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Tracy K'Meyer: This is an interview with Norbert Blume by Tracy K'Meyer, conducted in Mr. Blume's home on November 18, 1999. [Pause] Very high. To start off with I like to ask everyone when and where were you born?

Norbert Blume: Louisville. Right here in town, right in the inner city, Jackson and Fehr, where it's Liberty now where Dosker Manor now stands, catty corner from St. Boniface Church. My father had a grocery and saloon there and I was born up over it.

TK: When were you born?

NB: 1922.

TK: So your father was a grocer?

NB: Yeah.

TK: What were your parents' names?

NB: Excuse me?

TK: What were your parents' names?

NB: Clem and Elizabeth.

TK: Could you describe your neighborhood?

NB: Well, it was . . . to give you an idea one corner was a dairy, then the 1:00church on the other and two bars, a grocery and bar on this side and a bar over there; a brewery right down the street, Fehr's Brewery. Let's see, it was Kentucky Dairies there. It was an integrated neighborhood at that point. Right behind our lot where that place was was Marshall Street and it was all black, and then the next street over was Walnut Street, which is now Muhammad Ali Boulevard, but it was a very working class neighborhood right there.

TK: Where did you go to school?

NB: St. Boniface parochial school and St. X [Xavier] High School.


TK: St. Boniface still there?

NB: Is what?

TK: St. Boniface still there?

NB: Oh yes, but they closed the school. The church is still there; it serves the medical center, that area.

TK: Could you tell me about any clubs or organizations or churches or anything that you were involved with as a kid?

NB: Churches?

TK: Or any other kinds of clubs, organizations.

NB: I was with the Boy Scouts at St. Boniface, troop 14, and later we had a teen club that was very very active, it was [unintelligible] club there at St. Boniface. Back then I was like everybody else in the family. I guess we were just taught to be prejudice back in those days.

TK: One of the questions I was going to ask was when were you first aware of racial prejudice?

NB: In the service. There was a chaplain from Boston that we had aboard a carrier during World War II in the Pacific that got me to thinking about it. We 3:00had been hit by a kamikaze in the Northern Carolines and we had many deaths that night. There was crying for blood and they had some little racial problems. See, the only thing a black could do aboard ship during World War II is wait tables for officers. They couldn't serve. They couldn't do anything, but they were the first in line to give blood when they needed it and he got me thinking about it, how stupid is was.

TK: You said you had been raised prejudice?

NB: Oh, my dad was a bigot something awful. He just didn't know any better, hell, nobody did then. He only went to the third grade, but he was a pretty good businessman.

TK: What about your mother?

NB: Mother? Mom, I think, went all the way to the fifth grade in those days at St. Boniface, both of them. They taught German at the school. It's an old German 4:00family and they just didn't know any better.

TK: Had you been drafted or signed up?

NB: I was downtown at the movie. I was nineteen years old and we came out of the movie and there was an extra on the street, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. I didn't know where Pearl Harbor was. The next morning I was at work and I listened to [President Franklin D.] Roosevelt go before Congress and ask for a declaration of war. I went down and joined the Navy that afternoon, December the 8th of '41.

TK: Wow, right the next day! Where were you working?

NB: Stratton and Terstegge.

TK: What's that?

NB: It was a hardware wholesaler at Fifteenth and Main. They were in business up 5:00until about ten years ago and they went out of business.

TK: So were you in the war for the duration then?

NB: I stayed until I was discharged in November '45. I recall when the captain called everybody up on deck and said that the Japanese had just surrendered and I think we were about three thousand miles from San Francisco and about a hundred miles off the coast of Tokyo from Japan at the time. And I had my points and the first chance I came home. We were going to give air cover for [General Douglas] MacArthur's signing of the surrender documents and we got orders to change course and head for Pearl Harbor and be in Baltimore, Maryland, for Navy 6:00Day. So that was my trip home, back through the canal. I got discharged in Norfolk as soon as we hit there.

TK: Did you come straight back to Louisville?

NB: Uh-huh! I had a wife and a child and yes, I did, soon as I could get here.

TK: What kind of effect being in the war had on you?

NB: I learned an awful lot about people. I don't think it affected me any other way. I was happy to do it but I sure in hell wouldn't want to do it again. You got to be young to take that kind of discipline. I was nineteen, gung-ho. That period everybody was rushing to enlist. It was very patriotic group at that point. It wasn't anything like the Vietnam thing, good Lord.


TK: When you got back to Louisville did you notice any changes in the city?

NB: Not really.

TK: Really, pretty much the same as when you left?

NB: Not really, came back to the same old stuff. At that point my parents were living up on Jefferson Street, Winslow and Jefferson is where we were raised. Right up by the stockyards.

TK: I know that area very well. What did you do when you got back?

NB: Excuse me.

TK: What did you do?

NB: Well, I was going to take it easy for a while, but then, let's see, I got home and we were going in town one day for something, and before we got discharged they told us we ought to use our service time to get government employment. They talked about carrying benefits over, seniority and that sort of thing, so I put an application in at. . . . Stratton offered me fifty-five cents an hour to go back to work at that point and no, I couldn't do that. I went downtown that day shopping and applied for the post office. I stopped in and 8:00just put my application in. I got home that afternoon and they'd called me into work, it was just before Christmas season, and I spent that season carrying mail for the post office. St. Matthews area was where my route was. Boy, that was just too cold for me to be outside. I couldn't handle it. I came home and told my wife I got to find something else, this isn't for me. Then I went to work at Standard Sanitary.

TK: It was a factory?

NB: It was manufacturing plumbing supplies and fixtures.

TK: Did I read somewhere that you got involved in labor issues very much?

NB: This is where I got involved.

TK: Okay, how did that happen?

NB: When I went to Standard, thirty days you had to join a union; it's union shop, and I did, paid my dues and got a contract. And started reading the contract and hell, I'm there about sixty days and I'm saying, "Hell, they're not 9:00living up to the contract!" Two months I'm a steward, shop steward, in the department and at the end of that year, I got elected president of the local. That's how I got involved in the labor movement. Later they were going to a labor school, it was up at Morehead that year, and I went to this labor school and I was offered a job when I left there to go to work for that department of education. One of the fellows, it was two on the staff, one of them had just won a scholarship to Ruskin College in England and was going to study labor over there, and they asked me to take a leave of absence and go to work for the 10:00department of research and education. All we did was simple things. Unions were coming in and organizing little places and going off and leaving them and they didn't know how to run their unions, and we were trying to teach them how to [unintelligible], how to conduct a union meeting, how to handle grievances, this sort of thing. And after a year with them, I was offered jobs with about six different international unions and I went to work for the Teamsters. Spent thirty-one years with the Teamsters as an officer, business agent, and retired there in 1980 from the Teamsters.

TK: That was still in Louisville though? You still worked in Louisville?

NB: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. We were sales drivers. The local I was with, Local 783, in fact they're still around, but when I went to work for them we had about 600 11:00members and when I retired, we had about 4500. We were one of the larger locals in Kentucky and very effective, did a good job.

TK: So you worked for the union through the whole time you were involved in politics, too?

NB: Oh, yes.

TK: Okay, this was your day job.

NB: When I got elected Speaker of the House I was a Teamster representative. There are some interesting stories around that I never will forget. I got an invitation, we had a national conference of state legislators, I was very active in that organization, and we had a meeting in Albuquerque and I got an invitation from the Fortune 500 corporations to be their luncheon speaker, you know, and I just wrote them and I said, "'Course I'll do it, but why me?" They said, "We read where you were a Teamster representative and also got to be elected Speaker of the House and we're interested in how that happened." So it was a fun day, but I'm getting way ahead of the stories.

