How Paducah got its name

Surveying of Paducah

William Clark surveying his new property to lay out the grid for the new town of Paducah in 1827. Paducah flood wall mural. (Photo by John Cashon)

A common story told in the Paducah area is that William Clark, of the Lewis and Clark fame, named Paducah for a Chickasaw chieftain called Chief Paduke, but this is incorrect. Clark was actually referring to a tribe he learned about during his travels exploring the west.

In a letter to his son on April 27, 1827, Clark wrote:

“I expect to go to the mouth of the Tennessee River, and be absent about two weeks. I have laid out a town there and intend to sell some lots in it, the name is Paducah, one of the largest Indian nations known in this country, and now almost forgotten.”

Clark was actually referencing a tribe called the Padouca, but spelled it Paducah. From the Lewis and Clark Original Journals, the tribes living to the west of the Mandan Tribes in the Ree Villages were documented. In this excerpt by George Bird Grinnell in the American Anthropologist, the Padouca are discussed:

Lewis and Clark Original Journals, vol. 1, p. 190, gives information obtained at Ree Villages, 1804. In the list of tribes that live on the plains to the west of the Rees one is given Cat-tar-kah, interpreted as Paducar. This information was presumably had through a French interpreter, for the other tribal names in the list are translated in English. This would seem to show that the French on the Upper Missouri considered the Cataka to be Padouca.

Grinnell also gives more information regarding French sources explaining where the term Padoucas originated:

Padoucas—English name, French nickname Padoo, Padoucies is their own tongue. Live in villages on heads of Platte and Arkansas, trade with New Mexico; many horses. Yet almost immediately Clark says he could get no definite information about this once powerful nation, and quotes French writers. Speaks of a fork of the Platte bearing the name of the tribe and conjectures that the nation had broken up and become individual small tribes.

George Rogers Clark flood wall mural. (Photo by John Cashon)

So this is where Clark first learned of the Padoucas, but the French information was also incorrect. By looking into the Spanish documents of the time, a clearer picture emerges.

While the French were located east of the plains, the Spanish were in the areas of New Mexico and Texas in the south, and they had much more information about the inhabitants in the southern plains area where the French said the Padouca lived. When the Spanish first settled in the area, they encountered the Pueblo and Apache tribes.

The Pueblo were the first to learn the usefulness of the Spanish Mustang, and the Apache quickly followed suit. When the Mississippi and Missouri Valley tribes first encountered the Apache, they called them the Padouca, and they discovered the difficulties in fighting warriors from horseback. This would have occurred before firearms were traded to the various tribes, and this technique of fighting from horseback would have been a major advantage to the Apache in warfare.

From the Texas State Historical Association:

The Spanish first contacted the Apaches in 1541, when Francisco Vázquez de Coronado and his men encountered a band of “Querechos” on the journey to Quivira. From 1656 to 1675, the Spanish settlers and Pueblo Indians of New Mexico suffered heavily from almost continuous Apache raids. These raids, in conjunction with drought, harsh Spanish rule, and missionary activities, led the Pueblo Indians to revolt and to drive the Spaniards out of New Mexico in 1680 (the “Pueblo Revolt). When the Spaniards reconquered New Mexico in 1692, the Apaches were a powerful nation of mounted Indians who raided with impunity wherever they desired

In the mid 1700’s, the Apaches were displaced by an incursion of a fierce, warlike tribe called the Comanches that had recently learned to use horses in warfare. The Comanches were an off-shoot branch of the northern Shoshone Tribe from the Rocky Mountains that moved into the southern plains and they quickly drove the Apaches out of the area through conquest.

The Spanish did not record the term ‘Padouca’ for any of the Plains tribes that they encountered, and since many of the French documents referred to a people from the same area, it can be concluded they were meaning the Apache before the Comanche moved into the area.

Since Lewis and Clark were travelling up the Missouri River, many of the tribes of this area did not have accurate information about the inhabitants in the southern plains, and these tribes would have possibly gained their knowledge of the plains tribes from the French traders that had been in the region for a while. The stories they told Lewis and Clark referred to a once numerous and powerful tribe in the plains that had disappeared after the Europeans arrived.

It was this ‘lost’ tribe that Clark was referring to in his letter to his son about the Padoucas, and the reason Paducah got its name.



Pleasant Life of Paducah – My Photography Blog

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I have loved photography for a long time, and when I decided to begin taking my own photographs for my articles, I learned that I loved it even more. Here is a link to my new Photography Blog showcasing Paducah, Kentucky and the Jackson Purchase region.

