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Luke Pryor Blackburn

Gov. Luke Pryor Blackburn

  • September 2, 1879 - September 5, 1883
  • Democratic
  • June 16, 1816
  • September 14, 1887
  • Kentucky
  • Transylvania University
  • Married twice--Ella Gist Boswell, Julia Churchill; one child
  • Physician/Dentist


LUKE P. BLACKBURN was born in Woodford County, Kentucky on June 16, 1816. His early education was attained in the public schools of his native state. He advanced his education at Transylvania University, where in 1835, he earned a medical degree. Blackburn entered politics in 1843, serving as a one-term member of the Kentucky Legislature. He also served as the health officer in Natchez, Mississippi in 1847, and was instrumental in implementing the first successful quarantine during the 1853 yellow fever outbreak. Blackburn served during the Civil War as a civilian agent, organizing the collection of provisions for Canadian blockade-runners in 1863. Two years later, he was charged with the Confederate plot of attempting to infect Northern cities with yellow fever. However, in a Toronto court, he was tried and exonerated of breaching Canadian neutrality. Afterwards, Blackburn restored his reputation by working in Southern towns that were plagued by yellow fever. He returned to politics in 1879, winning the Democratic gubernatorial nomination and becoming governor in the general election. During his tenure, numerous pardons were secured to ease the prison population, convict work programs were implemented, and funding was secured for the Eddyville penitentiary. Also, judicial, fiscal, and educational reforms were sanctioned. After his term ended, Blackburn retired from public service, and returned to his medical practice. Governor Luke Blackburn passed away on September 14, 1887, and was buried at the Frankfort Cemetery.


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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