History of Kentucky Governors

Kentucky Governors and Elections

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JCW BECKHAM

1869-1940

 1900-1907

            John C.W. Beckham, the grandson of former Governor, Charles “The Duke” Wickham and was William Goebel’s Lt. Governor in the election of 1899.

            Beckham was a native and resident of Bardstown, Kentucky.  He attended Central University, now Eastern Kentucky University prior to becoming a public school principal and beginning the study and practice of law.

            Beckham served three terms in the Kentucky House of Representatives, becoming Speaker in 1898.  (Goebel was Senate President at that time)

            He was sworn in as Governor after Goebel’s death on February 3,1900 and following the appeals of the 1899 election to the General Assembly, the Franklin Circuit Court, the Kentucky Court of Appeals and a U.S. Supreme Court’s decision upholding the Kentucky Court of Appeals decision validating Goebel’s election, a special election for KY Governor was held in November 1900 for the remainder of the term where Beckham was elected in his own right.  In the special election of November 1900, Beckham won over Republican John W. Yerkes.

            As governor, Beckham sought to calm the state and unite the Democratic Party.  He avoided references to Goebel’s assassination during his inaugural address.  He intentionally was less progressive than Goebel.  His most progressive proposals were state taxation of out of state corporations operating in Kentucky and sought to regulate insurance companies during the 1906 General Assembly.  It should should be noted that Republican Governor Charles Evans Hughes of New York popularized the regulation of insurance companies by the states.  At the same time, Beckham urged the General Assembly to create the office of “State Fire Marshall” in an effort to help lower fire insurance rates in Kentucky.

            In February 1904, Beckham County, Kentucky was created in his honor.  The county seat was Olive Hill.  The short-lived 121st county was dissolved in April 1904.

            Achievements of Beckham’s administration include the building of the “New State Capitol” as well as expanding Central University in Richmond to the Eastern Kentucky State Normal School and the Western Kentucky State Normal School at Bowling Green.  (Now known as EKU and WKU respectively)

            Among Beckham’s failures was his lack of resolve to deal with bloodshed in Breathitt County which was so bad that no insurance company could be found to sell fire insurance in that county during the first decade of the 20th Century.  In addition to the ongoing violence from Eastern Kentucky feuds there was the “Black Patch Tobacco Wars” in West Kentucky.  Farmers were losing money raising tobacco as there was no competition between buyers of tobacco.  In September 1904, tobacco farmers got together to boycott the sale of tobacco to the American Tobacco Company owned by James Duke the tobacco tycoon.  Farmers were opposed to the way Duke controlled the tobacco market by fixing prices. After a couple of years of boycott's the farmers took matters into their own hands.  As a result the American Tobacco Company controlled tobacco warehouses and factories and warehouses in Princeton were burned by the farmers' “Night Riders”. To be fair, the violence relating to the war between the to  John C.W. Beckham, the grandson of former Governor, Charles “The Duke” Wickham and was William Goebel’s Lt. Governor in the election of 1899.

            Beckham was a  John C.W. Beckham, the grandson of former Governor, Charles “The Duke” Wickham and was William Goebel’s Lt. Governor in the election of 1899.

            Beckham was a native and resident of Bardstown, Kentucky.  He attended Central University, now Eastern Kentucky University prior to becoming a public school principal and beginning the study and practice of law.

            Beckham served three terms in the Kentucky House of Representatives, becoming Speaker in 1898.  (Goebel was Senate President at that time)

            He was sworn in as Governor after Goebel’s death on February 3,1900 and following the appeals of the 1899 election to the General Assembly, the Franklin Circuit Court, the Kentucky Court of Appeals and a U.S. Supreme Court’s decision upholding the Kentucky Court of Appeals decision validating Goebel’s election, a special election for KY Governor was held in November 1900 for the remainder of the term where Beckham was elected in his own right.  In the special election of November 1900, Beckham won over Republican John W. Yerkes.

            As governor, Beckham sought to calm the state and unite the Democratic Party.  He avoided references to Goebel’s assassination during his inaugural address.  He intentionally was less progressive than Goebel.  His most progressive proposals were state taxation of out of state corporations operating in Kentucky and sought to regulate insurance companies during the 1906 General Assembly.  It should should be noted that Republican Governor Charles Evans Hughes of New York popularized the regulation of insurance companies by the states.  At the same time, Beckham urged the General Assembly to create the office of “State Fire Marshall” in an effort to help lower fire insurance rates in Kentucky.

            In February 1904, Beckham County, Kentucky was created in his honor.  The county seat was Olive Hill.  The short-lived 121st county was dissolved in April 1904.

