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2006-07-06 Interview with Joseph Prather, July 6, 2006 Leg001:2006OH129 Leg 123 01:49:58 Kentucky Legislature Oral History Project Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries Legislators -- Kentucky -- Interviews. Kentucky. General Assembly -- Committees. Kentucky. General Assembly -- Reform. Universities and colleges -- Administration -- Kentucky. Lobbyists -- Kentucky. Kentucky. Governor (1974-1979 : Carroll) Kentucky. Governor (1979-1983 : Brown) Kentucky. Governor (1979-1983 : Brown) United States. Marine Fighter Squadron, 214th Chandler, Happy, 1898-1991 Truman, Harry S., 1884-1972 Eisenhower, Dwight D. (Dwight David), 1890-1969 Committees interim committees legislative independence Kentucky Educational Television bipartisanship Education University of Kentucky Community colleges Black Sheep Squadron Brown, John Y. (John Young) Jr., 1933- Singletary, Otis A. Wethington, Charles T. Legislative Research Commission (LRC) Carroll, Julian Morton, 1931- Republican Party (U.S. : 1854- ) Lobbyists Regionalism Term/District: House (1968-1972), 26th district; Senate (1974-1986),10th district Leadership Position(s): Senate Assistant President Pro Tem, 1976-1986 Counties in District: Hardin County (Ky.) -- Larue County (Ky.) Joseph Prather; interviewee Erik Tuttle; interviewer 2006OH129_LEG123_Prather 1:|14(5)|30(2)|44(10)|59(1)|70(7)|81(12)|95(14)|111(12)|122(8)|131(3)|148(6)|162(1)|176(15)|186(12)|197(14)|209(11)|223(15)|235(11)|252(2)|266(6)|276(10)|291(8)|310(5)|320(5)|335(11)|347(2)|361(10)|372(14)|383(4)|397(7)|413(9)|422(9)|437(4)|452(4)|466(8)|478(14)|489(8)|501(4)|519(2)|536(2)|556(2)|570(10)|582(3)|593(7)|608(8)|627(4)|645(11)|657(3)|671(5)|682(1)|694(4)|713(1)|725(2)|739(1)|751(11)|766(10)|779(8)|794(13)|803(2)|812(3)|827(12)|842(2)|856(12)|869(5)|881(8)|895(6)|910(6)|927(2)|944(5)|954(4)|964(5)|975(1)|988(8)|999(11)|1019(5)|1038(2)|1048(5)|1061(12)|1076(12)|1093(6)|1106(5)|1117(7)|1127(4)|1137(12)|1156(5)|1179(7)|1189(2)|1200(7)|1209(6)|1226(11)|1236(14)|1248(7)|1260(3)|1277(12)|1291(14)|1298(15)|1309(14)|1321(5)|1333(3)|1348(9)|1363(4)|1378(10)|1390(5)|1406(15)|1420(4)|1434(7)|1466(10)|1475(10)|1496(8) audiotrans Legit interview TUTTLE: I guess what we need to do is start out, is go ahead and state your name and where you're from and talk a little about your parents. PRATHER: My parents? TUTTLE: Yeah. PRATHER: Well, I'm, uh, I'm Joe Prather, or officially Joseph Wayne Prather, uh, I'm, uh, uh, until I was twelve years old, I, I lived in, um, on a farm in rural Hardin County. Um, and, um, moved to Elizabethtown, uh, after the sixth grade. Um, my, I was one of, uh, six children, three boys and three girls. Uh, my father, um, after he left the farm, um, worked for the, um, Olin Corporation at, uh, Brandenburg, Kentucky. And, uh, so, uh, they, uh, they had a, a facility up in Green County and he, uh, worked, uh, back and forth, uh, all along the pipeline that they had. And, uh, my mother was a homemaker. Um, and, uh, my father was a native of, uh, Meade County, Brandenburg, uh, Kentucky. Uh, and my mother was a Hardin County native. Um, she, um, grew up near Vine Grove, Kentucky, which, uh, is here in Hardin County. So, so I've been in this area all my life. Uh, I'm, uh, in the diverse community, uh, where I live, uh, I'm, uh, probably a small percentage, um, as far as being a fellow who's been here from, from the, the get-go. TUTTLE: Um-hm. PRATHER: And so, uh, but, you know, my parents were, um, were working people. And, um, good people, but working people. So. TUTTLE: So, like you said, before we started, you said, "It's Kentucky on both sides, as far back as you can go." Um, did you, do you have any family anywhere else in the state, or anything like that? PRATHER: Well, we, um, I think, I'm eleventh or twelfth generation-- TUTTLE: --wow-- PRATHER: --of the Prathers in this country. Um, we, we have the history that goes back, and, um, so, in the, in the research that was done on the Prather family by, primarily by Jack Prather out of Georgetown, uh, who is a, uh, distant relative, he found that, uh, about all the Prathers who live in Kentucky are related in some way. So, uh, I have, uh, I have relatives in, um, in Jefferson County, uh, in, uh, um, I'm talking about distant relatives. Uh, in, um, Somerset, uh, a concentration of, uh, of the family is in, um, in the Somerset area. Um, we, uh, in Meade County, which is on the Ohio River, near Brandenburg, there's a real concentration of the, uh, of the Prather family there. But, uh, really scattered all over the state. But, uh, have, uh, but it goes back, uh, many, many years. Uh, back to the early days of Kentucky, as far as our family. TUTTLE: Um, what, uh, tell me a little about school you, schools you went to. PRATHER: You know, that's, uh, that's an interesting question, because my first, uh, I'm, I'm the last generation, uh, in this area, that, who attended a one-room school, where there were at eight grades in one room. Um, I went to the Big Springs School, which was actually located in the, uh, of the corner of, uh, Breckinridge County. Uh, and we lived in Har-, in the edge of Hardin County on a farm. And had to walk through the tip of Meade County to get to the school. So, Big Springs is a community where there's a marker there where Hardin, Meade, and Breckinridge counties all come together. So, I, um, I attended school, um, for my first five years there. Um, then, um, we, in my sixth-grade year, which was the last year we lived on a farm, they, they built a new road back into, uh, the rural area where we lived, where we had really didn't have a, uh, a very good way of access prior to then. And so, suddenly they started, uh, sending a school bus then, so they took us down to a consolidated school in Hale Valley(??), which is the western part of Hardin County. Uh, so, suddenly I was in, uh, one grade in one-room, which was a new experience for me. Uh, after, um, after the sixth grade, we moved to, uh, Elizabethtown, as I mentioned earlier. Um, and I, uh, and I started to school here. Um, went to the public schools, seventh and eighth grade, and then my first three years of high school, to, uh, Elizabethtown Catholic High School, which was in existence at that time. Um, due to my father's work, he moved back to be closer to the Brandenburg where his employer primarily had its primary facility. And, uh, in my senior year of high school, I went to Vine Grove High School, which is now a part of the consolidated, uh, North Hardin High School, uh, in the north end of Hardin County, Radcliff. But, uh, I graduated from Vine Grove High School in 1957. Um, we, uh, after that, I took a job in Louisville during the day, attended some night classes at the University of Louisville, um, some business classes. Uh, but, uh, never, um, approached enough credits that I had a degree, or whatever. So, I have a few college credits. Uh, specific areas, such as accounting and economics. Uh, but, uh, that's the extent of my education. Um, when I was presiding over the Senate a lot of the times, uh, a lot of people wondered where I went to college. And were kinda amazed when I told them that I'm really a high school grad and the rest of it I just learned by doing. TUTTLE: So, you think most people were surprised to find out? PRATHER: Well, I think a lot of people really were. I think they've been used to, uh, somebody who, I had a lot of people who, who would ask me where I went to law school. (Tuttle laughs) And were surprised to find that, you know, I was, I was in business. Uh, been in a business world all of my adult life and the time I was, uh, out of high school. And, uh, we, uh, had to wait until I was eighteen in order to be old enough to take a job, the, the job that I started with. And, uh, so I've been in the business world since then. But, uh, you know, it's, uh, it's interesting in, in the world today, I think people just assumed that you, uh, have a college degree. I think I ended up with, uh, eighteen or twenty credit hours and, uh, the rest of it, like I said, I, I was busy learning, uh, as I went, and, and it's worked well for me. TUTTLE: Um, you said, you, you've been in business your whole adult life. What, what kinds of businesses did you start out in, and then lead up to? PRATHER: I, um, in 1965 was my first, uh, business that I actually owned, an independent business. And, um, I, um, I started Prather Realty and Auction Company. Um, I'm a, I remain today, um, a, um, a licensed realtor, real estate broker, and, and an auctioneer. I had that company for, um, twenty-plus years. Um, and, in nineteen-, um, but in 1981, I headed a group that had the opportunity to buy a community bank, which was the Bank of North Hardin in Radcliff, Kentucky. And so, we entered the banking business. And, um, then a few years later, I, I left real estate, uh, active participation, in order to, to be a fulltime banker. Um, in 1985, we purchased what was the Farmers Deposit Bank, which is a community bank in Brandenburg, in Meade County. So, we had a holding company that owned two banks. Um, in 1993, we, um, sold, or did a stock exchange and sold those banks to, uh, Liberty National Bank out of Louisville, and, uh, which subsequently, uh, merged Bank One, which subsequently merged with, um, J.P. Morgan's. So, we've, uh, we've been, um, we've been investors in, uh, a number of those banks as a result of all those mergers. But, uh, after leaving the banking business in 1993, um, I was, um, was and remained in, even to the present, uh, uh, a, um, uh, a partial owner of a warehousing and distribution business in E-town Industrial Park. Um, I presently, uh, am a part of a company that, uh, develops, uh, commercial, uh, real estate, and, uh, we have eight or nine residential subdivisions going today, so. Uh, I attempted a couple of times to retire. I found that that just was not my thing. TUTTLE: Um-hm. PRATHER: And so, I, uh, I don't have anywhere I have to be at eight o'clock in the morning any longer. But, uh, but I still work hard. And that's by choice. And, uh, so, uh, it's, uh, it's worked well for me. My, uh, my uncle, who had a great influence on my life, always, who worked hard all of his life, always said, "You're better, you're better off to wear out than to rust out." (Tuttle laughs) So, I've always kept that in mind. TUTTLE: That was one thing that stood out to me as I was trying to do a bit research about you before I got up here. Um, it seemed like that you tried to retire multiple times from state government. It was like, I'm not, okay, now, I'm retired, and then this governor calls you back and the party calls you back and--(laughs)--and these