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Up In Your Business is a Radio Show by FlagandBanner.com
Janet Huckabee is a political figure and former First Lady of Arkansas. Perhaps best known for spearheading the renovation of the Arkansas governor’s mansion, Janet has done it all; from campaign tours to jumping out of airplanes. Listen to hear a humorous, straight-forward reflection on her life and supporting role of wife to former Arkansas governor, mike Huckabee, Janet dubbed the “first Tom boy” of Arkansas, is a cancer survivor at the age of 20, jet sking the length of the Arkansas River, and how she took the news when her daughter, Sarah Huckabee-Sanders, told her she would be running for the position of Arkansas’s 47th Governor.
Janet Huckabee - Encyclopedia of Arkansas
Janet Huckabee - Wikipedia
Arkansas’ Janet Huckabee recounts triumph over cancer - Baptist Press
|Transcript Begins:EPISODE 225
[00:00:08] GM: Welcome to Up in Your Business with Kerry McCoy, a production of flagandbanner.com. Through storytelling and conversational interviews, this weekly biography show and podcast offers listeners an insider's view into the commonalities of successful people and the ups and downs of risk taking. Connect with Kerry through her candid, funny, informative and always encouraging weekly blog. And now it's time for Kerry McCoy to get all up in your business.
[00:00:34] KM: If you live in Arkansas, then you have heard the name of my guest today, Arkansas 39th First Lady, Miss Janet Huckabee. If you don't live in Arkansas, then you will know my guest today by the family she keeps her. Husband; 44th governor of Arkansas, Mike Huckabee. And daughter, Sarah Huckabee-Sanders, the 31st White House Press Secretary and current candidate for Governor of Arkansas.
I know most interviewers want to talk to Janet about her famous family. But I want to talk to the woman of the family. Because as we have all heard said, behind every good man is a good woman. And I'm sure the same can be said of sons and daughters. Janet, born a Louisianian, grew up in Hope, Arkansas. I'm not sure what's in the water down there that so many politicians come from Hope. I mean, Clinton is from Hope also. We’ve got two guys run for president from Hope, Arkansas. That’s strange.
Anyway, young Janet McCain, thinking she was going to be a preacher's wife, wed her high school sweetheart, Mike Huckabee. As things would have it, she is and has been a preacher's wife, a mother of three cancer survivor, the First Lady of Arkansas, teacher, politician, advocate for Habitat for Humanity, and the American Red Cross, and my favorite, she's been dubbed the first tomboy of Arkansas for her athleticism.
It is with great pleasure and admiration that I welcome to the table a woman who can pivot on a dime, the versatile, selfless, unafraid, Arkansas 30th First Lady, Miss Janet McCain-Huckabee. Girl, you just go with the flow. Your husband, your daughter come in, say, “We're doing this.” You go, “Okay, I'm with you.”
[00:02:25] JH: That's pretty much how it goes. I'm with you.
[00:02:28] KM: That's exactly the way I've read about you. You left Louisiana as an infant.
[00:02:32] JH: Yes, I was one.
[00:02:34] KM: And grew up in Hope, Arkansas, that we just talked about.
[00:02:37] JH: Sure.
[00:02:37] KM: Because you and I are the same age, I was very surprised to see that when you played basketball in women's sport. My school didn't even have women's sport. And here in little Hope, Arkansas has got women's sport, and you were a star basketball player.
[00:02:54] JH: I was pretty tall. So, for me, that made sense to play basketball.
[00:02:59] KM: Let's also talk about your mother a little bit.
[00:03:01] JH: Okay.
[00:03:03] KM: Like I said, We're the same age. Your mother's a divorcee? Nobody was a divorcee back then.
[00:03:09] JH: That's right.
[00:03:09] KM: I knew one person. I mean, everybody isn't –
[00:03:12] JH: I’m not sure I knew anybody. But, yes.
[00:03:14] KM: Yeah. Right. And she ran for office in the 60s, and was elected to three terms.
[00:03:21] JH: She was. Exactly. A County Clerk for Hempstead County.
[00:03:25] KM: So progressive.
[00:03:28] JH: Well, she had five kids to race.
[00:03:30] KM: Oh, wow.
[00:03:31] GM: There you go.
[00:03:32] JH: She needed something. But yes, she did.
[00:03:34] KM: You think that – So, that makes three generations that makes your mother, strong. A great role model. That makes you strong. A great role model. And your daughter, Sarah, strong. Then your mother marries. I think it's Mr. House? And so, your family gets really, really large. Because she had five kids. And how many do you have?
[00:03:56] JH: He brought one in.
[00:03:58] KM: He brought one in.
[00:03:58] JH: Well, I’m just saying. That’s how it happened.
[00:04:02] KM: Six kids in the house. Kind of describe your high school years?
[00:04:07] JH: Well, they were kind of chaotic. But my older brother left to go to Louisiana to live with his father. And later, my other brother went. But he came back. But he went for a little while and graduated from high school. So that was five girls. And then my older sister was in college and kind of get on. It wasn’t as bad. But it was all girls. It was drama. There's a lot of drama.
[00:04:38] KM: You just have to admit it.
[00:04:41] JH: Just a little. I mean, we all got along great. We still do to this day. My little sister passed away when she was 16. But the rest of us communicate all the time.
[00:04:51] KM: Talk about your father. He worked in the oil fields. Your birth father.
[00:04:54] JH: Yes. And that's about – He left when I was very young. I kept contacting – Both my parents have passed away.
[00:05:03] KM: Rest in peace.
[00:05:06] JH: He remarried. And I saw him often home. But not much. Saw him more as an adult than I did as a child.
[00:05:14] KM: When you met Mike Huckabee, was it love at first sight?
[00:05:17] JH: Well, Mike and I have been going to school together since seventh grade. So, we're classmates. And he went to a different elementary school. But in seventh grade, everybody's in the same school. We've been classmates forever. And so, we still go to school and learn something new every day.