Some Photographs that I have posted to the site:









A dialog on civility

George Caleb Bingham - The County Election, Wikimedia Commons

George Caleb Bingham – The County Election, Wikimedia Commons

We all want a civil society, but what does civility actually mean when describing today’s bombastic rhetoric to each other.

No matter which side, liberal or conservative, one can easily find comments on the internet that show no desire to find common ground, and remaining cordial is a useless exercise to some.

We have all seen it.

There is so much anger today, and finding ways to extinguish that fire can seem to be a daunting task for anyone that believes that we will have to find ways to work together, to move forward.

Unfortunately, it appears there are some that believe the fight is worth fighting, and being civil is needless and unwanted. Their efforts extend to trying to eradicate the opposing political parties views.

We are in a new kind of civil war that is dividing family and friends. This has become more prevalent since so many have turned to Facebook to air their differences. 

The new norm is an us versus them mentality, if you will. Winning this fight has gotten everyone so worked up, that I wish everyone would take a collective deep breath to see how we are talking to each other, and to find ways to heal the wounds that have been inflicted.

What is not seen or heard though is the fact that there are many that think politics is not worth losing friendships with their family and friends, so they go underground with their beliefs to keep the peace. I am in between. I believe strongly in my political ideals and I want to be able to express my values without fear, but I have lost friendships too, and I have become tame compared to some.

In my community, I have totally different political values to many, but I grew up in the same environment that they did. I know the same people that they do. I went hunting at a young age, like many, and went to the same churches, festivals and events. I am a part of the community and the community is part of me, as it is with them.

Sometimes, I feel they can be hard-headed and refuse to back away from their positions, but I find that I am just as adamant about my own positions. The difficulty is if they get into a huff, they just walk away for good, and let me tell you, they have long memories.

I have learned that I have to be very diplomatic when talking to my friends, and I know there are some people you just can’t reach, but I do believe it is possible for them to at least accept that my ideals should be on the table and not disqualified out of hand as so often happens today. At the same time, I don’t want them to think that I am discrediting their thoughts as well.

Because of all of the heated rhetoric, I understand what it means to feel like a stranger in my own community, and that I am only tolerated, because I was born here. I know that this isn’t true, but the feeling is the same. The ground beneath my feet still feels like home though, and nothing will persuade me to think otherwise.

One fact still remains the same, I am just as much an American as any other, no matter my beliefs. But is the fight worth it?

Being from Kentucky, the Hatfield and McCoy feud comes to mind. The fight between them lasted for generations, and back then, they could have never envisioned a day when they wouldn’t be fighting, but today, they only battle each other to see who can bring in the most tourist money for their communities. Their feud has faded away.

Will this feud that we are in today, that is causing so much incivility and harm, do the same? I hope so.


It was meant to be

John and Marcelle Wedding Collage.

Our Wedding Collage.

I have seen many romantic movies where a couple meets, falls in love, and then gets married. These are time honored stories that have captivated people in movies and books, and the one thing that I never expected was that it would happen to me. This is my own love story.

It all began in 2000 when I was working at Apex Internet Services in Paducah, Kentucky. I had studied history and archaeology in college, but I never did anything with my degree afterwards, so with nostalgia for those days in college, I decided to take a cruise in the Gulf of Mexico to see the Mayan Ruins at Tulum, Mexico. I had been planning a trip like this for many years and never had the time to make it happen, but it was time for this to change.

I made arrangements with Carnival Cruise Lines, and because I was single and was not dating anyone, I was going alone. Many of my friends could not believe that I would do something like this alone, but for me, in the back of my mind, I thought it might also be a chance to meet someone. You never know how fate can change your life.

After boarding the ship in Tampa, Florida, I spent time exploring, taking in the views of the Gulf of Mexico as we traveled south, headed for the Cayman Islands. It was an interesting time wandering the ship by myself seeing so many couples enjoying themselves and living in the moment.

I came to the conclusion that most of the women that I met would not be single or alone on this cruise, but it didn’t matter too much to me because I still had Tulum to look forward to seeing.

Mayan Ruins at Tulum in 2000.

Mayan Ruins at Tulum in 2000.

On the second night out, the ship was to have a special event where everyone was to dress in their finest for the Captain’s dinner. After sitting at my assigned table for the cruise, and enjoying the fine food that was before me, my eyes struck upon a woman sitting at a table adjacent to me, wearing a beautiful red dress.

