Gatewood Spoke To Me

by Ben Carter

In law school, I had a radio show at WRFL, UK’s student-run radio station. Gatewood was a guest[1] on the show twice: in January of 2005 and in March of 2006. The audio from the 2006 interview is at the bottom of this post and the 2005 episode (which has really bad sound quality), is in a separate post.

In all of the remembrances and statements regarding Gatewood, one word keeps surfacing: “colorful”. That’s how the Kentucky Democratic Party described Gatewood in a tweet last week. 

This pisses me off. 

“Colorful” is a pretty obvious way of dismissing Gatewood as a loon when, in fact, he thought harder about government and its role–both positive and negative–in people’s lives than 100% of the people who now hold elected office in Kentucky. But, his actions were more important than his thinking. Gatewood acted upon his convictions and that’s what people loved about him. That, and the fact that he was easily and always the funniest person in the room.

Americans love authentic and Gatewood was 100% authentic. You know who doesn’t like authentic? Power. Gatewood’s authenticity scared powerful people. This is why they try to dismiss him and his legacy with chickenshit words like “colorful”.

At a time in Kentucky politics when both parties are owned by Big Money, Gatewood stood alone against the Petrochemical Pharmaceutical Military Industrial Transnational Corporate Fascist Elite SOBs.[2]

There is no question that Gatewood was charming enough and friendly enough and smart enough and well-credentialed enough to hold any public office he wanted in Kentucky–if he would have just gotten in line with the powerful. 

But, if he had done that, he wouldn’t have been Gatewood. 

At the end and throughout, Gatewood wasn’t colorful–he was himself. Despite the lure of power, despite the press of marketers and salesmen, despite the fact that people would try to remember him and dismiss him as “colorful”–he was himself.

People and parties who will describe an authentic, earnest, integral person as “colorful” clearly have no idea how hard it is to become and be and remain yourself. For those of us who do, the memory of Gatewood Galbraith will remind us that it is, indeed, still possible to live a real life in America in the 21st century. You can disagree with everything Gatewood said and stood for and still see him as “the last free man in America,” a truly courageous man, someone worth respecting and emulating. 

Gatewood deserves to rest in peace. The rest of us, however, have work to do. 

  1. That Gatewood would appear on a 7 a.m. college radio show tells you just about all you need to know about his passion and generosity.  ↩

  2. A term that only Gatewood could have coined and that only Gatewood could deploy credibly. He uses it a few minutes into the 2006 Interview. By the way, the other interviewer is my buddy, Alex DeGrand. He’s the one asking the good questions.  ↩