A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Remembering Gatewood Galbraith

By Peter Brackney
KyForward contributor


The candidacies of Gatewood Galbraith, who died last night, were legendary. Many Kentuckians – especially those in Lexington – remember Gatewood standing at a corner in his ubiquitous hat, sportcoat, and tie waving to the honks, cheers, and sometimes jeers of his fellow citizenry. If you never witnessed Gatewood’s friendly smile, it was usually visible in the fall of an election year somewhere near Commonwealth Stadium just before a UK kickoff.


A “people’s candidate,” Galbraith long believed that a government which governs best, governs least. Applying this principle to both social and fiscal issues, Gatewood famously said during his 1995 bid for governor that the government needs to stay out of “our bedrooms, our bloodstreams, our bladders, our brains, our businesses and our back-pockets.” His views were even more fully expressed in his book, “The Last Free Man in America.”


I remember the 1995 race because of the long delay caused during the Fourth of July parade – themed “United Nations” – which Gatewood interrupted and was subsequently arrested. Also somewhat controversial is his pro-legalization of marijuana stance which has caused many to ignore his overall platform.


Despite the controversies, a Gatewood candidacy was second only to Fancy Farm in terms of Kentucky political traditions. The 2011 gubernatorial bid was his fifth for Governor (1991, 1995, 1999, 2007 and 2011). He has also run for attorney general, agriculture commissioner and twice for Congress. He admits to being a perennial candidate by saying that “Kentucky has perennial problems.”


Gatewood departed this world last night. He and his smile will surely be missed. May he rest in peace.


This post is a modified version of one that originally appeared on Brackney’s website, www.kaintuckeean.com on Nov. 4, 2011.

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