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J. Proctor Knott

J. Proctor Knott

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James Proctor Knott was a U.S. Representative
United States House of Representatives
The United States House of Representatives is one of the two Houses of the United States Congress, the bicameral legislature which also includes the Senate.The composition and powers of the House are established in Article One of the Constitution...

 from Kentucky
Kentucky
The Commonwealth of Kentucky is a state located in the East Central United States of America. As classified by the United States Census Bureau, Kentucky is a Southern state, more specifically in the East South Central region. Kentucky is one of four U.S. states constituted as a commonwealth...

 and served as the 29th Governor of Kentucky
Governor of Kentucky
The Governor of the Commonwealth of Kentucky is the head of the executive branch of government in the U.S. state of Kentucky. Fifty-six men and one woman have served as Governor of Kentucky. The governor's term is four years in length; since 1992, incumbents have been able to seek re-election once...

 from 1883 to 1887. Born in Kentucky, he moved to Missouri
Missouri
Missouri is a US state located in the Midwestern United States, bordered by Iowa, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska. With a 2010 population of 5,988,927, Missouri is the 18th most populous state in the nation and the fifth most populous in the Midwest. It...

 in 1850 and began his political career there. He served as Missouri Attorney General
Missouri Attorney General
The Office of the Missouri Attorney General was created in 1806 when Missouri was part of the Louisiana Territory. Missouri's first Constitution in 1820 provided for an appointed Attorney General, but since the 1865 Constitution, the Attorney General has been elected...

 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
American Civil War
The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States of America. In response to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States, 11 southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America ; the other 25...

.

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
Duluth, Minnesota
Duluth is a port city in the U.S. state of Minnesota and is the county seat of Saint Louis County. The fourth largest city in Minnesota, Duluth had a total population of 86,265 in the 2010 census. Duluth is also the second largest city that is located on Lake Superior after Thunder Bay, Ontario,...

. The Duluth speech was eventually reprinted in several publications and brought Knott national acclaim. He did not stand for re-election in 1871, 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
United States House Committee on the Judiciary
The U.S. House Committee on the Judiciary, also called the House Judiciary Committee, is a standing committee of the United States House of Representatives. It is charged with overseeing the administration of justice within the federal courts, administrative agencies and Federal law enforcement...

.

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
Centre College
Centre College is a private liberal arts college in Danville, Kentucky, USA, a community of approximately 16,000 in Boyle County south of Lexington, KY. Centre is an exclusively undergraduate four-year institution. Centre was founded by Presbyterian leaders, with whom it maintains a loose...

 in Danville, Kentucky
Danville, Kentucky
Danville is a city in and the county seat of Boyle County, Kentucky, United States. The population was 16,218 at the 2010 census.Danville is the principal city of the Danville Micropolitan Statistical Area, which includes all of Boyle and Lincoln counties....

 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
Lebanon, Kentucky
Lebanon is a city in Marion County, Kentucky, United States. The population was 6,331 at the 2010 census. It is the county seat of Marion County. Lebanon is located in central Kentucky, southeast of Louisville. A national cemetery is located nearby....

 on June 18, 1911.

Early life


J. Proctor Knott was born in Raywick
Raywick, Kentucky
Raywick is a city in Marion County, Kentucky, United States. The population was 144 at the 2000 census.-Geography:Raywick is located at .According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of , all of it land....

, Marion County
Marion County, Kentucky
As of the census of 2000, there were 18,212 people, 6,613 households, and 4,754 families residing in the county. The population density was . There were 7,277 housing units at an average density of...

, Kentucky on August 29, 1830. He was the son of Joseph Percy and Maria Irvine (McElroy) Knott. He was tutored by his father from an early age, and later attended public school in Marion and Shelby
Shelby County, Kentucky
Shelby County is a county located in the U.S. state of Kentucky. As of 2010, the population was 42,074. Its name is in honor of Isaac Shelby, the first Governor of Kentucky. Its county seat is Shelbyville...

 counties. In 1846, he began to study law. In May 1850, he relocated to Memphis, Missouri
Memphis, Missouri
Memphis is a city in Scotland County, Missouri, United States. The population was 1,822 at the 2010 census. It is the county seat of Scotland County. Memphis is located southeast of Pulaski, Iowa, north of Baring, east of Lancaster, and west of Kahoka....

, where he was admitted to the bar
Bar (law)
Bar in a legal context has three possible meanings: the division of a courtroom between its working and public areas; the process of qualifying to practice law; and the legal profession.-Courtroom division:...

 and commenced practice in 1851. He also served in the offices of the circuit court and county clerks.

Knott married Mary E. Forman on November 17, 1852. Forman died during the birth of the couple's first child in August 1853. On January 14, 1858, Knott married his cousin, Sarah R. McElroy.

