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Biography of James Breathitt

Mr. Breathitt was born in Virginia and came to Kentucky when very young. His father, William Breathitt, settled in Logan County in 1800, when southern Kentucky was little else than a wilderness. He was a highly respected citizen, though of limited wealth, and hence was unable to give his children collegiate educations. His eldest son, John Breathitt, became a prominent man, and served his State in many high and important positions. He was elected Lieutenant-Governor in 1828, and in 1832 Governor of the Commonwealth, but died before the expiration of his term. James read law, either with his brother or with Judge Wallace, of Logan County, and soon after his admission to the bar came to Hopkinsville and entered upon the practice of his chosen profession. He was twice married-first to Miss Elizabeth Short, a daughter of Peyton Short. She died, and he afterward married Gabrielle Harvie, daughter of Hon. John Harvie, of Frankfort, and a native of Virginia. Mr. Breathitt died in 1839, before he had passed the meridian of life, and his only surviving child is Maj. Breathitt, the present County Clerk. Mr. Breathitt was a member of the Hopkinsville bar at a time when it was considered one of the ablest in Southern Kentucky, and comprised such men as Crittenden, Davidge, Solomon P. and Fidelio Sharp, Morehead, Mayes, Crockett, Henry, and a host of other lesser luminaries. For many years he was Commonwealth’s Attorney, under that pattern of old fidelity, Judge Shackelford, and in the discharge of his official duties was often pitted against some of the ablest lawyers of the period. That he proved himself a “foeman worthy of their steel ” is evidenced by his long term of service as public prosecutor. Mr. Breathitt was an excellent lawyer in all branches of the profession, but excelled perhaps as a criminal lawyer. He was elected to the Legislature and served in the sessions of 1818-19, with considerable distinction, though at the time rather young. He was originally a Democrat, but afterward became a Henry Clay Whig. He made a race for Congress on that platform, but was defeated. His death, before he was fifty years of age, was a severe loss to his county and to the State.

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