A. B. "Happy" Chandler

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Albert Benjamin
“Happy” Chandler, Sr.


In office
October 10, 1939 – November 1, 1945
Preceded by Marvel Mills Logan
Succeeded by William A. Stanfill

44th and 49th Governor of Kentucky
In office
December 10, 1935 – October 9, 1939
Preceded by Ruby Laffoon
Succeeded by Keen Johnson
In office
December 13, 1955 – December 8, 1959
Preceded by Lawrence Wetherby
Succeeded by Bert T. Combs

36th Lieutenant Governor of Kentucky
In office
December 8, 1931 – December 10, 1935
Preceded by James Breathitt, Jr.,
Succeeded by Keen Johnson

2nd Commissioner of Baseball
In office
November 1, 1945 – July 15, 1951
Preceded by Kenesaw Mountain Landis
Succeeded by Ford Frick

Kentucky State Senator for District 22
In office
January 8, 1929 – December 8, 1931

Born July 14, 1898
Corydon, Henderson County
Kentucky
Died June 15, 1991 (aged 92)
Versailles, Woodford County

Kentucky

Resting place Pisgah Presbyterian Cemetery in Versailles
Political party Democrat
Spouse(s) Mildred Lucille Watkins
Relations Former U.S. Representative A. B. Chandler, III (grandson)
Children Marcella Miller

Midred "Mimi" Lewis
Albert Chandler, Jr.
Joseph David Chandler

Alma mater Transylvania University
Harvard Law School
University of Kentucky
Occupation Attorney

Military Service
Allegiance United States
Service/branch United States Army
Years of service 1918–1919
Battles/wars World War I

Albert Benjamin Chandler, Sr. (July 14, 1898 – June 15, 1991), known as A. B. “Happy” Chandler, was a colorful Democrat politician from his native Commonwealth of Kentucky. From 1939 to 1945, he was one of Kentucky's two U.S. Senators, representing the state's Class II seat. He served two nonconsecutive terms as governor of Kentucky, from 1935 to 1939 and from 1955 to 1959. He was also a state senator and one-term lieutenant governor.

From 1945 to 1951, he was the second commissioner of Major League Baseball; in 1982, he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, the oldest inductee in league history. His grandson, Albert "Ben" Chandler, III (born 1959), later served as a Democratic U.S. Representative for Kentucky's 6th congressional district, based about Lexington and including Chandler's residence in nearby Versailles (pronounced VER SAILS) in Woodford County.[1]

Background

Chandler was born in rural Coryden in Henderson County in western Kentucky, the son of Joseph Sephus Chandler (1870–1959) and the former Callie Saunders.[2] Though no marriage records exist, Joseph Chandler allegedly rescued Callie from an orphanage and married her when she was fifteen.[3] In 1901, Callie abandoned the family, and the brothers were reared by their father. In his autobiography, Chandler said that his mother's leaving them was his earliest memory.[3] Years later, Chandler found his mother living in Jacksonville, Florida, and learned that she had remarried and he had half-siblings.[3] Robert Chandler, his full brother, died tragically at the age of thirteen when he fell from a cherry tree.[4]

An athlete at Transylvania University, then Transylvania College in Lexington, Chandler pondered whether to pursue a career in professional baseball but instead pursued a law degree at Harvard Law School in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Lacking financial means to continue, Chandler left Harvard after a year and instead completed his law degree at the University of Kentucky in Lexington in 1924.[1]

Chandler wed the former married Mildred Lucille Watkins (1899–1995), a teacher at a girls' school.[5] Their children were Marcella Miller (1922–2005), Mildred "Mimi" Lewis, Albert, Jr. (1929–2016), and Joseph Daniel Chandler (1933–2004).

Long political career

After completing almost three years in the state Senate, Chandler was elected lieutenant governor in 1931, as fellow Democrat Ruby Laffoon (male) (1869–1941) became governor. The two clashed over the establishment of a state sales tax, which Chandler opposed and which narrowly passed the legislature. Laffoon's allies then stripped the lieutenant governor of many of his legal powers. When Laffoon was out of state, Chandler as acting governor called a special session of the legislature and obtained implementation of a law to require primary elections in Kentucky, rather than permitting the party leadership to tap its candidate of choice. At the time Kentucky governors could not serve consecutive terms, and Chandler faced Laffoon's choice of Thomas Stockdale Rhea in the primary. After defeating Rhea,[6]

Chandler swamped the Republican King Swope (1893–1961) of Lexington,[7] a former U.S. Representative for the state's since-disbanded 8th congressional district. Governor Chandler in his first term oversaw the repeal of the sales tax, along with passage of new excise taxes and a state income tax. Chandler also obtained passage of a reorganization of state government and strengthened the education and transportation systems.[8]

