Louisville’s love affair with Hugh Haynie

The famous Hugh Haynie Christmas cartoon

Hugh Haynie 1223f.jpgHugh and Lois and little Hugh, Jr. (who is now a distinguished Jefferson Family Court judge), lived in a big house over in Indian Hills, and he was the first person I ever met who had a custom stereo outfit, made of matched components and high performance speakers. How I secretly lusted after that stereo:  I was lucky to have my little RCA 45-rpm spindle, hot-wired into my old radio. Well, one Saturday, Hugh called me up and asked me to come over and help him hook up his “new” stereo deck. We shared a love for good music, but electronics was not exactly Hugh’s métier. Mine either, for that matter; but I knew how to fake it.

We finally got the new outfit working, and it was powerful enough to rattle the neighbors’ windows (the standard measure of perfection at the time). The old tuner, preamp and amplifier were sitting in the center of the room, and I asked Hugh where he wanted me to put them. “In your car,” he replied. Be still my heart: I now had my very own, gently used, pre-owned stereo outfit. It lasted me from Wagner and Mozart to Peter Paul & Mary and the Rolling Stones.

haynie3cj.jpgAs we were loading Hugh’s largesse into my old car, he noticed my bumper-sticker, reading “ABC in ’63.” I was a Democrat precinct captain, and a strong supporter of A.B. “Happy” Chandler in the 1963 primary election for Governor. Happy had been governor back in the 1940’s, then Senator, and even Baseball Commissioner. He was the grandfather and namesake of Kentucky’s current U.S. Representative Albert "Ben" Chandler.

Hugh was a red-head, so when his face got red, it really got red. “Are you out of your mind?” he asked me. He then sat me down and gave me the best lecture on Kentucky politics I’ve ever had; before or since. He differentiated between the Earle Clements / Harry Lee Waterfield / Happy Chandler wing of the Kentucky Democratic Party and that of Bert Combs and Edward T. “Ned” Breathitt, Jr. The positions of these two groups on issues such as education, development, and civil rights were further apart than I had imagined. How a transplant from Virginia got to know so much about Kentucky politics amazed me, then and now.

Ned Breathitt.jpgInside of an hour I became a rabid Net Breathitt supporter. Ned was Governor Combs’ Personnel Commissioner, and his hand-picked successor. Hugh saw to it that I was introduced to Ned (wouldn’t let anyone call him “Mr. Breathitt”), and I became one of his volunteers. I’m not saying my support swung the election for Ned (he beat Happy in the primary and Louie Nunn in the 1963 general election), but Hugh and me together were a force to be reckoned with. I’m just saying...

To the victors the spoils: Governor Breathitt appointed me a Kentucky Colonel (laugh if you must; I still think it’s a big deal), and invited me to breakfast at the Governor’s mansion. Like it was yesterday, I recall the white linen tablecloth and the china that matched (both unheard of in the neighborhood from whence I hailed). At one point, Frances Breathitt got up, walked over to the sideboard, and, without a word, refilled my coffee cup from a silver pot. Sure, they had servants, but Ned and Francis were just plain folks from Hopkinsville. Here I am, a 20 year-old kid from Parkland, in the bowels of Louisville’s West End, having my coffee warmed up by the First Lady of the Commonwealth. Pretty heady stuff; and I have Hugh Haynie to thank for it.

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