meta name="email" content="ericjames@ericjames.org"> Brereton Chandler Jones, Kentucky State Governor


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Biography

Kentucky State Governor

Brereton Chandler Jones



4th Great-grandson of Ann James & Rodham Tullos Jr.


     Born in the nearby town of Gallipolis, Ohio, Brereton Jones was raised in an elegant home built in the 1830s, the Maples. Five days before Jones' birth, his two-and-one-half year old elder brother had been killed in an automobile accident. The future Kentucky governor's mother attended the funeral for her elder son while pregnant with Brereton. The expectations for the new Jones son were high.


They looked on me

like two sons rolled into one


Jones learned the rural values of community and family and developed the strong Christian beliefs which lay on or near the surface of his public voice. Jones was educated in the small public school system of Point Pleasant. He was offered numerous football scholarships and in 1957 settled on the University of Virginia, the academic choice of some of his forebears. He was popular with his peers and elected president of the School of Commerce; he graduated in 1961 with a bachelor' s degree in commerce and public finance.


Jones's summers in high school and college were spent working in construction, and after graduation he returned to West Virginia and built a successful real estate and home construction business. He quickly realized that business success in West Virginia was closely linked to politics and in 1964 became the county chairman for Barry Goldwater s presidential campaign  He developed an ambivalent attitude toward the relationship of politics and finance, which has endured. Jones ran the only successful Republican campaign in his county in 1964 and was elected to the West Virginia legislature, where to some he was a "dilettante" and to others a "moralist." At twenty-five, he was the youngest person ever elected to that legislative body.


I probably had the best political future in terms of being a governor, senator, or congressman.

I decided I wasn't going to compromise my principals,

so I walked away from it.


During a trip to Keeneland racetrack in 1967, he met Elizabeth "Libby" Lloyd,  the daughter of a prominent, political Kentucky father and a mother whose family owned a historic farm on Old Frankfort Pike. They married three years later. Jones began another career in 1972, when he came to Kentucky with his wife to her childhood home, Airdrie Farm, a tobacco and cattle farm in Woodford County. Airdrie Stud, now a large and successful thoroughbred operation, has grown to 2,700 acres and almost 300 horses, including the winners of European and American classic races. Now he was rooted on a farm, the proper setting for Jefferson's image of the citizen-politician.


On December 31, 1975, Jones registered as a Democrat. In response to criticisms during his 1987 lieutenant gubernatorial campaign that he was a former Republican and not a native Kentuckian, Jones had a light but controlled reply:


1 was and am very fond of my mama, and I wanted to be close to her when I was born. She just happened to be in West Virginia, but I got here as quickly as I could.


Jones won the May 1987 Democratic lieutenant gubernatorial primary with 33 percent of the vote; finishing 7 points and 40,000 votes ahead of his nearest competitor. As lieutenant governor, Jones was praised for his efforts to attain a "Made in Kentucky" label for homegrown produce; he was a strong advocate for the preservation of family farms. He worked closely with the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence, a strong promoter for school reform and tax-hike legislation. He illustrated "fiscal restraint," reducing the budget allotted to his office by living at Airdrie. He donated his salary to an exchange program for high school students.


Jones made his run for the governor's office in 1991. The front runner from start to finish, he faced personal negative campaigning. His campaign was positive. He emphasized ethics and campaign-finance reform Teachers helped in most counties and labor in some key ones. He received ten daily newspaper endorsements, including the Louisville Courier Journal, the Paducah Sun, & the Kentucky Post. Serious journalists credited Jones' charm and personal charisma for many votes: he "titillated table-full after table-full of older ladies."


Jones inherited a difficult financial situation when he took office as Kentucky's fifty-fourth governor in December 1991. State government faced an almost $400 million budget deficit that the governor and the legislature were forced to confront immediately. By the end of Governor Jones' term, Kentucky boasted a $300 million surplus.

John F. Kennedy s "idealism"

and "call to sacrifice"

played a strong role in his motivation

to enter politics

He was appointed by Governor John Y. Brown Jr. to the University of Kentucky Board of Trustees and the University of Kentucky Chandler Medical Center Board. His interest in health-care reform grew from his exposure to the Medical Center, when, he believed, the board improperly discouraged UK doctors from providing free indigent care. The policy of turning people away or sending them to other hospitals disturbed Jones. He said, "It s not like you have a sick cow and don't want to spend the money to help her so you just let her die. These are human beings."  This treatment of poor but sick and injured people, which would require a better system for health care in Kentucky, would be an enduring issue for Jones and one he would revisit once he became governor.

Excerpts from The Public Papers of Governor Brereton C. Jones, 1991-1995; Penny M. Miller, Editor; University Press of Kentucky, 2001

Gov. Brereton C. Jones

with

Eric James


November 2005

S t r a y   L e a v e s

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