PRESTON H. LESLIE, Kentucky’s twenty-sixth governor, was born in Clinton County, Kentucky on March 8, 1819. His early education was limited and attained in the rural schools of his native state. He later studied law, was admitted to the bar in 1840, and established his legal career, serving as the Monroe County attorney in 1841. Leslie entered politics in 1844, serving as a member of the Kentucky House of Representatives, a position he held until 1850. He also served as a member of the Kentucky State Senate from 1851 to 1855 and 1867 to 1871, and was president of the Senate from 1869 to 1871. On February 13, 1871, Governor John W. Stevenson resigned from office, and because there was no lieutenant governor at the time, Leslie, who was president of the senate, assumed the duties of the governorship. Later that same year he was elected to his own term, and became the first Kentucky governor to be elected by both whites and blacks. During his tenure, legislation was sanctioned that created an educational system for blacks, the sale of liquor was controlled, a geological survey was authorized, the penal system was improved, and the testimony of blacks in court was approved. After leaving office, Leslie later was elected in 1881 to serve on the bench of the Glasgow circuit court, a position he held for six years. He also served as the territorial governor of Montana from 1887 to 1889, and was appointed the U.S. district attorney of Montana from 1894 to 1898. Governor Preston H. Leslie passed away on February 7, 1907, and was buried at the Forestvale Cemetery in Helena, Montana.
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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