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The Wendell H. Ford Public Policy Research Center preserves the history of Kentucky politics and government and provides access to primary source materials pertaining to public policy and the US Congress. Utilized by scholars around the world, the collection has been recognized as one of the finest and most thorough public policy repositories in the United States.

The Ford Center works closely with faculty whose teaching and research relates to our collections and collaborates with UK’s Martin School of Public Policy & Administration and the Wendell H. Ford Government Education Center in Owensboro, Kentucky.

Our collections contain the personal and political papers of prominent public figures from or representing Kentucky, with materials including correspondence, speeches, scrapbooks, photographs, audio and video recordings, memorabilia, and more. 

Browse our archival collections below, and search for corresponding oral histories in our online catalog and repository, SPOKEdb.

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Deirdre Scaggs Ford Center Director

Location Detail
Special Collections Research Center


US Senators & Vice Presidents

  • Alben W. Barkley – a New Deal Democrat and Senate Majority leader, Barkley was US Vice President under Truman (1949-1953) and represented Kentucky in the US Senate (1927-1949 and 1955-1956) and US House (1913-1927).
  • John Sherman Cooper – an opponent of the Vietnam War, Cooper served as the first US Ambassador to East Germany (1974-1976), the US Ambassador to India (1955-1956), and represented Kentucky as a Republican in the US Senate (1946-1949, 1952-1955, and 1956-1973).
  • Wendell H. Ford – Ford represented Kentucky as a Democrat in the US Senate (1974-1999), following his tenure as Governor of Kentucky (1971-1974).
  • Walter D. Huddleston – a longtime member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Huddleston represented Kentucky as a Democrat in the US Senate (1973-1985).
  • Thruston B. Morton – Chair of the Republican National Committee, Morton represented Kentucky in the US Senate (1957-1968) and US House (1947-1953).

US Representatives

  • John B. Breckinridge – a two-time Attorney General of Kentucky (1960-1964 and 1968-1972), Breckinridge represented Kentucky as a Democrat in the US House (1973-1979) and served as Chair of the Congressional Rural Caucus.
  • Larry J. Hopkins – Hopkins represented Kentucky as a Republican in the US House (1979-1993) and served on the Agriculture Committee and the Armed Services Committee.
  • Rogers C. B. Morton – Morton served as US Secretary of Commerce (1975-1976), US Secretary of the Interior (1971-1975), Chair of Republican National Committee (1969-1971), and represented Maryland as a Republican in the US House (1963-1971). The collection is particularly valuable for Nixon research.
  • Brent Spence – Spence represented Kentucky as a Democrat in the US House (1931-1963) and served as Chair of the Banking and Currency Committee (1943-1963). The collection contains considerable material on general legislation and Veteran Affairs.

Federal Judges

  • Stanley F. Reed – Reed served on the US Supreme Court from 1938-1957, where he was often a decisive vote, and defended the constitutionality of New Deal policies as US Solicitor General (1935-1938).
  • Mac Swinford– one of the longest-tenured federal judges in US history, Swinford was a US District Judge from 1937-1975.
  • Fred M. Vinson – Chief Justice of the Supreme Court (1946-1953) and judge for the US Court of Appeals (1937-1943), Vinson also served as Secretary of the Treasury (1945-1946) and represented Kentucky as a Democrat in the US House (1924-1929 and 1931-1938). The Vinson collection holds valuable materials for research in the New Deal and WWII eras, along with the postwar development of the international economic order and the Supreme Court’s postwar jurisprudence.

Discover more Kentuckians' contributions to American legal discourse by visiting the John G. Heyburn II Initiative for Excellence in the Federal Judiciary.

Kentucky Governors

  • A. B. "Happy" Chandler – a two-time Democratic governor (1935-1939 and 1955-1959), Chandler also represented Kentucky in the US Senate (1939-1945) and served as the second Commissioner of Baseball (1945-1951).
  • Earle C. Clements – Clements represented Kentucky as a Democrat in the US Senate (1950-1957) and US House (1945-1948), along with serving as Governor of Kentucky (1947-1950). Democratic Party national strategy and activity are featured heavily in the Clements papers, which consist of over 300,000 collection items.
  • Bert T. Combs – a Democratic Governor of Kentucky (1959-1963), Combs also served as judge on the US Court of Appeals (1967-1970).
  • Wendell H. Ford – this collection comprises the speeches given during Ford’s term as governor (1971-1975). Find more Ford papers under “US Senators,” above.
  • Louie B. Nunn – one of the few 20th-century Republican Governors of Kentucky (1967-1971), Nunn’s tenure was marked by Vietnam War protests and the Louisville riots of 1968.
  • Lawrence W. Wetherby – a Democrat, Wetherby served as governor from 1950-1955.
  • Simeon Willis – a Republican Governor of Kentucky (1943-1947), the bulk of collection consists of correspondence relating to a wide variety of political topics.

Kentucky State Legislators

  • Wendell P. Butler – Butler served four terms as a State Senator, three terms as Kentucky Superintendent of Public Instruction (1952-1956, 1960-1963, and 1968-1971), and two terms as the Kentucky Commissioner of Agriculture (1964-1967 and 1972-1975). The collection primarily covers education and agriculture in Kentucky.
  • Mary Elliott Flanery – the first woman legislator elected south of the Mason-Dixon line, Flanery served in the Kentucky House of Representatives from 1921-1923. She was also a social reformer, suffragist, and journalist.
  • Georgia Davis Powers – the first African American and first female Kentucky State Senator, Powers served from 1968-1989 and championed civil rights, fair housing, and anti-discrimination laws.

Other Notable Collections

  • Scott D. Breckinridge, Jr. – a 26-year veteran of the Central Intelligence Agency (1953-1979), Breckinridge served as the CIA’s Deputy Inspector General and authored several books about the CIA and the Cold War.
  • Gatewood Galbraith – Galbraith was a criminal defense lawyer and seven-time candidate for governor, but is most notable as a hemp and cannabis legalization activist. The bulk of the collection comprises material documenting his cannabis activism, including a file on his arrest for stopping the Lexington Fourth of July Parade in protest of laws criminalizing marijuana.
  • George H. Goodman and Edwin J. Paxton – Goodman and Paxton were consecutive owners of the Paducah News-Democrat. The collection primarily details Goodman’s service as Director of the Kentucky Works Progress Administration (1934-1941).
  • Lawrence W. Hager, Sr. – Hager worked as editor and publisher of the Owensboro Messenger-Inquirer. The collection is valuable for research on the history and development of Owensboro.
  • Kentuckians for the Commonwealth – operating records, newsletters, publications, scrapbooks, and other material related to the environmental and economic justice activism of the grassroots community organization.
  • Wilson W. Wyatt – a New Deal Democrat and prominent lawyer and political aide, Wyatt served as Mayor of Louisville from 1941-1945 and as Kentucky Lieutenant Governor from 1959-1963.