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Jim Guy Tucker was born on June 13, 1943, in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, to James Guy and Willie Maude (White) Tucker. His father was one of the first 50 employees of the newly formed Social Security Administration in February,1936.His family moved to Little Rock in February of 1945 when his father was relocated as the manager of the Arkansas Social Security Administration office. Jim Guy was educated in public schools. He graduated from Harvard with a BA in government in 1964, after which he enlisted in the marines. Despite two appeals, Tucker was discharged for health reasons after three months. Stints in 1965 and 1967 in Vietnam as a civilian war correspondent became a source of exposure for Tucker as he recorded them in his book, Arkansas Men at War. After finishing work in Vietnam, Tucker returned to Arkansas to pursue a political career.
After receiving his law degree at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville in 1968, he became an associate attorney with the Little Rock firm Rose, Barron, Nash, Williamson, Carroll, and Clay. He left in 1970 upon winning the race for prosecuting attorney for the Sixth Judicial District. In 1972, he was elected to the first of two terms as state attorney general. On November 8, 1975, he married Betty Allen Alworth, who had two children from her previous marriage. The couple had two children together.
In 1976, he was elected to represent the Second Congressional District and was appointed to the House Ways and Means Committee, the Social Security Subcommittee, and the Speaker’s Task Force on Welfare Reform.
After eight years in public office, he returned to private law practice in 1979 and became a partner in the Tucker and Stafford firm. In 1982, he ran for governor in the Democratic primary, but came in third in a five-man race. After that loss, he began to engage in business enterprises, including real estate and condominium development. In 1983, he formed County Cable Limited Partnership with his wife, and the company provided cable TV service in rural Pulaski County. From modest beginnings, he expanded his cable TV operations to other areas of the country and acquired interests in cable companies in Texas, Florida, and Great Britain. In 1988, he traded County Cable to Falcon Cable Media of California in return for a Falcon Cable operation near Dallas, Texas.
In 1990, Tucker prepared for another run for governor. When Clinton announced his reelection bid, Tucker opted instead to run for lieutenant governor. Both he and Clinton won their races. Once Clinton began to campaign for the presidency in 1991, Tucker became acting governor, and upon Clinton’s resignation in December 1992, Tucker became governor.
In November 1994, he won a four-year term against Republican Sheffield Nelson. He became caught up in the Whitewater investigation surrounding Clinton. On May 28, 1996, he was convicted for misapplying funds for a $150,000 bank loan. The next day, he announced that he would step down as governor, even as he continued to protest his innocence. After briefly rescinding his resignation, he left office on July 15, 1996. He reentered the private sector to focus on his business enterprises.
In 1996, Tucker was placed on a liver transplant waiting list (he had been diagnosed in 1984 with primary sclerosing cholangitis, which leads to blockage of the bile ducts). On Christmas Day, he received a transplant, which probably saved his life and kept him out of prison—he was sentenced to probation. Despite complications, the transplant restored his health. Since then, Tucker has served his probation and repaid the $150,000 loan.
[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 radio 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.
Now it’s time for Kerry McCoy to get all up in your business.
[00:00:33] KM: Thank you, son, Gray. My guest today is the swashbuckling 43rd governor of Arkansas, the Hon. Jim Guy Tucker. If ever there was a comeback kid, it is Jim Guy Jr. born tall, handsome and smart. He graduated from Harvard, then joined the Marines. After finishing at the top of his class in office candidate training, Jim Guy was honorably discharged due to health concerns.
Not to be deterred, he adventurously hop to freight liner to Southeast Asia where he entrenched himself for two years as a freelance Vietnam war correspondent. He later came home and wrote the book Arkansas Men of War.
As governor of Arkansas, he was wrongly accused of Kenneth Staff of mail fraud during the Watergate investigations of Pres. Clinton. With failing health caused by a life-threatening autoimmune disease, he plead guilty to a lesser charge all awhile awaiting a liver transplant. This unfortunate bargaining may have saved his life, but it cost him his political career.
Years later after finding nothing to charge him off, the case was dropped and he received an apology letter and a refund check from the United States government. The felony charge remains on his record. If that’s not interesting enough, there is even more. But I will let our former Arkansas prosecuting attorney, state attorney general, lieutenant governor, congressman and 43rd governor tell you for himself.
It is a pleasure and honor and a special treat to welcome to the table Hon. Jim Guy Tucker Jr.
[00:02:10] JGT: Well, thanks a lot. Delighted to be with you.
[00:02:13] KM: We were talking before the show, and I called you the comeback kid and you’re like, “What are you talking about? My life is great. I’ve had the most wonderful life in the whole world.” I kind of like listed a few things like I just did and you’re like, “Oh! My life is wonderful.”
He’s got the best attitude of anybody I know. For our listeners who are scratching their head at the swashbuckler adjective that I stole from Ernie Dumas’ book and used to describe you, let me define the term. A swashbuckler is a heroic archetype in European adventure literature that is typified by the use of a sword, acrobatics, and chivalric ideas. But it didn’t begin with you. You grandfather was a city marshal.
