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.