things over and over and over. And I, I, I just keep thinking, This guy must be pretty hardworking. PRATHER: Well, we, uh, we grew up, uh, being, uh, with a, with a strong work ethic. Um, my mother, who was a, the probably the predominant influence on my life, was, uh, was a genuine person, who, who taught the real values of life to her children very well. And, uh, who, um, taught us the, the advantages and the desirability of having a strong work ethic. And, uh, so, I think she instilled all those qualities in, in, not only me, but my siblings. And, uh, so, I carried it through to today and I've tried to impart that onto, to my children. So, um, I, I believe that, uh, that that will always serve a person well. And, uh, but it has allowed to, to do a lot of things, uh, in life, and, um, um, that were exciting for me, and the area of business, uh, and in public service. But, uh, but also to enjoy them as I went. TUTTLE: Hm. PRATHER: So, uh, it's, it's been a great ride. TUTTLE: Um, how was it that you first came to a career in public service? PRATHER: You know, uh, I, I'm not sure how all that came about, but as I look back, um, even as a youngster, and I'm talking about really young, I, I had an interest in, in, um, politics and government. Uh, I remember, um, I think I was eight years old, um, about to turn nine, um, when I first was interested in a presidential race. And we, we lived in a rural area where, um, you, you know, you're, the news you got was sketchy, but I remember the Truman/Dewey race. And, uh, and I, I loved Harry Truman. Um, I thought he was an amazing fellow, because he, you know, he was a fellow that pulled himself up by the bootstraps. And, uh, he, uh, he just was, just a true American at its best, I thought. And, uh, but at an early age, I was interested in that race. And, um, then I remember carrying that on to nineteen-, um, um, I guess, it was '56, when, um, Dwight D. Eisenhower was elected president, I remember, um, I remember listening on the radio, uh, every time I had the opportunity to, uh, it was fifty-, it'd be '52, because we were still on the farm, when, uh, he was first elected, I think. Um, and then again in '56, but in '52, the nominating conventions, uh, they, uh, the Democrats and, uh, Adlai Stevenson and he, when he was nominated to oppose, uh, Eisenhower and, uh, and President Eisenhower who was then General Eisenhower. He was, uh, uh, the nominating convention where Robert Taft and Harold Stassen and Earl Warren were, all them, all of them were, uh, nominated from the floor. And, uh, but Eisenhower ended up with enough delegates to be the nominee. And, uh, I paid close attention then. Uh, my grandfather, my, my father's father had been, uh, , uh, a county official in Meade County back in, he died the year before I was born, so I never did know him. But, uh, but my family always paid to, uh, who was in government. And, uh, uh, but it seemed as though it some, that was an interest that I, I guess was born with that, because from an early age I had that. And, uh, I remember after we moved to Elizabethtown, I remember sitting on the courthouse lawn in 1955, uh, when, uh, uh, Governor, uh, Happy Chandler was running for his second term as governor. And, uh, uh, the thing in those days was for the candidates to travel the state and to, uh, to speak at central points. And I remember down at the Hardin County courthouse, how he spoke in the circuit courtroom, but they had speakers set up all on the square. And, uh, and, uh, and I remember being outside and listening to those speeches. And so, I've always had that interest. But fast forwarding to where I real-, where I really came to be involved, in 1967, when I was twenty-seven years old, um, I was in the, already in the real estate and auction business in Vine Grove. And, uh, and there was an incumbent who, uh, was, um, um, I'm sure was a good man, but didn't seemed to work at the, at the, uh, at being state representative as hard as some other people did. TUTTLE: Um-hm. PRATHER: And, and, um, we, some of us had paid attention to that. And, and, um, there was some people who were interested in having, um, somebody, uh, make that race. And, uh, so anyway, through, through some discussions with people whose judgments I respected, I decided to, uh, I decided to make that race. And, um, I started back in, uh, 1966, uh, we charted the district; uh, we knocked on almost every door; um, we had a well laid-out plan. And, uh, so in May of '67, uh, I, I defeated the incumbent who, uh, and, um, was the Democratic nominee. And I had a, uh, a strong race in the fall, because that was the year that Louie Nunn was elected, uh, governor. And in November, he carried the dist-, the district, which was Twenty-Sixth District of Hardin County, uh, he carried that district by a big margin. So, I had to overcome that. But was able to do that, and get my margin, and go to the legislature, and, um, served my first term in '68. So, that's how I ended up in Frankfort. (laughs) TUTTLE: Um, was the legislature different then from it is today, very much, I mean, in, and it clearly it was a biannual and things like that, but? PRATHER: It was, it was a great deal different in those days. We, um, when I first arrived, there was discussion going on when I arrived on the scene, um, prior to 1968, and in the interim between the '68 session and the '70 session, the only time committee functioned was during a session. TUTTLE: Hm. PRATHER: And there were like forty-plus committees. And I think, uh, I almost think that, uh, the committee structure was such that it allowed most everybody who had any seniority at all to be a committee chairman, and to, you know, tell the folks back home, "Well, I'm a committee chairman." And truth is the committees didn't meet. Uh, occasionally, the appropriations and revenue committee would meet and they'd say, "Well, the governor's budget is here; he wants it out in the next thirty minutes. So, so he can get it on the floor." And bam, it was gone. But we in the '68 session adopted new rules that, um, set up the, um, interim committee system. And I think that was in, in a small way, was the beginning of legislative independence, what would end up being a more independent legislature. TUTTLE: Um-hm. PRATHER: And at that point I had very little to do with that in 1968, but as years went on, as far as moving, uh, causing that movement to become stronger, then I was able to play a role in that, along with some other really, people who were, who thought that the legislature should be more independent than, than having received a list from downstairs in the governor's office about which bills would pass and which wouldn't pass. And, uh, so it evolved from that time to where we, um, um, were able to cause those committees to meet more in the interim and to actually then allow for pre-filed bills, looking forward to the next session. And, um, there were just, uh, numerous things that happened that, uh, that I, it would take me, uh, probably longer than I have today to, uh, to talk that, that lead to the legislature's, uh, independence. Um, then, um, in, um, I, after I moved from the House over to the Senate in 1976, I, I moved in '74, became president pro temp of the Senate, uh, which was, uh, the top elected position, but the lieutenant governor still was the ceremonial head of the Senate as, as presiding officer. So, anyway, the president pro temp then is what the president is today. TUTTLE: Hm. PRATHER: Um, when we look at in 2006, but, uh, Speaker Bill Kenton and I, who was then the speaker of the House, newly elected, he and I, uh, talked about and made the decision to move forward with televising sessions of the General Assembly. And we sat down with Lynn ------- --(??), who was then, uh, heading up, uh, KET. And devised a way that we were able to start bringing and shedding the light of day more on the General Assembly than ever happened before. And I think that was really one of the real turning points in causing the legislature to become something that meant more to the average Kentuckian than, up to that time, it had been, you know, the governor was just all powerful. TUTTLE: Yeah. PRATHER: Now, again, we could, there's another chapter to that book-- (laughs)--we could talk about how sometime I think, uh, that pendulum swings too far and toward, uh, the legislature wanting to be, prove their independence so much that, uh, they overact to something that the governor has going, but that's another story for another day. But, uh, yes, the legislature changed dramatically during my nineteen years there and even since I've, I've seen it change even more. TUTTLE: How do you think that, um, that televising changed behavior at all? Do you think it changed legislators' behavior on the floor if they knew that they were on television, a constituent might see them or something like that? PRATHER: There is absolute no question and there was real resistance to implementing that. It was not a slam-dunk when we did it. Uh, there were people who did not want to be televised. You know, they really kinda enjoyed the, the freedom of, um, of not being as accountable as, uh, as we thought that legislators should be. And, and there's little doubt that it changed, uh, it changed how the, uh, proceedings, uh, were conducted and individual, uh, it changed, uh, the individual actions on the floor. And, um, when I first was there as a, as almost a youngster, uh, I was twenty-seven when I elected; I was twenty-eight when I took office the first time. And in my, uh, session, um, the, it came the last night of the session. And, of course, the, at midnight, uh, you're supposed to have everything wrapped up. Well, somebody climbed a ladder and unplugged the clock at one minute to midnight. (laughs) And, uh, and by that time, um, you know a number of people had, uh, had, they had taken a break for dinner and, uh, a lot of them came back and, uh, you know, had, uh, been, uh, I guess in the bars and wherever. And, uh, they were feeling, feeling pretty good. (Tuttle laughs) And, uh, so, it was, it was, it was interesting sight. Well, and, but, you know, I don't want to give the impression that that's everything that went on because there were a lot of good solid people in the legislature at that time. But, but I found out that that had been just the norm up to that time. TUTTLE: Um-hm. PRATHER: That, uh, it was, it was accepted, and, uh, it was accepted behavior, and it was an accepted way of, of doing business was stop the clock, and go onto three-, four-, five-, six o'clock in the morning, uh, if you had something that somebody still wanted to consider that hadn't been considered. But, uh, I think that opening the