Friday, November 16, 2007

Al Smith

Tonight Al Smith ended his long career as father and host of KET's Comment on Kentucky. As Al Smith might say, If he was the father of Comment on Kentucky then surely Logan Co. was the mother.

Smith found hope, politics, family, sobriety and a future in Logan Co. I have also been fond of Logan Co. I have always appreciated Logan Co. for a number of reasons and have had the good fortune of experiencing it from different perspectives. My first recollection of Russellville would be traveling with my parents and stopping by people's houses to gather before heading onto Bowling Green to watch Western play football in the 70's.

My early coaching days allowed me the chance to become friends with Kenny Barrett, the legendary football coach at Russellville. I loved hearing the old stories about coaches and games he was involved with from the 60's. Barrett arrived and coached at Trigg Co. and often credited Hopkinsville's Coach Fleming Thornton for helping him with his programs. Thornton arrived in Hopkinsville in 1962 after winning 3 State Championships in South Carolina. Coach Thornton is credited by most coaches in Kentucky for introducing and developing weight training as a core element of coaching. I picked up a habit from Coach Barrett I've yet to shake, referring to players as "honey" and "sweetheart". Coach was old school and I learned a lot from him. I remember Hoptown got knocked out of the play-offs in 93 and Coach Barrett invited me to join him on his sideline against Murray for the Regional Championship. Arriving at the old WPA era stadium, the lighting is so bad still that it cast a full shadow on the field. I first went down to what would be the home side bench for most schools but not Russellville. I finally realized that Russellville was standing on the opposite side of their fans. I asked coached before the game regarding this unorthodox setting and he informed me of how strategic it really was. Coach made the opposing team stand on the home side with all the fans yelling and would place the band right behind their bench to distract them. Old School. It was like going back in time. All the players dad's hung out on the side line during the game and all the coaches smoked while coaching.

After a hectic day of listening to constituents complain about the failures of the federal government, I headed down 68 for Russellville where there was to be community meeting with Congressman Barlow. I was eager since the topic was going to focus on Veteran's legislation and I was well equipped that day to brief the Congressman on the latest status of VA Affairs. I wanted to get there early to share the wealth of information I was carrying and I knew that the Congressman was going to have a couple hours of down time in Logan Co. Between Elkton and Russellville I spotted the Congressman sitting in his van in a church parking lot. I turned around thinking something must have been wrong. As I approached the Congressman's window I noticed that he was kicked back smoking a cigar and reading the Bible. I asked if everything was alright and replied that it was and that he would meet up with me later at the Logan Co. Courthouse. Upon arriving at the courtroom where the meeting was to be held I found that I had a couple of hours to kill, so I just went up and sat down in the Judge's chair. Laying on the Judges bench were a stack of folders and after an hour of boredom I decided to look through them. After opening them up it was apparent they were Judge Fuqua's files and notes on pending court cases. I found them interesting in as much as it helped pass the time. I made myself at home propping my feet up on the bench, dipping snuff and going through these files when all of a sudden I turned my head only to find Judge Fuqua standing beside me. If having my feet kicked up was not enough then here I am going through all the Judges case files. I was doing some apologizing. Judge Fuqua with all the decorum of a fine southern gentleman quietly and simply replied that since I was dedicating so much time to his cases, then I should feel free to render a decision in each case and place them on his desk. Judge Fuqua with his jacket in one hand bided me a good evening and walked out of the courtroom. Yes, this is one of my favorite stories.

I could write a book on Logan Co. but I guess I will always be the most grateful because I joined the Disciples of Christ Christian Church there. I joined the Berea Christian Church located in South Logan County in the Oakville Community in 1996. How and why well that's another story for another day.

I guess one could argue whether or not Al Smith has reached the status of Emerson "Doc" Beauchamp. Beauchamp for the youngsters, served as a State Senator from 1944-46, Lt. Governor from 1951-55 and State Treasurer from 1964-68. Doc was one of the great Democrat power brokers in Western Ky and Logan Co. served as his headquarters. With the exception of J.R. Miller no one has ever wielded that kind of power in this end of the State. They handled politics the right way. "Not personal Sonny, just business."

Al Smith landed in Logan Co. at the right time. He learned how to fight and fought to learn this business of Kentucky politics. He used his power and ink to bring important issues to the forefront but most importantly he helped open the door for the average Kentuckian to see into a world that had been limited to just a few.

"We look back, we look forward; we journey in faith, in wisdom and love."

Al Smith's final words as he closed out his last segment of Comment of Kentucky.


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Genevieve said...

I enjoyed your account of the game in a WPA-built stadium at Russellville. I believe Hopkinsville's stadium was also built by the WPA.

Best wishes. Keep on blogging. :)