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Beriah Magoffin

Gov. Beriah Magoffin

  • August 30, 1859 - August 18, 1862
  • Democratic
  • April 18, 1815
  • February 28, 1885
  • Kentucky
  • Centre College; Transylvania College
  • Married Anna Nelson Shelby; ten children
  • Resigned


BERIAH MAGOFFIN was born in Harrodsburg, Kentucky on April 18, 1815. His education was attained at Centre College, where he graduated in 1835, and at Transylvania College, where he earned a law degree in 1838. After establishing his legal career in Jackson, Mississippi, Magoffin entered into politics. He served as the reading clerk of the Mississippi State Senate from 1838 to 1839. In 1839, he returned to Kentucky, and the following year, secured an appointment as police judge. He also served as a Democratic presidential elector in 1844, 1848, 1852, and 1856, was a member of the Kentucky State Senate in 1850, was a delegate to the 1848, 1856, 1860, and 1872 Democratic National Conventions, and was an unsuccessful candidate for lieutenant governor in 1855. Magoffin was elected governor on the Democratic ticket in 1859. During his tenure, the contentious issues of secession and the imminent Civil War were dealt with. Magoffin supported states’ rights and slavery, he advocated for Kentucky’s right to stay neutral, and he rejected Lincoln’s call for troops. Because of his conflict with the legislature over the state’s position in the Civil War, Magoffin resigned from office on August 18, 1862. Later in 1865, Magoffin supported civil rights for blacks, and he urged for the sanctioning of the Thirteenth Amendment. From 1867 to 1869, he served as a member of the Kentucky House of Representatives. Governor Beriah Magoffin, who had Magoffin County named for him in 1860, passed away on February 28, 1885. He was buried at the Spring Hill Cemetery in Harrodsburg, 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.

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