General Assembly up to the TV cameras probably changed the legislature as much or more than any one thing that I saw happen while I was there. Because it did, it did change, uh, the way people, uh, individual actions and collectively it caused the legislature to suddenly become more serious because, uh, they realized that accountability was coming into play more than ever before. TUTTLE: Um-hm. Well, when you first came in, um, I'm sure you had an idea of how you thought government should work and what government should be doing. And I wonder if that's any different from today. PRATHER: I think, I think I had an idea, but, but in reality, I, I really don't suppose that I, that I knew until I was actually a part of it. TUTTLE: Um-hm. PRATHER: And, uh, you know, I, I was always, I always grew up to think that reasonable people could sit down and, and seek reasonable solutions in, in normal ways and, uh, and that you could come away with a consensus. Well, I found that it was not that easy. And that, when you find, uh, particularly where I started in the House you find a hundred different people who are there from one hundred different areas. Um, they have, um, and you find that, uh, some of those, um, were interested in looking, uh, um, at the state in total, but you had a significant number who were only interested in how something was going to affect them and the small district that they represented. And, uh, I, I think the frustrations that I found that I didn't envision was that you, you had trouble particularly in the earlier days getting someone to look beyond their district lines, and to consider what was good for, and the politics of it, and, um, and I found, uh, I found people there who were, who were always, uh, hearing those footsteps behind them, uh, because if you had to make those tough votes, uh, uh, the main consideration was, uh, you know, how, uh, what's it gonna do to my chances of being reelected. But I think as time went on, after, uh, after the interim committee system was put into effect and after there was more time to consider issues in the interim, which cause, uh, more groups, uh, who were, had, uh, various interests, uh, from around the state to become a part of the system, because they'd be called to, um, they'd be called to come in and, and give information and testimony before the committees. And then when it was opened up, uh, through KET, all of that had a way of, of breaking down that old system of just wanting to have a limited vision and kinda forced, uh, the hand of, uh, people, uh, who were reluctant to become more apart of considering what was good for all of Kentucky. And so, you still have some of the former, but I think that we've made great strides toward, uh, causing issues to be considered in a way that, uh, beyond just being, um, some parochial decision. TUTTLE: Um-hm. PRATHER: So, um. But I, it, it'd always been my hope that we could get to the point where, um, where that would be the case. Um, if there's one disappointment I have seen in recent years, and some of that occurred, uh, while I was still there, but it seems to be more pronounced, uh, uh, today is that, uh, it seems that so much that goes on today is adversarial in nature as far as the consideration and it's the scorched earth policy, prevail at all cost. And, um, I know that, uh, I was fortunate during my years in the legislature in that regardless of what party you were, there was a recognition that you did re-, all, everybody represented the same number of people and there were certain considerations that you were due because you were an elected representative. And while we were all aware of parties, it was not so partisan. TUTTLE: Um-hm. PRATHER: And I think that in that way, it seems to me that we have digressed in the last, uh, twenty years, uh, in that it's, it's more partisan and more adversarial than I've ever seen it. And, uh, that is not a source of pride for me as I speak today. TUTTLE: Hm. What do you think brought that adversarial tone? PRATHER: Oh, I think it, um, I think that it goes back to the way that political races are run, and it carries over. Um, and it's jockeying and, and then during, uh, the time in the General Assembly, it's, it's jockeying to, to, uh, set up either individuals or backers of, uh, some candidate for governor, or whatever, to pose themselves to have the advantage once the next race starts. Uh, I think it gets back to, uh, the, what probably started, um, in earnest in Kentucky, uh, , uh, along about, oh, nineteen seventy-, well, it would've been early eighties, I guess, which goes, which is back again in the last roughly twenty years, where the, the first, uh, race that I saw in Kentucky where suddenly it was more of a no-holds-bar, was probably the McConnell/Huddleston, uh, U.S. Senate race in, uh, that would've been '83, I guess, early eighties, anyway. TUTTLE: Um-hm. PRATHER: When Senator Huddleston, uh, lost the U.S. Senate to Mitch McConnell, that was the first race. And, and, uh, but I think it had come because suddenly there's a lot more money raised to finance campaigns. And, uh, and, uh, it has been proven over however many years that you can win with thirty-seconds spot, if you can raise the money to do that. And, and, uh, you can, uh, say about what you want to say and it's difficult for somebody to rebut that, but the more, the more, um, the attempt is made to rebut, uh, those accusations, if you will, charges, uh, uh, some of it misinformation, uh, then the more, uh, the battle's on. And, uh, and I think that mood then carries over after people are elected, because it's suddenly it becomes an accepted norm as far as behavior. And, uh, it's, um, so, I really think it goes back to the ex-, expensive campaigns and, uh, uh, media wars and races. And so, it's just the prelude, prelude to the next political race, is what, I think that's the reason you see the mean spirit in this that you see, uh, in the halls of the legislature, and the halls of Congress, and, and the whole bit. TUTTLE: Sort of the same way that people say about the Bush administration that, that they don't govern so well, that they can campaign like nobody's business. PRATHER: Somebody who can, uh, somebody who can make, uh, John McCain out in South Carolina, in that contest there, to be unpatriotic, uh, anything can be done with enough money, uh, uh, I'm convinced. And so, uh, how that could happen, uh, with, uh, with a guy who, uh, is a proven, genuine war hero is beyond me, but it was carried out with success. And, uh, so I, I've quit being amazed at anything since I saw that. (both laugh) TUTTLE: Well, I guess, next question would be, uh, what stands out as the biggest issues that you had to, grapple with while you were in the legislature? PRATHER: Well, I think, um, you know, there were a lot of issues that, uh, we had all the hot button issues that you have today. You know, those social issues, uh, emotional issues that we dealt with that, uh, still you hear about constantly in campaigns today. And, uh, you know, you hear about, uh, you hear about, uh, the, uh, guns, and guns and God. And, uh, now they've added, I think, uh, the three Gs, uh, gays have been added. But that was not the issue in my day. When I say God I'm talking, uh, I'm talking about abortion, I'm talking about gun control, I'm talking about the death penalty; all of those issues we dealt with. TUTTLE: Um-hm. PRATHER: But probably the biggest challenge that we had starting, uh, uh, early in my career, and lasting the whole way through, and we made, we made great strides and then, uh, and that was in the area of education. And since that time there've been even greater strides made since I left the Senate. But, um, we, we are able to make steady success in causing education to be put on the front burner and not being something that was viewed almost as, uh, a nuisance to be dealt with by the legislature, and suddenly to become, uh, an issue that, that deserved the attention of all good-thinking Kentuckians, and realizing that if we were ever going to be all we could be as a state that we had to elevate our young people. And that we had to from, um, from preschool all the way up to, uh, the, uh, uh, doctorate level. And that we had to cause people to value education and that we had to have the system in place that allowed them to be able to stay in Kentucky and get that education. And in a way that we didn't allow the brain drain that occurs with young people who, uh, who were motivated but, uh, in years past that had to leave Kentucky to find, uh, what, uh, find what they were seeking. That's one of the biggest problems that Kentucky face for years and years and years, was, uh, was the, the most valuable asset we had, which was our young people, were having to flee the state in order to have the opportunities. And we still have some of that. But it isn't nearly as pronounced as it was, uh, going back, uh, almost forty years now since I first went into the legislature. So, then in 1987, uh, the session after I left the legislature, you had some people that I had served with and a lot of people that I have, had a great deal of respect for, and still have a great deal of respect today, who made those tough calls, and, uh, and KERA was a result. And, uh, and then you, to give, uh, with all the problems of, of other governors and you look past that and you go to Governor Patton, who was really put the emphasis on higher education, made tough decisions. TUTTLE: Um-hm. PRATHER: Probably politically unpopular. And, uh, but all apart of causing Kentucky to be able to poise itself to be something more than it had ever been. So, that was the biggest challenge I saw. Budget is always the biggest thing you face. (Tuttle laughs) And, uh, but, you know, you have to get beyond that, letting everybody just protect their turf and get basically a continuation budget. Something has to catapult you into the new age. TUTTLE: Um-hm. PRATHER: And I think we were able to make steady progress and I think that the crowning jewel in that, uh, in, in that crown was, uh, that '87, and, uh, you know, I've often, as I look back, uh, maybe regretted that I didn't stay one more session. So, I had the opportunity to, or more term, because I chose to retire and, uh, and didn't run again in '86 and, uh, and as I look back, uh, if I had served one more term and had been able to be a part of that, uh, it would've exciting for me. But I'm excited it happened. TUTTLE: Um-hm. PRATHER: And, uh, we've made great progress and that was the biggest issue I think that I faced as a legislator. And I'm not formally, uh, highly educated myself. But I've never, uh, I've, once I started serving in office and gaining