tv Senator Wendell Fords Life and Legacy CSPAN May 14, 2017 9:05am-9:51am EDT
majority leader mitch mcconnell talks about former kentucky governor and u.s. senator wendell ford. mcconnell focuses on ford's early life on a dairy farm, his entry into politics, his campaign for majority whip, and his lasting legacy on kentucky politics. the wendell ford government education center in ellensburg, kentucky hosted this 45 minute long event. [applause] >> good afternoon everyone. my name is elizabeth griffith, the executive director of the wendell ford government education center. it is my pleasure to welcome you to this historic tribute lecture honoring senator wendell ford featuring majority leader mitch mcconnell.
before we begin, i would like to share our mission and the relevance it serves in our world today. as you all know, senator ford believed that students need a better understanding of how our government operates and that the principles by which he conducted his work, civil discourse, cooperation, and the willingness to compromise are vital to our nations future. in keeping with this mission, the center of established the statesmanship academy in 2012. the academy currently serves over 100 local area high school students who have a passion for public service, enhancing their leadership skills, and for study the issues that face our communities, states, and nation. at the academy, we strive to teach these students to examine both sides of every issue, to learn how to respect another person's opinion, even when it may differ from their own, and that working together should not be assigned as weakness, but a
sign of strength. these students are fully dedicated to the work and to reviving these principles not only back into our government, but also into everyday society. these students have learned to the example of senator ford that those ideals and principles or what it takes to best serve your constituents and community as a public servant. the less than principles our students learn our ones they will use throughout their lives. they may be high school students today, but they are also our nations in the states, and communities future leaders. on behalf of the ford center, i would like to welcome and recognize several of our dignitaries we have in attendance today. we have the honorable joseph mckinley, the honorable jeff taylor, the honorable david payne come and the honorable j wethington, mr. joe boland and susan mile, jim gooch. honorable mayor tom watson and city commissioners bob glenn and larry conder. officials from our county
government as well. a special welcome to mr. bill goodman, executive director of the kentucky humanities council. we appreciate you all being here today and for your continued support of the ford center's mission. [applause] >> and now i would like to introduce senator ford's grandson and board of directors, mr. clay ford. [applause] >> thank you everyone. thank you for being here today. what a wonderful opportunity. i first want to thank elizabeth griffith, our executive director, for all the wonderful work you are doing on behalf of our students. i want to thank our former director, who is with us here today, and all the work he has done to get us to this point. special thank you to my wife diane.
she pours her heart and soul into this organization, that is for sure and she has worked very hard to build this program and has absolute confidence in our mission that not only are we going to make a difference, but our students will make a great impact on our communities in the future. what an important day for the ford center. we want to thank leader mcconnell. we are so proud to have him here to speak about granddad and his career. we as a family, we are very proud of his accomplishments of them of course, but we miss him, and what he meant to us as a granddad, as a great granddad, as a father, and as a husband as well. that is what we miss the most, but we are proud of his legacy, and specifically this piece of his legacy. it encourages students to engages citizens of their community and to do it in a simple way that encourages cooperation and compromise. granddad love to quote henry
clay. and specifically that compromise is negotiated hurt. we have to hurt a little. you have to hurt a little. i have to hurt a little in order for us to move ford. we want to instill that same sense of compromise in our students, and we think the best way to do that is through what we call fantastic experiences and we want to thank leader mcconnell and his staff for specifically one recently with our seniors in washington, d.c. he took a tremendous amount of time, maybe one of the busiest people on the planet, and took a tremendous amount of time to discuss issues with our students, to discuss the history of the capital, which was fascinating. he also talked about my granddad's career and answered many of our students questions, so it is a wonderful opportunity for us and we want to thank phil maxon as well, who spent a
tremendous amount of time helping us to get prepared and answering a lot of our students questions as well is spending the day with us, so thank you, leader mcconnell. that was a special expense for us and we certainly appreciate it, as did our students. granddad and the leader have the opportunity to work together over many years that affected kentuckians. they did not always agree, but had respect for each other's abilities and worked hard to make sure that passing legislation was going to benefit their home state and its constituents. kentuckians have been lucky to have two senators in my opinion representing them that were able to rise to such levels of influence. as you know, mitch mcconnell is the senate majority leader. he was elected to that position unanimously by his republican colleagues in 2014, and again in 2016. he is only the second kentucky to ever serve as majority leader in the u.s. senate. the first alvin barkley led the democrats in 1937-1949. first elected to the senate in 1984, mcconnell is kentucky's
longest-serving senator and made history as the only republican challenger to defeat the incumbent democrat and is the first republican to win a statewide kentucky race since 1968. in 2014, he was elected to a record six term by receiving broad support across kentucky, winning 110 of 120 counties. mcconnell currently serves as senior member of appropriations, agricultural, and rules committees. he is the proud father of three daughters and married to secretary of labor, the 18th secretary of the department of transportation. revis lee secretary chao served as george w. bush's u.s. secretary of labor. when you mention power in washington today, three names come to mind. president trump, how speaker ryan, and leader mcconnell. it is an honor to have the leader with us today.
