List of Governors of Kentucky

The Governor of Kentucky is the head of the executive branch of Kentucky's state government,[1] and serves as commander-in-chief of the state's military forces.[2] The governor has a duty to enforce state laws;[3] the power to either approve or veto bills passed by the Kentucky General Assembly;[4] the power to convene the legislature;[5] and the power to grant pardons, except in cases of treason and impeachment.[6] He or she is also empowered to reorganize the state government or reduce it in size. Historically, the office has been regarded as one of the most powerful executive positions in the United States.[7]

Fifty-eight individuals have held the office of Governor. Prior to a 1992 amendment to the state's constitution, the Governor was prohibited from succeeding himself in office, though four men (Isaac Shelby, John L. Helm, James B. McCreary and Happy Chandler) served multiple non-consecutive terms. Paul E. Patton, the first Kentucky Governor eligible for a second consecutive term under the amendment, won his reelection bid in 1999. James Garrard succeeded himself in 1800, before the constitutional provision existed.

William Goebel, who was elected to the office in the disputed election of 1899, remains the only Governor of any U.S. state to die from assassination while in office.[8] Martha Layne Collins, who held the office from 1983 to 1987, was the first woman to serve as governor and was only the third woman to serve as governor of any U.S. state who was not the wife or widow of a previous governor.[7] The 62nd and current Kentucky Governor is Republican Matt Bevin, who took office on December 8, 2015.

Governors

Kentucky was initially Kentucky County in Virginia. It achieved statehood and was admitted to the Union on June 1, 1792; see the list of governors of Virginia for the period before statehood. There have been 57 governors, serving 61 distinct terms.

An unelected group proclaimed Kentucky's secession from the Union on November 20, 1861, and it was annexed by the Confederate States of America on December 10, 1861. The Confederate government elected two governors (listed separately), but it never held much control over the state, and the main line of governors was preserved.

The original 1792 Kentucky Constitution had the governor chosen by an electoral college for a term of four years.[9] The second constitution in 1799 changed this to a popular vote, and prevented governors from succeeding themselves within seven years of their terms.[10] The third constitution in 1850 reduced the succession limitation to four years.[11] A 1992 amendment to the constitution allowed governors to have a second term before being prevented from succeeding themselves for four years.[12]

# Governor Term in office Party Election Lt. Governor[a][b]
1 Isaac shelby.jpg   Isaac Shelby June 4, 1792

June 7, 1796
Democratic-Republican 1792 Office did not exist
2 JGarrard.jpg James Garrard June 7, 1796

September 5, 1804
Democratic-Republican 1796
1800   Alexander Scott Bullitt
3 Christopher Greenup.jpg Christopher Greenup September 5, 1804

September 1, 1808
Democratic-Republican 1804 John Caldwell
(died November 19, 1804)
Vacant
  Thomas Posey
(acting, elected Speaker in 1805)
4 Charles Scott.jpg Charles Scott September 1, 1808

August 24, 1812
Democratic-Republican 1808 Gabriel Slaughter
5 Isaac shelby.jpg Isaac Shelby August 24, 1812

September 5, 1816
Democratic-Republican 1812 Richard Hickman
6 George Madison.jpg George Madison September 5, 1816

October 14, 1816
Democratic-Republican 1816
[c]
Gabriel Slaughter
7 Gabriel Slaughter.jpg Gabriel Slaughter October 14, 1816

August 29, 1820
Democratic-Republican Vacant
8 JOHN ADAIR colour corrected.jpg John Adair August 29, 1820

August 24, 1824
Democratic-Republican 1820 William T. Barry
9 Joseph Desha by Katherine Helm.jpg Joseph Desha August 24, 1824

August 26, 1828
Democratic-Republican 1824 Robert B. McAfee
10 TMetcalfe.jpg Thomas Metcalfe August 26, 1828

September 4, 1832
National Republican 1828 John Breathitt[d]
11 John Breathitt.jpg John Breathitt September 4, 1832

