Monday, June 30, 2008

352. Rest In Peace Dottie Priddy

If you read back through some of my postings, you will have read that the first campaign I worked in, as a very young boy, was that of Dottie Priddy, who first ran for State Representative in 1969, when I was eight.

Dorothy Jean Hayes Priddy, known to everyone as Dottie, passed away today after a long illness at the age of 75. Her son Jerry and I grew up together and we are still close friends. He called me early this morning with the news. Her other children are Peggy, Judy, Larry, and Margie. Her husband James "Bud" Priddy died many years ago.

Dottie and Bud and their kids lived at the corner of Whippoorwill and South Park roads. My family lived seven doors up on Whippoorwill on the other side of the street. My mother and Dottie still live in the houses where there families were raised. Although Jerry and I ran around together, he is two years younger than me. His older brother Larry is one year younger than me. Peggy and Judy are older and Margie is the baby. We all grew up in one of those typical suburban neighborhoods of the 1960s and 1970s - there were about thirty kids in the neighborhood and we all played together up and down the street all hours of the day and night.

Dottie got into politics in the late 1960s. The old 45th House District covered everything from Old Shepherdsville Road (now just called Shepherdsville Road) in Okolona, and south of the Outer Loop, west toward Valley Station. In her campaign in 1969 I addressed envelopes at the direction of my grandmother, Tommie Hockensmith. Two other women were instrumental in her early election - Carolyn Beauchamp and Mildred Shumate. Now, all of them, all four, are deceased. My grandmother was first, then Carolyn, then Mildred, and now Dottie.

Addressing those envelopes was my first lesson on zip codes, borders, and dividing lines, and things like that - something which still fascinates me today. The original 45th LD had the following zip codes: 40219, 40229, 40118, 40272, 40214, a bit of 40258, and a bit of 40109. It was during the campaign that I learned the 40229 zip code ended at the end of my street and 40219 began. It is one of those flukes that the house immediately east of Dottie's (the Shumate's) had a 40219 zip code, while Dottie, as well as the house on the other side of the Shumate's was 40229. The Shumate's mailbox was (and still is) on the north side of South Park Road. The houses on either side (including Dottie's) were on the side roads off the south side and were therefore in the 40229 zip. Just to the west, over I-65, began the 40118 zip code for Fairdale. And I always remember that the old Cape Cod on the corner of Manslick and New Cut roads is where the 40272 zip began even though that was miles from Valley Station.

After the redistricting for the 1970 census, Dottie's 45th District was divided up into three additional seats, the 27th, 28th, and 29th, first represented in the new alignment by Archie Romines, Jimmie Dunn, and Al Bennett respectively. I know Mr. Dunn is deceased, I'm not sure about Mr. Romines, and Al Bennett is still with us, working to elect Democrats in his area off Blanton Lane. After another census ten years later, the 27th was redistricted out into Meade and Hardin counties. And ten years after that, the 45th was itself redistricted to Fayette County.

Dottie's camp consisted of a number of people from the areas she served, from McNeely Lake through Okolona and Minor's Lane, to Fairdale, Coral Ridge, and northward to what used to be called the Knopp-Melton area now a part of the Airport Industrial Zone. Dottie gained notoriety when, during the protests against Desegregation, she found herself arrested and chained to a phone pole in front of the Jerry's Restaurant on Preston Highway. She gained more notoriety when it was learned she often entered the House chambers with a weapon tied on like an ankle bracelet.

I worked for Dottie in all of her races for the State House, from 1969 to the last one in 1991, which she lost. She had beaten a number of people, among them Jim Prewitt, Tommy Hadl, Len Hardy, Jim Richardson, and most famously William "Fibber" McGee, a tavern owner and all around great guy in Okolona. Fibber too has moved on to his reward in the final precinct in the sky. Supporters then lined up behind either Gene Drago on Dottie's side or "Big" Ed Louden on Fibber's side. Her final primary opponent was Joe Monroe, another good guy from up in Okolona, who I last saw at the wake for Mildred Shumate. Joe now lives out in Meade County.

These are the people who first taught me politics. They were mostly conservative Democrats, almost Dixiecrats, all tied in some ways to unions, and all working class folks who, whether they were for you or against you, went out of their ways to help you. Most folks might remember Dottie for her anti-bussing days in the mid 1970s. Others will know the laws she passed on behalf of the FOP, which were some of her strongest supporters. But there was also the last endorsement she made in a Democratic Primary in 2004, which went to Ken Herndon in his race for the Senate. She certainly had the capacity to support a broad spectrum of politicians and politics.

Late in her life, she sought and won a seat on the Jefferson County School Board and won re-election in 2002 without ever leaving her home. Her final years have not been good and illness prevented her from doing much of anything. I last saw her on Easter Sunday of 2007. Her son Jerry told me she had been more or less hospitalized since Easter Sunday of this year.

She is to be buried at Rest Haven Cemetery.

Rest In Peace, Dottie.


Jeff said...

Great reminiscence, great pic of Dottie's old bee-hive lite & great zip code arcana.

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Theresa McKinley said...

I too lived in that neighborhood - Peggy and I were friends and I too worked as a kid distributing leaflets at the voting sites. My mom and Dottie were good friends - I remember those beehives and marveled at how high they would go! I lived off Mason so we probably ran in the same crowd of kids till we moved in 1970 to Highview. Helping Dottie and traveling to Frankfort were my first exposures to politics and I know that Dottie was truly passionate about what she believed in. Rest in Peace Dottie.

The Archives at Milepost 606


Louisville, Kentucky, United States
Never married, liberal Democrat, born in 1960, opinionated but generally pleasant, member of the Episcopal Church. Graduate of Prestonia Elementary, Durrett High, and Spalding University; the first two now-closed Jefferson County Public Schools, the latter a very small liberal arts college in downtown Louisville affiliated with the Roman Catholic Sisters of Charity of Nazareth. My vocation and avocation is politics. My favorite pastime is driving the backroads of Kentucky and southern Indiana, visiting small towns, political hangouts, courthouses, churches, and cemeteries. You are welcome to ride with me sometime.