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2006-07-24 Interview with John M. Berry, Jr., July 24, 2006 Leg001:2006OH145LEG135 01:32:40 Kentucky Legislature Oral History Project Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries Legislators -- Kentucky -- Interviews. Tobacco farms -- Kentucky. Tobacco industry -- Law and legislation -- Kentucky. Work ethic. War and society. Discrimination -- Law and legislation -- Kentucky. Political campaigns -- Kentucky. tobacco industry tobacco buyout smoking bans Burley Tobacco Growers Cooperative Association Bingham Act (1922) Bingham, Robert Agricultural Adjustment Administration Community Farm Alliance World War II Korean War Vietnam War Persian Gulf War Iraq War Bush, George W. Breathitt, Edward (Ned) environmentalism Miller, J.R. national politics Term and District: Senate (1972-1980), 26th district Leadership Position(s): Senate Majority Floor Leader, 1980 Counties in District: Oldham County (Ky.), Henry County (Ky.), Jefferson County (Ky.), Gallatin County (Ky.), Trimble County (Ky.), Carroll County (Ky.), Owen County (Ky.), Grant County (Ky.), Pendleton County (Ky.), Bracken County (Ky.) John M. Berry, Jr.; interviewee Roy Salmons; interviewer 2006OH145_LEG135_Berry 1:|6(5)|14(8)|26(5)|41(17)|47(7)|55(11)|61(6)|71(4)|77(11)|89(7)|95(5)|100(1)|105(7)|111(7)|117(1)|123(7)|135(12)|144(2)|155(11)|165(2)|170(9)|178(8)|184(10)|190(12)|198(2)|215(1)|225(1)|235(20)|241(7)|246(11)|259(3)|264(3)|276(16)|281(14)|291(11)|300(12)|310(14)|324(2)|332(8)|346(10)|357(1)|366(2)|377(3)|390(1)|398(1)|407(2)|420(2)|429(10)|442(17)|458(6)|464(15)|475(17)|481(2)|487(18)|497(7)|502(5)|513(5)|528(4)|538(10)|550(19)|557(7)|566(5)|573(1)|584(19)|591(5)|596(6)|605(9)|611(3)|617(15)|632(1)|637(13)|644(1)|652(5)|665(21)|670(5)|675(9)|679(14)|690(12)|696(7)|701(6)|707(2)|712(12)|717(13)|726(1)|736(10)|741(10)|746(6)|752(5)|762(10)|771(7)|781(8)|793(5) audiotrans Legit interview SALMONS: Mr. Berry, okay, great. Let's start out by me asking you about your parents and their background, their names, and their backgrounds. BERRY: Well, my father was John M. Berry, and he was born between New Castle and Port Royal near Lacey in 1900, and he was born in the house that I live in now. SALMONS: How many generations of your family have lived in that house? BERRY: Well, it was built by his grandfather, which would have been my great grandfather. So, there actually have been four generations that have lived in it, if you don't count my children who were born and raised there and continue to visit there. My mother was Virginia Perry, and she was born and raised in Port Royal. Her father and grandfather and great grandfather have all lived in that area. Her grandfather started the bank at Port Royal and was active-her father and grandfather were both active in two of the banks in the county here. They married in 1933. My brother was born in '34 and I was born in '35. SALMONS: Do you have any other siblings? BERRY: I have a sister who was born in '37 and one that was born in '38 or '39, 1938 or 1939. SALMONS: So, the standard large family of the time. Did your family do any farming, or was your family all living in town, or did they do farming and living in town? BERRY: My great-grandfather Berry and my grandfather Berry were both full-time farmers. My father farmed part-time and practiced law, and I do the same. SALMONS: What type of farming do you do? BERRY: Well, right now we have primarily cattle. We used to have cattle and tobacco. SALMONS: Were you members of the tobacco buyout that just occurred in the last few years? BERRY: Yes. SALMONS: What do you think about that tobacco buyout? BERRY: Well, the farmers of that particular time, in 2004, had been, and were convinced that was the only thing they would ever get out of it. It obviously ended tobacco, as we've known it in Kentucky since 1941. It meant that small farmers couldn't depend on that annual, guaranteed minimum price that they had had since 1941. So, we probably have about half, as many farmers now raising tobacco as we had before 2004, and they're larger farmers. That means that there are fewer tobacco farmers that make up the local communities with a guaranteed price. So, things have changed dramatically. Obviously, I would have preferred to see the tobacco program go on. A lot of things have happened in the world economy, national economy that were antagonistic to the kind of economic policy that was behind the tobacco program. SALMONS: Speaking of the tobacco program, what do you believe-feel about the push for many of the towns going non-smoking in their restaurants and their other facilities? BERRY: Well-I think that there are places, businesses that are confined, that are not open air, where nonsmokers are compelled to do some business, and who don't want to be subjected to secondhand smoke. At the same time, I think when government gets into modeling human behavior, when you say you can't smoke at all, anywhere, anytime; it probably opens the door to a kind of government control of human behavior that's not healthy for the country. So, I think reasonable control on the habits of people to the extent that those habits don't impose on the health, safety, and welfare of others, is all right. I think when you prohibit smoking anywhere or anytime within the confines of some governmental territory, or some city limit, that's going pretty far. SALMONS: We were talking about tobacco and leading from your childhood. What would you say if you had to pick-was your type of memories of the place you grew up? How would you describe it? BERRY: Well, the place where I grew up was a combination of a very small town, where everybody knew everybody. My siblings and I ran the streets freely. People weren't afraid that something awful was going to happen to their children. People looked out for one another's children. So it was a community in the truest sense where people were mutually dependent and dependable. I also grew up and spent a big part of my time during those years on the farm. Farm life involved cattle and hogs and sheep but it was mainly tobacco. Where the stories were primarily about tobacco, people's memory of things was tied to a particular crop and a particular year, and the weather at that time, and how the weather affected them, and who had the best crop on the market, and who could cut the most sticks, and who could tie the prettiest hand and stripping room, and those kinds of things. So, tobacco was a big part of my heritage. My father was involved in the formulation of the tobacco program and he was a part of the leadership of the early tobacco co-op from 1941 on until about 1985. SALMONS: For those who might be listening to this later- BERRY: I'm sorry? SALMONS: For people who maybe listening to this later and don't know what the tobacco program and the burley co-op was, could you please explain that some? BERRY: Well, we had in