I had made friends with the people at my table and they noticed that I could not take my eyes off of this woman in red. They kept telling me that she didn’t appear to be with anyone either and to go introduce myself, but I was not in the right frame of mind to be so bold that night. One thing was for sure though, I would keep my eyes open for this ‘lady in red’ in the next few days.

The next day, the ship was planning to make port in Cozumel, Mexico which was where the tour would begin to go to Tulum. I had made the arrangements to take the tour, and when we all arrived, their were several tour buses ready to take us to the site. I kept looking for my ‘lady in red’ but I didn’t see her. This was a little disappointing but my spirits were still flying knowing that I would soon visit the reason I took the cruise in the first place.

Before arriving at Tulum, the buses stopped at an Obsidian factory so that those on the tour could buy souvenirs. It was at this time that my eyes spotted her standing just ten feet from me. The tour guide was telling us that we could have a sample of the tequila that was also made at this location. This was my moment and I knew it.

Tulum photo that I took in 2000.

Tulum photo that I took in 2000.

When I was given the drink, I strode up to her and introduced myself, and I asked if she would like to have a toast with me. We toasted to good times and meeting great people. Her name was Marcelle and afterwards, we talked a little more before we were called back to the buses to head out to Tulum.

Since, we were on different buses, I was not able to keep the conversation going but I was happy that I was able to break the ice and introduce myself.

After arriving at the ruins, I was in my element or as we say in Kentucky, “I was in hog heaven.” I explored everything that I could and every now and then, I would cross paths with Marcelle and we would just shyly smile at each other and say hello.

After the tour was over and the buses had returned to Cozumel, we had the rest of the day to explore the town before we had to board the cruise ship that night. I searched for Marcelle to see if she wanted to explore the town with me, and to my great pleasure, she said yes.

We had a wonderful time walking around all of the shops and seeing the sites, so I asked if she would like to join me later on the ship for a date. They were having a dance party on the deck that night and I thought it would be a great way to get to know Marcelle. She said yes, and I definitely knew that I was having a great day.

It was the kind of evening where time had no meaning. We danced and laughed for a while at the dance party and then we decided to go to the casino and play the slot machines. Before I knew, it was four in the morning and we had to say goodbye. It was a magnificent time for me and that evening was magical.

For the rest of the cruise, we had a great time enjoying the sites and all of the activities on the ship, but unfortunately, the time was fast approaching when the cruise would end and we would have to say goodbye.

The day we were to make port at Tampa, I learned that she lived in Orlando, Florida and since my twin brother, Ken, lived there, I told her that when I visited him, I would call her. I promised to email her and let her know how it was going in Paducah. It was time to go home and I felt as if I was losing a great friend.

Life back home continued and returned to normal, and Marcelle and I emailed each other a little, but as often happens, we lost touch with each other. I thought I would never see her again.

English: Orlando Skyline at night

Orlando Skyline at night (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Then something happened that would change everything. The company that I worked for was bought by a company in Orlando, Florida, and I was asked if I would like to move to Florida and work for them. In the back of my mind, I wondered if I would run into Marcelle, but I knew it was a big city. Fortunately, I still had her email and I could always contact her when I moved.

Time became a blur with all of the preparations that I was making for the move and the transition to the new company. I found out that the day that I would move to Florida would be September 11, 2001. This was the day that our country was attacked by Al Qaeda, and my drive to Florida was a surreal event with no one on the highways but convoys of state troopers with all of their lights ablaze and sirens blaring. It seemed to be bad omen for my new life in Orlando, so I didn’t know what to expect.

After getting settled in my new apartment and my new job, I found Marcelle’s email address and asked if she would like to have coffee with a fellow resident of Orlando, and to my delight, she agreed to meet me. We met and I had a great time, and it seemed as if time had not separated us at all. We began dating exclusively shortly afterwards.

Hurricane Charley 13 Aug 2004 Wikipedia

Hurricane Charley 13 Aug 2004 Wikipedia

In 2004, I asked Marcelle to marry me and she said yes. It was shortly before hurricanes Charley, Frances and Jeanne hit Florida and affected our life in Orlando. You may ask why I would bring up such scary events like the hurricanes right after mentioning that Marcelle and I were getting married.

