|Plaque on Marker at Courthouse Square - Grayson, Ky.|
Born in Willard (Carter Co.), Ky. in 1874, Fields went on to serve Kentucky's Ninth District in Congress from 1911 to 1923 when he resigned from Congress to assume the governorship in Frankfort. He was governor for one term, 1923-1927. When Fields left the governor's mansion, he signed 148 pardons and spent much time after his governorship defending "the innocence of convicted-and-pardoned murderers, manslaughterers, robbers forgers, embezzlers, housebreakers, barn burners." (Time, 12-27-1927).
So how "honest" was Bill? Well, he did have that unusually high number of pardons. And it is unclear what favors he offered when he received the Democratic nomination for and was elected governor in 1923. Interesting story: the party's nominee died and runner-up, Alben Barkley, declined the nomination (he had decided to run for U.S. Senate, a good decision for the later Vice-President). So the party's central committee selected Wm. Jason Fields as its nominee. Despite a factious Democratic Party, Fields garnered the support of the all-powerful Jockey Club, U.S. Senator A.O. Stanley, Louisville banker James B. Brown, and our good friend Billy Klair to secure his election. [*]
Although he issued too many pardons, engaged in nepotism and was nominated and elected through a series of back-room deals, he was still "Honest Bill from Olive Hill." Well, ain't politics the damnedest? But, hey... he did sign into law the creation of the Kentucky Parks System. Thanks, governor!