From Madeline McDowell Breckenridge to Colonel Sanders, these Kentucky Military & Social Leaders changed our culture
Many Kentucky natives and residents have gone on to revolutionize the world we live in across a spectrum of fields including education, civil rights, women’s suffrage and the military at important times in America’s history. Lexington, Kentucky is also the Mary Todd Lincoln birthplace, and she served as first lady during one of America’s most influential presidencies. Read up on other famous people from the Bluegrass State on our Famous Kentuckians page.
Daniel Carter Beard* (June 21, 1850-1941) – American illustrator, author, youth leader and social reformer who founded Boy Scouts of America, 1910. Lived in Covington, near the Licking River, where he learned the stories of Kentucky pioneer life. Born in Cincinnati, Ohio, died in Suffern, New York.
Madeline McDowell Breckinridge (May 20, 1872-1920) – National leader in the Women's Suffrage Movement. Helped found the Kentucky Tuberculosis Commission. Born in Woodlake, died in Lexington.
Anna Mac Clarke (June 20, 1919-1944) – WAC who was the first black officer to command a white unit. Born in Lawrenceburg, buried in Lawrenceburg.
Mary Desha (March 8, 1850-1911) – Co-founded the Daughters of the American Revolution. Born in Lexington, and buried in the Lexington Cemetery.
John Luther "Casey" Jones* (March 14, 1864-1900) – Railroad engineer moved to Cayce, Kentucky where he got his nickname. He was killed when his passenger train collided with a stalled freight train causing his dramatic death trying to stop his train and save lives. Born in Missouri and died in Vaughan, Mississippi.
Mary Todd Lincoln (December 13, 1818-1882) – First Lady of the United States from 1861-1865. Wife of the 16th President, Abraham Lincoln. The Mary Todd Lincoln birthplace is in Lexington, and she died in Springfield, Illinois and is buried at Oak Ridge Cemetery in Springfield. Visitors to the Mary Todd Lincoln birthplace can tour the Mary Todd Lincoln House and view the spot in which she spent some of her early years.
McCoys of the Hatfield-McCoy feud (1878-1891) - Involved two warring families of the West Virginia-Kentucky backcountry throughout the end of the 19th century.
John Hunt Morgan* (June 1, 1825-1864) - "The Thunderbolt of the Confederacy," Confederate general and cavalry officer in the Civil War. Best known for Morgan’s Raid in 1863, when he led 2,460 troops racing past Union lines into Kentucky, Indiana, and Ohio. Moved to Kentucky with his family when he was six years old. Born in Huntsville, Alabama, died in Greenville, Tennessee, buried in the Lexington Cemetery.
Carrie A. Nation (November 25, 1846-1911) – Temperance crusader known as "the lady with a hatchet" after the style in which she attacked taverns of the day. Born in Garrard County, died in Leavenworth, Kansas.
Colonel Harland Sanders* (September 9, 1890-1980) – Kentucky Fried Chicken founder. Born in Henryville, Indiana, died in Louisville, buried at Cave Hill Cemetery, in Louisville.
John Thomas Scopes (August 3, 1900-1970) – Defendant in famous "Monkey Trial" for violating a Tennessee law against teaching evolution. Born in Paducah, buried in Paducah, at Oak Grove Cemetery.
Franklin Runyon Sousley, PFC (September 9, 1925-1945) – Helped raise the U.S. flag at Iwo Jima, immortalized in the most famous war photograph in history. Born in Hilltop, killed in the battle of Iwo Jima, buried in a makeshift grave in Iwo Jima, re-interred at Elizaville, in Fleming County.
Cora Wilson Stewart (January 17, 1875-1958) – Educator whose school for adult education became a model throughout the world. Born in Farmers, died in North Carolina.
Whitney M. Young, Jr. (July 31, 1921-1971) – Civil rights leader, director of the National Urban League, 1961-71, awarded Medal of Freedom, 1969. Born in Shelby County, died in Lagos, Nigeria.
* Denotes not born in Kentucky