perspective, I've realized that education was, that's the name of the game, if you, if you want to, if you want to move forward. TUTTLE: So, you think, um, you were in favor of all the, um, the unconstitutional case and all the KERA reforms then? You thought that, you were happy to see that happened? PRATHER: I was happy to see, I was happy to see KERA come. I was happy to see it come. And I was, I've been happy to see the emphas-, uh, the emphasis on higher education, because, you know, it's easy, it's easy to, and I know years ago, that the emphasis seemed to be on just, uh, elementary and, uh, uh, secondary education. I mean, it was, um, everybody that, um, I won't see everybody, but a, a lot of people thought, Well, you know, if you, if you can graduate high school, you can make it. TUTTLE: Um-hm. PRATHER: Well, you can make it, but you, uh, higher ed was kinda always on the backburner. And so, and you had the, you had the address, uh, elementary and secondary first, and then, uh, I was glad to see in later years that the legislature and the governor moved onto higher education and did what needed to be done there. TUTTLE: What did, um, what did you think about the, all that community college business? I know that it wasn't too popular outside of Lexington and Frankfort, in a lot places, but, um, what are your thoughts and experiences of that? PRATHER: Well, I have been a longtime proponent of the community college system being an independent system. And I think that the crux of the problem when it, and it was a political problem-- TUTTLE: --um-hm-- PRATHER: --that came in causing that to happen was that you had, you had a structure in place. Uh, however many community colleges we had and that number escapes me today, but a number of them out across the state, and I think that, I think that the faculty of those colleges and I think some of the, uh, leadership and some of the communities and people who served on community college boards probably liked the idea of being considered, uh, a part of the University of Kentucky. It was a pride thing. But the truth was that the community colleges did not seem to get the emphasis that many of us thought that they deserved from the University of Kentucky because the, it got back to dollars and the emphasis seemed to be on the University of Kentucky Lexington campus. TUTTLE: Um-hm. PRATHER: And I remember years ago how difficult it was when we, when I was there that we decided to make the community college appropriation a line item in the budget. It had just been a part of U.K.'s general budget and U.K. decided how much to allot to the community college system. And it was, uh, there was real resistance from the hierarchy at University of Kentucky in making, in even making it a line item in the budget. So, the community colleges would get this much money. Now, you decide how to allocate it among the community colleges but it was actually then a line item where you defined exactly what the colleges would be receiving. So, that's, um, uh, but the movement and the, that's one of the things I was referring to in higher education reform, uh, when Governor Patton made the stand he did, and when there was absolute resistance, and when Chuck Wethington basically staked, staked his, uh, presidency on stopping that, and challenged, a direct challenge to the governor, which was unheard of. TUTTLE: Um-hm. PRATHER: For a, uh, a university president. And, you know, he, he rolled the dice and he lost. And, uh, now, have there've been some, have there've been some growing pains with the, uh, with the community college system and, uh, particularly now since, uh, there's been a subsequent, uh, movement that has merged then with technical colleges, sure. There have been. There're some here in my own community of Elizabethtown. But it's the right thing to do. And there's more emphasis now on, on community colleges than I think has even been and they're out there where people can look at them and they have to stand on their own and they have to succeed on their own, where before they were comfortably tucked into, under the U.K. umbrella and, uh, it has hard to get a yardstick that would measure them. TUTTLE: Hm. Um, you talked a little bit about, well, you mentioned the university, um, what sort of weight did the University of Kentucky have in the legislature when you first got there? PRATHER: It was like a big four hundred pound gorilla. (both laugh) And, um, it was, it was obviously, and still is today, the dominant, uh, institution of higher learning in the state. But I think the battle over the community colleges got more back to maintaining those tentacles into every community. TUTTLE: Hm. PRATHER: And the community colleges allowed U.K. to be politically strong, because they had, uh, because they have that presence in all these communities, and Glasgow, and E-town, and Madisonville, and Hopkinsville, and wherever else, Paducah, I mean, all across the state. And, uh, I think that was the reason that, uh, President Wethington decided to, uh, to make the stand that he did. But traditionally, uh, University of Kentucky had a great amount of clout in the General Assembly. And through higher education reform, where you have, you had a more clearly defined mission for all the various universities, I think you find today that even though U.K. is still very strong, that they do not dominate as they did a few years ago. TUTTLE: Um-hm. PRATHER: And so, and you have a defined mission for U.K., and suddenly you have a, you, you have a realistic opportunity and a possibility-- [Pause in recording.] PRATHER: --who can, in certain areas of research, through the Bucks for Brains program and all that, that it has a defined mission and that it can be as a metro-university that it can excel in a way that, and, and everybody understands that. And, and there are certain defined roles for the regional colleges. And, uh, I just think that that's so much preferable. But it took the, it took somewhat diminishing the political clout of the University of Kentucky to do that, and in order to, I don't think that anybody said, "Well, now, we're gonna set out to diminish U.K.'s influence," but it just makes sense that if you have one institution that's all powerful, that others are gonna suffer somewhat. And, but in order to accomplish every bit of that, uh, there was a two-fold effect with the, uh, community colleges being spun-off, if you will: one is that they were allowed to have a vision of their own and flourish, and, and the other is, that it, it, that was the mechanism by which, uh, that power of higher education was somewhat distributed more evenly rather than being so concentrated at U.K. TUTTLE: Um, you mentioned Dr. Wethington and his contentious relationship with the governor. Um, and I know that Dr. Singletary and Jack Blanton had a sort of close relationship with Frankfort, can you talk a little about the university administration dealing with the General Assembly? PRATHER: Well, I think that, you know, every president, uh, every president at U.K. I think had a different way of, of dealing with Frankfort. Uh, you know, it's, it's a management style. And, um, I think, um, President Singletary was a, was a person who probably, he was, he was a generalist when he was dealing with Frankfort, and he probably dealt in a, in a different way, in that, uh, he was not a person who could, uh, pound his, uh, fists on the desk, and, and demand that, "Thus and so, be done." Um, I do think that he would try, uh, to rally those people who were connected all over the state. He did that effectively, he was able to rally those people to influence individual legislators in order to accomplish whatever. But, but he was, he was a more of a generalist, I think. Um, than, um, and I know, uh, Jack Blanton, uh, had, uh, a lot of alliances with people in state government in key spots. Uh, during that time had, uh, he had relationships with legislators that on a very personal basis, they were able to make case. Um, and then when, I, uh, when Chuck Wethington moved, he had been the chancellor of the community college system, I know, and I, I worked very closely with him, because I had a, uh, an abiding interest in community colleges since we had one here. And, and since I realized that community colleges have always been the biggest bang for, for the buck that we have in Kentucky. And, uh, and I recognized that. So, I worked with Dr. Wethington very closely, and during, uh, many years, uh, because of that belief that I had. But Chuck Wethington was a fellow who was, uh, he, he came up through the, through the trenches. And he came, he, he started at the bottom and worked his way up. He wasn't brought in as president from, uh, from, uh, out of state, like Singletary was. I mean, he was a guy who worked his way up. He knew the players. He, uh, he was, uh, and I don't mean this in a bad sense, he was street-smart. TUTTLE: Um-hm. PRATHER: And, uh, he just had a different style. And, uh, but he, he could, uh, he could be demanding and, and, uh, a little more combative than, uh. So, you had people who either worked well with him or you had people that, um, would just soon not work with him. And so, it was a two-head sword. TUTTLE: Um, what sort of presence did the athletics administration have with the General Assembly? PRATHER: Well, there again, uh, you know--(laughs)--primarily U.K. basketball was, was a big tool for the administration. I mean, you know, all legislators received tickets to U.K. ballgames. There were, uh, receptions, there were, and, and a lot of it surrounded, uh, U.K. athletics. I think you found, though, that in recent years and, and I've been a University of Kentucky athletic fan all my life, I grew up, uh, down in the country, from the first time that, uh, I ever, uh, heard of, uh, turn the radio on. You know, I remember, uh, the U.K. ballplayers going way back, when, when I was a little child. And, and even people that have never been Lexington, they were big U.K., uh, sports fans. And, and so, that carried forward, uh, to where predominantly you found most legislators were, uh, U.K. fans and, you know, some I supposed paid, uh, attention to football, but it was primarily basketball, because that's what every little community in Kentucky had, going back years and years. And so, it, uh, again it, it was just a part of the power that U.K. was able to accumulate through things like the community colleges, and, uh, and they used that athletic program very effectively, and played to the pride that, uh, that legislators had in that program, in order to carry over into whatever else they had an interest in. So, oh, it had a, it had a big, uh, uh, it had a big