The 1900’s started out with Kentucky in the nation’s spotlight as both democrats and republicans had claimed victory after the elections a few months earlier. From November 1899 to February 1900 the state had two governments and neither wanted to yield power. During this time; two legislatures shot each other, 1,000 armed civilians took over the capitol for two weeks and newly elected Gov. Goebel was shot. The nation really was wondering if Kentucky was sliding towards their own Civil War?
January 2, 1900, Democrats Goebel and Beckham formally challenge Republican Governor Taylor’s, election victory, in the General Assembly. The Democrats felt the election should be reversed and William Goebel named Governor. The General Assembly also received a letter from Governor Taylor asking them to repeal the Goebel Election Law. The message was received, filed and nothing was ever heard of it again.
January 16, 1900, a party of prominent republicans and anti-Goebel democrats met at the Galt House to unseat the newly elected Governor Taylor.
January 16, 1900, the infamous Colson-Scott Pistol Tragedy took place in the Frankfort Capitol Hotel lobby between the elder ex-Congressman Colonel David Colson and Lieutenant Ethelbert Scott, a young lawyer. Both were devoted Republicans and served the same causes but the two just didn’t like each other. While serving the same regiment together, the feud started February of 1899 when Colson brought military charges against Scott for incompetency and bad conduct. The charges stuck but Scott was later able to expunge them through political connections. Several months later the two were dining in the same restaurant when Scott shot Colson in the groin and was partially paralyzed and never recovered. The next encounter was the Colson-Scott Pistol Tragedy at 12:30 AM. There were 18 bullets shot, Scott was dead having been hit seven times, two innocent dead bystanders and three injured. This event elevated already high tensions until calm prevailed as the public learned this conflict was non-political.
Thursday, January 25, 1900, Frankfort woke up to an increased population of 1,000 more male citizens of voting age, many of whom carried guns. At 11:00 AM, when the legislators convened, the concerned citizens meet at the historic old capitol front. Many politicians took to the stump.
Friday, January 26, 1900, emotions ran strong as the Kentucky legislators continued to talk out their grievances. With 13 elections pending in the legislature, the real fight for the governors mansion was in sight.
11:00 AM, Tuesday, January 30, 1900, Kentucky Governor William Goebel was shot while walking to the capital building with his guards present.
9:00 PM, Tuesday, January 30, 1900, Governor Taylor notified the General Assembly to adjourn and meet in London on February 6 at noon. The armed militia men would not let the democrats meet in the capitol building.
Wednesday, January 31, 1900, the dying Governor Goebel took the oath of office and became the 34th Governor of Kentucky.
Thursday, February 1, 1900, Kentucky had two governors. The democrat laid dying in the Frankfort hotel and the Republican was fortified in the executive building.
Friday, February 2, 1900, the democrats again held a legislative session in the Capitol Hotel and again elected Goebel governor and again gave him and Beckham oaths. Governor Taylor was preparing for Kentucky’s General Assembly to reconvene in London in a few days.
Saturday, February 3, 1900, despite the care of 18 physicians, William Goebel died from an assassin’s bullet at 6:45 PM. Journalists recalled his last words as “Tell my friends to be brave, fearless, and loyal to the common people.” Irvin S. Cobb uncovered another story from the room. On having eaten his last meal, the governor supposedly remarked “Doc that was a damned bad oyster.” Goebel is the only governor of a U.S. state to have been assassinated while in office. Video
February 3, 1900, John Creep Wickliffe Beckham took the oath of office within an hour after death and became Kentucky’s 35th Governor.
February 3, 1900, New York Governor Theodore Roosevelt publicly recognized Taylor as Governor of Kentucky.
February 8, 1900, Goebel’s body was returned to Frankfort for his official funeral. 6,000 strong turned out for the event in spite of a miserable rainy day.
May 15, 1900, the BB-6 USS Kentucky was commissioned into the U.S. Navy in Newport News, VA. Captain Colby M. Chester was the commander, front row middle. She was described as the most powerful battleship when launched. From bow and stern the Kentucky could fire simultaneously a thirteen inch gun. No European power had placed on the deck, of a warship, any gun more than twelve inches. Her first active service was 1900-04 on the Asiatic Station, sailing between the U.S. and the Far East via the Suez Canal. From 1905-07, Kentucky operated along the U.S. east coast and in the Caribbean area. 1907-09 she was part of the Great White Fleet, which then-President Roosevelt would send around the world as a demonstration of the U.S. growing naval power. She came home in February 1909, to be refurbished and to start a new life in 1912. Video
May 21, 1900, the United States Supreme Court announced their decision in favor of Governor Beckham. Beckham would later win a special election held the following November.
January 10, 1901, the world’s largest oil well, at the time, began gushing oil out of control in Texas. Spindletop Gusher, as it became known, ushered in the Modern U.S. Oil Industry. Today Spindletop Hall, a magnificent mansion built from the oil well’s proceeds, was completed in 1937 in Lexington. In 1959 it became the residence of the University of Kentucky Faculty, Staff, and Alumni Club. Video
February 5, 1901, the battleship Kentucky arrived in the Philippines after it received its first orders to the Far East to support Western forces during the Boxer Rebellion. The flagship of Rear Admiral Louis Kempff passed through the Mediterranean before transiting the Suez Canal en route to Manila. Over the next three years, it promoted American interests in the region through numerous port calls in China and Japan as well as later served as flagship of Rear Admiral Robley D. Evans’ Asiatic Fleet.
August 2, 1901, George W. Ranck, Kentucky writer and historian died tragically while doing the work he loved. While conducting research for an article about Lexington’s pioneer history, Ranck walked “on the Louisville and Nashville Railroad tracks just below Tarr’s Distillery in front of the old Ater place, in the west end of the city of Lexington.” According to one obituary, the author was “examining a spot of ground associated with the first settlement of Lexington, and, evidently bent on fixing definitely a certain locality, had his attention wholly centered on the problem . . .” Absorbed with his research, Ranck failed to see an approaching train. He was struck and instantly killed. Mr. Ranck authored the History of Lexington, Kentucky: Its Early Annals and Recent Progress. This book began Ranck’s career as a prolific writer and historian. His topics included the histories of Lexington, Fort Boonesborough, Kentucky poet Theodore O’Hara, and Kentucky’s pioneer period.
May 22, 1902, the Wireless Telephone Company of America is incorporated to capitalize on Nathan Stubblefield’s invention of the radio transmitter-receiver aka “wireless telephone”. Stubblefield refused large sums of money for the invention opting for stocks instead. Stubblefield goes on tour to promote and demonstrate the new invention to potential investors. The tour was not as successful as hoped for. With the company in control of his invention, Nathan returns home to expose the company as a fraudulent stock promotion scheme and begins to experience a series of devastating events. His financial backers sue him; his children sell the family farm; and his wife abandons him. He becomes an eccentric hermit, moving from shack to shack, and subsisting on donations from friends and family. He dies in 1928 of starvation in his hometown of Murray, KY. He is pictured demonstrating his phone to U.S. Congressmen in March 1902.
June 16, 1906, the cornerstone of the current capitol building was laid in a grand ceremony with an estimated 20,000 onlookers. J.C.W. Beckham the 35th Kentucky Governor presided. The exact location of the cornerstone is unknown, although a plaque commemorating the event is located on the northwest rotunda pier wall. The distinguished architect was Frank Mills Andrews, a native of Iowa who practiced throughout the Midwest. The capital was open for business four years later.
December 10, 1907, Augustus E. Wilson became the 36th Governor of Kentucky. A republican in a democratic state he had many enemies, especially after pardoning several individuals related to the assassination of Governor Gobel.
February 12, 1909, the centennial of Abraham Lincoln’s birth was celebrated by a visit from President Theodore Roosevelt to Hodgenville on a cold rainy day. Roosevelt, arrived at the Sinking Spring Farm ceremonies by carriage, escorted by twelve Confederate veterans and spoke for the formal laying of the cornerstone for Lincoln Memorial Hall, the first Lincoln Memorial. Roosevelt addressed the crowd of nearly 3,000 a month before the end of his second term. The celebration reverberated across the country. Speeches, formal dinners, and fireworks marked the celebration from New York to San Francisco, along with booklets containing Lincoln’s most famous speeches, centennial coins, ribbons, and medals proudly worn at county, state, and national events. President Roosevelt was a well-known Lincoln admirer and was devoted to preserving Lincoln’s memory and passionately endorsed the project. The Roosevelt family attended including daughter Ethel Roosevelt.
June 2, 1910, Kentucky’s fourth permanent and current capitol building was dedicated in a grand ceremony led by Kentucky’s 36th Governor: Augustus Willson. The Capitol is home to the House and Senate chambers and Kentucky’s Supreme Court. Decorative lunettes, painted by T. Gilbert White, highlight the entrances to the House and Senate chambers both of which are frontier scenes with Daniel Boone. The east mural portrays Boone and his party catching their first glimpse of the Bluegrass Region atop Pilot Knob in 1769. The west mural depicts the negotiations for the 1775 Treaty of Sycamore Shoals, which lead to the purchase of Cherokee land that would eventually become Kentucky. The final cost was $1.82M some of which was provided by the federal government for damages due to the Civil War and services for the 1898 Spanish American War. No plans were made for parking, popular opinion said automobiles were a fad.
