AUGUSTUS E. WILLSON was born in Maysville, Kentucky on October 13,1846. His education was attained at the Alfred Academy in New York, and at Harvard University, where he earned an A.B. degree in 1869. He continued on at Harvard studying law, and in 1870, he was admitted to the bar. He established a successful legal career, practicing with John Marshall Harlan, who later became a U.S. Supreme Court justice. Willson entered public service in 1875, with an appointment as chief clerk of the U.S. Treasury Department, a position he held until 1876. He served as a delegate to the 1884, 1888, 1892, 1904, 1908, and 1916 Republican National Conventions. He also made several unsuccessful runs for congress, and was defeated in his bid for the state senate. Willson won the 1907 Republican gubernatorial nomination, was elected governor, and sworn into office on December 10, 1907. During his tenure, he advocated for the sanctioning of temperance legislation; he called for martial law in several western counties during the Black Patch War; and he pardoned former Governor William S. Taylor and several others who were involved in the assassination of Governor William Goebel. Also, Willson served as chairman of the 1908 and 1910 National Governors’ Conference. After leaving office on December 12, 1911, Willson returned to his Louisville law practice. He also served on the Harvard University Board of Overseers from 1910 to 1919. Governor Augustus E. Willson died on August 24, 1931, and was buried at the Cave Hill Cemetery in Louisville, Kentucky.
Governors' Papers, Kentucky Department for Libraries & Archives, Public Records Division
The Political Graveyard
Sobel, Robert, and John Raimo, eds. Biographical Directory of the Governors of the United States, 1789-1978, Vol. 2, Westport, Conn.; Meckler Books, 1978. 4 vols.