Edward Thompson Breathitt Jr.

Edward Thompson Breathitt Jr. (November 26, 1924 –
October 14, 2003) was an American politician from the Commonwealth of Kentucky.
A member of one of the state’s political families, he was the 51st Governor of Kentucky, serving from 1963 to 1967. After serving in World War II and graduating from the University of Kentucky, Breathitt worked on the presidential campaign of Adlai Stevenson, the senatorial campaign of Alben Barkley, and the gubernatorial campaign of Bert T. Combs. When Combs won the governorship in 1959, he appointed Breathitt as personnel commissioner, where he wrote legislation establishing the first merit system for state employees. He continued to hold appointive offices throughout Combs’ tenure, and in 1962, Combs endorsed Breathitt to succeed him as governor.

Breathitt defeated two-time former governor A. B. “Happy” Chandler in the Democratic primary, ending Chandler’s political career. He went on to win the general election over Republican Louie B. Nunn. Breathitt continued Combs’ work of improving state highways and parks, improving education funding, and strengthening regulations on strip mining. His major accomplishment as governor was the passage of the Kentucky Civil Rights Act, the first desegregation law passed by a southern state. His biggest disappointment was his inability to win approval of a new state constitution.

Following his term as governor, Breathitt worked as legal counsel for Southern Railway, and later became vice-president of public affairs for Norfolk Southern Corporation. He engaged in numerous community service activities and served on political commissions aimed at eliminating poverty. Breathitt collapsed while making a speech at Lexington Community College on October 10, 2003. He was admitted to the University of Kentucky Hospital, but remained comatose after the collapse and died four days later.

Breathitt’s oral history project is housed at the Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History at the University of Kentucky Libraries and is also available online.

Information Source: Wikipedia.com