April 20, 1911, the infamous Livermore Lynching that attracted international attention occurred in McClean County. Will Potter was the black manager of a segregated poolroom where Clarence Mitchell, a young white man, was asked to leave. A fight ensued and Potter fired two shots at Mitchell. The city marshal immediately arrested Potter and brought him to the theater, securing him in a dressing room behind the stage. A mob of 50 gathered, took Potter to the center of the stage, tied him to a pole, and turned on the stagelights. The mob sat in the orchestra pit and on cue fired 200 shots, nearly half entered the body of Mr. Potter.
July 8, 1911, shortly after midnight, James Buckner, an 18 year young black man, became the first person to die by electrocution in Kentucky. The prison doctor, Dr. R. H. Moss nearly got electrocuted as he went to examine Buckner before the electricity was switched off. Over 165 persons have been killed by electricity since. Buckner had been convicted of stabbing to death, police officer Robey at Lebanon in Marion County. Robey had gone to investigate a disturbance and arrested Buckner and another lad, Jesse Smith. They turned on Robey and stabbed him 16 times. The two were quickly re-arrested and taken to jail in Louisville as it was feared they might be lynched.
October 18, 1911, the equestrian statue of Brigadier General John Hunt Morgan was unveiled in a grand ceremony in downtown Lexington, KY. The statue’s sculptor was Pompeo Copii. Kentucky Historical Society’s United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC)raised $15,000 to create the bronze memorial to John Hunt Morgan. The statue depicts Morgan astride a warhorse. The dedication ceremony included Morgan’s brother-in-law, Confederate general Basil Duke; children singing Confederate songs “Dixie” and “Bonnie Blue Flag;” and an address by Gov. Augustus E. Willson.
December 6, 1911, Abraham Lincoln School’s cornerstone was laid in Lexington. The public school opened in 1912 and was funded by a mixture of private donations and public funds. It was a progressive model for elementary education with facilities and programs far ahead of the times. It had a playground, swimming pool, carpenter shop, kitchen, sewing room, rooftop garden, neighborhood laundry, circulating library, and domestic science department. Lincoln also exemplified the era of school segregation in Lexington. Black students were not allowed to attend Lincoln throughout its fifty-five years of service as a public school. The school was closed in 1967.
April 15, 1912, the Titanic sunk and Dr. Ernest Moraweck and Lutie Davis Parrish living in Kentucky, perished. Dr. Moraweck’s body, if recovered, was never identified, he lived in Frankfort. Lutie Davis Parrish was born in Lexington but was living in Versailles. Charles Hallace Romaine from Georgetown had moved out of state.
September 23, 1913, Lexington’s grand premier of the Ben Ali Theater featured a vaudeville act of “The Passing of 1912,” staring Trixie Friganza and Dixie Quinan. The stage was said to be one of the finest in the south with a $1,500 velvet curtain. The audience was dressed in black tie and exquisite gowns.
January 20, 1914, a formal reception was held at the new Governor’s Mansion. Invitations were sent by Governor McCreary to selected citizens to come to Frankfort to view the new home Kentucky Governors would reside in for decades to come.
July 28, 1914, World War One Began.
February 8, 1915, D.W. Griffith’s Birth of a Nation, a landmark film in the history of cinema, premieres at Clune’s Auditorium in Los Angeles. The silent film was America’s first feature-length motion picture and a box-office smash, and during its unprecedented three hours Griffith popularized countless filmmaking techniques that remain central to the art today. However, because of its explicit racism, Birth of a Nation is also regarded as one of the most offensive films ever made. Actually titled The Clansman for its first month of release, the film provides a highly subjective history of the Civil War, Reconstruction, and the rise of the Ku Klux Klan. Griffith was born in La Grange in 1875. Video
September 12, 1915, Ford Motor Company opened their new plant in Louisville on a 2.5 acre site on South Third Street. Initially the plant employed 53 people and produced 15 cars per day, many of which were Model T’s.
December 7, 1915, Augustus O. Stanley became the 38th Governor of Kentucky. During his term, Kentucky was the first “wet” state to ratify the Eighteenth Amendment, enshrining prohibition into the national constitution. He resigned as governor to assume the senate seat in May 1919. Ref: 15
June 1, 1916, Louis Brandeis became the first Jewish justice on the U.S. Supreme Court, with a 47-22 Senate confirmation vote. Born in Louisville to Jewish immigrant parents, Brandeis was raised in a secular home. His nomination was bitterly contested because of his religious background and his opposition to powerful corporations, monopolies and public corruption. Two years earlier he authored Other People’s Money—And How the Bankers Use It. All Supreme Court nominees had been confirmed the same day as nominated, until Brandeis’s nomination by President Wilson. Hoping to embarrass Brandeis, the senate for the first time in history held a public hearing on a Supreme Court nominee. Four months later Brandeis was confirmed. Known as the “Robin Hood of the Law,” Brandeis was one of the most influential figures ever to serve on the high court and his opinions were, according to legal scholars, some of the “greatest defenses” of freedom of speech and the right to privacy ever written by a member of the Court.
February 24, 1917, The Louisville Courier-Journal reported, ”a huge chip from one of the most historic trees in the state, a slab from a Beech Tree In Letcher County bearing the initials of Daniel Boone with the date 1781, has just been brought to Lexington and is in the care of the Bryan Station Chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution. The relic will be on permanent display in the Kentucky Room of the Continental Hall, as a gift of the chapter. The tree for generations has been a landmark, located on Boone’s Creek, 300 feet from the Kentucky River. Within recent years it has been visited by thousands of tourist to see the initials and date cut by Daniel Boone.”
April 6, 1917, America Entered Into World War One.
May 27, 1917, at 4:00 PM Kentucky’s second deadliest tornado began in the northwest corner of Tennessee and quickly moved into Kentucky. 42 people lost their lives in Fulton County half of which were in the Bondurant area along KY 1282. The southeast side of Clinton County was also hard hit, with 17 more fatalities there. In Graves County another 5 people died near Dublin, KY. 64 lives were lost and 345 people were injured in this F4 tornado which traveled 50 miles.
November 5, 1917, Buchanan v. Warley, 245 U.S. 60 (1917), is a case in which the Supreme Court of the United States addressed civil government-instituted racial segregation in residential areas. The Court held unanimously that a Louisville city ordinance, prohibiting the sale of real property to blacks in white-majority neighborhoods, violated the Fourteenth Amendment’s protections for freedom of contract. The ruling of the Kentucky Court of Appeals was thus reversed.
11th Hour on the 11th Day of the 11th Month, 1918, World War One Ended.
May 19, 1919, Augustus O. Stanley the 38th Governor of Kentucky resigned and James D. Black, Kentucky’s 39th Governor took office. Stanley left office to become Kentucky’s 26th Senator. Governor Black served for seven months and was deeply interested in education, earlier he had served as superintendent of the Knox County public schools for two years, and was instrumental in the founding of Union College in Barbourville. He served as president of the college from 1910 to 1912.
March 11, 1920, Will Lockett was electrocuted to death in the Frankfort State Penitentiary. Lockett was the self-confessed killer of Geneva Hardman, a ten-year-old white girl, in Lexington a month earlier. Lockett, a black World War I veteran, had pleaded guilty without benefit of counsel at the time of his arrest. His trial at the Fayette County courthouse, five days after the crime, lasted barely thirty minutes, and the judge sentenced him to death. A large lynch mob attempted to seize Lockett that day but was repulsed by gunfire from state troops called out by Gov. Morrow (1919-23). Six of the mob were killed and scores injured. Regular U.S. Army troops were sent in to preserve order. Because this was the first time troops had been called out to disperse a lynch mob south of the Mason-Dixon line, it was widely publicized in the national press. The day after the trial, Lockett was escorted by four hundred troops from Union Station in Lexington to the penitentiary. Lexingtonians thought Lockett deserved to suffer and wanted him hung, the Kentucky legislatures agreed and immediately approved an Act ensuring “the accused has been adjudged to suffer a death sentence for the crime of rape or attempted rape, in which event sentence shall be executed by hanging the condemned in the county in which the crime was committed.”
The first concrete highway in Kentucky was built by the Louis des Cognets Company, a 7 mile stretch on the Lexington-Winchester Pike in Fayette County, total cost $192,182.38. All funds were provided by federal and state governments. Ref: 12
March 5, 1921, a Louisville Patrolman found a mail sack and a number of opened registered letters by an ash can in the yard of Calvary Baptist Church. Proof that whoever had dynamited two safes in the Paris County Post Office, three days earlier, had escaped with $15,000-$20,000 and had possibly come to Louisville to riffle through the mail. $20,000.00 in 1921 had the same buying power as $248,898 in 2017. Today this former federal Post Office, built in 1908, made of brick with significant terra cotta details is the Hopewell Museum. An art and heritage museum of Bourbon County and Central Kentucky that celebrates, with revolving exhibits, the arts and culture of past and present. In one of the old vaults, now resides the museum’s bookstore, specializing in regionally themed books and books written and published by regional authors.
