1900s | Kentucky Timeline
January 1, 1900, when Governor Taylor and the Republicans took office, the first act of the Attorney General Clifton J. Pratt, was to file suit in the name of the Commonwealth against the Democratic controlled Election Board Committee.
January 2, 1900, Democrats with the backing of Goebel and his Lieutenant 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 the newly elected 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 for the purpose of determining whether there should be forcible resistance to the unseating of Newly elected Governor Taylor. What was determined at this meeting was never made public.
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 immoral 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 a.m. 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 a.m., when the legislators convened, the concerned citizens meet at the historic old capitol where 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 Governor's Mansion was in sight.
Tuesday, January 30, 1900, at 9:00 p.m., 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.
Election References: That Kentucky Campaign: Or, The Law, the Ballot and the People in the Goebel-Taylor Contest by Robert Elkin Hughes, Frederick William Schaefer, Eustace Leroy Williams
Friday, February 2, 1900, the democrats again held a legislative session in the Capitol Hotel and again elected Goebel Governor. Governor Taylor was preparing for Kentucky’s General Assembly to reconvene in London in a few days.
Saturday, February 3, 1900 at 6:45 p.m., despite the care of 18 physicians, William Goebel died from an assassin’s bullet. 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
Election References: That Kentucky Campaign: Or, The Law, the Ballot and the People in the Goebel-Taylor Contest by Robert Elkin Hughes, Frederick William Schaefer, Eustace Leroy Williams
April 30, 1900, Governor Taylor presented his case to the United States Supreme Court to keep the Governorship.
That Kentucky Campaign: Or, The Law, the Ballot and the People in the Goebel-Taylor Contest by R.E. Hughes, F.W. Schaefer and E.L. Williams
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. She was described as the most powerful battleship when launched. From bow to stern the Kentucky could fire a thirteen-inch gun simultaneously. 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.
That Kentucky Campaign: Or, The Law, the Ballot and the People in the Goebel-Taylor Contest by R.E. Hughes, F.W. Schaefer and E.L. Williams
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 3, 1901, the battleship USS Kentucky (BB-6) arrived in the Philippines after receiving 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 the flagship of Rear Admiral Robley D. Evans’ Asiatic Fleet.
August 2, 1901, George W. Ranck, a Kentucky writer and historian from Shelbyville, died instantly while doing the work he loved. He was carrying an umbrella while researching an article about Lexington’s pioneer history. So fixated on his work, he got struck by an oncoming train. The train was to arrive in Lexington at 10:59 a.m. The records show George died at 11:00 a.m. 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 other topics included the histories of Lexington, Fort Boonesborough and Kentucky poet Theodore O’Hara. Mr. Ranck was a prominent member of the Filson Club.
May 22, 1902, the Wireless Telephone Company of America is incorporated to capitalize on Nathan Stubblefield’s invention of the radio transmitter-receiver, aka “the wireless telephone.” Stubblefield refused large sums of money for the design opting for stocks instead. Stubblefield then went on tour to promote and demonstrate the new invention to potential investors. The tour was not as successful as he had hoped. With the company in control of his creation, 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.
September 22, 1902, Louisville won the bid to host the Kentucky State Fair. The city’s only location suitable for handling the anticipated crowds and needed exhibit space was Churchill Downs. The racetrack proudly opened its gates for the first Fair and welcomed 75,000 fairgoers during the six-day event. Appropriately, several horse shows were among the featured events, steam auto races and the head-on collision of two freight trains. The Kentucky State Fair was organized in 1816 by Col. Lewis Sanders.
October 23, 1902, the Kentucky Confederate Home at Pewee Valley opened in the former Villa Ridge Inn. The Kentucky legislature unanimously approved the building of a veterans home specifically for Confederate veterans at the urging of Bennett H. Young, who advocated for a facility to house comrades who could no longer care for themselves.
November 16, 1902, Woodford County, Kentucky native Clifford Berryman’s cartoon of President Theodore Roosevelt on a Mississippi bear hunt, was published and led to the creation of the Teddy Bear. Roosevelt was invited to the hunt by Gov. Andrew H. Longino but after three days of hunting, the President was the only member of the hunting party who hadn’t gotten a bear.
June 25, 1903, Kentucky author John Fox Jr. published The Little Shepherd of Kingdom Come, his wildly popular book that became one of the first American novels to sell more than a million copies. Born at Stony Point near Paris, Fox attended Transylvania University before graduating from Harvard in 1883 at age 20.
April 29, 1904, Beckham County was abolished by the Kentucky Court of Appeals. The court ruled that the new county failed to meet constitutional standards of size and population. With the growth of the western end of Carter County, residents there sought to form a new county. They broke away, along with some citizens of Rowan and Elliott counties, to form Beckham County, named for then-Governor John C.W. Beckham, who signed the legislative act on earlier in the year. Eight days after a County Judge was appointed and formal offices established, in the county seat of Olive Hill, legal questions over the formation led to the county being dissolved. Beckham County is the only county in Kentucky to be abolished.
September 24, 1904, the Black Patch War began in Western Kentucky and Northern Tennessee with the formation of the Planter’s Protective Association (PPA). On the date mentioned above, 1,000 tobacco growers and professional men met in Guthrie, to work as a team, with the buyer. It did not work out this way and thus began a fiery and violent era. PPA members called the non-poolers “hillbillies” and the buyers’ monopoly “the Trust.” The PPA turned to violence to get their neighbors and big business to see their way.
May 1, 1905, The Seelbach Hotel celebrated its grand opening, drawing 25,000 visitors to its five-hour public inspection, including the South’s first roof garden. It began in 1869 when the two Bavarian brothers moved to Louisville to learn the hotel business. Over the years, names of celebrities and dignitaries filled the guest registry. Presidents’ William Howard Taft, Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Jimmy Carter, and Bill Clinton have been guests at The Seelbach. During the Roaring Twenties, The Seelbach was considered the most glamorous spot for cards and leisure. Situated in the bourbon and whiskey country center, the hotel attracted infamous underworld kingpins and gangsters during Prohibition. Notorious figures included Lucky Luciano, “Beer Baron of the Bronx” Dutch Schultz, and the most legendary gangster, Al Capone. Capone’s legacy remains in The Oakroom restaurant, where guests can dine in the small alcove would he played cards. The gangster’s favorite room has two hidden doors behind unique panels, leading to secret passageways. Today, the room still displays the large mirror Capone sent from Chicago so that he could watch his back.
March 21, 1906, the Kentucky General Assembly approved and Gov. J.C.W. Beckham signed into law legislation creating Eastern Kentucky State Normal School. Today it is known as Eastern Kentucky University.
