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Mike Tussey: There are sergeants, lieutenants and captains and then there are KENTUCKY COLONELS

Across the world, people have heard about the Kentucky Colonels and the wonderful reputation that goes with it all. The name Kentucky Colonel which is a lifetime honor, has become synonymous with strength of character, leadership, and dedication to the welfare of others.

You may have read about them, you may have heard your neighbor was now a Colonel, or you may have been commissioned some time ago. The commission of Kentucky Colonel is the highest title of honor bestowed by the Governor of Kentucky.

Simply put, it’s the recognition of someone’s outstanding accomplishments and service to their community, state and our nation.

The title of Kentucky Colonel began in the early 19th century around 1813 shortly after the war of 1812 which involved the Kentucky Militia. Governor Isaac Shelby commissioned Charles Todd, one of his officers some years later. A century later in 1931, commissioned colonels decided to form a “colonels” organization and Governor Sampson gave them his blessing and the first meeting of Kentucky Colonels was held in Frankfort.

I am very proud and humbled to have been commissioned Kentucky Colonel by Governor Edward T. Breathitt on March 25, 1965. Years later, February 25, 1991 I was commissioned a Kentucky Admiral by Kentucky’s Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Cabinet.

These two very prestigious Kentucky commissions have bestowed on me a sense of tremendous pride, humility and honor that any Kentuckian would be proud to feel.

Over the years, 350,000 have received a Kentucky Colonel commission from 59 Governors. Notable celebrities from Kentucky that have received commissions are: Billy Ray Cyrus-Flatwoods, Loretta Lynn-Butcher Holler, Tom T. Hall-Tick Ridge, Wyonna Judd, Ashland, and Chrystal Gayle-Paintsville.

Here are a few other celebrities who were commissioned over the decades: Elvis, Lloyd Bridges, Jim Host, Bob Barker, James Caan, Nick Clooney, Rosemary Clooney, George Clooney, Phyllis George, Bing Crosby and John Glenn.

The Commonwealth’s “Kentucky Colonel” has spread from being a prestigious award to being a namesake for 3 historic legacies:

• The Kentucky Colonels-Professional Basketball team of the American Basketball Association
based in Louisville in the 1970’s.
• The Eastern Kentucky University “Colonels”
• The Ashland, Kentucky “Colonels” – a Class D affiliation of the Chicago Cubs in the Mountain State Baseball League- 1939-1942 playing their games at Armco Field.

Certainly, the question does arise in regard to the process of nomination for someone being awarded a commission. The Honorable Order of Kentucky Colonels does not appoint or commission Kentucky Colonels. It is only done by the sitting Governor of the Commonwealth.

Nominations must be submitted to the Governor by completing the Kentucky Colonel Commission application. The nominee must be at least 18 years of age. Further information can be obtained by contacting the Governor’s office in Frankfort. Here is the address: Attention: Lori Farris, Room 133/ Governor’s Office-State Capital/Frankfort, KY 40601.

If by chance, the address is out dated, call the Governor’s office for the latest information. Many notables and famous individuals have as mentioned earlier, received their commissions.

It should be noted the award is equally available to those of all backgrounds based on their deeds.

A Kentucky Colonel is considered a good will ambassador of Kentucky’s culture, folklore, traditions and value. Recipients’ of the Kentucky Colonel commission are invited to donate and participate in the HOKC (Honorable Order Kentucky Colonels) charitable efforts throughout the state. Members of HOKC who donate each year receive a membership card and if they are a Kentucky resident can apply for a vanity license plate for their vehicle. Included as well is participation in annual events like the Kentucky Derby and the Kentucky Colonels Barbecue which is held each year in the fall.

These events also celebrate features of Kentucky culture, bourbon whiskey, horse farms, horse racing, local museums, restaurants, and statewide tourist attractions as well as the benevolent Good Works Program.

Today, grants through the HOKC Good Works Program are focused on assisting organizations such as:

• Community enhancement
• Community support
• Education
• Health, rehabilitation and life skills
• Historic preservation
• Homeless, low income, and those in crisis
• Veteran services and military
• Youth services

The Honorable Order of Kentucky Colonels international headquarters is in Louisville where the Board of Trustees gather periodically and Kentucky Colonels can visit. For more information just go to www.kycolonels.org

Throughout the decades past, all Kentucky Colonels without any doubt certainly share a kindred spirit. It’s a good bet that your fellow Colonel is just like you, someone who is full of kindness and goodwill. I have a good feeling those Kentucky Colonels still strut high here in the Commonwealth with unsurpassed pride.

Here’s a salute to all fellow Kentucky Colonels.

Mike Tussey has “retired” from a 60-plus-year career as a legendary play-by-play announcer for over 2000 football, baseball, and basketball games, including most recently for ESPN+. His career also includes a stint in law enforcement, teaching and coaching, and writing books, including the “Touchdown Saints.” He grew up in Eastern Kentucky and now lives in Florence with his wife, Jo. He has opened another “Door of Opportunity” and is now a regular columnist for the NKyTribune.

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One Comment

  1. Charlene Cooper says:

    My husband and I are both Kentucky Colonels and very proud of that honor!

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