February 13, 1922, The Louisville Courier Journal announced on the front page that Governor Edwin Porch Morrow had publicly invited David Warth Griffith back to his home state for the first showing of his new film, Orphans of the Storm. “On behalf of the Commonwealth of Kentucky,” Governor Morrow wrote to the producer, “I urge you to be present in your old Kentucky home when you’re great motion picture of the French Revolution is produced in your native state. You are part of the Commonwealth, we are proud of you and feel we have the right to ask your presence and to give you a welcome as a man who Kentucky is well pleased. It will give me pleasure to greet you here in Louisville and renew your acquaintance.” The producer arrived the next Saturday and stayed at the Seelbach. He also made time to visit his home town of Lan grange.
July 18, 1922, Kentucky took the great leap into radio broadcasting, when Credo Fitch Harris announced to all, who might have been able to hear, “This is WHAS, the radiotelephone broadcasting station of the Courier-Journal and Louisville Times in Louisville, Ky.” It was originally assigned the frequency of 350 kHz. WHAS is an acronym for: We Have A Signal. Today it is a 50,000 Watt clear channel radio station assigned to frequency 840kHz. With clear channel status, its nighttime signal can be heard in most of the continental U.S. and much of Canada, and even in other countries at times.
October 3, 1923, early in the morning, the inmates of Eddyville penitentiary in western Kentucky were preparing to leave their cells for breakfast. That was when Chester Walters, made a mad dash for freedom along with two other inmates, killing three guards in the attempt. A three-day siege that would later be called the Battle of Eddyville ensued, ending with the deaths of all three prisoners. When it was over, twenty-one-year-old Lillian Walters, Chester’s wife, was left to stand trial for conspiracy and murder, for the death of Hodge Cunningham, one of the guards.
December 11, 1923, William J. Fields, known as “Honest Bill from Olive Hill” became the 41st Governor of Kentucky. He increased the gasoline tax to help fund his highway program and preserved the Cumberland Falls from industrial development by getting T. Coleman du Pont to purchase the property around the falls and donate it to the state. He also kept his dairy cows on the Governors Mansion to the dismay of many. Ref: 15
January 23, 1924, the grand battleship, the USS Kentucky (BB-6) was sold for scrap. Her first voyage in 1900 was from New York to the Far East for the Boxer Rebellion. Then onto the Mediterranean and Manila via the Suez Canal to stay in the region till 1904 until she returned to the NY port. After a five month overhaul she returned to action, landing in Havana during the Cuba Insurrection. In 1906 she joined the Roosevelt’s Great White Fleet as the oldest ship and was already viewed as obsolete. Decommissioned in 1909 it underwent a 6 year renovation. She then supported American forces along the eastern coast, Veracruz, Guantanamo Bay, Santo Domingo, Caribbean and Chesapeake areas until decommissioned in Philadelphia in 1920. USS Kentucky remained there until being sold for scrap. This move was part of the US Navy’s compliance with the newly-signed Washington Naval Treaty.
February 2, 1925, the third Louisville Ford Motor Assembly Plant was completed on 22.5 acres at 1400 S.W. Parkway. This plant was built to make 400 cars a day with 1,000 employees. The Model T died here in 1927 and was replaced with the Model A and then the V-8 engine began being built in the plant in 1934. The plant survived the “Great Louisville Flood of 1937.” The U.S. military took over the factory during WWII where only Army Jeeps were built. The plant closed in 1955 and operations moved to another Louisville even larger location.
July 3, 1925, Ray Ross was hanged from a scaffold in the jail yard on East Short Street in Lexington. Ross was a 25 year old black male who attacked and raped a 9 year old black female. The crowd cheered as they witnessed the hanging.
January 11, 1926, John Wesley Langley, Floyd County, resigned as a Member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Kentucky’s 10th district. Also known as “Pork Barrel John,” he had to relinquish his office after being convicted of illegally selling alcohol. Langley had deposited $115,000 in his bank account over a three-year period despite earning only $7,500 a year as a congressman. He had arranged for “medicinal” alcohol to be released to New York-based bootleggers during prohibition. He also tried to bribe a Prohibition officer. His wife Katherine, then ran for his seat and won in the next election, declaring that her husband had been the victim of a conspiracy and resolving to clear his name. She won the special election. President Calvin Coolidge granted John Langley a pardon on in 1928 with a stipulation he never run for office again.
December 13, 1927, Flem D. Sampson became the 42nd Governor of Kentucky. The end of his term came during the Great Depression. He called out the Kentucky National Guard to quell a violent mine strike in Harlan County known as the Battle of Evarts.
July 13, 1928, Kentucky holds the distinction for executing the most prisoners in a single day in America. Seven men were put to death, one right after another, by “Old Sparky”, the nickname given to the electric chair. The executions took place in Eddyville, KY at the Kentucky State Penitentiary, also known as the Castle on the Cumberland. The three black men and four white men had all committed murder.
October 29, 1929, The Great Depression Started.
July 28, 1930, the hottest day in Kentucky was set when Greensburg, Kentucky thermometer hit 114° F (46° C). The summer of 1930 is the period against which all other hot spells are measured. Beginning on 5 July, Lovelaceville in McCracken County, observed nine consecutive days of over one hundred degree readings. But the worst was yet to come! During the fourth week of July, a wave of excessive heat arrived for the third time during the month. After consecutive days of 103°F, 106°F and 110°F, Greensburg established the record. Among the other high temperatures that day were 113°F at Bowling Green, 112°F at Bardstown, Lovelaceville and Middlesboro, and 111°F at Anchorage and Franklin. Of all the stations reporting that day in Kentucky, only Pike County’s Dorton with 99°F failed to reach triple digits. The heat wave continued through 9 August!
December 8, 1931, Ruby Laffoon became the 43rd Governor of Kentucky. Laffoon set new records for the number of pardons granted and the number of Kentucky Colonels commissioned. Laffoon’s continued effort to get a sales tax split the Democratic Party. Leading the opposition was Ben Johnson, whom Laffoon had made highway commissioner, and by Lt. Gov. A.B. Chandler. Party factionalism and a sick economy left Laffoon with a meager record as governor.
November 16, 1934, President Franklin D. Roosevelt traveled to Harrodsburg to dedicate the George Rogers Clark Monument to honor the first permanent settlement west of the Allegheny Mountains. Senator Barkley introduced the president as the “Great Pioneer of his Era,” with Governor Laffoon also in attendance. Roosevelt’s message was that a pioneer spirit was needed no less in 1934 than it was when Clark and his brave band opened up the Great Northwest Territory to civilized homes. The granite monument depicts Clark in the middle, the left symbolizes frontier family life and the right represents youth and age, depicting Boone and Harrod. The inscription reads: “The First Permanent Settlement of the West” An estimated 50,000 people were in attendance. The visit took months to prepare but the speech lasted 8 minutes. Roosevelt was quickly escorted back to his train that was waiting a return to Washington.
August 14, 1936, 5:20 a.m., Rainey Bethea, 22, was the last person to be publicly executed in the U.S. Bethea, who confessed to the rape and murder of a 70-year-old woman named Lischia Edwards, was convicted of her rape and publicly hanged in Owensboro, Kentucky. Mistakes in performing the hanging and the surrounding media circus contributed to the end of public executions in the U.S. Kentucky was the last state to change the law in 1938. Gov. Albert B. “Happy” Chandler expressed regret at having approved the repeal, claiming, “Our streets are no longer safe.” Over 15,000 people attended, Newspapers described vendors selling hot dogs, popcorn and drinks. “Every bar was packed to the doors. Down the main street tipsy merrymakers rollicked all night. ‘Hanging parties’ were held in many a home,” Time magazine, August 1936.
February 23, 1937, the Cumberland National Forest was established by a proclamation signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. After years of debate, Kentucky legislatures passed a resolution to change the name to Daniel Boone National Forest, President Lyndon B. Johnson agreed and officially changed the name in 1966.Spread across 21 counties of southern and eastern Kentucky, more than 708,000 acres of national forest system lands are managed within a 2.1 million-acre proclamation boundary. There are four Ranger districts: Cumberland, London, Sterns, Redbird, the Forest Supervisor’s office is located in Winchester. The forest’s attractions include the Red River Gorge Geological Area, Pioneer Weapons Hunting Area, Cave Run Lake, Laurel River Lake, Beaver Creek and Clifty Wilderness Areas, Sheltowee Trace National Recreation Trail, Natural Arch Scenic Area and much more.
The morning of January 24, 1937, was perhaps the darkest moment during the “Great Louisville Flood,” as every part of the Ohio River was above flood stage 4. The river did not crest at Louisville until the 27th and measured 57.1 feet on Louisville’s upper gage while farther down the river, in Paducah, the river crested at 60.6 feet on February 2nd. Damages from what could easily be considered one of the most powerful floods of the century were extensive. Louisville was the hardest hit city along the Ohio River, where light and water services failed. Almost 70 percent of the city was under water, and 175,000 people were forced to leave their homes. The entire city of Paducah was forced to evacuate as well. The Weather Bureau reported that total flood damage for the entire state of Kentucky was 250 million dollars, which was an incredible sum in 1937. Another flood of this magnitude would not be seen in the Ohio River Valley until 60 years later. January 1937 also recorded 22.7” of rain in Covington, a Kentucky monthly precipitation record.
