List of governors of Kentucky

The Governor of the Commonwealth of Kentucky is the head of the executive branch of Kentucky's state government,[1] and serves as commander-in-chief of the state's military forces.[2] The governor has a duty to enforce state laws;[3] the power to either approve or veto bills passed by the Kentucky General Assembly;[4] the power to convene the legislature;[5] and the power to grant pardons, except in cases of treason and impeachment.[6] 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.[7]

Fifty-eight 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 Happy Chandler) served multiple non-consecutive terms. Paul E. Patton, the first Kentucky 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.[8] 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.[7] The 63rd and current Kentucky Governor is Democrat Andy Beshear, who took office on December 10, 2019.

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.[9] The second constitution in 1799 changed this to a popular vote, and prevented governors from succeeding themselves within seven years of their terms.[10] The third constitution in 1850 reduced the succession limitation to four years.[11] A 1992 amendment to the constitution allowed governors to have a second term before being prevented from succeeding themselves for four years.[12]

Governors of the Commonwealth of Kentucky
No.[lower-alpha 1] Governor Term in office Party Election Lt. Governor[lower-alpha 2][lower-alpha 3]
1   Isaac Shelby June 4, 1792

June 7, 1796
(not candidate for election)
Democratic-
Republican
1792 Office did not exist
2 James Garrard June 7, 1796

September 5, 1804
(term limited)
Democratic-
Republican
1796
1800   Alexander Scott Bullitt
3 Christopher Greenup September 5, 1804

September 1, 1808
(term limited)
Democratic-
Republican
1804 John Caldwell
(died November 19, 1804)
Vacant
  Thomas Posey
(acting, elected Speaker in 1805)
4 Charles Scott September 1, 1808

August 24, 1812
(term limited)
Democratic-
Republican
1808 Gabriel Slaughter
5 Isaac Shelby August 24, 1812

September 5, 1816
(term limited)
Democratic-
Republican
1812 Richard Hickman
6 George Madison September 5, 1816

October 14, 1816
(died in office)
Democratic-
Republican
1816 Gabriel Slaughter
7 Gabriel Slaughter October 14, 1816

August 29, 1820
(not candidate for election)
Democratic-
Republican
Succeeded from
Lieutenant
Governor
Vacant
8 John Adair August 29, 1820

August 24, 1824
(term limited)
Democratic-
Republican
1820 William T. Barry
9 Joseph Desha August 24, 1824

August 26, 1828
(term limited)
Democratic-
Republican
1824 Robert B. McAfee
10 Thomas Metcalfe August 26, 1828

September 4, 1832
(term limited)
National
Republican
1828 John Breathitt[lower-alpha 4]
11 John Breathitt September 4, 1832

February 21, 1834
(died in office)
Democratic 1832 James Turner Morehead[lower-alpha 5]
12 James Turner Morehead February 21, 1834

August 30, 1836
(not candidate for election)
National
Republican[lower-alpha 6]
Succeeded from
Lieutenant
Governor
Vacant
13 James Clark August 30, 1836

August 27, 1839
(died in office)
Whig 1836 Charles A. Wickliffe
14 Charles A. Wickliffe August 27, 1839

September 2, 1840
(not candidate for election)
Whig Succeeded from
Lieutenant
Governor
Vacant
15 Robert P. Letcher September 2, 1840

September 4, 1844
(term limited)
Whig 1840 Manlius Valerius Thomson
16 William Owsley September 4, 1844

September 6, 1848
(term limited)
Whig 1844 Archibald Dixon
17 John J. Crittenden September 6, 1848

July 31, 1850
(resigned)[lower-alpha 7]
Whig 1848[lower-alpha 8] John L. Helm
18 John L. Helm July 31, 1850

September 2, 1851
(not candidate for election)
Whig Succeeded from
Lieutenant
Governor
Vacant
19 Lazarus W. Powell September 2, 1851

September 4, 1855
(term limited)
Democratic 1851 John Burton Thompson[lower-alpha 9]
20 Charles S. Morehead September 4, 1855

August 30, 1859
(term limited)
Know Nothing 1855 James Greene Hardy
21 Beriah Magoffin August 30, 1859

August 18, 1862
(resigned)[lower-alpha 10]
Democratic 1859 Linn Boyd
(died December 17, 1859)
Vacant
22 James Fisher Robinson August 18, 1862

September 1, 1863
(not candidate for election)
Democratic Succeeded from
President of
the Senate
23 Thomas E. Bramlette September 1, 1863

