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Monday, October 26, 2015

History of Kentucky's Governors (1931-1950)

By Paul Whalen 

2015 is a Gubernatorial election year, with Republican candidate Matt Bevin set to take on Democratic candidate and current Kentucky Attorney General, Jack Conway. 

Fort Thomas resident, Paul Whalen, continues his look into the history of Kentucky's Governor's that will take us up to present day. 

Happy Chandler is featured below. Aside from being Governor of the Commonwealth, he also produced one of the most memorable renditions of the state song in recent history. 

1931-1935 (Term)

            Governor Ruby Laffoon was born in a two room log cabin on January 15, 1869 in Madisonville, Kentucky.  He was the third child and only son of John Bledsoe Laffoon, Jr. and Martha Henrietta Earle Laffoon.  According to lore, his parents could not decide what to name him and for several years called him “Bud”.  While he was still a young child, Laffoon chose the name “Ruby” after the local grocery store owner John Edwin Ruby.
Ruby Laffoon was educated in the schools of Hopkins County.  By the time he was 17, he was teaching in the schools at Charleston in Hopkins County.  In 1887, he went to live in Washington, DC with his uncle, U.S. Representative for KY’s 2nd District, Polk Laffoon.  He then went on to attend Columbia Law School (a precursor for George Washington University Law School) and later Washington and Lee University where he graduated in 1890.
Following graduation from law school, he passed the bar and established a law practice in Madisonville.  Laffoon married Mary “May” Bryant Nisbet on January 31, 1894 at Madisonville’s Lucille Hotel.  Ruby and May Laffoon eventually had three daughters.  In addition to supporting her husband’s political career, May Laffoon was an “At Large Delegate” to every Democratic National Convention from 1932 to 1960.

In 1901, Laffoon was elected Hopkins County Attorney. He was re-elected in 1905. In 1907, Laffoon was the Democratic nominee for State Treasurer.  However, the 1907 General Election was a bad election for Kentucky Democrats when the Republicans lead by Governor Augustus Willison swept into all of the state constitutional offices.
Laffoon sought the Democratic nomination for State Auditor in 1911, but was defeated in the primary.  In 1921, Laffoon was elected Circuit Court Judge for Kentucky’s 4th Judicial Circuit which includes Hopkins County.  He was re-elected for a second six year term in 1927.
In 1931, Kentucky with the rest of the nation was in the midst of the “Great Depression”.  The Democratic Party decided to choose its candidate for governor by convention rather than primary.  The Kentucky Democratic Convention held in May 1931 chose Judge Ruby Laffoon as its candidate for governor.  The Republican candidate for governor was former Louisville Mayor, William B. Harrison.  During the election campaign, the Louisville Courier-Journal endorsed Harrison.  Laffoon was supported by party leaders, Ben Johnson, Allie Young and Thomas Rhea.
Laffoon was elected by a 72,000 vote margin, a record at the time for a Kentucky governor.  A. B. “Happy” Chandler was elected as Laffoon’s Lt. Governor.  Laffoon became known as “The Terrible Turk”.  The relationship between Laffoon, within a month of the inauguration, would soon become tense.  The state was short of funds.  Chandler as the presiding officer of the State Senate helped block Laffoon’s proposal of a 3 cent sales tax during the 1932 session.  It should be noted that there were boisterous demonstrations against the sales tax proposal at the Capitol.  One day in March 1932, over 100 men and women invaded the Governor’s Mansion and grounds trashing the first floor of the Mansion and its grounds. In response to the General Assembly’s failure to pass the sales tax, Laffoon vetoed a cut in state property taxes and over $7 million in appropriations.
In 1932, the “Great Depression” worsened.  Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR) was elected President of the United States in November 1932, but was not inaugurated until early March 1933.  In March 1933, just prior to FDR taking office, Laffoon called a bank holiday closing all the banks in the state in an attempt to prevent a collapse of the state’s economy.  Later the same year, he closed the tobacco markets.
During 1933-1934, Laffoon needed to come up with matching funds in order for the state to receive matching relief funds for Federal Emergency Relief Funds.  During the 1934 session of the General Assembly, Laffoon and his Democratic allies with the assistance of some Republicans stripped Lt. Governor Chandler of most of his power.  In exchange for reducing the state tax on automobiles and real property, the General Assembly over Chandler’s opposition passed the sales tax.
As Laffoon did not want Chandler to succeed him, he successfully opposed a compulsory primary election law in 1932 and 1934.  This situation changed when Governor Laffoon took a trip to Washington, DC and Lt. Governor Chandler was acting governor.  Once Laffoon’s train crossed into West Virginia, Chandler called a special session of the General Assembly to consider the compulsory primary for the 1935 elections.  Governor Laffoon was incensed.  As a result, a compromise was broached.  The primary law required a run-off if the candidate did not receive a clear majority or 50%.  In 1935, this benefited Chandler rather than Thomas Rhea, Laffoon’s choice.  Rhea won a plurality over Chandler in the primary and Chandler beat Rhea in the run-off.
In addition to dealing with the depression and the growing interface between the state and federal government, Laffoon’s Administration built more miles of highway and bridges than had been built in Kentucky over the previous 15 years.
Upon leaving office, Laffoon returned to Madisonville to practice law and act as a special judge.  On March 1, 1941, Governor Ruby Laffoon died of a stroke.