In 1938, Chandler, still in office as governor, opposed the re-nomination of U.S. Senator Alben William Barkley, a New Dealer and favorite of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who came into the commonwealth to campaign for Barkley. Chandler lost the primary race to Barkley.[9] The following year, Kentucky's other Democratic senator, Marvel Mills Logan (1874–1939) of Elizabethtown, died in office, and Chandler resigned as governor so that his successor, Keen Johnson (1896–1970), could appoint him to the vacant Senate seat.[10]

In 1945, Chandler left the Senate to succeed Kenesaw Mountain Landis (1866–1944), a segregationist, as commissioner of baseball. In this capacity, Chandler approved the contract of Jackie Robinson with the former Brooklyn Dodgers and hence desegregated baseball. The baseball owners had all opposed admitting Robinson into the league, but Chandler overruled them. Chandler established the first pension fund for MLB players financed by radio rights on the World Series. The baseball owners, influenced by Dodgers manager Leo Ernest Durocher (1905–1991), whom Chandler derided for alleged times to gambling, did not renew Durocher's contract in 1951.[11][12]

Following his term as commissioner, Chandler returned to Kentucky and won a second term as governor in 1955. He presided over the racial integration of state schools and established a medical school at the University of Kentucky, renamed the Chandler Medical Center. Following his second term as governor, his political influence began to wane as he made three more unsuccessful runs for governor in 1963, 1967 (when the Republican Louie Broady Nunn was elected), and 1971, when the office passed to the Democrat Wendell Hampton Ford (1924–2018), later one of the state's two U.S. senators.

For much of his political career, Chandler headed the Democrat faction which opposed Governor and U.S. Senator Earle Clements. the two had been boyhood friends, then split politically, and finally reconciled.

Chandler's support in 1987 for dark-horse gubernatorial candidate Wallace Glenn Wilkinson (1941–2002) paid off as Wilkinson resisted calls to remove Chandler from the University of Kentucky board of trustees following the former governor's use of a racial expression at a 1988 board meeting. Chandler was first appointed to the trustess by Louie Nunn, whom Chandler supported In the 1967 election. In 1968, he was considered as a vice-presidential running mate for Alabama's George Wallace third-party campaign,[13] but the two could not resolve their "racial differences";[14] in contrast to Wallace's racist and demagogic rhetoric, Chandler held a mixed record on civil rights throughout his career.[15]

Chandler often made numerous public appearances and remained active in state politics and events. He often sang the state's song, '"My Old Kentucky Home" by Stephen Collins Foster at public gatherings such as UK sporting events. His rendition often brought tears to listeners. He also spoke from the heart about his personal life and his time in politics.[12]

Chandler died a month before his ninety-third birthday; at the time, he was the oldest living former Kentucky governor and the earliest serving former governor. In 1982, he was the oldest person inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.[8]

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 Albert Benjamin “Happy” Chandler (1898-1991) - Find A Grave Memorial, accessed July 31, 2021/
  2. Lowell H. Harrison, "Chandler, Albert Benjamin," in John E. Kleber (ed.). The Kentucky Encyclopedia, the University Press of Kentucky. ISBN 0-8131-1772-0. Retrieved December 20, 2010, p. 179.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Frank Boyett, "Yesterday's News: Happy reunion", The Henderson Gleaner, November 9, 2008.
  4. Vincent X. Flaherty, "The Life Story of Albert B. "Happy" Chandler," "The Life Story of Albert B. "Happy" Chandler," Baseball Guide and Record Book (St. Louis, Missouri: Charles C. Spink and Son, 1946). p. 113.
  5. Flaherty, pp. 121–122
  6. KY Governor - D Runoff Race - Sep 07, 1935. Our Campaigns. Retrieved July 31, 2021.
  7. KY Governor - D Runoff Race - Sep 07, 1935. Our Campaigns. Retrieved July 31, 2021.
  8. 8.0 8.1 Robert M. Thomas, Jr. (June 16, 1991). A.B. (Happy) Chandler, 92, Dies; Led Baseball During Integration. The New York Times. Retrieved on July 31, 2021; under pay wall; archived version available here.
  9. KY US Senate - D Primary Race - Aug 06, 1938. Our Campaigns. Retrieved July 31, 2021.
  10. Biographical Directory of the U.S. Congress - Retro Member details, accessed July 31, 2021.
  11. Chandler, Happy | Baseball Hall of Fame, accessed July 31, 2021.
  12. 12.0 12.1 A. B. "Happy" Chandler's My Old Kentucky Home. You Tube. Retrieved on July 31, 2021.
  13. Gore, Leada (August 21, 2018). George Wallace 1968 presidential run: 'Most influential loser' in political history. al.com. Retrieved July 31, 2021.
  14. Andy Mead and Jim Warren, "Kentucky's "Happy" Chandler Dies, Lexington Herald-Leader, June 16, 1991, p. A-1.
  15. John Paul Hill, "A. B. "Happy" Chandler and the politics of civil rights," athenaeum.libs.uga.edu, December 2009.

External links