February 21, 1834
Democratic 1832
[e][f]
James T. Morehead[g]
12 JTMorehead.jpg James T. Morehead February 21, 1834

August 30, 1836
National Republican Vacant
Whig
13 JClark.jpg James Clark August 30, 1836

August 27, 1839
Whig 1836
[h]
Charles A. Wickliffe
14 Wickliffe CA.jpg Charles A. Wickliffe August 27, 1839

September 2, 1840
Whig Vacant
15 RPLetcher.jpg Robert P. Letcher September 2, 1840

September 4, 1844
Whig 1840 Manlius V. Thomson
16 William Owsley.jpg William Owsley September 4, 1844

September 6, 1848
Whig 1844 Archibald Dixon
17 John Jordan Crittenden - Brady 1855.jpg John J. Crittenden September 6, 1848

July 31, 1850
Whig 1848
[i][j]
John L. Helm
18 JohnLaRueHelm.jpg John L. Helm July 31, 1850

September 2, 1851
Whig Vacant
19 Lazarus W. Powell - Brady-Handy.jpg Lazarus W. Powell September 2, 1851

September 4, 1855
Democratic 1851 John B. Thompson[k]
20 Charles Slaughter Morehead.jpg Charles S. Morehead September 4, 1855

August 30, 1859
Know Nothing 1855 James G. Hardy
21 Beriah Magoffin - Brady-Handy.jpg Beriah Magoffin August 30, 1859

August 18, 1862
Democratic 1859
[l]
Linn Boyd
(died December 17, 1859)
Vacant
22 James F Robinson.jpg James F. Robinson August 18, 1862

September 1, 1863
Democratic
23 Thomas E. Bramlette (Kentucky).jpg Thomas E. Bramlette September 1, 1863

September 3, 1867
Democratic 1863 Richard T. Jacob
24 JohnLaRueHelm.jpg John L. Helm September 3, 1867

September 8, 1867
Democratic 1867
[m]
John W. Stevenson
25 John Stevenson.jpg John W. Stevenson September 8, 1867

February 3, 1871
Democratic Vacant
1868
[n][o]
26 PHLeslie.jpg Preston H. Leslie February 3, 1871

August 31, 1875
Democratic
1871 John G. Carlisle
27 James-B-McCreary.jpg James B. McCreary August 31, 1875

September 2, 1879
Democratic 1875 John C. Underwood
28 Luke-P.-Blackburn.jpg Luke P. Blackburn September 2, 1879

September 5, 1883
Democratic 1879 James E. Cantrill
29 J. Proctor Knott - Brady-Handy.jpg J. Proctor Knott September 5, 1883

August 30, 1887
Democratic 1883 James R. Hindman
30 Simon Bolivar Buckner Sr.jpg Simon Bolivar Buckner August 30, 1887

September 2, 1891
Democratic 1887 James W. Bryan
31 John Y. Brown 1835-1904 - Brady-Handy.jpg John Young Brown September 2, 1891

December 10, 1895
Democratic 1891 Mitchell C. Alford
32 William-O.-Bradley.jpg William O. Bradley December 10, 1895

December 12, 1899
Republican 1895 William J. Worthington
33 William Sylvester Taylor.jpg William S. Taylor December 12, 1899

January 31, 1900
Republican 1899
[p]
John Marshall
34 William Goebel circa 1889.jpg William Goebel January 31, 1900

February 3, 1900
Democratic J. C. W. Beckham
35 J. C. W. Beckham.jpg J. C. W. Beckham February 3, 1900

December 10, 1907
Democratic Vacant
1900
[q]
1903 William P. Thorne
36 August E. Willson, Governor of Kentucky.jpg Augustus E. Willson December 10, 1907

December 12, 1911
Republican 1907 William Hopkinson Cox
37 James-B-McCreary.jpg James B. McCreary December 12, 1911