February 25, 1938, William Whitley State Historic Site in Stanford, Lincoln County was designated a Kentucky State Park. William and Esther Whitley, who moved to the Kentucky frontier in 1775, constructed a brick house between 1787 and 1794. It was the first brick home that marked the transition from the era of log cabins to that of more formal homes. Dubbed the “Guardian of Wilderness Road,” the house was a gathering spot for early Kentuckians and was used as a fortress against Indian attacks. Visitors included George Rogers Clark and Daniel Boone. The estate, named Sportsman’s Hill, was also home to the first circular racetrack to run counter-clockwise in the United States.
Great Depression Ended
April 21, 1939, John Y. Brown candidate for democratic nomination for the governorship was struck in the jaw by a Jackson County Deputy Sheriff in McKee, KY. Brown was in town arguing a case for two United Mine Worker organizers who had been arrested in McKee. Mr. Brown said a near free-for-all in the office of the County Judge ended with “about 8 deputy sheriffs” pointing guns at me. The two men, from Hazard and Jenkins, were arrested for “banding and confederating, driving an automobile while drunk, carrying concealed deadly weapons and illegal transportation of liquor.” McKee’s Sheriff Pence, a coal operator and owner of a fleet of coal trucks arrested the organizers. Pence was not present in the brawl as he was nowhere to be found for the next few days after the arrest. Brown was unsuccessful at his run but his son became Governor 40 years later.
September 1, 1939, World War Two Began.
October 9, 1939, Governor A.B. (“Happy”) Chandler resigned as the 44th Governor of Kentucky. Lt. Gov. Keen Johnson became the 45th Governor and appointed Gov. Chandler to the vacant U.S. Senate seat left open by the death of Senator M.M. Logan. Chandler went on to win the special election and later the general election to serve as Senator until 1945, when he resigned, to become the Commissioner of Baseball.
July 1, 1941, Mammoth Cave was designated a National Park. It is home to the world’s longest cave system. The caves opened to the public in 1816, which makes it the second oldest tourist attraction in the U.S. (Niagara Falls oldest). The official name of the system is the Mammoth-Flint Ridge Cave System for the ridge under which the cave has formed. Besides being a National Park it is also a World Heritage Site and an International Biosphere Reserve.
December 7, 1941, Pear Harbor was Bombed and the U.S. Entered into World War Two.
Pine Mountain State Resort Park was the first state park created for Kentucky. It is located 13 miles from the Cumberland Gap. Now Kentucky has more resort parks than any other state in the nation.
March 16, 1942, three Kentucky tornadoes swept through the state killing 24 people. The first, a F4 tornado, struck at 12:15 AM in Grayson and Hardin counties killing 9 people in seven different homes and sweeping away 20 other homes in Caneyville, Millwood, Leitchfield, Clarkson, and Summit. The next one, a F3, struck an hour and fifteen minutes later in Nelson County killing 4 persons. The last twister, another F3, occurred in Muhlenberg County at 11:40 PM and devastated the mining community of Browder, sweeping away 12 small homes and causing 10 deaths, another death occurred on a farm near Drakesboro. The March 1942 tornado outbreak was a deadly late-winter tornado outbreak which struck a large area of the Central and Southern United States on March 16–17, 1942. The tornado outbreak killed 153 people and injured at least 1,284.
February 14, 1943, Associate Justice Wilety Blount Rutledge was sworn into the United States Supreme Court. Wiley Rutledge, from Cloverport, Breckinridge County, was President Roosevelt’s eighth and last appointment to the Supreme Court. Justice Blount became one of the Court’s leading liberal activists and an early supporter of racial equality, free speech, and church-state separation. He contributed significantly to enhancing civil liberties and the rights of naturalized citizens and criminal defendants. He died as a Justice of a stroke at age fifty-five, lasting 6 years, 6 months and 23 days.
July 21, 1944, Marine Pvt 1st Class Luther Skaggs, Jr. from Henderson, KY was critically wounded when a Japanese grenade exploded in his foxhole on the Asan-Adelup beachhead on Guam. But instead of calling a corpsman and revealing his outfit’s position, he calmly applied a tourniquet to his shattered leg and for eight hours continued to return the enemy’s fire with his rifle and hand grenades. For this President Truman awarded Skaggs the Congressional Medal of Honor for: being uncomplaining and calm through this critical period and serving as “a heroic example of courage and fortitude to other wounded men.”
November 13, 1944, Junior James Spurrier from Russell County, nearly single-handedly captured the village of Achain, France from German control. For several hours on that day, Spurrier attacked the village repeatedly wandering into the command post, replenishing his ammo and slipping out the door. At the end of the night he had routed the enemy. His valor was recognized the following spring with the Medal of Honor. The picture shows Junior receiving the Medal from Lt. Gen. William Hood Simpson. Spurrier a few months earlier was involved with another heroic action where he received the Distinguished Service Cross. Junior had a very turbulent life after the war and had difficulty adjusting back to civilian life. He is buried in Mountain Home National Cemetery in Tennessee.
September 2, 1945, World War Two Ended.
June 25, 1950, Korean War Began.
November 27, 1950, Lawrence W. Wetherby became the 48th Governor of Kentucky. Because three members of Wetherby’s close family had been killed in automobile accidents on the state’s roadways, improving roads was a high priority. Wetherby authorized the building, re-building, or re-surfacing of nearly 6,000 miles of roads during his administration.
March 15, 1851, Beattyville, Kentucky was established. The city is nestled in a valley where the North Fork and South Fork rivers come together to create the head waters of the Kentucky River. Beattyville is named for a local land owner Sam Beatty in 1843.
June 4, 1951, Carl H. Dodd from the community of Cotes near Evarts, KY, was presented the Medal of Honor by President Truman. On January 30, 1951, Dodd led his platoon against Hill 256, a strongly defended position near Subuk, Korea, as part of Operation Thunderbolt in the Korean War. Leading from the front despite intense hostile fire, he single-handedly destroyed a machine gun nest and a mortar position while organizing and encouraging his men. The next morning he and his platoon continued their advance and captured the hill. No one in Harlan County Ky, could remember ever witnessing a greater welcome given one man. The Homecoming parade moved through Harlan, Evarts, Kenvir, and back to the Evarts football field for the speechmaking, the war hero’s own people agreed it all couldn’t have been inspired by a more gracious and unassuming hero.
August 20, 1952, Colonel William Earl Barber from Dehart, KY was presented the Medal of Honor by President Harry S. Truman in a White House ceremony. As a U.S. Marine Barber (then captain) and his company of 220 men held off more than 1,400 People’s Republic of China soldiers during six days of fighting in North Korea. Despite the extreme cold weather conditions and a bullet wound to the leg, Barber refused an evacuation order for his company to withdraw from their mountain pass defensive position which was surrounded. Barber, aware that leaving would cause 8,000 Marines of his division to be trapped in North Korea, he held on to the position with his men, killing over 1,000 enemy troops; only 82 of his men were able to walk away after eventually being relieved. The citation read: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as commanding officer of Company F in action against enemy aggressor forces.
October 12, 1952, Ernest Edison “Ernie” West ran through heavy fire to rescue his wounded commander, Capt. Gividen, after they had fallen into an ambush. As he was pulling the Captain to safety, three hostile soldiers attacked. West shielded the commander with his body and killed the attackers with his rifle, suffering a wound which resulted in the loss of his eye in the process. Despite this injury, he remained on the field and assisted in the evacuation of other wounded men, at one point killing three more hostile soldiers. For these actions, he was awarded the U.S. military’s highest decoration, the Medal of Honor. Ernest Edison “Ernie” West, born in Russell, KY and raised in an orphanage in Nicholasville.
July 27, 1953 Korean War Ended.
November 1, 1955, Vietnam War Began.
April 30, 1956, Alben Barkley’s sudden death remains a legendary moment in American Politics. Barkley was telling 1,000 students at Washington & Lee University in Lexington, VA: “I’m glad to be a junior [senator], I’m glad to sit on the back row; for I would rather be a servant in the House of the Lord than to sit in the seats of the mighty.” Barkley then had a heart attack and tumbled into a microphone stand, collapsing in front of his shocked audience. To add to the drama, Mrs. Barkley was in the audience and watched helplessly as her husband died. Barkley was returned by a special 10-car train home to Paducah, near his hometown, where he was born in a log cabin.
September 10, 1956, the Louisville public schools were officially integrated. With a student population of 45,000, the city had the highest percentage of black students (27%) to desegregate of any sizeable city. Many wondered if the Louisville would experience the same outbreak of violence other cities experienced. However Louisville integration went smoothly its success gained national attention.
October 1, 1956, President Dwight D. Eisenhower shook hands with Lexington police Chief E.C. Hale on, while in Lexington as part of his re-election campaign. After being met at the airport by Kentucky Gov. Happy Chandler, the president’s car rode through downtown in a parade. He later gave a speech at Memorial Coliseum at the University of Kentucky. During Hale’s time as police chief from 1953 to 1972, he was credited with helping to keep racial tensions in the city from turning violent.