Yeah. I watched him date other people. He's a classmate. And he watched me. And he used to do the radio.
[00:05:50] KM: At the basketball games?
[00:05:51] JH: At my basketball games. And I never thought anything about it. Until one day, I think that I was having more fun than he was. And so, he asked me out in our senior year.
[00:06:05] KM: How funny! Was an announcer at your basketball games. Not everybody can tell that story.
[00:06:10] GM: He is a radio man now.
[00:06:12] KM: Yeah. Is he a radio man now? Or TV man – Or was a radio man?
[00:06:15] JH: Well, he does both. He still does radio. He has a podcast. So, I guess that's radio.
[00:06:21] KM: You've been married. And after two years, boom, you find out you have spinal cancer.
[00:06:25] JH: True.
[00:06:25] KM: Talk about being a cancer survivor. Talk about the fear, the recovery, and how it changed you.
[00:06:33] JH: Well, I practically had to learn to walk again, because I did eventually had surgery. And here in Little Rock, I had surgery. I had a fabulous neurosurgeon. And I had a very rare tumor. It's called an ependymoma. Not too many people have that. And I think he'd only seen a few in his years of practicing. That particular week, he had two, which was amazing.
He felt like he got it all. But it's the kind that can grow back. So, I had to have six weeks of radiation therapy every day, not missing a day. And Mike was in school. We were driving back and forth from Arkadelphia every single day. I have some nerve damage. But I deal with it. I'm just glad to be standing up.
[00:07:28] KM: And nothing's ever come again. It's just a freak one-time thing.
[00:07:31] JH: It was.
[00:07:33] KM: To me, some kind of strife. Like, that really solidifies your relationship with your husband or your friends.
[00:07:38] JH: Yes, because he could have walked out. Very simply said, “I didn’t sign up for this.”
[00:07:44] KM: He also could have said, “I might lose you. Oh my gosh. I better love every minute of it.”
[00:07:48] JH: Exactly. I went in to have this surgery. My orthopedic can say that it was a classic case.
[00:07:57] KM: He didn't even know what it was?
[00:07:58] JH: No. He did a myelogram and said, “There's something in the canal. I can work all the way around the canal. But I cannot operate in the canal. You have to call in a neurosurgeon. And so, it happened that fast. I mean, I didn't leave the hospital. I went in for this surgery. Found out it's tumor. Even the doctor didn't know at the time what it was for sure. He called it a mass. So you just – I'm 20. I mean, you don't think there's anything that's going to happen to you.
[00:08:31] GM: I was going to say, you were very young, right.
[00:08:32] JH: Because you just think you're invincible. And you're going to – I never thought about death. It never crossed my mind. It just didn't wander, because I was athletic. I was young. You just don't think about stuff like that. Most 20-year-olds do not think the stupid things they do or illnesses they may have. They don't think about death. They just say, “Hey, we got to get finished with this so I can move on.”
[00:08:58] KM: I bet you had some blessings. I mean, it's kind of maybe remarkable. You had three kids after that.
[00:09:02] JH: I did, because I was told I wouldn't have any.
[00:09:05] KM: That's what I would think.
[00:09:06] JH: And if I did have them, there was a great possibility there would be deformities or something –
[00:09:12] KM: Problems for you probably too.
[00:09:15] JH: So. Yeah, I had three kids. I had no trouble with any of my pregnancies. They were fast. Natural nomads. I mean, just – Yeah.
[00:09:27] KM: Ooh! Crazy. John, Mark, David and Sarah.
[00:09:29] JH: That's right.
[00:09:30] KM: All right. This is a great place to take a break. When we come back, we'll continue our conversation with the 39th First Lady of Arkansas, Miss Janet Huckabee. Still to come; living in the governor's mansion and facilitating the largest renovation and addition ever. Learning your husband wants to run for the highest office in the land, not once, but twice. And life as the mother of Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the 31st White House Press Secretary and current candidate for Governor of Arkansas. I don't know if I could take the pressure. We'll be right back.
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[00:10:51] KM: You're listening to Up in Your Business with me, Kerry McCoy. And I'm speaking today with Arkansas First Lady from 1996 to 2007, Miss Janet Huckabee. And now, we're going to talk about your husband running for Governor of Arkansas. And you're like, “What?” So, where were you living? And how old were you when Mike said – because I know he was a preacher and he was living – You've lived in Texas. You’ve lived in – I don't know. You've lived everywhere. But he comes in one night, I guess, and says, “Honey, I want to run for governor.” Did you want to slap him? Did you agree with him?
[00:11:25] JH: No, no, no. The interesting thing about that first race was, in high school, Mike was the Student Council President. In college, he was President of Student Senate. These things were not out of the norm for him at all. He was always into government stuff. He thought about running before we moved to Pine Bluff. He thought about running for Congress. Beryl Anthony seat at the time. And we talked about it. But we decided that wasn’t what he was going to do.
Anyway. So, long story short. We went walking in the neighborhood in Texarkana one night. And he said, “I think that God's wanting me to run for US Senate.” I said, “Okay. I think you're right. I think you should do that.” So, he did. And he was running against Dale Bumpers. Any other year, he had to beat Dale Bumpers. But it happened to be the same year that Bill Clinton was running. So, Bill Clinton, being the hometown boy of Arkansas, it just really turned out the vote. And Mike lost.
And right after that, because Clinton went to the White House, Jim Guy Tucker moved to Governor. The Republican party came and says, “We need you to run for lieutenant governor.” I mean, he was just running for senate. And he was also in the hospital with pneumonia because he was running so hard. And you put off your health. And it's not healthy to run really for anything.
So, he said, “I just don't think I can do that. I just ran a race.” They said, “I know.” And I believe it was Asa Hutchinson that was at the time the party chair. And he said, “But you have everything in place, because you did just run.” And he said, “I really think you can do it.” So, Mike ran for lieutenant governor.