influence on, uh, probably far beyond what athletics should have frankly. But, but it did. That was just a part of the overall, uh, arsenal, uh, that U.K. brought to the battle. TUTTLE: What sort of arsenal do you think they have now compared to what they did? PRATHER: Well, I think they still have a great number of people, um, um, out across the state who, uh, who are very pro-U.K. You have that here. Uh, but I, I do believe that it has advanced from, uh, being able to persuade based on individual issues that pertained to just certain interests that individual legislators have, to a more broad sense they have to sell the university because of its ability to excel, its ability to carry out the mission that has been laid out for it, and, um, and its vision for the future. I just think that, I think they have to come armed with information more than just, uh, raw influence today. TUTTLE: Um-hm. Um, to jump back a little bit, you were talking about, uh, in the early days, uh, you'd get basically a, a, a read, of, of being told by somebody else, I don't remember, "Here, it is," you'd get a binder basically from the governor, saying, you know, "You should vote this way on this." When did that start to change a little bit? PRATHER: That started to change, um, well, each individual legislator didn't get a binder. But one came up to leadership. TUTTLE: Okay. PRATHER: And leadership then would had the ability to put together a majority of the members for any one vote that they wanted. And leadership had the ability through the rules committee, which is the committee that, uh, has, uh, totally authority over what bills are going to be posted for passage. They had the ability to not post a bill for consideration. Um, through the committee on committees, which is, again, made up of leadership, um, which assigns the bills to various committees; they had the ability to assign, uh, a bill to a committee that would give it, uh, a thumbs-up, or to assign it to a committee where it was a black hole. TUTTLE: Hm. PRATHER: And so, the governor exerted enough influence on leadership elections that usually governors were able to have a leadership that was loyal to, to, to whoever was governor, and then they got the word on what bills should go, and which should not go, and they had all those ways of dealing with that. So, it, uh, you could got to a friendly committee or an unfriendly committee with a bill. I was trying to think, I became a, I came to the Senate in '74; I was elected president pro temp just prior to the '76 session. And the election in, the election that brought a lot of new members happened right at that same time. TUTTLE: Hm. PRATHER: And you saw the, and that was during Julian Carroll's administration. And I don't know that it had a great deal with do with, with Governor Carroll; I think that it was just the time that you had a great number of independent people who were elected to the General Assembly. And as a result of that election, you had some people, you had a few people that had been there all along who were independent-minded, and then you had people who were elected, like Lowell Hughes and John Berry, and, uh, and some of those people. You already had Mike Moloney there. And, uh, you know, Joe Wright from Breckinridge County. And, uh, uh, there were others. But, uh, as a result in the, in the mid-seventies, uh, you had, uh, what become, uh, affectionately known as the Black Sheep Squadron. And during the '78 session, you saw that that movement started to take hold, and it was in the Senate where it started. And the, they joined together and they didn't have a majority but they had enough numbers that they, they had demanded to be heard and they had to be heard. And, uh, and they were bright fellows. And, uh, all of that really came, uh, to a head in the, you can call it famous or infamous, special session that, uh, that Thelma Stovall called when, uh, Governor Carroll was out of town, uh, in, I guess that was early '79, as I recall. And but by that time, I had been working with, uh, some of those fellows on some ideas that would allow more independence and allow them to be heard. And, and during that, uh, during the, uh, '79 special session and during '78, uh, the regular session in '79, I was, even though I was president pro temp, and a part of leadership, I really made some decisions and was a part of some decisions that allowed the Senate to become even more open during that time. And in the '79 session, I joined with them on a critical vote that, that allowed the Senate to hear the deliberations on the tax issues and the budget amendments, uh, as a committee of the whole, where that did not go to a committee where it could be bottled up, or, uh, changed, waylaid, whatever word you want to put. So, it, it was on the floor; it was a, the Senate was a committee of the whole. So, in the Senate chamber is where all the committee work was done on, on that, the bill that was presented during that time. And, uh, so I think that, uh, it was during Governor Carroll's term. But it, again, wasn't anything maybe in particular that he did; he had been, he was doing whatever governor before had been doing. And he was making the effort to dominate the legislature, but you just had people who, uh, suddenly enough people came together who said, "You know, it's time we did it differently." TUTTLE: Hm. PRATHER: And that's when the horse got out of the barn. And then when, uh, then after Governor Carroll, John Y. Brown came into office, and he could care less. (Tuttle laughs) He didn't want to dominate anybody. And so, I mean, the, the horse was running around the track full speed by that time. (both laugh) And so, during Brown's administration the legislature moved into a different era full speed, and it's never, it's, it's never gone back. Sometime, I, as I mentioned earlier, it think, uh, almost, uh, the pendulum almost swings too far sometime, and that, uh, you know, the, the governor is not, on some issues, is not given enough consideration. TUTTLE: Um-hm. Um, what was it that pushed you to, uh, to go along with these guys? PRATHER: Well, I had become increasingly, uh, I had to come really, a realization increasingly that, uh, that one man, regardless of who he was, couldn't be right all the time. TUTTLE: Hm. PRATHER: And that people were elected to do a job, and that you have people who elect, were elected from, and, you know, the best government is local government, and you had people in Senate districts or House districts who were elected by the local people who had come together, and that they had right to be heard, and had a right to not have, uh, their, uh, everything they were interested in just derailed by, because you had a, a governor who may or may not have, uh, the right vision and, uh, the right reasons for wanting to maintain control. And that there needed to be a balance. And, um, it, uh, and I don't want to sound as though I was the only, I was not; there were a number of people who had an interest and had an increasingly had an interest in seeing something happened. But it was, it was just during that time that it appeared that we had reasonable chance of success. I took a lot of criticism from some of the people I had worked closely with who, uh, some called it disloyal to the governor. I didn't view it that way. You know, I think that every man has a right to think for himself. And, uh, but I think generally I think it was accepted, uh, in an okay way. And there were, there were some others that, uh, had been there awhile who were just like I was, who joined that effort, and I can't sit here and name them. Um, but, uh, it took, uh, it took several of us to, to join with the newcomers to, to make a majority. But we made some critical votes in the '78 session and in the '79 special session that, that I think, uh, caused, uh, the legislative page to not be, uh, able to be turned back. Um, and, um, I think it, uh, has had a significant impact, uh, on just how open government is today. TUTTLE: How do you think the LRC played into this? I mean, like, how did they help you all out with trying to open up the General Assembly? PRATHER: Well, of course, I think it, I think that when you, the LRC, um, of course, obviously was the leadership, uh, dominated the LRC. But you had, you had, uh, the majority, the vast majority of the staff of the Legislative Research Commission. But they don't have a political agenda; they're there to prepare information, they're there, and, and probably, I've always thought that probably the, the biggest part of the LRC staff, uh, in their minds, felt that, uh, that openness and more involvement on behalf of all members was probably a good thing. TUTTLE: Hm. PRATHER: But, uh, they didn't involve themselves in espousing, uh, a position on that. But I, I remember that they were always very responsive to all members who, uh, sought to be armed with information when you had deliberations going on. And, of course, I was in a unique position because I was, uh, I was in the, uh, uh, president pro temp's office and co-chairman of the LRC, and I was able to cause, uh, a great deal to be done in that regard. Um, so, you know, I don't recall the LRC being, uh, playing a, a role in trying to move that forward, other than that they, they were excellent in the information they provided, and, you know, if you're ever going to do anything like that, you have to come armed with knowledge, and you'd have to be, you have to have real basis for what you're trying to sell. Um, and otherwise, you know, you're not gonna succeed. So, LRC has come a long way from the days when I first went there, when it was a place to hire the buddies of, uh, of, a lot of, a lot of governors and leadership, to the point where, by that time, we had an extremely, extremely professional staff in place, which, which was very helpful to the, to the new breed of legislator. TUTTLE: Um, there's been talk about, about a mountain caucus and a Louisville caucus existing in the General Assembly, mostly in the House, I guess. But, um, do you see any truth in, in those sort of labels? PRATHER: I think it's counterproductive. Um, I don't, um, I'm a great one to think that you represent a district and an area but you also represent all the people of Kentucky. And to set up these artificial lines and say, "We're just going to be proponents of something that's on this side of a line," counterproductive to the greatest degree I could express in my mind. They've tried a western Kentucky caucus. Well, you define for me what western Kentucky is. Some, to some people it's the Purchase. TUTTLE: Um-hm. PRATHER: To other people it stops at Madisonville. And to others everything ea-, uh, west