Well, it turned out to be the reason why something wonderful happened. After the last hurricane hit, we were understandably frustrated with being cooped up in the house so much, so we decided to get out and go to a wedding expo to get ideas for our own wedding.

After we arrived, we saw that a local radio station was having a ‘Wedding under the Stars’ contest, so we decided to enter. The next day, we received a call telling us that we were one of three couples that won a chance to win a $30,000 Wedding Giveaway. All that we had to do to win was play the ‘Nearlywed Game’ on the radio.

The game was just like the Newlywed Game that was on television. One of us would stay and would be asked a question while the other was out of the room. The other would come back into the room to see if they would have the same answer.

John and Marcelle Wedding Photo.

John and Marcelle Wedding Photo.

By the third question, we were in trouble and in third place. We had only one chance to win. The last question was a bonus and was worth more points. We would have to answer correctly and the other couples had to answer incorrectly.  

As a strategy for playing the game, I told Marcelle that if she was asked about previous girlfriends of mine, she could answer them all with Amy, my ex-wife, to keep it simple. However, there were no questions so far like that to help us.

The last question was for Marcelle to answer. She was asked who I shared my first romantic kiss with? Marcelle answered ‘Amy’, hoping that I would remember our strategy. Walking back in, I was asked the question, and I turned and smiled at Marcelle before answering, and I saw the concern on her face.

I did remember and answered ‘Amy’. We received twenty-five points for getting the question correct and this put us in the lead. All that we could do now was see if the other couples would answer correctly or not. Unbelievably, they did not and we won, and it was at this point that I knew that Marcelle and I were truly fated to be together.

We were given everything for our wedding, and we were given a three page spread in a bridal magazine. It was to be on Valentines Day and included a honeymoon in the Bahamas, and while there, we stayed in a villa that was twenty feet from the ocean. No one could have asked for a more romantic wedding and honeymoon.

To have everything fall into place so much for a couple, I feel blessed everyday with my fortune of meeting Marcelle on the cruise, being transferred to Orlando, Florida, and winning a fairy-tale wedding that neither of us could have ever imagined was possible.

We are residing in Paducah now and everyday, I feel blessed having Marcelle in my life. All of the pieces fell just right for us, and because of this, I will always believe that it was meant to be.

John and Marcelle Wedding silhouette.

John and Marcelle Wedding silhouette.

Our Story of America

Story of America: A Nation Divided – Add your story here

Why is there so much division in the United States today? This question is one that I have constantly been exploring to try to find answers, and though I may have found cultural, religious or traditional reasons, I cannot understand why divisive and partisan ideas continue to grow even if they are proven untrue beyond any shadow of doubt.

Why hold on to these beliefs when all evidence points out they are incorrect?

While watching one of the videos that Annabel Park and Eric Byler released from their upcoming Story of America: A Nation Divided documentary, a white, southern man from Mecklenburg, Virginia states, “the Constitution tells us that if you don’t work, you don’t eat.”

Hearing this struck a nerve for me because in my area of Western Kentucky, this is a common theme being expressed by many people, and they are proud of their beliefs. The Virginian continues by stating, “We’re divided because we are intentionally divided. Okay?  If you can divide a country, while you are fighting amongst yourselves, they can take your country over, just like what’s happening.”

When he was asked why there was so much rhetoric directed today towards President Obama in the last four years, he immediately began to bring up the same talking points that some of the national figures have been saying, “I’ll tell you why, because he has never pulled out his thesis paper from college. He borrowed money from the government. Okay? And he is not an American citizen. Okay? He’s a Muslim.”

Story of America: A Nation Divided

I have heard these talking points many times, and when asked if any evidence could be produced to prove these assertions, none are found or given, except excerpts and quotes from far right media sources that also provide no proof.

It doesn’t matter if these ideas make no sense or are misinformed by the rhetorical talking points directed towards the President, because they are staunch in their holding on to these beliefs and will adamantly stand their ground against anyone that may question their ideology.

Just the other day, I was talking with one of my friends that is a republican, and somehow the conversation steered into my friend exclaiming in disgust, “Obama is trying to close down the coal industry in Kentucky, all because of this made up theory of climate change.”

Story of America: A Nation Divided

I asked if she didn’t believe in the science and her reply was, “It’s not true and the only reason why Obama keeps talking about it is to give him more power by regulating things like the coal industry and losing everyone their jobs.” There was no doubt that she honestly believed that the President was intentionally doing this.

