Wondering what happened to Dems in western Kentucky? Read this book to find out. Skip to content

Wondering what happened to Dems in western Kentucky? Read this book to find out.

If you’ve heard people refer to western Kentucky as “what used to be Democrats’ Rock” and wondered what happened, here’s a book just for you.

2 min read

As Berry Craig has often noted in his work, western Kentucky used to be the Kentucky Democratic Party’s “Rock of Gibralter.” It was reliably and overwhelmingly Democratic, and would vote that way in every election.

Then, things began to change. The Republican party latched on to social issues to win elections (they surely could not win on bread-and-butter issues, being the party of the wealthy). Slowly, the tide began to change, and what had been a solid-blue redoubt became purple, then pink, then blazing red. As of today, there are NO elected Democrats at the state and federal level west of Bowling Green

How did this happen? It would take a book to tell that tale. And fortunately, there is just such a book.

Dr. George Humphreys, retired as the extended campus director for Madisonville Community College and former research director for the Oklahoma House of Representatives, has written a history of the Democratic party in western Kentucky entitled The Fall of Kentucky's Rock: Western Kentucky Democratic Politics Since the New Deal. It is a detailed and extensive history of the goings and comings of Democrats across the state, with a focus on those persons and events who had a particular impact on the Democratic Gibralter.

Here are some of the reviews of the book:

“Western Kentucky, once the ‘Gibraltar of Democracy,’ is one of the most crimson corners of Republican Red Kentucky. But in his engaging and well-researched book, George Humphreys highlights facts probably not well known in Kentucky:  ‘starting in 1931 and continuing to 1979, the region was home to a host of [Democratic] governors, state legislative and administration leaders, not duplicated in the history of Kentucky politics.’ Hence, his book is a worthy addition to Bluegrass State historiography.”―Berry Craig, author of Kentuckians and Pearl Harbor

"This book adds a much needed chapter to the political history of West Kentucky.”―Bill Cunningham, former justice of the Kentucky Supreme Court and author of On Bended Knees

“The Fall of Kentucky's Rock: Western Kentucky Democratic Politics since the New Deal is a major addition to our understanding of Kentucky history. Not only does Humphreys provide the first serious historical study of the politics of western Kentucky, but he also makes a compelling argument that the general neglect of the history of western Kentucky by those writing the history of the commonwealth has skewed the understanding of the Bluegrass state’s history.”―William H. Mulligan Jr., professor emeritus of history at Murray State University

You can purchase the book in both hardcover and Kindle versions on Amazon. Or if you’d rather support independent booksellers, you can purchase it online at Carmichael’s Bookstore in Louisville, and either pick it up or have them ship it to you.

This book will be a welcome addition to the libraries of anyone interested in Kentucky history, politics, Democrats – or all three! Congratulations to Mr. Humphreys on this important and well-received book!


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Bruce Maples

Bruce Maples has been involved in politics and activism since 2004, when he became active in the Kerry Kentucky movement. (Read the rest of his bio on the Bruce Maples Bio page in the bottom nav bar.)

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All results from Tuesday’s primary

All results from Tuesday’s primary

Here’s a list of all the results from Kentucky’s 2024 primary election that were reported on the Board of Elections site. These include federal, state legislative, and some judges and county attorneys.

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