William D. Gorman, the longtime Hazard mayor who helped turn the struggling coal town into a regional hub in eastern Kentucky, died Saturday at his home after an illness. He was 86.
And Gorman was instrumental in locating the Appalachian Regional Hospital outside the city limits, which opened a new section of the county to development as utilities spread to serve the medical center, according to Bill Morton, who preceded Gorman as mayor.
As soon as he entered office, Gorman began saving money to build a swimming pool — an effort to correct a problem he saw during World War II when several Eastern Kentucky servicemen drowned in rivers near Fort Bragg, N.C., while on maneuvers.
"Eastern Kentucky has had a history of people drowning because of not being able to swim,” Gorman once said.
In 1988, he christened the $1.2 million Hazard Pavilion, complete with an Olympic-size swimming pool where generations of Hazard youth would learn to swim.
He also worked with Congressman Hal Rogers to build a Rural Law Enforcement Training Center in Hazard that brings in officers and sheriffs from small towns around the country.
the mid '60's while Bill was operating the Hazard Cable company, Ernest
Sparkman, with WSGS and WKIC, approached Bill's uncle, successful Hazard
businessman Dewey Danie, about the possibility of bringing local
television to Hazard. Sparkman took both Daniel and his nephew to
Cumberland to witness local television firsthand. Seeing the
potential for the medium to flourish in the mountains, Daniel provided
funding for WKIC-TV; thus Bill Gorman's interest in television began.
Gorman was always a defender of Appalachia against stereotypes. He was known to write letters to The Courier-Journal and other newspapers taking up for the people of eastern Kentucky.
When The Courier-Journal published a story in 1991 detailing the declining birth rate in Eastern Kentucky and the fact that it might reduce the number of teachers needed in that part of the state as well as cut into the money coming into the region as welfare, Gorman fired off a letter.
“Could it be to the surprise of a lot of people that Eastern Kentucky's mountain people are normal? Our people are people of pride and ambition. They want and deserve a quality of life that every other American desires. They are intelligent and hard working. They are adjusting to the times,” Gorman wrote to the newspaper.
“No one wants to raise children in a society where their children cannot be properly cared for. I resent highly the implications that this trend is going to hurt the mountain people,” he continued.
But he was a pragmatist as well. Although he had been critical of movies that had stereotyped the people of Eastern Kentucky, he welcomed to the state a planned HBO production, “The Kentucky Cycle.”
Gorman said at the time that Eastern Kentucky can't afford to chase away every film that offends its sensibilities.
“We told them we didn't like their program but we like their money,” Gorman said. “I don't agree with it. I don't approve of it, but I'm not stupid enough to say it wouldn't be done.”
In 1993, he reversed himself on support for an off-track wagering parlor after a ministerial group came out in opposition to it.
“I want to have a happy city,” he said. “I don’t want to fight with the preachers or the bookies.”
As a matter of policy, Gorman believed that government was there to help people. He called for election reform, educational reform, banking reform and court reform.
should be noted that government is as good as the men who make it,” he once wrote in a letter to The Courier-Journal.
Hal Rogers said Gorman continually pressed him for federal money to do things for the people of Hazard and Perry County that they couldn’t afford themselves. He was a big supporter of PRIDE, Rogers’ program to clean up eastern Kentucky.
While Gorman was a lifelong Republican, he contributed to the 1995 gubernatorial campaign of Paul Patton, a Democrat from just up the road in Pikeville. “He really understood the practical aspect of politics,” Rogers said, noting that there hadn’t been a Republican governor of Kentucky at that time for more than a quarter century. “He knew what it took to get things done for the people of Hazard and he did it.”
Visitation for Gorman was held tonight at Hazard City Hall. The visitation will continue at the Forum in Hazard from two until 4 pm on Tuesday. Services begin at 4 pm.
Bill Gorman was such a warm giving person that he will be missed by not only Hazard but all who came in contact with him. I will forever remember the support he gave to the Cornett family reunion by letting us use the Pavilion and other facilities of the city. He was sincere and he was real. Kenneth Combs, Warrensville Heights, Ohio
The Rogers family considered Bill as family. He was my Scoutmaster and Sunday school teacher. His support of Hazard City Schools helped us maintain the quality programs so much needed by the children of our community. Sorry we can't be in Hazard for visitation and the funeral. Audrey, Les, Craig, Chris and Nea Rogers, Hazard, KY
Through his example Mayor Gorman taught the citizens of Hazard and Perry County the importance of civic duty. He lived and breathed for Hazard. In a TV interview he was asked how he would like to be remembered. That's a tough question for anyone, but I know how I will I remember him. I can just look out into my backyard and see the "Mayor Tree". When Mayor Gorman was a boy scout his troop planted trees in my neighborhood as a service project led by his scoutmaster -- my grandfather Clyde H. McAllister. I like to think that the planting of those trees was the planting of the seed of community service in the boy who was to lead our town. Like the tree his legacy will live on. Susan S. Hazard, KY
I never met this wonderful man, but he was good to every member of my Family that resided in the wonderful town of Hazard (Lothair) Ky. May he rest in Peace and the people in Perry Co always acknowledge his contribution to their community. May GOD be with the members of his Family as they grieve over the loss of their loved one. Shirley Wallick in Arizona
We have loss a true gem from our city. We all loved Bill and he will always have a special place in our hearts. Since my dad has been dead, Bill was the only person I could count on to watch my back. We all need a special friend like him. May his wife and family be comforted by the love we all have for them. Mary Belle, Hazard, KY
Bill Gorman was one rare man who had it all, charm, personality, he had a vision for this little one horse town, and not only that but the knowledge and the ability to make it into this wonderful little city we call HOME. It would take a book to write everything Bill has done for Hazard. But after all he did he always wanted to do more! Hazard is what it is today because of Bill Gorman. My heart is heavy and sad but much more enriched because I knew him. Donna K Perkins, Hazard, KY
My prayers go out to the Gorman family and the city of Hazard. Mr. Gorman was cut from a different cloth. Wish we had more like him. Eddie D Sizemore, Acapulco Mexico