[00:02:56] JGT: My father’s father was Guy B. Tucker [inaudible 00:03:01] Tucker and he was later active in politics and went to the democratic convention and nominated Wilson for Arkansas back in 1912, but my father was born in 1892. It a long time ago and my grandfather was city marshal of El Dorado. It was a rough town at the time and they had a feud between the Tuckers and the Parnell’s in addition to his serving as the city marshal and they had a horrible shootout. The Arkansas Gazette carried a big headline saying marshal killed, and in fact he should have been.
But he did survive and continued being marshal. Later was elected state commissioner of lands and then gone into politics, but he was ambushed before that while he was marshal. He was riding back out to their little house outside of El Dorado on a little creek north of the city and was ambushed and had his left arm blown off. My father was on horseback behind him and had been scolded on a previous trip for robbing some of the mail, but he hold on this mail and he explained to his father that he hadn’t lost any mail. But he survived that and the moved to Little Rock and was active, as I say, in politics there.
My gene son that side run back pretty far. My grandmother on my mother side was named White, F O White and he was county judge in White County in Sursee for about 15, 16 years and he was succeeded by a fellow who came home from Harvard and beat him in the election. His name was Wilbur Mills, and that assume I ended up succeeding when he left to congress when he resigned, but did not run for reelection in congress. I followed him and he had always been nice to me. We were friends during his life time.
[00:05:09] KM: Was your father-in-law still alive?
[00:05:11] JGT: No. My father –
[00:05:13] KM: So he didn’t get to see you.
[00:05:15] JGT: My grandfather died in 1922 and my father in 1960.
[00:05:24] KM: But Mr. White didn’t get to see you take over Wilbur Mills?
[00:05:28] JGT: No, he did not. He was gone long before that. In fact, he died in front of me [inaudible 00:05:34] he was at our little rent house on Stonewall Road, 5413 Stonewall. It was a little tiny brick house, tiny place. Had a couple of chickens in the backyard and they had to wring their necks for Sunday breakfast. I’d go watch a headless chicken run around back there. But he was eating breakfast with me one morning when he was visiting and had a heart attack and they’re in front of me.
[00:06:03] KM: People that don’t know, Stonewall is now right in front of the country club is the street that runs –
[00:06:08] JGT: It runs close. This was two blocks from what was in the Heights Theater, but the house that replaced it is immense.
[00:06:17] KM: A mansion.
[00:06:17] JGT: That’s probably a million plus dollars.
[00:06:20] KM: Yeah, you’re ringing chicken’s necks right up there in the Heights.
[00:06:24] JGT: Yeah, I went to Forest Park. It was three blocks away. Great school. Wonderful teachers. It was all women teachers, but they were mostly women whose husbands had gone off to World War II in Korea. They were beautifully educated and great teachers, but their husbands were not there. One of the husbands was killed.
[00:06:48] KM: Your father was World War I.
[00:06:50] JGT: He fought in World War I. That’s right. He was [inaudible 00:06:52].
[00:06:56] KM: In the opening I called you the comeback kid, which I mentioned earlier and you said, “I’m not the comeback kid. I’ve got the best life in the world.” But let’s just start with number one. After Harvard, you joined the Marines only to be honorably discharged for stomach ulcers, but determined to serve. You still found a way to Vietnam on a tramp steamer. A tramp steamer. Tell us about that.
[00:07:20] JGT: Well, first, the disease I had was called an autoimmune disease. Your immune system decides to attack itself.
[00:07:31] KM: They didn’t know that probably back then.
[00:07:32] JGT: No. They barely recognized it, but they decided there was some problem. I had joined the Marines in 1961, my freshman year in college. I was in the Marine reserve. When I finished Quantico and we did our final physical, they picked it up and ultimately they ranked me 4F, but I’m healed. After I had started practice law, I won my appeal and reclassified me 1A, but I had been to Vietnam twice at that point. I didn’t much feel like going back.
[00:08:10] KM: But you did go back. You got on a tramp steamer, which is a freightliner.
[00:08:16] JGT: Well, you mentioned that. I get on a ship called the Beaver Stake out of San Francisco and I was a wiper, wipe stuff up.
[00:08:26] KM: So like swab the decks?
[00:08:28] JGT: Yeah, and they let me stir the ship one time and I enjoyed it immensely after I steered it for 5 minutes or so, they took over the wheel and they asked me to step out back and have a look at my pathway. I said, “How do you look at your pathway?” It was midnight. We’re crossing from San Francisco, you go north and then come down the eastern side of China to our ports we’re headed to.
But the sea is full of phosphorous and so when the ship passes, you end up with this bright silver trail that guides you, except my silver trail looked like a silver rope that was coiled from my back and forth trying to sail on course.
[00:09:14] KM: Tim Guy, you have done so much.
[00:09:17] JGT: That was fun. Yeah, I had a great life growing up.
[00:09:20] KM: How old are you?
[00:09:22] JGT: Well, I am now in my 77th year, which means I’m 76. I’ve got a birthday in June.
[00:09:28] KM: No. I mean, when you were doing the steam – The freightliner.
[00:09:32] JGT: I was 21.