Webb Hubbell, at the time was running. Nate Coulter, I think was his name. His race against Mike out of the placement of the White House. It was very difficult for Mike to run. And it was a hard race. But he did, and he won. It was kind of a total upset. It was almost a bigger win that he won the lieutenant governor's race than it was when he ran for governor and won that. It was just huge. And then he became governor. And then he was running for senate.
[00:14:08] KM: And did he become governor because Jim Guy had to resign?
[00:14:11] JH: Yes.
[00:14:12] KM: And so, he got moved up as lieutenant governor into the governorship. When he won the governorship, it was not such a surprise, because he had been acting governor.
[00:14:19] JH: Exactly. And he ran two more times. He ran two times. Because you can run two consecutive years. But because he inherited two and a half years of Jim Guy Tucker's term, he was in office for 10 and a half years, which is very unusual. Hard to do. But –
[00:14:33] GM: Yeah. I was trying to piece that together when you said his term earlier in the interview.
[00:14:38] JH: And here's a very interesting fact, President Clinton was born in Hope, Arkansas, and so was Mike. And they are the only two that we know of where a president and sitting governor were from the same hometown.
[00:14:51] KM: Did Bill and Mike know each other there?
[00:14:53] JH: No. Because there's about a nine years age difference. And he only lived in Hope for six years. He was born there left first –
[00:15:03] KM: Clinton lived in Hot Springs I think. And then as governor and president, did they work on the same things together?
[00:15:09] JH: They work on the same things, but they did have a good working relations. Because Arkansas is doing stuff, and president does a lot more so. But you know, we had disasters, and he would come down. They work closely together on those.
[00:15:26] KM: Now Mike's the governor, and you're living in the mansion. Is it like living in a fishbowl is I hear people say?
[00:15:31] JH: Yes. Mike always said it's like living in a resort that you can't go home from. I always said it's like living above the store, and the store is not yours. It's just kind of like –
[00:15:48] KM: I am surprised at how small the living quarters were upstairs.
[00:15:52] JH: It's extremely small. In fact, there's only three rooms upstairs. There's a little room off of the master. But technically, there's three bedrooms upstairs. Each bedroom has a bathroom. So, that's a good thing. But that's it. When you want to do anything else, you have to go downstairs in the basement, which is not conducive to –
[00:16:15] KM: I remember Chelsea had her playroom in the basement.
[00:16:17] JH: Yeah. I mean, you have to choose.
[00:16:20] KM: How many kids did you have in that –
[00:16:22] JH: I had three. But my oldest was in college. So, it helped out.
[00:16:26] KM: So, that you decided to expand the mansion.
[00:16:29] JH: I did. And there are several reasons for that. When you had an event, you had to put up a tent, a huge white tent, which was an ordeal in itself in the backyard. If it's hot, it's hot. If it's cold, it's usually cold, even if you have heaters. And so, I decided there was more than we could do. And so, I raised the money to add on what we call the Grand Hall.
[00:16:58] KM: We now call it the Janet M. Huckabee Grand Hall. They named it after you. I guess you –
[00:17:03] JH: Well, they did. But – Okay, yeah. Okay. Some do. Some don’t. Let's just put it that way. But first, we expanded the kitchen, there was just this little porch on the back, and I said, “Let's just move this wall and move everything back and –” Well, it's in the historic district. So that proposes a lot of problems that you have to kind of negotiate and work through. An idea that talks with everybody. And we worked through it. And kept everything intact.
The Grand Hall, technically, can stand on its own. The way to make it work was we added the Atrium from the hall to the house itself. And technically, it's got four bolts on either end. I mean, you could take it off if everybody wanted to go back. And actually, you just take off the glass part, close the door and just call it a building outside.
[00:17:52] KM: Really?
[00:17:52] JH: Yeah, you could.
[00:17:54] KM: I'm going to look the next time I'm in there now that you mentioned that.
[00:17:56] JH: Because all the steps were kept intact that went off the back, where Clinton did his announcement. All that was left, all the natural brick. Everything's left. We just put glass around it and attached it to the hall. And another thing that I wanted to fix was it was not handicap accessible anywhere in the house.
[00:18:17] GM: That's a problem in a lot of those buildings and historical houses.
[00:18:21] JH: Right. And so, we had to literally put a guy in the car from the front. There was a ramp. In the car from the front. Drive him around the back. Get him out to go to the bathroom. Put him back in the car. And I said, “This is just ridiculous.” I said, “Someday there might be a handicapped child, there might be a handicap governor, or first lady, or –” I said, “We got to change this. It’s just ridiculous.”
[00:18:47] KM: Well, you didn't get much flack for it. I'm telling you. I think people were ready –
[00:18:49] JH: Well, not for that. I did three things really. I did the kitchen first. And then we did the – Well, one day, I kept seeing this white stuff on the floor. And I thought, “Guys, we're not cleaning up the steps. We got to keep this looking nice.” Next day, it’d be there again. It's like someone was putting – Gretel was dropping crumbs to go upstairs.
[00:19:12] KM: Confetti on the steps.
[00:19:15] JH: And finally, I looked up and realized it was coming from the ceiling where the chandelier was hanging.
[00:19:21] KM: Is that in the foyer?
[00:19:22] JH: Yes. And also, the hairdryers, you couldn't use, but one at a time because they blow fuses. There's a leak in the ceiling in the living room and that we just paint over it. I said, “Why don't we just fix it instead of painting up –” So, we did a major rehaul on the mansion itself. We put a new roof on there, which was original to the house. It was this Georgian style tile. And so, we put that on there, and we fixed the ceiling, and repainted everything. And they took the chandelier down.