TK: Were you involved in any, I mean you were obviously involved in union activity or labor activity then in the fifties, were you involved in civil rights activity before you got elected?


NB: No, I wasn't. Well, yes, I was before I got elected to the legislature. Went into union and of course, being in it, I got elected a delegate to the Louisville Federation of Labor, all the local unions, and I became very active and got elected secretary of the body. And my first involvement in civil rights was a fellow named Carl Braden, who worked for the Louisville Times, his wife Anne is still around. You've probably heard her name. They were organizing a group to go before the legislature and ask for a repeal of the Day Law, this is 1948, I think it was. The central body we got a resolution passed in favor of 13:00repealing the law and I was selected to go testify, a group that Carl Braden put together to testify before the legislature. Hell, just green as grass, didn't know what the hell I was doing, but it was a good experience and I got to know Lyman Johnson pretty well . . . and we got it repealed by the way in '48. Clements was governor, Earle Clements.

TK: In that experience when you said that the central labor body endorsed it, was there very much debate?

NB: Oh yeah, there was debate but they for most [unintelligible]. Wasn't any big issue with them, Day Law, graduate school, 'course, they weren't ready for desegregation of all the schools at that point. Lyman even took the position 14:00that, you know, he didn't want to go to the cafeteria, he didn't want to sleep in the dorms, he just wanted to sit in class. 'Course, there's a lot written about Lyman in that period, but that was my first involvement. And then as secretary, our next involvement before I ran for the legislature, 'course, we were politically active, the labor, and we started working precincts. My precinct was over at Amy and Herman; it was the Twelfth Ward down here in the West End. [Phone rings] She'll get that.

TK: Okay.

NB: Then I got active in politics through that, just working in the precincts, but while I was secretary, the firemen . . . a group was trying to integrate the fire department. They had separate firehouses for black firemen and white firemen and again we passed a resolution, which wasn't any big fuss or fight, 15:00and we got it passed to do that in the central body and I was on the committee again to go before the mayor and argue the points and bring it about. And we integrated fire departments. That was my second involvement with it.

TK: How did you when you got selected to be, you know, spokesperson for the Day Law testifying and then for that committee, how did you get selected?

NB: Appointed, appointed by the president of the body, you know. I was one of the most outspoken, I guess, so naturally I got it and they thought I was a bright young man coming up, you know, that was their hopes. I guess I disappointed them, though. [Laughter] But through that politics, through that, getting involved in those things and working the precinct, I joined the Twelfth Ward Democratic Club and got active with it, later served as its president for a 16:00couple of years, but there came an opening for the legislature. The Republicans just swept this area.

TK: Where is the Twelfth Ward? What streets is it?

NB: West End back there and it ran from about Thirty-fourth Street to the river from out to DuValle out to Algonquin Parkway to the river here, that's the Twelfth Ward.

TK: And it was even by that time primarily black?

NB: When I first ran the district, let's see, my first race for the legislature was 1963 and this district was about eighty percent white and about twenty percent black. I served for fourteen years and when I left it was about eighty percent black and twenty percent white and the big change came then with urban renewal. They were just tearing up everything and the traditional black 17:00neighborhoods right off of downtown, and hell, they had no place to go. Most of them came out here. In fact that's how the Bradens got in trouble, buying the house out in Shively for a black contractor and they bombed it out there. Hell, they weren't welcome anywhere else and down here they were. So it was a just a natural, and I'm still here! Well, let's go, now where were we?

TK: You were starting to talk about your, I guess that you had been involved in precinct work and that was leading towards you getting more involved.

NB: So I ran and won this district and then got re-elected over and over and over again. Got elected to LD chairman down here.

TK: Legislative . . .?

NB: Legislative district chairman appoints precinct captains and keeps the 18:00district going for the organization. But my first session of the legislature I was contacted by Eric [Tachau] and Lukie [Ward] and Georgia. They were active in the organization; I forget what the name of it was.

TK: Allied Organization of Civil Rights?

NB: That's it, AORC, and they asked me to sponsor a public accommodations measure, first session, you know, green again as grass! But I agreed and I introduced the bill in early '64. I was the only one would sign the bill. There were two blacks in the legislature; one was J.E. Smith, who was president of Mammoth Life. He's dead. His daughter was Charlotte McGill; you may have heard that name. Charlotte was J.E. Smith's daughter. She took the spot when he got 19:00out of the legislature. The other was a fellow named Johnson from the Fortieth District and he was a teacher, a black teacher. Neither would [Interruption] Anyway . . . oh, I couldn't get them to sign the bill. We dropped it in the popper and it went to a committee chaired by a fellow named Freddie Morgan and they had no intention of ever letting that bill out. Because of the publicity it was getting there was a bunch of students from Bellarmine, U of L, Ursuline, oh, all the colleges around, went on a hunger strike! You ought to do some research on this. Courier's got a lot on that, but about thirty of them, as I recall, got 20:00up in the gallery of the legislature and said they wouldn't leave until we voted on the bill and there was no hope of voting on the bill. It was hopelessly locked in committee; they wouldn't even consider it. Each day I would make a motion to take the bill from committee, it's a parliamentary maneuver that's almost impossible to do, and first I only had one vote, just mine and that was it, but each day it was growing just a little to getting a little sentiment for it. And these kids were up there for a couple of days.

The second day they were up there the governor was getting ready -- Ed [Ned] Breathitt is governor -- he's going to throw them out, you know. And I went down to the governor and I said, "You're making a mistake!" I said, "If this happens, it's going to be on the front page of every newspaper in the country. It's going to make you look like a fool. It will wear itself out. Just leave them there!" 21:00So every night I'd check on them about midnight and it was getting serious! They hadn't eaten, just water, hadn't eaten, hadn't shaved, showered, anything else, just sitting up in that [unintelligible]. And he called me down and in his office he had a fellow who was one of the real great men of Kentucky, Ed Prichard, was down in the office with him. He was his advisor at that point and he said, "Norb, you've got to go up and talk to those people and get them out of there!" And I said, "Governor, that isn't going to work now!" I said, "You've got to go before that committee and see if you can get that bill out of there!" Which he did! They called a special meeting of the committee. He went down before them and they just laughed at him; they wouldn't do it. And the governor never goes before a legislative committee because they don't get that privilege and they weren't going to get it so it goes on another day and he finally calls in, Prichard advised him, he calls me down another day and he said, "We got to do something!" He said, "This is getting serious." I said, "Governor, I can't 22:00tell you what to do, you just got to get that bill out of committee, you know!" I said, "I can't do it!" So finally they are together and he said, "If I promise that the next session in the legislature that this will be my high first priority, public accommodations, would you recommend they leave?" I said, "Well, I'll go up and talk to them with you." So we go up before this group of kids and he makes his pitch and Tommy Hogan, whose another name you should remember, but he's dead now but a young man, but Tommy says, "Norb, can we trust him?" He's a West End kid, too. He went to school over at Flaget [High School] where my boys went and he said, "Can we trust him?" I said, "If the governor says, he'll do it, he'll try his best to do it." So they agreed to leave, but it was getting 23:00serious at that point. The press was building up on it. It was national news. You ought to do a little research on that and get the Courier and get all that.

TK: This group of students, was it white and black students or just black students?

NB: Hmm . . .

TK: The group of students, was it all black students?

NB: You know, it was all white students!

TK: Because the schools you named were predominantly white.

NB: Yeah, I'm trying to think if there was a black. I don't remember a black in that. It was all white.

TK: That's really interesting! I'll have to look into that see if the student papers even cover it.

