Thomas Rhea

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Thomas Rhea
Thomas Rhea.jpg
17th Kentucky State Treasurer
In office
Preceded by Edwin Farley
Succeeded by Sherman Goodpaster
Personal details
Born(1871-12-29)December 29, 1871
Russellville, Kentucky
Died April 16, 1946(1946-04-16) (aged 74)
Russellville, Kentucky
Resting place Maple Grove Cemetery
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Lillian Clark
Relations Brother of John Stockdale Rhea
Alma mater Bethel College

Thomas Stockdale Rhea (1871–1946) was a Democratic politician from the U.S. Commonwealth of Kentucky. He served as Kentucky State Treasurer in 1912 and was state highway commissioner in the administration of Governor Ruby Laffoon. [1] Known as "The Sage of Russellville" or "The Gray Fox", Rhea was a powerful Democratic political boss in the state. [2] He was an unsuccessful candidate for governor in 1935, losing to A. B. "Happy" Chandler in the Democratic primary.

Democratic Party (United States) political party in the United States

The Democratic Party is one of the two major contemporary political parties in the United States, along with the Republican Party. Tracing its heritage back to Thomas Jefferson and James Madison's Democratic-Republican Party, the modern-day Democratic Party was founded around 1828 by supporters of Andrew Jackson, making it the world's oldest active political party. The Democrats' dominant worldview was once social conservatism and economic liberalism while populism was its leading characteristic in the rural South. In 1912, Theodore Roosevelt ran as a third-party candidate in the Progressive Party, beginning a switch of political platforms between the Democratic and Republican Party over the coming decades, and leading to Woodrow Wilson being elected as the first fiscally progressive Democrat. Since Franklin D. Roosevelt and his New Deal coalition in the 1930s, the Democratic Party has also promoted a social liberal platform, supporting social justice.

Commonwealth (U.S. state) term used by four U.S. states their full official state names

Commonwealth is a designation used by four of the 50 states of the United States in their full official state names: Kentucky, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. Commonwealth is a traditional English term for a political community founded for the common good. Prior to the formation of the United States of America in 1776, all four were part of Great Britain's possessions along the Atlantic coast of North America. As such, they share a strong influence of English common law in some of their laws and institutions.

Kentucky State of the United States of America

Kentucky, officially the Commonwealth of Kentucky, is a state located in the east south-central region of the United States. Although styled as the "State of Kentucky" in the law creating it, (because in Kentucky's first constitution, the name state was used) Kentucky is one of four U.S. states constituted as a commonwealth. Originally a part of Virginia, in 1792 Kentucky became the 15th state to join the Union. Kentucky is the 37th most extensive and the 26th most populous of the 50 United States.


Early life

Thomas Rhea was born in Russellville, Kentucky on December 29, 1871. [3] He was the son of Albert Gallatin and Jane (Stockdale) Rhea. [3] His father Albert was a circuit court judge and served in both houses of the Kentucky General Assembly, and his brother John Stockdale Rhea served in the U.S. House of Representatives. [4] [5] His grandfather, Charles Rhea, owned and edited the first newspaper in Logan County. [3]

Russellville, Kentucky City in Kentucky, United States

Russellville is a home rule-class city in Logan County, Kentucky, in the United States. It is the seat of its county. The population was 6,947 at the time of the 2010 U.S. Census.

Kentucky General Assembly state legislature of the U.S. state of Kentucky

The Kentucky General Assembly, also called the Kentucky Legislature, is the state legislature of the U.S. state of Kentucky. It comprises the Kentucky Senate and the Kentucky House of Representatives.

John Stockdale Rhea was a U.S. Representative from Kentucky.

Rhea obtained his early education in the area's public schools and at Bethel College in Russellville. [1] He began the practice of law in Logan County. [1] He was the president of Southern Deposit Bank and vice-president of the Bank of Russellville. [1] In 1905, he was elected sheriff of Logan County. [6] In January 1916, Rhea married Lillian Clark of Russellville. [3] The couple had four children Lillian Rhea Noe, Thomas Jr., Albert III, and Roland. [3]

Bethel College was a Baptist-affiliated college in Kentucky founded in 1854 and closed in 1964. Throughout most of its history, the Hopkinsville campus was a women's college while the Russellville campus was a men's college.