On June 16, 1906, the Capitol building's cornerstone was laid in a grand ceremony with an estimated 20,000 onlookers. J.C.W. Beckham, the 35th Kentucky Governor, presided. The cornerstone's exact location 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.
June 27, 1906, The Louisa - Fort Gay Bridge officially opened at 4 p.m., connecting two rivers (Levisa and Tug), two states (Kentucky and West Virginia), two counties (Lawrence County, KY and Wayne County, WV), two towns (Louisa, KY and Fort Gay, WV).
November 30, 1906, 200 masked and hooded men rode silently, in a column of twos, down Princeton's main street, in the early morning. Minutes before, several of these men occupied the police station, disarmed the local police, seized the telegraph/telephone offices, captured the fire station and shut off the city water supply. It was all done with admirable precision. The target was the American Tobacco Company's two large warehouses. They placed sticks of dynamite under the stored tobacco within and doused the buildings with kerosene. They then threw torches into the structures and watched as 400,000 pounds of tobacco, worth upwards of $100,000, smoldered and burned. Then, three long whistle blasts drew the men together and they sung "The fires shine bright on my old Kentucky home" - they slowly rode out of town.
December 7, 1907, Night Riders, the highly violent secret order for the PPA, burned three tobacco warehouses in Hopkinsville. The warehouses were filled with dark tobacco owned by farmers who would not join the PPA. The Silent Brigade struck a little before 2:00 a.m. with no opposition.
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.
January 3, 1908, while the soldiers were guarding Hopkinsville's tobacco and other points, the night riders raided Russellville with 55 men and destroyed two factories. There were no raids where the soldiers were stationed. The Black Patch War continued.
March 24, 1908, the landmark education law, titled Government and Regulation of the State's Common Schools, was enacted. It mandated an almost complete reform of the Kentucky public school system. It is commonly known as the Sullivan Law in honor of its sponsor, Sen. Jere A. Sullivan of Madison County. The Sullivan Law's blueprint for restructuring the school system marked a distinct end to the one-room district school era, burdened by the infamous three-trustee system.
Each county was made a school district, organized into sub-districts, each of which contained no fewer than fifty white children, except under extraordinary conditions, and the absolute minimum was forty children. District lines could be changed from time to time by popular vote. One trustee chosen from each sub-district would sit as a member of the county board of education. One of the most critical elements of the Sullivan Law was the mandate that the counties levy a school tax at the rate of at least twenty cents, but no more than twenty-five cents, on each $100 of assessed property value the proceeds to be set aside for education. The enactment of the Sullivan Law set the stage for two “whirlwind campaigns” to gain public support for school reform.
The Kentucky Encyclopedia edited by John E. Kleber; pg:860
September 14, 1908, was opening day for the Kentucky State Fair, the first time the exhibitions will be in a permanent home at the newly created Kentucky State Fairgrounds. The grounds were immaculate for the crowds and Governor Willson’s opening address. The Fair’s first event was a parade through downtown by the city police officers that started at 10:30 a.m. The opening day closed with the “Fall of Pompell” in the track’s infield and fireworks. In 1956 the Fair was moved to the Kentucky State Fairgrounds and Exposition Center where it remains today.
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 cornerstone's formal laying for Lincoln Memorial Hall, the first Lincoln Memorial. The President 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. 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 $1.82 million some of which was provided by the federal government for damages due to the Civil War and 1898 Spanish American War. No plans were made for parking, popular opinion said automobiles were a fad.
June 18, 1910, thousands of spectators turned out to view an air show at Churchill Downs. The highly publicized aviation demonstration featured the world famous aviator Glenn Curtiss. The event was the first demonstration of an airplane in Kentucky.
The Encyclopedia of Louisville edited by John E. Kleber; pg:8
September 12, 1910, with only 12 members remaining, the Shakers of Pleasant Hill near Harrodsburg, Kentucky, faced their colony’s demise and contracted to sell their 1,800 acres of land and buildings to Col. George Bohon. In return, Bohon agreed to care for them and allowed them to stay on their property for the rest of their lives.
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 stage lights. The mob sat in the orchestra pit, and on cue, fired 200 shots, nearly half entered the body of Mr. Potter.
The Kentucky Encyclopedia edited by John E. Kleber; pg:563
On May 9, 1911, the Black Patch Tobacco War finally ended when the United States Supreme Court ruled in the “United States v. American Tobacco Co.” The justices ruled that Duke Trust was indeed a monopoly and was in violation of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act of 1890. The Duke Trust was the only buyer of coveted black patch tobacco, which caused many issues to Western Kentuckians, including war. The violence had long ended by the time the court had decided, but the damage was done.
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 examined Buckner before the electricity was off. Buckner stabbed 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. The two boys turned on Robey and stabbed him 16 times. They were quickly re-arrested, taken to jail in Louisville and kept safe from a spontaneous lynching.
October 18, 1911, the equestrian statue of Brigadier General John Hunt Morgan was unveiled in a grand ceremony in downtown Lexington. 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. The dedication ceremony included Morgan’s brother-in-law, Confederate general Basil Duke and Governor Augustus E. Willson.
December 6, 1911, the cornerstone for Abraham Lincoln School was laid in Lexington. The school was a progressive model for elementary education with facilities and programs far ahead of the times. The modern facilities had a playground, swimming pool, carpenter shop, kitchen, sewing room, rooftop garden, neighborhood laundry, circulating library, and domestic science department. The Lincoln School 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.
The Kentucky Encyclopedia edited by John E. Kleber; pg:118
April 15, 1912, Lutie Davis Parrish, 59, a Lexington native who lived in Woodford County was on the Titanic when it sunk. She boarded the Titanic in Southampton, England, five days prior as second-class passengers. Parrish is sometimes referred to as the oldest person rescued at the time of the sinking. At least two other Titanic passengers had Kentucky ties. Georgetown native Charles Hallace Romaine, 45, was a first-class passenger but did not live in Scott County at the time he was on the ship. He survived by getting on a lifeboat. He died in 1922 in New York City after he was hit by a taxi. Dr. Ernest Moraweck, a longtime Louisville physician who listed his address as Frankfort, died in the sinking. His body was not recovered.
September 23, 1913, Lexington’s grand premiere 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.
