History of Kentucky Governors

Kentucky Governors and Elections




        Kentucky's tenth governor, John Breathitt won a close election in 1832 in which there were many allegations of fraud. For example, John Breathitt won 162% of the vote in Oldham County.

Breathitt ran for Governor while he served as the Democratic  Lt. Governor under Governor Stone Hammer Metcalfe (a Whig).   Breathitt was a native of Virginia and served as Deputy Surveyor of Illinois Territory prior to his election as a State Representative from Logan County.

        John Breathitt became a national figure in 1833 when he denounced South Carolina's nullification of the Tariff Acts of 1828 and 1832.  This Democratic Governor sent resolutions to the Whig dominated General Assembly denouncing the actions of South Carolina as one which could lead the disunion of the Union and civil war. The General Assembly passed the resolutions which were sent to governors and legislatures throughout the nation.  Breathitt gave leadership to the growing sense of union in Kentucky, leading Kentucky to stay in the Union thirty (30) years later.  In his January 1, 1834 State of the Commonwealth Message, Breathitt reported that governors from New York, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Jersey, Delaware, Ohio, Alabama and Pennsylvania responded positively to the resolutions. 

Breathitt was a supporter of temperance or prohibition and blamed the large number of murders being committed in Kentucky on the consumption of alcoholic beverages. 

        In 1834, the Commonwealth of Kentucky owned stock in several turnpikes, including the Maysville, Washington, Paris and Lexington Turnpike (the one which went by Governor Metcalfe's farm in Nicholas County) and the Shelby and Franklin Turnpike which was valued at $134,384.00.

       Breathitt has the unfortunate distinction of being the second Kentucky Governor to die in office.  On February 21, 1834, John Breathitt died of tuberculosis at the Governor's Mansion in Frankfort at age 47.  He was preceded in death by two wives.

      Breathitt County in Eastern Kentucky was named in his honor.