List of Kentucky Governors

Governor of Kentucky
Seal of Kentucky
Style
The Honorable
Residence Kentucky Governor's Mansion
Term length Four years, two consecutive with four year pause thereafter
Inaugural holder Isaac Shelby
Formation June 4, 1792
Deputy Jerry Abramson
Salary $125,228 (2009)[1]
Website governor.ky.gov

The Governor of the Commonwealth of Kentucky is the head of the executive branch of Kentucky's government,[2] and serves as commander-in-chief of the state's militia forces.[3] The governor has a duty to enforce state laws;[4] the power to either approve or veto bills passed by the Kentucky Legislature;[5] the power to convene the legislature;[6] and the power to grant pardons, except in cases of treason and impeachment.[7] He or she is also empowered to reorganize the state government or reduce it in size. Historically, the office has been regarded as one of the most powerful executive positions in the United States.[8]

Fifty-seven individuals have held the office of governor. Prior to a 1992 amendment to the state's constitution, the governor was prohibited from succeeding himself in office, though four men (Isaac Shelby, John L. Helm, James B. McCreary, and A. B. "Happy" Chandler) served multiple non-consecutive terms. Paul E. Patton, the first governor eligible for a second consecutive term under the amendment, won his reelection bid in 1999. James Garrard succeeded himself in 1800, before the constitutional provision existed.

William Goebel, who was elected to the office in the disputed election of 1899, remains the only governor of any U.S. state to die from assassination while in office.[9] Martha Layne Collins, who held the office from 1983 to 1987, was the first woman to serve as governor and was only the third woman to serve as governor of any U.S. state who was not the wife or widow of a previous governor.[8]

Steve Beshear is the 61st and current governor, having served since December 11, 2007. He defeated incumbent Governor Ernie Fletcher in the 2007 gubernatorial election and won re-election in 2011, defeating state Senate President David L. Williams.

Governors

Kentucky was initially Kentucky County in Virginia. It achieved statehood and was admitted to the Union on June 1, 1792; see the list of governors of Virginia for the period before statehood. There have been 57 governors, serving 61 distinct terms.

An unelected group proclaimed Kentucky's secession from the Union on November 20, 1861, and it was annexed by the Confederate States of America on December 10, 1861. The Confederate government elected two governors (listed separately), but it never held much control over the state, and the main line of governors was preserved.

The original 1792 Kentucky Constitution had the governor chosen by an electoral college for a term of four years.[10] The second constitution in 1799 changed this to a popular vote, and prevented governors from succeeding themselves within seven years of their terms.[11] The third constitution in 1850 reduced the succession limitation to four years.[12] A 1992 amendment to the constitution allowed governors to have a second term before being prevented from succeeding themselves for four years.[13]




      Democratic (35)       Democratic-Republican (9)       Know Nothing (1)       National Republican (2)       Republican (8)       Whig (6)