Kentucky a marketing co-op that was named the Burley Tobacco Growers Cooperative Association that was formed in 1921. Robert Bingham, who was then at the Courier Journal and Barry Bingham, Senior's grandfather, sponsored that organization and gave substantial money to it. The legislature in Kentucky in 1922 enacted the Bingham Act under which marketing co-ops could be formed and legally recognized. That was done in about March of 1922, and was deemed by the legislature to be an emergency act so it could be signed immediately into law by the Governor. That marketing co-op supported prices to the extent that it could, and put a price floor under tobacco, and established quotas based on the history of the particular farm. It operated off and on from 1922 until 1941 when the federal program was put into place. That had been put in place in 1938 became effective for its first crop. The old program, or the old pool as they called it, was not successful because they didn't have any way to enforce restrictions on production, and they didn't have government loans to underwrite in effect the support price. Then in 1938, as part of the AAA [Agricultural Adjustment Act & Administration], the tobacco program was enacted by Congress and it became effective for the first crop in 1941. That program established quotas for the tobacco farms based on the history of production of those farms, and set a price that was based on parity, and parity has a number of definitions. My definition of parity is the price that a farmer should get, or the return that a farmer should get for the investment of labor and capital that would put the farmer on a par with everybody else in the economy. That price was set annually by the United States Department of Agriculture by the Secretary of Agriculture, and the burley co-op that was already in existence at that time became the administrator of the program. The burley co-op would see to it that farmers whose tobacco didn't sell for a dollar over the support price, at least a dollar over the support price, would be paid at the time of sale with a loan from the Commodities Credit Cooperation and the burley co-op would deliver that money to the farmer and take the farmers tobacco, process it, store it, and keep it until they could find a buyer. That program worked successfully for every crop from 1941 until 1984 without any problem and no substantial debt. It was one of the most successful programs ever enacted by Congress. In 1984, the quota was set higher than had been a custom. It was set at a level that exceeded the expected demand. The price was increased more than it had been accustomed to increasing. Now all of this was done to satisfy politicians. As a result, we ended up with surplus in '84-I'm sorry. That's '82 was the first one. They ended up with a surplus in '82, an unmarketable crop in '83, and a surplus again in '84, and those three crops brought the program to the verge of extinction. The Congress was going to repeal the program. It was looked upon as government financing, smoking, which it wasn't. It was looked upon as the government subsidy, which it wasn't because it paid for itself, but it was in trouble. At that point, a plan was worked out to sell all of the surplus tobacco over a period of six years to tobacco companies. Regulate more tightly the supply, roll back the prices about forty cents a pound and that new, or that revised program continued then until 2004. SALMONS: What was the reaction to the price rollbacks and the quota cuts of '84? How did the farmers react to that? BERRY: They were bitter. They were bitter but they also knew they were in trouble. They wanted their program to continue until they were willing to make that sacrifice. SALMONS: Speaking of the co-op, what was your position-did you have a position with the co-op? BERRY: Yes, I began serving as counsel for the co-op in the negations to sell the 1982, '83, and '84 crops. Those negotiations began in 1985. They culminated in a contract that was executed in April of 1986. In the fall of '86, I believe, at the annual meeting of the co-op board, I was elected president. I believe that was in '86; it may have been in '87. And I served as president until I retired in 1994. SALMONS: During this time, if I am not mistaken, it was the time that America started selling a lot of tobacco overseas also. What was the reasoning behind that? Do you know? BERRY: I think the reverse of that is true. SALMONS: Oh, okay. We stopped selling as much. Okay. BERRY: What happened was that we began to import more foreign tobacco. SALMONS: Okay. BERRY: The importation of foreign tobacco lead to the use and production of burley tobacco. So quotas went down, pretty substantially, and it was the direct result of the use of foreign grown tobacco. In about 1992, there was a very dramatic increase in imports. But in the meantime, the congress had embarked on this free trade philosophy. Our attempts to limit imports ran head on into the provisions of the free trade agreements that we had already entered into. So the deterioration and the value of the tobacco economy to the country began partly because of that and partly because of the increase in opposition from the health groups in the country to any kind of program that would involve the government with tobacco. SALMONS: What do you think about the attempts by the University of Kentucky and other colleges to help the farmers to find another type of cash crop, such as tomatoes, peppers, anything like that? BERRY: Well, the first effort that I was aware of in Kentucky, the first meaningful effort to diversify Kentucky's agriculture-now I'm not saying that it hadn't been discussed as subject of conversation for sometime-but the burley co-op was the first organization to undertake a meaningful effort to get Kentucky farmers to diversify. We did that by reactivating an old marketing cooperative that the burley co-op had formed in 1943. Assigned to it the task of helping farmers to develop the know-how, the technology, and the expertise to produce other crops, process those crops, transport those crops, and market them on the retail market. SALMONS: What type of crops did you focus on at the time? BERRY: Well, we were focusing on vegetables, cattle, goats, anything that Kentucky farmers could engage in, grapes, cantaloupes, any kind of-any kind of a project that there was any substantial interest in. Then, we were also engaged in educating Kentucky farmers about the existence of alternatives, and there was great resistance to that. There was great resistance within the burley co-op, and it was a bone of contention while I was president because people who were loyal to tobacco simply would not entertain the idea of something taking the place of tobacco. But we had been saying to tobacco farmers from the time that we first got involved with the negotiations for the GATT Treaty, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trades, that