Kentucky Colonel

Kentucky Colonel (Honorable Title)

Kentucky Colonel is the highest title of honor bestowed by the Commonwealth of Kentucky today. Commissions for Kentucky colonels are given by the governor and the secretary of state to individuals in recognition of noteworthy accomplishments, contributions, and outstanding service to community, state, or a nation.

The Governor of Kentucky bestows the honor of a colonel's commission, through the issuance of letters patent. The commission is a legal act of the Office of the Governor and lifetime appointment.


There is some debate as to who the first Kentucky colonel was, many say it was Daniel Boone, others say it was Richard Henderson who along with other colonels founded the Transylvania Colony at Boonesborough on the Kentucky River in 1775, which today is part of Madison County, Kentucky. 'Kentucke' as it was called then, was the area North of Boonesborough on the other side of the Kentucky River.

The first honorary commission of a Colonel as an "Aide-de-camp" of a Kentucky governor was in 1815 appointed by Governor Isaac Shelby to his future son-in-law Charles S. Todd. In 1895, the state officially adopted the practice of naming individual civilians and recognizing those who were known to already be using the title.

During the Civil War there were many militia colonel commissions issued by Senators to both the Union and Confederate sides in the state which was divided, but aside from these commissions many landowners were already known as colonels. Officially only the head of state or a member of the legislature could issue an official commission; traditionally however, a colonel could make another person a colonel if he had a company under common law.

Governor Col. William O'Connell Bradley began the tradition which remains today by recognizing his political allies, friends and others by establishing an honor guard staff which was presented at the Kentucky Derby and also recognized uniformed Kentucky colonels at the Capitol in Frankfort. Prior to this in 1890, Opie Read popularized the ideal of the Kentucky colonel with his book, "A Kentucky Colonel" which portrayed colonels as distinguished, refined Southern gentlemen, usually land holders further popularizing the ideal prior to becoming officially adopted by the state.


Kentucky Colonel Foundation

Kentucky Colonel (Wikipedia)

Hammon, Neal O. “Land Acquisition on the Kentucky Frontier.” The Register of the Kentucky Historical Society, vol. 78, no. 4, 1980, pp. 297–321. JSTOR, Accessed 31 May 2020.