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William Owsley

Gov. William Owsley

  • September 4, 1844 - September 6, 1848
  • Whig
  • March 24, 1782
  • December 9, 1862
  • Virginia
  • Married Elizabeth Gill; six children


WILLIAM OWSLEY was born in Virginia on March 24, 1782. In 1783, his family moved to Kentucky and settled in Lincoln County, where Owsley attended the common schools. Before he studied law, he held various jobs, working as a teacher, a deputy sheriff, and a surveyor. He entered politics in 1809, serving as a member of the Kentucky House of Representatives, a position he held until 1811, and in which he was reelected to in 1831. In 1812, he was appointed to the Court of Appeals, where he served as a justice until 1828. He also served as a member of the Kentucky State Senate from 1832 to 1834, and was secretary of state from 1834 to 1836. Owsley won the Whig gubernatorial nomination and was elected governor by a popular vote in 1844. During his tenure, funding was increased for public education, the state’s deficit was reduced, and troops were raised for service in the Mexican War. Also, Robert J. Breckinridge was appointed the public school superintendent in 1847, and the controversial ouster of Secretary of State Ben Hardin was dealt with. After leaving office, Owsley returned to his farm near Danville, retiring from public service. Governor William Owsley passed away on December 9, 1862, and was buried at the Bellview Cemetery in Danville, 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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