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The Coal Miner Who Became Governor (Paperback)

P&S History > Humanities > Biography & Memoirs

Imprint: University Press of Kentucky
Series: Kentucky Remembered: An Oral History Series
Pages: 296
Illustrations: 32 b&w illustrations
ISBN: 9780813199351
Published: 15th January 2024
Casemate UK Academic

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Born in Fallsburg, Kentucky, in a tenant house insulated with newspapers, Paul Patton had a humble upbringing that held few clues about his future as one of the most prominent politicians in the history of the state. From the coal mines of eastern Kentucky to the governor's office in Frankfort, Patton's life exemplifies triumph through hard work, determination, and perseverance, as well as the consequences of personal mistakes.

In The Coal Miner Who Became Governor, Patton, with Jeffrey S. Suchanek, details his personal, professional, and political life as Kentucky's fifty-ninth governor. This comprehensive memoir details the beginning of his career in the coal industry—from working for his father-in-law, J. C. Cooley, in the 1950s to partnering with his brother-in-law, Nick, to establish their own company, which they sold for millions in 1978—and how he leveraged his coal connections into a political career. Patton started raising money for Democratic candidates before becoming the chair of the Kentucky Democratic Party. He first took elected office in 1981 as Pike County Judge-Executive; he then served a term as lieutenant governor (1991–1995), followed by an unprecedented two consecutive terms as governor. His overhaul of higher education in Kentucky led to his role as the University of Pikeville's greatest champion and eventual president and chancellor, even after a scandal-ridden second term in Frankfort effectively ended his political career.

In this compelling account, Patton reveals the decision-making process for many of his controversial choices, including campaign strategies, selection of running mates, his postsecondary education and workers' compensation reforms, his work on early childhood development initiatives, and his attempt at tax reform. He gives his unfiltered opinion about Mitch McConnell's "scorched-earth political philosophy" and how it has failed Kentucky, and he draws connections between public policy and party machinations during his time in office and the present day. He also addresses his fall from grace—his extramarital affair with Tina Conner and its effects on his personal and professional life.

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