[00:09:35] KM: Think how much he’s done already at 21. All right. This is a great place to take a break. When we come back, we’ll continue our conversation with the former prosecuting attorney, state attorney general, lieutenant governor, congressman, freightliner driver for 5 minutes, 43rd governor of Arkansas, Mr. Jim Guy Tucker Jr. We’ll talk about his very varied life as a successful politician, turned international businessman and dig deep into the mysteries of the Whitewater investigation that changed the course of his life.
We’ll be back after the break.
[00:10:07] 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 & Banner. During the last four decades, the business has grown and changed along with Kerry’s experience and leadership knowledge.
In 1995, she launched the business website flagandbanner.com. Became an early blogger in 2004, founded the nonprofit Friends of Dreamland Ballroom in 2009, began distributing a biannual publication called Brave Magazine in 2014. Today, she’s branched out into this very radio show, YouTube channel and podcast.
Each week you’ll hear her engage in candid conversations with her guests about real-world experiences no a variety of businesses and topics that we hope you’ll find interesting, educational and motivational. This year, stay informed about her upcoming and exciting guests by subscribing to our Up in Your Business with Kerry McCoy YouTube channel. For a complete update of happenings on the Flag & Banner campus, like Dreamland Ballroom, sneak preview of upcoming Up in Your Business guests, sales at flagandbanner.com, relevant Brave Magazine articles, and Kerry’s current blog post, join our email list at flagandbanner.com to receive our very popular, all inclusive water cooler weekly email.
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[00:11:33] KM: Thank you. You’re listening to Up in Your Business with me, Kerry McCoy, and I’m speaking today with the Hon. Jim Guy Tucker, 43rd governor of Arkansas. Before the break, we talked about his life at Harvard a little bit, about his life as a Marine a little bit, about him – My favorite part about him growing up on Stonewall and ringing chicken’s necks in the Heights. It’s a trip to anybody out there that lives up there now. Now he has taken a steamer, a freight line to China, Southeast Asia, I believe. We’re going to talk about that.
You’re a freelance. This is pretty adventurous. You just takeoff. You’re not hired by anybody. You’re like, “I think I’ll just get on this boat and go down there and see what happens.”
[00:12:28] JGT: I was so young and immortal.
[00:12:30] KM: That’s right.
[00:12:30] JGT: So let’s just go do it.
[00:12:33] KM: What did you do when you got there?
[00:12:35] JGT: The stops I made were instructive. The first place was stopped was in Japan, Yokohama as I recall, but it was a city that had been just devastated by the bombs. This is 1964 or ’65. It had just turned ’65. The city was still a pile of rubble and the people that were moving around had been blasted and some of them had horrible injuries from nuclear explosions.
If you want a real picture of war, how Japan looked after World War II, I would have given it to you at that time. Then I went over Bussan, Korea, which had been the side of a horrible battle during the Korean War and it looked just about the same. That was instructive as I headed on down south.
I was supposed to teach at Thomas Hunt University, but I ran into the editor of a newspaper down there who visited with me and she said, “You ought to go to Vietnam,” and he called over, and so I went over and got a job in the Saigon Post in Saigon and started traveling to all over the country for stories on the war as it was progressing.
[00:13:57] KM: Who were you with? Were you with military?
[00:13:59] JGT: No. I was a civilian.
[00:14:02] KM: Do you speak Vietnamese?
[00:14:03] JGT: I could not speak Vietnamese, but very few of the troops there could. I learned a little bit while I was there. I was an accredited reporter and I had an ID card and a uniform and a helmet, vest and I traveled in every section of the country. It was divided in I core, 2 core, 3 core, 4 core and so forth. But I spent time in every one of the areas of Vietnam.
[00:14:32] KM: How did it change you?
[00:14:35] JGT: Well, I remembered the John Wayne movies and the great heroics of folks in battle running over the enemies and surviving everything. This was a very quick lesson and what a lie that was. Wars are absolutely horrible. We have them going on even today all over the world and you frequently have people who are rooting for wars and these tend to be folks who have no idea of what they’re talking about. They just think they’re tough, got big guns and let’s go to war.
[00:15:15] KM: Your kids go. Not mine.
[00:15:16] JGT: It’s a horrible thing. Horrible thing.
[00:15:18] KM: You come back from Vietnam. What’s the first thing you do?
[00:15:22] JGT: Well, I had been admitted at law school. I went to my first year of law school at University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. Worked at a filling station, Conoco Station. I worked 18 hours on Sundays. I’d go in Sunday morning at 6AM, late morning I’d wash the vomit from the boyfriends out of the sorority girl’s car.
[00:15:45] KM: Oh no! I didn’t expect that.
[00:15:47] JGT: I didn’t have to pack them, fill much gas, because it was just a slow day, but he needed someone at the station and I can study virtually all the time. I left, locked up at midnight, went home. Then I worked at another service station just three days a week. But that made me a little bit of money. But I was still wanting to go roam some more. I went to Beirut. I went to Beirut that summer, summer of ’66 to teach at an American university in Beirut.
