Bert T. Combs
Born in Clay County, KY, Bert Combs became the 50th governor of Kentucky in 1959. He courageously got Kentucky’s first sales tax passed, and then used the revenue generated to provide support for Kentucky’s military veterans, education, to expand the state park system, and very importantly for Powell County, to expand the Commonwealth’s highway system. In fact, there’s little doubt that the Mountain Parkway, the construction of which he spear-headed and now bears his name, brought Powell County into the modern age. Later in life Bert T. Combs loved the beauty and the people of Powell County so much so that he made his home here on the waters of Lower Cane Creek. If the monument in Stanton to Governor Combs doesn’t make it clear enough, we’re happy to claim Governor Combs as one of our own, and are proud not only to induct him into the Powell County Democrat Hall of Fame as part of the inaugural class of 2017, but to name the Hall of Fame in his honor. Governor Combs was a Democrat’s Democrat, and his legacy will never be forgotten.
In Powell County, you can argue that no name could loom larger than Floyd Clay Anderson. You could induct this man into the Hall of Fame with only three words.. Floyd Clay Anderson. But to do that would do a disservice to what he brought to not only Powell County, but to the state Democratic Party.
Floyd Clay Anderson was an integrator, an impromptu speaker and a champion of Democratic values. My god, to think of how we all fell into this place right now, without Floyd Clay, should give us all pause. He was us, he is us, and his motivations and ambitions are the very thing that drives every single person standing in this crowd.
Knowing Floyd Clay Anderson was knowing the Democratic Party. He embodied it, he lived it, he was every policy and every legislative motion. His pride and his decency always stood stronger than his party, but to those of us who felt his passion, his party will live forever.
While Andrew Jackson may be the father of the Democratic Party, it feels fair to say that Tony Ball is the father of the modern Powell County Democratic Party. A friend of labor, a friend of Appalachia, a friend of the downtrodden, a friend of those seeking justice, a friend of equality and most of all… a friend.
To know Tony is to be overwhelmed by Tony, and to be clear: I mean that in the best possible way. Just travel with him from town to town. From Powell County, to Franklin County to Graves County, criss-crossing the Commonwealth, it’s nearly impossible to find a group of two or more Democrats who don’t have a personal connection with Tony Ball. He has become the Democrat’s Democrat, and those of us who have felt his grip on our shoulder as he says “This one here’s a GOOD Democrat,” know that for him, there is no higher compliment or greater commendation.
Tony Ball has been many things: a leader, a worker, an activist, a chairman, a father, a politician of the highest order, and a Democrat. But above it all, Tony Ball is an American. That unique American original who blazed his own trail, and who never once failed to follow his conscience and convictions, no matter what obstacle may be in his way.
The Brown family has been a staple in Powell County for as long as most of us can remember. For some of us, he supplied one of our first paychecks. For some of us, his children were among our earliest elementary teachers. But for an entire generation of voters, Cordis’ influence was more powerful than the party itself. As a chair, as a businessman, a community leader and a father of a generation of Democrats, Cordis Brown had the strength and poise of a statesman, while maintaining the ease of an everyman to all who shook his hand.
There was never a time that you spoke with Cordis, where he failed to ask about your husband, your wife, your son or daughter. In that way, and in far more than we can count, he was for many years the Wendell Ford of Powell County, uniting the haves and the have-nots in a common synergy to benefit Powell County’s citizens as a whole.
If we were to carve Furnace Mountain into a Democratic Mount Rushmore, doing so without Cords Brown would be akin to denying Thomas Jefferson his place in history. His eloquence, his effortless demeanor and his thoughtful consideration of all Powell Countians is a legacy that few could hope to achieve, and only the best could strive for.
