The Honorable Order of Kentucky Colonels Timeline
1813 Governor Isaac Shelby, in his second term as Governor, appoints Charles Todd as an Aide-De-Camp with the title of “Colonel”
1885 Governor William Bradley appoints first “Honorary” Kentucky Colonels.
1928 Colonel R. H. Ziehm begins an effort to identify, locate and organize Kentucky Colonels.
1931 May 2 – Organizational meeting of “The Kentucky Colonels”. Governor Flem Sampson asks the organizers to “more closely band together into a great non-political brotherhood for the advancement of Kentucky and Kentuckians”.
November 14 – First Kentucky Colonels banquet held.
1932 May 5 – First Derby Eve Banquet held.
December – Governor Ruby Laffoon changes name of the Colonels organization to The Honorable Order of Kentucky Colonels.
December – Great Seal created. Colonel Anna Bell Ward named Keeper of the Great Seal.
1933 Kentucky Colonels Will Rogers, Clark Gable, Mae West, Eddie Cantor and others produced “Parade of Kentucky Colonels” broadcast nationally on CBS radio. The “variety show” program’s purpose was to promote President Roosevelt’s National Recovery Act, part of the President’s New Deal Program.
1935 Harland Sanders, the chicken king, was named a Kentucky Colonel.
1936 Colonel Anna Friedman appointed Secretary and Keeper of the Great Seal – Over the next forty years, she would be establish many of the traditions of today’s Kentucky Colonel’s organization.
1937 Kentucky Colonels solicit cash contributions from members nationwide to help victims of the “Great Flood of ‘37”. Hollywood Colonels hold benefit shows to help out.
1938 Colonel’s Derby Eve Banquet and Ceremony broadcast nationwide on CBS.
1940 Colonels “ante up a goodly sum” for purchase of a portrait of Stephen Foster. NBC broadcasts the presentation of the painting to My Old Kentucky Home State Park in Bardstown. Governor Keen Johnson commissions Foster as a Kentucky Colonel. (The painting today hangs in the Park’s new Visitor’s Welcome Center. The Foster commission was the first of a rare handfull of posthumously awarded commissions.)
1942 Kentucky Colonels “Adopt” Fort Knox as a war time project… Colonels concentrate on providing recreational facilities and activities for Army recruits. Expenditures exceed $100,000… 35 recreation halls were set up at the Fort.
1943 Colonel’s activities at Fort Knox continue. No formal Banquet held because of the war. “A small group of Colonels gather on Derby Eve to drink a toast to the President and the more than 1,000 Kentucky Colonels serving as privates up to generals in the armed forces.
1944 IRS formally declares the Honorable Order to be a tax exempt charity.
1946 Colonels contribute $5,000 to the “Country Doctors Fund”, an effort to establish what is today the Rural Kentucky Medical Scholarship Fund.
1951 Colonels formalize Good Works program. Four grants totaling $6,100 made.
1960 Colonels pledge $200,000, half the cost, to build Kentucky’s first cancer treatment facility.
1964 Honorable Order of Kentucky Colonels Radiation Center opens at the University of Louisville.
1965 The Post Office informed Kentucky Colonel Headquarters it would no longer accept mail under Non-Profit Permits unless the addresses included Zip Codes. Colonels annual giving reaches $143,000 – 33 agencies receive grants.
1968 Construction begins on the Kentucky Lions Eye Institute. Colonels pledge 50% of the cost ($250,000).
1969 Five Star Army General Omar Bradley accept his commission as a Kentucky Colonel. “I shall wear the title proudly and serve it faithfully,” Bradley stated in a letter. He signed the letter “Omar Bradley, Colonel of Kentucky.
1977 Colonel Bob Hope accepts invitation to make a 4th appearance at the Kentucky Colonel’s Derby Eve Banquet because “I love the crowds at that dinner because they love to laugh.”
1979 Annual giving exceeds $500,000 – 98 agencies receive grants.
1980 The familiar oval logo of the Honorable Order of Kentucky Colonels first appeared. Prior logos were generally round in shape.
1985 Pope John Paul II accepts his Kentucky Colonel Commission by letter in which he “cordially invokes God’s gifts of peace and joy upon all members of this worthy organization.”
1992 Contributions surpass one million dollars. Total of $1,139,707.82 was awarded to 140 agencies.
1998 Membership includes Colonels in every state in the union and in 35 foreign nations.
2001 Honorable Order’s memorabilia collection given to Kentucky Historical Society. It is open to the public as are the records of the original “Kentucky Colonels” which are held at the Filson Club.
2002 Kentucky Colonels’ Derby Extravaganza begins. In 2007, Colonels from 37 states and Scotland attended this highly popular event held on Derby Day at Churchill Downs.
2003 U.S. Trademark Office adds “Kentucky Colonels” to the official registered trademarks held by the Honorable Order.
2007 Honorable Order receives largest ever contribution. Colonel Gertrud Gordon’s will awards the Good Works Program $515,000.