I began to counter but we both decided to agree to disagree, which has been our way for many years. We both understand we have major differences when it comes to the government and politics, as do all of my friends here in my area.

I still want to find an answer to this though. It perplexes me how people can stubbornly hold onto their beliefs, no matter the facts. Whenever I ask them for evidence, I am told that it is something they were told. It is like having a faith in an ideology so profound that it never matters about the facts. It just is.

I very much doubt there is anything that I could write or say that could persuade them to go against these beliefs. It will take more than that.

Story of America: A Nation Divided

This is why I think an important step forward is the making of this documentary, The Story of America: A Nation Divided. Not only are they going around the country and interviewing Americans of all stripes and colors, but they have also setup, on their website, a place for everyday people to tell their own story of America, and hearing these stories can help promote an understanding of different people’s situations and beliefs. Watching and reading these compelling stories opens eyes and hearts where there may have been a self-imposed wall standing between people.

These are such crazy times in this country and finding any quick solutions to ending the division in America may never happen, but one thing is for sure, without dialog and understanding, it has no hope of being possible. It will require the nation to reflect on what it means to be American, and with one little step at a time, we all can begin to envision a day when all the hatreds and divisions are finally healed.

To do that though, it may just take one story at a time.

[WATCH - Why are we so divided? A voter from Mecklenburg, Virginia from Story of America: A Nation Divided]

Alben W. Barkley – Paducah’s pillar of politics

Alben William Barkley, 1877-1956 Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division LC-USZ62-59671

If you have driven down Alben Barkley Drive in Paducah, Kentucky, seen Alben Barkley’s name on the historical markers in town, flew out of Barkley Regional Airport, or spent the day at Barkley Lake, this name will be familiar to you, but do you really know who he was and his accomplishments?

For those that are history enthusiasts living in the area, Alben Barkley Drive brings back the memories of Paducah’s most famous politician, that had a remarkable career in politics in the House of Representatives, as the Majority Leader in the Senate and as the 35th Vice President of the United States with President Harry S. Truman from 1949 to 1953.

Early Days

Barkley was born November 24, 1877 in a log cabin near Lowes, Kentucky in Graves County, but his given name was Willie Alben Barkley. His parents were John Wilson Barkley and Electra Eliza (Smith) Barkley, which were deeply religious tenant farmers who raised tobacco but later settled on a wheat farm in Hickman County, Kentucky in 1891.

He first attended Marvin College, in Clinton, Kentucky, and graduated in 1897 where he learned that he excelled in speech and debate, all the while working as a full-time janitor in school. Barkley continued his studies at Emory College in Oxford, Georgia, and afterwards, he attended the University of Virginia School of Law and graduated in 1901.

Never liking his name Willie Alben, he legally changed his name to Alben William Barkley. He later commented, “Just imagine the tribulations I would have had. A robust, active boy, going through a Kentucky childhood with the name of ‘Willie,’ and later trying to get into politics!”

Mrs Alben Barkley Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division LC-DIG-hec-18413

Returning to Kentucky, Barkley clerked for two Paducah attorneys before passing the bar exam in 1901 and opened his own law office the same year. He married Dorothy Brower in 1903 and they had three children: David Murrell, Marion Frances, and Laura Louise.

Barkley decided to run for prosecuting attorney of McCracken County two years later, and he would later tell a story in his memoirs, That Reminds Me, about how he was said to have ridden a mule during the campaign stating, “This story is a base canard, and, here and now, I wish to spike it for all time. It was not a mule—it was a horse.”

From Judge to House of Representatives and the Senate

Working as the prosecuting attorney for four years, Barkley became a County Judge for the McCracken County Court in 1909 and held this position until 1913. It was at this time that he ran for the U.S. House of Representatives in 1912 representing Kentucky’s 1st District.

In Congress, Barkley was heavily influenced by Woodrow Wilson and believed government needed to be flexible and have a willingness to experiment with social and economic programs. He was a proud liberal and progressive declaring, “I was a liberal and a progressive long before I ever heard of Franklin D. Roosevelt.”

In 1919, he was a leading figure in creating the Prohibition Amendment and the Volstead Act that was ratified as the 18th Amendment and enacted into law as the National Prohibition Act of 1920 that prohibited the manufacture, sale, transport, import, or export of alcohol beverages.

Serving seven terms in the House of Representatives, Barkley made an unsuccessful run for the Democratic nomination as governor of Kentucky, and after suffering this defeat in the 1923 campaign, he ran for the United States Senate in 1926.

