For many Kentuckians, the history of the Commonwealth can be divided into two eras: Pre-JYB and Post-JYB. The initials refer to former governor John Y. Brown Jr., whose business-like approach to government helped pull the state into the modern era during his administration (1979-1983).
Born the son of a politician—his father would serve 20 years in the U.S. House of Representatives—the future 55th Kentucky governor initially eschewed political life. Instead, his early years were marked with success in business, with his most notable accomplishment being to take the recipe of a chicken salesman named Col. Harlan Sanders and turn it into a brand recognized across the world.
Brown came to view politics with contempt, which prompted him to enter the race for governor in order to bring about change. Operating from a vow not to increase taxes, he helped the state weather the economic malaise of the Carter presidency by cutting costs, reducing staff and selling seven of the state’s eight airplanes.
His ill-fated run for a second term in 1987 resulted in an advertising and PR death match with Steve Beshear, Brown’s former attorney general. Bloodied and distracted, they cleared a path for Wallace Wilkinson to come from behind to win the Democratic primary and eventually the governor’s mansion.
Brown discusses his life lived large in this latest episode of One on One with Larry Bisig.