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Political Leaders

Senator Henry Clay, President Taylor and other political celebrities from Kentucky shaped our world

From American president Abraham Lincoln to Confederate President Jefferson Davis, Kentucky has spawned a number of great American politicians throughout history. This political powerhouse of a state also turned out Senator Henry Clay, “The Great Compromiser,” Republican-party founder Cassius Marcellus Clay and many others. View the full list of historic political celebrities from Kentucky and get to know the Bluegrass State’s other famous faces.

Alben William Barkley (November 24, 1877-1956) – U.S. Vice President under Harry Truman, 1949-53. Born in Graves County, died in Lexington, KY.

John Cabell Breckinridge (January 16, 1872-1920) – U.S. Vice President under James Buchanan, 1857-61. Born and died in Lexington.

Louis Brandeis (November 13, 1856-1941) – U.S. Supreme Court Justice, 1916-39. Succeeded in persuading the Department of Justice to consider new antitrust legislation. Born in Louisville, died in Washington, D.C.

Albert Benjamin "Happy" Chandler (July 14, 1898-1991) – Two time governor (1935-1939 and 1955-1959) and U.S. Senator (1939-1945). The second Commissioner of Major League Baseball, and a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame. Born in Corydon, and died in Versailles.

Cassius Marcellus Clay (October 19, 1810-1903) – The Lion of White Hall, Ambassador to Russia, abolitionist, a founder of the Republican Party. Born and died in Madison County.

Henry Clay* (April 12, 1777-1852) – The Great Compromiser, United States Senator, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, U.S. Secretary of State. Born in Hanover County, Virginia, died in Washington, D.C. Clay’s estate is named Ashland, in Lexington. Clay is buried in the Lexington Cemetery.

Martha Layne Collins ( December 7, 1936- ) – First elected female Kentucky governor, 1983-87. Born in Bagdad. Instrumental in bringing the Toyota auto manufacturer to the U.S. and to Kentucky.

John Sherman Cooper (August 23, 1901-1991) – Served in the U.S. senate, ambassador to India and East Germany, member of the Warren Commission. Born in Somerset, Kentucky and died in Washington, D.C.

Jefferson Davis (June 3, 1808-1889) – Only President of the Confederate States of America, 1861-65. Born in Christian County, and died in New Orleans, Louisiana.

John Marshall Harlan (June 1, 1833-1911) – U.S. Supreme Court Justice, 1877-1911. Born in Boyle County, died in Washington D.C.

Richard M. Johnson (October 17, 1780-1850) – Democratic U.S. Vice-President under Martin Van Buren, 1837-41. Born in Beargrass, died in Frankfort.

Abraham Lincoln (February 12, 1809-1865) –16th U.S. President, 1861-65. He successfully led his country through its greatest internal crisis, the American Civil War preserving the Union and ending slavery. Born in Hardin County, died in Washington, D.C. Visit the Lincoln Museum to see a collection of artworks, letters, newspaper clippings and other documents pertaining to Lincoln and his family.

Adlai E. Stevenson I (October 23, 1835-1914) – U.S. Vice-President under Grover Cleveland, 1893-97. Born in Christian County, died in Chicago, Illinois.

Zachary Taylor* (November 24, 1784-1850) – 12th U.S. President, 1849-1850. During his youth he lived on the frontier in Louisville, born in Barbourville, Virginia, died in Washington D.C.

Frederick Moore Vinson (January 22, 1890-1953) – U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice, 1946-53. Born in Louisa, died in Washington, D.C.

* Denotes not born in Kentucky