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Remembrances coming in for former Kentucky Governor John Y. Brown Junior

Kentucky History Museum

Kentuckians in political, business, and social circles are remembering John Y Brown Junior. The former governor died Tuesday at the age of 88. Brown served from 1979 to 1983. Bob Babbage is a two-time state officeholder and longtime Frankfort political observer. He called it, quote, “a sad day, but lots of memories.” One of those involves Babbage’s grandfather Keen Johnson who defeated Brown’s father for governor in the 1939 primary.

“My favorite picture of my parents and my grandparents, those two, was at John Y Brown Junior’s first wedding. So, obviously, they ran against each other at one point, but were friends thereafter. So, a good lesson from all that,” said Babbage.

Former Governor Brown came into office with a mantra to run government like a business, in which he had been very successful. In some ways, Babbage said John Y Brown’s push for a businesslike state operation still resonates today.

Babbage said it was a whirlwind time after Brown’s marriage to former Miss America Phyliss George.

“You think back to when John Y Brown and Phyliss George Brown got married and came back from a honeymoon and announced for governor and, in a matter of weeks, he was the nominee. It was kind of a "Kennedy-esque" look. Kind of Kentucky’s version of Camelot,” said Babbage.

Babbage said Brown had a confident way about him in business and in government. Babbage noted Brown bought Kentucky Fried Chicken for two million dollars and later sold it for $284 million. He added Brown scaled the state government workforce down from 37,000 to 30,000 in a way he thought to, quote, “keep the state afloat.” Babbage called the former governor a positive presence, a great inspiration, and a seminal figure in Kentucky history.

Stu has been reporting for WEKU for more than 30 years.
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