Henry Edwards, left, looks on as Harry Lee Waterfield Jr. receives presentation from LaDonna Latham.
(Clinton, KY) - Over fifty friends of the Waterfield family turned out for a dinner in their honor. Many shared stories of playing ball with the Waterfield children and of their parents being friends with the Waterfield parents.
Harry Lee Waterfield, Jr., who continues to serve as the chairman of Investor's Heritage Insurance Company, represented the family. He had his own recollections, telling several stories of political infighting, unlikely allies and almost stolen elections. It was a time of political alliances and feuds.
According to Wikipedia:
Waterfield twice won election as Lieutenant Governor of Kentucky and held that office in 1955-59 and 1963-67. He was the first person to win election to two terms as Lieutenant Governor of Kentucky. He served under Happy Chandler in his first term and under Edward T. Breathitt in his second.
Waterfield became a factional ally of Happy Chandler, though at first they were not friendly to one another politically. In 1947 Waterfield sought election as Governor of Kentucky but was defeated in the Democratic primary by Chandler's factional enemy, Earle C. Clements... Chandler then helped defeat Clements when Clements sought re-election to the Senate. Clements in turn helped his own factional ally, Bert T. Combs, defeat Waterfield, Chandler's handpicked successor, when then-Lt. Governor Waterfield sought election as governor in 1959. Combs defeated Waterfield in the primary and went on to win the office and help secure the election of his own chosen successor, Edward T. Breathitt, in 1963. The factionalism continued, as Breathitt defeated Chandler in the 1963 primary for governor before winning the general election. In 1967 Waterfield again sought the Democratic nomination for governor but lost the primary to Henry Ward, who in turn lost the general election to Louie B. Nunn.
Waterfield, Sr. was a Murray State University graduate who wanted to go to medical school. When he was unable to get the money, he turned to journalism. During the Great Depression, he was able to buy newspapers in Carlisle, Fulton, Ballard and Hickman Counties. According to his son, he gave up several papers during World War Two in part because ink became a scarce product. He kept the Hickman County Gazette. Waterfield lived in the far end of the state in an era before the parkway system. Getting back and forth to the capital city was a daylong ordeal. It was one the family become accustomed to making. Harry Lee told the crowd that when a longtime Hickman County friend died, the family of seven piled into a car and drove back to Clinton.
Harry Lee Waterfield, Jr. thanked those who remembered his family. He graduated from Hickman County High School in 1961. Several of his classmates attended the dinner and brought their own Waterfield stories. Teacher Henry Edwards lived near the Waterfield family.
He said, "When I tell students that I lived down the road from a lieutenant governor, they say "No, you didn't!"
Edwards appreciated the creation of the Harry Lee Waterfield room at the Hickman County Historical & Genealogical Society and the naming of Harry Lee Waterfield as the first Hero of Hickman County. "We need to remember our history." He said.
Author Chris Mosher and wife, Nan, were present at the dinner. Mosher is currently working on a book about Waterfield and is in the final stages of a book on Earle Clements.
He spoke of a time that he refers to as "the golden age of Kentucky politics." Mosher said that men like Waterfield and Clements created the modern state. Rural electrification, roads, communication, modern farming methods all brought Kentucky out of the 19th century and into the 20th.
"As with every great change, not everyone was on board. These men made tough decisions then explained to the public how they would benefit."
Heritage Days is a cooperative effort of local nonprofits, businesses and government. This is its second year its been celebrated. Events included a car show, lectures, museum tours, displays, luncheons and dinners and the Old Hymn Sing at the Historic First Christian Church.