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Bert Combs The Politician

Bert Combs The Politician: An Oral History

Edited by George W. Robinson
Copyright Date: 1991
Edition: 1
Pages: 240
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  • Book Info
    Bert Combs The Politician
    Book Description:

    This is the story of Combs' political life as remembered by him and by some sixty others who shared with him that experience. Robinson shows how Combs emerged from an Eastern Kentucky background to become an outstanding jurist and progressive political force. See other books in the series Kentucky Remembered: An Oral History Series.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-5019-2
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. General Editors’ Preface
    (pp. vii-viii)
    James C. Klotter and Terry L. Birdwhistell
  4. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
    George W. Robinson
  5. Interviewees
    (pp. xiii-xxiv)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-7)

    Bert Combs was governor of Kentucky from December 1959 to December 1963. The only other elective state office he held was a 1950–1955 term as judge of the Court of Appeals, the highest court in Kentucky at the time. He never served as an elected public official again after 1963, yet his political impact upon the commonwealth extended far beyond the few years he spent in office. To be the central figure of a study such as this suggests that he was uncommonly important to the development of twentieth-century Kentucky, and he was. Other Kentuckians held both judicial and...

  7. Chapter 1 The Preparation: 1911–1954
    (pp. 8-27)

    Bert Combs spent the first eighteen years of his life in Clay County, either on a farm near Manchester or in the town itself. In January 1929 he enrolled at Cumberland College in Williamsburg and completed three semesters. It was his first experience away from home.

    During the summer of 1930 he secured employment with the state Highway Department in Frankfort, where he earned enough money to pay some college debts. It was a political job made possible by ripper legislation that stripped from Republican Governor Flem Sampson the normal gubernatorial authority over highway administration. Combs’s father was the leading...

  8. Chapter 2 The 1955 Gubernatorial Primary: Political Baptism
    (pp. 28-61)

    Whether Combs was content to pursue a judicial career for the rest of his life is not clear. He probably did not know, himself Once again, however, circumstances outside his control provided him with an unsolicited opportunity that would change his life more profoundly than anything before.

    Following the end of World War II Kentucky’s Democratic party resumed its dominance in state politics. Deep divisions in the Democratic party had helped propel Republicans led by Governor Simeon Willis into leadership during the war period. But the Republicans themselves, once in authority, suffered from the same malady. At the same time...

  9. Chapter 3 The 1959 Gubernatorial Primary: Political Maturity
    (pp. 62-92)

    While Bert Combs was attempting to recoup some of the income lost while he was on the Court of Appeals and during the 1955 primary, Happy Chandler’s faction continued to spar with the organization headed by Senator Earle Clements. Clements was not only a United States Senator but he was intimately identified with Lyndon Johnson who, in turn, had presidential ambitions. Concurrently, Chandler viewed the nation’s highest office as a post for which he was eminently qualified. Hence, the struggle for control of the Kentucky Democratic party had national as well as local significance.

    During the first stage of Chandler’s...

  10. Chapter 4 The Combs Administration: Political Reality
    (pp. 93-170)

    The inauguration of Bert Combs as governor of Kentucky on December 8, 1959, began four years of labor to achieve the pledges made by “The Team You Can Trust.”

    In his inaugural address, he reiterated his campaign promise of reform and progress. “By reform,” he elaborated, “mean the elevation of the moral and political tone of government, the development of better methods to carry on the everyday tasks of public service. I mean an attitude of mind which views every problem of state government and every task from the standpoint of scrupulous honesty, decency, and ethics.”¹ Specifically, that meant a...

  11. Chapter 5 Aftermath
    (pp. 171-204)

    With the expiration of his term as governor in 1963, Bert Combs returned to private law practice, this time in Lexington, Kentucky, where he and Mabel purchased a home. Early the next year his former legal assistant in Frankfort, Julius Rather, joined him as a partner. Combs scrupulously avoided cases that concerned state agencies and he refused all personal service contracts offered by Governor Breathitt. In short, he made an energetic effort to avoid the appearance of being surrogate governor, and it was not easy.

    A considerable number of people in Breathitt’s administration were carry-overs from the Combs period. Democrats...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 205-206)
  13. Index
    (pp. 207-213)