of Lexington, or west of I-65. You know, it's, um, an east Kentucky caucus, you know, what is east Kentucky? Everything east of Lexington, and, um, going down to Somerset, uh, I don't know what that is. TUTTLE: Um-hm. PRATHER: And, and a Louisville caucus, you know, all, I think all that's kinda counterproductive. And, uh, um, I don't believe it's worked very well. TUTTLE: Um-hm. PRATHER: And, um, I think you've thankfully have had enough people, uh, serving who lived in those regions who wouldn't just blindly be bound by some decision made by a few people who, who's bond was they happened to live in a, in a region. Uh, you've had enough people who had a broader vision that, uh, that I think that it just, um, it hasn't worked very well, nor should it. TUTTLE: Um, let's see here. (pause) Do you have any mentors in your public service career? Anybody you looked up to or anybody that sort of showed you around Frankfort or showed you around the Assembly? PRATHER: Well, you know, when I first went to Frankfort, I was, I was a, I was a part of, in my first session, um, I was a part of electing, uh, Julian Carroll, speaker of the House. And, um, I, um, and, and that was a, um. And Julian, at that time, represented a new breed of folk in, in the, in the House of Representatives. And, um, it was, uh, suddenly, you had a Republican governor on the first floor, and you had, um, um. So in, as far as electing leadership, the General Assembly for the first time in no telling how many years was able to basically elect its own leadership. And, um, so, it, um, Julian Carroll was elected, uh, over the existing, um, speaker, who was Shelby McCallum, out of, um, one of the western Kentucky counties. And, um, so, I was a part of that youth movement, so to speak, uh. And it, um, we had some great years, and I was affiliated with, with Julian, and, and Terry McBrayer, who was a floor leader in the House. And, um, they, uh, um, and we were able to, uh, during that time, I was, I was able to learn very rapidly to where the, my second, uh, my second session in the House of Representatives I was elected majority whip. So, starting in, I went in '68, and starting in '70, uh, I was the, uh, majority whip in the House of Representatives. So, I moved along pretty quickly with the, uh, um, um, being, uh, teamed up with Julian Carroll. I moved on across to the Senate. And frankly benefited from the system. I moved to the, when Dee Huddleston was elected, uh, United States senator in '72, then in '73, I made my first, uh, race for the Senate, and, um, managed to win that, and went to the Senate in '74. Um, and, and just prior to the '76 session was elected president pro temp of the Senate. And, um, but with, uh, with the help of, uh, again of, uh, of Governor Carroll, then Governor Carroll. So, you know, I can understand why some people would think that when I decided that maybe it was time to, I be a part of saying, "The governor shouldn't dominate as much as he had in the past," that, uh, that maybe that was disloyal. But it, uh, but to me, it was being more of a think-for-yourself fellow than it was being disloyal. You know, you can gauge that with any yardstick. But, uh, but Julian and I were probab-, and he had been there a few years. And, and we were very close, when, when, uh, I first went to the legislature. And so, it helped moved me along, uh, fairly quickly. TUTTLE: Um, did your relationship change at all when, uh, the special session and the Black Sheep Squadron and all that started happening? PRATHER: Well, I think, to say it didn't change at all would, would not be, uh, being candid. I think it, I think it did change somewhat. Uh, we did not become enemies nor have we ever been. In fact, I saw him not long ago, and, you know, we're still on good terms. Um, and, um, you know, but the, but it was a matter of, uh, it was a matter of who should've been upset with some of the things were happening during the Carroll administration. You know, there were, there were some things that, uh, happened during the Carroll administration that I didn't like that Julian was involved in. And I, I was, um, I was very, um, candid with him about that at the time. So, but we didn't, we never, uh, we always stayed friends even though we had a number of disagreements. And, uh, some of them had to do with, uh, with what I did; some of them had to do with things he did. And, uh, then I made the lieutenant governor's race in, uh, 1979, and, uh, leading up to that race, uh, Julian, uh, they were trying to, making the effort to slate Terry McBrayer at that point, with, uh, with a, um, a candidate for, for lieutenant governor. And Julian, uh, called me over to the mansion one day, and said, uh, "Joe, you can't make that race, because you don't, uh, you already affiliated with us, and you don't bring anything to Terry." And I said, "Well, I'm not looking to bring anything to Terry; I'm just interested in being lieutenant governor. And, uh, so, you know, you figure out what you need to do, and I'm gonna do what I need to do." TUTTLE: Um-hm. PRATHER: And so, I made the race. And, uh, and, you know, I didn't win, but I ran a solid race. And, um, and, and was leading in the polls until an hour and a half before the filing deadline. Uh, the, an arrangement was made that put, uh, Todd Hollenbach in the race that, uh, just really wiped out my numbers in Louisville, Jefferson County. TUTTLE: Um-hm. PRATHER: And so, we, uh, we still were within a few thousand votes in a very close race. But, uh, Martha Layne Collins won that race. And, um, I think the design was the Bill Cox would be lieutenant governor, which, uh, he was ally of Julian's. And, um, but it worked out that Martha Layne was lieutenant governor. Um, and then the next year I was her state chairman in the, in the governor's race. Uh, so, politics takes interesting turns. TUTTLE: (laughs) You've been in, involved in, in a lot of campaigns. Um, like said, you ran for lieutenant governor, ran for governor for a little bit, um. PRATHER: For a short time, yeah. Until I realized that, that I couldn't compete in the dollar derby. TUTTLE: Um, what, what is the campaign, what did you miss about campaigns, and what, what, what did you, what did you most enjoy about campaigns, I guess? PRATHER: Well, I, um, I guess I enjoyed campaigns because, uh, you know, I'm a people person. Um, I've always been a fellow that, uh, whether I was structuring a business deal, or, um, being a part of running a campaign, uh, uh, I always liked take the, the parts and be able to put the puzzle together. Um, it's, um, you know, I came back, um, that's what brought me back, uh, to be the state chairman for Brereton Jones when he ran for governor in 1991. Um, I was, um, I was very much in, by that time entrenched back in the business world. And, and a happy camper. And, um, then I had, uh, had some people approach me about that idea, and then later Brereton called me, and, uh, there's a certain excitement about, about a race. And, um, you know, as I sit here today, uh, um, I have zero interest in ever being in another race myself. But, but I still, uh, I still have not lost my love, um, for the give and take that takes place in the public arena and in the political arena. And, uh, we, um, so, and I have really no abiding interest in, uh, being a part of ad-, administrations. If I do, I want to be very flexible. Uh, and, uh, so, you know, I told, uh, I know during Brereton Jones's administration, I told him, "If there's someplace I could be helpful, I'm willing to give you a year." TUTTLE: Hm. PRATHER: And so, he came back, and said, "I'd like for you to be finance secretary," and I, so I went and gave him my year. And, uh, then I moved over, as a dollar-a-year man, for, um, a couple of years, uh, over in the governor's office, just, uh, meeting and talking about issues and that kind of thing, which, you know, that's the kind of, uh, politics I like to be involved in today. TUTTLE: Um-hm. PRATHER: I like to talk about issues, uh, I like to meet people. And, uh, I, um, I probably, if there's one thing I miss about being in the legislature, it would be dealing with issues, the give and take on the floor. But I don't miss what you have to do to be elected. I don't miss, uh, what you have to do to get, uh, somebody's road built, or their, uh, brother a job. Or, uh, that part I don't miss, even though I love helping people still. But, uh, um, so, do I miss it? Yes. Uh, do I dwell on that? No. Uh, I try to live life to its fullest. Uh, and I'm able to do that, uh, presently, in a lot of different ways. Um, we, uh, I still, uh, I was involved without title, uh, in Ben Chandler's race for governor as an advisor. Realized that, uh, after thirty-two years of the Democrats, that that was an uphill battle from the beginning. And, um, so, um, but, uh, that pendulum swings, swings fast sometimes. And so, you know, I'm sure I'll be involved in another race in some way. TUTTLE: Um-hm. PRATHER: But, uh, I'm not looking for titles or publicity these days. It just, uh, the satisfaction of, of being a part of it, uh, on occasion still, that fire's still there. TUTTLE: Um, Kentucky was always known for a long time to be a solid Democratic state. And at least in state government, not really federal government. Um, and in recent years, there's been the upswing of Republicans and the Fletcher administration and David Williams and all this business. Um, and you talk a little bit about hard campaigns earlier. Um, to what do you attribute this big Republican upswing? Nationally and state wise, too, I guess. PRATHER: Well, I think nationally you had a lot of players who have contributed to that, including, um, Senator McConnell, who's been a player at the national level and who's the dominant Republican figure in, in the state. And, but I really, I really think that, um, that the Republicans have become very adept at seizing on those hot button issues. And, uh, um, I think I alluded to it, uh, a little bit earlier. Uh, they're, they're very adept at talking about, uh, uh, God, guns, and gays. And, um, and making it sound as though the Democratic Party has become a party that is morally bankrupt, because they, of whatever stand they may or may not have, and, uh, and I think through being able to raise a huge amount of money, have been able to define the Democrats in this state, uh, um, in, in a way that, uh, uh, has caused the Democratic Party and Democratic candidates trouble, whether, uh, and they define Democrats before they allow Democrats to define myself. And the Democrats have not been, uh, very effective in fighting back. And, um, and I think the person that has orchestrated that, and beginning with his