ladies and gentlemen, senate majority leader mitch mcconnell. [applause] >> thank you very much. thank you so much. it is great to see all of you and to be here today. just to give you a sense what this speech is about. it is part of a series of talks on past prominent u.s. senators from kentucky that i have been doing up the last couple of years. our commonwealth has been blessed with a rich heritage that has contributed much to our nation's development. i hope to convey a bit of that
political history of some of the distinguished individuals who served as senators from our state. i might say we have had a bunch of them since we went into the union in 1792, and i think it is safe to say some were more significant than others, and obviously among the most significant was wendell ford. as a part of this effort, i want to thank a couple of professors from around our state. they helped on the research. today, as you know, the focus of my remarks is on wendell ford, one of the states most distinguished and enduring public servants. i would note that the senator's legacy continues to live today through the many ford center scholars in attendance today, and as clay pointed out, i got a chance to interact with earlier this year and to see again
today. i am pleased that so many members of wendell's family have joined us today, including clay and his wife diane, their two children. also here are the senator's son steve and his wife sarah, the senator's daughter shirley and her husband bill, and the senator's brother reverend ford. i would also like to welcome neil ford, morgan ford, and emily pendleton, and finally at one to thank behind me, elizabeth griffith for helping to set up this event today. given the subject of my remarks, it is especially fitting to be in owensboro. a dean at the university of kentucky one set of senator ford, he said, i don't know of a link between a government official and a community that is as close and obvious as the link
between wendell ford and owensboro. that link was there from the very beginning as wendell was born not far from here near yellow creek on september 8, 1924. he was born the second of four children to ernest and irene ford. irene was a devoutly religious woman from home wendell would inherit his compassionate nature. wendell's brother raburn described her as saintly. wendell ford inherited his chest for hard work and love for hard work and love of people from his father, ernest, who everyone called em, who farmed, started a family insurance business, and later became active in democratic party politics, serving and the state house and state senate. while in the state legislature, he worked closely with earl clements, and he would later
call him his political father. earl clements as many of you know would go on to become governor, u.s. senator, and u.s. senate majority whip in the 1940's and 1950's. wendell followed in his footsteps in each regard. with a father as a state senator, wendell experience politics from an early age. he frequently accompanied em on senate business. four of his grandchildren followed in his footsteps and have served as pages in the u.s. senate. in addition, wendell learned how to farm from his father. he was expected to pitch in and do chores come and he did. wendell groep milking cows, 30 cows to times a day, and experience for which he later attributed his firm handshake. [laughter] >> working on a farm in grained
a number of enduring habits. one of which was being an early riser. his grandsons recalled one stretch when they spent several weeks with wendell because the family home was getting remodeled. the boys never had to worry about being late for school while staying with her grandfather. he was up early and expected the same from them. wendell himself attended daviess county high school, where he was popular and was named most talkative. [laughter] student who would later show great skill and arithmetic. he would prove to be the consummate vote counter. however, he struggled with geometry. wendell recalled that when he took geometry, he felt like that fella who said, pi are squared, and his that said we need to
take you out of that school, pies are round. wendell took a job at jcpenney's in downtown's own borough and that a coworker. he asked her out and as ford reminisced, she said she would let me know. fortunately for wendell, a friend interceded and convince jane to go on a date with him. as wendell recalled come i never dated any other woman after that. not long after high school graduation on september 18, 1943, wendell and jean were wed. he purchased a wedding ring by selling an adult cow. as he recall, i told her you got a guernsey and a calf on your finger. almost without fail going for it referred to her as miss ford. the couple would have two children, steve and shirley. jean loyally supported wendell through all his campaigns and had her own way of handling the
demands of public life. needlepoint. wendell concluded it was her therapy for being married to a politician. she produced afghan blankets for the wives of three u.s. presidents. once a gene anonymously submitted a blanket she needle pointed to a contest at a kentucky state fair and won second prize. she also helped others with her work, crocheting over 300 blankets for the washington dc children's hospital. after high school, wendell began coursework, but family responsibilities and world war ii interrupted his studies. 1944-1946, wendell served in the army as an instructor. while wendell was stationed at fort hood texas, jean moved to be with him. endell'sek wd
