nbreathitt.jpgEdward Thompson Breathitt Jr., the former governor of Kentucky, died on Oct. 14 after collapsing during a speech at the University of Kentucky Lexington Community College last Friday night. Doctors said Breathitt suffered from an abnormal heart rhythm. He fell into a coma and did not regain consciousness. He was 78.
Breathitt spent three years in the Army Air Corps during World War II, then received his undergraduate and law degree from the University of Kentucky. After passing the bar, he spent eight years working as a lawyer in his hometown of Hopkinsville.
A liberal Democrat, Breathitt was elected to the Kentucky House in 1951. He spent seven years in office before leaving to aid in former Vice President Alben Barkley’s Senate campaign.
In 1963, Breathitt was elected governor of Kentucky on a platform of prohibiting racial discrimination in public places. Racial harmony was a theme of his inaugural speech, and he used that moment to call on Kentuckians to embrace the civil rights movement and cast off “hate, bigotry and prejudice.” During his four years in office, Breathitt urged the state to approve tough antidiscrimination laws and established the Kentucky Educational Television network.
Once he left office, Breathitt worked as the general counsel for the Southern Railway System and served as the company’s top lobbyist in Washington, D.C. for two decades.