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 William Sylvester Taylor

William Sylvester Taylor

Birth
Butler County, Kentucky, USA
Death 2 Aug 1928 (aged 74)
Indianapolis, Marion County, Indiana, USA
Burial Indianapolis, Marion County, Indiana, USA
Plot Section 2, Lot 44
Memorial ID 9064 · View Source
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Governor of Kentucky. He served in his state's highest office for 50 days (December 1899 to January 1900), during what became one of the most controversial disputes in American political history. It culminated with the assassination of his opponent, Governor William Goebel. Taylor was born on a farm in Butler County, Kentucky. He had no formal education until he was 15, but proved to be a quick study; by his early 20s he was practicing law and working as a schoolteacher. A Republican in a heavily Democratic state, he served two terms as a county judge (1886 to 1894) and was a delegate to the 1888 and 1890 Republican National Conventions. The mid-1890s saw the Republicans gain new ground in Kentucky, and Taylor rode this trend to appointment as State Attorney General (1895 to 1899) and candidacy in the bitter 1899 Governor's race. This pitted him against Democrat Goebel, the powerful State Senate president. Taylor won the election by a slim 2383 votes and took office in December, but Goebel contested the victory, charging ballot fraud. Assassination threats were aimed at the Senator and on January 30, 1900, Goebel was shot in front of the State Capitol building. Declaring a state of emergency, Governor Taylor called for the militia to occupy Frankort and attempted to have the Assembly meet in London, Kentucky, a Republican stronghold, but its Democratic majority ignored the order. The following day the legislature announced it had thrown out enough disputed votes to declare Goebel the winner, and he was sworn in as Governor on his deathbed. Taylor refused to recognize the ruling. The militia remained in Frankfort, and as armed citizens on both sides of the issue began mobilizing in the streets Kentucky seemed poised on the brink of Civil War. Goebel died from his wounds on February 3, making a political solution to the crisis more feasible. Taylor's unseating was upheld and Goebel's running mate, J. C. W. Beckham, became the new Governor; he appealed the decision to the US Supreme Court, which ended the matter by refusing to hear the case. In June 1900 sixteen men were indicted for complicity in Goebel's murder, including Taylor and his former Secretary of State Caleb Powers; the prosecution contended that Powers had masterminded the plot on his boss's behalf and with his knowledge. Taylor avoided arrest by fleeing to Indiana, where Governor James A. Mount refused to extradite him. This infuriated radical newspaper man Fred Warren, who in 1907 advertised a $1000 reward to have Taylor brought back to Kentucky by any means to stand trial; Warren was convicted of soliciting a felony (kidnapping) and sentenced to six months hard labor and a $1500 fine. In 1909 Kentucky Governor Augustus E. Willson pardoned Taylor and nearly all who were convicted or indicted for the Goebel assassination. Although he was now free to return to his home state he seldom did so, preferring self-exile in Indianapolis. He was a successful insurance executive until his death.

Bio by: Bobb Edwards


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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Added: 9 Apr 2000
  • Find A Grave Memorial 9064
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for William Sylvester Taylor (10 Oct 1853–2 Aug 1928), Find A Grave Memorial no. 9064, citing Crown Hill Cemetery, Indianapolis, Marion County, Indiana, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .