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From The Kentucky Encyclopedia -
Kentucky's first woman to hold the governorship (1983-87), Martha Layne Collins was born on December 7, 1936, in Shelby County , Kentucky, to Everett and Mary (Taylor) Hall. She spent a year at Lindenwood College in Missouri, then transferred to the University of Kentucky, where in 1959 she received a degree in home economics. Soon afterward Martha Layne Hall married William Collins; they have two children, Steve and Marla. While her husband completed his dentistry degree at the University of Louisville, she taught in area high schools. The couple moved to Versailles, Kentucky, in the mid-sixties, and Collins taught at Woodford County Junior High. She became interested in Democratic politics, showed a talent for organization, and became secretary of the Democratic Party and Democratic National Committeewoman after the election of Wendell Ford as governor in 1971.
Collins won the party's nomination for clerk of the court of appeals in 1975 and defeated Republican Joseph E. Lambert, 382,528 to 233,442, in the general election. In 1979 she was one of six major candidates who sought the party's endorsement for lieutenant governor. The vote was so divided that her 23 percent won the nomination. She then defeated Republican Harold Rogers, 543,176 to 316,798. In the John Y. Brown, Jr. , administration (1979-83), Collins maintained close ties with the party machinery, which he tended to ignore. When she announced her candidacy for governor in 1983, she had the support of many party regulars and record campaign funds. The primary was a close race, in which Collins won the nomination with 223,692 votes to 219,160 for Harvey Sloane and 199,795 for Grady Stumbo. In the general election, she defeated state Sen. Jim Bunning , 561,674 to 454,650. Upon leaving office in December 1987, Collins became an international trade consultant; she taught at the University of Louisville in 1988 and at the Institute of Politics at Harvard University in 1989. She served on the boards of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary , and Midway College and became president of St. Catharine College in Washington County in 1990.
During her campaign for governor, Collins promised to avoid new taxes and to give priority to educational reforms. However, recovering from the recession of 1982-83, Kentucky faced a revenue shortage even as demands for quick action on education became more insistent. Collins asked the General Assembly for $324 million in additional funds in 1984, most of it committed to public schools. When it became apparent that the House would not vote that sum in an election year for its members, she withdrew her tax proposals and substituted a continuation budget. Critics of the governor stressed her failure to control the newly independent legislature and the resultant defeat of major parts of her program during the first session. The legislature in 1984 enacted a tougher drunk-driving law and a measure that allowed state banking companies to purchase other banks in the state. Later that year Governor Collins chaired the Democratic National Convention and was one of the vice-presidential hopefuls interviewed by Walter F. Mondale.
Still committed to educational reform, Collins campaigned to win public support. This time she worked with the legislature, which enacted a number of changes during a special session in 1985. However, the increase in business taxes was not adequate to fund the proposed changes in full. She and the legislative leaders planned to increase revenue in 1987 by making the state income tax conform more closely with the federal tax, but that proposal was abandoned when Wallace Wilkinson , the Democratic nominee for governor, declared his opposition to it. In a special 1987 session, Collins's plan for financing the workers' compensation program was discarded in favor of one developed in the legislature. One of her major accomplishments came when the Japanese company Toyota decided to establish a large automobile plant near Georgetown. Some detractors, including Wilkinson, her successor, charged that the $125 million in incentives (with an ultimate cost of $300 million in bonds) was excessive, but criticism was blunted as dozens of Toyota suppliers set up plants across the state. A record number of new job opportunities were brought to Kentucky under Collins's national and international economic development program.
LOWELL H. HARRISON, Entry Author
Selected Sources from UK LIbraries:
Collins, Martha Layne., Elizabeth Duffy Fraas, Kentucky. Governor, and University Press of Kentucky. The Public Papers of Governor Martha Layne Collins, 1983-1987. Lexington: U of Kentucky, 2006. The Public Papers of the Governors of Kentucky. Web.
J87.K4 A17 1983, Young Library - 4th Floor
Smith, Frances, and Pip. Pullen. The Little Girl Who Grew up to Be Governor : Stories from the Life of Martha Layne Collins. Lexington, Ky.: Denham Pub., 1991. Print.
JB COL, Education Library - Juvenile Young Adult
Collins, Martha Layne. Kentucky's Future. 1991. McClintock Management & Lecture Video
Ser.2011ua027, Special Collections Research Center - University Archives Records Program