NB: So they finally left and sure enough the next session the first bill was House Bill One Public Accommodations. It was passed without any trouble. Federal government was about to pass it on the national level at that time. [Looking through papers]

TK: It was Galen Martin was the other person who suggested I talk to you. He's also the one who told me about Tom Hogan recently. This is from whom? Oh, the 24:00Defender! Outstanding Kentuckian Award from the Defender, what year is this?

NB: Should be '64. Here's the signing of the bill.

TK: Is that you?

NB: That's me. [Laughter] That's Ned Breathitt. This is me here and that's Ned Breathitt. This is the White House with secretary-treasurer of the CIO at that time and that's A.D. King, Martin Luther's brother. Martin Luther couldn't make it; he just sent a telegram, but he proclaimed that the Blume bill that day.

TK: Oh yes, that's right.

NB: Under the statue of Lincoln in the rotunda, yeah. It made such a hit he came . . . well, that's another story.

TK: Well, I want to hear that story. He's like my hero.

NB: But because of that, when we passed it, the Courier just thought I was King Kong and I became their boy and the publicity I got was just, well . . . but a 25:00bunch of young lawyers. At that time the Democratic party was real tight-knit, run downtown organization. A few people made all the decisions, wasn't democratic at all. And a bunch of young lawyers got together and had lunch with me and asked me to run for Congress that year, '64, and again I didn't know anything about organization, how to run a campaign, or anything else, agreed with their help. Eric Tachau served as one of the co-chairmen of that campaign. That's where Eric came into it, he and a fellow named Phil Ardery, but all the young lawyers are now real prominent citizens who were in that group that convinced me to run. Skippy Grafton from Grafton, Sloane, [unintelligible], Grafton and Sloane; Todd Hollenbach, who later became a county judge, really had 26:00a future if he had just waited his turn; Nick Belker, who recently made the news, he was one of them; Jack Knoll a judge; Tom Mooney . . . well, anyway, it's just a bunch of lawyers and they convinced me that I ought to run for Congress against the organization. The organization was running a fellow named Charlie Farnsley who was a former mayor, very successful mayor, really loved guy, but they just resented the way he was selected to run. We were in an organization with just volunteers, no money, no professional people helping the campaign, and less than three votes a precinct I missed being in Congress.

TK: Really! And that's '64?

NB: '64 and this is the Johnson year, of course, and Johnson then carried this 27:00area by about 37,000 votes and Charlie went on and was elected. Then he served one term, two years, and quit, resigned. It was open again. This time in the organization, I got the nomination and got beat again, but that's another story. [Laughter]

TK: The second time was against Cowger in '66?

NB: Bill Cowger.

TK: That's what I read in the newspaper.

NB: But that year the Senate candidate for the Democrats was John Y. Brown, Sr., the [future] governor's dad and he had been in Congress and he had run for everything at different times. He was running against John Sherman Cooper, who was probably the most popular Republican ever in Kentucky, and we got swamped in that race, but Bill Cowger had been an excellent mayor and he was just getting out of his four years and I was kid, trying to take them on. [Laughter] But we 28:00did reorganize the Democratic party out of that.

TK: In some of the newspaper articles, there was some mention of sort this effort to start a new Democratic sort of revive it, so what were the problems with it? What do you think needed revived?

NB: Problem was you had a gal named Lennie McLaughlin, who was the executive director of the party and a fellow named McKay Reed who was the chairman of the party, it was an insurance agency he had, and they just controlled the party! They selected candidates, they told who was going to run and you were in their pocket. Hell, they voted you or you didn't run back then! And I saw how that was with my first year up there and the way they acted and that wasn't going to happen. So Breathitt, after this election, Breathitt was in my camp, the governor.


TK: The '64 one?

NB: '64. The governor was interested. He had to stay in the background because it was a primary election, but he was helping other fellows that helped give me some help. But after that he saw that the party needed something done, so by his authority he expanded the executive committee, added six people. I was one of those six that he put on and with that we got them having meetings and having democratic votes and everything else. It brought down Lennie McLaughlin. She didn't last many years after that, you know, but that's another story.

TK: She's mentioned in Georgia Powers' . . . Georgia Powers also talks about her.

NB: Did you read her book?


TK: Yeah, I just re-read it.

NB: Did you read one chapter about the tall, gray-haired, distinguished looking man?

TK: Was that you? [Laughter]

NB: Yeah, but we were friends, but many people thought it was more than that.

TK: Oh, I do think I remember reading that there.

NB: I talked her into running, in fact. . . .



TK: Okay.

NB: But when I ran for Congress that year, Georgia was the only paid employee. She was working in my office keeping it going. Lukie was my volunteer chairman, Lukie Ward, and Tommy Hogan, who was in that hunger strike, was my youth chairman in that campaign and they all got involved, but anyway . . . the organization was going to endorse a fellow named Ed Riggs, he was a chiropractor down the street, and I went to Georgia and I said, "This district's about right now for you." She was scared to death. She'd never done anything other, be a 31:00paid employee in these different little organizations. So she finally ran and I gave her all the advice on what to expect, what the organization's going to do. She won it by about thirty votes, this whole district, you know, and spent twenty-four distinguished years in the Senate, but that's another story. Georgia will tell you all about that. It's in the book!

TK: I have some kind of background type questions. One thing I was interested in is this you described a little bit about your getting involved in politics, had you had any interest in politics before?

NB: Not really. Being in the labor movement, everything affected them and that's where I got involved. Out at Standard Sanitary they polished brass and made fixtures, you know, and the dust, guys would sweat green, you know, they'd get 32:00that dust in their lungs, silicosis, and I was in the group that went to Frankfort to start to get legislation passed for better blower systems for that. And these are the kind of things that got me involved in politics; going up there for the Day Law for that, seeing how it operated, I just thought I could be part of it to do something.

TK: Now I saw references to the Teamsters in about two other, it was a different local, though, it was Teamster 89, I think, that they were involved in park desegregation and hospital --

NB: In?

TK: Desegregating the parks and also in the hospital desegregation efforts. Were you involved in any of those things?

NB: Hospital desegregation, 89? No.

TK: They were on a list of, what do you call them, like organizations that say this is a good idea.

NB: Sponsor. Well, they would have sponsored it, yeah, but no, I knew I worked with that group. We were a sister local. In fact, our local at one time broke 33:00off from 89. 89 was the big local. We just had milk drivers at that time and that's the way the local started. That was before my time when they split off. When I went with them, we were growing fast. Well, what was the question again, I 'm sorry?

TK: Just if you had had any contact with those issues, the hospital issue or the. . . .?

NB: No.

TK: Did you have any awareness, this would have been late forties, early fifties, so I don't know how involved you were yet in labor stuff then, but did the Negro Labor Council, small organization that started up here in town around 1950?

NB: [Laughter] If it did, they weren't very effective and I didn't know it because I was very active in the central body at that time and I had gone to work for research and education in 1950 and I don't even recall the organization.


TK: Again, just little things I wanted to check up on.

NB: They weren't very effective if there was one, I know that.

TK: So you would have gotten involved in the Democratic party after the 1948 election?

NB: I didn't get involved in, I was a precinct worker, but I didn't get involved in the party really until '64. '63 when I first ran.

TK: I did want to ask a little bit more detail about that first time you ran because you sort of covered it in your story, but could you tell me a little bit about the campaign itself? How did you run it? What were your issues?

NB: Back then, it wasn't issue oriented.

TK: It wasn't?

NB: The organization was so powerful that if you got the endorsement of the organization, it was automatic and I got the endorsement to Frank Burke. I got the endorsement of the organization.