February 8, 1915, D.W. Griffith's Birth of a Nation, a landmark film in cinema's history, premieres at Clune's Auditorium in Los Angeles. The silent film was America's first feature-length motion picture and a box-office smash. During its unprecedented three hours, Griffith popularized numerous filmmaking techniques that remain central to the art today. However, Birth of a Nation is also regarded as one of the most offensive films ever made because of its explicit racism. Actually titled The Clansman for its first month of release, the film provides a highly subjective history of the Civil War, Reconstruction, and the Ku Klux Klan's rise. Griffith was born in La Grange in 1875. Video
July 7, 1915, in the evening, Northern Kentuckians experienced a natural disaster they would soon not forget. A large tornado swept through Kenton and Campbell Counties leaving a path of destruction in its wake. City officials in the region estimated the losses due to the storm in the millions of dollars.
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.
The Kentucky Encyclopedia edited by John E. Kleber; pg:309
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.
June 1, 1916, Louis Brandeis became the first Jewish justice on the U.S. Supreme Court, with a 47-22 Senate confirmation vote. 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 held a public hearing on a Supreme Court nominee for the first time in history. 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. According to legal scholars, his opinions were 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 I.
May 27, 1917, at 4:00 p.m., a deadly Kentucky's tornado began in Tennessee's northwest corner and quickly moved into the Commonwealth. Forty-two 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 five people died near Dublin. Sixty-four lives were lost and 345 people were injured in this F4 tornado, which traveled 50 miles.
August 1, 1917, Lynch, Kentucky, described as the largest coal camp in the world, began construction after U.S. Coal and Coke Company, a subsidiary of U.S. Steel, purchased nearly 19,000 acres of land just upstream from Benham.
November 5, 1917, Buchanan vs. Warley, 245 U.S. 60 (1917), is a case in which the Supreme Court addressed civil government-instituted racial segregation in residential areas. The Court held unanimously that a Louisville city ordinance, prohibiting real property sale 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.
March 26, 1918, Kentucky’s state flag was adopted, specifying that it be made of “navy blue silk or bunting, with the seal of the Commonwealth of Kentucky encircled by a wreath of goldenrod.” The seal depicts a frontiersman and a statesman shaking hands, neither image being a specific person.
June 8, 1918, the first long-distance flight ever made where Kentucky was its destination was completed. The flight originated from Wilbur Wright Field in Dayton, Ohio, with two Army Airmen. The men took off at 1:10 p.m., flew to Madison for gas, stayed one hour and a half, then arrived in Louisville at 5:10 p.m. The distance was 175 miles.
On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, 1918, World War I 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 the 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 crowd died and scores were injured. Regular U.S. Army troops also came to preserve order. Since this was the first troops were called up to disperse a lynch mob south of the Mason-Dixon line, the national press reported the story. The day after the trial, Lockett was escorted by four hundred troops from Union Station in Lexington to the penitentiary.
In 1921, the Louis des Cognets Company built the first concrete highway in Kentucky. The road was a seven-mile stretch on the Lexington-Winchester Pike in Fayette County, total cost $192,182.38. Federal and state governments provided all funds.
March 5, 1921, a Louisville Patrolman found a mail sack and several opened registered letters by an ashcan 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 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 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 Lagrange.
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 initially assigned a 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.
October 2, 1922, the Kentucky Theatre opened in downtown Lexington. In October of the previous year, the builder, Lafayette Amusement Company, offered $20 in gold to name Lexington’s “palatial new photoplay house.” The winner was the “Kentucky.” In 2000, the Kentucky Theater and its manager Fred Mills found them embroiled in controversy over showing an X-rated film entitled Disco Dolls in Hot Skin. Undercover officers confiscated the film and charged Mills with distributing obscene material. The film was returned after Mills filed a suit and charges dismissed upon arraignment, and the Lexington city council voted 11 to 4 against holding a review on the issue. The phrase “Defend the First Amendment” was on the marquee after the incident. The statement remains on a sticker on the box office window.
October 3, 1923, early in the morning, the Eddyville Penitentiary inmates in western Kentucky were preparing to leave their cells for breakfast. That was when Chester Walters made a mad dash for freedom 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 all three prisoners' deaths. When it was over, twenty-one-year-old Lillian Walters, Chester's wife, was left to stand trial for conspiracy and murder for 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. He also 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 loved keeping his dairy cows on the Governor's Mansion's lawn, to the dismay of many.
A New History of Kentucky By James C. Klotter, Craig Thompson Friend
February 2, 1925, the third Louisville Ford Motor Assembly Plant was completed on 22.5 acres at 1400 S.W. Parkway. This plant made 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 in 1934. The plant survived the “Great Louisville Flood of 1937.” The U.S. military took over the factory during WWII to manufacture all their Army Jeeps. The plant closed in 1955 and operations moved to a larger Louisville plant.
August 28, 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 supposedly attacked and raped a 9-year-old black female. The Fayette Circuit Court Judge ordered that the hanging take place in an enclosure and limited admittance to 100 persons. However, the local press said, "a huge crowd gathered to watch the execution and cheered loudly when he was hung."
The Squire’ Sketches of Lexington by J. Winston Coleman, Jr.; pg:83
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 three years 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 in 1928 with a stipulation he never runs for office again.
August 8, 1927, Charles Lindbergh landed the "Spirit of St. Louis" at Bowman Filed in Louisville during a national goodwill tour. Ten thousand people were there to see the plane land. His flights across the county were to stimulate interest in flying. It was a triumph visit that took the Charles, aka "Lone Eagle" down 4th Street in a ticker-tape parade where 100,000 were present. Lieutenant Philip R. Love had the honor of piloting the Spirit of St. Louis on one 10-minute flight in the field's vicinity.
The Encyclopedia of Louisville edited by John E. Kleber; pg: 8
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 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.
September 1, 1928, the Loew's and United Artists State Theatre opened in downtown Louisville. The Courier-Journal called the theatre "an architectural marvel, enter and view with astonishment the magnificence that the hand of man has wrought. The more you look, the more you will see." Designed by the noted architect John Eberson, the theatre prospered through the early '70s as a first-run movie palace. After decades of operating as a Cinema house, a bright new future began for The Louisville Palace in the early '90s when investors undertook a multi-million dollar restoration to recreate the opulence that had been the hallmark of this architectural treasure. Today it is known as The Louisville Palace or Palace Theatre.
October 29, 1929, the Great Depression starts.
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 Lt. Gov. A.B. Chandler. Party factionalism and a sick economy left Laffoon with a poor record as governor.
December 10, 1933, Lexington native Thomas Hunt Morgan (1866-1945) became the first Kentuckian to be awarded a Nobel Prize. Morgan distinguished himself as an evolutionary biologist, geneticist, and embryologist.
