, I just passed it in the House when the Governor was against it, but I couldn't get it through the Senate. But, ah, I had a nice little syndicated write up on that. And, uh, like I say, keeping the race tracks alive, the, the airport, and the race track, and the Hilton, uh, they didn't have Sunday sales, and that was a detriment to their making money and so forth, but I got a bill passed along with Senator Delbert Murphy in the Senate. Well, it wasn't a bill; we just put a little amendment on, and people voted for anyway. BOHL: Okay. If you were just starting over, would you want to be office now? MCBEE: No. BOHL: Why? MCBEE: It's, uh, nothing like it used to be. It's not near as much fun. Uh, the pay's much better, but, uh, I've just been there, and, uh, I served my time, and I feel like that I don't want to do it anymore. And I wouldn't even run, I wouldn't--if they'd hand me the office of state representative on a platter, I wouldn't take it. And, of course, I've got my pardon, so I'm eligible to take it. BOHL: Um-hm. MCBEE: But, I just don't want to get involved in all that controversy. I'm almost seventy-four years old, and I'm kind of living like I want to. And that's not the way I want to live anymore. I might not stay alive if I was back in the legislature. (both laugh) BOHL: What advice would you give for someone who was just starting in politics now? MCBEE: I would say to, take a good while to study what actually goes on, how you get things done, what committees you want to be on, what you're really interested in, and make sure that, uh, you're not just a stepping stone or a, yes-man or no-man. And go down there with an open mind. And get all your information on the bills that you're trying to pass, 'cause every session they pass too many bills. They should have a session to do away with laws instead of pass laws. BOHL: What do you think about the, uh, the Ethics and Campaign Reform Legislation that came out after you got in trouble? MCBEE: Oh, I think it's good. Not really, but yeah, I guess I do. You know. Yeah, I think it's good. Some of the stuff that went on that shouldn't have. But it did, and it's the way of politics. Congress is fifty times worse than we are. We were. It still goes on. They just cover it up better. But the Republicans and Fletcher that went in, they put too much in writing, is their problem. (both laugh) BOHL: Okay, you worked as a lobbyist for a while. How did you decide which one's you would represent? MCBEE: Whichever one's wanted to pay me the most. (both laugh) BOHL: Did you like going back to Frankfort? MCBEE: Oh yeah, I liked it back in those days. I had a real good time. And being a lobbyist, most of the bills that I worked for that they hadn't been able to get passed before, I got them passed. And that's just being--that's not bragging--but that's the way it worked. BOHL: All right. MCBEE: Because, a lot of people didn't know it, but in the legislature I was pretty strong willed. [telephone rings] BOHL: Okay. [Pause in recording.] MCBEE: Now back to all this serious stuff. BOHL: Yes. (both laugh) Uh, I have to at least ask you-- MCBEE: --well, that's fine. BOHL: Obviously as you say, you got yourself into some trouble while you were a lobbyist. MCBEE: Right. BOHL: Uh, do you want to talk about that at all to say your side of the story, or do you just want to? MCBEE: I did my time and paid my fine. BOHL: Exactly. Okay. Uh, how would you like to be remembered for your public service? MCBEE: Well, I don' think I really care. Yeah, I'd like to be remembered for the good things I done. But, I'm mostly remembered for the bad. And like I said, I did my time and paid my fine. And that's the way I feel about it. And it hasn't hurt me in the community or anything. I mean, most people really accepted me as being' ole Bill McBee. BOHL: Okay. MCBEE: And that's about all I'd like to say about it. BOHL: All right. MCBEE: I'm not going to get into the details. BOHL: And that's fine. Is there anything, like issues or something that I didn't get into that you do want to cover? MCBEE: No, you got into enough. BOHL: Okay. (both laugh) MCBEE: You was lucky to get me to sit down and talk this long. (both laugh) BOHL: Okay. Thank you. MCBEE: If you hadn't been such a nice young lady, I might not of done that. But Terry told me you was and I said, "Well, I'll try to help her out." But I says, "She won't get the same interview from me she got from you." BOHL: Okay. [End of interview.] McBee (House 1972-1990, 60th district; Democrat) recalls growing up in Burlington, Kentucky during the Great Depression and World War II, his family’s filling station, college education, military service, and family life. He discusses his “bean bash” fundraisers for organizations, campaigning, political philosophy, legislation that brought in Florence Mall, horse racetracks, multi-county banking, and his impressions of several governors. McBee refuses to comment on his time as a lobbyist and subsequent charges of bribery in the BOPTROT scandal. insert here