race for U.S. Senate, which he did very effectively, uh, that we talked about earlier, has been Mitch McConnell. And I think he's had an impact, uh, and been a part of that effort nationally. And, uh, so I think that's what happened in Kentucky. But, and the Democrats had enough, uh, enough of a reservoir of strength to overcome all of that until it reached the, it reached the boiling point probably, uh, in the last governor's race when suddenly, uh, Ben Chandler, who is an excellent candidate, uh, uh, could not withstand the barrage of, uh, the negative ads. And, uh, so, Governor Fletcher, uh, was elected. Um, but since that time, uh, obviously a lot of things have happened to where it seems to me that the pendulum has swung back frankly more quickly than I expected it to. And, um, so, the Democrats have the opportunity to seize that advantage and to have control of state government and a lot of local offices that have been moving in the other direction, they have that opportunity now. Now, it, it depends on how they handle that opportunity and react to suddenly having that opportunity. Uh, that will determine whether they're able to, uh, um, be reelected in all these various offices, from governor on down, and, and then probably have many more years when you have a state, uh, like Kentucky, which has always been Democratic, uh, that's moved the other way, well, now I think the, it's on the, uh, verge of moving back. But, but the Democrats are gonna have to be smart enough to take advantage of the opportunity. Time will tell. And it's gonna take fresh faces, uh, a mixture of the old and the new, and it's going to, uh, you, you're gonna have to excite people, you're gonna have to quit apologizing for being a Democrat, you're gonna have to, uh, you're gonna have to cause, um, uh, people to realize that you can still be a Christian and be a Democrat, which many of us are. And, uh, so those are these messages that are gonna have to be put out there. The opportunity is there now in abundance to get that message out. If the Democratic Party and the Democratic candidates don't do that effectively now, then this state will, once again, will kinda reverse again and keep moving toward, uh, Republican dominance. TUTTLE: Um, just got a few more questions, and then we'll cut loose. All right. [Pause in recording.] PRATHER: Well, I hate to, cause you to have to hurry or anything. TUTTLE: Well, if-- PRATHER: --seems like we, I'm probably wordy for one thing. TUTTLE: Well, no, you just, you just have, you have a lot to, um, that to tell us. PRATHER: I get to rambling. TUTTLE: Um, well, what we'll probably do is, um, take these back, and transcribe it, luckily I don't have it. And then see what we've got. And if there's a more need for more information from you, or if there's anything that that, we'll see if we can set up a second one, something like that. PRATHER: That'd be fine. TUTTLE: Fill the blanks. Um, I just want to ask you about three or four more things here. Um, one thing that, um, that people tend to, uh, forget about government and public service is the amount of lobbying and lobbyists that are involved. And, um, I was just wondering if you could talk a little about, um, the sort of experience you've had with lobbyists, and, um, the main, uh, lobbying organizations, whether it's KEA, or the coal industry, or tobacco industry, or something like that. PRATHER: When I first, um, when I first to Frankfort, in fact, um, um, we had a pre-legislative conference. And, um, I was a young fellow. We went to Kentucky Dam Village, that's where in back in the late sixties and seventies, that, uh, leadership was elected, was, uh, in, um, at a pre-legislative conference. Usually was held down at Kentucky Dam Village, um, in western Kentucky. And, um, and so, I went in and frankly didn't know what to expect, but I know, uh, we had a, we had some kind of meeting, and, um, everybody, uh, said, came out, and some of the old veterans and, and invited all of us first-termers to, um, to go to, uh, said, "Well, we're gonna take a bus," said, "We're going over to Paducah." Said, "Why don't you go with us?" Said, "We, we're gonna over there to meet some friends and whatever." And so, we got on the bus. Well, the next thing I knew it pulled into a, a club of some kind in Paducah, the next thing I knew, the, it was all written up in the, in the newspapers about how, uh, lobbyists take new--so I learned a quick lesson. (Tuttle laughs) And, uh, I did a quick study as a result of that. Back in those days, um, a big part of the lobbying was done on the first floor. And through, uh, and they would, I think lobbyists would, uh, they weren't very great in number in those days. And they represented the normal interests, uh, that you think of. Um, uh, education, um, labor, um, the industry, the associate industries of Kentucky, those type things, um. Um, if you had a, a big lobby for the coal industry. Um, you had somebody representing the horse racing industry back in those days. But you had a very few lobbyists. But when I, I, and I stayed in the legislature nineteen years, and as I recall, by the time I left the legislature, and a lot of this had to do with the shift of power to where suddenly the lobbyists had to start dealing with, uh, 138 legislators, as opposed to one governor. TUTTLE: Um-hm. PRATHER: But you found, if I recall correctly, I think they were over five hundred lobbyists registered-- TUTTLE: --wow-- PRATHER: --in the session that I, uh, before I left the General Assembly. And if you divide that by 138, you know, you, you have, uh, four or so per, whatever. However that divides out. Close to four lobbyists per legislator. So, it's, um, but at the same time, it advanced over the years from providing, uh, uh, food and drink and a party atmosphere, which I found when I first went to Frankfort, is that was kind of the extent of the lobbying. You rarely saw a lobbyist ever appear before a committee. They, uh, they met with the governor. But, but suddenly after a few years of having a committee that, uh, grew and finally became of age, you found that lobbyists, uh, had to come armed with information. And they had to make sense. It wasn't just cutting some political deal to get what they wanted. And as a result, uh, I think that, uh, uh, that's a result of the committee system working; it's a result of exposing the legislature to the public by, uh, televising sessions; it was as a result of, of the press, uh, reporting on the legislature in a substantive way. Uh, as a opposed to, uh, the news that was carried back, uh, uh, in the very early years that I went there, I think the, the press, uh, reported in a very detailed way compared to what they had previously. And, and suddenly you had more people who realized that if you were gonna have a true committee system, and if you had a 138 legislators who were gonna makeup their, uh, their own minds, that we'd better get up there and protect our interest. And so, here they came. And, and I think that's been good. It, it works out to be a real problem for an individual legislator giving time to that many people. But fortunately each individual legislator does, does not have to talk every one of those people on a daily basis; they, uh, some of that goes on, but, but it primarily is directed to the committees where their area of interest is being heard. But, uh, it's gone from being a lobbying, uh, using whatever political influence to, uh, being a more of a mix of some political influence but primarily being armed with knowledge. And legislators have soon found among all those lobbyists who are on the scene today, and I've lost track of how many would be there, uh, in 2006, but, uh, I'm sure it's probably grown. But you soon find out who's, whose information you can trust, and who will, who's a straight shooter. Just like the lobbyist find out which legislators, uh, are straight shooters, and who you can depend on, and, and who can, uh, be counted on to get the job done. We find the same thing with lobbyists. But you have more people coming who are just citizens who don't necessarily represent any group, who are taking part in the process. Or they're under a looser umbrella of, uh, um, retired teachers, of , uh, the various retirees associations, of, uh, people who are interested in, uh, uh, a whole myriad of, uh, issues, and, uh, they form a group and they were registered, represented, many of them volunteer. So, it's changed from being on the first floor to being a few people on the third floor suddenly to now where, I mean, it's open for everybody. And you have much more participation today by a wide range of people in the, uh, lobbying process. I think that's good. TUTTLE: Um, there's, during the, the race against Lewis, there were a lot, um, really dirty ads. PRATHER: Hm. (laughs) [Pause in recording.] TUTTLE: Yeah, there it is, it's works. Mark this real quick. Okay, so, the question was, before the tape decided to stop, was, um, how do, um, I, I don't know how to ask but in a really general way, how do you react and, and, and deal with really dirty politics like that? Like the, like the ads that had your face, like morphing into Clinton's face and all that stuff like that. PRATHER: Well, you know, that is, that gets back to earlier conversations about the scorched earth policy in campaigns that carries over to, to service. TUTTLE: Um-hm. PRATHER: Once someone's elected. Uh, it's, uh, win at all cost. We found in that race that, um, we found in, in that, in the 1994 race for Congress that when we polled, we had, uh, we had a significant lead going in. We also found that in our polling that, that any Democrat in this district, and maybe in any district in the country, was, uh, was vulnerable because of the animosity that existed at that time, um, with, uh, with President Clinton. And so, you know, I found in the political arena that timing can be everything. And if, if the timing had been that the '94 race was being run in 2006, I think we would've been the, uh, able to not only maintain but broaden that lead. TUTTLE: Hm. PRATHER: But in '94, the mood of the country was that they were down on Clinton. The many, many reasons, one of which had to do with his personal character; the other had to with, with his involvement in par-, promoting universal health care, which probably alienated a great number of professions and people who were a traditional Democratic constituency. Uh, they were, he was a very convenient, uh, whipping boy, if you will, that's, that's probably a bad term, but for, uh, his stands on many of the, uh, the hot button issues, such as abortion, and, um, um, gun control, um, gays in the military, "Don't ask; don't