Historical Marker #1709 in Kenton County remembers William Goebel, a lawyer and politician who began his career in Covington. Goebel was born in Carbondale, Pennsylvania, on January 4, 1856. Within a decade, after his father returned from service in the Union Army during the Civil War, the family moved to Covington.
William Goebel graduated from Cincinnati Law School in 1877. After graduation, he practiced law intermittently with two prominent Kentuckians, John G. Carlisle and John W. Stevenson, with whom Goebel had studied. These relationships, along with his growing reputation as a "friend of the people," propelled Goebel to the state senate in 1887. Goebel's time in there was not without controversy. An outspoken reformer, Goebel attempted to incorporate his reforms into the state constitution during the Constitutional Convention of 1890-1891.
In 1899, Goebel won the Democratic nomination for governor. In one of the bitterest political campaigns in Kentucky history, Goebel's opponent in the general election, Republican William S. Taylor, was declared the winner by approximately 2,000 votes. The Democratic majority in the General Assembly contested the results, which led to a series debates and brought tension and violence to Frankfort. Although Taylor was inaugurated in December 1899, the results remained contested into the new year.
On January 30, 1900, as Goebel walked in front of what is now the Old State Capitol, an assassin's rifle shot mortally wounded him. Chaos ensued. Governor Taylor declared an emergency, called out the militia, and ordered the legislature to adjourn for a week. However, secret meetings of the Democrats in Frankfort invalidated enough votes to declare Goebel the legitimate governor of Kentucky. Goebel was sworn-in as governor on January 31, less than thirty-six hours after he had been shot.
Goebel's only act as governor was to counter Taylor's proclamation, which removed the militia and called for the legislature to reassemble. Goebel succumbed to the bullet wound on February 3, 1900, at age forty-four. He served as governor for three days. Goebel remains the only governor to have been assassinated while in office.