father sent him a $5.00 bill. one week he bought steaks for them. he was given a silver dollar in change. i almost wanted to a three times but i kept it to remind me of that evening. for the rest of his life, wendell took the coin out of his pocket to tell people of its origin. in time the service of the dollar coin became completely smooth but it would always remain a cherished keepsake. ford returned to kentucky and went into the insurance business. one day in 1947 on his lunch break from work, he decided to run a quick errand and pick up an electric razor. that minor errand would come to
have a major impact on his future. during that fateful stroll, wend ell happen across a member of the junior chamber of commerce or jc's. they struck up a conversation to he persuaded wendell join the group. before long he was moving up the chain of command. soon he became state president. by 1956, he was positioned to lead the kentucky delegation to the national convention in kansas city. song, "shamotto and ke, rattle with ford," wendell was elected national chairman of the jc's. as national chairman hit was his responsibility to stay in touch with jc chapters throughout the country.
one visit was to a small community in washington state where one member briefed him on the latest jc project. he told ford we just raised enough money to buy a fire truck for our fire department. ford asked, well, how did you raise the money? the washington native reply, the dealer let us have a ford convertible at cost and we raffled at sucker off and raised enough money to buy this fire truck. ford was suitably impressed. what is your, next project? the man replied, raising of money to payoff the ford. so, wendell's tenure tin the jc's not only exposed into unorthodox promotional efforts, it catapulted him into the upper reaches of kentucky's civic life. in 1955, ford was selected as one of the three outstanding young men in the commonwealth. [coughs]
went on to's ford work as you director for democratic gubernatorial candidate bird -- buert colms. ford became a top staffer in the governor's office. ford left his employ in 1961. and less than a decade later he would be governor himself. what factors accounted for wendell ford's rapid rise in the jc's and later in state and national politics? word, wendell was in a tenacious. his mind to do something, he simply would not quit. the late senator dale bumpers of arkansas said that opposing him on an issue reminded him of fighting with his wife. ain't overents just
yet. on the campaign trail, ford put in 20 hours day and wendell left nothing to chance. one time when i ran for reelection without opposition i worry there would be a write-in. ford not only worked doggedly, he took few vacations. he would like to say i guess vacation from the is not shaving and not wearing a suit. a second attribute was his skill as a negotiator. this made him very effective at the various jobs he undertook. congressional quarterly observed about wendell he does not get everything he goes after but almost always comes away with something. a third key ingredient to his success was his love of people. in this regard, ford had a great ability to recall names and faces. this came through to kentuckians whom he would greet by name even if he had not seen
them literally in years. former senator carl levin of michigan relayed a telling anecdote. about senator ford. a member of my staff had brought his son to work. the staff member, needing to intend an important meeting, left his son to play with paper and crayons under the supervision of several coworkers. he returned to find his son no longer at the desk. a quick search followed. the boy was found just out of the office in the senate hallway where he had stopped senator ford and attempted to sell him a crayon artful pages of scribbles stapled together for a nickel. senator ford was in the active requesting two and trying to convince a young man to accept a dime as security requested nickel. so, ford cared about people and
it showed. had a keendell political mine. he called himself a dumb old country boy with dirt between his toes. no one believed it. he had learned of the knee of his father and earl clemens and learned his lessons well. he never lost a kentucky election. finally, ford never forgot about his roots. described hisoye demeanor after the man had become a prominent senator. " there were no ribbons, no frills, no bells. what you saw, you got." he said he was truth in packaging personified. as ford often said to people he met for the first time, just call me wendell. he said, just call me wendell. for decades, democratic party
politics anin kentucky had been torn asunder by two rival factions. there was the happy chandler led faction that tended to be more conservative. and the earl clemens faction that tended to be a bit more liberal. ford came out of the clemens blo c but benefited from an overall decline in democratic divisiveness in the 1960's. in the words of the kentucky state historian, ford represented a new wave of leadership in kentucky politics. following his work for the governor in 1963, ford managed race.uccessful governor's soon there after he decided to become a candidate himself for the state senate. right here in this county, taking on no less than the state senate majority leader.