Hugh Catron was born in Powell County in May of 1923. He was raised and lived in the Nada area of eastern Powell County. Hugh served in World War II in the European Theater. He was severely wounded during the war and was a decorated Purple Heart recipient. Hugh devoted his life to helping the eastern Oiwekk County area. He was a devoted Democrat. Hugh worked actively for the Democratic Party for over 50 years of his life. He also worked to get people of his community jobs in our county. Hugh always knew who to contact to help his community. He gave of his time and money to help Powell County. Hugh started his early life working in the log woods. He later worked for the Kentucky State Highway Department and Bundy tubing cooperation in Winchester. After retiring he worked part-time for the U.S. Forestry Service. He was a man of his word. If Hugh Catron told you something, you knew it was the truth. In his later years, he asked to be taken off the Powell County Democratic Party Executive Committee because of his health, but he continued to help the party in any way he could. Hugh married Wanda Swango and they had four sons and a daughter. All of their children reside in Powell County. Hugh once described Tony Ball as a “Democrats Democrat”, but that was a perfect description of Hugh. Hugh was also a devoted Christian. Hugh Catron dies at the age of 93. The Powell County Democratic Party lost a devoted friend. He once stated he always voted for the best individual on the ballot, but when he closed the curtains of the booth, that person was always on the Democratic Party.
For most of my life, and for many standing here, politics in Kentucky were always considered an “old boys club”, with so many doors closed to women. That was until the Powell County Democratic Executive Committee took action to earnestly open its ranks to two women; Karen Graham and Judy Chaney. From there, both of these women worked to shatter the glass ceiling, to further the cause of Democratic policies, and to open doors for women.
But beyond just her work with the party, Judy was an indispensable asset to the county for her nearly 30 years in the courthouse. From legislators and judges, to employees both new and old, no phrase more accurately symbolized her time in local government than “ask Judy.” No matter the problem, no matter how big or small, there was always a solution; “ask Judy”. And when one spot remained in this inaugural class, we reached out to Karen (who is still a member of our board) to ask which of the two of them should be asked to join this Hall of Fame class, she answered with that time-honored phrase… “Ask Judy.”
It is my esteemed honor to induct one of the first women to serve on the committee, one of the first women to hold office on the committee, and one of the first women inducted in to the Powell County Democrat Hall of Fame – Ms. Judith Chaney. And to accept her induction on her behalf, another one of Powell Counties trail-blazing women, Karen Graham.
There are things that are legendary in the history of Powell County politics. From stump speeches to bean suppers, for more than a hundred years we have seen legendary politicians build campaigns on our own soil. But few of those candidates have ever made it through the gauntlet of our community without purchasing a pie. And for those fortunate enough to have a bite, it’s more than obvious to say that at times… a pie can taste like freedom.
Those pies are only the beginning when it comes to Juanita Crabtree. When the younger generation runs out of time, Juanita stays up. When too many of us are too busy, Juanita goes door to door. When we just can’t find the time, Juanita is on the phone pushing candidates for her party, and her philosophy.
For a lot of us, the idea of a “straight party ticket” is the ultimate goal, but for Juanita, it’s the only option. When faced with opposition, no matter how strong, Juanita Crabtree has never once failed to back the rooster, and stand strong with the Democratic Party, who has always represented what she stands for. It is my honor to bestow upon Juanita Crabtree her induction into the Powell County Democrat Hall of Fame, one of the strongest, most loyal and most dedicated women to ever stand under the banner of the party
Shirley Crabtree once said that he was proud to have risen from a simple young country boy in Bowen to running a whole department for the city of Stanton, but that was not the end of his rise to prominence in the government of Powell County.
His tenure as magistrate was marked with wisdom and calm in what was a tumultuous and sometimes contentious time in the history of Powell County. Working within a limited budget, Shirley helped guide the county in providing quality services for its citizens. Surrounded with a court that involved frequent heated arguments and even occasional threats of gunplay, Shirley was a bastion of calm and sensibility.
Shirley continues to guide a generation of Powell County Democrats in public service, and his own sons continue his legacy. And beyond his sons, countless Crabtree disciples have found themselves activists and given themselves to public service will never match his efforts.
