Become a Kentucky Colonel

Taylor Six/The Register

 

"It is not titles that honor men, but men that honor titles." -- Niccolo Machiavelli

This is the quote listed below item number 81 on the Kentucky Bucket List written by Michael Crisp, which contains 100 experiences throughout the state of Kentucky.

Item number 81 is to become a Kentucky Colonel -- the highest honor a Kentuckian can receive.

Kentucky Colonels

Kentucky Colonel is the highest and most prestigious civilian title of honor bestowed by the commonwealth of Kentucky. Commissions for Kentucky colonels are given by the governor and the secretary of state to individuals in recognition of noteworthy accomplishments, personal achievements, individual deeds and outstanding service in a person's community, state, or nation.

The title Kentucky Colonel dates back to around 1813, according to the Colonel's official website. The Kentucky Militia had just returned from a highly successful campaign during the War of 1812. When the Militia disbanded, Governor Issac Shelby commissioned Charles S. Todd, one of his officers in the campaign, as an Aide-de-Camp on the governor's staff. Todd's official rank and grade was Colonel.

While early Colonels actually served military roles, the position took on a more ceremonial function in the late 1800s. Colonels in uniform attended functions at the governor's mansion stood as symbolic guards at state events and the like.

In the late 1920s, a group of Colonels started talking about forming a "society." Governor Flem Sampson gave his blessings to the project, and late one Saturday afternoon in May 1931, the first meeting of what would eventually become the Kentucky Colonels was held in Frankfort.

"Formulate a society to more closely band together this group into a great non-political brotherhood for the advancement of Kentucky and Kentuckians," Governor Sampson challenged. And they did. Minutes of the early meetings confirm that charitable programs were to be a central part of the organization. Social events would also play an important role. The group held a Derby Eve dinner for the first time in 1932.

Kentucky Colonels help to serve the state through philanthropic efforts, and contribute dollars to the goal of benefiting Kentucky and Kentuckians. Since 1951, as an IRS recognized 501 (c) (3) charity, the Kentucky Colonels has distributed over 7,000 grants to charitable and educational agencies all across Kentucky. For the last dozen years, the Kentucky Colonels' Board of Trustees has distributed approximately $2 million each year impacting the lives for more than 3.8 million people in and around Kentucky, according to their website.

This year, someone in every county in the state will be touched by a program funded by the voluntary, tax deductible contributions of Kentucky Colonels living in every state in the nation as well as Colonels living in 49 nations abroad.

Some notable Colonels include Princess Anne, Muhammed Ali, George Clooney, Winston Churchill, and Hunter S. Thompson, to name just a few.

On March 3, 2021, I joined their ranks when I was dubbed the Honorable Taylor Paige Six.

My experience

The first time I ever heard about Kentucky Colonels was through my late friend George.

A well-known screenplay writer, veteran, and large philanthropist -- it is no shock he was nominated by someone to be distinguished. His state-awarded commission hung proudly in his home. I was so proud of the person George was, and really admired him as my friend.

It was when I saw his official declaration of colonelship the thought planted in my head that I wanted one, too. As I have said many, many times in the bucket list articles, and overall, -- I really pride myself on being a Kentuckian. Nothing would solidify that more, than being a Kentucky Colonel.

Years later, the Register's current editor, Ricki Pryor, had a big manilla envelope delivered to her home. She received a call from her husband that she had also been nominated and accepted into the organization of colonels.

I told her about George, his colonelship, and my desire to be a member of the exclusive club. We celebrated her achievement, discussed particulars about how to become a colonel, and tried to guess who nominated her.

That was the end of it, so I thought.

Flash forward to March 3, I headed to the office like any normal day. I was bogged down with all my equipment and trying to get inside and get settled to begin churning out content.

Looking up from fumbling with my keys, I saw a large manilla folder in the mailbox outside my office door.

My heart began to race. I had a feeling for what may be inside, but didn't want to get my hopes up. I opened my door and sat down all my things without setting them up, anxious to see what was inside. On the folder were big bolded letters which read, "DO NOT BEND." The return address in the left corner stated it came from the governor's office. From there, I was so excited my hands were shaking as I opened the envelope and tears started to well up in my eyes (Yes, I am extremely emotional).

As I lifted the document out of its sheath, I saw: "Commonwealth of Kentucky" and "Governor Andy Beshear." I couldn't contain my emotion and excitement anymore as I saw the words "Honorable Taylor Paige Six" and "Kentucky Colonel" adjacent to one another.

I called everyone I knew -- my mom, dad, roommate, Isaac, and my grandmother. I posted on social media with a flood of comments pouring in from others who are colonels, and their support for me and my recent accolade.

It was, and still is, one of the times I have been most proud of myself.

Even as I write this column and recall this memory, I am overwhelmed with emotion, gratitude, and closeness to a departed friend. It was another piece of the puzzle which brought myself and George close together even after he was gone. I know he would have been proud of me, too.

I can't thank Ricki, my editor, enough for nominating me and giving me one of the best gifts I have ever -- and likely will ever -- receive.

As any solidified Colonel has undoubtedly experienced, many people congratulated me, and asked me to nominate them for the honor.

"Let me enjoy my honor first," I would kid. However, one individual in particular stated he also had the desire to be a member of the Kentucky Colonels.

This was Charley Hamilton, co-owner of Dreaming Creek Brewery. Thinking on our conversation, I really couldn't think of a better person to nominate. Charley has accomplished a lot, and is a very, very involved member in the local community, but in the state has well. He has bravely served his country as a veteran of the U.S. Navy. In addition, he has been instrumental in the economic development of Richmond with the creation of DCB, Sunday alcohol sales, and leading the charge to amend state legislature regarding packaged beer sales.

Most importantly, Charley and all the folks at DCB have created a welcoming environment and community space for all in Richmond and Madison County. There really isn't a better depiction, in my opinion, of service and sacrifice on all levels. I nominated Charley to be a Kentucky Colonel in the summer of 2021.

I know personally, he was just as honored and proud as I was to become a member of the prestigious group. For me, this is one of the best bucket list completions to date.

If you are a Kentucky Colonel and wish to nominate someone to become a Kentucky Colonel, visit secure.kentucky.gov/formservices/Governor/KentuckyColonelCommission. For more information about the Kentucky Colonels Commission, visit kycolonels.org.

Editor's note: This column is an ongoing series inspired by the Kentucky Bucket List book written by Michael Crisp. You can purchase the book online at Amazon.

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