Skip to Main Content

Gov. Edward Breathitt

As governor of Kentucky in the mid-1960s, Breathitt worked for passage of a state law guaranteeing equal rights in the area of public accommodations. Because of his activism among his fellow governors, President Lyndon Johnson appointed him to a special commission formed to monitor compliance with the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Season 1 Episode 2 Length 58:43 Rating: TV-PG

Gov. Edward Breathitt

Note: This original one-on-one interview, part of the Civil Rights Movement in Kentucky Oral History Project, was produced by the Kentucky Oral History Commission and Historical Society.

Born in Hopkinsville in 1924, Edward Thompson Breathitt, Jr., became aware of racial inequities as a young attorney working in the criminal justice system. Those experiences, plus an opportunity to draft a plan to help integrate Christian County schools, placed him in a unique position to contribute to the civil rights movement at the state and national levels.

Breathitt served three terms in the Kentucky House of Representatives, worked on the presidential campaign of Adlai Stevenson, and served in the administration of Governor Bert Combs.

Breathitt was elected governor of Kentucky in 1963. He cooperated with efforts to pass a state public accommodations law in 1964, but that attempt failed. Breathitt then rallied support from governors throughout the United States for passage of the national Civil Rights Act in 1964.

After the federal law was enacted, Breathitt again worked to gain approval of a state law, which was passed in the first month of the 1966 legislative session. The Kentucky Civil Rights Act was the first significant civil rights law passed by a southern state, and was in some ways stronger than the federal law that preceded it.

Breathitt returned to private law practice after his gubernatorial term and continued to serve the causes of justice and education through leadership in several community organizations (including KET). He died on October 14, 2003.

Sponsored by:

Kentucky LifeKentucky Life

Season 1 Episodes

Grace Lewis

S1 E14 Length 28:16

Anne Braden

S1 E13 Length 58:24

Audrey Grevious

S1 E12 Length 57:31

Raoul Cunningham

S1 E11 Length 57:49

Jennie and Alice Wilson

S1 E10 Length 56:42

James Howard

S1 E9 Length 34:37

J. Blaine Hudson

S1 E8 Length 56:56

Abby Marlatt

S1 E7 Length 57:49

P.G. Peeples

S1 E6 Length 57:16

Mervin Aubespin

S1 E5 Length 57:41

John Jay Johnson

S1 E4 Length 57:01

Sen. Georgia Davis Powers

S1 E3 Length 57:38

Gov. Edward Breathitt

S1 E2 Length 58:43

Julian Bond

S1 E1 Length 56:26

See All Episodes

caret down

TV Schedules


No upcoming airdates


No recent airdates

Explore KET