the tobacco program could not survive in that economic policy structure. Free markets and free trade agreements would not permit programs to exist that in any way controlled production or supported products. It was explicitly set out in those agreements. So we felt like the end of the tobacco program was coming, and it would take years to prepare Kentucky's economy for that eventuality, and we needed to get started. The burley co-op did that over the objection of many. But, by the time the legislation was presented to the Kentucky General Assembly that produced, I believe it was House Bill 611, which was the diversification bill that was going to be financed by the proceeds of payments by the tobacco companies to the state of Kentucky. By the time that happened, Kentucky was much farther down the road to diversification than it would have been had not the burley co-op done that. So, I think it's been very successful. It's been about thirteen years since we began that effort in the co-op. I felt like it would take fifteen to twenty years to make any meaningful change. I think there has been a meaningful change already and people are doing many other things. It still remains to be seen whether the rural economy can survive without tobacco but it's looking better in my judgment. SALMONS: Speaking of tobacco, that one time boost (??) in the early nineties, many environmental laws are passed that changed the way tobacco's grown, by changing the way they did tobacco beds, and changing the chemicals that could be used for fertilizer, and introduced the hydroponics beds. Do you think that technology can be adapted over to other types of farming? BERRY: It already is. SALMONS: It is? BERRY: Yes, they're growing tomatoes, lettuce, and a good many things. SALMONS: Do you think that was a ______ (??) hydroponics was a program started by the-supported by the burley co-op, the float beds because I know. BERRY: I wouldn't say that there were a lot of influences in that. I can't say that the burley co-op began that. The burley co-op was obviously supportive of it, but the University of Kentucky had a hand in it. Community Farm Alliance, which is an organization that's been involved in a lot of innovative steps, was involved in it. Vegetable growers have been doing similar things on a small scale for a long time. So, that was part of an evolution. SALMONS: Do you feel that the introduction of that new types of technology in the early nineties was one of the reasons that it's been so successful-the successes occurred in the changeover? BERRY: Well, that obviously improved the technology and the methods by which people grew tobacco. But the changeover is really a movement from a tobacco dependent economy to dependency on other kinds of agriculture. So I don't know that you can say that it facilitated that move. It was a step that made it easier. They probably have a greater success rate. I don't know how that with the float beds, but how that affects the economics of it, the overall cost of raising plants and transplanting. I don't know the answer to that. SALMONS: You're speaking of fond memories and childhood involved in tobacco farming, what do you think the loss of that industry will do to the culture and history of Kentucky? BERRY: It obviously changed the culture because the whole culture was built around tobacco crops. There was a time to burn the plant bed, a time to set the tobacco, and a time to chop out and plow, a time to sucker, and a time to top, and on and on. So, the culture was built around the tobacco crop and even through the marketing. So your marketing continued often until early February or even later and then you were burning plant beds in March, so it was a year round proposition. Something always going on related to tobacco. Festivals, and exhibits at the fairs, it was all year. Obviously, it changes the culture in that respect. But tobacco also tied these communities together, tied the people together in ways that we don't have now. The times of exchanging work with neighbors is pretty much gone. Everybody has become, all the farmers have become bigger. They are more dependent on machinery and equipment. Immigrants have pretty much taken over the labor, the manual labor. So, obviously that changes a lot of things. Now, I'm not saying that there aren't things that have occurred that take the place of the culture or (??) trades of the tobacco period, but it's different, and it won't be the same again. SALMONS: You mentioned immigrants coming into Kentucky to do manual labor on tobacco farms, what types of labor are they doing now, or were doing? BERRY: Well, they most of the tobacco labor that the-and there is still a lot of tobacco produced here, but the immigrants do most of the manual labor, as opposed to neighbors and individuals farmer doing it. But, they also do other things. They build fences, and many jobs on the farm are done by immigrants. SALMONS: You were talking about as growing up on a farm, how you worked on it. How do you feel that, that your working on a farm affected your work ethics for life? BERRY: It established my work ethic which was-the sense of duty that was associated with hard work, that you were simply expected to do hard work. There was no work too hard to do and to work long hours and to do it cheerfully. People used to work together. When you stopped, when you took a break for a drink of water, it was a pleasant, even sometimes a joyful time, or for lunch, which was usually a big one, a big meal. Those were all social occasions and involved in nurturing and raising young people. So, it was responsible for my attitude toward working. SALMONS: The fond way you describe that type of work it would seem to say it's almost like an extended family when you're working. BERRY: That's very true. SALMONS: Modern times, its study after study shows the loss of the extended family. What kind of effects do you think that loss of that extended family has had on our society? BERRY: I think you see it, it's not just in tobacco country but throughout the United States, and how much of the other world, I don't know. The sense of community is not what it used to be. The importance that's given to community life is not like it used to be. Family connections, family contact is more around a TV, than a TV set than it is a meal table, or in the field at work. The connection between and among human beings which is a very, very important connection doesn't exist in many places or maybe most places. People don't have a sense of community in their urban areas. They tend to not know their neighbors, and not really care about their neighbors. Even farmers care more about a getting their neighbor's land or eliminating their neighbor's from the market, so their share will be bigger, than they do-then they care about having a neighbor. Those kinds of effects are, I think, a great loss to