Political career


Knott's political career began in 1857 when he was elected to represent Scotland County in the Missouri House of Representatives
Missouri House of Representatives
The Missouri House of Representatives is the lower chamber of the Missouri General Assembly. It has 163 members, representing districts with an average size of 31,000 residents. House members are elected for two-year terms during general elections held in even-numbered years.In 1992 Missouri...

. He served as chair of the judiciary committee and conducted the impeachment
Impeachment
Impeachment is a formal process in which an official is accused of unlawful activity, the outcome of which, depending on the country, may include the removal of that official from office as well as other punishment....

 hearings against Judge Albert Jackson. Knott resigned his seat in the legislature in August 1858 to accept Governor Robert M. Stewart's appointment to fill the unexpired term of Missouri's attorney general, Ephraim B. Ewing. In 1860, he was elected to a full term as attorney general.

In January 1861, Missouri called a convention to determine whether it would follow the lead of other pro-slavery states and secede from the Union
Secession in the United States
Secession in the United States can refer to secession of a state from the United States, secession of part of a state from that state to form a new state, or secession of an area from a city or county....

. Knott was sympathetic to the southern cause, but opposed the methods of the secessionists. The Unionist position carried the convention by an 80,000-vote majority. Knott resigned his position as attorney general rather than take an oath of allegiance required by the federal government. As a result of his refusal, he was disbarred
Disbarment
Disbarment is the removal of a lawyer from a bar association or the practice of law, thus revoking his or her law license or admission to practice law...

 from practice in the state of Missouri and imprisoned for a short time.

In the House of Representatives


In 1863, Knott returned to Kentucky and re-opened his legal practice in Lebanon
Lebanon, Kentucky
Lebanon is a city in Marion County, Kentucky, United States. The population was 6,331 at the 2010 census. It is the county seat of Marion County. Lebanon is located in central Kentucky, southeast of Louisville. A national cemetery is located nearby....

. He was elected as a Democrat
Democratic Party (United States)
The Democratic Party is one of two major contemporary political parties in the United States, along with the Republican Party. The party's socially liberal and progressive platform is largely considered center-left in the U.S. political spectrum. The party has the lengthiest record of continuous...

 to the U.S. House of Representatives
United States House of Representatives
The United States House of Representatives is one of the two Houses of the United States Congress, the bicameral legislature which also includes the Senate.The composition and powers of the House are established in Article One of the Constitution...

 in 1867. As a legislator, he opposed the Reconstruction agenda of the Radical Republican
Radical Republican
The Radical Republicans were a loose faction of American politicians within the Republican Party from about 1854 until the end of Reconstruction in 1877...

s and ratification of the Fourteenth
Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution
The Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution was adopted on July 9, 1868, as one of the Reconstruction Amendments.Its Citizenship Clause provides a broad definition of citizenship that overruled the Dred Scott v...

 and Fifteenth
Fifteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution
The Fifteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibits each government in the United States from denying a citizen the right to vote based on that citizen's "race, color, or previous condition of servitude"...

 amendments. He was re-elected to a second term, but did not stand for re-election in 1870.

Knott's most notable action as a legislator occurred near the end of his first stint in Congress. On January 27, 1871, he delivered a satirical
Satire
Satire is primarily a literary genre or form, although in practice it can also be found in the graphic and performing arts. In satire, vices, follies, abuses, and shortcomings are held up to ridicule, ideally with the intent of shaming individuals, and society itself, into improvement...

 speech ridiculing a bill that would have provided fifty-seven land grants and financial concessions to railroads to further their westward expansion. In the speech, Knott singled out the Bayfield and St. Croix Railroad's proposed line from the St. Croix River
St. Croix River (Wisconsin-Minnesota)
The St. Croix River is a tributary of the Mississippi River, approximately long, in the U.S. states of Wisconsin and Minnesota. The lower of the river form the border between Wisconsin and Minnesota. The river is a National Scenic Riverway under the protection of the National Park Service. A...

 to Duluth, Minnesota
Duluth, Minnesota
Duluth is a port city in the U.S. state of Minnesota and is the county seat of Saint Louis County. The fourth largest city in Minnesota, Duluth had a total population of 86,265 in the 2010 census. Duluth is also the second largest city that is located on Lake Superior after Thunder Bay, Ontario,...

 to make his point. He derided the remoteness of the town and the need for a railroad to it by repeatedly referring to a map and asking where Duluth was located. Following the speech, the railroad bill was killed and Congress adjourned for the day.