November 16, 1934, President Franklin Delano 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 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, showing 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 eight minutes. Roosevelt was quickly escorted back to his train that was waiting for a return to Washington.
May 15, 1935, “The United States Narcotic Farm,” sitting on 1,000 acres, opened in Lexington. The farm’s population comprises volunteer patients and inmates subject to the nation’s first attempts at treating addiction as a disease rather than a moral failing. The treatment program at the Narcotic Farm started with detoxification. Throughout its history, researchers and doctors at the facility were among the first to use methadone during that process. Another critical step was vocational training; all patients were required to learn a trade, ideally preparing them to enter the workforce upon release. The facility operated as a working farm through the 1960s. It was renowned for a jazz band that at one time or another included such luminaries – and recovering addicts – as Sonny Rollins, Howard McGhee and Chet Baker.
June 28, 1935, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt ordered the “Treasury to Build a Gold Vault At an Army Post in Kentucky” and “Orders Rush Construction in Centre of Fort Knox in Line With Policy of Moving Mounting Bullion Stores From Coast Cities Vulnerable to Enemy Attack.” In 1936, the U.S. Treasury Department began construction of the United States Bullion Depository. The first gold shipments were from January to July 1937.
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. 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. Governor 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.
It was not until 1937 that formal preservation efforts began for the Cumberland Gap. In that year, a group of local citizens founded the Cumberland Gap National Historical Park Association. The Association began an intensive lobbying campaign to support legislation to create a National Park at Cumberland Gap.
January 24, 1937, early morning, was perhaps the darkest moment during the "Great Louisville Flood," as every part of the Ohio River was above flood stage four. The river did not crest at Louisville until the 27th and measured 57.1' on Louisville's upper gage while farther down the river, in Paducah, the river crested at 60.6' on February 2. 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 underwater, and 175,000 people left their homes. The entire city of Paducah evacuated as well. The Weather Bureau reported that total flood damage for Kentucky's whole state was 250 million dollars, an incredible sum in 1937. Another flood of this magnitude would not occur 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 23, 1937, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed a proclamation to officially establish a national forest in Kentucky. The forest was originally named the Cumberland National Forest. As early as 1933, the federal government began acquiring land for what would become the Cumberland National Forest. When first established, the forest consisted of nearly 350,000 acres in 16 Kentucky counties. In 1966, after years of debate, Kentucky legislatures passed a resolution to change the name to Daniel Boone National Forest. Today there are nearly 709,000 acres in 21 counties.
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.
July 1, 1938, the enormous job of building the Kentucky Dam began. It took six years to complete when on August 30, 1944, the reservoir began to fill. At the peak of construction, TVA had nearly 5,000 people at work building the dam and preparing the reservoir area. Kentucky Dam creates the largest human-made lake in the eastern U.S., covering 160,300 acres and features 2,300 miles of shoreline.
July 8, 1938, President F. D. Roosevelt visits Covington’s Latonia Race Track for the senate primary. It was part of the cross country speaking tour where had spoken in Ohio earlier that day. He specifically came to throw his support behind Senator Alben W. Barkley, who was battling against Happy Chandler, in the primary. Chandler showed up at the airport to greet the President and somehow managed to arrive at the track with the President and the Barkley? Happy lost but was appointed Senator the next year.
In 1939, there is a consensus that the Great Depression ended.
April 21, 1939, John Y. Brown, a candidate for the Democratic nomination for Governor, was struck in the jaw by a Jackson County Deputy Sheriff in McKee. Brown was in town arguing a case for two United Mine Worker organizers arrested in McKee. Mr. Brown said a near free-for-all in the County Judge's office ended with "about eight deputy sheriffs" pointing guns at me. From Hazard and Jenkins, the two men 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 and was nowhere to be found for the next few days, after the arrest. Brown was unsuccessful at his run.
June 5, 1939, the log house of Col. Robert Patterson, founder of Lexington and Cincinnati, was returned to Transylvania Campus after being removed from Kentucky in 1901. The one room cabin is thought to be one of the first to be erected in Lexington.
The Squire’ Sketches of Lexington by J. Winston Coleman, Jr.; pg:17
September 1, 1939, World War II 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.
June 11, 1940, with the signing of H.R. 9394, the Cumberland Gap National Historical Park was formally established. The park was contingent on the acquisition of sufficient land and features (outlined in the legislation) by Kentucky, Virginia and Tennessee. Because the lands necessary for establishing the park crossed three state boundaries, special provisions were made to empower purchasing authority. A 1943 amendment to the bill allowed the three states to enter into a compact, to purchase the requisite land. The amendment also reduced the geographic/historic features required to permit the establishment of the park.
It took 15 years to complete the purchase of land as outlined in the 1940 legislation. The year was 1955. Some of the delay was attributable to World War II and a necessary shift in national priorities. Most of the problems, however, centered on state funding levels, and the resistance of some land owners.
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, making 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. This 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. The National Park is located in Barren and Edmonson counties.
December 7, 1941, Pearl Harbor was bombed and the U.S. entered into World War II.
March 16, 1942, three Kentucky tornadoes swept through the state killing 24 people. The first, an F4 tornado, struck at 12:15 a.m. in Grayson and Hardin counties, killing nine people in seven different homes and sweeping away 20 other homes in Caneyville, Millwood, Leitchfield, Clarkson, and Summit. The next one, an F3, struck an hour and fifteen minutes later in Nelson County, killing four persons. The last twister, another F3, occurred in Muhlenberg County at 11:40 p.m. and devastated the mining community of Browder, sweeping away 12 small homes and causing ten deaths, another death occurred on a farm near Drakesboro. The March 1942 tornado outbreak was a deadly late-winter tornado outbreak that 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.
On July 11, 1942, the first aircraft to land at Bluegrass Field was a B-25 Mitchell bomber. The bomber was commanded by Lt. Col. Charles J. Jones, who lived in Versailles. The bomber made a “causionary” landing at the field. While the plane was being inspected, Jones visited his family. In August 1944, the field was officially named Blue Grass Field. This was a compromise between factions that wanted the field named Lexington Field, Havely Field (after Mayor Havely), Chandler Field (after Governor A. B. “Happy” Chandler) and Umstead Field (after Lt. Col. Stanley M. Umstead, a Lexington native and test pilot).
February 14, 1943, the swearing-in ceremony for Associate Justice Wiley Blount Rutledge to the United States Supreme Court took place. From Cloverport, Breckinridge County, Wiley 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 died as a Justice of a stroke at age fifty-five, lasting six years, six months and 23 days.
