During its 126-year
history, through the administrations of 13 superintendents, the Kentucky Military
Institute enrolled and educated approximately 12,000 young men and boy cadets.
About 200 of this number were from foreign countries, the United States possessions
and territories. Most of their voices have been long-silenced.
Those who confronted and upheld in conscious
pursuit or suffered the causes of freedom and honor at the risk of life; those who were
determined to defend or to fight for some national purpose in peace or war, and those who
persevered to hold steadfast the tenets of faith, loyalty and truth, with no mental
reservation or purpose of evasion have left their scars on a misty epitaph for the ages.
With the passage of time, present generations
witnessed not their deeds, their accomplishments, their flaws and weaknesses. But
should the echoes of their past become muted without reflection, all memorable
contributions and personal benefactions are ash... and only their spirit remains.
- James D. Stephens
class of 1933
The Kentucky Military Institute enjoyed a
long and prestigious history in the field of education in Kentucky. It drew students
from all over the country, especially from the Ohio valley and the South. Located
first in Franklin County southeast of Frankfort, it became not only an educational
institution, but also a social element in the life of Kentucky's capital city. Older
family papers and records reflect this fact. The institute, founded in 1845, was
chartered on 20 January 1847. The school was to be operated as a quasi
military corps of the commonwealth, and the Governor was authorized to issue a
commission of "Colonel" to the Superintendent. The school was to be open
to any commissioned officer of the state militia, and to such other students as could
qualify themselves "after a full examination upon all branches of the arts and
sciences, and literature taught at the institute, and upon satisfactory evidence that said
graduates have been engaged in literary pursuits for three years thereafter, or have
remained at the Institute, as residents for one year." Upon meeting these
qualifications cadets were graduated with the appropriate degree, or "the degree of
graduate of the Kentucky Military Institute."
Two years later, the General Assembly of
Kentucky amended the charter of the Kentucky Military Institute to include the Franklin
Institute in it's organization. The name of the institution was changed to the
Kentucky Collegiate and Military Institute. The Institute operated many years as a
collegiate institution with state chartered literary societies and chapters of national
Greek letter fraternities, including Alpha Tau Omega, Chi Phi, Delta Kappa Epsilon, Phi
Delta Theta, and Sigma Alpha Epsilon. The creation of the school followed the
pattern being set in the rest of the South by operating military institutes, ostensibly to
serve as an officer training adjunct to the state militia systems. Training in these
military institutes was to become a noteworthy mark in the South, and the military
annals of both the region and the Nation were filled with the names of officers and other
respected individuals who had graduated from their classrooms. The Kentucky Military
Institute, or "KMI" as it was affectionately known, graduated hundreds of
students who not only went into military service, but also filled the literary and
scientific mandate of the original charter.
In his selected biographical sketches of
graduates and former cadets of "KMI", James Darwin Stephens has created a
veritable panoply of some of the schools best known graduates and heroes. He
documents in good measure the fact that the Institute met the challenges set for it by the
Kentucky General Assembly in 1847. The Kentucky Military Institute went through a
series of moves and academic metamorphoses before it finally ceases operation as a
military school in the spring term of 1971. Stephens has been selective of the
subjects which he shows as representative of much of the Institute's long operational
The several personal sketches represented in
this collection cover a wide chronological range, and an interesting assortment of
personal experiences. Among these are several soldiers, enlisted men and officers
who gave a good account of themselves from the Civil War through the Vietnam campaigns.
Included are those men who were awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor and others
whose decorations filled their chests with medals, ribbons, and supplementary clusters of
Associated with the names of KMI graduates
and former cadets were such historic moments as Bull Run, Chickamauga, Missionary Bridge,
Stone's River, Wilderness, Gettysburg, San Juan Hill, Wounded Knee, World Wars I and II,
the cross compartments of Korea, and the battles in Vietnam. Several of these men
fell in battle while others were seriously wounded or disabled.
In all of their dramatic exploits and noble
careers many of these men of KMI brought personal credit to themselves and to history.
Some with varied eccentricities and noteworthy differences forged honorable
military careers, distinguished by acts of great personal bravery, while others persevered
in other walks of life. Several became known as judges, representatives, senators,
editors, state and county officials, stage, and screen actors. Numerous such lives
and experiences are recalled by Stephens in this book. He illuminates a rather
personal history of the Kentucky Military Institute with various sketches and colorful
characteristic profiles. His work gives a good example of this phase of Kentucky
educational history, which endured more than a century of successful operation. In
the careers of its graduates and former cadets, Stephens shows in some detail how they
lived up to the ideals and expectations expressed in KMI's original charter of 1847.
Thomas D. Clark
Professor-emeritus of History
University of Kentucky