Logan County, Kentucky County in the United States

Logan County is a county located in the southwest Pennyroyal Plateau area of the U.S. Commonwealth of Kentucky. As of the 2010 census, the population was 26,835. Its county seat is Russellville.

Political career

Rhea's political career began in 1912, with his election as state treasurer. [1] From 1912 until his death, he was a delegate to every Democratic National Convention and, as one of five floor leaders at the 1932 convention in Chicago, was particularly instrumental in securing the delegates from the conservative Southern states for liberal New York native Franklin D. Roosevelt. [7]

The Kentucky State Treasurer is elected every four years along with the governor and other statewide officials. The treasurer, who can serve two terms, acts as the state's chief elected fiscal officer. The salary is $110,000 a year.

Democratic National Convention series of presidential nominating conventions held every four years since 1832 by the United States Democratic Party

The Democratic National Convention (DNC) is a series of presidential nominating conventions held every four years since 1832 by the United States Democratic Party. They have been administered by the Democratic National Committee since the 1852 national convention. The primary goal of the Democratic National Convention is to nominate and confirm a candidate for president and vice president, adopt a comprehensive party platform and unify the party. Pledged delegates from all fifty U.S. states and from American dependencies and territories such as Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, and superdelegates which are unpledged delegates representing the Democratic establishment, attend the convention and cast their votes to choose the Party's presidential candidate. Like the Republican National Convention, the Democratic National Convention marks the formal end of the primary election period and the start of the general election season.

The 1932 Democratic National Convention was held in Chicago, Illinois June 27 – July 2, 1932. The convention resulted in the nomination of Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt of New York for President and Speaker of the House John N. Garner from Texas for Vice President. Beulah Rebecca Hooks Hannah Tingley was a member of the Democratic National Committee and Chair of the Democratic Party of Florida. She seconded the nomination of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, becoming the second woman to address a Democratic National Convention.

During World War I, Rhea served on the United States Munitions Board. [3] He failed in a bid to become state auditor in 1915, and his term as treasurer expired in 1916. [1] [6] In 1919, he announced that he would run for governor, but later withdrew. [6] In 1924, Governor William J. Fields appointed him to the state workman's compensation board, where he served until 1927. [1] [6] Rhea served as campaign chairman for J. C. W. Beckham in the 1927 gubernatorial race, but Beckham lost to Flem D. Sampson. [8] In 1928, he unsuccessfully sought the Democratic nomination for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. [6]

World War I 1914–1918 global war originating in Europe

World War I, also known as the First World War or the Great War, was a global war originating in Europe that lasted from 28 July 1914 to 11 November 1918. Contemporaneously described as "the war to end all wars", it led to the mobilisation of more than 70 million military personnel, including 60 million Europeans, making it one of the largest wars in history. It is also one of the deadliest conflicts in history, with an estimated nine million combatants and seven million civilian deaths as a direct result of the war, while resulting genocides and the 1918 influenza pandemic caused another 50 to 100 million deaths worldwide.

William J. Fields American politician

William Jason Fields was an American politician from the U.S. state of Kentucky. Known as "Honest Bill from Olive Hill", he represented Kentucky's Ninth District in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1911 to 1923, resigning to become the state's 41st governor.

J. C. W. Beckham governor of Kentucky

John Crepps Wickliffe Beckham was the 35th Governor of Kentucky and a United States Senator from Kentucky. He was the state's first popularly-elected senator after the passage of the Seventeenth Amendment.

At the 1931 state Democratic convention, Rhea backed Madisonville judge Ruby Laffoon as the party's nominee for Governor of Kentucky and state senator J. Woodford Howard for Lieutenant Governor of Kentucky. [9] Laffoon easily won the gubernatorial nomination, but Howard lost the nomination for lieutenant governor to Happy Chandler, in part because Chandler received the backing of Rhea's political enemy, Ben Johnson. [10] Laffoon and Chandler won the election, and Laffoon removed Johnson as state highway commissioner, appointing Rhea to that position. [11]

Madisonville, Kentucky City in Kentucky, United States

Madisonville is a home rule-class city in and the county seat of Hopkins County, Kentucky, United States, located along Interstate 69 in the state's Western Coal Fields region. The population was 19,591 at the 2010 census. Madisonville is a commercial center of the region and is home to Madisonville Community College.