September 3, 1867
(term limited)
Democratic 1863 Richard Taylor Jacob
24 John L. Helm September 3, 1867

September 8, 1867
(died in office)
Democratic 1867 John W. Stevenson
25 John W. Stevenson September 8, 1867

February 3, 1871
(resigned)[lower-alpha 11]
Democratic Succeeded from
Lieutenant
Governor
Vacant
1868
(special)
26 Preston Leslie February 3, 1871

August 31, 1875
(term limited)
Democratic Succeeded from
President of
the Senate
1871 John G. Carlisle
27 James B. McCreary August 31, 1875

September 2, 1879
(term limited)
Democratic 1875 John C. Underwood
28 Luke P. Blackburn September 2, 1879

September 5, 1883
(term limited)
Democratic 1879 James E. Cantrill
29 J. Proctor Knott September 5, 1883

August 30, 1887
(term limited)
Democratic 1883 James R. Hindman
30 Simon Bolivar Buckner August 30, 1887

September 2, 1891
(term limited)
Democratic 1887 James William Bryan
31 John Y. Brown September 2, 1891

December 10, 1895
(term limited)
Democratic 1891 Mitchell Cary Alford
32 William O'Connell Bradley December 10, 1895

December 12, 1899
(term limited)
Republican 1895 William Jackson Worthington
33 William S. Taylor December 12, 1899

January 31, 1900
(removed from office)[lower-alpha 12]
Republican 1899 John Marshall
34 William Goebel January 31, 1900

February 3, 1900
(died in office)[lower-alpha 12]
Democratic J. C. W. Beckham
35 J. C. W. Beckham February 3, 1900

December 10, 1907
(term limited)
Democratic Succeeded from
Lieutenant
Governor
[lower-alpha 12]
Vacant
1900
(special)
1903 William P. Thorne
36 Augustus E. Willson December 10, 1907

December 12, 1911
(term limited)
Republican 1907 William Hopkinson Cox
37 James B. McCreary December 12, 1911

December 7, 1915
(term limited)
Democratic 1911 Edward J. McDermott
38 Augustus Owsley Stanley December 7, 1915

May 19, 1919
(resigned)[lower-alpha 13]
Democratic 1915 James D. Black
39 James D. Black May 19, 1919

December 9, 1919
(lost election)
Democratic Succeeded from
Lieutenant
Governor
Vacant
40 Edwin P. Morrow December 9, 1919

December 11, 1923
(term limited)
Republican 1919 S. Thruston Ballard
41 William J. Fields December 11, 1923

December 13, 1927
(term limited)
Democratic 1923 Henry Denhardt
42 Flem D. Sampson December 13, 1927

December 8, 1931
(term limited)
Republican 1927 James Breathitt Jr.[lower-alpha 4]
43 Ruby Laffoon December 8, 1931

December 10, 1935
(term limited)
Democratic 1931 Happy Chandler
44 Happy Chandler December 10, 1935

October 9, 1939
(resigned)[lower-alpha 14]
Democratic 1935 Keen Johnson
45 Keen Johnson October 9, 1939

December 7, 1943
(term limited)
Democratic Succeeded from
Lieutenant
Governor
Vacant
1939 Rodes K. Myers
46 Simeon Willis December 7, 1943

December 9, 1947
(term limited)
Republican 1943 Kenneth H. Tuggle
47 Earle Clements December 9, 1947

November 27, 1950
(resigned)[lower-alpha 15]
Democratic 1947 Lawrence Wetherby
48 Lawrence Wetherby November 27, 1950

December 13, 1955
(term limited)
Democratic Succeeded from
Lieutenant
Governor
Vacant
1951 Emerson Beauchamp
49 Happy Chandler December 13, 1955

December 8, 1959
(term limited)
Democratic 1955 Harry Lee Waterfield
50 Bert Combs December 8, 1959

December 10, 1963
(term limited)
Democratic 1959 Wilson W. Wyatt
51 Ned Breathitt December 10, 1963

December 12, 1967
(term limited)
Democratic 1963 Harry Lee Waterfield
52 Louie Nunn December 12, 1967

December 7, 1971
(term limited)
Republican 1967 Wendell Ford[lower-alpha 4]
53 Wendell Ford December 7, 1971

December 28, 1974
(resigned)[lower-alpha 16]
Democratic 1971 Julian Carroll
54 Julian Carroll December 28, 1974

December 11, 1979
(term limited)
Democratic Succeeded from
Lieutenant
Governor
Vacant
1975 Thelma Stovall
55 John Y. Brown Jr. December 11, 1979