1935-1939—First Term
1955-1959—Second Term

            Chandler’s entry into politics began with his selection as chairman of the Woodford County Democratic Party and in 1929, he was elected to the Kentucky Senate.  He was part of the group which stripped  Republican Governor Flem Sampson of some of the governor’s statuary powers during the 1930 session.  In 1931, he was selected at the Kentucky Democratic State Convention as the Democratic nominee for Lt. Governor. “Happy” Chandler is probably the most  nationally known of Kentucky’s governors of the 20th Century due to his service as Baseball Commissioner, U.S. Senator and his oratorical skills.  He was the first Kentucky governor to take advantage of communicating with the people of the Commonwealth with the radio.

            Albert Benjamin “Happy” Chandler was born in the Henderson County town of Corydon in 1898.  He was the oldest child of Joseph and Callie Chandler.  He had a younger brother Robert who died from a fall from a tree at age 13.  Chandler’s mother left the family before he was 5 years old and left his father to raise two boys.

            Chandler graduated from Corydon High School.  He was captain of the high school’s baseball and football teams.  He then enrolled at Transylvania University (Transy) in Lexington where he was captain of both the basketball and baseball teams and was quarterback of the football team (Transy no longer has a football team).  It was at Transy, Chandler received his nickname “Happy”.   As Chandler attended college during World War I,  he was part of the U.S. Army’s Student Officers’ Training Corps.  However, World War I ended prior to being called to active service.  (Because of his participation he claimed to be a World War I Veteran)

            “Happy” Chandler received a B.A. from Transy in 1921 and entered Harvard Law School.  He was unable to afford Harvard after a year and transferred to the University of Kentucky where he completed law school in 1924.

            After admission to the bar, he moved to Woodford County where he practiced law from an office in Versailles and coached high school football.  In 1925, Chandler married Mildred Watkins.
            Upon becoming Lt. Governor, Chandler set up an office in the Capitol.  This was unusual as most Kentucky Lt. Governors, up to that time, where only in Frankfort for special occasions and during legislative sessions to preside over the State Senate.
            Lt. Governor Chandler and Governor Ruby Laffoon’s relationship became strained when Laffoon, over the vocal opposition of Chandler, had the General Assembly pass a three percent sales tax.  Due to Chandler’s opposition to Laffoon’s policies, Laffoon had his allies in the legislature strip the office of lt. governor of what power it had.  Governor Laffoon left the state to attend meetings in Washington D.C.  As a result, Chandler was acting governor in Laffoon’s absence.  Partially out of retaliation for Laffoon’s actions and because Chandler wanted to succeed the term limited governor, Chandler called a special session of the General Assembly in early 1935 which required candidates for governor to be chosen by party primary rather than convention.

            There was a four person primary contest in the Democratic Primary for Governor.  Laffoon’s choice, Thomas Rhea, won the initial primary race with Chandler coming in second.  Since Rhea did not receive a majority, there was a primary which was won by Chandler.  Chandler then faced Republican King Swope in the General Election.  Chandler won the 1935 General Election over Swope by 35,000 votes to become one of the youngest governors in the nation at age 37.

            Chandler’s first act as governor was to repeal the sales tax passed during the Laffoon Administration.  He replaced it with excise taxes on alcohol, including whiskey which became available with the repeal of prohibition.  The General Assembly under Chandler’s direction enacted Kentucky’s first income tax.

            One of Chandler’s achievements was the “Governmental Reorganization Act” which reduced the size of the executive branch of state government.  He is also responsible for the establishment of the Kentucky Teacher’s Retirement System.

            Chandler was praised for his handling of the 1937 Ohio River Flood.