And when the guy took it down, he was just, “Wait.” And I said, “What's the matter?” And he said, “It was hanging up there by the wire due to fall at any moment.” And the reason I got – I took the people from the mansion association and said, “Look at this.” I said, “This is falling. The ceiling is falling down.” And I said, “I don't want to lose this chandelier on my watch.” And when the guy told me that, I thought, “We almost lost that chandelier.” I mean, it was really close to falling.
[00:20:30] KM: So, you put that one back up?
[00:20:33] JH: Yes, we reinforced everything and put it back up. And, yeah –
[00:20:36] KM: I love this. You put all the governor's names on the stairs coming down. That is fabulous. And what are we going to do when we run out of stairs?
[00:20:45] JH: Well, it’s going to last you a long time. They'll probably want to do something else. Or you can start it upstairs in the house, because that's just the stairs to the Grand Hall.
[00:20:54] KM: Oh! I’ve been trying to figure out where there was another stair.
[00:20:57] JH: Yeah. There's a lot of stairs that they can do it on. Yeah.
[00:21:00] KM: I like it. So, for our listeners, if you go to the Grand Hall and you walk down these grand stairs on the – I guess, is that the face, the riser of each stair is the name of the governor in order?
[00:21:14] JH: That lived in the house. Let me start there. Because it doesn't have every governor in there. We just have the governors that lived in the house. Correct.
[00:21:23] KM: I love this about you. This is my favorite thing I read about you. You were dubbed the First Tomboy of Arkansas. You ski, swim, basketball, fly airplanes, bungee jump, parachute, grenade launch. And when you grenade launched at the National Guard, you said, “I hit.”
[00:21:41] JH: Two out of three times.
[00:21:43] GM: Yes!
[00:21:45] JH: First time, I wasn’t sure what we were doing. Two times, I knew exactly what we're doing.
[00:21:49] KM: She’s competitive.
[00:21:50] JH: Now. Here's the deal. If
[inaudible 00:21:55] called me or the Little Rock Air Force called me and said, “Hey, I want to see the First Lady to come out and do X.” It was always a yes. Because I just totally support our military in any way I can. It didn't matter what it was. And there were some things I got myself into that I didn't realize I was getting myself into until I got out there.
Like, one time, they were training dogs, and they wanted it to attack me. And I'm thinking, “Not sure about this.” But they’d put all the stuff on your arms. But that's what they do. And I learned from doing what they do. And so, I have had some incredible military experiences and never served a day in the military.
[00:22:38] KM: Airplanes. You parachuted.
[00:22:40] JH: I did. I jumped with Golden Knights, which was absolutely the top of the line.
[00:22:42] KM: I would never do that, in a million years, I would never do that in a million years.
[00:22:46] JH: I’ve watched them refuel aircraft in air from a tanker.
[00:22:53] KM: That's pretty fascinating. How do they do that?
[00:22:56] JH: It was a stealth fighter, too. So, it just kind of snuck up there out of the clouds. I just went, “Whoa!”
[00:23:01] KM: That's amazing to me.
[00:23:02] JH: And you're sitting there looking through this window and they fill it up and they disappear just as fast as they came. It was amazing.
[00:23:09] KM: This is one I love you did. You jet skiid – It says the length of the Arkansas River. I think that may be a typo too.
[00:23:17] JH: No, it's not.
[00:23:19] KM: You did?
[00:23:18] GM: What?
[00:23:19] JH: No. It's not a typo. We started up in Fort Smith and went to Oklahoma, and turned around and came down. Now, the way that got started, just to be clear, I had a jet ski and knew how to run. But Mike wanted to do it in his bass boat so he could fish along the way. And I'm thinking, “I can't think of anything more boring than sit in that bass boat all the way down the river,” I said. So, we were in the Parks and Tourism meeting and the gaming fish. And Richard Weiss was it I think? They said, “What do you to do?” I said, “I want to use a jet ski.” And then they just kind of came back said, “No, really. Really, what do you want to do?” I said, “I want to ride down the river on the jet ski. That's really what I want to do. And that's what I'm going to do.”
So, we got jet skis. And we did the whole river. Just like Mike in the boat, we went up. And it was a great experience because the gaming fish had some boats. One of them, we caught the baloney barge, because we go there and get a sandwich. It just floated up down the river and you just pull up. I mean, they pass out a sandwich.
And then the other one had a little bathroom on it if you need to. But you could stop along the way. It was not a big deal. It was a fascinating experience.
[00:24:41] KM: How many? How many people did it with you?
[00:24:45] JH: On the jet ski? Two. Me and a trooper. That was it.
[00:24:48] KM: That’s it. You and a trooper.
[00:24:50] JH: Yeah. Now I will say that there was a gaming fish boat that would follow both boats, follow Mike, follow me. There were two gaming fish boats.
[00:24:58] KM: Did he do the bass fishing too?
[00:25:01] JH: Yeah, he'd stopped along the way. And the whole thing was to promote the one-eight cent sales tax, which was – Still to this day, it's an eighth of a penny, I mean, when you think about it. It’s an eighth of a penny that the state voted on. It was a state initiative, and they voted on it. They use it for keep Arkansas beautiful. The Game and Fish, Parks and Tourism, and Department of Heritage. So, they get that money in it, right? I think quite a bit of money.
[00:25:35] KM: Well, you got inducted to the Arkansas Outdoor Hall of Fame for that reason right there. That's probably my favorite story.
[00:25:43] JH: Yeah. That was very kind of him to do, because they certainly didn't have to.
[00:25:46] KM: So, he runs again for office the second term. And you decide to run for Secretary of State against Charlie Daniels. Why did you do that?
[00:25:52] JH: The party came and asked me to.
[00:25:54] KM: Charlie Daniels, he’d have been a tough one to beat.
[00:25:57] JH: What people don't understand, I think this is where we really – It’s one of the reasons we have term limits, is because you just don't go in there forever, nationally or state.
[00:26:08] KM: Do you think senators also have term limits?
