Category: Kentucky Colonel

Categories: US Awards | Kentucky | Kentucky History


Kentucky Colonel

Kentucky Colonel[1][2] is the highest title of honor bestowed by the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

Commissions for Kentucky Colonels are given by the Governor and the Secretary of State to individuals in recognition of noteworthy accomplishments and outstanding service to a community, state or the nation. The sitting governor of the Commonwealth of Kentucky bestows the honor of a colonel's commission, by letter and issuance of an official certificate with an embossed gold seal.

The tradition of the Kentucky Colonel began in 1813 during the second term of Governor Isaac Shelby after he returned from the War of 1812, having led the Kentucky Militia on a highly successful campaign. He named one of his officers, Charles Todd, as an aid-de-camp on the Governor's staff with the rank and grade of Colonel.

Later governors[3] commissioned Colonels to act as their protective guards; they wore uniforms and were present at most official functions. Other governors continued this practice, and by the 1920s the Colonels' ranks had swollen considerably. Today's Colonels are not required to wear uniforms or perform official services.

Official Emblem for the Honorable Order of Kentucky Colonels

In 1932, a new organization called the Honorable Order of Kentucky Colonels was created. Colonels around the world were contacted and invited to become members of the Honorable Order. Social events were established to coincide with the Kentucky Derby to attract as many individuals as possible. Hollywood personalities such as Mae West, Bing Crosby, Fred Astaire and W.C. Fields not only became Colonels but also embraced the idea of the Honorable Order. This tradition continues to the present day.

After the disastrous Great Flood of 1937, Kentucky Colonels stepped in to make a difference. New York based Colonels collected five dollars from each member (the equivalent of nearly $100 today). In California, Colonels such as Fred Astaire held benefits to raise money for Kentucky.

During World War II, the Honorable Order of Kentucky Colonels used donated funds to set up recreation rooms for soldiers in training at Fort Knox.

Since 1946, the donations to the organization has continued to support worthy causes, such as:

  • Rural Kentucky Medical Scholarship Fund
  • Kentucky’s first cancer treatment center
  • Lions Eye Research Center

Among the ranks of the Kentucky Colonels are distinguished leaders[4] such as:

  1. Kentucky Colonel Web Site
  2. Kentucky Secretary of State Web Page
  3. History of Kentucky Colonels
  4. Famous Kentucky Colonels

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