Wednesday, February 3, 2010


William Goebel - Kentucky governor for but a few days, all of which spent, quite literally, on his deathbed, died today, in 1900, of an assassin's bullet. But who was the killer? This remains one of the unsolved mystery's in the Commonwealth's past.

Goebel was born to German immigrants in 1856 Pennsylvania. The family moved to Covington after his father returned from the Civil War. William went on to law school and an on-again, off-again practice with eventual US Senator John Carlisle. But he also had quite the hand in political wheelings & dealings at the end of the 19th century, including through the state Senate.

When Kentuckians were in an uproar about toll roads & turnpikes, Goebel successfully campaigned to remove tolls. He was a delegate in the 1890-91 Constitutional Convention. He advocated to further civil rights for women and African-Americans. Possibly one of his most notable measures is the Goebel election law, which gave power to a 3-member Board of Election Commissioners to appoint county election commissioners, as opposed to the previous system, which he felt had been unjust.

But Goebel was no angel! Many were opposed to his methods, and believed he sought only to raise his own political power. Goebel even broke Kentucky Constitutional law when he fought an 1895 duel against John Sanford (Goebel won, killing Sanford, but was acquitted of charges). His gubernatorial election was also tainted with scandal. Although he won, accusations flew regarding corruption & stuffing of ballot boxes. The General Assembly ultimately decided Goebel had fairly won on January 30 - the same day he was shot.

As Goebel walked to the Capitol in Frankfort, an assassin shot him with a rifle (accounts claim it was likely from a window next door). He lay dying for nearly 5 days, until he passed on February 3rd. Before that, however, the GA had him sworn in as KY Governor on January 31, 1900. Sixteen men were accused of conspiracy in his murder; 5 went to trial; 3 were convicted; all maintained their innocence throughout!

To this day, no solid answer has been offered as to "Who killed Goebel?" He remains the only state governor killed while in office, even though he was technically shot before even being sworn in, and remained "Governor" on his death bed, for only a few short days.

Semi-Weekly Interior Journal. 6 February 1900. p 1.

No comments:

Post a Comment