[00:26:10] JH: I do. I think if the president has term limits, I think congress also have term limits.
[00:26:15] KM: I think so too.
[00:26:16] JH: I just do. Because they’re –
[00:26:17] KM: Will it ever happen?
[00:26:19] JH: No. Because they're the ones that have to vote on it.
[00:26:21] KM: I know, right? I wouldn't vote myself out.
[00:26:25] JH: But they don't live under the rules they impose on us. So that's just not right either.
[00:26:33] KM: Will you run for senate?
[00:26:34] JH: No. Probably not.
[00:26:34] KM: If party asked?
[00:26:38] JH: I’m too old.
[00:26:38] KM: No, you're not. You're my age. You’re not too old.
[00:26:41] JH: I know, but I don't know that it would work well.
[00:26:44] KM: Is Asa Hutchinson going to run for president? He's older than us. He's 71.
[00:26:49] JH: Yeah, they are. Yeah. But I don't think it'd be good for my family life if I was up in senate. Everybody else is down here.
[00:26:57] KM: I agree. You are the backbone of your family. All right, this a great place to take a break. Still to come, campaigning for her husband's 2008 and 2016 presidential run for office. And when I say her, I mean Janet Huckabee. And life as the mother of Sarah Huckabee-Sanders, the 31st, White House Press Secretary and current candidate for the Governor of Arkansas. We'll be right back.
[00:27:21] GM: You're listening to Up in Your Business with Kerry McCoy, a production of flagandbanner.com. Over 40 years ago, with only $400, Kerry founded Arkansas Flag and Banner. During the last four decades, the business has grown and changed along with Kerry's experience and leadership knowledge.
In 1995, she embraced the Internet and rebranded her company as simply flagandbanner.com. In 2004, she became an early blogger. Since then, she has founded the nonprofit Friends of Dreamland ballroom. Began publishing her magazine, Brave. And in 2016, branched out into this very radio show, YouTube channel and podcast.
In 2020, Kerry McCoy Enterprises acquired ourcornermarket.com, an online company specializing in American-made plaques, signage and memorials for over 20 years. And more recently, opened a satellite office in Miami, Florida.
Telling American-made stories, selling American-made flags, the flagandbanner.com. Back to you, Kerry.
[00:28:23] KM: You're listening to Up in Your Business with me, Kerry McCoy. I'm speaking today with Arkansas First Lady from 1996 to 2007, Miss Janet Huckabee. You're out of office for I think two years. And Mike comes in says he wants to run for president. So here, I'm going to ask the question. And did you think, “Oh no, here we go again.” Do you want to kill him? Do you want strangling him?
[00:28:40] JH: No. I always thought he would.
[00:28:42] KM: No!
[00:28:43] GM: Sure. All the running he’s been doing previously.
[00:28:46] JH: I can tell you that I sat in a car with a friend of mine named Susan Underwood. She can verify this. When I was telling her he was going to run for Senate, and I said, “And I don't think you'll stop there.” If you go back and look at Mike Huckabee’s annual, when people used to sign annuals and tell you, “Hey, it's been a great year.” There are several entries of people saying, “I know you're going to be governor someday. I know you're going to be president someday.” And it's just funny.
[00:29:18] KM: Did you move to Washington?
[00:29:19] JH: No. Oh, God. No. No. There's only two ways to live in Washington. One is the president or one is the vice president. I could not function in that city. No.
[00:29:31] KM: Well, I think that's probably why everybody lives in Virginia and Maryland, all the way down there. Yeah. Talk about campaigning for the highest office in the land. Were you prepared for it? You campaigned all the time. Let me just tell our listeners. You campaigned for your mother in high school. So, you've been campaigning all your life. And now, you're going to do it for that.
[00:29:52] JH: Here's what I would say about it in a nutshell. I wish everybody in the United States had the opportunity to run for president one time. It is just an incredible experience, that win or lose, it's an incredible experience, and that I wish everybody could do it. It's that exhilarating, I guess.
[00:30:13] KM: So, it's not hard?
[00:30:13] JH: Oh, no, it's extremely hard. No. Hard is not even putting it right. It's so difficult, because you literally wake up in different places every day. You don't know where you are sometimes. You hear politician say, “It's so good to be in Ohio,” and you're not in Ohio. You're in Wisconsin. But I can see where they can make a little mistake like that. Because, I mean, we would stay in Marriott the whole time, just because the decor was the same and you think you're in your bedroom, but you're not. You're just in the same hotel. They use the same covers. The microwave might be in the same place. Everything's the same. Didn't matter what state you're in. So, it's very hard.
[00:30:59] KM: Oprah Winfrey said she traveled so much that when she get – In her early career, that when she gets her hotels, she opened up the door and read the phone book to find out what city she was.
[00:31:09] JH: Exactly. Literally, sometimes you’d think, “Oh, man.” Or what town? Because if you're doing all the counties in Iowa or something like that, you’re just saying, “Where am I?” It's very, very difficult.
[00:31:24] KM: Do you think campaigning was good or bad for your marriage?
[00:31:26] JH: I think it’s good. I think we had a good time. Mike and I had fun. I mean, there was one time – And the press that follow you, they're always looking for stuff. I said, “Well, hey, just watch this.” And so, I bent over and a picked up a big old snowball and just hurled it at Mike. And then just – Beside themselves, because Mike turned around and said, “What?” We just all had to step off. I did that knowing it was the last event of the day. And that if we started throwing snow, it didn't matter. But I was just giving them something to write about just because I knew I could.
[00:32:03] KM: If you had become the America's First Lady, had you thought about what your work and your legacy would have been?
[00:32:10] JH: Disaster relief is really important to me. I think people need to be prepared. And they're not. And there's a lot of things that people could do to make their lives a whole lot easier if something happened that they just don't do. And I, right now, volunteer with Samaritan's Purse.