I went down to Israel too, but of course they are adjacent teacher. In order to go to Israel at that time, I had to fly out to Cyprus then fly back into Israel, and they stamped a piece of paper. If they stamp my passport, I couldn’t get back into Lebanon. But I laid down on that island waiting for my time for my plane to come and go back to the airport. I had a little bottle of wine, or sack of wine and I had some wonderful fruit from the tree and I sat under that tree on Cyprus and sipped that and felt the world was good.
Went on to Israel and got a sense of the wars and problems there. Went back to Lebanon, but decided what I needed to do was go ahead and finish the law school. I did go back to Fayetteville again in late September. Did that year of law school and I wasn’t working at a service station. I was concentrating on making my learning the law and making the grades.
Then the next summer came along and I had really been pondering the wars and the warzones I’d say. I decided to go back to Vietnam. A group of 13 or 14 newspaper here in the state all hired me. Each paid a little bit of the money and I flew back to Vietnam and went to find Arkansas soldiers who were there in the various warzones.
Later I’ll put all those stories together called Arkansas Men at War, but they’re all stories I had written in Vietnam. I had a fellow named Roger [inaudible 00:18:06] back here in Little Rock who edited what I sent back to him and was published in the papers. Then I came back to law school and started practice with the Rose Law Firm in 1968.
[00:18:20] KM: That’s a good story. You also went on police raids when you got back.
[00:18:26] JGT: Well, when I a brand new prosecutor, I got elected prosecutor in 1970. Campaigned with – Dale Bumpers was running for governor that year. I had met Winthrop Rockefeller when he was running for governor. I’ll tell you that story when you’re ready.
[00:18:50] KM: I’m ready. I’m ready. Tell me the story of meeting – What did we way Ernie Dumas said about Winthrop Rockefeller? Misunderstood or –
[00:18:59] JGT: Well, he was from New York and had been here and he did some wonderful things. I really liked him and he liked me. When he became governor, John Hailey, who was a lawyer at the Rose Law Firm where I practicing came in to see me one day and asked me how I’d like to go to prison. I said, “Explain yourself, my friend.”
He had been appointed chairman of the board of corrections by Rockefeller. At that time, the inmates ran the penitentiary effectively. Trustees had weapons in the towers and there were guards as well. But people were being released earlier than they should have been released. Hailey asked me if I’d go down and be a prisoner and take a little bit of money with me enough that would catch a little bit of attention and see what happened, because they thought they knew how these folks were being released early.
[00:20:04] KM: You are the attorney general now or are you still working at the Rose Law Firm? Just a guy.
[00:20:09] JGT: Yeah. He was a partner there. I was a brand-new attorney and didn’t know what I was doing.
[00:20:16] KM: He said, “Hey I heard you’re a swashbuckler. Why don’t you go down there and go to jail? Be undercover at the state penitentiary?”
[00:20:23] JGT: I went in and the job I had, I was only there two days. Winthrop Rockefeller, Gov. Rockefeller found out what Hailey had done and he was mad and heck told me to get me out of there. My job was cleaning chickens. I walked into this small room of just maybe 12 feet by 12 feet maximum and a huge table in the middle and there was this other convict in there in a dark white uniform. I mean, his uniform was spotless, and he was deeply angry and he was cursing and as the chickens came in, he took this huge meat cleaver and raised it over his head and whack, came down and chicken guts and stuff went everywhere.
I had a decent-sized clever and I was over there going, “Chick! Chick!” and I’m pretty damn gentle. I asked him what he was so angry about. He said that he had his parole hearing that day and he’s made some of the trustees angry, and so they sent him to do this job before he went in for his parole hearing and he was in for a violent crime. He went in literally covered in blood and guts. He did not get a parole.
But later on while I was there, a trustee approached me and asked me if I’d like to get out a little early and I said, “I sure would.” He said, “Well, I noticed that much money you brought in. You got that receipt with you?” I said, “Yeah.” He said, “If you’d let me have that receipt, I’ll make a little arrangement back there, show your records. Looked like it’s time to let you out.” That’s what they were doing. They had custody of records that determined when you were released under the control of the prisoners instead of a different location and separated.
[00:22:27] KM: That’s not rocket science not to do that.
[00:22:30] JGT: That was amazing. But at any rate, that was my only experience.
[00:22:36] KM: You were called James Gus Turner. You went in there to the name alias James Gus Turner.
[00:22:42] JGT: I wanted to use the same name I had or something very close to it so that if somebody spoke to me, I would react to the name.
[00:22:50] KM: Oh! Smart undercover. I read that and thought, “Well, that’s not very smart. He used a name almost like his,” but now I understand the philosophy behind that.
[00:23:00] JGT: Yup.
[00:23:01] KM: You also went in there to clean up kind of some police corruption, I think. Didn’t you? Was there some police corruption too?
[00:23:06] JGT: Well, for example, just to give you a sense of it. We’re all familiar with the Marriott Hotel and how wonderful it is here in town that the Stevens have fixed up.
[00:23:16] KM: That’s the Capital Hotel, but the –
[00:23:17] JGT: I called it the Marriott.
[00:23:19] KM: The Marriott was across the street.