Knott's speech, known as Duluth! or The Untold Delights of Duluth, brought him national acclaim and copies of the speech were reprinted and sold. Residents of Duluth apparently were not offended by the speech, extending an offer for Knott to visit the city; Knott accepted the offer in 1891. In 1894, a city near Duluth was incorporated as "Proctorknott"; in 1904, it adopted its present name of Proctor, Minnesota
Proctor, Minnesota
As of the census of 2000, there were 2,852 people, 1,196 households, and 772 families residing in the city. The population density was 942.8 people per square mile . There were 1,246 housing units at an average density of 411.9 per square mile...

.

In 1871, Knott made an unsuccessful bid to become governor of Kentucky, losing the Democratic nomination to Preston Leslie
Preston Leslie
Preston Hopkins Leslie was the 26th Governor of Kentucky from 1871 to 1875 and territorial governor of Montana from 1887 to 1889. He ascended to the office of governor by three different means. First, he succeeded Kentucky governor John W. Stevenson upon the latter's resignation to accept a seat...

. He was re-elected to the House of Representatives in 1875, serving four consecutive terms. He chaired the House Judiciary Committee
United States House Committee on the Judiciary
The U.S. House Committee on the Judiciary, also called the House Judiciary Committee, is a standing committee of the United States House of Representatives. It is charged with overseeing the administration of justice within the federal courts, administrative agencies and Federal law enforcement...

 for the first three of these terms. In 1876, he was named one of the managers of impeachment
Impeachment
Impeachment is a formal process in which an official is accused of unlawful activity, the outcome of which, depending on the country, may include the removal of that official from office as well as other punishment....

 proceedings against ex-Secretary of War
United States Secretary of War
The Secretary of War was a member of the United States President's Cabinet, beginning with George Washington's administration. A similar position, called either "Secretary at War" or "Secretary of War," was appointed to serve the Congress of the Confederation under the Articles of Confederation...

 William W. Belknap
William W. Belknap
William Worth Belknap was a United States Army general, government administrator, and United States Secretary of War. He was the only Cabinet secretary ever to have been impeached by the United States House of Representatives.-Birth and early years:Born in Newburgh, New York to career soldier...

.

As governor of Kentucky


Knott was one of several candidates seeking the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in 1883. Other prominent candidates included Congressman Thomas Laurens Jones
Thomas Laurens Jones
Thomas Laurens Jones was a U.S. Representative from Kentucky.Born in White Oak, North Carolina, Jones attended private schools.He graduated from Princeton College and from the law department of Harvard University....

, former Confederate
Confederate States of America
The Confederate States of America was a government set up from 1861 to 1865 by 11 Southern slave states of the United States of America that had declared their secession from the U.S...

 general Simon Bolivar Buckner
Simon Bolivar Buckner, Sr.
Simon Bolivar Buckner fought in the United States Army in the Mexican–American War and in the Confederate States Army during the American Civil War. He later served as the 30th Governor of Kentucky....

, Judge John S. Owsley, and Louisville mayor Charles Donald Jacob
Charles Donald Jacob
Charles Donald Jacob served four terms as mayor of Louisville, Kentucky, two consecutively in 1873-78, then later in 1882-84 and 1888-90. He also served as the U.S. minister to Colombia in 1885-1886. He was a member of the Democratic Party....

. Balloting began on May 16, 1883, with Jones as the leading vote-getter but unable to secure a majority
Majority
A majority is a subset of a group consisting of more than half of its members. This can be compared to a plurality, which is a subset larger than any other subset; i.e. a plurality is not necessarily a majority as the largest subset may consist of less than half the group's population...

. After four ballots, Jacob withdrew his name, and Knott moved into the lead. The following day, Owsley dropped out of the balloting, and Knott extended his lead. Though Buckner remained on the ballot, the race came down to Jones and Knott. Delegates from Owen County
Owen County, Kentucky
As of the census of 2000, there were 10,547 people, 4,086 households, and 2,995 families residing in the county. The population density was . There were 5,345 housing units at an average density of...

 switched to Knott, and other counties soon followed suit. Jones withdrew, and Knott was nominated unanimously.

In the general election, Knott defeated Republican
Republican Party (United States)
The Republican Party is one of the two major contemporary political parties in the United States, along with the Democratic Party. Founded by anti-slavery expansion activists in 1854, it is often called the GOP . The party's platform generally reflects American conservatism in the U.S...

 Thomas Z. Morrow by a margin of nearly 45,000 votes. During his term in office, he asked the legislature
Kentucky General Assembly
The Kentucky General Assembly, also called the Kentucky Legislature, is the state legislature of the U.S. state of Kentucky.The General Assembly meets annually in the state capitol building in Frankfort, Kentucky, convening on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in January...

 to conduct a thorough reform of the state's tax system, but the legislators' only response was to create a board of equalization charged with making equitable tax assessments. The legislature also refused to grant the Railroad Commission all the powers Knott had requested.