people generally. SALMONS: In your early life, I've read in some of your information that you-what type of church did you go to? BERRY: Well, right now, I go to a nondenominational church, a church known as Family Worship Center in Carrollton. It's pastor'd by a farmer, a country boy, and I grew up in a Baptist church. I spent a little time-well, not a little time-fifteen years or so in Disciples of Christ here in town. We have just moved from one church to another. So, I am a Christian and I had associate with denominational and nondenominational. SALMONS: What would you say is the biggest differences between denominational and nondenominational religion? BERRY: Well, the differences are basic in that the denominational churches have a structure where they are tied to an association or something that holds all the churches together within that body or that larger body. The nondenominational churches are usually independent and unassociated with any larger body of people. They have, I think, they are just as many variations of Christianity among nondenominational churches as there are with the denominations. There are the liberal, and conservative, and moderates. The religious people that manage to divide themselves into the same categories as the politicians. (laughs) I am not even sure what all those definitions are. SALMONS: What would you say was the role of religion when you were a child in your home life? BERRY: It was a prominent role in the sense that we attended church every Sunday. My mother and father were both Sunday school teachers. It had been-it had played a prominent role in mother's life, throughout her life, and to a little lesser extent in my dad's life. SALMONS: As we spoke earlier, your father was a lawyer and a farmer. What was your mother's educational background? BERRY: Well, she attended Virginia Anatomical (??) and majored in English but she never taught. She was a mother and a housewife. SALMONS: So it seems like both of your parents recognized the importance of furthering your education beyond high school. Did they push you and your siblings toward going to college and going beyond? BERRY: I can't say that they ever pushed. It was just something that was expected. Everybody knew it in our-you, I guess you were in a family where, an immediate family, where both parents had gone to college. I say most people were attending college after high school, not all of them but most of them. So it was just something that you just figured into your life. SALMONS: What occupations did your siblings follow? BERRY: Well, my brother is a writer and has been a creative writing teacher at a number of universities. My two sisters have been mothers and housewives primarily. I have one sister who has been into interior decoration, and that type of thing. SALMONS: Starting with high school what schools did you attend and where were they at? BERRY: I attended MMI, Millersburg Military Institute at Millersburg, Kentucky, from the eighth grade through graduation. That was five years. Then I attended the University of Kentucky for two years, Stetson University at DeLand, Florida, for two years, and then the University of Kentucky for one year of law school, and then the University of Louisville for two years of law school. SALMONS: What lead you to leave the University of Kentucky for Stetson University? BERRY: Well, my mother had encouraged me to go to Stetson or one of the smaller schools and I think her encouragement had something to do with that. SALMONS: Was Stetson a liberal arts college or the same type of school as the University of Kentucky? BERRY: Well, it would be on the par with Georgetown College, or Transylvania, or Centre. It's supported by the Baptist association. It was an excellent small college. SALMONS: You have an interesting perspective. You've attended both a large school and a smaller school. What would you consider the difference in the type of education out of a small school versus a large school? BERRY: I think I received the better education at Stetson. I don't know that the size is the only reason but the classes were smaller. You might have fifteen to twenty people in a class, occasionally, but never over thirty or forty people in a class. At the University of Kentucky, there were classes I was in that had a couple of hundred students. And a hundred people in one room is a lot. You know, you're less likely to get individual attention, less likely to pay attention, but I think that depends on the student a lot too. SALMONS: What was your major in your undergraduate program? BERRY: I majored in political science and history. I had a major in one of them and a minor in the other, and I can't tell you which was which. SALMONS: Then you finished your undergraduate work and you came back to UK for law school, and then went to Louisville for law school. What led you to change between those two? BERRY: I had-when I went to the University of Kentucky law school, I was also training horses and I had stabled horses at the trotter track. I was spending a lot of time on that. I had two courses that I failed in my second semester there, which required me to lay out for a semester. When that happened, I decided to transfer to Louisville. It was easier to get back in, it was closer to home, my sister and brother in law lived across the street from the campus. There were just a lot of reasons to go to U of L and was a good opportunity to do it. SALMONS: What year did you finish your law degree? BERRY: Nineteen and sixty-two. SALMONS: In all the schools you went to, if you had to pick a favorite teacher who would you say it is and what subjects did they teach? BERRY: A favorite teacher, you know, I have never done that. I have had a teacher at Stetson by the name of Captain Hague, or not Captain but Mr. Hague, who was a good teacher. I felt like I hooked up maybe better than I did anywhere else. In law school I had a lot of good professors, Mr. Russell, Dean Russell, Dean Overest, many of them that were good, good instructors. SALMONS: What was your favorite subject in school? BERRY: In undergraduate school, I think my favorite subjects were philosophy and courses that dealt with political philosophy, governmental policy. SALMONS: In your education background, sounds like you're pretty much-did you pretty much know you wanted to practice law from the start of undergraduate, or did you just come to that conclusion through your education? BERRY: To be honest with you, when I got to the point of getting a degree, some of my credits from UK weren't accepted at Stetson and I couldn't get a degree there, and although my credits at Stetson would have been transferable entirely to University of Kentucky, I had already been is school four years and I didn't want to go back to undergraduate school and I knew that I could have gone to law school at Stetson. [Tape 1, side 1 ends; side 2 begins.] SALMONS: We were speaking