TK: Who's Frank Burke?

NB: He was a mayor and a good one, later a congressman. Still downtown, a lawyer, in fact he managed Charlie Farnsley's campaign against me when I ran, but Frank and I've been friends for many many years. I think he's retired now but he's still got a law office downtown. Frank Burke.

TK: To what extent did blacks support the Democratic party by that time?

NB: Oh, blacks down here was heavy just like it is today, it's Democrat.

TK: Then that was those questions. Okay, open accommodations we talked about, so the next one would be what other pieces of legislation did you support while you were in the Kentucky government that had to do with civil rights issues?

NB: Well, the Louisville school district was going broke. About two years in a row they had something on the ballot to raise school taxes and each time the 36:00people voted it down. Under the constitution of Kentucky counties are responsible for the education of students. City had an independent district in Louisville. It was obvious to me that the Louisville system couldn't exist, it was going broke so I sponsored a bill after I became, this is later, hell, this is when I was speaker. Tommy Hogan was my administrative assistant, by the way. So they were going broke and the county . . . everybody was elected to the school board or any elected board was all coming from eastern Jefferson county, and I put in a piece of legislation that said in the event that the Louisville 37:00School Board ceased to exist that the school board would be elected by district and it assured three people from city being on a seven member board. During this period when we passed that, it was tough passing it, but when we passed it, the desegregation suit was on and Tommy Hogan was one of the lawyers while he was on my staff; he was one of the lawyers bringing about integration in the schools. Judge [James] Gordon just happened to quote that bill in his decision, you know, about the protection that we would have when he ordered busing. I was going for busing.

TK: Really!

NB: The Courier did a full page editorial back then explaining to the people that my position was . . . of course, I didn't oppose busing I thought it was 38:00the only way that the kids would have a chance of getting decent teachers, decent schools and Gordon quoted that in his bill. The Courier did all this. What my kids went through during that period was just awful. Calls here all time of night, things they'd say, threatening. Hogan nearly got beat to death.

TK: Really!

NB: He stopped to get a pack of cigarettes out in Southwest Jefferson County and hell, they recognized him and damn near killed him. They beat the hell out of him. Anyway, that was the other involvement in that bill and but to this day there was a bunch of, when I was speaker, there was a bunch of, I got elected speaker because Jefferson County group was together mainly on the fight on U of L of bringing it into the state system, which was my resolution. But about five 39:00of them in Southwest Jefferson County they had to pledge to be against me, hell, if they were going to support me, they couldn't have got elected and they went to Governor [Julian] Carroll, at that time, and told him that I had to go as speaker and he did everything he could to beat me and he did it down here. My opponent was a fellow named Charlie . . . what the hell was his name? . . . he worked for sanitation, he was a big shot with the city, but they got a white preacher to run in the district down in Portland who was a real popular guy down there and he detracted enough votes. The guy that beat me was Carl Hines, who was chairman of the school board, real class guy, but I lost that race that night, I forget, by about . . . well, it was less than fifty votes.

TK: That would have been the primary?


NB: Primary in '75, yeah, primary in '75 was when the vote was held. No, that's not right, '77 was the primary and I got beat by a few votes with the votes I lost in Portland, but it was funny, Bob Johnson was a political writer for the Courier and WHAS and he called and he said, "Norb, I want to walk around with you the Saturday before the election." He said, "I want to spend the day with you and see how you're going to politic." I said, "Bob, I'm going to be raking leaves in my yard!" [Laughter] I said, "I've been in here so long. I know these people, but every time I go around and see them they say you all right, Blume, but we want a brother, we want a brother." And I got so sick of that, that I just didn't bother. I said they know what I stand for, they know my positions, I'm here if they want me. And I lost by a few votes and that was it, but they wanted me to get a recount and I said, "No, I don't want to get a recount." I 41:00had had enough anyway, getting tired of it.

TK: You had been in there a long time.

NB: Fourteen years.

TK: Is it an every two years election?

NB: Every two years and I had won every primary, every general election, so I had about twenty-eight elections.

TK: So you had opponents for every primary?

NB: Every primary.

TK: Really!

NB: In the primary it was usually Bill Summers, you know, who was with the city. Bill ran one year against me. Lenny Lyles, football hero; they're both my good friends, but he ran. I'm trying to think of some of the other blacks, actually, the others were insignificant, those two put up the best race. Carl Hines put up the best race. Yeah, but I always had opposition.


TK: I actually interviewed Mr. Hines a couple of weeks ago, mostly about the school board experience.

NB: Yeah, yeah he was chairman of school board, did a good job. Did a good job as a legislator and after that, well, about time I was winding up with the Teamsters was about the time I wound up the legislature. Then I sat up a lobbying firm.

TK: Oh really?

NB: And I've been a lobbyist up until two years ago.

TK: You said you retired recently.

NB: Finally hung them up.

TK: Yeah, just stopped working? We talked about the march on Frankfort, I mean the public accommodations law, were you involved at all in the state open housing law?

NB: Yeah.

TK: Could you tell me that story?

NB: I was on the legislature, but the lead in that was handled by Hughes McGill, that was Charlotte McGill's husband, he took her place when she died and Mae Street Kidd, who just died. I was one of the cosponsors. They led the fight in 43:00that and I was more effective then in the background. I'm trying to think of the year that passed. I was in leadership but I wasn't speaker when we passed open housing, but I was in the background working with them and helping them pass the bill.

TK: Did you ever get any negative reaction from constituents or anybody else for those kinds of actions?

NB: Oh certainly! I lost a lot of good friends over open housing and public accommodations. My daughter and I, my oldest daughter, we were in some of the demonstrations for open housing.

TK: Oh really?

NB: Yeah.

TK: Could you tell me about that?

NB: Well, you just walk along carrying a sign, you know, and listen to the slurs and the problems that went on. No, but I was very much in favor of it. I wasn't 44:00that involved in it really, on open housing because they was in good hands and they were doing a good job.

TK: How did your daughter get involved?

NB: Through Loretto [High School] . Those two nuns over there were very very liberal and she was. In fact another of my daughter-in-law's was over at Loretto about that same period. She's the one who just ran for judge, Maggie Keane.

TK: Oh, yeah! I voted for her!

NB: Yeah, I did, too. I worked hard for her. Yeah, but Maggie's my daughter-in-law. She's a sister of my daughter-in-law, excuse me, but she's like family. She's a good gal. I remember when she was . . . my son . . . we had a place down on the beach for years down at Gulf Shores and my son went down there 45:00-- that's another story the way he rebelled in Vietnam -- but he and Maggie took off and they traveled the country and they settled down at Gulf Shores. Maggie right out of high school went down there. I remember she was a barefoot waitress down there on the beach and didn't know what the hell she wanted to do. Decided she wanted to come back, went to school, graduated cum laude and became very successful lawyer. She's a good one.

TK: How many children do you have?

NB: Seven.

TK: Oh, my goodness gracious! So when the daughter gets involved in the open housing stuff, how did you feel about that as a father?

NB: I was proud of her merely taking a position. None of the boys gave a damn about politics, it just wasn't their thing. [unintelligible] showed more interest than anything else. My other daughter got involved too. She moved to Gulf Shores, too, she's down there. Hell, between her and Cathy down there, they . . . well [unintelligible] [laughter]. Their involvement in government down there was very very strong.


TK: Well, that's interesting. So it sort of runs in the family a little bit. I am curious about the Robert Kennedy story. If you don't mind, you started to tell me a little bit.