Even though Barkley lost the election for governor, he did get name recognition which helped him win the 1926 election for Senator and won him the title of ‘iron man’ because of his ability to give as many as sixteen speeches a day.

When the New Deal was being debated in congress, Barkley worked closely with Majority Leader Joe Robinson from Arkansas, who was very different in style, and they were influential in passing much of the New Deal legislation between 1934 and 1936.

BARKLEY, ALBEN W. HONORABLE Library of Congress Prints and Photograghs Division LC-DIG-hec-17392

Having worked together in the Democratic minority in the 1920’s, Robinson gave an impression of strength and forcefulness, while Barkley was much better with his oratory skills and usually succeeded by using compromise with his jovial personality and his gift of storytelling. Robinson was happy to let Barkley forge alliances using his skills while he used a mix of threats, favors, and parliamentary skill.

Barkley was known to say about his storytelling ability, “A good story is like fine Kentucky bourbon, it improves with age and, if you don’t use it too much, it will never hurt anyone.”

In 1937, Joe Robinson passed away leaving a vacancy for the Senate Majority Leader position. Barkley was selected along with Pat Harrison, the chairman of the influential Finance Committee and very popular in the Senate, to compete for the leadership of the Senate.

President Roosevelt did not feel comfortable with Harrison because he would not support his Judiciary Reorganization Bill of 1937 that would appoint an additional member to the Supreme Court for every sitting justice over the age of 70. This would have increased the Supreme Court by a total of six new judges.

For this reason, Roosevelt privately threw his support behind Barkley and he won by just one vote to become the new Democratic Majority Leader from Kentucky. However, Roosevelt’s ‘court packing plan’, as some called it then, failed to be included in the final amended version of the bill in the Senate.

Barkley was the Senate Majority Leader from 1937 to 1947, and with the Democrats loss of the Senate in 1946, he became the Senate Minority Leader from 1947 to 1949. President Roosevelt, during the 1944 election campaign, chose Harry S. Truman for the Vice Presidential nomination, although Barkley was almost considered for the position.

Barkley continued to support the President’s initiatives though, including the passage of the United Nations Charter and the formation of Israel as a nation-state. He was also the chairman of the Joint Committee on the Investigation of the Pearl Harbor Attack while also a member of the Congressional Nazi War Crimes Committee.

New majority leader of the Senate Washington DC July 21 Senator Alben Barkley of Kentucky Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division LC-DIG-hec-23064

On March 10, 1947, Dorothy passed away in Washington D.C. after a long illness from a heart ailment. She had been in a critical condition for nearly three years.

Time as Vice President and his Legacy

When Truman became the President with the death of Franklin Roosevelt in 1945, a Vice President was not picked to replace him but after Barkley’s keynote speech at the 1948 Democratic convention in Philadelphia, where he gave an impassioned speech saying, “Thomas Jefferson did not proclaim that all white men, all black men, or red or yellow men are equal, that all rich or poor men are equal, that all good or bad men are equal. What he declared was that all men are equal”, this speech was the deciding factor for Harry Truman picking Barkley for Vice President.

According to Mark Hatfield with the Senate Historical Office:

“While the president whistle-stopped by train, Barkley made the first “prop stop” campaign by air. He had come a long way since the days when he first campaigned for office on horseback. In six weeks he toured thirty-six states and gave more than 250 speeches. He spoke to so many small audiences that the press dubbed him “the poor man’s candidate.” But his strength and stamina refuted the charges that he had been too old to run.”

This was the historical election where the Chicago Tribune newspaper had the headline, “Dewey Defeats Truman.” Truman and Barkley had won when everyone thought they didn’t have a chance to succeed.

One evening, Barkley went to his daughter’s house in Washington and was talking about how he should be addressed, because he thought Mr. Vice President was too wordy. Barkley later told in an interview about a conversation with his grandson, Stephen M. Truitt, “Gramps, why not put two little e’s in there between those two big letters and call it Veep?”

The next day, he told the story to the press corps and the name stuck, and from then on, he was called ‘The Veep’.

Dewey defeats Truman Chicago Tribune Wikimedia Commons

At this time, Barkley was 70 years old but this did not slow him down. He was the last Vice President to preside regularly over the Senate, and Truman insisted, because of his legislative experience, that he be included in all of the cabinet-level meetings and on the National Security Council.