[00:23:20] JGT: I meant the Capital. Marriott was across the street. But at the Capital Hotel, I kept being told the east end of town, where the Clinton Center is and the buildings in there were just – It was so bad. We had at least one shooting, assault or rape down there every night of the week. Our docket was full. Jail was full and the police had put tin over the windows so they couldn’t shout out the window at people going by and they had taken the mattress of the beds because they’d tear them up. So they were sleeping on the springs or on the floor.
[00:23:57] KM: You’re talking about the jail down there on –
[00:23:59] JGT: That was the county jail that is now gone. That’s where the park is on the river there now. But in any event, one day I was walking past the Marriott Hotel with my chief deputy, Robert J. Brown. I said, “Let’s just stick our head in here.” I went to the desk and asked to see their register if they didn’t mind. I said, “I can go get a warrant. If you don’t object, I’ll look at your register.” He said, “Oh, no. You can look at it.” He turned around and the customers had unusually short studies and unusually similar names. But short stays, I mean an hour. This was house of prostitution.
There was a pool hall down there and a bar, but the hotel itself was a house of prostitution, and they were about 7 blocks from the police station and the chief of police. I went from there to the chief of police office and we had a serious misunderstanding about how things needed to run in the criminal justice system. There was a backlog of about 2,000 cases waiting trial, and because we didn’t have any public defender or system, we did pass one –
[00:25:10] KM: While you were there.
[00:25:11] JGT: Subsequently while I was governor, while I was attorney general actually. But the case is just backed up because the folks who’d been charged were waiting to be able to get their families to pay a fee to the lawyers that were representing them and it took forever. You just had this horrible, horrible backup and county facilities that people who should either been released or sent to the state prison.
[00:25:37] KM: Your career spans from ‘73 to ‘96 with a break in there, and we’re not going to talk about the break. That’s when you were in Asia. But you were the former Arkansas prosecuting attorney that we’ve been talking about. The state attorney general, the lieutenant governor, a congressman and the 43rd governor.
In 1973 to 1979, you were prosecuting attorney and the state attorney. Then you took a break because you ran for I think –
[00:26:13] JGT: I was prosecutor for one term in ’71, ’72, and then attorney general for two terms. These were two-year terms. Suddenly Wilber Mills resigned, or didn’t resign, but he didn’t run for reelection for congress. So I ran and was elected and was on the ways and means committee. Then we had John McClellan die, and his senate seat came up. David Pryor and I and Ray Thornton and a fourth person all ran, and the race was extremely close.
All three of David and Ray Thornton and I got the same major percentage of the vote, that is 33%. But the fourth guy got a little less than 1% of the vote, and so I was in a run off with David, but it was because I had a tiny edge over Ray Thornton. Ray and David had a tiny edge over me, but he beat me in the run off. We remained good friends and are still friends today. But that was –
[00:27:20] KM: Then you went into becoming a businessman.
[00:27:23] JGT: Well, I started law practice. Again, after that, I had a lot of legal experience at that point trying some big cases and got to try some even bigger cases, but Mitchell, Williams Law Firm hired me and I became a partner in Mitchel, Williams, Selig, Jackson and Tucker. I did litigation. But in the meantime, my wife who also was a lawyer. She just graduated from law school, started practicing law. One of her clients was a guy who wanted to build a cable TV system, and cable TV was brand-new. We started building one. We started – We had a table set up at a filling station near Mall Mill, which was just being built at that time.
We started selling subscriptions and we had a little tower and cable that would run, and Betty and I went off for a ski trip to Denver. When we came back, we went to the post office to see if we got any checks down, any payments in. I opened our mailbox and it said see post master. There was a note, it said, “See post master,” nothing else.
I went down to the post and gave him that and he came back out with a sack that was absolutely full of checks. Betty and I opened it. We didn’t know – We opened it and here were all these checks. They weren’t big checks, but there were a lot of them. We looked at each other and we said, “Let’s go do a little driving and see where else we might build a cable system.”
We built everything on the edge of Little Rock, in North Little Rock. Built a circle around, almost a total circle round and then we built part of a little town north up here, north of Little Rock. Then we built – I was trying a case down in Texas and one of the guys on the city council was from Benton, Arkansas and I started talking to him. He was on the city council of South Lake, Texas, and we started building systems down there. We built all or parts of most of the city’s north of DFW, and you know huge they are now. Then we bought a little system down in Florida, and all of a sudden we started getting offers to buy this and they were paying $4,000 per subscriber, and we had a lot of subscribers. I said, “Yup. We’ll do that.”
[00:30:07] KM: Did you sell them all?
[00:30:08] JGT: We sold all the U.S. ones. I’d gotten a call about a guy who had died and they told me he had a lot of franchises in England. I won’t go through the long story, but we’ve did a contract on a napkin in New York with his trustee I had with dinner and we got a franchise for London, parts of London and Whales. We went over and looked at that and built parts of the system over there.
Later that got merged with another company, and that was profitable. We tried very hard to build a system in Southern France. Betty had lived in France and gone on to school as a child when her father was called up for the Korean War, chief officer at an Airforce base there. But at any rate, she loved France from her time there as a child several years, went at the local public school and everything.