NB: '64. Because of this battle and I got to be real close to Ned Breathitt, I was selected to be a delegate to the convention in '64, Democratic in Atlantic City. And I go up there and that's the year I ran for Congress, but I'm ahead of that, I haven't got to that point yet. Every morning we have a breakfast at the convention, and the governor would be chairman of the delegation and he would then explain the action of the day, and we'd take a position on it or he'd tell us what our position was going to be on who we were supporting and this sort of thing. And unless there were strong feelings they all went with it. Well, one of the mornings at breakfast, the speaker was Bobby Kennedy and after he made his 47:00spiel, [the] governor calls me up and he said, "Norb, I want you to meet Senator Kennedy." Wasn't senator, attorney general, I guess he was. No, he wasn't attorney general yet.

TK: Well . . .

NB: I'm trying to get my years straight. '64, yeah I guess he was.

TK: He probably was still attorney general.

NB: He was attorney general, all right. And he was carrying this fight against [James] Hoffa [president of the Teamsters union], you know, who was so strong. But he calls me and introduces me to Kennedy and he said, "This is Norb Blume." He says, "He's our civil rights man in the legislature." And oh, he's shaking my hand and he says, "A Teamster leader!" But anyway, when I was running for Congress, he came in and campaigned for me.

TK: Oh really!

NB: Yeah, he was out at the airport. That's when that was taken. Yeah, 48:00[President Lyndon] Johnson came in, too, that year. Johnson was president and Johnson came in to campaign for me. Bobby was senator, was from New York. Okay, that's where he was. But he was a speaker at that convention. Yeah, Johnson was president because Johnson came in. He campaigned for me, too. Yeah, that was interesting. I got a call one morning during the campaign and it was John Griswell with the Democratic party. And he said, "Norb, what are you doing this afternoon?" I said, "I got a pretty full schedule, why?" He said, "Get to Washington." I said, "What for?" He said, "The president wants to see you." I said, "I'll be there." So I got on a plane. They got a limo waiting at the plane, take me right into the White House, and usher me up to an office right off of the Oval Office. And I'm sitting in there and they said the president will be with you in a minute. And he comes strolling in. He was a big fellow and he says, "Well partner, how you doing down there?" He said, "They told me that 49:00you could help here in the Congress and I want to know if we can work together?" I said, "Well, I ran on many of the issues of your new . . . " what did they call it then?

TK: The Great Society?

NB: Huh?

TK: The Great Society?

NB: Yeah, but he called his . . . it was the Fair Deal, the New Deal . . . well, whatever his program was "Many of those issues I support, of course, and we could get along and I really admire your program." Actually, he just picked up Kennedy's program, but he was able to get it passed, Kennedy wasn't. He got more social legislation passed than any president. But it was just an experience. "Well partner, I want to help you." And that was it. He gave me a flock of money to help me in the campaign. Flock money, five thousand dollars that was the biggest contribution, but that was big money then and that was all we had; that 50:00and Hoffa. Hoffa sent me five thousand dollars. We raised the total sum of maybe fifteen thousand dollars in a Congressional race.

TK: But that was when you were running against the local organization's person, right?

NB: Primary in '64, that's all that race, yeah.

TK: You know, one of the newspaper articles, you said that the guy referred to you as the civil rights person in Kentucky and one of the newspaper articles referred to you as a liberal candidate and I'm just wondering what did that mean to you? How do you describe yourself at that time politically?

NB: Extremely liberal. I was the president of Americans for Democratic Action at one time.

TK: Local?

NB: Local. I'm one of the founders of the Kentucky Civil Liberties Union. I was on its first board.

TK: Really!

NB: They just had a fiftieth anniversary. I was there.


TK: At that dinner with "B.J. Honeycutt" [Actor Mike Farrell, former star of M*A*S*H]?

NB: I was at the dinner.

TK: I was, too.

NB: I was one of those being honored that night as one of the original board members of ACLU. But yeah, I was very liberal. Very, I say, socialist leanings at that point, but just believed in fairness and I think that's all they stand for. Yeah, I was proud to be a liberal and that's what's amazing, a liberal Teamster representative gets elected Speaker of the House; first one in a hundred years. Won't be another one for a hundred years. You can write it down.

TK: Not in Kentucky.

NB: You can write it down.

TK: Well, that's interesting. You said that you had supported Johnson's programs, now this is a federal program, the one on poverty, but I'm wondering as a state legislator, did you have any involvement with the War on Poverty programs?

NB: We were so backward that we didn't get any of those things passed. All they 52:00did was carry out federal programs that were passed on down through here and that happened all through the South. That's the only way any of them would have ever been achieved was through that.

TK: Were you starting to say something a minute ago when I interrupted because you pointed at that?

NB: Oh, that was '66 election.

TK: The one where Kennedy . . .

NB: Kennedy and Johnson came because Johnson wasn't elected in '64, yeah, '66.

TK: One other kind of question I had is what was, because obviously you were a labor person and a civil rights person, so what was the relationship between the labor movement and the civil rights movement here in town?

NB: Well, they were. . Some of the members were sympathetic, of course . . . excuse me [interruption - tape stopped]

TK: . . . Between the labor movement and the civil rights movement?

NB: Wasn't that much. It was just a few that were really active. I recall a 53:00fellow named Bill Billingsley, who was with the CIO, was real active. 'Course, we were AF of L [American Federation of Labor] way back then and AF of L wasn't near as progressive as the CIO [Congress of Industrial Organizations] in this field in civil rights or civil liberties, but Billingsley got me involved. The fellow who got me involved in civil liberties was a fellow named Arthur Kling. He ran for mayor twice, Socialist ticket.

TK: Really? I didn't know that.

NB: Many years ago and Arthur and I got to be great friends and he had a great influence on me in that area.

TK: How did you meet him?

NB: Through a fellow named Jimmy Wolfe, who was with the education department, and Jimmy and Arthur had been friends for years and when I first went to work 54:00for the labor movement he introduced me to Arthur. I was very impressed with him and that's how I got involved.

TK: Because Arthur Kling, he was a businessman and involved in Urban League and Kentucky Civil Liberties Union.

NB: Everything, yeah, Arthur. He was really the go behind to form both the Americans for Democratic Action and ACLU.

TK: What kinds of things was the ACLU involved in back then? KCLU, I should say.

NB: Well, let me think. My first involvement I was a board member and Pat Kirwin, that's another name, he was a teacher at one of the local high schools and later became an organizer for the American Federation of Teachers and we were involved. His wife just retired. I just read her name in the paper about somebody giving her credit for . . . oh . . . oh, Garrett with the Courier, he 55:00had in his last column he just ran a few weeks ago and he got involved in journalism through Katherine Kirwin and she was a teacher, but it was Pat Kirwin, her husband, who was very active in all this because back in those days . . . let's see, what was your question again? I'm getting old.

TK: Oh, that's okay. What kinds of things was the Kentucky Civil Liberties Union involved in?