February 28, 1958, the third deadliest bus accident in U.S. history occurred when a Floyd County school bus plunged into the Big Sandy River, taking the lives of 27 people. On a cold and cloudy morning, after a period of heavy rains and thaw, the school bus was loaded with 48 elementary and high school students who were bound for school in Prestonsburg. On U.S. Route 23, the bus struck the rear of a wrecker truck and fell down an embankment into the swollen waters of the Levisa Fork of the Big Sandy River, where it was swept downstream and submerged. Twenty-two children escaped the bus in the first few minutes as it became fully submerged in the raging flood stage waters and made it safely out of the river. However, 26 other children and the bus driver drowned. National Guard and other authorities and agencies responded. The bus was finally located by Navy divers, and removed from the river 53 hours later. The Sandy River and Carrollton (’88) bus crashes both took 27 lives, the only other U.S. bus crash that took more lives happened in CA.,1976. In both Kentucky crashes the victims were all thought to have survived the initial collisions. After the 1988 crash, Kentucky changed its public school bus equipment requirements and now requires a higher number of emergency exits than any other state.
October 8, 1960, John F. Kennedy visited Lexington. Kennedy was a 43-year-old senator from Massachusetts, the Democratic nominee a month away from defeating Richard Nixon in the closest presidential election in 44 years. He was on a campaign swing through Kentucky and was picked up at Blue Grass Airport by Harry B. Miller Jr., a Lexington lawyer. Kennedy waved to people as he rode down Main Street in an open-top convertible, seated beside Gov. Bert Combs. The car took them to the University of Kentucky campus, where they joined other prominent Democrats on an impromptu stage — a flatbed truck parked by the Administration Building. Kennedy got applause by praising the tobacco support program and Lexington’s favorite son, Henry Clay. (He mistakenly referred to Clay as a Transylvania College graduate. Clay was a trustee and law professor there, but not a student.)
May 4, 1961, Kentucky’s floral clock was dedicated by Governor Bert T. Combs. The giant hands weigh about a quarter of a ton apiece. There are other giant floral clocks but Kentucky’s is unique because it keeps time over a pool of water instead of resting on a bank of earth. Ref: 1
October 13, 1962, President John F. Kennedy, campaigning as an incumbent, spoke at the State Fairgrounds in Louisville, 13 months before his assassination. The President discussed the importance of electing Democratic representatives from Kentucky for the nation to progress in areas such as labor, education, natural resources, and area redevelopment. He encouraged his audience to elect Wilson Wyatt as Governor and re-elect Frank Burke as Congressman. Wyatt ended up losing to Governor Breathitt (D) and Burke lost to Gene Snyder (R).
November 22, 1963, President Kennedy was Assassinated.
December 10, 1963, Edward T. Breathitt became the 51st Governor of Kentucky. Breathitt defeated two-time former governor A. B. “Happy” Chandler in the Democratic primary, Chandler’s last campaign. Ref: 15
April 24, 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson traveled to Inez, KY and made a surprise visit to Tommy Fletcher’s home to declare a “War on Poverty.” Secret Service appeared out of nowhere, got permission from Fletcher and hours later a small army of politicians, aides and reporters invaded the home to watch the most powerful man in the world, talk to the man who became the symbol for the poverty war. Mr. Fletcher grew tired of being that symbol, later in life, as reporters found their way back to update the world on his status. He died in 2004 at age 78 and is remembered as a very loving, very kind-hearted person.”
May 4, 1964, nearly two hundred years after it was first distilled, bourbon whiskey was recognized as a distinct American product by the U.S. Congress. Bourbon is made from a fermented mash containing at least 51% corn and lesser amounts of wheat, rye and barley, along with yeast and distilled limestone water.
February 19, 1965, State Police found $200,000 in cash and $300,000 in securities while conducting a raid on a Harlan County suspected bootlegger. Also seized were quantities of beer and whiskey. One person was charged with possession of alcoholic beverages in a dry territory, bail was set at $500 and he was released. The State Police had raided the home in the past and passed on looking in the box, the suspect had told them the box contained WWII uniforms.
January 27, 1966, Governor Edward T. Breathitt signed the Kentucky Civil Rights Act into law. Kentucky became the first state south of the Mason-Dixon Line to pass its own state-level civil rights act, two years after the passage of the U.S. Civil Rights Act in 1964. After others in the South followed suit, King called the Kentucky law “the strongest and most comprehensive civil rights bill passed by a southern state.” Video
August 20, 1966, Barkley Lock and Dam was dedicated at Grand Rivers, Ky. Barkley Dam is 10,180 feet in length and 157 feet high. It took nine years to construct and offers flood control, hyrdo electic power and basically tames the Cumberland River. The TVA built their 16th great structure near the mouth of the River and marked a new era for fishermen in Middle TN. Barkley Canal, also built during the dam construction, is the only free-flowing waterway in the nation linking major lakes on two principal rivers — the Cumberland and Tennessee, according to the Corps of Engineers Nashville District. The dam and artificial lake were both named for former Vice President Alben Barkley(49-53), a native of Lowes.
November 20, 1967, Kentucky’s worst aviation disaster occurred when 70 of the 82 people on board perished. TWA Flight 128 was a regularly scheduled passenger flight from Los Angeles to Boston, with intermediate stops in Cincinnati and Pittsburgh. The airplane was Convair 880, a narrow-body jet airliner designed by General Dynamics to compete with the Boeing 707 and Douglas DC-8 by being smaller and faster. At the time, it was the sixth and worse loss of a Convair 880. While on final approach, the aircraft descended to an elevation of 875 feet, where it first struck trees in a spot 9,357 feet short of runway. The first impact was described by a survivor like a hard landing, followed by a series of hard bumps and the airplane’s final impact. The aircraft’s final position was in a wooded area, 6,878 feet short of the runway, where it was engulfed by flames and disintegrated. NTSB investigators determined the probable cause of the accident to be crew error.
December 12, 1967, Louie B. Nunn became the 52nd Governor of Kentucky. Governor Nunn oversaw the entry of the University of Louisville into the state’s public university system.
February 13, 1968, Senator Robert F. Kennedy visited Hazard, it was part of his tour of Appalachia. He came one week before he announced his candidacy for President. Kennedy would hold two field hearings soliciting the views of area residents. A one-room schoolhouse in Vortex hosted one and the other was held in a school gymnasium at Fleming-Neon. In Vortex, Kennedy listened to local residents from Wolfe, Breathitt and Madison counties. Some who spoke noted how hard it was to make ends meet, others offering suggestions on what the government should be doing. In the town of Barwick in Breathitt County, Kennedy visited a one-room schoolhouse that was in session. He spoke with each student individually, asking them what they’d had to eat that day. Kennedy’s tour of the region was not a unique event: Johnson came in 1964 and, in later years, Nixon, Ted Kennedy, Bill Clinton and Jesse Jackson all conducted “poverty tours.” Of these, the people of the region remember RFK’s as the most meaningful, his person the most understanding and best listener. RFK was assassinated some three months after his trip.
April 4, 1968, Martin Luther King Is Assassinated.
June 6, 1968, Robert F. Kennedy Is Assassinated.
September 23, 1968, was the first day KET aired on television. In the beginning, Kentucky Educational Television aired on weekdays during school hours, within a year broadcasting lasted into the evening and by 1975, it was showing programming seven days a week. KET was founded by O. Leonard Press and funded by Paul G. Blazer. KET is the largest PBS state network in the United States; the broadcast signals of its sixteen stations cover almost all of the state, as well as all of the seven bordering states.
April 4, 1969, as president of the Thoroughbreds Breeders of Kentucky (TBK), Warner L. Jones, announced the organization would gift the 30 Republican U.S. Governors, currently holding office, a Kentucky bred racehorse. The horse was a son of the 1963 Kentucky Derby Winner Chateaugay. Each of the state governors received a stock certificate of ownership and a copy of the official Jockey Club Registration papers. The 30 owners would be known as the Governor’s Stable, Inc. and any proceeds went to the Grayson Foundation. The initial cost of breaking and training the colt was provided by the TBK.
July 21, 1969, Man Walked On The Moon at 2:56:15 UTC.
August 18, 1969, Long John Silvers first store opened in Lexington. The original location, on 301 Southland Drive just off Nicholasville Road, was previously a seafood carry out restaurant named the Cape Codder. The original Cape Codder concrete block building was redesigned by Architect Druce Henn, who created the New England style of LJS’s early chain restaurants. The chain began as a division of Jerrico, Inc., a publicly owned corporation, which also operated Jerry’s Restaurants, a chain of family restaurants which also began in Lexington. Jerry’s was located in the Midwest and Southern United States.
