Get Today in Masonic History into your Inbox. Sign up today for one of our email lists!
Need an article for your Trestleboard/Newsletter see our Use Policy

TODAY in Masonic History:

Facebook Twitter Google

John Crepps Wickliffe Beckham is Born

Today in Masonic History John Crepps Wickliffe Beckham is born in 1869.

John Crepps Wickliffe Beckham was an American politician.

Beckham was born on August 5th, 1869 in Wickland, Kentucky. His maternal grandfather served as Governor of Kentucky from 1839 to 1840. Beckham's early education started at Roseland Academy in Bardstown, Kentucky. In 1881 he served as a page in the Kentucky House of Representatives, he was twelve. He enrolled at Central University (now Eastern Kentucky University), before dropping out to support his widowed mother.

In 1888, Beckham became the principal of Bardstown public schools. He served in the position until 1893. During the same time he enrolled in the University of Kentucky to study law. He earned his law degree in 1889. He was admitted to the bar and began practicing law in Bardstown in 1893.

In 1894, Beckham was elected to the Kentucky House of Representatives. He served for four years. In his final year he was elected Speaker of the House.

In 1899, William Goebel chose Beckham for his running mate in the gubernatorial elections. The election was close and Goebel contested the election, which put it in the hands of the legislature, which was controlled by Democrats, the party of Goebel and Beckham. On January 30th, 1900 while the legislature was still debating the election results, an unknown assailant entered the capital building and shot Goebel. The following day, the legislature declared Goebel the winner and he was sworn in while still in his bed recovering. Three days later Goebel passed away from his wounds and technically Beckham was the governor. The Republican incumbent who had ran against them in the election, declared the results were invalid and refused to give up the governorship. It was taken to court and eventually Beckham was declared governor until November of the same year when a special election could be held. The Republican challenger fled the state after losing his court case fearing he'd be blamed for Goebel's murder.

Despite Kentucky law stating a person could not serve more than one term consecutively, Beckham fought to serve a second, claiming he had not served a full term as governor. The courts agreed with Beckham and he did have a second term. In neither term did any major legislation get passed, with the exception of a law put forward by Beckham requiring public schools to be segregated. Prior to this point, Kentucky schools were not segregated.

As Beckham's term as governor was coming to a close, he set his eye on the United States Senate. He lost the first time around, at the time the legislature elected the Senators. This was probably due to his prohibition stance, this was looked on unfavorably by the whiskey industry of the state. In the following election, the Seventeenth amendment was passed requiring Senators to be elected by popular vote. Beckham won the seat with popular vote. Again Beckham was not a leader in the Senate just as he had not been a leader as governor. He was part of some major voting which probably cost him future elections. One was the Eighteenth Amendment prohibiting the import and sale of alcohol in the United States, commonly known as Prohibition. He also voted against the Nineteenth Amendment both times it came before Congress. He was able to secure funding for two Army facilities in Kentucky, one being Fort Knox.

Beckham tried to run for Governor and Senator again a few times, unsuccessfully.

Beckham passed away on January 9th, 1940.

Beckham was a member of Duvall Lodge No. 6 Bardstown, Kentucky.

This article provided by Brother Eric C. Steele.