Back to former Kentucky governors
John Adair

Gov. John Adair

  • September 6, 1820 - August 24, 1824
  • Democratic-Republican
  • January 9, 1840
  • May 19, 1840
  • South Carolina
  • Representative, Senator
  • National Guard


JOHN ADAIR was born in Chester District, Chester County, South Carolina on January 9, 1757. His education was attained in the public school system of Charlotte, North Carolina. Adair had a lengthy and notable career in the military. He served in the Revolutionary War, was a major of a troop of Kentucky volunteers that fought against the Miami Indians in 1791 and 1792, and served as Governor Isaac Shelby’s aide in the Battle of Thames in 1813. In 1814 and 1815, he led a Kentucky Rifle Brigade, and later secured an appointment as adjutant general and was brevetted brigadier general of the Kentucky militia. Adair entered politics in 1792, serving as a member of the Kentucky Constitutional Convention. He served as a member of the Kentucky House of Representatives from 1793 to 1795, in 1798, from 1800 to 1803, and in 1817, and served as speaker of the house in the 1802 and 1803 sessions. He also was the registrar of the U.S. land office in 1805, and was a member of the U.S. Senate from 1805 to 1806. Adair was elected governor on August 7, 1820, and was sworn into office on August 29, 1820. During his tenure, debt incarceration was eliminated, rigorous gambling legislation was sanctioned, the Bank of Commonwealth was authorized, an internal improvement program was approved, and the Missouri compromise was endorsed. After leaving office on August 24, 1824, he retired briefly from politics. In 1831, he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, a position he held until 1833. Governor John Adair died on May 19, 1840, and was buried in the State Cemetery in Frankfort, Kentucky.


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.

Biographical Directory of the U.S. Congress

Virtual American Biographies

Recent Kentucky Governors