hard fought state senate primary campaign in 1965, kentuckyians hard fought state . on election day, ford awaited the results. after spending the morning providing doughnuts for campaign volunteers, ford found himself with nothing to do. he journeyed to the barbershop right here in town. that was the beginning of two election day traditions that marked his political career. and winninghair cut his campaign. excuse me.
in that primary in davis county, ford won the election by 305 votes. serve only to years in the state senate but it was a productive two years. securitys enttenure ford nanette light of 22 bills. as he was ascending the political ladder, ford suffered a major personal blow in 1967. that year his father passed away. he was more than wendell's devoted father, he was his closest advisor. following isan's, wendell passig came to lean more heavily on senator clemens. ran for hisar ford first statewide office, lieutenant governor. against the sitting state
attorney general. he won the democratic primary, this time by 631 votes. then went on to win the general election even though the democratic nominee for governor lost. this meant ford would go on to serve as lieutenant governor during the tenure of republican governor louis none. in 1971, ford decided to run for governor but he had a problem. everybody thought a big problem. his opponent for the democratic nominee was going to be his colmes.oss bert in what must've been in its chimney uncomfortable conversation, the two met to discuss matters. neither one would budge. chose to go forward with the race and defeated his former boss and the democratic gubernatorial primary. once again, ford had prevailed as the underdog in the primary.
this was not the end of the race for ford. he was opposed by two candidates, one end of the political's he was challenged by republican. on the other end by the old worlar horse himself happy chandler running as an independent. ford campaigned tirelessly highlighting outgoing governor nunn's on popular 5 cent sales tax. ford ridicule it as nunn's nickel. once again, ford won the election. in his efforts, ford was aided by a campaign team that included future governor's. worked withce, ford the state legislature to repeal the sales tax on food, medicine and agricultural equipment. he get adopted insurance reforms created the commonwealth first
program to provide impoverished defendants with legal counsel and assisted coal miners afflicted with black long disease -- black lung. ford also reorganized a government which had to evolve into an assortment of independent personalities. he was confronted with 40 bureaucracies at the start of his term. but had consolidated them into nine by the time of his departure. he and many others consider this his finest a congressman as governor -- finest accomplishment. devoted much needed resources to the university of louisville and northern kentucky university is the last two had entered the state university system. and martin luther king's birthday was made a state holiday a decade before was adopted nationwide. with all these achievements, it is not surprising that ford gained a national profile as governor. he was chosen chairman of the national democratic governors for the years 1973-74.
worked intensely as governor, it was not all grind. he embraced some of the ceremonial trappings of being the state's chief executive. one of the perks is that the governor gets to give the garland and trophy to the winner of the kentucky derby. ford was on hand to present some historic winners. he had the good fortune to present the honor to the great secretariat in 1973 and the next year did so for the 100th winner cannonade. ford was a big fan of the dirty. -- derby. and used to tell us humorous story. kentuckyed how at one derby, someone spotted a vacant chair inside a luxury box. an elderly lady was sitting in the adjacency. -- adjacent seat.