[00:32:27] KM: With what?
[00:32:28] JH: Samaritan’s Purse.
[00:32:29] KM: What’s that?
[00:32:30] JH: Samaritan's Purse is an organization that Franklin Graham, which is Billy Graham's son, and. And they just do disasters all over the world.
[00:32:40] KM: I bet they're busy.
[00:32:41] JH: They are extremely busy. And it's all volunteers mostly. All their money comes from just donations. I mean, they're flying DC-9s to the Ukraine loaded with medical supplies. If you remember, they set up a medical unit, hospital, in Central Park during COVID –
[00:33:06] KM: Oh, yeah. Yeah.
[00:33:07] JH: They do that. They did one in Mississippi to help them with COVID. They’re right now in Kentucky with the floods. Virginia had floods. I think they're just closed that one out. It's nasty work.
[00:33:20] KM: I bet.
[00:33:20] JH: It’s very nasty, especially floods.
[00:33:21] KM: I’m actually much of a prima-donna for that.
[00:33:23] JH: They do fires. They've been out in California. Sifting, literally sifting through ashes trying to find specific items people lost or really want that are sentimental. They do a lot of stuff.
[00:33:39] KM: Now Mike's on TV. He's got a podcast. He's run for office twice. Does he live here? Or he lives in Washington?
[00:33:44] JH: No. His show actually is filmed in Nashville. And he leaves on Thursdays and is home Saturday.
[00:33:52] KM: So that's how you do that.
[00:33:53] JH: Yeah, that's how you do it.
[00:33:55] KM: Your daughter, Sarah Huckabee-Sanders, accepts the job as the Press Secretary for President Donald Trump. This is a huge job for any president, much less for Donald Trump. When did you hear Sarah was going to go work for Trump? And how did you feel? And were you part of the decision making for that?
[00:34:11] JH: No. I mean, she's an adult. She makes her own decisions. But Sean Spicer was the Press Secretary originally. Sarah did a lot of the speaking and interviews prior to the election on behalf of Trump. She was already out there.
[00:34:31] KM: She’s working on his campaign and stuff.
[00:34:33] JH: She was working on campaigns. After the campaign is over, and he's now the president, it's kind of like where do we put Sarah? She was Sean Spicer deputy to the Press Secretary, Deputy Press Secretary. So –
[00:34:53] KM: Was it scary to watch her?
[00:34:55] JH: It was – At first, it was. And she tough. She gets all her toughness from her mother. There's just no doubt about it. I don't even try to pretend it comes from anybody else, because I know it comes from me. But she's smart like her father. I knew she could do it. But yes, it was – And I happen to be on a cruise. And we were at dinner, and she said something that she was going to give her first on air. And so, we had to say, “We got to go. We got to go watch TV.” So, we did, because they somehow had Fox on that boat. But anyway, it was just – It's exciting and nerve-wracking. But I thought she did a great job.
[00:35:45] KM: She did a great job. When you talk about her, you look so far away. I think you're so proud of her.
[00:35:51] JH: Oh, I'm totally proud of her. But I'm proud of all my kids.
[00:35:53] KM: Well, yeah.
[00:35:55] JH: She's probably the most out there. But I'm very proud of my sons. Sarah is the baby too. I got two sons, then Sarah. Sarah is the baby.
[00:36:06] KM: You also look not just proud, but you look deep, deep in thought. I think you – What is your fears for Sarah?
[00:36:15] JH: For Sarah? I've been there and done that. So, I know what she's fixing to have to go through if she were to be elected, which I hope and pray she is. I also know it's going to be difficult for her because she's going to be the first female if she wins. It'll be different, but I think she'll be able to handle it.
[00:36:33] KM: All right. This is our last break, because our First Lady, Miss Huckabee, has got to run. She's a busy woman. So, I'm going to take a quick break.
[00:36:40] JH: I'm not all that busy. But I got to go babysit my youngest grandson.
[00:36:47] GM: Best answer.
[00:36:49] JH: So, it’s not that I’m that busy-busy. It’s just that that's –
[00:36:52] KM: On a schedule.
[00:36:52] JH: That is on my schedule.
[00:36:53] KM: I am having a new baby in one week. His brother.
[00:36:57] GM: Yes. Very excited. My brother's – Her grandchild. Her newest grandchild is arriving in one week.
[00:37:03] KM: And my other grandbaby is 13. So, I'm thrilled –
[00:37:07] JH: Mine, I have seven.
[00:37:08] KM: Good for you.
[00:37:09] JH: And the oldest is only 11. And this one's one and a half. So, I've got seven packed in there pretty tight. I got a couple of –
[00:37:16] KM: Do they all live here?
[00:37:17] JH: Yes.
[00:37:18] KM: Oh, I love it.
[00:37:20] JH: And so –
[00:37:21] KM: Did you grandparenting was going to be so much fun?
[00:37:24] JH: Oh, yeah. Because we have the same enemies as the grandkids.
[00:37:27] KM: Who? The parents?
[00:37:27] JH: The parents. The parents. Yeah, absolutely. We'll –
[00:37:35] KM: You’re so competitive. I could never run for office. You got to be competitive. And I'm not.
[00:37:41] JH: Well, you have to be, because you’re running a race. It’s a race. But I was competitive as a child. I played basketball. You always strive to win. Nobody wants to be a loser. I mean, let's be real. You always want to win. You're always going to compete. If you're in something that you have to compete, you always want to win.
[00:38:00] KM: All right. When we continue our conversation with the 39th First Lady of Arkansas, Miss Janet Huckabee, we're going to talk about Sarah Huckabee-Sanders return to Arkansas and running for the governor position on the Republican ticket. And how Janet feels about visiting the mansion again, only this time with her daughter at the helm. We’ll be right back.
