When I first sat in a helicopter and first covered a race for governor, I first met John Y. Brown Jr.

It was the Monday after the 1979 Kentucky Derby, and Brown used a helicopter to make up for his belated candidacy, hopping from town to town, often accompanied by his new wife, sportscaster and Miss America Phyllis George. Her fame and money were key to his election, but the helicopter was a subtle metaphor for his campaign: there was a strong, fresh wind blowing.

Brown, who died Tuesday at the age of 88, made just two promises: to run state government like a business, and to use his marketing skills and business experience — from selling encyclopedias to making Kentucky Fried Chicken an international brand — to do it to bring jobs to our poor state.

More:John Y. Brown Jr., dashing KFC millionaire and governor of Kentucky, dies

Former Governor John Y. Brown, centre, spoke with Al Cross, Director of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Affairs in the UK.  At right is former Senator Terry McBrayer.  January 25, 2015.

For Brown, “government like a corporation” meant reform. I doubt he ever used that venerable word to describe his platform, but it was: government decisions would be based on business principles, not political alignments, and to do this he brought fresh blood to government, including taunting ones businessmen with politicians.

Brown didn’t have to be specific; Voters knew what he meant because of the state’s history of corruption, compounded by investigations by the then governor. Julian Carroll’s government, and they knew that Brown was running his own money, not contributions from those who would win or lose from the state.

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