We tried to make that system work, but it didn’t. Many years later, I got visited by some folks who lived in Indonesia and they asked me if I’d help them build a system in Indonesia. Later on when I had recovered from one of the surgeries, the last surgery, I had the liver transplant. We went to Jakarta and we built all of Jakarta and Surabaya and Bali. Bali, which is nice. All of them we built not only cable systems, but then we were building internet systems at the same time. We had a condo in Hong Kong. We lived in Hong Kong most of the time, and that’s when we did the Heifer Project work up there.
[00:31:51] KM: Great stories. I got to tell everybody that you’re listening to Up in Your Business with me, Kerry McCoy, and I’m speaking today with the Hon. Jim Guy Tucker, 4rd governor of Arkansas.
[00:32:02] AM: Arkansas Flat & Banner is proud to underwrite Up in Your Business with Kerry McCoy. McCoy began this broadcast with the intention of offering a mentoring platform for those with an entrepreneurial spirit. Through candid conversations and interesting interviews with business and community-minded Arkansans, listeners gain insight into starting and running a business, the ups and downs of risk-taking and the commonalities of successful people.
Kerry McCoy founder and president of Arkansas Flag & Banner believes in paying knowledge and experience forward and develops this radio show as a means of doing so. The biographies, life experiences and wisdom of her guests would likely go unheard if not for this venue. Rarely do people open up for an hour to an audience about their life mistakes, triumphs and pitfalls. This unique radio show allows the listener intimate access into the stories of prominent leaders in our state.
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[00:33:22] KM: Comeback kid number two. We already did number one. You were a Marine and you went and you had an honorable discharge, but you still manage to go over there as a war correspondent. Number two, you lose the governor’s race to Bill Clinton, that you mentioned. No. We hadn’t talked about the governor’s race, have we?
[00:33:39] JGT: No. I got beaten by Bill for governor. Well, I didn’t get beat by Bill for governor. I started to run against him for governor. Maybe I got – I did get beat vying for governor.
[00:33:51] KM: Then you ran for lieutenant governor.
[00:33:53] JGT: But later, I started to run again because he was clearly going to run for president. Then I thought, “I believe he’s going to win the presidency. I’m going to run for lieutenant.”
[00:34:02] KM: You’re the only person that thought that.
[00:34:03] JGT: Lieutenant governor. I ran for lieutenant governor. He got elected and I became governor. One of the hardest things about the lieutenant governorship at that time was the Arkansas Constitution provided that if the governor was out of the state, the lieutenant governor became governor. Now this was written back in the 1800s, and when people left the state, they were out of communication.
When someone’s running for president, they’re being watched by the press all the time, and he was leaving the state all the time to run for governor. You have his staff there who worked with him and he’s the governor, but officially he can’t sign anything. He can’t do anything that is a governor’s decision while he is out of the state. If he does, somebody who’s against him is going to catch it and they’re going to hatch it.
[00:34:58] KM: Catch it and hatch it. You were acting governor.
[00:35:02] JGT: It was almost – My law firm let me go serve, and I presided over the state senate as well, but it was increasingly interfering. Finally it became so bad he was just almost gone permanently. I simply resigned from the law firm so I didn’t have a conflict.
[00:35:23] KM: There can’t be as much money being the lieutenant governor or the governor as being a corporate president of a cable company.
[00:35:31] JGT: That’s right.
[00:35:32] KM: You really spent 10 years building this cable business. Then you come back, I don’t understand why, and go back into political office.
[00:35:42] JGT: I liked the public service.
[00:35:44] KM: You do?
[00:35:47] JGT: I think it’s a wonderful thing for people to do who have an interest and they want to learn about a lot of different things and try and make education, for example, which was my primary concern, better or other things better. They have the opportunity to try and do it.
[00:36:02] KM: Describe politics in those days. It’s not like it is today. Describe how politics was then.
[00:36:08] JGT: Well, when I first started politics in 1970, it was a completely different thing.
[00:36:15] KM: Is it Wild West?
[00:36:17] JGT: It pretty much was. I went in to see a guy over in East Arkansas who was a big plantation owner. We’d done our counting of how many votes we needed where and then his precinct, or his area of the county. If I could just get a handful of votes, I’d be thrilled, but I wanted more than 1%. If I could get 18%, 19%, I’d be thrilled.
He was sitting in his chair with his jodhpurs up on the desk and his Stetson pushed back on his head and he had a riding crop he was slapping his side with and he said, “Well, Tucker. You’re a nice looking young man.” He said, “We’re going to give you,” And he pushed his Stetson back a little further with his riding crop. He said, “We’re going to give you about 18% of the vote.” I said, Mr. So an so, “I sure do appreciate that.” I left and that’s precisely what I got in his precinct over there.
That was one example of things that happened all over the state. Before voting booths, racial mistreatment was rampant still at the time. We’ve changed dramatically, but it was not an attractive thing to see, but it did inspire me to want to change what I saw. That’s the sort of thing I got to work on as time went by was changing that kind of politics.
