Preston Leslie : biography
Preston Hopkins Leslie (March 8, 1819 – February 7, 1907) was the 26th Governor of Kentucky from 1871 to 1875 and territorial governor of Montana from 1887 to 1889. He ascended to the office of governor by three different means. First, he succeeded Kentucky governor John W. Stevenson upon the latter's resignation to accept a seat in the United States Senate in 1871. Later that year, he was elected to a full term as governor, defeating John Marshall Harlan in the general election. Finally, he was appointed territorial governor by President Grover Cleveland.
Leslie was a Confederate sympathizer during the Civil War, but began to adopt a more progressive position during his gubernatorial campaign against Harlan. Though he opposed ratification of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments, he used his influence as governor to effect passage of laws admitting the testimony of blacks in court and providing for an educational system for recently-freed slaves. He also helped quell violence perpetrated by the Ku Klux Klan in many areas of the state.
As territorial governor of Montana, Leslie quickly drew the ire of the press for his pro-temperance position. The territory's political machinery also turned against him, and he was removed from office by President Benjamin Harrison. When Grover Cleveland succeeded Harrison for a second term in office, he appointed Leslie district attorney for Montana. Leslie continued to practice law well into his eighties, and was being considered for a district court judgeship in Montana when he fell ill with pneumonia and died on February 7, 1907, at the age of 87.
Later life and death
Following his removal from office, Leslie opened a legal practice in Helena, Montana, partnering with A. J. Craven. President Cleveland in his second term appointed Leslie U.S. district attorney of Montana.Harrison, p. 545. He served from 1894 to 1898.
During his final years practicing law in Helena, Leslie gained widespread acclaim and served as president of the Montana State Bar Association. On a return visit to Kentucky in 1906, he addressed the legislature, noting how he had helped the state adjust to the "new order" following the Civil War. Montana governor Joseph Toole was circulating a petition to have Leslie named a district court judge when Leslie fell ill with pneumonia.Ward, p. 207. He died February 7, 1907 and was buried at Forestvale Cemetery in Helena.
Preston Leslie was born in Clinton County, Kentucky (then a part of Wayne County), on March 8, 1819. He was the second son of Vachel H. and Sarah Hopkins Leslie. He was educated in the public schools, then studied law under Judge Rice Maxey. He worked with his father on the family farm until 1835, and supported himself by doing odd jobs including driving a stagecoach, running a ferry, and being store clerk.Webb, p. 101. Leslie was admitted to the bar on October 10, 1840, and served as the deputy clerk of the Clinton County courts. In 1841, he relocated to Tompkinsville, Kentucky, where he worked as a farmer. He became county attorney of Monroe County in 1842.
On November 11, 1841, Leslie married Louisa Black; they had seven children. Louisa died on August 9, 1858. Leslie married the widowed Mary Maupin Kuykendall on November 17, 1859, fathering three more children.Powell, p. 60. Mary Leslie died September 3, 1900.Ward, p. 204.
Leslie began his political career by being elected as a Whig to the Kentucky House of Representatives in 1844. He was defeated for a seat in the state Senate in 1846 by a single vote. He continued serving in the House until 1850, when he won election to the Senate representing Monroe and Barren counties. He then served in the Senate until 1855.Harrison, p. 544. In the 1850s, the Whig Party gradually faded in Kentucky, and Leslie became a Democrat. He declined nominations for a seats in the United States Congress and on the Kentucky Court of Appeals, preferring instead to work on his farm. In 1859, he moved to Glasgow, Kentucky, in Barren County.
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