July 21, 1944, Marine Pvt. 1st Class Luther Skaggs, Jr. from Henderson 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, Spurrier attacked the town 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 courage was recognized the following spring with the Medal of Honor. A few months earlier, Spurrier 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.
September 2, 1945, World War II ends.
January 24, 1946, Fred M. Vinson, a native of Louisa, was confirmed as Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court. He had the unique experience of holding positions in all three branches of the federal government. Fred was the 53rd United States Secretary of the Treasury and the 13th Chief Justice of the United States.
Saturday, September 6, 1947, the Courier-Journal reported that state fair officials clamped down on gambling on the midway, shortly after it was opened for a preview. The fair officially opened on Sunday. One wheel game that paid off cash was the first to close immediately after the preview started. State Fair officials told other carnival concession heads, “we’ve pulled the curtain tonight and we will do it again. It just depends on how many times we have to do it.”
Elsewhere in Louisville, poker games along Jefferson Street were also closed. The “word” had been spread, warning dealers to shut down but it was unclear where the “word” came from. The city and county police stated they were unaware of any shutdown. However the city police did charge five people, an unusual high number, with operating a game of chance, but not along Jefferson Street. Across the river in Jeffersonville, gambling spots were wide open.
January 20, 1949, Kentucky native Alben W. Barkley became the oldest Vice President at 71. A storyteller of great repute, Alben Barkley frequently poked fun at himself and his office. He was especially fond of telling about the mother who had two sons. One went to sea; the other became vice president and neither was heard from again. In Barkley's case, the story was not at all true. He made sure that the public heard from him, and about him, as often as possible. What the public heard, they liked, for Alben Barkley performed admirably as Vice President of the United States.
April 12, 1950, Henry Clay's home, owned and operated by the Henry Clay Memorial Foundation, was opened as a shrine and museum.
The Squire’ Sketches of Lexington by J. Winston Coleman, Jr.; pg:26
June 25, 1950, the Korean War began.
August 31, 1950, Phillip Morris & Company LTD., revealed plans for an $8,000,000 expansion in Louisville. The investment would increase their cigarette production by 80%, making them the largest producer in the city. The new factory would cost $6,000,000 and be half the size of the old factory. The new and old factories are connected and located on 19th, 20th, Maple and Howard streets. The project added 750 new jobs.
November 27, 1950, Lawrence W. Wetherby became the 48th Governor of Kentucky. Because three Wetherby’s close family members 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 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.
The Kentucky Encyclopedia edited by John E. Kleber; pg:62
June 4, 1951, Carl H. Dodd from the community of Cotes near Evarts, was presented the Medal of Honor by President Truman. On January 30, 1951, Dodd led his platoon against Hill 256, a vigorously defended position near Subuk, Korea, as part of Operation Thunderbolt in the Korean War. Leading from the front despite the 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 could remember witnessing a more generous welcome given to one man. The Homecoming parade moved through Harlan, Evarts, Kenvir, and back to the Evarts football field.
August 20, 1952, Colonel William Earl Barber from Dehart was presented the Congressional Medal of Honor by President Harry S. Truman in a White House ceremony. As a U.S. Marine, Barber (then captain) of his 220 men held off more than 1,400 People's Republic of China soldiers during six days of fighting in North Korea. Despite the extremely cold weather conditions and a bullet wound to the leg, Barber refused an evacuation order to withdraw the men from their mountain defensive position, which was surrounded by the enemy. Barber, aware that leaving would cause 8,000 Marines of his division to be trapped in North Korea, held on, killing over 1,000 enemy troops. The citation reads: "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."
September 12, 1952, the U.S. Government announced they would acquire 36,000 acres in Bullitt and Hardin Counties to expand Ft. Knox. The acreage of Ft. Knox before the acquisition is 117,000. The new total for the Army base will be 153,000 acres.
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 that resulted in losing 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, the U.S. military’s presented him with the highest decoration, the Congressional Medal of Honor. Ernest Edison “Ernie” West, born in Russell and raised in an orphanage in Nicholasville.
March 17, 1954, the Kentucky House passes an amendment to the Day Law, when they voted 52 to 32 to let African Americans into private and church affiliated schools. It was sponsored by Rev. Felix S. Anderson, the only African American member of the general assembly.
September 10, 1954, the Kentucky State Fair Opens. The themed focused on the youth with an opening 14 high school band parade. The older folks will not be forgotten however. The night festivities began at 8:00 p.m. with the Kentucky-Indiana All-Star basketball game. Former Governor Stanley rewarded long serving teachers later in the week.
Finally, on September 14, 1955, the title deeds from the three states were presented to the Secretary of the Interior and Cumberland Gap National Historical Park became a reality. The total of the original purchase of land transferred to the Department of the Interior was 20,185.04 acres. It was a long 15-year battle.
November 1, 1955, the Vietnam War begins. 1,103 Kentuckians never came home.
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 ten-car train home to Paducah, near his hometown, where he was born in a log cabin.
August 1, 1956, the Kentucky Turnpike, stretching 39 miles from Louisville to Elizabethtown, opened as the first section of a future interstate highway connecting the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico. Under construction for just under two years, the modern roadway cost $33.2 million.
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.
Civil Rights in the Gateway to the South: Louisville, Kentucky, 1945-1980 By Tracy E. K'Meyer
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 Governor 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.
January 21, 1957, 300 to 400 Kentuckians loaded up on train cars and traveled to Washington D.C. to be a part of President Eisenhower's Inauguration. Many in the group found time to visit the two Kentucky Senators, Cooper and Morton. A majority came back on the train that same night.
February 28, 1958, a Floyd County school bus plunged into the Big Sandy River, taking 27 people's lives. 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 bound for school in Prestonsburg. On U.S. Route 23, the bus struck the rear of a wrecker truck. It 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 immersed 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. Navy divers found the bus 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. Watch Video of Rescue.
December 8, 1959, Governor Bert Combs was elected the 50th Governor of Kentucky. It was his second run for the office. Combs rose from poverty in his native Clay County to earn a law degree from the University of Kentucky and become one of America's most progressive governors.
September 9, 1960, 19-year-old Cassius Clay, Jr. was praised and cheered as he returned home to Kentucky after winning Olympic gold in Rome's light heavyweight division. The day started when hundreds of cheering fans showed up at Standiford Field to greet the local hero. Louisville Mayor Hoblitzell greeted him, stating, "I want to thank you for you have brought to America and Louisville. You are a credit to your city." Clay then rode in a convertible to Central High School located downtown with a police escort and a parade of 25 cars, waving to fans and admirers along the way. Hundreds of more fans rushed him at the entrance to the school. Inside he was praised by local dignitaries and officials. Throughout it all, Clay smiled, and when it was all over, he humbly declared, I want you all to know how much I appreciate this, thank you very much." After a day of rest, he traveled to Frankfort to be greeted by Governor Combs, who showed his appreciation.