December 30, 1970, the Hurricane Creek Coal Mines 15 & 16 of Hyden in Leslie County, exploded at 12:20 PM on a Wednesday killing 38 of the 39 men who were underground. The massive coal dust explosion was the most deadly coal mine disaster in Eastern Kentucky history. It is the conclusion of the Bureau of Mines that the explosion occurred when coal dust was thrown into suspension and ignited by Primacord, a permissible explosives used in a nonpermissible manner. Excessive accumulations of coal dust, and inadequate applications of rock dust in parts of Nos. 15 and 16 mines, permitted propagation of the explosion throughout the mines. In 2011, many years after the disaster, a memorial to the Hurricane Creek miners was constructed near the sealed mine site, just a few miles outside of Hyden, the county seat. The memorial solemnly includes a bronze hard hat and a biographical plaque for each of the dead miners. However, one disturbing marker stands out. It wrongly and insultingly proclaims that the 38 miners “gave their lives for Black Gold.” Nowhere at the memorial site is anything said about the numerous unsafe conditions or callous disregard for life that actually caused the disaster. Video
October 26, 1972, President Richard Nixon visited Ashland to campaign as an incumbent for the presidential election that was held 12 days later. Nixon spoke at 9:02 p.m. at a rally in the gymnasium of the Paul G. Blazer High School for approximately 20 minutes. He spoke without referring to notes and made references to Kentuckians: Lucy Winchester, Social Secretary at Nixon’s White House, John Sherman Cooper, Henry Clay, Alben Barkley, Thruston Morton, Marlow Cook, Tim Lee Garter, Happy Chandler and several references to Louie Nunn, his KY campaign manager. Kentucky sided with Nixon (63.37%) over McGovern (34.77%).
April 3, 1974, the only F5 Tornado to hit Kentucky touched down in Brandenburg at 3:25 PM. Beginning five miles southwest of Hardinsburg, the tornado passed along the northern edge of that town, with F3 damage to homes. Thirteen people were injured and 35 homes were destroyed as the funnel moved to the northeast across Breckinridge County and into Meade County. The tornado gradually enlarged and intensified as it approached Brandenburg. 128 homes were completely destroyed, many of them leveled and swept away. Thirty businesses were destroyed and damage totaled over ten million dollars. There were 28 deaths in the Brandenburg area. The funnel devastated that town and crossed the Ohio River. As the day continued, ten more tornadoes hit Kentucky. Some of the most violent included: 6:40 PM a tornado killed eight people in five rural Clinton County communities; 50 homes were torn apart, 7:20 pm seven people died and 27 injured when thirty homes were destroyed near Richmond. 63 Lives were lost in Kentucky from these tornadoes. The 1974 Super Outbreak was the second-largest tornado outbreak on record for a single 24-hour period, just behind the 2011 Super Outbreak. It was also the most violent tornado outbreak ever recorded, with 30 F4/F5 tornadoes confirmed.
December 2, 1974, Lincoln Hall, located on Berea College, was designated a National Historic Landmark. In 1855, Berea College was founded specifically to educate black and white students together. Built in 1885-87, “Recitation Hall,” as it was known on campus, was the focus of civil rights activities for nearly three-quarters of a century, thus earning its landmark status. Lincoln Hall has been Berea’s administration building since 1914 and underwent a $5.5 million “green” renovation as a result of a collapse of its central interior in 2001. In 2004, Lincoln Hall became the first building in Kentucky to be awarded the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification.
May 15, 1975, the John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge was added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. The bridge spans the Ohio River between Cincinnati and Covington. When the first pedestrians crossed on December 1, 1866, it was the longest suspension bridge in the world at 1,057 feet (322 m) main span. John A. Roebling’s son who built the Brooklyn Bridge would use many of the same techniques used by his father.
April 30, 1975, Vietnam War Ended.
March 18, 1976, Kentucky finally ratified the 14th Amendment, granting citizenship to “all persons born or naturalized in the United States” which included former slaves, who had just been freed after the Civil War. The U.S. Government had made it official 107 years and 7 months earlier. When originally presented, Governor Thomas Bramlette (former Union Colonel) opposed it on the grounds that the post-war treatment of the Confederate states was unfair, and the ratification process therefore corrupted. Both the Kentucky House and Senate agreed. It was Rep. Mae Street Kidd (D-Louisville), one of three blacks then in the Kentucky legislature, who filed the resolution in 1976 to pass all three “Reconstruction Amendments” The three Amendments: 13th, 14th and 15th were added to the U.S. Constitution in the immediate wake of the Civil War to reflect the new America.
October 17, 1976, Lawrence Welk was the first act to perform at Rupp Area, attracting a jaw-dropping 20,000 patrons on Sunday, for a 3 p.m. concert—easily surpassing Welk’s previous tour record of 18,000. Tickets were sold for $7.50, $6.50, and $5. Adolph Rupp, was in attendance, seated in the first row and would join Welk on stage during the show. With so many patrons attending the first-ever event, a popcorn shortage occurred during the arena’s inaugural show.
September 24, 1977, about 9:35 a.m. a cargo-tank semitrailer was descending a 720-foot-long grade approaching a left curve and a railroad/highway gracrossing on Kentucky State Route 11 in Beattyville, Kentucky. The truck, was hauling 8,255 gallons of gasoline, crossed the tracks against the flashing red lights and in front of an approaching train and struck buildings adjacent to the edge of the road. It then overturned on top of a parked car. Escaping gasoline ignited and the fire destroyed 6 buildings and 16 parked vehicles. Seven persons died in the fire.
January 20, 1978, La Grange in Oldham County, measured 31 inches of snow, the Kentucky record for snow depth. Three days earlier, 18 inches of fresh snow fell on top of seven inches and another five plus arrived on January 20, setting the record. The winter of 1977-1978 was very different from previous winters in Kentucky. There have been colder temperatures and more snowfall in other years, nevertheless, this one featured incessantly cold temperature and memorably persistent snow cover. It was the last time the Ohio River froze over this far south.
March 28, 1979, the Dinsmore Homestead was placed on the U.S. Register of Historic Places. In 1839, James Dinsmore purchased approximately 700 acres in Boone County, growing grapes, raising sheep and growing willows for a basket-making business. Their house was completed in 1842. Located in Burlington, near the Ohio River, the historic homestead offers a wealth of treasures accumulated by five generations of the Dinsmore family. Julia Dinsmore one of three daughters inherited the farm. She operated it successfully for 54 years until her death at age 93. A published poet, she kept a detailed journal of her life on the farm. The Dinsmores were a well-educated and well-traveled family. The Homestead’s education coordinator, said a rare glimpse of life in Boone County in the 19th and early 20th century is provided because the family just did not throw anything away. What separates Dinsmore from many other historical sites is not just the documents, but the manner in which its buildings and the land have been preserved. In addition to the home’s contents, nearly all of its buildings; carriage house with carriages, log cabin, smoke house and horse barn remain on the property. Harry Roseberry, an African-American who came to work at the Dinsmore farm in 1894, lived there until 1968 and is credited with helping preserve the buildings and artifacts. The Dinsmore family’s connections reach to people like: George Washington, James Bowie, Andrew Jackson, Henry Clay, Benjamin F. Goodrich, Henry Cabot Lodge, John Jacob Astor IV, Theodore Roosevelt and Eleanor & Franklin D. Roosevelt.
June 24, 1979, Six Mile Island was dedicated as a state nature preserve, one of eighteen state nature preserves that encompass a total of 5,812 acres in Kentucky. Six Mile Island State Nature Preserve is an eighty-one-acre island in the Ohio River, only accessible by boat, in Jefferson County near Louisville that is noted for its variety of water birds. Protection of this island will allow it to return to its natural state, a unique opportunity to study the ecology of riverine island systems. The Great Steamboat Race during the Kentucky Derby Festival turns around at Six Mile Island as the halfway marker during the race.
December 7, 1979, the Jesse Stuart State Nature Preserve’s 714 acres in Greenup County was dedicated. Jesse Stuart donated the land around his home in W Hollow to the Kentucky State Nature Preserves Commission through a gift-purchase arrangement. The area is used for passive recreation and environmental education. Natural, cultural, and historical research on the preserve is coordinated with the Jesse Stuart Foundation, a public foundation that oversees Stuart’s literary estate.
December 11, 1979, Governor John Young Brown, Jr. was sworn in as Kentucky’s 55th Governor. He appointed a woman and an African-American to his cabinet as he promised. The most controversial appointment was, Secretary of Transportation, Frank Metts who broke with political tradition, announcing that contracts would be awarded on the basis of competitive bids. Metts doubled the miles of road that were resurfaced. In difficult economic times, Brown stuck to his campaign promise not to raise taxes. Instead he reduced the state budget by 22% and cut the number of state employees by 6,400, mostly through transfer and attrition. At the same time, his merit pay policies increased salaries for the remaining employees by an average of 34 percent. He cut the executive office staff from ninety-seven to thirty, and sold seven of the state’s eight government airplanes. He also required competitive bids from banks where state funds were deposited generating $50 million in revenue. He created communications and contacts with Japan, setting the stage for future economic relations. Brown was absent for more than five hundred days during his four-year term. As noted by Kentucky historian Lowell H. Harrison, Brown’s hands-off approach allowed the legislature to gain power relative to the governor for the first time in Kentucky history, a trend which continued into the terms of his successors.
