History of Kentucky Governors

Kentucky Governors and Elections




             Controversy dogged the administration of Joseph Desha, the eighth person and fourth general elected to serve as Kentucky Governor. Desha served six consecutive terms in the U.S. House of Representatives and served as a major general in the War of 1812 prior to becoming Governor.

  After being defeated in 1820, Desha was elected Governor in 1824 on a platform of “debtor relief”.  His debtor relief plan was passed by the KY General Assembly but was blocked by the Court of Appeals.  As a result, he attempted to abolish the Court of Appeals by creating another Court.

         Another controversy involved Desha’s son Isaac.  Isaac Desha a resident of Fleming County murdered a man from Mississippi.  He was tried in Cynthiana and was convicted of murdered.  Young Desha was represented by John Rowan, a future US Senator from KY.  In 1825, the  judge who presided at the trial, George "Peg Leg" Shannon was appointed to the bench by Governor Desha in 1824.  Shannon overturned the jury verdict and ordered a new trial.   The "good citizens' of Harrison County burned Judge Shannon in effigy because of obvious politcal favortism.  As a result of public outrage, George Shannon left Kentucky and moved to Missouri.  In 1830, President Andrew Jackson appointed Shannon US Attorney for Missouri. (Craig; True Tales of Old-Time KY Politics) 

         In 1826, Isaac Desha was tried again and convicted a second time.  Rather than see his son hang, Governor Desha used his pardon power to pardon his son.  An act for which he was roundly criticized and probably ruined his political career.

Following his service as governor, he retired to his farm in Harrison County.

File:Joseph Desha by Katherine Helm.jpg