            Achievements of Beckham’s administration include the building of the “New State Capitol” as well as expanding Central University in Richmond to the Eastern Kentucky State Normal School and the Western Kentucky State Normal School at Bowling Green.  (Now known as EKU and WKU respectively)

            Among Beckham’s failures was his lack of resolve to deal with bloodshed in Breathitt County which was so bad that no insurance company could be found to sell fire insurance in that county during the first decade of the 20th Century.  In addition to the ongoing violence from Eastern Kentucky feuds there was the “Black Patch Tobacco Wars” in West Kentucky.  Farmers were losing money raising tobacco as there was no competition between buyers of tobacco.  In September 1904, tobacco farmers got together to boycott the sale of tobacco to the American Tobacco Company owned by James Duke the tobacco tycoon.  Farmers were opposed to the way Duke controlled the tobacco market by fixing prices. After a couple of years of boycott's the farmers took matters into their own hands.  As a result the American Tobacco Company controlled tobacco warehouses and factories and warehouses in Princeton were burned by the farmers' “Night Riders”. To be fair, the violence relating to the war

native and resident of Bardstown, Kentucky.  He attended Central University, now Eastern Kentucky University prior to becoming a public school principal and beginning the study and practice of law.

            Beckham served three terms in the Kentucky House of Representatives, becoming Speaker in 1898.  (Goebel was Senate President at that time)

            He was sworn in as Governor after Goebel’s death on February 3,1900 and following the appeals of the 1899 election to the General Assembly, the Franklin Circuit Court, the Kentucky Court of Appeals and a U.S. Supreme Court’s decision upholding the Kentucky Court of Appeals decision validating Goebel’s election, a special election for KY Governor was held in November 1900 for the remainder of the term where Beckham was elected in his own right.  In the special election of November 1900, Beckham won over Republican John W. Yerkes.

            As governor, Beckham sought to calm the state and unite the Democratic Party.  He avoided references to Goebel’s assassination during his inaugural address.  He intentionally was less progressive than Goebel.  His most progressive proposals were state taxation of out of state corporations operating in Kentucky and sought to regulate insurance companies during the 1906 General Assembly.  It should should be noted that Republican Governor Charles Evans Hughes of New York popularized the regulation of insurance companies by the states.  At the same time, Beckham urged the General Assembly to create the office of “State Fire Marshall” in an effort to help lower fire insurance rates in Kentucky.

            In February 1904, Beckham County, Kentucky was created in his honor.  The county seat was Olive Hill.  The short-lived 121st county was dissolved in April 1904.

            Achievements of Beckham’s administration include the building of the “New State Capitol” as well as expanding Central University in Richmond to the Eastern Kentucky State Normal School and the Western Kentucky State Normal School at Bowling Green.  (Now known as EKU and WKU respectively)

            Among Beckham’s failures was his lack of resolve to deal with bloodshed in Breathitt County which was so bad that no insurance company could be found to sell fire insurance in that county during the first decade of the 20th Century.  In addition to the ongoing violence from Eastern Kentucky feuds there was the “Black Patch Tobacco Wars” in West Kentucky.  Farmers were losing money raising tobacco as there was no competition between buyers of tobacco.  In September 1904, tobacco farmers got together to boycott the sale of tobacco to the American Tobacco Company owned by James Duke the tobacco tycoon.  Farmers were opposed to the way Duke controlled the tobacco market by fixing prices. After a couple of years of boycott's the farmers took matters into their own hands.  As a result the American Tobacco Company controlled tobacco warehouses and factories and warehouses in Princeton were burned by the farmers' “Night Riders”. To be fair, the violence relating to the war

bacco farmers and the American Tobacco Company lasted until 1911 when the courts ordered the Duke's Tobacco Trusts dismantled. 

                When he left office in 1907, he returned to the practice of law.  In 1914, Beckham became the first popularly elected U.S. Senator from Kentucky.  (U.S. Senators had previously been elected by the General Assembly)  As a member of the Senate's Military Affairs Committee he was responsible for bringing two Army bases to Kentucky during World War I--Camp Zachery Taylor and Fort Knox.  Camp Zachery Taylor was closed soon after the war but Fort Knox continues to be an important part of the U.S. Army.

  He was defeated by fewer than 5,000 votes in the 1920 elections by Covington resident and Republican Richard P. Ernst.  It is said that his support of prohibition might have cost him the election.  (In 1900, Kentucky was the third largest distiller of alcoholic beverages in the nation.)

            Beckham County, Oklahoma which still exists was named in honor of Governor JCW Beckham.

Below is Gov. Beckham and his birthplace "Wickland" in Bardstown.