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[00:39:09] KM: You're listening to Up in Your Business with me, Kerry McCoy. I'm speaking today with Arkansas’ First Lady from 1996 to 2007, Miss Janet Huckabee. And if you're just tuning into the show, Miss Huckabee, Janet, is funny. And you need to go back and listen. I'm not going to tell you all the stuff. But she's got stories. What do you think about the Republican Party these days? It's nothing like it was when you started.
[00:39:36] JH: You're talking about in the state?
[00:39:37] KM: All over.
[00:39:38] JH: Well, no, it's totally different.
[00:39:40] KM: I know.
[00:39:41] JH: I mean, when Mike was first elected in the Senate, he had six Republicans out to 35. In the house, he had 11. He was like an outsider. Total outsider.
[00:39:57] KM: Yeah, the Democrats were running or running this state forever. The pendulum always swings back and forth.
[00:40:03] JH: it does, but it had swung this way in a long time. So, it's good for me.
[00:40:10] KM: And campaigning is so different now than it was in the 60s and 70s.
[00:40:14] JH: Well, you do have to contend with instant news on social media, in cameras. And I've seen some campaigns just totally fall apart because someone had a little cellphone that they were filming in. So, you have to be careful. But it is different.
[00:40:35] KM: Yeah, it's all about sensationalism these days. Sometimes I think people just say things to almost get made into the news. And there's a commercial on that I love. And you probably like it, too. It's the Viking River Cruise ads where the cofounder says, “Growing up in a little red house on the edge of a large forest in Norway, there were three things we were encouraged to be; to be kind, to be honest, and to be hard working.” I don't feel like those are really virtues anymore. I watch that ad every time it comes on.
[00:41:10] JH: I like it. I've done some Viking Cruises, and they're great. But –
[00:41:14] KM: I mean, I don't even think people want to work hard anymore.
[00:41:17] JH: No, they're not. The generations are not. The last couple had not been taught to work hard. And I agree with those same three. I think I heard them as – My mother made us work hard. I mean, we all had chores to do. And she expected us to do them. And there were things that – Like, Girl Scout camp. I wanted to go to Girl Scout camp. Well, that was not cheap. And for a mother raising kids, five kids, it was going to be next to impossible. She says, “If you want it,” she said, “go work for it.” And that's it, “But mom.” She said, “You'll appreciate it a whole lot more if you do.”
So, I do weird things. Like, back then, you could turn in coke bottles for three cents, and crack bottles for five cents. And you can babysit and do things. And I never got the full amount. And she always came up with it somehow. And I went to Girl Scout camp, which everything I know I learned in Girl Scouts.
[00:42:19] KM: Really?
[00:42:19] JH: Oh, yeah. Yeah, I just was taught so much in Girl Scouts. I love Girl Scouts. And I did it forever. I did it all the way up into high school.
[00:42:29] KM: What do boy scouts become? They become –
[00:42:32] JH: Eagle Scouts.
[00:42:34] KM: Do girls become Eagle Scouts?
[00:42:35] JH: I don't think so. They just can senior scouts or something. I don't know. But anyway, I had a great time in Scouts. I learned how to cook in a tin can, and all these things.
[00:42:45] KM: I don't know how you – There's so much that I think we want the government, the police, the teachers to do that, I think is parenting stuff, that I think is parenting thing. So, maybe parents today need to be taught how to parent.
[00:43:01] JH: But again, let's go back to a lot of parents. A lot of homes only have one parent. And it's hard to go out and throw a baseball to a little boy when he didn't have a father and his mother's at work. So, it's hard for single home, single parent homes, to do a lot of the things that we think parents ought to teach our children. It goes back. Really, it's not the government's fault, per se. It's just that. And the government shouldn't be telling us how to do all things with our children, because they're not the parent.
[00:43:48] KM: Right. This time, instead of your husband talking grandiose ideas, which you expected when you married him, I would come to realize. It is your daughter who comes in, your youngest child and tells you she wants to run for Governor of Arkansas. What do you think again? Oh, no. Here we go.
[00:44:03] JH: No. She called me. I was driving back from Florida. I was just, I believe, in Mississippi. And she called and said, “Mom, what are you doing?” I said, “Driving back from Florida. Nothing. Just sitting here listening to music.” I said, “What's up?” Well, she says, “I've decided I'm going to run for governor.” And I said, “Really?” She was, “Yeah.” I said, “Why?” And she told me. She gave me her whole reason why she thought she would be a great governor. I said, “Okay.” I say, “Well, can you give now? Or when –” She says, “No.” I was going to give her money. No. First she said, “Mom.” She said, “I just want to know if you’d support me.” I say, “I’ll pray about it and see.”
[00:44:52] GM: Good answer.
[00:44:52] JH: And she says, “Mom.” And she said, “I want you to give me money, and I want you to max out.” And I said, “I don't know, Sarah. That's asking a whole lot. I'm just a riveter.” And she goes, “Mom.” I said, “When it's time to give, let me know. I want to be the first one. And I will max out.” And she said, “Okay.” So, that's first check. She came to mom's time. I said, “Here’s your check.” I gave whatever the – $11,000, or whatever you could give for her campaigns, and maxed out, because I think she'd be a great candidate. And I think she'd be an excellent governor. So, no. I wasn’t surprised at all.
[00:45:35] KM: I believe in women. They're great multitaskers.
[00:45:37] JH: I think so.
[00:45:39] KM: Governor Hutchinson told me he was glad – He told me this one day. He said, “I'm glad my time is up,” because he didn't want to have to run against your daughter.
[00:45:48] JH: That’s funny.
[00:45:50] KM: Is he going to run in ‘24 for president?
[00:45:52] JH: I think, personally, I don't know that. I haven't heard it from him or his wife. But I think he is – In the things that I see him do, I think he's leaning to checking it out. I don’t know if he’ll do that. But he’s checking it out.
[00:46:08] KM: He’s checking it out, for sure. You weren't part of the decision-making process. But you're going to work on her campaign, I guess?