the passerby explained, this is the first empty seat. it along to my husband, but he died. the man inquired, why did you not give it to one of your relatives? i would have, the lady responded, but they are all at the funeral. [laughter] loved beingll: ford governor but like so many chief executives he was frustrated by the state constitutional provision of the time which prevented governors from running for reelection. like his former opponent happy chandler and his mentor or a clemens ford decided the senate would be the best place to continue his public service. he decided to cut his time in frankfurt short and run for the u.s. senate in 1974. standing in his way was my former booss marlow cook. e term.d served on
was not an advantage in 1974. watergate was a major national issue. ford campaigned with his usual gusto and was elected by a substantial margin to the first of his four terms in the senate. he resigned as governor on december 28, 1974. on capitol hill, there are two types of members -- show horses and workhorses. the former strive for the headlines, the letters strive for results. and wendell ford was every bit the workforce. in the senate, ford saw himself as a constituent senator. he was in the senate to serve kentucky. and ford advocated doggedly for despite interests, their unpopularity in many quarters of the nation's capital. say used to remark, i would
we in kentucky have beautiful women, fast horses, bourbon, cigarettes and coal, and most of it is habit-forming. he did not stray from political combat in washington. he had once been described as an almost compulsive campaigner. arose forpportunity wendell to run for the chairmanship of the democratic senatorial campaign in 1976, he jumped for it. wendell one of only three senators who chair their party's campaign committee three times. the others are democrat george smathers and republican barry goldwater. a lot of people may not realize what the dscc is. it's a nongovernmental political organization that works at the national level that helps elect democrats of the u.s. senate. the national republican senatorial committee works to
elect republicans to the u.s. senate. the house has two party campaign committees of its own that perform the same function. play anmmittees important role in which party retains control of the senate or the house. chairing the party campaign committee can also help lawmakers move up the leadership ladder. that certainly was the case for wendell. during his six years as chairman, ford wracked up chips with democratic colleagues. he chairedis tender, the senate rules committee from 1986-19 94, the body that considers changes to the way the senate governs itself. by 1988, ford had gained sufficient stature to run for party whip. that year he successfully, unsuccessfully challenge the incumbent alan cranston of california. was in1990, cranston poor health, mired in controversy over the keating
five savings and loan scandal. he decided not to run again for whip. ford immediately threw his hat in the ring. in congressional races it can be hard to pin down your colleagues as to whether they are for or against you. i'm told tha politicians on occasion can bet coy about that. in hi request of thes whip, wendell left nothing to chance. he kept a sheet of paper on the left-hand corner of his desk with the names of senators who were for him and those he was unsure of. committed to him, he wrote them a thank you note and asked for assigned proxy card. how do you like that? a tactic he had learned from senator robert bird of west virginia. ford got his commitments in writing, in writing.
of wendell's predecessor was senator edward kennedy of massachusetts who failed to take similar precautions. in 1971, kennedy was running for reelection as whip, but was challenge that year by the aforementioned robert bird. kennedy went into the election believing he had the votes to be reelected as whip. but it turned out he did not. bird beat him in a nailbiter. later that year, kennedy gave a y describing his failed attempt to remain whipe. . to take this opportunity to thank the 28 senators are pledged to vote for me and the 24 who actually did." according to a story in the washington post, the secret service says i received more anonymous threatening letters than anyone else on capitol hill. it wasn't until the january
election i realize most of them came for my colleagues in the senate. since i lost the whip fight, many people have asked me when i realized i was in trouble. friendly, it was the morning of the bow when my staff told me we had nailed down -- albert gore and ted sorensen of new york. here was the problem. been defeated for reelection a few weeks before and could not vote. while kennedy's speech was humorous, i reflected the truth about the challenges involved in leadership elections. on the other hand learned his lessons well from senator bird and was unanimously elected majority whip in 1990, the number two position in the senate leadership. i remember well ford's triumph in his leadership race. republicans and democrats typically have leadership elections on the same day. that december day in 1990,
another kentucky senate had his own leadership election running for chairman of the republican senate campaign committee. that senator lost, however. that senator was me. so, that december kentucky senators won one and lost one. like the chairmanship of the dscc, the duties of the whip are not intuitive to people. the primary functions of the whip are to try to persuade party members to support the legislative agenda, to try to count noses and try to ensure good member attendance at votes. the expression whip is a british.origin . ofund burke, a member parliament, appears to have been the first to use the phrase. he likened british lawmakers who were trying to secure the attendance of and support of members to the whip around.