            In 1938, Governor Chandler decided to challenge Kentucky’s senior U.S. Senator Alben Barkley who was also the Democratic Majority Leader.  During the bitter primary campaign, President Franklin D. Roosevelt openly supported Barkley over Chandler.  FDR came to Kentucky to campaign on Barkley’s behalf.  During one such visit by President Roosevelt at a Barkley Rally at Covington’s old Latonia Race Track, Chandler showed up to greet FDR.  Barkley won the primary election over Chandler by a significant margin and the General Election.

            In 1939, Kentucky’s junior U.S. Senator, Marvel Logan, unexpectedly died.  As the governor has the power to fill a Senate vacancy, Chandler resigned and Lt. Governor Keen Johnson became Governor and appointed Chandler to the U.S. Senate.

            Chandler was elected to a full term in 1940.  He served on the Committee on Military Affairs during World War II.  He traveled on behalf of the Committee inspecting bases around the world including those in Alaska.  He held hearings throughout Alaska during the early months of the war which were influential in Congress, authorizing the construction of the ALCAN Highway.

            In the fall of 1945, Chandler resigned from the U.S. Senate to accept the job of Commissioner of Major League Baseball.  This was a post he held until 1951.  During this period of time, he was instrumental in establishing a players’ pension fund and the integration of major league baseball with Jackie Robinson becoming the first African-American to become a major league player.

            Chandler returned to the practice of law and farming in Versailles.  In 1955, Chandler won the Democratic Primary over Bert Combs and the general election over Edwin Denny.

            Chandler’s second term saw the issuance of a bond  which helped fund highways throughout Kentucky.  One of the most important legacies of Chandler’s second term was s the establishment of a medical school and medical center at the University of Kentucky.  The medical center is known as the “A.B. Chandler Medical Center”.

            Chandler unsuccessfully ran for governor in 1963, 1967 and 1971.  His endorsement of Republican Louie Nunn in 1967 might have made the difference in Nunn’s win over Democrat Henry Ward.

            In his later years, Chandler became a beloved figure at University of Kentucky athletic events.  Chandler became the oldest living person inducted in the Baseball Hall of Fame with his election in 1982.

            Prior to his death on June 15, 1991, Chandler was able savor the victory of his grandson Ben’s nomination for Kentucky State Auditor during the May 1991 Democratic Primary.