about what made you decide to go to law school. Can you please continue with that? BERRY: Well, it was my understanding that you could gain admission to law school if you had four years of undergraduate or if you had three years and took a three-year program in law school. Somehow, I qualified to enter law school without a degree from either Stetson or UK. It was what was called then the combination degree. You would get a law degree without having an undergraduate degree and I decided that I would just do that. I just really didn't have anything else in mind and it seemed to me to fit with what I had majored in and minored in, so I just did it. I just didn't have anything else to do at the time. SALMONS: What did your father think about you pursuing a law career? BERRY: Well, I think he was probably pleased that I did that, although he never exactly said that he wanted me to do anything in particular. He suggested that there were many things that I would be able to do and sorta left the choice up to me. SALMONS: Did you ever practice law with your father after you finished your degree? BERRY: I practiced with him from 1962 until nineteen-well, he actually continued to continue to come into the office until 1988. SALMONS: I have spoken to many people who have been lawyers and they talk about how hard it was when they first got out and going into practice for themselves because they are basically learning the real law as they went. How was it to come into practice with someone who had experience and was also your father? BERRY: I don't think I could have gotten started, frankly. I knew legal theory in most areas and I picked up on that pretty quickly, but as far as the practicality, practicalities involved in the practice of law, I mean nothing. I didn't know where you went from the front door here to the courthouse and it was right straight across the street. SALMONS: How long have you been at this location for your law practice? BERRY: Since 1962. SALMONS: This is the same building your father? BERRY: My father was here, came here in 1927. SALMONS: You brought up an interesting point. Legal theory verses practicalities of the law. What would you say is the biggest difference between those two? BERRY: Well, legal theory will tell you how to think about the various categories of the practice towards some contracts and evidence, and those kinds of things. It gives you an understands of the basic rules but as far as how to apply them to a case or what you do with a client when a client walks in and sits down, what do you want to know from the client and why, what you do with what you find out after the client leaves, those are things you don't learn in law school. You only learn those things by practical experience. If you have somebody, as I did like my father and D.K. Floyd, sitting within normal conversation distance with the doors open-(laughs)-it makes a big difference on how quickly you are able to hit the ground and move in the right direction. SALMONS: In your early law career, do you have any memorable case that comes to mind when you think of the time period? BERRY: Oh, I could think of a lot of them because I've been practicing now for forty- four years. I have had a number of murder cases that have been interesting and exciting. I have had some little cases that were very insignificant and normally lawyers wouldn't even take. I've always taken most every kind of a case that came in here. Anybody that had a need that a lawyer that a lawyer could meet, I've done whether the case had any money associated with it or whether it didn't. And some of those little cases were the most meaningful cases to me. Like for instance, the case for a black man here in the community by the name of Donk. Donk had one leg that had been amputated partially. He had a toothache and he called the dentist and made an appointment to go see about this tooth. His teeth had been aching for some time and had a lot of pain, and of course no pain medicine or anything like that to relieve him. He went to the dentist's office and he sat there for a while and finally the lady said, "The doctor will be with you shortly," and he sat there for more time. After he sat there for a couple hours, either the receptionist or the doctor one came out and said the doctor didn't treat black people. He had to leave, and he had no place to go, no place to get relief. He finally, somebody told him there was another dentist somewhere and he went to the another dentist but this was maybe the next day. He came to see me and he felt very hurt, mistreated. He had been in this community for a long time and everybody knew him. He was hurt emotionally as well as physically about what had happened. So I filed a suit for him against the doctor. At that time it would have been, it was just unheard of. SALMONS: What year was this in? Do you remember? BERRY: This was I think this was in 1962, first year I practice. The doctor got his malpractice insurance carrier involved and lawyers out of Louisville. We tried that case, and the jury-I had the case on a contingent fee because Donk didn't have any money and had also put up the expenses, and the jury returned the verdict and gave him about one hundred and twenty dollars, I think, for his pain and suffering. We had, had many arguments that had been made against his right to bring that claim because the doctor had never undertaken to treat him. So it wasn't a malpractice case. The judge wanted to know and the other lawyers were arguing, what connection is there between the doctor and the patient that created any duty. I found somewhere in some case, some old case, where a court had said that a contract is created when you make an appointment. Even though it's verbal, one of the parties completes performance by going to the doctor and the doctor then has a contractual obligation. Then it was a question of connecting that to pain and suffering because you clearly couldn't get an award for pain and suffering out of a breach of contract. The law was clear. I argued the theory that, that the judge agreed with, novel. SALMONS: What was your theory? BERRY: I can't even remember now but it was based on that implied contract and punitive damages, punitive damages. Well, punitive damages were also frowned upon by the courts, especially in any case that arises out of contract, but Donk was satisfied with one hundred and twenty dollars because he had won the case; he had made his point. He had actually taken on a white doctor in this community and won the case. SALMONS: Was it an all white jury? BERRY: An all white jury. So, I probably remember that one about as well as any case I have ever practiced and I have practiced a lot of them. SALMONS: What's been your most interesting way someone has paid their fee to you? I have dealt with other people who practice law in town who have received stuff like guns, food, some of that. Have you ever had