JOHN L. HELM was born near Elizabethtown, Kentucky on July 4, 1802. His early education was attained through a private tutor and in the rural schools of his native state. He later studied law, and in 1823 was admitted to the bar. He established a successful legal career, serving as the Meade County attorney in 1824. Helm entered politics in 1826, serving as a member of the Kentucky House of Representatives, a position he held again in 1827, 1830, 1833 to 1837, 1839, 1842, 1843, and in which he also served as speaker in the 1835, 1836, 1839, 1842, and 1843 sessions. He served as a member of the Kentucky State Senate from 1844 to 1848, and was elected on the Whig ticket as lieutenant governor of Kentucky, a position he held from 1848 to 1850. On July 31, 1850, Governor John Crittenden resigned from office, and Helm, who was lieutenant governor at the time, assumed the duties of the governorship. During his tenure, he advocated for election reform, but was critical of a tax-supported school system. Helm left office on September 2, 1851. He later served as president of the Louisville and Nashville Railroad from 1854 to 1860, and was reelected to the Kentucky State Senate, serving from 1865 to 1867. Helm won the 1866 Democratic gubernatorial nomination and was elected governor by a popular vote in 1867. After being sworn into office on September 3, 1867, Governor John L. Helm passed away five days later. He was buried in a family graveyard in Hardin County, 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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