it was a member of a hunting tryy who brandishing a whip to ensure the house on a foxconn stayed focused on the fox and did not drift off course. having held the the position of whip, i can assure you it is difficult job. down liket flutter handbills from an airplane. they do not shake off a tree. you have to work to get them. senators are very productive -- protective of their own independence and are often not easy to persuade. in senate leadership, you have few carrots and even fewer sticks to aid you. untill held the position he left the senate in 1999, winning reelection three times. yet, despite the tremendous demands placed on him as whip, ford always placed a premium on family.
recalledohn glenn talking with fellow senators one august about her upcoming vacation. many of them to exotic locations. had glenn inquired if ford any trouble plans. yep, i'm going to travel to kentucky to go fishing with my grandchildren. much like his opponent in the 1971 gubernatorial race happy chandler, wendell preferred being governor to being a senator. he was recalled when you are governor, you can get things done. you could get it done, walk outside, put your hand on it. but wendell still got a great deal done in the u.s. senate. while a senator, wendell champion motor voter legislation and energy issued and contributed to important legislation such as the federal aviation administration authorization act and the family and medical leave act. he was a champion of reforming the congressional budget process.
aviation in particular was an area of expertise. he served as chairman of the subcommittee on aviation and in many quarters he was used as -- viewed as "the" authority on the issue. ford is to say his legislative issue in aviation issues indicated a childhood reading buck rogers. today one travels go through louisville airport, they are bust ofby a senator ford. up honors in a college mates. in 1992, he received more votes than any kennedy in kentucky history up to that time. became the first candidate in a contested race to win all120 counties. in march, 1998, ford pass the as the longest serving senator from the commonwealth and he remains the state's longest-serving
democratic senator today. late in his fourth term, wendell decided the time that come to retire. he chose not to run again for the senate in 1998. havingired undefeated never lost a kentucky race. in t years that followedh, ford spent a great deal of time with his family and supported a ford government education center near where we find ourselves today. on january 22, 2015, ford passed away at the age of 90. in many ways, his passing marks the end of an era. ford shaped theh history of the commonwealth in ways few others havd before him. former president bill clinton, whom i don't often quote, described his approach to public life as follows. "fight as hard as you can until
you can't win and then work together. such a lesson not only captures the spirit of wendell ford, but i would submit it is a good lesson for individuals in any walk of life. thank you so much. [applause] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2017] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] >> once again, i would like to thank everyone for coming here today and i incurred you to join us at the ford center located at the vcm assigns in history for a
small reception. i hope to see you all there. thank you. -- located at the museum of science and history. >> you are watching american history tv, 48 hours of programming on american history every weekend on c-span 2. c-span us on twitter @ history for information on her schedule and to keep up with the latest history news. afterwards,n position and journalist elizabeth rosenthal examines the business side of health care in her book "an american sickness, how health care became big business and how you can take it back." she is interviewed by the president of the commonwealth fund. >> i was wondering if your book give you any thoughts about whether health care is a free market, whether we can solve our problems and health care through free-market forces. i think what we have
seen is the answer is probably not. at the beginning of the book, i put a somewhat tongue-in-cheek list of the economic rules of the dysfunctional health-care market where if you think of health care as purely a business proposition, the market will follow. you get to crazy places like, a lifetime of treatment is preferable to a cure. i am not saying for a second that anyone really thinks that, but that is where market forces put you right now. >> watch afterwards tonight at 9 p.m. eastern on c-span 2's book tv. >> next on american history tv, author and historian gary gallagher discusses the wartime experience of general edward porter alexander who served on
the staff of robert e. lee before becoming the south's most noted artillery officer. he also looks at his career after the civil war and talks about the importance of his memoirs for historians. this took place at the virginia historical society in richmond. it is just under an hour. mr. gallagher: confederate general edward porter alexander participated in all of the battles in the western theater as well as in tennessee. he wrote two books, which are still regarded by many scholars as the most influential of the personal accounts to come out of the civil war. our renowned speaker will assess alexander's book and how it influences historians and other writers. dr. gary gallagher is a professor in history of the