NB: My first time we got a call that two fellows had been arrested for handbilling down on Fourth Street. They were passing out Social Democratic literature, Fourth and Liberty, and a young policeman . . . they had got some complaints from some woman that they were passing out bad literature, subversive literature. So policeman goes down, his name was [unintelligible], he later became a big shot in the police department and he was lobbyist for the police, 56:00but he was young patrolman then and he told these people to move on and they wouldn't move, so he arrested them. And we got the word right away and Pat Kirwin and I went down to the jail and talked to these people. And we appeared in court with them that night, night court. Judge Walters, a neighbor of mine down the street then, was the precinct captain in fact of this precinct at the time. And he went there and he was an old bigot. He just told them he'd fine them thirty-five dollars if they'd leave town. We said no, insist on a hundred dollar fine. If you pay a hundred-dollar fine you can appeal it, you know, just to make a case of it. So they did and we did and we filed suit, but we went to -- [Andrew] Broaddus was the judge, I mean, mayor at that time -- and Kirwin and 57:00I went and talked to the mayor and told him we were appealing a case and we insisted that the fellows didn't get the case filed away and that he needed to do something about this. So Broaddus then called the policeman and the chief and [unintelligible] and told them that after this, you defend those people's rights to hand out the leaflets. So that was my first one with ACLU, but after that, it was mostly in an advisory position because after that, we started having good attorneys representing us. Hogan became one of those attorneys. I've been at St. Boniface a while ago. His brother's pastor up at St. Boniface.

TK: Tim Hogan?

NB: Tim Hogan.

TK: Okay, someone suggested that I interview him actually.

NB: Well, that's Tom's brother.

TK: That's interesting to know because I can ask him then about his brother. Tim Hogan is Tom Hogan's brother.

NB: He was at that dinner, too.

TK: Which dinner?

NB: That ACLU dinner.

TK: Oh, that fiftieth anniversary, yeah. Well, Pat Delahanty, I was asking him 58:00about . . . I was interested in making sure I got representatives from different religious groups and their involvement and he suggested Tim Hogan.

NB: Worked with him up in the legislature on a few things, but his brother, I don't know if it's his brother, Bob Delahanty, whose Dolores whose now [unintelligible].

TK: Yeah, I just noticed that.

NB: Her husband was a law partner of Hogan, Tommy Hogan. Bob Delahanty, he was a judge. He was a good civil rights man, too, civil liberties. Decent guy.

TK: Yeah, he defended the Black Six, was one of the lawyers that help defend the Black Six. It's interesting to me that there seems to be a lot of interconnections between a lot of, especially in the fifties, between a lot of these sort of liberal organizations?

NB: There weren't many.

TK: There weren't many?

NB: There weren't many, believe me. NO, but there was a few that worked together.

TK: When you said that there was complaints that these guys were handing out subversive literature, was there very much influence of the anti-Communist movement here in Louisville?


NB: I'm trying to think when that case was. It was awful during that period because my office at that time was down on Armory Place right by the courthouse, and during the trial, the sedition trial, of the Bradens, people were afraid to even admit that they knew the Bradens. They distanced themselves from them. The hysteria in this town was awful just like it was all over the country during that period. I'd sit in court. I'd sneak in the courtroom and sit in the back and listen to that trial. It was awful, oh, the fright. Why nobody could have got a fair trial back then. Carl never admitted he was a Communist but I think he was, but it's none of my business, he had a right to be a Communist if he 60:00wanted to be a Communist. But the McCarthy thing was just full swing and it was rough.

TK: Did it affect the labor movement at all?

NB: I don't know. Most of them did like everybody else, turn their back on them. Carl was a labor reporter for the Times and that's why I first met him back right after the war.

TK: I had a couple of other scattered questions. One thing I was wondering is, you know, once you get into the legislature again, the first, practically the first. . . .



NB: Courier had me in the press every day and this is what propelled me in that Congressional race. I had no business running for Congress back then. I was ill-prepared and everything else, but just the publicity I got off of that. And it was the issue of that General Assembly, so it helped me.

TK: So no negative impact from it?


NB: Oh, I had some; always had that always.

TK: We talked about public accommodations, we mentioned briefly open housing, after those things were passed, what were new civil rights related issues?

NB: After open housing.

TK: Because those seem to be the two big things.

NB: There weren't any major civil rights issues after that, they just filtered in with the rest. Really wasn't any need for any!

TK: Once the laws are on the books, okay.

NB: Then I got into the women's thing.

TK: Oh yeah!

NB: Did you know Mary Kay Tachau?

TK: No, she passed before I moved here.

NB: Mary Kay was a beauty. She came up to Frankfort with a group of women once and wanted the Equal Rights Amendment. So we sat there and talked and they 62:00talked about . . . so I developed the program then, I was speaker at the time and we passed an Equal Rights amendment early in Kentucky. I've got a plaque downstairs for that . . . my train of thought just left me. . . .

TK: Mary Kay coming to you about this?

NB: Mary Kay, oh yeah, and then they got talking about other discriminatory passages in the statutes, you know. So I put in a resolution where we made a study in the statutes and anything referred to discrimination of any kind be removed from the statutes and that was a big job and they did. We passed it. But Mary Kay was a workhorse; she was a doll. I think Eric just strung along with Mary Kay; she was the force behind that group.

TK: That's one of the first people I interviewed when I moved to Louisville was Eric Tachau.

NB: Is that right?

TK: Yeah, I don't know how I got on that so soon. I just was doing an interview 63:00here and there.

NB: He had a brother that was a minister.

TK: Charles Tachau, I've interviewed him, too. Yeah, he was involved in the West End Community Council. You lived in the West End through this whole time, correct?

NB: Yeah, I moved in the West End after I came out of the service. We lived up on Jefferson Street when I went in the service at nineteen and when I came out . . . we married in '44 while I was in the service, so. You couldn't find a place to live back then and my mother had a house down on Round Street, a little shotgun house. In order to get in, you had to buy the place, you couldn't force people to move because of rent control and that sort of thing after that period so we bought that house. That's how I got in the West End and just got involved down here and like it.

TK: Did you ever get involved in any local West End organizations or clubs, or 64:00anything like that?

NB: Democrat club is about the only one and Shawnee Golf Club, of course, but that's about it.

TK: That was the Twelfth Ward club you mentioned?

NB: Twelfth Ward.

TK: Yeah, what did that do?

NB: It was strictly political, you know, but it just kept them together, kept the organization together. They still meet. I think Yancy is president of it now, Ernest Yancy. I haven't been to a meeting in years.

TK: I've heard of it before and I always wondered.

NB: Yeah, I was president of it one time, Twelfth Ward.

TK: So you didn't have any contact with the West End Community Council?

NB: No.

TK: They were sort of a civil rights group here in town.

NB: Yeah.

TK: One thing, because of your involvement in politics, I wanted to ask you some questions about black participation in politics because that's one of the themes I want to follow, you had mentioned that they were solidly, blacks were pretty solidly in the Democratic party, was there any change in their level of participation or their level of involvement?

NB: Well, they started changing the laws on how organizations like [unintelligible] the way they politicked, you know. In fact, one alderman case, you know, they threw his election out because of buying lunches for the workers; 65:00that's just a few years ago.

TK: Oh, I didn't know that!

NB: Who's the one? Oh, I can't think of his name . . . Bentley beat him . . . I can see him now. His brother works for the legislature. Well, I can't think of it, but anyway back then we used to stand right outside the door and hand out literature, and we'd buy lunches for the workers and the captains knew everybody and they'd go out and bring them in, haul them into there. The law's changed that now; you don't do that anymore, it's a whole new way of doing business. You got to be so many feet from the area; you can't be in the polls at all, used to be you could and help them.

TK: Someone told me there's a law here that you can't buy alcohol on election day.


NB: That's right.

TK: I didn't know that!

NB: Oh yeah, anywhere in Kentucky. Election day is dry. They open the bars at six o'clock. Yeah, that's true. It used to be regular politicking, I passed out half-pints at the polls and this sort of thing, get a few votes.

TK: That's really pretty interesting. [Laughter] Did you ever hear of something called a unity slate?

NB: Unity?

TK: Yeah. It's a group of African-Americans who ran on a separate slate.

NB: [Laughter] Their papers were signed in my living room!

TK: Oh really!