“He was certainly the first vice president that routinely attended National Security Council meetings”, Truitt stated in an interview with NPR, “And part of this was his own personality and the other part of it was Truman liked him and trusted him, and wanted him to do these things. He met with the president all the time, and was very important in his advice-giving to him.”

Also, because of Barkley’s talent in public speaking, Truman decided to have him be the administration’s principal spokesman to use his natural sense of humor and a gift of storytelling to help defuse many partisan and personal animosities.

“A Vice-President who is well liked by members of the Senate”, Barkley once stated, “and by the corresponding members of the House in charge of legislation can exercise considerable power in the shaping of the program of legislation which every administration seeks to enact.”

When asked about the Vice President, Truman replied, “Barkley, as Vice President, was in a class by himself. He had the complete confidence of both the President and the Senate.”

Captivating national attention with their romance in 1949, Barkley began courting Jane Hadley, who was half his age, and the press loved following the romance in the newspapers. On November 18, 1949, they were married in a big ceremony in St. Louis, Missouri.

Barkley and Truman Courtesy of Barkley family in Paducah

Barkley’s granddaughter, Dorothy Barkley, who was a young girl at the time, recalled the publicity surrounding the wedding, “Their pictures were all over Life Magazine, all sorts of goings on because he was the first Vice President ever married while he was in the White House.”

Back in Paducah, Barkley lived in a house called ‘Angles’ that was built in 1859 by Colonel Quintus Quincy Quigley, who was another famous lawyer back in the nineteenth century from Paducah. A Kentucky historical marker is located at the home that reads:

“Home of Alben W. Barkley, 1937-56. A good example of Greek Revival architecture. Built in 1859 by Colonel Quintus Quincy Quigley. Location on sharp angles of three tracts of land source of its name. In early married life Barkley and his wife dreamed of owning it. Dream realized after 30 years. Beloved home for 19 years while Senator and Vice President.”

Mark Hatfield, with the Senate Historical Office, notes that Barkley was described as:

“A storyteller of great repute, Alben Barkley frequently poked fun at himself and his office. He was especially fond of telling about the mother who had two sons. One went to sea; the other became vice president; and neither was heard from again. In Barkley’s case, the story was not at all true. He made sure that the public heard from him, and about him, as often as possible. And what the public heard, they liked, for Alben Barkley performed admirably as vice president of the United States.”

Jane Hadley Barkley her husband Alben W. Barkley Vice President of the United States President Harry S Truman Nellie Tayloe Ross Wikimedia Commons

In 1952, Barkley tried for the nomination for the President of the United States, but he withdrew because many felt he was too old to run. This was a bitter pill for him to swallow, but Barkley accepted the decision and delivered a farewell address to the convention with all of his usual grace and style. When he finished, he was given a forty-five minute ovation out of their respect for him.

Barkley retired afterwards but he was unable to stay retired. Barkley ran for and won his Senate seat back in 1954, against the incumbent Republican Senator John Sherman Cooper. Two years later, at Washington and Lee University, he was invited, on April 30, 1956, to deliver the keynote address at their mock convention.

At the end of the speech, Barkley reminded the audience that he was once again a freshman in the Senate, “ I was a junior congressman, then I became a senior congressman, and then I went to the Senate and became a junior senator, then I became a senior senator, and then Majority Leader of the Senate, and then Vice President of the United States, and now I’m back again as a junior senator. I am willing to be a junior. I’m glad to sit on the back row, for I would rather be a servant in the house of the Lord, than to sit in the seats of the mighty.”

These were Alben Barkley’s last words, because shortly after saying this, he collapsed from a heart attack and passed away. Thus ended the career of one of Paducah’s finest heroes.

NPR concluded in their interview with Stephen Truitt:

“In the end, Stephen Truitt says, his grandfather’s most profound legacy was the New Deal. Truitt says the program went hand in hand with his grandfather’s deeply-held belief that sometimes society needed a little bit of a boost from the government it created to reach its fullest potential.”

It is a rare thing to see someone, whose parents were humble Kentucky farmers, achieve the success that Alben Barkley was able to accomplish, showing that a rural location does not decide the fate of one who strives to rise so high in the government. One may not agree with his liberal and progressive ideals, but Paducah has a long history of residents, belonging to both parties, staying current and debating the affairs of the day. He was no exception and took it as far as he could, to the Vice President of the United States.

Barkley and Dottie Courtesy of Barkley family in Paducah