Governor of Kentucky head of state and of government of the U.S. commonwealth of Kentucky

The Governor of the Commonwealth of Kentucky is the head of the executive branch of government in the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Fifty-seven men and one woman have served as Governor of Kentucky. The governor's term is four years in length; since 1992, incumbents have been able to seek re-election once before becoming ineligible for four years. Throughout the state's history, four men have served two non-consecutive terms as governor, and two others have served two consecutive terms. Kentucky is one of only five U.S. states that hold gubernatorial elections in odd-numbered years immediately before the United States Presidential Election. The current governor is Matt Bevin, who was first elected in 2015.

Lieutenant Governor of Kentucky position

The office of Lieutenant Governor of Kentucky was created under the state's second constitution, which was ratified in 1799. The inaugural officeholder was Alexander Scott Bullitt, who took office in 1800 following his election to serve under James Garrard in 1799. The lieutenant governor serves as governor of Kentucky under circumstances similar to the Vice President of the United States assuming the powers of the presidency. The current Lieutenant Governor is Republican Jenean Hampton.

Laffoon backed Rhea as his successor in 1935. [11] When Rhea and Laffoon traveled to Washington, D.C. for a meeting with President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Lieutenant Governor Chandler was left as acting governor. [12] Chandler called the General Assembly into a special session to vote on a mandatory primary bill. [12] Laffoon returned to the state and tried to invalidate the call, but being stymied by the state courts, agreed to a primary bill that required a runoff if no candidate received a majority. [12] Laffoon believed that aging J. C. W. Beckham would once again run against Rhea in the Democratic primary and that a double primary would wear him down. [2]

Beckham did not run in the primary, however; Chandler did. [2] Attacking Laffoon's administration, especially the sales tax he enacted, Chandler derided Rhea as "Sales Tax Tom" and promised to save the state from "Ruby, Rhea, and Ruin". [2] Rhea brought in Earle C. Clements to manage his campaign. [5] Promising a business-like administration that would include fiscal reforms, Rhea charged that Chandler was "the Shadow Man" for Ben Johnson. [5] Laffoon sent state troops into pro-Chandler Harlan County, intimidating voters into voting for Rhea. [5]

In the first round of balloting, Rhea achieved a 19,000-vote plurality over Chandler, but it was not enough to avoid a runoff. [2] In the runoff, Chandler won by a vote of 260,573 to 234,124. [2] After his primary loss, Rhea bolted the Democratic party and supported Republican King Swope for governor. [7] In the general election, Chandler defeated Swope to win the governorship. [2]

Later life and death

Rhea became a mentor for his campaign manager, Earle Clements, who led an anti-Chandler faction of the Democratic Party for the next two decades. [7] When Chandler challenged incumbent senator Alben Barkley in 1938, both Rhea and Clements backed Barkley. [13] Rhea also supported John Y. Brown, Sr. against Chandler ally Keen Johnson in the 1939 gubernatorial election. [14]

In 1941, Rhea was again elected sheriff of Logan County and became chair of the state sheriffs board. [7] He continued his service as sheriff until 1945. [7] He died at his home in Russellville on April 16, 1946. [6] He was buried in Maple Grove Cemetery in Russellville. [7] On the occasion of his death, an article in the Louisville Courier-Journal opined that "he was a figure whose like will not be seen again in Kentucky politics." [7]

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  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 200 Years of the Kentucky Treasury, p. 8
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Harrison, p. 368
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Smith, p. 769
  4. McAfee, p. 136
  5. 1 2 3 4 Klotter, p. 305
  6. 1 2 3 4 5 6 "Thomas S. Rhea obituary - 1946". Providence Journal-Enterprise
  7. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Smith, p. 770
  8. Klotter, p. 285
  9. Pearce, pp. 3031
  10. Pearce, pp. 3132
  11. 1 2 Pearce, p. 36
  12. 1 2 3 Pearce, p. 37
  13. Klotter, p. 313
  14. Klotter, p. 317
Political offices
Preceded by
Edwin Farley
Treasurer of Kentucky
Succeeded by
Sherman Goodpaster