NB: Neville Tucker, Raoul Cunningham, my neighbor down the street, was a neighbor, Owens, Darryl, and a Turner, was a lawyer from out around DuValle. At that point they thought that I was a power in the party and they came down one 67:00day and asked what I thought about them running. I said, "Well, I think you got an uphill climb, think it's going to be difficult." They said, "Well, will you help us?" I said, "I don't know what I can do. I can't afford a whole hell of a lot of money," I said, "But I will sign your paper for you." And I signed all four of them's paper. And they were sticking together and doing pretty well. And the organization, Johnny Cremens and Frank Burke's running for mayor, the guy I was talking about earlier, he's running for mayor and to break them up, he talked Neville into running on his slate and Neville left the unity slate and went with them and the other guys got beat. I gave Raoul a job up in the legislature when I was speaker and [unintelligible] real good people, real good people, and he and Georgia were so close.

TK: I've interviewed him twice now actually. Once about his high school experience and then after he got from college, his political experience. Why 68:00were they running in the first place?

NB: They wanted to be elected.

TK: Any particular issues?

NB: But this is a time when there was some changes for blacks and they just thought the time was right. The organization wouldn't give them much support; they would just have a token black on the ticket somewhere. That's what they did with Neville and Neville left the ticket and got elected Police Court judge, but they all did all right. Hell, Darryl used to live right down the street.

TK: He's on my list, too.

NB: Until he got his divorce and then he moved out.

TK: So your legislative experience ended in 19 . . . you told me this already . . . fourteen years after '63, '77?


NB: '76 was my last session so I served through '77. '78 Carl Hines, he elected in '77.

TK: Then what did you do after you left?

NB: Put a little more time with my local union, who was paying my salary and stayed with them until I retired from them, I retired there in '80.

TK: Were you involved in any way in any other race or social justice issues that we haven't talked about?

NB: Let's see . . . nothing of any major significance, just whatever input I would have on any decisions in the labor movement or in the legislature.

TK: I want to ask one question but it goes back at just slightly before your 70:00time with the union so it's sort of a background question, did your union locals in 1948 go with the Progressive party or stick with the Democratic party?

NB: In 1948 . . .

TK: It would have been the Henry Wallace campaign.

NB: We were not involved at all; we were Democrat, we weren't Wallace.

TK: Okay, I was just wondering. I was trying to gauge if the Wallace campaign had any impact in Louisville.

NB: Not on the labor movement. No, the only organization that he would have had, the leftist organization we had was out at Harvester when they first came to town and they were wild.

TK: Oh yeah?

NB: Yeah, because I was in a group trying to organize Harvester for AFL-CIO at that point and GE. I've had three careers really. In the labor movement I went as far as I wanted to go. I got to be top man in one of the large locals and the 71:00only way I could have improved on that was go to Washington. I had no desire to go to Washington with the Teamsters. And then in the legislature, I got to be speaker. I had an opportunity to run for lieutenant governor, but J.R. Miller was chairman of the party at the time and we got to be great friends. Yeah, we sit up over a bottle of booze one night and he was convincing me that I should make the race and I said, "No, I wouldn't leave the Teamsters to be lieutenant governor." Lieutenant governor of Kentucky is a nothing job, absolutely nothing job.

TK: Evidently you get to date Miss America. [Laughter]

NB: I did better, what the hell. [Laughter] Let's see, I went as far as I wanted to go in politics and in lobbying, well, I didn't make as much money as some of them, but I was quite successful as a lobbyist with my experience in . . .


TK: That's right, that's what you did after that, then lobbyist. Well, my final set of questions are sort of as an observer and a person who lived through the time, kind of general questions about the civil rights movement, so not so much about personal experience, but sort of what you think about the broader thing. One question I always like to ask people is if you were writing a book on the civil rights movement n Louisville, when would you start it and when would you stop it?

NB: Write on what?

TK: IF you were going to write a book like I'm writing on the civil rights movement here, when would you start it and when would you stop it?

NB: Well, you couldn't have started soon enough, there was nothing to go on. CORE [Congress of Racial Equality], the civil rights group, the NAACP [National 73:00Association for the Advancement of Colored People] back then was a non-force.

TK: Really, when was that?

NB: I'm talking about when they formed this Allied Council on Civil Rights and CORE came to town. You see, there were some blacks who were the voice at that time and I refer to people like J.E. Smith, they liked being the big shot in the neighborhood -- This is McGill's father -- they didn't want any changes. They were happy the way it was. They were accepted where other people wasn't and there weren't many to come forward. There just weren't any real black leadership back then to come forward. So that's about it when they started that in the early sixties. Of course, when was the so-called riot?

TK: '68.

NB: Yeah, it was after. There wasn't any voice, there wasn't any [Reverend Louis] Coleman running around raising hell back then, you know, it's that 74:00squeaking hinge that gets the oil.

TK: So was there like a gap between, because you mentioned knowing Lyman Johnson back in the fifties, so was there like a gap?

NB: Well, Lyman, all those people when the riot came called him a white token. They criticized him for being an Uncle Tom and this kind of thing and he was the first one to step forward to break a line, you know. But Lyman, other than teaching, he was always there, but he wasn't a force at that point. His case was the force in the forties; there weren't many blacks fighting for it back then.

TK: So you would start it then with the open accommodations and the allied . . .

NB: Just about a year before that really because the only victory they had was the Lyman Johnson thing and that's about when they started getting active.


TK: Then when would you stop such a book?

NB: I hope it never stops because we got a long way to go, prejudices are still strong and they're so evident. They got a lot of rights but they still don't have equal rights under the law. I think it's a continuing fight.

TK: That's what everybody says.

NB: It's never ending. Now people are reacting and I can see it even with my wife over Affirmative Action, thinking it's gone too far, you know, and this sort of thing. We're paying for past sins.

TK: Were you in the legislature when Kentucky starting formulating Affirmative 76:00Action plan? Was that an issue that the legislature took up?

NB: Affirmative Action in the legislature.

TK: Or would that have been something that they did through the executive?

NB: They didn't take any up when I was there. It was just accepted and went with it. No, there wasn't any legislation passed according to it in Kentucky, just the federal.

TK: Just sort of take the federal and apply it. Over the years, who would you say have been some of the most important leaders in civil rights?

NB: Over the years the most important people in civil rights.

TK: Locally.

NB: Well, I'd go back to Arthur Kling but he was behind the scenes, never in the forefront, but he was there. He was a real leader. The labor movement. Now Bill 77:00Billingsley would be, I think, the one who showed more leadership in this field. He was CIO and later became part of the group. I was a delegate to the convention in '55 in New York that merged the AFL and CIO.

TK: Oh really? Well that's interesting.

NB: Yeah, 1955 in New York. I was representing the Louisville Federation of Labor. Let's see . . . leaders in this field . . . the Urban League was always, well, they were never a forceful organization in civil rights. The NAACP got more active after that and they were a force, but pointing out one leader in the 78:00NAACP, I couldn't come up with one.

TK: Just as an organization, then?

NB: Yeah, as an organization. Hadn't been many.

TK: Well, like I said, I interviewed last night the guy who was president of the Urban League for a long time, that was kind of interesting.

NB: Who?

TK: Guy who was president of the Urban League for about twenty years.

NB: Walters?

TK: Yeah, interviewed him yesterday.

NB: I knew Art. He was a good guy and all that but as far as a forceful leader on civil rights, he wasn't there.

TK: Certainly in the background.

NB: Yeah.

TK: Arthur Kling's passed away, right?

NB: Yes.

TK: I think luckily we have an interview with him already in the library.

