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Martha Layne Collins and a long line of 'firsts'

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Martha Layne Collins was Governor of Kentucky from 1983 to 1987
Portrait Print Collection (University of Kentucky)
Martha Layne Collins was Governor of Kentucky from 1983 to 1987

WUKY's Award winning history series Saving Stories celebrates Women's History Month. Nunn Center Director Doug Boyd shares audio from a rare oral history interview with Martha Layne Collins; the only woman ever to be elected governor of Kentucky.

She talks about her approach to the office, convincing Japanese automaker Toyota to build a plant in Georgetown and how she hoped Kentuckians would look back on her time as governor.

Saving Stories is a collaboration between WUKY and the Louie B. Nunn for Oral History in the UK Libraries.

From the UK Distinguished Alumni page:

Born in Bagdad, Kentucky, December 7, 1936. Educator. Governor, Commonwealth of Kentucky. University of Kentucky, B.S., 1959.

Elected Governor of the Commonwealth of Kentucky in 1983, she is the third woman in the history of the United States to be elected Governor in her own right. She is only the sixth woman to serve as Governor of any state.

A school teacher, she began her political career in 1971, when she became the Central Kentucky coordinator of women's activities for Wendell Ford's successful gubernatorial campaign. He then appointed her the Democratic national committee woman from Kentucky. In 1972, she again assisted a political winner, Walter "Dee" Huddleston, in his senatorial campaign. Then she served as Democratic party secretary.

In 1975, she was elected clerk of the Court of Appeals. Due to a judicial reform amendment to the state Constitution, she is the last person to be elected clerk of the Court of Appeals and the first person to be clerk of the Kentucky Supreme Court.

She brought her teaching skills to the clerk's office. After finding that there was no information available to students and the general public about the court changes, she compiled and published a brochure on the Supreme Court. She also contacted the Department of Education so that the two state agencies could work together to develop a teacher's manual on Kentucky's court changes. The manual was placed in schools and libraries across the Commonwealth.

She is past President of the Woodford County Jaycee-ettes, a member of the Kentucky Commission on Women, the Business and Professional Women's
Club, the UK National Alumni Association, and the Order of the Eastern Star.

She was named 1976 Woman of Achievement by the Woodford County BPW and was chosen in 1977 by Governor Julian Carroll to serve as Kentucky Executive Director of the Friendship Force.

In 1979, she was elected Kentucky's Lieutenant Governor, and in 1983, was elected Governor of the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

In 1984, she was selected to Chair the Democratic National Convention in San Francisco, California.

Martha Layne Collins was named to the Hall of Distinguished Alumni on May 10, 1985.

Alan Lytle has more than 25 years of experience as a Kentucky broadcaster. Over that span he has earned multiple awards for anchoring, writing and producing news & features for WUKY. He took home the Kentucky Broadcasters Association's Best Radio Anchor award in 2021.