Smith D. Broadbent Jr
Agriculturist, Businessman and Civic Leader
In our Bicentennial Trigg County and Family History book, an unnamed source wrote a two page story called “Who was Smith Broadbent, Jr.” Most people at this time do not remember Mr. Broadbent or the mild mannered way he helped steer Trigg County into the 20th Century. He was the dominant Democratic political leader of Trigg County and in the state of Kentucky. Former governor Edward T. “Ned” Breathitt said “he was a kingmaker in Kentucky, but in the finest tradition because he did it for the good of the people.” He was a Trigg Countian who could call 13 Kentucky governors friends.
Mr. Broadbent was born near Wallonia in Trigg County in 1914. He started his education at Wallonia Institute where he went through the 8th grade. He then went to the Cadiz High School graduating in 1930. He was part of the Cadiz High School Indians baseball team that was runner up to the State Championships in 1929 and 1930.
Top left Smith Broadbent Jr
He received his bachelor’s degree in agronomy at the University of Kentucky in 1934, followed by a master’s degree a year later. He lettered in baseball during the 1934 season. He was named to the University Of Kentucky Hall Of Distinguished Alumni in 1975. He was an agriculturist, businessman and civic leader.
Smith and Mildred Holmes Broadbent
Joe Creason, a writer for the Courier Journal, once said “Smith Broadbent whose address is Cobb, KY is a mighty corny fellow.” This is partially because he came out of college and started a corn hybrid growing and processing business that would rival any in the southeast. In cooperation with University of Kentucky, he developed several hybrid seed corn varieties. He built with a modern facility for processing with labor from prisoners of war from Fort Campbell.
He, his father and uncle farmed close to 10000 acres, at one time, the Broadbent farms collectively were a very large dark fired tobacco producer. In 1920 they were recognized as the largest producer in the world.
Broadbent was president of the Kentucky Farm Bureau Federation, the Kentucky Seed Improvement Association, Kentucky State Fair Board, and the Thomas Poe Cooper Foundation, and was named "Man of the Year for Kentucky," by Progressive Farmer magazine in 1956.
He also was active in the Kentucky Lake Council, Western Kentucky Produce, Inc. and the Trigg County Farm Bureau. He was the owner of Broadbent Hybrids and served as president of Broadbent-Birmingham Feed Products, Kentucky Ducks Unlimited, Land between the Lakes National Recreation Association. He and Barry Bingham owner of the Courier Journal started B&B Food products.
He was a lay leader in the Methodist Church, trustee of Kentucky Wesleyan Methodist College and Methodist Hospital in Henderson, a member of the Lions Club, the Pendennis Club of Louisville, and was a director of.
He was chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of Louisville, 1953-1955, and deputy chairman and a member of the Board of Directors; vice chairman, Board of Directors of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, director of South Central Bell Telephone Company, Birmingham; West Kentucky Liquid Fertilizer Inc.; Cedar Bluff Stone Company; Southern Bell Telephone Company, Atlanta; Cedar Bluff Land Company, and Life Insurance Company of Kentucky. He served as president of the Kentucky Educational Television Advisory Committee.
Other directorships and board memberships included the Kentucky YMCA; Pennyrile Rural Electrification Company; Trigg County Hospital; Kentucky Economic Development Association; Citizens Fidelity Corporation executive committee; UK Board of Trustees.
Though he never held an elected office, he helped Trigg County move into the 20th century. John Ed Pearce, a writer of the Courier Journal said “Smith Broadbent Jr. comes as close to dominating the politics of his home county as any single Kentuckian not holding political office, he does this more thru a personal popularity and leadership than thru a functioning political organization.” A governor called Mr. Broadbent and told him they could give 10 miles of blacktop for Trigg County, this was quite something in the 1950s. Mr. Broadbent thought about it and called back and asked how many miles of chip and seal could he get for the same money. The governor was surprised; he thought Broadbent would want the blacktop in front of prominent supporter’s property. He came back and told Broadbent that he could have 100 miles of chip and seal and asked why Mr. Broadbent wanted this. Smith said “I can get the dust out of more homes on gravel or dirt roads with chip and seal and make their lives better.”
He utilized his vast land holdings to entertain many captains of industry and political and military leaders throughout the years. He used these times to talk to them about how they could benefit Trigg County. He played the behind the scenes role to bring millions of dollars to Trigg County. He held a “reunion” of many of these people in 1975 at a tiny restaurant near his Reelfoot Lake 1000 acre farm. Those attending were seven U. S. Generals, several governors of Kentucky and Tennessee, two U. S. Senators, publishers of several newspapers including the Courier Journal and other influential people.
Standing in middle Governor “Ned” Brethitt and Smith Broadbent Jr. standing on left
Duck hunting at their 1000 acre farm at Reelfoot Lake in Tennessee Many politicians, generals and businessmen were excited at an invitation to hunt at Broadbent’s Reelfoot Lake Farm
Many politicians, businessmen and military men loved to be invited to one of the Broadbent Farms Dove Hunts
He was a moving force in bringing Johnson Controls, Lake Barkley State Resort Park, Land between the Lakes recreation area into being.
Former Governor Julian Carroll stated at his death “He (Smith Broadbent Jr.) enjoyed politics, and I can say from experience that he never personally benefitted from his involvement. He was always involved to help others.”
A personal note as a Trigg countian, my father always supported the other faction of the Democratic Party. When our business was growing, I wanted a booth at the Kentucky Fair and Exposition Center for the National Farm Machinery Show. I talked to the people there and was told there was a seven year waiting list. I mentioned to Smith Broadbent III that I was trying to get a booth and would his father see if he could help. A week later, I received a call from Mr. Broadbent asking if I still wanted a booth. Of course, I said yes. A few days later, the head man at the Exposition Center called and said I had a booth …. And I would have a better one next year! He never asked anything of me, he just helped a Trigg Countian. Bob Brame