July 27, 1980, on a Sunday afternoon at 2:52 PM EST, a 5.1 magnitude earthquake occurred, one of the largest to ever hit Kentucky. East of the epicenter, at Owingsville, KY ground cracks were estimated to be 6 to 10 centimeters deep and 30 meters long. West of the epicenter, near Little Rock, KY ground cracks extending toward a cistern were observed on Stoner Road. Property damage was estimated at $1 million at Maysville, about 50 kilometers north of the epicenter. In Mason County, 37 commercial structures and 269 private residences were damaged to some extent. It was felt over all or parts of 15 States and in Ontario, Canada and damage occurred in Indiana, Kentucky, and Ohio.
December 16, 1981, Bat Cave and Cascade Caverns State Nature Preserves was dedicated. It consist of two tracts totaling 146 acres located in Carter County. These preserves are located within the boundaries of Carter Caves State Resort Park. Bat Cave was dedicated into the nature preserves system for the protection of the Indiana bat (Myotis sodalis). This federally endangered species has wintering numbers in Bat Cave estimated at 28,000.
February 17, 1982, Beargrass Creek State Nature Preserve was dedicated. The Preserve is a 41 acre, second-growth woodland near Joe Creason Park and the Louisville Zoological Gardens. This urban green space, popular among birdwatchers, offers passive recreation and nature education on site through The Louisville Nature Center. Beargrass Creek, is a major tributary of the Ohio River, has three major forks, which run across most of Jefferson County. The Muddy Fork runs generally parallel to the Ohio, the Middle Fork flows straight through the central part of the county away from the Ohio, toward Anchorage, traversing both Cherokee and Seneca Parks. The South Fork, largest of the three, runs past the Audubon Bird Sanctuary before branching off and flowing toward Houston Acres and Buechel. The three forks meet only a short distance before she empties into the Ohio River near Towhead Island. The name is possibly derived from the nickname of the yucca plant that the first pioneers found growing abundantly on the creek’s banks; the yucca was called beargrass because it was eaten by bears.
November 19, 1983, the Kentucky Center for the Arts held their grand opening in Louisville. The Center was established by the legislature as “the Commonwealth’s official performing arts center.” Following ten years of planning and development, the Kentucky Center, is the largest state-built arts facility in the country and was built and funded through a unique partnership of the state, county, city, and private funds. Kentucky Center is one of only four performing arts centers in the United States with a fully staffed, comprehensive education program.
April 27, 1984, the Whitney M. Young birthplace and boyhood home in Simpsonville became a U.S. National Historic Landmark.Young was an American civil rights leader. He spent his career working to end employment discrimination and turning the National Urban League from a relatively passive civil rights organization into one that aggressively worked for equitable economic access to the historically disenfranchised.His boyhood home is a simple wooden house in Shelby County on the campus of the former Lincoln Institute, an all-black high school that Young attended and his father led. Young was born in the house in 1921 and lived there through his high school years. After Young’s death in 1971, the house was dedicated as a shrine to his memory. Today, numerous photographs, articles, and other items related to Young and the Lincoln Institute are on display inside the house.
October 7, 1984, the first Presidential election debate between Reagan and Mondale was held in Louisville at The Kentucky Center for the Arts, Barbara Walters moderator. The first debate was limited to domestic policy and Mondale was viewed as the more effective speaker. Reagan was said to have appeared tired and sometimes confused. He referred to having started going to church “here in Washington”, although the debate was in Louisville and referred to military uniforms as “wardrobe,” and admitted to being “confused,” among other mistakes. The question of whether Reagan’s age was affecting his performance as president was the lead story the following day. When asked if his age had become a legitimate issue in the campaign, (at 73) Reagan said, “I’ll challenge him to an arm wrestle any time.” In KY, Regan received 822,782 votes to Mondale’s 539,589.
March 14, 1985, ninety-two acres of mostly mature forest in Barren County adjacent to the Barren River Reservoir was dedicated as the Brigadoon State Nature Preserve. An additional 88 acres were dedicated 16 years ago and a very small tract was dedicated in 2010. Today a total of 184 acres are protected. The rich woodlands contain an impressive array of spring wildflowers, including several species rare or uncommon in Kentucky. According to the Barren Tourism Department, the name comes by the former owners for the mythical Scottish village that appears from the mists once every hundred years.
June 19, 1986, Murray P. Haydon, a retired auto worker who became the third person to undergo a permanent artificial heart implant, died in Louisville, after being kept alive one year, four months and two days on the mechanical pump. He was 59. Humana Hospital Audubon, where pioneer Dr. William C. DeVries implanted Haydon’s pump on February 17, 1985, did not announce the cause of death, but Haydon had recently been suffering kidney problems. Haydon, who died nine days before his 60th birthday was never well enough to leave Humana except for brief outings.
March 2, 1988, former Governor A.B. “Happy” Chandler (1898-1991) sings “My Old Kentucky Home,” on Senior Night at Rupp Arena. Tom Hammond described the scene as “one of the most emotional moments in sport.” Wildcat seniors included: Ed Davender, Winston Bennett, Rob Lock, Cedric Jenkins, and Richard Madison. It was also Rex Chapman’s final game in Lexington; he entered the NBA draft after the 1987-1988 season. Video
May 14, 1988, the Carrollton bus collision occurred on Interstate 71 in Carroll County, It involved a former school bus in use by a church youth group and a pickup truck driven by an impaired driver, the head-on collision was the deadliest incident involving drunk driving and the third-deadliest bus crash in United States history (as of 2016). Of the 67 people on the bus (counting the driver), there were 27 fatalities in the accident, the same number as the 1958 Prestonsburg, Kentucky bus disaster. In the aftermath of the disaster, several family members of victims became active leaders of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), and one (Karolyn Nunnallee) became national president of the organization.
November 12, 1988, the Kentucky Vietnam Veterans Memorial was officially dedicated. Overlooking the capitol, the memorial honors the 125,000 Kentuckians who served during the Vietnam era (1962-1975). More than 58,000 Americans gave their lives during the conflict. Among that number 1,105 were Kentuckians. Each name is precisely located so the shadow of the sundial pointer, or gnomon (pronounced ‘noman’), touches each veteran’s name on the anniversary of his death. Thus, each individual is honored with a personal tribute. Accordingly, every day is Memorial Day for a Kentucky Vietnam veteran. The Memorial’s unique design was created by Helm Roberts (1931-2011), a Lexington architect and veteran. Video
February 14, 1989, the Standard Gravure shooting occurred in Louisville when a 47-year-old pressman, killed eight people and injured twelve at his former workplace, before committing suicide. The weapons included an AK-47 semiautomatic assault rifle, two MAC-11 semiautomatic pistols, a .38 caliber handgun, a 9 millimeter semiautomatic pistol and a bayonet. The shooting is the deadliest mass shooting in Kentucky, and one of the most deadly mass shooting in U.S. history. The murders resulted in a high-profile lawsuit against Eli Lilly and Company, manufacturers of the antidepressant drug Prozac, which the shooter had begun using during the month prior to his shooting rampage. The victims are remembered: Richard O. Barger, 54, Kenneth Fentress, 45, William Ganote, 46, James G. Husband, 47, Sharon L. Needy, 49, Paul Sallee, 59, Lloyd White, 42, James F. Wible Sr., 56
May 26, 1989, Queen Elizabeth II arrived in Lexington for her third visit to Kentucky. The queen was greeted by her hosts, Mr. & Mrs. William S. Farish III, British Ambassador Anthony Acland and local dignitaries. The Farish’s hosted President Bush the week before Queen Elizabeth’s visit and Queen Elizabeth hosted President Bush the night before her visit to Kentucky. The visit was strictly private, and the only time the queen ventured from the Farishes’ 3,000-acre farm was to visit about one dozen horse farms to view stallions, half of which she has previously toured on her 1984 and 1986 visits.
August 2, 1990, the 1st Persian Gulf War began. This military operation was also known as the 1st Gulf War, First Iraq War or Operation Desert Storm. This military operation started a series of wars that would last into 2018.
August 11, 1990, the USS Kentucky (SSBN-737), a United States Navy ballistic missile submarine was christened and launched for action. She is the third U.S. Navy ship to be named for Kentucky and her motto is “Thoroughbred of the Fleet.” The propulsion system is one nuclear reactor with one propeller. She has two crews, a Blue and Gold crew that consist of 17 Officers, 15 Chief Petty Officers and 122 Enlisted men. Her home port is Bangor, Washington. She was christened by Mrs. Carolyn Pennebaker Hopkins, wife of U.S. Rep. Larry J. Hopkins. Video
February 2, 1991, the 1st Persian Gulf War also known as the First Iraq War or Operation Desert Storm ended. Six Kentuckians gave their life for this military operation.
May 28, 1991, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 9-0 in favor of Illinois, regarding a dispute between KY & ILL over their Ohio River boundary, by reaffirming the original boundary set in 1792. The original boundary line is “the low water mark on the northern shore of the Ohio River. Historically, Kentucky has asserted ownership of the entire river up to the Illinois bank. Illinois argued the low water mark differs by as much as 100 feet because of river damming and shoreline erosion. Illinois is now in control of 100 feet of the river, significant for riverboat gambling, emergency services on the river, death certificates for drowning victims and taxes on buildings that jut into the river from the Illinois side. Illinois fishermen started the dispute by refusing to buy KY fishing licenses.