# Governor Took office Left office Party Lt. Governor
[note 1]
Terms
[note 2]
1   Isaac Shelby June 4, 1792 June 7, 1796 Democratic-
Republican
None 1
2   James Garrard June 7, 1796 September 5, 1804 Democratic-
Republican
None 2
  Alexander Scott Bullitt
3   Christopher Greenup September 5, 1804 September 1, 1808 Democratic-
Republican
  John Caldwell 1
  Thomas Posey
4   Charles Scott September 1, 1808 August 24, 1812 Democratic-
Republican
  Gabriel Slaughter 1
5   Isaac Shelby August 24, 1812 September 5, 1816 Democratic-
Republican
  Richard Hickman 1
6   George Madison September 5, 1816 October 14, 1816 Democratic-
Republican
  Gabriel Slaughter 12
[note 3]
7   Gabriel Slaughter October 14, 1816 August 29, 1820 Democratic-
Republican
vacant 12
[note 4]
8   John Adair August 29, 1820 August 24, 1824 Democratic-
Republican
  William T. Barry 1
9   Joseph Desha August 24, 1824 August 26, 1828 Democratic-
Republican
  Robert B. McAfee 1
10   Thomas Metcalfe August 26, 1828 September 4, 1832 National
Republican
  John Breathitt 1
11   John Breathitt September 4, 1832 February 21, 1834 Democratic   James T. Morehead 12
[note 3]
12   James T. Morehead February 21, 1834 August 30, 1836 National
Republican
vacant 12
[note 4]
13   James Clark August 30, 1836 August 27, 1839 Whig   Charles A. Wickliffe 12
[note 3]
14   Charles A. Wickliffe August 27, 1839 September 2, 1840 Whig vacant 12
[note 4]
15   Robert P. Letcher September 2, 1840 September 4, 1844 Whig   Manlius V. Thomson 1
16   William Owsley September 4, 1844 September 6, 1848 Whig   Archibald Dixon 1
17   John J. Crittenden September 6, 1848 July 13, 1850 Whig   John L. Helm 12
[note 5]
18   John L. Helm July 31, 1850 September 2, 1851 Whig vacant 12
[note 4]
19   Lazarus W. Powell September 2, 1851 September 4, 1855 Democratic   John B. Thompson 1
20   Charles S. Morehead September 4, 1855 August 30, 1859 Know Nothing   James G. Hardy 1
21   Beriah Magoffin August 30, 1859 August 18, 1862 Democratic   Linn Boyd 12
[note 6]
vacant
22   James F. Robinson August 18, 1862 September 1, 1863 Democratic vacant 12
[note 7]
23   Thomas E. Bramlette September 1, 1863 September 3, 1867 Democratic   Richard T. Jacob 1
24   John L. Helm September 3, 1867 September 8, 1867 Democratic   John W. Stevenson 12
[note 3]
25   John W. Stevenson September 8, 1867 February 3, 1871 Democratic vacant 1 12
[note 8]
[note 9]
26   Preston H. Leslie February 3, 1871 August 31, 1875 Democratic   John G. Carlisle 1 12
[note 10]
27   James B. McCreary August 31, 1875 September 2, 1879 Democratic   John C. Underwood 1
28   Luke P. Blackburn September 2, 1879 September 5, 1883 Democratic   James E. Cantrill 1
29   J. Proctor Knott September 5, 1883 August 30, 1887 Democratic   James R. Hindman 1
30   Simon B. Buckner August 30, 1887 September 2, 1891 Democratic   James W. Bryan 1
31   John Young Brown September 2, 1891 December 10, 1895 Democratic   Mitchell C. Alford 1
32   William O. Bradley December 10, 1895 December 12, 1899 Republican   William J. Worthington 1
33   William S. Taylor December 12, 1899 January 30, 1900 Republican   John Marshall 13
[note 11]
34   William Goebel January 30, 1900 February 3, 1900 Democratic   J. C. W. Beckham 13
[note 11]
35   J. C. W. Beckham February 3, 1900 December 12, 1907 Democratic vacant 1 13
[note 12]
  William P. Thorne
36   Augustus E. Willson December 10, 1907 December 12, 1911 Republican   William Hopkinson Cox 1
37   James B. McCreary December 12, 1911 December 7, 1915 Democratic   Edward J. McDermott 1
38   Augustus O. Stanley December 7, 1915 May 19, 1919 Democratic   James D. Black 12
[note 9]
39   James D. Black May 19, 1919 December 9, 1919 Democratic vacant 12
[note 4]
40   Edwin P. Morrow December 9, 1919 December 11, 1923 Republican   S. Thruston Ballard 1
41   William J. Fields December 11, 1923 December 13, 1927 Democratic   Henry Denhardt 1
42   Flem D. Sampson December 13, 1927 December 8, 1931 Republican   James Breathitt, Jr. 1
43   Ruby Laffoon December 8, 1931 December 10, 1935 Democratic   A. B. "Happy" Chandler 1
44   A. B. "Happy" Chandler December 10, 1935 October 9, 1939 Democratic   Keen Johnson 12
[note 13]
45   Keen Johnson October 9, 1939 December 7, 1943 Democratic   Rodes K. Myers 1 12
[note 8]
46   Simeon S. Willis December 7, 1943 December 9, 1947 Republican   Kenneth H. Tuggle 1
47   Earle C. Clements December 9, 1947 November 27, 1950 Democratic   Lawrence W. Wetherby 12
[note 9]
48   Lawrence W. Wetherby November 27, 1950 December 13, 1955 Democratic vacant 1 12
[note 8]
  Emerson Beauchamp
49   A. B. "Happy" Chandler December 13, 1955 December 8, 1959 Democratic   Harry Lee Waterfield 1
50   Bert T. Combs December 8, 1959 December 10, 1963 Democratic   Wilson Wyatt 1
51   Edward T. Breathitt December 10, 1963 December 12, 1967 Democratic   Harry Lee Waterfield 1
52   Louie B. Nunn December 12, 1967 December 7, 1971 Republican   Wendell H. Ford 1
53   Wendell H. Ford December 7, 1971 December 28, 1974 Democratic   Julian M. Carroll 12
[note 9]
54   Julian M. Carroll December 28, 1974 December 11, 1979 Democratic   Thelma Stovall 1 12
[note 8]
55   John Y. Brown, Jr. December 11, 1979 December 13, 1983 Democratic   Martha Layne Collins 1
56   Martha Layne Collins December 13, 1983 December 8, 1987 Democratic   Steve Beshear 1
57   Wallace G. Wilkinson December 8, 1987 December 10, 1991 Democratic   Brereton Jones 1
58   Brereton Jones December 10, 1991 December 12, 1995 Democratic   Paul E. Patton 1
59   Paul E. Patton December 12, 1995 December 9, 2003 Democratic   Steve Henry 2
60   Ernie Fletcher December 9, 2003 December 11, 2007 Republican   Steve Pence 1
61   Steve Beshear December 11, 2007 incumbent Democratic   Daniel Mongiardo 2
[note 14]
  Jerry Abramson

