J. Proctor Knott

U.S. Congressperson

1830 – 1911

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Who was J. Proctor Knott?

James Proctor Knott was a U.S. Representative from Kentucky and served as the 29th Governor of Kentucky from 1883 to 1887. Born in Kentucky, he moved to Missouri in 1850 and began his political career there. He served as Missouri Attorney General from 1859 to 1861, when he resigned rather than swear an oath of allegiance to the federal government just prior to the outbreak of the Civil War.

Knott was disbarred and briefly imprisoned for his refusal to take the oath of allegiance. He returned to Kentucky in 1863 and was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. In 1871, he made a notable speech ridiculing a bill to subsidize westward expansion of railroads. In the speech, he lampooned the remote town of Duluth, Minnesota. The Duluth speech was eventually reprinted in several publications and brought Knott national acclaim. He did not stand for re-election in 1870, instead making a failed run for the office of governor. In 1875, he returned to the House and served as chair of the judiciary committee.

In 1883, Knott left Congress and made a successful run for governor. He secured major reforms in education, but was stymied in his pursuit of tax reform. After his term as governor, he was a delegate to the state's constitutional convention in 1891. In 1892, he became a professor at Centre College in Danville, Kentucky and helped organized the college's law school in 1894. He served as dean of the law school until an illness forced him to retire in 1902. He died at his home in Lebanon, Kentucky on June 18, 1911.

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Aug 29, 1830
  • Presbyterianism
  • United States of America
Lived in
  • Jefferson City
Jun 18, 1911

on July 23, 2013


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