Ballard County, Kentucky

New book chronicles Kentucky’s sometimes pugnacious political past

          Did you know that William Goebel of Kentucky remains the only governor of a state to be assassinated while in office? Or that Abraham Lincoln, now a favorite son of the Bluegrass State, garnered less than 1 percent of Kentucky’s vote in 1860?

          How about Matthew Lyon, the congressman who won reelection from a jail cell and once bit off the thumb of a voter? These are but three of the little-known stories from Kentucky’s sometimes pugnacious political past found in True Tales of Old-Time Kentucky Politics: Bombast, Bourbon and Burgoo, just published by the History Press in Charleston, S.C.

          In the book, author Berry Craig, a newspaper reporter turned history teacher, shares tales of a time when votes could be bought with a drink and political differences were sometimes resolved with ten paces and a pistol. “When it comes to politics and politicians, Kentucky has more characters per capita than any state in the Union,” Craig said.

          Craig is a professor of history at West Kentucky Community and Technical College in Paducah, where he has been on the faculty since 1989. He was a feature writer and columnist for the Paducah Sun-Democrat and Paducah Sun from 1976 to 1989.

          He also wrote “Kentucky Backroads,” a freelance Associated Press feature column, from 1989 until 2007. The column focused on Kentucky history, often political history. Craig received the Kentucky Historical Society’s 2001 Richard H. Collins Award for the best article published in the Register of the Kentucky Historical Society, the society’s scholarly journal, that year.

          He also contributed entries for the Kentucky Encyclopedia, and has written articles for Kentucky Humanities, the magazine of the Kentucky Humanities Council. In addition, Craig is on the KHC’s Speakers’ Bureau and travels the state giving talks on Bluegrass State history and politics.

          Craig earned a bachelor’s degree in history from Murray State University, where he added master’s degrees in history and journalism. He lives in Mayfield with his wife, Melinda Hocker Craig, an English teacher at Mayfield High School, and their 16-year-old son, Berry IV, a sophomore at MHS.

          True Tales of Old-Time Kentucky Politics: Bombast, Bourbon and Burgoo is available in bookstores or can be ordered from the publisher at

          The paperback book has 128 pages and more than 30 photos. It is priced at $19.99.