Winthrop Rockefeller had the biggest impact on change in that and he was followed then by Dale Bumpers and then he was followed by David Pryor. He was followed by Bill Clinton and every one of those governors, and I came home after that. All of us wanted to clean that election system up and get the state no longer engaging in that, and we did.
[00:38:04] KM: You and Bill Clinton were on the same side, but by the end, you had become rivals. Don’t you think?
[00:38:10] JGT: Well, we were rivals when I ran against him and when I was serving as his lieutenant governor, but we actually became real allies and we had the same viewpoint on virtually all issues that were out there.
[00:38:27] KM: Y’all remind me of each other a lot. Okay. Comeback kid three. While acting governor of Arkansas, you became ill with a life-threatening autoimmune disease. They’d finally diagnosed it, which you eventually got a liver transplant for and you’re here today. It’s great news.
[00:38:46] JGT: Christmas day of 1996.
[00:38:48] KM: Were you one of the first Arkansas to go to the Mayo Clinic and get a liver transplant?
[00:38:51] JGT: I would have been one of the first ones. I wasn’t the first. I know some of the fellows who were, but I was among the first to have a liver transplant. Yes.
[00:39:02] KM: Here is the conversation that everybody has been waiting for. Comeback number four. While awaiting a liver donor, the Whitewater investigation ensued while you were governor. In your 1996 interview, you denied all wrong doing and went on to say about Kenneth Starr process that it is a selective prosecution driven by Bill Clinton being president.
[00:39:32] JGT: Well, driven by Bill Clinton being president is correct, after Bill Clinton. Kenneth Starr who is once more back in the news, we’ll recall his tenure at Baylor University and folks don’t remember. Go online and have a look at it and how it ended. That’s the kind of fellow I viewed him as being.
[00:39:53] KM: How did it end? You got to tell me just quickly. I don’t even know.
[00:39:56] JGT: Well, the honesty of the issue and the first indictment that he pinned against me, I was stunned. It alleged this huge tax laws to the government of $3 million plus and their question was, the indictment didn’t mention what statute existed that created that kind of tax laws. I had this great conspiracy they described, but, “Okay, to calculate it and see how you get there,” and the republican judges that I had, the democrats at all recuse because they knew me and there were conflicts, would not make Kenneth Starr tell us what statute he was using.
Finally, many years later when the justice department took over the case, Kenneth Starr disappeared. They admitted in court which tax statute applied and they admitted that they might owe me a refund rather than me owning them $3 million. I said, “I want that refund,” and said, “You can give me around all you want to with penalties and stuff, but I want the refund.” I’ve got the check. It was I think $1.99 or something that they give me. I hung it on my wall.
[00:41:27] KM: You framed it?
[00:41:28] JGT: I framed it and it’s hanging there now.
[00:41:30] KM: $1.99.
[00:41:32] JGT: That’s pretty incredible. You charge a sitting governor with a crime. Why would they do that? Well, the tax law that existed at that time had I been found guilty would have given me a sentence of like 10 years, because it was based in part on the amount of loss and it was mandatory and the judge could not reduce it. You had to give that kind of sentence. What they wanted me to do was to remember a conversation that I heard between Bill Clinton and David Hale, which I simply never heard. There was no such thing. But they were trying to assure that they could get Bill Clinton. That’s what those prosecutions were about, and I was not helpful to them, because he did not do anything that they wanted me to testify to.
[00:42:27] KM: They wanted you to lie to save your skin.
[00:42:28] JGT: Damn right.
[00:42:29] KM: Susan McDougal did the same thing, right?
[00:42:33] JGT: They did the same thing to Susan McDougal. Yes.
[00:42:37] KM: And her husband.
[00:42:37] JGT: As far as I know.
[00:42:38] KM: And her husband.
[00:42:39] JGT: No. Her husband was in fact involved in crimes.
[00:42:43] KM: Oh, he was.
[00:42:44] JGT: He may not have thought of it as being criminal. I don’t know. He had had an initial criminal trial and he had asked me to testify on his behalf, but he had in fact taken money from me. It signed my name to a bunch of deeds that were joint property owners on. When the money was paid, he didn’t use it to pay off the mortgages. When he asked me to testify for him, I told him I couldn’t do it.
[00:43:12] KM: Is that what Whitewater was about?
[00:43:14] JGT: It was about one of the others, but yes, it was about real estate that he and Bill Clinton – That Bill Clinton was a part owner –
[00:43:24] KM: That he had again sold.
[00:43:28] JGT: I don’t know what he did with Bill Clinton, but what he did not do is have a conversation in front of me around me or tell me about it or anything else. They figured that I disliked Clinton so much because he beat me, because I’ve been his lieutenant governor and has some arguments with his staff about who was governor was out of state. They would thought I would testify against him and that I’d be happy and willing to go along in return for reduced or dismissal even of charges. They just guessed wrong.
[00:44:05] KM: But you did, because you were in poor health at the time, awaiting a liver transplant. You did decide to plead to a lesser crime.
[00:44:15] JGT: On the tax case.