December 4, 1991, Pine Mountain Settlement School became a National Historic Landmark. Established in 1913 and located in Harlan County, Pine Mountain served as a boarding school for mountain children in elementary and middle school to 1930. In 1930, the School evolved into a boarding school for high school students and back to an elementary school in 1949. In 1972 Pine Mountain began to focus its educational mission toward environmental education. For more than 30 years, Pine Mountain Settlement School has provided instruction in environmental education and traditional arts and culture to thousands of students. More than 3,000 students visit the campus each year to participate in day programs or weeklong programs. Students are introduced to the wonders and complexities of the natural environment through outdoor classes on the School’s 800 acres. Video
February 11, 1993, The James M. Lloyd House was placed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. Located in Mt. Washington, Bullitt County, on the corner of Old Bardstown Road (US 31EX) and Dooley Drive. In 1880 James Lloyd, a talented carpenter, began to rebuild his home that was destroyed by fire. The original two-story, three-bay structure with a central hall and stairwell rests on a limestone foundation. The frame and weatherboard siding were hewn from yellow poplar by the Collier mill of Mt. Washington. The home remained in the Lloyd family until 1989 when it was donated to the Mt. Washington Historical Society by Mr. Kenneth Lutes in memory of his wife, Anita Ann Dooley Lutes, a great-granddaughter of James M. Lloyd.
April 30, 1993, a nearly three-year federal investigation of public corruption in Kentucky reached a climax with the extortion and racketeering convictions of former Kentucky House Speaker Don Blandford. During the 1992 legislative session the FBI conducted an inquiry and sting operations involving members of the Kentucky House of Representatives and the Kentucky Senate, known as Operation Boptrot. Approximately 10% of the state’s sitting legislators were indicted as a result, many for accepting bribes of as low as $100. The probe snared members of both political parties. Blandford was the highest ranking legislator indicted (the Republican minority leader in the Senate was also indicted and convicted, as were other House members of both parties). Blandford accepted $500 in cash from former state representative Bill McBee, a lobbyist then representing a Kentucky racetrack. “Bless your heart,” Blandford said when presented with the bribe. The exchange was videotaped and audiotaped by the FBI. Blandford was charged with bribery, and convicted and sent to prison. (The FBI investigation resulted in 21 convictions overall; most or all of those convicted were sitting legislators, former legislators or lobbyists.)
July 17, 1996, The Louisville Slugger Museum opens and receives their first visitors. In 1884, the first pro bat was made for Pete Browning by Bud Hillerich, the son of the company’s founder, Bud was an amateur baseball player. Browning was a star on Louisville’s professional American Association team–the Eclipse. On a spring afternoon Bud, then seventeen years old, witnessed Browning break his favorite bat. Bud offered to make a bat for his hero and Browning accepted. According to the story, after the young wood shop apprentice lathed a quality stick from white ash, Browning got three hits with it in the next game. Because of his tremendous hitting power, Browning was known as “The Louisville Slugger” years before the Hillerich family trademarked the name for their bats.
July 1, 1997, Kentucky executed its first inmate in thirty five years, in Eddyville’s Kentucky State Penitentiary. Harold McQueen, 44 years old, was convicted in 1981 of murdering Rebecca O’ Hearn, a convenience store clerk, during a robbery that netted him 1,500 dollars. McQueen was electrocuted at 12:07 a.m. Over one hundred death penalty opponents and twenty five supporters of capital punishment protested outside of the penitentiary.
January 22, 1998, Space Shuttle Endeavor Flight STS-89, commanded by Terrence Wade Wilcutt, from Russellville, launched from Kennedy Space Center. It was the eighth Shuttle-Mir docking mission during which the crew transferred more than 9,000 pounds of scientific equipment and water. Flight duration was 8 days, 19 hours and 47 seconds, traveling 3.6 million miles in 138 orbits of the Earth. Wilcutt graduated from Southern High School, Louisville, in 1967 and received a Bachelor of Arts degree in math from Western Kentucky University in 1974. A veteran of four space flights, Wilcutt has logged over 1,007 hours in space. Wilcutt currently serves as Director, Safety and Mission Assurance Directorate, Johnson Space Center. Video.
October 25, 1999, Kentucky surgeons performed the first hand transplant in the United States at Jewish Hospital in Louisville. The 15 hour operation replaced the left hand of the male recipient from a donor who had died a few hours earlier. Update
May 9, 2000, a fire destroyed a seven-story aging warehouse at the Wild Turkey Distillery in Anderson County. It contained more than 17,000 wooden barrels of whiskey. Burning whiskey flowed from the warehouse, setting the woods on fire, causing limestone deposits to explode. Firefighters saved Lawrenceburg’s water treatment plant from destruction. However, an estimated 20% of the whiskey flowed into the Kentucky River. The river contamination required the temporary shutdown of the water treatment plant. Officials ordered water usage restrictions. Businesses and schools were closed because of the water shortage. The alcohol spill also depleted the oxygen in the river, killing an estimated 228,000 fish along a 66-mile stretch. The EPA and the Coast Guard’s Gulf Strike Team aerated the river using equipment mounted on barges. The company paid $256,000 to the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife in an effort to restore the fish population in the river.
July 22, 2000, Mack Metcalf (42) of Kentucky and his wife Virginia Metcalf Merida (46) won $34.1 million in the Powerball Lottery. They split their winnings 60/40. Mack, former forklift driver for Johnson Controls, bought a Mount Vernon-like estate in southern Kentucky, stocking it with horses and vintage cars. He died in 2003 at age 45. Virginia, who had worked as a corrugator for Indy Honeycomb, bought a Mercedes-Benz and a modern mansion overlooking the Ohio River, surrounding herself with stray cats. She was found dead in 2005. May they rest in peace.
October 11, 2000, coal sludge from T. Massey Coal Company’s lifeless 72-acre, 2.2-billion-gallon waste lagoon, in Inez, suffered a crack, releasing 250 million gallons of slurry. The water supply for over 27,000 residents was contaminated, and all aquatic life in Coldwater Fork and Wolf Creek was killed. Martin County’s torrent of sludge was more than 20 times the volume of the Exxon Valdez’s crude oil spill in Alaska Among coal-mining spills, it was twice that of its biggest forerunner, 28 years ago in Buffalo Creek, W.Va., which killed 125 people and swallowed 500 homes. Gov. Paul E. Patton declared a 10-county emergency. Video
June 27, 2005, in McCreary County, KY v. ACLU, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that the Ten Commandments could not be displayed in court buildings or on government property because it violated the Establishment clause of the First Amendment, which prohibits government from endorsing or supporting one religion above others. A Ten Commandments display at the McCreary County courthouse in Whitley City and at the Pulaski County courthouses instigated the national ruling. Scalia, who was joined in his dissent by Chief Justice Rehnquist and Justices Kennedy and Thomas, said the court’s majority opinion ought to be voided “because the court has not had the courage (or the foolhardiness) to apply the neutrality principle consistently.”
January 22, 2007, the United States Army Corps of Engineers began lowering the water level in Lake Cumberland, fearing a possible breach in Wolf Creek Dam. Water seepage had eroded the limestone under the dam, creating the potential for a breach and subsequent flood that would cause damages into the billions of dollars in cities downstream. The drop in water level had a negative impact on the area’s tourism industry as marinas and municipalities scrambled to adjust their facilities for the lower water level. The caverns beneath the structure complicated plans for repairs, but a $594 million project to construct a new wall inside the dam was completed by early 2013. Since spring of 2014 Lake Cumberland water and tourism levels have begun to return to normal.
September 8, 2009, Dakota L. Meyer, from Columbia, KY, took heroic action during the Battle of Ganjgal in Kunar Province, Afghanistan and for this he later received the Medal of Honor. In a daring attempt to disrupt an enemy attack and locate a team of trapped Marines he entered an area known to be inhabited by insurgents and eventually found the four missing servicemen dead and stripped of their weapons, body armor and radios. With the help of Afghan soldiers, he moved the bodies to a safer area where they could be extracted. During his search, Meyer personally evacuated 12 friendly wounded and provided cover for another 24 Marines and soldiers to escape likely death at the hands of a numerically superior and determined foe. Meyer is the second youngest living Medal of Honor recipient and the first living Marine in 38 years to be so honored.*
December 26, 2009, Rob and Tuesday Anderson won 128.6 million, the largest lottery jackpot in Kentucky. The couple acquired the ticket by way of a fluke. On the way home from Christmas Eve shopping, Ken stopped at the Pro Travel Marathon on Success Drive in Georgetown for lottery tickets to give as stocking stuffers. Rob Anderson said he needed three $1 Powerball tickets, but the clerk mistakenly printed all three chances on one ticket. Anderson decided to keep that ticket and get three more individual tickets. They had a choice of a lump-sum payment of $63 million or receive annual installments.
December 18, 2011, the 2nd Persian Gulf War or 2nd Iraq War ended. Sixty-Eight Kentuckians gave their lives for this military operation.*
* To Be Updated