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Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Local Author Publishes History of Kentucky Senators

I am often reminded of what science fiction author Robert Heinlein once observed that "A generation which ignores history has no past and no future.”

Kentucky has its share of rather colorful and influential characters in its political past and a number of them served as state senators. Some have been pretty shady while others achieved remarkable accomplishments of national importance. All of that is now available in a one volume history written by Fort Thomas resident, Paul Whalen. 

He wrote the book because one did not exist. Whalen says that the last book written about Kentucky senators was publish in 1976 so he revisited the idea and put his own touch on understanding our past. The result is Profiles of Kentucky’s United States Senators 1792 - Present published by Acclaim Press. 

RELATED: New book by Fort Thomas resident highlights Kentucky's Senators 

Whalen became interested in history at a young age.  He says, “I became interested in history during elementary school.  I started reading Augusta Stevenson's biographies of famous Americans. I also recall reading about Abraham Lincoln and learning that he was born in Kentucky.” His family often took him to historic sites and his interest grew from there. Knowing our past helps us appreciate our present and can help us plan for the future.

Whalen retired from the federal government after 32 years of service working for in various legal capacities. But he is not one to rest. He says, “As of July 2020, I am now an Administrative Law Judge for the Kentucky Department of Workers Compensation.  I am one of 15 judges state wide that adjudicates Workers Compensation Claims.” 

As a nation, we love numbers and this one is particularly telling. Whalen says that, “Between 1792 and 1820, Kentucky had over 18 different people serve as US Senators in part due to resignations. [But] between 1992-2020, Kentucky has only had 4 different US Senators.” 

Whalen tells the story of Alben Barkley who helped push most of the New Deal legislation through Congress when he served as Majority or Assistant Majority Leader. Whalen says that Barkley “is responsible for the Rural Electric Co-ops which started appearing in the late 1930s which made electricity available for most farm families. It should be noted that Alben Barkley was a US Congressman (from the Paducah area) for 14 years.  One of the last things he did before going across the hall to the Senate in 1927 was pass legislation which built the bridge across the Ohio River from Paducah to Illinois.” One story has it that Barkley also created the “Veep” term to describe FDR’s vice-president. And he has a lake named in his honor. The book has many other interesting stories of our senators. 

And the book is full of names you know but may not know much about. People like Henry Clay, John J. Crittenden, John G. Carlisle, Alben W. Barkley,  A. B. “Happy” Chandler, and Jim Bunning.  The book is full of fascinating and influential people who seem larger than life but ultimately offers a perspective of who we are as Kentuckians. “We are not makers of history. We are made by history,” wrote Martin Luther King, Jr. Paul Whalen’s book reminds us what we are made of. 

You can find the book in the following places:

-The Blue Marble bookstore will have autographed copies. Call the store at  (859) 781-0602 to order.

- Directly from Acclaim Press, the publisher: 

- Roebling Books in Covington 

- Carmichael Books in Louisville

You can also discover more about Fort Thomas history on the Fort Thomas app which is a free download. 

Courtesy: Paul Whalen

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