that happen? BERRY: I have had people come by after cases were over and leave me a cake, or candy, or things like that, but no, I have never. I know a lot of lawyers that have taken food. Most of the time, if a person couldn't afford to pay me I just did it for nothing. SALMONS: Would your willingness at do a case for nothing, using your time, you think that comes out of that sense of community that was built up in your background? BERRY: Well I think you-I think we have an obligation to help our neighbor and help a person in trouble. I think that carries over into the profession. I see it more as a professional responsibility then I do a community obligation. We all have a responsibility to help each other in the community, and that extends to every kind of a situation, legal and otherwise. But I think lawyers have an obligation to give their services to the people who are in need, and I have tried to honor that obligation. SALMONS: In this day of people suing for everything, like the example I will give is the hot cup of coffee at McDonalds, what do you think has lead to this hyper litigation among people? BERRY: Greed. SALMONS: Do you think lawyers, some lawyers are exploiting that greed and for sensationalism, or is it? BERRY: Well, I think that in some cases it's the lawyer's greed. They're applying, they're submitting to their own greed. You have the ability as an attorney to guide people when they come to see you. What you say to them about their case can either encourage them to litigate, encourage them to fight, or encourage to get it over with and get on with life. I believe in fighting when that's the only way. I think probably my success as an attorney is based on the extent I have been willing to fight whoever, whenever was on the other side of the person, the person on the other side was wrong and I felt my client was right. But I think lawyers also have a responsibility to try to help people see when it's not the right thing for them to do. A legal entanglement, especially one that involved litigation, is not good no matter right a person may be in their position; it is not the right thing for everybody to do every time. There is a dispute and I think lawyers have an obligation to help a client make the decision after considering all of the reasons they shouldn't do it as well as all the reasons they should do it. SALMONS: You started your law practice at a very interesting time in American history, the early sixties which was civil rights movement going on, lot of racial unrest, and meanwhile being a small county, a small town. How did that era's unrest affect this local area? BERRY: Well, I think it had an effect on the young people that were coming up at that time because it was a time of civil disobedience. I think people who grew up during that time, many of them were affected by that. Became very cynical about their government, about the country. There were the wars, the Korean War and the Vietnam War, and those things tended to make people distrustful of their government and angry at their government. Oh, we are going through some of that now. Same thing, we-history repeats itself, and unfortunately for me, as related to my age, I have seen history repeat itself in several areas. SALMONS: It's interesting that you said that, that lead to my next question. I was writing this down. You have been alive from World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and the Gulf War. BERRY: That's right. SALMONS: So that's four of the major events in our century that has shaped America. How would you say that the small town and society has reacted to those events? BERRY: Differently. World War II people sacrificed. People wanted to sacrifice. People wanted to serve. If they couldn't serve by wearing a uniform, they wanted to serve by saving their aluminum foil and doing, getting by with less gasoline and driving thirty miles an hour. People wanted to be a part of the war effort. In some way, there was a great, great spirit. America, Uncle Sam had made people rise up to the occasion. When it was over, there was great celebration. There were motorcades all through the county. People blowing horns and riding on top of the automobiles, you know, you could do that kind of stuff. You could ride up on fender and ride on the running board back then. It wasn't against the law to do it. When you're going twenty-five, thirty miles an hour there's not as much danger in it. The celebration was just beyond what you could imagine if you didn't see it. Then the Korean War was a little different in that there wasn't the enthusiasm. There hadn't been a Pearl Harbor. The country hadn't been attacked. People still supported it but the support tended to fade away with time. The Vietnam War, there were many people who opposed it from its inception, just like they did the war in Iraq. The opposition to the war grew as the war went on, unlike World War II when the support for the war grew as the war went on. The first war with Iraq was supported by most people and it was over very quickly. The job that was done was to protect the little country from invasion by a big one. People understood that. It was over. But today we are back to Vietnam. People supported the war in Afghanistan because of the circumstances of the time and the attack on this country and being able to tie that to Afghanistan. But with Iraq, this is another Vietnam in the minds of the American people. SALMONS: What do you think we will have to do to get out of this war to avoid the entanglements we had during the Vietnam era? BERRY: Well, in Vietnam, we had to figure out a way that we could gracefully pack up and leave and save face. I think that this administration is determined that that is not going to happen. We are not going to pack up and leave, and the administration is not inclined to say that it was wrong to declare the war. So our situation in Iraq is different from what it was in Vietnam. We had gone to Vietnam to protect half of that country from the other half and we didn't go to Iraq for that purpose. We went to Iraq to eliminate a dictator and take control of the country and transform it into something other than what it was. Whenever you undertake to change or to force feed an economic policy or force feed a political policy a way of life or a way of government to people who are doing the same thing that, live in the same way that they have lived for thousands of years, that is a hard thing to do. I don't know how to get out of there with a peaceful Iraq. I don't know how to get out of there and save face. I think the damage to the image of this country is done. We have gone by the most highly respect on earth to one of the most hated nations, if not the most. Well, that's probably going a little far, but one of the most hated nations on earth because of what has happened in Iraq and restoring that image is a problem that is just as complicated