Confederate governors

During the Civil War, a group of Confederate sympathizers met at the Russellville, Kentucky to form a Confederate government for the Commonwealth of Kentucky. While this government never successfully displaced the government in Frankfort, two men were elected governor of the Confederate government: George W. Johnson, who served from November 20, 1861 to his death on April 8, 1862 at the Battle of Shiloh, and, on Johnson's death, Richard Hawes, who served until the Confederate surrender on April 9, 1865. The Confederate government disbanded shortly after the end of the war in 1865.[15]

Other high offices held

This is a table of congressional seats, other federal offices, and other governorships held by governors. All representatives and senators mentioned represented Kentucky except where noted.

* Denotes those offices for which the governor resigned the governorship.

In addition, one Confederate governor, Richard Hawes, served as a U.S. Representative.[16]

Name Gubernatorial term U.S. Congress Other offices held Source
House Senate
Christopher Greenup 1804–1808 H [17]
John Adair 1820–1824 H S [18]
Joseph Desha 1824–1828 [19]
Thomas Metcalfe 1828–1832 H S [20]
James T. Morehead 1834–1836 S [21]
James Clark 1836–1839 H [22]
Charles A. Wickliffe 1839–1840 H U.S. Postmaster General [23]
Robert P. Letcher 1840–1844 H Ambassador to Mexico [24]
John J. Crittenden 1848–1850 H S U.S. Attorney General* (twice) [25]
Lazarus W. Powell 1851–1855 S [26]
Charles S. Morehead 1855–1859 H [27]
John W. Stevenson 1867–1871 H S* [28]
Preston Leslie 1871–1875 Governor of Montana Territory [29]
James B. McCreary 1875–1879
1911–1915
H S [30]
J. Proctor Knott 1883–1887 H [31]
John Y. Brown 1891–1895 H [32]
William O. Bradley 1895–1899 S [33]
J. C. W. Beckham 1900–1907 S [34]
Augustus O. Stanley 1915–1919 H S* [35]
William J. Fields 1923–1927 H [36]
A. B. "Happy" Chandler 1935–1939
1955–1959
S* [37]
Earle C. Clements 1947–1950 H S* [38]
Bert T. Combs 1959–1963 Sixth Circuit Court Judge [39]
Wendell H. Ford 1971–1975 S* [40]
Ernie Fletcher 2003–2007 H [41]

Living former governors

As of April 2011, seven former governors were alive, the oldest being Wendell H. Ford (1971–1975, born 1924). The most recent governor to die was Louie B. Nunn (1967–1971), on January 29, 2004.

Name Gubernatorial term Date of birth
Wendell H. Ford 1971–1974 (1924-09-08) September 8, 1924 (age 89)
Julian Carroll 1974–1979 (1931-04-16) April 16, 1931 (age 83)
John Y. Brown, Jr. 1979–1983 (1933-12-28) December 28, 1933 (age 80)
Martha Layne Collins 1983–1987 (1936-12-07) December 7, 1936 (age 77)
Brereton Jones 1991–1995 (1939-06-27) June 27, 1939 (age 75)
Paul E. Patton 1995–2003 (1937-05-26) May 26, 1937 (age 77)
Ernie Fletcher 2003–2007 (1952-11-12) November 12, 1952 (age 61)

Notes

References

General
Constitution
Specific

External links

  • Office of the Governor of Kentucky
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