NB: Well, he's a super man. He did so much and so many things, but he was just a wonderful guy.

TK: Well, his name certainly came up in relation to the Civil Liberties Union, what little I've read about it so far.

NB: Yeah, he was the force behind the Kentucky chapter of Civil Liberties Union and was active before that in the national chapter.

TK: Again a general kind of question is, in your mind, what do you think have 79:00been the most important turning points or events in the civil rights movement here?

NB: I'd go to public accommodations. Good Lord, what could have brought about more change, nothing. Yeah, that's my greatest accomplishment in my political career.

TK: That's interesting.

NB: So far and away. Just think, those few years ago, they couldn't go in a restroom in a filling station or drink of a drinking fountain! Just unbelievable.

TK: And I think the thing that strikes students so much about it, it's so concrete, it's something you can really understand, this is a problem, you know. I'm very near the end of my questions. One of the last questions I always like 80:00to ask what do you think is particularly interesting or unique about Louisville and especially in relation to race relations and civil rights?

NB: It's been a pretty understanding area, because back when they did integrate the schools, it went pretty smoothly, other then the protesting against busing, but the original integration went real smooth, and the integration of the fire department for instance and other little things that went on in the community went pretty smooth. It was an understanding community; of course, you've got your bigots. I think that was unique.

TK: And last question. Is there any other area that we haven't talked about that you think I should be asking about, or anything else about your own experience that you think we haven't covered?


NB: Not in the civil rights field.

TK: Or even closely related to the civil rights field?

NB: No, I can't think of anything. I've just been there to stick my nose whenever, not as much as Coleman. [Laughter]

TK: Well, people have different ways of . . .

NB: He's losing the respect of the community leaders, I'm afraid, but somebody's got to agitate to get things done. If nobody says anything, nobody's going to do anything. He's accomplished a few things.

TK: Certainly has kept people's awareness of the issues along.

NB: But I got disturbed with him because I thought U of L did a good job with the . . .

TK: With the stadium?

NB: and he started picking on them. See, I was on the board out at U of L.

TK: Oh you were! When was that?

NB: For thirteen years. See, my resolution, U of L was going broke. Woody Strickler was interim president back then and hell, they were treating it like an Ivy League school. It was so expensive for kids to go to college here and 82:00they couldn't afford it so that's why we pushed the community college system, so we could have it here. But then when U of L was going broke, Dee Akers came up and talked to me and we put a resolution in. It was '68, Louie Nunn's governor and we put in a resolution that U of L would be accepted into the state system and we passed it, but on funding, the only thing they funded was the medical school and the dental school, just partially, because U of L was training most of the doctors for the state, most of the dentists for the state and they paid them. When I became speaker and Wendell Ford became governor we put it under the state formula of the Council on Higher Education that they would so much per 83:00student and they fully funded U of L in '72; another one of my favorite things. The part I played in how the school board was elected, I thought was an important issue still is today. But those I think were my greatest achievements.

TK: Anybody else you can think of that I should be interviewing?

NB: I mentioned Tim, you got [unintelligible] , Neville's gone. Did you talk to Darryl Owens?

TK: He's on my list.

NB: Yeah, you talk to him. Darryl really popped into it when he was one of that group that ran, but he's done a good job but he did a disservice. I lost a lot of respect for Georgia and Darryl when the way they fought merged government. I thought it was so important to this community when I saw what happened to 84:00Indianapolis and Nashville and Atlanta. And I was on that original committee back in the early eighties on merged government and we damned near passed it the first time, we came awfully close. But Georgia, not Georgia, yeah, Georgia, and Darryl were in the forefront of leading the fight against merger and for strictly selfish reasons, they thought they would lose some of their clout; that's the only reason they did it. But Darryl formed a coalition that served him well. He gets elected, southwest Jefferson County, that's the most bigoted area in this whole community, and they support Darryl because he's led that fight against merged government.

TK: Well, it's coming up again.

NB: Yeah, it's in trouble, it's in trouble. It's a shame; it's a shame.

TK: I'm going to go ahead and turn this . . . [Tape stops]

TK: And did you have anything to do with the organizing of it?


NB: Of what?

TK: Of the rally.

NB: Lukie [unintelligible], Georgia Davis, and Eric Tachau, they organized it in that little old dusty office they had, but they got him to come in. It was about thirty thousand people on Capital Avenue for that rally!

TK: You're kidding! Oh my God!

NB: It was something! But I got a picture of [unintelligible], Hogan and I at that rally together.

TK: So did you speak or anything like that at it?

NB: No sir, that was Norton, it was his show and just to get people excited and trying to get the legislators to move. It didn't have any effect.

TK: Was that before or after or during the hunger march, the hunger strike?

NB: I think at this point, well I got to check my dates now, it was right about the same time. The strike was over because Hogan's with me up there, but it was over that bill and it was really when they could get him in town, but they were still trying to pass it. It was dead when he came. It wasn't going to pass and 86:00we knew it, but he had the rally and it did get some spirits up.

TK: Did you meet him personally?

NB: Oh yes. I'm impressed with Martin Luther King. It's a pity Georgia wrote that book. She had enough to write about without talking about her personal relations with him, and I told her I didn't appreciate her. Because I thought, you know, she was my baby, Georgia.

TK: Almost like a protégé?

NB: Yes, but she became quite successful. Hell, now she's one of the ten outstanding women of Kentucky history. Her and another I got started was Thelma Stovall. I don't know if you know the story.

TK: I've heard her name but I don't know anything about her.

NB: Here's a gal she worked at Brown [and] Williamson and she got to be secretary of Local 185 at Brown and Williamson. When I was secretary of the 87:00Louisville Federation of Labor -- this isn't civil rights -- when I was secretary of the Louisville Federation of Labor, I was also secretary of Labor's League for Political Education. It was a group back then where we tried to get all the locals more active in politics. There was a fellow named Bernie Backs who was sheriff of Jefferson County and he was the boss up in the third ward, political boss, and he was a boss. He called up a fellow named Bill Freidenberger, who was president of the Labor League for Political Education, said, "We have an opening for a legislative spot and labor's been working for the organization, we think you all are entitled." You know, they're going to hand us a little something. Bill called me and asked me to go over the list and find some union officers that lived in that area. I come up with five names and one of them was this gal at Brown [and] Williamson, which was a very active local union back then. Little old country girl from Hart County and Jimmy Wolfe 88:00and I -- I've mentioned that name before, he was active with me -- we were the committee to go talk Thelma into running. She was scared to death. She finally said, "all right I'll do it" if Jimmy and I would help her campaign and help her raise money and this kind of thing and we did and she got elected. She became Madam Labor. She worked the hardest work of a legislator I've ever seen and she did a great job. She ran, she ran, she ran and real popular.

Then in '55, Happy Chandler's running governor again and labor was supporting him and we had a dinner at the Seelbach Hotel and she was up there and sitting with Marie and I, her husband Ray, and Jimmy Wolfe and his girlfriend, and Happy comes up and said, "Honey, how would you like to be secretary of state?" to 89:00Thelma. And she was shocked again. So she ran and she got elected and then she secretary of state four years and she became treasurer of Kentucky for four years, secretary of state for four years, treasurer for four years. Then she runs for lieutenant governor and that's the year they tried to talk me into running and she got elected with Julian Carroll on that ticket. Then she ran for governor and I told her I said, "I can't support you now." All this I've been wishing from day one, but she never forgave me. She just wasn't governor material, that's all. People around her liked their jobs and they convinced her she'd be a great governor and it would have embarrassed her.

TK: You knew a lot of interesting people!