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May 31, 1797, the Kentucky Gazette ran an announcement for public amusement in Central Kentucky.  “A room for exhibition purposes has been erected for tumbling, balancing on slack wire, slack rope walking, and dancing.  Admission to pit, 2 shillings; to gallery, 2 shillings and 2 pence.  Doors open at sunset, performance begins at dark.”  The Squire’s Sketches of Lexington by J. Winston Coleman, Jr.; pg: 23

On May 31, 1862, Paris native Richard Hawes became Kentucky’s 2nd Confederate governor.  Hawes replaced George W. Johnson, who died in the Battle of Shiloh on April 8.  When General Bragg invaded Kentucky in October 1862 and captured Frankfort, he held an inauguration ceremony for Hawes.  However, General Don Carlos Buell and his Union forces interrupted the affair and ran them out of town.

May 31, 1879, the family of Charles S. Morehead reinterred his body in the Frankfort Cemetery from Mississippi.  At the end of his life, Morehead, our 20th governor (1855-59), traveled the Americas fearing rearrest for siding with the Confederates.  He died on his Mississippi plantation after stays in Canada and Mexico.

May 31, 1892, Adair County lynched Wick Willis, a black male, for an attempted rape.

May 31, 1913, the New York Times reported the return of racing to Belmont Park after three dark years.  The track opened with an agreement there would be no gambling.  “Degambelized horse racing was placed on trial yesterday at Belmont Park, after three years of enforced idleness on the metropolitan tracks.  Almost 30,000 spectators participated in the trial, in which they occupied the position of quasi-defendants with the officials of the Westchester Racing Association, who had covenanted [promised] to insure a day of clean sport.”

On May 31, 1921, white mobs attacked the black residents and businesses of Tulsa, Oklahoma’s Greenwood District, in one of the worst incidents of racial violence in American history.  The U.S. National Guard, with air and ground forces, helped destroy more than 35 square blocks.  At that time, the district was the wealthiest black community in the U.S., known as “Black Wall Street.”  Over 835 people died.

May 31, 1940, the Kentucky basketball program retired Layton Rouse #10 jersey.  Layton, a 6’1” guard hailed from Ludlow.

On May 31, 1947, C.V. Whitney’s Phalanx won the 79th Belmont Stakes.  The 1 ½ mile went 2:29 2/3 to earn $78,900.  The nine-horse field included owners Greentree Stable, Belair Stud, W.P. Chrysler, and Calumet Farm.  Phalanx finished 2nd in the May 3 Derby and 3rd in the May 10 Preakness.

May 31, 1948, 13 Sunday-School picnickers injured themselves when a bridge over a ravine in Carter County State Park collapsed, dropping them 30 feet.

May 31, 1951, Army PVT Elmo Bullock from Henderson, Army CPL Andrew J. Christian from Rowan County, and Army PFC Ebb L. Tarry from Barren County, all died in the Korean War.

May 31, 1967, Army SGT Dennie Neace from Bonnyman in Perry County died in the Vietnam War.

May 31, 1968, Army 1SG O.L. Midkiff from Dundee in Ohio County, Marine Corps CPL Charles L. Coleman from Louisville, Marine Corps LCPL Thomas L. Loschiavo from Covington, Army CPL Donald R. Miller from Henderson, and Army CPL Jeff Mulkey from Banner in Floyd County, died in the Vietnam War.

May 31, 1969, Army SP5 Billy J. Martin from Owensboro died in the Vietnam War.

On May 31, 1970, the board of directors of Berea’s only newspaper, Berea Citizen, asked the editor to resign because of his critiques of the town and college.  The school employed each board member.  Meanwhile, Senator John Sherman Cooper announced he would retire after his term ended in two years.  Senator Cooper was currently trying to stop America’s invasion of Cambodia.  The Senator had spent much of his career, starting in 1927, fighting the Industrial Military Complex.

May 31, 1975, Ruffian won the GI Mother Goose by 13 1/2 lengths against six others, going the 1 1/8‐mile contest in 1:47 4/5, a new stake record.  It was her 9th straight victory.

May 31, 1982, comedian Bob Hope attracted the largest crowd ever at Louisville’s Foster Brooks Pro-Celebrity tournament.  The Hurstbourne Country Club hosted up to 18,000 fans.

On May 31, 1988, the Franklin County circuit court ruled in the Council for Better Education v. Collins et al.  They decided that Kentucky’s school financing system was unconstitutional.  The victors, including Martha Layne Collins, who had just entered private life, several members of the state government, and a group of poor school districts wanted to equalize funding for all the Kentucky school districts.

May 31, 1993, an amateur spelunker died in Buzzard Roost Cave in Cave City after he plunged 30 feet and then became wedged in a narrow passage.  Two members of his exploring party exited the cave after being rescued and enduring a 17-hour ordeal.

On May 31, 1994, to eliminate paper government checks and paper food stamps, Kentucky became one of 10 states to experiment with electronic access to government benefits.  Engineers planned to go online nationwide in 1999.

May 31, 1999, Norman Moran from Lexington caught a state record Bowfin weighing 15.08 lbs. in the Green River.

May 31, 2007, despite stricter laws for safer riding, deaths from All-Terrain Vehicle (ATV) accidents continued to rise in Kentucky, the nation’s leader in ATV deaths.  Already for 2007, 17 Kentuckians died, almost three times the number reported by the end of May 2006.

May 31, 2012, a group of pharmaceutical companies tried to protect over-the-counter sales of pseudoephedrine by shattering their Kentucky lobbying spending in the 2012 legislative session.

May 31, 2013, Morgantown native Keith Butler made his MLB debut with the St. Louis Cardinals.

May 31, 2017, an appeal began on the property valuation of Governor Bevin’s Anchorage home.  The controversy started when the $1.6 million house and ten acres seemed well below a $2,134,780 figure based on surrounding properties.

May 31, 2018, the Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority gave Louisville and the new professional soccer team $21.7 million in incentives to help build their new soccer stadium in Butchertown.

May 31, 2020, UK’s Kirwan-Blanding Towers, a fixture on campus for 50 years, continued to lose one floor per week.  Meanwhile, just a few miles away in downtown, locals turned out for a 2nd night of protests against police violence.  In Louisville, the National Guard patrolled the downtown streets during their protests.

On May 31, 2021, federal authorities jailed a Knox County man, Patrick Baker, who Governor M. Bevin pardoned for murder in December 2019.  With no coronavirus restrictions, people returned to one of Kentucky’s oldest traditions, the 90th Kentucky Mountain Laurel Festival.  Event organizers canceled 2020 festivities for possibly the 1st time since its inception.  Governor A. Beshear crowned Abigail Canter Queen there was no word if he gave her the traditional kiss.

May 31, 2022, reports indicated that 14 U.S. mass shootings occurred from May 24-31.  The Memorial Holiday incurred 11.  The Gun Violence Archive group defines a mass shooting as “four or more people are shot or died, not including the shooter.”

May 31, 2023, Toyota announced a $1.3 billion expansion for a new battery-powered SUV assembly line.  The all-new SUV will be a three-row battery electric vehicle for the U.S. market and Toyota’s first U.S.-assembled battery electric vehicle.  The Kentucky plant is Toyota’s largest in the world.  It opened in 1986 and employs nearly 9,400.