Knott's most successful initiatives were in the area of education. Under his leadership, the state established a teacher training school for blacks in Frankfort
Frankfort, Kentucky
Frankfort is a city in Kentucky that serves as the state capital and the county seat of Franklin County. The population was 27,741 at the 2000 census; by population it is the 5th smallest state capital in the United States...

 and created a state teacher's organization. New legislation spelled out, often for the first time in the state's history, the duties and responsibilities of educators, administrators, and school boards.

Knott's major shortcomings were in deterring crime. Despite the feuds that continued to rage in the state, including one that lasted several years in Rowan County
Rowan County, Kentucky
Rowan County is a county located in the U.S. state of Kentucky. As of 2010, the population was 23,333. Its county seat is Morehead. The county was created in 1856 from adjacent counties originally part of Mason county, and named for John Rowan, who represented Kentucky in the U.S...

, Knott refused to acknowledge lawlessness as a problem. Overcrowding of prisons prompted Knott to employ his pardon power liberally. The legislature approved the construction of the Kentucky State Penitentiary
Kentucky State Penitentiary
The Kentucky State Penitentiary, also known as the "Castle on the Cumberland," is a prison of the Kentucky Department of Corrections located in Eddyville, Kentucky. The state's only maximum security male facility, the prison is located on Lake Barkley on the Cumberland River, about from downtown...

 at Eddyville
Eddyville, Kentucky
Eddyville is a city in Lyon County, Kentucky, United States. The population was 2,350 at the 2000 census. It is the county seat of Lyon County . The Kentucky State Penitentiary is located in Eddyville.-History:...

, but it was Knott's predecessor, Luke P. Blackburn
Luke P. Blackburn
Luke Pryor Blackburn was a physician, philanthropist, and politician from the US state of Kentucky. He was elected the 28th governor of Kentucky, serving from 1879 to 1883. Until the election of Ernie Fletcher in 2003, Blackburn was the only physician to serve as governor of Kentucky...

, who laid most of the groundwork for this project.

Later life and death


Following his term as governor, Knott continued his legal practice in Frankfort. He declined two separate appointments offered to him by President
President of the United States
The President of the United States of America is the head of state and head of government of the United States. The president leads the executive branch of the federal government and is the commander-in-chief of the United States Armed Forces....

 Grover Cleveland
Grover Cleveland
Stephen Grover Cleveland was the 22nd and 24th president of the United States. Cleveland is the only president to serve two non-consecutive terms and therefore is the only individual to be counted twice in the numbering of the presidents...

. The first was to become Territorial Governor of Hawaii
Territory of Hawaii
The Territory of Hawaii or Hawaii Territory was an organized incorporated territory of the United States that existed from July 7, 1898, until August 21, 1959, when its territory, with the exception of Johnston Atoll, was admitted to the Union as the fiftieth U.S. state, the State of Hawaii.The U.S...

; the other was an appointment to the Interstate Commerce Commission
Interstate Commerce Commission
The Interstate Commerce Commission was a regulatory body in the United States created by the Interstate Commerce Act of 1887. The agency's original purpose was to regulate railroads to ensure fair rates, to eliminate rate discrimination, and to regulate other aspects of common carriers, including...

. Knott served as a special assistant to Kentucky's attorney general in 1887 and 1888, and in 1891, he was chosen as a delegate to the state constitutional convention.

Knott became a professor of civics
Civics
Civics is the study of rights and duties of citizenship. In other words, it is the study of government with attention to the role of citizens ― as opposed to external factors ― in the operation and oversight of government....

 and economics at Centre College
Centre College
Centre College is a private liberal arts college in Danville, Kentucky, USA, a community of approximately 16,000 in Boyle County south of Lexington, KY. Centre is an exclusively undergraduate four-year institution. Centre was founded by Presbyterian leaders, with whom it maintains a loose...

 in Danville, Kentucky
Danville, Kentucky
Danville is a city in and the county seat of Boyle County, Kentucky, United States. The population was 16,218 at the 2010 census.Danville is the principal city of the Danville Micropolitan Statistical Area, which includes all of Boyle and Lincoln counties....

 in 1892. In 1894, Knott and Centre president William C. Young organized a law department at the college; Knott became the department's first dean. An illness forced him to retire in 1902. He died in Lebanon on June 18, 1911, and was buried at the Ryder Cemetery in Lebanon. Knott County, Kentucky
Knott County, Kentucky
Knott County is a county located in the U.S. state of Kentucky. It was formed in 1884. As of 2000, the population was 17,649. Its county seat is Hindman. The county is named for James Proctor Knott, Governor of Kentucky . It is a prohibition or dry county. Notable inhabitants include U.S....

 was formed in 1884 and named in his honor.

External links