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.
May 9, 1961, George W. Ratterman, ex NFL player and soon to be sheriff was given a roofie in a meeting with the "mob," to talk about moving casino operations out of Campbell County. He regained consciousness in a nightclub dancer's company in a hotel bedroom, where the local police arrested him for prostitution and disturbing the peace. In Newport's sensational police court trial, it became apparent that the gambling interests were working with law enforcement officials to discredit Ratterman and the reform movement. After an investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice, six other persons, among them police officers and an attorney, were brought to trial for violating Ratterman's civil rights. In November 1961, Ratterman and the other reform ticket candidates swept into office. The operators of the casinos and nightclubs left town.
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 lost to Governor Breathitt (D) and Burke lost to Gene Snyder (R).
April 30, 1963, the Belle of Louisville made her first cruise in a race against the steamboat Delta Queen as one of that year’s Derby Festival events. It was the beginning of an unparalleled river tradition which continued until 2008 as the Great Steamboat Race, traditionally taking place every year on the Wednesday before the Derby.
August 28, 1963, Kentucky native Mary Travers joined Peter Yarrow and Paul Stookey, together known as Peter, Paul and Mary, in performing “Blowin’ in the Wind” in front of the Lincoln Memorial. At the same event, Martin Luther King, Jr., delivered his iconic “I Have a Dream” speech to a crowd of 200,000 civil rights marchers. The trio was joined by Joan Baez and Bob Dylan to lead the demonstrators in singing “We Shall Overcome.”
November 22, 1963, President Kennedy was assassinated.
April 24, 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson traveled to Inez 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, the dedication of Barkley Lock and Dam took place at Grand Rivers. Barkley Dam is 10,180 feet in length and 157 feet high. It took nine years to construct and offers flood control, hydroelectric power and 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 was named for former Vice President Alben Barkley (1949-53), a native of Lowes.
November 8, 1966, Henry Ward was the first Democratic nominee for governor to lose a general election since 1943. It would not happen again for the next thirty-six years, until Ben Chandler, Happy Chandler's grandson, lost in 2003 to Republican Ernie Fletcher.
In the early morning hours, March 30, 1967, Martin Luther King spoke to an overflow crowd in the Allen Courtroom at the University of Louisville’s Brandeis School of Law. He was in town for a Southern Christian Leadership Conference executive board meeting. His next stop was to speak to 1,200 people at the West Chestnut Street Baptist Church. At the church, King and the crowd learned that picketers were arrested at Memorial Coliseum. The opponents of open law were inside meeting. From the pulpit, King said, “We aren’t going to achieve our freedom sitting around waiting for it.” At that point, King, his wife, and his brother traveled to Lexington and led a march on Memorial Auditorium towards the heart of town.
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 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. Kennedy’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.” Of these, the locals 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 Kentucky Educational Television (KET) aired on television. In the beginning, KET aired only on weekdays during school hours. Within a year, broadcasting lasted into the evening and by 1975, it showed 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 and 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.
September 16, 1970, the Kentucky Air Pollution Control Commission unveiled a clean air plan that would introduce Kentucky’s first limits on the sulfur content of coal used as fuel. The limits designed to reduce levels of corrosive sulfur oxides in the air, have been used in other states.
December 30, 1970, at 12:20 p.m., the Hurricane Creek Coal Mines 15 & 16 of Hyden, in Leslie County, exploded, killing 38 of the 39 men underground. The massive coal dust explosion was the most deadly coal mine disaster in Eastern Kentucky history. The Bureau of Mines concluded that the blast occurred when coal dust was thrown into suspension and ignited by Primacord, a permissible explosive 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, a memorial to the Hurricane Creek miners was constructed near the sealed mine site, just a few miles outside Hyden. 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 caused the disaster. Video
April 25, 1971, Billy Graham holds service in Memorial Coliseum in Lexington. The auditorium was full capacity with 13,500 people, but even more people tried to get in. When the police stopped the crowd from entering, they walked across the street sit in Stoll Field.
December 7, 1971, Governor Wendell Ford was the 53rd Governor of Kentucky. He was the first person to be successively elected Lieutenant Governor, Governor and United States Senator in Kentucky history.
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 Kentucky campaign manager. Kentucky sided with Nixon (63.37%) over McGovern (34.77%).
April 3, 1974, 3:25 p.m., the only F5 Tornado to hit Kentucky touched down in Brandenburg. 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. The funnel moved to the northeast across Breckinridge County and into Meade County. The Tornado gradually enlarged and intensified as it approached Brandenburg. One hundred twenty-eight homes were 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 p.m., a tornado killed eight people in five rural Clinton County communities. Fifty homes were torn apart, 7:20 p.m. seven people died and 27 injured when thirty homes were destroyed near Richmond. Sixty-three 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. 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. 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 globally at 1,057 feet (322 m) main span. John A. Roebling’s son, who built the Brooklyn Bridge, would use many of his father's same techniques.
April 30, 1975, the Vietnam War ended. 1,066 Kentuckians gave their lives.
March 18, 1976, Kentucky finally ratified the 14th Amendment, 107 years after the U.S. Government ratified it and eight years after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King. It granted citizenship to “all persons born or naturalized in the United States.” The Amendment officially freed the former slaves after the Civil War. The three Reconstruction 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. When initially presented, Governor Thomas Bramlette (former Union Colonel) opposed it because the Confederate states' post-war treatment was unfair, and the ratification process therefore corrupted. Both the Kentucky House and Senate agreed not to pass the Amendment. It was Rep. Mae Street Kidd (D-Louisville), one of three blacks, then in the Kentucky legislature, who filed the resolution in 1976 and finally got it passed.
October 17, 1976, Lawrence Welk was the first act to perform at Rupp Area. He attracted a jaw-dropping 20,000 patrons on Sunday, for a 3:00 p.m. concert—easily surpassing Welk’s previous tour record of 18,000. Tickets 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.
December 10, 1976, William Lipscomb, (1919-2011) who grew up in Lexington and graduated from the University of Kentucky, was the second Kentuckian to win a Nobel Prize. Lipscomb was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his research in nuclear magnetic resonance, theoretical chemistry, boron chemistry, and biochemistry.
