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William Goebel


William Goebel was born on January 4, 1856 in Sullivan County, Pennsylvania. His parents, William and Augusta Greenclay were  German immigrants, who had moved their family to Covington, Kentucky after the Civil War.

In 1877, William Goebel graduated from Cincinnati Law School.  He specialized in corporate and railroad law and was at one time partner to former Governor John W. Stevenson and John G. Carlisle.  Many considered Goebel ambitious, ruthless and heartless, while others saw him as compassionate.  He served northern Kentucky in the state Senate from 1887 to 1900, where he sought reforms for the civil right of women, blacks, and workman rights.  He also rallied for toll road restriction, the abolition of lotteries and pool halls and an end to the monopoly on state textbook sales.  Goebel's political goals and his personality caused much controversy.  After killing John Stanford, in 1895 over a political dispute, Goebel was acquitted.

In 1899 the Democratic nomination for governor went to William Goebel.  The Board of Elections Commissioners certified Republican William S. Taylor had won the election with 193,714 votes to Goebel's 191,331 votes.  A select committee of the General Assembly, which consisted of only one Republican, investigated the election results. Before the committee had reached their conclusion, Goebel was fatally wounded by an assassin's rifle shot, as he approached the statehouse.  William S. Taylor, who had been inaugurated as governor on December 12, 1899, declared an emergency and called out the militia.  The Democrats met secretly in Frankfort and with enough invalid Republican votes to declare William Goebel elected governor.   His only official act as governor was to order the militia dismissed.  When Goebel died on February 3, 1900, Lt. Governor, J. C. W. Beckham succeeded serving to 1907. Both sides in this dispute agreed to accept a court decision.  By May the Democrats were victorious, Taylor fled to Indianapolis and three men were convicted of murder. These three were later pardoned.  The true identity of Goebel's assassin still remains a mystery even today.

William Goebel is buried in the Frankfort Cemetery, section A-Addition

Sources:
Assassination at the State House, by Elliott
The Kentucky Encyclopedia, by Kleber


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