William O'Connell Bradley, Governor, U.S. Senator

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William O'Connell Bradley

Birthplace: Garrard, Garrard County, KY, USA
Death: Died in Washington, DC, USA
Immediate Family:

Son of Robert McAfee Bradley and Nancy Ellen Bradley
Brother of Virginia Catherine Morrow

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About William O'Connell Bradley, Governor, U.S. Senator


William O'Connell Bradley (March 18, 1847 – May 23, 1914) was a politician from the U.S. state of Kentucky. He served as the 32nd Governor of Kentucky and was later elected by the state legislature as a U.S. senator from that state. The first Republican to serve as governor of Kentucky, Bradley became known as the father of the Republican Party in Kentucky.

As a Republican in a heavily Democratic state, Bradley found little success early in his political career. He was defeated for a seat in the United States House of Representatives and in the United States Senate twice each. After rising to national prominence with his speech seconding the presidential nomination of Ulysses S. Grant at the 1880 Republican National Convention, he was nominated for governor in 1887. Although he lost the contest to Simon Bolivar Buckner, he reduced the usual Democratic majority substantially. He was again nominated for governor in 1895. Capitalizing on divisions in the Democratic Party over the issue of free silver, he defeated Parker Watkins Hardin in the general election. His term was marked by political struggles and violence. He was an advocate for blacks and did much to advance their status in the state, but was unable to enact much of his reform agenda because of a hostile Democratic majority in the state legislature.

Republican William S. Taylor was elected to succeed Bradley in the contentious 1899 gubernatorial election. When Democratic nominee William Goebel and his running mate J. C. W. Beckham challenged the election results, Bradley formed part of the legal team for the Republicans. The case was appealed to the Supreme Court, which found in favor of the Democrats. Despite being a member of the state's minority party, Bradley was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1907. Again, divisions within the Democratic Party played a role in his election. Bradley's opposition to Prohibition made him more palatable to some Democrats than their own candidate, outgoing Governor Beckham. Beckham refused to withdraw in favor of a compromise candidate, and after two months of balloting, four Democratic legislators crossed party lines and elected Bradley. Bradley had a largely undistinguished career in the Senate. On the day he announced he would not seek re-election to his Senate seat, he was involved in a streetcar accident. He died from his injuries on May 23, 1914.

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William O'Connell Bradley, Governor, U.S. Senator's Timeline

March 18, 1847
Garrard, Garrard County, KY, USA
May 23, 1914
Age 67
Washington, DC, USA