William Owsley, 16th Governor of Kentucky

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William Owsley, Jr.

Birthdate: (80)
Birthplace: Loudoun County, Virginia, United States
Death: December 9, 1862 (80)
Boyle County, Kentucky, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of William Owsley and Catherine Owsley
Husband of Elizabeth Owsley
Father of Amanda M. Rodes; Amelia Gill Owsley; Almira Goodloe; Erasmus Boyle Owsley and Maria Elizabeth Talbot
Brother of Anne Middleton; Peggy Bayne; Chloe Owsley; Samuel Owsley; Nudigate Owsley and 6 others
Half brother of Sarah Owsley and Robert Owsley

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About William Owsley, 16th Governor of Kentucky


William Owsley (March 24, 1782 – December 9, 1862) was an associate justice on the Kentucky Court of Appeals and the 16th Governor of Kentucky. He also served in both houses of the Kentucky General Assembly and was Kentucky Secretary of State under Governor James Turner Morehead.

Owsley studied law under John Boyle. After briefly serving in the state legislature, he was appointed by Governor Charles Scott to serve alongside Boyle on the Kentucky Court of Appeals. During his service on the court, Owsley was involved in the Old Court-New Court controversy. In 1824, the state legislature, unhappy with the court's rulings against debt relief legislation, attempted to abolish the court and replace it with a new court. For a time, both courts operated simultaneously, and both claimed to be the court of last resort in the state. Supporters of the old court won control of the legislature and abolished the new court in 1826. Owsley resigned from the Court of Appeals two years later.

In 1831, Owsley returned to the state legislature, where he served until Governor Morehead appointed him secretary of state in 1834. He resumed his legal practice in 1836 and in 1843, retired from that profession. The next year, he was nominated for governor on the Whig ticket and defeated William O. Butler in the general election. Through fiscally conservative policies, he was able to reduce the state's debt. In spite of his opposition to the Mexican-American War, large numbers of Kentucky's citizens volunteered for military service. Owsley's popularity declined sharply when he attempted to remove Benjamin Hardin as Secretary of State. Hardin successfully challenged his removal in court, then resigned in protest of Owsley's actions and charged him with practicing nepotism in his appointments. After his term as governor, Owsley never again sought public office. He died December 9, 1862 and was buried in Belleview Cemetery in Danville, Kentucky.

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William Owsley, 16th Governor of Kentucky's Timeline

March 24, 1782
Loudoun County, Virginia, United States
June 24, 1805
Age 23
Garrard, KY, USA
November 6, 1806
Age 24
Garrard, KY, USA
October 2, 1808
Age 26
Lancaster, KY, United States
February 5, 1811
Age 28
Garrard, KY, USA
June 8, 1813
Age 31
Garrard, KY, USA
December 9, 1862
Age 80
Boyle County, Kentucky, United States