Luke P. Blackburn
Luke Pryor Blackburn was an American physician, philanthropist, and politician from Kentucky. He was elected the 28th governor of Kentucky, serving from 1879 to 1883. Blackburn gained national fame for implementing the first successful quarantine against yellow fever in the Mississippi River valley in 1848.
About Luke P. Blackburn in brief
Luke Pryor Blackburn was an American physician, philanthropist, and politician from 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. Blackburn gained national fame for implementing the first successful quarantine against yellow fever in the Mississippi River valley in 1848. Although too old to serve in the military, Blackburn supported the Confederate cause during the Civil War. A Confederate double agent accused him of having carried out a plot to start a yellow fever epidemic in the Northern U.S. that would have hampered the Union war effort. Blackburn was acquitted by a Toronto court, but public sentiment was decidedly against him throughout much of the United States. In 1900, Walter Reed discovered that yellow fever is spread by mosquitoes, not by contact. The Blackburn Correctional Complex, a minimum-security penal facility near Lexington, Kentucky, was named in his honor in 1972. Many of Blackburn’s relatives were involved in politics. His maternal grandfather was a delegate to the Constitutional Convention and his uncle, William Blackburn, was President Tempore of the Kentucky Senate and acting lieutenant statesman in the administration of Governor James Turner Morehead. Noted cousin Henry Clay was also a distant cousin, and occasionally visited the home of Blackburn. He died in 1887 and was buried in Lexington, where he opened a medical practice in early March 1835. He later matriculated to Transylvania University in Lexington and earned a medical degree in March 1834.
He aided his uncle in treating cholera outbreaks in Paris and chololera victims in Lexington. He also worked pro bono to combat outbreaks in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1873, Fernandina, Florida, and Hickman, Kentucky,. In 1878, he was elected to the Democratic gubernatorial nomination and defeated Republican Walter Evans by a wide margin. As governor, Blackburn won passage of several reforms in the areas of state finance and internal improvements, but his signature accomplishments were in the area of penal reform. His liberal pardon record and expenditure of scarce taxpayer money to improve the living conditions of prisoners was unpopular at the time, and he was booed and shouted down at his own party’s nominating convention in 1883, and returned to his medical practice and died in1887. His great-uncle was Gideon Blackburn, a well-known Presbyterian missionary and served as president of Centre College in Danville, Kentucky. In 1864, he traveled to Bermuda to help combat a yellow Fever outbreak that threatened Confederate blockade running operations there. In the early days of the war, he acted as a civilian agent for the governments of Kentucky and Mississippi. He remained in Canada to avoid prosecution by U. S. authorities, but he returned to the Gulf Coast of Texas and Louisiana in 1868 to help fight yellow fever outbreaks in 1872 and 1873. He rehabilitated his public image by rendering aid in yellow Fever outbreaks in Tennessee and Florida in 1877, and in 1878. Blackburn’s ministrations propelled him to the Democrat gubernatorial nomination the following year.
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