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The Assassination of Governor William Goebel

Governor Goebel

Governor William Goebel was the only United States Governor ever to be assassinated while in office. His death was the result of a heated rivalry between himself and Governor William Taylor. William Goebel was a Democrat who was a proponent of women’s and African-American civil rights. He was not a well-liked man in many political circles and was even charged with the murder of another politician, John Stanford. However, he was acquitted of the charges.

During the 1899 Kentucky elections, Republican William Taylor beat Democratic William Goebel 193,714 to 191,331. However, the Democratic General Assembly suspected that the election had been rigged and therefore challenged it. Following the start of the appeal, Goebel received death threats. It was said that if he won the appeal, he would be killed.

On January 30, 1900, William Goebel walked up the steps of the State Capitol Building, escorted by bodyguards. A sniper shot him on the steps from the office of the Secretary of State. The wounded man was removed to a hospital while a search for the assassin was conducted. The gunman was never discovered, officially. However, he may have been arrested later and never identified as the man who pulled the trigger.

The appeal showed that William Goebel had won the election. He was sworn in as Governor of Kentucky as he lay dying from his wounds in the hospital, on January 31, 1900. He died three days later, on February 3, 1900. He was laid to rest at the Frankfort Cemetery in Frankfort, Kentucky.

Sixteen men were indicted on charges of murder and conspiracy to commit murder in the case of the assassination of Governor William Goebel. Among these men were, Taylor’s Secretary of State-Caleb Powers, Henry Youtsey and Jim Howard. The thinking was that Caleb had planned the assassination in order to keep his boss in office. His boss, William Taylor was also indicted, but he fled to Indiana after the shooting and refused to return. Five of the sixteen men who were indicted were found guilty of conspiracy to commit murder. Among them were Youtsey, Powers, Howard and Taylor.

Governor Wilson pardoned four of the five men who were found guilty of conspiracy to commit the murder of Governor William Goebel in 1908. Youtsey was not pardoned. It was Wilson’s thinking that Youtsey was the man who pulled the trigger and killed William Goebel. Nonetheless, it is still unknown whether he was guilty or not.


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