Lillian W. Harrison
Circuit clerk Lillian Wells Harrison served Powell County for twenty-four years. Everyone who knew Lillian loved her and she loved all Powell Countians, naming them all “dolls.” She loved the people of Powell County so much that she was once asked by a circuit judge to leave the court room because she’d spent too much time comforting the convicted prisoner before the court. She was once asked by her son while they were traveling through Cincinnati why she was waving at everyone. She replied, “Well, you never know when somebody from Powell County might find their way up here.” She never lost her office, and she never retired, serving the people of Powell County to the end of her life.
Most giants in a small community, aren’t typically actual giants. In some cases, however, exceptions can be made. Harold Hurst’s stature as a politician, and a man, was matched only by his physical stature as a person, which his UK National Championship ring more than exhibited.
Harold served Powell County as a businessman, a mayor, a magistrate, and one of the legendary old-time political bosses who had an uncanny ability to shape policy, to drive an issue, and most importantly, to bring resources back to Powell County. Harold was a master of his craft, and adaptable to any situation. I remember clearly when, after his friend Ben Chandler was elected to congress, told a member of the opposition party representing the newly elected Republican governor, “We’re not worried, we’ve got a good Democrat congressman now.”
Harold Hurst was an educator, both in the public schools and in the public domain. His influence weighs heavy on the City of Stanton, and the county as a whole. For those of us fortunate enough to share in his daily sessions of wisdom, the lessons are simply unforgettable.
Judge James King, the first district judge (and later circuit judge) became the definition of the law in Powell County. No one who ever met the man would argue that his time on the bench was anything, but too short. But for those who stood before him, fairness, honesty and justice became the way of the cloth.
Jim King was the man who you could trust with your life. His wife, Faye, could spend the next day raising your son. These were the best of us, the people who together made us all proud of our lineage, and between them collaborated for more awards than than our state could fairly award. The Herald-Leader, the trial lawyers, the KEA… if an award existed, it was likely that a King was at least on the short list.
So many of us, those who live here in this county. We live in the right homes, and we understand the right parents. We do that, and we understand that because of Jim King, and we found ourselves better because of his wife, Faye King. But as a man who understands the legal system, I can only thank Jim King for his influence, his ideas and his place in the history of this party.
Bobbie Maloney never found a race that he didn’t like, and never entered one where he wasn’t a favorite. In his younger days he’d terrorize the roads of Powell County with his love of speed. Challenged once to a road race by an owner of a brand-new Corvette, Bobbie took his home-brewed bored out engine and smoked the ‘Vette, all without the benefit of third gear. In politics, Bobbie raced just as well. A fixture in the Powell County Court House for decades, Bobbie was the quintessential PVA, taking down all challengers. He made sure Powell Countians’ taxes were fair and reasonable, and shared his office and his time to help anyone who found difficulty navigating the bureaucracy of county government.
When the Rally ‘Round the Rooster was born, it came from one singular statement. In a smoky room, surrounded by like-minded individuals, Jarrett Rose said “We need to have an old-time political rally, like Forrest Meadows used to have back at the farm.” If you need to know anything about how much Forrest Meadows meant to the Democrats in Powell County, its that we are all here right now because of what he did and did decades ago, sharing his love of Bluegrass music and Powell County culture and promoting Democratic ideals and candidates. That is a legacy that stands forever, and will be a part of us for generations to come.
Forrest is not a man afraid to do things his own way, making his mark as Judge-Executive. A hard worker for all his life, he brought that same work ethic to the Powell County government, and the effective Powell County government of today can trace its roots to Forrest’s principles of getting the public’s needs met, even if it means jumping in the truck and plowing the snow yourself.
Oh, honey, oh. During her lifetime, very little happened in Clay City government without the knowledge and consent of Nellie Meadows. Nellie Meadows is probably the best known visual artist to ever emerge from Powell County. Nellie gave of her time and resources to support charities state-wide. Her paintings have hung in the White House, the state house, and probably a lot of our own houses, but perhaps most importantly to all of us today, when Carl Perkins needed someone to paint the official rooster of the Kentucky Democratic Party, he turned to Powell County native Nellie Meadows. She created the rooster we’re rallying around today.