tell," all of that rolled into, if, at that time it was possible to be able to paint someone with that brush, he was a Democrat, no matter what Democrat, then it didn't matter what, uh, it really didn't matter what Joe Prather stood for, the message was lost in the shuffle. TUTTLE: Hm. PRATHER: And the message was lost in, the message was lost in, uh, the big bucks that were spent in the matter of the last two or three weeks. I found that basically in the last month of the campaign that a, a, uh, campaign manager was brought in who took control of, of the Republican effort. Um, he, that candidate was basically hidden. He was not allowed to speak. If so, he was scripted. TUTTLE: Hm. PRATHER: Who, that coupled with huge amounts of dollars and primarily running against Clinton. And, uh, so, it's, um. And was it fair? Absolutely not. Was it accurate? Absolutely not. Um, but it is, it was indicative of what was to come, uh, more so than ever before, uh, in, in the political arena, and, of course, we've seen that carry forward to, to the present day. And then you contrast that to somebody who grew up in my era, who had basically been in positions where it, where your creditability was riding on you're being fair with people, and being straight up with people, who frankly didn't have the ability nor the will to change that. And so, you just get caught in the crossfire. And that's what happened to me. TUTTLE: Um-hm. PRATHER: Now, did that take a personal toll on me, on my family, and did I resent it? Yes. But I have found that, um, when a door closes, a window opens in life. TUTTLE: Hm. PRATHER: And that those people who are really going to live life to its fullest have to be able to bounce back and have to be able to, you know, I've always said, "The mark of the man depends on how he handles adversity." TUTTLE: Hm. PRATHER: And I believe that today. And, um, so, as a result, um, you know, my life is, is great the way it is. Um, um, Congress would have been something I would've enjoyed. I think, I'm not positive how much I would've enjoyed the Washington scene or how long I would've stayed. Um, I think that even though I did not embrace term limits and my opponent made that a, uh, a foundation block in his campaign and later ignored it, uh, but I feel that I probably would do just what I did in the State Senate, and what I felt as though I'd been there long enough I wouldn't run again. You know, I, I made a decision to leave the State Senate when I was forty-six years old, because I thought that I was losing a little of my zest for the position, because I'd been there quite a while. And I'd like to think I would've done that with a congressional seat and I think I would have. But, you know, the thing that probably sustained me through all that is that being a congressman was not something that I had to have in order to live life to its fullest. And after initially dealing with the resentment because of all the unfairness and the dirty tactics in that campaign, I realized that I was not diminished; the people who were willing to do that were in the end going to be diminished. And I, I hope that that's not a naive idea. TUTTLE: Um-hm. PRATHER: But, you know, that's, that's kinda how I look at it, as I look back. And, you know, you have frustrations, and I, I don't want to sound presumptive when I say that. Um, there are frustrations involved when you, uh, in, whether it'd be in that race or other races where you see somebody is, um, who is a follow-, follower, who's willing to yield to leaders who take control of an effort, and catapult you into something that. And, and people like that remain a follower; they never become a leader, because they gave up their ability to be a leader going in. And then you realize that you think that you have leadership talents that never had an opportunity to work, uh, because of, uh, being, uh, uh, ambushed. Sure, you, you think about that. But I know, it's no longer an issue that I think about very much. And when I do, it's in perspective. And, uh, do I wish that, uh, do I wish that it was different? Yes, I do. And it has nothing to do with Joe Prather, you know, my days are gone as far as being a candidate. And, uh, I'm happy about that. But, uh, we need more leaders who are willing to pay the price. But find the system causes more good people not to be willing to bother. TUTTLE: Hm. The thing that stood out to me as I was trying to read up on that race was I saw somewhere where it was, came out in a book or something, that McConnell went to Newt Gingrich-- PRATHER: --that happened-- TUTTLE: --at President Nixon's funeral. And said, "This is still a possibility. We need to, to shove some money(??) over." And it's just, it's, it really put in perspective, and the way you're talking about it does, is it, it wasn't, it was, it was a, where it seems to, in retrospect, it seems to have been an early piece in a national campaign. PRATHER: Oh, it was, it was really the second piece. You had one, you had one shortly before that in, uh, in, um, Oklahoma. We tried, we, there were several of us that talked, including me, talked to Governor Jones about calling that special election. TUTTLE: Um-hm. PRATHER: As quickly as he could. Which would've been three weeks before. And was there a selfish interest? Well, maybe somewhat because our numbers were good. Um, it would've, it would've worked fine. Um, we had it won. Uh, but he said, "Well, you know, it doesn't make any sense to me. We'll wait and hold it at the regular election at," uh, what the fourth Tuesday in May at that time. Well, that gave, that gave the Republicans with all that money and with all that machinery the chance to finish up in Oklahoma and then move that whole effort to Kentucky, to do what they did in the last three weeks. And, um, but they were preoccupied in Oklahoma prior to that. TUTTLE: Um-hm. PRATHER: And so, they moved, they moved all that whole machinery, along with the accompanying dollars in, in here on us. And, um, and, you know, it got nasty, as everybody knows. And, uh, but I can tell you that, um, my creditability in, in this community is intact. And, um, it's, um, and I, without compensation nor credit, uh, neither of which I seek, uh, these days, I still am very, very involved in, in positive way and a lot of ways in this community. And, and everybody knows that. And so, you know, that's my payday. TUTTLE: Um-hm. PRATHER: So, this family, we're, we're well off. And, um, you know, we're big family people. And, uh, our life's good. TUTTLE: Um, I guess just two more questions. Yeah, go ahead. UNKNOWN: -------------(??) PRATHER: If you'd wait about ten minutes, I'll go with you. TUTTLE: We can, we can go ahead and-- UNKNOWN: --okay, I'll wait-- TUTTLE: --and stop. All right. Um, let me just ask you real quick about, um, about the Super Tuesday bill. Um, to move the election to, uh, -- PRATHER: --yeah-- TUTTLE: --to Super, uh, Tuesday-- PRATHER: --that was my baby. TUTTLE: Yeah, yeah. (Prather laughs) Tell me about that a little bit. PRATHER: Well, we just, uh, there were several of us in the southeastern states who suddenly realized that the South in presidential politics was losing its clout. And, um, that, um, we, uh, we saw Iowa and New Hampshire get an inordinate amount of, uh, of power as a result of just being first. So, we had the idea that we could, um, if we could cause a southeastern states to all come together on one day, that suddenly early in the process that, um, that the, um, um, um, the South would have to be dealt with in more reasonable way. And so we set out to do that. And I, uh, that was late in my time in Frankfort. And we were able, I was able to pass that bill, as you know. And, uh, I think it was in effect for, what, for one, maybe one race, one nomination process. And, um, but after I left Frankfort for, and I never had, and, and, you know, I just, I didn't even go back and get involved in it, but for some reason, Bob Babbage, who was in secretary of state, took the lead in repealing that, for whatever reason, I've never figured out. And I still don't know to this day. And I, I never asked him about it. But I, it's, um, but, you know, when I left Frankfort, I've never gone back up. I, I've, I haven't been back in the Senate chambers since I left. TUTTLE: Really. PRATHER: Have not been back. You know, I'm a, I'm a fellow that doesn't hang it up anywhere until I'm ready to hang it up, and I never look back. TUTTLE: Hm. PRATHER: And so, they didn't need me up there meddling. (Tuttle laughs) And, I, um, but, you know, when I was finance secretary, I've appeared before legislative committees as finance secretary. But I've never been back in the chambers. Some people go in just to take a bow, be introduced, you know. Not my thing. I just, you know, I look forward, not back. And, uh, but why that was repealed, it, and it was, uh. You know, of course, it fell apart. But I remember Max Cleland and I, uh, the Vietnam vet who was in the U.S. Senate, um, he and I testified together on that bill before congressional subcommittee. And, uh, it, uh, it was a, it was an interesting fight to get that done, and we thought we had done something good. But, you know, it fell apart. TUTTLE: Max Cleland got his share of the Republican machine, too. PRATHER: Yeah, I'd say. TUTTLE: Unfortunately. PRATHER: They made him look unpatriotic too. A guy with one arm and no legs. TUTTLE: Yeah. (laughs) PRATHER: So, you tell me. TUTTLE: Yeah. All right, well. [End of interview.] Prather (House 1968-1972, 26th district; Senate 1974-1986, 10th district; Democrat) discusses his education, going to school in a one-room schoolhouse, his real estate, auctioneering and banking businesses, how he got into politics. He compares the legislature he entered in 1968 to the legislature in 2006. Other topics include the committee system, interim committees, legislative independence, the decision to televise proceedings of the General Assembly, his philosophy of government, the difficulty of building political consensus, political partisanship, the impact of money on campaigning, the importance of education, the community college system, the University of Kentucky. He describes the relationship between the University of Kentucky and the state’s community colleges and remarks on the relationship between University of Kentucky athletics department and the legislature. He praises the Legislative Research Commission, discusses his opposition to regional factionalism, reflects on his relationship with Julian Carroll, explains his views on the ascendency of the Republican Party in Kentucky and the nation. He talks about lobbyists and the function they serve in the legislative process. insert here