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Sen. John Schickel: Remembering my friendship with Governor Julian Carroll, a remarkable public servant

I have known Julian Carroll for a long time. At the stroke of midnight on December 31, the curtain will drop on one of Kentucky’s most remarkable public service careers spanning over 70 years. The 54th Governor of Kentucky was first elected to the Kentucky House of Representatives in 1962, where he served five terms including as Speaker of the House from 1968 to 1971. He served as Lieutenant Governor from 1972 to 1974 before serving as Governor from 1975 to 1979. He stepped back into public service in 2005, serving as State Senator for the 7th District and has served in that role to this day.

Julian Carroll

I’ll never forget the first time I met Julian Carroll. In 1977, I was a 22-year-old young man who was working the third shift at Northern Kentucky University campus police department, a job that brought me to Kentucky from Ohio that same year. On the evening of May 28, 1977, I reported to work early and remember seeing the night sky aglow over toward Southgate. I was told by my superior that the Beverly Hills Supper Club was on fire and to immediately report to the Fort Thomas police supervisor at the scene of the fire, which was one of the worst of its kind in the nation’s history. When I arrived, the building was fully engulfed. Bodies of those who perished were on the hillside. It was a tragic and chaotic scene, but we did the best we could. At approximately 3 a.m., word spread that the governor had arrived. The first time I ever saw him was as he spoke with police and fire commanders at the scene. It is a night I will never forget, and the presence of the governor spoke volumes about how tragic that day was.

It certainly never crossed my mind that night that, 40 years later, I would be serving with him in the Kentucky State Senate. Over the years, our paths kept crossing. Even as a young man, I had a keen interest in politics and was very active in the Democratic Party. The fall of that same year, one of my assignments as a campus police officer was to drive the then-president of Northern Kentucky State College — as it was then known, later becoming Northern Kentucky University — Dr. A. D. Albright, to a meeting with Governor Julian Carroll at the famous Mike Fink restaurant. The restaurant was a well-respected and beloved riverboat docked off a pier in Covington. The car I was assigned to was a brand new Buick Electra, maroon in color. As a young man, I was both anxious and nervous about rubbing elbows with the college president and the governor. We arrived at the restaurant early, before the governor had arrived, and Dr. Albright instructed me to sit in the car with him to await the governor’s motorcade. Much to my chagrin, Dr. Albright fell asleep in the car, so when the governor finally arrived, I had to wake him.

Several years later, I had become active in the Northern Kentucky Jaycees, a leadership training and civic organization for young folks. They were the who’s who of current and former political leaders, including our current Judge Executive Gary Moore and former Boone County Administrator Jim Parsons. I was put in charge of organizing the Jaycees’ first annual Christmas prayer breakfast in 1980. Our keynote speaker was Governor Julian Carroll, and Judge Moore, who at that time was a salesman for Wiseway Electric, introduced him. Governor Carroll would eventually return several times to be the keynote speaker of the prayer breakfast.

More recently in 2012, I worked with Senator Carroll when Gallatin County was switched from a county I represent to one he represents as a result of redistricting. We had a joint meeting of all county officials in Gallatin County, where I introduced Senator Carroll and we discussed important issues that affect them. Several times recently he’s been my guest as a speaker for the Rotary Club of Florence when he awed the crowd with his stories of his experiences in the rough-and-tumble world of Kentucky politics.

To get the proper perspective on how storied Julian Carroll’s public service career is, he is only one of three former governors in Kentucky history to subsequently serve in the State Senate. He shares this distinction with Thomas Metcalfe, Kentucky’s 10th governor, who served from 1828 to1832 and as senator from 1834 to1838, and Lawrence Wetherby, Kentucky’s 48th governor, who served from 1950 to 1955 and as senator from 1966 to 1968.

By any measure, Julian Carroll’s career in public service is remarkable. During the 12 years I have served with him in the State Senate, I was always amazed by how engaged and sharp he is at such an advanced age. I talked to him the other day on the telephone, and he was doing fine, but feeling very isolated as he cautiously avoids contact with COVID-19. It is unfortunate that we cannot honor him in a more public and deserving way, but as the year comes to an end, I congratulate him on his many years of public service, and I pray God will bless him and keep him well.

Sen. John Schickel (R-Union) represents the 11th District in Boone County. He serves as chairman of the Senate Licensing, Occupations, and Administrative Regulations Committee. Senator Schickel also serves as a member of the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee; Judiciary Committee; Natural Resources and Energy Committee; the Interim Jail and Corrections Reform Task Force, and the Budget Review Subcommittee on Justice and Judiciary.

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