Madison to Louisville Mayor
never forgot his roots in rise to fame.
Madison classmates arent
surprised by his political success
(January 2003) For four years, Madison, Ind.s
connection to Louisville, Ky. has reached the highest level of local
government to Mayor Dave Armstrongs office.
The outgoing Louisville mayor is a native of Madison and graduated from
Madison High School in 1959. His late father, Lyman, operated a dime
store on Main Street, and Dave and his brothers, Lyman (now deceased)
and Tom, worked there.
After only one term as mayor, Armstrong, 61, chose not
to run for re-election. He was succeeded by former Louisville Mayor
Jerry Abramson, who takes office Jan. 1. Armstrong, who is leaving office
after 27 years of public service, has accepted a new position at the
University of Louisville, where he will teach and help develop curriculum
for a new business and public administration school.
Madison residents who grew up with Armstrong have proudly watched their
hometown friend rise through the ranks of government, from commonwealths
attorney to state attorney general to Jefferson County (Ky.) Judge-Executive
to the Louisville mayors seat. As Armstrong made his final rounds
in December at various public events and news conferences, several Madison
residents reminisced about Armstrongs youth, school days and career.
While in office, Armstrong achieved many of his ambitious goals, including
his plan to revive downtown Louisville into a place to live, work and
play. He is proud of his achievements in this area because it
was neglected for so long.
That initiative has produced new parks, residential units for young
professionals, new tourist attractions, a development corporation that
has generated 7,000 new jobs, and a future Marriott hotel complex, to
name just a few. In all, Armstrong said the initiative has created $2
billion in private investment in downtown revitalization.
Perhaps the most visible addition has been the Louisville Extreme Park,
which has received rave reviews from skateboarders, both local and national.
Louisvilles reputation has been redefined to include one
of the best skateboard parks in the world, Armstrong said.
Lakeman and Dave Armstrong
enjoy a RiverBats game in 2001.
With some of his projects still in progress, Armstrongs
staff and supporters were surprised by his decision not to run for re-election.
It was a surprise, but we talked about it for a long time before
he announced, said Deputy Mayor Jane Driskell. When you
believe in a persons vision, its kind of sad to see his
administration come to an end. But hopefully it will continue in a way
that will make everyone proud.
Armstrongs press secretary Vicki Glass said, Hes done
a great deal for downtown. Ive talked to several people who have
moved downtown at the mayors suggestion. It has become a city
Critics, meanwhile, cite lingering controversies that occurred on Armstrongs
watch, including his firing of the Louisville police chief, resulting
in police marching on City Hall; tensions between police and the African
American community; and the citys failure to lure an NBA team.
Armstrong, himself, attributes much of what he is today because of the
values he learned by growing up in a small town like Madison. I
think a bit of what I am today is because I was raised in Madison, a
town rooted in small-town values, he said.
Armstrongs family lived on Main Street, and he recalls working
at various businesses while growing up, including Kroger, Jay-C Foods,
Bircher Volkswagon and Mills Department Store.
Even today, Armstrong makes frequent trips to Madison, often dropping
off his mother, Elizabeth, with her friends for the day. Armstrong has
stayed in touch with several friends from Madison, including Harold
Peewee Lakeman, a City of Madison administrator. Last summer,
Armstrong invited a group from Madison to his suite to watch a Louisville
RiverBats game. Lakeman organized the trip.
Hes been a good friend and he treats me like a king, which
Im not, said Lakeman, a high school classmate and track
teammate of Armstrongs. Im proud of him and what hes
done. Hes one of us and hes not ashamed to tell people where
hes from. He gives Madison a good name.
Madison Track Team yearbook
photo with Dave Armstrong at
far left in back row.
Armstrong attended the 1959 Madison class reunion two
years ago at Clifty Inn. Lakeman said he was eagerly greeted by his
One classmate, Max Lowry of Madison, remembers Armstrong as easy-going
and well-liked. He was a people-person and you could tell he had charisma.
Lowry, a retired executive from Madison Bank and Trust Co., ran track
with Armstrong and the two attended their freshman year at nearby Hanover
College together. Lowry recalled that Armstrong, who had never played
football before, was recruited to try out for the college football team
because of his track skills. Lowry couldnt remember Armstrong
ever getting into a game, but recalled an incident when a player in
the game ran over Armstrong as he stood watching on the sidelines. Armstrong
suffered a broken ankle.
We still joke about his football injury from a game in which he
never played, Lowry said.
Armstrong didnt stick with football for long. He left Hanover
the next year and later graduated from Murray State University. He earned
his law degree at the University of Louisville in 1969, then began his
law career as a police court prosecutor.
Hank Bentz was not in Armstrongs class but remembers him from
the track team. Bentz, who now handles public relations for Madisons
Ivy Tech State College campus, said Armstrong was a good student
and very detailed oriented, a trait that probably helped him as mayor.
Bentz recalled Armstrong to be very popular and someone whom everyone
liked. And the fact he ran track showed he could handle a grueling sport.
In his new role at U of L, Armstrong said he hopes to encourage students
to consider a career in public service. The people Ive met
who hold office have great abilities and integrity and are usually big
Although Armstrong didnt say it, his friends in Madison would
likely put him in that group.
Back to January 2003