Historical Marker #680 commemorates Alben W. Barley and his beloved estate, Angles, in McCracken County.

Barkley was born on November 24, 1877, in a Graves County log cabin to tenant farmers John Wilson and Electra Eliza Barkley. In 1892, Barkley enrolled at Marvin College, a Methodist school. Barkley paid his tuition through a janitorial scholarship, sweeping floors and dusting furniture, while still working on his father's farm.

After graduating from Marvin, Barkley attended Emory College in Atlanta for a short period of time. Financial strife, however, forced his return to Kentucky in 1898. After briefly teaching at Marvin College, Barkley joined his family in Paducah where he clerked at a law office for the next year. After much study and experience, two years later he passed the bar exam and opened his own office.

Barkley won the first of many races for public office in 1904, when he was elected county attorney of McCracken County. This marked the beginning of Barkley's illustrious political career that included seven terms in the U.S. House of Representatives and twenty-three years in the U.S. Senate, where he climbed the ranks to majority leader in 1937. When Barkley took the vice presidential oath after being tapped as Harry S. Truman's running mate in 1949, he was the oldest man to do so. During his term as vice president, Barkley was included in all cabinet-level meetings and served on the National Security Council. His oratorical skills made him a principal spokesman for the White House.

After he left office in 1952, Barkley refused to retire. He signed a twenty-six segment contract with NBC for his own show, "Meet the Veep." After mediocre ratings, his contract was not renewed and the Barkleys retired to Angles, their estate in Paducah. However, retirement did not sit well the former vice president; in 1954, at age 77, he again ran for, and won, a seat in the U.S. Senate. Unfortunately, Barkley did not finish his final term. Two years later, at the conclusion of a speech to students at Washington and Lee University in Virginia, he suffered a fatal heart attack. He is buried in Paducah.


Alben William Barkley<br /><br />

Alben William Barkley

Alben Barkley played an important role in Kentucky and American affairs during his time in the U.S. House of Representatives, U.S. Senate, and the office of Vice President of the United States. Courtesy of the Library of Congress. View File Details Page

Alben W. Barkley

Alben W. Barkley

Senator Barkley chats with the United States Secretary of State. Alben Barkley (right) served as Harry S. Truman's vice president from 1949 to 1952. Courtesy of the Library of Congress. View File Details Page

Alben Barkley Gives a Speech

Alben Barkley Gives a Speech

Alben Barkley's superb speaking skills helped him become of America's most powerful politicians of the early twentieth-century. Courtesy of the University of Kentucky. View File Details Page

Angles Estate

Angles Estate

Located in Paducah, Angles was the beloved home of Kentucky politician Alben Barkley. The home was built in 1859, and Barkley and his wife fulfilled a long-time dream when they purchased it in 1937. Courtesy of the University of Kentucky. View File Details Page

Cite this Page:

McKenzie Martin, “Angles,” ExploreKYHistory, accessed June 24, 2017,
Tour navigation:  Previous | Tour Info | Next

Share this Story