[00:46:17] JH: Yes. My work is keeping kids mostly.
[00:46:20] KM: That’s a great job. Feeding them cookies when they shouldn't have them.
[00:46:24] JH: Oh, absolutely. I do campaign for her. I put the stickers on my car and a sign in my yard, even though nobody sees it, and all those kind of things. And I have gone to a couple places with her. But a lot of times it's, “Mom, can you keep the kids?” I think we're going to say, “Yeah, sure.”
[00:46:40] KM: You're not going to be jumping out airplanes anymore.
[00:46:43] JH: You never know. You never say never.
[00:46:49] KM: She'll be the 47th Governor of Arkansas. If she is, you’ve already said, you wouldn't run for office. But would you like some sort of position?
[00:46:58] JH: Well, I don't think she can give her mother position.
[00:47:00] KM: She can’t.
[00:47:01] JH: No. I mean, she could. But it would cost her probably politically. But no, I don't think she's going to be given me any possessions.
[00:47:09] KM: Seeing her in the mansion, which she grew up in, would be so –
[00:47:15] JH: She knows all the hiding places. So, kids don't stand a chance.
[00:47:19] KM: Would it be sweet? Or would it be bittersweet? Or would it be –
[00:47:23] JH: It’s going to be tough, because she's got three kids that have had their own room since they've been born. They're not going to have that when they get there. I'm not sure what they're going to –
[00:47:29] KM: How old are your kids?
[00:47:31] JH: 11, 9 and 8. 11, 9 and 7.
[00:47:34] KM: Perfect age to be in the mansion.
[00:47:37] JH: And nobody has had kids that young in the mansion, I don't think, since maybe prior. I don't know.
[00:47:45] KM: Chelsea was born in the mansion.
[00:47:46] JH: Chelsea. I forgot Chelsea.
[00:47:47] KM: Chelsea was born at the mansion. And they were there long time.
[00:47:51] JH: They were there. Then they left for two years. Governor White beat him in 1980. And then they came back and were there for a few years. I think he was there 12 years total.
[00:48:03] KM: Yeah, it was long too.
I did have the Arkansas and the US flag, which is your desk set, which I want you to take. But I figured you already had an Arkansas and a US flag. But maybe your grandkids need some. But I wanted to also give you a Texas and a Florida flag, because you would live there, and if you didn't have those.
[00:48:22] JH: Probably not.
[00:48:22] GM: We’re absolutely going to send you one.
[00:48:23] JH: Actually, one of the things in our new house, it's not new. It's an old house. But it's new to us. But Mike wanted a flagpole.
[00:48:31] KM: Well, sure.
[00:48:33] JH: I mean, a big flag pole. Put the flags down. We had the US flag and Arkansas flag up there. And one day Sarah's over there, she says, “You know, I have a flag.” I said, “Well, if I ever had one, I might put it up.” I had to take the Arkansas flag down to put Sarah's.
[00:48:50] KM: Oh! Well, sure.
[00:48:52] JH: But when she gets elected, I'm going to have to try to figure out how to put it all up, I think.
[00:48:58] KM: I can help you with that.
[00:48:59] GM: Absolutely.
[00:49:00] JH: Because I think she needs to be up still. Her flag is fading a little bit.
[00:49:05] KM: Is it smaller than the US flag or the same size?
[00:49:08] JH: I think they’re very close to the same size. I think –
[00:49:10] KM: So, just make sure. If you put three on a pole, just make sure the US is on top. The Arkansas is underneath.
[00:49:17] JH: Oh, yes. Absolutely.
[00:49:17] KM: She knows.
[00:49:18] JH: Yeah. In Florida, when we were in Florida, we put all three flags. We put the Arkansas flag up. And it was real funny, because nobody ever knew why we had that. They didn't know what it was.
[00:49:29] KM: That's a good looking – Arkansas is a good looking flag.
[00:49:33] JH: And it's very different. There're some flags that are very close and you think, “Is that New Mexico? Or is that –” You just kind of have to think about it. But Arkansas is a spot.
[00:49:46] GM: Yeah. A lot of the Midwestern flags have color field seal. Yeah.
[00:49:49] KM: You don't know what the seal is, especially from a distance. You’re like, “Look at that circle in the middle.” Janet, this has been an absolute joy.
[00:49:56] JH: Well, I had fun. I appreciate it.
[00:49:59] KM: No. I appreciate it. It’s been really, really fun. Thanks. I hope you'll come again someday. I don't know.
[00:50:04] JH: Sure. I have to tell you that you're – The title, Up in Your Businesses, a little intimidating because you think, “What the heck does that really mean?” Because mostly it's a negative thing when you say, “You're all up in my business.” You just need to get out.
[00:50:22] GM: My mom's going to get up in people's business.
[00:50:23] JH: Yeah. I thought, “Oh, gosh. I'll give it a shot.” So, anyway.
[00:50:29] KM: So, I should add the word nicely up in your business.
[00:50:33] JH: Nicely up in your business.
[00:50:35] GM: Politely in your business.
[00:50:37] JH: Politely in your business. I love it.
[00:50:40] KM: All right, in closing, to our listeners, thank you for spending time with us. We hope you've heard or learned something that's been inspiring or enlightening. And that it, whatever it is, will help you up your business, your independence or your life. I'm Kerry McCoy, and I'll see you next time on Up in Your Business. Until then, be brave, and keep it up.
[00:51:00] GM: You've been listening to Up in Your Business with Kerry McCoy. For links to resources you heard discussed on today's show, go to flagandbanner.com, select radio and choose today's guest. If you'd like to sponsor this show or any show, email me, Gray, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
All interviews are recorded and posted the following week. Stay informed of exciting upcoming guests by subscribing to our YouTube channel or podcast wherever you'd like to listen. Kerry's goal is simple, to help you live the American dream.