History of Kentucky Governors

Kentucky Governors and Elections





            Lt. Governor James Dixon Black of Barbourville, Kentucky became Governor when Governor A.O. Stanley was elected to the U.S. Senate.

            Black a native of Knox County was an attorney and educator in Barbourville prior to entering politics.  He served one term in the Kentucky House of Representatives in 1876-1877.  

            James Dixon Black, the son of John C. and Clarissa Jones Black was born on Big Richland Creek about nine miles from Barbourville on September 24, 1849.  He was educated in Knox County and graduated from Tusculum College near Greeneville, Tennessee in 1872. 

            It should be noted that just prior to James Dixon Black became a teenager the Civil War came to Knox County.  The Union established Camp Andy Johnson to recruit soldiers from Kentucky and Tennessee.  The site of Camp Andy Johnson is now the location of Union College of Kentucky. On September 19, 1861 one of the first battles of the Civil War in Kentucky occurred at Barbourville.  Confederates under Brig. Gen. Felix Zollicoffer moved through Cumberland Gap from Tennessee and sent a detachment under Col. Joel A. Battle to Barbourville and burned Camp Andy Johnson.

            After graduating from college, Black returned to Barbourville where he taught school and studied to become a lawyer.  In 1874, he was admitted to the bar.  In 1875, he married Nettie Pitzer of Barbourville.  They had three children, Pitzer, Gertrude and Georgia.

            In 1879, Black and other citizens of Knox County found Union College.  He was active in the affairs of the college most of his life.  He served not only as a founder putting up funds to found the college but served as a fundraiser and as Union College President from 1910 to 1912.

            Black’s lifelong interest in education was also reflected in his service as superintendent of the Knox County Schools in 1884.

            Governor John Young Brown (1891-1895) was instrumental in Black’s appointment as Kentucky’s commissioner to the “World’s Columbian Exposition” or the Chicago’s World’s Fair of 1893 held to celebrate the 400th Anniversary of Columbus’ arrival in the New World.  The dedication ceremonies were held on October 21, 1892 but the grounds were not opened to the public until May 1, 1893.  The fair was open to the public until October 30, 1893. 


                In 1915, James Dixon Black was elected Lt. Governor of Kentucky with Governor AO Stanley.  This was an interesting combination as Black supported prohibition and Stanley opposed prohibition.

            As Black only served seven months during an election year and the General Assembly did not meet, Black was unable to influence legislation.

            Black sought and won the Democratic nomination for governor in 1919, but lost to Republican Edwin Morrow who had lost to AO Stanley by about 487 votes in 1915.

            Black blamed his defeat on liquor interests and President Wilson’s failing popularity following World War I.

            Upon leaving office, Black became Kentucky’s Chief Prohibition Inspector in 1920.  He later resumed his law practice and became president of Barbourville National Bank.

 He died on August 5, 1938 not quite 89 years of age.  At the time of his death he was serving  as 9th Congressional District Campaign manager for Alben Barkley’s 1938 re-election campaign to the U.S. Senate.  It should be noted that John Dixon Black died the day before the 1938 Democratic Senate Primary of August 6, 1938 in which U.S. Senator Alben Barkley beat Gov. A.B. “Happy” Chandler by 56.05% to 42.56%.