May 28, 1977, the Beverly Hills Supper Club burned to the ground the night John Davidson was to perform. It was beyond a sellout house. One hundred and sixty-five people died. An estimated 2,600 people escaped, but the death toll was the highest of any disaster in Greater Cincinnati history, man-made or natural. The fire was a key reason why standards nationwide are now so much more stringent.
September 24, 1977, at 9:35 a.m., a cargo-tank semitrailer was descending a 720-foot-long grade as it approached a left curve and a railroad/highway crossing on Kentucky State Route 11 in Beattyville. The truck was hauling 8,255 gallons of gasoline. It then crossed the tracks against the flashing red lights in front of an approaching train, got hit by the train and struck buildings adjacent to the road's edge. The truck overturned on top of a parked car. Escaping gasoline ignited and the fire destroyed six 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. 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 snowfall in other years. Nevertheless, this one featured incessantly cold temperatures and a memorably persistent snow cover. It was the last time the Ohio River froze over this far south.
Kentucky Weather By Jerry Hill; pg:63
September 7, 1978, the Commonwealth of Kentucky opened the $35 million Kentucky Horse Park. The 1,032-acre complex was conceived by noted Lexington horseman John R. Gaines, and championed in Frankfort by Rep. William R. Kenton, Jr. Designed as an equestrian theme park and located at the junction of I-75 and Iron Works Pike in northern Fayette County, the park immediately became a major tourism magnet.
October 25, 1978, 30-year old John Howard Carpenter released his original independent film, “Halloween.” Growing up in Bowling Green, Kentucky, he began making 8mm films by the time he was in high school. Carpenter has described the movie as “True Crass" exploitation. I decided to make a film I would love to have seen as a kid, full of cheap tricks like a haunted house at a fair where you walk down the corridor and things jump out at you. The film became a hit and the first of the slasher film genre. Carpenter’s budget for the movie was $320,000; the film initially grossed $65 million, making it one of the most successful independent films.
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. Construction ended 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 and 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 Homestead’s education coordinator said it is a rare glimpse of life in Boone County in the 19th and early 20th century because the family did not throw anything away. What separates Dinsmore from many other historical sites is not just the documents, but how the Homestead is preserved. In addition to the home’s contents, nearly all of its buildings, carriage house with carriages, log cabin, smokehouse 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, is credited with preserving the buildings and artifacts. The Dinsmore family’s connections reach people like George Washington, James Bowie, Andrew Jackson, Henry Clay, Benjamin F. Goodrich, Henry Cabot Lodge, John Jacob Astor IV, Theodore Roosevelt and Eleanor and Franklin D. Roosevelt.
On June 24, 1979, the dedication of Six Mile Island occurred. It is one of eighteen state nature preserves that encompass 5,812 acres in Kentucky. Six Mile Island State Nature Preserve is an 81-acre island in the Ohio River, only accessible by boat. The island is known for a variety of water birds. Protection of this island will allow it to return to its natural state, a unique opportunity to study riverine island systems' ecology. During the Kentucky Derby Festival, the Great Steamboat Race turns around at Six Mile Island as the halfway marker during the race.
December 7, 1979, Kentucky dedicated the Jesse Stuart State Nature Preserve in Greenup County. Jesse Stuart donated the land around his home in W Hollow. The 714 acres allows for passive recreation and environmental education. The Jesse Stuart Foundation supports the natural, cultural, and historical research on the preserve. This public foundation 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 based on competitive bids. Metts doubled the miles of roads resurfaced. In challenging 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. Simultaneously, 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, 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 that continued into his successors' terms.
June 5, 1980, The Troublesome Creek Times was founded. The Times is a colorful weekly newspaper that serves Knott County and is published in Hindman. By 1990 the Times had won 220 state and national press awards for excellence since its formation on. The National Newspaper Foundation named it a national blue ribbon newspaper. The Times’s aggressive and investigative news reporting has won several awards, and the layout has been featured in a college textbook on journalism. Noted for its sense of humor, the Times publishes an annual April Fool’s news edition on its front page. The newspaper was the first charter member of the Associated Press News finder service in Kentucky.
Sunday, July 27, 1980, at 2:52 p.m., a 5.1 magnitude earthquake occurred, one of the largest to ever hit Kentucky. East of the epicenter, at Owingsville, ground cracks were estimated to be 6 to 10 centimeters deep and 30 meters long. West of the epicenter, near Little Rock, 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. 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 estimated at 28,000.
February 17, 1982, Beargrass Creek State Nature Preserve, a 41-acre second-growth woodland near Joe Creason Park and the Louisville Zoological Gardens, was dedicated. This urban green space is famous among birdwatchers. It offers passive recreation and nature education on-site, through the Louisville Nature Center. Beargrass Creek is a major tributary of the Ohio River with three major forks, which run across most of Jefferson County. The Muddy Fork generally runs parallel to the Ohio River. The Middle Fork flows straight through the county's central part away from the Ohio River, 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 yucca plant's nickname that the first pioneers found growing abundantly on the creek's banks. The yucca was called beargrass because bears ate it.
September 26, 1983, Cumberland Falls State Park Nature Preserve was dedicated. The preserve encompasses approximately 1,294 acres in Cumberland Falls State Resort Park in McCreary County. This preserve protects six species of rare plants and ten rare animals, including the Cumberland bean mussel, which is classified as an endangered species. In addition, the preserve includes a number of waterfalls, among them Cumberland Falls, which plummets sixty-seven feet into a rocky gorge. The Cumberland River, designated a Kentucky wild river, flows through the preserve.
November 19, 1983, the Kentucky Center for the Arts held their grand opening in Louisville. The legislature established the Center 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.
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 debate was limited to domestic policy. Reagan was said to have appeared tired and sometimes confused. He referred to having started going to church “here in Washington.” He referred to military uniforms as “wardrobe,” and even admitted to being “confused.” 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 Kentucky, Reagan received 822,782 votes to Mondale’s 539,589.
March 14, 1985, Kentucky dedicated ninety-two acres of mostly mature forest in Barren County adjacent to the Barren River Reservoir as the Brigadoon State Nature Preserve. An additional 88 acres were dedicated several years later and a small tract in 2010. Today a total of 184 acres are protected. The rich woodlands contain an impressive array of spring wildflowers, including several rare species 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 autoworker 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. Still, Haydon had recently been suffering from kidney problems. Haydon, who died nine days before his 60th birthday, was never well enough to leave Humana except for brief outings.