and involved, and it will take just as long as trying to figure out how to get out of Iraq. SALMONS: You made a very interesting point about America's image. One of the things we do to bolster our image is foreign aid. What do you think about America's current use of their foreign aid while so many people in America lack simple shelter, food, and basic medical needs? BERRY: In this country? SALMONS: Yes. BERRY: Well, I think that it means that we are probably not creating the kind of opportunity in this country that everybody should have, the opportunity to have a piece of the action. The focus on the concentration of wealth and power by government and the adoption of public policy that has that effect means that everybody doesn't have an opportunity, have the same opportunity to be involved in the economy, and many people get left out. I think that has happened here. There is a spillover when you go over to another country and say, "Be like us or we will blow you off the planet. Model your political and governmental system after ours. Model your society after ours." They conform to things like that and many other things in our society that they can criticize and say, "We don't want to be like you because we don't want to be like that." They can point to that; it makes it very difficult. When we became an aggressor county and undertook to act preemptedly, which is to say that the President of this country can pick any situation he wants to in the world that he doesn't like and Congress has authorized him that he can, if he can rationalize that that is a threat to the security to this nation, to use military power to change that situation, whether it means getting rid of a dictator, or whether it means an economic boycott, or whatever it means, people in the world have a right to be afraid of a nation that is as powerful and as wealthy as this one is, undertaking to act in that way. I think people around the world have changed their perception of the United States of America because of what's happening and what's happened in recent years. It's something that's going to be hard to overcome. It is something we have to address as a nation. We are going to be a long time correcting that problem. SALMONS: Do you feel that the President has gone beyond his constitutional powers? BERRY: No question. [pause in recording] SALMONS: We were talking about your views on our modern governments in the Iraq war. How did you get into politics? How did your political career come about originally? BERRY: While I was in law school, on one occasion debated the question of whether the atomic bomb should or should not have been dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Frankly I don't even remember what side of that issue that I was on but I remember that I got into that and was very emotional about it. And whatever side I was on, I really became an advocate for that side of the issue. That differs a little from what attorneys do. Attorneys get on one side or the other of civil or criminal issues as they affect individuals. But this was a question of whether, from the moral standpoint, considering all of the facts and circumstances of the time, that bomb should have been dropped. There were emotional arguments to be made on both sides of it and I really enjoyed that. I can't say that I knew a lot about it before I got into that. In fact, I didn't know a lot about anything. But, I had been quick to form opinions and reach the point where I felt I knew a lot of things I didn't know but I felt those things very strongly. I became an advocate of that side that I happened to come down on. So I enjoyed that, and that was a question of public policy. I think that probably stirred this activism, this crusader-(laughs)- side of me. Then when I went to the legislature, I believe it was in 1966, to listen to the debate over strip mining and the regulation of strip mining of the state, I remember I was on the environmentalist's side of that, just sort of by nature. It just appeared to me to be so clearly the right side and I really got into that debate. I wanted to be there in that debate. You know, I was really into it. That started something going on in me. I had, had pretty strong leanings to that side all my life. My mother was a strong environmentalist. She never called herself that but she loved nature and she loved-is that- SALMONS: That's what I am checking. BERRY: Is that picking up? I guess not. SALMONS: We're good. BERRY: My mother loved nature and flowers and trees, and she was opposed to things that degraded the natural world. And I picked up on that. So I just have kinda a natural inclination to get into that stuff. When Ned Breathitt ran for Governor, I was probably into my second or third year of practice of law and I had a good friend in the insurance business by the name of Jimmy Marrs. He and I discussed those political things and the local politics, and we became co-chairmen when Ned Breathitt had been in this county and turned out a huge, huge crowd here at the courthouse for him when he came through town. We just packed the courthouse. This was in the county where people loved Happy Chandler, so that was hard to do. We carried this county big for him. That got me started. Then, after that, there was Katherine _______ (??) and there were races for Governor, and he and I were in involved in all of them, one way or the other, and I liked it. Then, Tom Harris, who was serving as secretary of natural recourses under Wendell Ford, decided to step down from that position and run for commissioner of agriculture. When he ran and won, that left that Senate seat that he had occupied for the 26th district vacant. Somebody had already been to see me, here in the county about running for the House seat, and when that Senate seat opened up, I decided that I would undertake to get it. I didn't know how and I didn't know what happened in those situations. But in the meantime, I had gotten into a battle with J. R. Miller who was the chairman of the Democratic Party because we had undertaken to elect a chairman of the party here. We had a politician here in the county who was in the House at that time, Louis T. Peniston who had his own candidate that he wanted in that position. We had elections, legitimate elections in the precincts, and a number of them that were sufficient to constitute to all of them who had any meetings at all, and we couldn't have meetings in areas where meetings hadn't been arranged for. J. R. Miller sided with the opposition who had put together minutes without meetings and selected an attorney in Frankfort to write an opinion on it and that attorney wrote an opinion that supported J. R. Miller's position. So I had fallen out with J. R. over that, and I had written a very stinging letter about it. I got the votes necessary to fill the vacancy. It took a vote of the county committee members throughout the twenty-six