December 7, 1915
Democratic 1911 Edward J. McDermott
38 Augustus O Stanley.jpg Augustus O. Stanley December 7, 1915

May 19, 1919
Democratic 1915
[r]
James D. Black
39 James-Dixon-Black.jpg James D. Black May 19, 1919

December 9, 1919
Democratic Vacant
40 Edwin-P-Morrow,-speaking.jpg Edwin P. Morrow December 9, 1919

December 11, 1923
Republican 1919 S. Thruston Ballard
41 William J. Fields.jpg William J. Fields December 11, 1923

December 13, 1927
Democratic 1923 Henry Denhardt
42 No image.svg Flem D. Sampson December 13, 1927

December 8, 1931
Republican 1927 James Breathitt, Jr.[d]
43 Ruby Laffoon Portrait.png Ruby Laffoon December 8, 1931

December 10, 1935
Democratic 1931 Happy Chandler
44 Happy Chandler - Harris and Ewing Crop.jpg Happy Chandler December 10, 1935

October 9, 1939
Democratic 1935
[s]
Keen Johnson
45 Keen Johnson.jpg Keen Johnson October 9, 1939

December 7, 1943
Democratic Vacant
1939 Rodes K. Myers
46 No image.svg Simeon Willis December 7, 1943

December 9, 1947
Republican 1943 Kenneth H. Tuggle
47 Earle-Clements.jpg Earle Clements December 9, 1947

November 27, 1950
Democratic 1947
[t]
Lawrence W. Wetherby
48 Lawrence-Wetherby.jpg Lawrence W. Wetherby November 27, 1950

December 13, 1955
Democratic Vacant
1951 Emerson Beauchamp
49 Happy Chandler - Harris and Ewing Crop.jpg Happy Chandler December 13, 1955

December 8, 1959
Democratic 1955 Harry Lee Waterfield
50 Bert-Combs.jpg Bert Combs December 8, 1959

December 10, 1963
Democratic 1959 Wilson Wyatt
51 Ned-Breathitt-at-desk.jpg Ned Breathitt December 10, 1963

December 12, 1967
Democratic 1963 Harry Lee Waterfield
52 Louie-Nunn.jpg Louie Nunn December 12, 1967

December 7, 1971
Republican 1967 Wendell Ford[d]
53 Sen Wendell Ford of Ky.jpg Wendell Ford December 7, 1971

December 28, 1974
Democratic 1971
[u]
Julian Carroll
54 Julian-Carroll.jpg Julian Carroll December 28, 1974

December 11, 1979
Democratic Vacant
1975 Thelma Stovall
55 John Y. Brown, Jr..jpg John Y. Brown Jr. December 11, 1979

December 13, 1983
Democratic 1979 Martha Layne Collins
56 Martha Layne Collins, governor of Kentucky, Nov 8, 1986 (cropped).jpg Martha Layne Collins December 13, 1983

December 8, 1987
Democratic 1983 Steve Beshear
57 No image.svg Wallace Wilkinson December 8, 1987

December 10, 1991
Democratic 1987 Brereton Jones
58 No image.svg Brereton Jones December 10, 1991

December 12, 1995
Democratic 1991 Paul E. Patton
59 Paul E. Patton 2013 (cropped).jpg Paul E. Patton December 12, 1995

December 9, 2003
Democratic 1995 Steve Henry
1999
60 Ernie Fletcher.jpg Ernie Fletcher December 9, 2003

December 11, 2007
Republican 2003 Steve Pence
61 Steve Beshear by Gage Skidmore.jpg Steve Beshear December 11, 2007

December 8, 2015
Democratic 2007 Daniel Mongiardo
2011 Jerry Abramson
(resigned November 13, 2014)
Crit Luallen
(appointed November 13, 2014)
62 Matt Bevin.jpg Matt Bevin December 8, 2015

Incumbent
Republican 2015
[v]
Jenean Hampton