[00:44:18] KM: Thus giving you probation to stay at your house for four years. Were you –
[00:44:23] JGT: No. It’s more complicated than that. There was another – That was first indictment. It gotten to tax case, and it got dismissed by Judge Henry Woods. Starr then wanted Woods to be dismissed from the case, because he was a democrat. He didn’t say that. But he was a democrat. But he was friends with Hillary Clinton.
Anyway, they wanted that case dismissed. It went to the 8th circuit and it didn’t get reinstated until I had been through a trial on another charge. By that time, I was so sick that I did not testify in the case. I went up to Mayo Clinic after the jury came in, and had I testified, I think I would have been acquitted. But I had testified, I was at risk of being cross-examined on the tax case, which they had still not admitted what tax statute they were using. It was a hard call for me and for the attorneys who were advising me.
[00:45:25] KM: But the stress level would have probably been too much for your health at the time. You saved your life most likely. When Bill Clinton was president, he pardoned Susan McDougal.
[00:45:35] JGT: He did give a pardon to Susan.
[00:45:36] KM: But he did not you.
[00:45:38] JGT: Not me. He gave this pardon to some multi, multimillionaire that got a lot of bad purse, and I doubt if he could have pardoned me without taking a lot of problems with it again.
[00:45:50] KM: Even though they never found anything, because you did – I was surprised that because you did plead to a lesser crime, they went ahead and kept the felon there and you did not get pardoned from it and it’s still there.
I want to tell everybody, you’re listening to Up in Your Business with me, Kerry McCoy, and I’m speaking today with the Hon. Jim Guy Tucker, 43rd governor of Arkansas, and he is a successful international businessman and he was the lieutenant governor, the attorney general, a congressman, and our 43rd governor who has in 2012, again, donating your photos, your personal papers and your documents to UALR and currently there are over 1,000 boxes that have been donated, archived and are made public. You said, I think this is funny what you said. “I know a lot of folks have the staff and the resources to have their boxes and stuff edited thoroughly before they deliver them, and I’ve not been able to do that very much. What was in there was what was in there.”
You went on to say, “I tried to glance at it, but I’m sure there’ll be some surprises, and undoubtedly there’ll be something that’s embarrassing at some point. I tried to avoid putting letters from my old girlfriends in there.” He’s blushing. You are really blushing.
[00:47:14] JGT: Well, that’s correct, the blushing and the letters as well.
[00:47:22] KM: What’s in there? You’ve probably got lots of cases that are in there. Some interesting cases you tried.
[00:47:27] JGT: Yeah. Well, I can’t have anything that would violate the attorney client privilege, so I don’t have it in my private law cases, but I do have various records from the public cases. I have some of the raw notes that I wrote in the field in Vietnam and some that I typed up, and typing is awful and the handwriting is awful, but I’d those notes or the terrible handwriting home to [inaudible 00:47:55] and he’s read them and edit them up. That became –
[00:47:59] KM: I ordered your book, Arkansas’ Men at War, but it didn’t arrive in time for me to read it. I wanted to have you sign it.
[00:48:07] JGT: Those would take long. It’s got pictures.
[00:48:09] KM: Yeah. How many pages is it?
[00:48:11] JGT: It’s a little over 100.
[00:48:13] KM: I wanted you to sign it. I have to get you to come by and get you to autograph it for me.
[00:48:16] JGT: Yeah, feel free.
[00:48:19] KM: You have pictures of you with Jimmy Carter in your archives. The archivalist at UALR said that they very rarely – UALR is the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. Said they very rarely have such deep, personal papers given to the school that is so broad.
[00:48:44] JGT: Well, they ask us to write our autobiography when I was in the 6th grade at Forest Park. It’s got my baby shoes and pictures of my mother and father and all sorts of stuff like that, and my handwriting. It goes all the way back to stuff like that. I was delighted to give it to them. It’s stored downtown and they’ve taken pictures of it in some fashion with their technology. It’s stored. There’s a lot of stuff. I hope my kids won’t be embarrassed by any of them. I don’t think they will.
[00:49:23] KM: Jim Guy Tucker, thank you for being a shining example of never give up. Work hard, public service, honesty. You are one of the most honest, what you see is what you get kind of guys I’ve ever read about. I absolutely enjoyed learning about you, and I got you a gift. I maybe should I put China in here. This is a desk set of the U.S. flag, Arkansas flag, Oklahoma, because you’re born in Oklahoma, and the last one is Indonesia. You say Indonesia –
[00:49:50] JGT: It’s almost a flag and banner.
[00:49:52] KM: It is. How do you say Indonesia?
[00:49:55] JGT: Indonesia.
[00:49:56] KM: Indonesia.
Thank you for spending time with us. To our listeners, we hope you’ve heard or learned something that’s been inspiring or enlightening, and whatever it is, it 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.
[END OF INTERVIEW]
[00:50:16] GM: You’ve been listening to Up in Your Business with Kerry McCoy. For links to resources you’ve heard discussed on today’s show, go to flagandbanner.com, select radio and choose today’s guest. All interviews are recorded and posted the following week. Stay informed of exciting upcoming guests by subscribing to our YouTube channel or podcasts wherever you like to listen.
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