On October 2, 1987, the Pikeville Cut-Through Project was complete. It was called “the eighth wonder of the world” by the New York Times. Spearheaded by former Mayor William C. Hambley, the Cut-Through Project was completed in four phases spanning 14 years and cost approximately $80 million. The project created a three-quarter-mile-long channel through Peach Orchard Mountain, to provide a path for railroad tracks, the Levisa Fork of the Big Sandy River and U.S. Highway 23, 460, 119 and KY 80. They moved 18 million cubic yards of the earth during the entire project, which filled the empty riverbed, creating 400 acres of usable land for Pikeville City’s expansion. The Pikeville Cut-Through Project is a unique engineering feat that provides a shining example of cooperation among agencies on a federal, state and local level. Being the second-largest earth removal project in U.S. history. The Pikeville Cut-Through Project is a marvel that visitors cannot miss.
March 2, 1988, former Governor A.B. “Happy” Chandler 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
On May 14, 1988, the Carrollton bus collision occurred on I-71 in Carroll County. A former school bus, in use by a church youth group, and a pickup truck driven by an impaired driver going the wrong way, collided head-on. It was the deadliest drunk driving incident, and one of the most fatal bus crashes in United States history. Of the 67 people on the bus (counting the driver), there were 27 fatalities, the same number as the 1958 Prestonsburg 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 the national president of the organization.
June 17, 1988, the largest prison escape in Kentucky happened at Eddyville State Penitentiary, when eight prisoners fled, three doing life. The escape was well organized and assisted by other inmates who set fires to distract the guards. The inmates sawed through their cell bars and climbed approximately thirty feet to another window using an electrical extension cord. The fire gave inmates 15 minutes to escape the violent offenders unit in the century-old portion of the prison and off the grounds.
August 8, 1988, the eyes of the world were focused on tiny Barren County, in the community of Eighty-Eight. More than 4,000 people from around the country made the trek to Eighty-Eight for a celebration of the once-in-a-lifetime occurrence of the numeral 8 dominating a date on the calendar.
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. Helm Roberts (1931-2011) a Veteran from Lexington, designed the unique memorial. 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 shootings 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 before his shooting rampage. The victims included: 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. Her hosts, Mr. & Mrs. William S. Farish III, the British Ambassador Anthony Acland and local dignitaries, greeted her at the airport. The Farish’s hosted President Bush the week before Queen Elizabeth’s visit and Queen Elizabeth hosted President Bush the night before she visited Kentucky. The visit was strictly private. The only time the queen ventured from the Farish’s 3,000-acre farm was to see her stallions, located around the Bluegrass.
August 11, 1990, the USS Kentucky (SSBN-737), a United States Navy ballistic missile submarine, was christened by Mrs. Carolyn Pennebaker Hopkins, the wife of U.S. Rep. Larry J. Hopkins. Mrs. Hopkins used a custom blend of Kentucky bourbon whiskey, mixed for the occasion, rather than the traditional bottle of champagne. The USS Kentucky was the third U.S. Navy ship named for Kentucky. The SSBN-737's 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 consists of 17 Officers, 15 Chief Petty Officers and 122 Enlisted men. Her home port is in Bangor, Washington. Video
September 2, 1990, it is reported that Governor Wallace Wilkinson (87-91) raised more than $11.4 million for his various causes since he started to run in 1985. This was a record for a Kentucky Governor. Some causes include $30,750 for a Georgia governor candidate and the most expensive Kentucky inauguration, $878,107.
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 Kentucky and Illinois over their Ohio River boundary, by reaffirming the original boundary set in 1792. The initial boundary line is “the low watermark 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 watermark differs by as much as 100 feet because of river damming and shoreline erosion. Illinois is now in control of the river's 100 feet, significant for riverboat gambling, emergency services taxes on buildings that jut into the river from the Illinois side. Illinois fishermen started the dispute by refusing to buy Kentucky 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 study 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. It is located in Mt. Washington, Bullitt County, on Old Bardstown Road (U.S. 31EX) and Dooley Drive. In 1880 James Lloyd, a talented carpenter, began to rebuild his home 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 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. The FBI indicted approximately 10% of the state’s sitting legislators, 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.
April 14, 1995 - “Darlin’ Harlan,” more formally known as the USS Harlan County, was decommissioned by the U.S. Navy. Named for Harlan County, the ship was launched on July 24, 1971 and commissioned the following April.
March 5, 1996, First Lady of Kentucky, Judi Conway Patton, a person of native heritage, felt strongly that American Indians, tribes, and organizations should be represented in the KHC and state government. At her urging, Governor Paul Edward Patton established the Kentucky Native American Heritage Commission (KNAHC) as an advisory board attached to the Education, Arts, and Humanities Cabinet (EAHC), and authorized by Executive Order 96-272.
March 15, 1996, the dedication of Floracliff Nature Sanctuary as a Kentucky State Nature Preserve took place. Established in 1989, it was the first nature Preserve for Fayette County. It is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization and managed by an independent board of directors in conjunction with the Kentucky State Nature Preserves Commission. Although the Sanctuary is only open for guided hikes and events, they offer various programs, volunteer and research opportunities, and hands-on workshops to interested individuals and groups.
July 1, 1997, 12:07 a.m., Kentucky executed its first inmate in thirty-five years. It took place at 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. Over one hundred death penalty opponents and twenty-five supporters of capital punishment protested outside of the prison.
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. The flight duration was eight 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.
March 19, 1998, south of Long Island, New York, USS Kentucky (SSBN-737) collided with the attack submarine USS San Juan (SSN-751) while the two submarines were conducting a joint training drill before deployment. One of the USS Kentucky‘s stern planes was slightly damaged; San Juan‘s forward ballast tank was breached but was able to surface and return to port. No personnel suffered any injuries. Kentucky returned to patrol the next day.
April 3, 1998, University of Kentucky’s W.T. Young Library opened its doors. Mr. Young initiated the project with a $5 million donation. The final cost exceeded $58 million from nearly 15,000 donors representing all 120 counties. The 365,000 square-feet building is centered on a 30-acre park-like setting, anchoring the University’s 16 libraries. Each of the six floors is approximately the size of a football field and the whole library houses 1.2 million volumes consisting of 37 miles of compact shelving. The chandelier located in the 5th-floor rotunda reading room weighs over 3,000 pounds.
April 7, 1998, Governor Paul Edward Patton signed House Bill 801, to acknowledge all American Indian people, tribes, and organizations in Kentucky. It also designates November as Native American Indian Month. House Bill 801 not only recognizes that American Indians are essential to the state's history, but it also reflects the Commonwealth's commitment to American Indians as an integral part of the social, political, and economic fabric of the state of Kentucky.