1939-1943 Term

            Governor Keen Johnson was born in a two room cabin at Brandon’s Chapel in Lyon County in an area that is now part of “The Land Between the Lakes”.  He was the son of Methodist Circuit Rider, Rev. Robert Johnson and his wife Mattie Holloway Johnson.  He was the only son with two sisters Catherine and Christine.
Johnson was educated by his father and in the public or “common “schools of western Kentucky.  He attended the all-male Vanderbilt Training School in Elkton before enrolling in 1914 at Central Methodist College in Fayette, Missouri.  He was seeking a degree in journalism at Central Methodist until his studies were interrupted by the outbreak of World War I.  He signed up for the Army in May 1917.  A month after enlisting in the Reserve Officer’s Training, he married Eunice Lee Nichols of Higbee, Missouri on June 23, 1917.  Their only child, a daughter Judith, was born in 1927.  Judith’s son, Bob Babbage, served as Kentucky’s state auditor and secretary of state.
By March 1918, Keen Johnson was a 1st Lieutenant and in June 1918, he was deployed to France with the American Expeditionary Force until April 1919.  He was honorably discharged from the Army in October 1919.
Service personnel returning from World I were not given the benefits their children had after World War II.  As a result, with financial assistance from his father, Keen Johnson purchased a newspaper –The Elizabethtown Mirror.  He built up the struggling paper and soon sold it for a profit to a competitor.  He used the profit to complete his journalism degree at the University of Kentucky (U.K.).  While at U.K., he worked as a reporter for Lexington’s morning paper—The Lexington Herald.  He received his B.A. in journalism from U.K. in 1922.
After graduation from U.K., Keen Johnson became a half-owner of “The Anderson News” in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky.  In 1925, he became a partner in the purchase of the Richmond Daily Register.  With that purchase, Johnson became the paper’s editor and publisher.  He continued to publish the Register until he ran for Kentucky Governor in 1939.  He continued to write editorials for the Register until the 1960’s.
It was while he was the editor and publisher of the Register, Johnson became involved in Kentucky politics.  He became a member of the Kentucky Democratic Party’s State Executive Committee in 1932.
In 1935, Keen Johnson sought the Democratic nomination in the August Primary.   He was one of three candidates.  He received the most votes in the August Primary over J.E. Wise and B.F. Wright.  In the September 7th Run-Off Primary, he defeated Wise to become the Democratic Candidate for Lt. Governor.  This was at the same time Happy Chandler sought the Democratic nomination for Governor over Thomas Rhea who had been endorsed by incumbent Democratic Governor Ruby Laffoon.  Prior to the Run-Off Primary, Johnson had supported Rhea over Chandler for Governor.  After the Primary, Chandler and Johnson overcame their differences to win the November 1935 General Election over Republican King Swope for Governor and Republican J.J. Kavanaugh for Lt. Governor.
As Lt. Governor, Johnson was supportive of most of Chandler’s initiatives including the government reorganization program.  As Chandler was term limited, Johnson became a favorite for the Democratic nomination in 1939.  He was opposed in the Democratic Primary for Governor by former U.S. Congressman John Y. Brown (father of Governor John Y. Brown, Jr.).  Brown was a bitter foe of Chandler and the primary campaign was somewhat bitter.  Brown was supported by U.S. Senator Alben Barkley who Chandler had opposed in the 1938 Primary Election.  Despite this support, Brown was defeated by Johnson.
A month prior to the November 1939 General Election, Kentucky U.S. Senator Marvel Mills died in office on October 3rd.  On October 9th, Governor Chandler resigned as governor.  Lt. Governor Johnson then became governor.  Governor Keen Johnson’s first act as governor was to appoint Happy Chandler to the U.S. Senate.
During the General Election, Keen Johnson was elected to a full term as governor over Republican King Swope.
One of the memorable phrases of Johnson’s inaugural address was that he promised to be “a saving, thrifty, frugal governor”.  This was a promise he kept.  His policies and increased Federal Aid with the implementation of FDR’s New Deal helped eliminate the $7 million state debt and create a state surplus of $10 million by the end of his term in 1943.  This was the first state surplus since the first administration of Gov. J.C. W. Beckham in 1903.  Governor Johnson’s critics often thought he was too frugal as seen in the saying, “Old Keen frugaled here and frugaled there till he damn near frugaled us to death”.
Despite his frugality, Johnson’s administration was able to begin  funding the Kentucky Teachers Retirement System which was created under Chandler.  He was responsible for pushing the General Assembly to pass the enabling act to join with the Federal Government in providing TVA electricity to rural Kentucky (over the objections of conservatives who did not believe in government generating and distribution of electricity).
Other accomplishments during the Johnson Administration included pensions for judges of the Kentucky Court of Appeals, increase of  one million dollars in aid for Kentucky’s elderly, creation of soil conservation districts and banning the sale of marijuana in the state.
After leaving office in December 1943, Governor Johnson joined Reynolds Metals Company in an executive position.  He would stay with Reynolds until his retirement in 1961.  He took a leave of absence in 1946 and 1947 to serve as Under-Secretary of Labor under President Truman.
Johnson ran for the U.S. Senate in 1960.  He won the Democratic nomination over John Y. Brown, Sr. and lost the General Election by failing to unseat incumbent U.S Senator John Sherman Cooper.
Keen Johnson was honored with the naming of the Keen Johnson Building on the campus of Eastern Kentucky University in Richmond.
Keen Johnson died on February 7, 1970 and is buried in the Richmond Cemetery.

1943-1947 (Term)

