Shout Out: Julian Carroll
Julian Carroll remembers clearly his first stint at public service.
The 78-year-old Carroll—a former Kentucky governor and current state senator—was elected president of his eighth-grade class. He went on to be elected president of the student body at his high school in Paducah then as governor of Kentucky Boys State as a junior in high school.
The affable politician entered the U.S. Air Force after graduating from the University of Kentucky, where he served as commanding general of the ROTC. After a brief stint in the Air Force, Carroll was faced with a decision: Enter politics or stay involved in his religious work.
He asked his wife’s first cousin—a Baptist minister—for advice.
“His advice: Run for public office because you will have multiple opportunities to express your faith and to help others,” Carroll recalls, “whereas if you are a minister, you will be limited most often to your congregations.”
Carroll was elected state representative for McCracken County, Ky., in 1961 and served as speaker of the state House of Representatives from 1968 until his election as lieutenant governor in 1971. In December 1974, Wendell Ford—the longtime leader of the state Democratic party—left the governor’s office to become a U.S. senator. Carroll ascended to the governorship and was elected in his own right, serving in that office until 1979.
After leaving the Governor’s Mansion, Carroll decided to stay in Frankfort. Two children had graduated from nearby Frankfort (Ky.) High School and were in college; a daughter, Elly, was born while Carroll was governor.
His roots to the community were strong, and the Paducah clients he represented as an attorney had work for him to do in Frankfort.
So Carroll stayed in the capital city.
A quarter century after leaving the governor’s office, Carroll was elected to the state senate representing Franklin, Anderson, Woodford and parts of Fayette counties in Kentucky.
He credits his success in politics to a number of factors, and offers tips on how to best serve the people who elected you.
“Always put the people first, rather than yourself,” said Carroll. “Always listen—always be ready to listen to good advice. Don’t ever be ashamed to hire people to work for you that are smarter than you are.”
He said he’s had a number of employees through the year he considers to be “much smarter” than him. “That enabled me to do more things than I could with my own knowledge,” said Carroll.
He said state government is filled with dedicated employees who believe in what they’re doing.
“Public service is a calling,” he said. “The calling of public service is much more effective in local government because government, after all, is most effective when it’s closer to the people you serve.”
Carroll cites a number of people who’ve influenced him over the years, starting with a longtime friend in Paducah, Sam Sloan.
“He would always greet me, ‘Top of the morning to you, Julian,’” Carroll said. “I’ve always found that life is best lived if lived enthusiastically. He taught me a great lesson in my relationships with others just by simple greetings to me in the mornings.”
In politics, Carroll cites former Kentucky Gov. Bert T. Combs and former Vice President Hubert Humphrey, who he got to know personally. He also cites evangelist Billy Graham “and the way he loved people and the modesty with which he lived his life,” Carroll said.
Carroll believes there are people in each decade who influence individuals, but there’s one that stands out for him: his wife of 58 years, Charlann Carroll.
“My wife has been a stabilizing influence through the years and kept me from getting too highly regarded of myself,” he said.
Throughout his career, Carroll has always been concerned about the value and support for education. He introduced legislation during the Combs administration to create the community college system in Kentucky.
“You pay a severe penalty for failure to educate a child,” he said.
That penalty, he said, is illustrated by the high percentage of individuals in Kentucky prisons who never graduated from high school.
“That makes me gravely ill when I think about the lives we’ve lost and the dollars wasted,” he said. “Rather than being a supporter of our community, they are instead ones that we support as taxpayers.”
Carroll is currently recording an oral history project with the University of Kentucky, sharing insights from his public life.
To suggest a subject for Shout Out, e-mail Mary Branham.