Senatorial districts, and I had committed to me more than the majority of those votes. The Governor had set a time for a special election, and when the Governor and J. R. and others found out that I had the votes committed for me, they called off the special election, and as far as I know, that's the only time in history when an election was called off, after it had been set by executive order. The position stayed vacant until the next regular election. SALMONS: Which was in '74? BERRY: Which was in '73. So there was nothing left for me to do except to announce and to run in the primary in '73. SALMONS: How would you describe your first campaign? Was it a grassroots campaign, or was it a well organized campaign would you say? BERRY: Well, it was both. I had never been in politics. I didn't know anything about what to do and I didn't know anybody. There were ten counties in this district, counting two precincts in Jefferson and the district ran all the way from Jefferson County to Bracken County and Augusta on the river. I didn't know, I had never met anybody from Bracken County or Pendleton County. I really didn't know anybody in Grant County. I knew a few people in Owen County, a few in Gallatin but not many. So, I was-I didn't know how to set up a campaign organization and I pretty much had to just go on whatever people told me when I went from place to place. My wife and I traveled that district. We would go into a town and introduce ourselves and try to figure out who the movers and shakers politically were and who had been active in campaigns. Ask some of those people if they would be willing to be our county chairman or a county something. We had some cards printed and bumper stickers and some posters. That's way we organized the district. Then I had friends and business people I had met in business and in the practice of law in Oldham, Trimble, Carroll, and Henry and Owen, and I asked those people. Then when the word began to get out more, I had people who volunteered to help. We covered these ten counties with posters on barns and telephone poles and everything we could find, that you could stick one on, and cards and lapel pins and that kind of stuff. It was built from the grassroots. We didn't-the politicians were on the other side. All of the state workers were on the other side. You go to the highway garages and they were all on the other side. So word had gone out from J. R. and Wendell and Julian. Julian was on the other side, and Julian called me and tried to talk me out of running. He told me a lot of things about the legislature he thought I would find unappealing. So really I had all of the politicians, all of the courthouse people, state, highway department people, state employees, I had all of them that were the kind of campaign organization for my opponent. I had no background, no experience. People did know my dad because of the burley co-op, and I had, at that point, never been associated with the burley co-op but he had. We just kind of built it from the ground up and it was well organized by time the election rolled around. We had people who really built up and people were really working in all of these counties. SALMONS: It sounds like it was an uphill battle the whole way? BERRY: It was. It was and I was not expected to win and I lost this county because my opponent was here and he was in the legislature and he had-we have many, many, many people who work in Frankfort and he had gotten most of their jobs for them. He had been established here for eight or ten terms in the House. So it was-I lost this county, but I carried every precinct in this district, the whole district. There were approximately a hundred and twenty precincts in the district. I carried all of them except in this county and one precinct in Oldham County. We carried every other precinct in the whole district. SALMONS: It sounds like a landslide victory then. BERRY: It was a landslide. It was a landslide. SALMONS: Since you didn't have the party backing, when you went to the Senate in Frankfort, did you have problems there since you were a little bit of a maverick? BERRY: Well, no more than they had. (both laugh) Because I had said during the campaign that I was not going to be controlled by anybody. That I would make the judgments based on what I thought was best for people of this district and from what I heard in this district, people's complaints and people's problems, but that no special interest would have any influence with me because I wasn't going to take special interest money and I never did. That the Governor was not going to tell me what to do and the party chairman wasn't going to tell me what to do. I said that everywhere I went, so that there wouldn't be any misunderstanding where I stood when I went to Frankfort. People would tell me on the campaign trail, I would say, "Well, I would appreciate your voting for me." "Well, I'll vote for you but it really doesn't matter because the legislature doesn't do anything anyway. Oh, you know, the Governor runs it all." People told me this time and again. I said time and again, "No, he's not going to run me, and he won't run the legislature if I have anything to do with it." Of course, when I got there I found out that I didn't have anything to do with it and that he did run it all. SALMONS: Was it very expensive financially to overcome the party politics that you were fighting against? BERRY: Well, I spent in the first campaign two thousand two hundred dollars. Then, in the second campaign, I spent seven thousand five hundred dollars. I had some friends that gave me fifty dollars apiece. Most of it, I put up but it didn't take any money. We did it by- the expense- [Tape 1, side 2 ends.] [End of interview.] Berry (Senate, 1972-1980, 26th district; Democrat) talks about his family and growing up in a farming community. He discusses in great detail the evolution of tobacco farming in Kentucky in the 20th century, including the establishment of the Burley Tobacco Growers Cooperative Association, the impact of the Agricultural Adjustment Administration, the increased importation of foreign tobacco, the tobacco buyout, the impact of the health lobby, and efforts to help tobacco farmers diversify their crops and interests. Berry reflects on how growing up on a farm affected his work ethic, the changes rural communities have undergone in the last century, his parents' influence on his education, his decision to practice law, World War II, the Korean War, Vietnam, the Gulf War, the war in Iraq, and the expansion of the power of the executive branch. Berry recounts one of his most memorable court cases in which he defended a black member of his community in the early 1960s against a dentist who refused to treat his client. The interview concludes with Berry recounting how he became interested in politics, and highlighting his first campaign for office. Part 2 of 3. Kentucky Legislature