            The only Republican elected governor of Kentucky between 1927 and 1947 was Judge Simeon S. Willis.  Simeon Willis was born in Lawrence County, Ohio and grew up in Ohio and in Greenup County, Kentucky.  He was the youngest of nine children born to John H. and Abigail (Slavens) Willis.  His father and his grandfather fought for the Union during the Civil War.  His grandfather William Willis was a captain and his father a corporal in the 5th West Virginia Infantry.
Prior to practicing law in Ashland, Willis taught school and was a newspaper reporter for newspapers in Portsmouth, Ohio and Greenup County, Kentucky.  He served briefly as a principal of a three room school in Greenup County.  In November 1901, he was admitted to the Kentucky Bar and began the practice of law.
His first attempt to win public office was in 1905.  He ran as a Republican for Ashland City Attorney but was defeated.  In 1916, he ran for the Republican nomination for a seat on the Kentucky Court of Appeals.  He was defeated by future governor, Flem D. Sampson who went on to win a seat on the court in the General Election.  In 1927, Governor Sampson appointed Willis to the same seat on the Court of Appeals that he, Sampson had to vacate in order to become governor.  In 1928, Sampson was elected to a four year term on the court.  He was defeated by Democrat Alex Ratliff in the Democratic rout of 1932.
During his tenure on the court, Willis’ stature as a lawyer was noticed not only through his decisions, but with his writings.  He revised the six volumes Thornton on the Law of Oil and Gas in 1932.
It should be noted that in 1920, Willis married Ida Lee Millis.  Ida Lee was active in historic preservation and was a founder of the Kentucky Heritage Commission.  They had one daughter, Lesley.   On a personal note, Willis liked to smoke cigars and was a left handed violin player.
Eleven years after leaving the Court of Appeals, Simeon Willis was nominated without opposition as the Republican candidate for governor of Kentucky in 1943.  He defeated Democrat Lytle Donaldson of Carrollton.  Donaldson had been Governor Keen Johnson’s highway commissioner.  Willis was able to carry the entire Republican slate of statewide constitutional officers to victory with the exception of the Republican candidate for secretary of state.  It should be noted that the Republican leadership had tried to recruit John Sherman Cooper to run for attorney general.  However, Cooper was in the Army and declined to resign his commission.
Willis served  Kentucky during the last part of World War II.  Because over a quarter of a million Kentuckians were out of state due to the war (including John Sherman Cooper), Willis did not dismiss many patronage workers despite the dismay of many in the Kentucky Republican Party.  This disappointment included the Republican lieutenant governor and attorney general.
The General Assembly was a challenge for Governor Willis.  The Democrats controlled both houses.  The Speaker of the House, Harry Lee Waterfield, and the Democratic leader in the State Senate, Earle Clements, wanted Willis to run for governor in 1947.
One of Willis’ goals, which was not realized, was the repeal of the state income tax.  Looking back, Willis’ accomplishments resulted from  the additional funds made available.  When he took office in 1943, the state budget was about $31 million.  When he left, the state budget was about $52 million.
Initiation and construction of five state tuberculosis hospitals at Glasgow, Ashland, Paris, Madisonville and London were accomplished during his term.  Additionally, funding was added to public education.  Per capita funding in Kentucky was raised from $13.49 per student to $25.66 per student.  Teacher salaries were raised from an average of $782 a year to $1,325 per year.  The school year was lengthened from seven to eight months.  Legislation was passed which allowed counties to double the tax rate for educational purposes.
In the area of Civil Rights, Willis created the Commission on Negro Affairs.  He expanded mine safety laws and created an independent Game and Fish Commission.  To help the state adjust to the end of World War II, a Postwar Planning Commission was created.
State Senator Earle Clements was elected to succeed Willis in 1947.
Upon leaving office, Simeon Willis returned to the practice of law in Ashland.  He made one more run for public office in 1951.  He ran as a Republican for the Kentucky Court of Appeals.  However, he was defeated by Bert Combs in the General Election.  Simeon Willis was  probably the only person seeking judicial office to be defeated by two future Kentucky Governors.  (Flem Sampson in 1916 and Bert Combs in 1951)
Simeon Willis served on the Kentucky Public Service Commission from 1956 to 1960 and on the State Parole Board from 1961 to 1965.
Governor Simeon Willis died at age 85 on April 2, 1965.
The Simeon Willis Memorial Bridge which connects Ashland, Kentucky with Coal Grove, Ohio is named in his honor.

Term: 1947-1950

                Earle Clements was the first of five Democratic Governors who served between 1947 and 1967.  He was an early leader of the Democratic faction opposed by Happy Chandler.
Clements was born in Morganfield, Union County, Kentucky on October 22, 1896.  He was the youngest of six children born to Aaron Waller and Sallie Anna Clements.  He was from a politically active family as his father was elected county judge and sheriff of Union County.  Clements was a football star at Morganfield High School where he graduated in 1915 before entering the University of Kentucky.
At the University of Kentucky, Earle Clements played center on the UK football team in 1915 and 1916.  In 1916, he was recognized for his efforts on the gridiron when he was named to the “All Southern Team”.
Clements’ career at UK was interrupted by World War I.  During the summer of 1917, he enlisted in the Kentucky National Guard and served at Camp Taylor near Louisville.  When the National Guard was federalized, he was selected for Officers Training School (OTS) at Ft. Benjamin Harrison at Indianapolis.  He was commissioned as a first lieutenant.  As a first lieutenant, Clements became a professor of military science at OTS.  He attained the rank of Captain prior to his discharge in September 1919.
Following the war, Earle Clements went to Texas where he worked in the oil fields.  In 1921, Clements returned home to assist his father whose health was failing.  In doing so, Clements worked the family farm and served as a deputy sheriff for his father.  He also coached football at Morganfield High School.  After the death of his father in 1922, he was appointed to serve the remainder of his father’s term and was subsequently elected to a full term as sheriff.  At that time, county sheriffs were unable to seek  a consecutive term so he sought and was elected as Union County Clerk.  He served as County Clerk from 1926-1934.

