History of Kentucky Governors

Kentucky Governors and Elections

                           ROBERT PERKINS LETCHER

1788-1861

1840-1844--Governor

                Active in Kentucky and national politics for the first half of the 19th Century, Robert Perkins Letcher was elected Governor of Kentucky in 1840. 

            Letcher, the son of a brickyard owner in Lancaster, Kentucky became a lawyer practicing in Garrard County prior to his election to the Kentucky House of Representatives.  He was later elected to the U.S.  House of Representatives.  He represented a district which extended from Garrard County to Harlan County from 1823 to 1835.  When the Presidential Election of 1824 was deadlocked between Andrew Jackson, John Quincy Adams and Henry Clay, Letcher acted as an intermediary between Henry Clay and John Quincy Adams.  As a result of Letcher’s work, John Quincy Adams became President and Henry Clay became Secretary of State.  The appointment of Clay as Secretary of State by Adams, was called “the corrupt bargain” by Jackson.

            For reasons unknown, Letcher was given the name of “Black Bob”. 

            In 1840, “Black Bob” was nominated by the Whig Party for Governor of Kentucky.  As in his congressional races, he exhibited the skills as a gifted campaigner with his stump speaking and debating skill.  He also played a fiddle at campaign ralleys and often interrupted his opponents by playing his fiddle while they spoke.  He also took musical requests from the crowd.

            Letcher assumed the office of Governor during the fourth year of the “Panic of 1837”.  As a result the state stopped construction on turnpikes and river improvements.  AS a result, Letcher was able to cut the state’s deficit and create a small surplus in the state treasury.

            After serving as Governor, Robert Letcher was appointed by President Zachery Taylor as the U.S. Ambassador to Mexico where he served for three years.

            Letcher was married twice.   His first wife Susan Oden Epps died in 1816 and when he died in 1861 he was survived by his second wife Charlotte Robertson Letcher whom he called “the Queen”. 

            Letcher County was named in his honor.

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