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On February 13, 1818, Virginian George Rogers Clark passed away in Louisville. Clark became the highest-ranking American military officer on the northwestern frontier during the American Revolutionary War (1775-83). He served as leader of the militia in Kentucky (then part of Virginia) throughout much of the war. Because the British ceded the entire Northwest Territory to the United States in the 1783 Treaty of Paris, Clark became the “Conqueror of the Old Northwest.”
His significant military achievements occurred before his thirtieth birthday. Afterward, due to a drinking problem, the military forced him to resign. Clark left Kentucky to live on the Indiana frontier and spent the final decades evading creditors and living in increasing poverty and obscurity. After suffering a stroke and the amputation of his right leg, Clark developed a disability. He was aided in his final years by family members, including his younger brother William, of the Lewis and Clark Expedition.
February 13, 1865, Mason County native Gabriel Young enlisted in the 5th United States Colored Heavy Artillery in Ripley, Ohio, a noted Underground Railroad hotbed during the antebellum years. Gabriel’s son Charles Young, an early African American graduate of the United States Military Academy, was the first black colonel in the U.S. Army.
February 13, 1871, Preston Hopkins Leslie became the 26th Governor of Kentucky. Governor John W. Stevenson resigned his post to accept a seat in the U.S. Senate. Stevenson had ascended to the governorship on the death of John L. Helm, and had no lieutenant governor. As president of the Senate, Leslie was the ex-officio lieutenant governor, and next in line to succeed Stevenson.
Localtonians wishes a Happy Birthday to Bardstown native Hal Moore born in 1922. Hal was decorated Lieutenant General in the United States Army. He fought in the Korean and Vietnam Wars, winning four Bronze Stars, nine Air Medals, the Legion of Merit, the Army Distinguished Service Medal, and the Distinguished Service Cross.
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.”
On February 13, 1931, Special Deputy Sheriff Rudolph Virchow Phelps, Butler County Sheriff’s Office, was killed in a vehicle crash on Route 71 (modern-day Route 231) south of Morgantown. He traveled with another sheriff’s deputy and the former county sheriff from Morgantown to Leetown to conduct a tax-sale.
Kentucky Trivia: Henderson native Mary Ann Fisher won a talent contest at Louisville’s Lyric Theatre in 1941, kick-starting her singing career and earning her the title “Songbird of the South.” Within three months of meeting Ray Charles at a USO club in Fort Knox, she began touring with him as his first female backup singer. According to Charles’s autobiography, she served as his inspiration for the songs “Mary Ann,” “What Would I Do Without You” and “Leave My Woman Alone.”
February 13, 1951, the following Kentuckians died in the Korean War:
Army SGT Benny C. Atkinson from Rockcastle County
Army SFC Vernon R. Barker from Carter County
Army PFC Jackie A. Campbell from Jefferson County
Army PFC William W. Coffee from Boyd County
Army PVT Jerald W. Henry from Crittenden County
Army CPT Thomas Joyce Jr. from Jefferson County
Army PFC Billy J. Kays from Washington County
Army PFC Robert L. Prather from Jefferson County
Army PFC George L. Sampson from Daviess County
Army CPL Joe R. Scalf from Floyd County
Army PFC Thomas H. Watson from Harlan County
Army CPL Vernon Watson from Morgan County
February 13, 1952, responding to the shocking scandal which engulfed the University of Kentucky basketball program in 1951, the General Assembly passed “an act relating to bribery of participants in professional or amateur games, sports, contests, horse racing and horse shows.” The General Assembly concluded that, “an emergency is declared to exist and this Act shall take effect upon its passage and approval by the Governor.”
February 13, 1968, Senator Robert F. Kennedy lands in Lexington to tour Eastern Kentucky for two days. Kennedy’s purpose was to examine the outcomes of the first wave of “war on poverty” legislation with the people it most affected and to campaign for President.
February 13, 1968, Senator Robert F. Kennedy visited Hazard as part of his Appalachia tour. 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 in a school gymnasium at Fleming-Neon. In Vortex, Kennedy listened to residents from Wolfe, Breathitt and Madison counties. Some who spoke noted how hard it was to make ends meet, while others offered 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.
RFK’s tour of the region was not a unique event: Johnson came in 1964. In later years, Nixon, Ted Kennedy, Bill Clinton and Jesse Jackson all conducted “poverty tours.” The locals remember RFK as meaningful, his person the most understanding and best listener. The Senator was assassinated some three months after his trip.
On February 13, 1981, a series of sewer explosions destroyed more than two miles of Louisville streets. The ignition of hexane vapors discharged from a Ralston-Purina soybean processing plant near the University of Louisville caused the explosions. The hexane leaked straight into the sewer system, where it spread into the lines under adjacent homes. It is a miracle that there were no fatalities. Ralston-Purina paid $18 million to the Louisville Metropolitan Sewer District and more than $8.9 million to 16,000 plaintiffs in a lawsuit.
February 13, 2020, the U.S. Senate approves legislation to limit the President’s war powers against Iran. Alabama native Mitch McConnell voted against the measure while Texan native Rand Paul voted in favor.