History of Kentucky Governors

Kentucky Governors and Elections

  CHARLES A. WICKLIFFE (1839-1840)

   Lt. Governor Charles Anderson Wickliffe was Lt. Governor when Gov. James Clark died in August 1839.  Wickliffe carried the nickname "Duke" due to his aristocratic bearing. 

   Wickliffe was born in a log cabin near Springfield, Washington County, Kentucky in 1788.

    Prior to his election on the Whig ticket as Lt. Governor in 1836, he practiced law in Bardstown and served in the War of 1812.  He served in the Kentucky House of Representatives prior to serving in the U.S. Congress from 1823 to 1832 as a Jacksonian Democrat.  Upon leaving Congress he was elected to the Kentucky House of Representatives becoming Speaker in 1835.

    As governor, he proposed increasing property taxes in order to pay off the annual deficiet of $42,000.  In keeping with the Whig philosophy of promoting "internal improvements" Wickliffe supported increased spending for river improvements, the state archives and education.

    After stepping down as governor, Charles Wickliffe was appointed by President John Tyler as the 11th Postmaster General of the United States.  Wickliffe and Tyler were roommates when Wickliffe served in Congress.  During his tenure as Postmaster General, he was wounded in an assassination attempt.  He was stabbed in the chest by a man who was later found to be insane.

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   Wickliffe married Margaret Cripps in 1813 and they contracted with John Rogers who had built Bardstown's Proto- Cathedral to build their home Wickland (photo above).  It became home to three governors, Wickliffe, their  son Robert who became governor of Louisiana and their grandson J.C.W. Beckham who served as Kentucky governor from 1900 to 1907. Charles and Margaret Wickliffe had three sons and five daughters.

    He was again elected to the U.S. Congress in 1860 as a Unionist and later became "Peace Democrat".  In 1863, ran for a full term as governor as a "Peace Democrat" but was defeated by "Regular Democrat"  Thomas Bramlette.  There were many irregularities during that election due in part to General Ambrose Burnside's interference in the election.  Burnside was accused of keeping Wickliffe's voters from the polls due to his southern sympathies.   According to Collins' 1873 History of Kentucky, a Union Colonel attempted to stop Wickliffe himself from going to the polls.  

    Just prior to his run for governor in 1863, Wickliffe was thrown from a carriage and became permenantly crippled.  He later became blind.  Despite these health issues, Wickliffe continued to practice law until his death in 1869.  Just prior to his death, he made a two hour speech on behalf of a client before the Kentucky Court of Appeals.   He died during the summer of 1869 while visiting a daughter in Maryland.

   During World War II, an American "Liberty" ship was named in his honor. 

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