A year into his term as County Clerk, Clements married his high school sweetheart Sara M. Blue on January 18, 1927.  They had one child a daughter, Elizabeth.  Elizabeth became the social secretary for First Lady Bird Johnson.

In 1934, Clements was elected County Judge of Union County.  In 1935, he was asked by Thomas Rhea, a prominent Democratic power broker, to serve as his campaign chair for governor to succeed Governor Ruby Laffoon.  Clements agreed to serve and resulted in his refusal to support his old friend, Lt. Governor Happy Chandler, in the Democratic Primary.  Clements support of Rhea over Chandler began a 30 year rift in the Democratic party of Kentucky.

In 1941, Earle Clements was elected to the Kentucky Senate.  By 1944, Clements was the majority leader of that body.  During the 1944 session, he successfully opposed many of Republican Governor Simeon Willis’ conservative programs and wrote the state’s budget during that session.  At the same time, Earle Clements successfully sought election in November 1944 as the U.S. Representative from Kentucky’s 2nd District to Congress.

As a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, Clements was a strong supporter of the New Deal.  He supported the 1945 school lunch program.  In his two terms  in Congress, Clements supported bills  banning lynching and poll taxes.

In 1947, Earle Clements decided to run for Governor of Kentucky.  He defeated House Speaker Harry Lee Waterfield in the Democratic Primary.  In the General Election, Clements defeated Republican Attorney General Eldon S. Dummit.

Clements served as Governor from December 1947 until December 1950.  As governor, Clements was considered progressive.  During his administration, only one state, New York, developed more state parks than Kentucky.  Tourism at Kentucky state parks increased from less than a half million people in 1947 to more than two million people annually in 1950.

During his term, 3,800 miles of rural roads and 4,000 miles of primary roads were built or funded.  The state assumed maintenance of 6,000 miles of county highways.  Construction began on the Western Kentucky Parkway and the Kentucky Parkway during his term as governor.  With this massive emphasis on road construction, it was said that “Kentucky farmers were finally able to come out of the mud”.

Governor Clements encouraged Kentucky’s transition from primarily an agricultural economy with the establishment of the “Kentucky Agriculture and Industrial Board” (AIDB), which is now the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development.

One Kentucky landmark that came into being during the Clements Administration was the purchase of over 400 acres in Louisville for the State Fair and Exposition Center.  Another was the building of the State Capitol Annex behind the Capitol in Frankfort.

The non-partisan Legislative Research Commission (LRC) was created in order to assist the General Assembly.  For the first time, there was a full-time professional staff to assist with governmental research.

In 1950, Earle Clements entered the race for the U.S. Senate.  In 1949, Alben Barkley resigned from the Senate as he had been elected Vice President with President Harry Truman.  When Barkley resigned, Clements appointed Garrett Withers who held the seat until the election of 1950.
Earle Clements defeated Republican Charles I. Dawson in November 1950 to become a U.S. Senator from Kentucky.  As a result, Clements resigned as Kentucky’s governor.  He was succeeded by his Lt. Governor, Lawrence Wetherby.

By the end of 1951, Senator Earle Clements was Lyndon Johnson’s assistant majority leader.  In 1956, Lyndon Johnson suffered a near fatal heart attack and as a result, Clements was thrust into the position of “acting” Majority Leader.  Unfortunately for Clements, it was an election year.  As “acting” Majority Leader, Clements was unable to get back to Kentucky often enough to campaign for re-election.  He was defeated by 7,000 votes by Thruston Morton of Louisville.

After the end of his Senate career, at the direction of Lyndon Johnson, Clements served as executive director of the Senate Democratic Reelection Committee.  In this position, he helped Democrats elect a fourteen (14) seat majority in the Senate after the 1958 elections.  From 1959-1960, Clements served as Highway Commissioner under Governor Bert T. Combs.

From 1960 until 1981, Earle Clements was a lobbyist based in Washington, DC.
In 1981, he retired to Morganfield where he died on March 12, 1985.

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