December 13, 1983
(term limited)
Democratic 1979 Martha Layne Collins
56 Martha Layne Collins December 13, 1983

December 8, 1987
(term limited)
Democratic 1983 Steve Beshear
57 Wallace Wilkinson December 8, 1987

December 10, 1991
(term limited)
Democratic 1987 Brereton Jones
58 Brereton Jones December 10, 1991

December 12, 1995
(term limited)
Democratic 1991 Paul E. Patton
59 Paul E. Patton December 12, 1995

December 9, 2003
(term limited)
Democratic 1995 Steve Henry
1999
60 Ernie Fletcher December 9, 2003

December 11, 2007
(lost election)
Republican 2003 Steve Pence
61 Steve Beshear December 11, 2007

December 8, 2015
(term limited)
Democratic 2007 Daniel Mongiardo
2011 Jerry Abramson
(resigned November 13, 2014)
Crit Luallen
62 Matt Bevin December 8, 2015

December 10, 2019
(lost election)
Republican 2015 Jenean Hampton
63 Andy Beshear December 10, 2019

Incumbent[lower-alpha 17]
Democratic 2019 Jacqueline Coleman

Confederate governors

George W. Johnson, 1st Confederate Governor of Kentucky
Richard Hawes, 2nd Confederate Governor of Kentucky

During the Civil War, a group of secessionists met at Russellville to form a Confederate government for the Commonwealth of Kentucky. This government never successfully displaced the government in Frankfort, and Kentucky remained in the Union through the entire war. 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]

See also

  • Timeline of Kentucky history

Notes

  1. The state labels Matt Bevin as the 62nd governor;[13] based on this, subsequent terms of repeat governors are numbered.
  2. The office of Lieutenant Governor was created in the 1799 constitution.[14]
  3. Lieutenant governors represented the same party as their governor unless noted.
  4. Represented the Democratic Party.
  5. Represented the National Republican Party.
  6. The National Republican Party changed its name to the Whig Party in 1834.
  7. Crittenden resigned to be Attorney General of the United States.
  8. The 1850 Constitution shifted the election schedule forward, shortening this term by a year.
  9. Represented the Whig Party.
  10. Magoffin resigned due to his disagreement with the state legislature over neutrality in the American Civil War.
  11. Stevenson resigned to take an elected seat in the United States Senate.
  12. Taylor won the 1899 election and was sworn into office. However, the legislature challenged the validity of his win, claiming ballot fraud. His challenger, Goebel, was shot on January 30, 1900, but was named governor by the legislature and sworn in the next day; he died three days later. Since Lieutenant Governor Marshall's win had also been invalidated, Beckham, having been named lieutenant governor, succeeded Goebel.
  13. Stanley resigned to take an elected seat in the United States Senate.
  14. Chandler resigned so that his successor would appoint him to the United States Senate.
  15. Clements resigned to take an elected seat in the United States Senate.
  16. Ford resigned to take an elected seat in the United States Senate.
  17. Beshear's first term expires on December 12, 2023.

References

General
  • "Kentucky's Governors". Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives. Archived from the original on July 8, 2010. Retrieved July 13, 2010.
  • "Governors of Kentucky". National Governors Association. Archived from the original on 2011-03-16. Retrieved January 18, 2008.
  • "Texts of the Constitutions of Kentucky". Kentucky Court of Justice. Archived from the original on 2010-03-18. Retrieved January 18, 2008.
Constitution
Specific
  1. KY Const. art. 69.
  2. KY Const. art. 75.
  3. KY Const. art. 81
  4. KY Const. art. 88.
  5. KY Const. art. 80.
  6. KY Const. art. 77.
  7. Kleber, John E., ed. (1992). "Governor, Office of". The Kentucky Encyclopedia. Lexington: The University Press of Kentucky. ISBN 0-8131-1772-0.
  8. Kleber, John E., ed. (1992). "Goebel Assassination". The Kentucky Encyclopedia. Lexington: The University Press of Kentucky. ISBN 0-8131-1772-0.
  9. 1799 Const. art. II, § 2–3
  10. 1799 Const. art. III, § 3–4
  11. 1850 Const. art. III, § 3
  12. KY Const. art. 71
  13. "Governor Matt Bevin". Governor of Kentucky. Retrieved November 19, 2018.
  14. 1799 Const. art. II, § 15
  15. Kleber, John E., ed. (1992). "Confederate Government". The Kentucky Encyclopedia. Lexington, Kentucky: The University Press of Kentucky. ISBN 0-8131-1772-0.

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