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Martha Layne Collins

April 20, 2011 in 1960s-1970s, Political history

When one begins to look at the life of Martha Layne Collins, it is hard not to be impressed with the level of success she had in her life.  A native Kentuckian, she was born December 7, 1936 and was the only child of Everett and Mary Hall.  She attended the University of Kentucky, and in 1959 she gained her BS in home economics in order to pursue a career in education.

Governor Martha Layne Collins

Originally she taught at Seneca High School and Fairdale High school, both located in Louisville Kentucky.  However, in the mid 1960s she moved from her home to Versailles Kentucky, and it is here that she gained her interest in politics.  She became part of a reform-democrat party which supported Henry Ward’s gubernatorial bid in 1967, and four years after that she was appointed Central Kentucky coordinator of Women’s activities for Wendell Ford’s campaign in 1971.

She continued to work on the campaigns for others.  She even quit her teaching job in order to work full time for the Kentucky Democrat party.  In 1975, she ended her campaigning days when she won the nomination for clerk of the Kentucky Court of Appeals, which later came to be known as the Kentucky Supreme Court.  Never forgetting her love of education though, she made it one of her duties as clerk to work with the state department of education to compile a manual for teachers for use in the public school, which released information on how new laws and practices effected them.

In 1979, Martha Layne Collins won the nomination to run for the officer of Lieutenant Governor.  She won the election and served as Lieutenant Governor with John Y. Brown.  Brown himself was often out of state on business, and left Collins as acting governor for more then 500 days in her four year term.

In 1983, Collins announced her candidacy for governor.  The nomination was tough, and she barely beat her rivals for votes.  However, she won her nomination and faced off with Senator Jim Bunning for election.  She ran on a platform for bringing businesses and jobs into Kentucky, and also to pass reforming education acts to improve Kentucky’s schools.

Her campaign worked, and in 1983, she became the first, and only, female governor of Kentucky.  She stayed true to her campaign promises.  During her tenure as governor, she passed a three hundred million dollar education reform package, and the creation of record amounts of jobs.  She is also credited with bringing the Toyota factory into Kentucky, which created several high paying jobs into Kentucky.



Harrison, Lowell Hayes, and James C. Klotter. A New History of Kentucky. Lexington, Ky: University Press of Kentucky, 1997.


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